New entry Jun 06
Books from Critters!
Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.
New Book from a Critter Member**NOW IN PRINT EDITION TOO!** Awesome new book, HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SPECULATIVE FICTION OPENINGS, from a Critter member who's unearthed a shard of The Secret to becoming a pro writer. Really good piece of work. "...if you're at all concerned about story openings, you'd be nuts not to read what Qualkinbush has to say." —Wil McCarthy, author of BLOOM and THE COLLAPSIUM
Space Travel for SF Writers
Hot off the presses from ReAnimus Press! Space Travel - A Science Fiction Writer's Guide— An indispensible tool for all SF writers that explains the science you need to help you make your fiction plausible. (Also via Amazon)
I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.
Free Web Sites
Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.
ReAnimus Acquires Advent!
ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!
THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock
Announcing ReAnimus Press
If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]
Aburt's (Really In Need Of Updating But Still Good Stuff) Favorite Books List
There are a few things aburt knows well -- computers, science fiction, and writing -- plus a few subjects in which he just knows what he likes. Here are some of my favorite books, with links to Amazon.com in case you want more information about them, read reviews, or to pop right off and buy them.
Science Fiction New Releases
I'm on a publisher's review list, and receive all (well, most) new SF books that come out. I'm a pretty harsh critic when it comes to SF -- it has to be well written, with terrific characterization, big ideas, well drawn settings, all in one package. So not that you'll agree with me on these, but here are ones I thought worthwhile:
Ilium by Dan Simmons
Greek gods & goddesses, the Trojan War, little green men, and robots from the asteroid belt... what more do I need to say, other than it's great?
The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
Neal just lets loose in this epic... Epic is too small a word. The kitchen sink is in here.
Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen
The Miocene Arrow
Souls in the Great Machine
Since I get so many books, I give most the one-page test -- did it draw me in after one page. I couldn't put this one down. The Greatwinter trilogy are pure SF delight. You need not read one to enjoy the other, but you'll want to. Folks who think computers were just invented to make us slaves to our desks will love the Calculor -- a computer literally made up of human components, slaves with names like ADD 17, MULTIPLIER 8, and FUNCTION 9, who toil at their desks on behalf of a wicked arch-librarian. Byzantine intrigue, love, epic drama, sentient satellites, dueling librarians, it's all here. More lords a dueling in Arrow, this time over a retro-future US with low-tech personal flying machines... Run, don't walk, your mouse to the links above & buy these!
Dark Matter : A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree Thomas, ed.
As Amazon.com says in their review, "This anthology's critical and historical importance is indisputable. But that's not why it will prove to be the best anthology of 2000 in both the speculative and the literary fiction fields. It's because the stories are great"!
Dune: House Corrino by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Dune: House Harkonnen
Dune: House Atreides
Frank Herbert's son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson, using FH's original notes, have written a terrific "prequel" series. It captures the essence of FH's style and world, just as if FH were still alive. If you liked the Dune series, this one's for you.
My Favorite Science Fiction Story by Martin H. Greenberg, ed.
Marty Greenberg, the grandmaster of science fiction anthologies, asked seventeen of the biggest names in SF writing to choose their favorite story (much like "You've Got to Read This" for non-SF, below). A must read for SF fans and would-be writers.
The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 1 by Frederik Pohl, ed.
The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 2 by Frederik Pohl, ed.
The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 3 by Frederik Pohl, ed.
Got to be one of the most spectacular anthologies of science fiction short stories ever. (The Grand Master awards are given out to the true legends of SF, a sort of lifetime achievement award.) The most exemplary works from the greatest of the great.
Science Fiction Classics
There are just some classic SF books that (IMHO) everyone should read who likes SF, and can't be said to know the breadth and depth of the field if they haven't read them. They're timeless, seminal, the cream of the crop.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Scott writes some of the best character-oriented fiction today, bar none. His newest, Ender's Shadow (a parallel novel to Ender's Game), is my guess for winning next year's Hugo and Nebula (like Ender's Game did before). These and the sequels (which only get better, IMHO) aren't to be missed. The sequels are:
Speaker for the Dead
and the newest, "parallel" (non-sequel) novels:
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
For epic SF, the Hyperion cantos is staggering. Don't buy the first book without buying The Fall of Hyperion at the same time; they're really one book split into two parts. The second two are likewise a pair:
Dune by Frank Herbert
One of the best all-time SF books ever. Period.
