Category Archives: Blog

Balance

In the last couple of years at When Words Collide (a writer’s conference put on in Calgary during August), I've attended workshops and panel discussions on the emergent world of self-publishing and hybrid publishing. The changing world of conventional publishing has pushed authors to alternative action to get their work out to the public.

Self-publishing circumvents the long lead times of non-simultaneous submission, follow-up query and moving on to the next market. Most big publishers (the 'big 5') won't take unsolicited or un-agented submissions and the task of finding an agent for an unknown writer is often as daunting as finding a publisher.

Self-publishing provides the prolific author with the opportunity to publish more than one book per year; conventional houses rarely release more than one book per author per year, particularly for a mid-list writer. Frequent releases actually benefit the self-published e-book author as readership can be voracious, especially for series work.

Self-published books also do not have to conform to the conventional wisdom of one-hundred-thousand-word epics which look great on bookstore shelves; a thick, meaty read, thinks the prospective buyer. Self-published e-books apparently sell better, especially a series, if they run fifty or sixty-thousand words.

Hybrid-publishing refers to the author who sells to conventional publishers but is too prolific, prefers writing shorter novels, or has books out of their usual genre. This writer needs another outlet and follows both paths.

So, what about balance? Every single panel and workshop about self-publishing stresses the time and effort the independent author should spend creating a personal brand. Writing, editing, formatting and releasing your book is only the first stage. Promoting your work is a continuous and consuming task. Mark Leslie, Axel Howerton, T.K. Boomer and other presenters at WWC offered numerous suggestions for using social media to increase potential readership.

How does one balance energy and time between self-promotion and putting words to paper and screen? Every hour spent on social media is an hour of not writing. I look at it as another discipline of the same overall task. I had to learn to self-edit, not the most creative endeavour. I am not a gregarious person by nature and I value my privacy, whether in the real or cyber-world. Yet I recognize the need for some presence, if you will, and maintain a profile through these blogs and author dashboards on Goodreads and Amazon.

Guy Gavriel Kay summed it up best for me at this years' WWC guest of honour speeches. An acclaimed writer in the conventional publishing world, Guy must continue to maintain and grow his readership. For even such an award-winning author, conventional publishers devote little time and even fewer dollars to promoting his work. Outside the self and hybrid-publishing regime, the author must be the publicist. Guy's advice paralleled my sentiment, and I paraphrase, 'do what you are comfortable with'.

My passion is writing, creating stories which reflect my sensibilities. I'm happy to talk about my work more than myself. I've been lucky, in my opinion, to have a small-press publisher for my SF novels but I'll consider hybrid-publishing (I have a fantasy novel making the agent rounds but will look at self-publishing it if necessary). And refine the balance to promote my works.

The Unexpected Sequel

When I finished my first published novel, Javenny, I wanted to create a sequel escalating the theme of water. I began Rebuilding Javenny but only after I'd written the first draft of another book, one exploring the theme of memory. That novel became Transient City. My publisher expressed interest in the Javenny sequel as my second contracted book for Bundoran Press but I had so much more passion about Transient City, he agreed to look at it. He bought it and before it was even published, he offered a contract to write a sequel to Transient, sight unseen.

I was flattered in his confidence but wasn't certain I shared it. I wrote Transient as a stand-alone book, no loose ends: everybody dies or moves away (no spoiler here). I took a day or two to mull the offer over. Of course I was going to do it, this is what being a 'writer' is all about, the ability to create a compelling story from scratch and not awaiting the muse to inspire. What to do? First, sign the contract. Second, don't panic. Third, get past the panic. Fourth, pull a book out of my...brain.

My brain surprised me, as it often does during the writing process. Stories do end but the lives of the surviving characters do not. Protagonists are supposed to change and certainly Victor had. Being changed doesn't mean he'd be any less vulnerable. As I thought about him, I recognized changes create new challenges by bringing the character or characters into conflict with the world in which they'd previously survived despite their quirks and handicaps. There was the kernel of the sequel.

I needed more. Secondary characters from Transient now had an opportunity to step up and have more of their story told. They'd have to, I'd removed (spoiler alert here) the villains and one of the most compelling aspects of Transient (you know if you've read it). I had a revelation at this point, why should I do all the heavy lifting? I had superb Transient beta readers. Put them to work earning their spot in the Acknowledgements. I asked my minions what they liked most about Transient and what they wanted more of. Big help to focus on themes for the sequel.

