Sunday, April 22, 2012


Good news everyone! I finished the third draft of my novel, Shattered Sky! It is now with beta readers. Hurrah!

This is an exceptionally short blog post.

Well, I guess I can say that I recently went to 7/11 and they did not have Nes-Quick! I felt shocked and confused by this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


So, as an author whose book is going to be published, I've got a major question facing me.

What do I do with the people who release or create fan-art for my novels and works! Well, I am a huge proponent of free expression. I think that remixes, mashups, slash-fics, fan-fics, fan-arts, drawings, scribbles, and so on. I've seen some of the astounding things that fans have created: Fans of Babylon 5 built a whole video game, just as one example!

And so I am making a stand. Right here. Right now.

If you are a fan of my work: Write! Mashup! Create art of all kinds. Even the naughty kind. And if you want your fan-creations to be exhibited here, E-mail me! Include the title of the piece, what you want to be identified as, and I'll provide it. The only thing I'll have to refrain from reposting is the aforementioned "naughty things", as my grandparents read this blog.

And so, our first piece of fan-art!

This was by Rebecca Rozakis, a friend of my editor Kate Sullivan. Rebecca would like to say that she wishes she drew it on better paper.

I think it's fantastic!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Villainy most specific

Recently, I've been reading the latest novel by S.M Sterling (and by latest, I mean latest as of 2001, but I only just found it, so it's latest relative to me), The Peshawar Lancers. Despite not actually being about the Peshawar Lancers, I've been enjoying it immensely. There's lots of swords, guns, airships, villains to be killed and so on. But something has been sticking out to me.

It has to have one of the most evil villains I've ever read.

Seriously! He's a misogynistic, Satan worshiping, cannibalistic Russian who seeks to bring about the end of the world. Also, he killed the main character's father (indirectly).

This got me thinking about villains. Villains are vital for a story. Luke Skywalker is only as interesting as his conflict with Darth Vader. Without Duke Rodger's odiously evil/charismatic presence, Alanna's struggles to gain her knighthood would be lacking an essential drive and stake (beyond Alanna's personal desires, of course). You get my point.

But what makes a good villain?

Trick question!

Villains are all about specificity. You can't just grab Hitler out of a box and file off his fingerprints then stick him into a new suit. Well, you can. But that's a lot less fun! A good villain requires you to think about what kind of story you want to tell. For example, if I were telling a science fiction war story, I'd want a villain that reasonably controls an army, has politics diametrically opposed to the main character's faction, and is intelligent enough to be a credible threat. If I were telling a murder mystery, you'd want someone with a good (or at least, understandable/relate-able/scientifically explicable/coherent) reason for killing, has the ability to enact these murders, and is intelligent enough to be a credible threat. If I were telling a story set in a dystopia - and the main thrust was overcoming and destroying said dystopia - then I'd make a reason for the bad guys to be in charge, a reason for their government to be dystopic, and the intelligence to be a credible threat.

Notice a theme?

Intelligence. I've said it before to friends and publishers and random people on the street and my literature class: The most important thing about a character is that they are intelligent. And if I ever said it was something like being relate-able or likable, well, that's also the most important trait(s). But intelligence is what keeps a character engaging and interesting.

When you are reading a book and swearing at a character for doing something stupid, you are doing it wrong.

Unless, of course, I wrote the book.

In which case, you simply do not understand my genius.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Future Shock and Blind Spots

So, I've been editing my novel Shattered Sky, as well as working (slowly) on my prequel short story...and while doing this, I started thinking about the future.

One of the big problems (and advantages) of writing science fiction is that one gets to look at the picture of today and extrapolate outwards. This lets you take modern culture and look at how it might mutate and change and evolve. This lets you do really interesting social commentary, allowing you to distort our own world to - paradoxically - see it all the clearer. This lets you look at the human condition.

And this lets you throw darts at the wall and see what might stick. Star Trek, for example, is quite proud of predicting the cellphone with their handheld communicators. No one seems to mention some predictions that seem quite silly these days, such as whales being stuck on the Enterprise D to aide in spatial navigation or other assorted bizarre and stupid things that Star Trek has posited about humanity's future in space.

