By Writing Excuses | March 30, 2008 - 9:40 pm - Posted in Genre, Liner Notes, Sci-fi, Season 1

In the first of our series on genres, we discuss why people write Sci-Fi, what you need to know to write Sci-Fi, and how much we all love unicorns.

By Writing Excuses | April 6, 2008 - 10:56 pm - Posted in Genre, Liner Notes, Sci-fi, Season 1

This week we continue our discussion on Science Fiction with a discussion of various Sub-genres, why they’re different, and what you can do to make sure you know your audience.

Sub-genres covered: Space Opera, Military, Hard SF, and Cyberpunk.

Sub-genres not covered: Dystopia, Steam-punk, and whatever it is Philip K. Dick writes.
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By Writing Excuses | July 12, 2009 - 6:29 pm - Posted in Fantasy, Genre, Horror, Sci-fi

You’ve seen it done… “Zombie Apocalypse in Space.” “Perry Mason in the Armed Forces.”  It’s genre blending, where the author takes themes prevalent in two different genres and combines them to create something new.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. We call down a few examples of both, and offer you listeners the sage advice you need to blend genres successfully. Summary: like the vegan barbecue chef, one of the secrets to your success lies in letting no-one know what that hamburger is made of. No, that metaphor is not in the podcast. I just thought of it now.

We finish with a discussion of the genres we’ve blended in our own work, and Brandon tells us about the science fiction story he’s decided to work on.

This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery. Pre-orders close this Wednesday!

Writing Prompt: Combine “Horror” and “Western” and don’t make it look like either one.

By Writing Excuses | March 28, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Genre, Sci-fi, Setting, Structure, World Building

“Dude, that’s totally epic.”

“Epic fail! Epic fail!”

These phrases have only passing relation to epic storytelling, and to epic fantasy. Brandon and Howard write epics, and we’re going to talk about how we do it. And Dan’s going to help, because even if his launching-this-week I Am Not a Serial Killer novel is not an epic, Dan knows his stuff.

(Also, epic win for Dan! His book launches this week!)

We talk about some of our favorite epic fantasy and epic science fiction series, and then discuss elements like scope, plotlines, and characters. We also address some of the common pitfalls new writers fall into when trying to write their first epic.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Uplift Trilogy: Brightness Reef, Infinity’s Shore, and Heaven’s Reach by David Brin

Writing Prompt: Google “Epic Win” (or just visit “Epic Win FTW“), take one of the images on the site, and then craft an epic story around that image.

Joke Not Told By Howard In The Podcast: If a new writer attempts to create an epic and falls flat on his or her face in the attempt, it is, in fact, Epic Fail.

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By Writing Excuses | August 1, 2010 - 6:14 pm - Posted in Sci-fi, Setting, World Building

Let’s build THE FUTURE! [cue dramatic music]

The Writing Excuses crew explores another angle on the massively multifaceted gem of a topic known as “worldbuilding.” We’ve touched on governments, religions, and magic systems in the past. This time we’re looking at a more exclusively science-fictional aspect of worldbuilding: extrapolating a future setting from what we know about the present.

We start with Howard explaining why and how he went about it all wrong, and then managed to salvage it in spite of that. We move on to strategies for doing this sort of future prediction, and how to employ them in concert to worldbuild underneath your next novel. Strategies include “worst-case scenario,” “best-case scenario,” “the human factor,” and “what’s cool?”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Empire of the East, by Fred Saberhagen

Writing Prompt: “were-cuttlefish,” courtesy of Dan Wells.

Courtesy of Howard Tayler: those popping noises made by (we assume) the were-cuttlefish.

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By Writing Excuses | February 6, 2011 - 9:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Humor, Sci-fi, Setting, World Building

Mary Robinette Kowal and Dave Wolverton again join Dan and Howard, and this time we’re talking about holidays in fantasy and science-fiction. This ‘cast was recorded at Superstars Writing Seminars, and  Moses Siregar III of Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing captured us on video as we recorded.

What sorts of things result in holidays? Historically we see them at the solstices and the equinoxes, planting and harvest, and commemorations of important events. We talk about all of these, and how to work them into your own writing without sounding like you’re just filing the serial numbers off of Christmas, Halloween, and Mardi Gras.

So of course we also talk about how to do this wrong.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: METAtropolis: Cascadia, by Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Ken Scholes, Karl Schroeder, and Tobias Buckell, and narrated by Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew, Wil Wheaton, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Jay Lake.

Writing Prompt: Make up a holiday that isn’t based on anything you’ve seen.

Exclamation Howard Thought He’d Never Use: Bone Puppet Day!

