Tag Archives: Stephen King

More Mini-reviews…

Finished up three books last week.  Two were ebooks by Edward W. Robertson, who writes the BREAKERS series.  The first was BLACKOUT, the final book of the eight-book BREAKERS series.  If you're not familiar with the Breakers world, it is a post-apocalyptic tale where two things happen to end civilization as we know it:  a viral disease that claims around 99% of all people (like in King's THE STAND, which Robertson admits to using as his inspiration in this series) and then an alien invasion.  Turns out, the aliens, huge crab-like beings, sent the viral plague to Earth, and they figured they'd wipe out all of humanity with it, but when they come to claim the empty planet, they find plenty of humans willing to fight them and their advanced technology.  BLACKOUT, as the final book, occurs as people are trying to rebuild some sort of civilization and society, only to discover that a second "mother ship' of alien "Swimmers" has arrived. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series and one that followed logically from everything that happened before.  The people who I've gotten to know over seven books all seem consistent with the character that they've exhibited throughout the saga.  The aliens became a bit more knowable, and it set up another series in the same universe, but set many years in the future.  The other series is called the REBEL STARS series, and the first book of this saga, titled REBEL, is the other ebook I read. I grabbed REBEL as part of a promotional "box set" with ten "galactic tales", titled STARS AND EMPIRE.  (None of the other titles have really grabbed me much, so REBEL is the only one I've read, and it may continue to be the only one...)  So anyway, in REBEL, a crew of space asteroid miners is working on an asteroid when they make a discovery -- an ice-bound alien ship.  Seems that this is a Swimmer spaceship, and these humans are the descendants of those people who dealt with the Swimmers when they first attacked Earth.  As they excavate the vessel, they are attacked and everyone except for one is killed.  Their discovery, which they had tried to keep secret, is stolen...and when someone gives the survivor a chance to recover it and also to get revenge on the murderers of her crewmates, she jumps at it. It was a solid SF tale that made me want to read further in the series.  I think Edward W. Robertson is an excellent storyteller, and even if one didn't care for post-apocalyptic tales, this REBEL STARS entry can be enjoyed as a straightforward SF novel.  (As an aside, I read another book by Robertson called THE ROAR OF THE SPHERES . which also dealt with colonization of our solar system, though that one was more focused on AI's. The book has been renamed and re-edited, but I'm not sure what the new one is called.  (ETA:  The author informed me that the book is now called TITANS.)  It was also a very good SF book.) And, speaking of Stephen King, I tackled REVIVAL, which is his second newest (FINDERS KEEPERS is his newest at the moment) novel.  I hadn't heard great things about this novel, but I have to say I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It's a bit of a slow starter.  When our hero, Jamie Morton, meets his "fifth business", pastor Charles Jacobs, he's only six.  And there's a lot of backstory that King gives us in his usual colloquial style, about Reverend Jacobs' fascination with electricity (the "secret" electricity, he calls it) and then the death of his lovely wife and young child and his subsequent loss of faith.  And of course, there's Jamie's backstory, his youth, his high school years, his discovery of the guitar and of rock and roll music, the love of his young life, Astrid, and his subsequent loss of his own faith and his separation from Astrid as they graduate from high school. Jump forward a bunch of years and Jamie is a lifer in the music industry, being good enough to play professionally but not really quite good enough to be a star or in an A-list band.  He's tooling around playing gigs at small venues, roadhouses and state fairs, and he's doing a lot of drugs.  Mainlining heroin, in fact.  He's reached bottom when he encounters Reverend Jacobs at the Oklahoma State Fair, where the former religious man is using his electrical inventions to take people's photographs and do something ... interesting ... with them.  He takes Jamie in and uses his electricity to cure Jamie of his addictions.  He also hooks Jamie up with a job in Colorado, as a studio musician and recording engineer.  Jamie owes him big-time. A third encounter with Pastor Danny (as Jacobs is now calling himself) occurs, as he and his boss (who also owes Jacobs) go to a tent-revival where he is performing genuine healings using the electricity, although he covers it in religious jargon and is clearly making a lot of coin doing so. King masterfully weaves everything together at the end, and I didn't care how implausible it was by then, because I just wanted to know how Jamie ended up.  I was satisfied with the conclusion; like Robertson's Breakers series I described above, it seemed fair and logical with what happened in the book up until then.  King tends to be a bit wordy, but I like the way he uses language to bring characters and setting to life, and allows one to glimpse the inner workings of his characters' brains.  The ending was about what I expected once I got past the steampunk vibe the book was putting out (with electricity being the main focus), but the journey, for me, was worth it, as it usually is with King's books. I'm onto Hugh Howey's THE HURRICANE and King's FINDERS KEEPERS (ebook and hardcover), and will probably post something on both of them when I finish them. ***** Update on THE INN:  I decided that I'd better not use the cover image I was going to use because I'm not sure about the rights and permissions of it, so that is what's holding up the release at this moment.  I made a different cover, but I'm not sure about it either.  So...I'll post something when I finalize the new cover. *****

