A humble suggestion for Bantam Books

April 17th, 2012  |  Published in commentary

Bantam is the publisher of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, even if you haven’t read the books, there is a good chance that you have seen the HBO series, Game Of Thrones. The series of books is huge, consisting so far of five thick books with at least two more planned. Each of these books is divided into numerous points of view, and the story itself is getting so unwieldy that readers rarely see their favorite characters. One reaction to this would be to suggest more editorial oversight, but I have little expertise in that department. Instead, I would suggest that the publisher makes sure that they profit from it.

After the series is finished, imagine a massive e-book edition of ASoIaF (call it the Perfect Collection or Ultimate Edition or something) that contains all of the books. Now, let the fans remix the books. Not rewrite them or modify the text, but rather the ability to rearrange the chapters. Imagine reading only the Tyrion chapters or the Jaime chapters, with no interruptions, or only the chapters of peripheral characters. I realize that you could do this with paper books by skipping the chapters that you don’t want to read, but it would be a pain in the ass. In addition, fans could release ‘playlists’ of the book that other people who have purchased the uber edition could then view.

Of course, this wouldn’t need to come cheap, say $50 or $100 per license. Imagine everyone who has already purchased the entire series going out and buying the whole thing over so that they can remix it.

Personally, I don’t actually expect the publishing industry to do anything like this. They will almost certainly say that it is too difficult or too expensive, if they consider it at all. Fortunately, what we are talking about here isn’t video or music, but text, which is notoriously hard to control (or as Cory Doctorow says: “Behold . . . the typist!”), so whether or not Bantam wants my money, I’ll be able to get it.

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February 14th, 2012  |  Published in announcement

Today I’m spending my time on Broken Shores (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already, its a nontraditional fantasy, closer to Modesitt than Tolkien), which is sorely in need of some attention, so there won’t be too much going on here. I do plan on having a new Cover Design article for you either on Friday morning or sometime Tuesday. If you’re looking for something good to read, I’m reading Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, which is interesting so far, and a welcome change from Western fantasy (the fact that one of the main characters is a chubby old guy is fantastic).

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“I Guarantee” and other news

January 9th, 2012  |  Published in announcement, Fiction

In December, I decided to take part of the Reddit Fantasy Writers December Writing Challenge (which was to start a short story with the line: “I guarantee you won’t find the same quality for a cheaper price,” the merchant insisted.). All was going well, I had an idea, and finished a first draft by the sixteenth, but then forgot all about it and missed the deadline for submission. In any case, I went ahead and revised it this morning and have posted it. It’s only about 1250 words, so it shouldn’t take long to read. Enjoy!

In other news, I hope to make some more progress on restoring this site tomorrow and Wednesday, focusing on redoing the sidebar and fixing the RSS links (I try to run everything through my feedburner feed). In addition, I plan on fixing the Soapbox page so that it once again has the complete story.

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Fantasy Literature as a Gateway Drug to History?

December 1st, 2011  |  Published in commentary

I had been planning on beginning the follow-up story to The Root of All Things this morning, but instead I stumbled across this article by Adam Gopnik while skimming through Reddit this morning. The essential point here seems to be that Young Adult fantasy aimed at boys (the article focuses on Paolini’s Eragon series) teaches them how to think, absorb, and interact with history. I personally have not read Paolini, but I think that I at least partially agree with Gopnik’s central thesis, despite his dismissive treatment of the genre.

What I did find interesting was the degree to which he missed the point in regards to Tolkien, taking from the stories a sense of detailed description and “[in comparison to T.H. White’s exploration of morals] . . . a Tolkienesque treatment, focussing on clashes between armies, not within souls.” Yes, there were an abundance of detail and armies in Tolkien’s work, but I don’t think that either of those things were the point.

The thing that struck me, reading Lord of the Rings, was that everything rested on the books’ everyman, Frodo. The best and brightest of men (Aragorn), Elves (Legolas), Dwarves (Gimli), and Wizards (Gandalf) simply couldn’t get the job done. In the end they were nothing more than a distraction, a sideshow. Sure, they were important, but it was the guy with no special abilities or powers who has to get the job done.

I’m going to cut myself off here, before I get too far into my rant about Tolkien and how his imitators seem to copy every part of his work but the part that matters. Don’t worry, though, I’ll try to give you the whole thing sometime this month.

