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!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Fantasy Novelist's Exam: My Answers and Results

Discovered this here the other day and thought I should do it too. The list itself is from here. I'm going to answer the questions based on WISB rather than anything else I've written.

Here goes:
1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
No. A lot happens in the first and second chapters, all within that 25 page mark.

2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
Nope. His parents are pretty clear and he doesn't work on a farm. He a laptop computer and likes the Interwebs.

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?
Nope. He has no throne.

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
Sort of, but not really. He never comes of age, but he does have to deal with being young and directly facing violence that he would otherwise only read about in textbooks. He doesn't beat the bad guy in the first book, technically. He beats him, but it's not really a defeat in the traditional sense, since the bad guy hasn't lost his power, etc. In later books this will change, but there will be some huge shifts in certain aspects of that storyline where this won't apply anymore.

5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
No, although there will be something like this in later books, but not nearly as cookie cutter as this question makes it sound. This artifact won't save the world.

6. How about one that will destroy it?
Nope. Not even remotely close.

7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
No prophecies. He is kind of "the One", but not really. People know he's important, but he won't become the iconic super character that saves everything by himself. He's surrounded by a very important cast and can't do everything on his own.

8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
Kind of, but not really. James has a spiritual guider, for lack of a better term, but there aren't any long-winded infodumps or anything like that.

9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
No. God no (no pun intended, or maybe I do intend the pun).

10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
No. Never in a million years.

11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
Nope. The closest thing to a king thus far was killed in a battle. It was a gruesome death, although the main character didn't see it. No evil magician duping. He fought and he died.

12. Does "a forgetful wizard" describe any of the characters in your novel?
Not in the sense this question means. I have a character who uses magic that forgets things, but it's not a commonality. It's just, well, normal forgetfulness. We all forget things.

13. How about "a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior"?
Not really. Darl is a grumpy old man who hates everything, and Iliad is kind-hearted, but he's really fast, being a scout and all.

14. How about "a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons"?
No. If a character doesn't speak about something it's because he or she legitimately doesn't know something.

15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
No. Laura will deal with some of that, cause she's young and that will be some silly thing she'll think about, but my female characters are mostly strong females. One of them is a healer who happens to be the resident mother, but also owns in a fight.

16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
Yes, kind of. Laura is kidnapped in the beginning and James goes after her kidnappers, but in the next book it changes because she becomes integral to the rest of the story. The whole story doesn't revolve around her kidnapping.

17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
No. Not intentionally at least.

18. Would "a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword" aptly describe any of your female characters?
Not technically. Triska doesn't have either and she isn't a wench, but she doesn't carry weaponry like others.

19. Would "a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan" aptly describe any of your female characters?
No. Triska isn't a warrior. She's a mother/healer.

20. Is any character in your novel best described as "a dour dwarf"?
Nope. I have one short character in the main group and he's not dwarf-like at all.

21. How about "a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage"?
Good lord no. Elves in my world fit more into the folkloric version--short and related to the faery.

22. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
Nope. I don't think I even have dwarves in my world.

23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
Nope. Pea may be hilarious, but he's not there entirely for that. He's my fun character, sure, but he's also really important because he happens to be the first character James befriends in Traea and the one character who really looks after him, other than Triska.

24. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
Nope. My ships are used for trade, transport, etc.

25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
I don't know, so yes. I'm assuming this question means the ones we use now and I am aware that those didn't exist in 1100 AD or some such. Doesn't really matter because my world isn't this world.

26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like "The Blasted Lands" or "The Forest of Fear" or "The Desert of Desolation" or absolutely anything "of Doom"?
There were some places that sounded kind of like that, but nothing that stupid.

27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you've read the entire book, if even then?
No. I hate prologues.

28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
Probably a quartet, to be honest.

29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
Nope. I said quartet.

30. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
Nope. It's not too bad in size.

31. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you're still many sequels away from finishing your "story"?
Nope, a lot happened in WISB, which is the first book, and a lot will happen in SOD too.

32. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
No. I hate prequels.

33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?

34. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
Good lord no. I got a lot of ideas from role-playing, but not enough for a good story.

35. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
Yes. Damn.

36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
I don't remember, to be honest. I don't think so.

37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
Yes, unfortunately. But this is a stupid question because Jeremiah has more than three and that's not exactly an uncommon name or anything.

38. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named "Tim Umber" and "Belthusalanthalus al'Grinsok"?
No, I see plenty wrong with it.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
Not in the manner this question is implying. My elves are not important to the story, they aren't hiding in the trees or anything like that, etc. They're just short folkloric critters.

40. How about "orken" or "dwerrows"?
What the hell are those?

41. Do you have a race prefixed by "half-"?

42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
No. No such thing in my world.

43. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
Nope. That's stupid.

44. Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?

45. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
Nope. I'll never do that. They have horrible contracts and the writing they publish isn't exactly great.

46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
I don't even think there are inns in my book.

47. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don't?
I have a general idea how it worked and I'm smart enough to look up things that I don't know anything about thank you.

48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
This is an unfair question since anyone going anywhere in a medieval-like fantasy world would have to travel an inordinate amount of time anyway...

49. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won't break the plot?

50. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as "fireball" or "lightning bolt"?
Not technically, no. There's fire, but the character who uses it didn't create it.

51. Do you ever use the term "mana" in your novel?
No. That is too stupid.

52. Do you ever use the term "plate mail" in your novel?
Nope. Not once.

53. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term "hit points" in your novel?
Who the hell would do this? That's just idiotic.

54. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
It's not that heavy unless in large quantities. So, I know how much it weighs, just not as a number.

55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
No. I'm not stupid. I believe super horses can.

56. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
No. Nothing of the sort. That's dumb.

57. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
Oh good lord. People actually do this?

58. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
No, because my novel isn't influenced by that part of the world...

59. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
Not to my knowledge.

60. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more?
No. They don't weigh that much. I know, cause I've actually held a real sword. They're heavy, but not too heavy to swing.

61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
No. I don't think there will be a love story in my novel.

62. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
I don't think so. I don't think any of my humor involves puns.

63. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
Nope. My hero gets beat up a lot.

64. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
No. I think that it takes more than one arrow to kill a man if that arrow doesn't hit him straight in the chest and glances off. Kidding of course.

65. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an "on the road" meal?
No, I realize it, but don't you all realize that you don't have to have a good stew when you're on the road? I mean, seriously. You can boil up potatoes and meat, throw some dirt in there and it would be fine.

66. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?

67. Do you think that "mead" is just a fancy name for "beer"?
No. Mead is different than beer. Honey mead for example...made using honey.

68. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
No. My races spread out over a lot of different areas.

69. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves' guild?
Good lord, no.

70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
No. My main villain is smart.

71. Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?
No...all my characters are useful to the group.

72. Is "common" the official language of your world?
No. There are multiple languages, but all my characters speak English. It's just too difficult to have everyone speaking different languages.

73. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
Nope. No ancient magical loot.

74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
Nope. No LOTR in WISB.

75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
No, dangit. It's not.

Well, there we go. Technically I've failed, but you know what? I don't care. This list is silly anyway.

WBM: Bestiary--Knockers

Location and General Information
Knockers are found underground either in undiscovered underground caves and caverns, or in mines. Some knockers have been found in the sewage systems of cities, but it is thought that these are either rejects of knocker culture or confused or poisoned individuals who have become lost. On some occasions a particularly crazy knocker may inhabit a cellar.
Knockers are best known by miners for their mostly helpful nature. They are naturally in tune with the earth and can sense where the richer veins of minerals are, signalling with knocks or bangs. So long as the knockers are fed, they are more than willing to help miners find their riches, but the moment someone denies them their indulgences they can become violent. They are too small to cause serious damage by themselves, but they can lead miners to dangerous areas or cause havoc.
For fun, the knockers like to make their appearances more disgusting than they naturally are. This can scare miners who aren't expecting it.

Knockers are roughly a foot tall. Their faces are wrinkly and covered in warts and bumps and they have milk-white eyes; their heads are too large for their bodies, but they seem to show no strain in holding up such big craniums. Their torsos, arms, and legs are almost always sickeningly thin, even though they are healthy. They tend to have no hair, but sometimes they have little greasy strands on the points of their heads. For clothing they often wear small helmits and worn clothing of various colors. Sometimes they have thick boots, but most of the time they walk barefoot.

