Is it Science Fiction or Fantasy (from my Patreon page)

As I have noted before, I don’t have a problem mixing non traditional/traditional fantasy ideas with science or science fiction.  My previous examples were of mixing religious views with scientific theories; now I want to mention the trilogy of short stories with the group title of “Dragon Dreams”.

These stories combined many traditional fantasy elements; dragons, magic, and monsters, along with Star Wars level science fiction tropes such as; space ships, aliens, and technology.  However, that is not all.  There is a strong underlying nod to a real scientific theory of parallel universes and extra dimensions.

I know there are many purists out there that do not like their fantasy mixed with their science fiction.  Believe me, I used to be one, but I have over time changed my mind after reading several good examples.  Yeah, I have seen some bad examples; unfortunately, that is part of any genre.  So, later this year when I start uploading the “Dragon Dreams” stories to my Patreon page, I hope you will consider reading my science fiction fantasy series.

P.S.  Anne McCaffery’s “Dragon Riders of Pern” series and Tracy Hickman’s and Margaret Weis’s “Death Gate” series are good examples of genre mixes.

Villainy or How to be Bad Without Really Trying (from my Patreon page)

Well, … huh.  I will admit that I tripped when approaching this subject.  I was going to say that I try to avoid making cardboard cut out villains, but then I remembered using the devil in several stories.  I also remembered that I don’t normally focus on the villain all that much because I usually delve into my character’s reaction to the villain, which may in some ways be a uniqueness to my stories that I did not intentionally strive for.

My characters universally fit into what I view as my reality.  They are people or aliens dealing with situations outside of their control where the villains are not clear-cut.  The villains most often were created beyond their knowledge base.  For instance, King Hadrian in “Sanity” was a manipulative leader used to being one step ahead of his opponents, maybe a little arrogant and foolhardy because of it.  He felt there was no one that could best him.  Unfortunately, he learns the hard way that the villains of this story can destroy his faith in his own abilities.  However, the story also shines a light on a another villain we all fall prey to, fear.  The Thrall, our bad guys in this one, reach into his mind and play with the fears at the core of his being.

In “Sorrow and Remembrance”, the novel I hope to pull together, the villains are the forces set into motion by overly proud and self-righteous people.  Forces that reach out far beyond the immediate area of conflict to engulf innocent bystanders.  Here the forces spread beyond defeating enemies in a war to steal years of life from some and to force others to destroy beauty to protect those they love.  For me this idea is very personal because of my interest in history.  How many of the problems we face today have been created by the choices of others?  How many decisions that we had no say in have become issues that we cannot afford to ignore?

Another enemy I have written about is ourselves.  I wrote a story for my collection called “Stubborn” which details the hellish world the protagonist becomes trapped in that is an externalization of the darker recesses of his mind.  Through the course of traveling this world, without memory, the character must confront the demons he thought he had overcome.  Demons of self loathing, weakness, and guilt.

Finally, in “The Devil’s in the Code”, the obvious villain, the devil, is actually not the villain.  The true villain of the story is human hubris.  Beelzebub is only the catalyst for our penchant for trouble making.  He leads people where they are so willing to go, such as playing with genetics for profit, and lets them hang themselves.  Hell is full of people who thought they were immune to the consequences of their actions, including a pair of investment bankers now living as crows among more powerful hell spawn.  So, yes some of my villains are not very developed in terms of personality, but they are different from the run of the mill.

World Creation (from my Patreon page)

One of the fun aspects of writing any story is creating the world or universe your characters live in.  For example, in “Sensu Learns a Lesson”, while I did not go in-depth into the politics and players of this story, I had to think about a universe that was full of aliens and political intrigue.  Also, I made a beginning into the living and social structures of the Altharians, they lived underground and looked like transparent blue slugs.  The Altharians live in underground structures carved out over millennia by the passage of their ancestors.  They are master spies (their society is completely focused on spying) because of their ability to shape change.  I also began to create a class structure through the mention of royal blood.  If I ever manage to expand this story, I will have to vigorously expand on all these choices.

Another example comes from my story “Lepidoptera” coming up next month.  By the way, for anyone that does not know, lepidoptera is the order name for butterflies (technically moths and butterflies).  I began the world by creating a society of elves similar to Tad William’s Sithi in the series “Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow”.  I wanted that mix of age, wisdom, and magic which his Sithi had.  I also wanted to give the sense that when you entered the lands of my Sindains, you entered a world separate from the rest of the world.  In their lands, the forests move and living spaces are made from the living plants around them.  When Sindains enter the Woods of Calling, the outside world disappears and time runs differently.  Basically, they live constantly with magic.

My final example comes from my story “Sanity”.  In this story I focused on a single world with lots of political intrigue between kingdoms and a powerful outside race that dabbles in this plotting for their own unfathomable reasons.  All the players know something about this race, but none have hard evidence of their goals or methods of achieving them only that they are powerful.  The race is non human, which leaves you wandering if they are part of the world or come from another.  The world in general is a metaphor for our political nature of playing for power where each dog thinks they are at the peak until some bigger dog takes them down.

Half the fun of writing a story is deciding what the underling facts of the universe is then seeing how these affect the interactions of the characters.  An example of world building that affects the actions of the characters is Brandon Sanderson’s Mist Born novels.  The principals set down for the universe are consistent and interesting.  Also, the world is not static as his new books in the series show, meaning that he introduces growth in the society with the introduction of technology.  However, the underlying magic still exists.  Mr. Sanderson seems to enjoy seeing how the invention of technology changes how society looks at those with magic.  How fun is that?

