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Tag Archives: Science Fiction

W: When Characters Attack!

W: When Characters Attack!

What happens when a writer grows weary of his characters?

What happens when they fight back?

One is reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempting to rid himself of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, or the author in Stranger Than Fiction whose protagonists never make it out alive.

Or perhaps the writer realizes she’s dug herself into a literary hole and doesn’t know when or how to end the story. (Lost, I’m lookin’ at you. And you, too, Once Upon a Time, which should have lasted only a season or two, before you misused your great cast and intriguing premise to go screaming off the rails into soap opera badlands.)

W is a 2016 South Korean television drama in the vein of Stranger Than Fiction, Secret Window, The Truman Show, The God Hater, and other stories where the characters confront or interact with their authors, their audiences, or their creators. In this series, comicbook characters become aware of their fictionhood and enter the real world to confront their creator.

First, the protagonist learns why a shadowy figure is trying to kill him and turns the tables on his creator. then the villain also realizes he can enter the other dimension, and demands of the creator a face and an identity.

How the story begins:

Kang Cheol has a few loyal associates upon whom he relies, but when a mysterious woman saves his life more than once, he’s intrigued. Although the police are seeking her as a material witness and a suspect in the multiple attempts on his life, Kang Cheol hides her in order to protect her not only from the police but also from his murderous stalker.

Meantime, his television station, W—which stands for Who and Why—broadcasts and solves cold cases that the police have abandoned. He has earned a golden reputation in society for his ingenuity, wealth, generosity, and dogged pursuit of justice.

Oh Yeon Joo is alerted by her father’s fellow artists that he is missing. He went into his office one day, and although he was never seen leaving, he cannot be found. As she’s standing in his office, searching for clues, a bloody hand reaches through his art tablet and pulls her into the world of W. Without valid ID, money, or other resources, she attempts to navigate the comicbook world and find a way back to her own.

Oh Seung Moo has made his fortune and his reputation with W, finally rising from obscurity to fame with the bestselling series. Why, then has he written an abrupt ending for the protagonist—a bloody death without the satisfaction of a solved crime? After all, fans have been awaiting the revelation of the villain who killed Kang Cheol’s family.

But Kang Cheol will not die, and he begins to affect the story from the other side of the tablet. Seung Moo is no longer in control of his creation.

Has Seung Moo run away, unable to cope with success? Or is he suffering a common literary malady—an inability to properly resolve the story?

And why does Kang Cheol believe Yeon Joo is “the key to my life”?

The answer to that, my friends, is a plot twist.

At only 16 episodes long, W is fast-paced. However, it does slow down a little on occasion, allowing the viewer to catch his or her breath and often poking gentle fun at kdrama tropes.

The cinematography is excellent, and the special effects—as characters pass from one world to the next, or as pieces of the comic are drawn and then appear in the webtoon world—are top-notch and deceptively simple. Some effects are in-camera rather than digital, lending a level of reality to the cartoon world.

W would fit nicely into any of these genres: horror, fantasy, thriller, mystery, suspense, romance, action, and more. It is twisty, unpredictable, and references many kdrama tropes then refreshes the cliches to turn the story in unexpected directions.

The reason for so many genres intermingling is due to the story being hijacked by the characters, who don’t know the cartoonist’s plans but simply want to live. And to live on their own terms.

Story themes include existence, humanity, determining one’s own life/destiny/future, and the roles and relationships among god/creator, devil/antagonist, and allies and enemies. Choices have consequences—and the choices and consequences become manifold as fictional characters no longer follow the plot but assert their wills on the story. Viewers of varying philosophies or worldviews will find this an intriguing tale.

Currently, W is available on Viki, which allows viewers to comment during the show. However, during your first viewing of the show, I suggest turning off the scrolling comments at the top of the video window, as they can be distracting, annoying, downright funny. Best to watch without them, until you view the show a second time.

 

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Finding the End

Finding the End

After waking in a strange funk, likely caused by falling asleep while watching a Scottish crime series and hearing shouts and gunshots in my sleep, I have the rough outline for the unwritten remainder of Thieves Honor.*

This novel was supposed to be completed in December 2015, but life has its own plans and stories take their own time.

