Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Picking A Fight - Picking the Best Fantasy Author

By Greg Hardin

Let’s start a rumble!

This month’s post is going to be a little different.  I am hoping it will be more interactive.  That means it will need your participation.  Yes, you.  If you continue reading you will be expected to respond thoughtfully and as colorfully as possible.  It will also be extremely subjective and probably not very helpful to you as a writer.  (Wanna make something of it?)  But it should be fun.

Who is currently writing the best fantasy?  This is the simple question with interwoven sub-questions to follow. I recently had a long conversation about the quality of current fantasy writing and there was quite the argument about who the current standard-bearer is. 

I will tell you the two modern writers most discussed were George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan.  While authors, Lev Grossman, Susanna Clarke, and Patrick Rothfuss were all mentioned as possible wildcards.  (Can’t tell just yet with them.)  Would anyone agree with the idea that either George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan has published the best fantasy writing in the past, say 20 years?  Who would you add to that list? Does it need to be broken into further categories such as high fantasy and urban fantasy?  Give us your musings!  Be opinionated.  Pick a fight.

Sub-question: What role does Tolkien play in fantasy literature?  Is he now relegated to his role as Father of modern fantasy writing, (we will define Modern Fantasy as anything in the Fantasy Genre written in the 20th or 21st century,) or does he still hold the title for best fantasy author ever?  Or is his fantasy so different from current works it must be held in it’s own category?

This is probably the geekiest post I’ve written so far and I promise to not be so controversial next time.  I would love to hear your thoughts, though.  If only to find out what I should be reading next.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Crit Partner Relationship

You write in a cave. Or a dining room table. Or at a coffee shop. But, really, you write in your own head. You're alone in there, with your characters and you're the only grown up - the only one who makes decisions. This is good, at least for the first draft of your work. But soon, you'll need to let your WIP (work in progress) see the light of day - and the eyes of your crit partners.

If you don't have a crit parnter, go get one. Go ahead, I'll wait. No, not really. You need one. You need more than one. If you really haven't got one, may I suggest getting the BCWG bible, The Writing and Critique Book Survival Guide By Becky Levine? It will start you off in the right direction. You can also get crit partners via blog hops & pitchfests - like Deana Barnhart's GUTGAA. There is no shortage of resources online for getting you hooked up to a crit partner.

But what do you do when you have one and it's not working out? A writing friend recently asked me for some advice. A new crit partner of hers had come back with some negative feedback. Not constructive criticism, but the kind of feedback that's no use to anyone - unspecific, vague and seemingly intentionally hurtful. It was way off base. My friend didn't want to be treated with kid gloves so she was unsure how to respond. Was her crit partner just giving her tough love? Was her main character really so unlikable? It was enough to undermine even the strongest writer's ego - and we all know that we don't have strong egos (inflated, crazy, psychotic, yes, but not strong.)

My advice was to remember that every crit partner, no matter how good, has an agenda. They have biases - ones they may not even know they have. Take everything that they say with a grain of salt, especially until you get to know their style and quirks. When you get feedback from crit partners, put it on hold. Don't take it to heart OR discard it. Just let it sit in limbo for a while. Once the feedback has a chance to cool off, you can examine it, and your story, to see if what your crit partner is saying resonates for you.

My friend spoke to her crit partner and it turns out that there was a bias there - something the crit partner wasn't even aware of. The honest discussion put both crit partners in a better place, open and receptive to each other's feedback.

What's your relationship with your crit partner(s)? How do you keep each other honest?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Join the Fight Against Banned Books

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." 
Oscar Wilde

From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, you will find every inch of my body resonating with passion. Most of the time I struggle to keep it under control. I brake for squirrels. I lend an ear to people in need. I voice outrage when groups of people are oppressed. I’m not a person who fits in a box or welcomes silence. I’m wild, loving, and opinionated.

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance."
Lyndon B. Johnson

One of my biggest indignations is censorship. It really boils my blood when the choice to read is taken away. Last week, readers across America celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read. Growing up, I’ve been lucky enough to read what I wanted to read without hindrance. I think everyone deserves that right. Anyone who wants to take away that right is afraid, afraid of the power of words, ideas, and individuality.

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasent facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
John F. Kennedy. Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium, February 26, 1962

Don’t be afraid. Open up dialogue with friends and family. Discuss controversial subjects and books. Learn. Understand that the world isn’t black and white.

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950

In the spirit of standing up against censorship and voicing opinions, check out what a few famous authors have to say about it:  “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors Sound Off About Banned Books and Censorship”

Did you do anything special for Banned Books Week?