Friday, November 17, 2017

REBOOT LOTR? I DON'T THINK SO


And in the category of Things We Really Don’t Need To See comes this news of Amazon’s plan for a new streaming series based on Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. According to Charles Pulliam-Moore of geeky website i09Gizmodo, Amazon Studios and Warner Brothers announced in a press release this week that they have negotiated the rights for and are working on the new series with the Tolkien estate, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema (which produced the Peter Jackson films).

Those of you who follow this blog know I am a huge LOTR fan. I have been reading the trilogy every year or two since the age of 16, and I thought the Peter Jackson films could not have translated Tolkien’s fantastic world and characters to the screen any better. The casting alone was superb. Just think about that for a moment. Not one actor was miscast or less than perfect in the role. From Ian McKellan as Gandalf to Andy Serkis as Gollum, from Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, to Elijah Wood as Frodo.

Someone else cast as Aragorn? Um, no.
I can’t imagine that incredible feat being improved upon, much less finding the settings to match the magnificent New Zealand scenery Jackson used to stand for Middle-Earth. And to reproduce those cinematic production values? How much money and time are we talking about here?

Not enough, I suspect, to bring a series up to the standard Jackson set not so very long ago. But apparently Amazon is not fazed. In the streaming world, the stars have aligned in such a way as to make this reboot almost inevitable. Tolkien’s 91-year-old son Christopher recently resigned from his position as director of the author’s estate, loosening his tight hold on adaptations of his father’s works. At the same time, Game of Thrones has ended its long reign over television’s fantasy audience. This leaves a power vacuum Amazon Studios just can’t resist.

But why not fill that empty space with something completely new? There are any number of unexplored SF/fantasy worlds out there for the taking—McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, perhaps, or Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga or C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, or I could go on pretty much endlessly. Save yourself some money, Amazon, and give your viewers something they haven’t experienced before. And, while you’re at it, give some deserving authors access.

For all the millions of words of analysis about how the upheaval of the publishing world has meant so much opportunity for so many more authors, the truth is still that only a tiny thimbleful of the vast output of those authors ever reaches a substantial audience. Especially for a “niche” subgenre like science fiction romance, readership is numbered in the thousands, if we’re lucky, not in the millions that would view something on television. We could use a bigger platform. So, Amazon, why not seek out new stories among the many that exist, rather than fighting to be the next one to recycle Tolkien’s time-honored, but well-worn tale.

Cheers, Donna

Information for this post taken from “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Son Resigns as Director of Tolkien Estate, Ending Decades of Tightly Controlled Adaptations,” by Beth Elderkin, oneringnet, November, 15, 2017.




*Next week I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, so there will be no post on Friday. Have a Happy Turkey Day!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dryden evolves - The Demon's Eye



I dipped my toe into the waters of the Dryden Universe in A Matter of Trust. In that book I’d established an essentially Human Empire; an aloof, distant enclave of humanoid Jorts; and the warlike bad guys of the galaxy, the Yrmaks. But in a 30k novella, they were line drawings, without backstory and color. That would come later. And did come later, when I fleshed in the backstory and culture of the aliens, as well as where in our galaxy all this action was taking place.

For now, when I decided to write a second Dryden story, I included the Empire and the Yrmaks, but added a level of complexity to the Empire. After all, the Roman Empire wasn't a homogeneous society. It had its own problems with its far-flung provinces, which eventually led to its downfall. There will always be elements of civil war in any empire - Asimov's Galactic Empire in his Foundation series is a good example. Yes, I probably got some inspiration from there - and Rome, as did Asimov.

So... unrest in a distant province, far from central Imperial support and not much more than a hint of Imperial Fleet presence. A germ of an idea took root. I’d already established the Yrmaks as mercenaries and pirates. How about a planet where civil war has erupted, a ruler gets his daughter out on an Imperial warship on a routine visit, but then there's trouble... 

It sounded like a plan.

The Demon’s Eye

Krystina Merkos is reluctant to leave her home planet, but agrees it's best that her father doesn't have to concern himself with her safety while he fights a civil war. But it's not all plain sailing. The captain wants to seduce her – and pirates want to sell her to the murderous sect waging war on her father.

The journey on an Imperial warship becomes much more palatable when she discovers that Ben Paulsen, an old flame from her high school days, is a senior officer on the ship.

When the frigate is attacked by a pirate fleet intent on capturing Krys, she faces impossible choices. If she hands herself over to the pirates, she will die a painful death. If she doesn't, everyone will die.

Unless she and Ben can contrive a way out for them all.

Here’s a short excerpt.

