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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Casual Observer: Not Another Art Paper

The Casual Observer: Not Another Art Paper: Don't let the title fool you. It is, in fact, totally another art paper.  Last week, I went to Gadsden to find a work of art. I sco...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Goodbye Orlando

Hello hello!

I just felt we needed this. Normal posts about dystopias and witty stuff will resume shortly.



Friday, 21 June 2013

A Wholy Unexpected Part 2: Dark World Sci Fi Gets Up Close and Personal

Hello hello! 


 So, um, I was expecting this to be a two-part blog. Not a three part one. Except, Calgary kind of had a rainstorm. A big one. And then the rain kept coming. My city is now a disaster zone. People are walking in clusters and looking weary. Andrey and I decided a look around and coffee (from Tim Horton's, of course, that patriotic bastion) were in order. We also got crepes. We did get a look at it, and it was surreal. An ocean in a parking lot. An orange kayak paddling smoothly down a residential street. People walking close together, looking frightened. Others, looking for opportunities. Men sheltering their women and women sheltering their children. Curious dogs, mostly unbothered by the consternation of the pink hairless monkeys walking them. Roads that were rivers. Rivers that washed, angry and rich brown, over banks and trees. Cars being swallowed by water. Pictures of couches floating by. "Angry water" indeed.

 


Source was, obviously, Global News. And also Facebook.

I think it's probably self-explanatory that I've never experienced this before. I'd seen pictures in Winnipeg, Haiti, parts of India and Burma, in China, and in New Orleans and other parts of the States--but never 'here'. Oh, sure there was a big flood in my childhood in Lethbridge--the water was all the way up to the main bridge on Whoop-Up drive, and was vast--but it was hemmed in by the Coulees pretty well. And sure, the Elbow and Bow had flooded a bit in 2005 here in Calgary,and the parking garage was full of water--but I didn't imagine it happening again any time soon.

And I didn't think it could happen here. First World Problems, indeed.

There are a couple of pictures below, featuring yours truly poking about in the local fancy-pants rec centre, The Glenbow. There is probably even more water there right now. 



















In court, they sometimes use the argument 'res ipsa loquitor'. The thing speaks for itself. Well, I think it does, here. Disasters are closer and more real than they were before, and maybe the interest in Dark World Sci Fi comes from a darker world. I'll be exploring that in the next post. Right now, I'm still in shock.

Also, I have two books to work on, so I should go do that.


*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The End is Nigh, Part 1: The Biomass Revolution and Other Tales

Hello hello!


As those of you who’ve strayed near a movie theatre in the past couple of weeks may have noticed, there is a very noticeable trend to this summer’s hits. My Facebook feed has been on fire with reports that This Is The End is hilarious and gritty; The Purge has been racing through theatres as well. Catching Fire (which I plan to both re-read, watch, and review) has been advertising itself frequently, as has World War Z, which has been putting much more of an emphasis on the end-of-the-world bits than the zombie bits.

Trend-counting time: we had vampires and werewolves, then a slight interest in dystopias (especially with a dose of romance), a raging surge in zombie fiction and media, and now, we’re hitting a wave of proper dystopian works. What’s up with that? I had some theories before—basically, ‘challenges are fun and so is destroying stuff’—but it’s time to re-evaluate and see whether more forces are at play. I’ll be name-checking some of those previous references in this round, so don’t be surprised if my recommendations and examples have some overlap.


This is going to be a two-parter; in the first half, I’m going to give you some terms and some media, and in the second, I’m going to talk about why everyone is in love with the end of the world more than usual.

Without further ado, let’s talk about some terms.






Source. This really sums up my feelings on Dark World sci fi. 



Learning new words is fun!

In my last article, I deliberately blurred the lines between cyberpunk, dystopia, and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction. Cyberpunk is often a style feature in both apocalyptic/post-apoc and dystopian fiction. All three of these tend to be more planet-centric than galaxy-centric sci fi; where some media (Mass Effect, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dune, Star Wars) focus more on building a big, shiny universe to play in and tour around, these three genres tend to stick to one planet or even one city. I’ll get to a couple of exceptions to the ‘limited travelling’ idea in a minute, but let’s lay the terminology down first.  Also, you might want to keep Google or GoodReads open in the side so you can look up some of these titles.

In case cyberpunk just sounds like the word you’d use to describe your smart-ass IT guy, I’ll clarify—cyberpunk is fiction with a heavy focus on mixing analog and futuristic technology into daily life. It tends to be gritty, noire-influenced stuff with an existential bent. Transhumanism and equality issues are often themes, as well—the nature of humanity, of reality, changing social roles, and all the ‘fun stuff’ that comes with it. Think of BladeRunner, Johnny Mnemonic, the Sprawl series by Gibson, the anime Ghost in the Shell, or, of course, The Matrix trilogy. It’s sort of a heavily 80s/90s influenced version of steampunk. I’m going to avoid a discussion on all the ‘punk’ subgenres, and get back to the other types of dark-world fiction.


