700th Post!

fireworks1Yes, I know its a bit of an odd number. But I was still pleased and kind of blown away to find out that I was nearing this landmark recently. And I thought, what better excuse for a little retrospective and a chance to say thanks for the support? My my, where to begin? Well, how about the beginning? Since just the other day I was looking back at the first posts I’d made with this site, I think I’ll start there. Seems as good a place as any…

The very first thing I ever wrote on this site was a simple Hello World message. Nothing too flamboyant or special about that one, just the obligatory “how do you do?” It was my second post where I said the things that I wanted to say and really took the time to state what my mission was:

sci_fi“I love science fiction, always have, always will.  But it’s the kind of science fiction that I love which I think is an important distinction. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that sci-fi comes in two varieties: classic and commercial.  The classical kind is the traditional variety that people take seriously… Commercial sci-fi, by contrast, is your basic stuff that owes much to the original masters but really didn’t follow in their footsteps.”

That’s still true of me. I still subscribe to the idea that the real science fiction is the kind that really makes you think and chooses to appeal to the highest possible standard. Might sound elitist, but given the sheer amount of pulp out there that does little more than entertain, I’d say I’m more of a hopeful optimist. I think people are capable of great genius when you give them a chance, and would like nothing better than to create something myself that appeals to the best in us – be it intellectual, moral, or metaphysical.

My first few reviews were really quite simple. I spoke of Frank Herbert – arguably my biggest inspiration – William Gibson, 1984 and Brave New World. I spoke of my own writing and posted some podcasts of Source’s earliest chapters (no longer available), and pasted some reviews my work had received. However, I was nowhere near as prolific as I am today. It was actually quite surprising to see that the first year of my site being operational could be summed up in just over a dozen posts. Especially when I am now at 700 and just over two and a half years into it!

In any case, I began doing movie reviews shortly thereafter, tackling such sci-fi greats as Blade Runner and the Alien franchise, and such guilty pleasures like Independence Day and Starship Troopers. This went on for some time, with me going back and forth between reviewing movies and great books, and once in a while dropping something in about a favorite miniseries, TV show, or something I happened to find inspiring.

brazil53And then something happened. Something which, I gotta admit, I didn’t even know was possible until it happened to me. I got freshly pressed. At the time, I was minding my own business, doing a post about Dystopian Literature, in honor of the fact that I just joined Writer’s Worth and our first project was an anthology of original, dystopian narratives. Feeling inspired by the fact that I was getting a chance to write within my favorite genre, I compiled a list of the most historically relevant and renowned examples I could think of.

That opened the floodgates! Having never exceeded a few dozen views in one day, you can imagine my surprised when I came home for lunch that day and discovered my views numbered in the high hundreds! I checked back as the afternoon progressed, only to see that it had reached into the thousands. By afternoon the following day, the torrent stopped and I was able to take stock of all that had happened. Roughly half my subscribership began following me in that one twenty-four hour period. I got more comments than I knew what to do with and more likes in that one day than the previous year! It felt nice, and I certainly learned something about how this thing called WordPress works!

Since that time, I won’t lie, I’ve been hoping to snag a second FP! No luck yet, but what can you do? Once was nice enough, and since it’s led to my current circulation amongst my fellow bloggers and the general internet-surfing public, I really can’t complain! Besides, several milestones have happened since then, so I shall not linger on this one event. Suffice it to say, as the days and weeks continued to pass, I found my traffic had increased exponentially from my pre-FP days. Not to the point of thousands, but higher than a hundred. That too was nice…

After finishing up the series of Dystopian posts, mainly to address examples other people poitned out and to cover examples of dystopic movies, I began to move onto other ideas. For instance, I had decided it was time to tackle themed-posts, like Cool Guns, Cool Ships, Giant Robots, and the like. These were mighty fun to do and provided endless suggestions from people who knew and liked the same franchises I did, and also saw these lists as an opportunity to stroll down memory lane.

apocalypse-04I also got into serial novel work, as attested to by Crashlands over at Story Time, and posts dealing with futuristic concepts and news. I guess I’d grown a bit tired just talking concepts, books and movies at this point and really wanted to delve into the everday stuff that drives science fiction and the creative imagination that guides people’s writing. At the same time, I continued to pimp any and all work that I was doing with Writer’s Worth, which at this point had morphed into its current group name of Grim5Next, in honor of our first project!

