Tag Archives: science fiction

Scifaiku: Time Machine

Scifaiku - Time Machine

Time Machine

morlocks below me
machine moves through time not space
pull it to Weena

*poem published in Far Horizons Magazine – August 2015

A Scifaiku by Wendy Van Camp
Illustrated by Wendy Van Camp

Scifaiku poem is inspired from a famous time-travel story of science fiction literature.

Scifaiku: A Poet’s Journey

Scifaiku - Crush - by Wendy Van Camp
One Friday afternoon, I was sitting on a bench at a local science fiction convention with little to do for the next few hours. I learned that there was to be a workshop on how to write scifaiku poetry put on by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

I had never heard of scifaiku before and was intrigued by the idea. I ended up attending the seminar and this decision changed my views on poetry. As it turned out, I was the only student at the workshop along with a couple of magazine editors that published this form of poetry. The instructor taught how to brainstorm ideas for your poems and the elements that were needed for proper scifaiku. I not only became hooked on the poetry form, but I ended up publishing the poem I wrote in that workshop several months later.

Defining Scifaiku

Scifaiku is minimal in execution and elegant, similar to haiku. It is distinctive since it contains the human insight, use of technology and vision of the future that is natural in science fiction, but delivers it in three short poignant lines. The form is inspired by the principles of haiku, but it deviates due to its science fiction theme. The standard length of a poem is seventeen syllables.

While traditional haiku has three lines of five syllables, then seven, and then five again, scifaiku does not need to follow this structure. The structure is merely a guideline in Scifaiku and the poet can write more than seventeen syllables if they wish. This is due to science fiction having technical terms that make the shortness of traditional haiku difficult.

How to write Scifaiku

Scifaiku contains certain theme elements, much like haiku does. In traditional haiku, the poems are about nature. In scifaiku, the poems are about science fiction. Each poem needs to evoke a science fiction premise along with its own observation of that idea. For instance, you might include a technological word like space, laser, nebula, biofeedback, or teleport. Technical words often can be long and have many syllables, but this is allowed in scifaiku.

In traditional haiku, a word is included to indicate the season or time this poem is taking place in. I was taught in the workshop to also include this element in the scifaiku poem. It is not a requirement, but I am finding that including it makes my poems stronger. I tend to not use seasonal words, but I do like to use words that give a sense of the time.

Haiku and scifaiku both involve creating a sense of a single moment in time and space. You need to discover that tiny moment and the feelings that it invokes within yourself. Scifaiku is about creating a tiny bubble in the universe that makes one consider the human condition.

Scifaiku - "Cold"

Brainstorming Techniques

When I am ready to create a limited series of scifaiku poems, I take out a notebook and create three columns. One column is where I write down ideas of science fiction concepts I might want to compose poems. The second column I list moments of time. The final column is where I write down ideas of feelings that could be evoked. From these lists I begin to mix and match the three concepts to create different scifaiku poems. I pick the three best to create a sequence to send to magazines. Each of the three scifaiku poems can stand on their own as singles, but together they touch on a theme that unites them. These clusters of poems are what end up publishing. Scifaiku is such a short form of poetry that most magazines appreciate having a couple of them together to flesh out a single presentation page.

Authors of Scifaiku

  • One of the earliest published poems in this form was Karen Anderson’s “Six Haiku” from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1962.
  • Terry Pratchett used scifaiku as a chapter epigram in one of his early novels, “The Dark Side of the Sun” in 1976.
  • Robert Frazier published “Haiku for the L5” in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine(1979) and also “Haiku for the Space Shuttle” (1980)
  • The most extensive use of scifaiku in science fiction is by David Brin in his “Uplift Universe” and in his novel “The Postman”. In “Uplift”, the dolphin characters speak a haiku-like language called Trinary and he has characters quoting and writing haiku in the story. In “The Postman”, Brin used scifaiku as chapter epigrams.


Where to Submit Scifaiku

I tend to write scifaiku in a small series when I prepare them to be submitted to magazines. Each of the poems is related via subject matter and work together, but also can stand separately. Each series is three to five poems in length. This gives the magazine a little more to bulk out on the page since scifaiku is such a short form. Most science fiction magazines do accept poetry submissions, but not all will accept scifaiku due to its brief format. You should read the magazines you wish to submit to and learn their publishing guidelines before sending in your work.

Awards for Scifaiku

There are few awards for scifaiku. It is a rare form of science fiction inspired poetry and often will not be eligible for recognition in regular poetry awards. However, The Science Fiction Poetry Association gives out a “Dwarf Star Award” for the best short length speculative poem each year which does include Scifaiku. The nominees for the award are published in their annual anthology, Dwarf Stars. Joining the Science Fiction Poetry Association allows you to nominate and vote for the award in addition to giving you a copy of the anthology.

Orbiting Secrets, a Scifaiku poem illustration

Last Word

Scifaiku is a poetry form that I’ve grown very fond of. It is my hope that more people will begin to write it and that it will flourish as an art form. From a single seminar on a lazy Friday afternoon, I have been transformed into a poet of sorts and my life has become all the better for it.

