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October 14, 2013

8 Tips For Creating Great Stories From George R.R. Martin, Junot Diaz, And Other Top Storytellers

3019333-inline-s-6-tips-for-creating-mind-blowing-fantasy-talesBy: Hugh Hart

Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction is jammed with storytelling wisdom from some of world’s top fantasy writers. Here’s some of it.

What the hell is a Story Lizard? In Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Abrams Books, October 15), Story Lizards join Prologue Fish and other infographic helpmates designed to banish dry textual analysis in favor of a kicking, screaming, slithering approach to storytelling creativity.

Author Jeff Vandermeer, a three-time Fantasy World Award-winning novelist who co-directs the Shared Worlds teen writing camp, says “The way we’re taught to analyze fiction is to break down and do a kind of autopsy. But I think writers need to be more like naturalists or zoologists when they study story because then you’re looking at how all the elements fit together.”

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September 5, 2013

All The Pretty Corpses

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:01 am

laurenbeukestheshininggirls  by Lauren Beukes

Pop culture has a nasty habit of producing them. You know the type: the girl in the trunk with her long bare legs dangling over the bumper; the torture victim in the basement in a dirty vest and panties; matted hair over her face, the broken ingénue with glazed eyes and her dress fetchingly rucked up and one high heel kicked off and blood pooling under her.

The murder victim becomes a bloody puzzle that has to be solved. She is the sum of her injuries, rather than her life.

We focus on the gory details – the exit wound of the bullet, the angle of the knife, the pattern of the blood spatter, the DNA under her nails, the defensive cuts on her hands. We learn it from TV. This is what is important: what was done to her. Passive voice. Because there’s no subject anymore. Only object: the dead girl, the body. And a body doesn’t mean anything. It’s an empty snail shell. It’s okay to look. There’s no-one in there now. But there was once.

Which is why I wrote The Shining Girls to be a book that is as much about the victims’ stories as the killer’s.

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July 5, 2013

The Shining Girls Is The Time Traveler’s Wife, Plus Stabbing

girlsThe Shining Girls by South African author Lauren Beukes is one of this summer’s hottest books, and was recently optioned for television by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way. The story centers around a violent drifter named Harper Curtis, who stumbles on a house that travels through time. Harper then embarks on a killing spree, murdering women in Chicago throughout the twentieth century. But in contrast to suave Hollywood psychopaths like Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman, Harper is more pathetic than debonair, which Beukes feels is closer to reality when it comes to serial killers.

“A lot of them have major issues with impotence — whether that’s actual sexual dysfunction or just feelings of powerlessness,” says Lauren Beukes in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually just violent losers.”

She also wanted to push back against the tendency of crime stories to present murdered women as sex objects. Each of the victims in The Shining Girls is a unique, well-developed character, and together they convey a fascinating portrait of the lives of strong-willed women. It’s that very promise that puts them in the sights of Harper, who’s drawn to their sense of potential. The murder scenes are gritty and visceral, and all are written from the point of view of the victims, focusing on their horror and outrage.

“I specifically tried to avoid writing torture porn,” says Beukes. “And actually, my editor is one of the leading experts on violence against women in South Africa, so if she said a scene was OK and passed muster, I felt like it was probably OK.”

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May 23, 2013

Is this the end of fiction’s genre wars?

beukesHas the question of genre in fiction become ‘a flimsy irrelevence’ or will the mores of the book trade maintain the distinctions?

By Stuart Kelly

This week, the chair of this year’s Man Booker prize, Robert Macfarlane, published an introduction to a new edition of M John Harrison’s Climbers. In it, he says “let me try to express a little of the amazement I feel when standing in front of the work of Harrison, who is best known as one of the restless fathers of modern SF but who is to my mind among the most brilliant novelists writing today, and with regard to whom the question of genre is a flimsy irrelevance”. Are we witnessing the end of the genre wars? Macfarlane has written introductions as enthusiastically to the (genre) work of John Christopher and the (literary) work Edward Thomas and Charles Dickens. Before starting on this year’s submissions for the Man Booker (I am also a judge), I was among those who selected the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, a list which featured a number of genre-inflected writers (Steven Hall, Naomi Alderman, Joanna Kavenna, Ned Beauman, Xiaolu Guo, Helen Oyeyemi, Jenni Fagan and Sarah Hall). Is genre, as Macfarlane says “a flimsy irrelevance”?

Well, not to publishers and booksellers, who seem the section of the literary world most wedded to genre distinctions: you’ll still find China Miéville and Lauren Beukes in fantasy, Ken MacLeod and Iain M Banks in sci-fi, Sophie Hannah and Ruth Rendell in crime, Brian Evenson and Kathe Koja in horror.

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May 3, 2013

An Uncaged Vision

TIME TRAVELLER: Lauren Beukes is thinking about writing a Western or a 'cool' apartheid story sometime soon

TIME TRAVELLER: Lauren Beukes is thinking about writing a Western or a ‘cool’ apartheid story sometime soon

Tymon Smith speaks to Lauren Beukes, who shot to fame with her sci-fi novel ‘Zoo City’, about her latest book.

Lauren Beukes is certainly a shining girl of the local and international fiction scene, but unlike the women in her latest novel, who earn the label of shining, she’s not due for a visit from a time-travelling serial killer any time soon.

Winner of the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction for her previous novel Zoo City , “a gritty phantasmagorical noir” set in the slums of inner-city Johannesburg, Beukes’s career has gone supernova at a speed that so many others only dream of. She has an international multibook deal – “somewhere in the six-figure range” – and plaudits from every corner of the globe. But as she reminds me over breakfast in a Joburg guesthouse: “To be a full-time novelist is a huge privilege and it’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was five years old. It’s only taken me 30 years to get here.”

