Howard Andrew Jones is the author of two of my favorite reads from last year: The Desert Of Souls and Pathfinder Tales: Plague Of Shadows, both great sword and sorcery reads! His popular prior post here on the historicals of Harold Lamb is one of our most read guest posts. This time, he talks about why a white midwesterner set his fantasy novel in historical Arabia.
People ask me why I’m so interested in the ancient Middle-East. Why isn’t everyone? The 8th and 9th century of the Abbasid caliphate was a true golden age, when scientists, poets, philosophers, scholars, and explorers were sponsored and celebrated. Science and arts flourished. It’s no wonder that later storytellers looked back at the time with longing and threaded the caliph Harun-al-Rashid and the vizier Jaffar into the fabric of The Arabian Nights. These two were said to wander Baghdad nights in disguise – as they do in the Nights — and they weren’t the only fascinating figures of the time.
But I think a lot of people aren’t really asking why I find the time period interesting. They’re asking how a white guy from southern Indiana got interested in the Middle-East.
I occasionally run across the implication that by writing of the ancient Middle-East I’m practicing cultural appropriation. I never know quite how to respond to that, although I try to be sensitive. After all, there’s a long history of people from the west writing other cultures as stereotypes. A LOOONG, painful history. I can only say that I strive to write characters, not caricatures. A lot of people don’t realize that the stories of the Arabian Nights are a blend of Chinese, Arabian, Persian, and Indian myths. A few of the stories might well have been inserted by a Frenchman who claimed he’d gotten them from a Christian Arab, although there’s no record of their existence before Monsieur Galland’s translation of the Nights. Anyway, a lot of other people have gotten to play with the Arabian Nights, and I would like to think it’s okay for one more to sit down at the campfire and spin a few, even if he’s a white Hoosier. View full article »
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher is a superhero novel, part of a small but vibrant niche in the vast genre of speculative fiction. The story is set in the fictional California city of San Ventura, where the supervillain known as the Cowl holds sway. San Ventura’s resident team of superheroes, the Seven Wonders, may be impressive but they seem unable to defeat their supervillain foe. This stalemate among the super-powered leaves the city in an uneasy status quo, which grates hard on two people. One is Detective Sam Millar, who has personal as well as professional reasons to bring down the Cowl, with or without the help of the Seven Wonders. The other is an average guy named Tony Prosdocimi, who suddenly begins to develop super-powers of his own, giving him the opportunity to destroy the Cowl and put an end to the fear that most city dwellers, including himself, have been living in.
Seven Wonders has a lot to recommend itself, especially for fans of comics and graphic novels. It’s clear that the author, Adam Christopher, has both familiarity and affection for the comic book genre. He borrows from and references many of the tropes you’d expect to see in a superhero tale—dramatic super-powered fight scenes, gods in human form, aliens from distant planets who make their home on earth, secret identities—the works. In the opening scene, which shows the Cowl in the middle of a nefarious act, the action is so vivid that it could have been inked by Steve Ditko, and you can almost hear the narrator from the old Batman TV show giving the blow-by-blow.
The story then veers into a less melodramatic, more novelistic tone, though it still retains its comic book flavor. In some ways, that is a good thing. The book is chock-full of conflict, which makes it a page-turner. The plot lines are very much as intense and varied as a reader would expect to see in a comic book, including robots that don’t always function as planned, visits to a secret moon base, and a possible alien invasion. To be fair, the high level of action may be more appropriate for a year or more of a comic book line and less fitting for a single novel, where the constant new plot elements can seem almost overwhelming at times.
In addition, there are numerous plot twists, some that seem obvious once they have occurred and others that seem unexpected. One plot twist in particular is impossible to see coming; unfortunately, it involves the death of what may be one of the most relatable characters in the story. And it happens at the midpoint of the story, which may put off some readers. Still, there are enough unanswered questions at the midpoint to keep people reading, and that works in the book’s favor.
