Showing posts from 2012

A Guy Thing

I watched a movie the other day that made me cry. Was it a weepie? A soppy romance? No, it was Battle: Los Angeles.

Did I cry because it was so bad? No. On the contrary, it was very good. It wasn't ground-breaking in any way, nor was it a great piece of art. I didn't recognise any of the actors in it, it didn't win any awards and it certainly didn't shatter any box office records. The movie had a fairly predictable plot, yet when I watched it for the third time, it still moved me to tears.

Am I mawkishly sentimental? Well yes, as it happens. I can't help it, it's just the way I'm wired. Not that I blub for any old thing, you understand. I'm getting more cynical with age. But clearly I still have soft spots.

So what caused me to well up? Oddly enough, the scenes that depicted a deep and unapologetic masculinity. I say oddly because, for most of my life, I've never considered myself very masculine. I was a shy kid at school, I've never liked sport…

Chain Reaction

You've heard of chain-letters? Well someone somewhere has started a chain blog post, passed from one Indie Author to the next. This one has been passed to me by Sherrie Cronin, and as you can see, it's a series of questions. So without further ado, I present the next link in the chain...

What is the title of your next book?
There Are No Angels In Heaven. But don't quote me on this, because today is today and tomorrow is something else, so I might change my mind.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Went to bed one night and the Thought Fairy left it under the pillow. The grammar was terrible though, and needed a lot of work. Fairies, eh?

What genre does your book fall under?
Science Fiction. 'Cos it's in space. Could also be subtitled as a thriller, action adventure. 'Cos there's lots of that too. Or there will be when I write it in. I can only write for so long before getting the urge to kill someone in print. But Science Fiction is a such a huge genre i…

Beyond Cool

You've heard of movie remakes. How about premakes? The artist Peter Stults has created posters showing what modern movies might have looked like if they'd been done during Hollywood's Golden Age.

I don't know about you, but if some of these what-if movies were released (or perhaps uncovered?) today, I'd rush to see them. And Tom Cruise's part is one he should play always - it's just better that way.

Check out the artist's site for more examples, some of which you can actually buy as a poster.

Now if I drop enough hints, can I get Santa to get me one?

Guest Interview: Sherrie Cronin

As a special treat to all my regular readers (I'm looking at you too spam-bots) I am pleased to welcome a guest author to the blog - fellow SF writer Sherrie Cronin.

Sherrie is the author of x0 and y1, and is a geophysicist with 28 years of experience in the Texas oil industry. She is married, with three children, and entered the world of writing with a short story she sold to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. She has since published two novels of what will be a six novel series, and is hoping to release the third novel in the series in 2013.

Her debut novel x0 follows the story of Lola, a Texan geophysicist, and Somadina, a young Igbo woman living in Nigeria, in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The two women, on two separate continents, must connect somehow, for Somadina needs Lola's help to rescue her sister from a dangerous conspiracy. x0, a secret organisation that serves to assist people with extraordinary powers of the mind, must step in to intervene in a drama…

What Women Want Too

Gender is just a mask

In my last post, What Women Want, I discussed the long running trend of literary science fiction offering more egalitarian novels, giving equal billing to female characters alongside male characters. These are deliberate attempts to break the mould of stereotypes by featuring female adventurers, female soldiers, kick-ass heroines, etc. I've recently noticed discussions on the need to attract more women readers and writers to science fiction, though the subject may be older than I think. But the implication, I think, is that older, 'Golden Age' sci-fi was still too male dominated and misogynist, and that feministic principles were needed to remove that taint from the genre.

I can remember back in the late Eighties (I think it was 1988) when Interzone ran a special feminist edition, claiming that, while mainstream feminism led the main assault on male dominance in society, Interzone's featured stories for that edition would act like 'guerilla wa…

What Women Want

The new Bond movie, Skyfall, is out, and Bond's boss is still a woman. There was a bit of a stir when, several movies back, 'M' was slated to be played by a woman, but it's all part of the fashion of portraying women in fiction in the way that feminism would like them to be in fact.

