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.

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.”

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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.