The latest

Jan. 24th, 2015 01:18 pm
masqthephlsphr: (word)
Wanted to thank everyone that gave me feedback on my short story, Home. I submitted an updated/edited version to the Maricopa Community Colleges Creative Writing contest and won an Honorable Mention Winner in the Fiction category. It will be published as part of an annual publication the contest puts out.

In other news, got done a round of epidural steroid shots on my cervical vertebrae. I have some other interventions lined up for shoulder muscle tension and an arthritic lumbar, so stay t00ned for that excitement.

I joined a nearby gym as part of the Wellness Program at my job and have been working on strength training and stretching with a personal trainer. I am also looking into non-inflammatory diets. OMG, I lost five pounds in the last month just eating healthier. Nothing motivates like PAIN.

I got my new orthopedic recliner finally. It's a good chair, but I still have issues that mean I can't sit all day like I used to. I think having to move around more just for comfort reasons contributed to the weight loss.

Finished the second draft of my novel despite my sitting issues, just by letting is SUCK all it wanted to. I needed to move seriously to working on the plot before I spilled any more pixels on the words.

Happy Birthday, [profile] crimsonsenya!!

Happy Birthday, [personal profile] lakrids404!!
masqthephlsphr: (glob)
What I just got done reading: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Finished. Wasn't into it.

What I'm reading now: Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors.

The Fermi Paradox, ICYDK, coined by physicist Enrico Fermi, is simply the question, "If there is intelligent alien life in the universe, why haven't we seen any evidence of them?"(Yes, I know, I am reading stories that might have aliens in them. "Might" and/or "indirectly" is why.) Various sci-fi universes have offered different answers to this question. Star Trek, famously, has the Prime Directive which, among other things, prohibits contact with planets that have yet to develop interstellar flight. Other stories have answered, "They're too far away/they're too few and far between/they're aliens, they don't communicate the way we do/they're already here, just hiding/they all died out long ago", etc. etc.

The short stories in this anthology offer various answers to the query. The most amusing so far implies we forget the visiting aliens as soon as we see them. Alien brain technology, doncha know.

What I'll likely be reading next: Stephen Baxter's Proxima was just released. He is said to be the "heir" to Arthur C. Clarke, and co-authored books with Clarke before his death. I also think Baxter has permission to write in Clarke's story universes now. This novel does not take place in any Clarkian storyverse.
masqthephlsphr: (books)
What I just got done reading: I have an assignment in my writing class to read ten short stories in publications and/or the genre I want to write in. I will probably post story reviews after I turn in the assignment, but publications/online venues I've been looking at include Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Strange Horizons,, 365tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Encounters Magazine, Escape Pod, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, International Speculative Fiction, Jupiter, Lightspeed, Luna Station Quarterly, Nature, Pantheon Magazine, Perihelion Science Fiction, Quantum Muse, and Robot and Raygun.

What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Still. I am crawling through this book, mostly via five-minutes-a-night-right-before-sleep. At this point, I am reading it because I bought it and so I'm going to finish it (GoshDurnIt). Apparently, it is part of a series, but I'm getting the impression from where the story seems headed at 85% finished that I won't read the other books.

What I'll likely be reading next: Who knows? I'm developing a list. Some of the sci-fi has aliens, but as best as I can tell, the aliens are the end result of human exploration, rather than "they suddenly appeared, hovering over Earth menacingly," or "In the future, Earth is part of a galactic Federation...," both premises which, at the moment, make me hit the back button.

Exploration science fiction:

Titan, by Stephen Baxter
Proxima, by Stephen Baxter
Endeavour, by Ralph Kern, J Scott-Marryat
Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds
Crater, by Homer Hickam
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

Edge of Infinity (anthology), by various authors
Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors

Other sci-fi:

Influx, by Daniel Suarez


Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, by Marc Kaufman


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, Rob Reiner
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: A Novel, by Joshua Ferris
Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel, by Kimberly McCreight
Deception Point, by Dan Brown
Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown
masqthephlsphr: (drula)
"Can't an astronaut wreak a little havoc without there being an alien involved?"