Then came two significant developments, back to back. In June of 2012, I began working with a select group of members from Grim5Next on a new project idea. With the passing of Ray Bradbury and Venus’ transit in front of the sun, it seemed that some of us were bit by the inspiration bug. I can still remember how it all began, in the form of a conversation between my friend and fellow writer, Khaalidah, and myself:

Khaalidah: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.
I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go.
This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Me: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Khaalidah: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

Yuva_coverThat was the beginning of Yuva. In the days that followed, we two enlisted the help of many people: Goran, Jenna, William, and Melanie. Through much conversation, back and forth and debate, we determined the location of our story (Gliese 581g), the tone, the structure, and even began producing the first few installments. As time progressed, we were joined by more writers – Charles, Danielle and Cara – who wanted to contribute and began scooping up the later installments in the series.

The second development was the rash of face-eating and zombie-like behavior which seemed to break out throughout that summer. Feeling compelled to comment on the sort of hysteria which had set in, I wrote a post called “Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse”. Much like my post on Dystopia, that one earned me quite a few views, thought it was not Freshly Pressed. I am thankful it wasn’t, as I began to feel a bit iffy about getting lots of traffic over a series of rather sick and tragic events. But I knew I had to comment since it was a relevant issue and I had something to say about it. I also swore I’d never publicize the names of the psychos responsible ever again, since I didn’t want to contribute to the buzz that so often surrounds twisted criminals.

Since that times, its been more of the same. Every day, I do my best to maintain the pace I’ve now set for myself, and am happy when plenty of people come by to see what I’ve written and tell me they are thankful that I post what I do. Naturally, I often complain that I should be getting paid to do this, but that’s just talk. No, this is something I’d gladly do for free, though ideally I would love it if it was a source of income so I could write indefinitely and not have to worry about money. My hope is one day that all of this culminates and I can write something truly meaninful and influential. That way, this site will represent a beginning to something truly big, and I’ll be able to share that with everyone who’s been here from the beginning.

Okay, that got a little mushy there towards the end. Suffice it to say, I’m very thankful for all that I’ve been able to do with this site thus far, and for being able to connect with all the people that I have. I hope very much to be able to write as many or more posts before I use up my allotted memory and either have to pay for an upgrade or move to another web address. Hopefully, the whole “getting paid to do this” thing will work itself out before then so I have the option of throwing money at the problem 😉

Rest assured, I aint going nowhere anytime soon. So expect to see plenty of me around these parts. Peace out, and thanks to everyone for stopping by, then and now. Bless you all!

fireworks

Crashland – Chapter 16, Now Available At Story Time!

Alright! It’s been many weeks, but I finally got back to Crashland! I had been hoping to tackle it while on vacay up in Comox, but like many of my projects, it just didn’t happen. But back in my home, where I get most of my writing done, I back on that horse and updated it at last! Good thing too because I was worried people were starting to lose interest. So, here’s where things left off…

Last time around, Holden woke up to find that the subway tube had collapsed, that Jacobs was seriously injured and the medic named Jorka was dead. All of this was being laid at his feet by the new commander, a man named Kurzweil. After talking it over with Molya, the squad’s chief enforcer, Kurzweil ordered him to administer a drug that would put Holden in a coma so they could do their operation without him.

