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Oct 1

Why Writers Make The Best Friends [Infographic]

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015 in Fandomlinks

Writers make great friends (just not for the reasons you may think).

Check it out here.

Aug 30

Imaginary dinner guests

Posted on Sunday, August 30, 2015 in Other

I was completely sure I had posted about this ages ago but when I went to check on my blog/homepage I couldn’t find that post so maybe I didn’t. So I thought I might do it now.

The idea comes from a really annoying, boring tv show that my mom watches every evening so I know the concept very well, though I wish I didn’t. In the show, a celebrity gets to ‘invite’ four dinner guests to an imaginary dinner party. They also talk about where they are supposed to be and what they’ll be serving. I won’t really go into that, because that’s not all that interesting to me. Actually, I will also forget about the exact number of guests, just mention whoever I can think of.

Here are my imaginary dinner guests:

1. Corinna (Early Greek poet). Scholars aren’t quite sure during what era this lady lived, one suggestion is that it was during Hellenistic times. It is sometimes said that she was such a success that she was able to buy herself ’emacipation’ – ie to become like a man, able to act on her own behalf, rather than being a ward of her father, brother or husband. Though I’m not much into poetry, I think she might be an interesting woman to talk to, always assuming I would have access to a ‘universal translator’ like in Star Trek.

2. Christine de Pizan, who was an Italian French late medieval author. She was widowed at the age of 25 with three children and had to turn to writing to support her family. According to some scholars she was an early feminist.

3. Edith Södergran – Finlandic-Swedish (Swedish-speaking Finlandic) poet. Sadly, she died at 31 and her work speaks of her fear of dying and her wish to live as intensely as possible in the few years she had.

4. Dorothy Parker. Perhaps she doesn’t need as much of an introduction as the former guests, but I’d like to mention what it is I find interesting about her. She was a success very early in life, unlike many other writers, but later life didn’t live up to her expectations so she died rather disillusioned. She was funny but quite sharp and is known to have said some really mean, and amusing things about other famous people.

5. George Bernard Shaw, because I find his work very interesting and there are many quotes from him that I find really thought provoking.

6. Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht. She was a poet, feminist and salon hostess. She was known as the first female writer in Sweden who was able to support herself from her writing. Unfortunately, some men couldn’t accept her success and would criticize her for the way she looked (apparently they thought she was too fat). Her personal life was generally unhappy, especially in love. Towards the end of her life she fell in love with a much younger man, and unfortunately that ended badly. He was also involved with her best friend. It seems Hedvig Charlotta tried to kill herself and died shortly afterwards, perhaps of pneumonia.

As it happens, all my choices of dinner guests are dead. That’s probably not a coincidence. I’d have to think some more if I wanted to ‘invite’ a bunch of currently living people, but I’m sure there are several I’d find just as interesting though perhaps for slightly different reasons. You get a different perspective on people you read about in the media, watch on tv or in movies or listen to them being interviewed or look at current photos of them.

Aug 28

The year of the Amstrad: how writers learned to love the computer

Posted on Friday, August 28, 2015 in Writing links

When Amstrad launched its word processor 30 years ago, writers were initially resistant – processing was for peas, not words. But many soon saw the benefits of life without Tipp-Ex.

Read more here.

May 16

Websites and Links for Book worms, Bloggers and Writers

Posted on Saturday, May 16, 2015 in Writing links

Read more here

Apr 11

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015

Posted on Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Writing links

Ready to improve your writing — and maybe even make a living as a writer — this year? Our 100 Best Websites for Writers list is back and better than ever.

Read more here.

Jan 6

Top 10 Storytelling Cliches Writers Need To Stop…

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 in Writing links

Read more here.

Aug 31

14 Writers Handwrite Their Writing Advice

Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 in Writing links

Read more here.

Apr 29

Swedish mysteries

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 in Books

Right now, Europe is discovering Swedish crime novels. I just read an article on the Guardian’s website which mentioned, among others, Stieg Larsson, Liza Marklund and Camilla Läckberg. The UK has already taken Henning Mankell’s Wallander mysteries to their heart.

It seems almost petty to mention that they’ve just scratched the surface. In all honesty, I haven’t read Stieg Larsson or Liza Marklund. I have however read Mankell, Nesser and Läckberg and I must say I wasn’t impressed. For instance, take the latter – when you write a ‘mystery’ that is so predictable that someone like me – a writer wannabe, but still just an amateur – knows exactly who is the killer, why he did it and how it all happened when I’m reading the first couple of lines of the second chapter – what does that tell you about the quality of the book?

