Where Babies Come From #5

As usual, spoilers ahead. 

I really enjoyed writing Outed. It gave me a chance to do a quieter local story with more ‘regular’ people being the focus. Eventually I was going to have to give in to the stereotype about South African fiction and tackle discrimination so this is the story where that happens. I’m not mature enough to sensitively tackle racism and segregation, so I didn’t focus on that sort of prejudice. Instead, I wrote an allegory on coming out, hence the title. I’ve never had that sort of experience, so this particular story took a fair amount of research to pull off.

The X-Men series of comics have taken the route of comparing having to grapple with superpowers to having to come out for years. I didn’t quite do the same thing, but the more well-written comics are certainly a point of inspiration for me. Between offhand comments from other people to outright spouting of hatred, I aimed to capture the universal sort of distrust and disdain closeted people fear. I, of course, do not claim to have captured or have fully understood the feeling. I can only guess at what that feels like and I have absolutely no intention of speaking above those voices.

This story is the first in the anthology with a female protagonist. I’d experimented with writing from a woman’s perspective a couple of times before this and I found, to absolutely no one’s shock, that it’s practically identical to writing from a man’s perspective. Funny that…

The protagonist, Maddie, is the first person I really show experimenting with their telekinetic abilities and this has important ramifications on the rest of the series. Between using small sparks to light candles and bigger crackles to intimidate hecklers, Maddie trivialises telekinesis which, at this point, humanity has very little understanding about. By the climax, her abilities are well-established, making the feat of containing a house blaze much more ‘believable’. This is, of course, nothing special compared to stunts pulled off by later characters, but more on that when I get to Angel Apocalypse.

With the addition of brain-hemorrhages and nerve damage, there are faux-biological side-effects for overuse of telekinetic abilities, referred to as burning out in my internal planning. I wanted this story to follow the tone, or hardness, of science-fiction the other stories have while teasing the reader with a bit of grand telekinetic action.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

Advertisements

Where Babies Come From #4

As usual, spoilers ahead. Also, since starting this little series of posts, sales have gone up significantly. Thanks, guys, I appreciate that a lot. 

Capacity for Atrocity represents me going to my roots as a writer: writing fast-paced, intense action scenes and trying my best to portray something cool. As I said in #1 of this series, I really like mecha and this story follows a random group of mecha pilots in Donetsk. Why Donetsk? I wanted another exotic location and I was out of ideas. I went to watch some football and I was met with a Europa League match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk. The commentator starting speaking about one of my favourite players, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and how he used to play for Shakhtar Donetsk. I wanted a snowy place in any case, so a large city in Ukraine worked nicely.

This story was much less of a test for my descriptive skills than many of the others, being more of an action story than the others. I wanted to make the reader feel the sort of unfamiliar intensity and power the characters would see from pre-Event weaponry. In the context of the narrative, these mech suits are almost legendary machines and are certainly much more powerful than anything else at the military’s disposal. I aimed for a melancholy feeling of a lost era as the mecha fight but with the sort of energy and intensity that justifies even hardened professionals cracking under pressure.

The desolate ruins of Donetsk are little more than a microcosm of the global situation. As a Blank Zone, it’s an abandoned area that civilians are pretty banned from entering. I allude to Blank Zones having mutagenic monsters, rogue Lordframes and dormant weapons like virus bombs and untriggered nuclear devices. I intend to set more stories in the Blank Zones, so giving the reader a taste here won’t hurt.

In the end, I wanted Capacity for Atrocity to be cool and intense, showing off both my standpoint on warfare and my technical abilities.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

Where Babies Come From #3

The Bloodbringer is actually one of my older short stories, one I posted a couple of years ago on this blog. I received positive feedback on it and, with some tweaking, it was ready for the anthology.

With this story, I wanted to capture the fear of a recovering post-apocalyptic world full of new and terrifying entities and what better lens to shoot the world through than the eyes of a child? I focused on the desolation left behind by the Event and how people adapted to it. References to TV shows and series gave way to dog-eared novels. Having the story take place in the dead of night added to the sinister mood. I know I’m not the only one who was scared of shadows in the night as a child.

Gangsters are rather a large problem here in Cape Town, to put it very mildly. That made putting organised criminals in the limelight as my villains very easy. The fear factor didn’t come from them. I modeled the ghoul in the story on deep fears of mine: lurking murderers, impossibly strong monsters and silent shades. I never explained what the ghoul was and I don’t plan to. Fear of the unknown is another deep fear of mine.

The Bloodbringer was the first story that involved large chunks of descriptive text and represents an important marker for me. It was my first shot an atmospheric piece and I think I did a decent job.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

Where Babies Come From #2

As usual, spoilers ahead. Get a copy of Blackout or give me a shout if you want a free copy.
We’re going into the more meaty stories now, with Panic being first. I wanted to go to a foreign location for the epicenter of the apocalypse. Doing one of the cosmopolitan European cities would have been a cheap way out and there are enough end-of-the-world stories set in the US, so I didn’t need to add any more. I thought Nigeria, being Africa’s largest economy at this point, would be interesting place in which to set my story.

Most of my stories, novel including, happen long after the Event hits, so I felt obliged to write one at the point of impact. The whole thing is described as horrific, world-ending but very distant in the main narrative, turning Panic into something more visceral and more real. It gave my descriptive skills a bit of challenge in keeping the reader’s attention with a single character, no dialogue and an entire city going to hell. No one in the subsequent stories quite knows what happened, so giving the reader something extra seemed good.

