Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SFWA vs. Women, and the Role of SF Romance

My recent failed experiment with writing a romance novel has brought me both new respect for the genre and a desire to put romance subplots into my future work. It also made me more aware of the importance of putting realistic and well-rounded female characters into my work, since you simply can't write a romance novel from a solely male perspective and expect it to sell well. But this article by Angela Highland brought it all home from a different perspective.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

5 Other Parodies of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a global sensation, the start of a bestselling trilogy of thrillers. Naturally, like everything that's really popular, people have been lining up to make fun of it. I threw my hat in the ring with The Girl Who Played With the Dragon Tattoo's Nest. Here are five other parodies I found.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Dune" by Frank Herbert [Review]

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a stunning achievement in world-building. Frank Herbert successfully created an alien world with a complex ecology, a future political system, and even religions with detailed rituals and tradition. But more than that, he took out of that rich world a compelling and brilliant story.

In the distant future, powerful families known as Houses are locked in a complex jostling for power in the galaxy. Most of the conflict revolves around Arrakis, a desert planet that is the source of melange. Melange is a drug essential for extending life, enhancing the mind, and faster-than-light travel. When Paul Atreides and his family become heirs to Arrakis, the rival Baron Harkonnen stages a brutal attack and forces Paul and his mother to flee to the desert. There, they are taken in by a mysterious band of desert dwellers known as the Fremen. Paul learns their ways and ultimately becomes the planet's savior, seeking revenge on the Harkonnen.

That simple summary only scratches the surface of an incredible story rich in detail and complexity. It captures many of the familiar tropes of science fiction space opera, like spaceships, exotic weapons, messianic figures, and rebellion, but puts a unique spin on all of them. More than anything, the world of "Dune" feels completely real. Whole novels could have been written just about the Fremen, the mystical Bene-Jesserit, and the powerful CHOAM Corporation, but these are all treated as background material for the overall story. It's as if Herbert was writing his story for people of his fictional world, not us.

But the brilliance of "Dune" is not that he created such a wonderful world. It's that he's able to tell a great story within it without being boring or showing off. Most authors who create their own worlds can't help spending pages on their background material, essentially saying, "Isn't this cool? Look what I came up with!" Herbert doesn't do that. He only includes the details you need to know to understand the story, and focuses on giving us rich characters and jaw-dropping plot twists. His work is shown by the extensive appendixes in the back of the novel, which aren't necessary to read for the story, but which I found fascinating.

To me, "Dune" is one of the all-time greatest science fiction novels, what the genre should be.

View all my reviews
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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bizarre Books: "The Pop Up Book of Phobias"

This book by Gary Greenberg and Matthew Reinhart is a work of demented genius. It's exactly what it says on the tin: a pop-up book, where every page not only describes a phobia, but jumps out to put you into your greatest fear. Afraid of clowns? Open the page and watch two hideous clowns with moving eyes and smiles offer you a lollipop. Afraid of heights? Open the page and watch a building rooftop unfold so you can look down at the street far below. The best part is almost everyone is going to be afraid of something in this book. My brother Maurice had a copy, and used to have endless fun showing it to people and watching their delight turn to horror as they reach the page of their particular phobia. For me, the page on the fear of spiders was unseeable. Check out this video and see what it was like to scroll through the pages.


 Or you can check out this album of still shots to get a better look at them.
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Friday, April 3, 2015

"Autumn" by David Moody [Review]

AutumnAutumn by David Moody
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

David Moody is a self-publishing phenomenon. He wrote and published his own bestselling series of zombie fiction in 2001, at a time when the Kindle was just an idea. It all started with this, his first book, Autumn. He gave away copies on his website, and sold the sequels through the growing world of print-on-demand. I admire him as a marketer and a publisher, but not so much as a writer.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Myths of "Fight Club": The Homemade Silencer

This will be a series about Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The novel is famous for the popular movie adaptation, but also for the numerous anarchist "recipes" provided in the text. Throughout the book, the narrator and Tyler Durden provide various tips and methods for everything from making nitroglycerin to how to make a silencer. Palahniuk has claimed he carefully researched all of them and apparently a lot of people believe him. I'd like to set the record straight: Fight Club is full of lies. Today, we'll talk about his "homemade silencer."

