Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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.

A Noticeable Shift

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a noticeable shift in focus on my blogroll. A lot of the blogs I’ve been reading that deal with faith and spirituality issues have been thinned a great deal while my writing-related blogroll has expanded substantially. I’m actually rather amused by the shift because it says something about my interest levels in these two types of blogs.

The trimming of faith-related blogs from my blogroll is not indicative of any disinterest in the topics and issues of the Christian faith. No, I’m still quite interested in such topics, and I continue to keep the “Open Dialogue forum”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum running in the event that anyone would care to use it for discussion, as still happens occasionally. The trimming does, however, reflect my dissatisfication with the vast majority of faith-based blogs on the web these days. Most of the ones I’ve read seem to ultimately only spin their wheels in an endless cycle of philosophical and theological rumination. Except that, instead of digesting truth and processing it to some worthwhile end, most of these individuals seem to prefer to spit it back out onto the ground, a warm, soggy mess that, in the end, never yields any kind of spiritual nutrition.

I guess you could say that I’ve grown frustrated with the seemingly endless process that most Christians today go through of spending entirely too much time wondering aloud about the nature of our relationship with God and what we as Christians are to do about it. It could be that these folks are, indeed, physically active in their churches and communities trying to apply the truth of Scripture to their lives and reflect Christ to those around them. If such is the case, however, it is not reflected in the content of their blogs. What I see are continual arguings and bickering among folks who are supposed to be of like mind, rehashing issues and ideas and topics that have been hashed over and over again, seemingly with no ground gained. I find this both troubling and particularly frustrating to watch and be a part of. They never leave the communities of their local churches because they’ve become mired in the process of “figuring things out” rather than taking the Good News to those who’ve never heard. They’ve lost sight of what they are to be about and what it is they are here to do.

For a while I lent my voice to the din, expressing my thoughts and sharing in the process of learningm, but in recent weeks, I’ve opted to back out and back away from most of these ongoing discussions. The words, actions, and reactions of so many involved – Christian and non-Christian alike – have served only to exacerbate my cynicism toward the American church. So, rather than continue to involve myself through this medium and risk losing myself completely to such negative attitudes, I’ve backed away and left them alone, choosing instead to take a more personal, one-on-one approach with folks via email, IM, and face-to-face encounters. And these I find much more satisfying.

In the vacuum this change has brought, I’ve begun to more aggressively pursue my writing, and so my writing blogroll has expanded to fill the void left by the trimming of my blogroll’s other half. Writing has given me that creative outlet my inner artist has so craved and proven to be much more refreshing than I could have expected. I still don’t get to write nearly as much as I’d like to yet, but I’m becoming more and more involved in the writing community. In the process I’m getting to kill two birds with a single stone – I get to write all these fun stories while being able to periodically talk about faith-related issues with interested people.

It’s an interesting ride, to say the least, and I feel content in being able to have, in some ways, the best of both worlds.

IGMS

Ok, I love Orson Scott Card’s new online speculative fiction magazine, “Intergalactic Medicine Show”:http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com. The stories are first-rate, the free articles are fantastic, and the extras are a lot of fun.

The biggest gripe I have with it right now? They seem to being major problems actually sticking to a publication schedule. The IGMS is supposed to be a quarterly publication. This means one issue every three months. Since the IGMS launched last October, there have been two – count them – only two issues published. Issue 3’s publication date was pushed back from July to August, then from August to September. Now we’re into October again – one year since the magazine opened its doors – and we’ve _yet_ to see Issue 3 come online.

Much as I respect OSC (he’s my favorite writer and probably my number one influence in my own writing), he seems to be having quite a bit of trouble running a magazine. I wonder how much of this is due to “turning the editorial reins over to Mr. Schubert”:http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=content&article=about and how much is due simply to poor planning.

Mr. Card, your readers really do want to support your magazine. How about giving them something to actually get behind?

Regular vs. Speculative Horror

I think there are two brands of horror fiction.

One kind is what I call regular, or normal, horror. It’s the kind of horror that we frequently see on TV or in the movies with the deranged psychopaths who like their shiny metal tools and trap unsuspecting – but beautiful – young adults and torture them for hours. It’s the kind of thing we read about in our newspapers, where people kill (or attempt to kill) others just so they can steal their babies. Or the stories we hear about that could easily be the realizations of our own worst fears. These are the everyday horrors that we hope never come to visit us.

But then there is the kind of horror that can only, and will only, ever take place in our imaginations, the horrors that happen in the future or that have some element of fantasy, magic, or the supernatural. These are the kinds of horrors that frighten us, disturb us, creep us out, but the ones that we ultimately know will _never_ come to visit because they simply cannot happen. These are the _”safe”_ horrors, what I call speculative horror.

I heard it said recently that regular horror is far better because it is far creepier. I have to both agree and disagree with that notion. I think that it _can_ be far creepier and horrific because we know that these sorts of things _could_ happen to us or to someone we love. We recognize that fact, and it unsettles us deeply. On the other hand, though, speculative horror can be easily translated into things that _could_ happen. Our minds modify them and make them real, especially if we find ourselves feeling empathy for character undergoing the horror. Our imaginations take flight, and suddenly those things that go bump in the night might not be just bumps anymore. So I do think that speculative horror can be every bit as frightening as regular horror if the writer crafts the story properly.

