Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

[Guest Post] Literary Worth in Genre Fiction

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Today’s blogpost comes to us from B. J. Keeton, who writes adamantly on his blog professorbeej.com and continues to work on his fantasy / science fiction and steampunk series. By day, he is a mild-mannered college professor in Tennessee, and at night when the world isn’t watching, he tweets, writes and many other things…which I know a lot of you also do. Now, let’s lend our ears and support as he tells you all a little more about his awesome series that he’s about to publish (with our help of course). So without further ado, Mr. Keeton. 

Cover art by Falon Yates

As an English major in college, I was taught how to read and appreciate literature. I was taught how to recognize.  literary worth–how narrative pacing and structure, character development, and thematic depth all added up to make a text great.

As an English teacher, I try to do the same for my students. I want them to be able to get as much from literature as possible.

As an author, however, I can’t help but find the idea of so-called literary worth a little overwhelming. In a move totally and completely unlike James Joyce, I did not set out to write something great.

I wrote Birthright because I wanted to tell a good story. A fun little sci-fi/fantasy story that people would want to read.

And if folks find literary worth in it, all the better!

But what I find interesting is that as I’ve done this blog tour to promote the Birthright Kickstarter, I’ve begun noticing a few things I didn’t intend to notice. I started thinking about themes and deeper issues present in the novel, and I have to admit that I surprised myself.

I mean, Birthright is genre fiction. There’s no doubt about it. There are laser guns, technomages, fiery swords, hyperspace travel, and ten-thousand-year-old former gods.

Ulysses, this is not.

So why then, in my guest post for BioBreak, did I end the article like this?

I want to explore the real-world implications of [humanity playing the roles of gods, and] not just [through] the creation of artificial intelligence like in I, Robot or virtual reality like in Neuromancer, but full-on synthetic universes made of real-as-you-and-me organic matter. I want to explore the question that when the very foundation of your reality is both [natural] and created, is there even a distinction anymore?

Genre fiction isn’t supposed to be that heavy, is it? I mean, I didn’t set out to write a SF/F trilogy that dealt with humanity grasping at divinity. Yet I somehow managed to.

According to an editor I worked with earlier in the year, though, that’s exactly what good genre fiction does. She said that “SF is at its best when it tilts and expands” the reader’s worldview and understanding.

I would add something to that, though. In addition to tilting and expanding, it must also be interesting and engaging. In genre fiction, storytelling is paramount. All the worldview tilting and expanding the writer can muster is for naught if the story is lackluster.

And I think that’s where Birthright shines. Because as an author, I put the story first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Birthright is great (though it is pretty darn good, if you ask me), and I’m not saying it will ever be a literary classic. What I am saying, though, is that it’s a prime example of how genre fiction can tell a good, fun story without the overbearing weight of literary worth hanging over its head like the Sword of Damocles.

And to me, that’s what makes genre fiction great–not that it must have worth, but that it can.

B.J. Keeton is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Birthright, the first book in The Technomage Archive series. He is is a writer, blogger, and teacher. When he isn’t trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he writes science fiction, watches an obscene amount of genre television, and is always on the lookout for new ways to integrate pop culture into the classroom. B.J. lives in a small town in Tennessee with his wife and a neighborhood of stray cats, and he blogs about pop culture, geek media, and awesomeness at www.professorbeej.com.

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Written by barryr22

July 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

Review of Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One)

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I recently had a Twitter conversation with author B. J. Keeton (@professorbeej on twitter. . .you should follow him if you don’t) and expressed how hard it is for me to write a review of anything because I feel like I can be a little too critical at times. I also told him that this is the reason why I hadn’t already written a review of his and Austin King’s Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One), and honestly, this is true. I have started and stopped writing my review several times, and each time, I have thought that I might be being a bit too hypercritical. However, as I have let the thoughts sit, I know that I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading it, and although the first part isn’t perfect, I really enjoyed it. Now, I’m going to tell you why as briefly, succinctly, and honestly as possible.

