Thursday, August 31, 2006

World Leaders

I own a wonderful book entitled "Presidential Anecdotes" by Paul F. Boller, Jr. It happens to be very out of date - it stops at Reagan - and I'm not sure if there has been a new edition, but it provides insight as well amusement into some great (and some grating) men.

To quote:

During the battle of New Orleans, it was said, (Andrew) Jackson strode through the powder smoke to see the effect of his artillry fire and gave the order: "Boys, elevate them guns a little lower!"

From a long section about Lincoln and McClellan ...

A little later, greatly irked by McClellan's inactivity, he wrote: "Dear General, if you do not want to use the army I would like to borrow it for a few days." Lincoln gave as good as he got, too, when he felt like it. When McClellan, iritated by one of Lincoln's orders requiring detailed reports to the White House, sent him a telegraph saying, "We have just captured six cows. What shall we do with them?" Lincoln answered: "Milk them."

Then there's Calvin Coolidge, who has the lion's share of the good anecdotes.

The best story about Coolidge's taciturnity, told by his wife, concerns the society woman who said, as she say down next to him at a dinner party, "You must talk to me, Mr. Coolidge. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you." "You lose," said Coolidge.

And finally...

Reagan turned seventy in February 1981 and joked about his age in a speech at a Washington Press Club dinner. "I know your organization was founded by six Washington newspaperwomen in 1919," he remarked, then, after a slight pause, added: "It seems like only yesterday." Middle age, he went on to say, "is when you're faced with two temptations and you choose the one that will get you home at 9 o'clock." And, after quoting Thomas Jefferson's advice not to worry about one's age, he exclaimed: "And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying."

With all credits to the illustrious author, but I had to share. :-)

Monday, August 28, 2006

SALE! (and website update)

I just sold "Winged Words" to The Sword Review, both their internet and print editions. No date as of yet, but updated website to include the sale.

... glee!


One of the most controversial subjects in the fiction world for readers is the adaptation of a novel into a movie. Because Hollywood is notorious for pandering to a very simple dynamic and adjusting works to the same formula, many adaptations fall short or fall apart. And this has been, in particular, a theatre season for revisions rather than new visions: remakes, adaptations, and sequels.

Despite the pitfalls and angry fans, the disappointment of a beautiful and compelling idea done wrong, my favorite quote on this matter comes from Orson Scott Card. Card's had his own difficulties with Hollywood and luckily stuck to his guns. A group who wanted to film Ender's Game, for instance, had the grand plan of making him sixteen and giving him a love interest. But ultimately, Card has said, "The book's still there." No matter the quality of the adaptation, you can go back and the words, lines and events are still there unchanged.

More than that, there is the hope that even a bad movie will draw readers to the original book. I'm going to presume that Scifi's hack of "Earthsea" falls into that category ...

Someone else whose name, alas, I cannot recall, said that to be successful, a movie adaptation should have some surprises for the person who has read the book - it should, in some sense, stand on its own. I once took a screenwriting course and became acquainted with the requirements of the standard screenplay: strictures of acts, high points, and discoveries. It can't be an easy task to mold a novel to this form, and I'm sure there are movies that have failed because they have stuck too slavishly to the formula and ignored the altered tension points of the visual medium.

So the dangers here are multitude. How easy to depart too far from the original text; how easy to follow it so closely the result neither interests fans nor engages newcomers. I can only assume the way to make it work is to find the flavor, the underlying theme, and preserve the high points - and even that is a highly subjective process.

Anyhow, a few comments on specific movies:

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: I saw this movie before I read the book, so my perspective is a bit skewed, but I found this a very engaging, accessible movie - and found after I read that the movie had adhered quite nicely to the core of the book, removing some minor color events for simplicity and movie length and adapting others to create a more direct line of dramatic flow.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE: I put this one next as it's the other movie where I encountered the screen version first, as I'm sure is true for almost everyone. This is one of those rare cases where the movie surpasses the book. While there is some wonderful wit and sarcastic humor in the book, the character interplay is insular and truncated. Forced into dialogue thread by the constraints of film, the movie version is far more appealing.
THE PUPPET MASTERS: This movie went wrong in a number of ways, some of which were unavoidable. Heinlein's original novel (which I'm not much of a fan of to start with, admittedly) was set in an earth near-futureverse, and some of the story had to be axed to shift the setting to modern earth. Without that setting, they also had to make Mary a brilliant scientist - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the book was very much a product of its time in regard to women. The worst part, however, is when the screenwriters chose to take the most interesting parts of the Masters out and strip them down to the pieces that left them, basically, generic horror monsters. Only three or four scenes survived from the book into the movie, and the main denoument is bizarre and largely unsupported by the original. I mainly tolerated this movie because ... Donald Sutherland.
HANNIBAL: ... huh? Some of the cuts made in this movie helped the storyline - I wasn't sad to see Mason's crazy sister get no air time - but mostly, they just diluted the core themes to the point where the original ending just wasn't believable. Even though most of the individual scenes were rendered fairly faithfully, the overall threads didn't pull together into a movie that was worthy of the source ... and unlike Silence of the Lambs, it leapt over the gore line. I think there were plans to make a sequel to this to take the main characters to the actual ending of Hannibal, but they never materialized. One thing I can't fault: Julianne Moore made a fantastic Starling.
LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY: This is arguably the most famous adaptation, certainly in the fantasy genre, and despite quibbles such the artificial interjection of Arwen into the movies, I think these movies do at core what they are supposed to do: catch the spirit of the original while still providing elements that surprise and engage fans. Some unfortunate things happen that I believe are because of the medium ... for instance, Faramir's reaction to the ring is often pointed out to me as being counter the books. However, without subtext and narrative, it is difficult to show the ring's drawing power if an inordinate number of characters just brush it off. I also agree with those who say the battle scenes took up too much of the movie, and there I intend to offer no defense.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Alas, Poor Stargate

In sad recognition of Stargate: SG-1's last season, a few isolated humorous clips. I've tried to pick short ones that require few descriptions and explanations. Jack O'Neill, of course, has the lion's share.

Jack O'Neill: All right, we came here in peace, we expect to go in one ... piece.

Sam Carter: You know, you blow up one sun and suddenly everyone expects you to walk on water. (No, really, she did.)

(Teal'c is an alien - of course ...)
Jack O'Neill: Do you read the Bible, Teal'c?
Teal'c: It is a significant part of your Western culture. Have you not read the Bible, O'Neill?
Jack O'Neill: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Not all of it. Actually, I'm listening to it on tape. Don't tell me how it ends.

Jack O'Neill: So what's your impression of Alar?
Teal'c: That he is concealing something.
Jack O'Neill: Like what?
Teal'c: I am unsure - he is concealing it.
(Someone walked right into that one.)

(Again with the cultural differences ...)
Jack O'Neill: Teal'c, you don't have to stick around.
Teal'c: Undomesticated equines could not remove me.
Jack O'Neill: Wild horses, Teal'c.

Sam Carter: Normally neutrinos pass right through ordinary matter, no matter how dense. I mean, something like five hundred million billion just passed through you.
Jack O'Neill: No matter how dense.

(And in a really big room ...)
Daniel: You could fit every pyramid on Earth inside this thing and still have room to spare.
Jack O'Neill: Can you imagine heating this place?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Anatomy of an Idea: Soul Siblings

This story can be found here and I recommend that if you haven't read it and want to, do so before you continue here. Spoilers abound.

The Gedden (originally the Geneb) are a fantasy race I've had on my backburner for a long time. They date back to my first "epic" multiple plotline novel, a schlocky disaster which I divided into three parts at end of February, 1997. Though I can't place an exact date on it, I would have started sometime in late 1996. I was fascinated by the idea of a literal, physical third eye, of a race of soul twins ... and the penalty for their meeting. In book two or three - I forget which, and I never wrote either - my Geneb character was supposed to be forced by the villains to confront his soul sister. He lived and hooked up with the story's token werewolf, but his opposite died. There is no direct causal connection between Kenri and Delanor and Tarivan and Evyelara.

Flash forward to a more sane and better written era. I wanted to revive the Gedden, but wanted to do a story about mages. (Tarivan was originally supposed to be a different kind of sorcerer.) So I tried to think of what kind of magic might be particularly useful with a third eye, and lit upon the idea that it might allow you to see two different things at once. This would help if you were a seer and would otherwise be "engulfed" by the vision. The general form of the plotline fell into place quickly - the siblings on the same job, the capture, the rescue, the eventual denouement ... though in my original plan, it was Tarivan who died. The situation with Quirilan was inspired by a historical precedent - I'm not sure if it was Roman noblewomen and gladiators, but it probably was.

