• Member Since 11th Jul, 2011
  • offline last seen Apr 24th, 2016

Midnightshadow


More Blog Posts203

  • 479 weeks
    If you haven't read this, you need to

    Fresh from the "it's a crime if this doesn't get featured" list, is the short story Riverdream At Sunset.

    It's written as an 1800's period piece, with trappings more than reminiscent of Doyle or Verne and absolutely hits the spot on the whole look and feel.

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    12 comments · 1,254 views
  • 479 weeks
    I blame it on Terry Pratchett

    Years ago, at school, I picked up a book. I blame what happened next on Terry Pratchett.

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    4 comments · 759 views
  • 489 weeks
    state of the bunny, 2015

    So it's a new year.

    The previous one has passed much like every other one did, with a bang as much as with a whimper. For a while here, it was sodding cold, and I mean real proper brass monkey weather. Right now it's barely below zero, and instead of snow we've got rain and ice. Seriously, I could skate down my driveway.

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    4 comments · 819 views
  • 490 weeks
    "chrysalis vs hearth's warming" may be a little late

    I know, I know: I missed hearth's warming.

    Well, I'm still writing my christmas special so you'll just have to wait. I think it'll be worth it...

    it features everyone's favourite changeling queen and her endless quest to destroy all love and happiness everywhere - this time by blowing up cinder claws and destroying hearth's warming. And how that doesn't quite go according to plan...

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    2 comments · 769 views
  • 491 weeks
    santa middymas is coming to town

    I made a list, I checked it twice. Not sure to find out how is naughty or nice...

    Anywag, the winners of my admittedly haphazard and wonky contest were:

    Sypher Magical Trevor
    Professor Plum

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    4 comments · 462 views
Dec
8th
2014

An interesting post by Charlie Stross · 8:02am Dec 8th, 2014

I'm tagging out and about in this post because Charlie Stross, author of several sci-fi stories that I really like, just wrote a blogpost about how annoyed he is when, to put it in his own words, sci-fi authors write "Whitebread Middle American Suburbia to the Stars". And that was something I really tried to avoid writing this fic, and it was really difficult.

I can honestly tell you that it was the hardest story to write I've ever finished, let alone published. I don't know how well I pulled off a world which was recognizably different not only geo-politically but also technologically and socially, and I'm pretty sure that it got toned down as the adventure went on... but I'm also sure that there's a lot to boggle at.

If you want to give it a read, head here.

Comments ( 17 )

I'd say you succeeded handily. I'll agree that the cultural vertigo eased as the story progressed, though it could have as easily been acclimatization as you toning it down.

Also, thanks for sharing the post - an interesting read. My thought is that reader adaptation is sort of a currency - like suspension of disbelief. You have a certain budget, but can't spend too much of it. The more the reader has to take in, the more energy they spend; familiar stuff is a bit of a shortcut, but there is definitely a downside - as the post points out.

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Yeah, that's kind of what I wanted to avoid this time - doing something with too thin a veneer of scifi. I was speciifically going for something believably futuristic even though I knew I'd be alienating a lot of people just wanting an easy, fun read.

...Because that's why people like Peter Hamilton sell millions of copies: they write space opera first, and scifi second. All of the things you see and experience are backdrop to the soap opera and the easy, swashbuckling adventuring. That's not necessarily bad, because he handles the buckling of the swashes with a good deal of aplomb and paints a colourful, interesting world to experience. But it doesn't hold a candle to things like Metamorphosis by Kafka or The Time Machine by Wells.

I've done swashbuckling space opera and high fantasy before now. I thought it high time I try something more like, well, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which is near enough to taste but strange in so many other ways.

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Yeah, I can definitely relate. I've just started working on a non-pony story and have been confronted with the same dilemma. I'm hoping to convey a serious message with it, so I'm trying to balance the depth of the world with the meaning of the story, and making it engrossing, but not so foreign that it loses the reader.

I just got and read that article. And I completely agree.
And as for your story... I haven't read it jet, not enough time and I was putting it away constantly, But I might just go to read it now.
As to the post itself, I was always fascinated by stories that went and made their own universes, especially if reader has to struggle to understand the culture, not because of how poor writing is, but because that new, future world operates on different rules and values than we do now. There was a Troope about one of the things I like. Blue And Orange Morality
I noticed that independent writes, and fanfiction authors are better at this kind of stuff, as Publishers tend to reject stories that might be too hard to understand or relate-to for common reader.
So if you know any good Sci-fi or Fantasy stories, that have the worlds of it's own, instead of copying ours' Please sent me the names(and authors), The more the better.

