Great Sci Fi vacation spots: New Mexico

VLA

If you’ve never been to the Land of Enchantment, you’re missing out. There are tons of things to do, and the scenery is breathtaking. Here are three of my top Sci Fi vacation attractions in New Mexico:

1. Roswell

From alien lamp posts to museums full of alien surgeries, this place has it all. There are several stops on the main drag, and several off to the side if you’re adventurous. And not only will you be able to hear the original radio transmission concerning a UFO; you will also be able to see great art, lots of great souvenirs, and tons of little and big green men to take pictures with. It’s a really fun place to visit, and the chain hotel rates are on the cheap side. And when you get bored, just travel an hour west towards…

2. Space Museum and White Sands, Alamogordo, NM

This place is great. Several floors of American space memorabilia and interactive exhibits. They have everything from space crafts to missiles to space suits and everything in between. And once you’re done perusing the exhibits, make your way down the hill to the IMAX theater. it’s projected onto the dome roof, giving the illusion of the night sky. A great experience on any level. But still not quite as magnificent as

3. The Very Large Array, near Socorro, NM

VLA

There are 27 of those big dishes. 27!!!!!!!!

And they’re huge. This collection of dishes is actually a giant radio telescope used to look at celestial bodies. And not only is it cool in and of itself, it was in the movie Contact. And Matthew McConaughey just won the oscar for best actor. So there. Your argument is invalid.

But seriously it’s just a wonderful experience. And the drive is beautiful, and night time is SPECTACULAR. Go see it.

There you have it. If you want a really Sci Fi vacation, New Mexico is the place to be.

Top 5 Valentine’s Day Marathons

Before delving in to this Valentine’s Day extravaganza, have you picked up a copy of my new book in the kindle store? It’s only 99 cents, and it will at least make you laugh!

Sensational Six Word Science Fiction Stories

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

 

So we’re all nerds here.

Hopefully you aren’t alone on Valentine’s day. The made up holiday. To quote Sheldon Cooper:

“Given that St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who was stoned and beheaded, wouldn’t a more appropriate celebration of the evening be taking one’s steady gal to witness a brutal murder?”

Since your significant other probably doesn’t think that is romantic, try these instead:

5. Inuyasha

courtesy giantbomb.com

ISo Inuyasha is a half-demon who’s in love with a priestess who died a long time ago but is reincarnated as a young girl. This girl found Inuyasha when she fell through the well that’s also a time portal in her backyard. Magical weapons, fantasy creatures, and a sappy love story. Something for everyone!

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

courtesy fontmeme.com

Of course there’s vampire slaying. And Buffy falls in love with all the wrong boys. And there’s one episode where they blow up a demon with a rocket launcher. Just let that soak in.

3. Gundam Wing

courtesy thistlerose.dreamwidth.org

Ah yes the complicated relationship between Relena Peacecraft and Heero Yuy. And Giant Robots. Lots and lots of giant robots.

2. Firefly

courtesy notsorandommusings.com

Mal and Inara. Simon and Kaylee. People everywhere and this series. Love stories that were never quite played out to their full potential. Do yourself and/or your significant other a favor and watch the whole series again. And it will only take one day… 😦

1. Star Wars

courtesy fontmeme.com

If you’re surprised by number 1, then you must be new here. Even as terrible as Hayden Christensen’s acting is, one can not deny the profound impact this series has had on the world. The love affair of a young Jedi and Queen turned Senator gave us 3 great movies, 3 terrible movies, and hopefully another outstanding one in the near future.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Watch something. It’ll make you feel better.

Movie Trends

The results are in, and Sci Fi is taking the world’s favorite entertainment medium by storm. Take a look at these results:

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 8.23.10 PM (courtesy boxofficemojo.com: http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view=releasedate&view2=domestic&yr=2013&sort=gross&order=DESC&p=.htm)

11 of 15 (maybe more, I didn’t see all of them) have some sort of sci fi or fantasy lean. If you go on through the top 100 there are even more on the list. I like this trend, and hope to see it expand in the future.

Nerddom is here to stay

What drove you to write Sci Fi in the first place?

