I can now say that I’ve seen water in a salt lake. It’s an unusual sight, especially as you can’t really venture onto a dry salt lake because there are a whole bunch of grasses, or reeds. Large unwelcoming vegetation. But a few weeks ago, I decided to go for a walk on a fine day that had followed several rainy days, and to my surprise, found the path flooded.
Category: Musings Page 1 of 2
Note: this post contains spoilers for the novel Howl’s Moving Castle, which by the way is vastly different from the movie adaptation. If you’ve only seen the movie, reading this will probably confuse you.
Diana Wynne Jones was a genius.
If I were to explain all the ways her genius comes through her writing, I’d be here all day. But I’m going to focus on one thing — her use of the poem Song (by John Donne) in her novel Howl’s Moving Castle.
There are quite a few online writing challenges floating around these days. There’s the big one everyone knows about (National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo) and there’s also similar ones for short stories (StoryaDay), scripts (WriScriVember), and more. What’s the point of these, you may ask?
Arrival is a 2016 sci-fi film written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Dennis Villeneuve, and tells the story of Louise Banks, a linguist who helps to communicate with aliens visiting Earth. It is based on Story of Your Life, a short story by Ted Chiang. If you have neither seen this film nor read this story, I very strongly encourage you to do one or the other before reading this blog post. I’m going to spoil both of them, and they are both excellent pieces of craft that do not deserve spoiling. Go now; the blog will still be here when you get back.
Mary Westmacott is the pen name Agatha Christie used for six novels which are usually referred to as romances. It may baffle some people that Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, ever wrote romance. Actually the baffling thing is the idea that these books are romances. Perhaps the genre has changed, but one of the defining elements of the romance genre is the happy ending, the resolved issues and the blissful relationship.
Truth time: This is mostly an excuse to link to a story I wrote that was published as part of the Short Fiction Break 2018 Summer Writing Contest, which you can find here. It’s called Trial by Fire and involves a prisoner being offered a chance at freedom … as long as she can pass the trial.
On the other hand, I also have something to say about how I wrote this story, and maybe learnt a lesson from it, although I’m not sure what that lesson was.
I almost exclusively write fantasy and science fiction. I write about things that aren’t real, that couldn’t be real, not in this time or place. I do this because I love to make things up. I’ve been making things up since I was small. As a child, I populated my backyard with fairies, and I populated the school playground with cheese-eating grass-gulls. I didn’t just make things up. I also read about made up stuff. I grew up with Brer Rabbit and Aslan, and I spent my teen years with Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, and Arthur Dent.
La Monte Young was a 20th century composer who is most well known for his very experimental set of works named Compositions 1960. The most famous, #7, is credited with being the first minimalist piece, being only two notes, a B and and F#, meant to be held for a long period of time. Other pieces instruct players to light a fire, push a piano through a wall, feed a piano a bale of hay, set some butterflies loose in a room (the piece ends when they leave), or just contain cryptic messages, like “This piece is like whirlpools in the middle of the ocean.” There’s also one about grasshoppers. Basically, these pieces challenge the very definition of music and have always been fascinating to me. I recommend you at least check out the Wikipedia page for Compositions 1960, if only to have a laugh. I’m not entirely sure what I was trying to do when I wrote the story, or passage, or whatever, below. Maybe it was a bit of a writing exercise, to see how many references I could fit in. Maybe it was a reflection on these strange pieces, or a tribute. Maybe it doesn’t really matter.
If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
If a story is written, and nobody is there to read it, does it really exist?
If an idea is spoken, and nobody is there to act on it, does it make a difference?
If a life is lived, but never touches another life, did it matter?