Google+ Followers

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” Applied in European Parliament Report

If you saw my latest posts on my Facebook page earlier this evening you may be a little surprised why I’m writing here. Well, I just wanted to share with you an article from the online magazine, Futurism-- which covers the outlook of future science, technology and the two’s impact on society. The article, entitled “Europe Looking to Make AIKill Switch Mandatory”, by June Javelosa is the next step in today’s rapid process of science fiction becoming science fact, in this case robots. European Parliament just drafted a plan for regulations on artificial intelligence and so Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics is seems to be getting applied more than ever. Check out the article and then check out the European Parliament’s official report that it links to. Then come back here and tell me if you can find the Three Laws of Robotics applied anywhere in the report.

Until next time . . .  

A robot's head.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 Writing Accomplishments and 2017 Goals

Glowing 2017 logo on a digital grid that stretches into the horizon line.

Somewhere between Christmas Day and the New Year’s Day, I get that dark feeling as if nothing will be on the other side of the threshold between the old year and the new. It’s almost as if all hell will break loose once we step through that threshold. In fact, this concern caused me to write a short story the day after Christmas for my writers’ critique group’s holiday party, a kind of time travel story you can say. I’ve only written the rough draft though, and because it’s holiday themed, particularly New Year’s, you probably won’t see it until the end of the year. But even though for some of us the other side of the portal to 2017 maybe seemed like a black nothingness, here we are; we are alive and that’s all that counts.

I thought I would look at my writing accomplishments from last year and my goals (or resolutions) for this new year of 2017. But first let me talk about how Christmas went. It went by great. Nothing that spectacularly different from other years, just spent it with the family. However, one of my gifts was my first card game since the last 5-plus years. It’s called Arkham Horror (not to be mistaken with the board game of the same name), a game that lives up to its name: it’s a damn horror trying to figure out how to play it. But it’s still fun and because it’s so complicated it’s intellectually challenging, and, perhaps best of all, it’s based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Mythos. So during the first week of the new year I had the card game laid out on my kitchen table trying to learn the game as I went but it takes me longer since I work a day job and, of course, I work my freelance writing.

Games with storylines such as Arkham Horror are a lot like writing as well as acting since they’re role playing games (RPGs). You make choices as one of the characters and that influences the game’s story. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book which I can’t believe I used to read those thinking of myself as literarily sophisticated, but hey, it’s what started many of us on avid reading and even as writers of fiction and so reading them is still a great way to introduce young people to reading fiction and, better yet, writing it. I did a blog post with a link to an article about gaming and writing fiction. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check it out; it’s really insightful. 

Well, here are . . .

2016’s Accomplishments:

  • Making an attempt to write a novel: So far it’s entitled Invasion of the Avatars, which I’m currently writing.

And . . .

Goals for 2017:

  • Submit short fiction to magazines and anthologies: I’m going to return to doing this and put self-publishing on a small hiatus.Set up a table for my books at a con or two.

  • Relaunch The Super Freek: I had put it on hiatus not long after launching it, but since my hours at my day job will be changing soon and I have a lot of blogging plans that won’t fit the agenda here at the Fantastic Site I’m going to start posting at The Super Freek again. I don’t know exactly when yet, but I’ll definitely let you know.

  • Give a new look to The Fantastic Site: It’s been at least two years since the last re-designing.

  • Start posting at The Fantastic Site by Saturday of each week again: I’ve been spilling into Mondays too much as you may have noticed, and that includes this evening. My apologies.

The following have already been in the plan and are more short term, so I really can’t call them resolutions like the above: I’m going to publish the print version of “Circa Sixty Years” and the photorealistic cover for both print version and e version.

So what are your accomplishments from last year and/or goals or resolutions for this new year? Did you get any interesting holiday gifts?

Happy New Year! And Until next time . . . 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Print Edition of ‘Circa Sixty Years’ Coming Sooner Than Anticipated

A Tyrannosaurus rex in a Santa Clause suit.

Well, the photographic cover for my single short story book, “Circa SixtyYears Dead” will not be here in time for the holidays. However, the print version will be here sooner than I had anticipated, thanks to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing’s new paperback print option.

