I haven’t done many of these links posts lately, so I have a bunch of links saved up. I’ll try to get caught up over the next few weeks.
First, Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak has started a new blog on which he writes perceptively about the craft of comics. It’s very new, but he’s already written several posts that have clarified things I’ve been doing haphazardly and inconsistently because I hadn’t thought about them consciously. Example: body language. Sometimes I manage to express my characters’ personalities through my drawings—through Bob’s frequently hunched-over posture, or Buck’s disregard for other people’s personal space—but sometimes they’re more or less talking heads.
Also useful: Comic Tools has been on hiatus for a while, but there’s lots of helpful stuff in the archives. New Construction is Kevin Huizenga’s new blog about “cartooning practices and concerns.” And Temple of the Seven Golden Camels is written from the point of view of an animator, but has lots of good advice about draftsmanship and composition.
Laura Miller, at Salon, writes about the brave new world, anticipated by many aspiring authors, in which anybody can get their books “published” without going through the filter of an actual publisher. Self-publishing enthusiasts like to talk about what this means for writers; Miller focuses on on what this would mean for readers:
A diamond encased in a mountain of solid granite may be truly valuable, but at a certain point the cost of extracting it exceeds the value of the jewel. With slush, the cost is not only financial (many publishers can no longer afford to assign junior editors to read unsolicited manuscripts) but also — as is less often admitted — emotional and even moral.
It seriously messes with your head to read slush. Being bombarded with inept prose, shoddy ideas, incoherent grammar, boring plots and insubstantial characters — not to mention ton after metric ton of clichés — for hours on end induces a state of existential despair that’s almost impossible to communicate to anyone who hasn’t been there themselves: Call it slush fatigue.
On a related note, have you ever tried to search for something on Amazon.com, and found your search results littered with generic-looking print-on-demand books? If you actually were to order one of those things, this is what you’d get. If Amazon were to scour these things from their catalog they’d be doing their customers a favor… but that’s not likely to happen; as long as there are people unwary enough to buy the things, Amazon will turn a profit from them.
It occurred to me today that one of the places from which the idea that craftsmanship and devotion to craftsmanship are unworthy of artists might be coming is the Renaissance idea of sprezzatura, the art of making the difficult look easy. Sprezzatura is all about disclaiming effort, about presenting the appearance of not working hard to achieve perfection, and it seems to me like there’s a point of slippage between sprezzatura as a pose, equally understood as such by author and audience, and the devaluation of craft.
Well, ask yourself this: if an inept draftsman creates a picture of a man whose head is too small and whose right hand is half the length it should be, does that mean the draftsman actually believes we live in a world full of tiny-headed, bob-handed people? No; all it means is that the draftsman isn’t very good at reproducing the reality he or she sees. And the same attains to writing. Writing is pretty difficult, reality is massively complicated, and even a moderately accurate reproduction of it is hard to manage. Get it wrong, and you’ve created a weird facsimile of reality that sounds, well, crazy.
And on “metaphorisation”:
Fiction creates situations where the strong feelings are tied to events dramatic enough to justify them. It’s one of the great escapist satisfactions of reading: not escaping into a more comfortable world, but escaping into a world where you have good, unchallengeable reasons for feeling the way you do.
SF blogs in the past year or so have periodically been writing about representations of different cultures, and cultural appropriation. Hal Duncan has written an essay thinking about appropriation, abjection, and related topics. I’m not certain what to excerpt; just go read it, if the subject interests you.