Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Apollocon 2009: Astronaut Stanley G. Love

Without a doubt, the coolest thing I did at Apollocon 2009 was watch the presentation by Astronaut Stanley G. Love. (here's the official NASA bio; here's some cool photos of Love in training)

He brought an 18-minute video which he narrated and told us interesting stories and details. The video images were amazing, things we earth-bound humans never get to see. Perhaps the coolest shot was of the International Space Station after the Shuttle Atlantis left. There was the ISS, floating majestically above the Earth, a shining example of human ingenuity. Absolutely gorgeous.

Other facts we all learned from the video and the Q&A session:
  • The orange suits weight 80 lb.
  • As soon as the fuel tank is jettisoned, the astronauts start working. That is, they are barely in orbit.
  • The entire first day or orbit is devoted to an examination of the heat shields. A camera is put on Atlantis' arm and they take video of the bottle of the shuttle.
  • A normal airplane, when landing, comes in on a 3-degree angle. The shuttle lands at a 20-degree angle. (Yikes!)
  • When the shuttle lands, without engines don't forget, it is traveling at 345 MPH.
  • Love went on two spacewalks. The suit is 350 lb (on earth). He said that trying to close one's hand in the spacewalk suit is about the same as trying to squeeze a tennis ball. Numerous times, in training mainly, his body got a little bruised and bloody from being in the suit.
  • The shuttle orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at a rate of approximately 55 minutes of light and 35 minutes of darkness. You have no dawn or twilight. One second it's dark, the next it's noontime bright. (That was my question, BTW.)
  • The movie "Apollo 13" got the science right.
  • He knew, within the first frame of "Independence Day" that they got the science all wrong.
One of the audience members asked about claustrophobia. Love told us about one of the tests NASA conducts. They strap electrical stuff to your body to monitor your heart rate, etc. Then, they zip you up in a three-foot canvas 'ball'. This ball has a fan for fresh air so you don't necessarily get too hot. They put you in a room, turn off the lights, *and don't tell you* how long they'll keep you there. He said the NASA scientists know within minutes who's a good candidate and who isn't.

Another question came about nausea in space. About one to two hours after lift-off, you begin to have 'stomach awareness,' a nice euphemistic way of saying nausea. The nausea, to one degree or another, usually lasts one to two days. Most astronauts who just get in space are directed to keep Earth-like visual cues. That is, the floor is 'down' and the ceiling is 'up.' After days and weeks in space, you're brain adjusts and you can eat, sleep, rest anywhere in the 3D space inside the ISS.

After the Q&A, Love signed photos and made himself available for additional questions. I got one for my son who was duly impressed that his dad met a real, live astronaut. A NASA rep brought with her scale models of the Ares class of rocket, the ones that'll replace the shuttle. These rockets are massive, almost twice as high as the shuttle and the Saturn V rocket that took our astronauts to the moon forty years ago.

I don't know about y'all but I just eat up all this space exploration stuff. NASA, its history and all that it accomplished, is utterly fascinating. After seeing the Ares rocket models, I'm really looking forward to humans returning to the moon. I just want to see it.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Apollocon 2009: "Does Fantasy Have to be Epic?"

I was interested in this sessions mainly because I'm interested in where the short SF/F books went. The panelists included Martha Wells (moderator), Lillian Stewart Carl, Dee Beetem, Gail Dayton, and A. Lee Martinez.

Lillian, who is up for a Hugo later this summer, started the process with the obvious: epics and multi-book stories are publisher driven. Back in the day, Robert E. Howard wrote many stories about Conan but they were all stand-alones. All fantasy lives in the shadow of J. R. R. Tolkien. He wrote a multi-book epic with grand sweep (forget that the book is really one large book) and he set the bar and the mold. However, Tolkien was an exception. He wrote The Lord of the Rings without the market in mind. Indeed, there was not a market at all.

Dee brought up a good point: writers spend a lot of time building a world. Once built, it better pay off dividends. Lee stated that series is what people want. While he didn't come out and say it, I think series characters, like our TV series and late-night talk show hosts, are essentially comfort food. We want to return to that galaxy far, far away or read the latest Harry Bosch novel time and again.

