Friday, July 27, 2007

Free Speech: Use and Abuse

If free speech was a drug, would you get addicted to it? Or would you use it in small quantities, like caffeine? On the other hand, I drink a lot of caffeine when I need to, or when I want to. (Since I've started this journalism workshop, it's been a case of desire more than genuine need.)

Seriously, though, where is the limit to free speech? Does it stop at the end of the world, or the place where zombies go after they die again?

The abstract limit is either "when you violate another person's freedom of speech" or when "you shout 'Fire!' in a movie theater." In another words, when you are a hypocrite or when you lie and cause unnecessary chaos.

Here is the question about the "fire" thing: what if you have to shout "fire"? If someone had shouted "fire" and pulled the alarm at Virginia Tech, maybe less people would've died. If someone had evacuated Columbine under the pretense of a fire drill, then maybe the two shooters would've hit less people. On the other hand, the opposite could've occurred as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Evil Books

There's an anthology where you have to write about "books gone bad". I am definitely submitting.

But here are a list of books that I don't recommend, of books that went REALLY bad for me personally:

1) Kim- by Rudyard Kipling. In this book, Indians are called the n-word. That's the point at which I stopped reading the book. Kipling knew nothing about Indians.

2) The Rosemary Tree- by Elizabeth Goudge. Come to think of it, The Little White Horse is Goudge's best novel, the one that heavily influenced J.K. Rowling.

3) Hatching Magic- by Ann Downer. I know people like this story, but it doesn't make sense historically (yes, America was not discovered until 1492 people, and the likelihood of a woman carrying on the family line into the 1990s is pretty small). Not to mention that most of the jokes are a little mind-boggling.

The list will be continued, assuming that I remember the other books that I don't recommend.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Further thoughts on the Uglies trilogy

I've mentioned that the Uglies trilogy was good because it was original. That is partly true. (The covers on the right are the German covers, which I think look better than the American ones.)

The first book, Uglies (I know, the trilogy and the first book share a title; I didn't write the series), is actually the classic betrayal plot that appears in Over the Hedge, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Gargoyles, you name it. The ending, unfortunately, is not a happy ending; I actually liked the ending and didn't want the series to continue.

As for the cover, I think that the girl posing for the cover could be a pretty, so that's why I don't really like the cover because it then implies that the pretties in the novel are super-beautiful like Barbie dolls. Which they are, but I don't think the pretty standards should be raised more than they are already.

Pretties is a different story, both literally and cover-wise. It's the story we never hear of how the remorseful betrayer actually pays huge consequences for her actions and how her friends suffer as well. The story ends on one of the most twisted cliffhangers that leads straight into book number three.

The cover is the best of the American covers because it actually nails down what pretties should look like. The problem is that this new Tally bears little resemblance to the old Tally. (Tally is the protagonist.) They even change her eye color. That may be intentional, but I still don't like it.

Specials brings the story to a thrilling climax. Tally is not a betrayer, but now an enemy. The world and Tally's ethics turn upside down more than once during this book and she again has to pay for her actions' consequences. This is the first time such a novel has been written. The ending leaves possibilities open
This cover is better than the one for the first book, but it's still a disappointment. Yes, Tally is pretty and she looks arrogant and artificial, but the artist didn't nail her, though he did a good job. When I see this cover I think of a regal queen, not a cruel empress. Once again, you cannot see the previous stage Tally was in, partly because the camera angle does not allow it and because they changed her eye color AGAIN. How do we know that this isn't Shay or Dr. Cable?
That bring said, you can't judge a book by its cover. You'll do yourself a favor if you read this book and the companion to the Uglies trilogy, Extras. And no, I'm not going to post up the cover until I read the book.

A better picture of Death and thoughts on fantasy

I like this picture of Death better with her brother Dream.

Something I was thinking about: why people don't read fantasy but they read Harry Potter. My sister told me on the phone that it was because Harry Potter is very mainstream since it's very funny and most fantasy isn't.

Also, Harry Potter is the most famous fantasy out there. That's why Diana Wynne Jones isn't mentioned among the famous fantasy authors although she has an international fanbase and she is a hilarious writer.

