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On Novels and Novelists

10 Famous Authors’ Favorite TV Shows

In an era when it’s impossible to open a web browser without stumbling across another “Is television the new novel?” piece, we couldn’t help but wonder, Carrie Bradshaw-style, just what our favorite writers watch in their spare time.

See what shows the following authors like:

  • Zadie Smith
  • S.E. Hinton
  • Lorrie Moore
  • Stephen King
  • Bret Easton Ellis
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Roxane Gay
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Joyce Carol Oates

And since not all of these writers are from the U.S., here’s an opportunity to learn about some television shows you may not know.

What Ray Bradbury’s FBI File Teaches Us About Science Fiction’s Latest Controversies

Separate FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests by the Daily Beast and MuckRock unearthed Bradbury’s files in 2012. Though they received some coverage at the time, Boing Boing, the Register, and MuckRock have discussed the documents this week, focusing to their charming anachronisms and other period peculiarities. Ultimately, however, those documents stand out most for what they reveal about the state of science fiction today.

Jacob Brogan here takes a quick look at what informants had to tell the FBI about Bradbury and his writings back in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite fears that science fiction might become “a lucrative field for the introduction of Communist ideologies,” Brogan asserts that Bradbury’s popular success was not driven by any ideology, “a communist one least of all.” Instead, Brogan writes, science fiction has always been about looking at what’s wrong with the world and imagining how to make it better.

“Science fiction’s latest controversies” referred to in the article’s title involve division in the ranks of science fiction writers and award judges, some of whom see “an elitist wave of liberal propaganda” overtaking the genre. This article includes lots of links to more material about these controversies on the web for those who wish to delve further into the issues.

But, Brogan reminds us, the FBI documents pertaining to Ray Bradbury are

important reminders that science fiction invites us to see and think in new ways. It’s not always ideologically inclined, but it has rarely strayed far from the political.

Ursula K. Le Guin on myths, Modernism and why “I’m a little bit suspicious of the MFA program”

Here Scott Timberg talks with Le Guin, a grand dame of both science fiction and fantasy, about her newly issued book on writing, Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. A significantly revised version of a work originally published in 1998, this book, Timberg says, “is not something any aspiring fiction writer should ignore.”

Steering the Craft originated in a workshop about the nuts and bolts of writing that Le Guin conducted for writers in the 1990s. She said that a lot of writers didn’t “have the vocabulary of the very elements of [their] work – which is how the English language is put together, and what constitutes a sentence and a non-sentence and so on.”

Read the rest of the interview—it’s short—to find out why she thinks writers should read the work of Virginia Woolf and why she is “a little bit suspicious of the MFA program” as a way for writers to practice their craft.

Why Knopf Editor in Chief Sonny Mehta Still Has the “Best Job in the World”

OK, Sonny Mehta is not a novelist, but as editor in chief of the Knopf publishing house, he’s deep into the world of books and writers.

In this short piece Dave Eggers profiles Mehta, for whom “the unique delight in discovering a great unpublished work hasn’t diminished.”

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On Novels and Novelists

Sarah Gerard, Dean Koontz, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith

The 10 Best Books Shorter Than 150 Pages

Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star, recommends 10 short novels. I’ve got this one bookmarked for next December, when I may be scrambling to complete by personal reading challenge on Goodreads.

Dean Koontz on Life, Literature & His New Book ‘Saint Odd’ (INTERVIEW)

“I’ve always loved the English language,” declares Dean Koontz in this interview. Todd Aaron Jensen interviews the best-selling author on the eve of the publication of Saint Odd, the final installment of the Odd Thomas series.

Koontz discusses his troubled childhood with a physically abusive, alcoholic father who was a gambler and a womanizer. He admits that his outlook on life is not what we might expect from someone with such a background. Now 69, Koontz explains how his wife offered to support his writing for five years to see if he could make a living at it. The couple has now been married for nearly 50 years.

Read what this prolific author has to say on topics such as his worldview, his concept of heroism, the concept of fate or destiny that runs throughout his work:

the more we learn, the more layers we find. Every time we learn more, we find there’s still more we don’t know. I try to convey that in my books, that sense that the world is a place of deep mystery, and part of that deep mystery is this incredible beauty that surrounds us. That matters to me because if the world were just an efficient machine, it wouldn’t need to be so beautiful.

How Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith Use Technology: An Excerpt From ‘Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors’

Elisabeth Donnelly discusses “ Sarah Stodola‘s fascinating new book Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, which she describes as “an intimate and well-researched look inside the habits and traditions of 18 of your favorite writers (including David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and George Orwell).”

Read an exclusive preview, which looks at Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith’s very different approaches to technology and the Internet’s role [in] their writing.

7 of Margaret Atwood’s Apocalpyses, Ranked From Pretty Survivable to Totally Terrifying

Laura I. Miller writes:

Margaret Atwood is the queen of post-apocalyptic fiction. From zombies to worldwide contagions, few things are as captivating as the apocalypses she conjures … Atwood’s post-apocalyptic stories are as much about physical survival as psychological endurance, and her dystopias are among the most wretched and most (horrifyingly) believable ones I’ve encountered as a reader.

In honor of the upcoming release of the film version of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Miller considers which of Atwood’s apocalypses she thinks she could survive. She what she has to say about these works:

  • The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home
  • MaddAddam
  • Year of the Flood
  • Oryx and Crake
  • Positron
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Tent

10 Great Novels That Aren’t About What You Heard They Were About

Science fiction and fantasy novels become famous for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they catch the zeitgeist, or maybe they have one idea that everybody falls in love with. But sometimes, we all fixate on something that’s not the actual point of the book. Here are 10 great novels that aren’t about what everybody thinks.

How many of these books have you read?

  1. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein.
  2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
  5. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
  7. Dune and Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert.
  8. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes.
  9. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement.
  10. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu.

And be sure to check out the comments to see what other people would add to this list.