Archive for the ‘main character’ Tag

NY ComicCon 2016 – Reading the Small Print   Leave a comment

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The Mad Geniuses Behind First Law of Mad Science, and Me

So I went to NY ComicCon on Saturday, October 8, 2016. And sure, I could tell you about all the mind-blowing, bigger-than-bejeezus and whammo-bap-biff sights that assaulted my senses during my visit, along with the claustrophobic cosplay crowded aisles.

But no, I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you about what everybody should be noticing, and that’s the large imaginations behind the smaller prints just waiting to be discovered.

Instead of jamming my way into the bigger, more crowded booths, I took the path less travelled – the Small Press section of the convention.

There, I found extraordinarily friendly, helpful, entertaining people, even if I didn’t make a purchase. All of these people readily shared their stories about how they managed to make it to NYCC 2016, what inspired their work, why they keep going and the sacrifices they made along the way. Clearly every one of these people are devoted to their craft, often a labor of intense love rewarded each time someone turns the pages of their works…or contributes to their Kickstarter project.

So it’s with that spirit I introduce to you some of the representatives of small presses that I met. I only wish I could write about all 40+ of them, but time and space only allows for these. Please support their works and visit their websites. I’ll guarantee you it’s time well spent.

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First Law of Mad Science, Written by Oliver Mertz and Mike Isenberg, Art by Daniel Lapham, Colors by Jeff McComsey and Oliver Mertz, Lettering by Mike Isenberg and Oliver Mertz, Cover by Ryan Brown and Issue 3 Inks by Lonny Chant. Published by Noreon Labs. Website: http://www.firstlawofmadscience.com.

I met the creators on a casual stroll, when I gazed up at the title of the first volume, “Work Until Your Family Is Sad” made me break out in laughter. Please forgive me if I get your names messed up, guys, but I think it was Oliver who gave me the impressive elevator speech that hooked me to buy this book. And while I didn’t have a chance to read it today (sorry, I had to go to work!), the bit I glanced through LOOKS GREAT! I also have a to get through FLOMS Science Club Mixtape. It’s a compendium of several artists’ works and stories.

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Man Vs. Rock, Volume 1, Written by Victor Detroy and Kevin Bieber, Art by Jared Lamp, Colors by Summer Fitzgerald. http://www.manvsrock.com

 I knew I had a winner yesterday when I walked up to this booth and one of the artists responsible for its creation acted it out for me. Obviously, I had to buy it. The creatives behind this project are a team from Maine and Texas who now live in Las Angeles but came to New York ComicCon. And as my personal dramatic reading demonstrated, this graphic novel features a strong female character AND a rock. While the female character is a strong as a rock, it’s the rock who’s the heavy hitter here. Don’t ask me to reveal all the severe consequences throughout history that the rock foisted on humankind, but if you get your hands on this book, you’ll certainly find out! Learn the truth and purchase, folks!

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Toolbox, Written by Kyle Gnepper (website – http://www.unshavencomicsonlin.com), Art by Kristen Gudsnuck (website – http://www.henchgirlcomic.com).

Another charmer of a work, this is a family-friendly graphic novel anyone can enjoy. It looks like fun and I can’t wait to read it! To quote the back cover, “Robot Justice Is Efficient Justice! Toolbox is about a future off world human settlement that reprograms a construction robot to protect them from bandits and dangerous wild life in the area. It’s equal parts science fiction and western adventure. At its heart it’s about technology, sisterhood, character and what it means to be a family.”

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Agent 81 and the Black Train, Written by Robert Geronimo, Illustration by Chilly Bliss, Ascalon Press, NY http://www.ascalonpress.com.

I spoke to the author, Robert Geronimo, for quite some time and his enthusiasm is infectious. He came up with a twisty take on World War II. I’m going to quote the back cover because it explains the plot better than I can remember. “AGENT 87 AND THE BLACK TRAIN – A true master of disguise, martial artist and linguist, Agent 87 is the world’s greatest spy. With the Second World War coming to its peak, 87 goes undercover to investigate a lethal weapons project in a Japanese-occupied region in China. With the help of a French weapons expert and a greedy mercenary, 87 unravels a plot filled with death and horror, discovering she must stop a deadly train carrying the destruction of mankind as its cargo.”

