Tag Archives: science fiction

Book Review: The Children of Men

Book Name: The Children of Men
Author: P.D. James
First Published: 1992

Phyllis Dorothy James, commonly known as P.D. James, was born on August 3, 1920 in Oxford. She studied at the British School in Ludlow and Cambridge High School for Girls. Her father, Sidney James, was a tax inspector.

Due to financial constraints and her father’s belief that girls did not need higher education, James left school when she was 16 years old. She worked for several years before she married army doctor Ernest Connor Bantry in 1941. The couple had two daughters, Jane and Claire, but when her husband returned from World War II, he was mentally ill and was placed in a psychiatric institution. James was forced to be the family breadwinner until her husband died in 1964. She studied hospital administration and worked in the National Health Service from 1949 to 1968.

James began writing in the mid-1950s. Two years after her first novel Cover Her Face was published, she began working in the criminal section of the Home Office in the UK. She continued being a public servant until her retirement. James used her work experience in many of her novels. Much of her work feature UK’s bureaucracies, such as the National Health Service and the criminal justice system.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Society of Literature. She has won several awards for her writing and was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983. She became a life peer in the House of Lords in 1991 and President of the Society of Authors in 1997. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame at the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards.

P.D. James is most popular for her detective series starring the policeman Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard. In the 1980s, several of James’ mystery novels were made into television shows and aired in the UK as well as in other countries such as the USA. Her dystopian novel, The Children of Men, was adapted into a 2006 feature film starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine.

Charm is often despised but I can never see why. No one has it who isn’t capable of genuinely liking others, at least at the actual moment of meeting and speaking. Charm is always genuine; it may be superficial but it isn’t false. – P.D. James

It is the year 2021. The world population is steadily decreasing and there is mass infertility. People last gave birth in 1995 and humanity is facing imminent extinction. In desperation, people are treating newborn animals as their babies. The members of the youngest generation, called “Omegas”, are now all adults but are spoiled, violent, and contemptuous of their elders. Nevertheless, they are prized for their youth and are thus treated to luxurious lifestyles and are never punished. The British Omegas are prohibited from leaving the country but workers from poorer countries are lured and made to do the undesirable work then sent back once they reach 60. The old and the sick are considered a burden, with only the privileged ones given care while the rest are encouraged or even forced to kill themselves in a legalized mass drowning called Quietus.

The rich and influential Xan Lyppiatt is the self-appointed Warden of England and has replaced democracy with an egalitarian regime due to the people’s lack of interest in politics. Dr. Theodore “Theo” Faron, a historian at the Oxford University and Xan’s cousin, is approached by Julian, a female dissident who belongs to the group Five Fishes. The group wants Theo’s help in asking Xan to implement reforms before they start a revolution. The rebels want Xan to bring back democracy, to shut down the isolated penal colony on the Isle of Man, and to stop the mass suicide of the old and the infirm. Theo agrees but his meeting with Xan ends up being a meeting with all the five members of the Council of England, the country’s governing body. The meeting is a failure as Xan does not agree with the demands. Xan suspects that Theo’s suggestions come from others and plans to move against the dissidents.

The State Secret Police visits Theo and the latter tells Julian about the visit before traveling around Europe for several months to see the continent before it becomes overrun by nature. When he returns, he finds out that the dissidents have continued the revolution by distributing pamphlets and sabotaging wharves and that one of them has been arrested while attempting to blow up a mass suicide facility. Theo also learns that Julian is pregnant. At first, he thinks Julian is just delusional, but changes his mind when he hears the baby’s heartbeat. The group now struggles to keep Julian and her baby safe during their flight.

My first exposure to PD James was via the motion picture The Children of Men starring Clive Owen and Micheal Cain. I found the storyline and concept of the movie to be unique and later, I went on to read the book that the movie was based on. I discovered that the film and the book are rather different. The movie had plenty of suspense and action, while the book delved more into the political makeup of this futuristic England and had long passages of description that perhaps could have been shorter and to the point.

The Children of Men Book CoverThe idea of the Omega generation is chilling. The thought that this was the end of humanity and no more after us, is heartbreaking. I can see some of the behavior of the women in this book in today’s culture. Many people are child-free and do dote on their pets as if they were children, just as the characters in James’ book would push dolls around in prams or christen their cats. After I finished the book, I confess that it was good to see our neighborhood kids playing outside as usual. Global infertility has not quite reached us yet.

