…blog: Self-Editing for Bilinguals

© Jesse Burgheimer, CC-BY-SA

© Jesse Burgheimer, CC-BY-SA

Okay, we are two-thirds through NaNoWriMo. This means two things:

  1. I really need to update the progress meter, but first
  2. It’s about time to talk about editing.

Because I am me, let’s start with editing. Because doing so means I am writing something for my blog, which is something I should do more frequently anyway.

Of course, many people have already said a lot about editing and even about self-editing, its pros, cons and some approaches to it. That part you can probably google.

But my own self-editing process is somewhat different from those usually advised, mostly because it is something not everybody can do. This is for those of us who speak more than one language fluently. Luckily, English is the easiest language to gain fluency in these days, thanks to its ubiquity on the internet and in media in general. So yay for anybody who is not a native speaker of English reading this blog! For any bilingual who is a native speaker of English: Well done, you had the harder road among those two sides. Again, not because of any properties of the language, but because it is just harder to get a lot of practice in your second language.
So, let’s get to the point. In case the title has not given it away, this is it:

The Bilingual Translate-Edit Method

The short version of this is easy: Translating a text back and forth between the language it was written in and your other language, is a rewarding process, even if you don’t speak your second language fluently.

Now, the long version.

When learning a foreign language, the better you get, the more obvious it will become translation is anything but an easy task because languages tend to be very different from each other.

Obviously. Image: Natalie Moxam/Public Domain

You don’t say?
Image: Natalie Moxam/Public Domain

Different languages form sentences differently, have different figures of speech, different go-to metaphors, they even tend to involve different approaches to the world itself in some ways. This makes translation hard. This is why translators are very well-paid and why automated translation is just about the hardest task you can assign a computer.

When editing, this is good. The trick is this: Translation forces you to view your writing in context again. Thinking about the way you inform and/or entertain, many problems of a text will become obvious. You will clearly see points where information is missing because sentences suddenly become incomplete after translation. You will see redundancies when a sentence explains something you just described. All this happens because translation cannot be done word by word. When you translate, you force yourself to view every word in its context. This is what most self-editing is missing, often boiling down to a mere word-for-word grammar check.

To do this, you should be an advanced speaker of a second language, but you don’t need to be perfect. Maybe even fluent is too much. All you need to have learned is how not to translate by just replacing words with corresponding words in the other language using a dictionary (nothing wrong with using a dictionary, though). The better you are, the better your results will be, but you don’t need to be perfect to start. Remember, your goal is not really to make a translation, it’s to find errors by way of translating a work back and forth. Your finished text will be in whatever language you originally wrote it down.

How to do this

  1. Make a backup copy of your original text. Seriously, whatever you do, do not translate within your original document. I once accidentally saved a translation over the English original, destroying it. So, I can’t stress this enough, do make a backup copy. Preferably name one of them something like xyz-translation.doc
  2. Be sure you switched to writing in your translation copy
  3. Now, translate the text into your other language, ironing out flaws as you stumble upon them. Take note of any flaws encountered. This will be the hardest part of this editing process.
  4. Translate it back into the original language, again taking note of any flaws encountered. Do not check your original yet, translate this back independently. Chances are, the language will have turned clunky through the process. Don’t worry about that yet.
  5. Now, compare the original to both your list of encountered flaws and your translation. Change the original (or another copy of it for extra security) accordingly.
  6. Now, check the original again, this time for grammar, style, and spelling to make sure there are no visible “scars”, points where it is obvious something was added, deleted or changed.

Yes, this ends in another round of editing. The goal of this method is not to make editing easier or faster, it’s to make self-editing more reliable.

I hope this is helpful to a lot of you guys. Have fun! Good luck! Get all the success you earn!


Let’s NaNoWriMo!

write50kHey, there. Long time no see. However, this is precisely why I came back now. You see, NaNoWriMo is starting tomorrow, and because I have not written much the last few weeks, I will take up that challenge to get back in the groove.