The sequels are worth reading to flesh out the whole universe, and a real treat if you've never read them:
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The first in Asimov's classic Foundation series. Followed in the series by:
Asimov later followed up with:
Foundation and Earth (out of print!?!)
The "killer B's" (Benford, Bear, Brin) have written subsequent books as well:
by Greg Benford
Foundation and Chaos
by Greg Bear
by David Brin
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Nobody's SF education is complete without laughing through therapy with Robinette Broadhead and wondering where the Heechee went. When you're done, you'll have to read the rest of the Heechee saga: Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Heechee Rendezvous, The Annals of the Heechee.
Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
and The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
Cordwainer Smith created some of the most incredible and literary science fiction ever written. His future history with the Instrumentality of Man are seminal to the field (where do you think Frank Herbert got the idea from for the "spice" in Dune?). His writing is way weird; sometimes you think he's writing like a child, other times like a god. His short fiction is almost always included in "best ever" anthologies, so why not get it all in one volume? His SF novel, Norstrilia, set in the same universe, is almost always ranked amongst the most popular.
The Hobbit and the complete Lord of the Rings "trilogy" by J.R.R. Tolkien
Granted, this is not strictly science fiction, but his world is as carefully constructed as any in "hard" SF. Even if you don't care for fantasy in general, you have to read Lord of the Rings. (I personally find most fantasy pale in comparison afterwards, and read very little straight fantasy; except to read LotR again. :-)
Now, no, I don't only like multi-volume series. :-) I ascribe the multiple volumes above more to the fact that those universes were so well received they demanded additional volumes. But here are some singles that stand proud with the rest:
1984 by George Orwell
The classic tale of pervasive monitoring, Big Brother, thought police, revising history and language.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The ultimate character story. One of the few places where "literature" and science fiction cross.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Hey, droogie, it's the satire that spawned the Kubrick movie.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
Read about the sacred shopping list...
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
It's not a novelization of the movie -- it's the novel the movie was based on. While it is different, with an ending that's interesting vs. the movies on the whole, I find it actually amazing how little was fundamentally changed in concept. The book is well written (the author also wrote the novel-that-became-the-movie for Bridge over the River Kwai, so he's no slouch), with a fun style. It's about a lot more Issues than the movie brings out, but it gave me a renewed appreciation for the movie. Writers will find it fascinating to compare the two ways of doing basically the same thing... yet differently... :-)
And then there are some I just happen to really like, and while popular, may not be Required Reading:
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
One of the first SF books I read, discarded from the library with pages that fell out as I turned them -- held me breathless.
Expanded Universe by Robert Heinlein
(And his entire future history series.)
The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Some like The Stars My Destination better, but I'm keen on this classic murder mystery in an age of mind-reading cops.
I believe writing is best learned by practice and by reading the best works. Although I, myself, mainly write science fiction, I believe that the way to write the best science fiction is to study the absolute best fiction. (Not to mention, it's terribly fun to read.)
While I've recommended my favorite SF books and short stories above, here are some of my favorite non-SF works. Science fiction is frequently light on characterization, a problem novice SF writers could overcome by studying the likes of the following. And who knows, you might actually enjoy them, since they're just so well written.
Since so many writers begin with short stories, this list is weighted with many anthologies and collections.
You've Got to Read This by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard
This is an awesome anthology of short stories, recommended by famous authors asked to suggest the stories that "held them in awe". Since science fiction is about the "sense of wonder," this book is particularly appropriate, since all the selected stories are ones that induced that sense of awe and wonder in the reader/authors who chose them. If you're not "into" non-SF literature, this is the one anthology you should read.
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor just writes amazing stories. Dark but terribly funny. She has an incredible way with words. One of, if not the, best short story writers ever.
The Oxford Book of American Short Stories by Joyce Carol Oates, ed.
A terrific anthology of stories spanning from Washington Irving to Pickney Benedict, chosen by Joyce Carol Oates, one of the legends of our time. Anthologies like these are great jumping off points to find authors you want to read/study more of.