Dystopian science fiction lets us see into a dark possible future, but shining a light into those shadows is often a way to avoid the pitfalls ahead. I recommend reading The Children of Men, it is a classic that should be experienced.

Speculative Fiction: Learning the Genre

Plunge into Space (1890)Speculative Fiction, the overall genre that encompasses Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and all their sub-genre niches, is my genre of choice. Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of novels in this genre. Even so, it is difficult to keep up with the trends of present day writing. To keep informed, I frequent many sites, guilds, blogs and forums on the subject. If you are an aspiring speculative fiction writer, you will find these sites to be a good resource for you. The only way to learn about a genre is to dive in and read about it. I’ve made a list of some of my favorites below.

SFWA is the site for the Science Fiction Writers of America. This is a guild for published authors only. They have strict guidelines for joining based on where and the dollar amounts that you have sold. SFWA has a newsletter, hosts the Nebula and Hugo awards and members are able to vote for the winners. As an aspiring science fiction and fantasy writer, it is a place to be aware of and consider joining once you have a few publishing credits to your name.

Del Rey Suvudo A site dedicated to the latest news and happenings in the science fiction universe. There is plenty to read here, from the fan to the professional. You will spend hours reading many great articles about books, television, movies and all things speculative fiction related.

Tor Books is a publisher of science fiction and fantasy. Their site is an enormous resource of blog posts, links, original fiction and more. I find the book and television reviews to be particularly good. Reading them gives me a better grasp on current trends in the genre.

Locus is the trade magazine of the science fiction and fantasy publishing world. If you are an author in the genre, subscribe to keep up with what is going on in publishing.

SSFWorld.com An active forum dedicated to all the latest news of science fiction and fantasy fandom. If you have a favorite SF television program, favorite author or just want to learn more about the genre, this is a great place to start.

SFF Net is home to many authors, publishers, media pros, and consumers of genre fiction. While the site is not as extensive as others, you will see many famous science fiction and fantasy authors connected with this site. It is worth checking out as a resource.

Science Fiction Chronicles is a United Kingdom based forum for science fiction and fantasy. It is a large and active forum with members from all over the world. They count published authors, editors and agents among their membership and have an extensive community of aspiring authors.

Science Fiction & Fantasy Novelists is a writing advice blog maintained by a group of successful genre writers. The posts are frequent and go back several years. It is a free source of information to learn more about the genre and the ins and outs of being a writer.

This is Horror is a UK based blog with many articles and interviews that feature the genre of Horror. It is a good site to help you keep up on the latest news in this niche genre.

The Horror Writer’s Association is a nonprofit organization of writers and publishing professionals from all over the globe who are dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it. There is an extensive amount of information on the genre that is available to the public at large, but if you intend to write in the horror genre, it would be a great place to network and get established as a horror writer. HWA is the sponsor of the annual Bram Stoker Awards for superior achievement in horror literature and they present an annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

Book Review: The Eternity Brigade

Book Name: The Eternity Brigade
Author: Stephan Golden
First Published: 1980

Stephan Golden was born in Philadelphia. When he was 13, his parents moved to California and he has been a resident of the Golden State ever since. He studied Astronomy at UCLA and this was the time when the first of his science fiction short stories began to publish. After he earned his Bachelor’s degree, he took work with the U.S. Navy as a civilian space scientist. The steady paycheck was good with the Navy, but his writing continued to take off. He began to publish his first novels at this time. After a few years with the Navy, he decided to write full-time. He took a job working as a writer and editor for a pornographic humor paper known as the San Francisco Ball. He has also worked as a game designer and manual writer for games. Mr. Golden has served as the editor of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Bulletin and has been their Western Regional Director. He is still busy writing novels and has over 40 titles to his name.

Mr. Golden has been married twice, first to Kathleen Sky and then to fellow author Mary Mason. He has co-written books with both of them and he and Mary are still working on a series of novels today.

Jack Hawker is an American soldier who has lived and fought in a war during a time near to our present day. He has no one to come home to, so when he is offered a chance to join a new army program where the soldiers are cryogenically stored until they are needed for the next war, he volunteers. When Hawker awakens, he is years in the future and disoriented, but he fights with his unit, bonding with his fellow soldiers. At the end of the war, he and the other soldiers of the brigade are stored again.

