August 1, 2012 — 322 words
By 1889 Labs
The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth blog tour is off to a great start this week, making our way around the interwebs with some great excerpts, interviews, and guest posts. Stay tuned this week for some exclusive podcasts by Jim Zoetewey himself as he reads from Legion of Nothing: Rebirth!
Psst! Want the rundown on the blog tour and giveaway? Click here!
Missed our last couple stops? Here they are:
Leave a comment on each to gain another entry into our big prize giveaway!
The lovely Brenda over at Crazy Four Books is hosting another exciting excerpt of LON: Rebirth today. Get introduced to Nick, Cassie, and the rest of the team and get a taste of what you're missing!
Leave a comment to gain an entry into the prize raffle!
We've got a brand new kindle to give away, and we're making it easy for you! Comment on the blog tour posts, like us on facebook, and sign up for Jim's Legion of Nothing newsletter to get more entries! Mmmmm, kindle. I love the smell of ebook in the morning.
July 29, 2012 — 377 words
By 1889 Labs
We wanted to send off Jim Zoetewey's first title with 1889 Labs in style- what better way to do it than with an awesome blog tour and FREE STUFF? We like free stuff, and we think you do too! We also think you're going to love The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth in all of its YA Superhero glory.
You can grab The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth from amazon here!
We kick off this tour with a great guest post by author Jim Zoetewey over at Book Monster Reviews! Read about Jim's journey from webfiction to the publishing world and the beginnings of The Legion of Nothing!
Leave a comment to gain an entry into the prize raffle!
What can you win? How does a kindle sound? Here's the rundown:
Grand prize: Kindle + e-copy of LON for kindle
2nd: Hard copy of LON, LON tshirt
3rd: e-book bundle of LON and the Antithesis by Terra Whiteman (5 gift packs)
Readers can get multiple entries into the raffle, and here's how:
Wheeee! Come join us for the next month as we make our way around the interwebs with some of our favourite book bloggers!
July 28, 2012 — 1,259 words
By M Jones
"Don't fucking swear!"
I remember those words well. They were spoken by my very frustrated aunt during a car ride to Nova Scotia. My cousin had been acting up the entire trip, and he'd decided to throw a few expletives at his tormented younger cousin (me) who had kicked him in the knee in retaliation to his usual torment. This was way before the creation of Nintendo and other portable gaming devices, the long trip broken up with invisible ink activity pads and plastic bubbles with puzzles trapped inside of them, the silver ball bearings never finding their way into the proper holes. Transister radios never came with headphone jacks. There was only so long you could peel the stickers off of your Rubik's Cube before someone inevitably started a game of Punch Buggy which left your arm bruised and a few choice words on the tip of your tongue for your pimple faced cousin. But you never said them because you knew the rules. 'Don't fucking swear'. Your aunt, with the curlers in her hair hidden underneath a pink scarf and a miserable, screaming baby in her lap didn't need to look at you twice. You knew the score.
But your stupid cousin never learned. By the time you got the 112th PUNCH BUGGY! from his fist, it didn't matter that there was a five year difference between the two of you or that he was bigger. He was stupid and you had sneakers on. A good kick to the knee as hard as you could left him near bawling, and before he could control himself and start tattling on you, the swear words had poured out, and your aunt had enough. Hell, your uncle was threatening to pull the car over to the side of the road. Chaos reigned, and it rode topside along the letter 'f' and slid furiously down the final stroke of the letter 'k'. Vindication for the oppressed was inevitable. Threats of getting his mouth washed out with soap were tossed into the back seat. My uncle said something unintelligble and my aunt retaliated with a few curses all her own. My cousin hated me, I hated him. The baby kept crying. All was right with the world.
I grew up knowing that no matter what my elders tried to make me believe, cursing does have its place. It's an aural exclamation point. If someone has just shattered your kneecap, 'gosh darn' isn't going to be the phrase you use. Cursing is a severe emotional release put to words. Its meaning can be interpreted as shock, distress, surprise, joy. Cursing is culturally defined, with some of these representative words coming from religion, body parts, turtle eggs, with the one we most commonly understand not having any real linguistic root whatsoever. My personal favourite is a French curse word, its vulgarity based on the mostly Catholic population of Quebec. Cursing in that province evolved from blasphemes against specific holy items within the church. When it was explained to a friend of mine that one of the most severe swear words in French is what holds the little cubes of bread for communion, my friend exclaimed, confused "You're shouting 'bread-box' at me?"
