readingredhead: (Adventure)
Since there's only a very small chance that I'll be living in the Bay Area in September (or even California, for that matter!), I've made up a list of the things--big and small--I want to do here before I'm gone. I'll bold and date things as I accomplish them, and if I write an entry about it, I'll link the date to that post. The list is sort of loosely organized by topic, but this is subject to change.

--Gregoire (completed 1/13)
--Chez Panisse
--Beckett's Pub (unfortunately, this place has closed now and I didn't get there in time)
--CA Academy of Sciences NightLife
--wine tasting
--Jupiter (completed 3/12)

--climb Mt. Tamalpais
--hike the Fire Trail
--hike to the Big C
--hike to Indian Rock/air raid siren

--spend a warm day at Strawberry Canyon rec center
--see a play at a theater in Berkeley
--visit the Rose Garden (completed 4/30)
--visit Tilden Regional Park (will be picnicking there 5/17 with the thesis class)

--visit Golden Gate Park

--visit Davis (completed 2/19)
--attend WonderCon (completed 4/3)
readingredhead: (Reading)
Well, I'm back for my final semester at Berkeley (and still freaking out a little about that fact). Within a little more than three months, I'll have written my 40-60 pg. honors thesis, completed my last classes as an undergraduate, and possibly put an end to my career as a student at Berkeley (there's a small chance I could come back for grad school, but that's rather doubtful). Or, you know, I could have a mental breakdown and fail out of everything. But frankly, if that was going to happen to me, it would have happened last semester, and it didn't, so I think I'm doing fairly well so far. The plan is to do awesome things this semester, and hopefully check some things off of my Bay Area Bucket List, which I have now posted as a separate entry on this journal so I can keep track of what I've done.

I haven't been doing much since coming back, aside from re-reading Emma (which does not actually improve very much after seven-and-a-half years' absence, unfortunately), hanging out with friends, and finally updating my personal blog and the book blog I share with some friends. I seem to have aliens on the mind at the moment; in the past few days I've written one post about the book containing my favorite alien narrator (and possibly favorite alien character) of all time and another about why the 456 from Torchwood: Children of Earth are so damn terrifying. Now I just need to read some new science fiction and I'll be set.

My plans for the evening involve reading some of Castle Waiting (which [ profile] cosmic_llin recommended and which my local public library happens to own), eating dinner and watching more of the Sarah Jane Adventures, and then settling down to spend a few hours attempting to read The Rules of Art by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu before returning to SJA before bedtime. Frankly, this sounds like a good evening.

EDIT: So, I haven't had any SJA or Bourdieu fun yet, but I did just finish Castle Waiting and am sad there is not more of it!
readingredhead: (Adventure)
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It depends if by "world" you mean a particular planet, or a particular universe. If I'm choosing between different planets/planet-like spaces/planar domains and dimensions, the first one that comes to mind is Narnia -- to live in a land where animals talk and children rule as kings and queens. Ever since The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe I've been longing for a meeting with Aslan.

But if we're talking about comprehensive fictional universes, I have to say that I'd most want to visit our mirror or neighbor universe (or is it really our universe and I haven't caught on yet?) as portrayed in Diane Duane's Young Wizards books and associated stories. Not because it has wizards, or at least, not just because it has wizards. In fact, I have a feeling that if I did go there, I wouldn't be one of those people who gets offered a chance to take the Wizard's Oath and take up a role in the great fight against entropy alongside Life Itself (because though I'm almost a "grown-up," a part of me believes or wants to believe that she's just describing the world as it really is, but as I can't see it -- and if this world really is her world, then I would have been offered the Wizard's Oath by now if there were any chance of that ever happening, because the world always needs more wizards...). But for whatever reason, Duane answers the questions of metaphysical cosmology for her universe in a way that appeals to me. Possibly this is because I first began reading her books in a moment when I was asking these same kinds of questions of my real universe, and failing to develop adequate answers. Possibly it's just another sign of the human dependency upon answers to fight off the darkness. Still, if I could head out to any of the strange and wonderful fictional worlds out there, I'd most like to find myself in a New York suburb eating dinner with the Rodriguezes and the Callahans (and perhaps, if I'm lucky, some alien visitors).
readingredhead: (Earth)
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I'm just gonna interpret this question as planing for when I accompany the Doctor on his zany adventures through time and space. (This will, of course, obviously happen. I am female, almost ginger, and may possibly at some point in my life return to live in London. The odds are in my favor already.)

In no particular order, and with various degrees of specificity:

1. The 1790s in England. Yes, I know this is about as far from specific as I can get, but this is probably the historical decade I find the most intriguing. This is when Jane Austen became a writer (though not a published novelist), when Blake did some of his most intense engravings, when the French Revolution took a turn towards insanity and when the world was on the brink of so many major cultural changes. I would just want to live as a part of this for a while, to get a real feel for the things that fascinate me about this decade.

2. The World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention of 1968, which was held in Berkeley. Yes, this means there was once a conflation of Berkeley, the sixties, and SFF geeks. 1968 is the year that Anne McCaffrey's short story "Weyr Search" won the Hugo Award for best short story -- and this story is the one that was later extended into Dragonflight, the first of her Dragonriders of Pern books, and the first book that really got me into science fiction.