This is actually why I like your stories, as they all have this unique style, and well crafted worlds. Thank you for writing your stories.

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Yeah, publishers these days tend to find themselves happier with things they think are going to sell. Kind of like Hollywood, only not quite as bad. Close, but... not quite that low. Yet.

For authors who make their own, weird worlds, you've got two main options:

1) golden age scifi (often in collections) - Asimov and Clarke both preside over various bundles of interesting words. Back in the 50's (and decades before and after), there was a great explosion in pulp novels. Some really interesting stuff was created back then, from the first few genre-defining cyberpunk novels to the first few exploratory space operas (like e. e. 'doc' smith). By the time we hit the 80's, I think we hit a low point as commercialized interests created less niche works as a broader market opened up. Kind of interesting how it homogenizes, really...

It sounds kind of lame to suggest the big names, but these guys are well known for a reason. They don't do everything right, but their collections might tickle your fancy, since they're by other people, and in this case they're a gateway to the more obscure, more experimental types.

2) if you're looking for newer stuff, look online. I haven't specifically used this site before, but http://www.freesfonline.de/ seems to link to a few fanzines that I know sometimes come out with good stuff such as analog.

Wish I could be more useful. I might actually trawl through my collection, see if I can get a better list...

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Side note: I try to do blue and orange morality, as it were, with my dragons as well as with my AI's. I don't find moustache-twirling villainy to be that exciting when played straight. If you're going to moustache-twirl, you have to do with style. I'm also surprised that there are more than a few pony fanfics referenced on that site. I have no idea who does them all - whoever it is, they've passed me by :fluttercry:

Can't win 'em all, I guess :rainbowlaugh:

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ahhh Asimov, I remember reading his books When I was... 10-13 years old. The last two books of The foundation series were so confusing, that I had to reread them twice. I think it was His fault, that now I have such high expectations for Sci-fi. Hell, my childhood was filled with books. 7 year old started to read Harry potter series. Then as 8-9 year old I started to read Andrzej Sapkowski's "Wiedźmin" (The Witcher series, one of the best fantasy series in my opinion, and the best one form Poland. And take in mind that these books are filled with, hard and difficult topics, death, gore, sex and darker theme, along with great politics and adventure) Then there were some Lem's books, Zajdel's... and of course Asimov, At first I was limited to polish books, because of Translations. But It was nothing unusual, that later, all those "great adventures" in books we had to read at school seemed bland and boring. Why don't they start to teach kids real books, not those stupid "National treasures" from times of war... I think I got a bit off-topic. Sorry...

As for the Clark. I remember reading something, But then I got stuck with free books and fanfiction. I might read it soon. With speed over 100 000 words per day, with school included, it won't take a lot of time.


As for unique stories, I actually adored "Accelerando" especially since it confused me greatly, at the same time forcing me to read on.

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Ahh, Accelerando is one of my favourites. As is "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" (which inspired the title as well as the writing style of out and about).

I really do wish we here in the West had better access to the Russian scifi writers of yesteryear. There's a lot of excellent stuff that still remains untranslated. Lem is one of the few that's broken through the iron curtain, even now.

You might like to give Niven a go - you could do worse than the schlocky but fun "fallen angels"

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My heart hurts, at calling Lem a Russian. He was from Poland, born in Current Ukraine.
And I'll admit, I was looking for some English translations of Polish/Russian books for some friends, And it was hard. Though I will try to find them again and send them to you. Hell, The Witcher series was translated to over 30 languages, including Chinese, But not English (though there were some fan translations) Only after game's success they realised how good it is. It is dumb that even in this times, Europe is getting ignored by rest.

2640884
Argh, he's not Russian... I meant Soviet! I apologize!

2640890 It's no problem, it's just that calling someone in Poland a Russian or German is actually an insult. (we had rather tragic history of being constantly taken apart by some other countries.)

As For the books, thanks, I'll read them in free time, And I might reread Asimov, its been almost 10 years now since I touched anything from him.
Nice to find people who know what they are reading. I's hard to get an conversation on this topic with most of people. As they prefer lighter reading.

