Into the Home Stretch

64,000 words into this draft of Mesh. We’re into the home stretch, kids. Our protagonists are about to make the horrible discovery, leading to their moment of truth as they decide to fight the bad guy and save the world. Lots of action and pyrotechnics in the last few chapters. You’re going to love it.

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get here. I wish I could set a Dalton Trumbo-like pace, turning out a hundred pages in three days. For some reason, this is as fast as I can move if I want the story to make any sense at all. Trumbo’s legacy does inspire me: the guy wrote a lot of stuff that got rejected, too. Every writer seems to have two stories inside of him. The first story is what he’s working on. The second story is how he manages to make a buck. Both are equally important.

Want to know what the weather is like where I’m working? I found a web cam for the campus a few miles from my house – you can watch life on Planet Jackson as it unfolds. I’m hoping Mesh’s final form is part of the planetary landscape soon enough.

The Post-Stupid Year

Sorry, forgot one. I need to include another wish for 2019 … I hope that this the  year of Post-Stupid.

With the success of Bird Box, Netflix has had to issue the following warning regarding the new ‘Bird Box challenge.’

Yes folks, from the civilization that brought you the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Tide Pod Challenge and planking comes an entirely new unnecessary fad, The Bird Box challenge! Here’s how it works: I actually have no idea how it works. Someone please tell me.

Is the Bird Box Challenge real? Is it clever marketing? Who knows. The main point I want to get to is that I wish for 2019 to be the year we stopped being dumb. No more challenges. No more ‘trending on Twitter.’ We’re all people, right? We all want to be loved and respected. There’s nothing creepier than a world that seems to re-route our attention at will, pointing our gaze at the gratiutous, whenever it chooses to.

I’m getting tired of it. I’m interested in people who are tired of it, too.

So let’s make 2019 the Post-Stupid year. No more fads. No more hot buttons. Latest pearl-clutching hot topic on 24-hour news? Not listening. You’re trending on Twitter? That’s nice, don’t care. It’s great that you went viral, but so did syphilis and Rebecca Black. That doesn’t make you a superior human being.

Living in a post-stupid world has its benefits – here are a couple:

  • You save time and energy – no more jumping on the bandwagon or complaining that people on the bandwagon are dumb. Nobody cares. It’s stupid, and we’re post-stupid. Let the stupid take care of the stupid, while we remain unto ourselves.
  • You save money – How much did you spend on ‘raw water?’ How much did those adaptogenic superfoods cost down at Whole Paycheck? How much did you spend on those moscow mule cups you never use anymore? It wasn’t an investment, it was a rip-off. It’s okay to say it, and resolve to put the Amazon Prime account down.
  • You save your health – Social media and fads aren’t just annoying, they’re stressful and potentially hazardous to your health. Nobody said you had to be an ‘Instagram influencer.’ Just relax. Let Kendall Jenner fall into a black hole while you go live your life. I promise you, I like you more than Kendall Jenner already.

Say it with me: 2019 is the Year of Post-Stupid. In fact I’ll write 2019 a few more times to get used to it. Let’s do it together! 2019. 2019. 2019. 2019. There, that should help. Too easy to write 2091 for some reason. Maybe that’s a subconscious wish to live in the future I’m imagining.

Welcome to the future. It’s time to be awesome.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Three Scifi Wishes for 2019

 

We did it! Despite some of the darker predictions that took place this year, we managed to last through the demonic wasteland that was 2018 in America. Please take a moment to congratulate yourself. In the last few hours of the year, I was thinking about what I hoped for in 2019. It came down to three wishes for scifi, or you might call them fervent prayers. Pour yourself a glass of whatever you’re drinking, and let’s dream together:

Adults Being Adults

In 2019, we come to the end of adults acting like poop-flinging gibbons. Maybe not for the whole world, but just for us. More stories, fewer hot buttons. Fewer ‘wedge issues’ that mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. We’re here to take a chunk out of the universe. We can’t get to the stars until we climb out of the gutter. No more toxicity, no more trolling. Let’s be the adults we’re capable of being.

Make Room, Make Room!

This year, we widen out instead of closing in. There’s room for everyone in the metaverse of science fiction. If you check out my Instagram, I’ve been highlighting some artists that make truly evocative and unique science fiction. I’ve been making some, myself! Make room for everyone. Give everyone their fie seconds in the spotlight. You never know where the next J.R.R. Tolkien or Ralph McQuarrie is coming from.

 

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Less Machinery, More Humanity

This comes from one of my favorite movies, The Great Dictator. Charlie Chaplin makes an impassioned speech at the end that’s still relevant eighty years later. More than machinery, Chaplin pleaded, we need humanity. He’s absolutely right.

Corporate entertainment has a stranglehold on science fiction, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I still love Star Wars, and I still love Marvel, but they have enough of our attention. Escape the Disney-Marvel-Lucasfilm Industrial Complex and get back to the real science fiction. The ideas, the stories, the characters that shaped us. We’ll get there when we champion the makers instead of the takers.

So there you have it, my three scifi wishes for 2019. May you live long and prosper, may your dreams be bigger on the inside, and may your journey toward success happen in less than twelve parsecs. I’m working on some new scifi art and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.

Six Ways to Defeat Scifi’s Toxic Tribalism

I took a while to process this article, and I would encourage you to do the same. The news arrived that yes, the sci-fi community’s hatred of The Last Jedi was stoked by online trolls and bots. Just as in other communities, scifi is vulnerable to manipulation and deceit. If we care about ourselves and each other, we must defeat toxic tribalism within the scifi community.

In the past, I’ve had conversations about this but the community at large seems torn. Does toxicity exist? If it exists, is it possible to remove? If it’s possible to remove, is it my responsibility to do so? There are many different arguments for doing nothing. In the end, though, is that the world we want to live in?

