Tag Archives: speculative fiction

Reality Dysfunctional

I’ve recently started reading the 6-volume sci-fi epic by Peter F. Hamilton. The first book in the series is _The Reality Dysfunction – Part 1: Emergence_. So far I’m really enjoying it. Hamilton has created a very complex and engaging universe where humanity has spread to hundreds of worlds in an effort to alleviate the burgeoning population problem on Earth. I’m scarcely 300 pages into this massive tale and already there is almost too much to summarize. Hamilton has managed to force-feed a lot of information into a very compact space.

I think that perhaps the thing I dislike most about Hamilton’s writing, though, is the way everything somehow involves sex. ((Though, to be fair, Hamilton _could_ be a lot more graphic in his writing than he is, so I suppose from that perspective, he actually shows a fair amount of restraint.)) I suppose it’s only representative of the way the real world functions, but I tend to find that most fiction is more robust and, for me, more enjoyable without the overuse of the sexual mechanic. I’ve seen science fiction where sex was almost completely absent from the story and when it _was_ mentioned, it was implied more than overtly stated. ((I’m tempted to rant about this, but I think I’ll save it for another day.))

Still, I’m curious to see where he goes with this. He’s already provided a tantalizing bit of mystery – on several fronts – so I’ll read on to see what happens.

No Help for Drawing Fantasy Maps

I’ve had a writing project on the back-burner for a while now. Essentially, I’ve been trying to write a fun little fantasy novel for my wife. A major part of this process, though, is in creating the world her story is set in, including the geographic regions. The characters, after all, have to travel from one place to another, and it’s usually a good idea for the author to know ahead of time where things are located and how they relate to one another when writing the events in the story, right?

I’d created a very simplistic map using a less-than-ideal mapping program. I wasn’t very happy with the result, even though it did give me enough of a visual representation of the land to work with. So, I’ve started trying to re-create my map by drawing it. I’ve always enjoyed working with a pencil, so it’s been kind of fun to just spend some time with a sketch pad, an eraser, and a pencil and work for a little bit. Trouble is, I’m not always sure how to represent certain features. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s not a single adequate tutorial online on how to actually _draw_ a fantasy map. Every single one I’ve come across is a tutorial on how to use one software package or another. This is all well and good – if I was going to use software for this project. But I’m not, at least I don’t _want to have to_. But I can’t find anyone who can gives good tips on how to draw decent looking mountain ranges or forests (the latter of which is especially hard for me because trees are not simple geometric images). It’s kind of frustrating, really.

My solution for the time being is to print out a couple of decent fantasy maps that others have created and try to replicate some of the features on those maps. Ultimately, I may resort to software, after all – I just hate the cookie-cutter look that most of these packages are limited to and I don’t really have the spare cash lying around to buy a decent program.

Maybe when I’m all done with this, if I’ve learned enough and created a map that actually looks half-decent, I’ll put together a tutorial geared specifically at hand-drawing fantasy maps, since there seems to be such a dearth of such things out there right now. It’s a shame, really – we’ve almost become _too_ dependent on technology in some ways. Of course, the irony is that I’ve been looking on the Web to find help on how to perform a more ‘primitive’ task.

Counterpoint: Heroes Episode 10

I’ve recently discovered the fascinating show _Heroes_ on NBC – and I’m already a huge fan. It’s fun to watch this comic book for TV, my only complaint being that some of the powers manifested by many of the characters aren’t exactly original. But I can live with that. It’s hard sometimes to come up with original material, especially in this technologically-driven day and age when new ideas are communicated around the globe in a matter of hours. What is important to me is how the writers of _Heroes_ handle these powers, how they portray them, and how they allow their characters to use them and, in turn, be shaped by them. There is a great deal of potential here, and I feel like they’ve already done an excellent job of the initial build-up.

