Search Results for: scifi life

#StuckInsideStory – Free Stories While You #QuarentineLife

Quick joke – today, #QuarentineLife is trending on Twitter. Not #Quarantinelife, #QuarentineLife. Let that sink in. I have good news, though. Through Saturday, I’m giving away free e-copies of ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater,’ a gritty scifi western about greedy landowners, desperate settlers and a lone gunman … on Mars.

Click Here to Read

Hope you enjoy it, if anything it will help you as you get through your #QuarentineLife, or your #QuarantineLife. Whatever floats your boat.

 

 

SCP and the Scary World of Global Scifi

SCP and the Scary World of Global Scifi #StandWithSCPRU

Well that’s awful. SCP, the collaborative-fiction project that’s been running for eleven years now, is under attack by a patent troll somewhere in Russia. I don’t have all the details, but you can read more about it on the following Reddit thread. I only have an academic interest in SCP (not into horror scifi) but their fight strikes home, since it deals with the scary world of global scifi.

Fun fact: If you’re an an author, you don’t just need to know writing. You also need to be an expert in publishing, accounting, design, negotiation, marketing and yes, even intellectual property. According to Wikipedia, the main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. The downside is that intellectual property laws vary from country to country, and gray areas leave room for bad actors.

The reason why the SCP story is so compelling is because the community attempted from the beginning to avoid any such bad action. As a collaborative-fiction project, SCP made use of the free-culture movement to create a compelling story that anyone could read, and anyone could write. Monetization seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s list and to their credit, they’ve been doing this for eleven years with a decent amount of success.

So here comes Andrey Duksin, ‘a Russian man who has illegally registered an illegitimate trademark for SCP within the Eurasian Customs Union. He has used said trademark to threaten and extort legitimate sellers of SCP merchandise, and in addition is guilty of copyright infringement, as his own merchandise completely violates the SCP content license: Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0.’ His actions strike at the heart of what free-culture, collaborative fiction, and Creative Commons are meant to support.

Naturally, this should scare everyone in the SCP community and it does. What’s the point of contributing if it means some dork in another part of the world can waltz in and use IP laws to steal what you tried to give away for free? What recourse do we have when one person, anywhere in the world, can end your life’s work with the touch of a button?

I’m going out on a limb right now and calling Andrey Duksin a toxic fan. He didn’t invent SCP, but he’s using global intellectual property laws to steal it, and that is #5 on the list of questions you can ask yourself (“Do you take more than you give to scifi?”). What he’s doing isn’t right, but let’s face it: It was going to happen sooner or later in this weird, copyright-trolling universe we inhabit.

Even at my modest level, I’m cautious about the microfiction I’ve published. I’ve already had one person ask permission to translate it and share it, but I said “no.” Maybe they have good intentions, but I can’t guarantee that they won’t show up later going ‘this is mine now, sucker.’ That is why I prefer to err on the side of caution. There’s no such thing as a risk-free enterprise, but I want to be as smart as I can while being as open as I can.

So for now, the main thing is to stomp the bad acting wherever we can. While this this unhappy episode with SCP illustrates the challenges that small-time, grass-root organizations face when interacting with a global community, the good news is that there’s more with us than there are with them.

The only way patent trolls will be stopped is when understand that not only is a patent troll a waste of time, it’s going to hurt to even try. We aren’t there yet, but my hope is that we will be, soon. You might consider kicking in a few bucks to their legal fund and hashtagging the #StandWithSCPRU.

The Arc of Marty McFly – Scifi Character Development

The Arc of Marty McFly - Scifi Character DevelopmentIt’s fall in Oregon, which means we’ll get beautiful, crisp mornings and brilliant colors. You can watch nature in progress over at the Owen Rose Garden webcam. I, of course, am not thinking about nature at all. No, I’m thinking about Back to the Future, as one does. More specifically, I’m thinking about Marty McFly and the character arc he takes through the first BTTF movie. There’s a stack of things you can learn about scifi character development by Marty McFly in Back to the Future. In fact, he can help you write better characters.

