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Chris Modzelewski
In my day job, I run a data analysis software company. I also write a weekly science fiction/fantasy/horror blog called the King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin (
In my day job, I run a data analysis software company. I also write a weekly science fiction/fantasy/horror blog called the King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin (

Chris's posts

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So much of fiction depends on building and maintaining the reader's trust. So how does that work? What are the techniques that drive the reader's investment? And how can we play with that trust in fun and subversive methods?

Some of my thoughts on getting that initial trust:

More to come Saturday (dealing with how world-buliding and plotting play into trust).

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So it turns out there's more in common between science fiction and spy fiction than I had previously thought. Fleming's James Bond novels? They totally rely on classic science fiction world-building techniques. John Le Carre's George Smiley novels? They use neologisms the way golden age SF uses neologisms. Completely different genres, but they make use of the same techniques to produce cognitive estrangement.

Makes me wonder what else the genres have in common? And where do they really diverge?

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Big news! Garth Kirby is now available at IndyPlanet, ComicsMonkey (, and IndyPlanet Digital! Hope you check it out and tell your friends.

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So I'm still digesting all my Viable Paradise experiences, but one of the lectures on the writing life really struck a chord with me. We'd talked a little bit about writing rituals and writing process, and this happens to be a subject I often debate with my wife (she usually wins). But while mulling over my VPXV experience, I think I've managed to figure out something interesting about the difference between writing process and ritual:

Writing process (whatever our process might be) is good. Ritual is bad. (duh) Process is what gets the story written. And process risks becoming ritual if it gets in the way of getting the story written. More complete and likely more coherent thoughts are up on my blog:

What's everyone else's take on this? Where does the border between process and ritual fall for you, and how do you manage your forward momentum in your writing?

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So a thread over on the Absolute Write forums has made me think about why science fiction, fantasy, and horror are so popular. My conclusion? That speculative storytelling contains all realistic storytelling. That's right, we drink mainstream milkshake.

What does everyone else think? What makes SF/F/H so popular?

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So having finished Bill Willingham's Down the Mysterly River (a fun middle-grade fantasy), I find myself with two questions:

First, how much violence in MG is too much? At what point will MG/YA sales channels grow too uncomfortable with it for a book to be sustainable? Is there even such a point?

Second, what other comic book authors have made a successful transition into writing prose fiction?

My review of Down the Mysterly River can be found here:

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I love alternate history, and urban fantasy, and the Industrial Revolution. And I love when writers take risks in their storytelling, whether those risks work beautifully or not. Which is why I really enjoyed Marie Brennan's With Fate Conspire (review:

The historical detail was great, the world-building and folklore roots were amazing. But Brennan took a major risk with how she structured her story's timing. That risk may have paid off only partially for me, but I applaud her for taking it nonetheless.

What's your perspective on that kind of risk-taking? When someone takes a risk and is only partially successful, how does that affect your thinking about the work?

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What makes one hero tragic and another not? I've got a blog post up that walks through my (admittedly somewhat convoluted and algorithmic) theory. The blog post is here:

But I'd love to know what everyone else thinks. What makes Elric tragic and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser not? Can Frodo Baggins really be considered an inversion of Dickens' Sidney Carton? What would you call a hero who is not tragic? (I opted for anti-tragic, but it strikes me as a bit ungainly - albeit functional).

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Frodo Baggins is a failure. There, I've gone and said it. But the fact of the matter is that as a hero, he botches his grand finale. Sure, he's got good reason (the Ring is insidious and all), but he still chokes. His aspiration throughout LOTR is to do the right thing and destroy the one ring. But he can't do it, and it is only through a stroke of eucatastrophe that Tolkien manages to wrench success out of Baggins' failure.

In the second of my three-part post on a theory of the hero (, I've put some thoughts together on the different types of story archetypes that can apply to heroic characters. I've basically found three types: aspirational (Frodo, Luke Skywalker, or Taran the Assistant Pig-keeper), observational (Conan, the Brothers Grossbart, or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser), or consequential (Macbeth, Elric of Melnibone).

Are there other hero archetypes out there, or does this pretty much cover the spectrum? What does everyone think of this way of conceptualizing different heroic stories?

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So what makes a heroic character? And are there any substantive differences between heroes and villains? Aren't "villains" the heroes of their own story, and can we still consider stories told from the villain's perspective heroic? The way I see it, a complete theory of the hero can apply just as easily to Beowolf, LOTR, and A Song of Ice and Fire as it can to Lolita or the Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.

This past weekend I read an awesome book on heroes in Japanese legend/folktale/culture (Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure) and it helped crystallize some thoughts I'd been having along these lines. The result is actually a series of blog posts talking about:
1) What constitutes a hero in fiction?
2) What are the plot and story archetypes for heroic characters?
3) How does narrative timing affect tragic and anti-tragic heroes?

The first part is up on my blog right now ( if anyone wants to take a look. The second part will be going up Saturday, and the third part will be going up next Tuesday.

I'm still mulling my way through my thoughts on this (the insides of my brain are, as always, a mess) but I'd love to hear what others think.
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