Guest Post: “I am Not in Control” by Joshua Palmatier

PalmatierJ-AuthorPicI’m certain nearly everyone who loves to read books and follows their favorite authors has heard those authors at some point say, “The character took control.” This is extremely common. In fact, with my own writing, if the characters don’t at some point take control and do unexpected things, then the book isn’t succeeding. The characters need to take on their own life for the author. If they aren’t doing that for the author, then they certainly aren’t coming to life for the reader. And that means the book has failed.

However, I want to talk about something a little more significant than a character suddenly revealing a lifelong passion for poisons, altering the plot and bringing in an added extra (darker?) layer to the character that you’d never considered. What I want to talk about is when the book takes control. Not just a character or set of characters, but the entire book. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Inspiration for Fantasy Authors” by Anthony Ryan

RyanA-AuthorPicWhilst I don’t like to stereotype, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this then there’s a fair chance you’re familiar with the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. In one of the earlier episodes Penny asks Leonard “What did you do today?”, to which he responds, “Well, I’m a physicist, so I, y’know… thought about stuff.” Although I wouldn’t want to imply that the complexities of writing fiction are of a similar order to particle physics, writers, like physicists, do spend a considerable amount time thinking about stuff. When it comes to inspiration thinking time is crucial. When I count all the stories I actually wrote, compared to those I thought about writing, I come up with a ratio of approximately one in ten, i.e. only about 10% of my ideas actually turn into stories and then only after a lengthy period percolating in the confused teapot of my imagination. Continue reading

Guest Post: “How to Write a Book a Year, and Work Full Time” by William C. Dietz

dietzwc-authorpicI had always wanted to write a novel, and with luck, publish it. And for some reason I chose age 40 as my deadline. But the years passed and, on the day when I turned 39, I hadn’t written a single page. There were numerous reasons for that not the least of which was the fact that I had a demanding job, a wife, and two children.

What to do? Should I slip the deadline to 50? Give up? Or make the book happen somehow. I chose option three. All you have to do is write one page a day, I reasoned (about 300 words), and you’ll have a rough draft 365 days later! (300 words a day x 365 = 109,500 words.) And guess what? It worked. The book (Galactic Bounty) sold right away. Continue reading

Guest Post: James Morrow Interviews Himself on THE ASYLUM OF DR. CALIGARI…

MorrowJ-Author&BigfootSeveral prepublication reviews of your new novella note that it’s “inspired” by the famous German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Must a reader have seen that 1920 silent movie to appreciate your book?

I always wanted my use of the Caligari mythos to stand on its own, wholly independent of the movie. The basic narrative, a satire on war profiteering, has nothing to do with Robert Wiene’s celebrated cinematic experiment. That said, a familiarity with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari will help readers to get some of my book’s references and allusions. I suppose my project is somewhat like the game Charles Frazier played in Cold Mountain with The Odyssey and John Updike played in Roger’s Version with The Scarlet Letter. Continue reading

Guest Review: CALGAR’S FURY by Paul Kearney (Black Library)

KearneyP-WH40k-CalgarsFuryThe Ultramarines Chapter Master steps into battle

The Realm of Ultramar stands as a shining beacon of order and strength in a galaxy wracked by war and torment. Custodian of this realm, and Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, Marneus Calgar has fought many foes and won countless wars to ensure its borders remain safe. But when an immense space hulk emerges into the Ultramar system, carrying with it the threat of something ancient and terrible, it is Calgar once again who stands in defence of his realm, prepared to meet whatever horrors are aboard and discover the mystery at the heart of the ship dubbed Fury.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

The Ultramarines have been the poster-child for WH40k’s various Space Marines Chapters for multiple years. The blue-armoured warriors can be seen on most of the primary packaging for the tabletop models and rulebooks as well. As the typical example of Space Marines, over the years their image has morphed into one that says, “These are the boring old Space Marines who do everything and are just perfect little warriors.”

While true to some extent, this is also wildly generalistic. Graham McNeill, especially, has done a lot over the years to change that image with his various Captain Uriel Ventris stories. Now, Paul Kearney offers a distinctive look at Marneus Calgar, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Calgar’s Fury is a no-holds-barred action story, set on a derelict space hulk, the most classic of all 40k settings, and really delves into the psychology of the Chapter’s warriors at all levels of command. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Culture As Weapon” by Yoon Ha Lee

When I conceived of the Andan faction of the hexarchate, I saw them as beautiful, rich, and cultured. In particular, I saw them as the people who weaponize culture. Raven Stratagem depicts a major Andan character for the first time, and while she’s somewhat atypical (she went into special ops against her mother’s wishes), she hasn’t entirely escaped her early training.

Years ago, when I was in college, I borrowed some of my boyfriend’s Robotech tie-in novels. I went online (as one does) and looked up more information on Robotech on the internet, and found an interesting essay that questioned the novels’ portrayal of singer Lynn Minmei and her songs as a cultural weapon. I’m sorry I can’t link you to the essay; cursory Googling has failed to turn it up and, as it’s been something like fifteen years, I have no idea if it’s even still on the web. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Love and Hate for 4x4s” by Jon Wallace

WallaceJ-AuthorPicFor those of us who navigate London by tube and bus, it can be easy to resent the city’s Range Rover drivers. The hulking black monstrosities are every bit as staggeringly inefficient a modern indulgence as the plastic water bottle, the sort of thing that makes us throw up our hands and ask: ‘have we all gone quite mad?’

For what good do they do driver or pedestrian? There are no mountains to conquer in London; no swamps or muddy tracks. They bloat beyond their parking paces. They burn through fuel and fume out our streets; and they draw the eye to our unequal distribution of wealth, almost as such as the ubiquitous chauffeured Black Mercedes.

Well, perhaps that’s the point; their presence on the tightly packed, jumble of central London streets could be a willfully calculated offense to those with shallower pockets. Bring on climate change, the drivers seem to say. Drown the riff raff, make it a swamp again, and let us dominate the surface alone! Continue reading