I'm wrapping up 2020 with a hodge podge. The eponymous writing tips are mostly just from this first article, with the rest of my links here covering stuff as random as the next cool TV drama or a 80s Reader's Digest compendium. Hey, it's the week between Christmas and New Year's, structure doesn't exist.
And in the spirit of liminal spaces everywhere, I also threw in an article taking a quick look at 1971's The Omega Man. It's a film that debuted in the sci-fi movie air pocket between 1968, when Planet of the Apes and 2001 introduced the idea of sci-fi movies to the general public, and 1977, when Star Wars locked in "crowd-pleasing blockbuster" as a ready definition of the genre.
But first up, here's Jeff VanderMeer, with a list of writing advice that I found pretty useful. It's all simple stuff, explained well.
Thoughts on the Writing Process: Optimal Conditions and Tips
Jeff VanderMeer, jeffvandermeer.com
[I]f you love revision, the act of creating a rough draft even less perfect than usual won’t impact you at all. You’ll know that you will re-inhabit the unfolding dream of the novel again during the revision phase and that anything broken can be fixed in such an organic way that no one will ever know it was broken.
How do you get to an unconditional love for revision? Perhaps by recognizing, as I’ve written above, that revision is occurring even in the initial moments of inspiration. The spark in your mind that is transferred to paper by pen and in even that instant you change the wording—and then again when you include that moment in the rough draft. How when you finish writing for the day you’re already changing, in your head, what you just wrote.
Here's a review for a book that sounds like fun, but the review itself also dips into the history of autistic autobiographies, revealing a fascinating insight: The austistic autobiography was the one nonfiction subgenre that the 80s-era scientific community deemed an impossibility.
For Tom Cutler, being diagnosed autistic was the happiest day of his life
Steve Silberman, The Spectator
One of the intellectual ravishments of Keep Clear is encountering prickly old-fashioned words (such as groynes, rebarbative and septarium) that have slipped out of common usage in the age of clickbait and dumbed-down prose, as if Cutler’s atypical brain is a kind of wildlife preserve for endangered vocabulary.
I'm a big fan of the idea and execution behind We Are The Mutants, a website that takes an anti-establishment-fuelled look at Cold-War-era pop culture, and there's no more entertaining intro to the site's ethos than this article. You know it's going to be good just from this first paragraph:
“When Seconds Count”: Reader’s Digest’s ‘What to Do in an Emergency’, 1986
Richard McKenna, We Are The Mutants
The world is a dangerous place, and nowhere is this more true—subjectively speaking—than in its safest, most fortunate corners. I’ve spoken before about how the postwar UK seemed sometimes to be living in a traumatized fugue state of danger and threat. Here, then, is the bible of that particular belief system: the Reader’s Digest’s 1986 What to Do in an Emergency, a 400-page compendium of Anglo fears, running from the most mundane (“gravy stains, removal of…. p.180”) to the surprisingly obscure (“caves, lost in… p.310”), which allowed every Briton to writhe in pleasure at the thought of the many nightmarish injuries, deaths, and degradations that might await them should they step from the path of righteous behavior.
Here's a tidy bit of franchise shoptalk I enjoyed:
The Mandalorian shows what Star Wars’ future looks like over the next few years
Julia Alexander, The Verge
There’s less pressure for a Star Wars show compared to a new movie — and especially a new trilogy. Lucasfilm and Disney are now in a perfect spot: The Mandalorian is a success, Star Wars is ripe for more experimentation, and Disney+ is a new sandbox that will allow for similar experiments. The future of Star Wars won’t only live and die by big event films like The Rise of Skywalker; it’ll succeed with a consistent run of weird and fun Star Wars shows.
“There is no phone ringing, dammit!” Projection Booth episode 422 : The Omega Man
Andrew Nette, Pulpcurry
SF was a relatively marginal genre of cinema until 1968. That year saw two films released that changed the perception of the genre: Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Looks like the next show to watch for anyone who enjoyed Sharp Objects:
Destruction and obsession tangle in an arresting dance in cheerleading thriller Dare Me
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, AV Club
But make no mistake: This isn’t a small-town drama or a teen soap, though there are elements of both. Dare Me is a slow-burn psychological thriller, warranting comparisons to twisted movies about desire, relationships between women that straddle toxicity and passion, and poisonous power dynamics. When it comes to its suspense, Dare Me exercises immense control. It withholds just long enough to simmer the tension and then lunges forth.
Next up is this useful resource designed for any 70s sci-fi art obsessors out there, which is to say, mostly just for me. It's a list of which issues of Future Life magazine feature interviews with which sci-fi artists. The magazine issues are all online thanks to the Internet Archive, but aren't searchable. Find profiles for Ron Miller, Boris Vallejo, Vincent Di Fate, Syd Mead, Andrei Sokolov and more.
Finally: Of course I found this great list of the best academic reads about science fiction immediately after the point at which I could have asked for any of these as Christmas presents. Happens every year. I'll remember this one for next time. (The same guy has a pretty great list for fantasy studies and another for comic book studies, as well).
Ten Best Books Of The Decade, 2010-2019: Science Fiction Studies
Sean Guynes, personal website
Rieder, for his part, hardly needs an introduction to SF scholars, and his most recent book is just as powerful as his first book in SF studies, on the colonial origins of the genre. Now, Rieder takes a stab at “defining” (or not) the genre, and does so by bringing more contemporary genre theory to the field (something that, surprisingly, no one had done before; shame!). What results is a compelling markets-based reading of the field that admits to the fluidity of genre boundaries and definitions.
That's it! Happy 2020! I've got a lot of exciting plans for the new year (Some of which I can't even tell you about yet! See? Exciting), and I'm glad you're coming along for the ride.
Coming up in 2020, on Maddd Science: Richard Powers
Header image: “Mr. Decoder,” by Daniel Williams. Give him a follow if you're a fan of grimsical art.
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