Stop Trying to Kill Hitler! – Microfiction Part I

I’ve been submitting short stories over in /r/writingprompts – today I’m going to share two shorts that I wrote this week. First one is in the morning, and the other will come out later today.

The first story is in response to the prompt: You are getting seriously fed up with all the time travelers from the future constantly trying to kill you. I channeled my inner Mel Brooks and started banging out prose. Hope you enjoy …

Stop Trying to Kill Hitler!

Elon Musk: Tony Stark Gonna Tony Stark

The news this morning made me realize that I needed to talk about Elon Musk, the universe’s answer to ‘What would happen if Tony Stark were a real person?’ Musk embodies many of the ideals behind Geekquinox, so let’s discuss what the non-nerd media isn’t getting about Tesla, Musk and innovation as a whole.

First, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the average guy in 2018: he’s struggling. He’s aware of the challenges facing life on planet Earth. Plus, he knows the increasing disparity between the needs of the many, and the needs of those in power. He’s rightly asking, where is all of this taking us? When will it start to get better?

Enter Elon Musk. Like Tony Stark, he’s been a maverick his entire career, disrupting industry after industry. Long before we knew what hyperlocal media was, Elon Musk gave us Zip2. Long before we understood the implications of e-commerce banking, Musk gave us Paypal. Any time institutions said ‘you can’t do that,’ Musk’s response was: “Hold my beer.”

Now flash forward to 2018. Tesla production, making cars people buy in California in the 21st century, it’s a tough nut to crack. It involves work, innovation and persistance. Wall Street starts acting like a spoiled teenager, and Big Daddy Musk is like “Uh, yah … no.”

Good for him! In the movies, we champion a maverick. Think about how crazy Tony Stark seemed to be in Iron Man in 2008 when he announced, ‘no more weapons.’ In the movie, as in reality (both including Jim Cramer, like the line between movies and reality isn’t blurry enough), the stock market reacted wildly to his announcement. We didn’t care. We loved that a powerful guy was willing to stand up for what is right. Why would you be surprised that we don’t care about Tesla’s stock price, either?

Let me clue you in: you don’t have a clue. Between Michelle Wolf calling the media out, and Elon Musk not caring if you buy his stock, it’s a heapin’ helping of justiceporn to anyone who despairs of the dystopian status quo.

Here’s another pro-tip – Musk knows you won’t get it. Like every great innovator, he’s prepared to be misunderstood. If you couldn’t understand why SpaceX was important in 2001, why would he bother trying to impress you in 2018? This guy is changing the world. This guy is saving the world. Musk makes things happen, while Wall Street wonders what happened.

In a way, it reminds me of a grandma trying to backseat drive her son. Everyone knows grandma can’t drive herself, but she yaks and complains because she wants everyone to pay attention to her. At some point, someone’s going to tell her: If Grandma don’t like how daddy drives, there’s plenty of room on the Senior Trolley. That’s what Elon Musk just did to the media.

Musk is here to save the world, not the stock market. He’s a geek, and for once in your life you’re dealing with a geek who doesn’t care what you think. If you aren’t willing to come along for the ride, then please make room for another passenger. It’s a positively refreshing response in an increasingly craven world, where the priorities of few override the needs of many.

Good for him, I say. Power is taken, not given. Musk’s comments send a very clear message to those that think human innovation and progress are only seen through the lens of a stock price. Those people are wrong, and it takes a guy like Elon Musk to point it out. Only a person at that level has the ability to say: “I don’t have to play your game. I can succeed without you.”

Elon is keeping his geek hand strong. More power to him.

Making Better Stories With Diagrams

While working on Mesh, I noted some gaps and opportunities to improve my story construction so I wanted to take a blog post (or two, who knows) and talk about story diagramming. Movies, TV shows and other projects benefit from storyboarding or other forms of story diagramming so I wanted to see if it would help me build a better novel.

How do you go about story diagramming? I decided to start with another novel to see how it worked, so I picked one of my favorite technothrillers (and inspirations for Mesh), Day of the Jackal. Continue reading

Is /r/writing Hurt Your Writing?

