A while ago I met an astronaut. He had given a presentation about flying the space shuttle at a meeting I had arranged. Afterwards, I introduced myself and told him I had applied for the astronaut program in 1979 and been rejected.
“Me too,” he said.”And again in 1980, and 1981, and every year for thirteen years until they accepted my application.”
While I was trying to process that, he smiled. “You screwed up, buddy,” he told me.
Yesterday I got another rejection for one of my favorite stories. I felt a little down about it, with many rejections and no acceptances in the last three months. Then I thought about the astronaut.
All authors say they have copied with rejection. It feels personal sometimes, but I am determined to persevere. Someday I’ll be an astronaut.
This morning Elon Musk announced that his Falcon heavy rocket has succeeded in boosting a Tesla roadster into the Asteroid Belt. This is the first step toward a commercial space industry. Many people bemoan the new “Gilded Age” in which some become rich while widespread poverty continues to plague us. But standouts like Elon Musk and Bill Gates show is what individuals can accomplish that governments simply cannot. The truth is, it takes both to achieve our destiny.
See Life on Mars
In the absence of any other model, it is currently fashionable to posit that consciousness and intelligence “emerge” out of the complexity of life. Our brains allow emergent intelligence to evolve. What this means is anyone’s guess.
Let’s assume that it’s true, that out of sufficient complexity, consciousness and intelligence can emerge. How would this work? Would it require evolution in its traditional sense, inheritable change modified either in gradual ebbs or brisk saltations? Would an entity sufficiently complex be able to change itself so that consciousness emerges?
Ethical decisions are based on core values and models that guide decisions based on outcomes. In an artificial intelligence, how would these values be determined? How would different values be weighted? What would be the outcomes?
See Emergence for my take on it.
In an earlier post, Inspiration, I mentioned how I came to consider a novel based on a revolution on Mars. This is hardly a new idea, but I spent a lot of time researching Martian geography and considering the economics of colonizing Mars. To some the colonization of Mars is a categorical imperative. To others it’s a waste of resources better spent on Earth. To me it has to stand or fall on whether is makes economic sense.
To that end I wrote a brief backstory for the revolt on Mars. I think it works. Please comment if you agree or disagree. You’ll find it at Life on Mars
Today is a day to give thanks. I am thankful for many things and many people, far too many to list. Most of my blessings revolve around family. To all my family I send thanks for all they do to make my life overflow with blessings.
Of more relevance to this blog, I am thankful that in the summer of 2016 I started writing fiction. My novel, now tentatively named Apostle to the Cats, has been percolating in my head for decades. Now it’s nearly finished and in search of a publisher. But the real blessing had been the outpouring of stories that seem to come from nowhere and fill my head. Some have been written down and posted here. Others are finished but I want to get them published elsewhere. Some are works in progress. But I plan to continue posting them as fast as feasible so that others can read them.
Thank you for finding this and looking at my stories. Please feel free to leave comments.
During part of my checkered past I was a Naval Aviator specializing in hunting submarines. Our Air Group flew off USS Wasp which had a very early computerized ASW management system. No submarine on Earth could hide from us. The economics of dedicating a carrier task force to hunt a single submarine plus the end of the Cold War doomed the way we did it. A new wrinkle is arising from undersea drones. The extreme processing power available today could make ASW drones feasible. Here is my meditation on the coming technology.
This little snippet arose out of a writing class I was taking at ed2go.com. We were given a plain vanilla description of a sunset and asked to improve it. When I lived in Lawrence Kansas the sunsets were nonpareil. A professor there told me that the gorgeous sunsets were the future of Kansas since they were caused by Aeolian dust in the atmosphere, blowing into other states. So I wanted a Kansas sunset.
Kansas isn’t the treeless plain that coastals seem to believe (when they can even locate Kansas on a map – Newsweek once published a map of the country with Kansas labelled Nebraska and Nebraska labelled Kansas!) but I wanted a forest. So I moved the setting a little east to the western edge of the Ozarks. Then I got carried away with the sentence and wrote a paragraph. Finally I expanded the piece to give a sense of context.
E voila! Banjo Music.
Inspiration to write must, I think, be tailored to each writer and their mind. For me, I find the best inspiration in real life stories I have lived. I watched the 1967 Arab Israeli war from a hospital bed with an Army intel officer for a roommate. The commentary was fascinating but a story he told me about his experiences led me to write Wash, the ex-Special Forces soldier turned intel officer involve in truce talks. On Mars. Just a little story.
Then I wrote down “Of all the asteroid bars in the Belt she had to walk into mine.” That got me going with a story based in part on my own personal experience in meeting a girl in college who ended up being my lab partner in a physics class. The ridiculous opening line disappeared but I ended up with 10,000 words about Jack and Ellen. In the process of fixing a ludicrous problem facing them and its laughable resolution I discovered the Revolt on Mars, which links Wash to Jack and Ellen.
Watch this space for what’s looking like a sci fi spy story.
Moby Dick is a classic of American fiction. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex , on which Moby Dick is partly based, is a classic non-fiction book. I have always been fascinated by Moby Dick so I decided to do a take on it from the perspective of the white behemoth. Here, for your pleasure,
The Whale’s Tale
A long, long time ago, but in a universe right here, I was sitting in a survival class for Student Naval Aviators. A lot of it was boring but at one point they played a tape of a naval aviator who had been shot down and floated in his life raft for a couple of days before being picked up. He said he had hallucinated after a while and thought he was having a conversation with a seagull. For some reason that really stayed with me. Later I decided to use it as an exercise in a writing class. Finally I decided to put it on this blog. Enjoyl
Dialogue with a Seagull