Saturday, December 09, 2006

New review of THE FACE IN THE DOOR

Canadian writer and columnist Clayton Bye has posted a very nice review of my short-story collection THE FACE IN THE DOOR And Other Stories...

Review quote:
"All the pieces have some element of horror, but I also found Yngve writes with a sort of tongue-in-cheek, understated sense of humour. This takes the edge off endings which rarely turn out well and also allows the readers some breathing room to think about the ideas we're being offered."

Bye's review appears on the Gotta Write Network, one of the few sites I know that actually reviews Print-On-Demand books. My book was published as an e-book and then also self-published in paperback format through CafePress, so it's hard to classify as either category -- but he received a paperback review copy.

The CafePress edition of THE FACE IN THE DOOR is still for sale at CafePress, at the outrageous price of $19.99. The text is in large print, suitable for nearsighted readers (like me).

Monday, December 04, 2006

On Writer Feuds

Writers are not necessarily friendly with other writers all the time. What with the competition for sales and prizes, some good-natured professional rivalry is to be expected.

If you write fiction for an extended period of time (up to a decade or more), it is almost certain that at some point in the future, some other writer will pick a fight with you. Not a REAL fistfight, that is, but with words.

So writers get into feuds with each other. The examples are many, all of them embarrassing. Why squabble when the stakes are so small? Why do great minds succumb to petty impulses and get involved in long, bitter feuds -- often over tablescraps?

When things go really wrong, writers sue each other. The authors of HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL sued Dan Brown for allegedly stealing ideas from them. The poor fools lost the case and a great deal of the profits they had earned as a direct consequence of THE DA VINCI CODE helping sales of their book.

Writer feuds are mainly about pride, not money -- and thus they extend beyond the grave! When a writer dies, especially a successful one, jealous rivals will come out and badmouth his/her memory. When a long-dead writer receives some public honor, a jealous colleague will dish out some dirt on the dead rival, in the vain hope that it tarnishes the glory.

There is no law stating that you must treat all other writers' work with reverence, no matter what -- after all, if you make your writings public, you do give others license to criticize.

But avoid feuds. They get too personal, and suck creative energy out of your life that should have been used for better things. If another writer tries to pick a fight with you, simply ignore him. Don't get mad! It's not worth it.

If you have resentments and grudges, you can always channel them into your fiction...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How To Approach Publishers.

Again and again the question comes up: "I have a manuscript. How do I send it, with a letter to the editor, so that the publisher will actually read it?"

Others can give more extended advice than I, but it's really quite simple.

Try and imagine yourself in an editor's place, receiving a manuscript from an unknown writer. Then use your common sense:

"If I were the editor,what kind of manuscript submission and accompanying letter would make me want to read the manuscript?"

Yes, you need to know the formalities (correct line spacing on a document, begin your letter with "Dear Mr/Mrs." instead of "Yo", locate the correct address of the editor you wish to contact, etc.)... but more than that, you need proper attitude.

1. Be polite. It won't kill you, and it certainly won't kill the editor.

2. Be honest. If you haven't finished writing your book, then you shouldn't send three chapters to a publisher and pretend the rest is already finished. Don't try to be something you're not. They Will Find Out.

3. Be aware of the competition. The bigger the publishing house is, the more manuscripts will flood it every day of the week, every year.
Think of it as the competition among astronauts in training: the seats on a spaceship are SO few, the candidates are SO dedicated, SO 100% focused on success, the odds are naturally stacked against you.

In other words, it doesn't help to write a desperate plea: "Pl-pl-pl-PLEEEASE publish my book! I'll do anything!!" Prepare to be rejected... but don't let that make you cynical, either: "I'm sending you this manuscript even though I know you'll reject it, you money-grubbing bastards."

4. Do your research. There's no point in me listing all known publishers here; the publishing landscape is shifting fast. Make a Web-search. Find the small-press houses that operate in your area/country. (If they haven't at least got a webpage, they're not worth writing to.)

5. Be a cheapskate. Publishers are mostly a conservative bunch. They may demand that you send a printed, double-spaced manuscript, and a stamped return envelope... which means postage and paper expenses for you.

DON'T DO IT. Ignore those publishers until they have learned to accept electronic submissions.

6. Be lucky. I hate to admit it, but there is an element of blind chance. No matter how good you are, there are too many unforeseen circumstances and whims of publishers (not to mention all that competition).

Some people say that the bookstore market is glutted with too many titles anyway. This may or may not be true (at least for Western markets). Are you sure you want to contact a publisher?

7. Fail, then try again. So what if you were rejected? Find another publisher, and try again. If you're not a patient soul, this business may not be for you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Helpful How-To Articles About The Writing Craft

Writer Sherry Wilson has written and gathered a collection of how-to articles on the fiction-writing craft.
Go HERE to find them.
The articles offer solid, no-nonsense advice about "craft issues such as point of view, story structure, character development, grammar and syntax, etc."

Use them!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Support Your Local Library!

Libraries are a great benefit to writers everywhere.

Way back in the mists of pre-Internet history, libraries were the just about the ONLY places you could locate books that were no longer for sale.

Today, when people can download or order practically any book online, physical("meatspace") libraries are still an asset to writers. The library is often where people first come in contact with books - a loyal following of readers might be born there - and each library copy is read several times by different people.

Librarians can spread good (or bad) word-of-mouth about books, invaluable to writers. So support your local library!

If you have just released your first novel, you should donate a copy of it to your neighborhood library.

Ask your library if they are interested in arranging a meet-the-readers session, where you can get the opportunity to read from your novel/book and generate PR.

But be polite! You must never cross a librarian, or THIS might happen to you...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Shout-Out: Buy Weird Al's new album STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD

Yo-hoo! I just got my copy of Weird Al Yankowicz' new album, Straight Outta Lynwood.

Buy it! Buy it! Even if you've heard several of the songs on YouTube - support Al! It's a Dual-Disc release with DVD and videos on the other side.

Among the many tracks on this CD/DVD is the unforgettable "Don't Download This Song" (animated video by Bill Plympton).

Buy it, or Earth is DOOMED!
DOOMED, I say!

DOOMED, in case you didn't hear me the last time!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Starting Your Xmas Shopping Early?

Can't come up with an original Xmas present?

Visit the
SHOP on my homepage, and see what you'll find.
We've got prints, posters, books, t-shirts, mugs and more.
How about this framed art print I made myself?

The Magic Key To The Publishing Kingdom: Revealed!

It's so simple. Writing, publishing and selling books is all about location, location, location.

Think about the last time you were traveling by bus, train or airplane. You wander into a tiny airport bookshop or newsagent's shop, and pick some reading material from the rack/shelf -- quickly. Lots of people do.

Or think about the last time you "wandered" into and got lost among the infinite shelves. It's a different shopping experience entirely.

At the airport, you have limited choice and time, so you MUST decide fast or spend the journey with nothing to read.

If online bookstores are like vast caverns you can go spelunking in for days, then airport bookshops are more like disarming a ticking bomb in a moving elevator: "Pick the blue book! No, the red book! Hurry! We're almost there!"

So from a writer or publisher's standpoint, you want to get into those "bottleneck" locations where the potential reader won't have too much choice or time to think.

Problem is, the well-known commuter bottlenecks are expensive locations and pretty much occupied already (by Stephen King, Danielle Steel and the usual suspects).

There must be some other, unexploited "bottlenecks" where potential readers are simultaneously bored, stressed and frustrated, and are about to enter a period of forced passivity -- similar to when they are waiting to catch a plane or a train ride... and would buy a book if they had a limited selection.

