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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Edgar Allan Poe: Horror Writer, Sci Fi Writer

A portrait photo of Edgar Allan Poe.

Yesterday marked the 209th birthday of the father of American horror, Edgar Allen Poe. So I thought it would be neat to make this post a Poe post to honour him. Although my favorite of Poe’s works are his dark supernatural stories, I thought it was important to emphasise his science fiction which has been historically so underrated. So I’m excerpting from an article I had written several years ago for the online news site,, before it went obsolete. The article was about the Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum in Baltimore which was on the edge of permanently closing down at the time which, fortunately, due to a successful petition (which I signed), ended up not happening.

When I wrote the article, I thought it was so important that the Poe House and Museum be preserved because it is both an important landmark to U.S. and pop cultural history. Even though Poe’s imaginative works were often down-criticised and far underrated during his time, the early 19th century, that all paid off in the century following his own. His works influenced famous modern authors of horror and sci fi such as H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. A multitude of movies have adapted his fiction, namely ones produced under American International Pictures which many of starred Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Several of his stories have also been adapted to comic books. Even rock bands base their songs on him. So he’s definitely become a pop cultural figure even if in postmortem. But many of his influences on these aspects of popular culture have been typically seen in relation to horror rather than science fiction. So here’s the excerpt that explains otherwise:

From “The Closing of Baltimore’s Poe House and Museum”,

Poe, so well known for his gothic horror stories, is seldom thought of as a science fiction author. However, it has been argued that he was an early writer of science fiction as well as horror and detective fiction. In fact, he has been regarded by the University of Baltimore’s Baltimore Literary Heritage Project team to be the first true science fiction writer. According to the Project, Poe “created the first true science fiction story.” Many of Poe’s stories about flying machines and hot air balloons that travel to unknown lands were influences for the better known, late 19th/early 20th centuries’ science fiction authors’ works, such as Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. In fact, “Jules Verne himself acknowledged his dept to Poe [. . .]”, states Harold Beaver in his book, The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. California State University, Sacramento English professor, Mark Hennelly, Jr. explains in his article, “Oedipus and Orpheus in the Maelstrom”, the journey in Poe’s stories, such as “A Descent Into the Maelstrom”, in terms of scientific exploration and wonder by saying that the characters are “obsessed with terrestrial (and marine) depth, [. . . and] preoccupied with celestial elevation” which much of science fiction concerns itself with.

Harold Beaver’s book, the Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, collects these stories as Poe’s science fiction:

“Ms. Found in a Bottle”
“The Unparalleled Adventure/Hans Pfaall”
“The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”
“A Descent into the Maelstrom”
“Colloquy of Monos and Una”
“”The Tale of the Ragged Mountains”
“The Balloon Hoax”
“Mesmeric Revelation”
“The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade”
“Some Words with a Mummy”
“The Power of Words”
“The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”
“Mellonta Tauta”
“Von Kempelen and His Discovery”

If Poe wasn’t the first science fiction author ever, he still contributed significantly to the genre.

List of My Favourite Poe Tales

As I said, my favorite tales by Poe are the dark supernatural ones. But out of the sci fi ones I would say I like “A Descent into the Maelstrom” most. It’s dark within itself and also has a supernatural element to it as it does a science fiction one, which you can say in today’s sub-genre terms is inter-dimensional travel. But here’s a list of my favourite supernatural fiction by Poe:

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Pit and the Pendulum: This was the first Poe story I ever read. I read it in it’s abridged version when I was 11 from a book of his tales that I checked out at my school’s library. Today (literally) I’m reading this one to celebrate his birthday. It’s from The Illustrated Edgar Allen Poe, a book that contains select full stories but is also beautifully illustrated by the artist, Satty. It’s a copy I came across in the dealer’s room at one of the first full conventions I went to several years ago, BayCon in San Jose, CA.

The Masque of the Red Death

The Murders In the Rue Morgue

Without Poe’s work, there probably wouldn’t be speculative fiction in the sense we know it today. They’re may not even be a horror genre as we know it today.

So what are your favorite works by Poe?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Looking At the Very Near Future of 2018: Writing Resolutions

A wizard lays a hand on a crystal ball while firing off a blow torch.

Well, as you may have noticed, 2018 isn’t getting a good start here at the Far Out Fantastic Site since I missed posting last week. So I apologise for that. It was a busy weekend, and some of us celebrate the holidays as long as six days into the new year and since this isn’t a religious blog I won’t go into details with the exception of a few clues: Magic, Magi and Three Kings. Put them together or do a Google search on all three, which is, by the way, a number that has traditionally been believed by many societies to be magic.

Last blog post we looked back at the previous year of 2017. This post let’s look into the very near future of 2018 of a not very well-known author’s life. To be specific, let’s look at this author’s planned resolutions of the new year.

My Very Near, Planned Future of 2018

1. Do more live events to promote my books. As I said last post, one of my greatest accomplishments of 2017 was doing my first live event to promote my books. Because that was so successful, I’m going to try promoting at more conventions.

2. Submit a short story to at least three (that magic number again!) publications. For the last five years or so I have been focusing on self-publishing more than anything and so had only been considering publications for submission. But in order to broaden your chances of making your work known to a wider audience, an author should take as many routes possible. So I’m going to give an ample amount of time throughout the year to research the markets and submit to at least three of them.

3. (Aaaand that magic number again!) Resume the publishing process of my second short fiction collection. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve worked on my second book of short fiction, that I had entitled The Hidden. When I last spoke of it , I said I would take a “slight hiatus”, though it’s been a little longer than slight. I had also said that I would publish some of the stories for that collection individually and so each as its own book. I only did that with one so far, which was “Circa SixtyYears Dead” Because I’ve seen how well publishing a single short work as such works, I’m planning to return to self-publishing the second collection. So, how well did publishing the above mentioned single short story work? Well enough to move on to publishing it in the upcoming collection.

4. Write another novella. As I also said last time, writing a full draft of a novella was a great accomplishment for 2017 because it was the first time I completed a draft in that format. So this year’s goal will be to write a second novella in full first draft format and begin the revision process.

5. Give A Far Out Fantastic Site a new look. It’s been more than two years since I changed the appearance of the blog, so it’s due for new appearance. You’re probably sick of seeing an image of several heads floating in a vortex. An image that’s repeated across the screen 10-plus times!

6. Advocate more overtly for Freehand Illustration. You may have noticed by now, if you’ve been reading my blog for at least the last year, that I’ve discussed a lot of the benefits of freehand book illustration, especially for covers, in this age of computer art (a.k.a. digital art). I think 2018 will be the year that I start carrying out more strategy to promote other freehand illustrators’ work so the world will see the aesthetic value in art made by the active technicques of human beings rather than the methods of machines.

Everybody's Very Near Future of 2018?

Well, that’s looking at my future life of 2018. Now whether it’s to be fulfilled or not is a different story. But now what about the future of all of us for 2018? Well, I was reading an interesting article concerning that. Anticipation of 2018 was actually attempted by intellects in 1968. And, as the article discusses, while much of that anticipation missed the mark, some of it came pretty close. Give it a read. You may be surprised. It’s in the online version (and probably the hard copy one as well) of The New Yorker and is called The 1968 Book That Tried to Predict the World of 2018”

Along similar lines, a documentary, made not too long after the book that the above mentioned article discusses, is the 1972 documentary Future Shock. And even though the predictions of this documentary, which was based on the 1970 book of the same name, are not precise they also come eerily close. It’s really well-made, partly because it’s narrated by the great Orson Welles. So I suggest you check it out as well, which you can do for free on YouTube.

So what are your plans, predictions and/or resolutions for the immediate future of 2018?

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Back In Time At the Writing Accomplishments of 2017

A model of a 19th Century/steampunk-style time machine

I hope everybody’s been enjoying this Holiday Season! I had a groovy Christmas Eve and Day. I was in Fresno during that time visiting the family there. My brother took me and his son to see Star Wars the Last Jedi which was just awesome! And only last night, did I see The Force Awakens on DVD. That is, I saw it for the second time only yesterday since seeing it in the theatre two Christmases ago, also with my brother and his son. (Hey, I think a new Holiday tradition is forming in my family!) Now you’re probably wondering why I’m watching the two movies out of order? Well, I hadn’t actually planned on watching the latest movie until I returned here to Sacramento, because I wanted to refresh myself on Force Awakens first. But since I only see my brother and his family a few times throughout the year, I couldn’t resist an invitation to see a movie like Star Wars with them. But now that I’m back, I’m watching the two movies in order and so will see Last Jedi again by the beginning of the new year. So this year’s been ending well.

Often a person feels a little sad when the year’s coming to an end, and you don’t quite know what to expect on the other side of the door between the old year and the new. But if great things happened in former then great, if not greater, ones will happen in the latter as well. So I thought it would be good to close out this year by looking back on my writing accomplishments of 2017 and what I learned from them that I can take into the upcoming year. These accomplishments were:

1. Guest-bloggingabout RPG and writing on Christine Rains Blog: when you guest-blog on a fellow author’s website, it introduces you and your work to other authors and readers. I don’t guest-blog as much as other authors already do, so I consider this a big accomplishment in any year.

2. Completing myfirst novella’s first draft: I’m not a big writer of long fiction such as novels, so completing my first novella in its rough draft form has been a significant success for me. I read over it too, and noted revisions that needed to be made but then decided, at least for now, not to continue with the revision process. It’s not a story that I think I’ll be able to stick with, knowing the short attention span I have. What is important about this accomplishment, though, is that I committed myself to writing a full first draft of a long work, a form of fiction that I’ve never written before. Having done that, writing the next novella will probably come easier to me.

3. Publishing thepaperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”: This isn’t the first time that I’ve published a paperback, but even the self-publishing process can be trying whether it’s for a print book or e-book, and so this is definitely a significant accomplishment for me.

4. Producing mybusiness card: For at least two years I had been saying that I was going to officialise myself more as a pro author by coming out with a business card but kept putting it off. I did that just so I could work on the product of the business, the writing itself. Not so in 2017!

5. My first vendortable at a convention and making sales from my books: Like with the business card, I kept telling myself I would set up a vendor table and kept putting it off until this year. One of the reasons why I kept postponing it was because I knew how hard it was to break even by selling books at live events. And do you know what happened? I didn’t break even. But I did sell some books. Now what’s so successful about selling books but not making a profit? The success is about the promotion of those books. The more books you get into people’s hands and the more money you make in doing so, the more you enhance your rep as a professional author regardless of profit.

6. Participating ina blog hop: This past Halloween I volunteered my time posting for author Patricia Lynn’s Trick-Or-Treat Blog Hop. As with guest-blogging, I probably don’t do blog hops as much as most indie authors do, and so this too was a major achievement in promoting my work.

So, what have I made of all these accomplishments? I’ve learned that when an author puts him- or herself out in the community, online or off, it can make a big difference. I’ve promoted and sold plenty of my books online. But I didn’t imagine I would sell any on my first day of retailing them at a live event, which is exactly what happened at Sac Con back in October. The more you put yourself out there in the community, the better connection you’ll make and the more sales you’ll make. But even if you don’t make any sales, readers of your genre get to know you more both as an author and reader. So expect to see me at at least one other live event selling books and talking sci fi/fantasy in general this upcoming year of 2018.

So what are your writing accomplishments of 2017? For those of you who are more avid readers than writers, what are your reading accomplishments of the year? For example, did you get through a bigger number of books this year than you did last year? Or did you finally start reading that author you’ve been declaring to read for several years?

Until next year of 2018 . . . !

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holiday Post: Krampus’s List of 6 Tales of Terror Toys

Credit: Pixabay

What does a writer of dark fiction like myself write for a Holiday blog post? I’m not really a fan of black Christmas fiction, but I do love the comical holiday fairy tale flick, The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as other weird Holiday films such as the cheesy Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. But since this is more of a literary fiction blog, I thought I would do something in the line of that. I decided to do terrifying toys in speculative fiction that doesn’t necessarily take place during Christmas. So below is a list of mostly horror stories about terrible toys. And I don’t mean “terrible” as in cheap or defected like the Misfit Toys in Rankin/Bass’s “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”. I’m talking about terrible toys that the Krampus might bring to naughty boys and girls. Some of them are so terrible that even Krampus may be too nice to bring. Instead he might bring those to evil grownups. The list is in no particular order.

1. “Don’t Ask Jack”, by Neil Gaiman; from his collection, Smoke and Mirrors: In this dark tale, the kids are afraid of the Jack-In-the-Box buried at the bottom of the toy box in their play room. That’s because the Jack in this story holds a horrifying secret.

2. Coraline, again, by Neil Gaiman: In this chilling children’s/YA novel, the title character encounters living toys and people with doll-buttons for eyes.

3. “A Toy for Juliette”, Robert Bloch, from the anthology, Dangerous Visions (edited by Harlan Ellison): This story, set in a dark future, is about a girl whose toys are torture devices from the different time periods her grandfather travels to. This time, Grandpapa brings her back one from the Victorian era: an infamous serial killer.

4. “The Monkey”, Stephen King, from his collection, Skeleton Crew: A boy’s toy cymbal-banging monkey has a deadly curse.

5. “Chattery Teeth”, Again, Stephen King, from his Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Wind-up clockwork teeth with feet “talk”, walk and bite. . . big time.

6. “The Doll”, Joyce Carol Oates, from her Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque: A woman visits a stranger’s house that contains a doll house and, in a sense, a man-size doll that no little girl (or big girl for that matter) should want to ever play with.

