Apocalypse

I’m in love with Apocalypse. Not Apocalypse as it’s first definition, “complete final destruction of the world.” Just the idea of a huge, catastrophic change. The world as it becomes something new with pieces of something old. Not any Apocalypse in particular, either. All of them.

Give me plague or some other depopulation bomb, that’s what I want to think about, and read about, and talk about, and write about.

I wrote a (horrible) short story years ago about a future in which domestic cats took over and became the dominant species. Humans live in little highly defended camps and hunt cats for food while the cats are hunting them. Laughable? Yes. But I eat that kind of idea up.

My longest work, The Tiger? After the Apocalypse. So far that the main character doesn’t even know the world was different from how it is in her present. I love that idea.

My collaborative work, Return to the Sea? Apocalypse. Humanity needs to retreat to an underwater complex when the surface becomes uninhabitable.

Give me normal people out of their normal contexts. What better way to see what we are and how we relate to our world than to take us out of it and see what happens?

From my favorite authors? Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, and Cat’s Cradle. The Stand, by Stephen King. Give me more of that. I love that.

I’ve been working on a little series of short shorts. Just little pieces from an after-the-end world. Everyone in the world except for a relatively microscopic amount of people disappeared in the middle of the night. Just poof. Gone. The remaining people don’t know why anyone was taken, or why they were left behind. They don’t know anything. They’re just there, in a now-empty world. I love that idea.

Do you love Apocalypse as much as I do? What I’ve got so far is here.

Catch in the Flesh (so to speak)

My beloved friend Megan is a graphic design major at CSU Chico. Now, I’ve seen some of the things that graphic design majors have to do–my friend Ryan Wunn, with whom I’m collaborating on FRaHGRttS, was one, and I’ve seen some of his school projects.

One of the projects Megan had to do was to design a book. Ryan had to do this also, but I believe he just made the cover design. Megan’s class had do pretty much everything associated with constructing a book, apart from actually writing the content. I’ve seen the workshop. I’m talking cover design, pressing, and even gluing and sewing the damned thing together. Ryan did an excellent design for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (I guess using books that are in public domain is the norm).

Megan, Goddess that she is, asked if she could use Catch.

It’s funny that she asked. Did she expect that there was any possibility I’d say no?

I know that many authors have printed versions of their self-published works, and that’s nice. But this is one of only two hand-crafted hardcovers of Catch. They’re the only two that will ever be made with this particular format.

Fran Thoughts and Telling Instead of Showing

Show, don’t tell. Show, don’t tell. That’s the mantra that most writers write by. The Reader wants to feel like he or she is in the story. The Reader wants to be an invisible voyeur, but still have intimate relationships with the characters.

What I’m wondering is, can I write a story that tells instead of showing, and still end up with something people want to read?

That’s what I was trying to do when I wrote Francis Rhododendron and Humanity’s Great Return to the Sea. I didn’t want to use embellished prose. I didn’t want to go out of my way to try to “insert” the reader into the action. I wanted to say what was happening, and why. I wanted to zoom out a bit and just observe, maybe with a sarcastic or cynical spin to give it the necessary impact.

I decided to rely on the story itself to hold interest. I wanted the events to speak for themselves.

With any luck, FRaHGRttS will read like a humorous fictional history lesson.

I suppose it also bears repeating that this is the novella that my friend is illustrating, and that we’re going to release in (extremely short) episodes.

But still, I have doubts. Might just be jitters because every day is a day closer to the release (even though we haven’t even really settled on a date yet).

But I’m hoping that someone will care to opine. I’d like to know if anyone else thinks it’s possible to have a story that tells instead of showing, but is still enjoyable.

SciFi?

I have a dilemma, and anyone’s opinion on the matter is valuable. The short version of my question is:

Is my story SciFi?

Here’s the problem:

When I think “SciFi,” I think space. I think aliens. These stereotypes are leftovers from being raised with Star Trek as the very definition of SciFi. Well, yesteryear I had a brilliant idea for a story. Basically, everybody over the age of twenty is killed by a disease. (NOTE: I looked up other stories of a similar nature after the fact, and realized that this sort of thing has been done. Mine’s unique, though. So there.) I thought, Okay, my story falls into the category of post-apocalyptic. Post-apocalyptic, it turns out, is a sub-genre of SciFi. Cool. No problem.

Except, when I think “Post-apocalyptic,” I think mayhem. I think the world just after it ended. Well, my story isn’t about the aftermath of the end of the world. It’s about the after-aftermath. The post-post-apocalypse, if you will. It’s set approximately one hundred years into the future–and again, “future” conjures up thoughts of SciFi–and the main character, Iris, has no idea that people used to live to be older than twenty. To Iris, twenty years is a lifetime. Living beyond that is unfathomable. A boy named Kaleb arrives in Iris’s town and says that he’s on a journey to find a cure for the disease that kills everyone at age twenty–a disease that Iris didn’t even know was a disease. So, curious mind that she is, she decides to go with him. The story is their journey to find the cure. It’s about how they bond. It’s about the journey to attempt to conquer death as they know it.

