November is here. It sits insistent on my doorstep, ready to wake me from my warm weather slumber. It brings with it the chilly winds that beckon a December winter. The howling through the trees has already begun.
While many feel like winter is their chance to hibernate — their excuse to wake up late, go to bed early, and cuddle up with a blanket and veg out somewhere in between — I find winter to be a time of productivity. There’s something about a long night that calls to me, and the cold doesn’t add to my lethargy like the heat does. I’m just lucky life runs a temperature far enough above absolute zero for that to be the absolute truth.
So, as I sit down in my writing chair with my coffee, makeshift lap-desk perched across the arms, and Death Cab for Cutie playing in the background, I can’t help but wonder where Liv (my current protagonist) will take me next. I’ve finished what feels like the first act of her story, and it seems like there is much to do before we can get to the third. I’ve really only just scratched the surface with the initial twist, and now I’ve got to chisel into something a little deeper.
Exciting times lie ahead, dear reader — and I’m glad you’re there to share in my process.
(PS: Expect blog updates to get more frequent!)
Have you ever thought about how small the Earth is? Not just in the universe, but even in our own backyard.
If you took the space around Earth all the way out to our nearest star — Proxima Centauri (the closest place where another intelligent life form could possibly exist) — and compressed it to lay on the land mass of Earth, the entire Earth and every human on it would fit within the width of a hydrogen atom. The amount of space we’ve explored using humans (just past the moon due to orbiting it) would still fit in that hydrogen atom with room to spare. We’re small, and we’ve only been to a tiny piece of our local space.
But that’s why science fiction set in space truly excites me.
While much of my writing has been local (within the light year lifespan of a human), I’ve begun to think about something with a little more distance in the equation — offset of course by some fantastical technology that subverts the light speed barrier. Many of my favourite books have been set outside local space, and though I don’t look to copy them in any way I’d certainly like to join them. Writing fiction within the realm of possibility is great and all, but sometimes it’s fun to play outside the rules.
After all, I doubt we’ll ever go between A and B faster than 299,792,458m/s, but it’s fun sometimes to think that we could; that we might reach beyond our backyard and sample some of what the universe has to behold.
I bet a lot of it is beautiful.
I’m great at focusing on a single task. When zoned-in, I can chew out a vast amount of “work” for my time and not ever look up from whatever I’m grinding at. Back when I was in the gaming coverage business, this focus allowed me to chew through more posts, reviews, updates, and bits than anyone else. It was one of my strengths, and it always has been – even when I was in school.
But, tangentially, there’s another thing I can be quite good at: going left.
Going left is basically giving in to distractions. It’s a phrase that my mom uses frequently, and one I’ve adopted as well – in both name and action. While I can be incredibly focused, I can also be prone to large bouts of tangents either related to or not even remotely related to whatever I’m doing at the time. Curiosity killed the cat, and if I was dumb enough to let myself get into dangerous situations it’d probably kill me too. I feed my tangent-taking self like it’s nobody’s business, and sometimes awesome things happen because of it.
Like my short stories, both the ones I’ve put up and the ones I haven’t (yet).
Recently, I found myself sitting with something I’m writing and wondering where I would go next and how it would link up. Being that I couldn’t come up with anything right off the hop and was starting to bore myself in the monotony of waiting, I decided to simply start writing something else about my character and see where it went. Oddly enough, it went back, and ended up leading me to tell a story from behind the story.
You see, the main character in one of my current works-in-progress is someone who is in the position she’s in because of a past event. While that event is important as a piece of her past, the things that happen there – the details of it all – were immaterial to the story that’s playing out in the book. It’s one of those things where you simply had to know it happened, not every detail of it. It just wasn’t that kind of backstory, so I never thought about writing it until just recently.
Sitting down to punch out a random slice of my character’s life, I ended up illuminating the very event that set her on her current path. It wasn’t important to the main work in its entirety, and it didn’t need to be detailed in the book because of that, but it is a clear and informative window into who the character is, and it works well to introduce you to her world (or at least the world she was trained in) from a very different perspective.
