Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Current State of SF

As a literary genre and a social phenomenon, science fiction has hit something of an impasse. While science and culture thunders along at an ever increasing rate, our beloved genre needs to evolve alongside real life in order to remain a viable concern. It is doing so to a certain extent, but writers and editors need to be looking to the future, as it were, instead of relying on tried and tested old ways of thinking and storytelling. I don’t mean so much in the stories themselves, more their political, technological and sociological threads, the things that give them some grounding in reality.

Space travel, instant communication, cloning and more are all a reality now. Heck, even teleportation has been achieved on a molecular level. The things that seemed so far off in the golden and silver ages of the genre are now very real, and it is only really a matter of time before more of them become commonplace, leaving science fiction looking ever more quaint. Yet, as a genre, SF was built for change and we all, as fans and creators, need to remember that we can’t just rely on a few gadgets and a few odd words to turn a story into a piece of speculative fiction.

Actually, I could be wrong. Perhaps SF is indeed moving along with the times, but the perception of the genre from the outside certainly isn’t. While we in the SF world continue to enjoy stories that blur the boundaries of SF and fantasy, or stories that feature ever harder science elements to them, the image of the SF genre remains largely unchanged in many eyes. The interesting thing is that over the past few years we have seen SF being taken a little more seriously. This is thanks in no small portion to TV properties such as Doctor Who and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, showing us that invention and ingenuity can still be brought to the masses.

But, are we, as fans and creators, partly responsible for any stigma attached to the genre? Do we not perpetuate some of the myths of fanboys and girls with big dreams and a tenuous grip on reality? Perhaps so on occasion. The fact remains that speculative fiction remains the most vibrant place to find new ideas, new concepts, and as the world moves on, I do believe SF will continue to have a place in the cultural landscape. Not only that, but I can see it becoming more important once again. After a period of such difficulty in the world, maybe it is time for a new age of optimism like that of the 60s SF boom. We’re living in the future now, people. Lets start making it come alive.

It comes as no surprise that it is primarily the realms of SF and fantasy that seem to have embraced the New Media movement. Using new technology to get stories, audio books, and even films out to audiences is a wonderful thing that ties in with the basic core elements of science fiction itself- moving on, discovering new ways of getting content and ideas out there. It is a movement that is growing ever larger, especially in these troubled times. Being able to check out new SF as PDFs or podcasts before risking money on it is something that won’t just help readers and listeners, it will also help the genre itself as, thanks to the instant feedback that is available, writers will be able to hone their craft even further, polishing and improving their work so that people will garner even more enjoyment from it. Plus, in recent studies (as reported with figures in LOCUS magazine) there is some great evidence that the try-before-you-buy idea actually improves book sales.

As long as SF keeps looking forward, but glancing back every now and again to make sure it is still on the right path, then this genre that loves the future will most certainly have one of its own.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

THE LAST MAGE - Free Fantasy Fiction Download

I'd like to offer you a little gift, if I may. Here is a FREE download of my fantasy story 'The Last Mage' in PDF form. The story was featured in ETHEREAL TALES MAGAZINE, which I urge you all to check out as it is a vibrant new gothic/fantasy zine that deserves your attention if you love dark fantasy fiction. The story was fun to write, and I would like you to share it with as many people as you like. Either send them the link to this post or just send the file itself. I am offering 'The Last Mage' under a Creative Commons 3.0 license, so you are welcome to circulate it. There will be more free fiction to come over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking back or add me to your feed.

So, without further ado, please download the file. I hope you enjoy the story, and any feedback is most welcome.

Download 'The Last Mage' by Andrew Hawnt

Creative Commons License
The Last Mage by Andrew Hawnt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

NANOWRIMO 2008 - Thoughts and progress

Well we’re almost at the halfway mark for this year’s NaNoWriMo event, the tenth event of its kind and the first I’m taking part in. I chose my STOLEN FATE project for the event, and the first draft currently stands at 15,000 words. I’m a bit behind with it due to other writing commitments, but I’m aiming to have that total hit 20,000 by the 15th. I have my work cut out for me, but it is work that is a hell of a lot of fun to do.

