October 24, 2008

Manga Primer Part II: CLAMP

On the manga primer, Oliver suggested CLAMP titles:

For new readers, they must get educated as to what a CLAMP book is like (since there are many CLAMP series and it's better to found out earlier that you're a fan than later). I suggest "Chobits" is a good starting point. From there, decide if you like apocalyptic manga, or light and cute manga because CLAMP's got a lot of both. For apocalyptic manga, choose X/1999 (before it goes out of print), and for light and cute, choose Wish and Cardcaptor Sakura.

I agree completely that being educated on CLAMP is important. CLAMP, a group of four manga-ka, is popular and have been in the biz for 20 or so years. Now, there is a reason I didn't suggest any CLAMP titles in the first post: CLAMP is evil and quite possibly insane. Expect homoeroticism, eye gouging, and horrible things happening to good people. On the other hand, one of my first titles was by CLAMP. It was, of course, Cardcaptor Sakura, made available by Tokyopop through their now defunct Chix Comics imprint.

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The series is twelve volumes long; the second six volumes are titled Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow in the English release. (I've been sticking to things I know are available in English.) Adorable Kinimoto Sakura must capture the Clow cards, a plot anyone with the slightest familiarity with anime can recognize. Of course, in most of those stories the main character and her love interest don't have a rivalry over the affections of another guy. Oh, CLAMP. Of course, while this story has the tangled webs of love and gets progressively darker, it's still basically a fluff series that has nothing on CLAMP's darkest moments. In addition, there's no eye-gouging.

For those interested in the anime, find a subtitled version. The English dub chopped it up, changed the episode order, and generally sucked.

Chobits is a shonen series, heavy on the philosophy and slight on the SF (despite featuring an android) . . . and also heavy on the adult humor. But hey, I read it in middle school.

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Filled with adorable loli-style art and adorable moments of unbearable cuteness between the pervy stuff, I love CHOBITS. It's a well-plotted series that sets up and establishes a relationship in seven volumes even with all kinds of crazy conspiracies going on. The fanservice does decline toward the end, as the characters try to discover whether a human and a persecom can truly love each other. It's classic CLAMP and yet half as crazy as their usual fare. (No eye gouging, for one.) I adore the anime, despite the filler episode about shopping for underwear, if only because it has a fabulous opening theme.

For the final one Oliver suggested that I've read, is one of my favorites: X/1999.

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Okay, the art is a little dated and people tend to look like triangles (broad shoulders, tiny waist). The sound effects in English are ridiculous. Until you reach far enough in the series to learn the characters' motives almost all of them seem like unsympathetic jerks. That is, except for poor, doomed Kotori, who just wanted to become an indigo dye expert. Anyway, what happens when you throw together Buddhist, Shinto, and various other mythologies with stylistic use of Christian symbolism to depict the battle over the fate of the world? Pure, crazy awesome. There's a schoolgirl in love with a middle-aged man that's possibly the sweetest romance in the entire thing. And yes, there is eye gouging. Romantically significant eye gouging, at that.

The series went on hiatus (at eighteen volumes, at a CLIFFHANGER, basically) after 9/11, as the violence and wanton destruction of major landmarks kept increasing and CLAMP refused to censor themselves. However, two endings are available in the anime (simply known as X - X/1999 is an English-only title) and the OVA (ie, movie). The movie just makes everything 30x more incomprehensible. The TV series is pretty good and even manages to make the characters more sympathetic. Episode 9, which introduces Subaru, is a work of art. It's even more beautiful if you understand the Buddhist symbolism, but it's incredible without it.

Of course, to get the lowdown of the relationship between the characters of Subaru and Seishirou, you have to read Tokyo Babylon.

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This is the story of a Bet. It's also the story of a 25-year-old veternarian romancing a 16-year-old boy while the boy's twin eggs it on. It begins fairly episodic, with Subaru going about various onmiyoji jobs. (An onmiyoji is something like a medium/exorcist . . . in short, he's got awesome supernatural powers.) Now this one starts rather adorably but slowly crumbles that veneer until the tragic ending. It's seven volumes of superb storytelling. This one contains eye gouging.

