REVIEW: Scifi Thrillers

I hate to say this, in case it changes, but I think I’ve found my favorite genre of movie. Scifi thrillers. I say this because all of the ones I’ve seen so far that I can think of have been pretty decent. They have shiny gadgets, decent plots, drama, not too much melodrama, and they tend to be more intellectual than your typical action-thriller.

I thought I’d put together a list of some scifi thrillers I’ve been watching lately in case anyone else is curious. I originally saw these on Netflix, but some of them have since been removed. Which isn’t fair, because I like to recommend them to other Netflix viewers.

Antitrust

This was, far and away, my favorite of the lot. Antitrust is a film about hackers, diabolical corporation, garage band programmers, and the Open Source movement. (By now you should know I’m a big fan of the Open Source Movement.) The technology was startling realistic. Imagine an evil Google ten years in the future. The plot was good, the character likable, and the stakes were high.And computers. Lots of.

The Net

The Net is like an older version of Antitrust. The technology is spiffy… for the nineties, which is when this computer was made. But despite the use of floppy discs, and other dead giveaways of the era, the technology was believable, and the film was enjoyable. It was dated, but not in an eye-rolling way. The MC of this film is a woman, which is a bit unusual in thriller-type films. The ending was set up perfectly, and pulled off brilliantly.

Paycheck

Paycheck is different from the previous two films in that it’s actually about memory. I love stories that deal with the concept of human memory, and this was no exception. The premise involves using memory wipes to eliminate the need for security clearance. If you’re hired to work on a high security project they pay you quite a bit of money to agree to let them wipe your memory of your time working there. So the main character of this film wakes up after six months, and parts of his life don’t make sense. He sent himself an envelope with a bunch of random objects that he didn’t recognize and that weren’t his. His money had been transferred out of his account mysteriously, leaving him broke. And someone is trying to kill him…

Limitless

My dad actually recommended this one to me. He didn’t warn me, so I’ll warn you, it’s on the high side of PG-13. There’s quite a bit of blood and gore and violence and even some language. It’s not too much, but it is something to keep an eye out for if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.

The plot of Limitless sounds a bit like Flowers for Algernon, but it’s really not. A writer at the end of his rope discovers a drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain instead of the limited 10% that humans normally function on. The plot thickens when other people start following him trying to get their hands on it, and he develops frightening side effects as a result of trying to maintain that kind of concentration continuously. The ending is surprising and brilliantly done. Completely unpredictable and satisfying.

Commorative Q&A

Last week, to celebrate 100 posts on my blog, I hosted a Q&A. I invited ya’ll to ask me questions, any questions, and that I would answer in my 102nd post. I’m here to keep my end of the agreement.

Andrew wrote:
Why do you love Sci-Fi?

Good question, and not one I get asked all that often. I got started writing scifi because my dad didn’t approve of fantasy and I didn’t like that I was writing books he would never read. Since then, as I’ve learned more about the genre, I’ve fallen in love.

The short, sweet, and honest answer is this – I love scifi because I love science. The more science I learn the more it amazes me. I also love scifi because it’s new and fresh, and it allows me to tell stories that would be less powerful in a fantasy setting. I love realistic moral dilemmas. I love writing political scenarios that don’t involve monarchies. I love writing about robots and bioengineering and addressing modern concerns in a futuristic story.

Jonathan Garner wrote:
What are your favorite animals?

That’s an easy one. I love cats and cows. I used to milk several cows by hand back before I got into theatre, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for them. Especially calves. I actually had a cow named Nellie who would let me ride her… she was one of my favorite pets I’ve ever had. And cats I like just because they’re warm and furry and purr.

BushMaid wrote:

What gave you the idea for the supervillain of the day series?

Oh, let me see if I remember…Oh, I remember! I was watching Spiderman III. And he fights with this guy who can turn into sand. And he empties his boots out and comments randomly: “Where do these guys come from?” And I was simultaneously complaining, to Aubrey Hansen no less, about the ratio of heroes to villains. I said if there weren’t any superheroes the world would quickly be overrun…  And I showed her that quote and she said it was a great story idea “Just where do they come from anyway?” and it took off from there. The title came almost instantly to mind, and stuck remarkably well.