Molya, however, had other plans. Bringing the syringe to Holden, he told him to sneak into Kurzweil’s quarters and administer the drug to him in his sleep. Though he does not fully understand why Jacobs insists on making Holden a part of their operation, he is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. What’s more, he is not willing to contravene Jacobs orders when he’s not even awake and able to defend them. Holden agreed to the plan and set off to find Kurzweil in his quarters, where he is about to find the man asleep and defenseless, or so he thinks…

Come on by and see what happens. Then stick around to vote on the next outcome. It’s all happening over at Story Time.me!

What Else Is On…

Well, that was helpful. And by that, I mean making an extensive reading list. However, my lists don’t end there. Neither does my affliction, known as literary ADD. In addition to the books I need to finish, there’s also quite the list of stories I need to finish writing. It seemed only fitting and appropriate that I make a separate list pertaining to them.

You see, when it comes to writing projects for myself, there are two categories. First, there are the short-term projects, the stuff that needs to be generated right now and finished in the not-too-distant future. Then there are the long-term projects, the things that have been ongoing. These projects can take years to reach completion, assuming they don’t lose my interest and fall into the inbox dustbin. Of the former category, I can think of four things that need to get done:

  1. Winston Agonistes: My submission for the Yuva anthology novel. This story is told from the point of view of a synthetic human (i.e. an AI) who is responsible for assisting with the day to day functions of the Yuva planetary council. His gift is a social science known as Ethical Calculus, a means of calculating the values of decisions based on their practical and ethical implications. In time, he comes to learn the truth about the settlement of Yuva and just what implications their long-term plans will have for the native life.
  2. Whiskey Delta: This is my ongoing web story involving the Zombie Apocalypse and the men who are fighting hard to beat it back in New Mexico in the near future. Told from several points of view,  , the story tells the tale of the Counterattack, the assault led by the enigmatic Major General Thur (“The Mage”) to retake the country and beat back the undead hordes.
  3. Crashland: Another ongoing web serial where audiences get to vote on the outcomes they want to see. So far, the story involves the unleashing of infopocalypse on the world, the path of former CEO William Holden as he found his way to the Exigencies special operatives, and their culminating efforts to rebuild civilization.
  4. Data Miners: And of course, my ongoing efforts to finish editing my full-length novel about hackers, cryptology, security and surveillance in the age of the internet. For months now, this story has been burning a hole on my desk, consuming many hours of re-reading and editing time, but always seeming to require more. Dangit, I hate editing my own work. It’s like a hole into which creative energy and time disappear!

As for long term stuff, well you’re better off only hearing about the more immediate ones. The rest can just sit there until I get bored! Too many ideas to occupy my short-term/long-term plans as it is.

  1. Fortress: The sequel to Source, the story of overpopulation, survival and the fight against extinction in the distant future. In this installment, things begin to go truly awry as humanity finds itself united between two disparate factions that are forced to come together to fight an even greater extra-terrestrial threat known as the Beast. However, as the war drags on and conditions worsen at home, people begin to turn against each other in the name of something just as important as survival. This story has been in the works for awhile and is nearing completion, but then again, Source has been out in paperback for some time too. It’s not going anywhere, so this is something I feel I can return to every now and then and not worry too much about.
  2. Data Pirates: The sequel to Data Miners, where the story takes a turn down a dark alley and deals with the world of anarchists, cyberterrorism and the development of Future Soldier technology. I’ve hammered out the first few chapters to this one, but since the first book is still in development, I’ve felt safe to put it down. Hoping to remedy that by getting the first one done and out there!
  3. Apocrypha: Here’s an idea several years old which still kicks around in my mind from time to time. Basically, this book combined two thematic elements which I’ve been obsessed with in the last few years. One is the concept of democratic anarchy, and how technology may very well be bringing up into an age where that is feasible. The second is the Technological Singularity, and how humanity reaching a threshold of consciousness scares some to the point where they would want to forcibly regress. I’ve written at least half of this book, trashed it, and then began rewriting it. Soon enough, I hope to resurrect it and redo it in full, since much of the same concepts are at work in Crashlands and seems to be working there.
  4. Legacies: Now this is the oldest of the old! This is my first full-length novel to never be published. Way back when, before I knew what self-publishing was, I created the manuscript to classically inspired sci-fi novel set in the distant future and paid a company to print copies. Then… nothing happened! Yes, for years, the copies floated around and were circulated to my friends, but not one saw the light of day outside my family and friendship circle. It remains a project which I have yet to commit to the public for reading, mainly because I feel I’ve matured to the point that it needs a big rewrite. I still love the idea of it, just not the way I went about writing it. Huxley called this the “chronic remorse” of writer’s, but to me, it’s too symbolic of all my rookie mistakes a writer, things I’ve since learned to do without. We’ll see if it ever pops up again.

