Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: More Marcher Lords

CSSF Blog Tour

The other day I mentioned that nothing in the launch catalogue from Marcher Lord Press made me want to rush an order in. So, in the spirit of constructive criticism, I thought I should lend a few ideas about what I would rush to buy. Such as:
  1. A sort of cyberpunk allegory (if cyberpunk isn't too 1990s for the Christian market) - like a Christian novel version of Tron or The Matrix.
  2. An epic time travel story, reaching from the 21st Century to Christ's life on Earth, and rescuing Him from crucifixion...
  3. A futuristic Jekyll and Hyde, where our hero meets his Doppelganger - a man with the same character flaws and weaknesses, but instead of choosing to resist the temptations they led to, chose the easy route and embraced his dark side. What happens when the two meet?
  4. An urban fantasy in which our protagonist encounters a man with the ability to remove the darkness of his past. Presumably this man would, effectively, have lived through the darkest chapters of our hero's life, and be left with the emotional baggage that followed. In taking on the ills of the world, is he a kind of Christ-figure, or is he just removing the negative so that the positive results also disappear? For in deleting that one mistake, that one bad decision, our hero loses all the good that cam from it: all that he learnt, the ways he became a stronger person, the people he helped when they found themselves in the same situation.
  5. A near future dystopian Earth, where the cult of celebrity and an increasingly hedonistic populace bestows power and influence on porn stars, and a lonely Christian voice rails against an increasingly powerful adult industry.
  6. A classic science fiction tale, based on the raw and gritty stuff in the Old Testament, putting them in a sci-fi setting so the essential truths can be more easily grasped by a sci-fi reader. Sort of an Old Testament Space Opera, if you will...
By a staggering coincidence, I have stories along the lines of the above in various states of (in)completion, so if Jeff (or anyone else) has any thoughts about which I should finish first, well, you know where the comment button is. ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: The Marcher Lords Press on

CSSF Blog Tour

This week your favourite Blog Tour and mine will be rolling round to Jeff Gerke's place, Marcher Lord Press. In 13th Century England there was no more noble calling than to be a Marcher Lord, defending England's borders against the Welsh.

Of course, things have moved on a bit since then, and nowadays Marcher Lords are out on the borderlands of fiction, setting up an outpost for Christian speculative fiction. Or, as Jeff Gerke puts it, 'weird' Christian fiction. Now that, as you might imagine, is an idea I can relate to.

And if you like the sound of that too, wander over to the site, where you can sign up for updates and the chance to win special launch day prizes. (Don't forget to tell them I sent you!)
There's also two bonus download books that you can get for nowt if you order something on October 1st. Hooray!

Monday, September 22, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Marcher Lord Press

CSSF Blog Tour

This week your favourite Blog Tour and mine will be rolling round to Jeff Gerke's place, Marcher Lord Press. We've visited him before, way back when, to see his other place, Where The Map Ends. But now, all the excitement is at MLP which is about to launch its first books on October 1st.

So what can we expect on this great and hopefully enlightening day?

Well, there's Hero, Second Class, which at a (admittedly brief) glance at the first chapter, would appear to be a comic fantasy of sorts. Not normally my thing, with the notable exception of good Pratchett. Maybe I'll come back to the sample chapter later.

Then there's Summa Elvetica, about a sort of Catholic Church-esque establishment in a classical elf and troll infested fantasy world. Those sort of worlds make my head hurt.

Fighting sci-fi's corner is The Personifid Invasion, sequel to The Personifid Project, which I didn't like as much as I wanted to.

Oh dear. I'd have to say I'm a little bit disappointed there then. But - let's look on the bright side here - just because there's nothing I would rush straight out and order on the launch list, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop watching MLP. I like the spread of sub-genres on the launch list (which is obviously the idea!) and it gives me cause to think that there will probably be something for me coming soon.

Weird Christian fiction. We love it. And so to these bloggers:

Brandon Barr Justin Boyer Keanan Brand Kathy Brasby Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Karri Compton Courtney CSFF Blog Tour Stacey Dale D. G. D. Davidson Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Karina Fabian Kameron M. Franklin Andrea Graham Todd Michael Greene Katie Hart Timothy Hicks Joleen Howell Jason Joyner Kait Tina Kulesa Mike Lynch Terri Main Margaret Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa John W. Otte Steve Rice Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Mirtika or Mir's Here Greg Slade James Somers Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Tunes: Reasons to Be Cheerful

Because this is a family show, I am obliged to start Tuseday Tunes this week with a Parental Advisory for naughty words. If that sort of thing offends you, you probably shouldn’t read this post, and on no account should you listen to Reasons to Be Cheerful: the Best of Ian Dury.

