Top Ten Laws of Science

You Got to Know the Laws in Order to Break Them!

Isaac Newton image from astrofisicayfisica.com

It is no secret I love science fiction and I write science fiction. You cannot love science fiction and dislike science. Indeed, the cool part of science fiction is the futuristic technology and its ramifications and possibilities. We love to read about the future and its wonders. However, the hardest part about writing science fiction is also the science.

I recently wrote a story I am very proud of, titled Breaking the Laws. In this story, which is really a cat and mouse plot between two individuals. One is trying to break the laws of physics. The other one is the police enforcer trying to stop him. Of course, they share a past. And did I mention practicing science is highly illegal in this future?

Keep in mind a law of science is the description of an observed phenomenon. It does not explain what causes it (that would be a scientific theory).

I researched the laws of science for this story. For reference, in no particular order, here are my top ten.

Top Ten Science Laws

  1. Newton’s Laws of Motion – Who doesn’t remember this one from school? For every action, there is a reaction. Objects won’t move unless a force makes them.
  2. Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion – Oversimplifying, it states all planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun.
  3. Universal Law of Gravitation – Newton again, telling us all particle attract each other in the universe in proportion to their mass but inversely proportional to the square of their distance.
  4. Hubble’s Law of Cosmic Expansion – All galaxies in the Universe are moving away from us. Yes, the universe is expanding. No, we are not the center of all creation.
  5. Archimedes Buoyancy Principle – Any object immerse in a fluid (fully or not) at rest is acted upon by a force the magnitude of it is equal to the body it displaces. Or just say stuff floats in water if not too heavy.
  6. Laws of Thermodynamics – There are four. Zeroth’s law defines temperature. Law #2 states the entropy of the universe is always increasing. Law #3 states it’s impossible to cool a system to absolute zero. #1 is the best known: energy cannot be created or destroy.
  7. Evolution and Natural Selection – Darwin’s famous theory about species with inherited traits better suit to their environment will survive.
  8. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity -It seems complex. Just remember, time and space are relative, not absolutes. And time travel may be possible.
  9. Big Bang Theory – the leading explanation for how the universe began from a small singularity billions of years ago, not the sitcom.
  10. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – Everything in the Universe behaves as both, a particle and a wave at the same time!

Now, who would dare say science is not cool or exciting. Isn’t the Universe amazing?

Conclusion

Of course, there are more laws, theories, hypothesis, and principles in science than the ten mentioned above. Science fiction is all about breaking the laws of science. As a matter of fact, it can be argued fantasy and horror also are about breaking the laws of science and natural order (except by magical means).

Remember, good science fiction writing is about creating possible ways to make the impossible believable. Consequently, a good writer would try to find a scientific explanation which will sound realistic. You may not need to, but your readers will be more willing to suspend disbelief if you do. It will also make worldbuilding process easier. Try it!

Happy weekend and happy writing!

 

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Naming Characters 101

What’s in a Name?

Photo from forcewizard.com

I was in a NaNoWriMo workshop last October when an attendant made a confession.  Her mother got the wrong impression (she was a teen at the time) when she found baby names in her browser history. Her priceless answer? Mom, I am a writer, not pregnant (now, that’s a title for a short story).

Indeed, we writers fret and spend hours trying to find the perfect name for our characters. People may not remember the plot of your novel, but they will remember the character’s names (if we do our jobs right). Consequently, which names we pick for our characters are very important.

Would Harry Potter be as popular if we were named Hugh Patterson? Or would Katniss Everdeen (named after an actual aquatic plant, look it up) be the heroine she is if she was named Katrina Evans? No, probably not.

I Name Thee

As a writer, I struggle to find the perfect name for my characters. Sometimes I go for symbolism. Other times I try for ethnic background. There are times I use names of people I know. However, I don’t like doing it because my characters would unconsciously take on the traits of those people. Some would advice to use placeholders names until you finish your story. The problem is most times the placeholder name ends becoming the de facto name of the character.