It was fun to shout 'Bread-Box!' every time we thought it was vaguely appropriate, but when I stapled my thumb to my desk I admit, I reverted back to my native language. Bread-Box is the perfect word in that situation for my dear French Canadian friend, but it wasn't going to cut it for me.
Cursing doesn't just define culture, it also defines one's social standing. I knew a routine swearer who let the f-bombs fly so fast and furious she couldn't wish you a good morning without it being littered with curses. Many people who worked with her looked down on her for it, which wasn't fair because she was an intelligent woman, but the long string of curses made those in the office look down their pince-nez glasses and categorize her with extreme prejudice. She talks like she just walked out of a trailer park, they said. She wasn't of their upper echelon who didn't swear every four seconds. She was low class. Yet, as I've said, given the circumstance, everyone is more than willing to give a big hug to the f-word for consoling when trouble arises. I'm betting the Queen Herself has a few words tucked into her subconscious that are released at will should a Louis IV dresser fall on her big toe. Cursing is all about feeling. Perhaps my friend had a very stressful life that deserved an f-word every four seconds. She was always a very happy person despite all of that angry language. I'm guessing if she didn't have cursing as an outlet she might have become a serial killer. I would much prefer a "Good fucking morning. How the fuck are ya?" to a machete wielding maniac with perfect formal diction.
In that car, travelling through the summer heat where A&W burgers were force fed to us and my red faced uncle looked ready to have a stroke at any moment, cursing was a signal that we, the kids, were on a lesser notch on that totem pole and we'd better tow the line or else. Only the priviledged adult was allowed to swear. Now, I'm not saying my aunt was a routine swearer. She wasn't. But emotions get the best of all of us, and it's good to remember this when writing dialogue, because when a character is pressed against the wall with a dozen or so rabid crocodiles with lasers ready to set their knickers on fire, I truly believe it wouldn't matter if they were an imam or a nun, a curse word is going to be uttered. This doesn't mean all your characters need to be foul mouthed to be realistic, but the language they use should reflect the emotions they are feeling in that particular, adrenaline punched scene. If those rabid crocodiles take a good chunk out of your protagonist and all he or she utters is 'Gosh!' in response, you don't have the emotional impact that a well placed curse provides. Instead, you have characters who sound like Napoleon Dynamite, which might not be what you're going for in your hard boiled detective thriller complete with ninjas and zombies.
To curse is to be human. How a person curses and when they do says a lot about who they are as people, their cultural background and what others believe of them. Use cursing to your advantage when creating realistic dialogue among characters. Despite all prudish naysaying and the fact you still can't say a lot of George Carlin's banned words list on TV, cursing has its place in the human experience. In my uncle's car it was an unspoken agreement that a taut line had been drawn and we were to remain quiet and no longer try to snap it. My cousin and I did as we were told, and through the relentless remaining hours on the road we had forgiven each other and had forged a truce. With my cousin on the left, and myself on the right, middle fingers were secretly raised to every car that passed ours, shocked faces and outraged honking horns greeting us. My uncle thought the highway drivers just outside of Montreal were a bunch of crazy so and so's. My cousin and I exchanged glances and shrugged.
Cursing in sign language wasn't yet a crime.
July 26, 2012 — 1,305 words
By Letitia Coyne
One of the problems I come back to often in reading new fiction, especially DIY fiction, is genre.
Every book contains elements of several genres; some go together more naturally than others. But if you seriously want to write blended genres you had better know the important marks you will need to hit. A science fiction epic that has a romantic thread is not a blend of genres, it is a sci-fi epic in which the main characters develop a romantic attachment. In order to be blended genres, the romance has to be as important to the story as the science on which the story is based. Likewise, history and fantasy often go hand in hand, but if the historical details have no basis in fact, what you have is a fantasy set in an alternative history.
I read authors promoting their work and struggling with the blurred lines between genres, looking for familiar labels with which to help their audience find their work. It isn’t easy, but it should be easier than it is proving to be. Authors are ignoring the importance of reader expectation, and the importance of their own brand-power, by failing to curb their enthusiasm.