With that done, this week I would like to recommend Reasons to be Cheerful, double CD of highlights from the career of urban poet Ian Dury. I dare say there’s nothing here that diehard fans won’t already have at least once, but I’m not a diehard fan. I was merely aware of some glaring ommisions in my music collection – primarily Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and (of course) Reasons To Be Cheerful – and this collection was a handy and inexpensive way to fill those gaps and acquaint myself with the rest of Mr Dury’s work.

So apart from those big hits I mentioned, essential tracks include What a Waste, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Clever Trevor, and the theme song from the 80s TV show of Adrian Mole. And for your money you also get a few tracks from Dury’s early career with Kilburn & the High Roads, plus a couple recorded as the Music Students and a whole lot more.

Including the track There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards, which sprung to mind as I wrote my previous post as it contains the lines:

Einstein can't be classed as witless;
He claimed atoms were the littlest.
When you did a bit of splitting-em-ness
Frighten everybody shitless.

There ain't half been some clever bastards.
Probably got help from their mum (who had help from her mum).

If you can live with the swear words (and there's one track on the album I always skip because of them), for five of your Earth Pounds this is well worth investing in if you don't already have the well known Dury songs on your iPod.

There ain’t half been some clever bastards. Ian Dury was undoubtedly one of them.

Sci-fi Song of the Week

Yes, there is a sci-fi related Ian Dury song; and no, it doesn't have any rude bits in it. It hasn't made it onto the mixtape yet, but hopefully I'll sort that out soon. In the meantime, track down, if you can, Superman's Big Sister by Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So, is everyone still here then?

Well, based on the evidence currently available, it would appear that booting up the Large Hadron Collider (I wonder how long it took to come up with that name?) has so far failed to bring about the end of the universe, or even planet Earth. That must have been an almighty anti-climax to all the doomsday merchants. (Although, if anybody has experienced any space-time anomalies, or been eaten by a micro-black hole, please do leave a comment.)

In the near future the Big Bang machine will try to recreate the moment after the creation of the universe, and hence discover exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here. Presumably that means they will create a whole new universe (or something even more bizarrely inexplicable) somewhere under the Alps.

Part of that, apparently, involves finding the hypothetical Higgs bosun, the particle responsible for supervising other particles of the universe’s deck crew. If we’re really lucky, they won’t find it, and having proven the non-existence of God-particles will have to recalibrate the whole of particle physics.

If we’re really really lucky, in between discovering the nature of dark matter, and opening the gate to parallel universes, they will also discover all manner of higher dimensions, such as those in which angels and demons operate. Imagine having to rewrite the whole of physics to take into account the fact that you just proved the existence of God.

So, potentially lots of exciting ground for us sci-fi writers to tread there, provided, of course the men in white coats don’t make too many startling discoveries too soon…

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Tunes: Queenadreena

I lost touch with the new music scene quite a while ago. It didn't phone, didn't answer my e-mails...

And so I remained largely oblivious to the existence of QueenAdreena until quite recently.

Which is a shame, because from the speaker-ruining opening chords of Love Your Money, up until KatieJane Garside left and they became a bit pants, I was completely hooked on Daisy Chainsaw.

So as soon as I discovered that KJ had hooked up with Chainsaw axeman Crispin Gray again and formed QueenAdreena, I had to check them out. And their debut album from way back in 2000, Taxidermy, did not disappoint. In fact, once I get it in my head that I need to listen to some demented goth punk, it tends to stay on my CD player for days. It's that good.

Most of the tracks are more melodic than Daisy Chainsaw - almost as if KatieJane learnt to sing in the intervening years ;) - but still the vocals goes from innocent and girly to mad shouty harridan from one track to the next. There seems to be a lot more variety to the material, too; Eleventeen kind of blended into one big loud noise (yeah, and me, a fan!) at times, but on Taxidermy, all the songs are different.

So, stand out tracks? Well, most of the CD is pretty darn good, but opener Cold Fish (if only for the line 'splish, splish, splish'. Genius!); Yesterday's Hymn at the mellow end of the spectrum; and Friday's Child for a good old fashioned punk rock thrash.
The reason I mention this all now, is that KatieJane just released a much more mellow sounding album under the name of Ruby Throat, which, if I can track down a copy any time, I might review later.

