Immersion – The action of immersing someone or something in a liquid.

I am always looking for ways to become a better writer, through immersion, and this is a perfect example. I have been surfing my entire life, so I have first-hand experience with this feeling, but I can see this tech being used in so many ways, for so many things that I have no experience with.  How cool would it be to space-walk?

The Future was and can be.

ford-gyronThis was a two wheel Gyro car. A 1954 Ford Gyron, dreamed up by futurist Sydney Mead, who later went on to work with major studios on such films as: as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, followed by Blade Runner, Tron, 2010, Short Circuit, Aliens, Timecop, Johnny Mnemonic and Mission: Impossible III. (wiki)

 

I have said this often, but the 1950’s was a time of forward thinking, people looking out through the windshield instead of the rear view mirror.

So get out there and write, writer’s of Sci-Fi! Let’s lay off the dystopian past and get back to designing for the future…. But please don’t cancel the Walking Dead series…… LOL

Where Do Sci-Fi Writers Get Their Ideas? Part I

GroveBar

I was chill’n at one of my favorite places tucked away in Port Salerno, FL called the Grove Dock Bar & Cafe.  In fact, this exact longitude and latitude was the inspiration for the sequel to my upcoming sci-fi (Silversides) and where Chapter one starts in the year 2026.  This place is a BYOF (bring your own Food)… You provide the food, they provide the drinks.  Kind of tells ya how local and tucked away it is.GroveBar_2

A place where the view and ambiance normalizes the playing field for people of all social and economic circles– where at the end of the day we’re just people of the same planet all enjoying the same thing… a great conversation surrounded by simplest of things.

GroveBar_3I had brought an artist friend here for the first time last year and he fell in love with it, although, he sat down right in front of the mermaid holding up the roof and when he looked up he laughed, then said, “Kind of intimidating.”  He was 80 at the time but still managed to jump over the door into my ’62 Austin Healey Sprite when I picked him up. He scared the shit out of me, “Guy! Whoa… what are you doing?  I can’t even do that.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I always wanted to do that,” he smiled.  “Promise we can come back.”    When this el Niño takes a break and it warms up in southern FL, I will fulfill that promise to Guy.

So what inspires me for a story line?  I suppose the simplest of things.  For Silversides, it was this bar.  I came home one day and pounded out a complete chapter of what I thought it would be like here in 2026 with not a clue of what would follow. Five hundred pages later and 20 light years away, the first draft is done and editing is moving along nicely.  For November Seed, it was a common reed called Phragmites that launches all their seeds during the first cold snap in November. A private holiday for me.  Writing From Europa With Love, the inspiration was from a stunning image I saw on the internet of Jupiter’s moon Europa and a contest dare to write about it.  Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, you just need to look deep enough for it and not skim the surface.  When I hear writers say, ‘don’t know what to write about’, that drives me crazy.  I have five novels started with five more ideas waiting after that.

Here is a perfect example of something anyone can write about.  Watch this fantastic mini-documentary and learn what inspired the creator.  Then transport yourself to some remote outpost on a dust-blown rock of a moon where intra-stellar wars were fought and the moon was declared too dangerous for humans to colonize because of undocumented arsenals left behind.   And your protagonist finds herself here, clearing a plot for she and her fusion powered robotic dog to spend the only remaining time she has left.  In a place no one will come looking for her, and if they do, only she knows where all the nasty stuff lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The difference between G+ and other social sites.

20160110_110557-1Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people, who do not know what G+ is about, asking me, “So what’s the difference between G+ and say Facebook or Twitter?”
I tell them, “Well, on G+ I would post this image and my caption would say something like, ‘What better way to start a full day of editing than to have a little protein for my mind in the form of a soft-boiled egg, a little toast for the carbs to keep my fingers on the keyboard and a little coffee for the caffeine to kickstart the process.’  and then I would end my post with a curiosity to the field, “What rituals do my fellow writers have?”
After that, I pause and let that sink in…
“Yeah, but you haven’t told me what the difference is?” they ask.
“Oh… yeah… On Facebook or Twitter, I would most likely split this up into two posts.
 
The First caption would say, 9:00 AM.  Cook egg.
The second post would then say, 9:03 AM.  Eat egg.”
 
