STARQUEST by John C. Wright!

StarquestAre you still vomiting from the crime that was THE LAST JEDI? Never fear! John C. Wright is here! Well, his campaign to write Starquest is. Contribute now!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/starquest#/

Look here and here for more information on Mr. Wright’s project.

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NaNo is Almost Here!

And I will be participating again. I am trying to have something concrete fleshed out instead of making all of it up on the fly like I did last year. That was tough. I still can’t believe I managed a semblance of a theme and resolution that way.

This year instead of a weird tale I am going to do light-ish space opera. I would have pursued this last year had I seen the disaster that was The Last Jedi, but it had not been released yet. John C. Wright and some other science fiction authors are writing alternate (or fan fic) Star Wars stories. They are stories inspired by Star Wars but not taking place in that universe (as far as I understand them).

I welcome this. It was Star Wars that originally sparked my imagination and an interest in science fiction. Such things usually wither and die or are never born in the small town in middle Michigan I was born in. Although I did have a strong interest in horror from a young age, so I would not have been completely lost without Star Wars.

Disney, the sacred lust whore of Satan himself (or herself, it is 2018 and after all) has effectively killed Star Wars so that only the originals are left to us and we turn away and forget the puke fest that is the modern take of what was originally a 30’s and 40’s style serial. At the least I can now accept those that include the prequels into the canon inept as they may be.

I haven’t read a lot of current science fiction but I think I am pretty safe to assume that those college bred, writer’s workshop grads are churning out piles of PC tepid garbage not worth reading.

So, where to go for tales of adventure? Well, I shall write one myself. I’m having a tough time of it so far and not much time left before November 1st. The title to the last one and the start of it were spontaneous and a little awesome. I have some notes but nothing is striking me with that SHAZAM! yet. Also, unlike last year, I work 5 to 6 days a week instead of two or three. That puts a little pressure on the 50,000 word goal. Oh, and looking for a house to buy. And lunches to make,,, and, and, and…..

Not Sure About Posting

I have so radically changed my life in the last several months, that I am having a hard time seeing a link, or a continuity, to this blog.

Another thing is is that I am without an office as well.

I now arise at 4:30am and work five shifts a week for a little over forty hours. It is my first excursion from the service industry since my stint at Menard’s (that lasted two weeks) in Green Bay in 1996. All my other work experience is restaurant/bar. Factory assembly is way off the beaten path. The work is different, the hours are way different, the people are different. I say the people are different. But, actually, I served a lot of factory people in my stint as a bartender. But they are different in another way as well. They are southern. Three thousand miles makes a difference.

I usually come home pretty tired.

On the other hand, I have not consumed nicotine in over five months in any form. And my drinking is down to one to two drinks per week – and sometimes several weeks with no drink at all.

The typewriter thing is over. The Smith-Corona was delivered with a broken power switch. And when I got that fixed, I found that the platen was so rock hard that the keystrokes were scoring the paper so badly it was turning it almost into confetti. The other typewriter is in many pieces still awaiting my repairs. I am not enthusiastic about writing on a manual typewriter unless it was an Olivetti.

However, I have decided to let my little fixation go. The typewriter is simply gone, and lament it as I might, it is going to stay gone as a viable writing instrument. If they were going to start producing and supporting IBM Selectric, I would change my story and quick. But that is probably not going to happen.

So I have been writing. I did a final copy of my clown story. And I am working on a story that has been bugging me for some time and will not go away. It came from one line that I wrote – for no reason that I know of – and it would not let me go. So I rewrote the line as the start of the story and went from there.

The single line was, “Jemmy was Falcon.” Whatever the hell that meant. I went ahead and steamrolled through it and now it has a definite meaning. It is five young adults on the shore in a – sort of – post apocalyptic world. There is a hotel of sorts that is sort of like the one from the John Wick movies. Except the use of it demands some of your soul. Jemmy will give his for its use. I know nothing more than that.

Mr. Wright said to somebody recently about writing, something to the effect that a writer is always writing his first book, because it is always the first time writing that book and each book is its own process. This was in relation, if memory serves, to a question of plotting vs. pantsing.

He left out the part of the James Pattersons who carbon-copy out their books and each one is exactly like the others.

Anyway. Writing is actually going faster and more productive than it did for me in Washington (or Wisconsin or Arizona) and I think that is because I have far fewer things in my way. Like drugs or alcohol, or cigarettes, or my own ego. And, far, far fewer friends. That last I would like to remedy at some point.

Count to Infinity

Finished COUNT TO INFINITY the other day. I didn’t think Wright was going to be able to pull off any cathartic ending. But he did! For all the info dumps and the super technicality of the whole thing (the hard science fictional nature of the material) he managed to pull off an emotionally satisfying (albeit too brief, imho) ending.

