Philip K. Dick

sitting-flowtears-tnworks_stories-selectedI was at the library last week, and browsed for about a good twenty minutes. I came across quite a few books that I’m up to reading, but it was a collection of short stories by Philip K. Dick that got me excited.  I forgot how good Philip K. Dick was. His influence on science fiction goes without saying. Actually, I’m more aware of the movies based his books and short stories, than the actual books and short stories. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was adapted to what we now know as the sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner. Both the book and the movie were ahead of its time. Then, there’s the short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, which became Total Recall. (Actually, after reading the short story, the movie was better, but that’s beside the point.)

Dick was innovative and daring with his science fiction. He was constantly on the outside looking in. His own paranoia fueled his originality. Totalitarian style governments and monopolistic corporations are staples in most of his stories. Constant themes are freedoms lost, rampant consumerism, and the lost individual. The worlds he created suck me in immediately. I read “Paycheck” in an afternoon and was completely wowed by the story. I’m not even going to bother watching the Ben Affleck version (the Netflix rating were pretty low).

His characters are just as interesting. They’re not all heroic or have super powers or anything cliche. They’re average Joe’s and Jane’s. They afflicted with tough decision in a dystopian future most of the time. I think this where Dick was at his best. The characters that you can relate too because they work nine to five jobs but are faced with fantastic elements that require decisions that aren’t always the right thing to do. Elements of the anti-hero are present in a lot of his characters.

I know I should be reading a lot of today’s science fiction writers, but it’s hard to not want to go into Philip K. Dick’s worlds. The book I picked up is Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick. He wrote a lot of short stories, but I’m led to believe that these are the best of the best. So far, I’m not disappointed, and it’s a great way to learn where a lot of today’s science fiction originated.

The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot_wao_coverI just finished this book last night, and really enjoyed it because it’s not something I normally would pick up. It actually came to me as a recommendation, which is an obvious hit or miss. This was a major hit!

The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao written by Junot Diaz. It follows the life of Oscar de Leon a nerdy, sci-fi lovin’ outcast that wants nothing more than to write his sci-fi and find love. Unfortunately, fate is working against him. His family is cursed by the fuku, which is an ancient hex from the Dominican Republic that has plagued his family for years.

The book jumps around and gives intimate details about Oscar and his family. The narrator changes too from the “Watcher” (who turns out to be Oscar’s friend Yunior) and to Lola and back to the “Watcher”.  I got a good sense of the fuku curse and just how malevolent it is. Most of Oscar’s family eventually succumbs to the curse. But the book isn’t so much about the curse or if the curse is even real. The book actually focuses on life. How life happens. The choices made and their consequences (both good and bad). For Oscar, he makes some bad choices along the way. For example, he’s desperate for love and falls for these girls that lead him on and only result in his heart being broken. These string of heart breaks result in his own failed suicide attempts. These are some of the darker passages, but there are glimpses of humor that Diaz uses alleviate weight of the situation.

Interesting part of this novel is not plot related but how it is written. Diaz uses contemporary English, Spanish, and ghetto slang to tell the story. My Spanish is a little rusty, but the context was there to draw my own conclusions. The best part of this book is that Diaz uses sci-fi metaphors to illustrate Oscar and other characters. Everything from the Watchmen to Dune to the X-Men is covered in some capacity. It’s woven well into the story.

My only critique of this novel would be that there’s not enough Oscar. Diaz does a great job bringing Oscar to life. I guess I would have enjoyed reading more about his adventures or misadventures…maybe less on the other family members (although Lola and Oscar grandfather are interesting, deep characters almost worthy of their own novel).

I highly recommend this book based on its fresh approach on narration, humor balanced with dark serious issues, and just the amount of stories I learned about the Dominican Republic!

The Nian Hour

Nian2007_CloseupI had another short story published. “The Nian Hour” can be found in issue number 13 of Fantastic Horror.  Here’s a short recap of the story: mythical Chinese creature runs amok in Chicago’s Chinatown. Enjoy!

Novel Revision: Done!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and for good reason. I just finished my third revision of Bleed American. I started in the middle of June and finished literally today, August 31. I’m happy it’s over but it’s not done. If I’m fortunate enough to land an agent – I’m sure they’ll be revision there. If I’m fortunate enough to get a book deal – I guarantee they’ll be another revision. Hell, if I don’t get anything, there might be another revision. From what I read on other agent and writer blogs, revising can go a few more times which is fine as long as leads to publication.

This third revision accomplished a couple things. First, I cut 54 pages or about 22,000 words. How was actually the easy part. As I reread every single page, I had my orange pen (see my Editing post for why orange) and slashed away at redundancy, run-ons, incomplete thoughts, you name it! I overwrote, overextended, tried to be clever even though I wasn’t, and I lost focus. Third time around, it was easy to see what needed to go.  I also felt that I was able to tighten up the plot. I think writing the synopsis might be a little easier, but I think I could capture the conflict in a sentence now. When I wrote a query or synopsis, calling out the conflict was a challenge which should have been a sign early on that some revising needed to take place.

Now that I’m done revising, how am I going to reward myself? By writing queries again! No time like the present. Plus, I’ll be able to blog at least once a week, if not more.

I love to hear from other writers out there about their revising stories.

One of my other objectives is to establish more writing credits. I’m actually intrigued about the idea of going after a literary magazine or something. I love writing genre stories, but I want well rounded in my writing. I also see it as challenge. Sure, it’s tough enough to get published, but to note that I’ve earned credit on a few different avenues must be worth something, right?