H.G. Wells’ Fighting Machines — After the Martians

My upcoming story, “After the Martians”—to be released this month—features the fighting machines, or tripods, of H.G. Wells’ book The War of the Worlds. In that book, the Martians assembled the machines after their arrival on Earth, and they caused considerable destruction. At the end of the novel, the Martians all died from our terrestrial bacteria.

AftertheMartians72d“After the Martians” takes place in the world of Wells’ story, but sixteen years have passed since the alien attack. In my tale, humans make use of the Martian technology, especially the fighting machines, to fight World War I.

Wells depicted a fighting machine as being three-legged and about one hundred feet tall. He did not describe the carapace or main body of the machine, except to say that several flexible tentacles protruded from it. Two of these tentacles held a box with a lens from which shot the devastating heat ray. The tripod’s other weapon was a poisonous black gas.

Such a machine would have terrified the readers of 1897. Since then, the tripod from The War of the Worlds has become a science fiction icon, inspiring the walking weapons of Star Wars, the AT-AT and AT-ST.  Combining huge size with the human attribute of walking somehow adds to the horror.

In The War of the Worlds, we see the fighting machines from the inferior vantage point of puny human victims on the ground. In “After the Martians,” I take readers inside the carapace as human pilots control the alien machines to battle other tripods.

I enlisted the aid of a close acquaintance to make a wonderful 3D printed version of the fighting machine. (Frequent readers will recall my 3D printed Ring of Gyges from my story “Ripper’s Ring.”) For the tripod, she used a Printrbot brand printer, the Simple (Maker) Edition, and PLA filament.

3D printed tripod 13D printed tripod 23D printed tripod 3

The .stl files you need to print the fighting machine yourself are on the Thingiverse site, and the design is by FuzzySadist (William Myers). I added the wire tentacles, and painted the machine to be generally consistent with my story’s description.

Very soon, I’ll give you details on how you can get your own copy of “After the Martians,” by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

New Book Alert – After the Martians

That’s right. I’m announcing the upcoming launch of a new book in the What Man Hath Wrought series. It’s called “After the Martians,” and the cover is sensational.

AftertheMartians72d

Here’s the blurb for the book, an alternate history occurring after the events of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds:

In 1901 the Martians attacked Earth, but tiny bacteria vanquished them. Their advanced weaponry lay everywhere—giant three-legged fighting machines, heat rays, and poison gas. Now, in 1917, The Great War rages across Europe but each side uses Martian technology. Join Corporal Johnny Branch, a young man from Wyoming, as he pursues his dream to fight for America. Follow magazine photographer Frank Robinson while he roams the front lines, hoping to snap a photo conveying true American valor. Perhaps they’ll discover, as the Martians did before them, that little things can change the world.

Gypsy Shadow Publishing and I are planning for a book launch in early May. You’ll find more news about “After the Martians” here at this website, so check back frequently with—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview—Andrew Gudgel

Today I’m happy to welcome another fellow author who contributed a story to the Hides the Dark Tower anthology. It’s Andrew Gudgel, science fiction author, Chinese poetry translator, and a past winner of the Writers of the Future contest.

Andy GudgelHere’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Andrew Gudgel: I got interested in writing in high school–essays, poetry, stories. You name it, I tried writing it. I wrote a lot, all the way up through college. Then I went and joined the Army. For ten-plus years I did other things. Fortunately, writing was still waiting for me when I came back.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

A.G.: I’m not sure I could nail it down to just a couple of authors because I feel a writer should be influenced by all the things he or she reads. But just to pick an example at random: Jorge Luis Borges’ “Ficciones.” He wrote such interesting stories, not only in terms of theme, but in style. Reviews of books that don’t exist. Descriptions of infinite libraries. Fictional worlds that become real and begin invading ours. Borges made me aware of possibilities in fiction that I’d never imagined existed.

I also think a writer–any writer–should read broadly in categories outside his or her preferred genre of writing, and for pleasure as much as for writerly education. For example, I read as much poetry and as many essays as I can, simply because I enjoy both.

P.S.: You recently completed a graduate degree at St. John’s College in their Great Books program. How has that affected your fiction writing?

A.G.: One of the best things about St. John’s is that you read the Classics in philosophy, religion, science, literature, politics, society and history. You learn that there are questions and themes that are eternal in literature and in life. (Plus it gives you plenty of neat ideas and material to snitch for use in your own stories.) It affected my fiction writing by making me more focused on character and what happens inside each and every one of us as we move through life. SF has the advantage that you can create situations and characters that don’t (or don’t yet) exist, which allows you to explore your characters and the human condition in ways other genres simply can’t.

P.S.: Your primary genre is SF, correct? How did you become interested in writing in that genre?

A.G.: I do primarily write SF, but will follow a story wherever it leads me, be that SF, fantasy or literary. I fell in love with SF early on–my father used to read Ray Bradbury stories to me and my brother on summer nights when we were little. And when I read H. Beam Piper’s “Space Viking,” it made enough of an impression that I still remember it, forty-odd years later. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by science, technology, and gadgets.

P.S.: What other authors influenced your writing?

A.G.: In terms of science fiction, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Charlie Stross, and Robert Heinlein. As for prose style, Seneca and Sir Francis Bacon. Both were writers of the short, pithy sentences I aspire to.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other SF authors?