If you like far out hard science fiction, you can now read this whole series. I read it and it was good!

Graves, Balls and Crosses

Finished Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave on Tuesday. The whole focus of the book seems to even come at you elliptically – and at the last minute. It wasn’t until the final two chapters that it all came together. Before that I slogged through it for three weeks.

Because I thought there was nothing behind the curtain. Oh, there was something behind the curtain alright. A bet. That was what was behind that curtain. A bet of ultimate consequences.

This is one of those Lafferty books that I find slightly annoying in that, although I will want to reread it anyway, I have to reread it because I am sure I missed 99% of the fruit’s juice. He can throw so much indirection and misdirection at you (to say nothing of the constant word play) it is like coming into a joke at the punchline. You thought you were in a joke or a jest but only opaquely – and then the drum snap and the crowd laughter. Hold on! Back to the beginning.

If Lafferty were instructed to write the plain fact that a cat is on a mat, he’d entertain us for 40 pages and we still wouldn’t have a simple fact, but a multiplicity… a multiplicity that may involve a cat (a feline of some sort at least) and some derivative form of dorsal support. But the cat would have died and resurrected, or simply continued to decompose, or assumed a chair at the Institute for Impure Science and the mat would be constructed by St. Joseph himself (bonus points to whomever can guess the Lafferty reference there).

But once I got the hook. What a story! His stories are like the Spanish Inquisition – no one expects it!

Now to the balls and the crosses.

I was talking to suspected android/writing machine author (or time traveller, or possessor of the 48 hour day) John C. Wright the other day (actually he was talking, me and a few others were listening) about religion in science fiction (talk about an untapped field) and he mentioned G.K. Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross.

Few authors will get a pass to the front of the line. G.K. Chesterton is one of the few. I already own and am a HUGE fan of his books Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, and I love his Father Brown stories. So when I heard mention this book about a duel (and one supposes debate) between a fledging secular atheist at the dawn of the 20th century and a Christian (I suppose a stand-in for Chesterton himself although I haven’t got that far yet) well, how can one resist that?

Think of it though. That was a new creature (pretty new, anyway) in 1905. Fresh and full of vigor, and full of utopian answers that were yet to kill millions upon millions of people. Although the French had the news.

Over a century before he and his brethren whittled down the edifice of Western Civilization enough where we can start to see the prayer mats our grandchildren will be kneeling – or bleeding – upon.

This should be a fascinating read.

Song of Kali

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I’ve loved some Dan Simmons ever since his Hyperion series. I was about to read Drood, also by Simmons, but after barely finishing Leckie’s Titanic disappointment, and Wright’s super-dense 4th installment of his Eschaton series, I needed a break. So I thought a good horror story would be in good order.

And in good order it is! I am only 65 pages through it (and in one day which is warp speed reading for me) but damn if this isn’t good. I mean really good. He will have had to really let out a cosmic fart to screw this up. I’ll post something about it when I am done reading it.

Wright’s book, Architect of Aeons, tried my patience a little. It was mainly info dump through dialogue. I hope he has enough of a set up now that the last two books are mainly action. There is just too much referenced by the characters of times, peoples and ages and all done up quasi-medeival (which is not a problem of itself) that after awhile you glaze over and think, “I’m I supposed to keep this terabyte info dump in my head? Do I need it to follow along?” I did come into this book in a foul fiction mood after Leckie’s cosmic fart of a series, so that is a factor.

I needed a straight ass story. I got it. I certainly recommend the first 65 pages so far!

A Tale of Two Skeletal Reviews

SPOILERS (…sort of…)

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Recently I finished reading Anne Leckie’s Ancillary series. It was one of the biggest letdowns I have ever encountered in science fiction. Scratch that – the biggest.

Imagine it is 1977 and you have just seen the first Star Wars movie. And you go to see the second movie. Except you are not in our timeline. No, you are in the shrinking universe timeline where science fiction writers reduce the scale of subsequent stories in a series. They can start as wide as they want, but the rule (or expectation) is you have to whittle it down and reduce the scope and locale of the original story.

This would require some significant rewrite to follow the rules of this mundane timeline.

So imagine Han, Leia, Chewbacca & Co (and Luke, we can’t have more than one locale, that might give the impression of SPACE, so forget the Jedi training and all that, he’ll do a couple of things but nothing associated with the abilities teased in the original), arrive at Cloud City Bespin at the end of the first Star Wars movie. Let’s say that they destroyed the Death Star, but there is, in its place, the Empire’s Armada advancing towards them. So they bail to Lando’s mining operation.

Darth Vader is not there yet. He’ll show up near the end of the third movie, not get hurt and remain in power. We don’t want a definite ending structure here.

