Feb 18th (2021) – Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars

Feb 18th 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

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

News briefings and launch commentary will be streamed on NASA TVNASA.gov/liveYouTube.com/NASAJPL and Ustream.tv/NASAJPL. On-demand recordings will also be available on the YouTube and Ustream pages after the live events have finished.

Advantageous – Sci-Fi that makes you think

I so much enjoyed watching a Sci-Fi on Netflix called, Advantageous. A great film… a thinking person’s film. As someone once said, ‘everything has already been written’, and I believe that to true. Advantageous is not a new concept. Robert Sawyer’s Mindscan, which was one of my all time favorite Sci-Fi reads , delves into the reality of mind transference. But unlike Mindscan. Advantageous feels too close to home. There was one line in the film where the protagonist states, ‘There is too much data for the human to process’ and she went on to indicate this as the downfall of current society–– the root cause of so much emotional suffering. Just like COVID was the catalyst for amplifying remote access working, something that has been talked about in my generation, but never a great need to push this concept with face-to-face teams and city living doing so well. Then COVID hits and now the need is viewed differently and the millennials have their generational change as we did ours. Remote commuting is here to stay and the idea of concentrated work forces, I believe, are in the rearview mirror.

So that line in the film, Advantageous….. It got me thinking of something I have felt for some time, that eventually, for humanity to survive, it needs a quantum leap and I mean that literally. The problem with humanity is that it is based upon a binary system: On/Off, Up/Down, In/Out, Good/Evil, Right/Wrong, Yes/No. This is certainly evident in our current day society, amplified by social media. There does not seem to exist any middle ground and the polarization of a world society is being fed upon this system.

Then quantum theory comes along, not based upon a binary system but a system of three: On/Off/The other thing…..

So it makes sense to me that the evolution of humanity will be as different as wampum is to cryptocurrency. “With change comes casualty,” but through change, humanity will survive, synthetically–– a handing over of the baton to AI (based upon a quantum platform). Not until then will humanity be looked upon as an advanced galactic species acting as one. Everything is cyclic and where we began as one, we will become one again.

Advantageous depicts the dawn of an intermediate container species, just as the CD/DVD was to digital streaming.

Sci-Fi Rules the Stream

One silver lining to this pandemic has been a lot of binge watching of Sci-Fi series , which I never made the time for: Altered Carbon (Netflix), DEVS (FX HULU), Electric Dreams (Amazon Prime), Prospect (NetFlix). Then there are the foreign film SciFi series, which are sophisticated, beautifully cast and acted that they leave me acclimating afterwards: Omniscient (Netflix – Brazilian), Dark (Netflix – German), , Ad Vitam (NetFlix – French), Better Than People (Netflix – Russian), and Kiss Me First (Netflix – UK) & BioHackers (NetFlix – German).

Altered Carbon (Richard K Morgan) was a great novel: inventive, strong and well defined characters, clever plot to the end, and felt like re-sleeving could easily happing in our future. But I found the read a little difficult due to the clever plot, concepts of re-sleeving (same character in multiple sleeves) and the first person narrative tripped me up as to who was who. But the novel was one of my all-time-favorites.

There are few screen versions that outshine their written origin but this is one of those screen versions that surpasses the written word. The series is brilliant, the casting awesome, but above all, the CGI brought to life some of the best depictions of future tech I have seen on the big screen. As a writer, I learned a lot from watching this series. Season 1 was extraordinary and followed the original book pretty closely. I could have stopped there. Season 2 was great, Season 3 less great. All in all, an ideal candidate for binge watching.

DEVS caught my eye because of the cast, most notably, Sonoya Mizuno, who played the part of Kyoko in Ex Machina, of which this series followed along the same rail of plot, but different enough to stand up on its own.

 

 

 

But then along comes, DARK (NETFLIX). First and foremost, this series must we watched in its original language (German) and subtitled if you do not know German. Please… Please do not watch the dubbed version. I needed the subtitles. I know, I know… I have friends who refuse to watch subtitled movies. The funny thing about subtitles is that it takes approximately five to seven minutes for your brain and eyes to adapt, just as it does to view a night sky. My friends who hate subtitled movies have one thing in common…. they bailed out before their mind and eyes could adapt. After ten minutes, you don’t realize you are reading anything, yet you understood everything said.

But be patient with this series. It took me six episodes to begin to understand what was happening, but I was not alone–the characters were as confused as I was. But what makes up for this confusion is the cinematography, the lives, relationships and emotions they are going through. At the root of the plot is Good vs. Evil (that is not a spoiler alert). What is new is that you don’t know which side is good or evil or are they both good or both evil or non of the above? And just as you think you have it all figured out… guess what? You say, WTF! This is a study of time travel to the Nth degree; each episode is a peel-back of concepts and then you begin to understand––

 

 

 

 

And then there is Ad Vitam (Netflix – French). Very French. With all French films, first comes imagery and facial expressions, then twists and turns where it leaves you thinking about the social imprint of the message. In this case, To live forever comes at a price. This is a thinking man’s Sci-Fi.

My Love For Europa

There is no hiding the fact that Europa is my favorite object in the solar system–heck! It was the supporting protagonist in my novella, From Europa With Love (see excerpt below). As a former Marine Biologist, fascinated with life surrounding Earth’s deep sea vents, I had always thought that Europa was our greatest chance at finding extraterrestrial life in our solar system.

So when I read the article on Space.com “Heat gave Jupiter’s icy moon Europa layers. That may be good news for the search for life, I can’t help but feel excited by the possibilities.

Excerpt : From Europa With Love

He was regretting coming back here, “All I had to do was ignore the goddamn distress signal and I would be sitting in my bay right now, feet up, staring out the window with a GODDAMN TUMBLER OF ARDBEG IN MY HAND!”

Predictably, there was no response from Otto.

“Are you capable of praying Otto?” Kulcin goaded, not expecting a cognitive response from a machine. “Because if you are, then start praying.” he said, angling the nose of the shuttle upward. Firing a quick succession of bursts from the remaining FN2 thruster, he brought the craft down hard where it rocked forward onto its nose and came to an abrupt halt. Kulcin held his breath, knowing that if he could count to three he might be safe: one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two… then a sharp crack resonated throughout the hull, and the nose plunged beneath the ice as the shuttle listed forward, the water rushing furiously against the cockpit windows.

The power required to read this post

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 (Starfish, Maelstrom, and βehemoth (which in itself was published in two parts: βehemoth: β-Max , βehemoth: Seppuku) became the catalyst to me becoming an author of Sci-Fi and getting the stories in my head down on digital paper.

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.

 

 

 

Tales From The Loop

Have you ever wished for something to come true… and it did? That is how I felt when I saw this promo of, Tales From The Loop, to be released on Amazon Prime. I have been such a obsessive fan of Simon Stalenhag’s work– which has inspired my own writing of SciFi– and have read all of his recent works including Tales From The Loop.

 

MEME

“Meme.” Having been a student of Marine Biology, spending countless semesters and personal time focused on physiology of species, animal behavior, genetics, the ecology of biological systems, and so on and so on, I had my light bulb moment—that moment in time where one’s mental capacity jumps up several notches—upon studying the science and observations of Robert Ricklefs (Ecology, etc.) and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, etc.). It was as if I had stumbled upon a jumbled pile of puzzle pieces and began to see the image forming before me. That is how much of a light-bulb moment these individuals have had upon my learning and I began to unravel the social behavior of genetics.

Now back to the word, meme. Coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins (from the Greek word mimeme – imitate). Remember it as this. Gene is to blue eyes as meme is to Santa Claus; both passed from one generation to the next. Ask yourself, why exactly do we intentionally lie to our offspring about the existence of Santa Claus?

So something odd has evolved here: a means to propagate information much faster than genetics. But all may not appear, as it seems. Take one of Richard Dawkins observations in ants, where some ants he observed climbed to the top of a leaf or blade of grass, something that put that ant in a vulnerable situation, exposing itself to predators or grazing animals. What would explain such behavior? Martyrism? Social acceptance? Fecundity? It turns out in that ant example it was the lancet fluke– a virus affecting the ant’s brain, putting the ant on a course of action beneficial to the virus. The virus required a grazing animal to complete its life cycle, securing its ability to pass on its genetics—it couldn’t care less about using the ant to get there.

So… why am I bringing this up? Are you the ant or the lancet fluke? I suppose I am both, for I see posts, propagated, as one’s personal gain. This one included 😉

Case in point:

The alien in my sci-fi novella, November Seed, was based upon the fungi of the genus Ophiocordyceps – which takes control of an ant’s brain, producing an antenna of spores and turning the ant into a zombie for it’s selfish quest.

What exactly would the meme be for that? All I can picture are Santa’s reindeers, all with antlers, pulling his sleigh bearing gifts.

“Merry Christmas all! And to all a good night……”

If you are looking for a good Christmas story to watch, try Rare Exports: A Christmas story, free on Amazon Prime

What would aliens actually look like?

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.

November Seed

Alien in, November Seed

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.

Representation of alien in, From Europa With Love

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.

 


Are we living in a Blade Runner World?

I was reading an article on BBC, “Are we living in Blade Runner World,”by David Barnett, about the 1982 flick directed by Ridley Scott, sparked by Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” The article’s author goes on to explain that the depiction of LA (at the time of the movie) was not far off from today and draws some comparisons.

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.

 

neuroSTAT

There’s one thing about a cat 5 sitting off the coast as you wait for the power to drop…. you are left with only your own imagination.  

 

 

SYNOPSIS FOR S SCI-FI: In a future society where people’s emotions are held in check by software implants (neuroSTAT),  a digital drug (landScape) begins to make its way through the floating commune of Peck Lake in South Florida where its effects reach beyond the limits of the inhabitants emotional governors.

                             ***

During a king tide with a cat 5 off the coast, the sea level along the Intracoastal stays high all day, as if the moon has stopped in its tracks demanding more attention than the storm. On days like this it makes it difficult for me to pick up supplies along the mangroves, so I sit in the sling of my floater, facing the water, away from the mune,  skimming through my pane, listening to casts from the button times. Casts about clunkers having drivers in them— yeah… it’s true. They moved hangers of product from point A to B… slippers, watches, sexBots and shit like that. The demand at the onset of the button clicking generation had pushed pilots of the clunkers beyond their enhancers where they frequently drifted off and were awakened only when they crushed a centipede of  people pods. So the convention stepped in, mandating every clunker have a neuroSTAT installed to keep them afloat. I’m beginning to think that’s where it all started. Lately, after a dissolve, I can feel the edge of my own neuroSTSAT and I’m beginning to feel shit… shit like happy stuff… but mostly sad shit– things I’m not used to. My meuf’s been feeling the same shit so I know I’m not going crazy. It seems to be spreading along our mune for those of us uploading the most recent dissolve –some shit called landScape– but no one knows what bench they got it from.

 

More at some point in time after the power drops and I still have a charge on my iPad……

 

If you like this idea, let me know….