Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z - Zooooooooombies


Braaaaaaaains.

Zombies are still having a good time. It’s died down a bit, but the train is still chugging along. I had a discussion about this with a number of people once. The prevailing theory was that zombies are our new cautionary tales.

Wash your hands or you’ll get sick. And getting sick could turn you into a zombie.

Stay away from strangers. They might be carrying the zombie virus.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And if you don’t use it, it doesn’t get tough, so zombies are more likely to eat it.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m basically making this up. But seriously—enjoy the rest of your day. I plan to.

I also wanted to say how much I just loved doing A-Z blogging again. Through all the stresses and strains, it was still a great experience. And to new friends and acquaintances: hi!

Voss

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y - You


You scroll across an article, realizing not long after the beginning that it’s written in second person. You scratch your head, wondering who in their right mind would ever do that. That’s against the Geneva Convention, you recall.

Okay, I’ll stop. But I do want to talk second person. Just for a bit. You can shoot me later. But I’ve always had a soft spot for one thing that came from second person. I think you know what it is: Choose Your Own Adventure books. I loved them. I still do, actually. It’s just hard to find them written for adults. And by hard, I mean nearly impossible.

But what do you think? Do you think it’s time for a Choose Your Own Adventure comeback? I’d like to see that. Heck, I may even try my hand at it. In a couple years. When I get through everything else I’m already working on.

Cheers,
Voss

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X - Xianghua and Other Badass Women


Who doesn’t like a warrior woman? No one, that’s right. And these, in my opinion, are the ten most badass of them all, ranging across movies, shows, books, and video games. Enjoy. Or something.

10: Molly Weasley (Harry Potter): Why so low? Because she only had one truly badass moment. Then why does she even make the list? She killed Bellatrix Lestrange. That alone warrants her being on this list, trust me.

9: Xianghua (Soul Calibur): Anyone that can trade blows with trained samurai, undead pirates, and demon knights is okay I my book. More than okay. Xianghua is highly trained in martial arts. And, you know, she sort of wields Soul Calibur, the sword of pure awesomeness or something like that (I’m paraphrasing, of course).

8: Mara Jade (Star Wars Extended Universe): You have to love her. She’s a force sensitive, can wield a blaster (and later a lightsaber), and is capable of keeping up with the last officially trained Jedi in the galaxy.

7: Nevva Winter (The Pendragon Series): Sure she’s evil. That doesn’t make her not a badass. She’s manipulative, clever, and can change her appearance at will. That’s on top of the normal abilities of Travelers, like instantaneous understanding of any language and the ability of traveling through space and time to another dimension. Plus she does redeem herself later.

6: Demona (Gargoyles): A magitech gargoyle warrior. I love it. She’s almost entirely self-serving, so she’s not exactly nice. Plus she has some sex appeal, which never helps. And, unlike most kids’ show villains, she isn’t a bumbling ball of uselessness. She’s bloody clever, actually.

5: Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter): Come on. You can’t honestly contest that. A woman that can hold her own against Death Eaters and has the respect of Albus Dumbledore? She’s got to have something go for her and you know it.

4: Lady Tsunade (Naruto): I wouldn’t want to face her. Capable, with her power limited, to flick people off and away with a single finger. She can break bones with slight hits. And did I mention the summoning of the giant slug? All while using a good portion of her power to hold her appearance where she likes it.

3: Raine (The Watershed Trilogy): She can fight, ride a horse, scale almost sheer walls with her bare hands, and she came back from the dead. She learned from a master how to pick locks. She can heal. She was willing to stand up to one of the greatest forces of evil in the world with only one man at her side. She was also blessed by the powers of all three gods of the world, one of only three people of the sort that exist.

2: Unohana Retsu (Bleach): Or Yachiru Kenpachi, if you want to get a little archaic. This is a woman that instills fear in fierce warriors just by existing, a woman that, in thousands of years of battle, only ever took one scar, and a small one at that, a woman that learned advanced healing techniques for the sole purpose of fighting longer. She’s a bit like Yoda, only fighting when duty calls. But older and better looking.

1: Leeloo (The Fifth Element): You can’t argue this one. She’s the supreme being. They come right out and say that. She can fight, learn anything in minutes, and can fire a laser from her mouth that stops basically the ultimate evil where it sits. Find me someone better. I dare you.

Anyone I missed? Let me know—maybe you’ll turn me onto something I haven’t yet come across.

Voss

P.S: This is, of course, just for spec fic. Otherwise there would have been some other names on here. And yes, I cheated on the title a bit. Oh well.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W - What Not to Buy for Writers


You might know a writer. If so, you might be able to pry them away from the keyboard long enough to tell you their birthday or get them to sing a Christmas carol or something. But that might be about it. You won’t know what to get them Well, fear not. Writers are easy enough to appease. But here are the list of the top five things you should NOT get your writer friends.

(Note: This is meant to be slightly humorous. Take with a grain f salt and call me in the morning.)

5: Pencils: Pencils are evil. Unless your writer asks for pencils, just back away.

4: A desk set: It’s not going to get used. Sorry. I don’t want an audience while I’m writing. If you want to get them a desk set, don’t do it because you think that a writer should like it. We won’t

3: Nice pens: We’ll just use them and either destroy them or never buy refills, then feel guilty whenever we use another pen around you.

2: Notebooks: It’s a really nice gesture. I mean it. It is. But I’ve never met a writer without blank notebooks. We just don’t get around to filling them very quickly. I once got a bunch of half-used notebooks. Like, twenty or more. I gave away half of them, lost half of what I had left, and that still lasted me several years. The problem is that we by ourselves, and everyone buys them for us. We really don’t need them.

1: A fancy notebook: Just stop. Step away from the leather bound notebook. It’s expensive and we really aren’t going to use it. There’s some strange combination of already having way too many notebooks we aren’t using and a general reverence for nice books that makes it impossible to mark one. If you’re set on the idea, then go to the juvenile section, pick us up something with, like, Harry Potter stuff on it, or Katniss Everdeen. Something nerdy is always good—we wont’ feel so bad wrecking it.

