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Against the Fall of the Night Stars, My Destination

Though a bit later than promised in my last blog post, A Literary Update, I have come to write to you a little bit about two of the latest books I’ve read on my (seemingly) never-ending quest to read all of the classic science fiction works! My apologies for the relative brevity; I am still trying to get back into the regular blog-writing business.

The two books in question – Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night and Alfred Bester’s (no, not the telepath from Babylon 5; his namesake!) famous classic The Stars My Destination (originally serialized as Tiger! Tiger!) both… disappointed me.

Let’s start with the more disappointing of the two, The Stars My Destination. I suspect that I was more disappointed by this than Clarke’s novel because I had much, much, much higher expectations of this, having heard it described as The Count of Monte Cristo… in space! The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite novels, and so I was incredibly excited at the prospect of one of my favorite plots of all time being transplanted into my favorite genre, and in retrospect, my expectations may have far exceeded the realms of possibility.

I understand where the comparison comes from. In both novels, a man is wronged, imprisoned and isolated for a long time, gains enormous wealth, and then seeks revenge on those who wronged them. That, however, is where the similarities end. This is not necessarily a bad thing… but the direction that the novel took (Bester’s, not Dumas’) was not one I found particularly appealing. Set against the backdrop of a war engulfing the solar system, Bester’s novel weaves together several tantalizing plot threads – the war itself, the existence of PyrE, the secrets of human teleportation/jaunting, the mystery of why the main character was wronged and abandoned, and of course the quest for vengeance – but the story is just too short to do more than one of them justice. In the end, I am not sure any of them were done justice, though the story of vengeance comes closest.

The book was, I thought, rather unfocused, and did not give itself the space to develop all of its foci. There was not much wrong with the plot threads it brought up – save for the reason that the main character was wronged, but I can’t say much about that without spoiling it (in short, I found the reason uncompelling and pulled almost out of nowhere) – it was just that for the length of the story, there was not enough space to develop them. A book maybe twice its length would have, I think, been a much better story.

The other main problem was the main character, Gulliver Foyle. Unlike Edmond Dantes, I never felt sympathy for him, or identified with him. Though the signature red flushing tiger tattoo on his face was striking imagery – and made the title much more appropriate – nothing made me like the character. In fact, I never really came to like any character. There was always a distance between me and Gully Foyle; I never felt invested in his quest. To me, it was a mere curiosity, and I was not drawn in to the plot. Thus, it was not surprising that I finished the book and felt disappointed.

The other book I read, Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night, I was much less disappointed by… but I also had much lower expectations of. I enjoyed most of the novel, and it excelled in the two areas that Bester’s work did not. The mystery behind Clarke’s novel – who the Invaders were and why humans were contained in a single city on earth now, living forever – was much more compelling than Gully’s search for vengeance (with a side dish of understanding why he was betrayed), and had a better answer (though this was a low bar). Clarke kept his focus on the Invaders and that one mystery, and in a similarly short novel, this allowed him to explore a lot more, and say something about humanity that Bester could not with the jumped plotlines.

Additionally, while Clarke’s character writing tends to be poor (I often think of Clarke’s novels as centering humanity as the protagonist, as I’ve argued about Childhood’s End), I was much more compelled by Alvin’s curiosity than Gully’s almost inhumanity and vengeance. I was drawn in by his quest, and though Alvin was by no means a deep and well-fleshed out character, his motivations still drew me in, inexplicable as they were. As a side note, the name Alvin for the adventurous main character questing into the unknown was rather apt, for almost twenty years later the famous deep-sea submersible would be, coincidentally, also named Alvin.

However, I did have one rather large problem with Against the Fall of Night that disappointed me, and that was the ending. The sheer amount of revelation thrown at you all at once in the ending made much of the rest of the book seem meaningless. Alvin’s quest for discovery does not slowly yield insight into what happened, but he suddenly stumbles upon a god-like intelligence… that reveals to him what happened. Clarke does a similar thing in 2001: A Space Odyssey and in Childhood’s End, but it makes much more sense and is much more forgivable in these two works than in this, as they fit much better and weren’t quite as surprising. This is not to say that I did not like the answers to the underlying mystery; I was actually very inspired by them, and as he did in 2001, some passages describing astral phenomena were particularly memorable and awe-inspiring.

