Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Technobabble"

I was having a hell of a time writing this week's story. I'd started at least three different pieces since last week, but couldn't get traction on any of them.

Then it was after ten o'clock Thursday night, and I had to get something done. So I did.

Deadlines: 1, creativity: 0.

Read "Technobabble" at 512 Words or Fewer

CKL

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Comic Book Report: Star Trek New Frontier



I cannot recommend this book.

It collects "Turnaround," a five-issue miniseries published by IDW in 2008. And while I realize it's part of an ongoing storyline, there's just too much "continuity bingo"--which is a phrase I just made up to describe the apparent need of many tie-in writers to include every single character from an existing series, even if there's no good story reason for those people to show up in a particular work. This often results in convoluted, nonsensical, and/or irrelevant plot twists.

All that aside, this book features not one, but two dei ex machina. Two. That's about two more than any reasonable story needs.

Oh yeah, and also? The Vulcan mind-meld does not work through walls. I don't care if the character happens to be half-Romulan. Both of those races are touch-telepaths. I don't mind it when writers make shit up, but you can't make up shit which contradicts existing shit.

More generally, I have issues with Peter David's writing. I know a lot of people love him, and I'll grant that he's good with plot and dialogue, but too many of his scenes play as overly colloquial or--in the worst case--juvenile. Sometimes I just couldn't believe these people were professional, career military officers and not teenagers.

And some scenes seem to have been written just because the writer thought they were funny, not because they fit into the narrative. There's a good scene in which viewing someone's vacation photos is compared to literal torture, but it's totally anachronistic here.

Finally: One layout idiosyncrasy that bugged me throughout the book was the lack of any thought bubbles or narration captions. Absolutely every piece of information was delivered through dialogue, even if it was a character talking to herself in a situation where that would make no sense. Which is weird, because Peter David has made quite a name for himself in comics.

That is all.

CKL

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Report: Tales of the Dominion War



If you're not a Star Trek fan, you can stop reading right now.

Tales of the Dominion War is, as you might imagine, an anthology of short stories set in the Deep Space Nine universe. Or, more accurately, in various parts of the Star Trek universe during the last two seasons of DSN. By that time, crossover between Trek series had become pretty common, and as a viewer, it was pretty exciting to see more of the fictional universe being fleshed out.

Media tie-ins are always tricky to do well. On the one hand, you want to include enough "real" or "canon" elements to show fans that you understand the setting; on the other hand, you don't want to just name-drop a bunch of characters without saying anything new or interesting about them.

That, in a nutshell, is why many of these stories didn't work for me. Writing aside, a lot of them seemed to aspire to be nothing more than the caulk of continuity--i.e., filling in storytelling gaps left by the TV series. If you think of the Dominion War like an actual, real-world conflict--say, Vietnam or WWII--there should be plenty of stories to tell about all sorts of different people who were involved. And since this is all fictional, it should be easy to make up some really compelling stories, right?

Maybe so, but this anthology didn't quite hit the mark for me. It's generally a bad sign when the introduction to a story has to explain that the pivotal character you're going to read about was featured in a different tie-in novel, and describe that character's connection to Trek canon--as if the editor knew that otherwise, the story itself wouldn't carry much weight. I skimmed through two or three of these stories because I knew I wasn't going to care much about their contents.

I do have to give props to my favorite piece, "Mirror Eyes," which manages to balance the elements I mentioned above. It's written in first person, as a series of journal entries, and brings the protagonist to life without veering into Mary Sue territory. It's also set between two seasons of DSN, so it doesn't suffer from episode-adjacent syndrome (in which a short story set immediately before, after, or during an existing TV episode inevitably begs comparison with same--and usually comes in second).

Finally, I have to mention that three of the featured authors--Heather Jarman, Michael A. Martin, and Andy Mangels--live in Portland, Oregon. 'oS! (That's Klingon for "represent.")

CKL

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Report: Star Trek - The Collectibles



This was another "impulse buy" at the library. I know they have at least one volunteer who is active in local sf fandom; I wonder if she's the one sneaking these books into their rotating displays.

I used to fancy myself a bit of a collector, when I was younger; I suppose every child goes through that stage at some point, and either grows out of it or goes pro. I enjoyed the little stories that went along with some of the items in this catalog, about why they're so valuable or the author's memories of acquiring them, and even got nostalgic when I saw pictures of some of the stuff that I used to own. (Most of it is probably still packed away in my parents' garage, but there's nothing really valuable there. I was never a mint-in-box kind of guy; if I got a toy, I wanted to play with it.)

These days, I'm not a big believer in the "collectible" mentality. Maybe it comes from years of working with computer software, which is eminently disposable, but I feel like if you're buying something only to put it on a shelf and look at it, you might as well just take a picture. It's a little embarrassing to realize how much people are willing to pay for a hunk of plastic just because it happens to be shaped like a particular spaceship or fictional character. I know the perceived value is in its history and such, but I just can't get behind it.

If you ask me, there's already too much real scarcity in the world--food, clean water, vaccines; I could go on. Purposefully doing "limited runs" of a mass-produced object in order to make it "rare" and thus drive up its price in the market seems somewhat Ferengi, don't you think?

And now, a link to "Printcrime."

CKL

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