If you were writing for a publisher, they would give you nice clear guidelines which they like met and which their audience has come to expect. Along with a word count, they will give you a framework of elements that are recognized by their readers. Those elements are usually the reason readers choose that genre. They require certain things of a story in order to feel satisfied with what they have read.
If you try to write a story which is impossible to classify because it does not meet the requirements of any one genre, but mixes a whole pile of elements into a porridge, you may well find there is no label and no audience looking for what you have produced. The idea of blended genres is very popular with readers – as long as the important parts of each thread are there and satisfying, and they are getting more than they expect and not less.
What are the markers?
I hope you would choose to write what you enjoy reading, that is one of the few rules for writing that I think is well founded. If you love a type of story, you are likely to know instinctively what is important in your tale. If you are going to blend genres, try to blend genres you know. Some are a good deal easier to define than others. If in doubt, find a publisher of your chosen genre and read their guidelines. As an independent you don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do, but it can pay to take some proven advice. For example:
Know your world. Readers will not tolerate shifting parameters, and even if the rules of the real world are broken, the rules you establish for your fantasy realm have to be consistent. The landscape, geography, and weather should be familiar to you and stable. Characters have to be fantastic in some way. Stereotypes are common in fantasy, it’s true, but in my opinion, only fantasies in their lowest form use duck-out-of-water normal main characters thrust into a fantastic world, these days, or a Deus ex machina magical solution to any problem.
Define, and ensure you know, the history of the world you create. It is not sufficient to use a vaguely fantastic world unless the fantasy aspect is only window dressing for the storyline. That is, unless you are aware that you are not writing a blended fantasy genre.
Know your subgenres and do not mix and match elements without knowing your subject. Subgenres of fantasy include alternate history, urban, dark, high, historical, steampunk, wuxia, sword and sorcery, time travel, and the paranormal. Fantasy should be based on heroes, myths and legend, folklore, fairy tales, and magic.
A bit of magic in an otherwise real world setting is not sufficient to wear the badge.
A romance has a happy-ever-after ending. There are no exceptions. If you choose to have a story which does not end happily, as well you might, it does not fit the romance genre label. Before you reach the happy resolution, some other key points you must recognize are pace, conflict - internal and external, and intensity.
These have to be key drivers of the story and key motivators of the characters. If this is a side-issue and only part of the general ambience, it will not qualify as a blended romance. The central characters should meet and clash as close to page one as possible, and an intense love or hate emotional reaction at each meeting is essential. Adding a rocky relationship to a storyline does not make it a romance. Adding a subplot or setting to a romance does not make it a blended genre, it makes it a subgenre: historical, contemporary, gay and lesbian, mystery, ethnic/multicultural, inspirational romance, paranormal etc.
These should be set in the Old West before the year 1900. As a very specialized form of historical novel, it is essential to get the details accurate. Again, internal and external conflict for the main character is essential and these stories more than most rely on the need for character development: the hero should change and grow as a result of physical and moral conflict. It is not sufficient to drop a clichéd cowboy with a gun into any other realm and still use the Western genre label.
Details, details, details; first, second and third, they are all that matter in this genre. You cannot use anachronisms in thought, attitudes, deeds or accessories. Set the stage carefully and accurately, be it cane or chair or hats or devices. Your historical characters cannot wear clothing or use products that weren’t contemporary. Pay attention to details like social customs, holidays, transportation, and food, and make sure they are relevant to the period. Research, research, research; if it comes off the top of your head it probably has the detail, detail, detail wrong, and you are not blending a historical genre, you are creating an alternative history for another genre altogether.
I won’t go on with the thirty or more genres; maybe another day. It suffices to say that you have to know what reward a reader is hoping for when they search out a particular genre. All genre labels are definitions created to help direct traffic; each carries with it an expectation. If you do not know, if you cannot list the important points in the genre you choose to write, research the question. Go to publishers’ guidelines. Google it, if nothing else. Then take care when you decide to label your work.
It is of no use to anyone in the modern marketplace to draw a mass of readers to your work if they are disappointed with what they find; not because it was a poorly written story, but because it was not something they derived their expected enjoyment from. Use the familiarity of these labels to your advantage rather than railing against them.
Know your readers and what they love. Treat them with the respect due to intelligent consumers. Knowing what a genre actually is before you label your work is not curbing your artistic expression, it is giving your readers a better chance of finding what you’ve created.
