Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Two Basic Stories

I've thought about this for a long time when it comes to writing or fiction stories of any kind. And the movie Belfast reminded me of it. Here it is:

There are two basic types of stories in fiction. One is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Such as the people in Belfast living through the "Troubles" in the late 1960s. 

The other type is extraordinary people doing what for them is ordinary things. Think superheroes saving the world. 

Ordinary people doing ordinary things would be rather boring, I think. So you have to add extraordinary drama to their lives to make a story.

Extraordinary people doing ordinary things (such as going to work, taking kids to soccer practice) would also be boring. But them doing things that are for them ordinary (saving the world) is not boring.

And that's my theory of fiction writing.

What do you think? Am I nuts? Or do you agree. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

My Issues with Star Trek: Picard Season Two

Star Trek: Picard season two is over. It was fairly interesting and somewhat fun. But it had a lot of issues with Star Trek canon.

**Spoilers Follow**

One: Guinan didn't recognize Picard. I can understand if she were surprised to see him in the 21st century. But she first met him in San Francisco in 1898. This happens in "Time's Arrow Part II," the first episode of season seven of Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereafter ST:TNG). In "Time's Arrow Part I," she tells him that he has to go back in time to meet her.

Two: Our intrepid heroes travel back to 2024.  Everything looks a lot like our current 2022. But, according to the "Space Seed" episode of Star Trek (the original series), there were massive eugenics wars in the 1990s. Here's a bit of dialogue:

Kirk: "Name: Khan Noonien Singh."

Spock:  "From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world, from Asia through the Middle East." 

Kirk: "The last of the tyrants to be overthrown."

And from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan speaking: "...[T]he Enterprise picked up the Botany Bay, lost in space from the year 1996 with myself and the ship's company in cryogenic freeze?"

So there were eugenics wars that ended in 1996 and I doubt 2024 (less than 30 years later) everything would be hunky dory again and it would look anything like our world today. Yes, Soong pulled out a file marked "Project Khan" but that would move the eugenics wars to maybe 2030 instead of the 1990s. (This is also hinted at in the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.)

Three: Picard's older brother, Robert. In the ST:TNG episode "Family" (second of the fourth season), Picard goes to his family home in France and encounters his older brother, Robert. Yet in all the flashbacks to Picard's painful childhood, Robert is never around.

Four: Westley Crusher as a "traveler." In Star Trek: Nemesis, Westley is seen in a Star Fleet uniform at Riker and Troi's wedding. But in the ST:TNG episode "Journey's End," (Season seven, episode 20),  Westley did go off with the travelers. Which is why a lot of people were surprised to see him in Nemesis. So which is it, Star Trek?

Later I might talk about my problems with Strange New Worlds.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Strange New Worlds Episode One

I was going to wait until the end of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to comment on it. But I have a huge issue with the first episode so I'm going to discuss that here.

**Spoiler Alert**

In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time," Spock starts to experience the "Pon Farr." This is the once-every-seven-years mating period. It is strongly hinted here (and in other Star Trek canon) that Pon Farr is the only time Vulcans mate. 

Also, in "Amok Time," Spock explains that his marriage to T'Pring was arranged (I watched the episode on Paramount+ to confirm this). In that episode he says to Kirk and McCoy that the wedding was "By our parents arrangement when we were but seven years of age."

Yet, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, T'Pring asks Spock to marry him (not have the marriage arranged) and they go off to celebrate by having sex. That is, mating. Like humans. Not Vulcans. (The sex is interrupted before it gets started by Captain Pike calling.)

I haven't seen today's episode yet, so I have no comment on it.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Semi-Autonomous Cars... What Would I Do?

Tesla Model S
I've been thinking about a new car because my current auto will be nine years old in December. Next year around this time, I'll probably be seriously looking. 

I've already ruled out Tesla because their longest range model (Model S) can't handle the distances I regularly drive. Yes, the EPA range is 405 miles, which would be plenty. But I've read that EPA range is like EPA mileage figures: your range may vary. And if it's too hot or too cold your range will drop. And if you run the air conditioning or the heat, that drops your range more than it would in an internal combustion vehicle. And Car and Driver (my bible for all things automotive) says they only got 281 miles out of a Tesla. Which isn't enough. There is coming the Lucid Air Dream Edition with has an EPA range of 501 miles. That might be enough but it costs nearly $170,000!