First the novel’s blurb:

NIMBUS: A STEAMPUNK NOVEL (PART ONE) is the first volume of a serialized steampunk fantasy novel that started as an experiment and came out of the authors’ desire to do something new and interesting with ebook technology, while also dealing with a wide variety of narrative goodies–from airships to demon possession.

The story of NIMBUS: A STEAMPUNK NOVEL follows Jude Finley, a new recruit aboard the Gangly Dirigible, an airship that extracts water from rainclouds. Having only lived above the Skyline for a year, Jude is still getting used to the way things work in the world above the clouds. While working aboard the airship, Jude and his friends uncover a secret which may or may not help them against a growing uprising that could spell doom for everyone on the planet.

Meanwhile, Demetrius Rucca, wheelchair-bound son of a prominent religious leader, begins recruiting followers for his own subversive cause. As allegiances are sworn to him and his followers grow, he begins to discover the new powers that lie within him. This power could be the salvation Demetrius is looking for–or it could be the destruction of the known world. (From Amazon)

About the Authors:

AUSTIN KING has written plays, poems, novels, and short fiction, but he spends most of his time making sure his credentials sound more impressive than they really are.

B.J. KEETON is a writer, blogger, and teacher. When he isn’t trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he writes science fiction, watches an obscene amount of genre television, and is always on the lookout for new ways to integrate pop culture into the classroom. He lives in a small town in Tennessee with his wife and a neighborhood of stray cats. You can find more free fiction by B.J. Keeton at http://www.professorbeej.com. (Amazon as well)

Both of these guys are awesome as well!

The Good

The characters– Both Jude Finley and Demetrius Rucca are fully fleshed out characters that I find to be completely believable. While both characters are interesting in their own right, Jude takes up the mantle of our main hero as he manages his life aboard the Gangly Dirigible and is confronted by increasingly difficult situations up until his cliffhanger. Rucca (as he is referred to throughout the novel) lives the life of a highborn crippled man, and it becomes obvious quickly that this has affected him as he literally takes to the skies to rid himself of his existence. Moreover, each has another hidden layer that surfaces as the story continues. . .

The story– It’s original and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but moreover, it puts a new spin on the steampunk genre, which can be dry for me at times. From the beginning, the readers are shown the importance of water and how difficult it is to gather in turn through Jude’s story. With Rucca, we are brought into the problems of someone stuck in his own skin, feeling the limitations and hoping to be able to bypass them somehow. And. . .AND it has demon possession which will serve as a huge plot device within the remaining parts. . .I find this to be really awesome.

The Concept of Serialization–They’re releasing the novel in four parts on Amazon, but they’re also releasing it chapter by chapter on Keeton’s blog professorbeej.com. I’ve oftentimes thought of how interesting it would be to read something serially, like the Victorians once did (and others… I know that too). This indulges my fancy and allows me to see how it would function. Also, I think that this is a brilliant way to build suspense, especially with the overall strength of the writing. It makes the overall premise great.

The Not So Good

Imbalance with alternating plots early on– While the writing and the story were really, really strong overall, I found myself at times feeling like the alternating chapters between Jude and Rucca’s points of view were a bit uneven in terms of their overall pacing and interest level. This occurs mainly toward the beginning and slowly begins to work itself out as both plot lines amp up in terms of action. Give it the first few chapters, and I assure you that you will be drawn in (that’s why I make this point).

Awkward phrasing at points– Although this doesn’t happen that often, there were a few times in this section of the novel that I was left scratching my head at the connection of ideas in a sentence or at just the structure of a sentence. For example, at one point there is discussion about a character that has been damaged by the fog: “His fingers, hands, and arms were also damaged. Muscle tissue and, like the spot on his right hand, even bone showed through.” I understand what was meant to be said here within the context of the larger scene; however, it took me reading this passage a few times to get the exact meaning. These types of issues occurred very infrequently, which shows you that the copy editing / proofreading was done with great care and attention to detail.