Forget all of the above writers (the Whiskas people books – Whiskas people are those who go for the most popular of anything, in case you’re wondering). I’ll tell you about my favorites instead. Since we’re talking about Swedish mystery writers, I won’t go into my Finnish favorite, at least not here, or the British, American or French books I like. So, here goes…

Emma Vall. She’s really three persons using the same pen name. They’re reporters, and so is their main character Amanda Rönn. She investigates crimes in the northern town Sundsvall. Emma Vall also writes mysteries for kids, about a girl named Svala (she’s originally from Iceland, hence the unusual name). The mysteries for kids are as well written as the others. My only problem with the kids’ books, is that they’re a little predictable. The basis is as follows: Svala makes a few new friends (or reconnects with some old friends) who have a problem. She starts to investigate to help them. That’s it. Don’t let that stop you from reading them, if you like books for older kids. They’re still good, even if the writers might want to vary the ‘recipe’ a little. If I have to criticize anything about the ‘grownup’ mysteries, it’s the fact that while Amanda Rönn is relatively young – just over 30 – she prefers men who are around 60. I think that’s because one of the writers is about that age herself and creates love interests of her own age. All their books are well written and definitely worth reading.

Arne Dahl. Pen name for a man named Jan Arnald. In addition to writing mysteries he’s also a short story writer, editor and critic. His mysteries are about a fictitious group investigating serious crime – the A group. The group employs quite a few people, so chances are you’ll find a main character you’ll like. For instance out of the roughly ten people involved, I primarily like two of them, both male, but there’s no one I absolutely can’t stand. These books are well written and fascinating, but once in a while, Arne Dahl tends to get a little too fanciful (I noticed this in Hidden Numbers (Mörkertal).

Thomas Kanger. He’s a reporter too, just like the women behind Emma Vall. His main character is young cop Elina Wiik who works in Västerås in eastern Sweden. Just like most cops, she’s single and trying to find time to date in the midst of her busy professional life. I used to like these books and I still like most of them. However, in The Borderland (Gränslandet) he just gets too fanciful for my taste. There’s absolutely no logic in the ending. It stops being a mystery and turns into speculative fiction and that just isn’t appropriate, without any warning. The earlier books are still fine, but I won’t recommend The Borderland.

Åsa Nilsonne. She’s actually a psychiatrist and medical doctor, but also writes excellent mysteries about the cop Monika Pedersen, working in Stockholm. Monika Pedersen is single (is there any cop who isn’t either single or divorced?), but has a close male friend, who is gay. Most of the cases are investigated in central Stockholm, but in the last book Monika goes to Ethiopia to follow up on a lead.

Dec 15

Slash and relations between the sexes in original stories

Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2007 in Writing

I also know there’s a small, but growing number of original authors, who use the equivalent of slash, that is homosexual relations in their stories. This includes published authors, like the writers of Swordspoint and the sequel A Fall of Kings – Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, and others, like myself.

Another author, who might not write slash, but at least a more equal love story, is Anne Bishop. Her book the The Invisible Ring, is about a male former pleasure slave. Another character is still a pleasure slave, also a male. In most fantasy novels that type of character would be female. In a touching scene at the end of the story, the two pleasure slaves say farewell, and the younger, now free guy, embraces and kisses the other guy on the mouth, and tries to express his affection and love for him. Despite this physical display of affection, they’re both heterosexual.

I won’t say that all modern fantasy writers use traditional gender roles in their fiction. Many of my favorite authors write stories that are equal enough for me to enjoy them. That goes for Charles De Lint, Garth Nix, Kristen Britain, Diana Wynne Jones and others. Even a writer like Ursula Le Guin, who chooses to write about societies where women are oppressed, does it in a way I can understand.

It isn’t just in fantasy you can follow the evolution from traditional male chauvinist stories, to more appealing, modern stories.

Since I hardly read modern science fiction, it would be hard for me to think of any examples of modern writers, but on the other hand I have clearly seen how the old writers from the 1950’s depicted the relations between genders. The best one, in my opinion, are the ones that don’t really have any relationships between a man and a woman. Besides, funnily enough, you can easily find homosexual undertones in the relations between the heroes.

This goes for mysteries and thrillers too. My experience is that books, in this case mysteries, from the Mediterranean, South America and so on, are too sexist for me to endure them. The same applies to German books, strangely enough. French books are a sort of borderline case. There is hardly any nationality that doesn’t produce this kind of stale stories about women, but the French books I’ve read are usually acceptable.

I was quite surprised and amused when I read a thriller, which I believe was written in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The way women are described isn’t quite as dreadful as in Mary Stewart’s books, which I kind of like anyway, possibly because of her settings – often exotic and fascinating places. Still, at least one woman in this thriller by Helen McInnes – I can’t recall the title right now – is one of those Jane Austen-ish nineteenth century wives.

