Thursday, June 28, 2007

Congreve's view: chances for the unknown writer

If you're an unknown author, Bill Congreve sees your chances as pretty grim....

In this ABC Australia article, Mr. Congreve dooms most writing except for that of the name author. He sees the series novels by them as the most successful -- not a big surprise to most I'm sure.

It's good to read that he says "Not quite as dead" for literary first novels by unknowns. Perhaps the open space of on demand publishing is broadening interest in fresh material. I can only novel, Darwin's Orphans, is not being pushed by a huge publishing machine but it is literary. So, there's hope I guess.

If you're a writer, check out his assessment of your chances. If you're not, check out the article'll tell you if you're on the trendy side of things. At least from Mr. Congreve's perspective.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Views on speculative fiction as sci-fi

Here's an interesting post where Guardian UK author Gareth McLean reflects on the nature of science fiction today -- touching on speculative fiction's distinctions in the process.

An interesting point of clarity he makes between sci-fi and fantasy: "Before we go any further, as the weary time-traveller might say, sci-fi probably requires definition. It is, basically, fiction that makes imaginative use of scientific knowledge or conjecture. It extrapolates about possible futures, based on the present. It's speculative fiction. Fantasy, as its name suggests, pertains more to the fantastic, the supernatural, the unexplained." I agree with this distinction.

Another salient point is made on the political ramifications of such fiction. Quote: "What's more, it's sci-fi about the 21st century. Fans of the genre have long known that quality sci-fi and its sister genre fantasy hold up a mirror to the times in which they were created, but never before have the TV shows involved seemed so resonant or indeed so influential. Science fiction has never been more now, fantasy never more real." Here, here!

Check out the rest of McLean's article...especially if you're a TV watcher which is where he's focusing his energy here. It still aptly addresses speculative fiction in general...except the ardent readers among us may not appreciate the screen-based references.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Intriguing spec fiction review for Chabon's latest

The review in London's Telegraph by Michael Moorcock of Michael Chabon's latest book The Yiddish Policemen's Union makes it sound like a book worth reading.

A couple of interesting aspects that caught my attention are the stylistic homage to Dashiell Hamett in first person narrative and the time frame. This literary work starts back in time with an alternative set of circumstances: World War II ends with an atomic bomb dropped on Berlin. Although I consider modern-day Berlin to be a progressive and marvelous city and cringe at this thought, it is indeed a fascinating way to set things up and usher us to the present day storyline.

Mystery and intrigue are woven into this novel with the high degree of complexity required to challenge the most seasoned reader. This impression from the review has put it squarely on my list of must-reads. If you've already read this book, please feel free to add your comments.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Speculative fiction guidance from down under

Seamus Byrne in the Sydney Morning Herald has some insights into various technologies that spark ideas for speculative fiction. Highlights include your life support partner, automatic power shades, exoskeletons and utility fogs.

This is a broadly ranging article that touches briefly on many future possibilities. So, if you're looking for a source to spark a number of ideas for your world of tomorrow, this is a quick must-read. And Mr. Byrne has a sense of humor.

I think that the closing concept, that of the utility fog, is the most clever. Described by Byrne as "a cloud of networked nanobots running errands in the air around us, whether related to health or business," is very intriguing. I've read plenty of nanobot scenarios before -- like those prognosticated microscopic medical helpers repairing one's body -- but never thought about them performing servile functions as a team. What might this cloud actually look like? I'll leave that to you to describe.

Feel free to post a response with your imagined visual interpretation...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On your future ID and Orwell

Here's a nice tongue-in-cheek post that reminds us how close we actually come to scary future visions coming true. Allen L. Roland has a classic line pulled from Orwell at the top of his article. It is very fitting when you read his somber warning.

The idea that the government would want to track us all electronically is freaky stuff to be sure...and it flies in the face of our Declaration of Independence. It is a horrible idea wrought out of minds that plead security without realizing they are returning to fascist ideals Hitler and Mussolini held so dear. (Although, now that I think about the TV show "24," can't the government already track us with computers and satellites if they want to anyway?)

Regardless, it vindicates one of the greats again. All time speculative fiction hero George Orwell told his story so well that it reminds us even today to keep bad ideas in check. Writing ominous fiction keeps people thinking openly about the system. It's good to keep us on track and helps make our leaders think twice before signing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Creating your own water world

When one reads articles like this one it conjures up thoughts of just how far the melting could go. There are plenty of historical maps that have been created to show Gaia -- the orginally clumped-together continents. Similarly, other maps show how previous ice ages have flooded current continental areas.

On this note, when a person reads about what's going on in Greenland, it feeds the imagination. What setting might we face 100 to 200 years in the future? If the melting accelerates, it may be sooner for coastal towns to go under water.

Living in Seattle a few blocks from the water's edge, this concept really gets me wondering. So, I'll take these excerpts from the article serously:

  • If the Greenland ice cap melted entirely, oceans would rise by 23 feet
  • Over the last 30 years, its melt zone has expanded by 30 percent.
  • In the past 15 years, winter temperatures have risen about 9 degrees Fahrenheit on the cap, while spring and autumn temperatures increased about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first quoted statistic gives me ideas as to what Seattle might look like after the sea rises 20 feet or more. The Alaska Way piers would all be gone and the Chittenden Locks would all be flooded over. Hmmm, how would this work? My imagination is creating a future water world here in the Seattle metropolis.

So, keep reading the scientific details if you want to write speculative fiction. There's plenty of change going on to feed your creative process. More news is coming every day...unfortunately for the solid ground.