Wow, seen back to back, this list is actually a lot more daunting than my reading list. Maybe putting things into list form isn’t such a good idea, just reminds you of all the stuff you need to do. Ah, what can you do? Not thinking about them doesn’t make them go away. And frankly, if I organized myself along these lines sooner, I might not have so much stuff in my inbox. But of course, any time it seems overwhelming, I just have to remind myself that no one is paying me to do this. That always make me feel… a million times worse! 😉

Crashland – Chapter 15, Now Appearing At Story Time!

by F4U DraconiX

Hello all! After another brief hiatus, thing at Story Time are on the move once again! My apologies for anyone who actually follows Crashland, but due to multiple obligations, I find it takes me longer to update this story these days. Nevertheless, chapter 15 is now available and ready for your votes.

Last time, Holden was told that his best friend in the Exigencies cell was in a coma, and that the team’s doctor was dead. Team leader Kurzweil, who had never been a fan of Holden’s, said he was to blame and his time with them was coming to an end. After leaving Holden with this terrible news, he ordered Molya to make the call.

His choices were simple. Administer an overdose of hydromorphone and kill Holden, administer a sedative that would put him in a coma, or take him to a side tunnel and put a bullet in him. Faced with those choices, readers were asked to make a choice of their own. Would Molya a) disobey and help William escape, b) try to reason with Kurzweil, c) kill William or d) put him in a coma?

Audiences voted and the choice was clear: Molya would try to reason with Kurzweil for Holden’s life. Come on by and see what comes of that. Then stick around and vote on what happens next. It’s all happening over at Story Time.me

Crashland Chapter 14, Now Appearing at Story Time

Wow, it’s been awhile since I updated this story last. And I believe it was even longer before I updated it before that. But as I’m sure I’ve said, I’ve taken on some other writing responsibilities of late and it seems I’ve finally reached my creative limit. That’s what you get for constantly pushing your boundaries I guess.

Still, today I managed to tear myself away from my other writing and editing commitments and dedicate some much needed attention to Story Time and this unfolding serial novel. And I’m sure you’ll agree, this one’s also a doozy! Much like the last one, the choice is once again a matter of life and death.

Last time, William found himself trapped in a collapsing subway tube and slowly dying from internal injuries. Slipping into unconsciousness, he once again experienced an intense dream that seemed to be speaking to him, almost as if someone else were inside his head and using his memories to give him instructions.

He then woke to find Jacobs standing over him and urging him to follow him out. Though he practically had to be carried, William and Jacobs managed to struggle their way out of the collapsing tube just as the last of it came crashing down. Unfortunately, Jacobs appeared to be mortally wounded, and the people tending to William mentioned that one other person in their party had died as a result of the cave in. Readers were asked to decide which person that would be.

The choice was a tough one. Would it be Simon, the cybernetically enhanced post-human that all their efforts depended on? Would it be Molya, the team’s gunman who never seems to stray far? Or would it be Jorka, the team’s medic and the only woman William had set eyes on since the Crash began. As it turned out, audiences decided on Jorka, the female medic who was intrinsic in saving William’s life. Thus, chapter 14 opens with the revelation that not only was she killed, but that Jacobs was mortally wounded while attempting to save William’s life.