However, the manner in which Clarke dished out the revelations disappointed me. Not only was it too much, too fast, but it was mostly things that had not even been hinted at before, coming seemingly from nowhere. While everything did make sense and fall into place, I felt no sense of reward for having completed the book; everything leading up to the revelation felt unnecessary, as it was so disconnected from the final revelation. Still, I enjoyed it much more than Bester’s work.

So, that’s two more classic pieces of science fiction down, and many more to go! For my next blog post – hopefully coming this week if I can manage it – I want to talk about a book that drastically exceeded my expectations, though in the fantasy genre – Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man.

And after that, I might have some writing-related news! Until next time, TTFN!

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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in Uncategorized


New Writing Goals for 2016!

Happy new year everybody! I know I’m a bit late, but January has been a little bit of a hectic month, and I’ve had very little time to myself all month! The hecticness is finally mostly over (though a new semester is coming up!), so I can finally get back on a semi-normal schedule.

In light of this, I have some writing New Year’s resolutions! I have added, on the sidebar to the right, a small word-count widget under “Monthly Wordcount.” I will update it as I write, with the goal of writing 20,000 words per month on any of my Works in Progress, excluding the web series The Eldritch Wastes. This means that I will add words whenever I contribute to Dreadship OmnipotenceThe Woodsman, any short stories, or my new collection of linked steampunk short stories Darke (more on this later)!

I am aiming to then, in addition to all of my other tasks, to write 20,000 words a month, and get myself out of the writing rut I’ve been stuck in lately! I will also do my best to update weekly, with excerpts and progress. I will start adding to the wordcount in February. Wish me luck!

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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Uncategorized



Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been a while, but the last couple of months have been rather busy and often hellish. I tried (and spectacularly failed) at Camp Nanowrimo this summer, but I’ve continued outlining and planning the plot for Dreadship Omnipotence, and I think the final product is going to be much better with this planning! I’ve also started trying to consistently set aside writing time (with limited success thus far), but we’ll see how that goes. After a three-week hiatus for a huge exam I took, the Eldritch Wastes is also again updating! I’ve also sketched out a plan for a fantasy world I’ll be running in a roleplaying game, with the potential of using it as a world to explore through novels and short stories. I’m quite proud of it!

But I have also tried to develop my artistic talents (or lack thereof) in another, visual form! The results of my efforts are below.

This first picture is something I drew a while back while trying to teach myself shading. I’m actually somewhat proud of how it turned out, especially considering this was my first serious attempt at drawing well.

This second one is actually my renditions of three of the characters from Dreadship Omnipotence in a space station! I know it isn’t a great picture, but I think it’s good for a first effort! The woman on the right with the absurdly long glaive is Tathal Litenz, navigator and first mate. The man on the left with the cybernetic arm and the glowing ball of energy above it is Kirsval Orteck, a.k.a. Melkorh, the engineer. The robotic mouse in his pocket is named Soron. The man in the middle with his head behind his head is the captain Idim Jyn. I had a lot of fun drawing them, and I will probably try again in the future, and try to hone my art skills (which, as you can see, are rather lacking).

Hopefully I’ll have more writing-related news for you in the future (as well as possibly my thoughts on Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex), but for now, later days!

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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


Robin Hobb

I recently finished reading the first tree trilogies of Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderings world (I have no intention of reading the Rain Wilds Chronicles which follow them, however). I had read the Farseer trilogy, the first of them, a long time ago, and then had to wait in line to read the second trilogy, the Liveship Traders. While waiting for the first book, I moved on and never started reading them again, until about a month ago at the request of one of my brothers. I proceeded to fly through the Liveship Traders and then The Tawny Man trilogies, and now I can put aside that world and move on with my life and past my brother’s nagging.

I have very mixed feelings about Robin Hobb’s writing, and this trilogy of trilogies. The most memorable aspect of every one of the nine books with the characters. Without a doubt, Robin Hobb is a master of character creation and development. Every character was deep, rich, and realistic; you could identify with every single character. At the same time, every single character was also flawed. In the Liveship Traders, I found myself admiring the depth of the characters while simultaneously hating each and every one of them. They were too flawed, and by the end I found I had no sympathy for any of them. While it’s hard to identify with perfect characters, we are also often loathe to associate ourselves with overly imperfect ones, and as a result I spent my time reading the Liveship Traders being infuriated at everyone. However, she wove a very rich tapestry of inter-character relations, in both that trilogy and in the Tawny Man trilogy.

