Back in the Saddle, and the Horse Didn’t Buck

IMG_4592Well, it’s been awhile since I pumped out some fiction.  I’ve been working on a longer novella, hit and miss, for ages, based on my own experiences on Long Island in 2004, and on a longer novel full of fun things.   But I just looked at my “written work” section and discovered that I had a good six fiction publications in 2010, but what have I done for you lately?  Not a darn thing sold since 2010–and that means not a darn fiction thing written, really.  I have sold some nice short pieces to GEEZ, and I’m glad.  But for fiction, it’s been awhile.

So, I’m thrilled that I got a story done for the Tesseracts 17 deadline (tonight at midnight).  Sent it off yesterday.  Hope they like it.  But I’m chomping at the bit to get more done.  So, I’ll see if I can’t pull off another story or two in March.  I have a lot of started stories that lost their way….or which got derailed by work or life or both.

I tell you it was GREAT to get back into writing fiction.  I wanted to write stories with werewolves, time travelers, Kings, ghosts–things you just don’t get to see everyday.  And I’ve been reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.  If Graham Greene wrote about magical creatures…. anyway, glad I’m back into the swing of things, and hope I can keep this up.

Proud that other Yukoners, including my two minions, Santana and Zeb, also found the deadline for Tess 17 to be an adequate kick-your-butt deadline for writing.  YAY.  Now, let’s see if I can do it without a deadline.

I also purchased an e-book for .99.  I have to say it was great reading.  Good ideas, and helped push me along.  It’s called 2k to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron.   One idea of hers, to sketch out a scene before you write it saved me a lot of time.  And made the scene crystallize more.  I’ve always been a huge note-taker–but her ideas were about making those notes more efficient and more usable for the final writing.  Working out scene problems ahead of time–before you sit down–saves time when you sit down.

Anyway, nothing but praise for that book, for Tesseracts 17, and for writing again.  Good to be back in the saddle.

My Year of Canadian Reading: what stories are you made of?

As I’m approaching an inevitable embrace of Canada (oh, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!) I’m aware that I have very little knowledge of Canadian literature.  A poor citizen is one who does not know his country’s stories. It is how we speak to one another–a cultural physiography and language that connects Canadians together.  How can I become a citizen without learning this cultural language?  Sure I could take a class, I suppose, from a Canadian university online, do some papers, etc.  But I thought a more creative way would be for Yukoners to suggest Canadian books that meant something to them–then it would be more personal.

So I went on CBC with Dave White and we came up with a plan for book suggestions–a reading list of sorts–so that I could become more literate about Canada.  We are getting great results, but please call in to Dave and suggest more books.  I’d like to build a canon, of sorts, of Yukon-suggested Canadian literature.  Right now I’m looking mostly for fiction, poetry and drama—but I have decided that a few creative nonfiction pieces are a must, a Pierre Berton, a Farley Mowat, even a Kevin Chong (go, KC!).  I built a blog to read and discuss this literature.  It’s called “A Year of Canadian Reading” and you can follow the link to see what I’m reading, what I’m up to, and what I thought about books you suggested.  Follow along if you like.  Read them with me.  I want to get an idea about Canada from its literature.  I want to understand you through your stories.  I think when we understand a culture through its stories, we are more able to speak to and hear from its citizens, and as citizens we’re more able to understand each other.

I don’t have any intention of stopping reading after the Year is over—but an actual year is a start.  I’ve read some Canadian Literature.  I came in with knowing only three authors: Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.  But I’m aiming for the depth and breadth of Canadian Literature, even the heart of our warm, warm country.

Let me know if you want to play.  Follow these links if you want to:  SUGGEST A BOOK FOR ME, or find out WHAT I’M GOING TO READ.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Inhuman

INHUMAN:  Absolute Xpress, owned by Edge Books (the makers and owners of the Tesseracts series of science fiction and fantasy anthologies), have announced their fourth flash fiction challenge:  1000 words on what humans are like from a non-earth based, non-human perspective.  The title of the anthology is called “Inhuman” and details are here

In their words:

The Theme: InHuman

There are other beings out there. Demons, fae, aliens, robots and more. Creatures that have been watching us for a long time. They know us. For this challenge, write from the point of view of something “Inhuman”; an exterior point of view that is able to see what it really means to be Human.

You now have 6 weeks to answer this challenge. Flex your fingers and get typing. This challenge closes on May 15th at Midnight Pacific Standard Time (PST). For more details on how to submit check out the Flash Fiction Challenge page.

So what are we really looking for?

