Mind Meld Archives

Due to a snafu on my part, I missed a response for yesterday’s Mind Meld. Apologies to Bryan Thomas Schmidt for dropping the ball with his response. As a refresher, here is the question again:
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Crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are enabling authors and editors to reach out directly to fans and ask for help in producing novels and anthologies. However, with crowd sourcing being a fairly recent phenomena, the authors and editors who have put their works in front of the public are blazing a new trail for others to follow.

We asked our panelists this question:

Q: What effect will crowd funding have on SF/F publishing in general and how will it affect the mid-list and self-published authors/editors?

Here’s what they said:

Allen Stroud
Allen Stroud is a University Lecturer from Bucks New University in High Wycombe. He runs the successful, Film and TV Production degree and also teaches Creative Writing, specialising in Writing Fantasy, a module he has taught for nine years. He has a Masters Degree in Science Fiction and Fantasy world-building and also writes music, composing work that has featured in award winning short films.

So you want to write a book? Or, you’ve already written a book and you want to publish it?

For some time now, the e-book publication method has been a source of hope to prospective authors attempting to gain recognition for their writing. The proliferation of e-book readers and the ease of constructing a professional looking copy has brought a new form of democratization to the differing processes of publication.

However, this process doesn’t bring a writer a guaranteed audience. Success amidst the e-book revolution is hard. With so many titles to choose from, readers seldom unite behind individual texts. Yet, we do see occasional stratospheric achievements. Although often these are as much to do with capturing the mood of the times as the quality of the writing.

Writing Science Fiction or Fantasy helps a bit. Genre readers have more identifiable interests in what they like from a book, so potentially, carving out an audience for your own work is a clearer objective in that you can write a book that appeals to this market.
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This week we asked our participants about 2013 genre movies:

Q: 2013 in Genre Cinema: Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, Oblivion, Ender’s Game…a plethora of genre movies are up to bat this year. What movies have caught your attention already? What movies are you going to avoid like the plague?

Here’s what they had to say:

Laura Resnick
Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, and coming soon, The Misfortune Cookie (November 2013). She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

Although I was so bored I nearly fell asleep in the previous Star Trek movie, I’ll probably see Star Trek 2, which I’d normally skip, simply because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. He’s among the actors for whom I’ll try watching a film I’d otherwise skip. (The list also includes Shah Rukh Khan, Alan Rickman, Kajol, Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Aamir Khan, Sean Bean, Colin Firth, Tilda Swinton, etc.) He could make the film watchable, so I’m willing to try.

Otherwise, I don’t plan to see any sf/f feature films in 2013, simply because, in general, I avoid Hollywood sf/f movies like the plague. The majority of them focus on two things that don’t interest me at all: special effects and action porn. (“Action porn” is director Nicholas Meyer’s phrase for a movie that exists to convey a lot of action scenes, rather than a movie in which action scenes help tell a story.) Since I’m not a fan of either of those things, Hollywood sf/f movies tend to be boring for me. (See above: nearly fell asleep watching Star Trek.)

However, I do look forward to watching Season 2 of Game Of Thrones on Netflix (I don’t have HBO). I really enjoyed the characters and story in S1 (compelling characters and interesting story being high on the list of things that I -am- a fan of), and the S2 DVDs are in my queue. A GoT marathon will be my treat to myself after I deliver my next book!
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MIND MELD: Who are Your Favorite Women in Genre?

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In celebration of Women in Genre Month we ask some of our favorites about some of their favorites!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Who are your favorite women authors in genre? What are your favorite books written by them?

Here’s what they said…

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy titles, including Beggars in Spain, Nothing Human, Probability Space, Stinger, and her bestselling Write Great Fiction series. She is a recipient of the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and John W. Campbell Memorial awards, and her work has been translated into 16 languages. She lives in Rochester, New York.

My favorite female author is Ursula K. LeGuin. I started reading her in the late sixties and have never stopped. Her best work combines genuine, multi-dimensional characters with “thought experiments” about how societies are organized, and with what consequences. My favorite of her works are The Dispossessed and the collection of related novellas, Four Ways Into Forgiveness. Brilliant, compassionate, believable, these books truly eplore what it means to be human, in human societies, striving for the things human beings care about.