A.G.: I’m very interested in the human/character side of SF: how we interact with technology, how we’ll be different/the same in the future. I hear about these cool–but true–uses of technology that are completely unexpected, and that gets me excited and fired up to write. For example, in India, a tech company is using hand-woven silk strips for their diabetic test kits because it’s cheaper than imported plastic. That’s a low-tech/high-tech solution. Low tech in that it’s local weavers and hand-made fabric. High tech in that it’s a creative human solution to a pressing problem. When I write, I try to concentrate as much people on and how they solve their problems as on the technology itself.

P.S.: In Hides the Dark TowerPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001], your story is “The Long Road Home,” an exciting story involving an immense alien tower. Can you tell us about the protagonist?

A.G.: Wang Haimei is a “Tower Diver,” a person who uses parachutes and hydrogen balloons to explore the inside of a hollow building that’s ten-thousand stories tall. There’s nothing left of the aliens who inhabited the tower, except for the very rare artifact which makes the finder instantly (and incredibly) wealthy. Haimei has just the right combination of meticulous attention to detail, love of adventure, and desire to get rich that all true tower-divers have. But she lost her fiancé, Moustafa, in a tower-diving accident a year ago, and this trip is her first one back since then. When a jealous competitor sabotages her gear, Haimei decides to try and walk back up to the exit at the top of the tower, even though she knows she’ll die long before she gets there. She discovers a kind of quiet courage that keeps her from giving up. As she walks, she discovers she’s being followed—perhaps by an alien that’s remained behind, perhaps by the shade of one long gone. She comes to appreciate the company, though, and uses the time spent walking to come to terms with death–both Moustafa’s and hers.

P.S.: In addition to writing fiction, you translate Chinese poetry. Have you found that your translation work improves your writing of stories in English, or is there no connection between these pursuits?

A.G.: I’ve found that translating, and translating poetry, has had a big influence on my writing. Knowing another language lets you see the world in different ways and makes you aware of connections you might never have thought of. For example, in Chinese nouns have measure words. (They’re roughly equivalent to the word “cup” in “one cup of coffee.”) But every noun has a measure word in Chinese, and they’re often reused. Which groups nouns into “categories.” Snakes and rivers use the same measure word; clouds and flower blossoms share one, too; so there’s a linguistic relation between certain nouns in Chinese that doesn’t exist in English. Being able to see—and make—new connections has made my writing richer. And poetry is a compact, image-rich art form that requires you to pack a lot into a small space. Perfect for learning both imagery and economy of words.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

A.G.: I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire right now—revisions, that sort of thing. The one I’m currently working on is an alien invasion novel/novella, which focuses on different peoples’ experiences of the event, and in which the aliens are only ever glimpsed at. I was inspired by the fact that you never see the whole shark until near the end of “Jaws.” So the glimpses the characters get throughout the story—are they the aliens or just alien technology? I was also very interested on the effect of such as big disaster would have on people—both as individuals and in groups—and not making the aliens central to the story allows me to focus more on that aspect.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Andrew Gudgel: I’m a big fan of aphorisms and mottoes, so I’ll keep it short:

  1. Nulla dies sine linea — Pliny (“No day without a line” i.e. write something every day.)
  2. Read as broadly as possible.
  3. If you try, you might fail. But if you never try, you’ve failed already.
  4. As long as it fits the guidelines, don’t self-reject a piece by not submitting it.
  5. Write, submit, repeat as necessary.

These are all the old saws, but there’s a reason they’re still around: they work.

 

Thanks, Andrew! All my readers will want to surf over to your website to learn more about you.

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 24, 2016Permalink

Author Interview—Robert E. Waters

Another fellow author from the Hides the Dark Tower anthology has consented to an interview. It’s interesting how that anthology gathered so many incredible writers together. Today, please welcome Robert E. Waters.

Robert E WatersRobert E. Waters is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Since 1994, he has worked in the computer and board gaming industry as technical writer, editor, designer, and producer. His first professional fiction publication came in 2003 with the story “The Assassin’s Retirement Party,” Weird Tales, Issue #332. Since then he has sold stories to Nth Degree, Nth Zine, Black Library Publishing (Games Workshop), Dark Quest Books, Padwolf Publishing, Mundania Press, and Rogue Blades Entertainment. Between the years of 1998 – 2006, he also served as an assistant editor to Weird Tales, and is still a frequent contributor to Tangent Online, a short fiction review site. Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their cat Buzz.

And now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Robert E. Waters: At a very early age, I was interested in story. My grandfather used to tell me stories he made up on the fly. One of my favorites were his “Quirrel the Squirrel” stories, and I’ve considered putting them down on paper and getting an artist to draw them. Perhaps someday I will. I was also into horror movies when I was a kid, and even though I’d have terrible nightmares after seeing the movies, I kept coming back to them. So I’ve always had this thing about story, about strange, fantastic stories in particular. And that early interest eventually led to me to writing my own stories by the time I was twelve.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