The story moves on through centuries of time where the methods of warfare and civilization itself changes beyond reason. The soldiers of the brigade are no longer frozen, their patterns and memories are captured in giant databases where they can be called upon at will to fight for who ever holds the keys to the machines. Eventually, the database is duplicated and Hawker finds himself fighting against versions of himself. Life and death loses its meaning since whenever a soldier falls in battle, he or she is recreated for the next battle with only the memories of that one battle lost.

Hawker has no life and he has been cheated of death. He longs to die for real, to end the madness of being a soldier at war for all eternity. He devises a plan to cheat the system and find his way out of the madness.

The Eternity Brigade Book CoverI understand that Mr. Golden has reworked this novel and has published a “final edition” of the novel in 2010. I have not read this edition of the book, but instead remember the original novel that was published in 1980. It is a story that has stayed with me all these years and one that I feel is worth re-reading today. It reminded me of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and indeed, Mr. Golden does credit this author as inspiration for his own book.

The Eternity Brigade is a fast read with a chilling concept at its core. There is combat on Earth, in space and on other planets, plenty of sex, and the certain loneliness that soldiers in any time period faces. Sometimes the aliens seem more out of an episode of Star Trek than what we think of aliens in fiction today, but for all its small flaws, somewhat weak world building, and flat secondary characters, the story of Hawker and what he faces is a story that will grip you while reading and then stay with you for years. Give The Eternity Brigade a read. I believe it should be on the must-read list of science fiction aficionados.

Author Interview: Warren Reed

No Wasted Ink is happy to introduce Warren Reed, an author of adventure and science fiction novels.

Author Warren ReedHello, everyone! My name is Warren Reed, and I live on the East Coast in Portland, Maine. I grew up on action figures, comic books, Saturday morning cartoon shows (back when they were good), and science fiction novels. I love a good story as much as I love an adventure, and I’m always on the lookout for both.

When and why did you begin writing?

I think the first story I (legibly) wrote with a beginning, middle, and end, was in 1st grade. It was for a class project; each of us had to write and illustrate our own book, including a front and back cover. Being an avid drawer, I thought I would enjoy illustrating the most, but once I started writing, it soon became a struggle to fit the story into the allotted number of pages–I was having too much fun and didn’t want to stop. After the project was finished, I continued the story outside of school, and I’ve been writing stories ever since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

For me, even though I’ve been writing for several years, the term ‘writer’ carries a certain weight; it’s something I continuously aspire to be, and I’m hesitant to label myself as such. Above and beyond everything, I consider myself a storyteller, whether it’s writing, drawing comics, or producing film/video. If I had to choose a point in time, however, it would probably be a few years ago when I was starting my latest story–now known as DARKRIFT: Arrival–and decided that it would be the first of my stories to have published.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

DARKRIFT: Arrival is a YA/teen sci-fi action/adventure novel; it combines many of my favorite sci-fi themes and delivers them in a story that is meant to be fun and engaging. It follows two modern-day characters who are thrust into a sci-fi inspired, otherworldly adventure that presents them with mystery, dark moments, and epic showdowns…all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a ruthless enemy.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was growing up, I loved reading sci-fi; it stimulated my imagination and got me excited to read. Quite often, though, I had to dig to find sci-fi novels, and many of them were not as exciting or adventurous as I had hoped. Many of them were slow and dry. I wrote DARKRIFT: Arrival as a tribute to the action-filled, epic-scale sci-fi stories I wish I could have found more of as a kid.

Do you have a specific writing style?

When a reader is reading one of my stories, my goal is for them to feel like they’re watching a big-screen blockbuster–I want the story to play out in their head like it’s a movie, as it does for me when I’m writing it. “Show, don’t tell” sums it up nicely, and being a very visual, imaginative person, I try to convey that in how I write so that each paragraph, each sentence, each word, has its own, unique energy that paints a vivid picture for the reader.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

