Tag Archives: sci-fi

A Batch of S[h]elfies: Part 1: The Basement

I was talking to Mike Meginnis the other day on Twitter and he made a most excellent point:

@mikemeginnis: Books are fun to show off because they’re relatively cheap — owning a bunch is much more a question of taste + time than money.

It’s no secret I’m loathe to take selfies, but shelfies, on the other hand, are a completely separate ballgame! In no particular order, here are some of my favorite shelves from my home library:

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Mike’s book, front and center here; I figured I’d post this picture of my basement mantle first since Mike gave me the idea! He’s [temporarily, at least] near J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and Chandler’s The Big Sleep, a few books by Roger Zelazny, and some spy novels by John Le Carre, book-ended by Peter F. Hamilton, Monica Drake, and Zadie Smith (a dual-language copy of Rilke’s Dueno Elegies is in there, too. It’s very slim!)!

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This is the other shelf with Ballard. Empire of the Sun is a shorter paperback, so it looks funny on this shelf near these taller hardcovers like Alissa Nutting, The Rumpus Women, Joe Hill, Lev Grossman, and a few Gonzo Journalism books!

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Deorum et Viri: Of Gods and Men, Chapter 1

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on this sort of epic-literary-sci-fi-fantasy thing, and I finally finished the first draft of the first chapter.

And . . . since this site is as much about the process of writing as it is actual writing, I’m sharing said draft with you guys, today! (Hopefully you don’t hate it!)

Chapter 1:
The Pale Wastes

Colossal dust devils carved their way through the ravaged North Pangæan badlands, whipping microscopic particulates of obsidian and various corroded metals through the air like tiny, invisible daggers. Only the hardiest vegetation grew near the borders of Valamyr to the west and Anukhan to the east. Boastful adventurers claimed the further they trekked into The Pale Wastes, the more the terrain shifted from ordinary desert to desolate, inhospitable moonscape. As they approached the invisible delineation bisecting the continental rift, the less the land became capable of supporting anything. Indeed, all but the most hardened turn back well before ever crossing the rubicon.

Despite the savage elements raging through such a hostile environment, a lone figure trudged through nearly knee-deep sand, a dark balaclava barely visible underneath a thick fur-lined hood pulled close to his face.

Kneeling to shield his water skin from the swirling dust and ubiquitous sand, the lone trekker—a man of grizzled countenance—took a small sip of water, just enough to moisten the cracks in his parched tongue and cheeks. He knew resupplying during the latter stages of this expedition would be out of the question, so he’d packed and carried everything he might conceivably need. Shielding his eyes and scanning the skyline, the man confirmed the soil surrounding him has been utterly depleted—it was truly, in every sense of the word: dead. Even the sand had lost its color. Giant, swollen dunes of pale grey and ecru stretched endlessly toward the horizon in all four cardinal directions. The pair of dowsing rods the man had packed, just in case the rumors of small veins of underground water was true, rested splayed and inert in his clenched fists.

The man unwillingly began to recall tales of the badlands more frightening than any camp fire ghost stories. Travelers recounted a feeling utter disorientation as soon as they enter The Pale Wastes, of feeling mercurial and uncannily . . . adrift. The man remembered being told repeatedly that North could only be determined by orienting himself within the plane of an imaginary meridian while trying to face the rising sun—a strategy predicated, he thought, upon him surviving the night to actually see the rising sun. . . .

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Rededicating myself to something or another again

I’ve said this here a million times: I need to blog more. Three+ months is a LONG hiatus!

It’s not that I don’t like it: I do. It just gets shoved down the priority list more often than not.

Professionally, I’m still happily working at Metropolitan Community College’s Writing Center, but I’m also teaching English Comp. 1 and 2 at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. I’ve got some really smart kids, too!

On the writing front, I’ve got a brand new short story going live over at Bartleby-Snopes next month, which is awesome! Ever since I started trying to share my words with peeps, B. Snopes has been on my list of places I wanted to see my work published. I’ll probably make a huge deal about it when it’s actually available to read!

Have you seen this Breaking Bad thing? I guess it’s a pretty big deal. (OK, just kidding; I’ve been addicted to it for a while now and this season is insane!) I am, however, late to the Sons of Anarchy party. The show’s pretty great! I’m finally getting around to watching season 5!

I made a reading goal to myself this year. In addition to reading 60 books total — a paltry number compared to some — I decided I’d read both the entirety of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series (10 books) and Iain M. Banks’s Culture series (also 10 books). I think I’m on track.

Since writing a primer for the first 3 Malazan books over at HTML Giant, I’ve finished two more and have a decent start on the sixth book, The Bone Hunters. Here’s my one [long] sentence review of the series so far: It’s the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, including- but not limited to- both George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (even if you include The Hobbit).

Since I always like my fantasy fix with a side of sci-fi, I’m also currently reading my 7th book in the Culture series. Since these books aren’t exactly chronologically written, the order in which you read them isn’t quite as important as it is with the Malazan books. If I remember, I’ve read them so far in the following order — books: 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 7, 6, i.e. I’m currently reading book 6, Inversions. My good friend Peter Tieryas Liu has reviewed the first two books in the series, Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games, both of which are excellent, but aren’t even as good as the series gets!

Oh, and speaking of, I’d like to put out an APB for George R.R. Martin: More specifically, book 6 in The Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter. WTF, George?! Write faster!

