Category SunSpots blog

A Formula for the Science in Science Fiction

The fundamental element of my Eternity Plague series—The Eternity Plague (book 1), Chrysalis (book 2), and Wild Spread (book 3, currently in draft)—is that five naturally-mutated viruses have infected all of humanity and are doing all sorts of strange and not necessarily wonderful things to everyone. My heroine, Dr. Janet Hogan, discovers the viruses and has to try to stop them before they do too many awful things. Good luck with that: so far the viruses are doing more things faster than Janet and her team can respond to them. How will the series end? Sorry, no spoilers here.

But because these books are science fiction, I wanted to ground them in science, and good science at that...

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The Book/Marathon Connection

The cliché “writing a book is like running a marathon” has, like all other clichés, that kernel of truth that gets worn out from overuse. But the kernel remains true.

Young man running with a computer
Photo by Photostock, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I got to thinking about this because, while I work on draft #4 of Wild Spread, I’m also getting ready for my 19th consecutive year of volunteering with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. There are many parallels between writing the book and my volunteer work—which I do to honor the memory of a friend who was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building—the first being that they’re both important to me. I’ve also completed one half-marathon and two books, so I can speak with at least some knowledge of running and writing.

The other parallels bet...

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Finding the Flow Again

kayak in a deep gorge
Photo via morguefile.com

It’s been longer than I care to admit since I worked on my third book, Wild Spread, in any serious way. There are plenty of excuses for why, and some actual reasons, but neither change the fact that work came to a dead stop. There was no flow—of words, of ideas, of anything except frustration.

This seems to be my pattern: intense periods of work followed by months of inactivity. This time I was in a deep funk over the quality of draft 2 and the inadequacies of draft 2B. And I wasn’t sure draft 3 was headed in a direction that was any better. When that happens, stubbornly moving forward is just a waste of time and mental energy. A writer friend insists that “all writing is good writing,” even when it’s crap because it is writing, but I know myself...

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The Submission Waiting Game

Photo by Adam Walter via dreamstime.com

Yesterday I did something I have not done in ages: submitted a short story to a science fiction magazine. The story, however, was not mine: it was my late friend Cappy Hanson’s last work, “The Otter’s Stone.” A few days before she died, she told me which magazine she intended to send it to first, so that was where it went. There’s no guarantee the magazine will accept it, so I’m not going to name it.

Submitting a work, whether to a magazine, a contest, a literary agent, or an editor at a publishing house is an action that readers are blissfully unaware of, but one fraught with tension for the author. There’s no reason why readers should be aware, of course, but for the author it’s a major milestone.

The first step on the roa...

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The Friends We Leave, the Friends Who Leave Us

Two weeks ago today, as I write this, my closest friend left all of us behind, going on to whatever, if anything, is next. She left behind a lot of broken hearts and fond memories. Fortunately, because she was a wonderful writer of poetry and prose, a painter, a musician, and much more, we will have tangible things to hold near to revive those memories.

Cappy Love Hanson portrait
Cappy

Cappy left “too soon,” of course. Far earlier than any of us would have wished. Frankly, we would have wished that she would never leave and spare us that pain. Never mind that if we were the ones to leave first, we would be inflicting that pain of leaving on her.

Such is the nature of our feelings about those we hold most dear, even at times when letting go is the kindest thing to do. I do not think that was the case th...

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Give It Up, Part 3

‘Way back in November I threw out this question: If you could keep only one piece of modern technology, which one would it be? As I wrote the post, though, it became clear how much of our technology today relies on a functioning electrical grid. Without the grid, it would be almost impossible to keep any one device or technology. Modern batteries need the grid to be constructed, but keeping even primitive batteries around to power something else would violate the terms of the question by adding a second retained technology.

OK, so maybe that was an interesting thought problem, but not even close to realistic. Here’s a different scenario that might even slide into the realm of realism...

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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

I’m ba-a-a-a-a-a-ack. Maybe I should paraphrase Paul McCartney: “Back in the B-L, back in the B-L, back in the B-L-O-G.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring, somehow.

The last couple of months have been weird and stressful in the web site world. In November, I asked my hosting company to update some software that’s important for running the web site. In the process, the tech support guy said, “We can save you some money by switching you from shared hosting to dedicated hosting.” (In other words, I’d have a web server computer all to myself.) “You interested?”

Saving money’s a good thing, right? So I said OK.

Humanoid image surrounded by question marks

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next thing I know, we can’t get my “theme,” the software that gives the site its particular science-fiction-y look, to wo...

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TusCon 45 Wrap-Up

My original plan was to give you a revised “thought experiment” this week in which I asked you what one device you would keep if you had to give up everything else, assuming that electrical power was still available. I’m going to hold that for next week, however, in favor of a quick summary of my participation in TusCon 45, the Tucson Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention this past weekend. (The organizers are so organized, they’ve already updated their site for next year’s event!)

TusCon is a small and friendly convention (or “con,” in the lingo). While most of the participating authors come from Arizona or adjacent states, the staff has managed to score some big-name authors as the Author Guest of Honor, including George R. R...

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Give It Up, Part 2

Last time I asked, “If you had to get rid of one piece of the technological stuff you use every day, what would it be?” This time the question is reversed and A LOT harder: you can only keep one thing.

This is a really sneaky and difficult question because technology, writ large, is so deeply embedded in our lives. Consider all of the things that are powered by electricity. The electrical grid that brings power to our homes is so critical that if you want to keep one electrically powered device, you have to either also keep the grid or replace it with some other technology that would generate electricity—and that violates the “rules” of this question.

So that means everything powered by electricity has to go: not just computers and smart phones, but refrigerators, washers and dry...

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Give It Up, Part 1

Last time I asked what your least favorite piece of technology is. That’s a nice but sneakily misleading segue into this week’s topic. Here’s the question: If you had to give up one piece of technology, and you could choose which one, what would it be?

Actually, let me make that question a bit harder. If you had to give up one piece of technology that played an important role in your everyday life, and you had to choose which one, what would it be?

Woman talking on pay phone

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

See the difference? It’s easy to give up, say, the battery-powered drill you only use once in a while, so that doesn’t count. About a year ago, I gave up the anti-lock braking system (ABS) on my car...

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