I know an author who wrote a novel using names of people he knew, a fictionalized version of actual events. When it was time to publish, he changed all the names of all major characters. However, to this date, his beta readers still refer to the characters by their original names.

Truth is naming is not easy. Of course, we know writers are good at coining new words, not mention new names. But it does not have to be complicated. Here are a few rules I wrote down from a Writer’s Digest webinar.

Rules for Naming

  • Don’t settle for obvious names.

 

  • Naming every character something bold and adventurous dilutes the power of strong names.

 

  • Choose realistic, sensible names (unless writing fantasy or sci-fi).

 

  • Also, choose historically and geographically accurate names.

 

  • Don’t be afraid of changing names when necessary.

 

  • Have fun with the process.

 

Finally, make sure to pick the right name for the right character. Right naming is part of the very structure of the character. Think about it. With the wrong name, the character looks wrong, talks wrong, does wrong things.

Naming a character (and cities, locations, star planets, alien races, monsters, et cetera) is part of the process of worldbuilding. Spend some time picking the right name for your main characters. A little research into a name’s meaning and origin will help you develop the character better.

Are you an author struggling with finding the right name for a character? What is your process like? How do you settle on names? Please share in the comments section.

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My Quick PhilCon 2017 Review

The Right Mix of Fun and Knowledge

Female Elf cosplayer at Philcon 2017

Once again I am reviewing Philcon. This past weekend from Friday to Sunday the Philadelphia area science fiction and fantasy fandom came together once again at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to celebrate everything we geeks care about. Namely, cosplaying, reading, anime, filk, comics, film, board games, et cetera.

Philcon is organized by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.  As usual, their hard work and dedication pay off. Consequently, just like last year, Philcon 2017 was a resounding success.

Did you expect me to say otherwise?

Of course, Philcon is not an easy convention to review. I will admit, I am predisposed to rate it high since it is my local con. In the spirit of fairness, I will try my best to be fair in my review.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Whoever had the brilliant idea of making Seanan McGuire the Guest of Honor and Janny Wurts the special guest scored a home run! Don Maitz as Artist Guest of Honor (such a nice, friendly gentleman) and his breathtaking artwork were the perfect main course for this year’s art show.

 

Philcon 2017 Highlights

Philcon 2017 Panel

I wasn’t able to attend as many panels as the previous three years. However, those I attended were amazing and a few were astounding. First, the 50th Anniversary Legion of Super-Heroes Celebration panel was packed! There were no chairs available. Even the moderator seemed surprised (he said he thought only 5 people would show up). All three panelists were so passionate about the subject. Then again, who doesn’t love the Legion? If there was one panel I didn’t mind standing up for, it was this one (don’t worry, 30 minutes into the panel I was able to sit down).

Second, the panel about International Anime You Should be Watching was full of great recommendations. Also, the discussion about the Life and Works of Hideaki Anno was informative and the presenter was really into it and well prepared.

Third, the Writing Advice You Should Ignore panel was easily my favorite all weekend. Of course, Seanan McGuire stole the show and kept us laughing. She made the panel with her hijinks.

Fourth, The Professional Practices for Aspiring Authors was perhaps the one I will benefit the most in the few years. I also attended the one about Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts but honestly, I have no books to negotiate. As a matter of fact, after taking three days off from writing, my NaNoWriMo word count suffered (but it was so worth it).

Finally, I attended three readings. If you have the opportunity to attend a reading at a con, take it! To experience a reading by an author in a cozy setting is both, wonderful and intimate.

Final Thoughts

Seanan McGuire and myself

What makes a convention is not the authors, editors or vendors but the fans. The opportunity to mingle, meet and share with like-minded people is something to be embraced. For the fourth year in a row (for me) it was an amazing weekend. Better yet, no airplane or ten-hour car ride required.