Sub-divided to Pointlessness

Ok, this is just a bit gratuitous. Jennifer Fallon “cites a webpage”:http://www.jenniferfallon.com.au/blog/index.cfm/2006/9/27/The-51-subgenres-of-Speculative-Fiction-Seriously for an online bookstore that asks readers to select their favorite sub-genre of speculative fiction. The only problem I see with this list is how unbelievably large it is – they give 51 sub-genres, several of which are enough to warrant at least a raised eyebrow. I would suggest that, rather than being classified as sub-genres of SF(speculative fiction), these might be better classified as aspects of the genre as a whole, since many of them you will find together in the very same story or novel. And a couple of them just make you have to shake your head in disbelief that anyone would ever possibly consider _that_ one a sub-genre of SF(speculative fiction).

Apex Survives!

It’s amazing what happens when a community pulls together. Jason “announced”:http://apexdigest.livejournal.com/5791.html last night that within the span of 7 days, not only did fans of “Apex Digest”:http://apexdigest.com manage to meet the magazine’s financial need of $2000, they exceeded it. This means that Apex will continue to thrive, with Issue 7 going to the printer today. Additionally, the pay rate for contributing authors increases, as well as the pay for artists. A lot of good stuff, and I’m excited that this one will be able to continue.

Help Apex

I’ve written here before that I’m a huge fan of “Apex Digest”:http://www.apexdigest.com because of it’s unique take on combining science fiction and horror. I’ve sung this magazine’s praises and have bought a copy of all six issues that have thus far been produced.

Well, now Apex Digest is in trouble. Jason Sizemore, the magazine’s editor, has put out a “call for help”:http://apexdigest.livejournal.com/4066.html. He needs 200 new subscribers in order to pay off the magazine’s printing debt.

If you enjoy science fiction, if you enjoy horror fiction, if you’ve discovered that the two work together well, if you haven’t already bought a subscription to Apex Digest, then you really ought to do so now. Go to the “Apex Store”:http://apexdigest.myshopify.com/collections/magazine/ and put in your order now. This magazine is too good to let die now.

100 Voices in the Night

20 writers. 1 anthology. _100 Voices in the Night_. This is the idea that “Ben Marroquin”:http://storymask.wordpress.com/ of “Storymask”:http://storymask.com/ presented to me a couple of weeks ago. Flash fiction has become a popular pasttime of new writers. Websites have sprung up all over the web with stories ranging from 250 to 1000 words, as writers practice their craft and share these short works with their readers.

_100 Voices in the Night_ is a project to create an anthology of flash fiction stories in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Twenty authors will contribute five stories each to amass a total of 100 flash fiction pieces. Once completed, this new anthology will be sent to a publisher and the first of what we hope to be an annual project will be born. Each story will be short enough to read in a just a couple of minutes, and many of them will provide brief glimpses into the larger universe of each author’s writing.

The goals of the _100 Voices_ project are six-fold:

  • To create an original and unique anthology of highly entertaining family friendly stories. To the best of our knowledge, flash fiction is still such a new medium that nothing quite like this has been produced.
  • To provide an avenue for authors to get published.
  • To provide the authors with a great platform to showcase their talent to a whole new audience, thereby increasing their fan base both offline and online.
  • To provide the authors with a viable product that they can offer to their fans and that will supplement their income.
  • To provide those authors working on novels with the opportunity to introduce their novel’s world and some of the characters to a new audience.
  • To provide the authors with valuable learning experiences and access to a great network of like minded storytellers.

That’s _100 Voices_ in a nutshell. It’s a project that Ben and I are both very excited about. We’re currently in the planning stages and are still inviting authors to join the team. We have several slots open yet, so if you write in the science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres and would like to join the _100 Voices_ team, please send an email to either Ben at benmarroquin(at)sbcglobal(dot)net or Jim at stitzelj(at)gmail(dot)com expressing your interest. Please also include two or three samples of your work. We’ll review your work and if we like what we see, we’ll get back to you with an official invitation to join the team.

_100 Voices in the Night_ promises to be a fun and interesting collaboration with other writers. I’ll keep you posted here as to our progress and when you can purchase a copy of the anthology.

Book Review – Crystal Rain

A while back, “Tobias Buckell mentioned”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/wordpress/?p=2271 that he might have a few extra copies of his book Crystal Rain, if anyone wanted to put in a request for a copy to read and review. So I went ahead and put my name in and was pleasantly surprised to receive a copy a couple of weeks ago. I was amused that my wife, who claims that she’s not really a fan of science fiction, ‘kidnapped’ the book and wouldn’t let me have it back until she was done with it. Fortunately, she’s a pretty fast reader, and I had it back within a couple of days.

There are some spoilers beyond this point, so if you would rather keep things a surprise, this would be a good place to stop reading.

Continue reading Book Review – Crystal Rain