Archive for December, 2010

Thursday Round-up

Things have been a bit slow this week.  I suspect everyone’s eaten too many cookies.

Science/Space
NASA’s New Idea on Cheap, Easy Launches
Discovery is returned to the VAB in an attempt to figure out external tank issues
Time lapse video of the lunar eclipse for those who missed it

Scifi/Fantasy
Win a Phin and an ARC of A Brush of Darkness
Tor brings you the Twelve Doctors of Christmas

Misc Books
The Library at Pooh Corner

Writing
Does Your Writing Pass These 10 Tests?
10 Ways to Tighten up Your Writing

Just so everyone knows, the likelihood of there being blog posts next week are extremely slim.  So I wish everyone cheer and joy this holiday season, and I shall see you in 2011!

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Of Lunar Eclipses and Inspiration

So how awesome was the eclipse the other night?  So awesome.

My new house has this random landing at the top of the stairs.  It’s tiny and useless, but it turns out to be the perfect size for three people to lie on their backs and watch lunar eclipses out the skylight while they chat about books and movies and the state of the world.

As a fantasy writer/reader, I found this eclipse fascinating.  First full eclipse in years, and, not only that, on the winter solstice.  (First time since 1378!) 

Some of my very favorite stories include real mythologies, and the double whammy of a lunar eclipse (traditionally a portent of great evil – and is said to give a greater weight to all your actions) and the winter solstice (almost all cultures have some sort of holiday associated with the solstice – oftentimes something to bring the light and spring back into the world) appeals to me greatly.

If you add in the full moon (technically, all lunar eclipses happen during full moons – when the moon is not full part of the Earth is already between it and the sun) the symbolism gets almost palpable. 

Anyone else get shivers just thinking about it?

How Science Fiction Breeds Our Future

Occasionally I will end up in conversations with people where it has come up that I am either a writer or an avid reader.  I will ask them what they are reading.  They will invariably say something like Grisham.  (Nothing against Grisham.  I have never read anything by him and so do not have any data for an opinion.)  They will ask what I read/write.  I will answer “Science fiction and fantasy.”

They will look at me and say, “Why?  That stuff’s not real.”

(Neither is the Grisham, I would like to point out.  That is the definition of fiction.)

Science fiction fills an important role in our civilization.  So much of literature focuses on the present or the past.  Science fiction makes us think about the future.

Why is this important?

Because it forces us to examine what we’re doing now and what the consequences will be.

Look at iconic books like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451.  Those books show societies where censorship and government oversight have become the norm.  Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake examines a world where consumerism and genetic manipulation has taken over.  Works of fiction, yes, but an important statement on our society.

Science fiction allows us to take what is and turn it into what could be.  That’s a very powerful tool.

Aside from that, science fiction provides inspiration.  It’s said that cellphones were inspired by the communicators in the original Star Trek.  Every day scientists get closer to making ideas provided in science fiction – transporters, faster than light travel, tractor beams – become fact.  Even look at the iPad – the name alone tells you that the inspiration came from Star Trek’s PADD.

People look at the wonderous things that are possible in science fiction and say, “hey, why not?  Let’s give it a try.”  Look at far we’ve come in the last century.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s near impossible to keep up with new discoveries and technologies and inventions.

And who are the ones making those discoveries, designing the new tech?  They’re the ones who grew up reading and watching science fiction.

Like me.

I’m an aerospace engineer.  I design, test, and launch satellites.  I used to make rockets.  Because I wanted to grow up and be Geordi Laforge, Spock, Scotty.

Science fiction makes people look to the future and say “I want that to be true.  I’m going to make that happen.”  And then they go off and do so. 

That’s something we need.

Thursday Round-up

Science/Space
High Definition Video of the ISS from the Space Shuttle
NASA Solarsail Lost in Space
Saturn Stripped Icy Moon to Create Rings
Forests May be Detectable on Extrasolar Planets
First Exoplanet System Imaged
Voyager 1 has Outdistanced Solar Wind
Top 14 Astronomy Pictures of 2010
First Evidence of Other Universes Found (!!)
Possible Ice Volcano on Titan
String Theory Fails First Experimental Test
Making Babies in Space Harder Than It Sounds

Scifi/Fantasy
The Future isn’t Dead.  We Simply Overtook it.
Where to Find Scifi/Fantasy Authors on Twitter
Interview with Holly Black (via YA Fantasy Guide)
Giveaway for Wild Cards Vol I
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2010
Review of Mary Brennan’s A Star Shall Fall

Misc Books
10 Most Difficult Books to Write
Kids Books Jump Off the Page

Writing
Patricia Wrede Muses on Openings
Holiday Giveaway at Guide to Literary Agents 
What Can Be Learned from Indie Musicians and Music Blogs
Three One-liners to Write By

Randomness
Wikipedia article of the USS Constitution (still in the service of the USA 213 years after her initial launch)
Wikipedia article on the Mary Celeste (I’m not sure what my obsession with sailing ships is this week…)
Mid-20th Century Video about the Future of Highways (where’s my hovercar?)