Knockers, as mentioned, are naturally in tune with the earth, always aware of where the rich veins of minerals are or where the earth is loose and might post problems for miners. Additionally they have the ability to alter their appearances, but only in one direction--making themselves look uglier. Beyond this they have no other magical abilities.

There are no female knockers, oddly enough. They are instead born from the earth. Altern's inner core produces surges of lava on occasion that plow over rich soil and forest. It is from this explosion of molten rock that they are born, rising from the drying remains of volcanic eruptions. They mold their faces while the lava is still pliable and then they walk away in search of dark recesses to hide in or miners to aid.

Knockers are not an overly complex people on the surface. They seem more like tricksters or mimickers rather than individuals, seeing how they spend their days helping minors, pretending to be minors themselves, or trying to ruin miners who have wronged them. But they do have a culture that is relatively unique that is not influenced by human culture. There have been twenty-seven knocker wars, all of which have resulted in the closure of many mines that were once profitable. Knockers absolutely hate arrogance, especially among their own kind, and it is seen as a sign of disrespect and worthy of punishment. The problem is that knockers often become arrogant when dealing with arrogant knockers or people. Wars break out regularly, but thankfully humans are mostly unaware of them.
Additionally the knockers are quite fond of celebrations and are greatly honored when humans invite them to human parties. Knocker parties are far different from human parties, however, as they often play a game called Bontrussle--almost always in intense competitions. Bontrussle is essentially a rock throwing competition, but inside of a cave system, where each knocker takes a turn chucking a rock down the tunnel, the object being to have the most ricochets and the longest distance. Accusations over someone cheating are made every single time.
So, knockers are not as simple as they might seem.

McDonald's, Gays, and Retarded Rightwing Christians

An appropriate subtitle to this would be: Why boycotting McDonald's won't do a damn thing.

So, according to Fox, the ever fair and balanced network (yes, as fair and balanced as Hitler, bah!) a Christian Group is boycotting McDonald's after they made a donation to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. How many people are boycotting thus far? Two-hundred thousand. Why won't this matter one tiny bit? I give you the following quote from the McDonald's website in their FAQ section:
Every day McDonald's serves more than 47 million customers around the world.
That's every day. Not every year, every month, every fortnight, or every week. That's every single day. All 365 of them. That means McDonald's serves roughly 17,155,000,000 people a year (not individuals, obviously). That also means that McDonald's has likely sold enough french fries to alter the tides in the ocean. We should all be concerned.
Now, let's just assume that all 200,000 of those on the boycott list keep up with it for the whole year. Heck, why don't we give them the benefit of the doubt and say they manage to get 500,000 who can stick it out for a whole year, which I highly doubt will occur. McDonald's will have lost a total of 182,500,000 customer sales. Sounds like a lot, right?
Not really. That's actually minuscule. They'll have lost probably a couple billion dollars, but you want to know how they can make it up? Charge one penny more on every item on the list. Yup. One penny. Most of us wouldn't notice and almost all of us wouldn't care. Heck, you could just charge a penny on things with a 9 on the end of the price, just so you can keep your precious dollar menu. Guess what? McDonald's now earns almost 17 billion extra dollars assuming everyone buys one item not on the dollar menu.
And guess what? McDonald's can shell out all the money they want without worrying about the wacko religious right not buying their products anymore. How long do you think you could live without a McDonald's menu item, hmm? Guaranteed most of those boycotting won't last more than six months.

So, having said all that, I can say with absolute certainty that absolutely nothing will come of this boycott except McDonald's going "huh, we can just charge a penny more on the Big Mac and make up the difference...go figure." Stick by your principles all you want, but you look like a homophobic moron, you smell like one too, and most of the country will walk by you and giggle cause you'll have done absolutely nothing for your cause except prove that you're a homophobic moron. But hey, if that's what you're shooting for, then more power to you. Everyone should be able to live their dream right? If you can be a homophobic moron then I can be an astronaut!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

I'm a little late, but I had a lot to think about for this review. I've started doing my movie reviews for a friend. My review of The Dark Knight can be found here. Loved the movie, by the way.


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

Ten SF Technologies/Ideas I Think Won't Come True

The title says it all. I've already done a post of ten ideas that I think will come true that are from science fiction, so now for the things that I think won't come true. Some of these are on this list because they are scientific impossibilities, and others are here because I believe that we'll never do them (probably because it's too damn stupid). So, here goes:
  1. FTL Travel
    Unfortunately, I think Einstein was right. We can't go faster than light. However, it's quite possible alternatives will be created that technically move you faster than light, just not in the direct method we have right now (perhaps wormholes, which are allowed within Einstein's theories, will become a part of all this).
  2. Resurrecting Dinosaurs or Other Prehistoric Species
    Firstly, let's just assume that we can or will be able to resurrect dinos like in Jurassic Park or by some other method. Why would we? Really, why? There's really no reason, beyond knowing we can do it, to bring back those long-extinct creatures.
    But more to the point, I don't think we'll invest enough into this sort of thing to consider it. We can probably do it, or will be able to, but it'll likely remain outside our reach because there's just no reason to do it. Yeah, it would be cool to have a pet T-Rex, but science isn't all about the cool.
  3. Cure-All Pill/Shot/Genetic Manipulation
    Okay, it's entirely possible we will cure all the diseases we know about now, but I highly doubt we'll ever have a one pill cure-all, nor do I believe we will genetically alter ourselves to be completely immune to all diseases, even new ones. New biological horrors show up all the time and there's no way to have a pill that covers all bases, at least not without harming us more than the new diseases that might spring up will. I'd love this to be true, but I don't see it.
  4. Stable Global Government
    No. Not going to happen. We might have some sort of semi-functional government, but short of wiping out half the planet there will always be people trying to knock things down. Global government has too many flaws. While we have a plethora of fantastic technologies that help us speak to one another from great distances, that won't stop people from bickering and arguing. A global government will have more controversy than any localized government. It's just too much work. It's better to have a "collective" working for the same general goals, but entirely separate.
  5. Answers to the Question
    Yes, "the" question. Where did we come from? And since "the" question is different to everyone: Is there a god? (or) Did we really evolve from microbial lifeforms?
    While we can say yes to that last one, I don't know if we will ever be able to be 100% on it. As for the other stuff, well, let's look at it this way. There's no proof of God, so the likelihood that we'd find proof in the next bazillion years is really slim anyway (that likely won't stop people from believing though). Then the first question is actually one of those endless cycle things. We may get more answers, but those answers will spark more questions, and so on. We'll never really know where we came from or how we got here. We'll just keep asking and finding answers, and asking again.
  6. Television (that beams into your head)
    This is just ridiculous. Why would we even want this? Really? I could be wrong and maybe we'll have this, but I just don't see a point. Maybe having it beam into your eye would be fine, but sitting on the couch and having some weird machine beam TV shows into your brain is just...stupid. That's asking for trouble.
  7. Forced Evolution (in species other than ourselves)
    While it may be possible that we'll be capable of doing this, I don't see that we would do it beyond the typical couple of experiments. I think, in the end, even if the technology or ability becomes known to us, we'll choose to ban it or cease doing it much like we did with cloning, only worse, because there could be serious ramifications for fiddling with the evolution of species other than ourselves. Remember Planet of the Apes? Well, what if that came true? I know, it sounds silly, but I'd rather not play with things we don't need to play with anyway. We have robots who can do all the things we might need forced evolution for.
  8. The Super Non-Refueling Perpetual Energy Mega Engine
    Basically, you know when you read or see in a TV show that some enormous ship from Earth has an energy core that seems to only need replacing when someone damages it and never needs to be refueled, etc.? Yeah, well I'm calling B.S. to that. I really doubt we'll ever have this magical machine that seems to run forever. Sure, there are ideas for a nuclear powered space engine, but even that has significant limitations. There aren't going to be beryllium spheres and what not. I just don't see it in our future. Maybe it'll happen if aliens give it to us.
  9. Personalized Spacecraft
    Yes, I'm saying it. I don't think we'll ever have personalized spacecraft, as in ships that you own by yourself in the same way you own a car. Rich people may have them, but rich people don't count. I don't think space will ever become cheap enough that anyone can just buy a ship and shoot off into space. How everyone can afford spaceships in Star Wars is beyond me. I think all space-based travel will be strictly controlled and expensive. Companies will most likely be the ones owning private ships, and even then, those ships will be heavily restricted and expensive. However, even though I think this I will continue writing about it. Why? Because let's face it, it's really not very entertaining to write SF where most everybody waits in line for years just to get off planet. Then again, maybe that is an interesting concept. I do think it will be relatively affordable, as in not $200,000 per flight, but maybe in the $10,000 or less range. Still expensive, but at least the average family could save that money and go for a trip, right?
  10. Universal Translators
    Or anything remotely equivalent. I don't believe for a second that any alien species will be able to easily comprehend our language, and vice versa. And I also don't think we'll have a machine that can do the job for us. We might have machines that can eventually be programmed to handle languages that aren't human, but they won't be able to translate without data input from an external source--such as someone studying an alien language and entering that in. Oh, and there won't be any babelfish or anything that can be inserted in one's ear that can translate any language into something understandable, just to cover my bases.
So, there it is! What do you think?