3. The first man on the moon, 1969. I just wonder what it must have felt like for those people who had lived in a time when no images of earth from space were readily available to see those first pictures from the Apollo mission, and to have a sudden jarring understanding of themselves as such a small part of such a small corner of the universe, but a corner that undeniably mattered.

4. Anything in which I got to meet Elizabeth I. Because she's just bound to be utterly badass. Maybe I would want to go see a Shakespeare play with her.

5. The fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. I was technically alive at the time, but had only been so for six months.

Undoubtedly as soon as I post this I will realize some incredibly significant historical event that I'm missing, but for the moment I think this is a pretty good list. I'm obviously most invested in the first three items; the others might rotate out with my mood.
readingredhead: (Professor)
After a good deal of thinking, and the combination of just the right encouragement and motivation, I've decided to set up a separate blog where I can write in a moderately professional, moderately serious matter about the (often irreverent or "non-literary") topics that I find interesting as a student of English literature.

So, if you're as interested as I am in the intersection of classroom literature and popular literature, follow me over at Austen and Aliens. The blog's inaugural post -- about what I learned about Jane Eyre by reading a modern science-fiction adaptation of Bronte's famous novel -- is probably a decent indicator of the tone and subject matter I plan to take up in the following posts. I'm already making long lists of future topics to tackle (answering questions such as "What do Austen's Persuasion and Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' have in common?" and "Why is it academically acceptable for me to read 18th-century pornographic literature in the classroom, but not modern romance novels outside of the classroom?") and will likely use it as a fertile outlet for intelligent discussion and wild procrastination as I pursue the course of my thesis in following months.

Ultimately, though, I expect it'll help me develop a confident and conversational though still professional and analytical voice in which to discuss literature -- and who knows, maybe it'll actually help me win those arguments about the significance of genre fiction that I've been having with my father for all these years.
readingredhead: (Doctor What)
Oh man. I have to wake up in six hours so I should probably get to sleep, but I have to say, I am more than justifiably obsessed with Doctor Who. Because it does everything that good fiction should do. It works on such an epic register but at the end of the day everything is personal. I'm still a little eh about how things ended up in this ep -- and by "eh" I mean there was more crying but also some fangirl squeeing because Rose/Ten is the CUTEST THING EVER (also, I think I am a fangirl. Oops?) -- but seriously it's just enthralling. I think it's because it speaks a language I understand; the universe of Doctor Who operates around the same series of tropes and metaphors I've come to structure myself around. I work because it works; it shapes who I am just as I hope to someday write my own shaping contributions to the massive and overwhelming oeuvre.

[Also, marvel at the fact that I have finally found a Doctor icon that meets my high standards. Problem with not possessing imaging programs beyond MS Paint: severely limited in personal icon-making abilities. Possibly a good thing? In the meantime, I need to sleep anyway since I really do need to wake up in six hours and it would be great to have at least one night where I get a good night of sleep.]
readingredhead: (Earth)
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Ah, the alien question. Although I only have 15 minutes before I'm supposed to leave for class, and I haven't even finished getting ready yet, I feel like this is a good moment to give an answer to this because being the person I am, it's something I've thought about. [This will be a very impressionistic answer here. Maybe I'll clean it up later.]

I'm not sure what's more significant to our existence -- the possibility that we would someday encounter lifeforms from another world, or the way that that idea works within our minds to create whole genres' worth of metaphor and simile for dealing with the unknown. Aliens let us see ourselves as alien. All the little things that we do and take for granted aren't so normal when viewed by someone else. But the same thing works in reverse. The fiction of aliens -- even if it is only a fiction -- is one that provides our collective consciousness with a metaphor for the Other, and sets it far enough away from us that we can comfortably pretend we aren't affected by it while learning great truths from it. I can't even begin to count the number of things I've learned about life and my existence from science fiction (most recently from rereading The Left Hand of Darkness which is now one of my favorite books ever).

This is incoherent, which is sad, because it's part of an argument I've been thinking my way through for forever. At first the idea of aliens seems like a bad one to keep around, even metaphorically. Once you separate someone out as different or separate and do it on a large scale, you create an Other that can be discriminated against, oppressed, subjugated, slaughtered. Old tracts about race made non-white peoples into aliens, argued that racial interbreeding was not only immoral but physically impossible, and this attempt to equate skin color with species was responsible for so much violence, so much pain, so much human suffering. It always happens like that. Hitler did it, too, but people followed him not just because he was powerful but because there is a fear or misunderstanding of the Other at the heart of most people, even if it's small.

And yet it doesn't make sense to do away with the aliens altogether, because sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, an author lets the metaphoric edge slip, and suddenly it is the so-called "alien" whose "humanity" we see, and the Terran human who is judged by the eyes of an outsider. That judgement, the turning of the metaphor upon itself, is key. Without it, the metaphor would be destructive; with it, the metaphor becomes essential. It seems like a stretch to assert boldly that the thing that makes human beings human, the thing that gives us a soul (though not in a necessarily religious sense), is our ability for fellow-feeling, for understanding and responding sympathetically to the pain of another -- and so I won't make that assertion -- but think about this: even if it's not true, what if we all decided to believe that empathy and compassion were the traits that distinguished humanity, and what if we all decided to strive for them? This might not be scientifically true. But if we all believed in feeling with and for others, wouldn't that make the world a better place? It might not be the most rational of responses, but rationality doesn't always lead down the best road.