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” Print Edition

Until recently, a print version of a self-published Kindle book had to be produced by separate means through Amazon’s Create Space. But now a print edition of an ebook can be produced a little bit more quickly through Kindle Direct’s new print option (currently at the beta level). So far, I’ve partly registered “Circa” for this option. I just have to upload the manuscript and cover to the program. The manuscript is what may take a while before I upload it because I need to make sure it’s formatted correctly and formatting isn’t the best of my self-publishing skills. Apparently, the manuscript and cover have to come from my own files rather than the ones Kindle Direct already has for the digital edition. Perhaps someday Amazon will take things a step or two further and enable the files for the ebook to convert more easily to print-ready format. So look out for the paperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years” coming between now and the first week of the new year!

Holiday Deal

And now for my Holiday Deal: from now until Christmas Eve, customers can receive a free ebook copy of The Fool’s Illusion if they purchase the print edition. This is a great deal to save on those last minute Holiday gifts you are looking for for that reader friend or relative.

One Last Holiday Donation for the Season

I donated a model Millenium Falcon to the California Highway Patrol’s toy drive, and a monetary donation to the local meal program for the elderly (Meals On Wheels of Yolo County). Now I have one last donation to make for the holiday season.

I’ve been working on some Christmas fantasy art which I am going to donate to the public domain. Once I donate to the public domain, I will donate it to where many of the beautiful illustrations you see here at the Fantastic Site come from and are done by some really great artists. These artists have been kind enough to donate their work for free use making it easier and more affordable for writers and bloggers like myself to post images on our websites. So I felt that it’s time to give back. Be on the look out for my Christmas coloured pencil drawing by visiting my Facebook page throughout the week. I hope to have it up by Wednesday but it will be up by Christmas Eve for sure. I will provide the link to it on my Facebook page where you can download a copy (for free, of course). That will be my holiday gift to you wonderful readers and fellow writers out there.

This weekend will be extraordinarily busy for me since it’s the Christmas weekend. So I’m taking a week off from posting here and will return at the beginning of the new year. I hope to have the paperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years” launched by then and to have made some progress on the photographic cover. I also said I would provide a review of the movie Arrival which I wasn’t able to do this time but will try to have it here next.

I wish everybody a Happy Hallow-Day Season and New Year and will see you next year!

Until then . . .

Monday, December 12, 2016

Falling Behind But Writing Through the Busy Season

It’s been a very busy week especially as we have gotten further into the holiday season. If you missed my post last week about writing around holiday busy-ness, you can take a look at it here. Hopefully some of those ideas I’ve put into practice will work for you other writers out there too. Still, my writing’s come to a slow-down because I’ve had a load of other things to do, yet I continue to work on my stories and that is most important: to write everyday even when you don’t feel like it. If you only do it when you feel like it, then you’ll never feel like it. Or, to put it more precisely, the days when you don’t feel like writing will out-number the ones when you do and so you will always come up with an excuse not to write.

A Little Nemo comic panel depicting a Santa's workshop exterior.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been continuing to work on my novella averaging at least a page a day considering my full-time day job, and I try to get one to three extra pages in on the weekends. Plus I’ve been giving a little time to my current short story in which I’m developing the character interaction and working the characterization into the story. The photographic cover for “Circa Sixty Years” has been the slowest project in the last three weeks since it’s not actual writing but the marketing side of it and I’m first and foremost a writer. So I’ve been concentrating more on producing the stories themselves. I was hoping to have the photographic cover edition out by now for the holiday rush, but it may not happen until after the new year. If I get it done before the holidays I’ll definitely announce it here and at my Facebook page. So far I’ve gathered stock photos for it, but I still have to look for some more before I start cropping and pasting.

But this weekend was so busy with the Christmas shopping, decorating and visiting family I rarely see that I didn’t even get to see Arrival like I wanted too. I’m planning to see it this week sometime and hopefully read the short story it’s based on so I can have a review of both for you here next time. We’lll see.

Does the holiday season inspire you to write more or does it hinder you in your writing?

Until next time . . . 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Writing Around the 'Distractions' During the Holidays

A floating mountain orbited by flying machines.

