Brent Weeks has written five books (as of The Black Prism) and four of them lounge around on best seller lists having tea and biscuits with Jordan, Sanderson, Tolkien, Rothfuss, etc. books. But the fifth book which is actually the first book he ever wrote, that one sits home alone in the dark. Why? Because when Brent wrote it he apparently hadn’t gotten his writing secrets down. When you don’t have your writing secret down and then you write something, well, you don’t want to show it to people too awful much. Some writers lay down a half million words in their world before they put one serious page in the books. Lucky for all of us, Brent has his secret down, and lucky for all of you I’m here to t
China Mieville is one of the most celebrated authors of this era with countless awards and accolades racked up over the years. The City & the City won the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award, 2010 Hugo Award, and 2010 World Fantasy Award, as well as being a Nebula Award nominee in the Best Novel category. See his books here at amazon’s page about him and maybe read a few of the zillions of awesome reviews he has. He writes in a category aptly named ‘weird fiction’ and is perfectly fine with you and me saying he is a ‘fantasy author’ or a ‘fantasy and science fiction author’ rather than taking exception and demanding that his book be remanded to the ‘classics’ or ‘fiction’ categories of our local books store (see Slaughter House Five) rather than that section of shelves where demons, H.A.L.’s, satyrs, Krakens, worm holes and runaway gods reside.
In an interview with The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, China reveals a bit about himself and his sometimes wild and exotic and sometimes insightful theories on life, fiction, science fiction and the world in general.
Dungeons and Dragons
Yes, our hero likes to throw the dice around. I wonder if there is a list out there with the names of every science fiction and fantasy author that’s ever rolled the dice in the name of scoring a critical hit and ‘just grabbing hold of the rope as you slip over the edge of the cliff into the chasm. Wow, you were really lucky there, bro.’ in an epic game of Dungeons & Dragons. I’d bet they are almost all on there. And I bet a lot of us have as well. I know I have. If you were to visit my mom’s house (If you do, beware, she will totally ‘friend’ you on Facebook) and ask her she will bring out the folders filled with maps, legends, cities, adventures, characters (and anything else I could think of adding to my DM’d world of Dungeons & Dragons) that I created as a young man. Apparently me and China feel the same way about half-elf magic users.
What’s been your best memory of D&D???
Incompossibility is a tentacled skull that resides ‘magically’ on China’s body and apparently gives him super writing powers. I’m not sure how it works, you’ll have to visit the article and find out for yourself. Needless to say the explanation was deeper than the puddle I usually like to splash around in and that it had a further explanation in yet another article that you’ll have to read to really get it. (If you do get it, please take a few more minutes to explain it to me.)
Yes, China is part of a little club that espouses some sort of Marxism. Please don’t hold up the Soviet Union as an example of why said theory would not/could not/should not work. He’s heard it before and might just punch you in the face with some John Scalzi kind of rage if you do. (Didn’t know Scalzi was a rager? Read about Scalzi’s hitman tendencies here.) I don’t care what kind of government you guys put into place so long as you agree to bring back Firefly.
Fighting Bill Gates
Honestly, who hasn’t wrestled around with some version of Windows and not felt like fighting Bill Gates? However, in this case, it isn’t China Mieville who fought Bill Gates but the website China Mieville VS (they pit China vs. all manner of victims) that fought him. Has China heard of this site? He has. Does he approve? Well, the site is still up…
And China looks like a pretty tough dude.
China vs Slip and Slides?
China vs Logan Nine Fingers?
China vs Kavothe?
Let’s hope he doesn’t start anything rough with Patrick Rothfuss for not liking his dragons. I don’t think China actually has any dragons in his books, but I’m sure, being the dedicated Dungeons & Dragons player that he is, that he’s owned a dragon here and there.
Turns out that China is just another great writer that sounds mean as hell…
Hey guys, there has been a general clamor for more details on the June writing class, so I’ve gone ahead and posted them on the sign up page, but will reprint them here for your enlightenment. Look forward to seeing this happen! And fyi, if you haven’t already shared news of the class with your friends and such, now would be the ideal time so they can get in on the ground floor!
- Every Monday, I’ll post that week’s lecture.
- Optionally, throughout the week I’ll post a couple “creative catalysts” you can respond to that consist of a flash fiction writing prompts focusing on a principle Brandon taught. They’ll be constrained to around 250 words and are supposed to only represent 15 minutes of internal-editor-free writing to get your creative writerly muscles warmed up.
- By each Thursday, you’ll be expected to post a 1000 word submission to the specialized forum I have set up. I almost have it done, but suffice it to say it will look somewhat similar to Quora or Stackoverflow if you’re familiar with those.