We want you to write from the point of view of a sentient, intelligent life form (no earth-based animals please (pets, birds, fish, etc.)). Perhaps they have been impacted by humanity, or visa versa. Or maybe they’ve been watching us from a distance. The big thing is that who ever these beings are, they have an insight into what it means to be human. This perspective is the key thing to highlight in your stories. It doesn’t have to be profound but these inhuman persons should notice something about what makes humanity human.

 

1000 words, one week left.  You can do it.

Toronto Launch of Evolve: the all-Canadian Vampire anthology, April 9-10

Coming up, Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead will be launched in Toronto at Ad Astra, the science fiction convention there.  It happens April 9-10 in two separate events: one is a the Canadian Launch on Friday night, 7pm at the World’s Biggest Bookstore.  And the other is a reading on Saturday at Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites which is hosting Ad Astra.  

You can read more about it here.

What is Evolve?  Evolve is really 24 authors tackling the premise–what would happen if Vampires evolved? What would the new versions look like?  When you have a history of Vampires that takes you from the ghoulish looking Nosferatu to the sexy, sparkling Edward, then you already have an evolution of vampires from their horrific beastial state–where being bitten was a life sentence–to teen girls hoping and praying they’ll be bitten by Edward…  Where have we come to?  What have vampires already become?  And where will they evolve next?

As Nancy tells me, this is the first ever all Canadian effort to tackle contemporary vampire stories–and I think we have an exciting premise.  If anyone is wondering if Vampires have lost their direction post-Meyers, here’s 24 things to think about for future reference.  

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead includes writing from Kelley Armstrong, Tanya Huff, Claude Lalumière, Mary E. Choo, Sandra Kasturi, Bradley Somer, Kevin Cockle, Rebecca Bradley, Heather Clitheroe, Colleen Anderson, Sandra Wickham, Rhea Rose, Ronald Hore, Bev Vincent, Jennifer Greylyn, Steve Vernon, Michael Skeet, Kevin Nunn, Victoria Fisher, Rio Youers, Gemma Files, Natasha Beaulieu, Claude Bolduc, and Jerome Stueart.

If you’re in Toronto and want to stop by the World’s Largest Bookstore, or by Ad Astra for the readings, you’ll enjoy it.  

Bondsmen, my story, up at Metazen: James Bond meets himselves

secret-agent2My story, “Bondsmen”, is up at Metazen.  The story–meant to be a comedy– is a bit surreal, having the latest James Bond (an actor beyond Daniel Craig) really stifled by all the things he has to do as James Bond—he just wants to be himself, dang-it, but he finds himself trapped in the character roles that have been played in the past by other actors….  This is a story of a man who wants to be an individual, not controlled by things he can and cannot do.  James Bond ends up quarreling with all the other actors who’ve ever played Bond–or rather, all the other versions of Bond.  It is meant to be parody, but also a way to think about living life suppressed, even when you’re a dangerous secret agent.  Does James Bond really get a choice to be anything else?

Metazen, ” is an online fiction zine that publishes short fiction and poetry by various authors. Metazen is a fly trap for metafiction, existentialism and  absurdism. It harbors all kinds of filth such as neurotic characters, obscure philosophies, love for inanimate objects and quests toward enlightenment. Metazen occasionally follows the real life, meta-fictional exploits of Frank.  Metazen is edited by Frank Hinton, Jessica Alchesse and Dylan Cohen.”

Enjoy the story!

Wolverine: You can’t hurt him, so you can’t hurt us

x-men-origins-wolverine-20090212020925195While Wolverine looked promising, it was a confusing mess of action with never a moment of tension. The problem was established early–in the credits–and this hindered us from caring about the characters.

If you make your characters indestructible, then you eliminate us from caring. It was the problem with Superman many years ago–he had no real vulnerability. So the writers rewrote him. Here with Wolverine and Sabertooth, they are given nearly immortal status at the beginning of the film. They don’t age slowly–they just don’t age once they hit their thirties. And they go through the Civil War, WW1, WW2, and the Vietnam War all in about ten minutes of screen time. They are always frontline, get shot at over and over, get hit, but never get hurt. There is no danger for these guys. None. That is established up front. So why would there be any tension in the film?

The film goes on to try and make Wolverine truly indestructible by giving him admantium bones. But since he was already invulnerable (yeah, he could get slightly bruised in a fight with his brother), the admantium claws gave him no discernible advantage. Ah, yes, in fights with Sabertooth, Sabe’s face was a bit more pained–but he was still walking tall after the fights. Spare me the argument that they can heal. 1) An ability to heal that quickly means there are no consequences. No consequences eliminate plot and choice–both essential to story. 2) Wolverine never healed that quickly in the comics. The point of Wolverine’s healing ability was to protect him in the long run, but he got beat up bad in the comics. Often, it would take him days and weeks to heal. And that’s good—it made him vulnerable, but gave him a slight advantage in the ICU. It made me care. But in this film, immediate healing meant that two shadows were boxing each other. I thought–so what?

