Category Archives: Science Fiction

The Accelerating Advancement of Technology or, What the Heck Are Snips?

Originally, I intended to write this post about gender roles and identity, considering that’s been in the news a lot lately. The nursery rhyme, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” had popped into my head as a cute lead in…

“What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails.”

But, that got me to wondering. What the heck is a “snip”?

I mean, I know that a snip is a small bit of something — a cutting — but how did that relate to the context of the poem? The rhyme is old. Maybe snips meant something else back then.

“Look it up!” I hear the voice of my mother, and countless teachers through my years of schooling, say in my head.

In those days, that meant dragging the enormous, hernia-enducing dictionary off the shelf and rifling through its thin pages by using those half-moon notches that separated each section by letter. Remember those?

Snip

And that would likely have been the end of it. I would have been enlightened by a couple of snips of information (see what I did there?), but been no closer to the answer I’d been seeking, although number three seems like it might fit, except that it refers to girls, oddly enough.

(I took this image on my phone, which I then emailed to myself. How many years ago would that sentence have made no sense whatsoever?)

Today, however, when confronted with the question, I simply type in the words “snips and snails” and receive this: SnipsandSnails

Wow. Almost 400,000 instances of that phrase dredged up in less than a second! After a few clicks, I quickly learn that the original rhyme probably read, “snips of snails,” and that other words like “frogs” and “snakes” have been substituted for “snips” down through the years. Another possibility is the word may have been “snigs”, which was a word in the Cumbrian dialect for a small eel, according to Wikipedia. What’s a “Cumbrian dialect” you ask? Well, all you have to do is click the helpful link to find out…

As a writer of fiction, I often ponder the future and the past. Where have we been and where we are going. Through computers and the Internet, we have nearly the entirety of human knowledge at our fingertips. Things we take for granted today, like Google, didn’t exist only twenty years ago! It’s become so prevalent in our society that the company name has become a verb, synonymous with my mother’s, “Look it up,” from my childhood.

Gutenberg developed the first printing press in the mid 1400s. The first electrical computers were invented in the mid 1940s. Pocket calculators appeared in the 1970s. Desktop computers became commonplace in the 1980s and the Internet (the World Wide Web) blossomed in the 1990s. It took around 500 years to make the leap from the printing press to computing, but only about a tenth of that time to get from those first computers to where we are today.

The term “Technological Singularity” is used to describe a computer with the equivalent brain power of a human being, also known as artificial intelligence. Some scientists believe laptop-sized computers, available to the general public, will have the computational capacity and storage of the human brain within five to ten years. This doesn’t mean those computers will be sentient — that technological leap is still nebulous in time frame and affect on the world — but you will have the equivalent of another brain’s worth of computing power on your desk or in your lap.

Our children are growing up in an Internet-driven world, just like me and my peers grew up in a television and telephone-driven world. My parents grew up in a radio-driven world.

What kind of world will our children’s children grow up in?

Science fiction writers attempt to be visionaries of the future. When we watch the original Star Trek series from the 60s, we see Kirk with a flip-phone for a communicator. In the 90s version, The Next Generation, we see the crew members walk around with multiple tablets and iPads. (Why did they need so many?) The shows portray a time hundreds of years in the future, yet some of these technologies appear today — even have been surpassed today. It’s becoming more and more difficult to create stories that stand the test of time because our technology is advancing so rapidly.

Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Humans have never been closer to performing acts of magic in our history. To Gutenberg, our current state of technology would likely be considered nothing short of magical. Who’s to say we won’t be able to conjure up a meal, or travel somewhere across the globe, or across the galaxy, at the snap of our fingers someday?

I had a recent reviewer of my science fiction series say, “typical hokey science, but enjoyable story,” and I had to laugh. Some aspect or another of conventional science is disproved almost daily. Any of you remember when people thought taste buds for salty, sour, bitter, and sweet resided in certain areas of your tongue? Yeah. I was taught that in school. We even did an experiment regarding that when I was in sixth grade and I remember thinking it was bogus then. Yet, that was the accepted “science” of the day. What scientific facts are we teaching now that will seem just as silly in thirty or forty years?

Technology is making the lines between science fiction and fantasy blur. Characters like Gandalf might become reality in our future. (Though he’ll probably only look like that while he’s cosplaying at a comic book convention). So, don’t be afraid to insert fantastical elements in your futuristic stories. They aren’t called “flights of fancy” for nothing!

Maybe someday we’ll actually build boys from snips of snails and puppy dog tails.

Girls from sugar and spice and everything nice? Nah, that’ll never happen.

Crowd Sourced Writing and Fan Fiction

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I recently began frequenting a crowd-sourced writing website called Skrawl.com. And I have to say I’m having a lot of fun.  Skrawl is set up for you to start a new story or to add to someone else’s story. Stories can be original fiction, non-fiction discussions, or fan fiction.

What makes it so much fun is that Skrawl has a competitive edge to it. When you add to someone’s story everyone in the community gets a chance to vote for your “bit” against anyone else who posted a “bit” for the same storyline. Points are awarded each time you post or vote and you can earn even more points if your “bit” wins.

