Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guest Post--Birth of a Hybrid by Stephen Weinstock


I have a guest post today from Stephen Weinstock, author of  1001, or The Reincarnation Chronicles. He's here to tell us about how his work is both science fiction and fantasy--and more.

BIRTH OF A HYBRID
by Stephen Weinstock
I am the white sheep in my family.  I am the sole artist among a group of scientists, and though I love the sciences and don’t believe my parents, brother, or Uncle Stanley ever worked for the Dark One, I prefer to think of myself as the brave little lamb who ventured outside of the dark laboratory, into the bright light of the Arts.
My parents met while working on The Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during World War Two.  Yes, we’re a nuclear family.  They were only in their twenties, my father a physics grad student at Columbia, and my mom a lab technician who got her job answering an ad in the New York Times.  Before their careers had even started, they were working shoulder to shoulder with the greatest minds in the world.  My mother remembered walking to work behind Oppenheimer, and holding hands with Richard Feynman after his wife died in Santa Fe.  Inspired by the war effort, my father continued to do science directly related to social needs, and ended his life pioneering the first scientific research on air pollution.
In the new era of DNA research, my brother George headed one of the main labs that mapped the human genome, and currently is at the center of the Human Microbiome Project.  The HMP aims to map every species of organism living inside the human body, and figure out what they’ve been up to for the last million years.  Talk about the arts meeting the sciences: the project surpasses anything in science fiction!
I’m proud of my family, and was a happy third-grader bringing my dad’s model of the atom to Show and Tell.  I went through an obligatory period of rejection, protesting Livermore’s nuke production when I was a grad student at Berkeley.  That passed, so as my path led into the performing arts, I rekindled my love of science through Star Wars, literary works such as Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, and an interest in speculative works of art.
I was a composer for years, so I never took the one burning idea I had for a novel too seriously.  I thought it would be fun to read a book where a group of characters remembered fragments of their past lives, discovered their stories were intertwined, and solved the huge puzzle of their karmic history.  One thing I loved about the idea was that the past life stories could be historical fiction, science fiction, romance, or whatever, a hybrid of genres.
One Tuesday during my middle age crisis, while I was driving to Princeton to play a modern dance class, I realized how my book idea could be done.  The model would be The Thousand and One Nights, a book where every new story that Scheherazade tells the King ranges from history to romance to religious parable to dirty joke.  As I researched the Nights, I became fascinated by its mysterious history, imagined a host of mathematical structures hidden under my use of this model, and decided to be a writer!
My series, 1001, or The Reincarnation Chronicles tracks the past life stories of a qaraq, a group of ten (or eleven) souls traveling together through Time, currently living in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Since my parents helped build the bomb, and my brother is finding every extra-human creature inside us, I didn’t want to do anything too small.  The eleven books of the series contain a 1001 chapters, each chapter revealing a past life tale.  But that’s not the only way the book satisfies my science genes.
First, my work process for each chapter involves filling out a form that deals with basics like plot and character, but also selects what I need to include in terms of eleven hidden math structures at work in the text.  This process is a whole tale in itself, but suffice it to say I feel like a lab technician filling out a report when I prepare to write the next chapter.
Second, given the hybrid genre of the series, I get to write as many sci-fic/fantasy tales as I wish, which has fed my creative soul plenty.  There are stories about bored chunks of supercontinents gazing up at the heavens, sub-atomic particles having a lover’s spat, and the ten souls of the qaraq inhabiting the body parts of a single Carboniferous era dragonfly.  (You can get free reads of two dinosaur tales on my site, qaraqbooks; see the sidebar: Online Tales from 1001.)  Currently, I am writing the section of the qaraq’s history where they evolved from prokaryotes to the first species on land – plants, not amphibians!  It was a tough time for them, but at least they discovered sex.
Finally, the scope of the karmic history speaks directly to my love of things scientific.  The tales go back before evolution and the Big Splat by four or five universes, and stretch in a similar direction into the future.  I get to decide how our cosmos is going to sputter out, and of course reincarnate.  Book Five culminates with the qaraq’s involvement in The Manhattan Project.  And the qaraq incarnates as anything, not just humanoid creatures: inanimate objects, philosophical concepts, nuclear forces, or protozoan organisms living inside us.  Thanks, bro.
So now that I have published Book One, The Qaraq, I have successfully merged my arts and science background.  Perhaps I am no longer the white sheep, but a curious hybrid of white and black, my very own clone.
STEPHEN WEINSTOCK has created scores for theater companies, choreographers, and dance studios; he currently works at LaGuardia HS (the Fame School).  He is author of the series 1001, based on the Arabian Nights, about a group of people who discover they have shared 1001 past lives.
You can purchase Stephen's book on amazon, or email him at drstephenwATcomcastDOTnet with any questions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

WisCon--Walk the Walk?