This story sat in my idea file for a while, marked uncertain as to whether it was a novel or a short. I finally decided to write it specifically for
Black Gate magazine after I received possibly the most glowing rejection of my life for Summer in Sadria, which was essentially a fantasy mystery. (So is Poetic License, which is coming out soon from Jupiter World Press ...) I lined out the story in general terms and started writing. When I got into it, though, I realized that I had made my villain just a stereotypical evil overlord and at least wanted to provide him with a concrete desire and a reason to resist him that was SLIGHTLY unusual. Imitating a god came to mind, I decided it would be appropriate to make Tarivan devout to contrast with his otherwise rootless personality, and this conveniently provided my (somewhat) happy ending.

Unfortunately, Black Gate rejected it, saying that they saw too many assassin stories, but it finally found a home with Afterburn SF. (In response YET again, I sent Black Gate another story involving a clockmaker and a dicemaker - news pending, hopefully good ;-))

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More Quotes of Note

These come from "The New Quotable Woman," a palmsized book my dad bought and gave me on the spur of the moment in New Hampshire ...

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired." -- Mother Teresa

(This quote sums up my usual approach to romantic plots and subplots. The heart does not need to shout when close enough to whisper.)

"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child." -- Maria Montessori (Italian educator, and inventor of the Montessori method)

"The one important thing I have learned over the years is the differene between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second is disastrous." -- Margot Fonteyn (British ballet dancer)

Northern Exposure

Over the past several months, I've been ordering the disks of this series from Blockbuster online, watching them, and enjoying them immensely. The dialogue is often poetry even when the topic is bizarre, and swings between thoughtful and intelligently absurd. It's an example of an ensemble cast show that works, characters fading in and out of prominence with the requirements of the episode.

The best way to describe the show's take on the world is to compare it to the medieval magical worldview. I don't necessarily mean that it's fantasy, though there are certainly episodes where impossible things happen - Ed's spirit guide, Maggie's romance with what appears to be a werebear. What I mean is there is an implicit and understood sense of the way things work, that things are connected in a way that scientific thought doesn't comprehend.

So I declare today Northern Exposure quote day. I'm told by webhunting that the authors are Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider. The latter two quotes here are from Chris Stevens, the town of Cicely's resident radio host, ex-con and philosopher; I'm not sure who the first one is.

"As a scientist, I am not sure any more that life can be reduced to a class struggle, to dialectical materialism, or any set of formulas. Life is spontaneous and it is unpredictable, it is magical. I think that we have struggled so hard with the tangible that we have forgotten the intangible."

"Goethe's final words: 'More light.' Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry: 'More light.' Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor."

"Dreams are postcards from the subconscious, inner self to outer self, right brain trying to cross that moat to the left. All too often they come back unread: 'return to sender, address unknown.'"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Anatomy of an Idea: Down Maribelle Lane

Currently available here until the end of Sept '06 - if you have not read this story, I recommend you do so first as this post, of course, spoils the ending.

First of all, I can't take credit for it. The true story goes like this ... my aunt has four children, three boys and a girl. The younger boys, Jeff and Greg, share a room; the eldest, Tim, has his own. So one day a long time ago, Jeff went into Tim's room for some reason, and Greg panicked. "Jeff, don't go in there!" he said. "You'll turn into a toad!" Turned out Tim had one of those novelty signs reading, "Tim's Parking Only: All Others Will be Towed."

Fast forward to the Cincinnati Celtic World Festival, 2005. I'm wandering around the shops and there are the usual run of aforementioned novelty signs: "Irish Parking Only," "Welsh Parking Only: All Others Will Be Dragon-ed Away" etc.

I should note here that I had given my teacher a gift a while back of one that read: "Harpist Parking Only: All Others Will Be Plucked."

So, of course, I flashed back to my cousins, and happened to comment that "Witch Parking Only: All Others Will Be Toad" would make a great punchline. Between the fact that the seed had been planted, and that a friend of mine, Crystal, had just started up a writing group and (admittedly at my suggestion) made the task for the first month to write flash fiction ... Down Maribelle Lane came into being.

