Friday, August 31, 2012

Recent and Near-Future Reading (and Writing)

As you might know from my most recent post, I just finished A Storm of Swords.  This puts me at least a whole season ahead of HBO's Game of Thrones, which should help me to avoid spoilers.  Now, I can get back to the business at hand:  reading planetary romance, starting with the John Carter of Mars books.
... except that my plans have changed.
You see, I set out to read planetary romance as a form of research in preparation for NaNoWriMo, but my thoughts on the novel that I was to write have transformed it from throw-away adventure into magnum opus. It feels as weird as it sounds.  Anyway, that means that I'm shelving it until I get more practice at this whole novel thing.  So, what do I do now?
Thanks to cthulhuchick on twitter, I've discovered that one John Maddox Roberts wrote a series of mystery novels that take place in ancient Rome.  Throw-away comment about vampires in ancient Rome?  You're becoming a throw-away novel about vampires in ancient Rome.
New problem:  I know nothing about ancient Rome, and it's about the end of August.  This is not enough time to learn about ancient Rome and fully outline a novel!  What do I do?
I'm basically looking at two options now:
1.  I re-attempt last year's novel.
2.  I skip NaNoWriMo this year.
Unless I get a story idea about a subject with which I'm already familiar, these are my two options, and they're both looking about equal right now.

So, my reading schedule, at the moment, is some SPQR, some Barsoom, and some H.P. Lovecraft.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Regarding A Storm of Swords

I recently finished A Storm of Swords.  I'll talk about it briefly, but I warn you now of spoilers.

So, everything's pretty frakked up, which is par for the course for Westeros.  Everyone is evil to everyone else, except for a few northern peoples.
I was slightly surprised when, near the end, they explained that dragonglass actually isn't effective against the wights.  Here, I figured that the dragonglass broke against mail because mail is metal, but dissolved the Other because it was stabbed in its unarmored neck.  I liked the bit where the literal crows came to rescue Sam and Gilly under the heart tree, giving possible meaning to the black and a possible history of heart trees as protectors, if those are what drew the crows to eat the wights.  Then again, "Coldhands" showed up on his gigantic elk, so maybe he had a hand in it.  (I haven't read the next two books, of course, so I'll have to wait and see.)
Oh, and here's something really meta:  I figured that George R.R. Martin was showing how complex of a world it is, that the lord of the Dreadfort - whose symbol is the flayed man and whose family is known for torture, and things like "a naked man has few secrets; a flayed man has none" - was on the side of the good guys (read: Starks).  So, I was actually surprised when Roose Bolton turned out to be evil.
Actually, the thing that strikes me as odd about this book is how much good happens in it.  I mean, sure, Robb Stark and Grey Wind die, which sucks, but Joffrey dies, too, so there's that.  Balon Greyjoy dies, only to be replaced by his brother, but we know so little about these vikings ironmen that it's hard for me to care. Sansa's out of King's Landing and, though she's in Littlefinger's hands, and he just killed her aunt, I'd still call it an improvement.  Bran's north of The Wall to go get his psychic powers, Jon's Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Gregor Clegane is suffering horribly (and I had such high hopes for his death), and Arya is finally off to Braavos.
Honestly?  When I found out that "valar morghulis" meant "all men must die", I expected her to meet Syrio Forel, say that word to him while showing him the coin, and have his head explode or something, where it turns out that the iron coin is some kind of Braavosi-slaying tool and she had to suffer some horrible pain or something to learn to become a face-changer.  I mean, really, would you blame me for expecting anything less at this point?
When I get around to reading the next book, here are my points of anticipation:

  • Daenerys and her attempts at the whole monarchy thing
  • Arya's journey to Braavos
  • Who the frak is Coldhands?  
  • What the frak is Coldhands?  
  • What will the consequences of the massive violation of the guest right on the part of the Freys be?  
  • So... Rickon?  
  • What is Littlefinger's apparently really long and well thought-out scheme?  
  • Tyrion's an actual kinslayer now.  Consequences?  
  • I liked Patchface.  He had this whole creepy quasi-prophetic vibe going on.  What ever became of him?  
By the way, I think that Daenerys could be carried by her dragons if she had a lightweight litter made w/ 3 handles on the top for her dragons to hold.  That said, it's probably too silly to appear in the series, but it's a thought.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 36

