Archive for scifi

I Loved My Visit to Black Mirror’s San Junipero

Black Mirror San Junipero episode

Black Mirror: San Junipero hit all of my (and Finn’s) sweet spots!

I think part of the positive reactions might be due to the fact that Black Mirror is pretty consistently bleak, but reality right now is practically a Black Mirror episode, so an episode that was (possibly) hopeful was such a nice gift.

And yes, the concept’s been well covered, so I understand why some may feel that viewer’s reactions to that concept are overblown, but many viewers may not be deeply read in scifi, so their “mind blown” reactions are understandable and a perfectly good thing.

I am fine if people discover, say, robots through Star Trek or Westworld without going back to read Asimov first (or at all) if Asimov doesn’t appeal to them (and no I’m not saying San Junipero is about robots).

We each have limited time to read and consume media, I don’t think it makes someone less of a genre fan or their love of or reaction to something less valid if they only have experience with recently produced media and not the foundational classics or the past century of fiction.

Yes, knowing the whole history of robot fiction might enrich one’s experience of a new robot story — or at least allow one say clever literary things like “this story was in dialogue with the works of Obscure Author, exploring the metaphor of so and so.”

But it also might not. And in the end, I love the possible conversations a story like this might spark among a group of friends around a table (in between Instagramming whatever artisanal fare they are eating, of course).

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Why I Talked to Word Sluts at WorldCon

I found myself in a number of conversations at WorldCon where persons were seeking my advice or thoughts on their writing, or seeking advice of a group in which I sat, and would say some variation on:

“People seem to have a problem with me calling it Warrior Wanda the Space Slut.  But I mean slut in a positive or ironic way, because she is a powerful woman so she can have sex with whoever she likes.”

Or

“I have a pretty graphic rape scene in my novel, but if I didn’t have it she wouldn’t have that motivation to get stronger from it and learn to fight that is so important in my story.”

These persons were clearly seeking someone to say, yes, that is okay.

And I engaged in these conversations in a calm, friendly, positive way.

Why?

Because I have the privilege to do so.

By this, I do not mean the honor, though really it is an honor to be asked my opinion on anything.  Rather, I mean that had such questions been asked of someone who identifies as female, for example, such questions would have been understandably offensive and anger-inducing, and made the person feel unsafe, along with a host of other reactions.

I’m not saying I found the questions pleasant and encouraging, but I recognize that my con experience as a cis white male who presents as het is entirely different from that of anyone who is other than that.

So while I cringed internally, I did not walk away, or mock these persons then, or later with my friends.   I gave them a clear but disgust-free expression of “Oooooo, I wouldn’t do that,” and proceeded to lay out in positive terms how they could improve their stories, and their chances of reaching a broader audience.

Here is an example of the types of thing I try to say in these cases, with the goal not being to score points or put him in his place, but to help guide the writer in the right direction where they will hopefully learn for themselves in time what cannot be forced into their understanding in a single argument (And to be clear, I am not in any way saying there are not other approaches, or that outright anger is in any way not a valid response for others to have):

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New Scifi Christmas Classics!

Due to cutbacks, the PsyPhy Network’s Holiday Classics Crappy Remake Department and their Scifi Classics Cheesy Remake Department have been merged. Here are some of the resulting projects that are now in various stages of production.

A Charlie Brown War of the Worldsmas

Good grief! Aliens invade the earth, and not even Linus’s nuclear-blue slanket can stop them. Charlie Brown tries to escape his new alien masters, but is caught, and Woodstock is roasted as punishment. Charlie is admonished by Lucy (“Charlie, you bonehead! You’ll get us all killed!”), and then is sent out by his masters to fetch biological samples for preservation.

worldsmasCharlie wanders the wasteland that is the invasion’s aftermath, where he discovers his old bioengineered smartpet Snoopy decorating a bomb shelter, and mutant children with abnormally large heads try to capture falling ashes on their tongues for the meager nutrients. At last he stumbles across a group of children huddled in a school auditorium where they sing Christmas carols in the hopes that Santa Claus will save them from the aliens. Inspired to teach the aliens the spirit of Christmas, Charlie takes one of the last surviving pine trees back to the mothership. The aliens quickly succumb to Pine Needle Scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae) and all die, whereupon everyone cheers Charlie Brown as a hero.

Original Classics: A Charlie Brown Christmas & War of the Worlds

The Year that Santa Claus Stood Still

Nobody believes in Santa, so Santa refuses to go anywhere on Christmas Eve. Klatu the elf goes into town with his little reindeer, Gortzen, to give humans one last chance to prove themselves worthy of Christmas. When Klatu is shot and Gortzen is captured by local scientists, it is up to Missus Claus to seek the aid of the Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and Mother Earth to convince the nations of the world to unite in a promise of Christmas cheer, or else die beneath the floods of melted polar ice. In the end, children and grownups everywhere are shouting, “We believe in you Santa! Please, for the love of egg nog, we believe in you!”

