Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sci-fi Song of the Week

Hmmmm let's see, we need a sci-fi song for the week before Christmas. I wonder if we could possibly find something suitable, possibly involving Fountains of Wayne....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spam and muppets

I always knew this. That's why I wrote Countless as the Stars. But now the nice science & sci-fi gurus at io9.com have said it too, so it's about as official as it's going to get (probably):

Adding 'in space' to anything makes it better!

A case in point:

So there you go. Um, not to say that Countless as the Stars is actually better than the original... oh dear, ever wish you'd never started down a train of thought?

Still, there's time to get part one of The Bible: In Space (at least, if you live in the UK) before Christmas and make up your own minds ;)

It makes a great gift too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sci-fi Song of the Week

Let's see, we need a sci-fi related song - I'm feeling a little space-y this week - for two weeks before Christmas. I feel sure thing exists - perhaps in Japan...?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: Corus the Champion

So today concludes the blog tour for Corus the Champion by D Barkley Briggs, a book I haven't read, but don't take that as a bad thing as my opinion of fantasy novels is rarely a good indication of how good they are.

I have, however, read some of the blogs on the tour, and there's a lot of people saying a lot of nice things about it. Here are just a few posts that may be of interest:
Shannon McDermott digs into the religion in the story;
Bruce Hennigan compares it to Tolkien, no less;
John Otte gives us a writing prompt (sorry, I don't think I'll be taking that one up); and
Mharvi points us in the direction of a rather large blooper.

You should also check out the author's website, and his blog, and then all the rest of the tour participants listed at the foot of yesterday's post.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: The Chorus of Champions

You see what I did there? It's the blog tour for Corus the Champion, see, and it's Tuesday, which means tunes, so... Anyway, here's the Top Ten Champion Choons.

10. Top Cat: Champion Deejay
One of Hanna-Barbera's more enduring hip-hop artists, despite initially having to change his name to Boss Cat in the UK for copyright reasons.

9. The Low Anthem: Champion Angel
You know, now I come to think about it, I'm not actually sure Hanna-Barbera even had a record label.

8. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: Champion
I can say with reasonable certainty that no Top Ten has yet had 3 and a half minutes of, well, brass, but who knows, we could be setting a precedent.

7. Hammerfall: The Champion
Because you gotta love Swedish rock music. Unfortunately this track is about a minute and a half longer than strictly necessary.

6. The Polyphonic Spree: The Championship
Continuing the quest for eclecticism, have some choral symphonic pop rock. At least, that's what the interweb calls it, but I'm sure it was wrong about that Top Cat thing.

5. The Chevin: Champion
There's something a bit U2 about this track, at least if you cover your ears and squint.

4. Reverend and the Makers: Heavyweight Champion of the World
And he's probably not even a real vicar, just some bloke from Sheffield, whatever the interweb tells you.

3. Fatboy Slim: Champion Sound
The bloke doing the vocals on this is Lateef the Truthseeker. I wonder if he knows Top Cat?

2. Wire: Champs
That's more like it: good old fashioned British punk rock. It might be less than two minutes long, but at least you know where you stand.

1. Jonathan Coulton: We Are The Champions
Well if the interweb is to be believed, this was really written by some bloke called Freddie Mercury, but we all know how reliable that is, so here's the original version by the original geek-rocker.

Spotify the Top Ten now - you know it makes sense.

And don't forget that all this jolliness is part of the CSFF Blog Tour for Corus the Champion by D Barkley Briggs, which continues this way:
Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap Emmalyn Edwards April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen John Otte Donita K Paul Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Sci-fi Song of the Week

Because he finished our Top Ten, and because it just ain't Christmas 'til you've heard Chiron Beta Prime.

Monday, December 05, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: Corus the Champion by D Barkley Briggs

As a way of easing myself back into the world of blogging after an intense month of novelling, and prior to easing myself backout of it again for Christmas, there is a conveniently timed CSFF Blog Tour, for, as the more astute reader will have realised, Corus the Champion, by D Barkley Briggs.

Corus the Champion is the second title in the Legends of Karac Tor series, which Briggs wrote as a tale his four sons could relate to as they dealt with the loss of their mother. The Legends of Karac Tor tells the tale of four brothers who, 'while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.'

I've made this point before, when the tour happened upon the first book in the series, but I'll make it again because it's a good point (and also I haven't done the homework). The point that strikes me about that is how the author used his talent to help his kids, and by extension, others in the same situation - thus bringing something good out of a bad situation.

We writerly types are always encouraged to write about what we know, and as I've taken a look back over the editorial notes I've been carefully excising from my NaNo script, I'm seeing ways I can use my own bad situations to add depth to that story (as I tried to last year, with the first draft of Project Seven, which will likely never be revived). Writing for me is sometimes a therapeutic attempt to work through my own dark side, and if at the same time I can help someone else out of the same situation - or stop someone getting into it - then it helps me make sense of it.

And, just maybe, it will show that even writers of fantasy novels can make a difference.

And now it's your turn, make a difference to these lovely people by stopping off at their blogs:
Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap Emmalyn Edwards April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Friday, December 02, 2011


Yes, it's that time of year when thousands of word weary novelists emerge blinking into the cold harsh light of reality, sleep deprived but with another first draft under their belts.

And, yes, as you will have gathered, I made it to the required 50,000 words (50,591 in 29 days, for the record), but I'm not sure the novel is finished. I write the final chapter - sort of - but most of the preceding chapters need a lot of doctoring to properly lead up to that point and tell the story I want to tell.