The talk progressed to writing style. Lillian said that readers will be tolerant of bad writing if the story is good. (Kind of like Nora Roberts' first rule of writing I mentioned in the "Raiders of the Lost Maguffin" write-up)

Lee finds himself bored with the same old worlds. That's why he writes stand-alones and builds the world up every time. At this, Martha brought up another obvious point: readers nowadays are so sophisticated and they have so many genre tropes ingrained in our Reader DNA that a writer doesn't necessarily have to world-build the way they used to (like Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example). Again, Robert E. Howard was mentioned. He wrote what he knew. Sure, he used a different name for a four-legged animal you ride but its really a horse. All the panelists said they disliked wacky names for the sense of being wacky. I agree with them. Some of the names Alan Dean Foster used in his early books were a bunch of consonants. Lee said it best: we writers put too much pressure on ourselves to world build. It's not all that necessary to have the entire global structure in place before you write a story. You can world build with what's around the character and, as Martha said, you can fill in some gaps in the next book. Gail concluded about world building that you can explain as you go.

A funny aside: all the panelists, when they discussed Epic Fantasy, would take their hands and make an arc with one hand, almost like a rainbow. That morphed into visual code for "epic fantasy." It became the funny joke of the hour and Lee ran with it, visually describing other books with shorter arcs, choppy arcs, or none at all.

In summary, I think the panelists came to the same conclusion: sure, there is a market for massive, epic fantasy stories with tons of world building. But that's not the end-all, be-all in fantasy literature. There's more out there that's good.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Apollocon 2009: "Raiders of the Lost Maguffin"

The Lost Maguffin session, Friday night at 8pm, was the first one I attended. The panelists were Rosemary Clement-Moore (M), Tim Frayser, Joe McKinney, Gail Dayton. Here's the write-up that enticed me in the room: "Adventure novels sweep us up and take us away. Our panelists talk about the way adventure novels work in spec fic and why we love them."

The audience totaled about 20 people including A. Lee Martinez, an author an panelist of other topics. Rosemary, the moderator, had with her a sheet with guidelines and questions to help the panelists and audience members discuss various topics within the subject. The most obvious question is about the appeal of adventure fiction. Why is it important. Tim answered with an obvious statement: adventure fiction is a character study. In an adventure story, certain traits of a person's character will be revealed through the trials of the story. Most of the panelists agreed.

Next, we discussed Joseph Campbell's Myth arc and whether or not the "Thing" being sought ought to be physical or metaphysical. Gail agreed that the Thing can be either, especially in light of the character-based definition of the previous question. Joe McKinney, a homicide detective in San Antonio, reminded everyone that the ring in the Lord of the Rings was something to be destroyed, not obtained.

From this lofty discussion, the panel quickly started discussing science and plausibility in adventure fiction. Unfortunately, a certain archaeologist with a bullwhip didn't fare well. For most, the Atomic Bomb/Fridge scene in Indy 4 was so bad as to make the film unwatchable. For others, it was the aliens and the flying spaceship. Rosemary did say, however, that since the film was supposed to be about the 1950s and all the stuff we were fixated on, aliens and invasion was actually okay with her. Others brought up the tricorders in Star Trek as examples of things that use spurious science.

The gradual consensus was summed up in Nora Roberts single rule of writing: Don't Bore the Reader. If a writer sets up a world with certain rules, even if they have questionable scientific merit, a reader is more than willing to go along As Long As The Story Is Good.

In all, the session was fun and informative. It helped me sort out my current WIP (the steampunk thing; see here and here for sample sentences) and has put me on a new course for the project.

Apollocon 2009: Introduction

Well, I've finished my first full day here at Apollocon. It's being held up at the Doubletree near Intercontinental Airport, a fair drive for me (about 50 minutes or so). I have a main goal for this convention: to attend the writer's workshop and receive some feedback on my new WIP, a steampunk mystery thing. (I'm not really sure what it's all going to be yet.)

Also, I hope to make some contacts and just enjoy the con.

