Fireflies & Laserbeams

The Last Emperox -Scalzi is on Fire!

Sunday April 19, 2020 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | book review | Leave Comments

The Last EmperoxI’ve read a lot of John Scalzi’s books, but of the one’s I’ve read this is by far the best. I absolutely loved this book. The characters are amazingly well defined and well portrayed, and straight up fun. I love old guy that is now a ship, Chenevert, a long-dead king from another Flow system, the foul mouthed Kiva Lagos, who is a contemporary of both the Emperox and the brilliant but evil Nadashe Nohamapeton, constantly scheming to kill the Emperox. I love the leader of this advanced society, Cardenia Wu Patrick also known as Emperox Grayland II, and her boyfriend and flow physicist Marce Claremont. I love the concept and even the names he uses for the characters. It is a showcase of his growing talent as a writer. The story twists and turns and the action hardly slows down. When it does the snappy dialogue is a joy to behold. Scalzi’s sense of humor is on full display here. Better than his Hugo winning Red Shirts by a mile. I listened to the first two on Audible and this one as well. Wil Wheaton does a spectacular job reading all three, this one especially. He knocks it out of the park with this one. This is the last book in a trilogy set in the far future where mankind travels through space using flow streams. But the Streams are collapsing and without them the Interdependency is in great jeopardy. The society was set up 1500 years before to save humanity from civil war that was destroying everything, an now, because of the way it was set up with all the major houses dependent on each other, society will fall into revolt. Scalzi weaves everything together perfectly but doesn’t betray the ending, leaving us with an unexpected but ultimately satisfying ending. It’s also an ending the leaves open the possibility of another series to follow this one, if Claremont takes the path that has been laid out for him. I sure hope Scalzi writes that series. The only thing that disappoints in this trilogy is the length. It’s short by most novel standards, with the third book being shortest of all. That is not to say that it feels incomplete, because it doesn’t and ties all the threads together remarkably well. I’m just sad I finished it so quickly. I was torn because I knew it was going to end but I couldn’t stop listening to it. The entire trilogy gets my highest recommendation. If you like space opera it should be right in your wheelhouse.

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Is Marriage Disposable?

Wednesday August 8, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

Okay this post has very little to do with writing, but I ran across an item that struck a chord with me about something fundamentally wrong with our society these days. I just read a post on Scalzi’s Whatever page written by Lara Zielin. Her post was about a personal event that happened while she was on a storm chasing trip. It ended up inspiring the story behind her book The Waiting Sky, which I’m sure is lovely, but her revelation is about how she realized her marriage was not what she expected it to be. She found attraction to another man while alone on her trip chasing storms in Oklahoma. But while I was reading it I began to wonder which came first, her attraction to the new guy or the fact that she was unhappy in her marriage. It’s not really clear, but the way she describes the events leads one to believe that in her mind she knew she was already unhappy but just hadn’t faced it. I can’t speak from firsthand experience but it seems to me that most people that cheat on their spouse will concoct a reality to justify their actions. The thinking goes something like, if I cheated on my spouse I must have been unhappy or I wouldn’t have cheated. So they start coming up with reasons why they aren’t happy. That’s not to say that some people aren’t justifiably unhappy beforehand and then cheat, but in this instance she hadn’t really come to grips with being unhappy beforehand. She talks about not wanting to return to her “mundane” life after meeting the exciting new guy and falling in love all over again. She began to see her life as unexciting and apparently came to realize she didn’t see her spouse the same way anymore. Her quote, “When was the last time my spouse and I had thought the other was a badass?” The whole thing bothers me. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s become way too common. I don’t know her, and I don’t mean to pick on her, but she put it out there for all to see. It relates to a fundamental problem with our society. When did we stop valuing marriage in this country? This is not about Lara, but about everyone who treats marriage like something disposable. I can’t put my finger on when it happened, but we stopped teaching our young people how to be married. We focus way too much attention on the Wedding and hardly any on how to be married to someone. A marriage is rarely, if ever, a fairy tale. It involves people and most people have issues of one sort of another. Marriage is work, even in the best circumstances. Learning how to be in a relationship takes time and both people have to be committed to the venture. They need to be thinking about their spouse a lot and trying to put them first. If both people are doing this it goes a long way to working through most problems. We haven’t armed our young people with the right tools for dealing with it or where to focus their energy. I don’t know when this turned sour, but somewhere along the line we stopped teaching the merits of trust and empathy and commitment and providing directions for how to do it right. We treat our vows as something less.      
noun 1. a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment: marriage vows; a vow of secrecy. 2. a solemn promise made to a deity or saint committing oneself to an act, service, or condition. 3. a solemn or earnest declaration. We promise our spouse that we will stay with them through better and for worse, richer or poorer and in sickness and in health. At least most have something similar to this. It’s not kind of a promise or half of a pledge. I can’t even think of a word for a ‘not promise’. We don’t say as long as it’s convenient. We give our word to something it should mean something, but in this case you actually have a contract. Ultimately, of course, the only real arbiters of that contract are the parties involved. I really wonder how much effort Lara made to focus her energy on being the best wife she could be. Did she ever talk about her feelings with her husband? I have no idea, but we throw marriage away way too easy these days. The bright shining object always looks enticing, the strange, the hunt, all those things are exciting, but just because it’s not exciting anymore is a horrible reason to get a divorce. It does take two to make it work, but perhaps we enter into these things too lightly, without much preparation or forethought and it’s not necessarily the fault of the people getting married these days, because we stopped teaching them how hard it is and what commitment means. I am on my second marriage, so I hate to cast these stones from my glass house, but my second marriage is completely different, it is wonderful. It’s not perfect, but we have both worked at it every day for the last twenty years. Our marriage is stronger than ever and keeps getting stronger, but it’s not by accident. I have learned my lessons and I am trying to pass those on to my children. We talk about commitment and service and love and how hard it is. But these are things that should be discussed before the marriage, not afterwards when the commitment has been taken. Is it fair to ask someone to stay in a marriage they are unhappy in? It’s not easy. An unhappy marriage is up near the top of the list of shitty things that we may have to deal with in life, right up there with severe medical problems or death of a close family member or friend or trouble in our career. But a relationship can be repaired. That part isn’t easy either, but it all comes back to the pledge we made when we got married. Marriage has great value. It has been the cornerstone of our civilization for hundreds of years. Parents, talk to your kids about marriage. Don’t just spend all your energy and time and money on the Wedding. Teach them about honor and service to their significant other. Teach them how to keep the marriage fresh by doing the little things they did when they were dating, to not take each other for granted. Teach them to not put the other in a position to worry about fidelity. Teach them about talking to each other and how to work out differences and provide each other with expectations. It’s not just young people that suffer from this lack of education. People my age and older suffer from it just as much, this has been going downhill for a long time and the only way to get it back on track is to talk about it. Step one- recognize we have a problem. My kids may not have a great marriage, but it won’t be because they went in with their eyes closed. I have high hopes. Teach your kids and spread the word. Soapbox put away. Clear Ether!

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Book tours and good feedback rock!

Wednesday June 27, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | hunting for representation | Leave Comments

I just gave my critique partner the kind of response I hope to get someday from someone doing a critical review of my stuff.  Her new book is fabulous!  I loved it!  It really blew me away how she is developing as a writer.
Don't we all yearn for that moment that someone says,"OMG!  Your stuff is awesome!"  Sure beats questioning yourself every other day if you are in the right line of work. 
There were of course minor flaws, but that is why we go through the process of having someone else putting their eyes on our work.  Sometimes you go through your WIP so often you start having trouble seeing the mistakes or typos.  Overall the work she sent me was pretty clean, and just needs very minor repairs to be ready for a wider beta audience, if not outright release for an agent.  The stuff I pointed out for her would likely not even be noticed by a lot of readers, but I wanted to be thorough.
I’m very excited for her! Her book should sell in my opinion, and very well if she can find her audience.  It’s better than a lot of stuff I’ve read that has a big following. 
Finding the audience is the trick though isn’t it.  Not only does she have to write a great book, but she has to have some marketing and some luck.  An old friend of mine, Todd Wood, is on a book tour right now for his book, Currency, and he is all over the radio and television in his region.  I haven’t asked him if he is sponsoring all that work or if his publisher/agent is helping with any of it, but I plan to.  I also read that John Scalzi is doing his book tour for his latest release, Redshirts.  His publisher is picking up a lot of the tab if not the entire enchilada.  This is something the DIYer has to do on his/her own dime.  As well as pay for an editor if they are smart.   It is the major downside to self-pub, in that you are not only the writer, but you’re responsible for getting the cover done and doing all your own marketing and promotion, all of which takes away from writing time.  If you are a known quantity like Scalzi the name recognition alone will generate some sales.  The Self-Publisher is relying on word of mouth and a great deal of luck.
At this point I am leaning toward finding a good agent and trying to get a book deal traditionally.  I think that is where my friend Stacy is going too and I wish her the very best luck in the world at landing a great agent/publisher!
Clear Ether!

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