It might have been a big deal in a Bond movie, but science fiction can take the credit for leading the way on this one, breaking down gender stereotypes and portraying women in just the same way as they would men, even when placed in an adventure setting. Ripley, from Alien, was a trend setter, but even there Hollywood was somewhat behind literary SF. The fictional future is presented as a place where social changes can really happen, so SF has long been replete with female scientists, female presidents, female soldiers, assassins, dynastic matriarchs, etc. Indeed, any male SF author who fails to present an impressive list of 'strong' female characters in their work is swiftly accu…

Online ratings?


The Indie Author Lament

This just made me smile.

A Genre Of Things?

Science fiction was created by geeks, who prefer objects to people.

An over-simplification?


But it also explains the predominance of 'ideas', concepts and technology in SF literature. And the cardboard characters who are often servants to the exposition.

If science fiction was created by geeks, then fantasy was created by dreamers, no?

But geeks are people too, and they dream.

So what do they dream about?

Super powers to defeat the bully with. Maybe genetically engineered super powers, or maybe some cool cyborg add-on. You know, that anyone could use.

Aliens - someone not-human who we can maybe talk with. And sympathise with. Maybe even crave the existence of. For do not geeks sometimes feel like aliens themselves?

A future where people are reasonable and wise, and where they are more likely to co-operate than threaten or fight. So no more stranger-fear.

A narrative that doesn't revolve around the troublesome issue of sex and relationships.

That last part is espe…

Science Fiction as fantasy

Predictions are not really about the future. What they really do is portray one's view of the present. Science Fiction predictions are no different.

In Mary Shelley's time, advances in biology and engineering convinced many that humans were just like machines. So we got Frankenstein's monster, a bundle of stitched together body parts that was powered by electricity.

In the post-war years we all got excited about computers and, coincidentally, became convinced that the human brain was just a computer. So we got humans dispensing with their bodies and uploading themselves into networks, and we got smart androids imagining themselves to be human, as if there was no difference. Hence the angst ridden tag-line 'what it means to be human' appearing on dozens of sci-fi book covers.

Both these ideas sound ever so 'hard' science fiction. But in fact both ideas were, and remain, complete fantasy. Because that's what science fiction is - fantasy.

It's the fan…

Free, free, free!

My novel, Even The Dead Dance To Live is available on 27th and 28th July as a free download from Amazon.

Space colonisation, hard action and a blistering finale.

As they say, get it while stocks last. ;-)


Science Fiction is big on evolution, namely the evolution of humanity - either from long term exposure to the freakiness of space, or conscious evolution by tampering with genes. Either way it's seen as the ultimate solution to the secular version of original sin (how terribly nasty we humans can be), or the inevitability of the ongoing march of science.

So, will space change humans? Unlikely, simply because of our passion for technology. Humans have always used technology. Clothing is a form of technology - it is not natural, it is a deliberate manipulation of nature. The Naked Ape set out from Africa for colder regions long ago and, via the invention of clothing, took its environment with it, keeping its body at the same required temperature. Astronauts also take their environment with them - via spacesuits, oxygen tanks and, as will be likely, centrifugal gravity habs. All this negates the need to biologically adapt to the environment. Did the Inuit evolve hairy bo…

Look, it's a naked fat guy!

"It's very likely that in the future humans will evolve to be more rational, cerebral and collective."

That's a quote off the net somewhere, but not an exact one as I can't find the link. It was by some reader somewhere. And while it isn't exact, it is a pretty common view - I mean, I don't know how common, but in science-fiction circles I have definitely come across it a lot.

Or maybe it just seems a lot, because everytime I see it, I think, What?

I see it, but I can't really see it. If you know what I mean. After millennia of being what we are, and doing quite well out of it, what is really going to change, and why?

This is the thing with science-fiction. As well as the above, humans are supposed to get more genetically enhanced, machine implanted, computer uplifted or ruled by fantastically intelligent AI.

And if we're not any or all of the above things, then we'll devour all our resources, trigger a mass extinction, and go down in an orgy…

But dude...

Funniest review of the Bible. Ever. On Goodreads

And the reviewer's opinion of the King James Bible?

