Tag Archives: review

366. Three comments on Spirit Deer

[1]  When I was a very young writer, I read everything in the library under Dewey Decimal 808. It’s called Rhetoric & collections of literature, but really, it’s where they stick all the how-to-write books. In one book of articles, there was a piece titled Multiply by Two. The author’s thesis was that it is always better when starting a book to have two people in front of the reader, to allow for conversation while setting the scene. That’s probably reasonable advice, but I disregarded it in Spirit Deer. Tim is completely alone by page six, and remains that way until the last page.

At the time I wrote Spirit Deer, it just seemed right for Tim to be alone. I had spent half my childhood alone, walking to round up cattle twice a day or on a tractor, endlessly circling innumerable fields. Nothing could seem more normal for Tim the adult, and that didn’t change when he became Tim the youngster. And it wasn’t just me. In the outdoor adventures I read as a child, boys were always out in the woods, and often alone.

I read those books in the fifties and I wrote Spirit Deer originally in the seventies. In 2017, I wonder if the cell phone generation has ever been alone, or ever will be again.

[2] Speaking of cell phones, the cell phone bit in Spirit Deer Post 2 was introduced because no modern kid would be without one. I didn’t want it in the story, so I used one sentence to both establish Tim as responsible and get rid of the damned thing. This scene also introduces a girl, who has no part in the story, but would be missed if absent in 2017. Her absence would have been taken for granted back in the seventies. Or the fifties. Or the thirties, or the nineteenth century. Actually, I see the automatic inclusion of females as progress, but I still wanted Tim to be alone in this story.

[3] Until Tim fires his rifle in Spirit Deer Post 3, he could always just go back to the campground and bike on the his grandfather’s place. There would have been no story. I wanted Tim to have some responsibility for getting himself into trouble. This book is about choices, so it would have been inappropriate for him to get dumped into the wilderness due to forces beyond his control.

This is very different from the original version of Spirit Deer where the hunt had been the legitimate act of an adult.

I also give Tim an out in Post 4 and he doesn’t take it. He could just walk away from his responsibility. But Tim is a moral being, as all my main characters tend to be. I like a stalwart hero. I don’t like the weaselly, vacillating type who finally talks himself into doing the right thing — in real life, or in the characters I write about.

363. Masters: Coming to America

What sort of country would (the United States) have now if the Indians had had an Immigration Service when the Pilgrims set out in 1620?
John Masters

When I first read John Masters, something he said stuck with me. Before going to Westercon this year, I wanted to run down that quotation, and in doing so I found much more worth sharing. What he said about writing will appear here later, but today I want to give his insights on immigration, or, as he called it, his Seven Year’s War with the U. S. Immigration authorities.

For reasons detailed in his book, John Masters decided that, though he was an Englishman, there was no life for him in England, and that America should become his home. He applied for an immigrant visa, knowing that the British yearly quota of 65,000 was never filled. His reactions to the questions asked on the application form were humorous, but too long to place here. Apparently the questions were as inane then as they are now. (see 329. Green Card Blues and 361. Take This Test)

A week or so later, he was told that he would have to wait about four and a half years. He had been placed on the Indian quota. He went back to inquire and was told that American law only recognized the place of his birth, not his actual citizenship. Never mind that he was born in a British military hospital. Never mind that he was born of a British mother and a British father, stationed in the British army in a British controlled area. Never mind that a child born of an American parent (and it only takes one) anywhere in the world is an American citizen. Never mind that he was born in 1914, and India didn’t become a country until 1947. He was born in India, so he was on the India quota.

It was a good thing he hadn’t been born while his father was stationed in Greece. The Greek quota was eighty-one years. (Yes, that is not a misprint. 81 years.)

Masters decided to withdraw his application for an Immigrant visa, get a visitor’s visa, and work things out later. That was not allowed. Since he had applied for an immigrant visa, he was no longer eligible for a visitor’s visa. Too many others when facing impossible waits had made that same move, then disappeared once they were in America.

As you might guess, as a British Army officer with plenty of friends, he was eventually allowed a visitor’s visa, came to America, and managed to stay permanently, although with many additional bureaucratic battles.

Good thing he wasn’t actually Indian.

More to the point in 2017, good thing he wasn’t Mexican, or poor, or not a native English speaker.

Master’s comments on writing will come in later posts.

