Jan. 11th, 2013

gillpolack: (Default)
Nothing to report today, except that I'm terribly sleepy all the time. This is the bushfire smoke and the antihistamines combining. I'm working, but it takes forever to start and I keep taking breaks and dozing.

One good thing about perpetual somnolence, is that I finished The Pillars of the Earth. It wasn't as bad as I had feared, but there were quite a few avoidable stupidities. The thing that got to me most, though, was that most places didn't look right*. Saint-Denis did, and there was more than a hint of Salisbury in the finished cathedral** (a cathedral administering a priory - the smallest diocese outside Rome!), but the village and the fair had the wrong proportions. Maybe it was just me.

I still don't see why the politics were rewritten and ages of characters changed. It made no sense to have Matilda declare herself an Empress rather than admit she was once married to an Emperor, for instance. And Stephen became a one-parent family, as did Matilda. And why murder one of the competing heirs when his actual death made such a nice poetic balance to Henry I's death? I kept thinking, actually, that the changes were due to too much "I, Claudius" informing someone's notion of "This is history."



*This led to a couple of consequential stupidities. The market had no water and no-one to keep the order, so it was far more prey to incoming men-with-swords-and-fire than it should have been. They still would have caused mayhem, but it would be differently shaped mayhem.

**I'm talking subjective sense of proportions for all these places, not precise correctness.
gillpolack: (Default)
Today I'm unwell enough to spend most of the time on my bed, feeling the warmth and wondering when things will improve. The Grump has to lead up to actual unwellness, I guess.

Anyhow, I've written a bit more of my much-delayed essay and I will definitely be finished the first draft when the coolness happens tonight (for even on a really bad day, when I am nothing but a ball of hurt and cannot even do gentle exercise, things improve about 10 pm) and I've made big inroads into other must-do reading. On a good day I do 12-14 hours work, and on a really bad day I do 3-4. Today I shall manage about 6, I suspect. Enough to keep everything above water.

My work today has some odd side effects. The reading was from a wide variety of writers and their fiction fitted into everything I've been reading recently (including the 50+ novels and not-yet-counted short stories for Aurealis and I had a thud of realisation.

I don't think there is as much pressure as there used to be for writers who are easy to publish (who are Names or who work within the saleable confines of genre) to improve their game. Six writers (a full half dozen) on my "read stories by them for these writers are going to turn into something really interesting" have now dropped off that list and are now on my "Read only when I need fluff and brainless entertainment" list. What they have in common is that they all find it easy to get published by medium to large publishers.

I suspect this may be part and parcel of the recent lessening of risk-taking by the larger publishers. We get fewer tale types and we get less pressure to push and push and improve the telling of tales.

That's the bad news. The good news is that I have some cool writing tricks for my students. Analytic reading is very handy for this kind of thing. These writers didn't get published because they can't write, after all. They're all good at what they do. It's just that they've dropped from writers of great potential to getting Cs from teachers "A clear pass, but can do much better. Try a bit harder next term."

I need universities to start advertising more jobs. I need to take all the stuff I'm learning and teach it in much greater depth than I can in short courses. I need to shake writers up early in their careers so that they know that the burden for writing is upon them and that they're the ones who lose if they accept the dicta of cautious editors and do not learn about their own writing and grow with it.

The longer I read, the more I suspect that professionalism in writing starts the very first moment on hears or dreams of story - it should not wait until one's sixth book is published. And growing in one's profession is a very important aspect of professionalism.

I merged from bed because I've run out of reading. I'll just grab my last volumes for today (today is short stories, for my attention span is suited to them) and stop ranting.

May 2013

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