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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Intergalactic Expo’s Panel on Female Characters in the Whedonverse

West Sacramento's Intergalactic Expo promotion poster with images of "Doctor Who" Tartus, "Star Trek" Enterprise and "Star Wars" characters.
Photo Credit: West Sacramento's May the Fourth Be With You



I hate to say this, but I’m going to have to put off the article on older sci fi another week. It’s been a very long, insane Saturday and so I didn’t have time to finishthe article. But I did say last week that I would talk a little about Intergalactic Expo and so since I won’t be sharing the article at this time, I’ll talk more about Intergalactic Expo even though there’s not much more I can talk about than originally anticipated. That’s because I arrived there way later than intended. I meant to arrive there by 3 PM at the latest but all because the bus driver did not stop at the stop we were waiting at in downtown Sacramento, my cousin and I had to walk more than three miles from there to the West Sacramento Civic Center where the con was held and so we didn’t get their until 4! That’s the problem with the bus system in Sacramento: compared to many other metropolitans in the nation, it is not reliable.

When I got there, I was so rushed to see certain things such as the next panel which was an interesting one on female characters in Josh Whedon’s TV shows and movies, that I forgot to take pictures for tonight’s post. (Sorry about that, people. I’ll have some for next time though, since the con continues through tomorrow.) The two panelists, both women, had some really good insights and intelligent things to say about strong female characters such as Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Black Widow from Marvel’s Avenger movies, and River from Firefly. I’m not a Buffy fan so I wasn’t familiar with most of the Buffy characters they went over but I still found the characters to be interesting.

So the panelists mostly talked about the roundedness of these characters in terms of the multiple archetypes that make them up which breaks the stereotype of so many past female characters that are often based on one archetype such as the seductress, the chaste virgin, or the passive sidekick or lover. They talked about how the characters are often a combination of these and other archetypes, different archetypes playing out at different times. For example, Buffy may be the heroic leader at one point, but then the nourishing mother figure at another, or River the insightful mystic type at one point, the child type at another point and the helpless victim at another.

Then the subject came up of why it’s so difficult for most male sci fi/fantasy authors to write strong, distinctive female characters. One reason is because there’s very few (though this is changing at a rapid pace) female speculative fiction authors and so most male authors don’t get the feel for strong female characters because they’ve mostly read male authors’ works all their lives. One of the few exceptions (besides Whedon), according to the panelists, is Neil Gaiman. In which I partly agree, but most of his protagonists tend to be male. However, the few female protagonists in his stories as well as the more secondary female characters tend to be well rounded.

This got me thinking about how I need to reconsider my own female characters in my fiction, even if most of them are secondary or minor. Even if the female character is not the main one, she should reflect a distinctness that breaks the stereotype. To throw a female character into the story just to support the plot, yet that character has no distinctive or realistic traits, makes the character flat and look too much like a mere cog in the machine called plot. After all, one of the best ways to make a story believable is by making the characters believable, and this also goes for the minor or secondary characters even if it’s to a smaller degree proportionate to their roles.

I’ll be attending more panels and activities at Intergalactic Expo tomorrow and so will give you more highlights (along with the article on “outdated” sci fi) next week with photos. If you’re in the area then you might want to take a look at the con’s website and consider dropping by tomorrow. It’s only $10 dollars to get in and a portion of the proceeds goes to a good cause (the Make-A-Wish foundation).


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Science Fiction and Horror Updates

An alien with fangs and a large veined head.
Image Credit: PDClipart.org



I said last post that I would have an article about outdated science fiction here. I was working on it this afternoon but discovered that it was going to take a little more work than I had anticipated. So I decided to postpone it to next week. But I thought I would give you some updates on other things that are happening in science fiction and horror.

Preview of Coming Attractions


“Outdated” Sci Fi: I already mentioned my article on outdated science fiction. It will talk about how older sci fi that seems not to live up to today is really not outdated and why.

InterGalactic Expo [link]: If you’re in or near the Sacramento area, InterGalactic Expo is next weekend. This con is basically the reincarnation or, perhaps to use a better metaphor, the transformation of the past two years’ May the Forth Be With You event, only bigger and better. Why the change in name? Basically because this “Star Wars” con has occurred on May 4th which for the past two years has fallen on a weekend and the organizations putting it on want to keep it on a weekend. So a name like “May the Forth Be with You” would not work out too well since the fourth of May does not falls on a weekday this year.

