The First Million Words
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Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6

Posted by Ben

RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

This is not a drill...

Space Battles is the latest collection of Sci-Fi short stories from the Full Throttle Space Tales series (the 6th, to be specific).

Overall, this collection was extremely fun. Most of the stories are short enough to read on a daily commute (don't read while driving, please!), but long enough to be full stories with fully developed characters and plots. 

The stories (as the title suggests) all revolve around battles in space. Whether they deal with ship vs. ship, ship vs. fleet, fleet vs. fleet, drones vs. fleet, or ship sabotage in the midst of a battle, all the stories remain tightly focused on the battle while still focusing enough on character (a must for shorts) keeping you at the edge of your seat. 

The standout stories: 

"The Thirteens" by Gene Mederos was an interesting one. The story felt just a tad rushed, but the science involved was awesome, and the characters well-rounded.

"Jump Point Blockade" by David Lee Summers had GREAT characters (space pirates!), and a fast-moving, interesting story (with  the backstory hinted at very well).

"The Book of Enoch" by Matthew Cook focused on a single character dealing with his inner conflict while portraying a rich world around the character. Had a great resolution at the end that complemented the world-building very well.

"The Joystick War" by Jean Johnson was just plain, old fun. I could have done without some of the Alien diction (adding the extra "r" or "n" here and there), but the aliens themselves (cat-like, more or less) were really cool, and the story was just as cool (not to mention the Star Wars references in there made me LOL).

"The Hand of God" by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (the editor of the book and friend of the show) was edge-of-your-seat from sentence one. I loved the space-pirate/smuggler character the story focused on. It was cool to see a couple characters from the Davi Rhii Saga make appearences, and it makes me really excited to read the next in the series (The Returning).

My only complaints:

"Between the Rocks" by Anna Paradox was just a little lackluster for an opening story. It was well written and had a decent pace, but not enough world-building/character-development around the action.

"Guard Dog" by Mike Resnick and Brad R. Torgersen fell a little flat for me. I was surprised, given the clout that comes along with being a Mike Resnick story (he's pretty darn epic). The tech and science was really cool, but the story itself kind of rushed along and didn't really have the resonance it needed to be really really good.

Overall: 5/5. It's a great collection of stories even if you're fairly new to Sci-Fi (like I am: this is only, maybe, the third Sci-Fi book I've read recently). The stories, for the most part, are interesting, fun, and full of action and great characters. 

(Check out our series of interviews with Bryan on our podcast, The First Million Words, buy his book, The Worker Prince, and pick up Space Battles from Amazon)

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 3:43am EDT
Comments[5]

The guys discuss making a good character with Michael J Sullivan. We talk about names, development, and what it takes to write a good lady character (if you're a dude). We may even get a little off topic and talk about some MMORPG's that we've played. Find Michael's website here (Riyria.com) and on Twitter here (@author_sulivan). Enjoy!

Direct download: 01-07.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 4:53pm EDT
Comments[0]

Michael J Sullivan stops by to discuss his Riyria Revelations series and what it took to get them out to the world (and it's a good thing he did, these books are awesome). This episode runs a little long because Ben and Guillermo just kept asking so many questions, and Michael was gracious enough to answer them all (subjects like outlining, editing, finishing, having an awesome wife...) Find Michael's website here at Riryia.com and follow him on Twitter @author_sulivan. Join us next week for our in-depth discussion on Characters. Write!

Direct download: 01-06.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 12:31am EDT
Comments[2]

Ben and Guillermo discuss all the things they've learned this month, and what's in store for next month. And, maybe, get just a little bit off topic. Enjoy. Write! (Oh, and here's the link for the Brandon Sanderson lectures poted on YouTube: WriteAboutDragons.com)

Direct download: 01-05.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 1:40am EDT
Comments[0]

Writing Tip #1: Pants

Posted by Ben

If you want to write professionally, then you should write like a professional.

Never underestimate the power of wearing pants. This simple thing can completely alter your mindset while crafting your great American novel. Because, honestly, when has anything productive ever occurred while sitting in front of a computer with no pants on?

Just a quick tip from me. This one has really improved the quality of my writing and gotten me to be much more productive during my writing sessions (something about feeling "dressed" makes me feel more like I'm actually doing something). Next I'll be studying the effects of wearing a suit jacket, vest, and Bowler hat while writing. I'll keep you posted.

Category:Writing Tips -- posted at: 8:34pm EDT
Comments[0]

Book Review: Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Posted by Ben

Heir of Novron was amazing. So much so that I waited a full month before writing my review just to see if the effect would wear off. It didn't.

If you haven't read the first two (Theft of SwordsRise of Empire), do it now so you can feel that same sense of epic completion at the end of this one that I felt. This series attains something you don't see much in Epic Fantasy: the characters feel very personal while the plot revolves around a changing world. I was actually a little sad at the end. Don't get me wrong: I rushed through the story, hardly putting it down. But, at the end, I just wished there were another three books waiting for me, or something. This is not a bad thing, it's something else the series accomplishes wonderfully: a sense of closure with just a hint at the fact that the story is still being told.

I recommend this for anybody who likes Fantasy, character-driven stories, humorous dialogue, or just a well-developed, yet epic plot. I just about cried at the end, it was so satisfying.

