Monday, July 23, 2007

Haha, Los Angeles sucks

While Hartwell managed to stay on task for the most part in the next few chapters, in chapter 6, "Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?" he started to wander again. With that chapter title, his wanderings didn't make much sense. Going into it, you're going to think, "He'll talk about places authors get ideas" and instead he begins to go on about what ideas can do and the purpose of ideas etc. etc. and sort of leaves the wondering reader in the dust about idea origination. I think he could have easily gotten away with it had he just named the chapter something different.

I did like the phrase "Science fiction writers are like magpies." Collecting all sorts of random bits and pieces of information and what might seem like junky trivia to others. I do that all the time. I have all sorts of random "stupid" things in my brain that are just waiting to be used. I think this can be attributed not just to SF writers, but to a lot of writers. Tell me the fantasy writer doesn't soak up crazy information or the horror writer isn't collecting bits of something that might make for one freaky-ass story later on.

The chapter on the use of the term "science fiction" was good. I'd never really thought about it before, but it is kind of oxymoronic. Sort of like creative nonfiction. Haha. The problem is that people automatically think infallible facts with science, and that's not always true. Scientists get their theories disproven all the time, so science is more like the search for truth rather than truth itself. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with science sitting next to fiction. Especially since science fiction writers have come up with ideas that have later become reality, hence the reason the government started asking for the help and creative minds of some science fiction writers. There was a whole article about that, which I thought was awesome.

And yeah, once it becomes reality, it's no fun anymore. Of course, I tend to think that in that moment when fiction is no longer fiction and that invisible vest is actually functioning on a human being, both SF and science are totally kickass. After a while the elation will fade off, but I'll still think of how cool it was when it became real. Execept now we can't write about it like we used to, but oh well. I like to think that will keep the genre fresh and force new ideas to arise. And anyway, you never know what will come next. I remember when they thought they would never invent the gigabyte. Hmm.

My computer has 78 GB. (I could have had around 200 but I didn't have the money at the time).

Currently: Just kinda normal

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wait, what was that again?

So I'm on my next book, Age of Wonders by David Hartwell as my sort of history book for science fiction. I thought it would be cool getting into science fiction's history because even though my current novel is science fiction, I've read little in the genre (seems counter productive, I know) and figured knowing some of it's roots would help. I'm a little more well versed in fantasy, which would make sense considering that's what I do most of the time anyway. This is my second large science fiction idea, and I thought it was interesting how almost all my short stories were science fiction instead of fantasy....

Anywho, Age of Wonders. I'm trying to get it out of my way so I can devote my full time to Harry Potter, which may be a mistake because I'll probably start hearing all sorts of things about Harry if I'm not careful. I haven't read a lick of it yet and I know once I do I probably won't be able to stop. Like me and a bag of Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. I'm still not very far yet, and I blame the book, actually. Ok, I should blame myself, but up until recently, Hartwell's writing is sort of like mine actually, although I tend to think my ramblings digress a little before getting back on track and it's a little hard to get lost.

Ok, see, Hartwell's book isn't exactly a history book. This is good because it means I'm not going to be drooling on myself while I go through dates and facts presented in an uber-boring manner. Instead he's upbeat, obviously interested in what he's talking about (as he's a SF writer as well), and knows his stuff (and if he didn't he looked it up). Therein lies a bit of the problem.

Sometimes I think he got so into what he was talking about he just sort of...kept...talking about it getting to a point where I was sitting here thinking, "What the hell does this have to do with the chapter?" While I give it to him that perhaps he found his rhythm in the third chapter because it actually follows a line of thought and stays on topic, the first two just started to bug me. The first chapter was called "The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12" and while I was able to grasp what he was going for (and I guess that's what's important), once he was done talking about omnivorous SF reading behavior, he started babbling about specific authors and what they've done. This may be a problem because he's set in his time (80s) and it sounds as though he isn't planning for future readers. More like this book was for the current audience of the time. I wasn't born until '83 so I wasn't likely to read this book anytime soon.

He does it again in the second chapter, "I Have a Cosmic Mind - Now What Do I Do?" Come to think of it, I don't think he ever really answers this question. Maybe suggests books to read, but if you were an outsider of the SF genre and read that chapter, I honestly don't think you would be any closer to knowing how to handle your newfound reading world.

What I do credit Hartwell with is the way he describes SF people, reminding any non-SF person that, duh, SF people are just like you except for their enjoyment of SF. The guy at the water cooler, that woman in the grocery store picking out apples, your boss, who knows? Kind of helps kill the stereotype that all SF people speak Klingon or sit at their computers and get fat and think that the government has covered up an alien crash. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Truth is, that isn't (always) true. Most are the everyday people you see, just with an internal sense of, as Hartwell puts it, wonder.

