Musings

[Blog] Wars vs. Trek

If you’ve spent any amount of time among nerds, then you’ve likely come across the Star Wars versus Star Trek debate, or perhaps even taken part in it yourself. Die-hard trekkies might bemoan the relative lack of philosophical speculation and/or scientific curiosity. Dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fans feel compelled to argue that their universe is more believable and compelling, as it doesn’t try to sell the idea of a fully functional utopia. (Also, light sabers!) And of course, there are those on either side who scoff at the idea that a single person can appreciate both universes.

Which is just silly. Why limit yourself to one galaxy to nerd out about when you can have two?

Granted, my parents probably gave me a head start on appreciating both. I couldn’t have been much older than six or seven when we watched A New Hope as a family for the first time, and it wasn’t many years later that we started working our way through old VHS recordings of The Next Generation and watching reruns of Voyager in the first few years after the series finale. Basically, both universes formed an integral part of my childhood.

I don’t mean to say that one doesn’t have strengths over the other. One would be hard pressed to argue that Star Wars is better on the hard science fiction front than any of the Star Treks– though even Star Trek takes plenty of liberties with the laws of physics (conservation of mass/energy and transporters, anyone?). But the lore of Star Wars has always seemed, to me, to go so much deeper, with all its many different worlds, species, and cultures that are developed fully in their own right and not as much to fill the needed philosophical niche for one episode or another. Or, put another way, Star Wars is less obviously didactic by nature.

Then again, sticking both into the same genre (science fiction) and calling it a day is over-simplifying things. As mentioned above, Star Trek is more truly science fiction than Star Wars: it’s a future universe that looks fundamentally different from our world today because of the introduction of the warp drive. Sure, you can make fun of the fact that (almost) all the different alien species are basically humans with different sorts of ridges on their foreheads, but what they might be missing in physiological differences is made up for in their wide variety of philosophies and histories. In particular, the Bajoran culture is fantastically fleshed out, which in turn adds a ton of depth to the Cardassians as well. The Klingons end up being, more or less, your standard warrior race, but that doesn’t mean they don’t provide the basis for some fascinating episodes. And the relentlessly capitalistic Ferengi are so ideologically opposed to the Federation that the conflicts between the two are often quite interesting as well.

On the other hand, Star Wars is more accurately described as space opera than straight science fiction. Its focus isn’t on science of any sort, but on the huge, epic conflicts that take place in its fictional galaxy. It has more in common with high fantasy tales like The Lord of the Rings than it does with sci-fi yarns like Niven’s Ringworld or Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. It sets the rules of its universe and sticks to them (especially if we don’t talk about the midi-chlorians), and so can focus more on what happens than why things happen.

So there you have it. Anyone trying to force you to choose either Star Trek or Star Wars over the other is selling you short. For me, my favorite tends to vary. Unless you’re asking about Stargate too. Because if you are, then Stargate wins. Every time. SG1 forever!

But what do you think? Are you more a Star Trek or a Star Wars fan? Did I hit the mark or am I way off? Tell me why in the comments below!

Musings

[Blog] Regionalism

Way back in high school, we had a unit where we studied American literary regionalism. (Click here for the Wikipedia article, if you’re curious!) I remember it being interesting, and our teacher tied it in with the idea that the setting of a story, when properly done, can be as much a character as any of the ones walking around on two legs. At the time, I thought it was a fascinating idea, but didn’t quite get it– certainly not enough to be able to articulate it all that well.

If I’m honest, that might still be true today, though I’m certainly closer than I was. At the very least, I’m close enough to start coming up with some theories of my own. In particular, considering how it relates to the ubiquitous advice to “write what you know”.

Now, as you can imagine, us science fiction and fantasy authors have a harder time applying that advice in its most boring sense. I’ve never been a freelancer on a distant planet, but that’s not stopping me from writing about a couple of siblings who do, so some folks might suggest that I’m not taking that advice to heart. That being said, I am one of several siblings, and I can guarantee that I’ve got the sibling banter thing down pat, so in that sense I am writing what I know.

