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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here, Have a Guanaco! Have Four!

These are the wild version of llama.  They are agile, intelligent, fast, and have a marvelous wool-like coat.  Found in South America, they live in dry habitats from mountains to coastlines, surviving on grasses and other plants.

Fantasy and science fiction writers spend a lot* of time world building.  Because of my background, I think about how the biology of a place would be different from our own world.  I have not-guanaco in one of my fantasy stories (Shadows).  Killing one brings honor and prestige to the hunter, far beyond bringing down a deer or bison, because they are so wary and hard to catch.

(I’m primarily a biologist, but science of any kind is likely to appear in my blog.  Just sayin'.)

*Do you know about the Alot?  No?  Hyperbole and a Half on Alots

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where to get writing ideas

I love online generators.  I have just spent an inordinate amount of time playing here:  serendipity by Manon   Name Generators, Place Generators, even an Online Handle Generator!  Many, many generators, all in one handy place.  This is a Cat Waxing Site Extraordinaire!  You have been warned!

Yes, it will name French boys:  Joseph Leclerc, Bernard Marais, Roland Lefevre.  And French girls, too:  Anne-Elisabeth Feuillette, Coralie Danis, Jeanne Jacqueme.  Also Japanese names, Trendy names, Gnome names, and more.

Need a new online handle?  SunsetGurl, EbbingMuffin, MeanGothChicken.  Maybe you need to name that town your main character is from (or going to):  Forest Chase, Belmont Grange, Peach Towers.  Need a fantasy place?  Highfay, Oldwood, Lightmeadow Forest.

The Chinese Restaurant Generator is one of my favorites, for that little takeout place around the corner:  Beijing Pearl, China Pine, Golden Mandarin Garden, and The Happy Pagoda Tea House!

This isn’t just a play around kind site.  Many of the names sound real, and there are generators that result in useful information.  For example:

A Character:  This man is a honest carpenter who is usually businesslike. He has long, straight dark brown hair, grey eyes, and tawny skin. He is fragile with a thin, high-cheekboned face.  Hmmm.  Fragile.  Could be Roland Lefevre!

A City:  This large city stands astride a river and is mainly constructed of red brick. It is defended by arcane spells and its most noteworthy feature is the colorful elven quarter.  Is this Highfay? 

A Room:  It's an ample room, but quite dreary. The walls are obscured entirely by floor to ceiling bookshelves, broken up by sheer, hospitalish green-beige curtains on the windows. 

Those last three could easily be jumping off points for stories.  That elven quarter, for example, sounds fascinating or scary as all get-out, depending on the type of elves that live there.  This site generates writing seeds.  A few things it 'built' for me are now incubating.  Hopefully a story or two will result.

Try it out and let me know if it works for you. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ahhh, I am one Satisfied Reader

Books!  I read a lot this month, including a 4-book saga by Lois Bujold, an author I ‘discovered’ just this year (see #5 in the list). 

A recap at this half-way point in the year.  My target was to average two books per month, because last year not even one book per month was read and that's just pathetic.  So far, so good.  A total of 21, even with no books read in May.

The math  --->  21 divided by 6 = 3.5 books per month.  WooHoo!


(1) Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay.  Satirical fantasy/mystery set in Discworld’s largest city, Ankh-Morpork.
(2) John Scalzi, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded.  A collection of selected blog entries covering a decade by an award-winning science fiction writer.


(3) Neil Gaiman, fragile things, short fictions and wonders.
(4) Elizabeth Bear, The White City.  Book 3 in the New Amsterdam series, about a woman forensic sorcerer and man amateur detective who happens to be a vampire, set in a turn of the century contrafactual history.
(5) Lois McMaster Bujold, Shards of Honor. Science fiction (SF) adventure romance.
(6) Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar. SF adventure romance, continuation of Shards of Honor.  This one won a Hugo Award.  Note:  (5) + (6) = Cordelia’s Honor


(7) Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times.  Satirical fantasy set in the Discworld’s Aurient.


(8) Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors.  Short pieces by a master.  Finished on April First.  So many potential overtones and undertones to that!
(9) Louise Erdrich, shadow tag.  Well done literary story of the breakup of a marriage.
(10) Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction.  An old stand-by of writing advice;  my copy was published in 1981.  It was good to be reminded of some of the basic mechanics.
(11) Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, Eds, Wizards.  A collection of short stories about this fantasy archetype by some of the best fantasists (Peter S. Beagle, Kage Baker, Elizabeth Hand, Orson Scott Card, and others).
(12) Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth.  Truly short; a two and a half hour read including note taking!
(13) Vonda N. McIntyre, Dreamsnake.  SF classic.  It’s been years since I read this, and it feels good to know I still love it.  Came away with good structural examples to help with my novels, too.  Lagniappe.
(14) Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles.  SF space opera; won Hugo and Nebula awards.  Miles is Cordelia’s son (Aral’s son, too, but he didn’t get his name in any of the titles) (see books 5 & 6 above).


(15) Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight.   Latest book in the YA Tiffany series.
(16) Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest.  SF classic, one of her earlier published works.
(17) Emma Bull, War for the Oaks.  Urban fantasy classic.  Wonderful.  I’ve been running across references to this book for several years, and finally read it.
(18) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume One: Beguilement.  Fantasy adventure romance
(19) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Two: Legacy. Fantasy adventure romance.
(20) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Three: Passage.  Fantasy adventure romance.
(21) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Four: Horizon. Fantasy adventure romance.

There's a summer NaNoWriMo this year.  Camp NaNoWriMo    It started today.  I'm not ready to do another novel draft, so I'm going to edit one I already have.  At least that's the plan at the moment.  I haven't explored the Camp website yet.  I may get infected with the drive to 50K.  Multiple exposures make me more susceptible.