So here’s some winter reading for you to sit back and relax over on a dark, stormy night after the Holiday festivities have ended for the year! And if you can’t wait to gather all these, then check out my terror toy story, “The Puppet Show”, for free! If you like that, consider buying the collection it’s from, The Fool’sIllusion. It will make a great nightmare before (and after) Christmas gift!

Next week’s post will be looking back on my writing projects of 2017 and what I learned from them. Maybe it will also cover the 2017 works of other science fiction/fantasy writers.

Happy Hallowdays!

Twin snow-covered Christmas trees topped with Santa caps.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Absence of Net Neutrality May Mean Less Fiction Sub Genres

Last week, the FCC did something that any indie author or artist of any sort would never want to see it do: it repealed the net neutrality regulations. These regulations protected fair access to online content that wouldn’t be hindered by big companies paying for faster service. Indie authors and their readers can’t afford this repeal since it will limit access to certain websites on the internet. Doing so will limit access to niche genres of fiction.

In general, the absence of net neutrality will cause internet users to have to pay extra for faster access to websites. It will also cause many website owners to have to pay extra to make their content accessible. This puts many indie authors and their readers at a disadvantage because many indie authors don’t have the funds to pay for the faster internet service when promoting their work and many of their readers are in a similar financial situation. 

This class preference of internet access can limit the choices for consumers who have specific interests that are lesser known to the majority. These special interests include niche genres of fiction, also known as sub-genres. For example, in science fiction and fantasy there are very specific sub-genres. Some of these are steampunk, atompunk, zombie horror, vampire horror, urban fantasy, and many types of ethnic speculative fiction. While steampunk has become more or less mainstream in the last few years and so may not have an online promotion problem, atompunk and ecopunk are both very obscure and so may have a problem. And even though ethnic sci fi and fantasy, particularly by authors of color, has been more accepted it is still not supported enough by the big literary companies. Big publishers and book retailers who have the money to pay for faster internet service only promote what sells the most rather than what niche audiences are seeking. So if internet servers give these companies preference then indie and self-publishing authors will be hindered in promoting their work online. If that happens then it means less niche genres for even online stores such as Amazon.

I’ll admit, I’m not an expert on something as complex as the net neutrality issue so I cannot say a whole lot about how it works. However, Cory Doctorow has a great article out that simplifies the issue of net neutrality in general while giving more details on it. His article at is actually a summarised version of a larger one which he has the link to there. If you aren’t that familiar with net neutrality then I suggest you read the shorter version at Craphound then go to the larger one so you’ll get a better grip on the issue. Contrary to what he says in the shorter version, the issue can get very complex but he clarifies it really good.

So, what can we do now that FCC has made one of the biggest nightmares of 21st century writers and artists a reality? Many net neutrality advocate groups have been saying they will take legal action against the FCC’s decision since it is something that goes against a constitutional right, the right to distribute and access the information one wants regardless of class, a right that ties in with the First Amendment. So watch for these groups’ reactions to the issue in the upcoming weeks and support them in their mission to restore net neutrality.

All may seem lost for us writers and artists of the indie and freelance realms, but this is a time of year for celebrating hope rather than despair. The hope is that we have a gift of endless creativity, and that’s a creativity we can use to support the advocacy of net neutrality.

Until next time . . .  

A cartoon depicting a robot Santa Claus observing a Christmas tree while a robot child jumps with joy.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Science In Sci Fi and . . . Fantasy?

Two alien bat men with three spaceships silhouetted in the background sky.

I apologise for posting so late again. The Thanksgiving holiday was extra busy for me and last weekend had too many things that needed catching up on. I also was a little ill some of the week but am much better now. I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, though. It seems like the holiday was just yesterday and we’re already hurtling toward Christmas!

About a week ago, I came across a really neat article on the website Earther entitled “Rare Manuscript Exhibit Explores How Climate Disasters CreateMonsters”. Well, if climate disaster isn’t doing that, some other natural or technological disaster is. The article shows how climate change has influenced not only science fiction but even certain types of fantasy fiction too, especially horror. The author of this article, Maddie Stone, uses examples from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and, believe it or not, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

A lot of science fiction, needless to say, has been influenced by natural and technological disasters. But fewer people are aware that fantasy and supernatural horror have also been influenced by these things. But what’s interesting about Stone’s article is that it reports on an exhibit that is going on at the Rosenbach Library in Pennsylvania called Gothic Monster, Modern Science. The exhibit features manuscripts of classic horror authors such as Shelly and Stoker and the scientific events of their times that helped shaped their stories. One of these, Stone explains, was an 1815 volcanic eruption that had climate changing effects: a year-round “winter” for much of the Western world and disease outbreaks.

Needless to say, climate change is a big issue today and has been influencing much contemporary science fiction. It’s also needless to say that climate change isn’t the only scientific disaster that has influenced sci fi. However, fewer people would think science has influenced supernatural fiction. Even the fantasy epic Game of Thrones book and television series reflect today’s issue of global warming by setting the story in a world where a winter or summer can last several years. But other scientific phenomena and the anxiety it raises in people have also influenced these stories. Some of these phenomena have been artificial intelligence, robotics and genetic engineering, in which these three have provoked the same basic concern that Frankenstein has: artificially creating or recreating life. This concern has been suggested in novels such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, its movie adaptation Blade Runner and the movie’s recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049.

As far as epidemics go, the vampire curse in Dracula is approached in part as a virus rather than so much as a curse and so the characters attempt to cure it as such. This element has continued to be used in horror fiction since then, including other vampire tales such as Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and its movie adaptations, werewolf films and today’s zombie fiction. 

But Stone’s article focuses on the subject of climate change and the Gothic horror fiction of the past. It discusses how the subject is reflected in the authors’ notes and manuscripts on display at the Rosenbach and how natural disasters lead to the creation of monsters in these stories. For what is a monster in fiction but a metaphor for an overwhelming force that seems to be unstoppable in real life, such as climate change and unbeatable computer viruses that infect what are supposed to be the most secure of databases such as Equifax’s? The monster in much horror, whether it be supernatural or science fiction horror, represents these catastrophic forces and society’s fear of them. I strongly suggest you take a look at Stone’s article for the details.

Speculative fiction is a way to help us deal with the present time’s catastrophic problems and how to put something into perspective that’s otherwise so overwhelming or chaotic. It’s an escape from the problems of our own reality as reflected in the news while also a way to deal with those problems through imaginary means. We hope it will help us come up with real solutions to the problems, like science fiction has done in many instances such as in medical science and education both of which advancements in computer technology has contributed to.

I’ll try to discuss where I’m at with my writing projects, have some writing tips and maybe even another link to a fantastic find here next time.

Until then . . .

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Writing: Revisions and Motivations

I apologise for not having posted since the special Halloween post. I wasn’t feeling my best one week and then the following week I was really busy with both my day job and writing. In relation to writing, I didn’t make that Halloween deadline for the short horror story I’ve been working on. I’m almost done revising it, so I will have it ready for my critique group soon. Which is the upside of missing that submission deadline: I have a chance to have it critiqued. I wouldn’t have had time for that otherwise.

Writing for a Publication’s Deadline as Motivation

I may either use this story for another magazine accepting submissions or my next short fiction collection that I have taken a hiatus on since last year but plan to resume it in the upcoming one. But I think I got much more done on the story than I would have if I hadn’t been writing for a submission deadline and was doing it for self-publication instead. So if you are a self-publishing author like myself, maybe that can be a great motivator for any writing project: aim to write it for a publication that has a deadline and then as that deadline nears decide whether you want to continue submitting it to the publication or if you want to self-publish it.

Limited Time and Space as Writing Motivators

I will be forced to get motivated with my writing even more this upcoming week. As with last Thanksgiving, I will have family coming to visit for a week and so will be limited not only on my time to write but on space to write in. I live in a small apartment, yet believe family should stay with family when they come to visit for several days, especially when they’re closer relatives. But that is no excuse for a writer to stop working on projects. Steven King worked in a near closet-size wash room typing his stories on a kid’s desk when he and his family lived in a small mobile home. So, if need be, I can work sitting on my bed in my room with my laptop in front of me. Laptops were made for that reason, weren’t they? Or I can go to a local cafe or fast food joint.

Revising My Novella: A Follow-Up to Last Year’s NaNoWriMo

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but have been taking advantage of the time with an alternative to it: revising my novella from last year. I finally pulled it out of the filing cabinet at the beginning of the month, after it had been stashed away there for nearly six months, and started doing surface level revisions and making marginal notes where changes in content are needed. The story is coming across as really cheesy but then it is a first draft, my first full draft of a novel of any sort to be exact. I printed out four of the 100 pages to first see how it reads and determine if it’s intriguing enough to even bother continuing with it. That’s what writing the first draft is all about: getting a story written out completely to see if you want to bother going on revising it or to trash it. It’s an experimental stage that helps you decide if your idea is worth writing about and seeking a publishing route for it (traditional or self-publishing).

So, how do you motivate yourself to write to completion? Do you accommodate for your writing time and space when family and friends come to visit during the holidays? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or are you doing an alternative to it? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and until next time!

Silhouette of a woman raising a meat-carving knife
Mother's ready to carve the turkey!