2019 Three Weeks To GO

Let’s See What’s Out Their.

Captain Picard (TNG: Encounter at Farpoint)

At the end of the year many people set resolutions and review all that has happened in the year. We see the new year as fundamentally different than the one before when, in every meaningful sense, it is not. 

Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.

Captain Picard (TNG: The Inner Light)

A yeah can begin at any point at all. So can a week. We don’t have to wait until January or Monday to begin the new diet, life plan, or exercise regime we can start now. In the western world we are approaching 2019 – other calendars are on other years and indeed start their years at different times.

If I was designing the calendar I think I would separate Christmas and New Year. I think March would be a far better place to start the year – as in fact it once was. Then the year would start when the weather had started to improve and maybe it would feel more like a new beginning. With our calendar we have Christmas and Boxing Day – then three normal days before new year. I know I am not the only one who finds this a bit weird.

This must be Thursday,’ said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. ‘I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

I am writing this on Thursday and it is a good excuse to use that quote because, oddly, I know what he means:
Monday is the start of the week.
Tuesday is the continuation and not very important.
Wednesday is midweek and the weekend is in sight.
Friday is the end of the week – just one more shift!
Saturday is a  day off and you can sleep in!
Sunday is a day off but you have to prepare for work and try to get to bed at a good time.
Thursday is just sort of there.

This year I am not making resolutions as I always fail. There are also two things, no I won’t be more specific, that I have not got around to that I have been meaning to do for a year. It is a bad habit of mine. If it is not on the to-list it doesn’t get done. Sometimes it doesn’t if it is on the to-do list but that is a separate problem.

The one thing I have managed to achieve this year is being consistent hear! There was a bit of a shaky start but for most of the year I have posted every week. And that is something I am pleased with. 

So what have you achieved this year? I hope it has been a good one. See you next week.

***
I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

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FLT, Universal Translators, Artificial Gravity, and My NaNoWriMo Experience

Spinning is so much cooler than not spinning. I’m the General I want it to spin”

General Hammond (Stargate SG-1 “200”)

When writing science fiction there are two basic types – hard and soft. I tend to be more drawn to soft science fiction. I love Star Trek with its transporters, shields, and the deflector dish which seems to solve so many problems.

Soft science fiction requires willing suspension of disbelief and everyone has a different threshold. The Star Trek transporter is something I am fine with – a star drive powered by mushrooms I am not.

Photo by Ashish Raj from Pexels

The funny thing is that while a transporter is impossible anyway I would find it weird if it could beam up a standing person and rematerialise them in a sitting position. To me that seems more impossible. Can you have degrees of impossible?

And speaking of the threshold of disbelief… Threshold is also an episode of Star Trek: Voyager – where we lean that travelling to infinite speed leads to being transformed into a salamander! And still more believable than a mushroom star-drive – well maybe.   

Hard science fiction is based around our current understanding of the universe. In some ways the limits of space exploration are down to budget more than possibilities. Think what NASA could do if they had the US defence budget. An example of hard science fiction is The Martian. Which in my opinion is one of the best films ever made. It was so refreshing to see a science fiction film with out a villain. I was literally on the edge of my seat for parts of it and I had to remind myself a couple of times that it wasn’t based on real events – that is how well done it was.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-and-white-robot-73910/

For my own writing I like to go for a balance between the two. I don’t want the vagueness of energy shields, not that they don’t look cool, but I do want FLT for what I want to write it is essential.

As well as FLT I feel the need for a universal translator. Without such a device the story becomes about the language. There are films and TV shows that have done that to good effect but I want to sidestep the issue. That said I want a plausible universal translator. It can only translate languages programmed into it. For races not previously contacted it might take hours, or even days, to be able to build up a translation. Perhaps the computers of us and the aliens could talk to each other and work out a way to  communicate.

For my writing FLT and a universal translator are essential – but what about artificial gravity?

https://www.pexels.com/photo/child-children-close-up-colorful-270949/

In film and television science fiction artificial gravity is often just there. It is not explained and is accepted as a science fiction staple. The reason is obvious simulating zero-g would be prohibitively expensive. 

A book doesn’t have that issue. In a book you can do anything. Except that you still have to think about the physics of the situation. And physics is not one of my strong suits. 

