On Reading


Not by any standard would I consider myself the most well-read person around. But, in my circles, I would say that I could hold my own, well, at least with regard to fiction. I’ve been more connected to reading in recent years, more so than I was when I was an adolescent. I was living a different life then, running around with different thoughts. But, regardless of that, here I am,  a responsible reader, and I guess in writing this, I’m trying to find out several things. One is what that means – a responsible reader? After that it’s about the role reading plays in my life. The truth is it takes work. Why do it at all?

Going back early enough, I remember my dad reading to me. Pictures, first, of course. Those were what got me, but it wasn’t long before I was grabbing the books which tended to be heavier on the words than the images. Some titles still come to mind – the basic fairy tales, of course, The Adventures of Frog and Toad, Where the Wild Things Are, and others. He would take me to the library and I would come home with a hefty selection of books, all which I would read by the time we went back the following week. I remember very clearly a period in my youth during which my father and I would close the day by lying in bed together (single parent), each with a night light on our respective sides of the bed, reading. It was just us, quiet and alone, floating amid the winds of our unique literary destination. I would be reading something suitable for me, for where I was in life, for the kind of life I wanted to live. There was one particular series of books (which I haven’t even voiced thirty years, come to think of it) called Dakota King by Jake Mackenzie, an action-packed mystery series for young adults which always had the bad guy get caught in the end with his picture (a real-life mugshot) on the last page. I couldn’t get enough. Once I read the series, I recall spending more and more time looking for when the next book would come out. Then there was that weird period during school when the Scholastic Readers order forms would be passed out. I always thought the books were pretty expensive, and I would usually pass them up. But my dad always made me feel that it was okay to order what I wanted, which I knew wasn’t fully true. Dad, I wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 books. Nah.

My dad always liked westerns, and the only author I recall him reading is Louis L’more. He would go through a ton of those. It wasn’t my thing at the time, but it was his, and that was good enough for me. I liked dragons and time machines and treasure hunts with ghosts. He liked shoot-outs, and tavern gossip, and riding around on horses going after the outlaws. Growing up, I realize that those were simply the stories my parents grew up with. My mom recalls fondly of how there was a clear distinction between the good and the bad back then. The hero wore the white hat and the bad guy (or just “the bad”) wore the black hat. That was it. The hero always saved the girl and there always seemed to be a variation of “riding off into the sunset,” – saving the day.

It was then that I think I sort of came into the idea that each person’s penchant belonged just to that person, and it didn’t have to agree with anyone else. As long as you enjoyed turning the pages and you were into what was in your hands, that really was all that mattered.

Fiction has always been my reading priority. Non-fiction was always there to tell me how the world was, and I just wasn’t interested in that. Firstly because that shit’s boring for the most part, and secondly, how the hell does anyone know what the “real world” is made up of? This is not me making an attempt at bashing non-fiction, nor is my adamant rejection of the genre altogether – no, I’m just saying, in my own way, that it wasn’t my thing.

Once you realize that there’s a way for you to fly, you just want to go ahead and do that. That’s what my mindset was, at least, when it came to fiction, and that all started at an early age. I found out I could fly.

Here’s where I think reading is important, and this is simply my opinion here. There’s nothing I’m going to throw in here which has to do with statistical data or valid case-study proof. This is just me. It’s important for parents to read to their kids so that children understand that limits are a product of the mind. It’s important to believe in possibility – not in what can’t be accomplished, but what can be. It’s important to foster in the mind of a child that she/he can choose what path to take and, though there may be consequences for his/her choice, there may also be great reward. The stories we read to our children, the narratives which they are exposed to will sharply define the manner in which they process their choices in the future. Again, there’s no science there; just my opinion.

Let’s take Where the Wild Things Are for example. We have our protagonist, Max, a kid who dresses up as a beast, creates havoc in his house and is sent to bed. His room unfolds and transforms into a jungle where he meets other similar beasts called “Wild Ones.” He plays with them and is raised to the level of “King of the Wild Ones.” Why not tell our children that it’s okay to break rules once in a while? It’s okay to ask questions and test things out? It will not destroy your relationship with your parents, you will not be punished severely or beaten. In fact, most importantly, you will make a courageous choice and you will learn something. Perhaps many of us may get into the habit as parents of simply telling our kids that they need to infuse their heads with more and more data so that they don’t fall behind in life. This is an idea I not only disagree with, but think is sad. We’re so consumed by giving them more to carry oftentimes, that we fail to allow them to be themselves and explore the outer limits of their own thoughts.

