Tag: scifi (Page 1 of 2)

Why you should research a bit before you write

(photo is Aaron Siskind's)

(photo is Aaron Siskind’s)

So during my writing retreat yesterday, I wrote a chapter involving a character in an escape pod that’s tumbling through space. A not bad chapter for a first draft, I think.

But I used my uneducated assumptions about what the occupant would or wouldn’t feel, perceive, of a tumbling craft in space, to create some tension and drama, and drive the plot forward. What I thought I knew, I made important to the action and actions further in the book. I did this without researching first the reality of the situation — and I was wrong.

Why did I do this? Usually I research things before I write about them, at least a little bit. Well, I did promise myself yesterday that I would just get words on the page and not worry about anything else, I would keep myself offline and away from distractions. Which, in that sense, worked. I got a lot of writing done.

But now, having researched today (I’ll share the Reddit post I made on my Patreon feed, and the chapter draft itself to patrons at that level), I realize I absolutely can’t have it work that way and will need to rewrite the chapter and plan different later events.

Part of me wonders, can’t I just fudge it? I mean, I’m not writing hard SF, it’s an adventure story. I’m already doing impossible things regarding faster-than-light travel (of course, that’s a necessity in any SF story that’s going to take place beyond our solar system), how dark mater works (probably), space-time, relativity. . . . But, the thing is, a lot of that is mostly theoretical fields and the fudging has been necessary to even have a space adventure story at all! Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good at keeping with the integrity of classical physics: the danger of high-velocity objects in space, what exposure to space really does (or doesn’t do actually) on a person, etc. Whether or not a person inside a tumbling pod in space tumbles with and how, on the inside of it, falls right smack in the middle of basic classical physics. Like, junior high centrifugal and centripetal force, basic.

Well, I guess I have no choice. I have to be logically consistent, and definitely don’t want to be scoffed at by readers who paid attention in school, or have essentially ever ridden in a car. I better get creative. . . . (Gasp! The tragedy!)

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Neal Stephenson, Seveneves, and envy

Neal StephensonI didn’t get to ask the question I wanted to. A question I’ve wanted to ask him for years. Alas.

Continuing the amazing roll of meeting favorite authors since moving to Portland, tonight I saw Neal Stephenson at Powell’s for the release, on this day, of his new novel, Seveneves. He read a portion (very witty), and he spoke a bit about the inspiration of the novel,being 10 years in the making. He explained that part of what took so long is that in order to make a convincing “ark” story, you needed to have an apocalyptic event that’s urgent and soon enough that there’s no time to solve the cause of the doom, but not so impending that there’s no time to build a humanity-rescuing ark ship. And, a doom that’s absolutely certain and not deniable by some, “like… climate change.” *grin*

He took questions, and fortunately, no one in this store full of geeks and nerds, did anyone feel that now that they had a microphone, they needed to soliloquize for 10 minutes before, maybe, getting to a question. Everyone was succinct and interesting.

Yet, time ran out before I could ask mine.

So, here it is, and if anyone knows Neal Stephenson, maybe you can pass it along: “This is going back a bit, so my apologies if it’s a tired question, but, Cryptonomicon appears to be set in our, ordinary world. And yet, there’s clues* that it’s not quite the world we live in. How would you describe the world in which the story of Cryptonomicon is set?”

Like I do for Cory Doctorow as well, I harbor a great deal of envy for Neal Stephenson’s speaking ability. While Cory speaks fast and clipped, and Neal speaks in a measured and easy pace, both are so incredibly eloquent, well-spoken, clever, funny, and without an instant of affectation (“uhm,” “uh”) or stutter or hesitation. I so wish I had such presence and extemporaneous speaking skill. *sad pout*

As for my fandom of Neal, it started when I read Cryptonomicon back around when it first came out, around 2002. I knew of his most famous (post?)cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, but had never gotten around to reading it until after I got past the mindnumbing haze of finishing the other brilliant and odd and educational and fascinating novel. Snow Crash is a bit weird, irreverent, quirky, and creates a near-future world that’s essentially a libertarian paradise — with all the problems that presents. Quicksilver soon followed, although I never picked up the sequels. I started reading the challenging and maybe too-clever? Anathem, but it’s a tough read, even for someone like me who loves when people play with language and linguistic development. It’s actually sitting on my desk right now; I do intend to finish it.

11262451_485174241632825_8738845372095469386_nNow, I’m going to dive right into Seveneves while the flame is burning bright!

*clues: Everyone at all times in the novel refers to Japan as Nippon, regardless of ethnicity or language, not just the native Japanese speakers. He created a British country off of England that spoke a consonant-heavy language that could have been Wales, or Isle of Man, but his own creation instead. Why, in an otherwise perfectly normal our world, would he do these things, unless he wanted a world that was only a couple degrees off? To what purpose?

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Podcast 008: Singularity Deferred, chapter 6

Please see podcast episode 3 (http://www.tragic-sans.com/2012/03/27/podcast-003-singularity-deferred-chapter-1/) for background on this podcast and the reading of this novel.