Now, imagine you’ve got a locale you’re particularly familiar with. For me, that could be the Palouse area of Idaho and Washington: farming country, with lots of hills and fertile soil and not so many people. Next, add in the fantasy, magic, and adventure that I particularly enjoy writing about. Combine the two, and and you’re going to get a modern fantasy story set in the hills I grew up in. Probably involving werewolves.

Or, for those of you who watch Angel, you’ve got the same sort of thing with Los Angeles. It’s definitely set in LA… there’s just vampires and demons as well.

Basically, using a region that you’re familiar with is a fantastic way to write what you know– because as poor as that advice is when applied badly, you can’t get around the fact that it does have some truth to it. If you know something, you’re going to be able to write about it better. If, like me, you’re more the type who likes writing science fiction and fantasy, that’s probably going to look more like writing about relationships between friends and family than the the mundane adventures of a twenty-something-year-old. But it can also mean setting those same stories about the relationships you know in the places you know. Because it’ll make the story that much more real.

Musings

[Blog] Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, and that you’re all ready for the new year– as much as anyone ever can be!

Speaking of the new year, I’ve got a couple of announcements regarding my plans for this blog! First, weekly Wednesday posts are back on, so if you happen to be looking forward to those, you’re in luck! I’m also going to be playing around with actually writing posts ahead of time, in the hope that it means I actually update on time, and not at 11:55pm on Wednesday nights. Heh. With that in mind, if there happens to be a subject that you’d like to see written about by an unrepentantly nerdy amateur blogger, do let me know!

Second, it’s also high time for me to start posting regular stories to the blog, like I was when I first started this thing. They fell by the wayside for a number of reasons, but at this point, I have no good reason to not push myself to do them again, and a whole lot of good reasons to just go for it.

Honestly, it puts me in mind of one of my favorite Ray Bradbury quotes: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” I’m not going for the one-story-a-week goal, but two a month isn’t bad, and with any luck, it’ll pull me out of the panicky over-editing loop I’ve gotten myself stuck in. Again. Oof.

And finally, I will of course continue plugging away at Tanner and Miranda. Expect a full update on what’s going on with them in the next couple of weeks!

How about for all of you? Any exciting new writing related goals? Any exciting new non-writing related goals? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Prompts

[Blog] Writing Prompts Round 3

HEADER

It’s been a week, and I’ve got responses to your prompts! Thanks to those of you who submitted! As promised, here’s some snippets from Tanner and Miranda’s adventures. I can’t confirm or deny if these are “cannon” per se… but they’re the sort of thing that might happen. We’ll see how many work their way into bigger pieces someday.

I was afraid to ask where Tanner had gotten the truck. The truck. The honest-to-goodness, Earth-made, antique, gas-burning, two-door, flatbed, ratting, rumbling hunk of metal that coughed and sputtered its way right out of the pages of history and down the street until it stopped right in front of the boarding house. I should have known I wouldn’t have to ask.

“I told you a few of these old beasts made it out to this end of the galaxy.” He sat in the driver’s seat, grinning ear to ear. I stood and stared at him and tried to figure out when and where he’d learned to drive stick.

When I finally found my tongue, I only managed one word: “Why?”

He cackled. “Because. Come on. Get in!” He leaned over and popped the door open with a rusty creak that would have sent any proper vehicle straight to the junkyard. And yet, I got in. And we spent the rest of the day cruising down the back roads of Halverston in a crazy, out of date contraption. And it was one of the most enjoyable things I’d done in years.

“I’m going to crash it.”

Those weren’t the sort of words you wanted to hear coming out of your copilot’s mouth. Not ever. But especially not when you were seconds away from being home safe. Not when you thought it was finally over.

Funny how they didn’t surprise me, though. It was the fact that I agreed with him that would have worried me if I’d had the time.

“Big explosion?” I asked. I was already reaching up to flip off the safeties and the dozen automated systems that would make our plan impossible. The cockpit shrieked in consternation.

“The biggest,” said Tanner. And he grinned.

“You’re sure it’ll work?”

“Nope. But I think it might, and that’s good enough for me.” He glanced over at me and winked. “Given the circumstances, you know.”

