Mars Perseverance Parachute Has a Hidden Secret Message

Mars Perseverance Parachute Has a Hidden Secret MessageOoh, ooh – this is totally awesome! The Mars Perseverance parachute contains a hidden secret message! Hidden messages have been a geeky thing ever since nerds first began. CalTech, for example, has had a long-running contest to hide the initials DEI wherever they could, with bonus points for putting it on Mount Everest or the Moon.

So today along with other Mars Perseverance news came an interesting question: Did the engineers of the Mars Perseverance hide a hidden secret message? Turns out that the answer is “Yes!”

It started when the nerds at /r/NASA asked: “Does the parachute for Perseverance have some sort of hidden message or code in it?” Other geeks took a closer look and something was there. How did they come up with that answer? It’s really easy, if you know ASCII.

First, they looked closely at the three ‘rings’ of shapes in the Perseverance parachute. Then they realigned the individual colors of white and red on the parachute rings to act as 1s and 0s. Then, they put it all into Python to get the following message:

Dare Mighty Things  
You can see a visual breakdown with this picture:
Super cool, no? Putting a hidden secret message into the Mars Perseverance parachute is a total ‘Geekquinox‘ move. Geeks put their mark on the universe wherever they go, and that’s why Geekquinox is a state of being, not a state of buying.
Wonderful to see it happen in real time with the Perseverance landing. Congrats to the Mars team!

Building Audiences, Not Movements

Ever watch a Youtube video and then spend all weekend thinking about it? That’s me on this chilly Monday morning. If you’re an author, you think about building audiences, but does that mean you should follow something like CGP Grey’s ‘Rules for Rulers?’ What can a video like this teach you about the author game? These are the questions I’ve been chewing on since Friday afternoon. I think the answer is that as an author I’m building audiences, but not movements.

So what are the ‘Rules for Rulers,’ first of all? Feel free to watch the video below. Laughingsquid defines those rules as: ‘Political power is gained and maintained through a delicate balance of keeping key supporters happy. No matter the type of government (democracy, dictatorship, monarchy), this balance is achieved by implementing three basic rules – first, “get key supporters on your side”, “control the treasure” and “minimize key supporters.”‘ You can watch the original video here:

There are a lot of takeaways from a breakdown like these. The original takeaway came from a Reddit discussion on why kids get bullied, there are studies out there that say bullying is how power is gained or kept in the classroom. But can a video like this help me build my audience? The simple answer is no, and it took me all weekend to understand why.

Here’s the thing: I’m a storyteller. I want people to read my stories, that’s what building audiences is all about. But some people trying to build their audiences make it into something else. ‘This isn’t a soft drink, it’s a movement,’ for example. All well and good for Pepsi, but the last thing I want is to find myself in charge of a group. That’s not me, that’s not what I’m here to do. My mission is to connect, not control.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it. I freely admit, I don’t always understand how things work. But as I’m writing and thinking about everything, it’s important to keep saying it to myself: building audiences, not movements. Hope this has helped you, too.


Sci-Friday #102: Billy West – Futurama Voice Actor Bloopers

If you love scifi, you love Futurama – it’s that simple. Matt Groenig’s love letter to pop culture and science fiction included some of the top voice actors in Hollywood including a guy named Billy West. Billy, if you didn’t already know, had already built a successful voice career doing Ren and Stimpy. He went full ‘Mel Blanc’ in Futurama, providing many of the beloved, bizarre characters you came to know and love. It’s always fun to watch a gag reel, so sit back and enjoy these Futurama voice actor bloopers:

Don’t stop here, though. Billy West has a channel on Youtube talking about some of his experiences as a pro voice actor. Definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in that side of the business.

Part of the benefit of watching Billy West and the Futurama voice actor bloopers is that it de-mystifies the entire process of making scifi. At the end of the day, it comes down to regular people coming together to make something awesome. Always has, always will. If you like Sci-Friday, you can go down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Ten Things I Wish I’d Known as a Teen Author

Spotted this yesterday and am passing it along for the people who come to Inkican for free author advice. I’m happy to share with you because people shared with me, that’s how it works! This 30-minute video is a GREAT resource for young or aspiring authors: Ten Things I Wish I’d Known as a Teen Author. Give it a watch and take notes, this guy gets it and you’ll get it too after you watch this.

One of my takeaways was: Yes, you can be a pro writer. It’s not a one-in-a-million shot, there are a ton of writing jobs out there beyond being a professional novelist. He’s not afraid of telling you what you need to hear. No one is going to force you to be a writer, and if you’re getting into writing because you want to be rich and famous then you’ll be in for a bad shock.

I still love this, Brandon Sanderson makes a ton of great points – watch this video to get a roadmap for a professional writing career.

How Things Work: Soft Power and Scifi

How Things Work: Soft Power and ScifiSome brief thoughts on life, the universe, and everything before I get started on my daily wordcount for Project Arecibo. One of the things I had to admit to myself when I began this journey is that I don’t understand how things work. Like, seriously. How is my life supposed to go, and what do I have to make that happen? Cracking that unspoken, unwritten code is part of my recovery journey. Hopefully before I die, I’ll figure out how I’m supposed to live.

One insight I’ve gained so far is how our culture and civilization use soft power. Soft power defined, is ‘is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power). In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.’ When you start looking at soft power, you start to understand how much it shapes our world. No one is putting a gun to people’s head and saying ‘make this happen.’ They’re making things happen by attracting and shaping their preferences. That’s soft power at work.

Soft Power and Scifi

You can see the difference between hard and soft power in Star Wars, for example. The Dark Side / Empire / First Order leads through the use of hard power (military power, coercion, fear, dominance) whereas the Light Side / Rebellion / Resistance leads through soft power (diplomacy, influence, inspiration, and leadership). There are examples on both sides using hard and soft power, of course. But step back and look at the whole picture: it’s clear that they fall on different ends of the power spectrum.

