Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
November 13th, 2013

Rudy Rucker, THE BIG AHA

Rudy Rucker, THE BIG AHA
Rudy Rucker just release his latest book as a kickstarter. You can read the whole book for free at the address above. I have the Kindle version. I am looking forward to reading this. Rucker is one co my favorite writers and I haven’t read one of his novels in a while.

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January 20th, 2010

In Defense of RAH

I was once at a party where I had a conversation with a woman artist about Robert A. Heinlein. When I told her that he was my favorite writer, she told me I was an idiot and that Heinlein was a fascist woman hater. This is an attitude that I have come across from time to time, especially from women. It could not be further from the truth, and I don’t know how this has happened. I have read everything that Heinlein has written at least four times and one or two of his books as many as 20 times. He is not a woman hater. He is not a fascist. To me his an intelligent and reasonable observer.

At the The Lensman’s Children blog,  Sarah Hoyt has an article defending Robert A. Heinlein. She discusses Heinlein’s problems with women and how they are dead wrong. It does my heart good to read something like this.

Here’s a sample:

But I was raised by Heinlein through his books, and I hope at least the spirit and the intention of the search for truth and individual freedom remains in my work. As well as the certainty that it’s always easier to be a live lion than a live lamb or a dead lion.






November 21st, 2009

How Real does Sci-Fi have to be?

There was a discussion about the realness of SF over at one of the Nanowrimo forums. It seems that they read my “Laws Science Fiction” page and I was trashed – the page and me personally.

Also – I wouldn’t worry too much about that website. Personally, I think their “laws” are a load of crap, and that anyone who talks about “laws of writing” in that way should probably go take a hike. :-p

And another:

That website is crappy. Just reading the laws show their ignorance of Science Fiction. I doubt they’ve ever read Asimov.

My own personal opinions are stated clearly in the list of laws, so you might be able to guess what I think about the kind of writing that these people produce.

I imagine that I have sold more stories than everyone on that thread combined. In my brief stint as an editor, I had to read a lot of the stories that these people obviously prefer, and my eyes still hurt when I think about it.

via How real does Sci-Fi have to be? | National Novel Writing Month.

Update:

one commentor said:

The web site referenced has some good points to make, but it takes some uncomfortable hard lines on some things.

The author then goes on to describe how his or her novel is about an alien that (in my view) is really a human in a rubber suit. If you want to write about humans. Using SF to hide your true intentions seems like laziness to me. I guess some people find it easier to cast a story in a an sf setting so they will not have to do the hard work of character development and creating believable conflicts and plots.

There was only one criticism to my list of rules that I could buy into. Writing SF is fun so writing a story that breaks all the rules, but is fun to write and read is the only excuse for not following the rules.

This give me the AHA moment and I will add a disclaimer at the end.






October 12th, 2009

Links and Ads

Fred Pohl linked back to the post on the Science Fiction League. This was nice of him and so far I have seen a dozen hits. I hope y’all come back now.

The project wonderful ads have started generating a (very) little income, but I am pleased with the ads. Currently they are for a fairly unique site that lets you continue a shared story by writing posts. I think I’ll even click on it and lurk. It does look like fun.

I know that four or five SF writers and editors have had reservations about advertising on their blogs and zine sites because the ads are out of their control. Specifically the keyword Fantasy often gets some weird ads, as you can imagine. With the project wonderful website you approve the ads before they appear on your site. The downside is that the income is pretty low for small sites. Higer volume sites (over 1,000 hits a day) can make more.

I have started advertising my Name a Star site using project wonderful and I am getting a few click-throughs. The price is quite a bit lower than adwords and I can pick and choose the sites where I want the ads to appear. If you need to advertise a site, on a budget, then project wonderful is perfect. There are numerous gaming and spec-fic sites to choose from (J. Erwine and Ephemeris, please note!)