It is, it has to be said, a mess at the moment. The original concept got a little bent out of shape in the process of being written, and a lot of the earlier chapters need to be completely re-written or just dumped entirely; and there are a lot of editorial notes and so on that need to be extracted and turned into fiction somehow, so the whole thing is still a very long way from finished.

This has been, I think, the first time I have attempted to write something of this length without more than a vague idea where it was going, hence the quantity of about turns and footnotes, but despite all that, it shaped up, over the course of the month, to be something I actually like. It changed a little from the original urban fantasy feel when my protagonist finally revealed his back story to me during a 1000 word sprint on my penultimate night of novelling, but starting out with that element of weirdness in it allowed me to get the story down, and I'm fairly confident that with a little work this can be something worthwhile.

Now all that remains is to unlock my inner editor, and set about the second draft...

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As of the now, I am officially ahead of target. By 8 words, but this month, every word counts. And it's the first time since Day Five that I have been ahead of the game, so all in all the last few days have gone well. Sort of.

The plot is starting to come together. It's got exciting action, some interesting plot twists, a completely unnecessary zombie apocalypse, psychic vampires, and two female characters I keep interchanging with each other at random. Ok, I admit it, it's a mess. I had to retcon most of the plot yesterday when I started to work out what was going on, and since then chapters have been springing up in the middle of the manuscript with only a vague idea of where they belong. And there are two action-y sub-plots, and the one that ends at the end of the novel has far less climactic potential than the one that ends on the way to the first one...

Oh yes, and one of my characters has served no real purpose in the story yet. That's a whole mess of sub-plot to be woven in once I've extracted two of the prologues and got the main story timeline sorted (I'm fairly sure someone was wearing a bikini in October). But that's all part of the fun. All I have to do now is stay above the line for a few more days....

Thursday, November 17, 2011


By some miracle, I managed to start week three on exactly 20,000 words - that's just a day behind - and having written at least something every day of the month. This is good. My pace has slowed a little over the last few days, but things are starting to fall into place. Setting off with only a nebulous concept of what I was hoping to do and say with the story has certainly presented its problems, but just charging onwards and letting the characters - and any momentary whim that takes the author - dictate what happens has, in a round about way, brought many weird and wacky plot threads into the story and forced them to play nicely.

As a result, my NaNoWriMo project is currently 23,493 words of jumbled plot threads, editorial notes and redundant scenes, interspersed with the occasional spark of potential.

Now, and only now, I am starting to get some idea of what this story looks like. My inner editor is craving to go back and re-write some of the earlier sections so that they fit the 'big picture' that I can see now. Most of my characters don't have names yet; many don't even exist, it's as if my world has a population of about 6 people at the moment. More bit-part characters are needed!

Most worryingly, however, is that at the current pace the story will be reaching its climax somewhere around half way to the magic 50,000. But thus far I've concentrated on the story of one of my main characters; I know there is at least one more side of the story to tell - and then the various side plots and tangents that may bring up to be followed, so success is still in sight.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why I do NaNo

It is, I imagine, a popular and important question at around this time of the year. It certainly is here; I've already found myself sleep-typing on two separate occasions already this month, and now I'm compounding the problem by trying to blog at the same time.
(Actually it's just an excuse to point out the shiny new widget that should now be adorning the sidebar.)
Anyway... Yes, it's insane. Yes, 90% of what I've written is rubbish. Yes, I'm sleep deprived, and the house is cleaning deprived. So why do I do it?

  • Well it's fun. The camaraderie. The fact that you can ask 10,000 other NaNites how to spell camaraderie. (I've written 3,007 words today, I've lost the will to spell.) The fact that, somewhere on the NaNoWriMo website, all of human life is represented. The fact that some questions get answered in the forums and then the asker refuses to believe the answer on the basis that it does not tally with their experience. The fact that said question did, ultimately, restore my faith in the moral sensibleness of at least some young people in this country. Hurrah!
  • I'm a deadline junky. The only way I will ever finish a first draft of something approaching novel length is to do it in November.
  • In a very practical, writerly way, I do find that plunging straight into a novel NaNo-style is a quick and easy way to see if the idea has legs. For instance, I tried a novel for Camp NaNoWriMo earlier in the year, quickly found it wasn't going to go anywhere as I had envisaged it, and gave up. November I take more seriously and try not to give up like that; but this month I got to about 8,500 words of crap before working out vaguely where the story should be going, and it seems to be picking up now.
  • Peer pressure. It does seem to work: this evening an hour of word wars boosted my word count by the required 1667 (and then some) and left me with a messy jumble of plot twists and potential new directions to let my characters (most of whom don't have proper names yet) explore in later chapters.

NaNoWriMo is certainly not for everyone, and it is completely insane, but I've found a way to make it work for me. I think it's going to be an annual event for some time yet...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bring on November...

So it's almost November... time to think about a plot, right?

The public vote was inconclusive, and left me to ponder four options:
  1. An Old Testament Space Opera. Nice to see my very own sub-sub-genre make a last minute surge through the field, but ultimately, although it's the most ready-to-roll of the four outlines, I'm not finished with the last one yet, so I'll hold off for another year before starting another.
  2. A Comic Fantasy. A sequel to DragonQuest is very much ready to tumble out of my mind, but I decided to leave this for outside NaNo, when fun writing projects like this can help keep my writing muscles going without the crazed NaNo momentum.
  3. A Timey-wimey story with Jesus in it. Another last minute attacker, but unfortunately it needed too much planning, so this is also left on the back-burner.
  4. An Urban Fantasy (with shades of Angel). Yep, I'm going to write a fantasy novel! Well, more a supernatural thriller, I suspect. It's going to be almost 100% winging it this time - here's what I have to go on so far:
Dark Empathy
Mordikai Stone is a man with an unusual talent. Able to experience complete empathy with anyone he touches, and more than that, take the pain and suffering of others on himself. Armed only with his constantly shifting perception of the world, he sets about a self-appointed mission to cure anguish and suffering wherever he finds it. But a chance meeting with a woman he once helped brings Mordikai to a shocking realisation: his attempts to help may be causing more harm than good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead

Just time today for me to point you at a few highlights from the tour...