So, they all arrive at Bespin. But, it appears Lando is not such a good administrator – not such a “nice” guy to the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the poor of the Cloud City. So, the entire rest of the second movie is spent on discussions (over tea, everyone loves tea) about the poor conditions in some substation of the city. There will be some mild unrest and a few tears. Someone will die, but someone we really don’t know, but one of our main characters will go into mourning over it “because” and we will spend time in tea and discussion.

There is, at the periphery, a possible threat by a third party, a mysterious and deadly race, that never materializes, not in the second film nor in the third. Although a quirky representative from this mysterious race does show up to drink tea, make odd comments, and enjoy the food of your race. His – her? role is merely to prove that you can’t expect a weapon that he made and gave to you to actually work on him when you turn on him. Probably the only thing that makes sense after two thirds of a story that grounds, as if by design, to a complete slumbering halt.

Now it does happen that Darth Vader has some responsibility for the conditions of the poor on Bespin (there is no wider conflict by the time you are in the third film in this timeline). There is a stand off where Vader is set to whoop everyone’s ass and the good guys are in a pickle. But Vader tries to use his lightsaber on the mysterious race guy that manufactures them, it has no effect because the mysterious alien race are the only ones not stupid, the good guys manage to get out of their pickle, and Vader agrees to not be such a dick to the poor on Bespin.

Roll credits.

Remember everything that was in the original Star Wars is there, the Galactic Empire, the Rebellion, the Force, Luke’s powers, the vastness of the conflict, the might and oppression of the Empire. All of it – ignored for some six hundred pages about crappy administration on some tiny speck of a space station orbiting some planet in some far off portion of a galaxy.

Now you know the experience of reading the Ancillary series by Anne Leckie.

The first book promised so much. I am not exaggerating when I say the second and third books are tea and crumpets and civil administration on some insignificant space station. A galactic tyrant was supposed to go down. That was the promise delivered in the first book. That not delivered on, and the scope delivered in the first book was reversed as far as can be done in science fiction in subsequent installments.

I haven’t been this disappointed since Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And that thing stunk!

Luckily, after this mundane journey, I knew I had an author up my sleeve that would not disappoint. An author that is the exact opposite of what I described above. John C. Wright, and the book was (is – I still have 120 pages to go) The Architect of Aeons – the fourth installment to his Eschaton series – I think that is the name for the series. If not, I deem it so!

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It can be said that Mr. Wright goes not only in the opposite direction of Leckie, but sometimes a tad too far. Meaning he stretches the scope each installment so far that a little too much of this book is info-dump. But, otoh, to be fair, his series is so out there, so far reaching, if he had to show all of this in action, it would require twenty, thick, volumes.

And it is really so dense that reading it with the publishing gaps (and I had to wait some months on top of that) makes it somewhat hard to hold on to all the details from book to book. Luckily in those info-dumps you get a pretty good recap.

I believe Mr. Wright’s series, if I remember him saying aright, is supposed to go to the heat death of the universe, the end of time. That is a place he has taken his readers before. He is one of the few modern science fiction authors who can.

But the point is this. He knows the pattern of how a science fiction (and really any multi- part work) tale is supposed to progress. The scope doesn’t have to go to the end of time, it doesn’t have to stretch for thousands of light-years in distance. But whatever you start with, it cannot shrink. You cannot promise galactic war, and end up talking about ventilation on some sub-section on some remote space station.

And you have to have an ending. You can have an ambiguous ending. But no ending is not an ending. Leckie actually had her first person protagonist narrate on the last page that there were no endings. Well that’s great if there are two or three books still coming. However, even if there were, I wouldn’t be reading them. If I want a bunch of women (I’m pretty sure they were all women, or men with excess estrogen in their blood) drinking tea and gossiping about who likes who and other such dull trivia on relationships, I can read Jane Eyre or something from England where they sit around with their fancy umbrellas – you know that boring shit they’re always showing on PBS! My wife love those things, I don’t get it.

In fact if that is what you are going to do, it would be better to not be in a science fiction setting because that just gets in the way. I shouldn’t have to take the extra time to here some technicality about your ship or your command hierarchy or other minuet of science fictioning if it is not integral to the story. If 90 plus percent of your story can take place at the Winsdore residence at Debynshire (and you really do have all the elements necessary there) keep it there.

Back to Mr. Wright. Another thing you want to do is to expand and deny the expectations of the reader. I am not giving anything away here, but this installment in particular is all about slashing away what you thought you knew and then expanding the story. It is, actually, veil lifting. It is all a skillful magician’s trick. “Here, look at this, this is what this is… No! it is this!”

Countless times in Aeons I have said, “holy crap!” to some revelation, to something I thought was one way, but I was as blind as the character Mr. Wright blindfolded.

