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Posts by Cedar Sanderson

The Science of Dystopia

We see the concepts of dystopia and utopia explored many times in SFF. Arguably, they were at the beginning of the genre, with Thomas More’s Utopia having been written 500 years ago now. You can still read his novel, through the magic of the internet, however. In recent years, it seems writers have been more focused on creating fictional visions of dystopias than they have been in trying to set up utopian societies. Given our cultural case of the blues for the last hundred years, this is understandable. Given also that attempts to create utopias over the last few centuries have largely ended badly, well, I’m not sure I can blame the modern writer for being drawn into the dark dystopian world. Read more

Prompted Writing

I’ve been toying with an idea, so hear me out for a minute here. Years ago I was part of a prompt group. I don’t remember just how I got involved – through a friend, I think – but at a time when I struggled to find the time to write, getting a little prompt once a week and then writing was very helpful to keep me going. The comments I got on my writing also helped motivate me. You can find some of my prompts here, and here, and here. I did this for a year or so, taking part when I could – you weren’t locked in to doing it every week – and was very sad when the project folded. I’ve missed it, off an on, since then. Read more

FlySafe School, Ltd.

Science Fiction, fantasy, anything in between, most of these stories focus on the big problems. Really big problems, with plenty of drama. Save the village, save the world, save the universe! Life as we know it is over! We read them to dream, to let our imaginations wander. To reconnect with that sense of wonder we felt as a child learning about the world around us with wide eyes and a mind full of more questions. I was thinking about this yesterday as I dealt with Drama at my house. Well, to be specific, at a Taco Bell and a BMV. It’s not entirely my story to tell but it left me thinking about life’s little dramas, and how they might play out in a SFF setting. Read more

Cover Art: Compositing

This all started because I was very cheeky to a friend recently. Tom Rogneby writes wonderful stories, with a dry wit I really enjoy, so when I saw the cover for his upcoming Boogeyman book, I was both happy, and sad, all at once. It’s complicated. I know the value a cover can give to a book. And I know that I’m probably more critical of book covers than your ordinary reader, because I am also an artist, and someone who specializes in creating book covers and the art, layout, and so forth. So bad book covers make me cringe. Usually, I shut up and scroll on. There are a lot of bad covers out there but it’s like babies. You don’t tell the lady her baby looks like it might have some warthog genes, even if they are on the dad’s side. Authors, especially authors who have paid good money for a crappy cover, don’t want to hear that their baby looks ugly. Shut up and scroll, Sanderson, shut up and scroll.

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As I sit down to write this, it is the very early hours of Pearl Harbor Day. A day that can never be forgotten, a black mark on the calendar like few others in American history. As I was sitting in the dark at my desk contemplating what to write, digging my bare toes into the warmth of the sheepskin rug, and firing off a snarky comment to a friend’s message from overnight, I debated with myself what to write about. It’s the little things. It’s the implications of ‘what if…?’ that allure those of us who write fiction. I’m not a historian, a mere dabbler, but I do know a little bit about what happened in China in the late 1930s. I was contemplating that, and the Holodomor, and other massive genocidal events, comparative to the Holocaust that was in full swing at the time of Pearl Harbor. The difference? Record-keeping. We have minutely detailed records, photos, even video, that came out of Germany after the war. In the places where no one was writing anything down? We can only speculate. Speculations, on the other hand, can be backed up with forensic evidences, so we have a pretty darn good idea of what could have become of us if Pearl Harbor had been a pivot-point in the other direction. Read more

Writing To Your Audience

oh, hai! I sort of forgot this was Saturday… I’ve had first weekend, you see, and now I’m working on second weekend. It’s blissful, and I was all focused on family and not thinking about writing at all. Well, except for Thanksgiving morning where a friend inadvertently gave me a story prompt and I had to sit down and write a little flash fiction before I could get on with making the feast from scratch. I really love to cook. Oddly, more than I love eating it. Don’t get me wrong, that was a lovely meal. But it was more about seeing my family sitting here at the table enjoying the food, laughing, and talking than it was about my own plate. Read more

How to Read: Science Edition

Last week I’d offered to do a full write up of how to read scientific paper critically, and asked if there was any interest in such a topic. No one asked for this, but here you are anyway. I did the research, and I’ve got nothin’ else! Besides which, it’s a fascinating topic to me, and every time I delve deeper into it, I get happier about my career decisions that led me away from the publishing train. Because a lot of the problems in science today stem from the way scientists are evaluated: have you published anything recently? In a serious journal? No? Ok, any journal will do. Did you have positive, real effects? No? No one cares you proved a negative, go back and get me a positive. We want results, or you’re fired! Which, human nature being what it is, leads to… well, it’s not science, unless you’re talking about the study of human psychology when backed into a corner and one’s livelihood threatened. In dire cases when the scientist’s government gets involved, one’s life might be at stake. And that’s even without getting into citation padding, authorial padding (there’s an ongoing scandal in South Korea where researchers have been adding their children’s names onto their papers to pad the children’s academic resumes), and duplication of results. Not replication, which is the gold standard, but using the same results in multiple papers, which is highly unethical and will lead, if caught, to a retraction of the paper. Enough of those, and you will lose your funding, position and have to start over. Read more