A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, February 27, 2015

Keep the Change

Hope and change
“Remember that your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. This may leave you an opening to become his friend.”
-- Robert A. Heinlein
Several more years ago than polite society bears naming, the Incomparable Marge attended a workshop in "Basic Problem Solving" sponsored by her then-employer, a/k/a The Bank. It was a seminar similar to the one disseminated by TOF himself, though The Bank hired a lesser firm, alas. Had they hired TOF's firm, it would have been TOF's one chance to teach the Marge a thing or two. Oh well. Bon chance.

One of the topics in basic problem solving is that people often resist the solution, even to problems they themselves wish solved. That is because solutions by their nature change something, and change inevitably creates anxiety.

So on the second day of the class, the Marge comes to the training room and finds that the books and table-tents have all been moved around. "Tsk," says she to herself. "The cleaning people have gotten the seating all messed up." And so she picks up her book and table tent and is proceeding to her original seat when she notices the two instructors watching from the back of the room. People resist change? Even so trivial a change as a seating arrangement. And so she returned whither her materials had been shifted, and she took to watching the others as they arrived. A little more than half the students insisted on moving back to "their" seats -- seats that had been "theirs" for but a single day.

Imagine the sort of resistance you get when the change is to something in which people have invested ego, like a scientific theory!
TOF in his own seminars used a game -- "The Pony" -- in which students were read a story about two farmers selling a pony back and forth and asked to reach an answer off the tops of their heads which farmer made a profit and how much. Grouped according to the answers they had given, each group was told to develop an argument why their answer was right. Then a spokesman for each group presented its argument to the other groups. Seldom were these arguments sufficiently persuasive to induce people to change groups. In astonishing shows of solidarity, once people were in a group, they showed an odd reluctance to leave it. And these were groups that had existed for but minutes. How much stronger are the bonds for groups like "Production" and "Maintenance" or "France" and "Germany" or "Islam" and "Christendom"?

THIS IS SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND for your stories -- and one aspect to thickening your characters. Stories usually involve change of some sort, and your characters will react to it in various ways. A new strategy, a modified product, an altered organization structure, a fresh idea. It need not be earth-shattering -- though in SF it sometimes is, literally! -- and may even be downright mundane, at least to outsiders. A trap for the writer is to stereotype those whose attitudes toward the change are contrary to the author's own. It is a failure of imagination to suppose that these characters can be motivated by no more than sheer mustache-twirling villainy.

Similarly, it is a mistake to suppose that everyone on the same side of a change is there for the same reasons.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is TOF up to these days?

TOF seems to be coming out of his slump. He recently:
  • Sent the long-delayed "The Journeyman: In the Great North Woods" off to Analog, and we will see what its fate shall be.
  • Completed a fact article, "The Autumn of Modern Science," but it is lying doggo awaiting a fresh read to smooth over its infelicities.
  • Resumed work on "Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Problems of Road Maintenance" which he is attempting to write with his esteemed Number One Son, Dennis M. Flynn. It should be a hard SF zombie story with a humorous twist. Don't recall if it was excerpted here.
  • Resumed work on the long-moribund novel The Shipwrecks of Time -- hooray. He is coming up on the March Across the Bridge, which for plot purposes he had moved forward in time before the Milwaukee riot. The Viaduct in Milwaukee was known as the Longest Bridge in the World since it stretched from Africa to Poland. Sometimes it is well to remember that we live in the future in more than the technological-advancement sense.
  • Began work on "Nexus," a very strange stories. Which it may not be possible to excerpt. In any case, an excerpt now would encompass most of the rough draft as it currently exists. Let's just say it involves aliens, a time traveler, an artificial intelligence, a telepath, an immortal, and maybe clones.
  • Thought about "The Journeyman: Among the Great States," but he does not yet have a good sense of what Teodorq will get up to there.

Great Sweet Mother

Another old story is posted on the PREVIEW PAGE: "Great Sweet Mother" from Analog (June 1993). It is a 4100-word short story that sits in the NANOTECH CHRONICLES universe, although it was written after that collection came out. Timewise, it sits after The Washer at the Ford and perhaps roundabout "Remember'd Kisses." Singer is dead and Peeler is running Singer and Peeler.

It is half of a dialogue. The narrator is addressing the reader, who has come across the narrator under odd circumstances. The reader's portion of the dialogue is omitted, and is indicated by "..."  You may have questions or comments at different points in the narration, and it will be amusing to see if any of the narrator's responses align with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Uncle Francey

Francis Thomas, son of Francis Thomas, son of Daniel Joseph,
son of John Thomas, son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea

My uncle, Pere's brother, died yesterday at the age of 85. He wasn't quite in the middle of the seven brothers and sisters, but he definitely "jumped the line," as my aunt Patsy told me this morning when we drove past her place. "We're supposed to go in order," she said. There is a certain Irish cast of humor there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Our Fighters and Prettier than Yours

Why the Kurds are likely to defeat ISIS:

Yet there are people over here who wonder why muslims don't stand up to the radicals! Could it be because US media finds other story-lines better fit their paradigm?

President's Day

Found on the Web:

The Wisdom of Einstein