Non-fiction certainly has its merits, and those should be recognized for what they are, primarily education. I’m not counting the textbooks we receive in our high schools. No, those are written for a particular purpose (yes, as are all non-fiction books), and ultimately the knowledge therein is paid for by the state (unless it’s a private school). The beauty of non-fiction comes down to choice, and it’s not a digression I’d like to take too far down the Rabbit Hole. Basically, the freer your society, the more choice you have – ideally. In that understanding, reading of non-fiction is best done with desire. Making a kid read a book about the American Civil War in American History class when the kid really has only a minor interest in Canadian history if anything, is not helping. What I’m getting at here is that non-fiction reading should be done out of desire for it to stick. Yes, an educated populous sounds like a pretty cool idea, but A. (you may be able to tell) I’m really not interested, and B., data and knowledge only comes to the mind easily if people want to learn.

Personally, I’ve never been a big data person. I just don’t care enough about it. How many people really voted in the election, what the percentage of Hungarian speakers in Uganda is, how many World Series the Oakland A’s have won, where the next Super Bowl will take place, or whose research on Second Language Acquisition is the most prominent, etc. does not matter to me. I know what I know for my job and that’s about it. I don’t have any hobbies that really require me to know a lot of data. Some people just want to know stuff to compete with others. This happens in business and politics. When one side comes up with a particular argument, the opposing side has a counter-argument already prepared. That thinking has never been my strong suit. Why do I care if someone else has a different opinion than mine? It just sounds like puerile thinking.

A: I’m right!

B: No, I’m right!

A: No, I’m right!

B: Nah-uh!

A: Ah-huh!

Umm..no.  I’m not going to get into the whys and the why-nots here. I’m saying that you should read non-fiction if that’s your thing. If you love it, then do it. Period.

The truth is no one reads today. By “no one,” I mean much fewer people than in the past. I don’t think that’s simply my opinion; I would say that’s probably statistical. Reading is something that the people of the modern (“technically savvy”) world are not okay with. I mean they do read, but it’s different. They read on screens all day long, and it’s really not reading; it’s more like scanning. It’s sifting through data. Have you noticed how long articles are any more? They’re not. They’re über short. Why? Well, overall our attention spans have shortened. We do more “reading” on our phones than ever before and, it’s absurd the number of daily distractions we have to meander just to keep our focus on one sentence any more. Our phones are going off, everywhere we go, there are other people’s phones. Screens are ubiquitous, and the regular noise of society has graduated from a buzz to a growl, it seems.

Reading quiets the mind, and silence tends to be a scary place for the younger generations of today’s world citizen – those who subsist in the daily pool of noise and Twitter updates. I’m not talking about reading from a screen; I’m talking about reading leisurely from something on paper – a book, a magazine, even a good old-fashioned newspaper. This isn’t me saying that you should sit in a room in total silence. This isn’t full meditation, but in all honesty, I would be inclined to liken it to the activity, and perhaps even say that it can be seen as a type of meditation. It’s one of the few activities of the modern day when it’s just time with yourself. And this can take effort these days. It can take a struggle, a fight, and the enemy are your distractions.

We are inundated with them. In the 70s, the average person would be exposed to somewhere around 500 advertisements a day. That seems like a lot. Imagine 500 people trying to see you something in one day.

No longer.

We are now up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 ads a day (Johnson, 2006). That’s not all. That’s just the number of people knocking on your eye door demanding that you look at them. That number does not reflect all of the times our eye balls seek out our own screens: cell phones, tablets, Kindles, mobile game consoles (PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, etc). This is us (more and more the younger generation) seeking out (sometimes with almost animalistic determination) our screens (KXAN, 2017).

