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.

I Can’t Talk About It, But I Have to Talk About It

Apologies for the radio silence. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been going through some stuff at the house and I had to take a step back from writing and other stuff. I’m on my way to getting better, and while my brain says “I Can’t Talk About It,” my heart says “I have to talk about it.” So, let’s discuss PTSD.

To begin with, here’s a quick video about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s good, because one of the first things it mentions is that you don’t have to go to war to get it. Take a look:

In the past few weeks, I had some things happen to me that pushed me over the threshold from ‘just Jackson things’ to ‘something’s wrong and you should get checked out.’ The doctor’s aren’t 100% yet, but it seems clear that I’ve got PTSD. So this blog post is short and sweet, getting back into writing again. I’m going to say more when I can, but this is all I can say for now. In the meantime, please show understanding, and remember the human.

Here’s Why I’m Offline: Broken Guy Stuff

Wow, been three weeks since I posted. Thanks for waiting for an update. I’m not going to bother explaining the why’s, how’s, and what’s. I’m a real person, and my mental stuff is real, too. Things got the best of me and I’ve been dealing with that. You want to know the truth, I thought this video explains my situation pretty well. So, without comment, here is Laina Morris AKA ‘Overly Attached Girlfriend’ talking about her struggles and why they mean she is quitting Youtube.

I don’t want to quit, I don’t want the one thing I do that forces me to work on me to go away. I’ll continue working on me, and I hope you do the same.

Still Cranking …

Just a quick note to say ‘Yes, I’m still breathing.’ Personal medical stuff has gotten me down, but I’m still kicking. I submitted two short stories to new publishers (see the Short Story production page for details) and now it’s back to work on Mesh. I have health problems, but my health problems don’t have me.

A Word to You About The Way It Is With Me

A Special Message for You

Hi there … I feel like we got off on a bad foot.

Do you have a dream?
Did you try to make it into reality?
Was it easy or hard for you to do?

That’s where I’m at in my journey. Instead of letting my baggage bury me, I’m trying to stand on it and find my way out. Sometimes I get it wrong, but not because I don’t want to get it right. Maybe this can be the moment where I make a friend. Fingers crossed … Continue reading “A Word to You About The Way It Is With Me”

Because Creativity Knows No Bounds

Appropo of nothing, I’d like to share an amazing recipe I just tried. You can’t be creative in only one area of your life. You must embrace awesomeness in other areas, too.

Enter the Japanese Pancake. I generally try to avoid geeking out, but when something’s good, it’s good. When I find something good, I like to share it. With that in mind, here’s a recipe for Japanese pancakes. Traditional Japanese hotcakes start with the same materials you’d use to make ordinary pancakes, but their preparation makes them absolutely *scrumptious.* Continue reading “Because Creativity Knows No Bounds”

I Can’t Save the World

Bear with me, I’m a little messed up tonight.

I don’t spend time with many people, but I do hang out with one guy. My downstairs neighbor is a decent person who copes with problems you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. He’s middle-aged, he’s got muscular dystrophy and he ekes out an existence on government disability, because if he tried to work full-time, the insurance premiums would kill him. I like Al. Despite the bad times, he’s usually got a smile on his face and he helps me maintain perspective on my mental and emotional garbage.

Now, why this messed me up is pretty simple. Al has a nephew, Jason. Friendly kid, maybe eleven or twelve. Reminds me a lot of me before the monsters closed in. Al asks if I can help help him take Jason to the park. Getting around on that monster motorized scooter is tough for him, especially on the moss-covered concrete of Monroe Park. I popped an extra pill and said yes. I don’t like getting out but if Al can find a way to face the universe, then so can I.

Custom van to fit the wheelchair. Windows down so that Jason doesn’t get carsick. I ride in the back, getting a crash course in what it means to be disabled in America through drips and drabs of conversation. On the flip side, Jason is happy to be outside. Uncle Al can’t get around very much. Jason asks if I’ve ever seen Los Angeles. I resist the impulse to tell him stories about growing up on the Disney lot.

