Definitions of science fiction

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I’m just going to leave these here.

Isaac Asimov. 1975: “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”

John W. Campbell, Jr. 1947: “To be science fiction, not fantasy, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made.”

Pleasuring myself

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Steven Lyle JordanOver the years, I’ve been concentrating so much on entertaining others that I’ve slipped in my efforts to entertain myself; and right now, I have a yen to improve my life by re-immersing myself in the many forms of entertainment media I’ve collected over the years.  But because of their formatting and my need to upgrade my collection, that will require digitization.  (Don’t ask.  It’s all my stuff, reformatted for me alone.  No copyright infringement here.  Move along.)

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Making novels feel real

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Steven Lyle JordanI recently heard from a reader who wanted me to know how much he’d enjoyed how my stories had drawn him into the narrative.  He specified Verdant Pioneers, and described a scene where one of the female characters is reunited with a beau that appeared in Verdant Skies He described the moment with a series of words from the book, which I immediately recognized, and then lamented that not only did he strongly feel that moment, but he felt bad that he’d never felt such a powerful emotion directed at himself!

(Yeah, join the club.  We have T-shirts.)

I’m not writing about this to brag, but to point out the difference between different writing styles, and how they affect readers. Continue reading

What do readers owe authors?

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Steven Lyle JordanMy recent efforts to figure out the future of my perennially zombie-fied writing sideline has naturally led to a lot of questions for myself, trying to justify my actions as an author, a promoter and an entrepreneur.  Front and center to these questions has been the role of social media to promote and sell my products, and attempts to better understand what works and why.

In my searches to better understand, I came across an old TeleRead article by Joanna Cabot, entitled “What do readers owe authors?”  The article investigates the idea that readers are encouraged by authors to help promote them, largely by utilizing the social media tools at their disposal—blogs, review columns, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc—and that doing so helps the authors to continue to produce for them. Continue reading

Relevance in the modern era, with spies… and SF

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scene from Skyfall

Skyfall, courtesy MGM and Columbia Pictures.

The latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, may not be Bond’s sexiest, over-the-top adventure yet, but it might be his most vital: The theme of the movie is relevance… old vs new… and Bond’s place in the post-Cold-War era.  M and MI6 are similarly attacked—literally and, apparently, easily—as the villain applies the latest computer tools to the old-school organization, and brings into question whether or not this stodgy organization, and its spies, can keep up with the modern era. Continue reading

Ebooks aren’t marketing novelties anymore

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Steven Lyle Jordan, author and futurist

Steven Lyle Jordan

Last week marked my official bid of farewell to my membership at MobileRead.com, an ebook-dedicated site that I have participated in, as a member and a bookseller, since 2006.

MobileRead was a great source of information about the relatively new market of ebooks, when I was first trying to figure out how to get my books out to the world.  Based on weeks of research, then numerous questions about formats, pricing, web venues and quality issues, I learned enough to be able to begin my part-time  career as a novelist by selling in ebook formats.  I was greeted enthusiastically by MR members, who eagerly checked out my novels, made comments, congratulated me on my customer-friendly packaging and service, and wished me well in my endeavors.

That was six years ago.  Things have changed with the passage of time. Continue reading

“I’m sorry you have no friends.”

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Steven Lyle Jordan, author and futurist

Steven Lyle Jordan, author and futurist

Years ago, my wife and I bought our house in Maryland. Our real estate agent was a man whom we’d met at a house sale elsewhere, and we liked him so much that we’d asked him to represent us; with his help, we found a great house, and have been more than satisfied with it to this day.

One day, a few months later, we chanced upon him, and after mutual greetings, he said to us: “I’m sorry you have no friends.” It took us a second to realize he was sarcastically referring to his hope that we would have recommended him to our friends in the market for new homes, thereby bringing him fresh business. We didn’t take it personally, of course—and at the time, we didn’t happen to know anyone who was house-hunting, so we couldn’t have helped even if we’d wanted to—but the point was taken. Continue reading

Replacing the hated “warp drive”

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It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years.  I researched for years to find a way around it, and wrote two books based on my solution.  It’s one of the things that threatens to turn a perfectly good science fiction story to fantasy in an instant.  It’s warp drive.  And I hate it.

Warp drive was a concept created by writers of science fiction who knew that the distances between stars were too immense to allow humans to travel about and actually live to reach the other side.  It provided for romantic stories about traveling from star to star as easily as we sail from shore to shore, in great and powerful ships run by military discipline much like their seafaring ancestors.  It gave us Forbidden Planet, which begat Star Trek, and the “new planet every week” television show.

And yes, I’ve done it myself.  One of my most popular series, The Kestral Voyages, applies a warp drive system much like that featured on Star Trek, giving me a Galarchy of planets and a commercial network for my heroes to ply the stars.  Lots of room for romantic adventure.  Easy.  Familiar.  Understandable.

The problem is, it’s a crock.  Continue reading

Does anybody care?

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John Adams (from 1776, Columbia Pictures)

John Adams (from 1776, Columbia Pictures)

Since it’s fairly close to July fourth… and since I happen to be a fan of the movie “1776”… I feel it’s an appropriate time to borrow a question that was posed by John Adams in the dramatic finale of that movie, and which hangs somewhere in the mind of anyone who writes a novel, short story or article.

The question came up when I came across a blog post by Roz Morris, a response in letter form to a fellow writer who’d had a crisis of confidence in starting a book.  In that post’s responses, I commented on something that I felt Roz had missed pointing out: That a writer should consider whether their desire to write is impacted by the possibility that no one will read their work (or, if put on sale, that no one will want to buy it); is it worth the effort if no one touches your work?

This resulted in a second posting by Roz, addressing exactly that question. Continue reading

The writer as carpenter

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One thing writers love to discuss is the way in which they go about writing; almost, it seems, as much as the writing itself.  They will debate and dissect various methods of story-building, preparation and production, reviews and rewrites, trying either to find the best method for themselves, or to convince others which is the best method for them.

I am no different, and I’ve been asked frequently of late how my writing process works.  I like to compare my writing process to that of a carpenter making a chair; an orderly process that invariably results in a recognizable product, as basic or ornate as I desire.  Since I’ve used my writing process on over a dozen novels, and it has never given me a problem, I consider it a pretty good method, and I often recommend it to other authors.  So, in the interest of edification of my fellow writers, I’ll describe the process here. Continue reading