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October 12, 2004

Yetanother book—
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM * 117 comments

—about writing and publishing. This one, by Peter Rubie, is either called The Writer’s Market FAQ’s, if you believe the author’s website; Writer’s Market FAQ’s, if you believe Amazon; or Writer’s Market FAQs, if you look closely at an image of its cover. The book begins:

Why bother to write yet another book about publishing?

The best answer to that question actually starts with a poem:

The grizzly bear is huge and wild, He has devoured the infant child.
The infant child is not aware
He has been eaten by the bear.

INFANT INNOCENCE, by Ogden Nash

With the proliferation of computers and word-processing programs and a growing cult of “personality” authors making “big bucks,” it is tempting to think that publishing has become an easy avenue for making “quick” money while at the same time satisfying some latent creative urge. …
Have I ever “mentioned” how much I “hate” superfluous “quotation marks” applied to “common” words and phrases? Give me fingernails on a chalkboard any day.

The real problem, though, is that that prominently quoted verse is not by Ogden Nash. It’s by A. E. Housman.

It’s hard to put your faith in a book that goes so wrong so fast. Not that you should; judging from the available excerpts, the rest of the work is slight, shallow, loosely written, not terribly accurate, and fractal with lacunae. Still, there’s something almost endearing about a first-page error of that magnitude.

Comments on Yetanother book--:
#1 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:40 PM:

My father does that "annoying quotes thing" too. It also drives me "crazy," which is why I'm glad he never "writes" anything more than the Christmas card every year.

And perhaps I'm dense, but I just don't understand the relevance of the bear poem. Is the bear supposed to be publishing? Scammers? Ambition? What's the deal?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:51 PM:

It's murky. Follow the link to the author's website and see for yourself.

#3 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Thanks so much for sending me to that entertaining site. After my last adventure commenting on a writer here you'd think I'd know better, wouldn't you? So I won't say anything at all, just let the writer's words speak for themselves. From the chapter on editing (!):

If one writes that Alexander the Great leaped from his boat as it crossed the Bospherous and threw down his spear, claiming Asia by right of conquest, this is a historical established fact.

I won't even think of commenting on the lovely image of Alexander's boat throwing the spear and claiming Asia by right of conquest. I won't I won't I won't I won't I wo

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:57 PM:

"Bospherous" is a flammable material produced by cows.

#5 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:06 PM:

The amazon link has already attracted an odious Top 1000 Reviewer. The "Look Inside the Book" feature has been a boon to those assfuckwitards[*].

[*] For Randall.

#6 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:14 PM:

The website goes on to talk about genre, in terms that assume the fledgling writer has somehow been blissfully unaware of the whole idea for all his life. (Romance is different from horror? Who knew?)

But when he gets to fantasy, he describes as famous, Tolkein (ok), Donaldson and Eddings.

Wait. Donaldson? Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, etc? 'Scuse me, but I don't recall those making much of a splash even when they were in print. I read them all back when, but I sure don't recall a whole lot of discussion, many fans, or ever encountering anyone who thought they were particularly well written, much less classics in the field. Even whatsisname, Jordan, has a much bigger following than Donaldson ever did with Covenant.

Supposing the rest of his advice is on a par with this, it seems well worth ignoring.

Steve, the bear is supposedly the publishing industry, through a poor and very strained analogy. The industry doesn't eat wannabe writers, it just sends them rejection slips.

#7 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:14 PM:

On the other hand, "fractal with lacunae" is quite possibly the finest phrase I've seen in decades. Three well-chosen words concisely describe a phenomenon I've long noticed but could never quite articulate.

I once interviewed at F&W (they own the Writer's Market imprint) for a copyediting job. When I told them the paltry salary I was making at MCP, I priced myself out of the job. I do believe F&W has the lowest salaries in the industry. You get what you pay for.

#8 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:25 PM:

I would never have imagined it was possible to mistake Housman for Nash. In Nash's world, of course, the infant child devours the bear.

#9 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:58 PM:

The day when Heaven crapped a brick
And Terra Firm went pudding-thick,
Some lads with contracts on their hips
Cashed first their checks and then their chips.
They raised some shoring on the sky
And pumped the quagmire fairly dry,
And duly outsourced, gave the land
The finger of the unseen hand.
-- W. H. Ogden

#10 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Heh. Reading those first few pages, I'm particularly fond of the implicit assumption that the reader's writing skills are already professional-grade. All the reader needs is a little more business savvy, and voom! Off to the bestseller lists!

He wouldn't be pandering to the likes of Dn Rc, would he?

#11 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:35 PM:

John, you just took my second favorite Houseman poem, and made it funny.

Thank you, I think.

TK

#12 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:37 PM:

David, Rubie's word to describe the Covenant books is "famous" - and as opposed to good or even popular that's not incorrect. I found out about them by reading Dave Langford, for whom Donaldson and Covenant are never-failing sources of humor. You don't do that if your audience doesn't know the work. Hmm, maybe "infamous" would be a better word.

