Friday, August 28, 2015

ON THE ROAD AGAIN . . .

Once again I'm dashing off these few lines just before I pack up my trusty computer and head for the hills. This time that phrase is meant literally. Sunday I'll be putting Blanca, the Queen of the Universe, and Shadow, AKA Chat Dieu, the Sidekick, in the back of my car and making the seven-hour drive to the little mountain town of Marshall, North Carolina, just north of Asheville. Hubby will be following with the rest of our worldly goods in a rental truck.

Yep, it's time for the Big Move! So no time for my usual long-winded post. Gotta pack up the kitchen!  

My reports for the foreseeable future will come from Marshall!

Cheers, Donna





 

Star Trek: Renegades - listen to what the fans are saying

Deposit Photos image 26492123 (c)
There I was, minding my own business, scrolling idly through the Facebook feed - and I come across an article from Space.com (no less) - about a crowd funded Star Trek spin-off! Here it is. The film itself is on Youtube, and you can watch for free. If you're really keen, there's a Star Trek Renegades web site.

I find this development fascinating. To me, it says two things:
  • Trek fans are hankering after some of the development that's happening in the Star Wars universe. Even the name resonates. Star Wars has Rebels,  Star Trek has Renegades.
  • Trekkies aren't getting what they want from the big studios, so they put their hands in their pockets and funded the thing themselves.

I think it's a fantastic development. It's got *spaceships* after all.

Another reason why I think it's fantastic is because I don't want to know about dystopian plots. For me the real world is full of misery and to spare. It's the first thing I thought of when I read a write up in "The Weekend Australian"for two new hard SF titles - Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Both titles will please lovers of hard SF. Not a warp drive or hyper drive in sight.  

Seveneves is set at a time when the moon (ours, that one up in our night sky) is destroyed. The pieces will come down in due course, and the world will have to start again. Meanwhile, a space station is to be set up to rescue the species. They've got two years.


Aurora is about a generation ship on its way to the stars. The story is set 500 years in the future and focuses on the problems faced by generations of people who have never known any life outside a spaceship.

There's nothing particularly original about either concept, but that's not the point. I'm sure, in the hands of these skilled writers, the stories will be well told. But (sorry) I'd rather have Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: Rebels - and yes, Star Trek: Renegades. I'd rather be up there whipping through the light years in my souped-up freighter than thinking about the doomed billions who won't be getting up to that spacestation.

When you think about it, this is sort of the film version of fan fiction, and self publishing. If Big Business doesn't give you what you want - do it yourself. Cheers!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Teaser - Booby Trapped Pants? #scifi #romance

The summer holidays are drawing to a close, and I'll soon be back to my normal blogging schedule. In the meantime, here's another snippet to entertain you. Taken from my short story Imprint in Tales from the SFR Brigade - a free scifi romance anthology - I'm also giving you a special treat. I won a cover in a contest and decided to have it made up for Imprint, on the off chance that I may one day release the story on its on. Enjoy!


I present an excerpt taken from my short story Imprint, part of the Tales from the SFR Brigade - a free scifi romance anthology. Having been rescued from a rather nasty fate by Deluvian Marshall Tevik who'd been pursuing her, my thief Jiona has woken up in what might seem a compromising situation at first assessment...

“Care to explain why I’m half-naked in your bed?”
Tevik quirked an eyebrow and perched beside her on the edge of the mattress, still keeping out of reach. “My bed, because there was nowhere else to put you. And as for your clothing…” He had the grace to look sheepish. “Strip search. After that trick in the vaults with the knife…” With one hand he gestured to a long, dark bruise over his ribs that matched those on the opposite side from where she’d kicked him. She flinched. “I couldn’t be sure what else you might have tucked away.”
“Bet you enjoyed searching me.”
A faint blush colored his cheeks. “I did what I had to do, for my own safety as much as yours. I didn’t want any booby traps going off in your outfit. You are known for them.”
She smirked. “Thought I might have a weapon tucked away in my panties?”
His blush deepened. Her panties had been little more than a strand of lace. Less restrictive, but certainly no cover for a weapon. Not even a very small one.
“With you, anything is possible.”
Jiona laughed. “Ah, now there’s a reputation I can be proud of!”

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Friday, August 21, 2015

SCREEN ENVY: WHY CAN'T WE CAPTURE THAT SF MOVIE AUDIENCE?


