Tag Archive | science fiction

Things I learned at When Words Collide, 2014

Every year I attend a writing conference in Calgary called “When Words Collide”. Every year I have an absolutely supreme time, and this year I thought I’d share some of what I learned with the internet at large. 


1) Desire + Obstacle = Conflict

This should be common sense, but I had never heard the question of conflict explained in such a way before! Thanks to Anna Maria Bortolotto for this lesson!

2) It pays to be friendly

Especially at a writer’s conference.  I guarantee that literally everyone there has one thing in common: they like to read. I guess if that fails, you can always talk about the weather. 

It also pays to be friendly in marketing–give first. Your mom was right, you catch more flies with free bookmarks than with vinegar. 

3) There’s a lot more to editing than finding new ways to tell people that they suck. 

I’m still convinced that “dental draft” is a euphemism for something. 

4) No one can agree on whether or not digital publishing is a good thing. 

5) Editors really like in medias res. 

6)  You don’t always get rejected because you’re crap. Editors are actually pretty nice people. Mostly. 

7) The cake isn’t a lie, but the chocolate might be

This one is a bit of a story: there was supposed to be a chocolate social on Saturday night of the conference. My gaggle of pals and I waited for about 2 hours. No chocolate. It was all a lie. 

They did let us have leftover cake from the banquet, so the cake? All truth. 




Things I love (and you should too): November (belated)

Books I love: Technicolor Ultra Mall

Technicolor Ultra Mall by Ryan Oakley

Technicolor Ultra Mall is amazing.

Now, as you may have guessed from the title of the blog, I am a bit snobbish. I find that aspect of my personality comes out the most when I read books. I become a literary Shiva, praising and destroying every written work I come across.

This book committed one of the many sins that prompts me to rip things apart: there’s no hint of the main plot until halfway through the novel. And I didn’t care, because Ryan Oakley had sucked me into this ultra violent cyberpunk esque world and I just wanted to lie back and look at it all. This book is really good. It’s packed to the brim with social commentary. The red levels feel so real that I feel grimy just reading them, like part of me lives there. The technology feels real and it’s rules are established and followed. All of the characters are three dimensional. I was especially impressed by Harmony, the protagonist’s love interest. I just loved this book.

And you should love it.

Shows I love: Transformers Prime

Is it just me or did the intensity of children’s shows change while no one was looking?

Transformers was originally developed to sell a toy line. The cartoons have stayed in pretty shallow territory, with possibly Armada as an exception. Though the animation in the pilot was great, the story seemed to be staying true to the Transformers usual: big robots, epic punch-up, annoying humans and then something explodes.  The only thing different was the influence from the IDW comics.

Oh boy, did that influence ever come into play later.

In Transformers Prime, the characters are soldiers. They regularly kill. The lives of the humans are put at constant risk. Arcee suffers from PTSD. The characters relationships have been taken up to another level. It’s just wow.

The IDW comics are fantastic, and this show is fantastic.

And you should love it.

Movie I love: Night Watch

I had my doubts, I really did.

I started the book, but I had to take it back before I could really get into it. I saw the trailer multiple times and still didn’t watch it.

Why didn’t I, I don’t know.

It moves a little awkwardly in parts, and there are bits of confusion, but Night Watch is fantasy gold. I usually can’t stand urban fantasy. A lot of it is the same stuff, same characters, same cliches. I’m being too generous–most of it devolves into cliches and becomes like hot waxy syrup dripped right onto the brain. Night Watch  is one of the few unique pieces of urban fantasy that I’ve seen. Perhaps this is because the book the movie is based on was written before urban fantasy became an “it” genre. 

The movie is packed with excellent effects, subtle social commentary, and an intense character arcs. The movie avoids the cardinal sin of most of these things; focusing on the powers rather than the characters. There are so many layers to this that I don’t want to go into it because you are going to see it.

and you should love it.

Mirror, Mirror: An examination of human representation in speculative fiction (Introduction)

The world of science fiction, fantasy and horror, collectively known as speculative fiction, is a world packed with fantastic beings. This is great, I guess. But all the stories are still about one thing.


Every speculative fiction story, if you really boil it down, is about humans. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, necessarily. Humans are writing the stories­–and all writers are told to write what we know.

Herein lies the problem. We humans don’t always like ourselves, and it shows in any fiction involving non-humans, even if humans don’t appear at all. Either that, or we humans believe in ourselves. A lot.

Like nature and nurture in psychology, there is a debate that has been argued since War of the Worlds to Dracula to The Walking Dead to Star Trek. That debate is pro-human versus anti-human.

Over the next three months, my sweetly snobbish self will be exploring the realms of fiction to discuss the world as seen through monster’s eyes, examining the whys the hows and the whos, and going where no man has gone before.

Gear up, friends! We’re going on a journey. This month, every Friday, I’ll be examining zombie fiction in anticipation of the Zombvenger. But, if anyone has any suggestions of works that they want me to look at, comment! I feed off of comments.


Not really.

Coming up next Friday: A rare example of pro-humanism in zombie fiction: Warm Bodies.


God bless, and happy Canadian Thanksgiving,

Kelsey J.