It seems that a recurring theme has been that of how 'Christian' The Bone House is - you know, being from a Christian publisher and all. Thomas Clayton Booher is on the 'make Christian novels Christian' camp; Becky Miller puts the case that religion is growing in importance in the Bright Empires series.

Noah Arsenault Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse CSFF Blog Tour Jeff Chapman Carol Bruce Collett Karri Compton D. G. D. Davidson Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Victor Gentile Tori Greene Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Janeen Ippolito Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Katie McCurdy Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes

It seems like a while since I've done this, so without any further ado, let us celebrate the CSFF Blog Tour for The Bone House with.... the Top Ten Bone songs:

10. Guns n' Roses: Dust n' Bones
And we start with some classic 80s hard rock - contains a swear near the end. (Those naughty rockers eh?)

9. The White Stripes: Bone Broke
A nice loud blues rock number by Jack White and his, er, female relative of some sort.

8. The Raconteurs: Store Bought Bones
A nice loud alt rock number by Jack White and a few musician pals.

7. Elbow: The Bones of You
They should have renamed themselves 'Funny Bone' just for today, in a vague attempt to be humerus...

6. Radiohead: Bones
For some reason, bone themed songs seem to be more popular in the indie/rock genres than elsewhere. So here's some from somewhere near Kit Livingston's home town. Probably.

5. Brian Eno: Bone Jump
Electronic offerings are thin on the ground this week, but here's a practically non-existent ambient piece from the master of the art.

4. Alice in Chains: Them Bones
Heavy metal meets grunge - turn it up to eleven!

3. George Thorogood & The Destroyers: Bad to the Bone
Theme tune to the movie 'Christine'. I had a car called Christine once. Evil it was. And a Mini.

2. The Dead Weather: Bone House
Well, it had to be didn't it? And, hang on, isn't that Jack White again?

1. The Kinks: Skin and Bone
A warning against extreme dieting, in Ray Davies' inimitable style:
She don't eat no mashed potatoes, She don't eat no buttered scones Stay away from carbohydrates You're gonna look like skin and bone.

Almost forgot, which would be a shame now Spotify has reached the colonies: The Playlist!

Don't forget to visit the rest of the CSFF Blog Tour (full list yesterday) as they look at The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead.

Sci-fi song of the week

It was in the Top Ten Bone songs; it was also in Terminator 2 (I need your coat, your bike, and your underpants, that bit). It's George Thorogood and the Destroyers....

Monday, October 24, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received an ebook copy of The Bone House courtesy of the publisher.

Independently of the CSFF Blog Tour, my laptop chucked a hissy fit and banished said ebook to the more inaccessible reaches of cyberspace, and refused to allow me a re-download in time to read it for the tour.

And so it has transpired that if you want to read my review of the book as part of the official tour, you will have to jump a handy ley-line and try to hit the seventh sphinx on the left. Which, it has to be said, is kind of a shame, because the first volume in the Bright Empires saga, The Skin Map, was actually rather good, and the sequel - at least as much of it as the technology would allow me to read - seemed to be following in the same vein.

The Bone House continues the story of Kit Livingston, following his (at the time) inexplicable rescue from the depths of a pyramid somewhere by his once-useless girlfriend, Mina, who unbeknown to Kit, became a dimension-hopping Lara Croft at some point. That is not a plot-hole, mind; this is a time travel story, and that Mina's transformation from drippy girlfriend to Prague coffee entrepreneur to time travelling heroine is initially unexplained serves only to reinforce the reader's empathy for the bemused Kit, who thought the quest was his to complete.

On his website, Lawhead describes the Bright Empires series as his most ambitious work to date; given the variety of locations, time periods and POV characters the one and a bit books I've read so far cover, I can well believe that. There is certainly a lot going on; sometimes I get bogged down trying to keep track of all the threads and characters in a sweeping epic like this, but so far I think Bright Empires is striking a nice balance for my taste (and attention span).

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the whole timey-wimey nature of the story is just my cup of tea to start with, but suffice to say, I will be leaving The Bone House on my Christmas list (yes, I'm old skool. No kindle here). And I will review it properly, at some point in the future; don't wait for that though, take a nose round the rest of the tour, then get yourself a copy (I recommend the ley-line friendly hardback edition).

Other linky goodness: 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Some NaNoWriMo prep thoughts

It is an important and popular fact that the author of this blog does not do fantasy. I have no frame of reference for orcs and hobbits like I do for spaceships and time travel.

Which of course is why the most popular choices on the 'What the public wants me to write for NaNo' poll are labelled 'urban fantasy' and 'comic fantasy'. Admittedly the comic fantasy option - a sequel to 2009's DragonQuest - owes more to cyberpunk than it does to Lord of the Rings, but still, I think the world is out to get me. As it happens though, those are currently my two favoured options as far as having the story planned out go; none of the shortlist are much more than ideas, but those two are more fully-formed ideas, ready to be built on in the last few days of October.