…  Sarcasm aside, I feel the main difference is that G+ is a two-way conduit, whereas the other sites are social billboards for you to drive by, read, and choose to hit a Like button or not. This is not to say other sites are inferior to G+, it’s just that they serve a different purpose and I rely on all of them for what they are.
All that said, what rituals do my fellow writers take up to start their marathon writing/editing sessions”

The Lowline – An underground park and lab for hard sci-fi writing.

Concept:

“The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.” Lowline project
How fitting a name in answer to the already popular High Line of NYC.

LowLine_ConceptArt1

 

I have been an early supporter of the Lowline and finally donning my Kickstarter Tee shirt, I had the opportunity to visit the Lowline Lab down on Delancey & Essex.  As I emerged from subway and walked the streets of this lower east side, it was not hard to imagine what the city must have been like years ago in this lost quadrant of time, with its polished grit and scattered markets of low rise buildings.   I must admit, as a NY’er, we tend not to travel much from quadrant to quadrant–my own being Hell’s Kitchen.  In a peculiar way, NY’ers mimic so many of the dystopian sci-fi societies we read about, siloed into self-contained communities reminiscent of Hugh Howey’s Wool series.

LowLineIf you are not careful, you will breeze by the lab’s opening with its undressed foyer of concrete floors, black curtains and little else.  I was greeted by a smiling volunteer handing out cookies and eagerly willing to answer questions about this fantastic project.   There is a collection jar for donations, cool Lowiine stickers for my already crowed MacBook cover and pamphlets of the project.   Then it was time to follow the exhibit where you step behind a curtain and read a few stationary billboards about the history of the site, the project, designers… and yes… contributors 😉  LowLine_Supporter

LowLine_tech

 

The technology is fantastically simple yet highly complex and elegant.  It concentrates the light from above and shoots it down tubes where reflectors receive and disperse the light onto ceiling tiles that seem to be as organic as the plants they feed.

LowLine_CeilingPortDon’t try to look into the light source from above–it is blinding and more powerful than any spotlight I have ever seen; so bright it seems powered in this dark space.  Click on the image to the right for a better look as it enters from the ceiling. I was amazed at how much light showered onto the lab exhibit from one source.  IMG_1178This technology should be used in every building in NYC.  For about the first ten minutes, I observed the technology.  It was as beautiful as it was technical, making sure to diffuse the light evenly yet spot certain areas to accent and showcase the living lab, making it easy to forget that these plants have not seen the outside in almost a year.

LowLine_Exhibit

For about the next half hour, I enjoyed the exhibit, studying the plant varietals and the design of cascading layers of plywood adorned with mosses, bromeliads, Rattlesnake plants, stick plants, etc.   During the second round of the LowLine_HangingPlantsKickstarter campaign, my contribution awarded me the opportunity to pick a plant LowLine_Display(Rattlesnake plant) and give it a name–which I chose Nori, after my protagonist in an upcoming sci-fi novel called Silversides.  Eventually, I will get to pick where in the lab and where in the finished Lowline underground park, Nori will take up permanent residence.  I found this a IMG_1180bit ironic because my protagonist, Nori, was named after a seaweed and for my love of Phycology–study of seaweed– as a former marine biologist.  However, the snakeplant was so beautiful and does reflect a slight attribute of my protagonist.  I am looking forward to one day seeing Nori in the Lowline Park of NYC.
It was easy to get lost in thought and during my visit, something very profound hit me.  As a writer of hard sci-fi, what better a place to study the technology of living under artificial means?  I thought back to all the novels I have read, where societies lived under ground or were tucked away in star ships for generations in space, but very few of those stories ever really brought out the true mechanics of living away from natural light.  Sure, the locals are described beautifully but most of the feeling I got as a reader was the longing for being back in natural light.
Standing in the Lowline Lab provided me with a real-life experience I would not have received otherwise.   I stood there with my arm outstretched into the splash of light, it was cooler than I thought it would have been and the earthiness of the air around me was absent.  Yet when I looked up into the main source of light coming through the ceiling, it was blinding and the thought of reaching into that beam projected images of my hand being vaporized.  That’s when I felt the tap on my shoulder, “It’s time to leave,” she said.  “Come on… let’s go outside…”
I am going to suggest to the Lowline they set up some WiFi, power strips and writing nooks for writers in the Lab/Park.  I will see if there is any equipment I can donate from a few companies I know.  This is and will be a working lab for not only the project of the Lowline, but for any hard sci-fi writer.  Try and get to the Lab before March and Don’t miss this opportunity to get involved in this project–it is truly fantastic.
Click here to donate.  It is free to enter the exhibit and well worth the trip.  While down in this area, visit the Essex Market for some fantastic eats.

