I summarize blog entries on: the quality of writing in chicklit novels; Scalzi’s Redshirts; and David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself

Ugh, okay guys. I had all kinds of things to say about the writing in chick lit novels. And I was gonna talk about how Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed has an amazing premise (it’s told from the point of view of a woman who’s sleeping with her best friend’s fiance) but very thin writing, while Bridget Jones’ Diary has a very stock premise (it is basically copying the plot of Pride and Prejudice), but very information-dense writing–it’s full of all these wonderful snippets and tidbits about middle-class life in Britain.

But instead, I am just going to summarize those thoughts in one paragraph. Because I’m kind of going crazy here. So much stuff to do before I can move! I already gave myself a break on the quality of my reading, but now I think I’m gonna have to give myself a break on the quality of my blogging too.

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I was also gonna write a post on John Scalzi’s Redshirts. I’ll summarize that post too, although I’ll spare you another paragraph written in the subjunctive.

Like every other aspiring writer in the world, I absolutely adore Scalzi’s blog. It’s so light and entertaining and, sometimes, surprisingly informative. You never feel bad after reading Scalzi’s blog. But, years ago, I read Scalzi’s debut novel The Old Man’s War, and was not nearly as impressed. I couldn’t really see what was good about it. The writing felt thin, and the setting and plot felt very generic. After finishing it, I never again felt tempted to pick up another of his novels.

Until I clicked through to the Redshirts excerpt on Tor.com. There was something about the first chapter that clicked with me. The writing felt frothy and light (almost like a novel-length version of his blog). And the book came out at a perfect time for me. And when I was looking around for some more light reading, Redshirts seemed perfect.

But it was kind of a rocky road for me. The writing felt a little uneven. Scalzi even gives characters really similar names (which feels like a total rookie mistake). He has one main character named Dahl and one named Duvall. And he has one main character named Hester and one named Hanson. And when they splashed out with the big reveal about what was going on (i.e. why all the redshirts on this starship kept dying), I seriously groaned. It felt so silly and trivial.

But I was wrong. Scalzi completely blew through the silliness. He rode his incredibly silly premise into the ground and then he stood atop its body and raised his arms in triumph. I absolutely loved the place where this book went. And I loved how the resolution was so simple and friendly. When his main characters explained the situation to the supposed antagonists, they were just like, “Welp, that makes a lot of sense…why don’t I just help you with that?” It was absolutely wonderful.

And then there were the Codas. Because the novel is so short, Scalzi included three short-stories that take place in the same universe and comment directly upon the events of the novel. And at least two of them take this premise into a really emotional and serious place. Maybe, on their own, they might not have been too interesting, but they were exactly the right counterweight to the silliness of the main text.

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            Finally, I was going to write a post about David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself. Anyone who’s ever read my short stories knows that I have a positive obsession with doubling and cloning and self-replication. This novel is the king of self-replication stories. It’s about a man who travels through time, doubling back on himself dozens and dozens of times and eventually sleeping with himself (yes, it is a classic of gay speculative fiction). There is so much that is good about this book. Even the time travel mechanics seem to have been very well thought-out (though I mostly ignored them). At its core, this novel is about one of the questions that SF is superb at asking, “What should a person do with his (or her) life?” The protag’s time travel belt strips away all the obstacles that normally complicate this question, and the resulting story is rigorous and awesome.

But that isn’t what my blog post was gonna be about. My blog post was gonna be about how I’d wanted to read this book for years (uhh, of course I did…it’s about a man who has sex with himself), but was never able to get ahold of it. It was close to being out of print, and none of my local libraries had a copy. But this most recent time, I discovered that it was available on Amazon for just $2.99! Jesus. Even if I’d bought it as a trade paperback, it’d have cost at least $12.00. At $2.99, this was a fantastic bargain, and I bought it without a moment of second-guessing.

I love how nothing will ever again go out of print.