It seems like only yesterday CURIOSITY landed on Mars, but that took place in 2012, August 6th at 05:17 UTC. I set my alarm and was up at 3:00 AM ET, listening to what seemed a live Sci-Fi broadcast, sitting on the edge of my seat, during the Seven Minutes Of Terror.
But hearing that NASA communication stream of the Curiosity landing was like attending a masterclass of Sci-Fi writing–– a first hand grasp of space chatter and the excitement of the rover descending towards the surface, on its own. This is something every Sci-Fi author has attempted to write.
Looking up into the pink sky at what first appeared to be a meteor entering the atmosphere, we jumped back when a large parachute deployed, slowing what looked like a charred disk beneath it. We watched, trying to make sense of what it was just before a cover jettisoned and the object detached from the chute and began to free-fall in silence towards us. I grabbed the hand of my life mate, turning us on our heels as we began to run, finding cover behind an outcropping. We settled there in the dust and could hear the crackle of rapidly firing thrusters, then nervously peered out at the slowing object and could clearly make out something curled within as it dropped down and dangled from tethers, unfurling as it was lowered onto the surface. The drone above hovered in place, chattering in rapid fire, then the pop of small explosives detached the tethers and the drone arced above and away, crashing into the hills beyond, leaving this alien behind. We watched for some time as it sat motionless, then an arm was raised and perched above it a head that began to rotate in our direction. We ducked out of view, pressing our backs against the jagged wall, breathing rapidly, and having nowhere to go without being seen. We would wait for nightfall and slip away, hoping others have seen this.
Don’t miss the MARS Perseverance landing on February 18th – Show starts at 11:15 a.m. PST / 2:15 p.m. EST / 19:15 UTC
There was an expression my father always used: “Nihil liberum est.” My dad was big on Latin, and it means, “Nothing Is Free.” But if the attached video does not quite do the job and you need to understand what the cost of data might look like in a dark future, read the Sci-Fi trilogy by Peter Watts: The Rifters Series.
The Rifters series underlines the cost of powering the internet, led by a powerful female protagonist, who, if Sci-Fi has a kick-ass water goddess, it is Lenie Clarke. His character in this series inspired my latest work in progress, Silversides, with an equally strong female protagonist, Nori Matsui, an Exoplanet Marine Biologist.
As an aside: When I was living in NYC, searching the shelves of Sci-Fi in the NY Public Library, looking for my next read and stumbling across a paperback by Peter Wats called, Mealstrom, I later discovered it was the 2nd book of a series. So after reading this page-turner, I went on-line to the NY Public Library system, tracked down books One and Three and had them delivered to my local branch. Oddly, reading books One and Two out of order made no difference to me, so much so that I wrote to Peter Watts to tell him that. However, his response to me was not what I expected–– he was a bit upset that I read book two first. I had explained to him that I was a former Marine Biologist and that reading book One after book TWO was a real treat because book TWO takes place completely under water in the deep see vents of the Pacific. Oh well….. His work is brilliant.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” was plagiarized and para-phrased after Henrik Johan Ibsen’s death in 1906. Henrik was a playwright and director who once said; “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.”
So it is fitting that I now say, the plagiarized and para-phrased version you know today has been hi-jacked. I shouldn’t care, but this is so comically fractal it leaves me wondering about humanity. What I am seeing on Social Media is disturbing, where a picture now takes well over a thousand words to correctly depict its intension…
For example: Here is a picture, I took, In Queens NY one day. Yes, perfect timing… I just happened to be in the right place at the right time soaking in images on my phone when I came around a corner and saw a body sailing through the air…. HOLY CRAP! WHF! Now…. If I let that image stand on its own and never showed you what happened a 1/16th of a second before, well, you would be none the wiser.
And this is my point. This is the state of Social Media today.
So before you post, repost, critique, or look for the result you are searching for…. Remember these images and question what might have happened a 1/16th of a second before or after. Things are never what they appear. Take the time and research what you repost. Don’t just hit the green button—there is no reward…. Just shock…
The image of the falling man was taken at an outdoor fair, presented by the Museum Of Moving Images, Astoria, Queens, New York City. If you have never been there—it is a must.
It is quite easy for a Sci-Fi author to make their aliens very human-like (guilty of charged– as in my upcoming novel, Silversides); trying to write a story where they are nothing like humans creates a lot more work for the author, even if that alien does not have a speaking part.
Both of my novellas (November Seed & From Europa With Love) have aliens that are not human-like and have no dialogue, so to make these stories credible, the biology has to be right. It helped me immensely that in my former life I was a Marine Biologist–I had been studying alien life forms my entire life it seems and it is not by coincidence that in both my novellas the alien life forms are marine in nature.
But if you are new to writing Sci-Fi and do not have a background in Marine Biology, there are countless videos like this excellent BBC short from the BBC Ideas section to start you on your way.
