Category Archives: Science Fiction

Toning Down the Drama

“I’ve got a great story for you to write!” a friend pitched to me this past week. I won’t mention any names, but he knows who is. “It’s got overlapping government conspiracies, spaceships and lots of explosions, he continued, as he tried to sell me on his “fantastic” idea.

“I know I’ve used an explosion to start off at least one of the stories I’ve been working on,” I responded, trying to cool his jets, as I wanted to let him down easy. “But,” he begged, “You also like conspiracies.”

Yes, he had a point. I do like to periodically base a storyline on a conspiracy, but on a smaller, more subtle scale. I do like a good mystery and I suppose a conspiracy is just a mystery on a larger scale. In fact, I suppose, a conspiracy is a form of mystery, but is a mystery a type of conspiracy? To some extent I would think it can, indeed, work both ways.

But, my friend was talking about Area 51, in Nevada, in his vision of the story and brought in the higher echelons of the Pentagon, combining it with a full array of spaceships and aliens from neighboring planets around the galaxy. So, while I am somewhat familiar with the workings of the defense establishment, his plot for multi-level conspiracies sounded too large and too involving for me to attempt to tackle. The research, alone, would have wiped me out.

Despite his certainty and enthusiasm for his plot concept, it simply involved too many balls in the air for me, especially with two other stories I have on the front burners.

Then, there is the science fiction genre, which I’ve mentioned a few times that I have had trouble with. It is not the story development itself, I expressed to my friend, but the need to create – from head to toe – multiple races of aliens, along with descriptions of their spaceships, technologies and cultures. Despite his pleas, I still don’t think he understands how much time and effort needs to be dedicated to his 30-second idea proposal. I got the sense, though, that he was already envisioning his name in the movie credits.

Although it seemed like a futile attempt, with his head stuck in the lofty clouds of riches and fame, I tried to explain further to him that I prefer to keep my stories somewhat more grounded on earth. I prefer, I told him, to connect more with reality and everyday life. “There’s already so much to write about,” I intended to convey, “just talking about daily life and the plot twists it offers.”

After all, sometimes a good story is just down the street or in the backyard. These days, anyway, I have got more drama in my real life than I care to deal with and using writing can be a means to escape to a more serene world. I don’t need the excitement of high-velocity spaceships and grand galactic battles, like I did when I was a kid, I emphasized. Instead, I would rather write myself into a story of small-town America where character interaction drives the story and not explosions and hyper drive alien space ships.

 

The Future of the Past

Pluto

Several Fridays ago I mentioned my aborted attempts at writing science fiction, which I am reminded about with this week’s news that the photo-snapping New Horizons spacecraft has reached, and even passed, Pluto.

Back in the 70s, when I was in grade school, I remember studying the planets. We had already reached the moon with Apollo and had sharp, clear pictures of it. And, other than earth, of course, we didn’t have pictures yet of the other planets. But, we had some fairly accurate depictions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Pluto, however, was so far away and beyond even the most powerful telescopes available at the time that pictures of the then-“planet” were a bad guess. In fact, the diagram of planets that I had hanging in my bedroom showed Pluto to have surrealistic stone arches, similar those near Moab, Utah. And, who would have thought it would be binary and that such a small body would have moons. We didn’t have a clue.

Today, however, it feels as though we are living in a new age – a dramatically different age. In many ways, life today has surpassed our predictions and future perceptions from the 70s and 80s.

Digital photography, with this week’s flyby of Pluto, has brought home most of the larger bodies orbiting throughout our solar system. Notice that for Pluto’s sake, I didn’t use the word “planets.”

Short of “warp speed,” the velocity of space travel with New Horizons, according to NASA, has accelerated by eight fold since the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Pilotless drones have lowered the costs, increased the efficiencies and reduced the risk of going to war. Cell phones have revolutionized communications, allowing teenagers and, yes, even adults, to never have to hang up on each other. Alternative energies, such as solar power, have gained efficiencies greater than we imagined 40 years ago.

I recall watching episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation, where they used laptop computers about an inch thick that the show’s producers envisioned a couple of hundred or so years in the in space-flying future. It was amazing, I thought at the time, how small and thin computers could conceivably get. Of course, laptops now, barely two decades later are a quarter of an inch thick and have evolved, in many cases, into devises that easily fit into the palms of our hands.

The differences between now and 40 years ago are tremendous, which leads me to be overwhelmed as I attempt to predict the future 40 years and even just 20 years ahead.

So, what is next?