Less Anger, More Jim Henson


Coming out of a serious writing jag, I’m thinking about Worldcon, that happened over the weekend in San Jose. Like many other purveyors of the art, I’m sometimes confused and puzzled about how people interpet what science fiction is supposed to be. Is it necessary to turn sci-fi into a competition, an argument, or a conflict? I did a bit of thinking, and it occurred to me that we need less anger, and more Jim Henson.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but don’t ignore the point: It isn’t just about where we’re going, it’s about who we’re going to be when we get there. I read that one time, and it’s always stuck with me. There’s no point in creating new things if the only purpose they serve is to be weaponized against innocent people.

Most geeks understand that. The best example I can think of is our old friend, Jim Henson. He was more than just the Muppets, of course. Jim created an enduring legacy of love, peace, and joy that he expressed through art and relationships.

There’s an article reprinted from Life that explains it like this: ‘Jim Henson can be credited with many accomplishments: he had the most profound influence on children of any entertainer of his time; he adapted the ancient art of puppetry to the most modern of mediums, television, transforming both; he created a TV show that was one of the most popular on earth. But Henson’s greatest achievement was broader than any of these. Through his work, he helped sustain the qualities of fancifulness, warmth and consideration that have been so threatened by our coarse, cynical age.’

Jim Henson had flaws but he was also a tolerant, patient man. That’s not to say that he tolerated everything. Many people conflate the two, and that is yet another byproduct of our toxic age.  “Underneath the zaniness, there was a kind of decency that the characters had about the world and to each other, and I think that was one of the legacy’s that Jim left,” Jerry Juhl, Head Writer for the Muppets said. “At the core there was always this kind of sense of social values and decency.”

Beyond that, through the Muppets Jim Henson showed a sense of ‘wonder, delight, [and] optimism.’ That’s sadly missing from the 2018 sci-fi landscape. Social values and deceny are being challenged. The loudest guy and the biggest sign seem to be winning.

We have the opportunity, though, to be the change we wish to see in the world. We don’t need to shout louder than the other guy. We just need to be. We can communicate our priorities by what we do, and the choices we make. None of these things are revolutionary in themselves. We’ll find, as Henson did, that we already know what the right thing to do is, we just need to do it.

Jim Henson did that. In so doing, he destroyed his foes, not by defeating them, but by befriending them. That wasn’t really original, it came right out of the Abraham Lincoln quote: ‘Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?’

So, although it seems like dark times, there are opportunities for light. Jim Henson showed us the way. Let’s find the next Jim Henson, or be the next Jim Henson, so that we can light the way for the next generation, too.

The Star Wars Theory You Never Knew You Always Wanted

I promised myself that one of my goals with Inkican was to rise above being another Star Wars fan-boy. That said, sometimes these discussions can give us valuable insights on storycraft and writing, so I wanted to share with you the Star Wars theory you never knew you always wanted. Then I want to talk about what it teaches us about telling stories.

To begin with check out this fan theory. Not only is it an extremely plausible explanation of Darth Vader’s actions in Empire Strikes Back, but it taught me something about the stories I want to tell. Here’s the theory, quoted below: Continue reading

New Wallpaper – “Gantry 17”

Created a new wallpaper – “Gantry 17” – based on some stories that pop into my head whenever I see random, everyday images. Would working in space get boring, like every other job? What would a normal day look like? Those thoughts inspired me to fire up Photoshop and get to imaginatin’ …

Finished this last night and wanted to share it out immediately. I make free scifi wallpapers to share – helps keep me fresh as I write Mesh. The original is 1920×1080 for your wallpapery goodness! Hope you like it. 🙂

Am I a Toxic Fan? 10 Questions to Ask

More news about James Gunn’s departure from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 this week. No matter where you fall on that subject, there’s no escaping the news stories abouttoxic fans.’