When you've been going to a particular convention for a long time, it becomes a home away from home. Even if you don't speak to other attendees, you know their names and faces. You develop traditions (the first night of the con we go to this restaurant, we stop by these stores and these places in the dealer room) and memorize the hotel layout. So when something upsetting happens at the con, it affects you too.

Last year, a well-known editor who was employed by Tor harassed at least two women, one of whom is my friend. (What's especially upsetting is that this was my friend's first-ever convention.) One of the women wrote about the experience here. My friend's report about this year's convention is here. WisCon apparently misplaced the reports these women filed, and the former editor (he got fired after the incident became public) was allowed to attend this year's WisCon. A ruling finally came out last Friday, with the result that the guy is banned for at least four years and may be allowed to return if he demonstrates improved behavior.

I know this guy by sight, but I haven't had much occasion to speak with him. From reports I've heard, he has a long history of harassing women, which makes me glad that I got rejected from Tor ages ago. This history suggests that any changes to his behavior may be superficial or temporary. I don't know if WisCon has had to deal with a situation like this before; it's possible the ruling was issued this way to establish a precedent, allowing future harassers a chance to redeem themselves. However, this ruling doesn't do much (IMO) to address the victims' safety or mental well-being at the convention. Why would you return if you risk encountering your harasser again? And while I don't know how this decision was reached, I know this guy had connections. It makes me wonder if there is some power play behind this decision. I'd like to think the committee was as objective as possible, and maybe no decision would have pleased everyone. But even the suspicion of power plays supporting a harasser at a feminist convention is upsetting.

I normally register for next year's WisCon and make my hotel reservation while at the convention, and I did so this year. WisCon is the first con I ever attended, the birthplace of Broad Universe, and it's set in the city that I love. I see friends here that I don't see outside of WisCon. I don't want to boycott this convention. I just want it to walk the walk when it comes to supporting women. Whether that's something ordinary members can accomplish, or whether it's a matter for volunteers or committee members, I don't know. It's not an issue that can be solved in a single blog post. I don't care if Tor stops throwing parties at WisCon; I care that all attendees feel safe, no matter who they are. I intend to look for more information from WisCon and other people in the WisCon community as the countdown to WisCon 39 continues.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blurb and Call for Beta Readers: Seasons' Beginnings

Last month, I finished the second draft of Season's Beginnings, Book One in my fantasy Season Avatars series. I am currently looking for beta readers for this project. Here's what I have so far for the blurb:

Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. As he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?

If this sounds like something you'd like to beta read, please comment below or e-mail me at ulbrichalmazanATsbcglobalDOTnet. If you have any suggestions for improving the blurb, please let me know that as well. Thanks!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Digitial Book Day and Website Update

To celebrate Digital Book Day, I'm giving Lyon's Legacy away on Smashwords. Just click here and use code SW100 at checkout. Don't forget to check out all the other free eBooks listed here. There are over 400 books listed, so you should be able to find something you like.

Speaking of free, I've created free PDF samplers for Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes. You can find them both on my website. I've also added more information about Seasons' Beginnings and Indie Writers Monthly there as well. 

Speaking of Indie Writers Monthly, our first annual anthology should be available by now. Additional information will be posted as soon as I have it, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Semiannual Reading Update

Every six months or so, I go through my book list on Goodreads and summarize what I've read. As of Sunday evening, I've read 104 books this year. My goal is 200, so I'm on pace. Here's the breakdown:

Fantasy: 43
Science Fiction: 12
Other Fiction: 24
Non-Fiction: 25

Of these books, about sixteen were in paper format, which I think is a little higher than in previous years. I've been borrowing a mystery series from the library, so that accounts for the increase in paper books.

I'm not ready to pick favorites for the year yet, but here are a few books that stood out for me:

Meatonomics (this book convinced me to become a vegetarian)
Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic
America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
Paladin of Souls
Lies My Teacher Told Me

Most of this list is non-fiction; only two of them are fantasy. At the end of the year, I'll pick favorites from each category.

As for what I'm reading now, I'm juggling All Joy and No Fun (parenting, paper), Quantum Zoo (SF, Kindle), and Ancillary Justice (SF, Kindle).

How's your reading coming along so far this year? Any favorites? Do you do most of your reading with paper or electronic books?

Site Meter