At the time of this podcast release, a Kickstarter should be running to help fund the publishing and distribution of the novel. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696794878/singularity-deferred-a-novel)

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

(Theme music:

“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)
Podcast feed: http://www.tragic-sans.com/feed/podcast

 

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Podcast 007: Singularity Deferred, chapter 5

Please see podcast episode 3 (http://www.tragic-sans.com/2012/03/27/podcast-003-singularity-deferred-chapter-1/) for background on this podcast and the reading of this novel.

At the time of this podcast release, a Kickstarter should be running to help fund the publishing and distribution of the novel. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696794878/singularity-deferred-a-novel)

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

(Theme music:

“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)
Podcast feed: http://www.tragic-sans.com/feed/podcast

 

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Podcast 006: Singularity Deferred, chapter 4

Please see podcast episode 3 (http://www.tragic-sans.com/2012/03/27/podcast-003-singularity-deferred-chapter-1/) for background on this podcast and the reading of this novel.

At the time of this podcast release, a Kickstarter should be running to help fund the publishing and distribution of the novel. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696794878/singularity-deferred-a-novel)

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

(Theme music:

“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)

 

Podcast feed: http://www.tragic-sans.com/feed/podcast

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Podcast 005: Singularity Deferred, chapter 3

Please see podcast episode 3 (http://www.tragic-sans.com/2012/03/27/podcast-003-singularity-deferred-chapter-1/) for background on this podcast and the reading of this novel.

At the time of this podcast release, a Kickstarter should be running to help fund the publishing and distribution of the novel. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696794878/singularity-deferred-a-novel)

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

(Theme music:

“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)

 

Podcast feed: http://www.tragic-sans.com/feed/podcast

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Podcast 004: Singularity Deferred, chapter 2

Please see podcast episode 3 (http://www.tragic-sans.com/2012/03/27/podcast-003-singularity-deferred-chapter-1/) for background on this podcast and the reading of this novel.

At the time of this podcast release, a Kickstarter should be running to help fund the publishing and distribution of the novel. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696794878/singularity-deferred-a-novel)

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

(Theme music:
“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)
Podcast feed: http://www.tragic-sans.com/feed/podcast

 

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Podcast 003: Singularity Deferred, chapter 1

In this episode, we begin reading my debut novel, SINGULARITY DEFERRED.

We’ll read only about the first 10 out of 30 chapters, one per episode, before moving on to other more diverse topics and guests. This will serve as a sample of the novel before you might buy it, or if it’s still going on, contribute to the Kickstarter to help fund its publication and distribution.

The complete audiobook will be published for free on Podiobooks, probably coinciding with the end of the Kickstarter and the beginning of the hardcopy publishing.

For more information on this novel, now and in the future, including a text/ebook sample, see the page: http://www.tragic-sans.com/singularity

Thanks for checking it out — hope you enjoy!

 

(Theme music:

“Cybernetic -Feat Zefora” (Stizreth) / CC BY 3.0

Intro music: “Oxygen Garden” by Chris Zabriskie
CC: Share, Non-Commercial, Attribute
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://www.archive.org/details/Divider-10058)

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It is finished!

More later when I’m more awake, but I just wanted to announce that I just finished the 1st draft of my first novel, tentatively titled Singularity Deferred. It’s 105,600 words long (about 25,000 longer than I anticipated), and 388 MLA-formatted pages.

I’m happy, pleased, proud… and exhausted! I’ll figure out what kind of ritual celebratory act I want to perform tomorrow; right now, I want to celebrate by sleeping. 🙂

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Review: Altered Carbon

(Post originally published on my other blog, GrogMonkey, back on Jan. 27, 2011. Still trying to figure out how to divide the work between the two blogs. I only have a couple more to cross-post in a batch after this one.)

Well, I’m on a roll now, I just finished Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon this week, making it two books in a month! *sigh* Yeah, I’m not impressed either. Back in the good ol’ days of jr. and high school and undergrad, it was nothing for me to read three novels every two weeks. I guess I shouldn’t feel completely lame; the last few years of grad school I was reading non-fiction maybe four a month, or two and three plus handfuls of articles. No, I still feel lame.

Anyway, enough pity, the first month of my New Year’s Resolution to read more fiction, on a daily basis, is going well! After all, Altered Carbon is a rather longish novel. And a good one to boot! Though… somewhat flawed. Well, let’s get to it!

(As usual, I’ll try to keep it non-spoilery to begin with, and then if I have to talk about spoilery things, I’ll keep that for the end and with decent warning.)