R.E.W.: My early influences were Robert Sheckley, Clifford Simak, and Robert Silverberg, just to name a few. Specifically, science fiction authors (or those authors more commonly associated with SF) have had the biggest influence on my writing, although I must say that the first time I read JRR Tolkien, I was paralyzed with awe. The years, unfortunately, have not been as kind to me when it comes to Tolkien’s staying power. Don’t get me wrong: He’s a terrific author, but his writing style, his manner of dialog, his pacing, etc. have not had the long-term effect on my own work that other writers have had. And some of my favorite books are not SF/Fantasy at all. My favorite novel ever is TC Boyle’s Water Music. It’s in my opinion, a tour de force of stylistic prose genius. It literally took me six months to read anything else afterwards because everything I read thereafter just could not compare. Other novels in the SF/Fantasy genre that I have always considered my favorites include Orson Scott Cards Ender’s Game, Sheckley’s Dimensions of Miracles, Walter John Williams’ Metropolitan, and of course George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Oh, and let’s throw in Glen Cook’s Black Company series for good measure. His and Martin’s fantasy are the kind I like the most; grittier and more realistic.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

R.E.W.: The easiest part for me is getting into the emotions and personal interactions of the characters. Once I have a good idea of who a character is, how he/she needs to react, their background, their personal relationships with other characters, etc. I can put them into pretty compelling situations. The hardest for me is keeping my prose tight. I have a tendency to meander into backstory. I seize on a nugget of a character’s backstory that I particularly like and want to share it with the audience, even though it has no relevance whatsoever with the story at hand. So I have to be mindful of how much superfluous flummery I am putting into a story.

P.S.: How would you describe the genre or style of the stories you write? Any common themes?

R.E.W.: Well, my genre is almost always science fiction and/or fantasy. It’s funny, but I find that I can write fantasy better than SF, even though I prefer SF when it comes to reading. And no, I really don’t have many common themes, although I do love the character who prevails in the face of insurmountable odds. I like a flawed character, not one who has the right answer for every situation, says the right things every time. I like characters that have to fight to achieve their glory, and I don’t mind a character stumbling into victory, so long as it’s an honest stumble.

P.S.: What sets your stories apart from those of other authors who write in your genre(s)?

R.E.W.: This is a tough question and one that I’ve never given much thought to. But I like to think that my stories bring some real humanity to my characters. I try to create believable characters for my stories, people that the reader can relate to in some way or another. A lot of authors do this, certainly, but oftentimes characters in SF are defined more by the gadgets they carry and not the content of their hearts. George RR Martin is often fond of quoting William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech: The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself. There’s a lot of truth to that in writing fiction.

P.S.: You spent several years as an assistant editor of the renowned magazine Weird Tales. How did that editorial experience affect your writing?

R.E.W.: My experience at Weird Tales was a huge factor in my writing. One of my jobs there was reading the slush pile. Stacks of stories would be put in front of me and I’d have to read them all and decide if they were good enough to be pushed up the editorial line, or should they be rejected. Doing this over and over helps in a couple important ways: First, you see errors in the stories that you are doing in your own writing, and second, it humbly reminds you that you are one in hundreds of people trying to get published. I came out of that experience ten times a better writer then when I went in, and I highly recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to read slush to do it, even if you don’t get paid.

P.S.: You wrote “The People’s Avenger” for Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower. Can you tell us the backstory for this tale?

R.E.W.: The main character in “The People’s Avenger” is Nalo Thoran, a hired assassin who works the streets of Korsham City. A thief by the name of Falco Creed has come to Korsham to find and steal back an ancient artifact that holds cultural significance to his people. The artifact had become a spoil of war taken by the Korsham army in battle against the Brenian’s of the south. The story revolves around their cat-and-mouse chase through the dark, dank streets of Korsham, as Nalo tries to kill the thief, and Falco tries to stay alive.

P.S.: That’s not your only story featuring the character Nalo Thoran. You’ve written several others. Please describe him. Do you intend to combine those stories in a series?

R.E.W.: Nalo Thoran was once a simple urban boy living in the streets of Korsham City. During one of Korsham’s wars against the southern kingdom of Brenia, he was pressed into the army and forced to serve as an assistant to a quartermaster. On a quiet, foggy morning in the midst of this war, he was lured to a waterfall by a beautiful singing voice. There he met Tish, the Mistress of Kalloshin, The Seething Dark Eternalness, the Paton Saint of Assassins, who bathed with him and stole his soul. Nalo was immediately transported to the assassin’s guild in Korsham, where he has served and killed for Kalloshin for decades. But he’s not a happy warrior in this secret war. He serves his master’s purposes, but he hates every minute of it, dreaming of a time when he can be free to live his own life, or to die. Either end game is acceptable to him.

To date, I have published five Nalo Thoran stories. I have a couple more scheduled for publication in the next year, and someday I hope to combine them all in a series, or as a collection.

Wayward EightP.S.: You’ve just had your first novel published, The Wayward Eight: A Contract to Die For. Can you tell us about it briefly? Do you think you’ll write more novels, or go back to short stories?

R.E.W.: The Wayward Eight is a weird wild west novel set in the miniatures game universe Wild West Exodus. The story revolves around a mercenary unit known as the Wayward Eight, led by ex-Confederate officer Captain Markus Wayward. He and his gang of killers have been hired by the Union to find and assassinate the known mad scientist Doctor Carpathian, who has come to America from Europe to create and lead an undead army to crush the Union and all others that may stand in his way. But there are other mercenaries on the hunt for Carpathian as well, and Markus Wayward and his crew find the way fraught with difficulty.

