I Was A Middle Aged Writer

April 12, 2010

“My” Sci-Fi

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 6:56 pm
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Greetings,

Today I’ve decided to talk about the type of sci-fi I enjoy. It’s the same sci-fi I like to write. And that’s space opera. Not what they call the “New Space Opera,” but space opera as defined by the following description:

“adventure science fiction set in outer space or on distant planets, where the emphasis is on action rather than either science or characterization. The conflict is heroic, and typically on a large scale. “

However, this does not mean that I want wooden characters. I want fully fleshed out characters, characters with depth. The characters have to be the driving force of the story.

I think that there’s some confusion about just which is which subgenre. The “New Space Opera” is an attempt, I believe, to add hard science into space opera and it frankly doesn’t work for me. There’s a place for hard science, it’s called Hard Sci-Fi, as defined thus:

“characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in quantitative sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, or on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. “

However, once again, this is not to say that I don’t at least want some realism in the story. The basics are fine though. The vacuum of space is deadly with no protection and an object in motion will remain that way until acted on by an opposing force, be that running into something or retro/attitude thrusters. A black hole is something you don’t want to get caught in the gravitational pull of. I’m not all that interested in knowing that Bob is on a planet that has an extra four hours in the day or that the gravity is 1.6 instead of Earth normal and therefore everything he does is more exhausting. It’s alright if it’s there, but it should be there for flavor and not detract in the slightest from the story itself. If he’s on a planet where it’s the middle of the night and he’s used to being awake during that time because that’s the time he’s used to for his daylight hours, then I don’t have a problem with him not being able to sleep, unless it starts becoming distracting to to the enjoyment of the story.

I don’t need to know how a technology works to have fun reading the story. I don’t need to know that it’s theoretically possible for the technology to work based on our still limited science knowledge today. In my humble opinion, this is why it’s called fiction. Lightsabers work and kill people, hyperdrives can go 1.5 times past light speed without making them travel back in time, lasers cut nice cauterized holes in the unprotected and make them quickly dead, ships explode (at least until the oxygen is eaten away) in the vastness of space. Folding space tech and wormhole generators are commonplace.

These things are what’s actually made me run for the romance genre recently. Unless I want to go and find used copies of the more traditional space opera sci-fi written in the past, I’m reading sci-fi romance. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with ’em, unless you have embarrassment issues over the romance aspects or some puritanical religious issues. Nearly everything I’ve picked up that’s new space opera novels are part of the “New Space Opera,” much of which I feel I need a degree in the above listed “quantitative” sciences to get. I don’t get that with sci-fi romance. I get the story first. The basics are still there, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story itself and bog me down in minutae.

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

Truer words… This is why I write the type of sci-fi I do. Because I’m not finding it. And if the publishers are pushing the hard science angle, then I’ll write it for Romance publishers. I’m not a big fan of the EU (extended universe) novels for Star Wars or Star Trek or Battlestar. I don’t really want to read the same universe. I want something fresh. I want a different setting. I want space battles, heroes, villains, lasers, FTL travel, wormholes, singularity generators, terraforming, space explosions, planet killers, aliens, mayhem, and perhaps a happy ending or two. I want good and evil AND shades of gray (yeah you can also use an “a”), I want three dimensional characters, heroes that are also real people who may not always do what’s right to survive.

In essence, I want space opera.

The “New Space Opera”

I’ve read some of this lately and a story shouldn’t have me saying, “bu-wha…?” and wanting to chuck the book out the door. It shouldn’t make me feel stupid or that I’m underpriveleged because I didn’t have the time or money to go and earn a degree in quantum physics so that I could understand the book. I actually hate that I can’t even look up the term “space opera” anymore to find the types of stories I want to read.

There’s a veritable minefield of hard science space opera novels out there nowadays. And of those, a great number of novels that leave me feeling unfulfilled for my fiction fix. I’m just now starting to delve into the sci-fi genre after years of reading fantasy and I’m a big fan of the classics of the space opera subgenre. However, I’ve already seen/read Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar and Farscape. There’s been some decent EU novels in those settings and I’ve read some, but I want new settings now.

And a side note: A story doesn’t have to move slower than molasses in a cold house in winter to have political intrigue or span multiple novels. I’m actually testing novels before I buy by getting library copies first. And it’s a good thing. I’ve picked up a couple novels that I would have wanted my money back on if I’d bought them.

