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04 July 2011 @ 11:28 pm
From ancient history to futurism  
My recent writing focus has been treating me well. I managed to hammer out a satisfactory endgame for Resonance. It has its own flow and cohesion rather than relying on the spookiness of its setting, and the final scenes should wrap things up reasonably without ruining the surreal ambiguity of the story. This is part polished prose, part outline with a gap in it. But it is moving forward, and it's about damn time.

Between the light at the end of that tunnel, the similarly encouraging Just One More Section state of Tempered Will, and a boost of pride from finishing up a pair of Dynasty Warriors one-shots last month, my brain started chewing on a literary pipe dream.

I like Three Kingdoms history viewed through a pragmatic lens rather than the David vs. Goliath distortions of traditional popular culture. I like people and factions with a nuanced concept of "good" and "bad", and some worthiness of admiration and relatability even if they happen to be unsympathetic in various regards. I once pondered a novel about my favorite conflict of the time - the 219 takeover of Jing province, culminating in the defeat of Guan Yu. I did some brainstorming, but the idea didn't grab me enough to develop.

That's fine with me. Now I have a better one.

You know what else I like? The slick, bustling aesthetics of a sizable and futuristic city. Interpreting character archetypes into fully fledged personalities within different settings, which I've already had enough fun with in my fan works. Speculative worldbuilding, which gave rise to a never-ending sci-fi story back in middle school. A loosely 3K-based story in my own setting would scratch that long dormant itch, let me pick my own cast of stars, and avoid the crushing weight of research required for a novel-length exploration of a specific historic conflict - politics and all. (Tempered Will is mainly about the psychology of small, personality-driven ancient militias. Research focused on absorbing enough background on Han era cultural values and peasant armies to get into the mindset of each character. Sorting out years of political motivations leading up to a big conflict is a whole other 55-gallon drum of worms.)

Speculative fiction also requires research, of course, but it would be more along the lines of consuming mass quantities of exemplary literature and learning about societal structures to inspire my own. I'm still at the point of vague keywords and concepts, but I'm hoping that's enough to get some input from the peanut gallery.

I envision a setting evolved with best intentions - not quite as successful in practice - branched off some real world society. Fittingly enough, I keep coming back to China. 5000 years of civilization makes for a versatile basis of alternate history or future, thanks to the variety of leadership styles, from dynasties to communism, and the current leadership's self-proclaimed intent to engineer sustainable development and harmony. (I lack the research background to get into how well - or not - that works, obvious negatives notwithstanding. But that's another tangent.)

I'm nowhere near the point of specifics, let alone the themes and fundamental conflicts that will arise from them. I don't even know if said conflicts will be on more of a governmental or private level. What I really need are reading recommendations about planned societies - whether utopian, dystopian, or whatnot - with that plausible feel of real world basis. Modern/future preferred, but I'll take others as well. I haven't a clue what the speculative fiction genre cliches are, let alone how to avoid them, and I sure as hell don't want to pour a bunch of time into something that's Already Been Done By Far Greater Minds. But I can feed my brain and explore this new interest, and at worst, I'll have enjoyed some new books. w00t
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Erniequufer on July 6th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
"Hyperion" and "The Fall of Hyperion", Dan Simmons
"The Martian Chronicles", Bradbury
"Snow Crash", Stephenson
"Dune", Herbert
"The Memory of Earth" Orson Scott Card. Books #2+3 too, if you want

And again, "Hyperion"
Erniequufer on July 6th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
"The Left Hand of Darkness", Ursula K. LeGuin
"Past Master", R. A. Lafferty
The Heavy Metal Matador: Vault Boy Winkingrydain on July 6th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks - this reading list will keep me busy for quite a while. I had a feeling you'd have some great recommendations for me.
zerielzeriel on July 7th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
I can loan you Snow Crash, for one.

My shelf isn't really geared for this kind of thing, unfortunately, but Forever War and Forever Free by Joe Haldemann are also pretty good--Forever War has the interesting side note of seeing multiple iterations of society over the centuries from the POV of the main character soldier as he returns from relativistic-travel tours of duty.

Vernor Vinge is also good here, I can point out several of his short stories, and The Peace War and follow-ons are pretty good.
zerielzeriel on July 7th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
There's also the Heinlein stuff. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Revolt in 2100.
Erniequufer on July 8th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
Moon is a really good read, though I'm not sure about being world-building. I was thinking of Troopers, as well, but it was really too focused - there's very little about life outside the military, because the military is the protagonist's life.

I tried to include a variety of world-building books, though not all of them (Memory of Earth, in particular) are high-tech. Dune, for example, is a very strange mix of space opera and 19th century colonial revolt.
The Heavy Metal Matador: Calvin Dines in Hellrydain on July 8th, 2011 01:55 pm (UTC)
My brainstorming is very much at the stage of flinging shit to the wall and playing Rorschach, but at least I got a bit further. I'm still interested in all the books recommended - I trust y'all's taste, and I need some Reading With Substance less brain-scrambling than Pynchon - but perhaps this might help with some further direction.

I'm realizing that my main interest is exploring a scenario where a modern day Triad analog might come about for reasons of protection and/or revolution. Organized crime will likely have its place - as a means of fundraising or garnering popular support (e.g. providing vices under prohibition), or as means of guardianship, protest, or extortion - but I'd be more about its origins rather than plopping the reader into Mobsters In The FUTURE! where said mobsters are more about money and power than reformation.

Among other nebulous conflicts floating around in my head, I want to explore the question of reforming a system vs. replacing it, which was also one of the big themes of Three Kingdoms history - what it meant to restore the Han, and whether it was actually the best course of action. I keep coming back to some concept of monopolistic corporate influence, whether overt or subtly pervasive. Snow Crash seems like a good place to start for inspiration.
Erniequufer on July 8th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
Snow Crash is a good place, and you probably will want to continue straight on to The Diamond Age, by the same author. I even more recommend Hyperion - though note that that is my favorite SF series of all-time, so I might be biased - and if you're interested in reforming vs. replacing, you might want to read all 4 books in the series (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion). P.K. Dick is awesome all over, but he never really did epic world-building, and he was all over the place in his books, though usually in an awesome way; maybe try A Scanner Darkly for what you're going for.

Card, Bradbury, and LeGuin will probably be lower priority for you, and any Lafferty book is nearly impossible to find, though I can lend you my copy of Past Master if you want.

Oh! Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World (Haruki Murakami)! Put that on my list just below the Hyperion series. Sorry, I used to have like 5 copies of that one, but gave a couple as gifts and loaned a couple and forgot to whom.

And Dune is still awesome, of course.
Skurtchasorskurtchasor on July 6th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
You should send me the latest draft of Resonance. I promise I'll give you feedback this time. NORLY!
The Heavy Metal Matador: iSmashrydain on July 6th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
Ask, and ye shall receive. It's been rewritten from the ground up and re-edited for good measure, hence way the hell better than whatever crapola I sent you some years back. There's just one more chapter to go, but it might take me a month or two to finish. Slowbro is slow when there's no more draft to pull from, and the corresponding NaNoWriMo rough material is basically a Silent Hill level. I also admit to dragging my feet on this ending because I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with it, and I was afraid of fucking it up or phoning it in. I'll make another LJ update when it's finished.