Every Single One Of My Titles

Six Word Story, Climate Change Edition

Victor2013FallVB2

The beaches of his youth drowned.

A Baconless Dystopia –OR– I Find Your Lack of Bacon Disturbing

Bacon

Looking back on my decades of science fiction reading, I realized a terrible thing: there’s not very much bacon in the future we, as science fiction writers, collectively imagine.

A few authors have baconed the future, but not many. It’s as if there’s an assumption that lousy for you fat-laden foods like bacon will simply vanish as we gain in wisdom and/or technological prowess.

Personally, I have a feeling that before too long we will have resident medical nanobot swarms dedicated to squeegie-ing the cholesterol off the insides of our arteries and flushing out the excess fat we humans put on in the course of devouring future (potentially vat-grown and cruelty-free) bacon.

There IS a place for bacon among the stars. Stop pretending there’s not, fellow science fiction writers!

Science Fiction & Fantasy Classics As Clickbait Headlines

MoonLeVoyageDansLaLune

First, the clickbait titles themselves. On page 2 (the link to page 2 is allllllll the way at the bottom of this page, under the related post thumbnails), I will post the title plus the book the title refers to.

That way, you can enjoy guessing which books the clickbait titles are ‘advertising’ before going to the next page to see if you guessed right.

The clickbait:

You Won’t Believe Why One Old Hobbit Walked Halfway Across The World

One Weird Trick To Becoming The Religious Icon of An Entire People (Hint: Kwisatz Haderach!)

You’ll Be Shocked When You Realize You Love This Genocide-Committing Murderer

The Most Embarrassing Reactions When Winter Is Coming

This Weird Old Trick Will Help You Defy The Book Burning Hordes

This Story Will Put You Off Pork Chops Forever

You’ll Be Shocked When You Find Out How Dangerous Lifehacks Really Are

This Zoned-Out Martian Hippie Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

You Might Think Nothing Is Worse Than Ebola — But You’re Wrong

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read And Not Understand

How Bad Will Your Kids Screw Things Up? The Answer Is Worse Than You Think

One Grandpa Goes Green — You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next!

You’ll Never See America The Same Way Again After You Learn What One Convicted Felon Learned

Click over to page two below, and see the headlines matched up with their classic SFF titles!

Garbage Music: a Story About Listening, Understanding, and Things Beyond Words. Also, Australia.

GarbageMusicCover1

A short story, about 5000 words.

Young Jacinta Jaara likes to sit by the old landfill mine and listen to the music ancient Neyerneyemeet plays. The music speaks of her of the old days, when the people of Australia were divided, before the war that changed everything. Soon, Jacinta’s curiosity will lead her to an even more profound change, a change of growth, learning, and understanding.

And there’s the blurb. You can preview the first thirty percent and decide if you’d like to shell out a paltry 99 cents for the whole thing on Smashwords — and I hope you’ll look. If you don’t look, how can I persuade you that you want to see the rest of the story?  :-)

Telling an Unlikely Story

Zebra

One criticism of stories we see is something in the vein of, “this is too unlikely.” The reader finds the story ridiculous, outlandish, contrived, unrealistic, impossible, or other things the thesaurus might suggest that mean that the reader doesn’t think such events could occur.

It’s very easy for a writer to find themselves in the position of writing about things that seem less likely than hitting the Powerball grand prize every week for a month. Setting traditional genre divisions aside, writing about unusual events is a major genre and we’ve all read those stories. A hobbit just happens to stumble upon an ancient ring of power in a dark cave, that sort of thing. It’s a valid storytelling choice; you’re not wrong as a writer if you write about an event that really would be about as likely as being run down by a rampaging zebra in the middle of Siberia.

The trick is, of course, suspension of disbelief. If you’re going to write about stuff like that, you need to do it in a way that invites the reader to look away from the unlikely place because they enjoy the story more than they’d enjoy pointing and saying, “look at how silly this really is!” Consider that Bilbo finding the ring in that dark cave was as unlikely as that zebra showing up in Siberia right when and where you are. Consider that people have pointed out how unlikely that was. And consider how few people really give a damn even as they acknowledge that yes, it really was a ridiculously huge coincidence if you think about it. Saying ‘the ring is a powerful magical artifact and wanted to be found’ is an awfully thin veil for it, especially if you consider that it was already as mobile as it wanted to be with Gollum, if it had such wanting-to-be-found influence.

But we, as readers, don’t really care. Because it’s a damn good story. Tell a damn good story and you can get away with making it an unlikely one… as long as you don’t overdo it. Even Tolkien couldn’t have gotten away with putting a coincidence like the one we’re talking about in every chapter.

Swallowing Lies – a Flash Friday story

Tao23:

A fine fantasy flash — it wouldn’t have surprised me to see it in the virtual pages of Daily Science Fiction or the like.

Originally posted on Andrew Knighton writes:

‘Lying is an art,’ Falling Leaf said, pouring from the small earthenware teapot. ‘I do not go to such lengths for those I despise.’

Aoandon’s clawed blue fingers reached across the low table and closed around her teacup. Her lips parted, revealing a flash of teeth as sharp as her horns. Falling Leaf shuddered and fought down the instinct to flee. After all the pains and preparations to reach this point, she could not give up now.

‘Lying is as much my realm as any other story,’ Aoandon said. ‘It would help you little today.’

Falling Leaf straightened the folds of her second best kimono.

‘Is something wrong with the tea?’ she asked, noticing that the oni had not yet taken a drink.

‘Lying is one thing,’ Aoandon said. ‘Poisoning another. A matriarch will do much to rid her village of a menace.’

Falling Leaf inclined her head.