Assuming we want to live in a culture that champions creativity, fosters connection, and embraces individuals, toxicity has to be managed. How do you go about it?

I found a really great article about defeating toxic tribalism on Medium, and am passing it along for consideration by the sci-fi community. If this is something you feel is worth changing, then these suggestions can serve as a template for individual action and change.  Continue reading

Storytelling – Four Things Robert Zemeckis Teaches You

Baby, it’s cold outside. No, I’m not trying to be a creep, I’m just explaining why I’m inside the house, catching up on a lot of old movies. After all these years, I still enjoy the Back to the Future trilogy, among other classic sci-fi movies.

When you think about the guy who made BTTF, you realize that Robert Zemeckis can teach you a lot about the art of storytelling. I decided to jot down four things that his movies taught me.

Before you say, “But Zemeckis is a filmmaker, not a storyteller!”, remember that filmmaking is storytelling, using light and sound where the rest of us use pen and paper. Before he was a director, Robert Zemeckis was a screenwriter. His ability to craft authentic stories over the past forty years and his insistence on telling stories in a unique way is why Zemeckis will always be one of my favorite directors. 

So with that in mind, let’s talk about four things his movies will teach any person who wants to tell stories for a living: Continue reading

Don’t Tell Me How to Hammer

Dear WordPress –

We interrupt this blog for a quick piece of hate mail for you and this platform I’ve been blogging on for several years now. Not that I think WordPress knows or cares who I am, but I’m pissed off enough to say it anyway. Perhaps it’ll help other WP users who feel the same way realize that they are not alone. Re-inventing the WP editor in favor of this idiot ‘Gutenberg’ tool makes as much sense as re-inventing the hammer for a carpenter. You don’t need to tell me how to hammer.

Since the 80s, people have been tinkering with the UI of a WYSIWYG text editor. I can remember learning to type on AppleWriter years ago, and the commonalities of interface stretched through Wordstar, Wordperfect, Staroffice, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Write, Microsoft Works, Framemaker, Wordpad, and Google Docs. We know you aren’t perfect, and we were prepared to love you anyway, but this is too much.

Re-organizing the entire interface to support ‘media rich pages and posts’ ignores your entire raison d’être: WORDS. That’s your name, isn’t it? WORDpress? Not MEDIARICHPAGESpress. How are we supposed to write words when every single paragraph is in its own little box and all the tools for formatting said paragraphs are buried under an avalanche of non-intuitive clickthroughs that only make sense to people who aren’t actually trying to write?

Fixing this is really easy: give us the option to turn off Gutenberg and go back to the original editor, so we don’t have to run a plug-in to write like we usually do. If you’re so serious about making WP work for media-rich experiences, fork the code and give those black turtleneck-wearing dorks what they want. Give us our word processor back, you evil swine!

I just wanted to get this off my chest. This is why George R R Martin continues to write with Wordstar. Any more nonsense out of you fools, and I’m gonna port this whole site over to Mambo.

Great Career Advice for Writers

Passing this along as I thought Jolene had some great insights about writing for a living. Career advice for writers, if it exists, tends to be along the lines of ‘Learn to be a writer now, pay me $24.’ If there are a million writers in the world, there will be a million-and-one scams to take their money. Happily, Jolene isn’t one of those people. She had some great career advice for writers, so it pleases me to pass along two articles you might find useful yourself:

9 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer

Yeah, seriously. Don’t. 

How to Get Started Freelance Writing

This was pretty helpful to me. I’m always looking for ways to supplement my income. You might be, too!

 

Mesh Update #11: New Free Wallpaper

Just in time for the end of the year, a new free wallpaper for Mesh.  I do concept art digital paintings of my stories – helps me inform my writing. For this piece, I wanted to try something different and focus on the characters of Mesh themselves.

Mesh Update #11: New Free WallpaperSo let’s do that. Tina is one of the ‘Snow Foxes,’ an elite group of techno-geeks that dominate the school and virtual reality. Let’s be clear: She isn’t a ‘damsel in distress,’ or ‘born sexy yesterday.’ I hate tropes that perpetuate mean-spirited stereotypes, so Mesh leaves them by the side of the road where they belong.

Tina isn’t perfect. She on the austistic spectrum. She’s also brilliant, athletic, witty, and brave. She’s a teenage girl who codes, plays basketball and practices jujitsu. She isn’t there to talk about the boys, or be talked about them. She’s there to be herself, like every person should be free to be.

Inside the Station, the massive VR system that contains our fearless geeky kids, you’re allowed to create your own sprites. Tina decided to transform herself into an anime princess as you’ll learn in Mesh:


“She looked up at two sprites that had just come through abusy communicating arch. “Watch it. Incoming nerds.”
“Huh?”
“Kids from the other team,” Tina said, morphing into a taller version of herself, now with red hair instead of blonde, and green eyes instead of blue. Her t-shirt melted into modular white plates, forming armor that belonged in some anime show. In the blink of an eye, she transformed herself into a warrior princess, ready for battle. “For these kids, you want to have your war face on.”

“I think I just fell in love with you,” Zeke mumbled.

“You’re cool, my sweet summer child.” Tina’s smile was somewhere between amused and flattered. Then she turned back to the approaching sprites. “Just remember that we’re friends. That’s all we’re ever going to be.”

Zeke nodded, swallowing so hard that his Adam’s apple bobbed like a yo-yo.

Mesh – Chapter 2.6

With that scene in mind, I started working with Photoshop. I started with a free open-source picture from Unsplash and with the help of some visual references and my trusty digital tablet, put the wallpaper above together to give away for free.

Love it, hate it, it’s still worth it to me. Making one thing in one way helps me make something else in another way. I hope you enjoy ‘Armorgirl,’ and the other free wallpapers I have to share.