I know what county you are from

I know what county you are from….

My moniker for Science Fiction writers has always been, “Science Fiction Is Fact That Just Hasn’t Happened Yet.”  Big deal… So what….  Anyone with a brain can see that….

Sure, easy peasy at the hundred-thousand-foot view. But can you see it at the ten thousand foot view?  How about the thousand-foot view?

Here is a how the mind of Sci-Fi writer works, these days.  I can’t speak for Jules Verne, but he probably got his idea for, “Five Weeks In A Balloon,” (1863) from the newspapers.

The current (Centralized) climate of the globe as well as the US is no different than it was, well… forever ago.  It is a cycle almost as predictable as the phases of the moon.  Anyone who thinks that current world events or they themselves are unique, in any way, well, sorry to say… Events and we are as repetitive as ephyra and medusa.  You just might be moving too quickly or trying too hard to express a different phenotype to take notice.

As writers of Science Fiction, we look at the state of society, reading posts on social media, taking in streams of news from around the world, looking for that needle in the haystack.  It might be a newly coined word, a topic picked out from many on LinkedIn or a concept on TED Talk, etc. (I can’t tell you how invaluable the outstanding minds these sites have been to me).  Think of us as pathologists of future trend using the learning of our careers to amplify the story about to be told.

Example:  This election cycle is no different from elections of past.   What is different is the weaponized use of digital media leading us to believe that every citizen of this country has taken a side of good vs. evil and depending upon perspective, difficult to see which is which.   At the end of the day it is like arguing over which exists: yes vs. no.   Add to that the COVID-19 umbrella and isolation––There is that needle in the haystack!

—- {} —–

I have been on my own for too long and will need a new pair of treads within the next day or two–– the sand is beginning to share the same space as my code.   Up ahead the ragged open spaces are giving way to contoured tracks of selective growth I assume is for sustainability of humans; something I have not seen in awhile, something I have been trying to avoid.  The last interacting population was not very receptive; I just can’t imagine what they are doing my right arm?  Maybe a display… maybe mounted on a wall next to other field working tools… who knows?

A ping sets off the flip of nanoTILES for me to take on the colors and patterns that surround me as I bow below the tips of C5 wheat.  Two females: one young adult, one child, enter the track on the opposite side, playful, turning and brushing aside the stalks, their soft laughs carried my way.  A scan of the area indicates these two are alone.  Their clothing is layered and flowing, brown and beige and white, their material organic in fabrication. Their style seems indicative to the South East, which gives me an idea of where I am; my GPS useless to me since BIGDATA-50.  Their flat low collars, fluted sleeves, plus the chemical sampling in the air narrows my scope to either the Highlands or Glades in South Central FL., but it is the length, cut, color and pattern of their under-clothing that tells me they are from the Glades. 

“I know what county you are from,” I say, rising above the stalks.  The child points and they head toward me as they would a fawn; comforts knowing I can take a virtual breathe.

—- {} —–

It’s not far fetched to think that our societal trend, brought upon us by isolation and paranoia, could soon lead us to micro-sustainability:  All things manufactured, grown, consumed, traded, bought, sold, fashioned, followed, aligned can exist is a relatively small cluster (County).  It’s how society evolved and will DEVO, then repeat.

Everything is cyclic.  Everything.  As a former Marine Biologist, evidence of this is meandering and overlong (Pangaea).  It was during my thirty-five year career as an IT professional that I have seen a clearly defined pattern of it:  Mainframes (Centralized). TTY terminals (Decentralized), distributed servers (Centralized), Personal devices (Decentralized), Clouds (Centralized), Apps, (Decentralized) and so on and so on.  All seemingly unique but cyclic.

The weaponization of digital media and the pandemic are catalysts of change; a point in which society adjusts to the rules of the Economy Of Nature (Ricklefs)

I can easily see communities springing up, less travelled and more sustainable, which will dictate how these communities look, feel, act, think and breath ideas (Decentralized). 

