Back to the Grind

Image Source: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-daily-routine-of-20-famous-writers-and-how-you-can-use-them-to-succeed-1603f52fbb77

So, last night, I wrote for the first time in almost a week.  I don’t know why I haven’t wanted to write in the past couple of weeks, except that I felt like my writing just wasn’t going well.  While I finished the rough draft of Project Star, it isn’t like finishing an actual project.  There’s not that sustained natural high that there is when one finishes a full project.  However, for some unknown reason, I really wanted write, so I made myself write and I really enjoyed it.

Reading and Writing Taking up the Same Time

I love to read and I love to write and sometimes those two loves compete for my (limited) pool of time.  For some reason, this week, I’ve really wanted to read, but I used the time that I would normally write and just read.  I’m rereading The Mallorean by David Eddings and I feel that has helped me stay sane.  However, my writing time has taken a hit because I’m using that writing time to do my reading.  Last night, however, I was so invested in writing that I wrote very quickly and finished up pretty quickly as well.  I then, still had enough time to read a little bit of The Mallorean.

I Feel Sickness Coming On . . .

The problem is that I think I’m getting sick.  I had a student in class today who had a Sinus Infection and some bronchus going on as well.  Based on how I feel writing this blog post, I really don’ t want to get sick as I have waaaaaayyyyyy too much to do, but it looks like that is what’s happening. Not sure how this will affect my writing as I play it by ear; it just depends on how I feel.  Well, that’s all that I have for now.  See you next week!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 31)
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Annihilation Movie Review (No Spoilers)

Annihilation_(film)

Annihilation Movie Poster.  Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilation_(film)

Annihilation is a movie that I’ve wanted to see every since it was released–however, I could tell that, while Sci-Fi, it was not one that falls within my preferred genre of Action Sci-Fi, or Space Opera.  It is generally described as an “idea” Science Fiction movie, meaning that the ideas and concepts are what takes precedence.  In my experience, I find that while there is some character development and some light action, generally speaking, they tend to be on the slower side in terms of narrative flow.  Not complaining, just an observation–unless it is farce, I generally like all types of Sci-Fi.

Alex Garland

So, this movie was directed by Alex Garland, and he has a visually striking style.  The problem is, based on the movie’s narrative, I’m not sure yet whether I find his style to my liking.  I’ve tried several times to watch his other Sci-Fi movie, Ex Machina, but I only have managed to get through about half an hour so far (probably just going to have to watch it in half-hour “spurts”).  However, while I appreciate his style, it was hard going to try to get through the movie.  I knew that if I stopped at any point, I probably would not come back to it and it would be another recent Sci-Fi movie that I abandoned mid-stream (Inception and Looper), so I just plugged on through.  I don’t think Alex Garland’s narrative style works for me . . . his visual style is arresting and very distinctive, but I’m not sure that story-telling-wise, that I like the way the narrative connections come together.

Science Fiction of “Ideas”

Yes, Sci-Fi is a genre of ideas and is driven by great ideas.  The problem is that one should also really focus on characters and characterization and setting.  The problem that occurs is that while their are characters in peril and/or crisis, we are often held at a distance from these characters (especially in Annihilation) and it is hard to form a bond with the characters.  While I’m not the best with names in real life, I’m usually pretty good with character’s names, yet I’m struggling to remember the names of the major characters and I just saw the movie 3 or 4 days ago.  I remember them, what their actors looked like, what occupation/role they fulfilled, but I don’t remember them as characters and I think this is where the movie ultimately failed for me.  Even the ending has a twist (that I won’t spoil) that changes the way the characters might be perceived at the end, but because I didn’t really care about the characters, the ending didn’t work for me because I just didn’t care.  The story, as presented, focused too much on the visual effects and the mystery of the “Shimmer” and not enough on the characterization and why I should care.  Even the mystery of the Shimmer, while sufficiently explained during the course of the film, didn’t lead to a moment of Epiphany for the main character, but was rather presented as simply a random, if extraordinary event, that was ultimately rendered moot by the main character’s actions during the story.  As much as critics dislike The Cloverfield Paradox, I feel that ultimately, while Annihilation is a movie with better special effects and better overall logical storytelling plot points, I find that I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox more because I could understand and get behind the characters and their motives.  In Annihilation, there was simply too much distance between the viewers and the characters.y

