The Art of Flash Fiction

I know what you’re thinking.

What is flash fiction? Is that where the main character wears a red suit and is surrounded by yellow lightening?

No.

Maybe.

But the much broader term ‘Flash Fiction’ generally means any piece of fiction less than 2000 words. That’s around a 5-6 page story, just enough to pique interest and present an idea.

I love flash fiction.

I’m currently assembling a lot of the flash fiction I’ve written into an anthology, or reader, or whatever you want to call it. There are stories that deal with longing, loss, space, robots, the origin of a species, all kinds of things.

And all of these stories are extremely short. All of them combined might make 50 pages.

So how does that even work?

Ideas rather than plots or Characters

Flash fiction is much more about how the story makes the reader fell than how good the plot/character development/whatever metric people use to score a longer story is. A well written piece of flash fiction will leave the reader thinking about the overarching ideas of the story. Not to say that a great plot or character can’t be developed in that short of a frame, but the idea is usually what sticks.

Hate Charles Dickens

I (Will) am well documented as saying that I hate Charles Dickens writing. It has too many words. Likewise, a flash fiction piece should be concise and not use flowery language or overly complicated words to describe something. Be concise. Tell a story, don’t give a dissertation.

Trust the Reader

Readers are smarter than we authors think. Most of the time anyway. If you think the scene is not properly set up by being concise, think again. Readers can fill in any gaps you think are missing, because they are smart individuals. They have probably forged scenes in their heads before. It’s ok to let go of their hands. You can do it. Stop saying so many words. You’re becoming an adjective farmer and flooding the market. Stop it.

 

Flash Fiction is a great way to start a daily writing habit, and also to make a little extra cash once you can collect them into an anthology. Don’t sleep on it.

Write a story!

Coming Attractions

The Podcast

First of all, thanks so much for keeping up with this blog even though posting has been sporadic. A lot of time goes into the podcast, taking away time to write stuff down here.

with that being said,

 

have you checked out our podcast?!

If you haven’t, you can find it on iTunes, The Silly Robots podcast, or the podcast website.

 

We’re working really hard to get great content, news, interviews, and all kinds of other things on there, and would appreciate it if you left us a review and rating on iTunes.

We have some great new episodes coming up, including a special Valentine’s day episode, a Deadpool movie review, more of our popular Not a Nerd Trivia series, and tons of other stuff.

Writing

Don’t worry, Will is still writing. He just finished the first chapter of a graphic novel, has submitted a few short stories to magazines, and is working on all sorts of other stories. Some of it will even be out before you know it.

Grant is also working on a few projects, as well as his wonderful sermon blog every week.

So stay tuned for all of that, and you can even get some free stories when you sign up for

 

Patreon

Yes yes yes…we have started a Patreon campaign. We are announcing it on this week’s podcast to go along with this post. And this week’s Valentine’s day episode is totally hilarious by the way.

 

But here’s what we’re asking:

We want you to partner with us so we can bring you even more incredible stuff. We love creating things and we love giving it away, and by partnering with us it will give us more time and resources for all of that stuff. And the packages for giving are pretty cool, giving you free stuff that isn’t available anywhere yet, plus some airtime and production experience. All in all this is a win win win, as Michael Scott would say, and we hope that you will partner with us in this endeavor. It starts at 5 bucks a month and offers some great incentives.

Well that’s everything going on here in Silly Robots land for the time being, thanks for reading and listening, and we hope to hear from you soon!

important links and stuff

Silly Robots Twitter

Silly Robots Facebook

Will’s Twitter

Grant’s Twitter

 

The Silly Robots Podcast

There’s a new thing in town. And by town I mean the internet. And by the internet I mean the thing that drives us all mad.

But I digress.

The Silly Robots Podcast is here, and we would love it if you would join us. Your hosts are Silly Robot Will and Silly Robot Grant, and we talk about lots of stuff. And things. We also have guests. You know, podcast stuff. The first episode is already up, and we will be publishing new episodes every Friday. Please subscribe! You can find us on iTunes, and also at our website.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of our upcoming episodes…

  1. Intro
  2. Interview with author Nick Thacker
  3. Music Review – The Dear Hunter: Act IV, Rebirth in Reprise/CHVRCHES Every open Eye
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu Ray review

Thanks for reading, now please go listen! You can also follow the show on Twitter and Facebook!

Have you picked up the latest book?

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The Worst Ending

It’s been a while since the last post.

But that just means there’s more stuff to write about.

Get ready…

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

I don’t know if you saw the new Hunger Games movie yet, but I did. It was ok, really just a setup for the next movie. Almost nothing happened, save for a sweet scene where a bunch of people storm a dam and blow it up. Hardcore. And Katniss blowing up a freaking jet with an arrow shot from a recurve bow is pretty  sweet.