Just what is your favourite colour? o.O

Green! When I was little and didn’t know any better it was blue, just to be contrary. (Since blue was a boy color.) But then when I discovered Robin Hood it switched to green and it still is. I’ve actually been wearing a lot more blue lately, probably the influence of Doctor Who, but green always is and will be my favorite color. Dark, forest green.

If you could visit any other country in the world what would it be?

Greece. That’s a surprisingly easy answer too, but I’ve had it picked out for a long time as well. I love architecture, and I love ancient history. Several years ago, when I was just finishing high school, I had a book about the ancient Cretans. It talked a lot about the palace at Knossos and the reconstruction there and ever since I’ve wanted to go. I want to see Athens. I want to see the oracle of Delphi. I want to see Crete. And Knossos, of course.

Seriously, why Dr. Who?

Haha! I’ve written entire blog posts on the subject, you know. Firstly because it’s scifi, and I love scifi. (See above.) Second because the characters are endearing and captured my heart from the beginning. (“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”) Thirdly because the writing tends to be brilliant. Like the “I wish I could write like that” brilliant. Fourthly because the themes of the show are things that are very important to me. Things like sacrifice, honor, nobility, and sanctity of life. (“When you start this new world make the foundation of this society a man who never would.”)

What do you do for your weekends/how do you chill out?

Honestly, weekends aren’t that much different from the rest of the week to me. Sometimes my brother is home, but that’s about it. I have plays on Saturday once a month. Chilling out is kind of a foreign concept to me as well. I write incessantly, I watch TV shows at night before bed, I play harp when the mood strikes… I guess chilling out mostly consists of being tired of dealing with the internet so I go sit on the couch and watch other people deal with their things. Or read. I should really read more…

Tea or coffee, milkshake or coke?

Black tea and chocolate milkshake.

If you found a time machine, where would you go?

Oh, hmm… I haven’t thought about this one in a long time. I’d either want to go back to meet some famous dead person, or else I’d want to go take a look at the future. Being a scifi writer and all I’d like to steal some technology. And of course, if it also traveled in space, I’d go get some friends first.

Elizabeth K. wrote:
How serious are you at turning me into a permanent puddle?

Haha! That depends! Pretty serious, I guess, since you turning into a puddle is my first indicator that my writing is good. So if you aren’t puddlifying it’s not that great and I should fix it or throw it out. Soooo… stock up on buckets.

How do you define being a night owl?

A night owl is someone who prefers to stay up late, and does their best thinking at night rather than in the morning. There are actually people who wake up in the morning refreshed and eager, happy and bright-eyed and coherent. They are not night owls, and they bewilder me.

What is your favorite moment from any stories you’ve written?

You’re kidding, right? That’s like picking a favorite character! I can tell you a favorite type of scene… All my favorite scenes are death scenes. The climax of POY, the death of the villain from the Last Wizard, the final chapter of JP, etc. Anything with high emotion and incredible loss really touches me, both in my writing and in others. Even poorly written versions of those sorts of scenes kind of grab hold and suck me in. The finale to the second part of Lightning Ranger is probably one of my favorite-favorites as it involves a lot of loss and gain all wrapped up in one.

Aubrey Hansen wrote:
How many harps have you owned in your life?

Technically I’ve owned two. I had a small cheap one when I was a child, but it’s not really a real harp, so I tend to not count it. Then when I got serious about harping I bought a kit and my dad built the harp I have now – 36 string Musicmakers Voyageur.

What kind of computer to you usually use for writing?

Desktop PC. I usually get my dad’s old computers, which is fun. I don’t like writing on laptops because of the angle and I dislike the keyboards. And my dad doesn’t like me doing that much typing on a laptop keyboard because they’re so hard to replace once they’re worn out. And I think we don’t even have a working laptop currently… I’m still running Windows XP because I refused to have anything to do with Vista. I probably should upgrade to 7, but I like what I have…

When you handwrite, what kind of pen/pencil?

Anything with black ink. I can’t write in pencil at all, and I definitely prefer black, but there my preferences end.

When you change something while handwriting, do you usually erase/strikethrough, make marginal notes, start a new page, or what?