Beukes – blonde with sparkling eyes, a slight accent (the result of two years in the US), a forthright intelligence and a self-deprecating sense of humour – is easy to like, even when she’s talking about serial killers and violence against women over fruit salad.

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January 25, 2013

Interview: Joey Hi-Fi and Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls

Filed under: Interviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:08 pm

ShiningThe South African cover of Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls!

This edition (click it to embiggen) re-unites Lauren Beukes with award-winning artist, film critic and Twitter guru Joey Hi-Fi. But unlike his stunning illustrated covers for Zoo City and Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, Mr. Hi-Fi has gone in a different direction with The Shining Girls. Curious about this (and many other matters of the heart), we pushed a few questions at him through the tubes of the Internet.

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January 7, 2013

Our Picks For The Year’s Biggest Reads

ShiningWhat are the best books of 2013? We’ve stepped out of our time machine (hint: talk to that person next to you on the airplane, don’t try the veal) to bring you the must-read titles from the year ahead.

It’s shaping up to be a fascinating 12 months, with the sequel to The Shining, a new David Sedaris, a self-published book poised to become a global success, a new James Salter, a new Suzanne Collins, a new Karen Russell… and so much more.

Read on, read often, and support your local bookstore and library. Trust us: in the year ahead, they’ll really appreciate the support.

Here’s our list of the best books so far listed to appear in 2013:

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August 27, 2012

The writer who tamed monsters


The cover of Fairest, a comic by Lauren Beukes

The First Lady of dark urban fiction, Lauren Beukes, is going international very fast. Charl Blignaut tries to catch up

Lauren Beukes has Freedom. It’s an app for your computer that locks you out of the internet so you can do some damn work.

If that’s what’s helped her stick to a gruelling deadline schedule since she won the Arthur C Clarke Award for Zoo City last year, then Freedom should make her their spokesperson.

But I suspect it’s just a minor trick in the retrofuturist handbag of the new queen of South African speculative fiction. Or just queen, because I don’t recall one before her.

Zoo City shattered a mould. It cast a gritty universal fantasy over Joburg while retaining an authentic local idiom. In it, Hillbrow is a ghetto where, through a primal force, convicted murderers are coupled with an animal as a shackle and a guide. The heroine, Zinzi, has a bad attitude and a sloth.

Sound a bit silly? Read it.

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November 29, 2011

SA producer wins Zoo City film rights

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The highly sought-after film rights to Zoo City – the 2011 Arthur C Clarke award-winning science fiction/cyberpunk/urban fantasy thriller penned by South African author, scriptwriter and journalist Lauren Beukes – have gone to Helena Spring, widely regarded as one of SA’s most accomplished motion picture producers.

Beukes (@laurenbeukes) told, “I’m thrilled Helena optioned it. She’s got a fantastic reputation and a ton of experience. We’ve already started working on the script and it’s great to see how her mind works. She asks all the right questions, really gets structure, the rigours of adaptation and is pushing this to be the best thing it can be, while maintaining its distinctive Joburg flavour.

“It’s just the first step”

“It’s just the first step, of course. Movies take a long time to make (that pesky raising-millions-of-dollars thing) but I think it’s in fantastic hands and it’s a privilege to be able to work on the script. Most novelists don’t get to do that (or don’t want to).”

Spring will soon be putting the project out to a select party of directors, while Beukes has first look as screenwriter to adapt her novel for the screen.

“Lauren is perfectly placed to do this; the characters are alive inside her,” says Spring, whose career in the entertainment industry spans nearly three decades, during which time she has produced over 20 motion pictures. This includes the first-ever SA film to receive recognition at the Academy Awards; in 2004, Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday earned a Best Foreign Picture nomination. She has also worked with some of the foremost filmmakers in the world, such as Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy and (The Bourne Ultimatum), and Academy Award-winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).

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November 4, 2011

Sci-fi/fantasy new frontier for publishers

Lauren Beukes

04.11.11 | Charlotte Williams

Mainstream publishers can “no longer afford to ignore” science-fiction and fantasy projects, with genre tropes now perceived as an “advantage” in general fiction, as a flurry of six-figure deals and chart successes point to a rising demand for the genre.

Last month, SFF stalwart Terry Pratchett’s latest novel, Snuff (Transworld), became the fastest selling adult hardback novel by a British novelist since records began, selling 31,094 copies in its first full week. SFF specialists Gollancz signed three six-figure deals, as well as a début fantasy novel on a pre-empt, while Headline appointed John Wordsworth as a dedicated SFF commissioning editor.

The hotly contested acquisition of Lauren Beukes’ latest novel, The Shining Girls—which has a time-travelling element—was won by HarperCollins, which paid a six-figure sum, shortly after Frankfurt. Simon & Schuster acquired The Age of Miracles, based on the conceit that the world begins to turn more slowly, for close to £500,000 earlier this year. Both deals indicate demand among publishers for “speculative” fiction with an SFF element.

Gollancz editorial director Gillian Redfearn said: “With Justin Cronin, Deborah Harkness and now Lauren Beukes, we’ve definitely seen mainstream publishers get very excited about what would usually be SFF projects . . . I think perhaps it’s a gamble which has paid off enough that publishers are starting to pay more attention to genre projects.” Orbit editorial director Anne Clarke said: “It’s no longer an area that publishers can afford to ignore.”

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