Search Results for: fiction

‘The Ways of Fiction Are Devious Indeed’

Longreads Pick

Sands Hall, a playwright and daughter of author Oakley Hall, digs into the work of Wallace Stegner — specifically his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Angle of Repose, which is based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote. “[W]e often fold in the real with the invented,” writes Hall, but when does inspiration become plagiarism?

Yet in the end, it wasn’t that Stegner copied so much, verbatim, that incensed me. Nor that, in creating the Wards, he followed so precisely—for 523 of the novel’s 569 pages—the trajectory of the Footes’ lives. It was that, in the process, he altered Mary’s character. Susan emerges as a griping, entitled, discontented 1950s housewife, nothing like the adventurous, deeply intelligent, resilient woman on whom she was modeled.

Stegner didn’t physically assault Mary Foote, but he abused her—her life, her writing, and, as it turned out, her reputation. And he got away with it because he was a man. A privileged, white, older man. Would he have used the journal and letters of a male writer in this way?

Author: Sands Hall
Source: Alta
Published: Apr 4, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,757 words)

Stranger Than Fiction

Longreads Pick
Source: The Atavist
Published: Oct 23, 2020
Length: 51 minutes (12,750 words)

Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction

Longreads Pick

As people accuse fiction of presumption, vanity, appropriation, and putting words in peoples’ mouths, one of our most brilliant writers shows us what fiction does best, which is compassionately imagining ourselves as other people, so we can understand who they, and human beings, truly are.

Published: Oct 17, 2019
Length: 24 minutes (6,137 words)

Neal Stephenson Finally Takes on Global Warming

Longreads Pick

“His superscience this time isn’t a metaverse or a space colony. It’s engineering to address an imminent threat. After a few years of unrelenting wildfires, hurricanes, disease outbreaks, and other natural disasters linked directly or indirectly to climate change, the idea that the world’s preeminent technologists might take up the cause where policymakers seem to have failed is almost hopeful.”

Source: Wired
Published: Oct 26, 2021
Length: 17 minutes (4,348 words)

William Gibson on How Science Fiction Portrays Reality

(Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

William Gibson talks to Sam Leith at the Guardian about how he got into writing science fiction, how his break-out novel “Neuromancer” was possible because he knew nothing about computers, the subtle, yet striking similarities that make London and Toyko great settings for his work, and the fact that even in science fiction, you’re lost without your phone charger.

His 1981 short story “Johnny Mnemonic” was made into a film starring Keanu Reeves in 1995, but Gibson’s breakthrough only came with 1984’s Neuromancer. He famously wrote this rip-roaring, noir-inflected fantasy of burned out hackers and technologically augmented ninjas – which gave birth to the whole “cyberpunk” genre – on a manual typewriter, and he freely talks of himself as a late adopter. So maybe the poetic, rather than technological, turn in that description of cyberspace is the way to read him. He magpies futuristic sounding stuff.

“I was actually able to write Neuromancer because I didn’t know anything about computers,” he says. “I knew literally nothing. What I did was deconstruct the poetics of the language of people who were already working in the field. I’d stand in the hotel bar at the Seattle science fiction convention listening to these guys who were the first computer programmers I ever saw talk about their work. I had no idea what they were talking about, but that was the first time that I ever heard the word ‘interface’ used as a verb. And I swooned. Wow, that’s a verb. Seriously, poetically that was wonderful.

“So I was listening to it as an English honours student. I would take it back out, deconstruct it poetically, and build a world from those bricks.

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The Falls

Longreads Pick
Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jan 14, 1996
Length: 15 minutes (3,768 words)

Butter Tea at Starbucks

Longreads Pick

“The flames flap with a noise like laundry on a line. The fire is an orange column. A plastic bag pirouettes in mid-air. The camera, unsteady, lingers and lingers. And in the middle, the figure stands upright, stoic or suicidal. Pema thinks: she’s already dead.”

Published: Sep 21, 2016
Length: 21 minutes (5,363 words)

Going into Starbucks to Order Butter Tea

A Changpa boy sips from a cup of steaming yak-butter tea.
A Changpa boy sips from a cup of steaming yak-butter tea. (Photo by David Bathgate/Corbis via Getty Images)

Short fiction? Yes! We’re trying an experiment.