Or better yet, what is driving you to write Sci Fi now?

Is it books?

Graphic novels?

Movies?

Cartoons?

What is it?

What do you love so much that it drives you to create?

The importance of being a nerd

The status of nerds has changed over the last few decades. In the 80’s, nerds were made into comedy movies that became instant cult classics. In the 90’s, nerds were given two of their biggest icons in Steve Urkel and Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers, yet they were more the butt of a joke than tailor made heroes.

The turn of the century brought on something new though. Cartoon Network launched a block of shows that were translated from Japanese to English, giving science fiction other than American comic book heroes credence. This led to a further translation of many more shows, leading to a revolution among the upcoming generation of youth.

Of course anime was nothing new then; CN simply brought it to the status of an afternoon cartoon show like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons. What they did was bring it up from the underground and put it in the mainstream. Go ahead and talk to almost anyone age 25-35. I bet most of them know what Dragonball Z is (at least).

With all of this said, the shift had begun. Fast forward to 2013, and there are live action TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and King of the Nerds. Mainstream application of Science Fiction and its fans. I mean, the Scott Pilgrim movie made 47 million at the box office! Have you seen that movie?! It’s silly and full of all kinds of video game references! (For the record, that is one of my favorite movies of all time. I was super stoked that one of my favorite graphic novels was being made into a movie)

Not to mention the commercial successes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Peter Jackson has accomplished what was once thought impossible with the fantasy genre. And now there’s Game of Thrones to go along with the Fire and Ice series.

Nerddom (?) has begun its reign after many years of a slow infiltration.

Which is probably one reason you create

Come on, admit it.

You know that you are a nerd for something. I like lots of sci fi things. I’m currently reading ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by Robert Heinlein. I’m sure I will go see whatever cool Sci Fi movie comes out soon. I need to organize my 400+ comic books and graphic novels. All of these things drive me to create worlds full of adventure and sweet gadgets. The lightsaber still haunts me.

What drives you?

What are you so in love with that it makes you want to make your own?

The Process

Many of my ideas come to me at random times. Sometimes even when I’m already writing a different story! It is very important to keep your ideas documented. How organized you keep them is your own business, but at least get them where you can come back to them.

Once you have an idea, fleshing it out is the hard part. Most people tend to want a novel length project, but short stories are much easier to complete. Combining short stories can also lead to a novel. Don’t count out the short story.

Editing is absolutely necessary. There are mistakes. Your beta readers and editor will find them. Trust me.

Whatever makes you create is just as important as the process. Which is why I spent more words on nerd stuff than process in this post. I have tons of content on process and nerd stuff if you want to check it out. Just click on the archives and start browsing. I hope your holidays were great, and that you got some cool stuff that will spur your creativity even more. I’m off to get a bow this weekend with my Christmas earnings.

Keep Writing!

Anarchy in the USA

Last week, I discussed the nature of most dystopias in Sci Fi. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those Sci Fi authors and works that take on a flair most opposite of a dystopian totalitarian state of living. They fly by their own rules. Or no rules at all…

Libertarianism

Libertarianism is broad itself in scope, covering everything from having a small state government to complete anarchism ( a total lack of central government). It spans from right to left, but is pretty centric in all incarnations. The basis is on personal liberties that govern how an individual lives. These themes are explored in such works as The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

A strong focus within these works is the ever hush-hush anarchism. Because a society without laws is unthinkable. Without the government to hold us all together we would just cease to exist. Or worse…we would actually get along just fine.

I think anarchism is such a strong theme because it’s what everyone really wants. We want to form communities based on a need for community, not because we live inside of an arbitrary boundary drawn by a detached state government.

If i may wax romantically for a moment…

I sort of wish i was born in the days of pioneering the American West. Little to no governing authorities, just people working together for the good of their family, self, friends, whatever. Sure it bred outlaws, but it also bred heroes. For every story of crime we have a story of bravery. The illusion of the need for a government stems from a detachment we all experience. Most people live in an urban center and have no idea where their food comes from, whether it’s vegetables or meat. Most of us have never had to build a shelter to survive a winter or keep away predators. We’ve never had to walk miles to find said food or shelter. All in all we have disconnected from what it is to be. We think living in a city near a store where we spend the money we earned at our job and paid taxes on to support our country’s infrastructure and bureaucracy is how we are supposed to live.

