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April 8, 2014

Five Great Literary Pranksters

Orson Welles and The War of The Worlds

Orson Welles and The War of The Worlds

” Poetry Association of America initiating controversial program Fly-Over Poetry Drones. Watch / listen for us over your house in April! “

—Joyce Carol Oates, via Twitter @JoyceCarolOates

While I suppose it’s possible the Poetry Association of America is, in fact, all set to deploy an army of rhyming and scheming drones with the purpose of, one can assume, culturing-up this country, it’s far more likely the infinitely talented Oates was engaging in the time-honored tradition of literary pranking. She was merely getting a head start on April Fool’s Day, or, to put it simply, she was trolling us.

It will probably come as no surprise that authors and trolling have been going hand in hand like high school sweethearts for some time now. I mean, it is basically a writer’s job to make up a bunch of lies and sell them truthfully enough that readers suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride, so why shouldn’t this facet of their job leak out into their personal lives here and there?

In honor of this troll-iest of troll-y days, let’s take a look at some of the greatest literary pranksters history has ever known. Bear in mind, though, I’m not talking about literary hoaxes in which the writers in question hoped no one would ever discover their deceit, but rather writers who were just having a bit of fun.

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March 26, 2014

The Eternal Duel: A History of Commas

Commas are a touchy subject, having divided writers of the English language into two distinct camps for many years.

On one side of the battlefield are those in favor the Oxford or “serial” comma, which is endorsed by Oxford University Press and the Chicago Manual of Style. In the other corner of the ring are the Associated Press and New York Times, ever skeptical of any unnecessary punctuation.

NPR’s Linda Holmes has a succinct way of describing the root cause of the comma wars:

For those of you who enjoy the outdoors and would no more sort commas into classes than you would organize peanut butter jars in order of viscosity, the serial comma — or “Oxford comma” — is the final comma that comes in a sentence like this: ‘I met a realtor, a DJ, a surfer, and a pharmaceutical salesperson.’ (In this sentence, I am on The Bachelorette.)

Just to reiterate the obvious, some believe the final comma should be included, while others argue that it must be left out.

Incidentally, Holmes makes a decent point— when did anyone start taking commas so seriously? Although it sheds little light on the sheer amount of animosity tied up in this debate, here’s a brief timeline of the comma’s history so far:

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January 24, 2014

The 10 Weirdest And Most Wonderful Libraries In The World

MatrixBy Kimberly Turner

Let’s do a word association exercise. When I say “books, borrowing, building…” you’d say, “library.” Great. We’re off to a good start. Let’s try again: “Donkey, tank, phone booth, UFO…” Anybody? No, it has nothing to do with donkey versus alien combat. This one’s a little tougher. Okay, I’ll give it to you. The answer, once again, is “library.” See, although the libraries most of us visit on the regular are dull municipal buildings that we’d avoid were they not full of thousands of free books, some communities have fanciful architectural wonders, animals who deliver books to children, repurposed phone booths full of reading material on the street, and other wonderfully unexpected ways of bringing reading to the people.

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December 11, 2013

Ten Unbeatable Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers

santa-fifty-shadesBy Kimberly Turner

Sure, you could put on actual pants to go partake in some door-bustin’ shenanigans at the mall, but between jingling bells, decking halls, and consuming your body weight in holiday cookies, who has time for that? Not you, my friend. Not you. Know what else you don’t have time for? Sifting through page after page of Mega Lightning Cyber Xtreme Deals, hoping to stumble upon the perfect gift for your loved ones. No! That’s why we here at LitReactor have done the sifting for you and come up with ten amazing presents for your book-loving friends and fam. Think of it as our gift to you.

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September 5, 2013

10 Essential Elmore Leonard Novels: A Eulogy



Column by Ryan Peverly

I remember the first time I came across the name Elmore Leonard.

It wasn’t on the cover of one of his forty-five novels, nor was it in the credits of one of the umpteen feature films that have been adapted from his work. It was on some shoddy internet forum I frequented as a teenager.

People shared short stories with each other on this forum. Some fiction, some creative nonfiction, all just really, really shitty. These stories had exclamation points in every paragraph. These stories had words like “exclaimed” and “opined” as tags for dialogue, and adverbs like “loudly” and “proudly” modifying those tags.

Somewhere in this gigantic clusterfuck of shameful writing, someone whose snarky username has long been forgotten commented on one of these stories. The reply, the verbatim also long forgotten, said something about Elmore Leonard thinking that exclamation points were shit, anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag was shit, adverbs to modify those tags were shit, and that if he were there, on the forum, Elmore Leonard would tell the author to go fuck himself or herself.

I don’t know if Elmore Leonard would have said that. I like to think he would have, but he seemed like a kind, encouraging, stand-up dude. He really did hate exclamation points and anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag and any adverbs modifying those tags, though. That part was damn true, and that’s great advice for any writer out there.

Another piece of great advice for any writer out there: READ ELMORE LEONARD. He’s one of the greatest novelists of not only our time, but all time.