August 26th, 2009

John Ottinger: SF/F/H Reviewer Linkup Meme, 2nd Edition

My Wandering blog made John Ottinger’s Spec-Fic reviewer list. I am required by law to post the whole list:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

A


7 Foot Shelves
The Accidental Bard
A Boy Goes on a Journey
A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
A Fantasy Reader
The Agony Column
A Hoyden’s Look at Literature
A Journey of Books
All Booked Up
Alexia’s Books and Such…
Andromeda Spaceways
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Ask Daphne
ask nicola
Audiobook DJ
aurealisXpress
Australia Specfic In Focus
Author 2 Author
AzureScape

B


Barbara Martin
Babbling about Books
Bees (and Books) on the Knob
Best SF
Bewildering Stories
Bibliophile Stalker
Bibliosnark
Big Dumb Object
BillWardWriter.com
The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf
Bitten by Books
The Black Library Blog
Blog, Jvstin Style
Blood of the Muse
The Book Bind
Bookgeeks
Bookrastination
Booksies Blog
Bookslut
The Book Smugglers
Bookspotcentral
The Book Swede
Book View Cafe [Authors Group Blog]
Breeni Books

C


Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Charlotte’s Library
Circlet 2.0
Cheryl’s Musings
Club Jade
Cranking Plot
Critical Mass
The Crotchety Old Fan

D


Daily Dose – Fantasy and Romance
Damien G. Walter
Danger Gal
It’s Dark in the Dark
Dark Parables
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dead Book Darling
Dear Author
The Deckled Edge
The Doctor is In…
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Drey’s Library
The Discriminating Fangirl
Dusk Before the Dawn

E


Enter the Octopus
Erotic Horizon
Errant Dreams Reviews
Eve’s Alexandria

F


Falcata Times
Fan News Denmark [in English]
Fantastic Reviews
Fantastic Reviews Blog
Fantasy Book Banner
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy By the Tale
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings
Fantasy Literature.com
Fantasy Magazine
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ News and Reviews
Feminist SF – The Blog!
Feybound
Fiction is so Overrated
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
Follow that Raven
Forbidden Planet
Frances Writes
Free SF Reader
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
From the Heart of Europe
Fruitless Recursion
Fundamentally Alien
The Future Fire

G


The Galaxy Express
Galleycat
Game Couch
The Gamer Rat
Garbled Signals
Genre Reviews
Genreville
Got Schephs
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
a GREAT read
The Green Man Review
Gripping Books

H


Hasenpfeffer
Hero Complex
Highlander’s Book Reviews
Horrorscope
The Hub Magazine
Hyperpat’s Hyper Day

I


I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away The Ending
Ink and Keys
Ink and Paper
The Internet Review of Science Fiction
io9

J


Janicu’s Book Blog
Jenn’s Bookshelf
Jumpdrives and Cantrips

K


Kat Bryan’s Corner
Keeping the Door
King of the Nerds

L


Lair of the Undead Rat
Largehearted Boy
Layers of Thought
League of Reluctant Adults
The Lensman’s Children
Library Dad
Libri Touches
Literary Escapism
Literaturely Speaking
ludis inventio
Lundblog: Beautiful Letters

M


Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review
Mari’s Midnight Garden
Mark Freeman’s Journal
Mark Lord’s Writing Blog
Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars
Martin’s Booklog
MentatJack
Michele Lee’s Book Love
Missions Unknown [Author and Artist Blog Devoted to SF/F/H in San Antonio]
The Mistress of Ancient Revelry
MIT Science Fiction Society
Monster Librarian
More Words, Deeper Hole
Mostly Harmless Books
Multi-Genre Fan
Musings from the Weirdside
My Favourite Books
My Overstuffed Bookshelf

N


Neth Space
The New Book Review
NextRead
Not Free SF Reader
Nuketown

O


OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat’s Belfry
ommadawn.dk
Only The Best SciFi/Fantasy
The Ostentatious Ogre
Outside of a Dog

P


Paranormality
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Patricia’s Vampire Notes
The Persistence of Vision
Piaw’s Blog
Pizza’s Book Discussion
Poisoned Rationality
Popin’s Lair
pornokitsch
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher’s Weekly
Pussreboots: A Book Review a Day

Q


R


Ramblings of a Raconteur
Random Acts of Mediocrity
Ray Gun Revival
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Reading the Leaves
Review From Here
Reviewer X
Revolution SF
Rhiannon Hart
The Road Not Taken
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff
Robots and Vamps

