[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
As the calendar rolls over to the beginning of another year, it brings with it the promise of new things and new beginnings. With that in mind, we asked this week’s panelists this question:
Here’s what they said:
I’m sure that most of my favorite opening scenes are from the same classics that many readers would recognize — the gom jabbar test in Dune; Louis Wu’s globe-hopping birthday trip in Ringworld; the introduction of Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land — so I won’t reiterate them. And while I have a number of favorite opening lines as well — a personal favorite is from Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide: “The bureaucrat fell from the sky” — they’re not quite the same thing as a good first scene, which — if done right — will pull the reader into the book.
A perfect example of both is the beginning of The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon. Here’s the first paragraph:
They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street. He was eight years old then. He’d been doing it for years.
Exactly what the kid — whose name is Horty — was doing is not immediately explained. If you’re like most readers, though, you’ve probably got a good idea … particularly when you’re told that his guardians (who are not his parents; they’re introduced later) were just as horrified as the school principal, the teachers, and the other kids. But it’s not until you’re a couple of pages into the book that you discover Horty was…
So what did you think he was doing? And now that you’ve learned that it’s probably not what you were expecting, aren’t you interested in finding out why an eight-year-old boy was eating ants?
Sturgeon was a master storyteller, and he set up this scene beautifully. It is a textbook example of a perfect narrative hook.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young couple decides to worship Lucky, the raccoon god of prosperity, only to find that Lucky brings with him a whole lot of misfortune.
PROS: Interesting premise; lighthearted tone; writing style makes for swift reading; humorous without trying too hard to be funny.
CONS: This is probably nitpicking, but there were some missed opportunities for humor through character dialogue.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun read overall with several laugh-out-loud moments.
Not in some abstract, incomprehensible way we tend to think of the divine, but in some genuine physical form. Not just a vague presence or an omnipotent watchmaker or even a warm, fuzzy feeling in your soul. No, I’m talking about a real guy who you might see walking down the street. For thousands of years, this was the conception of divine forces. Not as abstract ideas, but as people you could meet. They didn’t give two damns about faith because they didn’t need it. They were jealous, petty, cruel, and often clueless. In short, they were a lot like us.
This is where my novel, Divine Misfortune, sprang from. What if this ancient concept of gods was the world we still lived in today, and the gods of old were still part of our world? I’ve often heard people say they have a “personal relationship with God” (however they want to classify that), and it always brings two thoughts to my mind.
This week, we turned our attention to SciFi television when we asked our panelists this question:
Here’s how they responded…
I thought long and hard on this one, and with so many great candidates, it wasn’t easy. Manimal? The Night Stalker? Misfits of Science? Century City? Oh, the delightful possibilities. How can one man make such a controversial decision? Well, after much soul searching, meditation, and hours of telepathic communion with my ancient Martian spirit guide (his name is Jack), I can only find one worthy answer.
How would I update this classic show? Good question. I probably wouldn’t change it much. I’d give it a more action oriented update that wouldn’t lose the humor of the original. Something like Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Fun, retro, and sharp. I’d also expand Darkwing’s universe to include more superheroes and villains. In addition to the classics such as Liquidator, Bushroot, and Megavolt, I’d introduce new characters. And of course, you could never go wrong with a Gizmoduck team up on a fairly regular basis. All of this would inevitably lead to my ultimate spinoff series:
Justice Ducks Unlimited.
But one step at a time…
- Interviews & Profiles:
- @SCI FI Wire, Paul Di Filippo asks: Do classic science fiction stories still matter?
- @SFFMedia: Why science fiction authors just can’t win.
- @Cinematical: Why Zombies Make Better Horror Movies Than Vampires.
- @The World in the Satin Bag: Entrenched Opposition: Science Fiction Ain’t There Yet (Part 1).
- @Orbit: A. Lee Martinez on Silly Fantasies.
- Jo Walton on C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur Trilogy: “I don’t know quite how they managed to get under my skin the way they did.”
- Michael Swanwick has re-posted his Periodic Table of Science Fiction.
- VG Cats take on media tie-ins. (Thanks, Tim!)
- New cover art trend: Crouching Heroine, Hidden Midriff. Didn’t that win the Oscar for Best Picture?
- @Topless Robot: The 5 Best (and 5 Worst) David Tennant Doctor Who Episodes.
- @Zombos’ Closet of Horror: 16 Favorite Horror Movies.
- @Mish Sci Fi Musings: Top 10 Favorite Sci Fi Quotes
- A couple of SciFi titles make the list of The 10 of the Most Disturbing Books of All Time.
Everyone loves a good bad guy, so we asked this week’s panelists the following:
Read on to see the responses…
For me the best bad guy (aside from Tolkien’s Morgoth and Sauron) is Tanith Lee’s ‘Azhrarn the Beautiful, Prince of Demons, Master of Night, one of five Lords of Darkness.’ While reading Lee’s Flat Earth series you can’t help loving him and hating him simultaneously. He can be totally despicable, yet frequently you find yourself on his side. Such ambiguity is refreshingly intriguing!
- Jeffrey A. Carver dishes on the back story behind his first Star Rigger novel, Seas of Ernathe
- In SFWA News (Have you checked out their redesigned website?):
- The 2009 SFWA business meeting is scheduled for the World Fantasy Convention.
- The Andre Norton Award jury is seeking candidate submissions.
- Angry Robot has signed Aliette de Bodard & Lavie Tidhar: Aliette will write Servants of the Underworld, an alternate-world fantasy/crime novel, and 2 other books set in the same world; Lavie will write the steampunk adventure The Bookman and its sequels.
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s Freelancer’s Survival Guide is now available on one handy page.
- Table of contents for Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede.
- Jeff Somers has launched a website to support his new Avery Cates book, The Eternal Prison. The website features an old-school, Zork-like text-adventure.
- John Birmingham is thinking about writing small iPhone novels.
- Joseph Mallozzi reviews his book club selection this month, Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark.
- Guardian Books Blog says: Enough with the vampire fiction!
- Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are on tour to promote their new book new book, The Winds of Dune. Love that cover.
- @Listverse: 15 Fascinating Lesser-Known Science Facts, like “The cracking sound of a whip is actually a sonic boom.” Wuh-pah!
- @AMC: 5 Comic Book Artist Movies Even Freakier Than Superman’s Shuster.