The final key component was the freedom to introduce new characters. The plot threads came out of character and setting, the new people and places came from my imagination. Don’t discount the power of deadline and expectation in the creative process.

Rogue Town: Transient Lost (working title) nears final edits for a Spring 2017 publication and I'm thrilled. It was no chore to write it and I thoroughly enjoyed the cast this time around. The techniques I learned from the exercise I will use in the future. Hopefully when my publisher says of some work, "hey, that was really good, you should write a sequel."

Is there a third book? Well, never say never. Again, I wrote Rogue Town as complete in itself, especially wishing to avoid the sometimes weak-middle-book-of-a-trilogy syndrome. I have other books in preparation (plus that Javenny sequel is sitting on the shelf), so it will be a while before Transient Found is more than a title on a 3 x 5 file card.

Transient City Reveals Part 2 – Titles

While I toil on TC’s sequel (working title: Rogue Town), I've been re-reading parts of TC for details, names, clues to the future and past, etc. I thought I'd blog explaining some of the chapter titles. I had a lot of fun tagging the chapters as I wrote the early drafts and I'll share a few of the processes and 'secrets'.

I, Witness (1), a play on 'eyewitness' from Victor's point of view. If he had a business card, it would read "Victor Stromboli—I Witness".

More wordplay ensues with Opportunity Rocks (Knocks); The Elusive and Reclusive; The Wild Yonder (no blue on Lodan); Perilous Plains (surprised it wasn't used in the 1960's Batman TV show); If Shoes Fit; The Smell of Defeat (okay, this was spurred by a short story assigned in Junior High about two school-age ski jumpers competing for glory, the one most doubtful about his ability, wins. Before he does, his teammate advises to get rid of his 'defeatist attitude'. "It's not de feet, it's de skis"); Homecoming Charade (parade); The Spoils of Victor; Rest In Pieces; Hail Mary; He Who Baits (waits); and The Shadows Know (old time radio 'The Shadow Knows, hmwah hah hah'). Okay, they're not all good and some a little cheeky; some quite obvious but they all were fun to wrap the chapter around. A mini-thematic journey, if you will.

Perhaps less obvious are the music-related titles; homages to songs and artists who influenced my adolescence. Park Bench Bookends (5) refers to Simon and Garfunkel's 'Old Friends' ("Sat on the park bench like bookends"); The Steel Forest (6) Gordon Lightfoot's 'Home from the Forest'; Fruit of the Vine (18), Jimmy Gilmore and the Fireballs; Carry That Weight (21), The Beatles; Having a Heat Wave (23), Martha and the Vandelas or Linda Ronstadt; Running On Empty (25), Jackson Brown; and On The Wings of a Nightingale (29), Kathy is Florence, recorded by the Everly Brothers, written by Paul McCartney and produced by Dave Edmunds (major provenance).

The Beige Woman (7) refers to Blaze, dressed in beige and to all appearances, mind-cloaked in dull monotone too. A clever camouflage. My inspiration is Raymond Chandler's haunting and menacing 'man in brown' from The Big Sleep. The other literary reference is Sucks To Your Government (10). One line which stuck with me for years after studying William Golding's Lord of the Flies was "sucks to your asthma". It encapsulates how Victor feels about his secondment to the Miquelon.

Transient City contains numerous homages to popular culture (mainly British) which I loved in the 1960's and '70's. The Avengers topped the list so it ranked two titles. Umbrella, Charm and Bowler (14) is the translated German title of the show, 'Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone'. Forget-Me-Knot (33) is the title of Diana Rigg's departure episode (actually filmed long after she'd announced her leave-the producers brought her back to bridge the new series featuring Linda Thorson).

The last is a personal one, A Roguing We Will Go (28), sung to the tune of 'A Hunting We Will Go'. Besides referring to the inhabitants of Rogue Town, it hearkens to my youth on the uncle's farm north of Calgary. Roguing in agriculture terms means pulling weeds, not as exciting as it sounds. I wasn't roguing garden plots by hand, I was weeding quarter sections at a time in wheat and barley fields.

Which brings me to Rogue Town the book. Who's going to feed all the new refugees, including Victor and Shoes, in the burgeoning independent settlement? A task for a new character. See if you can decipher his etymology when the novel comes out in 2017 from Bundoran Press, given the information above.