Still, I have stumbled onto some good stuff while trying to sift through the chaff, so to speak and foremost on that list has been Alastair Reynolds’ novels. To date he’s done a fantastic job of adding some hard science elements without giving me the ??? moments. He’s good at explaining just enough without taking it too far and killing the story at the expense of explanation or description. I found his Minla’s Flowers short story in one of those “New Space Opera” anthologies. Truly a needle in a haystack. Minla’s Flowers was actually the only story in the anthology I did like. So I found his Zima Blue and other Stories anthology and liked every short story in there. So, I took a chance on Revelation Space from the library. Now I have Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap coming from Borders (I will support a writer I like by buying their titles). I await them with bated breath. I have an older trilogy coming from them as well by CJ Cherryh. I didn’t test this one first, but some of the negative reviews from Amazon actually helped me decide to get it. 😉 We’ll see.

So anyway, other than a rambling description of what I like in sci-fi I guess I’ll end with this:

There’s a place for every type of sci-fi and fans for every type as well. And if you can’t find the type of sci-fi you’re looking for, write it. And if one type of sci-fi publisher isn’t buying what you want to read it’s not what’s currently the trend, find those that are and run with it.

And if anyone wants to add their favorite space opera authors here, let me know what you like about them and I’ll look them up. I’m in the market, so to speak.

D

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February 19, 2010

Second Draft Begins

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 5:27 pm
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Yes, I finally got some feedback on the Rogue 5 novel and I’m beginning the rewrite. It’s been slow going getting started. It seems everything in life the past couple weeks has been attempting to keep me from continuing. It’s actually beginning to make me angry. I need some meditation or something. Maybe some time to myself. Every time I start I have to stop to do something else unrelated to writing.

The feedback was good and found a couple plot holes I’ll need to fill in. Good feedback is hard to come by sometimes, but essential. Often the writer is too close to the work and can’t always see the forest for the trees. So it’s nice when you can hand the manuscript to a reader who can point out the places that may not make sense or the weak spots in the prose. Once you have yourself an agent and editor it’s a bit easier, as these people will be able to help on that, but starting out, you really do need a good beta reader or proofer — someone you can trust to give you good and constructive criticism.

Now if only I can push away distractions I can actually get this second draft written. I’ll keep my readers posted and hopefully I’ll get this thing done soon. I need to start on the next project.

D

December 29, 2009

Starting Another Work

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 5:36 pm
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So I’m starting a new project. It’ll be slow going for a bit until we get through cleaning for New Year and prepping for January Christmas with out of town relatives, but I’m going to be tracking my progress again. It’s a Sci-Fi fantasy novel. Should be a one shot with possibilities for expansion added in.

In truth, I’ve already started it, but I’ve come to realize that the tracking I did on the last novel really helped me keep going. I started hitting the keys on this one during Thanksgiving, but set it aside for when I had more time to work on it. The first thing I’ll probably be doing on it is write up a good brainstorm on not only the world, but the villains, magic system, plot, everything. It’s going to need a lot of structure as far as that goes. I want to make sure the magic and the pantheon is worked up and at least makes enough sense that it’s not broken. The other thing I need to do is read Daily Life in Medieval Times. I’ll need at least a passing familiarity with a medieval setting beyond that found in an RPG. It’s going to be a higher magic type world, so there are likely conveniences I can use to fudge the lifestyle, but I do want to at least mimic a medieval setting.

However, I have another novel I need to work on and I may try to juggle them both. The other novel is an Urban Fantasy and unfortunately it sounds like UF is an easier sell in the current market. The market just seems flooded with UF to the point where I can’t pick up a book lately without discovering that it’s first person urban fantasy, usually with a female lead. Before anyone gets up in arms over that comment, keep in mind that I don’t mind them in general. I rather enjoy Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series and Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage and Skinwalker books, but I get tired of the same thing over and over again. And many of them are. The same, that is. The voice is the same, the writing’s the same, even many of the terms are the same. Jayne’s been picking some up from the library and really it just seems to be SSDA, same sh*t, different author. Change a few things, file off the serial numbers and you have a new novel. And they’re all selling. It makes me not want to touch first person urban fantasy with a ten foot pole unless I have something really “wowingly” (yes I know that’s not a word, but I’m channeling my inner Joss*) different. I just see an eventual future where peple are going to start seeing the same things I’ve noticed and get tired of the genre. I’d rather work on something else and plan for that eventuality.