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? *****  

Why “horror?”

My post from yesterday talked about what scared me, and I promised that I'd write something about why I write what I write, which is mostly horror.  The short answer is that it's what comes out when I start writing.  So there. There's gotta be a longer answer, right? Well, let's see.  I write horror because I think it's fun to imagine scary scenarios.  There's usually a morality play at work in such stories; even if they glorify gore and torture, there's a good-vs.-evil thing going on.  You the reader root for the good guy (usually). I cut my fiction teeth on mysteries when I was small.  All mysteries seem to me to be "small horror" stories in a way.  Something bad has happened.  The mystery is who did it, or why.  Sometimes it's a puzzle story about the act of figuring things out.  Think of thrillers.  Murders, terrorists, evil government agencies, disappearances, bombs, plane crashes -- all these things can be elements of a horror novel.  But the focus is on the good guy solving the problem, not so much on the victim. I remember a mystery I read when I was younger titled THE BLACK SPANIEL MYSTERY (or something close to that).  I remember that these puppies were disappearing.  Or rather, they were being replaced.  But one of the kids noticed that the markings of the puppy were not the same as the markings on the original puppy.  Why?  I can remember feeling for those puppies, as well as for the kids who were hurt by the puppies' disappearance.  That the kids took it upon themselves to solve the puzzle made it a mystery.  But what if the puppies were being stolen just to hurt the kids?  Or they were going to do a "Cruella DeVil" on them and skin them for their lovely fur pelts?  That's horror, no? Further, I moved on to science fiction.  Asimov and Heinlein were my two main sources of entertainment for a long time (considering how many books both of them wrote, you can well imagine that getting through their catalogs took a few years...).  Again, we had mysteries, even in something like FOUNDATION, where the whole book is basically a search for the Second Foundation.  Along the way there is The Mule, a mutant who can rule the universe with his advanced mental powers.  That's sort of scary, isn't it?  He's almost an alien in those books, and here he is taking over the human race.  Admittedly, Asimov's emphasis doesn't focus on any horrific elements, so it remains firmly in the SF realm. Then finally, I found Stephen King.  Now here was horror.  We had a psychic girl going destructo on her high school prom, we had vampires taking over a town, we had the ghosts of evil in a big hotel recruiting the caretaker and convincing him to murder his snowbound family, we had a psychic who sees the end of the world in a politician's handshake and acts to stop it, we had a virus which kills off 99.4% (or something like that) of the population of the U.S., setting up an epic battle between good and evil.  We had ghosts, we had aliens, we had monsters, we had zombies from a pet cemetery...all manners of horror.  All done with style. I didn't really read horror to be reading horror for a long time.  I just read authors.  Dan Simmons wrote some horror (Summer of Night, Carrion Comfort).  Robert McCammon did, too.  So did Orson Scott Card (Lost Boys) and Dean Koontz.  Finally I found authors who wrote nothing except for horror.  Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Phil Rickman, Melanie Tem, Nancy Holder, Poppy Z. Brite...  So many names, so many scary stories.  The tales varied.  Some were gross and bloody, some were moody and ephemeral. I wanted to write science fiction, but nothing I wrote seemed to really work all that well.  Although I have a science background (chemistry major, lots of health sciences in dental school, and interest in the space program dating to my childhood, so I always took in information about the goings-on in science), my stories never seemed really plausible to me.