Saturday, August 23, 2008

Character Versus Concept

My two friends and I are starting a science fiction and fantasy student run workshop this fall semester. Though I know that lecturing is BAD in a workshop environment (it promotes sleep), I've begun thinking a lot about the genres.

Asimov writes, "Science fiction stories are notoriously weak on characterization as compared with mainstream stories. At least, so the critics say. I am always struck with impatience at such cavils. Even if it be true, there happens to be a good reason for it. The characters are a smaller portion of science fiction than of the mainstream."
I think the critique works both ways, though. I argue that there are just as many stories with extraordinary psychological introspection but no plot as stories with fantastic concepts with popsicle stick puppet characters.
Character is always important, but that being said, I agree with Asimov that it does not have to be the most important or memorable component. Some people gesture from the head and others from the heart. Both are valid forms of communiction. It is okay to write in either mode. I would argue that Ray Bradbury wrote from the brain while Jane Austen wrote from the heart, and it's very difficult to rank the two.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Short Story Part # 3

I'm back but not fully operational. Damn Comcast and it's shady service. Here is part 3 of my short story. Part 2 has posted June 29th and it also has the link to Part 1.

He was lost. It made his stomach feel sour. He sat down on the sidewalk under a street lamp and looked down the steep hill. His nose stung like a carpet burn and his eyes were dry and hurt from crying. His throat hurt from crying too. Dark. He thought of the Chinaman and shivered. And Ninjas and Aztecs. Professor said that the Aztecs died a long time ago, but Patrice didn’t know if he could believe them anymore. He almost wanted to go back, but he had to get to Cici’s place. Alex hadn’t wanted to share the room. “Only one piece can occupy a square at a time,” he had said. And then he told him what the Aztecs did to their sacrifices and Patrice had spent three nights in the big bed in between Mommy and Professor. Mommy had not been happy.
Mommy didn’t like him anymore so he couldn’t go back. Pat looked around. The wind rustled the leaves and he moaned. He had never walked here before, though he may have gone down this way on a school bus. He didn’t know where to go and he was tired. He was scared too, scared enough to puke.
Professor always said, “Think out your moves. But at this level, don’t try to make the perfect move, you should learn, experiment. It’s just a game.”
He heard sirens and squatted behind a big metal mail box as two police cars whizzed by. The last time he had seen a police car was when Professor’s friend Mr. Mueller had been robbed. They had beat him up and Mommy and Professor had visited him in the hospital.
They dropped Alex and Patrice at Cici’s house. Patrice hoped Cici would take him, and he didn’t understand why Mommy had wanted the baby more than him. The moon had come up and Patrice could see a house that’s walls were slightly darker than the others. Could that be the blue house? He walked towards it, hurrying and then running. He didn’t know much about robbers and cops. But if they were chess pieces, they would be bishops because they could swing across the board, and pow! knock out a pawn, a Patrice, just like that.
“Professor, whatcha doin,” Patrice asked nervously as he watched him build something in his room.
“It’s a crib for the baby.”
“What about me?”
“That’s why we got a bunk bed, Pat. So you and Alex can share a room.”
“I thought it was just for a little while.”
“No, sorry, little man.” Professor wiped his forehead and left a black stain there. “But there’s safety in numbers. When you wake up and think there’s a monster under your bed, you don’t have to run into our room anymore. Alex is a pro with those things. And I shared a room with my brother, your Uncle Tim, when I was growing up and it was fun. Okay?”
“I guess.”

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

5 Textbook Buying Tips

This is kind of depressing, because it means that you have to think about school, and who ever wants to do that. In terms of book buying, there are two kinds of classes. The classes where you read entire books and classes where you don't. But here are five tips to reduce money-spending.

1. Decide if you must buy. This usually means that waiting for the syllabus. All required books for classes are in the library. Moffitt has all the humanities books on 2 hour reserve and if you borrow them one and a half hour before the reservation desk closes, you can keep them until 9 am the next morning.
2. If you only need to read a portion of it, but you want to have that section handy for the final, you can copy it at a copy shop. There's a 2.5 cent place on Kittredge and Oxford and a 3 cent place on University called CopyEdge. They'll even bind it for 1.50 to 3 dollars more.
3. If you must buy, research your choices. In addition to the Cal Store and Ned's Books, there's which a book-buying and selling community. There is a Berkeley branch and you do all book exchanges in person. It's fast, easy, and you don't have to pay shipping.
4. If you must buy at the Cal Store or Ned's Book Store, many large clubs partner with the two stores to give you a 10-15% discount. You just have to give them your e-mail address.
5. Use used book stores.
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