Should Science Fiction be believable?

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Damn right! But not according to the movie and television industries.

With two exceptions – 2001 and 2010 A Space Odyssey – every other science fiction film or television series that has come out of America simply defies credulity. The fact that the films in question didn’t become just another pair of highly fanciful and therefore totally nonsensicle entertainments, is all down to Stanley Kubrick’s deep respect for Arthur C. Clark. After all, Arthur wrote the book on which the films are based, as well as co-writing the scripts with Stanley.

Like Arthur, I am a traditionalist. By that I mean that as a science fiction writer, every story I write has to be based in reality. Blame my father for introducing me to him and two other top science fiction writers of the twentieth century, Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham, at a young age. All three authors took great pains to make sure that their stories were believable, based on their scientific backgrounds.

While I’m no scientist, I did work in the School of Science at the University of Waikato in New Zealand for a quarter of a century, rubbing shoulders with chemists, physicists, biologists, earth scientists and many fine artisans like tool and die makers, glassblowers, photographers, cartographers etc, etc. So in my own small way, I try to adopt the same approach to writing science fiction that Arthur, Isaac and John took. It’s called research, and getting your facts straight if you were wondering…

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Click on the cover to go to The Guardian on Amazon.com

Take the above scifi novella as an example of what I’m talking about. There are no weird and wonderful creatures to be found anywhere in its pages. Only believable characters. As for how they get to and from the Earth, there are no starships as in Star Trek. Only totally feasable computer controlled solar wind powered cargo transporters. The same can be said for the weapons they use. Each one actually exists in the US military today, even though at the time of writing The Guardian they were still in development. Even the two alien females and the guardian itself are totally believable. If you want to get a sense of what I’m on about, maybe you should get your own copy and read it for yourselves.

I seriously doubt The Guardian will ever make it to the plasma or silver screen. Why? just take a look at what is considered to be watchable science fiction these days. It seems to me that every so-called scifi film, and television series made on either side of the pond, is aimed at a collective audience with the combined mental age of a bunch of retarded slugs!!!

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I wrote another totally believable Science Fiction tale a couple of years ago. Click on the cover below to go to it on Amazon.com.

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😉

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Which way do I go???

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Ok so you’ve finally decided to pluck up the courage of your convictions to make your passion for writing a fulltime occupation. Before you even begin, the one question you have to seriously take into consideration is this. Do you become an independent author, or do you try to break into the world of traditional publishing?

If you decide on chancing your arm with the latter, after first avoiding the tempting adverts from vanity press and some of the other fly by night options including the all too common adverts on Facebook by often bogus literary agents looking for new manuscripts, all of them lying in wait to fleece the innocent while masquerading as legitimate traditional publishers or their minions.

Instead, you will immediately be confronted by what the industry commonly refers to as gate-keepers. What are they? Simply put, they are the publishing houses’ often seemingly impenetrable lines of defence, designed to extract the occasional gem for serious consideration from among the monumental piles of utter bilge that are offered on a daily basis. If by sheer good fortune they want to publish your work, depending on how it sells, either they will offer you a contract or end the partnership before it has really begun if you dare to stand up for yourself!

To begin with your manuscript will have to appeal to the lowest order of gate-keeper, otherwise known as a literary agent. Always providing of course that you find one prepared to take a chance on you in the first place, based purely on the fact that they personally like what you’ve written. Even so there is still no guarantee that they will be able to sell your story to any of the top publishing houses. When it comes to it, like any other business, traditional publishing’s raison d’être is to make money. To that end they are extremely picky when it comes to choosing from the thousands of new manuscripts on offer. Cold hearted reality dictates that unless you have written an absolute blinder of a potential best seller, the product of all your hard work will wind up in the garbage bin along with all the others from hopefuls like you and me.

If you haven’t guessed by now, whether your book is published is down to personal choice by the those working for the publishing house concerned. While it may appeal to them, it won’t necessarily appeal to the general public…

Then there is the question of the contract they will offer you if they decide they want to employ you. Are you up to the pressure that will be placed on your shoulders by signing a two, three of four book deal for the promise of a monetary advance? Many aren’t up to working within the confines of an often highly restrictive contract. I know I wasn’t. I was far too bloody minded for the traditional publisher I was briefly contracted to. I touch the forelock to no man!!!