Oh – and one last thing. Don’t add in things which are not acceptable to your chosen demographic. Don’t write an inspirational/Christian story full of explicit sex and violence, for example. When you find an audience, don’t offend them in the hope of drawing in another audience who might not exist.
July 23, 2012 — 314 words
By A.M. Harte
After weeks of waiting, of editing, of rewriting and of cover-image-deciding, it's finally here.
The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth is as of today available on the Kindle!
We at 1889 are so excited to be publishing this superhero series by Jim Zoetewey. It's a kickass, action-packed story which will blow all the current soppy YA novels out of the water. And if, like me, you've just seen The Dark Knight Rises in the cinema, this will give you more superhero goodness to get excited about.
The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth is the first volume of the series. It's a coming-of-age story about Nick Klein, a teenager who has inherited his grandfather’s superhero identity and powered armor.
But with power comes responsibility, for Nick has also inherited his grandfather’s unfinished business. Between homework, corrupted politicians, teenage relationships and supervillains, Nick struggles to solve the city’s corruption--before it solves him.
What are you waiting for? Grab it from the Kindle store now!
For those of you hungry for other e-editions or a lovely paperback version, hold your breath a little longer. They're coming soon!
Don't forget to stop by here on July 27 for the launch of our month-long blog tour for The Legion of Nothing! Prizes up for grabs include limited-edition tshirts, ebooks and print books and, of course, a KINDLE!
(If you're a book blogger and would like to take part in the tour, read this.)
July 21, 2012 — 708 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
I first heard about Web Serial Writing Month (or WeSeWriMo) in the summer of 2011. At the time, I was toying with the idea of writing a web serial of some sort, but I wasn't ready to really start working on one, so I filed the concept away in the back of my mind and went on with my life, which at that point involved writing a few short stories and working on the beginnings of a novel.
Little did I know that one year later, I would have just completed a six-month-long serial called Losing Freight and be about 70 updates and 75,000 words deep into another ongoing project called Special People. With those two serials on my writing résumé, and a handful of other concepts floating around somewhere in the inky depths of my brain, waiting to be dredged up at some point in the unspecified future, it's like WeSeWriMo was purposefully designed for me.
Maybe it's meant for you, too.
WeSeWriMo, which is run by the web serial community site EpiGuide, runs annually during the month of August. This will be its sixth straight year. WeSeWriMo was inspired by the ever-popular National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But where NaNoWriMo challenges authors to complete a 50,000-word novel in a single month, WeSeWriMo is designed to be adaptable to the unique challenges and opportunities of web serialization. Just as web serials come in a wide variety of formats, genres, and release schedules, the goals WeSeWriMo participants can pursue are entirely customizable. The idea is that each participant can set their own targets, based on their regular output. The WeSeWriMo website suggests aiming for 150% of your regular output as an example target, so if you're used to releasing 4 episodes of your series in a month, try to write 6 episodes, instead, and add them to your backlog. Another goal could be to write 1,000 words per day for the entire month, or you could come up with something completely different to try for, as long as your target is "ambitious yet realistic".
In my own case, I've decided to set a couple of different types of targets. I normally write and post two 1,000-word chapters per week for Special People, but in my official registration post on the EpiGuide forums, I laid out the following three goals:
Goal #1: Write 15 chapters (15,000 words)
Goal #2: Outline the next story arc.
Goal #3: Prepare the first Special People book for release.
The first goal is my "normal" goal. Instead of what would be my regular output of 8 or 9 chapters for August, I want to write 15 chapters and build a good backlog. But I also want to prepare the next story arc to come, because I've found that, for me, the more outlining and pre-planning I do for my writing, the better my stories turn out. It can be difficult to force myself to sit down and be intentional about outlining, though, so I'm making that part of my personal challenge for WeSeWriMo. Finally, it's been my plan for months to release ebook and print versions of the larger Special People story arcs as I complete them, so I'm adding that to my WeSeWriMo to-do list.
As you can see, my targets are designed around my own writing style, format, and release schedule. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to be creative with my goals and have control over my own participation. Having control over my own work is one of the main reasons why I love serializing my writing, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. If you're like me, I think you'll find the idea of WeSeWriMo very appealing.
To register yourself for WeSeWriMo, formalize your targets, and get involved in the community of web serial writers and producers, head over to the website and post your entry in the EpiGuide forums today!
