A Summer of Space, Brains, and Writing

A Summer of Space, Brains, and Writing

I’ve been writing!

  • In The Re-creation of Sahmik Ghee, a future arctic hunter on a distant planet meets an untimely death. His partner must find a way to bring him back and hold him to his contract.

    This short story is based on the classic poem The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service. It’s currently being considered for publication, along with my previous story, Rogan’s Drone.

  • In an untitled short essay that takes place eighty years in the future, our economy is under siege by climate change and crippling national debt. But a breakthrough in time travel research provides a way for the future to fight back.

    I’ve written this essay in the style of Op-Eds From the Future. It’s currently tabled waiting for edits.

  • In Freeboot, my current short story project, parents must pay license fees for children who inherit patented gene edits—or lose the children as punishment. Dirk, an agent tasked with repossessing patent-infringing children, has a change of heart after meeting Elena and her very special son.

    The Supreme Court’s Bowman v. Monsanto precedent that seed stock from subsequent generations are subject to patent protection served as inspiration for this story.

While I can’t seem to tear myself away from shorter works, that as-yet-unwritten novel beckons me. At the end of this blog, take a look at some premises and plots, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Do Not Use This Brain – Abnormal!

Scene from Young Frankenstein

I finally know how Gene Wilder reanimated the abnormal brain that Marty Feldman brought him in the movie Young Frankenstein.

A Yale researcher has managed to keep a pig brain alive for several hours after death. Intended to aid victims of severe injury or drowning by providing their brains with oxygen and other nutrients, this technology raises many ethical, philosophical, and theological concerns. Apparently the pig brain was anesthetized to prevent any conscious activity. As a writer, I can’t help imagining an antagonist who decides to verify some brain-in-a-vat philosophical thought experiments with real-world tests.

For All Mankind

Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon

I celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 by watching my favorite Apollo documentary, For All Mankind. The video foregoes traditional voiceover narration and captioning to let the astronauts and technicians speak for themselves.

Fancifully conflating several missions into one works well for the most part, but gives a false representation to the severity of the Apollo 13 disaster. And I have to scratch my head and wonder how Ed White’s Gemini 4 spacewalk ended up in this otherwise all-Apollo film. Nonetheless, this aggregation of film clips well summarizes the spirit of the Apollo project.

The video consists of 100% NASA footage accompanied by Brian Eno’s brilliant ambient soundtrack. Find 80 minutes in your schedule to watch it.

2001

2001 movie poster

The film 2001: A Space Odyssey played in theaters across the country coincident with the first manned Apollo moon missions.

Like any other six-year-old boy in 1969, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Tired of my incessant begging and pleading, my dad took me to see 2001 on the big screen. I gaped at the shots of space stations in orbit and busses cruising over the lunar surface.

The film transformed me in a way I couldn’t have foreseen. I walked out knowing I wanted to work with computers, which I did for 30 years. HAL left that much of an impression on me.

Can’t get enough 2001? Listen to this Studio 360 podcast.

What I’m Reading

Here’s a few of my recent reads, none of which I have the time to praise with a full-on book review.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (one of my favorite authors, yet I never read this classic until now)

  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (recommended by my daughter)

  • Savvy by Ingrid Law (2009 Newbury medal winner)

  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

  • And yes, I really did read Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner. Laugh if you wish—I’m constantly researching how to create authentic female characters.

I’m currently reading four books at once.

  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

  • The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist

  • Rosewater by Tade Thompson

  • The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964, edited by Robert Silverberg

I’m currently also reading the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Here’s some books I hope to get to soon.

  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (which has been on my reading list for months)

  • The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil

  • Exhalation by Ted Chiang

A Few Ideas

At the start of this blog, I described recent and current writing projects. Now I’d like to share some ideas that might one day become actual stories.

  • In Termination Trait, a corporation sells patented DNA to generations in perpetuity. While investigating the source of her own mysterious DNA, Andrea realizes she could invalidate the corporation’s patents, but only if she can avoid the corporate thugs intent on killing her—and face her own naturally inherited disease and physical deformity.

    I’ve had the novel-length Termination Trait on my mind for over a year, but I’ve been afraid to embark on this huge project until I’ve developed adequate writing chops. I’ve done tons of research and don’t think I can contain it much longer. The short story Freeboot is my first timid step into the DNA-editing world that might eventually include the Termination Trait story.

  • Bootleggers (working title) is a steampunk piece set in prohibition-era Detroit. Former mechanic Harvey imports Canadian whiskey through salt mines under the Detroit River for his acerbic boss. After building a spring-driven AI to help with the labor, his automaton runs amok.

    I enjoyed drafting test scenes for this story, but decided to table it until I can further develop the plot and characters.

  • On an interstellar colonization voyage, a bioprinted human maintenance crew finds it difficult to focus on the ship’s repairs, while simultaneously battling psychosis. It’s Pandorum meets Solaris in this monster-in-the-house story that currently lacks a working title.

    I’ve been smitten with bioprinting since encountering the A-gates in Glasshouse by Charles Stross. The technology appears in my Sahmik Ghee story, and affords so many opportunities to explore humanness and personal identity that it will certainly be a common plot element in many future works.

I’ve got other ideas, too, but those are my top three. Let me know what you think in the comments, including “keep your day job”.

Check back this fall for an update on the publication status of both Rogan’s Drone and Sahmik Ghee. Until then, keep your butt in the chair.

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