The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Friday, February 29, 2008

SF/F Links: February Roundup Part Two

(My apologies to anyone who was trying to get to the post via the "Read More". It wasn't working for some reason. Now it should be. Thanks for your patience.)

Alright, time for part two of this month's link roundup (click the read more):
And that's it!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: The Golden Cord by Paul Genesse

My review for The Golden Cord by Paul Genesse is up. Check it out here!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Good and the Bad of Attending Uni

Well, this has been an interesting time these last few months. I've begun university level coursework at University of California, Santa Cruz, and it is proving to be a much different experience than I thought. There are things that really annoy me, misconceptions, etc. that I feel should be addressed for anyone out there thinking of attending a university level college.

  • Private schools make the claim that at public universities, like my school for example (and yes, there was actually a private school that specifically targeted my school for this), you will never be able to talk to the professors, your classes will be enormous and only be lectures, etc. This is really somewhat of a lie. I have only taken one course that had more than 80 people in it, and that was a class that EVERYONE has to take (no matter the major, it's a requirement). It's understandable that that course would be full. While the class was only lecture, with some time for discussion, the sections (discussion groups separate from class) were really smile. There were only 15 people in my section for that class. I spoke to my TA every section, directly, without having to beg for an appointment.
    Of my other courses, only one was over 30 students, most were under 25. The idea that you can't approach professors is actually a lie. You can approach them and they encourage you to utilize their office hours, email them, set up other appointments, etc. I get the impression that really students don't bug them enough for their liking. Remember, these people have valuable information. If you have questions, ask them. Professors love answering questions (well not all of them, but a lot do). They like to know you're interested.
  • You will read so much you'll never have fun again (or at least until you graduate). This has more to do with managing your time than having lots of reading. Last quarter I had about 20 books to read, this quarter it is significantly less, but equally difficult. It's actually not that hard to read all that, if you just sit down and do it.
  • Public universities don't help their students in a bind. That's a lie too. While those lovely private schools might want you to think this, it's really not very true. If you have a legit problem, there is usually some sort of help. Talk to your financial aid office. Often times they can work out deals with you, etc.
Truths (the bad):
  • University level work is expensive. Yes, it is. Not cheap. I get my fees, books, travel, and living expenses paid by tax payer's dollars. I'm making good use of that money. I'm not failing my classes, I study, I'm working on going to graduate school, etc. I also paid into this for several years and I am grateful for people who do pay for my college. College is not cheap.
  • Text books are disproportionately expensive. Another great truth. Text books are actually ridiculous, especially at university level. You buy these books for 20 or 30 bucks (we're talking small novels here, not giant science texts) and then when you want to sell them back you can't get much more than 1/10th of that. I list mine on Amazon, because I can get more money back for them. Another problem is that a lot of these books don't get used again for a long time, which further reduces how much money you can get for them.
  • Course Readers are stupid. Yes, they. Here's why:
    When you buy them you can't sell them back, even for a small chunk of change. You also can't sell them online because they aren't actual books, but groups of articles put together by the professor into a ringed binder. Alternately, that reader will likely never be used in the same way ever again or articles will be changed. That means, basically, you've just spend money on something that is useless to anyone else. They're essentially a waste of money.
  • University students bitch and complain about the stupidest crap ever. I've heard this one a lot: "I can't get out of bed by 9:30 to get to class by 10:00. That's too early." Bull. You know what's hard? Trying to get to campus by 7:45 when no buses run that early where you live. Yeah. They also complain about things like "Gosh, I have to read five pages tomorrow" or "I had four weeks to start my essay but now it's due in two hours". I've also heard other complaints that have little to do with school, and they are equally as stupid. Get over it. This is the easy life. Wait for the real world. I've been there. The "I can't get up that early" excuse is a surefire way to get yourself canned. Learn discipline now while you still can. Yes, things can be stressful, but that's no reason to bitch about stuff that, in all actuality, is trivial. You reading five pages is not remotely the same as someone losing their home, or being booted out on the streets, etc.
  • Campus transit is somewhat difficult during the middle of the day. The problem is that university students are excessively lazy. Here's an example: I've seen students take a bus that goes all over campus, only to get off two stops (about a quarter mile) later. Were they late for class? Nope. They were just meeting friends. Now the problem with the transits is that they are overcrowded during the day. Nobody walks. They all cram into the buses. This is stupid and counterproductive. Just walk. It's good for you and you can walk just about anywhere on campus in twenty minutes. I know, I've done it.
  • Some lack of diversity in coursework and difficulty in finding professors with similar interest. If you love science fiction, it's rather difficult to learn more about it in an academic setting in most universities, including mine.
  • Lack of discipline. Maybe this is just something that I have to get used to, but I think there needs to be a serious re-evaluation of how to deal with students. First off, I'm in a class this quarter and the same three people show up 5-20 minutes late every single class. This isn't a large room, but a tiny little place. So it's really noticeable. The professor hasn't done anything about it, though I think she should. The problem is that this is extremely rude. Unless you are cleared to do so with the professor, don't show up late. These students should have their grades docked. This is simply unacceptable at university level. Community college, okay, fine, but not at university.
    Alternately there is an overabundance of students who don't do the work. It's not that hard. Just do the reading and come to class. If something really bad happened to you, talk to the professor beforehand so they don't start calling on you to answer questions. Professors are surprisingly understanding your great aunt Bindy just died in your lap the night before.
  • Lack of basic education. This one drives me nuts. Okay, I'm not a science wiz. I love science. I generally get most of it, and I like doing math and learning about nifty scientific things, but it's not my field. I only have an interest in it as a bystander. But I also took steps to ensure that I can pass basic algebra, etc. First, there is NO reason why an accredited university should be offering rudimentary math courses. Not only is that a waste of money, it is also a waste of time for the professors. How exactly did you get into a university if you can't solve a+16=9? Okay, it's not THAT bad, but you get the general idea. There is a minimum requirement to get into a university either out of high school or a community college. You have to reach those minimums to even be considered. This drives me nuts here. These students shouldn't be here. I understand that math is hard, but you have to work to get to this level for a reason, and the university shouldn't have to put themselves out just to give you a shot. You have to prove yourself. I didn't get into UCSC because I begged them or wrote a nice essay in my application (though perhaps that has something to do with it...the essay part, not the begging). I got in because I have good grades and took all the courses I was supposed to. I worked hard to get where I am and so have a whole load of others, some of which probably worked significantly harder than I did. The universities in this country really need to re-evaluate who they let in. I'm not saying this to be mean, but there is a minimum expectation when you attend uni, and if you don't meet that expectation you don't really belong. The university is responsible for furthering your education, not teaching you what you should have already learned in high school.
Truths (the good):
  • Professors are extraordinarily helpful. Self-explanatory.
  • The TAs are extraordinarily helpful (for the most part). Self-explanatory.
  • The campus is beautiful (I got lucky on this one).
  • It's not more difficult than community college. At least not for me. I find it at about the same level, though a little more reading and the necessity to actually read. A bit more writing too, and shorter classes.
  • Campus food isn't too bad. It mostly tastes good and they have healthy options. Plus I'm convinced that Naked juice is the best brand of fruit juice ever made.
  • Classes are not entirely boring. Some are, but a few of them are quite good.
  • I get to learn stuff for a living (kinda).
  • Lots of cute little opportunities are afforded to university students (such as writing competitions).
I think that's sufficient!