So, I’m going to a setting that has been in decline for quite some time. I don’t know why I’ve suddenly been drawn to working on Science Fiction. It’s certainly not a desire to go with the underdog, though I’ve never been one to do anything the easy way. It’s not necessarily that I want to single-handedly champion the genre and try to bring it back into a golden age, but there’s just some strange appeal of working in something that’s not currently waterlogged, so to speak; something that’s not already saturating the market.

I walked into a local bookstore recently and checked the shelves. I was stunned that just about the only Sci-Fi I saw there were Extended Universes (BSG, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc). I remember a time when there was a lot of original sci-fi and sci-fi fantasy out there. I saw very little. This bothered me a bit because my finished (well, sort of finished) piece is sci-fi. I knew there was a lot more sci-fi titles in Romance and that’s what my novel qualifies as, but I started to wonder about mainstream sci-fi. I asked around (though I really should have known) of people in the business. I wondered if perhaps it was just the store in question. I was told that yes, the sci-fi genre has been in decline for easily 10 years. In a way it bothered me and it also got me to wonder if I should even try. I mean, if the publishers aren’t picking up much sci-fi then it’s that much more difficult to get published. But my stubborn streak now won’t let it go. I think I can write some quality sci-fi (focusing on space opera and fantasy aspects of course, I’m not big into hard science) and with a little luck get it published. I like the challenge, oddly enough.

And hey, it’s all about revolution. What goes around comes around. Sci-Fi was big once. Fantasy took center stage for a while. Now it’s Urban Fantasy. Who knows, perhaps it’s time for a resurgence of the sci-fi genre. It’s worth a shot anyway.

And so yes, you will be seeing another tracking session on here soon. One that will hopefully help me get another couple novels finished in the new year.

D


* Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and about a bajillion “Jossisms.”

September 10, 2009

And Just Like That…

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 1:54 pm
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The first draft is complete! I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday. 87,429 words, 211 pages, Courier 12 point. It’s done! Now the “fun” begins. I get to go back through and find all the things that make me, and other readers, cringe. I get to send it to proofers and have them tear it apart and send me all their opinions. Then, I get to start rewriting the whole thing. But, it’ll be much better because of it. There’s not a soul in the writing world who is so amazing that they don’t need editing. If they think that, then they especially likely need editing. Me, I know I’m a good writer. However, I’m not pretentious enough to even presume that everything I put on paper is the purest gold. Everyone needs quality editing.

I both dread and can’t wait for revision suggestions and opinions. I want this thing to be the best I can get it. Rewrites are needed. I can see stuff now that needs fixed as I’m rereading the thing. The story’s great. Now the tightening begins. With diligence I’ll see this thing tight and finished before November. With luck I can find a place for it before it gets too cold, and perhaps someone willing to give me an advance so I can buy some heat this winter. We have fuel oil…it’s expensive…space heaters only do so much…I’m tired of freezing in the winter. Seriously.

To those who expressed an interest in proofing for me, the beast will hit your inbox shortly.

I’m one step closer to my first finished manuscript. Stay tuned.

D

July 8, 2009

Rogue 5 Excerpt

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 3:40 pm
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Alright, here’s a small excerpt of the WIP.  I don’t like how this formats it, but what can ya do.  It’s only in the first draft stage, but I figured I’d put it up here for anyone following along.  The work is a Space Opera Sci-Fi Romance novel that I hope to have finished and ready to go quite soon.

Rogue 5

       Servos whined and jet retros flared as the battle suit pirouetted in a dizzying one-eighty to face the Palantine class suit that had just blasted by.  Its strafing run had just missed her and she wasn’t about to give it a second chance.  The targeting crosshairs came up immediately and she could hear the low growl of the auto-cannon as it sprayed a barrage of 50 mm rounds at the target.

       The Palantine class suit was one of the largest and newest the Core had to offer.  It was decked out with the new 60 mm auto-cannon, as well as a heavier frame and plenty of armor to go around.  It also sported a rocket launcher set in the left shoulder and retractable laser cannon in the left forearm.  The whole thing looked bulky and squat, but Ahlia Jensen had to admit, it was impressive.  Unfortunately for the pilot inside it, however; it was slower than her suit and it caught nearly the full barrage in the body and right leg.  Then again, she thought, there wasn’t much out there that was faster than her suit.