I can't come up with one, but maybe you can...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jon Stewart Explains "The Question Mark" Trick

Now, this is not only a hilarious clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart... it also points out a figure of speech that writers must avoid.

If "phrasing a statement like a question to cover your ass" is a stupid trick on FOX News or CNN, then it's also a stupid trick in fiction:

"Was Blast Hardcheese a fifth column for the Thesaurians?"

"Had the whole sequence of events been masterminded by Aunt Petunia's poodle?"

"When she cried 'No, no' did she really mean 'Yes, yes'?"

Just. Don't. Write. Rhetorical. Questions. You don't want to sound like a talking head on TV.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Die, Cliché, Die!!


Rock Hardpunch pulled away the bomb casing and saw a mass of wires nestled around the countdown timer. The time to planetary self-destruct was below 60 seconds.

In Rock's earpiece, Hack Sydekick said in his most nasal, urgent voice: "Rock, you must cut the red wire! Find the red wire and cut only that one! Or the whole planet blows up!"

Rock reached for his multi-purpose knife, when suddenly it dawned on him...

Oh crap, he thought, I'm colorblind.

Read the free issue #4 of SUBTERRANEAN Magazine. The free issue is dedicated -- in stories and essays -- to the subject of Clichés in science-fiction and fantasy.

In her in-magazine essay "Remarks On Some Clichés I Have Known Too Well," Teresa Nielsen Hayden writes:
"Here's a cliché I can reduce to a rule: when a character is a member of a minority social group and was raised in that group's indigenous mystical tradition, but then went on to receive advanced training and have a highly successful career in mainstream science or technology, the conflict at the climax of the story will not be resolved until they abandon all that scientific training and call up on the power of their tribal spirituality.

"(If I were a literarily ambitious member of the First Nations, I'd be tempted to write a story about a white nuclear engineer who can't get an incipient reactor containment incident under control until he downs tools and calls on Saint Anthony of Padua.)"
Use the Force, Oppenheimer. ;-)

I've been guilty of a few cringeworthy clichés in the past (as proven here), but I try to be more careful nowadays. I pledge:

1. To never write a story about someone getting Three Wishes;

2. To never cop out with the "It Was Only A Dream" ending;

3. To never never EVER write a story with the "Adam & Eve" twist (two characters discover they are Adam and Eve, on Earth or some other world).

But why bother...? This isn't going to deter hordes of writer wannabes from thinking, "I can come up with a NEW twist on the Adam & Eve story!"

Your problem, young whippersnappers, isn't that it's 100% impossible to come up with a fresh take on the hoariest old clichés.

Your problem is that hordes -- real, living, slobbering HORDES -- of newbie writers will think exactly as you do:
"I am unique! I have come up with an entirely new version of the Adam & Eve twist!"
And then they send the exact same story to the overworked Editor, who rejects them all. The End.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Physical Terror" In Small-Press Anthology SCHAKT 003

News for Swedes: The Swedish small-press horror anthology SCHAKT 003: KOSMISKT KAOS OCH ANDRA KATASTROFER is out now.

It contains my short story "Physical Terror" (previously released in English, in the e-book The Face In The Door), and several other horror shorts by Swedish writers. Guaranteed to scare you silly! It's a limited edition, so order now!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Update And Sad News

This week's homepage update is the very long Chapter 7 of The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

Science-fiction grandmaster Jack Williamson, whose books you should order from right now, has just died...

Buy Jack Williamson's books:

Darker Than You Think

The Humanoids

The Legion Of Time

Wonder's Child (autobiography)

It is impossible to sum up in a single blogpost such a long career as Williamson's... read his Wikipedia entry instead.

Friday, November 10, 2006

As Usual, I'm The Last One To Follow A Trend

Darn! I should've thought of this earlier: Podcasting.

Anyhow... I have now made my first recorded reading of a short story, "See", (in shaky English)and donated it to the science-fiction podcast site Variant Frequencies.

As soon as the story is up, I'll post a link.

Advice to anyone who wants to record a story-reading:

1. Are you sure you want to do this? Do you speak like Fran Drescher? Then don't.

2. Find a reasonably quiet space to work in. Wailing babies, low-flying aircraft and humming refrigerators may impede on sound quality.

3. Use the free sound-mixing program Audacity. You may have to edit out a lot of "err"s, "umm"s and stammers to produce a passable recording. (I did.)

4. Have plenty of free memory space on your PC, because these sound files gobble memory something fierce.

5. Use a real microphone, and wrap a sock around it to limit breathing noise.

6. Use the "Normalize" option in Audacity to improve the quality of the final recording.

7. Compress the finished WAV file to MP3 (there are some free utilities available for this online)...

8. ...then, if you've got the nerve, share the MP3 file with one of the many podcasting websites out there.

I could make some more audio recordings of my short stories, but I'm not sure which ones are suitable. Any suggestions?

Actually, I feel really really awkward every time I do a reading in my "serious voice." I'm much more relaxed when I record a goofy spoof, like "Gollum's Love Theme"...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Das Homepage Update

Yep, here we go with another silly chapter of "The MSTing Of DARC AGES."

Let's see... how many simultaneous novel-writing projects am I juggling right now?

1. The third TERRA HEXA novel, to be released next Fall (writing Chapter 1)
2. An e-book fantasy-novel project for a Swedish publisher (I'm on Chapter 5)
3. The unfinished "futuristic military" novel THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE (about 78,000 words written so far)
4. An intriguing idea I just had for a new novel (writing an outline...)

This means some of the other, more ambitious Web-serials will be put aside for a while, as I focus on projects 1-4.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jumping The Bandwagon

Yep, I've got myself a MySpace page. For the sole purpose of networking.

Charles Stross On Bad Reviews (As In "Stupid" Reviews)

Read this very amusing post and discussion thread on Charlie Stross's eminently readable blog, about stupid reviews.

I know, I know: it's futile to argue with critics. Writers are supposed to develop a thick skin. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, you can't dictate how readers are supposed to read your work, yadda yadda...

...but it still has to be said: Just as there are inferior books and incompetent writers, there are inferior reviews and incompetent critics.

Charlie found some truly telling reader reviews on
BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley:
Ashley Lue wrote:
"This was the worst book that I have ever read! The way that Huxley wrote the book was awful. He was writing about something that could never happen to our society. Back then he thought that our world would pretty much go to hell and the book portrayed the world that we should be living in today. Nothing that he said made sense. I don't understand why he would want anyone to live in that weird world that those people had to live in. People should have emotions and actual relationships. No one should be punished like that. I advise you not to read this book, unless you want to fall asleep!! :)"

ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare:
Son of Sammy wrote:

"i just read this book. everybody like always talks about how great it is and everything. but i don't think so. like, it's been done before, right?? soooo cliched. omg."

ThE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck:
Jef4Jesus wrote:
"So, I'm only on page 478 of 619, but I've been disgusted at the amount of profanity. So far I've found more than 500 uses of profanity! On average every page (with relatively big writing, even) has more than one swear. Yikes! I'm never going to read Grapes of Wrath again, and won't be recommending it to anyone. If you don't like profanity, be careful.""


Read the rest.

If you publish, you'll have to be prepared not just for harsh reviews that you might deserve, but also clueless reviews: critics who barely understand what fiction is.

And of course, any writer will encounter the "Comic Book Guy" know-it-all type of critic who will explain, with great authority, how you should have done the job (but fortunately won't have to do it for you):
"Bellatrys" instructs Peter Jackson, with detailed storyboards, how he ought to have made the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

You must listen to criticism. But you must also realize that you can only "reach" so many readers. Many of them are forever unreachable, for their own reasons.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Very Short Stories

WIRED Magazine hired some people to write super-short stories.