Overrall Grade: C

For a .99 rental, it was at least worth seeing, but I’m glad that I did not pay full theatrical price to see it.  Too much focus on the visuals and the ideas behind the visuals and not enough on characterization really dampened my enjoyment of the movie.  It also shows some graphic content with the deaths of a couple characters (I guess the director wanted to show the the brutality of the world–but it came off, to me, as unnecessary and exploitative–violence for violence sake and it pulled me out of the narrative when those two scenes occurred.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

Chromebook Nation

Chromebooking It

I was able to, at the beginning of the semester, to get a Chromebook and it has really helped me to be far more productive.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still an Apple MacBook Pro fan. However, for general web browsing and research, the Chromebook has been a godsend (something I should have gotten over the summer and I would have been far more productive, but hindsight is 20/20).  A Chromebook, as long as you use web-based apps, and have an internet connection, is a perfect, cheap, alternative to most computers.  Is it as sophisticated and versatile–no, it isn’t.  However, it does the one thing that I need/want it to do: basic access to the internet and web-based platforms WITHOUT having to use Microsoft’s Windows.

Alternatives to Windows

Basically, until Microsoft stops 1) criminalizing users of its Windows Operating System by making them register copies of the operating system with a license that they can’t alter and 2) forcing draconian licensing agreements on users of its X-Box systems, I will NOT support them in ANY form (to the best of my ability).  In the age of corporate conglomeration, it is almost impossible to truly boycott a corporation’s products in order to affect change in any meaningful way.  However, Microsoft (along with Electronic Arts) is the poster-child for corporate machinations that I simply do not agree with no matter how much money their shenanigans make for their shareholders.  As such, I refuse to purchase Microsoft products or products that I know will directly or indirectly benefit Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, EA).  As such, I use Macs and Chromebooks because they 1) do what I need them to do, 2) allow me to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and 3) they DON’T benefit Microsoft.

Basic Web Browsing

My school (MTSU) uses a web-based platform (D2L) to help students and professors move into learning in a digital environment.  Since my wifi adapter no longer works on my 2008 Macbook Pro, it is very difficult to find places on campus where I can use an ethernet cable to “plug in” and find places where I can help my students become stronger students through grading and discussions online. However, the Chromebook helps me to achieve this as it is robust enough to handle the web-based nature of D2L.  Also, since most “apps” now have an Android app and/or a web-based presence, it is much more useful than one would think it might be based on the specs alone.  The true strength of the Chromebook is that, as long as you have an internet connection, it is pretty much a full featured computer and analogous to its “bigger” brothers–Windows PC/Macs.  Now this is really true if you’re not into gaming or any other processor intensive tasks, but if most of what you do/use it for is web browsing, streaming, light audio-visual, then it functions pretty much as (at least for me) a fully functional computer–allowing me to leave my MacBook Pro at home.  I’m able to MOST everything I want to via the web or web apps, it has long battery life (up to 2 – 3 days of medium to heavy use on 1 charge cycle), and it is highly portable, so it is the perfect solution where I have WiFi 90% of the time.

This isn’t a permanent solution, but it is A solution.  One that is helping to at least stay current in my graduate school and creative writing lifestyle.  Without it, I would be losing ground instead of treading water.  So, I say, until I can Macbook Pro it, I’m going to continue to Chromebook it.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

Sorry

Will be posting on a irregular schedule this week. Attending MTSU Orientation this week & working, so will be a little off this week. Sorry!

Hopefully, I will get back on track next week.

Sidney

Talking ’bout my Generation: Generation X

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Generation X Traits. Image Source: Karen McCullough (https://www.karenmccullough.com/generation-x-time-pass-torch/)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • 1st Draft – “Project Dog” (Exposition)
    Okay, so I’m revising the way that I work. I rough drafted a new short story project called “Project Captain” (I have a title for it, but I’ll wait to unveil it). I’m now working on the first draft of “Project Dog,” a sci-fi story (I seem to be on a sci-fi kick these days). I finished the exposition last night and will move on next to the part of the story.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Generation X

There are very few images of me online (mostly because I don’t really put the images that I take online), but if you looked at me, chances are good that you wouldn’t think that I’m as old as I am. While I look like a Millennial (or so I’m told), I’m actually part of Generation X, a generation that, I feel, has been largely forgotten in the midst of the two mega-generations: Baby Boomers and the Millennial. I wanted to take a moment to talk about my generation for a moment.

