Sunday, July 28, 2013

Science Fiction Conventions

Science fiction conventions are frequently attended by authors of books in many different genres; sf, fantasy, horror, paranormal, even mystery, romance and erotica. Some of these genres used to be sub-genres of science fiction, others have been blended with science fiction. No attendee of these conventions is surprised to learn that these authors write in more than one field.

But why do authors pay for their own travel, lodging and a ticket to the convention in the first place? Wouldn't they be better off staying home and writing?

A lot of them would probably rather be at home, writing. But these days, most authors also have to devote time to marketing their work to the public. So they choose which conventions they will attend, they contact those conventions and volunteer to participate on panels. They give readings. They have autograph sessions.

In fact, there are several ways an author may 'profit' by attending an sf convention:

·       They meet with fans and potential fans of their work.

·       They sell a few copies of their books.

·       They network with other authors, giving them a chance to compare notes.

·       (At some conventions) They might network with editors, agents and publishers.

·       For a weekend, they step away from their work schedule, which could give their imagination a chance to 'recharge'.

There may be other things I haven't thought about. And other than all that, authors might attend a convention for the same reason non-writers attend them - they're a lot of fun!

What do you think? What's your favorite convention?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Practice What You Preach

I read several newsletters and blogs to learn how to write better; how to open a novel and grab the reader, how to involve all the senses, ... that sort of thing. One of the first things I was taught was that your first draft is not your last draft. (Took me a lo-o-ong time to learn that lesson.)

Your first draft is where you get the basic ideas out of your head and onto paper - or computer file, or whatever. Then you spend time going through that project a few times to add descriptions, select a more precise verb, make sure the reader understands what you intended to say.

And then, you polish it.

Remember back in school, when you learned about subjects, verbs, direct objects, punctuation, and all of that? That's the stuff a writer worries about in the final polish. Because as a writer, you want others to see your work in its best condition. If your work is full of misspelled words, incorrect choice of pronouns, and 'sentences' that don't make sense because you forgot your punctuation, the readers won't be able to understand what your are trying to say.

I understand that bloggers and newsletter editors have a limited amount of time, but this is a very important part of writing. Unfortunately, not every writer remembers that before they post their blog or article. And I have found some that I am thinking of not following anymore because I have to work so hard to figure out what they are trying to say. Repeated words. Extra pronouns from when they rewrote the sentence, but didn't get it completely cleaned up. Missing commas that - if they were there - would tell the reader 'I've finished that thought, now I'm moving on.'

It's sad when a group of people manage to forget the lingual necessities that they continually remind each other are so important. I hope I never get that sloppy with my blogs. If you catch me at it, feel free to call me out about it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dogs of the World

I like dogs. (I love cats, but that's another story.) Lately I've been reading a few articles having to do with the genealogy of dogs, particularly in the Americas.

When I was a kid, school described North American indian tribes as having horses and ponies. I was too young to question that at the time. Later, it was explained that the ponies originated with the Spanish explorers in Mexico, and that they quickly spread throughout North America. I assumed the indian dogs were a similar story.

But it turns out that dogs had already been here when the Spaniards, the Vikings, and other Europeans arrived. It had been assumed that when the indigenous people died out, their dogs died with them, having no one to take care of them.

These recent articles explained that the original 'American' dogs came over the land bridge from Asia and Siberia with the people who became indigenous indian tribes. Those dogs did not die out and were not supplanted by European dogs. They survived, interbred with the European dogs, and are still here.

This was discovered by comparing the DNA of American dogs with that of Asian and European dogs. The American DNA was much closer to the Asian DNA than the European DNA. This was true as far east as Greenland.

So the Mexican hairless, the Peruvian hairless, and any number of other breeds are about as American as they can get.

My family has a mutt. He's a great addition to our family, and I assume he's an 'American' mutt. How about you? Tell me about your dog.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Billions of Possibilities

I ran across a headline a few days ago that stated that scientists now estimate that there may be billions of planets in the galaxy capable of supporting life. What took them so long to arrive at that conclusion?

The Science Fiction writers I grew up reading - Asimov, Clark, Bradbury, Biggles, Haldeman, to name a few - assumed there were plenty of planets that could support life, and that many of them had intelligent occupants. It seemed pretty logical to me.

This is the way I thought about it: solar systems like ours were created by the laws of physics. A star is born surrounded by swirling dust, the dust clumps together to form planets circling that star. Since that's how it happens, why wouldn't it happen around other stars as well? It happens because of physics, so it would.

So, plenty of planets out there.

Capable of supporting life? Some of those planets were certain to be in the 'Goldilocks Zone', where water could exist as liquid and not only as ice. And it didn't make any sense to me that out of all of those planets in the various Goldilocks Zones, ours was the only one that had an atmosphere, the only one that wasn't a gas giant or a small lump of rock. The math - in my mind - just didn't support the idea that out of all the solar systems in this galaxy, there was only one planet that could support life.

Supports an intelligent life? Why not? Whatever circumstances happen to create life, there are billions of possibilities for those circumstances to be replicated on other planets. And it actually only happens once? Again, the math doesn't support that outcome. And if we accept that has happened, then it only seems logical that some of that life would develop intelligence. Because, after all, even on Earth, man is not the only animal that has intelligence.

Perhaps, as scientists, they needed proof of the existence of all those other planets. This also seems strange to me. Why wouldn't they have followed the physics and math to the hypothesis that were many other planets out there that might be interesting? Instead, it seems to me that they went with the theory that we were the only planet with intelligent species, and now they are working to disprove that theory.

I think that's backwards.