Category Archives: Theory and Discussion

The Mark of a Good Writer

You’ll find plenty of opinions about what makes good writing, but there are as many opinions as there are readers, and they range from technical critiques to personal raves, with many being a mix of the two. You probably won’t … Continue reading

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How Real is Real Enough?

Realism is critical for good fiction writing, but speculative fiction demands some nonrealism, too. How do you find the right balance of realistic and nonrealistic features, and how do you make them work together harmoniously? Continue reading

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True Literature or Not True Literature, That is the Wrong Question

Human beings enjoy a good story. Most people like some variety in the types of stories they engage with, and some people will read or watch pretty much anything. You would think that publishers would recognize this, but in book publishing, there is a long-standing and seemingly impenetrable divide between literary fiction and so-called genre (“popular”) fiction in general, and speculative fiction in particular. But is this distinction useful? Continue reading

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Don’t Look Down

In many disciplines, if you follow a specific set of instructions, then you should get the intended outcome, whatever that may be. But following rules does not significantly improve art, except incidentally. Art is not art merely because it has technical merit. In fact, some of the best art busts all the rules and gets away with it. If Tom Thompson or Vincent van Gogh had decided to do what a good painter is “supposed” to do, we might never have known their names. Continue reading

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The Art of Appreciation

I’ve been thinking a lot about why people make art and what they hope to achieve by doing so. That of course leads me to wonder how people judge art, how it affects them, and why it has the impact it does. I haven’t come up with any specific answers, but it boils down to one question: what makes good art? Continue reading

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Genre Wars: My Final Word (For Now)

Earlier, I discussed how genres allow people to categorize stories so that they can narrow down the list of books they want to read, movies they want to watch, etc. However, people like nice, tidy, delineated categories with sharply defined borders, and these simply do not capture or reflect the tremendous range of tales that the human imagination can concoct.Genres are not the hermetically sealed glass boxes we want to think they are; rather, they are permeable membranes that hold a lot of stuff together while allowing certain types things to flow in and out of their borders. Continue reading

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Genre: The Theme’s the Thing?

By “theme” I mean an underlying idea or concept that, while not necessarily the immediate focus of a body of work, is still pervasive throughout that work and provides some basis for binding the events and ideas presented into a meaningful whole. Continue reading

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