Here is a list of the panels I plan on attending (some I already did).
  • Raiders of the Lost Maguffin
  • Does Fantasy Have to be Epic?
  • Special guest: Astronaut Stanley G. Love
  • Anachrohnism Mash-up: Steampunk, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica
  • Then and Now -- How SF has Changed (moderated by Bill Crider)
  • Batman Turns 70
I'll provide write-ups on all the panels as well as the results of the writing workshop here at SF Safari.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unnecessary sequels to SF/F books & movies

I.J. Parnham’s response to my post about watching the movie “2010” in 2009 got me to thinking. Here’s the money quote:
I could never see the point of the book Ten past Eight, or the other sequels. And I've only tried to watch the film once, but didn't get even halfway through. It's a classic case to me of the utterly unneeded sequel that does slightly diminish the impact of the original.
Now, as I wrote in my responses, as a youngster, I appreciated both the book and movie “2010” because it explained the first movie. Because the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” says different things to different people, there must have been some driving need for Clarke to Tell Us All Exactly What Everything Means. That, or the need for the next book in a contract. Or writer’s block.

Anyway, the movie/book “2010” struck I.J. as unnecessary. Are there other sequels/prequels to fantasy and SF books/movies you think are unnecessary?

I’ll answer my own question and stay with Arthur C. Clarke. Rendezvous with Rama was an excellent book filled, like "2001," with big ideas. The immediate sequel, Rama II, was the same book with different characters. But when some of the characters got marooned on Rama II and Clarke wrote two more books, I barely got through books two and three. I only finished book three just to see what the Rama craft was. I can’t remember now but I remember being unimpressed.

I’ve only read the first Dune book. I’ve heard that, starting with Book 4, Frank Hebert went off the deep end. Then there are the scads of prequel trilogies out there. Do they help or hinder your enjoyment of the original Dune books?

On the movie front, I didn’t think we needed Alien 3 or Alien 4. Well, the ending of Alien 3 was okay but #4 was excess. I didn’t like Terminator 3 either (and have yet to see the new one).

Those are the ones that come immediately to my mind. How about y’all? What are sequels/prequels to SF/F movie or books you think are unnecessary?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts on "2010" (the movie)

I caught most of "2010" the movie on Friday night. The movie, released in 1984, is, of course, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Here's what I found fascinating about "2010" as I watched it again for the first time in many a year and only six months away from the actual 2010.

Back in 1968, the year 2001 really felt like the future. Not so any more. I think from 1968, the concept of a Hilton in space and a moon base probably seemed doable, what with the thrill of the Apollo missions and such. Besides, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the book so you know it was grounded in real science.

However, come 1984, things were quite different. While 2001 still seemed futuristic, I think most of us knew that there would not be orbiting Hiltons in space and a moon base wasn't going to get made. By 1984, we hadn't been back to the moon in a dozen years. And, yet, the filmmakers (and Clarke) had to create the sequel with the 1968 mindset. They had to maintain the world Clarke and Stanley Kubrick showed us in 1968.

Thus, you get Heywood Floyd talking about data on "cassettes." Odd that Clarke didn't see the new CDs then emerging as the next thing in data storage. You still have the clunky keyboards that were basically IBM Selectrics. You also have the computer screens which, for the most part, still hold up even though they look like Atari 2600 video games.

What I did like about the film, even more so now than in 1984 when I first saw the film, was the "normal" stuff. When the spirit of Dave Bowman returns to Earth to say a final farewell to his mom and wife, each woman lives in a hospital or apartment, respectively, that looks like something a person from 1984 (or 2009) would recognize. The domestic scenes in the movie "2001" seemed out there and cool. I think Clarke realized that the future he saw in 1968 wasn't going to come to pass by 2001 or 2010. So he and the filmmakers made good choices. It grounds the film in reality, a hallmark of Clarke's stories.

I visited Disneyworld's Epcot Center in 1984. I can't remember if I was reading the Clarke novel at the same time or not but I do remember feeling a connection between the book and the things on display at Epcot. Epcot really did feel futuristic even if what I read in "2010" was going to come to pass for awhile. There was a connection, a common destination point. Thing is now, that point seems farther away.

Anyway, just wanted to pass along a few thoughts on watching a show that supposedly takes place in a year less than six months away. Wow. We're really living in the future. Reminds me of the Springsteen lyric: "We're livin' in the future and none of this has happened yet"

What do y'all think of the concepts presented in 2001 and 2010, both the books and movies?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SF Book Club #1: Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell

Recently, three friends and I were talking about the idea of starting a small SF/F book club. The main rationale is that we tend to get in the same reading rut and, if others choose books, we'll read some books/authors we might not normally read. It's a little like the SF/F reading list by Lou Anders I posted early in this blog's history.