Just a data point, and if Rubie is accurate it's just about the only thing he's accurate about. The number of name-spelling errors alone is jaw-dropping. There's "Tolkein" which is one of those fingernail-on-the-blackboard misspellings. We have "C.J.Cherrie" but "Anne McCaffry", "Arthur C. Clark" but "Richard Starke". And when did the Great Detective get an added initial and become "B Sherlock Holmes"?

#13 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Is this the same Peter Rubie who is a "Highly Recommended" agent at P&E?

#14 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:49 PM:

I find the quotes thing particularly annoying when it's in places that sell food. "Today's special: 'chicken tacos!'" No meat should be quotated like that. Ever. I will eat chicken tacos, but "chicken tacos" are for someone else. Or "'great' bargains!" I'll go somewhere with actually great bargains, thanks, not "great" bargains. Alerting me to the fact that you're ripping me off does not count as honest sales behavior.

One of our high school newspaper reporters knew that he couldn't properly use the apostrophe, so he just skipped it. "The boys basketball teams win didnt surprise the teams fans." Uff da.

I also know someone who...drips scorn and ellipses. Most of his written sentences...have some. He wrote to me, "I hear you...quit physics. And now you're...writing? How...interesting." Thank you, William...Shatner. I think you've mistaken the use of...that punctuation.

#15 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Seabrooks crisps (potato chips) available in the North of England in many and fascinating varieties, claim to be "More than a snack". This is bothersome, because a packet of potato chips (crisps) is pretty much a snack by definition. But it's not as bad as it used to be when they claimed to be "More" than a "snack".

#16 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:04 PM:

"Assfuckwitards" is an "awesome" word, and I "really" enjoy saying "it" "often"!

"Sincerely",
The "President" of the "Andy" Perrin "Fan" club

#17 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:09 PM:
David, Rubie's word to describe the Covenant books is "famous" - and as opposed to good or even popular that's not incorrect.

And they must have been reasonably popular, given that at least one volume appeared on the NYT bestseller list.

#18 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:12 PM:

Actually, I prefer excessive use of italics when really trying to express myself. For example:

Those assfuckwittards are really getting on my friggin' nerves, man!

Or perhaps:

George W. Bush is really an assfuckwitard!

But then, who am I to comment?

#19 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:26 PM:

Randall, for me it's boldface that does "it." I don't like when boldface is used in textbooks to emphasize new terminology.

(The assfuckwitards from Effingham stopped at the Mother Fuddruckers on their way to Athol.)

#20 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:34 PM:

More about the famous Peter Rubie, including a photo!

[quote]
In non-fiction he specializes in narrative non-fiction, popular science, spirituality, history, biography, pop culture, business and technology, parenting, health, self help, music, and food.  He is a "sucker" for outstanding writing.  
[/quote]

#21 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:35 PM:

Sorry, forgot the link:

http://www.prlit.com/prlithomewho.htm

#22 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:58 PM:

[quote]
In non-fiction he specializes in narrative non-fiction, popular science, spirituality, history, biography, pop culture, business and technology, parenting, health, self help, music, and food. He is a "sucker" for outstanding writing.
[/quote]

I don't think "specializes" is the word they're looking for there. What on earth have they left out? I can't think of any non-fiction topics that aren't on that list somewhere!

#23 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 05:04 PM:

The most egregious example of "misplaces" quote marks I've ever "seen":

Pokies "here"
("pokies" being video poker machines).

#24 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 05:36 PM:
In non-fiction he specializes in narrative non-fiction, popular science, spirituality, history, biography, pop culture, business and technology, parenting, health, self help, music, and food.

"'I'm a general specialist,' Harry said loftily."

#25 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 05:38 PM:

Rubie's book is typical of anything related to WM, which perpetuates so many myths concerning the publishing industry that I don't know where to start. (For example, the "never use proportional fonts" myth... if you send a serious trade nonfiction publisher a book-length ms in a decent proportional font, it won't care, and as a reader I can't stand footnotes and endnotes in monospaced fonts.)

In any event, the funniest publishing-for-morons book that I've seen lately purports to teach the reader how to break into trade nonfiction magazines. Leaving aside the value of the advice, which is minimal (it's at best warmed over and a decade out of date, excepting only that the author has shoved in references to the Internet and e-mail in every context in which he can think of them)… it's from a vanity press. Really.

#26 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 06:08 PM:

I find the quotes thing particularly annoying when it's in places that sell food.

But to every rule there is an exception.

In Toronto, for example, it'd mean you were passing up El Asador, which claims to have The "Best" Tacos In Town -- they're pretty dang good, and cheap too!

Far better, to my mind, to avoid places that misspell food items on their signage. Whatever rottiserie chicken may be, it's not going in my mouth.

#27 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 07:06 PM:

I can't remember what I was reading recently--might have been Discworld, might have been something else--but one of the characters would put quotes around anything remotely risqué.

#28 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 07:12 PM:

Mris muttered:

I also know someone who...drips scorn and ellipses. Most of his written sentences...have some. He wrote to me, "I hear you...quit physics. And now you're...writing? How...interesting." Thank you, William...Shatner. I think you've mistaken the use of...that punctuation.

