Swordspoint Review

While I knew that I wanted my next few reads to be fiction, I harbored a certain degree of trepidation as I made my selections.  Even when I sat down to open Swordspoint, I was cautious, approaching it like someone poking an injured monster to see if it is still alive, anticipating that I would again read through a fantasy novel and finish thinking that it was just okay, and when does the next Stormlight book come out, and why won’t Rothfuss ever finish the Kingkiller Chronicle?  Less than a page of Swordspoint was all that was required to chase away my doubts and hesitations and any thoughts of other fantasy stories, because it was that beautiful.

The Castle of Otranto Review

is how it came to be added to my reading list. However, to be more specific, it is one of the earliest works of Gothic horror, more a precursor to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein than it is to The Lord of the Rings. That is not a genre that I tend to favor, but the idea of reading an early work of speculative fiction was intriguing to allow me to look past that element.

Make Anachronisms a Thing of the Past

I don't actually know how much this post will help you in ridding your works of pesky anachronisms, but the title just seemed to clever to resist. If you're not already familiar, an anachronism is a literary, spatial or temporal (usually temporal) transplant. A detail, a phrase, an expression, a device, or really anything else could be an anachronism; most commonly these are stock expressions or devices of our own time that we accidentally put into our works. Nor are they unique to literature, as there are plenty of examples in movies and other media. For instance, perhaps a period movie might show cars from a later model year driving around in the background. Or my personal favorite, when an author or screenwriter has archers "fire" their arrows, an expression which could not predate the advent of firearms. This last one even made its way into The Lord of the Rings movies (notably during the battle at Helm's Deep).

Building the Learning Curve

In any book, the author must introduce the characters, the situation, and the basic elements of the setting, but in fantasy and science fiction you might have a viewpoint character in the first chapter who isn't even human, living on a planet that isn't even in this universe. The very laws of physics might be different, never mind the differences in culture, history, civilization, and everything that goes along with that: systems of measurement, idioms, naming conventions, philosophical principles, mathematics, science...speculative fiction strives to introduce and immerse a reader in a world that might be completely different from that with which we are familiar.

M.A.C.E. Versus M.I.C.E.

Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.

Read On

I admit, this post is a little self-serving. It benefits me if you read more, and if more people read; I am an author, after all. It also might be ineffectual; if you're on this site, reading this blog post, you're probably already a reader, and I don't need to convince you of the benefits and importance of continuing to read - you'll do that, anyway. However, this is not just a creative ploy to present a moralistic argument for why you should really go read more Blood Magic (although you absolutely should do that). Every now and then, I'll be telling a friend about a great book that I just read, or I'll recommend a book, or I'll be telling someone about my own most recent writing efforts, and their response will be something along the lines of "I try not to read anything more complicated than The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

Where’s the Science Fiction?

Broadly, I classify my writing as speculative fiction, which includes the genres that are typically shelves under both the fantasy, and science fiction categories. Yet, you will notice that the majority of my works, both published so far on the site, and in progress, fall in the fantasy genre. Considering that my "real" job involves working with advanced, experimental satellites, that might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, and indeed I've gotten a lot of questions recently about why I don't write more science fiction. So, I've decided to try to provide an answer, other than the fact that I'm not nearly as skilled or imaginative, to why I'm not the next Isaac Asimov.

Stories Come From Somewhere

No, it's not a magical fairyland. No pixie whispers into my brain what I should write next, what stories I ought to tell. Actually, I don't think that very many stories could come from a magical fairyland, if such a place existed. It would be too nice in such a magical place, and stories, at their heart, require a digression from the pleasant or the normal. Otherwise, there would be nothing worth reading, much less writing. Which is not to say that there couldn't be a magical fairyland in which things don't go beautifully, but let's leave that possibility be for the purposes of this discussion.