Or we could throw rocks at the Earth from the Moon.

Whatever side of politics you land on, consider a world without a government. Consider having to really provide for yourself. Consider having to survive. Call me a caveman. Call me whatever you want. I fall right in line with all of the writers who have already expressed this sentiment. I find that a world run by the individuals who inhabit it and not massive states is my utopia.

What’s yours?

What’s your utopia? Perhaps it looks more like what we already have. Maybe it resembles what most would call a dystopia. Maybe it’s something completely different from anything I have discussed.

Whatever it is, there must be a story waiting to be told about it…

Ender’s Game

http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/enders-game-promo-poster.jpg

 

I saw “Ender’s Game” this weekend. I was both thrilled and disappointed. As I watched the movie, I had several thoughts on story and medium.

 

SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!

 

Subplots can be make or break

If you have read the novel Ender’s Game, you know that the story is pretty complicated. In fact, one subplot is so vital to the story that it effects the end of the novel and its sequels. Ender’s siblings engage in political espionage and fearmongering, eventually leading to a global unification and takeover. This in turn allows Ender to take a team of explorers and find a new planet to colonize, leading to him finding an egg containing a “queen” alien. This gives Ender a chance at redemption for the genocide he committed.

The movie is devoid of this plot. In fact they take all of the things it leads to and kind of rolls them into one sorry excuse for an end of a movie. It ceased to be a well thought out plot and became a rushed, “let’s make this movie less than 2 hours” piece of garbage. The falling action of the movie is quite literally about ten minutes long. the falling action of the novel is at least 50 pages.

 

Medium

All of this being said, I understand that it is nearly impossible to get everything in a novel on film. Every movie would probably be 4 hours long, minimum, which is not conducive to an ADD audience. However that shouldn’t be an excuse to ruin or almost ruin a story. Film is a wonderful medium, in fact it’s probably my favorite medium. I love visuals, seeing the action as opposed to imagining it. But the written word allows a complete description and longer story. The reader is saddened when the story ends, whereas a movie ending is just another part of the experience. Seldom have I heard a general public outcry of “I didn’t want the movie to end” (crappy Hallmark movies and grandmothers aside.)

What does this mean for writers? We have the opportunity to complete a story without making compromises. A story can be as long (or short) as it needs to be, without the restraint of running time. Let’s use this to our advantage, and write better stories. If I ever sell a story property for film, I hope everyone says that it was as good as the book, but I would definitely take “The book was better.”

 

Aside from it’s differences in subplots, “Ender’s Game” was visually stunning, and it did get some of the story aspects right. The battle room, in my opinion, was spot on (even though the story was shortened). Go see the movie, and for your own opinions. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. Remember that it was written in the 1980’s, predicting things that are commonplace in our lives such as the internet and very immersive video games. All in all, I give the movie a solid B.

A Silly Robot’s Guide to Writing Sci Fi: Part 2 – Planning

I’ll admit it:

I am most definitely a ‘pantster’.

However, that doesn’t always work to my advantage. More often than not, I find myself stuck at some critical juncture in the story. That’s the point where I think, “…hmm…should have planned a little more…”

When I do plan, even just a little, I find that my story moves along smoothly; not to mention ‘stuck’ becomes ‘mildly inconvenienced’. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but planning can seriously up your game on a project. Especially if you’re a Science Fiction writer.

1. Do Your Research

I covered this in a previous post. Researching takes a long time, but in the end it’s worth it. You learn a lot, and it helps you grow as a writer and expert. Remember that there are several aspects of research, and skimping on any of them will hurt your plan.

Particularly in Sci Fi, research will deal with complex scientific systems and budding scientific discoveries. If you plan out how you reveal certain aspects of what you have researched, moving the story along becomes easy. The science can be a major part of the plot, or just a device to make it work.

