Saturday, December 28, 2013

The revenge of the not particularly heroic, nerdy wee fella

Earlier in the month, I did a post about how "strong female characters" bore the bits off me, and the same is true of "strong male characters". 'Tis a bit dull to see characters reduced to one buzzword, y'see, or at least in my opinion.

And I shall tell you what else bores me: heroes. Indomitable slabs of beef, who crush their enemies, and hear the lamentation of their women? Peerless warriors at the very peak of physical perfection? You can keep 'em!

I'll take the nerdy wee pleb over that, any day, because seriously, where's the "triumph over adversity" that we all love to see, when the hero in question is already written as being indomitably perfect (when it's a truth universally acknowledged, or in my head at least, that perfect people are, when you get right down to it, gits)?

Monday, December 23, 2013

On Which Planet? - A Cynos Union Christmas Storytime Special

(The following transcript is taken from a data recorder found floating in deep space just outside the Holligomistel system. Due to the nature of the recording, Holligomistel is off-limits until further notice - First Admiral Baraph Trighy, Cynos Security Fleet)

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for what may or may not have been some kind of a weasel thing. Might have been a mouse, I'm not honestly sure. I never was much good at species classifications, to be honest. I find it easier to classify things as "furry, has antlers", or "slimy, eats flies, not a good idea to lick it".

Trust me, I speak from personal experience on that last one.

Anyway, you're not here to talk about taxonomy, are you? You probably want to know who I am, or maybe what I am, right? I mean you did come all this way to find me, so it seems only fair I give you the old autobiography, maybe even some of the juicy bits they leave out of the official story, eh?

Just to check, though, you're not recording this, are you? I happen to like my privacy, thank you very much, and I know what you humans are like for bugging anyone even vaguely famous. I don't want the paparazzi coming round here trying to take photos of me in my smalls is what I'm saying.

So, you're definitely not recording this, right? No? Good good! Then we can begin...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

By embracing the dark side, we conquer the dark side

Ain't it always the first thing mentors and other authors say, whenever they're talking to fledgling writers? It's the same bit of advice that gets trotted out, and it goes like this: "Write what you know."

The thing is, though, that it's absolutely true. That's a large part of the reason why my first book, Messiah's Shard, starts off in a small village just up the road from Sheffield (plus, of course, I couldn't resist the idea of a big, epic science fiction novel being set just up the road from me; there's something ever so slightly awesome about that). The fictional village from which our hero hails, Brakenthorpe, is even based on a village where I spent a big chunk of time when I was a teen (school friends lived there, y'see), and another big chunk after I turned 18, although when we went on the swings after we'd ostensibly hit adulthood, we were considerably less sober.

The point is that anyone who lives in that real world village would find the fictional little hamlet of Brakenthorpe to be hauntingly familiar, because, well, write what you know. It doesn't end there, though...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nail the ending, or don't even bother starting...

[WARNING: Here be spoilers for Mass Effect 3. And Assassin's Creed 3. Oh, and the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, as well.]

Hmm, now there's an interesting question. I was having a nice long conversation with someone today, all about why the ending of Mass Effect 3 was such a colossal bag of donkey doings, and said person asked a question about whether a bad ending can really ruin all the good stuff that came before, when the entire experience up to that point had been good.

My immediate was a big fat yes, but it raised a rather intriguing question: why? How come the ending has such enormous power over a story, and thus, how is it possible that a bad ending can ruin everything that's gone before?

Might it be something about how we, as humans, are hardwired that makes the ending of the story the single most important bit of the whole enterprise?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Musings on my influences - HOW has Transformers endured for 30 years?

What I say next, I say completely without shame or irony: I love Transformers. I've always loved Transformers, ever since the age of 6/7, and I honestly reckon that my love of the weird and the epic (seriously, that's a concrete part of my biography and everything) came from the opening of Transformers: The Movie, in 1986.

Y'know, where the first scene has a planet being eaten. Seeing something like that was bound to have a lasting effect on the brain of a 7 year old, and no mistake.

