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I talked about why I write spec-fic here, so today I wanted to talk about my favorite spec-fic stories. These are stories I love more than anything else, that I can watch/read over and over, with writing that absolutely blows me away. I’d give anything for half the talent of the writers responsible for these great stories.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth
I could just as easily have said “Anything Guillermo Del Toro is involved in” for all the talent and gorgeous storytelling this man has, but Pan’s Labyrinth is my favorite. The atmosphere, the characters, the sometimes frightening and also dreamy beauty of the Other World. It is a classic fairy tale and there is no Disneyfication here. Pan’s Labyrinth is a fairy tale that scars as much as it teaches.
2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
I could also have said anything by Scott Westerfeld, but the Leviathan series is my favorite. I like that I get to choose this one because it is an interesting bit of spec-fic – historical and rife with believability but also spun with the unbelievable, monstrous aberrations that have never existed but feel like they once had. It will be tough to see this series end this summer.
You either love or hate this series or it scared you too much to ever start watching in the first place, but me? I loved it. I followed it from day one, big-eyed, scared, hungry for every morsel that would lead me down the path to guess at all the secrets. I followed the websites, the games, and the off-season teasers. For a long time I could recite the whole Lost multi-verse history. I don’t think most causal viewers understood how complex this storytelling was, how random details from early seasons return meaningfully later, how the colors the characters wear change subtly as they go from good guys, to bad guys, to something in between, or how great speculative-fiction works of art are tied up in the larger narrative, referencing and honoring the best that came before. When Jacob shows up to touch Locke in his flashback and we see him sitting on a park bench reading Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor, I fell out of my chair in shock. You have no idea how much this one book clearly influences the mythology of the LOST world, and while you don’t HAVE to know that, that I had read the book and understood five seasons of referential material made the whole story that much sweeter, that much more important.
LOST did things with storytelling that no other show, movie, or book has ever been able to do before or since. No other show will be able to cash in on the expansiveness, the hold-your-breath suspense that LOST created because it is so one of a kind. It’s kind of like the first season of most reality shows are better than later seasons because the contestants on Season 2-8 already know how to game the system, but everyone on Season 1 is experiencing it for the first time just like the audience.
And while LOST lost something with the ending that felt tacked on and a little bit anti-climatic, the experience of the rest of the body of work will go down in history as one of the greatest storytelling achievements of our generation.
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I am not on top of my game this week and it is only 7:29am. I couldn’t sleep last night – tossed and turned for HOURS. Too hot. Too cold. Too uncomfortable on my left side. Too uncomfortable on my right side. Cat wrapped itself around my feet and now I can’t move anyway. Husband’s elbow is embedded in my kidney. A neighbor is gunning his engine at 3am for no apparent reason? Other cat has decided to fill in the space between husband and my faces. Lays his cute little nose against my cheek. Starts purring like he’s entering Nascar. And then hello four o’clock in the morning. I-hate-you-alarm-clock-at-six.
Forutnately I’m having a great hair day, so at least something is going right, but I’ve already got the Not Enough Sleep headache and I’ve come to work with some surprise emails waiting for me. Surprise!
And to top it off? I completely forgot to write U last night. I wrote V, W, and part of X, but no U. Today I am Unpredictable! Apparently.
So I thought U would be a good day to do a State of the Union address. No, it’s not as much fun as most of my posts, but I’ve got some good links below! You like links, right?
Thing One: If you do not read any other blog posts this week on my blog, you must return for Wednesday the 27th. That’s “W” for all those playing along at home. I am having a very big announcement that day.
Thing Two: The VERY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT ON WEDNESDAY pertains to something I’ve been dying to tell you all all month long.
Thing Three: In the middle of May there are going to be some visual changes to the blog. Content-wise it’ll stay pretty much the same, but visually it’s going to look a little different. I just want to give you a heads up. If anything I’ll have EXTRA content, not less.
