Imagining the way the world was once supposed to be …
Taking a moment out of the writing schedule to discuss something interesting that happened this week. Two things, actually. Both of them together bear out my prediction that science fiction itself is growing and changing into something more suitable for the universe in 2019.
Step one was this tweet courtesy John Scalzi:
Good morning! Your reminder that arguably the current best-selling science fiction series written by a single person is written by someone who isn’t thought to write science fiction, to an audience that isn’t thought to read it:https://t.co/Zl867PYk6y
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) May 14, 2019
Before you can say ‘Yeah, but Scalzi’s gonna Scalzi,’ look at the next piece of data – the ‘Not All Men’ episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ Jordan Peele picks up where Rod Serling left off by producing thoughtful, one-hour meditations on the darker side of human culture. In his case, he skewers toxic masculinity with a laser-sharp focus, reminding all of us that what we do is what defines us.
More clearly than ever, science fiction is no longer in the hands of fanboys and toxic tribalism. History will not be kind to the broken, hateful dweebs that use gatekeeping and bad-faith arguments to chase people away from science fiction. They don’t own sci-fi, they never did, and it was only a matter of time until we figured that out.
So I’m hoping that Mesh can be a happy part of that bright future. It’s never easy, taking the first step. I just think it’s important, and I hope one day we’ll all meet there together.
OMG, this is awesome. I found another free resource that I want to pass along to you. If you’re like me, sometimes you get stuck using an idiom too often. For me, I keep using the phrase ‘shake his head’ in this draft of Mesh. I started looking around, has anyone solved this problem yet? Kathy Steinemann, I found out, graciously provided a list of 200 ways to say ‘shake their head.’ If you’re running into a problem like this, don’t shake your head over too many ‘headshakes!’ Kathy has you covered:
PS – Kathy’s website is a little spotty. If the link doesn’t work, you can get to it via the Wayback Machine on Archive.org
For this Sci-Friday, please enjooy one completely reimagined epic lightsaber battle between Obiwan and Darth Vader. Modern effects and cinematography were blended with the original film, taking that pivotal moment into another universe altogether. Have a look:
You know you’ve arrived when people love your work so much they have to participate in it. Regardless of the continuity errors, and dated special effects, we still love A New Hope. Have a great weekend.
I admit it, I’m broke. It’s tough sometimes finding ways to entertain yourself when your income is fixed but your medical expenses are not. Happily, the Internet is a big place and thanks to the generosity of a number of kind souls, I was able to put together a simple page on ‘How to Own Science Fiction for Free.’
If you’re like me and you need a quick scifi fix but you’re short on cash, you can dive into the following resources for free stories and videos to watch. Enjoy!
Free Scifi Books and Stories
Free Scifi Movies
Happy Sci-Friday and Happy May the Fourth! This is a quick post about Star Wars, since it’s definitely part of my life as a movie / scifi geek. Since May the Fourth is tomorrow, I thought I’d answer a question that’s been bugging me for almost forty years. How *did* they make the starlines, that is, the jump into hyperspace?
On the surface, the question and the answer might not matter to most. For me, that special effect in Star Wars remains iconic and intrinsic to what made the franchise so important. Everything felt real. Everything looked real. That’s the kind of storytelling I want to practice with my scifi. So let’s find the answer: Took a bit of Google-fu to find the answer, turns out that nobody directly answers the question, a la Quora or /r/askreddit. But there is an answer when you follow this link I found on Stackexchange.
A Fantasy Film Journal interview with John Dykstra in 1978 goes into a blow-by-blow discussion of the special effects in Star Wars: A New Hope, which also turns out to be the inception of VFX itself. Here’s Dykstra’s answer (found in the PDF on page 20, if you’re curious) in a nutshell:
FFJ: What about the jump into “hyperspace”?
JD: That’s streak photography. Basically it was real simple. That was one of the few shots that was done by hand, basically. You open the shutter and you move the camera forward, thereby streaking the stars on the film. Alright, each time you advance* it a little bit further, so that on the succeeding frame, the streak is a little longer. Eventually the streak extends all the way to the edge of the film. That’s done simply by taking the camera, opening the shutter and moving it In, closing the shutter, then stopping. Then backing It up, going to the next frame, moving a little bit further this time, and then stopping, backing it up… it’s very tedious, very time consuming and very simple. It wasn’t particularly innovative, but everybody likes it for some reason.
Wow, far out. What seemed like a difficult problem turns out to be a simple camera trick. As Dykstra points out, it’s not particularly innovative, but what is important is that people love it. So, as with Star Wars and/or any other part of science fiction, sometimes the simplest tricks really are the best.
Happy May the Fourth, and for the record: I still hate Jar-Jar.
Got something new for you to read! ‘The Rocket’ has been published to Amazon and all your other favorite e-reading websites. Click below for a link to each store and then Blast Off!
What’s The Rocket about? Read below for a quick description:
In the last few hours before life on earth ends, a young dad has a chance meeting with his estranged father. Will this be a moment of reconciliation, or recrimination? How can you communicate with someone who refuses to listen? Mike Crane takes one last shot to save his father’s life before he boards THE ROCKET.
My inspiration for writing comes from scifi giants like Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury. When I tell a story, I want to take some ideas out of the box, and play with them for a while. Don’t make it difficult, just enjoy the tingles of emotion and curiosity they bring up.
The genesis of the story comes from, you guessed it, the Internet. As people become increasingly fractured and polarized, how do we reconcile with each other. Along with that idea came another – what if a comet was heading toward Earth? Would we accept the danger and save ourselves or would people call it ‘Fake news?’ Bingo – new story idea!
I wrote The Rocket and sent it out to the usual suspects. Now it’s out on Amazon and everywhere else! Along with writing the story, I decided to continue practicing digital painting and I made the cover as well. I took a couple of days to play around with different visual concepts. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t improve on an Unsplash photo, and used it as a template for the cover. My digital painting version is now a wall-paper for you to enjoy:
Creativity is a discipline, and The Rocket is something I’m proud of. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I look forward to your feedback. Thanks for checking it out! 🙂
Board The Rocket Now
So without further ado, here’s a digital painting that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. Working on this while finishing Mesh, it’s teaching me that universal truth: Unlike the dictionary, ‘Suck’ Comes Before ‘Succeed’ in the process of creativity. Enjoy the painting and see below for some notes.
Even though I’m not super happy with the final product, I need to move on. Watching Bob Ross (because, Bob Ross) I realized that I wanted to paint, too. So I started working on something that I was interested in and if you’re one of my Beta Readers, you know that this is a scene from ‘Mesh.’
It took me around twenty hours to do this. Learned a lot about how to paint digitally using Photoshop and my digital drawing tablet along the way. I wish the project came out better, but I also remember that quote from Jake the Dog in Adventure Time: “Suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”
So here’s me and the painting I made. Yes, I know it sucks, but that’s how I get better. You can see some of the progress pics below in this Imgur gallery:
I’ve discussed it in other blog posts but I’ll say it again so the people in the back can hear: scifi isn’t just a genre, it’s a way of life. I don’t know anyone who came away with practical skills after reading ‘Wuthering Heights,’ but thanks to authors like William Gibson, Arthur C. Clarke, and Neal Stephenson I’ve come away with life lessons, skills and heck, even recipes. There are, in fact, many skills you can learn from science fiction. Here, for a Monday morning, are five of them: Continue reading