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MIND MELD: The Future of Humans and AI

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Recently, a group of futurists predicted that artificial intelligence is a deadlier threat to humanity than any sort of natural disaster, nuclear war, or large objects falling from the sky. In an article by Ross Anderson at AeonMagazine.com, David Dewey, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute says, concerning the human brain and probability “If you had a machine that was designed specifically to make inferences about the world, instead of a machine like the human brain, you could make discoveries like that much faster.” He stated that “An AI might want to do certain things with matter in order to achieve a goal, things like building giant computers, or other large-scale engineering projects. Those things might involve intermediary steps, like tearing apart the Earth to make huge solar panels.” He also talked about how programming an AI with empathy wouldn’t be easy, that the steps it might take to “maximize human happiness”, for example, are not things that we might consider acceptable, but to an AI would seem exceedingly efficient.

Of course, this leads into much more complex discussion, and the possibilities with AI are vast and varied.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What is your take on the future of humans and AI? Is it positive, negative, both?

Here’s what they said…

Larry Niven
Until Larry Niven is the author of Ringworld, the co-author of The Mote in God’s Eye and Lucifer’s Hammer, the editor of the Man-Kzin War series, and has written or co-authored over 50 books. He is a five-time winner of the Hugo Award, along with a Nebula and numerous others.

  • If you make an intelligent being, you must give it civil rights.
  • On the other hand, you cannot give the vote to a computer program. “One man, one vote” — and how many copies of the program would you need to win an election? Programs can merge or can generate subprograms.
  • Machines can certainly become a part of a human. Our future may see a merging of humans and machines.
  • Or all of the above. Keep reading science fiction. We always get there first.

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MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

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Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

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I recently watched The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb. I really enjoyed the movie, especially after the horrendous Spider-Man 3, but I know that a lot of people felt that the reboot came too soon. With this on my mind I thought I’d get some feedback from authors regarding the topic of reboots.

The question posed to this week’s panelists:

Q: When are reboots necessary, if ever? What properties could use a reboot? What properties should be protected from reboot? What are some of the best and worst reboots?

Here’s what they said…

Francis Knight
Francis Knight was born and lives in Sussex, England. When not living in her own head, she enjoys SF&F geekery, WWE geekery, teaching her children Monty Python quotes, and boldly going and seeking out new civilizations.

Necessary? Hmm, I’m not sure ever really necessary. Remakes either. I think you really only want to start playing with established works if you’re sure that you can bring something new (and better!) to it. Expand the characters, the universe. In that sense, I don’t think any project should be protected from reboots, if it has the potential to become better and richer for the experience, say something new.

What properties could do with a reboot? Well, perhaps Rambo? With a younger actor, as a veteran of Iraq/Afghanistan? Could work…preferably with less jingoism though, get it right back to ‘Troubled soldier tying to make sense of the aftermath’. Highlander would be superb – we could not have number 2 as well! Blade maybe could do with an overhaul, and Spawn. I’d have said Mad Max and Robocop too, but they’re being/have been done. Perhaps try again on Mad Max

For me, some of the best already done are the Batman series, the new Star Trek (I love how they expanded on our knowledge of characters we thought we knew inside out, and then put them in new and interesting positions), which also goes for the Bond reboot. I also liked the new Dredd. What didn’t work for me? The Conan reboot, Mad Max’s Doomsday… Remake/extensions of old franchises, Prometheus and The Thing prequel just didn’t work for me. The originals (Okay, the Carpenter version of The Thing was a remake itself) were so good, that they would have been better leaving well enough alone.

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We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: In the past few years there seems to have been a rise in popularity of post-apocalyptic stories, not only in fiction, but in film as well. For some reason, people are fascinated with society having to start over after some sort of devastation, whether it’s plague, floods, weapons of mass destruction, or of course, zombie apocalypse. Why do you think readers are so drawn to post-apocalyptic stories and settings?