Happy hunting,
Voss


Thursday, April 25, 2013

V - Victims


War doesn’t exist without victims. A whole lot of victims. Victims you don’t even necessarily think of. We all know that soldiers are going to die. But how about the victims like the forest? Cutting down trees for supplies. Or the homes that get ransacked by soldiers that need some place to stay.

In war, nobody and nothing can go unaffected. If you’ve heard about a war, it’s going to affect you, Maybe not in any serious way, but that war is going to affect you. And so often, writers forget about that. The emotional, spiritual, financial implications of a war.

Just food for thought.

Voss

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U - Seek the Unexpected


Name me a science fiction musical. And…go!

Have an answer? My bet is that most everyone came up with Either The Rocky Horror Picture Show (or The Rocky Horror Show) or Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Now, how many people would actually think of science fiction and a musical together, in one beast? Not a lot of people. It’s a great idea, but it’s…well, it’s not the kind of thing that you expect, to be honest.

Well, I make it a point to track down sci-fi musicals. Why? Because I love Rocky Horror and Repo. I love sci-fi. I love musicals. And do you know why they work? It’s because they are just a little to the left. They work because they are not the norm. I mean, if everyone did sci-fi musicals, I don’t honestly think that Repo would be nearly as big as it is. It would still be a good movie, but it wouldn’t have the same following, I don’t think, if there were two dozen other sci-fi musicals out there with full, huge, Hollywood style budgets. It would be just a low quality movie, I’m afraid. Maybe *gasp* the same fate would befall Rocky Horror, too. Not as likely.

So, when you can, if you’re looking for something new, look for something unexpected, something without many other examples. They tend to have something going for them, a certain exuberance that mainstream cinema has a nasty tendency to edit out.

In my search, I now turn to you: any sci-fi musicals I absolutely must see?

Voss

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T - Tartaros: The Cast


So many interviews and questionnaires and such ask the same thing: who would you cast in your book. I’ve always avoided it, because I don’t like doing that. It annoys me, because I know that they won’t be perfect. But, just for you, I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to cast Tartaros the way I would if I had complete, absolute control. Just the main characters, though.

Daniel Tartaros: Logan Lerman. He’s about half a foot too short, but I think he could at least attempt to bring the character to life the way I would like.
Yolanda/Lilith: Keira Knightley. I feel like she would be intense enough (This is all assuming I have things exactly the way I want, folks. Just let me have my delusions for a while.).
Isaiah Masterson: Josh Hutcherson. It seems like everyone I pick is the same height. It’s getting a little ridiculous. But, aside from that, he could be Isaiah, I think. I don’t know why.
Archer: Mitch Hewer. He looks a little bit too cute and innocent, but I have faith in him, I really do.
John Smith: Paul Sorvino. A little off, but he looks like he has a past. And John has a past.
Irene Smith: Imelda Staunton. With hair dye or something, it wouldn’t be hard at all to make her into an old woman. Hair dye and makeup and a cigar. That could work.
Shauna Bronson: Milla Jovovich. She’s experienced enough in combat, and we already know she can pull off being a redhead.
Rosalita Sanchez: Michelle Rodriguez. She’d need to be age up, but I like the way she would work, and I love her as an actress anyway.

And that’s my last word on the matter. The one and only time I’ll ever touch on the subject, unless I actually get the chance to cast this movie. Then, in reality, I’ll probably try and get mostly unknowns.

Want to read the book and judge my choices? Pick it up on Amazon.

Voss

Monday, April 22, 2013

S - Series


Why is it that you’re so much more likely to find series in genre fiction? I’ve never really thought about this before, so bear with me.

I think it goes back. A ways back. Back when genre fiction came out with new stuff weekly, and when fans read anything with a spaceship or a sorcerer on the cover. Back then, there was just too much. So our obsession with the series came about, because we knew that we liked this book, that book, or the other book. So, when someone said ‘this is what comes after that book that you love,’ we listen. We go to it.

But that’s not all. The next book was reliable. If they hadn’t been reliable, I think we wouldn’t have the same jumble of trilogies, duologies, and endless armies (i.e. Dragonlance). But the next book worked. And then the one after that still worked for the fans.

And today, it’s still useful. People have ‘their authors.’ That’s who they read, because they know they can get quality from those authors. So, series, I think, are a natural extension of fandom. But there isn’t really mainstream fandom. I mean, how can you be a fan of something with nothing to bind it together other than being appealing to a lot of people. That’s why we get all the series and they get a lot of single books that get lost in anonymity.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Voss

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R - Top Ten Rainy Day Reads


So, I am mentally exhausted, but I’m still throwing up this post. It’s not going to be quite so in-depth. I’ll make it up to you later. But here they are: my top ten Rainy Day Reads. What makes a Rainy Day Read (complete with capitals)? It needs to be fast and it can’t deal with anything super-heavy. That simple.

10: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
9: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland (I’ll be discussing the book more later in the month)
8: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
7: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (It would rate higher, but you really have to read up to at least the third book of the Twilight Saga to understand it)
6: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
5: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez
4: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
3: You are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay
2: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
1: Lamb by Christopher Moore

What do you like to read on rainy days? Maybe I can build up my list.

Voss

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q - Quark's...and a Question


When I went to RadCon his year, I had a memorable experience…or fifty. But we’re only here to talk about one: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Drinks. It was a late-night panel on the first day. Now the description was pretty vague, but everyone thought they were going to give us drink recipes. That’s the only explanation I can come to for why, when I showed up, it was standing room only.

Here’s the memorable part. In walks the one lone panelist. He gets up to the front and says, ‘I have a Ph.D.’ And half the room stood up and walked out. But I stayed. It was fascinating. He talked about how wines and brandies and ales were made, and then applied that to blood wine and dwarven ale. It made me happy.

And it reignited my passion to write about liquor. So, here comes the question part: what liquors do you feel are under-represented in fiction? Who knows—it could make it into a future project.