Teslas are expensive, too!

While I was researching Teslas, I looked at their "Fully Self-Driving Capability" (which they currently charge $12,000 for). That means on highways and interstates, the car pretty much drives itself. But Tesla makes clear that the driver has to pay attention and have at least one hand on the wheel. It's website says:

The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. 

This is, to me, the worst of both worlds. You aren't driving, but you can't do anything else (look at your phone, read, etc.). To me it would be mind-numbingly boring. I'd rather be driving. You can't even really sightsee because... you have to pay attention as if you're driving. 

So what's the point? I guess I'll wait until I can read or look at my phone or sightsee before I buy an autonomous car.

However, I was driving home from Spokane late one night and I was kind of wishing for a semi-autonomous car to help. I was very tired and found myself wandering in my lane. An autonomous car wouldn't do that, I assume. So perhaps they have their place.

How do you feel about autonomous cars? Are you looking forward to them or do you dread them? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Swimming with Manta Rays

I can't believe I've never posted about this before.

I have been, for years, fascinated by manta rays. I think they are beautiful animals as they gracefully "fly" through the ocean. And they are huge. 

So, I was at this meeting about politics in Washington State a long time ago (when I was in the corporate world). The meeting was put on by a business association. And every year they gave away two tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. I sat at a table after a break and all these attractive women sat at the same table. I felt kind of lucky. Then they did the drawing for the airline tickets. And I literally said, "I never win these things." Then they called my number. I had won the tickets.

My wife and I decided to go to Kona, Hawaii with the free tickets. We'd never been there. So I made hotel reservations and rental car reservations and we went to Kona.

I'd heard about people scuba diving or snorkeling with manta rays. What they do it they go at night and shine bright lights up from the bottom of the ocean and that attracts plankton and the plankton attract manta rays.

So I was talking to the activities person at the hotel and told her I'd like to go snorkeling with manta rays. And she set it up for me (it cost money, of course).

We went at sunset on a boat that went out from the harbor a ways but not very far. Once we got there, they gave us snorkeling masks and pool noodles. The noodles were to go under our ankles to keep our feet from hitting the manta rays. Apparently they have delicate skin.

The mantas that came were small. Nothing like the one in the picture above. But they swam around under us, scooping up plankton with their large mouths. And I loved every second of it. They are such majestic fish. So graceful. I still treasure that memory.

Have you had any experiences you treasure? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Radio Interview

Today at 4PM EDT (1PM PDT), I will be interviewed on Books & Entertainment. I'll be reading a short excerpt from SMUGGLES OF MARS. Tune in! It's going to be fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

I'm All Screwed Up

My brain is amazing. Or it was when I was younger. I can remember things in detail from my childhood. I used to be able to read something once and know most of its salient points. Made studying real easy.

In the 1990s I wrote Rock Killer. It has 74 "speaking" characters. I never wrote anything down, I never had to have a "book bible." I kept it all in my head.

Now I'm writing a novel with 34 speaking characters. I had to make a list of every character, job, title, etc. to keep me straight. And I keep finding continuity errors as I edit it.

But my brain is also screwed up. I know I'm bipolar. Technically, I'm type-2 bipolar with dysthymia, That means without meds I'm depressed most of the time but I have manic episodes.  

But I swear I'm also dyslexic, especially when it comes to numbers. I have to be very careful when doing math to make sure I use the correct numbers, especially if the numbers are complex. You tell me "286" and I'll write down "268." Dyslexia is also why I'm a poor speller and proofreader and a slow reader, I believe.

Also, I think I am a bit on the autism spectrum. Not a lot but when I get OCD on something, I really get OCD about it. When I was a kid, I think my spectrum-ness (is that a word?) was more pronounced. I knew I was smart and didn't fit in with other kids and I lived in my head most of the time (unless I could escape into television and later reading). As I got older, I strived to act more "normal" around others. And I think it worked. But I still have problems in social settings. I'm a strong introvert. I just fake it well.

How does your brain work? Are you happy with it? Let me know in the comments below.