Hearing the Voices of Dead Authors in the Present Tense

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

tolkien lighting pipeThere are a number of citation styles for a variety of fields, but the two biggies are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). The latter is used in the natural sciences and research fields. The former is used in the humanities — literature, philosophy, visual and performing arts — so it’s the one I grew intimately familiar with while earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature and Language.

MLA is also the one I primarily taught my first-year composition students during my nine years as an English instructor (which, in retrospect, was a bit of a disservice to all the kids who were going on to pursue non-humanities degrees). In my defense, it is the style primarily used in high school, so it is the one that most students entering college have some degree of familiarity with — which is strange when you think about it: it’s as if our secondary-school system assumes most students will go on to pursue degrees in theater or English. The way I couched my presentation of MLA went something like this: “Whatever field you go into, you will have to write papers that follow a particular formatting and style guide. It may not be this one — it may be APA or Chicago — but using this one will get you accustomed to using one.”

In recent years, I’ve had to get more familiar with APA because I do a fair amount of copy-editing on the side for education, sociology, and psychology professors who write their chapters and academic papers in APA style. The differences between the styles are myriad — each one, after all, has its own labyrinthine manual of hundreds of rules in small type (with sometimes counter-intuitive indexing — as anyone who has spent wasted minutes vainly searching for the guideline pertaining to this one particular set of circumstances knows). Whatever the differences in details, though, their main purpose is to provide a consistent way for other scholars to easily locate the sources one has cited.

There is, however, one difference between MLA and APA style that strikes me as huge: indicative of a significant difference in worldview, even. It involves tense. APA prefers past tense. MLA prefers present tense.

So, according to APA:

Tolkien (1947) said, “Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie.”

According to MLA:

J.R.R. Tolkien says, “Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie” (“On Fairy-Stories”).

APA wants to locate that statement at an exact historical moment, and it’s very clear that Tolkien said it long ago and that he’s also dead.

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Self-Publishing Checklist: The Random No One Tells You, Part II

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

Patty Templeton's Self-publishing Checklist-smallIn Part One of this series, we looked at Firming Out Your Expectations, Picking Your Publisher, and how to do a Reality Check on Your Book Format.

How are we doing so far? Still okay? Good.

So you have a manuscript. You have decided on a publisher. You know weird tips about how your book’s format can affect its price and distribution. Now what?

4. Find or Commission Art

  • What is your vision for your front cover, back cover, and spine?
  • What are examples of books you admire that are in your book’s genre?
  • Do you want to create your own cover, hire someone to do it, or hire your POD publisher to do it?
  • What artists do you admire who fit the tone of your book?

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Where Did the Cat Come From? Or, Who Translated This S&*%?

Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Christie 2Talking about subtitles last week got me thinking about book translations. It’s a different beast, of course; for one thing, translating prose isn’t subject to the same time constraints that translating dialogue is. So that should make translations better than subtitles, right?

In general, I think that’s true. However, with one exception, I’m going to focus on occasions when it’s been done badly. After all, when the translation’s done well, no one notices.

We all know examples from our mundane lives of unfortunate, or impossible, translations. I’m sure everyone’s heard the story of Chevrolet having to change the name of their Nova for the South American market. In Spanish, “no va” means “doesn’t go.” Not the best name for a car.

As I’ve mentioned before, I often read in Spanish to keep in practice, and since my preferred reading material is genre (Fantasy, SF and Crime), this has often meant that I’m reading books translated into Spanish.* This can be helpful, since I often own the book in English, and if something gets away from me (miss the meaning of two or three critical words and the whole paragraph can go wonky on you) I can check the original, which is far superior to hauling out the dictionary and trying to sort it out piecemeal. I learned this the hard way.

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Self-Publishing Checklist: The Random No One Tells You

Friday, September 5th, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

there-is-no-lovely-end-switchblade-smallOH MY GAWD! You fancy glitterquill! You wrote a book.

So did I. It took forever. Mostly because I was an undisciplined mess who worked multiple jobs for the majority of the book’s birthing, but HEY! It got done. And… it appears… you’ve done the same. Which is rad. Take a moment to celebrate yourself. I don’t care how you get yer good times (sex, napping, whiskey, dancing, WHATEVER!), but you need to celebrate. For example, I read for a week straight and C.S.E. Cooney got me a sweet potato pie. Which no one else ate. It was ALL MINE. For breakfast. For dinner. There was no guilt ONLY WIN AT LIFE!

But… okay. So you have this thing. It is a manuscript. It is in a Word doc. You want to self-publish it. What the hell happens now? A LOT. Dear GEEZUS, a lot. Are you sure you want to do this? Yes? Okay. Well, here is a list – NOT ALL INCLUSIVE – but a starter guide to the pile of stink you stuck your foot into.

1. Firm Out Your Expectations

  • What do you want from your self-publishing experience?
  • Do you want to be a bestseller? (Um… good luck.)
  • Are you shooting to be a midlist author?
  • Maybe you are a passionate amateur who is publishing for friends and family?

Whatever you are, know it and embrace it. My suggestion… keep your heart and drive high and your expectations low.

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What Did That Say? Or, When is a Subtitle not a Subtitle?

Friday, September 5th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

InigoLately I’ve had some experiences with subtitles that worry me a little. Here’s my problem: just what is it that’s being subtitled, and is there any way for us to know whether we’re missing something?

