Androids

Androids: Laboratory created super soldiers controlled through cyber-organic processes. Escaped control eighty years in the past. Butchered an entire planet in repayment for what they were forced to do while under control. Banned and with all knowledge of them wiped from the Net; the beings are now hunted mercilessly. Tracked across the galaxy from populated worlds to derelict orbitals to uninhabitable planets, androids are found and they are destroyed, with no quarter given, by teams of extremely specialized individuals.

Praetorian Team 107 is not one such team.

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NO, NO, NO. DO NOT DO THAT.

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I have an idea for a story. I enjoy Battlestar Galactica, so I think Apollo or Starbuck should be in my story. I love watching Dr. Who, so the much discussed Clara will have a place. Oh yeah, the doc from BSG is great, so he will be there.

Clichés are good, yes? I love clichés, it makes the story run so much smoother.

How could I forget? Explanation for every little action any of my characters make is a no-brainer; because, duh, how will anyone know what is happening without detailed exposition for every action?

Intense action sequences must be broken up with internal narrative; and inconsistencies during those scenes will go unnoticed, so I just gotta stick to the detailed explanations.

And this, this is the most important I have to remember: the tough, grizzled guy gets the woman who instantly falls for him upon meeting him, but she must also act stern and show she doesn’t give a shit when he reacts like a silverback gorilla challenging an intruder. People just won’t find it believable if she doesn’t show a little backbone.

facepalm

Let’s break down the reasons why the above is so wrong.

STEALING CHARACTERS

It is okay to take inspiration from a fictional or real person to create your fictional person. That’s perfectly okay. Nearly every single fictional character ever created has been inspired by person(s) of myth or reality or a little of both. What is wrong, is stealing wholesale from a character someone else has created.

For example: The Chief of Medical on Battlestar Galactica is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news.

So, if your doctor is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news; you’re not inspired from the doc on BSG, you’re just being lazily and stealing.

CLICHÉS

  1. The soldier with a lot of tattoos is a hot head and great in a fight.
  2. The man from a country in South America, he prays with a rosary before every mission even though he’s agnostic.
  3. A settled new planet has a bazaar, homes made out of rock, and low wealth, and is, of course, settled by people from Middle East nations.
  4. The tough guy leader has a checkered past, doesn’t care about himself cause he’s a leader, and he gets the girl.

The above are called, “clichés”, although I think number 3 is also an overt racist stereotype, and number 2 makes you seem ridiculously uneducated.

I wish I could say people hate clichés, but if that were the case The Big Bang Theory would not be popular. Clichés do ensure you’ll have a ton of really terrible reviews, and not nice things coming from word of mouth because of the lack of originality. You’ll never get away from every cliché, but don’t over do it and stay away from the stereotypes.

EASE UP ON THE EXPOSITION

No. I’ll say it again. No. You do not need to explain every little goddamn thing. If you are writing a military sci-fi book, you do not need to tell the reader what MRE stands for. If the person reading a military sci-fi book does not know what MRE stands for or what a MRE is, they are in a super duper tiny minority and they will look it up.

Explaining precisely why a character is going to do something, and then having the character do exactly what was in the previous two paragraphs is called, “telegraphing”. There is no such thing as good telegraphing, unless you are using a telegraph to send a message to another telegraph. You’re not though, you’re typing on a keyboard.

Ease up on the exposition, and while you’re writing, pretend for just a minute that your reader has an iota of intelligence and can figure something out without you having to paint the Mona Lisa in every paragraph.

INCONSISTENCIES

If you are in walking with maglev boots on the outside of a spaceship in the vacuum of space and you jump off…You will not land with a thud against the ship.

THE DAMSEL

Take a moment to look at what year it is. You’re reading this on a web browser; the date is going to be somewhere within eyesight.

It’s the year 2016 CE. It is not the Mad Men era in the 1950s.

If you create a character who is a giant asshole with mood swings so violent, he has an armed guard to meetings, the woman he talks to will not instantly fall in love with his rugged handsomeness and manly attitude when she meets him for the first time. She will not tell the guard to leave the room while he slams his fists on the table because his authority is being challenged. Seriously, if you think this is perfectly okay for a story…

book and coffee

I love reading; great stories, wonderful stories, just okay stories, it really doesn’t matter. However, authors are supposed to uphold some sort of standard with storytelling. Not everyone on Earth writes stories, which means being the bulwark against terrible storytelling falls to just a small percentage of all alive.

