Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Self-supporting dystopias

Over the last decade, dystopian fics have been popular. There's the Hunger Games, Divergent, the Maze Runner, Unwound, When She Woke, and so on. The authors of these novels (and plenty more that I didn't mention) comee up with all sorts of unique worlds/scenarios, with some sort of plot device that caused the world to become dystopic (natural disasters, war, nuclear holocaust, religious takeovers, and so on) and thus the world, or at least a country, is created, or begun anew. Dystopic stories are one of my favorite sub-genres of fiction, but I am also a picky… er, discerning reader.
I will admit first off, that I am a plot Nazi. Ever heard of grammar Nazis? Sure you have. For me, I tend to focus on the plot and its background, and how well certain details or subplots of a story fit together, and if the framework/background is plausible. At the end of a book, if important questions are left unanswered (without a sequel forthcoming) my jimmies become rustled.
Among my writing goals is a science fiction universe (which will have at least one book in it) and as you guessed, it will be dystopic. I can't reveal details right now as I am still working out and mapping the aspects of this world. What I can say is that reading various dystopic novels, and being a plot Nazi, has helped me in my own world-mapping.
One major issue in some novels – not simply dystopic, but some sci fi works in general, or fantasy, is that when the author introduces us to his or her world, there are aspects of it that he/she neglects. Now, each story is different, so certain story or societal elements in each tale will receive more or less emphasis. Some tales may focus more on the difference between the rich and poor of that world. Others will focus on gender issues, or religious issues, relations with alien races, or so on and so forth.
An author needs to be careful to create a world that is sustainable and actually makes sense. They don't need to go into every minute aspect of this world they created, but they do need to do a lot of thinking and planning behind the scenes, to make this world be able to support itself.
One big example of an author doing it wrong is the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I must warn you, there will be spoilers ahead for those of you who have not read the books.
In the Divergent world, which is set in our future, the United States as we know it is no more. There is this society which is ruled by five factions – Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. The members of these Factions have traits which qualify them for their Factions, and each Faction has a duty to the city (which come with priilege) and there are certain jobs which belong to each Faction.
Abnegation, which focuses on selflessness, is tasked with the leadership of the city, since selflessness is seen as the best quality a leader can have. Amity, which focuses on living peacefully, is in charge of food production, as they work and maintain the farms which feed the city. Candor, whose trait is honesty and an intolerance of lies, serves as the lawyers of the city. Dauntless, which values courage, serves as the soldiers of the city. And Erudite, which values intelligence, are the teachers and scientists.
When I first started reading Divergent, I enjoyed the book and being introduced to this world. However, I began to see issues that would cause this society to collapse within itself pretty quickly.
People who do not have a Faction are basically screwed. They are second – heck, third-class – citizens, treated shabbily. Most of them are homeless, without means to support themselves. There is no mention of them having jobs, and Abnrgation gives them charity – Tris' mother does knitting and bakes bread for Factionless.
Children who are born to people in Factions may choose to stay in this Faction when they become 16, or transfer to a different Faction where they must pass an initiation to prove that they have the trait that is valued by that Faction. If they fail the initiation, they become Factionless. Nothing is said of the children that are born to Factionless parents, it seems that they remain Factionless their whole lives, having no chance at all to have a decent life.
As I pointed out, each Faction has jobs that it has provenance over. However, there are plenty of jobs which apparently don't exist anymore, like construction (many things in the city are in decay, potholes in the roads, etc. However, some buildings – particularly the ones that the Factions use or reside in, are maintained) So officially, jobs in construction don't exist because the Factionless are given no means to support themselves, yet someone has to do the construction/repair. There are plenty of other jobs that don't fit in the Factions, either – such as blue collar jobs, i.e. textile/clothing production, food processing, production of various goods such as shoes, containers, books, electronics, and so on. Veronica Roth completely neglects this vital aspect of society, simply dividing the world of Divergent into the haves and have-nots. The world of Divergent would not last a year with this system, as things would go to hell pretty bloody fast. (This society, according to the Divergent series, has gone on for about eight generations, or about 200 years, if I recall correctly)
No society is perfect. Hence dystopia, instead of utopia. But when creating a society, however oppressive or cruel it is, one has to consider how such a society and regime would be able to sustain itself for a meaningful period of time. In the society of the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins created the country of Panem, and even though in the end Pamen comes to an end, Pamen had a system which lasted for 75 years (not including the years before the first rebellion) which included keeping the majority of the population poor and oppressed, and using the Hunger Games to keep the districts pitted against one another instead of cooperating.
Even though the oppression and cruelty of the Capitol came back to bite it in the ass (with some help from Katniss Everdeen) the fact remains that the regime of the Capitol was effective enough to keep the masses oppressed for 75+ years, and may have gone on longer if not for Katniss.
Regardless of what kind of story/world you create, and whether or not you plan to have the rulers/society of this world eventually come to an end, you need to lay a good foundation for this world.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book recommendation: Receiver of Many