I must also add that Ascalon Press also has a division, Ascalon Games, and they’ve created an app called “Little Maia and the Lunar Express – a game where the player evades enemy rockets, aliens and a giant space monster.

Graphic Novel Projects   Leave a comment

On my Twitter feed, I follow all sorts of sci-fi creators. Writers, aficionados, artists, designers, editors, fans…everyone’s got my attention. While I simply don’t have time to click on every link I get, I do check out quite a few. That’s the beauty of Twitter – tons of information packed in a sliver.

It doesn’t take long to discover there’s a lot of people out there doing their literal best to breathe life into their loves. E-published works pop up all the time. So do gorgeous illustrations with nary a book to grace. But like many of us, the means to take these works to the next level is woefully absent. Let’s just say if .000000000000000000001 of the amount of money wasted on this year’s presidential was put towards good causes, including arts in all forms, this nation could nurture, educate and launch many artists careers.

So once that art teacher’s been let go, or the music teacher is split between 6 schools in the district, or grammar goes out the window when the English teacher teaches to the test, we all lose.

But I’m only slightly digressing here.

Determination will get you everywhere, and out of the ashes of worthy causes rose Kickstarter. For every project, there’s believers just like the you. Come up with a good idea, spread the word and eventually, if that project’s worthiness commands attention, Kickstarter investors will support even the most humble projects.

Two Tweets caught my attention recently, both graphic novel projects, using Kickstarter and other means to raise money for their projects. I like them both and thought I’d bring them to your attention.

Paradox Girl

“Paradox Girl” Credit: Cayti Elle Bouquin/Yishan Li

“Do you know what happens when you violate causality? By definition, nothing.” These are the opening words of the first “Paradox Girl,” written by Cayti Elle Bouquin, illustrated by Yishan Li, edited by Peter Bensley and published by Georgina Bensley. It’s the story of a girl who shifts back and forth in times so frequently, she runs into herself constantly…and therein lie the often humorous plot.

These dedicated artists wish to share Paradox Girl’s dream with all of you, but realize you might want to figure out who she is first (and actually, so would PG!). Their website introduces PG to you and shows the reader who charming she is. If you like what you read, there’s three different graphic novels to choose from available for purchase. They’d appreciate it if you bought a copy or two, plus left a little something in the tip jar. Join their mailing list and they’ll let you know when their next Kickstarter campaign begins.

Have Space

Credit: Eric Gignac

“Have Space Suit – Will Travel” is the second Kickstarter project that’s come across my Twitter feed. Since I can’t explain it any better than their web page does, I’m quoting it directly below:

“Have Space Suit – Will Travel is the second graphic novel adapted from Robert Heinlein’s Virginia Edition, which is the complete and definitive 46 volume collector’s set of all of Heinlein’s works. This follow-on project is approved by the copyright owner, the Heinlein Prize Trust and will be produced with the support of the Virginia Edition Publishing Company. The purpose of the Heinlein Prize is to encourage and reward progress in commercial space activities that advances Robert and his wife Virginia’s dream of humanity’s future in space. The Virginia Edition Publishing Company is responsible for the production and distribution of the authoritative text of all of Robert Heinlein’s published fiction and non-fiction – The Robert A. Heinlein: Virginia Edition Collection.”

Click on the above link and you’ll be take right to the Kickstarter page. Eric Gignac only has until July 16, 2016 to raise fund for his project. He’s more than halfway there, and if you’re will to share in his dream, show your support and donate.

As with both projects, your donations will go towards an artistic worthy cause, support science fiction folks just like yourself, and leave you with the warm and fuzzy feeling that your money didn’t go towards a campaign run by people who neither understand nor appreciate just how otherworldly and bizarre this year’s campaign has become (or fodder for yet another graphic novel?).

Geek Love   Leave a comment

Geek Love

Since I usually write about books on Sunday, I’d thought I’d do a bit of a tribute to a book I absolutely loved, “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn.

For those of you who had heard, the author of this book died last week at the age of 70, of lung cancer. Katherine Dunn leaves behind a cadre of fans and an unfinished, unpublished book, called “Cut Man.” As a journalist who covered boxing, Ms. Dunn based this book on the sport, and an excerpt appearing in The Paris Review in 2010 was said to bear similarities to “Geek Love.”