The usual suspects dominated the screen this summer.

Another summer of screen blockbusters is nearly over and once again the multiplex has been dominated by comic book heroes, post-apocalyptic survivors and teen warriors of the future. Though romance has been generally lacking in these action-packed thrill rides, science fiction has certainly been featured, even in the speculative nature of disaster movies like SAN ANDREAS.

The small screen, too, is full of SF—from the SYFY Channel’s more traditional space opera KILLJOYS to ABC’s Earth-based THE WHISPERS. There’s even a soap opera about space (ABC’s THE ASTRONAUT’S WIVES CLUB, about the women behind the men of the Mercury space program).

Obviously Hollywood thinks SF sells. What’s so appealing about the genre for film and television?

--SF is visual. Spaceships! Monsters! Disasters! The end of the world! Superheroes and arch villains battling it out in the middle of cities, destroying everything! Cool tech and even cooler special effects and makeup. The guys (and, make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly male) on the technical side of filmmaking love this stuff and delight in one-upping each other. No other genre gives them the same opportunities.

--SF lends itself to simple plots. Good guys vs. bad guys. Monsters/aliens vs. humans. Superhero vs. super villain. Etc. The exceptions to this rule in the last few years can be numbered on maybe two hands—GRAVITY, INTERSTELLAR, HER, LUCY, a few others. They get lost in the avalanche of mindless fare at the multiplex and, with the exception of the first two titles, are seen by only a handful of dedicated SF film fans. Simple is best, especially on the big screen. More room for explosions. (Television fares better in this regard, since paying for big effects is a problem for TV networks. A show like DEFIANCE or PERSON OF INTEREST can focus on relationships and ideas and find a faithful audience on the small screen.)

--SF skews young. The majority of the movie-going audience today consists of teenagers and young adults. (People like me, who can remember when comic books were not an art form, but something you could buy for a dime at the corner drug store, tend to watch movies at home.) This audience is most likely to be drawn to stories and heroes taken from the media it is already familiar with—comics and graphic novels, television, retro movies, young adult science fiction bestsellers like The Hunger Games and its clones.

--SF skews male. Yes, I know, dear reader, many of you are female and love SF, too, but Hollywood doesn’t much care about that. The powers that be have convinced themselves that men drive the entertainment decisions—including what gets seen on date night and what is watched on TV or computer or tablet. Hollywood has decided (presumably by market research, but who knows?) that, with some exceptions,  “audiences” don’t want to see women in lead roles, they don’t want films by or about women, and they damn sure don’t want films in which women play the heroes. Science fiction, in which, traditionally, the men dominate, gives Hollywood what they think they want—and lots of it. The percentage of women starring in, directing, producing and writing movies and television has actually dropped since the 1990’s. We can only hope the success of films like MAD MAX:FURY ROAD (starring the mesmerizing Charlize Theron) will change some minds.

In the SFR community we have long hoped that the trending love for SF on the screen will open a door for us with both readers and the not-so-Invisible-Hand of the market. But that has not happened so far, and I fear it will never happen. The problem is that the science fiction we see onscreen--certainly the SF we see on the big screen, though to a lesser extent the SF we see on TV--has little similarity to the kind of SF we are writing. In general, our stories are much more diverse, female-centered, character-driven and complex than the majority of stories we see in the multiplex. Then, of course, there’s the romance, which is most often only hinted at in the theater.

We have assumed all along that the audience for SF on the screen is the same as the audience for SFR in readable form, or at least that there is a great deal of crossover. That’s based on the anecdotal evidence that lots of us like SF movies and read SFR, too. We need to determine whether the majority of the movie-going audience is really open to what we’re selling, and, if so, how do we reach that audience? If our basic assumption is not true about this film/SFR connection, then who are we really writing for? The answer has to be greater than “people like us,” lest we continue to sell books to only each other.
 
 I don’t have the answer to these questions. If I did, I’d be Number One on Amazon. But if any of you has some insight, I beg you to share.

Cheers, Donna




Thursday, August 20, 2015

What is it about Star Wars?

I really enjoyed Donna's post about the best and worst things about Star Trek. It got me thinking about that series, and also, of course, Star Wars. I'm not a Trekky. I fondly remember the first series, way back in the late 60's, but the increasingly silly plots starring Captain Kirk and the Roman goddesses etc put me off. I've seen a few of the movies, but never got sucked back into the TV series.

