Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Sheridan Simon’s Pen Name

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I’ve gotten a lot of hits here looking for information about Sheridan Simon.

Sheridan Simon was a very well-known and respected Physics professor at Guilford College who was also quite enamored with science-fiction. In fact, he used to create logically plausable solar systems and planets for science-fiction authors, for a small fee. He advertised in the back of LOCUS magazine, the trade mag for the speculative fiction crowd. He designed Hoffman’s Quartet for me in 1992, but sadly passed away in 1994. He was truly an amazing man and had a real genius for translating hard physics into very readable language that even guys like me could understand.

What’s a bit more interesting, though, is that he wrote science-fiction, too. Now, for a long time his pen name was quite a mystery. In fact, the story went that even his wife didn’t know the name he wrote and published under. While that makes for a good story, I don’t know if it’s actually true or not. In any case, a lot of folks have been through this website looking for that pen name, since I mention Dr. Simon on occasion and do rather well in the search engines. In any case, I got a wild hair to track this down the other day and I have an answer, I think. If I’m reading the entry on correctly, he published under the name “Yeaton Clifton“.

Of course, since all his work seems to have been published in now-defunct magazines, I doubt it will be very easy to find. At least you know who to look for now!
Good luck!


Happy Birthday, Mr. Lewis!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Today is C.S. Lewis’ birthday.
For those of you who don’t know him, C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, which has been made into movies and mini-series several times. Lewis was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien and, in fact, was part of the same writing group, the Inklings. It was there that the two became fast friends, until their falling out. Lewis, or “Jack”, as he preferred his friends call him, was a convert to Catholicism and became a prolific Christian apologist, penning such gems as The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, and Mere Christianity. He was a remarkable author and an interesting man.
You can read more about Clive Staples Lews at the website endorsed by his step-son, Douglas Gresham, called Into the Wardrobe.


Ideas: 10 Cents for a Dozen

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Ideas are easy to come by.

What’s more rare is the ability to shape that idea into an actual story. By way of example and illustration, I regularly come up with interesting settings and characters, sometimes both at the same time, but rarely have a full story to make it all gell.

In fact, to prove to the few readers this blog might still have how cheap ideas like this are, I’ll give one away for free. Here’s a world setting idea that I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of weeks.
Start with one of my old favorites, magic as an STD. That mixes in all sorts of potential conflicts and uncomfortable conjunctions that result in stories. (In fact, I wrote a story with nothing but this as the premise some time ago, called The Chrome Girl.)
Now, mix in a little artificial biodiversity accomplished by way of genetic engineering. New species of plants and animals and insects just loaded with transgenic material waiting to get loose in the world to recombine in ways we can’t predict. So, this gives us a world with magic, however you care to actually define that, and all sorts of interesting beasties, perhaps including things like dragons and sphynxes and pegasus and … Well, you get the idea. Now, we could stop there and have a pretty decent world with all the fantasy and technology mixed together. There are any number of stories that might come from this and an author could make an entire series of books, not to mention a career, with the landscape I just described in a few short sentences.

But, let’s keep going…
Now, let’s add a lot of time. Enough time, in fact, that people forget the technology but still have the STD-produced magic and the assorted mythical beasties and plants and such. Maybe throw in the collapse of modern civilization, just to make sure technology is dead. This isn’t too different from what Anne McCaffrey did with the Dragon Riders of Pern series. (For a great look at her world, check out The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern, Second Edition. There’s no magic there, but the rest is pretty well dead on.)

But, let’s say everyone’s worst fears about global warming came true and the polar ice caps pretty well melt. That would raise sea levels at least 215 feet, according to some sources. So, that would significantly change coastlines world wide. It would also force a bunch of population to move about to accomodate the changes in climate and habitable land.
Now, you might think that’s enough to do to our mythical future descendants, but I’m not quite done with them. Let’s add a shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles. It’s not as far fetched as you might think and, really, we have no idea what effects it might have on Earth. Frankly, almost anything could happen, much of it not great. With any luck, for our future story setting, it would reduce population and plunge us into a kind of modern dark age. Why is lucky for us? Well, because adversity like that makes for wonderful stories! Now, assuming the human race survives all that, when we come out of our new dark age, all sorts of exploration and rebuilding possibilities exist. All of which, of course, results in more story opportunities!

So, where’d these ideas come from?
Well, the first one came to me while watching a science program in college. The show was about diseases or virii or some such, but mentioned “chicken pox”. Apparently, chicken pox is actually a form or herpes and, as such, actually alters a victim’s genetic code to create the tell-tale spots.
The artificial biodiversity idea came from several science articles I’ve read over the years, both about genetically engineered plants and animals and assorted topics on extinction. It seemed a logical jump, to me, that someone might try to artificially encourage biodiversity via genetic manipulation. And, of course, who wouldn’t want their own, pet dragon?
The melting polar ice-caps is an old theme and right out of current science a political news.
The bit about the shift of the magnetic poles was first suggested to me by my mother as a possible explanation for how magic somehow returned to the world. You just never know what Mom’s going to come up with next!