I realized that I had a problem with ellipses when my writing was described as "the one with all the ellipses". I've been trying to wean myself of the addiction ... but it's hard sometimes :)

#29 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 07:26 PM:

About ten years ago, when I thought I had lots of good short story ideas, I went and purchased a copy of Writer's Market...

Then I realized-- there were only four magazines I wanted to see my name in--- and amazingly, they had Easily Obtainable Writer's Guidelines.

Now that I've finished my bachelor's degree, and have Some (not A Lot) Free Time, I may start collecting rejection notices again...

#30 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 08:25 PM:

PiscusFiche -

That was Pratchett, I can't remember which novel and now I'm going to have to go thumb through them all until I find it. Damn your fishy little bones. :D

#31 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 09:17 PM:

Mr Ford --

Whatever you are on, is it potable? palatable? immiscible? obtaintable? Of a character controlable or possibly containable?

(Ow.)

And what happens if you bring it in contact with Chesterton?

#32 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 09:37 PM:

Dan Blum:
My remaining functional brain cell insists on making that a Tom Swifty:

"'I'm a general specialist,' said Tom with broad precision."

Even though I can't make it work out well.

#33 ::: Kass Fireborn ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 09:42 PM:

It's remarkably easy to read that book (and bio) as being ghostwritten by someone other than the purported author, who perhaps interviewed to get or transcribed from a tape the general gist of the work, and carefully portioned off the words for which they felt the most contempt. (Art? I'll give him "art"....)

Plus, it's so... random. Why is it "growing cult of 'personality' authors" and not "growing 'cult of personality' authors"? The mind boggles. And wonders if you could perhaps do a psych study based on the words that were selected to be quotationalized.

Actually it reminds me a lot of the last doctor's report I got, the one where they put "Fibromyalgia" in quotation marks the whole time. I'm not returning to that doctor, ever, and I think I'll give this book a miss for similar reasons.

#34 ::: Holly ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:02 PM:

It was Monstrous Regiment; the "quotator" mentioned was the seemingly useless Lieutenant Blouse. My favorite bit was when he said he was eager to be "at the Foe."

#35 ::: Saundra Mitchell ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:45 PM:

If one writes that Alexander the Great leaped from his boat as it crossed the Bospherous and threw down his spear, claiming Asia by right of conquest, this is a historical established fact.

What I especially like about this is that it's an historical established fact. Once upon a time, it was a fact- now? Not so much. Poor Alexander's boat, sunk for want of a comma.

#36 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:45 AM:

Not to defend this horrid sounding book in any other way, but I do think

The grizzly bear is huge and wild,
He has devoured the infant child.
The infant child is not aware
He has been eaten by the bear.

whether written by Miroslav Holub, e.e. cummings, or Dorothy Parker, does do a marvelous job of describing the plight of the vanity press author.

The horrific thing that I've realised in recent discussions of vanity publishing here is that many of the authors really do not realise that they have been eaten by a bear and - thinking of some Publish America discussion boards I've looked at - simply will not be told.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:36 AM:

Thank you, HP. It fell off my fingers and onto the keyboard. I think I've been wanting it for a long time too. I visualize it as being like those one of those areas on the Moon where there are craters upon craters upon craters.

#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 02:29 AM:

John Houghton and Dan Blum:

I've edited that into another failed Tom Swifty:

"I'm a general specialist," said Tom oxymoronically.

While riding off on his dwarf mammoth and eating a giant shrimp...

#39 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 02:34 AM:

"Chicken" tacos. Made with real tofu, no doubt. it is tempting to apply this model to "personality" authors.

#40 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 03:23 AM:

Um, does this mean that I should pay even less attention to the emails I get from Writer's Digest / Writer's Market than I do already?

Pheevr mentioned:

I would never have imagined it was possible to mistake Housman for Nash. In Nash's world, of course, the infant child devours the bear.

Ooh! Adventures of Isabel! Mrs. Livingston (first grade) used to read that poem to us until I had it almost memorized. Unfortunately, in the link, there's at least one typo or misspelling, and the poem lacks stanza breaks.

The good news (for me, anyway) is that my battered copy of The Face is Familiar does have Adventures of Isabel, stanza breaks and all. It must be the poem about Isabel being chiffle in spite of her sniffle that I'm missing.

#41 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 05:14 AM:

I only clicked on this thread to yelp with delight at 'fractal with lacunae' but I see I missed the boat on the Bospherous.

#42 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:55 AM:

I'd say the Covenant books qualify as well known. In the 2nd hand book shops I frequent, they seem to be the fantasy series that appears the most frequently. Although never the first volume, for some reason.

That's assuming that the book shops aren't just taking them off the shelf, saying "nobody wants these," and passing them on down to the next shop down the road.

xeger:
I realized that I had a problem with ellipses when my writing was described as "the one with all the ellipses". I've been trying to wean myself of the addiction ... but it's hard sometimes :)

I found I had the same problem myself -- I kicked it by starting an em-dash habit. Recently I've noticed I'm using a lot of semicolons; I don't think there are too many of them yet, but maybe I should start separating those sentences out...

(he said, punctuatedly.)