I snorted. “Fine. Good enough. Bail out in 3… 2… 1…”

“Please pass the salt.”

“I told you! I told you it was a terrible idea! I told you and you didn’t listen!”

We were running. People were shooting– at us. My carefully laid plan was strewn behind us in ruins, and somehow we’d managed to complete the job despite it all. All that was left now was getting out alive. And yelling at Tanner for getting us into this mess in the first place.

We skidded around a corner and crashed to a halt behind a couple of huge storage barrels. We panted. We gasped. We held our breath as our pursuers thundered by and didn’t see us.

I waited a good thirty seconds before laying into my brother again. Given that he was doubled over giggling, I don’t know how effective I was. I punched him in the shoulder in a vain attempt to make myself feel better.

“Since when do you put salt on anything!? You never do! That’s how you convinced me that freaking saying ‘please pass the salt’ was a good code phrase!”

He barely managed to get out his answer between bouts of hysterical laughter. “I know.” More laughter. “I know. I know. But–” And he started cackling so hard that I was sure he’d bust a rib. And it would serve him right. “But you wouldn’t believe how bland the food was.”

Writing Prompts

[Blog] Writing Prompts Open! (Round 3)

HEADER

I’m at it again! Send me your writing prompts, and I’ll respond this time next week with a short bit of fiction inspired by your lovely words, pictures, scraps of music, etc. But! This time I’ve got an added twist: your prompts have to be simple– one picture, one piece of music, one word or phrase… and I have to respond with something set in Tanner and Miranda’s world.

Sound good? Bonus points if it’s not something that looks like it should easily relate to the shenanigans of brother/sister bounty hunters on a newly colonized planet.

Also, if you’re looking for a little bit of a challenge of your own, here’s a prompt for you! Feel free to respond or not, with fiction, non fiction, poetry, or whatever floats your boat.

Musings

[Blog] The Middle Slog

HEADER

A friend of mine recently asked me why I like writing. Or rather, why I continue to write when I spend at least as much time actually putting pen to paper as I do moaning about the fact that I ought to be writing. And the answer to that is simple: despite evidence to the contrary, I enjoy writing, and there are stories in my head that demand to be let out.

This does raise a further question, though. If I enjoy wordcraft as much as I say I do, why do I complain about it so much? Part of it, of course, is that it takes discipline to write, and discipline is hard. But there’s more to it than that. The bigger part is that certain parts of the creative process are more enjoyable than others.

For me, writing is the most fun when I’m coming up with ideas for new stories or once I finally get caught up in the flow of the action on my way to the climax of the story. Those are the things that niggle in the back of my brain and demand I find a way to make the words on the page match the epic scenes I have playing out in my head. The problem is that neither of those take up the bulk of writing.

That spot would be taken up by the work of getting from point A to point B to point C in a believable and interesting fashion. Which, despite what it sounds like I just said, is often enjoyable in its own right– it’s just also hard, for me, at least, if not for writers in general. It requires good pacing, a (more or less) complete knowledge of the ins and outs of the story so as to avoid plot holes, and there’s also a whole lot of false starts as you figure out what’s really important and what doesn’t actually figure in to the story.

Or, put another way, it’s where the work of writing happens. And it’s hard work. Rewarding, certainly, as anyone who has ever finished a story will tell you, but hard all the same. And that, my friends, is why I grumble about it and why I’ll never give it up either.

Musings

[Blog] All the Different Stories

HEADER

As a self-professed introvert, it feels a little funny to say that one of my favorite things about my new job is all the different people I get to meet and all the different stories I get to hear about their lives. I get to interact and connect with all sorts of folks I’d likely never have run across otherwise, and I get to learn a little bit about the way they see the world. The same thing happened when I was driving for a rideshare service, too, so it’s not just limited to the medical field.

I, as I imagine most of us do, tend to gravitate towards certain groups of people– the sorts I get along with best, with whom we I the most in common. When something other than shared interests bring me together with someone, common interests may or may not be involved at all, at least not in the way they are when I meet people through something like a shared hobby. It’s a great thing for perspective. It makes it a lot easier to not caricature people on the “other” side of this or that divide.

