Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

I read my first anthology in… I don’t know how long. This one in particular I found on goodreads.com and hunted it down through my local library. What made me seek out this book was it was all based on post-apocalyptic fiction! I was very excited and maybe I overhyped myself. I wound up only reading a few of the stories from Wasteland: Stories of the Apocalypse.

The title is a little misleading. All the stories are about what happens after the apocalypse. I’d love to read something about what happens during the apocalypse. Maybe that’s a short story for me to put together.

The first story I read was by Stephen King, which was good but I felt short-changed by the end. I thought there should have been more. Just as the story took off it was over.

Cory Doctorow had cool story about IT System Administrators surviving the end of the world. My favorite had to Richard Kadrey’s story. It reads like a punk rock song. It was like a big f**k you to the post-apocalyptic world. For the most part, not much grabbed like I thought it would. There were some heavy hitters in this anthology with stories I just couldn’t get into.

I can’t say I’ll rush to find another anthology anytime soon. If I do, I’ll buy it. Getting a copy out of the library kind of hampers my ability to bounce around from story to story.

Wastelands does provide some excellent imagery of a world that ended. I’ve always been fascinated by this concept. Just as equally as interesting is what happens when the dust settles and the stories of the people left behind.

I should also preface that there are no zombie apocalypse stories in this anthology. I’m a sucker for those but I can also appreciate the fact that these types of stories could fill their own Anthology.


Graphic Novels

I took the recommendation of someone who logged a comment on a post of mine from December. The post was about The Walking Dead television series. I knew of the comic but not necessarily into reading it until I came across it at my local library.

I brought it home Saturday and finished Sunday night. To say the least, it held my interest. As someone who considers himself an aficionado of zombie apocalypses, The Walking Dead holds up. The plot is interesting and so are the characters and there is lot of them. The artwork is solid and well done. I understand why this comic is popular. The zombies aren’t necessarily the focus as are the characters dealing with the new world they’re living in. The comic and the TV shows aren’t all that different. The difference is that the comic moves much faster and doesn’t dwell on too much.

Specifically, a few thoughts on graphic novels. While I did enjoy TWD, I felt cheated by not getting to know the characters. I didn’t feel as invested as I would for a novel. The dialogue is pretty crisp but it’s tiring after a while. There weren’t enough frames that allowed the action to move the story forward.

Keep in mind, I’m new to the graphic novel and my claims really should be taken lightly. I would also add that I read comics as a kid and then a time in my early twenties. But both of those interests faded as I left wanting more from the story. I guess ultimately that’s how felt Sunday night. I checked out book one of I don’t know how many. But, I finished feeling there would’ve been more to story.

The graphic novel is a unique storytelling medium. It allows the characters to tell the story which by no means make the art any easier. If anything, I have a lot of respect for those in the graphic novel arena. Although, I believe it’ll be a while till I jump into my next graphic novel. Until then I can get by without the pictures.

Oryx and Crake

My continuing effort to read as a writer has landed me in the world of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It’s a wonderful dystopian novel that is poetic in its descriptions. From the first page, the tone is bleak and you already have an idea of how the book ends. Getting there is the interesting part and worth reading.

Atwood tells the story of Jimmy in the present and how he got to his certain position in life. Most of the book is told in flashback on Jimmy’s part. I haven’t read a book told in this manner, which I found refreshing. I found the jumping back and forth between the past and present helped with the tempo. Just when you’ve had enough of Jimmy’s bleak present you’re transported back to his past to explain something.

The poetic descriptions I mentioned above are the downside. I felt that Atwood went off the deep end in describing. The first few pages were a great example. After the first page, I knew Jimmy was living in a post-apocalyptic world. I felt that the description, while well-done, served as too much. I was already wanting to move forward but Atwood wouldn’t let me.

The science fiction was pretty cool. Although I’ve read that Atwood doesn’t like the term sci-fi but speculative fiction – whatever. It’s not to hard sci-fi that I feel I’m reading a college text book and not too soft that it’s a children’s book. The focus is about bio-corporations that splice animal DNA then start to try on humans to develop pills, procedures, etc that make them younger, sexier, smarter, happier, and so on. I won’ t reveal too much more but Jimmy is part of major catastrophe involving some aggressive splicing.

I plowed through this book and almost forgot to read as a writer at a few points. No question the writing is good. Certain passages are long and drawn out but this book delivers beyond just science fiction. It probably more literary driven now that I’m looking back at it. Much like I mentioned in Starship Troopers, O and C is character driven. Learning how these characters grow through the novel is fascinating. Moreover, floating back and forth with Jimmy paints a haunting picture of what could have been with love and success. All the while there is a science fiction theme in the back drop.

Armageddon It! (or my way of getting attention)

I recently noticed a spike in the number of hits I received on my blog. Great, right? Well, kind of. For awhile I enjoyed watching my stats increase week after week for the last couple months. I figured I blogged some really good content other writers were checking out. Turns out that’s not quite the case. I checked out my blog stats and a post from January has been doing most of the heavy lifting.

