Writers of Today
The Times are Changing...
Recently there have been attacks upon artists and writers by militant Muslims. The most profound of these attacks took place in Paris, France.
There was murder but not the killing of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine lives on. Those who have fallen will not be forgotten.
In defiance of those who would stand against liberty the free world has recently gotten behind Charlie Hebdo and made it a much more popular magazine.
Our present pope came out with a statement siding with the killers of French artists and writers. I found this outrageous but understandable.
Charlie Hebdo had come out with cartoons dealing with pedophile Catholic priests. But then again the fact that their are dishonorable priests in our world has been known for some time and has been widely written about.
In Bankstown west of Sydney in New South Wales Australia shop owners have had to go with Halal approved food.
Possibly a case of their shop being boycotted if they don't. Outrageous? Yes. An attack upon liberty? Possibly. Don't expect to get sweet and sour pork at Bankstown Central in the near future. Yes there is a shop selling Chinese food but not with pork products in the food.
Books such as Rubicon Ranch have come about thanks to the internet. Collaborative novels are made easier when communication between writers is made easy. It is difficult to get writers who live great distances away together. It's not so difficult to do so if computers are employed.
Magazines, such as Night to Dawn also do well over the internet. in not only inspiring writers, but also readers. Night to Dawn is a horror and dark fantasy publication. I have been told by Barbara Custer, the editor and publisher, that dealing with publishing today is just a matter of tuning into what is possible in our 21st Century.
The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak was first published in 2005 and in 2013 was made into a major motion picture starring Australian veteran actor Geoffrey Rush. It deals with, among other things, the burning of books by the Nazis leading up to and including World War Two.
Here in the 21st Century Star Trek novels such as the Vanguard series continue to flourish. This seems to me to be all too appropriate since Star Trek is about the future and thus continues to project us the reader into other more exciting times.
Open Secrets, a 2009 Vanguard novel written by Dayton Ward, is a great example of good 21st Century writing.
This is apt to be a short history since we are not far into the 21st Century. At the same time, new technology has resulted in the demise of more than one book store chain in Australia, the UK and the USA. Also there is currently an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the novel.
There has been a mushrooming of small press. Some of it is very good and, naturally, some of it is not so brilliant.
Right now Romance novels seem to be doing very well. Of the most popular novels to come out in recent times is Fifty Shades of Grey by British aurthor E. L. James (2011).
Fifty Shades of Grey is somewhat reminiscent of The Story of O by Pauline Reage (1954).
People in droves are turning to electronic tablets and other devices to collect and read novels. They are moving away from the paperback and the hardcover.
Revolutions in reading have happened before. I do not wish to try to predict what revolutions will occur before this century is finished. Suffice to say that we are at the very beginning of something that may be awesome.
I do know about the paper shortage in the 1950s that ruined for many the pulp magazine industry. The prices of the then popular magazines soured to where fewer and fewer were being bought by consumers. This also came with television becoming more popular and people turning to the box as a cheaper form of entertainment.
So what did this have to do with the novel in the 1950s or at any other time in its history? Well, many of the great novelists of the 1950s, such as Ray Bradbury, got their start with their short stories appearing in magazines and then they moved into novel writing.
After the paper shortage disaster, paperback anthologies provided writers with a short story launch pad for their careers and so life for the writer continued, even though the format of their existence had somewhat changed.
As for hardcovers versus paperbacks, there have been novelists, such as Stephen King, that have insisted that their novels always come out in hardcover first. There has been the notion that there is something prestigious about hardcover and that paperback is somehow the lesser form. I don't agree.
In my own book collection I have fifty paperbacks for every one hardcover. I find paperbacks easier to read on the train and in bed. Nowadays there are no doubt tablet readers who claim that the tablets are easier to read everywhere and the novels downloaded are cheaper.
Here I will mention writers who's works are likely to endure. I will also touch upon writers that have something to say about today and possibly the future.
Even writing about so short a period so far in literature, decisions on content have to be made. I hope I touch upon at least one novel you happen to like or are at least curious about.
Devoted Serial Killers and Friendly Vampires
One of my present day favorites among the Americans is Jeff Lindsay with his rather cheeky series about Dexter, a somewhat charming serial killer that kills serial killers. These novels have been worked into a television series that has its own charm.
The first in the book series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, came out in 2004.
There have also been Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005), Dexter in the Dark (2007) and Double Dexter (2011).
Then there is Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire mystery series which combines romance with fanged action with a touch of history, real as well as imagined, thrown in for good measure. Besides vampires there are shapeshifters such as werewolves.
