Sci-Friday #120 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi Blooper Reel

Look, I get it – you’re still mad about Star Wars: the Last Jedi. But rather than discussing what I think is good about the movie, let’s have some fun on this Sci-Friday. Kick back, and enjoy a blooper reel from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Come for Daisy Ridley, stay for Mark Hamill’s ‘Grandpa Simpson’ impression:

In case you’re wondering, yes – I loved TLJ. Not a great film, but a perfect movie. Hit a lot of great storytelling notes and should be appreciated for what it is in the context of our toxic scifi fandom. I hope you enjoy this Sci-Friday and dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Have a great weekend!


Five Tips to Author Success on Reddit

Reddit and the Single Scifi Author

This post is based on an experience on Reddit this week. I’d like to use what I’ve learned there to share five tips to author success on Reddit. As Reddit pertains to the Single Scifi Author, it isn’t as simple as ‘having an idea’ and sharing motivational memes. No, Reddit wants more. As a social media platform, Reddit will challenge you, turn your brain into a pretzel, drive you crazy, and free your mind. You need to develop a thicker skin, or at least understand where your skin might be tender. I cover a lot of this in the Glass House Life series.

I’m still learning and growing on Reddit. I don’t have it all figured out. I firmly believe that Reddit can be one of the strongest supporters that an author will ever know. At the same time, Reddit filled with some toxic people. For example, I have no doubt that Redditors will line up to tell me why I’m wrong as soon as I post this and I’m an idiot for writing it. It may sound counterintuitive, but that’s actually a good thing: I welcome the feedback and the chance to learn.

But having spent over five years on Reddit, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to engaging with Redditors to discuss a new scifi or creative project. To make this relevant and actionable, I dispensed with the standard ‘follow these steps’ process and focused on ideas and principles, making these five tips to author success on Reddit.

  1. It’s about how you come across – Reddit prides itself on showing empathy (“Come for the cats, stay for the empathy”) and this is a two-way street when it comes to e-interactions. I’ve learned – the hard way, many times – that how I think I’m presenting myself is not how I’m coming across. Similarly, if there’s any daylight between what you intend to communicate about your topic or your audience and what you’re actually communicating, you’re gonna get called out. This leads me to a second point …
  2. Ride the Wave – If you think about human interaction like surfing a giant wave, one easy-to-answer springs to mind. Do we make the wave, or do we ride the wave? Naturally, the answer is ‘we ride.’ We’re not strong enough to make our own waves, so we learn to watch the waves and ride along. So too, with Reddit. You’re dealing with the social inertia of the sum total of human attention. Look for ways to interact with what they’re already thinking about. At the same time, what do you do if the wave is sucking you under? At that point, you recognize your limitations and get out of the water. There are no Internet lifeguards on Reddit. But don’t get cocky …
  3. Confident, but relatable – Remember how everyone used to say ‘confidence is key?’ The new advice is ‘confidence is key, but nobody likes arrogance.’ The thin line between the two is humility, and humility helps people relate to you. It is possible to hold yourself high without putting people beneath you. ‘But wait,’ you’ll say. ‘I’m just trying to be confident and hold myself high without putting people down!’ I hear you. What I had to learn – and am still learning – is how much of my own insecurity translates to arrogant or off-putting behaviors (see Tip #1). It’s a humbling, yet illuminating experience.
  4. The three variables – A good Reddit thread has an equation (Relevant + Authentic + Shareable) and anything you want to share has to score very high on those three areas in order to achieve success but more is needed. You need to ask yourself “How is this relevant to that subreddit?” For example, I wouldn’t share a /r/funny post in /r/scifi and expect much traction. You also need to ask “How is this authentic?” Are you coming across as a social media flunkie because you read an article on Hubspot? Yeah, that doesn’t work for these folks. They quickly find daylight between real and fake, so you need to eliminate anything that ‘comes across’ as fake, even if that isn’t your intention.
  5. It’s a tough crowd – If you envision a Reddit thread like a tough standup comedy audience, everything makes more sense. They’re there for their own reasons, they love to heckle, and they have a “go on – impress me” attitude. Is it right, is it wrong? Who cares? You walked into their kill-zone, and you’ve got to be prepared for anything. ANYTHING. Don’t believe me? Ask Woody Harrelson. Nobody’s above an internet butt-kicking on Reddit.

To wrap this up, because I can already sense this turning into a broader topic, remember that Reddit is a big place. Some parts are good, others bad. Like the Internet platforms that came before (Usenet, anyone?) it can be a blessing or a curse depending on where you land. If you plan on sharing your work on Reddit, do your homework! Find a subreddit of people that share your interests, and look to see what they’re into. As you get more popular, you’ll get recommendations (“This is awesome, you should share it on …”) and that type of feedback is worth its weight in gold. Put the work in, put the time in, Reddit will teach you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know.