- By Monday (in time for the next lecture), you should have critiqued at least 4 other students submissions.
- By the end of the September (4 months), have have written 30,000 words, hopefully a complete novelette.
See you guys soon.
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the great writers of science fiction and fantasy. She has won five Locus, four Nebula, two Hugo, and one World Fantasy Award. And her book The Dispossessed won the trinity — the Locus, Nebula and Hugo awards. In ’97 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She’s got some hardware, and she’s also got some fire. Like Dominique Francon from The Fountainhead, Ursula isn’t afraid to cross anyone or anything that she thinks isn’t right. And that’s right about where her fight with Harry Potter, Google and Hollywood come in. They want her to conform and she just isn’t in to that.
In an interview with wired.com, Ursula talks a bit about each of these controversies.
Google runs the internet, everyone that’s doing anything on the internet knows that Google is to the internet what Sky Net is to the future of the human race. (all pervading) Apparently the big G used its enormous weight to push around the Writer’s Guild until they decided to accept their offer on some legal stuff… (What offer? Read the Wired article for a bit more information.) Ursula resigned from the Authors Guild (that’s a link to her site where you can read more about it) over the matter. Yeah, she kinda gangster like that.
What about Harry Potter? What could anyone have against Harry Potter?
She doesn’t actually have anything against Harry Potter himself. I’m sure she doesn’t mind him running around with his broom and lightening forehead doing whatever it is that Hogwarts wizards do when they’re not fighting the forces of him. The war, her war, is more along the lines of not wanting to create another Harry Potter written by Ursula K. Le Guin, which various publishers want very badly. After the hardware she’s won I think she has the right to write what she likes, and though her fans don’t number in the millions, they are very loyal and quite extensive. I’m one of them. The Wizard of Earthsea was one of the books that changed the way I thought about fantasy.
The war with Hollywood is a different story, or rather, it’s the story that thousands upon thousands of people have been fighting since the beginning of
time the blockbuster. Artists want to create art and Hollywood wants to create a marketing tidal wave that washes over all of the world, a wave made of action figures, films, commercials, spin offs, cartoons, soft drinks, cups, candy, clothes and freshly minted movie stars. She also doesn’t like the fact that they stretch the truth, or what she calls ‘lying.’ I think you can see where the conflict started. Winning critical awards for writing does nothing for Hollywood except convince it that you can legitimize a marketing tidal wave.
I’m not even going to mention what she had to say about Philip K. Dick, either.
But while Ursula fights the evil forces of Cobra, all the rest of us are going to be taking Write About Dragons’ FREE writing class starring Brandon Sanderson so we can round up just enough clout to battle one of these giants that Ursula seems to take on every other week. Not that we’re actually going to (there are, after all, naps that need to be battled as well), but we’d like to be able to fight Sky Net if we absolutely had to. (After our nap, that is.)
She seems a bit more upstanding than Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman’s Secret: Don’t Work, Get Used to Failure, Lie About Your Experience and Have No Idea What You Are Doing) or John Scalzi (Scalzi Kind of Admits to Being a Hitman, But Says Robin Hobb Safe, For Now) but then who am I to say who is right and who is wrong? I’m certainly not your friendly neighborhood spider man.
Or am I?
Harlan Ellison can’t be bothered when he happens to have a moment of inspiration. That means if he’s in bed, sans clothing, (I mean who doesn’t sleep naked??) he jumps up and hurries to his writing apparatus and starts banging keys. But when you have 4 Hugo awards in the short story category, no one questions your methods. They might snigger, laugh behind their hand or even tell an outright joke, but after throwing four pieces of epic hardware on the trophy shelf, no one questions Harlan’s method.
In an interview, Harlan explains his naked-ness along with a few other points of view he happens to like holding on to. When asked what he’s watching on television these days he replies, ‘The test pattern.’ I laughed when I read that, because the test pattern (a color correction tool) has gone the way of Firefly. It used to fill television screens when a station ‘went off the air’ at 2 a.m., something you’d find yourselves staring at, bleary eyed, when you finally woke up after having fallen asleep during your favorite t.v. show.
Harlan bemoans the progress of the human race and suggests, in the interview, that maybe we should hand it over to the cockroaches. Ellison likes to say things that incense people to some kind of emotional reaction. Perhaps, he uses that in his writing. Maybe that’s something all of us could use in our writing. Figuring out what traits an author possesses that directly lead to success on the battlefield, er, the writing world, is nearly impossible. Well, except reading, though Harlan doesn’t do much of that anymore.