S


Sandstorm Reviews
Satisfying the Need to Read
Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics
Science Fiction Times
ScifiChick
Sci-Fi Blog
SciFiGuy
Sci-Fi Fan Letter
The Sci-Fi Gene
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
SciFi Squad
Scifi UK Reviews
Sci Fi Wire
Self-Publishing Review
The Sequential Rat
Severian’s Fantastic Worlds
SF Diplomat
SFFaudio
SFFMedia
SF Gospel
SFReader.com
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Safari
SFScope
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World’s Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Simply Vamptastic
Slice of SciFi
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Solar Flare
Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
The Specusphere
Spinebreakers
Spiral Galaxy Reviews
Spontaneous Derivation
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stainless Steel Droppings
Starting Fresh
Stella Matutina
Stuff as Dreams are Made on…
The Sudden Curve
The Sword Review

T


Tangent Online
Tehani Wessely
Temple Library Reviews
Tez Says
things mean a lot
Tor.com [also a publisher]
True Science Fiction

U


Ubiquitous Absence
Un:Bound
undeadbydawn
Urban Fantasy Land

V


Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Veritas Omnia Vincula

W


Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
Wanderings
Wendy Palmer: Reading and Writing Genre Books and ebooks
The Weirdside
The Wertzone
With Intent to Commit Horror
The Wizard of Duke Street
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The Word Nest
Wordsville
The World in a Satin Bag
WriteBlack
The Written World

X


Y


Young Adult Science Fiction

Z


Romanian


Cititor SF [with English Translation]

French


Elbakin.net
Mythologica

Chinese


Foundation of Krantas
The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [with some English essays]
Yenchin’s Lair

Danish


Interstellar
Ommadawn.dk
Scifisiden

Portuguese


Aguarras
Fernando Trevisan
Human 2.0
Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm
Ponto De Convergencia
pós-estranho
Skavis

German


Fantasy Seiten
Fantasy Buch
Fantasy/SciFi Blog
Literaturschock
Welt der fantasy
Bibliotheka Phantastika
SF Basar
Phantastick News
X-zine
Buchwum
Phantastick Couch
Wetterspitze
Fantasy News
Fantasy Faszination
Fantasy Guide
Zwergen Reich
Fiction Fantasy

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German






August 20th, 2009

Critters Post Mortem

I received 13 critiques from critters.org of my short story “The Perfect Gold”. I used this story as a barometer of how the critiques might help me because it was one of the first stories I wrote after a 35 year hiatus. I wrote it early in 2003 and it appeared online in Atsoise (now defunct) in February of 2004. It had 5 rejections before it was accepted and I believe that this is because of my ignorance of how editors expected a story to be written.

I made lots of mistakes in “The Perfect Gold”. I was trying to write in a fairly remote omniscient viewpoint, which is an older style and not acceptable today. Currently, editors want a tight personal viewpoint, almost first person (but they don’t like first person). Another mistake was that I had a break in the middle of the story where the main character leaves the scene to get something, but it chops off the flow until the character returns. In another break I spend some time describing the background and history of one of the characters, almost as though it were a footnote, and this disrupts the narrative. I had lots of trouble with the language. My words flow a little smoother now, but I remember at the time that I was concerned that the sentences seemed like lines from a technical manual with lots of “she did this” and “then he did this”. This computer programmer approach to narrative has been somewhat abated, but I still tend to write in syllogisms.

The critiques I received were of different kinds. One had an attached word document that cannot be opened due to viruses. Four were people who told me that they really enjoyed the story and went on to tell me their favorite parts (useless other than for moral building). Three people hated the story or thought it was boring. It seems that I wrote a “mood” piece. The people that did not like the story wanted less emotion and more blood and guts. The story has an emotional impact, but it is not an O Henry type story with a twist or revelation at the end (I wanted to write a story like “The Dead” by Joyce).

About three quarters of the critiques had valid remarks. They found numerous typos that I did not see. They complained about the narrative breaks that interrupted the flow. Many complained about my short choppy declarative sentences. I am almost tempted to rewrite the story, give it different title and try to resell it as new. I’ve done this with other stories, but right now I have new ideas, and I have dozens of stories that I have yet to write before I rehash older stuff.

The critters experience has been a good one overall. When I first started writing, I would not have found it useful because I would have disagreed with some of the conclusions. My attitude today is that most editors have had their souls corrupted by the Clarion brainwashing and there is nothing I can do about it. The Clarion workshops have created a static standard that renders classic short stories by Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein as “bad”. If I am to publish stories, they must fit into the little box created by advocates of Clarion and the Turkey City Lexicon.

