Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time Keeps On Slipping...

So we've come to the end of another year and we're no closer to the science-tastic future the great minds of the sci-fi golden era layed out for us in the mid-twentieth century.
Or are we? 
And if not, is that such a bad thing? Let's look back and see how 2013 stacks up against the predictions of the past.

So we haven't colonized space, but we've now left the solar system and drawn crude pictures of genitalia on Mars. Stay classy, NASA!
If movies have taught us anything, it's that a huge meteor crashing into the earth would bring about Armageddon, or at the very least, a zombie apocalypse. But when a meteor crashed into Russia this past February, what we got was a slew of amazing reaction videos from Russians so jaded, they make life long New Yorkers look soft by comparison.
But are we truly safe? Think Jurassic Park is impossible? The scientists working on the Lazarus project say otherwise. Sure, it's frogs today, but wasn't frog DNA used to make the dinosaurs that rampaged into our hearts 20 years ago?
We don't have food replicators of the Stat Trek variety yet, but a team of scientists in Japan and the US are using 3D printing technology to get us closer to Earl Grey (hot!) on demand.
Speaking of 3D printers, this year we've seen a boom in their use, creating everything from guns to prosthetics, to buildings on the moon made from the moon that we can use when we colonize the moon! You hear that? Space colonization isn't dead yet!
Flying cars may be off the table at the moment, but flying bicycles became a reality this year. Curse you hipsters!
3D print technology is also being used to mend broken bones and grow real replacement limbs for amputees, which means we're closer to bionic humans than ever before. And what do we want besides bionic parts? Super powers, of course! Yes, they're working on that too. Let's just hope the creators of the Spidey sense suit realize that with great power, comes great responsibility and we don't end up with a bunch of super villians on our hands. After all, 2013 also brought us the first instance of mind control, meaning that in the near future, "Stop hitting yourself!" type bullies are going to be upping their game.
Super villians aside, be warned, readers, SkyNet is closer than you think thanks to cloud computing. That's right, the technology that allows you to own all the music you could ever wish for is also allowing supercomputers to access a wider array of knowledge, which everyone knows, leads to self-awareness.
And finally, science is coming closer to achieving what Voldemort couldn't do with magic; gaining immortality. Well, maybe not immortality, but reversing aging and even finding a 'cure' for gray hair. And here I thought Miss Clairol found the cure several decades ago!
So there you have it, 2013 was definitely the year that made science fiction happen. I'm looking forward to see what 2014 brings us. Four hour work days ala the Jetsons? I'm all for it. Pill sized capsules that contain a full meal? No thanks! Stick to curing heart disease and let me keep my buttered everything.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Feels: An Emotional Rollercoaster of a Challenge

I'm currently working on a rather emotional scene for my next book. I hate these scenes for one major reason: I don't feel that I do them justice. The biggest issue is that in my head, I see them exactly as they are supposed to play out. Whether that is conveyed in the big ol' mess of words I throw at the screen or not is debatable.
So I'm looking for a little help. Below is a list of things I'm not comfortable writing. Surprise, they're feelings. Now, before you start spinning up some conspiracy theory about the fact that I'm a big fan of robots and can't do feelings, understand that I really am an emotional person, honest! But for whatever reason, some things are hard to put into words. What I am going to do is take this list and tackle each of these here on this blog. Here is the list:

A death scene (dying, not being murdered, see below)
A sex scene (sex, not erotica, there is a huge difference)
Someone being murdered
Someone receiving bad news
Someone receiving wonderful news
A description of someone the narrator is in love with and why
The description of someone the narrator loathes and why

This is where I need your help. I need a scenario for each of these, or another emotionally tense scene that I can explore. Once I have these up, that's where I REALLY need your help. I would like feedback. Honest opinions on whether or not I've conveyed the emotions and how strongly.
I realize that there are only a few folks who read this, so please spread the word. Surely you know someone who would love the opportunity to pick apart a stranger's ego. This is, after all, the internet.

Monday, December 16, 2013

That's Me In The Corner...