Things are also simmering nicely on the “Pangaea project” front. More on that to come, so stay tuned for that too!

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A New Year & “The Next Big Thing” Blog Hop

dawn breakingSo, holy shit! It’s a new year already and the world didn’t end in 2012, much to the chagrin of a few Doomsday preppers. It’s a new year and my only resolution is to write more — to write well, often and, of course, like a motherfucker!

Also, there’s this thing going around the Internets, “The Next Big Thing” actually. It’s a blog hop where writers talk about what they’re currently working on and tag other writers to participate. I’m both incredibly humbled and excited to be tagged by Nate Tower, the man with the plan behind Bartleby Snopes (easily one of the best indie lit. mags on the web). Here’s Nate’s own post. Once you check it out, hop back over here (if you want, of course) and see what I’m working on!

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

I’m actually working on two totally different projects right now. One is a novel called Human Services populated with eccentric characters that work for a kooky social work agency.

The other is (ostensibly) an epic sci-fi/fantasy collaboration I dreamed up, of which my novel will be but one in a series tentatively titled Deorum et Viri (Of Gods and Men, working title). The project — at least as it’s sketched out on paper — is so big, I’d never be able to finish it on my own!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The driving idea behind Human Services more or less comes from my family’s eponymous business. The field of human services/social work can be pretty insane, and since the business started, I’ve seen countless — truly countless — situations play out that were almost too preposterous to believe, let alone describe . . . almost.

Deorum et Viri’s life was probably honestly (for better or worse) most inspired by Game of Thrones. I only just got into George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series this year (after watching season one of the HBO series), but suffice it to say, I’m all caught up through book five. The books were infectious, incapacitating. I felt like I couldn’t possibly function unless I knew what happened next. The series rekindled my long dormant love for the fantasy genre, as well as sci-fi by-proxy.

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Gene Wolfe’s Shadow & Claw: A Review

It’s no secret that I love me some Game of Thrones on HBO and A Song of Ice and Fire literature. There’s a sort of dead space right now with no new episodes of the show and the release of the 6th book still off in the indeterminate future somewhere. For many of us, this space needs to be filled, and as such, I’ve bravely taken it upon myself to venture out into the wilds of Powell’s Books‘ high-literary sci-fi/fantasy section to see just what the heck else is out there!

I should mention right away that I’m actually giving volumes 1 & 2 of Gene Wolfe’s 1980s The Book of the New Sun (Shadow & Claw) a 4.5 star rating — there were only a few small (but somewhat significant) details that kept me from giving this book 5 stars . . .

. . . Wolfe keeps his story fresh by using terms that jar the reader in their alien appearance to describe everyday things — especially the names of the flora and fauna — though never so much that it alienates the reader. Smilodons and other creatures that have or may have at one time lived on the reader’s own Earth inhabit Wolfe’s universe. He takes special care in keeping the reader guessing at which parts of his narrative might actually even be factual historic (Earth) record, though he weaves it into his plotting that it’s almost indistinguishable from his imagination.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It adds to the narrative’s mystique and builds the intricate story, and that’s what’s most important. . . .

Check out the rest of my review over at InDigest Magazine!!

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Hi there! Remember me?! | 06.30.12

To say it’s been a while would be a complete understatement! Life gets busy even when you wish it’d slow down. . . .

I don’t have a lot of new writing news, though I did land a sweet gig managing most of the visible web content for The Lit Pub, and I got to review Matt Bell’s truly excellent novel(la) Cataclysm Baby for [PANK] Magazine recently as well. If you haven’t read this book (or anything else written by Matt Bell) you should totally do so, ASAP!

HBO’s Game of Thrones just wrapped up its second season and it was honestly just as fantastic as its debut! Our crack reviews “team” (i.e. Dustin Luke Nelson and I) at InDigest Mag compiled a list of our likes and dislikes about the show’s deviations from the book. I was actually pretty happy with what we came up with when all was said and done!

Speaking of Game of Thrones, I recently finished reading book 5 of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Dance with Dragons, and it was simply epic — almost as good as book 3, A Storm of Swords (just ignore the middling Amazon reviews; trust me). Now the only real problem is waiting for G.R.R.M. to finish writing book 6. . . .

Though, problematically, finishing all five of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books in such quick succession has left a significant, nigh gaping sci-fi/fantasy-tinged hole in my reading life; a hole I’d forgotten existed since reading Tolkien in high school; a hole I’ve been trying desperately to fill for the past month. So like most anything I do, if I’m going to do it right (i.e. “all out”), I research the hell out of it and then hit the bookstore.

Here are some of my latest acquisitions:

I sort of went “no holds barred” on this venture. We’ve got series, standalone books, sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, and everything in between. Lord of Light was recommended to me by my “go to” man with a plan, David Atkinson. As soon as he started describing it to me[1], I didn’t need any further coaxing — I was definitely sold. Acacia by David Anthony Durham[2] actually got some really great praise from George R.R. Martin, himself, which was good enough for me.

And American Gods was written by Neil Gaiman, which in and of itself should be fairly self-explanatory.

Moving down the stack is The Difference Engine,[3] a book by two more authors who probably need no introduction: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I highly recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition with a great intro by Cory Doctorow and some really interesting commentary at the end from the authors. Sandwiched in the middle of the four books that are part of their own series is Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, called by many readers and critics alike “the best Russian sci-fi novel ever written” (and also spawned the STALKER movie(s) and video games).

See? I told you I did some research.

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