Purging to a Greater Good

In anticipation of the inevitable post-retirement downsizing, I’ve been shedding materials ‘curated’ (collected, hoarded) over the decades. Starting with hundreds of fanzines (comic book, comic strip, SF, movies), I’ve lifted a physical and emotional weight out of my life for a greater good. They all went to the University of Calgary SF and comic collection. I disposed of them in one fell swoop without throwing them in the landfill, thus keeping them together for interested popular culture scholars and researchers. And not having to eke them out the door through ebay and the like, one at a time over a lonnnggg time.

What has this to do with writing? Each time I remove a nagging distraction, my mind should be freed up to create. Are there piles of old ephemera clogging up my brain? How does one purge the mind? Empty the distractions?

Meditation teaches the discipline of focus. Creating new, more vibrant memories overprints the old ones, beneficial if the old ones have too many negative emotional threads. I want passionate, positive memories, not passionate angries-the-blood non-productive deflections from a path of creativity and serenity. Anxiety isn’t the friend of the writer. Not this writer, anyway. And being p’d off at the daily demonstrations of stupidity doesn’t help either. Not my own lapses in judgment, the seemingly unrelenting, rant-inducing dumb stuff which organizations supposedly running the infrastructure display.

The brilliant consequence of being a writer allows me to vent, through character, if needed but even better, the Zen of immersion during the putting ideas to word is itself a purge. How often when we’re writing do we suddenly notice the clock on the bottom right of the screen and realize, “Holy crap, I’ve been at this for two hours?”? The distractions which may’ve seemed like a block when I sat down at the keyboard have been replaced by ‘prose from nowhere’. Like J.G. Ballards’ “The Wind From Nowhere”, the important consideration isn’t where it came from (the prose or the breeze), but where it takes me.

Back to the hoard. I never get to disappointed when story ideas which appear brilliant at initial conception don’t get used or pan out. I refuse to hoard them. I may write a summary out on a 3x5 file card, carefully store in with all the other unused ideas and rarely look at it again. There are two lessons I’ve learned about ideas. 1. More will come, no need to ‘curate’ them in a shrine; and 2. The good ones will pop back out of my subconscious while I’m writing. The important process for me is to use ‘em or lose ‘em. The mind is a tap, I keep it open to keep the ideas flowing.

Theatre of the Mind

Recently, I was chatting with my cover artist (Javenny and Transient City) and Dan commented he really enjoyed working on my novels because they ‘read like a movie’. Aside from being quite flattered, I examined why this was so. I certainly visualize each scene in my stories but does it always translate to the page and even more importantly, to the reader?

An essay on writing I read many years ago by Samuel Delany, advised his technique is to describe in detail what the character is touching, seeing, doing, hearing, etc. while they move or are engaged in dialogue. We can’t all be Delany but when I remember to consider his method, I try to incorporate it.

But there are the pitfalls and the forgetful moments. Looking at pieces where I’ve not created a sufficient visual, I see a few reasons. First, when I’m creating first draft, often I’m writing flat out; I see action and dialogue but don’t have time for the descriptive details, fearing I’ll forget where my enthusiasm is taking the story.

A second excuse no doubt stems from my background writing short stories where idea, plot and character may take centre stage. Descriptive background is a victim of brevity. This isn’t always true; one of the shorts I’m proudest of, Knights Exemplar (On Spec #90, Fall 2012) is a very visual tale. The environment plays contrast to the gathering fighters, one more opponent for them and the townspeople to combat.

The third culprit may be a lack of ‘seeing’ the setting. I haven’t exploited the panorama of the story to its full potential. A recent critique of a fantasy novel observed some of my scenes suffered from ‘white room syndrome’. In this book, I have a very clear vision of each scene but my execution was obviously lacking. I need to revisit those weak points and immerse the characters in their environment and with economy of words paint a better picture.

This visual dynamic is a talent I demonstrate, if my artist is to be believed (and I take positive comments very seriously!), but to improve my consistency is the goal. If my readers can imagine themselves not just reading words but seeing pictures, then the prose is more memorable.

Theatre of the mind is a phrase often used to describe radio drama. Unique in media, radio employs only sound to paint its pictures, the listener creates the theatre from the voice inflections of the actors and the sound effects. Occasionally a narrator may intrude but the break is brief. Many historians point to its visual competitor, television as the executioner of radio drama, citing even bad TV held more interest than superb radio. Not entirely true: the British, Canadian and other radio drama departments continued to thrive up to the present. American radio drama died because the networks sold more advertising on TV than their abandoned radio departments.

My appreciation of OTR (Old Time Radio) does help in trying to create an image in as few words as possible, and using dialog and narrative both to accomplish same.

This added depth isn’t merely a ‘nice-to-have’, I see it as another tool in the writer’s kit to be used well. To stand out from the many other excellent books and stories my audience could be reading. Get them to come back, even if they don’t examine ‘WHY’ in detail, entertainment value for their time and money investment is what I strive for.

Finding the Juice

I’ve experienced a mushroom cloud of creative activity over the last few days (thanks a lot, two A.M. brain!) and it's spurred me to consider why.

The ideas for a new novel assault me when I should be asleep. I see plot, character, setting, twists, science and more in many levels which will intertwine in the final product. Is it because my mind at oh-dark-thirty is more receptive to the writerly slave working in the back room who isn't allowed to take a night off for slumber?

Or is it more? I've spent the last two months revising and proof-reading Transient City (May 2016 publish date, see previous post on Reveals Part 1), rewriting my sequel to Javenny (working title Rebuilding Javenny) and evaluating recent critiques on a fantasy novel. Writing but not creating. So perhaps the subconscious is flexing its muscles and readying for the next novel-building marathon. I also took 2 weeks off from nearly all writing for a warm vacation.

The initial idea arose from squatting in the surf on Kameole Beach in Hawaii, waiting for the next good wave. California surf-buddies imparted a rule-of-thumb years ago that every sixth wave or so is a magnitude larger, i.e. the best one to catch. I have observed decent similar periodicity on the west coast of Canada but my observation in Hawaii don't support it there. Nevertheless, I began noodling a short story idea around a sporting pursuit opening the dialogue between human and alien. "Waiting On The Sixth Wave" would be the title and I made no more notes than that.

Post-vacation, post-proofing final Transient City PDF copy, more ideas begin to come. The initial idea I recognized as unoriginal and would need a couple of Ken Rand's 90 degree turns before I'd feel good about spending time on it. But then these nocturnal ideas came tumbling down. I think there's a novel in it, and one which will be neat to write. The 'wave' in the title somehow got switched to a specific geometric term. A bit of mathematical refreshment added to the mixture and to deepening plot threads.

Recipe: The right brain wants what the right brain wants, I can only keep in down for so long during editorial revision stretches. Take an occasional break from all writing without guilt—I will be the richer for it.

Transient City Reveals part 1

My next novel from Bundoran Press, Transient City, will be released in May, 2016 (available to pre-order now, see links on Novels page).

A science fiction, noir, diesel-punk whodunit, I indulged in a bit of self-referencing fun in character names and chapter titles. For those who want to ‘get it’, here’s a reveal on some of the character names.

For any fan of hard-boiled fiction, the names Gault, Gruber and McGivern all are known and revered. I used the surnames of three of the Bureau’s detectives in homage to authors I respect outside the writers accorded the most adulation (Hammett and Chandler).

William Campbell Gault, whom I acknowledge in the frontispiece of the novel had two distinct but contemporaneous writing careers. I discovered his juvenile fiction in my elementary and junior high school libraries, primarily his car and motorcycle novels. Not as gritty as Henry Gregor Felson, Gault’s coming-of-age in a car or bike stories were filled with the passion I felt for the day I’d have my driver’s license and own vehicle, either 2 or 4-wheeled. He also wrote a number of straight sports novels for football players, which I was most definitely not, nor likely to become. Size didn’t matter when it came to wheeling a race car down the quarter mile or around Indianapolis. Gault’s hard-boiled creations Brock Callahan and Joe Puma would fill another shelf. Above all, Gault was a professional, who appeared to like being a writer and entertainer. And to give young readers a reason to pick up the next book, whether it be his or not.

Frank Gruber scraped through the early depression years writing and being rejected. After ‘breaking in’ in 1934, he proceeded to write more than 300 stories for over 40 pulps and more than sixty novels (source: Wikipedia). A one-man fiction factory all-but forgotten in the mainstream today.

William P. McGivern wrote some science fiction early in his career but settled on mysteries as his primary field. His background as a police reporter served his novels well and they hum with accuracy and the seamy side of law-enforcement. In later years he wrote a lot of movie and television scripts.
The McGuffin character, Raoul Field takes his name from another prolific Black Mask contributor, Raoul Whitfield.

I urge interested readers to check these writers out.

To come: Reveals Part 2.

CONtrast

In August, I had the good fortune to attend two conventions back to back. First, the 5th annual When Words Collide in Calgary, then the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, Sasquan, in Spokane.

WWC is a genre-focused festival embracing SF, Fantasy, YA, Mystery, Horror and Romance. Writers, editors and publishers from North America participate in numerous panels, pitch sessions, launches, readings, signings, parties and general comaraderie. The limit of 500 registrants keeps the convention personal. The organizers' reputation and hard work, attendees' commitment to their craft and Calgary's friendliness ensure top guests. Check out the list here: http://www.whenwordscollide.org/

WWC also schedules pre and post-con workshops offering in-depth writing and business sessions.

The modest size allows WWC to fit in one hotel; the smallish dealers room and con-suite ensures you'll see everyone at least once over the weekend and it's an easy venue to make new friends and contacts.

I've had the privilege to participate in 3 book launches this year and last, adding to the satisfaction of membership. WWC is a cozy-con, a relaxing experience or an exhilarating, exhausting one. It's the attendee's choice.

WorldCon is a much different beast, though no less passionately attended, just by thousands rather than hundreds of fans, readers, gamers, costumers, cosplayers, plus all of the above. WorldCon focuses on speculative fiction and my first SF con of this magnitude staggered the mind.

The organizational army produces 5 days of panels and workshops across a dozen or more hourly venues from 10:00 am until the wee hours. This is not a convention for sleeping. The four main sponsored hotels connected the patrons to the Spokane Convention Center via 20 minute bus intervals.

Guests attend WorldCons from all over the globe. I attended one panel with one of Japan's rising star authors, Taiyo Fujii. Though English was not his first language, Taiyo ingratiated himself easily to the crowd with his humour, humility and enthusiasm. Sasquan's headliner guests join in the marathon with pleasure. They're always 'on' and seem to enjoy themselves.

The contrast between the two conventions for me was significant. One's a night or two at the bar with close friends, the other a test of endurance. The similarities are greater though. The feeling of community exists no matter what the scale (Sasquan was a really big scale). Immersion is the key to satisfaction and I learned I should stay at the venues for the full experience (we have a summer place 30 miles outside Spokane and I chose to commute—limits the late night involvement). The professionals are there to help us burgeoning pros and to demonstrate the responsibility which accompanies success.

The dealers' room is massive. I got the feeling with chatting to the vendors, they are present as much to meet new friends and speak with old ones as to sell their wares (the bigger publishers being the exception).

Also on display: a huge artist gallery, a really cool photography exhibit featuring B/W head shots of well-known writers, artists, editors and fans. A historical walk through memorabilia from every WorldCon beginning in 1939 was a glorious way to spend a half hour or so, absorbing the legacy of the genre and its fandom.

Add continuous auctions, opening speeches and the ultimate announcement and celebration of the Hugo Awards (not to ignore this year's controversy but better explained elsewhere) and one cannot forget WorldCon is the giant.

Fortunately, there are conventions to choose from nearly every weekend across North America: small, medium or large. With the enthusiasm of the guests and participant, none disappoint.

Hope to see you at WWC in 2016!

Totality

My wife and I viewed the March 20, 2015 total eclipse of the sun from Vagar in the Faroe Islands. We chose the venue first, in conjunction with a bonus week in Iceland, checking off bucket list items galore. The Faroes have been a destination wish since reading William Trotter's "Warrener's Beastie" and Simon Winchester's "Atlantic". A desire to visit Iceland goes back much further since seeing the 1959 version of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". When we discovered an eclipse might be visible from admittedly an often-overcast bucketlist location, we were in.

Unlike many of our fellow pilgrims, we were total eclipse virgins. I've done many partials over the years, even as a kid staring through doubled-up exposed film negatives (127 – mother's box camera), and later pinhole projections for my kids and office mates. The trip and location were so fantastic that even had we not seen totality, there would have been no disappointment. The weather on the Faroes leading up to March 20 was variable: rain, cloud, fog. First contact was due at 08:38. It was raining while we had breakfast then donned our gear to venture outside next to the airport. 8000 eclipse chasers had descended on the 49000 residents leading up to the day but our viewing area consisted only of our TravelQuest group. We huddled and clutched equipment, watching the skies break and close. Then, first contact was visible. More cloud. A break opened at around half coverage, the moon's disc invading the sun's glow. A crescent sun but shaped unlike the crescent moon, I could imagine the moon between earth and sun, not just a flat image. As totality neared, the light became silvery grey around us, shadows sharpened to knife-edge clarity (the sun no longer being an illuminating disc), the temperature dropped, cheers and awe greeted the diamond ring, Baily's beads, and suddenly: totality. The eclipse glasses came off so we could view the corona through binoculars, telescopes, cameras and the naked eye. The next two minutes felt like six seconds, but seconds I will never forget.