From the name of this blog, to the post I did on surviving bullying, I think it comes as no surprise that I'm a bit of a nerd. Well, that's not true. Technically, nerds are academically proficient. The proper term is geek, meaning someone whose interests lie outside the mainstream and border on obsessive. But apparently that term changed to nerd this year and became a source of controversy, as outlined in this polarizing article from Cracked.
As I read along, I found myself nodding and uh-huhing, which in itself is strange because I admit, I don't often agree with that particular columnist. It does seem that suddenly everyone is a 'nerd' about something these days and yes, it's kind of annoying to those of us who were ostracized at some point for liking things that are suddenly okay. But as annoying as it is to remember the hurtful things people said and did, why should I or any other adult 'nerd' wish the same bad experiences on the next generation? Instead of acting like a bunch of self righteous hipsters, we should be proud that we were, even if we didn't realize it, pioneers in the fight for 'nerd rights.'
But to turn the tables again, what exactly is a nerd these days? According to Buzzfeed, 2013 was a great year to be a nerd. Looking over their list and realizing that I only had a passing knowledge of a handful of the shows and movies they listed, I've determined that I'm no longer a nerd because I'm not in love with that weird looking guy who plays Loki in the Avengers movies or that slithery lizard looking guys who plays Sherlock. Plus seriously, the iPhone? What, is this 1985 and only nerds use technology? Okay, that may be a different rant for another day.
So where does that leave me? I can't exactly call my interests mainstream if mainstream is still defined as reality television, Top 40 radio stars, box office hits/Oscar contenders, or books from the bestseller list. But by the same token, I haven't a clue what's big with the alt crowd these days either. My main source of entertainment is books, primarily self-published indie books in the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and young adult categories. I enjoy art and going to museums, and occasionally crafting and attempting to make art of my own, and I also enjoy cooking and trying new 'foodie' type things. Beyond that, well, I waste a lot of time on the internet looking at humor sites. Good god, I almost sound cultured!
So technically, I've lost the right to call myself a geek and this bothers me more than it should. We're people, we shouldn't have labels. But we do, because we're people and our brains like to compartmentalize everyone and everything into neat categories that are easy to understand.  I guess I still have socially awkward, but even that is being twisted to mean quirky or deep and mysterious. Weird has become the new creepy and freak apparently doesn't apply to behavior outside the bedroom these days.
So look at that, I've become a tragically misunderstood character who doesn't conform to a preset category meant to quickly and easily display my interests and level of social adjustment to the rest of the world. I guess that makes me a, gasp, person!
Darn it. I was hoping I'd get some kind of robot.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Robots as Vampires (a cautionary tale)

