The Story Thus Far

A long, long time ago, back when I was actually writing things on this blog, instead of just posting random cat pictures and promising to write things on this blog, I was working on a novel. This was so far back in the danky, drippy mists of time, even before the great Nanowrimo fiasco.[1] So, September, October, even. I had thrown out a few random links to news items and bits of weirdness that were jangling around in my head and generally being sticky with ideas for the novel-in-progress, refereed to cryptically on twitter as Novel # 3.

Well. Now that Nanowrimo is safely behind us, smoldering in the distance,[2] I can get back to focusing my short attention span on the proper novel that, truth be told, I’ve been fiddling with off and on since May. The fiddling is done, dear reader(s). The twangy Philip-Glassian warm up music has given way to a full blown orchestra (if John Williams directed an opera by The Ventures), harrumphing and blaring away in my brain. And it’s a doozy. And I will lay all its piece sout for you here, as they stand, partially to document the creative process I’ve developed since the previosu novel, but also as a self-evaluation tool, to see if any of the funny, silly, sticky bits that I think are so wonderful aren’t in fact total shit when I try to explain them to someone else.

Novel # 3’s proper title is: The Man From Planet X. I’m borrowing the title from a little-known sci-fi movie from 1951, about a visitor to Earth from a rogue planet who is mistaken by the military for a threat when in fact, he’s jus a curious visitor who looks funny. And so they kill him. The movie offers an atypical criticism of the cold war and red-baiting era, somethig most of the sci-fi movies of the period address in purly jingoistic terms. Well-scrubbed white American men beat the ever-loving shit out of those skinny, weird looking Martians, who all look alike and want to steal our women folk, whose sole purpose in the film is to scream while wearing a bra designed by a munitions manufacturer so that an entire generation of American kids grow up associating bullets and breasts in an unhealthy Pavlovian manner that confuses sexual urges with aggression. In this movie, the military is the bad guy, shooting first and asking questions never, to the detriment of humanity in general. Same as it ever was.

My novel actually has nothing at all to do with any of this. I just like the classic B-movie ring to it. No, that’s not true either.

The main character is Major Thomas Jones, USAF, pilot of Freedom 7-II, the last Mercury-era mission.[3] Major Tom launches into orbit in 1963. And disappears. Almost 50 years later, in 2012, he falls out of the sky and lands in Uzbekistan. Due to the fragile political climate of that hollow state, the US military can’t go in after him. So they send in Salome Anaconda Divine, a Biological agent for a futurist NGO called the Geranium Appreciation society (which is sort of like if Boing Boing and Greenpeace merged and were funded by Bono and Richard Branson). Salome gets herself captured by the cannibal warlord who has Major Tom in his castle in the toxic wasteland adjacent tot her Aral Sea. Hijinks ensue. And by Hijinks, I mean the rest of the story. You see, Major Tom doesn’t belong in this world. He’s the first ever documented time traveler. Untethered from causality, he’s fallen through time and space and is free to change the future. But first, he’s got to figure out the world of 21 C and his place in it. Salome is there to help. Complicating matters are a government bureaucracy, militant Transhumanists, a secret society, madmen, monsters and other escapees from various futures that never were.

So, Major Tom is the Man From Planet X. He’s come to visit and see what this world is like and try not to get himself killed in the process. Currently, he’s just met a charismatic Investment banker who decides to be his arch enemy and a stranger who knows who Tom is and where he is really from, eaten sushi for the first time and been offered a job saving the world.

And that’s the story thus far.

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1. Some may say that ‘fiasco’ is rather harsh, considering that the half-assed attempt to write a novel in 30 days is the point of Nanowrimo, but I barely go 8K words into it before the bottom fell out. So, yeah. Not exactly a high point on my own personal commitment scale. I had intended to use it as a short-form look into the creative process, documented on the blog for all the world and posterity to ogle at and be informed, or at least interested. So much for that idea.

2. I’m not really slagging on Nanowrimo. It was great fun, as it always is and is a wonderful exercise to get the creative process moving again. Working on that ill-conceived story gave me the perspective I needed to work out some of the thornier plot issues under which Novel # 3 had stalled. And that really is the point of Nanowrimo. It’s a boot to the butt of the muse.

3. In the real world, Freedom 7-II was canceled, it’s crew (Alan Shepherd) and funding transferred to the new Apollo program. This actually points to a larger part of the world I’m building in the story, and is a cross between a spoiler and an Easter Egg.

Happy Lunar Landing Day!

40 years ago today, humans landed on the Moon. Think about that over the next few days, while you wondering what to do with this world we inherited, that sometimes seems so broken and wrong. We can do extraordinary things if we decide we really want to. If we can put humans on the Moon, we can fix health care, and clean up the environment and maybe even set aside our superstitions and our fears and be nice to one another, just a little bit more often.

That Squid’s Been Looking At Me Funny All Day

I’m just dumping some reference images and links here so I know where they are. I’m busy gathering info and doing research for my next book.

The above image is by Bob Eggleton.
The Crystal Palace — The first big Exposition, celebrating advances in technology, industry and all that imperialism stuff. Very retrofuturist.

The Anthropocene — this is the age we’re in now, marked by a massive human footprint on the geological scale. The age of global warming and all its unintended monsters.

Kaiju!

A place named after its function Doesn’t get any more clear than that.

The Mundaneum: a steampunk Internet.