Writing Prompts

[Blog] Writing Prompts Round 2

HEADER

Last week I asked for writing prompts and you guys delivered! Here’s the stories.

Is it supposed to make that sound?

Given that we lived on a border space station in the middle of nowhere, it was fitting that we opted for a robotic guard dog as opposed to the flesh and blood sort that put more of a drain on our limited resources. It wasn’t the cuddliest of options, but then, we didn’t need R-0ver to be cuddly. We just needed him to look fierce and help us scare off the occasional pirate gangs who assumed we’d be an easy target. We’d managed well enough on our own so far, but the last time had been a little closer than we’d wanted it to be, and when the traveling salesman came by with a discounted model, it seemed like a no-brainer.

At least, it did until 3am the next morning, when the eeriest squeaking filled our entire space station. And when your home is a tiny layer between you and the void, you are painfully aware of each and every weird noise it makes. So it was actually a sort of relief when the source of the metallic whine turned out to be our brand new R-0ver. We found him in a corner, looking sadder than it should have been possible for a robot to look, and the only way I can describe it is that he was crying. He perked up when he saw us, too. It was cute, sure, but I don’t think it’s quite the best sort of behavior for a guard automaton.

That’s it, I’m telling Mom about the dragon egg you have hidden in your closet!

“No! Wait! Jackie!”

Eight months of planning, and if I didn’t beat my sister to the stairs, it was all going to be for naught. But she was younger than me, smaller, and faster, and it was going to take something like a real miracle for me to get there before her. She was three yards from the bottom step, and my socks weren’t getting purchase on the linoleum. And she was opening up her mouth to yell.

“Mom! MOM!!”

And then my miracle happened. Dad came to the top of the stairs instead, and I knew it was going to be alright. Because I wouldn’t have had the surprise dragon egg for mom in the first place if he hadn’t snuck it in there with me at the start of all this.

Writing Prompts

[Blog] Writing Prompts Open! (Round 2)

HEADER

I think it’s time for another round of writing prompts! (She says, shamelessly levying everyone else’s imaginations for ideas.) Same deal as last time: all you lovely people give me prompts– a song, a word, a phrase, a whole darn premise, whatever comes to mind– and I respond with a bit of flash fiction (100-200 words). Post your prompts in the comments!

Also, as it’s the middle of the month I have a full(er) length short story due. It’s mostly written and on its way, and I should be posting it over the weekend, so keep an eye out!

Musings

[Blog] Just Add Dragons

HEADER

I’ve talked a bit in the past about the stories– books, movie, video games, et al– that have helped develop who I am today, but I haven’t said a lot about the books I’m currently reading. And in the hope that some of you might find it interesting (and also to give some well deserved plugs), I’d like to talk about the ones I’ve been enjoying recently!

Oddly enough, there’s been a bit of a Napoleonic Wars theme, between Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Eagle and the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Sharpe’s Eagle is the first (by publication order) of a series of historical novels that follow the adventures of Richard Sharpe, a British soldier in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With apologies to any history buffs reading this, I don’t know a whole lot about that era and the Napoleonic Wars, but my understanding is that the books are well researched and accurate to actual events. I’m about halfway through Eagle at the moment, and so far it’s been highly entertaining, if not the sort of thing I’ve read a whole lot of in the past. Given the snark and the audacity of the main character, I may well have to fix that in the future.

As for Temeraire, the series bears some similarities to the Sharpe series, in that it’s also well researched, follows the adventures of a soldier in the British military, and takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, with one addition. The fact that the addition is dragons just makes it even more fun. I’ve currently read the first four books of the nine book series, and I’ve enjoyed each new book more than the last and definitely plan to read the rest.

I’ve also been reading Luke R. Mitchell‘s The Harvesters Series. Starting with Red Gambit, these are post-apocalyptic high adventure, complete with monsters, mech suits, and magic, and they’re an absolute hoot. If you’re looking for something that’s full of action and just a whole lot of fun, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.

What about everyone else? Any books you’ve been enjoying lately?