Everything I Need to Know I learned from American Folk Songs

Awhile ago, I was pointed towared the magnificent Everything I Need to Know I Learned from British Folk Ballads.  I have since come to feel we need the American version.  This being the new world, we learn quite a different set of lessons.  Here are some:

1) He don’t love you.  He never did.
2) She don’t love you.  She never did.
3) Because he/she don’t love you, he/she will do you wrong with an unspecified 3rd party.
4) Killing the 3rd party will not help anything.
5) Neither will killing the stranger that she says wants you dead.  See 1).
6) Caliber of gun used to kill 3rd party is immaterial.
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Measuring Failure

Measuring Failure:

Recently I received a fan letter from a 16 year old high school student.  Unlike most of my mail from readers, this was hand written and sent snail mail to my publisher, then forwarded to me.  Most people contact me via email through my website.  I’m sending a copy of this blog back to her with a personal letter.

This student confessed to me that she wanted to become a veterinarian.   Not just normal small pets.  She wanted to work with exotic animals.  But all the adults in her life told her not to bother.  She’d never succeed. Continue reading

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What I Didn’t Say in My Broadsheet Essay on Outliers

OutliersMy essay reflecting on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success is now up on Broad Universe’s Broadsheet, and as often happens when I write nonfiction, I find I have something else to say.

Gladwell’s book is about people as “outliers” — those who are so successful in their fields that they outshine almost everyone else. He gives the lie to the idea that these people must be extraordinarily bright or ambitious, pointing out that other people as bright (or even brighter) and ambitious do not reach the same level of success.

Perhaps his most important point is that no one gets there alone. Success has a lot to do with family, culture, community, and even generation, according to Gladwell. Being born at the right time, with the right kind of family and community support and culture, will give the bright person who works hard a real opportunity to become successful on the world class level.

The other concept he talks about is hard work. Continue reading

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Calling All Amateur Scientists: Project Budburst Wants You

Q: And what exactly is “Project Budburst”
A: National Phenology Network Field Campaign for Citizen Scientists.

Q: Er…
A: Project Budburst engages the public in making careful observations of the phenophases of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses.

Q: And phenophases are what, exactly?
A: Phenophases are the life events of a plant: first leafing, unfolding of the leaves, first flowering, first fruiting. You know, the highlights in the life of a young, nubile forb.

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Live, From Arkham, It’s…

This is a BVC Blog “exclusive” – my good friend Alan Rodgers is a horror novelist, Stoker Award winner, and has written a lot of stories set in the H.P. Lovecraft mythos.  I think that’s the right way to say it – “Lovecraftian”?  I was never too up to speed on Lovecraft, and found his prose so ornate and heavy that I never realized that the 5-minute short segments on one of my favorite childhood shows, Night Gallery, were set in various Arkham locations and the “monsters” in them were Cthulhu and his pals.

A Friend From Arkham

Isn’t he special?  Now where did these monsters come from?  Are there real-world things like this, the sources of the nameless and not-so-nameless creatures detailed by Lovecraft?

I’m of the opinion that the best horror has some basis in reality.  It may not seem as though Cthulhu has any basis in reality – or does he?

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The Velveteen Writer

Here comes another installment of the Resurrection of a Writer. I’ll continue these at intervals if there’s interest…and possibly if there isn’t. I find, rather to my surprise, that these posts have been amazingly cathartic, and I hope to be able to look back at them in a year or so as mileposts along the road to my recovery as a creative individual.

One of the best-known of Peanuts cartoons (I’ve seen it as a poster, greeting card, and assorted other items) involves Linus depressed because he had gotten a B on a report card, instead of the straight A’s that were expected of him. After listing the various people who were disappointed in him because he had such great potential, he cries aloud to the heavens: “There is no heavier burden than a great potential!”

Damned straight, kiddo. I don’t remember what age I was when I first saw that strip, but it immediately rang a whole carillon for me. In fact, I can still quote it word for word, but won’t due to unminor matters such as copy right. Continue reading

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Superman #686: A Very Short Review

Writers spend a great deal of time discussing and thinking about how to introduce a major character.  Have them walk in and sit down at the bar with the rest of the cast, as in many roleplaying games?  Resort to the hoary Marvel Comics template (which in fact dates all the way back to the epic of Gilgamesh), in which the characters fight before settling down to be best friends?    The ‘meet cute’ of romantic movies is popular– but it is possible to be too cute, and it is crucial to select a ‘meet’ that illuminates character all around and hopefully kicks the plot further down the road too.  superman

Unfortunately, a quite good example of how not to do the job can be viewed in the latest issue of Superman.  The backstory: Supes is leaving town on an extended mission off planet.  Metropolis being totally incapable of managing by itself, Superman has lined up a couple of pinch-hitters.   First among them is Mon-El, featured on the cover.  Mon is best known as a member of the undying Legion of Super-Heroes, but his appearance here is very complicated; essentially he is here before he was a Legionnaire.  Pay no attention to this; with luck it will not be important.

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Ongoing Conversations on Feminism and Older Characters

My comments on possible taboos against feminism on the SF Signal Mind Meld have generated an interesting ongoing debate on io9. I also notice that commenters on the Mind Meld raised the same issue of older characters I brought up in my post “Things I Didn’t Say on the SF Signal Mind Meld.”

If the subjects interest you, go forth and comment.

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Nancy Jane’s flash fiction for this week is “Passing.” Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press.

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Free ebooks: BVC and the World

It’s no secret, BookViewCafe is starting to release ebooks. We have free ones (Vonda’s The Moon and the Sun) and mine (The Textile Planet) and a free sampler with our premium content (includes work from Sarah, Maya, Laura, Phyllis, Sylvia, and Brenda). As we figure out how to do this ebook thing, we’ll be offering up more in this area.

Meantime there’s another site with ebooks that I happened to stumble across the other day: ebooks Just Published. This book lists ebooks that have been released within the past 6 months. Free ebooks and for sale ebooks are listed. A quick scan reveals Charles De Lint’s Spritwalk and one of Simon Haynes’ Hal Spacejock books amongst tons of others.

Sue Lange

Sue Lange’s bookshelf at BookViewCafe

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Myths

Calcite Springs, Yellowstone National ParkAs I mentioned recently, my scam antennae are quite sensitive. They’re sensitive to Internet scams, to financial fiddling, and to urban legends. A cousin has quit speaking to me because every time she emailed me, I would point her at www.snopes.com (or maybe she’s just stopped sending me emails that say “Forward this email to everyone in your address book or the world will end and we’re all going to dieee!” — which amounts to the same thing).

But once in a while the antennae are too sensitive and I’m not quick enough to keep my mouth shut, because some urban legends deserve to persist. Continue reading

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