Friday, October 31, 2008

The Anachronist - Episode 7

The "space station murder mystery" continues.

This marks the end of the extant portion of the story. From here on out, I have to start writing new material. Dang it!

If you'd like to catch up on prior episodes, click on the links in the sidebar. Enjoy!

Harris, a young man of average height with wild hair and the habit of muttering to himself, examines crate number one. With a glass that resembles a jeweler’s loupe, he studies the locks and seals then he illumines the entire box, but no fingerprints or stains glow under the light. He pays no attention to the Fraenorsh on the tag, just to the way the tag is attached to the crate.

It’s just as well. What I’ve managed to translate so far has nothing to do with an inventory list. I signal Zane and tilt the slate in his direction.

“Huh,” he says, and glances at the crate. “Curiouser and curioser.”

“Ha!” Harris straightens. “This tag does not belong to this box.”

Effects Warden Durward frowns. “But it was stored as one of Advocate Edo’s crates.”

Harris lets the loupe fall, and it dangles from the lanyard around his neck. “Even so, this tag was switched. This box may or may not belong to the grouping.” He gestures with both hands, palms held about two inches apart like, making chopping motions downward as he speaks. “The switched tag may be nothing more than a replacement for a damaged tag. The box may have been accidentally stored with this group, and the Edo box may be stored in its place, wherever its group is in the vault. Or both tag and box were switched, and the crate you need could be anywhere.”

Zane crosses his arms. “Somebody switched crates then tags, and made off with the original box?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“Why go through all that trouble?”

Harris shrugged. “To keep you occupied?” He peels off his gloves. “Any clue what was in the original crate? Anything anyone might be interested in stealing?”

Zane just looks at him.

Harris lifts his hands. “Yeah. That’s not my business.” He closes his kit and locks it. “By the way, there’s no one I know who speaks Fraenorsh on Wyoming Colony. It’s gotta be a clue, though.”

I decline to speak up about my tenuous grasp of the new language.

Harris turns toward me and sticks out a hand. “Miles Harris. Or, as Zane likes to call me, geek law.”

“Forensic Officer Harris, it’s good to meet you.” I set the slate and stylus in a seat under the table then stand to shake his hand. “I’m Advocate Temm. You can drop the advocate, though.”

“Just Temm, it is.” He grins. “Welcome aboard. Call me Harris.”

“Will do.”

Zane inserts a shoulder between us. “If you’re done bonding, maybe we can get back to our original business?”

“Sure. Sure,” but Harris still looks at me a second or two longer than necessary.

I turn, take a step toward Durward as if to discuss something. Reflected on a screen, Harris stares at my back.

Zane takes him by the shoulder and walks with him to the door, speaking in a low tone. Harris leaves the vault.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beyond the Reflection's Edge

Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis is the kind of book I read as a kid.

I was always fascinated by time travel tales, interesting gadgets, and the grand "What If?" of alternate universes. In the first book of his Echoes from the Edge series, Davis introduces readers to three possible Earths, each with a timeline of its own.

But there is more to the story than that. Nathan Shepherd (seen here in a drawing by a young artist named Meghan, who submitted this piece on the fan art page of Davis's site) is the teenage protagonist we follow through the action. He's a likable character with an interesting background (his dad is a spy--ahem, investigator--his mom is a concert violinist, and even his tutor is a spy, uh, investigator) and collection of action-packed memories from his life so far.

The cool stuff: violins and classical music; cameras and photography; time travel (of a sort); a kid trying to rescue / find his parents, who may or may not be dead.

Nathan and Kelly (his co-protagonist) take pictures of reflections that may show themselves in this dimension, or may show themselves or other characters in another dimension. They travel by looking into a special mirror, playing music from a violin, and employing a flash from some sort of available light source (flashlight, lightning, et cetera).

Despite its real-life impossibility, I'm always up for stories about time travel. After all, skipping through time is always something I wanted to do--as a kid--and may have been why I found history an interesting subject in school. It's what I, as an adult, liked about Timeline by Michael Crichton (the book, not so much the movie), the beginning of which includes an interesting scientific description of the possibility of time travel.

