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marta_randall
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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finding fantasy ideas

Good question, bookworm. Like s.f., fantasy is not a wide-open field where anything goes, but also like s.f., you can get some splendid story ideas by taking a side-ways step from "reality" and being willing to follow wherever that might lead you.

For example, let's play with some of today's stories from the San Francisco Chronicle: the big to-do this morning has to do with the fact that the 49ers football team is planning to build a new stadium outside of San Francisco (gasp! horrors!), but apparently the land they want lies over a right-of-way owned by the city of San Francisco, which is not happy in a major way about the team's desire to move out of Candlestick Park (a horrible location for anything). The story says: "The 4-acre ribbon of territory, on the site's southern edge just opposite the Great America amusement park, is where a pipeline carrying water from the Sierra to 2.4 million Bay Area customers is buried. The pipe, part of the Hetch Hetchy system, is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission."

What if it's not a water pipe under there, but a major conduit between our world and a fantasy world? What if, say, the SF Board of Supervisors includes a wizard who can arrange for that one strip of land to be plagued by earthquakes? Lizards? Rats? What if the water pipe is really owned by trolls who demand tolls to use the land?

The Chron's website includes this enticing headline: "Through the Lens: World turns upside down." What if someone has a camera-like device that really can turn things upside down?

Levi Leipheimer, a local guy, handily won the Tour of California bike race. What if some of the athletes are not human? What if, instead of a tour of California or France, the tour ran through a fantasy world?

One seemingly inexhaustible source for fantasy ideas, is classic fairy tales from different cultures in addition to our own. Neil Gaiman does especially well with these, both in short fiction (take a look at his story "Snow, Glass, Apples", a re-telling of "Snow White" that may set your hair on end).

Fantasy ideas are everywhere -- just let yourself be open to them.
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galenem
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎02-01-2007
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Re: finding fantasy ideas

Marta,

My mother...Thanks for the laugh. Q. Can you train yourself to have a better imagination?
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marta_randall
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Re: finding fantasy ideas

[ Edited ]

galenem wrote:
Q. Can you train yourself to have a better imagination?


Sure you can. Take time to stop and think about the things that float into your life -- accept nothing at face value. Play the "People" game: ("That guy in the overcoat is a spy on a secret mission. He's trying to discover the secret of the secret sauce, because he's an alien who needs it to power his spaceship." "The woman in the blue dress spends half her time here and half her time in an alternate universe, where ... )

Play games with your own head. It's fun, and productive too.

edit: I don't know why the software insists on throwing smiley-faces into my text. Maybe it's an alien plot ...

Message Edited by marta_randall on 02-27-200701:04 PM

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galenem
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Re: finding fantasy ideas

Today was science day in the Times (NY). Several interesting articles.

One was about beekeepers finding half their hives gone. One keeper lost 5 million bees in one shot. Seems to be a big problem in the industry. Nobody can figure out what's happening to them. Where are they going. Millions of bees are missing. Is something killing them? Is someone stealing them. What for? These are pollinating bees used widely to grow crops like almond, apples, blueberries. Is someone altering them to adversely effect the food supply? Maybe using them to pollinate someing more sinister?

Another was on a study evidencing that sperm from men over forty is more likely to cause birth defects. (it's about time they started looking at the guys, but I digress) As people tend to have babies later and later, more birth defects occur. Eventually, major problems in the population. Do we require people to have babies before a certain age? Do we harvest eggs and sperm at young ages for later use. Is sterilization required after a certain age. What if an older couple conceived. What would society do? What would the courts do?

It has been disocvered that 15th century Islamic mosaic craftsman had mastered a way of producing something called quasi crystal. I've never heard of this but the article reports that they are patterns that never repeat. This is an advanced mathematical concept that was not discovered or understood in the Western world until the 1970's. How did these people perfect their technique? Were they taught by an advanced life form? If so, why didn't the knowledge become more widespread. Maybe the advanced life forms took back the knowledge. What if all the knowledge we have is given to us by that life form and they come to take it back because they don't like what's going on down here? Were they created by beings passing through from alternate realities. Are there some people in each generation that possess knowledge far superior that they are not aware of and cannot pass down?

This is fun.
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drlaura
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-28-2007
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Two questions

Marta,
The posted deadline for the story ideas is March 5. Does that mean that the various story ideas and drafts will be closed to comments after that time, removed or left to continue on for the duration?

My story post has URL tag on it. At least one that I can see - I don't know if everyone can. I was just curious about it since no one else has one. Did I just enter something in differently or incorrectly? Thanks drlaura
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book_worm
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
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Re: Two questions

I think I can help you with your question about the URL icon on your post drlaura. It has a URL icon because in your post you have a URL link in it. I can see the icon too so I'm guessing everyone else can aswell.

Hope that helped!

If I'm wrong, I'm sorry. :smileytongue:
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marta_randall
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Re: Two questions

drlaura, the URL answer above is correct. As to whether threads will be closed, I don't think so since the course is designed to let people start and move through it at their own pace.
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galenem
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Re: Two questions

I've lost track. What are we supposed to be doing now? Sorry.
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book_worm
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Re: Two questions

Gale, a nifty way to know what we are doing at the moment is at the top of all the posts. It says something like "Through March 4th, we will be focusing on the topic, "Finding Ideas." Click here for a schedule of upcoming topics." There is also a "Finding Ideas" thread that you can read that has an exercise for us to do in it.

