Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Batgirl #12: A Feminist Critique of a Comic Book Cover

I have seen this cover from issue #12 of Batgirl circulating through Google+. Many praise its fine workmanship, and so do I. But despite the illustration’s virtues, I take issue with its approach.

It’s about the characterization, you see.

Monday, February 25, 2013

This Week On Runicfire: Feb 25 – Mar 4

We kick off this week with a roundup of interesting links on Monday, regarding such diverse topics as the film industry, the use of the Wii in medecine, and the hardships Moroccan women face in the wake of a changing political economic climate.

Wednesday's post will touch on the art of superheroines, and how we can improve it.

And on Friday I shall continue blogging on research for my novel, via a short essay about calendars and timekeeping in the Renaissance.

Be well, and please stay tuned!

Monday Links: Television Outshines Film, the Wii vs. Cancer, and the Rise of Rape in Morocco

I’d like to open this week at Runicfire with a collection of interesting links for your perusal.

The Economist discusses how the Internet and economics is leading to a shrinking film industry and thriving television business.

The Wii proves useful in combating fatigue in cancer patients through providing a source of low-intensity exercise.

And Allison McManus interviews Nadir Bouhmouch about her forthcoming film 475, and the tacit acceptance of men’s rape of women in Morocco and other countries affected by the Arab Spring.

I hope these articles prove enlightening.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Care and Feeding of Ugly Duckling Drafts

Many writers talk about “Shitty First Drafts,” to use the term coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. These are your horrific first attempts at your story. They’re hairy with adjectives, and stumble about on improperly placed limbs. I like to call them “ugly duckling” drafts because, despite their deformity, they are merely good works in their infancy.

I used to believe I did not write these. In recent times, I have discovered the extent of my error. Here are five lessons I learned on how to bring ugly duckling drafts to maturity, which may be of use to you as well:

  1. Write action, trim description. Action is the currency of your story. Your readers may forget your paragraphs of prose poetry on an ancient horn’s carvings. They will remember what your characters did—because that is the story. Description works best riding on the trail of action, so marble your action and description like meat and fat in a good steak.
  2.   If you must describe at length, make it sound like action. Writing figuratively allows you to make things incapable of action come alive. We already say that vines coil and patterns flow, so let your imagination play with the possibilities. Start by turning gerunds back into verbs: "His steep forehead sloped into a thick brow," instead of "He had a steeply sloping forehead and a thick brow."
  3. Give your characters something to do. Even bit characters should make themselves of use. This goes double for characters who usher us into the story. The first draft of my novel-in-progress opened with a beleaguered priest waiting in the rain. He waited for three-quarters of a page. When I showed the passage to an editor, the opening failed to capture her attention. She recommended that I give him something to do. I followed her advice, and his plight became far more interesting. Conflict drives stories, and conflict dies when characters do nothing.
  4. “Omit Needless Words.” E.B. White said it best.
  5. Weed out the cliches. Avoiding trite phrases and tropes is difficult on your first draft. But second and third drafts grant you the benefit of hindsight. Now is the time to chuck those old chestnuts and try something more lively. If you feel your story requires a scene that would be considered cliche, ask yourself aspects of that approach are important. Then find another scenario that fulfills those requirements. If you cannot, then cut everything not essential to the task.

Nothing is novel about these suggestions. I suspect that ninety percent of what we know about the craft of writing is old news. The remaining ten percent is unique to every writer, and we must each discover that for ourselves.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Science Tidbits: Moon Colonies, Genetic Circuits, and Throwing Rocks at Earth

On Bad Astronomy, I found this video featuring Phil Plait and Dr. Karin Bondar. In the video, Phil speaks briefly on the possibility of applying 3-D printing technology to building settlements on the moon—an option actually under development by NASA. Karin follows up with an equally fascinating development: biologists are manipulating DNA in a manner that I can only describe as genetic computing.

