Tag Archives: fantasy

What I’ve been reading – Kindle edition

I've had some good reads lately.  I've been reading more and more on my Kindle, just because it's so darned convenient.  I have tons of books by the likes of Stephen King, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, CJ Box, Robert Crais and others on my stacks, sitting there unread, but since I've been reading when I'm in bed after lights out or in situations where I don't have great lighting, the Kindle's been the go-to source of stories. Anyway, here's a few things I've been reading recently.  I'm not going to make too many comments, just say whether I liked them or not.
  1. DON'T LEAVE ME, James Scott Bell.  Liked it a lot.  Four to five stars.
  2. SEASICK, Iain Rob Wright.  Good horror story, set at sea.  4 to 5 stars.
  3. UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, Chuck Wendig.  Neat fantasy set in a cool world.  A little slow on the uptake.  4 stars.
  4. SLOW BURN 6:  BLEED, Bobby Adair.  Zombie fiction, pretty good, lots of action.  4 stars
  5. SLOW BURN 7: CITY OF STIN, Bobby Adair.  Zombie fiction, sorta slow with not as much happeniing.  3.5 stars
  6. VLAD V:  VAMPIRE, Mit Sandru.  A relatively short introductory novel, good enough that I want to read more.  4 to 5 stars
  7. COLD MOON, Alexandra Sokoloff.  Satisfying third book in a series.  Very fun and tense read.  5 stars
  8. HEART OF STONE, H. Lynn Keith.  Very good thriller with SF elements and interesting characters.  5 stars.
  9. SPOOKED, Tracy Sharp.  Good horror story with great pacing and characters.  4 to 5 stars.
  10. INTRUDERS: THE INVASION, Tracy Sharp.  Another zombie story, but this one has aliens as well.  Great first book in a series.  Looking forward to the rest.  5 stars.
That's enough for now.  Interestingly, all of the above are indie authors.  Something there for everyone!!! On the docket:  VLAD V: THE DEATH OF A VAMPIRE RIP by Mit Sandru, I, LAWYER FRAT PARTY by John Ellsworth, MORE THAN HUMAN:  THE MENSA CONTAGION by Steven M. Moore, TIME HOLE by Mit Sandru, INVASION and CONTACT by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. Have a great day! *****

What is “Science Fiction?”

I was touring blogs over my lunch hour here at the office, and came across this interesting selection on The Passive Voice, titled Rockets, Robots, and Reckless Imagination.  It's an article about science fiction in Pakistan and how popularizing it as a genre might benefit the country down the road, and why the author believes this to be true.  I liked the article, but as is often the case, the comments to the article are very thought provoking. So I started thinking about what Science Fiction was, to me.  Sometimes I think it's one of those "I know it when I see it" types of things.  I read a novel or a short story and I know if its SF or something else. I believe there are two different things in play.  First, there are the trappings of SF.  Think Star Wars.  Think Buck Rogers.  Think Star Trek, even.  Put futuristic weapons in a story, set it on a different planet, at some point in the future, and some people will box it up and call it "Science Fiction."  Is it?  Hardly, in my view. Star Wars has a lot of SF trappings in it.  There are space ships, robots, laser weapons, interplanetary travel, and aliens in that universe.  Another example is a Stephen King short story called "The Jaunt."  Have you read it?  It deals with a way to travel between two distant points instantaneously.  It's sort of like warp drive or teleporting in the Star Trek universe.  Is it science fiction?  I say it's not.  The only point of the wormhole, or whatever it is that allows them to travel between the two points, is to create a real horror story.  It uses a science fiction device to tell a frightening tale. Instead, I believe that it is the second thing that makes something a science fiction story, and that thing is "idea."  Good science fiction explores ideas, extrapolates them into the future and tells a story within the framework of that idea.  Can dystopian fiction be science fiction?  I believe it can be.  Can post-apocalyptic fiction be SF?  Again, my answer would be "yes."  But SF can be many things.  Sometimes it's a mystery or a thriller, set in the future and using ideas about the future at its core.  (I'm thinking of some of Asimov's robot stories, and also of the fiction of Steven M. Moore.)  Sometimes it is more straightforward, focusing on the effects, near-term or far-flung, of some important scientific discovery that is within the realm of possibility, however improbable. You can't just throw out a handful of SF trappings and make something "science fiction."  Those trappings have to be integral to the story.  As has been said in many places and many times, Star Wars could have been set in the old West (and in fact, may have been set in imperial Japan?) and the story would be the same.  You could replace the lasers with revolvers or swords, you could replace the robots with people, and you could replace the spaceships with horses or trains or whatever, and you'd have essentially the same story. Take a science fiction story and replace the "trappings" of SF in it, and you won't have the same story.  You likely won't even have a story. To me, SF takes an idea, maybe from today, and extrapolates it in some way, shape or form.  It may or may not have robots, lasers, and space ships, but it will have an idea that has become integral to the story. ***** The comments at TPV talk about religion versus science, and one poster (Antares) points out that for most of us, science has an element of faith in it.  We put faith in a scientist or a teacher or a research paper and accept its pronouncements as truth, much the same way that we accept the pronouncements of a church or a religion as true.  He mentions that few of us have actually done the work to "see" that DNA is a double helix, but we accept that it is based on the assertions of scientists and observers.  I found this interesting.  Something about it seems short-sighted, but I can't figure out exactly what it is.  Anyone have any thoughts? *****  

