Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Browsing Category Blog


Top 10 Books I’m Still Looking Forward to in 2018

Okay, yes, I’ve already read Emergence by CJC. It’s not even March, yet that seems so long ago already!

Also The Infernal Battalions by Wexler, which finishes the Shadow Campaigns series and I will write a review any day now, probably. It took me a long time to read the whole five-book series. Very dense, plus I stalled out for a bit during the last book for no clear reason. Plus I was working on stuff of my own and that slowed me down a lot.

But the year is young, and there are still so many books coming up in 2018! And so many that are sequels, or that for some other reason I already know I want to read. Here are ten that are pinging my radar particularly loudly:

1. Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs. It’s coming out in just a few days, but I probably won’t leap to buy it immediately. These much-anticipated releases are often so pricey at first. I’ll buy it when the price comes down or when I suddenly really want to read it right that moment, whichever comes first.

2. Obsidio by Kaufman and Kristoff, also coming out in March. Ooh, very exciting! What a page-turner of a series this is! Such wild use of fonts and other formatting techniques! Tons of fun. Really looking forward to it.

3. “Artificial Condition” by Martha Wells, the second Murderbot novella. Loved the first one, already read it a couple times, definitely see no reason whatsoever I won’t love this one just as much. It’s coming out in May.

4. Privilege of Peace by Tanya Huff, due out in June. It’s the last installment (I think?) of her Valor series. I can’t wait to see how she winds the series up.

5. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, due out in July.

It looks like a companion to Uprooted. That’s one I loved more the first time I read it than I did the second time. Still, I’m very interested to see where this next book goes. It looks like it draws on Rumpelstiltskin — that’s certainly a new one in the family of fairy tale retellings. One doesn’t often see a moneylender as the protagonist:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Interesting, eh?

Okay, moving on:

6. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers. A standalone companion to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I very much enjoyed the other two titles in this loosely connected series. Looking forward to this one. It’s expected to come out in July.

7. Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews. The last book of the Kate Daniels series! I bet it’s great. It’s expected out in August. I think they have a related novel coming out before this one — featuring a bad guy — and although generally am not at all keen on bad-guy pov, I suppose I will at least look warily at that one. I do like redemption plots, so if that’s what this is, good.

8. Thief of Emberlain by Scott Lynch. It’s due out this fall. These are dense, gritty novels, but I’ve been really happy with each one, especially the most recent, Republic of Thieves.

9. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Provided I’ve read Strange the Dreamer by then and really liked it, I’ll no doubt be waiting for this one. It’s due out at the end of the year, which is good, as that makes it more likely I will indeed read the first book.

10. I can’t stop at nine, right? So, though I don’t know what it’ll be called or when it’ll be released, I’ll add: Whatever romance Laura Florand brings out next, I’ll be snapping it up.

If I haven’t mentioned one or more titles you’re especially interested in for the coming year, drop it in the comments, please! I’d hate to miss out on something that I haven’t realized is coming out this year.

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Back Cover Copy Can Be Confusing

So, the most recent SFBC mailing arrived, and of course I always glance through it to see what all is included. A good many thrillers and other stuff these days, btw, which is an interesting trend. For example, in this particular mailing, I see the following:

SF – 13 titles
Post Apocalypse / Dystopia – 7 titles
Fantasy – 21 titles
Thriller / horror – 11 titles
Comics, graphic novels, and media tie-ins – 9 titles
Short story collections – 5 titles
Nonfiction – 4 titles
Literary fiction – possibly 1 title, hard to tell

Dystopias and post-apocalypse are subgenres of SFF, so about two-thirds of all the offerings are SFF titles, plus some of the horror (but not all) would probably count. About one-third of the titles in this mailing are something else. Then there are the comics and graphic novels and so on in beteween.

I don’t recall the SFBC offering thrillers and nonfiction even a decade ago, and a decade before that, I don’t think it offered many media tie-ins and comics and graphic novels. Of course I’m guessing about which category some of these belong in; for example, from the description, one book might be a thriller, a horror novel, possibly SF, conceivably fantasy – hard to tell sometimes! I assigned it to the SF category because it’s by Myra Grant – the book is Into the Drowning Deep. Here’s the description:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life the ancient sea creatures of legend. The ship was lost at sea with no reports of survivors. Some cynics have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some crewmembers seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek to experience the greatest hunt of all time. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart, this is a personal voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost aboard the Atargatis.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found beneath the waves.