WIRED didn't contact me (gee, I wonder why?) but I came up with a few short-shorts:

1. "Her clone married her ex. Figures."

2. "I told Torquemada: "Time travel sucks!"

3. "Rain fell. The robot uprising rusted."

Why I Haven't Been Writing So Much Lately.

Because I've spent too much time watching this on YouTube.

Best line in the clip: Man saying into phone (to the man who's being eaten by a giant spider at the other end), "Mr. 'Oh my God, crunch crunch?' Look, spit out whatever you're chewing and start over!"

It All Fits!

A good story can be a bit like a paranoid conspiracy theory: every detail fits into the big whole.

(Real life isn't like that, of course, unless you are paranoid).

A good story can also be a series of vignettes and episodes... as long as the episodes fit into a major theme.

The world's first novel, Don Quixote, is a good example.

Once the theme - Don Quixote's madness - has been established, the story becomes a series of episodes where the traveling protagonist encounters different characters and situations. Every episode shows how his madness distorts reality and how people react to him.

It happens that writers try to "match" themes into a story or novel that don't fit together. It doesn't have to mean they are inferior as such, but they don't "gel" into a coherent whole and the narrative suffers.

For the reader, this is like trying to listen to two different songs at once: if the songs had been in sync, it could sound great, but if they don't you just hear a cacophony.

When the parts of the story support each other, like an orchestra, the whole of the story becomes a symphony.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"A Homepage Update That Would Change Their Lives Forever."

(Do you remember when every ¤&#/**# movie trailer contained that stupid cliché phrase "... that will change their lives forever"? What the hell does that mean?? How can a life be "changed forever"?)

This week's homepage update is another chapter of the send-up of my novel DARC AGES: The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

It is possible that eventually, the entire novel will be spoofed. (You can still read the "un-spoofed" original here.)

The writing of TERRA HEXA III (coming out late next year) continues... the Prologue is complete, and I'm compiling an extensive Synopsis of the remaining parts. I'm very excited about the third book in the series, because the advance work is running so smoothly: the synopsis is just bubbling over with fun scenes, cool characters, interesting environments and plot twists.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Mischievous Reader And The Unspoken Agreement

I was thinking about how I should have cut down the rather boring introduction from DARC AGES, when it hit me...

Who says the reader can't just skip the boring parts?

See, writers and readers have this silly unspoken agreement. It goes something like this:

1. The Reader is obliged to start reading the Text from the first line of the first page, and read the entire Text to the last line.

2. The Reader is not allowed to skip to the ending, alter the Text, tear out pages or deliberately misread the Text.

3. In return, the Writer pledges to have removed any unnecessary words from the Text, and to include all relevant information in the Text.

And the unspoken agreement is totally bogus. Everybody breaks it.

In reality, readers DO skip to the ending (if only to check that the ending is worth the effort of reading the rest). In reality, readers DO skip the boring passages. They DO add their own comments to the original text.

In reality, writers DON'T edit down the text to contain only what is absolutely relevant to the context of the whole narrative. In reality, they DO omit necessary information.

So I thought: is this why books are so damned long nowadays?
To allow the picky reader to choose what to read and what to skip?
To what extent should I let the reader choose what to read?
And does this allow me to get lazy in my editing?
Are we all just pretending that people read the whole book?

What do you think?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Too Soon!

The Oct.22 homepage update is a bit early, and brief:

Chapter 4 of The MSTing Of DARC AGES

Enjoy... Now I can take the rest of the weekend off.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ode To Japanese Movie Monsters

Posted in the Finnish-Swedish webzine : "Drapan Om Japan", my ode to Japanese movie monsters.

Swedish original:
Drapan om Japan

By A.R.Yngve

Stolt stod staden Tokyo, Japans stjärna.
Ur djupet steg Godzilla, monstrens konung.
Vrålade gjorde monstret, jättelikt att skåda.
Monstret stampade på staden.
Eld blåste monstret.
Den vise vetenskapsmannen gillrade fällan.
Monstret i fällan gick, det blev dess död
Tokyo var räddat, folket tryggt
Iallafall tills nästa film.

Svårt led Japans folk.
Under monstren som kom i följande filmer.
Farligt flaxade Rhodans vingar.
Hett brände Gameras flammor.
Festligt fajtades King Kong med Godzilla.
Slafsigt slamrade Mechagodzillas fötter.
Jämmerligt jollrade Baby Godzilla.
Återigen jämnades Tokyo med marken.
Åter och åter igen byggdes staden upp på nytt.
Undras varför japanerna envisades med det.

In English translation:

A Jape of Japan

By A.R.Yngve

Proudly stood the city of Tokyo, star of Japan.
From the depth rose Godzilla, king of monsters.
Roar did the monster, a behemoth to behold.
On the city the monster stomped.
Fire it blew.
The trap was set by the wise scientist.
Into the trap the monster walked, and met its doom
Tokyo was saved, the people safe
At least until the next film.

Severely the people of Japan suffered
under the monsters that came in films to follow.
Fearsomely flapped the wings of Rhodan.
Blisteringly burned the flames of Gamera.
Slapsticky slugged King Kong it out against Godzilla.
Clumsily clanked the feet of Mechagodzilla.
Bashfully babbled Baby Godzilla.
Again Tokyo was leveled.
Again and again the city was rebuilt.
I wonder why the Japanese kept doing that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Write First, Think Of What Genre It Is Later

Among science fiction writers, readers and editors, there are two black holes which suck them in... and trap them forever in futile, endless debates.

The first black hole is called "How Do You Define What Is Science Fiction?"
(Abandon all hope ye who enter it!)

The second black hole is called "Why Don't We Get No Respect?"
(Any such debate inevitably degenerates into a hell-pit of self-pity, paranoia, resentment, despair and chip-on-the-shoulder superiority.)

Now, I write stories and books which can of course be labeled according to genre: science fiction, horror, adventure, satire, what-have-you. I sometimes visit "science fiction" conventions because I want to talk to other writers and meet my readers (or potential readers).

But you know what? To me, the label on what I write isn't important. Not anymore. I realized some time ago, that I write the kind of stories I want to write.

If, at some point in time, I decided: "Now I will write a story about a poor coca-farmer in Bolivia," or "Now I'd like to write a non-fiction book about a practical dieting lifestyle"... then what good is a label?

"You can't write that stuff, you're supposed to be a science fiction writer!"

If a genre label is riddled with prejudice and negative associations (Sci-Fi=juvenile crap on TV and in movies), then what good is it for me? Should I care to protect it?

If I were black, why would I call myself a "n*gg*r"? If I were gay, would I call myself a "f*gg*t"?

But that is what so many genre fans do. It's as if they so desperately need to make their taste an identity -- the way a religious fanatic defines himself primarily by his religion, not his personality or character -- it rules out any discussion. "If it has 'our' genre label, then it must be defended and I must force myself to be interested."

It's as if I, just because I watch ONE detective show on TV, have to watch (and defend) ALL detective shows on TV. It's impractical, unrealistic and quite frankly stupid.

The only practical reason I should use genre labels on my fiction is as a search function -- for the sake of easy Googling.

You, writer... when you sit down to write a new story, which is your first thought:
A) "I want to tell a story about people who..."
B) "I want to tell a detective/science fiction/romance/horror/thriller story"

If you choose B), then you have trapped and limited your imagination from the start. You should have ignored genre constraints in the first place.

Say after me: "I write what I want because I want, and it doesn't matter what they want to label it."

