Tag Archives: science fiction

2011 Hugo Awards

By now, almost everyone should know that the Hugo Awards are out. But for those of you who weren’t at RenoVation (like me) and perhaps went out and had fun on saturday night, go to thehugoawards.org to see this year’s winners. If you have time, then I suggest you hang out at Ustream and watch a replay of the ceremony. Enjoy!

The Futurians

Who were the Futurians? They were an amazing group of fans and writers who gathered between 1935 until 1945.  On the left we see a some of the founding members: Frederik Pohl,  John Michel, and Donald A. Wollheim.

The entire membership can be found here, but includes many who went on to have influential careers in Science Fiction. Wollheim, seen in the picture, organized the first science fiction convention on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia, which later transformed into what we now call Worldcon.

What would Science Fiction have become without them? It’s hard to say, but certainly the genre we know and love was forever changed by their vision and writing.

C.M. Kornbluth – The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary

 Many of you may not remember Cyril Kornbluth, an outstanding science fiction writer who sadly died in the late ’50s, but his impact on Science Fiction endures until today. With the publication of a new biography by Mark Rich, I think it is time for everyone to reacquaint themselves with the life of a great writer from SF’s golden age.

Rich has spent years gathering data, and the biography covers everything from Kornbluth’s early life and member of the Futurians, all the way through to his tragic death in 1958 from a heart attack. Rich’s attention to the books detail is impressive. Not only do we get a full index, but also more than 40 pages of chapter notes.

The biography talks about many of Kornbluth’s literary accomplishments. My favorite novel by Kornbluth is THE SPACE MERCHANTS, written in collaboration with Frederik Pohl. However Kornbluth’s life work covered an impressive array of  techno, economic, and sociological issues, which even until today cause us to pause and question. As Rich puts it:

“…he expressed his commonality, moreover, by responding to the great events of the day: the concentration camp, the atomic bomb, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the erasing of gender lines, the culpability of the intelligentsia, the tragedy of the Organization Man, and the brutalizing, numbing and dumbing-down effects of mass culture.”

I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t believe all the above issues have yet been resolved. More reason in my opinion to understand Kornbluth’s work, and the man himself.

So, if you love SF from the golden age, this biography is a must read. I highly recommend it.

Show, don’t tell? Proof that you can break the rules!

When learning to write fiction, a dilemma soon encountered is: the rules. As in, one must follow them. What are they you ask? They’re more like guidelines, but everyone seems to espouse their importance, often with a bit of finger wagging for added effect. Don’t overuse adverbs, avoid sayisms, don’t change the point of view within scenes, and so on and so forth.

As much as I believe such guidelines are beneficial, I think it’s also very important to highlight the fact that one can break the rules at times. In fact, I believe one takes the craft to a higher level when one can: a) understand when doing so is in good taste. And b) one is familiar with examples of similar transgressions by other authors.

Given the above, I would like to mention the dreaded, “show, don’t tell”, rule. At its core, this rule emphasizes the practice of avoiding narrative exposition.  The idea being that a writer is well served to tell his story via action and or rich dramatic dialog. True, this technique is a good rule of thumb. However, one should not feel this is always the case. A very credible writer who emphatically proves this point is China Mieville.

The fantastic thing about China is his incredible power of poetic exposition, which not only breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule, but utterly obliterates it out of existence. If you don’t believe me, then pick up any of his books. I’m currently reading THE SCAR, which is full of good examples.

But please, read carefully. I suggest getting up on a chair and reading his prose out loud to an imaginary audience. His expositions, you see, are truly works of art, and deserve to be heard in the proper accents, rhythms, and registers.

Of course China breaks more than just one rule, but for the purpose of this blog post, “show, don’t tell” will do nicely.

Freedom Club Book Cover Designs – Vote

I have two nice cover designs that could be used for my upcoming book. I’d appreciate if you would vote and let me know which you like better. Many thanks for your opinion.

Retrocausality – Is it real?

Even though central to my book’s theme in some respects, I only recently familiarized myself with Retrocausality. An interesting concept which boils down to this: effect before cause.

So is it real? I believe it’s more interesting as a philosophical topic. Certainly, we at times imagine our actions are based on the influence or desires of others in the future. No? Then just imagine someone who bucks society, and then defiantly slams a fist on the table. “I’m right god-damn-it ! You’ll see, time will tell!”

So…, taking actions now in the name of future morality (the cause) is employed. It’s not so strange  for the human animal. Even if it’s wrong, it certainly is poetic. Isn’t that enough to give pause to this absurd notion?

Anyway, I suppose time will tell if it’s right or wrong. Time will tell.

Freedom Club – To Be Published by Hotspur

My first novel, Freedom Club, is coming closer to public release, so I suppose its time to inform everyone about its progress. I began writing this novel in 2007, when I was still living in India. However, in the summer of 2009, I began working with David Bischoff, a published author and accomplished editor, who coached me for about two years as we brought the book to fruition. A few months ago, Dave gave the manuscript his final okay , and now it’s in the hands of Chris Lampton for a final round of proofing. Chris is also an writer and editor with decades of experience, and will fine tune the book prior to first publication.

However, it is the publication of the book that has taken on a new life and needs some explaining. You see, way back in 2007 I set out to write a book good enough to be publishable by the large NY publishing houses. With Dave’s help I believe we have achieved that goal.