‘You are…

View original 747 more words

Coming Soon: Garbage Music

GarbageMusicCover1

I wrote this one a while back, and posted a few choice paragraphs from it.  It’s a story from a future Australia scarred by a disaster, changed, different, perhaps stronger in some ways. But more than that, it is a tale of music, of communication, of growing up, and of finding wisdom by finding what — and who — speaks to you.

It’s almost time to publish it. With a little luck, I should have it to you by the weekend. As usual, I think you’ll like it. Click the link in the paragraph above and see if you agree.

The Times, They Are a-Changin’. Also, My Feet Are Wet. Must Have Stepped In Some Climate Change.

2006Flood10thViewOceanView

The view from where I used to live in the fall of ’06

Above, is an image of climate change and rising sea levels. Granted, this was during a storm, and also I lived on what is essentially a large paved-over sandbar. But still, Norfolk, Virginia is one of the US cities most affected by the rise in sea levels that comes with climate change. So, not only do I see it on the news and think about it, I see it in a pretty obvious way. And it makes its way into my fiction. I have a story I’m shopping around to SFF magazines set in the near future, where the sea has swallowed up the North Carolina barrier islands and coast, and displaced residents scrape a living out of salvaging scraps from submerged towns. A half-finished story is set in an equatorial Africa where daytime temperatures over 50C/120F are an almost daily occurrence, and cities have moved underground (also, there are aliens checking out the local humans.) Speed Glacier revolves around the adventures of a group of radical eco-warriors and their improbable craft/weapon in the war against the forces of pollution. Yet another story, My Name is Gerald, is not actually about climate change, but the background descriptions are of a Midwestern USA where the crops have moved north and hot, dry, dust bowl conditions reign.

Climate change has altered the world slightly over just my lifetime to date, and humans, let’s face it, don’t live very long in the perspective of events like global climate shifts. It’s changing fast. And that makes it a hell of an element for speculative stories. Don’t get me wrong, other authors are not particularly missing the boat on this. I have seen climate change as a plot or background element in a number of SF short stories (my primary reading material — I don’t take in novels half as often as I used to).

But I’ve been mulling writing some more stories focused on what the future world might look like in different circumstances. The screw-it-burn-all-the-coal future. The holy-crap-lets-ban-fossil-fuels future. The amazing-new-carbon-sequestering-technology future. The we-tried-to-fix-it-and-screwed-up-here-come-the-glaciers future. The possibilities are endless, which is a quality that endears SFF to me.

I’ve even considered, despite never having done such a thing, the possibility of soliciting the stories of others and building a climate change themed anthology. I’m a bit scared of the prospect; I hear it’s a hell of a lot of work for a group of people, and I can’t help but observe that I am only one person, and one without experience in that area to boot. But it’s something to consider.

Also to consider: will my eventual grandkids or great-great grandkids end up emigrating to Canada to escape the tropical heat of middle US America? Hmm.

I’m Having a Hard Time Getting Excited About [Insert Name of Upcoming Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie Here]…

BlankIntentionally

…because Hollywood is all about the special-effects-porno when it comes to science fiction and fantasy right now. Seriously, it’s all about the cool effects, the explosions, the slow-mo pan, the lens flare (I’m looking at you, Abrams), the really detailed thing moving super fast to confuse the eye and create an impression of WOW WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT I CAN’T WAIT TO BUY THE DVD SO I CAN PAUSE IT AND GAZE AT ALL THAT DETAIL WITH MY EYE THREE INCHES FROM THE SCREEN.

It’s about “creating excitement,” the first and only commandment in the marketing Bible. Dazzle ‘em and make them talk about how blown their minds were today, because, let’s face it, ticket sales happen in the short term, and a butt not in the seat is less likely to buy merch and DVDs later.

Well, it’s hard to blame someone for trying to make some money. But we just don’t get the Logan’s Runs and Soylent Greens anymore. It’s too unpredictable to try to make a hit with…. you know, story.

The smart bet is to reach right through the visual cortex, grab it, and shake until money and screams of delight fall out.

And so I’m having a hard time getting excited about science fiction and fantasy films lately. Because I’m a story guy, and the special effects porn might make a lot of other people come to the theater, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

The Futility of Trying to Write Something New

Ballpoint

My writing is going to be BIG!

I have heard, and seen in various forums for writers online, the same basic question posed dozens of times. “How do I write something that hasn’t been written before?” “How can I be sure nobody’s done this story before?” “How do I get a NEW idea?”

I have good news and bad news for the askers of those questions.

You’re not going to write something that hasn’t been written before. Somebody has done this story before. Your idea is not new. That’s the news, good and bad wrapped up together in it like yin and yang.

You might find something specific to add, a new element. With the advent of the personal computer, we began to see all the old stories made new again with the addition of computers, hackers, the internet, email. But that didn’t make them new stories. It made them old stories with a newly invented element. That’s part of the attraction of writing and reading science fiction and fantasy, by the way. We get to make up our own new elements and toss them in, and ask, “how does this change the old story?”

The bottom line in fiction writing, science fiction, fantasy, or whatever else, is that you are not telling a new story. Humans have been telling stories for untold thousands of years, and have been writing them down for about the most recent five thousand. You will not invent a new basic story.

What you bring to the table as a writer is your voice. Your way of telling the story, the details you make important to the story, the point of view you bring to the telling. As a writer, it is important to know your craft; know the grammar, always expand your vocabulary and general knowledge, know the structures of those old basic storylines you will retell. But your stock in trade will be yourself, what your voice as you tell the story adds.  As a writer, the most important part of your story is you.

Think of it like knitting. It’s all the same old yarn, they’re all the same old garments and blankets and potholders. The important bit is, what colors and patterns will you create, and how pleasing will they be?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,058 other followers