The one area where the novel seems a bit thin is in the characterization. Many comic book lines suffer the same problem, the icons Marvel and DC included. The heightened nature of a comic means that characters are often sketched larger than life. In a novel, though, that’s a detriment. Seven Wonders has a plethora of characters in it, and while not all of them can be drawn to the same degree of detail, there are some key characters that seem a little too one-dimensional given their importance to the story. As a result, it can feel hard at times to connect with some of the characters, either to love or to hate them.
Overall, though, Seven Wonders is a fun read. The setting is entirely believable for a story with superheroes in it, and the book contains the unique tone and flavor fitting for a comic-influenced story line. For readers who like their novels to move fast with unexpected plot turns, Seven Wonders should be worth the investment.
M.A. Chiappetta is a writer and editor for a non-profit charitable organization. As a freelancer, she ghostwrites, does promotional projects, and teaches freshman college writing. Her slightly skewed musings on life—colored by her eclectic interests in writing, music, Mensa, science fiction and fantasy, laughter, spirituality, and geekdom—can be found on her blog, The Chipper Muse (www.thechippermuse.blogspot.com).
SFFWRTCHT has always been a community thing and always an open forum. Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of bad experiences in the past six months and been beaten up over moderation decisions I felt were necessary, so I feel a need to post a policy. I put in 20 hours a week or more unpaid to host and run and organize chat. I love doing it. But I don’t appreciate being disrespected. You don’t have to agree with me. But if you treat me like a bad guy for making decisions I need to make in best the interests of SFFWRTCHT, make no mistake about it, I am not going to tolerate it.
1) All SFFWRTCHT guests will be treated like honored guests in a personal home. You may express contrary opinions respectfully but if it turns into an argument or seems to be headed that way, I will feel free to ask you to cease and desist. I will nip it in the bud. If a guest misbehaves, I will also deal with that. They will probably not be invited back, but it is my place to deal with it.
2) SFFWRTCHT is for discussion of any and all interesting topics which are not going to involve bashing other people inside or outside the SFF community. This is NOT a forum for accusing people of racism, bigotry or other forms of stupidity. I will reserve the right to edit out objectionable material from transcripts, comments, etc. I will not apologize for this. As host, I have potential legal liability for anything you say and, more importantly, I will be held into account by others who may refuse to come on as guests or send me books, etc. in the future. They always have a right to say no but I don’t want to create an environment which encourages it.
3) SFFWRTCHT is a positive place. We can discuss tough issues but we are about encouraging and helping one another, not tearing one another down. Everything we do will be done with this goal in mind and I will deliberately push things in that direction as needed. Being guest-friendly is a big part of our success. There are plenty of other forums for the negative stuff. This isn’t one of them.
4) SFFWRTCHT will be family friendly. If cursing slips out, I won’t jump down your throat. I may edit the transcript or pull it from the culled interview when doing a Column. I reserve this right. Family friendliness also limits how we talk about certain topics. Sorry, but I have a broad audience of friends, followers and others who want to participate. I don’t want to chase them off. This doesn’t mean we can’t discuss difficult things but it does mean we need some policies for it.
5) SFFWRTCHT is not a democracy. But I welcome your input. As long as you respect that I founded this, I own the brand and I have the right to make ultimate decisions, fire away.
6) When SFFWRTCHT is live, it moves very quickly. I don’t always catch everything until I go back over transcripts. I miss nuances. If I feel things are getting out of hand, I reserve the right to ask people to tone it down or stop without explanation. I do not want to argue and I do not want to be beaten up. Understand that I may get it wrong or misread things sometimes but I am doing the best I can and I have listed the reasons for it here, so please respect that.
If we can all respect these policies (and each other), we should be able to get along swimmingly. Most of my regulars will recognize that I bend over backwards to make chat fun. This includes implementing a monthly round table at their request. It also includes organizing and even buying items for giveaways, finding interesting guests, etc. It also includes playing parent when I need to. I shouldn’t need to. We’re all adults. But I will if I have to. I don’t enjoy it.
