Archive for March 2017

The Takeaway   Leave a comment

Jennifer Armentrout

Last weekend I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. As always, it was a splendid affair, full of other writers and readers eager to meet old friends, make new acquaintances, freshen up skills and even make a few pitches to agents and editors. I managed to do all of the above, and more.

Perhaps what influenced me the most was the above speaker – Jennifer Armentrout. She’s widely known as a Young Adult and New Adult writer, but one glance at her list of books reveals her prolific ability to write just about anything. Ms. Armentrout was the keynote speaker on Saturday, delivering one of the memorable speeches I’ve ever heard.

Jennifer Armentrout delivering the keynote speech at the LSFW Writers Conference

After listening to her, it wasn’t difficult to understand why she writes as much as she does. Sure, she loves her craft. Has a fantastic imagination. Can spin tales out of nothingness and make them live in universes not quite explored by others. But that’s not what hooked me. It’s what she does: take risks.

Anyone in a creative field has to either take risks or quit. It’s not a wimpy business for sissies, no way. Although there’s plenty of self-doubt to paint the Sistine Chapel over and again, one learns quickly that if one keeps that up, one’s going nowhere in the publishing world. Yeah, in drearier moods I count myself among the talentless and weak. And sure, who doesn’t need the occasional pat-on-the-back to be reminded that your prose is worth reading?

Jennifer won’t have it. She’s got books to write. Amazingly, she’s stuck with the same agent for her entire career, but she’s taken some incredible risks. Taken offers from publishers who might not have paid her what another would, but offered her greater freedom for her creativity. Not afraid to tackle a subject she knows little about. Maybe even try self-publishing and see what happens. At any rate, she sits down in front of her computer and composes her works for eight hours every day. Sometimes more. But she has to. It’s part of her, to dream, to create, to write.

Perhaps the most powerful engine driving her is a simple matter of her health. At a routine eye exam, it was discovered  she has retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. It’s the gradual withdrawal of one’s ability to see. It’s a cruel disease. As it progresses, the peripheral vision fades, resulting in ever-increasing tunnel vision, until the curtains close forever. There is no cure. At the present time, her vision is still with her, although her peripheral vision is fading.

No one can predict when or how long her vision will last, but Jennifer isn’t waiting for the lights to dim forever. She’s got stories to tell. She’s not waiting for blindness to set in. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, nor does she expect anyone else to. So there she is, eight hours a day, writing like there’s no tomorrow, taking risks, and nothing will ever stop her.

It gave me a whole new perspective on not only writing, but life. We are put here on earth to succeed. If we don’t, we’ll fade. Why should I let anything hold me back from trying my very best to endure? Aren’t my words worth the risk?

Why, indeed?

Why I Write Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I’m going to a writers conference. I’m expecting the turnout to be a little low, mainly because of the awful weather we’ve been having.  Unless you’re planning to go skiing, two feet of snow with more expected tends to put people in a sour mood. That doesn’t mean the conference won’t be fantastic; it will. We have two huge NYT bestsellers as keynote speakers, a whole batch of editors and agents from big names will be taking pitches, fantastic workshops to take and panel discussions to watch, among other things. Besides, there’s going to be friends I hardly ever see in attendance too, so that means some serious catch-up time over a few, so we can discuss our works and lives.

I joined this well-respected group several years ago, under the influence of my sister Gwen. It’s called Liberty States Fiction Writers and it’s been around for longer than I care to admit. We’re in the process of making many changes, including the website, to accommodate our growing membership and genres represented. Most of our members are published, some by big names. There’s even New York Times bestselling novelists that are part of the team.

If anything, I’ve invested a lot of myself with LSFW, and in turn, they’ve given me the confidence to forge ahead, even when I’m sure I’m a failure. Even the most confident of writers need a bonk on the head occasionally, or a few words of encouragement at least, to get moving towards that computer and be creative. I never imagined I’d be able to write an entire book, and here I am well into the second.

Many writers I’m around are romance novelists. They’re all great at it. Come up with real tear-jerkers and tales of sorrowful gladness. Stories range from no-holds-barred sentimentality to BSDM. That’s fine. Even LGBT romances are on the upswing – good news.  One of the best LGBT writers I know is a fine, humorous man and an excellent teacher whose lessons I apply to my work.

Me, though, I’ve never been one for sentimentality. You might even call me a cynic. True love didn’t conquer me. It led me down a golden path and kept me hidden, until it gave me the boot. I’ve never had much success with romance, so anything I’d write regarding that subject might sound dismal, hopeless and anything but happy. No Hollywood endings for me, no siree!

Instead, I found solace in situations that simply didn’t exist here on Earth or in our timeline. Sure, the characters might inhabit a strange world, but it’s my world, dammit, and if I want my characters to explore the possibilities of atomic substructures in subspace, so be it. Scientists quibbling over launch trajectories in equatorial locations seemed so much more interesting than, let’s say, getting flowers from a handsome fella. Not knowing what lies within that abandoned research facility on the moon and worse, who – or what – attacked it is definitely more intriguing than what dress the bride’s going to wear. Genetic mutations, nanoscience, coded machinations set to manipulate and govern sure beat the heck out of will she or won’t he.