The Tawny Man books were much better than the Liveship Traders. I actually liked almost every single character, and felt that the interplay between them was almost perfect. Interestingly, the narrator of both this trilogy and the first Farseer trilogy, FitzChivalry, evoked two very different responses from me in both sets of books. In the Farseer books, I hated Fitz, and had trouble reading them because I had no sympathy for him. He was whiny and made so many stupid mistakes it frustrated me to no end. In the Tawny Man books, however, I was very sympathetic to him (save for a few cringe-wothy moments), and instead felt as if everyone else was a jerk to him, rather than the other way around.

Her writing style is also magnificent. It flows very well, and she is truly able to immerse the reader in the world she creates. Though the books were often needlessly long, and sometimes nothing of substance happened for whole books (then again, GRRM is even more guilty of this sin), there was never a dull moment, both due to her ability to make the reader want to know what happens to the characters and to her very well-written and flowing prose.

Conversely, she has a bit of trouble with plot and world-creation. The plots were rather simplistic and somewhat predictable, and the world always seemed to me to be only half-imagined. Still, both were good enough to keep me engaged, even if there was a lot of room for improvement.

Would I recommend these books? I’m not sure. While her writing is amazing and characters are deep and real, her pacing can be off and a great deal of her characters are terrible people who I hated. However, she managed to still make me care about most of them (save Kennit at the end of the Liveship Traders, when Robin Hobb slipped into a rape apologist mindset, which infuriated me). I felt for the first two trilogies like I was being dragged along, and I was frustrated by the characters and plot, but at the same time I couldn’t put them down. The last trilogy was much, much better than the previous two, and was worth reading. I’m just not sure if it was good enough to justify the previous two trilogies.

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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


Beneath Underway!

I have decided on my latest project, taking the advice of Becca Weston and Alessandra Hinlo, and it is Beneath, the story of an ex-private investigator turned diplomat on the capital planet of a foreign, powerful alien Empire, struggling to juggle politics, curiosity, and forbidden knowledge. For the rest of March #writemotivation, I will try to write three chapters in Beneath (just the working title, of course). For your reading (dis)pleasure, a small sample of what I’ve done so far is below:


“Bloody hell.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Bloody, bloody hell.”

The stately being seated beside me raised an eyebrow and turned fully to face me. “You equate our planet with a thoroughly unpleasant place, filled with bodily fluids?”

“What? No, I didn’t say that.”

“You most definitely did. ‘Bloody hell’ were your exact words.”

“And here was me thinking you Juxtani didn’t use the word ‘hell.’ I mean, I knew that your language – Kordic, isn’t it? – is almost exactly the same as English, with a few minor variations. I guess ‘hell’ isn’t one of them.”

“‘Hell’ is merely a word we use for an unpleasant place or situation that causes great pain.”

I chuckled softly to myself. “Huh. Well, in our language, the word means the same thing in common usage, but it derives from one of our religions. In that religion, ‘Hell’ was a place where sinners were sent upon their death. To be punished for eternity.”

“Sinners. I take that to mean someone who violated accepted codes of conduct?”

I shrugged. “I guess. The accepted codes of conduct I was referring to were that of said religion, of course.”

“Religion. An odd concept. Belief in a higher power, with no evidence as to its existence. How… quaint.”

I rolled my eyes and leaned back in my seat. It was a very comfortable seat, with soft, plush, grey cushions all around me. “Yes. Quite. Quaint. And your Juxtani religion is different because you have proof that your gods exist.”

“Gods do not exist in the sense that you refer to them, Sana Hicks. They are merely beings like us, just with immense… power, and knowledge. Your species’ continued belief in these nonexistent gods is interesting.”

“You know what,” I said, nettled at my companion’s condescending manner, turning my head to look at him square in the face. He was very light-skinned, and looked exactly like a Human. His hair was a dark brown, almost bordering on black, and hung down slightly past his shoulders. Two shorter lengths of braided hair framed his face, with jewels and other glittery objects littering them. Like a magpie. He wore his thin, oiled mustache well, and his hand-length beard was waxed so heavily that it didn’t move at all.

“Not all Humans believe in gods,” I continued, curbing the annoyance in my voice, reminding myself that I was representing my entire species here. No pressure. “We’re not all the exact same person. We don’t share a common personality. We are all different. I am sure the same is true of you Elfviyat.”

“To an extent. Your Human race contains much more individual variation that ours does. We… discourage deviation.”


Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Dance with Dragons

I finished it, finally. It was an interesting book, and did have some surprising twists at the end. My major gripe with it is that the first three-quarters of the book seemed to be set-up and filler – nothing important really happened until the very end, and I struggled to make it to the ending (which was very exciting, I will admit). My second half of the gripe was that he was killing his characters’ personalities; I was terribly frustrated by Daenerys and Jon, and I wanted to strange Tyrion. All of their catchphrases really got on my nerves – “You know nothing, Jon snow,” “The queen of rabbits must wear her floppy ears,” “Where do whores go? *twang*,” “I am noone.” The only good catchphrase were all of Reek’s – though saying “Reek, reek, it rhymes with wreak” always set me chuckling. In all, Reek’s insanity was very, very well done, and he had all of my favorite chapters. I also found myself liking Victarion and Moqorro quite a lot, and am eagerly awaiting Aeron’s reappearance – my favorite character.

All in all, it was worth the read – but barely. The Winds of Winter should have more action in it. I hope.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


Princess of Disks


Princess of Disks: The Strong, Pregnant Woman

The Princess (Page in the Rider-Waite tradition) of Disks is the card representing the personality that arises from the Earthy part of Earth. It symbolizes the kind of person who represents the Earth of Earth; the most stubborn, materialistic, practical person you’ve ever met. She also represents the end of the cycle, and the start of the new; while the Knight of Wands represents the person who goes out and creates things in the world, the Princess of Disks is the person who gives Birth to the Knight. She is the soon-to-be-mother; the pregnant woman. She represents the Potential of life, and Ultimate Womanhood. She is the force that stands behind the force of Creation, who Carries the Future with her. She is also Strong and Beautiful, in both human and Earthy terms, making her also Sublime. She is on the Brink of Transformation. She represents the ability of the Earth to give birth to new life (while the Queen of Disks represents the Earth’s ability to care for this life).

She is also extremely Stubborn and Thoughtful, able to survive by applying her Practicality, and doing anything to protect the future that she holds in her womb. She will not take needless risks, and can move mountains to get her way, and will not let anything stand between her and what she needs.

The Rider-Waite art shows a young man looking at a Pentacle in his hands, as if considering what he can do with it. Similar signs of potential and growth surround him in the green grass and trees in the distance, as well as sublime mountains in the background. The Thoth illustration shows a woman with horns (signifying fertility) looking down at her swollen stomach (indicating pregnancy), while cradling a flowering Disk with a Yin-Yang (symbol of balance and completion) in one hand. In her other is a spear, pointed at the ground, and it looks as if it has just been used. Power flows out from it, and she stands upon what is either a rock or a slain beast. She will use her spear to defend her unborn child, and will let nothing get in her way. Behind her, trees grow larger like the child in her womb does.

In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that people with this personality play in your life. Do you know anyone who has lots of potential, and seems to hold the key to the future? Who is strong, beautiful, and doesn’t take any nonsense from others? Reversed, this personality’s energy is twisted or hidden somehow; their potential could be hidden somehow, or perhaps this potential is not a positive thing for the future.

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Posted by on June 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


Court Card Equivalencies

I was just reading Pyraeus‘ articles on Court Cards, and quickly noticed that the website equates Princes from the Thoth deck with Kings from the Rider-Waite. I was struck by this, as making that connection had never occurred to me, and as I thought about it, some of it made sense – and some of it did not. Certainly I had noticed that many of the Knight Cards across the two decks shared similar meanings – and even names – but I still felt like something was not quite right about the match-ups. After some pondering, I came to the conclusion that the two court card systems are really so completely different as to not really allow for good comparison. The Rider-Waite court cards – to me, at least – seemed to focus on the Wisdom of the Kings, the Competence of the Queens, the Activity of the Knights, and the Enthusiasm of the Pages. The Thoth system emphasizes the Kabbalistic and elemental system of the court cards, taking different aspects of each element to assign personalities to the cards. The Rider-Waite cards, then, to me always seemed to represents different aspects of their suit, but in a vastly different way when compared to the way the Thoth deck does it.

As such, for my Tarot Challenge, I will continue to do it as I have been (I only have one more Court Card left, anyway), but say now that the two systems really cannot be compared in any way.

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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Prince of Disks


Prince of Disks: The Ponderous, Unstoppable Problem-Solver

The Prince of Disks (Knight in the Rider-Waite tradition) is the card representing the personality that arises from the Airy part of Earth. He is the abstract and principled aspects of practicality and steadiness. As such, he is a little bit of a contradiction; he represents the two sides of the dichotomy of Air and Earth coming together in one being.

