Monday, March 31, 2014

Vocab word of the week


fire·brand  [fahyuhr-brand]
1. a piece of burning wood or other material.
2. a person who kindles strife or encourages unrest; an agitator; troublemaker.
1175–1225; Middle English;  see fire, brand

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part III

“When you’re tempted to write about a dream come true, be sure that the dream turns into a nightmare as quickly as possible” (Killian 26).

“Kurt Vonnegut observes that only teenagers and SF writers think about the Big Issues like the meaning of life and the fate of the universe; the rest of us are too busy saving for retirement and fighting traffic to reflect on those issues” (Killian 34).

“You don’t have to invent your own languages, but your use of language should be very conscious. If your story portrays an oppressive bureaucracy, let us hear the bureaucrats mumbling in euphemisms and bafflegab while you’re hero speaks plain, blunt English” (Killian 37).

“At the same time we realize that both genres are really about the here and now, not some magical realm or the far future […] Given the current pace of events, however, it’s hard to find a ‘present’ that isn’t ancient history by the time we’ve dealt with it in print” (Killian 40).

“However you organize your fantasy world, then, make it as gritty and real and ordinary as you can; the more ordinary it is, even in its marvels, the more marvelous your readers will find it” (Killian 48).

“Establish the setting – where and when the story takes place. […] make this clear without a lot of chunky exposition. You’ll show it to us through the eyes of one or more of your characters, who will usually take their surroundings for granted” (Killian 71).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part II

“An isolated society could be on an island or a remote mountain region that is very difficult to reach. It is often portrayed as the geographical equivalent of a womb, which may or may not be an agreeable place. Utopia, St. Thomas More tells us, resulted from the cutting of a canal across a phallic peninsula, creating a uteruslike island: all the major cities are on the shores of an inland sea, which travelers enter through a narrow an dangerous strait” (Killian 36).

“Bear in mind that literature gives us a chance to create two different kinds of world: the demonic world where everything is hostile to human needs and desires, and the paradisal world where everything serves and supports those needs and desires. Typically, the fantasy story begins in a paradise, though it may be an ironic one. At any rate, it’s some kind of stable society” (Killian 43).

“I suggest that you start with some kind of symbolic reason for the kind of world you want, whether in science fiction or fantasy – a world that is symbolically a paradise, changed to (or at least threatened by) a demonic world” (Killian 44). 

“Think also about some of the geographical conventions of science fiction – especially the womblike world, closed off from the outside” (Killian 44).

“No matter how bizarre your aliens or demons, they will ultimately be much like us; otherwise we wouldn't be interested in them” (Killian 44). 

“But remember that you’re not creating curiosities; you’re trying to evoke in your readers a wider, deeper sense of what is natural, not just what is weird or bizarre” (Killian 45).

“You may have more freedom to set the rules of such worlds, but they must make some kind of sense in human terms. And once you set your rules, you have to abide by them” (Killian 45).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part I

As I've mentioned in past blogs, I'm currently working on the critical thesis part of obtaining my MFA in creative writing.  Part of this process includes reading different craft and fiction books so that I have a wealth of source quotes to add credence to my assertions as well as make the paper much more interesting and colorful.  I've mentioned this book before: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian, but it's worth mentioning again.  A good deal of the information contained within (as is the case with most specialized craft books) is common sense to serious writers but it's never a bad idea to go back to the basics from time to time.  I found numerous gems in this book and while I'm including a variety of Killian quotes in my paper, I simply cannot include them all.  I decided to share these with the contributors and readers of this blog.  May they ignite your imagination, provide clarity, and inform.

“But even the humblest hackwork requires a certain level of craft, and that means you must understand your genre’s conventions if you are going to succeed – and especially if you are going to convey your message by tinkering with those conventions” (Killian 14). 

“The characters are moved from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge, and defining their identities by their actions” (Killian 15).

“A science fiction or fantasy story provides similar evidence for a mythic vision of a world we imagine living in” (Killian 15). 

“But you may also may also make your fantasy or future worlds just a little too cozy and similar to our own – when the whole purpose of the genres is to show us the familiar in a context of the new, the strange, and the wonderful” (Killian 15).

“The far-future story often tends to the mythotropic, portraying persons and societies acting out their deepest urges, with the scientific resources to do so. The fun arises in seeing how holding enormous power makes little difference to people who are still enslaved by the same drives that we are” (Killian 23-24).

“Such books are often fun, but beware of the liberation movement that wants to solve its dystopian problems by going back to the U.S. Constitution or some other current document. We would not think much of a current rebel movement that wanted to rescue us by restoring the Roman Empire, adopting the social structure of the Incas, or imposing the Wiccan religion on everyone. So why should we suppose that our political institutions and values will be suitable to the societies of the far future?” (Killian 26).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vocab word of the week

en·tro·py  [en-truh-pee]
1. Thermodynamics .
a.(on a macroscopic scale) a function of thermodynamic variables, as temperature, pressure, or composition, that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
b.(in statistical mechanics) a measure of the randomness of the microscopic constituents of a thermodynamic system. Symbol:  S
2.(in data transmission and information theory) a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
3.(in cosmology) a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature (heat death)
4.a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.

World English Dictionary
entropy  (ˈɛntrəpɪ)

— n  , pl -pies
1. See also law of thermodynamics S  a thermodynamic quantity that changes in a reversible process by an amount equal to the heat absorbed or emitted divided by the thermodynamic temperature. It is measured in joules per kelvin
2. a statistical measure of the disorder of a closed system expressed by S  = k log P  + c  where P  is the probability that a particular state of the system exists, k  is the Boltzmann constant, and c  is another constant
3. lack of pattern or organization; disorder
4. a measure of the efficiency of a system, such as a code or language, in transmitting information

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vocab Word of the Week

co·pa·cet·ic  [koh-puh-set-ik, -see-tik]
adjective Slang.
fine; completely satisfactory; OK.
Also, copasetic, copesetic.

1915–20,  Americanism; of obscure origin; popular attributions of the word to Louisiana French, Italian, Hebrew,  etc., lack supporting evidence