At the same time, I'm keeping a wary eye on the wildcard option - the 'grab stuff other NaNites didn't want and run with it' option. That could be a lot of fun, especially if I can find a plot I like and mash it up with fairies and aliens, but on the other hand, do I want to spend 30 days writing somebody else's idea at the expense of eight of my own? Well, maybe I do. The reason I do NaNo is to recharge my writing batteries, get back in the mood for novelling, remind myself what great ideas I have on my WIPlist still wanting to be written. Maybe, having got the bug back, knowing I have at least two ideas ready to be worked on and at least half a dozen more to keep thinking about, I'll keep writing more consistently over the next eleven months.

Plus, I just read about the Egyptian mummies buried under our McDonalds.... surely that has to be a story!?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Right Here In This Room by Steve Leach

You may not be aware of Steve Leach; he's a DJ from Bournemouth, and his speciality, according to the CD cover, is 'big bass lines, beats and general noisiness, allowing powerful messages to be emphasised musically'. So what we have here is, essentially, a selection of talks by well-known Christian speakers, sampled and remixed over the aforementioned big beats and synth-heavy noisiness.

Right Here In This Room starts out with the fairly low-key 'Free For All', and picks up pace until 'Dry Bones' - Steve Chalke reading from Ezekiel - where the music gets a little more interesting, very much in keeping with the theme of the talk.

Part-way through we get to take a breather with the message-lite, melodic and laid back ‘Do You Remember’, before we're thrown into Cris Rogers' much more excitable, upbeat, talk based from the persepctive of Simon Peter, encouraged to start a revolution by Louie Giglio, and then my current favourite driving track, 'v4'. Verse 4 of what, I still haven't managed to figure out, but it's loud, full of bass and a stirring message: 'What are you gonna pray for? What are you gonna step out of this place to fight for?'

It is the messages that really make this CD. We have Matt Redman telling us that 'He's a good God to have around' (The Way Through), and on 'More?' Louie Giglio's ironic take on asking for God's blessings: 'You don’t even know what to do with what you have!'
If I'm completely honest, Steve Leach is no Fatboy Slim; but obviously you would have heard of him if he was. But in the liner notes he says 'I wanted to lead worship that connected more with the real world in which I live, rather than the Christian bubble in which I spent each Sunday morning plus maybe a week in the summer'. And as someone who would rather spend Sunday morning on a back-lane blast to and from a car show with some bass-heavy beats pumping out of the Mini than singing in church, I'd have to say he connects with my world pretty well too.

Scifi Song of the Week

On a similar electronic tip, but a bit more old skool: it's The Prodigy, taking our brains to another dimension...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Review: Afterlife - The Resurrection Chronicles by Merrie DeStefano

Afterlife is a bit of a schizophrenic book. The cover is all neo-Twilight urban fantasy, but the premise is definitely more psuedo-science than traditional fantasy. To explain: Afterlife is set in New Orleans some time in the future, where science has found a way to instantly transport your dead soul into a cloned body. Up to nine times, which seems somewhat arbitrary, and the whole resurrection process was never really explained to my satisfaction (probably should have left it in the realms of urban fantasy, I think). Cue a philosophical sci-fi thriller dealing with cloning, immortality and religious faith (yes, there are nominally Christian characters in there, puzzling these things over). From the blurb:
Chaz Dominguez is a professional Babysitter in New Orleans, helping to integrate the recently deceased into their new and improved lives. Though Fresh Start has always been the only game in town, resurrection isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nine lives are all a person can get—and a powerful group of desperate, high-level Nine-Timers will stop at nothing to possess the keys to true immortality. Now the only hope for Chaz and his family—and the human race—lies in the secrets locked away in the mind of Angelique, the beautiful, mysterious Newbie he must protect . . .
Afterlife presents (insufficient science notwithstanding) an interesting premise, an undoubtedly interesting world, and what should have been an interesting and action-filled plot, but then, at times I just didn't get it. The multiple POV characters I can cope with, for instance, unless you make one of them a dog. And I'm not sure where the 'Resurrection Chronicles' thing comes from, as it was all wrapped up mighty neatly at the end of this book!

So much for the quibbles though; is it any good? Well, it's actually not bad, unless you were expecting Twilight, in which case you'll likely be baffled by all the science-fictiony stuff that sneaks in. If you ignore the cover and take my word for it that this is actually a dystopian story in which the 'ideal' world, where near immortality is available to all, has gone horribly, terribly wrong, then you might get a kick out of it.

A Christian sci-fi/fantasy reader looking for something thought-provoking but non-threatening to recommend to a friend might find the subjects of immortality, faith and science gone bad as covered in this story will provide good copnversation starters. Afterlife is definitely something different; I'm still not quite sure what it is, but it's different, and that's got to be worth something.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The NaNoWriMo auditions

The middle of October is, without a doubt, the stupidest time to reboot a blog after two months, especially for someone planning to put some pretty intense novel-writing time in in the not too distant future. (Yes, I could say I'll blog about my NaNo expolits, but that's never really washed before, has it?)

So, yes, I'm back for now, but I will be NaNo-ing next month, so in the meantime, why not cast a vote, X-Factor style, for one of the final nine novel ideas all hoping for a place in next months big write-off...
  • Another Old Testament Space Opera. I don’t have another in the works as yet, but it has the clear advantage of having the basic plot pre-packed.
  • Some sort of timey-wimey story, either time travel or alternate history, in which Christ's life on Earth forms a critical point.
  • An alternate history of WW2. I have sort of an idea for this, but I’m not sure I can make it stand out from the squillions of alternate WW2 scenarios already played out in fiction. Unless….
  • An alternate version of Left Behind – in which the rapture occurred during WW2, or the Crimean, or the Cold War, or what the heck, all three….
  • A comic fantasy, probably using some of the characters from the seminal DragonQuest (NaNo 2009). Being silly is always easier at NaNo pace than tackling a weighty subject.
  • A weighty subject novel. Did that last year, still trying to summon up the courage to trawl those 50,000 words for the worthwhile story at its heart.
  • An urban fantasy with just the merest hint of Angel somewhere in its DNA, and possibly some spiritual message in there too.
  • The obligatory sci-fi contender: I fancy something with clones in it this time.
  • Or as a completely off the wall experimental NaNo: just pluck some stuff at random from the adoptables threads, mix them all together and bring them to the boil…
Voting lines are open, and it won't cost you a thing to vote... and who knows, maybe you'll even get to see a snippet from your favourite on these pages during November...