(Almost) Required Essentials For Writers

These might seem like no-brainers, but you'd be surprised how many people don't have or do something of these things. I've learned the hard way, which is probably not the best way. Regardless, there are things that writers really should have, whether it be a product or a feature turned on in a program, or whatever. So, the following list is a bunch of stuff you should be doing. Some of them do overlap, but they are options for you to think about:
  • Extra Computer
    If you have two computers, keep a copy of all your writing on each one. This gives you that lovely buffer.
  • MS Word Auto-save
    Turn on your auto-save to every minute. For slower computers this can be a problem, but what happens when you've just written 500 words and your computer suddenly shuts off? Well, sometimes the recovery feature doesn't get those words, and that auto-save won't have them either because it wouldn't have been on. I lost 350 words the other week. They were awesome words. I turned MS Word's auto-save to one minute and haven't lost anything since.
  • A Flash Card/Stick/Disk/Whatever
    You need one. Period. There is no argument here. Computers do break and explode. Get one. I got mine for $15 USD. That's not that much money considering the time and the frustration you'll save by having a little flash drive to stick your work on. They come in GB these days--1 GB to 4GB on average. If you're not rich, get a 1 GB, or if you can find a smaller one look for a 256 MB. Even that little one would have problems holding all your writing.
    This is no joke. Trust me, I learned this the hard way by having my computer get killed by a virus due to XP having stupid problems with it (MsBlaster and Sasser). I almost lost everything.
  • Use Google Docs, Personal FTP, etc.
    Google is awesome, if not a little insane. They have a great feature that allows you to keep spreadsheets and documents. It's a great option if you have files you really want to save. If you don't want it there, you can put up a password protected FTP, which is relatively simple to do, or use another online document service to keep files safe. This is great if you do your writing at work and would like to save it somewhere other than on the work computer or in an email. It's great as a backup too.
  • MS Word, Open Office, etc.
    Obvious right? It is. While MS Word isn't the most perfect word processing program, it is probably the best. Its spell-check is decent, though not perfect, and its grammar aid can help you pick out the most noticeable of your issues (which saves you time). You can get great statistics about your writing, such a grade level, reading ease, etc.
    There are other programs too, though I've never used them. Regardless, if you use a computer it's great to have a word processor. .txt is not a good format for writing, trust me.
  • Electronic Dictionary
    If you are like me and you travel and write or go in places where you can't bring your computer without destroying it, then you should really consider getting a little electronic dictionary. I have one from Franklin. It's small and functional. It's beat up too, since I've taken it with me into the woods and sat on it a few times. But it works wonders. It's great for getting a definition, finding a similar word, etc., and wonderful if you're sitting around and can't remember something.
  • Dictionary Software
    I use Word Web. There are many others out there. Word Web has a free version and a pro version. Both are excellent, though the pro version is a little better. However, as far as free dictionary/thesaurus software goes, Word Web is the best.
  • Become Friends With
    No, I don't mean that literally, but you should become acquainted with the site. While you should probably turn off your Internet when writing, is great for finding stuff in ways that a free version of Word Web can't. You want the etymology of a word, then go to End of story.
  • Writersplanner or anything else to keep track of your submissions
    I use Writersplanner and it works great for me. You should always keep some sort of spreadsheet or use some sort of software to keep track. There are few things that look worse than sending a story twice to a publisher/magazine. It's amateur and looks bad. So keep track.
There you go. So, do you have those?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fantasy Maps: Are They Important?