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By Writing Excuses | July 10, 2011 - 5:56 pm - Posted in Genre, Ideas, Sci-fi, Setting, World Building

Cyberpunk: What is it? Why is it? We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve never attempted to tackle it.

We begin with an attempt to define cyberpunk (the literary genre), which is typically near-future SF, anti-establishment, early dystopian fiction featuring connectivity, body modification, and culture shifts. We argue a bit over the finer points, which fits the topic perfectly.

We move on to discuss how you might set about writing cyberpunk, which is, as Dan points out, the SF genre we’re catching up to. We almost live in that world already. You’re going to need to do some research, reading up on the genre and looking closely at where current technology is taking us.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson, narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie.

Writing Prompt: A cyberpunk setting in which tattoos are the equivalent of implanted tech… and somebody has hacked your tattoo.

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By Writing Excuses | August 21, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Criticism, Demonstration, Editing, Sci-fi

It is Howard’s turn in the critique box! Brandon, Dan, and Mary dissect a 21-year-old manuscript from 22-year-old Howard, this time with an eye to making descriptions do more than one thing.

Since the manuscript runs for six pages before colliding with any inconvenient dialog, it’s a perfect fit. It might also be perfect because of how much work it needs.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Prompt: Start with Howard’s concept and write your own story. The complete chapter whose pages we dissected can be found here in RTF format.

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Let’s talk commo! How does the ubiquity of communication tech affect your story? How far out of your own experience do you need to step in order to build a culture whose communications are believable?

We talk about the Great Wall of China, Napoleon’s visual semaphore, the Brin P2P Plan, and cell-phones in the X-files. Our goal? To get you to think about how the people in your stories communicate with each other, and how those communications can fail whether you’re writing fantasy or science-fiction.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, narrated by Jonathan Davis.

Errata: The Ringworld is not 93 million miles in diameter. That was the approximate radius. Also, Howard got the circumference wrong. If only we’d had instant access to some sort of database, some network of computational resources while we were recording this episode…

Writing Prompt: Start with a fax machine, make it a 3d-printer/prototyper, and run from there…

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By Writing Excuses | September 18, 2011 - 6:42 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Gender, Sci-fi, World Building

Keffy Kehrli joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at WorldCon 69 in Reno. He’s a Writers of the Future winner, a few votes short of being a Campbell Award nominee, and a female-to-male transsexual.

Mary leads us into this discussion, starting with how gender roles and gender identity lie along a continuum, defying the convenient descriptors that people typically employ, and how this can inform our writing. Keffy offers valuable tips, talking about what gets done wrong, and how to write it correctly.

We also talk about how this can apply to world-building, especially in fantasy where extended gender identities usually are not a consideration.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page

Writing Prompt: Take something that you do, something unique to you (and perhaps to your gender), and hand it to somebody in your book who appears unqualified for that task. Then qualify them for it.

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By Writing Excuses | December 11, 2011 - 5:49 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Fantasy, Genre, Sci-fi

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman from the Interstitial Arts Foundation join Mary and Dan at World Fantasy to discuss things that fall into the gaps between the genres.

How do publishers, agents, and booksellers deal with titles that are speculative, but that cannot be easily categorized as science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, steampunk, or one of the other readily shelvable genres? And how should authors approach writing such titles?

(We apologize for Dan’s low volume — neither Producer Jordo nor Howard were present to play engineer and catch the fact that Dan’s track wasn’t capturing any actual audio. Jordo did what he could to bump Dan’s volume up after the fact.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, narrated by the author along with a full voice cast and with additional cool soundscapes, is one of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles on Audible.

Writing Prompt: Try to write something that doesn’t fit neatly into the genres you’re familiar with.

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By Writing Excuses | March 25, 2012 - 5:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Plot, Sci-fi, Season 7, Setting, Structure

It’s a “Howard is clueless” episode! One of us, we won’t name any names, didn’t take enough English classes to know the basic conflict archetypes — Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Nature. In this episode we focus on that third one.

One example of Man vs. Nature is Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. Another is Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In both of these cases, while Man vs  Nature is the main plot, Man vs. Man sub-plots keep the story moving.

We talk about the strengths of this type of story, some of the pitfalls to avoid, lots of examples of the archetype, and then we focus on what you can do to tell this sort of story well.

New Word of the Week: “Stereotropical” – a mashup of “stereotypical” and “trope.” Use it when your meaning can’t possibly be confused with “tropical islands in stereo.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey, narrated by Dick Hill

Writing Prompt: "Jack Black stranded alone on an alien planet." Your challenge? Make us like the main character and want him to live...

