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The Next Best Thing Meme

The Next Best Thing Meme

So James Daniel Ross was kind enough to tap me to participate in this and I just found the file that I started long after the meme has gone - but I thought I'd post it anyway...

1. What is the title of your latest book/WIP?
The Emancipation of Maxwell's Ghosts

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was asked to write a Steampunk + magic story for the anthology In an Iron Cage : the Magic of Steampunk by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.  I chose to consider the psychic mediums as magic and the characters from the story were compelling enough to merit a larger work.  But it's also about the theme that while steam is a fascinating power source, it may not be the best in the long run for everyone and the environment.                 
     (have a look at this and think carbon debt.)

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Steampunk and Alternate History.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Dear Hollywood, thank you for being insane and considering this, here are my recommendations :

Kassandra Leyden
Francesca Dellera – I was looking for an image of Francesca Hunt (The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne) when I stumbled across this picture and realized this was more of what I considered Kassandra to look like.

Constable Cobham Peckwith

Jim Caviezel, just imagine him with sideburns instead.

Manfred Bremstrung

Jude Law

Sante More

Brian Blessed - (I practically hear Blessed's voice when I write Sante's lines...)

5. What is the book blurb for your book?

The Emancipation of Maxwell's Ghosts

Something is stirring in lands of the Plague demolished Old World. It will take two unlikely companions, a constable and a medium; a dangerous trip half way round the globe and a discovery about the very nature of death itself to bring the truth to light and save the future of New Britain.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It is an ongoing process.  After writing four stories with the characters, the novel concept presented itself and I keep working, albeit slowly, on it.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
George Mann's Newbury and Hobbs series, Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century and Tee Morris & Philippa Ballentine's Minstry of Peculiar Occurrences.

8. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The original science adventures of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells show just what can be accomplished if you stretch your imagination.  Steampunk offers an opportunity to not only take a step back in terms of technology but also to the grand adventure and idea based story telling.

9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is an alternate history where at the height of the Black Plague the Old World was abandoned for the New.  Using the maps of Brendon the Navigator,  Edward the Third moved his throne to New Britain.  Using Heron's helper, they rebuilt their world using the power of steam.  A new technology is discovered using the power of bound ghosts that could be an alternative to steam.  Kassandra's father goes missing and all clues point to a clandestine trip to the Old World.  As a medium who sees the departed, can Kassandra survive the visions of the millions lost so long ago to the plague to rescue him?
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Overdone - Somebody Cooked These TV Ideas Until They Were Charred

  There are a lot of tropes in writing and a great many overly repetitive easy outs in television.  How many times have you seen the following :

  They look just like us :
    Aliens, demons whatever but you can't tell them from anyone else because they look just like everybody else.  It's an easy answer requiring less make up, less thought and well just some decent acting ability.  Now on the flipside this plays directly into typical paranoia.  They are all out to get me and the people I know are not the ones I can trust or I can't trust anyone because they could be one of THEM.  So is it better or not than the nose implants of ST:NG?

  I can't remember :
    Your character loses their memories.  This is usually tied in with the revelation of something important that could a game changer for everyone and then suddenly blow to the head, coma, mysterious disease, whatever equals problem solved.  Of course now you have a quest to recover the memories or better yet the amnesiac wanders off and now you have to find them. Amnesia is a real condition, but it's not common- in this case it's just convenient. 

  Solution Amnesia :
    Last week the entire show pivoted on one point: the weapon, the knowledge, the one bit that makes everything work and solves the whole issue.  Now nobody remembers anything about it.  Here's the solution to the problem of the day but because it's already been used it never comes back into the light again.  The easiest way around this is to make sure that it's destroyed, a one use device or requires such a sacrifice to use that it's unthinkable.  But there are a great many cases where the answer is just conveniently forgotten.

  The body swap :
     Something or some process swaps the minds or spirits of the characters around.  TV shows just seem to feel the need to have this happen at some point.  You can just imagine the creative team's one lone voice, "Hey what about ... you know this show did it too...".  Which then brings around the next point, let's keep the shifting going because once is not enough.  How about another round of body swaps?  There also have to be gender swaps as well or you're just being lazy and they have to involve love interests.  You have to give Futurama credit though, because they had a chart of how many swaps it would take to get everyone back. (Futurama, Farscape, Stargate for starters)

More later ...

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          To date, science fiction consistently manages to find it way into the top ranking box office films – but why doesn’t it gain the respect? There are certain aspects of films produced that tend to stop audiences and critics from serious consideration. Science fiction is often defined as a story where the science is integral to the story; remove the science and it does not work. Yet there are a number of films where the science is bad enough that the film doesn’t work. Stereotypes are another issue. The thought that a film cannot succeed without blondes, bombs and the boy genius is used ad nauseum. Then there is plotonium. When the film starts to founder science fiction filmmakers love to prop up the whole with plotonium, a made up element that allows the impossible to occur.

