Tag Archives: science fiction

When Gravity Departs, the World Scoffs

Happy almost Fourth of July! Fireworks, barbecue, family and friends… all in celebration of the birth of a nation!

I thought I’d share a writing piece based on the concept of something strange happening. Something that by all accounts shouldn’t be possible. This piece was a writing assignment I completed in graduate school, and it was challenging for me, because I’m so used to writing fantasy and futuristic science fiction. I couldn’t just jump into automatically suspending my disbelief. It’s a short piece, and I hope you enjoy the characterization.

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Without Gravity

At nine AM, Lena Delani sauntered past my cubicle. Her four-inch fireball red heels clip-clopped against the cream linoleum, while her multi-colored python satchel bag swished against her side. She entered Mr. Durham’s office. The glass door sealed shut silently behind her. He was on the phone, his back to the wall of glass separating him from the multitude of cubicles making up the refurbished warehouse turned office space.

Lena flung her bag onto the high-backed button tufted chair in the corner of the room and pounced on Mr. Durham’s back. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she kissed him. Her lips left a smear of red on his cheek.

Mr. Durham started, but when he saw it was Lena, he dropped the phone, twisted around, and grabbed her fully in his arms. He swung her around in a circle. Her heels cracked against the dark cherry desk. A chip of wood flew through the air, smacked into the wall of glass, and then thwacked onto the floor. Mr. Durham’s striped shirt slipped free of his belt and a thin layer of pudge wobbled.

“You’re staring again,” my coworker Annette said. Her head appeared over the lip of her cubicle. Bits of frizzy hair stuck up in all directions. The bun she’d tied her hair into had failed.

A sliver of blueberry was lodged between her two front teeth.

“No, I’m not.” I jabbed the keys on my keyboard. There was nothing on my computer screen, but the clacking of my fingers against the keys continued.

“He’s not going to leave her. Look at her.”

I didn’t.

Annette continued, “She’s got those legs and that hair and that skirt. And those boobs.”

My arm itched. My fingers slammed into the keys. Mr. Durham cared about more than looks. His first wife had been short and fat. His second wife had freckles, like me.

Lena was a break from his previous marriages. She was twenty-one, a model, if you called posing in a clothing catalog and a tattoo removal commercial modeling, and wore skirts that showed off her butt cheeks. Her butt cheeks didn’t sway as she walked. Nothing but her hips and hair swayed.

“Did you hear about that crazy story on the radio?” Annette asked.

I stopped typing. Lena’s fingernails were manicured. Her toenails were too, except they were painted either red or pink or sparkly. Mine were bare and one of them was breaking. If Lena were rated, she’d be a dime. A perfect ten. Me? I hit the delete button on my keyboard.

At Helly Marketing there was no need to be a dime. Forty some cubicles and a few floor-to-ceiling windows that showcased the employee parking lot, arriving at work in the dark, leaving work in the dark, people dressed more for comfort than looks.

And then Lena Delani strode in and morphed us all into pale, wrinkled wraiths.

“The radio? Mary, are you listening?”

Lena laughed, high-pitched and loud. Any louder and the wall of glass would rattle.

“What about the radio?” I asked.

“Some guy said he saw this homeless man float away.” Annette shoved her arm toward the ceiling. “One minute he was standing and the next he rose off the ground and into the air.”

“Lucky him.”

“Lucky? He floated away, and more his head caved in on one side.”

I tapped the Rosie the Riveter Bobblehead on my desk. Rosie squeaked as her head wobbled. “The story’s a hoax. The radio was trying to drum up ratings for their show. You know how it is.”

Annette worked for Helly Marketing for two years before I was hired. When I came in for the interview, Mr. Durham had been there. He wore a dark blue suit and shiny black dress shoes. No pudge, but that was seven years ago. I was still in the same cubicle as when I was hired.

Annette dropped her arm to her cubicle wall. “Maybe, but another radio show I listened to talked about a woman who witnessed two kids up and float away.”