That’s why I mean you have to struggle. You very literally have to fight off every tendency your body has to look, listen, or place your attention elsewhere. It takes a degree of courage sometimes to tell others that you’re reading or that you’re planning to read. You can’t go out; you can’t play; hang at the bar, whatever. Your time is your time, and this is how you’re going to use it.

That’s a different direction that where I’d want to go. Let’s just say that if you’re not a reader, you may want to start it up. Don’t keep your head down as you pass a library or a bookshop and think, Ah, maybe next time. Next time, I’ll totally going inside and then…Then I’m gonna really make the effort to …read. Don’t make it a chore.  Reading should be something you very much look forward to.

Okay, I’m closing here. I hope you find the time and the gift to read to yourself, for yourself, by yourself.

Doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you do it for yourself.

References:

  1. Johnson, C. (2006, September 17). Cutting through advertising clutter. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cutting-through-advertising-clutter/
  2. KXAN. (2017, January 23). Woman stomped to death after fight over cell phone. Retrieved from: http://wspa.com/2017/01/23/women-stomped-to-death-after-fight-over-cell-phone/

Beta Readers Wanted – SF/F short story


Happy Friday to all.

Wow, is it the end of July already? The time always eludes me. Right when I think I have it, that I can do what I want with it, that it’s all mine, it vanishes.

Today’s a day for planning. For getting rid of the old and getting ready for the new. Even if it’s just the end of the week (in preparation for a new week), the story is the same – ditch the old, bring on the new.

One of those notes for me is to search for beta readers. I’m looking for beta readers for my story tentatively titled “Portal Hunters” (3700 words). If you’re not sure what a beta reader is supposed to do, let’s go on a little detour and find out together.

The Task of a Beta Reader

If you’ve ever heard of any project, any medium (film, game, book, etc.) said to currently be ‘in beta,’ it means roughly that the project is almost ready to go to the public, but it still has some tweaks/bugs it needs to fix. There are still several weeds in the grass, so to speak.

Every author has different criteria for how they want their readers to respond to the piece. Some don’t want negative criticism (which, why?), others want the readers only to focus on one aspect of the story (i.e. dialogue, narrative, plot arc, etc.), while others still just want their readers to tell them why or why they didn’t like it. I prefer the way sci-fi/fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal sets up her criteria – something like this.

So I ask my readers to tell me:

What bores you.

2.   What confuses you.

3.   What don’t you believe.

4.   What’s cool? (So I don’t accidentally “fix” it.)

One thing I would ask that you DO NOT DO, is say simply, “I liked it,” or “I didn’t like it.” What I’m asking you to do in Beta Reading is to help me. Words like those above, while they may be true, don’t help me. Please tell me WHY you did/didn’t like it, and leave it to me to decide whether I think I should take that criticism.

If you’ve already read the story and have given me feedback, I thank you very much. I must thank my wife, Kerrie, for always asking me to share my stories with her, even though the genre may not be something she’s totally into. She’s always willing to read and help. Thank you.

Here’s How: 

Go to my web site: http://www.lpstribling.com

2. Scroll down to the post that says Portal Hunters Beta.

3. Click on it and enter the Password (below)

4. Start reading and enjoy!

If you’re up for the task and are willing to leave me some feedback, I appreciate it.  The password is below. Thank you and have a productive weekend and a damned fine Friday.

lp

Password:  PortalH

WWW. LPSTRIBLING.COM – Switching to the Dark Side…and a bit on writing


image3-e1409390803599

I’ve been writing on my own blog since somewhere around 2008, though WordPress has been the carrier of that writing since somewhere around 2010, I guess. In that time I’ve been able to get a couple of poems and a short story out there, but more importantly I’ve been fortunate enough to have all of you out there reading at least something that I’ve written. This is extraordinarily meaningful to me.

Writing is a very scary activity; many of us either don’t understand this, or we forget. I’m speaking of course from the standpoint of someone who stands by choice in front of many people, metaphorically, of course. I guess what I mean is it’s always easier to be part of the crowd than apart from it. It’s easier to be a student in the classroom than the teacher. It’s easier to point the finger than to have the fingers pointed at you… it’s easy to be a critic.