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). 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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 


Mangrove Seedpods

Lately I have noticed the consistent march of mangrove seedpods in the water off the dock–more than normal. These king tides reach higher up into the mangroves, where the pods detach and begin to float vertically in the water, the tides shuttling them to far away places. A soaking of the pod softens the outside shell and it begins to peels away, allowing the seedpod to germinate. The vertical position is by design so when the tide drops the seeds settle upright in the soft muds along the banks, providing the ideal location to spread. I cannot help but think how closely these pods remind me of the seeds of Phragmites, releasing at once, wondering if these mangrove pods are also carrying the alien contagion.

November Seed

November Seed

 

FOREST 404

Biophony [bi oph ony] : A term coined by Dr. Bernie Krause, referring to the collective sound in Ecology of vocalizing species (sans humans). A good example would be the different species of insects, frogs, birds, monkeys, etc., in a rain forest, vocalizing at one time, but not talking over each other.

I was reading a post on LinkedIn by Elsa Sotiriadis, PhD (*BioFuturist*) about a BBC Podcast/Sounds/Experiment called, Forest 404, which is an eco-thriller starring Pearl Mackie with theme music by Bonobo.

I find the title quite clever, being that 404 refers to the HTTP error code: “Not Found” (therefore, Forest Not Found). The story takes place well into the future, where a young girl (Pan) has a vocation of sifting through sound bytes of the past (aka, the slow times) and must decide what to delete and what to keep (hint: they are rewarded for deleting and Pan is quite good at freeing up terabytes of space.).  She comes across a SoundScape of a rainforest; now extinct in the fast times, and becomes curious about the origin of these sounds. But curious is not what those in charge want.

To get started, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/forest (I recommend registering an account and logging in before you start listening).  It took me a bit to figure out what was going on and what to listen to in what order. I will save you this. Start with EP0.

  • All Episodes begin with Ep*
  • All accompanied talks begin with T*
  • All accompanied SoundScapes begin with S*

Each episode has an associated talk and SoundScape.  For example, Ep1 (episode 1) has an associated talk (T1) as well as an associated SoundScape (S1).  There are nine episodes in all. The episodes are the actual eco-thriller.  The talks are like a mini TED talks about the sounds explained through experts in their field (do not skip these), and finally, the SoundScapes are just that, the pure sounds of the episode (insight enhanced after the talks).

Each episode is about twenty minutes in length and the talks and SoundScapes range from four to eight minutes.  Take on one episode set per night (E, T & S), before bed, and I highly suggest the use of headphones, ear buds, etc. to get the full impact of how beautiful this truly is.

This entire production is an experiment to educate the listener and receive feedback to see if the needle has moved toward the understanding of Ecology (the slow times) and how good humanity (the fast times) is at interrupting the natural order of Ecology.  There is a survey you can take to add in your data set to this project. I would recommend you listen to at least two episodes and their associated talks and SoundScapes before taking the survey.

I have studied Ecology at length; it made up the bulk of my learning toward my degree in Marine Sciences and remains a major influencer in how I look at life around me. The rewards of the concepts, knowledge and observation have been the focus of my writings in Science Fiction.

I hope you take the time to experience this project, but it will require you to step away from the fast times.  This production is a beautiful blend of science, art, and the eco-responsibility of us all.

A Sci-Fi Limerick

I have been a contributor on wattpad for several years now.  This site has been invaluable to me as a writer of Sci-Fi, where I can test the waters with potential stories, treatments, character studies and just general fun.  Which brings me to this.  There was a recent competition to write a Sci-Fi Limerick… A first for me and a challenge I could not pass up.  They must have liked it as much as I did because they gave me a great lead in:

We have the “most greatest” honour to host, today, The exceptional @DavidNadas, the Limerick specialist of the group.  Let’s let him entertain us with wit and music.

 

There was an Alien from Venus,

Who came to Earth to greet us,

When he stepped off the ship,

We heard his pants rip,

And out rolled his un-Earthly…

Well… you know.

To see other poems and nursery rhymes click here:  Tevun Krus (#59)

The Past Life Of Writing

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 while attending a wedding in upstate NY.  My wife 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.