You can really tell that the whole story was thought out (or fully written) before ink went to paper. I love when stories do this (see: Avatar: the Last Airbender), and the world was fleshed out and interesting enough to make me want to visit (I wonder if writing fan fiction would help?). I think Michael J. Sullivan is the master of developing characters I might be scared to meet in person, or would brush me off without a second glance at the beginning, but I would want to hang out with at the end. His characters progress and change so fluidly that you only really notice it when the character themselves think about how much they've changed. I'd also like to point out that the female characters are just simply amazing! It's refreshing that none of them are scantily clad warrior/rogues that, deep down, just need a man to hold them. They're strong and independent, and the male characters are just as vulnerable.

As far as setting and magic: It's mostly basic secondary world fantasy. The big difference being in the races and the politics between them. I love that elves and dwarfs are treated like animals by the humans, only to be nearly destroyed and then saved by a few members of these races. The magic was a bit lacking: no explanation of how it works, it just does (which isn't a bad thing; it keeps it mysterious).

My only complaints: Like I said, how magic works was never explained, and is just a little too powerful, making it almost Deus ex Machina. Also, one of my great joys in reading a book (especially now with a Kindle that let's me simply hi-light) is finding typos. I had to read through three entire books before finding the one typo in the whole series! And all it was was just a little "She noded" instead of "nodded". C'mon!

Overall: 5/5. I'm still kind of new to Fantasy fiction, but I still maintain that this is one of the best new series in the genre. It's a good read whether you're into this sort of thing or not. Do yourself a favor and read it. I could even see my kids reading it when they're older.

(Hear our interviews with Michael all through the month of May, and find his website here: Riyria.com.)

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 8:15pm EDT
Comments[0]

Posted by Ben

We’ve come a long way from the demons and ghouls of the past.

Whether in Dracula with Béla Lugosi, or George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, it seems that movie audiences have always been attracted to these creatures of the night.  So much so that our current fascination with the undead seems to have come full circle.  Can authors and screen-writers really not think of an original scenario that involves these recently deceased (and…receased?) brain-eaters and blood-suckers?  The fact that we have books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and movies like the Twilight Series might make you think that they can’t.  But, at least, we can get some good cultural studies out of the recent phenomenon of the reanimation of these differing types of monsters in today’s pop-culture world

I, personally, think the most obvious way to view these two separate categories is to look at them through the scope of gender studies.  I’ll be focusing on the zombies on one side and vampires on the other – split into teams: boys vs. girls style.

We can clearly see how one type of undead monster differs from the other: the vampires  seem to appeal more to the female audience (as they have done for over a century), while the zombies have a much stronger following on the male side.  This may come down to the basic differences, which have been engrained into our minds, between the sexes.

First: the zombies’ appeal to the male viewer.

In any given zombie movie or book, the zombies are the clear antagonist.  Why? Because they are very single-minded and goal-oriented: all they want to do is eat your brain (thank you, Jonothan Coulton reference).  They don’t say anything (in most cases); all they do is chase, catch, and eat you.  This appeals to the “protector” nature of the male psyche; the need to protect the women and save the day, making them the hero.  By making the nature of the zombie so easily understandable, it becomes easy, then, to understand our role in relation to them.

On the other side of the undead aisle: vampires can have all sorts of motives.

The idea that they are seductive and charismatic might appeal to the archetypal female viewer’s sense of romance.  And that they depend upon your blood adds a sense of closeness and needing. What’s more romantic than living forever with some hot vampire? Or living, for a time, with some hot vampire that is totally dependent on your “life-force”?

These differences, although seemingly only gender specific, can also be viewed as a psychological study.  Who came up with these gender roles?  Are they really all that accurate?

Getting back to the topic of neo undead-literature: these gender differences are exploited heavily in the Twilight series (both the movie and book franchises) and the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book[s].  In Twilight the vampire is portrayed as an immortal teenager, appealing to the female audience’s perceived idea of undying romance.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an almost insulting concept as it takes a book that is highly regarded as one of the best examples of women in literature and throws zombies into it as a means to appeal to the male audience (that’s not to say that it isn’t highly entertaining and an all-around fun read).

In the end, it just seems that these undead archetypes themselves are being used to take old concepts (romance, adventure, good vs. evil) and breathe new life into them – to bring them back from the dead.  How this might affect you may or may not stem from your own gender/psychological Persuasion (another good Jane Austen title – please don’t write a book titled Persuasion and Parasites).


Category:Blog Posts -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT
Comments[1]

It's the end of Bryan Thomas Schmidt month! How bitter-sweet. Bryan and the guys talk about what you should keep in mind when planning out the future (whether you're writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy). And, maybe we get distracted a little bit near the end. Don't blame us. Remember to check out Bryan at all these places: BryanThomasSchmidt.net, @BryanThomasS, #sffwrtcht, and Space Battles! Ben and Guillermo chat for a bit afterwards, but we're saving some information for the next episode. You'll have to tune in to find out.

@FMWPodcast

FMWPodcast@Gmail.com

Direct download: 01-04.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 4:36pm EDT
Comments[1]