Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

20booksto50k writers

Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

Okay, so you gather 700+ Indie writers and media professionals.

Where ya gonna meet?

LAS VEGAS 2018

Every year the FB community called 20Booksto50K assembles at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino (the latter a Vegas requirement) for three days of meetings, lectures, and pep rallies about Independent Publishing (A.K.A., Indie). The minnows and the whales, all in one pool. (No sharks allowed. Tyler’s Space Marines blasted them in the parking lot. Oh, right. You don’t know about the Marine Detachment soon to be assigned to the Patrick Henry, do you? But I digress…)

And the amazing thing about this trip to Las Vegas was that slot machines were everywhere, but yours truly did not spend a Galactic Credit on gambling, even though I carried my Bank of Rahjen debit card, zipped inside the pocket of my yellow, M-double-I jumpsuit.

Indie giants

Indie giants like Conference Organizer Craig Martelle, mega-bestselling sci-fi authors Michael Anderle, M.D. Cooper, and seven hundred (700) more-or-less successful writers listened to presentations on how to write better and faster to get the books you love out of their heads and into your Kindles.

Let me confess—I was a skeptic. Good books take time, and some of the guys & galz are knocking them out by the dozen. (Question, sci-fi lovers: Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer at the bottom. No looking until I’m done talking, please.)*

And there are a lot of people writing a lot of books, as mentioned in my last blog. But I discovered it’s possible to deliver quality work to your readers much more efficiently, to find the sweet spot between craftsmanship and productivity. I’m not going to churn out novels like the “big guys” do, sometimes writing a book a month. But there are a lot of stories yet to tell in the Star Lawyers Universe, and I plan on making a conscious effort to get them into your hands as quickly as possible while maintaining the quality of work you like to read.

5-6 books per year

Optimally, that would be 5-6 books per year. That’s my target. Considering it took me two or three years to write one book in the past, it’s an optimistic, some would say whimsical attempt at trusting the muse and driving ahead. I know you will let me know if the pace is too fast and the story loses depth of characters, excitement of their struggles, or believable richness of alien cultures where Star Lawyers do their work.

So…here’s a tentative set of publication dates from now until Valentine’s Day. Keep me in your thoughts & prayers. Or cuss the fact that you have to wait until February for J.B.’s mission to the Ounta-Kadiis to save Bertie (Book 5, see below)—that works, too.

But know that I appreciate everyone who takes time from busy lives to fly with Tyler and the Star Lawyers Corp for a brief visit to their Universe. And besides… Arrested on an alien world? Who ya gonna call?

BULLETIN FOR STAR LAWYERS CREW

Works in Progress**

Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons

[ Release date: 3 December ]

Star Lawyers Origins – Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising

[ Release date: 1 January 2019 ]

Star Lawyers – Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy

[ Release date: 14 February 2019 ]

**All release dates are tentative targets.

See you out there in the Star Lawyers Universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

*Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer: Romance. (For real. Not even close. Look it up.)

A Few Thoughts about Space Pirates

Space Pirates

A Few Thoughts about Space Pirates

“Raise the Jolly Roger, an’ go to FTL, me hearties!”

Yeah, pirates in the movies are campy, stereotyped, and ridiculous. But will real space outlaws be out there some day, laying in wait for fat ships to board?

The word for today:  Avast, Ye Scurvy Dogs!”

(Teaching point from retired professor: Nobody spoke like that, except a few dozen Hollywood buccaneers in the 1950s.)

Professional Space Bandits

My introduction to professional space bandits was the low-budget, “comic science fiction” motion picture, The Ice Pirates (1980).  The opening scenes were provocative enough to make me eager for the plot to develop. Buccaneers in space ships, attacking ice freighters to steal the most valuable resource in the galaxy, dihydrogen oxide, a.k.a., water. Back in the 80s, most scientists thought water was a rare commodity, and our big blue marble, with three-fifths of its surface covered by oceans, marked a stunning exception to the rule. So, yeah. Steal the ice, It’s rare and hella valuable.

Ice is not rare

Except its not. In our solar system alone, outer planet gas giants have several large, cold moons orbiting them with vast amounts of water under the permanently frozen surface. “It is estimated that Europa has an outer layer of water around 100 km (62 mi) thick; a part frozen as its crust, and a part as a liquid ocean underneath the ice.” That would give Jupiter’s moon three times more water than all the oceans on earth combined.” And Saturn’s moon, Titan, plus even poor, demoted Pluto may have hidden oceans below. Turns out, water is plentiful throughout the Cosmos. There are vast clouds of it in distant galaxies.