When one writes, especially on a public platform, one is choosing to enter into a world of judgment – a very lonely world of judgment. Whether good or bad, the judgment is real. One is choosing to take on work for which there is no real support. There are no cheerleaders here. There are no badges, no leveling up, no trophies. There’s no tax break, no insurance benefits, no discounts, no free t-shirts, no extra credit. There are no deadlines except those you set for yourself, and there usually aren’t any raises. In fact, when you look around, you can spot all the reasons in the world NOT to write, and you have to make the daily drive through all of the countless reasons your mind comes up with to distract you from the task.

dog-humping-legYou may even have a dog, but odds are it’s already gotten used to what you do there, and none of that includes petting it, giving treats, taking it for walks or agreeing to let it hump your lower leg into oblivion.

When you tell people that you write, most tend to quietly snort, scoff, or give that look of dismissal, or if you’re brazen enough to call yourself a writer in conversation, they may even want to test it out.

“Really?” they ask. “What do you write?”

“Science fiction and fantasy,” you may say.

“Ahh,” they say, or “Mm hmm.”

Writing, in all honesty, is most probably the loneliest task I’ve chosen. One which only a fellow writer can understand.

…well, wait. Let me back up. ‘Lonely’ carries too negative a meaning. It’s too woe-is-me. Fuck that. Autonomous is better.

DO OVER!

Writing is the most autonomous task I’ve ever taken on. And let’s put it into perspective – no, most of the time people aren’t cheering you on, but it’s not their fault. People are used to cheering on athletes, football players, or track stars, or golfers (which I cannot believe. C’mon, you’re cheering for people wear Polo shirts and walk casually across finely mowed lawns). Most people have no concept of how grueling the writerly life is, how much of a grind, how much of a push it really is.

And the dog? Well, can you blame him? It’s a dog. If you’re not petting it, giving it food, or providing a means of furry foreplay, what good are you?

Writers, if they know anything at all, are aware of all the judgmental potential that awaits them. We’re going to write stuff, and some of you may agree, some of you may not. Most of you won’t care. Some of you will enjoy my words, some of you will not. Most of you won’t care. The average reader out there will say, “They’re just words. What can you possibly say that can piss people off?”

Others know better. The sounds of our words provide the audible impressions of ourselves to others. Wars are started over words. People lose jobs over words. People are killed, arson is committed, shots are fired, and nations are bombed over words. By that same token wounds are mended, hearts are healed, and rejuvenation is possible…because of words.

But if you’re still with me, willing to wade through the palimpsest and the drivel I sneeze out there into the digital ether, then please know that I am grateful for it; I am glad. And if you’ve read this far, you’ve honored me and I thank you.

I’ve moved digital spaces; I’ve gained a new parking space, so to speak – one which seems to suit me better. I’m still customizing, of course, so we’ll have to be patient. As Billy Shakespeare said, “How poor are they that have not patience? What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” (Othello: Act II. Scene III).

Here – the address of my new space: www.lpstribling.com

Come one, come all. Subscribe. Read. Post. Ask questions. Bring the dog.

Again, for all your support and your continued friendship, my heartfelt thanks.

-LP

The Kingkiller Chronicles – another literary victim


University

Why does everything that’s literarily of good quality have to go to the big screen?

WHY!?

I was just checking Reddit and found out that Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles is under production on FOX – the same wonderful company that completely decimated all of the dreamy potential Firefly had.

If you enjoy fantasy and have never read The Name of the Wind, the first book in the series, you are missing out on some great fantasy.

Sadly, if you wait long enough, you don’t have to really put in the effort to read it. You can just sit there, shove buttered popcorn in your face, and get the whole thing delivered to you, service of the American media.

I know everyone is into the whole Game of Thrones thing on television, but the books are where it started, and I know that George has made and probably continues to make a butt-ton of cash with it, but I can’t help feeling that the very essence of the magic of it is gone, that it’s been destroyed. I’m talking about Harry Potter, Misery, Shogun, The Lord of the Rings for God’s sake.