Liv is a complex character, and soon you might know why. All because I keep flying away with side stories, and other poolside fashion faux-pas.
Sometimes, lines are absolute. In binary encoding, the line between a zero and a one is everything. There is no in-between, and there is no other answer. On one side of the line is a zero, and on the other is a one. No matter how far you go in either direction of the line, you’ll only ever get one solid result.
Sometimes, lines are drawn to separate degrees of something. On the intelligence quotient (IQ) scale of scoring, someone is average at 100 points. On the under-100 side of the line people are considered below average intelligence, and on the over-100 side they’re considered above average intelligence. That said, the further you get from 100 on either side, the more or less intelligent someone is considered to be.
(Yes, I know the IQ system is flawed – but it’s a good example of separation by degree.)
Taking that distinction into mind and looking at what makes someone human, we often consider the question an absolute. You’re either human, or you aren’t. The thing is, the distinction isn’t really that easy; we just trick ourselves into thinking it is.
Consider for a moment a psychopath – someone who only considers their own interest, and views other people as objects they can interact with to get what they want. Is a psychopath human? In a way, both yes and no. While a psychopath may identify as homo sapien, which is the Latin name we associate with the more commonly used “human,” we wouldn’t consider them human in the sense that they care for our species. They exhibit no real signs of humanity, which is a trait traditionally associated with the experience of being human.
Consider in reverse a theoretical “top tier” artificial intelligence. This would be a “being” that can take in information via digital senses, process and associate that information with the real world, and empathize and reason based on their sensory input and past experiences. While it wouldn’t be a human in its taxonomic designation, it would be in possession of a level of humanity that the psychopath (someone with the designation “human” but without the assigned traits) could never reach. In a sense, in an important and defining way, it would be more human than a confirmed human was.
So where would the line go, and what side would the AI be on?
Many would say that humanity doesn’t make a human, and would put the AI on the “no” side. Some, likely fewer, would insist that the AI is human – and maybe the psychopath isn’t. Neither would be wrong in having an argument either way, but the difference between the results is huge. A psychopath no longer afforded human rights, or an advanced AI that feels for itself and others being considered human would be a huge change for society.
But think about the beings caught in this distinction. For such a being, in a society like today’s, there would be quite an unfair line. The psychopath would have to be treated with respect and dignity, while the AI would – in the eyes of the law and the average citizen – be a thing to be bought and sold like property.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore that line? What side would you really be on – and to what degree?
It might not be the side that you started on…
I always dread endings, which is funny because I’ve been told that as a child I liked to skip to them. Books, movies, television shows; I would just skip to the conclusion and find that out before watching. Maybe even then I was wary of them, but just too stubborn to let them hang there at the end for me to dread the approach of down the line. You might even say I hate endings, which has made this month a rather fun one. Everything’s ending, and I’m sitting here digesting that.
So as I move past the end of Game of Thrones, the last episode of Batman origin story Gotham, the conclusion of awkward nerd comedy The Big Bang Theory, and the cinematic and true-to-form Western that was the Deadwood movie – not to mention books like Proxima/Ultima by Stephen Baxter, the Revolution Space series by Alastair Reynolds, and even John Perry and Jane Sagan’s story line through the first three books of the Old Man’s War series, I can’t help but feel like I’m being bombarded by things that are coming to an end far before I was ready for them to. And I can see down the road as well, to the in-hand copy of Triumphant (the final Genesis Fleet title from Jack Campbell), to the final seasons of Killjoys, Mr. Robot, Elementary, and more. I don’t like how everything I seem to enjoy is ending.
But I have hope.
Everything can’t always be the way we want it, or the way we need it to be. Things end, and that sucks – but the next big thing might be just around the corner. I can’t wait to see what the next Game of Thrones level experience will be on television, and what the next book/series is that sets its hooks as deep as Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham’s The Expanse series or Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Universe series did.
Who knows, if it’s in the book category maybe it’ll be written by me.
A man can dream, can’t he? 😉