#43 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 08:26 AM:

The Thomas Covenant books (all six of the buggers) were very popular here in Australia back in the 80s. I think they might have been something that did better in the British Commonwealth countries than in the US. For a while in genre bookshops here you couldn't move but for the damn things.

#44 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 08:37 AM:

Pratchett's Going Postal includes the greengrocer's apos'trophe:
No. 1 A. PARKER & SON'S
GREENGROCER'S
HIGH CLAS'S FRUIT AND VEGETABLE'S

And I treasure the bit in A Hat Full of Sky where Tiffany advises Annagramma to learn what "literally" means.

#45 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 08:42 AM:

John M. Ford wrote:

The day when Heaven crapped a brick
And Terra Firm went pudding-thick,
Some lads with contracts on their hips
Cashed first their checks and then their chips.
They raised some shoring on the sky
And pumped the quagmire fairly dry,
And duly outsourced, gave the land
The finger of the unseen hand.
-- W. H. Ogden


I second Terry Karney's "Thank you, I think." On reading that, I was uncertain whether to applaud or to dash to the airport, catch the next flight, knock on Ford's door, and throttle him where he stands.

I think I'll applaud, with a cringe.


#46 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 09:14 AM:

Anticorium types:
Far better, to my mind, to avoid places that misspell food items on their signage. Whatever rottiserie chicken may be, it's not going in my mouth.

I'm not so sure about that. One of my rules of thumb for finding really good Chinese food in New York (and in Toronto for that matter) was to look for the menus with the most misspellings.

What's far more scary are the food items that are accurately described but still dubious. The best case in point: White Castle's chicken ring sandwich. I don't think I want to know where those chicken rings come from. I can think of a few parts of a chicken that are naturally ring-shaped, and none of them are what I would want on my sandwich.

#47 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 09:30 AM:

I "suddenly" feel the need to...apostrophate in s'trange place's while dining...on the "TURKEY WITH TRIMINGS" I saw advertis'ed "nearby".

Teresa: Hee, "fractal with lacunae", indeed. Love it. :)

#48 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 10:05 AM:

Re: "fractal with lacunae"

Mandelbrot (who likes devising interesting names for the various properties of fractals— the explorer gets to name things) also came up with lacunae:

Among the various fractal features which could be computed from am image surface, the fractal dimension D is primary. Theoretically it is invariant to scaling, and known to characterize the roughness of the surface. However, it has been observed that two differently appearing surfaces could have the same value of D. To overcome this, Mandelbrot [8] introduced the term called lacunarity, which quantifies the denseness of an image surface.

Based on the pictures in his book, I think the moon-with-holes image was what he had in mind.

#49 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 10:06 AM:

The grizzly bear is huge and wild,
He has devoured the infant child.
And then he's spit him out again,
"Inedible prose," he did complain.

#50 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 10:39 AM:

*gasps*

Adventures of Isabel!

My first grade teacher assigned us to memorize at least one stanza of those. I memorized all the ones she'd given us. Since I was the only one who'd done the assignment, I was made to stand in front of the class and recite all of them.

And thus began my school career as the teacher's pet.

Thank you for posting that. I'd completely forgotten why I sometimes wake up muttering, "Once on a night as black as pitch, Isabel met a wicked old witch."

#51 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 10:40 AM:

I find this website both 'educational' (not just for the improvement of my writing) as well as 'entertaining' (ya'll have a wonderful sense of humor). However, I find myself guilty on all counts. In my journaling and stories I have “out worn” all of these lazy uses of punctuation. (Overuse of parenthesis most of all) Some days I overuse bold, on others I "abuse" quotation marks. I constantly have to guard my writing against using the same words too many times, as well as overuse of conjunctions and contractions. I fear these are just other examples of lazy writing.... and how about all of those people (sometimes even me) who now write with ;), LOL, and *grins*?

#52 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 10:49 AM:

Does anyone recall which sequel to "Master and Commander" has the obscene verse about the (correctly spelled) "Bospherous?" I paraphrase slightly from poor memory:

"The Captain, he was generous,
he dipped his ***** in Phosphorus
it cast a light
throughout the night
to guide us through the Bosphorus"

Turkish take on Bosphorus "BOSPHORUS (a.k.a. Bogazici) is the strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara; 32km (20 miles) long, 650-3300m (720-3600 yards) wide, 30-120m (100-395ft) deep. Bosphorus comes from a Tracian word of unknown origin, interpreted in Greek as meaning 'Ford of the Cow', from the legend of Io, one of the many lovers of Zeus, who swam across the sea here as a cow chased and continuously disturbed by flies sent by Hera...."

... as in "John M. Ford of the Cow."

Andy Perrin:

You will enjoy interacting and rotating my mouse-moves the Menger Sponge, which is "fractal with lacunae" as the three-dimensional analog of the two-dimensional Sierpinski carpet (which has lacunarity as an image):

Eric W. Weisstein. "Menger Sponge." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

#53 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:03 AM:

Whoops, forgot to paste:

The B.E.M. is huge and wild,
He has devoured the infant child.
The infant child, through muddled diction,
Does not know he's in Science Fiction.

