Monday, December 31, 2012

Unusual Characters

Aren't they all unusual?

Well, perhaps. But in most books the major character or characters are human or, in the case of science fiction and fantasy, human-ish. Over the years, however, there have been a number of exceptions:

1. An animal. To my knowledge, the first non-human protagonist in a major novel was Black Beauty. Watership Down has its wonderful rabbits and cartoons are well known for animal protagonists - most people instantly recognize Scooby Doo. For those of us over a certain age Tom and Jerry and Sylvester and Tweety are great comic duos. One could also include the muppets. Or the wonderful dogs of Disney's 'Lady and the Tramp'.

2. A ship. Michael F. Flynn's "The Wreck of the River of Stars" uses the ship's artificial intelligence as a major character, but he's not the first. Anne McCaffrey's 'brainships' are an arguable example (transplanted human intelligence). And, of course, one could put the iconic computer HAL 9000 in this category. Let's not forget the Doctor's TARDIS. Not all ships as characters are intelligent, though - both the Millennium Falcon and Star Trek's Enterprise are quite memorable characters despite having no intelligence of their own.

3. The planet Earth - David Brin's interesting environmental novel called simply 'Earth' essentially has the earth itself as a protagonist.

4. A dragon or other fantastic creature - Anne McCaffrey's Pern is notable for how real her dragons are and the trend was picked up by other authors. Novik's Temeraire is simply one of the most fun characters around. Mercedes Lackey is particularly fond of fantastic creatures as characters - including the horse-like Companions, well-realized gryphons and an interesting take on dragons as non-sentient, trainable animals.

5. A robot. To most people these days, Star Trek's Data is the most recognizable humanoid robot, but he's an homage to Asimov's robots. R. Daneel Olivaw is one of the best-realized robot characters ever. On a less serious note we have Wall-E and, before that, Number 5.

6. A computer. Not all fictional computer characters are mobile. HAL 9000 has already been mentioned, but there's also Portal's GladOS and Heinlein's fascinating Mycroft.

7. A place. Edward Rutherfurd has written an interesting series of historical novels in which the protagonist is a place, usually a city. (These are well worth a read if you have any interest in history at all).

Can anyone think of any more?

Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm back!

From an awesome Christmas, that is.

And, believe it or not, I have updates.

Interstellar Fiction has accepted 'The Rogue', and if all goes well and gets done it may even be in the January issue.

The Gods & Cattle graphic anthology, which will contain my short script 'Darcy's Angels', is now officially in production.

Finally, the Dark Stars anthology has been officially released - so if you have those Amazon gift cards to spend, consider this one:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pre-Christmas updates!

This is my last post before my Christmas vacation, so I thought I'd do updates.

1. Steve Berman has accepted my story "Mistress" for his "Shades of Blue & Gray" anthology. Literal shades, that is - it's an anthology of Civil War ghost stories.

2. Progress is happening on the RPG project with +Emlyn Freeman (why, yes, I am using you to test direct mention to G+ from Blogger, which is awesome. Thanks, Google). We're not rushing on this'll likely be a second half of 2013 release.

Oh, and there might be some more RPG news. Maybe. Too early to discuss yet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exoplanet Excitement

Things are getting interesting. As our detection methods get better and better, we are finding even more planets.

The latest bit of excitement? A potentially earth-like planet orbiting...Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti is the closest single G type star to our sun, at only twelve light years away. (That's actually within feasible probe range if we can get speed up to 0.5 c or better, without FTL...results would return within a working lifetime). I'd put Tau Ceti high on the priority list for targeted interstellar probe missions, although obviously the first one should go to the Alpha Centauri complex just because it's so close (4 light years) and would be easier to deal with the inevitable problems associated with the 'first one'.

The more we look out there, the more it seems that planets are normal. Common.

If even a fraction of them bear life.

If even a fraction of that life has achieved sufficient complexity for sentience and sapience.

We are not alone. I think we can say that now. True, we have no direct evidence that somewhere out there, somebody is looking up at the stars and wondering what we wonder. But we do have basic math.

I have held my entire life to the belief that we are not alone. (No, I don't believe in anal probes and cattle manipulation). With each discovery it becomes easier and easier to accept. If we ever do have proof, though, how will that change the human spirit?

Personally, I think it will change us for the better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking Unworried Steps.

I know a lot of writers who worry about the next step. About the next submission, about taking things to the next level.

Too many of us piddle around only sending our stories to the smallest markets, afraid to send anything to the likes of Analog or Glimmer Train. Or we're afraid to submit to a big New York agent or publisher.

Do that for too long and you're wandering around in circles.