But here was the problem: first and foremost, this movie is the first of two movies, that are comprised of one book. Which raises the question: where do they split it?

I thought they split it at a really good spot. A recently rescued Peeta looks like garbage as Katniss moves to embrace him. and then he jumps up and starts strangling her! For no apparent reason! (unless you read the books. then none of this is news.) Katniss gets slammed all over the room by Peeta, her eyes red and starting to bulge, Peeta has thrown off everyone else in the room, it looks hopeless, our heroine is going to be killed by our hero, THEN BOGGS JUMPS IN AND KNOCKS PEETA OUT WITH A BLOW TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD! Screen goes black for several seconds, long enough for me to think:

Yes! Awesome. That’s the perfect place to end it. All these non book reading moviegoers have no idea what’s going on, and they have to wait until the next movie to see if Katniss and Peeta are ok. Brilliant. I love it. I…wait. Why is the picture back? What’s going on. They’re explaining everything? What the heck? This sucks.

Worst.

Ending.

Ever.

No suspense. No time to deal with all of these conflicting emotions. Nothing left but a bunch of crappy dialogue about tracker jackers and fear conditioning. That anyone with half a brain can figure out. Because normal people don’t choke their girlfriend.

It was a letdown.

I had regained my faith in hollywood for like 3 seconds. And I was promptly let down.

So what can we learn from it?

Ask the questions

Is it part 1? Is it stand alone? Is it asking questions rather than giving answers? Is it giving answers rather than asking questions? Is it creating suspense? Is it resolving suspense?

These are important questions. And the people that made Mockingjay part 1 didn’t ask them. They were supposed to create suspense. They didn’t. They were supposed to ask questions. They answered them. It was horrible.

Stick to your guns

I know that fans are important. Fans are the lifeblood of any entertainment. Fans are not stupid. You think that you’re making them happy. You aren’t. Case in point:

Star Trek: Into Darkness

He’s not Khan. Why would we do that? That’s already a movie.

But he was Khan. And this “new” movie, was an old movie, and the new version sucked. All because JJ thought that fans would love it. And we didn’t. People who haven’t seen Wrath of Khan like it. Because they hadn’t seen that movie yet. Lame.

Stick to your guns. If it’s good, fans are gonna love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cliffhanger, or muddy or whatever. As long as it isn’t bad.

Rant over.

See you when I see you.

Bring on the Girls: Women in Sci Fi

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This post is a little PG 13. Just a little.

 

I recently re watched all of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of Girl Power in those shows. Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman lead it off in the original run, and then others like Black Canary, Supergirl, and Vixen are focused on in the later series. There are also tons of adult jokes that I missed when I watched the show as a kid. Go watch it on Netflix. Worth it.

But I got to thinking about female characters, and how hard they are to write. And in an industry where males dominate most writing positions, well…Power Girl happens…

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I mean, she’s pretty much just there to look hot. She’s a really powerful team mate and all, but I’m pretty sure they kept drawing her boobs bigger and bigger. Not exactly constructive.

And now that Nerddom has come into the light and become mainstream, of course more females are drawn to female characters. With cosplay at an all time high and conventions getting sold out across the country, these characters are brought to life by the aforementioned girls and in my opinion it’s really awesome. And we can all celebrate by dressing up together.

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Of course there are those morons who take what I’m dubbing “The Power Girl Approach” to all of this. Or, if you like, “Ignorant Misogyny by undeveloped peons”. Instead of embracing that girls like this stuff, they treat them as objects, put them down, or worse: physically assault these women. None of this is ok. None of this is acceptable. None of this is what the female characters we all love are about.

Wonder Woman is supposed to be the height of Girl Power. She’s super strong, she can fly, and she looks good taking down bad guys. No one messes with her, they treat her as an equal. Does that mean she doesn’t defer to Superman or Batman when needed? No. But she knows exactly what she’s capable of.

 

A New Approach?

Science fiction has always been on the forefront of bringing women up to their rightful place. I’ve already mentioned a whole bunch of DC characters. Think about Ripley from the Alien franchise, Princess Leia, Uhura/Dr. Crusher/Captain Janeway from various Star Trek series, tons of Dr. Who companions, Katniss Everdeen. All of these women are put in lead roles, and they all shine.

How do we riff on this idea of a leading lady while making it fresh? In all honesty we can’t. Nothing is new. We just have to keep writing stories, and keep putting women in roles they can handle. Which is most of them.

The Difficulty

I wrote a story that I will be releasing soon – hopefully – and I kept the author’s gender anonymous on purpose. I didn’t want the reader to have that information. Personally I felt the lead was a woman, but something disheartened me. Almost every one of my beta readers felt the character was a male. I don’t know if it was because they heard me reading the story in their head, or they just assumed it was a male, or whatever the reason, but I was a little sad. I really hoped somebody would say the narrator was a woman.