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas will be here before we know it. The holiday season brings with it a cramped schedule. We’re running here and there shopping for food and gifts and trying to deliver those gifts. We’re trying to write and mail off those holiday cards in time. Then we have family to cater to, including those who come from out of town and stay with us. On top of that there’s our jobs and other everyday, year-round duties such as paying bills. This cramped holiday schedule makes us writers’ writing time even more cramped. This is especially so if, like me, you’re working a day job.

It’s even tougher when you have family to cater to who stay with you during a holiday week or weekend. You can’t just ditch them to go write. After all, they are our family, our blood, so we should show them appreciation and love. That’s what the holidays are all about, or should be at least. But still, an artist needs his/her own space where they only work on their art and won’t be sidetracked. That’s often a challenge when family from over three hundred miles comes to stay with me during a holiday week, especially when I live in a small apartment and there’s really no private space suitable for writing.

When I write fiction, I have to, or more like prefer to, be alone in my house to connect to that other world that I’m creating and to “journey” through it with my pen as my walking staff or, in the case of sci fi, as my rocket ship. My most honest work comes out when I am writing alone. But sometimes that just can’t happen, such as in the case of family or friends from afar who stay with you, or even just everyday intermediate family or roommates year-round. So during the Thanksgiving week when my parents were staying with me, I told them that I would see them when I get back from my day job and my errands. Those errands mostly consisted of my writing. This was especially the writing of my novella that I’m presently working on that was started during NaNoWriMo and, though I started it late in the month, I was trying to use that time to focus on just that. So I had to find an alternative central control for my writing. Everyone has their own alternative writing space that works best for them since we all work differently. Some people will use the library, some will rent a hotel room if they can afford it (which is not quite in my budget). My alternative writing space for fiction? The fast food joint.

I already write best at fast food places and cafes when I’m working on non-fiction such as articles and movie reviews (or this blog post). Unless there’s someone there who I know, I often don’t heavily converse with other customers at these places and so can focus on my work without being distracted by other customers. And so if I don’t know the majority of the people in a restaurant, including fast food, I can more easily write fiction than I can around people who I know. Why? When I’m around friends or family there’s an air of expectation that I won’t get when I’m writing around strangers. I also feel forced to write more quickly because I know I can’t just take my own sweet time and leave my parents hanging at home and making them think I’m trying to avoid them.

So maybe the holiday rush can make us writers work more quickly and even productively since we know we’ll have lesser time to write. Maybe that can even be the greatest gift Life can give us each Holiday season. At least aside from that new fantasy anthology or space battle video game you asked St. Nick to bring you.

Do you have an alternative writing space for when friends or relatives stay with you? If so, where is it? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Far Out Fantastic Events: NaNoWriMo and New Gaiman TV Series

The most far out fantastic events for me since last week have been my participation in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and news of author Neil Gaiman producing a new sci fi TV series.

World-building and Character Development for NaNoWriMo

I had said at the beginning of the year that I would write a full first draft of a novel (or novella) and there’s no better motivator for it than now, NaNoWriMo. In the last two posts I talked about writing through writer’s block for one of my short stories and searching for new monsters for another. [link to the posts that talks about these] But I’ve decided to take a break from both these stories so I can write my novella during this month of November. The problem is I only started writing it last week and we’re already in the middle of the month. In fact, I didn’t even actually start writing it; I just planned it. But even so, there probably won’t be another motivator for another year, so I’ll still write it even if some of that writing spills into next month.

Some people start off approaching their novel with character development because the story is more character-dependent. Others may start off with the stories’ events and, therefore, the plot and so develop it as they write. This novella will depend on the settings most of all, at least initially, since it centers around the collision of two universes. So I began with developing those. Therefore, I thought that the best way to begin writing this story was to start with the world-building. The novel will take place in a near-future earth, so that setting requires relatively little development. The setting that does require a lot of development is the online game that the story involves. So I’ll basically be developing a world for a MORPG (multi-player online role playing game) for this story. But who knows, maybe it will turn into a real online game. (Any game developers out interested?)