Okay…that’s quibbling. The point is, the Ice Pirates concept quickly got shanghaied by terrible screenplay writing, which deteriorated from a potentially good story to a badly plotted farce that Mel Brooks would’ve rejected as neither funny nor adventurous.

Piracy in the Modern Era

The idea of piracy in a modern world resurfaced after the murderous, for-profit attacks on shipping by Somalian gunmen, called pirates by modern media. We say, “No! They are bad guys, not Johnny Depp trying to get drunk and/or laid and keep his captaincy against hordes of un-dead…” But despite its popularity, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise presents another series of farces that might’ve been better as a real buccaneering story with comic overtones but without the botched attempts at fantasy. And it never touches the criminal aspects of piracy and its toll on the innocent.

Pirates—true pirates—were not loveable rogues like Jack Sparrow. They were generally far worse than the thugs who board unarmed merchant ships off the horn of Africa to seize cargo and take prisoners for ransom; and they often acted despicably toward their captives.

I just finished reading Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. The Barbary Coast War in the opening decades of the 19th century happened because European powers were paying off North African privateers sailing under the authority of local rulers and attacking, enslaving, and robbing every nation who was not meeting their demands for annual tribute.

The USA was a new country and couldn’t afford the extortion, and when sailors and civilians were imprisoned in slave labor camps for years while the new democracy figured out what to do, the pirates kept up their reign of terror. Finally, peace-loving Thomas Jefferson was so fed up with the attacks on civilian shipping he bludgeoned the Congress to fund new ships and sent a small flotilla into the Mediterranean. The US Marine Corps Hymn celebrates their achievement in a single line of the opening stanza, “To the shores of Tripoli…”

Actual corsairs, not the Hollywood fantasy creatures, came in two basic types, which had nothing to do with how they treated prisoners.

  1. Privateers sailed with the blessings of some recognizable government, which chartered their maritime adventures against adversary nations and often allowed them to rape women passengers, pillage and plunder the ships, and enslave anyone on the vessel. They also took the captured ships as prizes of war, to be sold or converted into more attack ships.
  2. Pirates (a.k.a., buccaneers) were beholden to no one but themselves. They often had complex societies with codes of behavior and ruling councils. Believe it or not, they usually functioned democratically. This was because anybody who didn’t agree with the group decisions could (and did) jump ship and rejoin ordinary life, subject to recognition by non-pirates who promptly tried and hanged them when discovered. They were not happy-go-lucky, Captain Jack Sparrow-types. Nor were they forced to a life of piracy by tyrannous governments. They were rapacious, murdering thieves and were treated accordingly when apprehended by legitimate authorities.1

Piracy in the Future

So, assuming humans discover how to travel Faster Than Light and set up colony worlds and commerce with alien civilizations, will we find pirates or privateers lurking out there, awaiting a good payday by waylaying lightly defended merchant ships?

Of course not, some might say, it could never happen. When we go to the stars, people will be more enlightened, better self-disciplined, and disinterested in personal profit.

Unfortunately, humanity has proven to be remarkably resistant to peaceful ways. When inner city youth gangs defend their territory and earn profits through drug sales, armed robbery, and other extra-legal means, are they responding to the ancient drive within our species to “dominate or be dominated” as the motto of the old Parvian Republic says? (Star Lawyers, Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons, work in progress).

Pirates have plagued shipping on Earth since before the days of Julius Caesar. As a boy, Caesar was captured and held for ransom by Mediterranean pirates. The brigands were amused when young Julius told them that, when he was free, he would return and wipe them out to the last man. They weren’t laughing when he came back with a fleet and kept his promise.

While there were solitary corsairs, many organized themselves into groups whose efficiency at plunder fell somewhere between street gangs and the mafia. Their driving force wasn’t cruelty—although they often plied their trade with brutality and utter disregard for the well-being of their captives. It was personal profit. When the well-known bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he infamously replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Won’t the same be true when convoys carrying goods or passengers between star systems present an appealing target for men (or women) with fast ships and few scruples?