Voss

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P - Top Ten Presents for Readers


Ever have a hard time shopping for the readers in your life? Try out some of these. They have my stamp of approval.

10: Books: It would be number one, but it’s the obvious answer, isn’t it? It’s still a good fallback for any reader. But put some thought into it. Get something that’s at least in a genre they read. Or, if you don’t know what genre(s) they read in, go for something that’s immensely popular. That’s normally a safe bet. Now, if there’s a book that you know they like, try searching online for books that other people recommend based on that book. Goodreads has that feature built in.

9: Anything other than a bookmark: Seriously. A pile of fancy rocks would be better. Readers have bookmarks. I myself must have at least twenty, and that’s after purging the ones I was willing to get rid of. But readers will pick up bookmarks anywhere and everywhere, so that’s really not what they need.

8: A new copy of a book: Find the most tattered and destroyed book your reader has on the shelf and buy a new copy for them. You won’t believe how happy it will make them, and it shows that you know them on a personal level. Win-win.

7: An old copy of a book: That’s not falling apart, of course. But, if you can find an old hardback copy, or even an old paperback copy, of a book that your reader loves…wow. Major brownie points for at least a year.

6: Ear plugs: For the thriftier among us (like moi), ear plugs are the way to go. Go to the dollar store and get a couple packs, especially if you have an easily distractible reader in your life.

5: A gift card: You must feed the reading addiction, folks. A gift card to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hastings, or just a local book shop. Whatever it takes. And, if you were planning on buying them a new book but couldn’t decide, just go this route. I guarantee that your reader will have at least ten books that they want to read but can’t afford.

4: A signed book: Best bet here is to go for a book they already have. Extra points for you if you can snag their copy and go get it signed. But, if you have the money, a signed copy of a beloved book is absolutely wonderful. And it normally makes the author of the book feel pretty good, too, if you end up having them sign it in person.

3: Bookshelves: Any shelves, really. Anything they can put books in, really. More room is the name of the game, because more room means more books, and more books are good. Even if you’re just offering to come in with some L-brackets and put up a couple planks of wood on the wall, it will be appreciated.

2: An e-reader: This is really only for those gift-givers that are rather financially solvent, mind you. But, in the long run, it will save your reader some money. E-Books are cheaper. And this way you won’t have to see your reader friend out on the street, surrounded by stacks of books.

1: A reading day: The number one complaint I hear from readers is that they just don’t have time. Well, make them some time. Find a day when they’re off work and get rid of their significant other, take their kids for the day (or even the weekend, if you’re an extra-special friend), and tell them to read. That’s their one job is to read. Whether they do it or not is up to them, but give them the opportunity.

Any important suggestions I forgot?

Voss

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O - Ouroboros


Every time I read a fantasy book, there’s a snake. Either they reference Ouroboros, Quetzlcoatl, or the Rainbow Serpent, or it’s used in some kind of ritual, or it’s a familiar. Okay, not literally every fantasy book, but a lot of them.

Why?

Well, I think a good part of it comes from the fact that Christianity is so huge all over the planet. Historically, there’s an anti-Christian stigma against witchcraft and magic (unless it’s not directly caused by some acceptable part of Christianity—then it’s called a miracle) and an anti-Christian stigma against snakes (that whole Garden of Eden thing and all). So there, already, you have this inextricable link.

(Note: I’m not saying anything against Christianity, here. But Satan took the form of a snake when he convinced Eve to commit the original sin, and there’s that whole Salem Witch Trial thing in support of a historical hatred for witchcraft. Just the facts, y’all.)

But it’s not just the Christian sub-culture. Go back to Quetzlcoatl. The winged serpent, and one of the main Aztec gods. The caduceus, used by Hermes to help lead the dead to Hades, was a pair of intertwined snakes. Snakes appear in mythos all over the world: Nordic, Egyptian, Hinduism. Deities. Spirits. Mythical creatures. All different kinds of magical things, things that play into fantasy. And, whether we know it or not, we’re all pulling from the world zeitgeist. Only so many things, and it seems that a lot of them have snakes, doesn’t it?

Hisssssssss…

Voss

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N - Nerd Culture


Geeks. Nerds. Freaks. Weirdos. Whatever you want to call us. As antisocial as we might all be, as a general rule, I recommend you go to a convention some time. Seeing us among our own kind is very different. All the sudden, we’re interesting, and not interesting in the same way as bad plastic surgery. Actually interesting. We’re suddenly talking to other people, dancing with them…it’s something else.

And it’s about the only place you get a chance to really see nerd culture. No, I’m not talking about shops where you buy pre-broken and taped glasses or off-brand plaid shirts. Forget every stereotype you know. Really.

I think the key to nerd culture is acceptance. No matter where you fall under that nerdy umbrella, there’s room for you. Even the professionals—authors, artists, what have you—are personable. It’s not like, say, the romance culture. My God. At least the romance authors are out for themselves, for the most part. But, say you walk up to a fantasy or sci-fi author. They’ll at least spare you a look.

You see, we encourage people, us nerds. Authors give advice to aspiring writers. Artists talk techniques. It’s what happens. It’s just natural. Why? Because it’s been that way from the beginning. The early sci-fi authors…well, a lot of them were willing to lend a hand. I think it’s because we start out as readers. And as readers, we know what we want to read and we always want to find more of it to read. So, in a way, you could say that we’re also out for ourselves. But we’re still willing to lend a hand.

Where do you go to get your dose of nerd culture?

Voss

Monday, April 15, 2013

M - Movie Time: Repo! The Genetic Opera


‘Lungs and livers and bladders and hearts. You’ll always save a bundle when you buy our Geneco parts. Spleens, intestines, and spines and brains. All at warehouse prices but our quality’s the same. Geneco.’

So, Repo! The Genetic Opera is a fairly recent obsession for me. But it is an obsession. So, I thought I’d try and look at why it works…and, at the same time, doesn’t. Because, really, it was sort of a flop. It’s coming together after the fact. A cult movie.

WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: It doesn’t appeal to everyone. At all. The target audience is macabre. They have to be very into music—and I mean very into music. And they need to like sci-fi. And be willing to really pay attention to the movie. Because, if you don’t, you’ll miss stuff. I promise. It’s an intricate movie.

And the humor. The humor is another thing that’s going to turn away a lot of people. It’s grotesque, black humor. Using a corpse like a ventriloquism dummy. Stabbing people over shitty coffee.

WHY IT DOES WORK: But, if you can accept that black humor, you’ll have a great laugh. And it’s a great movie for fans of dystopian sci-fi. The concept of mass organ failures, organ replacement, organ repossession…it’s wonderful.

And the characters are classic opera, classic overstated personalities. Caricatures. I mean, a movie where a rapist and a murderer are the comic relief? You know it’s going to be a little out there. So, if you’re a little (or a lot) out there, give Repo! a try. I did, and I don’t regret it. Not in the slightest.

Voss

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Release: Mythica

Hello, all!

This isn't part of my A-Z posts, but I thought I should let you know that Mythica: A Collection of Fantastic Shorts is now available on Kindle.


Buy it on Amazon now!

Toodles,
Voss

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L - Last Meal: SF/F Edition


We’ve all heard the question. It’s one of those stupid conversation starters that are supposed to work but actually just make you sound like a complete antisocial nutcase reading from a book on how to interact with people. If you could have any six people, living or dead, for a dinner, who would they be? Personally, I always think of it as a last meal.

So! Last Meal: SF/F Edition! The six SF/F characters I’d want to eat dinner with. In no particular order, of course.

Dr. Beverly Crusher: The best doctor, hands down. No, don’t try and argue with me. She’s intelligent, kind, and…well, I just like her.

Vo Spader: Bubbling over with fun. Plus he could probably bring the sniggers. He was always one of my favorites from the Pendragon series.

Esme Cullen: Okay, so it might be slightly awkward to invite her to dinner. I guess she could have a nice bit of blood, just so she didn’t feel weird. But she’s another very kind-hearted, caring person. Shows you the kind of people I like to surround myself with, I guess.

Klapaucius: Why Klapaucius over Trurl? Because Trurl can be a real asshole a lot of the time. Klaupaucius is more the voice of reason in that pair. So of course I’m inviting him.

Molly Weasley: No, it’s not just so she can cook the dinner…although that’s a bonus. But she’s…well kind-hearted and caring. And kind of a badass, as we got to see in the end of the series.

Paolo-Isaura Scalese: One of my favorite characters from The Black Opera. She’s a bit indignant, a bit snarky (or a lot). And she can play good piano and brilliant violin. I can handle that. Plus the crossdressing doesn’t bother me.

So, who would your six be?

Voss

Friday, April 12, 2013

K - Top Ten Spec Fic Books for Kids


Get them early. That’s the way it works. And from our earliest days, we were exposed to strange worlds where dinosaurs could talk, magic flutes had faces, and anatomy was, at best, a moderately interesting inspiration.

But what about books? Where do kids get into sci-fi/fantasy when it comes to books? I have a few suggestions of my own to get that going, if you so desire:

10: Goosebumps (R.L. Stine): Yep. Those wonderful, wonderful books. My first introduction to horror fiction. Of course, those aren’t the best books for your very youngest crowd, but hit them up in the middle of elementary school…could be good books to convert the younger generation…I mean…widen their horizons.

9: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carrol): These, too, are dark. But kids probably won’t pick up on it, to be honest. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. But, in general, this is a classic book for kids, full of mysterious magic and stuff.

8: Bailey School Kids (Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey): Quick, early chapter books. Not only do they deal with ghouls, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and all other variety of mythic creatures, but they’re a good introduction to mystery books. Well written, and the child in question can tear through them by the dozen without difficulty.

7: The Witches (Roald Dahl):  This is for older readers, at least nine or ten years old. Not because it’s hard to read but because it’s kind of dark (like most of Dahl’s work). But it is definitely worth a read. In spite of everything, though, it’s got a positive ending. And lots of fun magic, which always helps.

6: The Time Machine (H.G. Wells): One of the first sci-fi books I remember ever reading was The Time Machine. Fourth grade. I fell in love, read it at least three times, just one right after the other. I think this one works for the younger crowd because there are clear delineations. Eloi are good, Morlocks are evil. Plus it’s another way to slip a classic right in there without them noticing.

5: Wayside School (Louis Sachar): Just…wow. Imagine the brainspawn of Douglas Adams, like some grey matter just fell out of his ear and grew into children’s books—that’s Wayside School. It’s so far out there…but it’s wonderful. It captures the elementary school experience, but, at the same time, it’s got some very strange elements. People with third ears, an existential classroom (and teacher)…just…weird. But good.

4: Math Rashes and Other Classroom Tales (Douglas Evans): Some very strange little fairy-tale-like stories. They all revolve around the magic that happens when moonlight creeps into this one elementary school. The stories are pure fun for the kids. A classroom allergic to math, a girl trading away senses for a day in return for someone else doing her schoolwork, a fairy godmother that’s not quite what you’d expect…good book, and very short reads, since it’s all short stories.

3: The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster): Have I mentioned that I like the idea of giving kids older books? Well, I do. The Phantom Tollbooth. I only read it once, but it stayed with me. It’s a very good book, almost like a modernized Alice in Wonderland. It’s no great achievement in plot, but the concepts in the book are just simply too good to pass up.

2: Holes (Louis Sachar): Lightly engrossed in spec fic. The plot is driven by some old magic. But it’s still a good introduction to that branch of the genre tree. Of course, it’s possible that it’s going to be required reading for whatever child. It was when I was in school. Several times.

1: Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling): Oh, come on. You saw this coming. When it comes to children’s spec fic, Harry Potter isn’t the first. It’s not even the first wizarding school series. But it’s among the best. And, if you hook a kid into the first book, they will finish. Even if they don’t read anything else, they’re absorbing seven books. Thousands of pages. And the books grow along with the reader.

