She’s All Light on the Million Writers Notable Stories of 2010 List, and Guest Post at Tor.com. I am not making this up.

Wow.

So, right after the post I made about Future Perfect being on Escape Pod, two other publishing news happened one right after another. May as well combine them in one post.

Okay…so…Sunday night, I said goodbye to the last of the guests who came up to celebrate my 40th birthday. This week, I had planned to ease back into the short story I’m working on and getting ready for the Easter weekend. I took a look at my Twitter feed, and saw some congratulation emails. I thought they were for Future Perfect, but they mentioned other writers too, like Charlie Jane Anders, editor of I09, who I met at Wiscon last year. So I was confused.

Finally, someone sent me a link, which took me to the The storySouth Million Writers Notable Stories of 2010. And guess what? She’s All Light made the list!

So what does this mean? Well, first of all, I get to put the nifty tagline “listed as a storySouth Million Writers Notable Story of 2010” on my published works page. But this also means that if it is listed among the top 10 stories on May 20, then “She’s All Light” is eligible for the storySouth Million Writers Award. To be truly honest, I don’t think it will make it that far, because there are so many awesome stories on the list, the fact that “She’s All Light” made it on the list in the first place makes my head spin.

The cool thing is, some of these stories I have already read and can absolutely vouch for their inclusion. “Memories in Bronze, Feathers, and Blood” by Aliette de Bodard. Nearly all the nominated stories from Clarkesworld, including “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time” by Catherynne M. Valente, which deserves first prize because I loved, loved, loved, the bits about the science fiction writer. “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees” by Alex Dally MacFarlane, which also appeared in Daybreak Magazine. “Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu. (And speaking of Lightspeed, they won Million Writers Award for best new online magazine! How cool is that?), “The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model” by Charlie Jane Anders, John Scalzi’s “The President’s Brain is Missing”

But there are other stories on the list that I haven’t read, stories by Amal El-Mohtar and Mishell Baker and An Owomoyela and Sandra McDonald and Mari Ness and Yoon Ha Lee and Rachel Swirsky…so many that I’ve decided to actually go and read all the stories on the list, because they look awesome!

Congratulations to everyone who made the list. I feel awfully humble and proud to be listed among these great stories.

+++

So, that was all I was going to post, but as I was writing this, I got an email with news I’ve been wanting to post forever.

Last year, I put in a bid at the Carl Brandon Society’s Con or Bust Auctionfor a guest post on Tor.com. I was quite surprised, therefore, to learn I won.

Yesterday, my guest blog was put up. It’s a joint post with Kate Nepveu in her reread of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In addition to the books, she also watched the movies, so my contribution was a review of the last movie, Return of the King. The extended version, of course. That was a lot of fun.

So head on over to Tor.com to check it out and post in the comments section what you think. Some good conversation happening there. And while you’re at it, check out the forums at Escape Pod and check out the conversation happening there on Future Perfect. It’s been really cool to see what things people are seeing in the story, stuff that not even I considered.

And finally, I swear, I don’t think I have anything else in the publishing hopper coming out. The fact this is all happening around my birthday makes me think, yeesh, what would happen when I turn 50…

(Hopefully Willow comes out much more sooner than that…)

Maybe I should start watching movies again.

The latest buzz on the net has been the brouhaha over a Pakistani actor who had been turned down for being an Hobbit extra because her skin was too brown. Naturally, Twitter exploded in outrage. The casting director got fired, heads are rolling everywhere, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. And retaliation has been just as severe, with a facebook group being created to keep the hobbits white. So some nasty stuff is getting slung around, even before the movie has yet to get a single cel filmed.

At first, I was like, "Well, yeah. Hobbits are white. The only dark-skinned folk are the ones down south who got roped into being slaves for Mordor, thank you very much for doing so, Mr. Tolkien." But then a friend of mine was like, "Well, actually, does it even say what their skin tone was?" And I was like, "Well, we know that they’re curly-haired…but…" Then we sort of stared at each other in puzzled silence.

So then I went home and consulted the source: Tolkien. Unfortunately, the only source I had was the Silmarillion, which, while useful to see how Tolkien world-built his world, surprisingly does not contain anything to do with hobbits…or if there was, I didn’t see it. I then went back to the above mentioned article, where at the bottom, it reads:

In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described three races of Hobbits inhabiting the Middle Earth fantasy world which is the setting for the movies, including harfoots, who "were browner of skin" than the others.

Huh.

I’m going to have to read the Lord of the Rings all over again now, because I don’t remember that when I read it the first time. I should have glommed onto the fact that there were brown-skinned hobbits. Or maybe I did read that, but thought, yeah, but there’s brown-skinned, and then there’s dark-skinned…

Which made me think of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Because, you know, when you think of Tolkien, you always have to think of C.S. Lewis. Both of them being British dudes and all.