I assume the space pirates scenario is at least plausible, because it supports the main storyline in Star Lawyers – Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons. (Work in progress. Release target: Oct-Nov., 2018.) While writing the book, I am trying to create memorable characters with a bit of the “Avast ye scurvy dogs!” attitude without using those silly, stereotypical words. And I’m struggling to understand how organize gangs of thieves—like the Somalian pirates—view the world in which they ply their trade.

They do it because they’re bad people

It’s too easy to say, “They do it because they’re bad people.” Nobody is born a bad person, but some of us choose behaviors which can be objectively described as anti-social, even while participating in a sociopathic subculture (gangs, pirate crews, jihadists, the KKK) which is far from the mainstream and harmful to innocent bystanders. The question of what makes someone do “bad” things has yet to find a satisfactory answer. My books wrestle with the gray areas and even the “good guys” do things which result in harm to others.

I’ve never wanted to harm another person. I specifically volunteered to fly Medical Evacuation helicopters in Vietnam to avoid being the agent of death. Yet, when I was shot down on the Laotian border in 1971, I found myself on the Ho Chi Minh trail with a .38 revolver as my only weapon. There were several moments when I thought the “enemy” was coming and I pulled the pistol and realized, unlike Gandhi, I could kill in the “right” circumstances Fortunately, I never had to fire, and the American soldiers whose wounded I was trying to extract protected my crew and me until we could climb to a landing zone and get picked up by another Medevac helicopter.

The human family is full of heroes and predators

There are people who would never shoot, even to save their lives. And there are people who kill to gain wealth or personal power. The human family is full of heroes and predators. It is this mixed, contradictory consciousness we will one day take to the stars.

I am not certain there will be vast wars among alien races in which humans will find themselves targets and shooters. But I am certain that all the complex factors at play throughout our history on this planet will travel with us into the Cosmos. And I suspect other sentient races share this struggle between the angels and devils in their consciousness. It’s the price of free will.

So, dodge the pirates, touch down upon alien worlds, go forth among new species, and expect to be surprised. And remember to lock your parked starship.

For more about pirates and privateers, I recommend The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson. (No, it is NOT an economics textbook, just a crummy subtitle.)

Don’t forget your free copy of the Star Lawyers prequel short-story, “Knife-Fight at Olathe-5”, because the hapless asteroid miner, Bertie Winther, will reappear in House of the Silent Moons.

“Dr. Tom”

Tucson, AZ

28 August 2018

[1] The lone exception might be French hunters living on the tiny Caribbean island of Tortuga in the 1630s. The Spanish drove most French forces from the area and tried to evict the French-speaking Tortuga settlers by systematically killing off the island’s game animals. The settlers resorted to piracy to make a living.

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!

You can also learn more about me in the about section of this website.

A little Bio-Diversity, Please!

Bio-Diversity on Alien Worlds

A little Bio-Diversity, Please!

A blogger’s plea for complicated ecosystems, climate zones, and cultures on hab worlds. A little Bio-Diversity, Please!

The word for today: Bio-Diversity

Bio-Diversity in Sci-Fi

I love Star Wars, but Lucas went off the rails when designing the backdrop for the central action in the original three films (now 4, 5 & 6). Not counting the mechanical planetoid of the Death Star, we get the desert planet Tatooine, the ice planet Hoth, the Cloud City of eternally overcast Bespin, and the forest moon of Endor. The only earth-like planet of the original trilogy, Alderaan, appears briefly in the cross-hairs of the Death Star before foppish Governor Wilhuff Tarkin blows it to smithereens. To mix in a little Trek lingo, was this a message? “No M-class planets need apply!”

Studies of habitability suggest no “higher” (i.e., sentient) life forms could originate on any of the planets Lucas allows to coexist with the humanoid Death Star makers. Desert worlds lack the basic life ingredient, water. Ice planets might have water (unless it’s frozen CO2), but eternal winters are simply too cold for anything but lichens or fungi. And life evolving on planets requiring floating Cloud Cities—really? That’s like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969, hopping out of his spacecraft, and looking for the nearest Starbucks. (They weren’t founded until 1971. NASA still awaits the first Lunar drive-thru.) And although forest moons like Endor might evolve simple life and maybe animals, the habitat lacks seasonal variability, which challenges a developing species to increase its brain size and invent tools and technologies in other to survive. Ewoks used stone-age weapons. Effectively, yes. But still… you know… primitive.