Oh boy… I use a lot of strikethroughs and margin notes, I guess. I tend to not actually make that many changes while I’m writing, but sometimes I forget something important and either add it in or make a note to myself to add it in. If I get really messed up and need to redo an entire scene I just turn to a new page and start writing over again.

Do you have a favorite kind of candy?

My mom asks me this too. Anything with chocolate, pretty much.

I Forgive You

I forgive you.

For everything you did in the past. For everything you might do in the future.

I forgive it all. Always and completely.

Forgiveness isn’t walking away. It isn’t forgetting. It isn’t tolerance.

Forgiveness is coming back.

It’s letting yourself be hurt again.

It’s letting go.

Setting free.

Opening up.

Dropping your shields.

Lowering the drawbridge.

Letting you come home again.

Justice is cold. Hard. Merciless.

Justice destroys, takes away, avenges.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But -1+-1=-2, not zero.

Two losses. Two deaths. Two families left alone to cry in the dark.

Justice can’t heal.

It can’t bring the dead back to life.

Mercy is life. It’s healing.

It can’t undo the past but it brings hope for the future.

Justice is getting what you deserve. It’s making you suffer the way I suffered.

Justice is a destructive cycle that leads to never ending death.

Hell is Justice.

Heaven is Mercy.

And it’s all wrapped up in three words…

Life, love, hope, and rebirth…

Spring and flowers and tears and relief…

I forgive you.

And you are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven.

100 Posts

This is my 100th post.

What does that mean? you ask. Who really cares?

Well, honestly, no one cares. But it seemed like a good excuse to do something clever. So here’s the deal.

I’m going to host a Q&A. Ask me questions, any questions, and this time next week I’ll answer them all in my 102nd blog post.

Example question would be:

What’s your favorite color?
Why did you start IF?
Where were you last Saturday?
Does Floyd have a girlfriend?

You can ask question by posting in the comments below or by emailing me at katie@supervillainoftheday.com

Have fun!

In Defense of Joan of Arc

I could give you a history lesson. I really want to, but I shan’t. Not because I want to spare you out of the goodness of my heart, but because history lessons involve dates and facts and I tend to shy away from researching such things. Instead I’m going to tell you a story.

Joan of Arc’s real name was actually Joan Darc. The English misspelled this D’Arc, which translates “of Arc” which actually is meaningless in real context. I for one do not mind, because Joan of Arc is a beautiful and romantic name to have. I think it’s fitting that her ordinary, plain name has been changed in history to give her a title that stands out in the list of dead heroines.

She was an ordinary farm girl doing ordinary things in the middle of the hundred year’s war when she started hearing voices in her head and seeing visions of angels giving her instructions. Legend goes that she tried to ignore these voices, afraid of what they asked of her, and finally realized that she needed to have more faith in the God she adored.

There was a prophecy that France would fall at the hand of a woman, and be saved at the hand of a woman. Joan was the savior sent to save France and she did. She did what no man had been able to do in a hundred years. She had courage when men did not, and she crowned the Dauphin of France when generals three times her age said it was impossible.

At first they dismissed her as a mere girl with illusions, but the historical fact that cannot be denied is that she got results. Demons or angels, the voices in her head understood things, and Joan was a brilliant military leader. The soldiers loved her, and she led a charmed life. She won every battle she fought. She was like a talisman of victory to the tired French people.

The main accusation against Joan today is that of feminism. A girl saving France? I don’t think so. But that’s not faith speaking, that’s pride. Because the men of France were cowards who refused to do what needed doing God sent them a teenage girl to do it instead. To show that their fears were simple lack of faith; to show that victory belongs to the lord.

And even in the face of that evidence of God’s supremacy, Joan’s supporter deserted her. The Dauphin decided that they’d won enough battles. Joan was forced to resort to raising her own army of mercenaries. She was driven, dedicated, and she could not rest until the last of the English soldiers were driven out of  France. But without the support of the French crown she was handicapped. She started losing, and finally she was captured.

I never understood people who don’t like Joan. I mean, the girl was burned at the stake for heresy. Regardless of what you think about women in battle I think that sufficiently makes up for any breach in conduct. And really, I think anyone who died an agonizing death for their beliefs deserves honor and respect from those of us who haven’t.

