Progress Report and Space History

MARE NUBIUM, my novel of lunar colonization and survival, is now 70,000 words long. I have six weeks left if I’m going to finish the thing by Halloween. I need to pick up the pace.

On the space history front, 45 years ago today — September 18, 1963 — the lifting body demonstrator “ASSET-1” (a precursor to the Space Shuttle) flew to an altitude of 35 miles at the Eastern Space & Missile Center. You can read about the ASSET program on this Air Force fact sheet or this Wikipedia page.

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The Wave-Particle Duality of Truth

Today on TED I watched a video of author Amy Tan talking about something near and dear to my writerly heart: creativity. Late in the presentation she made a comment about catching “particles of truth” as opposed to the whole truth, and I immediately thought of the wave-particle duality of light and wondered about truth: what wave-like versus particle-like characteristics does it present?

And of course I thought it would be great to write a science fiction story along the lines of “The Wave Theory of Truth.”* Of course, right now I don’t have any idea how I would begin such a tale, and I’d be much better served hammering the keyboard trying to build my novel. So I’ll have to leave this idea for another day. (C’est la vie.)

Anyway, aside from her slides being hard to read, you might enjoy Amy Tan’s TED talk.

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* Not to be confused with the odd (in my estimation) entries available on the web that include the phrase.

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Why I Write Stories

On my shelves are books by people at least tangentially related to me, but which I have never read. I’ve picked them up, thumbed through them, and put them back again more times than I can count.

The history of the Page family is interesting mostly for the plate in the front with the same coat of arms that’s engraved on my onyx tie tack (which may have been part of an official seal); the printed version is much more detailed than the signet, with the motto Spe Labor Levis (“With Hope, Labor Becomes Light”) proudly emblazoned on the scroll. I haven’t cared to read it because marriage and adoption make that family name about thrice-removed from me (that, and the fact that it’s 115 years old and not in great shape). In a similar way, the slender chemistry book is interesting primarily in establishing for me a link between nitric acid and the manufacture of explosives, but it’s not something I care to pore over. I feel certain my descendents and others further removed will feel the same way about my nonfiction, which I’ve tried to make timely but will never be timeless.

If I can write some decent stories, however — with lively, realistic characters facing difficult challenges — stories that speak clearly and perhaps powerfully, stories refined in the crucible of professional editing and publication — maybe they will be more than bookshelf curiosities. At this point in time that’s still an “if,” but I keep plugging along. And maybe as my body returns to the elements of the universe, someone can read my words and find some value in them.

That’s why I write stories.

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We All Believe in Magic … Or We Should

The article Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson (Psychology Today, Mar/Apr 2008) brought to mind my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress.” This passage from the article especially reminded me of Jelena Olenek, the Russian grandmother who is the main character of my story:

People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.

Jelena’s magic makes the mighty Russian rockets fly, but there is every possibility that her magic is only a personal delusion. From this magazine article, however, we may get the idea that Jelena is mentally healthier than her relatives who don’t believe in her magic or any magic.

“To be totally ‘unmagical’ is very unhealthy,” says Peter Brugger, head of neuropsychology at University Hospital Zurich.

“The Rocket Seamstress” was originally published in Zahir. It’s now available from Anthology Builder.

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