Hell Divers

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I do love finding fast-paced books that get more chaotic as the story progresses then at the end…BAM! Everything is brought together to a nice conclusion. I find it a rare treat, a delicacy if you will. Sure, books like Hell Divers aren’t astounding works of literature that make you question life and what have you. Instead, they are so fun, books like these make me want to run out and buy every other book the author has written.

As for the story, it’s actually pretty good and throws some decent curveballs at you. It plays out like a movie, which made me think for sure I knew exactly what would happen near the end. Those parts I thought I knew would happen actually turned out differently. I’m being vague here to not give away spoilers, but am trying to get across that while the premise of the story is straightforward; the presentation is cleverly done.

Characterizations are good. Pacing is brilliant. The multiple sub-plots just plain work. All in all, Hell Divers is a really great read. One that is going to have me try out all the other series Nicholas Sansbury Smith has written.

If you like easy reads that move at a blistering pace then you’ll definitely want to give Hell Divers a read.

How the sun came to be in the sky*

 

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Once upon a time the sun ran along the ground on two legs. It could run very fast, but not as fast as the birds above it flew. Every day the sun would look up at the sky and wish to fly and be fast. After many years of running on the ground, the sun got an idea. It knew how it could fly! Near where it lived lay a great, big canyon as wide as it was deep. The chasm filled with birds that dove down out of the sky to soar in the sky in the ground.

So, one day, the sun put on a bright yellow shirt with long orange streamers on the arms, and a pair of red pants. Dressed in an outfit sure to compete with the beauty of the birds when it finally did fly; the sun ran fast – faster than it ever had – and at the edge of the canyon, it jumped. The sun flew into the air and kept going…and going…and going, never stopping.

That is why the sun is in the sky. It still has not landed.


*written for a make-believe school assignment when playing school with my 7 year old

Well this is quite the conundrum…

GS, with myself at the helm, have hauled more cargo through the years than most alive have ever seen with their one, two, sometimes three, eyes. Foam containers pushed into the cargo hold like a suppository into a titan. A Möbius cube one time, I got a picture of it in my room. Live animals, dead ones, plants that looked like animals; even had one client lie on the contract and try to embroil us in a slavery ring.
GS has facilitated rescues, captures, manhunts, political security, espionage, intelligence gathering, and a maze run once that had us breathing ammonia and riding slym-tams. Our facilitating has put us in so much danger, I’ve forgotten what the definition of the word is supposed to be. Christ on a cross; Down Clowns, Rack Stompers, Divinities, even Ice have been murder mad at us a time or two before.
We’ve had to wrestle with politicians, dine with psychopaths, rub shoulders with megalomaniac despot dictators, and swindle clergy.
GS, my crew and I, have rumbled down some hard fought miles over the years. As mentioned, we’ve seen and done enough to fill a dozen bookshelves. So much so, one wouldn’t be amiss thinking if something presents itself, I or someone on my team immediately has somewhat of a handle on it. But this…Well, this is what’s called a conundrum.

Goodnight Sunlight

Hello there. Name’s Earl Magellan, owner of Goodnight Sunlight, facilitator of events, and deliverer of cargo. You made the right choice in seeking me out; a better facilitator you’ll never find. Let me introduce you to my team.
Madison Lindberg, small arms weapons expert. When I say ‘expert’, I don’t use the term loosely. She has some odd affinity towards weapons that can be held in one hand. No matter if she has used the weapon a thousand times or this is her first time seeing it, she can use it with lethal accuracy. She claims she can tell how it will aim by the weight of it.
Talking about affinities, Buddy Brawn, known colloquially as BB, can blend so well with Solars, degenerates, and low-life criminals I sometimes forget he’s actually never been arrested or part of a crime family. He can bleed information from scum faster than a butcher can bleed dry a hog.
I’ll go ahead and use that butcher analogy as a segue to Zoe Ferris. Do you study the methods of a butcher before buying your meat? Or do you not let yourself think of the gruesome work that went into getting you that juicy steak, instead opting to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Zoe falls into the latter category.
Goodnight Sunlight is maintained by a veritable army of maintenance bots we call ‘mots’, because who wants to says ‘maintenance bots’ more than one time? I spend a full half of gross income on keeping up with the latest mots, engine upgrades, defensive and offensive measures, and navigation equipment. Why? It’s said a team is only as strong as the weakest link. I go out of my way to ensure Goodnight Sunlight is the strongest link.
So, there’s my team. The best facilitators working the galaxy. We always get positive results. Not fulfilling every part of a contract is not part of our shared vernacular. We get the job done and we get it done right. The first time.
Thank you and we look forward to facilitating for you.