Marty as Protagonist

First things first, let’s talk about Marty in the first BTTF movie. The other two movies were written after the success of the first, and most of his character growth happens in the first movie. Yeah, yeah … he couldn’t stand being called chicken, but that was a bit of lazy storytelling. A kid who can travel through space and time gets triggered by the word ‘chicken?’ Gimme a break. No, Marty’s character was interesting in the first movie alone and demonstrates a very solid storytelling arc by the end of the first movie.

So to recap, Marty McFly is a teen living somewhere in suburban California in 1985. He has a single friend, a local ‘mad scientist’ who engages in eccentric science projects like synchronizing all of his clocks and building the world’s biggest guitar amp. We quickly find out that Doc Brown has invented a working time machine, and Marty ends up using it to travel back in time.

He quickly finds himself stuck in the world of his parents, now teenagers, and ends up potentially creating an alternate reality where he is never born. With the help of his now-younger friend Doc Brown, Marty manages to undo the time paradox, fix his powerless time machine and return to the restored world of 1985. Along the way, he manages to fix his broken family, and that’s where the magic happens in terms of Marty’s character. Continue reading

What Scifi Gets Wrong About Virtual Reality

What Scifi Gets Wrong About Virtual RealityI had to laugh when I saw an article entitled ‘What if We’re Wrong About Virtual Reality?’ My snarky Gawker media-brain kicked in: Don’t worry honey, you are. VR and AR have been hot topics since the 80s. Now that Oculus and Playstation VR are here, we’re forced to contemplate what they mean. Is virtual reality going to take the place of real reality?

I’m throwing my hat into the ring of bonafide experts (which means I know as much as everyone else does: nothing) by saying “no.” In fact, most scifi gets virtual reality wrong, and for some very basic reasons. Let’s discuss why:

First and foremost, virtual and augmented reality are information apprehension and manipulation tools. They make it possible for us to look at, and work with, information in a different way. Think of them as the next generation monitor and keyboard if it helps. When it comes down to it, VR does the same job. I’m using my monitor so that my eyes can see the data, and my keyboard to manipulate the data. Have my keyboard and mouse taken over my life? Of course not. They’re platforms to consume and manipulate data. That’s all.

What Scifi Gets Wrong About Virtual Reality

When people talk about being ‘addicted to your phone’ or ‘addicted to your keyboard,’ the device isn’t the issue. The real issue is that you’ve allowed yourself to become addicted to that specific form of information consumption. It’s unhealthy, to be sure, but the phone isn’t the issue. The problem is between keyboard and chair (PBKAC, if you want to be nerdy about it).

We need a way to consume and manipulate information. Virtual reality breaks the current metaphors and analogues of that process, potentially giving us more meaningful, efficient ways to do that.

That’s not to say that this disruption isn’t without risk or cost. New technology disruption often butterflies off into dark, unintended consequences. That’s why scifi is ripe with cautionary tales like Hyper-Reality:

or Stalenhag’s Electric State series. Continue reading

Your Top Ten Biggest Scifi Writing Mistakes

Your Top Ten Biggest Scifi Writing Mistakes

You. Yes, you. Stop right now and jot this down. There was a thread over at /r/scifi that listed out the biggest mistakes in scifi and I couldn’t help but take note. You should too, because these people are our readers and when they talk, we need to listen with both ears. To keep it super-simple, I compiled some of the best ones into a handy Top-Ten format. I want to keep this for my future reference and yours, too.