July 19, 2012 — 1,324 words
By Letitia Coyne
I was ready to write about reviewers and the need to balance literary markers in a story against the specific guidelines that define a genre, so a meaningful review is more than just ‘I liked this book’ or not. Seeing ‘this was a romance and I hate romance so I gave it two stars’ bugs me.
But while I was looking at reviews, I found a one star review of the series of books popularly known as ‘mommy porn’ and I got sidetracked. You will find the review virally all over the social media networks or at Goodreads if you want to search for it. It’s detailed and funny and a bit crass, with lots of moving pictures – [praise be the free use of images on the net. If anyone is watching film copyright, that review is packing an invoice for thousands of dollars in use and breach.] I’m not going to link to it and I’ll tell you why.
Since I intend to leave the uber-popular series unnamed, no press is bad press, I’ll leave it to your imagination and when I need an example I’ll drag out poor Stephenie Meyer and use her fine work.
I read an interesting article about the books being a catalyst for discussion on the role of pain in the modern world, but in truth, I have not seen such meaningful subjects drawn from its pages. I have seen a replay of the Twilight rants, with basically two sides: one - I love it, it’s hot; and the other - boo, hiss, crap, badly written etc.
The only time I have heard anyone try to determine why it has swept the world was a brief rant in New Statesman on the theory that it is criticised because it is porn, porn for women of a certain age, and mums aren’t supposed to read porn. All porn is badly written, it is argued, so what? This is titillation and fun for the taboo read – especially in ebooks where no one can see the cover.
I can’t agree with that. The digital fiction world is filled to brimming with erotica of all kinds, much of it written by authors who know the genre and who understand the specifics and appeal of various fetishes. Even the simple category romances on supermarket shelves, usually the ones with scarlet on the covers, are racy to a greater or lesser degree. Romance, especially erotic romance, has always sold well. Rarely however, do we see a single title raised across all marketing divides to claim the world’s, read media’s, attention.
When Twilight was released, as I have pointed out before, it emerged in a flood of positive press and raving reviews in newspapers and journals of repute. It had been established as the must-read before it began to draw the fierce criticisms it is now so well known for. Once those criticisms began, rather than losing impetus, the Twilight saga flared brighter by the day, with negative press only serving to fuel the fires. In a short space of time readers were given to believe they were the only living soul who had not read the books, and consequently were unable to join the debates on its merits or otherwise.
Readers of any publishing phenomenon must fall into two categories: those who have read and those who have not read. Have not read is no barrier to criticism and comment in today’s free range broadcast arenas. Those who have will have formed their own opinion and will, honestly or not, discuss that with their groups depending on what they consider to be the consensus. Those who have not will fall into three other categories. Those who want to read, those who will not read, and those who might but are undecided. Those who want to read have already been affected by the raging hype, those who will not have also been affected, and both groups will only read reviews to ensure they are supported by like minded individuals.
The undecideds are the only group who matter. They are as likely to be moved to read by negative hype as by positive. Many will say, ‘I have to read this for myself to know how I feel’ rather than being put off by savage attacks. Multiple one star reviews on Joe Blog’s latest KDP epic are likely to have him languish unread, but once the tinder is lit under these huge marketing locomotives, no press is bad press. Once the spark has made them viral and they are ripping up the internet chat sites and forums and facebook and G+ and youtube etc, every word about them stokes the blaze.
The brilliant one star review I mentioned first will not deter many at all. It might well prompt a whole group of will not reads to join the ranks of the have reads if only to see if it really is that bad.
The goal is to have everyone feel like they must be involved in the discussion. Virality and the need to be involved are not rare. Everyone knows the sneezing panda, the cynical kid, and the Boromir ‘one does not simply …’ memes. But these are 24hr fevers. They flash up, run amok, and disappear. They have no fuel under them.
Twilight emerged from a vast pool of supernatural romance which began, if I recall, with Silhouette Shadows and its like in about 1992. It was by no means unique; neither did it bring any literary excellence, nor did it bring any more adolescent angst than many other books, nor did it draw on any fabulous sensual tension. It was not outstanding in any way. Neither is this newly phenomenal title outstanding among erotica titles.