The story is on the move once more. So come on by and check it out, and as usual, stick around to vote on what happens next! It’s all happening over at Story Time.me.

My Personal Writing Tips, or “How to Avoid Rookie Mistakes”

Proofreading and editing can be such a chore, I tell ya! Thought I’ve never been very good at proofreading and criticizing other peoples work, I find that it is when I am called upon to edit and evaluate their work that I most want to retreat into my shell. I feel selfish when this happens, mainly because of all the people I have asked to review my own work and give me their opinions. You’d think I’d be better at this aspect of it!

But of course, I know that part of the reason I hate editing the work of others is because I hate editing my own. I’ve noticed this about most people who enjoy writing, composing, and anything else that requires active revision and corrections. By the time the work is done, they want to put it down and forget about it, to let others handle the business of finding the flaws and pointing out the necessary corrections.

Alas, I’ve had to check most of that baggage ever since I started to become a member of several writing communities. In fact, I’ve even volunteered to act as a contributing editor for two major projects, one of which is the “Yuva Anthology” (begun by Khaalidah and myself), the other being the “Worlds Undone” Anthology. The latter one people might remember from a few months ago, when I was doing mock ups for a cover and happened to find some primo artwork to feature in it. Thanks again to cazzyae at deviantArt for her talent and generosity of spirit for that one! Thanks to her, Createspace’s easy interface, and the suggestions of many people at G5N, here’s how the cover came out:

Unfortunately, that has opened up a different can of worms for me. While I’ve definitely managed to overcome some of my reservations about reading other people’s work, I find that my pet peeves, or what I consider to be the marks of weak writing, keep rearing their ugly head. After reading many stories, I began to think that a tutorial might be in order to help some of the newbies avoid some rookie mistakes, ones which I have committed at least a half dozen times. Each!

I should also take this opportunity to thank Kristen Lamb, who’s impressive article “4 Writing Crutches that Insult the Reader’s Intelligence” reminded me of this idea. After seeing the title in my Inbox, I immediately zoomed over to her site to see if we shared the same pet peeves and sensibilities. Upon reading it, I could tell she was much more versed in this whole writing thing than I am! Still, I happen to share her appraisal of some bad writing habits, especially item number four in her list, “telling instead of showing”.

So, to take a page from her book (no pun!) and to make good on something I’ve been planning to do for some time now, I present you with the list of rookie writing mistakes it is best to avoid. All are the result of what I myself have done repeatedly, and have managed to weed out (for the most part) after many years of practice:

  1. Avoid Infodumping: Never start a story with a long, drawn out passage telling the reader what they need to know in order to set up the plot. For that matter, never let your story digress into such exposition either. A story is by definition a journey, with information, details, twist, and revelations provided bit by bit over time. Even if it’s a short story, never, ever simply announce what’s happening or what the significance of it is. Such actions turn what is supposed to be a tale into a description and is boring to read.
  2. Less is More: When it comes to explanations and descriptions, avoid excessive detailing. You don’t need to tell the reader everything about what’s going on, moment for moment, nor do you need to describe the scene in perfect detail. A simple, straightforward description of the scene and the interactions taking place is enough, let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest. Think of it like telling a crafty lie: if you want someone to believe it, don’t tell them a long story loaded with details, keep it simple, straightforward, and plausible. (Editor’s note: lying is wrong!)
  3. It’s called Background for a reason: One of the best tips I ever got as a writer was to “leave the background in the background.” This kind of overlaps with points one and two, but I keep it separate because of how often I see it and how it has factored into my own work. Much like explaining a scene or dumping info into a chapter, going to great lengths to establish the wider context in which the story takes place (i.e. “universe building”) is a bad idea. Stick to the story, only include that which is absolutely necessary, and let the universe build itself. In time, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to write follow-up pieces which will allow you to delve into different aspects of your fictitious world in more detail.
  4. “No one talks like this!”: If there’s one thing I learned from the Star Wars prequels and the Dune spinoffs, it’s that wooden dialogue can totally ruin a story. When drafting scenes that call for verbal interaction between characters, always keep in mind that this is supposed to sound like a conversation between actual people. Do not allow yourself to be swayed by duty to the story or the need to establish character elements. Those things that need to be conveyed are best when done with fine strokes and subtlety, and never, ever let your characters fall into expository passages where they simply say what’s goings on. Or to quote the Robot Devil from Futurama: “You’re characters lack subtlety. You can’t have people just announce their feelings! That makes me so angry!”
  5. Referencing: When writing a story that is meant to have allegorical similarities to today, or is meant to make a point about a specific issue, avoid referencing them too closely. Never say, “this was just like that thing that happened back then” or “it’s this all over again”. Let the reader infer what you are referring to with your carefully crafted, fictitious comparison. In Foundation, Asimov never directly compared the Galactic Empire to Rome, nor did Frank Herbert ever mention oil in relation to the spice in Dune. Once again, trust in the reader to make the appropriate conclusions and avoid telling them anything outright. Otherwise, you risk turning an “ah-ha” moment into an unimpressed “oh.”

That’s all I got. Suffice it to say, I am still learning and still looking for ways to perfect my craft. That’s never going to happen, of course, but it’s the goal which provides endless opportunity for improvement. Speaking of which, more samples will be forthcoming soon as I work my way deeper into “Winston Agonistes”, “Crashland”, “Frontera”, and “Fortress”. And most importantly of all, Data Miners will finally be ready for distribution by August long weekend! Yes, after roughly six months of delays, the editing of that story is finally coming to an end. But more on that in a bit.

In the meantime, keep hammering those keys, keep working on those manuscripts, and keep reaching for the brass ring of artistic perfection. And while you’re at it, feel free to share with me some lessons that you’ve learned along the way and feel obliged to share with the newbies in your field. There’s no shortage of lessons, as there are no shortages of mistakes 😉

The Town of Sidney, a City-Wide Hotspot

A news in my local paper announced something quite interesting, something which made me think my writing actually be slightly relevant. It was one of those “I told you so” moments, you might say. Well, according to the Peninsula News Review, the town of Sidney (about fifteen minutes drive up the road from where I live) has become one gigantic hotspot. Yes, that basically means that wherever you go in town, you will have wireless access to the internet. And, here’s the cool part, it’s all free and has been for almost a year now.

How does this relate to my own writing, you might ask? Well, it just so happens that I’ve been experimenting with the idea of an entire mega cities that function on this same principle in the not-too-distant future. In fact, it’s kind of intrinsic to the whole Singularitarian, Demarchist concept, where human beings are augmented with cybernetic implants (usually silicate, in literature) that allow them to access the networks wirelessly and hands-free at any given time. That way, they can participate in government, conduct business, and access information all day long, from any locale remotely.

And it just so happens that this idea is the cornerstone of Crashland, my serial novel over at Story Time. Basically, the premise is that by networking the entire world – by bringing all business, industry, information, communications, government and foreign relations under one wireless roof – the world became extremely vulnerable should a rather enterprising hacker could get past it’s built-in firewalls. And of course, that’s what exactly what happened, hence the name of the story!

Funny thing though. In spite of the rather cool nature of this development, the town of Sidney still feels that the word just hasn’t gotten out there enough. Well, I’m doing my part to spread the word with my meager little blog here, when not plugging my own work that is! And hopefully all the signs they are planning on placing on the highway and by the ferry terminal will help too. How’s are these for promo ideas:

“Entering a City-Wide Hotspot”, “Entering Sidney’s Wi-Fi Zone”, “Free internet for the next 10 km”. What do you think?