I have a little problem with his attitude toward Star Trek though. Now, I'm not a trekkie and I've probably only seen a handful of episodes and yes I do realize what the show has done to the SF scene (both in good terms and not so good terms [all SF people are like trekkies]), but I don't take too kindly to Hartwell's condescending tone toward the show. I guess I can see his points and all that, and he's not horrible toward it or anything, but just the way he talks about it rubs me the wrong way. Like I want to tell him to lighten up on the show, give it a break. *shrug* Maybe it's just me.

I just hope he stays on track in future chapters.

Currently: I was happy but now I'm kinda bummed

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Kids? Really?

One of the books I put on my list to read during my writing term (as we are required to read a certain amount) was The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. You know, the one about the guy that goes back in time? Meets the Eloi and Morlocks? Come on, it was made into a movie - twice.

Before I get into more details, I have to say I'm surprised at where I found this book during my search for it. Jobless and strapped for cash as I am, I opted for the library. I looked in two different places; the public library and the Penn State University library. While in Penn State's library it was just sort of hanging out, I was quite shocked to find that Schlow Library had it residing in the children's section. The Time Machine - a children's book? I recalled reading War of the Worlds when I was in 8th grade, but that doesn't count as a child's book, does it? (Difficult for me to really know, since this is the same girl who planned to read Gone With the Wind over Christmas break in 7th grade and didn't because it got checked out) I was even further confused about the choice when I actually started reading the book. I wonder what age group it's stuck in at the library because when I think of children's book, I think at most 6th grade and under. The concepts the Time Traveller talks about in the beginning are things I probably wouldn't have grasped too well until after taking geometry or algebra, subjects I didn't take until middle school and up. Time. Space. Fourth dimensions.

I also don't see the style as something a child would tolerate. We're being told a story by the Time Traveller (he's telling his buddies and we're sort of listening in). There isn't any back and forth dialogue, paragraphs can be long, and there just doesn't seem to be the sort of thing children can get into. Maybe I'm underestimating kids - after all, they are driving through 700-page Harry Potter books. However, those read much differently.

Anyway, having said all that, on to the book. Much better than the movies (though I only remember fragments of the first one), which both failed in terms of Morlock looks, Eloi looks, landscape, and just far ahead he traveled. Though I don't often read SF, (ironically enough - it's just that I don't know what's good to read and I'm not into the hard SF) I do find myself strangely drawn to the time in which Earth dies. I know, weird, but it's a fascinating thing to think about - mostly because I seriously doubt it will ever happen in my lifetime. So what would it look like? How would Earth change in the future? In the book the atmosphere grows thin, green plantlife dies away, and we're left with a barren, rocky landscape with a dying ocean and giant crabs roaming while the sun slowly fades or dies or whatever happens to it when it starts to grow red and...unless it was because of Earth losing orbit, falling into the sun.

When you can see something like that in your mind in such a bizarre way, do you know how scary that is? That's why people don't leave their lives for very long and think about our insignificance. You think ants are small, but we're just the same in many ways. Sure our brains are bigger, but what then? People kill each other over religion, but to what purpose? Will it all matter in the end of all things? When our planet slides closer to the sun and our kind die away - and we've lived only such a short time as it is, both as humans and as a country. Rome didn't last. Persia didn't last. How long before we go too? Maybe that's why we strive to live so much. How many shots do we get? I think that's why I go a little mad sometimes. Stuck in a house, thinking about how I have to get a job. Life is to short to spend it in a cubicle or selling bullshit clothes, credit cards, or other crap to people. Stepping outside one's comfort zone to think of the utterly massive amount of space and strange stars and things far and beyond is frightening. That's why I'd love to see it - do you know how thrilling that would be? Forget sky diving, the rush would be so much more intense, holy cow...

But, as usual, I digress. H.G. Wells had a great imagination, you have to hand it to him. I'm extremely fond of his description, a skill I think I need improvement on, and maybe even if I don't, there's no reason not to try making it even better. I simply loved the fact that he had the sun rise and set in the west at one point. I have a world where I really, really want to do that, but I didn't know if it was possible and had considered asking someone well versed in planetary movements. I feel a little better about the idea now, though I would still consult someone, mostly because if the orbit of the planet is going a certain way, I don't know if there would still be grass and living people on that particular chunk of land with the sun moving in that way.

Oh, and I chuckled a little at the beginning as they discussed space and time. About the present, past, and future. It made me start thinking about the original Buddhist doctrine (yay Buddhism class in college!) and how there is no Present. Just the Past and Future. As we are perpetually moving forward in time, there never is any present, and though the concept was difficult to fully grasp at the time, thinking about it in terms slightly different, it actually works for me now. Crazy huh?

“What happened to then?”
“We passed then.”
“Just now. We're at now, now.”
“Go back to then!”
“I can't.”
“We missed it.”
“Just now.”
“When will then be now?”
“How soon?”

Currently: Wishing I was in the Infinite