October 2011

Science Fiction: Hold the Deus Ex Machina

(God in machine)

There is a contrivance in writing that is often used when a problem is just too difficult to solve by standard means. This

 problems requires a solution that either the writer doesn't know how to fix or is too complicated.

This is when he creates a Deus Ex Machina or God in machine. It's a machine that simply solves the problem without any explanation. This is rampant in science fiction as many problems are outside the realm of natural science. For example, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that its impossible to to the position and speed of a particle because any method used to measure it will cause a change.

In Star Trek, they need to know both for a transporter to work, so they created the Heisenberg compensator. When writing a science fiction story, don't let the ease of simply creating a machine take away from story development. Deus Ex Machina should only be done as a last resort. Take the time to do research and see if there is a way you can use actual science to solve the problem. The best science fiction is the one that is based in science fact.

Hesitating on Moral Grounds

The Power of Six by Pitticus Lore

A few months ago, hubby and I watched I am Number Four, and we were quite impressed.  I immediately checked the ebook out from my library.

That time I wasn't so impressed.

What made a compelling movie turned out to make a rather mediocre book.  I hated the writing style -- there were lots of those incomplete sentences that some authors seem to think help to create tension in an action scene, but really just annoy the crap out of anyone who paid attention in English class.

The Return of Buck Rogers

When I was a kid there was a single science fiction series on television that I loved above all others – Buck Rogers. I 

don't know what it was about Col. Dearing, Buck and Tweeky fighting the evil forces of Princess Aradala and space vampires, but I tuned in whenever it was on.

Buck was a man out of time. He was frozen in space and landed back on Earth in the 25th century. His early Earth mannerisms and way of speaking was a running joke for both of the series' two seasons. The show was canceled, and for more than a decade, I had forgotten about it.

It wasn't until I saw the entire series on DVD that my Buck Rogers fandom was rekindled. It turns out Buck was originally a comic that ran in newspapers. It was quite different from the series, as can be expected. In the television series, Buck was a man of the late 70s, but this was obviously not the case in the comic strip.

Different Tastes in Fantasy

Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn

My husband and I belong to a sci-fi and fantasy book club that meets monthly at our local Barnes & Noble.  This week we had our meeting, and we discussed Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince.  The last few books we've read haven't been very good (with the exception of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I know is a classic but I was still rather disappointed with the ending).  I liked Dragon Prince, though, and I was all excited to be able to discuss a book I actually thought was good... Unfortunately, I was the only one who thought so!

Is Science Fiction Just A Setting?

Recently, I had the opportunity to pitch of scripts and stories to someone looking for science fiction. When her heard that I

 was mostly known for horror writing, he asked me to craft some ideas that melded the two genres.

It made me wonder is science fiction was any more than just a setting. I mean if I put a werewolf in a space suit does that make it science fiction? I have spoken of the melding of genre's before, but there is a certain symbiotic relationship that science fiction and horror have.

If you take the dinosaur DNA and cloning out of “Jurassic Park”, you're left with a bunch of people being chased by creatures. You can't get more horror than that. There is definitely science fiction out there that don't mix with the horror genre, but they do naturally fit. Would “Alien” have been a horror movie if you replaced the bad guys with more traditional horror creatures?

All too often people simply translate science fiction a space. Anything done is space is science fiction because we can't really do a whole lot in space right now. If “Apollo 13” had been made in the 40's it would have been science fiction instead of a drama. In 50 years, “Back to the Future” may simply be classified as a comedy.

If you take the fiction out of science fiction, you're left with just science and that isn't much of a page turner.  

It's Not All About Space Battles

One of the first stories I ever wrote was some Star Trek fan fiction while I was in college. Star Trek was still in its 

heyday and there were countless sights devoted to it before Paramount pulled the plug on most of them.

The story was an offshoot of the episode “Lower Decks” and followed the exploits of a group of lower rank crew members. At one point, there was a battle between the Enterprise and a Ferenghi cruiser and I literally went shot by shot for at least a page.

The dialog was all about firing phasers and photon torpedoes. The action prose was about the rocking ship and the impact of the enemy's weapons. The Enterprise naturally won and I finished my story. I was rather proud of the very amateur piece and submitted it to the moderator for approval. A few days later she e-mailed me with a rejection saying it wasn't quite what they were looking for.

A Unique Twist to YA Dark Romance

As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott

Some of the best fantasy and sci-fi I read is geared toward younger readers.  Okay, I have to admit, I'm addicted to the YA dark fantasy and romance genre, but some of the books in the genre are really quite good.

I picked up Elizabeth Scott's As I Wake on a whim recently.  It seemed like an intriguing idea: The main character, Ava, wakes up in an unfamiliar house, unable to remember where -- or who -- she is.  But as the memories start coming back to her, she realizes they have nothing to do with the life her mother and friends tell her she's lived.  Is she really the person they say she is?  Why does everything about her life -- school, her friends, her home life -- feel wrong?

Independent Science Fiction: Cheap and Entertaining

 

It's no secret that breaking into the science fiction market is about as easy as busting into Fort Knox using only a 

toothpick. There is a reason that when you go to the bookstore, you see the same names popping up over and over again.

The world of science fiction changed with the creation of online bookstores, like Amazon, and the ease of e-books. You can download an entire book to your Kindle for 99 cents if you catch a good deal. These helped spawn a new group of writers in the independent science fiction genre.

They could be with a small publishing company that specializes in only e-books or even self-published. You won't see commercials for their books on Syfy on a Friday night.

You won't need to pay $7 or more for these books, like you would for the big guys, but you're also not guaranteed the quality. They can sell for as little as 99 cents, but they could be filled with plot holes and grammar mistakes that make them nearly impossible to read.