Joan’s death was purely political. When she was captured by the English she was a prisoner of war and as such was supposed to be treated honorably and even negotiated for ransom. The English were deadly afraid of her. They didn’t like the idea that the newly crowned dauphin might come to his senses and bring her home to France. If he did she would have the opportunity to fight again and defeat them all soundly. They wanted her dead, but from a purely military point of view they couldn’t kill her. So they did what any good politician does in such a situation – they made a religious issue out of it.

The people responsible for killing Joan had the same arguments that the people who don’t approve of her today do. She was demon possessed. She was taking on the role of a man and stepping out of place. She was convicted of heresy and ordered to recant.

Joan, by contrast, was not acting politically. Unlike the feminists today she didn’t dress like a man because she considered herself the equal of man but because she considered it a symbol of her God-given calling. Politics rarely drive a person to death for their point of view. Someone who does something out of pride or misguided loyalty tend to switch sides when faced with the horrible aspect of burning alive. Joan didn’t.

Well, actually she did. Her accusers staged a huge spectacle for her benefit, lighting the fire and reading her the list of her sins. Face to face with her own death the teenage military genius broke down and recanted. They gave her a woman’s dress and sentenced her to life imprisonment.

When the English military found out about this they were not pleased. They wanted her dead, remember. There are many versions of how Joan relapsed. As a child I didn’t like the fact that she died, so I always favored the theory that her clothes were stolen away in the night, forcing her to don her military gear or go naked. As a semi-adult I prefer that she realized the mistake she made, that she was tormented by her betrayal, and that one day she couldn’t bear it any more and she preferred death at the stake then living the rest of her life as a lie.

She stood before her jailers and said what she’d said at the beginning – that her work was not done, that she had instructions from the Most High God and that until the last of the English had left French soil she would not don a woman’s garb nor do a woman’s work. She would not recant her heresy. She would die sooner than betray her Lord.

And so she died. She died screaming in smoke and flame, clutching a wooden cross a child gave her, and crying out to Christ God to have mercy on her and to accept her into heaven. And I believe with all my heart that He did.

So now judge her if you can. Condemn her if you dare. Because her courage and her faith, her strength and resolution are a beautiful and sacred thing, regardless of your religion or creed.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Three kinds of home

On the failure of the English language and the varieties of character role play.

I have a character, and I have a friend, and the friend has a character, and we all got to talking. Turns out her character (Lars) and my character (Floyd) have very different ideas on the definition of “home”. And we, the authors, sat down and figured out that there are three kinds of home. Unfortunately the English language gives us no way to differentiate between these very different places other than context, which often fails us.

The first definition is very simple.

“I think you should go home and get some sleep.”
“I don’t want to.”

In this context “home” means the place where you live, eat, sleep, and wash your clothes. Home is where you go back every night, where you have your permanent address. It is the word in it’s most simple, straightforward sense – it’s just a location.

The second sense is almost completely opposite. Home means familiar surroundings, a place where you are comfortable, or where you have fond memories. “A childhood home.” “My old Kentucky Home.”

Lars: I had no home.
Floyd: Everyone grows up somewhere.
Lars: “But it wasn’t a home.

Floyd: Fine! Wait until someone yanks you off your planet and throws you into an alien world where absolutely nothing feels right, and then see how you define “home.” I’d give anything just to see familiar stars in the sky. At least you’ve got that.

Often time the second definition is associate with the first, although not always. Familiar surroundings are usually those we spend the most time in, and fond memories are associated with place we live.

The third definition is the most abstract, and hard to pin down. The third definition may or may not be associated with a specific place, but with a vague feeling. The third meaning of “home” is the one defined by homesickness, or loneliness.

Odo: “Home! I want to go home!”
Garak: “And you will! I promise. As soon as this is all over I promise to take you back to Deep Space Nine…”
Odo: “No! Not the station! Home to my people!”

Kaylee: I thought that I wanted to go home. I wanted to bring those childhood memories back again, and to be a little girl on my mothers lap. I wanted the dreams you gave to me. But then I realized, home isn’t a place, it’s a person, and I’ll die before I lose you again. ~ The Justice Project

Missing Heaven

They say that all music can be traced back to a single song. That there is one tune that all the others are mere variations on. I’ve never believed this theory.