A good halfway house is to have your star ship, or space station spin. This creates the effect of gravity and, while not being quiet this simple, the writer can basically forget about it and get on with the story. 

However in writing for nanowrimo I still found that the physics of the situation confusing. My brother does understand these things but I can’t be calling him all the time. So I am wondering should I just give the ship artificial gravity and maybe inertial dampeners and have down with? I haven’t decided. Anyway here are seven things I learnt from doing nanowrimo.

One: Have a plan. I launched into this with out one of any kind of plan. As such a lot of what I have written may prove useless. Still 50,000 words have now been put together in a way not done before and that, if only to me, is worth something.

Two: Consider the merits of different types of narrative. This is connected to the first one. I wrote my novel in first person. My protagonist was a low ranked crewman. That was fine until I realised that there were important plot points that she would not know about. It seems the story would work a lot better in third person.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Three: Focus on the novel. I try and do too much most of the time. We all have so many calls on our time it is difficult to juggle them all. I left myself with a situation where the ending was rushed. Early days of NaNoWriMo had very few words written. Next time the words should come first and then the other things. The key? Smash through the target on days off so days in work, with greatly limited time, are easier to manage.

Four: Think of food. My diet is, in general, not great. That is a bigger problem that I need to deal with. For nanowrimo it has been worse as I have not wanted to take the time to cook. Next time I need to have a meal plan to stop this from being an issue. I have put on a bit of weight from this month.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/burrito-chicken-delicious-dinner-461198/

Five: Don’t neglect the body. Work obviously gets me out of the house but days off need to be considered too. It is all too easy to stay in for most of the day writing even if it is not going well. Staring at a blank screen is not going to help. Exercise is important. Yes the guy who can’t resist free cake, it happens at work sometimes, is telling you to be healthy!

Six: I don’t need to be linear.  One of the things I struggle with most in writing is bridging sections. Characters need to get from one place to another but you can’t put every detail i.e: being welcomed into someone’s home, removing shoes, coat and banal greetings for example. When dealing with nanowrimo if Chapter 4 isn’t coming together you can do Chapter 5 or 6 or any other part.     

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Seven: Relax. This is very much a ‘do as I say not as I do’ situation. At the end of the day Nanowrimo is about you and you alone. And if you don’t get the words it is not a huge deal. If you are anything like me though you probably feel as pressured by internal deadlines as you would by external ones. So if life gets in the way, or the words aren’t flowing, don’t worry about it. Take some time to relax. Even if you only get 10,000 words that is still an amazing achievement.

So how did your November go? Were you stressing about something too? For December I am going to do more writing but with a much more manageable word count of around 20,000 words.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

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NaNoWriMo – Day 25

Just a quick post for today. The editor on WordPress has changed and now I don’t quite know how to use it! That is fun isn’t it? Like going to the supermarket and finding all the isles have been changed.

I am writing to the future again. By the time you are reading this I will have just got out of work and there is a high degree of probability I will be panicking – as tomorrow (from your perspective) is my last day off in Nano.

I am behind on the word count for Nano as I write so I think I should snap to it before I look even more like the lady in the picture. It doesn’t look like her novel is going well does it?

I have attempted to introduce real physics to my story. Unfortunately I know almost nothing about physics. I have a few science fiction elements, namely FLT and a universal translator – although it takes time to deal with new languages. However I want to have rotational gravity. Now I’m thinking it might just be easier to slap on some artificial gravity and inertial dampeners and forget about realism. I hope your Nano is going well. See you next week when it will all be over!

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

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Day 18 of NaNoWriMO

person holding black pen

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I like robots. It has been rare, in my limited experience, to see them properly employed in science fiction.

Star Trek doesn’t have robots. They show up very occasionally but are certainly not a regular thing.

Star Wars has lots of robots. Here the droids seem to be slaves. C3PO express signs of fear. So either he is sapient and really experiencing that emotion – or he was put together by a madman who wanted to make a non-sapient being that expressed fear. Like programming a Google home to speak in a quivering voice.

I didn’t even think as I wrote that sentence that we know who built C3PO – I guess it just shows my dislike of that plot point. Let’s not let this turn into a prequel bash or we will be here for a long time. (…or at least long enough to watch the Redlettermedia reviews.)

round robot vacuum

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The robots I want will be more like a robot vacuum cleaner than a Star Wars droid. They will of course be far more complex.