The Norton Book of American Short Stories by Peter S. Prescott, ed.
Like the Oxford collection, the Norton collection has an engrossing mix of stories, just chosen by a different editor.
Collected Stories by Willa Cather
I often find that female authors have the best insights into characters, and I think Willa Cather among the best. It's also interesting reading from a standpoint of Americana, but read it simply for the characterization.
The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch
One of my personal favorite novels, even though it's relatively obscure. It was also made into a movie, with Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt (who earned a well-deserved Academy Award for her portrayal of Billy Kwan). To my mind, Billy is just about the ideal character: Incredibly complex, chasmically deep of feeling, terribly conflicted, idealistic, selfish... The novel is important to SF writers also for how it brings to life an exotic culture. Koch doesn't hit the reader over the head with worldbuilding as much SF does, but weaves it so integrally into the story it becomes a multidimensional character itself.
60 Stories by Donald Barthelme
If you want to write compactly, as the short form requires, study Donald Barthelme. 450 pages with 60 stories -- an average of 7.5 pages each. His style is most unusual, but he manages to do a lot with a little.
The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov by Vladimir Nabokov
If you want to put incredible textures in your writing and study a master of "sumptuous" evocation of the senses, study this. Incredible.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sure, you probably read it in school, but if you haven't read it recently (since you began writing seriously), read it again. It's consistently ranked as one of the absolute best novels of all time (and is my personal #1).
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
It's hard to tell if this is a novel or a collection of short stories linked together. Both, I suppose. They're all terrific, and fantastic examples of how to write short fiction that packs a kick, but the title story is so good I can't think of a more perfect example of a short story. (Yes, I am indeed saying this is my all-time favorite short story and something I consider as near to perfect as a short story can get.) You don't have to even like Vietnam stories to want to read this one over and over.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
Buy this book (both of them!). I read the first as a galley, and instantly knew this is a book I had to recommend to writers. Noah's an agent, has been an editor, and he knows his stuff. This is not particularly a book on how to write -- it's better: It's a book on how not to get rejected. The second continues the excellent advice.
The 10% Solution by Ken Rand
As Ed Bryant says in his blurb, "This little book offers no magical shortcut; but it does distill many years' professional experience and common sense. When I suspect that one of my own stories is working, it's inevitably for one or more of the reasons Ken enumerates herein. The guy knows what he's talking about. If you're a long-time successful writer, pick this up as your refresher course. If you're an ambitious novice, consider this your bible." Also available direct from the publisher, Fairwood Press.
I firmly believe that a healthy mind requires a healthy body. Toward that end, I'll recommend the following:
Body for Life : 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Fitness Forever by Bill Phillips & Michael D'Orso
I confess I'm a neighbor of Bill Phillips so I've seen the meteoric rise of his fitness empire, but perhaps because of that I admire him all the more. He runs EAS, a company that makes nutritional supplements, he runs a fitness magazine, and he's the guy folks like John Elway, Mike Piazza, and Sylvester Stallone consult. (Watch Bronco games, and you'll see many EAS baseball caps. :-) I also confess I haven't done more than browse this book (I'm not quite the target audience, though I might have been many years ago, before I began working out), but I doubt you can go wrong here.
Running With Scissors by Weird Al Yankovic
An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer by Tom Lehrer
You haven't laughed until you've listened to Tom Lehrer, a math grad student at Harvard eons ago who wrote the most incredibly funny songs... until they kicked him out. :-) Get all of his albums; the above and:
Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer
That Was The Year That Was by Tom Lehrer
Computers & Programming
I've spent twelve years teaching computer science, and have amassed a number of favorite books for learning how to program, etc. Most of these are books I've used as class texts.
Problem Solving with C++: The Object of Programming by Prof. Walter Savitch
I confess I helped critique this book when it was in draft form, and consider Walt a friend, but I'm still picky about what book I'd use to teach C++ from, and this is it. When you're done with that, if you're going to try to earn money at C++ programming, you'll want:
The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup (the inventor of C++ itself)
And the companion volumes:
and I'd also recommend:
Unix System V Release 4: An Introduction by Kenneth Rosen, et al.
This is, in my opinion, the definitive book on using Unix.
