Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Horror Novel Recommendations...

My friend Robby posted on Facebook earlier today asking for some horror novel recommendations. I spam-posted a bunch of them on his status, which may have been a smidge annoying, so I figured I'd just create this blog post. I'll include the ones I recommended for him as well as some new ones and tag him (and another friend who loves horror literature) as well.

So here goes...

I've only read a few Dean Koontz novels, but my holy trinity of his works are Watchers, Phantoms, and Twilight Eyes. Phantoms and Watchers have some of the most interesting monsters/antagonists I've read in fiction and Twilight Eyes is pretty darn cool too. Reading Dean Koontz in general taught me how to spread out description of a scene through action--i.e. something like "gripping the huge Desert Eagle pistol in his even bigger tattooed hand, he put a .50 caliber bullet through the rectangular mahogany panes making up the wall" as opposed to a much wordier description that overall slows the story down.

From author James Byron Huggins are Leviathan and Hunter. Although the former might be too Christian for some people it's got some interesting concepts, while Hunter is generally a fun read that'd make a great movie (and at one point was being developed into one).

F. Paul Wilson has this huge cycle of novels beginning in the WWII era and culminating in the apocalyptic tale Nightworld. I've read a bunch of them, but I haven't read them all. If you want to get started, read the very first book in the series The Keep--which has some really disturbing moments--and The Tomb,which begins the tale of secondary protagonist Repairman Jack, whose story ultimately merges with the main cycle.

The prehistoric uber-shark Carcharadon megaladon is best known for appearing in Steve Alten's MEG series, but a better outing featuring this critter is Charles Wilson's Extinct. A pity it went out of print rather than spawning sequels and even potential movie development, but at least you can get it on Kindle. And for more undersea horrors (this time with Nazis), there's Peter Benchley's Creatureand Robert McCammon's The Night Boat.

If you're looking for some good short stories, Irish writer John Connolly has a collection entitled Nocturnes. One of the stories, "The New Daughter," was even made into a direct-to-video horror movie starring Kevin Costner (okay, maybe that's not really that great of an endorsement even if it got decent reviews). Another story, "The Erlking," is particularly memorable.

If you want to go a bit old-school, in the 1980s Whitley Strieber (this is before he went off into UFO la-la land), wrote a novel called The Wolfen.It was adapted into a movie that, as you may expect, totally changed everything in a bad way. However, it's a fun book even if it is rather hard to find these days. I don't know if Stephen King's The Stand counts as horror per se, but it's got some disturbing moments and is generally well-done. If post-apocalyptic counts, Strieber also had a novel called Warday that has some very vivid descriptions of events during and after a (very) limited 1980s nuclear exchange between the US and USSR. It shows just how terrible the situation would be, even for the "winners."

And for the younger set, Paul Zindel, most well-known for The Pigman, also wrote some young-adult horror I read and enjoyed in middle school. The first one I read was Loch and the second--and better--one is The Doom Stone. There were others, but I'd only read one of them and didn't like it as much. I'd love to see them adapted into films.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Better Things for Mayor Bloomberg to Spend His Money On...

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, has announced his intention to spend $50 million to fund a "grassroots" effort to fight the National Rifle Association on the issue of expanding background checks for gun ownership.

Now, I'm a strong proponent of gun rights, but I do support universal background checks. I read a forum post someone wrote about how he went to a gun show and one of the sellers there did a background check using a laptop or some other kind of personal Internet connection, which shows it wouldn't be that much of an imposition. And rights do have responsibilities, like putting in the effort to make sure you're not selling to some gang-banger or toolbag with a history of domestic violence.

That being said, the article describes how previous efforts by Bloomberg to jump-start anti-gun movements with his money have failed before. Furthermore, Bloomberg is a polarizing figure who would give the NRA and other gun rights supporters a convenient boogeyman to scare the base with. To paraphrase George H.W. Bush (or his SNL parody), that might not be prudent at this juncture.

So here's an idea:

Bloomberg should instead dedicate some of that money to patronizing aspiring writers and artists, a category that would include me. There's a long traditional of well-off people supporting the arts with their money, including the Roman politician Gaius Maecenas who supported Virgil and Horace and various people listed here. Patronizing one hundred or one thousand such people would require much less money than this political project and would help ensure Mayor Bloomberg is remembered as something more than a politician.