I’ve seen the first movie, but not because I wanted to. I saw it because it was something my hubby DVR’d, and it was a Saturday night when I had nothing better to do. I know the other movies have come out since, with the latest being Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I have no desire to see them.

It’s all because of Jill, you see.

The Silver Chair happens to be my favorite book of the Narnia series. That was because of Jill. She wasn’t part of the Penvensie clan–she was completely outside of the family. And because Lewis never really gave a detailed description of her, she could’ve looked like, well, anyone. So, in my nine-year-old mind, I was convinced Jill was black. Sure, the pictures in the book showed her as white, but pictures could be deceiving. I always went by what was in the text.

Jill was cool.  Jill was bad-ass.She didn’t take no guff from anyone. But she also knew when she was wrong and owed up to it. It was easy to project myself onto Jill, because I could see myself in her (I always hoped that after The Last Battle, she and Eustace hooked up because they made a cute couple together.)

So when I learned that they were going to do movies of the Chronicles of Narnia, it left me…well…dismayed. Because I know that what’s up there on the screen isn’t going to match up with my picture of Jill. I probably would be disappointed even if Jill was white–nothing on the screen could possibly match with what I had in my head.

Or can it?

Maybe, in limiting myself, maybe I am missing some pretty good renditions of my favorite books. I mean, I loved Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia may not be on the same caliber, but I’ve heard from people that it’s really good. And you know, it could be possible, you know, that they might cast Jill of a different race…

So maybe this means I ought to start watching movies again. I mean, now that Disney’s out of the fairy-tale market, that means movies should start getting good now, right?

Right?

One Story to Rule Them All. One Story to Bind Them. (Or how a writer’s brain works with other stories)

Every once in a while, my hubbie gets a hankering for some orc. Not cooked, of course. The movie kind of orc. So I dig out our extended version of Lord of the Rings and let him glut his fill.

This time around, however, I found myself maddeningly distracted. Wasn’t by Sean Astin’s perpetual scowl or Viggo Mortensen’s perpetual scowl or Orlando Bloom’s perpetual…uh…hmm….okay, Sean Bean’s perpetual scowl.

Nope. I was distracted by the story.

What made the story tick? What moved the story along? How did the characters get from point A to point B? How do the choices Frodo makes influence the story? As we moved from the Shire to Rivendell to Rohan to Gondor…I couldn’t stop myself from analyzing. In a weird way, it was similar to what I did with Xanadu on the Agony Booth…except Peter Jackson put special effects to actual good use…

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a writer. Aren’t I supposed to notice such things already? Ahh…but that’s just the thing. When I first started writing, when I read books or watched movies, I never really thought about such things. I just read, or watched, and pretty much enjoyed (or, if the story sucked, not enjoyed).

But ever since I started writing seriously, ever since I started editing and revising my own work, I found myself reading a fantasy book and thinking How did the author make this work? What makes this story publishable? I started keeping notes, sometimes comparing the book to my own novel-in-progress. I guess it’s not surprising that I’m beginning to view movies in the same way. After all, a movie is just a short story. (Though not in the case of the LOTR…but that’s besides the point.)

All this analyzing, though, has me a little worried. Won’t I get burned out? Can’t I just enjoyed a story and not care about character development, plotline, protagonist and antagonist? What if I get sick of all this analyzing and just stop reading and watching movies altogether?

I don’t think that will happen. At least, not in the near future. For one thing, there are ways to entertain myself that don’t rely on books and movies. I can listen to music. I can play pretend with Daniel. I can knit. Play video games. I think a little balance is in order to keep me from glutting on too much story.

But I think there are also times when I can read a book and just enjoy it for what it is without trying to figure out what makes it tick. I just finished reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch with the clear intention of not trying to analyze it. Went pretty well, I think. I’ll have to put up the review of it soon.

I think also genre plays a big role in it as well. With LOTR being fantasy, of course it will get my analytic juices flowing, since the story has elements that I can use in my own work. The other day, I watched Vertigo, and not once did I wonder about how the character development influenced the storyline (though at the time, I was mashing roasted garlic into potatoes for Thanksgiving). It was a nice change of pace from all the fantasy stuff I was reading and writing.

I wonder if that’s the reason why writing experts suggest reading outside of your genre. Not so much that you don’t get burned out, but it helps your brain to rest, to enjoy story without getting burnt out on it. Any other writers out there who want to chip in your two cents? Be curious to know if you’re at the same point I am, or offer any other advice.

As for me, it’s late. We still need to finish the second half of The Return of the King. It’s gonna be a loooooong night.