‘New Golden Era of Space Exploration’ – Michio Kaku & Stephen Colbert

This is an interesting discussion from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where Michio Kaku talks space exploration and potential contact with aliens. Michio Kaku is incredibly excited for the second golden era of space exploration but he does not think it is a great idea to alert extraterrestrials to human existence and he explains why.

Tons of cool ideas in a five-minute chat. Of course, I have my own ideas about alien contact, and I think Kaku would actually enjoy Planet Ugh based on what he says here. I’m also digging that he and Stephen Colbert talk about ‘Golden Age Scifi’ because that’s something near and dear to my heart. I’ll be talking more about that soon. Enjoy the clip!

Five Skills You Can Learn From Science Fiction

Five Skills You Can Learn From Science Fiction

I’ve discussed it in other blog posts but I’ll say it again so the people in the back can hear: scifi isn’t just a genre, it’s a way of life. I don’t know anyone who came away with practical skills after reading ‘Wuthering Heights,’ but thanks to authors like David Brin, Allen Steele, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov I’ve come away with life lessons, skills and heck, even recipes. There are, in fact, many skills you can learn from science fiction. Here, for a Monday morning, are five of them: Continue reading “Five Skills You Can Learn From Science Fiction”

Sci-Fi Singularity

Sci-Fi Singularity

Let me tell you about what I learned a couple of years ago. Reddit didn’t enjoy my review of Passengers. I wasn’t surprised – I even predicted that it would happen. That moment, among many others, taught me that we’re approaching the sci-fi singularity. We should talk about what that means.

For as much as I enjoy the genre that incorporates science and technology into fiction, I’m constantly at loggerheads with the current ideology of the FS community. Movie X is ‘true sci-fi’ and Movie Y is not. Prepare for the hate of the Internet if you disagree.

For the record, this isn’t my first rodeo – I know walking into this that any science fiction book, movie or discussion is going to contain what I call the ‘sci-fi orthodoxy.’ Simply put, there’s a common social fallacy that states:

  • Science fiction must meet certain criteria to be considered ‘true science fiction.’
  • Failing to meet that criteria will result in rejection from the community.
  • There is no room for gray areas – a work considered ‘sci-fi’ is either ‘true science fiction,’ or it is rejected.

Forgive me for asking a potentially dumb question, but shouldn’t this scare us a little? This is really weird, polarizing behavior. As we come out of the COVID lockdown (Please God, please) we should talk about what SF will be when we go back to the movies.

This is supposed to be fun, right? Our devotion to science fiction has been what unites us. Now the community has become partisan, factional, and sectarian. It’ll be our epitaph if we do not choose a new future.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Singularity”

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

I ran across this article on Sunday and it reminded me that I haven’t talked to you about the moral of Mesh. Yes, Virginia, there’s a moral. In fact, there’s a hidden cautionary scifi tale within Mesh.

Within the story, I talk about kids inventing a world-changing technology. By the end of the book, you’ll be scared by the implications of that technology. That’s my intent. Why should technology scare you? Let’s talk about that. First, let’s discuss the article itself and then we’ll talk about how Mesh connects.

Is Technology Making Things Better? That’s a good question. For geeks, we focus on what could be, not why it should be. We’re wired that way. Civilization follows behind, happy to reap the rewards of our curiosity. As a result, humanity has run a rabid, manic marathon of discover for two centuries now. Are we better off because of these new inventions and possibilities?

“We face a growing array of problems that involve technology directly or indirectly,” as Dr. John K. Davis of California State University, Fullerton states. “[T]he core problem is that we’re becoming more powerful but not more wise. The growing gap between our technological power and our wisdom is the ultimate cause of all these problems. We are clever enough to create problems we aren’t wise enough to avoid. ”

Dr. Davis is focusing on something I knew would be important to talk about when I started writing scifi four years ago: the Why of technology, and not just the What. I disdain scifi that’s little more than a sophisticated toy catalog. If you’re going to have laser swords and starships, I want to know why you have them. I want to know what this technology can do to push the human condition forward. Continue reading “The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh”

Conversations With Your Inner Critic – The Angry Little Man

Conversations With Your Inner Critic - The Angry Little Man

If you write, there’s one person you’re going to make friends with along with everyone else: Your inner critic.  The angry little man in your head that hates on everything you do. You know who I’m talking about. I’ve been trying to make peace with that guy my entire life.

Now your inner critic comes in many flavors. Maybe they sound like your mom, your dad, or a teacher. My inner critic is an Angry Little Man, and he sounds like the Teeny Little Super Guy from Sesame Street. In fact, he’s such a persistent part of my life that I made him a character in Mesh. Let Roman learn to deal with him!

