The “If Mesh Takes Off” Wish List

“So Jackson,” some have asked. “What’s with the ‘Author Success Sequence’ over there on the right?” You might have asked the same thing, seeing the tiny control panel on the right ->. That’s a simple way for me to express where I’m at and where I’m planning to go in this venture. Today, I thought I’d expand on that by describing my wish list – stuff I’d do if ‘Mesh’ takes off, becoming a popular title as we all hope it does.

To be sure, it’s a little odd to be thinking about what I’d purchase in the middle of this pandemic; I’d buy an end to our vicious reality if I could. But Coronavirus is making people face the fact that some things in life cannot be ignored, wished, threatened, or purchased away.

Maybe some day they’ll wake up. Until then, I’m thinking about what I would do with success if I’m fortunate enough to receive it. So here are some things I’ll do when the ‘Author Success Sequence’ lights are lit: Continue reading

The Philosophy of Superman

This is an interesting piece of history – Christopher Reeve talking about the philosophy of Superman back when the first movie came out.

Remarkably fresh take on what a superhero movie is supposed to do for it’s viewers (Hint, it’s not about punching people)

 

Theorem of Swift’s Constant Outrage

Theorem of Swift's Constant Outrage

This post isn’t about science fiction, but rather the craft of storytelling and why Taylor Swift is an expert at it. I’m reminded of that quote from Network where someone says Peter Finch ‘articulates the popular rage.’ Swift can also be credited for articulating her outrage with modern mendacity, which is why I’m writing down another theorem for modern life:

Theorem of Swift’s Constant Outrage

For every emotional inconsistency or toxic behavior related to human relationships that evokes a sense of outrage, there is a Taylor Swift song written about it. 

I don’t think of myself as a TaySwift fan, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy her music. In fact, I discovered a new amazing song today while looking for Youtube videos related to the idea ‘This is why we can’t have nice things.’ Lo and behold, there’s a Tay Swift song about this and she’s spitting fire with those lyrics.

So because I appreciate good storytelling and articulate concepts, I’m taking a moment to say that Taylor Swift is pretty darn good. Is she perfect? Of course not, but she’s talented and if you’re looking for someone to learn from, you could do worse.

Good on’yer, TaySwift

 

Carl Sagan: Cool to be Smart

I know I’m dating myself, but modern day television is an absolute wasteland compared to the elevated discussion happening on a show like Johnny Carson back in the seventies. Young’uns wouldn’t know this, but there was a time when it was cool to be smart, thoughtful, and fact-based when it comes to science and science fiction. Take this 15-minute clip of Johnny and Carl Sagan, talking about the science of Star Wars and pivoting to the realities of FTL travel:

I love everything about how Sagan breaks down the science of Star Wars without losing focus on the fact that Star Wars is cool. He uses the interest to pivot over to what the discovery of extraterrestrial life might be like, and you can see the basis for his novel ‘Contact’ in some of the ideas he articulates.

No major takeaways from this blog post, only that we can be smart when we want to. My hope is that we will choose to be smart over the next few years, if only for our own sake.

 

 

 

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect at Everything

You Don't Have to Be Perfect at Everything

Let’s take a moment to appreciate this drawing of somebody … Indiana Jones. Doesn’t look like much, does it? In fact, it looks like something a bored twelve-year-old would draw in fourth period English class. But the signature proves otherwise, and makes an important point to every creative out there. Steven Spielberg drew this picture in 1980 when he first envisioned who Indiana Jones was supposed to be. This picture proves that you don’t have to be perfect at everything to be good at what you do.

Tons of funny comments erupted on Reddit. ‘Was Spielberg nine when he made Indiana Jones?’ Others discussed the origin of Jones’ look from Charlton Heston in the Secret of the Incas.

None of that really matters. What matters here is that Steven Spielberg, although a brilliant director and storyteller, doesn’t have much in the art department. And that is perfectly okay. By the time he drew this picture, he’d made millions of dollars, redefined filmmaking, redefined culture. Yet, for all that success he’s still a person, just as flawed as anyone else.

If he were less confident in himself, Spielberg could have been sidetracked. Go to art school, get better at drawing. He didn’t do that, he let the artists handle the concept art while he made the film. That’s important. That is critical. Spielberg didn’t let his flaws define him, he stayed focused on what he actually is good at. His success changed the world.

For the rest of us, this serves as an important reminder to be okay with our flaws. There’s nothing that says you have to be perfect at everything, even though social media suggests otherwise. One day, this nonsense will pass and we’ll swing back to the point where authenticity and humanity matter again. We’ve already started in that direction, so we want to be ready when it happens.

Why Authors Have Nothing to Fear from ‘AI Fiction’

So as an author who writes about Scifi and AI, you might be wondering – what do I think of AI-written stories? You see news articles about them from time to time, and for right now they’re more of a vehicle for humor than anything else. What about the future? You’ll be glad to know that authors have nothing to fear from AI fiction.

To understand why this is true, you must answer the question: Why do people make art? What’s art’s purpose in life? From a pure survival standpoint, art means little or nothing at all. You can’t eat it. You can’t spend it. Art’s intrinsic value is subjective, and based ultimately upon whatever collective value the group is willing to put on it. So what is art’s purpose?

‘Art,’ as the saying goes, ‘communicates what words cannot.’ The human exploration of ‘political, spiritual or philosophical ideas, the creation of beauty, the exploration of the nature of perception,’ are all human goals with very little practical value but have a tremendous impact on our minds and hearts.

It’s more than that: The valuation of a particular work of art or creativity cannot be completely quantified on a rational basis. That ability to speak to those unspoken ideas and concepts, to capture that lightning in a bottle, cannot be commoditized. You can’t do any of those things unless you’re ready to, or need to, do one simple thing: relate.

That’s right. Humans use art to relate to each other, and we aren’t ready to delegate that function to a robot. At least, not yet. We – non-sociopathic human beings, that is – want to relate to each other. We want to be related with. We measure our value against each other, using intrinsic, unspoken value systems that refuse the level of control necessary for an artificial intelligence to understand.

So while artificial intelligence can tell a story, while a robot can play a musical instrument, nobody’s offering a book or album from AI right now. First, AI’s must learn to relate to humanity. Until then, that seems to be our job.