Sci-Friday #85 – Behind the Scenes of Star Trek: TOS

You’re going to enjoy this Sci-Friday – it’s a look back, behind the scenes, at Star Trek: TOS. How did this happen? Memory Alpha has the story: “William “Bill(y)” R. Blackburn, was an uncredited background performer on Star Trek: The Original Series for all of the show’s three seasons, excepting the two pilot episodes. In that time, he played a wide variety of roles, usually as a navigator or a helmsman, all believed to be a character named Hadley. In total, he appeared in 61 episodes of the series.”

Because Billy Blackburn was in so many episodes, and he always carried his Super-8 camera with him, we get a rare glimpse of what it was like to work on the early days of this groundbreaking scifi show:

Blackburn has a lot of insights about the cast, and life on set. Kick back and relax. It’s time to beam up, retro style.

Have a great weekend!

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.

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Stars in a Jar: Jackson Oswalt – Fusion Kid

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion Kid

Last night, I saw another story that fit right into the Mesh universe. Jackson Oswalt created nuclear fusion in his home lab, and he’s just a kid. Let’s talk about his awesome accomplishment, and then we’ll talk about how this fits in the Mesh universe.

The details: Last week, Guinness certified Jackson Oswalt of Memphis as the youngest person ever to successfully create nuclear fusion. “[J]ust hours before his 13th birthday in 2018, fused together two deuterium atoms using a fusor that he had built and operated in the playroom of his family home in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Jackson’s achievement was verified by, The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, on 2 February 2018 and confirmed by fusion researcher Richard Hull, who maintains a list of amateur scientists who have achieved fusion at home.”

So, we have fusion power now? No. As this article points out: ‘Sadly, fusors are not likely to see commercial use to solve the world’s clean energy needs. A typical fusor cannot produce the neutron flux that a fusion reactor would be able to, and the energy input far outweighs the potential energy output with technology as it stands.’

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion KidThat takes nothing from Jackson’s achievement. According to Guinness, ‘Jackson was inspired to build his own fusor after reading about teenager Taylor Wilson, who had also created his own fusor. As he writes on, “One day I had a sudden epiphany. I realized that I could be the absolute best at whatever videogame, but in the end it still wouldn’t mean much.”

I got excited by that. Mesh is inspired by Taylor Wilson, too! I’ve been talking about kids like Taylor Wilson and Jackson Oswalt for three years now. My novel takes place at a special technical high school filled with kids like Jackson Oswalt. Miramar is based on other real-life schools that immerse kids in different technical disciplines.

In Mesh, those kids are Stars in a Jar. They’re in high school but they get to build whatever they want. If they invent something cool, they graduate Miramar with six-figure jobs waiting for them. They build software apps in VR using artificial intelligence. Imagine what a kid like Jackson could do with an AI at his disposal.

Kids like Jackson are special. With the right support and focus, they can change the world. Sadly, they’re also vulnerable to collapse – that’s why it’s critical to protect and nurture them.

Congratulations to Jackson Oswalt and his nuclear accomplishment! It looks like he’s got all the help and support he needs to change the world. We’ll be watching to see what kind of amazing things he does next.


Write Like a Writer

Hey kids, wanna write like a writer? I found this last night and am passing it along for your use. Here are some adjectives you can use to eliminate the use of ‘very’ in your writing:

Write Like a Writer

Why does it matter? The English language is a beautiful smorgasbord, a mine of gems to be mined to describe the gestalt of the your story. Why waste your time (and ours) with lazy writing? Sometimes your work needs to be grandiloquent, other times it may be spartan. In any case, make use of language to take us to another place. That, after all, is why we’re reading you. Continue reading

Do What You Can

So what do you do when you’re screwed before you get started? That’s a question I’ve asked myself through the past two re-drafts of Mesh. It’s difficult to face your own fragility and limitations; painful to lay in the gutter and look up at the stars. Yet, that’s what 2020 demands of us on a daily basis. It wasn’t until last night, catching Bon Jovi’s new single ‘Do What You Can’ on Steven Colbert, that I found the answer.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a mainstream song be this honest and relevant. Honestly, I thought lyrics this good only happened in Taylor Swift songs or indie rock. When art irritates me, I’ll speak up. When it inspires me, I’ll say that, too. Great song, great message and it’s coming at a great time. We need some positivity in a world that’s trying to use us for toilet paper. If you can’t do what you do, you do what you can.

Write on!

Sci-Friday #83 – How Big Is Your Spaceship?

I love this video and you will, too. Ever wondered ‘how big is your spaceship?’ Ever looked at the Millennium Falcon and wondered ‘How big is that compared to the Serenity?’ You can answer those questions with this simple 3D comparison of every spaceship ever.

This comparison does something unique in that it compares both real and fictional spaceships against a mock-up of New York to give you some perspective. I never knew, for example, that the Executor in Star Wars was the size of Manhattan. Whoa!

Start out with the Tardis and then you move up to the actual ISS. Then you get into size comparisons between No Man’s Sky, Ratchet and Clank, and Battlestar Galactica.  Neato!