Some of my favorite young reader books. What about you? Tell me some of your suggestions.

Voss

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J - Jezebels and Gigolos


Admit it: everyone loves a good slut. Don’t deny it. It’s okay. You’re allowed to like them. Sure, there’s a stigma attached, there’s no doubt to that. But, somewhere deep down, there’s a little spark in all of us when a guy or gal is clearly a slut.

Yeah, I don’t have much in the way of social compunction. It’s why they don’t let me out of the writer pod very often.

But, when we get to sci-fi, suddenly sluts are much more interesting, even more acceptable. Why is that? Well…I do have a bit of a theory. But I bet you knew that, didn’t you?

You see, in sci-fi, at least most of the time, there’s either this hope for a more ideal society or a completely collapsed society. Either way, sexuality is much less repressed. In the idealized society, people aren’t so uptight, so sexuality is freed up. So what if you want to sleep around, or get paid for sex? We’re too busy being happy with our good society! But, in seriousness, people want sexuality to be freed up. Maybe not everyone, and maybe not consciously, but it’s, I think, a pretty universal desire.

Or, say that society has fallen. We don’t have electricity, we don’t really have much of anything other than basics, if we even have that. What’s left? Sex. Who’s getting all the luxury money? Prostitutes. So that, too, becomes acceptable.

That’s why I think sexually free characters work so well in sci-fi. Personally. Any thoughts?

Voss

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I - Incognito


*Mission Impossible theme!*

Sodium pentathol. Or truth serum. Or honesty potion. Spies, double agents, unfaithful viziers, messenger units with illegally partitioned hard drives.

This kind of thing is why spies and their ilk fit so well into sci-fi and fantasy. Sure, regular spies and such are all well and good, but imagine how much harder it is when the spy you’re searching for can meld into the shadows, or how much more dangerous if they can have their personality, experiences, and intelligence downloaded into a stronger body.

While I’m always a big supporter of mixing genres, it occurs to me that anything dealing with subterfuge—whether it be crime, spy stories, courtroom drama, or police procedural—would work better than most other things combined with sci-fi/fantasy.

Of course, I’m always preferential to SF/F, so that could just be my bias talking. But with completely silent laser guns or cursed spiders with venom that kills instantly…how does that not play into any assassination plot you could come up with?

And you can get higher stakes in SF/F than you could hope for in a traditional or historical setting. It’s no longer a country that could be lost if this secret doesn’t arrive. No, it’s an entire intergalactic society. If the dwarvish police can’t figure out this crime, then someone is going to crash the gods down to earth and end existence.

So: go for it! Read and write magical spies and android lawyers! Go go gadget…literally!

Voss

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H - Genre Fiction as High School Reading


If your high school experience was anything like mine, it was filled with books that could be considered a form of torture. The Joy Luck Club, Les Miserables, The Scarlet Letter, Cry, the Beloved Country. Thank God for the handful of good books, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Macbeth.

And, more to the point of this article, we got to read Fahrenheit 451. And it was good. And it wasn’t just the change from heavy literary fiction. In fact, 451 came right on the tail-end of reading Tuesdays With Morrie, a rather enjoyable book.

For the most part, in fact, the only things I enjoyed reading from my high school read lists had something to do with magic (minus some Shakespeare and Cuckoo’s Nest) or the future/advanced technology. All that led me to thinking on this: why aren’t more required reading books genre fiction?

In elementary school, every chapter book I can remember reading (or having read to us) was genre fiction. Holes, The Giver, The Magician’s Apprentice, Captain Underpants (I had some weird teachers). And the books in those little libraries all the classrooms had? Genre fiction.

So…why does that immediately have to stop once we hit high school? I just don’t see why that makes any sense. I think there’s great value to having kids in school reading the fiction they like. Students would be more likely to pay attention.

‘But genre fiction doesn’t have any educational merit!’

Excuse my French, but bull hockey. Fantasy and science fiction are all about exercising the mind, enlivening thought. Which, in theory, is the point of English classes. We’re supposed to be analyzing the literature anyway—why not examine something interesting?

And there are plenty of examples of good work that would be appropriate for high school English classes. The Stepford Wives is a great example of minimalist fiction. Fahrenheit 451, Macbeth, and the Odyssey are already considered the ‘right kind of fiction’ for high school students. If The Giver is good for younger students, then give older students This Perfect Day. For juniors and seniors, try them out on The Left Hand of Darkness. Any of the short stories by Bradbury or Dick. Let’s be honest—they had me reading stuff by Anne McCaffrey in honors English. Why her and not Clarke? I’d even settle for Asimov or Herbert, as much as I don’t like them, because it would be a step in the right direction.

What about you? Do you think it’s worthwhile to make genre fiction the required reading for high school? Do you think it would work better?

Voss

Monday, April 8, 2013

G - Grimm Times


Remember all those fairy tales? Sleeping Beauty tried to do work, got poisoned, and took a nap? Snow White took the apple without telling the dwarves like a selfish bitch, got poisoned, and took a nap? Rapunzel got forcibly adopted by an awesome evil witch, never got a haircut, and probably took a nap at some point?

See? You remember. That’s why, in spite of how the trends might seem to be going, fairy tale retellings are never going to go out of style. They haven’t yet. Look at all those Disney movies: Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland. Sure, maybe they’re not all technically fairy tales, but they’re all very much a positive turn-around from the source material. Trust me.

Now, you would think that we’d all be heading back around to the source, which is dark enough as it is. But no: we’re still doing retellings. Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer, even back a little ways to Ever After.

Why do they stick around? Because we think they’re familiar. And, in many ways, you still do. But, when they change something, it’s more powerful. That’s why they work. We go in, expecting that everything’s going to be perfectly fine. That’s how we were raised. Or maybe you go in expecting the Grimm versions. Fine. But then that doesn’t happen. You sympathize with the evil queen, the helpless princes…isn’t so helpless, or Cinderella doesn’t need a man to keep her safe. Whatever the change, it jars us. And we, as humans, like things that jar us, that keep us on our toes…well, at least in our entertainment.

Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong before. It happens once every couple…hours. What do you think? Are fairy tale retellings here to stay?

Voss

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F - A Peek at the Future


Come, hop into my time machine. I figure I’ll give you a little sneak peak at just what’s in the future for your favorite author.

No…no, I meant me. Get away from Rowling’s time machine. Get. Away.

Thank you. Now, come along, file in, one ass per seat, one seat per ass. Buckled in? Ready to go? Barf bags…well, I don’t have any. The time machine cost enough money as it is.

So, on your left, you’ll see what looks a bit like sixteenth century China. Well, it’s not. That’s Tonjohou, the City of Puppets. I just finished that book, now it’s sitting. It’s the first in a planned YA trilogy. Political intrigue, a touch of magic, and some family drama. Plus, you know, dueling with marionettes instead of rapiers.

Now, just up ahead, you’ll see a regular, brick building. Nice windows. Lots of teenagers. Yep: a high school. This is probably a little hard to get a good look at, since it’s still in early planning stages. But, in theory, it’s going to be YA mysteries. Obviously dealing with magic of some kind, since that’s the way I do this kind of stuff. I’m excited about it…and we’ve passed it.

But we’re headed to the circus! A big, blood red and silver circus tent. Booths and trucks everywhere, too. Zirkua Fantastic. I can’t tell exactly when this is going to be coming around. I haven’t even taken a red pen to it, yet. But it’s another one that’s part of a planned trilogy. But the magic in this is a lot bolder, more ‘in-your-face’ than the puppet books.

And there, that glimmering thing off in the distance, is my latest baby. I just got done editing it: Rings of Treachery. An asteroid colony with streets and buildings carved of crystal where everyone wears a ring for identification. But you never see more than their eyes. Everything is covered by silk veils. All life is ruled by the ring. This one, with hope and luck, will be coming out sooner rather than later. But don’t hold me to that.

And…oh dear…malfunction with the chronoton streamer, I’m afraid. I’ll have just enough to get us back to our proper time before the engine implodes. No big deal. Just get out as quickly as possible.

*Bang*

Well, sorry about that. But most of us survived. Before I go to bed and recover from my injuries, I have a questions to any of the writers out there: what’s coming up in your future?

Voss

Friday, April 5, 2013

E - Every Villain is Lemons!


EVIL!

As a general rule, evil—pure, emotionless, motivation-free evil—doesn’t work for your antagonist. Or for your protagonist, for that matter. You need sympathy, you need realism…bullshit.

Okay, not complete bullshit, but still: so many times, pure evil does work. Yes, having a well-rounded villain is all kinds of good and stuff, and can work out beautifully. But why does it have to be a necessity.

I turn your attention to The Nothing. It simple is…or, rather, isn’t. Yes, it comes from the lack of human care for the imaginative, but The Nothing itself is without emotion or reason. It’s like the Black Death, or a honey badger: it doesn’t care.

Up until we find out about the prophecy, Lord Voldemort doesn’t have any motivation for continually attacking Harry other than the fact that he’s evil. He has clear reasons for doing things other than attacking Harry, but not for the main conflict of the series. Did that make him any less effective? No.

This isn’t me saying that pure evil is the only way, but it is me saying that, from time to time, maybe it’s okay to have something or someone that’s just evil to be evil. Like cheesecake—eat it from time to time, but not every day.

Where do you fall? Are you okay with pure evil, or do you require that motivation?

Voss

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D - Top Ten Deaths in SF/F


I like death in my books. Hell, read my stuff. It’s pretty plain to see. I settle for lifelong injury, if death won’t work. It’s not that I like it when people die, but I like it when a good character dies off. The tearing sorrow makes me so happy that the book has done that to me. It’s hard to explain, but it’ s definitely a clear indicator that it’s a good book, if it hurts me.

What makes a good character death? Well, it definitely has to be a character that we sympathize with. Not necessarily like, but sympathize with. I mean, if Professor Umbridge had died, I don’t think anyone would have been sad. Because she had no good qualities. And it has to be a good death. Off screen deaths just aren’t going to cut it.

My top ten? Well, you didn’t ask, but I’ll let you know, anyway:

10: Osa (The Merchant of Death): The death of a motherly character always hits hard, but Osa especially, for me. Through the course of the book, she was the one that knew what was going on. She took care of, you know, saving the universe, and still had time to protect and raise her daughter. That and the fact that her death *spoiler alert* came about in no small part due to the main character makes her death very strong.

9: Hedwig (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): Yes. An owl ranked higher than a human being. But you know why? The owl was with us for seven books. For all that time that Harry spent in the muggle world, she was the only one he had. Even if he had no correspondence with anyone magical, Harry still had Hedwig. Over seven books, we grew to love her. Or at least I did. And then comes that hideous moment when she gets killed, setting the tone for the book: no one is immune, this time.

8: Harry (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): Honestly, it would have been higher on the list for me if he hadn’t then been revived. But it was still a put the book down and think kind of shock. Not for long, because I had to jump back into it, find out how they were going to fill out the rest of the book without a main character. But still…wow.

7: Bree Tanner (The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner): This time, the main character stays dead. You know that going in, but you don’t necessarily expect to find yourself liking her so much. In ‘Eclipse,’ she wasn’t much of a character. Just a theory. And it was too bad she died. But, in her own book, she is sympathetic. All she wants to do is live as normal of a life as she can, as a vampire. But that’ not going to happen. This also would have placed higher, but I was prepared for her to die from the moment I cracked open the book.

Plavalaguna (The Fifth Element): Hey. I never said these were just in books. When the diva died, I think everyone loved her. She’d just performed that song, that wonderful song. And then she gets shot. But that’s not the emotional blow. That comes when you find out she probably would have had to die no matter what. The stones needed to save the world were inside her body. Some surgery would have been needed, at the very least.