The main character in these books is Sookie Stackhouse, who is a waitress and a telepath. She falls in love with one of the undead and this complicates her life immensely.
The series was kicked off in 2001 with Dead Until Dark. Other novels in the series include: Club Dead (2003), All Together Dead (2007) and Deadlocked (2012). The television seried True Blood is based on Charlaine Harris' novels.
Set mainly in modern day Chicago, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series had a certain solidity about it that makes the novels very readable. This may have something to do with butcher's knowledge of martial arts.
Butcher also knows his city well and this comes across in his books.
Harry Dresden, Butcher's main character, is a private detective and wizard. He sometimes works for the police though his relationship with them can be rocky at times.
In the course of these novels, Dresden encounters demons, werewolves, vampires and other assorted creatures of the darkness. What's more, not all vampires are the same or easily dealt with.
The Dresden Files series began in 2000 with Storm Front. Other books in the series include: Fool Moon (2008) and Changes (2010).
An interesting twist on the vampire and a continually nice jab at political correctness gone mad, are the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels by Laurell k. Hamilton.
In Anita Blake's world the humanoid creatures, such as vampires, have the same kind of rights as regular humans and can only be hunted down once it has been confirmed they have broken the law. This makes being a vampire hunter rather dicey.
The first of the Anita Blake novels, Guilty Pleasures came out in 1993. Other books in the series include: Incubus Dreams (2004), Blood Noir ( 2008), and Hit List (2011).
Today Barbara Custer is writer, editor and publisher. She is responsible for the magazine Night to Dawn and also for the novels that have materialized under the Night to Dawn banner.
Custer saw that some writers weren't always getting a fair deal from the small press in the first few years of the 21st Century and decided to do something about it by expanding from magazine publisher to magazine and novel publisher.
Barbara Custer's vampire novel, Twilight Healer, first came out in 2003. Here Custer uses her considerable medical knowledge to weave a vampiric romance that had and still has something biting to say about hospital care in the USA.
Along the same lines are Custer's more recent anthology vampire efforts City of Brotherly Death (2012) and Trilogy of the Dead (2012).
In the area of science fiction there's Star Invasions by Barbara Custer and Tom Johnson (well known pulp magazine style writer) which came out in 2011.
Three Go Back by Tom Johnson, a science fiction novel for young readers, is set in a time when teleportation devices are around and time travel is possible, came out in 2010.
Pat Bertram is a novelist with an interest in history and also how fellow human beings handle disasters, both natural and otherwise. There are also touches of romance in her work.
Bertram's first novel, A Spark of Heavenly Fire (2008), takes place in a Colorado struck with the reds death. Among other things there is a government cover-up.
Other novels by Pat Bertram include: Daughter Am I (2009) and Light Bringer (2011).
From Egypt to Victorian England to Discworld
In 2000 The Keys of Egypt, a rollicking good novelization of the life and times of Jean-Francois Champollion, the man who won the race to read the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, came out.
The Keys of Egypt It was written by Lesley and Roy Adkins, archaologists and Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
The odds against Champollion were huge. There was local French politics including rather knowledgeable and jealous Frenchmen keen on him not succeeding together with English scholars who thought they should be the ones to succeed. Throw in religion and the possibility of being shot for your beliefs and it makes for one exciting as well as true adventure.
Of the up and coming writers, A. E. Moorat must be one of the most twisted with his novel, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, which first saw the light of day in 2009. Apparently royalty, in this author's world is either demonic, semi-demonic or related to demon-kind.
The social wrongs of the first couple of decades cannot be completely attributed to the actions of demons but certainly they are there. Within the novel we discover that Bedlam, the place where the insane are sent, is also the way into a place where most of us would not care to venture. It is a way into hell. This book is well put together, cheeky, and fun. Also by A. E. Moorat, Henry VIII: Wolfman (2010).
One of the best and most outlandish writers of the late 20th Century and early 21st Century would have to be Terry Pratchett with his Discworld series. It all began in 1983 with The Colour of Magic which established Pratchett's strange, flat planet in the multiverse which sits on the back of four elephants which stand on the back of an ancient giant turtle flying through space.
Discworld is a world based on magic rather than logic and yet its denizens are laughingly familiar to us. In fact, despite being related in some ways to Conan the Barbarian's world (Robert E. Howard), we see glimpses of the craziness existing in our own present day lives.
Death is a character who would like to get to know humans better but usually meets them in the most difficult stage of their existence. Wizards can see him long before death but the rest of humanity isn't generally capable of doing so.
In The Colour of Magic, Rincewind, the least successful of the wizards must save his world and at the same time avoid Death.
