Sci-Friday #88 – Vintage Back to the Future!

What better way to enjoy Sci-Friday #88 than 88MPH of fun, reliving some of the golden era of 80s scifi. Here are some behind-the-scenes looks at Back to the Future. As you’ll quickly find out, success was by no means assured.

 

Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People

Survival Guide for Creative PeopleOof, where do I begin … Okay, here goes: I had a bad day yesterday. Life got on top of me, and I stumbled under the weight. How did I get there, and how did I get out? The answers to those questions will become what I call the Authentic Author’s Survival Guide.

First thing’s first – being a writer is a tough gig. Here’s why: The act of writing pushes you through a strange, chaotic gauntlet of emotions. You’re supposed to write about people, and for people. AT THE SAME TIME, discussing your work with other creatives (especially online) exposes you to the harshest, most caustic criticism possible.

“Why would you do that to yourself?”

Here are three reasons: Continue reading

“Do I Need Fancy Pens to be a Real Writer?” No.

"Do I Need Fancy Pens to be a Real Writer?" No.I hate to say it, but the writing business is full of snake oil salesmen. As an aspiring author, you’re marketed a variety of tools, apps, stuff all designed to ‘make you a real writer.’ When I first saw these ads, I had to honestly ask myself: “Do I Need Fancy Pens to be a Real Writer?” Happily, the answer is No.

Make no mistake: Writing is a skill the same as working on cars, playing basketball or the piano. The common myth with writing, or any other new skill, is that it takes a lot of expensive stuff to make it work. That’s not true, and thanks to this Reddit post, we have a simple explanation as to why:

I’d like to preface this by saying this is an observation, not an attack, just the human condition we are all subject to:

It’s much easier to buy things for a new hobby than it is to actually engage with skill building. Humans are highly likely to research and collect all the knowledge and parts of a hobby without ever actually participating in the hobby. It’s so common at this point I feel like the phenomenon should be given a name.

On the surface it seems healthy: learn about hobby before doing it, and it’s easy to believe that having high quality devices/products will make hobby easier to learn, make you want to learn (you spent all that money) or make you feel like part of a community. But in reality it’s just a way to avoid putting in the work… Work which often results in struggle and failure (a natural progression of improvement) which is why we would rather buy all the things, read all the expert advice, and then only barely scratch the surface of becoming adept at hobby.

It’s so easy to get caught in this cycle of reading and buying and never actually skill-building. It’s tragic. We do it to protect our ego, and the ego is a real baby about stuff like “not being immediately amazing at a new skill”.

Don’t let your ego trick you into this. Do the work with the gear that you have (unless you’re like… Sky diving or something… Please don’t skimp on protective gear. Like, ever) and as you improve you can “earn” new gear.

You can read the rest of the discussion at your covenience. The point I want to leave you with is, let yourself off the hook. You can’t afford expensive tools? No problem, neither can I. We’re all doing this for as cheap as we can. Often, there are ultra-cheap/free ways to get where you need to go. Don’t be afraid to be stingy.

Art is one of those rare places where talent, not money, still unlocks the door. It may be harder for you, but when you win, no one can take your victories away. All the struggle and work will become part of the journey.

 

Sci-Friday #87 – Scifi Soviet Smart Home

Scifi Soviet Smart HomeThis Sci-Friday comes courtesy the former Soviet Union. ‘Soviet futurism’ was a concept early on in the USSR, but it continued throughout the regime in the form of some fascinating concept art. Today, let’s explore thing right out of a retrofuturism catalog – a Scifi Soviet Smart Home!

How did this start? Two words: Russian Futurism. That’s “the broad term for a movement of Russian poets and artists who adopted the principles of Filippo Marinetti’s “Manifesto of Futurism,” which espoused the rejection of the past, and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth, industry, destruction of academies, museums, and urbanism;[1] it also advocated the modernization and cultural rejuvenation.”

The Soviets were keen on describing what type of future they were hurtling toward, and made use of books, art, and movies to help explain what they were hoping to achieve.

“In 1970, the staff of the Soviet journal “Science and Technology” predicted full automation of the construction of buildings, roads, dams and the emergence of a whole network of ground and air transport, operated by an autopilot, by 2000 … One of the prototypes of the modern smart home was the project of electronic equipment “Sphinx” (a superfunctional integrated communication system).” – from slavorum.org

Kick back, and enjoy this video walkthrough of the Scifi Soviet Smart Home “Sphinx”:

You can read more about the Sphinx home here. 

