Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New setting for off-earth fiction

Here it is...the flashy name for the planet where your next work of off-earth fiction takes place, it's called: Gliese 581c. Hmmm, I think that a moon name like Europa or disputed planet name like Xena sound a bit more intriguing.

Regardless, in this article today, astronomers have just discovered the most earthlike planet yet. And hence, the easiest target for terraforming. The idea of terraforming -- or making large scale planetary changes to something more earthlike -- is a personal fascination. My first feature length screenplay is named Terraform. It just sounds cool.

However, if you think about it, needing to change another world to make it more habitable is kind of scary. After all, can't we just manage this one much better than we are? I guess it must be Earth Day rubbing off on me.

Regardless, check it out if you're considering writing a futuristic story with a setting beyond the orb beneath your feet. It sounds like a fascinating place -- it's in the constellation Libra, it must be well-balanced.

Praises for Bradbury

In this one of many articles published recently, we read praises for Ray Bradbury. He has been a legend for a long time...but we always wonder why certain obviously inventive and talented authors get ignored by the cognoscenti for so long. There are a number of possiblities. Feel free to weigh in here with your own.

A couple that come to mind:

-- Emerging hot new writers steal the attention of established ones in the annual analyses
-- The implications of written content is too disturbing resulting in avoidance once read

I'd like to think that it's the latter. Fahrenheit 451 rattled a few people...the social implications of such a dystopia were certainly troublesome. Perhaps so much so that critics didn't want to engender similar writings. Who knows. Orwell's 1984 certainly became far more digestible after it failed to represent the world state in that once-future year -- fortunately so.

We all read books at times that really make us think. It's sometimes more than we bargained for but that's what we're all subconsciously hoping for when we turn that first page: a fresh look at life. Bradbury has sparked the imaginations of readers in this way. He has the gift and long-deserved kudos are being bestowed. I guess there's a timing out there we all just have to try harder to understand.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What's in a name?: science fiction

After reading this blogcritics post, I pondered yet again the ongoing developments of my personal writing genre -- speculative fiction -- and how it relates to science fiction. This subject has been covered a number of times before in my blog:

In December the subject centered around Director Cuaron's avoidance of labeling his film science fiction.

Earlier in December, I explored the subject a bit more in this post.

There has also been the attempt at levity on the subject.

However, just days ago in my post on Wizards of the Coast there is newfound support for speculative fiction. Although their published focus is more along the fantasy line, speculative fiction is sweeping in scope. So, it lends itself nicely to writers wanting to avoid the science fiction moniker as Cuaron has. Some turn to labeling their work as speculative fiction in order to avoid one genre identification by selecting another.

Perhaps there has been too much homogenization of science fiction. There are certainly deeply entrenched subject, character and plot points that permeate the mainstream of it. This is not by accident. I feel for the person who must market these books: their livelihood is on the line, they must make their product consistently or risk losing their audience, so they cling to their standards...even to the chagrin of creative storywriters cleverly breaking the mold.

We all need to make a living. I understand what the template-driven science fiction editor needs to accomplish. If I was in his/her shoes, I'd likely do the same thing.

However, I'm the writer and it frustrates me to see the universe created by Williamson, Vonnegut, Heinlein, Ellison and so many others get watered down. And the stereotype attached to its readership is a limited niche...a readership that would likely be far broader if a few risks were taken.

Cormac McCarthy's publishers took that risk -- and it paid off. However, as Blogcritics points out, no one's rushing to call it science fiction. Can we somehow turn the tide? Or will we continue to bolster new genres and create more niches? You will make the call in the end, oh book reader.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wizards looking for you

No, this is not a warning from the world of Harry Potter...quite simply: the Wizards of the Coast are flushing out speculative fiction talent. So, if you write such creative works, you should keep your eye on their newly developed focus.

