Friday, July 19, 2013

Steampunk Short Film - Airlords of Airia

Does your mind need a good boggling? No problem, I've got you covered. Airlords of Airia is... well, you just have to see it. I mean, you HAVE to.

Teaser Trailer

Full Film

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Creating a Plausible and Consistent Fantasy World - A guest post from Carole McDonnell

Today's guest post is from Carole McDonnell, author of The Constant Tower, a thought-provoking fantasy novel that sidesteps the expected in a lot of really fascinating ways. I asked her to write about her world-building process. Specifically, I asked her how to be original and plausible in creating a fantasy world. The Constant Tower isn't set in the generic post-Tolkien fantasy world we've seen so many times. How did you create it? What were the challenges? Here's Carole with her reply.

I had had a dream of a world where each morning the inhabitants of a city woke to find the landmarks and geography of their city changed as if someone had moved around a jigsaw puzzle. Except that, a tower was always constant. I didn't write that story but I started thinking. In the end, I wrote a story where the world stayed put but people were tossed around all over the planet.

After that, I began thinking about how would society develop on such a planet. I like walking around in the worlds I create. I like using and seeing every possibility and permutation of a particular system. It’s like a game to me. Given situation A, how would B, appear? And how would B appear if C is present? I do that in all my stories.  I’m always trying to see how all the organic possibilities of a possible situation.

For instance: there is the technological issue:
Technology is about controlling our life and making life livable.
What happens if there are degrees of control? What is the danger of this situation? The worst danger: being separated from those you love. How would people deal with that possibility of separation? Why, of course, they would live in longhouses. They would, of course, fear the night. How much warning would the inhabitants of this world have each night before the night did its separating work? Because it’s technology, we have to allow that not every clan has the same amount or kind of technology — in this case “tower science” or “tower lore.”  Because the towers have some control over the night.

Technology is connected with wealth. This means some cultures will be wealthier than others. Of course there are many technologies in the world. No one technology rules the world, but there are sciences that are more important than others. This makes some clans more powerful than others. In addition, there are poor folks in the world. Poor folks, and solitary folks, of whatever clans, are less in control of their fate than rich folks or folks who have a more advanced clan/culture.

Wouldn't the most knowledgeable clans have more linguistic knowledge? Wouldn't they have treaties? Humans being humans, people will want to protect what they own. But humans being humans, what do the haves owe the have-nots? What would ownership be like on such a planet?

The theological aspect: Why is the world like this? Is this problem of the night normal to this world? Or was it a theological curse of some kind? Can night be restored?  Of course, because it’s a theological question, there is the problem of belief. Some folks will believe some things, others will believe other doctrines, and some will not believe at all.  What about courtship rituals and marriage? What would the god of such a planet consider important?  Are animals affected by this particular situation?

There is also the communication aspect. How do strangers react to each other if they are equally tossed about by the night? What if there is disparity between the strangers?  How would family be defined? How would war be defined? How would culture be defined?

Of course all this seems like an analytical outline. I didn't really think analytically in the beginning. I simply walked into that world and wrote what I saw. I saw that some clans had power, some did not. Some clans liked being rooted to the same spot. (But what prevented them from continually staying in one spot?) Some clans liked being night-tossed. Their idea of a Permanent Home is the afterlife.

I saw the towers. Some of them quite powerful, some of them petulant, some of them failing, some of them angry at humans. Then I wondered…what would happen if the towers fail? All good fantasies need a looming disaster and heroes who can save the world or help the world move from one era to the next.

I think the only way to create a plausible world is to create plausible people who inhabit that world.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Creating a Plausible Future World

Earth lies in ruins, destroyed by an unknown enemy. Humanity flees their burning homeworld, seeking a safe place to hide before they can be hunted down and eradicated.

Today's guest post if from Andrew Saxsma, author of Lonely Moon, a gripping science fiction tale about a ship's captain taking charge of the tattered remnants of humanity as an implacable enemy tries to wipe them out. I asked Andrew to write about world creation. How do you create a consistent, plausible future world? What changes, and what stays the same? How do you give the reader enough information to understand this invented environment without turning it into a lecture on made-up science? Here's Andrew to tell you how it's done.