But Wait, Jackson – You’re Wrong!

I hear you. Come tell me what I’m wrong about: Discuss this post on the /r/inkican subreddit – tell me what I missed, or need help figuring out.

Sci-Friday #120 – Bad Dune Fan Theories Round-Up

Sci-Friday #120 - Bad Dune Fan Theories Round-Up

I had some fun last week on Twitter with the release of a new Dune movie trailer. What would a bad fan theory of Dune be? I did a round-up of bad Dune fan theories on Twitter and collected them for Sci-Friday. Please enjoy these and feel free to add your own.

  • The worm dies at the end
  • For the ‘pain box’ scene, @RealChalamet researched mental torment by watching all five seasons of Mama June: From Not to Hot.
  • The butler did it.
  • Frodo and Bilbo have The Ring and they need to throw into Mt. Dune.
  • They needed someone to act like a sexual predator for the role of the Baron, so they originally offered the role to Harvey Weinstein
  • Dune’s promotional tie-ins include LASIK surgery renaming itself to lasgun surgery.
  • Dune has a breakfast cereal coming out called Arrakis Flakes
  • The original Dune script had Will Smith recording the title song at the end.
  • Dune is really The Love Boat but in the desert
  • To promote Dune, @RealChalamet will feel true spice agony during his appearance on Hot Ones #Dune #BadDuneFanTheories
  • When we first meet Princess Irulan, she’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘Atreides in the streets, Harkonnen in the sheets.’
  • On Arakis, they play hockey but instead of ice all they have is sand and the worms eat everyone who tries to play.
  • The Dune action figure playset comes with 100 lbs of sand you can bury your friends in!
  • Will include ‘Scooby Doo’ guest appearances including the cast of Friends, BTS, and Ellen DeGeneres
  • Cinnamon rebranded as ‘Melange,’ Starbucks quickly rebrands PSP drinks as ‘Arrkis Spice Lattes’
  • Bene Gesserit is an anagram for ‘beer signer’ – use it to get 10% off your movie ticket purchase

So there you have it, a round-up of bad Dune fan theories that we can use to celebrate this classic scifi tale releasing into a larger movie epic. Will fans love it, or hate it? If they hate it, you may wish to make use of an emotional scifi crisis plan I originally created for the Rise of Skywalker. I hope you enjoy this dump of fun scifi stuff and take some time over the long holiday weekend to dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years.

Have a great weekend!

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure – What’s Weak This Week

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure - What's Weak This Week

This is a quick post telling the story about the story. Lots of times, author business is also about the nuts and bolts that make your stories visible and accessible to your readers, not about the stories themselves. Irritating. I call it ‘fixing what’s weak this week.’

Good things are happening in various areas. Cinderellavator is taking shape, I’m done with the story map and I’m using Story Cards to flesh each chapter out with the help of my pro writing group. Those items should help me cut my ‘first draft to final draft’ timeline and I’ll keep you posted on how that all works. My Twitter audience is growing, and I’m getting more attention via Reddit. But those things can’t happen in a vacuum. I can’t be the chef so focused on making his meal that he ignores the dirty dishes in his kitchen sink.

Inkican needs more attention in the SEO area. I know I said keep making and cranking, but let’s look below the headline. Diligence and care must be taken so that the your blog posts have the best possible shot at finding the people looking for them. That means creating SEO-optimized landing pages. That means optimizing your blog posts for SEO. That means taking fresh look at your old blog posts and optimizing them for SEO. THAT means a lot of minor changes to old web content. THAT means a ton of re-writes and photo editing. You get the picture. Tons of work to realign and shape all that nummy web info for future readers.

It’s also making me think about new photo ideas and I have to be honest – I don’t know if ANYONE besides me cares about Inkican wallpapers. I want people to get a sense of the universes I’m building, but since I’m not a professional graphic artist there’s only so much I can hope to accomplish in this area. In a perfect world, I would have gotten an MFA degree that encompassed my interest in writing and graphics. One more thing to add to my Author Success Wish List.

That’s the update for now, lots of stuff happening to fix what’s weak this week. I’m getting back to work but feel free to reach out if you have a specific question.