Here’s what they said…

Susan Beth Pfeffer
Until Susan Beth Pfeffer‘s New York Times best-selling novel Life As We Knew It was nominated for an Andre Norton Award, she had no idea the book was science fiction. Even with three other books in the series, The Dead And The Gone, This World We Live In, and the upcoming, The Shade Of The Moon, she still can’t spell apocalyptic.

In some ways, post-apocalyptic stories are Cinderella/Horatio Alger variants. It’s always fun to identify with the person who has nothing and ends up triumphant over those who have more.

Of course Cinderella had her fairy godmother and Alger’s heroes were generally befriended by wealthy older men, and neither had to deal with zombies. But they still struggled against great odds and ended in a much better place.

Cinderella and the Alger hero started out in poverty and their problems arose from that. But the popularity of post-apocalyptic stories has grown while the United States has been in recession. I’m willing to believe those floods and plagues and even the zombies are in some ways stand-ins for unemployment, a weak housing market, credit card debt, outstanding college loans, and shrunken retirement plans.

In better times, you’re more likely to have romantic vampires!
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MIND MELD: SF/F Writing Dream Teams

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SF/F has a long history of collaboration ranging from two authors teaming up to shared worlds, we could list dozens of books that are the products of collaboration. But not everyone has worked on a story in this manner. We asked our panelists this question:

Q: What ‘dream’ writing team-up would you like to see?

Here’s what they said…

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of 26 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. Her fiction has won multiple Nebula and Hugo awards, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

The dream writing team I’d like to see is Ursula LeGuin and Karen Joy Fowler. Both have graceful, eloquent styles and a deep feeling for the human condition: perspicacity tempered with compassion, but never sentimentality. In addition, they would bring the perspectives of two different generations. That would be a story that I would give anything to read.

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MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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As a critic, aspiring author, and a fan of fiction I always keep an eye out for what could be the next big thing. This could range anywhere from authors to series, from genres to themes. But who better to provide an opinion on the matter of The Next Big Thing than authors themselves?

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What do you think will be the next Big Thing in SF/F? What authors do you see leading the way? What genres or trends?

Here’s what they said…

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam writes speculative short stories. Her first professional publication, “The Wanderers” came out in this February’s Clarkesworld. Her second will be published in Strange Horizons this April. She reviews short fiction on her blog, Short Story Review.

I’ve always been bad at predicting the future, despite my claims as a kid that my dreams were prophetic; I tend to worry over the worst possible scenarios. But in terms of the future trends in speculative fiction, I’m optimistic. I’ve been noticing a strong focus on diversity in speculative short fiction. I mainly read short stories, so I will speak in terms of the next big thing in short story writers. As a bisexual woman, I was thrilled last month to read “Inventory” by Carmen Maria Machado in Strange Horizons, in which the main character’s relationships with women and men are depicted as equally important to her. I think in the future we will certainly see more of an emphasis on diversity in sexual orientations and gender identifications.

Some other writers I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future: I keep running into Damien Walters Grintalis’ work. Brooke Wonders’ “Everything Must Go” in Clarkesworld 74 blew me away, and I think Wonders will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. Helena Bell’s work has been popping up a lot lately; her Clarkesworld stories “Variations on Bluebeard and Dalton’s Law Along the Event Horizon” and “Robot” are worth checking out. I’ll be keeping an eye on Brooke Bolander as well. It’s great to see so many up-and-coming female short story writers in the speculative fiction field, and I think that this trend will continue as well.
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We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: In spite of having a huge library (including lots of YA) at her fingertips, my 13 year old daughter is a very reluctant reader. What SF/F books would you recommend for reluctant readers (or voracious readers!) ages 13-16 (or so), boys and girls alike?

Here’s what they said…

Kristen Simmons
Kristen Simmons writes young adult fiction – the kind that’s dark and scary but generally involves some kissing. The second book in the ARTICLE 5 series, BREAKING POINT, will be published by Tor Teen in February, 2013. Words cannot describe how happy this makes her.

I highly recommend The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. These books are awesome, from the titles to the cliffhangers. I read them mostly standing, as it was sometimes too difficult to relax in a comfy chair.

