Are Science Fiction and Fantasy Alike?

A Matter of Perspective

Science fiction and fantasy –two very different genres. Or are they? In one hand, fantasy deals with the fantastical and magic. On the other hand, sci-fi deals with the technology and science. Fantasy is about what could never be; Sci-Fi is about what could be. One deals with the impossible and the other with what may be possible. Accordingly, they both seem like complete opposites.

Again, are they so different?

They both handle big ideas and concepts. Moreover, they both deal with what I call ‘What if?’ type of stories. Indeed, science fiction and fantasy dare to go places other literature won’t go. For this reason, despite their differences, they are similar. It may be a matter of perspective, but after all, they both rely on the power to stimulate its readers’ imagination.

Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Two coins, two sides. Image from Nykte.com

Are they two sides of the same coin? How similar are sci-fi and fantasy? Let’s explore it further.

For example, it was British author Arthur C. Clarke who said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Granted, if we were to travel a century into the past using today’s technology, we will probably be considered wizards. (Time traveling wizards sounds like a good idea, but sadly the Flash comic books did it first).

But what about the actual literature? Both Sci-Fi and Fantasy are works of fiction who share some commonalities. By and large, they both require a suspension of disbelief. In the hands of a master storyteller, the reader gets transported to worlds unlike their own, yet recognizable.

Furthermore, neither one deals with reality or what’s real. They deal with perceptions of reality. So what if one perception of reality features dragons and the other one robots? Worldbuilding is paramount for both genres.

The writer controls the rules of the world they build. If he or she fails at worldbuilding, the story does not work and falls flat. Speculative fiction readers can be so demanding. But the level of involvement required from the reader is higher than other fiction.

In my (partisan) opinion, Sci-Fi and Fantasy readers are the most open minded readers there are.

So, Are they Alike?

Yes and no. Granted, sometimes they merge or blur the lines. Some subgenres like Slipstream and Dying Earth do it well. But they exist within their own tropes and rules. They share some similarities but they also different enough from each other.

Regardless of similarities, I love to enjoy each for what they each offer. Namely the chance to transport us to worlds full of adventure and possibility.

Besides, it is possible to enjoy both and be a fan of both.

Agreed? Disagree? Share in the comments.

 

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Long Live the Legion!

Futuristic Space Opera

Cover of an old Legion comic book in Spanish

I have confessed many times how much I love the Legion. No, I adore the Legion. Some of my first comic books featured the Silver Age Legion. (No, I am not that old. It just so happens they were republished in Spanish language in the 80s).

Growing up with the Legion of Super-Heroes and Doctor Who is a big reason I love optimistic science fiction.

The Legion of Super-Heroes was born during the Silver Age of comic books in 1958. Created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, it wasn’t until the Jim Shooter and Curt Swan era it became popular. The Legion was created as one-off guests for a Superboy story. However, they became so popular, the readers kept asking the editors for them to come back again and again. Mind you, those were the days before the internet.

The editors at DC comics wisely recognize they had a hit in their hands. Eventually, the Legion took over the Superboy comics. Ironically, he became a supporting character in his own book.

The Legion of Super-Heroes is the greatest superheroes of the 31st century. They are a combination of space opera and military science fiction. They are the protectors of the United Planets (think the United Nations but in space). They come from different planets and they have quirky super powers. And the tone of the stories is optimistic and hopeful. This is a future with flying cars, interstellar travel and weather control. The kind of future you would want to live in.

Why the Legion Endures?

Silver Age Legion group photo from Boybluesdcu.com

The Legion of Super-Heroes has quite an intermittent publishing history. However, their fans complained,  organized, and kept bringing them back. The Legion fans are very vocal. Obviously, there is something about the Legion that resonates with its fans.

What makes the Legion so special and so endearing?

First, the concept was a novel one for the late fifties and sixties —teenage superheroes! Those were the days before the Teen Titans, the X-Men or Young Justice. Most teen super-heroes were sidekicks (or a younger version of an adult hero). Not the Legion. They were teenagers with teen problems, fearlessness, and optimistic outlook.

