East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Ursula K. le Guin’s dreams and explanations

As expected, reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Dreams must explain themselves is proving a highly satisfactory, sometimes baffling, and thoroughly humbling experience. And while I expected it, it’s still hitting me hard.

As I have always said, I prefer Le Guin’s non-fiction to her fiction – and the massive volume collecting about thirty years of articles, speeches, reviews and introductions is perfect for someone like me that so far accessed Le Guin’s non-fiction digging into magazines, or in slim volumes published in the ’80s.

It is impossible to ignore, while going through these papers, how Le Guin changed through the years – and progressing through the collection her approach to narrative, fantasy and the politics thereof became more sophisticated, more demanding and more complicated. Her approach to fantasy remains strong and illuminating, and it leads me to ask myself a lot of questions – like, am I writing good stories, or am I just trying to please a certain sector of the readers.

Because Le Guin is clear – pleasing the readers is only part of the game, and her definition of hackwork is chilling, when you’ve been writing fast and loose for two years. This is probably the biggest take away from the book – writing fantasy is serious business ad pleasing the readers is not enough.

Another (minor, probably) thing that appears evident is how Le Guin was dismissive of Roger Zelazny – which probably explains why I prefer her non fiction to her fiction, and Zelazny’s fiction to her fiction.

But Dreams must explain themselves is like a breath of fresh air, and the demonstration that there exists a serious criticism of fantasy that is not mummified in academia and can provide insight and ideas and not just ramblings about post-modernism. Well worth the money and the time.

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Ursula K. Le Guin’s anniversary

There’s another anniversary going, and that’s the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great literary giants to grace the field of science fiction and fantasy.
I always preferred her non-fiction to her fiction, and I decided to remember her by spending the evening reading her collection of essays, Dreams must explain themselves, and before that, while I was making dinner, I found out and enjoyed very much Learning From Le Guin, a long, fascinating lecture by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Check the video out.
It is always great to be able to learn from the greatest.

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Unexpected book haul

android-developmentYesterday we had a little celebration, because yesterday my brother got his Nanodegree as an Android Software Developer, a professional certificate he’d been working on now for two years thanks to a Google scholarship he was awarded.
It was hard work, and there were a lot of frustrating moments because we live at the edge of the map, and there were often some very silly hang-ups; for instance, yesterday my brother had problems actually getting his certificate because the delivery system required a photo of his digital ID Card, but hereabouts we are still routinely issued with a non-digital, paper ID card. You can see how crazy it is.

I am very proud of my kid brother’s achievement, and I hope this new professional qualification will give him a ticket out of Astigianistan.
Anyway, we had a celebration (we also plan a night out and a dinner, but that’s yet to come), and I ended up splurging on some books, and as it usually happens, I bought more books for myself that I did for the guy that was the one being celebrated.
So here’s a quick overview of my unexpected book haul, that doubles as a collection of recommendations. Continue reading

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Craft enables art

I’m doing fifteen things at the same time as usual – it helps that the flu left me cranky and jet-lagged: I live by night and sleep through most of the morning, and night is fine for writing and reading, the hours seem to last longer.
Among the things I’m working on, there’s the online course in worldbuilding that will start later this month. I’m making plans, pulling resources and treasuring what I’m learning with the online course in self-publishing I’m teaching right now.
220px-SteeringTheCraftAnd I’m re-reading a few books to steal ideas and to compile a viable bibliography. I’m re-reading everything, from The Kobold’s Guide to World Building to Jeff VanDerMeer’s Wonderbook.
Right now, I’m going through Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft . Considering we just lost the author, it felt like the right way to celebrate her and remember her work.
I first read Steering the Craft in the year 2000, the first edition. A lost girlfriend kept it, and as part of my recent book haul, I added a copy of the new updated and revised edition – I filed it as an investment for my future courses. Continue reading

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Tides, Mornings and Ghosts – fantasy at sea

68041An unexpected post.
Fact is, a friend of mine, Mauro Longo, a fine writer and an even better game designer, did a post yesterday in remembrance of Ursula K. Le Guin, and reviewed the Earthsea series on his blog.
One of the comments hit hard the books, claiming they are boring and badly written, and that in general the sea is no place for fantasy, because the sea is boring.

When I stopped laughing, I thought…

I guess nobody ever told it to all those screenwriters that penned Sindbad movies, nor to Disney when they did Pirates of the Carribean.

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