But then Harlan doesn’t have anything else to prove. I mean he voiced himself on The Simpsons. If you’re wondering if you’re an icon in the United States just flip on the old telly and see if your likeness is on The Simpsons or South Park. I check every few weeks and, sadly, there is no sign of me. I guess I should wait until I win a Hugo first. But, then, I might just be waiting forever.
Harlan apparently enjoys attention as he is known to sit down in the middle of anywhere– a bookstore, art gallery, or convention and write a story. On the floor with a typewriter kind of ‘write a story.’ When a young boy, upon hearing the punch of the keys, asked his mother what exactly Harlan was beating on, his mother answered, “It’s a typewriter.” “What’s that?” the boy asked, wide eyed. Harlan, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “It’s magic! I think into it and what I want comes out!” The boy then demanded his mother get him one.
Yes, he also talks a bit about Hemingway in the interview, that and the re-release of his first novel Web of the City, but what I’ll remember is that he lied to a child, writes in the nude and wins Hugo awards like a skee ball player wins nearly useless but still somehow awesome tickets.
Remember, this site is hosting an absolutely FREE writing class with video tutorials starring Mr. Brandon Sanderson himself. If you’re interested sign up here.
James, who has three books listed on Amazon (here), is not Neil Gaiman, but he finished three books that he felt were ready to be read. (This person did not feel the same way) But, Warner Books did and published The High House (link above.) I’m not sure how I came across his blog, (I read a lot) but I did and found a very interesting article. The premise of this article was a question that he proposed to answer.
“So, how does a young writer shorten the time it takes to become salable?” — J. Stoddard
In a pretty humble manner he attempts to answer that question. (You can read the article here.) Or, I’ll just summarize it for you. Here are the spark notes for said article by a guy not named Neil Gaiman.
- Spend ten thousand hours writing. I’ve read this book (Outliers – read the amazon reviews, it’s amazing) and if you somehow missed it, pick it up quick, because if you plan on becoming a super hero, you’re going to need a guide.
- Learn how to write a sentence. Seriously. It may sound condescending, but if you read the article you’ll see that it is anything but. He recommends some books to read (without Amazon links???), one of them being a “work book” that is very “boring.” He’s making this sound like work here. Didn’t he read my Neil Gaiman article? I’ll let it slide…this time.
- Master Dialogue. I’ve always been one to make everyone sound the same: Just like me. (Here’s my article The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made Writing a Fantasy E-book!) Well, maybe he’s on to something here. He makes a suggestion for another book to read. (Which one? Go read the article) He talks a bit about POV and other mundane things. I think I’ll stick to just smashing the keys, but for those of you crazy enough to want some advice from someone out there putting the work in, someone just like you — give James a read.
- Start with short stories. James wrote something for Amazing Stories which was purchased by Stephen Spielberg. I’ve heard of this Spielberg guy. He made (Dan’s Top Ten Movies of All Time) Raiders of the Lost Ark. Epic.
- Use flat characters to make your main characters round. Interesting point here, which he actually takes the time to back up. I’m more into the making of wild claims with zero proof, but that hasn’t worked so far.
- Plot, either plan it out or suffer the repeated rewrite consequences. I’ll take option B, please.
- Acknowledge that you emulate your favorite authors. Then stop it. That made me laugh writing that. I love Hemingway, and I’m always trying to stop myself from emulating his writing, but it’s hard, because he’s soooo good at that words thing. On a side note: Hemingway would literally assault me if he heard me say my writing was emulating his. And not assault me in the virtual John Scalzi way, either.
- He has some random quote to live by. And that’s about it. The piece was long with lots of sentences, but who has time for that? I just cut it down to 573 words. Yay, me.
Read the article if you’re actually curious.
Sign up for the Brandon Sanderson FREE writing class.
Read my bio…(it’s kind of amusing. To me anyway.)
note: I do not know James, nor am I affiliated with his work in any way.
Rothfuss took 7 years to write The Name of the Wind, (my second favorite book of all time) and in all that time, from age 20 to 27, not once did the now 38 year old Rothfuss consider adding a dragon. Furthermore, he does not approve of your dragons, either. Yes, you at the computer terminal, the eager fantasy reader-slash-writer that gleefully added dragons to your story, novel or ramblings. (Like I did. – oops)
And dragons are just the tip of the iceburg of fantasy staples that Patrick has banished from his story of Kavothe. He also does not approve of magical hoo-ha. Yeah, hoo-ha. Also less than brilliant wizards and elves with bows. Dwarves and axes as well. No dwarves from deep in the earth obsessed with digging and gems and axes that tear many things asunder. No vampires, helpless damsels and absolutely no “chosen one” running around fulfilling a prophecy. No. None. Nilch. Nada.