The thing is, though, that it wasn't just my prepubescent brain that Transformers had an effect on; it also somehow went on to become one of the most successful toy franchises in history, and is still going strong today, thirty years later. The big question, of course, is this: why? How did a toy franchise aimed at 7 year old boys manage that?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Creativity - the bane of society, apparently

I'll be honest, I wibbled back and forth about writing this post, for a very simple reason: how does it actually apply to the whole business of being a writer? Does it fit the theme of this blog to actually talk about it?

Then, though, I had a realisation. By even asking myself that, was I not playing into the very phenomenon that the original source story was talking about? By avoiding writing this, was I not actually being averse to a bit of the ol' creativity myself?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

'Strong Female Characters'? Seriously? You want to limit your palette like that?

Hoooooo blimey, this one's a thorny issue, and no mistake! Seriously, this one causes no end of introspection and outright navel-gazing, from every imaginable side of the whole gender debate, and since I'm a writer, it's one of those things I have to be aware of. Yes, it's the issue of "strong female characters", and I know I'm going to get flamed to a crisp by people who don't read past the headline, but the simple fact is this: "strong female characters" are dull.

And so are "strong male characters"...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Time for me to be a tease - say hello to the Cynos Union's newest alien, the enigmatic quintaceph

Ooh, not long now till The Abominable Moon is ready to go! I'm down to the final couple of chapters, so it's soon going to be winging its way to my editor, to get the final fine-toothed-comb treatment, before it's ready to be published on Amazon.

And so, I feel like being a tease.

Yes, it's time for me to introduce you to a new alien within the Cynosverse. I've already made my feelings clear about how I reckon that aliens should actually look alien, and given the general tone of The Abominable Moon, it just seemed natural for it to feature an alien species with five heads.

You may well be able to tell that I'm going for Lovecraftian weirdness with this book...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Forget yer vampires, and ghosties, and long-leggity beasties - Lovecraftian horror is REAL horror

Blimey, I've not written many posts recently, have I? Mind you, there is a good reason; I'm knee-deep in writing the next book in the Cynos Union series, The Abominable Moon (coming soon to Amazon), y'see, and what with doing that and writing content for the redesign of my official site (and if you've not seen it yet, you really should go take a look; I am well proud of it), the blog's had to be put on pause for a bit.

But now, I'm back,and since The Abominable Moon is basically a horror story (the name's a bit of a giveaway, right?), I reckon now's the perfect time to talk about that genre.

I'd best also mention that as far as horror goes, vampires, werewolves, ghoulies and ghosties just don't cut it, for me. Why? Well I shall tell ya...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Announcing the arrival of The Non-Random Dog!

Woohoo! It's finally finished and on sale, so I can tell you all about it!

Ladies and gentlemen, the second story in the Cynos Union, The Non-Random Dog, is now available to buy from both Amazon! I decided with this one that I wanted to do something rather different from the first full-length novel, Messiah's Shard, and write a short story with a tighter, less all-encompassing plot, that's not all about saving the galaxy.

Thus, this second story was born.

In the aftermath of the Abyssal War (detailed in Messiah's Shard), humanity has finally taken its place among the stars. The dream of the Cynos Union, a dream of disparate races finally coming together for the common good, a dream of a galaxy that finally knows peace, has come true.

And yet, there are still adventures to be had, as the crew of the human freighter Diomedes are about to find out. There's something a little bit unusual about their new passenger.

Although that might be because she's a dog in a spacesuit...

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

On bad (as in REALLY bad) video game writing...

Well, there you have it, folks. After a year of hoping for some glimmer of light, or the possibility of an ending that doesn't destroy the narrative of all three games, the final DLC for Mass Effect 3 has been released, and to quote the ever brilliant Top Gear, "It's not gone well."

Now, I'll say right away that this blog post is going to include spoilers for that new DLC, called simply 'Citadel'. And so, therefore, I'm going to make sure I only put in spoilers after the break; only click through and read it if you've played the Citadel DLC, or if you don't mind being spoiled, or if you're so jaded with the Mass Effect 3 debacle that you don't care...

Saturday, March 02, 2013

People what done influenced me - Peter F. Hamilton

They say that no work is ever done in a vacuum, right, and that's true. It's just human nature, especially when it comes to creative type thingies; everything that gets made is influenced by what's gone before it, and at the same time, influences what comes after.

I've always been open about the people and, well, stuff that's influenced me, and in fact, I've got a list of my influences on my Goodreads page.

I reckon, though, that it might be a cool idea to talk in-depth about some of them. Also, you might learn about some authors whose work you've never read before, and that's always awesome.

So, first up, I reckon I'll talk about the utterly brilliant British author, Peter F. Hamilton...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

So, this whole 'love' business...

Right then, with my typical sense of good timekeeping, it's time for me to remember that Valentine's Day was two weeks ago, and write a post about love. After all, it's quite possibly the most talked about emotion in the entirety of human history, and since the whole topic plays a rather large part in Messiah's Shard, I reckon it might pay to talk about love, and soulmates, and all that gubbins.

Oh yes, there's much more than just epic, prophetic shenanigans going in the book...

Y'see, we begin Book 1, Act 1 by going and sitting next to John Harley, a man whose whole character is kinda sorta defined by love. The painful love he still feels for his long-dead sister, the heartache when he remembers her little face and realises he's never going to see her again, is simply one aspect of it, but it's not unfair to say that a big chunk of Harley's personality is a reaction to that aspect of his past, that bond with a sibling who's no longer with him.

And then, there's her. Anna. The woman he loves with all his heart.

The genesis of Messiah's Shard happened waa-aaaaa-aaaaay back in the mists of prehistoric time (seriously, we're talking pre-2000, here), back when I was young and daft, and still remained utterly convinced that soulmates existed, in a literal sense. I eventually moved away from that viewpoint, but that nugget of an idea kept festering away in my brain, as I thought more about what the idea of soulmates would actually mean.

Think about it; say that soulmates really are two parts of one soul, and say that they can only be happy together. What then? What happens if the souls can't be bonded in this lifetime? Would only having half a soul hurt? What if something happened to the other person, the other half of your soul, and you knew you could never be whole?

That's a horrible thought!

So therefore, my take on soulmates is possibly a little bit darker than you might be expecting...

On a brighter note, though, there's another relationship in the novel, and this one's quite a bit happier. I'm talking, of course, about Jake Mooney and Madeleine Wilder, a couple who are just perfect for each other, and who were fun to write. Not that that will stop me messing with them; no-one gets a happy ending unless they've been stretched right to their breaking point.

Because that's the big question, of course: can love survive the apocalypse? When humanity falls, can love endure?

There's only one way to find out...

Messiah's Shard is available to buy now! Subscribe for more news from the world (and brain) of Mark W. Bonnett!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I reckon aliens should look, well, ALIEN...

It's fair to assume that, since I'm a sci-fi writer, I'm a rather big sci-fi fan. It's a logical assumption, right enough, and you'd be bang on the money to jump to it, but there's one bit of sci-fi that really sort of annoys me, and it's this:

Aliens that look like humans with half a ton of rubber glued to their heads.

What I'm saying, right, is that evolution doesn't work like that...

Yes, it's that old trope, the rubber-forehead aliens, the bane of my very life when I watch things like Star Trek, or even my favourite TV sci-fi show, Babylon 5. Yes, I know that it all comes down to budgetary restraints, but the simple fact is that there's no reason why an alien lifeform, from (need I remind you) an entirely alien world light years away, should even vaguely look like a human.

To produce an alien that looks like, well, us, a species would have to follow an evolutionary path that's exactly identical to our own. Hell, if you reran evolution on Earth, and changed just one tiny parameter, you most likely wouldn't get humans here, so to imagine it happening on an alien world, with vastly different evolutionary constraints, is a bit silly really.

Where's all the floaty head things, like the eosapien from Wayne Barlowe's exquisite Expedition? Where's all the five-limbed treefrog things, from the 2005 version of War Of The Worlds? Where's all the malevolent, telepathic locust things, from Quatermass And The Pit (the film version with Andrew Keir, that scared the cacky out of me)?

I want more of those, please...

"But Mark," you may well now be saying. "Don't you use humanoid races in your novel, Messiah's Shard?"

Well, yes. Yes I do, but there's more going on there than you know about, just yet. There's hints of what's going on there, in that first novel, but you don't yet know the whole story (but you will, eventually, oh you most certainly will). Besides, there's the yowason and the n'kaf (the two beasties in the pic up there) to consider, and I've made a pact with myself that any future races I come up with will resolutely not be humanoid.