Now that I have been through the critters process, I will be leaving the group. I was going to put my stories “Carnivale of Blood”, “Nigerian Soul”, and “The Reefs of Jupiter” through the process, but it takes too long for too little. In order to get a critique you have to submit 10 critiques, which I find stressful, and then wait 45 days. I’d have to wait four and a half months to get a three stories critiqued, and I usually write one or two stories each month.

I was thinking about hijacking the process in order to speed things up by using four or five different emails and writing a critique a week for all of them, but this would be too much like work. I am far from the right person to criticize a story (pot calling kettle…). I didn’t like most of the stories that I critiqued so it was hard being diplomatic.

I will have to prevail on family and friends to edit my stories. I just don’t see my typos, grammar and syntax mistakes. This would have been a good use for critters, but I don’t have the patience.






January 23rd, 2009

The Ring is Destroyed, finally

I’ve spent the last two weeks tramping through Middle Earth. (Listening to mp3s on Justine’s iPhone.) Gollum just fell into the crack of doom and I’ve had it with Hobbits for another year. I have read or listened to LOTR probably over 100 times. There was a time, 20 years ago, that I know I passed the 50 count just on reading. At that time I obtained the tapes and listened two or three times a year as I commuted to work. I since found the audio in MP3 format.

I can get back to reading, again. I have rediscovered the simple pleasures of reading since I started taking the bus in the morning. My six months’ bus anniversary came and passed without celebration (I was still bummed about Christmas.)

Monday I start reading Black Glass, by John Shirley. This is billed as Shirley’s Lost Cyberpunk Novel. I like Shirley’s Science Fiction and I am a Cyberpunk kind of guy. Last Year I read Shirley’s Demons, and a couple of months ago I read an old copy of City Come a Walking by Shirley, and I thought it was excellent. I should reread his Eclipse books, since it has been a few years. I went through the link above and got a signed copy of Black Glass at the regular price, although I was raped on shipping. Media mail should have been about $1.50 not $6.50.






December 31st, 2008

The Infinity Concerto – Greg Bear

infinityconcerto I have received disparaging words from an unnamed sister-in-law about book reviews on my blog, so this will be brief.

I have always been a fan of Greg Bear, in spite of his novels being too long. The Infinity Concerto; not so much. I prefer hard science and I believe that Bear writes hard science fiction better than fantasy.

The basic story of the Infinity Concerto is that a boy enters the world of Fairy based loosely on Celtic mythology. Bear tries his best to create hard rules, but in a magical world that is difficult. I amused myself by deciding that the third law of thermodynamics didn’t hold in the land of the Sidhe, and then stopped thinking about science.

In a world where nothing is impossible, nothing is very interesting. I felt that Bear continually fabricated a new solution out of thin air whenever the protagonist got in trouble.

The book was well written with good characters and some interesting ideas, but was not my cup of SF. I am, however, reading the sequel, The Magic Serpent. There are entirely too many words where nothing much happens, but I want to find out how the plots all come together. I’ll have a review of The Magic Serpent by early next week. I may move these book reviews to another blog to satisfy in-laws only interested in cat pictures.

I am still on the "B" author row of my collection of unread books. The holidays have cut into my reading time. I am spending all of my spare moments on programming projects. I expect to have my iPhone app done any day now.






December 27th, 2008

Edd Cartier 1914-2008

I am saddened to learn that Edd Cartier, one of the great artists of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, passed away on Christmas Day.

I met Edd quite by accident when he and his son were having a garage sale. I was lucky enough to buy some of his work and get it signed and personalized. I have since exchanged email with his sons a few times.

After I met the great man I began seeking out and collecting his art work. I have a shelf of old magazines and illustrated books with Edd’s fantastic drawings.

The photo is Edd Cartier the day I discovered him.

I hate this whole grow old and die thing. It does not seem right that the world should lose a talent like Edd Cartier. He lived a long and rich life, but still, the world is a poorer place without him.

Edd_Cartier_Anything






December 15th, 2008

The Charwoman’s Shadow, by Lord Dunsany

charshadow I bought this dog-eared book at a garage sale a few weeks ago for a dollar. Lord Dunsany is a unique writer. If you read the book Stardust by Neil Gaiman (or even saw the hacked movie version), you would get an idea of what a Dunsany book is about. My edition of The Charwoman’s Shadow was published in 1926. Dunsany was already popular then, because of The King of Elfland’s Daughter, considered his masterpiece (and nearly the same story as Gaimon’s Stardust).

