Why You Need Mesh

Like all of you, I was horrified to read of the Christchurch shooting. Never been to New Zealand, have no dog in this fight. It’s just another heart-breaking reminder of the boring dystopia we’ve been sliding toward since Ike warned us of the ‘military-industrial complex’ back in 1961. You want another log on the ‘everything sucks’ fire? Not really my wheelhouse – Noam Choamsky has it covered, anyway. What I’d rather do is talk about why the world needs Mesh right now. Even if it doesn’t turn into the shot in the arm I think it is, I think we can all agree that a shot in the arm is needed.

Let me tell you first why *I* need Mesh. Me personally, I’m a mess. I know it. That isn’t changing anytime soon. Writing and social media seem to be the limit for my interaction with the universe. Doctors say my anxiety disorder isn’t getting any better, even with the meds or the therapy, so I should be ‘setting realistic expectations for myself’ when it comes to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I need Mesh, because it’s a story that lets me touch the universe. It’s the film on the bubble separating me from the outside world. Solving problems for Roman and Zeke and the Snow Fox kids (You’ll meet them soon enough) is better than the problems I can’t solve at home. But that’s me, and that’s my trip. Let’s talk about something else. Science fiction needs Mesh, and here’s why: Continue reading

Mesh Update #12: 74K words and Beta Reader Love

Mesh #12: 74K words and Beta Reader Love

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Happy to say that Mesh passed into the seventy-thousand range. Now at 74,000 words. That’s thing one.

Thing two, is that I got an email from my beta reader yesterday: ‘forgot to email you the other day, but I loved it. keep up the good work, man.‘ He doesn’t know it but messages like these rock author worlds. Too often, we’re hammering away at the keyboard and shouting into the hole. Will anyone respond to what we’re saying? It’s the biggest emotional gamble of our lives.

Encouragement means so much. That’s why I’m working on Mesh, that’s also why I’m working on SFFDI. Look for more updates soon.

Gee, I called it a ‘Neurolink.’

Imagine waking up, coffee in hand, to read the news before you start your writing day. You click on Reddit and you see one of the central components of your scifi novel on the front page. Elon Musk is designing a computer / brain interface. Or he’s started a company to do that. He’s calling it ‘Neuralink,’ and all you can say is ‘Gee, I called it a ‘neurolink.’

That was me five minutes ago. To be clear, I didn’t plan this.

Let’s catch up: I’m writing a near-future scifi novel called ‘Mesh’ and within the story I cover a lot of cool toys and tricks … a YA scifi novel with a vibe like Back to the Future 2 with a dark side. With me so far?

One of the things I talk about are computer/brain interfaces, nothing new there. The kids of Miramar Techncial High (where Mesh takes place) get them installed as part of their work building secret tech projects. A neurolink has a low-level AI, interfaces to the Internet, and more.

So I’m sure you can understand how weird and cool it is to hear that Elon Musk is talking about doing the same thing. He wants to make a chip that gives you ‘the digital intelligence needed to progress beyond the limits of our biological intelligence. This would mean a full incorporation of artificial intelligence into our bodies and minds.’ I read the article going “check, check, and check.”

So this blog post is part ‘hey, that’s neat,’ and part ‘don’t call me a rip-off.’ I’ve been talking about this since the beginning, just ask my Beta Readers. Does that mean I think E.M. is ripping me off? Of course not. We’ve been discussing neural network interfaces as a species for decades now. I want to talk about what a neurolink might do to society in the future, but that’s definitely not a central core of Mesh’s plot.

Plus, it’s not like the Neuralink is coming next week. If the hive-mind of Reddit is any indication, neurolinks are a long way from reality. However, the fact that different components of Mesh are popping up on the radar of our existence is pretty cool. It also means I better finish this thing before any other parts of it appear. 🙂

Write on!

Into the Home Stretch

64,000 words into this draft of Mesh. We’re into the home stretch, kids. Our protagonists are about to make the horrible discovery, leading to their moment of truth as they decide to fight the bad guy and save the world. Lots of action and pyrotechnics in the last few chapters. You’re going to love it.

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get here. I wish I could set a Dalton Trumbo-like pace, turning out a hundred pages in three days. For some reason, this is as fast as I can move if I want the story to make any sense at all. Trumbo’s legacy does inspire me: the guy wrote a lot of stuff that got rejected, too. Every writer seems to have two stories inside of him. The first story is what he’s working on. The second story is how he manages to make a buck. Both are equally important.

Want to know what the weather is like where I’m working? I found a web cam for the campus a few miles from my house – you can watch life on Planet Jackson as it unfolds. I’m hoping Mesh’s final form is part of the planetary landscape soon enough.

Mesh Update #11: New Free Wallpaper

Just in time for the end of the year, a new free wallpaper for Mesh.  I do concept art digital paintings of my stories – helps me inform my writing. For this piece, I wanted to try something different and focus on the characters of Mesh themselves.

Mesh Update #11: New Free WallpaperSo let’s do that. Tina is one of the ‘Snow Foxes,’ an elite group of techno-geeks that dominate the school and virtual reality. Let’s be clear: She isn’t a ‘damsel in distress,’ or ‘born sexy yesterday.’ I hate tropes that perpetuate mean-spirited stereotypes, so Mesh leaves them by the side of the road where they belong.

Tina isn’t perfect. She on the austistic spectrum. She’s also brilliant, athletic, witty, and brave. She’s a teenage girl who codes, plays basketball and practices jujitsu. She isn’t there to talk about the boys, or be talked about them. She’s there to be herself, like every person should be free to be.

