Are You Not Convinced?

It’s been said that you can have a great idea, but if your execution is bad, then your idea is sunk. Or rather, it’s worth less than nothing. Writing survives on the passing of ideas. From one person to another. So on and so forth. Which is what brings any writer – such as myself – to that unholy place of conundrum: is my idea good? Can it be passed around like a hot potato, yet leave people wanting that potato to come back around again?

Mars_GuyObviously, my own answer to that question is yes. Of course, I think my idea is good. Of course, I think my book is good. That’s why I wrote it. But, the big question remains: who else will think it’s good? Who else is going to like what I did? And who else will like how I did it? That’s the pertinent question. The purpose of this post, really. Who can I convince that my idea is good and do it well?

The Road to Mars was an ambitious work for me – at 372 pages, that’s pretty darn ambitious – so I took a lot of time trying to make it look and “sound” attractive. That means analyzing and editing. Writing and rewriting paragraphs. Reading and re-reading. It was a process that made me evaluate not only my writing style, but my idea itself. Was it cool enough? Did the world I invented suspend disbelief or was it just flat out unbelievable? It may sound maddening – especially after 372 pages in – but it was actually quite sobering. It forced me to reaffirm my earliest convictions: that yes, I think I had a good idea. And that yes, I needed to present it well, too (unlike the guy in this picture).

So, about that story of mine….

Imagining Reality…Or Realizing the Imaginary?

Often, Hollywood (or some literary mastermind) comes up with something interesting. An idea. A concept that screams, “Hey, we could be experiencing this someday.” In my last post, I talked about our cosmic neighbor, Mars, and how we found some water there. Again, that was big news. But, to anyone who has been reading science fiction for the past 100 years, it should have come as no surprise. Or rather, it was to be expected. Or maybe it was exciting / expected / holy-cow-those-sci-fi-nuts-were-right? Well, either way, I felt the need to look into it further.

Early 20th century writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan), wrote a series of books about a character named, “John Carter.” You may recognize the name as it was made into a film a few years ago. Unfortunately, John Carter was not the mega-hit Disney had hoped for (I still liked it and am hoping for a follow up, personally). However, that’s not as important as this: Carter’s tale takes place on Mars. A Mars in which the author, Burroughs, imagined to be devoid of toxic wasteland and instead, be flowing with – hey, you guessed it – water. Now, was Burroughs taking secret trips back and forth to Mars? Discerning there was salt water on the red planet? No, that’s insane. But, he did have the creative sense to think outside the box. He imagined it. And he went for it. Turns out, that presumption was correct.

As for all the green aliens and people with red skin walking around? Yeah, that wasn’t exactly spot on. But, hey, that water though….

Sometimes, like in Mr. Burroughs’ case, imagination meets reality on a collision course. I recently finished reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender series and made another interesting discovery. One of Card’s main characters is a computer program named, “Jane.” Doesn’t sound groundbreaking to have a computer program with a female name, but here’s the deal: “Jane” speaks via a device implanted in one’s ear. Sound familiar? Yeah, it sounds like a bluetooth device. And Siri, too. But again, Card’s books were written before we took bluetooths seriously. Or had Siri answering questions like, “Do you love me?”

Now, does sci-fi always get it right? No, not exactly. I’m sure there are plenty examples out there. And I’m sure we could name them. But, point is: sometimes our imaginations point to what could be. While in other cases, our imagination exceeds anything we could possibly do. At least for now anyway. The Star Wars franchise is synonymous with hyper drives and lightspeed travel. Can it be done? Well, the answer is unequivocally, undeniably….maybe?

Perhaps my kids will see it. Or their kids will. At which point, I’m fine with that generation having a go at it. I’ll be happy watching from the sidelines.

 

Mars and Science Fiction

Wow. It’s been a while. Let’s get right to it.

Being a sci-fi enthusiast, I found myself anxiously awaiting NASA’s big Mars announcement this week. I mean, come on, we’re talking about Martians here. Did we find’em? They out there? Every book that’s ever been written about the red planet would be turned on its head if so. But, as we know, that wasn’t the big news NASA had for us. Make no mistake though, what we got was still big news: flowing salt water. Water. Flowing freely. That’s pretty cool, right? I mean, water is a precursor for life. And though there are slim chances of a Mars shark or a Mars dolphin swimming about the water highways of Mars, there’s always that slim chance something with a heartbeat could be on the red planet. Right?