Apocalyptic fiction can be loosely described as fiction about how everything goes to hell. Post-apocalyptic fiction (such as The Road by McCarthy, Brown Girl in the Ring by Hopkinson, or many zombie books) takes place after everything’s gone to hell already. Desert Punk is another anime example; the Fallout series is probably the most famous post-apocalyptic game set out there, though Metro 2033 is a very good one too. The Terminator and Tank Girl also technically count as post-apocalyptic fiction, too.


A dystopia is, as mentioned in this article, a ‘bad world’, often characterized by totalitarian governments, personal controls, lack of freedom, poverty, and a struggle for survival. The Fade by (author) is a good example. Of course, 1984 by Orwell, Brave New World by Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, A Clockwork Orange by Burgess, Lord of the Flies by Golding, and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Ellison are famous, even ‘classic’ dystopias. For film media, Dark City is a pretty excellent dystopian movie, and Metropolis (both the black-and-white and animated versions) also serves as another fine example. As mentioned previously, even the two Portal games (part of the Half-Life series) fit into this category.


All of these together fall into the realm of ‘Dark World Sci Fi’, though fantasy elements sometimes sneak in. For obvious reasons, they often overlap heavily; it’s easy to have a post-apoc book that involves a dystopian government or living situation, and survivors might use cybernetic implants (a cyberpunk element) to get by in fights to the death. The Mad Max series, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Firefly, Lexx, and a novel I’m going to review a bit today—The Biomass Revolution and its companion, Squad 19, by Nicholas Sansbury Smith—all make use of overlapping aspects of the terms I mentioned above.





I'm focusing on it because I liked it. 



Oh hey, another book!


Shameless plug time—I came across this remarkable book and then got to help a little with its development; it’s very timely, and I’m about to explain why it’s both a) awesome and b) relevant to the points about why dystopias have gotten the limelight lately. The Biomass Revolution kind of sounds like a sci fi diet plan if you glance at the title alone, but the pretty wasteland cover and the poetic opening immediately tell you which genre you’re in. Biomass combines the ripping thrills of a technothriller with the darkness of a dystopia. The moments of beauty in its atmospheric descriptions can be heartstopping--a unique book, that show itself to be far more than it appears at first glance.


The thing that got me about this book is the fact that it wasn't just a technothriller sort of romp. I was expecting that from some parts of it--charge through wasteland, shooting baddies, being big damn heroes. The book focuses on corruption and makes no bones about its political stance, but little details like the dead wives of the leaders really come back to haunt one. Even the 'bad guys' are people. And when civilians get caught in the crossfire, they aren't just meatbags of dramatic convenience. They have names. 

The tone is nicely dispassionate, and Sansbury Smith does a good job of referencing reasonable technologies and current issues. They're hauntingly familiar issues; energy, resource wars, conservatism echoing the non-interference Monroe Doctrine of the early World Wars, and, ultimately, the desolation that results. There are haves and have-nots. Immigrants and deviants are treated badly, while people in the right places get off scot-free. It's heavily inspired by its predecessors, but still manages to add to the genre. I'll admit that some of the content has a video-gamey feel to it, which might turn some readers off, and a lot of the characters are very big and very muscly types. However--it all works. It strives for cinematic rather than silly details, and it works. 


Getting back on topic...


The thing about DWSF (Dark World Sci Fi; see above) is that the entire field is built on societal subversion and questioning the system. That makes it one of the darkest types of entertainment, almost as dark as horror (an entire field devoted to primal fear responses) and sometimes darker. DWSF is about how wrong things are in the world, and how characters attempt to fix them. Unlike other books, the heroes don't necessarily succeed, either. Sometimes, they just ameliorate things temporarily, but are eventually screwed over by the crushing weight of the world.

There's always that glimmer of hope, though, and it is a little brighter when the surroundings are bleaker. I'd like to think that the reason people love Dark Worlds stuff is that they like a taste of hope that's sharper than usual. However, my suspicions are more sinister. Tune in soon to find out exactly why I think people really dig the dark stuff.



*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 



Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Casual Observer: Simulated Poverty

The Casual Observer: Simulated Poverty: Source This past Friday, I went to the Gadsden Museum of Art to see the works of graffiti artist, Scape Martinez. Beyond using the p...

More Breaking News: Ask an Agent!

Hello hello!

More excitement! I'm not even going to explain; it's a bit related to the last post...all I will say is that a drink of water would be a very good idea right now. Also, make sure you're sitting comfortably.