So I guess the difficulty for me, a male, is voicing a female. It doesn’t help that my favorite female characters are tomboys like Starbuck from BSG and Zoe from Firefly. I guess i could just record several hours of women asking questions related to whatever my story is about. You know, actual research. Or I could watch The View. No. I’m not watching The View. Any more than I already have anyway. Yikes.

 

Let’s give women their due. Their really strong guys. And ladies, I know i wrote this mostly to dudes, but that’s not to say: BE BETTER THAN ME! I would love nothing more for a wonderful lady to outsell George Lucas in the Sci Fi realm. If that’s possible, cause you know he has like a 40 year head start. But seriously to all of the girls out there: be awesome at this stuff. Be an awesome gamer. Be an awesome guitar player

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OOOOOOOO BARRACUUUDA!!!!!

If you don’t know that’s Nancy Wilson. She’s a freaking awesome guitar player. And if you don’t think so you’re a noob.

That’s all I got. Let’s keep the girls in our media. In our art. And let’s put them where they belong. Right alongside of us ready to beat the ever loving crap out of Darkseid.

Now have a gratuitous picture of me in a duct tape Green Lantern/Scorpion mashup. And a bad one at that…

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Top 5 Sci Fi inspired songs

courtesy litreactor.com

Today is a rare treat. Two of my passions will cross and if you continue reading this post, you will also have to listen to it. Below are my top 5 songs inspired by science fiction. A nerdy mixtape if you will. Just listen to these sweet tones.

5. Surfing With the Alien – Joe Satriani

 

Joe Satriani is one of the absolute best guitar players on the planet. He is also a huge fan of Marvel Comics and the Silver Surfer in particular. Check out what he thinks it sounds like to surf on a cosmic powered interstellar board.

4. Robot Rock – Daft Punk

 

Of course techno is made by robots. But what if these robots also…rocked..?

3. Princes of the Universe – Queen

 

Everyone loves ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. This one is just as good and is about immortal warriors who fight for the Quickening. That rocks.

2. The Crowing – Coheed and Cambria

 

So this was a really hard choice for me. Coheed and Cambria’s entire purpose as a band is to tell a Science Fiction story they made up. They even have a comic series now. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs because it has weird lyrics about the story and some awesome guitar work and time signature changes. Enjoy.

1. Knights of Cydonia – Muse

 

Laser gun weilding kung fu cowboys. That’s all I’m gonna say.

 

Honorable Mentions:

2112 – Rush

This is quite possibly the most spacey/sci fi thing out there, but it’s really long. I’ve listened to the whole thing maybe twice. Just because it tires me.

 Intergalactic – Beastie Boyz

 

A dope beat and a giant robot doing the robot. Always fun.

Gifts and Curses – Yellowcard

 

Written exclusively for ‘Spiderman 2’ this song falls into the sci fi category. It is, however, still just a love song. Yellowcard could have released this song on an album and no one would have known the difference. Which is why it only gets an honorable mention.

Opening Day, Home Runs, and Lazer GunZ

It’s that time again.

Baseball is starting and I’m stoked! To quote the film ‘Moneyball’:

How can you not get romantic about baseball?

I’m sure many of you hate baseball. You are excused from any opinions.

With the start of baseball comes the Spring, and with the spring comes an urge to create. I don’t know if it stems from the newness all around us (wild flowers, wildlife, no more ice everywhere…) or simply from some sort of ingrained genetics that make it that way. Whatever the case, Spring brings forth all kinds creativity. Channeling this can make or break a writer at the screen, and in the market.

 

Write Write Write

I’ve always found this to be some of the best advice any writer can receive. Even if a project is put off or lost, continuous writing keeps the juices flowing. I have found no less than 20 stories whose existence I had forgotten, but are examples of continuous writing. Maybe the stories are silly. Who cares?! They can be about unicorns who fart cheeseburgers, the point is to keep writing through a slump, and (since we’re going with a Spring newness motif here) eventually create something that’s awesome.

Watch Baseball

Or go for a walk. Whatever. Between writing stints you have to take a break. Or every story is going to have a unicorn that farts cheeseburgers. I don’t know why I’m on that today, but hey what can I do? It’s one thing to have a silly story lurking that has to get put down before something good comes out, but it’s a whole new level of scary when all of your stories have the same silly things in them. After the fifth unicorn story, it’s time to take a break. I know that I will be frequenting Whataburger field in Corpus Christi, TX and, sigh.., Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. I sigh because they sold the naming rights and now it just sounds lame. Go Rangers. And Hooks.

Write Sci Fi

No brainer here. The best genre ever invented. Everything from genetically engineered sharks to sentient space computers. Science Fiction is so fascinating because it brings out the best and worst qualities of man all in one sitting. This genre will forever sit atop others, even if the NYT best seller list won’t accept true genius. Sci Fi is about questioning everything, and coming out with heinous answers and even more threatening questions.