I first found out about this quirky book during a stint in advertising when I was little more than half the age I am now. I noticed this book sat on the desk of several of my colleagues, so I asked about it. “Read it,” said a person whose name I remember as Beth. “I can’t explain it to you.”

My sister Gwen happened to purchase a copy of it and after she read it, she loaned it to me. I couldn’t put it down.

It told the tale of a very bizarre family that raised its own freaks for its traveling carnival. The parents managed to give birth to piano-playing conjoined twin girls, a boy with flippers instead of appendages, and an albino hunchbacked dwarf. Throughout the book it tells of other freaks created and met along the way, including women purposely mutilated in order to concentrate on their careers instead of love.

I must have read this book half a dozen times, and with each reading, I grew more horrified at the prospect of parents willfully screwing up their kids so they’d have a future – as carnival freaks.

Still, the book makes you think about what’s acceptable in both nature and the human mind. Having read last week that a group of distinguished Harvard scientists discussed creating a synthetic human genome, perhaps Ms. Dunn wasn’t far off the mark when she wrote this book.

So if you’re in the market for a good read, check out “Geek Love.” You’ll be glad you did.

Women and Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Astronaut Female

See, when I think of women in science fiction stories, the above picture represents how I’d portray a character. She’s perhaps a little idealized, but still, she’s clearly an astronaut representing America. She’s brave. Tough. Not gonna take it. And she’s about to figure it all out, get behind the situation and blow it to pieces.

But mostly, I see an awful lot of images that fall in line with this:

Planet Stories

Or this:

Women

Credit: Concept Central

Either they’re helpless, scantily clad women or bitches with cleavage or melons for breasts. Sure, these space women are tough, gonna fight you, gonna kill you dead, if some guy doesn’t bring ’em down first and/or tame ’em into submission.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. The vast majority of sci-fi lovers are males. Aren’t these the kids who yank on those joysticks and bang into VR mode so they can get a piece of action where there’s no real hope for any?

Well, I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just as many ladies are latching onto the genre and things are pretty much evening out. Both sexes are totally into gaming now, with females catching up to males. Any visit to ComicCon will show you that, too, although lots of the female attendees still dress up in Princess Leia costumes from “Return of the Jedi”, and similar.

I belong to this club:

Geek Girls

This is actually a calendar cover from 2013 (sorry, I couldn’t find an active link!)

We women are just a bunch of shameless, crazy geeks, not really beholden to any perfect idea except the one that says we have to be totally weird and strange. We might not be able to carry off the latest fashions with aplomb, but we can certainly tell you about SpaceX and Goddard and JPL. Why? Because that’s something that actually matters.

Though we might not agree with the sexist and doomed portrayal of women in Game of Thrones, we follow the story religiously. Anything from Star Trek (every series) to Star Wars (every episode, plus spinoffs), too.

And so on.

Here’s something most people either didn’t realize or forget: a woman invented science fiction. Do you know who that might be? Take a guess:

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Can’t figure it out? She created one of the most enduring stories and characters of all time:

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The Monster

That’s right – Mary Shelley and “Frankenstein.” Published in 1818, the story of a doctor bent on creating life from death has been told in countless ways. Its most notorious character, The Monster, has become synonymous with the title of the book and Dr. Frankenstein.

How many of you saw this movie and felt your heart race nonstop? Or…read the book?

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Raise your hand if you knew the author’s name…aka Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL – from the British House of Lords, a Peer. Yup!

I could continue on and talk about J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood…but you get the idea.

So…if you’re looking for a great read by a female sci-fi writer, or a writer of any sex, please visit Best Sci-fi Books. It’s a great website to find a great read.

‘Bots, Books and Literary Competitions   Leave a comment

Robot Typing On Keyboard

Photo credit: ft.com

They say if you stick a bunch of typewriters in front of a roomful of monkeys, they’ll eventually churn out Shakespeare. Now, I’ve never seen that proven but here’s a fact: artificial intelligence is now composing prose.

I like to read Engadget . It keeps me updated on technology of all sorts, no matter who or what developed it. So a story caught my eye the other day: AI-written novel passes first round of a literary competition. This competition, taking place in Japan, marked the first time an AI-human collaboration garnered serious consideration.