Come join Seth Fishman, Literary Agent representing Alex Grecian, our Book of the Month author of THE YARD, and the sequel, BLACK COUNTRY.


GIVEAWAYS:

THE YARD, now--June 14th

BLACK COUNTRY June 12th--14th



ASK THE AGENT:  Seth and Alex have graciously agreed to answer questions from Modern Good Reads members related to traditional publishing, an agent’s role in publishing, and all those myriad things we all want to know about working with agents and New York publishers.





Seth Fishman’s bio:



Seth Fishman (me) was born and raised in Midland, Texas (think Friday Night Lights) and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England (think cold and rainy and millions of castles). His YA thriller, The Well's End, is the first in a series and the protagonist, Mia Kish, is roughly inspired by a hometown drama that (when I was young) really blew him away: (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/...).  When not writing, Seth is a literary agent at The Gernert Company (www.thegernertco.com), and thinks writing and agenting are the two very best jobs in the world.
 



Agent/Publications & Experience:



I've been a literary agent for over eight years, beginning at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. (www.sll.com) and now, for the past three years, at The Gernert Company (www.thegernertco.com).  My list is deliberately wide-reaching, as I'm fervently of the mind that good writing and strong stories can be found in any genre.  For sake of ease, however, a few published examples in varying categories I rep:


Literary Fiction: NYTimes Bestseller and Orange Prize winner Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, Liz Moore's Heft, Alex Gilvarry's From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
Hugo winner Will McIntosh's Love Minus Eighty, Ted Kosmatka's Locus finalist The Games.
 
Thriller: Alex Grecian's Bestselling The Yard and The Black Country, Ted Kosmatka's Prophet of Bones.



NonFiction: NY Times Bestseller Maria Konnikova's Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, BoingBoing Science Editor Maggie Koerth-Baker's Before The Lights Go Out.

Graphic/comic/illustrated: #1 NYTimes Bestseller Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant, Matt Kish's Moby Dick In Pictures





Young Adult: Nora Price's Zoe Letting Go, Shawn Goodman's Something Like Hope

Picture Book: Matthew Olshan's The Mighty Lalouche (This is just out, his future books I rep).

Forthcoming publications (in the next 3/4 months): The Thousand Names by Django Wexler, What The F Should I Drink by Zach Golden, and The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova.



Seth Fishman’s debut novel:

The Well's End, a YA thriller, due out from Putnam YA February 2014.  COVER REVEAL June 11th 2013:  http://io9.com/





A childhood accident, a bizarre outbreak, and an impossible discovery…



Mia Kish is afraid of the dark. And for good reason. When she was a toddler she fell deep into her backyard well only to be rescued to great fanfare and celebrity.  In fact, she is small-town Fenton, Colorado’s walking claim to fame. Not like that helps her status at Westbrook Academy, the nearby uber-ritzy boarding school she attends. A townie is a townie. Being nationally ranked as a swimmer doesn’t matter a lick. But even the rarefied world of Westbrook is threated when emergency sirens start blaring and the school is put on lockdown, quarantined and surrounded by soldiers who seem to shoot first and ask questions later.  Only when confronted by a frightening virus that ages its victims to death in a manner of hours does Mia realize she may only just be beginning to discover what makes Fenton special.



The answer is behind the walls of the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics. Mia’s dad, the director of Fenton Electronics, has always been secretive about his work. But unless Mia is willing to let her classmates succumb to the strange illness, she and her friends have got to break quarantine, escape the school grounds, and outsmart armed soldiers to uncover the truth about where the virus comes from and what happened down that well.  The answers they find just might be more impossible than the virus they are fleeing.









Alex Grecian:





?JOIN SETH FISHMAN & ALEX GRECIAN June 12th through June 14th?


?Giveaway Rafflecopters below (Win Signed Copies)? 

Exclusively for MODERN GOOD READS members.

If you are not a member, you must join MODERN GOOD READS to qualify.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Breaking News: Another Amazing Giveaway! More Stuff!

Hello hello!

Another breaking news update--it's busy around here, and I'll have a longish witty post soon...but in the meantime, RUSH TO THIS PAGE AND DO NOT LOOK BACK.


MODERN GOOD READS PRESENTS:

BOOK OF THE MONTH & GIVEAWAY:


The Yard by Alex Grecian

June 5th--JUNE 14th


Historical Mystery Thriller:

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, this spectacular debut in a new series showcases the depravity of late Victorian London, the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of The Sherlockian and The Alienist.

Alex Grecian:

?Giveaway Rafflecopter below (Win 1 of 2 Signed Copies)? 
Exclusively for MODERN GOOD READS members.
If you are not a member, you must join MODERN GOOD READS to qualify.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


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