The Melting Pot

One of the problems that I see (particularly in today’s society and culture, especially in America) is the loss of the idea of the “Melting Pot.”  In fact, this was a central tenant of the new burgeoning race relations in this country after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ending of the segregation laws. There was this idea that America was a bright and shining land in which all races could (and should) blend together in a “Melting Pot” in which we each shared in each other’s cultures, values, and traditions in order to make us a strong, unified nation, instead of the divisive, back-biting nation that we had become under the racist ideologies of segregationists. I watched in wonder growing up as this (unforced) diversity played itself out, watching the various cultures of Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, Alice, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, American Bandstand, and Mork & Mindy to name a few. Now, let me be clear, these were not a part of my particular culture, but it was fun to look in on them to see how they lived, worked, and played. My own culture, in fact, consisted of shows like Good Times, Sandford & Sons, Different Strokes, The Jeffersons, What’s Happening!!, Soul Train, 3-2-1 Contact, and The Electric Show. While featuring a predominately African American cast or a cast of diverse races, they still brought in guest stars from other races which helped to promote this idea of the seeing the “Melting Pot” in action. This, sadly, went out of vogue toward the end of the 1980s and early 1990s and it seems this idea isn’t as prevalent or ingrained in the succeeding generations.

Technology

One of the things that stands out about my generation is the fact that we got to see many of the technologies that are now ensconced in culture, develop and mature (and in some cases die). We are very much “children of technology.”  Most of us can remember the time before there was MTV (and music videos), remote controls for TVs (you actually had to get up and go to the set to change channels, the rise (and fall) of CDs, DVDs, and (unless something changes in the near future) Blu-Rays. We’ve seen the rise of video games and seen them crash into a heap, buried in landfills, only to rise again, like a phoenix and become the titans of the entertainment industry. We’ve seen the computer morph and merge from the introduction of the original Apple computers when they were the “new kid on the block” and now (as of a few days ago), Apple is the first trillion (with a “t”) dollar company. We can remember when computers only had 64K of memory (Commodore 64) or when video game controllers only had one button. I could go on and on, but in most cases, Generation X have seen the rise of many of the technologies that we use on a daily basis.

Sure, every generation sees new technologies and progress during their lifetime, but I feel this is where Generation X is unique. Having had a period in our lives without excessive levels of technology, but gaining it early in our lives, we are comfortable with technology or without it. We don’t need it to stave off boredom, but use it to enrich our lives. We aren’t afraid of technological change, or the pace at which technology changes, but we don’t require technology. It isn’t a necessity for us, rather a tool that enriches our lives. I find, that as a Generation X’er, I am as comfortable with a book as I am with a Kindle as I am with the Kindle app on my phone. Any of the three would useful to me depending on the situation and circumstances in which I wanted to read.

Bourne to Win

Jason Bourne.  I love the character, I love the inventiveness of his characterization, and I love the pathos that Matt Damon portrays when playing the role of Bourne. However, I do have an issue with Bourne. He’s perfect–and he did nothing to earn his perfection. One thing that I feel that Generation X has learned is that life is hard. If you want something, you have to work for it until you get it. You have train and work and sweat and sacrifice, but if you do so, more often than not, you’ll find the rewards are well worth the effort.

The problem with Bourne is that we never really see him train. Sure, he’s this ultra-cool, ultra-competent fighter agent, but he “discovers” his fighting ability in the first movie, The Bourne Identity. Yes, later movies flesh this out and show more of his history, but what it took to get him to have his almost preternatural fighting ability is hidden from the audience.

In many ways, Generation X is the last major generation that got to see that hard work yields results. I can remember the training montages in the Rocky movies in particular and remember equating hard work with success. Now, with the Bourne movies, those qualities of hard work, discipline, and training are hidden away from view, making it seem that one can be (and should be) freakishly good at something without having to put the hard work to become good at it.

In closing, every generation pushes against the one before it and the ones after it. It is, perhaps, the natural order of things–the old must eventually make way for the new and this cycle continues. However, even in this cycle, I think we can take a moment to both reflect on this cycle and ways that we can temper its effects. While my generation is caught in-between Baby Boomers and Millennials, there’s no reason why we can’t all find away to learn from (and respect) each other’s ways of seeing the world.

Instead of looking back at the past and the divisions that defined us, why not look forward instead at the ways our commonalities unite us?

