Mesh: Can This Really Work?

Mesh: Can This Really Work?

When writing a sci-fi book, one of the first questions you may be asked is ‘how real is your book?’ I’m happy to say that not only are the technologies I talk about in Mesh completely plausible, they’re completely real!

Don’t believe me, believe this write-up on the Mesh network of Havana, Cuba. According to Gizmodo, their mesh has been growing and changing since 2001: “Beginning in 2001, a small community of tech-savvy Cubans have been building a sprawling mesh network that stretches across Havana. This crowdsourced connectivity takes advantage of hidden Wi-Fi antennas and broadband cables stretched across rooftops to network over 9,000 com

puters across different neighborhoods in Cuba’s capital. The resultant Snet, or streetnet, enables people to exchange news updates, share files, and even play online games like World of Warcraft.”

Mesh networks make sense in places where Internet use is prohibited, or prohibitive. The technical details of Havana’s mesh are almost adorable, as this article entitled “If it Rains, Ask Grandma to Disconnect the Nano” goes on to prove.

Click Here to Learn More About Mesh Networking
Bottom line is, the Mesh is totally real and ready for you to discover. I hope you enjoy learning and discovering more about this geeky topic.
Click Here to Learn More About Mesh

Mesh – Ready for Launch – New Portal Page

Mesh - Ready for Launch - New Portal PageToday in the ‘big happy news department,’ I’m excited to tell you that Mesh appears to be ready for launch/book agent queries! To help facilitate that process, I’ve created a new portal page for the book to tell newcomers what Mesh is about and help drive it forward to representation.

So if you’re interested in learning more about Mesh – the scifi novel I’ve been working on since 2016 – please visit the new portal page for information about the book, a quick synopsis, and how to get in touch with me. This is another step forward in the journey toward Author Success, and I hope it connects me with the tribe I am looking for.

Visit the Mesh Portal Page

Microfiction – Supervillains and Batman’s Worst Nightmare

Got some nice Mesh feedback yesterday. One of my beta readers came back with some style suggestions but says ‘otherwise, it’s ready for next steps.’ Squee, squee! I’m hanging out over on /r/writingprompts while I wait for more feedback. Here’s a Twofer Tuesday – New microfictions for you, based on the following two premises:

A prosecutor tries to use the “evidence” that Batman left behind to actually convict a criminal.

The Batman always wins, they say. Villains and bad guys beware. The Batman is coming. The Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Two-Face … trophies hoisted by the law enforcement community to show that a single detective, dedicated and autonomous, can solve more crime than the largest police force in the world.

That’s what they want you to think, anyway.

Continue Reading ‘Batman’s Worst Nightmare’

Next, You never intended to become a supervillain. You REALLY want to stop, but your superhero rival refuses to believe you.

Most people think I’m taller, I’m not sure why. For a guy who is Public Enemy Number One for the Superheroes Union, the first thing most people say is “Wow, I didn’t realize you were so short.”

They call me Mister Mephistopheles. And then they act surprised when I go off.

They don’t get it, just like the supers don’t get it. This is why I decided to talk with one of their people, their therapists. Honestly, how good can someone be if there’s an army of mental health people there to talk them off the ledge every week? I’m a strong person, I said. When I first got the call, I decided to go it alone. Why wouldn’t I be okay? I’m just a regular guy. These powers aren’t supposed to make you crazy.

Continue Reading ‘The Supervillain Summit’

 

 

Great Women Stories?

I love this thread over at /r/movies about ‘Great Women Stories’ because it encapsulates a problem I’m hoping that Mesh will solve. To whit, most ‘women’ movies today are silly women-repackaged-as-men movies and they aren’t that good:

One hour ago, I just watched Ocean’s eight followed by Ghostbuster (2016). I can tell you it left me with a bad aftertaste.
Those films were so focused on replacing men that i can not fathom the point of it all.
If it was meant to empower women, well, it’s a fail.

One doesn’t empower women by forcefully adding wo- in front of any men/man in a pile of books/scripts.

This Wo-wo- syndrom needs to stop.

If we want to empower women we need to tell the tales of women, forge great stories about them. Women don’t need to be anything else than women in the movie industry to be great. They are no substitute or just a smiling sexy face representing a target market. we don’t need to replace men heroes with women to make them great.

They are amazing human being that can be heroes of their own.

This individual is right, of course. Too often, a female protagonist feels like a checked box, a ‘look at us, we’re diverse!’ move. I’m not a girl, so I can’t speak for them, but I have to imagine that this is insulting. It’s why I made a rule for myself with Mesh, that it would be a great story about young women who don’t need to be anything else other than themselves to be great. Sam and Tina, are awesome people unto themselves for a variety of reasons that you’ll come to know. They aren’t repackaged characters, they’re fully three-dimensional. They have good days and bad, senses of humor and dark sides, just like all of us.

The current market of movies like ‘Oceans 8’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ really are a poor answer to a real question – how do you tell the tale of women who are heroes of their own? Wonder Woman got it right, so what’s their excuse? Ghostbusters was such a ‘this is about gender’ movie that they should have called it ‘Ghostbusthers.’ At least that would be honest.

As I said before, I didn’t write Mesh to be some weird statement. I think Mesh and scifi in general have an opportunity to talk about a time where the future just *is*. My hope is that Mesh finds a home with people like the OP of this Reddit thread and that it fills their needs and many others. To get there, of course, we have to get there. Mesh is still waiting for feedback / acceptance. I’ll let you know more as soon as I do.

New Concept Art – Tina and Sam

So this is a new concept piece where I’m digitally painting my book’s characters. Sam and Tina? If you were to describe them, you’d say they’re every tough, smart girl you’ve ever met. The ones that code, compete in jiu-jitsu and joke around like regular people. It’s too easy to fall off into tropes like ‘she’ll break your legs like she breaks your heart,’ so I spent a focusing on who Tina and Sam are.

Both of them, like the other kids in my book, are three-dimensional characters with a back story and a dark side. Some of the other kids in the story crush on them, but that doesn’t stand in the way of them being two of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. They’re based on people I’ve met in my life who went out of their way to break up my assumptions about girls and tech.

Painting them digitally has taught me a lot about my own limitations – honestly, I know this painting isn’t as good as it could be – but every time I paint another part of my book it helps me figure out a little more about what this universe is. I think I’m about done, for good or bad. I hope you enjoy it!

Chilling at the Station: Scifi Concept Art

Happy to say that I have completed a new piece of concept art for Mesh. Hope you enjoy this new scifi digital painting that I call ‘Chilling at the Station.’

Part of the story takes place in virtual reality, and the main school VR construct is a Victorian station that branches off into many cyberpunk-y areas. I decided to visualize that for this piece of concept art and show you some of the steps I took in this Imgur album.
I use photo-realism by using stock photos as my guides to paint the scene with photoshop and a digital tablet. In this case here, I started with a kid who looks like my protagonist and a Victorian building – in this case it’s the British Museum of Natural History in London.
Gradually, I paint over the scene – I’m a writer, not an artist – until I have a competely-drawn digital painting of the overall structure. I can’t use the complete picture because that wouldn’t fit with the story. In this case here, the Station is a massive place – almost endless in some areas – and the room above is too small to capture that.
I hope you enjoyed walking through the process of me painting the pictures in my brain. Let me know if you have any questions!

No, Mesh is Not a Stephen King Rip-Off

I was watching the Colbert Show today – catching up on Youtube as one does – and I ran across Stephen King talking about his new book, “The Institute.” King described his book as a story where kids ‘fight the power,’ and I immediately got scared. Would readers of The Institute think Mesh is a rip-off of Stephen King? I’m happy to say the answer to that question is: no.

Here’s how I know. Quick google-fu gets us to the synopsis, which reads as follows:

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

My story’s about kids going to a school for super-smart teens. No murder, no telekenisis, no brutality. Here’s the synopsis again, for the curious: Continue reading

What Mesh Means to Readers

Beta Readers are connecting with Mesh in a lot of different ways. I got this email yesterday from Mike in Tampa. He helped me explain something I couldn’t have done on my own – what Mesh means to readers. I got a lump in my throat reading this:

Jackson,

We were discussing, more informally, how I felt about Roman having a disability. I’d be more than happy to go on the record and say that I loved it, and here’s why. I have Epilepsy. It’s not even remotely the same disability that Roman has, but it’s a disability that has affected my life in some pretty negative ways. I have scars all across my body, including 2nd and 3rd degree burns, from my Epilepsy. I was forced to drop out of highschool, I only got my GED this past December. 
I relate to Roman because he was treated differently due to his disability, just like I was. I was babied, and I was picked on. I was treated like I couldn’t do even the simplest things for myself, and I was treated like I was faking, things I’ve noticed with Roman. I also had to have the help of technology to help me, like Roman did, though mine was an implant (VNS). 
Please, on behalf of the other cripples, keep Roman the way he is. He gave me hope when I was breaking my face every day during seizures, and I’m sure he’ll help other cripple kids.


As I said before, I want Roman to be a kid who’s ‘trying.’ Trying means different things to different people. For Mike, it’s about getting past his difficulties and Roman gives him someone to relate to. We’ll see what other people say in the months ahead, but for now I wanted to share this with you.
Thanks, Mike. :-}

Writing Scifi – That’s Me Trying

Originally posted this over at Reddit, but I want to capture the whole thought here. Feedback is floating in about my novel is floating in, and yes it looks like I’ll be re-drafting Mesh. Not too crazy. The consensus seems that Mesh is ‘good,’ and now I should focus on making it ‘great.’ I can live with that.

