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Saturday, March 17, 2018

What Can Writers Do When Science Fiction Catches Up With Science Fact?

A bust of the robot, Maria, from the film "Metropolis".
The robot, Maria, from the 1927 silent film "Metropolis".

I apologise for missing a month’s worth of posts. Some unexpected events occurred within the last several weeks. One of these was a cold that put me out for a week. All of this put a hiatus on my writing projects and even on my creative energy. With the exception of journal writing and typing up some manuscripts, I wasn’t writing a lot and just didn’t feel up to it. In fact, there were a couple points where I thought, what use is it? But writing, especially science fiction and horror, is basically an inborn inclination for me and so sooner or later it sparks up again.

One of the other things, however, that has made me question my writing is the outdating of science fiction. I’m not just talking about the outdatedness of sci fi from 30 to 70 years ago; I’m not simply talking about stories from the 1930s through ‘50s of tin can robots or rockets traveling to nearby planets. I’m talking about science fiction that has been written less than 20 years ago and is already, seemingly at least, outdated. 

The outdating of sci fi is happening with cyberpunk that became popular in the ‘90s through early 2001s. Even though cyberpunk started with mostly William Gibson’s stories in the ‘80s which was more than 20 years ago, much of the sci fi literature would be directly influenced by his work for the next couple decades. In less than two weeks (March 29th), a cyberpunk movie about virtual reality (VR) will be releasing in theatres, Ready Player One, based on Earnest Cline’s ‘80s novel of the same name, at the same time VR continues to go mainstream! So what was unimaginable in our reality several years ago no longer is. As a relatively new cliché goes, the future is now, and, as I interpret it, the “future” is no longer that—the future. Interestingly, even dystopian science fiction has become outdated. We’re already in a Big Brother world at a level of technology that goes beyond Orwell’s 1984, even though it’s not absolutely fascist quite yet (God, forbid it ever be!).

Science fiction and science fact are running neck and neck in the race for science itself. Lately, writers have been struggling with this. They’re asking each other how they can continue writing in the genre when science fiction is becoming reality especially when it comes to dystopian society. I mean, the rise of the internet and the smart device has threatened us with the disappearance of privacy and the twisting of perceived reality. Photoshop is allowing for this twisting of facts and the creation of “evidence” to support fake news. Our nation’s president is denying scientific facts! These are elements of a dystopian society. The future is no longer the future, it’s the present.

So what do we do to continue creating sci fi in a world that’s more than ever rapidly advancing in science and technology? We keep writing stories. That’s what several speculative fiction authors at a writers conference sea cruise earlier in the year basically conveyed, according to an article at entitled “’The World’s On Fire’ . . .”  Although the author’s article doesn’t quite specify what “on fire is”, overall she talks about how she and other sci fi authors deal with staying creative and continuing to write in a world that has already gone dystopic. One good thing about arriving at dystopia, is, as an author that the article refers to says, it forces optimism in science fiction writing. Optimism is something we can definitely use in today’s screwed up world.

Also, when you think about it, we’ll never really run out of ideas for stories. The universe is much more infinite than a lot of people think and there will always be new scientific phenomena to discover and new speculations of our universe and ever advancing technology. There’s always room for advancement, and advancement in science and technology is often speculated before it occurs. Even when it does occur, it takes a while before the world sees its impact on society and that gives us plenty to speculate on. For example, about a week ago I was watching an episode of the Netflix anthology series, Black Mirror. It was about an online service that reconstructs dead people’s personas to make it seem like they’re communicating with their survived loved ones over the internet. The service does this by assembling online conversations of the deceased person from when they were living. With people now able to have conversations with AI online (as rusty and limited as the AI’s responses may be), we are really not that far from that sort of thing. It can probably already be done even if it hasn’t been yet. 

Still, what was so speculative about that episode wasn’t so much the technology itself as people’s reactions to the technology. So even if the technology or science has been discovered, the question still waits to be answered, that question being, how will society react to the science or technology once it is put to use and goes mainstream? Therefore part of the science fiction is not just the physical scientific or technological aspect but also the social scientific one.

