Michaeline: Crazy stories

Now here’s an example of structure combined with crazy — leading to an incredible body in motion. Strandbeest by Michael Frey, image via Wikimedia

We love structure and craft here on Eight Ladies – combined, we’ve spent thousands of hours on classes, and maybe tens of thousands reading about how to write, and listening to podcasts. Structure is important, and it makes a book great.

But . . . it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. There’s that big, blasted sword of Crazy that only shows up in this dimension when it wants to, and can disappear nearly as fast. It’s also only visible to certain readers, so whoever wishes to wield the sword of Crazy had better have a thick skin or numb ears: a lot of people are going to be telling the wielder that s/he is . . . well, crazy.

Crazy sometimes carries the day, though. I love Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – adored them as a teen and imprinted on them, and even read them as an adult and still loved them!

Adams had a gift for funny ideas, and was skilled at winding them up and letting them run into each other at full speed. Structure was more hit and miss – he was more like a jerry-rigger than an architect of literature. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has not just one, but multiple prologues. The climaxes seem to come regularly, but not in any particular order. And the dangling threads? Well, apparently that’s why this trilogy needed four sequels instead of the usual two.

Still – look at Adams’ impact on culture. Anyone in the English-speaking world who has Continue reading

Jilly: Sorrow, Joy, and Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's coat of arms, granted by Letters Patent of Garter and Clarenceux King of Arms dated 28 April 2010. The motto means 'Don't Fear the Reaper.'

Terry Pratchett’s coat of arms, granted by Letters Patent of Garter and Clarenceux King of Arms dated 28 April 2010. The motto means ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’

Yesterday Michaeline wrote about the death of Sir Terry Pratchett. Like Micki, I’ve been a fan of his books for a very long time (more than thirty years), and I wasn’t ready to change the subject. We took time yesterday to say goodbye to the man, so today I’d like to celebrate his legacy and try to pinpoint why I’ll be reading his books until it’s my turn to type The End.

I saw the sad news last Thursday night. I was at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, stretching my legs during the interval of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Kurt Weill’s political and satirical opera with libretto by Bertolt Brecht. I was playing with my phone because the alternative was to ruminate on the piece’s dispiriting worldview about the ugliness of human nature when let loose in an unbridled capitalist society. Even as I read Sir Terry’s brilliant three-tweet farewell and wiped my eyes, I gave thanks for the seventy-something wonderful books he left us and most of all for the renewed sense of optimism about our stupid, screwed-up world that I feel every time I read one.

In the early days, I enjoyed the intelligence and humor of the Discworld books, but Continue reading

Michaeline: Death has lost his kindest chronicler

An old German print of Death as a bald man, capering through the streets.

And from now on, his fans will have deathbed visions of Sir Pterry coming to guide them to the eternal. In Memoriam.

Yesterday morning, I first saw the news of Terry Pratchett’s death on a SFF discussion group. A quick google, and the BBC confirmed that it was true. They said Terry Pratchett died in his bed on March 12, 2015, surrounded by his family with his cat sleeping on his bed.

I wonder if the cat looked up to see Death coming?

Fans know that Terry was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and he was an advocate for death with dignity. It seems that Death had other plans for him. The last tweets on his twitter account are a charming callback to one of his most famous characters. (See the BBC link above.)

He’ll be remembered for Discworld, the fantastic set of stories that poked gentle fun at our real world. His first Discworld books were very much like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series in tone and humor, and I remember finding them in a bookstore in Sapporo. At the time, I lived four hours away, so I picked up The Colour of Magic (yes, it was a British edition) to read on the train, repelled and attracted by the crazy covers by Josh Kirby. I laughed out loud, and I’m sure my fellow passengers thought I was nuts as I tried to smother my sniggers. Every trip to Sapporo after that, I’d treat myself to another Pratchett until Amazon finally started shipping to Japan.

I was happy to have a new source of humor, since I’d read all of the Hitchhiker books. Then the books started to deepen and broaden. Continue reading