Oof – that hurt, but it needed to be said. If we’re in the business of murdering our darlings, this published author just torched a big one. Author communities exist to help us improve our craft, network, and commiserate.

There’s a flip side to that coin. As this post points out, and as I’ve long-suspected, there’s a half-life to that helpfulness that needs to be understood. At a certain point, we can talk the talk, but we have to start walking the walk. Nobody is immune. So, if you’re wondering if you’re spending too much time talking about writing, read this and then make your choice:

Why /r/writing is bad for writing.

Stop talking about writing and write.

RIP Art Bell – Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Wow – we lost a few bright sparks over the past two days. Along with R. Lee Ermey, We said good-bye to Art Bell this weekend. Ermey, of course, is near and dear to everyone’s heart but I was more affected by the loss of Art Bell. Bell, of course, was the mad genius behind the Coast to Coast AM radio show.

Because of his interest in conspiracy theories and the paranormal, Coast to Coast was destined to be outliers of radio and pop culture. Rather than running from this reality, Bell embraced it, and this gave him a certain level of freedom when it came content and programming. It worked for him too – 2.75M people still tune in every week to hear whatever junk science or Hollow Earth theory is currently popular.

Out of this carnival, Bell’s show occasionally took us on journeys that make surreal podcasts like Night Vale green with envy. Take the following clip, for example …

Bell understood that radio was ‘theater of the mind,’ and used that to his advantage. Sometimes the best storytelling doesn’t sound like a story at all.

We’ll miss you, you crazy nut. I hope they have a mic and a transmitter, wherever you happen to show up next.

Foreverest – Done – Out for comments

As promised, I finished Foreverest and it’s out for comments among my tiny group of Beta Readers. Already getting positive feedback … I can’t wait to submit it for publication.

In preparation for submission, I looked through the Internet and updated my List of Scifi Magazines that Actually Pay Writers. It’s part of my Free Author Tools section, which you’re always welcome to check out and make use of for yourself.

Finally, you should read Chuck Wendig’s serialized discussion about writers and luck on Twitter. It’ll answer a few questions for you, if you’re wondering how all of this is supposed to work.

More Scifi Short Stories in Production

Back in the saddle, again. 🙂

Had to unplug for a bit, and get my head together as I work on turning Mesh into the story it deserves to be. Where many writers say that you need to write 1-2K words per day, I’m from the school that says ‘what’s the point of writing a thousand words no one wants to read?’

Sometimes it’s better to hang back and sharpen the saw, as Stephen Covey says. Meanwhile, writing other short stories and that means you’ll have some new sci-fi to read very soon. Here’s a quick preview:

Quantum State is an homage to a number of movies, video games and TV shows … I think you’ll enjoy it.

Foreverest is a neo-noir story … a simple matter of a wealthy socialite, and murder.

Siloed continues developing the world I started creating in Body Issues … and the human costs of biotechnology.

I’m working on some new free wallpapers, too. Setting new expectations of quality for myself means some delays in release, but my hope is that you’ll be pleased with the final product.

Happy Monday! 🙂

The Bob Ross School of Science Fiction

I love Bob Ross. Maybe you do, too. I love the fact that his entire TV show is available on Youtube:

Love him for his talent, love him for his afro, or love him for his voice … I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t love Bob Ross. It’s always a surprise to people when they learn that this gentle man was also a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. Bob Ross inspires me because he didn’t find success until the second or third act of his career, but once he did he seemed happy and content for the rest of his life.

We should all be so lucky.

Even though Ross’ painting was not without its own controversy, he remained a tranquil space for viewers. I think about this when I think about the kind of writer I want to be, and the kind of choices I want to make as a creator.

With Ross, the tension and the action are in the work, not in the man. We’re free to let our minds go, experiment, and try new things. He seems to navigate the line between art and commerce without compromising either. He found his niche, occupied it comfortably, and we still enjoy his legacy today.

I see this as a learning lesson for me. Maybe you’re also trying to figure out how to write, how to make, how to do without sacrificing your values. In a perfect world, I could crank out stories night and day, with no thought to rent, bills or adulting. I haven’t found the secret sauce, yet.

However, I remain confident that if I keep looking, that I’ll find a way. Bob Ross found a way to make it work. Maybe we can, too.