Friday, October 6, 2017

Class Differences in Writing

I read an interesting article today that got me thinking about various writing relating topics. One of them was the idea of class pervading literature in ways we often don't even consider. I had thought of class in literature, especially when thinking about major prizes, which almost always overlook all genre fiction. But what about within genre fiction itself? Is there still a class divide?

If there is it must be subtle, but I do think it may be there to a degree. The huge successes of writers who grew up poor or middle class, say Stephen King or JK Rowling, can make it seem absurd to even consider a class divide in genre fiction.

But I was struck in the article by the author's points about not relating to characters in what he had been reading. I feel that way very often in the genre fiction I read (though admittedly not in King or Rowling). Too often the characters are nobles or some form of warrior who is about the best in the world at what they do. What I always wanted to read about were people like me stuck in extraordinary circumstances and forced to sink or swim.

So that's what I write. My characters are ordinary people. They are an ugly sixty-something mute, or a fisherman's son who got lucky enough to marry a nobleman's daughter but is looked down upon for rising above his station. One is a hard working young Russian woman just trying to get by in a crumbling world. Another is an ex-addict with low self-esteem despairing of the world and only doing something because his dead father is egging him on. I realize when I write such characters that I may lose out on the entire readership that enjoys the higher level characters of princes and superheroes, but I can't help but want to write about what feels real to me. I want ordinary people who have to fight and claw their way to survival.
Anyway, I am so looking forward to seeing the new Blade Runner movie this weekend. I consider the original to be the best movie ever made (especially the Final Cut version). Anyone else going to see it this weekend?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Do You Like Podcasts?

I'm part of a trio of fantasy and science fiction authors here in Nassau, Bahamas. I think all three of us are pretty decent writers. Now we have been working on a new podcast, basically a science fiction and fantasy book club. We read a new book each month and then do a two part podcast about it. We've been doing them all summer, so we now have about five books done, though we had some technical troubles on two of them which we are trying to work out.

If you like podcasts, please 'Like' our Facebook page and share it with your friends! We'd love to have people read along on the next book we are doing and join us for live podcasts where you can join in. Here is the link to the page, where each podcast will be listed.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Inspiration

Authors draw inspiration from other books all the time. My second novel, The Immortality Game, had two primary sources. First it was the background story for the wizard Xax in my first novel The Shard (Xax from the fantasy novel is the Russian scientist Tyoma in The Immortality Game and there is a short story called 'Arrival' in my book of short stories Lord Fish that ties the two books together).
Second was the inspiration I drew from the spectacular cyberpunk novels of Richard K Morgan, starting with Altered Carbon. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves great sci-fi. I loved them even more the second time I read them.
In these books Morgan uses a version of digital immortality he calls cortical stacks. He didn't invent the idea of digital immortality by any means, but he uses the idea brilliantly, wrapped in an amazing set of stories. The cortical stack is a ball of something like steel that is implanted in the spine near the skull, where it collects everything from the mind as it happens. If the person is killed or dies, as long as the cortical stack wasn't damaged, the person can be 'resleeved' into a cloned body and essentially live again. 

I was intrigued by this idea, mainly because the story treats the characters as if they are the same person no matter how many times they are resleeved, though of course each is just a copy of the person. You can't call it immortality, because the original person dies, and no matter how real the copy is, it isn't the original and thus it isn't real immortality. I started wondering what the technology of cortical stacks might have been like when it was first being developed, and that set off the story-line that grew into The Immortality Game.

I have found it odd that almost no one seems to buy both The Immortality Game and The Shard. I understand that they seem very different, with one being a technothriller and the other an epic fantasy, but they are set in the same 'universe' and share characters, despite not being a traditional series.

What books have served to inspire you in writing your stories?


Monday, June 5, 2017

Chris Cornell's Best Songs

I've had a couple of weeks now to get over the heartbreak of Chris Cornell's untimely demise. I'll never stop being sad about it, especially for his family and friends, and for all the tremendous future music we lost.

When I last saw Cornell live a month ago, I was not particularly happy, as you'd tell by reading my original post about it. It wasn't that it was bad by any means, but rather that the group chose songs that mostly didn't thrill me, especially since Soundgarden has so many great songs to choose from. I realized that the reason they chose the songs they did was probably to appeal to the average fan or to those who didn't know Soundgarden very well. The songs they released as singles and ended up getting lots of airplay were usually not their best songs. Ones like Black Hole Sun or Spoonman or My Wave are decent, but they aren't ones I choose to listen to when I'm in the mood for Soundgarden.

So with the hope of introducing some people to great Chris Cornell songs that people may not have heard of, I decided to post my favorites. These are the songs that I listen to when I want to hear Cornell's music. The order isn't exact, but rather reflects how often I am listening to each particular song these days. For anyone who cares about great rock music, I recommend spending some time getting to know all of these songs. It's well worth it.

1. Bones of Birds -- The best song off their latest album.

2. Searching With My Good Eye Closed -- I absolutely love this song, and it was the first Soundgarden song I ever heard when they opened with it during their 1992 concert. I edit out the long intro for my own personal version, as I think it's a better song when it comes in with the intro guitar part.
3. Boot Camp -- A lovely little song that unfortunately almost no one seems to know.

