Dispatches From The Future (B-List)

PopSci recently debuted a collection of very short shorts from “Ten of the brightest minds in science fiction.” It’s a very worthy read if you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill. Lots of humor packed into very few words. Plus, I love the idea. In part, because I love short stories. In part, because I love flash fiction. Also, writing something is a whole lot more fun than vacuuming or revisions, and that’s what I’ll be doing otherwise. So I’m turning it into a writing exercise right here on FeetForBrains.


 

Avacado

I was super excited to head home to my gallery apartment today because in this week’s grocery shipment I fully expected to find a lovely box of HAAS avocados waiting for me along side all the usual. When I was a kid I recall heading off to the super market with my mother and walking away with loads of these little buggers. They were so tasty. She’d cut them in half, pull out the pit, and hand me a spoon. But it’s been an age since there was such a thing as markets, and avocados have become about as rare as ice in the arctic.

Unfortunately, I let my anticipation of this delectable treat and the nostalgia for old-timey unprocessed food stuffs come before any sort of reasonable, contemporary assessment of the status quo. This despite the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by swarms of pilotless delivery drones. They dodge through crowds of people at the train station. They zip past my head when I take the skywalk from one end of the arcology to the other. They’re every where and always moving at a tremendous speed, performing amazing aerobatic feats that would turn a mere mortal into jello.

So it should have been no great surprise that the box I received on the door mat before my apartment was little more than the final resting place for the once delicate fruits of one Persea americana tree. The cardboard coffin contained only a greenish-brown slush resembling guacamole that had gone off. It’s truly amazing what 10 gravity turns will do an avocado.

A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It

FeetForBrains:

Worthy of the reblog, thanks John Scalzi.

Originally posted on Whatever:

To begin, my mother and father are responsible for me existing at all, so I suppose the first round of “How I made it to where I am” begins there.

I was born at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA, and as I understand it I was not the easiest of births, taking on the order of three days to be evicted from the womb. That couldn’t have been comfortable or safe either for my mother or for me, so thanks go to the medical team of doctors and nurses who helped with my birth. Likewise, the fact I was born at an Air Force base means that I owe a thanks to America’s military for offering medical care to my mother (based on her relationship to my father, who was in the military at the time), and indirectly to America’s taxpayers, whose dollars went to supporting the military…

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The Real World

FeetForBrains:

“This will go down on your permanent record. Oh yeah? Well don’t get so distressed. Did I happen to mention I’m impressed.”
— The Violent Femmes

Amy is spot on with this one. She worried that “she was very tired when [she] wrote this yesterday, so it turned into a bit of a rant,” but I don’t agree. Or if this is as rant-y as she gets she deserves a badge or something.
Anyway, some good words from a good author about a good life. Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Practical Free Spirit:

I was poking around on Twitter, looking for blog post ideas, and I ran across Christopher Barzak talking about graduation season and the ridiculous “welcome to real life” rhetoric that goes on at this time of year. He had this to say:

“Your life is real no matter what you choose to do with it. Don’t let others impose their definitions of what’s real and what isn’t on you.”

I grew up with a very narrow presentation of what reality could be, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Our worlds tend to start out small. We model reality after what we have witnessed and experienced. Part of gaining wisdom, then, is being able to move out of the shadow of the Way Things Were during childhood to see the many realities that people are living.

Happily for me, I was always full of questions and an insatiable…

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Yet More Drama

Alright already! SFF writers can we please move beyond the petty, boorish and un-funk worthy spectacle of the day? Seriously, you guys waste way too much time expressing your heart felt opinions while simultaneously developing an unrivaled skill for hyperbole.  What’s the beef de jour? This morning Hugh Howey wrote a brief bit about a weekend convention. Seems convention organizers decided to put some authors in a back room for some reason while other authors got big tables in a big, comfy room.

I agree with him, it was a bit of a dick move by RT Booklovers Convention organizers, how ever you cut it up. But these things happen. The insinuation that it was intentional or focused on one kind of writer or publisher as opposed to another are unlikely to be true. But even if the accusations are verifiable, the absolute best anyone can hope for at this point is that next year the convention organizers will lay out the guest list with a little more forethought.

If this situation affected you personally — I mean if you were there this weekend and you ended up sitting in the cramped back room not selling any books — might it be unlikely you plan on returning? No, didn’t think so. RT Booklovers Convention is probably going to experience a shortage of creative types in the future.