Krys flopped onto the couch, kicked her shoes off and propped her legs up on the low table. She was tired. Sneaking out of the city and getting onto the ship had been exhausting. But her brain wasn't tired.
Ben Paulsen. He'd certainly grown up to be quite a man. He'd been tall at high school, but all arms and legs and skin and bone. He'd filled out, adding bulk to that framework. She wouldn't mind finding out what was underneath that dress uniform now. The material strained just a little across his chest and the slope on his shoulders hinted at solid muscle. Now she thought about it his response to her had been in character. He'd always been a bit distant. Not shy exactly, more self-contained, a loner. That used to annoy some of the alpha male bully boys.
Krys cast back, trying to remember the name of the good-looking boy everyone but her wanted to date. Lex somebody. Not that it mattered. Lex tried to tease Ben, but Ben never reacted, just stared back with a faint smile on his lips. Krys had intervened once, in the library, when Lex and his gang had Ben in their sights. She'd asked him for help with her math homework, even though she really hadn't needed it.
Lex had loomed next to her, hanging over her. "I can help you. You don't need to waste your time with this loser." He'd spat the words, his lip curled as he eyed Ben.
She’d told Lex to fuck off.

 The Demon's Eye is a longish short story. Buy the book at  Amazon Inktera B&N Kobo iBooks


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Future of Time

After reading Donna's excellent blog on Daylight Savings Time on Friday--WHAT'S THE TIME? IT DEPENDS--it got my wheels turning on a subject that's sometimes come up in reviews. Because if you think adjusting to/off daylight savings is confusing, just wait. It's going to get worse. Much worse! Imagine when we start dealing with multiple planets, all with different measurements of time, seasons, years instead of a silly little one-hour shift in time.

From time-to-time (*grin* see what I did there?), I’ve had critics question why I create different words for time references in my novels, because, you know, why don't I just say "hour." No, it isn’t just to make the words sound more “science fictiony.” In a future setting, I have to think beyond life on this world. To think about timekeeping in the future it's important to think outside the box, or at least, outside the planet.

Our system of timekeeping is bound to the natural rhythms of our own planet. By that I mean, it was developed according to the cycles of our world and its insignificant sun. A year is based on one orbit around our sun. A day is based on one rotation of our world, with hours, minutes and seconds all divisions of that 24 hour period. But what about when we leave our birth world?

Yup. You got it. That's when things really get interesting. Because when that happens, the concept of time as we know it breaks down.
A scientific precedent has already been established on Mars, where ‘days’ are known as sols. (For the record, that wasn’t done just to sound “science fictiony” either.) A brief explanation defining the sol is in this quote from the Wikipedia page for Timekeeping on Mars: “The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or "sol", is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.” (If you want to read more on the whole complex subject of time on another planet, just click the link above.)

So if we, in our fledgling attempts to explore other worlds, have already found a need to use a new specific term for a day on our nearest neighbor, imagine what's going to happen when we start colonizing dozens of other worlds, each with its own orbit and natural cycles.
And that’s why I envisioned the known galaxy getting together in this distant future and saying, “Whoa. Wait a minute. Errr, make that a moment. In order for business, commerce and governments to mesh and function, we need to standardize this whole mind-boggling timekeeping mess so we can do things like plan and schedule using a shared universal measurement.”

And so they did.
That’s why “years” in my fictional universe are referred to as calendars. Seems logical, right? When we schedule future events, we use a calendar to record when that event will take place. So in the future, that term might just be borrowed to represent a standardized measurement that universally replaces our Earth year.

To follow suit in my stories, “months” became moons, “hours” became haras, “minutes” became tempas and “seconds” became sectas. All are standardized units of timekeeping that are the same wherever a person happens to be in the known galaxy—on any planet or off.

But wait, what about days? Well, yeah. Day is still day, because although day is also an exact measurement of timekeeping on Earth, the word is also embedded in our language as a much more ambiguous reference that isn’t precise. Someday. One day. The day will come. So carrying "day" over to represent the standardized unit for 24 haras as well as the more vague reference made sense to me--and even more importantly made sense for the characters' dialogue, so they weren’t saying things like: “Some zeron you’re going to regret that!” (‘Cuz, you know, that does sound “science fictiony.”)
As a writer, I also have to concede that it’s important to temper creative thinking with some degree of common sense. Day was my compromise. :)

______________________________________
 
An Update and Announcement
 
You probably noticed for the first time in many weeks my blog wasn't all about Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2. That's because our primary objective--maximizing our donation to the wonderful Hero Dogs organization--ended at midnight on Veterans Day this past Saturday.
 
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers who supported our cause, who wrote well over 120 wonderful Amazon reviews for the anthology to date, who helped catapult the collection to #1 Amazon Bestseller on the first day it became available for preorder, and a USA TODAY Bestseller in its first week of release! The science fiction romance readership continues to grow stronger with every passing year, and these achievements were a direct result.
 
