NaNoWriMo Progress Report #1

As I posted previously, I intend to enter this year’s NaNoWriMo. I decided to get started with their summer retreat and figured I would post a progress report. Here goes:

I began outlining my story. I have a primary protagonist and his personality is starting to fill out as I write about him. The story already took a tangent from its course to create a few interesting scenes. The outline has changed so many times that if I turned on the “tracking” feature in Word, it would crash the program.

So, I plan to outline in Word and do everything else in Scrivener, which is an inexpensive and awesome program for novelists. It allows the author to create character sketches, jot down ideas, export in epub format and more. It is, in a word, awesome.

I also signed up for the July version of NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo. I wonder how far I’ll get? I will be updating sporadically through the month as I move along the journey. We’ll see if I finish the darn thing this go-round!

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Exploring Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga Part 3 – Heechee Rendezvous

The third novel in the Heechee Saga, Heechee Rendezvous, is the perfect place to end the series. Never mind that there are three other books; only one of them, Annals of the Heechee, continues the main plot.

Heechee Rendezvous neatly wraps up everything that began in Gateway. The reader is introduced to an aging, ailing Robinette Broadhead, his Artificial Intelligence companion, Albert (a facsimile of Albert Einstein) and a few of Broadheads “friends” and acquaintances.

As the story unfolds, the reader also meets a Heechee officer named Captain, emerging from the black hole in the center of the universe to confront the space-faring humans and warn them of an unknown danger of the universe, setting up the grand finale of the main series.

The tone here is consistent: it’s all told from the perspective of Robinette Broadhead, who at this point has barely evolved his personality at all and is, in fact, regressing to the same type of person he was in Gateway. Why? Because he is feeling his mortality.

The novel eventually becomes a race against time in several ways: Broadhead against his own health, Broadhead’s scientific research against constant terrorism and Wan’s frantic search through several black holes using Heechee technology.

In this novel, the reader will finally meet the Heechee, be introduced to old characters and find out how Broadhead deals with his mortality problem. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll leave it at that.

Something I quite enjoyed about this story is we see the character of Wan, from the previous novel, become somewhat of a villainous presence, though this is greatly overshadowed by Pohl’s introduction of the titular aliens early on in the story. I also, despite his unlikable nature, quite like Robinette Broadhead and can relate to him in some ways.

Pohl’s prose is consistent and well done, engaging the reader and making them care about what happens to these characters. I am interested to see how book four handles the new relationships man has forged with the Heechee and the unknown, mysterious threat that scared the Heechee into a black hole in the first place.

We’ll continue the journey through the Gateway as soon as I finish reading the fourth installment (and conclusion of the main series). Books five and six are anthology collections set in the Heechee universe.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading/sharing/etc…

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Exploring Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga Part 2 – Beyond the Blue Event Horizon

Hello, and welcome to part two of our exploration of Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga. Today, the focus will be on book two of the series, “Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.” In the previous novel, “Gateway,” the reader meets one Robinette Broadhead, the filthy rich, guilt-ridden expedition survivor and somewhat unlikable narrator.

The first thing the reader will notice about the book is this: it starts out in the third person, introducing a boy named Wan, currently living off-world on a Heechee artifact. Next, it switches to first person with a different narrator from the previous book. In this chapter, the reader is introduced to Paul, a pilot, and his family: his wife Lurvy, sister-in-law Janine and father-in-law, Peter.

It is here the reader learns the primary conceit of the story: Robinette Broadhead financed an expedition to find the Heechee Food Factory, so-called because it mines the basic elements of life from comets: Carbon Hydrogen Oxygen and Nitrogen or CHON for short.

As the story unfolds, the perspective eventually shifts from third-person whenever the explorers are involved to Broadhead’s perspective. Broadhead is, once again, our primary protagonist, whom everything revolves around. This time, however, he is much more likable.

Don’t let that last sentence fool you; he’s still selfish, odd and kind of an ass. It’s just that now, he’s not so guilty and self-absorbed. He has a machine intelligence in the guise of Albert Einstein with whom he spends most of his time. His wife, S. Ya Lovorovna from the previous book, helps build and create several machine intelligences throughout the story.

She also becomes a major part of the plot, but I won’t spoil that for you as the result of an interesting concept that was fleshed out in a disappointing way, the 100-day fever. It actually becomes a major plot point, directly affecting upcoming events in the series.

In “Beyond the Blue Event Horizon,” Pohl does an excellent job delivering on some of the suspense built up in “Gateway” and adds a few more interesting elements to the story. The one which sticks out the most in my mind is the Dream Bed, which is essentially a large telepathic transmitter. You can imagine what sort of shenanigans folks can get up to with one of those.

