Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stross and Penny: clever moments

Just thought I'd share some funny bits and clever phrases from this week's reading. First, I just finished Laura Penny's Your Call Is Important To Us: The Truth About Bullshit. It's exactly what it sounds like; if the title sounds like it describes a book you want to read, you're right -- you should pick it up and read it. In one of the later chapters, she fires off one of the best turns of phrase I've found recently: "If I had a nickel for every time I heard her [Lady Hal, the automated phone voice] intone the phrases, "We are experiencing higher than usual call volumes," "Your call will be answered in priority sequence," and the Big Lie, "Your call is important to us," I wouldn't be writing this book. I'd be charging admission and selling snacks at my fabulous roadside attraction, Nickel Mountain." It might be her most clever moment in the book.

I really enjoyed Charlie Stross's The Atrocity Archives and its sister novella The Concrete Jungle, two modern sci-fi/fantasy stories. I like the way he develops his viewpoint character, the story and world are both intensely clever, and I really liked his phrasing and use of language. I also enjoyed his end notes, in which he discusses that Len Deighton's cold-war spy novels might be more accurately considered horror novels, and H.P. Lovecraft's stories might be more accurately considered spy stories. And he gives his own description of the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu: "In Call of Cthulhu, gamers role-play their way through one or another 1920s scenario that usually involves solving bizzare mysteries before something hideous sucks their brains out through their ears with a Crazy Straw." If you've ever played the game, you'll agree this is the most accurate, concise description of the game ever put to paper. I've got The Jennifer Morgue, the sequel to The Atrocity Archives, on hold at the library, and I'm waiting for it to come in.

I also got John Scalzi's You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing in the mail today. I'm looking forward to reading it. I suspect that most of the content has already appeared on his website, but I consider Scalzi the best new writer I've found in years, and I'm really curious to read what he has to say about my intended field. It'll be nice to have it all collected in one volume.

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