 
Although the book will still be available until April 30, 2018 (before it goes supernova and is forever scattered to the stars), the most important phase in our mission is now behind us.
 
I'd also like to take a moment to announce that if there is a Pets in Space 3--and that decision is a still a couple of months off--I won't be a part of the anthology next year. The time has come for me to focus on getting more of my own work published, and although my involvement with the two volumes has been an amazing and career-altering experience, it's time to refocus.
 
But that's not to say I'll never have another StarDog story to tell. The future is never certain...  :) 


Have a great week!


Friday, November 10, 2017

WHAT'S THE TIME? IT DEPENDS


Let’s get this straight. If you hate this time of year because all of a sudden it’s really, really dark when you emerge from the cave of your office at 6:00 p.m., you don’t hate Daylight Savings Time. Here in the United States (or in most of it, at least) we just ended Daylight Savings Time. 

For the next few months we are all stuck with Standard Time, that is, with the time we all agreed was “normal” not so long ago. You have it reversed if you curse DST for the sudden lack of daylight at the end of the day.


Besides, hate if you must, but if you were a Neanderthal, you would just curl up in your furs and go to sleep when the sun disappeared. The dividing of the day into hours, the days into weeks, and the rest is a relatively modern obsession, a consequence of the rise of civilizations that saw a need to record harvests and the deeds of rulers and other details of their histories. Illiterate populations still don’t fuss with minute divisions of time. It was common for Gambian villagers in my Peace Corps days to say they’d visit “when the sun was going down.” Or they’d recount something that happened in “my father’s father’s time.” Set a meeting with village elders for precisely 10:00 in the morning and you could be waiting a long time.

Peace Corps Volunteers fresh from the States (or, earlier, British colonial officials) might get incensed over that kind of thing, but Gambian villagers certainly wouldn’t. Because, you see, time is relative, a convention agreed to by the participating parties. Even science concurs. Einstein once explained (and I’m paraphrasing) that an hour flies by if you are in the arms of your lover, but seems forever if you are in a boring university class. The same hour has different values in different contexts.
 
Salvador Dali shows time is flexible.

Still, even once a given civilization has determined to capture time and confine it within the daily framework of hours, minutes and seconds, it’s not so easy to tell exactly what time it is in any one place. It was not until 1883, when U.S. and Canadian railroads devised standardized time zones across the continent, that any kind of agreement existed here. Previously, localities often set their timepieces by a prominent clock in the town—at the church, on the town hall or even in a jeweler’s window. 

Daylight Savings Time (or War Time) was devised to save electricity during World War I. It was quickly repealed after the war. (See, DST haters, you are not alone.) But another war came along with the same need for saving light and DST was reinstated as a year-round system in 1942.

After 1945, states and cities were free to choose whether they stayed on DST or not. But this led to chaos, with some localities choosing one way, and some the other. On one stretch of road between Moundsville, WV and Steubensville, OH, for example, a traveler would have had to reset her watch 35 times. 

Something had to be done. In 1966 the Uniform Time Act became law establishing DST nationwide to begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October every year, effective in 1967. (At least Congress held back from making it year-round.) Starting March 11, 2007, DST was extended another four to five weeks, from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November. Only two states currently opt out of DST: Arizona and Hawaii.

Of course, how our characters measure time while they’re out having adventures in space can be problematic, too. Talk about jet lag! In my Interstellar Rescue series, space travel is accomplished via a mapped system of “jump nodes,” or wormholes. Time is distorted in these nodes and can be manipulated with intricate quantum physics. (Don’t ask me for the details, I’m a writer, not a ship’s engineer.) Using that quality of the jump allows my Rescue teams to return alien abductees back to Earth with no loss of “real time” in their lives.

But it’s still necessary to keep time onboard ship—using the common naval system of three watches and 24 hours—and within the allied galaxy—using Galactic Standard Dates (GSD). The GSD measurement was developed for use in Confederated Systems space and is based on tiny fractions of the rotation of the galaxy around its center. The alien slaver Minertsans use a different system all their own, based on the circuit of their planet around its sun. 

After all, every civilization with the ability to move among the stars would have some form of timekeeping. An obsession with time would seem to be a prerequisite to the exploration of space.

But as for that dark at the end of your day here on Earth, just remember it’s winter, when the face of our hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. No matter how we manipulate our timekeeping, there are just fewer minutes of sunlight every day. You could hibernate until spring. Or you could hang on until December 21, the date of the Winter Soltice and the longest night of the year. After that, the light comes back, a little more each day. No matter what time it is.

Cheers, Donna









About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.