“Our gods are dead. We have killed them, and now we don’t know what to do with the bodies.”
I just finished reading The Protector’s War by S.M. Stirling. It’s the sequel to Dies the Fire, where the entire world’s technology is rendered useless, along with all explosives. As a result the world is tumbled into chaos as governments fall, leaving a handful to rise out of the ashes of civilization to build new tribes to fight for survival.
It’s a very interesting concept, that some sort of extraterrestrial technology – for reasons of their own – would take away the technology of our world, leaving humans to fall back to the days of bows and swords where living every day is a struggle for survival. I stumbled upon _Dies the Fire_ a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised it discover its sequel not too long after that. And then today, just a handful of pages from the end of _The Protector’s War_, I discover again that there yet another sequel, A Meeting at Corvallis. For some reason, I was under the impression that this was a two-book series, but I’m both pleasantly surprised and annoyed to find that this is not so. I’m pleased to be able to follow some of my favorite characters yet a little further but annoyed by the fact that I thought resolution was at hand.
And purusing Amazon.com a bit further, I see that there is yet another upcoming novel called _The Sunrise Lands_, set in the same universe but starting a new series, where survivors of the Change (the thing that caused the loss of technology) send out a mission to try to determine the cause and find Those responsible for it. This is a fascinating series, and while some folks may find it a bit dry and slow at times, I think anyone who likes both fantasy and alternative history will enjoy this series a great deal.
“The trees are beginning to awaken from their winter-long slumber. The sap is flowing again, and the air is fresh and new. At long last the eternal winter has broken. We can have hope again and cast off this weight which has so long settled onto us. Man can once again live as he was meant to. The earth lives again and hope springs true once more.”
_~the ravings of Quibble, a madman, with regard to the Dalara Wilderness, in which nothing will grow_ ((It’s amazing the sort of places I find inspiration for writing, even such snippets as this. Walking across campus yesterday I saw a pine tree that someone had recently ripped a branch from, and the sap was pooling in the wound. From that, came this.))
With the “Flashes of Speculation redesign”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/03/08/fos-redesigned/ complete, I’m putting the callout again for “submissions”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs/submissions/. If you write science fiction, fantasy, or horror and are looking for an outlet for your writing, then please consider “Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs. Stories need to be 1000 words or less.
FoS could use a little promotion, as well. If you’re a contributing author or a reader of the site (or simply a speculative fiction fan), I would be most appreciative if you could promote FoS on your blogs, websites, etc. Also, if someone has a little Photoshop mojo and time to spare, I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to banner and button graphics that people can put on their websites to link back to FoS. If anyone’s interesting in doing something like this, you can use my “Contact”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/contact/ page to let me know.
For the work of a 15-year-old writer, Eragon is an amazing story – I enjoyed it as much on the second read as I did on the first, perhaps even moreso. The book tells the story of a young farmboy who stumbled across a dragon egg and becomes an unlikely hero. He is forced to flee his home in order to save the people he cares about and thus begins the quest of a boy-turned-man and his dragon to find their new places in the world.
Eldest picks up the story immediately where _Eragon_ leaves off and is, in my opinion, an even better story than the first volume in this trilogy. Eragon makes his way to the forest of Du Weldenvarden to complete his training with the elves and become a Dragon Rider, one who will hopefully be powerful enough to face and overthrow the evil Galbatorix. In the process, young Eragon faces numerous philosophical and intellectual challenges, in addition to his physical and magickal training. He experiences heartache, betrayal, and loss before leaving us with a cliffhanger ending. The evolution of Paolini’s writing style shines through in this second volume.
These two novels may be classified as Young Adult fiction, but they are well-crafted and strong enough for anyone to enjoy. Paolini tackles some difficult topics and, in so doing, weaves together a world that is fascinatingly complex. Lovers of fantasy fiction will enjoy these two books and eagerly await the arrival of the third. It only remains to be seen, then, whether Paolini will extend this universe beyond this initial trilogy into an epic series to rival the likes of Middle Earth and the land of Shannara.
If you could assign three colors to represent science fiction, what would they be?
If you could assign three colors to represent fantasy, what would they be?
If you could assign three colors to represent horror, what would they be?
And yes, there is a point to this.
I really _would_ like to get “Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs into a much more active status – more submissions coming in, more interaction from readers (both on the site itself and on the “discussion board”:http://open-dialogue.com/bbpress/forum/3 I’ve created for it), more of everything that will launch it more into the public eye. Unfortunately, though, marketing has never been a skill of mine, and I’m just plain out of ideas of things to do to advance its visibility.
So, here’s where I’d like some help and suggestions from my readers. What could I do to advertise FS a bit more broadly and make it more well-known? Where are places I could go and sites that might be interested in doing link exchanges? And are there any graphicly-minded folks out there who might be willing to donate a couple of banners and buttons that FS could put into circulation for folks to post on their sites? Any other ideas that I’m sure I missed?
I’ve just quite a bit of material to write about, all of it stacking up in the queue. Most of it right now has to do with theology and philosophy and the like, some of it has to do with writing, and some to do with gaming. All of it requires a clear head to mull over and think through coherently enough to formulate something worthwhile from the rabble, and so I’ve pushed it off for a few days now. My heart may be into writing, but my mind simply can’t keep up right now.