I don't think I'm unique in being an author who has created a rather intricate timeline of the future. I also don't think I'm being an author who profoundly hopes he or she is dead wrong.

The Debris Dreams universe takes place in the year 2068, and as I've alluded to before, it's not exactly an easy or smooth road to get there, and the biggest pothole in said road is The Slump: A period between 2019 and 2029 (some argue 2039, just as even now, some people argue that the Great Depression didn't end till 1946)  where the world's economy collapsed, half a dozen wars between previously peaceful nations erupted, terrorism ran rampant and the internet was almost knocked out for good.

Nasty future shocks indeed.

But what caused it? And, more importantly, do I think it's particularly likely? Will we have to suffer through the horrors of a second American Civil War, ecological collapse and resulting devastation?


See, the Slump is predicated on a sudden and complete collapse of economic structures due to an unexpectedly sharp drop-off in oil quantities in the middle east. Rather than the "slow, bumpy plateau" predicted by most Peak Oilers (who I also don't think are right), the world of Debris Dreams was plunged into a sharp, fast downturn. Alternate forms of energy were too immature to save the world from the collapse, and the resulting system shocks just made everything worse.

I try to keep abreast of up and coming technologies, and everything I've seen points to solar, nuclear and genetically engineered biofuels (which are distinct and different from ethanol based biofuels) taking over for oil within the decade, and that oil reserves (while dwindling) will last us quite a bit longer...longer still if and when our cars get better gas mileage and are used more efficiently.

We don't need to worry about an energy based Slump.

What we do need to worry about is a cultural Slump, a political Slump. I personally hate the standard "oh woe is me, everyone is a stupid, vain, greedy jerk (except for myself, of course)" whining that I hear constantly at college. By and large, I think that most people are good. Most people are intelligent, as intelligent as you (yes you) or I. Most people want what is best for themselves, their families and so on.

The problem is that we sometimes let the worst of us dictate policy for the majority of us. These people - be they politicians, corporate CEOs, kings, queens, junta leaders or would be dictators - are usually harmless until they actually get power, which they normally get by preying on the worst of our thoughts and fears. It is easy to forget that you are not the only sane person in the world. It is easy to forget that every single person on the planet - all seven billion of them - are all as complex, multifaceted, deep and interesting as you are.

In that blind spot, the would be dictator whispers: "Let me protect you from the other."

In that blind spot, the politician whispers: "Let me make a law to keep the other from taking what you have."

In that blind spot, the warlord whispers: "Come, lets kill the other, because they are not human."

That blind spot will exist, whether or not we have solar powered flying cars or regress to the 12th century. So, the next time the world looks scary and confusing, and you just wish everyone would stop being so nuts, think...and remember the blind spot. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Moms' Cabin

This was written for my Tuesday/Thursday Advanced Poetry Workshop! Enjoy!


Moms’ Cabin
By David Colby

                Floating above the mantelpiece

                There is a photograph

Six young men and women

Wearing red berets

Left to Right

Carloz Alvarez:  KIA, a mine blew chunks into his belly under Shi-Armstrong and he died clutching

Lee Sanders: KIA, Loonie sniper shot him over the horizon. He was checking his air.

Trace Yue: KIA, her suit ruptured, shrapnel. Never figured which side threw it.

Gordon Nara: KIA, bayonet…really? In this day and age?

Penelope N’paya: MIA, went to recon, right when the Loonies dropped the nuke outside of New Mubai.                    
            (only found her shadow, not a confirmation)
They’re all smiling, standing beside the shuttle that took them there.

To the left of Gordon

Underneath Carloz

Drusilla Xao: Star of Valor for gallantry under fire, three Purple Hearts, CAASMC Long Service Medal, Distinguished S3TA Service Medallion, Lunar Campaign Medallion, Civil Service Award.

She’s smiling in the photograph. Under her is signed:

永遠忠誠 Semper Fidelis Always Faithful–Unit 201, 12/31/2069

Mom notices me looking

reaches out with a hand marked by three purple hearts

Switches off the ‘graph

And goes back to her tea