"With my tongue I can feel the silencer holes we drilled into the barrel of the gun. Most of the noise a gunshot makes is expanding gases, and there's the tiny sonic boom a bullet makes because it travels so fast. To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel of the gun, a lot of holes. This lets the gas escape and slows the bullet to below the speed of sound. You drill the holes wrong and the gun will blow off your hand."

Friday, March 13, 2015

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett, Author of Discworld

Terry Pratchett 2005.JPG
On March 12, 2015, Terry Pratchett died of a severe chest infection. Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. I always thought of him as the fantasy equivalent of Douglas Adams, a comic genius who perfectly lampooned as well as explored the boundaries of his genre. He's best known for his Discworld series, which is made up of about 40 volumes. I admit, I didn't read all of them. I read Pratchett's first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, and all his other Discworld novels up until Mort. My loss of interest in fantasy had more to do with me than him, but I still have fond memories of his books. But he continued long after I lost track of the series, and went on to write other works at the average of two books a year.

He was an amazing author by any standard. He was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and sold more than 85 million books worldwide. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and was knighted for services to literature in the 2009 New Year Honours. In 2001, he won the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, the first Discworld book marketed for children. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.

His later years were not so pleasant. In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. He wanted to commit suicide, but ultimately died of natural causes.

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett. You brought joy and wonder to the world.

[Image source "Terry Pratchett 2005". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

100-Word Scifi: "Sucker Punch"

It's been a while, but it's back. I occasionally write hundred-word stories based on a random word. Today's word is "spike."
Sucker Punch
By Nigel G. Mitchell

Buddy Norton snickered as he poured the contents of the flask into the punch bowl. He jerked as a hand clapped onto his shoulder belonging to Principal Stern.

"Spiking the punch," Stern snarled. "A new low for you, Buddy. But wait, that's not alcohol. What is that?"

Buddy shrugged. "Found it in my dad's liquor cabinet. Thought it was beer."

Screams filled the school auditorium as the students and faculty began to sprout fur, claws, tails, and tentacles.

The monster wearing Principal Stern's suit and now holding Buddy's shoulder scowled with three eyes, and snarled, "It's detention for you, Buddy."

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

7 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels By Authors of Color Coming in 2015

Science fiction and fantasy are two genres typically associated with white males, but that's slowly changing. Minorities are growing among the ranks of genre writers, and introducing their unique perspective. Our Lady of Black Scifi created this list of Science Fiction & Fantasy novels written by writers of color that will be coming out in 2015. While by no means comprehensive, it's a great start.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (7th of April, 2015) Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (5th of May, 2015) A prequel to World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death. Phoenix is raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an accelerated woman, only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human.

Apex by Ramez Naam (5th of May, 2015) In the concluding volume of the Nexus trilogy, mankind has evolved. They call them the Apex—humanity’s replacement. They’re smarter, faster, better. And infinitely more dangerous. 

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (7th of July, 2015) In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (4th of August, 2015) In a world that has suffered frequent, repeated Extinction Level Events for millions of years, and all life (and magic) in this world has adapted to it, Essun must fight to save her daughter at the risk of breaking herself.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (April 2015) The story of two teenagers fighting to survive under the Empire’s brutal, militaristic regime, which has outlawed reading among the once-powerful Scholar class; the Scholars live under the oppression of the Martials, who silently assassinate insurgents.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (14th of July, 2015) After an alien ambassador’s arrival outside Lagos, Nigeria is leaked via YouTube, it’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle First Contact and prevent mass extinction.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"The Girl Who Played With the Dragon Tattoo's Nest" is a Featured Story on Wattpad

Just a heads-up that my parody, The Girl Who Played With the Dragon Tattoo's Nest is a featured story on Wattpad. You can read it with their sweet story widget.

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