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure - What's Weak This Week

Sci-Friday #119 – Fantasy / Sci-fi artwork – Fun Science Fiction Stuff

Some Fantasy / Sci-fi artwork for your Sci-Friday. No major themes or ideas, just good clean fun science fiction stuff. Words communicate ideas, but art communicates emotions. You’ll probably catch a few while looking at these:

Fantasy/Sci-fi Artworks

In the immortal words of Bob Ross, I tell people, ‘You can do this.’ And they write back and say, ‘You were right. I can do this. And now I believe I can do anything.’ If you’re learning how to make clouds, or write a story, or just build your life instead of watching it collapse, you’re my kind of people. This Fantasy / Sci-fi artwork is just part of the fun Science Fiction stuff we like to share at Inkican. I hope you enjoy this collection, and also that you have a great weekend. <3

Why Every Geek Needs to Unplug

Here’s a quick explanation for why every geek needs to unplug from time to time. I took some time last week to unplug from everything, get close to nature and just breathe. Have you tried that recently? Getting out into nature, looking at the blue sky through green trees, looking up into the night sky at the Milky Way. Very medicinal and relaxing.

This comes after two years of hard-core indoor-ness, something I usually would enjoy. Now I’m realizing that unplugging from the phone and social media have health benefits. It avoids the danger of addiction to our devices, to our social media. If you watch this video, you’ll understand how gaming and other electronic diversions create addiction through your brain’s dopamine response. Interesting and frightening all at the same time.

That’s not to say that video games aren’t awesome. I mean, come on. The main point I want you to take from this is: this is why every geek needs to unplug from time to time. On the third day, I felt my body let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. We all need to get away. It’s good for you.

So get outside, check out the stars. Breathe some fresh air. Get dirty. Swim in a lake. Build a campfire and read a book. Those things aren’t a distraction, they’re refreshing. Just like your monitor and TV, human beings have a refresh rate. Tune into that. Get curious about the universe. You’ll find the experience very rewarding.

Sci-Friday #118 – Princess Bride Reaction GIFs

Now, for this Sci-Friday, please enjoy a collection of Princess Bride Reaction GIFs for your social media/email/texting pleasure. As a fantasy movie, The Princess Bride is one of those beautiful ‘blurred lines’ movies that contains many things to enjoy: the sword fights, the dialogue, the drama, and the comedy. I’ll talk more about ‘blurred lines’ movies later, but this is something I think a lot about while working on novels like Mesh.

Enough talk, it’s time to dig into these Princess Bride Reaction GIFs. Have fun!

Princes bride post.

In fact, here are some fun facts about The Princess Bride you may have forgotten:

  • In order to create the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin trained for months with Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson (who also choreographed Star Wars). Every spare moment on set was spent practicing. Eventually, when they showed Rob Reiner the swordfight for the movie, he was underwhelmed and requested that it be at least three minutes long rather than the current one minute. They added steps to the set, watched more swashbuckling movies for inspiration, re-choreographed the scene, and ended up with a three minute and 10 second fight which took the better part of a week to film from all angles.
  • William Goldman came up with the title of the novel based on what his daughters requested in terms of ideas for his next novel, one suggested he write his next book about a princess while the other suggested a book about a bride. He then coined the title “The Princess Bride” for the novel.
  • The video baseball game the Grandson is playing during the first scene is “Hardball” produced by Accolade, Inc., in 1985. It was widely available in the mid-1980s for the Commodore 64 computer system. It was a one or two-player game. The sound was not from the actual game, but later added.
  • The film tested better than every other movie of that year other than Back to the Future (1985). Consequently, there seems to be some bitterness on William Goldman’s part that it didn’t make more money. He blames the studio for not knowing how to sell it.

Will we ever see another Reaction Gif collection this good? Inconceivable! You can, however, dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years.

Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Now Free – Foreverest – Scifi Short Story

Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story

Here’s some good news – my scifi short story Foreverest is now free. I love giving stuff away whenever I can, so this is something I’m happy to share on a random Wednesday. My little brain tacos are the gift that keep on giving, so I’m happy to share them with other SF nerds like myself.  What’s Foreverest about? Here’s a quick description:

Winning a $600 Million lottery is a dream come true, right? In a world of nanotechnology, lethal consequences, and ruthless operatives, one soon-to-be widowed winner is about to get a lesson in the art of removing problems by low friends in high places.

I think you’ll love Foreverest for a couple reasons. 1. It’s a scifi noir short, something you’d dig if you’re a cyberpunk fan. 2. It’s got some big ideas. Like, if you think about how nanotech can be used or misused in the future you start wondering, what could bad people do with nanotech? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in possession of over a half-billion dollars? Answering those question led me to write Foreverest and publish it as a scifi short story; now I’m happy to give it away for free.