Good scifi cannot save bad writing. I think we all know that. At the same time, bad writing can be forgiven under certain circumstances (Looking at you, Ready Player One). Ideas, premises, tech that would interest a PhD cannot be mated to sixth-grade prose, just like you can’t expect to run an F1 car with a toddler at the wheel. We know that, too. So the question is, how to you write good-sci-fi? I’m still trying to figure that out. In the meantime, here are some ways to avoid writing bad science fiction. Let’s look at the top ten worst offenders, in no particular order: Continue reading

Writing Scifi – That’s Me Trying

Originally posted this over at Reddit, but I want to capture the whole thought here. Feedback is floating in about my novel is floating in, and yes it looks like I’ll be re-drafting Mesh. Not too crazy. The consensus seems that Mesh is ‘good,’ and now I should focus on making it ‘great.’ I can live with that.

My professional author friends are (rightly) asking structural questions about Mesh: does this character *have* to be this way? Does this thing drive the story? I’m taking their feedback with care, and thinking deeply about what they mean. After all, I need to care about Mesh and its characters if I expect anyone else to.

One person challenged me to think about why Roman – my protag – is the way that he is. Is it right, is it necessary for Roman to be a disabled kid? Why is he Mexican? Am I doing this to say ‘Yay, diversity and accessibility?’ My kneejerk answer is “It’s important,” but that’s an insufficient answer. Those are fair questions to ask, and I’ve been thinking hard about the answer.

If there’s one beef I’ve had about popular science fiction over the years, it’s been that the main characters are two-dimensional, unrealistic, and insincere. Think about how wooden most scifi protags are, especially at the beginning of a movie, where Captain Perfect of the USS Flawlessness approaches Planet Hypothesis to learn a new form of human postulation. We’ve improved over time, seeing new character depth (Hello Stranger Things and Next-Gen), but we still have much progress to make.

So, here’s Roman, my protag. How will I make him an authentic, genuine person that you care about? As Pixar tells us in their ‘Storytelling Rules,’ we admire a character for trying more than we do for their success. So Roman has to be trying, but what will he be trying to do?

This is where the personal part of Mesh comes in. Roman’s journey isn’t about saving the world, it’s about not letting the world destroy him. His life is complicated and difficult, like mine and many others. His family suffered some tremendous losses (the car crash that disables Roman also kills his sister – try living with that when you’re thirteen) and he has to learn to carry on. So every day he gets up, lives his life, and does the best that he can – that’s Roman trying. He’s trying to make it work, and that’s why I admire him as a character. His journey through Mesh shows that resilience, ingenuity, and spunk are still valuable skills to have in the 21st Century.

All that being said, how close am I coming to addressing these structural story issues? Does it make sense that I’m trying to make ‘good scifi’ that helps push back against the soulless, money-driven, bottom-line-only stories that suck the life out of us?

When I asked people what they thought on Reddit, I got some different ideas. The consensus seems to be that I’m on the right track. Stories should be character driven, with a strong focus on making sure the people in the story look, feel, and act like real people. I’m still trying to figure out what that means. For now, this is as far as I’ve gotten. Now it’s time to get busy, and get writing.

In closing, here’s what William Shatner sounds like when he’s trying. One thing about trying is that when you aren’t clear about what you’re trying or why, you can come across as insincere. Fun fact: This song was written by Nick Hornby.

 

One Thousand and One Nights – Historical Scifi

Since I love since fiction, I’ve been doing some research about its background. Sci-fi is often viewed as a modern genre, but did you know that science fiction story elements date back as far as the 14th Century? It’s true. Sci-fi stories have a deep, historical background. In fact, they’ve been around about as long as The Canterbury Tales, and their birth took place during the Islamic Golden Age.

One Thousand and One Nights, AKA Arabian Nights contains many story elements we recognize in modern sci-fi. Wikipedia has more detail:

Several stories within the One Thousand and One Nights feature early science fiction elements. One example is “The Adventures of Bulukiya”, where the protagonist Bulukiya’s quest for the herb of immortality leads him to explore the seas, journey to Paradise and to Hell, and travel across the cosmos to different worlds much larger than his own world, anticipating elements of galactic science fiction; along the way, he encounters societies of djinn, mermaids, talking serpents, talking trees, and other forms of life. In “Abu al-Husn and His Slave-Girl Tawaddud”, the heroine Tawaddud gives an impromptu lecture on the mansions of the Moon, and the benevolent and sinister aspects of the planets.