Does all of this sound extremely tough and one sided to you? It should do! By its very nature our business is a merciless one. There is no room for the starry-eyed day dreamer, or for that matter anyone foolishly labouring under the false assumption that having a book published, guarantees them instant fame and fortune. It rarely if ever does. Even choosing to follow the independent route is still no guarantee for success. In either case it always involves a lot of hard work on your part.

Out of the eleven titles written by me so far since nineteen ninety-five, only one came close by Indie mid list standards, being considered a best seller at two hundred and fifty thousand plus copies. I always live in the vain hope that my latest offering might at the very least equal it. But only time and the vagaries of this business will ultimately determine each book’s fate.

Being a true Indie requires a much higher degree of self discipline and bloody-mindedness on your part, more so than for an author in any traditional writing stable. Anyone who thinks it is the easier of the two publishing options, seriously needs to think again. Mind you there are no easy options…

While its true that any Tom, Dick or Harriette can come up with a story, that is only the first step in a long and often tortuous road to getting it noticed in the first place.

If you are a true Indie, by the very definition of the word it means that you must go it alone, literally doing everything for yourself. Even the traditional publishing houses these days require their contracted writers to do far more than merely write a novel to justify their advance.

If you feel you are incapable, you can always take the easy way out, paying lip service to the notion of independance by opting instead to spend a lot of money to employ others to edit, format and market your book for you. Always bearing in mind of course that before you even begin to earn royalties, you first have to recoup your often expensive monetary outlay, a fact than many of today’s crop of indie’s simply choose to ignore, let alone fail to grasp.

Like all true independents I choose to rely on no one other than myself, and a handful of individuals I consider to be competant beta readers of anything I write. To follow in my independent footsteps, you must become accomplished in a number of disciplines. The first of these involves every writer’s nighmare – editing. To make your story stand out among the millions already published, it has to appeal from the very first sentence. While there are a lot of competant people out there prepared to assist you at a price, there are also many charlatans. Like all things we encounter in our daily lives, shopping for an editor or publicist is always a case of buyer beware. Ask them for samples of their work. Examine them closely. If you find an editing error don’t hire them!

I’m still amazed by the number of Indies out there who have convinced themselves that an eye-catching cover is guaranteed to sell their book. It doesn’t! Yes it’s true it will help. But on its own its nothing more than the literary equivalent of eye candy. Ever since the first printed book rolled off a hand operated press hundreds of years ago, what has always sold the book to the reader is its content, never its cover!

Still want to become a published author? If the answer is still yes, good luck. Just remember that you must be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work, harsh criticism from your fellows, competition, jealousy, envy and heartache.

Do I regret becoming an Indie? Not for one moment. Remember this, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Even if for the majority of writers, you will never grow rich…

😉

 

Blowhards and other self-important idiots!

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The following is the mantra of the blowhard – no matter the subject, you are always wrong!!!

Since receiving a few complaints via email recently, I need to apologise to the majority of my readers, those who want to comment on any of my blog posts, without being taken to task by total idiots, whether or not the posts are mine, or reblogged from some other source. All of this because I let a blowhard get away with a rant.  Mea Culpa…

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It is inevitable that when you operate one of the top fifty daily blogs, that sooner or later it will attract the odd blowhard. Or in the case in question, a control freak! You know the kind of individual I’m talking about. Their principal trait is an overwhelming belief in their own self-importance. If that wasn’t enough they are often pompous and condescending. All blowhards are egomaniacs who by their very nature must dominate any post’s discussion (comments), no matter what.

The blowhard is easily recognised in any forum. In their eyes they’re always right and everyone else is wrong. As writers we see it all the time when one of them posts a one star review in a sea of favourable ones, hoping to turn people against a particular book because it is popular…

It would be fair to say that over the years this blog has attracted one or two, along with a couple of grammar nazis and a few literary snobs, each of them examples of the more objectionable individuals any blogger will come across sooner or later.

While most bloggers will simply consign the blowhard’s comments to the trash, from time to time I have had a bit of fun at their expense by letting them have their head. Why did I do that? To expose them to the blogosphere, and to give my readers the opportunity to see them for what they truly are.