Edit: I edited this because I saw some errors and they were really annoying me.

Selling Stuff For Food

As the title says, I'm selling stuff so I can eat. Okay, it's not that bad, but it'd be nice to have a few extra bucks and what not to make surviving next month easier or some such nonsense.

So if you look here or click on the link that says "My Amazon Store" on the left there, you'll find all the nifty things I'm selling. They're all books, but maybe there's a topic of interest in there for you. They're "technically" school books, but since I'm a lit major that means I get to read real books rather than text books, which is very important to my sanity.

So, there you go. If you see anything you like, buy it. It's all cheap stuff anyway!


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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Star Wars: A Letter to George Lucas

Dear Mr. Lucas,
This letter is in conjunction with many posts across the web--the World Wide Web, if you will, since you seem somewhat out of touch with popular culture as of late--at places like SF Signal. These posts have been about the fate of Star Wars and what could very well save it from what could be an assured painful death.
We were all relatively ecstatic about the original Star Wars movies. The first film was a fantastic romp, a space opera that gave us the adventure we all wanted and didn't take itself too seriously. Then there came The Empire Strikes Back, which took us somewhere darker than A New Hope and showed us just how complex the Star Wars universe could be while maintaining it's fun, high-flying adventurous side. Finally we were shown Return of the Jedi, which tried to go backwards to the not-too-serious feel of A New Hope with it's epic battle of furry teddy bears and comical Wookie nonsense. I will likely be stabbed for saying this, but Return of the Jedi is by far my favorite movie set in the Star Wars universe--as a child I was more interested in the amazing space battles than I was the lightsaber fights, and I'm still amazed by those same space battles to this day.And then you brought us the prequels. Not only was this a generally stupid idea--prequels to movies that already provided us the answers aren't generally good ideas anyway, considering your prequels only offered us the "how did Vader become Vader" stuffs--but it didn't exactly work. No offense to you or the people you chose to play your characters, but the original trilogy had better acting and writing than these three did, with the third prequel--Revenge of the Sith--being a possible exception. Okay, perhaps that is a lie, but most fans of your work, and even non-fans, are willing to admit that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels hands down. The problems with the prequels are too many to list here, and you are probably either completely ignorant of them due to some sort of intention to ignore the critics of your work or you just don't care. I lean towards the former because I do believe that you think your work is of excellent quality and simply don't pay attention to the folks who are pleading with you to do what you need to do. This means you won't read what I am writing here.
Star Wars is in desperate need of an overhaul, but you, Mr. Lucas, are using your power of control to kill it. Is this intentional? Do you want your beloved universe to die? Would you deprive millions of fans and millions of would-be fans from the wealth of stories that are still left to be told in visual form?
Well, that's why I'm writing this letter: to tell you want you need to do to save Star Wars, to make it better than it is today, to make it wanted and desirable by more than just your obsessed, die-hard fans--the kinds who have bought all your toys since the beginning, who drool whenever Star Wars is mentioned, and name their adopted foreign children after your characters. And, to make it convenient for you, I am going to put it in a list:
  1. Don't direct.
    I know, you want control, but remember what made your previous films so much better? You didn't direct them all and sometimes OTHER people can see the mistakes that you don't. Any creative writer will know this, which is why there are critique groups and the like out there to help us get better at writing. You are not impervious to mistakes. You have vision. I won't take that away from you. But you also have flaws, and they are apparent on all levels.
  2. Let someone else have the reins.
    Seriously, this isn't a bad thing. You can still have veto power, but you should definitely leave some of the decisions to someone else. There's nothing wrong with that. You've already opened up the Star Wars universe to other writers, why not open up other aspects of it to other people? You can still be involved, but perhaps you should take an executive or producer position instead of being in the hot seat.
  3. Stop with the prequel or between-trilogies crap.
    I don't care what happened between The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith. There was a short mini-cartoon that covered that and that was all I needed. Why? Because it wasn't an after-thought. It was a teaser, a little bit of Star Wars to tide me over while I waited for you to hurry up and get the last movie out. Now I just don't care. I know Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. I know how. I know what happens after that too. Every time you try to cram stuff between the movies you strain my patience.
  4. Start digging into the world that follows Return of the Jedi.
    Let's face it, if you were to look into the things that immediately followed the last of the Star Wars movies--chronologically speaking--there would be a plethora of stories that could be told. What happens to the empire after the second Death Star is destroyed? It doesn't just crumble and the rebellion doesn't win right then and there without any more fighting. Far from it. What are the ramifications of the rebellion's actions? Hmm? Surely there are a lot of innocent people who are affected by Luke Skywalker and his pals, right? And there are all sorts of stories worth telling visually in the expanded universe novels. What about making a trilogy that follows the New Republic or Mara Jade or the myriad of other equally interesting tales?
    Why am I saying this? Because WE, the people who make it possible for you to keep making movies, want something new. Prequel crap isn't new to us anymore and wasn't really all that new to begin with. In fact, it might be a smart idea to latch onto the stuff that follows ROTJ because Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, etc. aren't exactly going to live forever. If you can use those actors for a good set of movies, then do so now before it's too late. We want the see Luke Skywalker come back, and Han Solo and Princess Leia and what not.
  5. Stop with the animated crap.
    Short miniseries to tide us over is fine, but Star Wars really doesn't fit in the animated world, especially not CG. Why? Because CG is hard to take seriously, and unfortunately you've gone and made Star Wars serious, or tried to. Not to mention there's really nothing all that fascinating about CG Star Wars. I haven't seen the new film and probably won't. I don't really care about Anakin Skywalker to begin with (not anymore anyway).
  6. Don't do a special edition release of any of the movies when they go to new formats unless we can turn the special edition stuff off.
    We don't want you to edit the movies we love. We like them for what they are. I haven't watched my DVD versions of Star Wars since I bought them. Why? Because I hate that you put Hayden Christensen in the end of ROTJ. I hated a lot of the things you did. If wouldn't have been so bad if there had been an on/off switch for that stuff, but there wasn't. You just expected we'd like it...except we didn't.
  7. Do something good.
    We want the gosh-wow again. Give it to us. It's not there in the prequels and won't be.
  8. Listen to the fans.
    The fans are telling you what they want. Give it to them. Seriously.
So, Mr. Lucas, I think these are some very simple demands. Don't kill Star Wars. I grew up on it. My mother gave me the trilogy on tape and I gobbled it up...over and over again. I still love them.

Thank you for your time,
Shaun, Star Wars Nut

WBM: The Five Substances--Bunglefish

I figured I should add more about the unstable substances of my world. There are now going to be five in total, all filling different positions in the earthly spectrum (plant, animal, mineral, etc.). So, here is the Bunglefish.

Location and General Information
The bunglefish is one of the five unstable magical substances. Unlike the other four, this substance is actually an animal--a fish to be exact. It can be found in fresh water lakes and rivers and is most abundant in deeper waters.

