Jan
3

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Leigh Brackett: “The Last Days of Shandakor”

shandakor-2Bill Ward and I had been meaning to get back to our re-read series at some point last year, but we both got busy. And so we decided to start the new year with a read of one of my favorite Leigh Brackett stories, “The Last Days of Shandakor.” It was the third read for me, but Bill was new to the tale, and so was Fletcher Vredenburgh, who we invited aboard.

Brackett, of course, was an adventure fiction pioneer and one of the main reasons that the pulp Planet Stories is remembered today (although this particular tale originally appeared in the magazine Startling Stories). She was writing grand space opera/sword-and-planet/science fiction/fantasy back in the ’50s and ’60s and continued doing so right until the end of her life, and sometimes it seems like that footnote (that she completed a first draft of The Empire Strikes Back) has overshadowed everything else she did. It shouldn’t, though. She was writing about complex characters who could easily have rubbed shoulders with Han Solo or Mal Reynolds decades before those two were ever invented. All of her tales are infused with a real hardboiled grit and… well, heck, maybe I should stop introducing and just get onto the discussion. Read More

Dec
28

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On Writing and Speed

hulk computerWriting can be a struggle. I think we have to admit that. And I have to admit to myself that some things in this profession are beyond my control. It may be that I’ll never be quite as fast as I want to be, and it may be that I’ll always have to spend long days in rewrite, no matter how carefully I outline.

I have scads and scads of ideas and stories I’m excited about, but sometimes I worry that I’ll never get to them because it takes so long to get one right. And I keep thinking that with practice I’ll get faster so I can write more stories, but there’s a give and take with energy levels. I may want to write a short story in my spare time, but many evenings when I have “extra time” I don’t have much extra energy.

It seems like the writing is getting better — thank God for that — but I’m not sure that speed is improving so very much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep trying on that score. But I’m starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t shift my desires towards goals that are more reasonable for me. If speed isn’t ever going to be the result, maybe the best thing is to take more time with the original draft so that less time is required during revision.

I’ll think it over, try some things out, and let you know how it goes.

Dec
26

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Shandakor

brackett2I rose bleary a little too early this morning and read the sad and somber story of “The Last Days of Shandakor” by the incomparable Leigh Brackett. Shortly Bill Ward and Fletcher Vrendenburgh and I will be discussing it on the site, so if you have a copy of the tale I hope you’ll join us. It’s found in several Brackett collections, among them the nearly perfect “best-of” paperback Sea-Kings of Mars and the absurdly affordable Martian Quest e-book.

I say nearly perfect because A.) It contains NEARLY all of my very favorite Brackett short stories. I’d take out one or two and replace them with others, but it’s a great one-stop if you’ve liked Brackett and want to get a better sense of her before plunging into buying the expensive Haffner Press hardbacks. I own them, but I might not have if I hadn’t been familiar with this volume already.

B.) The darned thing has irritating typographical errors, the kind that crop up when the original  manuscripts have been scanned and then not proofread carefully enough.

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Dec
21

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Icicles

‘Tis the first day of winter. We should be seeing some icicles any day, if we haven’t already…

 

Dec
19

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Winter Gaming PLUS Brackett

hornet-leaderWith the cold snap in full swing I’ve been looking into my game closet at the increasingly large stack of games-to-be-played. It’s not nearly as high as my books-to-be-read pile, but it’s starting to get embarrassing. Some of these games are pricey and took a lot of effort to track down (they were out of print) or to get trade deals for. And yet many are unplayed or even in shrink wrap, on the off chance I decide I want to trade them away for something else.

I’d been thinking that my collection was starting to get out of hand, but after I poked around a bit I realized that I’ve got nothing on the real game aficionados. I have a few dozen — some friends, acquaintances, and like-minded folks have HUNDREDS. But then maybe they collect those rather than cats or porcelain figurines, and maybe they don’t have other hobbies.

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