Now, this is interesting. I imagine anything by Myra Grant will probably sell pretty well, but this particular description doesn’t seem to me to be doing the story many favors. For one thing, is it a thriller, or SF, or horror, or fantasy? Do you agree it’s hard to tell from this description? I’m guessing horror-ish with an SF type of plot, but who knows?

I’m confused by several things in this description. For example, how can this real trip to really film real organisms in the Mariana Trench be expected to produce a “mockumentary?” Doesn’t it seem like if you go to all that trouble you’d really film real organisms and produce an actual documentary? If you wanted to entertain with a mockumentary, why not stay home and use special effects? I don’t get it.

I’m puzzled by other things too. The search for the truth about what? The greatest hunt of all time, for what? How can anybody think the disappearance of the ship was a hoax if people really disappeared, such as Victoria Stewart’s sister? When a ship actually disappears in the real world, does anybody leap to the conclusion the ship was a fake and it wasn’t really lost? A lot of this just seems strange to me.

This particular mailing includes more than one description that seems puzzling and unclear to me, rather than enticing. Here’s one of the featured selections:

Outpost by W Michael Gear

When Supervisor Kalico Aguila’s ship arrives on an alien planet called Donovan, she discovers its government overthrown and the few remaining colonists gone wild.

Talina Perez, one of three rulers of the Port Authority colony, could lose everything, including her life. For Dan Wirth, a psychopath with a death sentence, Donovan is a last chance. Captain Max Taggart is the Corporation’s enforcer. But is it too late to seize control of Donovan?

Then a ghost ship arrives with a dead crew, and reeks of a death-cult ritual that deters any ship from attempting a return journey. But it might be worth the risk, a brutal killer is stalking all of them, as Donovan plays its own complex and deadly game.

Ooookay . . . what?

Are Talina Perez, Dan Wirth, and Max Taggart all passengers on Aguila’s ship? Or were they on the planet when whatever disaster happened? In that case, why have they not “gone wild” like everyone else?

Who wants to seize control of Donovan? All of them together? Seize control from whom? If the government is gone and there are only a few colonists remaining, it doesn’t look like there’s much seizing to do. Is the Corporation a government entity? If so, is it subordinate to the port authority, so that Taggart and Perez are on the same side? How does Aguila fit into this seizing power thing?

A death-cult ritual, fine, but it deters any ship from attempting a return journey to where? The place the ship came from, I guess, but is that the same place all these people came from? Can’t they get back on Aguila’s ship and go wherever they want, leaving the dead ship to itself? Is this brutal killer that’s stalking everyone the planet itself? Is the planet an actual conscious entity?

Incidentally, shouldn’t that be a colon rather than a comma in the last sentence? Just saying.

Well, whatever.

I’m curious to know whether your mileage varies here. Does this description work for any of you?

This is not to say that every description in this particular mailing seems more puzzling than enticing. But for me, this time, the very brief one-sentence descriptions work better. For example, this thriller, End Game by Baldacci, sounds pretty interesting: “Assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel search for their missing handler, Blue Man, in this breathtaking thriller.” Very simple. If you like assassin protagonists, here you go. In some cases, telling the reader just one important thing makes a description so much more enticing than trying to encapsulate the whole complicated situation in ten sentences.

Here’s another very short description that I think really does the job, for The Chimes by Smaill: “In a dystopian London, memory is outlawed and music is one of the only means of expression – and a tool for oppression.” We know practically nothing, but doesn’t that sound intriguing? Anybody who likes dystopias and would like to see a new and peculiar twist on the genre might well want to pick this up and just see how this idea is handled.

Well, as I think everyone agrees, back cover copy is hard. Mailings like this are an interesting way to see what works better and what perhaps less well.

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Martha Wells has a new job —

Via tor.com, I see that Martha Wells has been tasked with creating a new, updated, expanded Magic: The Gathering game.