But the world has changed drastically in the last few years.  Publishers are (IMHO) not open to first time authors. They want to bet on established writers who can provide guaranteed revenue. It’s a move that may prove true in some cases, but not all.  They (the big publishers) don’t know where things are really going. If they could I, suspect they’d stop all the upheavals . They’re simply digging in as the market reforms. Amazon, e-books, and POD have opened new channels for everyone to dive in, and with all the new players around, it’s hard to tell who has the firmest grip on things . Maybe, it’s the authors for once. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So given all the turmoil and change, I lost my appetite to publish Freedom Club  using the traditional model. That is, submit like crazy to finding an agent, who then will convince a publisher to go with a first time author like myself, then pray nothing goes wrong. Well, I believe that old process is broken. And even if it were to work, it can only take place with with high risk, while offering  me the author less returns.

So instead, I have decided to publish with Hotspur Publishing, a new publishing house created by my editor, Dave. Neither one of us planned this, but I think this period of time is special. New publishing houses like Hotspur could not exist just a few years ago. As long as the talent is there, it’s amazing to see how easy it is to bring a book into the marketplace these days. In fact, I don’t think Hotspur’s methods will be any worse than the large publishing houses. 95% of the writing and editing has been done. And everyone uses e-book and POD technology as large print runs become a thing of the past. The only real meaningful difference is that the established publishers have enormous overhead to cover. Elaborate layers of managers, accountants, marketing experts, lawyers, editors, interns, and illustrators. Am I forgetting someone? Oh yes: writers.

The problem seems to be that not enough people add value in the old model. Of course some editors are doing a good job. And yes, some mass marketing may have a positive impact on sales. It just that, well I don’t think the old gang will make Freedom Club any better or successful than Dave and Chris will. We’re a small group of talented people, putting all our efforts into one, and only one thing:

The book.

So, in the next month or so I look forward to setting Freedom Club loose. It may not be a big hit, but who cares. Failure happens all the time. Even for established authors. I just like writing science fiction, and I’ll keep doing that with Hotspur for no reason other than, it’s a lot of fun.

Isn’t that what writing should be about?

Fractured Sub-Genres: Good or Bad?

There are many debates raging about the number of sub-genres within Science Fiction. Decades ago we had simply hard and soft. Now? There are more than you can shake a stick at, and new ones being coined every day.

But is this good or bad for the market? It seems the fracture taking place was actually started decades ago by marketers in the publishing industry, in  an attempt to differentiate new books. Fans have picked up on this and extended the concept way beyond its original intent. I suppose one could say they’re simply handles, from which we can describe and categorize a story.

However, I don’t see any problem here. An author might like being just a plain old Science Fiction writer, assuming this description covers a broader market. But this I feel is superficial and not the smart move. That’s because readers don’t read “any old” science fiction. Making niches seems the best solution for both sides, and simplifies the overall search process.

And if you haven’t noticed, simplifying the search process is becoming more important as we head into the new world of self publishing. We not only will have traditional publishers, but established authors throwing up their entire backlog. Toss in hordes of new writers and the number of books to select from will be more than anyone can imagine.

In the new world of publishing, sub-genre niches could very well be the only way to make sense of things.

Deathworld – by Harry Harrison

 Beyond all the: shooting, car chases, rocket escapes, and vicious alien creature attacks; this book offered more than just a thrill ride. It’s a story about the environment, and reminds the reader that making mistakes with mother nature can have negative repercussions. Namely, she’ll eat you alive.

Now in addition to its philosophical points, this book will be a great learning tool for budding writers because it employs an interesting narrative technique. The entire book starting from page one is written from only the protagonist’s (Jason dinAlt ) point of view. It never changes, and is so skillfully done I actually thought it was first person at times. But Harrison keeps the narration in Limited 3rd, and seamlessly keeps the reader absorbed the whole time without effort. I think few books pull this off better.

The plot also maintains high level drama and mystery the whole way through. So much so, it’s a wonder this book (and its two sequels) were never made into movies: it’s a CGI guy’s fantasy come true. So for now, you’re going to have to just read it and use your imagination.

Don’t worry though. Even without CGI, it’s worth it.

Eco Science Fiction – The Trendy Sub-Genre

Even though Wikipedia has pages outlining many of Science Fiction’s sub-genres, it seems that Eco Science Fiction (Eco SF) is missing. It’s no crime, but Eco SF  is in my mind legitimate, though not always in the public eye.

Perhaps this is speculation on my part, but I believe the main reason Eco SF lacks transparency is because it falls into a pattern of social trends. Sometimes being popular, other times not. There seems to be a few others listed in Wiki: Christian; Feminist; Gay/Lesbian; Libertarian. So why not Eco SF? Its existence is noted in Eco-Fiction (Stadler 1971) and Science Fiction and Organization (Higgens, 2001).

Convinced? Okay, no one wants to read lengthy non-fictions about SF these days. I would then simply point out some the great Eco SF classics that come to mind. How about Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants (1953)? Or J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World (1962) ;The Burning World (1964). And let’s not forget Dune by Herbert (see my previous blog).

In conclusion, I would like to mention that with the advent of global warming and attention to carbon footprints, it seems we’re seeing a resurgence of this trendy sub-genre. I think it’s a sign of a healthy readership, and I welcome its coming.

Let’s just hope the trend doesn’t run out of fuel, so to speak.