As such, the Prince of Disks excels in Practical Knowledge, and Lacks Emotions. He is prone to slow, Ponderous movement and is also Meditative. He has both the mental force of Swords and the physical force of Disks, and so quickly can become Unstoppable. He thinks things through before doing them, and so is Thoughtful, and also Ingenious, able to apply to apply his ideas to the real world and Solve Problems. He is TrustworthySolid, and Dependable. He is actually very Energetic, but only when he becomes driven to be so, a process which takes a long time; he is Slow to Anger, but when angry is Fierce. He is also Slow to Change is Mind and a Slow Learner, but he still does learn, and Grows slowly and steadily. He is a hard and Steady Worker, and a Competent Manager; he can apply his ideas to reality when he needs to, though he does not excel at it like the Princess of Swords does.

The Rider-Waite art shows a knight, halted and carefully inspecting a Pentacle held in his hand. This card mirrors closely the Thoth deck’s Knight of Wands, and indeed even shares the same name, and has many of the same meanings. His horse represents the idea of powerful movement, and his heavy armour some degree of caution. The Thoth illustration shows a naked man holding a disk riding s chariot pulled by a fearsome-looking oxen of some kind. The chariot (and the ox) looks very heavy, and its motion is the very definition of what this card stands for; slow to get going, but impossible to stop and very difficult to change direction once it gets going. He is surrounded by symbols of plants; emphasizing the diea of slow but steady growth, as well as stability and dependability (the stable build of the chariot also reinforces these ideals).

In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that people with this personality play in your life. Do you know anyone who thinks slowly, but once set on a task will complete it at any cost, and woe to any that try to change his mind? Anyone who can solve any problem given enough time? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or blocked; perhaps they are not quite unstoppable, or they may put on a show of bravado about how they can do anything and no one can stop them, but back down at the first sign of strong opposition.

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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Queen of Disks


Queen of Disks: The Helpful, Discontented Hostess and Mother

The Queen of Disks. This card represents the personality that arises from the Watery part of Earth; the passive, intuitive, emotional part of the practical and down-to-earth individual. She is a people-person, who enjoys life and the company of others. She is pleasant to be around, and works hard to get what she needs, and then does not hesitate in enjoying what she has. She has a great knowledge of the practical side of human emotions and feelings, and is able to and often willing to help people with their problems.

The Queen of Disks is Charming and Bighearted, and often acts like a Mother Figure. She is Affectionate and can also be Sensual, concerned with the physical and material nature of human interaction. She is given to being Sexual as well frequently, and has a desire to please her body physically. To these ends, she can also be Seductive, but she does not use her abilities to seduce for her own personal gains; she does it merely to please herself. She is often Quietly Ambitious, but appears to others to be Servile due to her constant helping of others. She is the perfect hostess. She does not scheme or plot in her ambition, but instead Works Hard to get what she wants, always in the Background and out of sight. While she can help other people understand how they feel about themselves and the world, she herself is often rather Dull, and she is not a particularly good entertainer. She may sometimes feel Trapped by her standing and Long to go out and be more useful. She often possesses great practical knowledge, and is Sensible when she needs to be. However, she is also often given to Foolishness when in the company of her friends, and sometimes gives in to Lust and Debauchery. Everyone enjoys being around her, and she works hard to please others to increase her own standing with them, and through them, her standing in the world. She herself will not advance farther, but her actions will help others succeed.

The Rider-Waite art shows a kind-looking woman fondly looking down at a Pentacle she is cradling in her lap. She is caring for it like a mother, and is also surrounded by images of growth and fertility. She herself will not grow further, but she will help others to grow. She also wears an expression of slight discontent, as if she is slightly unhappy with her position, and only gets to live through her children. The Thoth art similarly shows a seated woman cradling a Disk in her arms, but she only seems half there; she gazes longingly off into the distance, wishing for something she will not achieve. A statue of a goat – symbolizing fertility and potential – stands beside her, indicating that those that she rears and teaches will have great potential. Her crown also bears two spiraling horns, emphasizing the idea of continuation (the spiral horns symbolizing infinity) through others. She is surrounded by growth, and yet she herself does not grow.

In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that people with this personality play in your life. Do you know anybody who seems stuck in his or her life, but does all they can to help others move forward? Anyone who longs of doing better things but seems stuck in a rut? Who others ignore and count as part of the background, yet depend on him or her absolutely? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps this person hides their discontent very well, or her silent ambition is leading her to send others down the wrong path.

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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Uncategorized