I wanted to advance, but a voice nagged at the back of my mind, so I returned to the beginning of the story and revised or cut passages that had never quite satisfied. Something was missing, too. Like the forgotten spice for the soup, a minor plot element had been left out — and its absence, while not making the story unpalatable, certainly made it less interesting.

When Ray Gun Revival magazine went into hiatus, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I’d planned for three “seasons” of the Thieves Honor serial; for the novel, however, time and material had to be condensed, and the story itself needed to change.

As of this morning, about three years or so later, I know roughly how to do that.**

There’s much to be said for outlines, but I don’t think or create in linear fashion. My mind needs time to hike over wide wide tracts of unconnected wildernesses and brings back ideas I would never have considered but for the wandering. And if I don’t start writing something, a story may never actually be written before it is forgotten.

I plod when I’d rather soar, although some of my best short story work has occurred under a looming deadline. That’s usually after I already know the characters and story goal well enough to fit the puzzle together at the last minute.

It’s good business to produce books quickly so one can build a paying audience and solid readership. There are exceptions to that, of course; a certain famous fantasy writer is known for his slow production rate, but he hasn’t lost his audience.

I wish I wrote faster. My mind is teeming with untold stories.

 

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* If this is the result, maybe I should fall asleep to noisy Scottish crime dramas every night. 😉 After all, in the novel, there’s a dead character with a Scottish burr who “haunts” Finney, the ship’s pilot.

** For readers in the know, Carson Quinn, son of a famous pirate, and Rebeka Bat’Alon, the rebellious daughter of a port governor, are making a comeback in the story, turning their bit parts into pivotal roles. The mystery of the ghost ship Elsinore will be solved, and there’ll be another visit to the outcast colony living in the abandoned mines of the Devil’s Eye.

Readers were first introduced to the colony in “Shooting the Devil’s Eye”, a short story in Raygun Chronicles, a space opera anthology.

 

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Gotcha Covered

Last night’s writer’s meeting was ill-attended; only three of us showed up. However, that allowed me to seek advice from the librarian who leads the group, and ask her how the exteriors of books affect 1) inclusion in the library’s collection, and 2) reader choice.

Concerned about my preference for simplicity in artwork or design, I was surprised — and yet not — by her responses. Sure, if the artwork is cheesy and/or seems at odds with the subject matter, the staff might have a laugh, but what’s most annoying to them are book covers so minimalistic they reveal nothing about the content. She mentioned one publisher that tends toward such spareness there’s no artwork or even a description of the plot. Just the title and the author’s name.

So simplicity of decoration is fine, but tell readers about the story. Give ’em some reason to choose your book.

“If the reader flips to the back to read the blurb, you’re almost guaranteed they’ll check out the book.”

Then she looked at my rough draft for the cover of Thieves Honor. It looked like a thriller, not science fiction, but the fix was easy: She suggested I flip the background image, so the front became the back, and vice versa. The color gradiant and the angle of the light changed, giving the illusion of outer space rather than what the photo actually portrays — a table, a wooden chair, and the light from my computer screen all running together into a tie-dye abstraction of formless color.

The current draft of the front cover:

in-progress cover (c2016, KB)

in-progress cover (c2016, KB)

So, can I get away with no focal image on the cover, or is some artwork still needed? And is the look too “homemade” to be taken seriously?

For reference, the original image in its original orientation:

Abstraction (c2016, KB)

Abstraction (c2016, KB)

 

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Granite

Granite

Ideas from unexpected places? Happens all the time.

This week, while writing story notes in a spiral-bound notebook, I was listening to episodes of “Ancient Impossible” on the History Channel.* When I’d hear a historical detail I wanted to remember, I’d jot it on a separate page from the story notes.

In Dragon’s Rook, I wrote about a mountain city carved from granite.** However, I didn’t reveal how it was carved. Granite is serious stone. It doesn’t like to be cut.

However, there are examples of granite cut in ancient times, and they were the subject of a couple segments on “Ancient Impossible”: How did the ancients cut a large core of granite — a cylinder with evenly-spaced narrow grooves spiraling down its length — and how did they cut a slab that is marked as if by a circular saw, a piece of technology that no one expected to have existed then?

