Monday, September 28, 2009

Advice from C. L. Moore, Read What You Enjoy Most; and Some Rambling

A few months ago, I started reading, rather determinedly, science fiction novels and short stories. It had been years since I'd 'really read' something. I'd been reading every day, often voraciously: but it was technical manuals, articles and posts online, statistical tables: that sort of thing.

I'd been concerned - or maybe it was worried - that I might have lost the knack for sticking with a longish work of fiction. Practically all that I'd been reading since around the eighties had been excerpts from non-fiction works, data tables, and what I found online.

The closest I'd come to reading fiction was the occasional op-ed piece.

No great surprise: All I needed to do was pick up a 'real book' and start reading.

I've been reading - and occasionally studying - stories and novels by Charles Sheffield, Poul Anderson, C. L. Moore, and others. Right now I'm getting started on something by Frederick Pohl.

Part of my reason for re-starting my habit of reading fiction is that I've also revived my ambition to write stories. I figured that reading what established authors have published might help - and I was pretty sure that reviewing the stories that excited my imagination decades ago couldn't hurt what I was doing now.

It's nice to get confirmation that I (probably) wasn't completely on the wrong track:
"...First, you have to read a great deal of the works you enjoy most. Much of it will be useless. But the trustworthy unconscious can be relied on to make lots of unseen notes, just in case...."

From Afterword: Footnote to "Shambleau"...and Others, C. L. Moore, from "The Best of C. L. Moore" C. L. Moore, Lester Del Rey editor (1975).
"Shambleau" and "Black Thirst" reminded me of a number of promising approaches to speculative fiction. One phrase in particular struck me as being suitable as a sort of introduction: "...There were races before man..." (p. 44, "Black Thirst" in "The Best of C. L. Moore")

I know: H. P. Lovecraft and a gaggle of more-or-less talented authors have arguably mined out the Cthulhu mythos and its near cousins. On the other hand, I think there are stories to write that take into account the scale of the universe - in time and space.

If we found ruins of a civilization that were a million years old: we'd have missed them by a short tick of the cosmic clock.

And, although I think the crawling horrors of the hack-work Lovecraft-inspired story miss the mark for plausibility: I somewhat doubt that encountering people whose history includes recordings of what made the Chicxulub crater about 65,000,000 years ago would be quite like the climactic scene of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Off on a Tangent: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"

My reaction to Spielberg's UFO movie may not be typical.

My take on the show is that it's essentially a religious movie, built around the beliefs of a sort of cargo cult that was perhaps more common in the fifties through seventies than it is now.
What Were Those Aliens Really Doing?
With a little editing, "Close Encounters" could be made into a taut suspense/horror movie.

I mean to say: here a bunch of people with scarily powerful technologies have been systematically kidnapping people and stealing property on a grand scale for the last several generations.

Now, 'out of the blue,' they make a point of returning some of the stolen property - in highly inappropriate places (an ocean liner - on land?!)

Then after what the human welcoming committee think are the aliens' kidnap victims come lurching out of the mothership, walking like B-movie automatons, some of the presumably best and brightest of Earth march smartly into the great big mothership: AND NOBODY SEES ANYTHING ODD ABOUT IT?!
1 We never see the faces of those - things - stumping out of the mothership clearly - although apparently their physical appearance is apparently close to that of people snatched decades back.

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