The OVA is only two episodes long and skippable.

Another series that gives some background for X/1999 is Clamp School Detectives, which I have not read. (I'm fairly sure there is not eye gouging.) It was adapted into an anime that fans generally hate.

To continue the steam of interconnected series, I'll next talk about CLAMP's two current projects.

First is xxxHolic.

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CLAMP's artwork started out lovely, but I think this series features the most beautiful art. Watanuki can see ghosts and can only not see them in the company of Domeki, the rival for his crush's affections. Pretty soon he's indebted to the Time Witch . . . and things just keep getting worse for him. This one also starts off episodic with "be careful what you wish for" type parables. Then the overarching plot begins to become evident, although it might make no sense if you don't read TSUBASA as well. If you do read TSUBASA, the plot makes sense if you make an effort not to think about it. Eye gouging that's practically Disney by CLAMP's standards.

The anime is a decent adaptation, but due to copyright issues avoids referencing TSUBASA. This might make trouble as it continues and the plotlines become increasingly interwoven.

This brings be to Tsubasa: RESERvoir CHRoNiCLE, the epitome of begin fluffy and become completely dark.

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Knowledge of Cardcaptor Sakura will aid in reading this one, as will knowledge of xxxHolic. Alternate-universe versions of characters from all of their other series will make appearances, but they're more like bonuses if you recognize the series. Sakura loses her memory and falls into a coma and her childhood friend Syaoran wants to save her. The price? Her memories of their relationship. Soon Syaoran is on a roadtrip through universes with warrior Kurogane, magician Fai, and Mokona. Then the Acid Tokyo arc happens. CLAMP has never had this much fun with eye gouging before. And as those of you who read the scantilations before the official translations, it just gets weirder and weirder. I'm pretty sure they've violated their own canon. Also, the art is purposefully a little rough and generally excellent, though action scenes can be a little hard to follow.

The anime started speculating too much during the filler, so CLAMP back their rights (or whatever) and a new adaptation will be out soon.

One of their titles that might be good for a beginning reader is Magic Knight Rayearth.

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This one combines schoolgirls falling into another universe, Magical Girls, and mecha. The first series plays fairly straight with the typical trappings of those genres, but the second series explores the consequences of their actions. Generally a very good series that is much more straightforward than most of what CLAMP does. It's been awhile since I've read it, but I don't remember eye gouging. The TV series (two seasons) changes some elements from the manga, leading to plot holes. The three episode OVA barely resembles the source.

There are only two more CLAMP series which I've read. The first is the three volume Legal Drug, which is currently on hiatus.

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Rikuo discovers Kazahaya passed out in the snow and takes him to the shop where he lives and works. Soon the two are running odd errands together. It's an interesting series with fabulous art, but I don't recommending getting into it since it currently stops just as the plot is picking up speed. However, anyone who can explain to me what the marijuana leaf motif has to do with anything gets a cookie. No eye gouging. Yet.

The 10-volume RG Veda draws heavily on Buddhist and Hindu myth.

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It's pretty, but it is an early work and CLAMP didn't quite have the chops to pull the complicated story off. It's still good reading and features a number of sympathetic, complex characters. I don't recommend it for manga beginners. At this point CLAMP had yet to develop a penchant for eye gouging. There's an OVA that doesn't fit into the storyline.

Other CLAMP works currently available in English include Angelic Layer, Legend of Chun Hyang, Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland, Suki: A Like Story, and Wish. Clover is out-of-print, but it's rumored Tokyopop will print a new edition soon. Let's keep our fingers crossed, because what I've read of it was minimalist and beautiful.

October 22, 2008

Manga Primer

I've been reading manga since elementary, so it's hard for me to come up with introductory works. On the other hand, I know a number of people who are interested in manga but intimidated by the large number of titles as well as the different format.

On the whole, I am going to suggest right-to-left titles. It may seem easier to start with a flipped work, but it's about the same learning curve. Manga, especially shojo manga, uses 'indefinite' panels rather than the strict rectangles of western graphic novels.