You can continue reading about those fantasy and science fiction elements here.

The main takeaway from all of this is that science fiction has been entertaining people for many years, perhaps over a thousand if my math is correct. Anytime a nerd complains about ‘tired story tropes’ in 2019, just know they were probably doing the same back in 1019.

Nerd on!

 

Blast Off On The Rocket – New Scifi Short Story

Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

Got something new for you to read! ‘The Rocket’ has been published to Amazon and all your other favorite e-reading websites. Click below for a link to each store and then Blast Off!

What’s The Rocket about? Read below for a quick description:

In the last few hours before life on earth ends, a young dad has a chance meeting with his estranged father. Will this be a moment of reconciliation, or recrimination? How can you communicate with someone who refuses to listen? Mike Crane takes one last shot to save his father’s life before he boards THE ROCKET.

My inspiration for writing comes from scifi giants like Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury. When I tell a story, I want to take some ideas out of the box, and play with them for a while. Don’t make it difficult, just enjoy the tingles of emotion and curiosity they bring up.

The genesis of the story comes from, you guessed it, the Internet. As people become increasingly fractured and polarized, how do we reconcile with each other. Along with that idea came another – what if a comet was heading toward Earth? Would we accept the danger and save ourselves or would people call it ‘Fake news?’ Bingo – new story idea!

I wrote The Rocket and sent it out to the usual suspects. Now it’s out on Amazon and everywhere else! Along with writing the story, I decided to continue practicing digital painting and I made the cover as well. I took a couple of days to play around with different visual concepts. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t improve on an Unsplash photo, and used it as a template for the cover. My digital painting version is now a wall-paper for you to enjoy:

Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

Creativity is a discipline, and The Rocket is something I’m proud of. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I look forward to your feedback. Thanks for checking it out! 🙂

Board The Rocket Now

Apple Barnes & Noble Kobo Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story Blast Off On The Rocket - New Scifi Short Story

Formative Scifi is the Only Scifi

Formative Scifi is the Only ScifiRe-reading a thread on Reddit about Iron Giant makes me realize how many lives that story touched. I’ll write a love letter to Brad Bird and The Iron Giant someday, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Rather, I want to talk about formative scifi, because it’s the only scifi that matters. Therefore, Mesh must be formative scifi and that’s where my calories will really be burned.

Let me explain. “Formative experience is the everyday life we lived growing up and the know-how we develop as a result,” by this definition. “More often than not, the know-how develops beyond our awareness. We simply react or do the things we do, based on a familiarity, having seen or experienced something like it before.” As children, those formative moments become the pillars we stand on, or the rocks that crush us, for the rest of our lives. Further, for most of us, we’re trying to turn those rocks into pillars because, self-actualization and stuff.

Scifi always played a formative role in my life, and for many others. Iron Giant was clearly a formative experience for many, and it’s one of the reasons Brad Bird is such a talented storyteller. Contrast Iron Giant with a movie like Titan A.E.: one is a timeless story about love, loss, and acceptance … the other is, well, Titan A.E. You can enjoy both for what they are, but only one of them really worked to resonate on a human level. If I want readers to love Mesh as much as I do, I have to make sure the human connection is there.

Lessons for Me – Lessons for Us

But beyond Mesh, the only science fiction worth having in 2019 is formative scifi. Just as Tor points out, scifi books help us fight for a better world. That’s what we need right now. Regardless of where we come from, where we’re going is a dark and desperate place unless humanity can step back from the brink.

So, I want Mesh to be a part of that solution. I want my stories to be formative for someone, and therefore, Mesh has to resonate. If you believe in stories that matter, I want to know you. I want to tell a story that matters to you.