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe I knew enough to know that what I was thinking wasn't really going to work, but not enough to figure out a way to make it believable.  Anyway, as big of a fan of SF as I am, I've only written three short stories that are more or less in the realm of SF. Everything I write seems to always come back to either the supernatural, or to something evil.  I've liked that in short stories I can sometimes have the bad guys win (see my short story GARAGE SALE which is found in THE STRIKER FILES 3-In-1 COLLECTION, or my story THE FUN HOUSE in DIE 6).  I like going in that direction with my stories.  It seems natural to me. I like stories about characters.  I believe that most horror, at least most entertaining (to me) horror, is character-centric.  If you don't care about the victims, then you won't care much about their story.  And there is always a very important struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong.  To me, that's the cool part of a story in the horror genre -- it's the "good will rise over evil" aspect, the fact that while not everyone might live through this evil, in the end, somehow, the good characters will triumph.  Perhaps it will be at a steep cost, perhaps their lives, or the lives of their loved ones.  Sacrifices have to be made.  That's a good story right there, in my opinion.  It's a universal story; one that can be adapted across genres.  Maybe all, or most, good stories have it at their core, somehow. Recently I read a book called SEASICK by Iain Rob Wright.  In the book a troubled cop on holiday finds that he's reliving a day over and over and over and over and...  well, you get the picture.  It turns out (SPOILER ALERT, though I think that even if you know the end, you can probably read the book and enjoy it because it's a pretty fun read) that there is a killer virus on the ship, released by terrorists, and when the ship reaches the dock, it's going to infect the port, and the world, and everyone's gonna die.  How is the cop going to get out of this? Is this a thriller or a horror novel?  Well, the virus turns people into some sort of zombies, so that makes it horror.  But...terrorists...a plot to release a virus...a hero cop...thriller, right?  But, a sorcerer who is causing the day to repeat for this cop until he gets it right...back to horror...  But... You see what I mean.  A good horror novel can be a good thriller.  It just has supernatural aspects, and doesn't shy away from depicting the bad stuff that happens, even if it happens more or less "off camera." I like writing character-driven stories.  I think that most of my stories start with the characters and move on from there.  I don't know if I succeed.  Read something I've written (all short stories, until THE CAVE goes live sometime this weekend, then I'll have a novella in the mix as well) and come back and tell me what you think.  It happens that most of my stories end up being horror in some way, but they're mostly just stories. One of the best horror series I've read in recent years is F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series.  Why is it so good?  Because Jack is facing off as the champion of a supernatural entity, and opposing another, more involved supernatural entity, but the horrors are a mix of real-life horror and horror caused in an unbelievable way by something supernatural.  Because Jack is fighting for himself as a sort of every-man, and his family, and even for people he doesn't know but shares humanity with.  Because in the end you just have to know what's happening, how it's going to resolve, and what will become of Jack and Gia and Vicky and Abe and others. It is a character-driven series, in my view, and they are the type of books I love to read, and aspire to write. Anyway, that's a long answer as to why I write horror.  Mostly it's because those are the kind of stories that I make up.  Lot of words to get back to that short answer.  Sorry! *****