362. Masters of India

     Wasn’t it barely a week since I had thrilled to learn what was inscribed on the base of the Statue of LIberty:
          Give me you tired, your poor,
          Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .
     What generosity, I had thought, what a marvel of welcome!
                         John Masters

We’ll let that quotation hang there, and return to it later. This post, and several more, are connected to John Masters’ third installment of autobiography, Pilgrim Son.

I read the first installment of his autobiography, Bugles and a Tiger, during the 1970s. Normally a military biography would be the last thing to interest me. Furthermore, I was in the Navy against my will at the time, it that made it even more unlikely. However, Masters was a famous novelist specializing in India, so I read Bugles . . ., and I was impressed.

I had just finished four years studying South Asia and was about to return to another year of the same. My experience had shown me that there is wisdom (and stupidity) in writing on all sides of any issue. Wiser’s The Hindu Jajmani System (anthropologist), Nehru’s The Discovery of India (nationalist agitator, then national leader) and Masters’ various works (officer in the British Army in India) all showed accurate views from different perspectives.

I skipped Masters’ second autobiography, The Road Past Mandalay because I had no interest in sharing the horrors of WW II’s Burmese campaign, but Pilgrim Son was about the start of his life as a writer. I was beginning to write, so I ate it up.

That was nearly four decades ago. One particular story from that book stayed with me, and sent me back to seek it out again. I found that the whole book was a gem, far better than I remembered, and with more than one brief bit worth sharing.

For one thing, Masters had a lot to say about immigrants. That had not stuck in my memory because it was not an issue in the early eighties when I first read Pilgrim Son.

I have to set the stage by reminding American readers, whose world historical knowledge is typically shallow, that India is an ancient culture, but is new as a nation. Until mid-last century, it was controlled by Britain. In 1947, what was then India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, and each part became a self-governing nation. Decades later, Pakistan also split, into Pakistan and Bangladesh. What had once been a more-or-less uniform culture divided into hundreds of petty kingdoms, was first unified under British rule, then split into three modern nations.

After several hundred years, members of the British Army and of the British governing class, many of whom had lived in India for generations, had to take ship for England. John Masters was one of those Englishmen who was born in India, had lived his life there, and now found himself an immigrant to his other homeland. He soon found that there was nothing for him in England, and became an immigrant to America, where he began his writing career. more tomorrow

Alien Autopsy (2)

This material is the second post of four for the panel “Alien Autopsy: the biology of ET” Posts for the rest of the panels will be published in A Writing Life.

You can write a story and make up aliens – sentient or otherwise –  to fit. Or, you can make up aliens, and write a story about some peculiarity of their makeup. Decades of stories were about human mutants (not technically alien, but close enough) with psi powers. if you didn’t live through the fifties, you probably don’t realize how many ESP wielding mutants there were in science fiction, long before Professor X and his X-men made it to the comic books.

Sometimes a single biological factor, with its secondary ramifications, may suggest a whole species and their culture, as in Gardner Dozois novel Strangers.

It is the bittersweet story of a love affair between an Earth man and an alien woman of a people called the Cian. Throughout the novel, Dozois drops hints about the central paradox of Cianian culture, but Farber, his hero – if that is the right word – doesn’t pick up on them. Because he doesn’t understand his wife’s culture, he chooses to have children by her, thinking that is what she wants, and in the closing chapters Dozois drops a house on all of us when Farber – and we – discover that Cianian culture is all built around the fact that, because of a biological defect, its women always die in childbirth.

Technically, this is a gimmick story, but it is so well done that it doesn’t feel like one. Strangers is build around Cianian culture, but Cianian culture is built around the structure of its aliens’ reproductive biology.

There have also been a lot of less salutary books written about aliens with odd reproductive structures, but lets not go down that road.

(Aside: My novel Cyan, named after the planet which was named after the color, has no relationship to Dozois Cian, or the thousand other Cians — characters, book titles, and authors names — to be found if you type cian into Goodreads.)

Those of us that grew up with the original Star Trek knew aliens as humans with big masks and padded clothing. CGI made quite a bit of progress in removing that limitation in movies and subsequent TV programs, but the wildest aliens aren’t products of technology. They have been around for more than a century in novels. Remember War of the Worlds? Great monster. Even better radio broadcast.

Larry Niven’s Puppeteers might be hard to reproduce in a movie, but that doesn’t stop readers of Ringworld from enjoying them. In fact, that may be part of the appeal. We science fiction readers enjoy having a cadre of writers producing phalanxes of weird critters that would leave lesser readers shaking their heads.