Do toxic fans exist? Of course they do. In fact, I’ve been talking about them for a while now. Two questions are missing from all of these articles though:

  1. Would someone know if they were a toxic fan?
  2. What are you supposed to do about it, if you are?

Just like an alcoholic who may not know they have a drinking problem, some toxic fans may not realize the damage they are doing to themselves or other people. To help fans that may not know which side of the fence they fall on, I compiled several different lists together to come up with some common behaviors of toxic fans. See if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these behaviors: Continue reading

The Rocket – Scifi Short Story Submitted to Asimov’s

Busy as a beaver. You’ll be happy to know that I submitted another short. The Rocket is a scifi short story I submitted to Asimov’s Magazine last night.

I’ve been working on this story for a while and my beta readers think it’s top-notch. ‘The Rocket’ captures some of the difficult emotions happening in the fractured society we live in now. Will we heal this breach? What happens if we don’t? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and ‘The Rocket’ is the result of my cogitation.

Back to work on Mesh tomorrow. For now, taking a break and enjoying the fact that people like what I write.

Bo Burnham’s Answer to “Am I a Real Writer?”

Bo Burnham is doing an AMA over at Reddit, and one of his answers struck a chord with me. Often, I find myself wondering ‘Am I a real writer?’ Burnham answers that question beautifully, and I want to pass it on to all of you:

Some one asked him the question, “Was there ever a single point in your career that you thought “I’ve made it” as an actor/comedian?” Here’s his response:

“You know, that was a problem for me for a long time. Believing that I hadn’t MADE it yet or I wasn’t a REAL COMEDIAN. I think its especially prevalent for people that makes things online. That making youtube videos isn’t REAL. It took me a long time to realize that I’d been real the whole time, and the thing that I am pursuing was the thing I was pursuing doing theater in sixth grade. Do you write? You’re a writer. Do you act? You’re an actor. I’d say don’t wait to get some arbitrary version of success or attention for you to believe that you are doing the thing. You really can start enjoying it right away. You don’t have to wait to be good. The process of doing it is the process of becoming better not being good.”

I felt better as soon as I read that. I AM a real writer. So are you. So is everyone else who dares to jot their thoughts down to share with others. Stop asking whether you’re doing it for real, and just do it. That’s how you know it’s real.

Gene Roddenberry’s Sci-fi Solution to Racism

Let’s talk for a moment about Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi solution to racism. I know I’ve talked about Roddenberry before, but the guy is a personal hero and current events make it necessary to speak out again.

The NYT is talking about the worrisome trend of ‘racist science fiction.’ Being a person who loves sci-fi, it bothers me to think that my beloved genre could be co-opted to divide people. At the same time, one can see how powerful an idea can be when persons perceive that it’s time has come.

But what if that idea is horrible? What if that mindset can lead to hate, murder, and genocide? That’s what frightens me, and I think it disturbed yesteryear sci-fi creators like Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling as well. ‘Superman,’ ‘Star Trek,’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ dealt with anti-facist, anti-racial themes in their time. Rather than taking the issue head on, which would have resulted in failure, they spoke directly to people they knew would listen: The kids.

That strategy has power. Star Trek imagined a future where the Cold War was over, and American racism had died out. Rod Serling mercilessly mocked authoritarian logic in ‘The Obsolete Man’: “This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one […] But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.”

Superman himself was responsible for a significant victory. In addition to defeating Lex Luthor, Superman defeated the Klan where normal, law-abiding citizens could not. He didn’t just leap tall buildings in a single bound, he jumped over impossible hurdles in human perspective.

The point that science fiction taught us is simple, and powerful: We can live without racism. We can treat each other with respect and dignity. We can eliminate imaginary boundaries to fellowship and kindness. We can use the power of the mind, and spirit, to create a decent world.

I’m not sure what this means for me, personally. What I do know is that my sci-fi is about a future that just *is*. Even if I’ve said it before, I’m going to say it again. And as long as it needs to be said, I’ll keep saying it. Maybe one day, we can move onto topics of greater interest.