Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: Stephen Lawhead

CSSF Blog Tour

As regular visitors will have gathered by now, this month's CSFF Blog Tour is about Stephen Lawhead's latest book, Scarlet. You will probably also have gathered that this blogger is more interested in science fiction than fantasy or legend. So as a compromise, I'm going to review Lawhead's science fiction epic, Empyrion.

The story begins about 300 years into Earth's future, but quickly flings it's heroes even further into the future and a very long way from Earth, thanks to a convenient wormhole. Your main protagonist is the unlikely hero Orion Treet, who, despite his cool name, is a rather boring historian. He and three others are sent to check up on the first extra-solar colony, set up by the Cynetics Corporation five years earlier. Unbeknown to them, so long has passed on the Empyrion colony that a whole civilisation has risen and subsequently fallen into a violent, oppressive and generally unpleasant state, sealed off from the wider world in a crystal dome.

The peoples origin has faded into legend, Cynetics a kind of legend, a rarely spoken name. Religion - of the worst kind - has risen again, with the people worshipping an entity called Trabant. Apparently communist block automobiles have also faded into legend.

They later discover that as well as this dystopia, a second civilisation has risen on the planet: the apparent paradise of Fierra, and so, naturally, begins a battle between good and evil, as our heroes either get acquainted with the God of the Fieri, or lose their minds thanks to the paranoid leaders of Dome.

The worlds are all well imagined, and spiritual themes run throughout the book, from the two contrasting religious societies, to the spiritual journeys of Treet and Yarden, to the talking fish, communication with which seems a lot like prayer. (On which note, intelligent marine mammals bringing a message of impending doom.... rings a bell somehow.)

The second half - originally the second book, Siege of Dome, gets off to a slow start, especially following the action towards the end of book one. It is partly concerned with Yarden's spiritual awakening, and partly with what became of Crocker, another of the Earthlings, but honestly I got a bit bored and just wanted to see how Treet was getting on. Once things got going again it was ok, but the whole 900 page volume is just too long.

And there's a couple of things that didn't work for me because, well, they didn't appear to serve any useful purpose. Like Crocker - as far as I can tell he should have just gone away and stayed there. And what was the deal with the coccoons? OK, this is a spoiler, but like I said, has no impact on the plot. Our hereos, on their way to Fierra, pass through a sort of mist or cloud, and get a bit wet. Later they get sick, bust out in boils and such, and eventually become coccooned by their own secretions. (Eeww!) And later they break out of them again, feeling younger, fitter and prettier than before. This much I get; it's a wierd alien disease they've contracted, and it works on that level fine. It also works as a sort of paralell to baptism and rebirth. Clever. And making them fitter probably enables them to survive the journey. Fair enough. But what I don't get is this: nobody mentions it again once they've moved on. If it were me, the first thing I'd be asking when I met a Fieri is 'What is the deal with that cloud and the coccons?' But no, they just carry on as if it was perfectly normal to spend days or weeks encased in pus in the middle of a desert on an unknown planet. Eh?

Anyway, that aside, I mostly like Empyrion, although the second book did drag at times. It's good sci-fi with a bit of a fantasy feel, and lots of spiritual (Christian in all but name) threads. My recommendation would be to skip all the bits about Crocker and his cat, and shave a few pages off your total reading.

And if anyone knows how to pronounce 'Tvrdy', please let me know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes

CSSF Blog Tour

Or: 'The Post That Wrote Itself', because rather than leave me to come up with the Top Ten Scarlet songs (obscure album tracks by Bananarama and U2 are all that come to mind), a couple of chaps called Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning have put together a soundtrack CD for Scarlet, and a bunch of other Lawhead novels for that matter.

As you may know, I think soundtracks for novels are a pretty nifty idea. When they release the soundtracks for Empyrion and Dream Thief, I'll be sure to check them out.

Which rather scruffily leads us to the Sci-fi Song of the Week:

well, since I've already mentioned it once, here's another track from the classic Bananas LP True Confessions: Venus.

Monday, November 26, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: Scarlet

CSSF Blog Tour
This month the CSFF Blog Tour rolls round to Stephen Lawhead’s place, for a peek at his latest novel, Scarlet. Which is banned in my part of the world, because we all know Robin Hood was from the East Midlands and not Wales, and therefore I haven’t read the book.

Fortunately Mr Lawhead has also written a couple of science fiction novels in his time – the Empyrion duology, and Dream Thief, both of which I first read about a decade ago when Christian science fiction was a rare thing - not like now, when the shelves are awash with the stuff. Or at least, should be. Oh, and he co-authored City of Dreams with his son Ross, which looks an intriguing re-telling of the life of Jesus (set that in Wales – or Nottingham – and I’m in the queue!).