Location:
140 Essex Street
(between Rivington and Stanton Streets)
Lower East Side – New York City
Subway: J/M/F Essex Delancey Street

Hours:
Saturday and Sunday
11am – 5pm
Free and Open to the Public
October 2015- March 2016

Why everyone should write a novel in their lifetime – it is the key to a greater understanding.

Video Insert: CRISPR-Cas9

Images by B. Kliban

BusinessOnParadeFour years ago, I needed an exit strategy from Corporate America.  I had entered my career as a Marine Biologist and for the last 25+ years I was in NYC, as an Information Technology professional.   I enjoyed these careers, immensely, but after the tech bubble, IT in Corporate America–for me–seemed to have lost its way; a business man’s parade of sorts.  It stripped the creativity from my soul by being too focused on the bottom line.  We were no longer inventing anything new and people became a cog in the wheel.  That is also when Corporate America changed the name of their HR departments to, Human Capital Management … hmmm …humans as capital….

kliban_sortingBetween my schooling and life experience, I had acquired all this wonderful base knowledge in my head and the pieces began to fit together, like strands of DNA… but I didn’t know how to express this wonderment to others…  until my neighbor, Diana, in apartment 12 K came over and said, “I’m going to kick your ass until you write a sci-fi… that’s what you should be doing!”.    I did not want to mess with a fellow NY’er like Diana… so I started writing….

She was right… It’s what I wanted to do… but the adage, Fear of success fear of failure,  glued my fingers to the keyboard. I had tried my hand at writing once before but after several thousand words and re-reading it, I realized having a story and having the ability to tell that story is like splicing DNA…. it is tricky and difficult at its best.  It was like looking at a painting or reading a passage in a book and then setting out to replicate that beauty… yikes!… Stick figures and lots of eyes looking at or toward something or someone else’s eyes… and that was just chapter one!  LOL

kliban-glasses1_zpsaf1cc45cSo that’s where G+ came in.  It opened my eyes and uncurled my fingers to write and publish. Funny thing is, not many people seem to know G+ exists or what it is, yet everyone seems to have a g-mail account.

So I dipped into the sci-fi writers community and quickly HideInAPlacedrealized I was in a place with a lot of the same things, hoping I would fit in.  My first post was a bit unnerving.  The first person I ever followed was Blair Jackson (now Blair Casey).  To get me up and running, I emulated what Jillian Ashe was up to–she can write and run this maze like Algernon and I owe a lot of my early success to her and other G+’ers.  It would be a lengthy list of thanks to those who influenced and encouraged me to write (Kyle Pollard), or who I learned from, who I wanted to emulate (Hugh Howey), who I could bounce ideas off of or collaborate with (Richard Murray) or who I could help edit or provide feedback to.  So in lieu of naming several hundred supreme influences, all you need to do is look at those I follow; they are my teachers, mentors, muses and friends… yes friends I have never met in person but seem to know very well.  Thank God for Google Translate Morgana C. .. LOL… I love your posts as crazy and intelligent as they are.

Fast forward.  After listening, and taking the advice of the many gifted and successful writers in my G+ communities, I just started writing, not focusing on the grammar, the cadence, or structure. I just kept writing.  I remember joining my first Google Hang out session where an author was stating it was more important to write than to worry about what you are writing about.  At the time that seemed absurd, but it turns out it was the best advice I followed. It took about a year and a half of constant writing to become fluent in this beautiful language of storytelling.

NOTE:  Words of advice… If you look back at your early work and don’t suck air over your lower teeth because of that writing… then keep writing… you are not there yet.

