Dear Ray Bradbury

I just had to write to thank you, thank you, for the great times, the pleasures of reading your work.  There’s no sense letting a little thing like your death in 2012 prevent me from expressing my gratitude, is there?

220px-Ray_Bradbury_(1975)_-cropped-Sorry, I haven’t read all your books and stories.  I’ve read less of your canon than I have of Jules Verne’s, Isaac Asimov’s, or Robert Heinlein’s.  But, oh, the few of your books I digested left lifelong mental imprints:  Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, Now and Forever, and The Martian Chronicles.  In high school, I read your short story, “The Flying Machine,” and my recollections of it inspired my story, “The Sea-Wagon of Yantai,” written decades later.

At one point, you declared you wrote fantasy, not science fiction.  In my view you blended the two.  You made science sound like fantasy.

Moreover, your flowing style of writing contrasted with that of the hard-science fiction writers.  Their stories conveyed a love of machines, of science.  Yours proclaimed a love of word imagery, of the magic of English, of poetic prose.

The authors of hard science fiction told me tales of technical detail.  You sang me stories of marvel and wonder.

I guess I’m trying to say that I write more like those other guys, but wish I could write like you.

On occasion, you related a particular memory from when you were about twelve.  At a carnival, one of the performers known as Mr. Electrico touched an electrical sword to your nose which made your hair stand out.  You claimed he told you, “Live forever!”

In a very real sense, Mr. Bradbury, you will.  Thanks again.

                                                            Poseidon’s Scribe

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December 22, 2013Permalink

Dear Arthur C. Clarke

Though you’ve been dead these past eight years, you live on in your stories.  That’s true for me and for millions of others.

ClarkeThroughout my life I’ve read many of your works, including more of your short stories than I can remember, and the following novels:  Childhood’s End, The Deep Range, 2001:  A Space Odyssey, 2010:  Odyssey Two, 2061:  Odyssey Three, Rendezvous with Rama, Rama Revealed, The Songs of Distant Earth, and The Hammer of God.

I recall purchasing your book 2001:  A Space Odyssey (or maybe my dad bought it) just two weeks before the movie was due in the theaters of my childhood town for the first time.  I was about ten years old, and determined to finish the book before seeing the movie.  Finish it I did, and I enjoyed the book much more than the film.

At that time, the year 2001 seemed a long way off, and fantastic things would happen by then.  To a boy growing up starry-eyed in the Sixties, the future appeared extraordinary.  Your books helped me see it that way. More than most authors, you conveyed the pure wonder of a scientific future.

That’s what comes through for me in your tales, the positive vision of science as a way to solve man’s problems, and to explore.  You even believed science could solve political problems.  In The Songs of Distant Earth, you depict human societies living under a utopian “Jefferson Mark 3 Constitution,” suggesting a political evolution toward better government.  In Rama Revealed, you show an alien race with enormous military power but a staunch unwillingness to enter into conflict.  The reason becomes clear when one of the aliens says their politicians can declare war, but anyone voting for war is put to death.  Strong disincentive, indeed!

Another thing I learned from reading your work is that aliens might not be bent on invading.  When many other authors wrote of aliens attacking Earth, you wrote about creatures who either helped mankind (Childhood’s End), led mankind on series of strange advancing paths (the Odyssey books), or completely ignored us (the Rama series).

It’s possible that your novel The Deep Range influenced me, in some subtle way, to serve in the submarine force.  That story took the Old West struggles between cattle ranchers and crop farmers and set it under the sea, where whale herding competed with plankton farming.  Science fiction stories with an oceanic setting are rare gems, for me.

A reviewer of my stories would be hard-pressed to find your influence on my writing.  However, your fiction has been described as technical and the style as somewhat dry at times.  As a trained engineer, I strive to include sufficient technical detail so that people can understand how my gadgets work.  My fellow critique group members say the details sometimes get in the way of the story-telling.

