You Should Geek Out About the ‘Black Hole Picture’

The Internet blew up yesterday over a picture of what looks like a fuzzy donut. Yes, science has taken it’s first picture of a black hole and yes, it’s a really big deal. In fact, there are a number of good reasons to geek out about this. You can Google around, or you can read below for some of those nerdy details. Here’s what went into the production of this picture, according to the European Southern Observatory (ESO):

Although the telescopes making up the EHT are not physically connected, they are able to synchronize their recorded data with atomic clocks — hydrogen masers — which precisely time their observations. These observations were collected at a wavelength of 1.3 mm during a 2017 global campaign. Each telescope of the EHT produced enormous amounts of data – roughly 350 terabytes per day – which was stored on high-performance helium-filled hard drives. These data were flown to highly specialised supercomputers — known as correlators — at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and MIT Haystack Observatory to be combined. They were then painstakingly converted into an image using novel computational tools developed by the collaboration.

To put that in perspective, each of the eight telescopes in the EHT produced the data equivalent of 3,500 full-length movies in 4K every single day. That data was then analyzed and converted back into a viewable image. A Redditor explains how that happened and what that means: Continue reading

Formative Scifi is the Only Scifi

Re-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.

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.

 

Free List of Scifi Magazines That Pay For Your Work

Scifi Magazines Accepting New Fiction Updated - Free Author ToolQuick announcement – If you’re like me and you’re looking for every Free Author Tool on the planet, you’ll want to pay attention to this. I keep a log of scifi magazines that actually pay for your work. My list has been updated again – it’s at the bottom of the Free Author Tools page.

There’s no secret sauce to the Free Author Tools. I hear about things from time to time, and I want to pass those along to other people just like authors pass things along to me. The only way we’re going to succeed is if we help each other.

Lots of love!

~J

Thriller Novels and Spaghetti

Writing a thriller is like cooking spaghetti. Your reader doesn’t really care which noodle goes where, they just want the noodles to taste good together. The sheer level of effort required to make this last chunk of Mesh, to make the rest of the story come together in a neat, elegant order, is much higher than I first expected. I’m discovering new respect for authors like Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré, and Tom Clancy. As your story builds to a climax, you can’t have a voice in the back of your head going “Yeah, that doesn’t fit together.”

At first, I thought at first I could write through the voice. Keep grinding, the answers will come. Some plots can afford that level of flexibility, but not a thriller. No, a thriller plot – which is what Mesh is, a YA scifi thriller – has to come together in that last act with no loose ends. Not only that, the loose end you tie up in Act Three can’t unravel four loose ends in Act Two. It’s somewhere between creativity and craftiness, productivity and puzzleology. In short, yeah it’s a lot of work.

I thought diagramming the story would prevent this from happening. Turns out, it works for the major chunks but not for the nitty-gritty details. Those are the details, IMHO, that separate stories like ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ from ‘The DaVinci Code.’ Fixing this, making Mesh the best story I can tell, is where I’m at right now.

Does this mean I should quit? Of course not. These are simply the problems I need to solve if I plan on being a good writer. Craft must be honed, you have to love the process of practice. I recall a Reddit post by a professional pianist that I think applies directly to my growth as a writer. “I think you have to have a growth mindset,” he says. “You have to enjoy the grind itself.”

So this is me, enjoying the grind. I’m not complaining. Yeah, I want to do this. Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work. However, if it means a reader goes ‘Wow!’ at the end of Mesh, then it’ll all be worth it.

Back to the book!

 

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