Posts Tagged ‘genre fiction’

Forty-two years ago this month, we learned the answer to life, the universe and everything. Even if humorous sci-fi isn’t your thing, Douglas Adams’ work has permeated pop culture.

42 years later, how ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ has endured

The influence of the Hitchhiker’s Guide “is everywhere,” says Marcus O’Dair, author of The Rough Guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“We can see it in culture, where Adams’ story is rumoured to have inspired everything from the band Level 42 to comedy show The Kumars at No. 42,” he says. “We can see it in tech: in the real-life ‘knife that toasts,’ for instance, or in-ear translation services reminiscent of the Babel fish. The most visible sign of its ubiquity, though, might be the fact that we can celebrate its anniversary not at 40 or 50 years but at 42 — and everyone knows why.”

This book let me know that there was a place for humorous absurdities in writing, and that it really doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it’s always reality that’s got it wrong.

This was the gist of the notice. It said “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Cake with bypass, made by me. To scale.

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What am I reading with lunch? How about a graphic novel about a woman, space, and a spunky little robot? App and interactivity are optional (but could be fun).

NASA – First Woman (read onlinedownload PDF)

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The good news is that there is a lot of up and coming fiction addressing issues of climate, change, and the environment. (The bad news is that we need it.)

Grist/Fix: Solutions Lab has a new climate fiction issue out, with discussions about the role of fiction in fixing reality and a dozen new stories from their “Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors” short story contest to get us started.

The Climate Fiction Issue: How fiction can change our reality | Fix

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I recently finished a book that should have checked all my boxes, but in the end… didn’t. The characters started off interesting but came down with a case of the stupids and never fully recovered.* The characters also spent most of their time floating around like bobbers on an unbaited line. When they eventually found their purpose it was too late, and the book finished before actually ending.

When a story is like that I find my mind stays twisted up in it, fidgeting with its edges, trying to work out how it should have fit together rather than how it did. Like a jumbled Rubik’s Cube made of words. A stream flowing in the wrong direction. Or an itch I can’t scratch.

Sometimes that itch gets to the point where I find I have to Do Something about it.

Once upon a time I read a British coming-of-age novel called I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I remember it as charming and it mostly worked for me, at least until the end. I finished the book and thought, “Nope, I’m afraid that won’t do.” And as an exercise for the annoyed problem-solver at the back of my mind, I rewrote the final chapters.

I moved a stack of Jim Butcher books yesterday and happened upon that new ending. It now sits on my bookshelf next to the original book. 

I bound everything in gold-stamped cover stock and ribbon that year.

Sometimes what you need is to step back and think, “This little piece of the world could be better.” And then work to make it so.

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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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* This is, of course, just my opinion. At some point you may read the same book and think, “That was the most brilliant and lyrical story ever.” That’s cool too.

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Today in creative women, we have two items you might find interesting. First, a podcast on one of our great science fiction writers: 

Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction

Octavia Butler’s alternate realities and ‘speculative fiction’ reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warning is her message of hope – a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perishes in her books comes a story of rebuilding, of repair.

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I was also interested to see this piece on largely forgotten female composers, complete with interactive map. I’m not a classical music buff, but I didn’t even know Amadeus had a sister, much less one who was also a child music prodigy. Now I do, and I’m better for it.

‘They deserve a place in history’: music teacher makes map of female composers

Two siblings, both considered child prodigies, dazzled audiences across Europe together in the 18th century, leaving a trail of positive reviews in their wake. But while Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart went on to be celebrated as one of the world’s greatest composers, the accomplishments of his sister – Maria Anna – were quickly forgotten after she was forced to halt her career when she came of age.

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Here’s to not stopping.

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Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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How about a bit of free fiction today? I’m still on day job vacation but had to take a meeting. Thankfully, my work day was nothing like this piece by David Shultz over at Diabolical Plots:

“Boom & Bust” by David F. Shultz

Kondo barked his orders. “Rocco, cover the east window. Valiant, you’re on ammo detail. Pepsi, keep an eye on market changes. Luna, get me a full asset list.”

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Photo by Jayden Staines on Unsplash

Bonus fiction:

Sounds like those workers could have used a union. Maybe Alexa can fix them up;)

Alexa, Play Solidarity Forever by Audrey R. Hollis

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Photo by Reet Talreja on Unsplash

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Does everything have to be perfect in order for a story to work? Nope. 

Here’s the script and breakdown for Star Wars:

Star Wars: A New Hope Script — Screenplay Analysis and PDF Download

par·sec| ˈpärsek | (abbreviation pc) noun

a unit of distance used in astronomy, equal to about 3.26 light years (3.086 × 1013 kilometers). One parsec corresponds to the distance at which the mean radius of the earth’s orbit subtends an angle of one second of arc.

A parsec is a measurement of distance, not time. Twelve of those do not a winning Kessel Run make, but, as millions of fans (and yes, dollars) attest, no one cares. The story works.

These are the things I think about when I’m stuck on a plot point, or deep in historical or technical weeds.

Just keep going.

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Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

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Here’s a brief piece by Kate Wilhelm of Clarion Workshop fame, on writing and what to avoid. A little harsh? Possibly. But it still looks like good advice.

One year Damon and I arrived to teach the last two weeks of the six-week Clarion Writers Workshop with a list of stories we forbade the students to pursue. We explained each item on the list and said don’t do it again.

— OWW SF, F, & H Tips and Advice: Kate Wilhelm

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Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

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I love good writing. And humor. And science fiction. And epistolary fiction, because telling stories through letters is fun. Imagine how happy I was when I found this short story* combining all of the above:

There Will Be No Alien Invasion

by Sam F. Weiss, in Fireside

To be clear: I am busy. For at least the next two years. Because getting to do research in the super-techy lab requires a doctorate these days, an obscene pile of peer-reviewed publications, and the networking abilities of a ninja. I am busy with those things. Namely finishing the doctorate. Thwarting an alien invasion? Not on my to-do list.

So that thing where I came to the lab this morning to find your phosphorescent eggs floating in alien amniotic fluid in the vacuum chamber? Not cool.

— Sam F. Weiss

* For the young or those with delicate sensibilities, this piece contains swearing. Like, a lot. To be fair, I’d say it’s warranted. Grad school, you know. And oh yes, also aliens.

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Random selection of other epistolary novels that I’ve read:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Color Purple
Griffin and Sabine (Griffin & Sabine #1)
Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1)
Code Name Verity

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And a picture of a not-at-all-an-alien-probably cat:)

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Here’s a heaping helping of free fiction, with a side of motivation. John Scalzi’s first novel is posted free to read on his site. It’s the web version, with each chapter its own link and charmingly antiquated page design, but the novel is fun.

Agent to the Stars

After a long day of work sometimes you just want to dust yourself off, meet an alien at the corner bar, and laugh a little. At least I do:)

Scalzi refers to this as his practice novel, but it’s well written and entertaining. (If you’d rather get the full version, the book was eventually published via traditional means, so visit your favorite retailer.) It’s also a great example of what can be done if you just knuckle up to the keyboard and see what comes out.

Which I will absolutely do. Tomorrow.

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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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