Like you, I’m enamored of the science.  I love it, and can’t help including a sense of awe and wonder in my tales.  There will be those who grasp that, and those who skip those paragraphs and feel unfulfilled by the rest of the story.

That said, thank you so much, Sir Arthur, for passing the wonder to me.  In 2010:  Odyssey Two, Heywood Floyd asks, “What’s going to happen?”  Dave Bowman answers, “Something wonderful.”  That says it all, or so it seems to—

                                                         Poseidon’s Scribe

 

 

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December 1, 2013Permalink

When Your Protagonist Meets You

It saddens me to report that author Ann (A.C.) Crispin died a few days ago, on September 6.  Before I discuss my connection with her, I should give you a brief bio.

ac-crispinA.C. Crispin was a science fiction writer who established herself with “tie-in” novels delving into the characters of established universes of Star Trek, Star Wars, the V miniseries, and others.  She also created her own Starbridge series of novels.

Angered at how some agents, editors, and publishers cheat beginning writers, Crispin co-founded a group called Writer Beware in 1998 to both warn writers and to help law enforcement agencies prosecute scam artists.

I don’t know exactly when, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago, I enrolled in a creative writing course at my local community college.  A.C. Crispin taught it.  I recall her being a tough teacher, direct and honest with those whom she thought should consider non-writing pursuits.  She usually said encouraging things to me about the homework I submitted, though.

A.C. Cripsin’s lectures contained references to the great works of literature, and she’d look around the class for flashes of recognition.  When she didn’t see any, she admonished us to read the classics if we wanted to write well.

She asked us all a question on the first day of class that has stuck with me.  None of us answered it correctly, and she’s written about the question in her essay, “The Key to Making Your Characters Believable.”

If the protagonist of any of your stories saw you walking along the street, and recognized you as the writer, what would he or she do upon meeting you?  The answer, if you’ve done your job properly, is  the protagonist would punch you in the nose.  After all, your story drags that protagonist through bad and progressively worse situations.  You’ve challenged that protagonist with tests of character that force him or her to confront deep, inner beliefs or fears.  Perhaps in addition, you’ve pitted the world against your protagonist, multiplying the external problems that character must face.  No wonder that protagonist is furious with you!

While you cowered from the rain of your creation’s blows, your nose bleeding, you’d be blubbering that you had to do it, you were forced put the protagonist through Hell for the readers’ benefit, to make a compelling story.  That would probably sound pretty hollow to your character, I suspect.

Luckily, your fictional creations won’t be meeting you on the street or in any dark alleys.  You are free to force them to crawl through mud and gore, to confront giant monsters, to face their deepest terrors, to suffer the despair of lost love.  All with complete impunity.  Go ahead; they can’t strike back, and your readers expect you to write stories like that.  That was A.C. Crispin’s message to the class.

Goodbye, Ann Crispin, and thank you.  Not only did you touch readers with your novels, you protected budding authors through your Writer Beware group, and inspired many beginning scribblers, like—                                            

                                             Poseidon’s Scribe

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September 15, 2013Permalink

Blog Hop – The Next Big Thing

Many thanks to Charlotte Holley who tagged me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog hop.  I didn’t know what a blog hop was but it seems like fun.  In this one, authors answer questions about their Work in Progress (WIP) and people can follow the links along and see what various writers are working on.  That way readers can anticipate and check back later to buy the books they’re interested in.  It’s possible that one or more authors in this chain may really be working on The Next Big Thing!

When you’re tagged for this particular blog hop, you post your answers the following Wednesday and tag five other authors for the following Wednesday.  Here are my answers:

1. What is the working title of your book?  “A Tale More True”

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?  If I recall correctly, I was thinking about fanciful trips to the Moon in early literature.  I’m a fan of Jules Verne, but he’s actually a latecomer to that topic.  While researching, I came across references to Baron Münchhausen.  My story then sort of sprang into my head.