#54 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:30 AM:

I fascinated by the idea of lacunae. Somehow a lacuna seems like more than a mere hole. A lacuna is imperative. It's the palpable absense of something that should be there. It's in the conversation you have with someone you've known for years that seems to bump up against a small [...] in their personality that you've never noticed before. It's the enormous [...] of the true believer when you ask what you thought was an innocent question.

I'm not a math geek, so to me the fractal nature of lacunae is metaphorical. People hold on to their lacunae with a remarkable tenacity, and I think if you hold onto a big lacuna, you need lots of small and medium ones to prop it up and keep it from collapsing.

#55 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:47 AM:

Surely there are fans of The Space Child's Mother Goose here?

Spin along in spatial night,
Artificial satellite,
Monitor with blip and bleep
The universe, and Baby's sleep.

---L.

#56 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:51 AM:

Having just finished The Eyre Affair by Japer Fforde, I would gladly point my fellow readers to the scene where Uncle Mycroft's amazing thesaurus worms (to simplify somewhat) start tossing out heaps of extra-neous hy'phens, apo&strophes and &pers&s, which f'ind the-ir way into- the sur'roundi'ng conve&rsation.

#57 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:08 PM:

I hate to admit I'd never heard the Adventures of Isabel before. Having said that, has anyone ever heard it done as a double-dutch jump rope rhyme? It's the perfect rhythm for it. If I'd known about it three years ago, I could have had a blast teaching it to the fifth-grade double dutch team at Cooper Elementary School. And what great vocabulary words for them to learn! Ravenous, cavernous, rage and rancor...

I'm filing that one away to use when I get back into education. Way more fun than "Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella..."

#58 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Thanks, JvP.

#59 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:40 PM:
Far better, to my mind, to avoid places that misspell food items on their signage. Whatever rottiserie chicken may be, it's not going in my mouth.

While I mostly agree, it does depend: don't expect to get a decent Pho if the English menu has all the ingredients spelled correctly. That menu should have been translated from the Vietnamese by a small child somehow related to the non-English speaking owners.

If they can afford a translator, or if it even occurs to them to hire one, it's not proper Pho.

#60 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:06 PM:

Thel:

I hate to admit I'd never heard the Adventures of Isabel before. Having said that, has anyone ever heard it done as a double-dutch jump rope rhyme? It's the perfect rhythm for it.

And here I was trying to turn it into an Andrews Sisters song.

#61 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:16 PM:

Far better, to my mind, to avoid places that misspell food items on their signage. Whatever rottiserie chicken may be, it's not going in my mouth.

There used to be a food truck near me that sold sea-pood, and lemo-gras chiken. The latter was very good.

#62 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:17 PM:

(Romance is different from horror? Who knew?)

I'm sorry. This contributes nothing to the discussion but I can't help myself.

I'd say that depends on how you define horror and what your experience with romance has been.

MKK

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:25 PM:

If one writes that Alexander the Great leaped from his boat as it crossed the Bospherous and threw down his spear, claiming Asia by right of conquest, this is a historical established fact.

As a former Classics major, let me assure you that the only established fact in the above sentence is that one has written it. Most of the symbolic events of Classical times were made up later by historians.

#64 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 01:58 PM:

"(Romance is different from horror? Who knew?)"
...
I'd say that depends on how you define horror and what your experience with romance has been.

Ooh--furthering the derail, I just watched an amazing film (HD DV, actually) called Stacy, by Japanese ex-porn director Naoyuki Tomomatsu. A surprisingly deep, philosophical movie about the nature and meaning of romantic and transcendent love. With flesh-eating zombies in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms, steel barrels full of quivering body parts, and an infomercial for the "Blues Campbell Right Hand 2" model chainsaw. Not for the squeamish, but then true love never is.

#65 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 02:28 PM:

Ironically, Gigi committed, above, one of my punctuational pet peeves; which is at least in part an irrational peeve against a valid regional variation which simply differs from my own. I'm sure y'all can figure out what I'm talkin' about.

Xeger, Mris, I too suffer from ellipse addiction...although it tends to surface most in conversational formats such as this one, rather than in my actual prose. I still have to watch myself when I write dialogue, though...

#66 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 02:36 PM:

on the subject of extraneous punctuation: I remember being inordinately pleased when the narrator in Seymour: an Introduction (by J.D. Salinger) presented the reader with:

'this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((())))'

#67 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 02:56 PM:

"I'm a general specialist," said Tom, with commanding precision.

#68 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 04:24 PM:

Steve Taylor -

Since this has become a thread about grammar peeve-pets and suchlike, I must put in my Stock Rant #41. The name is E. E. Cummings. As per not only his usual signature, but his instructions to editors on how he wanted things done. The "e. e. cummings" silliness is an absurdity largely promulgated by a posthumous editor who should have known better.

(Detailed reference here and followup here)

#69 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 05:00 PM:

Brooks, thank you, thank you, thank you! That will be eternally useful to me, I expect, in the smacking down of innumerable twits who raise up Cummings as their patron excuse for laziness in correspondence.