Friday, August 05, 2011

It's like the bad old days again....

Yeah, just when it seemed we had some sort of rhythm going on here, I go and make a stupid rash decision...

So we're back to erratic posting for a few weeks while I'm at Camp NaNoWriMo. It seemed a good idea at the time, as I was spending time writing anyway, why not channel that into one big project....

It's only when I start something like this, usually in November, that I realise how big a number 50,000 actually is, at least when you're trying to write that many words in a finite time.

Currently I'm at almost 4,000 words... yes, behind already! Yay!

So blogging is a little way down the writing priority list this month. I'll wake you up when September comes.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday review - The Potter Movie

I'm not sure I really need to review this, any more than I did Blade Runner last week. So I guess I'll keep it brief, because you already know whether you're going to watch it (and indeed probably have).

Lots of action, tons of magic effects, the plot does a bit of a wriggle, and almost everybody dies (at least, that's the way it seems at times).

I like a dark movie. I liked Part One because it was dark. Part Two, similarly so, in an epic last stand sort of a way - and who doesn't love an epic last stand?

If you've seen the previous couple of Potter movies, this will be a satisfying climax. If you haven't, then you'd be silly to go and watch a film with 'Part 2' in the title, wouldn't you?

From the perspective of a Christian viewer, it's full of witches and wizards, and if you go to see you'll burn in hell. Obviously I'm kidding, just threw that in to confuse the google stats. There is a resurrection motif, some afterlife stuff and the whole sacrificial love thingy that made Harry Harry, which have probably been discussed to better effect elsewhere.

So there you go, a pointless review. Maybe I should make that a feature?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Blade Runner

It must be said that no review of Blade Runner is complete without at least a passing mention of Vangelis and that awesome soundtrack.

And because I love this kind of music, especially for writing to, here's a special extra review for the soundtrack, which was also re-released in 2007, along with the Final Cut movie, in a 3-CD special edition.

Entitled Blade Runner Trilogy, the first CD is the same as the original soundtrack release, the second CD contains previously unreleased music from the movie, and the third CD is new music inspired by the movie.

Of the three, the first disc is still the best; from the fantastically spacey main title, to the chilled out sax of the love theme, to the cool end titles, the best known tracks are all here in full, along with some less well known gems. For me, the best trackshere are those which use smaples from the movie: Blush Response, with its samples about the Voight-Kampff machine, and Tears in Rain, Batty's last words, set to a suitably melancholy piece of music.

Disc two is the usual film score fair, atmospheric pieces with descriptive titles like At Mr Chew's and Deckard and Roy's Duel, but done in a Vangelis way, which is to say, pretty awesome.

Disc three, on the other hand... disc three is where things start to get odd. Good, but odd. Launch Approval and Mail from India are personal favourites for futuristic weirdness alone, but elsewhere the Blade Runner influence comes through in the music - Sweet Solitude has the same chilled sax sound as the original love theme, and Perfume Exotico has the same ethereal vocals as Rachel's Song. It could perhaps be seen as the soundtrack Vanelis would have made had the movie been shot in 2007 rather than just remixed.

For fans of sci-fi music, movie soundtracks, Vangelis, or ambient electronica in general, it's a worthwhile investment.

And for your sci-fi song of the week, you will of course be enjoying the main theme from Ghostbusters.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Review: Blade Runner

So, I just watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner. I don’t suppose there is really any need to review it properly, it is, after all, a classic science fiction movie.

I could join the debate about whether it’s a great movie, or just an over-hyped one, but even that is a bit redundant, because any film fan or science fiction fan really should watch the thing and make their own mind up.

Personally, well, the visuals are great – the imagining and visualisation of the dystopian world, the flying cars (that by rights we should have by now) whose strings are no longer visible on the latest remix, the constant rain…. Not quite sure why rain is so inherently dystopian, but then I’m English.

The thing is, if I didn’t know there was this mystery subtext about Deckard, I don’t think I would have spotted it, the whole origami thing being a bit too small and obscure, at least first time round. That said, the ambiguous ending of the Final Cut is better than the fluffy Hollywood ending version; the tone of Blade Runner doesn’t lend itself to a happy ending.

I’m not sure if it’s ironic or intended, but the only character that really sticks in the mind after watching is Roy Batty, as played by Rutger Hauer. That’s not to say the Harrison Ford, or Sean Young are in any way bad, but Roy’s change from angry, violent replicant-on-a-mission, to abandoned son confronting his father, to the final acceptance of his own death, is the definite stand-out.

Ah yes, the violence. There’s a lot of it in this version, I don’t remember wincing quite so much when I’ve seen earlier cuts. But this is not a happy film; not one you can switch your brain off for a couple of hours and relax with. There is a lot in Blade Runner (some of which I may revisit later) but a lot of it requires thought, and none of it is especially happy.

Perfect for a Monday review then.

Friday, July 22, 2011

So long, and thanks....

So there it was. Thirty years and 134 missions, and the Space Shuttle era has officially ended.

