Jared Diamond’s seminal work, Guns, Germs and Steel, posited that those three advantages are what allowed the Europeans to come out on top of the 15th century world and go on to dominate the globe in the next several centuries. European diseases decimated the New World, and European steel and guns gave them sway over Africa, Asia and the Americas. The reasons why Europe had those advantages and were able to leverage them is the heart of that book.
The idea of introducing gunpowder to worlds that don’t have it is one that crops up now and again in genre. Gunpowder is an invention that is a game changer, and yet, it is not one that requires a lot of technology to manage. It’s really a historical accident that it was invented in China and only when it came to Europe became seriously used for warfare. With the technology and materials available to them, there is nothing that wouldn’t allow gunpowder to be used as far back as the Roman Empire or even earlier. The roleplaying game Fvlminata provides a RPG world where gunpowder was invented by Rome in the first century AD. The Island in the Sea of Time series by S.M. Stirling has the time-stranded Nantucketers introduce gunpowder to the late Bronze Age, with civilizations everywhere wanting a piece of that action — and being able to use it, however primitively. Continue reading
My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome KJ Kabza to talk about how the power of Neurotic Attention to Detail relates to Under Stars.
For many hours a day, I look through dense scientific papers and find where all the Oxford commas aren’t.
I’m a copyeditor. This has developed in me a super-powered, refined, neurotic attention to detail. If you have misplaced your keys somewhere in your house, I will find them. I will also notice your dusty surfaces, crooked pictures, and the zit you’re self-conscious about (sorry).
I’m also a fiction writer. My ability to zero in keeps my writing clean, my prosody present, and my stories… short. Before I’ve even started writing, I’ve seen where the tingly nerve center of a narrative lies, and you can’t unsee a thing like that. Novels, to this day, I can’t yet write, but if you want a world in 7,000 words? Aye aye.
My second collection of short fiction, Under Stars, showcases my hummingbird-like zoom-in abilities and my albatross-like ability to cover a hell of a lot of ground. My tightly-written stories are far-ranging and unlike each other (or so I’m told), leaving reviewers to stutter, “Fascinating, unique, imaginative” and “Does not end as you’d expect.” Continue reading
Port cities are nothing new in fantasy. In point of fact, port cities are one of the archetypal types of places you will find on a Diana Wynne Jones-esque tour of a fantasy world. Port cities are where cultures meet, where ships from near and far provide opportunities for escape and travel and for the unknown to come to the characters. Anything might be found lurking at the docks, or anyone might be sitting in the dark corner of a wharfside tavern. The markets can have anything for sale, providing further roads to adventure.
Port cities might hold wonderful potential for story, but that perspective is usually from an outsider, or a lower class perspective. The fantasy hero reaching the port after a trip overland. The street-rat who has always haunted the dockside haunts, scraping a living. The pirate who enters a hive of scum and villainy looking for more men for her ship, or to sell off the booty from her last score. You don’t normally have as your hero a government bureaucrat. Like, say…a customs inspector. Continue reading
Swords, weird London, and humanoid critters, oh my! Anne Lyle, author of the Night’s Masque trilogy from Angry Robot Books, joined Paul and Shaun at CONvergence to talk about her work. A few laughs were shared!
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Episode 225 — Download (MP3)
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My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome David Colby to talk about how the power of Realism relates to Debris Dreams.
So, I once tried to read Game of Thrones, and I got fifty pages in before I threw my Kindle across the room. The first thing that came to mind was: Oh god, that was a hundred bucks and my Mom’s, I’m so screwed. The second thing that came to mind was: Man! Everyone in that book was a gigantic A-hole.
But it is realistic. Feudalism, by and large, was a social system that did little more than create self-entitled jerks by separating the ruling class from the ruled and telling them from birth that they were chosen by God to run everything forever, which (as we can see from today’s spate of “affluenza” news stories) is a great way raise sociopaths like Joffrey. Continue reading
My diverse reading (which extends well beyond SF/F) makes it unfeasible for me to catch everything of interest or of merit. I, thus, appreciate the multiple anthologies each year that offer their unique selections of noteworthy short stories. This marks the sixth year of Horton’s relatively young Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy series, but it happens to be the first one that I’ve read. It will be hard to fit in past years to catch up, but I’m going to strive to make it part of the future annual reading queue.
The extensive breadth and diversity of this collection strikes me foremost. The sources for the stories include a balance of major print and online magazines to smaller outlets and stand-alone publications, and the stories themselves extend through the many forms and combinations of science fiction and fantasy. A part of me wishes that literary outlets were also included in this mix, as genre elements are increasingly found within their pages. Yet another part of me recognizes that the literary world often ignores the genre, so the reverse is just as appropriate. Continue reading