When sci-if meets science (Silversides)

Real Science inspires SciFi

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.

Where do I get my ideas for writing sci-fi

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 of 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 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

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…

Excerpt from Silversides – Chapter One

 

Chapter One – Arrival (Draft) 

Kelp.jpg

Far below the rolling swells of the Monterey Bay, a giant kelp began to lose its tendril grip on the weakened shale, each surge tearing at the holdfast, each surge drawing in the Garibaldi that schooled nearby.  With a final tug, the holdfast ripped free and the Garibaldi charged out from the shadows, their bright orange scales flashing in the furrows of light as they picked off the limpets tumbling into the emerald waters, their thin calcium shells snapped in half.

Nori had been diving nearby when she heard these snaps, a trigger in the back of her mind it was time to rise.  She looked up at the starburst of light filtering down through the canopy of fronds and began her ascent along the towers of kelp.  Without warning, her regulator began to sputter and readings of high carbon dioxide displayed on her ocular implants; she was running out of air.  With her arms stretched upward she clawed her way to the surface, her hands reaching to pull the regulator from her mouth, gagging on its arm-length of tendrils that slipped from her throat.

Gliese_581gAfter thirty years aboard the starship Hoshi Akari, Nori was the first of her crew to be awakened by a personal dream applet.  She was suspended above a bath of orange cryoGel, deaf and blind to the universe around her,  waiting for her breathing to settle before scraping away the paraffin covering her eyes.  stretched above her was the lid to her pod with its rim of emerald lighting and the criss-cross of white stanchions lining the ceiling beyond.

Nori was brought to a sitting position by the Correlation Engine and Intelligence Lab, known as CEIL; the ship’s AI and handler for the crew. She could see the droplets of orange cryoGel begin to pool on her skin and drip back onto the carbon plank and through the mesh below.  She shook her head of fine white quills and the droplets scattered like a dog shaking its coat; her reflexes noticeably faster than she remembered.

A tingling swept across her scalp and she knew CEIL was reaching into the wetware of her implants.

CEIL? Nori streamed.

Yes, Nori, CEIL replied. Its voice was female, caring, as if someone were whispering into her ear.

Where are we? Nori streamed.

We are maintaining a stationary orbit of 3.8624+5 km from Dykazza. The year is 2132, June 17th, 15:11:11.  We are 22.238 light years from Sol with a time dilation of 9.175 Earth years..

Nori let out a sigh and the rope of tension seemed to unwind from every part of her; they were exactly where they were programmed to be.

CEIL. what is the ship’s status? Nori continued to stream.

Our ship’s ballast was detached and tethered successfully.  Rotation has been set for 1.5 Earth G.  My infrastructure, life support and backup systems are nominal.

Nori paused to take this in.

CEIL, were there any problem records during the journey? she streamed.

There was one problem record, CEIL reported without a sense of worry.

PR-0001occurred during your cryoGenesis period; a primary raceway telemetry interruption occurred on September 22nd, in the year 2123 at 21:04:45.  My root cause analysis had identified a Q-bit allocation drift, which has been corrected.

One incident in thirty years—Impressive, Nori thought.

CEIL, what’s the status of the crew? she streamed.

CryoGenisys was successful on all six crew members, CEIL responded. Four crew members remain under my handling and their bays are opening now, but I have just received a trap alert from cryoPod 581.02, crew member, Rhodes.  It appears there is an intermittent failure to the set timer during the load of 581.02_av_progDA.  His condition is stable, but below thresholds for our bioSketchers to level out homeostasis.  He will be entering a state of autonomic hyperreflexia in eighty-eight minutes unless he can receive physical assistance, which is beyond my capabilities.

There was nothing Nori could do until she and her crew were on their feet.  She tilted her head and tapped the palm of her hand against her temple, hoping to shake way the silence in her ears.  Still nothing and she felt alone in the universe.

CEIL. Bring up some music please, Nori streamed.

Your selection, Nori?

She hadn’t thought about that. What would she listen to after all this time.

Shuffle my playlist, psyChill, she streamed.

CEIL randomly selected a track from her playlist and rolled up the volume, just enough to shave off the the emptiness around her.  A musical piece called, Who We Were by Ryan McShae began to play with its soft plucks of the cello and the solitary notes of a piano.  It was a reminder that Earth was now, and forever would be, nothing more than a memory.

Silversides – Character Study – Nori – Protagonist

SilverSides_CoverThis is a character study of Nori, the protagonist in my upcoming sci-fi novel, Silversides.  This particular excerpt may or may not make it into the second volume, but it is no less accurate of the events to unfold.

Silversides: Excerpt – Exiting the Necker Cube

“Nori,”  he said attempting to regain her attention.  He was speaking more softly this time, very controlled in a commanding tone he knows gets questions answered.  He waited for eye contact and brushed at his scalp as though having just walked into a cobweb.  “Who exactly are you?” and not waiting for an answer, “Where did you come from?”  Then leaning in closer,  “Tell us again, why did you come here?”

Nori paid little attention to the talking suit, instead focused on her cuffed wrists locked into the grommet of the table, which like her chair, was bolted into the concrete floor.  She studied the burn marks and scratches on the metal, wondering how many others had sat here to the drone of these same questions, whether they were a petty thief or, as she was, someone who had just traveled twenty light years and back through time.   

She raised her attention to the decorated suit of the man, with the port of his belly and chubby arms braced on the table-top, with his manicured fingers rolling inches away from her own.  How easy it would be to reach out and break every one of them before you would ever feel the blinding pain of it, she streamed into him.

Without knowing why, he curled his fingers into his palms

“As I stated earlier,” Nori answered.  “I am here alone.”

The suit pushed up and away from the table with the crack of his back the only audible sound in the concrete room.  He stood there momentarily then began to  nervously massage the folds of skin on the back of his neck.  Unsurprisingly to Nori, he hammered his fist onto the metal table and leaned in close to her face.

“Stop fucking around and answer the goddamn questions!” the spittle from his charge landing on her cheeks but her eyes never blinked.

Nori had been mouthing every word the suit was saying before he did, her blue left eye and green right eye, unnerving him as she did.

He could see the slight extension of her smile, and lost it.

She knew what was coming next and took the blow of his back-hand across her mouth, pausing briefly for the effect before sweeping her tongue beneath her lip, watching him shake off the hurt like he had just punched a brick wall.  He could see there wasn’t a mark or expression on her; just the feeling of deep hatred streaming into him.

“CHIEF!” Shouted a woman’s voice from behind as she stepped out from the shadows. “That will be enough! Now leave here immediately or–by God–I will see to it you spend the remainder of your career at Shemya!”

Knowing she did not hand out threats, only promises, he turned away from Nori to face his Commander-in-chief.

“Madame President,” The Chief Executive Officer acknowledged with a submissive nod, then he turned to the the Marine standing at attention, who opened and closed the steel door behind him.

The president asked for a chair and sat opposite Nori.

“I deeply apologize for my Chief’s behavior….  Inexcusable,” she said with disgust. “I assure you, that will never happen again.”

Nori did not respond, nor did she care.

The President felt something slip over her and brushed the flip of her hair.

“Tell me.  Why did you come here?  Why Times Square, the most recognizable place on this planet?  Surely, you could have picked someplace more hospitable, say–“

“Paris?” Nori said finishing her thoughts.

“Yes… Like, Paris…” the President reiterated, her throat suddenly dry and her alarm apparent.

“I thought about that…” Nori paused. “Paris will always remain a place of inspiration for me, but New York?  New York seems right… So here I am, Times Square… The center of the Universe.”   Nori could feel the hidden fright of the President, having just read her mind.

“You need to shut down five-eighty-one,” Nori cautioned.

“What is five-eighty-one?” the President questioned, the chevrons on her forehead lifting and indicating she was clearly in the dark.

“Start with your Chief,” Nori suggested.  “He’ll be sitting in your seat…”

 

1.5 billion pixels – compliments of Hubble

Video

 

 

Even as a writer of Sci-Fi, I am overwhelmed by the detail of this image (Andromeda).  I got so use to seeing a galaxy as an object, that I forgot just how much ‘star stuff’ it takes to make that galaxy.   But looking at this image has brought me so much closer to my current writing, as if I get to travel to where my story takes place.  Sweet.