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

Ran across the internet site The Short List, who posted this list of "dystopian novels."  The list was controversial, omitting plenty of good novels and listing some that were arguable, like THE HUNGER GAMES and ARTICLE 5.  Also it mixed "dystopian" with "post-apocalyptic" novels as if there were no difference. I think it's likely that both dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories attract many of the same readers.  I know I am attracted to both.  But is there a difference?  In many comments, it is argued that post-apocalyptic novels are a subset of dystopian fiction, while others argue that the two are separate, closely related perhaps, but both branches occupy the same level of whatever tree one might be making to categorize science fiction. I have my own "End of the World" list of both types of novels on Amazon on which I tried to stick with "post-apocalyptic" types of novels.  I did not include classic dystopian stories like Orwell's 1984 or P.K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because they don't paint a picture of a society that's been wiped out by some catastrophe (hence, the "apocalyptic" part of the genre tag).  I stick to stories describing the world after something decimates (not literally; "decimate" means eliminate one of every ten people, I think) human society.  In The Stand, it is disease.  Likewise in Edward W. Robertson's Breakers novels.  In Hugh Howey's Wool, it is another form of disease brought on by nano-bots.  In Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, it is an asteroid hitting the Earth.  In Stephen Baxter's Ark and Flood, it is a flood of super-biblical proportions that destroys the environment as we know it.  In Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, it's Ice-9.  (Read the book!  It's lots of fun!)  In David Brin's The Postman, it's nuclear war.  In a bunch of books, it's zombies!  How do the zombies get created out of your friends and neighbors?  Disease, usually. I see "dystopian" as being something different.  I see it as a society that's gone "off track".  Orwell's vision is the classic example.  Suzanne Collins paints a dystopian society in her Hunger Games trilogy, and so does Veronica Roth in her Divergent novels.  (Apparently, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of another earlier novel, possibly of Japanese origin, which I'd never heard of...but the knowledgeable commenters knew all about it.)  Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged paints a dystopia of sorts, and apparently so does her novel Anthem.  (I've read the first, not the second, and I remain unimpressed with the "philosophy" found in Atlas Shrugged, but that's just me.)  A lot of current young adult fiction can be categorized as dystopian, especially The Giver.  How about The Maze Runner?  Dystopian, and possibly post-apocalyptic (I haven't read the follow-ups yet.)  (Oh, and I know The Giver isn't really current, but my kids were both assigned it for school reading recently, so for me it's current...) Anyway, lots of good suggestions for reading were given in the comments, and I plan on checking out a few of them.  There's something about the current crop of dystopian novels, especially the YA stuff, that grabs me - maybe it's the attention to social orders as we see them today, and the way that kids relate to one another.  Maybe it's just that it's more accessible, with a more modern style of writing.  I don't know.  But I know for me, it's sometimes hard to get to the excellent story, because of the style in which an older novel was written.  Earth Abides and On The Beach are both like that for me; so is Brave New World.  Great, if frightening visions of the future, but stylistically, they seem to take more concentration or something, and seem harder to get into, for me at least. If you have comments about any of this, I'd love to hear them.  (And I really don't need to hear from the Vuitton Bags or Nike whatever spammers anymore...everything gets caught in the spam filter and I delete it all because I simply don't have time to check four or five hundred posts...) *****