NaNoWhatNow?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writer’s Month. It has grown international for a long time now, though. The idea is simple: Finish a novel of 50,000 words or more during November.
People who join the official site may even win prices.
While I will not join the official site (because I’m modifying the rules to better suite my writing style), I still aspire to write 50,000 words by November, 30th 2016 and call that participating in NaNoWriMo for simplicity’s sake.

Deviant!

Indeed, and a proud one at that.
The reason I plan to deviate from the official rules is simple: I do not write stories that long. In my mind, stories have to earn the amount of time they may take from us and I prefer those that give more than they take. Very few stories need or deserve to be that long. Dune needs it for its complexity, so does War and Peace due to the size and diversity of its cast. The Harry Potter books earn it by the wildness of the imagination displayed and by having each book span a year. There are more, these are just examples.
I tend toward the shorter end of tales. I have a story to tell and I do not like to meander around doing so. Maybe it’s just my own preference for reading short fiction informing my own writing here, but in short, a story of more than 10,000 words is a rarity with me just because that tends to be more than enough room for me to finish any story I decide to do.
So, instead of writing one novel of 50k words, I commit to write 50k words during the month of November. This does include all uncommissioned writing I do that month. It does not, however, include any commissioned writting as well as writing not directly related to book and/or story writing.
So, blog posts do not count, neither does any writing not intended to be published.
This means, I plan to write about 1,800 words per day. That is more words than my longest published piece of fiction at about 1,200. It is, however, less than some of my non-fiction books that were written chapter by chapter as opposed to one piece of story as you get with my fiction (ignoring the notable exception of Sleeper Hit.
I expect this to result in several pieces of flash fiction (probably enough to do another collection), finishing my English novelette Boy, as well as finishing my German novelette Neanderthalensis. As always, pieces of flash fiction I do in that time will also be available here on this blog, unless this is prevented by a contract (I will write at least one flash intended for a multi-author Christmas anthology).
So, by tomorrow, there will be a counter showing my current progress in reaching 50k words. And the occassional flash fiction piece on this blog.

Why Am I Doing This?

Let me put it this way: Writing 1,800 words per day on top of everything else I do essentially means that for one month, I will go full-time. I will have to find ways to have enough time to write thise much every day. I will have to devote time specifically to writing as if I went to an office to do so.
This will be a new experience for me and I am very interested, if I can pull this off.
In essence, I am about to decide wether I go all-in in the future, using the next month for a template.


10 Things I Learned Writing How to Sing Butterflies

Cover of How to Sing Butterflies DX

DX edition (Amazon link)

Cover of How to Sing Butterflies

Standard edition (Amazon link)

Finally, with only two days of delay, I made it, I finished my short story collection How to Sing Butterflies. It will now roll out across the ebook vendors over the next few days, Amazon being the first as usual, but others following. They just happen to have the quickest system for new publications.
As you can see from there being two covers to this entry, this collection comes in two editions, DX and standard (or, well, non-DX). This is the one thing I hope I am still going to learn, publishing this book: Does this approach work? Is it a good idea to give readers a choice between a barebones edition and a deluxe edition with additional content?
To break the differences down, the DX edition features additional commentary for each story in the back of the book. Each story has a story behind it and this is what that commentary provides: The inspiration behind each story (often a writing prompt), how that inspiration turned into the story I ended up with, interesting trivia on the creative process in its planning and, more importantly, writing. That edition I set at US$2.99. The other edition has nothing but the pieces of fiction and is priced a little lower at US$1.99.
To me, that is a large difference: The higher price point gets me about US$1.40 more per sale, three times what the lower one gets me. But I realize this is not what the reader sees, so I want to give them free choice. I also realize short story collections are not very popular and people do not want to spend too much on them.
So, if you are interested in the stories behind those stories, or just want to support this here author, go get the DX edition. If you want to read the stories, but prefer not to spend too much on somebody you maybe never heard about before, get the standard one. I think that’s a fair deal for al of us. I’m very curious how that’ll turn out.
All that being said, as with every book I learned a lot from writing this one. And yes, I am stealing this idea from Chuck Wendig’s blog. Go on, try and stop me!