And yes, I do plan to write other novels. There are plans for at least one more novel set in the Wild West Exodus universe, and two other novels which I cannot provide many details about as of yet. But I also plan to work on short stories as well as the opportunities arise. I get invites to anthologies from time to time and I am a frequent contributor to Eric Flint’s online magazine, The Grantville Gazette, which publishes stories set in his 1632/Ring of Fire alternate history series. I’m keeping busy.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

R.E.W.: I recently finished a short story set in my Devil Dancers military SF series. The Devil Dancers are Apache fighter pilots engaged in an alien war with the Gulo, a wolverine-like race that threatens to conquer all of human space. I have published three stories so far in the series, with three more pending publication. In these stories I explore Native American culture and spiritualism, and try to address issues of both peace and war, and what is the price to preserve and wage both. My latest story is “The First Peace,” which is a title inspired by a bit of philosophy from Black Elk: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Robert E. Waters: Robert A Heinlein’s advice is still relevant today. To be a professional writer you must: Write, you must finish what you write, and you must put on the market your finished stories. Good advice then, good advice today. Another thing I’d recommend is to study history and science. It’s amazing how many ideas you can come up with by reading accounts of historical events. I recently wrote a story called “Mungo Snead’s Last Stand” which is another weird wild west story that will be in the Weird Wild West Anthology from e-Spec Books later this year, and the events in that story were inspired by my reading of the Rorke’s Drift battle of the Zulu Wars. The inspiration behind my Devil Dancers stories is my love of Native American culture and years of study in that field. I find it incredibly hard to just sit down and write. I need an idea solidly in my head before I type the first sentence. So, read history, read science, read about other cultures, and then imagine twists to apply to those events that will give you story ideas.

 

Thanks, Robert! My readers can find out even more about author Robert E. Waters at his website.

Poseidon’s Scribe

December 5, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—Jeremy M. Gottwig

When you’re on a roll, go with it. I’ve been landing the most fascinating interviews with the authors of the wonderful stories in the Hides the Dark Tower anthology, and today I present another one.

Jeremy GottwigI interviewed Jeremy M. Gottwig. According to his website, he lives in Baltimore City, and is a trained librarian and programmer. Writing is his hobby, but his favorite job is being a parent.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How long have you been writing?

Jeremy M. Gottwig: I read Watership Down in junior high and caught the bug. Most of my early stories involve talking animals. I am now in my mid-30s. A few weeks ago, my parents sold the house. My mom told me that she found boxes and boxes of notebooks filled with my stories and partial novels. I’m tempted to go through them and see if I discover any gems, but I’m also a little nervous about what I might find. I was a strange teenager.

P.S.: On your Twitter page, you state that you write space opera. How do you define that term, and why do you write in that genre?

J.M.G.: For me, space opera is about exploration, discovery, and relationships. I expect space opera to be epic. Perhaps it takes place over vast distances or over the course of many years. I hope to see substantial character growth throughout the course of the story.

It is my preferred genre, because it was my dad’s preferred genre. I grew up on Star Trek and classic Battlestar Galactica. I am a librarian and programmer, and my first job after graduate school was at NASA. My interest in languages, technology, and information stemmed in part from my early exposure to space opera. I hope to pass a love of science and space onto my son, and I hope that my stories can be part of this effort.

P.S.: I’m sure your son will appreciate it. In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors of space opera?

J.M.G.: I love reading about space battles, galactic conflicts, and seismic shifts, but I tend to avoid these themes in my own work. My space opera tends to be smaller, personal, and somewhat light-hearted. I like to drop ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and observe their growth across space and time. My stories are more likely to contain marital disagreements than military engagements.

P.S.: Your website includes much of the latest news from NASA. Do current NASA developments give you ideas for stories?

J.M.G.: I use scientific discoveries to help with adding details to stories. I often mine Kepler’s exoplanet data to describe planets. Only on rare occasions do scientific discoveries inspire the stories themselves.

P.S.: Your website states that many of your stories take place in the same “universe.” Do you have a name for this story world, and what are your plans for it (short stories, novels, collections)?

J.M.G.: All of my current stories take place in and around Xevilious, which is an alliance of worlds bound together by an engineered virus. Earth became a member of this alliance in 1988 following a First Contact event. I’ve rewritten much of Earth’s history after that point. (For example, Dukakis won the presidential election rather than H.W. Bush.) I use this world to give me consistent rules when writing. For the most part, I write flash and short stories, but I do have a number of longer pieces. My largest project in this universe is Employee of the Year: a series of novellas (six and counting), which takes place in the years following First Contact. I have two additional collections planned, one in the distant past and another in the distant future. All of these stories feed into one of several overarching threads, and I use short stories and flash to highlight tertiary issues and minor characters.

P.S.: How do you keep track of all the facts about your story universe, to keep from having the stories conflict?

J.M.G.: I keep long and detailed Google Docs that contain planets, races, star systems, and so on. I plan to transition some of this data over to my website and make it publicly available. I also keep all of my stories in Google Docs, and I use the search feature if I ever need to verify a detail.

P.S.: How do you describe your writing style?

J.M.G.: I sacrifice poetry for simplicity.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]P.S.: Well said. You wrote “Who Abandon Themselves,” which appears in Hides the Dark Tower. Please tell us about the story.