New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage!

And for real, not like California’s implicit, we’ll-have-to-go-the-whole-way-eventually-but-not-today kinda way. New Hampshire did it right and just laid it all out there, joining such bastions of saniy and modern living as Ohio Iowa* and the Sims 3 game. That’s right, an RPG has better civil rights than 9/10 of the the USA. Welcome to the 21st century. It’s a lot stranger than we were promised.

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*As Noz pointed out in coments, I had the wrong agrarian state in the middle of nowhere. But I’m sure Ohio will come to their senses soon, too.

California Legalizes Gay Marriage!

As John Scalzi points out, the California Supreme court’s decision today, recognizing Prop 8 as legit, effectively legalized gay marriage. All Prop 8 does now is put a (temporary) cap on the number of gay marriages that the state can preform (18,000 as of last November). The wording of the ruling explicitly states that those married couples are recognized under the law. This means all Californians have to do is repeal prop 8’s discriminatory language and California joins other sane, civilized places like Canada and Ohio.

Amazon Meets the FAIL Whale

So, this whole Amazonfail thing is pretty wacky. For those of you not emersed in the Internet, the short version goes like this: A bunch of LGBT/feminist and sex ed books listed on Amazon were reclasified as “adult” and omitted from the search rankings. This meant that if you did a subject search, you wouldn’t find Heather Has Two Mommies or It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments unless you did a title search. However, if you searched for” Girl Scout cookies” you’d also find recommendations for stripper costumes, wolf urine, and a vaginal speculum. Naturally, some people were a bit concerned. Others went apeshit, calling for Jeff Bezos’ head a stake. On Twitter, #amazonfail became the biggest thread and the one with the most up to date info, proving Twitter’s worth in tracking news in real time. Some said this was a coordinated effort by astroturfing Famly Values Mafia types trying to drag LGBT books down to Bantown. Amazon released some standard boilerplate about a glitch and then later released a statement saying that this was all, “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error.” I’ll say.*

Anyway, this is all still a brewing haha. I reccomend following the news as it unfolds on Making Light, who, as usual, have the most levelheaded comments and thoughtful analysis for all your Internet-related WTF needs.

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* Good to know it’s not just us little liberal arts schools with wacky cataloging errors and that the gods of the Catalog sometime shit on the big boys, too.

Fiddling With Code While the Matrix Burns

You may have heard that the Singularity is coming. Or maybe not. Either way, you should know that several people, some of them even smart, are all about the idea that humanity is on the verge of some unfathomable technological breakthrough, probably involving Artificial Intelligence, nano machines or both, that will irrevocably alter the path human history takes. There may be cake involved.

Continue reading “Fiddling With Code While the Matrix Burns”

But Hellboy Has a Kickass Health Care Package

When The Dark Knight came out, there were a few bloggers who saw an authoritarian/Conservative bent to the character. Similar things were said about Iron Man being a shill for the Military Industrial Complex and Superman as a tool of Jingoism. Pretty much any super hero movie gets parsed for liberal/conservative bias. And while there are any number of valid ways to interprit a story, looking at super heros throught he lens of poitics always irked me, but I couldn’t quite explain why.* Luckily, John August has given it some thought as well and explains the issue far better than I could:

Efforts to place TDK’s Batman on a real-world political spectrum are doomed. Sure, he’s tough on crime, but he’s also anti-gun. He holds himself outside the law, but destroys his own phone-tapping technology. Is he a Conservative? A Liberal?2 A Libertarian?

Nope, he’s just Batman. And as a comic book character, he’s allowed to hold simultaneous incompatible philosophies.

Exactly. Batman can be all these things because he is hyper-real. He’s not a citizen or a politician running for office, he’s a psychologically complex avatar, a stand in we can use to explore larger, slightly abstract concepts about Freedom, Free Will and Justice. If you saw The Dark Knight and all you saw was a Billionaire exercising his authoritarian impulses without restraint, then you were sitting way too close to the screen.

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* Also, Bruce Wayne, Billionaire Playboy would never vote. It’s out of character for the disinterested playboy persona. He can buy whatever freedom he needs, which is a decidedly Republican attitude, but one that would go completely unacted upon, outside of large donations to the popular DA who doesn’t relaly need the gesture. And Batman, while concerned about the plight of the pooor and the disenfranchized, wouldn’t bother pulling the Democrat lever, as he knows all polititians are crooked and fallible.So there.

Meanwhile, In The Universe Next Door…

John Quiggin at Crooked Timber brings to our attention this not-so startling study, showing that:

[…] since 1972, at least 90 per cent of the books that have been published disputing mainstream environmental science have been produced by rightwing thinktanks or authors affiliated with such thinktanks. Symmetrically, at least 90 per cent of the rightwing thinktanks in the study contributed to this literature.

John draws a parallel with Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Tlön. Which is just absurd.

In Borges’ story, a group of wealthy elites are trying to reshape the world by replacing all standard, observable knowledge with bizarre pseudoscience and quasi-religious platonic ideals. Obviously, such a group of individuals, were they to exist, would be a collection of the word’s most deluded, sociopathic assholes with delusions of grandeur. No such people could ever attain any level of power without quickly exposing themselves as frauds. q.e.d., as they say.

Though if Dick Chaney was secretly the Heresiarch of Uqbar, it would explains the man-sized safe in his office…