Thanks for taking time to read. I hope articulating all of this helps you better understand my expectations and decisions and will help us avoid uncomfortable situations in the future.
Tad Williams’ new short story collection, A Stark And Wormy Knight, is available now, worldwide, as an ebook, $4.99 (or equivalent) for one month
The following story is posted by permission
THE SUGARPLUM FAVOR
(A Christmas Story)
Danny Mendoza counted his change three times in while the teacher talked about what they were all supposed to bring for the class winter holiday party tomorrow. It was really a Christmas party, at least in Danny’s class, because that’s what all the kids’ families’ celebrated. Danny had his party contribution covered. He had volunteered to bring napkins and paper plates and cups because his family had some left over from his little brother’s birthday party with characters from Gabba Gabba Hey on them. He’d get teased about that, he knew, but he didn’t want to ask his mother to make something because she was so busy with his little brothers and the baby, and now that Danny’s stepfather Luis had lost his job they had a Money Situation. Danny could live with a little teasing.
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Guest Post by Howard Andrew Jones
Before Stormbringer keened in Elric’s hand, before the Gray Mouser prowled Lankhmar’s foggy streets—before even Conan trod jeweled thrones under his sandaled feet, Khlit the Cossack rode the steppe. He isn’t the earliest serial adventure character, but his adventures are among the earliest that can still be read for sheer pleasure.
He was created in 1917 by Harold Lamb, in a time when “costume pieces” provided the same kinds of thrills that fantasy and science fiction adventure stories deliver today, and he appeared in the pulp magazines.
The best remembered of these magazines today are probably those devoted to the adventures of single characters—like Doc Savage or The Shadow—or the early magazines of the fantastic wherein those we now recognize as giants were published—Weird Tales, and, later, Unknown, Planet Stories, and other science fiction magazines.
Shortly after World War I, though, there was very little to be found in the realm of the fantastic. For all their fame, the later science fiction magazines and Weird Tales were hardly representative of the content found in most pulps. The most popular of magazines tended to be devoted to westerns and detective tales. Aside from the occasional Verne reprint and a few innovators—like the fellow who’d written of a civil war soldier transported to Mars—adventure was found in more recognizable places.
And then came Lamb. View full article »
Congrats to all the winners!!!!!!
Winners were determined as follows:
You chose a number between 1 and 50. I then used this formula to convert to 12 sided die (since we had 11 entrants):
43/50 = x/12
I then rolled in order of the listing on the prize post. Items for which I rolled 12 were skipped and will be given away separately because everyone won something before I got back to them.
So here’s the list:
Michele Chiappetta (chippermuse) — Brenda Cooper Mayan December signed tpb
Sabrina Vourvoulias (followthelede) – Peter Orullion The Unremembered signed
Paul Weimer (PrinceJvstin) — Mike Resnick Return Of Santiago mmpb signed
Kaolin Fire (kaolinfire) — Jay Lake Endurance signed
John Zeleznik (John_Zeleznik) — Paul Kemp Erevis Cale omnibus signed tpb
Lydia Ondrusek (littlefluffycat) – Electric Velocipede Set (EV issues 12, 13, 14, 15/16,17/18, 19, 20, and 21/22)
Jaleta Clegg (Jaleta_Clegg) –Howard Andrew Jones Desert of Souls hb signed
Sarah Hendrix (shadowflame1974) — Maurice Broaddus King’s Justice mmpb signed
Ben Liska (BennLiska) — Maurice Broaddus King’s Justice mmpb signed
Deirdre Murphy (Wyld_Dandelyon) — Fantasy tpb Book Set: The Way Of Shadows by Brent Weeks, The Dame by RA Salvatore and The Firebird’s Vengeance by Sarah Zettel
Ben Love (BJosephLove) – The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks mmpb set
Items saved for later:
SF tpb Book Set: The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass, Duplicate Effort (Retrieval Artist) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Planesrunner by Ian McDonald (hb)
Black Gate issue 14
Adventure Fantasy Pack: Rage Of The Behemoth anthology & Black Gate issue 14
Thanks all for your support and participation! Email me your address [bryan at bryanthomasschmidt dot net] and what you want inscriptions to say (on signed items) and I or the authors will mail them to you.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
Ian McDonald is an award-winning British Science Fiction novelist and author of recently released Planesrunner. He is known for setting his stories in developing nations, tackling the “hard” and “social” sciences with equal enthusiasm. Check out his twitter at @iannmcdonald, where you can follow his con schedule as well as news on his upcoming projects.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
Ian McDonald: Waaay back. Like 1983. I’ve been in this game a long time. And it wasn’t so much a decision as a cascade of small events, from childhood onwards. I began with a single word on a sheet, as we all do.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school? How did you learn your craft?