Yeah, that seems to be a bit of a problem

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The original article can be found at Fireside Fiction Company.

I do wonder if this has less to do with systemic racism and more to do with money and the generalized fear of change people experience.

Editors of short story magazines are human, presumably, and as such these editors (in general) have an ingrained sense of right and wrong in regards to the stories that should appear in their magazines. It is this very ethos, that governs story choices, that editors are chosen and employed; for the pieces they pick, presumably, keep the eyeballs coming back to their magazine.

Now, while this may appear to be a culturing of anti-POC dispositions amongst the SFF editors of the world; in reality the likely driver behind this maintaining of the status quo is…money.

Every company in the world has a desire to make money, if for different reasons. For-profits companies, your Apples and Walmarts, want to make money simply so they can make more money. Non-profit organizations (legitimate ones) want to make money as well, if only so they can continue offering the services they provide; for if they made no money they couldn’t operate. SFF magazines are no different; they have to make money. At the very least, so they can keep their website running; and in a better world so they can pay authors and a full-time staff of employees.

So as money the ultimate guiding hand, coupled with peoples fear of change, choosing the same type of story, month after month, for publication becomes the norm. Yes, many magazines will publish stories that are radically different from what they normally publish, but that is done only once or twice a year, normally in a planned featurette. And those magazines are not in the majority, making once or twice a year to read a change in storytelling (from a minority of publications) woefully inadequate. So, it is wonderful, studies like these get done. They put the onus on the editors to go outside their comfort zone of stories and not just for a planned featurette, removing the argument that readers just don’t to read something different.

And why should the task of giving readers a wide variety in stories not fall onto the shoulders of editors? Why should these short story publishers not hire a group of editors with wildly different views on what makes a great story?

Truth be told every SFF magazine should have their editors make a quarter of published stories be from writers with strong technical writing in a style of prose that doesn’t mesh finely with every other story picked. Now this is not an affirmative action type call to SFF publishing; rather it would present to readers a highly varying degree of writing styles that, while the editor may not like the style of, the audience will (at least with some of the stories). Then since the editor stuck to only strong writing, it’s a win-win; high standards are upheld, stories available to read begin to spread away from a nexus of indistinguishability, the possibility of more incoming money presents itself, and changing to new styles of prose feels less daunting.

The folly of making a story as “cool” as can be

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Back in high school I knew of a kid in the graduating class ahead of me who would get to school early so he could be seen standing in front of his Mazda RX-7. A car his parents very obviously bought for him. Come time to go home, he would stand next to his car and…regale kids with stories of his parent’s wealth? I’m not entirely sure what he talked about. In my graduating class there was a kid who went a different route. A lull in a conversation? Good time for him to bring up the latest gadget he supposedly got to play with. He’d quote the price, rattle off the name of some wealthy person no one else knew who had that gadget, then tell how amazing it was. While both acted in different ways, each yearned for the same end result: to be viewed as “cool”.

A recent book I read reminds me of those two kids.

Now, I understand the urge to make a story as cool as can be. People like cool stuff. Fonzi is still brought up in conversation. People buy posters of James Dean to this day. Buddy Holly has a song named after him. Each would have ended up as obscure pop culture references if people didn’t like “cool”.

So yes, adding a little “coolness” to a story is just fine, however there is a point when that “coolness” takes on a life of its own; eclipsing the story it is part of.