DARKRIFT: Arrival relates to two simple (but relevant) elements in the book. The second part of the title is more self-explanatory than the first, but so I don’t give too much away, you’ll have to read it to find out more!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There are some subtle themes, as well as messages, woven throughout the story, but my primary goal in writing DARKRIFT: Arrival is for entertainment. If readers happen to pick up on anything deeper, that will purely be a bonus for me as a storyteller.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Because DARKRIFT: Arrival, like many of my stories, centers around both sci-fi and supernatural elements, no, it’s not based on experiences or events in my own life. However, in an attempt to ground my stories in reality, I do base the personalities of my characters (everything they feel, say, and do) on people I know or have met. This way, I have a very real-world understanding of how my characters will react to the situations I put them in, and will hopefully make the journey of reading my stories more believable and engaging for my readers.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and more “local” authors like Archer Mayor and Stephen King, have influenced me the most. I find them inspiring because they each have their own distinct style and are known for being masters of their genre.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I consider all of the authors mentioned above, as well as various others, mentors in one way or another…but if I had to choose, I would say Stephen King; he is a hugely successful author with many books, movies, and other accomplishments to his name, and he’s a Mainer (I often drive by his house when taking motorcycle trips). Having such a successful writer so close to home is hugely inspiring for any aspiring Maine author, but even more so than that, his writing of strange, and oftentimes dark subject matter has, over the years, inspired me to embrace those types of themes, instead of shy away from them.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I had a rough idea of what I wanted the cover to look like, and artist Meghann Pardee brought it to life. I chose Meghann because her portfolio was very diverse, and all of her work exhibited a style I wanted to capture for the cover of DARKRIFT: Arrival. Meghann was a pleasure to work with. Please, check out her portfolio.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I think the best advice I’ve heard for writing is to write for yourself, not others. And, if you’re planning to publish, a professional editor really should be a part of your writing arsenal.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. I had the story of DARKRIFT: Arrival brewing in my head for quite some time. A few years ago, I decided to sit down and write it. Part of my intent in writing it is was not only to offer YA/teen sci-fi fans a new universe to explore, but also offer an alternative, yet equally-engaging option to movies, television, and video games. So for anyone who has, or will, give DARKRIFT: Arrival a chance for themselves, or a YA/teen they know who might be on the search of a new and exciting sci-fi story, I humbly and graciously thank you for your support.

Darkrift Arrival Book CoverWarren Reed
Portland, Maine

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Cover Artist: Meghann Pardee

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Book Review: The Lost World

Book Name: The Lost World
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
First Published: 1912

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. Both of his parents were of Irish descent. Given support by wealthy uncles, Doyle went to a Roman Catholic Jesuit Prep School and then onto college. Despite attending a Jesuit school, he would later reject religion and become agnostic. After college, he went on to medical school. It was during this time that he began to write short stories. He enjoyed writing adventure stories set in far away locations such as Africa or South America. He also wrote many non-fiction articles, his first was titled Posion and published in the British Medical Journal (1879).

Doyle went on to practice medicine as a doctor on a Greenland Whaler named Hope of Peterhead in 1880 and after his graduation from university, became a ship’s surgeon on the SS Mayumba that journeyed along the West African coastline. In 1882, he joined a former classmate to practice medicine in Plymouth, but eventually opened his own practice. He was unable to find many patients at first and to pass the time, he once again took up writing short stories. It was at this time that he began to develop the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, a fictional series for which he is very famous and was later knighted for.

In 1885, Doyle married his first wife, Mary Louise Hawkins, who was the sister of one of Doyle’s patients. They had two children together. Mary suffered from tuberculosis and died in 1906. Doyle met and fell in love with Jean Elizabeth Leckie years before his wife Mary died, but had simply remained friends with Jean out of faithfulness to his first wife. Once he was free, he married Jean after a year’s mourning period. They had three children together. Jean passed in 1940.

Doyle was active in the politics of his day. One of his many causes was being a supporter for the reform of the Congo Free State led by the journalist E.D. Morel and diplomat Roger Casement. During 1909 he wrote The Crime of the Congo, an article where he denounced the horrific goings on at this colony. It is thought that these two men, along with Bertram Fletcher Robinson, were the inspiration for the characters in his serial novel The Lost World. Later, Doyle turned away from Casement and Morel when they joined the pacifist movement during the Great War. When Casement was later found guilty of treason during the Easter Rising and faced the death penalty, Doyle attempted to save him, but his arguments that Casement had been driven mad by his circumstances went unheeded.

Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. There was some controversy about where he was to be buried since he was not a Christian and considered himself to be a spiritualist. Eventually, he was interned with his wife in New Forest, Hampshire. The inscription on his grave reads in part:

Steel true
Blade straight
Arthur Conan Doyle
Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters

The Lost World begins with Edward Malone proposing marriage to the woman he loves, Gladys Hungerton. The problem is, she does not love him. To put him off, she bids him to go prove himself in the world, to allow her to inspire him to do great deeds. If he does this, she will consent to marry him. Malone sets off to do this “noble quest” in order to win her heart.

Malone is a reporter for the Daily Gazette and asks his editor to give him a dangerous assignment. He is told to interview Professor George Edward Challenger to discover if the man’s claims of the uncharted territories of South America are true. There is some risk in Malone’s going for the Professor has assaulted other journalists that have gone before him.

After a scuffle, Professor Challenger admits to his discovery of living dinosaurs in South America and he invites Malone to join him on another expedition into the area in order to prove his story. Malone accepts and they set off along with Professor Summerlee, another scientist, and Lord John Roxton, an adventurer and guide. After a great deal of travel, they reach the jungle plateau where Challenger claims the dinosaurs live. As the team enters the plateau, one of their Indian guides, who’s brother was killed by Roxton, destroys the bridge back to the base camp, trapping them with no way back. The other Indian guides, who were superstitious of the plateau and didn’t wish to go further, all leave. Only Zambo, their “devoted negro” remains at the base.

The exploration team meets several challenges in “the lost world” of the jungle plateau. They are attacked by pterodactyls in a swamp, Roxton finds a blue clay that fascinates him, finally part of the team is captured by a race of ape-men. They discover that the Doda ape-men are at war with a tribe of humans, known as Accala, who live on the other side of the plateau. The Doda hold them captive because they are interested in the guns that the team owns. The Doda rightly feel that these weapons would tip the war in their favor.

Roxton manages to escape the Doda, and meets up with Malone. They mount a rescue for their party and the other humans that are held captive by the Doda, and arrive in time to prevent the execution of one of the professors. The reunited team travel to the human Accala tribe and help them defeat the Doda. The Accala now control the entire plateau.

The Accala are as impressed with the traveler’s guns as the Doda were. They do what they can to prevent the team from leaving, however a tunnel is discovered that leads to the outside world. Challenger, Malone, Roxton and Summerlee are able to escape the plateau and return to their base camp where Zambo and a large rescue party awaits.

The quartet return to England and present a report including pictures and the journalism report by Malone. Challenger brings a little more proof for his story this time, a living pterodactyl. It escapes and flies out over the Atlantic Ocean. The quartet meet for dinner some time after the dinosaur debacle. Roxton explains his interest in the blue clay. It was filled with diamonds. He proposes that they split the gems between them.

Challenger plans to open a private museum with his share. Summerlee decides to retire and categorize fossils. Roxton wants to return to the plateau for more research and adventure. Malone returns to Gladys to tell her of his great deeds and new wealth, only to find that she had married a clerk while he was away. Malone then decides to join Roxton’s new expedition since there is nothing left to keep him in London.

The Lost World has been an influential book over the past century. It was one of several novels during this time period that concerned the subject of finding a lost world filled with dinosaurs. Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island (1874) and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot (1918) are the three main examples. These novels were all very popular in their day and have inspired other novels down through the years including Michael Crichton’s The Lost World (1995) that became the basis of the Jurassic Park series of films. Doyle’s book is credited as being the spark for the television series Land of the Lost as well as several movies down through the decades.

The novel itself has not aged well, but if you are a fan of retro science fiction, it is likely to become a favorite. There are problems with continuity in the book, the lack of female characters except as sexual objects is disconcerting, and the treatment of other races as inferior to whites certainly shows that the Imperialist English mindset is very much part of the narrative of this book. All of these issues are something that you need to keep in mind if you decide to read this novel. I feel that the historical qualities of this retro science fiction story outweigh these issues.

You need to remember that there are still parts of the Amazon that are uncharted and unexplored even in this modern day and age. Looking at satellite maps of Brazil you see little more than solid green where the national parks are. In these plateau areas, where visitors can only enter on foot, you might look at the photo map and think to yourself “there be dragons”….or perhaps, even dinosaurs! The spirit of adventure is still very much alive in this retro science fiction novel.

The Lost World Book CoverIf you are interested in reading The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you can download a free copy of the novel at Project Gutenberg.