Bunglefish are roughly two to three feet long, and three to four feet tall with large finger-like spikes protruding from their backs. Their tails are dominated by loose strands of skin that flap behind them lazily. Two tiny, black eyes are overshadowed by a massive, toothless mouth used for eating other fish and rocks. They weigh anywhere from two to fifteen pounds, depending on where they are found--the deeper the water, the larger they become. One of the strange features of the bunglefish are their gills, which seem to glow a bright gold color underwater. Much research has been done into this area, but the reason for this strange glow is yet unknown--there are no gold flakes on their gills or any deep water gold mineral veins.

Bunglefish can be eaten or turned into fish oil and rubbed on the skin. The problem is that consuming the meat fills one's belly with water in unpredictable quantities. Many have died by consuming the fish purposefully or by accident, drowning in water as it came pouring out of their mouths like rivers. This can go on for hours. Rubbing the oil on one's skin can produce a more painful result if used in large quantities: the skin begins to seep water and blood and eventually this results in an exceedingly painful death.
Humans are interested in the bunglefish for its ability to rehydrate almost instantly. Like with cacticles, the bunglefish is hard to control. There is no way to tell how effective a particle bunglefish will be, at least not with the technology available to the people of Altern.
Unfortunately, due to the high mortality rate of bunglefish, they are used rarely and are often avoided.

Winter Vacation Help

Now that my girlfriend has returned to England we are planning to meet up again over Christmas. The problem is we have no idea where to go. We're considering meeting up half-way on the east coast and doing something over there, but since I don't know anything about the east coast and neither does my girlfriend, we're both sort of lost.
So, if anyone has some ideas of cool places we can spend about a week at, here is what we're looking for:
  • We have to be able to get to it. Duh :P.
  • Snow, but not too much (we don't want to get snowed in).
  • Hotels, since we have to have somewhere to stay. Maybe an Holiday Inn or something like that.
  • Stuff to do. We like museums, book stores, book things, things related to science fiction and fantasy, more book things, history, and pretty scenery. It's only for a week, so if there's enough to entertain us for a week, great. Obviously some of that time can be spent walking or doing romantic snuggly things. We just don't want to be bored, obviously.
  • Relatively safe. This goes without saying I suppose.
  • Somewhere nice. We just want to enjoy ourselves. It's a romantic, Christmas getaway. Enough said.
  • Public transportation options other than taxies a plus (free transportation even better).
So, do you have any suggestions? I don't know if I can rent a car, but I should be able to. I'm 24 and I don't have terrible credit or anything, but I don't know much about renting cars, so I don't know if they'll let me. I'm not really interested in driving wherever we're at, so if we can walk around or something, that's great. Small towns/cities are a big plus for us. We like that cute town feel.

Anywho, thanks for your suggestions!

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

WBM: Bestiary--the Portunes

Location and General Information
The Portunes are a type of faery found almost anywhere where farmland is present, though more often in rural areas as the owners of farmland around cities are less friendly to creatures of magic.

The Portunes look like old men with long beards that they tie around their necks when working and have abnormally large ears. They often wear coats covered in pockets, presumably for keeping the strange things they find on their journeys. They are roughly the size of a finger in height, however the record height for a Portune was two and a half fingers (a Barthum Mugnus, who died at the age of twelve-hundred and seven; his name was given to him by a farmer that thought he looked remarkably like his deceased grandfather). Sometimes they have extra large noses instead of ears, but this is very rare. They are remarkably friendly during the day and helpful. At night, however, they become a nuisance, unable to resist engaging in acts of mischief (such as leading tired travelers into ditches or ponds, and other such cruel, but relatively harmless activities). As such, they are often locked up at night by farmers; the Portunes don't like it, but they usually forget about it when the sun rises.

The Portunes don't technically have any magic to speak of. They are exceptional gardeners and are of great use to farmers who need a little extra hand in the fields. Whether this is just a natural talent or actual magic isn't exactly known. The only magical thing about them, if one must have something to say, is that they live an average of four-thousand years.

Mud is the life force of the Portunes. That's where they are born and that's where they like to sleep. Humans who see Portunes regularly are always surprised by how clean they are, and they should be, for Portunes never shower; they are just naturally clean. During the fall of every year, just when the rains start to kick in, new Portunes appear from the mud, growing like little weeds until they are whole and can walk. Humans have to be careful of them from time to time because they have a tendency to grow on roads and it's considered a bad omen to kill a growing Portune, knowingly or not.

The Portunes have a simplistic culture that revolves entirely around the farmlands they live in. Because they are mischievous at night and hard workers during the day, they don't really have the time to come up with anything on their own, so they follow their human "friends" as best they can, mimicking them during the day. This becomes a bit of a joke among humans who find it rather funny to see the little creatures trying to act the part of housewife or farmer.

The Mayans Rule

(Lifted from Beam Me Up)

Archaeologists have discovered a labyrinth of tunnels/caves with Mayan pyramids and stone temples inside. Why is this cool? Because it just is. This is a major discovery that teaches us more about this mysterious lost culture. Here's a quote:
The discovery has experts wondering whether Maya legend inspired the construction of the underground complex—or vice versa.
According to Maya myth, the souls of the dead had to follow a dog with night vision on a horrific and watery path and endure myriad challenges before they could rest in the afterlife.
"We have this pattern now of finding temples close to the water—or under the water, in this most recent case," said Guillermo de Anda, lead investigator at the research sites.
"These were probably made as part of a very elaborate ritual," de Anda said. "Everything is related to death, life, and human sacrifice."
If you're curious and want more, head on over to National Geographic.

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

Literary SF: Thanks For Suggestions

I want to thank all of you who have been kind enough to offer me suggestions for literary SF titles (the original post is here). I'm going to list it all here for your amusement:
  • (Larry's suggestions)
    John Crowley's works--Aegypt, Little/Big, etc.
    Gene Wolfe
    Ursela Le Guin
    J. G. Ballard
    Adam Roberts (have one of his books)
  • (Tim Walters' suggestions)
    J.G. Ballard: The Terminal Beach
    John Crowley: Engine Summer
    Samuel R. Delany: Dhalgren (have it)
    Thomas M. Disch: 334; On Wings Of Song
    Ursula K. LeGuin: The Left Hand Of Darkness (have it)
    Kelly Link: Magic For Beginners
    Michael Moorcock: Mother London
    Geoff Ryman: The Child Garden
    Gene Wolfe: The Fifth Head Of Cerberus
    John Fowles: A Maggot
    Alasdair Gray: Lanark
    Richard M. Powers: Galatea 2.2
  • (benc's suggestions)
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • (JohnC's suggestions)
    Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
    Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer
    Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • (Demian's suggestions)
    Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
  • (Nick Lyle's suggestions)
    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (have it and have read it)
  • (Anonymous' suggestions)
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
This is a pretty good list thus far. Thanks all for the suggestions and if anyone would like to add to this list, leave a comment! Nothing wrong with having a five-hundred book list of literary SF titles. Heck, toss some literary fantasy in there!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WBM: Bestiary--Gnomes

Location and General Information
Small creatures made of various materials (usually clay). They come to life almost exclusively at night, however they have the ability to awaken during the day if they deem it necessary. Most gnomes, however, only awaken at night, for they are incapable of daylight travel and remain as structures of whatever material they were constructed of (such as a clay statue). They are notoriously vicious when careless humans injure them or destroy their property. They can be found just about anywhere, though they are more common in the more rural areas of cities and especially among those with at least modest wealth. They are mostly unknown to people, remaining more as folklore. Few people take the tales of their existence seriously as gnomes are quite good at remaining hidden; that and one can never know which lawn gnomes are likely to come alive.

They are usually in and around two feet tall, rarely larger, and occasionally shorter. Large white beards extend from their faces--even the females--and they tend to wear little farm suits with pointed red caps, though they sometimes wear other things, depending on who creates them. They are rosy-cheeked and look similar to miniature Santa Clauses. Basically, a standard lawn gnome.

For the most part the only magical thing about gnomes is that they are alive. Gnomes do have a natural ability to regenerate: all they need to do is consume the substance they are created from or the blood and flesh of a human being. Their kisses do have healing properties. They almost never have any other forms of magic.