My favorite part is how I haven't actually answered the question. Statistically speaking, yes, I suppose that life other than ours does exist, or has existed, or will exist, in some other quadrant of this universe, but considering the vast space and time dimensions we're dealing with, I doubt any of them will make their way to Earth any time soon, and so at present the best use for aliens is metaphor that makes us think things through in a new way and see ourselves through strange eyes.
readingredhead: (Default)
Day one • a song
Day two • a picture
Day three • a book
Day four • a site
Day five • a youtube clip
Day six • a quote
Day seven • whatever tickles your fancy

Conveniently, I have come across another meme that allows me to sort of answer this one by providing a whole lot of stuff about books!

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Not having my bookshelf in front of me at this moment (it being in another country and all) it's hard to say, but probably Anne McCaffrey, simply because she is so prolific. I own all of her Dragonriders of Pern books (multiple copies of some of them) plus assorted others. She takes up a jam-packed half-shelf.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
This is probably a toss-up between Jane Eyre and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. For Jane Eyre, I have the first copy I read (a falling-apart-at-the-seams $0.25 library bookstore purchase), the first critical copy I bought (because I really liked the introduction), two copies of the one with the killer engravings (yes, two, they were only $1 a piece), and the copy that I bought in London this semester to read for my Fiction and Narrative class. As for Sorcerer's Stone, I possess it in paperback, hardback, UK paperback, special edition (leather-bound and gold-edged pages), and the Latin translation. But I am the kind of person who thinks it's awesome to have multiple copies of the same book, particularly if they possess different cover art or have some interesting distinguishing feature, so there may well be some other book that I possess five copies of.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Considering I just ended my last response with a preposition, I'm going to say no.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I can't give one answer. Remus Lupin is mostly an intellectual crush. I love Mr. Darcy but more because I identify strongly with Elizabeth. Same goes for Mr. Rochester -- I like him because I am so attuned to Jane. I feel guilty loving fictional characters who are already (fictionally) attached! Also, of course, I love Nik from Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative trilogy and Enris from the Stratification trilogy.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
I feel like it's probably one of the Harry Potter books or a Young Wizards book, simply because those books were my favorites long before I read any of the other books that are currently my favorites. I feel like I've read Jane Eyre a million times but the truth is that I've just listened to my audiobook a million times; I've only read it cover-to-cover maybe three or four times.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- I know I read it before I turned eleven because once I turned eleven I kept waiting for my owl from Hogwarts to come...

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Breaking Dawn. Enough said.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Usually the answer to this would be a Julie E. Czerneda book, hands down, but Rift in the Sky was such a traumatic experience that I'm not sure I can say I liked it that much. I probably don't have a 'best' list, but I really came to like Neil Gaiman (mostly for The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere), George R. R. Martin redefined 'epic' for me with A Game of Thrones, and most recently Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca sent chills all up and down my spine.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. Her books have changed my life and I can't imagine not having them in the world.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
J. K. Rowling. Her books have done more to unite the world under a banner of peace, love, and understanding than any author now alive.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Probably Diane Duane's Young Wizards books. There was actually a project to do this a while back, and Duane herself was going to write the script (before becoming a fiction writer she wrote for film and television).

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Paradise Lost. Despite the fact that at one point last year there were two projects (one studio, one independent) attempting this. I don't know why.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I was talking with Julie E. Czerneda and she got mad at me for not having made Rebecca read her books. Another time Diane Duane told me that I was being cocky because she overheard me tell my dad that I really wanted to be published by a particular sff imprint.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
The more expensive variety of paperback romance...actually, the Twilight books are probably worse. And I read fanfic, so do with that what you like.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Absalom, Absalom! by Faulkner is the first that comes to mind because it's difficult to get the story, much less something of the deeper meaning. But Paradise Lost might be the book where I've had to do the most digging for insight and meaning -- and where it has been most worthwhile.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Probably Love's Labours Lost -- I have read more obscure Shakespeare plays than I have seen.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Oh man, my favorite revolutionaries. It's hard to pick (the Russians have Chekov!) but in the end I have to go with the French. As long as you understand that they're rarely meant to make sense, you'll be alright.

18) Roth or Updike?
No idea who these people are.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Managed to never read either of them.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Milton, hands down. See the part where that man consumed last semester at Berkeley (in a rather painfully joyous way).

21) Austen or Eliot?
Um, since when is that a question? Austen. Definitely.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I have never read anything written before Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. For non-English majors this is not at all a gap, but for me it means I haven't read Homer, Virgil, or Dante, only some of the most alluded-to authors that I've never encountered.

23) What is your favorite novel?
The Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane

24) Play?
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, The Last Five Years (score by Jason Robert Brown), Metamorphosis (not by Ovid!)

25) Poem?
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds" by Shakespeare; "When I consider how my light is spent" by Milton

26) Essay?
"Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story" by Michael Chabon

27) Short story?
I don't really like short fiction -- either reading it or writing it. "Skin So Green and Fine" is an odd Beauty and the Beast retelling that makes the cut; "Attached Please Find my Novel" is a tale of intergalactic publishing escapades that's in it for the title alone.