Anyway, Scarlet. Even at this early stage in the tour it looks like opinion may be divided over whether another Robin Hood story was a good idea. More reviews will be appearing over the next couple of days, so I guess we'll find out whether the actual books are any good: keep an eye on these bloggers:
Trish Anderson Brandon Barr Wayne Thomas Batson Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Amy Browning Jackie Castle Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Beth Goddard Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Kait Karen Dawn King Tina Kulesa Mike Lynch Margaret Karen McSpadden Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirtika or Mir's Here Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Lyn Perry Deena Peterson Rachelle Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Daniel I. Weaver Laura Williams Timothy Wise

For anyone still reading, and bothered how my writing expedition went this month, the wheels sort of fell off last week when Her Babyship got sick. Not badly, just enough to distract my attention from writing. I did get that short story finished, but it was very hurried to get it on time and within the word limits, so I don't expect any prizes. Which of course means I can revisit it in a couple of months - I'll probably trim it to its original size and post it somewhere (probably here) as a flash piece (depending on how short I think it should be and what you define as flash, of course...)

And another problem arose with the timeline of Project Seven, which looks increasingly like being set sometime after the London Olympics.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time Crash

I know there are people reading this that wouldn't have seen Children in Need last week but might like to know about the Doctor Who bonus scene.

I could waste your time by going on about how it sums up everything good about Doctor Who in one eight minute scene, but I think it would be better just to let you watch it for yourselves if you haven't already done so.

As far as I can tell the beeb uploaded it with embedding disabled, so I'm going to do the decent thing and just give you the link.

Oh, and say that if you like it, give some cash to Pudsey or one of his colonial pals. ;)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Phursday Photos: Brrrrr!

It's our first frosty morning of the winter, and, having the day off work, I thought I'd wander around the garden with a camera for a few minutes. It's not a very big garden though, so all I came back with was this:

But that inspired me to post these, taken on the road up to the Basilica di Superga, which overlooks Turin, way back in February 2005.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Writing, Competitions, and Absent Titles

So yesterday wasn't a particularly productive day, wordcount-wise, although I did manage to scribble a couple of sentences when inspiration struck about the next chapter of the novel. I'll keep that turning over in my mind for a few days now as I need to get that short story finished and mailed off in the next week or so to meet the contest deadline.

Which seems a good point at which to throw in some linky goodness, if only for my own later perusal:

Creative Writing Contests - does exactly what it says on the tin: a whole bunch of poetry, fiction and non-fiction contests and calls for submissions in a handy blog-shaped format. They all seem to be from the US, which is not a whole bunch of use to me, but I subscribed to the feed so I don't miss anything too yummy.

Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau has a whole list of UK writing competitions, as well as all kinds of other useful stuff.

What I definitely will be doing next year is entering a few more of the Writers' News and Writing Magazine competitions. I've done a couple in the past, without any success, but you know what they say about practice...

And of course, once I've had lots of practice and can do a good short sf story...

But first I need to finish the one I'm working on. Which still doesn't have a title.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Writing update #2

Well, it looks like even without the help of NaNoWriMo, this blog is becoming a somewhat thinly populated blog about writing. Maybe I'll actually write something about writing next time, rather than just copping out like I am.

Still, the writing is coming along: the novel wordcount is at around 1770; if I can keep that pace up I'll easily have enough words to make a novel in 12 months time. Whether they fit together in any coherent way is an entirely different matter of course...

I have, however, hit a slight stumbling block. A passage that actually works quite well in itself simply does not work, chronologically speaking. I tried a little bit of research with a view to rewriting it later; alternatively, I could just set the novel ten years or so into the future, which may render some bits I have yet to write more difficult, but at least I could kid myself I was writing sci-fi after all...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing so far this month

So here's my first progress report for those interested (but mainly to keep me honest in my daily writing intentions).

So far I've managed to find somewhere between 20 & 40 minutes every day to do a bit of fiction. I've got a short story project up to about 960 words, which I need to get up to at least 1500 to qualify for the contest I am writing it for. I think another rewrite, a bit more showing not telling, should get me somewhere near the mark without padding.

Didn't get any long stints over the weekend, but spent some time pulling a few ideas together and scribbling notes for Project Seven. I've decided it would be nice to get a first draft of P7 finished in the next 12 months, and maybe participate in NaNo next time round.

Unlikely, but nice.

Total wordage for the month runs to about 2000 so far on the two projects. Which isn't a bad start really.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spooky coincidence

Last night I was being industrious, and getting some long overdue web updates started elsewhere in my virtual empire.

I was uploading these photos, and decided I should try and find a suitable link to serve as a reminder of what the X-Files movie was all about and what it had to do with Minis.

But I couldn't track down the official movie web page because of all the chatter about the sequel. Well, let's hope that drags some more custom round my little corner of the webbiverse, eh?

I haven't seen the X-Files in a long time. I kind of lost interest in that last season, the one without Mulder, and I think it went on a bit too long. Surely Mulder finding his sister, and Scully becoming the believer, keeping the X-files going with a sceptical partner, surely that was the end?

I dare say I'll go see it, or if Her Babyship doesn't allow, watch it on DVD. Who knows, maybe it will even have the desired effect and send me scurrying out to amazon to get the TV series on DVD...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Phursday Photos: Tintern Abbey

If there's not a ruined castle nearby, an Abbey that Henry VIII got his hands on will do. This one is in the Welsh borderlands.Don't you love that archy goodness?