If it didn’t affect you personally, why do you care? There is a Facebook-turd forming under a series of names I thought were above this sort of nonsense. It’s really too bad because too, these sorts of opinions get tossed around all the time and they never go anywhere. I get it, you’re angry. You may dislike the way some people publish. Perhaps you’re envious of their successes or their set up. But folks, you’re spot on the money when you say that this stuff is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. You really need to pay attention to your own words, because if it’s truly an easily forgiven “faux pas” you’re making a mountain out a mole hill. Cultivating a culture of melodrama.

Beyond a relatively few SFF diehard fanatics who have previously made up their minds, it is exceptionally unlikely that anyone who encounters this sort of genre specific infighting will experience an epiphany and see the world anew, now well informed by your opinion. Rather, if in the process of sorting the day’s media catch they are unlucky enough to firmly grasp your infernal doo-doo might they then form a negative opinion about you, your writing, or perhaps the genre you write in?

I don’t mind reminding anyone that science fiction and fantasy writers already have a tough row to hoe. SFF is still perceived as “kids stuff” at best. Regardless of the way you publish, our collective lack of professionalism has not made anyone’s job any easier. Worse, SFF authors seem to be preternaturally primed to hop the bandwagon each and every time it trundles by. Do you realize that children’s authors and romance writers look down their noses at SFF? Yeah, chew on that for a bit.

I am so tired of talking to people about my stories, seeing the flame of interest in their eye, only to watch it be extinguished with the words “Oh, I don’t usually read sci-fi.” This is almost always accompanied by a sneer which I imagine as commentary on my working choice of literature. Our genre is still outside what most people consider normal or well-adjusted. It lacks the respect other writing commands.

Like all of you, I work hard on my craft. I’ve suffered personal indignities, and sure, I carry my fair share of spite around with me. But we’ve got to cultivate the respect we deserve. Your platform is yours, do with it as you will, but we’re all set up on the same stage of genre. This means your self destructive habits affect those near you. If you cannot resolve your personal problems without pasting them in flashing neon across the whole internet, you may have some room for personal growth.

Bow-Bow, Chica-Chica

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I’ve been writing at Main Street Bagels, watching Aral and another little boy play in the phone booth, and sipping coffee this morning. Multitasking is well and good, but all I have left to write on UP SLOPE are the difficult bits and so it has been going slowly.

And so it goes, I took a break from UP SLOPE to check in on THE BIG RED BUCKLE. In case you hadn’t yet heard, I’ve reduced the first in the series to free in order to simultaneously motivate me to finish the second while I search for new readers. And the free campaign seems to be working.

Notice the screen capture above. Yesterday THE BIG RED BUCKLE didn’t even register on any of Amazon’s lists. Today, my first published work is above the fold in both its primary categories.

I know, I had to resort to free to get here, but at least in this moment it sure feels wonderful. My book is in good company. I’m really looking forward to hearing what these new readers might say about my baby. And, for the first time in a long while, I’m feeling optimistic.

The next milestone, from this point of view anyway, is to get 100 new readers. The price is right for a limited time only. So, tell your friends, and thank you for giving THE BIG RED BUCKLE a try.

In the mean time, if you’re nearby and want to get a free printed version of THE BIG RED BUCKLE, stop by Main Street Bagels this afternoon or catch me later at Lincoln Park play ground.

The New Grand Strategy

As things so often do, change has come to my family’s doorstep. Tess and I have been adapting rapidly and re-prioritizing and as a result we’ve instituted The New Grand Strategy.

Movement

Colorado is my home state, and being here on the Western Slope has been enjoyable, however, the old saying “you can never go home” hits the nail on the head (to mix metaphors). That is to say, we’re planning on relocating. Soon. Tentatively, we imagine we’ll end up back on the West Coast and of the possible locations where we might settle Seattle and the Sound, we feel, might work out well.

As the potential for (yet another) move entered our conversations we’ve really had to think about the parts of our lifestyle and careers that we’d like to emphasize. As much as I love the landscapes of the Rockies and the Canyon country that sits at its feet, none of this enhances my situation. In fact, while I still get out into it, the pattern is that trail heads are often out of reach for want of time and resources. So I spend an inordinate amount of time pining away for something I am not independently wealthy enough to obtain.

Yep, I’ll probably never again be a working Wilderness Guard. And I’ve made my peace with that, as best as I can. The West Coast has some advantages for us as a family — jobs in our industry, culture in which we can participate, friends we love and miss, public transportation we’ll use, and, yes, even some amazing landscapes which, when viewed through the lens of air pollution currently settled on the Grand Valley, seem very attractive if at times a little moist.

