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.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dessert (not desert) Game

More of the same. And that’s a good thing. I loved J.A McLachlan’s last book, The Occasional Diamond Thief. It was fun and touching and always kept you off guard. The Salarian Desert Game is the second book featuring Kia the diamond thief, and I enjoyed it just as much.

Well, almost as much. My favorite parts of the last book had Kia and her friend Agatha together. Playing off each other. Opposites that become friends are fascinating people, and make for fascinating reads. I wanted them to be together more in this book, but I don’t want to that portray as a negative. It makes the scenes they do share all the better.

The book does a wonderful job showing the awkward manner in which new friendships can form. Especially under dire circumstances. Thematically, it shows Kia’s continued social evolution. The exotic location, in way, makes making friends feel all the more real. And pertinent.

So now I’m hoping this book turns out to be the second course, rather than the finish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trump wins me over

Last night Donald Trump spoke at a huge rally in my beloved Buffalo. I had some skepticism going in, but he won me over. Now some of these phrases he used are ‘dog whistles’, veiled comments directed at only some people in the audience. So let me clear them up for you. Here is what I heard –

- If Trump wins, my next novel is going to be a best seller. I’m going to have a best seller so big, I’ll be like Donald, please, I can’t even have a best seller selling this big.

- If Trump wins, my children will no longer be mouthy. They will say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ and ‘gosh, that was insightful’ as they finish their peas every night. If they don’t, they will be sent to work on the wall.

- If Trump wins, my hair will grow back. He has an inordinate amount of hair for his age and I can too, if I vote for turning back the clock, to a time when I had to have my bangs trimmed every Saturday morning I wouldn’t be able to see getting out of the pool.

America, this is going to be great. Again.