Toronto in winter is the backdrop for Sharon Bala‘s riveting short story “Butter Tea at Starbucks,” published at The New Quarterly. This piece, layered with deep tensions between immediate family and between countries, is told by Pema, a young Tibetan woman caught in the middle. Pema’s sister Karma is struggling to meet a newborn’s demands while trying to assert her independence over their parents, traditional Tibetans who are in conflict with the father of their new granddaughter. In the epicenter of the domestic strife and conflict unfolding in Toronto — sharply juxtaposed with a horrific self-immolation in protest against China’s treatment of Tibet — is newborn Sophia.

The flames flap with a noise like laundry on a line. The fire is an orange column. A plastic bag pirouettes in mid-air. The camera, unsteady, lingers and lingers. And in the middle, the figure stands upright, stoic or suicidal. Pema thinks: she’s already dead.

It is Pema’s duty to marry a Tibetan, to have sweet- faced almond-skinned children. She wants to do her part. But when she plays scrabble with Jamal and Karma she wants what they have too.

Find a Tibetan? Karma raises one eyebrow high on her forehead; the eyebrow says I’m above all this nonsense. Here? That’s like going into Starbucks and ordering butter tea.

Pema’s parents and her sister are like warring nations, old foes skirmishing over a boundary line that shifts imperceptibly, never gaining any ground. What they need is a mediator, someone to broker a peace agreement.

Pema unscrews the nipple off the bottle and tries to think of a neutral topic. For a decade, it was just the three of them. By the time Pema arrived, the unexpected child, there was no place for a fourth party in the fray.

Amala asks about the baby. She calls her Tenzin Dolma.

Her name is Sophia, Karma says.

Pema is surprised. When had this been decided? Tenzin Dolma. Pala speaks with authority. This name will bring her good fortune.

Were you in labour for sixteen hours? Karma’s voice jumps up. Her name is Sophia Naomi Wilson.

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The Unlikely Hero in George Saunders’ Short Story, ‘The Falls’

Capsized green canoe wedged between rocks and whitewater rapids in the James River Richmond, Virginia.
Getty Images

Short fiction? Yes! We’re trying an experiment. Read more stories.

Reading The Falls, a short story by George Saunders at The New Yorker, you’re privy to the self-centered thinking of two very different men on separate strolls around town. Morse is riddled with anxiety; a married father of two who second-guesses his parenting skills, his marriage, and every other thought. Cummings’ interior reel focuses on his as-yet-undiscovered greatness and the shock his family and local residents will feel when his greatness is finally revealed to all. But which of the two will rouse from their reverie to act when two young girls paddling in a canoe suddenly face danger? You’ll need to read the story to find out.

Morse was tall and thin and as gray and sepulchral as a church about to be condemned. His pants were too short, and his face periodically broke into a tense, involuntary grin that quickly receded, as if he had just suffered a sharp pain. At work he was known to punctuate his conversations with brief wild laughs and gusts of inchoate enthusiasm and subsequent embarrassment, expressed by a sudden plunging of his hands into his pockets, after which he would yank his hands out of his pockets, too ashamed of his own shame to stand there merely grimacing for even an instant longer.

…Morse, ha, Cummings thought, I’m glad I’m not Morse, a dullard in corporate pants trudging home to his threadbare brats in the gathering loam, born, like the rest of his ilk with their feet of clay thrust down the maw of conventionality, content to cheerfully work lemminglike in moribund cubicles while comparing their stocks and bonds between bouts of tedious lawnmowing, then chortling while holding their suckling brats to the Nintendo breast.

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Extreme Heat Is Here, and It’s Deadly

Longreads Pick

“For many, the present is already feeling pretty dystopian.” Arizona and regions across the U.S. are seeing record-high temperatures — and the heat will only intensify. At High Country News, Jessica Kutz reports that climate fiction, Indigenous architecture, and a robot named MaRTy are a few key things that can prepare us for a hotter future.

Published: Sep 1, 2020
Length: 25 minutes (6,440 words)