That’s What Scares Me the Most

I’m about five or six thousand words away from being done with Mesh. As the clock winds down, as my beta readers come in with happy words or notes, my anxiety is going up. I want to talk about something that’s been hanging in the back of my head since I started this crazy project. What scares me the most is the attention I might get.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to write, I want to share my work, but I’m terrified of attention. The world is full of freaky social media horror stories, doxxes, hoaxes and pranks. You can be the nicest person in the world, and creeps will still accuse you of horrible behavior just for the attention.

My story is more complex than Tom Hanks’ of course, but that’s my point. It took me years to understand that I attract the attention of damaged people. Broken people. Birds of a feather flock together, right? 😉 Doesn’t matter that we don’t want to be broken. Doesn’t matter that we’re tired of the drama, irrationality, and stress. We’re citizens of London Below, and there’s no going back.

I don’t perceive an answer to any of this right now. My hope is that by correctly articulating the problem that the solution will be easier to find. Dear readers, please understand that if we lose cabin pressure, this blog post can be used as a flotation device. Remain calm, stay seated with your seat buckle fastened until told to evacuate by a uniformed crew member.

 

Proof That Science Fiction Is Growing and Changing

Proof That Science Fiction Is Growing and Changing

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:

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.

How To Own Science Fiction For Free

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

Chicago Review of Books – List of Free Scifi

Project Gutenberg List of Public Domain Scifi Stories

Scifi Stories from Freebooksy

Fonerbooks’ List of Free Scifi

Scifi Stories for Free by Inkitt

Free Scifi Movies

Scifi Movies on Youtube – Ranked by Inverse.com

Blast Off On The Rocket – New Scifi Short Story

Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

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:

Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

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

Apple Barnes & Noble Kobo Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

Formative Scifi is the Only Scifi

Re-reading a thread on Reddit about Iron Giant makes me realize how many lives that story touched. I’ll write a love letter to Brad Bird and The Iron Giant someday, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Rather, I want to talk about formative scifi, because it’s the only scifi that matters. Therefore, Mesh must be formative scifi and that’s where my calories will really be burned.

Let me explain. “Formative experience is the everyday life we lived growing up and the know-how we develop as a result,” by this definition. “More often than not, the know-how develops beyond our awareness. We simply react or do the things we do, based on a familiarity, having seen or experienced something like it before.” As children, those formative moments become the pillars we stand on, or the rocks that crush us, for the rest of our lives. Further, for most of us, we’re trying to turn those rocks into pillars because, self-actualization and stuff.

Scifi always played a formative role in my life, and for many others. Iron Giant was clearly a formative experience for many, and it’s one of the reasons Brad Bird is such a talented storyteller. Contrast Iron Giant with a movie like Titan A.E.: one is a timeless story about love, loss, and acceptance … the other is, well, Titan A.E. You can enjoy both for what they are, but only one of them really worked to resonate on a human level. If I want readers to love Mesh as much as I do, I have to make sure the human connection is there.

But beyond Mesh, the only science fiction worth having in 2019 is formative scifi. Just as Tor points out, scifi books help us fight for a better world. That’s what we need right now. Regardless of where we come from, where we’re going is a dark and desperate place unless humanity can step back from the brink.

So, I want Mesh to be a part of that solution. I want my stories to be formative for someone, and therefore, Mesh has to resonate. If you believe in stories that matter, I want to know you. I want to tell a story that matters to you.

 

Thriller Novels and Spaghetti

Writing a thriller is like cooking spaghetti. Your reader doesn’t really care which noodle goes where, they just want the noodles to taste good together. The sheer level of effort required to make this last chunk of Mesh, to make the rest of the story come together in a neat, elegant order, is much higher than I first expected. I’m discovering new respect for authors like Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré, and Tom Clancy. As your story builds to a climax, you can’t have a voice in the back of your head going “Yeah, that doesn’t fit together.”

At first, I thought at first I could write through the voice. Keep grinding, the answers will come. Some plots can afford that level of flexibility, but not a thriller. No, a thriller plot – which is what Mesh is, a YA scifi thriller – has to come together in that last act with no loose ends. Not only that, the loose end you tie up in Act Three can’t unravel four loose ends in Act Two. It’s somewhere between creativity and craftiness, productivity and puzzleology. In short, yeah it’s a lot of work.