So what’s the point of this post?  What’s with the title and why the gene manipulation video insert?

kliban25smWriting a novel has taught me how to connect everything I have ever learned to come up with new ideas, concepts and even theories.  Barry Commoner was so right in his number one law of Ecology, that ‘Everything is connected to everything else. Writing has taught me to take piece [A] and connect that to piece [B] to make piece [C].  No longer am I intimidated by technologies or ideas beyond my learning.  Writing a novel is more taxing than writing a thesis or research paper, where one sets out a methodology to reach a conclusion.   I have learned much about quantum theory, space travel, bioengineering, astrophysics and physiology.  Writing a sci-fi novel has forced me to think about what alternative societies and religions might look like because I had to throw out everything I knew and take the Necker Cube approach to new thinking.  I now have plausible theories of my own and can argue that writing has made me smarter than my peers in IT, because writing sci-fii is about trailblazing in the future of technology.  The writer is not stopped because the technology does not exist–we invent what is needed to keep our protagonist moving forward.  But to do that, we need to extrapolate from where we were.  I have seen the ideas and concepts expressed in my writings come to fruition by others in the real world.  I am not claiming my ideas have led others to their discoveries; what I am saying is that I came to the same conclusion, independently and slightly before I saw an application of it.  As a writer of sci-fi…. well… that’s simply awesome and exactly where I want to be–surfing the face of that wave and not sitting in the spray back behind it.

CRISPR_Cas9 I can now watch this video of the CRISPR-Cas9 and say…. “Yeah… I understand this,” and will then modify this process for my protagonist to support their use of a bioSketcher to transmit and modify DNA-mods, accordingly, so they can slip into the population of an exoplanet, unnoticed….

 

P.S.

If you want to see more of B. Kliban’s work, start with Whack Your Porcupine

WhackYourPorcupine_

 

Hard Science Fiction Writers – why is it more popular today?

I read a post on NPR about hard science fiction, which hinted why it migh be on the rise:  No Warp Drives, No Transporters: Science Fiction Authors Get Real

The ecoBbiologist in me wanted to identify the root cause (which the article did not delve into), so I thought about it … for a day… then following the thread of a post from one of my G+ circles, I came across an image I had used in my own work, Silversides and then it hit me… why hard science fiction might be on the rise…

I think writers today, especially hard sci-fi writers, have such an advantage over the trail-blazers before us for the simple reason we have the internet at our fingertips for research; it does not make us better writers, just better equipped writers for hard science fiction. Instead of relying solely on our imagination,which I believe is why so much science fiction had been written about far off places, bordering on fantasy, all we new writers need to do is enter a search string and in a matter of minutes we become byte matter experts (not to be confused with a Subject Matter Experts or SME).

Carapace-maskHere is an example.  In Silversides, my protagonist, Nori, is sitting on the edge of her berth, interacting with a hologram projected in front of her.  To achieve this, she has a combination of an implanted optical plate and a carapace mesh mask with access to the ships A.I,. called CEIL (Correlation Engine and Intelligence Lab) to receive telemetry of various cubeSats orbiting the planet Dykazza.  The carapace mesh mask provides Nori senses such as smell, temperature, hearing, etc.  So what is a carapace mask and what do I know about such a thing?  Click on the video below. Having something to see in practice makes the concepts we are writing about so plausible.  Especially if the writing is available in eFormat where the reader can stop on a word or concept and can ask the question: Is that idea, real?  Then with a tap of their finger, they can link to the source.  So coupled with a new breed of writers and readers, real or hard science fiction is just a logical step…

Need a language for your Sci-Fi/Fantasy WIP?

I’ve said this before… I now understand why all extraterrestrials come to Earth…. So their authors do not have to invent anything.  As a new writer of sci-fi, I had hoped into my starship, skipped across the galaxy at .5 light-speed, landed on an exoplanet of my choosing… and came to a screeching halt.  SHIT!  I have to invent everything from here on out….. Noooooo!

Fortunately for my WIP I have a strong background in technology, biology, marine sciences, ecology, and animal behavior so I had that part down, but the language thing?   … That was not going to be tackled very easily.  On one hand, I needed to convey my protagonist and crew were on another world, interacting with an alien civilization, but on the other, I did not want my readers choking on a language syntax because I had no idea what I was doing.  I cleverly got around that barrier but Then I came across an article on NPR about a guy (David Peterson) who does just this–invent languages.   I listened to the interview (great), then searched YouTube for some virtual face-2-face time and got pointed in the right direction.  Next Sci-Fi… I’m not leaving home…..

 

World building – Weather

If you are a writer of sci-fi and have traveled to other worlds, as I have, then arming yourself with a visual aid of the weather can add drama to your work.  I recently discovered a fantastic site called Earth NullSchool.net (by Cameron Beccario) and I can’t stop looking at it.   The graphics are mind-bending and served up through supercomputers of near-time data.  It is kinetic art, to say the least.

During a recent Atlantic storm (Joaquin) I was able to compare the weather outside my window with the projections on this site.  I would look up and study the sky: its clarity, clouds, their direction, then compare it to what I was seeing on these projections.  Up until studying this site, I would just look out my window–through the atmosphere–now I look at it.

I have been working on a novel, Silversides, for a few years and I am pouring my knowledge of real-world science into each edit.  It takes place on an exoplanet twenty light-years from here and therefore I have to invent everything.  But after exploring this site, I realized there was one area I was not paying much attention to, and that was the weather.  Sure, I had storms and rain and clouds and sun, but looking back, they were merely adjectives and adjectives from a storybook perspective.

My work reads differently now, much differently.  You feel it.  You feel the shuttering of the craft as it enters low orbit, the pilots trying to stabilize in vitro, their skill with simulation no longer relevant in these atmospheric anomalies.  And below them, skimming over open ocean the waves are building, driven hard by the fetch of winds over greater distances than on Earth where they feel the compression of air at each crest….Joaquin

Why role-playing is good for writers (costumes optional)

Starcraft Medic by Kim Yong SuYou see this type of writing, often, in new writers, like myself.

He was afraid to look up at her, but when he did, he was surprised at how easy that was.

 Yikes! Is right.  That was written without the experience of it.

You can improve your writing dramatically when you learn to role-play.   So put the laptop or keyboard to the side and stand up. Get into your character’s head and look down at your feet.   Now pretend he or she is standing in front of you. Lift your head.

How were you standing?  What did you see?  What were you feeling? Was it something like…

He was afraid to look up, his gloves placed neatly by his side, his focus on the single blueberry shaped stone that rolled beneath his boot.

 Now look up, idiot, before she leaves, he told himself.

She was slight, with thin ankles disappearing beneath the cuffs of her EVA that, like her eyes, were a pale blue. To his surprise, her parted smile made him feel, at ease. There, that wasn’t so bad. Now say something…

 “Hey…” he said without thinking… There, you said it… his shyness slipping further away…

Ok, so aside from the wordiness, you now see and feel what your character is experiencing and you conveyed that to your readers.  Trim it. Print it.

I often do this when I don’t quite feel the writing is expressing what I want it to. For anyone watching me, I might look a bit crazy, typing away then suddenly stop… get up and walk to the other side of the room, relax, shake out my arms, turn around and start to walk back, as if my character is entering the scene. Try doing that at a Starbucks… LOL. I write at home these days…  Eventually, you will need to do less of this as the writing improves. But there are always times you should express this type of role-playing, no matter how good you think you are.

I am in the editing phase of a sci-fi novel which takes place twenty light years away in the solar system of Gliese 581, specifically on 581 g, a planet in tidal lock orbit around its sun—a red dwarf, dimmer than our own. I had always been a bit leery of my expression of the lighting, trying to get across what being on the surface of Gliese 581 g would be like. Sure, pictures help, but how do I experience that?  Do I try writing in the dark or wear sunglasses?

Pluto_Surface_light_2It was not until I read a post on www.io9 about an artist rendering of what it would be like to sit on Pluto and see what one might see—our sun a pinpoint in the distance. One of the replies to the post questioned the artist’s licensing of how much light there would be. Instead of knocking the artist’s judgment, that clever person did some research and found a NASA site, called Pluto Time.

Pluto_Timewhere you plug in your location and it tells you what time of day you should go outside to see exactly what the brightest part of a day on Pluto would look like. So I did. I plugged in my location (NYC) and it spit out that my optimal viewing time would be 6:54 PM on September 24th, 2015.  This type of role-playing I think will provide the needed perspective in my editing.  It does not have to mimic exactly, but I hope to have an experience to recall what that was like, pretending to be on Gliese 581 g.

PlutoLightSo, as my Amazon Echo announced my alarm at exactly 6:54 PM, I stepped outside my city apartment and had a look and walk around.  Not bad.  I could see easily and it was a beautiful evening sky, everything seemed to have this softness to it, an attribute I had not considered.   I cannot stress how valuable this experience was for me, as I now trail behind my characters, following them on their trek and seeing what they are seeing. Costumes, optional.

SpectralTypeFor any AstroProgrammers out there reading this, it would be great to take the Pluto-Time model and expand it for other star-types, etc.  For example:  You select from a series of dropdown menus a star type and distance away, and it asks for you to enter in your location and it spits out what time of day to go outside, which closely resembles what the lighting might be like. 😉