It's been a while since I did an Author's Spotlight, and it gives me no small amount of pleasure to introduce a talented fellow author, Rachel Alexander! Recently, she released the first book in a duology based off the myth of Hades and Persephone (gods, I do love that myth!)

Receiver of Many is rich in prose and image, and the story itself is written fantastically. I have written a more complete review of the book over at Amazon and Goodreads. I can say in all honesty that if you enjoy the myth of Hades and Persephone, this book should not disappoint you.

The second book in this duology, Destroyer of Light, comes out next year. It is one book that I am having a hard time waiting for, given how much I enjoyed Receiver of Many. She also has a third book to be released, 'Thrice Plowed Field' which ties in with her duology.

 
All links open in new windows for ease of navigation.
And mirrored over at Goodreads

Ms. Alexander has other websites you can also follow, including her own Goodreads.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ghostwriting

As both an author and as a reader, I have to say that I have a low opinion of ghostwriting. Whatever its intent, I feel it is a dishonest practice. When I was little, I read Babysitters’ Club, Goosebumps, and Sweet Valley. I enjoyed these books, and thought at the time, that these were actually written by the person whose name was on the cover of these books. It was not until years later that I learned that these books were farmed out to various people who would churn out these titles month after month. (I did wonder how Francine Pascal was able to write so many series of Sweet Valley books – at least four monthlies that I know of/remember, plus various specials.

It’s not the worst thing to happen in this world, to be certain, but when I was little, I honestly believed that the authors who had created these universes wrote these stories themselves, and to discover that these books were done by basically anonymous authors in need of a few bucks.

Recently I obtained two books by the author Vince Flynn from my nearest Little Free Library. I really enjoyed both books (military/government thrillers) so I decided to go online and do a bit of research. To my dismay, I found that he had died a couple of years ago from cancer. He was relatively young, and he had a lot of talent and a knack for storytelling.

I was saddened to discover that his books are being continued through a ghostwriter. It doesn’t matter how much a ghostwriter studies an author, NO ONE can ever imitate an author. Some can try, some might get close, but no one is perfectly imitable. I still plan to read more Vince Flynn books because I enjoyed his work and stories, but I have no interest in reading the ghostwritten books.

It’s one thing if an author dies with an unfinished book, and someone else finishes that book with whatever the author was able to finish, plus any notes he may have left for the unfinished part. Even then, I feel that such books need to come with a disclaimer, in a foreword or some such, explaining that the book was completed by someone else due to the true author’s demise. After that, an author’s works and name need to be frankly, left the fuck alone.

Unfortunately, thanks to greedy, unscrupulous publishers, agents, and/or family members, some authors can’t count on their name and dignity being respected after their death. One prime example is V.C. Andrews, author of Flowers in the Attic. At the time of her death, she had seven published novels, plus several others that had been written, but not picked up by a publisher. The IRS declared that her name was a valuable asset that could be taxed, and her family went to town on it, hiring a ghostwriter who has since then written over 70 books under her name. In the beginning, he did a decent job, and was able to complete the few manuscripts she had left uncompleted, but after that, her notes and material ran out, and the books he has been writing have gotten steadily worse and worse, with cliched plots, nonsensical stories, repetitive phrases, and an overall lack of effort.