3. What genre does your book fall under?   It’s alternate history, in the subgenre of clockpunk.  I’ve not written much clockpunk, my story “Leonardo’s Lion” being the exception.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie renditionThere are three characters of interest.  The protagonist is Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann.  Count Chris HemsworthFedermann could be played well by actor Chris Hemsworth.  He’d have to speak English with a German accent, but doesn’t have to do it well, since it’s a comedy.  Count Federmann is a brooding character, angry at and jealous of Baron Münchhausen.  The Count is intelligent, determined, and optimistic, but lacks sense.

 

Shia_LabeoufThe Count has a young French servant named Fidèle, and I’ll select Shia LaBeouf for that role.  Mr. LaBeouf would have to speak English with a French accent, but not an especially good one.  Fidèle is full of life, but has the sense to fear danger, though he’s always respectful of nobility.

 

 

The character Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen only appears briefly at the beginning and end of the story.  Since it’s a cameo role, I’ll splurge and pick Robin WilliamsRobin Williams.  I need an older character of plain appearance who’s able to speak English with a German accent and captivate an audience with his words alone.  Robin Williams played the part of the King of the Moon in the 1988 Movie “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.”  

 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your bookA man is so angry about the self-aggrandizing lies of Baron Münchhausen that, just to prove the Baron wrong, he constructs a gigantic metal spring and launches himself to the Moon, where he learns about the nature of Truth.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I will offer it to Gypsy Shadow Publishing to be included in my What Man Hath Wrought series.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I’m not done with the fist draft yet.  I researched, planned, and outlined the story for about a month.  First and second drafts will take another month.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  It’s a light-hearted clockpunk tale, so there aren’t many comparable stories.  Perhaps the closest thing is that movie, “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.”

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?  The muse speaks.  I listen and write it all down as fast as I can.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Come on—intense jealousy, a space voyage in 1769, and weird Moon creatures.  What more do you want?

At this point I should mention which authors I’m tagging next in this blog hop, but I was unsuccessful in getting any to participate.  I think the hop has been going for about thirty weeks now, with most authors tagging five others.  If you do the math for such a chain, you’ll see how, theoretically, we’d pass the population of the earth in Week 15, and by Week 30 there would be over 2 with 20 zeroes participants.

There only seems to be that many budding authors in the world.  So much for theory.  As Yogi Berra said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice there is.”

So I won’t be tagging anyone else.  This strand of the chain ends here, with my alter ego, a guy I like to call—

                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

 

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December 19, 2012Permalink

Book Review – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury died June 5th of this year, a day this universe lost a literary giant.  I just finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes for the first time.  I have read some other Bradbury works, including Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, Now and Forever, and The Martian Chronicles.  His short story “The Flying Machine,” in part, inspired my story “The Sea-Wagon of Yantai.”

I listened to the Recorded Books version performed by Paul Hecht, ©1962 by Bradbury, renewed 1997, and ©1999 by Recorded Books.

The novel takes place in a Midwest town in the month of October sometime in the early to mid-1900s.  A traveling carnival comes to the town and strange things happen, including the disappearance or alteration of some townspeople.  Two boys and one of their fathers start to believe the carnival is evil and try to find a way to deal with the problem.

That synopsis sounds inexcusably bland, and doesn’t at all convey the magical experience of reading the book.  Bradbury’s works are always poetic, alliterative, and metaphorical, and this novel is no exception.  You find yourself swept along with the cadence of the words, caught up in whatever web Bradbury chooses to weave, and you’re glad of it.

The work deals with eternal themes of good and evil, as well as old and young.  With the first, he examines the weapons wielded by forces evil and good.  With the second, he explores the absurdity of the old wanting to be young and the young yearning to be old.

No one better expresses that delight, playfulness, curiosity, and sense of wonder of being a young boy in a Midwest town, than Ray Bradbury.  I was once such a boy and can relate.  The details he recalls and sensations he can–with lyrical prose–rekindle, resonate within me.