Let’s do the world good.

Let’s create magic with words.

 

CARDBOARD HAS NEVER BEEN MORE INTERESTING – HULL ZERO THREE

 

A man pushed open the saloon style doors of Louie’s on Fox. The right top hinge squealed like nails on chalkboard, acting a better entry bell than a bell would. Paint flaked from the wooden slabs in so many places, regulars made it a game to guess what color Louie claimed the door was that day. As the saloon doors flap closed, the hinge making fainter sounds with each flap like that of an animal letting out their last gasps of life, the man walks with steady steps in the direction of the bar. Dirt, brought in by the miners at the coal seam just outside of town and blown in from lack of glass on the window holes and a proper door, rise in small tufts under the heavy steps of the man. A few of the patrons that sit at the five fight-weathered tables like fleas clinging to a dog’s back give the man a once over, and then look back at their liquid dreams in the dirty glasses in front of them.

Two brown fans, fan blades more gray than brown from the caked on dust, turn as lazily as a vulture on a thermal waiting for a meal to die. It does nothing for the blistering heat that envelops the place, but they’re not supposed to according to Louie. It’s about not allowing the air to go stagnant. The man doesn’t know about that, nor does he care, he didn’t pick Louie’s for its cosmopolitan ambience.

He makes his way to a bar stool with a sliver of cushion and fabric so thin the man does what every other patron to Louie’s does, he tries to pull off the fabric like it was a dirty towel Louie left on the stool. When the fabric doesn’t come free, the man shrugs a shoulder, and sits in front of the bar top that takes up almost the entire left side wall.

Gouges, pits, and scraps decorate the deep brown oak bar top with patches of lighter oak, where fights had removed large chunks, joining the display. The metal running along the edge of the front could have been brass, or copper, or any other type of metal. It was hard to tell from the blood and dirt stains on top of the divots and dents. Behind the bartop that would turn away anyone more refined than a raccoon, five shelves were screwed into the roughhewn cedar wall. Dusty bottles with hardly a drop spilled from their confines sat next to near empty bottles of alcohol, the glass hard to see through from the dirt that covered it.

An old bartender behind the bar shambles over to the man sitting and places a glass as dirty as the bottle in front of the man. The inside could be clean, but the man doesn’t hold his breath. If he was worried about his health he wouldn’t have been at Louie’s.

“Cheapest vodka ya got,” the man says. As the bartender ambles away, he sighs, leans on his elbows against the bar, and just stares.

~

Greg Bear is horrible.

Okay, let’s back up here, shine the dirty glass so things are a bit clearer. If you are an author, you know this one piece of advice because it is a constant. Everyone who gives advice on writing says it; be it a blog post, newspaper article, or just shooting the breeze. If you want to be an author you need to know this; and if you just like reading, not writing, it will make sense when you think about it.

Characters in a story are not supposed to be as flat as cardboard.

An example would be the mini-story above. We know one character is a man and he doesn’t care about his health. That’s it. Why he’s there, what drove him to Louie’s, what drives him to do what he does. They are all absent, but the bar is in great detail. So you have a fleshed out background, but a character as flat as paper.

An entire novel is not supposed to be set up that way, yet Greg Bear does just that with Hull Zero Three, and it works. Which is why Mr. Bear is such a cretin. A story is not supposed to be a great read if the characters have the depth of an atom. Yet, Bear takes that given, throws it on the fire, and then writes a story populated by cardboard characters that is a really good read.

There is a reason why the characters are so one-dimensional in Hull Zero Three. To provide the reason would give away what makes the book wonderful, but that doesn’t mean the story is supposed to succeed. Even though the characters have to be cardboard, Hull Zero Three should be boring, but I couldn’t put it down.

For two days I read the book every single chance I got. Two free minutes waiting for the kitchen sink to fill with hot water? I read. Walking from the car to inside, I read. I read at night by the light of my phone, and during the morning while waiting for bread to toast.

The main reason for why the story is so fascinating is that the story is interesting despite being populated by cardboard characters. I don’t have a clue how he pulled it off. No idea.

Hull Zero Three is a great read. It’s really good. I highly recommend it.

GRIMDARK FANTASY IS FUN. WAIT, WHAT? – THE BLADE ITSELF

I all but gave up on fantasy not too long ago; as little as one year ago I refused to read a fantasy novel. The reason I gave to myself is that I read too many fantasy books growing up, so many that I’ve been indoctrinated into every trope there is in the genre. What is original to someone else, is tired and worn out to me. Turns out I was being really picky and choosing the wrong books to read.