J.M.G.: Shy Aubolis struggles with the day-to-day operations of running a monastery, while maintaining a sinful correspondence with a former lover. This story takes within a black hole’s planetary system. I have written more about the characters (and their historical inspiration) on Vonnie Winslow Crist’s blog.

P.S.: You have a book coming out called Employee of the Year. Please tell us about it.

J.M.G.: The story is about teenager and fast food employee, Chet Eubanks. After First Contact, Chet obsesses over strategies to get into space. He is selected for an illegal corporate project to determine how much traction the company’s fast food products might get with alien lifeforms. Chet welcomes the opportunity, but he should have thought things through a bit more carefully.

And there you have the first three chapters in a nutshell. What follows is a multi-year epic that carries Chet from south town South Dakota and into the depths of space.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

J.M.G.: Employee of the Year is a series of novellas and novelettes rather than an individual novel. It is broken up into “seasons.” I have completed the first season and am hard at work on the second. Whenever I need a break, I write a short story or a piece of flash.

I am releasing the first Employee of the Year novelette in December. I plan to release the other episodes throughout the first half of 2016.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Jeremy M. Gottwig: Set a realistic writing schedule. You are busy, and writing is hard work. I tend to caution against setting word goals and prefer to focus on keeping the schedule. If you have writer’s block, edit something you have already written.

Thanks, Jeremy! I invite readers of my blog to find out more about Jeremy M. Gottwig at his website, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 7, 2015Permalink

Arte/Scienza

Here is the fifth post in my series. I’ve been discussing how the seven principles put forth by Michael J. Gelb in his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci relate to fiction writing. Today’s principle is Arte/Scienza, or “Development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination, ‘whole-brain’ thinking.”

ArteScienzaIn the book, Gelb demonstrates how Leonardo embodied the kind of balanced thinking intended by the term Arte/Scienza. His artistic paintings contain precise mathematical shapes and geological features. His scientific and engineering drawings are, themselves, works of art. Da Vinci didn’t distinguish between the two.

Sure, you’re saying, that’s all very well for ol’ Leo, born way back in 1452. But a lot has happened since then, particularly on the science side. There’s too much to learn to be an expert in both art and science. The two are way too different these days.

Artists are all about brushes and canvas, lighting and shadow, color and imagery. They’re out to discover beauty, or deliver a message, or say something significant about human nature.

On the other hand, scientists groove on equations and numbers, test tubes and Bunsen burners, experiments and technical papers. They’re out to discover truth, and to solve the mysteries of how the universe works.

In our modern world, we’re used to a high wall between Arte and Scienza. The two are so specialized, require such different talents, and their practitioners use such different jargon that it’s difficult to imagine one person combining the two in equal measure. Even books discussing Leonardo da Vinci separate the chapters for his artwork from those of his scientific endeavors.

Today we speak of being left-brained or right-brained, as if each of us is putting only half our brain to work and leaving the other half idle.

Michael Gelb discusses how you can use the philosophy of Arte/Scienza in your everyday life, and promotes the use of mind maps, which I also advocate.

My purpose is to discuss how Arte/Scienza applies to fiction writing. Most fiction writers identify more with artists than with scientists. They consider fiction writing a kind of art, and believe their creative temperament matches that of painters more than that of researchers. (The exception would be science fiction writers, who must use science in their writing.)

Here are some ways that even an author of magical fantasy, a writer who disdains all things scientific, can benefit from applying the Arte/Scienza principle:

  • Use mind-maps to aid in the writing process. These combine the logical orderliness of outlines with the free-form, colorful, image-laden right-brain preferences. Mind-maps can help you solve plotting problems, create characters, even plan book promotions.
  • Apply the experimental method to the development of your craft. The heart of science is the experimental method, used to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. You’re trying to become a better writer, so experiment!
  • Add a scientifically minded character to your story, even if he or she is the antagonist, a person of pure evil. Pour all your negative feelings about science into that character. You may just find, as you develop this antagonist, that he or she becomes one of your more engaging and interesting creations.
  • Embrace the overlap between art and science. If art searches for beauty, and science seeks truth, are those really that different? In the end, you’d like your book to say something new about the human condition, to expand reader’s knowledge about the theme you’re exploring. While working your art, haven’t you just committed an act of science?

Listen to your inner artist and your inner scientist. The more you do, the more you’ll find them getting along well together, and your writing might improve, too. So far, it’s working for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 27, 2015Permalink

What a Great Time at BALTICON!

Although I’ve attended the major science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore for many years, this year marked the first time I spoke as a participant. It’s been a wonderful experience!

b49_banner_1First, I spoke on a panel called “Being Out in Fandom.” It was about the issues faced by the LGBTQ community as fans at cons. My thanks to fellow panelists Stephanie “Flashcat” Burke and Hugh J. O’Donnell, and to moderator Jennifer R. Povey for helping me through that unfamiliar territory. I think I learned more than the audience!

I felt more conversant about being on the panel called “Engineers Can’t Write—Some Known Counter-Examples.” I had suggested that idea to the BALTICON staff, after all! I greatly enjoyed the experience with the other panelists Karen Burnham, Gary Ehrlich, and Walt Boyes. Jack Clemmons did a superb job as the moderator.