Again, Seanan McGuire’s charisma and ‘big kid’ personality made for a fun atmosphere. If you missed her keynote address, you miss some great insights and outlandish answers from the Hugo winning author. She shared personal stories about cats and owls, ravens, cryptozoology, working in a real zoo, cobras, and her favorite super-heroes.

Heck, she even answered questions about what she would do if Marvel let her write the X-Men, how does she get to write ten novels, songs, blogs, articles and other stuff in a year.

Moreover, she answered my own question about how growing up watching 80s cartoons influenced her writing.

Furthermore, I quickly fell in love with Janny Wurts’ no-nonsense, brutally honest, outspoken personality. Her advice made for entertaining learning. Did I mention her artwork is awesome? Yes, she can write and paint.

Her reading Friday night was also a master class about how to create conflict by putting your main character in a situation where there are no good decisions available.

I go to conventions to meet new people, have fun and learn. In those three regards, I have no complaints.

                                                Philcon 2017 was a success. Already looking forward to 2018!

 

 

 

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Books I’d Read Lately (Part 6)

A Little Bit of Everything

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post about books I’d read lately and recommend. Actually, it’s been six months. But not for lack of reading. Here are four you may want to read. There is a little bit of everything here for everyone. Check them out!

The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt

I love Jack McDevitt’s books. Even if the Alex Benedict’s novels have turned formulaic lately, he still enjoyable to read. I believe this was his very first novel, published in 1986. The one I read is the re-release 2015 updated version. The most notable change is a War on Terror rather than a Cold War setting.

This is a first contact novel first and foremost. It explores the scientific, political, religious, social and economic impact of the knowledge that we humans are not alone (despite the fact that the aliens were gone centuries before we get their message in the present).

There are some interesting concepts and likable characters but, honestly, the novel feels dated despite the updating and the narrative feels disjunctive. Again, McDevitt is one of my favorite authors but this one fell flat for me. I will still recommend it. I rated a 6/10.

Read it to see the published beginning one of the most fun writers out there.

Writers of the Future Vol. 33, edited by David Farland

Ever since I discovered a signed copy at my local bookstore, I’d been a fan of this yearly anthology and its contest. I usually send them my short stories to them first. No, I haven’t look out as finding another signed copy or winning the contest (I did get my first honorable mention last quarter). I still remain a fan.

This year’s edition features, like most anthologies, a little bit of everything for everyone. Even if there is a story that is not your speed, you will find one to your state. And you could say I read them first before they became famous.

This year’s cover is a winner. The interior artwork is out of this world. You should definitely read volume 33.

My personal highlights were Moonlight One, Useless Magic, The Drake Equation, and Tears for Shulna. The Armor Embrace was touching (pun not intended) and Adramelech was fun.

I will rate it a 9.3/10. Do what I do and read a story a day to appreciate them better.

Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre

This book has two things I love, steampunk and Ann Aguirre. She is one of my favorite writers. Here she co-writes with her husband Andres as A.A. Aguirre. This is first in the Apparatus Infernum series. Right out of the bat they get so much right.

First, the two leads, Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko are likable characters and complement each other well. However, I can’t stop unfairly comparing them to my two favorites, Books and Braun. I prefer the later. They work for the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) searching for a serial killer who has a thing for women from important families and ritualized murder.

Yes, there is a serial killer on the loose and magic. Moreover, this is steampunk with paranormal elements. Furthermore, in a non-Victorian setting (but with Victorian elements). The setting and premise are refreshing. It feels new and different enough. I wish it had more steampunk elements to it.

I greatly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one (Silver Mirrors).  I will rate it a 9/10.

A World Without Color by Bernard Jan

Finally, I would like to recommend this novela with two different endings. Granted, this is primordially a speculative fiction blog, but it is good to read outside your genre once in a while. This book is highly recommended if you are a pet owner and even if you aren’t.

Full of emotion and grief, it chronicles the author’s final days with his cat Marcel. I could have done without the overtly pro-vegan message (which took me off the story been told a few times). Hard to believe the author is Croatian and English is not his first language. As a matter of fact, he proves love is universal as well as feelings towards our pets.

