5 Min – Day 8 – The way we think

Good morning.

I’m going to warn you before you read this; It isn’t going to be a cheerful post. When I started doing this I realized I might have days like this. Days in which the world sits squarely on my shoulders and I just have to get it out. So here is the first of those days. Hopefully there won’t be very many.

I have struggled with depression most of my life. My depression has roots in things I’m experiencing. I start to feel out of control, like I have no place in the world, or that everything I am working toward is so far out of reach that it would just be better to curl up in a ball and forget I ever tried to do it.

Yesterday was such a day. I started looking at the numbers, and the stats and realizing I’ve put all this money toward something that just isn’t working. What is that? My writing.

Oh, it’s good. I am sure that the stories, the characters, the situations are good. I’m really proud of some of those scenes, and how they came out. I am absolutely in love with the third book. But writing something good, and writing something that people will read is a different matter. And I haven’t figured out that part. How to get people to read it.

But I don’t want you to think the depression part is just about the writing. No, this is a constant battle I have had with myself over everything I have tried. Is it worth it? Do people like it? Do people like me? I have found simple things like making friends, and keeping friends, so difficult that….well, life is a struggle sometimes.

I grew up alone most of the time. I had my sisters, but we didn’t really get along much. I was the constant book worm. They were the ones that would sneak off to do whatever on their own time. They had lots of friends, I sat in the library. That’s just how I was. I didn’t understand basic interactions, but I watched and I listened, and I took psychology classes. So I have a much more logical viewpoint of the world than most people. Most people deal with the world in emotions, and likes and dislikes. Clichés. I come at it with “are you a good person, are you hurting anyone, other than that I don’t care, I’ll accept you.” And I accept that I will disagree with people and have discussions about those disagreements logically. But that isn’t how it works. Most people are not very logical in their take on things, and get emotional and very passionate about certain subjects.

And because I was sheltered growing up i don’t have the same ideas about a lot of things. I got ideas from books, and observation, not from listening to friends and family members and their opinions. So when I finally started getting friends and they started saying “this is how some things are” I disagreed. Because it didn’t make sense. When you see a thing in the world and it is a certain way and everyone wants to say it is a different way it is really hard to tell ourselves that  what your actually observations is wrong.

At least…for me it’s that way.

There was a study a while ago about herd mentality, and it showed that the majority of people will actually change their view point based on peer pressure. If one person says “the color on that banner is red” but the entire class tells him it’s green, he will often cave to the pressure and agree that it’s green. Something switches inside his head that lets him see it the way that the rest of the group sees it.

This herd mentality is there to keep us safe, and comfortable in our groups. If the herd works together they are more likely to survive. Those who disagree with the group, those who form their own opinions, or strike out on their own, are not as acceptable in the herd.

And yet those who strike out on their own often become the best among us. Galileo, Einstein, Carl Sagan, and every other scientist that stepped away from the group think, and struck out on their own. I wish we prized that kind of thinking, more people would do it.

So what does all of this have to do with my writing, and why I’m depressed?

Because I was listening to “Write to Market” from Chris Fox and realized that yet again I have struck out on my own, away from the herd, and made life difficult for myself. Here I am writing fantasy, but it’s my own brand of epic/dark/lovecraftian fantasy. I wrote it because I am interested in the interaction between people, and the dynamics of one group against another, and how that can cause rifts in a society. I wrote it because I believe with every bit of my body that just because a government, or most people, or even an individual says that something is wrong that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. I believe that individuality is important, and that no group should be able to rule over another with absolute authority. And I put all of that, and more, into that book. And that’s not what people are looking for.

Yes, those who read it tend to like it. But it isn’t something like Dresden with mass market appeal. It’s a work for love.

Do I want to be a full time writer, to stop working for big companies and making someone else money? Yes. But can I take my books and make them more marketable? I’m not sure. I have many ideas, and a lot of them are really good. But I don’t know if any of them would have a mass appeal. I just know I have to keep writing, keep trying, because my thoughts and feelings about the world are just as valid as everyone else’s.

And this has been much, much, longer than 5 minutes, but I couldn’t really cut this one short today. I hope you’ll forgive me.


My Thoughts on Laci Green

Oh, how fast they turn on their own. And Laci is seeing what we, the bad eggs, have been saying for a while; free speach isn’t free speach if you silence those you disagree with. 

