Robert V.S. Redick on the Sorrows and Joys of Writing–and the New Books!

By tpasternak at Del Ray
Writing is hard.

Let me rephrase that. Writing is a blood-sucking, mind-flaying, eyestalk-wiggling, barbed-mandibled monster of a job. It eats you. It eats your friends. It eats your family and your health and your sunny days and your bank account and it eats Deborah Harry’s guitar.

Which is not to say that I don’t love it. Certainly I do. After all a good part of it can happen in your pajamas–although that could also be said, God help us, of the authorship of cruise-missile code.

Right, so this is a lead-in to my apologia to everybody who used to follow this blog, and slowly drifted away when no letters from Alifros were forthcoming. Thanks to all of you who sent messages of support, good humour or inquiry. I think I answered everyone, but if I failed to, please forgive the oversight. I have an excuse, of course. I’ve been writing like a demon on Jolt.

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The 13 scariest books of all time NOT written by Stephen King

By Marc Bernardin at Blastr
Yes, we all know King is the Sultan of Scare, and that books like The Shining, Salem’s Lot, and It will make you quake in your fuzzy slippers. But here are 13 books that’ll start the shivers while spreading the wealth.


This isn’t the first time we’d meet the psychopathic Hannibal Lecter—that’d be Red Dragon—but it was the most eerie. And what’s more, he wasn’t the only serial baddie at work: Buffalo Bill took his share of trophies as Silence of the Lambs worked its way into the public’s collective cerebral cortex.

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Why doesn’t more fantasy take place in the future?

By Charlie Jane Anders at io9
It used to be, science fiction took place in the future and fantasy in the past. But lately, more science fiction takes place in the past. So we can’t help wondering whether there’ll be more fantasy set in the future.

We’re in Ohio for the World Fantasy Convention, so it’s a perfect time to wonder about fantasy and whether it’ll ever become futuristic.

It’s easy to see why science fiction is usually viewed as the literature of the future — a lot of SF is about advanced science or technology, and speculating about what might be. If it’s in the future, it could really happen — whereas speculations about the past are automatically counterfactual. (If you believe history, anyway.) Plus we tend to think of magic and myth as relics from an era before we “knew better,” thanks to science. So it’s easier to buy into a magical quest from an era before physics.

Except, of course, magic and science aren’t mutually exclusive. And the more we learn about science, the more we realize we don’t really understand how the universe works in some very fundamental ways. As Tower of Power says, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

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Dear Book Lover: You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover

by Cynthia Crossen at The Wall Street Journal
I occasionally buy (or borrow) a book based purely on its cover, if cover includes the dust jacket. Compared to some products of roughly the same size—cereal boxes, for example—the packaging of a book actually offers a great deal of information about its contents. You just have to know how to read it.

To get a sense of the prodigious variety and quality of book covers, take a look at (click on a cover to see the designer’s name). It’s all a matter of taste, of course, as you can see when two versions of the same book are shown (“You Are Not a Gadget” by Jason Lanier or “About a Mountain” by John D’Agata). The archive also links to some of the cover designers’ “portfolio” sites, where you can see a few of the cover designs that were rejected, as well as the chosen ones.

At the Museum of Bad Book Covers (, you’ll see some book covers that were chosen but probably should have been rejected. It’s easy enough to mock books with titles like “Mommy, Why Is There a Server in the House?” or “Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball,” but the covers are almost self-parodies.

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I think Sci Fi has a bad rep when it comes to terrible book covers. Even new books sometimes have pulpy covers. And I avoid those, not simply because the covers are bad, but because bad covers tend to reflect cheap publishing houses; which means they are going for quantity rather than quality (and the story is usually has hokey as the cover). They’re the literary equivalent of SyFy original movies. But there are some gorgeous Sci Fi and fantasy covers now (I think The Sparrow has one the prettiest covers out there, and it’s Sci Fi).

What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? Do you like the idea of fantasy books being set in the future? How much do book covers influence you?