Bucket lists – Part 1 Writing a book

A few years ago I was chatting to a friend about bucket lists, something I had never heard of until Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson explained it on the big screen. Well the conversation went something like, “Bucket list? Hell I’m not even forty yet! Why would I want a bucket list?” But then I started thinking of the things I really wanted to do before I kick the bucket and I realised that for some of the things I wanted to do I required a certain amount of strength and health, and if I was going to do them I had to start pretty soon. Some of these I share with my husband, which is great wanting to do the same things, but others I have to achieve on my own.

One of the items on my list is to write a book.

I have started about five different books and have never finished, so now I have five unfinished stories and one that I started rather recently and I have actually got much further than the others, I think I might actually finish this one. I can tell you that it is most definitely not Nobel Prize material but it is a rather fun and complex process, and I have learned a few things as I’m doing this.

For starters, I spend way too much time researching topics that I lightly mention and then when one of my characters has the audacity to require further explanations I find myself spending hours on the internet to answer a question. Hours later I want to knock myself on the head when I remember that the character is my head and I could have made it easier on myself….

A few pages later I want to cry because my timeline is off and I have to make endless changes so that events make sense. I get back on track but fate is never kind, “How the hell do you spell that word?” It is so so so wrong that not even the spell check can identify what I’m attempting to write, tears are streaming down my face in frustration. Three days later the word comes to mind, I spell it perfectly and I can’t find the place where I wanted to use it!

The plot, the damn plot! It keeps changing, and then I find myself with a character that I don’t need, what to do? Should I do the George R.R. Martin thing and just kill him off or do I find an intelligent way out, I’m too damn tiered so I’ll just kill the bastard and get him out the way. Wonderful, now I have a murderer in the story, he/she can’t be just a random appearance so now I will have to kill somebody else and the plot changes again….

You can now understand why I seem to be having problems finishing a book. Anyway, last week I dreamed of my characters and the story, these are not nice people we are talking about so it was a bit of a nightmare, it was very disturbing really.

The truth is that I will probably never publish it, I will attempt to convince my gorgeous niece to edit it so that at least I can give it to my husband and my sisters to read, but I do want to finish at least one book and tick this item off my bucket list.

George Orwell’s Brilliant Guide to Writing Well

By George Orwell

Despite the rank hypocrisy of Orwell’s use of the passive voice, this, “Politics and the English Language,” is one of the most sublimely constructed essays ever published in the English language. I wish The New Republic could claim full credit for this one. But Orwell initially ran the piece in London with Cyril Connolly’s Horizon before publishing it here. The piece perfectly expresses the hardheaded turn that liberalism would take in the postwar years—when it lost all patience with the obfuscations that had enabled utopian fantasies to persist. —Franklin Foer

To mark its 100th anniversary, The New Republic is republishing a collection of its most memorable articles. This week we’ll be selecting our favorite pieces from our forthcoming anthology, Insurrections of the Mind, which will be published on Sept. 16, 2014.

This piece originally appeared in The New Republic June 17th, 1946.

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language—so the argument runs—must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to airplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are four specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad—I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen—but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

(1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

—Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression).

(2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate or put at a loss for bewilder.

—Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa).

(3) On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

—Essay on psychology in Politics (New York).

(4) All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of socialism and bestial horror of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoisie to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

—Communist pamphlet

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing; as soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose-construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors: A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g., iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a “rift,” for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying.

Operators, Or verbal false limbs: These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are: render inoperative, militate against, prove unacceptable, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, the fact that, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved from anti-climax by such refunding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, etc.

Pretentious diction: Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual basic, primary, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid processes of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on anarchaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, trident, sword, shield, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, status quo, gleichschaltung, Weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g. and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, clandestine, subaqueous and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon opposite numbers. The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, lackeys, flunkey, mad dog. White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words and phrases translated from Russian, German or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the -ize formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentatory) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

Meaningless words: In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: Consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot. The Soviet Press is the freest in the world. The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with the intent to deceive. Others words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well known verse from “Ecclesiastes”:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit three, on page 872, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations—race, battle, bread—dissolve into the vague phrase “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing—no one capable of using phrases like “objective consideration of contemporary phenomena”—would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness.

MORE FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Nabokov’s Perfect, Cheeky Response to a Reader Who Tried to Correct Him

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier—even quicker, once you have the habit—to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say/think. When you are composing in a hurry—when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech—it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images dash—as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot—it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.

Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in 53 words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the [printer's] slip alien for akin, making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means. (3) if one takes an uncharitable attitude toward it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning—they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another—but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you—even think your thoughts for you, to certain extent—and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.
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source: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/73258/george-orwells-politics-and-english-language-guide-writing

22 Lessons From Stephen King On How To Be A Great Writer

 

stephen king

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Renowned author Stephen King writes stories that captivate millions of people around the world and earn him an estimated $17 million a year.

In his memoir, “On Writing,” King shares valuable insights into how to be a better writer. And he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He writes, “I can’t lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.”

Don’t want to be one of them? Here are 22 great pieces of advice from King’s book on how to be an amazing writer:

1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.

If you’re just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. It’s “poisonous to creativity,” he says. Writers need to look into themselves and turn toward the life of the imagination.

To do so, they should read as much as they can. King takes a book with him everywhere he goes, and even reads during meals. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” he says. Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.

