Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Writer's Guide To ...

... Creating a Science Fiction Universe -- George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier

This is a fairly old book and shows it in places (I particularly liked the "newfangled" references to dialup modems), but in others it is absolutely essential. It covers similar ground to the other two SF-writer books I've read, but provided me with some key information that I can use to concretely build my planets. The nice thing is, outside of the first non-Terran colony, I am completely flexible with both year-and-day length, general temperature, magnitude of stars ... having read some cool things, I really want a K star.

This book finally tossed me into the uncharted waters of my basic problem: I wanted a year length close enough to Earth's that Tau Ceti years / days / months could be "galactic time" without having to explain to people that characters are only 2/3rds as old in years, or 6/5ths, or ... unfortunately, while Sol is a G2 star, Tau Ceti is a G8 star. Several orders of magnitude lower. This means that ... well ... even accounting for changes in orbit speed, if the year is about the same length that's going to be one cold planet, baby.

I finally managed to solve it by dividing the year in half. Tau Ceti now has two year-pairs in a standard year; this is kind of nice because I'm going for a duality effect in the whole setting. However, this means that it receives about twenty-five percent more insolation. I can increase the ozone layer, interpolate heavier layers of galactic debris, increase ocean levels (which moderates temperature) and decrease axial tilt to cool it off, making it hotter than earth but still within the liveable paradise parameters I was seeking.

The sad part? It is highly unlikely any of my characters will set foot on this planet. It's backdrop.

Now if anyone actually read this here post of mine, I'll be impressed.

Back to gender speak! Then ... Judaism.

You read that right.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I just finished reading "45 Master Characters" -- the archetype book. I decided fairly early into reading that I wasn't going to be able to use this. I already know who Anaea (my MC) is with some certainty, and she didn't fit cleanly into any of the types the author posited ... at least, not in a way that takes the story where I want it to go. I'm not really willing to alter my underlying plot to follow a prescribed journey. That's not the point of the book, anyhow.

I found it interesting, but fairly basic, and I thought the types were rather limited. The most valuable part of the book is the discussion of the feminine journey and its contrast with the masculine journey. I was highly amused by the fact that the author's example of a gender-bend for the latter (ie, a female undertaking the masculine journey) is The Long Kiss Goodnight, a movie I've always had a soft spot for.

If anything, this got me thinking very strongly about another plot that's decided to kick around in my brain uninvited. I have a couple PCs who I think could work together in a novel. They both have storyline support structures that would combine well for a compelling tale ... and I realize it's very archetypal.

There are two obvious reasons I'm not writing this now. First of all, I want to do this project, I've been doing this research, darned if I'm going to be derailed, especially for something that ... second of all ... I fear may be rather cliche in setting. It's the combination of characters that would blast it to life, and I feel very strongly I know their core already, but ...

Well, for future reference. Who knows, maybe I'll end up doing this instead of the mystery. If I could think of a reasonable way to tackle this without taking time out from my other writing, I would. It's calling to me in a really strong way, and even knowing it's a "bad idea" for reasons mentioned above, it's hard to silence the voices.

But onwards! The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffery Osier.

I really have to get to the end of my research jag soon. I want to have my worldbuilding work done before I have to return Borderlands of Science ... ahem.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Almost done with this book, and noticing an interesting feature: a lot of "gender dialogue" is more based in "dominance dialogue." Women are still traditionally in subordinate positions, and those who aren't are often viewed as "speaking like men." So it's food for thought what would happen if the natural trends in society were reversed. Would a hundred years be enough to change this perception?

I am beginning to worry that a hundred years isn't long enough for the societal changes I'm trying to create, but I have two points in mind. Firstly - look at everything that has happened since 1910 or so, including events that could have created other, sweeping changes, but didn't happen. Secondly - I need to have the disease strike be close enough that the ladies of my isolated space station still believe it might be a plausible threat. If I move any further out, I start to lose immediacy.

To help accelerate my divided society, I've had the disease unleashed unevenly. This fouls my balanced dynamic a bit, but it has a rational reason. What I'm hoping is to establish top-down change: the leading elements change very quickly, and that filters down through society within 20 - 30 years. Understand that you've got worlds in chaos and the necessity of survival and this kind of swift lockdown ... well, hopefully it will make sense.

Ow, my head.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading on ...

