Horizon: Zero Dawn has been taking a chunk out of my productivity as a writer. After four weeks and several dozen hours, I’m finished and I have a few things to say. To begin with, don’t consider this a video game review. Other people have reviewed the game, and my only comment is that ‘yes, it deserves the rating.’ To call HZD a ‘good game’ is like calling Stranger Things a ‘good Netflix show.’ This is a disrupter, a game-changer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it achieve neoclassic status as a science fiction story.
What I want to discuss, is why HZD is great science fiction unto itself. Grab one of the wallpaper-sized pictures I’m including in this post, settle in, and hear me out:
If you’re going to write, tell jokes, play music, you’ve got to be productive. Your muse doesn’t pay rent in your head, but you pay rent on your apartment, so get busy. I’m adding a new section to the blog in which I pass along things that help me be more productive in writing, successful in reaching book agents, whatever.
Today’s Free Author Tool is about time management, since that’s a personal challenge for me. Sitting at the keyboard for hours at a time, I don’t find myself becoming *more* productive but rather, less. To fix that, I invented a little system that is working out well so far:
Get out your phone
Set a timer for 20 minutes
Turn your ‘Do Not Disturb’ on – close all non-essential Internet tabs (especially Facebook and Reddit)
Write as much as you can for twenty minutes
Stop when the timer goes off
There’s no personal goal of word count to hit, just write as much as you can. You’ll write more as time goes on.
I’ve found that focusing my attention helps my muse to focus, too. There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page going “c’mon … work.” It’s also frustrating to get going on a writing jag, stop for a break and then forget to start again because you’re checking email or Twitter. Stop doing that to yourself. Get up, take a shower, make the bed. Do something else that’s productive and then come back and set your timer again. To make it fun, I also listen to a variety of music. My personal taste is somewhere between chillstep and cool jazz but whatever floats your boat.
I haven’t released many details yet but I can give you a brief synopsis while I polish the novel:
Mesh is ‘Fight Club’ meets ‘Stranger Things’: a YA sci-fi story about Zeke, a charismatic and slightly anarchic teen who changes the world when he invents an entirely new Internet, completely outside of adult control. With the help of his best friend Roman and their science teacher, Mr. Howard, the boys begin a project for their high school service hours, and discover that they can create an uncontrolled information network using old hardware that nobody wants anymore. Mr. Howard’s technical guidance and historical knowledge of counter-culture give them the help they need to bring the Mesh to life. With new mesh networks coming to life all over America, the government seeks the ‘mysterious hackers’ who give kids unshackled access to information and community. It’s a race against time for Zeke and Roman to complete the Mesh, get an ‘A’ for their project and then disappear before it all comes crashing down.
I’ll be talking more about Mesh and its evolution, because there are a number of exciting components that will appear to sci-fi readers across the entire community spectrum. I’m also drawing from a number of writing, sci-fi and technology influences. One of those influences is Simon Stalenhag:
Like most of you, I’m a huge fan of his work. His sweeping, evocative vistas are epic in their scope and contain enough texture to fill entire universes. So as he describes this gritty, split-knuckle future from his vantage point in Sweden, I can’t help but draw upon his imagination as I write Mesh. I want to make sure that the universe I’m creating is as much fun as the universes he makes.
I’m going to leave this here as continuation to my other comments about our genre and community. You don’t have to listen to me, but you can’t ignore Luke Skywalker. Watch this 1:09 clip and then tell me the science fiction community doesn’t have its priorities screwed up.
Just finished writing an article for consideration in the upcoming Comic-Con souvenir book. I’m not attending, but I like being a part of it. This year, they’re celebrating one of my favorite cartoon series – Batman: The Animated Series. It took Batman: TAS for pop culture and Hollywood to realize that cartoons were a serious storytelling medium. It wasn’t enough for Scooby and the Gang to rip the mask off the villain by the end of the show. Batman: TAS showed us that when you rip the cover off, there’s still a world of pain and joyful anarchy underneath.
I love that show and it brought back a lot of happy memories to write “Dark Deco and Neo-Noir for Kids – Batman: The Animated Series at Twenty-Five.” I look forward with fingers crossed to see if it shows up in the Comic Con Souvenir Book – I’ll keep you posted! 😀
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
In that spirit, I’m probably going to write my own dystopian entry for the Boston Review and I’ll let you know how that goes. People liked Superhero Shrink on Imgur and that made me feel good. Interacting with people via social media is a challenge unto itself, but it’s also therapy for me. Currently working on a number of short stories, articles, and submission entries. Would you guys like to hear about those, too?
Was all set to say something about how to save Netflix’s beleagured show, Iron Fist, but then theMarySue.com beat me to it. All I have to say now is ‘that’s what she said.’ But then I thought about how you would do it. That’s where my juices got flowing.
First off, I can totally imagine this show as a period piece produced by Quentin Tarantino, starring some underknown Asian martial arts actress. The premise is super easy: Plane goes down in Texas in the 20s and she comes back to China in the thirties as this gunslinging martial arts warrior princess. It’d be an awesome way to talk about history that’s a blank space to Western high school history classes:
The more I thought about it, the more obvious it becomes. Sam Elliot already works on Netflix projects, so you cast him as ‘the cowboy as samurai master.’ Then you cast Michelle Yoh as her elder sister and either Donnie Yen or Jet Li as ‘The Bad Guy.’ First eight episodes write themselves: all about her training to be a gunfighter while maintaining her stance as a martial artist. Last four episodes are about her returning home and kicking butt.
Imagine how cool this would be. Take all of these worn-out story tropes and give them a completely fresh take by flipping them, it’s easy! Not only would the show have an instant market overseas, it would overcome all ‘whitewashing’ complaints in one swift move and reinforce Netflix as the driving force behind entertainment innovation for the next three or four years. I’d be happy to jump on board as a screenwriter, too. I’m an unknown talent so I’ll work cheap.
I’ve been amused to see how sick people are getting of superhero stories:
It reminds me of the call that went out last year for short stories featuring superheroes. I sent in a submission but it didn’t make the cut. Rather than complain, I decided to release it as a free short for new readers and am happy to announce that The Superhero Shrink is now available to the Inkican Crew. Here’s a quick description:
Dr. Christopher has a very difficult, unique job. He’s a psychiatrist who works with superheroes. Some legendary warriors come with baggage and his job is to help ‘keep ’em flying.’ Half-serious, half-dark comedy, ‘The Superhero Shrink’ is “‘The Avengers’ Meets ‘Ordinary People,'” an honest look at the people behind the masks.
I’m also releasing it to Amazon on March 27th if you’ve got a Kindle. If you’re sick of the typical ‘superhero’ story, this might be your jam.
My name is Jackson. I am a private person who lives, eats, and breathes sci-fi. When I'm not talking about my writing projects, I talk about stuff related to the science fiction genre and community.