Some interesting highlights of InterGalactic Expo are the following: panels on the anthropology behind Star Wars and Star Trek, by Western Nevada College instructor Daryl Frazetti; a panel on the science in science fiction; a table talk entitled “Hacking to Space!” by John Powell of JP Aerospace which sounds like it should be really big because the schedule says they may add more time slots for it if enough people show interest; a science fiction art show. 

Interview from Horror Addicts: Horror Addicts plans to interview me in light of my articles I contributed to their new book, Horror Addicts’ Guide to Life, which debuted only three weeks ago. I’ll let you know specifically when that’s coming up when I get more details.

Currently Reading


Short fiction from Strange Horizons: This speculative fiction online magazine has some great stuff. One short story I recently read is called “Moon for the Unborn” by Indrapramit Das, which combines paranormal fiction (the ghost story) and interplanetary science fiction plausibly and does really good with touching on the subject of future transgenderism.

Short story from vintage issues of Science fiction-Science Fact Analog: One I’m reading in particular is from a 1969 issue that I purchased at a used-book store a while back. The story is called “Extortion, Inc.” by Mack Reynolds. It takes a twist on the typical private eye character. But what I found interesting about this story is that it predicted today’s smart phones good. Only in this story they’re called “pocket phones”. That’s basically what they are today since nearly half the population (at least it seems like that much) carries them in their pockets.

I’ll leave you with that for now. I’ll have a little more on InterGalactic Expo in addition to my article on so-called outdated science fiction next week.


Until then . . . 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

5 Fantastic Finds: Spanish Sci Fi Authors, Le Guin, L’Engle and More

It’s been a very busy week for me with both my writing and day job. I also attended UC Davis’s annual Pic Nic Day on this beautiful sunny, Saturday afternoon. It went by really well until we couldn’t get out of the Arboretum forest of no return without being harped on.

A cousin and I were watching the Battle of the Bands there on the way out when two attendants gave us this bull that we were standing in one of the band’s area as if we were committing sacrilege or something, stepping on holy ground! They did not have clear demarcation of where that area was. But the really irritating thing was that right before they told us to get off the “designated” area, we had moved away from the path to let the band march through.

Well, I’m not the one to take things lying down so I went to one of the info booths to write in a complaint. Sometimes just writing about what angers you helps alleviate the mood you’re in even if you don’t get much of an answer back from the person you’re writing to. But still, it delayed me and so I haven’t even resumed work on one of my short stories that I’m already behind on. Let alone I haven’t had time to write a full article for this week’s post. So I thought I would share some discoveries from the ‘net with you that I found to be . . .


A ground satellite pointing up into the sky at an angle.
Credit: OpenClipart.org


Far Out Fantastic Finds


“10 Ways To Create A Near-Future World That Won’t Look Too Dated”, io9.com

“Writing about the world to come is a scary proposition, because nothing becomes obsolete faster than futuristic visions. . . .So here are 10 tips to keep your near-future setting from looking too dated.”

“Spanish Science Fiction: A Round Table Discussion with Spain’s Top Contemporary Voices”, Clarkesworld 

“When I recently heard that Mariano Villareal, editor of the Terra Nova anthology series, was going to be working on Castles in Spain / Castillos en el Aire, a new Spanish-English bilingual anthology of Spanish science fiction, fantasy, and horror, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with him and ask if he could help set up a roundtable with some of the anthology’s contributors.”


“There’s A Brand New Section of A Wrinkle In Time That You Can Read”, io9.com

“A newly-unearthed section of A Wrinkle In Time has been released by Madeline L’Engle’s granddaughter — and it has some strong words about the dangers faced by democracies . . . .”


“Ursula Le Guin at 85”, BBC Radio 4

“Naomi Alderman talks to leading novelist Ursula Le Guin about her life and work and hears from literary fans including . . . Neil Gaiman.”


“Ursula Le Guin talks Sci-fi Snobbery, Adaptations, and Troublemaking”, Den of Geek!

“We spoke to seminal US fantasy and sci-fi author Ursula Le Guin about her career, radicalism, literary influence and more…”


That’s it for now. In light of the above link, “10 Ways to Create a Near-Future World . . .”, I’m planning to have an article here next week about outdated sci fi as alternative timelines.

Until next week . . .


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Horror Guide Anthology and Sci Fi Blog of a Pre-internet Age

Sorry I missed you all last weekend. It was a holiday weekend (for those of us that celebrate it, at least). So it was a very loaded weekend for me with relatives from out of town--both close ones, such as my parents, and not so close ones, such as long lost cousins, some of who I don’t care to cross paths with on a dark night, or even on a bright day for that matter! So what did we miss? The following . . .