I have a robot vacuum cleaner but it always got stuck under the sofa. It can go in at the side but not the front so it was trapped until I could rescue it. This made it rather useless as I couldn’t just leave it to work while I was out. It would be nice if it could learn the room and so know where it could not go. Some models will even fall down the stairs as they can’t see a drop.

gray and gold steel gears

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When JMS created Babylon 5 he said: ‘No…cute robots.’ In the like vain I don’t want cute robots either. The robots perform a job on the ship but they are not going to rise up and say: ‘Destroy all humans.’ Nor are they going to seek to be human. Don’t get me wrong Data and Kryten is nothing bad but it is not a story I am interested in telling.

The robots in my story are non-sapient and do what they are told. They are no more slaves than your microwave or weighing scales.

This inclusion of lots of robots is advantageous as it means I can have a very small crew. I can therefore develop all the characters and set myself apart from inevitable comparisons to Star Trek.

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale

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Incidentally I remember seeing some scales once that said: ‘Hello’ as you turned them on. Would you want them to have AI? Imagine stepping on scales and a little voice saying: ‘Oh God get off me you fat twit.’ – well for some that might be sufficient motivation.

NaNoWriMO is going well. By the time you read this I will have just come to the end of a week off work so hopefully I will be well ahead of the target. (Future me: ‘Nope’) My novel is a rambling mess but at least I am not running out of things to say. (Future me: ‘I really am – I just have to push through.’

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

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Day 11 of NaNoWriMo

blue electric sparks

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I am writing into the future in two ways here. Preparing this post ahead of time and my science fiction novel.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge and it is supposed to be. There is no time for the dreaded writer’s block. At the moment I am thinking about the ordinary world of the story.

There doesn’t need to be some big war that will lead to humans being subjugated by Kang and Kodus. There doesn’t need to be some great conspiracy or evil politicians. It can just be a story of a new world. And world building is interesting if hard.

person holding terrestrial globe scale model taken

Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

I have a character and she is starting to have a voice in the story. I had some background for her before starting. And as time goes on a writer stars to know the character. A writer my write something and then backspace it because a little voice is telling them it is wrong. Alternatively an idea may arise from no where.

Those ideas can be fought but it is a futile manoeuvre. (Incorrect strategy, Number one.)

I think my character, Stephanie McKnight, is trying to tell me something about her relationship status. I wrote her a boyfriend but she seems to be saying that that is not the whole story. I just have this tiny voice in the back of my mind telling me I am wrong about that but I am not sure in what way.

woman wearing plaid button up sport shirt while holding black hood

Photo by Mariana on Pexels.com

Maybe she is in a poly relationship?

That does provide an interesting dynamic to the story. Science fiction has always been about exploring new possibilities.

I don’t hold to the Roddenberry idea that in the future we will be perfect. However I do think that we could reach a point of being less judgemental about other people’s choices.

I don’t what to get on a soapbox here so I will use a flippant example. I don’t understand people wanting to watch sports. In particular spending hundreds on a season ticket – that doesn’t mean that I am going to call for every stadium to be torn down. And it works both ways – some would ask why I spent £20 on a picture that an actor has scribbled their name on.

animal animal photography barbaric big

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

For now I just need to listen to my character. I’m sure she will revel her wants, desires, and the truth about her in time.

If you’re not a writer this might sound like nonsense. Why can’t a character be what you want? Isn’t a novelist God to the story?

In my experience that is not the case. Ideas come as if from nowhere and when they do the writer has to listen.

So if you are writing now take some time to listen. Are you sure that your character has a pet cat? Might they be a dog person? Are you sure they have a brother? Might it be a sister?

The list of potential questions is endless. Good luck with yours.

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

 

 

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Day 4 of NaNoWriMo

grey and orange spaceship

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4468 words in to NaNoWriMo and I think it is going okay. I just need to write myself into the story a little more.

It is funny to think that with writing sometimes you have to meander your way to the story. When it comes to the edit I imagine most of those 4468 words will go. However that is part of the point of this exercise to get the words down on the page – or on the screen.