Author Interview – Loren Rhoads

Author Loren Rhoads is the writer of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, the components of the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy. I am pleased to introduce her to you here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Loren RhoadsMy name is Loren Rhoads. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1988, long enough to survive a major earthquake, several tech booms (and busts), and to watch the city change and change and change. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

When and why did you begin writing?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t tell myself stories. My mom was a firm believer in naps and early bedtimes, so I had a lot of time to entertain myself quietly. Once I learned that people actually wrote stories, I asked for a typewriter for my birthday.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote notebooks full of stories, even saw some of them published, but I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I survived Clarion. That was in 1986, at Michigan State University. After six weeks of writing every single day, I knew I never wanted to do anything else.

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

No More Heroes is the final part of my In the Wake of the Templars space opera trilogy. The first two books were published in July and September of this year. While The Dangerous Type plays with the tropes of a Hong Kong revenge story and Kill By Numbers is a Philip K. Dick mindwarp, No More Heroes starts as a courtroom drama before morphing into a time travel story. My goal was to stretch the boundaries of space opera beyond military fiction or westerns in space. I’m interested in the intersection of cultures and media, prejudice and family.

What inspired you to write this book?

Although I keep being called for jury duty in San Francisco, I’ve never been chosen for a jury. I’m fascinated by the theater of the courtroom, the personas the lawyers and judges assume as they perform for the jury. I also wanted to explore shades of guilt – both in the case of the defendant (my main character) and the mercantile government that brings the charges against her. What if you really are guilty of the crimes you’ve been charged with, but there are good and heroic reasons for the things you’ve done? What if you’ve done terrible things in the past that you’re terrified the court will uncover? What is the definition of a hero – and can other people define you as one, if you reject the label?

I also wanted to examine the concept of influence. The first book in the series looks at persona and how people construct it for each other. The second book explores memory and how each person remembers the same incident differently. In the end of No More Heroes, I wanted to see how the main character inspired each character in the cast to change.

Do you have a specific writing style?

For these books, I toned down the descriptiveness of my usual writing because this trilogy is so tightly focused on point of view. The characters are more interested in people than setting, so that’s where most of their attention goes. Each of them have blindspots and preconceptions, which limit what they see and how they react. I wanted to play inside those limitations.

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

All the titles in the series came from songs I loved in high school. I like that they sound like noir titles; there’s that genre-blurring again. No More Heroes is the title of a song that was playing as I was writing in my favorite café one morning. It was originally meant as the title of the second book, but that story morphed in the writing and the title didn’t apply any more.

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

Love can save you, however you define it.

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

The relationship between Raena and her former owner/lover/adopted sister Ariel was inspired by my friendship with Martha Allard. Mart and I met in 8th grade social studies, but didn’t really get to be friends until 9th grade after we’d both seen Star Wars over the summer. The movie changed our lives. Mart has been with me through the deaths of my grandparents and younger brother; she sang at my wedding and made stuffed animals for my daughter. I could call her about anything. If I was in jail, she’d bail me out, no questions. If I were homeless, she’d take me in. And I would do the same for her. I’d be honored if she considered me her sister.

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

Ray Bradbury is my chief influence. In fact, there’s a chapter in No More Heroes that’s an homage to The Martian Chronicles. My Templars lived on the desert planet of Kai before they were wiped out by a human-engineered plague, but their abandoned homes still remember them.

I love Bradbury’s implication that living on Mars turns humans into martians. Throughout my books, people comment on the physiological similarities between humans and the Templars, even though externally they could not appear more different. I think they are on a spectrum.

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

Dana Fredsti, author of the Ashley Parker Plague World series, would probably laugh, but I consider her my role model. Dana showed me how you write a trilogy, how you interact with fans, how you continually push your comfort as an author. She is an inspiration.

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

Cody Tilson designed the covers of all three books. I really love what he did for the third book. I wanted to focus on the relationship between Raena and Haoun, the Na’ash pilot. They tell themselves that they aren’t in love with each other, but they have a fascination with each other and a deep affection. Haoun is bigger and probably stronger, but he’s a gamer, while she’s the warrior. I think Cody captured the dynamic between them perfectly. He was chosen by my publisher.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I keep a list of things to write about, so I’m never at a loss for subject matter, and I carry about a spiral-bound notebook, so I always have a place to write. In addition, I write in a café over breakfast every weekday. No matter what other crazy thing happens in my life that day, I know I’ve gotten some work done. I find it inspirational to know that I’m going to face the blank page every morning, so my imagination better get itself primed. Find whatever process works for you, then stick to it. Writing is a process of building a story day by day.

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

Thank you. I really appreciate you bringing my characters to life with your imaginations.

NoMoreHeroes coverLoren Rhoads
San Francisco, California


No More Heroes

Cover Artist: Cody Tilson
Publisher: Night Shade Books


Scifaiku: Oblivion

Scifaiku - Oblivion


preventing past dance
no meeting of grandparents
everyone goes poof

*poem published in Far Horizons Magazine – August 2015

A Scifaiku by Wendy Van Camp
Illustrated by Wendy Van Camp

Scifaiku poem is inspired from a famous time-travel story of science fiction literature.