ADDENDUM: A debate about the SF genre has arisen and is quite interesting:
Steven Grant on How SF Ruined the Future (scroll down column)
Charles Stross comments, and much debate follows.
Lou Anders weighs in, here and here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"In A Not Too Distant Future, Next Sunday AD..."

MST3K fans take notice! This week's homepage update is a new chapter of The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

(For the woefully ignorant: the MST3K primer on Wikipedia.)

One of the figures bent down close to his ear, and asked in a muffled voice: "Can... you... hear... me? Do... you... understand?"

(Actually, the muffled voice sounded more like "Cunh uh h'muh? Duh'uh'ndh'tnd?")

A foreign accent, David thought sleepily. Italian? German? Asian?

(Yorkshire? Cockney? British Royal Family?)

He wheezed a pained "yes".

(The mere mentioning of the rock group Yes hurt.)


Notes, Photos & Videoclips From Imagicon / Swecon 2006 (Oct. 13-15)

I visited the Swedish science-fiction convention IMAGICON (a.k.a. Swecon 2006) over the weekend...

Here are some of my photos from the event.

It was great fun to meet and talk to other writers, such as the Guests of Honor Joe Haldeman and Geoff Ryman.

My standup comedy act got a mixed reception. Some of the jokes and routines bordered on the tasteless. The Harlan Ellison joke went like this:

"Has this ever happened to you? There you are, on stage, about to accept your award, when suddenly... Harlan Ellison grabs one of your comfort zones! Now you can come prepared, with the OLD BOY BUZZER!

"Simply attach the Old Boy Buzzer to any part of your underwear - bra, panties or longjohns - and the next time Ol'Harlan makes a grab, the Old Boy Buzzer gives him a thousand-volt shock that he will remember until The Last Dangerous Visions comes out!

Harlan sez: 'The Old Boy Buzzer rocks my woild!'"

Other people I met: Cecilia Wennerström (my publisher at Wela), the people from, Johan Anglemark, lots of nice people from Finland (their conventions are huge and have many more visitors, Finland is definitely teh roxxor in Scandinavian SF fandom!), many more ... and some guy named ANDERS (who bore an uncanny resemblance to actor Peter Stormare).

1. Guest of Honor Joe Haldeman humorously answers the question "What are your daily writing rituals?" (Scroll to bottom of page to find link)

2. Guest of Honor Geoff Ryman humorously tells about when the Home Office hired him and other British SF writers as "futurological consultants." (Scroll to bottom of page to find link)


During the standup, I sang this LOTR spoof, "Gollum's Love Theme".

Friday, October 13, 2006

Review of DARC AGES

A new review of my novel DARC AGES has been posted on the website Catahya. (The review is in Swedish; a translated quote can be read here.)

I agree with the criticisms of the review: the book's flaws are obvious. But now that I have them pointed out, perhaps I'll improve with my next book. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Homepage! Now 10% Improved! With Moisturizer!

I've given the ol' homepage a slight visual "facelift"... what do you think?
(Note: The next homepage update has been pushed to Oct.16, as I'll be visiting Imagicon over the weekend.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Importance Of Vision In Writing

Words and pictures go together, just like song and lyrics.

While the traditional "print book" is restricted to mostly text, there is no reason why the writer's imagination should imitate those (artificial) restrictions! Just like music can inspire your writing, images can.

Many writers can tell how they became inspired by some vivid image/vision in a dream. For example, Harry Harrison once dreamed of an immense waterfall, and this inspired his surreal, memorable short "By The Falls" (available for free reading in the SciFiction archive).

If you don't have a visual imagination (poor you!), then try and find inspiration in memorable art or film, or photography.

For example: I browsed Library of Congress' enormous collection of Public Domain photos of American cities in the early 20th century.
These aging photographs, with their eerie black-and-white urban landscapes, buildings that almost seemed monstrous and inhumanly alive, inspired me to write the Precinct 20 cycle of crime stories.

Find your vision.

Homepage Is Where The Heart Is.

This week's homepage update includes "only" Chapter 1.7 of the novel-in-progress THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE. This is a "military science fiction" story... but I'm not trying to imitate other works in that sub-genre. It's an experiment; maybe it'll work out, maybe it'll fail.

(Writing a novel is to some extent a leap of faith. You can't ever be 100% sure in advance of the end result. The best you can do is to go in well prepared...)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Come To Imagicon / Swecon 2006

I'll be at the Swedish science-fiction convention Imagicon / Swecon 2006 (Oct. 13-15)...

It will be a short stay (arriving late on Friday), but late on Saturday I will be there to do a standup comedy act in English (and hopefully Guests of Honor Joe Haldeman, Geoff Ryman and Martin Andreasson are present in the audience).

Now, should I make a Harlan Ellison joke during the standup show...? What do YOU think?

There should also be time for hawking books and signing a few copies of TERRA HEXA 1 & 2.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stephen King On "The Writing Life"

As usual, Stephen's latest essay on the writing life is full of golden nuggets:

Stephen King on The Writing Life

His non-fiction books STEPHEN KING'S DANCE MACABRE and ON WRITING are still recommended reading for all writers and would-be writers of fiction (not just horror).

Best quote:
"Dig this: The so-called 'writing life' is basically sitting on your ass."
-Stephen King

(Which is why writers should get up and excercise regularly, to prevent hemorroids. )

Friday, September 29, 2006

Writers Are Crazy, But Some Writers Are Crazier Than Others

I was reading this discussion thread from a messageboard about science fiction and writing, when it struck me (and not for the first time): There are some seriously crazy people out there. And some of them aspire to be writers.

There's no space here for a philosophical treatise on "what constitutes madness," or researching its biological roots, so I'll just go on gut feeling: I know madness when I see it.

Paranoia is fairly easy to recognize. Schizophrenia is more subtle, but there are obvious clues (like seeing things that are not there, or referring to "voices telling me to do X"). Obsessive single-mindedness calls attention to itself (to put it lightly). Chronically depressive or aggressive people are... well, chronically obvious.

And when crazy people write, or write about their writing... boy, does madness show through.

My pet theory about crazy writers goes like this:
The less talented a writer is, the more blatantly his/her mental "issues" show through in his/her fiction writing.

You know the old cliché about "inspired madness"? It ain't true. Of all the crazy people in the world, only a small minority are creative or inspired in a positive sense. Most of them are mediocre, untalented and narrow-minded.

The truly mad and talented - like, say, Philip K. Dick or Vincent van Gogh - are very, very few.

Now, I'm not saying crazy people shouldn't be writing! Maybe it's therapeutic. I don't know. It's better than murdering people in the streets, I suppose. What really annoys me about crazy writers is just one thing: they insist on being taken seriously.

No matter what the specific madness is - a crank invention that doesn't work, conspiracy theories, persecution manias, psychotic bigotry, feverish hallucinations, or just bipolar mood swings - crazy writers demand that you keep a straight face, that their causes are Sacred, Gravely Serious Matters and Not To Be Taken Lightly.
(Isn't a sane pompous blowhard annoying enough?)

It's funny that the cliché of the laughing, cackling, wise-cracking, comedic madman ISN'T true. Most mad writers are guaranteed to bore you out of your skull.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

TERRA HEXA III - The Early Days

I am now in the process of writing the first synopsis for the third TERRA HEXA book.

This got going only once I had figured out a suitable "theme" for the story, something that can hold the plot and its threads together. And the theme is... but that would be telling. ;-)

I like to think of a novel in terms of levels:

-Theme (i.e. "idea")
-Character arc

... in that order. Theme and plot are more important than character arc. While characters matter, they alone do not carry a story. But that's just my opinion...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Hero With A Thousand Wrong Names

Let the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang teach you how NOT to name a fictional character... in this hilarious MST3K clip: "The Many Names Of David Ryder".