Climate, Biology and Cultural Diversity

What can be said about climate and biology can be multiplied to the Nth degree about alien cultures. (I never understood the need for math-speak in that Nth business. Why not just say a helluva lot?) Let’s talk about why sci-fi aliens often sit on chairs, eat at tables, and have an alcoholic beverage after a hard day of planning to invade of humanity’s homeworld.

Look at the diversity of Earth cultures. (Caveat: Sweeping generalizations follow. Let’s stipulate that exceptions exist and continue, please.)

First example, bathroom facilities. In multiple Asian cultures, sit down toilets do not exist. People squat over floor-installed porcelain toilet bowls or some other aperture to do their business. They consider the Western habit of sitting on a toilet seat—especially one frequented by strangers—to be incredibly unsanitary, and they are right. I have seen Asians on US Military bases adapt to our sit-down latrines by mounting the toilet and squatting on the seat. For real.

In some Asian cultures people remove shoes at the door and sit on the floor. Mats or thick rugs are common. Low tables hold food and drink. Speaking of food, Sri Lankans eat with their fingers, even rice. (They got a spoon for me, because they are Buddhists and amazingly kindhearted.)

In my Series

House of the Silent Moons

An extreme example of cultural differences: Japanese traditionalists will sit seiza, like this excerpt from my work-in-progress, Star Lawyers Book 4 -House of the Silent Moons:

They slapped neural cuffs on Rodney and Suzie and led them at blaster-point onto the deck. After winding through corridors and up turbo-lifts, guards herded them into a suite marked 将軍. Not surprisingly to Suzie, those were the kanji for Shōgun. A fusuma, or sliding paper door, opened onto a large room in the traditional washitsu style. Straw composite tatami mats held low tables.

Hideki Tsuchiya sat at a table in the center of the room in the traditional seiza manner—legs folded under thighs, buttocks resting on the heels, ankles turned outward, hands folded modestly in his lap. Tsuchiya was flanked by four armed warriors, also resting at seiza, whose leather belts bore kinetic sidearms and traditional swords—long bladed katana and shorter wakizashi.

Tsuchiya chose only the long and short swords.

“Miss London, Lieutenant Rooney. Will you honor me with a moment of your time?” Tsuchiya said expressionlessly.

Rodney spoke first. “How about removing these shackles?”

Of course, I’m not suggesting this is how all Japanese live or sit to receive guests. They don’t wear swords or carry blasters, obviously. (It’s a novel, gimme a break!) However, the chasm between Asian and Western norms is deep and wide, even to the inexpressive remarks of their host, who does not want to lose face by showing emotion to an adversary.

If that kind of diversity exists on our home planet, what will it be like when we enter First Contact with a species like the blue Quirt-Thymeans in my novels, who eat six meals a day and fine you for skipping something trivial as Second Breakfast. Furthermore, QTs hold an annual ten-day religious festival of feasting and socializing, during which everybody is free to screw whomever he or she wants. (Yes, they are sexually compatible humanoids, albeit blue with slightly doggy-like ears.)

The Blue King Murders

Did you read that it’s a religious festival? “Impossible!” you say. “Religions are otherworldly and austere and favor sexual abstinence outside of marriage.” Ask your Hindu friends about the goddess Rati. Here’s an excerpt between J.B. Matthews and Parvati, the former holographic pleasure provider reprogrammed as the Patrick Henry’s Helmswoman, from Star Lawyers Book 3The Blue King Murders:

“This is so not like me. I was a Catholic monk, for God’s sake!” J.B. said.

“We have gods and goddess who exist to bring us sensuality. One is called Rati, the goddess of desire, lust, passion. And yes, love.”

J.B. shook his head. “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“Are you still a monk?”

He smiled sheepishly. “No.”

“Good, because I am no longer a whore.”

“Of course not. I’m glad. Sorry.”

Parvati laughed sweetly. “Jeremiah, in some matters, you are so very shy. I find that alluring.”

“I have no idea why.”

A classic cultural disconnect, and sometimes the differences bring more than a blush. For example, fundamentalist Muslims allow no images of the One God, or any artistic portrayals of humans or birds or animals in their Mosques or wider communities. In 2001 the Taliban destroyed the world’s two largest standing Buddhas, great artistic treasures of humanity. One of them was 165 feet (50 meters) high. They were blown up because graven images are offensive to the Divine. Islamists also have strict, one might say medieval, attitudes about controlling women and shunning literature and music which hints at sexuality.