2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.

King compares writing fiction to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub, because in both, “there’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.” Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all,” writes King.

Oftentimes, you have to continue writing even when you don’t feel like it. “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea,” he writes. And when you fail, King suggests that you remain positive. “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”

3. Don’t waste time trying to please people.

According to King, rudeness should be the least of your concerns. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway,” he writes. King used to be ashamed of what he wrote, especially after receiving angry letters accusing him of being bigoted, homophobic, murderous, and even psychopathic.

By the age of 40, he realized that every decent writer has been accused of being a waste of talent. King has definitely come to terms with it. He writes, “If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.” You can’t please all of your readers all the time, so King advises that you stop worrying.

4. Write primarily for yourself.

You should write because it brings you happiness and fulfillment. As King says, “I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Writer Kurt Vonnegut provides a similar insight: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about,” he says. “It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”

5. Tackle the things that are hardest to write.

“The most important things are the hardest things to say,” writes King. “They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings.” Most great pieces of writing are preceded with hours of thought. In King’s mind, “Writing is refined thinking.”

When tackling difficult issues, make sure you dig deeply. King says, “Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground … Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” Writers should be like archaeologists, excavating for as much of the story as they can find.

6. When writing, disconnect from the rest of the world.

Writing should be a fully intimate activity. Put your desk in the corner of the room, and eliminate all possible distractions, from phones to open windows. King advises, “Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.”

You should maintain total privacy between you and your work. Writing a first draft is “completely raw, the sort of thing I feel free to do with the door shut — it’s the story undressed, standing up in nothing but its socks and undershorts.”

7. Don’t be pretentious.

“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones,” says King. He compares this mistake to dressing up a household pet in evening clothes — both the pet and the owner are embarrassed, because it’s completely excessive.

As iconic businessman David Ogilvy writes in a memo to his employees, “Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.” Furthermore, don’t use symbols unless necessary. “Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not to create an artificial sense of profundity,” writes King.

8. Avoid adverbs and long paragraphs.

As King emphasizes several times in his memoir, “the adverb is not your friend.” In fact, he believes that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” and compares them to dandelions that ruin your lawn. Adverbs are worst after “he said” and “she said” — those phrases are best left unadorned.

You should also pay attention to your paragraphs, so that they flow with the turns and rhythms of your story. “Paragraphs are almost always as important for how they look as for what they say,” says King.

9. Don’t get overly caught up in grammar.

According to King, writing is primarily about seduction, not precision. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes,” writes King. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.” You should strive to make the reader forget that he or she is reading a story at all.

10. Master the art of description.

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s,” writes King. The important part isn’t writing enough, but limiting how much you say. Visualize what you want your reader to experience, and then translate what you see in your mind into words on the page. You need to describe things “in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition,” he says.

The key to good description is clarity, both in observation and in writing. Use fresh images and simple vocabulary to avoid exhausting your reader. “In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling,” notes King.

11. Don’t give too much background information.

“What you need to remember is that there’s a difference between lecturing about what you know and using it to enrich the story,” writes King. “The latter is good. The former is not.” Make sure you only include details that move your story forward and that persuade your reader to continue reading.

If you need to do research, make sure it doesn’t overshadow the story. Research belongs “as far in the background and the back story as you can get it,” says King. You may be entranced by what you’re learning, but your readers are going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.

12. Tell stories about what people actually do.

“Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do — to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street,” writes King. The people in your stories are what readers care about the most, so make sure you acknowledge all the dimensions your characters may have.

13. Take risks; don’t play it safe.

First and foremost, stop using the passive voice. It’s the biggest indicator of fear. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing,” King says. Writers should throw back their shoulders, stick out their chins, and put their writing in charge.

“Try any goddamn thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it,” King says.

14. Realize that you don’t need drugs to be a good writer.

“The idea that the creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time,” says King. In his eyes, substance-abusing writers are just substance-abusers. “Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit.”

15. Don’t try to steal someone else’s voice.

As King says, “You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile.” When you try to mimic another writer’s style for any reason other than practice, you’ll produce nothing but “pale imitations.” This is because you can never try to replicate the way someone feels and experiences truth, especially not through a surface-level glance at vocabulary and plot.

16. Understand that writing is a form of telepathy.

“All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing is the purest distillation,” says King. An important element of writing is transference. Your job isn’t to write words on the page, but rather to transfer the ideas inside your head into the heads of your readers.

“Words are just the medium through which the transfer happens,” says King. In his advice on writing, Vonnegut also recommends that writers “use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”

17. Take your writing seriously.

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair,” says King. “Come to it any way but lightly.” If you don’t want to take your writing seriously, he suggests that you close the book and do something else.

As writer Susan Sontag says, “The story must strike a nerve — in me. My heart should start pounding when I hear the first line in my head. I start trembling at the risk.”

18. Write every single day.

“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop, and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to,” says King. “If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind … I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace.”

If you fail to write consistently, the excitement for your idea may begin to fade. When the work starts to feel like work, King describes the moment as “the smooch of death.” His best advice is to just take it “one word at a time.”

19. Finish your first draft in three months.

King likes to write 10 pages a day. Over a three-month span, that amounts to around 180,000 words. “The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season,” he says. If you spend too long on your piece, King believes the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel.