As long as there’s creativity and science, there will always be science fiction. In order to continue making stories in the genre, we authors must continue to write and read as well. We must read not just other speculative fiction authors’ work but information about the latest scientific advances in the world. We can always take the advancement one step further, if not in actuality then at least in words. In fact, as writers, our job is words and not so much the things they represent, isn’t it?

Until next time. . .

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Science Fiction and Afrofuturism

A group of pyramids on a sandy landscape and a star-filled sky.

This weekend saw the release of the Black Panther movie which I plan to see Monday (since that’s a holiday). That is, if I can find a copy of the 1970 issue, number 74, of Avengers that co-stars the African super hero and read it by tomorrow. I just finished reading the previous issue that I purchased a couple of weeks ago not knowing it was going to be a two-parter. I don’t like to simultaneously watch a movie and read a book (including comic book) involving the same character since doing so causes me to confuse the storylines. But the movie, Black Panther, is perfect timing—February is Black History Month. It’s great to see more science fiction stories featuring black characters, since the genre has traditionally been very white.

There are a lot of great African-American sci fi and fantasy writers and not just in recent times. There are ones going as far back as, believe it or not, the beginning of the 20th century with W.E.B. DuBois. Yes, he wrote some science fiction! The movement known as Afrofuturism is bringing to light these writers as well as new ones. If this term, “Afrofuturism”, is new to you, here’s how I define it in this excerpt from a 2014 post:

Afrofuturism: I found out about this African science fiction movement when I was looking at the website for a British convention called Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder . . . . The con is featuring an event there called “Inside Afrofuturism” which is a conference of African science fiction writers, directors and other artists. Afrofuturism is a movement by black people exploring and expressing their race and heritage through science fiction and fantasy in all mediums. Even though this term is unheard of by most people, the movement has really been going on since the 1960s with Samuel Delany’s work and Jazz/funk musician Sun Ra’s who actually did a movie in the early ‘70s that I saw a clip of and seems really neat; it’s called Space is the Place. What I feel is so great about finding out about this literary and art movement is that it shows that science fiction and fantasy is not really the all-white genre that it’s been made to seem. . . .

Here are some more links that discuss Afrofuturism:

“What Is Afrofuturism?” (From 

This is another earlier post here at the Fantastic Site where I compare Martin Luther King’s vision of a nation of equality to the visions of science fiction writers, particularly the optimistic visions meant to benefit all people. But at the end of the post is another list of links to articles about Afrofuturism that you will find very informing and interesting. This list even includes an article about the Black Panther’s utopic, high-tech home country of Wakanda.

Even though the term “Afrofuturism” is not used in this article, I believe the topic discussed is a very big part of the movement since much cosplay involves science fiction and fantasy characters and character creation. The writer, Talynn Kel, gives a really good discussion about how some African-American science fiction/fantasy fans identify with their love of the genre through costume design. It’s a very lengthy article (which I haven’t even finished reading yet) but perhaps rightfully so since it gives in-depth information into how black cosplayers identify with speculative fiction characters and depict them according to their own culture through costuming.

Next time, I plan to have for you a mini film review of It, which I just saw on DVD a couple nights ago and thought was supernaturally super! If I see the Black Panther movie before then, maybe I’ll give a mini review of that as well.

Until then . . .

Saturday, February 10, 2018

8 Sci fi and Fantasy Chillers for Winter Reading

A giant ogre with an axe, a giant serpent and an alien in an arctic landscape.

We finally have the winter weather back, since for the last week here in Sacramento we’ve been getting a pre-mature spring. Extreme sunlight in the winter always seems to throw me off balance. I almost thought I was going to have to start sleeping days for a while there! While most people seem to hate the winter because of the gray skies and the cold weather, I love it. Anything other than those here in Nor Cal is a damned sign of global warming which always scares me. But now that we have the clouds and blustering wind back, I’m in the mood for the Winter Games which I started watching last night. And I’m also in the mood for some Nuclear Winter Names of stories that are set in winter or arctic settings! These settings add to the chills of the plots. So I came up with a list of eight of, what I think are, the best horror and sci fi stories set in those environments. And in no way is it an exhausted list; these are just ones that I’ve read and liked so far.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley: This novel, that’s 200th birthday was last month, takes place in the Arctic both at the beginning and end of the novel and throughout in between. It adds to the isolated creepiness of both the monster and his maker.