It is often pointed out that our failing education system and declining literacy is to blame, especially when our less literate YAs are consuming an enormous amount of written material from sites like Wattpad. Young people on the net are reading and writing more, if not correctly, than ever before and they no longer recognise quality, it is said. More importantly, however, our education system has failed to teach us all to think critically about and to question what is driving our thoughts and reactions.
Why do we keep trudging around the millwheel of arguments about the merits of these phenomena instead of asking why, or who decides which books, bands, movies, etc will get the big splash of gold?
The unnamed series appears to me to be a marketer's ideal – as if someone in sales said, erotica is popular, [just as they once said, YA supernatural romance is popular] – and they looked for an author to fit. MMF, LGBT and BDSM are the most popular erotica subjects out there now, and BDSM is least likely to alienate any part of the market. Rape fantasy is still considered, rightly or wrongly, to be the number one female erotic fantasy. If their chosen author did not know anything about erotica or BDSM or narcissism or misogyny, well, who’ll care? Marketers do not know about them either; it's about shifting units and mass market manipulation, not literature. If the author knows nothing about literary techniques and 101 rules for writing, again, who’ll care?
In the end, no one.
Because the more people talk about the title, and argue and ridicule or rave about and recommend, the more they willingly do the work of an army of Mad Men. And no doubt those Mad Men have Google stats to monitor just how often the title is mentioned out here in the ether.
July 18, 2012 — 383 words
By 1889 Labs
Looking for an exciting blog tour to join? I thought you were! Well aren't you just in luck? Our upcoming YA Superhero fiction release, Legion of Nothing: Rebirth by Jim Zoetewey is being released at the end of July, and we're looking for some great blog tour hosts to send off LON with a bang throughout the month of August!
Here's a short blurb:
“You may kill somebody today. We won’t think anything less of you for it.”
Nick Klein’s grandfather was the Rocket.
For three decades, the Rocket and his team were the Heroes League–a team of superheroes who fought criminals in the years after World War II.
But Nick and his friends have inherited more than their grandparents’ costumes and underground headquarters… they’ve inherited the League’s enemies and unfinished business.
In the 1960′s, Red Lightning betrayed everyone, creating an army of supervillains and years of chaos. The League never found out why.
Now, Nick and the New Heroes League will have no choice but to confront their past.
We have been working closely with Jim to bring his popular webfiction series to new audiences, and keep at the forefont of independent, quality fiction for print and web alike.
Of course, as this is a blog tour, there are prizes:
Grand prize: Kindle + e-copy of LON for kindle
2nd: Hard copy of LON, LON tshirt
3rd: e-book bundle of LON and the Antithesis by Terra Whiteman (3-5 gift packs)
The above is in addition to the prize they can win on your post, if you choose to run a giveaway.
We hope you'll come join us because this blog tour is going to be awesome! Contact our lovely assistant Merissa to join us and get more details! (She also does magic tricks).
Check out the Legion of Nothing teaser page just over here.
July 17, 2012 — 748 words
By Greg X. Graves
Are you familiar with rubies? The famous gemstone? They can be big or small, pale pink or deep crimson. They can be tiny pebbles or thick, coagulated droplets of the Earth's blood. Imagine one the color of the setting sun, as big as that blazing disc as it shines through a cocoon of smog. You're not supposed to stare directly at the Sun. It will destroy your vision. But never will you see a more beautiful sight, and so you take the risk. The color dazzles the eye, mesmerizes the brain. An extraterrestrial ember glows in the sky every night.
That's the color of my shoulders after a vigorous sunburn.
I spent a long weekend at a rural lake cabin and the aforementioned sunburn was achieved during a rather spirited game of Water Toss with a lemon that we found floating in the water.
I also spent time in the lake floating around. And while I floated around on my back, listening to the snapping of tiger muskies, I let my mind drift.
Letting my mind drift isn't a good idea if I have any deadlines that day. When my mind drifts its the kind of drift where you're driving sideways and all you hear is tires squealing and smell burning rubber as you try to get your mind back on track. It takes a lot of skill and bravery to see the drift through to its conclusion. But when I'm on vacation its like my brain has hit the mental salt flats. It can go for miles with nothing to stop it.
It took a lot of photons, traveling very long distances, to scorch my shoulders. Those photons carried the fury of the Sun all the way to Earth.. But they also carried information, like how fiber optic cables carry information in packets of photons. The difference lies in the precision. Hyper intelligent engineers, upon whom modern society depends, calibrate fiber optic systems to extremely precise parameters. Without that precision, receivers could not decode the pulses of light careening down the glass cables.