The biggest problem is that there is this stigma that only people who are obsessed with fantasy read it. To an extent I am obsessed with fantasy, but I also read sci-fi, children's fiction, the classics (sometimes I like 'em, sometimes I don't) and a little bit of nonfiction.

I also write fantasy the best out of these categories, but that's because I like to make stuff up. It's so much easier because you can be more original in fantasy. In science fiction there has to be some basis in SCIENCE, which is hard to come up with. I've recently come up with an idea, and there are some sci-fi stories that I'm proud of, like "Black Emily," but so many science-fiction writers have used all the good and original ideas. Even though the best sci-fi classics, Ender's Game and the War of the Worlds, are not original (alien invasions), the current sci-fi good stories include The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and Dr. Who, which are both VERY very original.

The doctor does look like he could be a sci-fi writer if he ever gives up being a Time Lord:

Then again, maybe I'm biased because he's good-looking and he looks intelligent, which he is.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SPOILER WARNING: Why Neil Gaiman is better

So my brother sent me a surprise birthday present: the seventh Harry Potter book! I hadn't even asked for it, but I read it in a day, neglecting my writing and daily exercise. (Then again, I'm neglecting them anyway with the journalism course.)
I can't believe that J.K. Rowling did such a cop-out at the end. It makes sense, and the book is the best out of the seven, but-
What J.K. Rowling did is what Neil Gaiman did in Neverwhere and American Gods. Why Neil Gaiman is better is that when he revived Shadow and the Marquis, it was not as simple as getting up. The Marquis has his throat cut (he has to bind it) and was coughing up seawater. It was painful for Shadow to come back, and he wanted to stay dead.

Neil Gaiman is the best author on reviving the dead. I mean, he did create Death, or at least Death from the Sandman comics.

No offense to Ms. Rowling, but when I read the scene in the Harry Potter books, I felt like it was a rendition of the scene in Happy Feet when Mumble finds himself in the aquarium. In fact, there was only one death in the book that touched me. But I'm not saying who it is.

A rule for writers: if you are going to revive the dead, it has to come with a price. The revived has to pay a price, not someone else.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten More Hours

Harry Potter comes out in ten hours, or more like ten hours and fifteen minutes. How many people will go and wait till midnight? Who will go? Will it be just kids? Will it be adults? May it even *gasp* be a politician?

Here are my thoughts: I DON'T CARE.

That being said, I do love Harry Potter and I can't wait to read the last book, but I have thought about it and I think that I can wait. It is just a book, after all. It's not like it's going to disappear if we don't read it.

I think that Mary GrandPre should've looked at this Photoshopped cover:

When I look at this, I think, "DIE HARRY, DIE!!" It would be cool if J.K. Rowling actually killed him off- that would be the ultimate tragedy. And Harry is a tragic hero- his parents died, his godfather has died, and now his best mentor is dead. Who next? Why, him of course!

I'm writing a Harry Potter parody where the person who's supposed to be Harry, Calliope "Carrie" Nutter, dies. I will not try to publish it as it's only for my own enjoyment to make fun of the series as it should be made fun of. No Tanya Grotters for me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To Be Honest

This is how I feel, even though I've just ingested a chocolate rainbow-chip cookie packed with sugar (so much for being careful). This is from Dead Like Me, a two-season dramedy currently ending on the Sci-Fi channel.

This image below NEVER appears on the show, except in the silent, hilarious opening. By the way, you can see the opening

My First Interview

I just Conducted A Phone Interview for my article. Lessons I've learned:

1) Make sure that you get good service- I had to call the interviewee about three times before I got good service from sitting outside. Waste of time and cellphone money.

2) Listen carefully. There might be useful information that you'll want in your news article and maybe even a quote that you don't want to forget.

3) Take a break- I've been looking at Robin McKinley's website. I'm tempted to email her and ask her if she has read Shannon Hale's books, including The Goose Girl. I've emailed Shannon before and I comment on her blog, and recently I became a member of her forum Little Red Reading Hood (before the course on a pen pal's recommendation).

4) Get back to work after your break- this is how you avoid wasting too much time. I'm going to put part of my story together now, the part about the interview. In fact, I'm trying to organize the information now.

