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Posts Tagged ‘Pride and Prejudice’

But first, it’s the time of year when science fiction and fantasy writers begin to mention award season. I’ll make this short and sweet.

I am in my second (and final) year of eligibility for the Campbell Award for best new writer in science fiction and fantasy. You can vote for this award if you are voting for the Hugos. Here is my list of publications to date. I’m happy to send you a copy of anything on that list–just shoot me an email at practicalfreespirit@gmail.com

Also for the Hugos, I can be nominated in the Fan Writer category for my writing on this blog. I recently updated my Best of Blog page to include some blog posts from 2012. And if you’re looking for other people to nominate, I recommend checking out Theodora Goss and Ferrett Steinmetz, both of whom have strong blogs relevant to fandom and our community.

I had four short stories published last year, all of which can be nominated for the Nebulas and the Hugos. The complete list is here, but in my opinion the strongest one is Daddy’s Girl.

And now, for something completely different.

I have something new I’m really excited about. It’s a vlog called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and one of its executive producers is Hank Green of Vlogbrothers fame (he vlogs with his brother, writer John Green).

This vlog combines modern media and storytelling in a way that is special. Its conceit? It’s a modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The main vlog belongs to Lizzie (aka Elizabeth) Bennet, who starts it with her friend Charlotte as a project for her communications masters. We are slowly introduced to the concerns and people of Lizzie’s world, and the acting and writing are both quite strong.

The audience can watch only these main videos and have a great time. However, for those who want more, it’s out there to find. Lizzie’s little sister Lydia starts her own vlog. Charlotte’s little sister Maria does a short series of videos as well. Each of the characters in the vlog has their own Twitter handle, and they tweet at each other and with the audience. (Unfortunately, whoever’s in charge of the Twitter accounts doesn’t understand the technicalities of how Twitter works so the responses aren’t threaded to each other in a way that is easy to read. Still very cool, though.) One of the characters (Jane) has a semi-active Tumblr account. There’s even a fake website of the company Lizzie is about to go visit for an independent study project next week.

Lizzie and Charlotte, dressed up as Lizzie’s parents

I’m fascinated by how the story is being updated to modern times. For example, the proposal of Mr. Collins to Lizzie isn’t exactly what it was in the book, even while it remains true to the spirit. There are plenty of references to catch for those who love Pride and Prejudice. I particularly love how so far the videos are very effective at highlighting the flaws in Lizzie’s character. But even for those who aren’t so into the book, this is a fascinating experiment of a different way of storytelling using a combination of video, websites, and social media.

I don’t know how I avoided hearing about this for so long, but now that I’m all caught up, I’m looking forward to experiencing the serial feel going forward. Another thing I really like about this vlog is how each episode feels complete in itself even while maintaining suspense and forward momentum. When I watch my other favorite web series, The Guild, I am often frustrated by how short each episode seems and how I feel like I’m constantly left hanging (maybe I got spoiled by getting to watch the first five seasons after they were completed, making them more like five movies). In contrast, each episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has its own mini-arc that leaves me feeling satisfied.

I would love love love to be involved in the writing and/or producing of a project like this. Truly fabulous storytelling.

What media are you geeking out over right now?

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Some of my favorite novels are ones in which nothing much happens. That’s not to say that nothing at all happens, or that the stakes aren’t sometimes raised, but the story unfolds in a leisurely, unrushed sort of way, allowing me to feel like I’m really getting to know the characters and being allowed to inhabit their lives. In fact, I’m so fascinated by the characters and the setting, I feel wrapped up in a different world and don’t feel the slightest bit bored.

My favorite example of this kind of writing is (no surprise here) Anne of Green Gables and sequels, in which we basically get a window into the life of Anne Shirley and get to watch her grow up. She has victories and struggles, sadness and happiness, and a penchant for getting into scrapes, but there are no real antagonists or villains, no sweeping natural disasters, no explosions. There is the occasional gentle mystery, but that’s about it. I find reading these books to be profoundly restful.

Other examples include the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and much of Jane Austen’s oeuvre, Little Women and even Jane Eyre. I wonder if Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day could also fall in this category; indeed, perhaps that is part of the reason why I love it so much. Dramatic events happen but there’s plenty of time for the build-up to them and ample space to discuss social events, meals, and daily life.

These books are in stark contrast to the plot-driven fast-paced novel that is currently in vogue (at least in my part of the literary world). Cut cut cut, the advice for writers says. Every scene has to move the plot forward. Commercial fiction needs an antagonist, or maybe even a series of antagonists that lead up to the final Big Boss. I can read a screenwriting manual like Save the Cat! and find it completely relevant to novel-writing because so many novels feel at least somewhat like long-form movies, except instead of fancy cinematography they have ripples of beautifully garlanded prose. Meanwhile, these slow-paced books I’m talking about? They’re made into mini-series and too many versions of artsy costume films.