#70 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 06:08 PM:

actually it's my understanding that this book was ghostwritten by Todd James Pierce {winner of the international cosmopolitical substratum of peggiwin falls, ontologaria, canada}, a very public stab in the face to all you naysayers who doubted him.

that's right, Todd James Pierce is coming back
crazy wild, hopped up on crack
you fools don't know it's Todd James Pierce
litrary feind and very superb feirce. etc.*

*all rhymes the property of TJP grand pandalajurum.


#71 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 06:11 PM:

'Having just finished The Eyre Affair'

it's always hardest on the man when a relationship of this sort terminates. acording to dave sim.

#72 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 06:32 PM:

"If one writes that Alexander the Great leaped from his boat as it crossed the Bospherous and threw down his spear, claiming Asia by right of conquest, this is a historical established fact."

Add to the list of things wrong with this, he's got the wrong strait. It was the Hellespont, the modern Dardanelles, not the Bosphorous, where Alexander crossed

#73 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:46 PM:

Brooks Moses wrote:

> Since this has become a thread about grammar peeve-pets and suchlike, I must put in my Stock Rant #41. The name is E. E. Cummings. As per not only his usual signature, but his instructions to editors on how he wanted things done. The "e. e. cummings" silliness is an absurdity largely promulgated by a posthumous editor who should have known better.

Dang! Next you'll be telling me 'posh' doesn't stand for 'port outwards, starboard home'.

Consider me both chastised and educated.

#74 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:57 PM:

John Ford wrote:

> The day when Heaven crapped a brick
And Terra Firm went pudding-thick,
Some lads with contracts on their hips
Cashed first their checks and then their chips.

Oh my. First the Damon Runyon Shakespeare parodies... (Yes, I too am a recovering el...psis abuser) Are you keeping track of all of these? Or is that my job?

_Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries_ is one of the first poems I can remember enjoying.

#75 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:28 PM:

Simon, in the longago (and I decline to think how long ago it was, but Covenant etc. was still in print), I dungeonmastered a campaign with several elements shamelessly ripped off from Donaldson.

I had to remove them because not one of the participants, (all SF/Fantasy saavy or they wouldn't have been playing in the first place) understood what they were or how to deal with them. None of them had ever heard of Donaldson.

Anecdote? Yeah, sure it is. It remains that I've never had a serious discussion with anyone about this series, or anything Donaldson ever wrote.

As for being popular and reaching the bestseller list, well, so did whatsisname, Jordan, and so did Dan Brown. 'nuff said, n'cest pas?

His last series, I just gave up on as being too ugly. Well, Donaldson-bashing is well beside the point, that being that if he's holding him up as some kind of exemplar, we agree he's missing the boat by way too wide a margin.

Just thinking of the people he COULD have cited instead, nearly makes one weep. LeGuin, Moon, Brust, Mieville, Friedman,Modesitt, oh no. We've got Donaldson.


Advice from his excerpts remind me of a paid "learn the secrets of the stock market" course I once bought from Forbes Magazine. They had a per-lesson money back guarantee, which I used early and often, viz:

I already knew that, here's your "lesson" back, refund my money.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

"Umm, maybe you should sign up for our "advanced course" instead."
"Ok, send me that instead." They sent me the first advanced course lesson. (No more quotes, it bugs our gracious hostess, and she might thing me.)

I already knew that, here's your advanced lesson back, refund my money.

They sent me the refund and stopped talking to me anymore.

--------------------

Romance and SF are different genres? How I wish someone had told me that long ago, and saved me all the time/postage I wasted sending bodice-rippers to Asimov's and F&SF. Thank God he's convinced me I should probably not send them to Tor, eh?

#76 ::: Kat Allen ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 12:02 AM:

I may have been mislead by the free giveaway at Worldcon -- but I believe Donaldson's brought Thomas Covenant back for a new series of adventures.

Which I would guess means someone thinks they'll sell well.

#77 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 04:59 AM:

Kat Allen wrote: I believe Donaldson's brought Thomas Covenant back for a new series of adventures.

Yes. After a postal mix-up too tedious to describe, three copies of The Runes of the Earth arrived here on Monday. The arcane vocabulary that I used to mock (e.g. in the masthead of Ansible 32) has been toned down, and fans of clench-racing must wait until the early pages of Chapter 2 for "Her stomach clenched."

Dave

#78 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:51 AM:

I must admit my experience of reading Donaldson's books is limited to the single book "The Mirror Of Her Dreams," which I thought was OK but not good enough to justify searching out the rest of the series... but how, exactly, can a stomach clench? Is this character human? Mammal? Plausible?

#79 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:56 AM:

Dave! Good to see you here.

#80 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 10:44 AM:

Jules, _Mirror of Her Dreams_ is the first book of a simple duology called "Mordant's Need." Given that the "series" is just one more book (Titled _A Man Rides Through_), I'd recommend the minimal effort of completing it out. It's his most appealing work, IMO, and Imagery is one of the coolest magic systems I've ever heard of.

#81 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 10:53 AM:
I may have been mislead by the free giveaway at Worldcon -- but I believe Donaldson's brought Thomas Covenant back for a new series of adventures.

I don't think he's actually brought Covenant himself back, since I believe he's still dead.

