Sunday, January 31, 2010

No. 5 - Anthem

by Ayn Rand

Started: February 1
Finished: February 1

Notes: This short novel comes from one of my favorite authors, but one of my least favorite philosophers. If that's even possible. The plot concerns a slightly futuristic world where the very idea of the individual has been destroyed, except for one man.

Mini review: Quite the interesting novel, a future where the word "I" doesn't exist and humans only think of themselves as a collective "we." Ironically, I read most of this novel while on a city bus (which is provided by the "we") and in a public library (also provided by the "we"). Definitely gives one food for thought. My problems with Rand's objectivist philosophy is that I think it's too extreme, though I believe it has kernels of truth to it about individualism. The "we" shouldn't overpower the "I," but there wouldn't be an "I" if not for the "we." Make sense? Does to me. And most hardcore objectivists would shoot it down. I'd say grow up, stop living in a fantasy world and use that "reason" Rand talks so much about. Logic doesn't dictate the individual giving up all for society, but the reverse is also true. Ah, well. Another great read from Rand, and a different style than her other books.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Impulse to Punish

My science fiction short story "The Impulse to Punish" is now available for free online at Abandoned Towers.

If you like slightly futuristic stories that are sort of reminiscent of 1950s and '60s soft sci-fi and not too hard on the technology aspects, this should be just right for you.


Monday, January 18, 2010

No. 4 - Gardens of the Moon

by Steven Erikson

Started: January 18
Finished: January 31

Notes: I recently finished another book in this fantasy series, and was hankering for some more, so here it is. At least this time I'm starting with the first book in the Malazan series.

Mini review: Probably my least favorite of the three Malazan books I've read so far, but there was still plenty here to like, especially the characters. What I liked least here was that I felt the plotting was a bit off, especially towards the end where it seemed there were a hundred characters all doing a bunch of stuff at the same time, thus making it difficult to keep up with what all of them were doing. However, this was the writer's first novel, so I'm more than willing to cut him some slack, especially considering I know the series gets better. Over all, the writing was pretty solid, and I like the characters quite a bit. Yes, I'm sold on this series. I'll be reading more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

No. 3 - American Rebel

by Marc Eliot

Started: January 15
Finished: January 18

Notes: This is not the first Clint Eastwood biography I've read, though it is the most modern one, coming soon after his film Gran Torino. I've always found Clint intriguing not only as an actor, but for his choice of movies he decided to be a part of. And he is, in my opinion, one of the last of the great iconic actors.

Mini review: It would seem Clint was a right bastard, at least until he became an older man. I won't go into detail, but he screwed around with lots of women, even while he was married, and apparently had a tendency to blame everyone but himself whenever things didn't go his way. But all that's according to this biography, though it more or less matched things I've read about Eastwood in other books. Here, the writer held few punches against Clint, though also he didn't go out of his way to attack the famed director/actor. A decent read, but mainly for fans of Eastwood. Serious scholars of cinema are probably not going to learn much here, in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No. 2 - American on Purpose

by Craig Ferguson

Started: January 13
Finished: January 14

Notes: It's a damn shame it takes a Scotsman to make me proud to be an American. And I can honestly say that about the television host of The Late, Late Show, he makes me proud to be an American. In fact, Craig Ferguson is one of the few public personalities in this country who makes me feel that way. All while making me laugh out loud. And he's my favorite late-night TV host. Too bad I don't watch him more often than I do. This non-fiction book is an autobiography of sorts, Ferguson telling of his troubled past and what led him to want to become an American citizen.

Mini review: Quite the easy, breezy read, and funny. Not constantly funny, because there are some sad parts, but enough chuckles to keep you going. It was also nice to discover that the author didn't dwell upon those sadder parts of his life to the point of tedium or tears. He talks about those things, alcoholism and drug use and sometimes infidelity, quite plainly and with obvious sorrow for his parts in all that, but without getting overly maudlin. I appreciated that. Also, Ferguson's early days reveal an interesting world in the Glasgow, Scotland, of 30 and 40 years ago. As for the aspects of American pride in this tale of truth, its Ferguson's rough past that helps goad him to become an American citizen. What other country offers a second chance at life? At sometimes a third and fourth and fifth chance. It seems Craig finally got it right with his life, and I'm glad to see it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What to read this year?

At the start of a new year, I always like to look back at what I read from the year before and see if I notice any trends. For example, in 2009 I read a fair amount of classic literature, more in one year than I had read in a long time. I also read a good number of Ed McBain police procedural novels.

What didn't I read? I didn't read a lot of non-fiction. And I didn't read a lot of fantasy fiction, which is unusal for me. The exception to this last one is that I did read quite a bit (for me, at least) of fiction by Robert E. Howard and non-fiction concerning the author.

So, I've been thinking what to read this year? I'm going to try to focus on two areas. First, I'm going to try and read more fantasy fiction than I did last year. Why? Because I took a long break from fantasy a while back and I missed a lot, nearly a whole decade's worth of fantasy fiction. I need to catch up.

Second, I've got a list of books I want to read, so I'm going to try to focus on that list some more. Some of that stuff is fantasy, but not all of it. A good bit is more classic literature. Some of the books listed, I can't even remember why they're on the list.

I'll see how things go.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's resolutions

Well, happy new year!

Now that that's out of the way, what am I going to do with myself this year? What are my resolutions?

Frankly, most of them are not about writing.

I need a job, so my family can have some stability. That's numero uno.

Number two? I need to take care of my health. I have high blood pressure and a history of heart problems, and lately I had another scare. So, health has got to be my focus once more.

But what about my writing? I met nearly all the goals I set for myself at the start of last year, so I need more goals for the new year.

But I don't. Not really. I have some short stories I want to write, but other than that, I'm kind of open at the moment. I do have a hundred or so ideas for novels, but which one to go after next?

Instead of hardcore goals, I'll stick to some more simple ones this year. I'll finish the few short stories I've got planned, then I'll probably get into another novel. But which one? Not sure yet. I'll wait and see.

Last year I had a novel I just had to get written, from an emotional viewpoint. I did it. It's done and being looked at by some literary agents at the moment.

But this year I don't have a novel inside me screaming to get out. I have a bunch that want to be written, need to be written, but none that can't sit on the back burner for a while.

Also, I've kind of spread myself out as far as what genre I'm writing. I've done a fantasy trilogy and a literary novel, so to some extent I'm waiting a little longer to see what kind of responses I get from those before deciding what novel to tackle next. It might be another fantasy. It might be another literary novel. It might be horror, or something else entirely different.

But I've got some time. I've got at least 4 short stories that need to be written. I'll finish those over the next couple of months, then I can start work on whatever novel I want. In a way, it feels pretty liberating.