"Butch Deadlift!!"
"Blast Hardcheese!!"
"Punch Rockgroin!!"
"Dirk Hardpec!!"
"Big McLargeHuge!!"


Monday, September 25, 2006

My Report From The BOK & BIBLIOTEK Book Tradeshow (Gothenburg, Sept. 21-24)

The BOK & BIBLIOTEK 2006 book tradeshow was a fun and inspiring experience. I met and talked to other writers - Richard Morgan, K G Johansson, Jorun Modén (pictured left), and Cecilia Wennerström.

I also met people who write about or publish my writings - Kent Björnsson from publisher Schakt; Lilian Wiberg and Robert Andersson from the magazine MITRANIA - and the very nice personnel from the shop SF-Bokhandeln (based in Gothenburg and Stockholm). People from the website Sci-Fi Nytt also dropped by say hello.

But most importantly... in my publisher's booth, and at the book-signing event at the booth of SF-Bokhandeln, I got to meet my readers face to face.

Most of the TERRA HEXA readers I met and talked to were in their lower teens - some no older than 10. It's my hope that they will follow the book series as they grow up.

I want to emphasize here, how important it is what readers say about books from small publishers.
Every reader matters!
Many of them think, "Nobody cares about my opinion."
Not true! Every little comment or mini-review of TERRA HEXA affects its sales and success. Only through the continued support of its fans can a book series reach a "critical threshold" where it becomes seriously profitable.
So if you want the TERRA HEXA series to continue past the third book, then please make your voice heard - on weblogs, messageboards, to your friends and libraries.

P.S.: And just like at last year's book fair, we had the traditional Weirdo Visit to the publisher's booth. (If a weirdo doesn't show up, I get worried... it doesn't feel like a real tradeshow without one.)

Tall Old Lady: "Have you got Märta Louise's (the Norwegian crown princess') book?"
Me/Publisher: "No, this is Wela. We don't publish her books."
Tall Old Lady: "I thought I heard you speak Norwegian. Do you sell Märta Louise's book?"
Me/Publisher: "No, sorry... but you could ask in the bigger publishers' booths, over there."
Tall Old Lady: "I'm looking for Märta Louise's book."
Me/Publisher: "Sorry, we don't know anything about it. But maybe the big publishers can help you."
Tall Old Lady: "You sounded like you came from Norway. Do you sell Märta Louise's book? I'm looking for her book."

Eventually she left, visibly disappointed that we wouldn't admit our secret Norwegian citizenship. That was a close call. She nearly uncovered the Norwegian conspiracy to infiltrate Sweden's publishing industry!!

First Photos And Movies From The BOK & BIBLIOTEK Book Tradeshow

Go HERE to see my photos from the trade show (with text).

Go HERE to see my short movies from the trade show (with audio).

A report will follow...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Update on the Scandinavian Book Tradeshow This Weekend

My publisher Wela's booth at Bok & Bibliotek lies next to the café in the middle of the convention floor.

See you there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Avast, Mates! Be Ye prepared For "Talk Like A Pirate" Day?

Ahoy! Don't ye forget, mates, that September 19 be TALK LIKE A PIRATE Day!

Be ye buccaneers, scurvy dogs, salty seafarers, wee jim lads, wenches or lasses, bring ye cutlasses and eye-patches... or ye be scurvy landlubbers, not even fit for Davy Jones' locker!

For the beginner pirate, here be the essential instruction film:


Saturday, September 16, 2006

It Was A Dark And Stormy Homepage Update...

This week's homepage update:

1. A new "Precinct 20" story, "Natural Enemy" (GRANDCHILDREN ADVISORY: Offensive To Little Old Ladies).

2. The READING BOOK, Chapter 14: "Old Age" (GRANDCHILDREN ADVISORY: Offensive To Old Farts).

3. A new greeting-card service.

The next homepage will come in two weeks, not one: I'll be busy with the Bok & Bibliotek tradeshow in Gothenburg (Sept. 21-24). Come visit our booth!

Meet Me At The Scandinavian Book Fair (Sept. 21-24)

If you are in Sweden during Sept.21-24, come visit the booth of my publisher Wela.

I will be there Sept.22-24 (Friday to Sunday) to sign books during lunch hours, meet readers, schmooze, hawk TERRA HEXA II, and check out other books.

Also present in Wela's booth will be the Swedish fantasy writers Jorun Modén (making a very impressive debut with the novel SAMAEL), K G Johansson (GLASTORNEN) and Cecilia Wennerstrom (SAGAN OM RAND).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Cover Artist Looking For Work

Now, I'm nowhere near
a great illustrator. I know my limitations (can't draw horses in motion, human anatomy tends to look a bit stiff)...
... but my Swedish publisher lets me create my own book covers, and I enjoy the work.

So I'm looking for book cover assignments. If you are a struggling small-press author and can't spend a fortune, but want a decent-looking, solid cover done... contact me! If you are really short on cash and I like your book, you can pay me with two copies of it.

(Please note: I reserve the right to turn down a job offer if I don't think the book is of at least passable quality, or if its subject matter simply does not appeal to me.)

Here are samples of my cover art designs.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Elizabeth Bear On Letting Go

Best-selling writer Elizabeth Bear blogs about when to quit working your manuscript.

"They're all broken. Every one of them. Every novel I've published, every novel I've sold, every novel I've ever read has something wrong with it. Every novel I've ever loved is irretrievably [****]ing broken, all right?

Broken in ways that can't be fixed. It doesn't matter.

And no matter what you do, there will be people who dislike your work.

That's okay. In fact, I would venture to say that you can't write a book that some people will love unless there are also other people who will hate it. Strong emotion is not raised for the bland, my darlings."

Read the rest.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TERRA HEXA Books In A Book Club

My first TERRA HEXA novel was picked up by Swedish publisher Wahlstroms' fantasy book-club (see brochure image), and the sequel TERRA HEXA II has been included in the book-club's selection (see other brochure image) for this year. Thank you, Wahlstroms.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jenn Reese On The "Growth Cycle of a Writer"

Read Jenn Reese's list "Growth Cycle of a Writer".

Where are YOU in the 8 stages of the writer's growth cycle?

(Personally, I feel like I'm bouncing around between Stage 5: Chrysalis and Stage 6: Awakening...)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Oh No! We've Got Homepage Update Sign!"

Being a longtime fan of MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000) , I had a lot of fun when I read this MST3K-style "riff" of the infamous story THE EYE OF ARGON:

MSTing The Eye Of Argon

And to be honest, I'm a bit behind in my fiction-writing schedule. So in the spirit of my favorite TV comedy series, and in a desperate attempt to stall for time, I have made a MST3K-style "riff" on my own novel DARC AGES.

Snide comments and cheap jokes are inserted into the novel, as if some smartass was commenting on the story while you read. Without further ado, I give you...


If you appreciate this kind of humor, and want me to continue the "MSTing" of DARC AGES, please drop me a note. :)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How Writers Should Behave In Public

If you start to see a bit of recognition and success (and perhaps, eventually, some financial profit) as a writer, you will also discover a new and strange change in your life:

You have become two persons.

1. The Private You - the person who eats, sleeps, works, lives, goes to the bathroom and is pretty much like everybody else.

2. The Public You - the figure appearing in the media, who most people associate with your writer name/pseudonym.

Why is it important to keep these two roles apart? Why not simply insist, like Popeye, that "I yam what I yam and that's all I yam!"
Because you risk going insane.

