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Showing posts from June, 2012

Philosophy of Language, by William P. Alston

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I’ve always been the inquisitive sort. Probably more so than your average kid. I asked where babies come from at four. Never mind that I didn’t listen to the answer. I’m told that I stared at my mother’s mouth throughout the whole birds and bees speech and when asked if I had any questions, said, “Yes. How many teeth do you have?”
I once stumped a hippie couple with a question on metaphysics when, during Sunday school, they told us that God was all about love and that He expected us to love everybody.
I raised my hand. “Does that mean we should love the Devil too?”
Adults know everything when you’re eleven, but they’d hesitated, glancing at each other first as if seeking confirmation or preparing to take a vote. “Yes. I…guess we should.” I wasn’t convinced.
This questioning has plagued me my whole life. Others call it doubt, cynicism, and annoying. I call it a healthy dose of curiosity. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism, though. I recognize how naïve I can be so I wear this You-Can’t-…

Beware Blurbs Bearing Gifts

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As anyone who follows my blog knows, I’m constantly on the lookout for good fantasy fiction. Unfortunately, the pickings are slim. I can count the good ones on my hands and my painted toenails. Wait. That was meant to be a secret. How do I delete? Never mind. Anyway, I’ll grant you that I’m hard to please, but when I fall in love, I fall hard. So it balances out.
Imagine my joy when, after sifting through the fantasy fiction aisles and reading a few pages from a couple dozen novels, I stumbled on one endorsed by Stephen R. Donaldson. Did you just gasp? I sure did. Donaldson is one of my favorite living authors. I’ve read over a dozen of his books, some of them more than once. Reading Donaldson made me want to be a writer over twenty years ago. So I really thought I’d stumbled on a rare find when I saw Donaldson’s blurb on the cover of Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson:
“My advice to anyone who might listen to me: Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon.”
Needless to say, I rushed h…

Summer Novels

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I wasted my childhood like your average kid. I collected cicada shells from tree bark, belched enough soda to fuel a hot air balloon, sang into a hair brush in front of the bathroom mirror while wearing nothing but my dad’s aftershave. I was as full of promise as a new-born litter of kittens. Neither a prodigy nor a golden child, I was Mowgli without the Jungle or the Book.
Although our family owned books, our parents didn’t read to us. Nor were we encouraged to read. I grew up believing books functioned as merely shelf décor and, being a poor reader, often confused time spent with them as a form of punishment. So TV and movies were my only viable sources to story telling.
This impression wasn’t dispelled once we left the house to visit our grandmother. On weekends, she’d drop my brother and me off at the movie theatre and we’d spend all morning and afternoon watching matinees back to back, sometimes the same film. This was back when it was safe to leave children alone at a movie thea…

The Peculiar Prose and Plots of Anne Rice

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To date, I’ve read only five Anne Rice novels, so if any of her loyal fans want to school me about what a moron I am, come right in and leave a comment. But please wipe your feet first. I just vacuumed. However, fans of her SMBD stuff are not welcome, regardless whether you’re willing to leave your cuffs and ball gag at the door. In fact, get off my lawn right now.
I consider Anne Rice a good writer, a sensual writer. She has a tender way of shaping a scene, a character, a place, or a mood. Subtle eroticism permeates her work. She has her moments of originality and flair. But when it comes to revision, she’s one of the worst. Applying the scalpel for the benefit of the whole can mean the difference between a beautiful work and one sporting unsightly cysts. It’s also the difference between an amateur and a pro. In such cases Rice’s individuality is her greatest weakness. She falls in love with her own gilded prose and refuses to remove the dross. Hint: the perspective of a friend or two…

What Fantasy Fiction Means to Me

I’ve enjoyed the swords and sorcery genre since my first exposure to The Hobbit over a quarter of a century ago. The legends of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, world mythologies and folk lore in general, even the Egyptian pyramids, the mysteries of the Aztecs, Stonehenge, the Easter Island monoliths, or the noble and often brutal ancient histories of long forgotten cultures of antiquity, their relics, talismans, artifacts, and the stories that those items themselves have since inspired – all these things have teased me with wonder and excitement throughout my reading career. And the fiction that to some degree parallels this source material has for a long time held a special place in my heart.
I was finishing up my reading of yet another fantasy fiction flop (The Sword by Deborah Chester, book one of a trilogy), when I decided to offer what I consider the secret recipe for creating enduring fantasy fiction (ff). Consider this …