Whenever a post attracts their attention, through their often barbed comments they dismiss out of hand everyone else’s opinions, thereby reducing any discussion to a one sided diatribe. I fully admit that the temptation to guide the blowhard towards the point where they are hoisted by their own pétard is huge. Sorry folks, from time to time I just can’t help myself. Occasionally when I’m feeling mischievous I have to reply to their often biased comments, if only to stir them into putting their foot in their mouths yet again.

Like most ranting egoists, once identified, the blowhard becomes an easy target for exploitation at their expense. They are so damned predictable! Occasionally I would set a trap with a specific post, allowing them a platform, thereby flushing them from the blogosphere’s equivalent of the undergrowth into the open, exposing them in the process.

All I can say to the blowhards is this – I feel for your family and friends. It must be sheer hell for them having to live with you. In case you hadn’t noticed, it is at my discretion that this blog allows all readers the freedom to post their opinions without fear or favour. So if you feel that you just can’t help yourself and simply have to dominate any conversation on this blog, forget it – won’t happen!!! Your comments will wind up in the trash, if you can’t keep it civil.

Just in case any blowhard is in any doubt on where they stand with me, be assured that in me you have met your match. My father was oft heard to quote the following when dealing with certain distasteful individuals, “If you give someone enough rope, they’ll hang themselves, a point of view I firmly share. Blowhards, you have been warned. From now on this blog is not only a grammar nazi and literary snob free zone, but also free from any and all blowhards.

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My favourite characters to write about…

… are always strong, beautiful women!

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Lieutenant Lynne Crawford as I envision her in my sci-fi novella The Guardian

 

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Céleste as I always imagined her in my sci-fi novel of the same name.

 

There are a few more, but the photographs of the two ladies who inspired me to create Lynne and Céleste will suffice as perfect examples…

It’s a fact that with every book I write, I push the envelope that little bit further. If you have ever read any of them you will know that without exception each and every one of my female characters is not only loyal, feisty, beautiful and strong minded, but also vulnerable and extremely feminine.

When it comes to creating each of them I always ask myself what it is about them that would make me a mere male, sit up and take notice. It is true to say that with each principle female character that I have created over the years, while writing about them, inevitably I always fall head over heels in love with the idea of them, even now, a few days into the beginning of my seventh decade. There I go bearing my soul to you…

By now the more astute among you will have deduced that I adore any and all women exhibiting all of the above qualities, even if I have never actually been lucky enough to share my life with one.

Remember, no matter the age of the writer, we’re all still human. By that I mean that specific characters we create, we absolutely want to get to know, even though they’re only in a story. The beautiful Céleste was the latest in a long line of leading ladies who I was privileged to spend time with – lucky, lucky me…  😉

As their creator, while any story I come up with tends to write itself, I still hold the ultimate power of life and death over my characters. All I’ll add to that is to say my male characters had better treat my leading ladies right – or else!

In the past I have merely skirted around any love affair between my hero and the woman in his life by employing the old writer’s standbys of insinuation, inference and allusion when it comes to what is actually going on between them. Like most writers of my acquaintance, I leave anything which could be described as pornographic to the E.L James’ of this world. Besides which, my publisher (Amazon KDP) would never agree to publish it if it was. This is something every writer has to bear in mind when writing about what their characters get up to in private, especially when dealing with some American publishers…

PS – I defy any male reader not to at the very least fall in lust with my ladies when they read about them.

PPS – I kept a copy of the above photographs handy while writing The Guardian and Céleste WIPs, purely for the purposes of inspiration and soul searching you understand. At least that’s what I still tell myself.

Oh to be their age again (sigh)…

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No matter how much they may tell you they are professionals…

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… sooner or later, your editor will let you down!!!

Face it, some posing as editors only really care about how much money you are paying them. It is not until you become a writer yourself that you not only notice the errors that editors miss in any given book, but how many. I’m not just talking about incorrect spelling, but the use of totally incorrect words; things like missed spaces between a fullstop (period) and the capital letter of the next sentence, as well as either a lack of punctuation or far too much of it.