In the 1920s, Branch’s Jurgen in the US, and Eddison’s adult fairy tales in England were best sellers. These are richly written fantasies that also have a real world message. Readers in the 1920s would not have objected to reading a fantasy story that bordered on being a fairy tale.

Dunsany wrote his books with green ink using a quill pen that he would cut by hand. His wife typed out the stories. All of his books and stories are first drafts because he is supposed to have never rewritten or revised any of his work.

Dunsany’s language is absolutely wonderful. Here are the first two paragraphs Charwoman’s Shadow:

Picture a summer evening somber and sweet over Spain, the glittering sheen of leaves fading to soberer colors, the sky in the west all soft, and mysterious as low music, and in the east like a frown. Picture the Golden Age past its wonderful zenith, and westering now towards its setting.

In such a time of day and time of year, and in such a time of history, a young man was traveling on foot on a Spanish road, from a village well-nigh unknown, towards the gloom and grandeur of mountains. And as he traveled a wind rising up with the fall of day flapped his cloak hugely about him.

I missed getting off of my bus once, because I was involved in the unique plot. Dunsany is an extremely resourceful writer. A few times he seems to get a little lost pulling together his plot points, and here and there a paragraph will go on for a page or two while he explains some minor intricacy, but these go by quick. The denouement wanders a bit as it brings all of the threads together, but this is made up for with the wonderful ending, which describes the end of a golden age of magic.

I don’t think anyone reads Lord Dunsany anymore. This is a great loss.






November 13th, 2008

Another Side of the Galaxy ed. Groff Conklin

anotherpart Another Side of the Galaxy (1966), edited by Groff Conklin is the second Conklin anthology that I’ve read in this series. The previous Conklin Anthology dealt primarily with golden age writers. I need to refine that a little in that following the incredible decade of the 1940s where John W. Campbell, Jr.’ s Astounding Science Fiction magazine created modern SF (the golden age), there followed the 1950s where Campbell, although still a powerful force, slowly lost his leading position. Readers began to tire of Campbell’s gadget based technology stories and new pulps like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy and Worlds of If sprang up and presented alternative forms of SF. Campbell’s abrasive style and absolute certainty of his opinions  caused him to lose, one by one, most of his stable of writers. These were the same writers that he had discovered and guided into modern Science Fiction. By 1960, Astounding was still telling technological engineering based gadget stories while the other magazines were exploring characters, social issues and literary forms.

Groff Conklin’s Possible Worlds of Science Fiction presented stories from the 1940s and were mostly Campbell type stories. Another Side of the Galaxy contrasts these with the new writers of the 1950s who wrote about non-technical people with deep emotions, living in interesting societies and coping with problems that could not be solved with a slide rule.

Another Side of the Galaxy starts with a The Red Hills of Summer by one of my favorite writers, Edgar Pangborn. Pangborn produced two of my top 10 SF books, The Judgment of Eve and Davy, but was not as prolific as other writers. It is interesting that the protagonist in The Red Hills of Summer is named Davy. The story, set in a post apocalyptic future, involves humans fleeing a dying Earth, searching for planet where humanity can settle and grow and perhaps, correct the mistakes made on Earth. Four explorers are chosen to land on the planet to see if they can survive with the knowledge that they will never be allowed to return to space. The settlers cannot risk the future of the human race on a hidden disease that might enter the main ship and destroy them all.

The Red Hills of Summer is a love story between a couple who must face the unknown together, but are not quite committed to their love. Although there is little else to the plot other than coping with each of the problems as they arise, we become involved with the lives of the lovers and the story is how they finally come to grips with their own relationship. It is well done and first appeared in F&SF magazine, being the kind of transcendent writing and concepts that they looked for in a story. It was wonderful to find a new (to me at least) Pangborn story.

Paul Ash is in reality Pauline Ashwell, a Hugo nominated Science Fiction writer. Her story Big Sword was published in Astounding. I would guess that Campbell talked her into changing the gender of her pen name to appeal to his overwhelmingly male readership. The story is an odd choice for Campbell because it involves a child with emotional problems and the science is an ecological puzzle on a distant planet. Campbell was nuts about ESP, which figures in this story, and this might explain why he bought it. The conflict involves a child with ESP whose parents are divorced. He is taken by his unemotional and distant father, a spaceship captain, to a strange planet. In an alternate story line, the protagonist is an alien named Big Sword, who needs to communicate with the humans to solve his own serious ecological problem. The resolution is ingenious and satisfying.