5) Remember that this will look good on your college resume, that it's a good slice of experience from a real journalist's day/night hours, and that you now know whether or not you want to be a journalist.

Here is a picture of how I feel:

Ostensibly I'm doing work, but in reality I am transparent. (I love Googling pictures of Frollo.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to tell a Good Story

These rules apply to both fiction writing and news articles.
Rule Number One: find a good story! A "good" story is one that transports the reader into another world, or into another setting at least, making us care about the people in it and educating us without preaching. In fourth grade our English teacher showed us this clip from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
The film displays this method of a good story by showing the transition from pre-modern Paris to Paris twenty years ago and from a puppetmaster's booth during daybreak to a dirty hidden dock during nightfall. Occasionally it goes back to Clopin, reminding us that he has not disappeared, but only tells the story. Frollo, our protagonist, kills a gypsy woman without guilt. He only feels guilt when the Archdeacon reminds him that God and the Virgin Mary have seen him commit this heinous crime and will condemn him for it if he kills her child as well. Clopin ends with the big question ("Who is the monster and who is the man?") that leaves his listeners satisfied.
Rule Number Two: Show both sides of a story. Later on in Hunchback, Frollo feels lust for Esmeralda, as shown here:
We understand Frollo's point of view because other people's minds work this way and may even take it were it not for Esmeralda's song, which shows her point of view:
Keep in mind that this is a Disney movie, so of course we don't like Frollo and we root for Esmeralda. But we understand how Frollo's mind works and why he commits his terrible crimes, just like the one in the beginning of the movie.
Rule Number Three: Wrap it up well. This clip says it all: If you haven't seen the movie, you don't need to. All you need to know is that Quasimodo is determined to protect Esmeralda from Frollo, even as Frollo plans to kill them both. Frollo dies, Quasimodo lives, and it ends happily with the little girl from the beginning embracing the hunchback. Clopin wraps up the story the way he began it.
That's all the basics you need. Now start writing.

Golden Ethics

Ethics is a word we should never use when we talk about politics; our advisor has convinced us why ethics are important to journalists so we don't end up like this:

This image is from Mirrormask, a movie that Dave McKean directed and Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, Coraline, Stardust) wrote. To find out what I'm talking about, go to this link: and click on the "Close to You" clip where the dolls hypnotize Helena.

My point is that journalists should not become like Helena and end up as politicians' pets or puppets. Also remember to be reasonable, as Aristotle said. There is always another side to an issue. Seek to find the other side.

Facing Hard Facts

I once made a promise to myself to only blog when I accomplished something like publishing a book.
Why am I breaking this promise? The journalism workshop that I'm in requires me to have a blog.
Speaking of which, journalism is new to me. I write fiction. However, I have found this field fascinating, especially since I am in a class where every student is female. We're all getting along and since no one is grading us or making us pass tests, I'm enjoying this workshop.

This is Personal

If you are a teacher reading this post, be warned: it has nothing to do with journalism.

A short story I wrote got rejected this morning. This is my second rejection, by the way; Black Gate Magazine rejected it first.

I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for the way this editor, Mr. L, said no: he said that they didn't "like" my story enough to publish it. "Like"? How does "like" matter that much?

Black Gate rejected it because they couldn't follow some character motivation and there was too much back story. I appreciated the fact that they took the time to critique my story and they said "there was some good writing". Mr. L is under no such obligation. In fact, no editor is. But Mr. L's response was tactless if it's not intended to help me; a better usage of words consists of, "We're sorry, but this isn't right for us".

He also said that they don't accept simultaneous submissions and that the other editor to whom I sent the story probably doesn't accept sim. submissions either. I did research using Storypilot, a story magazine search engine, and I made sure to only submit to three magazines that accepted simultaneous submissions. I've been submitting for three years now with only one published short story, several retired ones, and plenty of rejected ones.

Finally, he didn't bother to check that I had included my real name in the email and instead responded to me using my pseudonym, which is my email username. I made it clear in the letter that my pseudonym was a pseudonym.

Has anyone ever had similar rejections? What is your opinion on such lack of care?