Basking in my Own…

A long time ago I published a Chapter One here on this blog called Gravity. It was a little bit that I thought had legs. Eventually I devoted a NaNoWriMo to exploring the character, and today I read much of it. It has some pretty sweet moments, if I do say so myself.

A Jane Doe awakens in a hospital, and feels gravity for the first time. Everything is wrong, even though everything is empirically perfectly normal.

At the core is a battle between Liberty on one side, and Justice for All on the other (that’s how one side frames it, anyway). But it’s really a story of soldiers. Bitter rivals sharing a room, one crippled. Were she not crippled, Benji would have killed her and bragged about it later. But it was Jane’s own side that crippled her, that tore her down. They took her wings. And that is the only thing, the ONLY thing, Benji would never do. She was beautiful when she flew.

Though it would be irresponsible not to consider that Jane volunteered for this mission, confident that her own compass would never waver, even if her memory were erased.

Note: Benji and Jane never become a love interest. Seriously. You can discover respect without wanting to bone someone.

4

Buck Rodgers Cosmology

There is a certain class of Space Opera that has what I call “Buck Rodgers Cosmology.” In these stories it is never quite certain what a planet is. You see sentences like “It was still morning on [planet].” Or perhaps “It’s summer on [planet], so dress accordingly.”

And of course we’re all familiar with the “jungle planet”, the “tropical paradise planet”, and the “snow planet”, all of which are entire planets with only one climate zone, and that climate is easily recognized as one of the many on our own rock. So even though we live and interact with a shining counterexample our entire lives, we all too often are presented with a planet that apparently has no poles. Or perhaps it’s in a multi-star system that somehow warms all parts of the globe evenly.

I call it Buck Rodgers Cosmology because early Buck Rodgers adventures joyfully embraced a vague idea of planets that didn’t even seem to be related to stars.

Recently I read some not-very-good-but-for-some-reason-I-read-it-anyway-so-maybe-it-had-a-certain-charm Space Opera, and while the author seemed to have a certain grasp of stars, planets, and whatnot, it seemed that most of the time the planets managed to avoid any of the consequences of being spherical.

While I was reading this thing, I rolled my eyes and moved on. I wonder if the writer knowingly embraced Buck Rodgers Cosmology. I wonder if he made a conscious decision to make planets so easily characterized in order to make destinations more like those in Earth-bound adventure stories. One planet is Hawaii, another planet is Switzerland, and another is Arizona. In fact, these stories are actually set on Earth, an Earth in disguise, at a time when it takes many days to reach Hawaii, and where the inhabitants of Hawaii have blue skin. They’re not space stories at all.

In the end, I decided Buck Rodgers Cosmology was no less valid than the whole Faster-Than-Light-Without-Relativity conceit. It’s a storytelling device, and if the reader is willing to embrace it, then we can all get along.

The story I mentioned above also had big space battles that led to giant spaceships “listing to port” when they were badly damaged. I am far less forgiving of that phrase. The writer is drawing a parallel with modern sailing ships, but sinking boats list because of gravity. There’s too much water coming in on one side, and gravity tips the boat to that side. No gravity in space. No listing. No “port” even, though that could be defined in some sort of ridiculous three-dimensional fleet coordinate system.

I have read a great deal of space opera where opposing fleets of spaceships are all in the same plane.

The thing is, there’s another phrase for a stricken ship that’s more accurate and just as poignant. Stricken naval ships list, stricken spaceships tumble. It’s that simple. And tumbling makes rescue all the more difficult.

So I’ll give you the Buck Rodgers Cosmology, but I won’t give you stupid fleet mechanics. The former provides a storytelling shorthand, the latter is just wrong.

3

Attention YouTube Producers

Let’s say I want to watch a video to learn how to cut curved sections into paving stones. This is a natural thing to turn to YouTube for, since watching people using the tools communicates more than text ever could. While viewing a video with a promising title, here is a bunch of stuff I could do without. All these comments can be generalized to improve ALL YouTube How-To content. Because almost all of it is terrible. The best ones spend only about 1/3 the time on topic.

So! Stuff I DON’T want:

Content – Information I simply don’t need

  1. Why you pulled up your old pavers
  2. Why you decided to do the project yourself
  3. Other challenges of the project
  4. What the other parts of your patio will look like
  5. You only have to tell me about different-sized hammers once
  6. I did not just click a link about cutting stone to watch a man stand around talking and gesturing, even if it was the best-edited video in the bunch

Editing – Annoyances standing between me and what I want to know

  1. I don’t want to look at your leg while you cut interminably at the stone, just out of view.
  2. I don’t need to watch while you adjust the camera angle
  3. I don’t need to listen to you apologize for taking so long to get the camera angle right
  4. I don’t need to watch all five minutes of the cut in real time while the sound of the power tools screams through my speakers
  5. I don’t need to wait for the power tool to stop spinning before you speak again. (Except the one guy who made that a humorous moment.)