Gnomes are created almost exclusively by accident. Usually humans are responsible for their creation, though other sentient creatures have been known to create gnomes. Whenever someone creates a gnome for their yard or home there is a high likelihood that that gnome will be born. Much like werewolves, gnomes who will come to life do so on the first night after their creation. After that, they will either awake whenever they want, or every night. Rarely do they work on a lunar cycle where the full moon is the activator. You build them and they will come to life.

Gnomes are incredibly territorial. As such, they tend to be exceedingly violent towards outsiders. Owners of lawn gnomes who attempt to bring in new gnomes that aren't created in the same manner as those currently residing in a yard will find either the local gnomes cut up to pieces or the new gnomes in the same position.
Beyond that, however, gnomes in the same group tend to live relatively peaceful lives. They like to party in the manner of ancient times, smoke pipes filled with herbs considered toxic to most anyone else, and prefer the comfort of miniature homes built from their own hard work rather than from the hands of humans. They also perform mock-courting ceremonies in which two gnomes engage in low-contact acts--what one might see with young teens today. Because gnomes are predominantly heterosexual, this can be a jarring experience for them and for humans. Gnomes look practically identical, meaning that even the gnomes cannot differentiate between male and female, and it is considered extremely rude, if not horribly offensive to ask if a gnome is of a particular sex--hence the courting ceremonies, which tend to lead to the discovery of the true sex of an individual. Of course, it is also very embarrassing for a gnome to find out that they have been courting a member of the same sex, which is made possible by the fact that males and females may court at any time, without any restriction. It is generally considered wrong among gnomes for there to be discrimination against sexes, not to mention that it would be incredibly difficult to isolate one group from another.

Book Review Up: Honeycomb by Israel Del Rio

I've just finished a review of a book I finished about two weeks ago. Apologies for the lateness. You can find the review here. It was a neat book, I just got busy and couldn't write the review.

Anywho. Enjoy!

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

WBM: Bestiary--the Bugganes

Location and General Information
The bugganes are curious creatures who tend to be bad omens wherever they are found, no matter the circumstances. They inhabit regions less populated, for there they are more likely to remain unnoticed for a time and the relatively small population of remote areas is less able to deal with a buggane properly. Finding bugganes in large city complexes is rare, and when it does happen the buggane is almost always destroyed within twenty-four hours as cities tend to have specialized keepers of the peace who deal with incidents of the odd or magical. Unfortunately for the bugganes, they are quite easy to kill: anything that can kill a human works on a buggane, though more easily considering that the bugganes tend to be rather frail in the first place.

They are tall creatures covered in long, greasy hair that extends from their heads to their feet. Whether they always wear clothing is unknown. Sometimes they are seen wearing tattered robes and other times it is impossible to tell amidst the loose skin and long hair. Their arms are especially long, with long fingers and fingernails and their teeth are lenghty and sharp, creating a jaw that looks inhuman and menacing. Bugganes, however, are not intentionally violent and rarely attack people unless provoked, which is almost always anyway.

What makes bugganes particularly hated among the creatures of Altern is their uncontrollable ability to affect fate. They are attuned to the magic that flows through Altern, which results in their bodies becoming conduits through which accidents of potentially lethal consequence can occur. When they are around, people tend to die or fall victim to horrible accidents: such as falling off ladders, landing head first on a table full of knives, or even having a tree randomly uproot itself and crash on top of you. Beyond that, the bugganes contain no other magic.

Where the bugganes come from isn't entirely clear. A few humans believe that they are part of the spirit world, existing on Altern as markers of individuals who committed horrible crimes and got away with it, for one who bears the secret of horrible acts is unlikely to reach heaven in one piece. Other humans believe they are mean spirits sent from darker reaches of Altern to annoy and punish humans, though the people who believe this are rarely capable of arguing a logical reason for this. Generally it is accepted that the bugganes are simply extensions of the magic that exists in Altern as sort of "bubbles" of excess negativity that just happens to be condensed into a buggane as a way of releasing tension. It is known, however, that the bugganes do not reproduce.

For the most part the bugganes have no significant culture. They rarely interact with one another and never interact with humans. Even if they did interact with someone other than themselves they would barely be able to do more than mumble considering their exceedingly full, toothy mouths. They are more like sentient creatures who wander and cause accidental havoc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

WBM: Bestiary--the Ellefolk

Location and General Information
Creatures who inhabit the forests of Altern, particularly around the area of Barksville. They are generally considered beings of folklore, rather than reality.

Males are generally shorter than the females, have giant noses, white hair, and large heads. They wear robes or suits and sometimes walk with a cane. They also have eyes that are narrow and yellow; much like a bird of prey.
Females are tall and unusually beautiful in a more "strange" way than a "typical" way. Their beauty is cause for intense curiosity from human males. They are tall, generally long-haired and blonde, and have piercing eyes.
Both male and females have gaping holes where their backs should be, as if their fronts were created to seem human, but the rest of them were left mostly unfinished (although they do have bottoms and legs, just no backs).

The Ellefolk are primarily masters of the art of manipulation, and mainly the manipulation of males. Their magic is exceedingly effective against human males, who tend to be more inclined to curiosity and, unfortunately, weaker willed when it comes to temptation. One of the key magics of the Ellefolk is the use of magic as a means of controlling by inserting emotion or sensation. They are capable of controlling men by making them genuinely obsessed with pleasing the ladies of the Elle, which can sometimes spark intense jealousy amongst the affected males. Generally, this magic is difficult to break. One must wait quite a long time for the magic to wear off or someone must kill the lady whose magic has hold of an individual. The easiest way to break the spell is to keep knots, holes, and cracks in trees covered up or stuff full of clay or some other substance
Women are rarely affected by the Ellefolk, though they can be, on rare occasions, struck by a similar manipulative magic found within Ellemen. This magic, if it works on the individual woman, will be instantaneous, but less difficult to break than the hold the ladies of the Elle have over human men.
The limiting factor, however, is that the Ellefolk's manipulative magic is only effective when the target looks through the knot, hole, or crack in a tree. Other magic includes creating a genuinely pleasant environment that glitters. Their homes in the forest are filled with glittering gold particles that make anyone caught within it happy by default. This isn't so much a spell as an environmental thing, as the Ellefolk are not actually in control of this so much as just living in it.
The breath of a lady of the Elle is like a corrosive acid. It causes death in seconds and melts the skin and tissue from the victim's face, causing agonizing pain.

The Ellefolk are not born normally, as most creatures are in Altern. While humans breed through intercourse, the Ellefolk do not breed at all. All the Ellefolk on Altern were there from the beginning, or what seems like the beginning, and as such there is a finite number of them. They cannot create new Ellefolk, nor can anyone else. As such, the Ellefolk are essentially immortal, part of a spiritual/faery world rather than what one might consider the human world of mortality. They can be killed, of course, and generally this is pretty easy as thy are subject to the same physical weaknesses as humans.
Ellefolk are born in giant stone eggs found buried in the Earth. The Ellefolk are constantly searching for their kin, digging wherever they can find them. This is a constant preoccupation, which goes hand in hand with their ability to manipulate human men, providing them with free labor. The stones are brought to the surface, dipped in enormous containers of water, and left to sit. Eventually the rock softens and becomes more like a boiled chicken egg without a shell and then the Ellefolk inside breaks out and is born. At least, that's how the folklore goes; nobody actually knows how they bring out their young from the stone eggs.

The Ellefolk never have any wars. Because there are a limited amount of them across all of Altern it is not considered worth dealing with the complications and ramifications of war. Why fight your own kind when you can move and maintain the population? Whenever a dispute arises, members of a particular group assess the situation and make a mutual beneficial decision (usually one group moves elsewhere with the help of the group that gets to stay). This may seem quite civilized, but it should be known that if the Ellefolk reproduced normally, no such peaceful decisions would be made. It's simply thought as better for the species not to fight over anything, no matter how horrible or annoying.