I want more of these books I love. I want to read books that have a plot but aren’t raising the stakes every five minutes. I want to read books that don’t have predictable plot twists because there aren’t so many plot twists to fit in, and that don’t have cliffhangers at each chapter ending because they are relying on enchantment rather than adrenaline to keep you reading. I want to read books that, while they don’t go off on hundred-page-long tangents like Hermann Melville is famous for doing, meander a little bit on their way to the ending. I want comfort food books in which nothing too awful happens, or at least, not too terribly often. I want more Agatha Christie novels in which, inevitably, justice is served in the end, and even in the face of brutal murders, characters carry on having dinner parties and taking care of their mustaches. I want more screwball comedies like To Say Nothing of the Dog in which the main character can’t remember what he is to do, takes a lazy trip down the Thames, returns a cat, and has to engage in some complicated matchmaking. Sure, the stakes are that the entire fabric of time could unravel, but did anyone feel really worried that such a thing would actually happen? I know I didn’t.

I don’t know if this desire makes me old-fashioned or out of touch. I’d like to think that somewhere out there is a cohort of readers who want the same things I want, who sometimes like to take a break from the page-turners and convoluted plot machinations, or the implausible series of misunderstandings and caricatured character flaws that so often characterize a less plot-driven novel. I’d like to think that this is why novels like Pride and Prejudice are still so popular.

But don’t mind me. I’ll just be curling up by the fire with A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. Or maybe Among Others by Jo Walton, which is my new comfort book find of the year.

Have any comfort reading recommendations? Think I’m crazy to not always want the stakes raised? Please share.

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I’ll be at World Fantasy Convention in San Diego for the rest of the week, so if you’re also here, please feel free to find me and say hi! I’ll be participating in the Crossed Genres reading on Sunday at 10am (suite number not yet announced), so if you want to be able to say you witnessed my very first reading ever, you know where to be.

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Last week my husband and I drove up to Ashland, Oregon to attend their Shakespeare Festival for the first time. I’ve been wanting to attend this festival since high school, and it did not disappoint. Also, it’s good to know that I can watch eight plays in four days without burning out on theater.

Ashland was a charming place, and my favorite part was the plethora of bookshops that grace the downtown, including at least two “Books and Antiques” shops. Those two shops were my bookstore dream come true. Both of them had old books in bookshelves all over the shop, surrounded by assorted strange items: a brass urn, a large wooden Noah’s ark, aggressively sparkly jewelry, antique scissors complete with scabbard. One of the shops had an entire section devoted to “Banned Books” throughout the ages, and they threw in a free “I read banned books” pin with my purchase. I could have spent hours in those two stores, and the only reason I didn’t spend more time was the danger of buying more books than would fit in the car for the drive home.

There’s something about old books, isn’t there? I don’t usually notice the smell of books, having a notably poor sense of smell, but in a used bookstore even I notice the musky scent of aging paper. And those old hardbacks feel so weighty in the hand, and lacking the slickness of the modern dust jacket, they seem more mysterious–anything could be lurking behind the slightly battered covers. I was reminded that, however much the world may move towards electronic books, and however many of them I will purchase myself, there is something inside me that will always be enchanted by the book as a physical object.

So I decided to share that enchantment with you by showing you photos of my book haul from these two lovely shops.

These are my three nonfiction selections. I love English history, and after having just seen Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2, I was particularly inspired to get a book on the British Monarchy. Short sketches of famous women in the Renaissance? Equally interesting, with possibilities of awaking some story ideas. The top book is about the home life of Theodore Roosevelt and his family at the turn of the century (19th to 20th), which is a time period I’m quite attached to (think Anne of Green Gables and the Betsy and Tacy books).

My bouquet of paperbacks. I’ve only previously read the middle one. I really wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill, but neither shop had that one, so I got this one instead.

Okay, how exciting is this stack? The H.G. Wells omnibus on the bottom is particularly well made, but all four of these books make me hungry for reading. And my favorite three books of the Anne of Green Gables series all in one volume? I couldn’t resist.

I love this old edition of Dicken’s A Christmas Tale. My husband and I read this story together every December. Look at that art! It reminds me of the old books my mom saved from her childhood.

I’ve saved the best for last. I saw this book and I knew I had to have it.

Yes, it is indeed leather-bound. And it has golden gilt on the edges of the pages. I’ve been looking for the perfect edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for quite some time now.

The end papers look even better in person: a shiny, orange gold color with a pleasing texture.

And it is illustrated. And it has a golden ribbon to keep your place as you read. How elegant!

I adore this book with all my heart, both its outer form and the story it tells.

We obtained many, many books in Ashland. I can’t wait to start reading them!

Too bad my to-read pile already takes up several shelves….

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