I was doing my usual browsing and blog checking when I came on to this post from The Deckled Edge, which led me to this forum discussion, this post by Joe Abercrombie, and this post over at Neth Space. I guess it never occurred to me that the concept of map-making was such a big issue out there. As a fantasy reader, a 'writer' if you will, I do get a certain sense of joy from maps, but I've never held it against a book for not having a map, or against the author for that matter. So what is this big deal about maps?
I think there are some serious issues with having maps, even though I do like them. Addressing the bad things first is probably the best way to approach this, giving me ample time to talk about the good things at the tale end. What are the bad things?
First, I think there is this stigma with maps that if you make one, as I have, you have to stick with it so long as it is available to the prying eyes of readers. I learned this very lesson the hard way when I realized I had designed the map for Traea with one location in the wrong place. This resulted in a whole slue of text being wrong. Originally I had wanted to beg the fine fellow who had given me the professional quality map to fix it for me, but realized that would be a waste of time. It wouldn't take me more than ten minutes to go through the text and change all the words indicating the direction of this location to another location. But my work isn't in print. I have that luxury. I can change things as I see fit and have leeway to do so.
Writers who are published can't screw up if they publish a map. This presents some problems, obviously. If you screw up, people are going to notice and they will probably hold it against you, especially if you're popular. Also, you can't fix it. Meaning, you can't screw up. Once that published map is screwy, that's it. This is a significant problem because sometimes writers want to change things. Maybe they put a city somewhere and realize "hey, I don't want that there after all". This is part of the reason why I've left some of the areas of Traea unexplored. I didn't want to indicate what is out there partly because I don't know where or what it is at the moment and to leave a little suspense.
Second, maps have a tendency to leave out bits and pieces. You can't put everything into a map and as a result people with too much time on their hands will ridicule it. This is an argument made against Eragon, possibly for a valid reason, though I'm not sure. The map from Eragon doesn't show any smaller towns aside from those cities and places mentioned in the story, yet there are massive armies. I think one has to be very careful when making maps when it comes to this. You have to make it look realistic, which leads us to our next problem.
Third, realism is somewhat important in making maps, but at the same time we're dealing, primarily speaking, with worlds that don't exist. It's sort of a catch 22: you have to be real, but unreal at the same time. So, maps that look particularly ridiculous end up really making the book seem stupid, if people pay attention to them at least. If your map is shaped like a bunny and your story is supposed to be serious, well, you get the idea.
Maps do have benefits, though. Fans love them and they look pretty. Those are two very good things, obviously. They're fun to make too. Who doesn't like sitting around drawing random maps of stuff and making up little worlds? I have an entire folder full of maps that I've drawn at some point. Most of them will never get used, but I had fun doing them.
But are maps important? Do they really need to be there for the story to succeed?
That's a definite no. If your story can't survive without having a map, then it's not a very well written story to begin with. I shouldn't have to resort to looking at your map to figure out where your characters are or what the terrain might look like. That's your job as the writer to describe everything properly so the reader has an idea what is going on. This is especially important because some people don't look at maps.
I personally am not a map person when it comes to reading books. I might glance at them, but I never examine them. Basically, I see no point in using a map to keep track of things in the book. As I said, if you can't write well enough so I know what is going on, then you're wasting my time. Joe Abercrombie says:
Call me foolish as well, but I do think having a map there can damage the sense of scale, awe, and wonder that a reader might have for your world. It's like that moment in the horror film when you finally see the monster. What? That's it? I was scared of a piece of foam rubber? The unknown can be mysterious, exciting, in a way that a few squiggles on a piece of paper often ... aren't. It's a bit like the problem I have with literal fantasy artwork of the characters on a cover. Pictures work very powerfully compared to words. Straight away the reader's imagination is constricted by what they've seen there, and I'd like to think of my readers' imaginations running wild and free, roaming far and wide like a noble mountain goat, or something.
I fully agree. There is a sense of awe that is lost. That great feeling of reading and going "wow, this place sounds really cool" sort of gets thrust into the background if you spend too much time staring at a map. Some people do this and obviously there are some that aren't hindered by maps. This is partly why I don't look at maps much. Sometimes I'll examine them later, but while I'm reading I don't. I like that sense of awe and wonder. I'm currently reading "The Last Cord" by Paul Genesse. It has a map. It's a pretty map. I haven't looked at it beyond a simple glance. I really don't want to at this point. The story itself is good on its own and the scenery described is enough to keep me interested in this interesting world that Mr. Genesse has created. But I also realize that some people simply love maps. Some people like to examine them.
At the end of the day, however, the work has to be able to work perfectly without a map being present. If it doesn't, then it's a poorly written novel.

What do you think about maps? Seriously, I want to know.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Controlling the Weather: Stupidity in a Pretty Box

(Edit: Helps if I spell "controlling" correctly)
A relatively recent article over at io9 presented the reality that we are already fiddling with the weather, which seems to me to be somewhat of a stupid thing to do. That's right, we're actually messing around with the natural order of the Earth. Now, setting aside that we've already pretty much messed with how things work on this planet as it is, there is a serious issue with screwing around with something as strong and destructive as the weather.
The story has it that Chinese meteorologists can actually 'seed' the clouds, or make them drop their payload of lovely, beautiful, useful rain at another location, rather on where they might drop them, wherever that may be. The reason for the article is that China wants the meteorologists to step it up a notch and fiddle with heavier rains to make sure the Olympics are rain free.
I see lots of issues with this not because I think it's somewhat environmentally immoral to play around with things that occur naturally, but because this has to be a big step towards that little realm we call stupid.
I don't know if fiddling with the weather the way these meteorologists are will have any adverse effects on the environment, but is that a risk worth taking? What I don't understand is why they don't just fling a giant tarp over the top of the dome, or build something over the top to keep the rain out. This seems like a risk not worth taking. Let's propose some what-ifs in this case.
  • What if we fiddle and nothing happens?
    Then we fiddle some more until something does happen and someone paying attention throws a fit. Humans are impulsive and we're always pushing the boundaries without paying attention to the long-term effects. This is especially so in political policy, but science too. I don't think anyone paid enough attention to the atomic bomb before two were dropped on Japan (perhaps if more people realized how bad radiation is they'd think twice). Often times, when we look at such events in science, this means that new policies are put into place that hinder the ability to do things in a non-damaging way. Take cloning technology. Well, they jumped ahead and made themselves a sheep, and some other things, and people had a fit and said "oh it's immoral" and "it's playing God", and completely ignored all the medical benefits that can be learned from cloning. We might develop ways to create new, perfect organs personalized to your DNA, which could rid all those pesky problems of bodies rejecting new organs. But we don't have that. Instead we have a society afraid of cloning technology.
    In this case, we fiddle, something goes really wrong, and nobody is allowed to fiddle with much of anything anymore. Yes, I can see that happening. If you screw up the weather permanently, by some stroke of misfortune, who the heck is going to let you fiddle with anything life-changing again?
  • What if we fiddle and something goes wrong, but it's not so bad?
    So if we fiddle and something minor goes wrong, say we change a simple weather pattern and it messes up some crops or something, then we will see a reversal of science that will put ridiculous and detrimental restrictions in place. Such restrictions will be narrow-minded, as they always are, that manage to stifle scientific advancement. Scientists are forced to waste time working around these restrictions to find different ways that are much more difficult and expensive to do the same things they were doing before. In this case, however, we'd see a complete shutting down of the science, rather than allowing scientists to learn from it so they can reverse any negative effects or even find ways to do good things with said technology.
  • What if we fiddle and something goes very very wrong?
    This is the worst case scenario, actually. Everything goes wrong, the weather gets messed up, and we're screwed, or at least things have to change so drastically for us that a lot of people end up screwed. The likelihood of this happening, of course, is very slim, but that's not the point. If it does happen, we're screwed. There'll be three outcomes of this:
    1. Religious zealots take over and drive us straight into a time of oppression--of science, removal of freedoms like speech, thought, etc. among other problems. This is probably your worst case scenario, though, because here everything really goes wrong. We see civil liberties go out the window, human rights trampled on, war, death, disease, and hatred clouding everything.
      Yes, this is a legit claim against religious authority in a post-disaster world. As much as religious folks would like to think that things wouldn't go so far downhill, they will, as has happened in the past repeatedly. Religions want to keep a hold on things and when it comes to survival they will take drastic steps to ensure control.
    2. Science takes over and does two things:
      • We end up in a huge recession where death, disease, war, etc. all take over nad people start dying and fighting desperately for survival.
      • We end up figuring out either the miracle cure OR we somehow figure out how to survive in the changed world.
    3. Religious zealots and science fight for survival, bringing us into a battle that may or may not be violent, but will have adverse effects on society economically and environmentally. If the world is already suffering from extreme environmental downfall, then so too will it suffer from the doings of a political or militaristic war between the two factions.
To put it simply, this is utterly stupid. Why would we even consider messing with the weather in this fashion? Granted, nothing may go wrong, but what if it does? Think a little more outside the box and be certain that nothing is going to happen before going off and messing with things as powerful as the weather.