I don’t like to recap novels, you can go read what it’s about somewhere else. But the short of it is it’s a noir mystery novel set a few hundred years in the future, and told by the protagonist “detective,” Takeshi Kovacs. He’s a reconditioned ex-special forces-esque soldier with a shadowy past, skeletons in closets, grudges tightly held, and a pencahant for losing his temper and killing people. But that’s OK, sorta, because in the future, death is rarely permanent. Most everyone has a “stack,” a computer chip in the brain that holds their identity, memory, personailty, and should you die (and not be a Catholic), you can be re-sleeved in a new body. (So long as your stack remains undamaged. However, Kovacs ocassionally finds the need to damage stacks.) He’s been given an offer he can’t refuse, literally, to solve the suicide of a wealthy “Meth,” or a Methuselah — a person who’s been around for a couple hundred years or so. Hired, of course, by the victim who doesn’t believe his own death was a suicide.

And so begins Kovacs’ tale of pavement-beating detective work while being gunned for by crazy assassins, tortured by people he gets in the way of, and involved in love affairs (or just pheromone-enhanced sexcapades) with girlfriends of the man whose body he’s wearing and wives (singular, actually) of clients (also, singular). Yeah, it gets pretty crazy, plot-wise. But one of the great things about Altered Carbon is how it keeps the twists and turns well-organized, easy to follow (with some furrowed eyebrows), and more or less within the realm of internal consistency. Very impressive for a first novel, by the way!

(Pause for scene cut…) Yikes! Since I started this review, I’ve read and finished another novel and started another! If I’m going to have any hope of getting reviews out the door, I need to keep them quick and superficial.

So, general thoughts: Basically, Altered Carbon is like a marriage of a Charles Stross novel with early 80s William Gibson. Morgan creates a future world where, because of the ability to re-sleeve your mind, life has become cheap and the commodification of the human has reached an apex. Or at least a crisis moment. The plot is superficially a noir in which the hero is a reluctant near-anti-hero who, thanks to becoming a target of the “bad guys,” takes the case personally, and jumps from femme fatale to femme fatale to get closer to his goals.

The writing was extremely compelling, expertly balancing descriptive and utilitarian. Morgan writes so you can easily picture the people and places, almost smell and touch it. The pacing was excellent with even the “slow parts” situated and developed within the narrative so as to remain compelling. While it’s a relatively thick novel, I read through it and a good clip, and never found myself lost or confused as to what was going on.

The posthuman elements and the depiction of future technology was quite convincing and believable, although we only see a very narrow slice of this future world, depicting both the lifestyles of the ultra-rich and the seedy underbelly of the dispossessed and terminally exploited. Nothing of the in-between classes.

And, for that matter, neither did the early cyberpunk of Gibson. His goal was to show the machinations and motivations of the corporate capitalists which controlled humanity, and the lower-class of people who were the only ones with the relative freedom to fight the system. Altered Carbon inhabits the same essential world.

In closing, I had dog-eared a few pages where something that resonated with my Marxist-materialist Critical Theory outlook jumped out at me. Granted, the entire novel is a critique of postmodern capitalism (again, just as cyberpunk in general is), but here are a few passages that really stood out. Instead of commenting on them, I present them as-is:

But this was worse than personal. This was about Louise, alias Anenome, cut up on a surgical platter; about Elizabeth Elliott stabbed to death and too poor to be re-sleeved; Irene Elliott, weeping for a body that a corporate rep wore on alternate months; Victor Elliott, whiplashed between loss and retrieval of someone who was and yet was not the same woman. This was about a young black man facing his family in a broken-down, middle-aged white body; it was about Virginia Vidaura walking disdainfully into storage with her head held high and a last cigarette polluting lungs she was about to lose, no doubt to some other corporate vampire. It was about Jimmy de Soto, clawing his own eye out in the mud and fire at Innenin, and the millions like him throughout the Protectorate, painfully gathered assemblages of individual human potential, pissed away into the dung-heap of history. For all these, and more, someone was going to pay. (437)

.

“The value of it. The value of a human life.” Kawahara shook her head like a teacher with an exasperating student. “You are still young and stupid. Human life has no value. Haven’t you learned that yet, Takeshi, with all you’ve seen? It has no value, intrinsic to itself. Machines cost money to build. Raw materials cost money to extract. But people?” She made a tiny spitting sound. “You can always get some more people. They reproduce like cancer cells, whether you want them or not. They are abundant, Takeshi. Why should they be valuable? Do you know that it costs us less to recruit and use up a real snuff whore than it does to set up and run the virtual equivalent format. Real human flesh is cheaper than a machine. It’s the axiomatic truth of our times.” (491-92)

.

“Kristin, nothing ever does change.” I jerked a thumb back at the crowd outside. “You’ll always have morons like that, swallowing belief patterns whole so they don’t have to think for themselves. You’ll always have people like Kawahara and the Bancrofts to push their buttons and cash in on the program. People like you to make sure the game runs smoothly and the rules don’t get broken too often. And when the Meths want to break the rules themselves, they’ll send people like Trepp and me to do it. That’s the truth, Kristin. It’s been the truth since I was born a hundred and fifty years ago and from what I read in the history books, it’s never been any different. Better get used to it.” (524)


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