As one of our tour astronomers put it, "the total eclipse experience cannot be reproduced by technology". It has to be witnessed firsthand. I fully appreciate the passion of those who have travelled around the globe to see them. And more importantly, to share this 'sense of wonder' with others. I wasn't merely sharing it with the others standing in awe around us, but with our ancestors: the 'primitives' who invented math and science to explain the world of natural phenomena; the calendar-makers who sought to predict not just seasons so critical to survival, but planetary and other cosmological events; and the story-tellers who created legends to explain the occasions in their gods' terms. The lineage of 'those who look up' joins us in recognizing that in these times of continuous technological wonders, nature will always impress more.

We are no longer newbies to the club. We've seen one spectacular total eclipse, it won't be our last. I understand the addiction. I understand the connections. And it was really neat.

Science Fiction Under the Sea

The human body, reduced to its Arrakis constituents, is approximately 60% water. Water acting as a solvent, carrying a lot of stuff around with it. The body's fluids are saline, similar in concentration to seawater. Oceans cover about 71% of our planet. Yet the highest evolutionary animal developed on land (for those who prefer to argue that humans may not be the current apex, you can stop reading now); arguably the second-highest evolved on land, then returned to the seas. Sea mythology goes back to and may pre-date the first mariners. Humans have been telling sea stories for thousands of years. Science fiction writers have entertained readers for over a century. Is the sub-genre still relevant 145 years after Jules Verne first published the granddaddy of undersea SF?

My first exposure to science fiction stories set under the ocean was Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. My apprehension was fostered by CBC Theatre 10:30's excellent adaptation of John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes (Out of the Deeps). My fascination, however, began with a 3-part Worlds of If serial published in 1967 by Hal Clement. Ocean On Top was later released in 1973 as an early DAW paperback with a great Jack Gaughn cover.

Why the fascination? Apparently, I'm not alone. An internet search of undersea science fiction leads to many sites and lists. The covers sell it (or art-Frank Tinsley lovingly portrayed all kinds of future habitats in many speculative articles for Mechanix Illustrated); the words embellish it. Whether it be sleek submarines hovering over domed cities under the waves, or surgically-altered gillhumans riding sharks (Kenneth Bulmer), the images are compelling. The sea floor is the unknown. Humans at best interact with the epipelagic photic zone on a regular basis. The abyss beckons and threatens. It's dark and cold; fatal to humans outside a pressure-protected environment. The lure of being able to interact tactilely with whatever denizens of the deep may exist is strong to the exploration-minded. A truly alien environment.

Alien environments are great settings for science fiction exploration. Extra-terrestrial survival requires similar gear to undersea survival: suits to contain and protect the fragile human form. Yet there is a fundamental difference despite the morphologic parallel. Survival in outer space requires keeping the earth's environment inside the suit or living quarters. Establishing an outpost in the depths of earth's oceans requires keeping that environment at bay. Surviving under immense pressure may still be easier than in a radiation-charged vacuum.

Every generation of writers returns to the water. Fred Pohl and Jack Williamson's YA classic Undersea trilogy has been re-issued many times. Kenneth Bulmer did his take with City Under the Sea and To Sail the Silver Sky. Frank Herbert's Under Pressure is another 1950's vision. Michael Crichton's Sphere brought the subgenre (or submarine genre) into the 1980's and Peter Watts drove a spike into its heart with his disturbingly brilliant Rifters saga at the close of the 20th century.

To return to the question of relevance, science fiction is often a cautionary tale forum. Ecology and overpopulation were brought into the SF readers' consciousness by such authors as Ursula Leguin (The Word for World is Forest), Harry Harrison (Make Room! Make Room!) and John Brunner (Stand On Zanzibar). The oceans can be as fragile as terrestrial ecological systems so the literary opportunity to examine issues, options and solutions is very relevant to 21st century life. Overpopulation isn't going away and the oceans feed those nations who can afford to harvest from the sea.

I suspect I've missed some recent SF undersea novels and that the genre is alive and thriving. I hope so.