Another example: In Jurassic Park, scientists used hard power (technology, money, corporations) to coerce a new form of prehistoric life into a modern existence. However as Ian Malcolm is famous for pointing out, ‘life finds a way.’ He’s absolutely right: life does break free, it does expands to new territories, and crash through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously. Most of Michael Chricton’s storytelling can be summed up in the same truism we’ve discussed since Frankenstein: science doesn’t have all the solutions, and sometimes it just makes more problems. In fact, most of Chricton’s stories are just a re-hashed version of the Frankenstein plot structure, but that’s a different blog post.

And So …

Wrapping this up, I want to re-iterate: I don’t understand how things work. This discussion of soft power and scifi is just me saying “oh, now I can see things in a new way.” Does it mean I’m seeing some place I want to go? No idea. Does it mean I have all the answers? Absolutely not. I think it’s important to show humility and modesty as I continue down my path. If anything, I hope I inspire you to do the same.

Birth of the Meme: The 20th Anniversary of ‘All Your Base’

Next week is the 20th Anniversary of the birth of the meme ‘All Your Base,’ one of the most well-known viral memes of the pre-social media era. The original link is here, but you can also watch it on Youtube. Feel free to catch up first, and then let’s talk about what ‘All Your Base’ taught us about Internet culture, social objects, and nerdcool. Watch, and then let’s discuss:

When All Your Base Are Belong To Us (shortened to AYBABTU because I don’t want to keep typing that) dropped in 2001, the entire world took notice. As Wired pointed out, AYBABTU exposed “the Dada ‘reality’ of a medium that refuses to be tamed into predictability.” While that’s true, it’s not the whole story. AYBABTU was a meme, one of the first really popular ones. Like other memes, ‘When All Your Base Are Belong To Us ‘ ‘represents something timeless that continually rings true for people, such as parenthood. Other memes are specific to a specific event or idea.’

So what was the truth of AYBABTU? Before 2001, gamers and gamer-related culture were still on the down-low. Thousands of kids grew up thinking they were the only one who understood how video games could be both endearing and cringe-worthy. Then, like AYBABTU hits like a ton of bricks and they realize: “Hey, we aren’t alone. Like yesteryear nerds playing D&D or quoting Monty Python, we have a ‘thing’ of our own!”

Was it meaningful? Of course not. Was it stupid? Absolutely. But ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ was something all these kids could relate to, what @GapingVoid calls ‘a social object,’ a tangible reason for why we socialize.

Our cultural understanding of memes and Internet culture has leapfrogged itself over and over again in the past twenty years. All Your Base Are Belong To Us dropped in the last few months before 9/11, now that I think about it. It’s a meme that represents the optimistic, irreverent future we were trying to build. I wish we could somehow be that innocent and hopeful again. I’m going to talk more about this, after I think about how it applies to Mesh.


Sci-Friday #100 – We Did It! – Scifi and Blender

Drum roll, please … Hooray, we did it! We made it to Sci-Friday’s hundredth post – huzzah! I’ve been doing this for one hundred blog posts now, and it’s been a fun, fascinating challenge to find something every week to highlight the fun side of science fiction.

In this week’s Sci-Friday, we have a breakdown of the VFX going into an upcoming game. Thanks to Blender, all we need to make a rich, beautiful scifi universe is a great artist, actors, and green-screens. Watch!

Sci-Friday #99 – Jawa Van Halen – Fun Scifi Stuff

Did you know the Jawa’s like Van Halen? Neither did I. And yet, this stop-motion animation provides undeniable proof of the galactic popularity of EVH. The beauty of scifi, as I’ve said, is how it lets us leverage our weaknesses into strengths. The creator himself candidly pointed out: “A Jawa Plays Eruption: A Tribute to Edward Van Halen is exactly that! This was an extremely FUN way to pay respects to a musical Legend and to also challenge myself to recreate Eddie’s amazing solo, frame by frame via stop motion animation. Is it perfect? Of course not, that’s impossible and nothing ever is :-)”

Now, kick back and watch a Jawa shred on Eddie Van Halen’s eponymous work, ‘Eruption.’

Hope you enjoyed ‘Jawa Van Halen, ‘ and if you like Sci-Friday, you can go down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!


New SF Short Story – The Conquered – Old-school Scifi

I’m so excited to share this with you. The Conquered, is now available online at Amazon and your other favorite bookstores. This new SF Short story  is a celebration of old-school scifi. I’ve been working on The Conquered for a while; this is the moment where it gets fired off into the universe!

As I mentioned earlier, my love of thoughtful, old-school scifi comes from places like The Twilight Zone. The Conquered is a story like that, where we talk about some fundamental concepts like ‘what if aliens conquered Earth?’ and ‘what if quantum mechanics impact other universes like an oil spill on sea life?’ I play around with those ideas, and more – here’s a brief description of the short:

New SF Short Story - The Conquered - Old-school ScifiThe Conquered

Three space explorers arrive on a new planet to find the hungry, desperate faces of a conquered civilization. These people are human, intelligent and aware of space travel. Why are they dressed in rags? Why isn’t anyone allowed to own a tool, or medicine? What happened to their cities and culture? The chilling answer comes from the six-meter alien with smoke-colored armor and polished fangs, and he does not come in peace.
Get a copy from your favorite bookstore
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If you like The Conquered, I invite you to check out my other shorts. I’ll be submitting another new SF short story, in that same old-school scifi style, very soon. I’m getting more stuff out the door in 2021 so I look forward to sharing some other news in the near future!