Returning to Beyond the Reflection's Edge: It has received many positive reviews from YA readers, as evidenced by the first couple of pages of the paperback. However, younger children might be confused by the various timelines, dimensions, parallel events, and parallel characters.

Which brings me to a confession: I skimmed. A lot. Due to those parallels just mentioned, there's a certain amount of repetition and multiples of the same characters, all necessary to the story. After a time, however, it simply becomes wearying. Or it did for me. Other readers might be hanging on every word. It is pretty intense in places.

What I didn't believe: the times Nathan or a cohort would say something incredible to a supporting character, and it was just accepted. Though Davis addresses this briefly in a short dialogue between Nathan and Gunther (an adult to whom he previously made an outrageous but true statement), it doesn’t assuage my incredulity. There are some pretty amazing things said and done at which other characters just shrug and accept--responses that would not happen in reality, and that pulled me out of this already unreal story.

Other negatives: The supporting characters—Clara, Daryl, Tony—were thin and weak, merely tools and not necessarily interesting in their own right, though there did seem to be an attempt to give them some depth by providing background (Clara was once a professor before becoming Nathan's tutor, Daryl is a computer whiz, Tony is a womanizer and a clod).

Though Clara starts out as a primary character, she is soon relegated to the role of secondary, yet she (and the other versions of her) continue to perform essential tasks that further the story.

Someone who quickly becomes a primary is Kelly, who gains importance because she can hear what Nathan cannot always hear: voices and music from the other dimensions. There is some weirdness, though, as she goes from “foster sister” to potential girlfriend. However, the ending was handled pretty well, I thought, between Kelly, Nathan, and Tony (Kelly's dad).

Bryan Davis is the author of other young adult novels--the Oracles of Fire series, and the Dragons in Our Midst series--as well as a couple of other books, nonfiction for grownups, that are available on his website.

(Check out other perspectives by visiting the blogs listed under the CSFF Blog Tour logo in the sidebar.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Crazy-Early on a Sunday Morning

For days, I've been trying to write scenes that I know must be included in Episode 5 of the science fiction serial I am writing, but the words and the images are far away.

Saturday, I never ventured out of my house, and did a lot of sleeping due to headache and nausea, ailments that have plagued me on-and-off since last weekend. Perhaps all that stillness was a boon. About an hour ago, like timid deer, images approached and let me transcribe them, but only for a little while before they bounded into the undergrowth once more.

Episode 4 has been captured and tamed and will soon be sent into the civilized world of pre-publication proofing. (How's that for alliteration?)

As a slush reader for an online magazine, much of my otherwise creative time has been spent reading submissions and proofing accepted manuscripts. I have one more proof to go this weekend--an accepted entry written by a friend, Jade Smith--and a couple more submissions: one a cold submittal, and the other a resubmittal after requested revisions were made. (Would you look at that. More alliteration!)

In September and these first several days of October, the submissions came in a rather large spate and, after a while, I had to stop reading. Some of them were abysmal. Some were darkly comic. Some of them glowed with quality writing.

I wonder how many of the authors of the rejected pieces sat at their computers and wondered why their "precious" (a fantasy reference) did not meet with open arms. After all, Fear and Trembling is a small magazine, relying on volunteers behind the scenes in order to maintain its presence on the web. But size doesn't matter when it comes to the quality of the stories. How else can a magazine expect to grow if it does not provide readers with a well-written array of reading material?

A writer must give his best effort, regardless of the venue. He never knows who's reading.

He never knows who'll pass along the word to others.

I'm sure he hopes it's a good word.

In that spirit, I'm up at a heathen hour, trusty pen in hand, hunting the timid word-deer, hoping to bag a few more before nausea nabs me again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fantasy on the Road

This week, the Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour is on the road. This is a cool concept, and it's been drumming up enthusiasm for Christian fiction.

Check out the work of some of the writers in the tour:

Wayne Thomas Batson
Bryan Davis
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
L.B. Graham
Donita Paul
Eric Reinhold
Jonathan Rogers

The Miller Brothers are also participating.

NOTE: In the weekly Story Time at the Boys & Girls Club, I am reading aloud one of Jonathan Rogers' books, The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first in his The Wilderking Trilogy. One girl who came to the session for the first time last week was enthusiastic--"Great story!"--even though she's jumping into the middle of the action.