       A warning beep chimed through her helmet receiver and she instinctively shot her suit sideways as another suit, this one a lighter Reaver class, fired at her from above.  She heard the multiple ‘punk-punk’ sound of rounds slamming into her suit.

       “Blast!” She swore as she banked, flipping over and extending the suit’s left arm.  The hand retracted as the rocket pod in the forearm opened to send eight seeker rockets streaking toward the Reaver.  The Reaver went evasive, firing another barrage, this time at the rockets, but four still got through.  The Reaver lit up with explosions, debris flying in all directions.

       Ahlia hated space combat.  It always made her feel dizzy.  She far preferred ground combat where up was up and down was down.  In space, there was no proper direction sense and rarely were there obstacles to use as cover.  An enemy could come from anywhere.  Thankfully her tracking computer had picked up the Reaver and the speed of her suit kept damage to a minimum.

       She was still tracking the Palantine, but it had found another opponent at the moment and was occupied.  The heads-up-display showed the rest of her team busily skimming through the combat, tearing into the enemy wherever they could.  Rogue 5 was the best freelance team out there working for the Secession Worlds.  Under-equipped and under-powered, they were still more than a match for the units from the Core.  All the firepower in the cosmos didn’t amount to squat without skill to back it up and Rogue 5 had that in spades.

       “Ahlia!” The com squawked.  It was Dakarn.  “That blasted Palantine’s ridin’ me hard!  Think you can lend a hand?”

       “On my way.” She fired the jets, finding Dakarn’s signal in the HUD and shot full speed toward the fight.  If her suit had the usual controls that all others had, her knuckles would be white, gripping the stick.  As it was, her hands were slid into two sleeves in the control chair and her helmet was integrated into the seat.  This was the reason why she was the only one allowed inside her cockpit.  This was her secret.  It was a big one.  And if the Core learned it, things would quickly become far more complicated for her.

       She blasted through the combat far quicker than the enemy forces could even react.  She raised the auto-cannon and sent a steady hail of rounds at the Palantine as it harried Dakarn’s lighter Warrior class suit.  Rounds slammed into the Palantine as it wheeled around and away from the assault.  It went evasive, dodging the attack with far more skill than she’d seen before in a Core pilot.  Still, her Valiant was faster.  It was far older than anything in this combat, but was still the top of the line, and she’d refitted the suit with a few little extra tricks as well.

       The left shoulder plate of the Palantine lifted and several seeker rockets came at her in their twisting evasive pattern.  She fired the auto-cannon, taking out all but two.  The last two exploded just in front of her cockpit.  She’d only barely brought up the fighter defense shield in time.  The shield was not standard issue, having been part of a fighter pod, but it did its job well.  Unfortunately, it had also overloaded and would not be available again this fight.  Still, it was enough and did what she’d hoped.  The Pilot of the Palantine had paused.

       She fired the stabilizers and righted herself, firing another barrage of 50 mm rounds before releasing the auto-cannon and streaking toward the Palantine while the cannon slid back and up to stow itself behind the right shoulder of her suit.

       The Palantine could do little more than raise its arms in defense from the barrage, taking the brunt of the damage in the heavily armored forearms.  Before the pilot could react, Ahlia was on him, an energy blade extending from the top of the right forearm of the suit.  She drove the blade up into the left shoulder joint of the Palantine repeatedly and its left arm spiraled away, spinning through space. She hammered into the side of the suit, slowly tearing away at the heavy armor.  Her HUD rewarded her with a number of damage tallies on the Palantine’s systems.

       The Palantine’s right arm came around quickly and hammered her with its auto-cannon and the jet engine fired in its left foot, driving its knee up hard into Ahlia’s Valiant, pushing it away.  Then it fired both jets in a sitting position, the feet aimed at Ahlia.  The force of the engines firing pushed her back further and she was forced to fire retro stabilizers to keep from being pushed back violently.  Warning beeps went off and she went evasive, several rounds from the Palantine’s auto-cannon striking her suit before she was able to get clear.  The pilot had fired the weapon one-handed as a distraction while he streaked away.

       “Yeah!  Suck on that, dredge!  Should we pursue?” Came Dakarn’s voice over the com. A warning came up on Ahlia’s HUD.  A Core carrier was shunting in.

       “No. Leave him. They’ve got reinforcements.” Ahlia opened all channels to her team. “This is Jensen.  We’re pulling out.”

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