Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mythological Tech Support 1

-Thank you for calling the Yggdrasill Support Desk. You've reached Knute. May I have your name please?
-Okay, and how do you spell that? O-D-I-N. Uh huh, and have you called before?
-Hmm… not coming up in the system, might it be under another name?
-And that's spelled W-O-T-A-N. Okay, I've found it now. How can I help.
-You're waiting for a download. Of what?
-Wisdom. I see. Let me just find the order for that. Ah here it is. It was just submitted yesterday.
-Yes sir, I understand it's important you get this, but you'll have to hang on one moment while I check the estimated delivery date.
-What's that? Oh, you're literally hanging from the the Yggdrasill by a rope around your neck. Well that is standard for these downloads sir, can't be changed.
-Yes sir, I understand you're a busy man, but it can't be helped. You'll just have to wait another…twenty days for the download.
-Sir, I'm going to have to ask you not use such language with me. I can't speed up the delivery.
-Is there a shortcut? Well, we're not supposed to say anything, but have you visited the Well of Mimir.
-Oh, you have. And it cost you an eye. I see.
-No sir, that wasn't a joke at your expense.
-Yes sir, I understand it would be quite painful to lose an eye.
-Yes sir, I sure you handled it manfully and can take pain. I brought up the Well because since you drank from it we can can escalate this request and provide quick processing. You'll have your wisdom in eight days, but there is a catch. You need to be pierced by a spear.
-Yes sir, a spear.
-No, a splinter won't suffice. It needs to have a spearhead and everything.
-I know it sounds crazy sir, but it's what the manual says and I have to go by that.
-Oh, you have a spear handy? Good. If you could just pierce yourself.
-Excellent. Thank you sir. I've escalated your request. Is there anything else we can help you with?
-Sorry sir, the download doesn't include a list of busty tavern wench jokes. Anything else?
-You have a good day as well sir.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Dork Review: Fall From Earth

The title for Mathew Johnson's book Fall From Earth has always puzzled me. The book's been out for a few years now, so I've had time to consider it even if I'm a little bit late in reading it. How does one fall from Earth? I know you can fall to Earth, fall to the ground, or even fall under the earth if there's a quake, but how does one fall from Earth?

Hmmm... maybe I'll ask the aliens in this book, but how do I know I can trust them? Are they playing a game with me, using me against the Borderless Empire, or are they really as altruistic as they seem?

These are the questions that drive Fall From Earth. The main character, Jin, the leader of a failed rebellion and exiled criminal, must grapple with them and ultimately find a way through them in order to decide the fate of an empire.

It's a intriguing tale told from many different viewpoints with a decidedly Chinese flavor, especially relevant to anyone who's studied a bit of East Asian history. The world that Johnson creates in this far too short novel is well realized and oddly believable, especially to anyone who's worked in a bureaucracy. Chilling indeed.

The number of viewpoints can be a bit daunting at first, varied as they are, and the book could be longer so that we have more time with each of them. Really, that's my only problem with Fall From Earth. It's too short. I would like to have seen more time spent on the conflict between Jin, the Borderless Empire, and the aliens, nevermind all the other conflicts that arise from the multiple viewpoints presented. It may be that Fall From Earth's sin is to try to do too much in too little space.

Still, that sin aside this book is a wonderful example of worldbuilding and has a twisty plot that many could enjoy. I recommend you go and pick it up.

The Dork Review: Hapax

Can an entire universe be born out of just one word, a word that is never spoken again? According to K.T. Bryski's Hapax it can.

In fact, that's the central McGuffin of this book.

Oh don't worry. I'm not giving away any spoilers. It's all right there in the book's title. Hapax refers to Hapax legomenon a word that, according to Wikipedia "occurs only once within a context, either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or in a single text". So we know right from the beginning that words, or rather a Word, will play a vital role in the story.

And really, that's the core idea behind Miss Bryski's novel. Words matter, whether spoken or written, whether provided by a priest to give comfort or recorded for posterity and held in a library. They matter and they can bring either destruction or salvation.

Hapax starts from this base idea and crafts a world on the brink of ending unless the Word can be found and gives us characters we can care about; the compassionate priest, the orphan, the young magician, and the artificial girl learning to feel. All of them are archetypes but none of them are cardboard cutouts.

The book is also good for showing both sides of religious belief, the compassionate and the judgmental, the soft and the hard, the loving chaos and the harsh order. The forms the central conflict of Hapax, resonating throughout the novel, and affecting all of the characters.

K.T. has done a marvelous job with her first novel, and I look forward to see what else she can produce. Still, the book is not perfect. One quibble would be, it was too short. It felt as if the conflict was only really starting and then, bang, the book's done. Extending the length would also provide a chance to develop the villains a bit more. After finishing the book it felt as if they didn't get as much screentime as they could have.

Still, those minor bits aside this is a good book, well worth taking the time to read. Get in on the ground floor and start reading K.T. Bryski now so you can be all hipster and tell your friends you've been reading her for years before she hits it big.

Monday, October 7, 2013


It's time to refocus my writing projects.

For the last year and a half I've been working on a novel between shorter projects, and from the I've discovered two things:

1. I can write novel length fiction, even if it takes me a damn long time right now.

2. I still have a long way to go before I can write GOOD novel length fiction.

This isn't to say what I've got so far is bad...no, wait, that's exactly what I'm saying!

To be fair this is still early days, and unlike some of my writer friends I've only been seriously writing for the last four years. In the grand scheme of a writer's career that's barely any time at all. Yes, I wrote before then but not with serious dedication or consistency. I'm still discovering my voice, still learning about creating memorable and interesting characters.

I'm still in the infancy of my writing career, and the novel I'm working on is suffering for it.

That being said, I've decided to refocus on shorter fiction for the near future. Recent experience has shown that I can develop faster by writing short pieces and getting good feedback from people I trust, people who's critical opinions I respect. People who I can make mistakes in front of and not worry about the bruising my ego will take.

So here's the plan; for the next year I want to write at least one new short each month. At the very least I want a new first draft each month. On top of this I'm going to get more serious about submitting my work in as many markets as possible, something I've been slacking on for the last few months.

The other half of the plan is more blog posts, and not just book reviews. Heck, I started this blog to keep my honest and it's time I started using it for it's intended purpose.

So there it is. Let the year of shorts begin!