1. Working Title, Shmorking Title

I set out to collect my shorts a long time ago. It started out a year ago under the guise of Glimpses. By February it had morphed into the far more descriptive mouthful of Glimpses into World Unknown.
Then, I lost my progress on almost all works to a computer crash that affected both my main hard drive and the more recent backups. There’s still hope to recover those, but it’s expensive.
Anyway, I started from scratch. What got lost was some unpublished work, but I could still recover all those entries into Flash Fiction Challenges and the like, along with everything already published in some form. I didn’t like the original title I was working with anymore, so I ended up taking the title to one of the stories included instead: How to Sing Butterflies made for a nice title and the story itself served well to represent my brand of short fiction.

2. Free Ressources can be amazing

After I settled on a title, there was the issue of a fitting cover. I did not exactly make that easy on me with such a strange title. Searching for illustrations that combined butterflies with music failed, so I started searching all the stock photo sites for butterfly pictures, hoping to find something to work with. Not to get an overused picture, I even started to order the results by least liked ones first. This is when I stumbled across the perfect cover to this title. A butterfly shape of simple yellow lines, the perfect image to combine sound with butterflies.
Beautiful.

3. But sometimes you still have to pay for stuff

Sample of the font Sound Sample

Sound Sample, err, Sample


The cover illustration was perfect, but there was only one font I found anywhere. That was Sound Sample by Anfa. Everything else was either too fancy or not fancy enough. I mean, you don’t want to pair a picture like that with something like Arial or Times New Roman. On the other hand, some butterfly font would have been way too fancy for a book of tales that often veered to the darker side of things.
Very few fonts related to sound or music in any meaningful way, but this one was almost perfect. It could be more easily legible when sized down, but other than that this went perfectly with the title illustration, the titular piece of flash fiction, and the overall content of the book.
However, unlike all the fonts I had used up until now, this one was free only for non-commercial use. Five dollars is a good price for a well-made font, though, so I gladly sent that over to the creator’s Paypal as asked to on the site.
Yeah, we are all struggling artists here, but I paid five dollars for far less useful things.

4. Translating is way harder than writing

Aside from 15 pieces of fiction previously published, this collection also includes three completely new ones and four translations. The translations turned out to be the culprit when it came to missing my deadline of Wednesday, August 3rd.
Turns out, translating already written text is much harder than writing something from scratch. The words are already there, but they are in a different language, written to suit that language’s vocabulary, sensitivities, even rhythm. You can’t just change the words into their counterparts, you have to rephrase everything without changing anything. That is hard, even when the words in the other language are your own. Maybe especially when they are your own words, chosen for reasons hard to apply in another language.
There’s a reason I write some of my work in German and some in English. And that reason is not planning with market size. Well, except for the Jurassic World book. That one I did write in English because of market size considerations.

5. A construction site does NOT make it easier

Somebody decided to build a few new houses across the road. Te last two weeks, they connected those to the water main. Meaning they opened the street with a huge buzzsaw-like contraption and then dug down with an excavator and some trucks, all driven by diesel engines. At least now they changed it to a truck with a built-in excavator.
Ain’t complainin’, just sayin’.

6. A story is never finished

Editing and especially translating my shorts taught me, you can always find something new to change in anything you did. A story can be part of a book consistently getting five-star reviews and still have jarring issues like details left out and characters changing their species (yes, species!).

7. Grammarly does help

Grammarly is by no means perfect. We often disagree about the necessity of an article for abstract nouns. But I do have problems with the use of commas in both my main languages and this is something the app excels at.

8. Backup, backup, backup!

About that incident in February: You know how barely anybody does a regular backup, even when it’s vital to what they do? Yeah, do backups. Once a week is probably a good rate.