It's totally true, and if nothing else should be a priority for SF authors simply for the sake of realism, let alone for demonstrating your grasp of societal mechanisms. In fact, it seems like it'd be harder not to write that way, simply because in your day to day life you have to navigate how your local circumstances shape the behaviors of those around you, as well as their expectations and needs. On the other hand, it's difficult to come up with something truly different, simply because overlaps and isometries can be found between any two systems you care to name. It makes it nearly impossible to contrast two societal circumstances (in purely aesthetic terms) because you can always find a level of abstraction on which to make apples-to-apples comparisons.

I try to write Equestria as being a truly different world created and populated by sapient horses, with a milieu and culture that reflects that different developmental history, but there's only so far you can go, simply because of the physical requirements of being a living creature, taking in energy and excreting higher-entropy energy. One of the things I'm trying to explore in my writing on this site (and in my visual art in my career) is how thoroughly our psychology is determined by our physical circumstances (just think of how being on a rotating planet has affected us), and how those physical circumstances are determined by laws that stretch across the universe—In other words, I think there are far tighter constraints than cultivatedly humble speculation might lead you to believe on the ways in which creation will find itself to be subjectively aware, which is something the field of atrobiology has lately come around to thinking as well. The ancient playwright Terence said "I am human; nothing human is foreign to me," and I think that should be updated to reflect that such anti-parochialism doesn't stop, appropriately enough, at merely the human, nor even the animate: Terence was a physical system of quantum waves as surely as he was a Roman—As Sagan would have told him, the stars are in his very bones—And to label the alien as irreconcilably different from the human is just the mirror image of pre-Copernican human uniqueness.

Side note: I try to do blue and orange morality, as it were, with my dragons as well as with my AI's.

And I think you did a damn fine job (OaAitEK is a grand story), though to me their motivation and psychology still seemed thoroughly human: what I saw from the AIs was a basic desire to hold onto power combined with a "Clash of the Titans"-like competition over "worshippers," i.e. plain old mammalian status hierarchies.

The only morality I've ever encountered in a story I thought was truly different was the H.P. Lovecraft/Aleister Crowley "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" kind of anti-morality. And that's fine for inanimate objects, but sentient beings really do fare better when they cooperate. That's why living creatures go and make shows with names like "Friendship is Magic," let alone just display all-consuming curiosity about one another. In a Richard Dawkins/Leslie Orgel sense, I think this does in fact auger for a kind of universal, meta-objective morality based on the game-theoretic dynamics of interacting agents and their relative preferences, which would make truly alien morality a kind of chimera—Easy to conceptualize in the abstract, but with no physically realizable means of becoming that way. In that vein, I often wonder if people throughout the universe dream of the same kinds of monsters, simply because they're what we all deem strange and alien. I certainly do think the first aliens we encounter will be more like us than not, simply because we had the same ideas about where to look.

I really do wish we here in the West had better access to the Russian scifi writers of yesteryear. There's a lot of excellent stuff that still remains untranslated. Lem is one of the few that's broken through the iron curtain, even now.

Solaris was brilliant. I especially appreciated Lem himself saying he didn't care for the film adaptations because they focused on the human element instead of the conceptual—He said something like "It's supposed to be about the incomprehensibly alien. Otherwise I'd have just called it 'Love in Space.'" But even then, the interface between the Sea's neutrino holograms and human wishes and suppressed desires speaks of common ground when it comes to the notion of "will." But as much as I think notions of alien unapproachability are bad metaphysics, Solaris is the closest I've come to seeing a believable example, though it's easy to stipulate things like the asymmetriads that we simply aren't yet clever enough to see slot into the larger universe just as easily as what we're already familiar with.

Have you ever read Roadside Picnic? There's apparently a new translation out that restores the original ending, instead of the happy one the Soviet censors made them tack on ("No, the anti-capitalist stuff is great, we're just worried it might scare children!"). It's kind of silly in places (goo that makes people's bones vanish? You told the censors this isn't a kids' book) but is a very good take on unapproachable alien-ness as well as creepy levels of technology that really do seem like magic, with aliens so powerful they can leave behind as useless trash a sphere that grants wishes.

But again, even here, ironically, the whole thrust of the story is in finding out these aliens are doing something to which humans can easily relate (Leaving a bunch of trash behind at a rest stop), making it ultimately not that alien at all.
But it's only to be expected for products of the same reality; I don't think we'll ever discover anything truly alien, any more than we'll discover other planets that are cubes and tetrahedrons instead of spheres.