The Release of the Horror Addicts’ Guide to Life

Yes! The Horror Addicts’ Guide to Life released last week! It is now available in print and will be coming to ebook format soon! As I said last time, I have two articles in this anthology of horror and gothic culture. One article is about horror inspired kids’ shows and the other about dark genres in literature. Other articles contributed by fellow writers range from ones on books, movies and music in the horror genre to horror genre-inspired food! There are also articles about horror art, horror fiction writing, goth clothes, and how to throw horror themed parties. The variety is nearly infinite!

So a very diverse group of us writers helped put the anthology together. However, equal credit if not more must go to Emerian Rich and David Watson, both of HorroAddicts.net, who planned and edited it in which editing is no easy job. It’s hard enough for me to edit my own work! Find out more about this far out book at HorrorAddicts.net and how to purchase a copy.


Book Cover with photo illustration of gothic girl holding book and monstrous shadows in background.
Photo Credit: HorrorAddicts.net



The New Blog Review

Also last weekend, I published at Examiner.com a review of a science fiction blog, Galactic Journey. The unique thing about this blog is not so much its emphasis in covering 1950s and ‘60s sci fi, not even its coverage of these two decades’ newly discovered science facts. The really unique thing about Galactic Journey is its manner of covering these topics. The topics are covered as if the blog posts were written during that era! This blog is ideal for any atompunker like yours truly (who is also bits and pieces of other kinds of punkers and –isms of sci fi and fantasy, kind of like a Frankensteinish fan you can say). In fact, this may be an ideal blog for any alternative history fan. So check out more details in my review of it and then check out the blog itself!


I’ll leave you with that for now.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Week In Review: Character Development, Authors, and Short Stories

A Little on Character Development
This week I’ve been trying to work character development into my latest short story that I used as an example for last week’s post onworld-building. For me, character is much easier to develop in a profile than working traits of that profile into the story itself. It makes a person ask the question what is more important, the character influencing the story or the story (the events within) influencing the character? (Much like what came first, the vulture or the egg?) What do you think, fellow writers out there? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box at the end.


On Joe Hill
I’ve been reading Joe Hill’s collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts. I checked it out at the library a couple weeks ago, intending to only read one or two stories; so far I’m on a third. His stories are great, although if you want to read him for his horror fiction you may be a little disappointed with some of the stories, since, as the writer of the book’s introduction says, not all of them are horror.

I found out about Joe Hill’s work while reading a special issue of his comic book series, Locke & Key, a few years ago. I enjoyed the story, and when I heard he writes prose fiction as well, I wanted to read more of his stuff but didn’t get around to it until just recently. Because his stories are so great, regardless of the genre, I may return 20th Century Ghosts to the library before its due date (which is next week) and go to my local indie-owned bookstore and purchase my own copy to put up in my home library of must-read authors of all time.

Book cover to Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts"
Photo Credit: Amazon


Vintage Sci Fi Art
Speaking about bookstores, last weekend I came across a bundle of six copies of 1969 issues of Science Fiction-Science Fact Analog magazine. While only a couple of well-known authors are in some of the issues, one of them being Anne McCaffrey, many of the stories still look really interesting. Also I like the magazine’s exterior and interior sci fi art of the era, art which infuses much more emotion and aesthetic energy in hand-painted and hand-drawn illustrations than much of today’s computer produced book cover art seems to. See it for yourself in the photo below. 

Covers from five 1969 issues of "Science Fiction-Science Fact Analog"
Photo Credit: The Conde Nast Publications, Inc


Tweeting Authors
Warning: Next paragraph and link(s) may be objectionable to some readers.
Yesterday I ran into and got in on an interesting Twitter conversation with authors Saladin Ahmed (who initiated the conversation) and John Scalzi, about “Disturbing Super Hero Names of the 1950s”.  The name in question was “Dick”. Many of us can see how that can be disturbing today at least to certain people, although it’s not disturbing to me because I always believed “Dick” to be the name of a person and not the name of a guy’s part inside his pants. The person’s name came first, not the body part’s. So I brought that up in the conversation and if any of you don’t believe so yourselves, check out the link to the Oxford Dictionary (my emphasis to indicate where the pun wasn’t intended) in my Tweet to find out the origin or earliest known use of the name.