No one has read all of science fiction, but I’ve read a lot. And in my slice of the SF universe, I have never found a writer who created more or weirder creatures than E. E. Smith, PhD; aka Doc Smith.

Smith was not available in either of the two libraries that were the centers of my childhood universe, but when I got to college, one of my roommates was a fan. He wisely started me on Galactic Patrol, and I read through to the end, then circled back. Take my word for it — keep the same order. If you start on the putative book one, Triplanetary, you’ll probably never make it past page five.

(Another aside: books four through six were written from 1937 through 1948, all appearing in Astounding. Smith wrote “book one” in 1934, unconnected to the rest. When he got a chance to see the complete series published, he rewrote Triplanetary to fit the others, wrote an entire new “book two”, First Lensman, and tweaked the rest. They fit together, and the first two have moments of excellence, but the last four are the essence of the tale. If you find the style too old fashioned after two chapters of Galactic Patrol, move on; you were born too late.)

You will, however,  miss a menagerie of strange aliens, both sentient and otherwise. I’ll describe just two; first Worsel:

. . . there was hurtling downward toward them a veritable dragon: a nightmare’s horror of hideously reptilian head, of leathern wings, of viciously fanged jaws, of frightfully taloned feet,  of multiple knotty arms, of long, sinuous heavily-scaled serpent’s body.

This is the creature who will become the second most formidable Lensman, and Kennison’ s best friend. The third second-stage Lensman was Tregonsee:

This . . .apparition was at least erect, which was something. His body was the size and shape of an oil-drum. Beneath this massive cylinder of a body were four short, blocky legs upon which he waddled about with surprising speed. Midway up the body, above each leg, there sprouted out a ten-foot-long, writhing, boneless, tentacular arm, which toward the extremity branched out into dozens of lesser tentacles, ranging in size from hair-like tendrils up to mighty fingers two inches or more in diameter. Tregonsee’s head was merely a neckless, immobile, bulging dome in the center of the flat upper surface of his body — a dome bearing neither eyes nor ears, but only four equally-spaced toothless mouths and four single, flaring nostrils.

These are the minions of civilization; the baddies look worse.

Part of the power of these descriptions comes from E. E. Smith’s writing style. In flipping through the internet while writing this, I ran across a comment that if the Lensmen series were to be offered for publication today, it would not be accepted. That is absolutely true, but it is also true that without the Lensmen series, there would be no Star Wars, nor any other space opera. The Lensman series set the pattern that all others would follow, and nothing that came after was as good as the original.

Heinlein was Smith’s friend, and our best picture of him, from RAH, shows Smith as the original of the Gray Lensman, and shows his wife as the original of Clarissa MacDougal. Much of the charm of the series lies in Kennison’s Boy Scout incorruptibility. Those who say he has no personality are wrong. He simply has a personality that is out of the modern norm. Like Jesus. Which is exactly what he should be, as the end product of thousands of years of Arisan work in perfecting human DNA.

All this works, and the hundreds of weird aliens work, because E. E. Smith’s writing style is essentially naive. His rolling cascades of description could only come from someone who is so sure of himself that he is incapable of embarrassment.

It’s been a long time since that kind of writer has been in vogue. more tomorrow

Click here for next post.

Alien Autopsy (1)

Kinnison and Tregonsee well visualized,
with Worsel drawn badly as an alligator.
Interior illustration from a 1941 Astounding.

Raven’s Run concluded Monday, May 22. A new novel, Spirit Deer, will begin in Serial on June 5. Meanwhile, I am scheduled to participate in five panels at Westercon this year. Posts relating to the panel “What Makes the Golden Age Golden?” were presented in Serial last week.

This material is for the second panel “Alien Autopsy: the biology of ET”. Posts for the rest of the panels will be published in A Writing Life.

Take one human being. Count his parts. Now start changing the appearance, number, or configuration of those parts. You might come up with:

A two headed mutant on a century ship.
A seven foot humanoid with curving horns coming out of his forehead.
A human who consists of “four-hundred-odd pounds of rawhide and whalebone”, because his ancestors colonized a high gee planet.

See how easy it is. And that, by the way, was a quiz. All three examples are from major writers of science fiction. Their identities are at the bottom of the page. Sometimes, a little tweak all it takes, and for that you don’t need any help. Anyone could do it, although not everyone does it equally well.