28) Work of non-fiction?
Erm. I don't read those?

29) Graphic novel?
See above. Although I recently read Maus and thought it was fantastic.

30) Who is your favorite writer?
Aargh hatred for this question. But it's down to Diane Duane, Julie E. Czerneda, and J. K. Rowling.

31) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I wouldn't know, I haven't read him!

32) What is your desert island book?
Tough question, but probably A Thousand Words for Stranger or The Wizard's Dilemma. Both are narratives of hope and connection in the midst of a chaotic world. But Paradise Lost might make the list because I could use all that time I was stranded to get all my Milton ideas out of my system and onto some paper.

33) And ... what are you reading right now?
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
readingredhead: (Talk)
Sometimes I think that if I could be any one person in the world, aside from myself, I would be Julie E. Czerneda. And then other times, I think that even if I could be anyone, I'd be myself, because then I could continue to read and love Julie's work in the way that I do now, and she probably doesn't enjoy what she does the same way that I enjoy it.

So much of what I know about the emotional dynamics of the universe has been elucidated through literature. That's not to say that my experiences in the real world are so limited or unimportant as to result in my reliance upon the fictional; rather, it is to say that fiction provides an ideal training ground -- a practice universe, if you will -- to allow you to experience things outside of yourself as being nonetheless internal. Literature's power is generated by its ability to make the strange, the outside, the other, into a part of the self.

I could go on for ages about the purpose of literature being a reversal of the processes of human alienation, but right now I think I'll save that for the thesis I plan on writing, incorporating most of Julie's works and discussing her viewpoint on what it is that makes humans human, or special, or necessary in a future of alien species galore (or even in a not-so-distant future, where the sphere of explorable space is very large, and very empty).

At the end of the day, I feel simple amazement and wonder at the universe that has such writers, and such writing, in it.
readingredhead: (Default)
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Because I don't quite feel like getting back to writing a novel yet -- the top 10 books I read this year. DISCLAIMER: The exact rankings are a little sketchy, and NO ONE is allowed to judge me based upon them. :)

10. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Okay, so I'm a little psycho. Somehow, I really liked this book. Maybe it's because I got into hours worth of conversations about it with my GSI and professor, and their discussions convinced me that it was a worthwhile book. But whether or not I actively enjoyed reading every page, I was actively reading, trying to figure out what was going on and attempting to unravel the mysteries of the Sutpen family... It was my favorite book of this fall's English class, that's for sure.

9. The Faerie Queene (Books 1 and 3) by Edmund Spenser
There are moments where this book was fun, and moments where it wasn't -- another book where analyzing it made it more interesting. I wrote what I felt was a pretty kickass paper about Spenser's allegorical method, and really enjoyed the way this book felt like Disney technicolor sometimes.

8. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
You'd think that it wouldn't be the best idea to read a love story right after you've been broken up with. But Danica kept telling me this was a good book, and I needed something new, so I read it. It wasn't overall captivating, but there were moments of it that I really enjoyed, and it deserves to be on the list for its originality at the very least.

7. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
This book probably belongs waaaay higher up on the list, but I can't make a definite decision about it because I've only read it once, and rather recently, thus biasing me. I read most of it in one or two sittings, and it was my first exposure to LeGuin. I still don't know entirely what to think, other than to be awed by her command of worldbuilding and to wonder at her sparse yet evocative writing style.

6. Sabriel by Garth Nix
Another book I'd been told to read forever and had never gotten around to until I got to review it for Teens Read Too. The premise and the style are so unique, somehow so clean, and there's something about the characters that makes me wish I could see a little more of them. I've already re-read it once.

5. Paradise Lost by John Milton
The language may seem as impenetrable as a brick wall, but it's also as beautiful as a work of art -- it is a work of art. I read this for an English class, as you might guess, but somewhere along the line, I fell in love with it. Possibly because of the analysis of it, but not to the same extent as with Faulkner and Spenser. This, I would enjoy even outside of the analytical context, whereas I have a feeling that if I encountered Faulkner or Spenser outside of the classroom I would have been too frightened to make anything of them. I'm beginning to realize how much I learn about life in the English classroom -- be it religion, individuality, feminism, you name it, Milton probably had something to say about it, and I'm glad to have read it. (Plus -- where else are you going to get a description of angels having sex in iambic pentameter??)

4. Small Favor by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden will always make me laugh and sometimes also make me cry, or at least realize the tenderness and poignancy in the world around me. This book did more of the former than the latter, but was just what the doctor ordered. It left me, as they always do, waiting for the next one.

3. Slightly Married by Mary Balogh
I decided to put only one of the romance novels I've been reading on this list, because it was difficult to choose between them -- but this is the first in a series, and includes some of the characters that I enjoyed the most. Again, the mode in which I encountered this novel probably has a decent amount to do with why I enjoyed it so much. Rebecca and I read it out loud together! Skipping all the intensely smutty parts, of course. :) But seriously, I love being read to. It's one of my favorite things. We're now working our way through the series and are on the fourth book of six. (Rebecca, if you're reading this, I miss Gervase!)

2. Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane
So technically I'm not sure this book should count, since this was certainly not the first time I read it by any means. But as usual, Diane Duane played an important role in the process of my life, this time by providing me with something to fall asleep to so I wouldn't have to think about who I wouldn't be waking up to. More than that, she made me cry for all the right reasons and remember that men and women can have healthy relationships predicated entirely upon friendship, even if only in fiction.

1. Riders of the Storm by Julie E. Czerneda
As usual, Julie takes the cake for renewing my sense of awe and wonder at the universe. I think I've probably said enough about this book already, but I suppose a few more words won't hurt. I haven't re-read it yet, but I plan to do so in the new year. Then, I'll know how good it actually is -- first readings are occasionally inaccurate -- but for now I can just say that it's the first time in a long time that I've cried for joy.

...aaaaand now I officially can't procrastinate anymore, not if I really want to get this novel done, which I do, I do! I am so psyched about this!
readingredhead: (Light)
--read Absalom! Absalom!
--write Mrs. Dalloway response
--edit English notes

--edit short stories
--edit poetry
--pick poetry and short stories to submit for prizes

--plan November's novel

--study abroad course planning
--study abroad statement of purpose
--fill out annoying application-y things

--read Malia's story
--read Michele's story

Not die. Overall, not dying is always a good thing.

I'm still really enjoying life. Rebecca and I had a kick-off party for NaNoWriMo on Saturday and it kicked ass! People, like, actually showed up. And enjoyed themselves. OMG! :) It was nice getting praised today in the office for how well that went. It's good to be appreciated.

Also I'm looking for a hat to complete my Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa in Casablanca) costume that spontaneously appeared in my life in the form of a $16 vintage coat that is totally Casablanca. It makes me think of Mr. Vargish and therefore my life is improved.

Now I'm just trying not to do things. So I'm going to go do things instead. Hopefully I'll have the chance to post one more my-life-is-going-to-hell-and-you-should-join-me-there entry before November begins, but if not...may the insanity ensue!
readingredhead: (Default)
Found this while researching for Monday's decal course...from

Aliens aren't human beings
Star Trek to the contrary, a good SF alien is not a neurotic human in makeup. An alien should be different, and different in a way that is consistent with its planetary environment, its evolutionary history, the culture it comes from, and its own personality. Each of those developmental factors feeds into the next in a descending hierarchy that results in the being's behavior, and each should be consistent to the prior. Even subtle differences in the evolutionary history (assuming all things being equal) will lead to wholesale changes in the culture an intelligent species develops. It is probable that we cannot truly write from an alien point of view, but we can develop our alternate people in a logical consistent manner. If you want to write an alien that is different in some specific manner from us, then work to find an evolutionary reason for its difference (why it would aid the species' survival, or the survival of its evolutionary progenitors) and create a homeworld where such developments make sense.
readingredhead: (Red Pen)
This is not much of an entry, just a lot of little fragmented things.

I was thinking about this randomly today in the shower: (not quite twenty) questions I want to be asked within the next twenty years.

This paper was written by an undergrad?
Do you want to go out sometime?
Would you like to work for us?
Can we publish this?
Would you mind if I kissed you?
When did you decide to become a writer?
Can I have your autograph?
Would you like to go on tour?
Is this forever?
Can I get my picture taken with you?
Do you realize how beautiful you are?
How did you get to where you are today?
Has he proposed yet?
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Will you marry me?
Is that your daughter?


I'm taking a swing dancing class that I really enjoy. It's so great just to get out and do something that's NOT school-related, or scholarly in any way. And since it's swing, all the people are really nice. I've only had one class so far but it looks like it's a great group of people.


Lauren, remember that long post about love a while ago? I was watching X-Files tonight and this quote happened, and it made me think back to that.

"Well, it seems to me that the best relationships-- the ones that last-- are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is... suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with." --Scully

I really like it, and how it meshes with the idea of love as something subtle that develops over time and that you don't notice happening until it's happened.


I went to a Michael Chabon reading today. He's a writer who lives in the area and is arguably shaping up to be THE best writer of the twenty-first century (according to my dad, among others). I had never read anything of his before, but I think I've fallen half in love with his thoughts on genre fiction vs. literary fiction. Basically, there are three things that need to happen for the two genres to reconcile themselves.

1. Literary authors have to start taking genre fiction seriously.
2. Literary readers have to start taking genre fiction seriously.
3. Genre writers have to start taking genre fiction seriously.

It was really interesting because my dad really likes his early work, which I wasn't able to get into at all. However, one of his most recent novels (The Yiddish Policeman's Union) won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award--both intended specifically for science fiction. Now, my dad would never call Chabon's book sf, because he would be of the opinion that that's degrading to Chabon. However, Chabon was talking about how he doesn't like the person he was in his early works in the same way that he likes the person he is now--now that he's allowed himself to innovate and cross genres just a little, which is something he hopes to do more of in the future.

It was great to have a chance to call up my dad and tell him that one of his literary heroes thinks he's silly for disdaining genre fiction. But it was also great to see someone who will probably draw even larger crowds in years to come.


