Friday, January 22, 2016

Brief Snippet

To prove that I, and Recompense, are still alive:

[Redacted]

Recompense is approaching publication, and all preview excerpts on this blog have been deleted. However, any confirmed reader who leaves a review for either Athame or Wrath is entitled to a free preview of Part One of Recompense. Just leave a review and send me an email to morganalreth (at) gmail (dot) com with the link, or if you already have reviewed, just end the link. I will return a preview file in either PDF or Kindle format, as preferred.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Writing A Character From A Different Culture

It's a challenge that I have always struggled with. A recent example of this situation caught my eye yesterday.

I used to write fanfiction, that's how I got started. I still read the stuff. I was reading a story set in the universe of a a sci-fi series with multiple non-human races. Doesn't matter which one. The point is that tv programs produced in the US are written by Americans. No matter what kind of makeup or costume they wrap the actors in, the 'aliens' on shows like that almost always think and act like modern Americans. However, this story was different.

This particular fanfic includes an alien character that was forced to make a difficult decision. She married a human, and used genetic engineering to artificially craft a child with him. Her government vehemently disapproved. Her government ordered her to abandon her husband and her baby, and return home to resume service to her people. She obediently left her child behind to be raised by the father, and never looked back. It broke her heart. But she did it because her ethical system considered obedience to authority, and the needs of her people at large, as being greater than anything else.

There are human cultures, or that have been, that might have reacted in similar ways. It's just that most Americans bristle by reflex at the concept of that type of submission to authority. This is not the kind of thing that most Americans would do, of either gender. The average American, if faced with that kind of ultimatum, would react in a way somewhere between telling their C.O. to kiss off, or perhaps make a run for it, or even possible murder. Most of us would not consider abandoning our family because the state demanded it. But that does not make it an invalid choice. She had reasons for her decision.

It is unusual in the extreme to find a story, or a show, where the aliens actually act un-American, much less alien. Not that this particular situation was really that weird. But it did veer away from the usual fare. Which is one of the main functions of sci-fi. To make the reader stretch their imagination and consider what-if.

My fiction has non-human races in it. I haven't dug too deeply into their mental or emotional makeup, because I am uncertain about how to present it. But speculative fiction is even more effective at provoking authors into considering what-ifs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Repairs And Reorganization

Owning a 'classic' vehicle is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the nostalgia value is nice, We have had the thing for a lot of years. It's like an old friend. It's also to the point now that it gains value each year instead of losing it, despite needing some body work. Sweet. The downside is maintenance. Right now it is in the garage because some balancing something-or-other on the crankcase pulley went kaput and started eating the main engine belt. Sigh.

To get my mind off it, and the ongoing saga of the great plumbing debacle, as well as taking a break from the penultimate phase of editing Recompense, I decided to get back into modding an old game that I like to tinker with. It's still fun to me, and it's old enough that there is plenty of reference material on the net for a self-taught ignoramus like myself.

I have already managed to scrounge up a deep contempt for the process of designing software by committee. The company that made this game are long-term industry veterans. They should know what they are doing by now. But the data file system is laid out in such a way as to make inconsistency and inefficiency abound. This cannot have happened as a deliberate design choice by a competent tech. Not possible. This is plainly the result of either a manager who couldn't find their rump, or more likely a design team who was running under the whip due to presure from the bean counters to get the thing out the door in time for deadline no matter what kind of crappy shape it was in.

Sigh. Again. At least they labeled everything. More or less.

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Hard To Pick

I am elbow deep in content editing for Recompense right now, and tearing out my hair. The problem is knowing what to carve out. It's not simple.

For instance, one review site gave Athame a generally very good review, with the single complaint that I did not include enough background material on the characters and world. Another, a private purchaser, left a good review on Amazon that liked the early part but thought the book got a little too bogged down in detail in the latter half. A writer can't win. What one reader loves will provoke another reader to gripe.

The standard so-called wisdom for many years has been that anything which doesn't advance the plot, or add necessary information about a major character, should not be in there. "Murder your darlings", etc. But then you get readers who like to savor the immersion factor and complain that the story feels rushed if you don't toss in a lot of texture. Times are changing also, with the increasing prevalence of electronic books and self-publishing.

Big publishing houses that put out large runs of paper books have a vested interest in keeping a book size down as much as possible. Partly to control production costs, partly to minimize losses if it doesn't sell well and they have to take it back for disposal. That doesn't apply to digital media. There are also several recent surveys that show people are tending more and more to prefer longer books. Maybe folks are starting to enjoy immersion more. Or maybe they just want more book for their money, given the tight economy. Or maybe people have always liked long books, and the publishing houses just kept readers on a starvation diet.

But by the same token (cliche anyone?) nobody wants to write another Robinson Crusoe. To anyone who hasn't read it, RC was a torturous ordeal to wade through. Verbose does not begin to cover it. It actually doesn't have a real plot as such. It's not actually about anything. Just an endless stream of consciousness plus soapbox for the author's philosophical musings. Thankfully, almost no one reads it anymore. I have no idea why anyone ever did, to tell the truth. It really and truly sucked. No personal offense intended to anyone who loves the piece of crap.

I am told that my main flaw as a writer is my tendency to digress away from the main plot into irrelevancy. Hence, I am deeply concerned about making sure that everything left in a book is clearly relevant to the book, with the possible exception of minor foreshadowing that will be left as hooks for the next story in a series. But what to cut? Which darling do I murder?