Friday, July 09, 2010

Advice to New Writers - plus interesting films & science

Storytelling is the only verified form of magic: to form incantations in the reader’s mind, to have them envision imaginary worlds, feel profound emotions, or experience new thoughts. David Brin encapsulates advice for aspiring writers in this Youtube video -- for how they can take the first steps toward becoming successful authors.

I just rented SLEEP DEALER, directed by Alex Rivera, a charming, clever and well-crafted little film - almost entirely in Spanish but with good subtitles - set in a near future when the “migrant” labor force stays in Mexico but jacks in to control robotic waldo-drones on US construction sites and in American agricultural fields. One could quibble about this and that -- e.g. the American military’s rules of civilian protection - but none of that detracts from a lovely story, and the first really good science fiction film I’ve seen that takes you cutlurally south.... opposed to east.  While you are at it, rent 2009: LOST MEMORIES, a Korean (yes that’s right) sci fi epic (3 hours) with very high production values, set in a parallel world where Japan retained its empire by siding with the US in WWII, with Koreans fighting for independence well into the 21st century. The premise: “a failed assassination attempt in Harbin, China in 1909 changes the course of history. Now two JBI agents must find the connections between it and an ancient Korean artifact.”  On the downside, like many eastern films, it is past-obsessed and a mystical carved stone is the mcGuffin, rather than forward-aimed technology. Most scenes proceed at a somewhat glacial pace, even the great big gunfights.  But that’s an education, too.

And now, from the pretty good to the sublimely ridiculous... see “Conan the Musical!” 

Do the metal coils in our mattresses focus or intensify FM & TV radio waves>  Does this explain the lower incidence of melanoma and breast cancer in Japan, where such mattresses are rare? 

I have long championed Resilience as an important, under-rated theme.  Now see how brittle our defense establishment may be, thanks to over-reliance on a particular brand of software. An example of scooting way out on a limb and then sawing it off.

Another calamitous case of resource mismanagement and ripping off future generations... frittering away our helium.

A lithium-ion battery with a positive electrode made of carbon nanotubes delivers 10 times more power than a conventional battery and can store five times more energy than a conventional ultracapacitor. 

In the last 500 years there has been a cataclysmic 'Great Event' of international significance at the start of each century.

”In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of Wittenburg church, sparking the Reformation of the church and rise of Protestantism.
   1618 marked the start of the 30 Years War and decades of religious conflict in Western Europe
   That conflict ended with the establishment of the Hanoverians in 1715. They ruled over Great Britain and Ireland, and Hanover (in Germany).
   The Congress of Vienna took place in 1815, following the defeat of Napoleon, and heralded a century of relative stability across Europe.
   In 1914 the First World War broke out, a catastrophic conflict that would claim millions of lives and set the tone for international discord throughout the 21st century.”

Sure, well, it feels a bit creepy.  Still, um, the Hanoverian dynasty one is really a reach... even downright silly.

But here’s an eek.  plain old eek.  I have to agree.  I don’t share genes with these folks.


Tim H. said...

An "1859" level solar storm might remove the need for a human scew-up, wonder if EM damage would be worst on the sunward side of the planet? Failing that, a lot of China is looking fit to be described by Whitley Streiber, so something nasty wouldn't be a surprise. Africa and the mideast are too obvious, so think about what happens when our dear United States finds out how shallow our defense really is. And about those genes, don't be so sure, human genetics are extremely disorderly.

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting the video! I'd never thought of my relationship with the reader in quite that way. Frankly, I'm a little nervous about implementing it! I'd hate to get carried away...

I really liked your idea of finding out where your pre-release readers could put down the story.

Also, thanks for mentioning Critters! I joined a couple of years ago, and I have to say that I think I might get more out of offering critiques than I do of receiving them. I'm going to take your video's advice about accepting suggestions on how to fix problems to heart; my philosophy's never to offer suggestions during a critique; I don't think that's my place! It was good to see a writer as accomplished as you are advocating the same thing.

Anyway, thanks again for the video!

dieri -- a term of endearment used by a hit man.

Rob Perkins said...

That's some eek, there, David.

I've long said to people that if it turns out that "Evolution" is true, it makes the idea of a God who uses it to grow life more impressive, not less. God is Bigger, if Evolution is True.

Alas, people don't listen to me.

David Brin said...

It is the God of a universe nearly 14 BILLION years old, stretching across the vastness of a trillion trillion blazing stars. By comparison, a single planet, 6,000 years old, is singularly unimpressive. The revelations-junkies INSULT Him.

Dwight Williams said...

Indeed. If God exists, then that Deity is an Artist working on a scale that we're only just barely beginning to understand.

Ian said...

I suspect you could take nay decade of the past few centuries and find equally significant events.

1990's: Gulf War
1890's - Spanish American War
1790's - US constitution adopted
1690's -Glorious Revolution in England lays foundation for constitutional monarchy *well 1688, but that's near enough)
1590's - Toyotomi Hideyoshi re0united Japan ending the 150-odd years of civil war known as the Sengoku.

Funny too how all the world-changing events happen in Europe or North America.

So, for example, Tokugawa Ieyasu's defeat of Toyotmoi Hideyori's forces in the Siege of Osaka doesn't cut it as the world-changing event of the 1600's.

Nor does the overthrow of the Chinese Empire in 1912 cut it.

So, for example, Tokugawa

Dwight Williams said...


Ian said...

Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

David McCabe said...

He accidentally the whole island?

Ian said...