And that reminded me of something that should be incorporated into the next book, Dragon’s Bane: How was the city of Elycia carved into a mountainside composed mainly of granite?

Not gonna tell you. Yet. 😉

But it makes sense inside the story, and it explains one detail mentioned in Dragon’s Rook — the grooves left in the stone cliffs.

I want to go write that material right now, but I’m still finishing Thieves’ Honor, a space opera novel, which I hope to have complete by the end of the month. And then it’s back to Dragon’s Bane. And, after that, The Unmakers, a novel of paranormal suspense.

Anyone else listen to TV rather than watch it? Must come from all my years of having a radio but no television — listening is now a habit.

** The Mount Rushmore carvings are granite.

 
 

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Book Bag

Book Bag

I used to have a book bag, a cloth receptacle for hauling my loot back and forth from the library, either when I walked or when I rode my bike there on a Saturday. Nowadays, we have digital bookbags — Kindles or Nooks or other e-reading devices — that are much lighter and more compact than the paperback-stuffed backpacks of yesteryear.

Here are a few suggested additions to those book bags:

1) The Big Shutdown by John Whalen

TheBigShutdown

The Big Shutdown. An entire planet is about to be made obsolete. Chaos rules as Nomad gangs terrorize what’s left of Tulon’s cities. Jack Brand, ex-Army Ranger, semi-retired Tulon Security Officer, searches for his missing sister, Terry. His journey takes him from desert wastelands to a domed city, and beyond. Along the way he meets the unforgettable Christy Jones, But love will have to wait until Brand finds his sister, and soon the last ship will leave for Earth.

“The Big Shutdown” is a new, revised edition of “Jack Brand,” a space western classic first published in 2010. Out of print for two years, Flying W Press brings it back with an introduction by Johne Cook, Overlord of Ray Gun Revival, the e-zine where the stories that became a novel were first published. Also included is an additional story from Whalen’s “This Raygun for Hire.” series, featuring Frank Carson, a futuristic trouble shooter for hire.

2) The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly by various authors, and compiled by the editors at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly magazine.

HFQ 6x9 front cover ONLY-cropped

Tales gathered from frozen pre-history, sweltering jungles, and smoky mead halls, legends of this world and whispers of other worlds briefly glimpsed — here then are gathered works of adventure and danger, love and fury, seventeen of the best from the early days of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

Fiction by Richard Marsden, James Lecky, William Gerke, R. Michael Burns, Christopher Wood, Robert Rhodes, Dariel R. A. Quiogue, Jesse Bangs, P. Djeli Clark, and David Pilling.

Poetry by Danny Adams, Joshua Hampton, W. E. Couvillier, John Keller, Megan Arkenberg, Joshua Hampton, and David Sklar.

Introduction by John O’Neill of Black Gate Magazine.

3) The catalogue of books available at Oghma Creative Media, which publishes a wide variety of genres, including this recent offering:

TheJudasSteer

Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

Three years ago Aubrey Fox’s husband, a Pittsburg County Undersheriff, was discovered in a remote pasture, dead from an unknown assailant’s bullet. With few clues and even fewer leads, his case went cold. Aubrey was left to mourn as best she could, a loss made even greater for lack of closure. Who killed Mark and why? Meanwhile, life went on with two teenagers and a herd of cattle to feed.

When the local sheriff pays an unexpected visit and hints that someone higher up has reopened her husband’s case, Aubrey begins her own investigation. What she finds on his computer casts a wide net of involvement, but who pulled the trigger? Who would believe the results would render the face of organized crime in the United States as wearing a Stetson and hand-tooled Lucchese boots.

4) And, although this book has been out since the end of January 2015, it is now available on Kindle Unlimited, and is free for a few days (until Saturday, November 14):

Dragon's_Rook_Cover_Keanan_Brand_Susan_Troutt

 

Captain Gaerbith is heir to a secret: the location of a lost sword he cannot touch. In a village far from the battlefield, Kieran the blacksmith remembers nothing before the day when, as a young boy, he was found beside a dead man, a dagger in hand. Maggie is a healer’s apprentice, and earns her way as a laundress. Her shadowed past and crippled hand make her an object of suspicion and ridicule.  Far to the north, the king’s daughter—Yanámari—plots to escape the royal city and her father’s iron control.