Horror Addicts' Guide Update
I mentioned a while back that HorrorAddicts.net is coming out with an anthology about horror culture, which I contributed two articles to (actually they were chosen by the good editors of who I contributed the articles to their online con a few years back). The book’s release is due, I believe, sometime next month but you don’t have to wait until then to find out more about what’s going to be in it. There’s good news! Editors Emerian Rich and David Watson talk about it and have several of its contributors read excerpts on their 111thpodcast episode of Horror Addicts

But there’s bad news too: I’m not one of the contributors reading. I’m not very tech savvy when it comes to putting audio on MP3’s which is what we needed to do to send in our readings. Plus, I wasn’t able to find an external mic for my computer to make the recording before the deadline. Sorry about that, Emerian and Dave. But I listened to your episode and it sounded really neat! Great job! And if you readers want to find out even more about the book, check out David’s interview at HorrorAddicts.net!


That’s it for this week. I’ll have more for you next time.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

World-building: Not Just For Fantasy Writers

A bug-like alien with outer space and planets in the background.
Image Credit: Openclipart.org


I was choking on dust all week, especially in bed late at night. So I made sure I spent this Saturday afternoon dusting the flat. And it’s not even half done when you think about it. Being a rat pack, more dust is in the clutter of my house than sand in the Sino-Indian border’s desert. I think I have to scan and put some of those old manuscript copies and notes for past work on flash drive and trash the paper copies. Though there are certain paper copies of my work that I forbid myself to exclude to digital form, since I’m a lover of the printed word and like to read and present words on a tangible medium such as paper. But enough of that.


On World-building

I told you last time that I would have a post on world-building. Most people probably think of world-building as something only done by fantasy writers who make up imaginary universes. That’s not true. World-building is simply the manner an author describes the environment the story takes place in, regardless of whether that environment exists in the real world or not. Unless you’re a historical fiction writer, there is going to be some made-up details of that setting you’re depicting. And so because of those details, you would have to do what has become popularly referred to by us authors as “world-building”. I’ll use an example of a horror short story I’m currently working on. Keep in mind, I’m still in the process of writing this story, so some of these details may change by the time it’s published. But I’m still hoping you’ll find this as a good example to world-building. I don’t have a title for the story yet, in case you’re wondering, but you’ll know what it is when I announce its publication.

Developing an imaginary setting out of a real region

The short story I’m working on is set in the Sino-Indian border region, which is the region that borders China and India. So it’s a real area of the world. However, the province within that region I’m setting my story in is one that I created based both on Chinese and Indian cultures, especially Tamil culture on the Indian side. I came up with this “mixed” race of people because I am involving religious beliefs dating back before Hinduism and part of the myth system is made up by yours truly for purposes of the story.

Yet I wanted to give the story an effect of taking place in our own reality. After all, it involves an archeology expedition. So I used Google Earth to look at photos of the Sino-Indian region and to look at the names of places in that part of the world. I also used Wikipedia to check facts about Indian and Chinese cultures and the mythological systems of the two. However, because Wikipedia is an open source tool that anybody can post and edit articles on, I advise people to always verify the articles’ references and, if possible, to use those referencees for further research especially if they seem reliable. Such reliable references are ones published by credible universities or well-known publications by expert journalists such as National Geographic.

Because I wanted the society in my story to be more or less directly descended from one predating Hinduism, I researched the various ethnic groups of India and China and came across the Tamil people who are, according to a Wikipedia article, one of the largest and oldest existing ethno-linguistic cultural groups who have not had a state of their own. This means they have spread out all over Asia and so it could be believable if I based my Sino-Indian border province on that group’s culture.

Naming the Setting

I wanted to find a name that reflected the ancientness and obscurity of the province. Because Sanskrit is one of Asia’s oldest languages, I used Google’s translation tool  to create a meaningful name for the province. Without creating a spoiler, I’ll let you know that because the story involves a character who goes through a kind of blindness as well as a dangerously enlightening experience, I decided to give the province a name that means blinding light. So I typed in the words “land of blinding light” into the translator’s text box and came up with “Kurutakkum oli nilam”.  The name suggests not only the experience one of the characters goes through, but also the geography of the region, in which the story’s setting itself, which is somewhere near Aksai (on the Chinese side), is all desert. However, even though the province is on the Chinese side, I made it tremendously Indian influenced in the culture including its religious beliefs. And so the people themselves are mixed both biologically and culturally.

For More on World-building . . .