I understand almost all of that except the dragons part. No dragons? I mean, dragons are fantasy, right? What’s a fantasy story without dragons? It’s a story. What’s A Song of Ice and Fire without the dragons? It’s a medieval story with a whiff of the supernatural. I might never have read my absolute favorite books if Martin had, as he had originally intended, not added the dragons.
In the interview, Rothfuss is asked why? Well, “Here’s the thing, dragons are cool.” He replied. What he doesn’t like is the manner in which dragons are used. Or, more accurately, overused. It’s the trite way in which authors use these fantasy tools (as he refers to them) that Rothfuss disapproves of so much.
Here a dragon, there a dragon everywhere the hero is slaying dragons.
Bad story telling has used up the sheer cool power of a lot of things, but I’d hazard a guess that though Rothfuss might disapprove of dragons in bad writing, he does in fact love the dragons that made dragons what they are. And further he will continue to love all of the epic incarnations of dragons to come that will be set down with both skill and love. It’s up to us, as writers, to examine our stories, our plots, and our ideas that we might live up to both his, but more importantly our own standard of dragon creation. I say we need dragons, but no ordinary dragons. We need Smaug and his ilk.
But, no vampires. I do not approve of your vampires, sir.
Maybe we both need a writing workshop? Sign up for the FREE Brandon Sanderson Writing Class and find out if Sanderson can help us get approval for our dragons. The magic system of my upcoming epic fantasy novel Prince of the Morning revolves around a dragon, so, I kind of need the big guys… lol.
Gaiman didn’t mention dragons in his advice to writers (Don’t Work, Get Used to Failure, Lie About Your Experience and Have No Idea What You Are Doing), but I’m wondering if he disapproves of our dragons, too.
Don’t work, get used to failure, lie about your experience and have no idea what you are doing are only some of the crazy things Neil Gaiman recommended to graduating seniors at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Neil Gaiman is one of the giants of fantasy fiction with such works as American Gods and Neverwhere. This guy is good, so good in fact, that if he says that you as an aspiring novelist should do something, you would be crazy not to do it. Crazy. If he says cheat, well, what choice do you have? Gaiman wrote The Sandman! If he says lie, well, what choice do you have? If he says don’t work, well, what choice do you have?
He actually said all of this to a bunch of graduating seniors. He told them to go out and make mistakes. If I didn’t love this guy for his beautiful prose in American Gods I would certainly love him now. He has, as most of you might have guessed, some great reasons for giving out this crazy advice. It seems he thinks every single one of you has such a unique view of the world that YOU are the secret to great writing. If you let what is most amazing about you out then you will create things that are worth reading, worth doing.
He really said all this. Read Gaiman’s speech here and let him fill in the gaps. See? This Gaiman guy is practically an arch villain! He actually goes on to recommend that we should listen to his advice even though he didn’t listen to another great writer’s advice, but should have. Absolute chaos! The only thing I deduced from the entire article is to create art under all circumstances. If your husband runs off with the secretary, create great art. If you stub your toe, create great art. If Hulk smashes then you should create great art. If you create art that isn’t that great, then create great art.
This is all either very empowering or Gaiman has a master plan to confuse and misdirect all budding writers thus nullifying all potential rivals before they ever get a chance to dethrone him. In either case it is an absolutely brilliant plan worthy of some kind of evil genius award. I can’t figure out what to think, but then I’m no American Sherlock Holmes, nor Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes and I, certainly, am not nor will I ever be the BBC Sherlock Holmes.
On a more serious note, it truly is an inspiring speech and I recommend everyone read it or better yet listen to it. Gaiman is an author everyone should be reading and if you haven’t read his work, after listening to this speech I don’t think there is anyway you could not. He is a master of his art and further he has that rare ability to inspire others to be better.
Seems from this article about John Scalzi being a hitman, that Scalzi and Gaiman might make pretty good friends. Or maybe it’s just me having a man crush on them both and wanting us all to go to the “Author’s Club” together and hang out.
Sign up for the FREE Brandon Sanderson writing class. Ends soon, so hurry.
For some of you it might come as a surprise that John Scalzi (author of Old Man’s War) is somewhat of a hitman when it comes to laying verbal destruction of biblical proportions on relatively unsuspecting souls over the internet. And if you’ve read the fantastic Old Man’s War then you understand completely, the man has some intense visions of violence rattling around in his head. He has a legion of fans who, apparently, surf the internet for possible LZ’s (landing zones) for his wrath as enthusiastically as I search for signs that Firefly will get uncancelled. Basically, if you are being mean to the internet then they will find you.