The main character, Todd Hewitt, had me from the first page. Todd has learned to be tough despite the fact that he has zero privacy (due to a disease on his planet which makes one’s every thought visible). I love him because he possesses a vulnerability that is so raw and genuine, you can’t help but be affected. When his insecurities are revealed, you’re embarrassed. Not for Todd, but with Todd. Like you just realized you forgot to wear pants today.

Todd’s the bridge between our world, and one with aliens, genocide, and hands down the best talking dog EVER. Todd makes you realize that his world of chaos and violence isn’t so different from our own, and that all the technology that makes our lives so convenient – cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – often makes it impossible to hide. These are concepts that teens now more than ever are facing every day.

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This week we asked out panelists the following question:

Q: With the prevalence of ebooks and audiobooks, how has your sf/f reading and buying habits changed, if at all?

Here’s what they said…

Laura Lam

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but ebooks have definitely changed my reading habits. As a combination of being a poor university student and living in tiny quarters, I avoided buying most books I read because there would be nowhere to store 100 books a year. I limited myself to the occasional splurge but mainly relied on libraries, friends, etc. Now, I still live in tiny quarters but I’m not as poor as I was as a student. I buy a lot more of my books as ebooks, and I’m a lot more diverse in my reading. I also read more books and read them quicker because I don’t have to lug myself to the library or bookstore or wait for the book to arrive. If I read a great review of an SFF book, 5 minutes later I can be curled up on my sofa reading it with a nice cup of tea. I’m able to support authors I admire without running out of room to turn around in my tiny flat. At first, I found reading on the Kindle distracting, but now I’m used to it, and I could never go back to not having an e-reader.
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MIND MELD: Rebranding Fiction as Young Adult

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This week we asked about rebranding adult novels as YA:

Q: What genre novels would benefit from a re-branding as Young Adult? Which YA novels should not be branded as such?
This is what they had to say…
Gail Carriger
Gail Carriger is a New York Times Bestselling author writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She survived her early years by reading most of her local library and memorizing Greek battles. Her YA book Etiquette & Espionage, the first in the Finishing School series, releases Feb. 5, 2013.

I’d like to hope they already have been rebranded, but two of my favorites are part of larger series. Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen trilogy is possibly the most YA of her early Valdemar books. And Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong trilogy is a great introduction to the Pern universe. I’d like to see both reissued with updated cover art, in hardback, for a YA audience.

I’d also add two books that are the first in their respective series but stand well enough alone as YA. Mary H. Herbert’s Dark Horse, and Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of the Chameln both include one of my favorite plot points: a girl disguising herself as a boy.

Last, I think The Forgotten Beasts of Eld would make a great rebranded YA book. Although the protagonist isn’t technically young enough, she has an isolated innocence that makes her seem young. Also Patricia McKillip’s writing style is so atmospheric, like a fairy tale, I think younger readers would really appreciate her style.

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MIND MELD: How SFF Influences Your Life

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Books have been one of the greatest influences on my life. I say this not to downplay the lessons and values taught to be my family and friends, but instead to emphasize the importance of reading in my formative years. A lot of what I believe and how I act is driven by the characters I have encountered and the fictional worlds I have explored. Frequently I remind myself that “Fear is the mind-killer,” a message picked up from Frank Herbert’s Dune years ago – a lesson that has carried me through hard times. There are many more personal examples I could state but I’d rather hear from some of the very writers that inspire me.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has SFF influenced your life? Does it make you a better person? What lessons from SFF do you carry with you?

Here’s what they said…

Tobias Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean and lived on a yacht until he moved to the US. He writes science fiction. His latest novel, Arctic Rising, is out from Tor Books. He lives online at www.TobiasBuckell.com.

The greatest impact it had on me was instilling in me a love of science, questing for information, and a deep love of creative and wild imagination. My life-long walk on the path toward passing those gifts on to others now means I make a living continuing to live all that. So I would say it had quite an impact on my life.

As to if it makes me a better person, I would have no idea. I would hope that my family loved and learned from me whether or not I had SF in my life. In fact, I find a sort of cultish devotion to any mantras learned from just SF to be problematic. I flinch from ideological insistence, and just because I adored a book at an impressionable age… well, I’d hate for that define the rest of my life as a thinking creature.