5: Nathan Wallace (Repo! The Genetic Opera): Of course, it helps when your death is set to a musical number. But there, on his deathbed (or deathstage, I guess), he told his daughter the truth. And she forgave him. And I cried. It doesn’t hurt that you keep thinking he could somehow make it out alive, in a world where you can replace all your body parts.

4: Fred (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): Okay, you know what? The fact that so many of the deaths in this series make the list just speaks to how well-done the books were. Fred was one of the hardest deaths for me, because not only do you have his fun-loving personality gone, but he leaves behind his second half, and the grieving Weasley family. He never even had a chance to reconcile with Percy. And the brother that gets left behind is missing an ear, if no one else noticed that particular cruelty.

3: Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince): This one hurt. But only after a while, for me. I didn’t cry as soon as he died. I think I was too much in shock. But I definitely didn’t make it through the funeral in one go. I kept having to stop so I didn’t get wet spots on my book. Sure, he was going to die anyway. He’d been cursed by the ring. He was emotionally and mentally weak from the potion in the cave. But still…it’s Dumbledore! He’s just not supposed to die! That’s in the rules we’d all laid down when we first started reading Harry Potter. Breaking that was a powerhouse move.

2: Dobby (Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows): What? Dobby ranks above Dumbledore? Yes. I cried much more for Dobby than Dumbledore. Dobby cared for Harry, in his own very unique way, for years. Dobby was a free elf (See this? Teary eyed already). Dobby was humble and loyal…and then he got killed. Dead. No more Dobby. He was a pure innocent, which is why it was so harsh, I think.

1: Uncle Press (The Lost City of Faar): My number one, and probably always my number one, is Uncle Press. For two books, he was that cool uncle we all wished we had. He was teacher, caregiver, and awesome fighter for the fate of the universe. And then, in a hail of gunfire, he dies. And you find out that he knew he was going to die. He just didn’t tell anyone. May the sobbing ensue.

Whose death did you love? Or hate? Or love to hate?

Voss

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C - Books Ready for Cinematic Release


I know, I know: the book is probably better than the movie could ever be, anyway. But admit it: you get excited whenever a book you like gets picked up to be a movie. I know I do.

So, let’s just pretend for a second that I’m in charge of Hollywood: these are my ten books (or series) that should be made into movies:

10: The Watershed Trilogy by Douglas Niles: Where other people read ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ I read Douglas Niles’ Watershed Trilogy. Admittedly, they probably couldn’t have made the movies the way they needed to be made in the early nineties, when the books came out. But now, I think, they could easily manage it. And I think it’s time for a good, epic fantasy for everyone that can’t stomach watching another Tolkien-based movie.

9: This Perfect Day by Ira Levin: The general consensus is that dystopias are out, utopias are in. I disagree. Dystopian fiction will never really be gone. But, if Hollywood wants to end the dystopian genre, end it the right way—one good movie. This Perfect Day is classic, American dystopian fiction. That, and we’ve already seen successful adaptations of Ira Levin’s work. Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives both started out as his novels. Who can disagree with success?

8: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: Another classic piece of success: another planet. If, as I suspect, Hollywood is leaning straight over to the sci-fi side of the spec fic spectrum (oh hideous fate!), I cast in my vote for this. Not only is it old enough that most people will think it’s new, but it’s another movie that couldn’t have been made back when the book came out. It deals too much with sexual identity. Aside from, of course, being a wonderful story.

7: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman: I know, they made the first one. But then they had to stop before the last two because some religious people got upset…according to rumors from the actors. But I say we should continue on. I know it’s not really possible, legally, but I can dream, can’t I?

6: The Pendragon Series by D.J. Machale: Seriously, though: make this. Now. The Hunger Games movies will only last another couple years—time for another teen movie series. And this one could rake in the dough for ten years, if they did a movie a year. Not to mention that the author has worked on screenplays before. For teens. Seriously, folks: let’s get on this.

5: The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy by Frank Beddor: I know, the movies are technically in the works…in theory. That’s why it’s only five, not closer to the top. But they’ve been ’in the works’ for a long time. I think they could hit hard right now. Alice in Wonderland will always be popular, and the way that would look would have to draw people in. I say go for it! You already have a producer, after all. And this author is another one that’s worked with film, before.

4: The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem: Yes, for once, this is not the top of my list. Gasp away. The format isn’t necessarily the best for a movie, but can you imagine the animated feature they could get out of this? Even if it failed miserably, I could see it becoming a cult classic. It’s that kind of weird. But, if it did become a real, Hollywood success…I think it would be really big. And it would appeal to all age groups. Can’t really beat that.

3: Lamb by Christopher Moore: Yes, that Lamb. The Gospel According to Biff. We’ve had so many movies about the church being evil, or the church being the holy savior. Why don’t we go with a ‘Jesus is funny’ movie? Lamb fills in the gaps (humorously). And honestly, I would pay just to see Jesus sitting there with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. It’s high time for a good, snarky, sarcastic comedy movie, too.

2: Hopscotch by Kevin J. Anderson: It’s an obscure book, yes, but it’s some pretty good sci-fi. Some very good sci-fi. Possibly the best serious sci-fi I’ve ever read. It feels like a movie, when you’re reading it. An incredibly complex movie, but the concept could easily sell it to viewers: a world where everyone can switch minds. Well, most everyone. And they do, and they use the heck out of that ability.

1: The Giver by Lois Lowry: Yep. The Giver. Required reading book of the century. Still a very good book, though. While I personally prefer ‘This Perfect Day,’ The Giver would probably be more successful as a movie. Better target audience, more family friendly, and more well known. Plus, I can just imagine the change in the movie. It would start black and white, then flashes of red, then finally full color. A good, striking change, I think.

So, those are my ‘should be made into movies’ books. What are yours?

Voss

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B - Book Review: The Black Opera


‘The Black Opera’ by Mary Gentle.

THE PROS: The story. It’s really more than enough for me. And the world. And her writing style. But let’s take them one at a time, I guess.

The World: Musicodramma—sung mass and opera—can cause miracles. Zombies and ghosts are real.