Let us also remember that some editors see nothing wrong with a book’s pages becoming nothing more than solid blocks of text with no break between paragraphs to make it easier to read. To give you another example, some editors in cahoots with certain publishers will plead the old chestnut of ‘house style’ as their excuse to cover a multitude of sins. Then there is the endless debate over which type of quotation marks they prefer – single, or double.

It matters little that the book you are reading was self-published, or produced by a small press or one of the traditional big five publishers. More and more these days, with each book I pick up, I’m finding endless errors, which any line editor worth their salt should have picked up on long before it even went to print. If they were threatened with the sack, or were told they would not be paid for allowing those annoying mistakes to slip by, maybe all editors would be more vigilant!

A chance would be a fine thing…

Before anyone posing as an editor who after reading this, has an attack of apoplectic rage brought on by what I’ve just said, if you are completely truthful, you know deep down that in all likelihood you have never ever handed back a totally error free manuscript for publication in your entire working life, due to time and business constraints. That being the case, the editor’s credo should always be more haste, less speed. Maybe you need to stop thinking about how many other writers are waiting for your services, along with how much money you charge and concentrate on presenting a quality product for publication instead. Especially if you want repeat work…

Why am I bringing this to your attention as editors and writers? Simple. When a member of the general public reads and reviews a book, their usually biased for or against opinion, which is all any review is when you think about it – someone’s opinion, won’t necessarily be about its content or subject matter. More than likely these days what it will be about are the mistakes the reader found, or thought they had.

Quite often anyone who is not an American writer will be taken to task for what some see as misspelt words. To them I will only say this – apart from the English sounding language peculiar to continental americans based on some long dead sixteenth century English dialects, there is also the original spoken here in the UK, together with Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Australian and Indian English. To my knowledge they are the main branches of the language. Each form of the language tends to spell some words differently.

Getting back to the general public – will they blame the publisher for any mistakes found in any given book? No. To the average reader, publishers and their editors don’t make mistakes, which is total baloney! They’re human just like the rest of us.

Instead you will find that to the reader’s way of thinking, the fault lies wholly with the writer. Once again many readers cannot seem to appreciate that all you did was write the damned story! It doesn’t occur to the idiots that you employed someone else to edit it for you. If you as the writer are to be blamed for anything, it’s thinking that once you have written the manuscript – that it’s job done. Wrong! Never let whoever is editing your MS get away with anything!  Don’t be frightened to pick them up on those inevitable mistakes. Like you they’re not infallible. Between the two of you, most errors should be eliminated.

Here’s a thought – if you want to improve your skills as a writer, learn to edit. While your at it, employ beta or copy readers. Personally I do both. With each book I write, the number of errors has dramatically reduced. For instance, my novella Cataclysm, literally only has one very minor error – a space between quotation marks and the first letter of the first word in a sentence. If I can do my level best to eliminate all errors as a self-published writer, so can the damned editor you are employing for money!!

Am I going to fix the tiny error? No. That way the author hating internet trolls, grammar nazis, literary snobs, and other assorted self proclaimed experts such as pedants and armchair critics will still be able to appear smug when writing their inevitable caustic reviews of it. You just can’t please people like that. So don’t even try. Don’t be put off over attempting to edit. It’s not that difficult. Like anything else, all it takes is time, patience and application, as well as a damned good command of the English language.

Remember this – It doesn’t matter what we do as writers, if we make use of professional support and it is less than satisfactory, we’re sunk!

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How far do you go???

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When it comes to writing sex scenes involving your characters, how far do you dare to go? Bearing in mind that a written work containing anything that might be considered vaguely pornographic, is seriously frowned upon by all reputable publishers, especially those domiciled in the US? Even that book cover you want may not be acceptable! Read on to find out how I deal with this dilemma.

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In one of my novellas – Cataclysm, I alluded to the way the hero Gilbert Briggs and the beautiful transexual he fell in love with, Arianna, made love by simply saying just that sans any detail. It doesn’t take much imagination on the part of the more intelligent among you to realise how they went about it. But precisely because of the transexual element, no lurid details were employed. I agonised over it for several weeks, and I freely admit that I was seriously tempted to spice it up at the time of writing.