The Ellefolk have a very simplistic culture in comparison to the cultures of mankind. They are dominated by the desire to essentially dig up their own kind. This prevents them from developing cities or separate cultures. In a way they are like animals--lions might be a good example. Their young, once dug up and brought to life, either remain with their "parents" or move on to other groups or create groups of their own, expanding and seeking to hunt down their kind from other locations--to be released, of course. Beyond this, the Ellefolk lack any sort of complex culture. They do no create music, except in certain regions where non-human, sentient creatures exist who are not so easily swayed by Ellefolk magic--and music has a higher success rate with certain creatures, and a lower success rate with human beings. They are not, by default, an artistic people, creating little art, except the glittering gold air of their woodland homes that produces bliss for anyone within its grasp, which might be considered artistic. In fact, the only thing that makes the Ellefolk more than animals is the fact that they are sentient, capable of intentionally luring humans (and other creatures) into their grasp and subjecting them to threats of death to get the labor they need to find their fellow people of the Elle. They can speak, and seemingly are limitless in their linguistic skills, being able to use most any language known with ease. They even have emotions that span the entire range of human emotions, though they are more prone to deceptive modes and emotions related to anger.

Ask the Bloggers Series: Question #4 (I'm in it!)

Yet another batch of answers has been put up on Grasping For the Wind. This time the question was:
What has been your most rewarding moment as a blogger?
So check it out here and enjoy!

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

Media Tie-ins: Good or Bad?

Jim C. Hines has recently been berating himself over his bias against media tie-in novels here and here. I think he's being a little hard on himself. Granted, it's probably "unfair" to have this bias, but he's not the only one.
I've had this bias for years. When I was younger I used to read media tie-ins all the time: Star Wars and Dragonlance mostly. Now, I don't read any media tie-ins and here's why:
  • I'm mostly uninterested in the worlds they are presenting. I don't care about the Magic the Gathering universe, or Star Trek, or Forgotten Realms, or any of it. I don't. They're old news to me and boring. There are too many damn books in those series anyway.
  • I think of media tie-ins as lesser forms of literature. Yes, I understand this is silly, much for the same reasons that Mr. Hines stated about his own relationship with this particular form of bias. My problem is that I've read quite a few media tie-in novels, and only a small handfull have even been worth my time. Yes, there probably are many great media tie-in novels, but I've never read them and I don't have the patience to wade through the crap to find them. I got turned off after reading three or four horribly written books in a row. Think of it like food: you eat something that looks good, but it tastes like crap, and every time you try a different version of that something, it's crappy; would you keep eating that food or eventually pass it off as something you're just not going to eat? Yes, this is probably a terrible bias to have, because there are likely dozens of great authors who write media tie-ins, but it has a reason to exist.
  • I like original worlds better. I get the impression that authors who create their own worlds subsequently create better stories. The exception might be the Star Wars stuff set in the future (cause we all mostly hate the milking of the prequel era stuff). There's a lot of room for originality there because, for the most part, none of that story has been told or established, and Star Wars has hundreds of planets that were never written about or discussed in the movies. There are quite a lot of good Star Wars books (I've read four that I really enjoyed and then one about Han Solo which was crap, but I was younger and I just loved it, so it has a special place in my heart).
  • There's too many of them. The most popular shared universes are flooded with stories by dozens of authors. Where do I start? Who is good? Who isn't? Which series are more interesting? There's just too much there. Even the Star Wars universe is flooded, and now with a lot more stuff I really don't want to touch anymore.
That all said, I understand that I probably have a rather silly bias towards media tie-ins. Authors who write in shared worlds probably put a lot of work into it, or at least I hope they do, because that wouldn't look good for media tie-ins if they didn't do any work at all.
At the same time, however, I don't think it's all that silly to have a bias, or to dislike a particular form of literature. If you just don't like something, you can't force yourself to like it. I don't like practically all literary fiction novels, because they put me to sleep, and you can't really force me to like them (the occasional few novels will wow me, but most of them make me wonder how it got published). Disliking media tie-ins doesn't make you a bad person. There are plenty of people reading such books, so it really doesn't matter if you're one of those who doesn't read them--there will probably be a market for them for a long time. There are loads of people reading literary fiction, even though I mostly don't like it (some of it is growing on me though). This is just the way it is. Some of us only read mystery novels, while others only read mainstream fiction, or romance novels, etc. It can't possibly be expected of all of us to read everything, can it?
What forms of literature are you biased against?

Monday, August 25, 2008

100 Favorite SF/F Authors Meme

Alright, so I have another meme (yeah, I know, I've been doing a lot of them lately). But this one might be more interesting for you folks. It's a list of 100 favorite authors I found here. And here's what we're going to do:
  • Bold the authors whose work you have read (even just one book or story).
  • Italicize authors you don't want to read.
  • Leave everyone else unmarked.
I'm tagging anyone who wants to do this!

Here goes:

1. Terry Pratchett
2. JRR Tolkien
3. Neil Gaiman
4. Douglas Adams
5. George RR Martin
6. Isaac Asimov
7. Iain M. Banks
8. Philip K. Dick
9. HG Wells
10. Robert Rankin
11. Ursula K. LeGuin
12. David Gemmell
13. Peter F. Hamilton
14. Frank Herbert
15. Robert Heinlein
16. JK Rowling
17. Robert Jordan
18. Arthur C. Clarke
19. Ray Bradbury
20. Stephen King
21. Robin Hobb
22. Philip Pullman
23. John Wyndham
24. Diana Wynne Jones
25. CS Lewis
26. Guy Gavriel Kay
27. William Gibson
28. Steven Erikson
29. Anne McCaffrey
30. Roger Zelazny
31. Lois McMaster Bujold
32. Raymond E. Feist
33. China Mieville
34. Gene Wolfe
35. Stephen Donaldson
36. Orson Scott Card
37. Alan Moore
38. David Eddings
39. Michael Moorcock
40. Trudi Canavan
41. Kurt Vonnegut
42. Tad Williams
43. Jim Butcher
44. Clive Barker
45. Neal Stephenson
46. Alastair Reynolds
47. Jules Verne
48. Mervyn Peake
49. H.P. Lovecraft
50. Sherri S. Tepper
51. Robert E. Howard
52. J.G. Ballard
53. Octavia Butler
54. Jasper Fforde
55. Harlan Ellison
56. CJ Cherryh
57. Mercedes Lackey
58. Jennifer Fallon
59. Stephen Baxter
60. Richard Morgan
61. Terry Brooks
62. Elizabeth Haydon
63. Dan Simmons
64. Richard Matheson
65. Marion Zimmer Bradley
66. Harry Harrison
67. Jack Vance
68. Katharine Kerr
69. Alfred Bester
70. Larry Niven
71. Stanislaw Lem
72. Susanna Clarke
73. Robert Silverberg
74. Edgar Rice Burroughs
75. Julian May
76. Charles de Lint
77. Samuel R. Delany
78. George Orwell
79. Simon Clark
80. Joe Haldeman
81. Joe Abercrombie
82. J.V. Jones
83. Theodore Sturgeon
84. Kim Stanley Robinson
85. Jacqueline Carey
86. M. John Harrison
87. David Weber
88. Scott Lynch
89. Jonathan Carroll
90. Christopher Priest
91. Jon Courtney Grimwood
92. Michael Marshall Smith
93. Olaf Stapledon
94. Ken MacLeod
95. Brian W. Aldiss
96. Terry Goodkind
97. Charles Stross
98. Sara Douglass
99. Gwyneth Jones
100. James Herbert

So, I've read twenty-four of the authors on this list. Not bad considering I've not heard of quite a few of these authors. Yeah. Anywho!

Rejection: Little Blue Planet

This is the first rejection for this piece. It's a flash fiction work that I sent to Neo-Opsis...and it got rejected. Yay! It's off to AlienSkin now, since they're a big flash fiction place.