The reason I mention this is not because I have anything startlingly original to add to the conversation, because I don’t. It’s because the Space Shuttle has undoubtedly contributed to my becoming a sci-fi fan and writer.

I was seven when the programme started – old enough to have been aware of it, too young to remember what I thought of it at the time. But in those days, the shuttle was exotic, exciting. Launches still made the news, even when they went off without a hitch.

Of course, it’s the one that didn’t go off without a hitch that I still remember. John Craven had the job of telling the nation soon after it happened. And not long after that I was given a plastic kit of the Shuttle and its Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, which I made into Challenger, seeming at the time the best tribute a pre-teenage boy could pay.

But - and I admit that what I am about to say is a little bit shallow – the reason I remember the Challenger disaster is not because of the immensity of the event, but because the Space Shuttle had captured my young imagination. I had the toy shuttle from Moonraker, I had read the specs in magazines and books, I was even, in my youth, quite proficient at drawing the Shuttle orbiter.

I’ll stop there, before I start sounding like some kind of Shuttle fanboy. At some point, of course, the routine shuttle launches stopped making the news. I stopped being a Shuttle fanboy. Arguably, I grew out of it, as did much of the media. But whatever it was about the shuttle that caught my imagination – fed by space Lego, Luke Skywalker and endless Star Trek re-runs – I never grew out of.

So, even though the Space Shuttle will always be my spaceship, I can still look with interest (and possibly a little excitement) at the developments that are already happening at Virgin Galactic, where the next generation of space travel seems to be drawing ever nearer, ready to spark the imagination of the next generation.

Of course, if I was a science-fiction writer, I would probably be wondering what space travel landmark we will be marking in 2041…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Phursday Photos: obvious subject....

Well, a blog which pretends to be vaguely related to science fiction is hardly going to let the end of an era slip by unnoticed is it? I've never actually seen a space shuttle in person, so this week I'll hand the camera over to NASA...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sci-Fi Song of the Week

Inspired by Charles Yu, here some nice early 90s shoegaze rock for your enjoyment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu, is the story of a book. In fact, it is the story of some of the minds behind the book, one of whom, the aforementioned Charles Yu, is a Recreational Time Travel Device repairman who chooses to spend most of his life hiding in limbo, living in a time machine which is not bigger on the inside, with only an imaginary dog and a manically depressed artificial intelligence for company.

This would be an appropriate moment for the reviewer to interject, and explain that the book itself is not quite as derivative of hitch-hikers as this review has been so far. There are certainly shades of Adams-esque humour (for instance, physics was only 93 per cent installed when construction was halted on Minor Universe 31), but the similarities in plot are, I think limited to those mentioned so far. The concept of a science fictional universe, of course, may also put one in mind of the Thursday Next novels, but all these comparisons are not doing the book in question any favours.

In fact, How to Live Safely is one of the most mind-bendingly original books in the whole of chronogrammatical space-time. If I was to attempt to give it a sub-genre, it would probably be literary sf, with the somewhat scant (but imaginative) plot serving primarily to hold all the author’s crazy ideas together and explore the father-son axis in a completely non-linear, temporally confusing manner.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is good, clean, science fictional fun. Movingly funny, nicely written, weirdly conceptual, insanely brilliant and… well, frankly, one of the best time travel stories I’ve read in a long time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Phursday photo

A little something to bend the mind of any passing petrol-heads. Go on, you know it doesn't look right!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sci-Fi Song of the Week

A tenuous link to sci-fi, maybe, but inspired by the last Space Shuttle mission which is going on at the moment...

It's a love song, in a vaguely space-age style.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hurling myself in...

As a postscript to Friday's long walk, because it wasn't as long as I had planned, I took a few moments in Wild at Heart once I was home, and this sentence just jumped out at me:
I want to hurl myself into a creative work worthy of God.

Now, I often tell myself that what I'm writing, I'm doing to honour God. But, really, the amount of time and effort that I put into actually forming sentences (other than the ones I form occasionally to justify my 'writing') is not really worthy of God. I've never really hurled myself into a story (well, maybe once a year, in November), never been reckless about what I vaguely like to think God might want me to do with what I laughably call my talent.

Maybe I didn't need a long walk; maybe I just needed to turn the page of that book, read that sentence, and act on it. Maybe I need to step out of the boat, charge the field, follow my dream. Maybe I just need to quit worrying about stuff and get on with some writing.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Long Walk 2011

It is a tradition over at the Daily Audio Bible to take July 7th off, go somewhere beautiful, and spend the day with God. My intention had been to do a slight variation on the theme, and go for a long drive, take the Mini off into the countryside for the day. (The reason for this stems from Wild at Heart, something John Eldredge says about men getting closest to God when they feel most 'alive'; for him it's all manner of outdoorsy stuff, for me, it's a back-lane Mini blast.)

Unfortunately things were not as easy as all that: first there was a hospital appointment on July 7th (for my daughter) which would have taken half the day out. Still, no matter; July 8th was booked off work and the Long Drive was on. Except the aforementioned daughter was taken ill this morning. Not only that, but the rain did not look conducive to a back-lane Mini blast.

Still, as it turned out I was not required to make the trip to see the doctor, and was able to slip off for a somewhat shorter than planned walk, getting myself lost in the rolling hills of, um, Staffordshire.

I had no real idea what I was doing; I mean, the theory was simple enough - go somewhere quiet and listen to God. Easier said than done, obviously. But did I come away with anything? Well, maybe, although I'm not sure what it means, if anything.