Star Wars was a whole nother proposition altogether. I thoroughly enjoyed Star Wars: A New Hope back in '77, fell in love with The Empire Strikes Back, and although Return of the Jedi didn't grab me to the same extent, I was sad when the series finished. Sad enough to embrace Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy when it appeared. I saw all three prequel movies several times. Because... well... it's Star Wars. (Yes, I know they were bad) And I'm hangin' out for episode VII.

So why Star Wars (SW) and not Star Trek (ST)?

There's no doubt Trek is science fiction. The science has always been better in ST than SW, and I am a hard SF fan. I will happily accept that SW is space opera and that it has more than a dollop of magic (the Force). Take it down to the bare roots and it's a classic fairytale, complete with black-clad villain, a beautiful princess, the wise old wizard, a world-weary paladin and a kid with a destiny.  Ho hum, seen it all before? Maybe. There were a few smart little variations, though. The Imperial soldiers wear white armour, the princess isn't exactly the shy, retiring type, and there are aliens - non-humanoid, interesting aliens. Then it turns out the REAL villain isn't the guy in the death mask, it's the puppeteer pulling the strings.

And special effects.

George Lucas spent a lot of money on special effects back in the days when it wasn't all done by a roomful of coke-fueled software engineers. I loved that stuff. I loved hearing about how they filmed the space battles, the attack on the Death Star, the crash on Dagobah: how they built the wonderful star destroyers. etc etc. I suppose I got my geek fix from the SFX details. The USS Enterprise was good, and it has evolved over the years. But for me, it will never compare with the mighty Imperial Star Destroyer. Visually, anyway. The very vulnerable bridge is an obvious design flaw.

I think that mix of science fiction and magic is why Star Wars has continued to suck in a younger audience. The bookshops and toy stores are full of Star Wars merchandise aimed at kids who are probably too young to even remember the prequel trilogy. Certainly Star Wars: Rebels is aimed at a new audience - even if us older types can still enjoy it. I think that's wonderful. If Star Wars can get kids reading, get them looking up at the stars and wondering, if it leads them to watch Cosmos, to ask questions about aliens - then Let the Force Be With Them.

*The picture is of a model I built of the snow speeder crashed on Hoth. Luke is climbing out as the ATAT advances. Yes, I'm a geek.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Teaser - Demons on the Streets of the Future #urbanfantasy #futuristic

My summer book binge with my monsters continues, and while I keep reading, here's another excerpt for you to read. This is taken from my futuristic urban fantasy No Angel, where supernatural beings still roam the Earth, and other planets too...


He stalked the streets of the city, the part that he had an unspoken claim on. Around him, those few humans venturing into the cold, wet weather walked with silver rain sticks in their raised hands, the buzz of invisible energy umbrellas keeping them dry. Beams of light from flying vehicles criss-crossed the clouded sky above. The odd blaring of collision warnings or irate drivers too impatient to wait their turn at the aerial stop signs broke the incessant hum of traffic. Towers and gothic arches in black marble and black glass surrounded him, glinting in the bright gleam of lurid neons. Mirrored panels reflected the 3D adverts that would spring up in front of commuters, like pranksters leaping out of hiding. Lucien strode through them all as they tried to seduce him with the latest social drug, eating place, bar, or males and females available for company. Next, it offered things to increase his libido, at which he laughed, then cosmetic alterations to enhance his appearance. Lucien snorted. As an angel, he'd been beautiful. As a demon, he'd kept his looks, but his demonic nature had sharpened his high cheekbones and narrowed his face, turned his already dark skin a shade darker. He could class himself as drop dead gorgeous and appreciate the utter literal nature of the phrase.
When that failed, the ads tried targeting him with off-world travel as they followed him around. Lucien smiled. He already belonged to another world that most humans might have forgotten they could reach. Little did they know it would still be their final destination.