This annoys me enormously, but fortunately, there were also two typical slash relationships. Not fully evolved, naturally, only some kind of subconscious attraction between the hero and first an old friend of his, who dies in the story, and a new acquaintance. In both case it’s clear that the hero is a typical submissive, when he’s relating to these two men.

Years ago, he was happily married, but his wife died. One might wonder how this submissive male could stand to be married to a young woman who will have expected him to dominate her. In any case, this latent slash relationship more than compensated for the tiresome depiction of a marriage.

The various mystery writers differ widely. For instance, Ngaio Marsh. In her mysteries I’ve found one of the worst depictions of a marriage, where the relations between the couple are just as screwed up as in Mary Stewart’s books. The husband is some kind of brutal macho man, but in other ways more refined. His name is Alleyn and he’s vaguely aristocratic. The wife can be independent and tough enough, on her own, but when she’s attacked by a killer, she relishes seeing the killer being attacked in his turn, by her husband. Afterwards, she throws herself into her husband’s arms, like a little girl, to be comforted. Ugh. To Ngaio Marsh’s defence might be said that she’s quite old, as far as mystery writers go. She was born in 1895, -97 or -99. Her date of birth isn’t known for a fact, because her father only had it registered in 1900. She also never married and might have found the role models for her literary relationships in old texts, or modeled them on her parents’ marriage.

On the other hand, Dorothy Sayers belongs to the same generation, but her depictions of the relations between the genders are quite different. Her Lord Peter Wimsey is totally equal, at least in the actual love affair. For instance, he tells Harriet Vane, his future wife, when she’s admitted to having had lovers. “So what? So have I.” Or something along those lines. In his case, females.

MIchael Innes who is a little younger than Marsh – born in 1906 – is quite acceptable in his depictions of marriage, but in no way before his time, when it comes to equality. Unlike in stories by the Marsh and Stewart, there’s nothing in the relationship between Appleby and his wife Judith, that makes you sick.

Finally, I’d like to mention the greatest queen of mystery ever – Agatha Christie. The relationships in her stories vary greatly.

The Man In the Brown Suit is about a young girl who goes out looking for adventures and ends up in Africa. She wants to find a real Neanderthal man, who will hit her over the head and drag her into a cave. In the end she finds him.

In Taken at the flood or – as it’s also known – There is a tide – there’s a woman who at first spurns a suitor because he wasn’t in the war. He was a farmer so he wasn’t drafted. The woman finds this weak and unmanly. But when she finds out that he once killed a man someone unsympathetic in some way, possibly a blackmailer – she changes her mind. She finds his proclivity for violence attractive.

In Towards Zero there are two kids, who are poor. The woman marries a rich man and the young man is some kind of gigolo. They love each other and would rather marry each other, but can’t afford to. The books ends with the woman getting her husband’s money after he’s revealed to be a ruthless killer. She ends up with her true love. Christie describes the young man sympathetically, though that seemed unlikely, considering what she’d written earlier and simply because of the times.

The Tommy and Tuppence series is quite equal too. Tuppence is a modern emancipated woman. She’s been a bus driver or something like that during the first world war and after that she can’t return to being the obedient vicar’s daughter. In one of the books about the fun couple, she skillfully manipulates a young reporter, so she can pump him for information. She pretends to be a weak, helpless woman to make the young man tell her all she wants to know.

Funnily enough – though that’s really off-topic – in one of these books you’ll find examples of how words change meaning. ‘Make out’ must mean something else in that book from maybe the 1920’s. Back then it has to mean something like flirt. If not, Tommy is an extremely tolerant husband and Tuppence a unblushing exhibitionist, who will make out on the tennis court with another man. I won’t even get into the words queer or gay, though they’re not typical of this book anyway.

Finally, in Appointment With Death, you’ll meet a self assured young woman, who is a medical student. You get the impression she’ll be qualified soon, and I’m guessing she’s in her late twenties. She meets a young man in distress – a guy who is a few years younger than she is. He is being oppressed by his horrible stepmother. The stepmother is murdered, the stepson is a suspect, and the doctor-to-be decides to save him. Of course they end up together. The book makes it clear that the young med student is dominant and the young man a submissive. She was recently engaged to an older, dominant colleague, imagining herself partial to a man like that, but she soon found that she hated it.

The way I see it, earlier books, in this case mysteries, fall into three main categories. The first type are the traditional stories, where women are objects, submissive to men. In some cases the author really enjoys exploiting the women and there’s a clear sexual motive. In the second type, there are hardly any women at all. They are presumably still submissive, but invisible and there are clear, but latent homosexual ties between the men. Finally, there are a few where the relations between men and women are depicted in a tolerably equal way. Not like today, naturally, but enough so a modern reader might enjoy the stories.


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