Thursday, May 12, 2011

The distraction of the Internet; Book Review: Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand

A Publishers Weekly article on the distraction of the internet. The internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel. You are.

What? I beg to differ! No, honestly, it's a good article about -- Le Gasp -- willpower, and why Shakespeare would tweet sonnets. I think. I lost interest halfway through and went to look at cute baby bunnies cuddling on skate boards.

The non-smart-ass truth? My computer was out for most of the day yesterday, and I had an unexpected day off. I ended up going to the tawdry coffee shop again and sitting at a table next to a Bible discussion group in which the word "masturbation" was overhead twice. The upshot? I finished a chapter of the book and re-wrote the ending to a short story. That ending had been bugging me. Every time I opened the doc, I'd read it and think it was perfectly fine. But I'd walk away and think, "No, no. It's not fine." And it wasn't. Without the doc there on the screen, I just visualized what I wanted and wrote it. Perfection. Now I'm happy.

I wrote until my hand hurt. Yes. If you're not used to writing longhand, it's a bit difficult to write that much. But over four pages later, I'm super pleased. $1.30 for a coffee is a small price to pay for a solid hour of writing.

Do you prefer writing things out in a notebook or typing? Does the thought of not having your computer for the day terrify you? Do you have the interwebz open while writing, just so you can "check"?


Book review: "Winterlong" by Elizabeth Hand. Spec fic/SF.

I read the 1997 reprint edition, which has an author's note at the end reflecting on the writing of this, her debut novel. So first, a couple of things: It took Hand approximately twenty years to write this (gorgeous, seriously fucked up but in a beautiful, beautiful way) book, and also, the book is composed of every single thing she loved: sex, punk rock, the theater, Catholic ritual, myth, Pinocchio, talking animals, and a few other things.

It's incredible.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. that has become overrun by feral plague children and been divided into sections where whores and Curators live and work, it's a tale of genetic research and the search for something to follow, a tale of becoming human, a story of sex and myth. Or mutant prostitutes, as Hand's boyfriend disparagingly called it in the 70s.

First appearing in print in 1990, it almost immediately became a cult classic, and Hand's body of work since then (which I shall be reading ALL OF, and SOON) reflects on many of the same themes: the outsider, the search for meaning, and issues of gender identity. Do not read this book if you are easily offended by incest, medical research, or murder.

You won't find a single cliche as you read, switching between the perspectives of long-lost sister and brother, Wendy Wanders and Raphael Miramar. You might need a dictionary. You will find your head blown apart.

If I have a criticism, it's that the ending somewhat disappointed, in that, "Yeah, I guess it had to happen, but..." kind of way. It's a valid choice, and a culmination of everything Hand had previously put forth, so maybe I'm just a kid of the 1980s film scene, and I want a neatly-tied bow, complete with things being blown up.

Throw in romance and a descent into madness, and you've got a compelling read unlike anything else. A stunning book, highly recommended, especially if you don't like your female characters conveniently killed off when it suits the male protagonist.

I think I owe a huge debt to The Rejectionist right now.

Srsly. It's, like, priced from a buck or so, used. GET IT.


  1. love the juxtaposition of masturbation/the upshot

  2. Nice post. I am so set on writing on my laptop, It would be tough to write by hand, plus I would not be able to decipher what I wrote, my handwriting is so poor. I do however write down ideas in boring-ass work meetings. If I was locked away in the slammer, I guess I could write by hand.