Teasing the Month of March (from my Patreon page)

It is time to tease you with next month’s story.  This is a change from what I had planned to place for March but I thought it would be nice to give you guys a hopeful story.

The Sindain have been at war with the Hadar for a thousand years.  Without the warnings sent to them by their God and the Woods of Calling, the Sindain race would have ceased existence for the Woods of Calling returned the youths that entered as warriors and craftsmen to battle the Hadar.  Unfortunately, as the warriors emerged from the woods, artists, singers, and musicians disappeared from Sindain society.  After a thousand years of war, the Sindain were losing hope.

Maia and her brother Diocles will soon take their initiation into adult society by entering the Woods of Calling to receive Sky Father’s directions for the need of the Sindain.  Both are nervous and hopeful for change in the peoples fortunes.  The two siblings are closely bonded and spend much time in the Shrine of Memory where the ancient works of art have been kept for the Sindain to remember better times.

The changes these siblings undergo will ripple through the tribe, changing everything.  Be sure to subscribe to my Patreon page for $1 a moth so that you can read “Lepidoptera” next month.

Being in Between (from my Patreon page)

Many of my story ideas come from being a person constantly in between two worlds, never fitting into either.  One of the reasons for the title of the collection these stories hail from is that, although most of my life I have been a misfit, I have come to see myself as a mystic.  I have found that many of the ideas I held fast to where indeed correct, more so than a large portion of society.

Another aspect of being in between is that you see that both sides are right and they are both wrong.  Rarely; however, will either side listen to you on the subject because to them you are a misfit.  Mystic/Misfit, Tomato/Tamato.  The stories that are generated tend to be battles against inner demons and identity shaping.  My characters fight to define themselves outside of the strictures placed upon them.  They struggle to free themselves from the conventions of normal.

They feel weak but eventually turn out to be quite strong.  Where others might give up, they find a core of strength and stubbornness that sees them through whether human, alien, or something else.  Come with me and read between the lines of the choices most people would make.

Science and Magic (from my Patreon page)

You will find that my stories and art just as easily touch on the holy as the scientific.  I am one of those rare people whose faith is not shaken or threatened by science.  My faith comes from the smallness of man within this vast universe and the fact that neither science nor faith can encompass all the possibilities or realities.  In addition, I have an artistic nature that has been cultivated in Science Fiction and Fantasy stories along with a fascination in human history.

I have seen science fall prey to human foibles just as easily as religion.  I am not saying that science is no better than religion at understanding the universe.  What I am saying is that, although science demands proof through observation and predictability, it can still be made blind by human stubbornness and pride.  History is full of treasured theories that had to be battered down by the forces of progress.  A very sad tendency I have noticed in our modern world is the pride of understanding that science has with technology.  There are times I hear of scientists so secure in science’s and technology’s ability to solve the problems they create.  So many forget that they are human, subject to nature, human weakness, and delusions.  Thus, while I will believe easier in science than religion because I can touch and feel it, I will always treat each with a healthy dose of doubt.

Some of my stories and posts are explorations of the confluence of science and religion, examinations of religion from a scientific point of view.   Others are contemplations  on the dangerous liaisons between science and business.  Driven by profit, the pace of our technological growth in this century has long since outstripped our ability to deal with the ramifications of said technology.   One area that has me concerned is video technology.  As we become better and better at creating realistic portrayals of fictitious events, we risk losing our hold on reality.  I know that conspiracy theories about the moon landings have been around for decades and have little basis in reality, but we are fast approaching a world where such a hoax could be carried out.  Look at the effect fake news is having via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

So, do not be surprised to hear me taking about God and string theory in the same story.

Lights, Camera, Action… (from my Patreon page)

Yes, when I write my stories, I actually visualize them as a movie.  I work on scenes like a movie director by thinking whether I am viewing the action coming up from the ground or down from the sky.  Where is the light coming from and how strong?  Do the characters enter from the right, moving to the left or vice versa?  What important bits of dialogue and background do I need to set up the scene and how far do I need to go to exit same?

I first analyze what I want to achieve in a given stretch of story, whether sentence, paragraph, or chapter, to see the plot point I am trying to get across.  Then I begin mixing elements like time of day, interior or exterior, and characters involved.  Another step involves a definition of the type of scene.  Will I need an action scene to portray the struggle between opposing brute forces or a clever dialogue driven scene to depict cunning battles of intelligence?   Am I just bridging scenes to bring a sense of depth to the story or am I building to a major plot point?  Better yet, am I camouflaging an important plot point with a piece of misdirection?

I have to think about the outfits the characters are wearing.  Clothes do make the character you know.  Is this a business scene or a rough outdoor hike, cold or hot, and daytime or night?  Will their be a change in outfits?  What do the outfits say about the characters?  How long will I ramble on about these things?

All of this plays through my head.  Why?  Because I have watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books and I have had many surprises in both.  However, the most fun I have is when I realize that what I mistook for poor writing by an author may actually have been a clever way to bring me into the world as the character is living it.  I do not mean a fully realized character giving you information about the world they know to put you into the story.  I mean a character as confused about the world as you are by the author’s writing style.  Only as you read further and the character learns the ropes do you begin to see what the world is about.  Sometimes the lingering feeling of confusion, even after finishing the story, was placed there to make you feel like a person thrown out of their depth.  “Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille” by Stephen Brust is a good example of this kind of story.  Someday I hope to pull these kind of things off.