To me, these developments are evidence that we already live in a science fiction world. Every day heralds new discoveries about the natural world, and more knowledge of how we can apply those principles to our technology. As someone who writes science fiction, this is good news for me.

I'll leave you with one last treat: an asteroid impact calculator from Purdue University's website.

Monday, February 18, 2013

SFWC, Self-Publishing and the Second Renaissance

I just returned from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. This is my first year in attendance, and in the aftermath I have so much to say that my thoughts render me mute. What do I feel? I think I feel like I have finally come home.

The conference is of too great a scope for me to sum up in one post, but I discovered a common refrain: e-books are changing everything. One of the first panels I attended was about digital publishing. Guy Kawasaki spoke at Saturday morning’s keynote about—yes—digital publishing, and Friday’s afternoon keynote featured romance author Bella Andre, who discussed how she earned a spot on the New York Times Bestseller’s list as a self-published author.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Week on Runicfire: Feb 18 – 24

Runicfire is entering its second week, and we have another roster of posts. Here's what to expect:

  • Today, Monday the 18th, I reflect on the San Francisco Writer's Conference and the possibility of a second Renaissance.
  • This Wednesday, the 20th, a brief post on recent developments in science.
  • And for Friday the 22nd I explore the process of revising, including tips I picked up this weekend and some notes from my own experience.
Due to some limitations I have discovered with Blogger, I will be switching Runicfire over to Wordpress. The process will likely take a month, and involve a visual retooling as well. Don't worry: everything I have posted so far will transfer over, and the new site will be prettier, more useful and easier to use than before.

Here's to a good week!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Short Story: A Glitch in the Timing

As a Friday treat to you all, I am posting an older short story of mine. It's called "A Glitch in the Timing." It's about Esau Alexander, a detective of the gilded city of Starfall who, against his better judgment, pursues a missing persons case—pro bono. I hope you enjoy it!

Read and download "A Glitch in the Timing."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Renaissance: Real and Reimagined

This is the first part of a series in which I discuss a portion of the research behind Rosaria of Venice, my forthcoming alternate-history novel, and other matters related to that research. If you like what you read, please keep an eye out for new updates, and tell your friends!

There was a time, centuries after the fall of Rome, when northern Italy blossomed with the rediscovery of ancient culture. Perspective returned to painting, form to sculpture, and new artists expanded upon the ancient techniques. These times saw the rise of the printing press and the spreading of literacy. The new age brought political turmoil and religious revolution through the Protestant Reformation. The works of figures such as Copernicus and Galileo shaped science into a semblance of its modern form. Through the cracks of feudal Europe, the modern era broke soil.

We call this period the Renaissance.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This Week on Runicfire: February 11–17, 2013

Today marks the beginning of Runicfire's first full week of operation, and also a busy and exciting time for its author! Here's a look at what's in store for the next seven days:

  • I will be attending the San Francisco Writer's Conference from Thursday through Saturday. I hope to learn a lot more about the craft and business of writing from the panels, and to find plenty of opportunities to network and promote my novel, Rosaria of Venice. I will be posting a recap of my experience next Monday, February 18th. My more immediate reactions can be found on my Twitter feed @AaronM_Miner.
  • Speaking of my novel, this Wednesday I'll be writing about some of my historical research for Rosaria of Venice. When you're writing a steampunk alternate-history version of 15th-century Italy starring a Renaissance woman, you need to do your homework. And researching the Italian Renaissance is very fun homework.
  • And on Friday... a little treat to my early readers!
Stay tuned!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mr. or Ms. Reader, I Presume! Allow Me to Introduce Myself.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Runicfire!

You are no doubt wondering where on Earth you are, and who the blazes this bespectacled, bearded man pictured on the right sidebar happens to be. Worry not. You will have your answers soon, but be warned: you may get a tale out of the bargain.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Test Post

Testing out the new blog. It's taking some time getting used to Blogger, so I expect this page to be an ugly little duckling for a while. An ugly little duckling who so happens to be on fire.