20. When you’re finished writing, take a long step back.

King suggests six weeks of “recuperation time” after you’re done writing, so you can have a clear mind to spot any glaring holes in the plot or character development. He asserts that a writer’s original perception of a character could be just as faulty as the reader’s.

King compares the writing and revision process to nature. “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees,” he writes. “When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” When you do find your mistakes, he says that “you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us.”

21. Have the guts to cut.

When revising, writers often have a difficult time letting go of words they spent so much time writing. But, as King advises, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Although revision is one of the most difficult parts of writing, you need to leave out the boring parts in order to move the story along. In his advice on writing, Vonnegut suggests, “If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

22. Stay married, be healthy, and live a good life.

King attributes his success to two things: his physical health and his marriage. “The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self-reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible,” he writes.

It’s important to have a strong balance in your life, so writing doesn’t consume all of it. In writer and painter Henry Miller’s 11 commandments of writing, he advises, “Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.”

Jane Austen: 10 Facts and Figures about Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen was an amazing writer and woman for her time. She penned a total of six novels, all of which are still studied in classrooms to this day. Her keen insights into social customs paint a picture of life in the Georgian era and all the delights and pratfalls that life entailed. While not a famous name in her own time, her works made her a literary celebrity in the 19th Century, a status she maintains today. Have a look below at some things you may now know about this great author.

Big Family

Jane was one of eight children in the Austen family and the youngest girl, though not the youngest child. Despite all her siblings being literary, Jane was the only one who became a published novelist. She honed her writing skills mostly as a way of entertaining her family members. Her father, George Austen, was a clergyman and her mother Cassandra was from a higher social class. Her mother actually experienced a social fall in marrying George, but it did nothing to dampen her spirits.

Young and Accomplished

By the age of 23, Jane had already completed original versions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

Auto-Biographical

Many of Austen works reflect situations in her own life. When her father died, Jane, her mother, and her sister experienced a financial crisis similar to Sense and Sensibility. The family’s financial situation also led to a fall in Bath society. The novel Northanger Abbey portrays Bath society in a very positive light, but Persuasion, which was written after George Austen’s death, is very cynical, reflecting Austen’s attitude towards the socialites who shunned her.

Not a Fan

Mark Twain hated Austen’s works, once stating that that an ideal library is one “that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.” Of course, this may have all been an attempt to troll fellow author and critic William Dean Howells, who was an ardent Austen fan.

Fan Nickname

Jane Austen’s fans refer to themselves either as Austenites or Janeites. Pemberley.com is one of the foremost fan sites, and across the Atlantic Ocean, there’s the Jane Austen Society of North America. JASNA holds an annual meeting in the fall in Canada or the United States.

Modern Adaptations

Though there are many period film and television adaptations of all six of her novels, there are several modern adaptations as well, mostly of Pride and Prejudice. Helen Fielding’s novel Bridget Jones’s Diary and its three sequels are based on it, even going so far as cast Colin Firth as Darcy expy Mark Darcy in the films. YouTube also has its own adaptation in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a video diary web series that ran for 100 episodes from 2012 to 2013. The film Clueless with Alicia Silverstone is actually an adaptation of Emma as well.

Home School

While Jane’s brothers all attended Oxford University, Jane and her sister Cassandra were home schooled by their father and mother. Because of his education, George Austen also educated other boys in the area and some of them lived with the Austen family.

Anonymous

Of the four novels published during her lifetime, none bore her name. Sense and Sensibility bore the byline “By a Lady” and Pride and Prejudice simply stated that it was by “The Author of Sense and Sensibility”. Her father had tried to get Pride and Prejudice (then called “First Impressions”) and Northanger Abbey published, but there was no success until Sense and Sensibility was printed in 1811.

In the Navy

Her brothers Charles and Frank both served in the British Navy and were a source of information for her to write Persuasion and the character of naval officer Frederick Wentworth.

Kennedy Connection

Jane suffered from a mysterious disease that was never diagnosed accurately, starting around 1816 until her death in 1817. Today it is believed that she suffered from Addison’s Disease, a rare chronic endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient steroid hormones that also affected President John F. Kennedy.

source: http://www.anglotopia.net/british-history/jane-austen-10-facts-figures-jane-austen-probably-didnt-know/

Ten incredible ancient texts

1. The Dunhuang Manuscripts

The Dunhuang Manuscripts

The Dunhuang Manuscripts are a cache of around 20,000 important scrolls found in the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang. The Dunhuang manuscripts date to between the 5th and 11th centuries A.D., and were sealed up in a chamber in a cave, hidden for about 900 years. Although the Dunhuang Manuscripts contain mostly Buddhist texts, there were other forms of sacred texts as well. These include Taoist, Nestorian Christian, and Manichaean texts. In addition, there were also secular texts that dealt with various areas of knowledge, such as mathematics, history, astronomy and literature. One of the significant aspects of the Dunhuang Manuscripts can be seen in the large amount of folk literature in it. As this form of literature is about the lives of ordinary people, it provides a unique perspective on their experiences, the way they associated with the wider society and the government, as well as their relationships with family and friends.