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

(Unintended) Story Research: “The Independent”

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Truck carrying oversized load (SpaceX rocket). Image Source: https://cdllife.com/2018/video-trucking-spacex-rockets/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Revision Month (i.e., “2nd Draft” Central)
    I have stories that I’d like to revise during this month, but I’ve not tried to do multiple projects inside of a single month before and I’m not sure that’s going to work, but I can’t think of any other way. Projects currently awaiting revision include: “Whale Song,” “The Independent” (subject of today’s blog post), “Project Skye,”
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Stumbling Upon Research for a Story

As I was watching YouTube videos over the weekend (to decompress from a fairly hard week last week), I stumbled upon a set off “trucking” videos on the site. Now, I’d actually found one earlier in July and watched it for details regarding living in a cab and the “realities” of being in such a small space for trips across country hauling freight. YouTube’s algorithms must have finally caught up with that particular viewing because it started offering other trucking videos over the weekend. One YouTuber, in particular, by the handle of indianajacktrucker caught my eye and I watched one of his videos. That one video gave quite a bit of insight into the trucking profession, covering trucking etiquette, truck stops, parking, why truckers are using their trucks instead of truck stops, food, and even a poignant moment discussing the murder of another trucker who parked in an abandoned parking lot because a “big box” store wouldn’t allow him to park on their parking lot.

The Independent = Project Independence= “Space Truckers” = Real Truckers = Story Research

So, readers of the blog over the past year have heard quite a bit about the story that I wrote entitled, “The Independent.”  It was referred to under the name Project Independence & Space Truckers on the blog. It was my attempt to “futurize” the profession of the “trucker” (i.e., what would freight hauling/haulers look like in the future)? Now, this isn’t unique–it remember games like Starflight and Elite (& and from what I hear, Elite Dangerous) were doing something similar as far back as the mid 1980s. However, I’ve not seen it done in fiction in a way that I personally like, so I wrote this story (with hopefully a larger story in mind).

2nd Draft–Focusing on Characters

I’m planning on rewriting the story and focusing more on the characters. Hopefully, now that I have all of the “events” of the story locked down in more or less the way that I want them, I’m hoping to create “Larger Than Life” characters who are at once memorable and realistic. Just by watching this one video (and I’m hopefully going to watch more next weekend when I have more time), I have quite a few ideas for the two main characters and the secondary characters, especially in regards to character traits. Now, I feel like my major task should be to try to come up with Internal Conflicts for the two main characters that they can be struggling with in regards to the story. I feel that this is where I’m weakest at the moment (more on this to come in a future blog post), but now that I’ve written the 1st draft and spent some time away from it, I can see the problems with it more objectively and hopefully work on fixing them to the best of my ability in this new 2nd draft.

Well, that’s all I have time for at the moment. Here’s hoping you have a great day!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Tai-Chi Experience

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Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 20
    Goal = 5 Pages a week.
    Actual = 4/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Didn’t get any more pages done. Intended to “Rough Draft” the next five pages, but was too tired to do so. Perhaps weekends would be better for rough drafting while weekdays better for draft? We’ll try it and see. Perhaps another blog entry in the making

  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Not a Normal Saturday

So today is not a normal Saturday for me. Normally, at this time in the day, I would either be on the road or already at home, deeply ensconced in a video game. However, a friend of mine asked me to attend a Tai-Chi class today. I decided why not and will meet her in a few minutes to attend the class. Consider this blog entry as the “Pre-Class” experience part of the blog entry. I’ve done martial arts (karate) as a child, but I’ve never really been into the more transcendental arts such as Tai-Chi and Yoga that deal with spirit as well as athletics (or at least as I’ve pictured them). I’ve been wanting to pick up the martial arts again, going so far as to research Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Wing-Chun in my local area and making phone calls/visiting web pages to research prices, times, and locations, but they never seemed to work out. Well, actually the Wing Chun dojo in Chattanooga (Dojo Chattanooga) looked like it would be a good fit, but that was before I started in PhD school. It is probably still doable, but I don’t want to commit to something that I can’t see through and the June that I just had would have probably been a step too far in terms of actually going to class and training.  Or so I tell myself, which is why I find myself on MTSU’s campus on Saturday morning . . . and I’m wondering if this is a good starting point. I guess I’ll find out soon.

I’ll let you know how it went in the next blog post. Stay tuned!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.