Amazon-bashing…

No, not from me.  I'm not going to bash Amazon.  Like I said in my last post, if it wasn't for Amazon and their Kindle Store, I would never have published.  But after a weekend of no blog reading, I came back and checked some of my usual spots and found that there was plenty of Amazon bashing, and Amazon supporting, going on.  The latest is Konrath and Howey vs. Chuck Wendig.  I've been thinking about Amazon in terms of the "letter" that Douglas Preston posted, which has been signed by something like 400 major authors, including personal hero Stephen King, and the rebuttal, written by Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey and "edited" by Barry Eisler and others.  It seems that people (read:  trad-published writers) want to frame the rebuttal as an Amazon-love fest, and others (read: self-publishers) want to frame the Preston letter as a big-publishing apology.  When I read the quotes that Konrath put on his blog, I couldn't help but agree that Preston's letter is pro-Hachette AND anti-Amazon, but when I read Konrath's and Howey's "reader thank-you", I saw a piece that mostly tried to excuse Amazon for any of the harm done to Hachette authors (like Preston, I assume, and many others). I don't for a minute think that Amazon and Hachette really care about the authors, any more than I think Walmart cares about Green Giant brand vegetables.  With respect to Walmart, if a producer of one of the products they sell goes under, they simply shift their sales to another similar product.  Amazon, like Walmart, is a retailer, and in the end, they don't care about me as an author EXCEPT in terms of how much money they can make by retailing my products.  I'm a supplier to them, definitely part of the (very!) long tail because I only sell a couple units a month.  But even at that, they aren't losing money on me.  In fact, they're making a small amount every time my mom buys a book by me.  (I'm kidding.  My mom doesn't buy any of my books.)  If things change and Amazon begins losing money on me and those like me, they'll dump me like a hot potato, only faster. On the other hand, Hachette is not a retailer.  They're a supplier.  To them, writers are the growers of the corn and green beans that they package and ship to many retailers, not just Amazon, but Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Costco and Sam's Club, Target, and thousands of mom-and-pop bookstores across the country.  Should they be concerned with the well-being of their suppliers?  Well, maybe not.  If farmer A fails to provide quality corn to them, they can go to farmers B and C and D. I'm reminded of health care providers' relationships with the insurance companies that pay them for most of the services they provide.  We have a love/hate relationship with those companies.  The best ones, the ones we most like to work with, do not try to place themselves between the doctor and the patient aside from reimbursement.  They don't try to determine the necessity of treatments and reimburse fairly for services rendered.  Patients don't sign up with an insurance company to get a health-care costs manager, but usually that is exactly what they get. In my practice, we breath easier when we see patients listing certain insurance companies, and we clench our teeth when we see patients listing others that we know are hard to work with.  I hate it when an insurance company questions me as to necessity of a particular treatment.  I'd like to think I don't recommend treatments that are not necessary.  It is just extra work for me to explain to them why its necessary.  This is always something I've already done with the patient. How does this relate to Amazon and Hachette?  Well, in both cases we have to realize that the companies are primarily interested in one thing - their own bottom line.  But we also have to look at what they are providing in return for our production of the products that they sell.  And how much are they getting in the middle of the only relationship that matters - that between the writer and the reader.  It's very similar to insurance companies in medicine.  The less they get in between the doctor/patient relationship, the more we like them.  We as doctors (and patients, possibly to a lesser extent) would be happiest if they would just shut up and pay as we believe they've agreed to do.  But they, in the interest of their bottom line, would prefer to monitor those out-going expenditures and make them as small as possible while collecting every last premium dollar.   We depend on insurance companies; without them few of our patients would be able to afford high level care.  But we hate them anyway. Same with Amazon and Hachette.  We'd love it if they'd just shut up and sell our products and send the checks.  Amazon does this, for the most part, if you're an independent publisher.  You see how many units sold, and they cut a check based on that number.  They're pretty clear up front on the amount they're going to pay, and you can see exactly what you're getting.  But then again they're a retailer.  They're simply taking their cut out of your sale and passing on the rest to you.  (What's the cut for?  It's for making the distribution process simple.) Does Hachette do this?  Most of us will never know, because Hachette isn't interested in using us as suppliers.  Maybe their authors are happy with all of their contract terms.  Or maybe they aren't. But what does any of that have to do with Amazon?  Simply because Amazon isn't pre-selling their products while they're in negotiations with Hachette, and authors are losing sales?  Because Amazon is stating as fact that it may take longer than expected for Amazon to ship a Hachette product, because they aren't stocking them in huge numbers because of this dispute? Amazon's just the retailer, or so it appears to me.  Understand that Amazon, like those health insurance companies and like Hachette, only wants to make as much money as possible and believes that the way to do so is to honor their promises to their customers, so without assurance that they can get Hachette products in the near- or more-distant future they won't commit to advance ordering.  Just like Hachette wants terms from Amazon that will allow Hachette (not Hachette authors) to make as much money as possible.  Is Hachette changing their contract terms based on whatever happens with Amazon?  Somehow I doubt it. It appears to me that authors' ire should be directed at Hachette, not at Amazon.  Amazon's ONLY the retailer.  Okay, it's the biggest retailer, but still - there are still other online outlets for their works.  iBooks and Barnes and Noble and Kobo can still sell their works, and you can side load a Nook app on a Kindle Fire (though not on the Paperwhite - has to be an Android OS, I guess). If Walmart stops selling your merchandise, hopefully you have a few other  ways to get your stuff to your customers .  Target, maybe?  Or Jewel?  Or even K-mart or Old Navy or whatever.  Do you direct your customers elsewhere?  "AVAILABLE AT TARGET STORES NATIONWIDE!!!" Or do you start suggesting that Amazon is evil, their founder is the devil, etc etc, and insisting that HE and THEY cut their profits for your benefit?  Because they're not evil...and the chances of them cutting their profit margins are about the same as Hell freezing over... *****

The End of the World!