I never played Magic: The Gathering. I heard some of the jokes about it (“Magic: The Obsession” and so on), so I knew it was there.

From the linked i09 interview:

As leader of Magic’s story team, she’ll be in charge of the story team, driving the fiction and building the lore around the newest expansion, which marks not only the game’s 25th anniversary but also a major event in the Magic franchise.

Very cool. I expect the storytelling will be top-notch.

Lots more at the links.

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Top Ten Romances That Are NOT Love at First Sight

So, I happened across Brandy’s post on Best First Encounters this morning.

Very appropriate for Valentine’s Day, which I’m sure was not a coincidence when The Broke and the Bookish chose their weekly theme.

Brandy’s post is, as it says, Favorite First Encounters. Some of these I recognize and they are so charming, especially Matt and Layla from Once Upon a Rose. What a warm, snuggly romance that is.

But I started thinking about the literary romances I’ve encountered, where I most appreciated the actual start of the romance … and you know what? The further away that moment gets from Love At First Sight, the better I seem to like it. Every first encounter that sprang to mind for me was so very far removed from the LAFS trope. Absolutely zero Instant Hotness in my picks! Here are some of my favorites, pretty much in the order I thought of them:

1. The Touchstone trilogy, in which Cassandra hardly notices Kaoren the first time she sees him. It takes ages and ages before he really pings her radar. I love how their relationship has to develop from a base of zero attraction.

2. The Goblin Emperor, in which first the marriage is politically arranged without regard for the feelings of the participants, and then Csethiro initially thinks he’s too stupid to bother getting to know him … there’s one relationship that has to actually start with negative attraction between the two people involved!

3. The Beacon at Alexandria, in which Athanaric actually believes Charis is a eunuch for ages before discovering she is a woman. That’s quite an obstacle for their relationship!

4. Shards of Honor, which is much more a classic romance in that the reader would have to be pretty dense not to see the romance coming from practically the first meeting, even though one would hardly call it a “meet cute.” The whole story is a romance, of course, in the fairly standard enemies-fall-in-love subgenre, but developed so, so well and with not even a faint nod toward the love-at-first-sight thing.

5. In Troubled Waters, Zoe hardly pays any attention to Darien for a long time — she’s grieving for her father and not interested in romance at all. I love how this relationship develops so slowly and almost in the background of the story.

6. Attachments. Lincoln reading Beth’s private emails: what a weird and stalkery way to develop a relationship. Rowell manages to bring this off. There’s actually a love-at-first-sight kind of reveal at the end which … I can see why Rowell put it in, she did it to justify Beth ever talking to Lincoln after finding out about the email, but I wish she’d come up with a different means of handling this. But a love-at-first sight thing doesn’t bother me as much, apparently, if it’s veeeeery thoroughly hidden from the reader.

7. In Powers, Albert and Melissa el Hajj are in a unique situation. This looks like one kind of story and then goes off in a different direction. The slow development of the relationship is one among many elements that Burton pulls off perfectly.

8. Ooookay, I admit, this is a love-at-first-sight moment, but one that actually worked for me: Island of Ghosts. Ariantes falls for Pervica the moment he sees her, but (a) he is waking up after nearly dying, and (b) suddenly discovering he is glad to be alive, and (c) Pervica is not presented as super-hot or anything. Bradshaw shows the power of the moment in a way that made it completely work for me.

9. Fine, I didn’t think of this until reading over Brandy’s list, but I too really loved the relationship between Sandra Foster and Bennet O’Reilly in Bellwether. There’s one I’ve only read once, but should re-read soon.

10. I have to admit, this is one of my favorites in the not-love-at-first-sight genre of fantasy:

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Small children in SFF

This post by Liz Bourke at tor.com caught my eye: Sleeps With Monsters: Where Are the SFF Stories About Pregnancy and Child-rearing?

Liz says at the end of her post: “I don’t particularly want to read an entire novel about the economics of child-rearing. But I’d like to see more books, more SFF stories, that consider its place in the world and how that affects people in their societies.”