The First Lady by J.T. McIntosh was published in Galaxy. It would not have fit in Astounding because the central conflict involves sociology rather than technology. The premise is that a pair of special government agents has to escort a young woman to a planet where she would be the first female on the planet. This would have been a reasonable plot line 1953, although ludicrous by today’s standards. McIntosh envisions a system where planets are settled by men only and then later a woman shows up to be the "First lady". She carries the first child and if it is healthy, the colony is allowed to continue. What makes this a good story, in spite of the silly premise, is the relationships between the male and female agent and the future first lady as they travel in the cramped rooms of the spaceship on the way to the new colony. It becomes a love triangle, which is intensified by the fact that it cannot continue once the planet is reached. The tension involves whether or not the future child will live and the colony survive, as well as the fact that one of the agents knows what the outcome will probably be.

J.F. Bone, Insidekick, is the story of a man who suddenly finds that he can do almost anything because a strange creature has entered his mind in a symbiotic relationship. The title is a pun on sidekick (in-sidekick, get it?). Jesse F. Bone was a prominent veterinarian and was nominated for a Hugo award. He must have been a friend of Robert A. Heinlein because he is mentioned in the Cat Who Walks Through Walls as the veterinarian fetched from another universe to help save the cat Pixel’s life after the raid to save Mike. He is known for his book of sexual mores and animal rights, The Lani People (Available at Project Gutenberg).

The Live Coward  by Poul Anderson is a Planetary League Story, one of a series involving diplomacy in a universe where there are literally millions of worlds settle by Humanity and their alien allies. It is an interesting story where Anderson get’s his character Wing Alak, into difficult situation and then bails him out with ingenuity. I first read this in the pages of a an old Astounding from my uncle’s collection that he kept in his attic. I was convinced that these old magazines were a thing of the distant past and did not exist any more, until I found Analog Magazine at a small soda shop down in the village of Nyack.

Eric Frank Russell’s Still Life is the weakest story in the bunch. It deals with the red tape of a huge and top heavy galactic empire and how a junior clerk goes about finding alternate paths through the miles of regulations in order to get a life saving piece of equipment to a distant colony. I work for the County Government and I am not interested in red tape, regulations or bureaucratic nonsense – I see enough at work.

These stories average around 13,000 words each and are Novelettes rather than short stories. The Edgar Pangborn story would be classified strictly as a Novella. I like these longer form short stories. Magazine editors seem to have liked them in the past, but modern editors, especially in the on-line magazines prefer shorter stories less than 5,000 words. The main pro magazines still regularly publish longer stories in the 7,000 to 15,000 word range. It is a conundrum that modern readers seem to prefer short-short stories over the longer ones, yet most modern novels are padded out from 120,000 to as high as 200,000 words. I have read that some romance publishers have gone back to the shorter snack-size 40k book. I wonder if anyone has test marketed shorter SF novels lately. 40k to 60K is a good length for a novel.






November 12th, 2008

All the Colors of Darkness, Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

colorsofdarkness I thoroughly enjoyed All the Colors of Darkness. It was published in 1963 and is the second in Biggle’s series of books featuring a detective named Jan Darzek. Biggle was probably more famous for writing detective fiction than he was SF, so this novel is a good blend of Science Fiction themes with detective fiction characters. The emphasis is on characterizations and Biggle even does a good job creating believable alien characters with alien personalities.

The science fiction is limited to one SF element. The story starts out with the creation of a Teleportation Portal. This is stock SF and many stories have used it. It is the primary SF element in the book. The aliens, it turns out, are trying to prevent us from developing the portal. The rest of the world is just early 1960s America with women in cocktail dresses and men in ties all smoking cigarettes.

This limited SF-ness makes the story very enjoyable because the book concentrates on character and plot much more than in the average SF novel of the time. Because of the nerdy engineering tech slant to all the golden age stories, there was never much emphasis on character. Most stories spent all their time on describing technology. Being able to introduce SF elements without being bogged down in long explanations is called Heinleining, because Heinlein was so good at it. The prime example being Heinlein’s phrase: “The door dilated.” This expresses the science fictional element, a very high tech door, without wasting time describing the technology.

Because Biggle wastes no time describing the science behind his portals, his character can use them as a Hitchcockian McGuffin to create exciting and interesting plot points.

