Two writing links, two Fifty Shades articles, two awards, two celebrity deaths and the impending death of genre

The King of Elfland’s Second Cousin weighs in on the current debate on the impending death of genre due to the rise of e-books that was kicked off by Charles Stross. I think anybody who believes that e-books will destroy the concept of genre should take a look at self-publisher fora like the Kindleboards to see that indie writers are even more wedded to the concepts and tropes of genre in many cases than traditional publishing ever was.

Lynn Viehl discusses inspiration and worldbuilding at Paperback Writer.

At his blog, Jay Lake wonders whether speculative fiction needs evil overlord type characters like Sauron and Voldemort or whether stories about morally ambiguous characters in conflict but with no clear-cut villains can be just as successful.

IMO the question isn’t whether books without clear-cut villains and with morally ambiguous characters in conflict can be successful, because they already are and have been for a long time now. For example, many romance novels do not have a villain in the traditional sense, though they have plenty of romantic rivals and other antagonists such as disapproving family members. And yet romance is the most successful genre of popular fiction. And even SFF can be enjoyable and successful without a clear “evil overlord” character. The problem is that some writers interpreted “shades of grey” as “Let’s give the reader a whole cast of equally loathsome characters and a world so unpleasant it would be improved if the Daleks invaded and killed everyone”.

While on the subject of shades of grey, at the Observer, James Bridle looks at the fanfiction origins of Fifty Shades of Grey and wonders whether the fanfiction community isn’t a fertile mining ground for new writers with established fan bases just waiting to be exploited by commercial publishers. Because obviously no one ever thought of that before (Hint: Trying to monetize fanfiction is usually a bad idea, particularly if attempted by someone not a member of the fanfic community) and because E.L. James is the first fanfiction author ever to make the transition to commercial publishing, since Cassandra Clare, Naomi Novik, Kelly Meding, Jane Seville and many others obviously don’t exist. Yup, it’s a majorly clueless article about fanfiction from the POV of the traditional mainstream media.

Meanwhile, Fifty Shades of Grey has been taken off the library shelves in one county in Florida for being “too pornographic”. Of course, this extremely negative and judgmental attitude towards sexuality in parts of the US is what has made a fairly unremarkable piece of erotic fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off like Fifty Shades of Grey so popular in the first place.

The nominations for the British Fantasy Awards have been announced. And after narrowly missing the Booker shortlist, British writer Jane Rogers has won the Arthur C. Clarke award for The Testament of Jessie Lamb. Considering how much controversy there was about the Clarke award earlier this year, this choice seems largely uncontroversial. After all, even Christopher Priest liked The Testament of Jessie Lamb.

Maurice Sendak, writer of Where the Wild Things Are and other popular children’s books, died aged 83. Unlike many others, I never read Where the Wild Things Are as a child and only encountered the book in the hands of my then little nephew who loved it so much that I bought him a Wild Thing action figure one year.

Vidal Sassoon, the hairstylist who invented the geometric cuts so popular in the 1960s, also died at age 84. The Guardian has a gallery of classic Sassoon hairstyles. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the short Sassoon bobs and the non-hairstyle which Mia Farrow wears in Rosemary’s Baby (credited to Sassoon in the dialogue) must be one of the least flattering styles ever invented. Nonetheless, a lot of women obviously felt differently.

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