For those confused by 'indefinite' panels, see the above page from Aishiteruze Baby** (Yoko Maki). It might be a hard page to start with because there are a number of people speaking in the background in addition to the main action. You can still follow the flow of the art. The top right corner ends the previous scene, then the large art beneath it begins the new one. The next panel is the top left corner, followed by the bottom right, and ending with the bottom left. Though it's right-to-left instead of left-to-right, the panels and bubbles are still oriented top-to-bottom.

For those confused by the term 'shojo manga,' it simply refers to girls' comics. The other common division used in the US is 'shonen,' or boys' comics. There are other genres, but many of them blend into each other. The final determination is the genre of the magazine it was originally published in.

The other restriction I put on my selections is I limited myself to mostly happy titles. Saikano (Shin Takahashi) is a beautiful work, with spare art that seems to minimal at first, until you realize how well it fits the story. Of course, if you don't cry about once per volume of Saikano you have no heart. It's a bit to deep for a starting point.

Instead, I'm going to open my primer with a comedy: Haunted House by Mitsukazu Mihara.

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Sabato Obiga just once a girlfriend, but every time he brings one home his family manages to scare her off. Both the humor and the moral translate well. Sometimes research into Japanese culture is needed to properly appreciate a tale, but no one could argue with the family's motivation. Mitsukazu Mihara has beautiful, stylized art well-showcased in a variety of series and one-shot volumes. I chose one of her one-shots because it allows for a lack of monetary committment. Her other volumes are more heavily influenced by Gothic Lolita fashion and sensibility and might be less immediately accessible.

My second recommendation is the bildungsroman (of a sort) Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa.

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This series is contained within a mere five volumes, much shorter than Ai Yazawa's more popular NANA. Personally, I prefer it to that work. On the art side, Yazawa is top notch. Detailed, distinctive, and clear. She's also fabulous at characterization, need in this tale of first love and growing independence. Yukari just wanted to do what her parents wanted her to do, until she met a group of art students helmed by the charismatic and attractive George. She agrees to become the model for their "Paradise Kiss" label and soon begins to learn what she really wants from her life. I have yet to see the anime adaptation, but it's been reviewed favorably.

Next, I'm going to change gears with the much darker Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.

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Genius teenager Light finds the Death Note and decides to use it to create a utopia by killing criminals. Soon he's playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the world's best detective, known only as 'L.' This one is a bit more of a committment - twelve volumes total. The story is compelling psycologically and Obata's artwork is as beautiful as always. I used this one to start my dad on manga. Once you've finished the manga, there's an excellent anime adaptation, live action movies, and a light novel.

(Yes, that is from the anime - the dubbed anime - while this is about manga. However, it is just that epic.)

My next choice is again a longer series, but one worth the investment. Of course, I also encourage investment in the anime which goes in a much different direction. (Even as good as the anime is, the manga is better.) Primer choice #4 is Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.

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Two brothers try to resurrect their mother using alchemy, but it goes awry. They want to restore their bodies using the Philosopher's Stone. The elder, Edward, joins the military to fund their quest. Unfortunately, things aren't very straightforward. This series will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy. Arakawa is an excellent storyteller and his art is a bit rough but flows nicely and is well-suited to the story. This one and Death Note are popular for a reason.

I think four is a good number, but I'll offer a few more suggestions:

Trigun by Yasuhiro Nightow: Great art, great story, western, sci-fi, and awesome. (Anime availabe and worth watching.)

Excel Saga by Rikdo Koshi: Possibly the wordiest manga ever. Utterly insane and requiring some knowledge of Japanese culture, but there's a handy glossary in the back. Once you're familiar with anime, manga, and have done some cultural research, watch the anime adaptation. It's absolutely hilarious, but the more you know the more jokes you'll get.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki: Beautiful, detailed art and a complicated by wonderful story about environmental protection in a post-apocolyptic world. The anime movie is one of my favorites, but it's compressing quite a bit into two hours.

Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara: Not sure how to describe this, except there's a reason it's won several awards. There's no overarching plotline, just a series of episodes, but they capture human emotion beautifully. There's also an anime and live action movie.

