More Potential of Ebooks

Read my earlier posts about the potential of ebooks:


I look forward to authors exploring the ebook format as something more than just a different package for print books. Ebooks are a format, distinct from print, and can do things that print can’t, tell stories in ways that print could never accomplish.

It’s more than the obvious idea of integrating multimedia elements (but how cool would Rigg’s “Peculiar Children” books be if the images were subtle animated GIFs?). Ebooks aren’t ink on paper, which means the text doesn’t have to be permanent. The words themselves could be made changeable.

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Book Review: Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke

Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke
Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke
The Overlook Press, 2014

Why do stories work the way they do? Why are they structured the way they are?

These questions fascinate me. Storytelling—its nature, how it works, the role it plays in human lives and society—fascinates me. As much as anything, storytelling is what marks human beings as unique among all the animals of Earth. The act of telling stories partakes equally of our capacity for imagination and our need to discern pattern in world around us. We use stories to try and make sense of our experiences and simultaneously celebrate the mysterious and unknowable. It’s both creative and formulaic.

The stories we choose to tell, and the ways we choose to tell them, tell us who we are and how we understand our role in existence.

Continue reading “Book Review: Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke”

In Praise of Formulaic Genre Fiction

A friend of mine posted this article on Twitter a couple days ago (via the New York Public Library):

What Makes Great Detective Fiction, According to T. S. Eliot
by Paul Grimstad (posted by The New Yorker, February 2, 2016)

I love knowing that no less a luminary than T. S. Eliot was a passionate advocate of early detective fiction. But more illuminating is this glimpse into historic perceptions of genre fiction:

Namely, critics have always dismissed genre fiction as low-brow and formulaic, as intrinsically non-literary, and therefore less worthy.

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On the Need for Diverse Books

Last week, I wrote about how important Octavia Butler’s work is to me. Every time I tell people how much I like Octavia Butler, someone inevitably says, “You should read Nnedi Okorafor!” or, “Have you read any of Tananarive Due’s works?”

And I always want to ask them:

“Are you recommending them because you think their writing style / subject matter / perspective is similar enough to Butler’s to merit the comparison? Or are you just naming them because they’re another black woman who writes SF?”

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In Defense of Speculative Fiction

Octavia Butler is one of my most treasured authors. Her work is astounding. More than anyone in the past few decades, she took up the mantle of the literary scifi authors of the 1960s and ’70s—Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, et al.

Like them, Butler’s work transcends boundaries and achieves a level of artistry and power that’s rare. She’s an irreducibly important author. Her legacy is one to be treasured and honored.

Octavia Butler Quote Continue reading “In Defense of Speculative Fiction”

Why I’m Fascinated by Ancient History

How History and Speculative Fiction Intersect

I’m fascinated by ancient history—the archaic and classical Mediterranean, ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. Mostly, though, I love studying paleoanthropology and archaeology—the Paleo- and Neolithic periods, the evolution of human kind and our spread across the face of the planet.

Recent history doesn’t particularly interest me. I understand the proximal importance of the Modern Era, the World Wars, the Cold War, etc., to the present day but it doesn’t capture my imagination. I look at the world during that time and I see something very much like the world I was born into. It’s too familiar to be fascinating.

I’m fascinated by ancient and prehistory because these eras are so vastly different from the world I live in. In a review I wrote of Madeline Miller’s novel, The Song of Achilles, I refer to the “alien-ness of Bronze Age Greece”. I read articles like this one about Kennewick Man and it’s shocking to realize just how little prehistoric life resembles my own. How vastly different it was than anything I’ve ever known.

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The Potential of Ebooks, Part 2: Another Modest Proposal

S.
S. by Doug Dorst & J.J. Abrams
I keep thinking about the novel S. and how Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams intended it to be a celebration of the printed book—they created an experience calibrated to take advantage of aspects that are unique to printed material.

It has me wondering—how do you create a story that equally celebrates ebooks and takes full advantage of the aspects that are unique to electronic formats?

Part of the challenge with such a goal is that we haven’t even come close to developing the full potential of ebooks yet: multimedia integration, burying easter eggs in the pixels, ereader versions of the Konami Code… There’s tremendous opportunity for a level of interactivity that print simply can’t match and we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Continue reading “The Potential of Ebooks, Part 2: Another Modest Proposal”