I rated it an 8/10. Bring a handkerchief when you read it.

 

Finally, it is the weekend! I will be at Philcon. I would most likely review it. Have a great weekend and happy reading.

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Space Opera: All the Drama Without the Soap

From the Pulp Era to Today

space-opera-06 image from Mifondodepantallagratis.net

Space opera was born in the 1930s during the pulp era although the term was not coined until 1941. A play on the terms ‘horse opera’ and ‘soap opera’, this is not Western or daily drama. Actually, it is. Instead of cowboys and Indians, you have space marines and aliens; instead of people sleeping with their neighbors and strangers you got… scrap that! Went too far.

Space opera is one of those subgenres who seem to come and go in popularity. Sometimes looked down by hard science fiction fans. However, its appeal is irresistible. The rules of science take a step back to the story being told. Oh, what yarns are those!

So what is space opera? Hmmm, think Days of Our Lives meets Homer meets War and Peace meet robots and aliens and you’ll be close.

A Long Time in the Future in a Star System Away…

I will argue space opera has grown since its humble beginnings on the pages of the pulp magazines. On the other hand, some aspects remain timeless. For example, the exploration of the interpolation of the technological and the sociocultural. Moreover, real space opera needs a far future setting and the right mix of space combat (military science fiction and space opera are closely related), adventure, melodrama, and romance.

As a matter of fact, space opera is the perfect mix of all those ingredients and then some.  And don’t forget the aliens, cyborgs, robots, androids, post-humans, trans-humans, and artificial intelligence. The universe is a big place and not so empty in these stories.

Space opera is incidentally my subgenre of choice for NaNoWriMo. What can I say? I love space opera’s larger than life themes and settings.

Fantasy Set in Space?

Moreover, there are some who argue space opera is nothing but fantasy set in space. Perhaps because it is ruled by soft rather than hard science fiction. Or perhaps it is because, again, the story been told takes predominance over the science.

On the contrary, space opera is not fantasy in space. Fantasy is all about magic and magical beings. Space opera is about science (as implausible as it may seem) and possible futures.

Moreover, I would argue, space opera is what we read when we want to explore otherness without getting too political. Indeed, one of the beauties of writing science fiction is that you can get away with controversial themes because sci-fi tends to be dismissed as unreal. Good writers use sci-fi’s trappings as allegories for mature, contentious issues.

Recommended Reading

If you love space opera or are intrigued by it, you are in luck. There are plenty of good books out there to recommend. Start with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Then move to Iaian Bank’s Culture novels (begin with “Consider Phlebas”, although “Player of Games” may be better). C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner novels are epic! Speaking of epics, James S. A. Corey’s Expanse novels are also must read (start with “Leviathan Wakes”).

Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth novels are a must-read for serious fans. Begin with “Pandora’s Star” and you will want to read more. Kameron Hurley’s “The Stars Are Legion” is also highly recommended. One of my favorite authors, Alastair Reynolds, show you can do space opera and hard science fiction with his Revelation Space trilogy (really a tetralogy since “Chasm City” is essential) and his epic “House of Suns”.

Finally, a special mention to Ann Leckie, whose Imperial Radch trilogy (begin with “Ancillary Justice”) is essential reading. But so is her “Provenance” novel which is both, engrossing, thought-provoking, and fun.

Space opera may be sci-fi’s less smart and sexy child but the one we can’t stop going back for entertainment. Happy reading!

Are you a space opera fan? Do you have any recommendations you want to share with us?

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Creepy Kids Genre: Children and Horror

Being a Child Isn’t Easy

Photo of a scary looking kid alone in a forest. Nothing bad can happen, right?

Children are a gift from God, so innocent and pure. In a sense, they are like a promise that life will go on, even after we are no longer on this Earth. Children have no malice, right? Except in certain types of horror stories. Forget the zombies and ghoulschildren are the real monsters. What?

