Remember my short story I wrote for Free Write called Disguise? No? Well either way, here is a piece of fiction written by Terry Bisson that illustrates an idea I had in that story, which was that sentient biological life was so rare and weird, that nobody was willing to believe it existed. This is a rather clever story, done completely in dialog. I highly recommend you read it.
THEY’RE MADE OUT OF MEAT
By Terry Bisson.
Originally appeared in Omni 1990. Creative Commons.
“They’re made out of meat.”
“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”
“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”
“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”
Allie Brosh, the creator of Hyperbole and a Half, a comic series of hilarity dealing from everything from pets to depression, is publishing a book. And she was asked to market said book on the internet. Which she did on Twitter. To which someone on Tumblr happily collected into the following link. Please read it, as it is hilarious.
It looks awesome! Here’s the blurb for the actual book:
“Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume — human. Not to be put off by anything — especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker — Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble — with Zoe right in the middle.”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to Partials as an audio book during the trip to and from a summer vacation. The drive was eight hours to and from, and the book itself was around ten hours. When I got home from the trip and unpacked, I found I needed to listen to the last two hours of the book right there and then, rather than wait to finish it during my daily commutes like I normally do.
This happens rarely for me.
Partials is a story about a teenager who has grown up in a world where humans are an endangered species and tries everything in her power to change that. An engineered plague killed over 99% of the world’s population. A little girl at the time, our heroine, Kira has grown up only knowing stories of the decadent world full of working cars, electricity, and babies. The virus has effectively made the human race sterile. No baby born lives past two days thanks to it and the provisional government that rules the survivors of the plague don’t know how to fix it, except to keep having more babies, hoping that one of them will be born immune.
To make things worse, the creators of the plague, Partials, are still out there in the world. Partials were weapons, genetically engineered super-soldiers used by the former US to fight a war, until those weapons turned on humanity. To make things even worse, the society of some forty thousand human survivors is slowly starting to implode, threatening to break out into a civil war.
And Kira needs to stop it all.
What I love about this series is that it is a young adult series where there are consequences. Our main character is a teenager, certainly an exceptional one, but a teenager without the wisdom to see the full consequences of her actions. While readers will be able to agree with her intentions, and know how rash and unprepared her actions are, readers will not have to suspend their disbelief when the characters experience the fallout of their decisions.
Too many times have I read young adult series where the children are effectively smarter and more capable of the adults simply because the adults are too stubborn, too short-sighted, or because of some other contrived notion. That the children take risks and ultimately those risks pay out simply by virtue of the characters being the heroes of the story. That is not to say this is a tragedy or that Kira is in any way incapable but instead Kira both succeeds and fails in a realistic manner given the situation.
The second thing I enjoyed about this novel were the questions it is raised. Say you were in charge of the lively-hood of the last 40,000 humans on earth. A virus is killing off every baby born within two days and researchers just don’t have access to the medical technology needed to fix the problem. What would you do? Institute mandatory pregnancies in a hopes of creating a baby that is immune? What about civil rights and liberty? When does the needs of the specie out-weight the needs of the individual?
Science fiction. Post-Apocolyptic. Young Adult. Thought Provoking Themes. Add onto that interesting and mostly realistic action sequences and a healthy dose of politics, conspiracy, and science, and you’ll think you’ve accidentally started reading a Mira Grant novel.
Dan Wells has created both an interesting cast of characters as well as the beginning of a hopefully entertaining series. The first novel leaves tantalizing story hooks that will likely leave the reader wishing the second book was already available (and if you’re reading this review and the second book is, count yourself lucky!)
As SF Signal is reporting, author Mur Lafferty is offering up all her current eBooks for free for the months of May and June of 2012.
This includes awesome novels like Playing For Keeps, Marco and the Red Granny, and the Afterlife series. I particularly suggest Playing For Keeps and the novella Marco and the Red Granny. You can download the books here.
If you still would like more info about the series, you can read SF Signal’s book descriptions or all the books. Here are the descriptions for Playing For Keeps and Marco and the Red Granny:
Playing For Keeps
The shining metropolis of Seventh City is the birthplace of super powers. The First Wave heroes are jerks, but they have the best gifts: flight, super strength, telepathy, genius, fire. The Third Wavers are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, the grace to carry a tray and never drop its contents, the power to produce high-powered excrement blasts, absolute control. over elevators. Bar owner Keepsie Branson is a Third Waver with a power that prevents anything in her possession from being stolen. Keepsie and her friends just aren’t powerful enough to make a difference. at least that’s what they’ve always been told. But when the villain Doodad slips Keepsie a mysterious metal sphere, the Third Wavers become caught in the middle of a battle between the egotistical heroes and the manipulative villains. As Seventh City begins to melt down, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and even harder to tell who may become the true heroes.Marco and the Red Granny
By bringing back the patronage system, a new alien species has transformed the moon into the new artistic center of the universe, and Sally Ride Lunar Base soon gains the nickname “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate other senses than simply sight. When someone asks a starlet, “Who are you wearing?” she could as easily say “J.K. Rowling” as she could “Gucci.”
Every creative person in the world wishes for a patronage. It’s quite competitive.