Okay, so Excel Saga might not be the best for beginners, but I had to pimp it. Feel free to disagree with my selections, suggest your own, or ask me for more!

October 15, 2008

Melting Stones

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By Tamora Pierce

Rosethorn, a dedicate at Winding Circle Temple, has been called to Starns, one of the Battle Islands, because the plants are dying. She brings Evvy along since Briar is in Namorn and Evvy's been getting into trouble, but it turns out to be lucky because the island is suffering from worrying earthquakes. Evvy's rock magic allows her to realize the island is a volcano about to become active again and erupt.

For those familiar with Tamora Pierce's Emelan universe MELTING STONES steps out of the usual pattern. It's told in first person, partially due to its origin as an audiobook. I think the narration worked well in written form as I could easily imagine a voice speaking the words aloud. It's also the first book to not feature Sandry, Tris, Briar, or Daja. The four are mentioned, especially Briar, but this is not their book. It's Evvy's. For those who might not have liked her in STREET MAGIC, this could be a problem. I liked her in her first appearance and enjoyed the trip into her head.

Evvy grew up poor, eventually sold into slavery by her mother. She lived in the slums until Briar recognized her magic - and then the two got caught in the middle of a war, along with Rosethorn. Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about the book was learning more about Gyongxe, since the war occured between The Circle Opens and THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS. I also enjoyed the reveal of the nature of Luvo, previously known only as Evvy's strange friend.

For those unfamiliar with the 'verse, it might be hard to understand some of Evvy's more callous actions since she has undergone a rise in social status. On the other hand, it's in a fairly new setting with only two recurring characters so there isn't much background explanation needed. (The island is populated with orphans from the destruction of the pirate fleet - a nice exploration of the consequences of Tris's book. It rewards old fans but doesn't need to be explained to new readers.)

The plot moves a bit slower than most of Pierce's novels. She's usually deft in balancing internal and external conflicts, but the internal conflict is far more interesting in MELTING STONES. I wanted to spend less time with Evvy trying to mitigate the volcanic explosion and more with her learning how to interact with humans rather than rocks. It's still a good, quick read, but I can't help but compare it to earlier books in the series.

Melting Stones became available in book form on October 1st. The audiobook is available from Full Cast Audio. Previous novels in the Emelan universe include The Circle of Magic Quartet, The Circle Opens Quartet, and THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS. You can find out more about Tamora Pierce and her novels at her website or eljay. I also recommend a stop by Sheroes Central, the incredible forum Pierce co-founded. Readergirlz is featuring Pierce, among others, on October 16 as part of their Night Bites promotion for YALSA Teen Read Week.

October 11, 2008

Dreaming Again

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Edited by Jack Dann

For the past couple of weeks I've been using this collection of thirty-five speculative fiction stories from Australian writers as a present to myself. A story here, a story there, and I haven't even finished yet. (Oh, how I don't want it to end! I'm having fun!) Once I do, I need to find a copy of DREAMING DOWN-UNDER, the previous anthology edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. (Janeen Webb also contributed a story to the anthology.) If it impresses me as much as this one, they're going on my editors-to-trust list, with such people as Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

I love anthologies. Short stories allow authors to show off, to show their technique and style in a concise manner. I knew several names that contributed to this work, but I'd only previously read Garth Nix, Terry Dowling, and Stephen Dedman. You can bet I'm buying some more of the contributors' backlists now.

Of course, while anthologies are an excellent source of new authors to explore, there are always those stories that you feel bring the quality of the anthology down. Sometimes you wish you could pick and choose which stories you could buy if enough of them are duds. So far, with a mere ten stories to go, none of them have disappointed me. There have certainly been some I enjoyed more than others, but no bad stories whatsoever. I wish all anthologies were so well chosen.

The stories cover a variety of subjects, moods, and themes. Some are extremely unsettling, others funny, others mysterious. It's hard to pick favorites. The end of "This is My Blood" by Ben Francisco (the only American in the book) and Chris Lynch was the first thing to truly terrify me. They left the details of the end to my imagination, which is apparently a sick, sick place. This one is followed by the unnerving "Nightship" by Kim Westwood. I wanted more elaboration on how gender worked in the society (for instance, the ship's captain appeared to me to be a member of an Iron Family and female), but this one really caught my attention and made me think. The final one that's truly freaked me out is "In From the Snow" by Lee Battersby, the story of a pack living outside of human civilization. This wasn't truly a horror story, but my mind seized ahold of the darkness and continued thinking of it after I finished.