My professional author friends are (rightly) asking structural questions about Mesh: does this character *have* to be this way? Does this thing drive the story? I’m taking their feedback with care, and thinking deeply about what they mean. After all, I need to care about Mesh and its characters if I expect anyone else to.

One person challenged me to think about why Roman – my protag – is the way that he is. Is it right, is it necessary for Roman to be a disabled kid? Why is he Mexican? Am I doing this to say ‘Yay, diversity and accessibility?’ My kneejerk answer is “It’s important,” but that’s an insufficient answer. Those are fair questions to ask, and I’ve been thinking hard about the answer.

If there’s one beef I’ve had about popular science fiction over the years, it’s been that the main characters are two-dimensional, unrealistic, and insincere. Think about how wooden most scifi protags are, especially at the beginning of a movie, where Captain Perfect of the USS Flawlessness approaches Planet Hypothesis to learn a new form of human postulation. We’ve improved over time, seeing new character depth (Hello Stranger Things and Next-Gen), but we still have much progress to make.

So, here’s Roman, my protag. How will I make him an authentic, genuine person that you care about? As Pixar tells us in their ‘Storytelling Rules,’ we admire a character for trying more than we do for their success. So Roman has to be trying, but what will he be trying to do?

This is where the personal part of Mesh comes in. Roman’s journey isn’t about saving the world, it’s about not letting the world destroy him. His life is complicated and difficult, like mine and many others. His family suffered some tremendous losses (the car crash that disables Roman also kills his sister – try living with that when you’re thirteen) and he has to learn to carry on. So every day he gets up, lives his life, and does the best that he can – that’s Roman trying. He’s trying to make it work, and that’s why I admire him as a character. His journey through Mesh shows that resilience, ingenuity, and spunk are still valuable skills to have in the 21st Century.

All that being said, how close am I coming to addressing these structural story issues? Does it make sense that I’m trying to make ‘good scifi’ that helps push back against the soulless, money-driven, bottom-line-only stories that suck the life out of us?

When I asked people what they thought on Reddit, I got some different ideas. The consensus seems to be that I’m on the right track. Stories should be character driven, with a strong focus on making sure the people in the story look, feel, and act like real people. I’m still trying to figure out what that means. For now, this is as far as I’ve gotten. Now it’s time to get busy, and get writing.

In closing, here’s what William Shatner sounds like when he’s trying. One thing about trying is that when you aren’t clear about what you’re trying or why, you can come across as insincere. Fun fact: This song was written by Nick Hornby.

 

‘Dark Phoenix’ is Marvel’s ‘Jump the Shark’ Moment

Monday morning box office numbers are in, and they ain’t pretty. According to Buzzfeed, Variety, Vulture, and Polygon, Dark Phoenix failed to meet opening weekend expectations, falling well short of the expected $40-50M that Disney was estimating. I’m not here to crow about the loss. Rather, I think this means that ‘Dark Phoenix’ is Marvel’s ‘jump the shark’ moment, with long-term implications for the 3-5 year roadmap of science fiction. What does it mean to jump the shark anyway?

See kids, back in the olden days there was this thing called TV, and on this invention they showed shows. One of the most popular shows of all time, ‘Happy Days,’ tried to re-invigorate itself with an episode where Fonzi jumps over a shark on waterskis. The strategy backfired, and simply highlighted how ‘Happy Days’ was over. Now ‘jumping the shark‘ is our metaphor for the implosion of anything popular. (See also: Facebook games, Payless shoes, and Live/Laugh/Love signs)

So when we see something like a major X-Men franchise film fall short of expectations, that’s a clue. Some might be shocked that Marvel movies in a post-Endgame era aren’t the guaranteed cash cow they’re seen to be. To those people I say: gee, who would have seen that coming with six of them opening in the first half of 2019, alone? Please.

Like the detective genre in the thirties, westerns in the fifties, disaster movies in the seventies and action movies in the eighties, we’re in a genre glue. The era of magic punching people is destined to come to an end. Call it ‘Avenger fatigue,’ call it ‘The Superhero Glut,’ people will eventually grow sick of superhero movies and move on to something else. The change is on its way, and ‘Dark Phoenix’ is the proof.

Just once, I wish Hollywood would get the message early and learn how to make graceful exits. After all, we keep seeing genres bled white by greed. It never works out, it always turns into a joke of itself, and it ends up doing your reputation more harm than good. As Harold from Spongebob says: “How many times do we have to teach you this lesson, old man?”

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that this means a huge opportunity for Mesh. No magic punching people, no tired cliches, no boring tropes. Mesh will be ready for a fresh look by sci-fi experiencers looking for a fresh experience. No bloated corporate hype, no overpaid gasbags waxing poetic from the teleprompter. Mesh is a dive back into the old-school, cutting-edge, seat-of-your-pants world of tech, geekery, and adventure. My fingers are crossed that it’ll be hitting the bookshelves just as people become ready to read it.

I’m looking forward to that future.