Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Holmes’ approach to the Science of Deduction – tips, clues and details to writing the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes – A resource for Mystery Authors

While writing the Supernatural Case-Files of Sherlock Holmes, one of the most difficult facets was attempting to duplicate Holmes’ amazing powers of deduction with the same flavor and flare that Doyle did. 
How much can Holmes know from a murder scene?  How do we write a mystery with a character like Holmes in it, and still preserve any element of suspense for the reader?  What does Holmes know partway through any given story compared to what Watson knows, and is the reader somewhere between these two points, or somewhere entirely differently.
It’s a daunting task.
Grappling with these details, in addition to the expected and not-insignificant task of evoking Holmes, Watson, London and Doyle’s flare for the dramatic called for an enormous amount of research.  I usually spend as much time planning and outlining one of these stories (usually about twice the length of most of the original stories) as I do planning out my original full-length novels.
Not surprisingly, the best source for research was Doyle himself.  So what follows is the fruits of that research, namely, the details of every deduction: snipped out and categorized into sections (People, Letters, Ashes, Tracks, etc.) for easy reference, with the original references so you can find what story it came from.  I did this in story order, so the many deductions from ‘A Study in Scarlet’ head most of these lists. 
Also, this list is not complete.  I usually work on it every time I start a new Holmes story, and get yanked away as the task accomplishes its goal of giving the data I need.  Currently, I’ve culled all the way through to The Adventure of the Norwood Builder in The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  This is page 423 out of 987 in my version of the Canon, so only about halfway through.  Still, since it’s served its purpose for a number of times, I thought it might be useful to other pastichers wanting to inflict their narratives on the long-suffering public.   


Epic Fantasy

I had a relative ask me for a recommendation for Epic Fantasy.  I got so into writing one up, I thought it worth posting.  This is hardly an exhaustive list, merely what first jumped to mind for someone who knew of Tolkien and Jordan, and looking for more.

Name of the Wind (Kingkiller series) - Patrick Rothfuss
    (This one was a *lot* of fun.  It was the breakaway novel of last year with a lot of fun extra touches you don't always see with Epic Fantasy these days.  It's part of a trilogy, and unfortunately, the second isn't out yet, but it was pretty satisfying on it's own, too.)

The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry), Tigana, Song for Arbonne or virtually anything else by Guy Gavriel Kay
     This guy just has such a beautiful poetic prose.  Everything he writes is simply gorgeous.  Fionavar is one of the few Tolkienesque stories that outrank Tolkien.  Most of these are older, however, so anyone reading fantasy for awhile will probably already know him.  Recent stuff includes the Sarantine Mosaic (2 book series) that was just as wonderful as the earlier stuff.

Mistborn (Final Empire) - Brandon Sanderson
     This is the rising star of Epic Fantasy, the guy they tapped to finish Robert Jordan's colossal Wheel of Time.  He's got lots of books, 5 different series or so.

Her Majesty's Dragon (Temaraire) - Naomi Novik
     Take the Napoleanic Wars ala Hornblower, but remove all the ships and stick in dragons.  With all the right historical touches, this was pretty awesome if you've got any swashbuckle in you at all.

Neverwhere, American Gods or Anansi Boys - Neil Gaimen
     (This guy is the Midas of Fantasy.  Everything he writes is fantastic.  He's got no real trilogy, only isolated works, but just about all of them are well-deserved award winners.  He'd by my favorite on this list if Kay didn't edge him out.)

Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin
     We're moving from light to dark here, and this one gets *dark*, but it's because of the gritty realism that a lot of Epic fantasy folks just went absolutely nuts for it.  Really made this one gripping and unique.  Bonus points for having 5 books already out, so lots to read.  (I actually wrote this list before I'd seen any of the shows, but that's just an added bonus now!)

This is clearly just the tip of the iceberg.  I'd love to see comments with further recommendations for the ones I missed.   :^)

Nice! Remember when vampires were scary?


Still Excited about STEAMED review

I keep getting comments from this kind review Cindy Spencer Pape did on STEAMED!  Thanks, Cindy!

Here's the repost:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek: DS9

Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek: DS9
What I really owe here is a 12-page paper - this is going to fall about 11.5 pages short of that, but hopefully, I'll still get my main point across.  This is mostly for Dani Shaped Object and the other folks at WorldCon.  It's an old argument, but a passionate one, even after all this time.

Here's a link to a giant list of similarities between the two series - though I include this with much hesitation, as it's not a really compelling list, and it doesn't really include my main point.  (Does it really matter that each series had a Lyta/Leeta or Dukhat/Dukat?  Not so much, since the characters themselves were very different.  Still...it's an awfully long list.)


Also included in this article is the link to "Grand Theft Drama" detailing Straczynski's claim that Paramount executives had DS9 developed only after turning down the incredibly similar Bab 5.  Again, that's not really my main issue, either, though it's interesting.

My main point is simply the format, which appeals to me deeply as a writer.  After watching 3-4 years of TNG which (as much as I loved) was often frustrating for lack of any overarching plot, Bab 5 - and shortly thereafter, DS9 - was such a welcome innovation.  Bab 5 had a 7 year story arc right from the beginning - and rewatching the series, you can see how deeply imbedded that arc.  (Later this got compacted to 5 years.)  Powers and civilizations rise and fall, politics change, *characters* change.  A lot.  This was something missing in the Star Trek world, which invariably ended every episode with a world exactly the same as it began.  After the success of Bab 5, DS9 quickly followed suit - with a great many similarities in that overarching plot.  With its larger production values and bigger studio, it quickly overshadowed Bab 5.  (Paramount still never really developed larger stories for TNG - their cash cow - in the same way.) 

I can't emphasize how striking this was, watching all of this happen when the shows first aired.  The stories seemed larger than life, more interesting and complicated then even seen before in the Star Trek world.  As did the characters.  The changes that happen to Lando Mollari's character had no parallel in the Star Trek world, except (possibly) in the larger-scale movies.  This was exciting sh*t!  Sure they'd been doing this kind of thing in Soap Operas and elsewhere for decades, but Star Trek had somehow avoided that up until now.

So my point is merely this: that while I adored both series, I feel anyone rewatching Star Trek: DS9 owes a word of thanks to Straczynski as much as to anyone who actually worked on DS9. 
(We also started to see a little bit of this even in the ultra-conservative TNG, with things like actual romances between characters that *didn't* get reset by some alternate-universe whammy, but only on season 7, when it was due to end.)

Also, I still harbor the fantasy where my fav Bab 5 characters (Delenn, Lando & G'Kar) all get imported along with the Shadow War Arc into the DS9 world and their awesome characters.  (And better special effects and budget.)  Sheridan was fine, but I think of Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas or Mira Firlan sparring verbally with Avery Brooks or RenĂ© Auberjonois, say...I get the willies.

OK, so maybe I got 2 or 3 pages out of this.