"The Constant Past" by Sean McMullen features a librarian and a time traveler. What more can one ask for, really? (The answer is found in "Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh" by Jason Fischer. To quote the TV Tropes wiki, it's Exactly What It Says On The Tin.)

The viral mystery "Lure" by Paul Collins had a nice twist at the end, even though I did expect it. I enjoyed his style, exploration of cyber-cheating, and assertion that PCs are better than Macs. "Empire" by Simon Brown is an amusing look at WAR OF THE WORLDS and Gilbert & Sullivan. Shortly after finishing, I learned the Mikado would be playing in my area soon (swoon-worthy) and that bubbles and squeak is a real dish in England (bemusing). "Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn" by Jason Nahrung is a vampire story that stands out from the current pack I've been reading. (Added bonus: zombies.)

I feel bad for not mentioning more of the stories I've read, because each had something special. These are just my personal highlights. DREAMING AGAIN comes out this month in the US, and more reviews are available at Out of this EOS. The other contributors are Richard Harland, Adam Browne, Angela Slatter, Kim Wilkins, Lucy Sussex, Sara Douglass, A. Bertram Chandler, Christopher Green, Jenny Blackford, Aaron Sterns, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Cecily Scutt, Rosaleen Love, Trudi Caravan, John Birmingham, Rowena Cory Daniells, Russell Blackford, Margo Lanagan, Rjurik Davidson, Trent Jamieson, Dirk Strasser, Peter M. Ball, and Isobelle Carmody.

October 10, 2008

Interview with Lou Aronica

Today we have an interview with Lou Aronica, who has worked with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas, and Neil Gaiman. He's worked for Bantam and Avon and has recently begun his own house, The Story Plant.


How did you first decide on publishing as a career?

To be honest, it wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be a teacher and I had visions of spending my summers writing unforgettable fiction. Teaching jobs were in short supply when I graduated college, though, and book publishing was one of the few other choices available to someone with an English degree. I found the industry intriguing as soon as I started at Bantam, but I didn’t fully commit to publishing until I started working in the Publisher’s Office there a couple of years later. At that point, I got a true inside glimpse at the inner workings of the book business and I was completely hooked. Ian Ballantine, who founded Bantam (along with Ballantine and, for that matter, brought the mass market paperback to America) took me under his wing and I received the most incredible education from him. This caused me to fall completely in love with the field.

I want to go into the publishing industry myself, so I know a little about the various people needed to produce a book, but I also realize itʼs fairly obscure information. Perhaps you could say a little about what being a publisher entails? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job?

There are dozens of steps involved in bringing a book to market. The editorial side of the business seeks out manuscripts to acquire and works with the writer to make the manuscript as strong as possible. A book’s editor is the person closest to the material at any house. The publishing/marketing side deals with packaging and positioning the book and puts the plans together to draw attention to the book. The managing editorial/production side deals with copyediting, proofreading, generation of galleys, and all of the other steps that go into the physical creation of the book. The sales side deals with getting the book into the marketplace and maintaining relationships with booksellers. The warehousing side deals with getting the books from the publisher’s warehouse to retail and wholesale sites. Then, of course, there are corporate, financial, and management components of any large publishing house.

I love the editorial and publishing/marketing parts of the job. I also love working with production and sales people. I don’t dislike any part of the job but, since I’m not the best detail person on the planet, I tend to have much less fun with the small details.

You have a long history in the publishing industry. What led you to start your own publishing house, The Story Plant, with Peter Miller?

