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Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Hello. I’ve been off-page for the past couple of weeks due to circumstances beyond my control, but they appear to have been resolved and now I’m back. Time will tell if this is a good thing. Moving on…

I’ve started a new novel. Not the new novel I was starting the last time I said I was starting a new novel, this is a new new novel. On the other hand, it’s going back to an old idea. So it’s kind of a hybrid, a new novel with old characters. In TV terms, it’s a spin-off.

I’m returning to the world of the Stolen Future trilogy, but this book takes place between the first and second volumes of that series, and the lead character there, Keryl Clee, doesn’t appear at all. (If you’ve read The Invisible City, you know why; otherwise, I don’t believe in spoilers.) This book is about Keryl’s best friend, Timash, who happens to be a gorilla, and therein lies the “new experiment” part of this endeavor.

You see, I’ve never written a book before with a non-human viewpoint character. Timash  is a gorilla from a time when at least some apes have been gifted with human-level intelligence, but he’s still a gorilla, and they’re not common. In fact, most are hidden. So people treat him differently. Those differences haven’t been explored much in the prior books because it wasn’t Timash’s story, but this is.

How is he going to be treated? How will he react to it? Am I going to be able to write a non-human hero who comes across as a non-human? I have no idea the answers to any of these questions. To be honest, I’m only starting to think about them. I do know that Timash has an arc; one of the advantages of working within a prescribed framework established by previous books is that I know where the character is headed.

It’s always a challenge to try to create something new, while preserving enough continuity that you carry your audience with you. And I doubt it will be easy.

But it should be fun, and that’s what counts!

#SFWApro

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When you’re just a sidekick, useful for making your boss look good and not much else, is it fair that suddenly you’re supposed to save the world?

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Back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth in steam-powered chariots and Venus was still considered potentially viable off-world real estate, running an SF convention was a relatively simple affair. (Note emphasis on “relatively.” That doesn’t mean it was easy. I helped on two, acting as the chair of the second. I had already decided that I would never do such a thing again long before the current crop of kerfuffles grew up. Now? Now I think you have to be insane to want to run a convention.

When I wanted my con to be forward-thinking, I invented the idea of a gun-free convention. Cosplay with guns (not that “cosplay” had been coined yet) was very popular, although there had been reports of some problems with too-realistic props that made the police nervous. For specific reasons that honestly escape me now, I decided that our convention would sport a “no-weapons” policy. No weapons, no how. We got some vague reports of complaints, but nobody tried to test our resolve by bringing in a contraband toy, and although I was far too busy to notice at the time, the after-action reports said that everyone had a good time.

Of course, that was before the Internet.

Now, anything you do is susceptible to being broadcast world-wide in seconds. Millions of people who would never even consider coming to your convention can comment on (or argue about) your choices. If we tried imposing that policy today, the roof would fly off.

But there are many other, new, considerations that we didn’t have: Codes of conduct (going beyond just not bringing a weapon), anti-harassment policies, safe spaces, accessibility issues (we had a one-story convention space)…and now, the piece de resistance, civil rights lawsuits. An author is suing Worldcon because he says he was banned solely for his political affiliations. It is not my intent to discuss the merits of that case here, merely to point out that we have crossed a line: If you want to put on a convention, your liability insurance now has to include coverage for legal fees. (Even back then we were smart enough to incorporate, but this suit seeks personal liability.)

I don’t know what it costs to put on even a small con these days, let alone a Worldcon, but I do know that every new wrinkle adds to the expense. And legal fees are a very large wrinkle. Not to mention what a lawsuit does to your credit rating and your precious free time.

Maybe this is an anomaly; I hope so. But in our society, I cannot believe it. So what’s going to happen? Fewer conventions? More overseas Worldcons? I’ll tell you what isn’t going to happen: More reasoned dialogue. More unity of purpose on issues that affect us fans. We’re supposed to be looking toward the future, people, and I don’t think this is the future we want.

Ironically, those who support this lawsuit claim they just want to bring “fun” back to science fiction. It may be that there is a valid reason to drag your fellow fans into court, but I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, it won’t be fun.

#SFWApro

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The premiere issue of Factor Four has bowed, several days before the anticipated April 1 date, which pleases me no end, because my story, “The Deadline,” is the first in the line-up. First story, first issue. Anyone who buys the magazine without previewing the free on-line sample (and who isn’t looking for someone in particular) will read me first.

