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If The Monster Is Blue, You’re Safe

If The Monster Is Blue, You’re Safe

Have you ever noticed that most fictional creatures that are blue turn out to be the good guys? Or if not good, at least neutral.I thought it might be fun to take a break from talking about writing and reading, and instead talk about monsters.

Blue Monsters

Let’s start with the most obvious blue monster: The Cookie Monster is definitely a good guy… unless you’re a cookie, I suppose. Smurfs are nice people. The Na’vi from Avatar are pretty much your textbook definition Noble Savages.

Sulley from Monsters, Inc. is definitely a good guy, even though he tries hard to be as scary as possible.

Even though Stitch is destructive, he becomes good, probably through his association with Lilo. Though who knows, perhaps he would’ve turned out fine regardless.

In the X-Men universe, blue tends to be for X-Men, although Mystique is one notable exception. She’s balanced out by Hank McCoy (Beast). Nightcrawler is a bit of a trickster, though mostly falling on the side of the X-Men.

I’m sure you could think of other examples. So why do blue monsters play nice?

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    5 SFF Kickstarters You Should Back

    5 SFF Kickstarters You Should Back

    If you’re like me, you like the idea of backing creative Kickstarter projects and getting cool stuff in return. But it’s also hard sorting through Kickstarter to find projects specifically in the science fiction and fantasy genre. So I’ve gathered five active, ongoing speculative fiction Kickstarters in this post that I hope you’ll find as interesting as I do.


    SCI-FEST: A one-act play festival in LA

    By David Dean Bottrell
    Kickstarter Link

    What It Is: One-act play festival in Los Angeles

    Goal: $80,000

    Deadline: February 28

    What You Get: For $5 you’re acknowledged on the website

    Summary: Two evenings of short sci-fi plays (sort of like mini Twilight Zone episodes). Among the original one-act plays will be the first-ever stage adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic tale of transformation, “The Wife’s Story.” Plus, a revival of Ray Bradbury’s chilling one-act play, “Kaleidoscope.” The creator David Bean Bottrell has appeared in TV series like Boston Legal, Justified, and True Blood.

    Why You Should Back It: Because science fiction has almost never been seen in the stage play medium.

    The Undergrounds: A Family-Fantasy-Adventure Series

    By Geert Heetebrij
    Kickstarter Link

    What It Is: Children’s comic series, 9 issues

    Goal: $5,000

    Deadline: February 1

    What You Get: For $5 you get the PDF of the 52-page first issue

    Summary: A father brings his children’s bedtime story to life with a friend’s artwork as a comic series. Tunnels under a suburban home lead a family to a land of dangerous fairy tales. Just watch the video, and you’ll see the charming story, not just of the comic, but of its creation.

    Why You Should Back It: Because there aren’t enough comics for kids in the world these days. You could start them into a lifelong habit of enjoying art and literature.

    Face Art Every Day For An Entire Year

    By Heather Bangerter
    Kickstarter Link

    Fantasy Face Art

    What It Is: Pigment on the artist’s face

    Goal: $4,000

    Deadline: February 13

    What You Get: For $5 you can send her a picture of for her next day’s face art.

    Summary: In the video you’ll see her face art of Vincent Van Gogh’s Exploding TARDIS, and it’s pretty awesome. If you look through some of the updates, you’ll see some other cool face art based on other pictures and paintings, like the Na’vi in Avatar. She eventually hopes to do face paint for people at Comic-Con and to do video tutorials.

    Why You Should Back It: Because creativity! It’s nice to see people being creative in nontraditional mediums.

    Icarus: A Graphic Novel

    By Silence in the Library Publishing
    Kickstarter Link

    What It Is: A graphic novel, 80 pages

    Icarus Graphic Novel Sketches of Solar

    Goal: $8,000

    Deadline: February 12

    What You Get: For $5 you get the ebook of the original novel (not the graphic novel), listed in thank you of the graphic novel, and a digital wallpaper of the graphic novel cover art.

    Summary: A novel by Gregory Wilson, host of the Speculate! podcast, will be translated into graphic novel form. A being falls from the sky to save a world from tyranny. In the updates section, you can see the artist doing a live stream while he colors the cover and a link to the author’s AMA on reddit.

    Why I Backed It: I really admire Gregory Wilson’s devotion to the genre. The author has given so much to the SFF community by hosting the Speculate! podcast for so long, and I’d like to see his work come to life.

    Why You Should Back It: Because it sounds like the story is going to explore some interesting themes, and with some neat artwork to bring it to life, it will be even more fun to read.


    By Lightspeed Magazine
    Kickstarter Link

    What It Is: A special issue of Lightspeed Magazine featuring SF written by women

    Goal: Surpassed (you can still back it to get the great perks!)

    Deadline: February 16

    What You Get: For $5 you get an ebook of the issue plus three back issues and acknowledgement of your support.

    Summary: Mary Shelley wrote the first science fiction novel (Frankenstein). Yet some readers seem to have this funny idea that women don’t—or can’t—write science fiction. This issue is completely written and edited by women, with 15 short stories, 2 novellas, up to 10 flash fiction stories, author spotlights, interviews, essays, and more.

