Do a Little Dance

For the first time in a while I have some real writing-relevant news to share. A short story of mine Hostage was chosen by Flame Tree Publishing to be included in their upcoming Gothic Fantasy anthology Time Travel Short Stories.

The anthology is due to be published in July 2017 and will include a mixture of both new and classic time travel themed stories. This means, not only will a story of mine be found in a real book of the paper and binding variety, my writing will be alongside the likes of H.G. Wells and Mark Twain. How cool is that?

As evidence I’m not making all this up, the Flame Tree order page for the book is here. It can also be ordered through Indigo and Amazon. I have no idea how many, if any, Canadian/US stores will have hardcopy books in stock (Flame Tree Publishing is in the UK), but we all do our shopping online nowadays anyway, right (or is that just those of us who avoid taking a toddler to the store)?

This is one of those things that makes the whole writing endeavor seem a little less nuts. A feeling that will surely pass around the time I receive my next rejection. In the meantime, I’ll be dancing in the kitchen–probably the better you know me the harder time you’ll have picturing it, but the dance really happened.

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The More Things Change…More on Ray Bradbury

Some time ago, I wrote a post about Ray Bradbury’s story The Highway. I have since finished reading the collection of short stories it came in, The Illustrated Man (1999), and have a little more to say.

There are some timeless lessons to be learned from Ray Bradbury for wanna-be fiction writers. The way he approaches writing (according to the collection’s intro) rings very true and is excellent advice: writing comes from asking, ‘what if…?’ Then seeing what happens.

However,

Though there is no doubt Ray Bradbury was a creative mind, in many ways ahead of his time I’m sure, and a talented writer, I found it hard to become fully absorbed in most of these stories. Despite his vivid imaginings of the future, he must have been a strong believer in the adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The collection was published in the late 90s, but most of the stories were written and originally published in the late-40s/early-50s timeframe. As I referenced while reviewing The Highway, it shows. There were some basic rules of life, particularly around marriage, that Ray apparently didn’t expect would change even with the advent of rockets and sentient robots.

Take the story Marionettes, Inc. This tale opens with two men discussing the difficulties of their marriages. The protagonist basically hates his wife and always has. The other man claims to love his wife, but he finds her tendency to over express her affection insufferable. Because men are people and women are…women (a premise not explained, but assumed to be understood), rather than consider how to approach their wives to resolves the conflicts, the discussion leads to ethical verses unethical ways to deceive these inconvenient appendages.

How might one sneak out to have drinks with a buddy?

Sleeping powder = unethical.

Clone-like marionette to temporarily replace husband = ethical. What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her after all.

Seriously?

The idea that perhaps the man who never loved his wife should never have married her in the first place is briefly discussed and dismissed with reference to family embarrassment that was prevented by the union (appearances are more important than happiness, of course).

The idea of actually talking with one’s spouse about what’s making the marriage unhappy? Not even considered.

Leaving a relationship that has proven miserable for a decade? Parish the thought.

Thinking your wife might be able to tell the difference between you and a robot? Not of great concern.

I can’t decide if the wives have brain damage, or the husbands do.

All that said, Marionettes, Inc. has some good plot twists as well as the kind of ending that draws people to read Ray Bradbury and drives them nuts at the same time (in Ray’s defense, it turns out at least one of the wives may not be so superficial after all). It is a good story and was probably even better to its original audience, in a decade before women were considered fully-actualized human beings. But in a more modern plot, I think there would have to be some kind of black mail, abuse, or mental illness involved to justify such lengths being taken to deceive.

I also don’t think Ray Bradbury was oblivious the impact ‘the times’ had on his writing. In the intro (written in 1997) to the collection, he references the story The Other Foot, in which Colored people (he acknowledges, “that’s what they were called when I wrote The Other Foot in 1949”.) get to Mars before the Whites—what if?

Turns out, he couldn’t sell the story to the pre-civil-rights-movement American market—not because it isn’t a good, well-written story. He wound up giving it to a Paris-based magazine instead.

I’m sure this mark of time is an inevitable part of most writing, and I suspect it is most obvious in science fiction where authors are constantly trying to guess the complete unknown through the lens of our own lives, with no reliable frame of reference. Creative and timeless as any writer tries to be, it seems even the best sci fi will end up with elements that become comical if it persists long enough. Look at Back to the Future. According to its timeline, 2015 is the year of the flying car.

I consider this example proof such miscalculations don’t have to ruin a great story. Back to the Future is still one of the best trilogies ever (in my humble opinion). Even if I’m not watching it while eating a pizza from my food rehydrator, with kids buzzing by my window on hover boards.

As for my own writing, if anyone is reading it far enough into the future to notice my generational fingerprint, I’ll be thrilled. And I don’t need to know what gave me away.