There’s a social aspect to it too, you can comment on the stories like you would on sites like Facebook.

It’s a great way for me to play with ideas and see where other people take them.

One of my favorite stories posted by Greg Fishbone is a story called Trek Elementary. Trek Elementary is an alternate universe where Kirk, Spock and the gang are children and have created their own group called the Enterprise gang. They sometimes have run-ins with another gang on the block who call themselves the Klingons.

The story started with the kids trying to find a way to get candy from the candy store. Simple enough, but the next writer added the Klingons, then Jimmy Kirk got into trouble, etc. etc.  As you can imagine stories can go anywhere and they often do!

If  you have moment and want to read some short stories, or better yet, if you’d like to play along, join some of us over at Skrawl.com.  I currently have a few fan-fictions running, Divergent, Maleficent and Percy Jackson. Oh, and I just started a new adventure for Big Hero 6! Search for me, Ansha Kotyk, using the magnifying glass icon, I’d love to see you, and read your stories!!

AnshaKotyk Ansha Kotyk writes adventure stories for boys and girls. Check out Gangsterland, the story of Jonathan, who falls into a magical comic book and has to draw his way out.

Retellings

Like most people, I am a huge fan of retellings—familiar stories, legends, or myths told in a new fantastic way. You see this happen a lot in the movies, especially with fairy tales. We’ve all heard of the story of Cinderella. How many different variations of that story have you seen or read? Me? I have seen tons! In fact one of my wife’s favorite films is a retelling Endless-Coverof Cinderella. It was cleverly titled: A Cinderella Story (I know, not too creative there.) One of my favorite Cinderella movies is Ever After. They tried to put a more historical twist to the story and make it more about friendship and invention that helps save our heroine rather than magic and a fairy godmother. One of my favorite retellings of Cinderella in book form is Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. Even one of our Emblazon authors, Jaclyn Weist, just released another retelling of Cinderella in her new book Endless. As you can see, I can go on and on naming all the retellings of just one familiar story.

As writers we like to use the familiar story as the skeleton or premise on which to build our new telling. As readers we like the closeness we feel with retellings because they feel like an old friend.

Noah's_Ark_on_Mount_Ararat_by_Simon_de_MyleI had a wonderful experience recently reading a collection of books all based of a retelling of stories from the bible. Everyone has heard of the story of Noah’s Arc and his mission to save mankind and all the animal kingdom. I would never have thought to take that familiar story and do a retelling of it. Furthermore, I would never have thought to put the story in space and set it way in the future. How awesome does that sound? D. Robert Pease, also an Emblazon author, does just this with his fantastic books: the Noah Zarc series.

In the first book, Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, we get a retelling of Noah’s mission to save the animals. But you wouldn’t guess that from its synopsis:

24fdccbbf14631708e714c88cec439b0“Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction. Life couldn’t be better. But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth… for the second time.”

This is such a fun story! What I like most about the main character, Noah, is that he is disabled. He can’t walk. I think this was an even better twist on a hero’s tale. How many heroes to we see or read about that are disabled? Not too many. The ones that I have read like Noah Zarc and the Farworld Series have touched me deeply. I think kids facing their own challenges can see how disabilities, large or small, can be overcome and turned into strengths.

The second book, Noah Zarc: Cataclysm, is a retelling of Moses and the exodus of his people. Again you wouldn’t get that from the synopsis:

08eb9044cd1429dc01d9f44725731fae“Thirteen-year-old Noah Zarc rockets to Venus in a quest to learn more about his past. He refuses to believe his father is really the monster everyone says he is. Could there be valid reasons for everything he’s done, including abandoning Noah at birth? While searching for answers to secrets no one wants to talk about, even those that have remained hidden for over a thousand years, Noah becomes embroiled in a mission that could cause the greatest cataclysm in the history of the solar system. Will his name, Noah Zarc, be forever linked to the most devastating crime in humanity’s existence, all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

The third book, Noah Zarc: Declaration, takes a different approach to a retelling. One that I really like! Pease takes on another familiar story just one closer in time and more connected to US citizens: a retelling of the American Revolution. Again, you wouldn’t guess that from the synopsis:

noahzarcdeclarationcover“As battles rage across the solar system, Noah must work to join together a rag-tag bunch of miners, farmers, and scientists who would rather just live in peace. With only a time-traveling ship full of animals and a general from the history books, the Zarc family has to stand against the full might of the Poligarchy. Will the truth about what really happened a thousand years in the past be enough to stop total war, or will Noah and his friends need to find another way to bring down a dictator?”

I think the key in creating any retelling is not to make the story it’s based on the largest concern in the book. Pease does an excellent job with his books because the main focus is always his main character: Noah. This is more of an emotional journey of overcoming the greatest of obstacles more than it is a just a retelling. Stories that can accomplish this become the favorites we continue to read over and over.

What are some retellings that you have enjoyed?

Morphing: In books and real life

animorphsMorphing characters (not to be confused with morphling which I learned is a powerful painkiller) seems so easy to do. A character begins as one person and turns into someone or something else. There is a popular MG series based on this concept called Animorphs.