The fights were scripted so that either Wolvie or his opponent should fall down so there could be a bit of dialogue, or a change of scene. If Sabertooth met up with any other character, that character was toast. It was just a matter of time. Because Sabertooth was established as indestructible.  Worse yet, I am now not sure what Sabertooth is really responsible for–since his main kill comes back to life.  The body count might have been high–but a viewer can’t care if the bodies spring back to life or never had much life to begin with.

Working against it too–the movie was a prequel. And if the survival of the main characters is the plot of a prequel, you’ve doomed yourself. The plot of a prequel needs to be another mystery–because their survival is assured. Here, we were told that we were going to learn the mystery of Wolverine’s origins–but there was no central goal for the main character, no puzzle to solve; just event after event happening to the main characters. No choices, no consequences, no mystery.

I was looking forward to Cyclops, to Gambit, Blob, etc. These characters were used more for the trailer than the movie. This movie had no arc, no plot, and characters who needed to wade through two hours of special effects to return them to X-Men 1, where they began.

Live Words: Yukon Writers Festival, April 28-May 8

In conjunction with the Young Authors Conference, Live Words brings five authors up to the Yukon, and this year they are offering a few more appearances in Whitehorse and the communities for readings and workshops.  Yay!   I applaud Joyce Sward and other organizers for their efforts to bring these writers to the community.

Schedule as follows:

LIVE WORDS

YUKON WRITERS’ FESTIVAL: Tues Apr 28 – Fri May 8
with writers:
Shelley Hrdlitschka, Celia McBride, Arthur Slade, Shyam Selvadurai, Candace Savage, Kenneth T. Williams

WHITEHORSE EVENTS
Reading: Kenneth T. Williams, Tues Apr 28, 7 pm, Blue Feather Youth Centre, free
Reading & Reception: Guest writers, Wed Apr 29, 7 pm, Beringia Centre, free
Young Authors’ Conference: Thurs Apr 30 & Fri May 1, 8:45 – 3:15, FH Collins
Lecture: Bird Brains: Inside the Lives of Ravens and Crows, Candace Savage & Sun May 3, 7:30 pm, Beringia Centre, free
Writing Workshop: Shyam Selvadurai, Mon May 4, 7 – 9 pm, Whitehorse Public Library. 667-5239 to register (limited space), free.

COMMUNITY EVENTS
Readings & Music: Guest writers & music, Sat May 2, 7 pm, St. Elias Convention Centre, Haines Junction, $10 adults, $5 students, children 12 & under/seniors free.
Readings: Shyam Selvadurai -Tues May 5, 7 pm, Teslin Library; Wed May 6, 7 pm, Carcross Library; Thurs May 7, 7 pm; Carmacks Library; Fri May 8, 11am,
Faro Library, free
Lecture: Bird Brains: Inside the Lives of Ravens and Crows, Candace Savage, Mon May 4, 7:30 pm, Northern Lights Centre, Watson Lake, free

For more information call 667-5239.

And the Young Authors Conference website:

http://www.yesnet.yk.ca/events/youngauthors/Pages/conference2009.html

Repair-adise: The Myth of the Self-Cleaning Earth

3224040683_22edd9a60cOkay, I’ve seen the trope enough.  Yes, it is a hopeful image, but it perpetuates a myth.  End of movie: three or four people after post-apocalyptic disaster come out to “healed” Earth.  200 years in City of Ember.  700 years in Wall-E.

Gaia is a nice idea–that the Earth is bigger than us and will heal itself even from our damage.  However, it lessens any personal responsibility, and gives us some odd idea that humans, in the form that we know them, will be back one day after the Earth has gone through a cycle similar to a self-cleaning oven.

Oddly enough, the base idea is shared by those who don’t believe in Global Warming, or who don’t believe that Man is causing global warming–the idea that the Earth shifts in cold and hot and finds a balance and everything is returned to a state of Eden.

