Dec 30, 2012

The Start Your Novel Zoscar Awards 2012!

The year draws to a close, and I have awards to hand out like perfume samples at a knock-off Sephora store in downtown Wuxi. Like that fabled Chinese city, I too am full of warmth and water (about 57% of me is water, I reckon), but since I can't share my water, I'll share my warmth.

Prepare for my generosity -- my shining trophies of boundless appreciation -- my Zoscars.

I don't really know what a Zoscar looks like.

A hypothesis.
Illustration by François Desprez

Anyway. Commence the good stuff.

Blog Post of the Year

How could I pick just one? It would be monumentally unfair. Here, read a handful instead.

This had to be number one.

Hajra reflects on the death of a rape victim in Delhi, the subsequent public outcry, and what this all means to her as a young woman in the early 21st century. Hajra, you already are changing the world by speaking out. Keep at it.

Sample the goodness: " My inner censor rears its head under the mask of being my protector. It likes to keep me in my comfort zone. This voice tells me that my readers don’t need to know some of the things my “good” voice wants to tell them.

In the past, I have listened to that inner censor. I believed it when it said my readers wouldn’t know the difference. That voice was wrong."

Dara, VP of Beaver's Pond Press, writes, "If you have a sneaking suspicion that your title lacks pizazz, listen to yourself. On the other hand, if you feel in your gut that your title is “the one” don’t underestimate that either. Bottom Line: there’s no single magic title that if NOT selected dooms your book to the bargain barrel."

Jack: +1000 for the Monty Python reference.

Jack says, " A blog should be updated as frequently as necessary to satisfy the writer and their readers. That means the number will vary from blog to blog. No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head. If they don’t find value they can go elsewhere."

If you can draw from the well of strangeness, get as big a bucket as you can. This I believe, and Brad believes it too.

My fellow griffin fancier writes, "[P]erhaps you are a drywaller and your story is centered around the thrilling world of drywalling. You may think that nobody else out there is the least bit interested in what you have to say. In reality, the setting of a book is like the wrapper of a cigar. (...)

For example, say you have a thriller set in the wild world of Finnish drywalling, and I’m reading it. It’s a good story, so I’m already wrapped up in it. I like the characters, I like the motivations and the plot, and at the end of the book it turns out the bad guy is the head of a vast underground mafia-type network of drywallers that has godlike powers in Finland. You know what? I’m going to buy it. Do you know why? Because I don’t know the first thing about Finnish drywallers. Who am I to say that they don’t wield all sorts of power in Finland? I’ve never been to Finland. I’ve never even hung drywall before. Checkmate: Author. "

6. James Killick: Why writing blogs are boring

No witticisms to extract; I saved this one for last because, frankly, it's the best article on blogging I read all year. Pay attention to the subtext.

James knows the world is full of pretenders, and he goes after them without mercy.

Song of the Year

To be honest, I can't make up my mind here. So the Musical Zoscars go to

1. David Lynch's Crazy Clown Time

Warning: Depicts ladies flashing their breasts and young actors screaming at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. If you know David Lynch, then you can imagine what you're getting into.

Have you survived that viewing experience? Congratulations; you are now a part of the crazy clown conspiracy. (In no way related to the Insane Clown Posse.)

2. Prosymna, Pristine Witch

That Emi, she's got the voice of an intoxicated angel who used to smoke a pack of honey cigarillos a day and then switched to cyanide bubble gum.

Game of the Year

Forget Far Cry 3 or Borderlands 2. To hell with Dishonored and The Witcher: Assassins of Kings.

The best thing to come out this year was Universe Sandbox 2, a gravity simulator where you can create imaginary extrasolar systems and see what happens. You can have a thousand teapots orbit the sun, or spend a whole day trying to put in place a stable trinary star system. You learn tons about planetary mass, orbital periods, Lagrange points, what-have-you. It's the most brilliant software toy I've ever come across.

In this simulation, four moons cozy up to the Earth. We'd all be so intensely, crushingly, irrevocably dead
if anything like this were to happen.
Meme of the Year

Website of the Year


Does the name Maria Popova ring a bell? Because it should. Just go check out Explore, yo.

Movie of the Year

The best movie to come out in 2012 was Barbarella (1968). Lynch, Malick, Haneke, Oliveira, you're all wasting your time. Roger Vadim's got you beat; there's no improving on Barbarella.

A young, disrobed Jane Fonda uttering the line "Armed, like a naked savage!" and holding Art Nouveau energy weapons to her breast, that gives me pause. Science fiction, you say? Why, there's no science here, and hardly any fiction.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Nicholas Cage the thinking woman's Barbarello these days? Eh, I'm probably wrong.  

Webcomic Strip of the Year
Book of the Year

You know what, I have no idea. I don't usually buy new releases; the last time I waited on a book was 2008, when The Dragons of Babel came out.

But I can tell you a little about the 3 books I enjoyed most in 2012.

1. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris.

It's part memoir, part WTF. "Because she has maintained her beautiful skin and enviable figure, Amy remains my father's greatest treasure. She is by far the most attractive member of the family, yet she spends most of her time and money disguising herself beneath prosthetic humps and appliquéd skin diseases. She's got more neck braces and false teeth than she knows what to do with, and her drawers and closets overflow with human hair."

2. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles Seife.

First line:
"Zero hit the USS Yorktown like a torpedo."
Best opening line in the history of non-fiction books.

3. Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, by Theodor Adorno.

Adorno's reputation precedes him. Susan Sontag said "A volume of Adorno is equivalent to a whole shelf of books on literature."

Theodor Adorno writes, "The only relation of consciousness to happiness is gratitude: in which lies its incomparable dignity." Also: "The desire for the presence of the most ancient is a hope that animal creation might survive the wrong that man has done it[.]"

Adorno was a thinker of the first water, and E. F. N. Jephcott does him justice with an outstanding translation. Buy this book.

My Favorite Blogging Experience this Year

Getting to interview Robert Hardgrave, owner of a highly-developed third eye.

Painting by Robert Hardgrave

The Thank Yous

Anne-Marie Clark for the constant support and conversation.
David Amerland for, well, just about everything he posts on Google Plus.
Sakis Koukouvis for the science news.
Justin Zimmer for the great science videos he digs up.
Alexandre Fernandes for turning me on to music I might have missed.
Jill Tooley and Mandy Kilinskis of Quality Logo Products -- readers and friends like you are the reason a guy keeps on writing.
Daniel and Terre for interviewing me; Hajra for blog-stalking me. (Is blog-stalking a word?)
Stan Faryna for the endless link love and provocation. Stan, you're crazy and sometimes I like to pretend I understand you. It's fun for both of us.
Ruth Long, future Elmore Leonard and Chief Treasurer/Expedition Leader of the First Mancunian Petrosomatoglyph Fanciers Club.
Bill Dorman for being Bill Dorman. Self-explanatory, that ought to be.
Jess for posting all that beautiful electronica. The witch house must flow.
Adam Charles, founder of, for featuring my Samurai Guide to Editing like a Rock Star.
Angela Ackerman for running one of the best writing blogs on Earth. Like me, Angela nurtures an ill-advised passion for the B-movie to end all B-movies, Army of Darkness. We just can't help it -- Ash is too awesome.
A.E. Tyree, Susan Utley, Jacqueline, Jules Vilmur and Jan Marshall for remembering me in their weekly shout-outs.
The rest of you, you know who you are.

May the Skeletor be with you. Happy New Year.

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