Your "public persona" will be subjected to scrutiny of a kind that never happens to "ordinary" people. Complete strangers will make absurd claims about your personality as if they were close friends. This can be frustrating. If you do not explain to yourself, "They are talking about my public persona, a role, not the real private me," then you'll lose your grip of who you are.

Always assume about "well-known" people: "I don't really know this person. This is really a stranger to me."

Between the reader and the successful writer lies a veil of prejudices, hearsay, gossip, unrealistic expectations, fears, projections and desires. And the more successful a writer becomes, the worse this problem becomes.

Nobody expects Mr. Totally Unknown Writer to outdo himself with every new book. But Mrs. Bestselling Writer will always struggle against ever-rising expectations; no matter how well she does, someone will try to spin it that she's "not doing as well as expected" or is already a has-been.

Now, about the "public persona," the "you" who appears at conventions, book fairs, conferences and interviews.... I think that regardless of fame, it is possible to project a public "you" which combines parts of your genuine character with certain rules of conduct.

10 Rules of Thumb for your Public Persona:
1. Be sincere about your beliefs and convictions.
2. Avoid self-destructive behavior.
3. Be polite.
4. Be consistent.
5. Show a sense of humor (if you have any).
6. Do not lie.
7. Be considerate of other people's feelings (to a point).
8. Only lose your temper when no other recourse is possible.
9. Dress and groom your public persona with care.
10. Always keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh.

When I see photos of writers during various gatherings and functions, certain kinds of writers stand out from the crowd:
A) Those who are well groomed and smartly dressed;
B) Those who look like homeless people;
C) Those who have horrible beards.

What IS it about writers and beards?
In 90 cases out of 100, a beard does not make you look distinguished. Those few who do, look distinguished also without beards.
Big, stripy beards that seem like they're trying to escape your face are even worse.
Goatees should be reserved for the lead singer of Metallica.
A well-kept three-day stubble is OK, but four days marks the beginning of a beard.
Women's mustaches should be shaved at all times.

Shaving your head bald may work - but then again, only if you have a handsome cranium.

Keep a spare shirt available at public occasions. If you happen to spill something on your shirt, you don't want the big unsightly stain to follow you around the entire event.

Some people sweat a lot. (I'm one of them.) Industrial-strength deodorant, black shirts and frequent face-wiping might lessen the impression that you're enacting "Richard Nixon Losing His TV Debate Against JFK."

And please, do not grope women on stage.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Now Let Us Praise Homepage Updates

This week's homepage update is small... but not insignificant: the 13th installment of my ongoing serial of satirical verse, "A.R.Yngve's READING BOOK".

Chapter 13 is titled "Men In Uniform"... have a look.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Snappy Dialogue Or Cliché Hell?

Some sample dialogue from the Precinct 20 story I'm writing on:

They went to the local McDonald’s. She ordered a burger, salad and coffee; he ordered three Filet’O Fish, salad, a mug of coffee and ice cream.

“Your stomach must be made of pig-iron,” she remarked as Garris began to eat.

“You’re not scolding me for eating after a colleague just died?”

“I think you’re into comfort food. You didn’t drink much at the party.”

“So what’s your vice?” he said, and gulped down the last bite of his first fish burger.

Her face froze momentarily. Then, with a wry smile: “I’d never tell a colleague.”

Yes, I know people don't talk like that in real life. But kitchen-sink realism can only get a story so far.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How Do You Choose What To Read?

There's the Gutenberg Project, with an online catalog of over 18,000 free books (and growing, as ever more old books enter the Public Domain)...

There's, the world's biggest (and most accessible) bookstore...

There's all the good, established authors who are not only releasing a lot of new novels, but also releasing older books for free reading online...

And in addition to that, there are so many well-stocked bookshops near you - in train stations, shopping centers, convenience stores, and kiosks.

So I ask you, the average reader: How do you do it? Faced with this fantastic range of available books, all old books plus the recent and present ones... how do you choose what to read? More and more, I'm being overwhelmed by all this limitless choice.

And I'm starting to seriously wonder if it's pointless that I should write new fiction, when I'll have to compete with both the sum of all books written plus the flood of other new releases.

How do you do it? Please tell.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stuff I'm Writing...

I'm writing on several things right now:

-Work on my "Military SF" novel THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE is going very slowly. At least I have written over 70,000 words so far...

-I just completed a new short story (2,900 words) and sent it to this new zine. It got rejected about five hours later - a new personal record! - and I'm wondering whether I should rewrite it or toss it.

-Another "Precinct 20" horror-mystery story in progress, "Natural Enemy," is turning out much longer than I thought -- primarily because it involves more character development and scene-setting than previous stories in the cycle.
Perhaps I'll split it into two parts...
(I am already thinking of creating a chapbook collection of all the "Precinct 20" stories, to be sold here.)

-The third TERRA HEXA novel is still in the early planning stages. I am trying to figure out how much plot I should cram into it -- I have a tendency to put in a lot of plot.

I recently saw TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY, the film based on the comic novel (or "meta-novel"). Great fun! See it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Charlie Stross On Genre And Zeitgeist

The awarded and lauded science-fiction writer Charlie Stross has an interesting post on his weblog: "Genre Neurosis 101."

The central thesis of the post (and do read the debate in the Comments section) is that after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, American Science Fiction lost some (or much?) of its previous optimism about the future.

Stross notes:

"This turning away from the near future is going to be remembered as one of the hallmarks of the post-9/11 decade in American science fiction, as the chill wind of change blows through the hitherto cosy drawing room of the American century.

"The Brits aren't drinking the Kool-Aid — well, some of them are serving it up in pint glasses, but most of them have got better things to do with their time — and this is why just about all the reviewers in the field are yammering about a British Invasion or a British New Wave or something: it's not what the British are doing, but what the American writers aren't doing that is interesting. "

Read the rest.

What about countries that are not only lacking in optimism, but have none at all? Are there any active SF writers in, say, Iraq? (Or North Korea? Or Sudan?) I'd love to learn about people who try to write science fiction in the countries where you'd least expect it...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Mel Gibson And Evil Stories

Mel, this is God: What the hell were you thinking?

Jokes aside... I don't think being a drunk, or even a pampered celebrity drunk, is any excuse for vile bigotry. "In vino veritas," and this sure confirms any suspicions raised by that icky film THE WHIPPING OF THE CHRIST -- sorry, THE PASSION OF THE TORTURER.

(By the way, my mother -- who comes from a Catholic family and volunteers for a church charity in her retirement -- thought THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was a sick movie. I agreed: it was an exercise in sadism that completely missed the point of what Jesus preached.)

One dark truth about any sort of creative endeavor -- such as writing -- is that anger can be a driving force. Even hate.

I'll admit that some of my own books and stories were written in anger. (Anger against corruption in politics, against war, bigotry, oppression and stupidity...) Authorial fury is no guarantee of quality -- rather the opposite -- but a big psychic "push" of anger can fuel the writer and make him or her accomplish more than usual.

But what happens when the hate overwhelms the work -- or the artisan? (I don't want to use the word "artist" here because it's so loaded with pretensions.) When does the creative passion go too far and become downright pathological? Can stories hurt people?

They can.

There are books that should never have been written -- evil stories that contain evil messages and try to poison the reader with hate. Many political and religious pamphlets are of that sort. But you can also find evil in fiction -- myths masquerading as fact, stories claiming to be based on fact, stories that warp history to suit a bigoted agenda.