To give you a little idea of what I have on the table right now, here’s a list of entries I’m hoping to draft in the somewhat near future:
* A response to statements that the Bible may not actually be inerrant
* A response to the charge that C.S. Lewis himself may not have considered the Bible to be inerrant
* Musings on the use (or lack thereof) of classical logic in today’s culture
* The disappearance of antithetical logic
* The social nuances of avid bloggers
* An objection to bookstores that are beginning to place science fiction and fantasy novels in separate categories
* A little blurb on eschatology
* Video games in politics – again
* Storytelling in video games – just how important is it?
* The relationship and similarities of statistics and psychology
I’ll even give you folks a choice – which of the above topics sounds most interesting to you? What would you like me to write about first?
This is a bit of old news, but sometimes I keep things in my writing queue for longer than I should.
In the article cited above, Kalbzayn complains about supplemental material in speculative fiction novels.
Right away, before the story begins, Holly includes a guide giving rules on how to pronounce the names in the story…
…I absolutely hate stuff like this. I was an Arabic linguist for a while and truly have an appreciation for languages that sound quite a bit differently than English. When I read a book, I don’t want to think about these kind of rules.
I am not a fan of detailed maps for the same reason either […] I can normally get a good enough picture of the location in my head if the author has done their job. Us readers should never have to rely on a map to make sense of what is going on.
Now, maybe I’m just a geek or whatever, but I actually prefer having those kinds of things included in a book. I’ve always loved maps – in fifth grade (back when PCs were primitive and no one had ever heard of color monitors) I’d spend hours playing with a game that quizzed you on the locations of various countries. I’ve always had a good sense about geography, and having maps of a fantasy or science fiction world helps me visualize better how the author pictures his own universe. It gives me a better sense of where things are located in relation to one another and better understand why, for example, it might take weeks (rather than days) to travel from Point A to Point B.
Similarly, when character names are exotic or unusual, I appreciate it when authors include a pronunciation guide. For example, “Tobias Buckell”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com includes a pronunciation guide in “Crystal Rain”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html%3FASIN=0765312271%26tag=writersblog05-20%26lcode=xm2%26cID=2025%26ccmID=165953%26location=/o/ASIN/0765312271%253FSubscriptionId=1N9AHEAQ2F6SVD97BE02. Personally, I don’t mind looking these things up as they help me enjoy the universe this author has created. I would rather know how the _author_ pronounces the names rather than try to figure them out for myself and risk botching the job.
Understanding the geography of a speculative universe and knowing how to pronounce names make the universe more authentic and, for me at least, more enjoyable all around. Authors can’t please everyone, of course. Those of us who enjoy these kinds of appendices thank the authors. And those who don’t – well, you’re allowed to just skip them.
I stumbled across a debate yesterday on the topic of escapism, worldbuilding, and speculative fiction. I had initially intended to contribute my own thoughts to this discussion, but after having perused a number of _other_ opinions on various websites and blogs, I doubt very highly that there is anything I could add that hasn’t already been said a dozen different ways already. So, allow me a moment to rabbit trail from that discussion and go in a slightly different, but related, direction.
One of the claims often made about speculative fiction is that people immerse themselves in it as a way to escape from the realities of life for a little while. I’m comfortable with the notion that at least _some_ people who read speculative fiction do, indeed, read it for this exact purpose. But I’d like to explore the question of why _do_ people read this genre. Surely not everyone who enjoys speculative fiction seeks to escape real life, right? Because wouldn’t that mean that people were so ill-adjusted to real life that they can’t cope with reality?
An anecdote to provide a counter-example:
I’ve always enjoyed speculative fiction. I remember that some of my first real writing assignments in grade school were typically science fictional in nature. I also remember that most of my peers really enjoyed those stories, so I would often read them aloud in front of the whole class.
In writing those stories, I wasn’t trying to escape real life – I simply had a very active imagination. I spent hours with some of my best friends re-enacting episodes from the cartoons _Silverhawks_ and _Thundercats_. I loved anything that involved advanced technology and travel through space, new worlds, alien races. I even had, for a while, an imaginary world of mice and cats, where the mice had very fast vehicles that raced through tunnels and where the cats constantly tried to capture the mice when and where they periodically emerged from one tunnel section to speed toward the next. I would tear through the neighborhood on my bike, imagining myself as one of these mice who was continually able to outwit the cats, albeit always by a slim margin. It wasn’t escapism – it was merely an imaginative kid having fun.
As I’ve grown up, though, my imagination has gotten no less active. I still find advanced technologies and magic to be endlessly fascinating. I think it revolves around natural human curiosity and ambition to see new things and do even more than we can currently. To some extent, I almost think that a fascination with speculative fiction encompasses the hopes and dreams of a better, more productive future. Could be I’m all wet, too, but I think I’m at least partially right.
Sure, I suppose there’s a bit of escapism involved in even _my_ interest in speculative fiction, but it’s certainly not my primary attraction to the genre (I don’t even think it’s particularly high on the list). Mostly, for me, it’s just fun and enjoyable and brings the kid in me out to the surface – and I suspect I’m not alone in this.
So, what is it about speculative fiction that most attracts _you_ to the genre? What do you love about it? And is there anything you hate about it?