2. The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

Tibetans practised a form of Shamanism called Bon. From the 6th to 8th centuries A.D., Buddhism slowly penetrated this mountainous region. The teachings of the Buddha were translated into Tibetan, but its final compilation was only achieved in the 14th century. This resulted in the creation of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, which consisted of the Kangyur, the “translated words (of the Buddha)”. As copies were made of the original Kangyur, this text was disseminated throughout Tibet.  One of these copies is the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones, which is the only copy in the world. The ink used in the writing of this Kangyur is literally made from precious stones. 9 types of ‘precious stones’, namely gold, silver, coral, pearl, mother of pearl, turquoise, lapis lazuli, copper and steel, were first made into powder and placed into cups designated for each ‘stone’. Some fresh water from a mountain spring or rain water would then be mixed with special sweet adhesives, goat’s milk, and added to the cups to produce the ink. Then, using a painting brush made of sable fur, the ink would be used to write on processed black paper. In addition to the text, paintings were also added to the Kangyur. These images were painted according to the artistic tradition of Zanabazar, and is said to “immediately give peace of mind and admiration to anybody who looks at it.”

3. The Legendary Emerald Tablet

The Legendary Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet is said to be a tablet of emerald or green stone inscribed with the secrets of the universe. The source of the original Emerald Tablet is unclear, hence it is surrounded by legends. The most common legend claims that the tablet was found in a caved tomb under the statue of Hermes in Tyana, clutched in the hands of the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus himself. Another legend suggests that it was the third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, who originally wrote it. Others believed that the tablet was once held within the Ark of the Covenant. Some even claim that the original source of the Emerald Tablet is none other than the fabled city of Atlantis.  The Emerald Tablet would become one of the pillars of Western alchemy. It was a highly influential text in Medieval and Renaissance alchemy, and probably still is today. In addition to translations of the Emerald Tablet, numerous commentaries have also been written regarding its contents.  Yet, despite the various interpretations available, it seems that none of their authors claim to possess knowledge of the whole truth. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to read the text and try to interpret and find the hidden truths themselves.

4. The Egyptian Dream Book

The Egyptian Dream Book

The Egyptian ‘Dream Book’ is preserved in the form of a papyrus with a hieratic script. This papyrus was found in the ancient Egyptian workers’ village of Deir el-Medina, near the Valley of the Kings. This papyrus has been dated to the early reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 B.C.). Each page of the papyrus begins with a vertical column of hieratic signs which translates as ‘If a man sees himself in a dream’. In each horizontal line that follows, a dream is described, and the diagnosis ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as well as the interpretation is provided. Thus, as an example: ‘If a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window, good; it means the hearing of his cry’. The good dreams are listed first, followed by the bad ones (written in red, as it is the colour of bad omens).

5. The Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll is part of the extraordinary cache of 1st Century documents first discovered in caves at Qumran, popularly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Copper Scroll, however, is very different from the other documents in the Qumran library.  In fact, it is so anomalous among the Dead Sea Scrolls – its author, script, style, language, genre, content, and medium all differ to the other scrolls – that scholars believe it must have been placed in the cave at a different time to the rest of the ancient documents.  As Professor Richard Freund stated, the copper scroll is “probably the most unique, the most important, and the least understood.” Unlike the other scrolls, which were literary works, the copper scroll contained a list.  It was no ordinary list, rather it contained directions to 64 locations where staggering quantities of treasure could be found.  Sixty-three of the locations refer to treasures of gold and silver, which have been estimated in the tonnes.  Tithing vessels are also listed among the entries, along with other vessels, and three locations featured scrolls. One entry apparently mentions priestly vestments.  In total, over 4,600 talents of precious metal are listed on the scroll, making the total haul worth in excess of a billion dollars.

6. The Sumerian King List

The Sumerian King List

Out of the many incredible artefacts that have been recovered from sites in Iraq where flourishing Sumerian cities once stood, few have been more intriguing that the Sumerian King List, an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighbouring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of “official” kingship. What makes this artefact so unique is the fact that the list blends apparently mythical pre-dynastic rulers with historical rulers who are known to have existed.  Among all the examples of the Sumerian King List, the Weld-Blundell prism in the Ashmolean Museum cuneiform collection in Oxford represents the most extensive version as well as the most complete copy of the King List. The 8-inch-high prism contains four sides with two columns on each side. It is believed that it originally had a wooden spindle going through its centre so that it could be rotated and read on all four sides. It lists rulers from the antediluvian (“before the flood”) dynasties to the fourteenth ruler of the Isin dynasty (ca. 1763–1753 BC). The list is of immense value because it reflects very old traditions while at the same time providing an important chronological framework relating to the different periods of kingship in Sumeria, and even demonstrates remarkable parallels to accounts in Genesis.

7. Ancient bamboo medical books of legendary Bian Que

Ancient bamboo medical books of legendary Bian Que

In 2013, archaeologists unearthed 920 bamboo strips within four Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) tombs located in the town of Tianhui in the south-western city of Chengdu in China, containing recipes for treating ailments that date back 2,000 years.  Analyses of the texts revealed that some of them were written by the legendary Bian Que, China’s earliest known physician. Translation work has also revealed the remarkable contents of these ancient medical manuscripts. Experts say the works are based mainly on studies of determining disease by taking the patient’s pulse. Other practices mentioned include internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology, dermatology, ophthalmology as well as traumatology. In addition, 184 tiles are related to the medical treatment of horses, considered by the experts as one of the most important veterinarian works in ancient China.