I prefer a story to a philosophical treatise, but sure, this is something that’s great to see in fantasy and science fiction. Pregnancy is in general pretty rare in SFF, isn’t it? And small children even rarer. Except perhaps in epilogues right at the end of stories.

Given that rarity, a handful of SFF stories do rather spring to mind when I try to think of stories involving pregnancy and small children. The first three I think of are all by Lois McMaster Bujold.

1. Barrayar, which is the cover Liz Bourke uses for her post, is an obvious story where pregnancy and alternatives to ordinary pregnancy are front and central. In the Vorkosigan universe, we do indeed get to see how Barrayaran society is affected by changing modes of reproduction. Child rearing is also important; remember how startled Cordelia is when male aristocrats don’t seem to realize that having her involved in Gregor’s care when he’s little is going to have big effects on the man Gregor grows into.

2. Ethan of Athos, obviously, which again is mentioned in the post. Once more reproduction is absolutely central.

3. The Sharing Knife series. Pregnancy and customs revolving around pregnancy get the whole story started; and then of course the series winds up with Fawn pregnant through the last book and taking care of her infant daughter in the last scenes.

And then once you look away from Bujold, what else? How about these:

4. CJC’s Cuckoo’s Egg, which is *all about* child-rearing — and about what it means to be human. Wonderful story, one of my favorites.

5. Oh, hey, while we’re on CJC, how about Cyteen? Again *all about* childrearing, though certainly in a profoundly disturbing way. Young Ari is such a wonderful child protagonist, one of the very best, and we really get to focus on her while she grows up; and on all her young friends.

6. Come to think of it, Cajeiri in the Foreigner series gives us a really good view into childrearing among the atevi. At least among the aristocratic atevi.

7. The Raven’s Shadow / Raven’s Strike duology by Patricia Briggs. The children are pretty young in that story, so it might count as bringing childrearing to the forefront.

8. Dogland by Will Shetterly, which masterfully handles childrearing in Florida in the what, fifties — from the point of view of a quite young child. The reader is going to understand so much more than the child protagonist. Really brilliant book.

9. Eric Flint’s Mother of Demons is one of perhaps a recognizable subgenre — where a lot of children and just a few adults are stranded on an alien world. We don’t see much of the children when they’re little, so perhaps this story doesn’t count. Let me try again:

9b) The stories of the People by Zenna Henderson sometimes involve quite young children. I think they definitely count.

10. Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. One of the few shorter works which has really stuck in my head for decades. What a powerful story. Obviously something of a departure … all right, a complete departure … from ordinary human reproduction.

11. And speaking of Butler, the entire Oankali series, what is that called, oh right the Xenogenesis trilogy. Lots of emphasis on reproduction and young children there, plus the place of reproduction in society and, whoa, it sure gets complicated.

12 … … …

Okay! It is actually quite difficult to come up with a twelfth title, so I must concede that Liz Bourke is right: there don’t seem to be many SFF stories that focus on pregnant women or small children. Possibly more where pregnancy and childrearing are important, but mostly off-stage. What’s an SFF book I’ve missed that centrally features a pregnant woman and/or young children?

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Top Ten Peeves of a Creative Writing Teacher

Here’s an interesting and amusing post by Melodie Campbell at Anne R. Allen’s blog: Top Ten Peeves of Creative Writing Teachers

Recently, a jovial colleague asked me if I was a good teacher or an evil one. I’m definitely on the kind side of the equation. The last thing I want is to be a Dream Killer. But even the kindest, most dedicated writing teachers can get frustrated. So when Anne suggested I rant on these pages, I gracefully accepted. (With the sort of grace that might be associated with a herd of stampeding mastodons.)

Here they are, briefly — more expansive comments on each point at the link. From her comments, Campbell is plainly aiming her class at would-be professional writers; she’s not teaching a class for students who just need an English elective and might just as well have taken Modern American Lit or whatever.

Ten Pet Peeves:

1. I don’t need no stinkin’ genre. I can imagine just what Campbell means — though it’s a bit hard to imagine many people using the phrase “selling out” in this day and age. Although as far as I’m concerned, “literary” IS a genre and I would present it that way if I were teaching the class.