In 2000, I decided that I was going to focus my career on writing and editorial development and I started a company called The Fiction Studio. I love this work and The Fiction Studio is very much a living entity, but I slowly discovered that I missed being able to publish books. I especially missed publishing fiction and Peter and I both felt that the major publishers had taken a very jaded view of fiction publishing. We genuinely believed that we could do this with passion and vigor and the only realistic way to do so was to create our own house. You can see what we’re trying to do at www.thstoryplant.com. Our first two books, American Quest (a contemporary fantasy) and Capitol Reflections (a medical thriller) have just come out. It’s very exciting to be back on this side of the business.

Part of that history is your time as Deputy Publisher at Bantam. You launched the Bantam Spectra and Bantam Crime Line imprints. How is it decided that there is a need for a new imprint? Once itʼs established there will be a new imprint, how is one developed?

Different publishers have different opinions about this. Some prefer not to segregate any portion of their lists. Others, like me, believe that you can only create a genuine vision for a publishing program if you create an imprint. Imprints only make sense if the house has a deep commitment to publishing in a particular area. Spectra was my first imprint and it developed from the size and scope of the sf/fantasy list I’d put together at Bantam. We were very committed to this kind of fiction and we wanted the list to have an identity distinct from the rest of the Bantam list.

Developing an imprint requires having a consistent publishing plan (a certain number of titles that you will publish in a season or in a year), and an editorial focus. Beyond that, the mechanics are relatively simple. You come up with a logo, you develop some marketing materials, you make some special presentations to your sales people and your key accounts, and you’re off to the races. To be honest, the toughest thing about and imprint I ever started was coming up with the name. This sometimes took months.

You also acquired the Star Wars book publishing program. I spent my elementary and middle school years devouring Star Wars novels, completely unaware how much geek cred I would gain from the experience. Iʼm curious about how the line began. Did you realize how large the publishing program would become?

Thanks for buying all of those books. The launch of the Star Wars program was a fascinating story. There had been novelizations along with an original novel published during the release of the first three movies. Then the property lay fallow for a long time. Since there was so much more of the story to tell, we all expected more movies, but one day I read that George Lucas had said that he wasn’t going to do any additional movies. I decided to write him a letter saying, “If you aren’t going to make more movies, why don’t you let me tell the rest of the story in books.” I got no response to the letter and just assumed that he tossed it out. Then, a year later, I got a call from Lucasfilm saying they found the idea interesting. The Director of Merchandising there told me that Lucas was still thinking about making prequels, but was open to the idea of letting novelists explore the world after “Return of the Jedi.” I convinced them that we should launch the novel series with a major trilogy, that we should get an award-winning sf writer to write these, and that we should publish the books in hardcover (all of which was highly unusual for licensed fiction at this point). We signed Timothy Zahn to write the novels and the very first one went to #1 on the New York Times hardcover list. Lucasfilm actually credits the book program with reviving interest in the property. I always knew the program would be hugely successful, though it turned out to be even more successful than I imagined.

In your years at Bantam and Berkley and Avon you worked with a wide variety of authors. What are some things that might make an author easier or harder to work with?

Writers should try to do as much as they can to help market their books, especially by creating a presence online. The most important thing a writer can do, though, is commit to writing a number of books for a similar audience. I can’t tell you how many writers short-circuit their careers by bouncing from one kind of book to another. This isn’t to suggest that you need to write the same book multiple times; what it means is that you need to offer the same kind of experience to the reader multiple times. Think of writers like Neil Gaiman or Nelson DeMille. Each novel is distinctive and surprising, but it also fulfills reader expectations. When a writer delivers a consistent reading experience to an audience, that audience grows.

In addition to your job, you write fiction and nonfiction yourself. Is it difficult to find time to write? Is it strange to be the author rather than the publisher?

I do find myself getting up earlier and earlier every day. On my current pace, I will soon be waking up before I go to bed. At the same time, I have a real passion for both, so I need to find a way to do both. It is somewhat strange to be the author rather than the publisher. This was especially true with the early books where I had to remind myself to avoid being the kind of writer publishers disliked working with. Of course, up to this point, they have been distinct careers. My next book, The Element (written with the brilliant Sir Ken Robinson and coming in January from Viking), will be the first to come out since we started The Story Plant. It might be a more schizophrenic experience because of that, but Viking is doing such a good job with the book that I really just need to sit back and admire at this point.