Original Classics: The Year without a Santa Claus & The Day the Earth Stood Still

Frosty the Snow Blob

Astrophysicist Professor Hinkle is laughed out of a scientific convention when he claims that his crystal Mayan helmet is really an alien communications device. Frustrated, he throws it away. A group of children find it, and put it on a snowman they made. The snowman promptly comes to life, proclaiming, “Happy birthday! Resistance is futile!” Frosty immediately rolls over the children, absorbing them and growing in size faster than a snowball rolling downhill. Soon, the entire town is threatened, as the snowblob picks up everything in its path like a Christmas Katamari Dam-Icy. Only Santa, a saintly alien who had been guarding against the return of the Frostarians, can stop the snowblob. But can even his vaunted powers succeed?

Original Classics: Frosty the Snow Man & The Blob

Rudolph and This Island Earth of Misfit Toys 2

Rudolph is gifted a bizarre Build a Radio kit. After using his nose to power it he receives a message to fly to the mysterious Island of Misfit Toys, where he finds his old pal Hermey the Elf already there. Rudolph and Hermey are beamed onto a saucer sled by the winged lion Exeter and flown to the planet Northpolia, where they learn that the Northpolians are in danger from the evil Toytakerons.

The Northpolians hope to develop a new weapon to defend their planet before it is destroyed entirely – and the mysterious energy source of Rudolph’s nose is their best hope. But the Toytakerons begin a final assault, bombarding the planet with cheap plastic crap from Christmases past. Rudolf and Hermey battle the abominable snowbrain — a hideous creature made of white fur and a giant exposed brain – and then escape back to earth where they support an entire new merchandising line of toys and Christmas ornaments happily ever after.

Although originally scripted for a 90 minute movie, the actual planned film has been shortened to 17 minutes to allow for more commercial breaks.

Original Classics: Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys & This Island Earth

How the Grinch Snatched Bodies

The Grinch, fed up with Whys in Whysville and their constant laughing and singing and playing games during the holidays, sneaks into everyone’s homes and plants grinchpods in their basements. The pods open in the night and send forth creatures that take over the Whys’ sleeping bodies.

grinchsnatcher

Soon, the Grinchified are stripping all personal joy and meaning out of the season, proposing white elephant exchanges of practical household goods even for personal family gatherings, jetting between holiday parties like club hopping celebrities, declaring themselves sick of holiday songs due to mall music inundation, and taking this year to really focus on themselves since they go all out on others every other year. But one Why, Mindy Ly Why, wakes in the night and realizes what is happening, and attempts to stop it. Will she find others who have not been Grinchified and avoid getting caught? Can she succeed in restoring true holiday spirit? Or will she end up as roast beast?

Original Classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas & Invasion of the Body Snatchers

When Nestor’s Worlds Collide

Nestor the long eared donkey is horrified when his mother (and several national monuments) are smote by falling meteors. He is taken in by a kind pregnant woman, who is a message courier and needs a reliable method of transportation. She delivers messages between three wise scientists and learns that they have spotted a star in the sky – a star that is rapidly getting closer and is destined to consume the earth in fire. They manage to build a spacecraft, an ark of sorts, to carry a select group of humans to the new planet that is orbiting the coming star of doom.

Oh no! The ship is all full, with no seats for the pregnant woman! But wait — the kind-hearted pilot allows the woman and Nestor to stay in the cargo hold with the livestock and supplies. A child is born as the ship lands on the new planet. The child is named Hope, and seen as a symbol of a fresh start – but will she truly be a herald of hope, or will she only help to carry the bigotries, fears, and superstitions of the human race into the new world?

Only the sequel will tell.

Original Classics: Nestor the Long Eared Donkey & When Worlds Collide

—–

I originally published this on Fantasy Magazine

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My Upcoming Readings and Signings – Not Just for Writers of the Future

The point of my readings and signings will not truly be to sell copies of Writers of the Future volume 30 (although that is encouraged), but to celebrate our love of the genre together.

All questions will be answered, many laughs will be had, and many words shared.

And I understand that many folks may have already bought the anthology by the time of the reading, possibly in e-form, or maybe don’t want the anthology for some strange unknowable reason (possibly involving alien probing and the suppression of human emotion through nano technology). If so, bring your copy, or buy something else! I’ll have Other Stuff to sign freely for you if you do.

Let’s share in a celebration of speculative fiction, and support other authors and the bookstore as well (ideally through sale of the anthology which does so much to support new writers, and is also of course a handy way to understand the market if you wish to submit to them; but if you buy any book, that is a good thing in my, er, book).

Perhaps you were wanting to buy awesome fiction from other local authors like: Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts; or The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova; or Hild by Nicola Griffith; or Requiem by Ken Scholes; or The Thousand Names by Django Wexler; or the latest Greywalker Novel by Kat Richardson; or The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper; or Reflected by Rhiannon Held; or Copper Head by Tina Connolly; or The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari.

Or you wanted to pick up some mind-expanding goodness, like: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor; or Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie; or Authority by Jeff Vandermeer; or 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; or Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson; or We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, or Cory Doctorow’s latest, Homeland.

Or grab the latest (or first) book in a series you are interested in, be it the Dresden Files or Game of Thrones or Divergent.