Who Goes There?, John Campbell: This is the novella that inspired The Thing movies in which both book and movies are set in the North Pole. The novella beats both film adaptations together, though I love the first one (as much as the monster almost resembles nothing of the one in Campbell’s story).

MS. Found In a Bottle”, Edgar Allen Poe: The protagonist gets stuck on a ship heading for the Pole and the story involves a terrifying maelstrom.

A Descent Into the Maelstrom”, Edgar Allen Poe: The protagonist in this story ends up in an arctic whirlpool and sees strange occurrences.

At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft: An expedition discovers a frozen, ancient alien city in the Arctic and a terrifying (or are they?) race of creatures.

The Shining, Stephen King: One of King’s greatest novels that was adapted into Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film and then later a mini-series on the SyFy Channel. The second adaptation didn’t do justice to the first (far from it) nor to the book. But all three (book, movie and mini series) are set in in a haunted hotel in the snow-stormed Colorado Rockies. The protagonist is the resort’s newly hired caretaker in which to his surprise (in the movie at least) is not open for the skiing season. The management says it’s due to budget problems. However, we learn that the problems are no where near as mundane as that.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, Harlan Ellison: This short story is about the last five survivors on Earth during a, post-apocalyptic winter. They must put up with the dangerous, god-like computer that killed the rest of world’s people.

The Left Handof Darkness, Ursula Le Guin: The late Le Guin deals with transgendre aliens (aliens to the Earth descended protagonist that is, who’s probably just as alien to them), who live on an arctic planet. Sounds a little like Hoth in the Empire Strikes Back, doesn’t it? But this book was way before that movie.

As I said, in no way is the above list exhausted. So, help yours truly make it bigger by letting me know in the box below what your favourite winter or arctic sci fi or horror story is. And so, let the Nuclear Winter Names continue!

Until next time . . .

Monday, January 29, 2018

A New Look, Frankenstein 200th Anniversary, Ursula Le Guin

We’re coming to the close of this first month of the new year and, as we look back, we’ll see that January has been filled with both joy and sadness in sci fi and fantasy culture.

Frankenstein 200th Anniversary

The first day of 2018 actually marked the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! And the world seems to be celebrating. Universities and other intellectual institutions all over the world are commemorating the event, including the library in my own home area of Sacramento! Even the U. K.’s Royal Mint is making a 2-pound coin that will commemorate the book. However, unlike the U.S. Postal Service with its Frankenstein stamp that it released as part of its Universal Studios Monster collection years ago, the coin won’t bear the image of the Monster as claims. If Fortune is right about this then I suggest that our fellow horror geeks on the British Isles circulate a petition demanding to put the Monster’s image on the coin! Without the Monster, where would Mary Shelley’s story story have gone? Victor Frankenstein’s creature itself has become iconic not only in horror and sci fi, but throughout pop culture in general.

Frankenstein was first published January 1st 1818. Since then, the novel has influenced speculative fiction. When the Universal film adaptation came out in the 1930s, the story influenced pop culture in general. However, Universal’s film wasn’t the original as most people may think. The original movie adaptation was a silent film made in 1910 and instead of the monster being made with the parts of corpses and brought to life by lightning, it was made by mixing chemicals in a cauldron! However, neither of these two versions’ creation of the monster stay completely true to the book. In the book, Victor Frankenstein does not reveal to anyone, reader included, how he brought the monster to life in fear of someone repeating his “mistake”.

New Background for the Site

At the beginning of the year I said that one of my resolutions was to give the Fantastic Site a new look which hopefully you’ve noticed by now. As much as I like the subject matter of the new blog background, there are a few things that concern me about it. However, I won’t tell you what they are because I want to give you a chance to tell me what you like about the new background and what you don’t like about it. If enough of you don’t like it too much, I’ll chose another one. So let me know what you think in the box below (the comments box, that is).

Ursula Le Guin Dies at 88

Author Ursula Le Guin sits in a chair in this photo.