The “SF Signal blog”:http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/004534.html today pointed to “another blog writeup”:http://jlbgibberish.blogspot.com/2006/11/heroes-six-months-earlier.html that complained about a few perceived problems with this week’s episode of _Heroes_, “Six Months Earlier.” I hesitate to call what follows a rebuttal; my intent here is not to argue but simply to present an alternate viewpoint. Let me present a couple of these complaints and attempt to dress them differently.

bq. It’s stretching the borders of credibility well past the breaking point that everyone discovers (or at least starts to manifest) at the exact same point in time.

I don’t find this too incredible at all, actually. They’ve already stated several times throughout the course of the show that all these “Specials” ((I’ve taken to referring to these characters as “Specials” because, while they make exhibit unique powers, I’m not convinced yet that they are all actually “Heroes.”)) are connected in some way. The writers have taken great care to demonstrate how completely the events of each of their lives are linked to all the others. So, it does not overly surprise me that they all began to develop their powers at roughly the same time. In the words of Stephen King, they are _ka-tet_, many individuals who share a common fate, a mutual destiny. Evolution though this may be, it should also be clear to all by now that there is something greater at work binding all these Specials together.

bq. Dr. Suresh’s list of names of potential meta-humans is just too convenient.

This is a fair point that I’m willing to grant. For now. I understood Suresh’s algorithm to be something that accounted for numerous variables in order to find all the Specials. How exactly the algorithm works has never been explained, so up to now I’ve been willing to suspend a little disbelief and allow that Suresh has somehow managed to take all factors into account. Yes, it’s a stretch, but for the time being it’s one I can live with.

bq. And [Nathan Petrelli] just happens to discover his flight powers at the instant his wife is paralyzed in an accident.

Discover? No, no. Completely accidental. The way I read this one was that the high emotional stress of the situation somehow activated Nathan’s particular gift at what turned out to be a most inconvenient time. Had this not happened, I think they stood a much greater chance of surviving the ordeal with little more than scrapes on the rear bumper (they were, after all, driving a sports car).

bq. But what annoys me the most about this episode is the ultimate pointlessness of it… [Hiro] Fails to change the future. That’s treading water in a narrative sense.

I disagree. All the Specials are only just beginning to learn their powers, learning how to use them, learning the ramifications and limitations of what they can do. The fact that Hiro was unable, in this case, to change anything at all should not come as a surprise. Again, it would seem that his unintentional leap forward was sparked by high emotional stress, something that all the Specials are going to have to learn to overcome. And I can’t help but wonder if Hiro’s leap forward and inability to leap back again was manipulated by something outside of himself. I can’t say for sure, though; it’s only a theory.

I’m eager to see what else happens from here. I know that the show has been signed for a full season, so there are 12 more episodes to come before the summer programming break. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Dark

The Dark: Home

Here’s an interesting find. _The Dark_ is a sci-fi series that will be broadcast exclusively on the Internet. Currently, there are two free episodes online to generate interest with plans to have a new 12-minute episode available weekly. The subscription fee is a initial payment of $20 with a $1 fee per episode.

From the website:

Space is dark … silent … lethal.

Ships stay quiet when they can and when they can’t, it’s because they’re too damned big. Either way, no spotlights shining on white hulls, no glowing nacelles. Nobody hails anybody. Space is an unlit sea and everything swimming in it is hungry. Planet systems mean resources and, unless someone says otherwise, they’re there for the taking.

It has been decades since the last independent nation on Earth was absorbed by the Community of Aligned Nations (aka. Generica). The solar system has been colonized, more or less, and things are going swimmingly for the genetically optimized citizens of Generica, until, that is, aliens arrive to obliterate most everything.

Mysterious aliens; no one has actually seen them, just their massive, all-devouring ships, and no two of which are alike. There has been no communication either, and Generica’s increasingly desperate pleas to negotiate go unanswered. It’s war, and for humans, it’s going very badly indeed. In the unlit labyrinth of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, three old ships from a long-defunct independent republic drop out of deep-freeze and begin waging their own kind of war against the aliens. Crewed by misfits, genetically randomized (normal folk), the Widow, Wolf and the Recluse begin an unrelenting campaign using stealth tactics, snatching small victories where great navies find only destruction. Like the hunter subs of the first cold war, they lurk in the dark, communicating with no one (not even, no especially not, Generica), with no base to call their own, and each operating with fierce independence.

