by Mary Kate Murray, Editor

This spring, roughly forty students meet every week to discuss the importance and impact of fantasy and science fiction literature in a new class offered by Classics Professor Jason Nethercut called From Odysseus to Harry Potter. Nethercut, a professor at Knox since 2012, has kindly answered some questions about this new course.

Why did you decide to offer From Odysseus to Harry Potter?
There are two major considerations.
The first one is that I really like Harry Potter, and I really like fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve come to realize in my time at Knox that Harry Potter, in particular, might be the number-one thing that unifies the diverse student body that we have. People are really into it. I thought that it would be a shame to not make use of Harry Potter in a course when you could have a truly interdisciplinary student body that would take it—people from all over campus, not just GDH and Old Main, but people from SMC and CFA, and that’s proven to be true. I thought that teaching a course like this would provide an opportunity to realize what we are always trying to realize at small liberal arts colleges, which is something truly interdisciplinary.
The other major reason: I personally think that fantasy and sci-fi, and the origins of archetypes that we get from Greco-Roman literature, might be the most important literature that has ever been written from a political perspective. When you construct a world, what you are doing is interrogating the world you actually live in—all the prejudices, the presuppositions, and the positive and negative values that a society has. In effect, what you have with this kind of literature is a really incisive and clear window into the most important things in society (at least, the society that created the literature). That sort of ties in with the first idea. That’s what a liberal education is about, really—trying to understand, to question, to interrogate the things that we take for granted in order for us to make the world a better place.
What we’re doing is fun, yes, but it’s not frivolous at all.

What about fantasy and sci-fi do you find valuable?                                   
I would say, again, that there is a lot of value in world-building and how that reflects on society. Also, it’s just very entertaining. We should not minimize that part of it. It’s really cool that, depending on where you’re coming from, you can have maybe the most entertaining genre be one of the more profound genres in terms of interrogating things about society. In addition, J.K. Rowling was a classicist. She was very familiar with the literature we’re reading from antiquity and used it in a really productive and powerful way. So win-win-win.

Do you think Knox is a good place to explore fantasy and sci-fi literature?
I think that people will always have their own prejudices when it comes to literature. That’s part of literature, that’s part of literary criticism, and certainly it’s a part of the professional world that I inhabit. Regarding Knox in particular, gauging by the student response, it’s one of the best places I can imagine for this kind of course because, by and large, the students don’t have a hang-up about the literature. Harry Potter, in particular, is a foundational aspect of [this generation’s] worldview and shared culture. I couldn’t think of anything more profound than reading Harry Potter in an intellectual way with students whose culture is so shaped by it. So yes, I think Knox is a wonderful place to do this sort of thing.

How did you pick the reading list?
From the ancient stuff, I picked the literature that I thought was most influential for different strands of the genre we’re looking at. I’ve divided the course into what I’ve called “archetypes,” “world-building,” and “science fiction.” With those divisions, it was really easy to decide what ancient things needed to be looked at. I flirted with some other things, but in the end it was pretty straightforward.
With modern stuff, it’s needed to be selective. There’s more fantasy and sci-fi written every day than I could read in the rest of my life. What I tried to do was pick things that are really popular and also illustrative of the issues that we’re trying to address in this course. Lucky for me, most of the things that are really popular right now are good in this way. I also tried to look at things that I thought students might not be reading in the same way that they read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but are really important books. For instance, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood might be the most important science fiction story written in the twentieth century. Octavia Butler, who won the McArthur Genius Grant for her science fiction, is another very important author who might not be on people’s radar. I think it would be a travesty to have a course like this where you don’t read this really strong tradition of feminist sci-fi, or Afro-futurism. And, of course, I couldn’t imagine a class like this without looking at The Lord of the Rings in some way due to its influence over the modern fantasy tradition. I tried to get a mix-and-match of those considerations.

What is your favorite story?
Virgil’s Aeneid. It is, in some ways, one of the most influential books I’ve read in terms of how I see the world, mainly because of the complicated morality that intersects with politics and aesthetics. It’s a complicated picture. It’s not strightfoward. It’s not cut-and-dry.
Of the books we’re reading that aren’t from the Classical period, definitely the Harry Potter series. Definitely. I don’t think I need to explain that.

Course Reading List

Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; Aristophanes, Birds and Other Plays; Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories; Collins, The Hunger Games; Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane; Homer, the Iliad; Homer, the Odyssey ; Lucian, Selected Dialogues; Plato, The Republic; Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring; Virgil, the Aeneid.

Apply to be an editor!

Sunday, April 27, 2014
Posted by Knox Quiver
You can find the application and more info here.

Tropfest

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Posted by Knox Quiver
By Clare Vaughn, Editor 

*trumpets blare/angels sing/there's free pizza*

HELLO FOLKS I AM HERE TO TELL YOU ABOUT TROPFEST.