Being a child isn’t easy. Childhood comes with many expectations. So much to learn, so much to absorb from the world around them. Children are intrinsically weak and in need of protection. As a matter of fact, child psychologists claim the first five years are the most important in child development.

But, what if the child is possessed? Haunted? Or worse?

Seduction of the Innocence

Perhaps because they are so pure and without malice, children tend to make opportunistic targets for evil entities in horror stories. Or could it be they are more in tune with the paranormal? Regardless of reasons, we do not expect young children to be associated with evil and monsters. However, it is this same reason creepy kids are so unnerving.

Horror as a genre plays with our common fears and thrives in upsetting our expectations. Indeed, there is fear of the unknown. And then, there is fear of the familiar not behaving in unfamiliar ways.

Although some may refer jokingly to kids as “little terrors” or “terrible monsters”, even the most mischievous child would not be a murderer. Right? Hence why creepy, evil kids scare us so much.

And how come we find the creepy girl more than the creepy boy?

Scared of Children Yet?

scary looking girl from Znino.com

Granted, we find creepy kids more on Television and Film than in literature. Perhaps the visual nature of the medium helps convey the message these are no loveable kids to mess with.  From the Omen to the Exorcist, creepy children find a way to scare us.

Of course, real children are not creepy or scary. They are little angels (with the occasional devilish side) but good. They are not to be fear but educated and protected.

For a literary treatment of creepy kids (truly evil), read Stephen King’s classic short story Children of the Corn (1977) made into a film on 1984. Bring some holy water. Just in case.

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Welcome to the Haunted House Genre

When Haunted Mansions Meet Paranormal Activity

Haunted church photo from Genial.guru

A sub-genre of horror fiction, almost a trope, is the haunted house or mansion. Ever since Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), stories of haunted dwellings have delighted us. Or chill us. Moreover, it does not have to be a mansion. An inn, castle, small apartment or country home will do.

What is about haunted places we enjoy? Perhaps it is the familiarity. We all live in homes. We are used to their layout. Horror fiction thrives in taking the familiar and turning it upside down. We as children were scared of the monster under the bed, the dark, the night’s noises.

Or it could be our eternal fascination with homes. Yes. We Americans are obsessed with our homes. We watch home improvement shows with fervor and love to vicariously live our fantasies through celebrities’ mansions.

As a matter of fact, it is part of the American dream to live in a huge home with expensive furniture. But… What if it was haunted? Would we still want to live there?

Spirits, Ghosts, and Entities in Close Spaces

Almost every writing advice about how to writer proper horror states to put your characters in a closed environment to limit their movement. What can be more confining than a home? You may leave but eventually, you would have to return.

Indeed, most haunted homes stories feature extreme weather which forces the character to at least spend the night. Regardless of the weather, a haunted house is more than a plot device. It is more than a setting. With proper characterization and description, the haunted house becomes a character itself.

The truly frightening haunted home is a dwelling (permanent or temporary) to not only a family or guests but also other characters. A haunted house without ghosts, spirits, demons, poltergeist, apparitions, and other monsters will be just an empty shell.

However, no amount of ghostly presence can create horror. The entities have to have a reason to be haunting the place (see my post about what makes a great ghost story). The backstory is just as important as the setting.

Unexpected Guests in Unexpected Places

You have your setting, you have your entities and your backstory. What else do you need? Victims! Sorry, characters to be traumatized (I mean scared) by your apparitions. We need to feel for the victims (sorry, protagonists). We need to empathize with them. If we don’t care, may as well the devil takes them, no? Which reminds me why I disliked a certain popular scary movie. The main character was so annoying by the time the demon took her I was happy to see her go.

Confine your characters in your haunted mansion (full of secrets to be discovered slowly) and start small. A little creepy sound here and there. A shadow from the corner of your eye. An object slightly moving. Build from there slowly. Horror tastes better when is developed slowly.

And don’t hold back for the grand finale. We came for the scares, no?