Inside the Station, the massive VR system that contains our fearless geeky kids, you’re allowed to create your own sprites. Tina decided to transform herself into an anime princess as you’ll learn in Mesh:


“She looked up at two sprites that had just come through abusy communicating arch. “Watch it. Incoming nerds.”
“Huh?”
“Kids from the other team,” Tina said, morphing into a taller version of herself, now with red hair instead of blonde, and green eyes instead of blue. Her t-shirt melted into modular white plates, forming armor that belonged in some anime show. In the blink of an eye, she transformed herself into a warrior princess, ready for battle. “For these kids, you want to have your war face on.”

“I think I just fell in love with you,” Zeke mumbled.

“You’re cool, my sweet summer child.” Tina’s smile was somewhere between amused and flattered. Then she turned back to the approaching sprites. “Just remember that we’re friends. That’s all we’re ever going to be.”

Zeke nodded, swallowing so hard that his Adam’s apple bobbed like a yo-yo.

Mesh – Chapter 2.6

With that scene in mind, I started working with Photoshop. I started with a free open-source picture from Unsplash and with the help of some visual references and my trusty digital tablet, put the wallpaper above together to give away for free.

Love it, hate it, it’s still worth it to me. Making one thing in one way helps me make something else in another way. I hope you enjoy ‘Armorgirl,’ and the other free wallpapers I have to share.

Mesh Update #11: Full Spectrum

Today’s Mesh update comes from an email I received this week. My six year-old nephew has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. He’s a cute kid, looks like the boy on the right. It’s important to me and my stories that characters navigate the full spectrum of modern kids. To honor my nephew, and the 62.2 million other people with ASD, one of Mesh’s main characters will have autism. Let’s talk about what that means.

My personal journey makes me painfully aware of how people treat disability. They usually fall into three buckets: the people who ignore you, the people who make fun of you, and my personal favorite – the Harry Stones. You know what I mean: Harry Stone on Night Court always had to make a big speech where he gives you the moral of the story. Harry Stones have to make a big deal about how your disability isn’t a big deal. It may sound like they’re good people but it’s really them making your circumstances about them. Irritating.

It’s important to remember that differently-abled kids are all around us. There’s no reason to ignore them, or act like their disability is the only thing worth knowing about them. Let’s create a fourth category: the people who go “Yeah, you have autism. So?” I’m doing that with Roman, Mesh’s protag, and his wheelchair. Why not do the same thing with autism?

One thing I realized after getting my sister’s email is this – my nephew is still a great kid. We hang together, as much as I can handle other people, and he’s never acted weird about Uncle Jackson needing to be alone or getting off the phone after a three minute phone call. He’s smart, he’s kind, and he’s generous. He’s still the same person he was yesterday, the only difference is that someone put a label on him? He didn’t change, I did. That realization forced me to go back to the beginning and mentally put myself in the fourth bucket. It’s taking work, but I’m glad I’m doing it.

In a world where the future just is, we can use Mesh to reinforce that fourth bucket. So, no big deals. No ‘very special episodes.’ Just like we can say “Oh yeah, wheelchair,” with Roman, we’re going to say “Autism. Right.” and move on with our day. Just like Roman, that character’s different abilities will impact how they see life but it’s not and never will be the center of the story.

Train Hack – New Free Wallpaper

Because I love you, here’s a new free wallpaper. ‘Train Hack’ is a piece of concept art I’ve been working on, based on my upcoming novel Mesh.

 

In Chapter 1.5, our hero Roman uses his newfound hacking skills to stop a high speed train. As cool as that sounds, Roman knows that the people after him are smarter, much smarter, than he is. He’s got to use everything he’s learned at Miramar, along with his cybernetic legs and his neuro-connected computer, if he wants to survive the next twenty-four hours.

The more pictures I create, the better it informs my writing. Catching myself going back to add more detail to the story, now that it’s out of my head and on the screen. I hope you enjoy the wallpaper as much as I enjoyed making it. Keep making, keep creating, keep dreaming!

New Scifi Wallpaper – ‘November’

New Scifi Wallpaper - 'November'Finished this new scifi concept art over the weekend and am passing it along for your wallpaper collection. Part of the novel takes place in virtual reality, where kids use VR and AI to create something called Project November that will eventually threaten to take over the world. Their programming space that resembles an orbital data center. I hope you dig November, it’s a crazy, weird place that celebrates everything from ‘Real Genius’ to ‘the Fifth Element.’ Enjoy!

Mesh Update #10 – 50K and rising!

Happy to say that I cracked 50,000 words on this draft of Mesh. I’m closing out Act three, where the Mesh comes to life. After that, we move onto Acts 4 and 5, where the Mesh and the kids of Miramar will come together to save the world. I’m so excited by how the story and characters are coming together.

I can’t wait to show you the weird, crazy world of Roman, Zeke and their friends, the Snow Foxes. I just got a Wacom tablet, so I’m going to start making use of it to draw a few concept pictures to give you a sense of what the Mesh, their virtual reality system, Miramar, and everything else looks like.

I’m also going to start posting some fun scifi stuff every Friday, so look for a few category called ‘Sci-Friday.’ It’s an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.

Onward!

Mesh Update #9 – Stars Can Collapse

This is a tough one. I talked about David Hahn before, but  it wasn’t until today that I knew how the story ended. Hahn died in 2016 of alcohol poisoning. They found David’s body in a Wal-Mart bathroom, 18 years after building a nuclear reactor in his back yard. This tragic conclusion illustrates what I said earlier. We need schools to nurture budding stars like Hahn or Taylor Wilson. Stars will collapse, if they don’t have the right conditions to shine.

There is no question, for example, that David Hahn had a tremendous amount of potential. After all, you can’t be both a sniper and a master helmsman unless you’re both bright, and talented. But what went wrong? Continue reading