Search Results for: scifi life

Fast Scifi Notes – 05/07/2017

This ripped tendon is still affecting my typing – saving my writing energy for Mesh. Still seeing/reading/experiencing sci-fi, so let me jot down a few notes.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

I’m going to get some flack for this, but I don’t care. Having seen the first GotG, and now the second, I am remarkably ambivalent about this Marvel franchise. Yes, the acting is great. In fact, the actors consistently rescue what would otherwise be a plodding, hum-drum action story piling layer after layer of perilous escapes until you’re dizzied and numbed, going “Did Michael Bay direct this thing?”

I mean, if Michael Bay is your thing, great. I’m not going to judge. I just didn’t find anything compelling or interesting in the main plots. I thought the underlying themes of loss, redemption and family were interesting, but I didn’t go into the theater looking for Good Peter Quill Hunting.

And what’s with the music? Are we now living in an era where people are prepared to believe that the Seventies soft-rock classics are the pinnacle of the audio art form? When did that happen. It’s like you’ve never seen a Time Life commercial in your life. Continue reading

Wartime vs Peacetime Scifi

These are some comments about science fiction as a community and culture. If that isn’t your thing, feel free to ignore this post.

I caught a plane down to LA this week to see some friends from the old life. On my way back up, trying to ignore the incredibly loud lady behind me in 3E, I saw the guy next to me reading from Ben Horowitz’ book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He has some incredible insight about the world business and CEOs. I’ve read it before, but this time, I focused on his discussion about a ‘wartime CEO’ vs a ‘peacetime CEO.’

Applying his logic, one can see a few underlying causes of the tension within the sci-fi community from the past few years. We largely operate under philosophies of a peacetime-type culture: we have protocol, we talk about consensus-building and we think about the big picture. No one is ‘leading’ the community because the community is both self-organized and self-regulated, but the similarities in culture are obvious.

This culture has made our community successful for over a hundred years. However, as Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel said, “success contains the seeds of its own destruction.” The lessons learned from other enterprises absolutely apply to the science fiction community, since both groups include the carbon-based life forms of our wacky little planet.

We experienced what it felt like to have those seeds exploited when we read Laura Mixon’s report on Benjanun Sriduangkaew. We experienced those seeds poking out the ground when we saw the likes of Vox Day and the Sad Puppies attempting to ‘burn the Hugos down.’ Cynicism and disdain for science fiction as both an art form and community became a toxic distraction to the past couple years of sci-fi. Life has moved on, thankfully, but I can’t help but wonder where the next outbreak of toxicity will come from. Why did these toxic actors (TA) succeed, though, if they were so bad for us? Let’s go back to the ‘Wartime CEO’ example, because the answer is there: Continue reading

Full Spectrum SciFi – ‘Arrival’ and ‘Doctor Strange’

 

Well, there you have it: two different movies in the theaters that show the full range of science fiction in all it’s glory.

landscape-1459632762-benedict-cumberbatch-doctor-strangeI won’t spoil either movie for you, but I’ll say this much. If you want to learn how different science fiction can be from itself, you need look no further than the movie theater right now. The Arrival and Doctor Strange show how you can combine elements of the Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy genres to make a basic three-act story or a thoughtful, moving tale that asks ‘if you had it to do all over again, would you?’

I’m happy, because it means we get to experience the full spectrum of sci-fi again. We’ve needed that for a very long while.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s just that, well let me put it this way: I love pizza … But I don’t want pizza every day. I love blues music, but after a while I need something in my life besides Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Variety may be the spice of life, but don’t look for it in the movie theater,’ we’ve been told over and over again.

It took directors like Christopher Nolan making movies like ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ to smash through the conventional wisdom that hard sci-fi didn’t appeal to mass audiences anymore. Now we’re seeing more and more science fiction … real science fiction … coming at us and to that I say “Bravo!”

Now, as much as I love real science fiction, I want to add some caveats:arrival

  • Stories are designed to be enjoyed, not categorized
  • Not every hero has an ‘origin story.’
  • Sci-fi doesn’t have to follow the typical three-act story arc

I’m going to talk more about those thoughts later on but wanted to get this thought pushed out to make room for everything else I’m thinking about. Happy Monday, go make something awesome.

 

 

 

Forget #Brangelina – Remember Our Scifi Geeks Instead

Forget #Brangelina - Remember Our Scifi Geeks Instead

Raise a glass, lads.

We lost two of our own in the past seven days. I was saddened to hear of the loss of two of our elder geeks. You won’t see trending #RIP hashtags on Twitter for them. They won’t make the Oscar’s ‘In Memoriam’ reel either. Yet, their contribution to science fiction is both significant and enduring. These two geeks’ names are unknown except to a precious few, but their achievement is immortal. Like Steve Jobs said, they put a dent in the universe.