The writing is crisp and concise, without a wasted word and pulls you along through the plot to the point where I felt compelled to read it last night while Erica watched TV – something I hardly ever do.

I am going to keep my eye out for more Biggle books. (Notice that I am on the top shelves of my new collection. I will be reading A’s, B’s and C’s. There are a dozen Asimov’s, but I have read them all – so off to eBay with Isaac.)

This novel comes from a time when books were about 60,000 words long. Longer books were edited down and shorter books were padded up or had font adjustment so that they were 160 to 200 pages. I much prefer this short format. It is a good quick read. I am selecting the books that I read by number of pages. I have decided not to read books longer than 200 pages.

Yesterday I created 3 more auctions for books on eBay. I am selling off the High Fantasy, which I don’t have much taste for anymore, and I am selling off the fat books. All the Niven & Pournelle books are going into the sell pile. All the David Gerrold books are going on eBay. Stephen Donaldson books are on their way out. I like these authors, but I have read enough of their works that I don’t want to read more. For each one of their books that I sell, I get to keep two or three thin books, which I like much better.






November 10th, 2008

Story ideas

I was reviewing my “Idea List”. I have too many ideas to actually write them. It is more fun to think about them than to do the hard work of writing down the words.

Here are some interesting entries on my list. If you feel the need to “borrow” any of these, let me know first. I may get around to writing these some day and you don’t want work on a story when I have already sold it (very unlikely).

The Drought – A lake begins to recede revealing skeletons of people who have disappeared years ago. The further the waters recede, the weirder the skeletons. The last of the water in the lake disappears revealing the skeletons of monsters. It ends in a torrential rain.

“It’s a slide rule.” he explained, “An ancient calculating device, like an abacus only capable of much more.” He showed it to the ship’s engineer and explained how it worked. The engineer used it to compute the natural log of the arc-cosine of the product of three numbers and was duly impressed. This was the last anyone thought of it until the computer melted down about half way between Jupiter and Neptune (Uranus was on the other side of the solar system at that time).

The Ruby of Death – steampunk – Victorian inventor explores a Brazilian cave left by an ancient civilization. He makes a laser out of shaving mirrors, a large ruby, and the flash powder from his photography equipment and fights off the angry inhabitants.

GPS story. A couple on vacation plug in “somewhere different” into the GPS and have a weird adventure. Obvious ending is to press in “Go Home” and get a gun (book, large battery, long rope, change of underwear?) before returning.

Time travel story where a scientist couple are abandoned in time far in the past, only to be rescued years later. They are brought back, and are greeted on return by their children, grandchildren and their descendants, who have been working for a 100 years to rescue them, although in their time sense it has only been a few days.

From Louis L’Amour. Ghost Rocker, (Louis did Ghost Boxer) like a ghost writer, but someone who replaces a sick rock and roll star. (think RAH Double Star). Get’s good at it and plays as good or better than the original star. There is conflict and resentment within the band’s other musicians. Finally real rocker is dying, but shows up at a concert, but is actually a ghost, and has one last jam. I think Farewell Tour is a good title or Cover Star, but perhaps Ghost Rocker is better, even though it gives away too much.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: Cosmic rays are evidence of spacecraft engines

From JWC, Jr.. Letter: A World where only women duel.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: A soldier behind enemy lines like the Japanese soldier on the island. He must survive aliens until men come back, but it is 20 years and men have changed.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: Think of a quantum computer that can answer ANY question. What do you do when the device cannot lie and tells the absolute truth, without being asked?

Story of a man who is doing mysterious things – starts out “I’m sorry, but I don’t know why I did that.” He takes wrong turns and winds up in the wrong place. Buys newspapers and scans them quickly and throws them out. Stops mesmerized like a tourist by commonplace things. It turns out that he is being “run” by a time traveler/alien/computer/spirit tourist who views things through his eyes without him knowing it.

Story line about kids who go to the edge of their wireless interconnects to get high on the lack of signal from the central networks. (I wrote a version of this, but there are many other possible variations.)

Weird tale base on the song by Hal Ketchum:
Bobby told Lucy the world ain’t round
Drops off sharp at the edge of town
Lucy you know the world must be flat
Cause when people leave town they never come back

Eating your own babies: It’s a marketing concept. When you release a new product that is better or cheaper than your existing one, you basically destroy the market for the older product. You are hurting any future sales of it. Announcing a new product will freeze sales of the current product. What happens to Artificial Intelligence when the new version of AI is about to appear? What happens to obsolete robots when the next level robot is released?

