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Guest Post: Writing the Monster by Scott Oden

21 Jun

When Thomas Hobbes called the life of a man “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, he could easily have been referring to the life of an Orc. Since their humble beginnings as song-croaking goblins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, these dim-witted, often Cockney-speaking brutes have grown well beyond the Professor’s intent; they have seized a place of their own in the annals of Fantasy. While some fans will never see them as anything other than sword fodder and servants of this Dark Lord or that, others have embraced them as noble savages, maligned and misunderstood – and worthy of their own books.

Long have I pondered the question of how mere spear-carriers in the epic drama of Tolkien’s legendarium captured the imaginations of so many readers.  Continue reading

Guest Post: Growing up in Fandom in the 1970s, by LJ Cohen

14 Jun

I’m not sure if this still holds true today, but if you came of age in the 1970s, were a strong early reader who had read through all the books specifically written for children, and you were lucky enough to have a sympathetic librarian, you’d be directed to the science fiction and fantasy shelves.

At least that’s my story. The Heinlein juveniles had been published a decade before I was born, but they were the first genre books I read. From there, I found all the Lensman books — written even earlier! I may have only been 10 or 11 when I read these, but even then I was frustrated by the insistence that only one special, fierce woman — to be born in some far future — could be a Lensman. Lenses were objects of power that amplified the qualities within a person. The message I got was that girls, as a rule, didn’t deserve power and couldn’t wield power. That I didn’t deserve power; that I was wasn’t good enough. It angered me that girls weren’t the ones leaping up to explore the stars. Asimov’s Robot books fascinated me, but the only woman portrayed in them — Susan Calvin — was more robotic than the robots. Continue reading

Guest Post: Religions on Mars, according to Me, by Mary Turzillo

7 Jun

I truly don’t know if human beings need religions or ideologies, but history seems to indicate that we do. Every time a culture attempts to base its social values on entirely non-spiritual things, that very agnostic value-system becomes a new religion.

People from England, France, Germany, etc. migrated to North and South America and to Australia in order to practice religions that were banned or looked down upon in Europe. Once they got to the New World, some of them started religions that did not harmonize with the social mores of their neighbors. Animal sacrifice, child marriage, and polygamy were three of the customs sanctioned by various religions that caused them to be ostracized. So the devotees moved further west, into less populated territory.

I think this will happen when humans begin to migrate to the moon and Mars. I don’t discuss this much in Mars Girls, although I’m building another novel (Isidis Rising) where dissidents sequester themselves in a Martian enclave. Continue reading

Guest Post: Switching Between Lanes, by Stephanie Burgis

17 May

I think that every writer who’s ever read publishing advice online has probably come across at least one article on the importance of “branding.” Apparently, to be really smart, writers ought to be figuring out the one thing that they’re best at — or the one thing that connects the most with potential readers — and then sticking to it no matter what, so that fans will know exactly what they’ll get from every new novel by that author.

I know I sound a little snarky in that description, but I’m actually not arguing with it as a strategy. I’m sure that it is a smart, practical way to build a successful career.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been much good at sticking to my own lane. There are too many wonderful genres that I love as a reader, and I get frustrated whenever I try to shut out all but one of them in my writing life. Before I sold my first books, I published dozens of adult f/sf short stories, and I drafted full-length novels for both adults and kids. Then my first agent, back in 2005, took me on with an adult historical fantasy manuscript, and it felt like my first big step onto the publishing ladder. Aha! I’m almost there! Continue reading

Guest Post by Aliette de Bodard: Beyond the Cliché Shelf: Making Characters Vibrant and Unexpected

13 Apr

Today instead of a review from me, we have a guest post by Aliette de Bodard. Her second Dominion of the Fallen novel, The House of Binding Thorns, is now out, and you will see a review of it from me here soon. In the meantime, Aliette has some words to say about Characters: Continue reading

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