To me, it’s infuriating that two celebrities and their personal lives dominate the public consciousness. It shouldn’t be that way. Perhaps things can change. Let’s bypass that debate. Instead, let’s simply remember our friends for the amazing people they were. C. Martin Croker and David Kyle changed the way you see science fiction. Let’s take a moment to examine why that is:

C. Martin Croker

Forget #Brangelina - Remember Our Scifi Geeks InsteadYou didn’t know him but you loved him. Clay Martin Croker was both an animator and a voice actor. You enjoyed his work on the seminal Space Ghost show … he was the voice of Zorak and Moltar. It didn’t stop there: Croker was also an animator for the show. That made him a bit of a unicorn: animators rarely do voice work. Continue reading

About Me – Jackson Allen – Scifi Author

… Me

I’m Jackson Allen and I’m an author of scifi stories. Here’s a quick story on how I got here.

First thing, Jackson isn’t my real name. When I was young, I was a child actor in Hollywood. You might even know some of the films, commercials and TV shows I’ve been in. Sadly, it wasn’t a very happy way to grow up. The stories you read about child actors being abused – physically, emotionally, and mentally – are true. I came away from that life with a lot of scars and baggage.

Later in life, I made a number of bad choices with alcohol and substance abuse. Weird to go from the Hollywood lifestyle to six-foot cells and homelessness, but those are the breaks. It took a long time to pull myself out of the wreckage and start building my life again.

… The Stories I Tell

photo-1457364887197-9150188c107bAs a storyteller, my process is always evolving. However, there are some guiding principles I work with that are more or less constant:

– Be kind

– Tell stories that are safe for any audience

– Respect the reader by telling stories with integrity and authenticity

I love science fiction, so I tell science fiction stories. However, to keep things simple, I’ll be telling ‘young adult sci-fi’ stories, and my hope is that people of every age enjoys reading them. I’ll add to this as I go along. I’d love to be able to tell you the whole plan now, but I’m still figuring it out, myself! 🙂

Housekeeping Notes

One of the outcomes of my life is a severe anxiety disorder. Like millions of others, I live with a disabling mental condition that limits the interaction I can have with other people. I‘ve recently given a few more details, but please be assured that this a real problem that I deal with every day.

Because of my disability, I struggle with human interaction. This blog post helps explain what I’m dealing with.

Thanks for reading – grab a free ebook while you’re here.

 

Sci-Friday #19 – How *Did* They Make the Starlines in Star Wars?

Sci-Friday #19 - How *Did* They Make the Starlines in Star Wars?Happy Sci-Friday and Happy May the Fourth! This is a quick post about Star Wars, since it’s definitely part of my life as a movie / scifi geek. Since May the Fourth is tomorrow, I thought I’d answer a question that’s been bugging me for almost forty years. How *did* they make the starlines, that is, the jump into hyperspace?

On the surface, the question and the answer might not matter to most. For me, that special effect in Star Wars remains iconic and intrinsic to what made the franchise so important. Everything felt real. Everything looked real. That’s the kind of storytelling I want to practice with my scifi. So let’s find the answer: Took a bit of Google-fu to find the answer, turns out that nobody directly answers the question, a la Quora or /r/askreddit. But there is an answer when you follow this link I found on Stackexchange.

A Fantasy Film Journal interview with John Dykstra in 1978 goes into a blow-by-blow discussion of the special effects in Star Wars: A New Hope, which also turns out to be the inception of VFX itself. Here’s Dykstra’s answer (found in the PDF on page 20, if you’re curious) in a nutshell:

FFJ: What about the jump into “hyperspace”?
JD: That’s streak photography. Basically it was real simple. That was one of the few shots that was done by hand, basically. You open the shutter and you move the camera forward, thereby streaking the stars on the film. Alright, each time you advance* it a little bit further, so that on the succeeding frame, the streak is a little longer. Eventually the streak extends all the way to the edge of the film. That’s done simply by taking the camera, opening the shutter and moving it In, closing the shutter, then stopping. Then backing It up, going to the next frame, moving a little bit further this time, and then stopping, backing it up… it’s very tedious, very time consuming and very simple. It wasn’t particularly innovative, but everybody likes it for some reason.

Wow, far out. What seemed like a difficult problem turns out to be a simple camera trick. As Dykstra points out, it’s not particularly innovative, but what is important is that people love it. So, as with Star Wars and/or any other part of science fiction, sometimes the simplest tricks really are the best.

Happy May the Fourth, and for the record: I still hate Jar-Jar.

Five Skills You Can Learn From Science Fiction

Five Skills You Can Learn From Science Fiction

I’ve discussed it in other blog posts but I’ll say it again so the people in the back can hear: scifi isn’t just a genre, it’s a way of life. I don’t know anyone who came away with practical skills after reading ‘Wuthering Heights,’ but thanks to authors like William Gibson, Arthur C. Clarke, and Neal Stephenson I’ve come away with life lessons, skills and heck, even recipes. There are, in fact, many skills you can learn from science fiction. Here, for a Monday morning, are five of them: Continue reading

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

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.”

View post on imgur.com

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.

 

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.