The next panel was part of the weekend-long tribute to the late C.J Henderson, who was the con’s Ghost of Honor. It was titled “Do You Want Pulp With That?” and we talked about what pulp fiction is, and Henderson’s forays into that realm. It was the first panel I’d ever moderated. I’m grateful to panelists John L. French, Michael Black, and Michael Underwood for keeping things interesting and informative for the audience (and for me).

On Sunday morning, I was honored to be in a reading session with Melissa Scott and Ada Palmer. (Despite the ‘ladies first’ adage, I should have gone first. I see that now.) After they read wonderful excerpts from upcoming works, I read a passage from “A Clouded Affair” in the anthology Avast, Ye Airships!

That afternoon, I sat at an autograph table with Jack McDevitt. Yes, the Jack McDevitt, winner of the Nebula Award, and recent winner of the Heinlein Award. He was wonderful to talk to, and a few of the fans who’d lined up for his autograph spent some time at my end of the table.

We had a packed session for a panel I moderated called “Bars, Inns, and Taverns: Fiction and Reality.” Panelists Katie Bryski, Ada Palmer, John Skylar, and Nathan Lowell kept it fun and instructive. BALTICON’s Guest of Honor, Jo Walton (Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Award winner!), also attended and shared her knowledge of the history of English pubs.

Among those who attended the launching of my story “Ripper’s Ring” were friends Kelly A. Harmon and Trisha Wooldridge. I thank them both.

Late Sunday night, I moderated a panel called “Knowing That I Know That You Know: Xanatos Gambits and Chessmasters.” The only panelist was Grig Larson, who was both funny and knowledgeable about this rather arcane topic.

On Monday I moderated the “Long YA, Short YA” panel discussing the explosion in long novels for young adults. Panelist Michael Underwood and Compton Crook Award Winner Alexandra Duncan kept the audience engaged.

Lastly, I moderated one more panel on “Tropes in Young Adult SF/F.” The lone panelist, Alexandra Duncan, was marvelous in this one too. I’m learning how to be a panel moderator, and it’s nice when a skilled and expert panelist makes up for any shortcomings in the moderator, (like when he runs out of questions).

All in all, a spectacular weekend! My sincere thanks go to the BALTICON programming coordinators for giving me a chance. I’m grateful, as well, to all the more experienced authors I met who told me, and showed by example, how to have a successful convention.

This BALTICON will linger long and fondly in the memory of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — Diana Parparita

Poseidon’s Scribe has done it again and now presents another interview with a captivating author whose story appears in the anthology Avast, Ye Airships! Today I welcome Diana ParparitaDiana Parparita, a Romanian author living in Bucharest who writes fantasy and steampunk.

Read on for the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

Diana Parparita: I started writing fiction when I was four or five years old. I hadn’t learned to write yet, back then, so I dictated my stories to my grandmother, but the intent to write speculative fiction was there, even at that age. The reason why I began writing, or, rather, dictating, was that I kept making stories in my head to entertain myself, and I liked them enough that I wanted to share them with others. And I kept forgetting them, so a big incentive for writing was to have a way to remember the best stories that I’d come up with.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

D.P.: The easiest part of writing for me is writing dialogues. My characters feel very much alive to me, and tend to act as if they had a mind of their own, so they talk naturally and I can always picture what they’d say and how they’d say it. The most difficult part for me is writing action scenes. I still haven’t been able to figure out a good pacing for writing action. When I read, I tend to skip through most of the fight scenes because I just want to know how it ends, and I haven’t been able to find a way to keep the reader’s attention on the action itself, at least not my attention.

P.S.: What is your favorite genre to write in?

D.P.: My favorite genre is fantasy, because it offers me complete freedom to create any type of world and society I choose. But I’m also fond of sci-fi, for the same reason, although I find it colder than fantasy.

P.S.: You live in Romania, right? Have you used Romania as a setting in any of your stories? If not, are there other ways that living in that country has influenced your fiction?

D.P.: Yes, I live in Romania. I haven’t used Romania per se as a setting, but the setting for the stories in my Huntsfee series is loosely based on Romania. There are, however, other ways I which living in Romania and being Romanian has influenced my writing. Romania is at the border between several cultures, and has seen a good number of invaders over the centuries, and as a result, Romanian writers tend to incorporate elements from different cultures into their writing. In that respect, my writing stories set in a fictional version of the Victorian age, as well as mixing that with elements from other cultures, is in perfect agreement with my Romanian heritage. To give an example, the story I wrote for Avast, Ye Airships! is influenced by the steampunk stories I’ve read and by Victorian England, but also by Jules Verne and an Italian 19th century writer of adventure novels, whose pirates have played an important part in my adolescence. This mixture of elements from three different cultures is all very natural to a Romanian writer and to Romanian culture.

P.S.: Your story “Miss Warlyss Meets the Black Buzzard” will appear in the anthology Avast, AvastYeAirshipsYe Airships! Please tell us a little about Miss Warlyss.

D.P.: Miss Warlyss is the daughter of a governor, who grew up in a pensionnat, and she’s now being sent home to become the bride of one of her father’s political allies. Which, of course, is something she doesn’t quite fancy doing in the near future. But you’ll have to read the story to see just how she manages to avoid getting married.

P.S.: In your website and in social media, your sense of humor is evident. Do you include humor in all your stories, or are there some purely serious ones?