King Morfran seeks a Kellish blacksmith who can recreate the lost sword, false proof of Morfran’s right to the throne. However, the true sword is made of etherium, the only metal capable of harming Dragons, and it can be wielded only by a descendent of Kel High King.

Forces are aligning, old prophecies are fulfilling, and in the east a fire glows in Dragon’s Rook.

Note: Apologies for the varied sizes of the book covers. No favoritism or slight is intended.

 

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For Your Reading Pleasure

For Your Reading Pleasure

In the middle of October, an international crew of authors — with the considerable aid of Plaisted Publishing — produced two volumes of short fiction: Awethology Light and Awethology Dark. Both are free as e-books, but are also available in paperback for a reasonable price. A Christmas-themed anthology is also in the works.

A quirky mashup of genres, my story “Modern Mythology” opens Awethology Light, but there’s enough strangeness in it that I might get away with recommending the story as a non-scary Halloween read.

However, the Dark volume — which I have not yet had the opportunity to read — contains the kinds of stories its name implies. So you could keep this book open on your e-reader and be entertained tonight in the pauses between trick-or-treaters at the door. 🙂

Note: Light is okay for older children and teens through adults. Dark, however, might be best for ages 18 and up.

awethology-covers

 
 

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The First Principle – day 3

The First Principle – day 3

A young adult perspective on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour novel:

Marissa Shrock‘s The First Principle wasn’t exactly what I expected. For one thing, It read like a spy thriller rather than like other books I’ve read in the same genre, which was refreshing since Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi is a pretty narrow genre.

There aren’t many pauses in the action – but that’s once you get to the action. The suspenseful moments are almost stressfully so, but the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, since Vivica doesn’t gain a big, personal conflict that the reader cares about until a couple of chapters in when she discovers her pregnancy. Even then, there’s still more pages to traverse before the suspense actually sets in.

The story itself deals with issues that are very real in the world today and that many people don’t want to talk about. In fact, this is the first story I’ve read that actually handles the issues of abortion and teen pregnancy with more than a passing mention. Not only that, but neither of those issues is glossed-over or given a prepackaged answer; rather, Vivica’s situation is discussed fully and with a lot of questions and struggles, and the Biblical response is presented in a good way. Also, the story isn’t kept “clean” and “safe” for the sake of not offending anyone; rather, it is allowed to handle realistic scenarios realistically.

FirstPrinciple-258x400The conversion scene in this book is also well-handled. When a character does finally accept Christ as Savior, there is no big to-do. Problems don’t all magically get better. Consequences are still consequences and the world is still an uncomfortable place. There are no rose-colored glasses involved, just inner peace and grace that the character sometimes has to struggle to accept.

I also like that not everything ends happily or easily, yet enough of it does end well enough that the reader can be satisfied, and that forgiveness is a big theme, yet so are consequences and responsibility.

I have one major complaint, that being that the title of The First Principle is never actually explained or even referenced in the book anywhere that I can find. What is the first principle exactly?

Overall, though, this is the best Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi that I’ve read so far, and while I’ve begun to tire of dystopias in general, I am looking forward to any sequels that may follow The First Principle.

Here is where I digress from the book a bit and talk about the genre: as I’ve said above, it’s a very narrow genre, and the seemingly-endless flood of dystopias on all fronts is especially beginning to grate.

Therefore, I would like to issue a note to authors in which I remind them that variety of concept is a good thing (you don’t just have to write whatever’s selling right now) and refer them to Amish Vampires in Space for an example of a story with a serious tone and message but also a mild dose of humor – mainly due to the creative blending of genres – and a noticeable lack of everything-going-to-pot-in-the-government.

I’m not saying everybody needs to start writing books like that one; just that it’s time to do something creatively different genre-wise from what’s being done right now.

~Jamie, age 17

For other perspectives on the novel:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

 

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