When Enough is...well, Enough.

Sci-fi writers have a challenge, right from the start.  This challenge, although not technically genre specific, keeps our belts a little tighter.  It’s that elephant in the corner, wagging his trunk at you while he eats his peanuts, nodding his head and saying, “It’s too much.  You’re gonna’ bore ‘em before ya’ hook ‘em!”  And, sadly, more often than not, he’s right.  Dammit Dumbo!

The question we face, as we write, is when is enough, enough?  Lemme’ explain.

You’ve got a recipe for a cake in front of you.  Beside that are your ingredients; your eggs, your butter, sugar, milk, etc. etc.  
You throw them all into your bowl, blend ‘em up real nice, and slop it into your cake pan then toss it on into the oven.  Pay attention now, ‘cuz this is where it gets good.  You don’t cook the cake long enough, it’s runny and you can’t serve it up.  Bake it too long, you lose flavor and it’s hard to swallow.  But, if you bake it just right, you get the nice shape, the bouncy texture, and you get to bring a smile to someone’s face.   Get it?  Kind of?  Okay.

Let’s dig a little deeper then, eh?

Science Fiction allows us to travel from New York City to Alpha Centauri, from our homes, our bedrooms, to the stars and anywhere else we’ve bought a ticket for.  But how did we get there?  Did we take an orbital elevator for two from Cape Canaveral to an orbiting space station?  Or, perhaps, we’re riding aboard an intergalactic cruise-liner propelled through an ionized hyperspace gate?  Getting lost in the details, for sci-fi writers, is like seeing a $100 bill on the sidewalk; sometimes it’s too good to pass up.  As a writer, it becomes too easy, quite quickly, to lose yourself in the description, to really roll our sleeves up and pull out the blueprints to that warp engine, to tell you when and who invented it, to tell you how it links with other computer systems through an intricate array of pistons and flux capacitors, and it can, sometimes, make a good cup of coffee.  I’m only being half-serious.  Point is, kiddo’s, it becomes boring drivel.  We over-explain, over-elaborate, and over-extend our rudimentary belief that you care about the weight of an Iron molecule on Pluto when Bruno just kissed Jess.  Some may, and that’s A-Okay.  But, let’s get back to some basic fundamentals of story telling.  That is, after all, the purpose of fiction.

Alright, we’re getting closer.  Don’t let me lose you now, we’ve almost landed.

Brian Aldiss was on to something when he said, ‘Science Fiction is no more written for scientists than ghost stories are written for ghosts.’  There is some truth to those words.  I know I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that as a sci-fi author, I’m more or less lying responsibly.  I don’t have a degree in Astrophysics.  I couldn’t tell you how to calculate how fast a meteor is moving, so why should I expect you to understand the formula?  If you can and you do, I apologize.

The Challenge:  How not to bore readers while we have to explain technologies that may or may not exist yet.

The answer then becomes this: Great stories always originate from wonderful characters who are as real as you or I, and these “Greats” effortlessly blend these characters with the scientific creations/innovations of the worlds and realities they inhabit, without tossing a wrench in the cog, without slowing down the machine, so to speak.  They don’t drown you in the details.  And that’s the moral of the story, isn’t it?  If it doesn’t move the story or create conflict, then give them no more than they need to know.  It’s that easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  

About the Author : Andrew Saxsma is the author of two novels, Lonely Moon and Redial.  His short stories have appeared everywhere from the Danse Macabre to Trembles Horror Magazine.  His style is eclectic and to the point, with some polished flowery imagery for flavoring.  His ideas are sharp and grisly, dealing with the fringes of reality, the things you hear on a dark stormy night, the things you dream about as you stare into the starry sky; the things with no names.  If the world of Literature was a full-bodied woman, his writing would be the hosiery, tight and fitting.