One particularly evil type of fiction is the "scapegoat myth":

1. Some atrocity, wrong or slight is committed against a people tagged as "good." (Not because they do good things, they just are.)

2. The "good" people quickly find that they have been wronged by representatives of another people, who are somehow, magically, a single entity -- and therefore all equally responsible for the wrong.
(This blame extends to those who have no knowledge of the deed, or were born after the wrong was done, but are related to the "guilty" people.)

3. The "good" people, having thus justified themselves, try their hardest to persecute and annihilate the "scapegoat" people.

Scapegoat myths are toxic: they have killed people throughout human history, and still do.

I'm convinced that our species has evolved from hairier and stupider primates, and that we share many of the worst traits of chimps. So I've come to suspect that "scapegoating" derives from ape behavior. Anyone who writes or tells stories that spread scapegoat myths, tries to tempt us: "Don't think. Just find the weaker opponent, kill him and take his females. Your might is your right."

Deep down, the bigot who spouts myths about "evil peoples" longs to cast off his humanity and become an ape -- a murderous, unrepentant primate. Do not listen to his stories. Do not read them. They are evil.
ADDENDUM: Denis Leary sings the "Mel Gibson Blues" (Caution: explicit lyrics, but this is humor, satire... don't listen if you don't understand satire.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Never Ending Story ("Aaaa-ah, aaa-ah, aa-ah...")

Nothing upsets a reader as much as a book that doesn't end on the last page.

Nothing upsets a viewer as much as a motion-picture that is abruptly cut off before the story ends properly.

If an episode of COLUMBO stopped before Lt. Columbo had solved the case, I would be upset.

But... have you ever wondered? Why do we expect a story to neatly fit into the limits of
A) the 200-500 pages of a single book
B) the 50-60 minute duration of a single TV-show episode
C) a 90-120 minute movie?
D) a stageplay lasting 1-4 hours?

(No offense to Lt. Columbo, but how does he ALWAYS manage to solve a case in 3-5 days? Many murder cases take months, years, even decades to crack.)

Real life won't fit into a 90-minute movie.

The practical explanation is that most media - such as print, movies on film rolls and television - impose strict boundaries on the story's length. The full complexity of life is simplified and abridged for the sake of the medium. (Again with the McLuhan reference!)

You won't find single 10,000-page novels in the bookshop, because the publishing industry can't physically print, edit and distribute a book that's 1 meter thick and weighs 10 kilos. If you wanted to tell a story which required that length, you'd have to break it up into several volumes - and even that wouldn't be without its problems.

Also, the reader's patience and stamina impose limits to story length. If you've ever sat through a "Director's Cut" movie, and had to go to the bathroom during the middle of the film, you know what I mean.

And of course, the author's patience with a single story isn't limitless either.

In practical terms for the individual writer, you may have run into the Limit Problem when you try to cram too much plot into a 100,000-word novel. (I have!) Consider breaking up your plot into individual novels. You don't like doing so? Well, what can you do? Even J.R.R. Tolkien had to see his first U.S. printing of THE LORD OF THE RINGS broken up into three books.


Digital technology now makes it possible to make stories - novels, motion pictures, comic-strips (see Scott McCloud's "Carl") of greatly extended length and complexity.

You could - if you were ambitious or mad enough - post an incomplete book online, and just keep adding to its length for the rest of your life... until, with your very last breath, you completed it with the ending.

("Behold: The World's Longest Novel! Bigger than The Bible! Longer than War And Peace! Lengthier than *GAAGHH*....")

Or, if you were utterly insane, you could digitally cut-and-paste together every single episode of the TV soap DALLAS into a single, gigantic movie ("DALLAS - THE COMPLETE SAGA") and post it online. Behold, the world's longest film!

Then again... most writers barely muster a single 100,000-word novel. So why should they worry about the Limit Problem?

One worry is Posterity. Many of the ancient classics of literature are probably surviving fragments of even bigger epics. THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY seem to end abruptly, but we can't say for sure the Greeks ended the story of Odysseys when he returned to Ithaca.

Perhaps the Internet will give birth to Never Ending Stories... movies and books that get extended endlessly, over entire generations.

And here this blogpost runs into a Limit Problem of its own... so I should stop here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

On "Unspoken Assumptions" In Writing

The late great Alice Sheldon (a.k.a. "James Tiptree Jr.") wrote this observation about how male writers tend to describe reality with themselves as point-of-reference: "Impenetrable Swamps, Loyal Dogs, Short Women". Read the whole text!

"Consider how odd it would be if all we knew about elephants had been written by elephants. Would we recognise one? What elephant author would describe — or perhaps even perceive — the features which are common to all elephants?

"We would find ourselves detecting these from indirect clues; for instance, elephant-naturalists would surely tell us that all other animals suffer from noselessness, which obliges them to use their paws in an unnatural way."

Think about it when you write, whatever your gender may be. Are you putting unspoken assumptions into your prose?
Are forests always supposed to be "penetrated"?
Are dogs always supposed to be "loyal"(i.e. obedient)? "Loyalty" implies the dog is loyal to someone. Who?
What constitutes a "short" woman? (Relative to what?)

OK, if the narrator is a 7-foot Ethiopian native and casually thinks the visiting Japanese tourist is short, that makes perfect sense within the context of the story.
But the writer shouldn't automatically assume that his/her reference point always makes sense in the context of the narrative.

Another example (my favorite): In one of Jean M. Auel's Stone Age novels, one of the characters talk about someone being depressed. Depressed? 40,000 years ago? The mere word carries assumptions about modern psychology, models of the human mind and theories which seem a tad out of place in the story's Neolithic, pre-literate context.

It can be difficult to picture yourself as being someone else, to describe someone else's point-of-view. It may even require that you question some (or all) of your assumptions about yourself.
But if you can't, your writing will always be limited to a predictable, repetitive set of ideas and prejudices - invisible to you, but obvious to everyone who reads your prose.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Medium Is... The Massage?

When I first started to post my fiction on a webpage, I had a vague idea that maybe the text could become available also for mobile phones...

Around 2000 I made an early experimental "sampling" of my fiction for mobile phones - with black-and-white screens, before the Internet became available on those devices. It looked awful, so I decided to set mobile phones aside until the technology and software had improved...

...and boy, has it improved.

Today a friend showed me what my homepage looks like on a state-of-the-art Qtek 8310 smartphone, using the Web browser Opera Mini.
He could set the size of the text to whatever suited him.
Wide images were automatically resized to fit the screen.
The screen resolution was crisp and clear.
It amazed me how good the webpage looked on that small 240x320 display.

I looked at the screen and thought: Soon, this will be the standard for all mobile phones. People will be using them instead of PCs to read books.

When I ask people what they think about reading fiction from a screen - any screen - I still encounter a widespread skepticism against it.
Maybe people take a pragmatic "I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it" attitude. Or maybe they have been burned by bad experiences with flickering cathode-ray screens... I don't know and I don't care. I have seen the future.

So: what does the mobile-phone-as-book-reading-device imply for writers?

For starters, any specific medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. (Printed books have many weaknesses, but they've been around for so many hundreds of years that we've become accustomed to the weaknesses.)

The obvious strengths of writing fiction for a mobile phone, of the top off my head, would be:

1. Eliminate the middlemen (editor, bookstore, publisher, printer, distributor, access to PC) - the writer reaches the reader directly and (almost) instantly, even where bookstores are scant or non-available.

2. Instant editing - if you find an error in your text after it's been posted, or think you it needs some on-the-spot editing, you do it right away... and the update reaches the reader immediately.

