When Urania was young/ All thought her heavenly/ With age her eyes grow larger/ But her form unmaidenly

Monday, February 20, 2006

SBD Day - Against Hooks

The baloney weighed the raven down, and the shopkeeper almost caught him as he whisked out the delicatessen door. Frantically he beat his wings to gain altitude, looking like a small black electric fan. An updraft caught him and threw him into the sky. He circled twice, to get his bearings, and headed north.

Man, what a strike out of a first paragraph for a genre novel. Conflict: deli owner versus raven, over the Baloney of Power, which almost overmasters the bird before a fortunate undivine scrap of wind gives it a few dozen feet of altitude. Then, instead of raking the Dread Lord of the Air with its obsidian claws, has to circle to gain its bearings, like any raven, and heads in the utterly mundane direction of north. Not even dread or utter or aurora-ripped north. Just north.

Does it get any better?

Below, the shopkeeper stood with his hands on his hips, looking up at the diminishing cinder in the sky. Presently he shrugged and went back nto his delicatessen. He was not without philosophy, this shopkeeper, and he knew that if a raven comes into your delicatessen and steals a whole baloney it is either an act of God or it isn't, and in either case there isn't anything you can do about it."

Well, yes, quite a bit better, but for someone looking for a little genre fantasy, well. That act of God thing - that was a joke, wasn't it. Ironic. I mean, we aren't going to get a god doing anything, are we? And awfully static to boot. And if you were looking for a romance - and this is very much a romance - wellwell. Are we supposed to be looking at the shopkeeper or the raven as the likely alpha? More?

The raven flew lazily over New York, letting the early sun warm his feathers.

Okay, that's it: genre fan closes book, reshelves. Heck, there's this POV problem already. Didn't I read about tha in a how-not-to writing book?

I don't - here's why:

I like this pacing; I don't WANT to watch TV. The arch and clever second paragraph grabs me, convinces me that the author knows what he's doing, and what he's doing is likely to be congenial to me. The lightly dropped "cinder" for a rapidly diminishing black bird is exactly right. The urban immigrant feel of the syntax and diction of "He was not without philosophy, this shopkeeper..." And, okay, I like the Andrew Marvell poem that provided the title A Fine and Private Place but that particular piece has been overmined and does not serve as a recommendation in itself.

Of course a more mature Peter Beagle would have been unlikely to say a raven looks like a small electric fan or settle for "threw" as the verb in the first paragraph, but a teenage novel that's not shallow proselsss juvenile crap like Paolini's Eragon, derivative of stuff not much better, well. it is something.

The requirement for a tasty "hook" is the search for taste like McDonald's fries (Now with milk! Now with wheat! Formerly with really yucky beef tallow!). Who wants to cook for people like that?

Or to be REALLY snotty:

The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;better mendacities
Than the classics in paraphrase!

The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, assuredly, alabaster
Or the "sculpture" of rhyme

Thanks, Uncle Ezra - you didn't see the half of it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rare Political Post

I mean even more rare than the other kind:

J: Remember whne you used to vote Republican and our votes would cancel out?
P: Yeah. One thing I'll say about GWB - he's a uniter, not a divider.