Podcasts For Writers: A Treasure Trove (Part One)

One of the most fascinating things about the Internet is that it has become a vast compendium of knowledge for just about everything imaginable. For writers it is both a magical device and a curse. On the one hand a writer can find anything he or she needs (of course, when I say writer I mean anyone who thinks of themselves as a writer), but on the other hand it can become a distraction. While Google is certainly the most accurate and valuable search engine ever created, it isn't perfect and sometimes it can take a while to find things.
And then, sometimes the Internet is a distraction that makes you happy. In come podcasts, one of the most interesting Internet creations I've come across aside from the slue of random flash games that seem to have absolutely no point other than to draw your attention for hours upon hours. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and like the Internet there are probably podcasts for just about everything. I listen to a lot of writing podcasts, or podcasts dealing with science fiction and fantasy as literary genres. Why? Because sometimes the best way to learn anything of value is to listen to someone who actually knows what the heck he or she is talking about. So, the following are podcasts I listen to, whether regularly or irregularly, that have been of use to me for just about anything to do with writing (some of the podcasts mentioned might not be in my links section on the right-hand sidebar yet):
  • Adventures in Scifi Publishing (Shaun Farrel and Sam Wynns)This is the podcast that introduced me to the entire field (often called podiosphere). This is one of the most fascinating and useful podcasts not only because it is directed towards my fields of interest (it does address fantasy too, by the way), but also because every episode has an author interview or some other feature. The interviews are top-notch and thoroughly engaging. They have a little commentary and discussion, author interviews, and, as an added bonus, Tobias S. Buckell does a regular feature called "Ask a Writer", which should be self-explanatory.
    They are currently in their second season after a brief break.
  • The Secrets Podcast (Michael A. Stackpole)
    I think this podcast is officially on hiatus, however you should certainly look through the huge archives and start listening. Stackpole is an author of many books, including several novels for the Star Wars universe and works of his own creation (referring to world creation of course). He knows what he's talking about and his writing advice is in-depth and truly helpful. While Stackpole is primarily a science fiction and fantasy author, his advice could easily apply to any other form of fiction.
  • Balticon Podcasts (Paul Fischer)
    The official podcast of Balticon, a science fiction/fantasy convention in Baltimore, MD. I just started listening to this one and I am already enjoying it greatly. So far I've listened to two interviews with authors and both have been fascinating. I love hearing authors talk about their work and how they write. You can learn a great deal that way. I don't have too much to say about this other than what has already been said, but it is good so far!
  • The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy (Tee Morris)
    I think this one is on hiatus as well. Last I checked Mr. Morris was in the process of writing three books, all of which had deadlines very close to one another. The Survival Guide is sort of a guide for fantasy, for podcasting, for writing, and everything between. I've learned a great deal from this podcast not only because Mr. Morris is a writer, but because he has a lot of insight into the field from a different perspective: he's a small press writer. His books have been published with Dragon Moon Press, who I have done reviews for, and so his perspective on things is not the same as those who are with the larger presses. Download the archive of podcasts and give them a good listen!
  • Jay Lake's Podcasts
    Jay Lake is a relatively new author in the field, but his name has exploded. His interviews are really rather interesting and if you follow the link you'll find several panel discussions and interviews that he has done. I just finished listening to most of them and they are all quite good. He's a joy to listen to and he is obviously very passionate about his writing, and has a lot to say about the subject.
  • The Agony Column (Rick Kleffel)
    Interviews, interviews, and more interviews. Kleffel has such a huge archive of great interviews. I've been listening since I discovered Adventures in Scifi Publishing and Kleffel certainly knows what he is doing. Huge authors are in his list of mp3s!
  • Tor and Forge Books Podcast
    Tor is a major publisher of science fiction and fantasy. Their podcast is generally interviews or panel discussions with authors and the majority of them are rather good and valuable. John Scalzi has been on there a few times and it is worth a listen.
I plan to do more posts on podcasts later as I listen to more of them and become better acquainted with the field. Still, the ones above are a good start and really useful. Check them out!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Signal: More Clips For You

I just received another email about more clips from the new movie The Signal. Check them out:
This first video has some interview material in it, which is really rather interesting I think.

This next clip is directly from the film. I'm not sure where it takes place, since I haven't seen it yet, but it gives you some idea what is going on.

There you go! Enjoy!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And She Flaps Her Wings Like Annoyance