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New Story Over At Broken Shores

November 22nd, 2011  |  Published in announcement

I just posted the sixth Broken Shores story, Trust and Vulnerability. I’m really happy with how it turned out, so you should go read it. That is all.

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Interesting Talk on Science Fiction and Fantasy

November 4th, 2011  |  Published in commentary

I just watched a talk that China Mieville gave at the University of Kansas in 2009 regarding the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy. His main point centers around the use of Cognitive Effect to distinguish the two, or how much the text attempts to create and justify its own internal logic. He does a good job showing how arbitrary the boundaries between the two genres can be.  Well worth the time for anyone interested in the theoretical underpinnings of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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Caldera Reboot

November 3rd, 2011  |  Published in Fiction

Here is a (very) rough draft of the Caldera reboot that I’m working on this month. Keep in mind that it hasn’t been revised and so there are likely problems with the prose (like bad dialogue and weak description), and there will almost certainly be major changes to the story by the time I am done with it. In any case, here you go:

Caldera Reboot

Rough Draft / 1050 words / 11.3.2011

Caden‘s felt his age in his legs as he climbed the steps carved into the vertical sides of Crest Island. Twenty years prior he would have ran up the steps, and the awareness of his spent youth brought rekindled the doubts that had been smoldering since the beginning of his quest.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Thoughts on A Song of Ice and Fire (now with more spoilers!)

October 28th, 2011  |  Published in commentary, speculation

I’ve just started to read A Dance with Dragons (a little late, I know, but the first principle of having something interesting to say is that when everyone is looking in one direction, look elsewhere), and I have some thoughts. Of course, I’m not even 10% done with the book, so this may all be overturned by the final page. In any case, I wanted to give my thoughts as to where I believe the series is headed, which involves some spoilers, so you’ll have to continue reading after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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Moral Complexity

May 18th, 2010  |  Published in Fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized

So, after recommendations by a couple of my coworkers, I read The The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett this last weekend.  The book was good, but not great.  The concept is good, post-apocalyptic fantasy setting in which demons come out each night.  What this means is that the humans as a species are barely holding on, only able to be out during the day, and everything is scarce.  Good so far.

Then we come to the wards.  Apparently, there are wards that can be used to keep out demons (the old combat wards that would allow humans to fight demons on an even footing are lost).  I don’t have a problem with the wards themselves, but rather how they are implemented.  I was hoping for something like David Farland’s Runelords series (where runes are very powerful, but require scarce materials, knowledge, and a donor to work), but instead I get a book where all that is required to create wards is knowledge and time (Arlen, one of the central characters, can do it by instinct before his teens).

This leads to all sort of problems (such as why the wards aren’t tattooed on people at birth), but the problem that I’m interested in is that it is one-sided, there is no sacrifice.  If power can be had without sacrifice, you can rest assured that humans will have exploited it to within an inch of its life.  More importantly, when you have magic that requires sacrifice, it creates moral complexity, and that is one of the things that differentiates between a good story and a great one.

Ultimately, I believe that all storytelling is based on conflict, and that the conflict that we like is the conflict that we can relate to.  You may be asking what relatability has to do with Fantasy.  Well, in this case, I would say that one of the central aspects of every single person’s life is the concept of sacrifice and trade-offs, which we encounter virtually every time we make a choice.  Combined with speculative fiction’s ability to take issues and allow us to examine them without the baggage that we have in reality, you can tell a very powerful story.  In short, when you are creating a fantasy setting, magic needs to be balanced with sacrifice if it is to be at all relevant.

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May 15th, 2008  |  Published in Fantasy, Fiction, Publishing, SciFi, Society

I was just browsing the scifi reddit, and I came across a comment thread titled Does it REALLY bug anyone else when they go to a library or book store and the sci-fi and fantasy sections are combined? I thought “this might be interesting” and so checked it out.  Damn.  The comments consist almost entirely of how much fantasy sucks, and how the only genre worth reading is scifi  I don’t recall ever seeing the fantasy crowd attacking the scifi crowd like this.

My theory is that the scifi crowd was simply trying to gain some legitimacy at the expense of fantasy, and unfortunately this sort of thing just reaffirms it.  Depressing.

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