Here’s 10 books from the late, great author they called “Dutch” to get you started.

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August 22, 2013

Satanic Summer: Horror Fiction for Hot Days

satans_beach  by Cameron Pierce

Horror is typically associated with autumn, when the days turn shorter, the air grows brisk, trees lose their leaves, and jack-o’-lanterns take their place on every doorstep. But there’s plenty of horror that’ll keep you awake through the sweltering nights. Here are eight short stories and seven novels perfect for the summer.

Note: With the short stories, I’ve included links to a collection/anthology containing that story to make them easier to track down.

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June 25, 2013

The 10 Books Every Zombie Fan Must Read

world-war-zBy Kimberly Turner

Let’s face it, vampires are played out. Sparkles and sexiness vanquished their frightfulness in a way garlic and holy water never could. But the world needs a monster, particularly in tough times, so zombies have spent the last few years shambling in to fill the pop culture void. We play Plants vs. Zombies on our phones, watch The Walking Dead on TV, go on zombie walks, run zombie-themed races, and will almost certainly make World War Z (based on the 2006 book by Max Brooks, released today) one of the highest-grossing films of the summer. According to the Today show, the “zombie economy” is worth more than $5.74 billion in the U.S. alone.

There is simply no better time to brush-up on zombie fiction, but with so many undead-related titles to choose from, it’s hard to figure out where to start. LitReactor to the rescue. Here are ten not-to-be-missed zombie books worth their weight in rotting flesh. Um, we mean worth their weight in something much more valuable than rotting flesh. Even if you don’t consider yourself a horror buff, you might be surprised to find something here you’ll love. After all, most good zombie novels are more about the humans than the monsters, and you’ll find everything from political intrigue to romance to Southern Gothic literary fiction on this list…

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June 20, 2013

Wasteland Gems: Fiction’s Post-Apocalyptic Top 10

apocalyptic-readsBy Rajan Khanna

This month sees the release of two post-apocalyptic films: the thriller World War Z and the comedy This is the End, proving that audiences still have an appetite for end-of-the-world fare. If anything, its popularity seems to be increasing. Television shows like Revolution, Falling Skies, and Defiance are all recent productions. Games like Fallout and Borderlands continue to sell well. The fact that there’s a mainstream post-apocalyptic comedy in theaters seems to say that this is a genre we’re so familiar with that parody and satire seem to be the logical next steps.

As a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m happy to see it endure, especially as the flavor I grew up with (the post-nuclear war variety) almost went out of style with the Cold War. But post-apocalyptic fiction to me has never been about the apocalypse, about the collapse of society as we know it. To me it’s always always been about hope. In the midst of terrible things, the dismantling of everything we’ve come to know and depend upon, post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on not only the struggle to survive, but often the attempt to preserve or rebuild the best parts of humanity. It allows us to hold up a mirror to ourselves and see both the heights and depths of what we’re capable of.

Which brings us to my Top 10 List of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction. Keep in mind that this is my Top 10. I expect other people’s to differ. Also, I omitted any zombie fiction from this list, not because I don’t think it qualifies, but because I recently covered it in a separate column and wanted to avoid repeats.

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June 17, 2013

Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre

storyville-masterBy Richard Thomas

This list is entirely subjective, based on books that I’ve read over the years. But what they all have in common is that they’ve stayed with me. Many of these titles I’ve read over and over again. Some are touchstones, lodestones that I reference when I get blocked, bowing at the feet of masters that have taught me everything I’ve ever learned about what makes compelling fiction. I’m hoping that you’ve read most of these and will spend much of this column nodding your head in agreement. More importantly, I hope you find some new authors and novels that will enlighten you at some point down the road.

NOTE: The genres I’ve picked are “major” to me, not to publishing in general. In leaving out romance, for example. I’m not saying it’s unimportant, just not for me. As you know, I tend to be drawn to dark writing, so that’s probably easy to see in these selections, including the YA and literary fiction.

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June 7, 2013

The End of Happily Ever After

PrincessBy Rob D. Young

Once upon a time our stories ended in happily ever after. Dragons were slain, damsels rescued, glass slippers found, and eternal bliss achieved—usually thanks to a combination of wealth and marriage. Things have changed. While “happily ever after” holds on in a variety of forms, audience expectations have shifted. Readers not only accept but often prefer endings that aren’t entirely happy. Why, as readers and writers in the 21st century, do we shy away from the old expectations of eternal happiness?

Hollywood vs the Unhappy Ending

***I’m talking about endings, so it should go without saying that spoilers will abound. Read on at your own risk.***

To say we no longer have “happily ever after” would be misleading. Some markets want that happy ending. Some genres demand it. Hollywood has certainly gone to great lengths to provide happy endings in the bulk of its stories; even books written with a mixed or unhappy ending often find a new conclusion in the film rendition.

Perhaps the best example comes from The Princess Bride, where the film gives us a concretely happy ending and the book gives us a happy ending only to tell us that’s not how it really happened:

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