I’m not sure whether to classify the novel as horror or fantasy.  Perhaps it’s a horror…poem?  In any case, I loved it and give it my highest rating of 5 seahorses, the first work I’ve reviewed to have earned that rating.  Do you disagree with my review?  Leave a negative comment and you may find out “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes,” and that something is–

                                                  Poseidon’s Scribe

 

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The Stories behind the Stories, Part II

Today I’ll continue my attempt to convey where my ideas come from by listing the remainder of my published short stories, and the source of the ideas for each one. If you missed Part I, here it is.   And now for the most recent seven stories:

“Blood in the River.”  At Ralan, I came across a request for submissions for a horror anthology about fish or fishing, to be called Dead Bait.  I had no desire to write horror fiction, and tried to move on to other writing projects.  My muse, however, wanted me to write it and whispered the story idea quite loudly.

 

“A Sea-Fairy Tale.”  As I recall, the discussion during one critique group session had turned to the then-current popularity of fairies in fantasy fiction.  Again, I had no desire to write anything of the sort, but my muse insisted.  I gave my fairy story a sea-going flair.  The story was published in The New Fairy Tales Anthology.

“The Finality.”  Another visit to Ralans showed me Severed Press was looking for submissions for an anthology about the Mayan 2012 prophesy, to be called 2012 AD.  I’m not one of those who thinks the world will end this December, but that Mayan calendar myth does make for good story material!

 

“Bringing the Future to You.”  My critique group decided to task ourselves with a writing exercise.  (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by just such a group challenge.)  We chose a phrase at random from a book of writing prompts.  The phrase was, “The fortune teller said…”  This story was published in the anthology Cheer Up, Universe!

 

“The Vessel.”  I got this idea at a science fiction conference.  I don’t remember the exact inspiration, but while at the conference I suddenly got a vision of Atlantean sailors returning in their ship to find their homeland, their island, gone.  The idea stuck with me for several months.  Then I had occasion to read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.  His non-fiction book deals with the interaction between high-technology and low-technology cultures in history.  There are elements of that book in my story.  “The Vessel” was published in Quest for Atlantis:  Legends of a Lost Continent.

“Within Victorian Mists.”  I enjoy steampunk, and one night I was websurfing about the topic and saw some buzz about people bemoaning the lack of steampunk romance.  I didn’t want to write romance, but the muse prodded me to give it a try.  In thinking about what I could write, I remembered a mention, years earlier, of someone being surprised radio was invented before the laser.  That got me wondering what might have happened if someone had invented the laser in Victorian times.  This story was published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

“Leonardo’s Lion.”  Like many people, I’m fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci.  One aspect of his life is rarely mentioned; late in life he constructed a mechanical lion as entertainment for a royal party.  I got to thinking–what happened to that lion afterward?  Gypsy Shadow Publishing also published this one.  (Notice the clockwork gears on the cover.)

Some writers struggle to search for good story-writing ideas; some bump into ideas all the time.  Whichever you are, may you come across the inspirations you need, the ones that prompt you to write great stories.  That’s the wish of–

                                                                            Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 26, 2012Permalink

The Stories behind the Stories, Part I

In these blog entries I’ve usually refrained from shameless promotion of my own stories, but today will be different.  However, since my purpose in these blogs is to offer help to beginning writers, I’ll couch my blatant self-advertising as instructive, educational matter.

Hundreds of cards and letters and e-mails have been pouring in asking me one question.  Well, maybe dozens.  Okay, maybe it’s just a question I’ve been hoping others would ask me:  “Where do your ideas come from?”  I explored the topic last year, but today I’ll trace the origin of the ideas for each of my published short stories.  Perhaps in reading through these, you’ll see how ideas can occur any time and for any reason; good story ideas will come to you, too!

Target Practice.” I wrote this story in 1999, and I honestly don’t remember what the inspiration was.  Back then I was in the midst of writing a novel, and I took time out to write this story and submit it for publication to a wonderful anthology, Lower than the Angels.  I think I just wanted to see if I could create a truly hopeless situation and figure a way for my protagonist to resolve the problem.