In the meantime, if you haven't heard Love Your Money, go and listen to it. Truly a classic of our time; even QueenAdreena don't make 'em like that any more.

Sci-fi Song of the Week
A slightly random choice this week: Metal Mickey by Suede. Apart from the title, it has nothing at all to do with science fiction, but was, allegedly, written about KatieJane. Never let it be said that I would let such a tenuous link go unnoticed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Election Day

So since the blog wandered accidentally into dystopian territories, I’ve been kind of pondering how I would write Election Day as a Christian dystopia. Where would I let my little five point recipe from a couple of posts back take me?

Well, I could go with the Christian fundamentalists, corrupted by power, as we saw in Broken Angel on the blog tour. But I think I would rather go the other way: religion repressed, the State becoming an all-powerful, self-serving ultra-secular organisation. Technology, consumerism or any number of worldly 'gods' could easily take the place of God, depending on the upheaval that led to the shift in power and the decline of religion.

The religiously-inclined (assuming, for the sake of a story, that some small numbers still exist) would quickly find themselves an under-class, abused, imprisoned, or hiding out in secret churches. (You see, even now, it’s hard to conceive these things without thinking ‘holocaust’.)

I think we would all agree that outlawing sex in an Orwellian way would render any story too far beyond belief for any useful purpose. I think the approach of Southland Tales – the cult of celebrity bestowing power and influence on a former porn star – is a more realistic extrapolation from 2008, so I would probably explore that more. I like the idea of a lonely voice railing against an increasingly powerful porn industry.

Yes, I think I may have just added something to my WIPlist...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Creating the perfect dystopia (part 2)

  1. Create Utopia.
  2. Put people in charge.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Phursday Photos: Scottish scenes

So I spent last week in the Scottish lowlands, where I discovered the relative nature of terms such as 'wet', and 'sunny'. I also learnt that you can't play I-spy with a two year old, even an intelligent one on the verge of three. There are only so many guesses you can make when posed: 'I spy with my little eye, something geninning with... lamp-post!'

And, thanks to the marvels of digital photography, I took rather a lot of photos, only a select few of which I will bore the internet with in the near future...
Dramatic skies over Loch Ken

A full rainbow from Sweetheart Abbey

Windswept coast at Sandyhills

Dead tree near Threave Castle

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Creating the perfect dystopia

By most definitions, dystopian fiction has been around about as long as science fiction; certainly there are elements of dystopia in HG Wells’ world of Morlocks and Eloi. The grandaddy of dystopia will probably always be recognised as Nineteen Eighty-Four, but several common dystopian themes – genetic engineering, indoctrination, the loss of individuality, and the World State – appeared in Brave New World some years earlier.

Dystopia come in two basic flavours: corrupted pseudo-utopia; and downright nasty-and-proud-of-it totalitarian regime. Both types, and their many variations, typically share a number of traits.

1. The police state - World State, The Party, or whatever you want to call it. A more recent alternative (Snow Crash) is to have global corporations rather than governments in control.
2. A class system gone mad. The powerful get ever more powerful and corrupt, everyone else gets an increasingly raw deal. Genetic engineering often plays some role in this.
3. Sex. Sex is either banned (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or removed from the act of procreation and encouraged as recreation from childhood (Brave New World). The theory is that strong emotional bonds distract from loyalty to the State.
4. Religion – or specifically, lack thereof, because it also diminishes loyalty to the Party.
5. Global upheaval. Somewhere in the back story of your dystopia there lurks some war, revolution or ecological or other disaster which somehow facilitated the shift in power.

The thing about dystopian fiction is that it seems increasingly close to reality. Some time in the late 20th century the western world became Orwellian enough to necessitate the word ‘Orwellian’. Big Brother – even before being hijacked by Endemol – became a universally recognised term for the ‘surveillance society’ we now live in.

A case in point: I mentioned in passing last week that I have an unstarted story idea – more of a setting I suppose – based on the idea of an election in a totalitarian state. The idea had been on my notepad for some years before events in Zimbabwe this year rendered the whole idea factual.

Well that's a few thoughts on dystopia then. Next time I'll try and wrangle with fitting Christianity into a dystopian story.