But, notice, I have all this just floating around in my head, with no actual stories or plots. Amazing, isn’t it? They’re all just “out there” floating around, waiting for someone to write them down.
So, what are you waiting for? Go think up some stuff to write about, then do it!


Happy Birthday, Mr. Herbert!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Today is Frank Herbert’s Birthday.

Of course, we haven’t had him with us since 1986, the year I graduated from high-school, but his work lives on. Mr. Herbert is primarily known for his seminal work, Dune, and the other books in the series that followed. Though, interestingly enough, he never intended to write sequels.
Often refered to as the science-fiction Lord of the Rings, the Dune series of books detail an amazingly rich science-ficiton culture. The novels are some of the first science-fiction to have detailed political and sociological sub-plots, not to mention ecological sub-plots! The way Mr. Herbert used religion in his work is quite interesting as well. In a genre that often avoids discussing religion, he explored the topic in detail and with a depth that was personally inspiring.

There hasn’t been anyone else quite like Frank Herbert and I am in awe of the ways in which he influenced the genre, which is why I celebrate this every year.


Hoffman’s Quartet Possible

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Or, putting a little more science into science-fiction.

Way back in the Old Days, before I was so weighed down with bills and obligations to creditors, I dreamed that I’d pay my way writing science-fiction.  As a result of that dream, I commissioned one Sheridan Simon to build a solar system for me.  Specifically, a system with four habitable worlds that might have developed independantly.  The result was far more than I could have hoped for and I made that available via this website some time ago, as Hoffman’s Quartet.

Now, however, it seems that Dr. Simon was  more spot on than I could have imagined, lo, those many years ago.  Just recently, National Geographic ran a news story talking about habitable planets circling so-called “hot Jupiters”, which are more properly “brown dwarfs”.  Back in 1992, when Sheridan Simon crafted this hypothetical world system for me, that’s precisely how he got me my requested four habitable worlds.
It’s been interesting over the years to see the several pseudo predictions he made in creating that extra-solar system for me come true.  Or, more accurately, becore more popular.  I wish he were still around to see it, but, sadly, Sheridan Simon passed away a number of years ago.
Maybe I’ll take up that system again and write a story or two, dedicated to Dr. Simon.  Just because that world system has become timely again, and, somehow, evokes an interesting flavor of nostalgia in me.  Ah, the good old days.  Everything old is new again.


Happy Birthday, Tarzan!

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Today is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ birthday!
ERB, as he is often known by fans, was born in Chicago in 1875. He is probably most famous as the creator of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, which is a series of stories about an English nobleman who was abandoned in the African jungle during infancy and brought up by apes. His first Tarzan story appeared in 1912, and Burroughs followed it with the novel Tarzan of the Apes in1914. He is also the author of A Princess of Mars, which is the first book in a series about a US Cavalry officer transported “mystically” to Mars, as well as, Pellucidar, about a savage world hidden beneath our own, The Pirates of Venus, about space pirates on Venus. Not to mention his lesser known works, including The Mad King and many others.
For many of us, ERB was our first introduction to science-fiction and fantasy. He was a real writer, by which I mean he churned out novels and stories at a furious rate for one reason onlyL to support his family. He is, in many ways, one of my heroes.
So, Happy Birthday, Mr. Burroughs, wherever you are.


Dale Reckoning Plugin

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I upgraded to the latest version of WordPress not too long ago so I could test a little project of mine.  Way back in the early days of blogging, when all these fancy programs were new and not so user friendly, I concieved of a beautiful way to present fiction to a large audience for free.  Well, okay, me and about a million other people, but, still, I had an artistic vision.  No, really!  My idea was to keep a journal in the manner and style of a character from a fictional world via a blog.  I saw it as a return to the roots of the novel which, in the early days, used things like journal entries and faux personal letters to tell a story.  Naturally, a blog would be a perfect way to do just that.
But, as a curmudgeon and creative person who was not content to just record something in the standard calendar, I set about trying to adapt the blog I was using to a new, fictional calendar.  Sadly, my first efforts met with very limited success, but, then I upgraded to the first version of WordPress and started learning a bit of PHP.  It wasn’t long after that before I had a decent working plugin that would allow me to make my blog appear to be recorded in the calendar used for the Forgotten Realms setting by Wizards of the Coast, formerly TSR.  It took many, many cycles of development and testing before I was satisfied, but, I finally got something that I thought was worth sharing and, then, they did a major overhaul of WordPress.  So, I waited for all the bugs to get found and fixed.  And, I waited and waited and waited some more for good measure.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I actually found the time to upgrade to the latest version and test my plugin again.  A few minor corrections later, I had fixed all the quirks I could find and, so, without further ado, I present, for your wacky, fantasy blogging pleasure, the Dale Reckoning plugin for WordPress!

Use it in good health and enjoy!


Invisible Libraries

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Thought I was going to forget my Friday Fun link, didn’t you?
Well, I haven’t. Today I bring you the Invisible Library. The Invisible Library is a virtual “library” of books that only appear in books. Did you catch that? They’re books that don’t actually exist but have been written about in other books that do actually exist. Oh, look, just click the link and you can see for yourself!

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