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

WBM: Bestiary--Erdluitles

Yes, Erdluitles are in my WISB universe, but I like them so much I want to keep them for the world of Altern. Besides, they fit into the scheme of things anyway. So here is what you need to know about these little guys:

Location and General Information
Erdluitles are primarily found in plain lands or farming areas and almost always avoid wooded areas--the exception being for the relatively few who have acclimated to life in human cities. Due to their affinity with farming communities, particularly their good nature and willingness to help farmers either by offering magical aid to crops or by offering their services as laborers, they are often seen as good omens or markers of particularly fine products wherever they are found. As such, they are loved by farmers and often well fed, though Erdluitles will make it very clear that they require no handouts at any time, seeing as they are quite prideful little people and don't take kindly to what they perceive as insults to their kind. They also vehemently defend other little people. When they are offended they can do unimaginable damage to one's crops or livelihood until the Erdluitle in question is appeased. It is considered a great offense in human culture to do anything questionable when an Erdluitle is around.
Erdluitles are short--around three feet tall--and thin. They always wear suits, including a small, rimmed hat, and have pointed ears, though less so than elves or other little people; females wear long, green dresses with frills and neither males nor females have any facial hair. The most pronounced feature of these small peoples are their feet: they have goose feet instead of regular five-toed feet. This, unfortunately, is something they are most ashamed of. As a result they almost never expose their feet, even when washing, choosing instead to soak their shoes rather than risk someone laughing at what they consider to be a disfigurement. Beyond these simple differences they are practically human in appearance, just short and extremely proud of it.
Erdluitles are some of the more magical of beings in Altern. While many creatures have little magic, the Erdluitles are exceptional magic users. They are able to manipulate the weather, levitate objects, and even cause physical harm to someone. Their most powerful magic, however, is related to plant life, as they are powerful in the art of growth, making plants grow in record time, bear incredible fruit and vegetables, etc. They take great delight in matters of growth and can be found dancing or frolicking gleefully whilst making peach trees shoot up to record heights with massive, gushing peaches bursting from the branches--they are often mistaken for children when doing this. They have great control over magic, as stated, but it should be noted that they rarely use magic that doesn't have something to do with farming or growth for they consider physical attacks or destructive magic to be mostly vulgar and for last options. They are destructive creatures when offended.
It's not entirely clear where the Erdluitles came from. Some human cultures believe they are the spawns of elves and lesser little people, while others have considered the myth that they are related to the very fabric of the universe, from which the stars and Altern itself was created. The reality is, however, that Erdluitles simply popped into existence...and that's how they all come into Altern--pop, pop, pop. The most disturbing thing about this is that they have no idea that it is going to happen and are always exceedingly confused when they suddenly appear in a field or under a rock or, on rare occasions, in the cell of a jailhouse. This explains their being spread quite thinly across the continent of Altern. The process of their existence seems random, but all Erdluitles believe there is a reason for it all; elderly Erdluitles who are no longer capable of tending to fields--due to being retired, of course, since it would be quite insulting to tell an Erdluitle he or she is just too old--spend their days contemplating the reasons for their existence. No answers have been found to date (Erdluitles want their existence to have a higher purpose in the world).
Erdluitle culture tends to be small, yet complex. They don't share a religion of any sort, but there is a great gathering every year where Erdluitles from all across Altern meet in a predestined place--usually the home of the most successful Erdluitle of the year--and celebrate a year well done. There is a massive feast and it is generally acceptable to invite human farmers and their families to the celebration. Dancing, singing, and music playing is a necessity. The last party that lacked one of those three things ended in a two hundred year war between different "clans" of Erdluitles, which made the lives of farmers particularly uncomfortable: it isn't easy to appease a very angry Erdluitle.
Their music is not entirely unique, usually stealing from whatever place they might be in at any time, but it is almost always beautiful. They do not have the greatest of singing voices, but they are exceptional dancers. Some Erdluitles have found pleasure in poetry, churning out farmer's epics with complex rhymes and structures. Additionally other avenues of art have found their way into Erdluitle culture in recent years, such as painting, which they find to be a particularly fascinating venture.
Erdluitles do not generally build towns; it does happen, but it is rare. They are often given shelter by farmers, who are kind enough to allow the little people to occupy their barns or attics. They do have a complex set of rules that governs the proper method of interaction between Erdluitles, which is too complicated for any human to even begin to understand. This they take pride in and talk "down" to humans who simply cannot fathom all the bizarre rules that come with Erdluitle culture (such as one must never bow more than thirteen inches unless accompanied by a goat).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rejection: To Lie With Spirit

And to add to the list of rejections wihle I was on vacation is one from Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. This one is actually getting another edit as soon as my girlfriend decides to get to it (I mean that jokingly of course). I think it needs a little tweaking still.

Yup, that's all!

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

Want to Move: Looking for a new place.

Yeah, I'm officially looking for a new place...again. Some of you already know some of the bologna happening around here from previous posts, so I won't bore you with that stuff. It's just getting worse and now I'm finding out that I'm being drastically overcharged for utilities and, well, I just don't want to deal with this situation anymore. I don't like being taken advantage of. It pisses me off.

So, I am looking for a new place in Santa Cruz, California. Preferably semi-near the university, or at least where I can take a bus directly to campus. Would like a decent sized room, low drama, and basically a stable environment where people don't poop on the toilet and leave it like that...
I have a craigslist ad here if you want to know more about what I'm looking for.

Any help here, everyone, would be fantastic. I want to move by the beginning of the school year, because that's when I'll be paid.


Rejection: Interstellar Realty

This one was rejected while I was on vacation, so I'm a bit late in writing about it. It was a rejection from Abyss & Apex (a good rejection, mind you). It's already with someone else and hopefully it'll get snatched up. Anywho!

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

Rejection: Irlgem

Got a rejection for IGMS. No special notes. It's off to somewhere else soon enough. *grumble*

Lots and lots of rejections! Yay!

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

WBM: General Information About the Bestiary

Since I'm going to start delving into the creatures of Altern and what not over the next two weeks, I figure it's about time I give some general information regarding the world. So here goes:

The Bestiary
The non-human creatures of Altern are all born unnaturally, meaning that they are not born through human means of reproduction or by any natural means. They are, by default, creatures of magic and myth. Humans are the only ones who reproduce; obviously by means we're all familiar with.

There you go. I know, it's basic and what not, but so be it! I'll also be digging more into the magic and providing a definitive definition of it. And I'll have the five unstable substances all ironed out!


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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ask the Bloggers Series: Question #3 (I'm in it!)

This is slightly old news now (and John did repost my responses as a guest post while I was on vacation), but I figure you all would like to see the answers to his third question, since I'm in it and so are bunches of others. A lot of great points are made and I had another silly typo. Okay, so it's only a slight typo, since I used a real word and it can be molded to be correct, but I meant to say "mythos" instead of "ethos". I guess I don't know my latin as well as I thought! Doh!

Anywho, you can find the answers here. The question was:
In recent years, there has a been a rise in interest in the urban fantasy genre, even prompting some publishers to republish older urban fantasy works, such as Pyr's recent publication of Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick. What is your explanation for the recent rise in the popularity of this subgenre?
Secondly, since the rise and fall of popularity of fantasy and SF subgenres tends to be cyclical, what subgenre of fantasy do you predict will see an upsurge in its popularity once urban fantasy is on the wane?
So, anyone have any thoughts of their own? Figure I could open up to those of you who read my blog, since I'm curious what you all think!

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

Need Your Help: Literary SF?

I need your help, everyone. I'm considering doing an independent study course on literary SF and I've come to the realization that I don't really know of any literary SF. So far my potential options include Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which I'm told is SF, and something by Haruki Murakami (possibly Kafka on the Shore, if that is an SF/F title as some have told me).

So, can you name any books that fall into the literary SF category? When I say literary SF I mean titles that are written in a more literary style. I don't mean a confusing style, just something more deeply written than mainstream SF (and I do love mainstream SF, just so nobody throws a fit and thinks I'm being snooty here...the styles are just different and I'm looking for a specific style).

So, can you help? I would like it to be SFish if possible, however works of contempary fantasy in a literary style are welcome too. Anyone can comment, so don't be afraid!


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

MEME: 100 SF books according to a teacher!

There's been a list going around as of late of the top 100 SF books chosen by a teacher. Seeing how I plan to be a teacher one day and also have hopes to see SF become more common in public schools, I'm going to turn this one into a meme.

