Fantasy Round 45: The Time of the Dark

2016/05/30 Leave a comment

I recently read The Time of the Dark — one of Barbara Hambly‘s books.

It’s one of her earlier books, so the plot is a little bit less complex (although the characters are still excellent).

I wouldn’t be writing about it here, except that for one interesting question that came to me while I was reading it: why are people transported into fantasy realms so often instant experts?

There are newer versions of this cover, but I still like this one with the wizard drinking a can of beer.

There are newer versions of this cover, but I still like this one with the wizard drinking a can of beer.

In this particular novel, two characters get drawn from our world into a conflict in a parallel reality.  One of them is a graduate student, and the other is an artist.  Each of them picks up a big skill shortly after they arrive in the new world of magic.

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Fantasy Round 44: Divinity Original Sin

2016/05/21 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing my way through Divinity: Original Sin, which is a pretty excellent role-playing game.

It’s been ages since I bought it, and I still haven’t managed to get through all the content.  Nonetheless, I thought I’d write a few words about the game, why it’s entertaining, and a small items that didn’t work as well for me.

These are the two default protagonists. They are also kind of scary.

These are the two default protagonists. They are also kind of scary.

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Science Fiction Round 59: Post-Apocalyptic Radio

I recently read the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which won several awards in 2014.  It describes, among other things, a post-apocalyptic future in which well upwards of 99% of humanity is killed by an abrupt pandemic of influenza-of-doom and the subsequent collapse of current social structures.  The “viruses don’t work that way” aside, there was something about the story that bothered me which also applies to a bunch of other post-apocalyptic stories: no one remembers to salvage a radio.

That I jump to this as a world-building problem immediately is perhaps due to my being a radio and radar astronomer.  But I think it’s an important difference from one of the common conventions of post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Apocalypse, No Matter How

Imagine a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Maybe global thermonuclear war turned most cities into radioactive glass and shut down agriculture almost everywhere.  Maybe a disease of doom spread everywhere.  Maybe somebody created a zombie-vectored bioweapon.  Maybe someone broke all of the rules for spaceflight and made a large rockpile impact Earth.  Maybe a star went kaboom.  Maybe more than one of those at once.  Whatever the method, almost everyone is dead.  What do you do next?

Many post-apocalyptic stories rely on the characters having little or no knowledge about what is going on elsewhere in the world, either to drive plot (“find the green place“) or to limit the scope of the story (“caste-driven dystopia in a post-apocalyptic Chicago“).  But even fairly simple radio technology allows communication across large distances.  This makes many plots not work.

Cover of "Station Eleven". There are many people in the story living in tents, but not in the particular layout depicted here. Note also that the details of world-building were not Emily St. John Mandel's focus in the story. And she had a good choice of motto for one of her main characters: "Because survival is insufficient".

Cover of “Station Eleven”. There are many people in the story living in tents, but not in the particular layout depicted here.  Note also that the details of world-building were not Emily St. John Mandel’s focus in her story. And she had a good choice of motto for one of her main characters: “Because survival is insufficient“.

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For Your Entertainment

2016/03/20 Leave a comment

I’ve been mostly working on editing Vagabond (the novel I’ve actually written all the way to the end), so I don’t have a big analysis post for you.

On the other hand, I can show the first map I’ve drawn for the other novel I have planned — The Diamonds of Night.  The big empty area in the middle of the northern continent is filled with other countries, but they aren’t so important so I haven’t filled them in yet.

The story mostly takes place in Suidaarde.

WorldMap_v1

Categories: Slush Pile Tags: ,

Science Fiction Round 58: The Good Dinosaur

2016/03/06 1 comment

The Good Dinosaur” was delightfully cute, with occasional moments of peril and “that could never happen, but… whatever, it’s cute.”

Yeah, the movie was kind of shiny, with cute kid and a cute dinosaur. Accurate poster.

Yeah, the movie was kind of shiny, with cute kid and a cute dinosaur. Accurate poster.

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Categories: Clement's Game
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