Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Does It Count As a Tearjerker if the Book Punches You Until You Cry?

multilightsA Boston Magazine article describes an MIT Media Lab project that aims to enhance the regular reading experience via a wearable vest.

Sounds super cool already, right? 😉 Continue reading

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Publishing news, Thoughts, Writing

My Love/Hate Relationship With Red-Haired Heroines

redhair3My childhood was filled with books; therefore, it was filled with pages upon pages of red-haired heroines. From Anne of Green Gables to Aerin of The Hero and The Crown to Alanna of Tamora Pierce’s books, I voraciously read books about women who were different from the crowd. These weren’t swooning ladies looking for a rescue. They were misunderstood and often fiery. Like their hair.

And how I longed for red hair. Red hair would mark me as different, yet lovely. A beautiful force to be reckoned with. Red haired protagonists are teased about their hair, but everyone knows they’re actually beautiful and special.

I wish life were more like that. Kids would only be teased for qualities that are actually assets, and everyone would have beautiful red hair.  Continue reading

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Why I Didn’t Finish the Fifth Wave

5thwaveI was excited about the Fifth Wave. After all, before publication I was primed with marketing materials (first few chapters snagged at a conference), and I eagerly devoured them. I even had the classic, “I wish I had written this” yearning after reading those intro pages. All good signs.

And when I re-read those first chapters after publication, I felt even more confident I would blaze through this book and finish at 2AM, with a guilty, satisfied smile. The beginning of the book was paced decently, the protagonist, Cassie, was sassy and interesting, and the terrifying state of post-apocalyptic Earth fit with what would really happen if ultra-advanced aliens set their sights on our planet. (less E.T. and more Half-Life 2)

Alas.

Let me back up and give the synopsis. The Fifth Wave is about Cassie, one of the last survivors of the first four waves of mysterious alien attacks that have wiped out billions of humans. Humanity is teetering near extinction, but Cassie is determined to survive. She camps in the woods alone, kills, feels guilty, interacts with interesting family members, tries to figure out who is an enemy and who is a friend, etc. The story is told in first-person from her point of view, and I liked that approach. She’s also a book-lover and lugs around some favorite tomes–limited backpack space and alien apocalypse be damned.

The whole first third of the book is tinged with a gritty, desperate air of mass extinction and survival at all costs. Like The Walking Dead, but better.

[some spoilers below ]

The book goes downhill, fast, when the author (Rick Yancey), decides to jump POV to Cassie’s little brother, Sammy. Then he jumps to a mysterious stranger dude, Evan, who saves Cassie and starts a creepy, awkward relationship with her. Then another guy, Ben, who is important to Cassie and is part of the brainwashing military compound.

Basically, once Evan entered the picture and gave Cassie a weird bath, I was done. I just didn’t know I was done for a few more chapters. All the head-switching was difficult to follow, and all the characters but Cassie either annoyed me or creeped me out.

Plus, even though I didn’t read to the end, I could see the plot coming a mile away. Who is mysterious Evan? You’ll figure it out many moons before the author thinks you will. And that’s no fun.

At the very least, forbidden love should feel tingly and dangerous, not creepy and squirmy. So, I ended the book on my own terms. And I feel confident in saying Cassie wouldn’t have chosen this book to tote around in her apocalypse backpack either.

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Filed under Book Review, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction

Star Wars and Over Budget Science Fiction Writing

I read an interesting i09 article recently that compared the critical failure of the new Star Wars prequels to the pitfalls of writing science fiction/fantasy. Essentially, the writer argued that the original Star Wars movies were better because of the budget restrictions and technological constraints of the time period. Back in the day, director George Lucas was forced to work with limited money and technology, which meant dressing real humans in fur-suits and hoping that no one could see strings floating around the toy ships. But, the article argues, those limitations actually led to better overall choices and a tight, amazing story that still resonates in pop culture today.

The new Star Wars prequels, on the other hand, well…. they had Jar Jar Binks. They were basically a CGI orgy. Lucas went wild with the special effects, forgetting the story, the writing, and the fact that some things are just over-the-top in a bad way. With CGI and today’s level of technology, Lucas’ imagination had no limits. If he could dream it up, it could happen. Sounds good, but can turn out bad. (Remember Jar Jar!)

So, do speculative fiction writers fall prey to the same scenario? A writer has no budget, no technology restrictions.  A writer could pen a scene where winged elephants fly through the red dot on Jupiter, and bam, it’s a part of the story and on the page, even if it’s a terrible idea. And George Lucas could film it, if he so desired.

But there was a time when a filmmaker just couldn’t put that elephant on the screen. Some things were basically un-filmmable. And some of those un-filmmable things were un-filmmable because they were terrible.

The whole thing reminds me of that old adage: “Be careful what you pray for, because you might just get it.”

I think it’s an interesting way to look at writing/filmmaking, but not entirely true. Yes, restrictions can foster better writing. Ever try to write a flash fiction piece that comes in at under 500 words? Suddenly every word is valuable, and it’s easier to ruthlessly cut fluff. Choices become more important, because they’re necessary.

Still, not all special-effects laden films and imaginative fantasies are laughable failures.  Lord of the Rings offers a great counterexample on both points.  The story has giant eagles, elves, hobbits, volcanoes of doom, and Gollum.  Pretty wild and imaginative.  And the films rendered everything marvelously.  The CGI was there, but so was the writing, the acting, and the story.

I also think of a children’s book by Road Dahl, called Charlie the Great Glass Elevator (sequel to the famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  That book was never filmed, at least to my knowledge, and it had a scene with these crazy squidlike creatures in outerspace going after the magical glass elevator that was also in outerspace.  Wild, but it worked.

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