I may be willfully misunderstanding his blog post entirely, but what I gathered (and you can double check me here) is that, though his legion wants him to lay waste Drizzt Do’Urden style to Robin Hobb for flaming blog writing, he has chosen to be merciful. Turns out he might be nicer than we all thought, which just shatters my dream of reading about him blasting whoever is responsible for the cancellation and continued hiatus of Captain Malcom Reynolds and the crew of Firefly.
Robin apparently went off (post since removed) on all of us who are wasting our time blogging instead of finishing our fantasy novels. Writing instead of writing, as it were. Personally, there are better targets for the WRATH OF
KHAN SCALZI than the hugely talented Hobb (author of one of my top 20 fantasy novels of all time: Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)) who does nothing more than make a very good point. How dare her? Write? Obviously she didn’t glance at my To Do List (Writing is behind 11, find out who cancelled Firefly and 19, figure out why the neighbor’s dog keeps barking.) However, I applaud Scalzi for lifting the writ on her internet avatar’s life.
Oh, just so you know, Scalzi’s wrath is fueled by a particularly cruel and vindictive feline who apparently does nothing but devise rather devious attack skirmishes against Scalzi in the middle of the night. He responds, rather despondently, that these attacks “Strangely enough…seem(s) to affect my sleep schedule.” He’s definitely getting soft, letting a kitten get away with unanswered aerial night raids.
Writing apparently has to be written, and those who are procrastinating (*ahem*) by writing blog posts instead of best sellers have been put on notice. Whoever you are, wherever you are, Robin Hobb does not approve and John Scalzi might just find you (well, your avatar) and flame you. I will also take a moment to state, for the record, that I do not approve of myself writing articles instead of best sellers either.
On the other hand there is my article about Jim Butcher’s DIRE WARNING against writing.
Further proof that I do almost anything except work on my book.
I’m going to go over a few reasons why you should seriously consider finishing Gardens of the Moon right now. Does Steven Erikson, author of the critically acclaimed, best selling fantasy series The Malazan Book of the Fallen, need this kind of article, considering his volume of sales? Yes. For someone that has created one of the most complex and fascinating epic fantasy series ever written, it’s surprising just how few people seem to be familiar with his work.
Here are some reasons why you should start reading Gardens of the Moon…
- The Malazan world just might be the coolest fantasy world ever created.
- Steven Erikson is smart. Wicked smart. I’m not exaggerating here. Read this article and tell me if they made a movie about him he wouldn’t be played by Dr. Strange or Gregory House.
- The books revolve around a veteran group of soldiers called Bridgeburners. I mean, how cool is that? And these guys are HILARIOUS.
- His book titles should convince you all by themselves. The Crippled God, Dust of Dreams, Toll the Hounds and Reaper’s Gale are just a few. See what I mean? I’d buy any of those books based on their titles alone.
- Characters have names like Dancer, Sorry, Toc the Younger, The Rope, Whiskey Jack, Anomander Rake, Quick Ben, Fiddler, etc. You can just feel where his stories are heading through the names that color his works.
- The T’lan Imass – Trust me on this. Coolest idea ever. Ever.
- Steven fences…in real life, with a sword. I mean he’s shown up at events, in person, and destroyed people on the ‘battle field’. He uses Olympic style fencing, which apparently owns ‘old school’ hack and slash sword fighting.
- The first line of Gardens is “Now these ashes have grown cold, we open the old book.” A sentence like that takes a very ambitious and confident author.
- He has 3 different date/calendar systems: 1161st Year of Burn’s Sleep – 103rd Year of the Malazan Empire – 7th Year of Empress Laseen’s Rule. His world is just that complex and rich.
- It takes a hundred pages to figure out what’s going on in Gardens. “What?” You might say. Yeah, a hundred pages, but if you’re patient you’ll be rewarded with a titan of a story. Steven’s books take a little work, but all of the best girls I’ve known did too.
- The magic system is brutal, powerful, believable and one of a kind. I’d explain it to you…if I could, but I can’t. Lucky for us, Steven can, you just have to give him a hundred or so pages to do it. But, just like waiting for Bruce Banner to turn into the Hulk, it’s worth it.
- They are some of my favorite books – they might turn out to be yours as well.
I believe that writing begins with reading, not just reading for pleasure, but studying what you read to try and see how and why each writer structures sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters and novels the way that they do. A single paragraph from a Hemingway, King, Erikson, Murakami, or Sanderson has enough of the craft within it to turn each of us into a writing mutant worthy of an X-men patch, if only we can get to the tootsie roll center.
Good luck and may the 4th be with you.