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By Writing Excuses | June 3, 2012 - 3:45 pm - Posted in Sci-fi, Season 7

Coming to you pre-recorded from the boomy basement of Brandon Sanderson, here’s an episode about time travel. Oddly, there’s an audio artifact here where we’re hearing faint echoes of those speaking, and some of them precede the stuff they’re echoing. “Oddly?” More like “Serendipitously.” It’s a shame we didn’t know that would happen. If we really WERE time travelers we’d have seen that coming.

We begin by categorizing three major types of time travel by the movies they appear in: “Twelve Monkeys,” “Back to the Future,” and “A Sound of Thunder” (the short story, though. Not the movie.) We then talk about the tools each of these provide to storytellers. We also talk about the challenges involved in writing a time travel story, and how to overcome these challenges by writing about the things that will always be interesting, rather than focusing on the time travel itself. We also talk a little about time travel clichés, perhaps by way of warning you.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Stole

Writing Prompt: You can only go back in time as far as your own life-span, but somebody needs to go back a hundred years. A team of 100-year-olds is assembled as time traveling heroes.

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By Writing Excuses | July 22, 2012 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Conventions, Criticism, Fantasy, Q&A, Sci-fi, Season 7

Microcasting! Again!! Now with exclamation points!!! You’ll have to have a listen for our answers, but here are the questions:

  • How do you deal with bad reviews?
  • How do you apply Brandon’s magic system rules to science fiction?
  • Dan, will you do the marshmallow voice for us again?
  • How do you keep tension high without exhausting the reader?
  • You’ve made your manuscript as good as you know how to. Now you need to make it even better, based on feedback. What do you do?
  • Any tips on creating suspension of disbelief?
  • How do you deal with annoying fans?

“Oddly, no. Sometimes you guys are dull.” 5:22, Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mary’s Shmoozing 101 Link: Right here.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Writing Prompt: The story of the writer and her VERY ENTHUSIASTIC alien fan who is impossible to escape.

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By Writing Excuses | August 5, 2012 - 8:02 pm - Posted in Research, Sci-fi, Season 7, Setting, World Building

Eric James Stone, Nebula winner and “graduate” of NASA’s Launchpad workshop, joins us to talk about astronomy in our world-building.

We talk about tides, habitable zones, planetary orbits and axial tilts, stellar life-cycles, and other fun factors for authors to take into account. But obviously we can’t teach you everything you need to know about astronomy in 15 minutes, so we wrap with some handy resources for you to begin your continuing education:

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss, narrated by Christopher Slade

Writing Prompt: Your colonists are going to a world whose axial tilt is different from Earth's. How are the seasons different?

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By Writing Excuses | December 30, 2012 - 6:20 pm - Posted in Business, eBooks, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Season 7

And now, for the very last episode of Season 7, we shall chance taking a look forward. Is this prognostication, or reckless abandon? Neither! We get asked a lot about how the industry is changing, and how we’re adjusting to what we see happening. This isn’t us predicting the future: this is us interpreting what we’re seeing, and then describing how we plan to react.

  • Mary suggests that we’re seeing a swing from Fantasy to Science Fiction as the dominant speculative genre, and but she doesn’t plan to start writing nothing but sci-fi as a result.
  • Dan calls out a trend towards supplemental materials — shorts that tie in to flagship novels. He’s already taking part in this, and plans to keep doing it.
  • Howard hits the hot-button of “e-publishing,” and calls it “shortening the value chain.” He’s been making a living with it since it was basically brand-new, but he plans to continue to exploit the disruptions it creates — sometimes by lengthening the value chain.
  • Brandon sees increasing pressures for authors to promote themselves, (largely the result of exceptional cases of authors with good platforms), but suggests that the time can still be better spent writing more books.

And that’s it for us until 2013! We’ll be back next year with Season 8, and you’ll only have to wait a week for it to start airing.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay, narrated by Holter Graham

Writing Prompt: Figure out what you would like the future of writing to look like. Now write a story about how we get there.

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By Writing Excuses | February 3, 2013 - 9:35 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, magic, POV, Sci-fi, Season 8, Setting

Oh yeah, it’s time to break some rules! We’ve said that you’ve got to learn the rules before you break them, but here, eight seasons in, you probably already know them. So let’s make with the breaking!

We talk about some of the rules we’ve broken, and some of our favorite broken rules in other people’s work. We also talk about why any of us got away with it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Holes, by Louis Sachar, narrated by Kerry Byer

Writing Prompt: Here is a rule for rule-breaking: The best format for experimenting with rule-breaking is the short. So! Pick your three favorite rules and break all three in a short story.

