The Ultimate Anthology: The Drowned Life

Yet another addition to my ultimate anthology. If I had the capability of putting these tales into one text, I don't think I'd ever need another book! These are the stories that make me itch to get to the keyboard--not because I deign to join them, but because who wouldn't try?

What can I say about Ford's storytelling that everyone in the speculative storytelling community doesn't already know? We were discussing the hallmarks of the surrealist movement in class on Monday evening, and I couldn't resist mentioning this harrowing tale of financial desperation. Surrealism is, at its core, a political statement, and Ford's piece critiques the financial house of cards that is American life very effectively. 

It's a humanistic tale, never forgetting that it's just folks like all of us that succumb to the drowned life. The trick, in my view, is coming back up for air without experiencing that terrible, white-knuckled conclusion that befalls our protagonist in this one.

I used the full collection that shares this story's title in a creative writing class a few years back, and I guess that one thing I can say about Ford's writing that some may not already know is that the author is a lucid dreamer. Andre Breton, in his manifesto on surrealist thinking, ties the movement directly to Freud's psychoanalytical theories. He believes the mind is at its optimal capacity in the dreaming state, and anyone who has read Ford's work understands there is a sort of dreamlike quality to the images he conjures and the plots he explores. 

Great stuff. Sheesh, get a look at those names below. I only have another 60,000 words, so I'd better choose carefully...

"The Drowned Life" ~ Jeffrey Ford
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" ~ Stephen King
"Voluntary Committal" ~ Joe Hill
"The Pear Shaped Man" ~ George R.R. Martin
"The Small Assassin" ~ Ray Bradbury
"Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" ~ Peter S. Beagle



Product Placement Nirvana...

I can't imagine how many Legos have been sold in the last week.

I loved them growing up, and I think they do help kids unleash a lot of creativity (that's the primary plot thrust of The Lego Movie, by the way), but I was a little put off by the brazen product placement in this one. From Krazy Glue to Titleist and, of course, the dozens of themed Lego kits that one can buy in any toystore, this movie basically doesn't even try to gloss over the fact that it's a great big commercial. 

The visuals were hard to keep up with in the first half of the movie, but I suspect the huge audience (it took in 69 million dollars on opening!) of kids didn't mind. There were plenty of explosions to keep them laughing, and there was lots of that in the theater we attended here in JAX.

The live-action in the third act was actually done well, and Will Ferrell was good as President Business. I liked the film (C/C+) okay, but I won't care to watch it again. This film is the new paradigm for kids--glitzy special effects with mondo product placement and cross promotion to the local fast food joints. There's a tiny soul in there--a little message about being true to one's self and overcoming homogeneity--but it's unfortunately dwarfed by the rest of it... 

I'll take The Goonies and The Karate Kid every day of the week...



Holy cow, Joseph Young! What an amazing basketball game the Ducks are playing right now. Down by twenty at the half, Joseph Young has almost single-handedly made this a ballgame...


The Wrong Idea...

Technology does interesting things to conventions and traditions. Read Thomas Kuhn's excellent The Structure of Scientific Revolutions if you'd like some fascinating research on the topic.

Just as the Internet changed the course of the travel, journalism, television, music, and banking industries, so too has it re-shaped the world of writing and publishing.

Literary agent Donald Maass, who gave me a pretty quick rejection when I was shopping for agents about five years ago, has written what amounts to the ultimate insult toward independent authors. He updated his post in the comments section, stating that he meant only to engage in allegory as a method of provocation.

Provocation? For what, Don?

Feeling a little defensive about the state of publishing, are we?

There's no need for provocation. This isn't a war, Don. It's about a changing industry--an industry in which the taste makers are the readers, not you. Not the big six. Not corporate publishing and propaganda.


I'm just one small cow packed into the back of the freight class, Don, but I write damned good stories and my growing readership enjoys them. I'm glad that Joe Konrath took your post apart with logic and support. I started reading Joe a decade ago, by the way, and I bought his books in hardcover. Now, I buy them in digital, and I'm thankful that there's a writer of his caliber that is willing to use transparency and personal experience to shine a new light on publishing.

Maass's class warfare is, like much of the propaganda now coming out of a deflating publishing industry, flawed logic disguised as insight. It's revolting, really, and the worst part is that you can tell he actually believes this.

I'm off for a run, where I'll puzzle through another plot point in the novel I'm working on while burning off the steam I generated after reading this tripe.

Yeah, that's right. This cow likes to stay lean.

Go read Don's blog post. If you don't like to run, here's a little Yiruma to get you back into a tranquil state:


Trust Yourself and Move Forward...

Along with language arts educators and psychologists, we are aware that as humans most of us carry around a little voice, the editor, that tells us that what we have to say is not entertaining enough or substantial enough to be heard. That editor is a composite figure of everyone in our lives who has diminished our sense of creative ability, from family members, to teachers, to employers, to the society as a whole. We live in a culture where expert story making is a highly valued and rewarded craft. Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling Cookbook, page 2 

Creativity takes a lot of courage and more than a little perseverance. It's important for those interested in the creative arts to trust themselves and, on occasion, silence that editor. If you've ever written something that wasn't fun for you to capitalize on a trend...well, that's the editor talking. If you've ever cut a scene from a film because its inclusion might not get your work in the finest places, that's the editor talking. Editors are important, of course, but so are instincts, and it's a shame when a voice becomes stifled (or silenced altogether) in an effort to fit into a specific space or ideal... 

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...