Contrast that with the world’s oldest living religion, Hinduism. The Hindus have temples featuring carved images of their many, many deities, sometimes illustrating sexual positions of the Kamasutra in stone on those houses of worship. Sexuality is a religious path of which the Divine approves.

Can you imagine a scene in which two person from these radically different cultures—perhaps a Pakistani Muslim from Karachi and Indian Hindu from Mumbai—meet and discuss life in general? It practically writes itself.

The point is that many sci-fi writers are good students of culture and bio-diversity, but all of us need to be. Much good reference material is available online. And if you want to get serious about learning how cultures work, download or buy the CD of the “Great Courses” lecture series by David Livermore, “Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are.” Believe me, Dr. Livermore never realized how far away that “wherever” could be.

Write on, trust your gifts, and let the muse infuse you.

“Dr. Tom”

Tucson, AZ

14 August 2018

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!

You can also learn more about me in the about section of this website.

Disease from Alien Worlds? Living amongst the Stars

Alien Disease

Alien Disease

Dying of disease or indigestion under alien suns?

Blog about food, drink, and communicable disease in our journey to the stars.

The word for today is MEDICAL RESEARCH.

Admit it. You would love to swagger into a cantina on a distant world, amble to the bar, and order a big mug of Kelusian Cobalt Ale with a plate of deep-fried seafood and a side of sliced cheeses. Maybe a little Beriean bread, too. Those brown-crusted, blue-and-red baguettes taste like crunchy sourdough with a hint of salt. Yum.

And then your windpipe seizes up and you choke to death, because ale contains concentrated ethanol, and the flour for the bread comes from a local grain high in cyanide.

But don’t worry about missing the shuttle back to your ship in orbit. If you survive the toxins and poisons, you’ve already absorbed enough local pathogens—i.e., harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses—to kill you twenty times over, so you’d only contaminate your shipmates and spread death at whatever ports you next disembark.

How serious can the threat be? I mean, space-faring travelers in sci-fi movies pay almost no attention to the dangers of contracting and passing along killer, alien diseases, like the Andromeda Strain.

Decontamination after Space Flight

But actual astronauts have taken space bugs very seriously. One of the least likely places where life might exist, even in microbial form, has to be the airless, radiation-blasted surface of Earth’s moon. Here’s what happened in part when Neil Armstrong and his crew arrived home.

A half-hour after splashdown, a frogman in an isolation suit passed three isolation suits through the spacecraft hatch… The astronauts’ exhalations and the frogmen’s inhalations were filtered… The astronauts climbed into a rubber boat and were scrubbed down with an iodine solution by a frogman. The astronauts, in turn, scrubbed down the frogman. After the crew had been lifted into the helicopter, the Apollo spacecraft got a similar scrubbing. The isolation garments and the scrubbing were phases of the elaborate precautions against possible, but unlikely, contamination by lunar organisms. [NASA Mission Report.]

The Danger of an Alien Disease

Think about the implications of treading upon a world with a viable biosphere. If you doubt the real danger, consult history books about what killed off the Aztecs (mumps, measles and smallpox), Incas (smallpox), and the indigenous population of the Hawaiian Islands (venereal diseases, measles, chicken pox, polio and tuberculosis).

All were European diseases, although some scholars have speculated that syphilis originated among the in the New World and returned to Europe as a real form of Moctezuma’s revenge. Those theories have been called into question in recent studies, but the point is well taken—bad news travels both directions.

How will we deal with contagious diseases “out there” without cauterizing every biosphere and replanting among the ashes? My book Star Lawyers Book – Jump Gate Omega forecasts advanced biofilters and high-tech smart-meds to prevent disease, plus the ability to enhance human immune systems to ward of alien pathogens.

Disease prevention in Space Ships

For the microbe threat, the Sioux City had a first-class set of bio-filters primed to destroy any contaminant lifeforms tracked inside the ship. That plus one good decon shower on the way home and he would be bug-free. Any danger to the local biosphere was also negligible, because onboard scrubbers killed all microbial and viral lifeforms on his clothes and body as he exited the ship. Well, that was the theory, anyway.