    Why I Backed It: As a female science fiction writer, this subject is obviously of particular interest to me. For a genre that is so heavily focused on the future, we are still so mired in backwards thinking. I hope this issue will help inspire more women to speak up about their love for the genre, and not be afraid to say they write in it, too.

    Why You Should Back It: Because Lightspeed publishes amazing science fiction and fantasy stories, and since the goals (including a stretch goal) are already surpassed, you’re guaranteed to get some great stuff! Check out the stretch goals to see if you want to fund higher tiers now that they include bonuses.

    What’s the most interesting perk you’ve ever seen listed on a Kickstarter? Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+.

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      Is Interactive Fiction the Next Storytelling Format?

      Is Interactive Fiction the Next Storytelling Format?

      There’s plenty of buzz about something called transmedia storytelling — stories that exist on multiple platforms, allowing the audience to enter the world whichever way they prefer. This could be through a novel, a movie, a console video game, a board game, short webisodes, web comics, interactive fiction, and so on.

      As a writer, I find it hard to wrap my head around some of those (I never paid much attention to screenwriting). So interactive fiction sounded like a good place to get my transmedia toes wet.

      You may be wondering what interactive fiction (IF) really means, but you’ve probably had some experience with early forms of it yourself. Did you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book as a kid?

      One of the most common so-called gamebooks was the Lone Wolf series, which operated a little different than CYOA books by allowing you to choose character attributes, much like Dungeons & Dragons.

      And IF is similar to a MUD, but a bit more limited.

      These all still exist, and as many of us grew up on them, it makes sense we might seek other forms of interactive fiction (IF) now.

      To me, interactive fiction is the ultimate “What if?” format, making it ideal for science fiction and fantasy.

      Modern Forms of Interactive Fiction: A Reader’s Perspective

      We’ve had printed books for centuries. We had Choose Your Own Adventure books as kids and MUDs as teens. Now we’ve got ebooks. Is interactive fiction the next storytelling format?

      I started looking into modern interactive fiction and its advantages and disadvantages from both the writer’s and the reader’s perspectives. Stumbling over to the Interactive Fiction Database, I poked through some of the IF recommended for newbies like myself.

      Two of the three I tried left me stumped. I assumed I didn’t have to know any commands for them, and that I could just go through with natural choices like “Open the door,” and “Go north.” Most of the time, that worked, but in two of the three games, I found myself at a loss for what I was allowed to do next.

      So one of the major disadvantages for the reader is the feeling of being funneled through fake choices. In one game I couldn’t leave the house because I had to take a shower and change clothes first. But in trying to do so, other stumbling blocks tripped me up.

      After that, I discovered an interesting IF called “First Draft of the Revolution.” In it, you role-play as long-distance husband and wife whose only form of communication are letters they write each other. You revise the letters, and the story changes as a result. Try it out.

      One thing I really like about “First Draft of the Revolution” is the visual appeal. In a sense, it’s also text-based, and yet it’s formatted very nicely on a parchment backdrop with beautiful typography. After a little initial confusion, it was clear to me what parts of the letters I could choose to change (or not), and it went smoothly from there. I didn’t need to know any esoteric commands. Plus, I was able to play it in the Chrome browser, both on my PC and on my Nexus 7 tablet.

      So as a reader, what would my ideal IF experience be?

      • Provide clear choices: Don’t make us guess what we have to do.
      • Create real choices: Our choices should actually mean something and change the story in some way, not just funnel us back onto a pre-determined path. 
      • Avoid long gaps between choices: If we wanted long-form prose without much interaction, we’d just read a regular book.
      • Create an inviting visual: Like a real book, we want to see an attractive cover, typography, and interior pages, to put us in the imaginative mindset. 
      • Forget page numbers: It breaks the fourth wall, especially when we don’t have a physical book in our hands in the first place. Just link us to the next piece of the story. 
      • Offer the ability to bookmark: Since IF is similar to role-playing games, save points before a life-or-death choice would allow us to return and change our minds. 

      Writing Interactive Fiction

      Writing an interactive fiction story presents some unique challenges. Keeping up with various plot lines in a novel is bad enough, but to keep up with all the potential story threads in a interactive story is mind-boggling. Luckily, some developers have already paved the way to help us writers out. I’ll touch on two.

      Inform7 is an incredibly complex piece of software, yet is very intuitive and user-friendly. You don’t need to have any programming skills to use it, although I recommend you read through the extensive documentation before trying anything out. You’ll need to arm yourself with the basics.

      Alternately, you can try your hand at Inklewriter. This one’s choices are more clearly defined, in the vein of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. The reader usually has two or three options to move forward.

      Writing interactive fiction requires a change of mindset. You not only have to keep in mind what all your characters motivations are, but now you have to guess what your reader’s desires are. Blogger Nicole Pyles has some advice on this balancing act. And the Brass Lantern offers some resources for both writers and readers of IF.

      It’s hard to tell if IF will ever become a dominate entertainment form, but I think it makes a good supplement for readers between books, or in addition to them. I intend to try it out soon, so get in touch with me on Google+ or Twitter and let’s commiserate.

      Check out what other writers have done with this new storytelling format below. Then dive in and start your own interactive fiction with Inform7 or Inklewriter!

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