     The first of these three was a monster/villain type, and that was all the critter building required to let him do his job.
     The second was an ersatz Amerindian and everybody knew it. By the way, the term Amerindian was used by anthropologists for a short time before Native American took over, and this author may be the only one to have used it in science fiction. Hint, hint.
     The last human variant was a fairly major character, with an actual personality (albeit a cardboard one) and he looked like he did because he had to, in order to play the role assigned to him.

These are all humans, or the galactic equivalent of human. Sentient beings. HILFs. A HILF is a Highly Intelligent Life Form, a term coined by Ursula Le Guin, which should have replaced sentient being, but never caught on. Sentient actually means “having sensation”, not “having intelligence”. An earthworm is sentient in the dictionary sense, but science fiction speaks its own language.

Non-sentient (in the SF sense) beings can also be created by simple tweaks.

The people of Gorth in Star Gate ride larngs; I’m referring to the original novel by Norton, unrelated to the movie or TV series using the same name. A larng is shaggy, clawed, and has a bad temper, but basically he is just a hairy horse with an attitude. On Arzor — Norton, again, in Beast Master and its sequels — humans have to watch out for yoris (think alligators with a poison gland) while they herd frawns (analog to big-horn sheep) across a landscape suspiciously like the American southwest.

I’m not complaining. Beast Master is one of my favorite Norton novels. There is plenty of intrigue, adventure, battle, and family turmoil. It didn’t need a full scale exercise in critter building. In fact, more imagination devoted to that aspect of the novel would just have slowed things down.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, in Hunters of the Red Moon and its sequel The Survivors,  gave us a mammalian snake, complete with nipples, and a giant hyper-fast weasel. She also gave us some sentient beings — there was the cat-critter and the dinosaur-critter. Again, I am not making fun. These sentients had plenty of individuality and charm, but it came from their cultures, not their body structures.

You might call this the minimalist approach; it’s surprising how often it works. Norton was the master of the technique. Gordon Dickson could paint a whole landscape in twenty words. If you have a story to tell, and that story just requires local color, it’s often best not to waste your efforts and your reader’s time in excessive descriptions of the local flora and fauna.

You can combine the minimalist approach with an occasional zinger that brings you reader up short.Marion Zimmer Bradley did that in The Survivors with the proto-saurian Aratak. In the middle of the action, he gets a pheromone soaked calling card from an enemy proto-saurian and disappears. Weeks later he comes back with a smile on his face, ready to take up the quest where they were when he deserted his companions.

I have read hundreds of stories with minimally different aliens. They were all as good, or bad, as the underlying story allowed. I never felt cheated.

However, if you want to go to the next level, and make your aliens really different, that works too. We’ll look at that tomorrow.     

Click here for next post.

================

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. The quiz. The examples were from:

Robert Heinlein, Orphans of the Sky
Andre Norton, the Norbies from Beast Master
E. E. Smith, Galactic Patrol, referring, of course, to Peter vanBuskirk.

Golden Age of Science Fiction (3)

Raven’s Run concluded Monday, May 22. A new novel will begin soon.  Meanwhile, this is the third of three posts of material for the panel “What Makes the Golden Age Golden?”, to be presented at Westercon.

.  .  .  Some say the golden age was circa 1928; some say 1939; some favor 1953, or 1970 or 1984. The arguments rage til the small of the morning, and nothing is ever resolved.
         Because the real golden age of science fiction is twelve.
                                   David Hartwell

That the golden age of science fiction is twelve — or thirteen — has some validity, but also has limitations. If you are a thinking reader, the golden age of science fiction begins when your maturity begins.

For fun, let’s put that into pseudo-mathematical terms:

MATURITY = ENTHUSIASM – CALLOWNESS

Old age comes when you also subtract enthusiasm — some of us will never reach it. A mature reader loves the good stuff (by his/her lights) but doesn’t love everything.

I had a life crisis just short of my sixteenth birthday that drop kicked me into maturity. From sixteen to college was Hell. Then I escaped. Once I was on my own, I grew like a weed after a rain storm — fast, sprawling, and a little bit prickly. I reveled in being part of a community of scholars, but I didn’t ignore that rack of science fiction paperbacks at the back of the college book store.

I had read The Way of All Flesh in high school. Samuel Butler was good. I read Davy after I was on my own. Pangborn was better.

I had read the stories in the Old Testament in church, sitting in the back pew, with my Bible in my lap so I could look like I was listening to the preacher. They weren’t bad. I read A Wizard of Earthsea after I escaped. Le Guin was better.