There’s another theory that all stories are an expression of one story. That there is one theme so great and overwhelming that all the stories in the world cannot properly express it. I have a bit more sympathy towards this idea.

And in my literary wanders I’ve wondered – what is the theme of the original story? Is it love? Is it redemption? Is it glory? Is it pain? My opinion changes from day today, as my perspective shifts. It seems like the story must be something that encompasses all of that, and yet we don’t have a word or even an emotion for any such thing. So what is it? What is at the heart of mankind, so dear to them that they keep telling and retelling it over and over again, never fully grasping what it is that they’re longing for?

I have a new theory now, and it’s been around long enough that I feel confident in expounding about it to the universe. What if the story isn’t about what we’re longing for, but the longing itself? The theologians say that the story of creation is about Man being reconciled with God, so what if the story is about homesickness?

Look at it this way. God created Man. Man fell and was shooed out of Eden. When I talked about entropy I touched a little on what that meant. Basically mankind was exiled. Sent away from the world he knew and from the one being he was basically created to worship.

Look at all the greatest characters. The Doctor. Odo. Garrick. Neil. Everyone is looking for a person, or a place. Everyone is driven by loneliness, sadness, and homesickness. And we sympathize all too well. How many of us are truly content with the people we’re with, where we’re at? Isn’t’ there always something more? A little nagging feeling in the back of your heart, something that cries out for a feeling we can’t quite put into words? Something that sings in the wind in autumn, or that’s written in the cloudless blue sky on a summer day. That moment of heartbreak when everything seems just perfect.

It seems that the closer we get to heaven the more acutely we miss it.

If we are all at heart terribly lonely and homesick then doesn’t it make sense that our stories will all reflect that? In every story ever written I think we will find that to be a theme. It fits it all. Love, hope, fear… it’s all an expression of being an alien in a peculiar and frightening world. We learn to cope, we learn to get along, but underneath it all we’re just crying – crying to go home where things are beautiful, peaceful and make sense. We want to all speak the same language again. We want someone to understand us – who we are, and what we want.

We want to go home.

The Curse of the Second Law of Thermondynamics

If you ever travel back in time, and someone asks where you came from and why you’re dressed that way, tell them you’re under a curse. And when they ask what curse that would be, tell them it’s the curse of the second law of thermodynamics. I guarantee you they’ll be overawed and impressed.

“But why should the universe be in a state of high order at one end of time, the end that we call the past? Why was it not in a state of complete disorder at all times? After all, this might seem more probable.”

– Stephen W. Hawking

The second law of thermodynamics directs that disorder must increase with time. Everyone should understand this law, despite it’s rather unwieldy title and the inevitably smart questions that arise from those who do not understand it. (“What’s the first law of thermodynamics?” is a common one.) Disorder must increase with time; this is a universal principle that not only governs the fabric of the universe, but can be observed on a day to day basis.

For example: if you don’t clean up your room it will go from being clean and tidy to being a disaster. If you continue to neglect it the disorder will only continue to increase. At no point will the disorder suddenly reverse it, and your bedroom begin to clean itself.

The great question of life, the universe, and everything can be summed up in the second law. How do you reverse the increase of entropy? If the increase of entropy is not halted, and eventually reversed, then the universe will undoubtedly come to an end. But the only way to create order out of disorder is through both energy and intelligence. Intelligence by itself will talk, but never work. Energy by itself just boils off into the atmosphere. Only by intelligently harnessing energy can order be created, and in this way we survive.

To get back to the example of the bedroom. The disorder in your bedroom will continue to increase until you set aside an afternoon and clean it. This does not violate the second law of thermodynamics because the universe isn’t doing it by itself. It requires an expenditure of energy.

This is the reason that time flows in only one direction. A teacup falls ont he floor and breaks. This is the progression of time from past to present. At no time do broken shards jump onto the table and form a teacup. Why? What causes this arrow of time?

You got it, the second law. For shards to jump on the table and form a teacup would be creating order out of disorder, and we all know that doesn’t happen. Disorder increases; it never decreases except that we apply ourselves to the task of reducing entropy.

Yet we can only slow the inevitable end. We can never stop it. There is not enough energy in the universe to change the laws of physics. But if we despair, if we stop trying for even a minute, all is lost.

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

– Genesis 3:14-15

And that is the curse of the second law of thermodynamics.

Think about it. We know that when Adam fell things changed. We know that there was no death in Eden, and therefore there were no carnivores. There were no predators, and no prey. There was no poisonous fruit. No thorns, and no thistles. No camouflage or defensive measures. Most of the animals in the world must have physically altered their opinion. Many of the plants in the world either changed or sprang into existence.  The economy of the world switched completely to one of life, to one ruled by death. But the most amazing thing of all is that the laws governing the very fabric of the universe changed.

Eden was a world where shards of porcelain jumped up onto a table and formed a teacup. Eden was a world where you cleaned your room and it stayed clean. Eden was a world where the Second Law of Thermodynamics did not exist – where there was no entropy, no increase in disorder.

Imagine that.

Idea Junkyard

Beginning authors are haunted by the question: “Is my work original? Are you sure it’s not just a ripoff? What if someone tries to steal my work?” We obsess over where our ideas come from, and who we let read them. We worry that if we relate our plot to someone they’ll rewrite it into their own story, stealing our work.

I have good news! That’s never going to happen. Or rather, it will happen, but you don’t have to worry about it. Because it happens every day. We all do it, and no one cares. No one gets hurt. We create beautiful things and everyone is happy.

All creation is sub-creation. Nothing we make is ever truly, totally, and completely our own. Just like all the fanciest new toys and gadgets that come out of manufacturing can trace their origins back to the original minerals and chemicals found in the Earth, so every story can trace it’s way back to other stories, and they go back to other stories, and they like even more…

There’s a theory I’ve heard that all stories are part of one huge story, woven together like a complex tapestry. My theory is that it’s more like a big scrap yard. All the stories, the big ones, the little ones, the old and new ones, the brilliant and stupid ones, the successful and lame ones are all thrown into a heap together. Writers come through and browse along, marveling, laughing, groaning, nitpicking, eye-rolling, and scavenging. They grab a character here, a plot twist there. Here a setting, there a color, an irresistible phrase that just needs a better plot line…

They take all these things home with them and dump them on a workbench. They get out their tools and begin got tweak and reconstruct them, joining them together in new and surprising ways. They make new parts to mesh with the old, they discard some, and go hunting for new ones. They poke about until they find the right piece to fit into the little hole, and soon they have a complete story.

Maybe it’s brilliant. Maybe it’s lame. Maybe it’s the stupidest thing every written. But sooner or later it’s finished and it ends up in the scrap yard for other aspiring writers to go through and laugh and and choose pieces from.

I can still list my sources for some stories, specifically my current WIP. My main character is made up of three other characters: Ford Prefect (The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Eugenides (The Queen’s Thief), and Shawn Spencer (Psych). My writing style is copied from Douglas Adams, Psych, ordinary comic books, and my own special variety of convoluted. I have aspects of Tron and Tangled. I can point out specific passages that are blatantly copied.

But it’s entirely mine. It’s not stolen. It’s not boring or copy-catty. If I didn’t point it out to you you’d never guess I was simply stealing parts from other books and stitching them together. So I stopped worrying about where I got my ideas from, and started helping myself.

So you see, dear writers, there is no such thing as plagarism. All the best stories are just stolen pieces from other stories, and they in turn will become future stories, and they’re all woven together into the big story salvage yard of life.

My Favorite Books

I live in a house where there is no room for extra bookcases. In fact, there is no bare wall space to be had anywhere. It’s a mathematical thing that I shan’t get into right now. It just serves to explain why I keep my favorite books in the whole work in cardboard boxes under my bed.

The books that are no my favorite I keep in cardboard boxes out in storage. Getting to them is difficult, and their safety is not assured. Under my bed may not be the safest either, but at least I know where they are and I can get them out and check on them every once in a while.

I have a sister who likes to clean up. And since I share a bedroom she sometimes likes to clean up my space. And sometime earlier this year she decided to clean up under my bed, which included moving all my books out to storage. I very specifically remember protesting against this quite vehemently, and I thought I had made my point, because yesterday I went to get them and they weren’t there.