8. Hammurabi’s Code of Laws

Hammurabi’s Code of Laws

Hammurabi’s Code of Laws is one of the most famous collections of laws from the ancient world. Hammurabi (reigned from 1792-1750 B.C.) was the sixth ruler of the First Dynasty of Babylon. During his long reign, he oversaw the great expansion of his empire, and made Babylon a major power in Mesopotamia. By the time of Hammurabi’s death, Babylon was in control of the whole of Mesopotamia, although his successors were not able to maintain this control. Despite the rapid disintegration of his empire, his code of laws has survived the ravages of time, though it was only in the 20th century that they were rediscovered by archaeologists. These laws defined various types of crimes and the penalties to be applied, and is typically described as an ‘eye for an eye’ system of justice.

9. The Takenouchi Manuscripts

The Takenouchi Manuscripts

The Takenouchi manuscripts are a set of mysterious documents that were rewritten by a man named Takenouchino Matori 1,500 years ago in a mixture of Japanese and Chinese characters, transcribed from even older texts. According to legend, the original documents were written in divine characters many millennia ago by ‘the gods’. The unusual texts tell a story of humanity in a way that has never been told before, starting from the beginning of creation up until the emergence of Christianity. They talk of an era in our ancient past where mankind lived in peace and harmony, united under the rule of the son of a Supreme God. Trying to unravel the origins and authenticity of the Takenouchi documents is now an impossible task as the original manuscripts were allegedly confiscated by government authorities and later lost. As a result, much speculation has circulated regarding the accuracy, and indeed the agenda, of the Takenouchi texts.

10. The ancient texts of Timbuktu

The ancient texts of Timbuktu

Located at the gateway to the Sahara desert in what is now Mali, within the confines of the fertile zone of the Sudan, Timbuktu is one of the cities of Africa whose name is the most heavily charged with history.  Founded in the 5th century, it became an intellectual and spiritual capital, reaching its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries.   Around seven hundred years ago, it was a bustling hub where travellers from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, and Morocco met to trade in salt, gold, ivory and unfortunately, slaves.  But it wasn’t only ‘goods’ that were exchanged. Timbuktu was a place where ideas, philosophies, intellectual thought, and religious beliefs came together in a dynamic mix, and one of the primary ways in which such ideas were exchanged was through the sale of books.  The ancient texts of Timbuktu are an impressive sight – bundled in camel skin, goat skin, or calf leather and inscribed in gold, red, and jet-black ink, their pages are filled with words in striking calligraphy from Arabic and African languages, and contain an intriguing array of geometric designs. Subjects in the collections, spanning the 13th through 17th century, include the Koran, Sufism, philosophy, law, maths, medicine, astronomy, science, poetry and much more.  The manuscripts provide a window into the minds of the times’ leading thinkers as they pondered the meanings of their circumstances.

- See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology-ancient-places/ten-incredible-texts-our-ancient-past-002026#sthash.T5wXWKYE.dpuf

Twenty creepy stories in two sentences

As a parent I admit that number 5 and 13 freaked me out!

1. I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.
Therealhatman

2. The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.
Jmperson

3.Growing up with cats and dogs, I got used to the sounds of scratching at my door while I slept. Now that I live alone, it is much more unsettling.
 Miami_Metro

4. In all of the time that I’ve lived alone in this house, I swear to God I’ve closed more doors than I’ve opened.
EvilSteveDave

5. A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said “I heard that, too.”
Drrd777

6. She asked why I was breathing so heavily. I wasn’t.
Calamitosity

7. My wife woke me up last night to tell me there was an intruder in our house. She was murdered by an intruder 2 years ago.
The_D_String

8. I awoke to the sound of the baby monitor crackling with a voice comforting my firstborn child. As I adjusted to a new position, my arm brushed against my wife, sleeping next to me.
Doctordevice

9. I always thought my cat had a staring problem – she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.
Hangukbrian

10. There’s nothing like the laughter of a baby. Unless it’s 1 a.m. and you’re home alone.
Wartortlesthebestest

11. I was having a pleasant dream when what sounded like hammering woke me. After that, I could barely hear the muffled sound of dirt covering the coffin over my own screams.
 Vigridarena

12. “I can’t sleep,” she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.
 Vaultkid321

13. I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy, check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy, there’s somebody on my bed.”
JustAnotherMuffledVo

14. You get home, tired after a long day’s work and ready for a relaxing night alone. You reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there.
madamimadamimadam

15. I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and it’s so dark all the time. If I knew it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.
Graboid27

16. She went upstairs to check on her sleeping toddler. The window was open and the bed was empty.
Aerron

17. Don’t be scared of the monsters, just look for them. Look to your left, to your right, under your bed, behind your dresser, in your closet but never look up, she hates being seen.
AnarchistWaffles

18. My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.
Skuppy

19. After working a hard day, I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didn’t know which was more frightening, seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child, or knowing that someone broke into my apartment to place them there.
Cobaltcollapse

20. There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.
Guztaluz

Read more at http://www.sunnyskyz.com/blog.php?blogid=153%252F20-Terrifying-Two-Sentence-Horror-Stories-I-Didn-t-Think-It-Was-Possible-Until-5-When-The-Hair-On-My-Neck-Stood-Up#pxLmL3C4OhyObiWd.99