“The Steam Elephant.”  Seven years later, as I mentioned here, I was inspired by the book The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures, edited by Mike Ashley and Eric Brown.  It contained short stories written by modern authors as tributes to Verne.  As a Verne enthusiast, I was thrilled by the book, but disappointed to find no stories echoing Verne’s two-part novel The Steam House.  I decided to write my own, and it was published in Steampunk Tales #5.

“The Wind-Sphere Ship.”  I’m not sure why, but at some point I must have been pondering why steamships weren’t invented much earlier.  After all, the power of steam was known to the ancients.  The Greek inventor Heron (or Hero) developed a steam toy in the first century A.D.  This suggested an alternate history story.  Gypsy Shadow Publishing put this story out in e-book form.

“Alexander’s Odyssey.”  I’ve long been fascinated by the history of submarine development.  One tale held that Alexander the Great descended under water in a glass-windowed barrel.  I  wondered how the sea god, Poseidon, would have reacted, and the story wrote itself.   It was first published in the anthology Magic & Mechanica and then later (in a longer version) by itself in e-book form.

“The Sea-Wagon of Yantai.”  I continued my quest to fictionalize, in short-story form, the development of the submarine.  I found tantalizing references to the Chinese having developed a submarine around the year 200 B.C.  However, I couldn’t find any details.  I figured that left me free to write the story as I wished.  My story was also loosely inspired by Ray Bradbury’s marvelous story, “The Flying Machine,” which I’d read in high school.  Eternal Press published my story.

“Seasteadia.”  Knowing of my interest in the sea, a fellow writer in my critique group sent me an article about the concept of seasteading.  I decided to write a series of stories about seasteading’s possible future.  “Seasteadia” is the first, and so far the only published one, and it appeared in the anthology Aurora of the Sun.

There are more, but I’ll save those for next week’s blog entry.  The point is, a writer’s story ideas come from many sources.  Who knows where your next story idea will originate?  After all, your creative mind works differently from that of–

                                                                Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 19, 2012Permalink

The Classics, Pro and Con

Are you a reader of the classics, those works of literature that have stood the test of time?  Do you think reading the classics would improve your writing?

Most people have a negative view of classical literature.  They associate those books with difficult high school class assignments, slogging through indecipherable prose, writing mandatory reports, as well as answering impossible questions in class and getting the answers wrong.  Little wonder the classics are not more widely read!

You may have your own reasons for not reading the classics.  Here’s a list I came up with:

  • They’re difficult to read.  Often the language used doesn’t make sense to modern readers.  If it does make sense, it’s often overly descriptive, or it dwells on single topics to the point of boredom.
  • They seem irrelevant.  A modern reader can’t relate to the characters in the stories, who face problems today’s readers don’t understand.  As a result, the characters seem unrealistic.
  • They’re not in my genre.  There are several modern literary genres–science fiction, westerns, and mysteries, in particular–for which there are few examples among the classics.  Those who enjoy reading from, or writing in, these genres will not feel any inclination to delve into the classics.
  • Their style is archaic.  One could never write that way for a modern audience and hope to get published.  Therefore it seems unlikely a writer of today would learn much of value.
  • I could never write that well.  For those classics that can be read today with little trouble, an opposite problem occurs.  A would-be writer might well compare his or her own prose to that of a literary master and become discouraged enough to give up.
  • They won’t help me write for today’s readers.  This is an extension of some of the reasons above.  All the works we consider classics today were written for the audiences of eras now long past, not today’s reading public.  Wouldn’t a writer’s time be better spent reading modern works?

