Choosing between near and distant futures

Note: Next week I’ll talk about choosing between future fiction that is inwardly oriented vs. outwardly oriented.

One of the issues that bedevils me when I start writing a new story (and there are many) is determining the right timeline. Stories set in the past are easier than those in the future because, whatever point in time the story resides in, the setting is understood and accepted. One need merely to figure out where on that timeline one wants to tether the story in question and then ensure the settings and other elements are credible according to the historic record. But the future…well. There is no line. One must select a point in the ether and color outside the lines because there are no lines, and this is really fun, but creating a credible story in any future is tricky business. Continue reading

What is sentience worth without purpose? Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad / ¿Qué vale la consciencia sin propósito? Fandom for Robots de Vina Jie-Min Prasad

This is the third review of the short fiction nominated for a 2017 Nebula Award. You can see earlier reviews here and here.

Everything conspired to make me roll my eyes at the beginning of  “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. First of all, robots. And this one, Computron, is old and all boxy and awkward. Second, Vina’s too-cute outfit in her author photo. Okay, sorry, I judged. Third, I’m not a fan of fandom. But dang it, somebody’s got to review these Nebula nominees, so I soldiered on.

Our hero Computron is the first and only known sentient robot ever created, though Computron makes it clear that it has no emotions. Computron has been relegated to a computer museum–having been created in 1954 and designed in an outdated “box and claw” style–and it occasionally participates in live performances for a show about robotics to illustrate the early days of the field. A young person at the performance informs the robot about an anime TV series called Hyperdimension Warp Record (超次元 ワープ レコード) that it might enjoy. If Computron could enjoy. Which it cannot.  Continue reading

A simple tale well told–Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse / Un cuento simple bien contado -Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience de Rebecca Roanhorse

This is the first review of the short stories nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. The full list of nominees is here.

There’s nothing terribly original about the premise or plot of “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse, but do not mistake this observation for an unfriendly critique. Sometimes a tried and true narrative is just the vehicle (or maybe it’s the interface) that you need to tell a good story.

Jesse, the protagonist, works for a business offering “authentic” virtual experiences for paying customers who want to try out “Indian” life. Jesse is an Indian, but not a marketable one. The act he puts on for the customers doesn’t reflect the banality of his actual life. Surviving this irony is so soul-crushing that he immediately gravitates to the first offer of friendship in the unfriendly real world. Not realizing how vulnerable he has made himself, Jesse ends up losing his place in the real world and the virtual one after the false friend turns the reality tables on him. Continue reading

A writing dilemma: focus on what lies ahead or what is coming from behind?

When I finally decided to stop trying to write literature and embraced the trifecta genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I realized something very important about myself. I’m a bit of an alarmist. It’s not something I’m proud of and I have spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to cover this up in polite company, but there it is. I’m nervous, high strung, a worrier. Not in a loud way, but in a quiet, constant yellow-alert sort of way.

Maybe others who have felt this way in the past have had more justification for saying this than I, but I think we are living in times that make this condition worse. It feels as though we have just gotten down from the trees, and run half-way across the savannah while more-or-less successfully avoiding lions. Now, on the horizon, a huge mother-ship of biological and environmental threats, political disintegration, and technological threats is hovering. Is it just me?  Continue reading