Thing Four: A to Z Blog Challenge is just about over, and starting May 2nd we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming of Mon-Fri. I have a bunch of College of Blogging Series posts starting right way at the beginning of May, one of which is all about what I learned from other people’s blogs during the A to Z Challenge. I have probably visited 150 blogs this month, and there is a lot to learn by checking out other blogs. I also learned that the world is awful small sometimes.
Thing Five: Thank you to those of you who commented on my T is for Tell Your Story post. Because of Thing One and Thing Two, I’ve been slow responding to everyone, but you’ll hear from me in the next day or two.
Thing Six: Here are some great links to share that I haven’t had a good chance to share this month. Consider these Things Worth Knowing.
News broke that “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson may have fabricated portions of his NON-FICTION book. It took a surprisingly long time to discover this, but I guess his non-profit organization that came about because of and in part of his book has been acting pretty shady and it caused some eyebrow raises that lead journalists to uncover the truth about his Three Cups of Tea journey. The big reveal, for me, was the whole not actually kidnapped by Taliban thing. There are far reaching problems with this story, least of which is his fabrication. He’s once again made non-fiction writers look suspicious. He’s also caused teachers some big problems. One of the teacher’s at my husband’s school teaches this book and she was very passionate about it. Finding out that she’s been teaching a fabrication has called her passion into question and put her students on some shakey ground as far as trust in books goes. Her class was reading this book when the news broke. What do you guys think of all this?
Scott Westerfeld has been posting some great stuff this month for the release of Goliath which is still a ways out (September). I’m so excited for this book. It is this year’s Mockingjay for me.
Tahereh Mafi (whose name I am convinced one of these days I’m going to misspell. I live in TERROR of this event) posted a very cool post about first lines last week. She posts tons of great stuff, so I don’t know why this one popped out at me, but it did. Now it’s yours to marvel at. Have a ball!
Bookshelves of Doom posted about a Stephen King easter egg that I’m not sure if it is a work of art or really creepy. I always wonder what goes through an artist’s head when they decide to start making weird art from weird objects. Not tha I begrudge them their weird art, I’m just wondering.
And the weird casting for Hunger Games keeps rolling out. I love the actress they got for Katniss, she’ll be great I think. I can also get behind the actor who was cast for Peeta (yes, I know he looks wrong. That’s what hair and makeup crew are for. The kid can act. That’s what’s important.) I abhor the actor they got for Gale who looks like he’s at least 15 years older than the rest of the cast, whether that’s true or not, he looks it and I find the idea of him and Katniss giving each other eyes and I get a little sick in my mouth. And now John C. Reilly is being tapped for Haymitch. He hasn’t accepted yet. I LOVE John C. Reilly, he’s an amazing actor, but he strikes me as too….jolly of a drunk for Haymitch. It could work, I guess. He’s certainly a top notch actor. I just pictured someone who looked a little less, I don’t know, like a leprachaun.
…we are all too tired to do more than post links to things other people have done. So here we go! I have links!
…and also, thank god it’s friday. Was this the longest week in the world for anyone else?
I am working on a sekrit project with my secret sister Margo at Urban Psychopomp. It has been an interesting idea, we’ll see what we do with it.
Inside a Dog has relaunched and I’m having some serious design-envy. Beautiful! And Adele from Persnickety Snark is newly in charge. I can’t wait to see what they do next. (I miss the old Persnickety Snark, but I’m happy for Adele’s new role.) Inside a Dog has a YA author in residence each month, and lots and lots of YA goodness. Love!
That Cover Girl has a wonderful talk with author JJ Johnson about This Girl is Different’s cover design – which is absolutely goregous and I’m really crushing on it. Who doesn’t love a great cover design and doesn’t YA seem to be getting an awful big piece of the beautiful cover design pie? Good for them.
Tahereh Mafi has a super awesome Querypolitan Q&A . I kind of wish it were a real magazine.