Health

I tend not to talk or write about this much, but my health has been generally good. I haven’t had a seizure in more than a year and I haven’t needed medication to control the seizures for more than eighteen months. (thank the gods above and below). Ultimately, that little episode has resulted in a renewed and enhanced focus on my health. I like to think about it as if I were playing a video game and needing to manage my resources to stay alive through each successive encounter (groan, yeah I’m a nerd).

In the upper right corner of my consciousness are three Health levels — PHY, SPI, MEN — in the past I focused on my physical health, much to the exclusion of my spiritual and mental health. I guess I figured, with naiveté, that if I could run thirty miles at the drop of a hat the other aspects of my being would necessarily take care of themselves. Unfortunately, not so.

These days I apply a great deal of attention to these levels, so, if there was some good that came from that period of my life it resides here. Believe me, seizures are terrify.

Employment

Now that my health is stable and my memory is better we have decided that it might be a good thing for me to put myself forward once again. Yes, this is a call for action. Finding employment is never easy, and I’m spreading my résumé around the internet liberally, but I’m hoping to harness the power of social networks here too. I have many friends and acquaintance and I’d love to impose upon you, especially those of you with whom I’ve previously worked. You know what I am capable of and the best endorsement I can imagine comes from you.

My résumé is posted here. And, as usual I am always available via phone call and email. If you know of an operations engineering position or project management role, I thank you in advance for passing it along.

Self-Employment

If you read that last section and wondered to yourself “What about the boy? What about the writing?” you’re not the only one. Care of the boy and more words will continue to happen. This has been my full time occupation for a while now and relative to anything I might do in technology I enjoy it a great deal more. This should come as no surprise. Said no stay-at-home parent ever, “Gosh, I’m rolling in too much cash. I suppose I should toss another load of laundry in and roll myself hipster cigarettes with spare $100 bills.”

UP SLOPE is nearly complete. It will be delivered to the editor thereafter, and you should expect to see it on Amazon soon. I have several additional projects that are in various stages of outlining, including book three in the sports in space series. I am anticipating writing this one a great deal and it’s been a real struggle not skipping ahead to this project while I’ve got some things to take care of with UP SLOPE.

Even if my word count drops a bit, the writing will continue.

Blood, Guts and Glory: Endless Attempts to Monetize the Oldest Sport

If you ask around you’re likely to hear all sorts of candidates, humanity’s oldest sport could be wrestling or boxing. Various inculcations of sports that employ balls in one form or another. Even martial arts in their great variety. But if you ask the question “what is our oldest sport?” you’re unlikely to hear the reply “running.” I’ve always wondered at this, it’s an anthropological oddity in my mind. Humanity has been running since before it was humanity. Arguably, there was undoubtedly a great deal of utility attached to this activity. There is plenty of evidence that suggests various populations employed persistence techniques for a great deal of their calorie intake. And, for a very long time, a significant portion of our history in fact, it was the only way to get from point A to point B with any efficiency at all. But the utility of the activity does not preclude the achievement of entertainment for the fans of pleasure for the participants. Anyone who has run, knows that some where deep down, the activity tickles pleasure centers and dumps Dopamine into the body. Why? Because we evolved while running.

That said, while other sports have been transformed into cash cows for an industrial complex intent on extracting every potential red cent from any human activity, running has remained relatively aloof, and mostly unaffected. And it is my contention that, in particular, long distance running will continue to enjoy obscurity primarily because of the difficulties involved with monetization the sport. For instance, the pressures of monetization transformed auto racing from a long distance, staged endeavor, with lots of blank spaces, characterized by the Paris–Rouen, into track events such as the Daytona 500. Beyond the starts and finishes of these early races much of the drama of the competition was lost. The advent of purpose built tracks contained all the spectacle making it possible for anyone to witness all the crashes or the bitter battles for the checkered flag. And the track served as a platform to catapult the amount of money that could be derived by hosting such an event. Want a piece of the pie? Build a stadium.

Long distance running, even on a track, lacks the external spectacle that you can expect from other races, even when it is contained on a track. So much of a foot race is contained inside the head of the competitors, that the great majority of the turmoil is largely lost on onlookers. In fact, I speculate, that you need to have necessarily experienced that struggle before you can share in the spectacle of the foot race. Move the event out onto a road or into the backcountry and you’ve further separated competitors from spectators. Starting lines and finish lines are where all the action happens and by comparison there just isn’t all that much of it.

