Episode 71 – Putting a Toe in the Water

A pencil, a ball point pen, and a quill sitting in lounge chairs drinking coffee; Title: Writers Drinking Coffee
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This is about openings, and new beginnings. This is a discussion on how writers pull us in and make us unable not to read the next sentence. Sometimes a first line is like the opening guitar riff to your favorite song, unforgettable and unmistakable. Some authors have said they can’t write a story until they have landed the first line. Today we talked about our favorites, and what we loved about them.

Mentions from Episode 71:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

“‘Lot ninety-seven,’ the auctioneer announced. ‘A boy. ‘”

Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A. Heinlein

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“It was a bright cold night in April and all the clocks were striking thirteen.”

1984, George Orwell

“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.”

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

“Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported—hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern.”

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison

“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I’m thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.”

A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

Jeannie’s faves:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • Various Jane Austin ideas

John quoted:

  • Snow Crash, Neil Stephenson
  • The Thirteen Clocks, James Thurber
  • The Bible (KJV)

Chaz’ opening lines and (in a few places) paragraphs:

After the war, she was surprised to find herself a civilian again: surprised and a little alarmed to learn how poorly she appeared to fit that space, that character, that task. The hole had been rounded, it seemed, while she herself had been squared.

Never did a man hanged see such a funeral.

The Burial Of Sir John Mawe At Cassini, Chaz Brenchley

A secret is like a bubble of air, underwater – always pushing outward at the containing dark, always struggling to rise, yearning to break, to be open, lost, gone.

“Hinksey, I always said you were born to be hanged.”

“You did, sir. I avoided it by fast footwork, mostly, I believe. Until now. Though this isn’t hanging so much as dangling, really. And besides, I understand you said it to all the chaps.”

“Marsport is hell,” he said, “and all the devils of England have made their squalid nests there.”

“New Victoria is all politics and bureaucracy, claret and cognac, the very core of empire. Offworld imports, and not even imperial products: which is actually rather the point.
Cassini is art and aristocracy, port and champagne. Ditto, ditto.
Marsport, though? Ah, now. Marsport is gin. The most democratic of drinks, the most democratic of cities.”

Things are an embodiment of time: not a measurement, no, but an accounting none the less. They … accumulate. That may or may not happen independent of ourselves, but they stack up in evidence against us

“Oxford does love to present itself as a character in its own stories. In honesty, though, come right down to it, it’s just a list of mannerisms. From the way we name our streets – the High, the Turl, the Broad: what other town does that? – and insisting on Isis rather than the Thames, to the never shaking hands within the bounds: that’s not character, none of it is character. It’s affectation, nothing else. Even scrambling up a tree in St Giles to escape the progger’s attention when you’re out without a gown and after lock-up: it’s neither adult nor intelligent, which is what we think we come up for. It’s ridiculous.”

Any map is an act of autobiography. It speaks to the cartographer’s ideas of fixity and possession, of what is mutable and what remains. Every mark of ink on paper delineates a journey more profound than mere instruments can measure.

Whereas it is Resolved this day, at a meeting of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Marsport in His Majesty’s dutiful Colony on the Red Planet, that said Society shall sponsor, fund and equip an Expedition to the Further Reaches of this Domain, to discover and chart all the Margins of the Lands possess’d of His Majesty by virtue of the Great Charter recently Concluded…

Actually, by the time the expedition could be raised it was Her Majesty’s colony, which is to say his granddaughter’s, and the Charter was not so recent.