Maybe there was something else, but I forgot.
readingredhead: (Default)
Oh my god. I have been working on decal-related things FOR MORE THAN TWELVE HOURS. I went to a decal facilitator workshop at noon and Natalie and Danica are STILL HERE working on putting together a course reader.

And I still have homework tomorrow. Shit.

readingredhead: (Default)
Am I the only one geeky enough to think that this is possibly the coolest thing I could possibly be paid money for?  I'm definitely making it a goal to develop my collection regarding the history of science fiction and its criticism to enter this contest for next semester!  I've already got old magazines, new critical approaches, and a bunch of junk in between -- not to mention a crapload of anthologies and novels.  I wonder if they count movies -- no collection of sci-fi history could possibly be complete without Star Wars and X-Files!

The Hill-Shumate Book Collecting Prize

Prizes are open to currently enrolled undergraduates of UC Berkeley. Kenneth E. Hill and Albert Shumate established the prizes to encourage Berkeley students to collect books, to build their own libraries, to appreciate the special qualities of the printed word, and to read for pleasure and education. The Hill-Shumate Prize awards $600 to the winning entry, $300 for second place, and $100 for third place. In addition, all entrants will receive one-year gift memberships in the Friends of The Bancroft Library.

To be considered for the Hill-Shumate Prizes, collections must include at least 50 items. Collections may cover specific authors or subjects, contemporary or historical; they may stress bibliographical features (edition, illustrations, binding, etc.); paperbacks and ephemeral material may be included as long as they significantly reflect the purposes of the collection; modern textbooks should not be submitted.

Judges will give special consideration to how well the collection reflects the student's stated goals and interests. Age, rarity, or monetary value of material in the collections submitted is less important than the thought, creativity, and persistence demonstrated in defining a collection and bringing it into being.

To be considered for the Hill-Shumate Prize, students are asked to submit:

  • A brief essay of up to 1000 words describing the nature and character of the collection, how and why it was assembled, when it was begun, its significance, and the future direction(s) the collection may take.
  • An informal list of the items in the collection, citing author, title, place and date of publication, type of binding, and condition. Annotations on the importance of individual pieces may be included.


After reviewing the essays and lists, the judges may ask finalists to bring selected items from their collections to The Bancroft Library for final judging.

Winners will be announced and awards made at the Annual Meeting of the Friends of The Bancroft Library held in the spring of each year.

readingredhead: (Talk)
Revised answers to the questions for the Clarion application.  Do these sound like me?  And do they make me sound good?

1. Describe your writing habits.

            When things like work and school don’t interfere, and sometimes even when they do, I write every day. Not always consistently on one project—I usually have several brewing in my head at a time—but always I write. When I fall in love with an idea, it consumes my fiction for a while and I pursue it intensely. 
            Stories usually come to me as characters, and I think that character is the most important element of everything I write. If I know who I’m writing about, I know what they’re likely to do, and when and where they need to live, and what has to happen to them. I like to spend a lot of time planning stories before I have to write them, but once I start actually writing a story, I tend to finish it within the week or else abandon it.
            I work best when I’ve got a deadline in sight and a group of supportive friends and fellow writers around me. I don’t need deadlines to write, but there’s something about the figure of a deadline—especially one shared by other friends and writers—that entices my ideas to coalesce in ways I never would have thought possible. I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for the past three years and my experiences have taught me that deadlines are important not just for motivational purposes, but also because they allow me to pace myself.

2. What do you hope to accomplish through Clarion?

            I hope to become more conscious of my own writing style in order to pinpoint specific weaknesses and develop methods of combating them. I also hope to come to a better understanding of my comfort zone within writing, so that I can try to expand beyond it. One of my specific goals is to work on telling more compact stories; at present, even my short stories tend to be long and rambling. I’m also looking forward to getting a new vantage point on the genres of fantasy and science fiction, as well as the opportunity to see what writing within these genres means to other writers. And of course, I’m looking forward to completing a short story or two over the course of the summer and having the chance to revise them with the assistance of feedback from other writers.

Any feedback appreciated.  These are the only things they hear about me on the application aside from my two short stories.  Thanks, everyone.
readingredhead: (Red Pen)
Crap I have to do this weekend:

--more ID terms for Russian history
--pgs. 277-364 in Russian history reader
--read chapter 11 of Russian history textbook
--re-read Danica's short story and type up critique
--re-read Sonja's short story and type up critique
--finish writing tutor application
--choose short story #2 to submit for Clarion
--submit Clarion application
--submit poetry to Berkeley Poetry Review
--start brainstorming Chaucer paper topics
--read Hamlet again

It'll be nice to get the Clarion stuff done.  I still have no idea what story I'm submitting along with "Fire and Ice."  I've gotten so many mixed messages.  Before I had other people read my stuff I was so sure it would be "Potential Energy," but then no one else liked it as much as I did and Shanna sent it back to me with a really great critique that pointed out to me all the ways in which I could make it work so much better -- which is a nice way of saying she told me all the ways it wasn't working, and I know enough about writing to know her points were valid.

Then I pretty much have ruled out "The Free Way" simply because it's way ungainly at the moment and I don't have the heart to put it through a massive rewrite, especially when I'm not sure that's what it needs at all, at least not now.  At least, not for this.  Also I'm not sure I can do that in 6,000 words (though I probably could if I had to).