But failing conventional modes of squeezing money from such an event, people will still attempt to gather what they can. We’re inventive that way. Running sponsorships are well and fine, but from this remove I have difficulty seeing how sponsorship necessarily pencils out for anyone, even the athletes. Especially in the tiny worlds of ultra running or trail running. But the attempts will still be made. I see several successful modes of commercialization of this sport, and because they are successful I anticipate that they’ll likely continue.

Infernal Commercialization

This morning, while catching up on reading I came across this example which illustrates a type of infernal commercialization generally intent on extracting money through sensationalization and fear mongering. The paper in question, published in Missouri Medicine. Once the peer reviewed paper hit the proverbial shelf other publications promulgated the idea that running was ultimately bad for your heart. Countless couch potatoes tapping away at their iPads undoubtably felt a certain sense of self-satisfaction and schadenfreude as they scanned articles about how certain it might be that all those runners out there, pounding away down some trail and wasting their valuable couch time, are now certain to end with a most horrible death. The National Review and many other periodicals, despite failing to tell the complete story (as explained by Jackie Ho), sold more advertisements and thus successfully commercialized some aspect of long distance running by playing on fears that running will cause more harm than good.

Trail running is not and will never be a spectator sport. But that is never going to stop others from trying to make a quick buck from your blood, sweat and tears. Infernal commercialization of trail running happens ever time someone publishes a heartfelt story with the gory details of some runner dropping dead on the path. Every time someone publishes a piece concerning some supposed reason not to lace up your joggers. These are excuses that sell, because they endorse the sedentary lifestyle that so many chose.

Harder Than it Is

Yeah, go figure. There are commercial entities out there that wish to sell you their stuff by making the claim that running is harder than it really is. It’s so difficult, in fact, that you should feel special. Singular. And, in some way, better than your peers. The ultimate in keeping up with the Jones’. 

Find your strong? These kids are all 20-somethings who haven’t yet been tested. They come to the sport with youth on their side. Energy and time that the majority of us lack and covet. Yeah, sure sweaty guy with bare chest and brand new shoes ran hard to get to that stream where he washes in the crystal clear waters before heading over the back of the hill, but if you’re buying shoes because of his example you might want to check your motivations for getting into this sport. Trail running and long-distance running both are unsustainable with little more than vanity for propellant.

No, you need discipline to keep with it after your connective tissues start to harden. Even the extra padding on those Hokas aren’t going to keep you going, one foot in front of the other, after age has caught up to you. Believe me, when this kid’s beard starts to thin and his lustrous locks have streaks of grey he is going to be looking for any which way to make the trail easier. You don’t know you have the intestinal fortitude to deal with age until you have the age and happen to be dealing with all that it brings.

Easier Than it Is

First, let me clarify, if you chose to make running a part of your life, I believe that, you’re making a decision to do one of the most human things possible. It is not easy and there are many distractions, but as you progress and improve your body will respond. Your body can’t help it. The more you run the more it will respond. You’ll feel lactic acid burning in your legs, burning hotter than a thousand wasp stings. You’ll twist your ankle or strain your knee or develop the dreaded Plantars fasciitis. Lately, I’ve been coping with lower back pain and pain in my shoulders (from pushing the bulki).

This does not end. And it’s never easy. One sweaty run isn’t going to transform your bloated corpse. You shouldn’t even consider that you’re now a “runner” let alone that you’ve somehow become glorious. The greatness they are talking about won’t come from shoes. It wont come from any amount of consumer behavior, in fact. Discipline, baby. Sticking with it through the hurt and disappointment. Through the bad weather. Through the worst your coach or personal trainer can dish out. Worse, the worst you can dish out. Yeah you, because after you start down this path you’re going to become your own nightmare. You’re going to be the one berating yourself late at night when you’re craving a pile of junk food or a bowl of ice cream. You’re the one that knows you actually do have the energy and the moxie to get back out on the road while you sit in front of the boob tube complaining about how tired you are. And you’re going to live with that truth, nagging at you day and night. Even in your dreams. For as long as you’re willing to approach greatness.

Has trail running become too commercialized? Who knows? There’s plenty to suggest that attempts to make money from the activity will continue, but when I’m out on the trail its unlikely I’m paying much attention to them. Sure I see the banners at the start and finish line, but that is such a small part of what constitutes running for me.

Playing Favorites

HERO!

I am a fan-boy for science. From the purely theoretical, which I often cannot understand, but must necessarily cheer on, to the applied and engineered. The applied sciences has been my favorite since the days of yore when MacGyver solved weekly problems with a little bit of know how, two sticks and a pocket knife.