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By Writing Excuses | March 24, 2013 - 3:57 pm - Posted in Howard, Plot, Project in Depth, Sci-fi, Season 8, Setting

Brandon, Dan, and Mary interview Howard about how he assembled “Deus ex Nauseum,” the bonus story that appears at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Emperor Pius Dei.

Howard begins with the story’s genesis, which was sort of a science-fiction Sherlock Holmes story, but which wasn’t working very well. He explains why it wasn’t working well, and the point at which he decided to change it completely.

Then the questions begin. We have a fascinating discussion about deus ex machina as a literary device, and how this story plays to that type, and plays against that type.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams with stories by Robert J. Sawyer, Christopher Roden, Michael Moorcock, Anne Perry, Neil Gaiman, Anthony Burgess, and Laurie R. King, narrated by Simon Vance and Anne Flosnik.

Writing Prompt: Take one story and discard every other page. Use that as framing material for a second story.

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By Writing Excuses | April 7, 2013 - 5:28 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas, Sci-fi, Season 8

As if he needs the help, Brandon challenges Mary, Howard, and Dan to help him brainstorm an A.I. short story. Brandon hands them some setup, and off they go. The ground may have been well-tread in the past, but this particular brainstorming session is full of great ideas that incorporate religion, cargo cults, puzzles, and aliens…

The big challenge here is finding a tale that’s interesting enough and original enough to be worth the telling…

Mary’s Hugo-nominated Novella: “Kiss Me Twice” which appeared in Asimov’s.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonsinger: Harper Hall Trilogy Volume 2, by Anne McCaffrey, narrated by Sally Darling

Writing Prompt: Come up with a better resolution for this story than we did.

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By Writing Excuses | June 9, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Career, Demonstration, Editing, Guest, Ideas, Q&A, Sci-fi, Season 8, Uncategorized

Microcasting! It’s what we’ve taken to calling a Q&A. Eric Patten joins us for this one. Here are the questions:

  • What’s your first step in the rewriting process?
  • How do you write Artificial Intelligences as characters?
  • Tactful promotion: how do you get nominated for a Hugo or Nebula?
  • How do you decide whether or not to take an offer from a publisher?
  • Do you use a writing notebook? How, and for what?
  • What methods do you use to test the “coolness” and/or viability of a story idea?
  • What genre or style do you read that is outside of the one(s) in which you write?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Michael Prichard

Writing Prompt: Two words: "Flying Caldecott."

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Mary’s story “Kiss Me Twice,” is a murder mystery featuring an artificial intelligence using Mae West as an avatar. It appeared on the ballot for the 2012 Hugo Awards in the Best Novella category (our early discussion to the contrary, we totally did NOT air this episode in time for 2012 Hugo voting. Yes, we recorded this episode a full year prior to airing it.)

Mary walks us through the process of creating the story, and then cutting it down from novel-length to the novella-length at which it currently appears, as well as a bunch of the work that went into creating a compelling, character-driven mystery with an A.I. as a critical character. We also get a fun “what-if” argument as the cast talks about what we liked best about the story, and how we’d change it if it got bigger.

Public Service Announcement: Voting is now open for the 2013 Hugos. The ballot can be seen here. If you purchase, or have already purchased, a membership to LoneStarCon 3, you are eligible to vote on the 2013 Hugos, and will have access to the entire Hugo Voting Packet — a collection of all nominated works. Voting closes on July 31st. (Obligatory disclaimer: Brandon and Howard are on the ballot in the Novella and Graphic Story categories, respectively, and Writing Excuses Season 7 is on the ballot in the Best Related Work category.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Empire State, by Adam Christopher, narrated by Phil Gigante

Writing Prompt: Pick your favorite actor or actress, gather your favorite quotes from them in their films, and string them together in a single character's voice in a new context.

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By Writing Excuses | June 30, 2013 - 5:55 pm - Posted in Genre, Sci-fi, Season 8, Setting

This week’s episode covers the perjoratively-named sub-genre, space opera. These are adventure stories in which the setting is futuristic, but in which the science is secondary. The lines are blurry, as they are with any definition of genre, but we’re pretty sure that Howard writes space opera.

A possible definition? Space Opera is when the author uses science to justify the cool stuff he or she has come up with.

We talk about the decisions that go into writing a space opera, how Howard has gone about it, and what you might focus on in order to write a compelling, adventurous romp.

Pithy Howardism: “If I pee far, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Warrior's Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

Writing Prompt: Posit a faster-than-light drive that nobody else has thought of. Or at least that you haven't heard of.