Whatever you use it for, do the research.

And while you research, keep a log of story ideas. Whether it’s written or on your phone or computer. If you don’t keep track of your ideas, they will leave you and return to the ether.

Research must be recorded.

2. Plan the Ending First

If you have ever written anything, you know that ending a story is the hardest part. I recommend planning how you are going to end a story before you ever begin it.

But Will, that’s crazy!

Is it?

The stories that I have the most trouble with are the ones that I don’t know how to end.

If you’re like most of us who write, you will inevitably be sitting somewhere. Let’s say Whataburger. Or for those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to live in a state with Whataburger, let’s say…ugh…McDonald’s.

And while you’re sitting there enjoying your juicy…

Ok, you know what? I can’t do it. You’re at Whataburger. You’re vacationing in Texas.

And while you’re sitting there enjoying your juicy Patty Melt and gimongous drink (cause you can and it’s always 100 degrees down here. Dec. 18th when I’m writing this and the high temp was 86 today) you get a killer idea for a story.

Your main man is going to do that super awesome thing that puts him in all of these larger than life situations, and at the end of it all…

At the end of it all…

CRAP what happens at the end of the story?

So you jot down your idea (in your handy dandy notebook or iphone or whatever) and when you sit down to write, think about how you want it to end. Happy ending? Sad ending? Open ending? Knowing how the story ends is just as important as the story itself.

But Will, it’s the journey not the destination that really matters!

Well, you can spout Eastern philosophy all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that all of your reviews are going to say,

“The ending was kind of disappointing. That’s why I only gave it 2 stars.”

3. Character Development

This is going to sound like redundant rhetoric, but character development can make or break your story. I write mostly short fiction, and character development is much more important than story development. The story sort of develops on its own with my characters. (I said sort of. No angry comments.)

This doesn’t mean you have to spend three pages describing Clark Kent’s background, but it does mean you have to reveal his character.

So put him in a situation that does just that.

Character development does not have to be boring. If done well, it can be the driving force in a story. So before you start writing the story, write your character. This deosn’t have to be extensive, but you should have some sort of grasp on your character’s personality. Hero or anti-hero? Shy or charismatic? Strong or weak?

I like to use the analogy of Kirk and Picard.

Yes, I’m that big of a nerd.

Kirk flies by the seat of his pants, and is a metaphor for Humanism and Hedonism. He wants to shoot first and ask questions later. He only plays by the rules when he has to, and all other times he throws the book out the window. Or the airlock rather. You can’t throw stuff out of windows on the Enterprise.

Picard is more reserved; he weighs every option and holds regular meetings for input. He is calm and calculated, without being as stoic as Mr. Spock. He rarely acts without hours of reflection and considerations, all while sipping his Earl Grey and eating scones.

But we don’t have to read that in a paragraph. Here’s what to do:

Have three Romulan Warbirds decloak in front of the Enterprise and let’s see who does what!

4. Outline

Which brings us to our final point.

Having an outline of your story will help keep everything in order, plus it will allow you room to move. What I mean by that is you don’t have to stick to the outline strictly. There will be plenty of room to veer in and out of the defined lines. I.e. the Enterprise is confronted by three decloaked Warbirds and the resolution is a tachyon burst to disrupt their warp engines. However, I did not say how the tachyon burst would be initiated. Perhaps Mr. Data initiates it from the tractor beam dish, or maybe Geordi creates it from the Enterprise’s own warp field.

Or Kirk just fires three photon torpedoes and the phaser array, all while Scotty boosts the warp engines and they outrun the danger.

Either way works. But they all fit the outline.

All in all, planning can make a mediocre Sci Fi story into something that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. And who knows? Maybe it will lead to a cherished cult classic in the vein of Asimov and Dick? Use these ideas, mix and match, or ignore them altogether.

But keep writing!

A Silly Robots Guide to Writing Sci Fi (Part 1): Research

Note: This is from a guest post on writehacked.com, you can see the original post here.

Over at sillyrobots.wordpress.com we have a saying:

Well not really, but I like to think we do…or something like that.