Overall— 4 of 5 Stars

I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars because it is provocative, the concept is interesting, and the characters, especially the main ones, are well written. I enjoyed it thoroughly and anxiously await the second part to know what happened to both our hero and the budding villain. Honestly, it is pretty fantastic for only 2.99 at the Amazon Kindle Store. Go out and get it today!

A Bargain

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A fetid smell rose from the slave pens. Another had died in the night, and it would surely be days before their overlords would notice. . .and by that time, there might not be anything left for them to find, save a few chips of bone.

Rhoda had been praying for seventeen cycles for someone to come and rescue them, and even as he gave up hope, a figure appeared at dusk. One who seemed to be little more than spindles, allowing its hollow voice to fill the darkness between them.

“He who has summoned me, I am Ahsa the Blight of the Seven, the Bringer of Pestilence, and a Lord of the Under Realms. What would you have me do?” hissed the tall lanky figure from the shadows.

“Free us,” Rhoda replied.

The creature’s two eyes gleamed like fire as it whispered, “There are many of you. This will require a lot of power. Are you willing to give everything for these your people?”

“They are my family. They are all my brothers and sisters. We have suffered much pain. I would do or give anything for our freedom.”

“Anything?” Ahsa half questioned, half chuckled.

“Anything,” Rhoda answered tentatively.

“Good. A future favor is my price,” whispered the old one. “One to be asked sometime hence from now on my terms. It shall be one of my choosing that you must ask no questions about. Do you agree to these terms  Seridian mutt?”

“It seems that I have no choice.”

“Then, we seal it with our blood,” the figure responded as it slashed one hand with a gnarled talon from the other, and after doing the same of the slave, they clenched hands in a salute of understanding.

“And thus it is done,” creaked Ahsa.

In a blink, the creature extended its hands from the darkness and a ghostly light started to radiate from them. And for a moment, Rhoda held his breath as he waited for his friends, family, and himself to be transported away from this place of terror. However, Ahsa’s hands soon stopped glowing, and it turned to him.

“And now you are free, little Seridian. Remember our agreement. I will require something from you, one day,” it said, its jagged teeth gleaming in the light of its eyes.

An instant later, Ahsa was gone, and Rhoda found himself confused about what had happened. Then, he noticed the two guards, who had been standing watch in front of the slave pen, now hung from the side of the small hut closest to the pens. Slowly and cautiously, Rhoda exited the pens without alerting any of the others and walked closer to the hut’s wall. Suddenly, a metallic smell filled Rhoda’s nose, and he realized with horror that the men hung from small stakes that pierced their hands. What’s more, he saw that their entrails spilled out into the dust and understood that they were dead.

This dawned on Rhoda gradually, but then, he turned and began running toward the main body of the city Urant, yet even before he got too close, Rhoda noticed the grim forest of bodies. Some hanging from houses, more dangling from the trees, and others strung about the plaza fountain. Whether man, woman, or child, all were represented in the gruesome tableau, and not a single soul remained alive.

Rhoda fell to his knees at the sight, choking back the vomit. Tears filled his eyes, ones of disgust and joy, happiness and pain as he knew all this freed his people. But he did not want it to be like this. Not like this at all.

*******************************************************************************************************************

All the while, Ahsa watched from the shadows with a jagged smile parting its cadaverous lips.

 

 

Written by barryr22

April 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Review of Sucker Punch

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So, I recently went to watch Sucker Punch with my roommate yesterday and was both pleasantly surprised and equally frustrated by the movie. Moreover, I don’t know how many of you out there have seen it, but it was quite enjoyable for me. However, I can see why a lot of the critics out there panned this movie…yet, I offer my views on it so that other people will get a little insight into it.

*Spoiler Alert* from this point on.