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

1) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The first (maybe only) science-fiction-comedy-multimedia phenomenon, Hitchhiker’s was a radio drama before it was a book, and the book sold 250,000 copies in its first three months.The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

Ted Gioia comments on Adams’ hilarious book about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, the survivor of a destroyed Earth, across the universe:

No book better epitomizes the post-heroic tone of sci-fi than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As the name indicates, a certain louche bohemianism permeates its pages. This is star-hopping on the cheap, pursued by those aiming not to conquer the universe, but merely sample its richeson fewer than thirty Altairian dollars per day. You can trace the lineage of many later science fictions books, with their hip and irreverent tone, back to this influential and much beloved predecessor.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Verne’s whole career is full of works that have inspired generations of authors — but this tale of the underwater adventure of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus has also had a profound effect on science, and inspired real scientific advancement.

In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

Verne translator and scholar F.P. Walter added:

For many, then, this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveler Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favorite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

3) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney

Sam Anderson prefaced his interview with Samuel R. Delany with this praise for Dhalgren‘s impact:

In the 35 years since its publication, Dhalgren has been adored and reviled with roughly equal vigor. It has been cited as the downfall of science fiction (Philip K. Dick once called it “the worst trash I’ve ever read”), turned into a rock opera, dropped by its publisher, and reissued by others. These days, it seems to have settled into the groove of a cult classic. In a foreword in the current edition, William Gibson describes the book as “a literary singularity” and Delany as “the most remarkable prose stylist to have emerged from the culture of American science fiction.” Jonathan Lethem called it “the secret masterpiece, the city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive.

Dhalgren has remained popular through the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. It was also dropped by Bantam, the original publisher, because of its willingness to tackle LGBT themes despite the fact that the Bantam version sold over a million copies and went through 19 printings.

And most of all, this is one of the books most often mentioned when authors mention works that spurred them to invention and boldness of experimentation with form.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverExpand

4) Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Author Terry Brooks explains why this book made a whole genre possible:

I think I can safely assert that virtually every writer of fantasy working in the field today who began writing after the publication of the RINGS trilogy owes a debt to Tolkien. He may not have invented the form, but he provided it with its most important model in modern times and every writer is aware of its various components. Ask them. Few will dispute me. Moreover, the material has impacted writers working in other categories of fiction as well, not so much by its content as by its form and style. Not a month goes by that I don’t read at least one interview or review that credits J.R.R. Tolkien with contributing to a writer’s current work.

Cover art by Barbara Remington.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverExpand

5) War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

In his book about The War of the Worlds, a seminal look at an invasion of Earth by Martians, author Brian Holmsten states:

Since 1898 the War of the Worlds has been translated into countless languages, adapted by comic books, radio, film, stage, and even computer games, and has inspired a wide range of alien invasion tales in every medium. Few ideas have captured the imagination of so many people all over the world in the last century so well. It is a tribute to H.G. Wells that his story of alien conquest was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of the best.

The 1927 American reprint, it can be argued, was one of the touching-off points for the Golden Age of science fiction. It inspired John W. Campbell to write and commission invasion stories — which also prompted authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein and John Wyndham to do the same.

Image by My Reckless Creation

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverExpand

6) Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation is a sweeping tale of pyschohistory and the battle for the intellectual soul of a civilization. and According to the BBC:

The Foundation series helped to launch the careers of three notable science fiction authors of the succeeding generation. Janet Asimov sanctioned these novels, which were published in the late 1990s: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin.” And without a doubt it launched the imaginations of countless other writers.

It is also worth mentioning that the Foundation series won the 1966 Hugo for best all-time series. An award that has not been given out since.

And this book’s influence goes beyond science fiction: Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky classified Asimov “among the finest of modern philosophers,” and Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman describesFoundation as his version of Atlas Shrugged, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.”

Cover art by Don Ivan Punchatz.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

7) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The first science-fiction work to enter the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list, Stranger sold 100,000 copies in hardcover and over five million in paperback. Kurt Vonnegut gloated on Heinlein’s behalf, on the occasion of the novel’s 30th “birthday,” calling it “a wonderfully humanizing artifact for those who can enjoy thinking about the place of human beings not at a dinner table but in the universe.”

And this book’s influence (and that of Heinlein’s other books) can’t be overstated. Arthur D. Hlavaty refers to Heinlein as a prototypical science-fiction author, saying:

One of the ways human beings organize the world is by prototypes. We define a set as a typical example and a bunch of other things that are like it. For instance, when I was growing up, the prototype Writer was Shakespeare, the Artist was Rembrandt, and the Composer was Beethoven.In that way, Robert A. Heinlein has been often been taken as the prototype Science Fiction Writer, and as changes and new paradigms shake the field, he still sometimes represents the science fiction of the past.

Writer Ted Gioia looks at Stranger in a Strange Land‘s main character as a prototype for other similar characters in SF, saying: “Smith is more than a character. He is prototype of an alternative personality structure. The question of whether we can remake the human personality from the ground up.” To date, there have been 28 editions of this book.

Cover art by James Warhola.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

8) Dangerous Visions, Edited by Harlan Ellison

This series helped launch the careers of almost every major author of the New Wave. The first volume included Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard. In his introduction to the 2002 reissue of Ellison’s anthology, contributor Michael Moorcock wrote of Ellison’s collections:

He changed our world forever. And ironically, it is usually the mark of a world so fundamentally altered—be it by Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson, or Kate Millet—that nobody remembers what it was like before things got better. That’s the real measure of Ellison’s success.

