The Nebulous Boundary Between Science Fiction and Science Fact

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One of the biggest challenges for science fiction authors is keeping up with the technology. For those of you who have read my books, specifically the 2nd one in the series (“A Dark of Endless Days”) and beyond, you’ll remember Laren’s c-com, short for cerebral companion. This clever little device, essentially a smart phone on steroids, linked directly to his brain via psi link so he could access virtually any information in the Universe and likewise download his own thoughts. It could do just about anything, but there was one caveat, i.e., he had to ask it to do what he wanted. It wouldn’t volunteer information, as he discovered in “Refractions of Frozen Time.” And that’s enough of that before I get into spoiler territory.

As “high tech” as the c-com is, it’s nonetheless a little too easy to imagine such a device in the real world. I just saw an article in R&D Magazine (http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/04/phone-ultimate-macro-feature) that reported there is now a device that can turn any smart phone into a “DNA-scanning fluorescent microscope.”

Seriously?

Holy cow, I want one!

Not!

No, that’s not exactly on my Amazon wish list, but I’m sure for geneticists and CSI types it would be.

Clearly science and engineering is well on its way toward developing a c-com, taking it from science fiction to science fact. When I first started writing sci-fi my fictitious world had the internet, the equivalent of Craig’s List as well as a currency comparable to Bitcoin, all before their time. It’s been said that whatever man can perceive he can achieve and there’s no doubt that science fiction has been the inspiration for several of the technological marvels you see today. Undoubtedly you’ve seen that picture circulating on Facebook of an old Radio Shack advertisement from twenty or so years back hawking the electronics of the time. It included a television, radio, cameras (both still and video), tape recorder, stereo, a desktop computer, and of course, telephones, with the caption that everything on that entire page had been replaced by the smart phone.

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Charles Holland Duell (shown above), Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 1898 to 1901, supposedly once said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” This has been debunked but what he did say was, “In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

That was in 1902. He died in 1920. What do you think he would say about what’s out there today?

Case in point, my mother was born in 1906, the time when the Wright brothers were developing their flying machine into the first fixed-wing aircraft. She lived long enough to not only see men walk on the Moon but her daughter (yours truly) eventually work for NASA. She marveled at the internet and I shudder to think what her final years in a rest home would have been like without cable television. And that was just the 20th century. What can we expect in the 21st? What will top 3D printers?

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You’ve probably heard of Moore’s Law which hypothesizes that technology doubles every two years. This statement originated back in 1965 with Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, whose original statement related to the complexity of integrated circuits but has applied remarkably well to technology in general which, of course, is largely driven by just that. The miniaturization of devices fits in there as well. This “law” has proven to be accurate enough that tech companies have used it for planning purposes.

Science fiction writers, including myself, would do well to bear that in mind. Technology doubles every two years! It can easily take longer than that to write a book! That’s an exponential rate that’s hard to grasp. We’re all quite aware of the present but have often forgotten much of the past. Can you remember what it was like before cell phones or the internet? How about computers? Were you even born yet???

Trying to imagine what will come next taxes your imagination, yet as sci-fi writers that’s our job, to not only keep up but surpass it! That, my friend, is easier said than done. And I certainly don’t mean to throw stones at my fellow writers, but when I read science fiction I thoroughly enjoy noting how different authors extrapolate technology to the future, especially the near-future, such as another fifty years. Gasoline fueled cars? Paper? Really? Ya think? When technology doubles every two years? I particularly enjoy reading about paper documents on planets equipped with interstellar vehicles. Uh huh. Right. I’m as guilty as anyone, hard as I may try. In my novels I had security devices I called “palm locks” to gain entry to a room. Science fiction is now science fact.

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But there’s one area that science fiction writers can always pursue and that’s where technology will take us. Will it eventually all come crashing down? Then what? Are we really better off with our smart phones than we were without them? Or on a path to humanity’s demise? After all, there are those who use smart phones to trigger bombs and incendiary devices. Furthermore, a massive solar flare could destroy the power grid and all those cell towers. Then what? What if our addiction to electronics was forced into cold-turkey withdrawal?

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No wonder dystopian stories are so popular these days. Such scenarios are easier to imagine. Which is scary as hell.

