Tag Archives: fantasy

Speculation

I’ve been charged by my buddies at Flying Island Press to participate in defining sci-fi and fantasy. That’s a mighty big elephant to eat. My response on Twitter was “As far as what SF/F is or is not, in my case I sort of know it when I see it. Which is why I like the umbrella term speculative fiction.”

That was kind of a cop out, but defining things in 140 characters or less is a bit more than I’m up to before lunch. Now in a blog post I think I can take a stab.

Science fiction is incredibly broad as a genre. You’ve got everything from Jurassic Park to Ender’s Game. It can be gritty and “hard” where science is king and every jot and tittle needs to be explained and “realistic”. Or it can be soft and take place in such a far flung future that the science almost takes a back seat. Almost. I think that science needs to be an integral part though. There needs to be some aspect of technology or a rational explanation of the universe and its hard core mechanics that forms a significant part of the story.

For me character always comes first and the science might be a part of that character. A good example of that would be PC Haring’s Cybrosis. The main character is a cyborg and her tech is fully integrated into the plot of the novel as well. That’s not to say that the science necessarily needs to be completely accurate. When you’re supposing what the world might by like in a hundred or a thousand years the details are by necessity fuzzy. Most writers are no more scientists than they are wizards and research can only take you so far. Still it should be sound. Master that technobabble!

As big as science fiction is as a genre, I’d argue that fantasy is even larger. In SF, the distinctive element is, well, science. In Fantasy I’d say it’s the numinous. Most, if not all, fantasy has something of the spiritual about it. That’s not to say that it has to be religious (though I’d argue that most Christian fiction falls into the Fantasy realm), but it often speaks to things that can’t be observed or measured. The more important elements in the story, be they plot, mechanics, or character, should focus on the mystical or the transcendent.

A good example of that would be South Coast by Nathan Lowell. And that’s an interesting one too, since it takes place in a far flung future with space ships and the like. It has that in common with Star Wars. Both are Fantasy pieces since, imo, both have a stronger connection to the mystic than the motor.

The wonderful thing about these genres is that they lend themselves well to being crossed over/blended/mashed/folded/spindled. After all, the Dune series has elements of both. The Dragon Riders of Pern does as well. Science Fiction and Fantasy can easily be just like a Reese’s Cup, though that’s not everyone’s favorite candy bar.

So that’s my stab at a definition. Look for a post later today over at Flying Island Press to get more on the ins and outs of defining these genres.

May You Live in Interesting Times

Ordinarily this is called the “Chinese Curse” and is looked on as a bad thing. As artists we do indeed live in interesting times and I suppose it can be good or bad. Let me ‘splain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

On the writing side of the house royalties are going down as are advances. Slush piles are going up, up, up. It can be difficult to cut through all the noise and make yourself heard. I can only assume based on what I’m hearing that the same is true in the other disciplines. So it may be tempting to say that it’s more difficult to “make it”, all of course depending on what you mean by that.

However, interesting times such as these often separate the adults from the children (to update the adage). I can point to a few people in my sphere that are coming down squarely on the former side of the knife.

Ed Talbot – He had joined the growing number of folks using Smashwords to publish some of his content. To that end he had a “Mayday” promotion (that I missed participating in) to launch two collections of short stories. While using Smashwords isn’t particularly new, he’s the first author I’m aware of to promote publishing there in the way he did. I’ve read a few of those stories and can highly recommend dropping at least $.99 on one or the other if not both.

Jennifer Hudock – Jenny is another author I’m aware of using Smashwords to get her stuff out there. She’s building a short story collection there called Dark Journeys. She’s also putting together an anthology called The Dark Side, releasing a podcast novel called Goblin Market and she and future hubby James Melzer (no stranger to self publishing and soon to be published by Simon and Schuster) have put together The Creative Alliance.