Hmm, maybe something with limbs on their faces (*scratchy beard noise*). That could work...

Messiah's Shard is available to buy now! Subscribe for more news from the world (and brain) of Mark W. Bonnett!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's all H.G. Wells' fault...

Well, alright, it's mostly H.G. Wells' fault, but it's also George Pal's fault. And Byron Haskin's fault. And Jeff Wayne's fault. And my dad's fault for letting me listen to Wayne's 1978 musical version of War Of The Worlds when I was four years old, before then letting me watch Pal and Haskin's 1953 film version.

 If you want the truth of it, that, right there, is why I'm a sci-fi fan. The musical version is also why I'm a musician, but that's by the by...

I can still remember the first time I heard that album, y'know. I know I was four years old, so it must have been either the arse end of 1981 or the first bit of 1982, but yeah, it was definitely "the early years of the 1980s", to paraphrase the granddaddy of alien invasion stories. We were in Wales, visiting relatives, and my uncle stuck t'LP on t'record player. Richard Burton's voice flowed mellifluously through the speakers (best. voice. EVER), and that was it; I was hooked. I sat in silence, listening as the first cylinder landed on Horsell Common, as the heat ray turned men to ash, as the HMS Thunderchild made her famous, valiant last stand.

And then, me and my cousin went playing on the common, near their house.

Yeah, I spent the next hour resolutely watching the sky, watchful for that telltale green flash...

But the movie version, oh the movie version. The worst bit is that it was entirely my own fault; after hearing the album, I bugged my dad for months, to show me the film version, expecting it to be pretty much the same as the musical version. Only it wasn't. I was more or less okay when I saw Pal and Haskin's version of a Martian fighting machine (still the most iconically beautiful war machine I've ever seen), but then, it got to that bit. The bit that shouldn't be scary, because let's be honest, that thing's got a Simon board for a face.

Yeah, you know the bit...

I know it's not in English, but trust me, words aren't needed...

When you read my own novel, Messiah's Shard, there's a bit in it that may well be very familiar to anyone who's seen War Of The Worlds. I had to include it, it's one of those moments that's just intensely personal to me; it's that terror of seeing something otherworldly in your own home, the place that's supposed to be safe. Well, alright, it's more the fear of not seeing it, because it's standing behind you, with its long, gangly and entirely wrong hand on your shoulder...  


Dammit, Wells (and Pal/Haskin), you've got a lot to answer for!

(Image Credit: The Essential Films)

Messiah's Shard is available to buy now! Subscribe for more news from the world (and brain) of Mark W. Bonnett!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Every sci-fi universe needs a squidly race with weird heads in it

There you go, that title pretty much sums up my approach to science fiction. Yeah, we're not necessarily talking about the hardest of hard sci-fi, here. Granted, I may have sat down and worked out their evolutionary path, to give them some semblance of verisimilitude, but when you get right down to it, right down to the very nub, it all came down to me wanting a squid race in there.

So there.

Erm, maybe I should back up a bit, so you know what I'm on about...

See that pic, just there? Yes, I can finally say that I'm a legitimate published author, thanks to the sheer magic that is ebooks. My first novel, Messiah's Shard, is available on Kindle and Smashwords (with more to come), and let me tell you, it's a damned fine feeling, so it is!

It doesn't end with that first novel, though, no sirree bobby. Y'see, this story's been kicking about in my head since I was a young'n, and over the years, it's grown and evolved into something way bigger than the mewling little pseudopodal thingie that it began life as. As it grew, and as the universe in which it was set got bigger and bigger, I realised that it'd ceased to be just a standalone story. There was a whole universe there, ripe for the plundering.

And so, the Cynos Union was born.

So basically, what I'm saying, right, is to expect lots more Cynos Union novels after this one. I'll also be publishing exclusive stories and content on my Facebook fan page, so wander over there, and give that Like button a good, hard clicking. There's character profiles, exclusive prequels... hell, maybe some giveaways, too, from time to time!

Oh, and if you're wondering, that squidly race? Yeah, that's the yowason. They're vampire space squids.

In fairness, I did warn you it wasn't particularly hard sci-fi...

Messiah's Shard is available to buy now! Subscribe for more news from the world (and brain) of Mark W. Bonnett!