Sadly, the year has started with the loss of one of the greatest science fiction/fantasy writers of all time a week ago today—Ursula Le Guin. Ms. Le Guin was one of the early feminist science fiction writers of modern times. She was a writer of high quality speculative fiction that explores social and cultural issues and how the future could be shaped by them. One of Le Guin’s most famous and award winning novels was The Left Hand of Darkness which, according to, will be made into a TV mini series.

Next time, I hope to have some great sci fi/fantasy news to begin the new month of February and I’ll fill you in more on my own writing projects.

Until then!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Edgar Allan Poe: Horror Writer, Sci Fi Writer

A portrait photo of Edgar Allan Poe.

Yesterday marked the 209th birthday of the father of American horror, Edgar Allen Poe. So I thought it would be neat to make this post a Poe post to honour him. Although my favorite of Poe’s works are his dark supernatural stories, I thought it was important to emphasise his science fiction which has been historically so underrated. So I’m excerpting from an article I had written several years ago for the online news site,, before it went obsolete. The article was about the Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum in Baltimore which was on the edge of permanently closing down at the time which, fortunately, due to a successful petition (which I signed), ended up not happening.

When I wrote the article, I thought it was so important that the Poe House and Museum be preserved because it is both an important landmark to U.S. and pop cultural history. Even though Poe’s imaginative works were often down-criticised and far underrated during his time, the early 19th century, that all paid off in the century following his own. His works influenced famous modern authors of horror and sci fi such as H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. A multitude of movies have adapted his fiction, namely ones produced under American International Pictures which many of starred Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Several of his stories have also been adapted to comic books. Even rock bands base their songs on him. So he’s definitely become a pop cultural figure even if in postmortem. But many of his influences on these aspects of popular culture have been typically seen in relation to horror rather than science fiction. So here’s the excerpt that explains otherwise:

From “The Closing of Baltimore’s Poe House and Museum”,

Poe, so well known for his gothic horror stories, is seldom thought of as a science fiction author. However, it has been argued that he was an early writer of science fiction as well as horror and detective fiction. In fact, he has been regarded by the University of Baltimore’s Baltimore Literary Heritage Project team to be the first true science fiction writer. According to the Project, Poe “created the first true science fiction story.” Many of Poe’s stories about flying machines and hot air balloons that travel to unknown lands were influences for the better known, late 19th/early 20th centuries’ science fiction authors’ works, such as Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. In fact, “Jules Verne himself acknowledged his dept to Poe [. . .]”, states Harold Beaver in his book, The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. California State University, Sacramento English professor, Mark Hennelly, Jr. explains in his article, “Oedipus and Orpheus in the Maelstrom”, the journey in Poe’s stories, such as “A Descent Into the Maelstrom”, in terms of scientific exploration and wonder by saying that the characters are “obsessed with terrestrial (and marine) depth, [. . . and] preoccupied with celestial elevation” which much of science fiction concerns itself with.

Harold Beaver’s book, the Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, collects these stories as Poe’s science fiction:

“Ms. Found in a Bottle”
“The Unparalleled Adventure/Hans Pfaall”
“The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”
“A Descent into the Maelstrom”
“Colloquy of Monos and Una”
“”The Tale of the Ragged Mountains”
“The Balloon Hoax”
“Mesmeric Revelation”
“The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade”
“Some Words with a Mummy”
“The Power of Words”
“The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”
“Mellonta Tauta”
“Von Kempelen and His Discovery”

If Poe wasn’t the first science fiction author ever, he still contributed significantly to the genre.

List of My Favourite Poe Tales

As I said, my favorite tales by Poe are the dark supernatural ones. But out of the sci fi ones I would say I like “A Descent into the Maelstrom” most. It’s dark within itself and also has a supernatural element to it as it does a science fiction one, which you can say in today’s sub-genre terms is inter-dimensional travel. But here’s a list of my favourite supernatural fiction by Poe:

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Pit and the Pendulum: This was the first Poe story I ever read. I read it in it’s abridged version when I was 11 from a book of his tales that I checked out at my school’s library. Today (literally) I’m reading this one to celebrate his birthday. It’s from The Illustrated Edgar Allen Poe, a book that contains select full stories but is also beautifully illustrated by the artist, Satty. It’s a copy I came across in the dealer’s room at one of the first full conventions I went to several years ago, BayCon in San Jose, CA.