The thing is, although it’s in the future, there’s nothing technologically advanced at all.

The thing is, even though it’s after the apocalypse, it doesn’t seem very post-apocalypse-ish.

The thing is, even though it’s fiction based on science (the disease), it doesn’t seem very science fiction-y.

Honestly, I’ve read very few SciFi books. I would have read more if I’d known that one of my own story ideas would end up in that category. For all I know, there are a bunch of stories out there in the SciFi community that are similar enough to definitively put my book into the SciFi category. So what do you guys think? Do I have science fiction here, or do I have something else?

More Style Stuff–Speech Tags

Style!

You may recall that I put up a post a while back about style. I addressed participles and appositives, and I mentioned that I got the idea for the post from reading self-published books with a critical eye. I considered making a thing out of commenting on style issues I notice in self-pubs, but since then I haven’t had the privilege of reading very many self-published works.

The main reason I haven’t been reading many self-pubbed books lately is that my own work, The Tiger, is in heavy editing right now and I’ve been committing every spare minute to it. Because of this, I’ve decided to do something better than criticizing others’ works–I’m going to criticize my own! There are a few things worth mentioning that I’ve noticed during my edits and that I’d like to point out and warn others against. They are: Speech Tag Abuse, Unnecessary Descriptions, and General Weak Writing Through Half-Actions.

Today’s topic is:

Speech Tag Abuse

I’m a fan of my dialogue. I think it’s one of my strong suits. I spend a lot of time eavesdropping–er–that is–accidentally overhearing conversations that make for high quality character studies–and I’ve become adept at creating solid, realistic conversations. One point where I dropped the ball, however, was in the general area of speech tags. I had waaaay too many of the damn things, and they muddled up the conversations to the point of making my dialogue less enjoyable.

You don’t need a speech tag every time somebody talks. My advice to you, based upon examination of my own shortcomings, is to use a speech tag only when the reader may be confused about who is speaking. If I were to make a general rule and say that any given paragraph is “about” one person in particular, then the speech tag is unnecessary. Observe:

Iris opened the jar and looked inside. “How many of these things do we have?” she asked.

The fact that Iris is the sole occupant of this paragraph, if you will, reasonably makes her the person who is speaking. The “she asked” is rendered useless, and can muddle up the flow.

And remember: it’s all about flow.

Like all style suggestions, I recommend that you not take this to the extreme. Cut back on your speech tags if you need to, but don’t forget that we still need to know who’s talking. Nobody likes to reread a section of a book to find out who’s saying what.

Tune in next time for Unnecessary Descriptions!

The Poisoned Scorpion

This is, I believe, the first story I ever wrote. I don’t vividly remember writing it. I think it must have been an assignment in kindergarten or first grade or something. At any rate, I was extremely young when I wrote it. It’s too bad my scanner isn’t working, because there are some pretty terrible crayon illustrations that go with it, and I love them. Maybe I’ll get a chance to photograph them sometime so I can put them up.

Either way, here’s the story:

The poisoned scorpion by Scott W.

Once upon a time there was a scientist.

He made a potion that can make poison go away.

Then a scorpion walked into the lab. Then he accidently poisoned himself with the end of his tail!

Then the scientist accidently dropped the potion on the scorpion. And the scorpion felt better. [The illustration here is the scientist dropping the potion and saying, “oops,” and the scorpion saying, “ah mutch better.”]

Then the scorpion walked out of the lab. [The illustration here is the scientist saying, “That was my best experament.” Except I drew the speech bubble before writing the words and it didn’t end up being big enough, so I had to extend it. Twice.]

I admire that my younger self, while unable to spell accidentally, much, or experiment, was able to spell scientist and scorpion.

Too long!

Sorry about, you know, not being around for a while. I’ve more or less dropped everything in my life for the moment so that I can participate in a race to read all of the Harry Potter books without distraction. I have a short story in the works and another all up in my head. I have a pile of editing still left to do on Iris/The Tiger/I Don’t Actually Have A Real Title Yet.

Anyhoo, I’ve discovered that I have another talent. You know how people claim to be able to read the future in tea leaves? Well I can read the present in the ring of dried coffee at the bottom of my cup. Here goes:

Okay. It says…it says I’m typing. And…And I’m eyeing my shoes because I’m about to go on a nightwalk. And…yes. Yes, I’m definitely seeing some more coffee coming my way.

Thanks for reading.