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

Saturday 25 August 2012

ARE YOU READY? Breaking update!

Hello hello!

I am very very excited this morning. It's not because of the Guild Wars 2 release, as awesome as it is; nor is it because the political race in America is heating up for its final months.

Nope, it's the fact that I will soon be releasing a combo of a novelette and a short story! Kindle and Smashwords will both be hosting the new release, to be titled The Stolen. August 31st is my intended release date. More teasers will be on my Twitter feed, so be sure to keep you eyes peeled.

That's all for now, because I have to get back to editing. Thanks for tuning in again, and remember to keep you eyes peeled for new reviews, societal commentary, writing analyses, teasers, and other flavours of delicious braincandy. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Sunday 19 August 2012

Free Story Time! The Undine

Hello hello!

Having begun the process of settling into a new job, I'm back on the blogging wagon. As well, I have a snack for you patient, lovely people! Thanks for waiting around for me.

It was late and I was inspired. A friend and I were chatting about name origins, and she mentioned that her sister's middle name was Undine. Digging up my folklore encylopaedia, cross-referencing a few things with Wikipedia, and sorting through my own recollections, I tried to describe the story. Of course, I ended up telling it as bed-time stories must be told, and here it is.

The Undine


A long time ago, in the time of Crusades and of Christ and kings, there was a prince in France. The prince was an avid hunter and loved to fish next to the waters of the great river that divided his kingdom.

One night, as he sought the great prowling cats that came to fish there, at the cusp of the mountains, he strayed far from his fellow hunters. Silently and stealthily, watching for the great cats and other beasts of the night, he crept to the river. Where the water fell down across the old mossy rocks, a fine mist always rose up. He looked, sometimes, but on this night, with moonlight catching the water, he looked longer than ever. In the shape of the spray, a damsel bathed, perfectly naked.

Luxuriating in the water and tossing her hair, combing it, she was perfect. Skin silver as air on the water, blue eyes, and when she smiled, sharp sharp little teeth. The prince was infatuated.

Riding across the bridge and to the waterfall, he approached her without hesitation, without thought. On one knee, he begged her to marry him, and the undine, the water nymph, agreed. The undine, you see, wanted a soul, something she could get only by marrying a mortal, and bearing a child.

They returned the next morning to his kingdom, the prince bearing his beautiful bride to the castle in an exquisite chariot. Their wedding was celebrated with great pomp and circumstance, and all the kingdom rejoiced.

On the night of the wedding, as the new couple went to bed, the Undine took a moment to make her lover promise a few trifling conditions: first, never to look at her on Saturdays; second, to let her lock her chamber and be undisturbed on that day, and third, never to be unfaithful to her, as long as he drew a waking breath. Her husband, smitten, agreed that they were trifling conditions indeed.

And so, they lived together a very long while, and were happy. A year after the wedding, the Undine had a beautiful child, a well-formed princeling heir. But from that day, a shadow stole over her.

The undine, immortal and lovely, though soulless, had had a child, and that had taken away her immortality. Lovely as she was, and fey, she was now a mortal, and began to age. It was faint at first, but the prince--short of attention span and of temper, as princes so often are--began to notice. The fine, elegant lines, as delicate as finest spider-webs, and the silvering at her temples--no matter how graceful--were signs of age. And a prince is many things, but in his own eyes, and in those days, in God's eyes, he was a little immortal.

And so it was that the prince's eye began to wander. A little, at first, and then a lot. The undine, though she often coveted the river, was dutiful.

Then, thoughtlessly, her maid glanced through the keyhole one Saturday as the still-lovely undine bathed.

To her shock, she saw not a woman, but half-a-woman, with a long, curling, elegant tail, covered in silver and green scales! The prince caught wind of the tale, which travelled through the castle like a monsoon storm. He had to see it for himself. So there he was, one fine Saturday morning, peeping through the keyhole--and what did he see, but his wife with the tail of a serpent! Horrified, he burst in.

Angry and hurt, she cried out, "Oh, you have broken your first and second promise!" and vanished straightaway as he looked at her.