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Joel Shepherd joined Brandon, Mary, and Howard before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing hard science fiction where the science in question is social science. He’s studied international relations, interned on Capitol Hill, and is working a PhD in the field. His books reflect this background.

If hard science fiction is an exploration of what is technically, physically possible given a set of circumstances, hard social science fiction is no different. Further than that, however, good research in the social sciences will allow an author to build complex and realistic plots, stories in which character motivations go much further than picking a side.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Crossover: Cassandra Kresnov Book 1, by Joel Sheperd, narrated by Dina Pearlman

Writing Prompt: Pick two people on the same side of a conflict, but give them completely different motivations for fighting on that side.

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By Writing Excuses | January 12, 2014 - 6:32 pm - Posted in Genre, Guest, Sci-fi, Season 9

Eric James Stone joins us for a discussion of hard science fiction. We begin with a discussion of definitions, and then we take care not to spend the whole episode just talking about that. We talk about what we like about hard science fiction (with examples) and of course we address the crux of the matter: can you write hard science fiction without having a degree in the hard sciences?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, narrated by Zach Villa

Writing Prompt: Think of a way to combine two technologies that are currently not combined, and weave them into a story.

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By Writing Excuses | January 26, 2014 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Research, Sci-fi, Season 9

Nancy Fulda, herself a lettered student of artificial intelligence, joins us to talk about writing artificial intelligence believably. We fire questions at her so that you don’t have to!

We talk about what’s current, what’s coming, and what it is that we’re all expecting. We also cover some of the things that writers get wrong (at least insofar as they knock the cognoscenti out of the story.)

Liner Notes: Here’s the article Howard mentioned, “Evolving a Conscious Machine,” from the June 1998 Discover. He got the details almost 100% wrong, but the gist of it was still there.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Eric Conger (note: Howard got this wrong -- no apostrophe at all! And yes, a lantern got hung upon that particular missing bit of punctuation.)

Writing Prompt: Go to the Internet and look up Bayesian learning, neural networks, and genetic algorithms. Yes, it's more of a reading prompt.

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By Writing Excuses | February 23, 2014 - 10:10 pm - Posted in Sci-fi, Season 9, Setting

Eric James Stone and the Wilhelm Scream join us for a talk about “handwavium,” that stuff that you use instead of through-and-through hard science. It’s that part where you wave your hand and say “don’t pay too much attention to this bit.”

When does it fail, though? When is it good enough? Like so many other things, this hinges upon whether or not the reader is knocked out of the story by implausibility. We talk about post-trans-uranics, reversing the polarity, inertial dampeners, and internal consistency. We also talk about how we, as writers, make our decisions regarding handwavium.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Incrementalists, by Stephen Brust and Skyler White, narrated by Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Write some technobabble that explains how turtles have hyperspace.

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By Writing Excuses | March 2, 2014 - 6:37 pm - Posted in Guest, Research, Sci-fi, Season 9

Nancy Fulda is back this week to talk with us about the truth, and what do to when it’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes real people’s names are just too cool, and if you were to put them in a book nobody would believe it. Sometimes actual, historical events are so ridiculous there’s no way you can get away with putting them in a story that you expect people to take seriously. And sometimes real science is just not going to be believed by your readers.

So how do you get away with using these things, with writing your stories in true places? Sometimes all it takes is the hanging of the right lantern, but in many cases you must go to great lengths to re-educate the reader without breaking the fourth wall or otherwise knocking them out of the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Chimes at Midnight: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Run your character through a double-funnel extruder and see what's at the end.

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By Writing Excuses | June 1, 2014 - 6:20 pm - Posted in Sci-fi, Season 9, World Building

Can you use a character with a limited viewpoint to introduce a reader to the fantastic elements of the world you’re building? Even if from that character’s point of view, those elements are not fantastic? In short, how do you get a fish to tell you about water?

This question came from a listener, and before we set about attempting to answer it, we need to establish that this is really difficult. It is one of the grand achievements of well-written genre fiction. There are lots of hacks we use to get around the problem, but what we try to do in this cast is answer the question without any of those tricks. Of course, we also want to cover the hacks, because we use them.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Extraordinary Zoology: Tales from the Monsternomicon, Vol. 1, by Howard Tayler, narrated by Scott Aiello

Writing Prompt: Come up with a really nifty, high-tech setting, and then present it using POV characters who have no idea how all these wonders work, and who take them for granted.

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SPOILER ALERT!

This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Prompt: You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and "you painted yourself into a corner" may very well be some sort of a spell.

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