March 14, 2015
Dear Intrepid Readers,
I had written a different letter to you for this week, but I scrapped it today to start over again. This week, I want to share something different than usual—don’t worry, there have been plenty of publications by our contributors, a lot of progress on getting the next issue of NBR onto your devices, and a new Alphanumeric for your reading pleasure, and next week, I’ll spend more time sharing those with you. But this week, I’d like to talk to you about something different.
This morning, the portal to Discworld closed. For those of you who haven’t read any of the Discworld series of books, that means that author Terry Pratchett died this morning. For a lot of readers—to say nothing of the writers Pratchett’s work has influenced over the past 4 decades—this is a profound loss. So this week, I’d like to talk to you about Terry Pratchett. Don’t worry, even if you’re not familiar with his body of work, today’s letter will make sense to you*.
You don’t have to be a fan of genre literature to appreciate Pratchett, though his body of work is generally classified under the fantasy/sci-fi umbrella. Here are some of the things I learned about writing by reading Terry Pratchett:
- You’re allowed to be funny and still write about something that’s serious.
- It’s okay for girls to like genre writing, and more importantly, female characters can be equal in importance to male characters in genre writing**
- That following the “rules” of writing isn’t an absolute necessity to being a good writer
- That world building is hard work, and a good start can come from something as unlikely as four elephants and a giant turtle ***
- The color of magic (octarine)
- That Death has a personality and it doesn’t always have to be scary
- That world mythologies can be blended and joined together to create a world where readers across the spectrum feel welcome
The reason I wanted to write about Terry Pratchett’s passing is that one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer in the first place—and what I love about reading the work of other writers—comes down to the fact that a significant part of good writing is its ability to examine the human condition, and help us as readers make some sense of our lives. That’s a pretty tall order for a vocation, isn’t it? One of the things I learned from Discworld is that narrative, philosophy, and humor don’t have to be three separate elements to writing—in fact, writing seems to function more effectively when all three of these elements work together. Conscious use of language, well-placed literary allusion, and memorable characters are the calling cards of writing that stays with you. These are things that I learned as an aspiring writer from an author who does all of these things so well that they seem effortless and completely natural. It is that ease of effort and natural style that I continue to work on as a writer myself, whether I’m working in poetry or fiction, regardless of genre. It’s those principles and qualities that I seek as a reader and an editor for Zoetic Press, NonBinary Review, and Unbound Octavo.
In interviews, Pratchett has said that to be a writer, one must first be a reader who reads to the point of overflow, and it’s a point that we take very seriously at Zoetic Press. So next week, as the new issue of NonBinary Review comes onto your horizon, keep some of those ideas in your mind. As you read the weekly online Alphanumeric features, (Asterios and Minotaur Nutrition are our newest pieces) look for the humor, the thoughtfulness, the joy in language, and know that this is something that makes writing remarkable, and gives it the ability to change the world by shaping the minds of the people who live there.
You can follow us on Facebook (NonBinary Review, Unbound Octavo, Zoetic Press, Lithomobilus) and also on Twitter (@ZoeticPress and Litho). We’ve been upping our social media postings and we’d love to see more reader & contributor engagement, so that we know our posts are giving you more of what you want. We also have a really fun Pinterest page and whenever possible, we post audio/video of our contributors’ work on our YouTube channel. Not a fan of social media, and just want the condensed version? Sign up for our monthly newsletter—we’re serious about your privacy, and promise not to flood your inbox. And if you haven’t already, download the free app—now available for both iPad AND iPhone!
Until next week—
Allie Marini Batts, Managing Editor
*Though you totally should do that, because this footnoted style for comic departures is one of the many tricks I myself shamelessly stole learned from his writing.
**Remember, I grew up before all you millennials and the internet. In the 80’s there was way less of a female presence in most fantasy and sci-fi and consequently, less female representation in the fan bases.
***Read Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer if you don’t believe me.