Tag Archives: Inspiration

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned into Stories

I come across the most beautiful, scary, haunting, and fascinating images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

They’re the kind of images that demand an audience, so today I’m sharing a few of these unusual pictures with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired by them. If anyone uses one of these images as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

 

An Unbroken Doll

The fact that this doll’s face was broken at one point doesn’t surprise me. Toys break all of the time.

Who painstakingly glued her back together, though?

That isn’t the kind of chore that can be finished in a few minutes. It probably took days of carefully sifting through the sharp porcelain pieces of her head to figure out how every piece fit together and what kind of glue works best for this sort of delicate project.

It would take a lot of determination to see this project through to the end. I imagine only someone who had a strong emotional urge to do it would succeed.

 

The Pretty Poison

None of the household poisons I’ve ever seen look anything like this.

The purple liquid sure seems like it would smell nice. I’m imagining a light, floral scent that almost disappears once air hits it. You’d have to be quite close to it to catch a whiff of anything.

That wouldn’t make it any less dangerous, of course. Every apothecarist knows that.

Leg Day

Look closely at the picture above. It may take you a moment to notice the strange twist in it.

My first thought when I saw it was that it was some kind of genetic engineering gone weird. The horses legs look almost human at first glance. Is a horse still a horse if some part of its DNA somehow came from a human?

I’d love to read that book and find out.

Happily Ever After

The bright colours and whimsical scenery in it caught my eye. immediately. They’re exactly what I’d expect to find in a fantasy romance novel.

This is the kind of cover that would make me pick up a book to find out more about its plot. If nothing else, I’d want to know if there was an entire forest of heart-shaped trees for the characters to skip through or if this tree was unique in that way.

Knock, knock!

This is another one of those photographs that seems perfectly ordinary when you first glance at it. I was actually planning to save it for a future post about something cheerful and ordinary like going on vacation until one strange little detail in it popped out at me.

That detail catapulted this post from it’s original purpose into possible story territory. The explanation for it could be completely logical and scientific, but there’s also room for science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or even horror elements to it if you prefer. Stop reading now if you want to figure out on your own what I noticed.

For anyone who needs or wants a hint about, pay attention to the body language of the woman in the centre of the photograph. How has she positioned herself? Do you notice anything unexpected about it?

The Insincere Smile

The stock photo site that I use most often has dozens of pictures that are similar to this one. The models are always nicely dressed  but have completely insincere expressions on their faces.

There are many explanations for why that might be so. Sometimes I like to come up with some reasons for the fun of it. Were the models worn out from a day of posing? Are they trying to secretly warn their audiences about who or what might be lurking behind the camera? The possibilities are endless, and the sci-fi writer in me prefers the unexplainable ones.

All that Glitters…

What I like the most about this picture is how versatile it is. Off the top of my head, it could be interpreted to be part of the erotic romance, regular romance, science fiction, fantasy, or even the older end of the young adult genre. You could probably even find a way to turn it into a mystery or a thriller if you massaged the possibilities enough.

That ambiguity makes me smile. I like it when stories leave room for more than one genre to flourish in them. When its done correctly, this can be a wonderful way to introduce people to types of storytelling that they might not otherwise be open to trying.

Deep in Thought

I both love and hate seeing gorillas and other apes at the zoo for the same reason: they remind me so much of human beings.

Everything from their mannerisms to their facial expressions can be eerily close to the way that people behave at times. When I look at them, I feel like we are this close to having a conversation about the weather or which kind of fruit is in season now.

While I’m glad that they have a safe place to live, it also feels wrong to cage them up. They feel too intelligent for that fate to me.

The nice thing about this picture is that it could be used for non-fiction just as easily as it could for fiction. You don’t have to invent anything about the intelligence of other primates in order to write about them. We already know that while they might not be exactly like us, they’re also not exactly like other animals either.

When Justice Is Blind

Is it just me, or does that water look uncomfortably cold?

The first thing I thought when I saw this scene was that it looked like a test of some sorts. Is he expected to swim in that chilly water or simply stand in it blindfolded for a predetermined amount of time?

The One Who’s Watching You

Obviously I had to save the best picture for last today. This is the creepiest thing I’ve stumbled across in a long time.

Not seeing a character’s face always scares me.

The fact that we can see his or her hands doesn’t help the situation, though. Their nails look sharp and rough. Their skin looks leathery, and I’m not entirely sure it would still be warm to the touch if they brushed against you.

What does he or she want?

I’m afraid to ask, but I’m even more afraid to turn away before they do.

Why You Should Read Books Outside of Your Favourite Genres

pexels-photo

My first literary love is the science fiction and fantasy genre, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing I ever read.

Today I wanted to talk about why it’s such a good idea to read books from a wide range of genres.

It Introduces You to New Ideas

Non-fiction is a wonderful example of this. One of the reasons why I read so much of it is that it spends a lot of time exploring why and how people can change the way a society operates.

For example, a history of a specific war may talk about difficult decisions government officials made that either helped or hurt their cause. Smart, rational people make terrible and wonderful choices for all kinds of complex reasons that can’t be boiled down to a pithy paragraph or two.

I’ve often thought about the dilemmas those historical figures while I’m working on my own stories or when I’m trying to figure out a problem in my personal life. You can learn a lot about life and how humans behave by paying attention to how people solved problems in the past.