D.P.: I’ve written some stories that are meant to be purely serious, but I’m afraid my sense of humor does show even in those, though to a lesser degree. I tend to make fun of the worst parts of life, as a form of self-preservation, so the darker the story, the harder it is not to add a touch of humor to it.

P.S.: From your Facebook page, I gather that a cat figures prominently in your home life. Does the cat inspire any characteristics or features of any of the animals in your stories?

D.P.: Actually, the cat in question is a rather new addition to the household. We’ve only had her for a few months. I used to have a cat before her, but she never inspired any characters either. But whenever I write animals, they are indeed based on nature. I always pay close attention to animals when I have a chance, and I try to study them before I use any animals as characters. Except for the horse in the first story I’ve ever published, “Sir Joseph’s Choice,” which was heavily anthropomorphized from a psychological point of view.

P.S.: One of your published books is Doctor Edmund HuntseeHuntsfee’s Perilous Expedition into the Heart of the Flood Plains. It appears this has inspired a series, with a second story published and a third being written. What do you find fascinating about the world or characters in this series?

D.P.: What I find most fascinating about the series is the continuous study of new and original species. Dr. Huntsfee is a sort of natural historian who specializes in the study of fantasy creatures, so each story enables me to create and present in detail a new personal species. But there’s one more thing that fascinates me about this series, and that’s the relationship between two of the characters in it, Miss Ophelia Dalton and Captain Joseph Marlin. They were both created to serve very specific roles within the story: Miss Ophelia is the chaperon of Dr. Huntsfee’s friend and love interest, while the captain was meant to be in charge of the boat the expedition is sailing on. They were never meant to be a couple, and that shows even in the age difference between them, with him being about ten years younger than her, but from their first scene together, they’ve developed a special chemistry that I hadn’t planned for them to have. So now I’m very curious to see where that’s going and I want to explore that budding relationship through many other stories.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

D.P.: I’m always working on several things at the same time, so right now I’m working on the third installment in the Huntsfee series, a steampunk retelling of The Little Mermaid, and a young adult novel about a girl who finds out she’s part dryad and gathers an army to free her country of an evil dictator and the dragons under his command.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Diana Parparita: I think the best advice I can offer is to read the best stories and novels in the genre they want to specialize in, as well as the very best that other genres have to offer. I’ve noticed that quality is something that tends to rub off, so the more good books you read the better. Also, there’s one piece of advice that I haven’t heard enough: live! Get as much life experience as you possibly can. I have a bad record of never staying in a job for longer than a year and a half, but, apart from it looking dreadful on my résumé, this has helped me meet all sorts of people and has placed me in all sorts of environments. The pirates in “Miss Warlyss Meets the Black Buzzard,” for instance, are based on some of my co-workers from a male-dominated workplace I landed in a couple of years ago. Having lived my entire life in a female-dominated environment, it was just as much of a shock to me as it was to Miss Warlyss, and that provided me both with an understanding of her experience and with a good reference for my pirates and for male-dominated environments in general. My pirates would have never seemed authentic if I’d found a comfortable job and stayed in it all my life. So I definitely advise experiencing things outside of your comfort zone.

 

Thank you, Diana! My many readers are urged to learn more about Diana Parparita on Facebook, on DeviantArt, and at her website.

Poseidon’s Scribe

February 12, 2015Permalink

Author Interview — Ross Baxter

The hits just keep on coming! Today I go to England to continue my series of interviews of authors whose stories appear in the upcoming anthology Avast, Ye Airships!

Ross BaxterI interviewed Ross Baxter, who completed a career in the Royal Navy and now concentrates on writing sci-fi and horror fiction. His varied work has been published in print and Kindle by a number of publishing houses in the US and the UK. He’s married to a Norwegian and with two Anglo-Viking kids, he now lives in Derby, England.

Let’s weigh anchor and get the interview underway:

Poseidon’s Scribe: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

Ross Baxter: I began writing fiction to relieve the boredom of long night watches when serving with the British Royal Navy Reserve. Not that I didn’t enjoy my time, but it did drag on occasion. That was about twelve years ago. I left the Royal Navy Reserve after 30 years service in October 2011, and finding more time on my hands increased my writing rate accordingly.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

R.B.: Ideas are the easiest things, but committing them to paper is the hardest. I’m not the most academic person, and I’m afraid never listened much in English classes at school. As a result I really have to work hard on grammar and style, both which are a challenge.

P.S.: Your website states you’re an author of horror, sci-fi, and westerns. What about those genres intrigues you?

R.B.: Many will disagree, but I feel westerns and sci-fi are very close bedfellows. Both share an expansive landscape, both are unimpeded by the “norms” of society, and in both anything can happen (literally). Which is why I love both genres. Horror is also a favourite as it can span many genres, which gives a horror yarn a huge scope.

P.S.: Is the Western genre still retaining some popularity?

R.B.: Unfortunately, I think that the Western genre is effectively dead. Yes, from time to time someone tries to resurrect it, yet despite some brave attempts it now remains virtually a small niche. It is a shame that it no longer captures the imagination of the vast majority, and I’m not sure why this is the case. Take the relatively recent TV series Deadwood; to me it was superb in every way and perfectly shows the depth and width of the canvas that Westerns can provide, yet it was well down in the popularity charts. (I should take this opportunity to recommend the novel Deadwood by Pete Dexter; an excellent read).