A few nights later, he heard her soft voice singing in the babe's room, and came in to find her cradling her son. Apologizing, weeping, and down on both knees, he pleaded with her to return.

"Yes," she said, "but remember the third condition. Break your word, and I won't be so forgiving next time."

And so it was that she returned, he quelled the rumors, and they lived happily. For a time. The silver at her temples showed more, and her skin softened. And still, she was beautiful, but she was growing older. Her chuckling infant had become a toddler, and then, a gold-haired boy. And the prince's attention wandered.

She took to walking about the castle at night, more and more. Generally she avoided the animals, which capered and danced away in fear when she came near. One night, however, she found herself near the stables. To her surprise, a familiar droning snore was cutting the air.

Could it be? Her heart hammered fearfully in her chest. She padded in, soft as dew in the morning, and found her husband, the prince, lying in the arms of a common trollop there in the hay.

He woke in an instant, feeling as though someone had kicked him in the ribs, to find her pointing a finger at him.

Her eyes large with pain, she cried out, "You promised to be faithful with every waking breath!" He sat dumb, silent. She wept, as immortal nymphs cannot. "Faithless man! Well, as long as you are awake, and have your breath, you can live. But as soon as you sleep, you shall die!"

And with that, she vanished again, a final time. The prince died a short time later, in his sleep, but his young son grew up fine and strong, and was wiser than his father in choosing a wife.

The end.


Thanks again for tuning into my phuquerie. There will be more--updates about my writing, more feminism and literary criticism, and probably some movies. There might even be some politics and science! Keep an eye on new releases by following on Twitter and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

50 Shades of Finished: Reflections on A Bad Romance

Finally, at long last, I have returned!

As those who have been following my Twitter feed for the last couple of weeks have discerned, I am finished the Fifty Shades trilogy. That's right--I've conquered Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. If you somehow missed out on the horrifying and amusing social phenomenon of the hour, I'll give you a brief run-down. Fasten your seatbelts and get a good, stiff drink: we're heading into the dark and miserable world of fan fiction.

Thanks, Wikipedia! Now I can advertise this thing that has been polluting best-seller stands at airports and convenience stores everywhere.

Fan Fiction. Hold on, people. We're about to go balls deep. Or ovaries deep, if you like.

Clker is my hero tonight. Thank goodness for fair use and free images of ovaries! This made my night.

I'm not sure how many assumptions I should make about you, my beloved readers; after all, given that you're on the internet and that you found my blog, you are probably familiar with geekery on some level. Just in case that isn't so, I'll explain what I'm talking about and why I'm about to throw a miniature temper tantrum. Still, I can't make accusations without a damn good case, and without a review of the evidence.

Fan fiction is usually composed in written media, though occasionally it extends to webcomics, films, drawings, paintings, and other media. The written stuff--everything from short stories to monstrous epistles longer than the source material--is the area I concern myself with.

What is fan fiction, and why do I care?: I'm going to to my best to keep this rant really short. Fan fiction is a polarizing and contentious area because it involves extending, modifying, or retelling existing stories, or the creation of new work within their universes. It exists in an awkward grey area of creativity, since it relies on not merely inspiration by, but actual use of other authors' and storytellers' creative property. Some of it is glorified shitastrophic porn. Some of it attempts to tweak a story to fit the author's own idea of how the plot should have played out; some of it retells the story in a different setting altogether. Still more fan fiction attempts to fill out the universe's plot holes and expand the world. It's impossible to fairly condemn all fan fiction, especially since some of it is created with the author's express permission. Lancelot was a late addition to Arthurian legend, and he adds a lot to the world. Lovecraft's friends often wrote in his universe, and helped spread the fame of the Cthulu mythos. Gregory McGuire, one of my favorite authors, retells and reinvents fairy tales as well as having created Wicked, an renowned reinvention of the Oz series. Clearly, then, fan fiction can lead to creation of something new, or add something to the world. What's the big problem, then?