The Guardian demanded that I go a stage further. In this particular instance I dealt with the love affair between my principal characters, Lynne Crawford and Adler Stevens. The other characters, some of whom have already been involved in an orgy in the story, are a lesbian Bayla and a bi-sexual Karin, plus two of the five other males – Anatole, Moshe, Philippe, Brett and Cliff, all of them perfectly normal individuals but for one thing – their sexual proclivities.

Thinking about it, who or what is considered normal these days, especially when it comes to the often thorny subject of sex? It’s weird how some people become totally prudish when confronted with the subject in a novel or novella, yet see nothing wrong in engaging in what after all is a perfectly natural act between two consenting people, no matter their gender preference or indeed their preferred way of making love. A clear case of double standards if ever I saw one…

Getting back to the problem I had with Lynne and Adler; so far I had involved them in just two scenes together that can either be described as erotic or voyeuristic, depending on your point of view. It was childsplay compared to what came next – their first no holds barred love scene. Well, that’s not strictly true. I had written the original seriously filthy version several weeks earlier. I returned to it from time to time to tone it down. First of all by gradually downgrading it from extremely to moderately pornographic, through to highly suggestive. At long last it became merely suggestive, the state it would remain in until I took another look at it at a later date. Hopefully it would end up being a suggestive erotic love scene, not as easy to achieve as some of you may think, believe me.

Remember this – while one person might consider a love scene like the one I’m talking about to be erotic. To those of the prudish persuasion, it will always be nothing but unadulterated pornographic filth. The funny thing is that I bet the latter will re-read the particular passage several times on their own, while uttering the imortal words – “utterly disgusting!” to alleviate their hypocritical moral outlook.

Face it folks, as writers we just can’t win. Either we’re damned if we do or damned if we don’t. In the end all you can do is leave it up to your readers to decide, always providing of course that it gets past your publisher first.

Oh by the way – the red highlighted words are book links, not just a spot of colour for effect in a sea of black type!!!

More later if you are good.

😉

Dammit!!!

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Believe it or not it’s my seventieth birthday today. Now on with the motley!

Once you are truly bitten by the writing bug you just can’t quit. Age is definitely no barrier! I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion over the past twenty two years. With most things I have done during my lifetime, it didn’t matter what it was; sooner or later I would eventually grow bored and have to change direction yet again.

Therefore at various stages over the years I have thoroughly embraced the following, sometimes singly – often collectively. For instance I love chess, wood carving, carpentry, painting (not the house variety!) and astronomy. Occasionally I used to try to play the chromatic harmonica. Larry Adler I very definitely was not!!

As well as the above, during my lifetime I have been known to delve into boat building, sailing, hiking, cross-country running, cycling – I had a bright red Raleigh 10 speed racing bike, sculpture, photography, hunting, caving and climbing. Even though I say it myself, I did manage to become accomplished at one or two of my activities. Boat building being just one of them.

Yet none held a candle to the satisfaction I still get out of writing, which probably accounts for why I continue to put myself through mental hell for the reader, each time I write a novella or novel.

With each book I feel that I improve. It’s a given that my detractors will disagree. But as its my seventieth birthday, I’ll be magananimous towards the retarded twits, at least until midnight tonight!

I even get a kick out of writing something simple like a blog post. Besides acting as a platform for worldwide Amazon links to my books (click on the ‘About’ Tab above), maintaining this blog on a daily basis has introduced me to so many wonderful people in all four corners of the world.

Unlike all of my previous activities, writing is the one thing that has brought me out of my shell. The only real drawback is that nowadays I can’t simply lose myself in a book anymore. The writer in me ends up editing it while I’m reading, making it anything but a relaxing pastime the way it used to be.

Why do I still do it? Writing is like a recurring disease. Once contracted, your stuck with it whether you like it or not, for the rest of your days. Does it get easier over time? No… Each new story is hard won. If you want to write, one thing you cannot be is a quitter. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not one of those! Does writing blog posts like this one help my writing skills? Definitely.

At least with one of my interests  – chess, I can take a short break from writing occasionally. If you’ll pardon the pun its time to make a move. Catch you later folks. Enjoy my birthday. I intend to. Hope you enjoy the Larry Adler video as much as I did when I first saw it many years ago…

😉 x