My contribution to the future of deep space settlement—which some scientists and ethicists say should not even be attempted, due to risks to alien biospheres and the possibility of corrupting natural selection/evolution on other worlds—is to make the repeated appeal for actual science, including speculative medical research, to be done about the problem before we sight our first big blue marble orbiting another sun.

If you’ve seen Avatar, you know there is no damned way the ethicists will hold back the tide of development on habitable worlds. My serious proposal is this: Let’s boldly go there, having done our homework, so we don’t kill off the natives or die from their diseases when M-double-I opens for business along Brightstar Curve.

“Dr. Tom”

Tucson, AZ

6 August 2018

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!

You can also learn more about me in the about section of this website.

LOVE vs. SEX:  THE FINAL FRONTIER?

Love vs Sex

LOVE vs. SEX:  THE FINAL FRONTIER?

Why are so many stories about love either sloppily sentimental, cynical or tragic? Why do books about love outsell all the other fiction genres combined? Maybe because we think we know what love is, and maybe we don’t know what it is at all.

Lumped under the generic heading of love, you will find parenthood (especially motherhood), family, religion, patriotism, personal tastes, dating, making out, friendship, sex, romance, adultery, and marriage. (And the list goes on…)

People need to sort these into separate baskets, but the English language fails us here. There is no other word that works in most of these cases. For example, what else can we call our feelings of patriotism but love of country? Desire of country doesn’t work. National pride isn’t strong enough, and the word patriotism itself has a hollow ring these days. What shall we call the sex act, except making love? Oh, I know, there are a few delightful possibilities. Most of us in the writing game freely toss alternatives around like effin’ flapjacks. But public, daily vocabulary isn’t ready to separate tenderness from doing the wild thing by employing act-specific terms when one inoffensive, four-letter word—love—covers the whole menu. (“I’ll have the Love Feast Special, please. No garlic butter.”)

Love in Science-Fiction

Good science fiction usually features a romantic subplot—Han and Leia, James T. Kirk and anything with a vagina. However—forgive me Romance writers—a good sci-fi story is plot or technology driven and not primarily about the sex life of the dashing, starship captain and our heroine, the busty alien princess. (Although in my Star Lawyers Book Three, Tyler Matthews and the blue Queen Veraposta—naw, you gotta read it.)

Just because main characters hop into bed under alien moons doesn’t make the love-interest, well, interesting. That takes an engaging storyline with nicely flawed players who battle and embrace and learn that real love is harder than orbiting a black hole without becoming its lunch. The original Star Wars trilogy approaches this level, and I contend that’s one of the reasons it is perennially popular.

Love in Literature and Movies

Literature is full of romance. Even Shakespeare, whose heroines were played by pubescent boys in stodgy, Elizabethan England, splashes love across the pages of his scripts like a drunken sailor spilling wine. American movies are punch-drunk over love. The plot of the second biggest movie of all times is, “The Love Boat Hits an Iceberg.” The biggest all-time moneymaker: “Blue lovers in an Ecological Thriller.”

While movies usually have a love interest, Hollywood lied to us, and the producers almost always get it wrong. For lovers who stroll the silver screen, love usually equals sexual attraction, impure and simple. This observation is a gross oversimplification, but the genius of the original Star Wars trilogy was not just its technology or special effects or combat scenes, but in the development of relationships.

Although sex and eroticism plays an important part in male-female relationships, it is by no means the singular or even most important element. So why, if we spend so much money and energy on love, do we get it wrong so often? Here are a few quick thoughts.

Love in our culture

Much of what passes for love in our culture is really:

  1. Sensual attraction and sexuality. Must be there, but it’s a thin foundation.
  2. Glamour. “She was so beautiful…” Okay, but do you like each other?”
  3. Romance and infatuation are not love. Courtship ends—then what?
  4. Neurotic dependency. “I can’t live without her/him…” Yes, you can.
  5. Ego gratification. Reader and fictional characters often will opt for this.
  6. Fear of loneliness. Can bring a compelling sub-tone, storyline or real life.
  7. Convenience and routine. The older I get, the more #6 & 7 appeal to me.

