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October 11, 2013

10 Famous Authors Who Remind Us That Great Writers Can Also Be Decent Human Beings

The Television Academy Of Arts And Sciences' Presents An Evening With "Game Of Thrones"Authors, and artists in general, are notoriously difficult to deal with. The list of writers who created masterworks that illuminated truths about the human condition – all while behaving badly toward others in their actual lives — is a long one.

There are certainly exceptions to this rule, though. Some authors manage to create beauty on the page and also do good in various ways — whether by donating their time and money to worthy causes, connecting with their fans in meaningful ways, or just being kind to their friends and families.

Here, from a range of genres and time periods, are some notable exceptions to the “all famous authors are jerks” rule:

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August 1, 2013

Stephen King’s Family Business


Life in Maine, where Stephen King has spent most of his adult years, requires long drives down country roads, time that King, whose mind is restless, likes to fill by listening to books on tape. In the ’80s, however, he sometimes could not find the books he wanted on tape — or maybe he just did not bother. He had three children: Naomi, Joe and Owen. They could read, couldn’t they? All King had to do was press record. Which is how his school-age children came to furnish their father, over the years, with a small library’s worth of books on tape.

On a drizzly morning in July, King, his wife and their children gathered in Maine for a reunion the week of the Fourth and compared notes on what constituted chores in the King household. As they talked, they were crowded around a rather small kitchen table in a lakeside guesthouse, where King’s 41-year-old son, Joe Hill, was staying, a short drive from the family’s summer home.

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June 26, 2013

I Am Legend author Richard Matheson was himself a real legend

LegendThe man behind the best ever vampire novel was a major inspiration to innumerable stars of SF and horror.

By Alison Flood

I am meant to be writing a blog about how I Am Legend, by the late, immensely great, Richard Matheson, is the king of vampire novels. But after finding my old copy on the shelf downstairs, I’ve become somewhat distracted, and would really rather just get on with reading it.

The image Matheson provides, at the start of the novel, of Robert Neville alone in Los Angeles, is one of the most chilling, the most believable, in post-apocalyptic fiction. Shifting from practical and unemotional, to lonely and furious, Neville sits in his barricaded living room, trying to ignore the cries of the vampires, “their snarling and fighting among themselves”, coming from the other side of the walls. Later, “he went from house to house and used up all his stakes. He had forty-seven stakes”. So deadpan. So unnerving.

Then there are Matheson’s vampires – written in 1954, and so much scarier, so much more interesting and memorable and believable, than the hordes of pallid high–school students who keep springing up today.

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June 25, 2013


HaigBy Matt Haig

This is the first blog I’ve written since writing blogs for the respectable charity Booktrust. Booktrust gave me no rules for writing blogs, except that they said I couldn’t swear. So after six months of non-swearing I have been bursting to fucking swear. I really fucking have. I just need to get it out of my system.

Anyway, thought I’d start as predictably as ever, and give some fucking writing tips. Here they fucking are:

1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.

2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)

3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’

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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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May 17, 2013

Three Books about… Machines

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:10 am

Inspire your own writing by seeing how three authors take the same material and come up with three entirely different results.

Inspire your own writing by seeing how three authors take the same material and come up with three entirely different results.

By Cath Murphy

“Crash” by JG Ballard

It didn’t start well. The reader’s report was short and to the point:

‘This author is beyond psychiatric help.’

Luckily for the rest of us, Ballard’s publisher did not agree. Crash came out in 1973 to universal outrage/acclaim and has been polarizing readers ever since. It’s not surprising because Crash – which tells the story of scientist Vaughn and his sexual obsession with death by automobile – is a potent mixture. Taken at face value, the book is a landscape of semen splattered dashboards and women having orgasms in that split second before their face hits the windshield. Fap-material, you might say, and that is the way the establishment viewed it. Various attempts have been made to ban it, collars have become tight and hot, letters have been written to august organs predicting the End of Times— or at the very least— sex in the streets if Crash stays on the shelves for one second longer.

At face value, [Crash] is a landscape of semen splattered dashboards and women having orgasms in that split second before their face hits the windshield.
And yet we’re all still fully clothed and living in (relatively) peaceful democracies. Why is this? Because Crash isn’t about sex at all.

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April 23, 2013

6 Tips on Reading to Train the Writer’s Eye

reading-to-train-the-writers-eye2By Rob D. Young

One of the most often repeated lessons for writers is the importance of reading. As Stephen King put it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” However, reading alone is not enough. If you want to read in a way that trains your writer’s eye, active engagement is required. Here are some tips for maximizing your learning during the reading process.

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March 26, 2013

This Is the Worst Book Cover Ever

o-iluminado-el-resplandor-the-shining-stephen-king_MLA-F-124496690_5137By Gabe Habash
About a month ago, I was searching for something Stephen King-related to put on this fantastic blog. Scrolling down through rows and rows of Google images for The Shining, most of them screengrabs of Nicholson and the pre-chopped-up girls in the hallway, I saw, in thumbnail size, the above cover for O Iluminado. It looked strikingly similar to an 80s Pantene ad.

I saved the cover on my desktop, knowing I wanted to share it with you all in some way, but not sure how. For weeks, I’d open the file and stare into O Iluminado‘s eyes, and then into her smaller set of eyes. I would look at it for so long it would change; I named the mysterious woman Flavia; she became strange to me and then familiar in her strangeness. I had so many questions.

Who is Flavia? In what public place is she on the cover? Why is she also in a little window?

But let us parse why this book cover is either the worst book cover ever or, perhaps, the most brilliant book cover ever.

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March 21, 2013

James Herbert: Master of British horror fiction

OthersThe late writer’s early novels mined primal fears of scurrying rodents and lethal chemical spillages, inspiring a new wave of dystopian fiction

By David Barnett

James Herbert, who has died aged 69, will be remembered as one of the pillars of British horror writing. Herbert managed the rare feat of straddling both genre and mainstream fiction; at the height of his career, he was often spoken of in the same breath as Stephen King, and sales of his books have run to more than 42m.

He shot to fame in 1974 with the publication of The Rats, and there can be few people who grew up in the 70s who didn’t furtively pass around a dog-eared copy of this and its follow-up, Lair, revelling in Herbert’s gory set-pieces and plentiful graphic sex scenes.

With The Rats, Herbert established himself as a master of the sort of apocalyptic horror that’s so popular today – from Justin Cronin’s The Passage to any number of zombie novels. There can be few authors working in the field of modern dystopian fiction who don’t owe a debt to his work.

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