The evil School Faerie decided she wanted to be quite the little pest today. I just saw an email for my British Canon class saying that my TA wants everyone to have a full, six-page first draft of our final essays for the course by tomorrow for class (11:00 AM). I find that rather annoying. The email was sent on the 17th, but it still seems rather ridiculous for me to write a rough draft. I understand that for some people rough drafts (for essays) is really helpful. It's not for me. It never has been. That's not to say I'm smarter than other people, it just means I use a different process. I don't write good essays when I think ahead. And to be honest, when I write this essay and do this draft, I'll likely not touch it again until the day before the real essay is due. I don't like doing drafts. It forces me to think too far ahead of time and I like the pressure of having to churn out an essay in 48 hours rather than 336 (or 2 weeks).
So the overall result of having to do this rough draft is that I will learn nothing from the process of peer review in class. Here are my concerns over peer review in a college setting (at least in this case):
  • First, it's a COMPLETE draft. Not a partial. We're expected to bring a fully realized idea to a peer review workshop for a DRAFT. If it's a complete draft, why do we need a peer review for it? That's like saying "I'd like you to write, but not put much thought into it, and then spend hours editing". For me, this is like destroying the creative process. I'm going to bring six pages of this paper in, all completed, and then be expected to go back and do significant edits on it. When I write a paper, I write it to be finished with it. I don't write drafts. I never have written a draft and miraculously I do remarkably well on essays. Go figure. The draft process is useless to me.
  • Peer review in a classroom setting has NO value to anyone except in the following instances:
    • Someone with considerably better writing skills gives opinions to some of lesser skills, which means that the person of lesser skill learns a great deal, but the person of greater skill gets shafted.
    • People of relatively equal skill all help one another.
      This is the underlying problem with peer review in the classroom. People are not all of the same skill, nor do they all go through the same process. I might get stuck with a bunch of people that don't know what they are doing, or don't fully understand, or whatever. Generally this is pretty common, as I've been in other peer review groups before. What happened in those groups? They told me some things were wrong, and when I didn't change them and turned the essay in anyway I got an A. What did I learn? I learned not to listen to people in classroom peer review groups because they haven't offered me anything worthwhile. That's not to say they can't be useful to someone else, but the whole premise of peer review in classrooms for essays just doesn't work for me.
  • I'm going to talk to the TA or professor about my paper anyway, so why am I going to bother with students who likely won't be able to help me? The TA even expects me to speak to him to make sure to solidify my idea.
  • I don't like this obsession with peer review for essays. I'm not writing to please the students, but to please the TA or professor. If I were trying to please a wide audience of people I would likely write differently, but there is a set formula to writing college level essays, even if there doesn't seem to be, and I write within that formula and get my good grades. That's it.
Now, having said these things I feel like I need to clarify. I'm not saying I'm smarter or better than other people in the class or in any class. Far from it, actually. I'm saying that for me the process of writing rough drafts for peer review is pointless. I don't work that way and never have. In fact, if I look back on my history of essays there is actually a legit reason for me to dislike rough draft/peer review for essays. When I do rough draft/peer review and follow the methods behind it I end up doing worse than if I just kept with my usual habits. My process just works better for me.
So the end result of this is that I'm going to write a six page essay, because if I don't my grade will be docked (as said in the email). I'm going to give my essay to a bunch of people to look at and have them tell me "well this is crap" or "I would change this", etc. and then I'm not really going to listen to them and do minor editing the following week. My grade won't slack because I'll have followed the same process I would normally, and I'll just pretend that tomorrow is the deadline for the final draft.
Needless to say, this is a crappy day. I wanted to get a lot of writing done today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Studying Science Fiction Politics: Perhaps

I'm considering doing an independent study course next quarter. My reasoning is this: I already have to take one course that is required that I really don't care about and since the number of modern literature courses offered (seeing how I'm a modern lit major) are rather crappy, I don't want to have to take three courses that I hate. So I've resolved to considering independent study as an option to do something interesting.
    I don't want to discuss race because, quite frankly, I'm not that interested in any subject of race within science fiction beyond tropes of racism and the data I'm collecting for the project I'm working on for this blog (which serves no academic purpose other than to educate myself and anyone else interested on what minority categories look like in the spectrum of science fiction and fantasy). My interest, I think, is in politics.
    Now, when I say politics I don't mean in the same sense of the types of politics we encounter in the United States. I'm more interested in the representation of government within science fiction societies, and in particular, dystopian societies. What I'm considering is doing a study of the nature of government within several works of science fiction and perhaps arguing that government acts as a negative force and in some ways is like a corporate entity that uses desperate measures of control to maintain dominance. To put it more simply, I want to argue in a short set of works that government acts like an agent of slavery, using policy and the rule of law to enslave, imprison, and otherwise take complete control over a populace, often under the guise of fear.
    The most obvious way of taking such a subject on is to include 1984 by George Orwell into the equation, which is a consideration. I'm also considering We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and perhaps several other novels from the newer period of the last 30 years of science fiction. I'm not sure what works I'll choose. I could certainly use Neuromancer by William Gibson or Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, or a myriad of other novels. Needless to say this is still in the works. I've just begun to think about it.
    I think the argument itself is rather interesting, though perhaps somewhat simplistic, which begs the question, what do I do to make it more complex and interesting? We can all think of governmental forces as enslavers, because we have learned or seen the use of government in that manner. So what is it about this interesting subject that makes things complex? Is it that people allow it to exist and don't take measures to change things? 1984 would say so, since the main character witnesses several times the nature of 'doublethink' and even stops himself to ponder it. But he never does anything, he only considers it, except when it's far too late. It could possibly be assumed that people before him did the same, and the people before those people, for how else could something so wicked that is used as a method of otherwise illegal control gain so much momentum? The same might be said of the people in We where the rules have changed so drastically in the domed, closed-off city that even sex is done by appointment and without preference. Certainly the benefit of having easy selection of the partners you want has benefits, unless you're the type that wants nothing to do with someone. Such a world leaves no room for choice and nobody truly complains until the end when it is discovered that there's nothing really wrong with the rest of the world (sort of like The Island with Ewan McGregor). You can imagine, though, being forced into sex by appointment and being required to perform sufficiently, or be docked points or whatever it might be that a government could use to control your enjoyment. And what would you do if you found you liked a particular person and someone else screwed up your plan of only enjoying their company? These are things that are perhaps created by a negligent public, since such policies either came out of nowhere and nobody did anything, or not enough was done and whatever revolution might have occurred simply failed.
    These are the thoughts in my head on this subject. I don't know if it will become anything or if I can even find a sponsoring professor to take me on, but I do intend to try and see if I can make it work. It sounds like fun.

    On to the subject of what books to read: Do you have any recommendations? Anything really, so long as it's SF. I'm curious to see what you folks think!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quota Reached: Writing Going Well

Okay, so you might not give a flying fig about this, but so be it. I reached my quota today, and yesterday too (mostly, I generally don't count when I'm a few words under) and both times have been in this new story I'm writing currently entitled "The Life of Jordan". I imagine the name will change. I'm writing it for Writers of the Future since I have until the 31st of March to get this bad boy written. It's going to be on the longer side I think, as in right around the 12,000-word mark. This time it's SF, while the last time I submitted it was fantasy. Not sure why I'm doing SF this time, but I like the general idea of this story.
The interesting thing is that while writing this I've had a lot of doubts. Usually I start writing something and I love the story 100% (even the writing) and then as I get closer to the end I start to have doubts. This is turning out to be the opposite. I like the idea of the story, but I'm not sure i like how I'm writing it. It is growing on me, though, and I think maybe it'll work. I'm going to take it to the end nonetheless to see how it turns out.
How about anyone else out there that writes? When you write do you hate the story at first and have it grow on you or the other way around?