If Lena floated away, her legs wouldn’t be wrapped around Mr. Durham’s waist. Her fingers wouldn’t be clawing at his hair. Her skirt wouldn’t be riding up. If she flew off into the sky, her hair would knot. She’d lose her four-inch heels. Her legs wouldn’t be so great then.

“I did some surfing and found more stories, all over the world. It’s not just people. Bits of ocean and fish. Trees. No one is paying attention, but something’s going on.”

I flicked Rosie harder. She toppled over. Her head clanked against my desk. “People don’t float away.”

Lena’s legs tightened around Mr. Durham’s waist. A stack of papers clattered to the floor. The glass orb Mr. Durham’s daughter made for him, when her sixth grade class went on a field trip to a glassblowing factory last year, teetered on the corner of his desk.

“I’m telling you, there’s something wrong with gravity.”

–The assignment wasn’t to write an entire story, but maybe one day I’ll use this within a larger context…or perhaps it’ll remain as it was originally intended: a writing exercise.

Have a wonderful holiday tomorrow!

(Photo courtesy of Guillaume Delebarre.)

 

A Badass Hidden Gem: “Wool” Book Review

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A breathtakingly creative and horrifyingly disturbing post-apocalyptic novel! Hugh Howey’s “Wool” is one hell of a ride. Starting as a short story, this tale grew into a novel due to popular demand, and then, once it became an online sensation, was picked up by Simon & Schuster and became a New York Times bestseller.

In a twisted futuristic world, where everyone lives underground in a silo because the surface was horribly poisoned hundreds of years ago, and where the levels of the silo are split into different social classes, mistrust breeds rampantly and the worst thing a person can do is ask to go outside. Because, while there’s a sheriff and a mayor, the true power lies with the highly secretive and malicious IT department, and they are more than willing to grant your request.

Howey created a phenomenal aura of dread and desperation. Claustrophobia claws at you, begging you to ask the same forbidden questions those who take a one-way trip outside do. Told from multiple characters, this story is rife with suspense and contains so many plot twists that I couldn’t guess the end!

I can’t say it better than Kathy Reichs, bestselling author of the Temperance Brennan series, “Wool is frightening, fascinating, and addictive.” “Wool” is flooded with a highly detailed and authentic world, realistic and relatable characters, and a terrifyingly believable story. A compulsive read.

(Photo courtesy of Sam Cox.)

“We Are the Ants” Book Review

“We Are the Ants” is a Young Adult semi-science fiction novel by Shaun David Hutchinson. I say semi-science fiction because the novel is more contemporary than Sci-Fi, and it deals with some very realistic and dark issues. However, if I rated this novel on a scale of 1-5, with five being I absolutely loved it, I’d try to cheat the system and give it a six.15785386571_4b0249c2ff_z

At first, I was put off by the amount of cursing within the opening chapters (heads up there’s several f-bombs), but I quickly became engrossed with the protagonist Henry’s personality, trauma, and, most importantly, story.

This novel engages readers, and forces them to witness bullying, mental illness, and come to understandings that they would normally otherwise rather not think about. Shaun David Hutchinson uses Henry to send some very important messages to readers: “Remember the past, live the present, write the future” and that we do matter; maybe not to the universe or in the grand scheme of things – all of us will be forgotten in time – but we do matter and because we live the present, we’ll keep on.

After all, we’re the ants. And what do ants do? They keep marching one by one.

There’s a deepness to this story that isn’t initially apparent, but then showcases itself brilliantly through the pain of loss, the presence of new love and the guilt and fear that sometimes accompany that love, and much more.

This novel begins with Henry telling readers about how he’s been abducted by aliens multiple times, and that they’ve now given him a choice: press the button and save Earth or don’t press the button and on 29 January 2016 the world is going to end. The question remains: will Henry press the button?