Usually when I’m watching a movie with subtitles, it’s in a language I have some grip on, like French or Italian. The subtitles are there to help me when the dialogue is too fast, or perhaps too colloquial, for me to follow it directly (though that in itself might be one of the problems, as we’ll see in a minute).  There’s only one thing I watch where I don’t have any real clue on the language, and that’s Japanese anime.

The thing is, I’ve always been a big fan of subtitles over dubbing. I prefer to hear the actors’ own voices – I know how important voice can be, and I figure actors are cast for that as much as for any other quality. Tone is also something it’s virtually impossible to translate. But now, having seen some of the stuff I’ve seen, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be better off watching a dubbed version.

The only dubbed films or TV shows I regularly watch are dubbed in Spanish, and I do that so my ear doesn’t lose its facility with the language through long periods of disuse. I never use the English subtitles, first, because the whole point is for me to concentrate and follow the Spanish; and second, because, as a reader, my eye is always drawn first to the written word, and I’d be wasting my practice time reading the subtitles instead of listening. Though, I might cheat a bit by watching a movie or an episode first in English, so I can concentrate on the vocabulary rather than on the plot.

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Diversity in Fandom: Lessons from Worldcon

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

This post is for whites only.

If you aren’t white, go away. Even if you are white but aren’t straight, I don’t want you reading my post. White women probably don’t need to read it either. And if you’re Muslim, get out of here.

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A Phoenix, A Carpet and A Sand Fairy

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

nesbit itLast week I was talking about Lord Dunsany and his role both as an early 20th-century fantasist and the founder/inventor of the club or bar story. Talking about Dunsany reminded me of another early 20th-century fantasist, E. Nesbit. Edith Nesbit’s work actually pre-dates Dunsany’s, but there are a couple of reasons she’s not as well known, or as well respected outside of our field, as he is.

The first one is fairly obvious: female writers don’t get as much recognition and respect as male writers*, but even more obvious is that she’s considered a children’s writer – not YA – and they get even less respect, regardless of gender. About 40 of Nesbit’s approximately 60 novels were written for children.

Not all of these were gems, of course, but there are several which earn Nesbit a place on anyone’s book shelves. The first notable fantasies are her stories of the Bastable children,  The Treasure Seekers (1899), The Wouldbegoods (1901), and The New Treasure Seekers (1904). These were widely (and wildly) popular both at the time they were written and subsequently, but I have to say that even as a child myself, I thought Oswald Bastable needed taking down a peg, and my personal favourites were what’s called the Psammead Series, featuring the siblings Robert, Anthea, Jane, and Cyril, along with their baby brother known as the Lamb.

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25 Ways to Support (Indie) Authors

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

Has this thought ever walked across your brain: My friend wrote a book. What now? It ain’t selling and I want to help.

Well, bless your soul, dear heart. You are a darn good friend. Here are a few suggestions on how to bump up your friend’s confidence and sales.

1. Give the author your money. Buy the book.

Patty cat's paw

2. Give them more money. Buy the book as a gift, too.

Give them money

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Why I Write What I Write How I Write it

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Frostborn with Blurb

If you haven’t heard yet, award-winning editor and art director Lou Anders’s new book has hit the shelves, and it’s causing quite a stir. It’s already chalked up a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and critical acclimation from a whole host of additional outlets. I thought it high time to sit down with Lou so he could tell Black Gate readers what his book was all about! Take it away, Lou.

I’ve always loved fantasy stories. As a child, I read The Hobbit over and over. One of my most prized possessions is a large, coffee table edition of Tolkien’s original version, featuring concept art and production stills from the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated musical television special. It was given to me by my uncle’s family, and I still have it today, dust jacket and everything! I studied the lavish illustrations for hours on end and taught myself to draw the Goblin King. It was the first in a large collection of Middle Earth-related volumes.

When I wasn’t reading, I painted miniature figures. I had a huge, faux-grass covered table in my bedroom where I’d assembled an entire army of Riders of Rohan versus orcs and half orcs. My friends and I played Dungeons & Dragons on weekends (guess who was the game master?) and my best friend and I watched Star Wars over a hundred times easy. I read everything I could get my hands on by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, and Fritz Leiber. I even built a round wooden shield out of a barrel top (it was heavy!) and used a staple gun to attach strips of thin metal to craft an outfit out of canvas.

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Writer’s Workshops: Under the Black Flag

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Posted by Robert J Howe

Clarion 85 shirtI actually once said to a fellow writer, “The best thing you could do for art is cut off your hands and bury your typewriter.”

Beyond the words themselves, it’s hard to know what’s worse about this: that I said it to someone I’m sure I liked or that I can’t remember to whom I said it.

I know it was at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in the summer of 1985, then held at Michigan State University in East Lansing. I knew it was someone I liked, because I liked every one of my fellow workshoppers. As I got to know the 16 other participants, I felt these are my people!

The context for the remark was a workshop session. For those unfamiliar with the format, everyone in the workshop delivers an oral critique of a manuscript handed out — and one hopes, read — in advance, then the author responds. Clarion workshops are machines for producing pithy one-liners — often put downs — the best (worst?) of which are memorialized on tee-shirts printed in the last week or two of the workshop.

So how was my comment received? With laughter, unbelievably. It was even graphically depicted in our year’s tee-shirt. (Image courtesy of Bill Shunn.)

I should say that my class was, according to our instructors, famously cohesive and collegial. Either they lied to make us feel good or other Clarion classes went at each other with lawn darts.

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