In fact, here's something I can do with whatever money Mayor Bloomberg deigns to give me. Buy the book rights for the (New York-based I might add) band/comedy group The Lonely Island's song "I Run New York" and write a novel depicting him as this paladin fighting various evil forces emerging from holes in the space-time continuum in New York's subways and sewers. Given how he has recently been replaced, maybe it's about how he has to train the skeptical new mayor about how it's his sacred duty as the mayor of NYC to fight the horrors coming from underground...

For those of you not familiar with the song, here's a YouTube video:

Does Mayor Bloomberg like the idea of a novel (or series thereof) basically depicting him as Batman? If so, he or his people should get in touch with me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A "Battlestar Galactica" Film Series?

I found this article online a day or two ago stating that there's a Battlestar Galactica movie in the works. Rather than being tied in with either the original series continuity or the "reimagined" series continuity, it would be a complete reboot.

I posted the article on Facebook with the caveat that the storyline is simply too big for a single film. The 2003 miniseries, which depicted the Galactica surviving the Cylon destruction of the Twelve Colonies (most of which was implied or discussed rather than actually shown), was three hours long and only covered the initial escape of the Galactica and the civilian survivors. The complete saga was four television seasons. Even if they discarded the controversial settlement of New Caprica story arc and kept them searching for Earth continuously, that'd be three.

Fortunately my friend Matt Schafer came up with a good idea. Make it multiple films. Star Wars, after all, took three films to cover the initial Rebel campaign against the Empire (the "first victory" preceding the events of A New Hope to the death of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi) and three films to cover the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. A trilogy would be a really good way to tell a BSG story.

Here's how I would do it:

First Movie-The destruction of the Twelve Colonies by the Cylons, the flight of the Galactica and the civilians it's protecting, and the beginning of the search for Earth. In terms of the material it covers, it would be very similar to the miniseries or Saga of a Star World, the theatrical adaptation of the early episodes of the original series.

Second Movie-Here there's a choice to be made. Continue the search for Earth, or something else? In both the original series and the new series there was the story arc centered around the thought-lost battlestar Pegasus, whose commander wanted to continue the war against the Cylons. This would be the chance for some awesome space battles, but the disadvantage is that it's been done twice. Some new version of the New Caprica settlement story would also be doable. Either way, this doesn't work and the bloodied Colonial survivors continue their search for Earth. Possibly some major clue to the location of Earth is found as a result of the events of the second film, setting the stage for the third and last film.

Third Movie-The Colonial Fleet is on the way to Earth, but the Cylon fleet hunting them won't give up without a fight. One last big space battle (or campaign) to allow the refugee fleet to permanently break contact with their pursuers. You could also touch on the possibility the Colonials are bringing Earth's doom with them--if the Colonials are coming to modern-day Earth and the Cylons follow them here, we're screwed.

A complete reboot could allow for the saga to be told in another, more interesting way. In an earlier blog post, I'd suggested a way to (relatively) realistically combine the world as we know it with an advanced human civilization elsewhere is to have Kobol (the original world of the Colonials) settled from Earth by a long-dead advanced civilization thousands of years ago. Some conspiracy theory types claim there was a nuclear war in ancient India, which might provide such an explanation. Alternatively, this could be set in the future--Kobol is a lost colony of an advanced Earth.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Lion of the North: Another ASOIAF Fan-Fic

Some of you might have seen the older blog post I wrote to promote "A Different Song," an A Song of Ice and Fire fan-fic depicting Ned Stark and the Northern cavalry interrupting the Sack of King's Landing. They discover Jaime Lannister has already killed Aerys the Mad King and together Ned and Jaime rescue Princess Elia Martell and her daughter Rhaenys from the vile Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch respectively. It's a pretty entertaining story so far, but the author is rather slow in updating.

Well, the same alternate-history forum that spawned "A Different Song" spawned an unofficial sequel/spinoff, "The Lion of the North." The author would rather not post it on, so you can read it on Space Battles or (without reader comments) An Archive of Our Own. And he certainly keeps the updates flowing. The gist of it is that King Robert Baratheon and Tywin Lannister connive to kill Elia and her children (I think in this continuity Aegon survived, which he didn't in "A Different Song"), leading to a permanent breach between the Lannisters father and son. After Jaime is too argumentative, Tywin disinherits him and prevails on Robert to expel him from the Kingsguard. He leaves for the North with Ned and things go from there...

Although I really don't like some of the stuff that goes on in King's Landing (it involves bringing in Melisandre a generation early and giving her magical powers that canon does not indicate she has, making the whole situation needlessly complicated), the stuff following Jaime, Ned, Catelyn, and even the young Tyrion is really well-done. The most recent update is even pretty funny--kids (in this case Robb and Jon) say the darnedst things upon meeting dwarfs.

