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.
I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s new Young Adult Novel, For the Win, yesterday. The book covers a very possible future in which gamers (especially those working within the game, gold farmers) unionize and the consequences of that action. It was good, very good, even considering that it has a lot to do with MMOs (think World of Warcraft), which I simply don’t play. One of the interesting parts about the book, however, was the use of sections that were just straight exposition, with no characters or plot, just Cory talking to you directly about economic principles.
I know that it violates the rule about infodumps (the recieved wisdom is that they are bad), but the conversational and engaging style kept them from being annoying. What was weird, though, was that he didn’t put in any sort of framework for them, such as Econ 101 articles from the Webblies web site or entries in Ashok’s notebook, and since there was no single central character (like in Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps, where the main character has a fascinating section at the beginning of each chapter on parasites), every time they came up, I was pulled out of the story a bit. Fortunately, the rest of thes story was strong enough that it didn’t matter, I tore through it anyway.
Overall, I would say that the book is both good and important, although how good would depend on the degree that the target audience feels they are being preached to. At first, I was worried about how his short story, Anda’s Game would translate to novel form, but it made the jump quite well.
As you can probably guess from the fact that my last post was from 2009, I haven’t been doing much on this site, instead focusing my energies on pawnstorm.net. I do have a purpose for this site again, however.
I have started to keep track of thoughts that come to me while I am reading or watching TV, and I figure that those thoughts might have value to people out in the greater world, so I’m going to go ahead and post them here.
It’ll probably take a week or two for me to get the website into any sort of shape, but then again, I’m sure that you can wait.
I have officially sold my first story! It is a piece of flash fiction that is slated to run on Valentine’s Day, over at Flash Scribe, which should be officially launching today. In any case, they seem to be an awesome group of people (AND they bought a story from me), so you should definitely go and check them out.
My 27th birthday was about a week ago, so this is as good a time as any to do a quick assessment of my goals, and how they are coming along. Without further ado, here we go:
- Write Fiction – I think that this one is an obvious yes.
- Sell Fiction – Two stories of mine have been accepted in the last week, so yes. More on that later.
- Finish Novel – Working on it.
- Sell Novel – What do I look like, a banker? I need to finish it before I can sell it.
- Woman of My Dreams – I married her.
- Socialist Revolution – One day.
- Free Crab!!! – Provided by woman from #5. And it was delicious.
- Everything Else – It can wait, I have crab.
I probably don’t need to tell you about the dismal state of publishing these days, so I won’t. What I do want to tell you about is where I see hope. Mainly that is the in electronic publishing. First, let me tell you about what brings this up.
I recently submitted a couple of pieces of flash fiction to a new publication called Flash Scribe. Although they do not offer vast sums of money as I would prefer, I really like flash (my favorite piece that I have written is Bob: Employee of the Future) as a format and figured, ‘what the heck?’ So a couple of days go by. Then I get an e-mail saying that they couldn’t open one of the files that I sent them. Two things. One is that it only took them two days to reply. I realize that flash is, by definition, very short, but they still have to be on the ball to have that sort of response time. The second is that they did not automatically reject it, which would have most certainly been much easier.
This is the sort of behavior that I simply would not expect from traditional media. Why? Because they are traditional, and therefore, by definition, established. To them, innovation is not an opportunity, but a threat. It is innovation that will save the industry, but for innovation to occur, people must take risks (especially on unknown writers like myself :). In short, I want to say that innovation is a necessary condition for hope, as it is rarely the past that saves the present from the future (quite the opposite, but that is a different debate). In addition, I want to wish the best of luck to the various people and groups that are making a go of doing things differently.
Disclaimer – I have yet to get word on my submissions, and I am not writing this as an attempt to flatter my way into anyone’s good graces, I just thought it needed to be said.