Be Weird

Not necessarily cheeseburger farting unicorn weird. But don’t be afraid to push the limit. There’s always somewhere new to go, and it doesn’t have to be weird in a bad way. Make it weird in an interesting way. We need to push the envelope and take sci fi where it has never been before.

 

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my book of six word science fiction for 99¢ on Kindle, and leave a nice review

Cool stuff for Friday

Ok folks, here’s a few things I noticed this week, and thought I should pass them along:

Bikini Girls vs. Dinosaurs

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If the video embed isn’t showing up, click the link. Because this trailer is just as silly as the title sounds. From the brilliant mind of Kenneth Barker comes a Sci Fi comedy that puts the fun back into the Cretaceous period! Give the trailer a watch and stay tuned for more on the movie. You can follow Kenneth on twitter, @KennethBarker1, and for updates on the movie: https://www.facebook.com/BGvDmovie

Otherworld

It was free earlier this week (I snagged it right before it went up) and as of this post it is $2.51. I haven’t read any of Jared Wilson’s fiction, but his non fiction is well written material. Give it a chance, I’ll post a review soon enough.

Survival Slingshot

This thing is awesome. Whether you want to survive the zombie apocalypse or just survive in the woods, this thing looks like something straight out of a horror graphic novel.

Check it out here: http://www.coolthings.com/survival-slingshot-archer/

South Pole Sunset

courtesyi.kinja-img.com

Here’s a great pic from io9.com. The article is here:

http://io9.com/heres-what-sunset-looks-like-from-the-south-pole-1547485324

Ocellated Turkey

These things are just cool.

5 reasons to consume media outside of the mainstream

We all love Star Wars, Star trek, Battlestar Galctica, all that stuff. And that’s fine. But the problem is that there is plenty of stuff out there that’s great Sci Fi, but doesn’t get all of the hullabaloo and exposure. So here are 5 reasons to seek out things that are not readily in the mainstream.

5. A lot of it is just as good as mainstream

Dr Levenson (Carl Isherwood) and Commander Altaire (Sarah Wood)

(On the Shoulders of Giants by Kenneth Barker)

The production on a lot of indie science fiction is top notch. It’s creators are hellbent on making the best product they can, simply for this reason: they’re sci fi fans too. They want to add to the medium without sacrificing quality, and they end up making great stuff.

4. A lot of it is NOT as good as the mainstream

I once started reading a science fiction book and stopped reading it after about 20 pages. Not that long into the story, and they were already reversing the polarity to escape hyperspace. Needless to say I have never even thought about picking up this book again. I also wrote a terrible novel and never want anyone, who hasn’t already, to suffer through it. If you find one of these awful gems take notes. They are great blueprints for what not to do.

3. Pleasant surprises

I love picking up an indie novel, comic book, or movie and finding that it’s absolutely wonderful. The movie Moon with Kevin Spacey and Sam Rockwell comes to mind. I liked that movie so much I watched it again.

2. Motivation

We all need to see that it’s possible to achieve what we are striving for. And browsing through Amazon for a well written and reviewed indie sci fi novel is great motivation.

1. It’s just plain fun

When one ventures away from the mainstream, they can find magical things. These things lead to that one finding love, and expressing their gratitude towards these things. And that leads to finding more and more things to love and share and have absolute fun with. Let’s not forget why we got into this mess in the first place. It’s because we enjoy it.

The Science of Fiction

Fiction in general is rampant throughout this world. It is a byproduct of our storied nature; we must tell stories. Everyone tells stories, whether relating a memory, or making something completely from scratch. What I find interesting, is that most stories fit into certain veins, yet they go their own direction once there.

Sci Fi is more like a major artery with veins that go in every direction. There are countless genres and sub-genres as well, making the craft of writing Sci Fi akin to weaving a tapestry, or making up the intricate pattern of a birds plumage.

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(this is the plumage from a Rio Grande turkey I harvested this past winter. The details in these birds feathers is astounding. Great camouflage.)

But what makes it so interesting?

1. All of the sub genres

Sci Fi covers everything from Earth ravaged in war to space ships reaching the far edges of the universe. There’s a lot of space in between, and anything goes. I’m still waiting for a cyberpunk-alien invasion-space opera to be written.

2. The intricacy

Everything within Sci Fi has little nuances that make it what it is. There are usually no trolls in cyberpunk, FTL ships don’t have traffic signals, and steam engines run on steam. These tiny things fit different Sci Fi into a certain niche, making the experience whole.

3. Rules are made to be broken

As in point #1, rules are made to be broken. Replacing a nuance with a glaring anachronism (or something like that) is what makes some Sci Fi great. Like how Back to the Future replaced Victorian England with the California 1980’s. Sometimes blurring lines can make the contrast even sharper.