I don’t disparage the classics, but consider this. Setting aside the universals of the human experience (which are reason enough to go to the classics), Dickens and Butler were fighting the battles of their day. Those battles were won or lost before we were born. The best science fiction writers are fighting the battles of today and tomorrow.

Is Dickson as good as Dickens? I doubt it. But the Friendlies, the Exotics and the Dorsai are probably more relevant to today than Oliver Twist. Aside from the universals, that is.

My college roommate introduced me to Marvel comics, something that wasn’t allowed in my childhood home. That led to a decade long addiction. I finally kicked Marvel cold turkey, so I would have money enough to eat. I swear the idea of crossovers would make Wall Street proud.

My roommate also introduced me to the Lensman books. Thanks, Bob. It’s hard to read them fifty years later without lip-syncing, but I still do.

If you read enough, and treasure the good stuff, you will create your own golden age.

You can find my golden age in tattered paperbacks on the shelves of my writing room. They are the ones I didn’t get rid of, out of the thousands I read. You will find Ursula Le Guin there, but shoved to the back. Her fantasies would be at the top of my fantasy list, and a long way above Lord of the Rings, but not her science fiction. They are all thoughtful, intelligent, meaningful, and powerful. The problem is the people with whom she populated them. They were all Mrs. Brown’s of both genders (including both genders in alteration in Left Hand of Darkness). How someone who created Sparrowhawk/Ged could fail to write any science fiction protagonist I could like, even while I was enjoying her stories and respecting her skill, is a continuing mystery to me.

You will find Pavane on those shelves. It is my second favorite fantasy and near the top in science fiction. Technically an alternate timeline story, Pavane tastes like fantasy. If they ever put on a panel, “Is there any difference between science fiction and fantasy?”, I’ll propose Pavane as exhibit number one, for the prosecution and the defense.

The Road to Corlay is there, along with everything Zelazny wrote; also everything from Dickson’s Childe Cycle, but very little of his other writing. Everything from Heinlein is there, even For Us the Living. I don’t understand why, but I re-read Heinlein more than any other author. If I could solve the conundrum of Heinlein, and apply it to my own writing, I could make a million dollars and be equally loved and hated by the whole science fiction community.

I could go on for hours, but you would quit reading. It doesn’t really matter what makes up my personal golden age. It only matters what makes up yours.

#              #              #

And then there was New Age.

No concept as fuzzy as New Age has boundaries. It’s even hard to point to a center. Is Michael Moorcock part of it? Certainly. Harlan Ellison? Maybe. Defining New Age is like trying to nail fog to the wall.

During the sixties and seventies, everybody was talking about the New Age. It was going to save moribund science fiction from itself. It was going to destroy science fiction by drowning it in a sea of whining. It depended on who you were listening to.

I never was clear on who was or wasn’t New Age. I just knew there was a lot of weird new stuff coming down and I really liked a lot of it.

J. G. Ballard blew my mind. I never knew where-the-hell his stories were going while I was reading them. I often wasn’t sure after I had finished. If you ever despair of the decency of humanity, don’t read “Deep End”, and least not if you have the means of suicide ready to hand.

Harlan Ellison was the best writer of short stories ever. No qualifiers. If you want a clinic on how to craft the perfect last line, without gimmicks, read “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”.

If you want a clinic on how to write a soap opera, in the sense of a story that goes on and on with each sub-climax leading to new start, with suspense and resolution, but no final resolution — in short, a story that can go on forever and keep its readers happily following book after book — read Zelazny’s Amber series. It will take a while. Or if you want to sample Zelazny in a short novel that doesn’t commit you to a lifetime of reading, try Isle of the Dead.

I think there is one golden age that I missed. About mid-eighties I hit a dry spell in my writing — or more accurately, in my selling. It had consequences. When I saw a newly published science fiction novel that wasn’t as good as mine, I got angry. When I saw a newly published science fiction novel that was better than mine, I got depressed.

I was still re-reading old science fiction, and new novels by old favorite authors. I found some new favorites — John Varley, David Brin, and others come to mind — but I largely bypassed a generation of new writers. Recently I have been reading Neil and Neal, Gaiman and Stephenson, but I know I must have missed a feast of others.

I have probably missed more than one feast. Is there a Golden Age of Steampunk? Probably, but I don’t know the sub-genre well enough to talk about it.

So now I’m off to Westercon to participate in a few panels, including the Golden Age panel that prompted this series of posts. While I’m on that stage, I’ll not only be sharing my thoughts, but also taking notes. I have some catching up to do.