The genre of fantasy is filled with stories that use the same old tropes—good vs. evil, chosen one who happens to be a peasant and 4 years old, old gods wanting to get back into the game. However, the same goes for every genre out there, and it’s that way for a reason. Tropes are not to make a story original, rather they are used for familiarity, to increase reader enjoyment and, at the same time, sales.

So, when I gave up on fantasy because I claimed everything to read was just tired and worn out, that was just me not giving the genre a fair chance. Instead I wrote the entire genre off and ran to the sci-fi side of the fence. There I learned my reasoning for giving up an entire genre sat on thin-ice, and the tremendous value of Goodreads Groups; for I got to a point that I didn’t even like reading sci-fi.

How do Goodreads Groups and really awful picking of books figure together? If you’re a connoisseur of Goodreads, then you know the answer.

Movies. There are so many of them out there, so many painfully awful ones, that most of the time it’s better to wear an old hat than to pick out a new one. It’s one of the reasons Rotten Tomatoes was created; to help people learn which movies to stay away from and which to watch. The rating system on that site is so uncanny that if there is a green splat next to the rating, just about everyone is going to agree it’s not a good movie.

The rationale behind Rotten Tomatoes is more or less the same as the one Goodreads uses. What would happen if, in one place, anyone could rate and post a review of a book? Not only that, what would happen if people could create groups on that site, with posts that linked to the books that anyone—not just a book critic—could review and rate? You, I, get a site that is an absolute boon to your, my, book choosing needs.

Goodreads, the reviews I read there, and a Goodreads fantasy group are the sole reason I wandered back into fantasy with The Emperor’s Blades, and the only reason why I read The Blade Itself. And oh how happy I am for that.

The Blade Itself is a feat of storytelling. Joe Abercrombie somehow takes the old trope of a quest of strangers and turns it into THE MOST ENTERTAINING FANTASY NOVEL I HAVE EVER READ. If you read my thoughts on The Emperor’s Blades, you’ll know I love that book. However, The Blade Itself is in its own class.

I’ve read books that are more thought provoking; stories with sentences that are a feast for the mind; novels with plots vastly more complex, but never have I read a fantasy novel more entertaining.

It’s the little things that create the amazing entertainment value. Jezal yelling really loudly when talking to someone he thinks can’t speak his language. Glokta angry at stairs because he moves like a wizened ancient man. Logen’s practicality. Everything, and I mean everything, fits together so seamlessly that Joe Abercrombie has joined the short list of authors I will reread with glee:

  • Neil Gaiman
  • Neal Asher
  • Robert Jordan
  • Dan Simmons
  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Rachel Bach
  • Peter Watts

Should you purchase, or check out from the library, The Blade Itself? Do I really have to answer that? Yes? Well then, do yourself a favor and give in to the hype surrounding Joe Abercrombie; I did and found it to be completely justified, which is why I am so happy I stopped being a book snob and jumped back in the fantasy pool. Read The Blade Itself like I did. Read it now.

YOU’RE WELCOME. 5 BINGE-READING WORTHY SERIES

Lots-of-books

 

It’s Friday afternoon, management told everyone to talk a halfday because the universe took a sudden liking to you. Traffic is light on the way home, every green light caught; everyone you know is off doing something for the weekend; your calendar is as empty as the pie plates at The Golden Corral; and your bookshelf is proudly displaying wonderful works of fiction in all their glory. Or it’s reality and you’d rather read than talk to people.

Whatever the reason, these book series will keep you so entertained you’ll wish a weekend is a year longer than it is.

 

THE PARADOX TRILOGY

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What do you get when you combine Frank Castle, Black Widow, Jason Bourne, Joan of Arc, and Achilles? Answer: Devi Morris, the badass of all badasses.

The Paradox Trilogy follows the mercenary Devi Morris in a story with such tightly paced action you’ll give yourself papercuts flipping the pages as you follow her through a conspiracy, that if solved, could have horrific consequences for the human race.

This is action upon action set in a science fiction setting. Think: Expendables (if it were a good movie) + Star Wars.

 

THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY

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Welcome to grimdark fantasy, authored by none other than Lord Grimdark himself. Visceral style of storytelling that reimagines classic tropes, protagonists and antagonists who walk a moral gray line, bloody battles, raw animalistic magic, dead gods, a grim rather than romantic epic quest, and political backstabbing create a story that will go down in the annals as one of the finest fantasy series ever written.