Finished reading through "Aliens and Alien Societies" though ... it has become a zero-sum game, as I put two more SF writer worldbuilding books on reserve. Would have reserved more, but the other resources I was looking for were not in my library. Really, it's about time some insane, ridiculous book I was looking for wasn't. ;-)

I have taken some notes; I have a clearer idea how I want the Derithe to work. To the point where, if this were somehow to get published and I were going to write a sequel, I'd want to crack the mystery of my little alien deus ex machinae ... (machinas?) I also got a good grasp that building earthlike planets for my people to inhabit is actually going to be easier than I thought.

Gee, that's a nice feeling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nothing Lasts

Surprisingly, the only thing I had to cut from the last CD was the Selena song ...

I always seem to repeat a song when I do these CDs, which is reasonable enough - I don't have a good enough memory to keep track of over a hundred songs. It's never an absolute favorite song, though always one I like a lot; in this case, it's "The West Wind Circus."

This is my "Nothing Lasts" collection, songs of fleeting circumstances. Again, I'm fairly surprised by the variety here - a fair number of songs that are either new or I don't listen to often.

1. Don't Let This Moment End -- Gloria Estefan
2. What's Forever For -- Anne Murray
3. If You Go -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
4. The West Wind Circus -- Helen Reddy
5. What Do Pretty Girls Do? -- Kirsty MacColl
6. Life Goes On -- Leann Rimes
7. Blue Black -- Heather Nova
8. Can't Go Back -- Sissel
9. Long Way Down -- Laura Powers
10. Things Happen -- Kirsty MacColl
11. You'll See - Madonna
12. One Night Only -- Dreamgirls Soundtrack
13. One of These Days -- Michelle Branch
14. X-Girlfriend -- Mariah Carey
15. Goodbye, My Friend -- Linda Ronstadt
16. Suddenly -- Leann Rimes
17. Fifteen Minutes -- Kirsty MacColl
18. The Last Words You Said -- Sarah Brightman
19. Fade Away -- Celine Dion
20. As Long As You're Mine -- Idina Menzel; Norbert Leo Butz (Wicked Soundtrack)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Added to Reading List

While I don't really expect to be dealing with religious matters in my SF outing, I do expect it to be a backdrop. I've created a sort of loose deist religion for my space-amazons (... err ...) but decided for the main civs, I wanted to have the most prevalent religions be Judaism and Buddhism. I've come up with an explanation for the former's population surge; yet to ponder the latter. I've ordered a couple of basic books just to ground myself. It may be after reading them that I change my mind ...


Exhibit A for the prosecution in the case: I am neurotic.

I've been following a new series of articles about varying flash fiction forms - ways of creating a story by imposing artifical structure on a piece.

Well, I ran out. So I came up with my own form.

I decided to use words per sentence. Alternating paragraphs of the following two patterns:

2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 22
1 / 3 / 5 / 7 / 9 / 11

This is all to do with numerology: these are the significant numbers in the system. 11 and 22 are reduced to 2 and 4, respectively, but they indicate a higher destiny, so they're always notated.

In my defense, I only decided I would have nine paragraphs (equivalent to the nine main numbers) when I was about halfway through and trying to figure out how I wanted to end it.

Furthermore, the name I chose for the main character is an imperfect anagram of eleven and adds up to twenty-two.

The story does involve numerology, but the musical side - the music of the spheres.

I had *fun* doing this.

... I think my brain is diseased.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Good Deed

Another day, another themed CD collection. This one (like the first) is also directly inspired by a song title, the first one here: "No Good Deed" (goes unpunished). So here's to misbehaving ...

1. No Good Deed - Idina Menzel (Wicked soundtrack)
2. Rush - Cherie
3. You Can't Treat The Wrong Man Right - Linda Ronstadt
4. Treat Her Like A Lady - Celine Dion
5. Devil In A Fast Car - Sheena Easton
6. This Masquerade - Helen Reddy
7. Play The Field - Debbie Gibson
8. Damn - Leann Rimes
9. Steal Your Heart - Gloria Estefan
10. Worst Best Friend - Cupboard
11. Hotel Paper - Michelle Branch
12. A Boy Like That - Selena
13. Can't Stop Killing You - Kirsty MacColl
14. Cuts Both Ways - Gloria Estefan
15. When The Wrong One Loves You Right - Celine Dion
16. My Affair - Kirsty MacColl
17. Dear Life - Chantal Kreviazuk
18. Murder in Mairyland Park - Sarah Brightman
19. Love Me Like That - Michelle Branch
20. Lover's Knot - Anne Murray
21. Bad - Kirsty MacColl

I'm sure I cut a couple of these - not sure which yet, and I didn't save it when I made the decisions. (I think the Selena song was one of them.) But this was the original concept.

What does it say about me that this is the long list? Right then.