To be fair, you may not need to be told about tropfest, in which case, congratulations and stick around anyway. But for those who don't know, it's the biggest short film festival in the world. The whole world. It's awesome. And every year (sometimes twice a year, I think), they announce a "tropfest signature item" that has to be included in the contestants short films, which can range from the number eight to a teaspoon to simply the word "change." The finalists every year are incredible, and they have the most innovative scripts (which is what I'm focusing on here, at least for this blog article) and ideas. Many of them take cliches and turn them on their heads in really fantastic and exciting ways. If you have a chance, give them a look - you can easily find them on youtube through searching "tropfest." Super easy. Super rewarding. 

But, here's my hook: why not try your hand at the tropfest prompt? If you're interested in screenwriting, this is absolutely a great resource. You've probably seen all the zombie tropes in the world that exist - and yet this film still surprised me. Or, if screenwriting isn't your thing, just go for fiction. As I said before, a lot of tropfest relies on turning genre tropes on their head, and it's very applicable to genre fiction as well: take a classic, predictable vampire story and turn it on it's head. Make it so that they're like spiders and more afraid of humans than humans are (supposed to be) of them. Write from a zombie's point of view (this has been done before with Warm Bodies and Wasting Away, but I believe in you). A prince running to rescue a princess but instead finding that the princess is the one guarding the castle and keeping the dragon prisoner. There are a million options that I would personally love to see people try (and submit to Quiver - I am not ashamed of blatant promotions), and I'm a big advocate of watching/reading/viewing other stellar forms of art for inspiration, so have at it! The world is your oyster, the sky's the limit, there's plenty of... stories.. in the sea. Um.

Anyways, have fun! Watch videos! Get inspired! 

Handy dandy link to tropfest videos here :)
by Maz King, editor

I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna get different film adaptations of YA lit.

The recent release of a clip from the much-anticipated The Fault in Our Stars got me thinking: do I really want a teen romance about two sarcastic, occasionally pretentious, cancer-ridden teenagers written by a problematic author on my silver-screen? Uhm... no.

And here’s why: I know for a fact this movie will do well. I know it in my bones, as a fact--as a fact in the way that John Green has 2.26 million twitter followers is a fact; in the way that a New York Times reviewer referred to “realistic stories told by a funny, self-aware teenage narrator” as “GreenLit” is a fact; in the way that John Green’s quirky, seemingly authentic persona has amassed millions of loyal consumers who will shell out upwards of $8 for a movie ticket to see a love story like most other love stories, except this time both lovers have cancer.

And I do not want this movie to do well. Because this movie doing well is eclipses of all the movies that haven’t done well--movies based on YA stories written by women, like The Host, How I Live Now, or The Lovely Bones. Maybe Lois Lowry’s The Giver will do well, but it’s in blasphemous color, for goodness sake, did the director read the book? And does anyone even remember Speak?

Now, there’s a lot of blame to share in the failure of these movies--sometimes the film itself is a bad or poor adaptation; sometimes the story itself just isn’t that good. I mean, not every best-selling book has to be a movie. (“Everything popular is wrong,” sayeth the Oscar Wilde. “I kind of agree in this instance,” sayeth the Maz.) This is also not to say there aren’t outliers, like the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, or the Twilight saga. However, John Green gets a movie deal. Nicholas Sparks gets movie deals again and again. James Dashner (author of The Maze Runner, a dystopian novel riding on the coattails of the Hunger Games’ success) got a movie deal.

The YA genre was built by the Tamora Pierces, Judy Blumes, Sarah Dessens, and JK Rowlings of the world. Where’s my Just Listen movie where I get to see a lead lady deal with friendlessness, her sister’s eating disorder, and sexual assault? Maybe these stories are hard to sell. Maybe they aren’t enough of the “realistic stories told by a funny, self-aware teenage narrator[s].” Maybe there’s a problem in the movie and literature industries in that they favor male authors.

So, if you wanna get my money, you gotta start contracting lady authors
Make it last forever
...I’m not even going to try to make this Spice Girls reference work because I just want ladies’ stories in media. Seriously, give them to me. Now please.

Plotting versus Pantsing

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Posted by Knox Quiver
by Becky Harwell, Editor

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since I’m starting to think about a new novel. There seem to be two major camps in fiction writing: plotters and pantsers. Plotters figure out their plots (and stories and characters) before they start writing, while pantsers write “by the seat of their pants” and don’t do much planning. And then there’s a whole bunch of people who fall somewhere in between the two.

When I first started writing novels (when I was eight and they were about unicorns and dragons), I had a lot of beginnings. I’d come up with an idea and write maybe twenty or thirty or even forty pages, and then I’d stop. I’d get stuck, and I’d abandon it. This continued for many years. Finally, I managed to finish one, then two novels, but both required rewriting because they meandered along, plotless and pointless.

After that, I decided I would plan out my novels down to the semicolons. I mapped out every scene, every character, major and minor, even some bits of dialogue. I had a forty-page outline. I was ready. This was going to be the Best Thing Ever.

