Reflections on fantasy, SF, writing, music, technology, life…

Oppressed Majority

This post moves outside my usual focus on writing, particularly SF and fantasy. However, there is a linkage I want to make in the imagining of a matriarchal society the video below does what SF does best. It turns the tables on conventional thinking by making modern-day France a matriarchal society and looking at a man in that society experiencing the sort of harrassment that happens daily to women in Western countries.

I first came across it in this Guardian article, Oppressed Majority: the film about a world run by women that went viral, which is worth reading in itself.

This short film (around 11 minutes) is worth watching both from the perspective of challenging thinking in our present-day society and also, for writers, to provoke thought about the types of gender stereotypes we introduce around our characters.

Updated 15 Feb:
A Guardian “Comment is Free” article responded to the film with the opinion Feminism can save France from Islam: that’s the real message of Majorité Opprimée. I disagree that its focus is on Islam, that is just one aspect. Much more it is about reversing male and female roles to point out how we make assumptions and stereotype.

So now we have ‘book trailers’

I never thought I would see a book trailer but this one – brought to my attention courtesy of the OWW Forum – is a hoot. It publicises a collection of short stories by B J Novak, the American actor and comedian who co-produced and acted in the US version of “The Office”.

I love the way this short video pokes fun at the French literary scene. Living in France a lot of the time I have felt embarrassed by the looks I have have received when I have been asked what I do and have responded “I write science fiction”. (Imagine a somewhat similar stare to the look one might receive in the UK to saying “I write hardcore pornography”.)

Sherlock meets Doctor Who

Having thoroughly enjoyed the start of the new Sherlock series on New year’s Day, I was intrigued by the article in the Guardian about how Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, writers for both Sherlock and Doctor Who, need to beware of catering too much for the obsessive fan base and not for the broader audience.

I certainly enjoyed the in-jokes about the fans of Sherlock, although for me it did border on going just a bit too far.

The delight of the article though was the link to the fan mash-up video of Sherlock meeting the Doctor. Very neatly done and worth watching if you like these series.

Now Nightspore is a dot com!

Up until recently, the “” web address has been unavailable. I had been beaten to the post. However, the previous owner did not renew it so it became available. Fortunately, I was sufficiently quick off the mark to get it and am making the primary site.

Old links to should still work and I aim to keep both addresses active for this blog, at least for the time being.

First draft of novel completed in a month with NaNoWriMo

30 November and lunchtime today I wrote the final scene of the first draft of my second novel – tentatively titled “Nightspore’s Angel” – almost 55K words in one month.

Never though I could sustain 1k words a day, let alone average almost 2K and have occasional peaks of 3K and 4K. The spur, of course, was participating in NaNoWriMo.

My thanks to my NaNo buddies Jan Whitaker, Phillip McCollum and Caroline Norrington for encouragement and showing me I was regularly well behind their word count!

Caroline’s Scrivener template and the Snowflake Method it introduced me to were also invaluable.


Query letters

Over the past few days I have been at an artists and writers retreat, held at the old Quaker Meeting House in Congénies in the South of France. A very pleasant location, it has given me an opportunity to continue the preparation to write my second novel during the up-coming NaNoWriMo and to work out how to edit and revise the mess that pretends to be my first novel. However, yesterday I spent some time with another writer at the retreat looking at how to tackle query letters.

Query letters are an art-form in themselves and, especially when we have spent a significant chunk of time writing a book, we should not skimp on the preparation of the approach to sell the idea to others. One resource that proved particularly useful is the blog by the writer, JM Tohline. (It is my source for the amusing ‘how not to write a novel’ video yesterday.)

He has collated the advice and thoughts of over fifty literary agents on query letters. Those we found especially useful are:

How to Write a Novel (not)

This gem of a YouTube video has apparently been doing the rounds of New York literary agents. If you are a serious writer it will make your toes curl.

Review: “Snuff Tag 9” by Jude Hardin

This crime / thriller is the third in a series about an ex-musician turned private eye / security consultant called Nicholas Colt. I picked it up through a Kindle offer as I thought the idea intriguing: someone turns a computer survival game called “Snuff Tag 9” into a real-life challenge to survive. However, I was sadly disappointed by the end result. I am reviewing more as an analysis of why it did not work.

The story set-up is straight-forward. Nicholas Colt, the protagonist, dismisses the threat in a letter brought to him by a new client but, for the money, checks out the invitation to participate in the game (with dire threats if not accepted). He finds his client killed and himself substituted to participate. The main problem with this is that the story is told in first person from his point of view so the reader knows he will survive, dampening a lot of the effect, and being about how, not if, he will survive.

The antagonist is a bored billionaire who refers to himself as Freeze, the ultimate control character in the game. However, rather than interesting he is just a two-dimensional selfish psychopath with too much money and who never comes alive as a character, instead wavering between stereotype and caricature.

The late-entering ninth character in the game, we are told, is someone significant to at least one of the players. Given Colt is a late substitute and the weakest player in the line-up, not expected by Freeze to survive the first day, why are both candidates for the role people close to him? Because the plot needs it, I guess and strikes as lazy writing.

While Colt’s back story is well brought in for readers like me entering part-way through the series, the same points about his past are brought up several times in the story. This is another irritant with the story: the repetition is not just back story either. As one reads this novel whole paragraphs are rephrased and re-used sometimes back-to-back. To repeat the point as laboriously as the author, he says the same thing a different way without adding new information. Why? It is more lazy writing, as if Hardin is padding the story to reach a word count. Given this is professionally published novel, what happened to the editor? Given the repetition is worse and more noticeable the further one gets through the story, it is as if the editor was under time pressure and skipped or got fed up at eliminating it.

All in all, a disappointing read but it must give hope to new writers that if this can get published professionally the barriers to entry are not as high as one expected!

‘Carrie’ promo prank gives a shock with the morning coffee

Movies again. I could not pass up this promotional video for the remake of ‘Carrie’. the reactions of the genuine customers at this New York coffee shop are priceless. Not sure how I would have reacted in the same situation though.

Five tips to get more out of NaNoWriMo

The material to help writers prepare for NaNoWriMo is coming out fast and furious now. The Fantasy Faction blog provides an interesting challenge to get more out of it through using it to experiment:

    Change your default writing style
    Change genre
    Introduce more diversity
    Measure your productivity
    Aim for a proper first draft

I’m sure many writers do use NaNo to experiment, I know I am using it for the last two on the list. However, it is worth giving a bit of serious thought to what else one can do.

See their full post for more details: ‘Five Ways To Use NaNoWriMo As Your Writing R&D Department’

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