Friday, October 21, 2016

The Milkman is coming . . . with apples

Canada is about to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Don’t stop reading. Really. This is the economic equivalent of hearing a creak from your attic on a stormy night. You need to grab a candelabra and investigate. Climb those stairs with me. Climb on.

Most people do not ever care about international trade deals. And they shouldn’t because they are confusing to the point of being boring. Trying to prove they either worked or didn’t is like finding the causative link between cell phone use and quinoa consumption. (They’ve both been rising over the same time period. There’s got to be a connection!) The fact is, there are too many factors in play at any given time to clearly assess these vast agreements.

The North American Free Trade Act, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the US version – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership all have one thing in common: They slide power from governments to multinational corporations. If farmers from Poland want to sell apples over here, the agreement says fine. No more pesky regulations and tariffs. Let the market decide who has the tastiest Gala for the tastiest price. They give the market more control of markets.

The control is taken from governments. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide. I can tell you for sure it makes governments less relevant. It puts a few squares ahead on the Chutes and Ladders of human history, closer to the free world of The Milkman, on sale wherever finer books are sold.

Reduced government, lower consumer costs, more market sensitivity – it’s all gift. Like a Polish apple. From a witch.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Run With Me

I’m kicking around an idea for new novel: The plot is full of political intrigue. Two presidential candidates make a secret pact to get one of them elected. One positions himself as the alpha-male leader of America’s right wing, the other slides left. They agree that after the alpha male has solidified his leadership, he will throw the campaign, leaving no time for the right to recover and his old friend can more easily walk into the presidency.

The protagonists have agency. They are smart, make plans and carry them out. They are not billiard balls waiting for the next knock, hoping it finally puts the other down a hole.

You know, a fantasy utopian novel. There hasn’t been much of market for that kind of thing lately, but I’m thinking that might change. I’m calling it Run With Me. There might be more than few people looking for a little escape.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

When Words Collide

Off to Calgary next week for When Words Collide, my favorite writing conference. It brings together writers from different genres – mystery, thriller, horror, romance, fantasy and of course, science fiction, the weird cousin of all genres.

I’ll be doing panels on . . .

Privacy in Science Fiction – which is tricky as science fiction writers like to be private and then open themselves up to the whole world.

Writing about horrible things – as opposed to just horrible writing, either of which I may claim some expertise.

Is theme overrated – quick answer, yes. Everything is, aside from The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll, which far too few people have read.

Mystery and speculative fiction crossover – this is how I spend my spare time. I actually drive a crossover now, that’s how far into it I am.

Is there a place for optimism in science fiction – as if it matters, psychic AI bacteria are going to kill us all anyway. ‘mater-o-time.

Science fiction noir classics – I want to go so I can nominate some of my work. I’m not classy, but my books are.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What science fiction does best

Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer doesn’t need another great review. It’s got plenty of those and I don’t really review books, so much as trumpet those I’ve come across that deserve a solo.

Predicting the future is not the job of science fiction. It’s a parlor trick. It can be used to garner attention from outside the SF bubble, but it’s really not the genre’s most valuable contribution to society. Changing perspective, getting people to adjust their view, look at things in a different way and maybe get them to change their respective headings – that is what separates a decent science fiction novel from a Bazooka Joe comic. In terms of changing the way you view the world, Quantum Night is better than going to the optometrist.

The hook of the book is this hypothetical: Humanity is divided into Quicks (thinkers with a conscience), Psychopaths (thinkers sans a conscience) and P-zeds, who lack an internal voice.

Robert makes this scenario very, very plausible. The first gift of the book. Regardless of the science, he pushes you to look at the problems in the real world through this three-fractured lens. It makes you think about how we sort people, whether it’s fare and would we take it further if we had the tools. It’s jarring, relevant (extremely relevant lately) and the second gift of the book.

The third gift is more for writers than readers and goes like this: There are guidelines for writing a novel, things you tell authors who’ve been foolish enough to start trying to help them along the way. Things like “don’t use first person”, “don’t change point-of-view”, “maintain the time line.” Robert ignores each of these. It is a testament to his craftsmanship that he can stray so far from common narrative norms and keep the narrative force. Don’t try this at home.

Of course, most books don’t have a reason to play with the POV and timelines. This one does. All writing is a mind game and this book is about how different people play it. Having the actual bones of the book hold up the theme is more than gift. Gifts are frequently something you asked for or expected - this a complete surprise. Not the people jumping out of the darkness and yelling at you kind. It’s the good kind.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Listen Up

Far Fetched Fables produced an audio version of one of my short stories, a favorite really. From the Urban Green Man collection.  For me, it's great hearing a fantastic voice actress interpret the story. For you, a really fun listen. Especially - but not exclusively - if you're commuting through a big city.

Catherine Logan reads the story, but 'reads' is not the right word. She performs a small one-woman show and does the impossible - she makes one of my stories better. I didn't think that could be done.

Give it try.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Here's to a long run

So I’m sobbing as I run. This is not normal for me. I’m actually not much of a crier at all. Still, I’m running on Whitehaven Road. The same road Brian Castner mentions in his first book. It is a desolate road, not because the road is unpopulated, because that can be cool, but because it's sparsely populated, with cars whizzing passed, driven by people you can’t see, and houses set back, inhabited by people. Possibly.

Anyway, I’m listening to the end Hamilton soundtrack. It is stunning. Absolutely stunning. I’ve got tears coming down both sides of my face for the first time since I was like eight, right.

And here comes another early morning runner. Big, tan guy. I press my lips together so hard my chin makes a deep ‘n’ shape. The guy looks at me and nods. He must think I’m on mile 20, pounding out the hard run.

As opposed to, I don't know, mile two. Which is fine with me.

Hamilton, by the way, is even better than whatever hype you’ve heard.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Want to write faster?

I have a new trick for writing faster. These cufflinks were a gift from my brother-in-law. They are control rod nuts from an Aston Martin that raced at Le Mans. 600 hp, baby. They make me get into paragraphs faster, handle awkward sentences like I'm on rails and push the apex of every scene. 

Highly recommended. It pays to accessorize, people.