Quality – Sure would like to see what you’re doing there…

  1. The camera should not be six inches off the ground for most of the important parts
  2. Selfie stick is not as good as tripod; tripod is not as good as cameraman.
  3. Plan for loud noises or silences

Credibility – Are you serious?

  1. Stonework with large power tools while wearing flip-flops? Really?
  2. You’re really cutting stone that’s braced only by piling other stone on top of it?
  3. You just said “this probably won’t fit.” Why am I watching you again?
  4. While you mumble and fiddle, I’m finding another video.

Every damn second of a video about cutting curves in pavers should be about exactly that. That’s not to say you can’t have relevant side information — safety, tips for marking the curves to cut — but ultimately it’s not a video about you saving money by not calling a contractor. It’s a video about cutting curves in pavers. (Or it’s a video about breaking down a chicken. Or whatever.) Remember what you are teaching, and make your video 1/3 the length of your original “cut”. (Most aren’t cut at all.)

3

Ah, Football

Apparently Thursday is the day to start NFL preseason games. I’m at a bar writing unit tests for my new project, and I have these observations:

1) People care an awful lot about the outcomes of games in which guys on your team who will be cut before the season starts play against guys on the other team who will be cut before the season starts.

2) The perfect football moment. A guy made a good catch. To celebrate he spun the ball on the ground like a top. The refs then took a full minute to penalize him for delay of game.

3) I’ve mentioned before that were I coach, I’d not be playing to win at all; rather I’d be digging deep holes for the team to see how my players respond. It would be a giant gut-check the whole night, an undying series of do-or-die moments. It’s only fair to the guys on the bubble to have a chance to show who they really are when things get tough. That’s what preseason is for, right?

But football is on the TV’s here and that means summer is coming to an end. To be honest, I welcome the cooler weather, but it’s this time every year when I consider that I will only know a finite number of football seasons on this lovely-if-frustrating orb. The players are younger, the announcers are older, and another summer is coming to a close. I love summer; my emotions have not forgotten the magic of summer vacation.

In my heart, I’m still that kid; in my soul, I have gathered a lot of wisdom over the years. In my knee, there is a constant reminder that things are changing and will not change back.

And so football arrives again, my knee saying “see? I told you so.” Time does what time does. And the referees delay the game to penalize players for delaying the game.

2

Patio Life: California

I was looking for something cool and fizzy to sip on the patio this evening, and the Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas suggested a Gin and Tonic, with some fancy tonic already cold in the fridge. I’m not ordinarily a G&T kind of guy, but the idea fit conditions perfectly.

Then she said, “Ooo! You want a lime? I’ll go out and pick you a lime.”

 

1

Attention White House Staff: There’s a Grownup in Charge Now

Image stolen from cnn article linked below.

The Mooch made history by lasting just over a week in the White House. There are people who theorize that he was hired just to get Reince Priebus to resign, much the way a baseball manager will bring in a relief pitcher to face only one batter. Honestly, I don’t think Trump is engaged enough to come up with anything that clever.

Trump broke his own record this month for playing golf. For Trump, the best outcome for his presidency is impeachment; he has no interest in governing and now his Russia boondoggles are starting to surface. Being president, he has already admitted, is way harder than he thought it would be. As the castle crumbles, he’s working on his putts.

If he’s impeached, he can blame Washington insiders for his failure. He can go home early and rant and rave about how the system was rigged against him. If instead the electorate votes overwhelmingly for “not Trump”, it’s a tougher lie to tell.

But here comes John Kelly. Kelly had hardly finished accepting the job when he burned rubber to Anthony Scaramucci’s office to give him the heave-ho. That was a message to the rest of the staff, and it was a message to you and me. Guys with so little self-control that they make insane, profanity-laced rants about their co-workers (the word “cocaine” whispers across my mind once again) will not be tolerated. Well, one of them will, but no others.

Kelly comes from Homeland Security, which means he hates freedom. Your freedom, my freedom. Homeland Security is designed to curtail freedom. But you know what? He’s better than Trump. He’s a grown-up. (He probably also isn’t pals with one of the greatest enemies of our state.) Also, he’s better than Pence — as far as I know so far. So if Trump hits the links and leaves Kelly in charge, that might actually be a good thing in the short term.

In the long term, the harder Trump falls the longer it will take for the WWE Party to recover. It’s enticing, but this is my country we’re talking about. It would be nice if someone rational were in charge.

1

Funkin Serial Fiction

So it comes down to this: out in chapter thirty-something things really fall into place if chapter one included one extra act of violence.

My advice to serial writers: When blood spills, go ahead an kill an extra person when you can. That corpse might come in handy later.