I also note that it's probably the most varied of them thus far, artist-wise.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Put The Kettle On ...

I've been reading "Borderlands of Science" to get some basic grounding for my SF novel, and have come up with some basic ideas how I want the history to go. I've decided I'm using hyper-space corridors - that is, you can't go everywhere with them, but there are specific "lines" typically between gravity wells. I've figured out what techno-babble to use to refer to non-hyperspace travel ... and that I can use a slower-than-light vehicle to get around the interior of a solar system.

I'm primarily defining my technology by what it can't do, and running into some snags with things I just can't plausibly say are impossible. The big one is cloning. My history is inching up on a reason why it might be banned for moral reasons, but I need to ask a "techie" I know whether the form of quantum teleportation I'm pondering is even possible.

I've also figured out how psionics got into the culture and why they're fairly well accepted.

I haven't written much of this down yet because I want to finish my reading. Any of this might change if I encounter a scientific / social point in another book.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Anatomy of an Idea: Mirror, Mirror ...

I've tried to keep this one spoiler-free, but really, you should buy the issue of Speculative Mystery Iconoclast and read it first - just to be safe!

The idea for Mirror, Mirror ... came during a period when I wanted to write a pseudo-Victorian piece. I don't remember what sparked this, but I purchased the Writers' Digest "Everyday Life In ..." book on the topic. The result of this research ...

... was not Mirror, Mirror .... At least, not at first.

It was another story, entitled The Changeling Letter, which is still looking for publication. In working on this tale, I came up with a setting that would later be reused in M,M: the kingdom of Gloriann. (I also used Gloriann and its neighbor, Tarmaria, in a story set at the beginning of the queen's rein. It's also a mystery story; however, I retired it because I just couldn't find a way to cut down the complexity or the cast without compromising the story. Editors thought it was too much; they were right.)

In writing TCL, I had a weird out-of-body sensation. Lines came out of me where I had no ideas of their origin. It wasn't my style, but it flowed perfectly. This was to happen again as I wrote M,M.

In doing my research for TCL, I made notes on some things that interested me. Two that applied directly to the story was the idea that people used to cover mirrors while in mourning, for fear the soul would otherwise become trapped inside it; and the concept of the first interior decorators. I also was tickled to death by descriptions of period bathrooms, so one appears in M,M as well.

These concepts collided to form the concept of a murder mystery where the consequences of death were so much more than merely departing from this life. I knew I wanted to use the same setting, but I wanted a sort of psychic detective, so I had to set the story later than TCL, where magic is forbidden to women. Things have loosened up a little in M,M, but my main character still has to pretend to use devices to guise her own powers.

I chose the name Graeme because I saw it on a book cover (GURPS Faerie, actually) and thought it was fantastic. Much later, I learned that it's probably a Celtic variant of Graham, but that's all right - the awkward "outsider" moment my narrator has with another female character in the story makes the choice of a masculine name apropos.

Mirror, Mirror ...

Speculative Mystery Iconoclast is now online at

Their first issue includes my story "Mirror, Mirror ..." - check it out!

More about it in a bit.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Flying Higher

Another day, another collection of songs. I've listened through a little under half of these and been surprised by some of my choices. Theme here is Flying High: flight, flying, weightlessness, celestial, etc.

1. I'm Gonna Fly (Amy Grant)
2. How Can Heaven Love Me (Sarah Brightman)
3. Heaven's What I Feel (Gloria Estefan)
4. Weightless (Sissel)
5. Weight of the World (Chantal Kreviazuk)
6. Why (Sarah Brightman - both these songs are from her "Fly" album, too)
7. Innocence (Kirsty MacColl)
8. In The Arms of the Milky Way (Laura Powers)
9. Dust in the Wind (Sarah Brightman)
10. The West Wind Circus (Helen Reddy - possibly one of the best ballad songs in modern music)
11. Roots and Wings (Anne Murray)
12. I Ain't Going Down (Shania Twain)
13. If You're Gonna Fly Away (Faith Hill)
14. No Angel (Dido)
15. Drops of Jupiter (Train)
16. Sign of Life (Leann Rimes)
17. She's a Butterfly (Martina McBride)
18. Higher (Gloria Estefan)

This sort of appears to be my country mix - Murray, Twain, Hill, McBridge, and "Innocence" (the entirety of Kite, the album from which it comes, in fact - more flying references!) is very country in sound. Which is funny, 'cause I don't usually think of myself as a country listener ...

For those of you not familiar with Laura Powers, it's best described as very trope-ish neo-Celtic pagan goddess fluff-music, but some of the songs are really pretty.

