Good things to read.
I’m on record all over the internet encouraging people to read Roger Zelazny and Dorothy Dunnett, so let’s treat those as a given for the purposes of this exercise and focus on more recent discoveries.
John M. Ford, basically everything, but The Final Reflection and The Dragon Waiting will be the easiest to find. I was introduced to John M Ford’s work at Boskone this year and I’m now in a desperate frenzy to track as much of it down as possible. He’s a great writer, fast-moving and densely plotted while at the same time deeply concerned with his characters as human beings rather than Story Engines. His prose is poetical in the elevated sense of “elegant sentences garnished with perfect detail” rather than the failure mode of “so purple it looks like someone’s been at it with a carpet beater.” And he’s funny! Read him if you haven’t already.
Sara Gran’s, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. Gran’s two psychedelic detective novels are brilliantly written mystical journeys into the souls of cities and the people who live there. Claire DeWitt, ex-girl sleuth and World’s Greatest Detective, is a student of a French school of detection that employs dreams, the I Ching, and drug-addled visionquests as much as old-fashioned policework. These books are sharply observed, well-written, horrific and beautiful and mind-expanding by turns. A lesser writer might use this territory to play pure metafictional games, but Gran’s as interested in the social reality of her settings—post-Katrina New Orleans and modern San Francisco—as in authorial gamesmanship. I don’t know any books quite like these, and I can’t wait for the next in her series.
Saga. Saga is a rip-roaring space opera about the karmic consequences of violence, starring a woman with wings and a guy with horns, their baby, and their ghost baby sitter. They’re fugitives from opposite sides of an interstellar war, being pursued by a robot prince and a mercenary with a psychic sentient cat and an infinitely extensible lance. Read this book. Read it now. In fact why are you still reading this article when you could be reading Saga, or Claire DeWitt, or something by John M Ford?
Good things to watch.
BBC Sherlock. My wife and I recently came through a very intense span of work, and are only now settling down to catch up on the third season of Sherlock. I know, I know! But man, I missed this show. The actors remain amazing. I would watch most of these people read from the phone book in combinations, and Martin Freeman’s Watson continues to be the emotional core of the show, and the defining modern Watson. Though I’m given to understand I should check out Lucy Liu in Elementary.
The Wire. This is a master class in storytelling disguised as a show. I’ve started watching with notebook in hand, and after every episode I go back through to dissect what the writers are doing. Of course the actors are great, and the show does this wonderful job of showing us moral ambiguity rather than showing people talk about it. Also, Idris Elba, who Idris Elba.
The Lego Movie. This may be the best Batman movie ever made. Bonus points for sneaking neat theological issues like God’s relationship with time and art into a movie about block toys! Also +1 for the duplos reference at the end.
Good things to use.
Mechanical Keyboard. I like it when my keyboard clicks. It lets me know I’m actually doing something. I use a Leopold Tenkeyless with Cherry MX Blue switches, and it feels like espresso for the fingers.
iPad. Tablets are a personal gift from Computer God to writers. They’re lousy as a rule for composition, but they’re ideal editing machines: the portrait orientation resembles a piece of paper enough to shock me out of screen-reading-aimless-skim mode. My iPad has made the infinite redrafting process a lot faster and more pleasant. The new iPad Air is also light enough to hold for hours at a time without giving myself horrible RSIs.
Standing Desk. I do my best writing—and I mean here the actual core productivity “adding words to novel” stuff—while sitting down, but I spend a lot of time on the computer writing blog posts, responding to email, editing, and doing a bunch of other stuff that isn’t core but without which the core would just sort of flop around the universe like an ungainly literary catfish. Standing desks are awesome. And when you use a standing desk, you can dance while you’re working—like I’m doing right now!
Connect with Max on Twitter, @MaxGladstone.