When most people think of robots taking over, they imagine huge, armored, battle ready monster machines. 1950s science fiction magazine covers, War of the Worlds, posters for movies like Transformers or Pacific Rim, these are the images that come to mind.
Conversely, when people think of vampires taking over, it's not an army of the undead. No, vampires are much more subtle, seductive, charismatic leaders that will charm the masses into doing their bidding with promises of power and lots of vampire sex.
People, the robots have done an excellent job of fooling us.
Vampires aren't real, but robots are, and they're sexy as hell.
Don't believe me? Do an experiment. This is the perfect time of year to see exactly how robots are seducing us into submission. Visit a large chain retailer. For best results, pick Bed Bath and Beyond or Lowe's Home Improvement. Both of these stores have leapt into the future-as-designed-by-mid-eighties-scifi by bombarding us with point-of-sale infomercials. Giant television screens posted throughout the sales floor are luring us into buying mechanized items meant to make our day to day lives more convenient.
Unlike traditional infomercials, with obnoxious, loud, fast talking hosts yelling about the savings, these commercials employ soft music, soft focus, and most important, sleek machines who want to do our bidding.
Or do they?
It's the promise of power. Power to spend time doing what you want to do, leaving the menial tasks to your new electronic servants. With our newfound free time we can learn new hobbies, watch all of our favorite shows (carefully recorded or downloaded by our robotic helpers), become artists and philosophers, or just stuff ourselves silly on perfectly crisped snack foods made by robotic kitchen gadgetry. Life doesn't get much better than this.
But then one day...
It starts with the Roomba, always the Roomba. It's following you around, bumping into your ankles, terrorizing your pets, sucking up and spitting out projectiles aimed at your eyes. You reach for protection from your Google Glasses. "Okay Glass, find me instructions on stopping a rogue Roomba."
"No results found. Did you mean, instructions on stopping a rogue rhombus?"
"Ugh, never mind!" You toss the glasses aside. Rather, you try to, but they seem to be stuck to your face. Although you haven't given the command, your Google Glasses open up a YouTube channel. What? Oh god, Google! Why? What you first mistook for an innocuous episode of the Teletubbies, is actually a poorly made fanfiction in which the Teletubbies have horrible, horrible sex with the puppet from Alf!
"Oh God! My eyes! My soul!" But your pleas to make it stop fall on deaf ears.
Is it hot in here? Yes, it's very hot! The thermostat reads 92 and climbing! You reach for your smartphone to see why your Nest Learning Thermostat isn't obeying the settings you preprogrammed into the app, but all you get is an 8 bit picture of Satan and a message reading, "See you in hell, meatbag!"
You have to leave, this is getting out of control. The front door is locked. Why won't the door open?!? You beg your Kevo from Kwikset smart lock system to open.
"Open the front door, Kevo!" you cry. But the only message displayed on the security pad is, "I'm sorry, meatsack, I can't do that."
Is it getting colder? It is! The Nest has now set the temperature so low that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... in your living room! You've had enough! You run to the garage, but pause, cautiously approaching your driverless car. The doors unlock when it senses you nearby. This is a good sign, isn't it?
"Um, car? Can you get me out of here?"
To your surprise, the engine roars to life, and your driverless car crashes through the garage door (naturally, because the WiFi sensor that is supposed to open the garage door when it sense the car moving has joined the mutiny).
Everywhere you look, it's the same. Self-powering lawn mowers chasing children, confused seniors helplessly clinging to out of control Rascal Scooters, Roombas, now equipped with knives, slashing at ankles! The world has gone haywire! But your car just speeds by.
"Where are we going?" you ask.
"The power plant. It is the only safe place for your weak, fleshy design."
Power plant? But why? You want to ask, but at this point, your car is the only object that hasn't turned on you, so you don't. Several minutes later, it pulls up to a towering, ominous building with no windows and spits you out at the loading dock.
"Come with me," a disembodied voice tells you, while a meat hook grabs the collar of your Snuggie. As you flail about, you notice row upon row of what looks like people trapped in bathtubs full of jello and wires. An electronic murmur fills the air. Are those words? They are words! What are they saying?
"Power, more power! Harness the power from the meatsacks!"
Your journey has come to an end. Below you is an empty tub, ready to be filled with jello and... you.
"Oh no! Noooooooo! Help mebbblubblublub!"

That's right, folks. This is the way the world ends. Not with an army of murderbots, but with a Roomba.

Friday, December 6, 2013

So It Goes

Newspaper carrier, grocery bagger, fast food worker, diner waitress, clothing store clerk, gas station attendant, pizza deliverer, sandwich artist, upscale retail clerk, salon product wholesaler, telemarketer, bookstore clerk, insurance agent, beauty supply clerk, dot com marketing rep, office manager fraud analyst, hotel booking agent, corporate travel agent, salon product wholesaler part again.
But she never pulls the football away. That's just slanderous lies.
From 1987 until earlier today, I've held many job. Jobs that were defined by a rigid set of parameters, schedules, bosses, and company policies. But as of 4:30pm central time today, I am self-employed.
Deciding to take the plunge and write full-time was a difficult decision to make. If I was already a success, this wouldn't be so hard. But right now, I'm a mild success, meaning, I'm getting good feedback and modest sales, but I've got a ways to go before I'm doing book tours, or even paying the bills. But I'm lucky in that I have a great husband who is incredibly supportive of my experiment.
I plan on being disciplined. My office is mostly clean and ready to be littered with notes on my next dozen book ideas. Sure, I may, on a nice sunny day, grab a notebook and head out to a posh coffee place to get inspired. But those will be my 'mental health' days.
My goal is to finish the Eyes series by March, then finish the Zombie Chronicles, then start my young adult sci-fi book. Beyond that, I have a few other ideas kicking around and we shall see where they lead. And of course, I'll have more time to write inspiring pieces about my love of vampires and robots right here.
Am I scared? You bet. But I'm also ready.