Surprisingly enough, I cut Enya's Carribean Blue when I went to burn this one because I didn't have quite enough time - so it's not on the list, but it was in my original mix.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Queen of Pointless

I sit in Minneapolis now, my shoes almost worn through to the socks, my voice still completely gone (which makes the urge to sing "Popular" from Wicked rather awkward), waiting to shut down and board. When I arrived in Minny, I discovered that my gate was on the other end of the airport ... literally. Two thirds of the way there, assuming that there would be multiple currency exchanges, I asked at a help desk and was referred ... halfway BACK the way I had come. All this to get rid of twenty bucks CAD.

Had a decent dinner and a dessert from Caribou coffee: pumpkin cooler and a cookie. Guy at the counter asked if he could have my Kennedy silver dollar. I think I accidentally made him guilty when I said no, it was a keepsake from late grandfather's collection. (Like my two dollar bills, I carry it around because I like to have the reminder when I go digging.)

Gave the lady at the currency exchange all my Canadian pennies 'cause heck, what'm I going to do with five cents CAD?

Flight is due in at 11:59 EST. This means it'll be tomorrow by the time I get home. But wait!

... it's not tomorrow 'til you sleep, I've always said.

Must vote tomorrow.

I vote for more airline flights so we don't have four hr layovers.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

WFC 2008: Day Four -- End of Days

Today, I had my last two sessions for the WFC. Hard to believe it's over already! I've got the rest of today in Calgary and I leave tomorrow - flight departs 1:55pm local.

Panel: Genre Hopping (Barbara Hambly, Jo Beverley, Karen Dudley (no show), Jean Marie Ward (moderator))

A really fun panel about writers who use different genres - more than crossing them in the same work, though that as well. I had not been aware of Beverley before and am eager to check out her cross-genre work. The prime wisdom I took away was this: Let the book be what it wants to be, categorize it later.

Beverley said she had the following conversation with a fan once: "I don't write dark books." "Have you looked at your body count?" So it's always hard for an author to look at themselves from the inside.

Reading: Patricia McKillip

As I've said before, McKillip is a sweet lady. I ended up on the shuttle with her when coming home from my first WFC, didn't realize who she was, and started rambling about worldbuilding. Then she introduced herself and I was sitting there thinking: "Shut up Lindsey just shut up!" I don't think she has the greatest reading voice or presence, but dang, I couldn't get up and do that for an hour. The piece she read from is a brand new novel, purchased but not finished, with a really deep sense of place. I definitely want to read it when it comes out.

Because I wanted to know if I needed to mail some books home rather than pack them in my luggage, I tried to find a scale. The concierge referred me ... to the fitness room. With the help of a kind gentleman who had been exercising when I came up, I ... weighed my packed bag. I'm not sure I trust it, because it came out in the mid-thirties, but he seemed to know how to work it and he said his weight was accurate, so ...

Doing the math, I see no conceivable way my bag is going to be more than seventy lbs. There's just no way. I looked at the weight of the Erikson book, which is the biggest of the hardcovers, and that's only 1.8 lbs. My clothes + the bag itself would need to weigh about fifty lbs to break 70. Also let's note that I can lift the bag in one hand, and while I am strong from harp-caravaning ... I am not THAT strong.

I am still nervous, though.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

WFC 2008: Day Three -- The Reading

This deserves a post all to itself.

I arrived about twenty minutes early to the Broad Universe reading room and introduced myself. I confessed I was nervous and found the readers to be lovely ladies ... and then the other people streamed in. I think, including readers, there must have been thirty to forty people - which for me was a massive crowd. I'm used to speaking for a maximum of thirty seconds and then ducking behind a five foot tall instrument.

I was fourth in, which was fortunate - gave me less time to sweat. I couldn't tell you much about the readings of the people before me, though ... everything was a blur until I got up.

I was grateful that I had my reading well on the way to memorization; it meant I could keep my face into the mic. And I do know how to keep my face into a mic, at least, from performing. Only had to stop and swallow once. Got to make a joke about possibly having the plague that made everyone laugh.

I don't think I had one of the best readings; I don't think I had one of the worst. It had half-niggled at me before, but I don't think I chose the best section for a reading - the section has intriguing information, but it's not necessarily high action or high stakes. My reading voice was pretty strong, hoarseness notwithstanding, and I tried to emphasize key words. I think it worked, because someone complimented me on the voice afterward.

(Now if only I could not put my foot in my mouth by asking someone if their reading was the whole story and finding out that yes, it was. Whoops.)