2. The memoir disguised as fiction. Another good one.

3. My editor will fix it. Even I have encountered this and I don’t teach creative writing. But people SAY this. I hear it not just now and then, but pretty often. I’d make this my number one pet peeve if I were teaching a class. If you’re a writer, then the English language is your tool for telling stories (presuming you’re writing in English). You don’t get to declare that you’re no good with grammar but your story will work anyway. Why would you think that could possibly be okay?

Campbell agrees, btw, so I’m not sure why she didn’t make it her #1 point.

4. The Hunger Games Clone. All right, now listen, I can see where Campbell is coming from. But if it’s well done, *I* am not tired of Hunger Games clones and I bet many other readers aren’t tired of them either. Mind you, “well done” means not a clone-clone. But no big trope is so overused it can’t be done really well yet again, imo.

Also, here Campbell adds, “There are just some plots we are absolutely sick of seeing. For me, it’s the ‘harvesting organs’ plot. Almost every class I’ve taught has someone in it who is writing a story about killing people to sell their organs. It’s been done, I tell them. I can’t think of a new angle that hasn’t already been done, and done well. Enough, already. Write something else. Please. Leave the poor organs where they are!”

This instantly makes me want to think of brand-new twists for organ harvesting stories. I’m not well read in this sub-sub-sub genre, but let’s see:

a) Eating someone’s heart really does give you their courage and strength, like eating an animal’s heart was supposed to do in some cultures.

b) Eating even a small portion of a mathematician’s brain means you just know algebra yourself.

Didn’t mean to go on a cannibalism kick there. I told one of our high-level math tutors that if you teach a flatworm a very simple maze and then feed it to other flatworms, they know the maze as well. This old experiment is not flawless, I realize, so don’t bother pointing that out; however, the conversation went in predictable directions from there. We basically agreed that it’s just as well algebra students can’t learn algebra from eating a bit of pureed brain or we’d be in trouble.

Moving on:

c) Some people have a special organ that lets them (i) cast spells, (ii) teleport, (iii) be telepathic, (iv) live forever. Instant market in organs, coming right up.

d) Old people can live practically forever by rejiggering their bodies with young, healthy organs. That sounds a tiny bit familiar. Has anybody done that one already?

How about it? You think Campbell’s seen those kinds of twists on organ harvesting? I bet not. I bet she’s thinking about contemporary stories that deal with economics, not about fun SF plots. How about it, is the trope so common all these options have already been done?

Okay, moving on:

5. The Preacher Who Wants To Teach A Lesson. I myself have seen this several times and I’m not a creative writing teacher. This impulse just seems to be really, really common.

6. Literary Snowflakes: students who ignore publisher guidelines. Yes, as a creative writing teacher I’m not sure I would care. I would just be all, Sure, maybe your debut novel will sell to a big-five publisher even though it’s 250,000 words long. If that doesn’t work out for you, maybe try writing something that fits their actual guidelines?

7. Students Who Set out to Break the Rules. Uh huh. Someone got me to look at their self-published book a few years ago, and it was like a cross between a novel and stage directions for a play. No description, no transition scenes, no dialogue markers such as quote marks. It was more like

JANICE: Why, look, we’ve walked through a portal into another world!

RICHARD stares around in amazement.

I have absolutely no memory of the plot, just the format, but it was fantasy of some kind. I had no idea what to say, except that readers generally know what a novel is and this wasn’t one, so how could that work?

8. Students who don’t write.

Oh, now. I get where Campbell is coming from, but let’s not make this into a pet peeve. Sometimes someone’s hobby is thinking about writing, not writing, and that’s pretty much okay, though it’s a shame they’re paying tuition. But not infrequently a student signs up for a class and then their life gets totally insane and they can’t keep up. A Creative Writing class is an elective and just not important compared to, say, Algebra. Cut ’em some slack, is what I say.

9. Other creative writing teachers who steal our material for their own classes.

This one seems like a stretch. (a) It can’t be common enough to be a pet peeve. (b) Who cares? What difference does it make if some other teacher wants to see how you approach your class and maybe use some of your methods? That sounds fine to me, though it might be more efficient to invite you out for lunch and talk shop.