I’ve also been working on making a profile for the protagonist. I need at least sketchy details about the main character because knowing something about him ahead of time will also help me find a direction to go in writing the novella. Normally, with short fiction I can start writing the story itself and then take care of the other developmental aspects after. But with a 60-plus page novella versus a 10-to-20 page short story, I would probably get writer’s block within a page of the draft. For a story as long as that, writing without a pre-created main character and setting that is so integral to the plot would be like writing in a vacuum which just doesn’t happen. This sequence of writing a novel or novella works for me personally; it may or may not work for other writers. A lot of it has to do with the type of story you’re writing.

Two planets are reflected in a body of water.

Neil Gaiman to Produce New Sci Fi TV Series

Speaking about conflicting universes, Neil Gaiman is planning to produce a new TV show about interdimensional travel, according to iO9. Titled The Building, it’s based on an indie-produced film called Parallels and involves a group of people in a skyscraper that travels through multiple universes. The series will cover the origins of the skyscraper and the characters’ attempt to get back to Earth of our own dimension. So here’s one more in science fiction to add to the alternative universe subgenre! Working on a TV show like this and having recently written for several Doctor Who episodes, which also deal with multiple universes, shows that Gaiman is opening up to more sci fi. He’s mostly written fantasy.

I may or may not be posting here this weekend (or early next week, keeping in mind that I’ve been running late with these posts which I apologise for). I will have family in from out of town for Thanksgiving and so am not sure if I’ll have time to come up with something to post. So if you don’t see me here this weekend, I’m still on the planet, in this universe, and will be back here at the Fantastic Site the following weekend. And remember, we may be in a dark aftermath of the elections and many of us may be unsatisfied and even straight out angry over the results. It may be right up there with a zombie apocalypse for some of us. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. So try to remember some things to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

Those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo, what level of the writing process do you begin your novel? For example do you begin by brainstorming for ideas or by outlining? Do you start by creating your characters or by writing the story itself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Monday, November 14, 2016

In Search of New Monsters For Horror Fiction

A ghoul holding a candle and peaking through a doorway.

The most current horror story I’m writing is a haunted house one but the challenge is in coming up with unique monsters. So far I’ve steered clear of the vampires and zombies (unless you count attacking skeletons, which I don’t because they don’t have enough flesh to be considered a corpse). I don’t want to create any spoilers, but the monsters that are cliché in this story are more so in high fantasy than in straight horror.

For the past decade, vampires and zombies have dominated the horror/sci fi scene. As with many types of monsters, their popularity is a phase. Vampires have been fading out in the last year or so. Although the two will be in the popular imagination for years to come, like everything else they are fads and fads eventually fade out. Aliens were a fad in the ‘90s and early 2001s; pirates were a fad in the late 2001s through the early half of the present decade. As much as I love zombies, their popularity will probably be used up soon and the masses will probably move on to other characters of interest. These could be demonic clowns which seem to have been getting more of a spotlight horror fiction lately.

Yet, for those of us writers who specialise in certain monsters that have been traditionally popular such as the undead or werewolves, we can still put twists on their characters in order to prevent rehashing old plots. But the challenge in writing about archetypal monsters such as these is to come up with new ways of portraying them. Fairly recently, comic books have been doing this by making the hero a zombie such as in I, Zombie, or a vampire breaking the stereotype of monsters as evil and victimising. But now this trend is getting old.

The problem with much horror, not just today’s but that of the past 50 years at least, is that it caters to the more familiar archetypes like the ones mentioned above. Which is a little ironic because the basis of horror fiction is fear of the unknown, and so fear of the unfamiliar. But Frankensteinian monsters, Dracula and Jeckylle-and-Hyde archetypes have been done numerous times in both books and movies, not to mention television. What’s so surprising is that, with the fan cult following of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthullu character, that a major movie hasn’t adapted that character yet. Though a movie based on Lovecraft’s Mythos, The Mountains of Madness, has been in the plans for the last two years at least, there seem to be very updates on it.

An article at, entitled “Alright, Folks, It’s Time Horror Got Some New Monsters” talks in great detail about the need for new fiends in fiction. It’s a really good one and includes interviews with horror authors and movie directors on the subject. I strongly recommend reading it.

So what monsters out there in the mythical universe do you think deserve a chance in books, TV and the big screen? Please leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .