Poetry: “Rusted Theme Park from My Childhood”

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Memories of joy forgotten

Living through the rusted frame

Silence now where grass pushed through

symbols of acclaim.

 

The kids I knew from days long passed

They’re moving to adulthood

rusting and twisted with time

from their childhood.

 

 

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What is Science Fiction?

9262561366_05ea466cff_bMy family and I discussed some of the more recent Frankenstein movies, and the conversation drifted into the original novel by Mary Shelley. Inevitably, that brought out discussion of the original novel being the first science fiction novel. Apparently, this was a position Brian Aldiss held as well.

Now, I believe that science fiction, as a form of literature, is not so easily defined. As such, a distinct division between what was and was not science fiction is nearly impossible. However, I believe that there are various requirements that a story should meet to be considered science fiction:

1. It must have been written during or after the Enlightenment.

I would argue that science fiction didn’t exist until the Enlightenment. I would say that prior to this, any sort of fantastical or imaginative speculative fiction wouldn’t have had any concern for scientific ideas.

Now, the timing is intentional. Books like Gulliver’s Travels and Icosameron fit this element.

2. It must have been concerned with a scientific idea.

Even if that idea is as simple as “could we go to another planet?” or “what will life look like in 1,000 years?” Works that explore the possibilities of a hollow earth or people who live on the moon also fit this requirement, and if they were after the Enlightenment, fit the first as well.

I would also include some “soft” scientific ideas in here, such as psychology or politics. Thus, utopias or dystopias can be explored in detail in science fiction. I would exclude current politics or military science from this, if they were by themselves as scientific ideas.

3. It must have been concerned with speculation.

This means that a direct, realistic explanation of an even does not fit. Likewise, general fiction that doesn’t speculate anything isn’t a science fiction novel.

Now here’s the issue: space opera and military science fiction can speculate on the use of space faring technology or fighting aliens, but they don’t expound on those ideas. Nor do they need to!

I think these three elements must be included. Rod Serling once said, “Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible”.

So was Frankenstein the first sci-fi novel? No, I don’t think so, though it may have been the first “hard” science fiction novel, but that’s a different story. Perhaps this is overthinking it, or maybe I’m missing some element that would define certain stories and not others.

What do you think?


You may like some of my other work on this site. Make sure to check me out on Twitter and Instagram.

Maybe some of my reviews:

Book Review: The Gray Prince by Jack Vance

Book Review: The Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Maybe some of my work on writing:

Writing Descriptions

Finding Your Writing Style

Maybe my poetry:

Poetry: “Cardinals in Spring Snow”

Writing Descriptions

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I was talking to an author friend of mine about his book. Honestly, it was a great read and I was impressed by one element in particular: his descriptions.

He was great at it! Not too many, but not too few. It felt like he let the reader’s imagination control the imagery, but gave enough to ground the story to a specific image. It worked well.

That being said, I noticed my own failings quickly. I’m awful at over-description!

The Curse of Over-description

The symptoms are straining for any author trying to craft amazing fiction. You get bogged down describing in detail every facet of a world you’re trying to build. It’s especially easy for speculative fiction or memoirs, because you really want to paint a picture in those genres.

There’s a good way to fix it, though. You simply have to figure out what a reader needs. It helps to have friends to read your work in the early stages, or alpha readers when you get to the point of allowing strangers to take a look at your manuscript.

My friend ended up explaining that he didn’t actually have the same issue I did, but that he did have his own issue. You see, there’s an equally dangerous possibility with writing: under-description.

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A Barebones Manuscript

The Curse of Under-description

The symptoms are easy to fall into once you start to “trim the fat” in your writing. There’s too many ways to end up with a barebones manuscript.

You need to make sure to figure out what’s important to properly convey. Is it really important that the reader knows that the spaceship you’re discussing had five PD-40 Ion Engines with small carvings of elephant tusks and inscriptions in runes around the edges? Or is it better to say there’s five ornate ion engines?

Well, it depends. You can do “info dumps” as Ben Bova called them, but don’t do them constantly. You need a gentle touch!

Once again, those early readers are important. Get a friend to read through it, someone who’s going to be honest with you.

Hopefully this helps you! It comes from a personal place to me.


 

Maybe you’ll like some of my other posts on writing:

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

Going from Outline to Manuscript

Writing with Inspiration

Or maybe a couple of my reviews:

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

Book Review: Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge by Mike Resnick

seven-views-of-olduvai-gorgeI don’t know if it’s cheating to review this, but I received a small pamphlet, about 40 pages long, of Mike Resnick’s novella “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge”. Since I read it as a single bound material, I guess it counts as a “book review”.

I liked this story! I really enjoyed it after a small adjustment period.

The story follows alien scientists researching the origins of humanity, who has gone extinct thousands of years ago. Humanity was an empire that stretched across the stars, but they began from a small world called Earth. There are seven flashbacks related to seven artifacts recovered related to humanity, and the scientists learn more about human nature as it goes on. Ultimately, it shows how humanity came about, and how it grew to become the dominant force in the galaxy.

Mike Resnick is renowned for his prose, and this story is no exception. His still with words is fantastic, and as a writer, his ability to plot out fiction shines through.

“Seven Views” is a fantastic story, and one I’d recommend to anyone interested in science fiction. It’s a great story about human nature.

The ending, without getting into spoilers, is a great way to cap the crescendo on human nature.


 

You might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: The Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt

Fantastic_novels_194803This is a story I’ve wanted to read for along time. It’s early speculative fiction, and often categorized as either sci-fi or fantasy, but after reading it I can say it’s definitely a fantasy story. The story is more of an adventure tale than anything, which makes sense given the state of publishing back then.

The story follows Kenton, who is whisked away to a bizarre ship that’s divided into two halves. It travels an unknown sea, and is said to belong to the goddess Ishtar. Aboard the ship, Kenton has a unique sword and is mistaken at first for a messenger of the gods.  After it’s revealed that he isn’t who they thought, he’s already met the two other main characters: Sharane, priestess of Ishtar, and Klaneth, a priest of Nergel.

Kenton, upon seeing Sharane in all her beauty, falls for her instantly. The story is then a love story between Kenton and Sharane, with Klaneth serving as the main antagonist. Kenton goes through several adventures and meets people who become his friends along the way.

Ultimately, I think it was a solid book. It’s a great example of the kind of adventure fiction that was popular in the mid-twenties. While it’s certainly a product of its time, I think it’s well worth a read for anyone interested in the history of speculative fiction.

[Spoiler] A major failing for the story is the ending. I really don’t think it ended well. It felt like it ended with no real resolution.


If you liked this, you might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Or maybe one of my posts about writing:

75% Writing, 25% Coping

Turning a Hobby into a Career

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

75% Writing, 25% Coping

chalkboard-1927332_960_720Rejection isn’t something a writer should fear. We all get hit by it, one rejection at a time. I’ve lost count of the amount of rejections I’ve had since I got serious about writing. It’s what happens.

I think to myself: am I really improving? What am I doing wrong?

It’s worrying to think I’m missing something, I’m failing to meet someone’s approval.

In truth, I feel like I’ve improved. I look back at my early work and scoff. There’s no way  anyone could reasonably look over my work and think it was written by a skilled storyteller.

But it also feels like I’m at the edge. Like all I need is a little more improvement and I’ll be there. I have the ideas, the realization of what it is I like about these stories, but all I need is a little something more. I need a spark, a small light to kindle the flame of my writing. There’s something missing, but I don’t know what.

But it’s more than that. I sometimes really worried my dream of being published won’t come true.

Even now more lessons strike my heart. I think to myself about how I write and realize I need to write as I think. An easy thing to say, but a personal realization to me nonetheless.

But I have to cope. The writing game is 75% writing, 25% coping.

Writing with Inspiration

creativity_idea_inspiration_innovation_pencil_paper_plan_business-714869I often struggle to find a push to write when I’m feeling ill or tired. Since I have a full time job and a family, I’m often tired and just want to relax. However, I think once motivation is conquered, the next hurdle is inspiration.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anything. Other stories, people you’ve met, ideas you have in the shower, friends and family, and just generally living your life. That last part is important. How can you write about people and events if you don’t live your life?

Being an introvert, I get it. I get tired talking to people and meeting large groups, but I do it to interact and learn about human interaction. Your character dialogue might improve if you learn how other people talk. Who knows, you might even get inspired by a stranger to create a brand new character!

If you find yourself being boxed in, without an idea to move forward with, try stepping out and seeing the world and the people in it. Maybe that will help you as it has me.