In the 11th century, it was common for some disputes to be adjudicated by physical trials. Two conflicting Liturgies were decided by jousting knights. Two bishops had a dispute and they were ordered to use judicium crucis, which is when two men spread their arms out in the position of a cross and the first to drop his hands loses. There might be a good S&S story here. How could you modernize it?

“Christ is realized in evolution.” – Teilhard de Chardin

First line: “Eat your supper. There are children in space going hungry.” or “There are children on Earth going hungry.”

“Medium of Exchange” or “Unit of Work” Consider a planet where the unit of currency is not an arbitrary symbolic unit like the dollar, but a small elf like creature capable of doing work. Rich people expend these like burning money. Poor people try to breed them. What does an Earth man do when he buys something and his change is nine small green gremlins?

The Nigerian scam, only this time it’s an Alien or Demon or Time Traveler. Flash?

I think Artie went too far when he hooked the Voder up to Big Jim’s brain. Big Jim is the ugliest and meanest old bull west of the Pacos, and I do not care to hear his opinions about anything.






November 10th, 2008

Beyond Time and Space ed. August Derleth

There are two August Derleth anthologies with the name Beyond Space and Time. The one that I read is the later and much shorter one published in 1958. There was a longer one, full of poems and excepts and even some Jules Vern and Wells that was published in 1950.

August Derleth is a good writer and is known as the publisher of H.P. Lovecraft. His milieu was the world of 1930s Weird Tales and he published many of the Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction writers from this era. This anthology largely reflects the 1930s, but has a few later stories thrown in, possibly to attract more readers.

The first two stories are from the late 1940s and do not much fit with the rest of the book. Heinlein’s The Long Watch and Theodore Sturgeon’s Minority Report (no relation to the Philip K. Dick story) start the collection. We all should have memorized the Heinlein story – I practically have, but the Sturgeon story might be new to you. It is the most interesting story in the anthology, and might be a considered a bridge between the formal style of the other stories and more immediate style of later SF. Sturgeon presents a fascinating story, partly told by a historical narrator, and partly through the newly discovered words of a mute servant named “Grudge”. An obsessed inventor builds a space ship only to discover a terrible secret that will isolate Earth from the rest of the galaxy forever. This information is filtered through the disturbing mind of the deformed servant that he wrote and hid so well that it was not discovered for centuries. It is an interesting approach with surprising characters and plot.

The rest of the stories are mostly from the 1930s and all are Derleth’s cronies. They are told either in a high fantasy style similar to Lord Dunsany or in a mythic narrative as though it were a retelling of an ancient tale. These formal styles were all the rage in the pages of Weird Tales, but to the modern reader are terribly dated.

Stories:

Colossus [Doane Sharon] – Donald Wandrei – Astounding Jan ’34
Very early SF which describes the incredible shrinking man, only in reverse. It is interesting in that it describes an earth just as it destroys itself in a war. The story wanders off describing wonders of a huge universe where our universe is just an atom. It meanders, and nothing much else really happens.

A Voyage to Sfanomoë – Clark Ashton Smith – Weird Tales Aug ’31
An allegorical trip to Venus without much characterization or plot. Its style is a mythical narrative.

Seesaw [Isher] – A. E. van Vogt -Astounding Jul ’41
The short story which later became The Weapon Shops of Isher. Not as interesting as the novel.

The Flying Men [from Last and First Men] – Olaf Stapledon – London: Methuen, 1930
No story at all, just a description of a race of Flying men told in a mythical narrative.

Fessenden’s Worlds – Edmond Hamilton – Weird Tales Apr ’37
A man creates a universe and then plays god with it. One of the better stories, although in a dated style.

Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall – Frank Belknap Long – Startling Stories Nov ’48
Not good SF, but more like a good horror tale told with SF elements.

I chose this anthology because I had it in my head to read lots of short stories and learn from them. This collection was interesting and fun, but it was no help in writing. The best story, Minority Report is so unique that it would be very hard to imitate. Sturgeon is known for looking at a story from an odd angle and approaching ideas from left field. That is not something that I set out to do as a plan of action. The Heinlein story is so imbued with his personality that it would impossible to use as a guide without sounding like bad Heinlein. The other stories are an interesting read, but are obviously from another context.