The Joys of Old Time Science Fiction
Today was a lot of fun. I got to go the Phoenix Skeptics meeting where we do our annual predictions. In 2009 we hit on 83.3% if our predictions. This is down from last year, but we actually predicted correctly that our percentage would be lower than in 2008. Yes, we are just that good. After that I knocked off another chapter and then went out dancing at Kat’s Korner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a very good deal.
I usually read something for a bit to wind down as I’m heading to bed. Recently I have been reading Paizo.com’s Planet Stories publication Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner. It has a wonderful introduction by F. Paul Wilson that provides a comprehensive bio of the author and some background details on the five Gallegher short stories that make up this collection. (Full disclosure: I got this collection in my freebie bag at the World Fantasy Convention; but I also have done work in the past for Paizo, and will do more in the future for them; and am friends with the owner and members of the staff. I am not being compensated for what follows.)
These stories are pure pulp wonderfulness. Gallegher is an inventor who does his best work when he is blackout drunk. The stories revolve around his sober self having to figure out what he did drunk to get him out of very complicated situations. For example, in one story, the police are looking at him as a suspect in his own murder. The stories are fun and funny; sometimes downright zany—and yet have heart and are heartwarming in some cases. It’s good solid science fiction puzzle stories with tons of character and character development. I am just loving reading the stories and wish there were more than five of them. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough as an entertaining and inspiring read.
And I do sincerely mean inspiring. Kuttner manages to push his stories to the limit with characters who always remain in character and, thereby, serve as more than just pawns to be shoved around through the tale. It’s an aspect of stories that I manage to hit sometimes, but not often enough, especially in shorter work. While anthologies do give a writer some freedom (since the stories are all but guaranteed to be taken if they are at all on point), it’s not an easy thing to let characters range around and define themselves without appearing to be wasting words. Kuttner does it, however, and I’ll be going back over these stories to figure out exactly how he does it.
Then I’ll figure out how I can do something similar in my work.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to with the freedom of digital publishing is getting to play more. It is clearly evident that Henry Kuttner was having a blast writing these stories. I do know that feeling. I’ve been lucky enough to have several characters: Corran Horn, Nolan, Neal, Trick Molloy, Farrell Holmes who have all made writing their stories effortless. (The same is true for Nathaniel, Owen and Vlad in the current novel, by the way.)
When you are looking for good work to enjoy, and work you can learn a lot from, take a look at Robots Have No Tails. Definitely stories that will put a smile on your face.