At last, even the holographic advertising left him alone. Contrary to what humanity might think, the supernatural beings of this world had adapted to technology, if somewhat more slowly than their mortal cousins. There were demons on the outer planets too, and new versions of Hell that linked them to the original to ensure the sinners still met the fate they deserved. Crossing space was no defense from supernatural beings who could cross dimensions as yet unknown and unexplored by the human race. 
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Friday, August 14, 2015

THE 5 BEST AND WORST THINGS ABOUT STAR TREK



Daughter Jessie hangs with the Klingons
I had a blast last weekend playing the part of Big Time Author at the Shore Leave Science Fiction Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I signed books at the Meet the Pros event and in the Dealers’ Room, geeked out at a session with DEFIANCE stars Jaime Murray, Tony Curran and Jesse Rath (the love-to-hate-’em Tarr family) and sat on three pro panels with other authors.

I had the most fun at one of those panels: The Best and Worst of STAR TREK and STAR WARS. The panel was originally supposed to be a Battle Royale between fans of the various TREK incarnations, in which I am always prepared to defend The Original Series above all others. But an overabundance of panels meant we had to combine ours with one about the best and worst of STAR WARS. Which meant we ended up with  fans of the two largest franchises in SF history in the same room. Anyone unfamiliar with SF might be na├»ve enough to ask why that is a problem. (Mundanes often confuse  the two anyway.)  Anyone else knows to batten the hatches.

Well, it’s not like the old days. Everyone played nice and left the bat’leths and light sabers at home. Many of the writers on the panel had written pro novels in both universes. But it did give me an idea for this blog.

So, here, IMHO, are my five best and worst things about TREK:

BEST

--Characterization. In particular, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are the Holy Trinity of characters, representing, depending on your perspective, Mind, Body, Spirit; Id, Ego, Superego; Thesis, Argument, Synthesis; Physical, Emotional, Rational. Need I go on?

--Technology. The special effects might have been less than stellar in the early going, but you can’t discount the inspirational effect of TREK’s tech. The communicator is now in everyone’s hands because a guy who watched that show wanted to make it happen and invented the cell phone. NASA, computer labs, biotech firms and engineering companies everywhere are full of people who grew up on TREK and want to see that stuff become reality.

--Vision. And talk about inspiration. Not just the tech, but the kind of world we want to create, with a bridge full of diversity and a mission to explore, not dominate. 

--Adult Perspective. This may seem a strange quality to praise in a show that has spawned generations of cosplaying, action-figure-collecting fans, but the concerns of TREK are not coming-of-age, finding our true roles in life, accepting/rejecting our fathers’ choices or any of the other concerns of young adults. They are more about accepting the “evil” that may be part of us, negotiating difficult relationships with others, leading men and women through impossible hardships, the immediacy of war vs. the delicacy of diplomacy, the nature of love, responsibility, duty, friendship. (Let’s hope J.J. Abrams remembers this before it’s too late.)

Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel
--“Darmok”.  One of the best episodes in TREK comes not from TOS, but from NEXT GENERATION in “Darmok.” Captain Picard and the Enterprise encounter an alien culture that communicates entirely in allegorical phrases, negating the ability of the translator to help them bridge the communication gap. This episode stands out because the aliens in it truly think differently. And for once, TREK’s tech is of no use; only the human ability to make an intuitive leap saves the day. Kirk would have been proud. 

WORST

--Wesley Crusher. See “Adult Perspective” above. The presence of Wesley on the bridge seriously disrupted the TREK force. Chekov came close to this annoying role in TOS, but he was older, and everyone had permission to ignore or abuse him.

--Similarly, anytime there were children on TOS Enterprise, trouble—and bad acting--ensued. “And The Children Shall Lead” comes to mind.

--Cheesy effects. We all know they did the best they could on TOS, but sometimes you just have to close your eyes and ears. And, seriously, if the turbulence is that bad, couldn’t you just install seat belts? So many bodies on the bridge!

--ENTERPRISE. Almost everything about it. I love Scott Bakula, but he was seriously miscast in this murky “prequel” to TOS. We went nowhere and we did it tentatively, hounded by Starfleet Command back home and the interfering Vulcans along the way.

--Hippies in space. (“Journey to Paradise” TOS) Abuse of the holodeck (multiple epidsodes TNG,VOY). Ferengies. (DS9) Impenetrable politics. (DS9) Sorry, I couldn’t decide which was worse.

So, what do YOU say? What are the best and worst of TREK in your opinion?

And, since I’m not a huge STAR WARS fan, I leave it up to our resident STAR WARrior, Laurie, to give us her list of the best and worst of SW.  I can just kick it off by offering my best—Han Solo—and worst—JarJar Binks—may he be encased in carbon forever.

Cheers, Donna