9. I really need to finish this blog

Yeah, the English blog still has a few bugs to solve. Like something is really wrong with the book overview mixing up German and English titles. And the mobile theme needs to be replaced. I just rarely think about the latter because I rarely ever use a smartphone to go online.

10. The internet does forget

A zombie dinosaur short on io9 of all places had disappeared from their comment section when I tried to recover it. Huh.
I really liked that short. I hope I can recover it from my crashed hard drive to include in a later collection along with other tales lost in the crash.


Sleeper Hit

Image: George Hodan / publicdomainpictures.net

Image: George Hodan / publicdomainpictures.net

I haven’t done a flash fiction challenge response in a while. This is partly due to Indies Unlimited switching to image prompts instead of written ones. I’m just not as good with those and frankly, I found IU’s prompts to be rather uninspiring. but that’s just me, other authors keep doing great works with those.
There’s other stuff, like my hard drive taking its journey to the everafter in February.
But that aside, let’s do one of these again. It’s Chuck Wendig’s turn again, who this week asked for a story that features insomnia. Well, here it is. I went into this having no idea how dark it would get to just run with this idea. Oh, it got dark alright.

Sleeper Hit

Edinburgh, Scotland, 4:13 a.m.
For almost a minute, something was very wrong. Granted, 176 hours of partying always took their toll, and Burt knew the feelings that caused all the way from hunger to thirst, even boredom. But exhaustion was something he had stopped feeling for a long time now, a glimpse of maybe a second or two once a year was all that ever reminded him what kind of an emotion it even was. One like lead and rainy days and refusal of nice things. So bad, it made sleep desirable, that old king of unproductivities.
He had done away with all this a long time ago.

Bandar Tidur, Malaysia, 12:10 p.m.
Another one. Izzati fixed her view on the screen that had been pulsing with red for a few seconds before it went numb. To quick for anybody to rush in and change the bulb. A young immigrant from Thailand, like so many bulbs somebody with no other options in life here and only even worse ones back home. They were willing to take the risk, silence took care of that not changing.
When it began, one bulb could work two customers – batteries, as some started to call them, despite the weird reversal in terminology that created opposed to the real relationship between the two. A year later, there had to be one bulb per battery. Now, some batteries had started to burn through one bulb per year.
Bandar Tidur was asia’s hell needed to create europe’s paradise. The furnace to its engine.

San Jose, California, 09:00 p.m.
No matter how much he brooded, an empty page kept staring at Steve. He was the one man who banned unproductivity itself and now that blank page was mocking him for it like it never happened. He began anew.
“Sleep and death have much in common. The two great unproductivities, neither of which really known to man.”
He liked that, though it was followed by more blankness in his mind. The thing was, he had conquered sleep. When he invented a chip to monitor health years before, strange readings showed up and led his team to realize exhaustion was transferable and could be transformed into awakeness using sleep, to then be transferred back. Nobody really understood how it worked, but it did.
He and his team made these findings into machines, a network capable of electronically shipping sleep across the globe, to sleepers sleeping for their customers who could stay awake as long as they lived, continually drained of their exhaustion and supplied with new awakeness.
And yet, here he was, asking himself how to put to page a story everybody on earth already knew, effectively doing nothing with that time gained. More time, more ideas to have and pursue, but somehow not much had changed.
He erased the line and began anew again.
“So, this is the story of me, and how I did not change the world.”
That wasn’t it either.

Bandar Tidur, Malaysia, 12:12 p.m.
A new girl entered the chamber, her predecessor already removed. This one was a native, one of the first in an experiment. She did not look any different, but she was specifically designed to make her sleep more durable. Maybe a little pale for a Malaysian, but other than that just an adolescent young girl.
She let herself strap into the machine to be infused with exhaustion. Within a minute, the new bulb was asleep at work, hopefully quickly enough for the battery not to realize anything. Angry customers were the worst.
The old bulb passed Izzati’s door on its way to the pit, now somebody else’s problem.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 4:14 a.m.
The display in Burt’s left hand confirmed a short connection failure, but also his vitals being excellent. The connection problem had its fault with the other side, so he filed a short complaint. Within seconds, a response arrived, apologizing and explaining something about a bulb that needed to be changed.
As long as it was working again, he really couldn’t care less.


