29 July 2013

The Big F ...or, whatever it takes to get your attention

Dear Blog Readers and associates,

It's no secret that I like to write. People who know me think my name is Writer. The flies on the wall see me writing almost every minute of my waking hours. That is, when I am not engaged in my so-called day job. And what is that day job, you may well ask? I teach writing. Ironic? That brings us full circle, doesn't it?

However, lately I have begun to notice the curse of writing. I tend to write too much! Case in point: this past weekend I cranked out 15,000 words to finish the draft of the third book in my sci-fi trilogy, THE DREAM LAND. Yes, you've heard it all before "...greatest interdimensional epic ever!" That weekend word count might be an all-time record for me.

In speaking about blog entries, however, I do tend to write too much. It is said that most readers of web pages typically scan the page in the shape of the letter F. (I do not expect my readers to believe me because I know they are appropriately skeptical of anything an obsessed fictioneer says, so here's one of many links: F-Shaped Pattern.) Readers read more closely the first paragraph, to see if they want or need to read more. (I wonder how this correlates to how college students read the required texts.) Then readers tend to scan down the left edge, picking up bullet lists, etc. If there is something else of interest, a bullet list representing quick and easy information, then they will slow down to read more, hence the second horizontal line of the F.

Have I gotten you to the second horizontal line of your F yet?

Probably not. I don't write that way.
I write as I was taught years ago, pre-computer, pre-web page. I save the most impactful information for the end, when I summarize my argument and present a conclusion. The essay format. That's what I teach--because that's what Academia wants students to learn: well-thought out, well-organized, argumentative writing--taught in the English course but for use mostly in every other course of the curriculum. Not personal web pages or Facebook, or Tumblr, or the 140 character Tweet.

Are we there yet? To that second horizontal line? (Did the red catch your eye?)

In my last blog post I waxed poetic on the exigencies of exoskeletons in everyday life, and especially so in science-fiction literature, to which I am adding my epic trilogy. (Let me put that in red to draw your attention to it.) Because of my tendency to write too much, I easily outpaced many dear readers. I thus ran out of space for including an excerpt on exoskeleton use from THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora". Fortunately, on my blog, I can do pretty much whatever the heck I want to do--even as I consider the limits of my readers' patience.

If you are ready for the second horizontal line of the F, here is that DREAM LAND III excerpt:

Chucker took the remote control and studied the buttons layout. He pressed the yellow circle at the top and the fuel cell taped in the small of the man’s back showed a yellow light and hummed. He pressed the other, smaller yellow buttons across the top and other parts of the exoskeleton came to life.
“It is aliiiiive,” said Chucker with a snort. “Let’s see if we can get you up on your feet.”
The joints moved smoothly with the power on and Chucker eased the man into a sitting position, the frame cradling his hips and supporting the back, firming automatically to hold him in that upright position. Chucker helped him turn his legs off the table, lowering them until one foot platform touched the concrete floor. The rest was done my remote control.
“Relax,” said Chucker, giddy with his success. “Let the machinery do the work. Trust it. It won’t drop you and you won’t stumble. I’ve seen it work. See, there’s a gyroscope in the unit that’s fixed to your back. But don’t resist the system or you could break some bones. Think of it as a robot that is walking you around and just enjoy the ride.”
A shadow fell on the floor.
“Excuse me,” said a voice not from the man in the exoskeleton.
Chucker froze. He was certain he had locked the door. He had. But a man had entered from the restroom side. He looked up.
“Sorry to bother you, but my boy....” The man was dressed as a tourist, and paused to wonder what was going on in the Education Center on a blustery October Saturday afternoon. “He really got to go and the restroom over at the African Market is out of order.”
Chucker saw a boy of six or seven hiding behind the man’s legs.
“Sure...aaa...go right ahead.”
Remain calm. They probably don’t have any concern for what you’re doing. They probably don’t know a serial killer has escaped his handlers and is hiding out with a madman from another world.
He heard the dad giving instructions to the boy, the words echoing back to him, and he thought of his own children, waiting so long for him to return, insistent as he was about completing this final mission.
“What’s that thing, mister?” asked the boy, proudly exiting the toilet, slow to hitch up his pants.
Chucker did not miss a beat as he stared at the man in the metal transport frame.
“It’s a robot. We’re getting ready for a carnival. Somebody is having a birthday party later and we are the entertainment.”
“That’s cool!” said the boy. “Does he do tricks?”
“Sure, he does.” Chucker pushed the right blue T-shaped button and the right arm swung from beside the body to a Heil Hitler salute and back down again. He pressed the left T-button and the left arm repeated the movement.

Too irreverent to the science? To a paralyzed man in a wheelchair being rescued/kidnapped via an exoskeleton? 

I'm sorry. No, I'm not.

I suppose I must simply accept my fate: Readers will rate this post an...

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

18 July 2013

Got your Exoskeleton yet?

Greetings and salutations, dear bloggers and bloggettes!

Today I welcome you to yet another lesson in "You're Writing Sci-Fi but the Amazing Things You Think Up Already Exist". This is often the conundrum modern sci-fi authors face. There is an on-going race to out-think the current scientific discoveries and applications, trying to stay amazing and fantastic and futuristic. I'll never give up, however!

Case in point: My novel THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" has a plot line whereby a quadriplegic man in a wheelchair is about to be kidnapped by his buddies who wish to save him from his life in a prison hospital. Fair enough. How to do that, however, may cause some pause. I admit I paused. (I'm the sort of writer who doesn't really think ahead too far; I write myself into corners all the time, then have to go think of a way out.)

