Monday, January 29, 2018

The 13 Lives of a Television Repairman by M.D. Thalmann

Here lies the world.
That's one way to do it!
The 13 Lives of a Television Repair Man” by M.D. Thalmann provides a character-driven look at a post-apocalyptic world and the events that led up to it. This is a unique look at post-apoc scifi, and Thalmann uses his narrator, Arthur, to great effect building up to and through the cataclysmic events.

The world has died, and Arthur knows how it happened. In many ways, he caused it. But to get there, and to understand the character and the events, the reader is first treated to a wonderful character, one most people can relate to. Starting in Cold War America in the 1950s, Arthur becomes enamored of the magic of television. While his parents are struggling through their own realities, Arthur finds solace and comfort in the warm glow of an old cathode ray-tube Zenith. Unfortunately, when the Zenith breaks, and his parents can’t afford to fix it, he’s cut adrift. Eventually, Arthur is taken in by a television repairman, who sees promise in the boy, and inadvertently sets things on a collision course to destruction.

Thalmann provides a unique perspective into the life of a man lost and gasping, while trying to make sense of the world and make a living and life for himself. Nothing is ever easy, even being a television repairman. Readers will come to respect that bygone profession, and see the events that led up to the end of the world through the eyes of a wonderful character. There is laughter, tears, frustration, and joy in walking with Arthur through his life, and ultimately to the end of the world.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Conservation of Characters

Tell your sister . . . I'll be back as a young and vibrant Force ghost!
There’s a rule that almost every movie and book series adheres to called “Conservation of Characters.” The thrust is simple: a writer/reader spends time introducing, understanding, and relating to a character as they go through conflicts and resolutions. Because of the limited space of books and movies, Conservation of Characters results in a noticeable and significantly lower percentage of death vs. danger.

Television shows have a lot more room to play with this.  Actors typically don’t want to sign up just to be killed off, but there is still room over, under, through and around this rule.  “Supernatural” plays with this on and off, sometimes “killing” even the main characters, only to have them return after a reasonable story-arc about them being dead.

The point is that it's much easier to change characters over time, through injuries, torture, mental anguish, etc. than it is to realistically kill off that character and have to start the process over.  Because of this, often the twist of a movie or a book can be seen some distance off, as the number of characters a writer can introduce has to be reasonable enough for a reader to absorb.  The number of characters a writer can reasonably kill off is even less.

It’s not a bad thing.  It’s a thing that writers (and readers) should be aware of.

Looking back, I've killed off at least one major character in every genre fiction book I've written. I didn't realize it until I was thinking about this concept. Apparently, I buy into the "writer as bastard" concept and figure that the more fights a character gets into, the more likely they—or someone close to them—are to get killed.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

“Creatures of Will and Grace” by Molly Tanzer is a wonderful homage to the late, great Oscar Wilde and the only novel he published, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.  Readers concerned that they need to be intimately familiar with Wilde’s original need not worry.  Tanzer has created a novel that stands on its own, while paying all due respect.

Set in Victorian London, sisters Evadne and Dorina find themselves being introduced to society through Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotten.  Henry wears tailored pants (gasp), speaks her mind, and lives her life often in conflict with what is deemed acceptable. She is everything a rebellious woman of this era should be, while never quite crossing into the anachronistic of the modern.  Naturally, Dorina is immediately and completely enamored of the older, wiser, and wholly engaging woman.  While Evadne, athletic to the last, finds Henry's lack of conformity uncomfortable to say the least.  Leaving her sister to her own devices, she evades the rule-breaking Henry with the lesser evil of finding a fencing master—her own, personal will.  Almost in parallel, the sisters are introduced to an underground London, where magic and demon summoning are the rule of the day, and darker forces are at work.

The pacing will be slow for some readers, especially those unfamiliar with Victorian era storytelling.  However, the way in which Tanzer develops her characters and world is in keeping with the plot and the source material.  Once all the pieces are in place, the pace picks up, almost too quickly.

“Creatures of Will and Grace” is a delicious glimpse into an alternate history, with all the trappings of Victorian England and its “proper” society.  Between Dorina, Henry and Evadne, readers will be able to peer through the shop windows and see a brilliant reflection of our own world.