So where does a new writer of Sci-Fi get started with understanding alien life? Below are some good short video to get you on your way. maybe, just maybe will will find out in our lifetime when we can get a probe below the surface of Europa to explore its thermal vents…. but then again, maybe we do not want to go three. Europa seems to be a focus for NASA and other scientists as a first strike for alien hunting. And why not? t was mine in From Europa With love.
The article then drifts into why writers of science fiction write what they do; are they writing to predict the future? Find out. The article is a great read for anyone who has put off reading Sci-Fi because they think the stories are of weird aliens (which there are), with unpronounceable names and places (guilty as charged), where the dialogue is robotic in cadence, which is false… except for maybe a few newbie writers of Sci-Fi that self publishing has afforded– a terrific thing by the way.
The article shows great insight from Sci-Fi authors, Matthew Kressel and Mary Robinette Kowal, both who have created great works. Do authors of sci-fi write to predict the future? I’m sure many do, but based upon my own experience, I like to think we write depictions based upon current, hyper-social events; like smashing atoms and looking for the sub-particles we expect to see, and spin it from there.
Looking at this picture of my past I can remember everything about that day: How I felt, whom I was with, where and why I was there. I can recall the smell the salt in the air and the heat of the sand beneath my feet.
But an odd thing happened the other day whileattending a wedding in upstate NY. Mywife and I took a short trip from where we were staying to see the home that our dear friends once owned; it was a warm and beautiful home, a camp as it is referred to, and one we had been to many times, tucked away in the Adirondacks along Upper Saranac Lake. This place became the inspiration for the ending to my Sci-Fi novella, November Seed.
When we arrived at the camp, I got out of the car to snap an image and was overcome by a strong sensation of a past life that was my own. I realized I was standing in the exact location of where a very graphic scene of my story took place. One I had conjured up in my mind months after leaving here for the last time.
But I was not just standing on that road up in the Adirondacks remembering this scene; I was standing in the road where my main characters were dealing with the end of days, protecting their families and friends. I could see the entrance to the Point down the road and feel the tension rising within, my back pressed against the bark of the oak tree, the Moss 10-gauge held along my thumping chest. I could hear the pick-up truck approaching, its tires crunching along the snow-packed gravel and the tick of the engine getting louder. Then taking a few quick breaths I stepped out into the road with one hand along the trigger, the other signaling the pickup to stop….
I walked over to that tree and held my hand against the bark then turned to look back along the gravel road. The smell of sulfur in the air seemed so real to me and I looked down at my feet expecting to see the litter of spent cartridge shells sizzling into the snow.
This is what I enjoy most about writing, dissolving into a hyper-reality where I am alongside my characters; watching and feeling everything they see and do. If I can go the real-world location and relive what took place there, then I know I have created the perfect scene.
It is hard to believe that five years ago, on this date in a NYC coffee shop on the upper east side, I started my writing career. You can see other frustrated writers around me, but this cozy place became the catalyst for putting pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keypad. Since then, my debut novellas, November Seed& From Europa With Love, continue to have steady daily downloads on Amazon and the fan base, spread over eight countries, is still growing. So thanks to all who support and push me onwards.
For the past few years I have been working on a full-length novel called Silversides which takes place on Gliese 581 g. As a new writer, I discovered why only the most seasoned writers leave the planet to tell a story and why most extraterrestrials come to Earth to kick our ass… because when you leave the planet you have to invent everything. Along the way, I have written out weak characters and developed new ones, dragging along Kulcin who is the protagonist in, From Europa With Love. Writing is a process of one step forward, two back but I have made some great plot changes with refined twists and developed a new ending the reader will not see coming. Finally I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel having received great feedback from Betabooks.co
I do not follow a linear path and have several other novels in the treatment stage that I am equally excited about, such as: HUM, Suicides Of Spring and Glycerine to name a few. Recently, I have joined forces with a fellow writer (G+’er) to compile a list of shorts we have written and put out onto various sites, such as: Offworlders.com (my favorite), Wattpad (where one of my shorts made it into their premiere eZine, TEVUN KRUS).and other author/reader sites. But it is G+ that has taught me to be a better writer because of the invaluable advice and knowledge learned and shared by such super cool folks.
Sargassum, as seen here in the curl of the wave, drifts ashore when the winds are steady, rolling into massive piles along the littoral zone, crucial for the ecology of barrier islands. Is it coincidence or by grand design that it is washing ashore during a super moon, when the highest of tides will push it further up onto the beach, trapping the sand with it to build up our dunes? Here in FL, there is a strong conservation not to clean this up as other states do for the benefit of tourism. A mistake. Some folks see this as an annoyance, their tender virgin feet having to touch it on their way to the water.