The lessons involve various snippets of things I’ve picked up over a lifetime that I’ve found useful. I’d hate to highlight a particular phrase out of the stew that makes me a human, as I’ve always loved Bruce Lee’s admonition to “Take what is useful, leave what is not, add something uniquely your own.” I didn’t learn that in SF, but it’s how I’ve approached all text.

But I can’t be the only SF fan who has found himself repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear after smacking his hand with a hammer… right?

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MIND MELD: Zombies, and Why We Love Them

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We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: In the spirit of the breathless wait for The Walking Dead to return in February, let’s talk zombies! Why do you think they’ve captured the rotten little hearts and minds of the non- shambling public? If you write about zombies, is it just for pure fun, or are they a metaphor for something deeper and even more diabolical??

Here’s what they said…

Jonathan Maberry
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics. His works include ROT & RUIN (now in development for film), PATIENT ZERO, ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead; DUST & DECAY, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN and others. He was a featured expert on The History Channel special ZOMBIES: A LIVING HISTORY.

Zombies are a useful monster. In creative terms, they serve a few different purposes. First, they are the well-known metaphor generator that allows every writer to explore a different moral, social, societal, philosophical or psychological issue via an entertaining vehicle. This has a long, long tradition in storytelling. Ask Homer. Ask Aesop.

Second, zombies represent a single, massive, shared threat that impacts the lives of every single character in the story. Their impact is so overwhelming that each character’s life is shaken up, which means that the affected elements of their personalities fall away to reveal a truer inner self. In times of great crisis we see personality qualities emerge (or disintegrate) in fascinating and revelatory ways. A corporate CEO who is used to being a lion in the boardroom may be a useless coward when it comes to surviving a crisis; while a kid working a minimum-wage dead-end job at a convenience store might discover qualities of heroism that might otherwise never have emerged. Don’t forget, all real drama is about ordinary people in some kind of crisis. We don’t tell stories about a bunch of nice people having a pleasant day –there’s no drama (and therefore no insight) in that.

And also, the general public has, of late, had their perceptions of what ‘zombie stories’ are. For decades the perceptual standard has been that zombie stories are about death, dying, and visceral slaughter; that these stories were self-indulgent gorefests with nothing redeeming about them. But now that there are so many zombie stories out there, and in so many formats: novels, TV, comics, movies, short stories, video games, toys and more, it’s forced Joe Public to take a closer look. What they’re finding is that the zombie genre has drawn some of today’s top storytellers –writers who understand that the best zombie stories aren’t actually about the zombies. The best zombie stories are about the people. Real people. After all, the title of ‘The Walking Dead’ does not refer to the zombies. The dead men walking are the people whose lives and preconceptions and expectations have died. They are walking from the world that was into an uncertain future, and the name of the landscape through which they walk is ‘drama’.

As long as good writers bring quality storytelling to the genre, zombies will be around for a long, long time. Deservedly so.

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MIND MELD: Do You Like To Re-Read?

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Q: What are your thoughts on re-reading favorite books and what are some books and/or series you re-read or plan on re-reading?

Here’s what they said…

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

This seems like an awfully long way to go to find a controversy. There is no moral aspect to re-reading over reading something new; both are perfectly valid uses of one’s leisure time.

For writers, of course, keeping up with an at least cursory overview of what’s new in one’s field is a professional obligation, and its good to have a founding in the classics. And research often requires reading an awful lot of nonfiction–but reading for pleasure or comfort? I’d say read whatever makes you happy. You’ll get different things out of a book each time you read it–and rereading is certainly a primal human drive. Otherwise, kids wouldn’t want The Little Engine That Could twice a night every night until it becomes engraved on their DNA.

We learn and internalize via repetition, after all–and narrative are the mechanism our minds use to organize information in a crowded, chaotic, and unknowable universe.