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Book Review Up: The 13th Reality and Steps Through the Mist

I have two new reviews up!
One is for The 13th Reality by James Dashner.
The other is for Steps Through the Mist by Zoran Zivkovic.
Check them out!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Where Do Your Characters Live? had this cool post a while back with cool images of where he lived and where one of his characters lived. So, I thought I'd do the same thing for WISB!

Possibly the most interesting thing about doing this post is that the little town where James and Laura are originally from doesn't actually exist. In fact, it's placed in an area where no town ever was, but next to a river that does exist and which shows up in the book by name. The little town of Woodton is actually in Montana. There are two images I created using Google for this.

The first is a wide shot showing where I currently live and where Woodton would be in comparison (click for bigger picture):The next last picture is a closeup shot of where Woodton actually would be if, by some stroke of luck, the little town actually existed:It was actually a lot of fun coming up with this last image. I actually had to find the river on Google that is mentioned in WISB (Stillwater R.), and then I had to trace that river until I could find a suitable place where a small town might actually exist, taking into account the elevations and the fact that there are already towns along that river. I'd never had to think about it before because Woodton was never a major setting, except in the beginning of the novel.

So, now you know where the characters are from. What about your characters?

Reviewers: Help Me Help Us All

(Note: Please keep an eye on this as it will change from time to time)
(Edit: I'm looking for books printed late 2007 or at any point in 2008)
(Edit--Disclaimer: This data is not being used for a thesis, book, or anything of that sort. It's public domain. I'm not selling it or profiting in any way except by gaining knowledge, which will be presented in this blog. I will not accept money and you don't have to put your name on it if you don't want to.)

Okay, so the title is a little corny, but it fits in a way. What I'm asking from all of you reviewers out there is to help me with a project for the year: determining social/religious/ethnic biases in SF and F. Edit: It came to my intention that it seems as if I'm implying that SF and F intentionally create these biases, and that is NOT what I'm intended this to mean at all. The bias I am talking about is simply a lack of material dealing with social/religious/ethnic/gender issues. This in no way means that I suggest SF and F writers are racist, sexist, or whatever. Nor is this meant as a fuel for whatever fire might already burning that looks for reasons to discount SF and F as literary forms. Please understand that I don't intend to point at SF and F in a negative way.
This came up in a conversation with Tobias S. Buckell on his blog and what I'd like to do is really get a wide array of information from all over to cover as much as humanly possible. I want to see what the bias really looks like from a more broad spectrum, rather than the readings on one or two people. There are a lot of reviewers out there and if you can just take no more than a minute of your time for every review to write down some info and save it, then we can make this more of a reality.
What I'm asking is this:
For every book you read in the SF or F genre, take a note of which ethnic, religious, social groups are present within a work in a significant way. What this means is if the main character or a significant character is White, Black, or Asian, then write that down. The same applies to religions and significant social groups (feminists, ACLU types, etc.). They must be significant presences, not just a mention. If there is a strong Catholic presence, say so. If you don't know what religion is present, but there is one, just say unknown.
Edit: Also, I'd like to address gender too. Mention main characters that are male or female and secondary, but significant characters that are male or female (make them separate to differentiate).
This will allow me to gather as much data as I can on this. I want to see how it all pans out when there are loads of us gathering this info. For a quick look at all the info I think is relevant:

--Author and Title of the book (just so I can differentiate between books so I don't double up when people read the same thing)
--Genre (so I can differentiate again to put the data in one large chart and two smaller genre specific charts)
--Ethnic presences (White, Black, Asian, whatever)
--Religious presences (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Unknown, whatever)
--Any other relevant info you can think of.
--Social presences (Feminists, ACLU types, whatever)
--Gender (For main characters)
--Gender 2 (For secondary, but significant characters)

The result of this, I hope, will be a load of data that will help determine what this bias looks like, to come to an understanding of it. I think after my discussions with Tobias that I have to agree there has to be some level of bias, but I don't know how bad it is, or at least how prevalent. Edit: Again, this is not to mean that the bias is intentional or created by the writers of this genre.

Will you help me? Do you have questions?

Edit: Here is an example format of how I'd like the info:
Author and Title of the book: The Dead & the Gone (will be printed in 2008)
Genre: Science Fiction
Ethnic presences: Hispanic, White
Religious presences: Catholic
Social presences: None
Gender (main): Male main
Gender 2 (secondary): 2 female secondary and 1 male main

Also, send data either to my email - arconna@(no spam) (remove the no spam)
OR post it here. Either one works fine!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

So Sue Me

Okay, so I set some standards on myself earlier and while I would like maintain those goals I think there is something somewhat unrealistic about them. So I think I'm going to bend the rules a little bit here to add in variables that I really can't ignore. This is in part because I'm so far behind and I doubt I'll ever catch up at this point. Yes, I'm still writing, but, well, let me explain.

So I had a midterm on Monday, I had a lot of reading to do for Tuesday and for today, and further reading for Wednesday, all of which was put off in preparation for the midterm. What does this mean? This means that there really isn't a logical way I can sit here and flatly say that I can maintain a 2,000-words-a-day regimen when there are days within the school year that I can't even set aside time for to write. In fact, it's somewhat disappointing on myself when I can't achieve the goals I set because school has jumped in the way. School, unfortunately, does come first in a lot of respects as I cannot allow myself to fail at my coursework. That's not an option. School is my chance at a career and something that can keep me able to write and potentially put me in the position where I might one day write for a living.
The inevitable is that I have to consider those days when it comes to writing. As such, the new rule is as follows:
Write 2,000 words a day unless such days are encumbered with school work. This applies only to tests and significant things such as major essays and large portions of reading. Otherwise there is no excuse except laziness.
This same thing generally applies to my other rules.
Since there aren't a lot of tests and neither are there a lot of essays or large chunks of reading, it shouldn't be a problem. Now, this might have sounded like I'm downgrading my writing. No, not so. I'm not quitting and never will. I'm only being entirely realistic. I expect that I will be right back on track by Friday evening. I'm not quitting, but my writing will drop down just a little on some weeks, particularly weeks with midterms. I have to be realistic, otherwise it will just look like I'm not doing anything.
That being said, I'm not going to keep track of words missed unless for some reason I didn't reach my quota on a day that I should have met it. Meaning, all words I missed this far this week don't count because I had a midterm.