[Illustrations credit 123RF Stock Photos]

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Chimera: A Dark, Suspenseful Tale Set Within an Original Sci-Fi Scenario

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“Chimera” is a well-written science fiction tale wrought with tension, suspense and believable characters. Its scenario is original and captivating, i.e. that of a habitable moon elsewhere in the galaxy which serves as a debtors’ prison for Earthlings unable to meet their obligations. These prisoner/colonists are provided with their basic needs via automated exchange ships which bring food and other necessities, then return to Earth with ecomire, a valuable mineral which colonists either mine or retrieve from “the rim.” As the seventh generation of colonists reach adolescence, their debt is considered paid. However, their release from bondage is complicated by the fact that no exchange ships have arrived for a long time, not only jeopardizing the colony’s survival but begging the question regarding what is going on back on Earth?

The richness of this story derives from a variety of original elements. For one thing, the ship which brought them there in the first place, the Chimera, is being renovated in the hopes of returning to Earth but this is complicated by the fact that she has an element of intelligence that no one so far has been able to access. Then there’s the matter of its original navigator, “Stephen,” who had connected with her and ultimately went insane while at the same time spawning some sort of weird religion with him at the core. These details bring the story to life by defining the culture which these exiled individuals developed and demonstrate a deep understanding of human nature on the part of its author, which is actually three individuals who collaborated in a very effective manner to bring this fascinating story to life. It definitely illustrates the concept that “two heads are better than one” when it comes to conceiving and developing a rich, compelling tale.

The adolescent characters come to life within this carefully fabricated world in a convincing and engaging manner. Each has a story of his or her own, an intriguing background that has contributed to who and what they are. In preparation for the return to Earth, “the selection” is in the process of choosing which members of this seventh generation of colonists will be chosen to be the Chimera’s crew, including someone who can awaken her. Personality conflicts, differing motivations and abilities, as well as dealing with a drill sergeant from hell are skillfully embedded in the overall tension of the story’s premise.

While the primary protagonist is a young man named Theo, the other characters’ importance is clear. Among other things, this episode is a coming of age story for Theo and the others as well, particularly Marcus whose seemingly sociopathic tendencies are ultimately at least partially explained and Selena, who has spent her life in a mining ship “on the rim” with her alcoholic father. The only one whom I didn’t connect with was Meghan who was superficial by comparison, perhaps because her background was not sufficiently challenging which left her bland and judgmental.

This is the first volume of an intended series which definitely drags you into the characters and plot with just enough questions left unanswered to make you anxious to get your hands on the next episode which is due sometime in the summer of 2015. The characters have strong, distinct personalities which have already established the promise of conflict when they crew the Chimera. I was provided a copy of this story in return for an honest review and was thoroughly enchanted by this well-crafted tale which holds tremendous promise.

Buy Link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SXOLP40/

More about Chimera & the team that comprises N.J. Tanger:

http://www.uebooks.com/

I ♥ Sci Fi

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I’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember. It started when I was in grade school and discovered H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Robert A. Heinlein. I couldn’t even begin to name my favorite sci-fi books. The list would be far too long, though I did attempt to include a few on Amazon’s Listmania which you can find here: http:/www.amazon.com/Favorite-Science-Fiction-Stories/lm/R2ZY3ZD3AXZJXG/.

My love of the genre was further fueled by the original Star Trek TV series (yes, I’m that old), then years later by movies such as Star Wars and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. I absolutely loved Back to the Future I and III as well as ET: The Extraterrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind,and Alien which all maintain a solid grip on my list of favorites. Needless to say, these movies were popular upon release and continue to live on via cable and satellite TV, Net Flix and, of course, DVDs. Obviously, lots of people at least like sci-fi enough to be considered a fan. After all, the nerd population alone cannot explain the success these flicks enjoyed at the box office.

But there are fans and there are Fans. To be a Fan takes your dedication to the next level. I remember someone cozying up to me one time in church, no less, so she could whisper in my ear. I expected her to tell me my slip was showing or I had a massive run in my pantyhose but instead she asked somewhat conspiratorially, “Are you a trekkie?” I’m not sure how she could tell, but clearly it showed, if not my slip, and this otherwise rather spiritual woman recognized me as one of her own.