This is not to say that romance and sensuality/sexuality are a bad thing—right the contrary. It’s the beginning point in most relationships not contracted by families for young people. And speaking of alternative ideas about love from cultures around planet Earth, these include:

What Love can be

  1. A commitment, loyalty or duty Don’t flinch. Fidelity and familial identity are almost universal values.
  2. Friendship. Youth to golden age, you’ll fare better if you continue to like each other.
  3. Selfless giving. The golden rule never measures penis size. It is a gauge of the heart.

Some more Thoughts

So, if I suggest a little reflection on the depth and complexity of human love will tidy up the storylines of sci-fi literature, what do you think will happen when writers explore love among alien cultures, or alien-human relationships? Several good authors have done this. I will leave it to you to find them and share your discoveries with readers of this blog.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve set the bar for multifaceted interpretations of love among the many space-faring star nations in the galaxy, I’ll have to continue developing a rich cultural milieu for every race my human characters encounter going forward. To include their love lives. (You’re gonna love the Quirt-Thymeans in The Blue King Murders.)

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Meantime, my prequel to the series is available and you can Download my free short story here!

You can also learn more about me in the about section of this website.

Why Science Fiction is Vital to Human Survival

Science Fiction Asteroid Hitting the Earth

Why Science Fiction is Vital to Human Survival

“Without vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Dinosaurs Didn’t Write Science Fiction

You don’t ordinarily associate dinosaurs and KJV biblical texts, but roll with me a sec. The idea that vision–or prophecy, or seeing the future, sameo-sameo–is essential to the survival of a species couldn’t find a better exemplar than the poor, dumb Mesozoic critters who looked up at the sky and noticed a  big streaker sailing across the heavens. If they had the gift of speech–oh, hell, let’s give it to them, we’re sci-fi readers and writers–they might have said something like:

“Damn, my brother Triceratops, what is that pretty light in the sky?”

To which the other replied, “I don’t know, fellow Horny-Head, but it’s way up there and can’t hurt us.”

You know what happened in Act II.

Any species that doesn’t look to the skies is doomed

Any species that doesn’t look to the skies is doomed to the same fate, sooner or later.  That’s the first, most basic reason sci-fi is vitally important. It looks up and out and says, “What if…?”

Many early science fiction movies captured this primordial fear by casting an ensemble of bug-eyed, tentacled monsters to land on Earth with their invasion fleet, intent on eating all human males and raping all the females. I never understood, even as a kid, why a gray-green octopus with a ray gun wanted to ravish a white, blonde haired, B-movie actress.

The real danger isn’t from incoming flying saucers, it’s incoming asteroids in near earth orbits. Science fiction has raised the public awareness to this existential threat by movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact and a barrage of novels with similar plot lines.

The lethal asteroid impact may occur next year, or it may not happen until Trump leaves office, and therefore take some of the fun out of prematurely ending the world.  Doomsday could linger a few million years. Politicians are in no hurry.  But there are more pressing reasons why sci-fi is vital to our survival.

Science fiction raises humanity’s sights

Science fiction raises humanity’s sights on something at least as primeval as daily survival: We are, by nature, explorers. Without that vision, we perish. “Space, the final frontier…” Gene Roddenberry prophetically wrote. But he was wrong. Space is the endless frontier.

Let’s do the math. There are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way alone. Visiting one thousand star systems per week (if possible), would take 7.69 million years. And there may be 100 billion galaxies out there. Humanity will NEVER run out of new world to visit, new peoples to meet. The trick will be to learn from  our mistakes and not repeat the gruesome, racist, xenophobic history of planet Earth. Another possibility is that alien species are as bloodthirsty as we have been, and humans will have to fight for every newly discovered, uninhabited world. (For a harrowing look at that possibility, read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.)

We could simply become cosmic isolationists

We could simply become cosmic isolationists, for fear of discovery by the bug-eyed monsters who, so far, have overlook our pale blue marble in the ocean of stars. But sitting on Earth until the atmosphere escapes into space in the distant future doesn’t sound like a good plan. Science fiction allows its most creative thinkers to give us the vision hinted at by the Book of Proverbs. Let the visionaries and futurists show us the possibilities.

In an era before the key words shifted to other connotations, British scientist J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) wrote: “The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it’s queerer than we can imagine.” And who knows? Maybe we’ll land on our first alien world in the middle of their bi-monthly Gay Rights Parade.

Science Fiction will save the world. If not, maybe it’ll help us get off. (Double meanings seem to abound today…)

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

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