Other Discworld novels by Pratchett include: Witches Abroad (1991), Hogfather (1996), The Last Continent (Pratchett's fun play with Australia in 1998), The Truth (2000), Going Postal (2004), Making Money (2007) and Snuff (2011).
Unfortunately Terry Pratchett is no longer among the living but his rather substantial work lives on.
One of the more surreal and fascinating of present day Scottish writers is Neil K. Henderson with his Fish-Worshiping - As We know It (2001).
Henderson has at times referred to himself as English humorist P.G. Wodehouse on acid. There's some truth in this as is apparent in his 2005 collection of short stories, An English Summer in Scotland and Other Unlikely Events.
Also by Henderson we have Sherry Hormones, his clever and somewhat warped spoof on Sherlock Holmes in a selection of misadventures titled Hormones A-Go Go (2011). He has a new novel in the works yet to be published.
Vampires, Desk Jobs and other forms of Insanity
Australian and New Zealand Authors
Most writers start out with the short story and progress to the novel. This was true of Australian writer Rod Marsden.
Marsden's first novel to deal with the supernatural, Disco Evil, came out in 2009.
It is about two vampires. They form a relationship based on one siring the other and also upon their mutual dislike for the jocks and the jockettes of this world.
If there is a touch of twisted romance Disco Evil it may be found in the disco made evil by the vampire's presence and also by the presence of others connected with wrong doing and promises of the past broken for all time.
Rod Marsden's Ghost Dance, about a young man cursed with becoming a werewolf on the full moon and his journey to find a cure, came out in 2010. Aiding the young werewolf on his quest is a female vampire who is prodded into doing so by gypsies but nevertheless takes a liking to the werewolf.
As opposition in Ghost Dance, there is a modern day wizard out to destroy a large portion of humanity. All he needs to get his plans under way is the blood of a werewolf and also the blood of a vampire.
Recently, in 2012, Rod Marsden's salute to Lewis Carroll titled Desk Job came out. Here instead of Alice being in Wonderland you have Sarah in Office-land. Alice thought Wonderland was strange. Sarah knew straight off that Office-land was both strange and twisted.
Sarah Hollingsworth, a psychic detective, must find the reason why a murder took place in a particular place of work. As it turns out, the well-being of quite a few people depend on her findings. Here there is political correctness gone mad and an overall boss too lazy to do anything about it.
Office types become various creatures in this book such as praying mantises, dung beetles, and hawks.
One of the better Australian science fiction/fantasy writers to be operating both in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century would be Traci Harding with such efforts as The Alchemist's Key (1999) and Tablet of Destinies (2001). She has a keen interest in history and in the subject of time travel.
Possibly the Australian writer with the weirdest sense of dark humor would be Richard Harland. This is evident in his 1993 black comedy masterpiece, The Vicar of Morbing Vyle. It is solidified in his 2004 twisted horror novel, The Black Crusade. Here there be vampires but most peculiar ones and other oddities.
New Zealand author Lyn McConchie also got her start in the venue of the short story.
McConchie's Her growing collection of Daze books beginning with Farming Daze (1993), which went into reprint in 2003, are a delight. They encompass the odd, wonderous and even wonderful things that go on in the country and, in particular, on one oft times perculiar farm.
McConchie's work is reminiscent of the vet stories by James Wight who wrote under the pen name James Herriot.
Since Lyn is a genuine farmer there is something very genuine as well as fun about her farm yarns. After the success of Farming Daze, there came Daze on the Land (2003), Tiger Daze (2007), Principally about a cat and his human, Daze in the Country (2008), Rural Daze and (K)nights (2009) and Field Daze (2011).
In 2009 Lyn's Western, South of Rio Chama, came out. It is a bold story of a young woman's attempts to get back a property stolen from her.
In 2011 Queen of Iron Years by Lyn McConchie and Sharman Horwood debuted. This is a gender bender work set, to some extent, in our future and also, to some extent, in the past that will challenge some readers. It isn't preachy, however, and moves at a great pace.
More by this Author
Standing tall and one person making a difference has long been part of the American identity. In propaganda terms it has been useful. Can one person really make a difference? John Wayne and Vietnam.
The 20th Century, Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Cold War, H. G. Wells, A Woman of Mars, The Hulk, Ian Fleming, Tarzan, A Clockwork Orange, Agatha Christie, Biggles.
Australian Propaganda from convict origins, to outlaws, to World War One, to populate or perish. Racism, Reverse Racism, sexism, loose lips sink ships, Muslims, Christians, bikinis, The Simpsons, USA
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