So check it out!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Illegal Alien" Might Just Be Relevant Again...

I wrote my short story "Illegal Alien", which features undocumented immigrants from Mexico encountering extraterrestrials (yes, it's a bad pun) in 2004. This was back when illegal immigration was a much bigger political issue. By the time I gave up submitting to the declining number of paying markets and self-published it on Amazon, things had changed--the recession apparently caused (or helped caused) a net reduction of the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. After all, they were here for the jobs and if there aren't as many jobs, why stay here? Consequently, "Illegal Alien" has not been that great of a seller even though it has a beautiful cover.

Well, I follow al-Jazeera America on Facebook and found they're running a series entitled "Borderland" about people who've died trying to immigrate to America by illegally crossing the southern border. If illegal immigration from Mexico is becoming an issue again, maybe there'll be more interest in the topic and I'll make more sales.

(This is not to be flippant about the deaths of border-crossers, which is tragic.)

I've considered writing a blog post about how Kindle Direct (or other self-publishing platforms, like Smashwords) are best for stuff that's timely, since publishing takes awhile. I guess now's the time. :)

I've sold a few short stories and it was months before they were published. George Scithers, the late editor of Weird Tales, told me that publication lead time makes it hard to cash in on timely things--in that case, I had a Lovecraftian King Arthur story that I was trying to pitch when the Clive Owen King Arthur movie was in theaters. Meanwhile, Roger Corman once shot a movie in a few weeks to cash in on the Sputnik launch. He was the publisher as well as the writer, so he could do that.

So if you've got a story you wrote to cash in on a current event and especially if you've got one trying to cash in on a movie that's out, you're better off self-publishing it. Your window of opportunity to make money won't last long.

Hmm...I had an idea for a story set in the future where Japan, having shut down its nuclear plants, invades Indonesia again in order to secure the fossil fuels it needs to sustain its economy. Since people are going to forget about the tsunami, how Japan went (hopefully temporarily) nuclear-free, etc. pretty fast, that's something I'd Kindle if I intended to actually write it.

(I probably won't, so if you want to write it, go ahead. Pro-nuclear speculative fiction for the win!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March Writing Contest Results

My monthly writing contest with some of my writer friends (with lunch out as the prize) continues apace. I've managed to produce 7,225 words on my various personal writing projects.

Here's the breakdown:

Leading the pack is a new space-opera entitled The War of 2512 that I've written 2,504 words for. My friend Chris Nuttall is one of the top military SF sellers with his independently-published Empire's Corps space operas, ahead of professionally-published authors like John Scalzi in terms of Amazon rankings at the moment. And the fact Scalzi's Old Man's War series is doing so well right now means there's a good market for space opera among presses big and small. Not going to go into a lot of detail at the moment, but I'd describe the milieu as a cross between Star Trek and Warhammer 40,000. And it could possibly turn into a generational saga in the vein of James Michener.

Next is The Atlanta Incursion, the sequel to The Thing in the Woods, with 2,352 words. A lot of it was spent developing two particular characters, one of whom will have surprisingly political views for one of the Men in Black. I've already got one spinoff story planned for that character and since he was in the know far longer than the protagonist, he could be main character for any prequels.

For the collection I'm working on with my friend James R. Tuck, 1,201 words. These are all preexisting stories, so the actual content written consists mostly of introductions to each tale. I might have to edit the actual stories--I realized one of the original stories (and it was professionally published no less!) contains very little physical description of the cast--but that won't be too terribly much in terms of numbers. The collection is tentatively titled Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire and my plan is to have ten stories. It'll be through Kindle (e-book) and CreateSpace (print books). I imagine I'll bust out the latter primarily for book signings for future "real" books.

I've been editing Battle for the Wastelands, trying to cut it down as much as possible based on the recommendation of an agent who said she'd take a second look if I "tightened it some." It turns out she wasn't talking about straight-up word count, but about some "interchangeable" characters and "dead" scenes. I'll need to work on that too, but I did find a lot of fat in the manuscript that needed to be cut. In the process of cutting, I've added 1,087 words even though I've cut a net 2,500 thus far. I got a bit hyper about editing a couple times so this number might be a bit off. To err on the side of not potentially cheating anybody I'd gladly lop a few words off this one. About 1/3 of the manuscript left to edit. The plan is to send this one off to the agent again and then focus on the final graduate school paper for the rest of the semester.

I'm going to be busy with my final paper for the next month, but it looks like I got a good bit accomplished this one.