Second, there is another element about the Legion people overlook. Namely, the ideal of people from different backgrounds, genders, social class, races, and sexual orientations working together. Most legionnaires were not from planet Earth. They came from different planets light years away. Some of those planets were at war with each other.

Some Legionnaires were not the friendliest or likable (I am looking at you Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, and Shadow Lass). Some have weird super powers (Bouncing Boy and Matter Eater Lad). Other are too alien, even among aliens (Quislet and Tellus). But, they work together as a team despite their many differences.

Third, the whole idea that the future will be brighter. This is the future, for God’s sake! We are supposed to have conquered disease, climate change, and poverty. Yes, there are still a super villain and alien conquerors. And some xenophobic and other threats. But no need to worry. The Legion will save the day.

To the 31st Century and Beyond

Legion of Super Heroes image from Pinterest

The Legion has never been a big seller. However, they keep coming back. Their fans are a vocal minority who loves science fiction and the ideals the Legion stands for. Namely, Interstellar Peace, Tolerance, Unity, and Fairness. They are representatives of their respective home planets. In a way, they are goodwill ambassadors first, superheroes second.

In most continuities, their inspiration was Superboy (which represents the 2oth Century ideals of Truth, Justice and the American Way) but expanded to include Earth, Mars, Titan, Winath, Braal, Bgztl, Rimbor, Orando, Colu, Durla, Trom, Xanthu, Daxam, Zoon, Imsk, Cargg, Talok VII, Naltor, Dryad, Virga and other fictional planets.

The Legion’s adventures were true space operas where occasionally members will pay the ultimate price to save the Universe. Members will come and go, there will be different continuities and costume changes also. But one thing will remain —the ideal of teenagers from different planets working together to keep the future safe and bright.

Long live the Legion!

 

Post-Script: The Legion remains in publishing hiatus as of this writing, making sporadic appearances as a guest in other comics. Most recently in Supergirl #12 and Annual #1. Here is hoping they come back in their own comic as they deserve.

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Do Libraries Still Matter?

Libraries in the Digital Age

Casa de Colon Library, photo by Nacho Gonzalez, comisionletrasUNLP.blogspot.com

Writing is one of the greatest inventions in human history. Without writing, there is no history. You can’t have history without written records and documents. Everything that happened before the invention of writing is considered prehistory. Most early civilizations had some form of writing, from Summer, Mesopotamia, as well as ancient Egypt and China. Those documents and records were kept on libraries. Two of the most famous libraries of the ancient world were the libraries of Alexandria and Constantinople. But, what about the modern world?

But, what about the modern world? Are libraries still relevant these days? Or are they a thing of the past? We live in the age of Google, Bing, Amazon, and Siri. We can find any information almost instantly. In the digital age, are libraries due to disappear?

More than Just a Building

Libraries are more than just a building. Certainly, they carry books, newspapers, magazines, films, audios, and sometimes, even rare documents. Most libraries in the USA are buildings people go to borrow books and kids go to do homework. However, libraries are more than just buildings. Granted, their primary function is to collect and curate information for public consumption, as well as to educate and promote research. But they serve others purposes.

For example, they are a fountain of free information to the public. Emphasis on free. Furthermore, they offer other programs like art exhibits, story time, book clubs, job hunting, and workshops. Besides all that, they are a gathering place for the community. Some have private rooms for meetings (like writers’ groups). Moreover, most big libraries bring big speakers like acclaimed authors, scientists, and experts to discuss important topics.

They are indeed the soul of a community. And their free access is an important resource for underserved neighborhoods. In effect, libraries still matter.

I support libraries. I love them. I cannot imagine them disappearing. One, I love books. I love the idea of being by myself but surrounded by people. Remember, when I am not writing I am reading.