I hope this helped in some way. :smileyhappy:
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beckywecky
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Two questions

a short story is short and a novel is a novel.longer with chapters.i don't understand what so hard to understand about that.i wish i could read more short stories,but it's like a mad house over here with the tv baring even in my room with my parents talking and the tv blaring,i don't know what i read.i can't tell them to shut up.i can try,but it dosen't work.believe me i try.any suggestions?
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book_worm
Posts: 133
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Re: Two questions

beckywecky,
If you're looking for some place quiet to read, you could always try your local library. Or maybe outside? In your backyard? At a friend's house?

I hope this helped :smileyhappy:
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marta_randall
Posts: 166
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Two questions

Becky, it's never a good idea to tell one's folks to be quiet -- and anyway it never works, at least not in my experience. (It doesn't work on your own kids either, but that's a different conversation.)

Roadies at rock concerts buy and use very efficient earplugs, otherwise they'd go both deaf and mad. These aren't expensive. They are shaped plugs of foam that you stuff into your ears, and they work. Give them a try. They won't block out the noise entirely, but they may give you enough peace to read -- and maybe write, too.
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KristenS
Posts: 136
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Questions for Marta

I have a question ... I know this book group ends on the 15th, as far as assignments ... do we lose Marta's mentorship at this time? I know a lot of us are behind on the assignments, for various reasons. I was hoping to get to post more, but I don't think I'll be able to, till after then.

Either way, this has been a great experience, and thank you, Marta, for doing this! I know I've learned a lot.

:-)
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marta_randall
Posts: 166
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Re: Questions for Marta

Kirsten, this bookclub is like the great cycles of nature (well, sort of): it goes on and on and on -- more items are coming up in the next two weeks, and then more after that. And once we finish with everything, we start at the beginning again. I believe that all the lectures, threads, etc. stay up until we cycle back to the beginning, so you can feel free to work through this stuff as you have time and inclination.
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KristenS
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Re: Questions for Marta

Cool! Sounds good! So do you stay too? :-)
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marta_randall
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Re: Questions for Marta

Indeed I do.
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doeyeou2
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎04-24-2007
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Re: Two questions

Hello Marta,

I'm new to this site. I've seen a few of your comments and was wondering if you would answer a question for me.

I wrote a little peice and I've posted on the Dashboard. Could you read it. One of my characters has a special ability, does this qualify as a SF Fiction. While I think it could, I'm not really leaning that direction.

Thanks
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doeyeou2
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎04-24-2007
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Re: Two questions

Interesting story here. Is it SF? I kinda think not -- Lazarus has some interesting but not too defined powers (just what did he do to Pimples, anyway?) and while they affect the outcome of the story, they don't really create it. The runaway bus scene at the end is vivid, but I think the same effect could have been had if the bus driver had angina and Lazarus kept him focused until the end. This isn't meant to be a put-down of the story, but an SF story has to revolve tightly around the SF idea -- that idea can't be removed or replaced without destroying the story. Here, I can see the story working with any number of non-SF ideas about Lazarus.

I'm a bit disturbed by the way the story shifts focus. I liked the old lady at the opening, but her story (that is, worry about the thugs and whether she will get to her stop safely) utterly disappears when we reach the paragraph where Lazarus puts down his newspaper. Her story feels uncomfortably unresolved. While we're in Lazarus's point of view, we also fall into the truck driver's POV and the bus driver's POV too, which also makes the story seem out of focus.

Think about telling this story entirely from the old lady's viewpoint, so that we never know what Lazarus or the bus driver, etc., are thinking: we just see the action as she sees it. You may be surprised at how different, and how much tighter, the story is.


Thanks Marta, I understand your point about the POV in the Lazarus story. Basically the light bulb went on. My intention is to use this one story to introduce Lazarus. Thus, it's really the only time I show him thinking (his POV). I have 5 other stories written and as you stated they are "non-SF ideas". The plan is to have a total of 10 to complete a novel. In each, Lazarus is a minor part basically the "tool" allowing for the eventual outcome to be played out. So, the issue I have is how to introduce Lazarus' ability without him talking (I have various rules restricting what he can and can not do) about what he does. Hmmmm of course I can just create a new story from Lazarus point of view for the whole story and let the old lady tell the bus story.

Marta ever consider a private mentoring program?
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Griff
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎05-07-2007
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Re: Questions for Marta

I have a professional question. I just submitted a story to Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine and just got a rejection slip. (Oh! The agony! he exclaimed reaching for the knife to plunge into his chest)

The problem is that it came back extremely fast (six days) so I suspect that it may have been rejected by the slush reader for submission formatting issues. Their published guidelines are not very exacting, but being new at this I had reformatted the story in Courier-10 and replaced the ellipses with dots and em-dashes with double dashes. (I personally believe Courier is the spawn of Satan beloved only of copy-editors.)

My questions are these: Was this overkill, and what formatting do you use for F & SF?

Of course, they just may have a very fast slush reader who didn’t like the story
Griff
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marta_randall
Posts: 166
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Marta

Doe, my contracts with BN and with Gotham prevent my working privately with any of my BN or Gotham students, but if you are really interested in pursuing this I strongly suggest that you check out the offerings at Gotham's WritingClasses.com.

Griff, there are a number of thorough articles on ms preparation here: SFWA.org - writing. I don't know if Gordon Van Gelder uses a slush pile reader, but do know that his response times can be pretty fast. Why don't you ask in if formatting was an issue? There is a message board at the magazine's website and he's pretty responsive. And if you go there before the end of May, you'll see the June issue, whose cover illustrates a story by Yours Truly.
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