The technical aspects of "Staring into Space" make me dislike it for a few reasons (not to mention the fact that it feels too young to me, which is understandable since it's the first short story I ever wrote) but I recently revised it and it was at least feeling a little fresher.  At the same time, though, it's also slightly cliched in places.  It's more of a traditional sf piece.  At the moment that's the largest thing it's got going for it.

My father thinks I should send them "Cold War, Cold World" but I have a few issues with that, too (not the least of which being that it's also set somewhere extremely cold and obviously I can write things that are not set in the Arctic, thankyouverymuch, but I'd like that to show).  Dad thinks it's a strong showing because it demonstrates that I can do traditional sf.  I think it shows that I shy away from the elements of traditional sf that really matter -- the exact nature of the mysterious chemical, the action sequence when the hostages are rescued.  I like what might be termed the "trickiness" of the ending, but I don't know if that's enough to justify it as an inclusion.

I hate not knowing these things and having no way to judge them on my own.  I was hoping that a pattern would emerge from people's answers.  Well, a pattern did emerge -- Fire and Ice is really great and nothing else that you put next to it will look half as good.  Never in so many words but that's completely how it feels to me right now.  (And partly that scares me because I wrote "Fire and Ice" two and a half years ago, and I don't want that to have been my peak!)

Well.  I guess this means I'll just go along doing other things on the list until that's the only one I'm left with.  Usually this is a good idea.  I just hope that it will be this time.
readingredhead: (Default)
Questions from the Clarion application.  The only things other than the stories that they plan to read.  (Just so we're clear, these are rough, freewriting answers.)

Describe highest education (school, dates, degree)
-graduated Mission Viejo High School in June 2007
-currently enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley (August 2007-present)

Describe your writing habits. (What exactly do they mean by this?  I'm honestly not sure.)
When things like school and work don't interfere, I write every day.  Not always on the same project, but I make sure I've written something.  When I fall in love with a project, I pursue it intensely.  I've done National Novel Writing Month three times and it's taught me how to write every day, unfailingly, and then go back to edit later.  I write best when I've got a deadline in sight and a group of supportive friends and fellow writers to cheer me on.  This doesn't mean that I need deadlines to write, or to think about writing, but there's something about the figure of a deadline--especially one shared by other friends and writers--that entices my ideas to coalesce in ways I never would have dreamed possible.  I think a lot before beginning a story.  I do research about any aspect that I don't have personal knowledge about.  I really like to get to know my characters, and they're usually where a story starts for me.  With short fiction I'm pretty good at planning things, but I also don't like to stick to tightly to plots when something better shows up.  I usually write with a laptop but I carry a journal and a pen with me in every purse I own and you'll never find me without the ability to write.  When I'm blocked on my laptop, I banish myself to someplace with nothing but pen and paper and just write.

What do you hope to accomplish through Clarion?
I hope to strengthen my prose style while working specifically within the genres--fantasy and science fiction--that I enjoy the most.  College creative writing courses, from my limited experience, tend to focus on "literary fiction," disdaining other forms, and as such I have not had many opportunities to hone my craft specific to these genres.  I also hope to find a supportive community of writers interested in similar topics who will be able to give better criticism of my works than those who are not acquainted with sci-fi and fantasy.  (Also, let's be honest, I hope to learn how to get something published--how to write something so damn good that a publisher can't say no--except I'm almost positive that such a thing can't be taught.)  As far as craft goes, I'd specifcally like to work on telling more compact stories; even my short stories tend to be long and rambling, and that's something I'd like to work on.

List professional writers or Clarion graduates you know.
(I actually like this list very much.  I'm rather proud of it.  I just want to know what they plan to do with it!)
Julie E. Czerneda
Vikram Chandra
Melanie Abrams
Matt Miller