The Masque of the Red Death

The Murders In the Rue Morgue

Without Poe’s work, there probably wouldn’t be speculative fiction in the sense we know it today. They’re may not even be a horror genre as we know it today.

So what are your favorite works by Poe?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Looking At the Very Near Future of 2018: Writing Resolutions

A wizard lays a hand on a crystal ball while firing off a blow torch.

Well, as you may have noticed, 2018 isn’t getting a good start here at the Far Out Fantastic Site since I missed posting last week. So I apologise for that. It was a busy weekend, and some of us celebrate the holidays as long as six days into the new year and since this isn’t a religious blog I won’t go into details with the exception of a few clues: Magic, Magi and Three Kings. Put them together or do a Google search on all three, which is, by the way, a number that has traditionally been believed by many societies to be magic.

Last blog post we looked back at the previous year of 2017. This post let’s look into the very near future of 2018 of a not very well-known author’s life. To be specific, let’s look at this author’s planned resolutions of the new year.

My Very Near, Planned Future of 2018

1. Do more live events to promote my books. As I said last post, one of my greatest accomplishments of 2017 was doing my first live event to promote my books. Because that was so successful, I’m going to try promoting at more conventions.

2. Submit a short story to at least three (that magic number again!) publications. For the last five years or so I have been focusing on self-publishing more than anything and so had only been considering publications for submission. But in order to broaden your chances of making your work known to a wider audience, an author should take as many routes possible. So I’m going to give an ample amount of time throughout the year to research the markets and submit to at least three of them.

3. (Aaaand that magic number again!) Resume the publishing process of my second short fiction collection. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve worked on my second book of short fiction, that I had entitled The Hidden. When I last spoke of it , I said I would take a “slight hiatus”, though it’s been a little longer than slight. I had also said that I would publish some of the stories for that collection individually and so each as its own book. I only did that with one so far, which was “Circa SixtyYears Dead” Because I’ve seen how well publishing a single short work as such works, I’m planning to return to self-publishing the second collection. So, how well did publishing the above mentioned single short story work? Well enough to move on to publishing it in the upcoming collection.

4. Write another novella. As I also said last time, writing a full draft of a novella was a great accomplishment for 2017 because it was the first time I completed a draft in that format. So this year’s goal will be to write a second novella in full first draft format and begin the revision process.

5. Give A Far Out Fantastic Site a new look. It’s been more than two years since I changed the appearance of the blog, so it’s due for new appearance. You’re probably sick of seeing an image of several heads floating in a vortex. An image that’s repeated across the screen 10-plus times!

6. Advocate more overtly for Freehand Illustration. You may have noticed by now, if you’ve been reading my blog for at least the last year, that I’ve discussed a lot of the benefits of freehand book illustration, especially for covers, in this age of computer art (a.k.a. digital art). I think 2018 will be the year that I start carrying out more strategy to promote other freehand illustrators’ work so the world will see the aesthetic value in art made by the active technicques of human beings rather than the methods of machines.

Everybody's Very Near Future of 2018?

Well, that’s looking at my future life of 2018. Now whether it’s to be fulfilled or not is a different story. But now what about the future of all of us for 2018? Well, I was reading an interesting article concerning that. Anticipation of 2018 was actually attempted by intellects in 1968. And, as the article discusses, while much of that anticipation missed the mark, some of it came pretty close. Give it a read. You may be surprised. It’s in the online version (and probably the hard copy one as well) of The New Yorker and is called The 1968 Book That Tried to Predict the World of 2018”

Along similar lines, a documentary, made not too long after the book that the above mentioned article discusses, is the 1972 documentary Future Shock. And even though the predictions of this documentary, which was based on the 1970 book of the same name, are not precise they also come eerily close. It’s really well-made, partly because it’s narrated by the great Orson Welles. So I suggest you check it out as well, which you can do for free on YouTube.