Day Five

Bild: Joan M. Borràs (ebrenc) CC-BY-SA 2.5

Bild: Joan M. Borràs (ebrenc) CC-BY-SA 2.5

Again a story inspired by an image prompt at the Angry Hourglass Flash Frenzy, this time the picture was of a young man reading a book on the beach. Reading on the beach is an alien concept to me. When I’m at the beach, I just enjoy the beach and the sea. So I tend to think what book would be so compelling it makes one ignore the beauty of the beach.
This is what grew out of that.

Day Five

The year had begun lackluster. The next day he was pregnant, which also managed to clear weird off the list. Jovian on the third was hard to pin down but worse, it made Simon miss the fourth day, when he had to talk his way back out of an insane asylum. That would have ruined his project had day two not counted for two adjectives. So far, living every day according to a random word generator selecting an adjective from the dictionary had been a worthwhile experience.
Today he was gullible. A nice word, there was a ring to it and so he committed to it quickly.
He went to a bookstore and selected the book with the boldest claim. “How to breathe underwater” it said and it was a thin one, too. So he sat down low on the beach and began to read, convinced he would have mastered breathing underwater by the time the flood submerged him.
The book was practical, it mentioned how unfeasible it was to grow gills in the little time he had, so it clearly knew what it was talking about. So many exercises, many of the strange beyond imagination, yet he did them all and felt successful each time.
It became hard to read when the tide washed over the pages, but it was still possible and even made the exercises a little easier. When the water reached his nostrils, he inhaled with confidence. Simon hoped the remaining adjectives would work underwater.
Best book ever.


Master of Man

It has been too long, hasn’t it? Well, here I am with a new flash fiction story, this time a result of the competition at The Angry Hourglass. The version of the story posted over there is slightly different because of the 360 words word limit. The story originally reached 420 words, I then edited it down to 359 as posted on the Angry Hourglass site and then edited some new words back in where I felt cutting down had hurt the tale.
Interesting story behind this one: I originally mistook the image prompt preview for a man fighting in a dojo with a lamp in the foreground. When I later looked at the larger version I recognized it was a man carrying a flame on a stick. Both interpretations have found their way into this short piece.
Visit the link above to see the other version as well as the prompt and other entries resulting from it, some of them exceptionally good.

Master of Man

He watched them flee into the darkness. Victory, but how? And why had he fought them? The aggression had been something that suddenly took hold of him to subside once they fled. Somehow not his anger, it was of somebody else.
„Hello“, Josh called out into the empty hall. Only one lamp burned against the night outside. Though dim, it should have been enough to see anybody hiding here. There was nobody.
„Hello“, answered something from no direction at all, feeling like a voice inside his head, „thank you for your assistance. This is my room. I was born here, I live here. And I cannot fight my oppressors, so thank you for taking care of that.“
„Where are you? Who are you? Why did I fight?“
„That was me, I made you want to fight. I can’t fight, but sometimes I can get help when I need it. I am who lives here. There were others living here, but those you drove off came in here. At first they started training as you do in any dojo. But as they got better, they started to become aggressive.“
„You’re not answering my questions!“
„No, I’m making you understand. There used to be more like me living here, one in every corner, but one day, they killed one next to the door, then the other one there. One by one, they climbed toward us, killed my brethren and had the hall grow dark and cold. You came in so I gave you eagerness to fight them. You saved me.“
„You’re not making any sense, who are you? I don’t even see a shadow.“
„That’s precisely who I am, no shadow.“
„That’s no better! Where are you and how do you make me feel like you speak inside my head?“
„Silly boy, that is what our kind does. We live to fill humans with emotions, with ideas, with warmth. To the most receptive, we can talk. I am flame, and fire, and light. And you will now pick me up.“
„Why would I want to do that?“
„Because you want to.“
„Yes, I do“ Josh said when a sudden urge to do so woke in him.


