Classic Revisited: A Wizard of Earthsea

Earthsea: The First Four Books: A Wizard of Earthsea * The Tombs of Atuan * The Farthest Shore * Tehanu

I wrote back in January that I felt Ursula Le Guin’s passing was a great loss for both the art of writing and for SFF in particular. I was driven at the time by my memories of reading A Wizard of Earthsea, one of the first fantasy books I ever held in my hands. You know, back when paper was a thing.

Since I wrote that, I’ve thought back occasionally to the story itself, only to realise that I don’t remember it all that well.

Passing through an airport last week I came across a collection of the first four Earthsea books and it felt a little too much like divine providence to ignore. I ploughed through A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan over the next couple of flights, and rediscovered the work.

Continue reading Classic Revisited: A Wizard of Earthsea

Film Review: Ready Player One

When I first picked up the book by Ernest Cline, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. It looked like a slightly nostalgic young adult yarn spun around an overwrought nostalgia for the 80s.

Once I got into it, I was very happily surprised. It wasn’t nostalgia, it was obsession tempered by affection. It used its subject matter as a metaphor for a time when things were perhaps less overwrought, and a little more genuine. All this in the least genuine setting of all – virtual reality. Continue reading Film Review: Ready Player One

Still not entirely here

I launched this site a while back with a hidden agenda.

I figured that if I wanted to climb the learning curve and learn how to write decent fiction in my preferred genre, I ought to read as much of it as I could. I can be quite a glutton when it comes to reading and the budget necessary to purchase that many books looked significant. To remedy this I figured I’d review books, get a reputation as a reliable reviewer and try to get some free copies of upcoming works from the various platforms that specialize in that.

That worked exactly as planned. Unfortunately the plan sucked.

To list the advantages: I read a great deal, discovered some new and exceptionally good authors that I enjoyed reading and did so without spending (too much) money. I saw how others were crafting their works and was able to identify things that worked, some that worked perhaps less well. I saw what worked commercially, and was able to identify the small subset that might work, commercially, for me.

On the other hand, money is not the only currency we have, and time is far scarcer. There were faster ways to gain that understanding than writing reviews in the dead of night when my daughter had finally found sleep.

Between my full-time job, new arrivals in the family and trying to read all these new books, there was simply no time for writing. You only have to read the first chapter of a book on writing, or the first couple of posts on a blog by any competent writer to learn that while reading is great, writing is a learning-by-doing kind of activity and without practice you’re going to get nowhere.

I soon dropped the whole reviews website concept to spend at least a little of what time I had left at the end of the working day on writing short stories. That got me somewhere (I have a few nice letters from editors explaining that various stories are good but… too long, too short, too dark, etc. I have a not insignificant number of form rejections), but not where I wanted to go.

Split over too many projects and with too many demands on my time, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I also had nowhere to post my own work where it might at least garner a little feedback, provide a birthplace for my writing hopes and allow me to speak to at least one fan, even if it’s a member of my own family.

The advice from modern authors is clear. Write lots, write often, interact with your readers, gather feedback, learn from your mistakes.

Time for a little course correction.

How To Make A Spaceship, by Julian Guthrie

How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race and the Birth of Private Space Flight

This is not a science fiction book, it’s science fact.

It’s the story of how one man hacked human motivation to create incentives for other people to achieve something he thought was very important. A biography of sorts, it tracks the meandering path followed by one man in an attempt to wrest spacefilght from the clutches of the public sector by inspiring private organizations and individuals to pick up the baton and run with it. Continue reading How To Make A Spaceship, by Julian Guthrie