You can find out more about Lou Aronica here. You can find The Story Plant at this site.

October 5, 2008

End of Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week finished yesterday, but I spoke about it tonight on my radio show. This month I'm planning on doing a second program about voting as well. For those of you over-18, living in the US slackers who haven't registered yet . . . the deadline is about to hit you in the face. DO IT NOW.

The following is ALA's list of the 100 most challenged books in 200-2007. I've bolded the ones I've read and italicized the ones I want to read. Star means I've read parts. I've read 36 total. Of those, I only had trouble with one. My mother searched a long time to find a copy of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

1 Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
4 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
*5 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
6 Scary Stories Alvin Schwartz
7 Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers
8 It’s Perfectly Normal Robie Harris
9 And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
10 Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey
11 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

12 The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison
13 Forever Judy Blume
14 The Color Purple Alice Walker
15 The Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky
16 Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan
17 Go Ask Alice Anonymous
18 King and King Linda de Haan
19 Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
20 Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

21 The Giver Lois Lowry
22 We All Fall Down Robert Cormier
23 To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
24 Beloved Toni Morrison
25 The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline Cooney
26 Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson
*27 My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier
28 In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak
29 His Dark Materials series Philip Pullman
30 Gossip Girl series Cecily von Ziegesar
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know Sonya Sones
32 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison

33 It’s So Amazing Robie Harris
34 Arming America Michael Bellasiles
35 Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane
36 Blubber Judy Blume
37 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
38 Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher
39 Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya
40 Life is Funny E.R. Frank
41 Daughters of Eve Lois Duncan
42 Crazy Lady Jane Leslie Conly
43 The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson
44 You Hear Me Betsy Franco
45 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
46 Whale Talk Chris Crutcher
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey
48 The Facts Speak for Themselves Brock Cole
49 The Terrorist Caroline Cooney
50 Mick Harte Was Here Barbara Park
51 Summer of My German Soldier Bette Green
52 The Upstairs Room Johanna Reiss
53 When Dad Killed Mom Julius Lester
54 Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause
55 The Fighting Ground Avi
56 The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien
57 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor
58 Fat Kid Rules the World K.L. Going
59 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things Carolyn Mackler
60 A Time To Kill John Grisham
61 Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez
62 Olive’s Ocean Kevin Henkes
63 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
64 A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck
65 Speak Laurie Halse Anderson
66 Always Running Luis Rodriguez
67 Black Boy Richard Wright
68 Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George
69 Deal With It! Esther Drill
70 Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds
71 Draw Me A Star Eric Carle
72 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
73 Harris and Me Gary Paulsen
74 Junie B. Jones series Barbara Park
75 So Far From the Bamboo Grove Yoko Watkins
76 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
77 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes Chris Crutcher
78 What’s Happening to My Body Book Lynda Madaras
79 The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar
80 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

81 Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry
82 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Judy Blume
83 Bumps In the Night Harry Allard
84 Goosebumps series R.L. Stine
85 Shade’s Children Garth Nix
86 Cut Patricia McCormick
87 Grendel John Gardner
88 The House of Spirits Isabel Allende
89 I Saw Esau Iona Opte
90 Ironman Chris Crutcher
91 The Stupids series Harry Allard
92 Taming the Star Runner S.E. Hinton
93 Then Again, Maybe I Won’t Judy Blume
94 Tiger Eyes Judy Blume
95 Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel
96 Nathan’s Run John Gilstrap
97 Pinkerton, Behave! Steven Kellog
98 Freaky Friday Mary Rodgers
99 Halloween ABC Eve Merriam
100 Heather Has Two Mommies Leslea Newman

Here's the same for 1990-1999. Most of these are the same, but there's still several differences. For one thing, more of these are directed at adults rather than children.