It’s an interesting change, and I hope it’s for the right reasons. In all honesty, I use to like Laci. She was smart, entertaining, and talked about things that caught my interest. Then she got more political, and started calling people names, like bigot and misogynistic, if they disagreed with her, and I started going to other channels. 

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I don’t have any problem with people having different points of view. In fact I expect and encourage it. 

I do mind when someone says their opinion is the right opinion and if you say anything other than their opinion not only will they tell you how wrong you are, they’re going to call you names, and try to get you blocked from every platform they can get you blocked from because you’re wrong and they hate your very existence. 

Worst of all, they usually have no hard facts to prove the other person is wrong, it’s all about feelings. 

And it appears that Laci is taking that same view…you can’t call people names, and silence them if you disagree with them. You should talk to them, have conversations, try to have actual debates.

I support her in this, though I wish she would apologize for her blanket labels of people in the past who disagreed with her. Still, any time someone is willing to come to the table and have a discussion rather than lash out at them I am 100% for that.

Here is a simple fact; those who ARE homophobic, or transphobic, usually haven’t been around anyone in their life who is trans or homosexual. They are less likely to change their point of view because there is no one in their life to show them that things can be different. If they are around people who are trans and homosexual they are more likely change their viewpoint.

How do you get homophobic and transphobic people around people who are trans and homosexual? Calling them bigots and screaming at them? Or talking to them like normal human beings? Showing them that the things they see on the internet, like feminists screaming at people and others holding people hostage in libraries because they are white- all of that isn’t normal! It’s not normal, and most people, even those who identify as feminist or SJW, aren’t like that. But how can the people on the other side see that they aren’t like that if all they do is block everyone and refuse to have meaningful conversations? 

When I said at the beginning “how quickly they turn on each other” I meant it. Laci is opening a path for conversation, hoping bridges can be built and some of the hate that has festered between the two parties can start to shift into more productive emotions, and her side has decried her. Called her out, shouted her down, and cast her out. Once ardent Laci supporters have since withdrawn their support, and I bet it won’t be long until they block her, and try censoring her as well. 

It’s sad to see. I’m neither on the right or the left in these arguments, I think both sides have good points, and both sides have some bad ideas, or language in their midst that can be toxic at times. But none of us can prosper if the arguments and censorship continue.

The diversity of ideas is so important, as is the freedom to speak, and say things even when others disagree with you. 

If we had censored every dissenting idea from the beginning would we still believe that the earth was the center of the universe? Science and tech, human understanding, and growth all come about because people are willing to talk, and others to listen. Galileo’s ideas would not have prospered if others hadn’t been willing to take a look, listen, and examine them. But the same holds true for bad ideas. Flat earthers do not prosper because we have examined their ideas, taken scientific studies, and disproven them. There is no anger over flat earthers, just science. It isn’t worth arguing with them, or calling them names, because the science is enough. 

I’ve been watching a lot of anti-SJW channels lately, and the one thing I hear over and over again is “why won’t they debate us? What are they afraid of?” Maybe Laci stopped being afraid. Maybe she actually believes in what she’s preaching and she wants to have real conversations and hold her ideas up to the light of another persons idea and see if it stands.

I’m okay with that. Are you?

I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

Explaining the world

I was watching a news piece about the shootings in France on youtube last night and my son wandered over and asked me “Why did they do it?”

That’s a big question, with a bigger answer. I tried to explain it: They drew cartoons criticizing their religion and they didn’t like it. Then my son asked what the cartoons said, and then he had extra questions.

questionmasterMy son is the Question Master. When he focuses on a subject he starts asking about every little thing, and if you let him he will have  you there for a couple hours just answering more questions about the same original subject. He doesn’t understand that it’s frustrating for other people to have to answer 15 MILLION questions about the operation of a stick shift Subaru. (Except for Gregg, he loves Subaru.) Usually once he gets to a certain point I will point him toward Google and say “have at it.”

But this time he wasn’t asking about aerodynamics, or cakes, or tensile strength of a bridge (yes he’s really asked those things. My kids WAY smarter then I am.) This time he was asking about religion, extremism, cultural differences and censorship. Things that are a little tougher to understand. Things that you can’t simply say “this is right and this is wrong.” No, these subjects are more nuanced.