          From the recent reboot of Star Trek, an easy obvious example: red matter. There are many strange and new forms of matter that are being discovered and theorized about that might be able to create some of the effects that are attributed to ‘red matter’. But the filmmakers here took the low road. Instead of positing anti-solitons or finding a way to use strangelets or quark matter they decided to slap a band-aid on the situation. The creators stepped outside of the science of the situation and pulled a piece of plotonium out of the box as a cure all solution. Now everything in the movie is made up, so conceivably one could defend the thought of just making up the necessary missing element. But this defeats the purpose of using science effectively in the film. Was it done to ensure that the film was accessible to more audiences? It is the Star Trek franchise here; there has been plenty of technobabble in the past, why change now? Pure plotonium must be accepted at face value without explanation to be effective. Consider a unit of plotonium as a ‘nimoy’ – since this is science. Red matter is at least three quarters of a full nimoy since the film does not work without it. The two climactic scenes of movie do not occur without the presence of red matter.

          Avatar at least gave a humorous wink at its plotonium deposit by naming it “unobtainium”. Certainly only a fraction of a nimoy, since the desire for the element causes the action, but it in no way aids the action in the film. Conversely, the spice in Dune, while integral to the film is explained away in a believable fashion. Hyperspace is a commonly used piece of plotonium that goes both ways. Sometimes it’s explained, some times it’s a given and forged of pure plotonium. But in Event Horizon it takes on a whole new level of abuse, because here without any explanation hyperspace makes space ships evil. It doesn’t possess the crew or the ship, it simply makes it evil all thanks to the auspices of plotonium. For a full nimoy of plotonium look at the Blob, it’s never explained what it is and the film is completely lost without its central element.

Certain plotonium elements have spread the way a virus does. Insidiously infiltrating most space opera is the concept of “shields”. This is so familiar that the “force” has been dropped as a prefix. What is at issue here is that the science behind what makes the shield work is never mentioned nor hinted at. It becomes the sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic – in fact it becomes magic. Not unlike magic that simply works, without a cost or backing system; the shield simply deflects whatever is thrown at it and is therefore plotonium. The issue is not whether or not the element in question is completely explained but rather whether or not it has value as a scientific element. If the plotonium does not, then it might as well be magic and therefore the film has become fantasy, rather than science fiction.

Jeff Young
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MilSciFi.Com Interview

 I was fortunate enough to get another interview, this time with the producers of the Defending the Future series, the latest of which contains my short story "Blankets".  The third book, By Other Means will be launched this Sunday at the Balticon Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland.  The interview is available here - http://www.milscifi.com/files/inter-JY-BOM.htm.  After tomorrow the fun starts.  I should have several panels, as well as an autograph session with the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys from Fortress Publications and even a reading.  Right now I'm still putting last minutes bits together and considering what to choose for the reading.  Looking forward to seeing good friends like Bill DeSmedt, Maria Snyder, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail, James Daniel Ross and many more as well as trading tales in the bar.
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Heidi Ruby Miller's Quick 6 Interview

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Occasionally Someone Notices

Writing is a lonely venture - for most of us.  I've never really hit the "let's sit in Starbucks and write" groove, because it reminds me too much of work, where someone inevitably would have me doing returns or getting them change.  You do tend to work in a vacuum  with regards to whether or not what you've produced is worthy.  So it is nice to occasionally have someone notice.  Now I don't mean your friends (gang, your opinions count, absolutely).  Instead I am referring to the stranger who finds something to like in what you've done.  Right now, until the writing starts paying the bills, like the heating oil one, I'll be happy with the warm fuzzy from someone who liked the story. So today was a pleasurable experience when the first review that actually mentions my story turned out to be positive.  Thanks to Frank Dutkiewicz for the review of Writers of the Future 26 on Diabolical Plots - http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=2026.  


"Writing from the perspective of an alien species is always difficult. The author couldn’t have made it more so with such a novel idea like the wickurn. Mr Young developed not only one freakishly alien species but two, a butterfly like hive mentality called the chenditi. The author created a galaxy with an unusual concept of inter-species cooperation through a settlement program meant to include galactic community at large. In this tale a background model of radically different races existing side-by-side for the common good is presented. Zoi’ahmets uncovers a conspiracy to undermine this grand goal, and the wickurns sense of justice becomes the focus of the tale.

The story is a work of wonder. Mr Young’s ability to bring such an alien species to life makes him very deserving a spot in this anthology.

