Monday, January 25, 2016

Science Fiction

Back when I was a tad (actually a bit older than that) I dreamed of the wonders the sunny future might bring. Visions of flights to distant planets, being driven by robotic chauffeurs, and able to watch things from afar.  I dreamed of colossal cities and fantastic machines that would make work unnecessary. In my adolescent mind the future would be filled with wonders beyond my imagining.  Much of the fiction I devoured hungrily reenforced these dreams.  How could I doubt the parade of progress when the evidence was all around me - television, and in color yet, as one example.

I still cling to those boyhood dreams and am really disturbed by the attitude that things are going to hell in hand-basket, or whatever your metaphor of choice might be. The plethora of dystopias that grace the bookshelves, the focus of politicians harping on the worst of our civilization, and the negative blathering of biased and self-serving commentators would have us believe that we are not living in the best of times, but in the worst.

Today I may not have the ubiquitous flying car (given the way people drive I should add "Thank God") nor do I have the magic food pills.  Neither are there human-form robots to do my bidding and we have certainly not yet achieved the vision of a space hotel as set forth in Clarke/Kubrick's "2001." It seems that the most expansive of my visions still remain beyond our reach.

But today I have solar panels on my roof to satisfy my energy needs and a tiny robot that cleans the cat hair and other detritus of living, I have a television that is not only in color, but provides nearly photographic quality images.  I carry my phone, camera, mailbox and a hundred other tools of daily life in my shirt pocket. I carry under my arm a computer so I need not miss an opportunity to write, communicate, or play a game.  I communicate occasionally (all right, too damn much) through the amazing wonder of a world-spanning Internet, and can have my heart's desire almost instantly with only a credit charge. I carry a hundred unread books in my side pocket - a hundred fucking books!

Overhead we have a manned international space station and a million satellites that assure we will never get lost, be unwatched, or surprised by blizzards, hurricanes, or even picnic spoiling rain.  Our advanced ships explore the surface of other planets while other probe the atmospheres of distant world. Our eyes can now gaze upon stars at the beginning of time and, given the state of biological sciences, we are actually living like the protagonist in Fred Pohl's "Day Million."

And we aren't even halfway to that number.


Monday, January 11, 2016

World Building

There's always a great feeling when the latest is sent forth to find a comfortable niche, hopefully with someone who will pay. Such was the case this morning as I sent off a long-developing novelette to an editor whose name shall not be mentioned.  Just as well; I was suffering from learning that there will be further delay in publishing one of the recently accepted.  The placement never seems real to me until I see it in print elsewhere than my own devices.

So, now that's done I can get back to world building, further enhancing an existing sketchy outline to make it  more fully realized.  I am doing this by building a scaffold for the novel (yes, another start on a novel) and seeing what the world will require of them as they boldly struggle for coherence.
I started with names, unusual name but based on other cultures than my own.  That led to family structures, customs, and a variety of cultural considerations, such as oaths and obligations. All of this was great fun before I started putting the pieces on the chessboard.

Characters always need to be grounded with a sense of place and places need to be named. Further, since I intend this to be a picaresque tale, the distances between those names and what lay between them required further thought. This led to the making of maps and considerations of boundaries, which brought thoughts of politics and governance, and mountains, streams and rivers, seas and deserts.  Rivalries might take place, as to loss and reconciliation. Love might play a part, as would conflict.  Emotions?  Do I need an emotional map as well? How do I chart the ups and downs, paced them to provide heights and depths, humor and pathos as the tale progresses?

Oh wait, I've wandered into the morass of the plot swamps, where I will no doubt thrash about for a while before I get down to actually writing the damn thing.

Yes, I will write, but first I need to make a few more adjustments to the world.