Will Libraries Disappear?

meeting Chine Mieville at the Philadelphia Free Library

Again, are libraries endangered due to the digital age? It may seem so. However, since we live in the information age, an era that places so much importance on information and data, support for libraries by both, the population and politicians should be solid. Except reality tells otherwise. Perhaps the biggest threat to libraries does not come from patrons and users but from politicians. To clarify, it seems every time there is a budget deficit, they want to cut libraries services or hours.

It will be a sad day in the United States if libraries were to disappear. A civilized and democratic society needs books. Democracy thrives on information and free exchange of ideas. They offer a big service to the communities they serve beyond just loaning books. Just in the past year, I checked out several books, including one about financial education and how to raise your credit score. I attended a home buyer’s seminar for first time home buyers at the Snyder Avenue library and I listen and met acclaimed author China Mieville at the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

Just in the past year, I checked out several books, including one about financial education and how to raise your credit score. I attended a home buyer’s seminar for first time home buyers at the Snyder Avenue library and I listen and met acclaimed author China Mieville at the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

Do Libraries Still Matter?

As a tool to bring knowledge and safe meeting place for children and young adults from low income neighborhoods; as a source of computer and printing access for people job hunting; as a place for graduate students to conduct research; as a place for someone to sit down and enjoy a book quietly; as a meeting place for the community. Yes, libraries still matter.

There is a reason libraries and silence go well together. Silence is a symbol of respect and sacredness. The ancient ones understood this. Remember, they worshiped wisdom. Let’s hope modern mankind understand this lesson too.

Do you support your local library? Are you a frequent visitor? Do you believe libraries still matter? Feel free to share your opinions.

 

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The Case for Optimism in Science Fiction

Do We Need Optimism?

man hanging up himself with happiness, stock photo from 123RF.com

Earlier I made the bold statement that my brand is optimism. Today I would like to elaborate why we need optimism in science fiction. As a matter of fact, it can be argued given the current political climate in the USA, depressing, pessimistic and dystopian seem more appropriate. Not so fast. I would like to postulate there is a place for optimism in speculative fiction in general and science fiction in particular.

Granted, we love our cyberpunks, our dystopian futures and dying earth tales. The best selling lists do not lie. Even I enjoy reading them. Yes, they do make for seat-of-your-pants narratives.  And besides, do us writers and readers need to follow what is popular or trendy? No, we don’t!

By the way, writers do not exist in a vacuum. What is happening in the national zeitgeist influences their writing. But we also have free will. We can choose to look at the glass as half-full or half-empty.

What is Optimism?

There are several definitions of optimism. My favorite is the one about “confidence about the future; a belief good things will happen”. It seems so naïve. However, when you expect the best, you get the best, no? I rather expect the best than the worse. Or more pragmatically, I rather expect the best while preparing for the worse.

Another definition, more like a philosophical ideal, states optimism is the belief we live in the best of all possible worlds. How cute! You would not find that one inside my stories. No! That philosophy is anathema to what science fiction is about —the belief the future will be better. Much better.

Science fiction is the literature of big ideas and what could be. If we believe we live in the best of all possible worlds, what is the point of exploring other planets and developing new technologies?

 

The Case for Optimism

Indeed, it is easier to imagine a future where everything goes wrong rather than right. It is easier to be a cynic in the current political environment we live. Let the future be bleak. It is more commercial. After all, bad news sell. However, I firmly believe optimistic science fiction is not dead.

Why should we strive for optimism? I will give you five reasons:

  1. To inspire new generations to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Who didn’t wanted to study science after reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series?
  2. To bring hope to our present full of sorrow and depressing news. Yes, there is war, natural disasters and diseases going on. But we shall overcome them.
  3. To show the possibilities of science. Those equations mean something tangible and wonderful!
  4. To send the message spaceships, space exploration, time travel, robots, aliens, Artificial Intelligence and laser beams can be just as cool as dragons, magical swords, and wizards. Fantasy is cool. Sci-Fi is even cooler.
  5. To bring back the joy of exploration and discovery. The age of exploration on Earth may have ended with Amundsen but there is still so much out there. A new age began with Gagarin and Armstrong.

In Conclusion

Optimism road sign stock photo from 123RF.com

There will always be some who prefer stories of science gone wrong instead of stories of science gone right. The foundation of good writing is conflict. But you can still have conflict and impossible odds and tension without sacrificing a happy ending or a successful outcome.

In summary, what I am trying to say is there is space on our bookshelves for authors like George Orwell, Phillip K. Dick, and Suzanne Collins. But, there is also a place in our bookshelves for Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Ursula Le Guin and Becky Chambers. Don’t you agree?

In conclusion, I believe in a brighter future. Do you?

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Best Pedro Albizu Campos Quotes

My Controversial Role Model

Quote in English and Photo from Bambinoides.com

In honor of Don Pedro and my birthdays (September 12th and 13th respectively), I want to write another post about Albizu Campos. Doctor Pedro Albizu Campos was the kind of political leaders they no longer make. Those who know me know that I love Pedro Albizu Campos to the point I use his last name as my pen name.

The polarizing political figure was full of great quotes. Here are some of my personal favorites. I will cite the quote and a few thoughts on them.

All these quotes were said in Spanish around the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s when he was more politically active. Translations into English, thoughts, and mistakes are mine. Let’s hope the spirit of the quotes is not lost in translation.

Warning: Some of this phrases may be controversial.

“As soon as a man takes refuge in fatalism it is because he has stopped thinking.”

Nothing is predetermined. The future can be changed. Our circumstances can be changed.

“To consult a nation if it wants to be free or not constitutes an offense.”

Free determination and the right to be free from colonialism should not be submitted to a referendum.

“A people full of courage and dignity cannot be conquered by any imperialism.”

Even the greatest empires will fall if those conquered stand up to them.

“Is not worth to be full of wisdom and physical vitality if we lack courage.”

Again, without courage, wisdom and health are worthless. We need to stop being afraid.

“It is the obligation of the youth to defend the country with the weapons of knowledge.”

An educated population cannot be conquered or enslaved. He was a great proponent of education. As a class valedictorian and a Harvard educated man of color, I think he knew a thing or two about the power of education.

“There is nothing to gain for those who seek salvation through weapons or money. If you want freedom, you must fight for it.”

Neither money or weapons can buy freedom. You must fight to be free.

“The Mahatma taught us that true power is within us and that freedom must rest first in the soul and will be invincible.”

This quote reflects his admiration for Gandhi’s peaceful resistance against British colonialism. Also, that you must think of yourself as a free individual first in order to pursue freedom.

“Those who do not respect the ashes of their elders are the true corpses.”

We must revere our elders and respect those who came before us. Our ancestors make our present possible.

“A University is a university and nothing else, without ridiculous limitations which put limits on its universal mission.”

The mission of a university should be to educate and we should not impose limitations or censorship on this obligation.

“When tyranny is law, revolution is order.”

Sometimes the only way to achieve freedom is through revolution.

“Big is the Empire we battle, but bigger is our right to be free!”

People have a natural right to be free and the size of the colonizing power should not scare us.

“Homeland means courage and sacrifice.”

His most famous and iconic phrase. The one you see emblazoned on shirts, murals, and paintings with his image. To love your country means you need to be courageous and you need to make sacrifices.

In Summary

Those were only twelve out of twenty-five phrases I picked from Doctor Albizu Campos. They show the strength and honesty of his convictions.

Sadly, we no longer seem to have political leaders who value the power of education, who ask the population to make necessary sacrifices, who show leadership in the face of adversity, and who are willing to die for a cause. Particularly when the causes are freedom and fairness.

Albizu was born on September 12, 1891. He died on April 21st, 1965. He may be gone but his memory, speeches, and dreams survive.

 

 

 

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My Brand Is Optimism

What is my Author Brand?

Myself at the Philadelphia Natural History Museum

Back when we look at pen names, I argued that a pen name is part of an author brand identity. Likewise, branding starts with the name (or pen name). Authors have brands. Actually, authors are brands whether they see themselves as such or not. Indeed, everybody has a brand.

No, we are not products or commodities. By brand I mean reputation. We all have a reputation regardless if we are aware of it or not. Moreover, we can take steps to manage our reputation. However, this post is not about that.

This post is about my writer brand. What? Say again?

Do still unpublished, three years and counting, countless times rejected authors have a brand? You bet we do. If we want to be accepted by readers, agents and editors, we would be wise to start managing our author brand now.

Hence, to establish a brand, we need to know ourselves. Answer these questions: Who are you? What are you passionate about? What are your values and themes? What type of stories you write? What style do you use? Who are your influences? The answers will give you a clue about your author brand.

Embrace Who You Are

Honestly, when I started writing back in 2014, I did not care about branding, marketing, etc. I just wanted to write and be published. However, looking at those first (rejected) short stories and novels, I can see some common themes. From Awakening to Breaking the Laws; from Remembrance of Onsens and Sakura to Bleeding Red Sun, all my stories share common topics and subject matters. They reveal something about me.

For example, I prefer hard science fiction. My stories have underlined political messages. A few of my beta readers say my stories have a strong anime flavor. Even my dark fantasies like Goblin Voices and The Devil Does Not Speak Latin share an optimistic view point and an interest in misfits.

Perhaps due to growing up watching Mexican telenovelas, I love happy endings. Don’t get me wrong, I do make my characters suffer, but they get a happy ending (after a fashion). As a matter of fact, I hate inconclusive endings. I believe if your readers stood with you for dozens or hundreds of pages, they deserve a resolution, no?

Readers of this blog can see at a glance those same issues I care about strongly (for example, space exploration, the meaning of humanity, education) and things I love (steampunk, romance, anime, cyberpunk, martial arts, astronomy, books). They also know where I come from (Ponce, Puerto Rico and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and who I admired and who some my influences are (Verne, Asimov, Heinlein, Banks, Reynolds, McDevitt, and Ballantine, among others).

Branding is about embracing who you are. You cannot fake a brand. You got to be yourself. I am a corny, romantic, and vivacious nerd with strong opinions. That’s what you get when you grow up with a healthy diet of comic books, Doctor Who and Condorito. Deal with it!

My Brand Is…

Sci-Fi Wallpaper showing the wonders of space colonization

Again, this post is not about how to create or manage your brand. Those would be forthcoming. I’d been reading a lot about it. The amount of information and advice out there can be overwhelming. They tell you from how to manage social media, your personal website, logo, colors, font, SEO, and several other things. I consider those peripheral rather than essential.

Honestly, I don’t run a company. Neither I am trying to sell a product. I rather worry about improving my craft, landing an agent, continue networking and attending workshops and conferences and getting published. I did create this blog to help me find my writing voice and start creating a platform. On the other hand, when I created my business cards, I purposely chose yellow for them since it is a happy color, right?

If you want to learn more about branding, I highly recommend the book Brand Aid by Larry G. Linne and Patrick Sitkins.

My brand is optimism. No surprise there. I want to be known as the guy who writes stories with happy endings, heroic protagonists and where science solves our problems. My brand tagline (which I chose after much thought for the Philadelphia Writing Workshop) is Writing Boundless Utopian Futures. Corny? Yes. Preposterous? Perhaps. True to myself? Yes!

What can I say, I believe science can solve our problems and the future will be better. And don’t give me the counter-argument that science gone wrong makes for better plots. Finding solutions to conflict makes better plots.

Now, do you want a jelly bean?

 

 

 

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The Writer’s Lifestyle: Not Glamorous at All

Not as Glamorous as You May Think

When we think about writers, in our imaginations, they are special, talented and glamorous people. They possess an amazing control of the English language and their creativity is out of this world. Moreover, they are gregarious, outgoing, funny and so much different from us common folk. If only.

I previously discussed who I am when I am not writing. After all, writers do not live in a vacuum. We are real people. Perhaps quirkier, but real. In contrast, let’s see who we really are when we put on our writer’s hat.

I cannot speak for others. I can only speak about myself, my own journey, and my experiences. I have met many authors at public events and conventions. As enlightening as it is to meet them in person (particularly if is someone you idolize) you only get flashes from those brief interactions. However, I know myself and some of my author friends.

There are several myths about the writer’s lifestyle. I cannot address them all. But I can give you a glimpse into some of them.

Most Writers are Introverted People

It seems contradictory.  But yes, most writers are introverts (unless you are Gerard St. George or Angel Medina). Even those ones who seem to command a room and are extremely engaging. Yet, they may be shy in private. My biggest disappointment was meeting a certain famous writer at Boskone and realizing he is extremely shy in person. I am not shy at all but I do not open up easily to strangers until I get to know them well and feel a certain level of comfort.

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. Writers are usually the kind of people who would rather be at a library than a dance club. Those who usually prefer a quiet coffee shop to a loud bar.  Places perfect for blending in and people watching, which most writers do. Observe and narrate rather than interact and tell.

So, What it is Really Like?

Writer creating worlds image from ElDesvandelasLetras.com

You have a day job like most folks (although sometimes I feel like the only person with a 40 hour workweek job). You have house chores and pets to take care of. Errands to run. Stress, lots of stress. Deadlines are the number one cause of stress, followed by writer’s block.

For me, writer’s block is not much of an issue although seem to have a little bit of ADHD since I jump from one story to the next whenever I feel stuck. I seem to be good at openings and endings. The middle part; the how to go from point A to point B, is where I usually get stuck.

There are lots of hours spent doing research (seriously, you cannot write science fiction if your science is wrong. Your readers would notice if you did not put the basic effort).

Even more, hours dedicated to webinars, writer’s group, critiques, writer’s workshops and conferences. If you want to become better (and we owe it to ourselves) we spend time doing all that.

Are We Neurotic?

Writers are not neurotic. Not in the sense of being mentally ill. However, we are very stressed people with lots of fears and insecurities. For example, there is the actual writing (first drafts are both, the easiest and the hardest). Easier because you just tell the story. The hardest because the first draft is crap and it needs plenty of editing and revising.

I have learned even best selling and award winning authors experience these fears and worries. Will my next book sell? Will people like it? Will my agent dump me?

And what about us unpublished writers? Will I ever be published? Will I find an agent? Will I finish a novel? Will I get over my writer’s block? Why my beta readers hate this chapter? What would Heinlein do?

To make matters worse, those rejection letters pile up and hurt. The writer who spend hours laboring in a story or novel only to have it rejected is lying if they say it does not hurt. It does. Immensely. But we soldier on and keep writing and submitting. To be a writer means to be a masochist.

Then Why Do It?

Indeed, why become a writer? Is it worth it? Different people have different reasons. I will volunteer we decide to write because we are fans first and foremost. Second, we are avid readers and love our genre. But there may be some need not be met or some stories not been told. Or perhaps, like me, you wanted to become a writer to inspire a new generation to study STEM, to see the benefits of space exploration. Or to make readers and fans an underrepresented sector.

But really, you become a writer because there are stories in your mind fighting to come out and be told. Whether they may find an audience or not is up to me. My job is to tell an engrossing and unforgettable tale. Even if it does not pay the bills.

Are you a writer? A reader? A fan? Do you want to become a writer? Think twice. And then write!

 

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Dragons: The King of Fantasy Creatures

Legendary Creatures

Dragon Wallpaper

Dragons are creatures of myth and legend. From the Bible’s book of Job and Isaiah, as well as Revelation, from the Iliad (Agamemnon’s sword) to the English classic Beowulf, dragons are a part of our common folklore. They have fascinated us for centuries. Epic poems and sagas were written about them. Indeed, when it comes to dragons, they truly are the king of the fantastical beasts.

But, what is a dragon? A dragon is a magical creature, snake-like or reptile-like. Big and terrifying, with long tails and ferocious eyes. And claws that could cut in half. They are the stuff of nightmares.

Of course, there are different kinds of dragons. Most have scales, are powerful, huge and can fly. The two most famous archetypes are the European dragon, who looks like a dinosaur with wings (and usually spits fire); and the Asian dragon, who has no wings and looks more like a giant snake, (normally associated with rain and water).

Top of the Food Chain

If the lion is the king of the jungle, and the killer whale the king of the oceans, the dragon is certainly the king of the fantasy menagerie. Usually, when we think of fantasy stories, they feature a fearsome dragon (or more). Granted, due to the predominance of medieval European lore in fantasy writing, with knights, damsels needing rescue, castles, and treasures, dragons tend to dominate in fantasy stories.

However, the belief or myths about dragons are nearly universal, perhaps a remnant of those days dinosaurs used to roam the Earth. With their magical powers –usually elemental magic; for example, fire, water, cold, wind, etc.– they make the stories more exciting. Moreover, they are the perfect villain for the hero to oppose.

Dragons feature more prominently on high fantasy or heroic fantasy. Sword and Sorcery stories may also feature them. They can be wise and smart; or animalistic and beast-like in behavior. They can be helpful or evil. It is this versatility with makes them timeless and useful for the writer.

Famous Dragons

Dragon Image from Pinterest

Some famous dragons from the literature are Smaug from Tolkien’s The Hobbit; Falkor from The Neverending Story, the several ones from the Harry Potter novels, Game of Thrones novels, or Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels. There is also Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series and even Satan in the Christian Bible is compared to a dragon. Heck, even one of my idols, Robert A. Heinlein, featured dragons in one of his novels (Sir Isaac Newton in Between Planets).

They are a big part of popular culture. Is it really a surprise that Charizard is one of the most popular Pokemon? Or can you imagine Elder Scrolls: Skyrim without dragons? No, of course, no. And let’s not forget one of the ‘D’ of the seminal paper and pencil RPG’s games stands for Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons inspired many fantasy stories within its players.

 Why We Love Dragons?

We love dragons not only because they are powerful and scary. They represent something that is not real, but beautiful and dangerous. They add danger and excitement to any story that features them. Dragons are iconic and cool. And besides, Dungeons and Unicorns do not have the same ring to it, does it? And a hero fighting a troll or a dwarf is not as epic as a hero slaying a dragon.

They may not be real, but long live the dragon!

Do you love dragons? Share in the comments.

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Science Fantasy: The Dying Earth Genre

When Science Fiction Meets Fantasy

Dying Earth Sunset artwork by Konstantin Korobov

An obscure genre of speculative fiction blends science fiction and fantasy into tales set on a far, far off future in which the Earth has decayed. The lines between magic and technology are blurred and most species known to mankind have become extinct. In some cases, humans have devolved.

Science fantasy is a combination of both genres into a strange mix. Whereas science fiction looks at the future and scientific advances and technologies; and whereas fantasy looks at the impossible and the supernatural, science fantasy makes the magical and technology co-exist.

Of all the examples of science fantasy, my personal favorite is the Dying Earth subgenre.

Life After Entropy

As we probably know, life on Earth is linked to the Sun, our star. One day, about five billion years in the future, the sun will expand and become a red giant type of star. The plants would die, the oceans will disappear, Nitrogen will be removed from the atmosphere and the rising temperatures will accelerate the CO2 cycle. The Sun will eventually burn out. When it does, our planet will become inhabitable.

Five billion years in the future seems like a long time. We, humans, worry so much about the end of the Earth by any possible imaginable cataclysm. A nuclear war, a meteoroid strike, global warming, an alien attack, a pandemic, etc. However, what happens if we survive?

What if billions of years in the future humanity endures, or tries to, among a planet depleted of resources. With exotic flora and fauna, under a dim red sun, among decaying ruins of past civilizations. In effect, a world unrecognizable for most of us. Almost like a return to prehistorical times, but with the knowledge and technology of modernity buried within and forgotten.

If you can imagine a future like that, you get an idea what the Dying Earth genre is about.

 A Sense of Loss and Weariness

Cover of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth

Another characteristic of the Dying Earth genre is the tone. Given their specific milieu, you will expect these stories to be quite depressing. However, in spite of the irony of an apocalypse without destruction, the exhaustion of the planet is not hopeless.  Fatalistic, yes. Without hope? You need to read on.

The Earth may be dying and the Sun may explode any minute. The world’s population has shrunk. Surviving is a chore. But these stories are not a dystopia in the traditional sense.

Additionally, the stories carry a tone of melancholy and nostalgic, but also idealistic. Humanity has endured. Living may be harsh, but we are still around and so it’s our planet. Moribund, ill, but still around. There is magic (derived from ancient mathematics). New creatures have surfaced. New perils too. Innocence may be lost, but it can be reacquired. As long as there are people hope survives.

Finally, if you want to further explore this genre, I recommend George R.R. Martin’s Dying of the Light (1977); Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time (2008); Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars (1956); and Darrell Schweitzer’s The Shattered Goddess (1982).

Moreover, make sure to read Jack Vance’s classic Tales of the Dying Earth (1950)  since they are the most iconic stories, full of poetic prose set on a far, far off future under a pink sky. Embelyon, anyone?

 

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Works in Progress

Nerd at Work

Ingmar Albizu, writer

Hi, everybody. It is Labor Day in the USA! Since it has been about a year since I told you about stories I was working on I thought, what better day for a follow-up? I love writing short stories because I love reading them since I am pressed for time. However, I started writing a novel length story for the Philadelphia Writing Workshop (only the first ten pages). It ended in a cliffhanger and several people keep asking when is the next installment. Honestly, I do not know what happens next. I haven’t plot that far. But I want to find out. I am saving this one for NaNoWriMo. That will be my special project.

A year ago I mention three stories I was working one. The first one, One Million Sparks, is becoming longer and turning into a novelette. Either I will divide into two parts or I will heavily edit it. My alexithymia story, under the title Technicolor Butterfly was rejected.  However, I see a lot of potential in it. I haven’t sent to another publisher yet. It needs a rewrite. In effect, it is really hard to write about someone who cannot express emotions. But I did a lot of research on this topic to be wasted. Besides, anything that raises awareness while entertaining readers.

Finally, The Return of the Humans may be my next entry for the Writers of the Future contest if I can find an ending I like. On the meantime, I have a few writing projects in different stages.

Breaking the Law

This is a story about a contrarian scientist in the run for breaking the law by doing forbidden experiments. In this future, science is considered harmful, and any type of scientific experimentation is forbidden and regulated. Almost finished!

In the Name of Science

Animal abuse in the name of science is always a controversial topic. I expect this story to make people uncomfortable and hopefully shed a few tears if I do my job right.

The Devil and the Priest

This story started as straight horror. It was rejected. I rewrote as a dark fantasy story with social commentary thrown for good measure. A priest’s faith is questioned when he cannot perform an exorcism in the 1940s California. I am still waiting to see if is rejected. I will keep sending it. It has so much potential.

Goblin Voices

This was my attempt at flash fiction. This story was rejected but it is the one my beta readers keep requesting the most to further explore. Perhaps I should make it longer and submit to a different market or contest. In this story, a teenage boy hears voices in his head. Are they a sign of mental illness? Or real goblins? Or something more sinister?

To Be Continue

All these stories are either works in progress, in second, third and even fourth drafts, or in the process of revising. The premise is there. The execution obviously not since they keep getting rejected. I will keep writing and submitting.

In the meantime, have an amazing Labor Day! For me, time to get to work. Those stories won’t write or edit themselves.

 

 

 

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