Ultimately, inspiration is a result of what you put into it. Go out and experience things, and write about similar things.


You might like some of my reviews:

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Book Review: The “Troy Rising” Trilogy by John Ringo

You might also like some more of my writing posts:

Turning a Hobby into a Career

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

Turning a Hobby into a Career

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I’ve wrestled with my decisions, wondering whether I should have a full time career for income and security. Right now, it’s a no-brainer. I need a job in order to pay the bills. But what about writing?

Is it just a hobby?

Well, it is. I love doing it. I love weaving ideas into characters and plot points, building worlds from my mind, and structuring out a story that I would find interesting. I love everything about writing, even the garbage parts like editing spelling mistakes.

But does it have to stay a hobby?

I suppose it’s a pipedream to actually make a living doing it, but I can certainly try. I love reading science fiction, so why shouldn’t I try to turn what I love into what I love doing?

Do you have any thoughts? Is it a waste of time?

Busy All Around

I apologize for the lack of updates. My life has been busy with family and friends occupying my free time. Aside from that, writing and reading take most of my extra time, with movies, games, and TV filling what’s left over.

To be honest, I have a lot in the works:

  • I have a short story that I’m polishing up. It should be ready for the submission circuit within a week.
  • I am just over the half-way mark on my main science fiction novel, which is progressing at a decent pace.
  • I have an additional short story that I’m in the early stages with. It’s written but it needs that second draft rewrite that really brings out what’s best in a story.
  • I have a new science fiction novel that I’m outlining and starting to draft for a future project, but I’m going to do minor progress on it until I’m done with my current project.

Keep in mind, this is progress despite working full time, having a family, and trying to maintain sanity while reading and entertaining myself aside from writing. It’s a balancing act. It always is.

Book Review: The Hermetic Millennia by John C. Wright

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(This is Book 2 of the Eschaton Sequence, and the sequel to Count to a Trillion, which I reviewed in the past.)

The Eschaton Sequence, these five books published by Tor and written by John C. Wright, are interesting and imaginative. There’s a lot to sort through, and a vast amount of world-building not easily summed up in one blog post about a single volume in the series.

But I’ll do my best.

This book is fantastic for those who don’t mind large swaths of information dumped on you within the first three chapters. Ultimately, I enjoyed it towards the end, finding some of the best writing towards the latter half of the book. Some of the personal accounts, as they were relayed from specific characters’ points of view, struck me as either a A Canterbury’s Tale or Hyperion type of influence (Hyperion was itself influenced by A Canterbury’s Tale). The editing is awful, however, as obvious spelling errors seemed to fly by the editor’s watch; I expected more from Tor for this volume (of which I paid for the hardcover full price to treasure on my shelf).

The Hermetic Millennia is a direct sequel to Count to a Trillion, so if you hadn’t read that one yet, I recommend stopping here. Spoilers ahead! You have been warned. You can skip ahead to where it says “Spoilers Over”.

This book jumped quickly from the mid-third millennia of the first book (2050ish AD?) to the year 10,000 AD (with a couple slight stops on the way). Menelaus is trying to maintain control of human history and evolution while being thwarted by the Hermeticists every step along the way. Multiple evolutionary off-shoots of humanity spring up over time, and the reasons for their specific focuses are explored early on and later in the book. It’s an interesting element.

As far as the characters go, Menelaus himself is as fascinating as he was before, but the Blue Men, the main antagonists in the book, are lifeless and boring. The younger of their group, and a female that’s introduced later, are interesting, but by the time they got development it was too late. Likewise, the Chimerae, the militaristic group of caste-based genetically-created humans, have interesting elements to them, but not enough time to develop and I honestly forgot about the characters, since they faded away in the story over time.

The build up in the book is towards the mystery of the Blue Men as they dig into a tomb of Menelaus’ design, while searching for the person they refer to as “the Judge of Ages”. This is the mythological term for Menelaus himself. All of this builds to the ending of the book, and…

…nothing happens. The planning for an attack, a revolution, goes nowhere. The book just ends. I get that it’s essentially part two of a five part series, but a complete story would have been nice.

Spoilers Over

Despite this, Wright’s writing is on point. He’s a fantastic writer with a great handle on metaphor and imagery. I love the use of dialogue to tell the story, especially in interviews of specific characters.

I would recommend this if you liked the first book.


 

See if you like my other posts!

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman