Book review: The Atlantis Deception plus NEW STAR WARS TRAILER!!!

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A. G. Riddle’s Atlantis books have become somewhat of a phenomenon recently. So much so, that other authors have been asked to write novels in the Atlantis universe. Nick Thacker has thrown his hat into the ring, and has come out with one of the best reads I’ve had in a while. Read on for a

SPOILER FREE REVIEW…

The Overview

In the Atlantis universe, humanity has spread out to the stars, and started cataloguing the various alien species it has encountered. They keep these species in ships called ‘arcologies’ that house them in environments similar to their homewards. This story takes place on one of the last of these ‘arcs’ and begins with a ship in turmoil. The expedition has been recalled due to a lack of funding, and the scientists on board are not really all that happy about it.

Cue problems.

This puts a rift between several of the characters, and irritates some of them beyond imaginable belief. If I had to really come down on any aspect of this book, it would be some of the characters incessant whining about having to leave the expedition.

All of this is of course escalated when they get locked into the center of the ship together and have to find a way to escape.

And hijinks ensue.

Honestly this is a great read. I finished it in a little over four hours tops. It’s short enough to read through quickly, yet packed enough to leave you wanting more when it ends. There are some fairly decent plot twists and some otherwise surprising elements of the ship that will have you guessing the whole time.

Go get it here!

In Other News

Holy crap new Star Wars trailer!! I love it. If you haven’t seen it yet, here you go…

Wow. Just wow. If Abrams messes this up I will be royally disappointed. Because these trailers look and sound so cool. Can’t wait til Christmas!

So get ready by reading about an adventure on a space ship!

The Craft of storytelling through songwriting

There are tons of songs that can help you learn the art of story. Nowadays the radio is filled with songs that all talk about how much the artists love their boo. Or how good their significant other looks in jeans. Or some other ill fated assault on our intelligence.

But some songs are the result of excellent story telling woven into a tapestry of sound. Check out these songs and let them help shape how you tell a story.

“A Boy Named Sue” – Johnny Cash

The Man in Black always has a way with words. This Shel Silverstein (yes, it’s the guy you’re thinking of) is a geat work of fiction. Let yourself listen to it as many times as you would like.

“The Lighthouse Tale” – Nickel Creek

I dare you not to cry.

“Please Take Me Home” – Blink 182

Ah. Young love lost. And also friendship. And pop punk. Quite possibly the greatest genre of music ever invented. Maybe not. But still maybe.

“Walls” – Emery

A haunting tale of someone who has completely closed themselves off because of scorn from a lover. And an awesome breakdown. The last line tells it all: “These walls…this place…means everything to me.”

“The Ballad of Pancho and Lefty” – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

Who doesn’t love tales of Mexican banditos?!


Got any more? There are plenty. Go find your favorite and see what you can learn.

What kind of music do people in space listen to?

So we’ve all seen those episodes of Star Trek TOS when Spock is playing that ridiculous instrument right?

By the way, RIP Leonard Nimoy. That guy was awesome. I think my tweet on the day of his death summed up how I took it:

But back to my question: you’ve seen it right? It’s weird. And totally just 60’s music ‘played’ on a weird instrument. There’s even one episode with a whole band of hippies. Look it up.

And I’m sure it was a product of the era that particular Sci Fi was made. Huxley has his ‘Malthusian Blues’, not in a space ship but in a weird future. Riker just plays his trombone. I’ve been told that some of our US Navy ships host bands made of their sailors. Do they do the same thing on starships? And do they have access to current music, or are they stuck with whatever they take with them?

Where’s my Lightsaber?

Why don’t we have lightsabers yet? Seems like almost 40 years (WHOA) is enough time to figure out something from a sci fi medium. I mean we had those flip phones int he 90’s after Star Trek. This is a question that bugs a lot of people, and I think I will let Dr. Michio Kaku give his explanation and timetable for his own design…

Fascinating stuff. I still think there’s room to improve though…

Why are most aliens humanoid?

This week will see a series of short posts that ask a question and give a short, simplified answer. Like the blog series baseball joe at fox sports, too short for a full post yet too long for the twitter…

Why are most aliens humanoid?

In a lot of mediums, aliens are mostly humanoid. (see: Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, Predator, The Marvel Universe, etc. etc.)

Why is this?

I simply think it’s because we can’t imagine anything else. And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of stories with wildly different aliens, including some of the ones I mentioned above.

But it’s also this:

It’s hard to imagine anything else and make it work in a story. Even the some of the weirdest aliens are still more or less humanoid.

So what can we do to fix it?

New Horizons

With all of the recent spacecraft landings on different bodies in the solar system, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how these achievements will affect us in the Science Fiction realm. I have a few ideas about how they could shape the near future.

LANDING ON A COMET

courtesy nasa.gov

It’s no secret or small feat that we have landed a probe on a comet. But what does this mean for us? Well for one thing we will know a lot more about comets than we previously did. Also, have you ever thought about how much fuel it would conserve to hitch a ride on one? Perhaps we will be using comets as Solar Systemic taxis in the near future.

CERES

If you don’t know what Ceres is, it is one of the largest non planets in our solar system. It is roughly the size of Pluto’s moon Charon, and resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. There is a probe sending higher and higher resolution pictures of it by the day, and soon we will know precisely what its surface looks like. There is already speculation, because the low resolution images have yielded different colored spots on the surface of the asteroid, as well as a rotation. It will be quite the adventure if we decide to venture out for a manned mission to Ceres,especially if we can make it on a taxi comet ride.

EUROPA

Recently the white house requested a bunch of million dollars (30 to be accurate) to fund an unmanned mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Why is it so tantalizing you ask? Well there are a few reasons. The first one is that scientists believe Europa has a liquid ocean underneath its icy crust. They say this because the formation of new cracks on the surface indicate geo thermal activity and plate tectonics. This is significant because it would be the only occurrence of this mechanism in the solar system besides right here on old planet Earth.
And a liquid ocean could hold other treasures. What if there are some alien bacteria down there in those deep oceans? Bacteria tend to thrive in otherwise uninhabitable places. And what if there’s an alien fish? Or alien Merpeople?! The possibilities are endless. Of course this is all speculation. There could be no ocean and just really crappy ice that moves a lot. But it’s fun to guess.

These new horizons are ones that excite me as not only a SciFi writer, but a Sci Fi fan. I can’t wait to see what we all produce as a result of these discoveries. It really is fascinating to think that in a just a little over 100 years we’ve gone from flying planes short distances to sending craft to the far reaches of the solar system. The voyager missions are still kicking out there somewhere. We can catch a ride on a comet. We can explore new worlds seeking out strange new life.

It really is an exciting time.

Sterner Stuff

Submitting stories to publishers is like sending your kids to an interview. You want the best for them, but ultimately their fate is in the hands of a stranger. A stranger with immense power. The power to make them flourish, or the power to CRUSH THEM INTO OBLIVION…

The waiting game

I’ve submitted stories and it’s taken less than an hour for the publisher to send it back. They weren’t feeling it or whatever. I’ve also sent in stories and waited for months just to receive a form letter saying they didn’t like my story. I’ve self published things and waited patiently for sales to pick up steam, and they do for like a week, then they dwindle. I write and write and write and then wait and wait and wait. And yet…

I Won’t Stop

I hate the rejection, and even the waiting, but I love the process. I love getting these random ideas that turn into cool settings or plots. I love watching my wife have no idea what I’m saying as I rant about how cool some story I’m writing is. I love hearing feedback from beta readers and thinking up new ways to write my existing stories. It just gets in your veins and begins to flow freely.

Keep at it

I’ll keep writing for a long time. Maybe some day I’ll give it up. Maybe not. What are you going to do? Can you handle the rejection? The suspense? The thrill? The adventure?

Or will you sit at home, wondering what will happen?

All I want for Christmas is…

Well it’s that time of year. Winter has come through the solstice, and soon Christmas day will be upon us. I’ve also been celebrating Hanukkah this year, lighting my menorah religiously and eating way too many chocolate coins…

But Christmas is the big holiday celebrated in my family, and the holiday has become the high point of the year for many. With gifts coming from all around, one can be bombarded by all sorts of things that are either lame, useless, or awesome. Here is a list of some of the things I would love to have for Christmas…

Star Wars VII not to suck

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I can’t stress enough how much Star Wars means to millions of people. Much like Star Trek is so important to millions of people. And JJ Abrams turned ‘Into Darkness’ into ‘POO’. I hated it.

So here’s what i want: I want Star Wars 7 to be original and awesome. No remaking an old movie in the name of ‘fan service’. Boo. Make it good. I want terrible dialogue, lightsaber fights, and some sweet X wing action. Think you can handle that JJ?

Jetpacks

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So this thing is real. You can watch a video here. I mean seriously, we’ve been waiting for these things forever. And this one can be made for about 20-25 grand depending on how fancy you want to get. That’s as much as a car. A CAR. When are we going to get a reasonably priced version of this? I wants one. In the worst way.

Firefly

Please Mr. Whedon? Please? Just sell the rights to Disney and I bet you could get another deal…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody. See you after the New Year!

Robots Make Me Cry

I have this problem:

I’m weird. I tend to be stoic in a lot of situations, particularly my day job as an education disciplinarian, but sometimes I let myself go. I’m religious, and I have moving experiences in church. I laugh with my wife and son as we play games with each other around the house. When I was younger I cried a lot at funerals. I don’t cry at weddings. They’re boring.
But the one thing that never made me feel anything were characters on television or in movies. At least not human ones. Or animal ones. But you know what kinds of characters really make me feel gut wrenching sorrow and pain?

Robots.

AI is still I

I was reading Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” recently, and I was reminded again of my penchant for loving machines. Spoilers for a nearly 50 year old book ahead. If you get mad it’s your own fault.
Mycroft is a supercomputer that has become alive, and like’s to be called Mike by his friends. He is a wonderful character, and the whole book build him up and builds him up, to the point that he has to do most of the work during the book’s 3rd act of revolution. But at the end he is no longer speaking, or communicating at all for that matter, he has returned to his normally programmed functions.

And I was sad.

No! I thought. Mike can’t be gone, he drove this whole book! Why Heinlein? Why?

The answer is, of course, elementary. Heinlein knew losing Mike would be the ultimate stab. Everyone loves Mike. You have to kill him to make him memorable. He sacrificed everything for the revolution, and in the end he really was just a pile of circuits and wires. Sad.

Not a Gun

I love “The Iron Giant”. The only thing I don’t like about it is the anti-gun sentiment. I own guns, I use them to feed my family, and I’m not an idiot about when and where I use them. We should have anti idiot activists, not anti gun activists. Just my two cents. If you want to argue, email me.

Back to topic:

The giant is an awesome character. He is an artificial intelligence that can learn and grow and become more than his original purpose.

I’m a sucker for transcendentalism.

But at the end of the movie, he has to save the town— because surprise surprise, the government bureaucrat screwed everything up and launched a nuke on U.S. soil. So the giant flies up and runs into the missile in space, thwarting the threat and averting the crisis. And it made me sad. Because I like robots.

Honorable Mentions: To Boldly Go

Two deaths that made me cry, actually cry, were my high school football coach and my great uncle. I spent lots of time with these two guys, and their deaths devastated me. I literally stole a truck to drive to my coach’s funeral, and I skipped the better part of three days of class in college to attend my uncle’s services. Just to show you that I am in fact, NOT an actual robot myself. At least that’s what they tell me. But here are two humanoid examples that made me sad, but they are pretty much just like robots.

Commander Data

Data kind of is a robot—he’s an android— but he strives to be human in every aspect of his life. This makes him clumsy with comedy, turns of phrase, and even relationships. And I spent years with Data. And then they killed him in that crappy “Nemesis” film. Clone Picard and dead Data? Who wrote that garbage? Oh Brent Spiner has a writer credit…kind of killed his character and a Star Trek writing career on one blow…

Captain Spock

Oh Spock. Leonard Nimoy Spock, not Zachary Quinto’s pseudo Spock. When they play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the end of Wrath of Khan I tear up every time. EVERY TIME! It’s crazy. I even teared up when Stewie Griffin did the same spiel with his teddy bear Rupert. I hate it.

What Gives?

So why do I get sad when robots die? Or stoic Vulcans who hide their emotions? It’s because I connect with them. On the Meyers-Briggs spectrum of personalities, I am known as an INTP. I’m the thinker. I rarely use emotion to decide things; I’m the human equivalent of a logic processor. If you want to read more go here: http://www.truity.com/personality-type/INTP

But I feel sorrow for them because I understand Data’s constant analysis of everything, Spock’s emotional detachment, Mike’s unhindered intelligence in problem solving, and the Giant’s logical conclusions about how to save everyone. They aren’t these emotional meatbags who have to think about how they’re going to make others feel about something. They don’t care, and I like that. That’s what makes them appeal to me. I couldn’t care less about other characters.

Except Kirk. He doesn’t care either. He just shoots stuff.

What characters appeal to you? What Meyers Briggs type are you, and how does that affect your love for characters?

The Worst Ending

It’s been a while since the last post.

But that just means there’s more stuff to write about.

Get ready…

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

I don’t know if you saw the new Hunger Games movie yet, but I did. It was ok, really just a setup for the next movie. Almost nothing happened, save for a sweet scene where a bunch of people storm a dam and blow it up. Hardcore. And Katniss blowing up a freaking jet with an arrow shot from a recurve bow is pretty  sweet.

But here was the problem: first and foremost, this movie is the first of two movies, that are comprised of one book. Which raises the question: where do they split it?

I thought they split it at a really good spot. A recently rescued Peeta looks like garbage as Katniss moves to embrace him. and then he jumps up and starts strangling her! For no apparent reason! (unless you read the books. then none of this is news.) Katniss gets slammed all over the room by Peeta, her eyes red and starting to bulge, Peeta has thrown off everyone else in the room, it looks hopeless, our heroine is going to be killed by our hero, THEN BOGGS JUMPS IN AND KNOCKS PEETA OUT WITH A BLOW TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD! Screen goes black for several seconds, long enough for me to think:

Yes! Awesome. That’s the perfect place to end it. All these non book reading moviegoers have no idea what’s going on, and they have to wait until the next movie to see if Katniss and Peeta are ok. Brilliant. I love it. I…wait. Why is the picture back? What’s going on. They’re explaining everything? What the heck? This sucks.

Worst.

Ending.

Ever.

No suspense. No time to deal with all of these conflicting emotions. Nothing left but a bunch of crappy dialogue about tracker jackers and fear conditioning. That anyone with half a brain can figure out. Because normal people don’t choke their girlfriend.

It was a letdown.

I had regained my faith in hollywood for like 3 seconds. And I was promptly let down.

So what can we learn from it?

Ask the questions

Is it part 1? Is it stand alone? Is it asking questions rather than giving answers? Is it giving answers rather than asking questions? Is it creating suspense? Is it resolving suspense?

These are important questions. And the people that made Mockingjay part 1 didn’t ask them. They were supposed to create suspense. They didn’t. They were supposed to ask questions. They answered them. It was horrible.

Stick to your guns

I know that fans are important. Fans are the lifeblood of any entertainment. Fans are not stupid. You think that you’re making them happy. You aren’t. Case in point:

Star Trek: Into Darkness

He’s not Khan. Why would we do that? That’s already a movie.

But he was Khan. And this “new” movie, was an old movie, and the new version sucked. All because JJ thought that fans would love it. And we didn’t. People who haven’t seen Wrath of Khan like it. Because they hadn’t seen that movie yet. Lame.

Stick to your guns. If it’s good, fans are gonna love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cliffhanger, or muddy or whatever. As long as it isn’t bad.

Rant over.

See you when I see you.