And I laughed. I didn’t laugh once in Ancillary. Not once.

Thank goodness there are still men (men, LeGuin and Willis are still around, right?) out there that know how to write science fiction! That reminds me, what the hell is Vernor Vinge doing these days?

Reading 2016

I can’t just study all day so, when I am not studying, I will be doing one of my other favorite things, reading! So here is a partial list of what I’ve got pegged for 2016.

First up is John C. Wright’s The Architect of Aeons.

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Which is exactly what I needed after Anne Leckie’s disappointing Ancillary series. The first installment was really good and promised quite large story. Then decided to whittle it down and focus on a smaller scale in the second book. And then stayed on that smaller scale for the third installment and then purposely left no ending. Her character states it at the end.

Get this set-up from the first book. A galactic empire is ran by a ruthless tyrant who possesses thousands of bodies. This tyrant one day commits an action so heinous it causes a rift between parts of her – one side is ashamed of herself, the other rationalizes the action’s expedience. The two sides start maneuvering against each other. Now much as the tyrant has many instances of herself, so the ships of her fleets and its crews are all the same person (except for the human elements). There is no distinction between the ship-mind and the minds of the crew, they are all the same person. They serve the human captain, in fact they usually form attachments to their captains.

One day this set up leads the tyrant to demand one such ship/humanoid to shoot her captain dead. The fragment then shoots the instance of the tyrant in the head and goes rogue. This causes another instance of the tyrant on the ship to blow the ship up. One fragment of the ship escapes torn from all her other selves, and her captain who she had to execute.

She vows revenge. Now that is a pretty good set-up, right? Thousands of instances of the tyrant at war with herself and with a rogue ship-fragment vowing to bring her down. If you are a science fiction fan, you want to read that series!

But what if in the next book this ship fragment was sent (by the “good” part of the tyrant) to an outpost where she spent time drinking tea and helping the poor and out of this outpost? What if the story never left this outpost? What if the ship fragment never killed another instance of the tyrant? Rip off! And I left out a bunch of other stuff that was unresolved.

The whole gender neutrality thing? Meh? If they weren’t all girls, the author gave me no indication they weren’t. It was like the female cast of Jane Eyre in SPACE!! Let’s have tea, do you think so and so likes so and so? Ack, give me LeGuin any day, please.

Also the book was pretty humorless. So it was with great pleasure that I picked up Wright’s Aeons. Not only is most of what he writes outlandish, I’m usually laughing right off the bat.

Then in no particular order is: Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

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Nope haven’t read it. I’ve read quite a few of his other works, this one never grabbed me.

A Borrowed Man: by Gene Wolfe It’s Gene Wolfe, nuff said, right?

 

Nod by Adrian Barnes

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I decided to give this one a chance because I am pretty familiar with lack of sleep and its effects and it seemed to have a Stephen King vibe to it. I bought it despite the author interview at the back of the book where he sounds like a college freshman retard, “the corporations man, we need a revolution man…” Shut the fuck up if you want to think and speak with your anus, write me some cool stuff and I will pay you, don’t expect me to pay attention to your late adolescent drivel. On the other hand, he’s Canadian (Canadian science fiction usually has the “Corporation” as the bad guy) so what can you do?

China Mieville: The Scar

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I have heard of Mieville for a number of years. So a couple of months ago in the bookstore I open up this book to the first page, read the first couple of sentences and bought it on style alone. This is also a man who thinks and talks from his anus outside his field. But I really don’t care as long as you deliver the product I’m paying for. He would hate that kind of capitalistic libertarian style thinking. Apparently he’s a socialist. Apparently he missed twentieth century history class…

China Mieville: three moments of an explosion  Bought this also on the strength of the sample I read from The Scar. Style can be a rare thing to enjoy. And I mean style of a kind where you just like the way they use words. I have this with R.A. Lafferty. I can read a story of his and not tell you what it was about it or its plot, but man, was it great to read!

Then I decided to go outside my usual stomping grounds.

3 by Flannery O’Connor

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Which was cheaper than any of the works singly. I have a certain love for Catholic writers. I haven’t read one I didn’t like. Seems to be a rather dark writer, southern and devoutly religious. Who wouldn’t like that combination in a writer?

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons:

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This is supposed to be one of the best, most frightening horror novels of the twentieth century. And it is written by Dan Simmons. I think I’m going to read this before Drood. Drood seems a chore while being a delight… or it could just be a chore, I haven’t read it yet.

Father Brown Crime Stories by G.K. Chesterton:

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Remember what I said about Catholic writers? He’s one of my favs. Funny I just started watching this series from PBS last week and then I ran across this.

And there should be another Lafferty collection coming out this year as well!