That’s not to say my characters don’t believe in romance. They do, they engage in it and it doesn’t turn out well for them, either…but they find themselves working on scientific issues and dodging conventions while building worlds using insane technologies and writing sick codes. They don’t have time for flowers and chocolate. They get right down to business, then figure out how to beat the enemy at his/her own game.

They say you write about with what you’re familiar. To me, that’s sci-fi. It’s been my best friend since post-toddlerhood, has never let me down (although I’ve been disappointed a few times) and keeps me on the level. And creative.

So that’s my story. What’s yours?

Sci-Fi’s Biggest Stars   Leave a comment

King Kong

You hit on something big, you keep it going forever. That seems to be a cardinal rule when it comes to films, at least. So how many times is King Kong going to rampage over the world? As seen above, he was rightly pissed because he’d been forced off of his home, imprisoned within the bowels of a ship, thrown on stage in front of hundreds of gawking theatergoers, chased down by planes and for what? Only to die.

Yeah, sure, it was claimed that beauty killed the beast. He climbed up to the top of the Empire State Building to protect Ann Darrow. But wait a minute – wasn’t she offered as some kind of sacrifice to him on Skull Island? So that begs the question: why bother to rescue her now, if her only function was to use her as bait?

And here we are, back on Skull Island, in 2017, slinging it out with King Kong, his island mates and the interlopers. This time, it’s tough broad Mason Weaver, a pen-carrying, pistol-slinging journalist getting the scoop on the giants that rule this turf. About the only thing missing from this particular picture is…


…Godzilla, another creature who refuses to give up. He’s actually a great example of endurance, capable of destroying anything in his path, and just when you think he’s gone to the big lizard heaven in the sky, he shows up once more, wreaking havoc on society. There’s always a retinue of scientists battling it out with the military, each trying to figure out what’s best for the creature. Generally, it ends in someone’s demise, and quite often and a bit unfairly, it’s Godzilla.

That’s not to say he’s not resurrectable for even more mayhem and destruction. These two icons of animal magnetism slung it out in 1962.


“King Kong v. Gojira (Godzilla)” engaged in some ridiculous, improbable plot line (aren’t they all?) to wreak havoc, all for the sake of a pharmaceutical company’s gimmick.

But hold onto your hats…and if you can wait until 2020, there’s going to be a revisited rematch of these behemoths. Get ready, folks, for a match unknown, unseen and untested since 1962, this’ll be one for the books. Meanwhile, I invite you to watch this dubbed clip of the final fight from the 1962 edition.





Otherworldly   Leave a comment

trappist-7Trappist-1 System – NASA

By now, everyone’s heard the news – there’s seven new planets to consider in the universe. We’ve all read the headlines. Seven lovely orbs holding potential for life, only a mere 40 light years away! Why, that’s practically next door! And some of them hold the potential for life? Incredible.

While it’s nice to consider that we have an escape plan  to another world, it’s kind of unreasonable to expect to get to any one of these places anytime soon. Sure, we’re all expecting to hop on a space ship in the next couple of dozen years and arrive at planet du jour within a Einstein’s calculated period. And Lord knows that the folks behind Prometheus  practically guarantee travel to new Edens (although not without some pesky grey, hissing creatures with a penchant for sucking people’s innards and faces).

Are there wormholes to get us to these places quicker? Could be. Interstellar makes an excellent argument for that. If those wormholes do exist, the common folk won’t hear about them, at least not yet. Existing in theory and written about aplenty, I’ve no doubt these gateways to universal superhighways are around somewhere.

How then, is it possible to construct a vehicle to travel within the confines of a wormhole? Sure, we can throw a ship together – that’s the easy part. I’m wondering how a ship might be able to withstand whatever that wormhole throws at it – pressure gradients, temperature, forces binding the wormhole together. Or suppose the wormhole is a perpetual vortex that leads to nothingness? Once trapped inside, the travelers can’t break free and are subjected to extremes not even imagined?

Could there be different categories of wormholes? There must be. Just as there’s different types of highways, roads and streets, wormholes have characteristics. Some may be dead ends, short jaunts or long, winding roads. There could be ones that have celestial potholes, breaks, connect at junctions or turn back on themselves.

Suppose we do discover a wormhole in the neighborhood of Jupiter, as mentioned in Interstellar. Do we send our best and brightest through it just to see what happens? Do we travel to the unknown hoping to reap the benefits of what other places and methods of navigation can teach us? How do we steer our crafts, once caught in a wormhole if we don’t fully understand what they are in the first place? What is speculation and reality? Or will time trick us to believe there is a light at the end of the wormhole, only to find out we’re no longer able to function because of the forces of the universe bearing down on us? If we’re not able to return to Earth, what good is the journey to begin with?

Eventually, some intrepid group of astronauts will go forth to see what’s out there. We may never hear from them again. But they might find another system such as Trappist-1, and create a world that no citizen of Earth may ever be so fortunate to imagine.

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