I think Stoss misses something very, very important in his post. The difference between 1914 and 2014 is vast precisely because our society has vastly shifted in the last century because of technological breakthroughs. Take that same theoretical time traveler between 1401 and 1501, for example, and the differences will not be all that great.

The thing he discounts is that a lot of science fiction authors, especially of the space opera variety, count on a much slower cultural shift due to a human diaspora into the stars and a slowing of cultural trend changes due to the realtime lag of of a society that communicates at interstellar distances. Viral videos and rapid social change on a whole are not things that happen when a simple SYN/ACK transmission to the next planet over operates at the speed of hand delivery by whatever courier ship is passing next.

CJ Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe is probably the best illustration of this I've yet seen.

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it seems like it'd be harder not to write that way, simply because in your day to day life you have to navigate how your local circumstances shape the behaviors of those around you, as well as their expectations and needs. On the other hand, it's difficult to come up with something truly different, simply because overlaps and isometries can be found between any two systems you care to name.

The really difficult bit was writing this subtly different (Strikingly in some places) society, but not have it be weird to the occupants. I can see why a lot of authors take an easier route, not only for themselves but their readers.

I try to write Equestria as being a truly different world created and populated by sapient horses, with a milieu and culture that reflects that different developmental history,

Me too - for example, most of them don't have hands, which means a lot of helping each other is the normal way to go - unicorn magic notwithstanding. It's little things like that that make a world come alive when you read it.

One of the things I'm trying to explore in my writing on this site (and in my visual art in my career) is how thoroughly our psychology is determined by our physical circumstances (just think of how being on a rotating planet has affected us), and how those physical circumstances are determined by laws that stretch across the universe

That's really thinking outside the box! Good luck with it, it's hard to pull off!

The only morality I've ever encountered in a story I thought was truly different was the H.P. Lovecraft/Aleister Crowley "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" kind of anti-morality.

That's actually pretty standard left hand path morality, otherwise known as matter over mind. It's the libertine type of stance, very easy to use as directly evil, but in many cases doesn't have to be. Shallower works just paint it as evil because it's easier, but anarchy doesn't have to be bad. It just ends up that way because most people who call themselves anarchists are really just abolitionists who revel in tearing down, and who'd be the first to call for it to stop when their own positions grew untenable.

sentient beings really do fare better when they cooperate. That's why living creatures go and make shows with names like "Friendship is Magic," let alone just display all-consuming curiosity about one another. In a Richard Dawkins/Leslie Orgel sense, I think this does in fact auger for a kind of universal, meta-objective morality based on the game-theoretic dynamics of interacting agents and their relative preferences, which would make truly alien morality a kind of chimera

Just read any leftist screed for how cooperation sounds good in theory, but how so often it doesn't work in practice... humanity when in a state of scarcity finds it hard to control those impulses to look after primarily their own direct dependents, but as soon as you take scarcity away (or build a society where moral strictures are adhered to about caring for others), then you can find an entirely odd type of civilisation.

Have you ever read Roadside Picnic? There's apparently a new translation out that restores the original ending, instead of the happy one the Soviet censors made them tack on

Never, I shall hunt it down!

I don't think we'll ever discover anything truly alien, any more than we'll discover other planets that are cubes and tetrahedrons instead of spheres.

Not until or unless we break that lightspeed limit, or progress far enough that slowtime is accessible, and we become that odd, swarming society that stumbles its way across the galaxy.

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I'm not sure I agree. Between 1814 and 1914 came industrialized farming, the industrial revolution, electricity and modern medicine and manned flight... the changes seem smaller to us, but I'm not sure they were so insignificant to those who went through it.

the biggest problem Stross misses is that the reader has to feel comfortable enough to suspend their disbelief. If you've got a truly odd world, more than likely a reader will not put up with it for the length of a hefty novel. It's why a lot of older, more exploratory speculative fiction is short.

Not that being lazy should be forgiven...

Writing a compelling story is hard enough. Writing a compelling story about characters whose interests and culture are completely alien is a double-black-diamond writing challenge.

I've dropped more than one story because I couldn't keep track of all the made-up concepts the author was throwing around. I'm of the opinion that the best stories are written around plot and character. I love it when science fiction can get me thinking about an interesting idea, but plot and character must remain central or the story becomes dull.

The grand masters of science fiction have produced some unforgettable works, but I would caution fledgling authors (which most of us are, around here) against writing stories in universes too dissimilar from our own. Remember: the stranger the setting and characters are, the harder you have to work to keep them relevant to your readers.

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