Still reading Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells, which got 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 1,115 raters. Honestly, I am not sure how it got that rating. The story was pretty good up to the point where spoilery for Wells, AC Clarke, J.S.A. Corey )

But honestly, I am searching for something that just doesn't get written very often: space exploration in which humans are venturing out and the plot is classic "man-vs-nature" (I'd even settle for classic "man-vs-man" human political stuff re: outerspace), rather than OMG!Aliens.

Not that I have anything against stories with aliens, but there is a perception out there in sci-fi land that Aliens is why people want to read about space. Which isn't always the case. Sometimes, stories about space are the story of us. Human beings.

I have the Edge of Infinity anthology in my queue. It's supposed to be about colonizing our solar system. I am also searching for similar short stories in SFF periodicals. I am hoping they're not all "our solar system, plus (butofcourse) aliens."
masqthephlsphr: (muse)
Been meaning to do this meme for a while.

What I just got done reading: I've been searching for books to fill my "realistic solar system exploration" story kink, and there aren't a lot of them. I read James SA Corey's Expanse series, of course, and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. Alas, searching book lists for novels featuring specifically what I'm looking for invariably returns noise: interstellar travel or aliens hovering over Earth. So I returned to the classics, and read all of Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey series.

The first and most well known, 2001 (1968), was written simultaneously in the mid-sixties with the movie script, but actually veers from the script in that the big climactic stuff takes place at Saturn, and its moon, Iapetus. Kubrick, who was collaborating with Clarke, presented a monolith orbiting Jupiter instead.

Interestingly, Clarke ret-conned himself in the sequel, 2010, by relating that the events of nine years earlier took place as they did in the movie. It was the early 80's by the time 2010 came out, and the Voyager probes had shown us how complex the Jovian moon system was, so Clarke wanted to stage the events around Jupiter's moon, Europa, which remains the best chance of life in the solar system beyond Earth even to this day. And also interestingly, the book differs from the film version of 2010 because, although it depicts a still-intact Soviet Union, there is no use of Cold War hostilities as a subplot to push the action forward as there is in the film.

2061 is a great third book in the trilogy, and Clarke ret-cons himself yet again just so he can refer to actual space exploration history he had to invent in earlier books. Only downside to this book is he sets up a necessity for a fourth book, 3001, he didn't need. Frankly, I found the events of 3001 hard to follow. Which might have something to do with the fact that I read it mostly right before bed each night. I think 3001 only existed so Clarke could start a new interstellar series featuring the monolith aliens.

Amusingly, though, more re-con: Soviet Russia gets written right out of Earth's 21st century, as if Clarke had never featured it in his earlier books. He is refreshingly honest about his ret-cons in his numerous late-1990's forwards.

What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Not sure it's totally what I'm looking for, but it's good so far.

What I'll likely be reading next: K.S. Robinson's 2312 is still on the back burner, as I'm a bit burnt out on Robinson. And I have a gazillion short stories to read for my fiction writing class. So must get on that.

masqthephlsphr: (yay)
I've done a few posts about James SA Corey's Expanse novel series, which is being turned into a 10-episode series on Syfy.

New news about the team they've pulled together for the TV showso far. People who have worked on everything from Breaking Bad To Cosmos to Doctor Who to Star Trek to Farscape.
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Just finished/Reading now:

Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson: this series is beautifully written, if a tad rambling. It's interesting seeing Robinson show his equally comprehensive knowledge of biology and ecology now that Mars is being terraformed and the Martian humans are visiting Earth. Still, this guy can spend chapter after chapter on character development and scientific or philosophical prose without doing anything to move the plot forward. Then it's insane for several pages (revolution! war!), and you're back to walk-abouts, drunken parties, and philosophical dialogue.

Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse) - W00t, this book was finally released yesterday. I like it so far, but leave it to the James S.A. Corey authors to take one of the turning points in human history spoiler-spoiler-spoilerdom )

That said, the characters and world-building are good as usual, which is why these books scratch my itch to see realistic depictions of the future of space travel. The writers are nowhere near as poetic as Robinson, but except for some over-used descriptive phrases, you don't notice much.

What's next:

Another in Robinson's solar system series, TBD.

ETA: due to the recent Amazon bad behavior, I bought the two most recent books I'm reading using B&N Nook. My Android tablet lets me have Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps, and probably others as well, which is awesome. I do read a fair bit in a regular internet browser during breaks at work, and so far, the Nook for Web does not perform as well as Kindle Cloud Reader. It logs me out every few hours, and then loses the page I was on, and sometimes does not sync the current page with my Android Nook app. None of this is a deal breaker, though.
masqthephlsphr: (books)
Just finished: Every durned book in James S. A. Corey's Expanse series, to wit:

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)
The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse, #0.5)
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)
Gods of Risk (Expanse, #2.5)
Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)
The Churn (Expanse, #3.5)

The integer-numbered books above are the novels, the decimal-numbered books are short stories or novellas. All in all, I prefer the novels, which follow the futuristic outer space drama. The novellas are planet-bound and more about the state of human culture 150 years from now. Which means they are, in short, all about showing how humankind has not progressed morally or politically in that time, and so they lack the sense of wonder that is part of the novels. Other than a few gee-whiz technological gizmos, the world depicted in the novellas could be the here and now.

The characters are compelling and well-drawn in the series as a whole, and the world building as I have mentioned before is well-done, so these books are a good read I managed to whip through in no time.

Which is kind of amazing to me. One of the things I've been grumbling about in this LJ/DW since... its inception is that I don't read recreationally as much as I used to. I could no longer blame it on "grad school burnout" fifteen years (going on twenty) since graduation. I could only fuss and throw up my hands about why watching teevee was so much easier than cracking open a book, and in many cases, equally rewarding.

There is definitely extra effort required in reading--the effort of taking in and understanding chicken scratches rather than passively absorbing sounds and images, the effort of the imagination to fill in the "you are there" sensory modalities handed to you on a television or movie screen.

And for me, I've framed this problem around "finding the time." Which is the wrong frame, I think. It's not that I don't have the time, I'm simply that I'm the sort of person who will fill up all the available time with writing (at home) and work duties (at work) if I don't stop to think about it and create new habits for myself.

Reading can also be a chore if you pick the wrong book. The science fiction short stories I've reviewed have become that for me because I'm doing it for educational purposes, not pleasure.

The solution has been switching to eBooks, especially cloud reading on my computer when I'm at work. This has actually been helpful at my job because wandering over to the novel I'm reading for a few minutes helps me relax in the middle of the day. And then during my off hours, reading for a few minutes at bedtime helps put me to sleep.

Reading now:

While waiting for the next installment in the Expanse series coming out next month, I have scratched my itch to read solar system exploration stories by returning to a series I started ten years ago and then drifted away from without finishing it, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. I am re-reading Red Mars. I was enthralled reading this book, which is about the first settlers on Mars. I remember becoming more disenchanted in the middle of the sequel, Green Mars, because they were remaking Mars in Earth's image, and science and exploration was giving way to politics-as-usual in the plot line. But you can say that of the Expanse series as well, which somehow manages nevertheless to hang on to its sense of wonder. So I am giving the Mars series another shot.

What's next:

Skin Game, Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)

Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse)
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
So, I read a thing. Or, I am in the process of reading some things: James SA Corey's Expanse series.