*sigh* I'm not even sure how I want to answer these, or how much space I get to answer them in!  Time will tell, I suppose...I know things will work out, and I shouldn't stress over this crap nearly as much as I ought to stress about my stories.  Because if I wow them with a story, it won't matter if my writing habits involve setting fire to the bedsheets, they'll want me.  And I oh so very much want them to want me.
readingredhead: (Stranger)
I’ve decided to apply for the Clarion workshop for sci-fi and fantasy writers. This means a lot of things. First, that there’s a good chance I’m insane. But second, and more importantly, that I need to submit two short stories as the bulk of my application. They have to be under 6,000 words each, which at the moment seems to be the hardest part for me, as two of my favorite short stories are significantly longer than this. I’m going to work with all of the stories I have on hand that even remotely fulfill the sff genre requirement.
This is the part where I ask for your help. Because first I have to pick the two stories that I’m going to focus on, and then I have to work with them, and in both of those stages I could really use a few (more than a few!) readers to provide me with feedback. I can’t underemphasize how important this is—how big an opportunity the Clarion workshop is. This is very close to being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So how can you help? What I’d like for you to do, if you think you have the time to help me, is this. I know a lot of you have had my stories foisted upon you at one point or another. In a comment, tell me if you’ve read any of the following stories, and if there are any you’d particularly like to read. I’ll e-mail you stories you’re interested in, and you can read them and get them back to me as soon as possible—the deadline to submit an application is March 1. Also, if you have recommendations for which two I should focus on, that would be great.
Here’s a list of the stories that are under consideration for this, with synopses and a few of my own personal thoughts about what their strengths or weaknesses in relation to this application might be.
Staring Into Space
Synopsis: A young girl, Mikra, loves science fiction and longs for the stars but lives in a world where spaceflight has been given up as a waste of time and money. When Mikra finds herself in a first contact situation, however, she is presented with a unique opportunity to remind more than one species of the role that science fiction plays in encouraging scientific discovery.
Strengths: It’s a good sociological science fiction story that, I feel, has a lot to say about what I think about sf and what it can accomplish.
Weaknesses: It’s the first short story I ever wrote, and as such it feels a little immature to me. I’ve since revised it, but it’s still got a bit of that youthful naïveté to it. Whether this is a bad thing to anyone other than myself, I don’t know. Also, as a personal pet peeve, it changes POV two-thirds of the way through. I still haven’t found a way to tell the story effectively without the POV shift, but that’s physical evidence of what I’d call the immaturity of this story.
The Free Way
Synopsis: Steph is a normal high school girl who hates the torment she endures daily in her PE class. Seemingly by chance during one of her classes, she discovers an entrance into an odd alternate world that she initially finds accommodating, but whose restrictions become more apparent over time. Eventually she realizes that she wants to leave this mock-world behind, but it’s a harder job than she’s bargained for.
Strengths: I think this story has a lot to say for the way I think about fantasy as a genre. It’s a lot closer to magical realism than true fantasy, and I like that about it. It involves normal people who end up in the middle of something approximating an adventure, which is my favorite aspect of fantasy.
Weaknesses: It needs a complete rewrite. It was the second short story I ever wrote, and it’s almost completely the opposite of “Staring Into Space”: it’s long-winded and expansive with its descriptions where it probably doesn’t need to be. Also, it’s about 9,000 words long and would be a bitch to condense.
Cold War, Cold World
Synopsis: A discovery of militarily valuable material in Antarctica results in several scientists being held hostage. A crack military intelligence team is developed in order to retrieve the hostages, using the newfound material to aid them. This is all part of an ongoing war between a unified American bloc and an Asian bloc jockeying for power over control of polar resources. Told from the POV of Jorge Álvarez, a private with a knack for making things work who gets recruited to the intel team for his mechanical knowledge.
Strengths: It’s a more mainstream sci-fi piece than “Staring Into Space,” and a little more mature and complex as far as its plot goes.
Weaknesses: I just never really fell in love with it. It’s alright, but I don’t feel like there’s anything spectacular about it. Also, it’s not based on very strong science, and I feel like there’s a reason that my first attempt at hard sf didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. (Also, as a personal pet peeve, I don’t like the title.)
Fire and Ice
Synopsis: Told from the first-person POV of Aleska, a young woman in an isolated arctic society, this is a story of religious fanaticism taken too far. The settlement is governed by the Keepers of the Sacred Flame which the people worship, but the Keepers have been abusing their power to destroy any evidence of outsiders, including the isolation of anyone who questions their teachings (such as Aleska’s older brother).
Strengths: I finished “Cold War, Cold World” and then began on this immediately. To tell the truth, I fell in love with this story while I should have been ramping up the romance with “Cold War, Cold World.” And I think it shows. It’s complex, it shows rich worldbuilding abilities, and it’s really rather enthralling, if I do say so myself. My first major story about religious indoctrination and intolerance.
Weaknesses: It’s not quite science fiction or fantasy. In my head it’s sf because there’s a larger story behind the events of the plot as they’re understood by the main character and her society, but this doesn’t get revealed to the reader within the context of the short story. Also, it clocks in at around 7,500 words, and while it would be easier to slim this down than “The Free Way,” I feel like I’d have to lose more.
Potential Energy
Synopsis: Set in ancient Alexandria, it’s the story of a small group of elektromancers, people who can control electricity. Leading this group is Hypatia, who must alternately train new talent in the form of a young and foolhardy man named Lysander, and keep their shared powers a secret from the city’s growing Christian community that sees elektromancers as heretics. When Hypatia exposes her abilities in order to save a life, the repercussions are further-reaching than she expects.
Strengths: I’m more in love with this than I thought I would be. There are parts of it that I honestly enjoy, most specifically the characters and the concept of elektromancy. I think it’s a strong and unique fantasy story that would give a good sense that I’m capable of breaking out of the swords-and-sorcery box that so many young fantasy writers find themselves stuck within.
Weaknesses: The prose style seems pretty minimalist—get the job done and get out. There’s no beautiful language, no turns of phrase that still ring through my head, not even a single scene that I find immensely stirring or compelling. It doesn’t have low points as a story, but I’m not sure it has high points, either.

Just so we’re clear, when I say I’ll love you forever if you help me with this, I mean it.  People like Neil Gaiman are going to be teachers at this thing!  Eighteen students are accepted, and I really think that I can be one of them, but it’ll mean a lot of work, and the more people I can get to help me with this, the better.  

Well, now I’m off to dig up old contact lists of everyone I ever knew to ask them to help me with this!


readingredhead: (Default)

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