I wrote a scifi short about the bad side of smart homes, but this is still interesting nonetheless. Enjoy and Happy Friday!

 

Why YA Publishing is a Mess Right Now

Yikes. This is kind of a bad-news/good-news post, in the context of Mesh. Since Mesh is considered a ‘high-MG/low-YA’ novel, I’m keenly interested in what’s happening with the publishing market. That’s why I was concerned when I heard a lot of tweets saying ‘YA publishing is a mess.’ Like, what?

I did some digging, but nothing seemed to make sense. Nothing in the news, no major blog posts. I started asking authors on Reddit and Twitter and got a breakdown which I’m sharing with you here. First, read the explanation, and then we’ll talk about what this means for Mesh.

Interestingly enough, I asked this question on /r/pubtips and the answer was good enough for /r/goodlongposts:

I think this might have happened anyway, especially given we don’t actually know precisely why they closed. YA has had declining sales for a while; it’s an over-saturated category. With Jimmy, it’s possible James Patterson would have decided to shutter the “original” part of the imprint regardless. With Imprint, Macmillan recently got a new President, and he’s clearly making moves. COVID may have simply… hastened some decisions.

COVID has impacted publishing more than I think people realize. TV too. Yes, from our perspective “hey we’re doing these things more than ever!” but a lot of regular cash flow streams dried up because COVID changed buying habits and many businesses simply weren’t equipped/prepared for certain steady “norms” to bottom out so drastically. I work in TV as my day job and yes we’re still chugging along (yay I have a job!) but advertiser dollars are down across the board, and many many many many customers are cord cutting b/c of, well, suddenly falling into extreme poverty. Also production completely shut down so most media companies are literally… running out of content. It’s gonna be BLEAK very soon when everyone realizes no new shows ha. Continue reading

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art

I love the transition of concept art to film – here’s a beautiful example: art from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis.’ If you haven’t seen it, get off your butt this instant. From 1927, Metropolis is still considered one of the most interesting, impactful science fiction movies ever made.

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art   

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art   

   

Seeing a hundred year-old version of dystopia, and in some ways seeing it played out in modern life, gives you a lot to think about. William Gibson is famous for saying: “All fiction, whether straight or genre, whether literature or Literature, is a personal reinterpretation of its writers’ existence during the time the fiction was written.” I’d be interested to know what Lang and other cast members were trying to interpret from their time.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend! 😀

 

Sci-Friday #85 – Behind the Scenes of Star Trek: TOS

You’re going to enjoy this Sci-Friday – it’s a look back, behind the scenes, at Star Trek: TOS. How did this happen? Memory Alpha has the story: “William “Bill(y)” R. Blackburn, was an uncredited background performer on Star Trek: The Original Series for all of the show’s three seasons, excepting the two pilot episodes. In that time, he played a wide variety of roles, usually as a navigator or a helmsman, all believed to be a character named Hadley. In total, he appeared in 61 episodes of the series.”

Because Billy Blackburn was in so many episodes, and he always carried his Super-8 camera with him, we get a rare glimpse of what it was like to work on the early days of this groundbreaking scifi show:

Blackburn has a lot of insights about the cast, and life on set. Kick back and relax. It’s time to beam up, retro style.

Have a great weekend!

Write Like a Writer

Hey kids, wanna write like a writer? I found this last night and am passing it along for your use. Here are some adjectives you can use to eliminate the use of ‘very’ in your writing:

Write Like a Writer

Why does it matter? The English language is a beautiful smorgasbord, a mine of gems to be mined to describe the gestalt of the your story. Why waste your time (and ours) with lazy writing? Sometimes your work needs to be grandiloquent, other times it may be spartan. In any case, make use of language to take us to another place. That, after all, is why we’re reading you. Continue reading

Do What You Can

So what do you do when you’re screwed before you get started? That’s a question I’ve asked myself through the past two re-drafts of Mesh. It’s difficult to face your own fragility and limitations; painful to lay in the gutter and look up at the stars. Yet, that’s what 2020 demands of us on a daily basis. It wasn’t until last night, catching Bon Jovi’s new single ‘Do What You Can’ on Steven Colbert, that I found the answer.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a mainstream song be this honest and relevant. Honestly, I thought lyrics this good only happened in Taylor Swift songs or indie rock. When art irritates me, I’ll speak up. When it inspires me, I’ll say that, too. Great song, great message and it’s coming at a great time. We need some positivity in a world that’s trying to use us for toilet paper. If you can’t do what you do, you do what you can.

Write on!