Those are persuasive reasons, and perhaps they strike a chord with you.  However, let’s consider my list of reasons for reading the classics:

  • They’re about the human condition.  Though individual situations and technologies in the classics seem historically quaint today, these works deal with timeless aspects of what it means to be human.  In that sense, they will never become irrelevant.
  • They help us understand history.  The present we see around us is only a snapshot, a result of the great chain of causes and effects that is human history.  Our present was forged by events in the past, events described in classical literature.  In that respect, too, they remain relevant.
  • They’re about philosophy.  The classics often explore the deep thoughts, the perplexing ideas worthy of intense study.  Questions about aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and metaphysics bedevil us still.  They seem to have no right answers and yet we must choose some path to live our lives.  If Socrates is correct that the unexamined life is not worth living, then you want the fiction you write to be about philosophy, too.
  • In context, they make sense.  Whenever I hear the finale of the “William Tell Overture,” by Gioachino Rossini, I imagine what it must have been like for the audiences in 1829 to hear it for the first time.  They did not know a world where it was the Lone Ranger theme, endlessly repeated.  Often a classic literary work represented a break with the past, a novel new way of writing which was fresh at the time.  Though now commonplace or even passé, such works can suggest ways to make your own work fresh and different.
  • They can improve your vocabulary.  In classical literature you encounter such interesting words.  Often they’re outdated and inappropriate today, but you might come across the perfect word for your story.  In any case, you’ll increase your knowledge of English and the derivations and evolution of word meanings through time.
  • They’re often referenced.  As a writer, you’ll occasionally correspond with other writers or appear on panels at conferences or get asked questions at book signings.  Someone will bring up a comparison to a classic work.  If you haven’t read it, you’ll feel a little stupid.  Best to avoid that.
  • Stealing from them is legal.  Modern writers often base their works on the classics.  Hey, if it worked once for Shakespeare…  It’s not uncommon to create a complete retelling of a classic work set in modern times with modern characters, and the similarities can be blatant or subtle.
  • They’re examples of great writing.  The classics have lasted because they are well written.  Their authors were masters of putting words together.  Maybe you and I could learn from their example.  Even if we don’t attain their heights of grandeur, perhaps we can approach a little closer by studying them.

In conclusion, there are good reasons for and against.  You’ll have to choose what’s right for you.  As for me, I read about four or five classic books each year, roughly ten percent of my reading. Not yet a writer whose works are destined to be classics, I’m–

                                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

 

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February 5, 2012Permalink

Not Mary Poppins

Let me set the scene for you.  It’s an elementary school classroom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa sometime in the mid-1960s. Young Steve Southard is a student in second, third, or fourth grade.  He has no idea that he will try his hand at writing stories someday.

The teacher asks if we have seen the movie “Mary Poppins,” and virtually all of us raise our hands.  Then she asks, “Who is the movie about?”

There was no word “duh” in those ancient times, otherwise we would have used it.  Every hand goes up.  When the teacher chooses someone, the obviously-right answer comes out: “Mary Poppins.”  (I mean, after all, they named the movie after her!)

“Wrong,” the teacher says.

That causes some puzzlement, and every hand goes down.  Raised hands are much more tentative after that, the answers are phrased as questioning guesses.  “The children?”  “No.” “The mother?”  “No.”  “Bert, the chimney-sweep?”  “No.”

In desperation, someone guesses “the father?”  “Yes, that’s right.”  The father?  Really?  The movie is about Mr. Banks?

What a wonderful teaching moment and an ideal vehicle to use!  The teacher explained that the father was the only character who learned and changed, the only character with a major personality flaw that needed correction. (Well, the mother also has a major flaw, but she is definitely a secondary character.)

Mary Poppins is merely the agent of change. She arrives because a change is required, and leaves (as the wind shifts) as soon as it happens.  It is the father who we see initially as being comfortable in his established world.  The change agent shows him a different way of acting and he reacts badly to it.  He blames the change agent (instead of himself) and tries correcting the problem in his own way.  Things go from bad to worse until he loses the thing he values most–in this case, the security of his job.  He comes to understand his problem and the likely consequences of continuing along an unchanging path.  In the end we see he has changed, and is happier for it.