That alone probably doesn’t necessarily qualify me as a Fan, only weird. But I’m sufficiently obsessed with sci-fi that I’ve actually been to a few Sci-Fi Conferences, or Cons as they’re affectionately called. No, I wasn’t tromping around in chainmail (much less ONLY chainmail) or dressed like Princess Leia, but I definitely understand the humor behind Bimbos of the Death Sun. Surely you’ve heard of it–no? Okay, nevermind. Let’s just say it’s a cult classic in the Con crowd. And actually, quite a few people go to Cons, but would the truth be known, there are two different categories of attendees: After all, there wouldn’t be sci-fi fans (or Fans) without sci-fi authors.

I’m not saying this to brag, but I’ve been writing science fiction since 6th grade when I penned (or rather penciled) stories on lined, yellow paper explaining our teachers’ origins (at least the ones we didn’t like). This has continued, though it’s no longer teachers who populate my tales, placing me in the “author” category. This, in turn, takes me slightly beyond Fan and qualifies me as a FAN. Unless you’re a total masochist you’re not going to turn out over a thousand pages of science fiction, some of which was done on a manual typewriter, unless you’re also a huge FAN.

But beyond that there are FANS. These people (mostly) are the ones so totally obsessed with science fiction that they live it. I, my friend, am here to confess that I am one of those. Initiation into this category is not for everyone. At the least, it involves numerous long nights exerting mental effort sufficient to spawn a brain hemorrhage. It’s multivariable calculus applied to electro-magnetic theory. Orbital dynamics and reference frame transformations. Deriving Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity as well as General Relativity plus knowing the difference between the two.

These are not problems that the average Star Wars fan or Fan would recognize if they hit them upside the head, especially if it were presented in mathematical notation. These are typical problems that physics majors confront as they attempt to discover exactly what the science comprises behind science fiction. Which is exactly what a person totally obsessed with science fiction is likely to subject themselves to.

Yes, I am that weird. I got a bachelor’s degree in physics as part of my obsession for science fiction. Then I was lucky enough to work at NASA for over twenty years. And now I’m retired and finally get to fully return to my first love, science fiction.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here but it helps.” To paraphrase, “You don’t have to be a physicist to write science fiction, but it helps.” Not only does it help but it provides you with a plethora of great ideas because the more you know about this stuff the weirder it gets. It’s a total blast. Writer’s block? Nah! Just read the latest research and you’ve got more ideas than you could develop in fifty lifetimes.

Surely not all science fiction fans are physicists but I would dare say that the converse is true and the vast majority of physicists are sci-fi fans, Fans, FANS or perhaps even FANS in that sci-fi’s effect on them was similar to mine. And I truly hope that my attempt at this genre brings my readers (and hopefully fans) even a nano-bit of enjoyment. Whether I could possibly inspire any of them to become FANS like those early sci-fi genre pioneers did for me I’ll probably never know, but I can always hope I run into one at a Con someday or maybe in a galaxy, far, far away. Until then, may you Live Long and Prosper (RIP, Mr. Spock), May the Force be with You, and may you feel inclined to find me at the links below.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Marcha-Fox/e/B0074RV16O/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6481953.Marcha_A_Fox

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marchafoxauthor

Author Website: http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com

Bublish Author Page & Book Excerpts: https://www.bublish.com/author/view/3111

Twitter: https://twitter.com/startrailsIV

Blog Page: https://marcha2014.wordpress.com/ (Be sure to check out my Physics Explained Blog)

Tumblr: http://startrailsiv.tumblr.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/marcha-fox/86/440/326/

Google+: google.com/+MarchaFoxAuthor

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kallioperisingp/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZsgOqTmtMFutwU3lt4RByQ

YOU CAN FIND MY BOOKS ON:

AMAZON

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=star+trails+tetralogy

BARNES & NOBLE:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s?store=allproducts&keyword=star+trails+tetralogy

SMASHWORDS

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=marcha+fox

AND FROM MOST ONLINE RETAILERS.

Star Trails Tetralogy Character Interview: Win Sendori

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Win Sendori first appears in “A Dark of Endless Days” and proceeds to become a major player from that point on.  He’s one of those characters that authors love.  He showed up on the scene as what I expected to be a minor character but he had such a strong personality from the git-go that he quickly worked his way into the story and never left.  When I was putting together my “Dream Cast” I found the picture you see at the top but there was no reference to who it is.  Anyone who can tell me with sufficient proof what his name is will get a free ecopy of the book of your choice!  If you want to see him in action, you can grab a copy of “A Psilent Place Below” for only $0.99 USD until April 7, 2015 using coupon code KR89P at Smashwords using this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511348 

You can find out more about the series, book trailers, and so forth at http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com.  That said, let’s get on with the interview!