Now, you can of course support me which I appreciate. I also understand the risk of getting to know a new author. So that’s why I’m giving you the option to try Foreverest for free at the bookstores below:

Support me – Buy it for $0.99   Hey, I get it – you need to know I’m worth it. Go ahead, Get It For Free
Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story   Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story Kobo Scribd !ndigo Angus & Robertson Mondadori Vivlio

Write on!

Three Reasons You’ll Love “Never Say You Can’t Survive”

One of the things that marks my writing experience are periods of existential loneliness, times when I think I’m fooling myself about this whole author thing. Then a friend, an article, or a Tweet will come at me from left field saying “I got you. You *are* a writer. Feeling weird is normal. I believe in you.” Those moments help me go on, and they’re one of the three reasons you’ll love “Never Say You Can’t Survive” by Charlie Jane Anders. This book is full of those moments.

I’m not a professional book reviewer, I’m just a guy trying to be a professional writer. So when Anders put the offer out to let me review her new book on Netgalley, I jumped at it. It was important for me to know what she could teach me about my own journey. Never Say You Can’t Survive is chock-full of stoic wit, and there are three reasons you’ll love it as soon as you start reading.

Three Reasons You'll Love "Never Say You Can't Survive"

Make no mistake, however. This might be be a book by and for writers, but everyone else should read it, too. Anders captures the discomfort, weirdness, and rollercoasters of emotion you travel on your journey to feel comfortable in your own skin. ‘Weirdness gives me the strength to keep going,’ she says as a chapter title, and peppers the book with great music references that I thought only I knew. It’s her way of saying ‘you are seen.’ That was very comforting to me, and it’ll make you feel good, too. Are you othered? Different? Just to the left of normal? Never Say You Can’t Survive is a party and you’re invited. That’s the first reason you’ll love this book.

The second reason is that along the way to Whoville, Anders offers helpful tidbits about the process of writing that I found insightful. I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack the work, but as Anders brings out in ‘Find Your Voice and Make It Loud,’ writing style is not an austere matter. As you develop your writing style, don’t be afraid to experiment, be expressive, write about what makes you feel good no matter what anyone else says. Your writing style should be a snuggly blanket that keeps you safe and warm from the inhospitable outside world. After all, it is painful to have to pretend that the world makes sense. We all know it doesn’t, but Anders isn’t afraid to say that quiet part out loud. 

A third and perhaps the largest reason you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive is the idea that you must be you, in order to be you. You cannot write the book that feels close to your heart if you aren’t in touch with your heart. Writing is an act that forces you to peer into the abyss, and let the abyss peer into you. Writing is an act that forces you to uncover what you’re really trying to say, and what that says about you. That can be a scary, difficult, and yes, a liberating process. Don’t run from it, Anders says.

As Robert Mailer says in his novel ‘Boonville,’ it’s never easy to be yourself. Never Say You Can’t Survive acknowledges this hardship, while refusing to be shackled to it. Yes, it’s hard, Anders wants you to know. But that is what makes it good. The struggle is real. You’re getting closer to who you’re supposed to be. Welcome the struggle. There are many reasons you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive, but these three will help you get started.

Sci-Friday #116 – How Peter Cullen Made Optimus Prime’s Voice

You know Peter Cullen even if you don’t know him. He’s been the voice of Optimus Prime, the hero of the Transformers, since the 1980s. Along with Transformers, Cullen is also:  Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh,he first voice of KARR in Knight Rider, and the original vocalization resource for the Predator. How do you get a front-row seat to all of that sci-fi history? As you’ll see in the video below, it comes down to finding the humanity in the strangest of circumstances. The origin story of Optimus Prime’s voice is both interesting, and insightful. For Sci-Friday #116, learn how Peter Cullen made Optimus Prime’s voice for the original series and later for the Michael Bay franchise:

Cullen had no idea of Prime’s popularity until the character’s controversial death in the 1986 animated film. Wikipedia notes: ‘the studio had never given him fan letters from children addressed to Optimus. The public backlash over Optimus’s death surprised producers greatly. Children were leaving the theaters distraught because of the character’s death.’

Outside of Transformers, Cullen has enjoyed a steady career as a voice actor, but the biggest takeaway I got from Cullen’s story is this: the emotional cores of any scifi character should come from real places. The kids in Mesh, for example, are based on people I know: good, bad, or ugly. No one would be able to recognize themselves in Mesh, just like I think Captain H.L. Cullen would be hard put to recognize himself in Optimus Prime. Nonetheless, you don’t have to look too far for inspiration. Usually it’s right in front of you.

I hope you enjoyed learning how Peter Cullen made Optimus Prime’s voice and, guess what? I’ve got more fun scifi stuff to share! Dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!