We take for granted this “freedom of speech”, except that it is our right, and then rally against those who would try to silence or control it. At least sometimes.

But not everyone believes in freedom of speech. Not everyone thinks “everything” should be allowed. And I’m not talking about just certain religions or certain cultures. EVERY culture has issues. Even the USA that prides itself on this freedom has groups that ban books, like Harry Potter, or Christian groups that try silencing other groups because they aren’t christian.

When you feel that you belong to a specific group you tend to want to help that group. You might show it by wearing your teams colors on Sunday, or singing a hymn in church. You might wave a banner, or spend a month camping out near Wall Street. And some people take that idea that their group is right and yours is wrong to new heights. Just ask the parents at the last game who started a brawl in the bleachers of their kids school.

How do you explain the world and all its intricacies? Why did they shoot a cartoonist?

We can say it was fear, or pride, or anger… but I think there are some people in this world who hold the idea of being “right” over the idea of life. When a human life is less important then being right then things start happening. Things that sometimes end in deaths.

And I’m not talking about just this incident. Look at any mass shooting, every war, every violent act. Someone believed that they were right, and it was more important then the life they took.

Wikileaks_cantstopsignalI’m not a religious person, and I have anything against anyone who wants to practice a religion. But I do have a problem when your religion infringes on my right to a happy, and healthy life. That includes information. You can’t stop the signal! You can never stop the signal!

Knowledge, science, and progress aren’t going to stop just because someone, or some group are afraid of it. It didn’t stop Galeleo, or Rhazes, or Domagk. If the KGP and Gestapo couldn’t stop it then neither can the NSA or ISIS leaders. We will endure. Knowledge will prevail.

And life will find a way.

Around The Web

This month has been eventful. Lots of people up in arms over the Comcast/TWB merger, and the threat to net neutrality. Lots of interesting developments in science and technology. And an ancient book that was 100 years ahead of its time.

CGP Grey and a simple, easy to understand explanation of Net Neutrality and what it means for you, the user.

Because it’s all over my twitter feed: Watch two authors write a book LIVE in 30 days (and change how the world thinks about storytelling!) #fictionunboxed

5 hilariously bad first drafts of classic books.

Cosmos is free to stream online!

An album of scientific discoveries for the month of April.

A 271 year old guide to color.

The worlds luckiest… or unluckiest man in the world.

Science and Art

I just got done watching Adam Savage’s SXSW Address and I needed to talk about it. Adam Savage is a fantastic speaker, and usually has something very thought provoking to say. In this speech he is talking about Science and Art. That they are connected because they are both ways to discuss the same thing. Human Culture.

I am a writer, and I also do art. This makes me an artist, right? Yes, I would say it does. But I also am a scientist. I enjoy performing thought experiments about scientific advancements. I use these thoughts in some of my writing. How can a space ship save it’s passengers from cosmic radiation? If electromagnetic fields on earth do this how can we create an artificial electromagnetic field on a space ship? How can we encompass an entire colony ship?

I’m not the first writer to think about how things could work, and use those things in there writing. The writers of Star Trek did this every week, and create some interesting technology that no one ever thought would be realistic. Then we got communicators, and touch pads, and reusable shuttle crafts. They, Star Trek, inspired so many scientists. And yet “Star Trek” is still often seen as low brow cinema. Even though Star Trek was one of the first TV shows to comment on the cold war, the inequality of African Americans, and sexism. Not directly, of course, but it was often written into the show in such a way that people could accept it, and discuss it, when they could never have done so before.

Art opens doors for communication. It doesn’t matter if it is “high brow” or “low brow” art, it doesn’t matter if you initially understand the piece, but it get some people talking. And that is what art is for.

In my novella, “Osiren’s Tears“, there are several themes. The extremist view point leading a society astray, the difference in two cultures clashing and causing war, the idea that women are less then men just for the fact of their sex. I did not write the story with the idea of these things being talked about, but they probably made their way into the story because they are effecting me more now then they ever did before. Crimea, Iraq, Afghanistan. Extremists on every continent are trying to drive entire societies like leading a bull with a ring in it’s nose. The bull doesn’t want to go there, but the pain from the ring in their nose makes them move. Sometimes the bull will break free and go it’s own way, but other times it can’t stand the pain and just goes along with it.