That's what happens when you post after three days without sleep.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

@Ian: Good point. Often, a lot of our assumptions about cultural evolution and what can be expected of a given nation and it's people are conditioned by an extremely Eurocentric bias to our understanding of history. Huge, horrible, world-shaking events have taken place in Asia that aren't even hinted at in a typical American textbook. While the civil war was raging in America, a conflagration that ultimately killed TEN TIMES as many people was burning in China, the Taiping Rebellion, led by a renegade prophet who, believing himself to be the "younger brother of Jesus Christ" and declared himself emperor, was slaughtering millions on the other side of the world.

Yet I did not know of this unbelievable event until I read it in a history book in 2006- and I consider myself a guy with a pretty good grasp of history!

Suddenly, the reason Jiang Zemin panicked over Li Hongzhi and his Falun Gong movement becomes extremely clear. As does the fact that China's anti-cult crackdown coincided not with repression of orthodox religion, but an expansion of religious liberties (a decade ago, for instance, bookstores in China couldn't sell bibles. Today, not only can you buy a bible in any bookstore in Shanghai, but you can purchase endless translations of religious texts, from St. Augustine's Confessions and the Buddhist Sutras to "The Purpose-Driven Life" and the works of Oprah-guru Eckhart Tolle. Orthodox faiths have grown by the millions.)

This is just one random example, but it goes to show that there are huge, huge blind spots in our western grasp of history. Japan, India, China, Russia, the Iranians (after ancient times), the Turks... their epic and world-shaping histories are all too often off our radar. And these give us a great insight into how contemporary members of ancient civilizations handle themselves- in politics, in business, and in life in general. The memories of citizens of old civilizations are very, very long.

Tom Crowl said...

Two things come to mind...

First point:
That eek video is a bit frightening...

Especially when you consider that our advertisers and mainstream media generally, as well as our politicians of both parties love to use appeals that are deliberately aimed at (and prefer) an audience with that level of reasoning ability.

And Second, on the Great Events question: I believe you may have already nailed it on the big event of the 21st Century: the Helvetian War.

Of course, how that plays out may depend on the citizenry we have as reflected by my first point.

David Brin said...

Tokugawa is endlessly fascinating and Americans should know about him and also Hideoshi and Meiji, the three most seminal geniuses in Japan's history.

Read Clavell's novel SHOGUN or watch the miniseries. "Toronaga" is Tokugawa.

But as far as the world is concerned, the fall of Imperial China in 1912 was very close to 1914 and Europe's fall.

But yes, In 1948 we saw NATO and establishment of Pax Americana. 1848 was filled with hope-filled revolutions in Europe that ALMOST toppled old repressive regimes everywhere. 1740s War of Austrian succession was pretty big. 1640s English civil war and so on

Yes, I'd prefer - as traumatic events go for the 2014 era - the Helvetian war... for what it would imply about a revolutionary awakening of citizen power.

Anonymous said...

This is just one random example, but it goes to show that there are huge, huge blind spots in our western grasp of history.

I've known about the Taiping for years, and I don't think I'm that well-informed about history.

Not all western educational systems are so focused on their own country as the American system…

Lorraine said...

Yah it was Earth that provided enough bona fide magic for me to try on the perspective not just of a non-pacifist but an outright hawk as the gremper Hevletian War veteran with his three young proteges was the character I most identified with as he seemed to be about my age (born mid-1960's?). Somehow Brin came up with a casus belli even I can rally around. For better or for worse.

David Brin said...

Well, in The Transparent Society I tried for the equivalent, in that war, that COMMON SENSE played in 1776.

Taiping? RIGHT! That made 1848-1850 really tumultuous. Mid centrury ain't easy either.

David McCabe said...

Energy Secretary Steven Chu continues to publish important science in his spare time.

Lorraine said...

I'm currently reading Transparent Society. I'm on page 129. I'm a slowish reader so it might take as long as another week. I'd call it incendiary for its time, which in itself is something.

Patricia Mathews said...

Earth - running the numbers, I think the old Helvetian War veteran was probably an Xer. The Boomers were Jen's age, and the economic collapse which would drive something as no-quarter as the Helvetian War (since it was over economic malpractice!)didn't start on OUR timeline until 2007. Looking back to the start of the economic boom, it's my guess that the earliest it could have happened was roughly 2000.

Just my $0.02

P.S. - if you want a generational run on Earth, which is really, really easy to do -

Jen - Boomer.
Stanley; The old vet - GenX.
George Hutton - Millenial
Theresa & contemporaries - either very late Millenial or early New Silent; I'm going to go with them being Millies, just because they act like the ones I go to school with.
Alex - decidedly New Silent.

The three harmless young delinquents and Claire - they act like very late wave New Silents (and as an Old Silent, that's a personality type I know full well.) But since the kids seem to define themselves by their *religions* - NoraChuGa, Ra Boys, etc, I'd have to go with the mid-21st century equivalent of Boomers. Which -to jump universes shamelessly - makes them contemporary with Heinlein's Man from Mars! (Oh, what a crossover fic I could write there.)

Lorraine said...

If I get the gist of what you're saying, the time window has already elapsed for Generation X to be fighting WWIII, so perhaps the Earth drama plays out around 2070? Transparency itself as cause worth fighting for, does that seem Generation X?

Of course there will still be non-retired boomers in 2038. And my prediction is that during my 70's (late 30's early 40's) the hit TV show will be called 'eightysomething.'

The Helvetian Wars will come. Every weekend I watch golf on TV. The golfomercials are more and more about 'wealth management,' code for 'gaming the system.'