He’s written more books under V.C.’s name than his own, because he is a lackluster author in his own right, and he knows that if he publishes his own stories under the VCA name, he is guaranteed more profit and readers than if he put his own name on his stories, just because of the weight that VCA’s name carries (and the poor woman has been dead for almost 30 years!)

Despite the suckiness of his recent books, books under her name continue to sell because of the fame and success she earned with the books she wrote under her own name (although older books sell better than more recent ones, which are received more negatively) To this day, many people still believe that the original V.C. Andrews is still alive and writing, and the publishers even push this illusion by putting on the blurh “from the bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic” on recent books.
I can’t imagine anyone ever using my name for things they write. I don’t care about their skill level; if they’re confident that they can do a good job, they should also have the confidence that they can be successful under their own name (whether it be their birth name, or a pen name)

As for authors who are alive, and allow others to write under their name, I can’t say that I have much, if any respect for them. I wouldn’t be bothered if a series had the name of the individual who actually wrote it somewhere in the book (and not in a spot where they would try to hide it) so that readers would know exactly who wrote said book, and how many different authors there are for any series. When you look at a TV show, you have writers for each episode, and you can find their information in the credits. A book shouldn’t be any different.

I certainly don’t want anything that’s not mine, to be credited to my name, especially if that work is lackluster and shoddy. The sad example of V.C. Andrews, among others, should give authors pause in how they want their legacy to be handled after their deaths. I have stated before, and I will state again publicly, that I never have, nor will I ever, give anyone permission to write under my name in case I become ill or die. I would never want to leave behind a legacy that could be tarnished by someone else, especial in the name of profit. Anyone who wants to write, needs to stand on their own feet instead of mooching off someone else’s name and hard work.

Facebook

Due to a psychotic ex-friend/fan who filed a false report against me to Facebook for using a "fake name", my old account went kibosh even after I explained to FB that I was not using a fake name, but a pen name, and showed them my Amazon page and other evidence of my author persona. I can no longer access/run my old FB community page, so I had to create a new one.

Please unlike any of the old pages I created, this is the new/official FB fan page.

 https://www.facebook.com/MM-Kin-1487803744867049

 I can be contacted at ememkin@gmail.com. I am no longer posting links to my personal FB profile, from now on I am only posting links to the fan page. If you were my friend on my old account, understand I did not ban or unfriend you - that account is kibosh and is not showing up anywhere - not on friend lists or anything like that, if you try to click on a link to it, it will say the page is broken/unavailable. If you had been my friend on my old account, email me so I know who you are, and can link you to my new personal profile.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Snippet time!

Snippet time! This is a bit from Hades' Story (title still to be decided on)

All pre-publication information is subject to edits/change. Material is copyright of M.M. Kin

Hera sometimes had strange dreams, visions of their parents, and the world that they were cut off from. She also saw things that have never occurred, like Hades sitting on a dark throne surrounded by ethereal beings, Demeter in the sunlight, surrounded by a sea that shares the same dark golden hue of her hair, or Poseidon riding the waves, with the wind blowing through his dark hair.

Hestia has her own visions, through flame. When she looked into her own fire, she was sometimes able to see other things, through the flames on the surface world, mortals praying and making sacrifices, begging for mercy and kindness, for justice and peace. Through bits and pieces, the offspring of Kronos were able to put together a picture of the world, and the state that their father had put it in.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New book preview

This is a sneak peek for a upcoming novel, Moonshadows. (Don't worry - I am still working on Interludes in Myth!)