Using Linux by William H. Ball
A great book for beginning to intermediate Linux users, with
lots of examples. Once you've become a more advanced user,
by Matt Welsh & Lar Kaufman
Modern Operating Systems by Andrew Tanenbaum
So, you want to write an operating system? Here's how. When you've finished that, try his Distributed Operating Systems.
TCP/IP: Running a Successful Network by Kevin Washburn and Jim Evans
How the Internet really works, from the inside. Very technical, meant for programmers who need to understand the nuts & bolts of TCP/IP.
HTML Complete by Sybex
Excellent coverage of HTML for beginners to advanced.
Beginning Java 2 by Ivor Horton
One of the best books for learning Java.
- Curing Bad Customer Service — Just a Dollar a Minute
- Say No to the Feeconomy
- Hello, Corruption, My Old Friend — How Craigslist is Killing Democracy
- Thoughts on Abolishing the Electoral College and the Impact on the Two Party System
- Thoughts on Teaching Creationism Alongside Evolution in Science Classes
- Necessity is the Assassin of Invention — How Moderation in the Name of "Spam" is Stifling Innovation
- Thoughts on "Checks & Balances" Bi-Partisan voting
I'm working on getting all my fiction re-released as ebooks. Here's what's online at this point.
|Dr. Andrew Burt is a professional science fiction writer and former Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., whose publication credits include dozens of published short stories and one novel. He herds Critters (www.critters.org), the first writer's workshop on the web. Outside of science fiction, he founded the world's first Internet service provider, has been a computer science professor (research in networking, security, privacy, and free-speech/social issues), and a technology consultant/author/speaker. He's currently CEO of TechSoft, and President of GreenAroundYou.org. For a hobby, he constructs solutions to all the world's problems. Fortunately -- nobody listens. He lives in the Rockies with his wife and their two parrots.|
You can read most of the stories below right online or grab them in your favorite ebook format. Just click on the title.
I will be happy to sign and personally inscribe any ebook you buy from me.
Returns policy: If you don't like it and want your money back, I will refund it.
DRM: None. DRM is a horrible idea.
Sometimes I wish birds had never discovered that humans were intelligent...
(If you like playing Angry Birds then you've got to read this one. First published in Outside SF / FarSector in 2003.)
"Oswald," Emery had said. In the future, the Minuteman software system listens to all phone calls, reads all messages, watches everything, to keep Americans safe... but what happens when it mis-hears what someone says? Who's watching the watchers? An exciting tale that could too easily come true. Read Privacy Most Public.
"Free to go" doesn't always mean free to go...
What does the future of transportation and racing look like? Join the last leg of the 2032 IDITEROC Race of Champions from Frisco to Denver. Sometimes it's about the journey, not the destination. Then again, sometimes it's not...
She wanted my body. The problem was, I couldn't be exactly sure where to find it...
If you had a terrible secret, perhaps you'd find time dilation has it's uses...
I've still got a few author's copies of my cyberwarfare thriller, Noontide Night, I ordinarily wouldn't plug my own book so much, but this one is for a good cause: I'm donating all the profits from Noontide Night to the American Red Cross. $9.99, print only, direct from me.
Aburt's Non-fiction Online
Having Relationships With Characters on the Road to Great Fiction
(Shhh! A Secret of Great Writing)
An article originally published in the SFWA Bulletin on fascinating statistical correlations found between the amount of interpersonal relationships in "well regarded" vs. "ordinary" SF/F stories. In addition to the article are supplemental materials, including much that wasn't published because of space limitations.
This has huge implications for your writing (at least in terms of what sells better) and also offers a possibly useful tool for you to find books you want to read while browsing in the bookstore. Vital information for both writers and readers!
How to avoid anachronisms in fiction to keep your prose timeless... 50% off in the ReAnimus Press store for a limited time with coupon code: FUTPROOF !!
We're living in a Simulated Universe? Are you sure?
Pondering about the nature of the universe is always fun, isn't it? It's one of the cool things science fiction writers get to do.
So, this Oxford philosopher "proves," mathematically, that either you're living in a simulated universe, or else the world is going to end soon. Wow, that's bleak, no? Fortunately there are some flaws in his logic, leading to some even more fascinating ideas, which I've played with for fun in an article that was originally printed in the Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Enjoy it before the universe ends! :)