By the same token, I don’t give a shit about The Hunger Games (I mean Battle Royale was already done, and that story was the best it could be) or 50 Shades of Suck. Have I read it? No. I haven’t. I won’t. But you know what? All that stuff can go right ahead and sell out to the screen vamps all they want. I’m talking about literature that has placed a stamp of quality and admiration upon the genre.

Call me petty, I guess. There will be those voices out there who say things like, ‘Why not take it to the screen so more people will enjoy it?’ Well, why don’t more people just make their way to a library instead of going on Netflix? I’m not knocking movies, t.v., or the screen itself here. I’m knocking the media for sucking up all stories that are of good quality from the literature circles (past and present) and shoving them in front of the nation so as to encourage more comfort, laziness, and distraction.

Or you can just make an Angelina Jolie movie out of Beowulf.

Movies, Anime, some (SOME) t.v. is great. But if it’s good; if it’s respected in the genre, in the community, then keep the format as it is.

Money can contaminate. This is of the biggest examples in present-day society.

Here’s to reading.

The Language Brew


Language and Art

Some see language as a tool of pragmatism. Something that will, much like the first car you get (or didn’t get, or wished you had) in college, help them get from point A to point B. I can see that. Makes sense. You have to get through the day, talking with all the people you need to talk to.

I never really thought about it that way, but when it comes to language I guess I’m much more romantically oriented than that. There’s a glorious and exquisite art that comes along with language, I believe. Words are not just as the pragmatist views them, a selection of banal curvy blots which are bandied about to pick some sociolinguistic padlocks. They’re purposeful and meaningful. They’re beautiful in their shape, and collectively, in their form.

Language, in all its lithe sensuous ways, is an active and invisible omnipresence without which we would be still, I dare say, trudging through the noisome muddy filth of the Middle Ages, wondering how we managed to show up in this god-abandoned reality. It is, I would argue, principally because of language, in all its agile beauty, that humanity has produced the civilized social corpus it has. Our transportation, our gastronomic blessings, our clothing, our games, our humor, the wonder of our kind, has largely language to thank.

Daily we can hear everything from the philistine “fuck you” to the comfy and linguistically aromatic “How do you do?” Brusque, rough, and rude, the hifalutin, the rich, the aristocratic, all intermingle within a wonderfully language-seductive brew.

<<shakes head>>

I’m very happy to be even a mote of this sweet puzzling glue which ties us all to one another. What a wonderful thing.

My 500th Post!


Just getting started.

Just getting started.

Whaaa!?

So, somehow I’ve been on this thing for the gods know how long, and have 500 posts (501 with this one). I’m blessed.

Thank you to all of you out there who follow me and read all of the drivel I tend to jot down  in my day-to-day life. There’s a smattering of all of it, I know. I toss out a bit of everything and just want to share some of my interests and musings of my life. And to know that there are some of you out there who read any or (even more laughable) all of what I write is, on my end, inspirational, moving. It’s heart-warming, really, to know that you read what I write.

Thank you for sharing, and in reading what I share. Thank you for choosing to run your eyes across these palimpsests I call entries; thank you for commenting; thank you for agreeing, and disagreeing; and thank you for coming back.

To my friends, and those who have chosen to subscribe to my blog, to follow me even though we have never personally shared space upon a unified path, you have my many thanks and good regard.

Here’s to just getting started.

-lp

The Wizards’ Plan


The Wizard’s Plan

By

L.P. Stribling

The-Wizard-S

They’re the ones to blame,
Singing in silent voices, making the world rain,
They parade in the daytime, take flight at night,
They watch us when we sleep, and sleep not themselves.

Violet robes, long noses, wild hats, peaking above us all,
They carry staves, of course, what wizard would be
without one? And they read, you see? Read, read, endlessly.
Spells, or songs (although those are mostly for the bards),
Incantations, curses, and give no care,
Unaware, perhaps, of right and wrong.

Yet we’re the ones who suffer, aren’t we?
We bare the brunt of their frivolity, their unbidden wizardry.
They are the voices in our heads,
The man in the moon,
The mischief under our beds,
And the men behind the Rune Witches.

I can provide one reason upon another,
Hoping that you’ll understand,
But you’ll never look past my own responsibility,
When I know the truth,
It’s all a part of the Wizards’ plan.