“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best novelette. Philip K. Dick’s “Faith of Our Fathers” was also nominated for best novelette. “Riders of the Purple Wage” a novella by Philip José Farmer tied for the Hugo Award. Samuel R. Delany got the Nebula for Best Short Story for “Aye, and Gomorrah…” Harlan Ellison was given a commendation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing “the most significant and controversial SF book” published in 1967.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverExpand

8) Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke himself had reservations about this novel, yet it sold out its first printing, 200,000 copies, in just two months after publication. Author Jo Walton writes about the first book to feature benevolent aliens who try to help the human race evolve:

Science fiction is a very broad genre, with lots of room for lots of kinds of stories, stories that go all over the place and do all kinds of things. One of the reasons for that is that early on there got to be a lot of wiggle room. Childhood’s End was one of those things that expanded the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to possibility. Clarke was an engineer and he was a solidly scientific writer, but he wasn’t a Campbellian writer. He brought his different experiences to his work, and the field is better for it.

Childhood’s End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

Artwork by Neal Adams.

9) Ringworld by Larry Niven

Sam Jordison of the Guardian had this to say about Ringworld, the masterpiece that is centered around around a theoretical ring-shaped space-habitat:

Larry Niven’s 1970 Hugo award winner, Ringworld, is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels of the past 50 years. As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all subsequent space operas (Iain M Banks’ Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns are just two), the book has helped generate a multi-billion-dollar industry.

To add to this Jonathan Cowie, who wrote Essetial SF: A Concise Guide, called Ringworld “a landmark novel of planetary engineering (for want of a better term) that ranks alongside the late Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville.”

10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Jo Walton, again, comments on this novel about interstellar diplomacy and anthropology:

The Left Hand of Darkness didn’t just change science fiction—it changed feminism, and it was part of the process of change of the concept of what it was to be a man or a woman. The battle may not be over. What I mean is that thanks in part to this book we’re standing in a very different place from the combatants of 1968.

In 1994 literary critic Harold Bloom included it in his Western Canon of Literature, going as far as to say, “Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

11) Neuromancer by William Gibson

By 2007, this cyberpunk classic had sold more than 6.5 million copies. It’s been adapted into almost every genre, and it’s responsible for introducing numerous terms, and, arguably, the idea of the internet. The Encyclopedia of NewMedia calls Neuromancer more important than On the Road in its cultural influence, and credits its formative influence on subsequent media, from Wired magazine to The X-Files, to the internet itself. After the initial inventions of the ARPANET, Paul T. Riddell writes, the internet took shape due to “impressionable students reading [Gibson's] stories and novels; instead of whining and complaining after reading Robert Anton Wilson, they read Gibson and thought, ‘You know, we can do this.'”

Neuromancer was the first novel to win all three of the major science-fiction awards —- the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K. Dick Award for paperback original.

12) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

According to the New York Times, Stephenson’s look at the way humans interact with digital worlds has a well-earned reputation for prescience:

Snow Crash was published way back in ancient 1992 and laid out many of the attributes of today’s online life, including the Metaverse, a virtual place where people meet, do business and play, presenting themselves as avatars. If you’ve ever played wildly popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, or visited the virtual communities of Second Life, you can get a chill thinking about what he saw back before the popularization of the World Wide Web.”

Despite the reputation of his book, Stephenson is pretty reluctant to take on the title of “Seer” saying in the same article, “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

13) A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

From its first publication in 1996, this book and its sequels helped spur a new, darker revival of epic fantasy that turned the genre’s expectations on their heads. In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords, editor Henry Jacoby, a philosophy professor at East Carolina University, speculates about the series’ popularity:

Readers often cite the moral complexity of the novels as a key part of their enjoyment, alluding to characters painted in “shades of gray.” Previous works of epic fantasy tended to operate with a straightforward moral compass where the antagonist was some variety of evil “Dark Lord” and the protagonists were defined by their opposition to this evil character based on their obvious moral goodness. In contrast, Martin’s series has been written with no dark lord to speak of. …Martin’s choice to keep his eyes on the very human characters, with their very human flaws, was done well enough to win him legions of fans who appreciated the so-called “gritty realism” of the narrative.

Fantasy author Mark Lawrence agrees:

He showed what fantasy could be. Real people who didn’t carry a particular flaw around like an attribute rolled up in a role-playing game, but who were complex, capable of both good and evil, victims of circumstance, heroes of the moment. Heroes in gleaming mail could suffer from corns without it being a joke. That’s a big part of his secret – EVERY ONE IS HUMAN – get behind their eyes and nobody is perfect, nobody is worthless.

14) Kindred by Octavia Butler

John C. Snider, editor at scifidimensions described Octavia Butler’s celebrated novel as:

A dark fantasy novel that drills down into the prickly core of American history: slavery. This novel, in which a young middle-class black woman finds herself shuttled between 1976 California and antebellum Maryland, has become a classic of SF&F and required reading in both women’s and African-American studies. But don’t be fooled – while Butler’s fiction appeals to feminist and minority demographics, it’s not propped up by that appeal. To read Octavia Butler is to read good literature – period.