The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award opened up its competition to artificial intelligence for the first time this year. Out of 1450 submission, 11 were human/AI collaborations.

Now, it’s not like the AI came up a great storyline all on its own. It had help, of course. Humans gave the AI the necessary components to create a story: vocabulary, a basic plot outline, sentences and phrases. With these ingredients, AI worked its muse and put forth a pretty darn good entry. Of course, it was science fiction – what else?

Competition judges read through the AI/human and deemed it good enough to pass onto the next round. I’m willing to be that made the authors quite proud. All the while, the judges never knew The Day a Computer Writes a Novel was anything but a human invention. Alas, while the story turned out to be well-structured, imaginative and inventive, it failed the character development test, leaving someone else (human, I’m assuming) to win the coveted prize.

So while this particular entry to the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award competition didn’t garner first place, it did come out a winner of sorts. Imagine if you were one of the writers who got left behind and this robot beat you out. Part of me would feel kind of pissed off, insulted maybe, and yet, I’d be scratching my head. Has the sci-fi market gotten to the point where the objects of its plots are now the ones creating the new stories? If left to its own (plot) devices, what sort of plot will an AI write? Steampunk? Electrifying thrillers? A Cyborg in shining armor saving the day?

Kind of gives a whole new meaning to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, eh? I mean, if a robot write a really bad story, who’s being harmed – the art, the robot or humans subjected to reading it?

Furthermore, will us humans be cast aside in favor of those who can churn out story after story, without food, water or air? No, wait…that’s pretty much every writer I know.

It’d be pretty interesting to watch how this plot develops.

The Elixir of Life   2 comments

Desk Stuff

Wow.  I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve actually written anything.  Just goes to show you how quickly time flies when you aren’t paying any attention to it…and maybe should.

Truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of writing on my second novel and I got stuck in a loop – bad one.  Knew what I wanted to write, but somehow, the words just refused to form.  I have a wide screen display hooked up to my laptop.  On the left is the outline and on the right is the actual first draft.  The whole idea about leaving the outline up on the screen is to refer to it.  And boy, did I ever.  And still, nothing refused to come.  Inspiration took a vacation, leaving me with no indication of blossoming imagination leading to elation.

Okay, I’ll knock off the rhymes.  See?  It’s wasting time, but fun.  How many words can you come up with that flow well with “inspiration,” eh?

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I wondered what could I possibly be missing?  Over and over I read my outline and it seemed great.  Nice plot development, character growth, trail of crumbs leading on the reader, no saggy middle, a great ending and bridge to the third novel in the four-novel series.  And yet, my brain stuck like an ancient bug in amber.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do: eat chocolate.  That took about 30 seconds.  Then I straightened up my desk.  Two, three minutes.  Got a cup of tea, pet the cat, spoke to several members of my household, went through my email, stared out the window.  Still no good.  Brain…dead.

All right, all right, I said to myself, what’s the problem.  Part of it is, I’m a research whore.  I can’t stop myself.  If I need to find out how pins are made, often I’ll go back as far as the mine where the ore was extracted to create said pin.  Will it help the plot to dig so deeply into whatever I need?  Probably not, but one can never be too sure.  I have a comprehensive notebook filled with details of all sorts.  There’s a manila file chock-filled with info printed out.  Articles saved on line.  Sites bookmarked.  All this so I make sure my characters speak with authority, even if they’re in the future and all this research will be ancient history.

Trouble is, none of this helped me stick a few sentences together and I was no further along in my writing.

ARGH!

Usually my husband’s good to bounce around ideas.  We had a very good, very long chat about plot devices that might work.  Lots of them had real potential.  Hammering them out in my head, they all sounded better than great.  But then, facing that blank screen?

ARGH!

“You know what,” my sister Gwen said, “what you mentioned, the plot devices that you and Andrew came up with, that is, are good.  Really are.  But they’re separate pieces.  You need that simple elixir that’s going to drag the whole plot along.”  Thing is, I thought I had that aspect hammered and nailed down tight.  In a way, I did, but not fleshed out enough to make the whole series sing.

And then the helpful hint came that changed everything: Dorothy.

Dorothy

 

You know, as in “The Wizard of Oz.”

