Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2012, pt.12: Nancy Jane Moore

Read and Appreciated in 2012
By Nancy Jane Moore

2012 started out with a move. I bought a house that needed some work, so January was divided among doing my job, packing up my apartment, and running over to the new house to make sure the contractors got finished so I could move in at the end of the month. And February was all about settling in. I didn’t do a lot of reading.

But I did manage to re-read something very good while juggling all that chaos: Water Logic, by Laurie J. Marks. I read it at least twice in between packing and unpacking boxes. Once again I was overwhelmed by both the writing – there isn’t a clunky sentence in the entire book – and the story itself. Marks uses fantasy and magic to tell us real truth about power and violence, about family relationships, about hate, and definitely about love. I would have re-read Fire Logic and Earth Logic as well, but they were packed in a different box.

I did get to some new fiction over the year. I just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior. I notice that it is being labeled “lab lit” because it is fiction about science, as opposed to science fiction. But it is also – and perhaps more importantly – a book about class in the USA. Kingsolver is one of the few writers who can write on political subjects without giving her readers a polemic. This book, which provides a hard look at both climate change and poverty, is a great example of telling a fine story without mincing words about the problems facing the country and the world.

As promised last year, I got around to finishing Vonda N. McIntyre’s Starfarers series – out of print, but available in ebook form from Book View Café – and the rest of the books lived up to the promise of the first one. This is real science fiction, with space travel, aliens, and an unsympathetic government back home that sounds all too familiar. It also includes richly developed characters and all-too-human contradictions. If you’ve never read it, get it now.

I also read Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which confirmed that he can write a classic detective novel every bit as well as he writes sword and sorcery and steampunk. Chabon is a fine writer and gives props to writers from other genres, but I remain amazed that he has managed to develop a big name literary author reputation when he is, in fact, frequently writing in ghettoized genres. More power to him – he deserves his recognition – but I wish the literary establishment would recognize that he isn’t the only writer who can add aliens, a gun, or magic to his story and still turn out meaningful art.

However, the best book I read in 2012 wasn’t fiction, but rather about writing fiction: Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. I don’t know when I’ve read writing advice that gave me such unqualified joy. Write the story that only you can write, Bradbury says, inspiring me to remember why I became a writer in the first place. He also has practical advice, based on his own experience: he wrote at least 1,000 words a day for many years. I loved this book so much that not only did I buy my own copy after reading one from the library, but I bought several others and sent them off to writer friends. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who writes, or wants to write, or thinks they might someday get around to writing.

 Nancy Jane Moore’s most recent book is a collection of her flash fiction, Flashes of Illumination, available in ebook form from Book View Café. Her other books include the collection Conscientious Inconsistencies, published by PS Publishing, and the novella Changeling from Aqueduct Press. Her short (but longer than flash) fiction has appeared most recently in the military SF anthology No Man’s Land and in several Book View Café anthologies, including the steampunk books The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy 2. She blogs regularly on the Book View Café blog. Besides writing, her other passion is martial arts, and she holds a fourth degree black belt in Aikido. She lives in Austin, where she worries about drought and bad government policies, but is made very happy by the fact that she does not have to shovel snow.

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