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Archive for December, 2008

Over the course of four manuscripts, I discovered that my natural genre is science fiction romance–sort of space-going international thrillers with a happy-ending romance thrown in. Hey, romance is consistently more than half of mass market paperbacks sold; I’m not completely stupid.

So here’s the weird thing: I’ve entered contests, I’ve sent out manuscripts for cold reads, I’m in a critique group, and the single aspect of my writing that is most comment-worthy is the swear words. Yup, people (other than my two critique partners) are absolutely fascinated by how humans are going to swear centuries hence.

Frankly, I’ve never seen it as being much different from the ways we swear now. Most swearing centers around bodily functions, which aren’t going to change much anytime evolutionarily soon. Defecation, urination, fornication–they’ll all be around and so will their particular flavors of swear words.

Plus, I’ve studied the history of English; I know it changes quickly. In six hundred years, humans will barely be able to read what I’m writing right now. Any story I write set centuries in the future, whether off-world or on Earth, has to be written in translation. So the swear words should be translated back to something we can understand too, right?  Well, most of my readers/judges/commenters don’t seem to think so.

They wanted “more futuristic” cussing. I’m going to pause for a moment, because I’m still having just a small amount of difficulty wrapping my brain around that concept. Boggle. Unboggle. Sigh.

Finally, in desperation, I created a new swear word for my work in progress (to take the place of the f-bomb ubiquitous in military conversational English).  I have a space-going society with interplanetary governments and interplanetary trade. As a result, one of the worst things I could think of–especially for someone between planets–is a rip in a pressure suit or hull while in vacuum. Thus, my new word is “rip” (ripped, ripping, rip me, go rip yourself, motherripper, etc.).

When I sent out the first chapter to the recent On the Far Side contest (RWA Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter’s annual contest for unpublished writers), I was complimented on my swearing.

My three judges/commenters didn’t like the female protagonist, they were worried about “Vulcan” trademark infringement (obviously missing that Star Trek ripped it off from Roman mythology), only one person caught the question I really wanted answered (did it start in the right place/right POV), but they loved the cussing. Loved it. Loved. It.

Ohh-kaaay.

I’ve decided I’m going to start using it in the hopes the word will catch on and actually become a major swear word in the future.

So what do you think; how will we swear in The Future?

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New Posts

Just an administrative note. I have imported all of the posts from my local Speculative Fiction group’s blog – Boise Spec Fic. So if you venture in time back to before we started Genre Bender, you will see posts from that blog. There are a few gems back there, do take a look.

Admin – Ken McConnll

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Norwescon

Anyone planning on going to Norwescon, April 09?

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I’ve made the comment that to learn dialog you should study the stand up comedians. Well, the humorists also are great users of the language. Roy Blunt, Jr. was on the Bob Edwards Weekend show a few weekends ago. I suggest you download and listen to it (free podcast). Bob also interviews a great many writers and song writers.

Best comments were when Bob asked Roy about why he was so interested in the language to write a book about it called Alphabet Juice. Roy replied he had been earning a living using his “over the counter license” to use the English language for his livelihood since he was 14.

I need to remember that phrase.

Edit Nathan over at the Polybloggimous posted a link to a vocabulary test. Scores are posted over at Nathan’s place.

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S. Andrew Swann points us (through his blog post which has a really good LOLcat) to a new publishing group at HarperCollins that’s trying something different. Here is a Reuters article giving the basic overview and a NYT article with more details about the new group and what they maybe trying to do.

I think it’s good that some publishing house has not only realized that the distribution and business model of book selling is broken, but is trying something new to fix it. The “share the profit instead of an advance” has me a little worried and sets off my “Scam” alarms, but with the HC name behind it, I’m willing to give it a little room to wiggle. For that part to work, accounting at the publishers and distributors will have to become simpler than the full work-up astrology charts they currently resemble. Really, there’s a whole art to figuring out when advances earn out and how much royalty is due afterward. Go ask any published author who has actually earned a royalty check. Santeria has more straightforward rules.

The process of “stripping” is also something that should be abolished and this new venture goes a long way to plunge the stake into it’s heart. For those of you not in the know, many moons ago the publishing houses realized they were losing money on return shipping (having started the process of full credit returns during the last depression IIRC) so for paperbacks, they allowed the stores to strip the covers off and return just the cover for credit. The store was then to destroy/pulp the book themselves. I’m sure you’ve all seen the warnings to never buy a book without it’s cover. You wouldn’t need such warning if it hadn’t been such a widespread practice. Personally, I’d rather see the front side of distribution change with adding more actual people on both the handing books to the stores and the stores buying books (IMHO, this is where printed fiction has lost the majority of their audience, the automation of the process and the reduction of real humans who actually knew what people wanted to read in their local markets on both sides of the transaction).