4. 4th of July -- A dirge-like song that for some reason really appeals to me. I don't think it's technically one of their best, yet I find myself listening to it more often than many other songs.
5. Beyond the Wheel -- The live version from Letterman, in which Chris sounded unbelievable.
6. Pretty Noose -- Love the wah wah pedal guitar riff.
7. Blow Up the Outside World -- So many of the songs from Soundgarden's best album Down on the Upside were terrific.
8. Burden in My Hand -- See 7
9. Switch Opens -- Ibid
10. Zero Chance -- Ibid
11. Overfloater -- Ibid
12. Karaoke -- An unusual and rare track that sounds so raw and almost angry, but is also really cool.

13. Blood on the Valley Floor -- Another great track from their last album.
14. Worse Dreams -- See 13
15. By Crooked Steps -- Ibid
16. Seasons -- Gorgeous acoustic song

After these 'best' songs comes a slew of other really good ones:

Nothing to Say
Outshined
Jesus Christ Pose
Mind Riot
Like Suicide (both versions, even though the acoustic has a bad skip in it at one point)
Call Me a Dog -- My favorite from Temple of the Dog
Gasoline -- My favorite from Audioslave
Taree
Room a Thousand Years Wide
Hunger Strike
All Night Thing
Your Savior
Four Walled World
Times of Trouble
Drawing Flies
Holy Water
New Damage
Rusty Cage
Flutter Girl
Follow My Way
Preaching the End of the World
Hands All Over
Bleed Together
Live to Rise
Earache My Eye
Black Hole Sun
The Day I Tried to Live
Spoonman
An Unkind

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alien Covenant Had Same Problem as Star Wars Rogue One

Went to see Alien Covenant yesterday and came away feeling very middling about it. It wasn't bad, and it certainly had a few memorable moments in it. I didn't come close to having the instant love that I felt when I watched Aliens in the theater when it came out. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there are striking parallels to the Star Wars movies in what they initially did right and what they now did wrong, and it all comes down to character development.
When I watched Alien, Aliens, and Star Wars (the original), in all cases they spent a good amount of time letting us really get to know the characters in depth. I came out of Star Wars knowing almost all major names from Luke to Ben to Leia to C-3PO and more. With Alien I didn't feel invested in only Ripley--I also loved the captain and the two constantly complaining engineers.
When I watched Rogue One, I came out of the movie having enjoyed it to a certain degree...but I couldn't name a single character. I wasn't really invested in them. The same thing happened with Alien Covenant. I can't tell you any names besides 'Tennessee' and 'David'. They did spend quite a lot of movie time prior to arriving at the alien planet, but they didn't use that time wisely enough in developing the depths of character necessary. I recall seeing some characters get killed by the alien and I had no real idea who they were. With no investment in the characters, action is just action and death is sort of distant.

There was a similar experience with the first Lord of the Rings movie. When I saw the Fellowship of the Ring theatrical version, I wasn't thrilled by it. Later, though, I saw the extended edition and totally loved it. They had put back in all the character development that had been cut from the theatrical version. I wish studios and directors would learn the lessons about how necessary character development is.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Blow to our Generation

I am crushed this morning. Chris Cornell died at age 52. He was one of the two greatest singer-songwriters of my generation, and he was so deeply a part of my everyday musical life. For any who don't know, he was the front man for Soundgarden, along with Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.


When my first son was born, the very first piece of music that I started playing for him was my favorite Soundgarden song, Searching With My Good Eye Closed. So my kids are brainwashed with Chris's music, and they also will be very upset at this news.
I had never heard of Soundgarden back in 1992 when I went with my brother Peter to see Guns N Roses in concert at a huge outdoor venue between Phoenix and Tucson. We were blown away by the opening band, Soundgarden. So much so that I went out the next day and bought their latest album and never looked back. 

Just two weeks ago my family flew to Jacksonville, Florida to see Soundgarden live in concert at the Rockville Festival. Chris seemed angry that night, three times during different songs he ranted at the crowd about their albums being available free. I assumed he was upset at how artists no longer make much money off of albums due to everyone stealing their stuff via file sharing. But now I wonder if he wasn't feeling healthy--if that somehow contributed to the anger that seemed to pervade that show.
I don't recall tearing up at any of the other major deaths over the past few years, no matter how much I liked the artist, but this one devastates me. Chris was working on a new Soundgarden album, which we will now not get to hear, and they were talking about doing another Temple of the Dog album as well. At 52, he should have had so much more to create.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Swam With a Shark Today

We had a lovely day today. Some friends took us out on their boat to a spot near a reef where lots of colorful fish abound. We swam with huge schools of fish of all types, feeding them bits of orange. Once I was floating face down in the water to observe all the fish, when further down, perhaps twenty feet below me, a large shark swam lazily by.
I can't be sure which type of shark it was. I looked up sharks that frequent the Bahamas and tried to find top down views. The only ones I found that looked close to my vague memory are either a tiger shark or a nurse shark. It had no interest in us anyway. It's much more interesting when you are in the water near a shark rather than just seeing them in an aquarium!
feeding bits of orange to colorful fish