Here are the rules:
  • Bold the titles you've read.
  • Italicize the titles you want to read (and I mean REALLY want to read).
  • Mark titles you've never heard of with strikeouts, underlines, or (NH) for "never heard".
  • Tag people.
I'm tagging SQT, John of Grasping For the Wind, Tia Nevitt of Fantasy Debut, and Carraka.

Here goes:

# George R. Stewart - Earth Abides
# Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
# Robert A. Heinlein - The Puppet Masters
# John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids
# Bernard Wolfe - Limbo (NH)
# Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man
# Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451
# Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End
# Charles L. Harness - The Paradox men (NH)
# Ward Moore - Bring the Jubilee (NH)
# Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth - The Space Merchants
# Clifford D. Simak - Ring Around the Sun
# Theodore Sturgeon - More than Human
# Hal Clement - Mission of Gravity
# Edgar Pangborn - A Mirror for Observers (NH)
# Isaac Asimov - The End of Eternity
# Leigh Brackett - The Long Tomorrow (NH)
# William Golding - The Inheritors (NH)
# Alfred Bester - The Stars My Destination
# John Christopher - The Death of Grass (NH)
# Arthur C. Clarke - The City and the Stars
# Robert A. Heinlein - The Door Into Summer
# John Wyndham - The Midwich cuckoos
# Brian W. Aldiss - Non-Stop
# James Blish - A Case of Conscience
# Robert A. Heinlein - Have Space-Suit -- Will Travel
# Philip K. Dick - Time Out of Joint
# Pat Frank - Alas, Babylon
# Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Leibowitz
# Kurt Vonnegut - The Sirens of Titan
# Algis Budrys - Rogue Moon
# Theodore Sturgeon - Venus Plus X
# Brian W. Aldiss - Hothouse (NH)
# J.G. Ballard - The Drowned World
# Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange
# Philip K. Dick - The Man in the High Castle
# Robert Sheckley - Journey Beyond Tomorrow (NH)
# Clifford D. Simak - Way Station (NH)
# Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
# Brian W. Aldiss - Greybeard (NH)
# William S. Burroughs - Nova Express
# Philip K. Dick - Martian Time-Slip
# Philip K. Dick - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
# Fritz Leiber - The Wanderer
# Cordwainer Smith - Nostrilia (NH)
# Philip K. Dick - Dr Bloodmoney
# Frank Herbert - Dune
# J.G. Ballard - The Crystal World
# Harry Harrison - Make Room! Make Room!
# Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon
# Roger Zelazny - The Dream Master
# John Brunner - Stand on Zanzibar
# Samuel R. Delany - Nova
# Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
# Thomas M. Disch - Camp Concentration
# Michael Moorcock - The Final Programme (NH)
# Keith Roberts - Pavane (NH)
# Angela Carter - Heroes and Villains
# Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness
# Bob Shaw - The Palace of Eternity (NH)
# Norman Spinrad - Bug Jack Barron (NH)
# Poul Anderson - Tau Zero
# Robert Silverberg - Downward to the Earth
# Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun (NH)
# Thomas M. Disch - 334
# Gene Wolfe - The Fifth Head of Cerberus
# Michael Moorcock - The Dancers at the End of Time (NH)
# J.G. Ballard - Crash
# Mack Reynolds - Looking Backward from the Year 2000 (NH)
# Ian Watson - The Embedding (NH)
# Suzy McKee Charnas - Walk to the End of the World (NH)
# M. John Harrison - The Centauri Device
# Ursula K. Le Guin - The Dispossessed
# Christopher Priest - Inverted World (NH)
# J.G. Ballard - High-Rise
# Barry N. Malzberg - Galaxies (NH)
# Joanna Russ - The Female Man
# Bob Shaw - Orbitsville (NH)
# Kingsley Amis - The Alteration (NH)
# Marge Piercy - Woman on the Edge of Time (NH)
# Frederik Pohl - Man Plus
# Algis Budrys - Michaelmas (NH)
# John Varley - The Ophiuchi Hotline
# Ian Watson - Miracle Visitors (NH)
# John Crowley - Engine Summer
# Thomas M. Disch - On Wings of Song
# Brian Stableford - The Walking Shadow (NH)
# Kate Wilhelm - Juniper Time (NH)
# Gregory Benford - Timescape
# Damien Broderick - The Dreaming Dragons
# Octavia Butler - Wild Seed
# Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker (NH)
# John Sladek - Roderick and Roderick at Random (NH)
# Gene Wolfe - The Book of the New Sun
# Philip Jose Farmer - The Unreasoning Mask
# Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - Oath of Fealty
# Michael Bishop - No Enemy but Time (NH)
# John Calvin Batchelor - The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica
# William Gibson - Neuromancer

Well, I have read a total of seven books on this list, which further proves that I am not as well read as I think I am. And that makes me sad...

How well did you do?

Ask the Bloggers: The Rewards of Blogging - SMD Version

I'm not a selfish guy, so I thought I would repost SMD's response to several of my Ask the Bloggers questions while he is away. You can see other responses at my blog, Grasping for the Wind, but for now, enjoy SMD's.

What has been your most rewarding moment as a blogger?

Probably the most rewarding moment for me is when someone (anyone) says they enjoy my blog. I can't imagine anything more rewarding than that, even if it is one person. I don't hear it often (which sounds bad, but all bloggers realize that most readers don't comment in the first place), but it's nice when it happens. I've heard it about my blog novel and a few times about the actual blogging aspect. I actually really love receiving emails from random people telling me they enjoyed reading. It makes me feel good. I encourage people to email me about whatever. Seriously. I'd rather spend my email time replying to useful emails than going through spam.

Other rewarding moments are when people link to me, either in a blogroll or directly, or whenever an author agrees to do an interview with me. I also feel somewhat rewarded just by the fact that my blog is almost 2 years old. A lot of bloggers have been at this for longer than I have, and I've grown a lot as a blogger (or I think so), but it feels great to have succeeded in keeping at it for so long. I don't know if I ever truly thought I would remain so dedicated, but I absolutely love my blog and the process of blogging. It's exciting and fun. What's not fun about talking about what you enjoy most?

So, that's my answer to that.

I Have Returned!

This is going to be a really fast update post. I'm back from Oregon and a lot of things happened while I was gone (things not related to my vacation of course). I received four rejections for four different short stories, had some guest bloggers post some interesting material, and came home to a huge stack of books, the vast majority of which are for the Gaylactic Spectrum awards (of which I'm a judge). So it was all rather interesting. I have a lot of things lined up for posting over the next few days, particularly things related to world building month. So stay tuned!

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ask the Bloggers: How did you get your start? - SMD Version

I'm not a selfish guy, so I thought I would repost SMD's response to several of my ask the Bloggers questions while he is away. You can see other responses at my blog, Grasping for the Wind, but for now, enjoy SMD's.

What got you started in blogging, and why did you choose to become an SF book reviewer?

I guess technically my blogging started long before I created I had a LiveJournal that I used to babble about my personal life, but I stopped that after about six months when I realized that whining and complaining about life wasn't really all that interesting. Besides, I got over that stage and came to the conclusion that there was no point being depressed and upset all the time when you could spend your days being happy (or at least try to be).

So I stopped blogging for a while. Some time later I started getting the urge to write a novel noticed that some folks were doing blog novels. After looking into it I thought, "What the heck. Why not try one of these things?" I did, creating WISB (which went through several name changes beforehand). I spent almost a year writing and posting The World in the Satin Bag and babbling about science fiction, fantasy, etc. After I finished the novel I decided to keep blogging and plan a second book, and I've been doing it all for almost two years now.

As for doing reviews: I started doing them randomly on my blog, decided I liked it, and ended up becoming involved with SQT's blog ( doing reviews. Now I review for small presses and the occasional big press and it's fantastic. Not sure why I chose to become involved, though. I enjoy reading and enjoyed writing the reviews. There's always that side of you that goes, "Hey, I get free books." That's always a perk. I also have the fortune of reading new works I might not have seen in the bookstore or maybe never would have picked up in the first place (and should have). Once I got involved I couldn't stop. I love small presses. Some of the best works I've ever read have come from such places. Hopefully I'll get to keep doing this too. It's opened up a few doors for me, I think (such as becoming a judge for the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards and speaking directly with writers/authors/publishers).