3. The mobile format is well suited for short fiction - the mobile reader will hardly be able to read through WAR AND PEACE without being interrupted by phonecalls, text-messages and conversations... But if the story is short enough, time won't be an issue.

4. The mobile format is well suited for serials - in the 19th and early 20th century, it was typical of novels to be published as serials (in magazines and newspapers) before they were released as complete print books.
The serial, with its cliffhangers and "To Be Continued"s, could get a renaissance on mobile devices. (Thanks to L. Lee Lowe for the correction.)

Of course, the medium has its weaknesses, but they are not a big problem unless you think of it as just another form of paper books. It is not. When television was new, it took the producers some time to figure out how TV was different from radio. Old TV shows often featured an announcer's voice-over, an old cliché from radio broadcasts.

I think that as people try to figure out how to present fiction on mobile devices, they will go through a phase of repeating clichés from an older medium... and only in retrospect will we see it clearly.
"How silly the first books for phones seem now, what with their digital dust jackets and imaginary page numbers!"

If you have a new phone with a large screen (and a good browser), check out this page...
If you have an older phone model with a small screen, there's a mobile version...
And if you have a phone with a black-and-white screen, buy a new phone.

ADDENDUM: For further study of the logistical and financial problems with distributing fiction magazines in print, read Vic Wertz' fascinating article "Why Amazing Stories and Undefeated died"...
...then tell me again how fantastically superior that system is to electronic distribution.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"The Clockwork Atom Bomb" By Dominic Green

There are plenty of Hugo Award-nominated stories to read for free on the Internet right now, but why not start with this one:

Dominic Green's "The Clockwork Atom Bomb".

I liked it -- though it scared the crap out of me.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


The sequel to my young-adult SF novel TERRA HEXA, aptly titled TERRA HEXA II, has just been released in Sweden.

A sample has been posted on the publisher's website, HERE.

If you can't read Swedish, there are English text and audio samples from the first book HERE.

The sequel features the female protagonists from the first Terra Hexa novel, the sisters Henna and Gala. They explore the planet Terra Hexa's third continent, and confront a terrible invisible menace...
If you want to know more, you'll have to buy the book. ;-)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My FLICKR page

I started a Flickr page and put some photos on it.

And why? For the crass reason that I might get more attention for my books, by mugging for the camera.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Tragedy Is Easy, Comedy Is #¤%*#*¤ Hard

I've volunteered to do a standup-comedy act at the science-fiction convention NORCON (June 3-5)...

It's hard to be funny on purpose. And much easier to be unintentionally funny (as I've accomplished countless times).
Someone warned me: the convention guests won't be able to take you seriously as a writer AFTER they see you as a goofy funnyman on stage.

Who knows... ;-)

What do you think? I write "genre" fiction, so I don't have that much of a reputation to ruin in the first place...

If a Really Serious Writer like Margaret Atwood appeared on a comedy club and made fart jokes, would people then say: "I can't read her books now. She's ruined her image!"

Is it all about image?

Then again: Why should writers take themselves so #*#¤%* seriously?

The worst that can happen is that the audience won't laugh...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Book Tip...

I love non-fiction books just as much as good fiction, and I read lots of it.
And as I get older and the world changes ever faster, it gets increasingly important to stay informed. I'm still "hip" and "with it", "Daddy-O"! ;-)

Here are two interesting books I read recently...

PURPLE COW by Seth Godin
Seth Godin is a "marketing guru". His book explains how the game of marketing has changed, and how you can use this knowledge to create successful products and services.
So why should writers and aspiring writers learn about such things?
One: PURPLE COW may help you figure out how to sell your own books.
Two: It also points out the power of originality and creativity in a media-crowded, affluent society.

ON SF by Thomas M. Disch
Disch is also a fiction writer and has worked in various genres (his greatest success may be THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER childrens' books). This book is a collection of his literary criticism.

"Literary criticism," you think. "That sounds so dull." But Disch's writing is damn funny. He often attacks his subject from an unusual angle, offers original insights.. and is one of the funniest literary critics around. You learn something and laugh at the same time.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Who Says Publishing Is Fair?

So, once you have your mansucript done, revised, proofed, ready for publication... what do you do?

You send away your manuscript to a Big Publisher, and think it will succeed or fail on its own merits.


Getting published by a large publisher, unless your name is already well-known, is a completely randomized process. Michael Allen reveals how manuscripts are REALLY selected (or not), in his tell-all book On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile.

It's recommended reading for writers. Honestly, I didn't think the state of Big Corporate Publishing was THIS bad -- until I read Allen's book. I learned several useful lessons:

1. "Nobody knows anything." Modern Big Publishing is a complete lottery, and the odds are stacked against writers.

2. The best way to keep a cool head is to write what YOU enjoy writing, and not write for money/fame. (Or write for your friends and family.)

3. Ignore Big Publishers. No, really. S****'em. Find a small publisher that's willing to publish your work at a low cost (read: low financial risk) and nurture your talent over time.

(If, against near-impossible odds, you SHOULD get a deal with a Big Publisher, you are s****d. Because the Big Publisher will give you one chance to sell humongously well with your first published novel... and if you don't, they'll toss you aside like a used Kleenex. You don't get to hear about this a lot, because people tend to ignore all the writers who bombed, and focus on the spectacular successes.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

John Scalzi Gives Advice To Teenage Writers

As you may have heard, a teenage writer by the name Christopher Paolini has had huge success with his ERAGON book series. This sort of thing doesn't happen often.

Teenage prodigies are still rare in book-writing. Why is that? John Scalzi explains in "10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"As You Know, Bob..."

The Turkey City Lexicon, A Primer for SF Workshops, is an eminently useful checklist of typical errors and bad writing clichés that turn up in science fiction writing workshops.

Bookmark it.

Do you attend writing workshops? They can be a lot of fun, and you can learn a lot. Well, it depends on the people who attend it. Come to the workshop with an open mind and open ears.

This Wikipedia entry lists several well-known writing workshops and links to them.

As for myself... I live in Scandinavia and can't find workshops near where I live. So I'll have to manage with the Baen's Universe Slushpile for peer review...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Stross On 1st, 2nd and 3rd Person Style

Acclaimed SF writer Charles Stross has posted an essay on the perspective-problem in fiction writing:
"Conjugate Characters, Not Verbs"

Authors and would-be authors take note: Stross analyzes one of the most difficult stylistic issues ANY writer can come up against. I wholeheartedly recommend his essay.

And now for something completely different...

I love satire and parody, but I don't like "fan-fiction". I think it's a ******* immature thing to do. Grownups should not write fanfiction; if they are so ******* eager to be writers, they can ******* make up their own original ******* characters.

And now I read about this sad, sad, sad, sad... sad person who not only wrote her own fan-fiction novel set in the STAR WARS universe... but also published it on

Someone called it an act of "weapons-grade stupidity". That pretty much sums it up, no?

Why do these things happen? I like to think that people are, on the whole, fairly sane. But apparently insanity can strike anyone, at any time. There you are, walking down the street with a clear eye and a sharp mind... and POW! you fall and hit your head.

When you wake up, dazed and confused, you find yourself possessed by a single hypnotizing notion: "I am INSPIRED! I must write a fan-fiction novel and readers will love it because I am so INSPIRED!"

Do not confuse "obsessed" with "inspired".

And don't even try to defend yourself with Special Pleading: "Yeah, of course I know about copyright and all that... but MY fanfic is different! It's as good as the original, in fact!" (Yadda yadda...)

1. Robin Hobb explains why she is opposed to fanfiction.

2. A huge discussion about fanfiction over at Making Light.