Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Word of the Moment VI (brought to you by the letter "E")

The mystery genre has some of the best and worst writers of genre fiction. Throughout the last one hundred years, some of the best and most iconic writers of our time have written some classics mystery novels that still resonate today. Other writers have also made a living as contemporary novelist as well, crafting great stories even the harshest of critics enjoyed (the recently deceased P.D. James comes immediately to mind).

But because mystery readers tend to read voraciously, the publishing industry pushes out as many mystery novels per year as they feasibly can, which means a lot of crime and mystery authors who have the writing skills of the average fourth grader are getting published as well (and too many of these authors come to mind).

What all this means is that you can still increase your vocabulary reading mysteries, for instance, this post's Word of the Moment was found in the short story True Enough: Bolt's Last Case by B.K. Stevens published in the December issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine:

     emeritus - retired or honorably discharged from active professional duty but retaining the title of one's office or position.

It should be no surprise that I found this word in a story about a detective working one last case before he retires.

So now you know. Be sure to use this word every time you get the chance, it'll impress your friends, or else make them look at you oddly.

Until Next Time...
Honorably Yours,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You "Down" Readers, You

I manage to read a lot. Nearly half of what I read each year is short fiction published in those pulp sized digests I mentioned here before, and many of those digest also publish book and movie reviews. I even attempt to complete those puzzles in the back of the mystery pulps. Needless to say, I sometimes get behind. For instance I'm just now reading the movie review section from the July/August 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where Kathi Maio reviews Divergent.

Her opinion of the movie wasn't what caught my attention, though, it was something she pointed out that you would think would have been obvious to me, especially considering the theme of my blog.

Maio pointed out that the trend in young adult literature and the movie adaption of those books is to market those works to the young adult crowd in the hopes that they'll catch on with adults who are open to the idea of "reading down." Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, and (unfortunately) Twilight are all examples of the books and movies appealing to more than just young adults. This works best in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres where the boundaries of the age factor is much less defined than in adult literature or mainstream fiction.

She makes the point, though, that just a generation or two ago, the reverse trend was true. For example, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, even though it had a teen protagonist was marketed as an adult novel in the hopes that young readers would "read up" to it. There were fewer genre works aimed at teens and once past the basic fairy tales and mythology books, teens would read adult marketed literature and genre novels.

Like any good writer, she summed up in a few sentences a thought I've been wrestling with for months. So now it's time to take these observations and keep them in mind as we continue to study trends in book buying and reading habits. It'll make us better readers.

Until Next Time...
Boundarly Yours,

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Motoko Kusanagi is Japanese

The thought never occurred to me, but I suppose it should have. has published a story that a live action adaptation of Mamoru Oshii’s classic anime movie Ghost in the Shell is in the works. For those who don't remember their cyber-punk history, Ghost in the Shell is the animated movie that inspired the 1999 Wachowskis brothers' blockbuster movie The Matrix, and pumped a little more life into a sub-genre of science fiction that had experienced slowing sales the previous few years. The movie, which was an extension of the print anime begun in 1989, dealt with the theme of artificial intelligence, the definition of life, and the concept of a soul.

What does surprise me is the casting. Scarlett Johansson will be portraying Motoko Kusanagi,  a Japanese cyborg cyber-crime fighter. Yeah, that Scarlett Johansson.

I guess the fact that the protagonist is Japanese and that Hollywood has decided to cast a non-Asian actress shouldn't surprise me, especially considering that movie execs would rather invest in big names than worry about something like "story-accuracy," but still...seriously? Ms. Johansson is a fine actress, and I have nothing against her or her acting ability - doesn't mean she's right for the role and it doesn't mean I have to like the decision to include her.

At this point, according to the article, the project has yet to be fully approved and funded (insert sigh of relief here), but attaching Scarlett's name to the effort may increase its chances of making it to the screen one day.

One can only hope they don't screw this one up too terribly bad.

Until Next Time...
Cyborgly Yours,

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, John!!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Tolkien! Thank you for Middle Earth.

And you, too, Mr. Norman! Despite what everyone says, I still love those Gor/Counter-Earth novels - they are a perfect example of 1970s cheesy sci-fi/fantasy.

Until Next Time...
Celebratorily Yours,

Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Little Friend - the Dictionary

One of the first things aspiring writers are told is to invest in a high quality dictionary, and a large hardcover dictionary is best. When I was a reporter and a broke bachelor, I tried using a paperback dictionary, but it would disappoint me from time to time, so eventually I gave in and spent the extra money for the large, hardback. The one in this picture is one a bought a few years later at the local Barnes & Noble and became the family "go to" dictionary for many years. It's lasted for years, and despite its frequent use has remained in good condition.

Listening to a radio host the other day, she mentioned that back when she read more often, she used to keep a hardcover dictionary on her nightstand. She had bought it second-hand, and after years of use it was falling apart and she was forced to replace it. She contributed her good vocabulary and good spelling skills directly to that cherished book. Her story reminded me that my dictionary is now at least ten years old and needs replacement, especially since there are some new terms and phrases that are not in it. For instance, there is no entry for any form of social media. To my dictionary, a tweet is only something a bird does.

That got me thinking about some of the other dictionaries I have next to it on the shelf, and I thought it'd be cool to post a picture of them as well. Despite some of the good conditions of the books, all are well used and well loved.

Yes, the thesaurus is a paperback, and I should have spent money on the hardcover, but I still haven't gotten around to it yet. The Latin dictionary is paperback as well, but I only use it when I do a little root-word searches. The pocket Spanish dictionary belongs to The Boss, and From Absurd to Zeitgeist is a Writer's Digest book of literary terms.

That orange German dictionary is pretty much the best one you can buy. It only comes in a paperback version, but every German instructor I've ever had declares that dictionary plus the 501 German Verbs books are the best and most useful books any student of the language can reasonably purchase. It's hard to believe I carried those two books around in a backpack for four semesters and they stayed in such good condition.

The Rhyming Dictionary I bought because many poets both past and present recommend it, but believe it or not, a rhyming dictionary in general is a little harder to use than you'd think. Of all the dictionaries I own, that one probably gets used the least. Finding a word to rhyme with a particular word is easy, but is it the right word for the poem? Many times the answer is no.

By their very nature, owning and using these books will make you a better reader and writer, as long as you actually use them. So don't be skittish about investing a few extra bucks to get good quality ones. You won't regret it.

Until Next Time...
Referencely Yours,


Comic Relief

It took me a moment or two, but once I got it, I laughed out loud.

Until Next Time...
Comically Yours,