Octavia Butler was also the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship also known as the Genius Grant. And in 2012, hundreds of thousands of copies of Kindred were given away for World Book Night.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

15) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

The Spotlight Review explains the importance of this epic series of wizards and muggles, beloved by people of all ages:

They are the standard by which every child or teen-oriented book is viewed. Passed on by dozens of publishers, who all have lost billions of dollars in doing so, Harry Potter radically changed the landscape in the publishing industry. Before Harry Potter, children and teen books were considered a worthy area to publish, but it wasn’t a very lucrative one. After Harry’s rise to dominance over the entire publishing world, suddenly every firm began accepting similar book proposals in the hopes that another diamond in the rough could be found. It’s been harder than previously thought. There have been some promising books, but none that have captured the hearts and minds of millions.

Harry Potter has been translated into 57 different languages, even Latin and Ancient Greek.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverExpand

16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a YA classic about a young woman who battles for her life and ultimately her civilization’s fuutre in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. NPR reports that, “Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time, but the success of The Hunger Games has spawned a whole new crop of books set in a grim future where an authoritarian regime is just begging to be overthrown. They are aimed straight at a teenage audience.”

Right now, more than 26 million copies are in print in the United States.

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17) Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The growing trend of climate-focused science fiction, and a greater attention to future problems in general, owes a lot to this great book about the very real problem of future food shortages. In this biopunk SF novel, Emiko is a humanoid GM organism, who is enslaved as a prostitute in Thailand. She yearns for an escape. Niall Harrison, judge of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2006 and 2007, writes:

Emiko is a stepping-stone to that future; and by the logic of The Windup Girl, so are we all. From our point of view, it’s hardly an optimistic conclusion but it is, in The Windup Girl’s terms, a very human one, and I can’t recall another novel that has articulated the same vision of what it means to be human in the present moment with the same force. It’s that vision that insists that Emiko is human, and that she remains bound at the end of the novel: because we remain bound, and she is us; because at least for now, science fiction remains bound; and because, quite probably, so does our world.

The Windup Girl tied for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel with China Miéville’s The City & the City. In the same year it also won the Nebula award along with the John W. Campbell award.

Cover art by Raphael Lacoste.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Michael M. Jones explains what makes this book distinct from previous works of military science fiction:

The Forever War is a masterpiece of military science fiction and social observation, applicable on numerous levels. While some aspects might be far-fetched, there’s no denying that it’s a powerful work. William Mandella is no career soldier like many of the military SF heroes out there; certainly not like Johnny Rico in Starship Trooper. He’s just an ordinary guy who gets drafted, and has the bad luck to actually survive the war.

Haldeman won Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards for this book, and along with Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, it helped inspire generations of more realistic military SF authors.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

19) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Salon’s Michael Schmidt writes about the way Vonnegut changed the war novel by using aspects of science-fiction:

Doris Lessing calls him “moral in an old-fashioned way . . . he has made nonsense of the little categories, the unnatural divisions into ‘real’ literature and the rest, because he is comic and sad at once, because his painful seriousness is never solemn.” His acknowledgment and expression of the nuanced nature of experience makes him “unique among us; and these same qualities account for the way a few academics still try to patronize him.” As though what he does is easier than the resolved plotting of more derivatively artful novelists.

After a school tried to ban this novel, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered 150 free copies of the book to students in Rockville, Missouri.

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20) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ray Walters at geek.com explains why this book was influential on not just literature, but also science:

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely related fictional stories depicting humanities struggle to flee from the potential of nuclear war on Earth to try and find refuge on the Red Planet. Many of the ideas Bradbury put forth in the novels seemed fantastical at the time, but modern day efforts to explore Mars smack of the science fiction writer’s vision of what it would be like to visit there.

While Bradbury is seen primarily as an author who had a profound effect on his literary genre, in reality his reach has been much wider. While his novels may not be required reading in our schools anymore (which blows my mind), his ideas are talked about everyday with the people uttering the words usually not knowing the origins of the topics they are discussing. Ray Bradbury will certainly be missed, not just for his amazing science fiction writing, but also for his visionary foresight into cultural phenomenons.

NASA put a burned DVD containing The Martian Chronicles on the hull of the Phoenix Martian Rover.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

21) Dune – Frank Herbert

Scott Timberg at the L.A. Times says Frank Herbert’s epic novel, in which noble houses battle for control of each others’ planets, was not just massive but ground-breaking:

Writers had imagined life on other planets and written of environmental catastrophe. But the scale of Dune was unprecedented, comparable, as Arthur C. Clarke said at the time, only to “The Lord of the Rings.”

It’s not quite New Wave — which developed in the late 1960s — not an antecedent to cyberpunk, nor a precursor to the recent space-opera renaissance. “It’s some kind of singularity,” says Latham.

“Dune” both channeled and stoked a greater environmental consciousness in SF: Important later novels by Ursula Le Guin, John Brunner and Octavia Butler looked at planetary ecology.

Dune won the Hugo award in 1966 as well as the very first Nebula award.

It’s almost impossible to fit all of the most game-changing works of science fiction and fantasy into one article. Which books do you think should be on this list, and why?

 

source: http://io9.com/21-books-that-changed-science-fiction-and-fantasy-forev-1610590701?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

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