We decided to read whatever we all voted on, be it classic SF/F or modern. To start things off, we voted to go modern and yours truly was nominated to pick the first book. I reviewed Lou Anders's recommendations and those readers who commented as well as some of the books I have on my own personal reading list that I didn't mention online. It's summer and it's hot so I didn't feel like reading a book like Midwinter. I had just finished reading John Scalzi's Old Man's War (my review) otherwise I'd have put that book forward. I'm 3/4 done with The Lies of Locke Lamora or I'd have chosen it. China Mieville's Perdido Street Station is high on my list but it's a challenge (from what I hear).

Deciding to keep things light and fun, I settled on Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell.

I've been wanting to read Crystal Rain for awhile mainly because I want to know what Caribbean-influenced SF looks and reads like. And other, established SF authors and editors love Buckell's work so I figured it would be a good place to start. Besides, just look at that gorgeous cover painting and tell me you *don't* want to read this book. The dude's got a hook where a hand should be. I am SO there.

We've given ourselves two months to read Crystal Rain. Wouldn't you know it: I selected a book without an audio adaptation. So, look for my review of the book later this summer (perhaps even for the Book Review Club from Barrie Summy) and any insights we all gain from the communal reading experience.

Anyone out there part of a SF/F-specific reading group?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Batmobile website

With a hat tip to Bish's Beat, here's a fun website devoted to the 1966 Batmobile from the TV show.

My story with the Batmobile is much like the website's author. I thoroughly dug that car and had my own Hot Wheels version sometime in the 1970s. At a car show once, I actually got to see it. A young boy's wish fulfilled.

Cut to this year: in a recent episode of the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Robin was the partner. In the intro scene, it was a flashback of Robin when he was the Boy Wonder. In stylized tones, they paid homage to the 1960s TV show as B&R slid down the pole, jumped in the Batmobile, fastened their seat belts, and rocketed out of the cave. Brilliant!

Monday, June 8, 2009

"New" Classic SF books

One branch of the Harris County library has a small used book room. After checking out some books, I stuck my head in there. Glad I did. Someone dropped a lot of classic SF/F. Since I'm wanting to read some classic SF as well as modern SF, I picked up a few, at a quarter a book. And two of the books were doubles, so that 12.5 cents/book. How can you not?

Note: the covers in these links are the covers of the copies I just bought except the Delany books.

The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 (1972) by Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop - How can I, a Texan, not get this book. Besides, I remember seeing it back in the day. Anyone remember The Ayes of Texas?

The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965)/Empire Star (1966) by Samual R. Delany - One of The Names in SF. Have to start somewhere.

The Mightiest Machine
(1935, 1947) by John W. Campbell - Another giant in early SF

Enigma from Tantalus
(1965)/Repairman of Cyclops (1965) by John Brunner - This is my first real Ace double. Again, for a quarter, it's worth it for the collector value alone.

I'll be reading and blogging them starting this summer.

Anyone out there know these titles?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New SF Tale at Beat to a Pulp

For those that don't know, Beat to a Pulp is the brainchild of David Cranmer, the blogger behind The Education of a Pulp Writer. Late in 2008, David launched Beat to a Pulp, an ezine devoted to stories and adventures you'd likely find in a pulp magazine back in the 30s. To date, most of the stories have been hard-boiled tales of crime or horror or westerns. My first published story, a western (go figure) was published at Beat to a Pulp in April. Science fiction hasn't had a big part--yet--mainly, I think, because not many folks have sent in stories. Many SF readers forget the genre's pulp origins. I've read very little pre-1950s SF, something I'm rectifying starting this summer. I have read the only SF story in the archives, Sandra Seamans' wonderful "Brother Justice."

That ends today.

Chad Eagleton's "Six Bullets for John Carter" is Beat to a Pulp's second SF tale and, man, I have to tell you, it's fantastic. The title alone should make all true SF die-hards rush to read it. Evoking one of the classic names in all of SF, "John Carter" is, at once, an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs and a brand-new story looking forward.

