Monday, May 28, 2012

God's War Review/Writing Update


          I recently finished reading God's War by Kameron Hurley, and I have to say I'm impressed. Hurley's prose is razor sharp, and she definitely doesn't pull her punches when it comes to depicting the harsh, violent world of the far future colony Umayma, where two opposing nations, Nasheen and Chenja, wage a holy war that has lasted centuries. I picked up this book when it first came out, after reading several other novels from Night Shade, which I enjoyed, but didn't get around to reading it until now. For a first novel, this one sets the bar pretty high. 
      The future depicted here is strange, dark, and grotesquely fascinating. No shiny spaceships or chrome plated robots. All of the technology on Umayma is based on bugs. That's right, creepy crawlies. A special class of people, dubbed "magicians," can manipulate swarms of bugs, which function as everything from long-range communications to heavy artillery, using some kind of pheromone control. Even their vehicles are powered by bugs! The world of God's War is bloody, brutal, and organic, a refreshing contrast to the spick and span futures so often portrayed in contemporary science fiction. The characters are vivid, three dimensional human beings and the subtlety of Hurley's prose makes them come to life on the page. Needless to say, I will be reading the sequels, Infidel, and Rapture. Kameron Hurley has easily made my top 10 list of favorite new writers and I'll be eagerly waiting to see what else she comes up with in the future. 
      On the writing front, I'm just about finished with the revision of my novel, The Singularity War, a far future space opera/spy thriller that explores issues of AI and the Technological Singularity combined with fast paced action adventure. After that, I plan to let it mellow for a couple of months before taking another pass at it. Then I think I'll start shopping it around. Not much in the way of new writing, I'm afraid. Most of my energy has gone into preparing my thesis for my MFA program, which I'll be graduating from in July. I've started compiling notes for a new novel, but it's in the very early stages, and I've got several different ideas floating around, so it's hard to say what'll stick. In the meantime, I'm reading a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. A little over a month till graduation. Can't wait to see everyone in July. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Science of Science Fiction


          One of my favorite popularizers of science is Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College in New York City as well as one of the co-founders of String Theory. With these two books, Physics of the Impossible and Physics of the Future, he takes many of the concepts once thought to be pure science fiction and explains them in such a way that is both accessible and plausible. 
       In Physics of the Impossible, Kaku classifies SF concepts based on how likely they are given our current understanding of the universe. Class I impossibilities, which include force fields, invisibility, laser weapons, and nanotechnology are not only possible, but many already exist in rudimentary forms. Faster-than-light travel and time travel fall into Class II, which are impossible given our current level of technology, but may be possible in the future if certain theories of the universe turn out to be true (though engineering will still be an issue). Finally, Class III includes out-right impossible concepts like perpetual motion and precognition (seeing the future). Kaku uses his knowledge of physics and his love of science fiction to make heady concepts easy to understand and fascinating to read about.   
      In the followup to this book, Physics of the Future, he examines the next 100 years in detail, explaining the wondrous possibilities of nanotechnology, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and a developing space industry. I have found Kaku's work not only a joy to read, but also quite helpful when postulating my own ideas about the future. These books are a goldmine for science fiction writers. Even if you have no interest in writing, you should pick up one or both of these. They're brilliantly written, easy to understand, and, above all else, fun.