Ian McDonald: No. I read a lot in school. Our English class read Rosemary Sutcliffe’s ‘The Hound of Ulster’, a retelling (and a damn good one) of the Cuchulain cycle –one of our national legends (I live in Ireland) –then through the Finn McCool cycle to the Norse mythologies,. Good grounding for any 11 year-old. Craft? I picked it up through doing it. Trying to get the stuff on the page to properly express what was in the imagination. I tend to work visually, so it’s all based on successions of images, which I then try and get down on paper. I think you can spot ‘Creative Writing’ class writing –of course the craft is excellent, but it seems to me that the craft comes first.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write until your first sale? What was that?
Ian McDonald: About twenty four hours. Sold the first story I ever wrote to a local (Belfast) magazine, for the princely sum of £60 (which was a lot in 1983, I’m telling you). I bought a guitar with the momey. That was the probably the most rock’n'roll thing I ever did. My first novel was ‘Desolation Road’ in 1988. I’ve been writing ever since then –and of course like every writing career, it has its tides and currents, its ebbs and flows. My most recent pre-Planesrunner was the Hugo-nominee ‘The Dervish House’, from Pyr in the US and Gollancz in the UK.
SFFWRTCHT: What aspect of Planesrunners came first? Characters? Plot? Setting?
Ian McDonald: The idea of being on the run through parallel universes. From that, it’s a matter of asking questions –who is on the run? Everett. Why? Because he has something the Bad Guys want. Who are the Bad guys… It’s quite deliberately constructed –I wanted something that could spin off a lot of story, that was picaresque, but with a sense of community –a pseudo-family. The key image is the airship that can jump between parallel universe -I liked the idea of having a Tardis –a go-anywhere machine that can take you to a new world and a new adventure every episode. The joke is that Everness can go anywehere, but it’s a two-hundred metre airship –a little bit hard to hide. Something ship based –with a crew, that can become friends and family for Everett. Then the characters –and they’re also a deliberately multi-cultural gang, with their own private language, because young people love having their own words for things, their in-speak. The last thing that gets invented are the details of the parallel worlds.
SFFWRTCHT: What sort of pre-writing did you do for Planesrunner? Did you outline?
By Matt Forbeck
Adapting a game to a novel isn’t as easy as it might sound. When you work on other tie-in novels, like say a novelization of a film, the publisher sends you a script to work from, and often all you have to do is take it and fill in the descriptive bits around the dialog. Voila! Novel.
That’s much easier said than done, of course. I wrote the novelization of the Mutant Chronicles film that came out a few years back, and the film’s producers gave me a ton of leeway with it, allowing me to add in whole new scenes and characters not even implied in the script. That’s an exception, though, and one granted to me because I’d worked on the game that the film was based on too.
When you adapt a game, though — particularly something open-ended like a tabletop game — you don’t have nearly as much to work with. Most of the time, the only thing you’re given is the setting itself, the world in which things happen and the rules by which they occur. It’s up to you to come up with everything else: characters, plot, action, and so on.
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