P.S.: How did your career in the Royal Navy influence your writing?

R.B.: It certainly imparted an understanding of the military, and what it means to live and serve in close confines with others. It also spawned a whole legion of ideas, many based on actual events.

Corporate AlienP.S.: Your novel Corporate Alien was recently published. Please tell us about it.

R.B.: It is my first novel, a science fiction space opera heavily influenced by authors such as Iain M. Banks and Alan Dean Foster. Although sci-fi, anyone who has suffered in the recent economic downturn should be able to easily relate to it. It’s all about corporate greed, corporate (ir)responsibility, and how easy the downtrodden become even more downtrodden. I’m hoping it will sell well in Detroit!

P.S.: What are the common themes of your short stories and novels?

R.B.: I have to say that most are relatively dark, although I do strive to inject some humour. I do enjoy trying different things though, and this has worked well in the past few years with my biggest selling stories actually being an erotic romance novella, and a story for kids!

AvastYeAirshipsP.S.: Your short story, “Go Green,” will appear in the anthology Avast, Ye Airships! Can you tell us a bit about the protagonist and his or her main conflict?

R.B.: This is my third published steampunk story, and the characters are the same as in the first two. All the stories are set in an airship converted into a floating brothel, and “Go Green” continues the series based on a flashy, leather-clad ex-Colonel and his level-headed female engineer.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

R.B.: I’m finishing my second novel; a nautical thriller set in South-East Asia in present times, regarding increasing tensions amongst Pacific-rim countries following the sinking of a research vessel by the Chinese off the Spratly Islands. It’s full of murdering Russians, trigger-happy Chinese and the US Seventh Fleet: it’s a scenario that could happen at any time!

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Ross Baxter: Practice, practice, practice…and keep at it. It took me seven years before I got anything published, but the practice and hard work did finally pay off.

 

Thanks, Ross! You’ve reminded me that despite the close alliance between the US and the UK, we may never agree on the spelling of certain words. I certainly wish you great success. My readers can find more about Ross Baxter on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, LinkedIn and his website.

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 27, 2015Permalink

Secrets of the Past

Is it possible that some amazing things happened in historical times, but never made it in the history books? Today I’ll discuss the subgenre of fiction known as secret histories.

Wikipedia’s entry provides a good definition: “A secret history (or shadow history) is a revisionist interpretation of either fictional or real (or known) history which is claimed to have been deliberately suppressed, forgotten, or ignored by established scholars. Secret history is also used to describe a type or genre of fiction which portrays a substantially different motivation or backstory from established historical events.”

With secret histories the author can deviate from actual history as far as she’d like, but she must return things to status quo or else explain why historical accounts don’t align with her story.

For this reason, secret histories are not to be classified as alternate histories (as I mistakenly did here.  There is no permanent altering of history. Rather the world returns to the one we know. The thrill for the reader is seeing how close the world came to actually changing in some dramatic way.

Secret histories work well as thriller stories with assassins or spies, since they work in secret anyway. Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal and Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle are two examples.

I’ve written secret histories myself, but my stories involve technology, not spies or assassins. In each one I leave it to the reader to speculate how much further ahead we’d be if some inventions had occurred earlier.

9781926704012In “The Sea-Wagon of Yantai,” an inventor creates a submarine in China in 200 B.C. There are obscure references asserting that something of that sort actually happened, and those references inspired my story. The tale ends in a way that explains why more submarines weren’t made as a result of this invention.

steamcover5My story “The Steam Elephant” (which appeared in Steampunk Tales magazine) is a secret history in which a traveling group of Britons and one Frenchman are enjoying a safari from the vantage of a steam-powered elephant invited by one of the Brits. They get caught up in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. This is intended as a sequel to the two books of Jules Verne’s Steam House series.

WindSphereShip4In “The Wind-Sphere Ship,” Heron of Alexandria takes his simple steam-powered toy and uses it to power a ship. If there had been a steamship in the 1st Century A.D., it boggles the mind to think we could have had the Industrial Revolution seventeen hundred years early and skipped the Dark Ages.

LeonardosLion3fAnother secret history is “Leonardo’s Lion” which answers what happened to the mechanical clockwork lion built by Leonardo da Vinci in 1515. In the story, humanity comes very close to seeing all of da Vinci’s designs made real, which would have advanced science and engineering by centuries.

TheSixHundredDollarMan3fI’d categorize “The Six Hundred Dollar Man” as secret history too, when a man fits steam-powered limbs on another man who’d been injured in a stampede. The story takes place in 1870 in Wyoming and it’s pretty clear by the story’s end why that technology didn’t catch on.

RallyingCry3fRallying Cry” is a tale about a young man who learns there have been secret high-technology regiments and brigades in wars going back at least to World War I. Members of these teams cannot reveal their group’s existence, so it fits the secret history genre.

ToBeFirstWheels5In “Wheels of Heaven” I take what is factually known about the Antikythera Mechanism, and weave a fictional tale to explain it.

As you can see, I like writing in this sub-genre. Imagine something interesting and imaginative happened in history, write about it, then tie up all the loose ends so that our modern historical accounts remain unchanged. Leave the reader wondering if the story could have really happened. History that might have been, courtesy of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

December 7, 2014Permalink