In real life, however, morphing is not so simple. I have two children that are morphing into something new at this graduation time.

Sixth grade graduation
Sixth grade graduation

My sixth grader will be entering junior high next year. It always amazes me how much change happens in a tween’s life as they move from elementary school to junior high. Some of the changes are great. Others not so much.

Second of all, my oldest is graduating from high school and moving onto college. It’s a big change that is laden with many bittersweet emotions–excitement, regret, hope, worry, etc. She’s going to be moving out on her own, which is going to be so awesome for her, but she is so much fun and responsible that I am really going to miss her.

Senior Grad announcement.
Senior Grad announcement

 

In writing, when we morph a character into something else, the idea is that the transition needs to be seamless. Sometimes the morphing takes a while, like a person slowly becomes someone else over time. An example of this is in the classic book, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Other times, the character morphs abruptly like going from a teenage boy into a werewolf. I’m sure you all know a book or two where this happens. If not, ask yourself where you’ve been for the last ten years. 🙂

Regardless, to make a seamless transition there needs to be preparation, build up, and a clear explanation of how it happens. If not, it doesn’t sit well with your reader.

My husband and I were listening to an audio book once when, at the very end of the story, the author had written herself into a corner. So what did she do? The main character all of a sudden realized she had ESP and talked to the mind of another character to get out of the climatic problem.

It BOMBED!

Just as I have tried to prepare my real children, build them up, and explain (as best I could) what the new stage of their lives will bring, we can do the same with our characters, only we have a lot more control (which, let’s be honest, is really nice sometimes.)

New Releases from Two Emblazon Authors

Today marks the release of three new books. One from Mikey Brooks and Two from D. Robert Pease.

First up, Mikey Brooks with the second installment of his Amazon bestselling middle-grade series, The Dream Keeper Chronicles: THE DREAMSTONE.

The Dream Keeper:keychain front1

Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME. When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?

Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Hardback | Barnes & Noble

The Dreamstone:keychain front2

When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. However when they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.

Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Hardback | Barnes & Noblegiveaways

GIVEAWAYS: Mikey is having a two week long blog tour and giving away over 35 books all by middle-grade and teen authors. 10 lucky winners will receive swag bags including a dream key necklace. Check out the full list of stops and a link to the giveaway by visiting his website at: http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/ Also, both eBooks will be on sale for the duration of the blog tour for just $.99 each!

In Praise of THE DREAMSTONE:

“The Dreamstone, by Mikey Brooks, is a wild stallion of a story: fast, thrilling, and unpredictable. I was hooked in chapter one. If he can snare the attention of an old reader like me, he’ll have kids sneaking this one into class underneath their text books…If this one isn’t a kid-pleaser, I don’t know what is.” –Michelle Isenhoff, author of the Divided Decade Trilogy and the Taylor Davis Series.keychain back

This is far out good and entertaining. It will become a pre-teen to young adult and the young of heart’s favorite. The tale is clean, wholesome and riveting. It is must have in every home and school library” –Anna del C. Dye, author of The Silent Warrior Trilogy.

“If you like the Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, or the Harry Potter series, you’ll love this!” –An Amazon Reviewer.

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as adult. On occasion you’ll find him Mikey Pic 3dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several picture books including the bestselling BEAN’S DRAGONS, the ABC ADVENTURES series. He spends most of his time playing with his three daughters and working as a freelance illustrator and cover designer. Mikey has a BS degree in Creative Writing from Utah State University. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast.

 


New from D. Robert Pease in the Noah Zarc Trilogy

Today the Noah Zarc middle grade, science fiction adventure is complete with the release of the third book: Noah Zarc: Declaration. At the same time the Noah Zarc Special Omnibus Edition is released which includes all three books in one volume, as well as twenty-two pencil illustrations by the author.

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble

Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction. Life couldn’t be better. However, the twelve-year-old time traveler soon learns it could be a whole lot worse, when he is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying a newly habitable, post-apocalyptic Earth.

Amazon Kindle ON SALE TODAY for $.99! | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | Signed Paperbacks from Publisher

Noah Zarc: Cataclysm

While searching for answers to secrets that have remained hidden for over a thousand years, Noah becomes embroiled in a mission which could cause the greatest cataclysm in the history of the solar system; the total destruction of life on Earth.

Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Signed Paperbacks from Publisher

Noah Zarc: Declaration

As battles rage across the reaches of space, Noah works to join together a rag-tag bunch of miners, farmers, and scientists who would rather just live in peace. With only a time-traveling ship full of animals and a general from the history books the Zarc family must stand against the most powerful man in the universe.

Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Signed Paperbacks from Publisher


Noah Zarc: Trilogy – Special Omnibus Edition

All three Noah Zarc books in one volume. Including twenty-two pencil illustrations by the author.

Amazon Kindle | Amazon Hardcover | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Signed Hardcover from Publisher




D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters he brings to life.

Find out more about D. Robert online:

www.drobertpease.com | Facebook | Twitter