How this will affect the whole life cycle of a book remains to be seen (publish, sold, shelved, returned, discounted, remaindered). And as you can see they’re only tackling one part of this. That part is pretty important (constant shipping of one book can soak up more than the royalty), but it exists in a larger context of the business model.

Unfortunately I see this as becoming into a more traditional “partnership” with the publisher. And it still remains to be seen how the other aspects of publishing are handled (marketing, shelf space, printing complexities, art direction, etc) with this model. For some reason (call me a cynic) I don’t believe the publisher will re-shoulder more of the marketing responsibilities. Although 25 books a year is considered “boutique” from what I understand, there are small presses which publish more books. So they may be able to give more in all these concerns.

In the overall scheme, I think this is a good new practice. I have some minor quibbles, but it doesn’t even sound like they have it all together yet anyway. It’ll be interesting to hear from the authors that sell into this new imprint. I hope they will share and can share their experiences. It’ll also be interesting to see how this would stack up against other small press deals (who I would see adopting a business model close to this faster than the larger imprints).

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This one is totally tippy.

I stole the idea from Matt. Our blog artwork (a.k.a. cool chick with the hair) is a CC licensed image from Flickr. Matt linked to the full image on the About page as required by the license. He always uses compfight.com to search for artwork and photography, because you can click the “cc only” button.

Awesome tip! Thanks Matt.

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Space Westerns

I like Westerns. I always watch a good Western when I come across it on TV. Recently, I even read my first Louis L’Amour book – Fallon. I intend to read more Westerns in the coming months. In fact, it could become my number one genre choice in 2009. There are many Western novels that I need to catch up on, not to mention all the hundreds of short stories writers like L’Amour have written. My sudden literary interest in Westerns is prompted by my recent fascination with Space Western short fiction.

What is a Space Western you may rightly ask? Well, broadly speaking its anything from Star Wars to Firefly. The link to Westerns in Star Wars is most prominent in the character of Han Solo. Trade his blaster for a six gun and you could drop Han into the American West and he would look and act right at home. For those of you not familiar with Firefly, it took the Western motif quite literally by placing cowboys directly into a space setting. Everything from clothing to the wooden diner table on the Firefly starship are lifted directly from a Western movie. Heck, they even speak Chinese. Why was Chinese part of American history? Who do you think built the railroads?

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The many tropes of the Western tend to lend themselves nicely to the fantasy side of Sci-Fi. What is generally considered Space Opera. Big, epic stories often set during galactic wars with faster than light travel and things blowing up, tend to define the Space Opera sub genre. Again, think Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. However, most short fiction tends to focus on one or two characters. And so the Space Western usually focuses on one protagonist and his or her struggles.

I’ve been writing quite a few Space Westerns lately. Six of them are complete with another six or so on the back burner. Science Fiction writers tend to create elaborate universes and then set the majority of their stories in that universe (there’s a post for another day). The reason they do this is because creating fictional universes is hard work and one way to flesh them out is to write a bunch of stories set in that universe. For me, I use the Galaxy Collision Series as my universe. My novel Starstrikers is set in that universe and so are my two published short stories.

My Space Westerns are mostly set on a dusty moon called Ocherva, at the edge of the known galaxy. The stories center around two different but related themes. The first is about the exploits of a Stellar Ranger company. This is a direct cowboy parallel to the Texas Rangers of the old West. The second is about androids who come to the moon to get an upgrade that makes them sentient. After having the upgrade, they have to deal with the repercussions of it before heading back to the inner worlds and helping to free themselves from service to humans and other carbonates.

With these two overarching themes, I create stories that have a distinctly Western flavor but that turn traditional tropes upside down. A theme in many of the stories is how the land changes the people and androids who live on it. Just as the vast, open spaces of the American West left a mark on those who lived there, so does the vast, deserted landscape of a barren moon, affect those who live on it. For the androids, the raw material – silicon, used in their upgrades is mined on Ocherva. It gives them a soul, but at what price? Sometimes the androids can’t handle it and they go mad. Sometimes they feel a desire to meddle in the affairs of humans, like becoming a sheriff for a town of frightened people. The humans chew on (for hydration purposes) and sometimes smoke a native weed called Ocha. The Ocha weed, when smoked, gives them crazy dreams. Sometimes the dreams give them glimpses into the future.

So you see, I have plenty of opportunity to play on this moon and will be writing Ranger and Silicant stories for years to come. I hope to build a world so familiar to my readers that they will think of it like they think of the American West, as a big, wide-open place full of adventure and danger; but also a place where humans, aliens and androids all mix together in interesting ways to make fun and engaging stories.

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