Anyway…I’m a writer like most of you. I write mostly science fiction short stories, but I have written a crappy novel as well. It’s fun, but also a lot of work. There’s the planning and the writing and the editing and all that stuff.

But before all of that is my favorite part:

Research!
And everybody said, “UGH!”
How can research be fun?!
I’m so glad you asked.
When I was in college, I spent several afternoons in a lab watching particles settle, measuring differences in mass after reactions, and reading journal articles detailing what other people had discovered.

But now I write Sci Fi so I don’t do that anymore. What I do…do…is read and watch a LOT of Science Fiction. I had a pretty good head start on this research thing, due to my avid fanboy status for most of my life, but jumping in is not that hard.

1. Watching Sci Fi

This may sound silly, but if you can’t visualize anything fantastical how will it get to the paper? Watching Science Fiction is a good way to see things, and understand how to describe your own ideas.

Let’s start with Battlestar Galactica. There are Vipers, Battlestars, Basestars, and Raiders just to name a few space vehicles. All of them do different things and have a different look. They draw on strengths of their operators, and strike different emotions into all who survey them.

If you have a universe whose inhabitants are at war and reliant on spacecraft, Galactica is a great place to get a feel for different vehicles.

Or maybe you need to understand how an ensemble cast will interact on a ship for long periods of time. Star Trek, Firefly, and again Battlestar Galactica could be helpful. (I swear I’m not a Galactica fan boy, it just keeps coming up.)

What about individual characters in Sci Fi? The Movie “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey (and pretty much only Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey) is a great example of individual problems in a Science Fiction setting. Likewise, “Equilibrium” starring Christian Bale examines an individual crisis in the midst of dystopian bliss.

All of these things can translate into your brain and thus into your story. But it may take several hours of watching fantastic television. Such a task. Sigh.

2. Reading Sci Fi

No brainer for authors right?

What you read in the genre will define your voice in the genre. I tend to move my stories along with dialogue. Much like the giant box of comic books in my house. John Scalzi gives credit to Robert Heinlein for his writing style in the credits of his book ‘Old Man’s War’.

So who is your hero? Or heroes? Heroines?

You won’t know until you read.

Reading authors in other genres helps too; I’m sure Jules Verne had little to go on in the way of Sci Fi when he was writing. I enjoyed Nick’s novel, which is one of a few thrillers I’ve read in the past year, and I read several other non-fiction books as well.

Comic books are also an unsung resource for Sci Fi research. Many of the writers have written longer forms of fiction, and their voice comes through in both mediums. Joss Whedon is a writer who is very good at moving in between several forms of writing and keeping a similar voice.
Just remember that the more you read, the more you realize how others write. That will lead you down a path to finding your own voice.

3. Actual Scientific Research

Ok so I lied.

I do sometimes do actual scientific research. I try to read everything I can about robotics, flight, stealth technology, and other sciency wiencey things. I recently read an article about storing information within DNA. When I was in college I wrote several papers on urban agriculture, giving me a good idea of how people would garden on a space ship. I also enjoy watching NOVA and other science information programs like it.

Well there you have it. Just a few things that I do when researching for writing Sci Fi. Try them out and see if you get any results. I’ll be honest, step 1 is my favorite. My week consists of many hours of ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ right now. I read a quote one time (and I can’t find it again!) that said something to the effect of “…if you cut a science fiction fan you will find a science fiction writer…” I hold that to be true. I have never met someone who was a fan that did not have at least one idea for a story. So if I’m a huge fan, maybe I’ll have lots of ideas for stories.

And maybe you will too.

“Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. …Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Ray Bradbury

The Zen of World Building part II

Part 2 of our world building adventure will center around attention to detail. In the previous post we covered a broad spectrum of characteristics, but now let’s focus on some nit picky things. This won’t be long, but will definitely give you something to think about.

 

Characters

Some author’s worlds are completely reliant on their characters. If you haven’t read “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by  Caitlin R. Kiernan, it’s a great example of this. It’s steampunk, but you wouldn’t know that without the characters. They drive the story into that subgenre. The dancer has a steam powered leg, and her husband is a mechanic. No, it isn’t as romantic as it sounds.