I've got an itch to scratch )


Apr. 11th, 2014 09:44 am
masqthephlsphr: (compgeek)
"Every few years there appears a movement to improve or modernize or even "futurize" the writing of science fiction. The classic example was the New Wave, which had an effect on the style of SF literature and has been comfortably tamed and digested. Now there is something called "cyberpunk, " of which we have yet to learn a clear definition. It has something to do with computers and their programming and possibly— considering the derogatory term "punk "—with snubbing accepted traditions. This short story is said to be an example of "cyberpunk." It is certainly different from anything H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Hugo Gernsback would have dreamed up." - preface to Pretty Boy Crossover
William Gibson )

Pat Cadigan )

Bruce Sterling )
masqthephlsphr: (art)
The "New Wave" era represented the coming of age of science fiction, both when it started to enter the mainstream, and also when it attained a level of sophistication that could claim itself as "literature", as opposed to just entertainment. This, not coincidentally, coincided with the 1960's, when television shows such as Star Trek and Lost in Space drew mainstream audiences.

Interestingly, quite a few of the short stories I read for this era ended up as full-length feature films, but not until the 1990's.

Judith Merril )

Harlan Ellison )

Philip K. Dick )

Samuel Delany )

Harlan Ellison )

Pamela Zoline )

Brian Aldiss )

Joanna Russ )


Jan. 14th, 2014 02:31 pm
masqthephlsphr: (OUAT)
Gratuitous self pimpage.

[profile] 2ceuponatime is back with "Heart of Darkness"!

January talking meme still open for business:

Masq reviews science fiction short stories through time:
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Depending on who you ask, the "Golden Age of Science Fiction," is either "undisputedly," or just "widely recognized" as the 1940's (and possibly 50's). Of course, one person's Golden Age is another person's capital-E Establishment, but historically, the 40's and 50's are the era when a younger generation of very talented writers weaned on the pulps and unafraid of speculative-fiction-that-incorporated-science took up pen or typewriter. Among them: Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov.

It is interesting that of the three biggies I review here (Clarke, Bradbury, and Asimov), Asimov was always my favorite, but (perhaps due to story choices?) this time around, I was much more impressed with Bradbury.

All of these writers are masters of creating fully-realized portraits of everyday life in the future, or on space stations, or the Moon, in very few words.

Isaac Asimov )

Ray Bradbury )

Arthur C. Clarke )

Tom Godwin )

( Robert Heinlein )
masqthephlsphr: (fk)
Yeah. So. I might have been a little hasty in my prediction that all 30's pulp sci fi would be melodramatic. Too much (over)exposure to Captain Proton. That said, the sci-fi of the 1930's still seems to have an earnest straight-forwardness to it. That is, with the exception of minor details, it does not read as particularly revolutionary to the contemporary eye. But you know, neither does a Mondrian abstract painting.

Looked at from a purely 21st century perspective, your gut reaction to such paintings (or such short stories) is "So what? Lots of stuff looks like that." Yes. These days. But then you glance at the year the painting or the story came out and contrast it with what passed as popular design or entertainment in its day, and the work is friggin' revolutionary. Indeed, any one of these stories can be classed as a primordial example of what is now a common sci-fi trope. If H. G. Wells is the grandfather of modern science fiction, these writers are his sons:

John W. Campbell )

Stanley Weinbaum )

A. E. Van Vogt )
masqthephlsphr: (books)
As threatened/promised, a brief review of the science fiction short stories I have read so far in my chronological tip-toe through the genre. My descriptions/reviews below are somewhat spoilery in terms of premise and tone, although I don't out and out describe how the stories end.

The first two stories have been dubbed 'proto science fiction' in that they were written well before there was any such genre as science fiction, and were labeled in hindsight as "science fiction-like." H. G. Wells is the first of this batch to be truly a "science fiction" writer, although he would not have used that term, since it was not invented until the mid-twentieth century.

Edgar Allen Poe )

Nathaniel Hawthorne )

H.G. Wells )

Edmond Hamilton )

Robert Heinlein )

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