Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Captain Quasar And The Vivid Imagination Of Milo Fowler

Today's guest is none other than Milo James Fowler, Speculative Fictioneer, who writes a nice line in 'tongue-in-cheek' characters and stories. This post is about his most famous creation, Captain Quasar.


For me, writing fiction is all about the characters. And when I create a protagonist I enjoy, I can't help but write more stories for him.

When I came up with Captain Bartholomew Quasar back in the spring of 2010, I was going for a mash-up between William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (but in Quasar's case, things seldom ever go right). He's one of those classic pulp heroes with a heart of gold whose narcissistic tendencies often land him in hot water. 
In my first Quasar tale, "The 'If Only' Elixir of Opsanus Tau Prime," he ended up dying (SPOILER!—oops, too late), but by the time the kind folks at Every Day Fiction published it, I'd gotten to like the character so much I knew I'd be bringing him back as soon as possible. The captain hasn't changed a whole lot in the handful of other tales I've written, but his relationship with Hank and the other characters is deepening with every story, as Quasar realizes he needs them in order to continue being as awesome as (he thinks) he is.

I don't write hard science fiction with a whole lot of actual science in it. I focus on the characters, and everything else I just make up—or I rely on osmosis to filter enough jargon into my brain from all the SF I read. I do my best to aim for universal themes and relatable characters, and I try to shoot for a high entertainment value that transcends any barriers to enjoying these space opera tales.

[This week, "Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Insurmountable Barrier of Space Junk" is free on Amazon for all Kindle readers, so give it a download and let me know what you think.]


You can follow Milo on Facebook, Twitter, his website and Amazon.

With that, I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Friday. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rimmer Revision Exercise

Arnold Rimmer was an organised person. In fact, he was so organised he never achieved anything.

Whenever he was about to take the engineering exam he would organise his revision timetable to maximise his effort and ensure he wasted no time on fripperies. First of all, he'd get a piece of paper, then list all the aspects of engineering he needed to revise and when the exam was being held. This took a whole day. His next step was to schedule his revision periods around his work on board the Jupiter Mining Corporation Ship, Red Dwarf and avoid the sarcasm of his bunkmate, Lister.

Once these periods were blacked out in his timetable, he added into the spaces all the subjects he needed to revise, carefully colour-coding each one so it stood out. This was after he'd made the decision which colour each module needed to be.

Should Engine Operations be yellow or marine blue? Is green an appropriate colour for Astrophysics? He wanted to make it dark blue, but then it wouldn't stand out against the black for the times he was at work, or when Lister was out of the room in the bar getting drunk or sleeping on the floor of the bar too drunk to walk.

By the time Rimmer had evaluated all the respective options regarding module colours, made an allowance for rest on the day before the exam was scheduled, and which were the best times to study, he'd lost a week of his revision time and had to redo the chart.

Four weeks would go by, and each week he'd have to rewrite the timetable to take account of the time he'd spent organising the revision timetable. By the time of the exam he was so exhausted from the planning of his revision he hadn't actually revised anything. Still, like all good space corps employees, he went to the exam...and failed each time by passing out on the floor in the first five minutes.

On one occasion he had managed to write something on his paper. In big, black, bold letters he neatly wrote, 'I AM A FISH'.

I wonder, how often do we spend a lot of time planning our books so we can avoid the actual writing? Do we plot, research, write character descriptions, an encyclopedia of the world we're setting the novel in to avoid putting finger to keyboard? Do we convince ourselves that what we're doing is actual writing?

Stop right there. Be an author, not a Rimmer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fun

It's been a good week for me. Cleared out some rubbish, reorganised my bookshelves, disposed of unwanted items that remind me of bad times...I feel so much better. So what better way to start this blog than with some good news from around the world. (And feel free to add your own good news stories at the end)

Africa is often portrayed as a luckless continent full of horror and starving people, at least that's what journalists like to report as it sells newspapers and gets people to listen and watch as they parade adverts in front of us. In South Africa, one teacher has managed to get a 100% pass rate for her final year students. In Senegal, they've discovered that prawns can help reduce the incidence of a killer disease, while in Mali, musicians have come together, Band Aid style, to sing for peace.

Individual heroism is not unusual, and a man in Australia wrestled a shark to save some children. Another form of heroism is overcoming severe problems. In Haiti, a professional dancer has managed to come back from losing a leg to continue with his career. Still on the subject of people, a professional footballer has spent time and money helping the homeless of Swansea during the cold snap.

And just to prove that it's the people of a nation that make a difference rather than politicians, a designer in the USA has turned illegal weapons into jewelry. Some of the funds raised go back to the police to fund crime-fighting initiatives. In South America, the problems of the past are coming to an end as their economies and societies improve. And lastly, how to use nature to control crop pests. In Brazil they are testing a way of using Wasps to control Moths that eat sugarcane plants.

Now for the odd stories of the past week.

Science Fiction and Fantasy is, mostly, a sexist genre where women have to wear as little clothing as possible. One writer, Jim Hines, is taking this perception on and raising money for charity at the same time. Of all the objects from WW2 that pop up in the UK from time to time, a lump of lard is unusual. A large lump from a sunken merchant ship has washed ashore in Scotland and can still be used. Just to prove we're as batty as anyone else, watch a video of people going for a swim surrounded by ice.  And, we have more than our fair share of crazies. Here's a short video of people ski-ing through a city to get to work.

Watching things go wrong is fun when no one gets hurt, so I enjoyed a good snigger when I discovered that Canada's banknotes have the wrong Maple Leaf on them

In the US, a military plane accidentally dropped a bucket which left a large hole in a building. In another man made problem, a tunnel in Norway was closed because of burning goat's cheese. I kid you not. I'd love to hear a man give that excuse to his wife for being late home from work.

3D printing is all the rage at the moment, but I can't help wondering if it's going a little too far. Firstly, an architect is planning to print buildings, while a company is planning on printing beef.

Onto the largest things, and a seed from the world's largest pumpkin has been sold for £168 so a bigger one can be grown. Is this the largest snowman in the UK, or even the world? It stands 17 feet tall. Come on, take up the challenge.

Now, for the pictures

And lastly, a little song to blow away the blues.

On that high note I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Monday.