This morning Solar Impulse announced the unveiling of the second, world-crossing, solar powered aircraft that is due to launch next year. The construction of the wing spars for the final version is down right amazing and there is a lot of new (as in purpose made) technology aboard the later version of the aircraft.

Within a discussion that I’ve been engaged is the seed of a question that this project answers completely. The idea that humanity came so far in the 20th century that “there is nothing left to write about” seems ludicrous to me. The notion that our current level of understanding and the added leeway our technology provides has become a complete solution set, to me, appears to be the battle cry of a few too engrossed by the shiny  or protected by privilege to notice that there are plenty of holes in the fabric of any society.

FO: The hardest part about writing Sci Fi has got to be coming up with ideas that someone somewhere isn’t trying to actually do or build in the real world.

MT: Why is that the hardest part? Currently technology leaves so much undone and even unacknowledged. There are holes all over the place. SF is even worse. So much of the human experience is simply ignored. We’re supposed to pretend that the big conflicts of some future generation is all that there is to talk tell stories about?

I generally suffer from option paralysis.

ED: Perhaps what Frank means is that Flash Gordon is dead, space is known to be space, and what is relevant in syfy NOW? Many writers are serving as our prophets, like Kim Stanley Robinson, and the “message” is needed. Thats why so many are writing about climate change, profiteering from it, as in “Elysium” or bio tech as does Joan Slonczewski…just a thought…

Why would this be off limits to a writer worth his or her salt? It is a frontier (of applied science). A place where ingenuity and an ability to bridge the gaps between what you have and a desired outcome become a necessity. This, at least in my mind, is what SciFi is about. Flash Gordon was a fantasy with attendant rocket ships. Tell me about how your character patches pin pricks in the skin of her generations ship please.

I really appreciate the message that Solar Impulse carries along, because this message returns my focus as a writer to the subjects that need to be examined by this craft. Batman won’t have the right tool on his belt for these kinds of challenges.

There were many memorable high points during the last century. The whole world reverberated to the rhythm of the conquest of the poles and of Mount Everest, of the exploration of the depths of the ocean, the stratosphere and space, the first steps on the moon.

From the earliest ground-hops to the first flight around the world in a balloon, these grand premieres all have one thing in common: they have profoundly changed our perception of the impossible.

In the 21st century, adventure must continue, but how do we perpetuate the pioneering spirit and cultivate the audacity of our predecessors?

Major challenges await humanity. They will open new horizons for science, but their objectives will be less to conquer unknown territories than to preserve the planet from today’s threats, in order to sustain and improve our quality of life.

The next adventures will therefore be humanitarian and medical – combating extreme poverty and containing new epidemics,  political – improving our governance of the planet, spiritual – rediscovering profound and soundly-based values, and of course technological – providing durable answers to the threats menacing our environment.

Last night I wrote the better part of a preface for UP SLOPE which I am in particular very happy to have crafted. It explains a critical piece of world building for the “sports in space” series, ties in COUNTERFEIT HORIZON, and also brings the focus of the story around to these sorts of questions. So many writers out there are building a hopeful and complete vision of the future, I think the major challenge will be finding people willing to avoid the distractions of the present long enough to make imagination a reality.

Where is Our Compassion?

FeetForBrains:

Hope you don’t mind Amy, but this get’s a reblog. Way to go!

Originally posted on The Practical Free Spirit:

I am not in a good mood right now.

I have spent the last few weeks dealing with my landlord and his real estate agent, both of whom act like they’re doing me huge favors by, say, not illegally breaking my lease or being willing to pay for professional cleaners to clean their property before their open house event. No acknowledgment is being made of the fact that I am the person in this situation who is hemorrhaging money and time and stress from the inconvenience.

Where is our compassion?

I am supposed to be appalled at how non-inclusive the science fiction community is becoming because of the recent hoop-la about this year’s Hugo host. Did things get out of hand? Yes. And ultimately both sides of this drama suffered. How terrible it must be to have to worry about having your win of a major writing award punctuated with…

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A Degree in DIY?

I found an article today the Guardian, the University of Central Lancashire is now offering an MA in Self Publishing. Which raises the question, if there is enough material to teach what is essentially a Do-It-Yourself sort of endeavor, and grant a degree which certifies that the bearer posses the skills necessary to be successful within the field, when are they going to start handing out honorary degrees to those of us who have figured all this out on our own?

I have to say, for the most part, I’m pretty glad that this program is happening. Maybe we’ll see some well researched techniques coming out of other education outlets such as Coursera. Now that would be cool.