Q: What was your first impression of the Brightstars when they walked into the Supply Depot (SD) where you worked as a clerk?

WS: It was like being hit by a lightning bolt. I felt I’d either known them before or that they’d be important to my life in some way. That first time I looked Laren in the eye I knew we were bonded in some way. I sensed his intelligence and importance immediately and that we’d do something big together. Of course much later, when I discovered we were both in the Ledorian Order, it made even more sense. Dirck immediately felt like an old friend. I could see he felt a little lost and having been there myself I could empathize.

Q: You seem to know a little about just about everything, perhaps what is referred to on Earth as “a jack of all trades and a master of none.”   How did you learn so much more about life than most people your age?

WS: Going through the Academy on Mira III helped me develop a good memory. If I read something once, it sticks. When I’d get bored, which was a lot, I’d pick a subject at random and learn all I could about it. It was almost weird how often those things would eventually be something that got me out of a bad situation. I’m also good at learning vicariously from other people’s experiences, especially their mistakes. When I’d watch Concurrency Reviews, which we call CRs and you Earthlings call “the news,” I’d always put myself into the situation and think about what I would have done that would’ve resulted in a different outcome. When people got out of line on Mira III they always got caught and then the Directorate made an example out of ’em. I would always ponder why they got caught and how they could ‘ve gotten away with it, whatever it was. That fault tree exercise Dirck and I went through for the prison rescue was a natural process for me. I just never knew it had a name.

Q: Were you fully aware of how much trouble you would have been in if you’d gotten caught helping the Brightstars?

WS: [Expletive deleted.] Yeah. I totally knew. When I worked for that creep at the Territorial Tower I saw what those people with even a little political clout could do. I not only saw it but it was my job to enter it into the records, which would set supposedly appropriate consequences in motion, deserved or not. At first I thought these people had done something horrible and deserved it. Until I knew one of them personally and was fully aware the charges were fake. That did it. I got so reeked it’s a good thing my boss was on TDY to some other planet because I know I would have done something stupid like demand an explanation. After I calmed down and thought it through, I understood I could do more to undermine it by keeping quiet. He’d check on my work from time to time, though, seeing if the person he’d targeted had been arrested or whatever, so I had to put the stuff in there like he said. When the billet opened for that position at the SD I knew that was a place I could make a difference. I knew I’d be doing a whole lot more than handing out plumbing supplies. But to answer your question, while I knew what would happen if I got caught, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be, that I knew enough to operate covertly and get away with it. I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference, not a risk.

Q: What about that wild ride through Guipure Canyon? Any comments on that?

WS: [Laughs] I’ve never told Dirck, but there were a few moments I doubted we’d survive. But that’s one thing about being Ledorian, you’re not afraid to die. Death is just a threshold to another plane of existence. If Dirck had died it would have been really bad, though, leaving his mother and brother on their own with his father an eppy in the Epsilon lockup. And that made me feel that somehow we’d be okay. Sometimes you get in a situation that’s so bad it has to be fate and all you can do is hope you didn’t make a huge mistake. It was really the turning point for Dirck. He started to get it after that and really leave Mira III and all its culture-based compliance crap behind. I think it takes looking death square in the eye before you really understand life.

Q: So now that things have settled down, at least on Cyraria, what are your plans? Find a nice girl and settle down? Or more adventures?

WS: [Smiles.] I don’t know, maybe both. To be honest, I’m getting a little bored. Things are too quiet. And while things have settled down here for a while, I don’t think it’ll last more than a cycle or two. There’s still a lot of crap going on out there galactically. They’ll be back, especially now that this place is turning into a halfway decent planet. Laren promised Sharra he’d stick around, at least ’til Deven’s raised, but he’s pushing for me and Dirck to go to Esheron and really get into this Order thing. And I gotta tell ya, I’d love to meet that gal, Antara, who stood up to Spoigan. That’s my kind of woman. So let’s just say only time will tell.