I don't want to say much more because you really just have to read the story. I've lamented recently about the lack of short SF books on the market. Too often, the world building eats up huge chunks of a novel that, parceled out more judiciously, would make quicker, more enjoyable reads. Eagleton world-builds in just a short story. You really get the sense that there is a greater, wider universe where the events of this story take place. And it's got one of the greatest locales in all of SF: Mars.

Read this story. You won't be disappointed. And you SF writers out there: head on over to the Guidelines section of Beat to a Pulp and read up on what David would like. Send in some stories. Join in on one of the most exciting places for fiction on the Internet. Beat to a Pulp is now one of my weekly fixes. Make it one of yours, too.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Comics Review: Batman and Robin #1

Whoa! What the heck did I miss?

That was my first thought upon reading Issue #1 of Batman and Robin, a new monthly title written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely. Dick Grayson as Batman? What about Nightwing, his persona after he bequeathed the Robin costume to Jason Todd and Tim Drake. Then there's this Damien guy now dressed up as Robin. Where's Drake? And the issue comes under the overall heading of Batman: Reborn.


Well, I have some catching up to do, that's for sure. I did a little research and Damien, it seems, is Bruce Wayne's real son, Wayne himself is missing/dead/I'm not sure, Dick Grayson has taken 'the mantle of the cowl' away from ...someone, and the two of them now operate in Gotham in a flying Batmobile. Yes, I said flying Batmobile.

The opening pages show a toad-guy driving a car through a tunnel. Enter the aforementioned Batmobile that looks like a red version of the helmet worn by Aquaman's arch-nemesis, Black Manta. As a huge fan of Cartoon Network's Batman: Brave and the Bold (where Bats is returned to his fun, comedic days), I can buy the flying Batmobile. Seems odd that they'd paint a giant red bat emblem on it but I can still buy it. Honestly, I can't help but wonder if it's a nod to Batman Beyond, the great cartoon series of the 1990s.

Anyway, the issue lays out the story lines pretty well. You get to see Damien interact with Alfred, you see Commissioner James Gordan back in action, you even get some of the backstory about Bruce Wayne and how much pressure Grayson's under to carry on the Bat mantle.

The issue ends way too abruptly, probably a result of the usual practice of story arcs being gathered into a trade paperback. We get to see a man dressed up in a pig mask doing some 'reconstructive surgery' on another guy. Guess we'll learn about that a bit later on. We also get introduced to another storyline with a guy, probably a baddie, who looks like Marvel's Human Torch but wearing clothes. Guess that storyline's for a later issue, too.

The artwork by Quitely is superb. It's a far cry from the comic art in the 70s and 80s. It looks like real people wearing real costumes and real shoes. There are a few shots of Grayson in the Batman costume where it looks, slightly, as if the costume's just a few inches too big. Is that some visual representation of Grayson's hesitancy? In terms of the writing, can't say for sure yet. The issue sets up everything and I haven't read a Morrison story before so I can't compare. I do have the trade version of Batman and Son which will, I hope, reveal the origin of Damien Wayne. I'll be reading that shortly.

Once I heard about this title being launched, I wanted to eschew my usual practice of waiting for the trades. I enjoyed the issue and I'm game for some revamping of the Batman storyline (Heck, we've seen it for James Bond and Star Trek, why not Batman?). He has been and will always be my favorite comic book character. I'm the kind of Bat-fan who can drool over "The Dark Knight" movie and then come home and watch the Brave and the Bold cartoon and enjoy both. I'm looking forward to seeing where this title goes.

And I want to know what happened to Bruce Wayne. Can anyone out there tell me which titles I need to read to figure out what happened to Wayne?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review Club: Star Trek: Countdown

This is the June entry for Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. For the complete list, click on the Book Review Club icon at the bottom of this post.)

If only they had filmed this…

What I’m referring to is the graphic novel Star Trek: Countdown. It is not merely a graphic novel. It is a prequel to the new “Star Trek” film now in theaters and a sequel to the Next Generation universe last seen in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. The four-issue story was originally published starting in January and has now been collected in a trade paperback edition.

And it’s fantastic.

I didn’t read the story until I had seen the movie so I can’t tell you what it would have been like to read the comic before seeing the film. I’m not a fan of spoilers so I would not have read it anyway (had I known about it). Suffice it to say, it’s one of those fill-in-the-gaps kind of tales that geek boys and geek gals really dig but your general audience doesn’t care to know.