Seems people love Armageddon more than I do. I guess in the world of Google, Armageddon must be a sought after topic. Cool for me but not for my writing. The post reviewed Armageddon week on the History channel. I like to indulge in occasional apocalyptic entertainment and felt the History channel presenting some decent programming.

This blogs primarily tracks my effort as a writer striving to get published, but I also want to share what interests me. Folks should also get to know my tastes for fiction and what inspires me to write.

As my wife has learned, I like post-apocalyptic fiction (tv, movies, books, music). In most stories I write I try to integrate that setting in some fashion. While it’s fun to imagine a Mad Max type world of survival, it’s far removed from reality. Maybe that’s why I like it – it’s far from my what my real life is like that it’s a true escape.

Lately, I’ve been piecing ideas of what my next novel will be about. I want to jump into a world where the modern life is no more and survival is paramount. Anarchy rules the country, and people set off to fight for land and resources. Yet I’m drifting from that. The world  I’m building is actually alive and kicking. Fully functioning and moving forward, if you will. What I’m exciting about is taking my characters away from their go forward world and placing them in a setting where progress stopped. Imagine if life as we know in 2010 stopped? Progress came to a halt yet the rest of the world moved on. If I had to go back to that world that stopped. what would that be like? That’s the type of Armageddon I’m imagining at this point. I like what I’m flushing out. Wish me luck.

The Road

I just finished Cormac McCarthy’s The Road last night and it was exceptional. It’s been awhile since I read a book in a matter of days. I’ve also read McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men which happens to be one of my favorite books. The writing in both are top-notch and gave me a lot to think about in my own writing.

In The Road is about a man and his son travelling across a post-apocalyptic landscape to survive. What’s remarkable about this book is that McCarthy gives you very little details about how the world ended. There are a couple of references but you have no idea if it’s nuclear, nature, or meteor which changes the Earth to a gray and ash wasteland. I found this lack of information made the story that much more interesting. Sure, I would’ve like to know the end went down, but McCarthy is one of the best and if he thinks I don’t need to know I’m OK with that.

Another fascinating part of McCarthy’s writing is how he describes the man and his son. He doesn’t even give them names! Instead he refers to them as the man and boy. Moreover, he doesn’t a do a deluge of information about either character. I don’t know how old they are, where they’re from originally, the color of their hair, etc. and it all works! I compare this to my own writing and it’s the exact opposite. I’m trying capture every distinct aspect of every character in my book. After reading The Road, I have a lot to rethink. I can’t see myself having any description of a character(s), but if the writing is solid, the reader will develop a mental picture. I guess that’s the sign of good writing. I haven’t read a lot of Hemingway but I’ve talked to other writers who have, and he rarely included descriptions of his characters for the most part. I’m more aware than ever before that there’s a balance in descriptions.

I read The Road because I wanted to read a great book and that’s what I found. I also read it because I wanted to read as a writer and definitely learned a lot. Now it’s up to me to apply what I’ve learned to my writing to see if I can make it better.

Armageddon Week

Last week The History Channel set aside episodes about Hitler, Ax Men, and Pawn Stars to showcase documentaries about how the world will end. “Armageddon Week” was fantastic! I don’t why The History Channel doesn’t do more programming like this? Shows like the “Nostradamus Effect”, “Doomsday 2012”, “After Armageddon”, and my personal favorite “Apocalypse Man”. Now, I know this week was created to buy into the 2012 hype, but I found it refreshing from a science fiction point of view.

Right now, science fiction is diluted with space operas, alternate history, and fantasy. I’ve never really been into any of these genres. As mentioned in early posts, I’m dystopian, end of the world type-of-guy. So when “Armageddon Week” came along, I was psyched. I got more out of the documentaries like “After Armageddon” and “Apocalypse Man” because they were dramatized end of the world scenarios. The others were just recycled tidbits about Easter Island, Nostradamus, and Mayan prophecies. What I liked most about “Apocalypse Man” was the survivalist theme that ran through the show. How to set up a base, acquire information, and convert grease into fuel were just some of the topics covered. The host was a little over the top at some points, but still was fun to watch.

I really get a kick out of this stuff. I know I shouldn’t. God forbid, something catastrophic happen! I’m sure I’d forget all the stuff I learned from “Apocalypse Man” and just hide in basement. However, there is something that attracts me to watching civilization fall apart. Maybe it’s sick or maybe it’s my desire to live a simpler life. The U.S. is becoming a lost place. We’re losing our identity as a nation day by day. It’s still better than any other place I can think of to live, but just watching the news I can’ t help wonder what the future holds. Even with technology that surrounds us today, are we any further advanced? I personally think the technology has dumbed a lot of our society. Talk to any high school kid and you’ll know what I mean. (Although, I’m sure I wasn’t all that articulate at 16 either.)

I don’t believe the world will end in 2012. I do believe there will be a chain of events that will affect the world and change everyone. Some for the good and some for the bad. No one really knows and that’s why The History Channel can run Armageddon Week — suckers like me buy into it…hook, line and sinker.

Now I’m off to try to convince my wife of the coming zombie apocalypse. Good luck surviving!