So what are your plans, predictions and/or resolutions for the immediate future of 2018?

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Back In Time At the Writing Accomplishments of 2017

A model of a 19th Century/steampunk-style time machine

I hope everybody’s been enjoying this Holiday Season! I had a groovy Christmas Eve and Day. I was in Fresno during that time visiting the family there. My brother took me and his son to see Star Wars the Last Jedi which was just awesome! And only last night, did I see The Force Awakens on DVD. That is, I saw it for the second time only yesterday since seeing it in the theatre two Christmases ago, also with my brother and his son. (Hey, I think a new Holiday tradition is forming in my family!) Now you’re probably wondering why I’m watching the two movies out of order? Well, I hadn’t actually planned on watching the latest movie until I returned here to Sacramento, because I wanted to refresh myself on Force Awakens first. But since I only see my brother and his family a few times throughout the year, I couldn’t resist an invitation to see a movie like Star Wars with them. But now that I’m back, I’m watching the two movies in order and so will see Last Jedi again by the beginning of the new year. So this year’s been ending well.

Often a person feels a little sad when the year’s coming to an end, and you don’t quite know what to expect on the other side of the door between the old year and the new. But if great things happened in former then great, if not greater, ones will happen in the latter as well. So I thought it would be good to close out this year by looking back on my writing accomplishments of 2017 and what I learned from them that I can take into the upcoming year. These accomplishments were:

1. Guest-bloggingabout RPG and writing on Christine Rains Blog: when you guest-blog on a fellow author’s website, it introduces you and your work to other authors and readers. I don’t guest-blog as much as other authors already do, so I consider this a big accomplishment in any year.

2. Completing myfirst novella’s first draft: I’m not a big writer of long fiction such as novels, so completing my first novella in its rough draft form has been a significant success for me. I read over it too, and noted revisions that needed to be made but then decided, at least for now, not to continue with the revision process. It’s not a story that I think I’ll be able to stick with, knowing the short attention span I have. What is important about this accomplishment, though, is that I committed myself to writing a full first draft of a long work, a form of fiction that I’ve never written before. Having done that, writing the next novella will probably come easier to me.

3. Publishing thepaperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”: This isn’t the first time that I’ve published a paperback, but even the self-publishing process can be trying whether it’s for a print book or e-book, and so this is definitely a significant accomplishment for me.

4. Producing mybusiness card: For at least two years I had been saying that I was going to officialise myself more as a pro author by coming out with a business card but kept putting it off. I did that just so I could work on the product of the business, the writing itself. Not so in 2017!

5. My first vendortable at a convention and making sales from my books: Like with the business card, I kept telling myself I would set up a vendor table and kept putting it off until this year. One of the reasons why I kept postponing it was because I knew how hard it was to break even by selling books at live events. And do you know what happened? I didn’t break even. But I did sell some books. Now what’s so successful about selling books but not making a profit? The success is about the promotion of those books. The more books you get into people’s hands and the more money you make in doing so, the more you enhance your rep as a professional author regardless of profit.

6. Participating ina blog hop: This past Halloween I volunteered my time posting for author Patricia Lynn’s Trick-Or-Treat Blog Hop. As with guest-blogging, I probably don’t do blog hops as much as most indie authors do, and so this too was a major achievement in promoting my work.

So, what have I made of all these accomplishments? I’ve learned that when an author puts him- or herself out in the community, online or off, it can make a big difference. I’ve promoted and sold plenty of my books online. But I didn’t imagine I would sell any on my first day of retailing them at a live event, which is exactly what happened at Sac Con back in October. The more you put yourself out there in the community, the better connection you’ll make and the more sales you’ll make. But even if you don’t make any sales, readers of your genre get to know you more both as an author and reader. So expect to see me at at least one other live event selling books and talking sci fi/fantasy in general this upcoming year of 2018.

So what are your writing accomplishments of 2017? For those of you who are more avid readers than writers, what are your reading accomplishments of the year? For example, did you get through a bigger number of books this year than you did last year? Or did you finally start reading that author you’ve been declaring to read for several years?

Until next year of 2018 . . . !