Though there is a love story within this book, this novel is so much more complex than a YA romance between Henry and Diego. Henry’s ex-boyfriend Jesse – the love of his life – committed suicide. Henry’s mother is a chain-smoking waitress, who cannot stand her one-time dream of being a chef because that dream reminds her too much of Henry’s dead-beat, door-slamming father, who abandoned them. Henry’s brother is a college dropout. The most popular boy in school alternates bullying and making out with Henry. Henry’s grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s. The list goes on, and it is dark and amazing and heartfelt, and at times when readers need it most, comical.

Insight abounds in this novel, and what’s more is that the insight is conceivable. Usually in YA books, the protagonist possesses an awareness other characters miss, and often that insight is too deep or advanced for that character. However, in this novel Henry struggles with the big life questions. He asks others for answers, and the answers they provide create a well-rounded and realistic picture, with each of their answers reflecting the events that have occurred in their lives and how those events have impacted them. This story and its characters are believable to the point I imagined it as real life. That’s a big part of what makes this novel so engrossing, and what had me smiling, crying, and feeling all the emotions throughout the tale.

This book left my mind reeling with thoughts long after I closed the back cover. Definitely take the time to read this.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Brace.)

Embarrassment: Being an Adult Reading YA (This is Totally Me!)

92800243_463415080d_zI am an avid reader. Well, I go through cycles where I devour book after book, and then I lose the drive to read for a while. Typically in those dry book spells I watch too much TV.

But that’s getting away from today’s topic.

Let’s talk about embarrassment. When I was a teenager, I could get away with reading any young adult novel I wanted without feeling guilty. After all, YA books are meant for the 12-18 year old age range. However, with my teenage years growing further and further behind me, I find myself not wanting to read YA books in public.

Why?

I’m embarrassed. I feel like people will somehow look down on me for enjoying books that tend to not have much depth. (In all fairness, I get embarrassed over reading adult urban fantasy books as well.)

In reality, I realize most people aren’t paying any attention to me. Yet, there are those few who are, and after having some of my professors (I’m currently working on my master’s thesis) proclaim that they have less respect for people who read any sort of YA, fantasy, or science fiction, I’m all the more aware of what I read in public.

When asked what my favorite books are, I have two responses: one for the academic world and one for the social world. In the academic realm, I’ll say Jane Eyre, Beloved, and Dubliners. For friends and the more casual social world, I’ll say the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the Abhorsen series, Born to Run, and Into Thin Air. (The first two series are YA, while the second two books are non-fiction.)

I shouldn’t feel this way. I should enjoy what I enjoy. After all, it is my life. And I’m not the only adult who enjoys reading books targeted for a younger audience.

Several years back (okay, a few more than several), my friend convinced me to go see the second Twilight movie in the theaters with her. We ended up sitting between a group of three or four fourteen-ish looking girls and a trio of middle-aged women. When the character of Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) took off his shirt, both the fourteen-year-olds and the middle-aged women squealed in delight. The look on their faces was pure, girlish glee.

Neither group was at all embarrassed at being excited over movies that stemmed from books many people vehemently denounced as an author’s teenage wish fulfillment.

For a moment I found myself relaxing, thinking that it’s okay to enjoy some silly, shallow, and melodramatic things. But, even all those years ago, when anyone asked me what I thought of the movie, I’d say it wasn’t worth seeing again and tell the story of the middle-aged women, as if somehow by shifting the focus onto them no one would notice that during the scene where Jacob Black takes off his shirt, I appreciated his muscles too.

Do you feel embarrassed reading certain types of books in public?

(Photo courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM.)

When Romance In Novels Overwhelms

6963846677_95eb7308b8_kBy the title of this post I’m not referring to romance novels. The concept of a romance novel is romance. What I’m talking about is fantasy, science fiction, and other genres.

