December 27, 2011
December 25, 2011
December 22, 2011
December 21, 2011
December 18, 2011
"December" 1,000,000,000 BC
December 14, 2011
December 11, 2011
Is the current World and US climate of international, national, religious, political, environmental and economic dissonance the root cause of the tiny number of Humans-who-meet-and-work-with-Aliens science fiction on the market or is that lack the cause of the dissonance?
This question was sparked by the Kirkus Review announcement of the Best SF and F of 2011 (http://www.kirkusreviews.com/best-of/2011/fiction/2011-best-fiction-science-fiction-and-fantasy/). Of the ten, seven are fantasy so I’m eliminating them. Of the last three, only Embassytown has Human and Alien interaction. The Quantum Thief takes place on a near-future Mars, and Rule 34 takes place in cyberspace.
Of SFFMeta’s Science Fiction All Time High Scores (http://www.sffmeta.com/listBooks?list=alltimehigh&genreDefaultNo=1, 100 books), only 10 are from 2011 (the rest were published between 1953 and 2010). Of THAT group, four feature aliens, three are mysteries and one of them is Embassytown.
So what am I trying to say?
Writers – whether they publish ebooks, exclusively online or their books are solely available at brick-and-mortar stores – are responsible for change. Darwin’s writing shook the world. The Prophet Mohammed changed the course of history. CS Lewis altered the beliefs of tens of thousands.
Science fiction writers, while their main goal is to entertain, are also responsible for preparing humanity for First Contact with aliens. Their job is to offer scenarios that we can weigh and explore. We can question ourselves and the society in which we live. For example, though it’s a movie, DISTRICT 9 offered a stunning thought: what if aliens don’t contact Americans?
Robert A Heinlein recognized his responsibility when he said: “I write for the following reasons – 1. To support myself and my family; 2. To entertain my readers; 3. And, if possible, to cause my readers to think.” (Robert Anson Heinlein to a Reader in a letter dated 20 January 1972, and reprinted in Grumbles From The Grave, pg 281; http://www.advocacyagainstcensorship.com/quotes/qtrah_pers.html)
This is the same reason I teach a summer school class called ALIEN WORLDS. The thoughts I want the kids to have are that “alien does not equal enemy” and I believe that this attitude can spill over from imaginary aliens to the people we meet or see on the news or on Youtube who seem alien.
I believe that this SF community may have truckled to the masses and have produced work to promulgate the belief that “alien equals enemy”. Even such writers as David Brin (http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2010/05/perspectives-on-seti-and-aliens-and.html) and Stephen Hawking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterrestrial_life) have trumpeted the inherent dangers in letting the universe know we are here. This contributes to the meme that “alien equals enemy” and this plays out in promoting a climate of international, national, religious, political, environmental and economic dissonance.
I believe the SF community should fight the obvious trend and start to produce work in which “alien does not equal enemy”.
I think they should do it NOW.
December 8, 2011
This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.
The big woman scowled and said, “And exactly how do you know that they’re not spies.”
Bonnie stepped forward and touched the woman’s arm, “We ran into them a few days ago and gave them a ride.” She looked down at Freddie Merrill, offering him a hand up. He reached for her hand and took it and she pulled him to his feet. Then she gently pushed him toward Tommy Hastings. “They were hitchhiking up from Minneapolis and we found them all beat up and bloody on the road side.” She smiled at them and added, “I think they were fighting each other. Maybe they’re brothers?” Tommy found himself blushing furiously. She’d noticed their little tussle?
Freddie elbowed Tommy and said, “He ain’t my brother! I’m Freddie Merrill.”
Tommy straightened up and said, “Thomas Frederick Hastings.”
Freddie gave him a strange look. Tommy was pretty sure Freddie’d never heard his full name before. Dad and Mom didn’t do that “mad at the kid and use his full name thing” like Freddie’s did.
There was a yelp from farther back in the crowd and suddenly the workers parted. A woman strode out across the pebbled floor. She was old. Another woman followed her more slowly – it was the Anoka Witch!
The first woman walked up to Tommy. She stared at him then took his chin firmly in her hand and turned it first left then right. She muttered a curse, then said, “You look like him.”
“Who?” Tommy asked.
“James Hastings.” Tommy’s eyes met hers and she nodded slowly. She said, “So, James and Ruth finally did it.”
Freddie said, “Did what?”
She released Tommy and said, “Got hitched. She was top floor maid. He was a drifter the gardener hired to do heavy work around the estate. He flirted; she was just a kid. Like that for seven, maybe ten years.” The woman shook her head. “She warn’t mine, but practically. She came here when she was fourteen in ‘Ought-Four, an orphan.”
“My mom wasn’t an orphan!”