On a happy note though I am writing quite a bit of stuff. I have a story I'm going to edit and turn in to the Eaton Conference tomorrow and, to add, I'll be working on another story for this quarter of Writers of the Future, because, well, if I made honorable mention this round, who knows, maybe I'll do better some day. That's a nice boost for me. I need to figure out what to write though. Maybe SF this round.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WOTF: Honorable Mention!

Guess what? Go here and look for the name "Shaun Duke". You know who that is? Think on it just a moment...
That's me! I'm an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest (1st Quarter)! I received a message on my cell about it, called them back and was told and I'm super excited! This is great news! Apparently I have talent!


On a side note, congrats to everyone else who has been announced as an honorable mention!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

P.S.: I celebrated with ice cream. It's kind of a big deal to me, and things that are big deals tend to require ice cream to calm the soul.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Signal: New SF/Horror Flick

...w/ awesome written all over it.
I was recently contacted by Mr. McGraime of Magnolia Pictures about this film. I've heard about it before, but only briefly. Needless to say I am actually looking forward to this film and hopefully these trailers and the like will get you interested too. You can check out the webpage for The Signal here. There is also a photogallery here.

It’s New Year’s Eve in the city of Terminus and chaos is this year’s resolution. All forms of communication have been jammed by an enigmatic signal that preys on the fears and desires of everyone in the city. Told in three parts from three unique perspectives by three visionary directors, The Signal is a horrific journey towards discovering that the most brutal monster might actually be within all of us.

First is the regular trailer.

Next is the exclusive violent trailer (warning, has some language)

And lastly is an actual sneak peak preview into the movie (i.e. a scene from the flick itself):

That being said, get yourself set to see this flick. It could very well turn out to be a cult classic!

SF/F Links: February Roundup Part One

Lots and lots of links heading your way. This has been a busy last couple weeks for sure. I've had essays up the you know where and a midterm, which I pray that I did good on. In any case, I've found lots of interesting things to share and that's exactly what intend to do: share. So enjoy!

First and most important, however, is that there are actually some writers in serious need of financial assistance. Now, I'm broke due to school, but I do understand that writers simply don't make a lot of money in the first place and sometimes bad things happen they can't account for. You can find all the information about the following two writers and their predicament, plus how you can help (i.e. where to send money to), at this link to Bibliophile Stalker.
James Reasoner recently lost his house and EVERYTHING due to a wild fire caused by some idiot tossing a cigarette out a car window. They've lost everything and need everything.
Also Caitlin R. Kiernan, another writer, has come into financial difficulties over a medical condition, something I imagine we all have gone through.
Click the link above and please please please give a dollar or ten or twenty or more. Anything you can for these folks. It's tragic and unfortunate that writers get paid so very very little, but it's true. Thanks on that.

Okay, to usual links:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Book Review: Darkness of the God by Amber Hayward

Just thought I'd let you all know I have a review of Darkness of the God by Amber Hayward here. Check it out!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Your Limbs Are Belong to Us: SF's Future