Finally, I don’t think it will come to any great shock that I love love love the cover design for Scott Westerfeld’s new book Goliath, the third and final installment in the Leviathan series. Writing that, by the way, caused a serious heart ache. I don’t want it to end! I love Alek and Deryn so much (and they are so smartly portrayed on the new cover.) I can’t wait for the release, as bitersweet as it is. And in case you’ve missed the seires (and if you have, where have you been!?!?) here is the book trailer for Leviathan, best book trailer on the ‘net.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Supernatural, there is nothing but witty dialogue, hot make-outs, characters with fully formed flaws and heroics and desires. Paranormalcy is sad and funny and sometimes scary. Also, cute girls with tasers and attitudes, man who wouldn’t love this book?
Melina Marchetta knows the secret words of my heart. Jellicoe Road is complicated and satisfying with a main character, Taylor, who is broken and tough at the same time. Her relationship with Jonah Griggs, her absent family, and the other players of the territory wars makes for gripping friendship and several kisses that explode on page. If I had only one book to recommend to anyone, this one be it.
It’s Jandy’s writing that steals the reader’s soul in The Sky is Everywhere. After the shocking death of her sister, Lennie isn’t dealing well. She’s heartbroken and lost but she’s also having unexpected and terrifying desires towards her sister’s boyfriend and a new boy at school who adopts her family even as it suffers under the weight of its own grief. Lennie falls in love with the whole world in order to fill the empty place her sister left behind, all the while feeling herself fading from the sun. It is beautiful and funny, sad and lonely, sexy and sweet, and the way the characters kiss each other you’d think they were suffocating apart. Grief and growth has never felt so real.
For people who like… steampunk, monsters, battle technology, history rewrites, intriguing mysteries, war heroes, deception, science, awesome world building, romanticized war
Parent warnings: No warnings – the characters spend most of the book being chased by bad guys.
NOTES: #1 in a series. Second book is available called Behemoth.
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
For people who like… contemporary stories about boys told by a teenage boy
Parent warnings: Deals with a character breaking rules, a parent mentally and emotionally traumatizing his kids, and an implied sexual situation blamed on the wrong person. All of it is told in an honest, real way that opens up dialogue about being a high school boy.
NOTES: My husband taught this book in his high school English classes and the boys who NEVER read devoured this book.
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
For people who like… villains, superheroes, super powers, and for people who sometimes like the villain more than the hero. Also for anyone who loved Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Parent warnings: The story is about a teenage supervillain in a world where superheroes and supervillains are common and accepted. The supervillain kid is not necessarily a nice person all of the time.
NOTES: For an adult version of this same sort of story, please check out Soon I Will Be Invincible – the best superhero book ever written – told in alternating viewpoints of the supervillain and one of the superheroes. It is also appropriate for older teenagers.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
For people who like… The Hunger Games, LOST, Lord of the Flies, dystopian fiction, survival fiction, stories with strong boy characters, heroes, super-governments
Parent warnings: The story has some kids put in danger and shows a world with kids living without parental supervision
NOTES: This book only has male characters until the very end when one female is introduced to the story. Very good for reluctant boy readers. This book is the first in a series, the second THE SCORCH TRIALS is out and can also be purchased.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
For people who like… Dungeons & Dragons, roleplaying games, World of Warcraft, low fantasy, mythology, video game roleplaying games, mysteries, story twists
Parent warnings: The main character, a prisoner, is kind of mouthy to those who hold him captive. They are not very nice to him.
NOTES: The first of a series of books, all of which are available for purchase.
I’m working on a cool October Blogfest Video Blog that I meant to post yesterday but since I’ve never made a video blog before, it is going slower than expected. I may have possibly kind of bit off more than I could chew with this one. We’ll see.
I have the day off work today though so I’m going to spend the long weekend writing. That’s mostly because my car is getting worked on and I’m camped with coffee and orange juice and my laptop and I have nothing else to occupy my time except Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, but my chair isn’t comfortable enough to kick back in and read so that’ll have to wait until I get home.
If you have a minute, check out Vic Caswell’s blog here. Yesterday she wrote an awesome post all about me! Who knew something so cool could happen to me? I never did, that’s for sure.