Bring on the Lovecraftian Tales

Mad Scientist Journal, which I’ve posted about before (like here, and here…and here) and which is home to one of my quirkier stories Mabel’s Mission, has a cool project on the go that might be of interest to all you speculative readers and writers out there. Check out That Ain’t Right – A Lovecraft Themed Anthology on KickStarter.

I’ll let the project video and summary give you the finer details, but as always with MSJ this looks like it’s shaping up to be all manner of fun and weird. You may notice the counter says they’ve reached their basic goal. With 11 days to go, they are hoping to reach a stretch goal that will bring greater reward options to pledgers (I am one) and better pay for contributing authors (no I’m not one, but maybe you can be) and illustrators.

Take a look and pledge away.

Review of a Classic: The Highway – Ray Bradbury

Some time ago, I received feedback on a story I had posted on a writing forum. The story I posted, Conditioning Phase, is among the first I ever wrote, and though I’ve since gone back to the story and can see the mechanics of it leave a lot to be desired, one of the reviewers on the forum seemed to really like it and compared it to Ray Bradbury’s work.

Of course, I had heard of Ray Bradbury, a famous, 50s era, sci-fi author, and was thrilled to be compared to him. It was a good confidence boost early on in my writing attempts. But, confession: I’d never actually read any of his work. Not even the so-well-known Farenheit 451.

Farenheit 451 might have been on the reading list of my one university English class. I can’t recall for sure, but I remember the entire reading list was dystopian themed: A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc. It’s very possible Farenheit 451 was there too. The thing is, I didn’t read any of those books. I was a first-year engineering student in a class of first-year engineering students, 90% of whom were only in the class because it was mandatory (I’m assuming about 10% of the class had some genuine interest in English Literature. I could be wrong). Continue reading

Why Some Shows are Popular—or Not

Science Fiction fans are used to seeing their favorite shows cancelled. Of course, this is not unique to sci fi, and it happens for a number of reasons: money, network decisions, actor availability, etc. As far as sci fi goes, the computer geek and sci-fi geek demographics have a big overlap. Perhaps some shows have had a larger audience than their producers were aware of because the viewers were ahead of the curve in sharing online rather than watching on cable. Whatever the reason, shows disappear and the world moves on.

Or does it? What I find interesting is how many of these shows become hugely popular years, or even decades, after going off-air for ‘lack of Fireflyaudience.’

A semi-recent example would be the much-loved Firefly. It struggled to survive for even one season back in ’02-’03. Ten years later, it has a huge following, a successful movie under its belt, and a 9/10 rating on IMDB.

star trek

Then there’s Star Trek, the benchmark for geekdom for as long as I can remember(when someone calls you a trekkie they don’t usually mean it as a compliment). The original series had low ratings in the 60s followed by a decade of nothing. Since 1979, however, there have been four spin-off series and twelve movies. Twelve. With number thirteen on the way. What once had a cult following in the shadows is not only still alive four and a half decades after it began, but is now fueling a series of blockbusters.

What gives? Though all fiction is a medium for broaching topics that society may not be ready to shine a light on, science fiction is particularly powerful in this regard. It can take us far into the future or create entirely new universes where we don’t have to feel threatened by the politics or social norms that clash with our current beliefs and expectations. This is its strength, and sometimes, maybe, its downfall—at least in the short term.

We love to be feel open minded. We like to see people have their boundaries pushed, but we prefer to do it from the comfortable position where we already have the right answer. This is at least part of what makes historical fiction so popular. Continue reading

Dosterra Chapter Ten

Our trio have to adapt to the fifteenth century–no coffee shops here–and some of Iden’s secrets are bubbling to the surface in Dosterra chapter ten. Now available on JukePop Serials.

Yes, once again, it’s been sometime between chapters. I’ll confess that it’s because I’m working on something else concurrently (more on that in later posts) and I’d rather publish slowly than have the quality to decline because I’m rushing. But the story will continue…I have to get them out of this mess now that they’re in it after all 😉

Buckle Down and Edit – Dosterra Chapter Nine

Editing. The part where I rewrite, second guess, and go crazy because I know that no matter how many times I re-read (and even with my husband’s willingness to be a second set of eyes), some typos will slip through. It’s also just not as much fun as the writing part–I know, this is why people hire editors, but I’m not spending money on that at this juncture.

Actually, one of my worst habits in writing is probably my tendency to edit while I write. Exactly what everyone says not to do. And they’re right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my train of thought because I went back to fix that grammar mistake that I just couldn’t ignore for fear that I’d miss it later.

I’m working on breaking this habit considering that it doesn’t really reduce the time I have to spend on editing later and it definitely slows the writing process down. It’s a work in progress (or, more accurately, I am a work in progress).

All that said, I do like to finish something then put it away for a while before going back for my final edit-oriented go at it. Sometimes that turns into ‘Out of sight. Out of mind.’ However, I finally edited Dosterra: Chapter Nine, and it’s now available to read on JukePop Serials.