But Sargassum serves such an important role in the nurturing of juvenile species of marine life, some who will spend their entire lifecycle within the floating mass known as the Sargassum Sea. Sargassum is one of my favorite seaweeds in the class Phaeophyceae. In fact, my upcoming novel, Silversides, has most of the characters named after a class of macroalgae: Phaedra, Rhodes, Kora, Cody and my protagonist, Nori. Kulcin (main antagonist) on the other hand comes from a previous work,From Europa With Love, and what an antagonist he is. Of all the characters, he refuses to let me write his dialogue. Stuborn….
Writers are taught, “Write about what you know.” But Sargassum? It does not always need to be a subject matter that you are an expert in. What it does require is for you to connect with your story in terms that you are an expert in. In my case, once I named my characters after classes of seaweed, I was able to connect with those characters like never before and my story came to life.
EEven if you are not a writer, this is perhaps one of the most inspirational TED Talks I have ever watched (Anne Madden). It should make you think, something our media is trying to suppress.
I encourage every writer of sci-fi to watch and absorb. Listen and let your creativity loose, let it be the muse over your shoulder, pushing you to write that sci-fi great. I have, with my previous novellas (November Seedand From Europa With Love), both works inspired by my own research, as a former Marine Biologist, and having absorbed snippets from TED, Wired, Space.com, ZME Science or from posts by my fellow G+’ers (you guys and gals rock!)
Anne’s talk is bursting with hard sci-fi nibbles for a writer, such as: ‘A human devised solution‘ or ‘vaccinations for fear‘ or ‘beer made from wasps‘, her concepts come rapidly and I had to watch this talk a couple of times, hitting pause often to write down some ideas in my file, Book Of Ideas (every writer needs a file like this).
Finding ideas to write about is simple: The real universe exists within itself, as you will hear, but every writer of sci-fi, including myself, feels trapped sometimes, that every sci-fi plot has already been written. Maybe this is why we are seeing iteration after iteration of the same thing; just how many alien species can there be who has one primary objective and that is to kick Humanity’s ass? To break out of this monocular view, Anne says one thing that can turn us from this view: ‘Most of the life around us remains unknown‘ I love this statement. It is the one statement a writer of sci-fi should strip away and use as a mantra and be that break-away writer, typing out the next best seller.
Some of my own ideas that came from listening to this talk:
Anne states, ‘One cell is not a powerful alchemist,’ but a Novemdecillion (10 to the 60th) of them working together, are. Using the immortal template of Don LaFontaine, “In A World, under the dictatorship of a government controlled bacteria, where the true thought police of humanity, live within…” Think of what your protagonist could do against that?
What about a lab geek on a spinner (space station) who the crew loves and adores, because he or she can make exotic flavored beers from bacteria found on alien worlds, to break the monotony of their long hauls through space. But the beer that tastes like the finest wine, a silky smooth texture has hidden attributes (which I will leave it up to you what those attributes are… think along Anne’s line of, unknown.).
Or about a military deep-ops team on a planet, whose adversary is so ruthless that it strikes fear into even the most insane, psychotic, toughest bad-asses Earth could produce, but taking a mere pill that ‘vaccinates against fear’, albeit for only 1/2 hour, allows them to proceed. This is enough for you to create a scene so nerve-racking for your reader, because time is running out for a few due to someone losing the bottle of pills ……
In my current work in progress (Silversides), I dropped in a subplot (inspired by a TED Talk) of the backstory of my protagonist’s mother, Haruka Matsui, who plays a minor introductory part and who created a medical breakthrough, bioSketchers, for humanity’s final halt of natural selection, where controlling one’s DNA is just a cocktail away. My concept for this backstory has it’s roots in a TED talk, where the researcher was racing toward a final one-two punch of curing aids… But what if something we are on the cusp of eradicating is also the key that unlocks everything (aka, bioSketchers)? Although this is a very small chapter in Silversides, I know I’m coming back to it, where Haruka’s story and the story of bioSketchers will be told.
This is exactly what I have been looking for in a the mask that my characters in the novel, Silversides, wear when they first land on Gliese 581 g to protect themselves against biologicals they yet do not have immunities for. It is so awesome to finally have a clear image, which makes writing a bit easier. The real science fiction is behind the concept of this mask, an artist’s rendition, of the research coming out of Denmark for a new material synthesized from cobalt to extract and store oxygen eliminating the need of oxygen tanks. Now back to editing….
Excerpt from Silversides: Chapter Five
Kulcn stepped out from the shuttle with the bleed of oxygen rushing past him, the last of Earth’s oxygen as it diffused into the atmosphere. He paused to read the input on the lens before descending the ramp, and by the time his boots touched the ground the white microtiles of his suit and mask had turned a charcoal black to match the color of the sand. The other Silversides followed, their suits fluxing from the bottom up as if they had walked into a pool of black ink.