The Blurry Boundaries of Historical Fantasy by S.A. Bolich

alternate history

Whether they know it or not, fantasy and science fiction fans loooove history. The genre is riddled with it, from stock pseudo-medieval settings to warped Victorian-age steampunk to alternate histories such as Harry Turtledove’s long speculation about what would have happened if the South had won the American Civil War. From the study of history and clashing cultures we can draw plausible conclusions about what life might be like in the future or on distant worlds, where human needs and human nature will be tested by new technologies, new environments, and new cultural constructs.

With so broad a playground to romp in, how do you tell if what you are reading (or writing, for that matter) falls into the category you think it does? Various fan groups thrive on infighting over “proper” labels for various works. Tags such as steampunk, historical fantasy, and alternate history raise certain expectations in readers hunting through bookstore catalogs. Disappointing those expectations can result in the reader tossing the book and never reading that author again. That is a shame, because the overlap between subgenres using historical settings is real and often fuzzy.

Steampunk is all the rage just now, sparking elegant trends in convention attire and wildly imaginative takes on steam-based technology. This genre fails without that technology; the best of it goes far beyond the near-obligatory airships to imagine the profound impact of these steam inventions on society. The setting is generally Victorian, usually pre-World War I. That war, of course, may never happen in steampunk worlds, where individuals and governments seize on the steam-powered tools that have reshaped 19th century society to bend history in new directions. Alternate history is often, therefore, a major element of steampunk.

Alternate history envisions a whole new reality, which requires a good shove at a critical historical juncture. This often involves time travel, either planned or accidental. Eric Flint’s 1632 uses alien intervention to displace an entire West Virginia town into the middle of Germany at the height of the Thirty Years War. L. Sprague deCamp’s Lest Darkness Fall sends a witness to Mussolini’s Italy from 1938 back to ancient Rome, where his intervention prevents the Dark Ages. Sometimes the new version of history grows organically from actual history. In Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories, England’s King Richard I (Lionheart) survives the siege of Chaluz, thus eliminating at a stroke the reign of King John, Magna Carta, the Wars of the Roses, and the entire sweep of British, French, and European history. Change can be also sparked by the introduction of new technology, as when Turtledove provides Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47 rifles against the Union army’s muzzle-loaders.

To count as alternate history, the change must be lasting and sweeping. Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court fails this test because, while Hank Morgan’s arrival at Camelot certainly affects Arthur’s mythical court, it does not affect “actual” history in the long run. This brings us to historical fantasy, which offers limitless choices for writers and readers. Garrett’s Plantagenet Europe uses magic, which, to an alternate history purist, blurs the lines quite a lot. Fortunately, history has room for a nearly infinite list of subgenres, from gaslight fantasy (Victorian era that combines “straight” history with a magical overlay, much like urban fantasy) to Weird Westerns, which can combine science fiction, magic, or steampunk with the Old West, to the SF of Connie Willis’s time-traveling historians. While the bulk of such stories use western history as the catalyst, writers such as Futaro Yamada, Ryo Hanmura, and Hiroshi Aramata have “altered” Japanese history and imagined all sorts of magical historical mayhem.
The one immutable rule of using history to drive a story is that it must be plausible. The ramifications of changing a critical moment in time must be logical and hold together as a construct across economic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Changes large enough to alter the course of one town’s history must necessarily affect the region, the country, and eventually the world, because a town does not exist in isolation unless it is some version of Brigadoon. Even the most magic-laden “straight” historical fantasy needs to get the setting right, because true history lovers will cry foul when writers get it wrong.

We can argue about the lines between historical subgenres, but in the end, it all comes down to: is it a good story? Vampires in the Old West, Mongols in London, persecuted witches plotting their own Reformation—why the heck not?

Author SA BolichS. A. Bolich’s books often open quietly—but don’t be fooled. By page 10 you may be hooked so thoroughly you’ll forget to get off at your bus stop. Her worlds are lived-in, magical, sometimes mind-bendingly exotic, always historically accurate, and inhabited by people who reach out and grab us by the throat and make us care about their problems. A historian, former military intelligence officer, and lifelong horsewoman, she writes everything from “straight” and alternate history to fantasy and science fiction, filled with characters who remain in your heart long after the book is closed. Her novel, “In Heaven’s Shadow,” well illustrates the blurred lines between “straight” history, magic realism, and paranormal, blending a poignant ghost story with the struggle of a living magic-wielder to find acceptance in a straight-laced Virginia village at the height of the Civil War. She is currently working on an alternate history/fantasy series that uses a fresh twist on the Salem witch trials to spark a fascinating and arcane version of the Civil War. Find out more about S. A. Bolich and where to find her work at www.sabolichbooks.com, or follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/s.a.bolich or www.facebook.com/sue.bolich).