I found myself surrounded by ferns, and as I looked at the repeatedly dividing pattern of the leaves, it occured to me that the closer you look at a fern leaf, the more detail you go into, the more accurately you can measure its outline, and the longer its outline will be.
Sass that hoopy frond
Taken to its extreme, you end up with the fractal theory argument that Britain's coastline is infinite. Plainly nonsense in practical terms, but an interesting point, that the closer you look, the more anything - a fern, a country, a person - approaches infinity. At some level, the Infinite is present right at the heart of everything.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Space Whale Migration

This weeks choice for Sci-Fi Song of the Week is, apart from not being a song in any conventional sense, inspired by yesterday's mini-review of a story about space whales. So here for your enjoyment, a little piece of shoegazey post-Porcupine Tree instrumental greatness, Space Whale Migration by The Daysleepers.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Green Lantern, and a Leviathan

Has anybody got a couple of hours to listen to some excellent podcastery on the subject of religion and science-fiction? Well if you have, I have a couple of nice little links for you. And if you haven't, I recommend you make some :)

Firstly, the Leviathan in question is That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made, a Nebula winning novelette by Eric James Stone, and you can hear it on Starship Sofa Episode 194. It's a very neat little tale about some of the potential problems of bringing human religion (in this case Mormonism) to a decidedly alien race (in this case, a group of solar cetaceans living inside our sun). And this all seems to be going well for our protagonist, Harry Malan, until a swale member of his congregation confides in him about what Harry believes to be a case of sexual assault.

There follows a lot of discussion between Harry and cute scientist Dr. Juanita Merced about how human/Mormon sexuality and morals can't be applied to creatures older than human culture, and then when Harry tries to put his point to the oldest swale in our sun, things get even more interesting...

That Leviathan... is a well-written story, makes some thought-provoking points in an interesting setting, and all adds up to a fascinating exploration about the intersection of religion and 'other' cultures, definitely worth a look (or listen) if you're interested in those things.

Elsewhere in the podosphere, purveyor of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Paeter Frandsen, has been geeking out over Green Lantern, who apparently is a comic book hero turned movie icon, or something. Anyway, as part of his Green Lantern special podcast he pulls some interesting Biblical parallels from comic book superheroes and wonders what the New Heaven and the New Earth will be like. Such ponderings gave me cause to wonder what kind of stories I'll be writing in the New Earth.... presumably they'll have to be set on the old one, as there won't be a lot of conflict in the new one, as I understand it....

Anyway, that's also worth a listen for an alternative angle on some Biblical stuff, and on some comic book stuff, or if you've just been overcome by Green Lantern fever....

Linky Goodness:
Starship Sofa No 194 (direct link)
That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made (text)
Spirit Blade Underground Podcast - Green Lantern Review Special (direct link)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sci-fi Song of the Week

For no other reason than I'm feeling the love for Battlestar Galactica at the moment, and this is rather a funky metal hip-hop crossover type thingy that's got a soundalike title. And no video - can't believe nobody's put a BSG montage to it on YouTube yet!

Anyway, because (for a change) I can't be bothered putting a proper post up, here's some music...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Review: Scream by Mike Dellosso

You may have noticed that this week the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour has been featuring Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso. Naturally, I will therefore be reviewing something entirely different.

Scream is the story of Mark Stone, hard working everyman who just happens to have messed up his marriage and started hearing Hell on his telephone. It’s the story of his efforts to solve the mystery of the screams, which bring him into regular contact with the local police, and with probably the least stereotypical Pastor in all of Christian fiction. The guy has tattoos, people!

It is also the story of the faceless psycho known only as Judge, whose hobby of stalking and kidnapping innocent women and keeping them in a barn leads his plot inexorably towards Mark’s.

Aside from the wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth that keeps interrupting Mark’s phone calls, there’s not a lot of what I would call ‘horror’ in the story, and in fact I was more on edge for the ‘real life’ issues – the traumatic childhood incident that birthed Judge, and Mark’s marital disaster. Those things were both relatable, and written in way that highlighted their relevance and drove the point home.

There was enough suspense in the story to keep me wanting more, and although the twists were not all entirely surprising, I found them satisfying.

Part of me wants to say that Scream would work perfectly well as a straight thriller without the supernatural screaming, but the screams do serve the purposes of pulling the various plot strands together, and of reminding the reader, as they reminded Mark Stone, that death – and Hell – can come calling at any moment, and what happens to us then is something we can change – have to change – before that moment arrives. The problem is that’s all they do… I realise explaining them inexplicable would be daft, but I feel a little short-changed, I wanted more from the Scream!

Despite having an obvious message, Mike Dellosso manages to avoid being ‘preachy’, or leaving the reader with nothing more than a hellfire and brimstone message. The message is delivered as a natural part of the story (and, in case you didn’t get it from the story, helpfully recapped in an afterword by the author), and along the way the reader is presented with some interesting comparisons: our hero, ostensibly a ‘good’ person, has utterly broken his wife’s heart, while the apparently ‘evil’ Judge shows moments of human kindness towards his captives; more importantly, he presents a very real and challenging comparison between empty religion and a genuine knowledge of Jesus.

So to summarise: an important gospel message, nicely presented in a cracking story.

Noah Arsenault Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham Melissa Carswell Karri Compton CSFF Blog Tour Chris Deane Cynthia Dyer Nikole Hahn Katie Hart Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Inae Kyo Shannon McDermott Allen McGraw Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes

I may be running a little bit late here, but never fear, in honour of this weeks CSFF Blog Tour, which is featuring Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, I present to you, hurriedly thrown together ina  darkened room, the Top Ten Darkness Songs.

10. The Darkness: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Opening for us tonight, the spearhead of Suffolk's glam-rock revival in the early 21st Century.