I'll know more for next time, and I think I did very well for a newbie showing. ;-)

A lot of great sections shared 'round in various tones ... what a varied and talented group of ladies. Also wonderful that so many people (so it seemed) showed up to listen against two other panels, another reading, and certainly parties.

Funny thing - one of the other readers was excerpting a story from Speculative Mystery Iconoclast. *And* I got a button for the magazine. Hee!

Tomorrow I am going to test pack, though I'm not leaving 'til Monday.

Cause seriously, I'm not sure all these books are going to FIT.

WFC: Day Three -- Now Waiting

Panel: David Morrell Interview (Stephen Jones, David Morrell)

I decided to attend this on a whim, just because Morrell's had some interesting things to say. And he did again, one of which I'm still thinking about: the idea that we (at least successful writers) focus on our dominant emotion. I wonder what mine is. It's probably depressing. (... maybe it IS depression.)

Panel: 2008 Awards Year Recommendations (David Hartwell, Charles N. Brown, Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan, Alan Beatts (moderator))

I came out, not only with a Locus list of the best books in the genre, but with a number of other selections, and one thought that heartened me from Strahan: he thinks that the genre has been short on, and needs more of, "pure fantasy" short stories. (As opposed to urban / slipstream / magical realism, one assumes.)

But thinking about this scares me, too. I can feel my mental bar shifting. I don't want to just be published; will I feel like a failure if I don't make a best-first list out of the gate? Don't I already feel like one for still not having my name on the cover of a book? How idiotic is it that I feel like I should-ought-must slam into the top bar, or I might as well not try?

WFC 2008: Day Three -- Food For ...

This morning, breakfast consisted of ... a single donut from hospitality. Lunch is ... a hot dog and a bag of chips. I'm ordering room service for dinner, though, so I can chill out (err ... freak out?) before my reading tonight.

Really, I'm a cheap date.

Panel: Fantasy 'Zines Online (Jennifer Dawson, Sean Wallace, Wendy S. Delmater, John Klima (moderator))

Some good insights into the process of these online zine editors. I hadn't realized that Flash Me (Dawson) was entirely funded from her own pocketbook. Clarkesworld has swapped to a new form-only system, and I was relieved to hear that I wasn't the only one who was scorched by Nick Matamas during his stint there ... well, I'd heard it before, but there's something great about an entire room of people laughing when Klima said, "Well, Nick's not the most ... diplomatic ..."

Delmater was a little late - and I was nervous about this, because it was my only guaranteed way of meeting her before the reading. Since I'm reading a story from her mag / antho, I wanted to let her know. I introduced myself afterwards ("Lindsey with an e" - I swear that's my name) and she kindly lent me a copy to show off.

Panel: Haunted Houses and Cultic Crypts - Use of Setting to Create Atmosphere (David Morrell, Barbara Hambly, Emily Gee (no show), Lawrence C. Connolly (moderator))

Morrell had this great story about abandoning buildings with all the furniture left in situ ... it's an interesting thought. This whole panel isn't usually in my vein - I don't try to creep readers out - but I found it worthwhile.

Panel: Defining The Next Paranormal Detective (A.B. Goelman, Gayleen Froese, Justin Gustainis, Jay Caselberg, Laura Anne Gilman, Devon Monk (moderator))

Myself, I'm wanting to get away from the paranormal detective - I'm more looking at putting the detective into fantasy than putting the fantasy into a detective - but I loved this panel. I definitely have to check out Goelman's story where his detective is essentially a Barbie doll ... but there's a lot of opportunity here, it seems, as the gap between magic and science seems to narrow and the average person is less and less able to explain how technology works.

I have a note in my book about doing an Asrai detective story in my Flow setting. Not sure I can - in that setting, fairies are by intrinsic nature amoral beings - but it's worth a look.

... one of the panelists fell off the stage as it was breaking up and broke his ankle. :-(

Panel: What A Good Anthology Does & Why It Matters (Kathryn Cramer, Gary A. Braunbeck, John Joseph Adams, Darrell Schweitzer (moderator))

Discussion from the point of view of an editor. I'm not sure this was helpful to me in any way, but it was interesting ... though very frustrating to hear they were almost universally against any kind of open call. I was amused by the publisher / editor wrangle between marketing, who wants to know before one word has been said to authors who will be in the book ...

Skipped the 2 o'clock slot to eat and take a breather. Still debating about the 3 o'clock slot. Definitely want to hit the Awards recommendations at 4 ...

Then it's back here at 5ish to eat, shower, do one last run-through, and hope like anything the mic's on 'cause my voice is GONE baby.