The creators of this video included everything – even the space ship in Passengers, which most people would have discounted because the movie wasn’t that popular. Not this time. We’re looking at everything, from the ship in Arrival to the Mass Effect ships to Atlantis in Stargate. I’m blown away that they included the Titan from Titan A.E. and Spaceball I! My only beef – if you can call it that – is that they skipped over the USS Cygnus from The Black Hole. Otherwise, very happy. This is wicked!

Sit back and enjoy. You’ll never have to ask ‘How Big is Your Spaceship?’ again. These guys answered the question, so you don’t have to. Happy Friday!

Mesh and the Scifi Book Deal Adventure – Part Three

Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure – Part ThreeClick Here to Read Part Two – Ugh, what a weekend. I’ve been incredibly scatterbrained as of late, so thank you for understanding that I haven’t blogged as much as I want to. I want to give an update on MESH, but do it in a scifi way. I decided to start by asking: How Do You Say ‘Ouch’ in Klingon? The answer is: it’s a trick question, there is no word – Klingon’s aren’t supposed to admit they feel pain. Here’s what is going on.

If you’re interested in being published, you’ll want to pay attention to this. For authors, there’s the effort of writing, and then there’s the effort of getting paid for your writing. Two separate skillsets and they each demand their own level of professionalism and diligence. That said, you can do everything write right, and still lose. That’s not weakness, that’s life.

The Process

The overall process for getting paid with a mainstream book deal goes like this: Write book > send query letters to Lit Agents > Get requests for manuscript > Send manuscript > Lit Agents like book, send offer of representation > Deal signed, Lit. Agent sells book to publisher > Publishing deal arrives 

That’s a very, very, VERY high-level version of the Mesh Scifi Book Deal adventure. I wanted you to have that so you understand where we are in the process. Part Two of the blog post was about getting to Step 4 in the process above. However, we’re still very far from Step 7: Publishing deal arrives. Want a real-world example? As mentioned about a month ago, I sent MESH off to a lit agent in response to a request for the full manuscript. I’ll tell the rest of the story here:

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Sci-Friday #82 – Solarpunk Isn’t Fiction – Fun Scifi Stuff

I’m going to post an update about MESH in a few, but first let’s get to Sci-Friday! Interested in solarpunk? Take a daytrip to a fully-functioning city where the principals of solarpunk are brought to life. Sustainable City in Dubai has 3500 residents and is climbing. Videos like these prove that Solarpunk isn’t fiction; in fact, it’s a cool scifi area worth exploring.

Hold on, you say. What is solarpunk again? According to Wikipedia, Solarpunk is ‘Solarpunk focuses on renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, as well as technology as a whole, to envision a positive future for humanity.’

I’ve yet to see anyone really embrace Solarpunk in a story or movie, but I’m still excited about it for a variety of reasons. One, it’s the polar opposite of cyberpunk and dystopian scifi. Two, it’s less ‘woo’ than Technogaianism.

As a scifi topic, solarpunk isn’t fiction! It only needs a few changes to become real! We can have a cool future if we want to, and projects like Sustainable City are a step toward that possibility.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Why I Don’t Write Dystopian Scifi

Why I Don't Write Dystopian Scifi Coming back to an earlier post, I want to take a moment to discuss why I don’t write about dystopian scifi. As a genre, it’s endlessly popular and has a massive audience always on the lookout for fresh stories. Why wouldn’t I chase that opportunity?

The decision is based on something I said a few years ago: the future shouldn’t suck. Yet, the future we dreamed of in the Eighties and Nineties does suck. Authors told dystopian stories for decades, but we didn’t learn the lessons. As a result, we’re living in those cold, harsh realities now. Humankind passed the threshold of dystopic civilization. To pretend otherwise is to project a false narrative.

It could be damaging to continue to write about dystopia as a fictional topic. How? Easy. If we as scifi authors keep calling out dystopia as a future state, we aren’t helping people understand how bad things are right now. They won’t understand that our current events are a boring dystopia unto themselves.

If we keep describing dystopia as an entertaining place, something to look forward to, are we showing that we care about our readers? Honestly, who would dystopian scifi authors be at that point, other than the Judas Goat who keeps the cows calm as they walk into the slaughterhouse?

I’m not comfortable with any of those possibilities. Science fiction as a genre can illuminate, instruct, and guide but only as much as we’re willing to make it so. What is scifi’s responsibility at a point like this?

I think back to the lessons learned by Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek. He imagined a place where the future we want just is.  In a world where war, injustice, and greed drowned out optimism and confidence, Roddenberry committed the ultimate subversive act: he hoped.

As a result, Gene Roddenberry and other scifi authors like him inspired generations of young people to seek out new life and new civilizations. In their search, they created those new civilizations on their own, inventing the technology scifi dreamed of. I see the echo of historical events in what we’re seeing now. It seems clear that my responsibility is to hope, and to help others do the same. Therefore, I cannot write a story about the world failing.

So yes, this is why I don’t write dystopian scifi.  I write about a world where the future is possible, create-able, achievable. I want technology to be fun, not scary. I want stories where kids are wise and hopeful, not cunning and cynical.

The future can be a cool place if we want it.