A couple of good reads…

So, I haven't been writing much lately -- I got about an hour in at the computer yesterday and just couldn't seem to get any momentum on any of the tales that I have going.  Probably wrote less than 200 words.  Instead, I've been getting a bit of reading done. I have about four books going, and two of them grabbed me and held on -- both of them ebooks by Tim Pratt.  The first was the eighth entry in his Marla Mason series (he mentions that he's now written as many (or more) self-published books in the series as he had written for a publisher), titled LADY OF MISRULE.  The second was a $0.99 novel called HEIRS OF GRACE, which was originally published as a Kindle Serial. I've been a Marla Mason fan since I read the first one many years ago, and while I enjoyed this one, where Marla et al battle a seemingly-undefeatable extra-dimensional monster, it felt a little scattershot (is that a word?) compared to some of the others.  Less focused.  More "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" in plot.  Which is not to say it was bad -- it was a pretty fun, pretty fast read.  Lots of imaginative stuff there.  Maybe a little too much.  Still, I'm looking forward to the next installment for further adventures of Marla Mason. The second, HEIRS OF GRACE, impressed me.  I went into the read with almost no expectations, and the book grabbed me from the first page.  This one features recent art school graduate Rebekah Lull, who has inherited from her biological father a fair sized sum of money and a house in North (?) Carolina.   And what she finds out is that she isn't exactly all human -- her father is a sorcerer at the least and maybe a whole lot more.  And she has some biological siblings -- not all human either. There's a lawyer named Trey who she finds herself attracted to and it appears that the attraction is quite mutual, but there's a bit of a conflict seeing as how he's her lawyer. Oh, and the house is magic. This was a really inventive story with lots of cool characters and plenty of peril for our main character as she fights against her siblings and contends with the risks that her inheritance poses to her.  Not to mention complications with the relationship with Trey...  I had a hard time putting this book down.  It was also a fun and fast read, and was unlike much of what I've read before. Tim Pratt is a very gifted writer of fantasy and SF, and both of these were well worth my time. Now, I'll just hope that I get some inspiration to actually write something. *****

QUANTUM ZOO is live on Amazon!

QUANTUM ZOO!QUANTUM ZOO was released while I was out of the country, on June 17th, and has already hit number 1 on the Amazon SF Anthology list! If you haven't picked it up yet, get it now...it's on sale for a limited time for $0.99!  It won't be such an incredible deal for too long! Here's the link:  QUANTUM ZOO in the Amazon Kindle Store There are 12 (count 'em!) high quality stories in the collection, ranging from Egyptian gods to alien zoos.  Even a little supernatural stuff!  And of course my story, PLAYING MAN, can be found right smack in the middle of all this SF/Fantasy goodness! Grab a copy and read it!  You won't be disappointed! Go ahead.  I'll still be here when you get back.... *****

QUANTUM ZOO has a website!

QUANTUM ZOO! If you're following along at home, you will already know that I have a story which will be published in the indie anthology QUANTUM ZOO, along with eleven other authors.  I was honored and thrilled to be included in their numbers.  Most of them have significant writing credits and credentials; all of them have more of those things than I do. Anyway, there's a website!  It contains info about all the authors as well as story excerpts and some other goodies. There is going to be a Facebook release party as well, though I won't be able to "attend" due to other commitments.  I'll post more when I know more. Here's the website address:  http://quantumzoo.blogspot.com/ Please check it out! *****

My favorite wizards…

I've been writing a story with my son and one of the little plot devices we're using is that some of the characters' names are inspired by our favorite fictional wizards. The trouble is that my son only knows Gandalf and Dumbledore.  (We aren't including Harry Potter or the secondary characters as the main wizards of the story.)  So it's been up to me.  And I've come up with a couple from my reading.  So here's my list so far:
  1. Gandalf.  How can he not be number 1?  He must be, and he is.
  2. Dumbledore.  Almost as awe inspiring as Gandalf.
  3. Belgarath.  From the David Eddings works - The Belgariad, and Belgareth the Sorcerer.  Right up there with the top two.
  4. Harry Dresden.  Jim Butcher's wizard is as cool as they get.
  5. Marla Mason.  Tim Pratt's sorcerer has progressed far beyond mere wizard status.
  6. Walter "Wiz" Zumwalt.  The hero of Rick Cook's Wizardry books.
  7. Max Zadok.  Laura Resnick's centuries-old wizard in her Esther Diamond books.
Maybe I'll come up with some more.  If you're reading this blog, and you have a name, any name, toss it out there.  I'd love to hear it. *****