Writing is a way of sharing thoughts and ideas, and exploring both sides of a story, without consequence. I can write from the view point of someone who thinks and does atrocious things without anyone actually getting hurt. I can explore why they would do such a thing, and what drives them, and maybe understand them a little more while doing it (though never condoning).

Cultural Anthropology, the study of cultures and people, is a science, and I think every artist would benefit drastically from that science. Statistics are math, and statistics show some invaluable information. How things are better, how things are worse, how things effect you or societies. Then there are environmental sciences, biology, and basic geometry. How does your world fit together? How do the creatures evolve? What are the dementions of a temple, and how do people access each floor?

Science and art work hand in hand. Science explains how the world works, and art is a communication tool to explain it to the layman. Art is a way of exploring facets of the world we have yet to experiment with scientifically. And science is the way to explore those same ideas even further.

There is a movement to add art to the STEM programs. It’s called STEM to STEAM. They want to add art to the middle of STEM where I think it belongs. And I completely support this. Schools don’t just need scientific exploration, they need understanding of the culture around them, and they need to know how to communicate in different ways which is taught by music, painting, writing, and sculpture. All things that use math and science to get their points across.

But the bigger question: how do we get our children to engage in science and math?

MAKE IT PERSONAL! If it isn’t personal to them then they won’t care. I did not care about history in school because the history class was so boring, and did not link the past with the future so I kept thinking “this doesn’t matter to me.” But when I got to college I took some awesome college classes in history that made the world come alive.

But if you teach a child through mediums that they enjoy, and show them how science, math, and history link to those things, then they are likely to take a closer look at them as well. Some students will stop thinking of themselves as just creative, or just scientific, and realize that they are both.

Small Bites 4

4SB4smI just hit publish for “Small Bites 4”.
This will be my first Science Fiction stories to see publication, but not the last. Androids, genetic manipulation, planetary colonization, time travel, and everything that can go wrong with it… And maybe a few things that go right.

A planetary mission goes terribly wrong.

Past Talks

A time traveling documentary maker is interviewed on VR.

Skin Deep

There’s something different about Abby, and the cat she’s trying to catch knows it.

Geeky Discussions

My friends are geeky. There isn’t any getting around it, and I kind of like the fact.

I have listened, and even participated  in several conversations that began “Who would win….” The answer is usually “Batman,” because even if he looses he will come back and win the second battle.

So when the question regarding world building, and specifically how two sentient species could coexist popped up I had no problem entering into this discussion. I’d already had this discussion on other occasions.

This question comes up a lot when dealing with worlds like TSR, LOTR, and others that have several species (elf, dwarf, human) that all live together. Some authors add in explanations of how they came about. Others simply make it an act of a god and leave it at that. The more scientific explanations usually come from Sci-fi sources such as Star Trek.

Star Trek 4 has to be one of the worst movies in the lot. (And I’m a major Trekkie. I still think it was pretty bad.) It did have one subject that I rather liked: humans assume we are the only intelligent race on earth, but have no common frame of reference to distinguish this as fact.

As an example, dolphins have been known to do things we recognize as intelligent or showing feeling. Whales have tried to rescue their calves. Dogs will rescue their owners. Several species of ape and birds are known to use tools.  Is this intelligence? Do they feel emotion? Is it just instinct or something else? Can we really tell?

When discussing how and if two intelligent races can coexist on one planet we first have to determine what is intelligence  and how do we measure it. For earth, and humans, we acknowledge humanity as intelligent because of how much we can adapt to the environment  and the environment to us. We can build, create, and invent, while other species are still learning the value and use of tools.

If they did evolve, we may not even recognize their intelligence because their goals in life, their ambitions, and needs do not overlap ours enough to make it known. As an example take dolphins. They do not need homes, or jobs. They do not need money. They need fish and open waters. They do not compete for many of our resources, and likely never will since their sphere of influence is the ocean, while ours is mainly the land.

It isn’t inconceivable that these species could evolve to human like intelligence… if we let them. I think a big part of it is, evolution wise, that whichever species evolved first would have to get to a point where they did not feel threatened, and even helped the “lesser” species. If we continue to hunt apes and dolphins their evolution could end short in extinction.

In short… We really don’t know the possibilities. They are simply endless.