Recommended Reading

If you are intrigued as a reader about the haunted house genre, I have a few recommendations to get you started. Enter at your discretion.

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Live in the Castle (2006); Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Quiet Houses (2011); John Boyne’s This House is Haunted (2013), and the amazingly terrifying Sorrow’s Point (2013) by Danielle DeVor.

Lightning flashes as the wind and fog make walking almost impossible. You are stranded. You hear screams in the dark. You desperately need shelter from the elements until daylight arrives. There is a creepy looking abandoned home. Would you enter?

 

 

 

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The Evil Outside

In the Spirit of Halloween and the Day of the Dead

In the spirit of Halloween (which was yesterday) and the day of the dead (which is tomorrow) here is another attempt at speculative poetry. This time with a horror bent. Can they mesh? Horror is about fearing the unknown; poetry is about expressing ideas with brevity. Of course, you can mix them. Can I pull it off? You, the reader, will be the judge.

Of course, you can mix them. Can I pull it off? You, the reader, will be the judge.

Sometimes the biggest terror is resisting our very natures. The eternal conflict between what we are and how we see ourselves versus who would we rather be.

Don’t be afraid of what lurks within. It is the evil outside you should fear…

 

monster claw drawing by Joshua Hascher at JoshuaHascher.wordpress.com

 

The Evil Outside

As I walk to the house,

there is a ghoul beside

 the phantom, my guide,

searching for vengeance.

 

I search for the clause

in the spellbook, I spied

a hex I once tried

seeking repentance.

 

After dark, on the moonlight,

I feel unbeatable, at peace.

I don’t want to fight

this terrible disease.

 

Saddened with rejection

My desire is to flee

When I see my reflection

The monster is… me.

 

As I touched my skin,

with terrible repulsion,

I wonder what was my sin?

Can I control this compulsion?

To devour human flesh,

Raw, not fresh.

 

I feel no freedom, neither calm,

As I descend into darkness.

Blood is my balm,

Bones are my starkness.

 

I am not a monster,

I tell to myself,

But I’d became a shelf,

full of ferocity,

 

Oh, what monstrosity I see!

Green fur, with fangs and claws.

Long, sharp-edged jaws.

It’s with malicious glee

I’d admit, the monster is me!

 

Beware the moonlight,

Don’t try to escape or hide,

Don’t try to fight,

The evil outside.

 

I can’t control it, this is no fun,

Better grab your gun,

Or better yet,

RUN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I Am Doing NaNoWriMo!

Jumping on the Bandwagon

my NaNoWriMo participant banner

Forget our Veterans, the turkey and pilgrims and Black Friday! November is National Novel Writing Month for us writers (also known by its acronym, NaNoWriMo). The goal is to write at least a 50,000 word novel (which is not long enough for science fiction). Moreover, this year I decided to join in. But you’d been writing for almost four years and never participated.

Why now? Why am I jumping on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon?

These are my five main reasons:

  1. After writing about twelve short stories, it is time to graduate to longer prose work.
  2. I need to start applying everything I’d learned in the past three and a half years of webinars, studies, and conferences on writing craft.
  3. I have an idea, a theme, and characters who would benefit from the extra length afforded by a novel.
  4. I am tired of writing by myself. Writing is a lonely activity. I am hoping being part of NaNoWriMo will make me feel part of a community.
  5. I am a procrastinator by nature. Having a goal and a deadline should help me focus.

How Does it Work?

Easy. You sign in, register and name your novel, pick a genre and a brief synopsis. Then you write (hopefully) daily and keep track of your word count beginning November 1st. Once you finish, you upload your manuscript to validate the word count. Like I say, easy.

Nonetheless, let’s be realistic for a moment. Whatever I write it’s going to be mostly crap. The only benefit of participating in NaNoWriMo is that you get a nice size first draft. A first draft which is going to need lots and lots of editing and revising. If you think your NaNoWriMo novel is going to be the next Hunger Games, you better set your expectations low.