Let's touch on that 'intellectual property' issue. Using characters in an unauthorized fashion and changing a story line technically violates copyright laws, as well as being in bad taste. Sometimes, leaning on pre-made fiction can be useful as a learning tool of new authors. All too often, it results in a perversion of the story that the original author finds downright offensive. This is a shame, and some authors go to great lengths to track it down and purge the internet of its presence. Others find it a compliment to their work.

Statement of bias: Personally, I am fine with stories set in the worlds I create, as long as the laws of the land are obeyed and consistent, and as long as the main story line and central characters I create are left out of it. Telling an author--not just me, any author--that you think your version of the main story is better when a few minor adjustments are made is, simply, an insult. Work can be based on a non-original idea, and a derivative can be really good or even better than the source, but something new must be brought to it. It is this that Fifty Shades fails at, and hard. Let the trial commence.

Wiki, you are the man. I'm a little teapot, short and stout, this is my judgment, just hear me out.

The crimes, and their degrees of guilt: Intent to imitate, 1st degree; borrowing of perfectly good ideas whilst not remaining true to their spirit, 2nd degree; hilariously poor descriptions plonked in the middle of sex scenes, 1st degree; poor, repeptitive sex scenes, 2nd degree; reckless failure to continue or properly handle side-plots, 3rd degree; and, finally, romanticising abuse, 1st degree.

The Prosecution: As stated previously, and by divers others, E.L. James borrowed her best ideas from the film Secretary, including the main character's physical appearance, her love interest's surname, the BDSM, and the Dominant blonde woman who ruins the male protagonist's life. Furthermore, James does so in a disreputable and awful fashion. Material was also stolen flagrantly from Twilight and its sequels; both crimes are committed and no credit is given. Also, she is guilty of some of the most hilariously awful mixed metaphors known to man, terrible plot structure, and using the term 'inner goddess' outside of a new age beauty manual. Defamation of the BDSM community and romanticising a number of unhealthy mental traits in an unacceptable manner are also serious issues.

The Defense:E.L. James' editor should have done something about this plot. Or, if something was done, more should have done. The story does differ from its sources enough to be on its own, and there are moments when it approaches insight and interesting sub-plotting. There is something underlying this, for all the poorly-implemented capitalist porn, that is interesting. (The capitalism porn stuff, incidentally, is eerily similar to some parody ideas I had about Twilight, which will be published in an upcoming blog.) Ultimately, there are moments when Christian Grey almost approaches a real, interesting character, mostly in the second book. It may not have been realised well, but there was a brief glimpse of something more lurking deep below the stupidity, and that is worth something.

Statement of the Judge:

Verdict: I'm going to have to agree with the majority of the intelligentsia and wits of the internet: this book series does, in fact, stink. It has moments of disgusting levels of anti-feminism, but the author does really try hard to make something worthwhile. She also published this as porn for herself, and was unapologetic about it. For all of its faults--and there are a lot--that deserves a little credit. Was it a good book? Not at all. Could it have been a good book? Perhaps; if it wasn't confined to imitation of the morally repugnant and hilariously awful Twilight series, or to poor and inaccurate imitation of a very fine and sweet film, Secretary. However, it was, and that--as well as blatant product placement and demonstration of disgusting levels of white privilege in mid-sex-scene--led to its ultimate downfall.

The Sentence: First of all, E.J. James needs to learn to write a coherent sentence, and when not to use fancy words from the automatic thesaurus function. I love words, and I love thesauri and idiosyncratic words. This was linguistic assault. Ten years hard writing labour and literary analysis of more than (gag) "Classic British novels" ought to do it. Shame on you, E.L.James, for profaning the names of Bronte, Hardy, and Austen. The books are sentenced to be read in the most hilarious fashion possible by Gilbert Gottfried, and to be mocked by the internet at will.


Thanks again for tuning into my phuquerie. There will be more--updates about my writing, more feminism and literary criticism, and probably some movies. There might even be some politics and science! Keep an eye on new releases by following on Twitter and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!