I probably don’t explain world-building as well as I actually do it, but one author who is really good at explaining it is Auden Johnson. She’s really big on it. So if you’re interested, I strongly suggest you visit her blog, Dark Treasury



Do any of you fellow fiction writers out there research facts for your world-building? If so what sources come in handy for you? And for you out there who aren’t authors but are avid readers of fiction, what do you feel makes a convincing imaginary setting whether based on a real region of the world or completely imagined by the author? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box below.


Until next time . . . 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Liebster Blog Awards

Liebster award button logo.
Image Credit: curveballsandmedschool.files.wordpress.com



I know I said in my last post that I would have a full blog article here. However, I was just nominated this afternoon for the Liebster  Blog Awards by a Cassidy Leslie. Thanks again, Cassidy! Part of the nomination process consists of posting and answering questions from my nominator (Cassidy), and posting the nomination rules along with my own questions for those bloggers I nominate in turn. You’ll find the list of bloggers I nominated below.

The purpose of the Liebster Awards is to help fellow bloggers gain greater exposure. I’m glad to help out my fellow blog writers in this way. But if you ever wondered about the guy behind the curtain playing the Wiz, yours truly, you can find out more about him now in my responses to Cassidy’s questions below!

For the Bloggers I Nominate:

Rules of the Liebster Awards 
1) Thank the person who nominated you
2) Answer the questions given by the nominator
3) Nominate 11 bloggers with 100 or less followers and link them to your post
4) Create another 11 questions for them to answer in their blog
5) Notify them

Questions from Cassidy

1) What is your favorite color? (This is a warm up question) Orange.
2) Tell us something that makes you unique? I’m both a lover of punk and disco (and if you know your ‘70s history, the two were arch enemies (so to put) with each other).
3) Pick three people you'd have dinner with, alive or dead, famous or not, tell us who and then you can ask them any three questions what would you ask? Ray Bradbury: How did you pull through being (what we call ourselves today) a nerd/geek in grades Kindergarten through 12th?; Anna H. (a groovy acquaintance who I wanted to ask out but didn’t get the chance): Who’s your dream boy?; My Great, Great Grandfather Alejandro Rose: Why did you really change our Portuguese family surname to English?. 
4) If one day you were singing while filling up your car and some guy told you he could make you famous would you do it? Probably not, because glass breaks when I sing and so I know he would be lying.
5) (Warning this one is tough) Write the first line of lyrics that pop into your head right now, without thinking! “We all live in a Yellow Submarine . . .”
6) What was you biggest challenge in life that you over came? Getting published. 
7)  Do you read my blog? are you going to now? Haha I am now, now that I know about it.
8) What was your first car and if you could have it back would you? An ’85 Pontiac Firebird. Yes, I would have it back if I could get the AC fixed; she almost literally was a firebird in the summers, but I had to give her up among other things, too (e.g. engine and other parts had their days).
9) Have you ever been bullied? What do you think should be done to fix this problem? I was slapped around all the time (it seemed) from grades 2nd through 11th. At least two things should be done about the problem: 1) The bully should be put up for adoption because his/her parents probably aren’t giving them the love they need at home; and/or 2) The bully should be expelled from school and committed to community service and counseling (if not juvie/jail) because it’s not fair for the other kids trying to learn. 
10) Whats your biggest fear and why? The country going total (neo) Nazi or some racist/fascist form of government right up there with it. It’s my greatest fear because it would probably outlaw the kinds of things I write about. 
11) Favorite movie and why? Star Wars the original trilogy because it’s one of the best myths that I’ve lived by next to the Bible (among other sacred texts); or, to put it another way, it’s a film that does for me what sacred texts such as the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita have done. 

Bloggers and Their Blogs I Nominate [link to these]:


Questions for the Bloggers Whose Blogs I Nominate:

1) What is your dream car?
2) What is your favourite/favourite kind of food?
3) What is your favourite genre/subgenre of reading?
4) Do you prefer Star Trek, Star Wars or neither?
5) Of these classic/old school horror films, do you prefer Halloween, Friday the 13th, Universal’s original Frankenstein, Psycho or none of the above?
6) If you won the lottery, you would . . . (do what?)
7) How would you respond to a film agent who offered you a part in a big budget film?
8) Do you have anything (interest, toy, habit, etc.) from childhood that you will not let go of as an adult? If so, what is it?
9) What do you do when a person you’ve met for the first time bores you with their talk?
10) Do you believe the world’s ready for commercial space flight? If so, why? If not, why not?
11) What is more important to you, money or love (of humanity, including significant others/family and friends)?

Next time: I will have an article for you on world-building by this weekend. Until then . . .