However, you can’t edit or revise something that does not exist, right?

Will I Succeed?

Honestly, I am very doubtful I can reach the 50,000-word mark for a couple of reasons. First, between work, Philcon (there goes one writing weekend), Thanksgiving, and my other responsibilities, I am busy. Second, I am not the fastest typist and English is not my first language. The average blog post takes hours to write and goes through at least five revisions.

The only way I can see myself finishing is if I can turn off my inner editor and perfectionist. Fortunately, I also have two things going for me: I am very competitive, and I am motivated on my project.

Also, I will be kind of cheating. I will use characters, world setting, and premises from one of my rejected short stories (Remembrance of Onsens and Sakura).  And I am preparing an outline and character interviews before starting on November 1st.

Meet My Novel

My NaNoWriMo novel has the working title of ‘Bleeding Red Sun’. In the 23rd Century, humanity has not advanced much technologically. A recently graduated physicist is our hard-luck hero who makes the discovery of the century by accident. There are sexy, amoral corporate spies, a love triangle, a world on the brink of war and panic, and a race to find a way to explore the cosmos we took for granted. And then we meet the Satori, who may be friend or foe.

There is a commonly held belief that if aliens show up tomorrow humanity will come together as one. Us against them, right? Not on my novel. The appearance of intelligent life brings the worst of humanity and the competing political powers. And that’s all I am saying for now.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017? Do you want to be buddies? Add me. Will I finish my novel? Is it worth doing it? We will find out eventually. In the meantime, for more information, check out www.nanowrimo.org.

 

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Ghouls: Corpse Eating Monsters

What are Ghouls?

ghoul in graveyard image from mythicalcreaturesguide.com

There are many classic monsters in horror literature. Some like vampires and werewolves are timeless. Ghouls are classic monsters but they have never been really popular. In a sense, they are misunderstood. Let’s explore what are ghouls.

Ghouls are evil spirits and monsters in Arabic folklore. The first time Europeans heard about ghouls was through the classic Arabian Nights, in which they are featured in several stories. They are shape-shifters, they prey on young children, seduces humans, steal their money (yes, they were the original gold diggers), eat the dead and drink their blood.

They are a diabolic class of jinns (obviously not the wish-granting kind) and depending on the source, they hunt or they dwell around cemeteries and graveyards (like a need another reason to not be near a cemetery at night).

Ghouls and Zombies

Ghoul image from the Call of Chthulhu card game

Ghouls are sometimes confused with zombies. On the contrary, they could not be more different from one another. Whereas the zombie is a human corpse who feeds of other living humans, the ghoul is a creature who feeds of corpses. Yes, they are both flesh-eating. The zombie may be a cannibal of sorts but the ghoul is a true scavenger.

Ghouls share other commonalities with the zombies. For example, they are both the result of black magic. They are both not technically alive (more like undead or something in between). You could say they are both beyond human. However, the ghoul’s roots are based in Middle Eastern mythology and the zombies are found in Afro-Caribbean traditions.

Moreover, ghouls are characterized as cunning and charming toward their prey. They are tricksters. No one would accuse zombies of being smart enough to trick someone into being devoured. Quite the opposite.

A true zombie is an unwilling slave; a ghoul is a predator of the dead.

Ghouls in Speculative and Popular Fiction

As stated above, ghouls have not been popular. besides the Arabian Nights and a few references in Harry Potter series and other novels, they are usually more of a background monster than the main character. However, that may be starting to change.

Thanks to the immense popularity of the Tokyo Ghoul anime and manga, ghouls have entered the popular imagination. Perhaps partly because we are tired of the old monsters (zombies, ghost, vampires, werewolves). But due to their lack of exposure, ghouls seem brand new despite being around for centuries predating Dracula and other Gothic novels.

Halloween is the perfect time for reading about ghouls. Besides the Tokyo Ghoul manga, check out Brian Keene’s Ghoul, and Edward Lee’s Ghouls.

 

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