Anyway, characters can sometimes drive your world. Think of Dragon Ball Z. If the Z fighters don’t have super powers, it’s just another kung fu manga/anime. The characters drive it to another level.

Setting

Mountains or Urban? Desert or Utopia?

A lot of world building depends on the setting. And just like i said last time, you have to take into effect the scope of your work. Is there a single setting? Are there multiple settings? Are there multiple planets? Universes?

Whatever the scope or setting is, it can make or break your world. A foreign planet without weird creatures, climates, and plant life is not going to be foreign to anyone. It could easily be Earth in the far future well past humans…

GASP…another setting…

Technology

Much of science fiction involves advanced technology. Much of it does not.

This is vastly important for world building. In a post apocalyptic future, is there still tech, or is a 12 gauge the top of the line weapon? Do the bad guys have some super weapon that trumps your hero’s EMP device?

Are we in the Matrix?

All of these are important questions when building a world.

 

Practice

What I am about to tell you may reveal my nerdiness in ways you would never possibly imagine.

Oh well.

Go find a group of people to play a tabletop RPG with, and be the Game Manager.

This will allow you to create a world, build a story, and have fun during the process. You will have to integrate your party’s characters, baddies, weapons, and all sorts of cool stuff. There are plenty of games out there, and not all of them are fantasy. Fantasy is fun, but there are other options. Go play a game!

 

I hope these posts are helping with our world building. Let me know if there is anything you want more fleshed out!

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Futurism

Source (http://media.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/images/retro-futuristic-designs-tutorials/retro%20futuristic%20city%2010.jpg)

Futurism is a hot topic. Especially if you’re into being an entrepreneur. Predicting and/or setting future trends can be a make or break skill in the business world.

But what about the original futurists:

Science Fiction writers?

How does that work? Where would I start? What exactly is futurism?

Excellent questions.

What is Futurism?

Also known as future studies, futurism is the act of postulating different futures. So when Heinlein postulates space marines, he’s being a futurist. When Clarke postulates communications satellites, he’s being a futurist. When Rodenberry postulates personal communication devices, he’s being a futurist.

The single greatest joy of a science fiction writer should be futurism.

Basically you get to make up whatever you want. Make sure it’s a good idea.

The idea of futurism is not necessarily to predict the future, but rather to speculate on the future. Most writers who end up being prophets are speculating with known information, not dictating what will happen with that information. It’s a tough process sometimes, but one that’s worth going through.

Futurism and Science Fiction

Think about some of the most successful science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke writes stories about solar system colonies and wandering alien space ships in the near future. Robert Heinlein writes about space marines fighting for territory on foreign planets in the future. Isaac Asimov writes about a world full of helpful robots that permeate every level of society. Philip K. Dick writes about memories being implanted and removed from people’s brains. Suzanne Collins writes about a near future held together by children fighting to the death for honor.

All they did was dare to dream of the future and what could be.

This is the staple of being a futurist as a writer: you have to dream. If you predict, you will almost certainly be wrong. But if you dare to dream, you just might be right. And that is the success of some science fiction writers. They dared to dream of the future and they actually ended up predicting the future.  If you haven’t, you should watch the Science channel’s Prophets of Science Fiction series. It details this process and is very informative. The series consists of biographical documentaries following eight science fiction writers who changed the world with their writing. It’s extremely intriguing, and gives a wonderful picture of these futurists in their element.

What Does the Future Hold?

As you begin to envision your version of the future, there is one central question that has to be your starting point:

Am I an optimist or a pessimist?

This is the difference between Utopia and Dystopia, a nuclear war or treatied world peace. Mad Max and Star Trek if you will. Look at the world around you and ask yourself where you see it going. Is it to greatness, or oblivion? This will greatly shape the world you are writing, and may even lend something to the story (other than setting, of course.)

Determining whether or not the future is shiny can determine whether or not your story is worth writing.

Well there’s a starting point for becoming a futurist in your science fiction writing. Stay tuned for future  parts to the series!