Long long ago in a place somewhat similar to today, with technology not quite like it is now, but with minds exploring the unimaginable bounds of space, human intelligence, and technology itself, someone came up with the brilliant idea of 'robotic' prosthetic limbs. Probably the iconic example is Luke Skywalker, who loses his hand in a brilliantly dark and emotionally complex scene with his would-be father slash evil right hand of the Emperor. We remember the end of Empire Strikes Back as Lando Calrissian and Chewie prepare to shoot off into a galactic spacescape to save Han Solo that our hero Luke Skywalker has been given a new hand filled with mechanical joints and gizmos and feeling. Literally a replacement for his former hand that is just about as good as the last, or maybe better.
Well that 'future' is becoming a reality. Futurismic brought an interesting article to me through their RSS feed that talks about a prosthetic limb that can sense touch and heat. Nothing there about pain, obviously, and I can't imagine you'd want to give such a device painful sensations, but this is a wonderful example of how science fiction has shaped our society. Forty years ago people wouldn't have thought we'd be building fake hands that can move and feel. They also didn't think we'd ever really figure out how to make robotic machines function via the thought of a human, something which we're actually working on and slowly developing. This trend, which I've brought up numerous times, is exactly why SF needs to be paid attention to. It isn't a genre of a bunch of idiots running around coming up with futures that are completely realistic, though I imagine that some are. If we looked to writers like Robert J. Sawyer we can see now, just as it was way back when, that SF writers are handling real world issues and presenting solutions and ideas to the world. Why are we ignoring them? Perhaps it has to do with science.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. recently tackled the concern over scientific study here. The post suggested the recent destruction of the education system, an idea that Modesitt considers to be a systematic removal of the science-born minds of our world. Whether it's true that our current administration is actually trying to dumb us up and make us susceptible to governmental rule due to our ignorance is for another argument, but the point still stands that the U.S. has a lot to answer for in regards to its obvious reduction in innovation and scientific interest. Modesitt hits the nail on the head by bringing up the recent fund-cut in Physics by the government:
Now... some may claim that might be going a bit too far, but, in support of the Bush war budget, the latest Congressional appropriations take huge cuts out of fundamental research in physics, so much so that Fermilab in Illinois and Stanford's Linear Accelerator Center together will lay off more than 300 scientists and employees, essentially closing for all practical purposes. Why? Supposedly because the something like $95-$100 million required is needed more to fund the war than for physics research.
Pardon me, but I don't see cuts in $200 million bridges to nowhere, and the cuts in federal funds for physics research amount to tenths of a percent of the annual costs of waging the war in Iraq. Such research cuts won't add anything meaningful to the war funding, but they will cripple American physics research for years, if not longer.
Modesitt sees a trend in society that we should be incredibly concerned about. Budget cuts for education and science are huge concerns not only for those intending to move into the science world--a field that is absolutely a necessity if this country intends to do anything of considerable value in the next few decades--but also for SF writers like Modesitt. We have seen a reduction of scientific thought and scientific-minded people in the U.S. and a rise of, shall we say radical religious politics. Religion is on the rise and science is being shut out. Why? One would have to assume there is some logic here, but there isn't any. Science is, plain and simple, absolute, in the same sense that God is absolute, in its mission to learn and enhance human knowledge. That is what science does, and without science our world would not exist. Science gave us the car, the computer, the airplane, etc. What lies below all that are SF writers, who came up with these amazing creations that were once thought to be a load of bologna.
My concerns, however, are not necessarily that SF is going to die of its own accord, but that it will die, at least in the U.S., due to a failing system of thought (I use 'will' loosely here, because it's not necessarily going to die for certain, but if things don't change it very well could). Religion is not better than science, and neither is science better than religion. Both have tremendous benefits, when used correctly. Science, however, is the practical solution to an advancing society, or world for that matter. Likewise, science fiction greatly depends on an environment where scientific thought is open and able to grow. If airplanes had never been invented, would SF have ever been more than pulp fiction? What if computers, space ships, etc. had never seen the light of day? SF would have simply been another 'fantasy' genre, with no basis in reality. We're fortunate to have seen these creations come into existence, and fortunate to see things like prosthetic arms that can feel be brought to life. Without scientific advancement where will SF writers have to go?
Certainly writers like Tobias S. Buckell will still be writing great stories, but he writes a specific 'type' of SF story. Tobias is not what I would call your 'hard SF' writer, though his stories do hinge on realistic ideas of science, to some extent. His stories are sort of like more complicated Space Opera, only better (not New Space Opera, but the old kind). They are adventure stories in the best sense of the term. That being said, one has to look at writers like Ben Bova, Chris Moriarty, Charles Stross, and many others whose ability to write or sell SF in the U.S. might be diminished. This is a two-edged sword, though.
First, the loss of scientific thought might very well prevent U.S. writers from writing those works that have influenced and shaped our world. If scientists can't come up with new ideas and implement them, then anything such SF writers can come up with will lose value. People might stop caring altogether about futuristic ideas and SF might very well fall into a state of adventure and politics over science. That's not to say that adventure stories are bad, and please do not misconstrue this. Tobias' works are fantastic--Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin--but what makes SF so wonderful is that it is diverse. It doesn't sit and write only one general type of story. Everyone is writing works entirely different from Tobias', as they should be. The genre would be clouded by cliches and repeated themes if not for diversity, which in SF would destroy the genre itself. Unlike fantasy, SF cannot fall pray to a repetition of themes because it, unfortunately, cannot benefit from the creation of entirely new worlds, to some extent (obviously SF writers do create new worlds, but it is within the framework of reality, rather than devising entirely different worlds that CAN'T exist. That's the difference.). This concern is a significant concern, I think, in that U.S. writers may be forced to find new outlets if they want their overly complex ideas to see the light. Why? On to the second problem.
If science is pushed aside in the U.S., so too will scientific thought be suppressed and reduced in schools, which is already happening. I'm only 24, but I can attest to the complete lack of knowledge in the sciences, as I have seen it myself. There is little to advance learning of physics and biology. We learn the very, very basics and only if you're interested enough do you go to college and take an advanced course. But the public school system is not prepared to teach a society of Americans who are either polarized by differing opinions on what is realistic and what isn't (i.e. creationism vs. evolution) or simply can't comprehend something like Einstein's theory of relativity, to which I would say we need a collection of Dummy books for the various concepts in science to make things very clear and understandable (some scientific theories are written in such complex manners that even scientifically knowledgeable people such as myself have problems understanding them). In addition, our system is designed to teach temporary retention, not comprehension. This means that we require our children and college students to remember certain things long enough to pass the test, but don't try to make them comprehend it. You don't have to understand how a cell works to pass a biology test in high school. I know, I've done it. Our system needs to be signed so that it creates comprehension over temporary retention. Focusing on testing is not the solution and never was--and it likely has caused more damage than it was supposed to.
Why does this second one become a problem? If science-literacy is reduced to a state below rudimentary understanding, SF will have problems addressing the audience, except where non-scientific based more adventure style SF is concerned. Certainly SF in its 'harder' form would exist outside the U.S. should other countries maintain innovative and scientific thought, however they will be forced to send their works elsewhere. The U.S. has one of the world's largest publishing industries. We consume books like we consume music, to some extent (well, maybe not, but we do consume books rather readily here). Literacy is already a huge concern in the U.S., but so is science literacy. SF is not, in general, a wholly complex genre of fiction (on the outside; I can admit that it gets very complex and interesting when you really dig in). In a lot of ways it is really quite accessible, even the hard stuff. There are very few novels written in a fashion that isn't understandable; such novels are oddities in a huge market of SF. Regardless, one really needs some grasp of science to understand a lot of SF. This isn't to say you need to know physics or biology, or anything like that, in any sort of significant manner, but you should know the basic rules of physics and how cells divide and have some mental understanding what it means to say 'genetic manipulation' or 'zero G'. Yet there are a lot of people that don't understand. These are the folks that either aren't paying attention because of a lack of understanding or are asking "what does that mean?" only to be met with definitions beyond them.
The end result, then, is for countries to maintain some sort of positive support of the sciences. SF not only depends on it, but so does society. Look around you. See the things that have made your life easier, simpler, or even more exciting. Think about how fun it is to drive a car, or to get on an airplane, or ride a rollercoaster (you'd be surprised how much science goes into those, by the way), etc. This is the world you live in. SF is everywhere and so is science. Our lives are rooted in the stuff and we have a duty to keep it coming. If scientific thought goes away, then imagine what our future will be like. This is probably the most frightening prospect I have encountered: the thought of science actually devolving, or falling away. Changes have to be made to prevent it. Technology must survive; science must survive; science fiction must survive. Protect it as if it were a child, because just like a is our future.

P.S.: I know that last bit was rather corny. On a side note I want to make it very clear that I am not in any way insulting Tobias S. Buckell's writing. Please do not misunderstand this. I love his work, but it is a type of SF that isn't 'hard SF'. That doesn't mean it is bad, it just means it's not the type of SF that intentionally throws in loads of quantum physics, string theory, etc. His works use science, but indirectly, meaning that there is science beneath it all, but it's not brought to the front very much. He writes adventure/space opera type stuff, which is a wonderful, exciting, enthralling genre. No insult is meant.