Photons from the Sun also carry information: information about the state of the nuclear fusion going on inside the Sun. It's all noise to us, like a firehose aimed at a teacup. No signal can be found in the chaotic stream of radiation bombarding the surface of the Earth. But if we could re-cast ourselves as gods who happened to be nuclear physicists and who tired of making baby demigods with muscular farmhands, we could infer the state of the Sun from the radiation arriving at our little planet.
Sort of like listening to an oncoming storm and hearing, behind the thunder and wind, the flapping of a butterfly's wings.
The red splotches on my shoulders make it look like I got in a fight with a bottle of cranberry juice and lost, but they represent all of the solar information that hit my body. From fusion reaction to photon to skin to swearing to aloe vera.
The only connection that I comprehend between my burning shoulders and the Sun is a gross sense of cause and effect: the Sun has very powerful radiation, even from 93 million miles away. But if I were a god? I could trace the impact of each photon, its birth and death and its ancestry within the solar crucible.
A brilliant book is the Sun.
It shines with unrestrained ferocity. You only receive a fraction of its output because every story signifies different things to different people. A woman in her nineties who spent her youth in Europe the 1940s will experience Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon differently than I will, who spent my youth with my nose pressed up against a cathode ray tube. The book doesn't change. The source is the same for every reader but the impact varies. And while you can attribute the biggest ideas and the broadest themes to a book as soon as you put it down, the deeper impacts matter more; they're the ones that wrinkle your brain like the Sun will eventually wrinkle my skin. They penetrate so deeply that years will pass before their effects become apparent.
Likewise, some books scorch us like a cloudy day spent beneath an umbrella in winter, but we don't make those kinds of books at 1889 Labs.
July 14, 2012 — 455 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The number was so big Tic had to whisper it aloud. "A billion?"
The curator nodded eagerly. "Here, bring me that PAI."
Tic said, "Wait, Milly..." A BILLION!? "Okay, do it."
Two seconds later the transfer was complete.
"So many zeroes..." Tic shook his head in disbelief.
"Thirty seconds until jettison," intoned the battleship's AI.
"Urgh!" said Tic. He threw the third parachute at the curator's feet. "Milly, give me a hand."
"Just a second." Milly's voice trembled, and Tic saw her raise the blaster.
"Stop!" Tic smacked the blaster away just before she fired. "Don't make a liar out of me!" He grabbed the blaster. "Let's go." Tic grabbed Overard's gurney and rolled it down the hallway, towards the hole the acid had carved through the ship, as the curator scrambled into the third parachute.
Milly outpaced Tic and dove into the hole, disappearing through the clouds.
Tic dropped the blaster and lifted Overard. He was lighter than Tic had expected. "Hold on tight, kid," he whispered, and jumped.
They cleared the hull and Tic intertwined his and Overard's legs, wrapping the two of them as tightly together as he could. He pulled the parachute cord.
The jolt jarred one leg free, and Overard slipped by six inches, but Tic's elbows caught under Overard's shoulders and he squeezed together so hard that he heard a rib crack. He readjusted his legs. Now, he thought, can I hold him all the way to the ground?
A flash of yellow and red, accompanied by a roaring BOOM, drew his attention upwards. The battleship's lower levels were falling free as the reactors exploded. A descending speck disconnected from the battleship's silhouette: the curator.
Behind him came Libden. Tic watched in horror as she clawed after the curator, flailing with her handcuffed arms. She caught him and latched on, and Tic heard her scream as the two figures vanished into the clouds.
It wasn't over yet: the battleship's jettisoned lower half was falling fast, and Tic and Overard were directly in its path. Tic tried to aim the parachute, but he couldn't maneuver, not without letting Overard go. He roared in frustration and released his grip—
—just as he slammed down on a hard surface. Multiple furry hands grabbed him and threw both him and Overard clear of the edge.
"Close it and go, Pelly!" he heard. That voice belonged to...
"Gotcha," grinned Haglyn, as the Pelican raised its ramp and boosted out of harm's way. "We caught Milly, too. She says we're rich!"
Tic caught his breath. "Uuuuuuurgh," he said. "You mean I have to share?"