I would also recommend finishing Mordant's Need - I enjoyed it considerably more than the Covenant books, and one I re-read every now and then. The main problem with it is that early on one is likely to have the urge to grab the protagonist and shake some assertiveness into her, but if you've finished the first volume you've gotten past that part (and I should note that her passivity is well-enough motivated, but it's still irritating).

#82 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 10:58 AM:

Dave: Donaldson's arcane vocabulary has been "toned down" in the new one? Hardly! His repeated use of "formication" (feeling as though one is being crawled upon by ants)was enough to send me running for the aisles very early on.

#83 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 11:30 AM:

Faren on Donaldson's excesses of vocabulary: I said "toned down", not ditched entirely! At least the uglilogisms are spaced out a bit in the new book, rather than coming in dense clusters....

Dan Blum: I don't think he's actually brought Covenant himself back, since I believe he's still dead. But being dead doesn't stop him communicating Cryptic Advice to the heroine.

Dave

#84 ::: April Grant ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 12:02 PM:

"The Fortune of War" by Patrick O'Brian has the lewd verse:

Our captain was very good to us,
He dipped his prick in phosphorus;
It shed a light all through the night
And steered us through the Bosphorus.

And sure it is the lewd verse of the world.
April

#85 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 12:16 PM:

repeated use of "formication"

Reminds me of an old school friend who would use the word "masticate" whenever the possibility arose. He _was_ fifteen at the time, of course.

#86 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 02:11 PM:
Dan Blum: I don't think he's actually brought Covenant himself back, since I believe he's still dead. But being dead doesn't stop him communicating Cryptic Advice to the heroine.

He's just not sufficiently dead. This should be amenable to correction.

#87 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 04:24 PM:

I'm not exactly into Donaldson's work either, but he must still have some fans out there. All of his books are still in print, and the new one is currently #77 on the Amazon sales rankings. All of his books seem to have pretty decent Amazon sales #s.

It is pretty hard to get a book up into the double-digit ratings. For some random comparisons, Paladin of Souls is #20,689; The Lord of Castle Black is #118,736 in paperback and #74,761 in hardcover; even Fellowship of the Ring is #14,587.

#88 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 01:02 PM:

David, if I were playing a fantasy game with elements ripped off from Donaldson, I wouldn't know how to deal with them either.

But I have to say that a roomful of fantasy-savvy people who'd all never heard of him astonishes me, and I think it would astonish others here who've testified to his popularity. I'd have to know the date and demographics to parse your anecdote.

You might have just popped into an alternate universe where he's obscure. It could be a better universe than this one, believe me.

#89 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 01:18 PM:

Jules, where'd you go to school?

...'cause damned if that doesn't sound like me!

#90 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 04:41 PM:

In Penryn, Cornwall, England. I'm sure a lot of people go through that phase when at school. :)

#91 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 06:25 AM:

There is, of course, the delightful image of Alexander leaping from his boat as it crossed the (insert body of water here). In that case, it would have made perfect sense for him to throw down his spear. Or anything else that might act as a flotation device, since he would undoubtedly have been bent on drowning himself. And, Maturin would have added, a fine thing too.

#92 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:09 PM:

My eighth-grader also insists the poem is Housman's, and it certainly isn't the cheerful, uplifting style I'm used to with a Nash poem, so upon hearing that, I wrote Mr. Rubie, the author. Mr. Rubie wrote me back assuring me everyone is wrong and that the poem was indeed written by Nash.

#93 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:28 PM:
My eighth-grader also insists the poem is Housman's, and it certainly isn't the cheerful, uplifting style I'm used to with a Nash poem, so upon hearing that, I wrote Mr. Rubie, the author. Mr. Rubie wrote me back assuring me everyone is wrong and that the poem was indeed written by Nash.

Ah, willful ignorance. That's a much more serious offense than simple ignorance or a mistake. He could get eight to ten for that. (I'm not exactly sure what he could get eight to ten of, as yet, but that's a side issue.)

#94 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:35 PM:

Mr. Blum said: (I'm not exactly sure what he could get eight to ten of, as yet, but that's a side issue.)

Strokes with a scarlet pen, forming the letters WI across his forehead?

#95 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:59 PM:
Strokes with a scarlet pen, forming the letters WI across his forehead?

That's only seven strokes, surely, unless you want to use an ornate script, and I feel that for ostracizing simple block capitals are best.

#96 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 02:03 PM:

That's only seven strokes, surely, unless you want to use an ornate script, and I feel that for ostracizing simple block capitals are best.

You forgot the underscore(s). Wouldn't want people seeing it upside down thinking it stood for Incredible Moron, would you?

#97 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 02:45 PM:

Dan Blum:

As to counting strokes, it's kind of cool what you get if you count the strokes in:

TWENTYNINE.

This subthread smacks of Kafka's "The Penal Colony." Or of the magic pen that bloodies Harry Potter's hand...

#98 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 05:23 PM:

(coming late to the meeting)
Step 1
We admitted we were powerless....

damn, backsliding already.

#99 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 08:57 AM:

My personal thought on why the first Covenant book is so hard to find in used bookstores but the rest aren't: the first one's actually not bad. But they go downhill pretty fast.