Or as so many science fiction minds have imagined in the past: absolutely. 

From a literary perspective, Mars has been a source of inspiration for more than a handful of stories over the years. Perhaps most well-known is H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds; one of modern literature’s first attempts at the alien invasion genreFirst published in 1898 (hard to imagine), Wells’ classic detailed a battle between Earth and Mars’ inhabitants, the technologically advanced “Martians.” The book was received well and consequently influenced several other science fiction writers. Most notably, perhaps, was Edgar Rice Burroughs; the man behind the John Carter series, who wrote a series of books on Mars and his fictional race of people who lived there.

But, that’s not all we got from Mars over the years.

There was the trippy and engaging film, Total Recall, that took us to a Mars where people were trying to make the air on Mars “breathable.” Oh, and there’s mutant people in it, too. Then there was Mission to Mars, a film that tried to explain the theories of the universe through the eyes of highly intelligent alien life form (I guess that’s like having mutant people?). And there was the unfortunate box office flop, Red Planet, that tried to convince us of Martian “nematodes” that eat people. No mutants, just yikes. And for the less-than-serious takers, there was the satirical Mars Attacks! A film made to intentionally mock old school alien invasion movies while poking fun at its cast throughout. Jack Nicholson is in it. Pierce Brosnan is in it. Natalie Portman is in it. And so is… well, that’s all you need to know. Mars has been host to more than a few stories where alien life is bent on our destruction. And naturally, the general public loves it. Even if it’s coming from brother Mars.

But, what about now? Does the discovery of flowing water change much? I’d be reluctant to say that it hasn’t. If nothing else, it’s provided even more inspiration for us Earthen folk. And with Matt Damon’s The Martian coming out this year, it seems like the timing couldn’t have been better. We may not be dreaming of terrifying tentacles or tripods with ray guns (well, not as much) but we do have that much more to work with. Ice miners on Mars? Rivers filled with Martian fish?

As I said earlier, I’m eager to see what’s next.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 9

I hope it’s no secret by now that Spirit Run is a story dedicated to the unseen. A place that’s invisible and open to interpretation dependent on the individual. Where he is in life, where he’s going, and where he’s been. And we all get to experience the “invisible” in different ways. For instance, I was reading a Twitter post this morning via National Geographic that said something like this (and I’ll paraphrase): “Science allows us to see what cannot be seen otherwise.”

I would agree with this statement. Science certainly does permit access to a realm that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye. Who knew that every single thing is made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’? And how else might we learn what lies on the surface of the moon and beyond? The human ability to create, dissect, and analyze the most minute and far places of the universe is really astounding if you think about it. No other creature in the known world can do that – only us.

*pause for effect*

I was fortunate to hear a speech this weekend that covered topics related to human science and discovery. The speaker talked on what the world must have been like when we discovered how the Earth was not the center of the universe. It was our planet that was moving, not the sun. People’s brains must have been turned inside out. And when our atom smashers discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons – well, you get the picture. Scientific ventures continue to unlock more of our universe, but in the 21st century, we know that the Earth rotates the sun and we are made up of atoms. This is common knowledge. These may not seem as exciting to the seasoned scientist, but they are scientific fact all the same. And as we move forward, only the new and the undiscovered will pique our interests as adventurers. That much is also true. In other words, we are delighted for what we know, but we are driven even more to find out what we have yet to understand.

This story is teaching me a lot about this human reality. As much as I want to have a handle on everything I encounter, I am reminded how I cannot get all the answers at once. What’s unseen is intriguing enough though, so I do what I can to unveil those yet-to-be-revealed parts of my life. But first, I must simply be open to the idea of not knowing. In that way, I can find what it is I am looking for. Philosophical? Sure, it absolutely is, but it’s also a truth, I feel. Spirit Run‘s latest section, 9, delves deeper into this concept. My characters might have thought they were guarding a male spirit, a “Son”, but in reality, it was a “Daughter” the whole time. Their willingness to see through the journey made that revelation possible though; a revelation that’s amazing to them. I feel like science and faith find themselves in the same boat on that one. Sometimes our pursuits of one thing lead to the discovery of another. And it happens when we least expect it.

And I’ll be honest, I like having a good surprise in my story too.