I think I abandoned that book before the manuscript was as long as the outline. It was no fun writing when I already knew everything about the story.

The first book I finished that wasn’t terrible, and all the ones after that, was written with a combination of plotting and pantsing. I definitely lean more toward plotting. I develop my character beforehand. I know my beginning and my ending and several major scenes in between. But I let those ideas that hit me as I’m writing onto the page, and sometimes my outline changes.

Every writer is different. There are those who can take a first line and write an entire novel from it. There are those who can write the history of their world and characters before they start the actual story, and it remains fresh and fun. I am neither of those writers, but I had to try out both ways to find what was most comfortable for me. Think about how you write a story the next time you sit down to do so, and consider trying out something new to find what clicks the most for you.

By Maddie Mondeaux, Editor

Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Oregon Book Awards, both the ceremony itself and the benefit dinner beforehand. During the events, I got to meet some really cool writers and publishers, including Ursula K. Le Guin (!!!), Kari Luna, and Mary Szybist. Luna is the author of the winning YA book, The Theory of Everything, and Szybist the author of the winning poetry collection, Incarnadine. For those who have been living under a rock for their entire lives, Ursula K. Le Guin (age 84) is one of the most famous female sci-fi/fantasy writers of her generation, and has been successful since she was first published in the 1960s. She is well known for her Earthsea series, as well as stand-alone novels and short stories such as The Dispossessed. Her two-volume short story collection The Unreal and the Real: Collected Stories won the fiction award. And (just let me geek out about this for a second) I MET HER. IN REAL LIFE. A FEMALE SCI-FI/FANTASY WRITER WHO WINS AWARDS AND IS WELL-RESPECTED AND AAAHHHHH.

As you can probably tell, it was a dizzying experience, meeting all those people who were not only doing what I want to do for the rest of my life, but succeeding at it. Getting awards for it, even. I freely admit that I did was I always do when I meet someone even remotely famous: got super star struck and either 1. clammed up or 2. babbled unintelligibly at these poor people with no hope of ever getting my conversational footing.

But I did made sure to ask everyone I met—including Ursula K. Le Guin. Who I met. In real life.—what advice they had for a young writer. What was the one piece of advice they would give to me, to young and beginning writers everywhere?

Every single one of them (except this one older guy who weirdly hit on my friend) said: keep writing.
You are going to write shit, they said (almost all of them used that exact word). You are going to write a lot of shit. Embrace it. Move on. Don’t put your shitty manuscript in a drawer because you hate it, because it’s no good, because it’s not immediately The Wizard of Earthsea. If you keep on writing, pushing through the shit, eventually you will hit on something good—a paragraph, a sentence, two words that ring just right. And the more shit you push through, the more good things you will find.

Even Ursula K. Le Guin (who I met!!!!! In real life!!!!) started somewhere—pushing through shitty drafts of shitty manuscripts, getting rejected by publishers, slowly honing her craft. Slowly finding those great words, those great sentences. And now here she is, winning awards at 84.

It is by no means new or groundbreaking advice, of course. Everyone says “keep writing”. But hearing it again and again from dozens of people who have made it, who win awards, and who write genre fiction just like me, gives me hope.

On First Lines

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Posted by Knox Quiver
by Becky Harwell, Editor

I don’t think I’m alone in my terror of the blank page. Whether I’m writing a story, a novel, an essay, or even a blog post, my mind freezes when I see the cursor just sitting there, blinking, waiting for me to start.

I think first lines in fiction are especially difficult. There are so many classic first lines that have such staying power that they're quoted by people who haven’t even read the book. These lines are witty, deep, and engaging, and they set the tone for the entire book. Some opening lines that come to mind:


  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” –Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” –A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  •  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • “Call me Ishmael.” –Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” –The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien


On the one hand, I’m amazed at the complexity of some, how they make a sweeping statement about the nature of humanity. On the other, I’m blown away by the simplicity that Melville and Tolkien open with, a simplicity that is nevertheless engaging.

When it comes to writing my own opening lines, I usually skip them and put [FIRST LINE HERE] instead. Nothing gets more revised than my opening paragraphs, especially that first line. It’s so important, especially in a submission to a major publication, an agent, or a publisher. If the person reading it isn't engaged by line one, they might not go onto line two. It must set the tone, began to establish character, plot, setting…that’s a lot. Even if it doesn't address all of these specifically, it must set up the following lines to do so.

For my first lines, when I finally make myself write them, I tend to pick something to focus on, such as character, setting, or plot. Then, I zoom in on the most interesting image or aspect of that element. I’ve found that simple works better, as not to confuse the reader. And when I’m stressing over revisions, convinced that I’ve written The Most Terrible Opening Line Ever, I remind myself that, at its core, the first line has only one job: make the audience read the second line.



Welcome to Our Blog

Popular Post

Powered by Blogger.

Followers

- Copyright © Quiver Genre Magazine -Robotic Notes- Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -