Who Really Loves Science Fiction?

This is a question I struggle with from time to time. As I engage with people on Reddit, sometimes I get a fast course in what what people think a scifi fan is made of. That being said, I balance those viewpoints with other people’s points and pretty soon I’m right back to where I started. If you’re a lit major, you call that exercise going around Robin Hood’s barn. The question remains: who really loves science fiction?

I maintain that science fiction is a genre, an ecosystem, and a community all in one. Everyone has their own take on science fiction: scifi is about space fantasy, scifi is about comic books, scifi is cyberpunk, scifi is about alien races. You’ve got video games nerds, movie geeks, cosplay kids. There’s an entire universe to play in. It’s vibrant, it’s full of passion, and fans are fiercely loyal to what they think scifi actually is. So whatever I say in this essay, I also know that there will be a dozen people lined up to explain why I’m wrong. That’s okay. What I want to get down to is this idea of who really loves science fiction, not just what it is.

For me, I think there are some famous names that really love science fiction best of all. People like George Lucas, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, William Gibson, Mary Shelley, David Brin, and Allen Steele. Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne. John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, Charles Gannon, and Margaret Atwood. Those folks, human and imperfect with all their frailties, love science fiction. How do I know? Easy: Continue reading

In Space, No One Can Hear You Suck

In Space, No One Can Hear You SuckOver the weekend, I started the ‘Help Me Get into the SFWA!’ page that’s now on the menu above. I’m still a believer in Steve Jobs’ mantra: Real artists ship. Everyone has an idea, as this article points out, but real artists actually deliver, or ship, them. In space, no one can hear you suck. If I never try to sell my stuff, I’ll never get the kind of direct feedback I need to be a better writer.

But, whoa doggies, is it hard for me to put my stuff out there. Even a simple Reddit thread is enough to send my depression into overdrive. I’m determined to push on, though. I’m asking other YA writers how they deal with that kind of feedback.

This blog post took me three times as long as they usually do, as I’m constantly stripping out all references to ‘negativity.’ I asked for the feedback, I asked for my work to be supported. Logically, my skin needs to get thicker. The problem is, doing that makes me turn into the kind of person I’m trying to be better than. I’ve done this enough times in my life to know where that road will lead.

So I’ll sum this up by quoting from this blog post, which illustrates the challenge I’m facing: Good writing isn’t enough: “Pick the wrong publisher, agent, or editor and your book publishing experience will be completely different from someone else’s. Happen to have your book published in the midst of drama and same thing.

“Any one of those choices can sink an author or make their career. And it’s not always clear which choice is the right one to make at any given point in time. You can take the exact same book, make very different choices, and have completely different outcomes.

“We all makes our choices. Some of them the wrong ones. Some of them fatal ones–for that book or that pen name. (And some of them the exact right ones.)

“A good enough book is just the beginning.”

Why Are There No ‘Space Rocks’ in Star Wars?

Why Are There No 'Space Rocks' in Star Wars?

Okay, here’s another dumb Star Wars-related nerditation. Pairing my love of astronomy and space with Star Wars, I was stirring my coffee this morning when it hit me: they totally could have used rocks as weapons in Star Wars. In fact, the more I think about it the more I wonder. Why *weren’t* there space rock weapons in Star Wars?

I get that there is a case for Star Wars taking place in a technological ‘dark age,’ where little innovation took place. And yet, the desire for planetary destruction in a galactic war means that you’re looking for new ways to bring the pain to your enemy.

Enter Space Rocks.

The Empire could outfit a group of asteroids – as they did in ‘The Last Command’ – and set them on course for any planet they didn’t particularly like. Simple remote navigation, some thruster packs or even a hyperdrive motivator since they were able to build one big enough for the Death Star.

All you need is the tech, the target, and Moff Tarkin ready to put the hurt on any otherwise unsuspecting species who doesn’t understand in an interstellar game of Rock Paper Scissors, Rock always wins.

As humans, we don’t think about the simple destructive impact of a solid object and when it collides into the surface of the planet. Think about how fast the average comet is going as it travels past earth. This article estimates their speed between 10 and 70 kilometers (6.3 – 43.5 miles) / per second. Per second!

Do you have any idea how fast that is?  For comparison, to achieve escape velocity a rocket must travel at 6.9 miles / second or 25,020 mph. Now imagine that going seven times that speed, going the other way, and oh yeah, it’s about the size of a city:

Star Wars as a franchise is a weird place. They alternate between utter ignorance of celestial physics and turning it into a weapon whenever it suits them.

Expanding the idea further, this means that space rocks aren’t just limited to planetary-scale attacks. Why waste valuable crew members on suicidal attack runs against moon-sized space stations or galactic battleships when you can just hurl rocks at them until the Empire gives up and goes away?

So yeah, if I lived in the Star Wars universe I might put some thought toward conquering the galaxy through the cunning use of rocks. No Death Stars, no Storm Troopers. Just rocks. Maybe I could even get a Corellian gunship or four to handle anything that the rocks couldn’t catch. Until then, I’m still stuck here on Earth and I don’t even have enough money for some new converters at Tosche Station.

I took all these ideas to Reddit, of course. The feedback was both lively and pointed – Paulofthedesert said:

Star Wars just isn’t a “realistic” space story. In reality, any civilization capable of accelerating an object to relativistic speeds is capable of killing a planet in an unpreventable way. A 747 going 90% the speed of light has the energy of ~300 million Hiroshima bombs. It would absolutely be a planet killer. Given the fact that individual fighter craft have FTL capability, the death star makes zero sense.

When the last jedi established the fact that FTL starships can collide with real objects in normal space it utterly invalidated the entire plot of the 1st and 3rd movies. You would absolutely just use a single ship with a robot in control to FTL the death star. It makes zero sense to build one anyway but still, that was a dumb decision.

Blasters could not kill the rocks – anything going light speed is fundamentally undetectable before impact. People saying planets are shielded ignore the fact that the shield would have to absorb more energy than is in anyway physical possible. An energy source that large would radiate enough waste heat to make the planet uninhabitable.

Also, FTL travel in general breaks logic because it fundamentally implies time travel to the past and all the associated paradoxes.

Tldr; even outside space magic, star wars isn’t even a little realistic in its handling of technology.

Then LatchedAbyss1 pointed out:

Which movie was it where the Star Destroyer was just rolling through an asteroid belt and obliterating any of the rocks that got too close? I would imagine planets have pretty good asteroid defense systems as well. You don’t have millions of systems existing in a government that lasts thousands of years without being able to protect them from random space debris. And if you have that, then it’s pointless to chuck rocks at a planet.

And finally, derioderio wrapped it all up:

As Harrison Ford said to Mark Hamil when Mark was pointing out some continuity errors while they were filming the very first SW film: “This ain’t that kind of movie, kid.”

Star Wars is essentially a fantasy with a soft magic system in a space opera setting. If you’re letting lack of consistency or continuity with physics disrupt your enjoyment of the Star Wars universe, you’d best just give up, because it’s just not that kind of fiction.

So as you can see, nerditations ain’t what they used to be. Make a point, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, and you’ll get hit from all sides from people who have thought about this much more than you have. Lesson learned for me!

Write on, nerds.



The “If Mesh Takes Off” Wish List – Part II

The "If Mesh Takes Off" Wish List - Part II

Read Part One Here

Continuing my discussion from last week – a wish list of things I’d do if Mesh takes off – I put some more thought into this and here are some more details about how life would be different for me when my novel hits the big time. These aren’t shopping lists, as you’ll quickly find out. More like guiding principles. Here is what I have so far:

Live Simply, So That Others May Simply Live

The terrifying part of wealth and fame is how it transforms people into their worst selves. You think you’re escaping the prison of poverty only to find yourself in the penitentiary of prosperity. Money changes you, and it changes how people see you. Unknown pressures, and unseen stresses can break people under the best circumstances. Under the worst, they become those craven, cold-hearted souls you see on reality TV.

I have no interest in that, which is why my life plans are about staying grounded; living simply. Just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you can afford it. Think about guys like Mike Tyson, or MC Hammer. For me, they represent teachable moments. As Jim Carrey is famous for saying, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

So yes, living simply. A living space that has room for a cozy reading nook and a place for my cats to sleep. Yes, my life will still need to include the people who are important to me now. That means Mason and Bandit are coming along for the ride, wherever we go. You may be aware that cats are completely uninterested in the idea of large, complicated houses. Our little universe is just fine for them, upgrading would cause them stress and nobody likes the smell of cat pee.

Help Others

My therapist told me a while back that, while I’m limited in what I can do because of my circumstances, I should try to find a way to help other people because it brings me joy. I’m happy to say that the Blog has already helped other young authors and I hope that it will continue to do so in the future.

Listen to the Wind Blow

Finally, whatever happens in my life I want to make sure I have the time and space to listen to the wind blow. Writing is about distilling life experiences into things you can share with others. Few people can relate to a story about traveling with Dr. Phil in Monaco (Thank you, Ron White, but no thank you). So, I’ll need to continue being my anonymous, private self so that I can continue taking in the life experiences I use in the stories I tell.

So that wraps up this ‘Wish List.’ I hope you take the time to think of your own success map, what you’ll do with fortune when you find it. There’s nothing better than seeing the benefit of your hard work, and my hope is that Mesh will be that moment for me, and also for you.

E.T. Proves the Empire Will Eventually Come to Get Us

E.T. Proves the Empire Will Eventually Come to Get Us

E.T.’s on Freeform right now and something occurred to me while watching: Eventually, the Empire is going to come and get us. Thanks a lot, Elliot.

Of course, everyone knows about the theories surrounding how E.T. connects us with the Star Wars universe. However, something deeper is at foot within the movie and I think we should be prepared to defend ourselves on the day the Dark Side comes to town.

In one of the early scenes of the movie, E.T. is introduced to Elliot’s world. Toys, food, clothes, and people. Elliot uses his toys to explain life on Planet Earth and E.T. patiently let’s him speak. What’s interesting about that moment is, many of his toys are from the Star Wars universe. E.T. doesn’t recognize them, but he does recognize Yoda and that forms the basis for most of the E.T./Star Wars connections.

Now, E.T. goes home and life goes on. The Star Wars universe however also knows, because E.T. knows, about the little blue/green planet that seems to know an awful lot about their people. They are so familiar with Mandalorians (E.T. is shown Boba Fett), Rodians (E.T. is shown Greedo), and Ithorians (E.T. is shown Hammerhead) that they even make toys out of them.

Now the Empire, or the First Order – wherever we are in their timeline – are evil but they aren’t stupid. Wouldn’t you, as a defense analyst deeply concerned with the security of your civilization, want to know more about this planet that knows so much about you? One step further, if you were the Empire, what would stop you from simply attacking our planet as a preemptive strike?

Until we achieve multi-planet residency and interstellar travel, Earth should contemplate a realistic defense strategy against a hostile space-borne enemy. It’s imperative for the survival of our species, and for peace within our part of the galaxy.

Now, do I believe any of this? No, of course not. This little exercise is just a bit of fun, a bit of nerding out, even for a guy who’s completely over the Star Wars universe.

I mean, sort of.

The “If Mesh Takes Off” Wish List

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

Theorem of Taylor Swift’s Constant Outrage

Theorem of Taylor 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