Inner critics are brilliant at validating all your fears and insecurities. They are artists at cancelling out any type of positivity, exploiting every weakness. Inner critics are masters at making everything you think, say, or do sound as negative as possible.

The reason I’m talking about the Angry Little Man is this: We all have one. It’s okay to have him there. A lot of people live with an inner critic, and managing him is a life skill unto itself.

Continue reading “Conversations With Your Inner Critic – The Angry Little Man”

The Philosophy of Superman

This is an interesting piece of history – Christopher Reeve talking about the philosophy of Superman back when the first movie came out.

Remarkably fresh take on what a superhero movie is supposed to do for it’s viewers (Hint, it’s not about punching people)

 

Theorem of Taylor Swift’s Constant Outrage

Theorem of Taylor Swift's Constant Outrage

This post isn’t about science fiction, but rather the craft of storytelling and why Taylor Swift is an expert at it. I’m reminded of that quote from Network where someone says Peter Finch ‘articulates the popular rage.’ Swift can also be credited for articulating her outrage with modern mendacity, which is why I’m writing down another theorem for modern life:

Theorem of Swift’s Constant Outrage

For every emotional inconsistency or toxic behavior related to human relationships that evokes a sense of outrage, there is a Taylor Swift song written about it. 

I don’t think of myself as a TaySwift fan, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy her music. In fact, I discovered a new amazing song today while looking for Youtube videos related to the idea ‘This is why we can’t have nice things.’ Lo and behold, there’s a Tay Swift song about this and she’s spitting fire with those lyrics.

So because I appreciate good storytelling and articulate concepts, I’m taking a moment to say that Taylor Swift is pretty darn good. Is she perfect? Of course not, but she’s talented and if you’re looking for someone to learn from, you could do worse.

Good on’yer, TaySwift

 

It’s Called ‘Empathy,’ Stupid

Like you, I’m overwhelmed by the madness of current events. This is a different time, an angrier time. A time of wrath. A time of madness. A world where people stupid themselves to death. A world where innocence and humanity wash away in the inexorable tide of cruelty. Over and over, one word echoes into the darkness, one single word missing from all of this chaos: empathy.

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. As human beings, we gravitate to those who show us empathy. We respond to those who relate to us. Sadly, we live in a time where empathy is a commodity, a sign of weakness.

In fact, when you think about modern civilization it’s clear our culture thinks that the strongest person in room is the one who cares the least.. Our culture values those who demand that everyone relate to them while relating to no one but themselves. ‘I’m the center of the universe,’ they say. ‘You revolve around *me.*’ Our culture takes its cue from that toxic mindset and says ‘okay, well since I want to be strong this is what I gotta do.’


Our culture thinks that the strongest person in room is the one who cares the least.


I can cite a hundred examples of what I mean based on the news this week, but next week you won’t remember them. We seem to be trapped on a treadmill of loathing and animus, and I’m not sure where this lunacy will end. So I’m not going to discuss in detail what is already known and lost. The world is not showing empathy, and it’s apathy seems to beget more apathy.

Nobody is perfect. Even professional facilitators recognize their own weaknesses when it comes to fostering environments of reciprocal empathy. Our disruptive age challenges cultural norms of what empathy is, and what it isn’t and it’s created confusion.

For guys in particular, there are experts who say ‘men are experiencing a clear tension point between the expectation for them to be empathetic and emotionally connected spouses and fathers, to the equally strong expectation for them to be manly providers for their families … this tension seems to be at breaking point; men just don’t seem to know who or what they are supposed to be in 2018 and beyond.’

So yes, showing empathy is hard, but it’s a vital part of humanity. Horrible things happen when we let greed and apathy run the world. When Charlie Chaplin talked about the ‘passing of greed’ in The Great Dictator, he did not know the world was staring down the barrel at the Second World War. He talked about being victims of a system that makes men torture, but we live now in that system and it’s of our own design. There’s no mistaking that our world has become vicious and repulsive.

It’s difficult to show empathy to cruel people. The only advice I can offer is ‘learn to deal with them.’ Don’t take what they say personally. Don’t try to make them understand. Distance yourself from them, and their influence. Cultivate and nurture relationships with people who deserve your trust and your compassion. Recognize that you are valuable, no matter what other people think, say, or do.

We can’t save everyone. We can’t fix everyone. A college professor once said: “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world’ in you, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” Even if the light inside of you is small, let it shine! It will help others find you in the dark.

Write on!

Love,

Jackson