Thursday Round-up

Science/Space
NASA Creates Material Ten Times Darker Than Black
Secret Space Plane Pictures
NASA Ejects Nanosatellite from a Microsatellite (With bonus spacesail)
Dark Matter Galaxies Orbit the Milky Way
Total Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice  (Mmm, the writer in me likes this a lot.)
First Carbon-Rich Planet Found (Trekkie!Me wonders what class of planet this would be.)
Pictures of the Falcon 9 Launch
360 Degree View of the Night Sky (This is truly amazing!)

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Blake Charlton wants input naming the third book of the Spellwright Trilogy
Tor/Forge is giving away a mystery box!
Steampunk.com wants nominations for the Steampunk Book of the Year
BBC making an adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Misc Books
Smashwords Author Primed to Make $25K This Year

Writing
Getting Google’s Attention for their New eBookstore
Out of the Slushpile: Getting Your Self-Pubbed Novel Noticed
How to Tell if You Should Cut That Scene
Three Signs Your Characters are Too Perfect

December Overactivity

Every year, after the madness of November is over, I find myself riding on a high.

I don’t know if it’s because I won Nano or because Nano is over, but every December, for some reason, I think myself invincible.

“I am going to do everything ever!” I declare.  I make lofty goals.  Every project I’ve ever worked on?  WILL BE FINISHED RIGHT NOW, BOOYA.  I am INVINCIBLE.  I am amazing.

Eventually reality sets in, but that doesn’t stop me from re-enacting this madness every year. 

I remember one year where I was going to write four stories at once.  Maybe one of them was editing.  I don’t remember.  The point is that I drove myself crazy and instead of burning myself out on one story, I managed to do it on four at once.

I do think it directly relates to Nano, though.  I’m pretty good at focusing on a single project at a time, if necessary, but if not, I tend to have several side-projects going on.  I’m working on a collaborative novel and a serial novel at the moment as well as writing book two of a trilogy.  I usually have at least one non-main project going at anytime anyway.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but I find it helps with the main story.  It lets me give my mind a break, and often will kick my subconscious into gear, so that when I come back I have new ideas and am ready to go.

Nano more or less makes me focus on one project.  So then it ends, I’ve won handily, and I have all these ideas for all my other projects, and I cannot pick which to focus on so I decide to DO THEM ALL.

You’d think I’d learn. 

On one hand, I don’t know that I want to stifle this urge completely.  Yes, December is a bad time of year.  There’s all sorts of things that need to be done for Christmas – shopping, decorating, hanging out with the family, etc.  All sorts of organizations figure out the year is ending and demand your attention.  Work inevitably goes into to panic mode simultaneously with everyone checking out for the holidays.  But the rush is good.  It makes me excited to be a writer, to have so many ideas, and so many things I could be working on.

It makes me want to try things I haven’t before, enter contests, get my work out there to be seen.  It makes me want to tell everyone I know what I’ve been up to and my plans for the future. 

Yes, the crash will eventually come.  I will realize I’ve put too much on my plate, or that things aren’t working out like I hoped.  But for now, while the energy’s high, it’s kind of amazing.

Thursday Round-up

Space/Science
Saturn’s Moon Rhea has an Oxygen Atmosphere
Classic NASA Video of Life on SkyLab (Don’t know what SkyLab is?  Shame on you.)
Picture of Colliding Galaxies
Awesome, Unedited Picture of Enceladus

Scifi/Fantasy
New to Scifi?  Some Recommendations
Review of Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington
Preview of HBO’s Game of Thrones
Exclusive Preview of Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate
Review of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Holiday Gift Guide

Misc Books
Saturday is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

Writing
Smashwords Annouces New Pricing Scheme

Stay tuned to NASA today – they’re going to announce they’ve found a new form of life!