The title refers to the blue hue of the event horizon of a black hole, which is a reference to the end of “Gateway.” It is well done, interesting, engaging and a worthy successor to “Gateway.” There is substantially less psycho-babble and outdated concepts, but the book does suffer from a few anachronistic tendencies and a few inconsistencies. I still highly recommend it.

“Beyond the Blue Event Horizon” is available on Amazon here.

I’m Entering National November Novel Writing Month this year.

NaNoWriMoThis year, I plan to enter and finish National November Novel Writing Month. I’m thinking something sci-fi or cyberpunk. The event, officially known as NaNoWriMo is a non-profit contest which challenges aspiring and professional novelists to complete a fictional work of prose reaching 50,000 words or more.

Per http://nanowrimo.org/about, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping writers foster their creativity and meet the goal of 50,000 words by 11:59 P.M. on Nov. 30. In addition to the usual Nov. event, NaNoWriMo also holds a virtual writing retreat, a children’s writing workshop, fundraisers and more.

Potential writers are given access to tools and advice via the official event website. Students interested in participating in NaNoWriMo should sign up for an account on their official website. The website provides help, advice, a place to write and inspirational forums.

In addition to this, several libraries are and academic institutions across the country participate in NaNoWriMo Write-In Events. Several Write-In events are held throughout the country for aspiring novelists.

The write-in events will feature the opportunity to write as many words for a novel as possible, with assistance being provided by library staffs and online assistance through NaNoWriMo.

Since its establishment in 1999, NaNoWriMo has yielded quite a few popular novels through its history. Trivia and Miscellaneous publication, Mental Floss Magazine, recently published a list of NaNoWriMo winners: books that have all been published and are currently being sold in bookstores and online. The list can be found here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/53481/14-published-novels-written-during-nanowrimo.

Some well-known novels, such as “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen were past NaNoWriMo winners. “Water for Elephants” was made into a movie in 2011.

NaNoWriMo allows fiction in any genre and there are no fees involved with the contest. More information can be found at http://nanowrimo.org. I plan to get started now, rather than wait until November. Wish me luck; I’ll need it.

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Exploring Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga Part 1 – Gateway

A look into Frederik Pohl’s excellent science fiction novel, “Gateway.”

I am a massive Science Fiction fan. I discovered a love of reading at an early age, thanks to authors like Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Since then, my reading has been all over the map. I’m not sure how the works of Frederik Pohl escaped my attention.

Earlier this year, I discovered a copy of his 1977 novel “Gateway” at my University Library. I haven’t felt this involved in a book series since reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series. The book is more than a simple space-faring adventure; it is a psychological study of the rich, successful protagonist and his feelings of guilt surrounding his fame and fortune. I found the character so compelling that now, three books in, I’m hooked.

The book follows the story of a man named Robinette Broadhead, feeling rather guilty about something. The story opens with Broadhead speaking with an automaton psychiatrist whom he dubs Sigrid von Shrink. The story then alternates between Broadhead’s in-person (so to speak) sessions with the robot and flashbacks of his time on the Gateway asteroid, with several sidebars creating atmosphere for the narrative.

The story is told in the first-person, so the reader is right there in Broadhead’s shoes as he learns about the asteroid, finds romance, balks at taking missions and finally makes something of himself. Of course, along the way, there are some…shall we say, issues both wrought upon and caused by our protagonist. Broadhead himself is not a particularly likable character at first, but it feels as if he were designed to be that way, as later novels explore who he is more in depth.

The way he treats those close to him is quite deplorable at times, but some of the characters, like Gelle-Klara Moynlin end up playing an important role in the story later on.

“Gateway” is both futuristic and unique, introducing an alien race called the Heechee and their amazing faster-than-light technology.  The novel stands well on its own, but also serves to set up an entire series of adventures revolving around the Heechee and their wondrous technology.

The technology is fascinating, especially with the mystery surrounding it and the fact that despite the danger, humans constantly take out ships on prospecting missions to attempt striking it rich.

There are also, as with any older sci-fi story, some interesting anachronisms. Tapes are regularly used to store and retrieve information, for instance. There are a few more, but I recommend reading it for yourself to find out.

This is an excellent book, well-liked and a winner of both a Hugo and a Nebula award in 1978. The book was popular enough to spawn computer games, five sequels and a possible TV movie, which seems to be locked in production hell at the moment.

Of course, after what SyFy did to to Riverworld, perhaps we don’t need a Gateway film.

If you like “Gateway,” be sure to check out its sequels, “Beyond the Blue Event Horizon” and “Heechee Rendevous.” Stay tuned for part 2 of this series coming soon!

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