First off, the movie stars Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, and others. The story revolves around Baby Doll (Browning) whose mother has died and stepfather is a pedophile (or at least that was my thought as he went after her sister). However, her sister gets killed, and Baby Doll gets put in a mental institution where she will be lobotomized in 5 days. In that time, we are entered into a world of a  brothel of dancers which is compounded into a fantastical world of mech soldiers, nazi zombies, dragons, and more (let’s just say that it’s every fanboy’s wet dream….nerdiness + hot chicks).

 

The Acting: I will say that the acting was okay for the most part…not great but decent. The best of the cast was Jena Malone and Abbie Cornish, playing sisters. Also, the idea that Sweat Pea’s (Cornish’s) story is actually the one telling the story is interesting.

The Music: Rethinking such rock hits as “Sweet Dreams,” “White Rabbit,” “I Want It All / We Will Rock You,” and contributing new songs, the music was pretty fantastic. “White Rabbit” as an orchestral arrangement is pretty phenomenal. Overall, good.

The Plot / Story: I liked the complexity of the story (i.e. the story within a story within a story within another story). However, I thought that there were parts that could have been made a little more clear and understandable. Honestly, I spent the majority of the movie wondering which of the “frame” narratives was the “real” world: either the brothel or the insane asylum. I thought that the times that were in the more fantastical world was interesting because of the interesting way that Zach Snyder weaves together the various aspects of the fantastical into an interesting way. Still, it was a bit predictable in some ways because I found myself thinking that some of the things were going to happen (I won’t bore people with details…in case they are wanting to watch the movie themselves).

So, overall, I would recommend a watch in the movie theater due to the fantastical nature of the visuals and the music. But go to a matinée to save a few bucks.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 Coconuts

Mixing Fictional People, Places, and Ideas

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Lately, I’ve been wanting to write some fiction where I meld together other people’s characters and thing. In these stories or whatever it might be, I really want to manipulate the  characters to show a different side of them; however, I’m not sure that it would necessarily be a viable idea. Why did I even think of such one might ask? It is because I have always played with the idea in my head of what if these figures did not exist in completely autonomous universes from each other. For instance, think of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. What if when they were fighting any of their epic battle, let’s say the X-Men came in and helped them.

But that’s just my randomness taking hold. The real character that I want to put into some of my fiction is the Witch King of Angmar. I don’t know why exactly. I just want to portray him as being more that just the right hand man of Sauron…I think that it would be fun to portray him as being some sort of whiney guy…I think that it would be fun. And while I know I said I would be true to the character, if the character doesn’t have that much background, development etc., how is this being untrue to the character? I mean I could see it if you were trying to make Frodo into a cross-dressing ogre or if you were trying to make Wolverine into someone who is not a dick…but if they have little or no development (other than the stock character aspect of most sci-fi/fantasy characters because most do fit a certain “mould”), I think that they could be used for lack of better word.

I don’t know why I have such a fascination with doing this. I know that it’s been done before, but I really want to write something blurring the lines between realms….and a story that uses the Witch King as a main character perhaps….hmmmm…..

Written by barryr22

April 26, 2010 at 8:20 am

Reality

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I once had grandiose dreams

Of castles on clouds, dragons,

And heroes.

Now, the clouds have all but

Dissipated into the harsh rays

Of Reality.

There are no more dragons

But the paper ones that the Chinese

Takeout comes in.

There are no castles

Just dumpy duplexes with rotting

Floors and moldy siding.

And the heroes have vanished into

A sea of anarchy and PTSD medicated

scruples.

To go back to that land far away in my dreams

Is considered a sin, but I sometimes wish to return

To the Naivety of the land beyond the Sea.

Written by barryr22

April 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Posted in Poetry

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Revelation

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A white tower stood in the distance

Surrounded by mist and fog.

It gleamed almost like glass in the light

Of the Sun.

Centuries, the tower has had no inhabitants.

The years of dust are not saddled upon it;

However, it is certain that it is a relic.

Years from now when men sing songs about

The elves, dwarves, martyrs and kings,

The tower will be remember as it was once stained

With the blood of many innocent lambs.

Written by barryr22

April 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Poetry

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