Living in Seattle, I can keep a closer eye on this bunch. They are right down the highway and around the corner in Renton. I've been in the hallowed halls of Wizards of the Coast and later got to tour their parent company, Hasbro, back in Rhode Island. A very impressive bastion of creativity I must say...most fascinating was their rapid prototype machine. Watching it whip up a new toy on-the-fly based on engineering specs was pretty darned cool.

Ahh, I'm getting off track here...we're interested in speculative fiction aren't we? Well, I'm here to tell you: this is good news. Having Wizards of the Coast hunting for speculative fiction talent is a sparkling development.

Sharpen your pencils, stock up on ink or charge those laptop batteries...whatever your style, it's time to finish that story and run with it. Magic awaits you.

Memento 2: The Raw Shark Texts?

I'm going to need your help on this please post comments if you can help make distinctions here: I just read the review at Blogcritics about The Raw Shark Texts and I felt like I was reading about another "Memento."

It must be a remarkable story that differs dramatically from Memento. After all, Nicole Kidman wouldn't want to make the movie version if it wasn't. However, I can't shake the fact that I'm reading a set up with stark similarities to Memento.

So, please post comments here if you've read this book and know Memento's plot. I will get my hands on a copy and follow up as soon as I can. But for now, it would be helpful to enlighten readers on this subject. Otherwise, they will pass on it like I was initially tempted to do when I read the set up -- even though the lovely Nicole Kidman relishes every page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Infertile big guy? No problem

Men who are found to be infertile may no longer have to be concerned about their inability to reproduce in the future. According to this article, scientists are making headway in producing sperm using human bone marrow.

Now, what's this got to do with speculative fiction you may ask? Good question...I was wondering where I was going with this myself a few moments ago. You're getting a stream-of-consciousness posting this time around. OK, here's this for a story: women in the future decide to cut out men altogether. Capable of creating their own genetic sperm from bone marrow, a cadre of female scientists seek to create an all-female race. Their mission: to rid the world of the aggressive tendencies that are perpetuated by men.

OK, it's not really that fun. After all, what's a story without a bit of sexual tension to liven it up? Still, this thought came to mind before I got to the part in the article that explores same-sex couples leveraging the technology for this purpose.

In the non-fictional world, it's going to take another 3 to 5 years to get final results from this experiment. I'll keep this subject holed away for follow up. It's a very curious thing...and could have very deep meanings for our society if tests are successful.

And back to the infertile men out there: keep hope alive, science is working on it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Honoring Kurt Vonnegut

I've linked here to my favorite Kurt Vonnegut short story. I vividly remember reading it at the age of 14 -- the same age as the central character in the story. This was almost 30 years ago.

Reading about the parental characters in the story reminds me of my own parents at the time. They were looking out for me. Trying to challenge me, they got me into some special classes at school. It was at one of these classes where we students were given access to books and stories not offered in the regular curriculum. This one kid in class, Tom Pushchak, talked about Vonnegut books...I always considered him the smartest kid at school so I assumed there was something fascinating to be found. I was not let down.

The story of Harrison Bergeron touched me then...and stuck with me my whole life. The symbolism, the imagery, the brief yet powerful events hit me in the gut. Vonnegut was a genius. I'm going to miss him. He had a beautiful vision and knew that through a good story you could make people think differently about the world. He was a master at the most important kind of speculative fiction...the kind that resulted in shaping the minds of young people. I know he shaped mine.

And I think I'm a better person for having read Kurt Vonnegut's work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kinsey-like analysis of writer rejections

Interesting article here if you found the movie (or phenomenon of) Kinsey fascinating. This particular study focuses on writer rejection slips and how they correlate to sexual behaviour.

As they say in marketing: sex sells. So, if you're going to conduct a study that will get press attention, I guess you can follow this same maxim.

The most interesting facet of the article to me is the fact that some authors -- who, by association, financially supported the study -- questioned whether it was a proper use of member dues. Hmm. What, if anything, does a science fiction writer want but to contribute to what we know about mankind. It's the driving force behind all speculative fiction: the fascination of what we're all doing here and why.

Yet another insight fueled by our salacious curiosities. Keep it up scientists.