My new quest

I’m on a new quest to read as much old-time, retro, classic (am I missing any terms there?) Sci-Fi as I can. Just how I’m going to accomplish this is something I haven’t given much thought to, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find some of what I want online. I am also hoping that I’ll be able to find some more old sci-fi books at thrift stores.

I’ll admit that I’m trying to do this on the cheap, I’ve already looked at ebooks on Amazon.com, I’ve found a few, but I was surprised to see so many from earlier than I expected. Other than Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, I didn’t think that sci-fi was really being written before the 1920s.

My goal is to see if I can come up with a definitive list of just what makes old sci-fi so much better than modern sci-fi. I already have some ideas of why I think it’s better, but I want to expand my view of Sci-Fi. I want to find out if I’m missing anything, or if what old-time sci-fi I’ve already read just happens to be the best there is.

Having found out that there were some other very early sci-fi, I’m wondering if the movie Metropolis (1927) was really one of the first Sci-Fi movies or not (I do  realize that there was an earlier version of From the Earth to the Moon). That’s one more thing that I should find out about before my ‘quest’ is finished, or perhaps it’ll be a separate quest.

Thanks for reading!

Breaking down beginnings, part 1

This post is the first of an occasional series of posts about the beginnings of books.

First lines and Prologues

I touched on this topic a few days ago, now I’m going to go into more detail on problems that occur with the beginning of a book.
One of the many problems with the beginning of books that I see all to often lately is that the first few lines are slow. A book needs to have a catchy first few words, throw in some action, or create enough tension that a reader can’t bare to put it down. I don’t pretend to know a foolproof way to start a book, but I do have my opinions on how not to start one.

Starting out slow is only one of the problem ways to start a book, there are many, many different ways that authors go wrong starting books. One other such way is having a paragraph or two that has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the chapter, it’s not as common as other troublesome starts, but it does exist. True, such a beginning can, if done correctly, drag a reader into the story, but more often than not, it’s just so far removed from the following sentences that it throws the reader for a loop and renders the story hard to get into.

A much more common option is to expand on such a paragraph (that doesn’t really matter to the story until the end of the book) and call it a prologue.
I don’t mind prologue use as a rule, but when they are used to mention something that will solve the problem at the end of the book, such as some odd person, jewel, bird or whatnot that will solve everything when he/she/it appears in the last chapter and render the rest of the book moot, that’s when I get the feeling that the author was a bit lazy, wrote themselves into a corner, at which point, rather than backing up and working out the problem, or coming up with a witty solution, the author grows a pair of wings and escapes by writing a prologue. I’ve seen this happen, once I even read a prologue that had better characters than the rest of the book, I kept waiting for them to appear and it wasn’t until the final chapter or two that they did, the rest of the book wasn’t very good, and I don’t remember anything about it beside that.

What do you think? Do you enjoy prologues which feature a deus ex machina?

The trouble with beginnings…

Is that unless they grab your attention right away, you just can’t get into the book. I can’t even guess how many books that I’ve stopped reading after a page or two because I couldn’t get into it, which is something I’m not proud of.
If I could have gotten into any of those books, I’m sure that I would have enjoyed them, I’ve managed to force myself into a few such books over the years, those few have been enjoyable once I’m into them, but it’s not easy getting past the first page sometimes. Sometimes I can’t even get past the first paragraph!
This is a problem that I’ve seen in writings from all time periods, Shakespeare isn’t very easy to read, nor are some of Mark Twain’s contemporaries, even big time authors from the last few decades aren’t always the easiest to get into.
I’d like to write a longer post on this topic in the next few days, but I want to hear your opinions first. Is this a topic worth discussing? Let me know!