So I’m the first of the first, before the First.

That’s gotta be a first.

Excuse me, I’ve got to get a drink of water. All this writing is making me firsty.

#SFWApro

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Who wants to wait until Black Friday? And who wants a sale that only lasts one day? (Hint: the answer to both these questions is, “Not me.”)

Therefore, on the theory that it’s no good selling something if you can’t give your friends a good deal, starting tomorrow, November 23, and running all the way to December 31, all novels in my electronic catalog are being reduced by 25%!*

You want time-traveling adventure on a far-future Earth where aliens rule mankind and recreated dinosaurs roam deserted cities? We got that.

You want to go back to the 1930s, where mysterious dangers hide behind every door and globe-trotting heroes fight the forces of evil and tyranny? We got that.

You want to visit a fantastical (and hysterical) medieval land where an exiled samurai and an untrustworthy card shark turn out to be long-lost brothers, battling fashion-obsessed Valkyries and the Pirate Brother’ood while arguing over whose fault it was they got kicked out of another tavern? We got that, too!

Act now, because prices like this do not come along every day!**

 

*Except for The Invisible City, because it’s already free!

**Every year, yes. Every day, no.

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I have been given my tentative panel assignments for Loscon, at the LAX Marriott November 24-26, and as I know that my appearances have long (well, since last year) been a highlight of the early holiday season, I wanted to list them here. They are, of course, subject to change, but if they do, I’ll let you know. (We don’t want a repeat of last year’s near-riot at the Star Trek panel when I didn’t show up!)*

I self-published my first book, and I didn’t die! (11/24, 5:30pm) I believe this panel was specifically named to exclude posthumous-American indie authors from attending. I will be taking this up with the committee on behalf of all of my writer colleagues who feel like zombies (which is pretty much all of them).

Blending mystery and speculative fiction. (11/25, 5:30pm) As far as I’m concerned, everything was speculative when I was trying to become a published author. It’s how I did that which remains a mystery.

Writing & Intuition: What happens next? (11/26, 2:30pm) As faithful readers of my blog know, it’s really the characters who write the story and the author simply takes the credit. So I’m going to allow one of my characters to sit on this panel for me–as soon as I can find one who lives in this century…

Given my schedule, I should be around for most of the con. Look me up and ask me to autograph your e-book. I’ll sign a piece of paper and you can tape it to your Kindle.

 

*Oh, wait, there was nearly a riot at the panel because I did show up. If I’d realized Star Trek was that popular, I wouldn’t have said those things…

#SFWApro

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It is widely disseminated that if you can take the science out of an SF story and still tell the story, it’s not truly SF. (For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume the same theory holds for fantasy.) I myself have believed for a long time that this is a valid, albeit somewhat simplistic, test. But now I wonder.

You see, there has been a lot of “science fiction” that does not really contain any “science.” So what do you call it? Star Wars is a prime example, with many characterizing it as “science fantasy” because it has the trappings of SF, but upon any review its science is well, bad.* Look at the spaceships: They don’t fly right. They act as though they’re in an atmosphere instead of a vacuum. (We’ll ignore the sounds. That’s artistic license.) And it’s based on “the Force,” a mystical energy field (later retconned to be some kind of micro-particles in your blood, but no one believes that). So is it science fiction? Or is it fantasy with spaceships?

I’m a fan of the 50s B&W monster movies I used to watch on “Creature Features.”** Giant ants, spiders, gila monsters, teenagers… Really, even I wasn’t buying it. But it was considered science fiction. Why? The science was worse than what you see in Star Wars. You couldn’t take the science out to see if the story could still be told, because there was no science. And yet we call it SF to this day. (And yes, that applies to Godzilla, too–all the versions.)

The question becomes, then: How do you test a story for being science fiction if there is no recognizable science in the story in the first place?

I guess you could try to recategorize Them! and Tarantula and Village of the Giants as science fantasy, but good luck.*** That ship has sailed (or launched). Better, I think, to avoid ironclad definitions and hope that the next generation of SF is better than some of the things that have gone before.

Or has that ship launched, too?

*When I say Star Wars, I mean the original. Since the first trilogy, it’s only gotten progressively worse.

**Creature Features was cancelled, and years later, revived. Ironically, the host of the new show was a friend of mine.

***These three movies share a distinction: Each had an actor who went on to achieve fame. (Them! actually had a couple.) Points if you can name them.

#SFWApro

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