Prep for next semester & Barium Deep

Sorry for missing last Friday, I was busy driving to a family reunion and didn’t have something prepped ahead of time.

Anyway, I have good news! I’m making progress on my project for the fall. It’s possible that I’m not supposed to start it yet, given that this is in fact a school project, but I’ve already bitten off too much to chew so I don’t feel guilty about it.

I think I’ve already mentioned this, but the goal that I’ve set for myself is to not only write a middle grade sci-fi space adventure but to edit and write a second draft of it too. I’m not sure what the technical length requirements might be, so I’m using the 50,000 word novel as my measuring stick. Given that I’m openly inspired by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard (which the internet tells me is roughly 124,000 words) my 50k target is possibly conservative.

I have previously hit a regular 2000 words a day for a month at a time. My hope for this section of the summer is to push myself back up to speed, get into the rhythm of writing that much every day, and thus prepare for producing a novel not just once but twice. There’ll be an interruption to this pattern when I run off to work at LARP camp for kids, but with a little bit of luck I’ll be able to make it stick.

And if I cheat things just a bit, by getting some additional material for the project done while I’m ramping up to the pace I’ll need, I don’t think I’ll lose any sleep over it. Besides which, much of the material that I’m writing now is stuff that may never see the light of day. I’m writing scenes for the story (which will be about Barium Deep), but I’m also writing about the background of the setting and trying to figure out how things work. The more I can establish now (and the more excited about writing this story I can be) the easier it will be when I have to be writing it all through the fall.

This means I’m doing research. I’m reading articles on AI and augmented / mixed reality and space exploration and 3D printing and whatever other technological things I can find that seem appropriate to incorporate into my space setting. And I’m reading and watching things that feel like the right tone or genre or subject matter: So You Want To Be A Wizard, 2001: A Space Odyssey, some of the Vorkosigan books, Digimon Tamers, etc. It’s a bit eclectic.

Actually, here’s a cool video to watch. It’s totally not the same technology, and it’s a very different time period, but something about the claustrophobia, compactness, and industrial nature of submarines seems like it translates well to spaceships in my mind. That training & orientation video really emphasizes the intricacy and condensed nature of the WW2 submarine, and those both feel like things that would carry over to the future of putting humans in tin cans in space. You use the space you have on important things, like the machinery that keeps you alive and keeps your ship powered and moving. Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, everything else is extra.

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The Wizard’s Dilemma, by Diane Duane

JacketWelp, this one took me a long time to finish.  I’m still not quite sure how that happened.  Part of it was that I started the book while I had far too many things on my plate and thus got distracted.  But part of it was that at a certain point in The Wizard’s Dilemma, I felt like I could see where all of the pieces were, where they needed to go, and had a pretty good idea of how they were going to get there… and I really wanted them to just be there already, instead of making me wait.  I suspect that this is the price I pay for reading so much.  Or perhaps for being impatient.

It turns out that I was right about most of those various story beats, but seeing what Diane Duane did with them was far more satisfying than what I’d imagined.  I probably should have seen that coming, given that I’ve read the earlier books in the series and know how good Duane is at her work.  Once I finally got over my block and moved into the last parts of the book, I didn’t want to put it down.  And then, of course, the climax made me cry.  Whatever the real reasons for my reading delays, I feel quite certain in saying that this was an excellent book, one worth reading, worth recommending, and one that leaves me wanting to read the next one in the series.  Just like the previous books in the series.  I probably could have seen that coming too.

So, why the heck did this book make me cry?
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Deep Wizardry, by Diane Duane

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Yes, that is a truly massive shark.  The cover of the version that I read had something to do with a whale, but I like this one better.  I thought I’d already reviewed this book, and it was only as I was sitting down to write my review of the next one in the series that I checked back through my previous posts and found that I was wrong.  So before I tell you my thoughts on High Wizardry, let me tell you how I felt about Deep Wizardry.

The quick and dirty version is as follows: Diane Duane is good at her job, and she knows how to write books about young children taking on incredible responsibilities and facing overwhelming decisions… Which is a decent description of growing up, when I think about it.  Of course, most of us aren’t given access to powerful magical forces except in a metaphorical sense.  Deep Wizardry, like So You Want To Be A Wizard, is quality children’s literature; I’ll even go further and say that it’s good enough to merit your attention and reflection too, child or not.

With the exception of the “I think I read most of this before” section, my review of Deep Wizardry really is very similar to my review of So You Want To Be A Wizard.  I’m still more than a little bit in awe of Duane, she still writes excellent YA adventure with exceptionally mature themes, and she still does an incredibly good job of not talking down to her audience.  What I hadn’t really appreciated before is just how well her chosen storyline and protagonists map onto the experience of going through puberty and becoming an adult.  Call me stupid, call me slow, but though I noticed it in the first book I took another book or two to finally decide that it was more than just a fortuitous construction of the moment.  This, of course, has simply left me more appreciative of Duane’s writing chops, and her choice of subject material.

As per usual, there’s more after the break.

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So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane

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I’m more than a little bit in awe of Diane Duane.  It’s been a while since I read something of hers, and I’d forgotten how good she was at her chosen profession.  Though the genre is no longer quite so thinly populated as it was when this book first came out, I still think that Duane outdoes the young wizard competition.  When it comes to books about serious young people dealing with serious (if fantastical) problems, she’s totally on top of it.  Admittedly, I’m not the most experienced judge for this particular sub-genre, but Duane is worth reading if you like YA literature that doesn’t talk down to its readers.

So You Want To Be A Wizard follows two young newly-sworn-in wizards who are facing their very first duties, which include slowing down the entropic death of the universe and generally trying to make the world a better place.  You know, the usual.  As you might expect from a story with protagonists devoted to such expansive duties, they don’t have an easy time of things and quickly end up in way over their heads.  I admire the depth of the goals Duane sets in front of her characters, as it seems as though they never lack for things to do.  This also means that they’re facing things that are profoundly scary and difficult to deal with, which turns out to be the perfect recipe for excitement and wonderfully climactic scenes.

Without spoiling anything, I think I can safely say that this book is an excellent adventure with exceptionally mature themes for a YA story.  The themes are more cosmically oriented than those of many other YA books that I’ve seen recently, with an emphasis on the broad scope of a story that I normally associate with epics; I admire the way in which Duane manages to include an epic scope even as she keeps the story (and its narration) very personal.  It takes considerable skill to see that through, and Duane clearly has it.  If you enjoy epics, YA stories, modern fantasy, or anything similar, I expect that you’ll like this book.

Ok, so I have an odd story about my history with this book…

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