Archives for 2012

The immersive writer

There are, as everyone knows, two ways of doing a thing: one way and the other way. For any given thing worth doing, there may be an infinite number of ways to divide it into two categories; just as there are an infinite number of angles at which you can cut an apple in two. All these lines of division are technically valid, of course, but some are clearly more helpful than others. (Here is an example of an unhelpful division. There are two ways of tying your shoelaces: with a barbecue lighter and without. I think it is safe to say that all the usual methods of tying shoelaces fall into the second category.)

There are, accordingly, two ways of reading books; but infinitely many ways to divide up the act of reading into two classes. One way, which I and others have found useful, is to divide reading into the immersive and the analytic. If you prefer, you can call them ‘reading for the story’ and ‘reading for the text’. The immersive reader dives joyously into the vicarious experience of the story, identifies with the characters, laughs at the funny bits, cries at the moving bits, and generally wallows in the sensuous details of the story-world. The text is translated on the fly into a sort of 3-D movie playing inside the immersive reader’s head. Vladimir Nabokov despised the immersive reader. The analytic reader, who is most often found in academia, stays carefully on the surface of the text, studying the language word by word and sentence by sentence, looking for nuggets of technique and jewels of craftsmanship, and treating motifs and symbols as if they were algebraic variables. Nabokov courted and lionized the analytic reader; which is why Nabokov’s books are read (now that the naughty-naughty of Lolita has been eclipsed by a planet full of Internet porn) chiefly by bored university students labouring their way through the ‘close reading’ of a set text. [Read more…]

The calendar of Pyrandain

Joseph Ebbecke has the honour of being the first reader to ask (in writing) a question about the world of The Eye of the Maker after the publication of Book I. His question:

I clamor for calendars, appendices, glossaries!

Are Sheaftide and Scythetide months or seasons?

My reply:

Calendars, appendices, glossaries still to come. Be of good hope!

Sheaftide and Scythetide are not months or seasons, they are weeks, like Holy Week or Whitsuntide in our own calendar. [Read more…]

The End of Earth and Sky

The Eye of the Maker

Book One



Now available exclusively from Amazon


Young Calin Lowford sees his best friend slain by a creature not seen in the land since the ancient wars.  Forbidden to join the fight against these foes, he is sent as servant to the wizard Rijeth, to learn of strange magics and stranger omens. His quest to avenge his friend will lead him through sorcery and peril to a secret at the end of the world — the mysterious Eye of the Maker.

[Read more…]

Dr. Johnson on adversity

Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

—Samuel Johnson

The Next Big Thing

Jonathan Moeller has tagged me for The Next Big Thing. I am nearly as susceptible as a dragon to flattery (although, unlike Smaug, I am painfully aware of the weak points in my armour); what is more important, I am stuck on the all-important cover copy for the Octopus, so I can answer these questions as a sort of rehearsal. [Read more…]

C. S. Lewis on radical change

The Guide laughed. ‘You are falling into their own error,’ he said, ‘the change is not radical, nor will it be permanent. That idea depends on a curious disease which they have all caught — an inability to dis-believe advertisements. To be sure, if the machines did what they promised, the change would be very deep indeed. Their next war, for example, would change the state of their country from disease to death. They are afraid of this themselves — though most of them are old enough to know by experience that a gun is no more likely than a toothpaste or a cosmetic to do the things its makers say it will do. It is the same with all their machines. Their labour-saving devices multiply drudgery; their aphrodisiacs make them impotent: their amusements bore them: their rapid production of food leaves half of them starving, and their devices for saving time have banished leisure from their country. There will be no radical change.’

—C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

John Cleese on creativity

It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking; and it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.

—John Cleese

Cleese on creativity, 1991:

[Read more…]

Nadia Lee: Why Simon & Schuster’s Archway Publishing Is Bad for Authors

From Nadia Lee, a response to the latest publishing news, and a handy comparison chart, reproduced below.

A few months ago, Penguin Books, realizing that their vanity-press venture was selling like coldcakes, bought the world’s leading experts on vanity press scams: Author Solutions, Inc. Now Simon & Schuster has announced a ‘premium’ vanity imprint, to be called Archway, run in ‘partnership’ with Author Solutions: which means that S&S will funnel slush writers to Archway, and AS will do the grunt work of separating them from their money. The so-called service is ‘premium’ because the ripoff is steeper than with most vanity presses: it starts with $1,599 for a simple children’s book and ranges up to $25,000 for the full-service screwing.

Withal, here is Ms. Lee’s comparison chart, so you can judge for yourself: [Read more…]

‘Cold Iron’, by Rudyard Kipling

‘Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.’
‘Good!’ said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
‘But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.’

So he made rebellion ’gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
‘Nay!’ said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
‘But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!’ [Read more…]

Conservatives, progressives, and educational methods

First the text, from the immortal Chesterton:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine.

And now the sermon. This is from ‘docargent’, a commenter on Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog. I offer it with the caveat that the teacher cited cannot be reached to confirm the story:

I worked as support staff in a middle school once and, having been left almost innumerate due to the New Math, asked a teacher nearing retirement if anything done since the New Math had worked as well as the methods used before it. When she said no, I asked why public schools never went back to the pre- New Math method.

“There’s no money in it,” she said.

According to her, school districts receive federal grants to use new and experimental teaching plans. If these fail, and they usually do, no effort is made to correct the damage done to the education of the students used as guinea pigs; they’ll have to pick the subject up themselves later on. The school districts need the grants to pay for various unfunded mandates.

I thought this over and asked her if this meant that if an experimental teaching method did actually work, the district would still abandon it in a few years for something totally untried in order to get a new grant.

“Yes,” she said.