Step 1: Isolate him. Get him away from his wife and child who accompany him. Get him away from the eyes of the two agents monitoring him from a short distance.

Step 2: Load him and his wheelchair in a van, drive away.

Seems simple enough, right?

Wrench 1: They are in a zoo on a Saturday afternoon, a small but steady crowd of visitors milling about.

Wrench 2: The gate you had sawed the lock off of has had a new lock put on [expletive]!

I think it still may be do-able. How about you?

Random Act 1: Pushing him up the slope from one section of the zoo to enter a different section, the wheelchair gets away and rolls backward down the slope, crashing into the wall around the sea lion pool and tossing our quadriplegic friend head over heels into the pool. (Did not see that coming!)

Random Act 2: Wheelchair is busted from crash into sea lion pool. How are we going to move him out of the zoo and into the waiting van? Furthermore, he's all wet--what to do?

Here's where the wonders of interdimensional travel come into play--as they always do in THE DREAM LAND Trilogy!

Voila! Our protege has special equipment: an exoskeleton. What is an exoskeleton? Any accessory which enables a person to exceed normal degrees of strength, speed, and agility. You can see an early prototype: the Man Amplifier. In larger configurations, an exoskeleton is like a robot but with a human inside. The exoskeleton fits around the person. You may have seen them used in a military context (See Avatar, etc.) where the man inside can "walk" and "fight" using the machinery's superior strength. I thought it would be so cool to use an exoskeleton to get their friend out of the zoo. I thought I was being innovative, forward-thinking, and damn clever.

(In the film AVATAR, they were called an Amp Suit.)
Currently, you can see a similar exoskeleton example in the film Pacific Rim. In it, two operators operate from within what are essentially large robots. Nice idea--but I had it first! A lot of video games also make use of exoskeletons--but I don't play those games so how could I get the idea from them? Is it a case of great minds thinking alike? Seriously?

Alas, my exoskeleton already exists! And not just in other sci-fi productions. It is already used for various medical applications. That was my thinking. Seriously, I thought of it first. I mean, I thought of it before discovering it already exists. Please let me have some credit for the idea. Please?

See how the exoskeleton supports the body and legs of a disabled person? Also works well as modern art, conversation piece, or silent companion.

They already tried to take away my comet crash! So I made my book about what people do, how they deal with the coming event--rather than about the event itself. If this sort of thing keeps up I may even need to change the titles! It's maddening to be a sci-fi author! Maddening, I tell you! Maaaaddennnning!

The only thing left is the humble realization that, if worn correctly, the exoskeleton will enhance not detract from a person's appearance. (Yes, it's a silly picture. Yes, I know it's sexist but the female version picture was all that I could find. I'm sure well-muscled males would also look good wearing an exoskeleton. They will be all the rage in a fashion season coming near you! I can prove this when THE DREAM LAND becomes a Graphic Novel!)

Book III "Diaspora" is coming in late 2013!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

07 July 2013

The Metaphysics of Pizza

It's really very simple. If you have sworn allegiance to an organization whose prime purpose is to change history, then you have to stay flexible.

You might have to do any number of things. Even change it back, or change it in a different way than originally done. You may have to stop your colleague from changing something. That may require violence. Are you prepared to be violent? Probably you will be asked to affect your violence in either the mantle of Chaos or Order. But not both. And almost certainly, you will be offered pizza.

The lesson here is whenever you sign up with a mercenary outfit, be sure it is one in which pizza is served.

Excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past" illustrates the sublime cosmological effects of pizza:

“It seems strange, Kanê,” Erutên-Vigasz spoke, sitting next to the Captain, “that we discuss who to kill over a meal of this round food. Is there meaning to your selection?”
The Captain grinned. “There is always meaning—to everything.” He motioned to the box on the floor at their feet. “See that box? It is square, suggesting conformity—rectangularity is hardly seen in nature—there is also restriction, limits. Yet, inside is the pizza: round, suggesting symmetry and order.”
Erutên nodded, thoughtfully.
“Why not put a square pizza in a square box?” the Captain continued. “Or a round pizza in a round box? The answer is simple: it is easier to make a square box than a round box. Folding cardboard leans to perpendicularity. To make a box one must work from the outer edges and fold inward. Conversely, it is easier to make a round pizza than a square pizza. The dough of the pizza begins from its center, a swirling ball of dough, then a disk that expands outward evenly as the creator whirls it around its axis. To then stretch out the disk, the circle, to fill the corners of a square pan or a square box requires unnatural action. It is natural, hence universal, for the roundness to remain.”
Others were now following the discussion.
“And yet, there, too, is a lesson to be learned! These forces, the squareness and roundness, are always working together and working against each other: chaos and order—one is always moving toward and becoming the other, constantly in flux, ever always changing, never fixed or satisfied, always seeking balance. Someday, while in flux, chaos will reach a point halfway to becoming order and at the exact same moment order will reach a point where it is halfway to becoming chaos, and both forces will swirl around each other and become one: neither order nor chaos, neither chaos nor order, but a singularity of multiplicity where all that ever was has been reduced to all that ever will be! Thus, all matter in the universe will become a microscopic dot too small for the smallest microbe to notice in the far corner of its jelly—so much smaller than the germ of a germ of a germ’s germ. And then, it could only be a mirror image and not an actual microbe—which would, of course, be contained in that germy dot—if all matter were compressed into the shape of a pizza, round not square.”

“I see,” sighed Erutên. “It is very cosmical, what you say. This world is—how you say?—interesting. I should like to learn more.”

THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past" . . . with or without pizza!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.