Bootfalls sounded in the dank, narrow corridors.  There was no time to lose, but what remained of the team had to stop at a T junction.  With so little recon, the original team had had to split at every junction, just to be sure that they'd find him, but it was too risky to split up just the three of them.
She gazed down one corridor, and then the other.  Each appeared to be an exact mirror of the other.  On a hunch, she fired a single shot down one corridor, hoping that he might have run out of space and had to resort to high-quality mirrors - though, in the dim light, maybe they didn't have to be that good.  She tried again down the other.
"That won't do you any good," came a voice over the public announcement system.  Such a system was entirely for their benefit, as the villain worked alone, with only the occasional robot to help him.
She engaged her radio.  "Did anyone else hear that?"
There came no response.
"It seems that there's too much metalwork down here, though you may have suspected that when you lost contact with the ones on the outside.  Of course, you could always double back if you wanted to talk face-to-face."
Fortunately, she'd brought the right man for the job.  "Ears?" she asked.  He signaled to move right, and off they went.
"I really wish that he'd talked before this.  Three is not enough," complained Ears.
"Time matters more than quantity right now."
They almost passed him.  He was operating a terminal on a platform just three steps above the floor of the hallway, in what was barely an alcove.  Nevertheless, there was a safety railing along the non-stair parts of it.
She took aim with her rifle, and he turned around, propping himself against the railing with a straightened arm, the other arm on the bulb of a raised lever.  He looked at her, smiling his wicked smile.
"Weren't you told to try to take me alive, anyway?"
"I might not be able to risk it, now."
"Well, you certainly can't risk shooting in this position.  For all that you know, this lever is the final trigger that will launch the missiles."
"Can I risk not shooting you?  You could just pull that lever, anyway, and maybe you're not ready."
"Do you want to know why they sent you in?"
"They sent us in to stop you.  You're trying to destroy the world."
"In a manner of speaking, I am, but it's far more poetical than that.  Wouldn't a nuke have done the job?  Destroy me, the island, the silos, just to be safe."
"Maybe they've got some ulterior motive, plan to use your genius to make a new weapon or something.  Whatever it is, it can't rank much higher than 'destroy the world' on my list of things to avoid."
"What, do you honestly think that I'm going to just blow it up?  They know that, whatever I've got planned, it's extraordinary.  They probably want to make sure that I don't have some kind of fail-safe stashed somewhere, maybe destroy just a city if I don't get the whole world.  They're probably scouring the big ones, now, since they may have deduced that I was brewing up neurotoxins.  Maybe they'll hope to get a cure out of my research.  Then again, maybe they just assumed that I'd fire even a partial arsenal if anything entered my airspace, which is why they didn't use a missile, didn't fly a bomb in, and shipped you folks in by boat.  Maybe they just know that I'm a complete and utter wildcard."
"So, they sent us in because only someone insane would be better taken by armed men and women than by a giant atomic fireball?  Well, we seem to be doing OK so far."
"True, but it's only a folly.  So, would you like to hear my big plan?"
Ears piped in, quietly.  "Sir, there's something wrong...."
"I know, but I'll listen, anyway.  Go on, tell us your big, evil plan."
"It's so simple, really, though the neurochemistry was really hard, so I guess not.  I've got enough aerosol to be able to deliver the toxins globally.  They'll affect everyone via the air, though, as an added bonus, it will get into the water supply, too.  Of course, by 'everyone', I mean all the females.  It doesn't actually affect males."
"So, you'll wipe out the human population by targeting the females?  That's not exactly original."
"It wouldn't be if I were killing them.  Instead, I'm turning them into lesbians."
"What, is this some erotic fantasy of yours?"
"Soldiers never could appreciate true genius.  Think about it for a while.  No woman will consent to heterosexual sex without some sort of coercion.  If humanity sticks to its ethics, then sure, it's a simple case of slow die-off, but how likely is that?  If you're lucky, then they'll turn a small segment of the female population into breeding stock, with a simple eugenics program.  And that's the good outcome."
She was silent for only a moment as she devised a solution.  She aimed downward.  "Tell me where the cure is, or I put a bullet in your left knee."
"There are three mistakes running through your head right now.  The first is that you've assumed that I've made either an antidote or a vaccine, or at least come up with a formula for them.  I haven't.  I think that your friend has figured out the second one."  He never took his eyes off of her.
"He's not here," said Ears.  "It's just a robot, or some kind of animatron."
At that, a shotgun went off, removing at the elbow the arm that held the lever.  "Good," said her other subordinate, "He won't bleed out."
"It's such a pity, too," came the voice of their enemy.  "I spent so much on these speakers.  They cost half as much as the face.  I didn't even have the budget for the hand skin - hence the gloves.  But you're right, I'm not even on the island."
Ears piped in.  "So, is that where we are, then?  He's hidden safe somewhere, and we have the base?"
"For someone who hears so well, you sure don't listen.  I already told you that it was a folly, but you paid me no heed, perhaps because you thought that I meant your efforts."
It dawned on her too late.  "He meant his base!  The whole thing's a fake."
The lever on the wall lowered itself, and klaxons sounded throughout the facility.  "And the world shall know terror," said the monster through the machine.