All pre-publication material is subject to edits/change. Copyright 2015 M.M. Kin

 
Prince Kuoji stared at the vista that spread out before him, the white towers of the Palace of the Sun jutting up into the sky like an ivory dagger. Bleached from several centuries' worth of sunlit days, the pale stone was visible from miles around. To the people of the kingdom of Corona, the Palace was a testament of beauty and strength, and a symbol of the gods' blessings upon the land.
A faint smirk appeared on his lips as he recalled his time spent within the Palace. Back then he'd been nothing more than a servant, the bastard son of a woman who'd been taken as a concubine by an Atyamai man before she'd managed to escape him while she was pregnant. He'd endured the scorn and prejudice of adults and children alike due to his obvious mixed heritage.
It'd been nearly a decade since he'd last seen this place. However, he was no longer someone to be looked down at. When he set foot into the Palace, it would not be as a lowly half-breed servant. It would be as Prince of the Atyamai, son of the Emperor Imonje. He would relish the expression on King Helin's face when the old man saw who it was that had come to take his crown away from him.
He turned his head, his dark green eyes fixing upon the woman next to him. With hair as dark as his own, and skin like alabaster, the similarity between the two could not be missed despite the fact that he was only half Atyamainese. It'd been remarked upon more than once in the Imperial Court how the two could have such similar facial expressions. She had a slight smile on her lips that mirrored his own.
How does it feel? Experiencing any nostalgia?” the woman asked, her eyes as dark as her hair as she regarded him. Like him, she was clad in armor of exquisite quality, lightweight compared to the traditional armor generally worn in Corona, yet no less efficient in its design, especially considering its wearer.
Perhaps a bit, Aunt. However, I can assure you, that is no impediment to our goal.”
I did not think it would be. However, I know there is a prize you seek. I will not impede you from it, but I must remind you that a long time has passed.” Her voice was gentle, yet carried an undertone of steel.
He took a deep breath. Azami was right, and he was already aware of the possibilities. Things could, and usually did, change with the passing of years, and people certainly were no exception to the rule. He'd been aware of this truth for years, especially as his own person was evidence of just how much weight this maxim held. In his case, the changes had been positive. He could only hope that for the person he longed to see, the years had not eroded away the positive things he remembered.
We will see what happens. My commitment to our goal will remain the same regardless of what happens.”
Azami's smile became warmer. “I only want to see you happy.”
His response to that was a brief nod before he turned around to face the army that was massed before him and his aunt. Banners of white fluttered in the breeze, the black shape on them easily discernible as a hand with its palm facing the viewer, its fingers and thumb straight as if to signal 'stop'. The sigil was recognized across the empire of Atyamai, and even in Corona, where this dark hand stood for their greatest enemy. In reality, it was the crest of the rulers of Atyamai, the dark hand a literal and figurative symbol of their power.
One of the generals approached the pair, bowing his head before looking up at them.
The men are in readiness, and those in the Palace are prepared for their part.”
Excellent,” Azami replied. “Let us tarry no longer, then.” She lightly dug her heels into the side of her russet-colored horse, and Kuoji did the same, setting his own ebony steed in a brisk trot.
Seemingly as one, the army moved, the blacks and grays of the massed soldiers making it seem as if a shadow was moving across the verdant land.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Author Spotlight - Kathryn White

Today, my author’s spotlight falls on Kathryn White!

I have enjoyed Kathryn White’s books, and like me, she writes in different genres, with a little bit of different things, to create a collection that I really enjoyed. I would say that my favorite out of her books is Being Abigail, but I have enjoyed her other books. She has a style of writing that I really enjoy, with a nice mix of serious and humor, both applied at appropriate moments within her books. She just released a new book, Everybody Hates Abigail, , and will be releasing another book, Poison Ivy, which I am more than eager to read. Give this author a try – you will not be disappointed!

Kathryn has a blog where she reviews books http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com/
Her FB page https://www.facebook.com/kathrynwhiteauthor
Her Amazon, where you can find her books in paperback and e-book http://www.amazon.com/Kathryn-White/e/B00BZQMN26/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Her Goodreads page http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5208758.Kathryn_White