April 23, 2015

Dulemba Blog Guest Post

Hi! I'm over at Elizabeth Dulemba's blog today, talking about patience and writing Drift. She has amazing coloring books pages she's drawn and lots of interviews with authors -- it's a great site to check out.

Here's the start of my post:

Patience is an under-sung virtue in the publishing world.  Nearly a decade ago, I sat in a college classroom listening to a professor talk about how the Classic Maya envisioned the world as being on the back of a turtle, surrounded by a watery hell. I knew I had to write a story about that. (continue)

April 7, 2015

The Game of Psychological Warfare: Guestpost from David Walton

Today I'm very excited to welcome David Walton to the blog to talk about one of his favorite boardgames. His fantasy novel Quintessence is one of the finest books I've read in years. His newest book, Superposition, is out today. And now, from David...

The Game of Psychological Warfare
I recently introduced my oldest four children to the classic game of Risk, a favorite of my younger days.  Despite its length (the game always last a bit longer than you wished it would), its mix of strategy, randomness, and the thrill of taking over the world can be addictive.  The aspect of the game that really sets it apart, however, is the psychological component.  The best Risk players aren't the ones who have the strategy down, but those who can manipulate the other players into handing over the victory.

A player's power in Risk can be measured by how many armies she has.  The more armies, the more countries and continents she will conquer, and thus the more armies she will continue to acquire.  The problem is, as soon as she gains too much power (particularly when she controls a continent), she will inevitably bring the combined might of the other players down on her.  So how can she gain power without losing it?

The answer is psychological warfare.  The winning player will be able to gain power while simultaneously convincing the other players that he is not a threat.  He will talk the other players into fighting each other instead of him, thus bleeding away the rest of the power on the board while retaining his own.  Of course, this can't go on indefinitely--eventually his power will be so great that the other players can no longer be fooled.  But by then it will be too late.

I've seen this accomplished in multiple ways.  There are bullies, who scorn other players for the foolish choice of attacking them.  There are advisers, who give kind counsel to other players, explaining what course of action they should take for their own good (which of course involves attacking someone else).  There are the humble players, who feign a lack of skill while quietly growing in unnoticed power.  That's where the strategic choice in the game really figures--not in which continent to conquer first or how many armies to leave behind, but in how to convince the other players to fight each other instead of you.

Then there's the kicker.

It's the one rule that makes the difference in every Risk game: the rule that gives you all of a player's Risk cards if you knock him out of the game.  This is usually the point where the psychological player rips off her mask and shows herself for the power-hungry conqueror she is.  Her full power is suddenly brought to bear to destroy another player utterly, acquiring those precious cards and tipping the scales irreversibly in her favor.  Every game can have some flavor of psychology in their play, but I don't think I've ever encountered a board game where the psychological component is as significant to victory as it is in Risk.

This does raise a question: can the strategy of a game have a moral component?  Is it ethical to play a game where, no matter what friendships you pretend as the game goes on, you will inevitably stab someone in the back by the end and sweep everyone else off the board?  Do we want games that train our children to be effective manipulators of other people?  Is this just a sanitized opportunity to practice ruthlessness?

I don't think so.

Like all strategy games, Risk sharpens the mind, honing wits for problem solving and effective prediction of complex cause and effect.  Games like this promote flexible thinking and the ability to adapt when plans go awry.  That the game includes a strong psychological component just expands the nature of that thinking to include human concepts, not just mathematical or geometric ones.  It trains the mind to adapt to changing social structures and hierarchies, to engage with human systems to achieve a desired goal.  Just like in a novel, where we can assume for a time the thinking and perspective of another human being, games strengthen our ability to think outside the box, and outside of ourselves.

And besides... conquering the world is terrific fun.

---

David Walton is the author of the newly released novel SUPERPOSITION, a quantum physics murder mystery with the same mind-bending, breathless action as films like INCEPTION and MINORITY REPORT.  His other works include the Philip K. Dick Award-winning TERMINAL MIND, the historical fantasy QUINTESSENCE (Tor, 2013) and its sequel, QUINTESSENCE SKY.  He's also a Lockheed Martin engineer and the father of seven children.  You can read about his books and life at http://www.davidwaltonfiction.com/.

April 1, 2015

Guest Post: M. Darusha Wehm and Ex Libris

I'm very happy to have Darusha Wehm, a fellow Codexiian, here today to talk about one of her favorite board games. She also just had a novel released -- check it out below. And now for Darusha...



Ex Libris is possibly the perfect game for fiction writers.

It’s basically Balderdash for books. The premise is simple: receive a synopsis of a real, English language novel. Write a fake first or last line for the book. Read them all out, along with the real one. Guess the right one. Die laughing.

The game consists of a deck of cards, on each of which is the title and author of a real book, a brief synopsis, and the actual first and last sentences of the novel. Like Balderdash, one player picks a card, reads it out and decides whether the others will write the first or last line. In my experience, the choice is based on which of the real sentences sounds most like something one of the other players might write, or is hilarious in its lack of context. Points are awarded for guessing the correct line and when other players incorrectly guess your submission as the right one.

While a version of this could be played by using books just lying around, one of the great things about the game is its large variety of books. There are some classics in there (which does give a guessing advantage to widely read players), but there are also some pretty bizarre stories included as well. I strongly suspect many books were chosen because of their unusual first and last lines.

If you have a group of friends who all write, or are creative and enjoy books, this game is one where the time just disappears.

You need at least three to play and the more the merrier. http://oxfordgames.co.uk/shop/ex-libris/


Children of Arkadia
Kaus wants nothing more than to be loved while its human counterpart, Raj Patel, believes fervently in freedom. Arkadia, one of four space stations circling Jupiter, was to be a refuge for all who fought the corrupt systems of old Earth, a haven where both humans and Artificial Intelligences could be happy and free. But the old prejudices and desires are still at play and, no matter how well-meaning its citizens, the children of Arkadia have tough compromises to make.

When the future of humanity is at stake, which will prove more powerful: freedom or happiness? What sacrifices will Kaus, Raj, and the rest of Arkadia’s residents have to make to survive?

M. Darusha Wehm is the three-time Parsec Award shortlisted author of the novels Beautiful Red, Self Made, Act of Will and The Beauty of Our Weapons. Her next novel, Children of Arkadia, is forthcoming from Bundoran Press on April 28, 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Toasted Cake and Escape Pod. She is the editor of the crime and mystery magazine Plan B.

She is from Canada, but currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after spending the past several years traveling at sea on her sailboat. For more information, visit http://darusha.ca.

February 10, 2015

Why SFF: A Reading List

I'm over at David Walton's blog, talking about why I write science fiction and fantasy -- which I do by looking at things I love to read at why. Click here for the post!

David's the author of Quintessence, which was absolutely fantastic. He's got a new book coming out this year, too, which I'm looking forward to. In any case, definitely check out his website.

February 8, 2015

Unlikely Influences: Two Lessons from Toy Story

I'm guest-blogging over at Kate Heartfield's blog on her Unlikely Influence Series:
Unlikely Influences is a series of weekly blog posts about how science fiction and fantasy writers can learn the tricks of their trade in odd places.
 I'm writing about what Toy Story taught me about endings! Click here to read.

January 29, 2015

The Great Con Question

I'm over at Inkpunks today, guest posting on conventions -- and whether or not writers should go to them. Check it out here.