And so far the words are falling from my fingers to the screen so so far I am pleased. I am nowhere near the hump. I do have a week off in a couple of weeks so that will be a chance for intensive writing.

european-rabbits-bunnies-grass-wildlife.jpg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The hardest part of NaNoWriMo is avoiding the rabbit warren of research. It is so easy to get sucked into irrelevant facts.

Even something as simple as picking the city a secondary character is from can take time.

One trick, and this is a ‘Do as I say not as I do.’ situation. Is to use codes. So put <>, (), {{, and so on instead of the name you don’t know. You can use find and replace later. Essential for NaNoWriMo. For me though I can’t help but being pulled to research. Some of it is essential. Writing may not be rocket science but my story is science fiction so some of it is.

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

 

 

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5…4…3…2…1 – Nanowrimo is Go!

bird flying zoo beak

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Five days to go before I embark on Nanorimo – don’t worry these blog posts will continue – I’ll need the distraction of doing something else as a stare at a blank page and try to fill it with ideas.

That bird to the left has nothing to do with anything – except that the title was taken from Thunderbirds.

Ideas are slow to arise in my brain at the moment but it is my hope that on that faithful Thursday when this all starts something will have arisen out of the emptiness of creativity. Failing that I will just write 50,000 words of back story and, in the words of Homer Simpson, it will just be a bunch of stuff that happened.

black android smartphone on top of white book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When it comes to world building there need to be limitations. If the Enterprise could beam through any atmosphere and through shield it would remove the drama from many a story.

Expanding to other universes there are other limitations. In Babylon 5 the jump engines need time to recharge. And we all know the issues the Millennium Falcon has with its hyperdrive. Having these problems is vital to telling a good story. If the heroes are two powerful then where is the challenge?

dscn0416_11670707_o For the type of science fiction stories I want to tell FLT will be vital. While a series set entirely in the Solar System might be interesting I don’t know the first thing about working out the physics of the situation.

And I don’t have time to get a degree in astrophysics to write the story. It will therefore have to be a soft science fiction and very soft at that.

The above picture is a firework. To my eyes it reminds me of a jump point from Babylon 5 – a sign that a ship is about to enter the star system. In designing my own idea for FLT this is the type of thing I wanted – but instead of hyperspace it is and instantaneous transit between star systems. The limitations is the accuracy of these portholes and the power needed to make them.

When it comes to word building I want to knew everything…

sky earth galaxy universe

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This includes the names and ranks of everyone aboard the ship depicted. I am very anal with this sort of stuff. This stuff is, probably, irrelevant most of the time. I still like to known though you know?

The reason for knowing was born out of the immune crewman idea in all of trek. Whether it is Spock, Data, Odo, The Doctor, or Phlox there is always someone aboard who can’t be effected by the threat of the week. So I figured if I knew the make up of the whole crew I would know which characters I could use.

And the porthole drive, for lack of a better name, came from a stupid place. In Star Trek the excuse for action is often ‘We are the closest starship.’ I hate that reasoning but that is a debate for another time. For me in order to be able to say that a ship was the closest I would need to know where every planet was in relation to every other.

sky space telescope universe

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Many years ago I did attempt to do that. I listed my fictional planets on a spreadsheet and started to make up co-ordinates. I even worked out a formula so I could plug in any two plants and get a distance between them.

Having a porthole drive sidesteps the issue nicely. All planets are as easy to get to as any other. Like in Stargate SG-1 as long as you know the stargate address it doesn’t matter where the other planet is.

books on bookshelves

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That is one thing I have learnt from writing. Sometimes research and background information is necessarily. There are other times when a writer can make their lives easier by doing the simple thing and sidestepping the issue completely.

Doing research can get you pulled into an internet rabbit warren of irrelevant information. So next time you are looking something up ask yourself: How much do I need to know? Ask yourself if you can make a small change and avoid spending your precious writing time trying to find a small nugget of information.

For example lets say the protagonist’s mother is dying of cancer. To accurately research the effects of cancer on the body would require a lot of time. However the important part, for the story, is how it effects the protagonist. So you could try being vague about the mother’s illness. The emotional punch is the same and you avoid the rabbit warren of doom.

I’ll see you next time for an update on the first four days of Nanorimo.

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

I have a Patreon page. I hope you will consider supporting this blog: https://www.patreon.com/unstableorbit

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