Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Reading

After finishing In The Land of White Death, I next read Resolute, a book centered around the search for the Northwest Passage (a supposed short-cut through the Arctic) that consumed so much, time, energy, and ultimately, lives in the early and middle ninteenth century. Much of the exploration done in that region was a by-product of rescue expeditions sent looking for Sir John Franklin, whose two ships, the Erebus and the Terror were lost there (most likely in 1846). Some were earnestly looking for Franklin, though some were undoubtedly only using Franklin as an excuse to raise the necessary funds to go exploring on their own.

Having completed the book Resolute, I have now started Ninety Degrees North, which, by happy coincidence, begins with the last of the so-called Frankin rescue expeditions and continues into the early twentieth century to cover men like Amundsen and Peary and the quest to become the first to the North Pole.

I find it interesting that there are variations in the details of the overlapping stories between the two books, though on reflection it is not at all surprising. Each expedition often resulted in the publication of journals written by several of the participants, and these journals were frequently at significant odds with each other. Who the historians chose to believe as they researched their own books goes a long way toward explaining the differences in the details (though not necessarily the differences in spelling of the names of some of the characters involved).

On the whole, these Polar explorers continue to fascinate me. They really were the astronauts of their day. And to echo what Rob Sawyer said on the way to dinner one night at ChattaCon, the research you do before writing a novel is not only necessary, it's a heck of a lot of fun.

In between Polar readings I am also doing some sporadic reading of a short story collection titled Beyond Armageddon. I will confess (take note, IGMS contributors) that I have a real penchant for post-apocalyptic stories, and this collection, published in 1985, contains many of the standards ("There Will Come Soft Rains" by Bradbury and "A Boy and His Dog" by Ellison), as well as a few that are new to me. I have to admit that part of the reason I picked it up was that it was assembled by Walter Miller Jr., author of the famous Canticle for Leibowitz. Unfortunately I found his lengthy introduction to the book, as well as his briefer introductions to the individual stories, to be rambling, preachy and obtuse. This, I suppose, explains why haven't dived more wholeheartedly into it, but only poke at it every now and then.

I've also been nibbling on a tome called Dear Scott, Dear Max, which is a collection of letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his editor at Scribner, Maxwell Perkins. I've always been a big fan of Fitzgerald and read anything by or about him that I can find. But this collection of letters is also a fascinating insight into the mind of Perkins, who was not only Fitzgerald's editor, but also that of Ernest Hemingway, Thoman Wolfe, and several other major literary figures of that era. There are lots of books out there about/for writing, but not nearly as much about editing, so I am enjoying this book from both sides of the equation.

And speaking of reading and editing, I am also busy reading again for IGMS. For a variety of reason the slush reading had to be put on hold for a little while. I needed to get certain info and input from OSC, and was having a devil of a time catching up with him. But those matters have (finally) been resolved and it's full steam ahead again.

So what are you reading these days?


CharlesP said...

Thanks Ed! I'm a sucker for a "share what you're reading" thread/post/whatever.

The "pole" books sound interesting (skuttles off to the library site to add some to his reading list). I recently finished "Cod: a Biography of the fish that changed the world" by Mark Kurlansky and enjoyed it greatly. I had read about half of his book "Salt" and enjoyed it (but it was a longer book and the library wanted it back) as well. He does a good job of integrating the fish/salt into history and showing how they were motivating forces... something you usually don't get out of history books.

I've also been trying to read a few different YA books. An Abundance of Katherine's was brilliantly amusing and something I wish I had read at 17. The protagonist is a recently graduated from high-school "former child prodigy" who is now just a really smart guy... who has been dumped by 17 girls all named Katherine and goes on a quest of self-discovery to try and formulate the underlying theorum of katherines. I'm working on The Navigator (which suckered me in with its steampunk looking cover) and the first in the "His Dark Materials" series (which was recommended several places that discuss steampunk). The steampunk genre has received a little publicity boost from boing boing and after reading of the concept (think Jules Verne style sci-fi set in that world of advanced 19th century technology) I've been hunting it out more and more (and seeing how one of my favorite directors, Hayao Miyazaki, uses some of the concepts in his films).

And I've also been working on some practical "business" related books like Getting Things Done and Made to Stick... but those aren't very exciting to most people I would imagine.

Oh and I've been patiently waiting on a certain author to finish his story for the last IGMS. ah-HEM! sorry... the pollen's bad around here, just had a little tickle in my throat.

Edmund R. Schubert said...

You and me both, Charles. You and me both... ah-hem... Of course, it's hard for me to quibble too much, since he's busy doing the myriad of other things that make the magazine (financially) possible. It's quite the Catch-22.

Dena said...

What am I reading? All your castoffs... I am the backup expert now on polar expeditions. (Although I may never recover from Mrs. Chippy being shot.)

Jeff said...

When I get the time, it's Shadowplay by Tad Williams.

Juliette Wade said...

It's interesting to see Hayao Miyazaki mentioned here, as he is one of my favorite directors.

I'm currently doing research for a story set in 11th-century Japan, so I'm taking a look at Shingon Buddhism, which has intriguing views on the relationship of World and Word, and at works such as Sei Shonagon's "The Pillow Book" and "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu (the world's very first novel). Also looking at "The Fox Woman" by Kij Johnson, one of my favorite fantasy novels ever, and at "The Tale of Murasaki" which is a novelization of the life of the author of Genji. The stuff is gorgeously poetic and alternates between heady and heavy... but since I love enthralling alternate worlds, I'm really digging this exploration. Besides, I'm seeing a lot of Japan-related stories making it into print lately (Asimov's and Realms of Fantasy, for example). Highly recommended for anyone out there.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're ahving as much fun in Japan as Iam in the Arctic. Keep me posted on how it all turns out.