This recent story, in the effort to make a totally cool, bad ass story, forgot three key elements which allowed the desired end-point to eclipse the actual story.

  1. Characters that have some sort of growth. ANY GROWTH.
  2. A plot that actually does something.
  3. Suspension of disbelief.

I probably shouldn’t have to explain this, but readers expect characters to not be static. Now, the word “static” is tricky; for how can a character that does stuff be static? When we say something is static, we generally mean it’s the same, has not changed, or has done anything. A character who is talking and running around is doing something, so they can’t be that word.

Wrong.

If characters simply do stuff and go places, doing the same stuff in these new places as they did in the old places, they are static characters in a static plot. Nothing more. But wait, you say, action isn’t the only part of a book! There’s those middle squishy areas in between the doing of stuff. True, there are those areas, but if the characters only talk/have internal monologue about the previous and future doings of stuff, then they go do more stuff; they are static/cardboard/not fleshed out.

Let’s put it another way.

If a reader can read 5 pages, skip a good 30 pages, read a few more pages and not miss anything (no matter how many times a reader does that), you have a plot and characters more static and cardboard than cardboard sent through the dryer without a dyer sheet.

Which brings us to the point about the plot actually doing something. A story that is just a bunch of psychopaths running around murdering people and bitching about the other psychopaths, is not a plot. It’s just a long action scene. And yes, if a character runs around killing people because they get in their way, that person is a psychopath.

Murdering—okay, fine, killing people to achieve a story goal is shoddy writing. It shows lack of imagination or lack of skill or both. Sure, just about every book has violence and killing in it. However, most books (at least the ones that are well written) use the trope only in action sequences to ramp up the tension, not to resolve issues/achieve goals.

Violence that solves issues and progresses the plot works in videogames. Those things can get away with plots and characters that are weak and a gratuitous amount of violence if the gameplay is super fun, because in the end that is why people play videogames, TO PLAY. Books are different. It’s the same reason why movies and TV shows don’t follow books exactly. What works in one medium rarely translates well to a different medium. What is “cool” in videogames is not the same type of “cool” in books.

Books are literary in nature. They should be written to engage the mind and imagination, not pretend to be videogames, eschewing the mind engagement in favor of balls-to-the-wall action. Read the Paradox Trilogy by Rachel Bach if you think books can’t engage the mind and imagination and be as frantic as a Call of Duty session on speed.

Stories shouldn’t be able to be read and forgotten as easily as the names of the “cool” kids we all knew back in our teenage years.

 

The Problem with Military Science Fiction: Part 1

I might be in the minority here (am I?), but I’ve been looking for articles on military sci-fi for years. Thomas Evans presents one of the better articles I’ve found on the sub-genre. Very interesting and true.

The points that Thomas hits on, are the exact reasons why I rarely finish a military sci-fi book, yet the ones I do finish are the books I love the best.

I wish there were more books that didn’t have good guys be a lawful good Paladin and bad guys be chaotic-evil barbarians. Through them both in the gray zone, that makes for fun reading.

The Archaeologist's Guide to the Galaxy.. by Thomas Evans

This week, I am starting an open ended series of blogs is intended to consider why Military Science Fiction has such a bad reputation, and what (if anything) can be done about it.

Now, I should start by saying that I like MilFic.  I read MilFic, I write MilFic.  Some MilFic is truly tremendous stuff.  Heinlein’s Starship Troopers(1959) Haldeman’s The Forever War(1974) create bookends for some of the best MilFic out there: one gung-ho, the other anti-war.  Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game (1977) is one of my favorite books regardless of genre (or subgenre).  Yet, Military Science Fiction is really considered a literary ghetto by many  people, even many Science Fiction fans. Considering that Sci-Fi in general is often considered a literary ghetto, that puts MilFic Smack-Dab in the middle of one of Literature’s worst neighborhoods.  This is unfortunate for many reasons, not least of which is that many of…

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