Just some links

It’s still very cold and didn’t even get any higher than minus eight degrees or so all day long. Still snowing, too. There’s perhaps been another three centimeters or so of snow over night.

What is more, I was away in Teufelsmoor (the evocatively named Devil’s Moor) north of Bremen celebrating a Golden Wedding Anniversary for much of the day. The food was all right for that sort of event. The cake buffet, courtesy of the local farmer’s women association, was definitely above average.

And now for some links, mostly writing related, behind the cut:

John Brown writes about the importance of suspense on the SFWA site. Link found via Charles Tan.

Juliette Wade on dialogue and what it can do for the story.

Stargate Universe has been canceled. As I’ve said before, I have never been invested in any of the Stargate shows; they just weren’t my thing. But I’m not really surprised at this news, because from what I’ve seen and heard in online fandom, Stargate Universe did its best to piss the existing Stargate fanbase off, which is never a good idea. And indeed, there is quite a bit of gloating in the livejournal/Dreamwidth corner of internet fandom (random example here).

Julie Cohen has a neat post on real world settings and how fiction and reality can sometimes meld for the writer.

A lot of the settings of my early, largely unpublished stories, was based on real world places, even if the stories were fantasy. To this day, there are several places, particularly in North Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, which have a whole parallel world overlaid on reality. I can still point out the locations of secret alien bases (my favourite is still the one next to Hamburg’s Elbtunnel), habitats for tiny beings, observation decks (the lamps on Bremen’s Nordwestknoten) and control points, laser cannons for fighting off invading spaceships (the pointed thing at the far left) and of course the big spaceport under the Hollands Diep. Driving past places which played a part in this personal mythology feels weird to this very day.

“The novel” is my first long bit of realistic fiction and has a real world setting, which I’ve visited extensively and taken photographs. If you use a real world location that you don’t know intimately, you should always visit it whenever possible, because even in this age of Google Streetview and the Internet, there are some things that only the real place can show you.

As for fiction bleeding into reality, during that visit I was standing in front of the apartment building where my protagonist lives and where many scenes of the novel are set. I was with a friend and I was explaining to her who lives on what floor. My protagonist, Evan, lives on the top floor, lesbian single mum Jackie Callahan and her son Spencer live on the third floor, old Mr Ward and his dog Churchill live on the ground floor, and so on. All the while, we’re standing in front of the actual building, looking up. And there, on the balcony of the penthouse apartment – the very apartment where my protagonist lives – there are some aluminum garden chairs, a choice my hero would certainly approve of, and a very dead looking potted palm.

And my friend looks up at the balcony and says, “You know, he really ought to water that palm sometime.”

I said, apologetic about my character, “He’s not a plant person, you know. His sister keeps giving him plants and they always die on him.”

Mind you, none of this was real. Whoever lives on the top floor of that building and neglects his balcony plants has nothing to do with my character. Yet for a moment, fiction bled into reality. The potted palm tree actually shows up in the story at one point BTW. As does the historic steam train that goes directly past the building sending puffs of dark grey smoke up to the balcony. That steam train is another real life detail I’d never have known about, if I hadn’t seen it live and taken photos.

That’s another thing about real world settings you may want to use in fiction some day. Always take photos, whenever possible, of any relevant setting. Because when you need a visual reference, the internet will not always provide you with one, particularly if the location is not scenic, pretty or iconic in some way. What is more, city planners usually do not care that this creepy, abandoned old dock is the home to a horde of evil mutant rats in a story of yours and they will tear it down to make way for a marina for people with too much money on their hands in total disregard for the fact that a) evil mutant rats need homes, too, and b) you do not want to mess with evil mutant rats, particularly if they have laser cannons. And yes, that’s a real example. And no, I do not have a photo of the dock.

More on the subject of fiction bleeding into reality, Salon has a lovely photo essay about the locations of famous SF (and other) films. Also found via Charles Tan.

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2 Responses to Just some links

  1. Julie Cohen says:

    LOL about the evil mutant rats! I need to put some of those in my books so that I can picture them as I walk around the town where I live.

    Thanks for the link.

    It’s strange when you start acting as if your characters are real, though it’s even stranger when other people start acting as if they’re real, too. I posted a little story about something I saw in Reading one day on my blog, and one of my readers suggested it could be my characters who lived in Reading, 20 years on. It had never occurred to me…but it was pretty accurate.

    Happy writing and happy holidays, Cora!

    Julie x

  2. Cora says:

    Thanks for the comment and a happy holiday season right back to you.

    I enjoy your books very much.

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