"Don't know what all the fuss is about.

Too many characters.

Lotta deus ex machinas too."

Dinosaurs ate my ebook

Yay, the digital revolution is here. The era of paper and cardboard books is over and soon everyone will be reading stories on their portable screens. Bookshops will go the same way as record shops and everyone will be carrying 150 novels in their hip pocket along with a month's worth of music listening and a couple of blockbuster movies. We'll also be wearing silver suits, eating three-course meals in a pill and flying around in cars.

The future's a bugger to predict and most predictions are driven by novelty. Once the novelty wears off the future turns out to look only a little different from the past. So it may well be with the advent of ebooks and self-publishing.

Ebooks might be revolutionary, but then so was television and cinema. Accessing a visual story on the big screen is much easier than ploughing through a book and when the medium first appeared there were undoubtedly some who decried the loss of a more thoughtful way of accessing a narrative - and in fact man…

Writing killed my reading

I read a book for fun the other day. I mean, not for research or analysis or anything like that. Just fun.

It's been a while since I've been able to do that.

You see, being a writer does strange things to your reading. As a writer I've had to learn about how to structure a plot, how to create characters, how to lay out scenes. I wrestle daily with how to insert this or that factor into the narrative without losing the flow; with crafting each chapter so as to encourage the reader to keep reading. With basically toying with the reader's emotions and perceptions to achieve particular effects.

It's an imperfect art, and there's always more to learn but the fact is, once you start doing it, you get curious about how other writers do it. So you pick up a book, open the first page and think, 'that's an effective opening, must try that one.' Reading a novel and spotting all the author's methods is like walking around a movie set during filming. You se…

Shakespeare Cruz

Shakespeare Cruz is the lead character in my novel Even the dead dance to live. A brutal ex-cop with facial scars and tattoos, he's the archetypal hard man. Does he look like Danny Trejo above? I don't know, but it was Trejo I was imaging when I dreamed him up. When the director Robert Rodriguez was giving a lecture on digital movie making, he presented Danny's face as the kind of detail best picked up by the digital format. "Look at that face," he said. "isn't it beautiful?"

Not the kind of beautiful that most people were thinking of, but when I saw it I thought: yes, that's my man. Danny Trejo of course had a reputation for playing bad guys and anti-heroes, and Shakespeare Cruz, as it happens, is both.

Why did I make Cruz so brutal? Well, it was a strange journey, and I'll include it here as an answer to the perennial where-do-you-get-your-ideas question so familiar to writers.

Cruz first appeared in a fantasy novel I was writing about a …

Who's afraid of Science Fiction?

Margaret Atwood claimed that she wrote speculative fiction, not science fiction. Because science fiction was about spaceships and monsters.

She got a lot of flak for saying that. And of course, she was completely wrong. On the other hand, she was also completely right. Or rather - she had a valid, if unpalatable, point.

You see, from the day it was born, science fiction has been trying desperately to get away from the sordid, squalid image of the 1920's pulps.

The roots of science fiction lie in the nineteenth century when the wonders of science became all the rage among Victorians, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the optimism of Empire. Writers like Jules Verne and, later, H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley explored science in their writings. They were not however considered science fiction authors since, as a genre, it didn't actually exist. They simply partook of science as a theme whenever they felt like it. Most of their other writing was not science fiction at all and, li…

Science Fiction's attitude problem

I'm not dead yet.

Every few years someone in the literary industry asks the question - Is science fiction dying? And in the fanzines and the forums the issue is discussed and agonised over, only to always reach the same conclusion - No it's not.

One would have thought that the constant reappearance of the question itself is a sign that something is not right with the genre, regardless of the constant reassurances from fans and writers. And for those who blame its niche status on its seeming inability to break out into wider acceptance or mass market territory, the solution seems to always be that the readers out there need to recognise just how great science fiction is. This of course is a fan view, and the solution involves marketing, often with the view that publishers are simply not pushing science fiction enough or spending enough money on it.

And then of course there's the view that it's the fault of the masses, who are all dumb Dan Brown readers, and that…