It Changes the Way You Look at the World

Reading a wide variety of books gives you glimpses of all kinds of things that you’ll never experience in your daily life, from what life was like ten thousand years ago to how people live on the other side of this planet.

Life is also rarely a black-and-white experience. My favourite part of jumping from one genre to the next is how it changes the way I look the exact same scene depending on which literary lens I just finished wearing.

A sunny meadow could be the site of a amorous picnic in a romance novel, the final resting place of the bad guy in a horror novel, or the setting for a groundbreaking archeological discovery in a memoir.

The more genres you read, the more possibilities you’ll be aware of the next time you happen to walk past a pretty field of flowers and wonder what’s happened there in the past.

booksIt Helps You Find Hidden Gems

There have been multiple times when I happened to pick up a book from a genre I don’t usually read and was surprised by how much I loved it.

Had I made a strict rule about never reading about X, I would have spent my whole life not knowing what I was missing.

For example,  I read Robin Mather’s “The Feast Nearby: How I Lost My Job, Buried a Marriage, and Found My Way By Keeping Chickens, Foraging, Preserving, Bartering and Eating Locally (All on $40 a Week)” several years ago after a friend recommended it.

I am not the kind of person who is into farming, eating organic food, or raising livestock, but I still deeply enjoyed this author’s stories about all of the struggles she faced as she adapted to her new lifestyle. Some of her stories were seriously hilarious! I found myself rooting for her to find a happy ending even as I chuckled at the mistakes she made along the way.

It Gives Your Brain a Workout

I’ve been reading science fiction for so long now that I can usually predict where a storyline is going long before the characters have any clue what’s happening to them. There are certain plot devices that are used so regularly in this genre that it’s pretty easy to spot them once you’ve read a enough books that happen to include them.

The nice thing about dabbling in other genres is that you generally aren’t as familiar with the tropes or other plot devices that they use. When I first started reading mysteries, for example, I’d often overlook small but important clues in the first scene because I wasn’t used to needing to pay such close attention to little details like whether the butler was right or left-handed or what time of day the neighbour said she’d seen the suspect leaving the victim’s house.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to give another genre a try the next time you’re rummaging around at the bookstore or library and trying to figure out what to read next. There are so many amazing stories out there waiting to be discovered!

Why You Should Be Following the Mystery of Tom Thomson’s Death

Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson was a famous Canadian painter who died nearly a century ago. His landscapes influenced the Group of Seven. Had he lived longer, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have become an official member and they would have been called the Group of Eight instead.

If you haven’t heard of this artist or the kinds of paintings he and his friends became famous for, the links above will tell you all about them.

For the past few years, he has been tweeting through the last eight months of his life. His tweets are heavily researched and include references to his diary entries, conversations that others remembered having with him, and many other sources.

What I want to talk about right now, though, is why you should be following Tom Thomson on Twitter. He also has a blog, although he is much more active on the former. His tweets about his final months are beginning again today, so now is the perfect time to get to know Tom and his art.

Tom’s paintings are beautiful in an understated way. My favourite one from him is included below, although there is something I like about every piece of art I’ve seen from him so far. They remind me of what it feels like to stand outside on a freezing January morning, or a breezy May afternoon, or a hot and muggy August evening and feel everything that nature has in store for me on that particular day. The weather can’t always be tied up into neat packages, and neither can Tom’s work.

There are many things we know about the ordinary fabric of this artist’s daily life. His tweets discuss everything from what he ate for specific meals to how he liked to spend his free time to what sketches he was working on in the last few weeks and months before he died. More than once I was impressed last year by his descriptions of the small details of his life. One day, for example, he mentioned eating boiled potatoes and stew. I barely remember what I ate for dinner last week, so have those details of someone’s life from a hundred years ago is surprising and fascinating.

In the last nine months or so that I’ve spent getting to know him online, Tom has been kind, funny, and personable. There are times when he seems unsure of himself or when he doesn’t know what he should do next. Yet he still picks himself up the next day and tries again. These are the tweets I’ve come to appreciate from him the most because of how much they reveal about his personality and character. He’s the Monday Blogs Painting Picturetype of person I’d invite out to dinner if we were living in the same century.

Exactly how he died is a matter of debate. We know he was alone at Canoe Lake and that his empty canoe surfaced days before anyone found his body in the water.

Did he have some kind of medical emergency that lead to him falling into the lake and drowning? Did his canoe accidentally tip over or bump into something submerged in the water, leaving him to drown before he could be saved? Did he stumble across someone who was doing something illegal and who didn’t want any witnesses of their crime? Did someone else murder him for another reason?

There are so many different possibilities, and he’ll tell you about all of them as the date of his death grows closer.

I have my own theory about what probably happened to him, but I’ll keep the details of that to myself until we get closer to the end of his saga. The urge to write short, speculative stories about his fate is growing stronger. I don’t know if I’ll give into it, but it is something I’ve been thinking about doing as he gears up to once again chronicle the end of his life.

Which theory you end up believing will be up to you, but I hope you’ll start following Tom and learn a few things about him and Canadian history along the way over the next eight months. I’ve been finding a lot of writing inspiration in his tweets. Who knows? Maybe you will as well!