My books. My special books. They were gone. I spent most of the day frantically searching before they finally turned up – in storage, of course. Fortunately they were no worse for wear, just a little dusty, and I consoled myself by wiping them off, pondering a new location, and recounting them to be sure they were all there.

I could never possibly list all the books I own but I can tell you every single title in the two boxes that were formerly under my bed. (Now they’re stacked next to my desk.) And I realized that not very many people actually know what my favorite books are.  Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are good fantasy classics, but these series’ are something very special. And I want to share them with you.

The Myst Reader

There are three books in the Myst Reader. I own them all separately. They’re companions to the best selling game Myst, with which I am also obsessed. If you’ve considered playing Myst but need something to win you over then I think I have just the thing – they’re steampunk. There. Got your attention now? If you were to combine books and games in chronological order then it would look like this:

Book of Ti’Ana
Book of Atrus
Myst
Riven
Book of D’Ni
Myst III: Exile

Book of Atrus, Riven, and Myst combine to make a complete story, a brilliant story. A story of which you are an integral part.  Book of Ti’Ana works as a standalone, since it’s a prequel to the entire series. Book of D’Ni is probably the best of the lot. And as well as being an absolutely amazing story it finally ties Myst III into the rest of the series. I played the games and then read the books, but they can be switched around at will. Even without being a fan of the games the Myst books are some of the most amazing stories ever written, and the premise is beyond brilliant.

The Riddle of the Stars

This trilogy by Patricia A. McKellip is one of the most amazing fantasy stories ever written. She combines telepathy, shapeshifting, and wizardry in a way you’ve never imagined. My writing has been heavily influenced by her since I first picked up her first book at a library book sale. It is a riveting story from beginning to end, and it has harps in it. That’s right – harps. The books are, in order:

The Riddlemaster of Hed
Heir of Sea and Fire
Harpist in the Wind

The Queen’s Thief Series

This is one of the- yes, I know. I said that already. There’s a very good reason why these books are my favorite. The difference with Queen’s Thief is that, strictly speaking, it’s not fantasy. There’s no magic or wizards or dragons or anything. There’s a lot of royal politics. And there are amazing characters. There’s pain and redemption and faith and forgiveness.  There are four books in the series but I only own the first three. Which, incidentally, I read in reverse order. I do not recommend this. If you’ve read books 2 and 3 it kind of ruins the plot of book 1. It’s still amazing, though!

The Thief
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
Conspiracy of Kings

The Lucky Starr Series

Lucky Starr is a series of YA novels written by Isaac Asimov under the pseudonym of Paul French. While I was at WorldCon I kept hearing people make fun of Lucky Starr and I deeply resented that. Yes, they’re not scientifically accurate. But they’re cute! I love this series. I love them so much that I fully intend to write some of my own and call them “The New Adventures of Lucky Starr.” And since Asimov used a pen name, so I can I… but that’s all a day dream for the future. Lucky Starr is a series of six short novels, each one set in a different part of the solar system. Turns out Lucky is one of my favorite names, and this particular Lucky deserves it.

The Lost Art

This book has a strange story. I picked it up at Big Lots, of all places. It was one of those books that looked interesting, but could have been completely lame, and instead turned out to be brilliant. It perhaps shouldn’t be counted among my favorite-favorites but it was really, really good. And it defies any sort of categorization whatsoever, which is maybe why it ended up at Goodwill. It’s sort of scifi, sort of dystopian, sort of religious, sort of Dark Ages. It’s set in the Dark Ages that followed the fall of a technologically superior civilization. The superstition of the people forbids any of the tech that led to the fall of the previous civilization, and everyone is subservient to the church who guards against scientific progress. But meanwhile there’s a character who looks like he stepped out of the Arabian Nights, complete with a flying carpet and a sentient space ship…

I also have, not one but two, signed bookplates from the author, Simon Morden. Yet I never seem to have bookplates and book at the same time. When I got the bookplates I wasn’t sure where the book was, and now that I have the book I have no idea where I put the bookplate. I’m also not at all sure how I ended up with two.

At any rate, I highly recommend this book. It’s one of those little known phenomena that everyone should pick up and get an education on genre from. Another Big Lots find with a similar setting is “Lamentation”. It’s similar enough to remind me of the Lost Art, but different enough to make me wonder “Just what is this genre called anyway?”