I chose the name Nimiane because it's a somewhat inobvious alternate version of the Lady of the Lake. (I should note my dog is named Nimue (NIM-ooh-way) so I have a slight fascination with the sound of it, but it's pretty!) Laudine is also Arthurian, and means simply "a widow." Some day I might write another story with this character, as the overall concept tickles me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Favorite Words

I'm in a random mood, so here's a list of some of the words I adore:

Amber, demesne, diminutive, elucidate, filch, fluid, impeccable, incandescent, irridescent, luminous, malachite, meticulous, moor, obsidian, orthopraxy, pensive, pique, pristine, pulchritude, russet, saffron, silver, stentorian, striation, sundry, superfluous, sussurus, tarn, telesthesia (I found this while hunting for an alternate word for psions), ubiquitous

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Art and Religion Versus Science

... or, why Arthur C. Clarke is not an anthropologist.

This is an essay I wrote for a literature course in Science Fiction. The prompt was for Childhood's End, so you'll understand more if it if you've read it, but the general theme is accessible to anyone.

In Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, the mysterious Overlords bring with them security and luxury … but they also bring the inevitable dark side of these two attributes: stagnation. According to Clarke, the religions of the world cannot endure when faced with the truth behind their own creation. Similarly, creativity is stifled as human wants and desires are met and the need for escapism dwindles. Childhood's End makes it very clear that both religion and creativity are unnecessary and unwanted aspects in a futuristic, technological society. This seems an overly hostile conclusion, particularly from a fiction author - and even the book itself may, perhaps unintentionally, contradict him.

Faith and religion wither on the earth of Childhood’s End when the Overlord history device opens a window on the past and allows humanity to see the true origins of each faith. Confronted with the knowledge that their founders are only human, not embodiments of the divine, the religions lose their strength and staying power. By definition, faith is an attribute that cannot be quantified or proved, but the science of the Overlords does just that: it takes the mystery out of the world. “Beneath the fierce and passionless light of truth, faiths that sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like morning dew.” (67) At the same time, scientific progress has built a world without friction or famine, a world where the succor of faith becomes superfluous. Creative endeavors meet the same fate: in a world where wonder is eliminated and all knowledge is obtainable – if not necessarily by humans – it becomes difficult to imagine and invent the unknown. To some degree, all art is a means of escapism, both for artist and consumer. When luxury is common and strife all but non-existent, the pressing need for new artistic endeavors slackens.

Indeed, Clarke seems very emphatic that the advance of technology – even the advance of human evolution – does not need either art or faith, and that the achievement of prosperity through the proper application of technological power renders these endeavors mute and unnecessary. “The end of strife and conflict of all kinds had also meant the virtual end of creative art.” (68) To some extent, he implies that both of these elements exist to comfort a confused and tortured humanity, and that the discovery of the correct facts and the correct way of life frees us from the need for either. The Overlords, at the very pinnacle of technology, have no artwork or decoration at all, exemplifying Clarke’s view. “The architecture of the Overlords was bleakly functional: Jan saw no ornaments, nothing that did not serve a purpose …” (187) To be sure, there is the colony of New Athens which champions the arts – but this small and isolated colony is ignored by the Overlords until it houses the Greggson children, and its artistic influence seems to have had no effect on the transformation of the first new humans.

This conclusion seems particularly ironic coming from the author of an innovative work of fiction: it downplays his own ability to spark new thinking about the world, even the scientific realm. Clarke clearly wrote Childhood’s End to illuminate a possibility, yet fails to recognize the crucial role that such possibilities play in the future of science. In the present day, scientists are beginning to pursue and build devices that were initially seen in the world of entertainment – even the gadgets and machines from Star Trek and Asimov. A traditional attribute of creativity is taking two unrelated ideas and merging them into one – another method that has allowed many scientific inventions and theories to grow and change.

Religion also has its place. Until humans become as logical and straightforward as the machines they build, many will find comfort in the idea of immortal souls and a master plan. These are things that are not subject to empirical proof, yet to many are questions that must be answered. Faith does not mean being blind to science: when the theory of evolution came to light, many believers found it confirmation of God’s plan, a more perfect and ingenius idea than immutable divine creation. Indeed, some sociological theories of religion even believe that it is intimately connected with the birth of science. As the world evolved from polytheism into monotheism, it allowed humans to conceptualize about nature in a new and interconnected way. Instead of believing in a plant god and a sky god, they could recognize that the trees grew because God made it rain. The days in which the Church stamped draconian denials on scientific principles are long over: most religions have recognized that the comfort they provide, no science can take away.