How to Sing Butterflies

The following is the result of this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge at Chuck Wendig’s blog. The challenge last week had participants come up with a title (without a story), this week it has them choose one of last week’s titles and make a story from that. How to Sing Butterflies on page 4 of the comments struck a chord with me, so I picked that one. Thanks to Medina who came up with it.
This is the first time I’m doing the challenge at Chuck Wendig’s. I’m always looking for good flash fiction challenges. I like flash fiction for it being so much to the point.

Speaking of which, on to the story:

How to Sing Butterflies

Muffled notes escaped the convict’s gag. Did the architects’ talent to conjure objects with their voices still work when obstructed? Dubious, but then again nobody really knew how architecm worked. Like electricity and so many powers before and since it, the technology had been discovered and used long before anybody understood what it actually was. A genetic mutation, a one in several billion event, discovered, isolated and copied to create a caste of people capable of conjuring any object from pure air by instinct.
Nobody knew how coded proteins on these people’s dna could manipulate quarks to form anything anywhere. Nobody knew why the ability used soundwaves or if they were a mere side effect or the method of change. Nobody knew why the music was always so beautiful when by all logic it should be random noise.
The girl just sang. Like any architect, she had sung before. This is how she ended up in front of a firing squad. Singing notes of mystery. Several monstrosities had attacked Tokyo in the last six months, ranging from nightmarish bugs to kaiju with everything in between. In court she said she wanted to create something beautiful, tried and tried, but always something eldritch came from it. She claimed there was just one thing missing and she would find it. The Architecm Guild had wanted to save her, the only architect to ever sing something to life.
In the end, she was just deemed too dangerous. The very knowledge of the possibility of singing life was. So it was all a secret. Nobody knew of the process and there had never been another option how it would end. Even making it illegal to create life by architecm was avoided not to give anybody any ideas.
The girl sang through her gag as the firing squad aimed. She sang as they readied. And then, as they fired the end of the melody became indistinguishable from the sound of the guns. Had it been the same sound from both guns and girl? There was no way to tell now. The final moment had happened quickly and pointlessly.
And then, everyone saw. Above the soldiers they flew. A pair of butterflies dressed in a color that didn’t exist.


A Weird Time to Unlimit your Kindling

During June I published The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, first in the new series Fiction Science. Like I said in that post, I specifically chose to test the waters of the Kindle Unlimited program with this one. As luck would have it, Amazon happened to make some changes to Kindle Unlimited just as I was testing it.
I will discuss both my results and the effects of the changes below.

Results June 2015

In short, the book did great, both on Kindle Unlimited and in regular purchases. Not only did it help push June to include 53% of my current 2015 sales total, June also encompasses 75% of 2015 total ebook revenue so far thanks to this book. Sales and KU burrows were about the same. This surprised me, I thought KU would be a bigger contribution with only a few sales. As it turns out, I underestimated the price people were willing to pay when putting Fiction Science 1 at a price I honestly considered too much for a book this short.
Authors only get 70% for books between $2.99 and 9.99, incidentally making this the starting point at which authors get more than $ 1.00 per book. June 2015 was the first time I managed to make more than a dollar per book on average since 2011 (when I only had one book out, priced 3.99).
An especially weird surprise to me was that the book did best in the UK, despite being written in US English and published a day after the movie started in europe. Huh, weird.

So what I took away here is this:

  • Don’t be afraid of the 2.99–9.99 price tier. When it pays of, it really pays of. Also, more people are willing to pay that amount even for short non-fiction books than I thought, given the book is relevant or timely. This is the most important thing I take out of this: 2.99 is not as expensive to costumers as I tend to think with ebooks
  • At 2.99, Kindle Unlimited is perfect. It does pay a little less than a sale, but helps with exposure, thus driving sales. Well, at least it was perfect.
  • Media tie-ins work

And then, Kindle Unlimited Changed

No doubt all Amazon authors already heard of the recent change in Kindle Unlimited payments starting July 1st. In short, books lent via Kindle Unlimited will from now on be paid by pages read. It is not that clear how much money we’ll get, although I’ve seen estimates range from $ .005 to .006 per page.
This means The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World would make about 25 Cents per burrow. I’ll assume that burrows lower the number of sales, but I’ll also assume this is counteracted by better exposure and reaching readers unwilling to buy. Not having any real math to back this up, I’m nevertheless prepared to take the risk of being wrong as long as I’m only loosing a few cents at worst.
With a 2.99 book of 45 pages, I loose about a dollar per burrow when compared to a sale. Exposure conversion and costumer potential expansion are not going to cover a gap this large.

Luckily, I did not expect this book to do well beyond June. I knew its sales were going to be tied to the release of Jurassic World and indeed they spiked suddenly, stayed up until Sunday to slowly sink after the opening weekend. This book was not going to make me any money later on and I knew that.
Still, theere were conclusions to be drawnd for future projects, thus:

Conclusions

It’s strange to witness first hand how quick a business model can die. Even stranger to see how it can die from no ill intent, because I do consider the new model an improvement even if my own non-fiction suffers for it. In my case, I was preparing to publish erotica under a secret pseudonym.
The market for short erotica was dominated by using Kindle Unlimited to get money for burrowing very short steamy stories. Unlimited was its perfect environment, it managed to thrive there and really, why not?
I don’t know if that idea is dead now, but it certainly is not going to get me rich(-ish) any time soon. Basically, any business model using the high payout of Kindle Unlimited to its advantage is dead now. Just like that.
Which brings me to my most important conclusion: If you have an idea, be quick. You never know when it’ll stop working.


Fiction Science starts with Jurassic Park/World

Available now at Amazon, free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers

Jurassic Park. I freely admit I am the result of a boy being at just the right age when 90′s dinomania rolled around and having been enamoured with dinosaurs even before that point, JP never left me. So of course I was going to do something with Jurassic World coming up. Not to mention I managed to use being European to my advantage with Jurassic World starting one day early over here.

Jurassic Park/World. It comes with great hype. And with great hype comes great responsibility. That might be from a different media franchise, but it still holds true. And it’s the reason people on the internet get upset about the scientific accuracy of the dinosaurs in the series. Well, that and them being people on the internet, getting upset at stuff is part of the appeal. Anyway, I decided to collect all the scientific inaccuracies into a book. So I went through all canonical JP media with eyes open for this kind of thing and started collecting.

There is, of course, a lot to talk about: Naked raptors! Half-blind T. rex! Bunny handed Gallimimus! Dilopho-That-Is-Not-Even-A-Dinosaur-Saurus! Holyshittasaurus Indominus rex! If it’s a prehistoric animal and in either of the movies, the novels, or the Telltale game, I put it in.

What I did was, I wrote this over the course of the last month watching all movies and trailers, re-reading the novels and watching a Playthrough of the Telltale game. I ignored the comics and other games for not being in any sort of canon. Also, finding all errors in the builder games would probably take years just from those games’ sheer size. Of course, not everything in Jurassic Park that looks different from paleontology textbooks is an error. Some things are artistic license, showing things that are possible even if paleontologists can’t confirm it to be true. And some are just the result of the original movie being 22 years old when during those 22 years science’s idea of what dinosaurs looked like has been revolutionized by new findings. This book explains those things.
After that I took advantage of my european-ness, watched the earliest screening of Jurassic World I could get and made that tax-deductible and finished the book with new knowledge gained from that, adding a short chapter on Indominus rex in the process.