10. Students who don’t read. Oooookay. This one totally deserves to be a major pet peeve. I didn’t even see it coming, though I’ve heard of the phenomenon — would-be writers who don’t read. I don’t understand it (I don’t understand ANYONE who doesn’t read), but I gather it’s not super-rare.

I guess I wouldn’t let it bother me? I would just be like, Well, this isn’t a bit likely to work out for you, but hey, feel free to try. And then I wouldn’t spend a lot of time critiquing their work because just why?

Click through to read the whole post if you’ve got a minute — Campbell’s got more to say about each point.

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Beyond the Dreams We Know

So, you all remember the original cover I commissioned for Mountain of Kept Memory? It looked like this:

Nice, eh?

Of course then Mountain got picked up by Saga Press and revised, eventually coming out with this quite different but beautiful cover:

Lovely! But it did leave me with extra cover art sitting around, art which I liked quite a bit and was sorry not to use.

Also, as you may recall my mentioning, the revision of Mountain led to the complete removal of one protagonist, a boy named Erest. He wasn’t related to Oressa or Gulien at all, but rather from the family that lives in the shadow of the Kieba’s mountain. Giving his role to Gulien did produce a tighter story, as sometimes (always?) happens when you combine characters. So Gulien got Erest’s role; a revised role, of course, but fundamentally his part in the story initially belonged to this completely different and much younger boy. Remember that Mountain was also being revised from YA to adult, so it made sense to hand Erest’s role to an older character anyway.

But all this revision meant that along with leftover cover art, I had a leftover character on my hands.

This was the exact reason I thought of writing a set of novellas set in worlds I’d previously created: because it gave me a chance to use both the character and the cover.

Erest’s story in Dreams is based on his initial scenes from the first draft of Mountain. Of course his story has been revised to stand alone. Rather than taking place before the events of Mountain, it’s now set a couple generations previously, shortly after his family first settled at the foot of the Kieba’s mountain.

I hope everyone will enjoy revisiting this world in Beyond the Dreams We Know.

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Good writing vs talented writing

Here’s an interesting post contrasting the concepts of “good” writing vs “talented” writing.

This post quotes extensively from Samuel Delany, thus:

If you start with a confused, unclear, and badly written story, and apply the rules of good writing to it, you can probably turn it into a simple, logical, clearly written story. It will still not be a good one. The major fault of eighty-five to ninety-five percent of all fiction is that it is banal and dull….Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.

I like this distinction. Good writing is clear. That’s the level we would like to see all our English Comp students reach. It’s impossible to over-exaggerate how far from some student writing can be, and how impossible it is for a student to improve his or her writing if the student can’t see that the sentences don’t make sense.

But talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind. Aren’t there stories you read where you have a powerful reaction to them, but you aren’t sure what happened? Or the story does not make sense, but you find it effective anyway?

I’m thinking here of a lot of Karen Joy Fowler’s stories, which I read last fall. For example, “Pelican Bar” — here is an online version if you’re curious. This is a fine example of a story that is effective even though it is utterly implausible. If you read it and think it *is* plausible, I think that’s because it was effective in causing things to happen in your mind. Step back and think about the story again and most likely you’ll see why I call it utterly implausible.

KJF’s work often struck me as being poetry in the form of prose, because this is how poetry works for me — by being effective without necessarily making sense.

How about these comments from other authors:

Virginia Woolf knew subtlety was the key to craftsmanship when she counseled that “we have to allow the sunken meanings to remain sunken, suggested, not stated.”

“All bad writers are in love with the epic,” Hemingway admonished.

I would personally argue that plenty of good writers also like epics, but fine, I get that we could take that to mean that a story doesn’t have to be linear or simple in order to be effective, which is clearly true. I have never (should I admit this?) read anything by Virginia Woolf, but I like the idea of leaving sunken meanings sunken. It reminds me of Emily Dickenson’s line “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

Anybody got a great example of beautiful, effective SFF writing that is not clear? As far as I’m concerned, Patricia McKillip often falls into this category, where generally the ending (but sometimes a scene in the middle) of one of her books is just baffling. Beautiful, but baffling.

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