It is interesting to note that within Childhood’s End can be found a hint – perhaps intended by the author, perhaps not – that artistic expression and religion are far more important than they are outwardly portrayed. The Overlords are forever caught in an evolutionary cul-de-sac, while humanity continues into a new and glorious stage. But in what sense are humans superior to their shepherds? In preparing humanity for its evolution, Karellen says, “I am well aware of the fact that we have also inhibited, by the contrast between our civilizations, all other forms of creative achievement as well. But that was a secondary effect, and it is of no importance.” Or is it? Unlike the Overlords, the human race has art and music and literature and faith … it has a sense of wonder.

The Overlords of Childhood’s End engender an era of peace and prosperity, and the promise of evolution to come – but they also, without direct or overt action, destroy the twin worlds of artistic expression and religion. Clarke believes that, once de-mystified by fact, religion has no more purpose, and that creativity is unnecessary in a prosperous and fulfilled world; yet this neglects many of the contributions both have made to humanity over the centuries, and their place in the human mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Website Update

Another review added to the Reading Reccs section - Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Review For Apartment Tour

A review for my short story Apartment Tour (through Jupiter World Press) can be found here:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Home Sweet ...

This was written around Apr or May and describes my neighborhood fairly well:

Rows of houses wander without agenda down a neat green, the curb lined with trees meant to be identical when they were planted twenty years ago. The street spirals into cul-de-sacs and ambling lanes. Run-off trickles through lawns, spawning impromptu duck ponds and bogs – due in three months’ time to become furrows of burnt grass. The neighborhood charter asks nature to suspend itself into perpetual lush; it isn’t possible without a green paint concession. The only pollution on the air is pollen, saffron, hazy and accented by the smell of dead fish in the spring, the buzzsaw of cicadas in the summer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Website Update Part Deux

Entire website - yeah, you heard me - ported over to my domain name.

Website Update

Added new review to Reading section of website - Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Quotes of Note

"No compulsory learning can remain in the soul." - Plato

Spoken by Lord Balfour in the British Parliament (according to James Hilton in The Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing):

"Gentlemen, I do not mind being contradicted, and I am unperturbed when I am attacked, but I confess I have slight misgivings when I hear myself being explained."

And from an SF master ...

"Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments." - Isaac Asimov


Hello to everyone and no one, depending on who sees this post ...

My name is Lindsey Duncan. There is a middle name floating around there, but I try to ignore it. I have been informed by Scottish-Americans in the know that clan Lindsay and clan Duncan have been feuding for centuries. Some people might says this explains a few things.

If you were to ask me what I do, I would tell you that I'm a professional harp performer. I play the traditional lever harp, sometimes mislabeled as the "Celtic" harp. My repertoire includes Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Renaissance, popular and seasonal tunes, with a few selections from Galicia, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man - rounding out the seven Celtic lands - and a couple classical pieces, mostly for weddings. I have a CD out entitled Rolling of the Stone and I teach adult and self-motivated child students.

I'm also a student through Indiana University's School of Continuing Studies with a self-designed major, taking courses in mythology, theology, political theory etc, with a concentration on social history and human belief systems. I take most of my courses distance. This may be an appropriate place to note that I was homeschooled from first grade up and I have ... strong feelings about traditional education.

If you were to ask me what I AM, I would tell you that I am a speculative fiction author. I write predominantly fantasy with a tendency towards high or epic fantasy and, conversely, humorous fantasy. I also write soft science fiction, though less commonly, and I've not yet made a sale on the SF side. I am currently working on multiple novel projects - with the most recent, Butterfly's Poison, I've just begun my final polish edit. I've sold a number of short stories, most recently through Jupiter World Press. You can find a complete list on my website. My ultimate goal is to become a published novelist ... and this Blog is devoted primarily to my writerside.

What, exactly, is the purpose of this Blog? Here I intend to post:

-News, including website updates
-Interesting found quotes on life, the universe, everything
-Discussions of topics that relate to SF/F and writing
-Excerpts and clips
-Occasional humor
-Things of Absolute Brilliance which I have not identified yet

Until next time ... ciao!