(Speaking of spoilers, if you haven’t seen the new film and want to know nothing about it, stop reading now.)

Star Trek: Countdown begins in the Next Generation years following the last Next Gen film, Nemesis. An aged Spock is now the Federation ambassador to Romulus and he’s imploring the Romulan High Council to put their trust in Vulcan science to save their planet from a star that threatens to go supernova. His staunchest ally is a miner, Nero (played by Eric Bana in the new film), a simple Romulan with a pregnant wife who has witnessed the star’s destructive power first-hand. The solution is to allow the transport of a special mineral to Vulcan where it can be converted into “red matter,” a substance that can create a black hole in the place of the troubled star (!), rendering it inert. The Romulan High Council refuses. Thus, Nero and Spock conspire to transport the mineral in secret.

Naturally, the Remans, Romulans’ bad step siblings, interfere and damage Nero’s mining ship. Who comes to the rescue? None other than the Enterprise-E, helmed by Captain Data. (Wait! I thought Data 'died' in Nemesis. It's explained) They save the day and head off to Vulcan. Guess what? The Vulcan High Council refuses to help the Romulans. Nero vows revenge on all of Vulcan if the planet Romulus is destroyed. Spock convinces Nero there’s still one more hope. Nero, of course, blames the entire thing on Spock when the star does go supernova and destroys Romulus, including his wife and unborn child.

What does Nero do now? He goes on a killing binge. He takes out some Federation medical ships and kills the remaining members of the Romulan High Council. We learn the reason behind the tattoos Eric Bana wears in the movie as well as the axe/staff thing he carries. To go on now would ruin it for those of y’all who still want to read this story. Three more Next Gen folks walk on stage (one’s on the cover so it’s no mystery) before the story ends right where the movie begins.

My one quibble is with the artwork. Don’t get me wrong: the art, by David Messina, is beautiful. He recreates scenes from both the new movie and the Next Gen movies perfectly well. He, however, rarely draws pictures of people, who are talking, with their mouths open. I found it rather annoying.

I’ve always been a fan of Star Trek. One of my biggest kicks out of the new movie is all the in jokes. Well, there are more in Countdown. It’s just cool to see the Next Gen folks with Spock (again) and Nero. If Star Trek VII (i.e., Generations) was the movie where the original crew (read: Kirk) handed off the franchise to the Next Gen crew and the new movie is where the original crew (read: Spock) hands things off to the 2.0 versions of themselves, Star Trek: Countdown is the connecting link. It's the Next Gen crew handing the franchise to Spock who, in turn, hands it to the new, rebooted franchise. It isn’t to be missed.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two Sentence Tuesday: Fantasy Edition (2 June 2009)

I'm still listening to The Lies of Locke Lamora and, as such, it's a bit difficult to pick out a pair of sentences. There are quite a few I like. One is at the 2:44 hour mark in part II. You know that one, don't you? ;-)

The format of Scott Lynch's book is interesting. There's the main story (where Locke is an adult) and then he adds in interludes. The interludes, so far, is the story of how Lamora as a young boy got in with the group called the Gentlemen Bastards. It's very "Lost"-like: they are flashbacks. So far, no flash-forwards. A part of me thinks this is just Lynch's way of adding exposition without going through the motions of an information dump. There was one in particular that was like that. Others were better. When I finish, I'll give my thoughts.

For my two sentences, three actually, I've decided to post the next paragraph to my steampunk book I started in a previous Two Sentence Tuesday post.
The murderer Serkis leaped down from his perch on the wall, his shoes smacking the cold floor and sending curls of dust into the air. He shuffled towards Kionell, who was chained to the floor by the invisible bonds of the trance the murderer had placed upon him, and then past him. The fluttering grew louder until the Serkis held the dying bird in front of Kionell's face. Kionell and the bird held each other's gaze, each knowing that they would die today.
I know the last sentence is a bit melodramatic and I'll probably cut it later but that's where it is now.

I'm not the only one offering up a twofer today. Head on over to Women of Mystery for more.

Book Review: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

(Even though this is a cross-post, there might be genre-specific discussions that would better be served here at SF Safari than at my other ...