Marco wanted one, once. But then his girlfriend got one and shuttled off to Mollywood for fame and fortune, and Marco stayed home, waiting for his own patron. After several years, he gave up entirely. His career faltered. His agent dumped him. And then, one morning, he gets a call. At last he has a patron, at last the aliens want him. But he’s about to find out that an artistic patronage isn’t what it was in the good old days, and that the only friend he’s made, a tiny old woman who’s the star of a blood sports reality series called The Most Dangerous Game, has secrets of her own.
On occasion we hear about when an author goes ballistic. Usually about reviews or sometimes about how a publisher treats them. We rarely hear about when an author stays classy in the face of obvious annoyance. Well unless you’re reading this article right now.
Let me introduce you to Mary Robinette Kowal. I am not one of her readers, although that might change in the future, but I am one of her listeners, as she recently joined one of my favorite writing podcasts Writing Excuses where she has proven herself very capable of offering advice and knowledge regarding writing.
Unsurprisingly she is an author of several books of which the most recent one, Glamour in Glass, had a printing error. The printer somehow omitted the first line of the novel. Does she rant and rave to the net? No. She takes the problem, stays classy, and turns it into something even better: A way to advertise her new book and interact with her fans.
Her blog post regarding the subject discusses the first lines of books in general, offers an interactive pop quiz, and then proceeds to enumerate a list of ways readers can correct their novels including asking her to pen the initial line herself if one attends a signing of the book. How awesome is that? The list also includes digital stickers, a digital book mark, a free signed bookmark with a self-addressed & stamped envelope (SASE), a temporary tatoo with a SASE, and the best part, she is selling a t-shirt with the missing first line. And of course you could read the first line on the webpage itself, if you wanted, or just start with the second line!
Despite Glamour in Glass being the second in a series, I’m tempted to purchase it. For those of you who don’t know, book collectors often see more value in a book that has a miss printing than perfectly bound books. I make no assumptions or assertions regarding Mary Robinette Kowel’s bibliography’s future worth but it does add some appealing value, aside from the story within.
So aspiring authors out there, take notes. This is how you handle someone else’s mistake of your work and turn it around into something awesome. Don’t believe me? Mur Lafferty, author and creator of my other favorite writing podcast, I Should Be Writing, agrees with me.
Neil Gaiman brings up some really good points for books. But I’d like to expand the conversation to all media and fill in a few gaps I think he missed.
Thoughts on Digital Piracy across all media
What should have been said above is “Mileage may vary”. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Piracy does something really interesting in my opinion. It puts the power and control in the hand of the consumer rather than the distributor. What I mean by this is that consumers, thanks to piracy and actual legal forms of free media distribution, are allowed to consume content, then decide to support the content by paying money. It says “Here. View this. If you like, please realize that the person who made it needs money in order to make more like it. Pay them.”
Reasons why it works
I just came across this article about how Harper Collins is suing Open Road claiming copyright infringement. Open Road is publishing as an eBook Jean Craighead George’s storyJulie of the Wolves. Harper Collins already published this as a book back in the 1970s.
Random House did this back in 2001 but was shot down in two court cases that ruled that eBooks were not the same as books, and therefore prior contracts about publishing books did not include the rights to digital publishing. These cases, however, ended up having a settlement between the ePublisher and Random, likely because Random threatened to continue appealing and most eBook publishers are small operations that can’t handle sustained court cases.
I personally suspect HC is attempting the exact same thing as Random. They know precedence is against them but they are hoping to either overturn the rulings, and therefore not have to renegotiate to turn their back library into eBooks, or at least sue every eBook publisher who has already contracted with the original estates or authors for settlements and licensing agreements out of court. HC unfortunately may have a chance due to the wording of their prior contracts due to wording. The contracts included a clause which gives HC the exclusive right to publish “in book form” as well as the right to exploit future technologies “now known or hereafter invented,”. The argument will be that this implicitly includes a grant of electronic rights–even though those rights did not exist when the contract was signed.
If the courts rule in favor of this, contracts are going to get very scary here soon. Adding the “now known or hereafter invented” clauses will start appearing everywhere and it is going to be up to the courts to really start to decide if something is a new media, or just a “future technology” of the same media.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
While I liked this book better than the first I’m still not sure how I feel about the series overall. I’m not an avid romance reader but I’ve read series like this before and it strikes me as the type of series that likes to hopscotch between the romance genre and, in this case, the steampunk genre. Because it its constant jumping, I feel I’m not getting the enjoyment that I want out of the book.
I don’t want to say the book is bad. It isn’t. In this case I believe the problem is with the reader and his expectations rather than he book itself. I want a slightly more in-depth steampunk novel and instead I’m reading a Victorian science fiction romance adventure novel.
That being said I will read the third book because I both already own it and the ending to this book was a bit of an emotional cliffhanger which I’m curious to see how it is resolved. We’ll see if I continue reading after that.
This one is only four minutes long and it is well worth watching.
I do wish he had manage to work in comics but there are plenty of other storytelling formats he glossed over so I can’t claim discrimination. I can point out that when he uses the word book here, he is talking about the physical medium, a set of bound pages, and not necessarily a novel, or story. What I love is the multimedia approach to his particular story. The presentation wasn’t about an iPad. It was about how stories can be so much more than words, or performances, or images, or sound, etc. It can be all of those things. This is the kind of story I can’t wait for. In the mean time I’d settle for eBook readers which allow me to organize the text the way I want (including replicating a book if I want).