Zach Ricks – The Mad Poet himself has self published his Mad Poet Files short stories through the Amazon Kindle store. This collection is certainly one for you to buy. It’s got great science fiction and fantasy stories and while I haven’t read them all, I can say that “Blood Red Sand” is my favorite Martian short since Bradbury’s Chronicles and that plus a fantasy story where the main characters are inspired by the A-Team earns my seal of approval. He and a few other forward thinkers are also jawing about a new way of delivering content that, if it all works out, will blow your doors off.

Seth Harwood – While I haven’t waxed poetic about him here, Seth’s crime novel Young Junius is coming to print very soon. Taking an idea from the FDO himself, Seth is releasing the novel in a beautiful, limited edition print, which he and his publisher will then use to kick off a standard full scale print run in the Fall.

Phil Rossi – On the music side of the house, author and musician Phil Rossi is in the midst of pre-selling an EP called Radio Silence. I’ve pre-ordered it and I think you should too.

Brand Gamblin – A vidcaster, podcaster, and author, Brand has done just about everything with his young adult, science fiction novel Tumbler that I can think of. He’s used CreateSpace to put it in print. He podcast it. He’s got it in a variety of e-book formats. You can get it now on Amazon, but if you love him you’ll get it here. Or if you’re gonna be at Balticon in two weeks (W00T!!!!!!!) you can buy a signed copy there.

And just in case you missed it, there are two authors whose work I respect and admire that have used social media/podcasting to get their books published and they will be available in the near future.

Honorary Admiral (in my mind and that of many others) Nathan Lowell is getting published by Ridan Publishing. Apparently they, unlike many publishers, work very well and very closely with their authors to find the most mutually beneficial path and according to Nathan cooperating with them has been beautiful.

P.G. Holyfield, whom I consider to be a good friend, will be launching Murder at Avedon Hill THIS WEEKEND!!! It’s being published by podcaster friendly Dragon Moon Press and all I can say is it’s about time!!

So these are just a FEW people who have used, are using, and I hope will continue to use the interesting times afoot to really break the boundaries of traditional publishing and are redefining what it means to “make it”. Sure, self publishing is nothing new, but all things considered I believe that it is gaining a certain amount of ground and losing the stigma long attached to it by many. I hope this is a launch pad to great things for them all and I hope that I’ve dropped some new names on your plate and that you will check them all out.

Evan the Gentleman Otter

Just using this as an exercise to get my brain in full on writing mode. This will certainly happen from time to time.

Evan preened his whiskers and checked to make sure that his emerald waistcoat was straight and that his rapier hung such that it would neither bump his leg nor risk prodding anyone else on the street. A gentleman, regardless of his shape, should always ensure that he appeared as clean and well put together as the situation allowed.

The fact that the gentleman in question was a four foot tall otter who happened to stand on his hind legs and wear a monocle due to an unfortunate weakness in his left eye was not unusual in the least in his neck of the woods. Perhaps the only oddity was that he was a gentleman at all, since most otters tended to be a bit more rough around the edges.

Satisfied that all was in place, he left the room he had been renting at this particular inn for the last two weeks. Moving like quicksilver through the common room downstairs, he avoided any contact with the inn keeper. Evan was a bit… behind in his payments. The work he had lined up today should take care of that and he didn’t like starting the day with harsh words. While a gentleman should also stay current on all of his expenses, once again one could only do what one could do with what one had.

In the light of day the waistcoat was revealed to be threadbare and the gold band around the monocle looked more like brass. He was an otter of manners that had seen better days. The only thing on his person that wasn’t somewhat shabby was the sword. It was a well balanced and maintained weapon as beautiful as it was sharp.

He walked into the sunshine and out on to the crowded city street with head held high and sloped shoulders held back, thrusting out what chest he had. The throng of creatures didn’t part for him, but that didn’t hurt his pride in the slightest. He made his way through and around groups as though he were in the waters where he spent most of his youth.

Soon a merry tune left his lips as he whistled melodiously and before long he stood before the house of his new employer. It was almost palatial when compared to the houses around it, as befitting a retired noble.