Here’s two things I know: The last Ice Age was a documented shift in the planet’s balance of hot and cold.  Those ice sheets lasted for more than 100,000 years, ending about 10,000 years ago.  The animal and plant life that we know from then have changed quite a bit over that span of time.  No more giant ground sloths, mammoths or neanderthals.  Even the steppe grasses are gone.  So,  it took the Earth 10,000 years to right itself–after some massive glaciation.  In other words, Global Warming may well indeed have been a natural shift, but Humanity will not survive a massive shift like that–certainly not in the way we are now. And likely, the Earth will come up with some radically new life forms–if it recovers at all.

The second idea here is that the Earth can take a beating from us.  No problem.  A) if it disposes of us, what have we learned?  and B)  We are capable of damaging an atmosphere irreparably.

Those Ice Ages, devastating as they were, still counted on an atmosphere.  If we hurt our atmosphere, isn’t it possible that we not just trigger an Ice Age, but stop it from fixing itself?  James Lovelock, the man who created the idea of Gaia–the earth that is an organism–was interviewed in New Scientist.

Do you think we will survive?

I’m an optimistic pessimist. I think it’s wrong to assume we’ll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It’s happening again.

I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.

It’s a depressing outlook.

Not necessarily. I don’t think 9 billion is better than 1 billion. I see humans as rather like the first photosynthesisers, which when they first appeared on the planet caused enormous damage by releasing oxygen – a nasty, poisonous gas. It took a long time, but it turned out in the end to be of enormous benefit. I look on humans in much the same light. For the first time in its 3.5 billion years of existence, the planet has an intelligent, communicating species that can consider the whole system and even do things about it. They are not yet bright enough, they have still to evolve quite a way, but they could become a very positive contributor to planetary welfare.

How much biodiversity will be left after this climatic apocalypse?

We have the example of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum event 55 million years ago. About the same amount of CO2 was put into the atmosphere as we are putting in and temperatures rocketed by about 5 °C over about 20,000 years. The world became largely desert. The polar regions were tropical and most life on the planet had the time to move north and survive. When the planet cooled they moved back again. So there doesn’t have to be a massive extinction. It’s already moving: if you live in the countryside as I do you can see the changes, even in the UK.

He has a lot of optimism that despite all the damage we can do as a species, that the Earth will recover–even that perhaps these amazingly smart humans, in his opinion, the apex of creation, will figure out how to live in harmony with the Earth–eventually.

But it also might allow both a fatalism and a hedonism to develop–as if we can do nothing to hurt the Earth at all.  Lovelock was instrumental in getting the global CFC ban that led to saving the Ozone layer.   Perhaps there are still more things to do to stop the warming that’s happening–as he suggests in the article.   Certainly, we have to think short term.  Lovelock’s vision–is that after thousands and thousands of years–humanity will survive and learn.  Movies shorten that to a few hundred years, a slap on the hand for our negligent behavior instead of the mass extinction probably waiting for us.  They believe in Man rebooting after the Earth has rebooted itself.  Repair-adise.

All these movies have people waiting out the storm, walking into paradise, virtually unchanged.  Free of humanity for a mere 200 years, the planet heaves a rainbow sigh of relief, bushy gardens of plenty.  But with our weapons we can inflict planetary damage; Wall-E can never clean up all the trash and one plant can’t feed the multitudes–and there will be a long wait for the storm to be over.  And humans may not survive as humans.  There may be no humans to come back out after 55 million years….and if there are, will they remember what they did wrong?  We have to affect change.

Sure, we may not die, but we will all be changed.

Online SF Market: Futurismic–for near future stories

Another great market for Science Fiction writers, especially those dabbling in near future fiction.  Check out the full Guidelines here.  Here’s an excerpt of what they’re looking for.

Futurismic seeks contemporary, near future science fiction for online publication. We’re looking for innovative, exciting stories that use the tools of speculative fiction to examine contemporary issues and take a look at what’s just around the corner.

Whether by established professionals or promising newcomers, we would like to see the very best in today’s SF, with an emphasis on work that truly connects with and illuminates the fast-paced, fascinating times we live in.

Stories should be compelling and well written, with a strong emphasis on characters confronting or embracing imminent cultural, social, technological, and scientific changes.

PLEASE NOTE: Near-future, Earth-based science fiction is our primary focus!

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR:

  • Mundane SF
  • Post-cyberpunk SF
  • Satirical/gonzo futurism
  • Realistic near future hard SF

WHAT WE’RE NOT LOOKING FOR:

  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Space opera
  • Off-world SF
  • Distant futures
  • Aliens
  • Time Travel
  • Alternate History

Length: up to 15,000 words!  and there’s a webform to submit with.  No nasty stamps and paper problems.  $200 flat rate for stories, 2-5 weeks to respond.

Click on the Guidelines link and read the rest if you are interested.  Good luck!