This does not explain how I came to own six Thomas Covenant books. I'd like to plead temporary insanity, but then I look at my Jack Chalker collection and wonder how temporary it was. Is. Something.

Anyhow.

On a related note, I also really, really liked the Mordant's Need duology. Much, much better.

#100 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:05 AM:

I loved Thomas Covenant when I was in junior high. But then, I loved Judas Priest, too.

/shrugs

#101 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 12:50 PM:

That first Covenant book is really quite good -- it hooked me firmly enough that I made it about half-way through the third book before I gave up. Donaldson is a really competent writer. His writing skill was almost enough to make up for the increasing shaggy-dogness of the story. I've never tried Mordant's Need -- it seemed like the Covenant story all over again. Maybe he got it right the second time?

I also really liked the first Jack Chalker book I read, and bought a pile more of them. I can't remember what that first one was. I suspect I was pretty young when I read it.

And hey, what's wrong with Judas Priest? Or, at least, with their music? (I always hated the band's name. Way too religious for my taste.)

#102 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 01:38 PM:
That first Covenant book is really quite good -- it hooked me firmly enough that I made it about half-way through the third book before I gave up. Donaldson is a really competent writer. His writing skill was almost enough to make up for the increasing shaggy-dogness of the story. I've never tried Mordant's Need -- it seemed like the Covenant story all over again. Maybe he got it right the second time?

I recall liking the first Covenant book reasonably well at the time, although the series definitely went downhill (I did finish all six books, but I really couldn't say why).

Mordant's Need is something like the Covenant series in general outline, but it's quite different in detail, and particularly in the feel. Everything isn't so bloody Significant and Doom-Laden, for one thing, the protagonist isn't nearly as insufferable even early on (and she improves markedly) for another, and the style is much more lucid, for the last.

#103 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 06:37 PM:

I liked the Covenant books until I got seriously ill myself and then the whining drove me nuts.

#104 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:07 AM:

Regarding Donaldson, a net.friend of mine and I once arrived at the following (now one of my rotating .sig quotes):

Clarkson's Law of Fannish Libraries (revised):
At some point in its existence, however brief, every fannish library contains at least one copy of White Gold Wielder.
#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 07:26 AM:

It's a good law. It's nearly true. But the Nielsen Hayden library is a counterexample.

#106 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 10:54 AM:

That may not always be true, Teresa.... You never know what people will sneak into your bookshelves.

#107 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:47 AM:

What, have I made it a challenge now?

#108 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:52 PM:

It's never made it into my library either - and no need to consider that a challenge :)

#109 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:01 PM:

Nor mine, and since -- if I can dignify a mere cubic meter of books with the term -- said library current resides inside boxes inside heavy guage steel shelves inside a ferroconcrete storage locker, sneaking a copy in there will present a challenge.

Especially since books are not the only thing in there, and I'm not sure how much of the oak tree will fall on anyone opening the door.

#110 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Oh, there are any number of counterexamples. There are also squadrons of people who have reported the inexplicable presence of White Gold Wielder on their bookshelves, unread, divorced from all five prequels, with utter wonderment.

#111 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:06 PM:

This is probably the most appropriate of the recent threads to put this comment...

Remember that earlier this year I was trying to decide whether an ebook publisher broke Yog's Law? Co-author and I ended up going with them, with a book that can basically be described as original slash. I've just received my royalty statement for the second month of sales. Fewer sales this month, but over the two months it's been out it's sold more than the 70 copies sold by the average iUniverse author. My half of the royalty check for this month comes to more than the amount mentioned by one of the posters on AbsoluteWrite as the *only* royalty payment she received from PA.

What I'm getting from the ebook publisher is peanuts compared with a print publisher, and it's still significantly better than the POD vanity presses, both in sales figures and money.

#112 ::: Julia Jones sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 09:48 AM:

I don't know what that's all about (a test of spamming software?) but it certainly looks like three comment spams to me.

#113 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2004, 02:18 AM:

I only made it partway through the first Thomas Covenant. It wasn't (oddly enough) the utterly repellent protagonist that did me in. It was the fantasy names. While he was still being introduced to the other world I started to twitch, and said to myself, damn, one more Germanic name construction and I chuck this book. And there was, and I did.
If there had been some sort of cultural justification provided, I might have felt differently.

#114 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 12:42 PM:

"one more Germanic name construction and I chuck this book.
If there had been some sort of cultural justification provided, I might have felt differently."

they were a bunch of boring and not especially bright white people?

heh, I kid. cause I'm danish.


#115 ::: jb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:30 PM:

I don't see how anyone can mention Donaldson without mentioning the "Mordant's Need" books. Two books, one fabulously convoluted mystery, a world far more interesting and coherent than Thomas Covenant...Mordant's Need was by far his best work, and ranks among the best works of fantasy not to escape the genre.

#116 ::: . ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2007, 08:06 AM:

Was it porn or was it gems?
Uprooted now: roots, leaves and stems.

[posted from 86.106.228.38]

#117 ::: Graydon sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2007, 08:23 AM:

And quite entirely loathesome comment spam it is, too.

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