The Story: A librettist, fallen on hard times, gets an offer from King Ferdinand. He’s needed to write an opera. Not just any opera. This is a counter-opera. A secret society, the Prince’s Men, are putting together an opera to make Vesuvius blow and raise Satan, who they believe to be the only being that actually cares about Earth.

They track down a composer, enough singers, and the work crew. Then the main character, Conrad, gets a shock. The love of his life shows up. And she’s married to the composer. Things are tense, they get better, the whole company ends up living underground with armed guards to protect them from the Prince’s Men.

You find out later that the reason the counter-opera has been almost good, but not perfect is that the composer is also the composer for the Black Opera, the one designed to blow Vesuvius. And it gets worse. His wife is the leader of the Prince’s Men in Naples. And she’s the lead in the Black Opera. In life, she was a wonderful soprano. But, she’s one of the Returned Dead, which makes her voice all the better. She doesn’t have the same constraints.

I won’t ruin the end, but it all ties up very well, I can assure you of that much.

The Style: I don’t know what it is, but, somehow, it all comes as a shock. Like, everything. Gentle manages to bring you into a realistic world of backstage opera, complete with sniping and sleepless nights, and then just throws some hideous twist at you that forces you to keep turning the pages.

THE CONS: I’ll get right to it: the basic conventions. Grammar and sentence structure. Many times, I had absolutely no idea what she was actually trying to say. If the book hadn’t been so good, I would have put it down for that. But I can’t put all the blame on Gentle for that. Not at all. She, in theory, had an editor, as the book went through a publishing house. How did the editor not catch this? I don’t know.

Also, there was a scene that bothered me. ‘Time passed’ was, to itself, a scene. Which doesn’t make sense. A scene break is used to show that time passed in which nothing significant happened. No point in writing it out.

And then the end. The last ten chapters could have been cut to five, or even three. There were ten chapters after the climax. And some important things happened. But a lot of the walking away from the volcano could have been summed up, I think.

All in all? I’d say read it. Now. Go find a copy and just devour it. It overcame all of it’s issues to get a four star rating, in my book.

Voss

Monday, April 1, 2013

A - Top Ten Anime and Manga for Spec Fic Fans


When it comes to anime and manga (herein called animanga because I’m lazy), I admit I’m not much of a source for information. Not animanga as a whole. I couldn’t really care less about a lot of the genres: historicals, sports, a lot of the romance. It just falls flat.

To me, where animanga shines is when it crosses over with spec fic. I know: shocker. I like speculative fiction. But animanga is very much a unique experience for spec fic fans, especially when compared to all the western literature, TV, and film that falls under that genre veil.

So: the top ten that influenced me, as an artist.

10: Cardcaptor Sakura: Yep. One of the quintessential magical girl animanga. Why should you watch this? Well…I don’t know. This one is purely for me. It is purely responsible for my more than mild obsession with captured spirits.

9: Sailor Moon: Yes. More magical girl. But you should probably actually watch this one. Seriously. It’s a wonderful example of the ‘Monster of the Week’ trope. That and it actually is entertaining. No, I’m absolutely serious.

8: Elfen Lied: This. It’s very short—the anime only has thirteen episodes. But you will sob. If you don’t, you might want to check your tear ducts. Aside from a wonderful concept, along with great, if moderately well-hidden, classic sci-fi elements, the story itself is just beautiful…and somewhat unsettling. Which I like. Warning: violence and blood abound.

7: Digimon: Yes, I said Digimon. Think what you will, but it’s good. Well, some of it’s good. The parts that are good are very, very good. The parts that aren’t still aren’t all that awful. And it’s a good way to tread water in animanga, if you’re not familiar with it. It’s not as heavy as a lot of animanga. But it still has good stories to it. Do some research first, and then watch some.

6: Ouran High School Host Club: Before you point out that OHSHC isn’t spec fic, I know that…but it kind of is. Sort of like magical realism. Weird crap happens, but no one really notices. But enough on that: for comedy, it’s hard to be better than OHSHC. It does require a bit of previous knowledge about animanga, otherwise I would have ranked it higher. But still well worth taking in what little of it there is.

5: Naruto: The popularity burns, I’m sure. But there is a very good reason that Naruto is so popular. It’s good. It’s basically your classic bildungsroman…except with magical ninja. A very deep world, vastly intriguing characters, and a strong bunch of intertwining plots. Anything that can carry readership for over six-hundred chapters must have something going for it, the way I see it.

4: Full Metal Alchemist (Anime: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood): First off: don’t watch the anime ‘Full Metal Alchemist.’ It’s not the same. Stick to ‘Brotherhood’ for the anime. It follows the manga. Just as it should. If you want something that really keeps you guessing, keeps you unsure, even a little worried the whole time, this is definitely something for you. And the magic system is wonderful, to boot.

3: Deadman Wonderland: It’s fairly recent, but it’s carved a niche in my head. Not always an easy thing to do. Mainly, the concept sells it: a kid ends up in a prison for murder. Not that he did it, but he ends up there. The prisoners wear collars that steadily poisons them—only the antidote candy keeps them alive. If that wasn’t enough to at least get you thinking, how about the ability to control their blood. Yes. It’s worth it, if you don’t mind the blood and gore.

2: Bleach: Yes, it’s very popular. That doesn’t inherently make it of poor quality. Tite Kubo knows how to spin a story…or twelve. People always talk about the depth and range of Harry Potter. Sorry, but it had nothing on Bleach. 530 chapters in and questions raised in the first few arcs are still being answered. And here’s the thing: you still care enough to want those answers.

1: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion: Yep. My favorite. And for good reason. It draws you in, draws most everyone in, with the promise of giant robots, blood, and explosions. And then you pay attention. You get snagged by he heavy political intrigue, your heart crushed by the emotions. And you come back. Something about it, some mysterious something, always drags you back to it.

There you go: my top ten picks for anime/manga. I know, I know, not really my normal fare, when it comes to posting, but it starts with A! And, if you didn’t like it, I’ll make it up to you in the coming weeks.

Voss