Perhaps you prefer the comic stylings of Jim C Hines, John Scalzi, or Terry Pratchett, or the magic realism of Charles de Lint?

Or heck, come in and place pre-orders on books like: Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell; or The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson; or Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake; or Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka.

But again, of course, the hope is to sell many copies of Writers of the Future Volume 30, officially called by The Critic** “The besterest volume ever.”

Hope to see you there, with (some) book or eReader or receipt in hand*.

*No purchase required to participate as a viewer. Mileage estimated based on in-city reading. See book dealer for additional details.
**That’s me. I’m The Critic. I may be biased, but I’m also completely biased.

See my Schedule page for details on upcoming readings/signings/Q&As.

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Prometheus Produce

/Begin Transmission/ So, I followed clues left in several newspaper ads and found my way to Prometheus Produce, hoping to discover the origin of the amazing deal.  Signs at the entrance advised that I use standard bagging precautions, but being a pseudo-scientist I knew that to truly understand something, you have to look at it really really close and, if at all possible, touch it.  What could go wrong? /End Transmission/

Prometheus Produce

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Dragons in Space!

Today, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station.  A huge step towards commercial passenger flights into space and galactic Empire!  And of course, the company hired specialists to help them achieve their goal.

Dragon Shout!  This is the Shout for Clear Skies.

Daenerys Conquers the Moon with her Dragon

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“Surviving the eBookalypse” Live on Escape Pod

Escape PodMy story “Surviving the eBookalypse”, a satire about the future for books and their authors, is now live on Escape Pod: http://escapepod.org/2012/01/19/ep328-surviving-the-ebookalypse/

I wrote this story during Clarion West, partly as a response to a doom and gloom speech I heard on the future of the publishing industry. But folks like Mary Robinette Kowal and Cory Doctorow reaffirm my belief that we who create or consume the fiction, we have power to affect the course of things.  eBooks are really not so different from paperbacks if we push for the right to truly own what we purchase.  Books as objects can return to being lovingly crafted pieces of art, to be collected and displayed proudly in order to impress your date/guests.  Er, I mean, to show your love of the written word.  And in the end, all of us time-conscious readers will still want someone to filter out the good from the ocean of crap for us and will pay a little extra for that service.  Sparkly vampires aside.  So I believe the future of the written word remains bright.  And if I’m wrong, I will happily accept patronage offers.

 

Interesting note: the recorded pod cast is actually from an earlier version of the story, and the online text is from the updated version, which I see as a happy accident because A) I went back and forth over the beginning and am still not sure which I like better (though the printed version is tighter), and B) it is a record I think of how my writing (or at least editing) improved over the time between versions.  Although the very beginning of the story is the main difference, there are also a number of small differences that demonstrate opportunities to eliminate unneeded words and poor sentence structures.  The story synchs up pretty quickly (once Andre enters the library) so if you listen and follow along with the text, you’ll spot the differences.

Thank you to Roberto Suarez for his podcast reading.

Cheers, and I hope you enjoy it.

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How to Be a Genre Promotion Guerrilla at a Bookstore Near You

Quick: Can you spot the scifi and fantasy magazines?

Hidden Magazines

Where the heck is my F&SF?

 

As usual, the spec fic magazines are almost impossible to spot.  They are hidden in the shadows on the bottom shelf of the Literary section, which is completely out of view if you are actually standing close enough to the shelf to browse the top row.

Whenever I see this, I go ahead and arrange things as they should be:

Revealed Magazines

Ahhh, that's better.

 

I noticed a similar problem with John Pitts’ latest novel, “Honeyed Words”.  Can you spot it?

Where's Pitts?

Where's Pitts?

Now, books present a slightly different problem since they are alphabetized, and to simply rearrange them might actually hurt sales for those searching by name.  So I simply made it more visible by propping his book up using another book.  Don’t worry, I didn’t use one of the Tim Powers books or any of his other neighboring authors’.  I used a copy of Twilight.*

Pitts Visible

Much Better. No actual novels were harmed in the making of this point.

 

So, when you are in a bookstore (for however many more months they are still around), don’t be afraid to make sure folks can find the good stuff.  You can’t rate products or give comments in a physical bookstore like you can a virtual one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still express your support and appreciation.  Just don’t be a jerk and completely hide or “lose” anyone else’s stuff.

* There were plenty of other copies of Twilight, so I don’t think struggling artist Ms. Meyer will be suffering terribly from my choice.

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Clarion West Write-a-thon: Week 1

I made good progress on short story numero uno, a near-future scifi story “Shall I Die, Oh My Daughter, Shall I Die?”

Words so far: 3,359.  I’m happy with that. keeping in mind that I am also working on my YA novel at the same time and this was the Locus Awards/ workshop weekend.

If you haven’t already, please sponsor me (and therefore Clarion West) by going to: http://clarionwest.org/events/writeathon/RandyHenderson

Here’s excerpts that should give you the flavor of the story without giving anything away:

EXCERPT 1:

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Is it Science Fiction or Science Fantasy?

My definitive answer to which the world shall henceforth adhere is now up at Fantasy Magazine:

http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/2010/06/is-it-science-fiction-or-science-fantasy/

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