I haven’t taken much interest in the community side of the event, which I probably should, but I think that might be down to wanting to work on the book rather than talk about doing so. I know, that’s exactly what I’m doing here and now, but I’m getting right back on it once this is posted.

So how is it going? The book is deviating from the original concept a little, but not much. This pleases me as the original vision is still there, just rather more honed than before. The set-up is complete. The story getting into the meat of proceedings, characters getting carried away with themselves without much help from me, and the plot is most definitely thickening.

The hard part of it all is keeping going. There is a massive temptation for me to go back to earlier pages and edit, alter and refine, but that must come after this first draft is complete. There’s plenty that needs reworking and polishing, but the threads are coming together and I am starting to have something resembling a first act.

Another aspect I am concerned about is the pacing, which, again, I will look over once the initial version is complete. As I go along I am discovering things that don’t work just as much as things that do, and it is proving to be a frustrating and inspiring endeavour in almost equal measure.

Right, I can’t sit here babbling about it all day. I have work to do.

Follow my progress on my NaNoWriMo page.

There will be further news on this book, and it’s future, soon…

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Watchmen - The Greatest Graphic Novel of All Time Comes to the Big Screen

The wait for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal graphic novel WATCHMEN to take the leap from the printed page to the big screen has been going on for almost two decades. Now that the film is on its way for real (pending Fox's lawsuit against WB), the light is at the end of the tunnel for comics fans who have waited so long to see the story come to life. The graphic novel, originally published in 12 individual issues by DC Comics in the 1980s, became the benchmark by which all other similar works would be judged for years afterwards. It turned the superhero genre, and indeed the comics industry, on its head, it became a New York Times bestseller, and it achieved that most rare of accolades for a comics based story: Actual respect.

At its most basic, the story is a whodunit, but that is a gross oversimplification of a tale that has so many layers, so many dimensions, and so much going on in its pages that you will still be finding new things in various frames after several readings. A dense, enthralling masterpiece, it has stood the test of time for the simple fact that it is GOOD. The writing and art work so well together that it transcends a mere comic book story. This is a novel in its own right, a weaving, plot and character driven story of redemption, love, emotion, violence, politics and ideas so grand that they would only really have been given any attention in comics in the first place.

WATCHMEN is something that is a byword for quality. The graphic novel has been a bestseller for several years, and that isn't down to marketing, advertising or product placement. It is largely through word of mouth and the legend that has built up around the book. "Read this, you'll love it," people have said the world over, and they've been right.

When it came to light that a feature film adaptation of the book was finally going into production after years of false starts and various people attached to it, the comics industry feared the worst. Zack Snyder, director of the visually stunning 300, was signed up to direct, and work got underway on turning the most loved graphic novel of all time into a movie. Many had said that it wouldn't be possible to do the story justice in one film, that it should be three, that it couldn't be made properly, that the characters and their relationships were far too complex for Hollywood execs to approve of. Thankfully, it seems that throughout the film's production, Zack Snyder and his team, the cast, the effects artists and indeed Warner Brothers, have taken on the same mindset of the book's original creators and created something seminal.

Early showings of footage from the film, coupled with an incredible trailer and test screenings that have left people astonished suggest that the impossible has indeed become possible. WATCHMEN is coming, and even though Alan Moore disowned the project (as he did with 'V For Vendetta'), it seems that Zack Snyder and Co have treated the source material with great respect and humility, while still creating something new. The film looks truly unique, its characters a perfect representation of their comic book counterparts, and audiences are gearing up for what has long been dubbed the Citizen Kane of comics and comic movies. Who watches the WATCHMEN? Once the film hits, we all will.

Andrew is an expert on comic books, graphic novels, film, TV movie memorabilia and more. He writes for the famous movie merchandise and graphic novels site http://www.starstore.com and their blogs. He is also a renowned music journalist and Science Fiction author. For the latest updates check out====> starstoreblog.com

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