The contest for this month isn’t going very well. I haven’t had a single person sign up for it in 8 days, which has me a little worried. Either I’m not holding readers attentions, or I’m not marketing the contests very well. I may have to rethink the contests until I have more consistent readership.
Yesterday, over at The Story Siren, Kristi posted some very awesome books to pine for coming out in the next year. I don’t know how she finds them, but I look forward to her Books to Pine For posts so I can add them to my preorder wishlist on Amazon. And is it just mean, or are covers starting to look a lot better than they ever have before?
Scott Westerfeld has opened up a spoiler thread for commenting and talking about Behemoth.
This week at The Contempts the topic has been binge drinking, which led to discussions about the release of Mindi Scott’s new book Freefall. This is a book that has been on my preorder list for a long time. I really love the cover, it creeps me out, and I like the concept. I’m looking forward to picking up this book and also the trailer? I like the trailer.
This week at the New York Post I found an article about the hand model for the infamous book Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. (Haha as if anyone needed me to tell them who wrote Twilight.) The hand model is totally trying to get in on the Twi-craze, and I kind of don’t blame her a little bit because she only got paid $300 and her hands will go down in the history books as the most famous hands in history. Maybe not that dramatic. What do you think? Weird that she’s trying to cash in or just weird that she’s waited so long?
Agent Kristen Nelson talks about why an agent passes on a book that will probably sell. This is another reason why you should never take rejections personally. Rejections don’t mean your book sucks, it can also mean you’re not the right fit to the agent. And like dating, you do not want the wrong fit with an agent.
And now for some very exciting YouTube videos! Yay!
The first two are from Charlieissocoollike and Nerimon as they go on a bungee jump adventure. I think my favorite moment is when the 8-bit video game music plays and Charlie announces he’s just unlocked the Bungee Jump Achievement. Yay!
But the most exciting is music by Ben Folds, about the poety Saskia Hamilton, lyrics written by Nick Hornby, video by Charlieissocoollike. I kind of had an explosion of cool in my ears.
Tomorrow, October 5th, is the big release of Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, sequel to Leviathan. Leviathan is one of my favorite (HANDS DOWN) books of all time, and I’m just about coming undone waiting for Behemoth. I posted it about it in more depth over here at Nathan Bransford’s forums.
Jackson Pearce is doing 30 days of vlogging (GO HER, man, 31 days of blog posting is hard enough, I can’t imagine vlogging for 30 days) and today’s topic? Book Piracy. Yes, if you read a book online in .pdf format, or any other format that you have downloaded from some various nefarious site, you are in fact, stealing. So don’t. This is said all the time about music and movies, but it happens for books too, and for some reason people don’t think it is stealing. But it is. It is illegal but worse is it doesn’t hurt the publishing company, it hurts the author. The only way a company picks up an author’s next book is if their last book did well. The illegally downloaded copies don’t count.
I’m so in love with every book Courtney Summers writes. She’s amazing! Her new book coming soon is Fall for Anything. Releasing December 21st. Check out her blog for a cool ARC giveaway. Entries due by Oct 8th. See her awesome trailer below. How haunting.
It Gets Better. I can’t tell you how cool this is. I mean it. Spread the word.
NaNoWriMo is coming! While I am not participating, I am always ready to cheerlead and help in any way I can. As a previous NaNoWriMo participant, here is my first advice: Prepare Now. Don’t wait until November to try and figure out what to write about. Start outlining now. Advice #2: Check meetup.com and see if there are any NaNoWriMo groups in your area. The people I met that way were really awesome.
As a special Inspiration Point Friday, I’ve compiled a list of YA Dystopian novels of all shapes, sizes, colors, and hardships. There are plenty of corrupt governments, mind experiments, viruses, natural resource depletions, zombies, monsters, prisons, pirates, and bombs…some are very new, some haven’t been released yet, and some date back to the 1970s and yet still remain some of the best YA dystopias ever written.
Dystopias come in all flavors. So pick a flavor, any flavor. Which of these have you read? Any that I’ve missed? Share them in the comments!