Grade A-"    Frank Dutkiewicz

Thanks Frank! It was a long day today and that was just what I needed when I checked my email before leaving work.  Glad you enjoyed the story,

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BY OTHER MEANS book launch and cake

       By Other Means, a the third collection of military science fiction in the Defending the Future series, edited by Mike McPhail is out and available now and I'm damn proud to be in it.  In fact I'm damn lucky to be where I am in it, being the "new guy" here.  With names like Jack Campbell, James Chambers, Bud Sparhawk and Andy Remic there's no shortage of talent of the contents page.  Of course, none of this would have happened for me if my friend the editor, Mike McPhail hadn't offered me the opportunity to submit a proposal.  It certainly didn't hurt either that his wife, editorial wiz Danielle Ackley-McPhail went over the submission and helped punch it into shape.  <you can find out more about the whole series here - http://www.defendingthefuture.com/index.html > 
      So Dani, Mike and I took advantage of an opportunity and put together a launch for the book with the SF&F reading group that I started awhile ago called Watch The Skies.  So after a good deal of preparation on February 19th we set up center stage on the Midtown Scholar bookstore and got the party started.  Also in attendance were contributors Robert Waters and Peter Prellwitz who added not only to the prestige but the snack table as well.  We took turns doing readings from our stories and gave away several door prizes.  My reading from the nook ereader I'd borrowed from work went off without a hitch and Dani and Peter even went back to read a second time.  Afterwards we retired to one of the group members homes for an evening of games, fun and fantastic fettucine alfredo.  It felt really good to have Dani assure me that she felt things went very well.
     By then there's the cake.  I made a point of saying that I wanted to make sure that we had food for folks, but it was never my intention to feed Harrisburg- I think I ignored that comment when it came to the cake.  Now I've been to at least 4 book launches that Dani & Mike have done and besides helping as "minion" to get things set up, I've been trying to pay attention to the "do's and don'ts".  Somewhere along the line in ordering the cake I didn't call to mind the size of other event cakes I've seen.  I looked at the board and was more concerned about getting the book's image on the cake and in the correct orientation than with the size.  "Full" apparently came out of me in the discussion and I ended up with a full sheet cake.  Now that Saturday central PA was experiencing 30-45 mph winds.  I was lucky to get the cake into the car, into the bookstore and yes, the cake followed us everywhere- then it followed me home.  With about half a cake left, I'd like to believe I'm learning my lesson.  But no matter, signing books again - that was pretty sweet too.
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What Inspires You?

What makes you write?

Listening to a cd on the way home tonight I realized that two of the songs had inspired me to write a piece of poetry that was published in a small press magazine called the Poetic Knight.  Thinking about what to listen to tomorrow, I remembered a group called October Project.  Two of their songs inspired poems.  So here is "Ariel" by October Project and the accompanying work,  "Liakko". 





Night wind kicks through

Teu's long and curling tresses

Singing for the sea gods

In the voice of the conch

Rolling cloud banks across the moon.

Her voice hitches and falters

She dares to need the storm

Though the father of the sea kind

Might yet find her out.

She teases the weather with guile

Then chokes as the thrashing waters

Roll back from the black stone

Wreathed in moonlit white foam

A birthing ring made into a trap

One of the false liakko

That snared her on such a night.

Where they caught her thrashing

In the receding tide waters

Forcing the rough iron ring

On to her slim finger

Marrying her to the land

To the harsh fisherman

Who lifted her up to feet

That had not existed seconds before.

In the moments of her struggles

Her newly born daughter swims off

Leaving her more alone

Than she has ever been.

Her hair whips round

Striking her bare shoulders

Gathering in twisted strands

About her tender throat

Bringing her back to herself.

Her voice deepens with her song

As she reaches far down

Into the depths of the sea

Calling for the powers

Of the very tide itself

Finding that mighty swell

Of waters drug about

By the errant moon above.

On her kinship she calls

Making her unavoidable demand

As the waters begin to well

Upwards from the depths

Killing the waves in their

White swirling foaming graves

Overwhelming them, consuming them

Sucking away the beach's sand

Unseating the cold black rocks  

Of the liakkos themselves.

Never again shall this shore

Welcome the folk of the sea

In their desperate pangs

And contractions of birth.

Only rock remains shining

Slickly wet and scoured clean

As Teu continues to retreat.

Never will her own daughter

Come to these perilous shores.

She turns her back now

On the place of her birth
The mother provider, ocean

Once her home now lost forever

Down the plunging steep and sheer

Newly revealed cliff sides.

Teu slowly returns to her rustic hut

To comfort her other daughter

On the two feet she is now

Cursed forever to wear

In the hopes Liat's small arms

Will fill the void inside her.

