Tuesday, January 29, 2013

story paradigms

I read an interesting article about different paradigms in story-telling: "Thought Experiments: The View from the Other Side: Science Fiction and Non-Western/Non-Anglophone Countries" by Aliette De Bodard. You can read it on the web here: http://www.asimovs.com/2010_09/thoughtexperiments.shtml. De Bodard claims A common criticism leveled at science fiction is that it is dominated by the Western world, leaving little space for other countries. As she lays out, this is somewhat true, primarily because of marketing and other commerce issues.
What really caught my eye was the concept that different cultures have different story paradigms.

I've long been a fan of Robert Silverberg's theory of story. You can read about it on the web here: http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0404/ref.shtml. The gist is: there is indeed one story only: the story of a conflict–perhaps with some external force, perhaps entirely within the soul of the protagonist–that leads to a clear resolution and illumination. The story paradigm was handed down through Western culture from the ancient Greek tragic drama.

But apparently this isn't the only story paradigm. Not all Earth cultures descended from the Greeks, after all. As De Bodard outlines, The great novels of the Ming and Qing dynasty (fourteenth century to twentieth century) are not plot or character-centered, and do not have a neat, tidy resolution or a climax. Rather, they aim to present a variety of images, themes, and personalities, ... “infinite overlapping and alternation,” a feeling of endlessness that is not rooted in some underlying meaning of the world.


What do you think? Does this free your creative juices to flow in new and unexpected directions?
And kudos to Asimov's Science Fiction for making such interesting articles available.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ghetto or gangnam?

Here's an interesting question that's been wending it's way around cyberspace lately: 21st Century Science Fiction and Fantasy: Ghetto, or Gangnam Style?: Science fiction and fantasy creators and fans were originally outsiders… misfits who got no respect from the mainstream… who stood on the outside looking in. How much has changed in today’s world… a world in which popular culture oozes SF and fantasy elements?

IMHO, Science Fiction and Fantasy are mainstream now. We live in a SF/F world with our cell phones, aka mini super-computers in the palms of our hands, quantum dot televisions, privatized space travel and all the rest. Almost all the highest worldwide movie grosses have been in the SF/F ouvre, e.g. Avatar, Marvel's The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, etc. Conferences like Comic Con and their imitators are rampant. Many of the most popular TV shows are in the SF/F genre, such as Big Bang Theory, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time, Person of Interest, Revolution, Beauty and the Beast, Arrow, depending on which list you consult.

Even if we just focus on fiction, what do we see?
What were the best-selling books in 2012? Yep, you guessed it, many science fiction and fantasy titles, including The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena, The Hobbit, A Game of Thrones, The kane Chronicales: The Serpent's Shadow, A Dance With Dragons, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and a lot more. And that doesn't even include the whole Twilight vampire series which was super hot in 2010 and before, and the whole Harry Potter series which was white-hot in 2007 and before.

Here's another indication SF/F has become prevalent: Doris Lessing won the Novel Prize in Literature in 2007, partly for her "space fiction"--as she put it.
So that's my 2 cents, SF/F is as popular as Gangnam Style. :)

What do you think? Ghetto, or Gangnam Style?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Death Star

I don't know if you all ever participate in We the People: Your Voice in our Government, but there was an interesting petition lately "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016." I can only assume this was a joke? Since it garnered over 25,000 signatures it got an official response from the white house. Check it out on the We the People website, or below:

Official White House Response to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.
This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

Excellent response, Mr. Shawcross!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

the journey

The brave MFA students at Seton Hill University are smack in the middle of their winter residency right now. Good luck to them. Maybe the notice is too short, but tonight at 7:00pm is the big public event. This year Kevin Hearne will be talking about "The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Epic Fantasy & What Other Genres Can Learn From It" and then signing books. If you're in Greenberg PA, get on over to Cecilian Hall in the Seton Hill Main Administration building! It should be fun.

As we settle into a new writing year, I'm trying to make the most of it. What did I learn from 2012? Sadly, at the end of 2012, one of my longtime critique partners quit critique group and quit writing. :( I have to respect his decision;it must be what's right for him. At the opposite extreme, another one of my longtime critique partners has an awesome new novel coming out in February 2013 from Nightshade Books. They both started writing seriously at about the same time, and they're both good writers. But they had very different outcomes. I guess you never know what's going to happen.

So, I'm enjoying my writing journey. I revised and submitted a new short story this week. I noticed that I have about five different stories out to various pro markets. I do think my short stories are better than they used to be.
I've gotten some agent rejections for novels this week, but I did get one partial request. I totally revamped/revised a novel I just started and sent the first three chapters out to one of my critique groups. (Sorry, guys!) I realized another novel I'm working on is at 70,000 words and I better quit meandering around and get to the finish line. I backtracked six chapters and revised; I think it's headed in a much better direction.
I got a lot of my editor work done this week. I got my blog posts done this week. I submitted a bunch of proposals for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) annual conference next summer. And I got ready for my critique group meeting tonight.

Good luck with your journey!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dealing with rejection

Happy New Year! I've been trying to come up with a more upbeat post than 'dealing with rejection', but what can I say? It's been on my mind. Here are some thoughts about rejection:
  • As writers, dealing with rejection is part of our job. Let me say that again: if you aren't submitting your work and getting responses you aren't doing your job. Getting rejected is literally your job. Obviously, the ideal is to write and publish and then repeat--but I don't know any writer whose career goes like that!
  • Learn from rejection. Often rejection is accompanied by constructive criticism. If so, seriously consider it. Notice I'm not saying change your work every time you get a rejection. Sometimes work just isn't right for a particular market.
  • Grouse with your writer friends about rejection; this is a bonding activity. :) If you don't have any writer friends: get some! Making friends with other writers is one of the great joys of being a writer. Many public libraries sponsor writers groups and there are tons of them on the web. See for example, www.writers.com/groups.html.
  • Remind yourself why you write. Everyone has different reasons to write. You need to have reasons beyond getting published. Do you have a story inside that you just can't ignore? Do you enjoy the creative outlet? Do you lose yourself in imaginary worlds? Have you made friends with your fictional characters? Why do you write?
  • Consider the road not taken. Now, more than ever, there are a lot of outlets for creative work. Maybe your muse would be better served via a truly interactive story? Or a prose/music/interpretive dance project? Maybe you should pod-cast your story? Self-publish? What about trying crowd-sourcing? The only limit is your imagination.
  • Keep trying! The most important thing to realize about rejection is it doesn't mean your project is over. Who knows, the next submission may lead to success! I hope so.
  • What do you think is the best way to deal with rejection?