I've always been a big fan of end-of-the-world stories.  I don't know why.  Something about them just tickles my imagination.  Maybe it's my own buried desire to test myself against such circumstances to see if I would come out on top.  Maybe it's just that the stories that come out of such situations, the good versus the evil, intelligence versus stupidity, the luck versus the well-planned action, the way the characters react to the changed circumstances and to each other -- all of that grabs me and pulls me in Stephen King, author of what I consider to be the gold standard for post-apocalyptic fiction, once said in an interview, "The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke." Maybe that explains it for me.  It's just fun! I've tried to write some post-apocalyptic fiction; so far I've been unsuccessful.  I think it's because I put myself into the stories too much.  I've tried writing main characters that I can't really identify with too much, but that's hard too.  I don't know if others have the same problem, but I like to sort of "be" the main character.  Not me, obviously, but with enough of "me" in him (or even in her).  It's hard with post-apocalyptic stories because I tend to think of how I'd react in the same situation and write my character that way.  And I'm a conflict-avoidance type, and you can't really have a good story without a lot of conflict, or so it seems to me. I already mentioned that I see The Stand as the gold standard.  That's my personal opinion, but I have my reasons.  It's a classic good versus evil story, and I really like the way that the survivors of the superflu separate.  People's basic nature makes them lean one way or another, but yet there are shades of grey in the good and the bad.  It doesn't hurt that King wrote some great characters.  Nick Andros, Larry Underwood, Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, even Harold Lauder are all characters that open themselves to exploration and contemplation.  They are all complex with complex motivations. My second favorite story is Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  It's a very different story.  There are no supernatural elements in this one.  It's all about people.  And it's probably the type of story I prefer, generally speaking.  In this story, a comet is streaking toward Earth on a near-collision course, and it is first noticed by a couple of amateur astronomers.  The tale follows several different characters whose paths converge on a Senator's ranch in the mountains.  One of the main characters is a TV reporter who decides to do a story on how to prepare for a possible disaster.  I found his preparations to be a very interesting part of the story.  In the end, it's a story with a hopeful vision for humanity -- the Senator (a good guy; could a story like this be written today?) says with his dying breath, "Give my people the stars."   Science and technology win out, and I like this vision.  It's almost opposite of King's version:  in The Stand technology is depicted as being sought by the forces of evil, even if its purpose is turned to good in the end. So what prompted me to write about this stuff today?  It was my weekend reading of Bobby Adair's Slow Burn books.  There are four in all, and I'm about half-way through the third.  It's sort of a zombie apocalypse.  Take King's plague and put it with Night of the Living Dead but throw in the self-reliance message from Niven and Pournelle and you have Adair's vision of the future.  I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and I have enjoyed most of the sub-genre coming out of indie fiction (especially Edward Robertson's Breakers series and of course, Hugh Howey's Wool series), but I'm not a huge fan of the zombie versions.  They're okay.  I've read several of them.  They just aren't my favorite ways to approach this sub-genre.  they aren't what I'd choose to write. But this one is grabbing me more than any of the others I've read, including ones by Amanda Hocking, Dan DeWitt, Brett Battles, Scott Nicholson, and others.  Why?  I think it's the characters.  I really like the main character, Zed.  He reacts like I think I might react (not that I'd get the gun stuff) but the way he latches onto the other characters and hangs on for dear life.  I like Murphy too.  They make a great pair. But it's also the situations he finds himself in.  Setting the story in the locations Adair sets it in works for me as well.  Having Zed work his way around the college and then around the suburban homes and such captures my imagination also. I have a list of "End of the World" stories on Amazon and I think these stories are going to get added to it as worthwhile post-apocalyptic fiction very soon. *****

New Free Story!

Back in the days of the Book and Candle Pub, we held a writing contest, with the challenge to write a story in the world of Stephen King's opus, THE STAND.  You could use the characters, the settings, whatever you wanted. I chose to write a story about a vignette set in my own town. As I recall, I didn't win - but I still think the story was pretty decent. If you look under the "Free Stories" tab, you'll see it:  CHOOSING SIDES - Fan Fiction set in the world of THE STAND. Check it out! ***