<J. Young 2004>
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Of Mice and Men

So awhile back friends and I were starting an acting company.  We of course wanted to get paid.  The caveat to that is that only professionals get paid and of course the definition of being professional was you got paid.  Chicken the egg, writer needs an agent- you see where I'm going here.  So of course I found it amusing when tonight my sister-in-law called me a fight choreographer because I took some time to help at Dreamwrights Youth and Family Theater with their production of The Nutcracker.  Because you obviously couldn't be called a fight choreographer unless you choreographed a fight.  I was being cautious, because the next thing you know some one will really expect something from you.  Now I walked in there tonight and with the help of a good friend, we designed an uncomplicated sequence that we taught to kids ranging from 12-8 that actually looked pretty good.  What amazed me was how much the kids put into it, listened and really gave their all to the performance.  They were great little troopers and even did very well adapting to the changes that we made to increase the length of the their scene.  So in the end, there were twelve mice and soldiers whirling around wooden swords clacking them together and yelling their battle cries at their opponents/parteners.  When I see the show in December, that little 5 minutes is probably really going to make my day and today somebody called me a fight choreographer - think I kinda' like that.
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Sunday - August 30th

<So this is only months late....>   Sunday morning and too much excitement gets me up somewhere around 8AM even though I only went to bed around 3 or so.  I walk around LA a little and then plunk myself down in the lobby to read the Anthology.  There's a pleasant lack of rush on things now since the big events of Saturday and it's really cool to just dive into the headspaces of my fellow writers.  We're due for pick up to go to the Borders in Pasadena at 1:00PM so after and hour and a half's worth of reading I finish off the chicken foccacia sandwich I'd bought earlier in the day and gear up.  I grab my copy of the 25th Anniversary book figuring that there should be some down time to get some autographs.  Loaded up and on the move, we head to Pasadena.  We circle the block, we circle the block - the bus is like a hungry shark looking for its opportunity and finally we find the back entrance and are dropped off.  Inside the folks at Borders have set up a large "U" of tables.  Nameplates are set up so we find our seats easily.  Happily in most cases we're seated next to our illustrators so when the fun begins, I can flip open the page to Rachael's Illustration for her making the process easier.  But before things get really rolling, I looked down the line and realized that next to my "twin" <writing/critique partner> Paula is Tim Powers.  It doesn't take much instigation to get him to sign the Anniversary book and he plunks it down in front of Jerry Pournelle, who then passes it on to Larry Niven - nice folks, they made the work easy.  Once again we're signing and meeting new folks just like the night before.  It's lots of fun to watch the folks come up to Larry and Jerry with their big stacks of books.  Something for us all to aspire to, perhaps.  The Borders folks are very nice to us and treat us to a round of coffees and drinks.  Then too quickly, we're back on the bus and headed for Hollywood.  In a short bit we're off to Author Services for an awesome dinner spread served in the L.Ron Hubbard library area.  Shortly after that we go downstairs for a performance in the Golden Age Theater of one of Hubbard's works.  Now I wasn't sure what exactly to expect and was pleasantly surprised at cool mix of live dramatization and old style radio delivery by the three men who performed "Tough Old Man".  Afterwards there was a brief reception in the library once again.  After all that you'd think the day might just be winding down, but now the group of the writers set off for the bar looking for another opportunity to glean some wisdom from prior winners Steve Savile and Jordan Lapp.  We sat outside beside the pool talking shop until it got cool enough that we moved around one of the fire pits and started telling humorous but true tales.  At last the security guard gave us a final send off which we took as the perfect cue to move to the hotel lobby, where we continued until the clock found its way passed two.  One by one we said goodnight, knowing that all of us were leaving on morrow at different times, heading back to home and bringing this unique chapter to a close.  It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that what we had this past week would never come again in such as fashion, but that we all together were damn lucky for the opportunity.

Monday - was travel, oh, yes it was.  Some how I went from the afternoon straight into evening.  Lift of was cool because we curved out over the ocean and the view was amazing.  The prior flight's excitement made this one seem longer but I still spent a great deal of it looking out the window listening to the mp3 player- although I did break that up by reading more of the anthology.  Coming in over Baltimore at night kept reminding me of Bladerunner.  On the ride home, talking to my brother, I realized that no matter how much I spoke about it, I was never really going to be able to get across to someone else just what the past week was really like. 

<now> Fortunately I am still in contact with the amazing people that I met in August.  Everyday we drop emails or post on facebook or the like.  Most of us have received our trophies and artwork and they will serve as constant reminders of an amazing experience. We are the 26th band of Writers of the Future - guess its time to write that future....