These posts called out a short story, which will show up Monday, over in the A Writing Life side of this website.

Golden Age of Science Fiction (2)

Raven’s Run concluded Monday, May 22. A new novel will begin soon.  Meanwhile, this is the second of three posts of material for the panel “What Makes the Golden Age Golden?”, to be presented at Westercon.

Yesterday, we looked at Jules Verne. Meanwhile, over in England, there was a fellow named H. G. Wells, but I place him with all the other unreadable Victorians. In my opinion, if he had been a German or a Spaniard or — God forbid — a Hindu, we would never have heard of him. Actually, that is probably true of most of the denizens of British Literature 101. Others differ on this opinion.

Science fiction, as we know it, got its start in France and England. The next major event in science fiction history, possibly not a golden age, but at least an efflorescence, was the era of the magazines, starting with Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories in 1926 and extending, much attenuated, until today.

The era of John Campbell’s Astounding from 1939 is probably the most cited period in the search for a golden age, and a list of stories from that venue is compelling. The list of authors from the Campbell era is of almost unbelievable quality.

At that time, science fiction was mostly a literature of short stories. Novels existed, but were typically presented serially — a technique that has been in play at least since Charles Dickens. All that changed around the time of the end of World War II, with the rise of mass market paperbacks. It is a complicated story with dozens of players, but no one was more influential than Donald A. Wollheim.

Wollheim began as a fan, went on to write novels and short fiction, and eventually found his métier as an editor. He began with fanzines, moved to the editing of anthologies, then became an editor at Avon books. In 1952 he moved to Ace, where he introduced Ace Doubles. These were twin novels, published together back to back, head to foot. Two for the price of one was a real selling point in the era when paperbacks were introducing cheap literature to the masses. That’s me; I was part of the masses.

Was this a Golden Age? In terms of the availability of new writers like Delany, Le Guin. Zelazny and Brunner, certainly. And Andre Norton’s works finally got to shed their tattered cloth library look and to sport bright, new multicolored covers, sometime two on one double. But technically, this might not be a true golden age, since large numbers of the titles were recycled from the John Campbell era magazines.

It sure felt like a golden age to those of us who were reading the hundreds of titles that were suddenly available to us.

Here lies one of the answers to what makes a golden age. Any time you publish material, some of it will be golden. If your output is large enough, there will be enough gold to make an age, notwithstanding all the rest of the sludge-flow that carries it along. The influx brought about by Ace doubles and the rest of the paperback revolution made huge numbers of new works, and equally large numbers of lost classics from the past, available on every street corner for prices that everyone could afford. If that isn’t a golden age, I don’t know what it takes.

With no intention to disparage the genius of Le Guin, Zelazny, or any other, I am reminded of an old Irish story:

A group of men in an Irish bar were solving the world’s problems one by one. Deep into the night, one of them asked the group, “If every poet in Ireland were all killed tonight, how many years would it take before a new generation of poets rose up?” Another of the group raised his hand with one finger showing, and the rest nodded in agreement.

It is my opinion that for every literary genius who arises, there are a hundred like her or him that we will never know. For every award winning novel, there are many more as good moldering away in typescript, awaiting their author’s death and their final trip to the trash bin.

Literary genius is a part of the whole human race. A golden age comes when opportunity arises for the distribution of genius. Change the venue, change the world.

Today there is a mass of unread eBooks, self published through Amazon. You wanna get rich? Invent the algorithm that winnows through this crop of eBooks, and separates genius from the rest. Of course, if you do, would-be authors everywhere will hate you.

Why? Let’s consider traditional editors as Valkyries. (I didn’t say vultures, I said Valkyries.) They cruise above the field of battle and choose those worthy of Valhalla, or at least publication. Self-publication bypasses this process. An algorithm to decide on quality would be an AI-editor. Now there’s a scary science fiction concept.

The onslaught of paperbacks was not the last golden age. Beginning with the original Star Trek, there was a golden age of television science fiction, although its quality was never very pronounced. CGI, starting with Star Wars, brought a golden age of movies, at least visually. I watch them occasionally, but I have yet to see one which rises to the quality of a good novel. That may be just a personal prejudice.

I watched the Wild Wild West in its original run, and had no idea I was there for the birth of steampunk. I’m still trying to figure out what steampunk is, as something more than a sales tag. Jules Verne, plus sex? That’s puzzlement, not disparagement. I have liked the steampunk I’ve read and watched, but it won’t come into focus for me as a movement. more tomorrow

Click here for next post.