With this book, I also started a series, “Fiction Science”. This is something I wanted to do for quite some time. A series of books about the science in science fiction. More books will come out over time, though this one is somewhat special in being about a specific series. Future installments will be about things like FTL travel, alien design, or why we don’t have jetpacks and hoverboards everywhere yet. However, with dinosaurs there is simply too much to go through without focussing on a single franchise. The release of Jurassic World was just perfect for this book to come out, so I timed it accordingly.

So far, I am very happy with the result. The book sports high quality, a simple yet effective cover, starts a new series and also makes an excellent test run for creating titles that tie in to current events.
It’s also free with Kindle Unlimited because I wanted to test that market and I believe a media tie-in title is perfect for KU’s borrowing approach to books. This is a book basically meant to be borrowed and read quickly after seeing the movie(s). I am quite anxious to see how well that works.

Oh, for the record: Jurassic World is really, reallly fun. Not as good as the first movie, but still one of the most fun movie I’ve seen in years.


Dystopian Utopias and Counterfics – Some Thoughts on the new Minority Report Trailer

Warning: The following contains a spoiler for the 2002 movie Minority Report. Just in case you still haven’t seen it yet.

Minority Report is getting a tv series based on the movie loosely adapted from the original story and we have a trailer to show for it:

Yeah, this is weird. Let’s talk about why.

Dystopian Utopias

The original movie by Steven Spielberg is in the ranks of the sleeper classics, that is, movies with topics more relevant now than when they were originally released. Science fiction dealing with contemporarily current trends is prone to this kind of thing, see Demolition Man for another example, if a less serious one.
The point of Minority Report was that the idea of predicting crime to prevent it is a bad idea. Not only is data bound to get misinterpreted sooner or later, you also create a host of prediction paradoxes. You know, when a future event turned out to be caused by your prediction in the first place? As happened in the original movie? Because that was the whole point of the story?
Because sometimes stuff tends to happen in circles, especially when time travel and/or precognition is involved. Much like the previous paragraph did.

That was 13 years ago and apparently Minority Report hit puberty right on cue. Now it wants to hear nothing of its parents’ values and always do the opposite. Either that or society has become a whole lot different with us starting to embrace the sort of constant surveillance and data precognition that comes with big data and that had us all horrified after 9/11 brought with it growing sacrifice of freedom in the name of security. One might say Minority Report is strong evidence how we all have been brainwashed into accepting a world that gets close to calling 1984 a utopian vision, rather than the dystopian one we used to think it is. And that idea kind of scares me.
It’s not the first time that happened, either. I’m getting a similar sensation when reading Brave New World, now sounding like every damn text on the evils of this thing called the internet and how it turns young ‘uns into brainless media zombies.
Maybe this is what dystopia is really good for: Giving us a glimpse how our thinking has changed. Few dystopias need to convince readers that bad stuff is bad. But looking at a dated dystopian tale, realizing it has turned into either our present or inches ever closer to a utopia in modern eyes, now there’s real value.

Counterfic

The other thing I want to talk about is adaptations.

In fan fiction, there is a couple of categories works can go into. I want to briefly talk about fix fic. This is when an author think another’s work broken in some way and goes about fixing it. In the best cases this results in stuff like Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, filling gaps from the movies and other Star Wars novels in such a way that any errors and continuity hiccups get explained to make the overall world of the stories more believable. In the worst cases, an author completely misses the point of the original work and manages to „fix“ the story into being its complete opposite.

This seems to be what happened here: The makers of the series saw the movie and decided that it’s message is utter bull. So they created a series that (judging from the trailer) goes ahead to undo the movie’s events, showing viewers how awesome the world would be with precognitive people in police service around. This is not only the sequel undoing the original’s point, it’s the sequel turning around to slap the original in the face, telling it how stupid it supposedly is.
And that is something I have never before seen done on purpose, with the sole exception of Starship Troopers doing this to Heinlein’s novel (awesomely imho).

So…

That was my thoughts on Minority Report I thought to write down because I didn’t see anybody else seeing it that way. What do you think? Am I reading to much into a trailer? Or is this a sign of our times?