I thought diagramming the story would prevent this from happening. Turns out, it works for the major chunks but not for the nitty-gritty details. Those are the details, IMHO, that separate stories like ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ from ‘The DaVinci Code.’ Fixing this, making Mesh the best story I can tell, is where I’m at right now.

Does this mean I should quit? Of course not. These are simply the problems I need to solve if I plan on being a good writer. Craft must be honed, you have to love the process of practice. I recall a Reddit post by a professional pianist that I think applies directly to my growth as a writer. “I think you have to have a growth mindset,” he says. “You have to enjoy the grind itself.”

So this is me, enjoying the grind. I’m not complaining. Yeah, I want to do this. Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work. However, if it means a reader goes ‘Wow!’ at the end of Mesh, then it’ll all be worth it.

Back to the book!

 

How Sci-Fi’s First Drop-In Should Work

Writing more Mesh this week, and thinking about this whole Sci-Fi’s First Drop-In thing. I feel like I should explain more of what I have in mind, and how it should work.

As I said before, there’s a weird dynamic in scifi where people – and I include myself in this group – are a little, shall I say, rambunctious to the new creators of science fiction. There are all kinds of reasons why this happens, some of them have to do with group dynamics and others have to do with basic negativity. But rather than complain about that, we should find a way to solve this problem.

First, let’s talk about what celebrating your first drop-in should and shouldn’t be. Some of these may seem obvious, but let’s write them down, anyway:

  1. Your scifi first drop-in (SFFDI) isn’t about self-promotion, it’s about putting yourself out there for the first time and building trust
  2. Your SFFDI isn’t about negativity, is about what happens when you break out of your comfort zone
  3. Your SFFDI isn’t about hating on someone or something, it’s about making something you can enjoy

I might add some more ideas as I think of them, but this seems to be a good start. We (the scifi community) should be able to celebrate, and be celebrated without turning it into a ‘look at me’ thing. We should be able to try, and try new things without it turning negative. We should be able to create without the mad rush to monetize, build brands, go viral. Scifi began as a community of creators that just loved to dream and create. We should be able to build a mechanism to continue that proud tradition.

I even thought of a hashtag we could use: #SFFDI – nobody seems to be using it.

Feel free to contribute your feedback. This is 100% a community effort.

Sci-Fi’s First Drop-In

My I don’t know if you were like me last week when I first saw this video. It’s a crowd of skateboarders celebrating a kid’s first drop-in, a move that takes a lot of trust and willpower for boarders to execute. My first reaction was “Oh, man … those skateboarders are so supportive. I wish someone was that supportive of my sci-fi.”

View post on imgur.com

I have no idea who these people are, or who that kid is, but I don’t have to. We connect with this video on a human level. We’ve all been that kid at one moment of our lives or another. He may have been scared, a little bit intimidated. What will the big kids think? What will the crowd say?

Where most people have experienced indifferent scorn the first time they try something, the kid is surrounded by people who are saying, in effect: “You can do it. We’re here for you!” And then he drops in. That boy will skate for the rest of his life, and wherever he goes he’ll take that formative moment with him.

My second thought this video was “I should blog about this. We’ll know that scifi has turned the corner when we can support new scifi creators like these skateboarders support this kid.” Imagine how much different the world would be if we all experienced that level of support on our first try. But that’s when I had my third thought, and that’s what “Sci-Fi’s First Drop-In” is all about.

My third thought was “Wait, why don’t I do that? Why don’t I support someone’s first try? Why don’t I become the change I want to see?”

So, here we are.

There’s a weird dynamic in scifi where people – and I include myself in this group – are a little, shall I say, rambunctious to the new creators of science fiction. There are all kinds of reasons why this happens, some of them have to do with group dynamics and others have to do with basic negativity. But rather than complain about that, let’s be a part of the solution.

So here’s my thought, and I’m inviting others to weigh in and participate. If you’re a first-timer and you want to show off your work, I’m happy to make room on Inkican to celebrate you. Not sure how it’s all going to work right now, people often think of problems I didn’t consider after I say something, but at the very least it might be a fun way for us to support each other in a non-threatening, consequence-free format.

Interested in participating? Have something to share? Reach out to me via Reddit or Twitter. Let’s see if we can make some magic happen.

 

“Gimbal Lock” – What Went Wrong on Cloverfield Paradox

First and foremost: Quit whining. ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t that bad, either. If you’re interested in a nerdly takedown of Netflix’s third part of the Cloverfield universe, you’re in the wrong place. Go to Youtube. If anything, Paradox should be discussed in terms of storytelling. It’s a story that achieves ‘gimbal lock.’ Let’s talk about what that means for the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a huge fan of Paradox. I sat through the third act feeling like I was grinding loot in a video game. You don’t wanna walk away, you’ve lost a ton of time already, but you aren’t having fun. Watching scifi movies is supposed to be a fun activity, and I wasn’t having fun with Cloverfield Paradox. What went wrong with a movie that was supposed to have everything going right?

I thought a lot about the answer, and it eventually came to me as the good guys save the day: Cloverfield Paradox pushed me through so many twists and turns that I went into gimbal lock. Just like an airplane, or a space craft, stories can experience gimbal lock – their basic premises can get stuck. Then your story, like your space craft, will lose its sense of direction.

I waited a long time to watch Paradox. After all that hate, I didn’t want to see it. Loved Cloverfield, loved 10 Cloverfield Lane … I didn’t want to be disappointed. Finally, one rainy afternoon I fired it up. ‘Fine,’ I told myself. ‘Let’s see what all the hate is about.’ I found myself sucked in after the first ten minutes, and that interest kept me grinding forward until the credits rolled many millenia later.

It felt like that, anyway.

Paradox threw so many plot and tone shifts at you, on top of the idea that you’re in the middle of a complex topic: quantum multiverse travel. Is this about time travel? Is this about the characters I really couldn’t connect with? My lizard brain kept trying to make sense of what I was making sense of and eventually it shut down. As much as I love a complex scifi film about time travel (Primer, anyone?), I couldn’t keep up with Paradox. I think it had wonderful aspirations, but it couldn’t overcome its overbalanced center of story gravity. Requiescat in Pace

That’s not to say the movie was bad. I loved the ideas, loved the execution. If you want to see a movie that features a self-aware disembodied arm, this is your show. The main thing for storytellers is, avoid the ‘story gimbal lock’ you saw in Cloverfield Paradox. It’ll kill a great premise, it’ll kill a great movie. Don’t let this happen to you.

Cloverfield Paradox might enjoy some success if they re-release it with a different edit. Some of those story elements simply did not belong; most of the third act scenes felt like they were tacked on just to give the characters a reason to be in the movie. All in all though, Paradox does what a good scifi movie should: It takes some ideas out of the box, plays with them for a couple of hours, and then puts them away again.

This was me, when they told me I couldn’t leave the theater.

Not only that, Paradox is an interesting model for future scifi projects by Netflix. As you can read in the Wikipedia article, ‘the film was based on God Particle, a spec script from Oren Uziel.’ J.J. Abrams decided to re-work the script, like he did with 10 Cloverfield Lane, to line the franchise together. That’s brilliant for several reasons. Number one, it gives Cloverfield fans more of the universe to explore. Number two, it gives a scifi script that would have otherwise died in development hell a chance to live and breathe. Number three, it’s another stick in the eye of anyone who says Hollywood hates scifi. Hollywood loves scifi, it just doesn’t like losing money.

To sum up – Cloverfield Paradox is an okay scifi movie. For us, the storytellers, we want to avoid the gimbal lock that prevented it from being a great scifi movie. Keep that in mind as you write, and you’ll never go wrong.

New Scifi Short Story – Foreverest

I’m pleased to release Foreverest to Amazon and other ebook outlets – it’s a scifi noir story and you’re going to love it:

“When a middle-aged housewife wins $600 Million in the Lottery, everything in life seems possible. Her ‘new wealth counselor,’ is there to indulge her darkest desires. Arranging a murder isn’t a crime, it’s a unique value proposition.”

Buy Foreverest on Amazon

Buy Foreverest via Draft2Digital

More details later – thanks for supporting Inkican!