1.Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2.Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
*3.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4.The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7.Forever by Judy Blume
8.Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
9.Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
10.The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
11.The Giver by Lois Lowry
12.My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13.It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
14.Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
15.Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
16.A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
17.The Color Purple by Alice Walker
18.Sex by Madonna
19.Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
20.The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
21.In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
22.The Witches by Roald Dahl
23.A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

24.The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
25.Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
26.The Goats by Brock Cole
27.The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
28.Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
29.Final Exit by Derek Humphry
30.Blubber by Judy Blume
31.Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
32.Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
33.Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
34.The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
35.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
36.Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
37.The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
38.The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
39.The Pigman by Paul Zindel
40.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
41.We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
42.Deenie by Judy Blume
43.Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
44.Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
45.Beloved by Toni Morrison
46.The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
47.Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
48.Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
49.Cujo by Stephen King
50.James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
51.A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52.Ordinary People by Judith Guest
53.American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
54.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
55.Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
56.Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
57.Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
58.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
59.The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
60.Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
61.Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
62.Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
63.Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
64.Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
65.Fade by Robert Cormier
66.Guess What? by Mem Fox
67.Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
68.Lord of the Flies by William Golding
69.Native Son by Richard Wright
70.Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
71.Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
72.On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
73.The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
74.Jack by A.M. Homes
75.Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
76.Family Secrets by Norma Klein
77.Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
*78.Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
79.Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
80.The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
81.Carrie by Stephen King
82.The Dead Zone by Stephen King
83.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
84.Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
85.Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
86.Private Parts by Howard Stern
87.Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
88.Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

89.Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
90.Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91.Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92.Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93.Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94.Jumper by Steven Gould
95.Christine by Stephen King

96.The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
97.That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton
98.Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
99.The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain
100.Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

October 2, 2008

Jason Sanford and Mary Robinette Kowal

Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain

Book Cover

by Jason Sanford

This story was originally published in the August 2008 issue of Interzone, an internationally popular SF magazine. (You can find their free downloads here.) Sanford is hosting a giveaway for a year's subscription to a US blogger. The magazine is bi-monthly, British, and a source of excellent SF.

"Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain" tells of a strange world, where people move up and up as strange ships throw off destructive weather. The narrator Master Tem watches the weather with apprentice Cres, who dreams of being picked up by a ship. It's a strange world that seems like a rather undesirable place to live. Then Cres and Tem discover a ship below Tem's home and the secrets of the world unfold. Sanford briefly, but not tritely, explores human nature.

Four Stories by Mary Robinette Kowal

All of these are available online. I've previously reviewed some of her other fiction here. Since then, she won the Campbell award (which is awesome).

Evil Robot Monkey
First appeared in Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 2

Kowal made an audio version of this story because she wanted to play with her new Blue Snowball mic. The sound quality is good and Kowal does a nice oral performance - she varies her tone and maintains good speed. (Some authors read aloud fabulously; others are surprisingly bad at it.) Sly's too smart to live with the other chimps, but too much of an animal to live with the humans. (Almost a direct quote.) He acts up when treated like an animal, when all he wants to do is make pottery. This one reminds me, in a way, of "Time Enough at Last," a Twilight Zone episode that never fails to make me cry. (In all truth, that episode is probably my personal nightmare.) However, the ending to "Evil Robot Monkey" is the bittersweet sort, not one of utter despair.

Horizontal Rain
Apex Magazine, April 2007

Of these four stories, this is my least favorite. It's still a wonderful short story. Architect Max flies from New York to Sweden due to problems at the construction site. The native workers and Amalia believe trolls are responsible for the site's trouble and Max needs to change his plans. Campbell applies a touch of the dark side of faery tales to bring this one to its conclusion. Between this and "Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain" I'm going to develop a complex about weather.

Clockwork Chickadee
Clarksworld Magazine, June 2008

Who doesn't wonder what toys do while their owners are gone? Clockwork, after all, must be wound. Chickadee envies Sparrow his flight and dislikes his haughty manner. She conspires with the mouse to teach him a lesson. The story is very much a fable without starring an innocent. Chickadee knows how to plot and manipulate, which makes her far more interesting than some of the typical naive fairy tale leads.

Scenting the Dark
Apex, August 2008

Penn, his seeing-eye dog Cody, and Madison are on an unfamiliar planet. Penn wants materials to make perfume with. But something has gone wrong, and an animal killed Madison. He must escape the monster, but he barely knows where he is and keeps miscommunicating with Cody due to his panic. Kowal uses scent, sound, and touch to great effect in this chilling horror story.


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