The woman shrugged, “Her mother left her a long time before Ruth Carrol ran away to Duluth – I think from what she’d say late at night when she’d been into the house wine – from somewhere in the Dakota Territory. Her daddy was a US Deputy Marshal who’d got hisself killed somewhere along the way. Life fell apart after that.” She paused, “I was kinda her mama here at Glensheen.”
“What was she doing here, then?”
“Like I said, working on the top floor. Maid,” she shrugged, “the Congdon’s called her a ‘domestic’.”
Tommy stared up at her and said, “Like I said, ‘What was she doing here, then?”
The woman frowned and her accent got so heavy Tommy could barely understand when she said, “They’re socialists, just like the rest of us.”
Tommy said, “What’s a socialist?”
Freddie cried out, “Communists! Run for your life!”
Tommy and Freddie had been friends practically since they were born. Tommy didn’t know anything about the woman standing in front of him who was saying his mom had been an orphan and her and his dad were socialists.
But he trusted Freddie with his life.
He followed Freddie along the northern spit of pebbles and then cut hard left into the darkness.
From behind them came the clear words, “If you catch ‘em, kill ‘em!”
December 6, 2011
December 4, 2011
I first ran across the work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch when her name appeared on the bottom of a standard rejection form I got from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where she was head editor for several years. A short time later, I ran across one of her short stories (“Retrieval Artist” in the June 2000 ANALOG), which of course, led me t0 her RETRIEVAL ARTIST novels. I’m a fan now and started reading her blog (http://kriswrites.com/) a year or more ago. As always, I look for good writing advice to pass on to you as well as applying it to my own writing. I have her permission to quote from the articles. You can find the complete article referenced below here: http://kriswrites.com/2011/06/22/the-business-rusch-short-stories/
I love short stories. I’ve been writing them from the day I first (in my case) laid pencil to paper. I’d never had any intention of penning grand novels or a fantasy series.
I read short stories and I loved them.
So I wrote short stories and they were published in ANALOG, CRICKET, CICADA, STORIES FOR CHILDREN, STUPEFYING STORIES and a half-dozen other places.
In this article, Kristine Kathryn Rusch mostly talks about how readers are the winners of the electronic publishing revolution – she has certainly taken advantage of it! – but she writes primarily about the written word.
I have discovered another branch of the SF publication kingdom: the spoken story!
Humans have been telling stories since the advent of language. The first stories we “read” as children are whilst we are being dandled on the knee of a favorite adult who somehow makes the same sounds over and over again that explain the pictures we see clearly on a piece of paper in front of us. They READ to us. The advent of stories being read to us used to disappear from our lives once we “learned to read”. Except for plays in theaters (which is a form of being read to), having someone read to me disappeared once I could do it myself.
Then came “Audio Books”.
I confess, I’ve never liked the idea of letting someone read to me as an adult. For some reason – probably a deeply-seated psychological interpretation that says to me “you are a child” when I hear a book being read to me intentionally. I never bought one and I CERTAINLY never listened to one myself!
Then the 21st Century arrived along with ipods, MP3 players (pause for dramatic effect) and the dreaded “multi-tasking”.
People who drove for a living and were readers had long ago discovered that they could drive and listen to novels at the same time. A young friend of mine is a policeman/artist/janitor and an avid reader as well. He has a collection of books, one of which he loaned me recently.
But his MAIN source of reading comes when he’s working. Whilst sweeping floors, sterilizing urinals and doing sundry other tasks, his head is firmly plugged into a pair of headphones and he’s listening to SOMEONE read to him!
I respect the intelligence of this young man immensely – but I just couldn’t…could I?
I’d made the jump to online publishing in the Fall of 2001 with the publication of a short story called “Christmas Tree” in a now-defunct (there are SO many of these now as well) called Gate-Way.
Now I’ve made another jump. Currently up at the podcast site of young adult science fiction, CAST OF WONDERS is the first half of my story, “Peanut Butter and Jellyfish” (http://www.castofwonders.org/). Yes, I can only imagine what you’re going to say, so I’ll save you your breath and answer now: “I know you told me so, so I humbly concede your prestidigitation (yes – I know what this means. It’s a joke to see if YOU know what it means!) skills and heave a great sigh of resignation.
I’ll also add this from Kristine Kathryn Rusch: “The rapid growth of the short story markets means that the editors are in the market for good material. Short stories are more than a vanity project for writers these days. I believe a good, fast short story writer who works in multiple genres could probably make a mid-five figure income these days or more. But…while everything else is in flux from agents to traditional book publishers to the growth of the e-book marketplace, the traditional short story market has become the brightest spot in the publishing firmament. And I, for one, think that’s spectacular.”
I’m pretty sure she’d be in favor of the niche audio markets have created for themselves – I know I’M in favor of them now!