The apocalypse introducing the power of telekinesis was always on the cards, with the end of Panic showcasing my unique take on magic system in science-fiction settings. With telekinesis being a magnetism-like force, I have a somewhat scientific sounding system that’s quite fun to play with. I really enjoy the sense of scale, destruction and power that telekinesis brings to a story, so I wanted to have that as a resource in my novel and in Panic, you get to see where that comes from. Mutagens introducing superpowers are something I’ve seen in some of my favourite pieces of fiction and I took it upon myself to deal with the concept very differently.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

Where Babies Come From #1

I like to share things with the world. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have attempted writing books and publishing them. I really do enjoy pouring my emotions onto the page/keyboard and hopefully eliciting the same sort of feelings in my readers. What does spawning literary ideas and writing fiction have to do with babies? Creative juices, my friend!

Anyway, I thought I’d start sharing the inspirations for the various things I write. I released Blackout last month, so I’ve got license to harp on about it for a little bit longer. I’m going to start with the two shortest pieces in Blackout, to ease myself into this. Fair warning, there may be spoilers ahead.

The Event
The Event is as general as general gets. It sets up the world in the mind of the reader, making a general picture before the other short stories make up wrinkles in the tapestry. The post-apocalyptic setting is one that I rather enjoy when it’s done well and done with some sort of variation. The generic ‘cataclysm that turns humanity into scavengers and vagrants’ has been done to death, so I thought I’d do something different and jump forward fifty years to see some semblance of bouncing back. Having learned about market economies in EMS in Grade 9, I found the concept interesting and decided to implement a form of it in my series.

I think PMCs are a pretty cool concept narratively. Having the protagonist tied to actual professional killers masquerading as a national military, itself mocked as a bunch of paid murderers, makes for some fun moral exploration, especially when applied to an entire society invested in the idea of war being necessary for their daily bread.

Titans of Another Time
I’m a huge nerd about certain science fiction concepts. Humanoid war machines are one such concept. Having watched such things as Gundam, Gurren Lagann, Code Geass and more recently mainstream blockbusters that feature mecha, I find the things pretty cool and decided to put my own spin on things. Because copyrights and trademarks are things that exist, I ended up having to make my own name for my humanoid tanks. I’m not the best with names but Lordframe sounded cool, so I stuck with that.

I really enjoy drawing mecha as well, so I’ve a wide variety of things to describe and fiddle with. Maybe I’ll upload those some day when I feel more confident about them. There’s a sense of grandeur and scale with humanoid war machines that I think is awesome and I couldn’t really do anything but include them in my stories.

Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

Representation in Fiction

Yesterday was the 27th of April 2017. That probably isn’t important to many of you out there but here in South Africa, it was also Freedom Day 2017, the anniversary of the first truly representative democratic election in 1994. We’ve still got a long way to go (obviously) in terms of representation, but it was a great step forward. If I wanted to use that thematically, I’m a day late, but whatever. I suppose it’s better late than never to discuss representation and how I go about dealing with it. I’ve written about the portrayal of genders already, so I’ll skip over that one this time.

1. Race. I’ve never really placed too much emphasis on race and it’s really a tired trope to do so in this day and age. It ends up being a more incidental thing than important to the core of the character for me. Race shouldn’t really define how a character acts unless the context or plot specifically call for it and then it should be dealt with very carefully. Stereotypes are a bad path to wander down, unless you want to be metaphorically mugged.

Communities are more nuanced and subtle than stereotypes allow. As always, research into different sorts of contexts and situations allows one to portray one’s characters of colour more sensitively. If you get something wrong about a community, that’s fine as long as it’s not offensive. The thought of including different kinds of communities goes a long way.

2. Sexuality. Gay is not a character trait. Unless your plot or special context calls for it, I wouldn’t place any emphasis on someone being gay/bi/pan at all. Queer romance is practically identical to heterosexual romance, with the distinction of potentially bigoted characters getting in the way. Unless your aim is to show this facet, I suggest identical treatment for all romance. Normalising things is good.

3. Religion. Please, please, please do your research on this one. No one appreciates having their beliefs, organised or otherwise, ripped apart by some fool behind a computer screen who didn’t bother to get any of the fundamental facts straight. No person’s faith is identical to another’s: atheists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus etc all have different individual details among themselves. Try not to make anyone upset if you choose to depict any given religion in a light that isn’t strictly neutral.

4. Politics. I’m not brave enough for politics nor am I brave enough to depict them. Many writers make their political leanings extremely clear when they write and this is bound to upset someone. The fact of the matter is, there’s no right answer for politics. Some people will like any political sentiment in your work of fiction, some people will absolutely hate even the faintest sniff of politics. I can’t help you with this one.

I hope the above points help at all. Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

Giveaway: Blackout

I’ll be giving away ten free copies of Blackout to Kindle users via email. If you’re interested in getting a copy, fill out the form below. If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t, I’ll try to be a bit better for the next book.

Please leave a review when you’re done, but more importantly enjoy the book! Thanks for reading and enjoy your day!

Teaser- Panic

The ground below Moussa’s car exploded. Spikes of black tar rose up like Hell’s own fingers to drag him to the abyss, the road bursting to life as they were ripped asunder. He’d seen bombs explode in his backyard, frames rain down from air-carriers and rip his countrymen apart like wet paper and some genetic engineer’s project rip up his town. This wasn’t any of those. This was something beyond the scope of anyone or anything he’d seen before, a fact laid blatantly bare as the ground under entire buildings rose to meet the sky. The Earth itself roared like a wounded animal; infected black pus oozed from the cracks in the ground.
Continue reading