9. The Strokes: Under Cover of Darkness
The first single from the recent album Angles. You see, I'm down with the kids.

8. Moby: Lie Down in Darkness
And a decidedly current piece of electronica this week too, this having been out for about a month... I think I need to lie down in darkness....

7. Buckethead: Chase the Darkness Out
That's better, weird ambient prog-rock by a guy with a crazy name. This I feel comfortable with.

6. Ash: Joy Kicks Darkness
This was B in their A-Z Series of singles a little while ago. Yeah, go figure.

5. Shonen Knife: The Queen of Darkness
My all-time favourite J-Rock girl band. Or something.

4. The Kinks: Little Miss Queen of Darkness
Is anybody spotting a theme within a theme?

3. Alice Cooper: Prince of Darkness
I think Alice Cooper is an immensely awesome and funny guy, so here's a song he wrote about the devil.

2. Rage Against the Machine: Darkness
It's that shouty man, getting angry about greed and Capitalism.

1. Republica: Out of the Darkness
Seems an appropriate title to finish the list with.... techno-pop punk rock for the post-Britpop generation - best played loud :)

Your Spotify playlist is here, I'll find some links for the individual songs later - except I probably won't, so while you wonder what they actually sound like, why not wander round these blogs and find out a little something about Darkness Follows and Mike Dellosso.

Noah Arsenault Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham Melissa Carswell Karri Compton CSFF Blog Tour Chris Deane Cynthia Dyer Nikole Hahn Katie Hart Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Inae Kyo Shannon McDermott Allen McGraw Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, June 20, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour - Darkness Follows

So it seems that just because it's blog tour week and I am contractually obliged to post something loosely related to Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, Blogger decided to move all the buttons around on its dashboard. Yes, it's all very pretty, Blogger, and I'm sure it will improve my blogging experience no end once I'v ehad a chance to find the 'New Post' button, but couldn't you have waited a week?

Ah well, let's muddle through as best we can, shall we?

Officially: Darkness Follows is suspenseful, mysterious, scary, even creepy, but after all is said and done, it’s a love story. It’s about Sam Travis, a man who thinks he’s losing his mind. He becomes more and more obsessed with a series of mysterious journal entries from a soldier of the Civil War, entries Sam himself has written unawares. The more obsessed he becomes with the entries the more he pushes away those who care about him most, his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, Sam is also being haunted by the memory of his late brother who died a terrible death. In the end, Sam will have to make a choice, give into the darkness that’s been following him, or accept the freedom that comes from the unconditional love of his daughter and, ultimately, the love of his Father.

Unofficially, it's an American Civil War time-travel horror romance. Genre? We laugh in the face of genre! Mwahahahahaaaa!

Ahem sorry, not sure what came over me there.But look: that's where they put the HTML button! That will make pasting linky goodness easier, like this:

And the tour links:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

And finally, Mike Dellosso's website, with bloggy goodness, blurbs for all his novels, and free stuff to download. How can you resist?

Now, how do I get this thing uploaded...?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Review: A British Crash by Roger Harper

I’m taking a bit of a step outside my usual genre for this review, because… well, frankly, because a Christian novel set in England – in Birmingham, no less, somewhere I know well – deserved a look.

I will start off with a caveat though: This is a self-published novel.* This is not a bad thing; on the contrary, many outstanding novels in the field of Christian literature *cough* Countless as the Stars *cough* have been self-published. And indeed, top marks to author Roger Harper for getting the thing in front of me in the first place.

So, I hear you ask, what exactly is this thing in front of you? Well, at its heart A British Crash is a whodunit, set against predominantly a church-based background, with a Christian protagonist. A flawed Christian protagonist. Indeed, most of the Christian characters are drawn with realistic flaws – the narrator, David Jeffery, is a happily married man who unexpectedly finds himself drawn to another woman; his best friend Will has such an abrupt manner and coarse, often racist language that I found myself questioning whether he was as Christian as he made himself out to be. And, with a Muslim family at the centre of the plot – the titular crash, which is the subject of the whodunit – there is plenty of scope for this (sadly believable) racism to come to light.

The Christian elements of the story are handled interestingly – just as facts, a part of the characters routine lives just the same as work or breakfast – and that allows the author to show genuine, believable Christians interacting with Muslims, New Agers, and hot secretaries without the need for any supernatural nonsense or preachy messages getting in the way.

As an aside, I think the journal format the story is presented in is a little unnecessary. There are whole conversations and daily trivia that I don’t think likely to appear in a real journal; having said that, it didn’t really get in the way, except when it forced the chapters to be a bit too long.

So far so good, but… there’s no escaping the fact that this book didn’t have a professional editor. Calling two characters Jane may be realistic, but in fiction is surely a schoolboy error unless it’s for comic effect. While anyone not from Birmingham might accept that the shopping centre was called The Palisades, there were many typos that I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take a writer to spot, and I’m convinced the year changes half way through the week.

Now, I probably know better than most how hard it is to get that editing process right. However many times you and your beta-testers read the draft, something will slip through the net. And, to be fair, they weren’t the most hilarious/embarrassing bloopers I’ve seen in a self-pubbed book, but the editing, or lack thereof, does let down what is otherwise a good concept, a decent story, and some nice, authentically broken Christian (and non-Christian) characters.

*OK, technically, it’s published by a Christian Equitable Company, which may or may not amount to the same thing. As a self-published author myself, I believe there is a place for self-publishing (or indie publishing, or whatever you wish to call it) in niches like British Christian fiction, and for getting those labours of love out into the world. But all of that is another conversation, which maybe I’ll return to another day.