I'm heading to Roanoke, VA this weekend for Mysticon. I have panels all three days, on superheroes, writing, and SF in general. If you're in the area and want to get your geek on, there are worse ways you could spend your weekend. I'm especially looking forward to the dealers room. Last year at another Roanoke con I saw a really cool wizard hat and have spent the last year wishing I'd bought it. Probably won't be there this time, but if it is... bwah ha ha! (Rubs hands together greedily.)
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Edmund R. Schubert
I was reading an article once in National Geographic about the intelligence of swarms. It talked about how any large group — everything from bugs to birds to a herd of water-buffalo — can take on an intelligence much greater than that of the individual components of the group, and how scientists were applying some of the principals of swarms to solve human problems. Included in that story was an example of a trucking company that had developed a computer model for routing its trucks based on algorithms inspired by the foraging behavior of Argentine ants, a species of ant known for laying trails by depositing pheromones.
Everybody get that? Let me repeat it: A trucking company developed a computer model for routing trucks based on algorithms inspired by the foraging behavior of Argentine ants, a species known for laying trails by depositing pheromones.
Okay, I like to pretend I’m a reasonably intelligent guy, but my first reaction was, “What…?”
But here’s the thing: In the next paragraph, the writer of that article gave me something I could sink my teeth into. He gave me an analogy. He said that what the ants (and therefore the trucking company) were doing was like when someone goes into the forest to collect berries. Over time a path is worn in the ground to the best places to find berries.
Now that I understood.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and a lot of reasons to do this. First of all, you might be trying to describe something unusual — Argentine ants and their pheromones, for instance — so you compare it to something people are more familiar with. This helps them understand what you’re saying.
Another advantage of using metaphors, similes, and/or analogies is this: they help people remember your keys points. By using one of these comparative devices, you are subliminally telling the reader what your most important points are by placing extra emphasis on them. That helps to reinforce those points in their minds.
· A.J. Hartley
Great point about distracting or overly numerous analogies/metaphors. I read a piece recently for a short story contest and every sentence was laced with these eye-catching metaphors. Some of them were very good, but used en masse it was like being bludgeoned by the writer’s cleverness: irritating and distracting. You got so caught up in trying to figure out whether the metaphor worked that you were utterly knocked out of the story. Using metaphors is like sewing seeds: they need space to grow… [okay, that was a simile]
· David J. Fortier
What I really enjoy in writing, is when the figurative language (metaphors, similes, analogies and other devices) are character specific. For example, when a character with a nautical background compares things to sailing, boats, stars and other things familiar to them. Not only does it help you remember key points of the story, it also is a good way of reminding the reader of characters’ backgrounds. Done well, characters really come to life.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I know that February is a little late to be writing a column called "The Year Ahead," but what the hey. I'd hoped by now to be able to officially announce news of my next releases. But, not yet. Soon. I just mailed off my agency agreement to my new agent yesterday. I've been advised not to announce who until we also announce the book deal, to increase the publicity value of the news. So, patience!
News I can share is an update on my schedule for public appearances. So far, I'm lined up to be guests at Mysticon in Roanoke at the end of this month, Stellarcon in High Point the following weekend in March, Ravencon in Richmond in April, and ConCarolinas in early June. In addition to Cons, I'll also be appearing at the Person County Library on April 30.
So far, no fall cons lined up. I've been invited to some, but I'm getting married on November 11 and would rather use vacation time then for a honeymoon than book promotion. But, I may yet decide to squeeze in one or two.
As far as actual writing goes, I've got three projects in the works. First, I'm working on a collection of my short fiction to be released directly to Kindle called, tentatively, "There is No Wheel." The table of contents is currently in flux. Eight of the stories are no brainers, stuff that instantly leapt to mind as stories I wanted to reprint. But I'd like the collection to be at least ten stories long, and I've got about six candidates for those last two slots. I have a few unpublished stories that I'm still fond of, and it might be nice to include new material. On the other hand, I've got plenty of stories that appeared in anthologies or magazines with fairly small circulation. It might be nice to let stories like "Pentacle on His Forehead, Lizard on His Breath" see the light of day again. And, really, there's no reason I have to limit the collection to ten stories. Still, I think the overall quality will be improved if I avoid opening this up to every story I've ever had in print.
I'll also be starting the sequel to Greatshadow. Hush continues directly from the events of the first book, and features the primal dragon of cold, Hush, as human cultists who worship her as a god scheme to kill the dragon of the sun to plunge the world into permanent winter.
Before I start that, I hope to finish my Nobody Gets the Girl sequel "My Cancer Beauty." I'm five chapters in, and finally starting to get the voice of the narrator flowing naturally for me. I plan for this to go directly to Kindle as well. Nobody is performing better than I hoped on Kindle. I should have written this book years ago, but didn't think I'd ever get it published. The beauty of e-publishing is that I'll never face this problem again. I can just write a book for the sheer joy of writing it and know it will find at least a couple of hundred readers on Kindle. God, I love living in the future!