The day comes, though, when you just have to stop doing that. On Sunday, I took my trainer's Thoroughbred out of the arena and onto the trails for the first time in his life. This was definitely a worrying moment! He's a Thoroughbred and, like many of his breed, reactive and high energy.

So, what did he do? Moseyed along the trail on the buckle, looking around at everything, but casual about it, completely relaxed. In fact, he's already one of the best trail horses I've ridden...sure footed, forward going and clearly loving every minute of it.

Let your stories out of the arena and onto the trail, without worrying about it, and they might just surprise you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When tragedy happens...

...we're expected to weigh in. It's become part of our culture that everyone has to have an opinion on what happened, on why it happened, on how to stop it from happening again.

Truthfully, I'm not going to weigh in. I'm not going to speculate. I could say a lot of things - about gun control, about mental illness...about all of it.

I'm not.

This is all I'm going to say...because it's all been said and because there's no sense hashing it all over again, just like last time, just like next time.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Got a lot of work done today on a new mini-series that will hopefully be published in a collaborative project. (Any artists out there willing to take a risk on back end pay?)

The Dark Stars Anthology, containing my flash story Raphael, should be available by Christmas. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that, anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is a hack?

I've had it said to me that anyone who takes money to do a specific, assigned creative task is a hack. (Usually, they're referring to media tie-ins).

I've also heard that anyone who expects to make a living from writing is a hack.

Here's my definition of a hack.

A hack is somebody who takes money for a creative task despite having no actual enthusiasm for the task concerned. Because they have no enthusiasm, they then do a substandard job.

An actor who takes a role she thinks is insulting because she needs the work and then phones it in is a hack.

A writer who agrees to do a media tie-in for a video game they think is completely stupid and then puts in a half-hearted effort is a hack.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Enough already! I know humans like repetitive numbers, but...besides. This one isn't even a palindrome (it doesn't read the same way in both directions).

Of course, now I'm trying to work out when the next palindrome will be. I want to say 12/1/21?

Also tired of the 'Mayan apocalypse'. People, the Mayans have not predicted the end of the world, so saying they're wrong is as bad as saying they're right.

At a basic level, we have a calendar that counts the years up from a significant date. Right now, that's the 'birth of Christ'. In the future, we might decide to come up with an all new year zero. We only have three cycles in our calendar...four if you pay attention to lunar months as opposed to calendar months. Day, month, year.

The Mayans were great astronomers and astrologers. They seem to have grasped the cyclical nature of the universe. First of all, they measured two years. The secular year, which was solar, and used by farmers. The sacred year was the thirteen month lunar year, used by priests to determine when festivals would be held. So, we have two years, lunar months and, of course, days. Oh yes, and they had calendar months as well. Now we're up to five cycles.

The two years produce a sixth cycle...the cycle between instances of the solar and lunar new years coinciding.

On top of that, they had a minor obsession with the planet Venus, which they associated with a major deity. So, this adds a seventh cycle - the Venusian transit/Venusian year.

So, it's gotten really complicated. I'm not going to do the math on exactly how many cycles the Mayan calendar has. However, on December 21, all of those cycles will hit 'zero' at once. All of them (assuming scholars have done their math right and it isn't actually December 23). Now, if your calendar is cyclical and everything hits zero, why bother having a new calendar beyond that? You can just start again with the old one.

No Mayan prophecy of disaster at all. Just a kind of super uber duper New Year. I have to wonder just how loudly the descendants of the Mayans are laughing at us from eastern Mexico right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Women in fridges

To be blunt, the history of women in comic books...isn't much to write home about. Most people think the first female superhero was Wonder Woman.

Actually, it wasn' was Miss Fury, a forgotten character...created by a woman. Sadly, she didn't start a trend. A glance over the comics shelf will see names like Bendis, Gage, Lee, Morrison, etc. All men. If asked to name female creators most fans will go 'Uh...Gail Simone. Uh...Devin Grayson'...and that's where it stalls out. (I'd also give a nod to experienced colorist Carrie Strachan).

Comic books are, on the whole, written by men, for men. Female characters are used as sex symbols, dismissed, even found dead in fridges (the incident that is most often quoted as a sign of how female characters are abused). Some exist solely to be love interests to the male heroes.

When they are heroes in their own right, we are often left wondering if they intend to distract the supervillains with their breasts...Wonder Woman wears more or less a monokini, Power Girl has her notorious boob window, Catwoman actually does unzip her suit to distract men with her assets on more than one occasion. And just about every superheroine is drawn with D cups or 'better'. Now, to be fair, lots of male superheroes wear revealing outfits too...tight spandex, the Martian Manhunters briefs, the speedo worn by Beast on a number of occasions.

But seldom is one given the impression that any man in comics (with the possible exception of She-Hulk's former fiance Wyatt Wingfoot) exists solely to be a love interest or to be attractive to the opposite sex.