This is the story of one of those ships: The Recluse. Damn near invisible in space, powered by a throbbing fusion reactor, and inhabited by a crew for whom cabin-fever is a way of life. Each crew member is a study in paranoia, neuroses and just plain weirdness. These men and women are our heroes.

The acting in the two free episodes remind me a bit of a ‘B’-movie, but I’m intrigued by the concept behind this series. I’m a bit disappointed that they haven’t shown more engagement with the aliens, but then again, 12 minutes isn’t a lot of time for storytelling. It’s something that I may be interested in checking out further as they develop this.

In the meantime, go check it out and then come back here and tell me what _you_ think. I’d be curious what other people’s reactions are.

Podcast

I’ve been considering the idea of recording some of the flash fiction stories I’ve written and podcasting them – y’know, just a little something to further exercise my inner geek. It would require, of course, that I purchase a suitable microphone, but I already have the necessary software. ((Open source is a beautiful thing.))

Is this something anyone might be interested in?

X-men: The Last Stand

My wife and I finally got to watch the third chapter in the X-men movie trilogy a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that I found it to be a very satisfying ending for a successful comic-film run. Now, mind you, I’ve never read any of the comic books – never had the interest or the money. And I’ve heard a number of X-men comic book loyalists loudly complaining about what the film writers did to the X-men storyline in the third installment. As someone whose sole exposure to the X-men franchise has been through the movies, however, I really enjoyed the way they tied everything up (and left just enough loose ends to tease the audience with the potential for a fourth film).

In “The Last Stand” we finally get to the see the epic battle between mutants and humans and between mutants and mutants. Magneto finally puts together his Brotherhood to face-off with the X-men. Epic though it may have been, however, it was still less dramatic than one might have expected, considering the power of the mutants involved. But there are limitations to what can be done on the silver screen, both in the visual range and in the time allotted. Ultimately, the final product was more than acceptable, though the Phoenix’s ending was perhaps slightly cheesier and more simplistic than believability might allow.

The storyline for the third film was a logical progression of the first two and was, in my opinion, stronger than the second chapter. Put together, the three films make a highly entertaining and enjoyable series to add to the collections of comic book lovers and speculative fiction enthusiasts everywhere.

Rating: 4/5

Gearing Up

The “100 Voices in the Night”:http://100voicesinthenight.com flash fiction anthology project is gearing up to really get rolling soon. We’ve filled 17 of the 20 contributor seats available, leaving just three openings remaining. So, if you’re interested in getting your name out there and in writing a few stories to add to this anthology, read the “guidelines”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/09/18/100-voices-in-the-night/ to apply. We’re looking forward to seeing the final product on this and on working together to learn a bit more about the writing industry as we go. It should be an interesting ride.

Jericho

I just got done watching all five episodes of the new show _Jericho_ airing on CBS. (They’re streaming them from the “official website”:http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho.) I thought the show looked intriguing from the previews, and so far I’ve not been let down.

From a writing standpoint, they’re doing a great job on three fronts:

1) They’re telling a great story from the perspectives of each of the important characters. It’s hard to care about the outcome of a story if you don’t care about the characters. They’re doing a good job of creating empathy for the folks of Jericho.
2) All the crises that they’ve faced so far have been realistic ones that you would expect to face after a disaster like this. The power outages, food shortages, and fires are all things that could reasonably follow this sort of an event.
3) The pacing on revealing the conspiracy details is excellent. Just one or two little bits with each episode. Just enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The jury’s still out for me as to whether or not Hawkins is a good or bad guy. He’s definitely in on a conspiracy. I just can’t decide what side he’s actually one yet. We don’t know enough to make that determination. But the key to the whole show lies with him.

I’ll be curious to see if this show makes it a full season and, if so, how much they resolve by the finale. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what’s to come.