I’ll leave other concerns (whether a father really should care so little about his job, whether the movie was a fair rendition of the books, other movie interpretations, etc.) to other analysts.  My purpose is to show that the protagonist in a story may not always be obvious.  Look for the character with a problem–internal or external–he or she is forced to confront, the character whose problem makes things worse and worse, and for whom the problem is resolved at the end in some way.  Find that character and you’ve found the protagonist.  In a novel or novella-length story, multiple characters can have flaws that get resolved, but it should be clear which character is entwined with the main plot, and which are secondary characters involved with subplots.

Funny how that incident in a long-ago classroom stands out in my mind!  Do you recall great learning moments from elementary school?  Do you know any other story examples where the protagonist isn’t obvious?  Send me a comment.  In the meantime, I’ll just sit here feeling rather supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Until the wind changes, I’m–

                                                             Poseidon’s Scribe

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Dear Jules Verne

Please forgive me for not having written much sooner.  Of course, you may not be that concerned about my tardiness since you’ve been dead now for 106 years.

There are a great number of things to thank you for, even though belatedly.  I read several of your books in my teenage years.  It was Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea that inspired me to enter my country’s submarine service.  In fact, two of the book’s chapters, ‘Everything by Electricity’ and ‘Some Figures’ spurred me to major in Naval Architecture.

I am also grateful you motivated me to write fiction.  Your novels explored the relationship between man and his latest technology, took readers to exotic and distant locales, contrasted different cultures, and did all those things with scientific accuracy, style, and a touch of humor.  My own stories may be faint imitations, but thank you for confidently blazing the trail on which I now stumble in your footsteps.

You probably receive many letters (or other expressions of gratitude) from geologists inspired by A Journey to the Center of the Earth, astronauts stimulated by From the Earth to the Moon, travelers moved by Around the World in Eighty Days, and science fiction writers motivated by the entire body of your work.  Just add my letter to the stack.

To give you a notion of the depth of admiration felt for you I’ll relate a single incident.  About fifteen years ago I attended a meeting of the North American Jules Verne Society —yes, you have a fan club!  The formal meeting had ended and the membership had retired to one member’s house to continue our discussions sustained by beer and wine.  This fellow’s neighbor came over and listened to our conversations with apparent interest for about five minutes.  He then raised his voice and asked the assembled fans, “You do know Jules Verne is dead, don’t you?”  The room fell silent, and remained so for some time.  In a sense, to many of us, you never died.

On behalf of the English-speaking world, I must apologize for the abysmal early translations of your novels into my language, though I’m not responsible.  It is a measure of your genius that even these literary hatchet jobs couldn’t prevent your works from being enjoyed by millions, even billions.  I promise to do my part to encourage English speakers to read only recent, more faithful, translations.  Or better yet, to read your novels in the original French.

On the subject of apologies, I ask your forgiveness for the pathetic renderings of your works in cinematic formats.  I trust you’ll make some allowance for this, knowing that modern movie scriptwriters and directors are aiming for a different audience than you were.

More English translations of your lesser-known novels appear all the time, and I read these as fast as they appear.  These include: The Floating Island, An Antarctic Mystery, The Mighty Orinoco, Invasion of the Sea, The Meteor Hunt, Adventures of the Rat Family, The Humbug: the American Way of Life, and Paris in the Twentieth Century.  Even now the bookshelf on which I keep your books groans and sags.  No matter; I shall make a longer, stronger shelf!

Please take my story “The Steam Elephant” which appears in Issue 5 of Steampunk Tales,  the sequel to your novels The Demon of Cawnpore and Tigers and Traitors,  in the spirit of fond tribute intended.  What great fun it was to bring your characters together again, but in Africa rather than India.

In gratitude eternal, I raise my wine glass to toast you, my hero and my inspiration.

Thank you,

Steven R. Southard

aka

Poseidon’s Scribe

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