Based on the genre, readers have different expectations. Fantasy includes supernatural elements or magic as an integral part of the plot. Science fiction deals with futuristic technology, space travel, extraterrestrial life, parallel universes, and more. It’s rare to find any sort of supernatural element within science fiction, unless you begin delving into science fantasy, which combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

However, it’s not unusual to find a romance subplot within fantasy and science fiction. Romance is marketable. But what happens when the romance overwhelms the intended plot?

Ever read a back cover blurb and gotten excited about a book? You purchase (or borrow) the book and as you’re reading discover that the book is nothing like the blurb? I have. It’s not a good realization. Most times the book is much heavier on the romance than the blurb indicated. (This is one of the reasons I tend to read reviews before spending money on a novel. Romance is great…in moderation. If I purchase a science fiction novel, I bought it for the science fiction, not the unexpected romance.)

I am a fan of the TV show The 100. The first season was a bit iffy, mostly because it felt like a young adult show and I found myself questioning some of the main characters decisions. But then the show got good, fast. So, I thought I should read the books, since books are most often better than the TV show or movie.

Once I read the reviews on this book series, I decided against reading it. Many people stated that the romance, a love triangle, took over the plot to the point where the book was no longer a “post-apocalyptic tale of survival,” but a teenaged romance. (The link leads to an expletive heavy review. Be warned. (Here’s a link to The 100 blurb and other reviews: The 100 book series.) Other issues with the series was noted, however most of the issues related back to the romance.

Now, some people loved this book series. That’s fantastic. Everyone has different tastes and I encourage everyone to take the time to decide if this book series is something they might be interested in reading. I happen to like my romances as subplots, unless I specifically choose a romance. Otherwise, when I’m expecting an epic space battle, but all I get is googly eyes, I feel cheated.

Some books that are romance light:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix (This is one of my favorite YA trilogies, though it’s nothing like the YA novels of today’s literary world. Much more mature.)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What do you think when romance overtakes all other plots in non-romance novels?

(Photo courtesy of darwin Bell.)

What is Magical Realism?

249116968_020dadfb09_zThere are so many different types of literature in the world. So many that often writers don’t know about all the varying branches. One type of literature I’ve recently been familiarizing myself with is magical realism. I’ve always been a fan of escapist literature (by that I mean fantasy and science fiction). However, when I read Sea Oak by George Saunders I wanted to know more about the category his short story fit into.

Magical realism is a type of postmodern writing. It attempts to show readers the truth behind a specific reality or worldview. What’s interesting about magical realism is that is introduces magical (impossible) elements into a real-world story. In other words, the ghost that’s haunting the attic isn’t part of a fantasy narrative. It’s the expression of peoples’ beliefs that ghosts exist.

Think about the show Ghost Hunters. A team of paranormal investigators investigate paranormal activity at various sites around the United States. Many people believe the otherworldly experiences of the investigators to be a hoax, yet there are those whom believe the experiences are fact. For those individuals, the ghosts are a real part of contemporary life. (In other words, individuals who believe in the paranormal have a different reality than those who don’t believe.)

Magical realism attempts to show the world through eyes other than our own.

It may seem like magical realism is close or the same as fantasy, but what makes it different is:

  • When done correctly, magical realism doesn’t require the suspension of disbelief (the reader’s decision to set aside his disbelief and accept a story’s fantastic premise as being real), as much as readers automatically accepting the sublime as part of normal everyday life.
  • Magical realism strings events together in such a way that readers automatically accept the fantastic as reality. For example, in One Hundred Years of Solitude one of the characters is shot and killed. His blood flows down the street, climbs stairs, and navigates around corners to reach the character’s mother. A miracle.

Magical realism depicts unreal features as part of mundane life. It blends the magical with the familiar.

Here’s a great summary of magical realism:

“In magical realism the writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts. The principle thing is not the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man and his circumstances. In magical realism key events have no logical or psychological explanation. The magical realist does not try to copy the surrounding reality or to wound it but to seize the mystery that breathes behind things.”

Know of any examples of magical realism?

(Photo courtesy of Kathy.)