Jerome in the Yukon Writers Festival

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A really nice article by Dan Davidson appeared in the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 19. Alistair Maitland did the photo. I appreciate them both. I think this Festival will be a lot of fun. It’s always good to get to teach Yukon high school students as part of the Young Authors Conference as well.

The Festival starts with a big reading at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre Tuesday night at 7pm. The Young Authors Conference is held the next two days after that in FH Collins Library and then we head off Friday to Haines Junction for a reading.

Organizer Sara Davidson has done a great job at gathering diverse writers together. Yukoner Dennis Allen, as well as Drew Hayden Taylor and Carrie Mac and Beverley Brenna.

If you can, come and enjoy the readings with us.

Harry Potter Diary: Outside the Demographic Looking Inside Hogwarts

I decided to read the Harry Potter Series this summer, for the first time.  After 10 billion people were happily served by the boy wizard and his pals, after the series was put to rest by JK Rowling years ago, and just as the film franchise explodes to a close, I decided to read the books.

Some questions immediately pop to mind: Why didn’t I read the books years ago?  

1.  I’m not a fad kind of guy, so having millions of people read the books actually made me feel less like becoming part of the phenomenon.  

2.  I actually loved the movies.  I did read HP 2 after the first movie came out, and before the second movie.  And loved it.  But when I watched the film, I was terribly disappointed that a whole mess of story was eliminated as if it didn’t count.  I vowed then and there to see the movies first, and then I would read the books to add in parts that the movies had left out.  This is actually a decent strategy.  

And why now??

Well, the end of the era is around the corner…. by summer 2011, the films will be done.  But I think it’s more because I really want to read the books.  I want to see how Rowling built the arcs, how she developed series characters, and how she managed to maintain the hook for so long.  It’s okay to admire the books on a “how are they written?” sort of way.  

I want the magic too.  Even though, now, I know at least where the movies have taken me.  Now I want to see where the books take me.  

I’m not the demographic JK Rowling was aiming for.  Her 9-17 age bracket probably resonated with the idea that children can have power too; that magic exists under adult noses; that the world doesn’t have to be like their parents told them it would be–office buildings, stock markets and 2 hour commutes.  

So what would a 41 year old, single, gay writer and English teacher living in the Yukon Territory–with no children– get from reading the Harry Potter series–besides how to create a blockbuster series?  It’s a good question to think about.  How does a book transcend its ideal market, appeal across the board to adults and children alike?  What will be the pull of the series for me?  (I already loved the movies—but why.)  

I’m keeping a Harry Potter Diary as I go to ponder things about the series along the way.   Just reactions to, thoughts about, resonances with the series.  

There’s a spot at Hogwarts for me–and I’m going to find it.

How to Read and Understand Science Fiction: Jo Walton’s Essay on Tor

Below is an excerpt and a link for the wonderful essay by Jo Walton on “SF Reading Protocols” or just how to understand Science Fiction and Fantasy when you’re reading it.   Her argument is that readers of Science Fiction actually read differently than other readers, and books in this genre require a different reading skillset.  

Genres are usually defined by their tropes—mysteries have murders and clues, romances have two people finding each other, etc. Science fiction doesn’t work well when you define it like that, because it’s not about robots and rocketships. Samuel Delany suggested that rather than try to define science fiction it’s more interesting to describe it, and of describing it more interesting to draw a broad circle around what everyone agrees is SF than to quibble about the edge conditions. (Though arguing over the borders of science fiction and fantasy is a neverending and fun exercise.) He then went on to say that one of the ways of approaching SF is to look at the way people read it—that those of us who read it have built up a set of skills for reading SF which let us enjoy it, where people who don’t have this approach to reading are left confused.

… My ex-husband once lent a friend Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. The friend couldn’t get past chapter 2, because there was a tachyon drive mentioned, and the friend couldn’t figure out how that would work. All he wanted to talk about was the physics of tachyon drives, whereas we all know that the important thing about a tachyon drive is that it lets you go faster than light, and the important thing about the one in The Forever War is that the characters get relativistically out of sync with what’s happening on Earth because of it. The physics don’t matter—there are books about people doing physics and inventing things, and some of them are SF (The Dispossessed…) but The Forever War is about going away to fight aliens and coming back to find that home is alien, and the tachyon drive is absolutely essential to the story but the way it works—forget it, that’s not important.

This tachyon drive guy, who has stuck in my mind for years and years, got hung up on that detail because he didn’t know how to take in what was and what wasn’t important. How do I know it wasn’t important? The way it was signalled in the story. How did I learn how to recognise that? By reading half a ton of SF. How did I read half a ton of SF before I knew how to do it? I was twelve years old and used to a lot of stuff going over my head, I picked it up as I went along. That’s how we all did it. Why couldn’t this guy do that? He could have, but it would have been work, not fun…

Read More Here

Hearing me read my story in On Spec [online]

os_spr07Hey, you can hear me reading from my science fiction story, “Why the Poets were Banned from the City” online at On Spec: Follow this link here.

It originally appeared in the Spring 2007 issue that you see on the left. What I loved about the cover art by Robert Pasternak is that it is a wave of white horses, exactly how Whitehorse was named (for the rapids and their uncanny resemblance to white horses). It was a nice piece of synchronicity for me as a writer.

The piece is only 5 minutes long, but you can read the rest in the Spring 2007 back issue.

Much gratitude to Diane Walton and Colin Lynch of On Spec for asking me to do it. And for a great friend who helped me record it. Thanks!

On Spec is dedicated to publishing Canadian Speculative Fiction and is always looking for more. Hop around on their website this holiday and see what they’ve got.