What was that one thing Dorothy wanted most of all, so much that she was willing to drag a cast of weirdos, witches, a wayward wizard  and commit murder twice?

She wanted to go home.

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That’s it.  That simple.

Apply one good think to my lead character and…ah HA! Out it came, the shining star, the exploding microwave…my elixir.

And what a breakthrough!  Suddenly, my mind won’t shut off.  The words pour out of my fingers as they glide across the keyboard.  All I do now, it seems, is come up with exactly what I want to say and get it out.  No more stuck, no dead imagination, I’m going all guns blazing and seem to be making up for lost time.

Now, please excuse me while I get back to writing…

Ignored by Science Fiction   Leave a comment

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As one who pays attention to these things, there are always topics and trends that crop up in science fiction that capture imaginations and remain hot for years.

For starters, let’s say anything to do with computers – a perennial favorite.

It seems the moment someone figured out how to put information into a machine and expected a result from doing so launched an endless parade of stories.  You got hacking films (take, for example, “Sneakers” to “Blackhat”), unfortunate, misleading games turning out to anything but innocent fun for kids with big ideas and little life experience (“War Games,” “Enders Game”), and even computer-generated lives influencing mortal ones (how can anyone forget “Max Headroom”?).

I’m guessing computers/computing kind of puts you in charge of the story, in a way.  As a writer, all one has to do is invent a directive without actually writing one for real.  So of course your story can have the main character develop a fantastic method of convincing every single stock broker in America to hand over 25% of profits and deposit the money in a Geneva bank, without question, just by writing a simple, foolproof code.  Then the main character goes off and gives all the money to charity instead of living high of the hog.  Now that, folks, would be real science fiction, because nothing like that ever happens in real life!

Other perennial favorites sci-fi topics (but not limited to) include:

  • Aliens attacking the Earth
  • Attractive aliens seducing Earthlings and making them do things (good and bad)
  • Human-looking people cavorting with otherworldly beings (and what category do they fit in?)
  • Nuclear accidents and other holocausts
  • Earth going bye-bye
  • Interplanetary hijinks and death battles
  • Every sort of space station on every kind of planet, moon and subspecies of galactic existence having issues of some sort
  • Weather (Earth and elsewhere) having a mind of its own
  • Time/space travel and its consequences (good and bad)
  • Beings simply not getting along and the often unfortunate circumstances that arise from said conflict
  • Brains – you name it

The mind has a reputation for possessing a fertile imagination.  I’d like to think I’m pretty good at dreaming up stuff.  I’ve had this blog for nearly a year and I kind of pinch myself when I notice how much I’ve managed to spew out.  And yeah, some of you might notice I started two chapters of a book on this site and left it alone for ages – sorry, had other things going on – but I’m not done there, so don’t worry.  So I’m putting together a list of topics I really haven’t seen any serious sci-fi author tackle yet.  Yes, I might be mistaken, and maybe I haven’t read the right books yet (and there is an endless supply of those, too), but here’s kind of a wish list for topics I’d like to either read or write about someday:

  • Brussel Sprouts and Liver – Moms terrorize children the planet over, forcing them to eat food they hate (vegan/vegetarian options welcome)
  • The Anti-Text – A 17-year-old girl has to live a full hour without her cell phone…and survive
  • Game Over – Professional gamers have to make do with “Pong”
  • XT/AT – Present-day programmers scramble to get work done with only 10/20K of memory and have to use Sideways to print their spreadsheets
  • Ink Link – Tats jump off of everyone who has one and take over the world, with both disastrous and comical results
  • We Get It – Men and women understand each other perfectly and respond to each other’s needs and wishes without fighting over who’s right or needier
  • Nice Day – The confusing, unfortunate results of continued pleasant weather, good-mannered people, well-paying jobs and general happiness
  • Netscape – People discover this is the only browser available and have only the “Surprise” button to use, and so experience wacky, madcap misadventures
  • Wait for No One – Serving staff goes on strike, coffee ceases to exist, coffee isn’t served anymore and the populace winds up jittery, angry and bitter
  • Misidentified Fruit – People mistakenly ingest innocent-looking but suspicious-behaving fruit and wind up encased in rock-heavy cakes everyone rejects when served up during the holidays

Anyway, I could go on.

What would you add?

Underserved topics of sci-fi, unite!

 

 

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