At three books—hence, trilogy—if you start late afternoon on a Friday, you could finish Paradox and The First Law, and by saddened by how boring your life suddenly seems on Monday.

 

THE WHEEL OF TIME

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The genre of fantasy is known for epics, so much so that there are entire blog entries dedicated to finding those fantasy books that happen to be standalone or not epic. And when it comes to epic people may automatically think of J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings, but it’s Robert Jordan’s successful The Wheel of Time that set has set the bar for what an epic fantasy series can be.

Wondering how that can be since LoTR is so well known, the movies so popular? Take a gander at these statistics:

10,188 pages. 1,379 POVs. 147 unique POVs. 23 nations.

The Wheel of Time is so epic, it redifines the the very word; and while a few of the books may seem like fluff, there just to make Tor Books and Jordan more money, the payout comes in the form of a jackpot with the last book, Memory of Light. The finale to the greatest epic fantasy ever written is so great, you better talk a month off when you begin on Eye of the World, to finish this classic struggle of good versus evil.

 

REVELATION SPACE

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The Revelation Space books are not a series in the classic definition, but rather five books set in a shared universe. STOP! Don’t skip to the next series to binge on, now that you know this isn’t a series like a TV show. To do so would have catastrophic consequences to your imagination, as the books set in the Revelation Space universe are so amazing that they are the gold standard for hard sci-fi space opera.

What’s that? You don’t like hard sci-fi? I hear you, I’m not a big fan of the genre either. But the Revelation Space books are so marvelously written, to read them and not be entertained is all but an impossibility.

 

FIREFALL

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Ahh the challenge of reading. For many, if they are told a storyline is so original it doesn’t follow normal tropes, and ideas are so…different the entire series reads like a piece of experimental fiction, those many would shake their heads and move on.

To do so with Blindsight and Echopraxia—books of Firefall—would be a disservice to your brain.

Yes, Blindsight has botany terminology that is difficult to wrap your head around and sometimes requires the use of a dictionary. True, Echopraxia has a plot arc that is, at best, challenging to wrap your mind around. However, the writing, plotting, pace, and original story are so wonderfully produced that very few authors alive—or dead—can match the superb results Peter Watts has achieved.

 

 

4 Detrimental Effects Of Reading On Ereaders

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History is full of epic battles; David and Goliath, Axis and Allies, Rocky and Apollo; but there is one battle more epic, more divisive, than any other:

Paper books versus Ebooks

Find someone who reads (more than just emails), and ask them if they prefer to do their reading on a real book or on a fake book like Kindles, and you’re guaranteed to get a response that does not straddle the fence. And even though the answer—which is better—is obvious, some people still choose wrong and say a fake (ebook) book is better.

The next time you hear such heresy, you now have four direct hits for why ebooks are the loser in this battle.

 

YOU’LL FORGET HOW TO READ LONG SENTENCES

Reading long literary sentences is a skill you can actually lose if you don’t use it. A study in 2006 shows that reading on screens changes the linear fashion in which we are taught to read, to an “F” pattern, where we read the first line then skim the left side looking for keywords. Good luck enjoying a novel by only reading thirty words on every page.

 

LACK OF ABSORBTION

Quick, name the first three significant plot points in the latest book you read. If you read the story on paper, you’re likely able to rattle them off; if you chose to read it on a Kindle or other ereader you’re “significantly” less likely to accurately answer that.

 

PAPER BOOKS ARE MORE COHERENT AND NAVIGABLE

By halving the topography of a novel—rather than eight corners and two clearly defined domains that help you navigate the terrain of words, an ebook gives you just a single page of text with no way to orient yourself—you are turning a joyful reading experience into an incoherent mess. Oh, and that literary map the domains—left and right pages—create also helps with reading comprehension.

 

YOU’RE HURTING YOURSELF

You heard reading can prevent mental decline and increase your empathy so you don’t come off as such a jerk to people, so you started reading with vigor. Good for you! Fantastic! I just hope you didn’t choose a screen to read that book on, or you may end up damaging your health more than helping it.

 

 

 

 

 

Hooray for book lights!

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Got these two little beauties with a Barnes and Noble gift card by daughter got me for my birthday. Now I can lay in bed and read while my wife sleeps, rather than sit up on an uncomfortable couch.

Great book so far too.