Also, sometimes we just don’t want to be surprised. Although the best books are unavoidably surprising; they surprise us every time.
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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

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This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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MIND MELD: Storytelling in Video Games

Video games are an evolution of the human tradition of storytelling. It began as tales told around a fire, progressed into images painted on walls, developed into text printed on paper, and advanced to moving pictures accompanied by sound. Video games take story telling a step farther. The audience is no longer a passive spectator, but is instead an active participant in the story being told. Often authors are tapped to write tie-in fiction for popular video game franchises, and sometimes they are even hired on to help craft compelling stories for the games themselves.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How do you feel about the state of storytelling in video games? What do developers do right? What could they be doing better? What games do you think tell excellent stories?

Here’s what they said…

William C. Dietz
New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than forty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese.

If it was easy to write good games everyone would do it.

There was a time when killing aliens, monsters, and bad guys was enough. But not anymore. Now gamers want good writing too!

Yeah, yeah, I know. There are lots of games that don’t involve shooting things. And that’s good. But since I don’t play those games my expertise (such as it is) relates to shooting aliens, monsters and bad guys. And I believe good writing and good game play can coexist.

But before I get into that I should divulge that my perspective has been shaped by writing tie-in novels for franchises like Star Wars, Halo, Starcraft, Hitman, Resistance, and Mass Effect.

I’ve written games too, including Sony’s RESISTANCE: Burning Skies with Mike Bates, and the LEGION OF THE DAMNED® ios game with Conlan Rios. But I have never been a full-time employee of a gaming studio–so my knowledge is limited to what I have seen from the outside looking in.
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MIND MELD: Strong Women in SF/F

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This one is for the ladies! In the past few years we’ve seen the rise of some pretty kick-ass (physical and otherwise) women in SF/F and Urban Fantasy, and I thought it might be fun for the ladies to weigh in on what they think of the evolution of women in fantasy, what “strong” means to them, and also include some examples of strong women in fiction that have caught their eye! I want the guys involved too, so please don’t be afraid to weigh in in the comments!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: With the recent popularity of kick-ass ladies in fiction, especially in urban fantasy, how do you see the evolution of women in scifi/fantasy in general, and what are your thoughts on the future of women in fiction? Feel free to add some of your favorite strong women of fiction, past or present, to your answer!

Here’s what they said…

Linnea Sinclair

Linnea Sinclair is a former news reporter and retired private detective who yearns for more adventure than ‘Hold the presses!’ and stacks of case files can provide. The role of starship captain was her dream long before James T ever uttered “Beam me up!” Writing stories is her way of living that dream. When she’s not tinkering with a recalcitrant sublight drive, you can find her in southwest Florida (winters) or central Ohio (summers) living with her very patient husband, Robert Bernadino and their thoroughly spoiled cats!

I think that, to a great extent, SFF pioneered the stronger female character, so as far as the evolution of women in SFF, we’re to some extent “there” already. That “there” has now flowed over into other genres, like mystery, romance, and the cross-genres such as urban fantasy, SFR, etc.. But does this mirror changes in society or is society mimicking its favorite reads? I’m not qualified to answer that. I know there’ve been articles done on the influence of Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura on female fans’ decision to pursue the sciences. Wikipedia and Helium are two of many sites that reference the character’s impact on Dr Mae Jemison’s career. And I’ve received many emails from fans citing one of my female characters as “role models” for their own lives; one fan told me how she deliberately channeled Captain Chasidah Bergren (GABRIEL’S GHOST, SHADES OF DARK) in order to take control of a particularly difficult corporate meeting.

What I do hope to see is more women reading science fiction, and I think that will come from the genre promoting strong lead female characters.

As for my own list of fave kick-ass femmes (in no particular order as I’m right now two-finger typing around a large cat sprawled on my laptop keyboard…): Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr, Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares, Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax, Elizabeth Moon’s Kylara Vatta, Julie Czerneda’s Sira, Sara Creasy’s Edie Sha’nim, PJ Schnyder’s Kat Darah, Marianne de Pierres’ Parrish Plessis… then there are fabulous secondary female characters in books by R.M. Meluch, Ian Douglas, Jack Campbell…and that’s just for starters.

Totally out of the genre, I can recommend Laurie R King’s Mary Russell Holmes character. Brilliant!

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