Al’s wheelchair forces him to remain at the perimeter of the playground, so I play zone defense while the kid goes nuts on the monkey bars. He starts telling me about his life and just like Al, I get a crash-course in what it means to live as a sheltered kid in rural Wisconsin with a bi-polar mom. Bullied at school. Teenage brother and sister beat on him for fun. No video games and no Internet. He’s the kid that gets sheltered to death because his older siblings ran wild.

He doesn’t see it, but I do. The shy smile, grateful for every nice thing anyone does for him. I remember that moment. The bright-eyed time in your life when you still believe everything will eventually be okay. Wavering showers of hope that fade when you come to the bitter conclusion that the world hates you, and then you start hating it back. I can see the this kid’s miserable childhood laid out before him like a faded Texaco roadmap. Does this happen to anyone else? I’ve never wanted to fix someone’s life for them so bad in my life. Knowing that I have no right or place or ability to do anything is killing me inside.

I know what my therapist will say about all this. He says I shouldn’t make someone else’s life about me. It’s a throwback, he’ll explain, to me being a damaged kid, and wishing that someone saved me. Now I’m older and I don’t want anyone to go through what I experienced. I know it’s an arrogant thought, making this kid’s world about me, but that’s why I’m getting it out on virtual paper, where I can look at it. Part of my journey is about me dealing with my thoughts: good, bad, or ugly.

No, I can’t save the world. All I can do is write stories for people. Hopefully those stories will find the people like me. Looking for answers, carving meaning out of misery, distilling the pain into art. Other people are, too. Maybe if we can find the answers, maybe we can make the bad things stop. Then I could sleep. I could feel like it was worth it.

But it’s not enough.


Something You Should Know About Me – 48 Laws of Power

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

Doing some thinking lately about life, the universe and everything. Humanity is something I struggle to interface correctly with. A steady diet of humans, their games and their inconsistencies are enough to push me into depression. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting all over again.

In the spirit of self-awareness, it was recommended that I take a look at ‘The 48 Laws of Power’. I have to say, it’s an eye-opener. Not because it gives me any type of insight on who I should be as a person, but rather on who I don’t want to be, and why. 48 Laws of Power, and other ideas like it, teach you the business of manipulation. I don’t like that.

The fact is, people and their manipulation have done a lot of damage to the world, and yet you can see how humans need some type of manipulation to survive. Manipulation can be positive, as we learn when we use manners, etiquette and protocol. However, it is important to differentiate between manners to get along with people, and the Machiavellian strategies of a book like Propaganda by Edward Bernays. Manipulation to build trust is one thing, manipulation to destroy trust is something else indeed.

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

When I started over, one thing I was very clear on was that I wanted to be able to trust other people, and I wanted other people to be able to trust me. As I introduce my work, and navigate the treacherous world of ‘hey, I wrote something and I want to share it with you,’ I want to do it with integrity and authenticity. Because I’m not experienced with any of this, sometimes I might come off as clumsy, but I can promise that my intentions are pure, even if my execution is not.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know about manipulation. Further, I suspect I’m not alone as a person in the science fiction community who is rather defensive about anything that sounds like people are trying to manipulate me. Figuring out how to be an authentic person, who tells stories because that’s his hearts desire, while navigating the world of storytelling and managing his illness … this is a complex equation that will take some time for me to figure out.

I just thought it would be important for you to hear this from me.

Notes from the Forty-Year-Old Author


Life told me I was forty-years old by giving me a mallet finger deformity. Doesn’t look like much does it? I wish it felt that way – I jammed my middle finger and it stayed bent. The doctor says I tore the tendon in my last joint and that I was lucky. “If you waited a week to come in, it would have healed that way and you’d be stuck with it for life.”

So here’s me, feeling lucky.

It’s going to be tough to type without my EDC finger, but Mesh won’t write itself. I’m polishing and iterating as we speak – forty is the new thirty!

At least, I hope so.