There's often a lot of talk that all of this means comic publishers don't care...or set out to alienate...female readers, but it might be something far simpler.

Comics are written by men, for men. The target audience of the big two is men in their twenties. Most comic creators start out as comic fans.

That perpetuates the male dominance within the industry. In most cases the writer of a comic is male. So are the artists. So is the letterer. So is the editor and his assistants.

I've actually begun to wonder if the fridge problem is a lot simpler than we think. Most comics go through the entire creative process and to print without any female eyes ever seeing them. This theory is strengthened by the improvement I've noticed in certain Marvel books that can directly be traced to Lauren Sankovitch's rise from editorial assistant to co-editor with Tom Brevoort (According to Bendis she's also great to work with). Sadly, I can only think of two other female comic editors - Wacker's assistant, Ellie Pyle, and former WildStorm editor Kristy Quinn, from and about whom I've heard nothing since DC closed the imprint.

So, here's a challenge to comic creators. Find a woman. Have her read your script. If you don't happen to have a wife or a girlfriend right now, surely you can find a reliable woman somewhere. Let's get some female eyes on the activities of Wonder Woman and the Wasp...before female fans see all of the mistakes that come when men write for men.

And please. Let's see some more female creators...female writers, female artists, female editors. That way we'll get more female fans...and I am sure we can do it without losing the men on the way.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Once more...

...I'm hoping nobody's monitoring my internet usage. I mean, I was looking up removing bodies from morgues and breaking out of morgues. (Hey, it's perfectly legitimate...really...) I can't say any more as it's a potential spoiler for a still-under-wraps project.

But days like this I'm glad I'm not a mystery writer and only look up criminal stuff...sometimes. Okay, often. Ahem.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday updates


New RPG project is in the works, but still at the discussion stage.

I've seen the proofs for the Dark Stars Anthology, which I have a flash piece in, but no news on an exact release date. Christmas would be nice, of course.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Things we know and don't know

There was somebody walking through the lobby of the building today carrying what seemed to me to be quite obviously a Maine Coon...a huge cat with lots of fur and slight ear tufts.

However, when I congratulated him on his gorgeous Maine Coon, he went 'What?' He'd got the kitty from the shelter and didn't know the breed...and, of course, being from the shelter, it might not be a pure Maine Coon anyway. Sure looked like one to me.

I like playing guess the breed with pets, especially dogs. I'm often right. Sometimes I'm wrong and that's fine too. It's okay to be wrong. It's also okay to admit that you have absolutely no clue. That's something a lot of people find very hard to do. So they make ridiculous guesses just to avoid admitting it.

At least this guy admitted he didn't have a clue. (The cat didn't look too happy. I think they might have been coming back from the vet. Shudder).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Demographics and Futurism

You know. I've been thinking. And a news article today triggered more thoughts. Apparently, French sperm counts are steadily declining.

There's a trend going on across the planet right now. White people are having fewer children. The rest of humanity are taking up the slack. White people are likely to become a minority in huge tracts of the United States in the not too distant future.

When we, in the west, envision the future, we populate it with white people. Now, as time goes on, the other ethnicities will also slow their breeding. It's a natural result of longer life spans, better medical care and higher standards of living.

But it got me thinking. Where will the colonists come from? Space X plans on charging $500,000 for passage to Mars. That limits it to reasonably wealthy people, a lot of whom will be white. However, the Chinese are working on their own colonization efforts. The future 'Martian' is likely to be Asian or an Asian-white mix.

Meanwhile, taboos about ethnic mixing are breaking down. A study in Washington, D.C. indicated that a substantial minority of teenagers were showing a preference for dating outside their own ethnicity, indicating an increase in interracial relationships. Some of these will end up long term and produce children.

If humanity spreads out to the stars, then we may leave our miscegenation taboos behind. On top of that, some planets that we colonize may give advantages to different ethnicities. A higher level of UV, and you may want your colonists to be black. Then there's gene therapy. If it's good to be black on a certain planet, then might people who move there not have themselves made black? If nanomedicine and gene therapy allow skin color to be changed at will...then we may finally leave racism behind.

Ultimately, the future of humanity is probably multi-colored, not white. And that is a very good thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apparently... publisher, Musa, has a lot of carrots. Because they've attracted a very big bunny indeed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Well, hey...

I'm still British enough to let out a tiny little squee at the prospect of another little royal - yeah, Will and Kate are expecting their first.

And sympathetic enough to feel sorry for Kate, who apparently has morning sickness so bad she had to be hospitalized and given fluids. Blech. Poor woman. I've been pretty sick from food poisoning, but never that sick.

(And yes, I know, most of you don't care, but it does still matter to me).