Monday, December 31, 2018

The World According To...

Image: Russ Seidel

Authors create their own worlds. It's the job, right? We create the setting, the people, the situations. Sometimes it's completely based on the real world (Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies), sometimes it's partially based on reality (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale), and sometimes it's many light years to the left of reality (Frank Herbert's Dune).

As authors of Parallels: Felix Was Here, we created our own universes. Now suppose you were allowed to bring such a creation to life (and not just in a film or at an amusement park like DisneyWorld's Avatar)? What changes would you make? Here are my top three:

1. A Four Day Work Week

I live in the US. I don't have a job, but I do have two children, one in 9th grade, one in 7th, and I am exhausted. I don't think I can get through three-and-a-half more years on this schedule. We get up at 5 or 6 a.m. because classes start at 7:20 a.m. (No, that is not a typo.) After school, there is an avalanche of homework, doctor's appointments, instrument lessons, instrument practice, play rehearsals, and on and on. It's a race to get out the door in the morning and a race to beat the clock to get to bed at a reasonable hour. (And we lose both of those races at a rate of near 50%.) Getting a Ph.D. and working full-time as a math professor was not this stressful, I swear. (All the time, unfortunately.)

A four-day work week may never happen in this country, but it does exist in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and Germany.

2. A Sleep Machine

Image: ALT1040

Did I mention my never-ending exhaustion? Let's fix that sucker once and for all, shall we? I'd like a machine in which I could program my desired hours of sleep, plug in, and get those 8 (or 9 or 10) hours of happy, happy dreamtime--guaranteed.

I know, I know, this already exists as Ambien, Lunesta, and other medications, but Rosanne Barr is a cautionary tale on why one shouldn't mix writing (tweet, tweet) with drugs. Enough said.

(I suspect cats have their own internal sleep machines already. Lucky fur balls.)

3. Beam Me Up, or rather, Beam Me Away

Image: Andrew

How cool would it be to have a means for instantaneous teleportation? Forget airport security lines, lost luggage, or even forgotten homework. What if you could go anywhere at any time in just seconds? What a world that would be!

I suppose it would have to come with certain regulations. We can't all zip over to Disney's Expedition Everest roller coaster after school (or Times Square for New Year's Eve, or the beach for lunch hour). But it sure would come in handy, if say, you were in the path of a natural disaster like fire, flood, or hurricane.

The technical side of instantaneous teleportation could have some nifty side effects. Consider the idea of breaking down a human body into particles and then reassembling them. On one hand, there is the fear of mistakes, an idea Micheal Crichton used in Timeline. But what about fixing things in the body? What if such a teleportation machine could be used to instantaneously heal a broken bone, remove a tumor, or rewrite your genes to ferret out certain illnesses? Doctors would go nuts! (But surgeons would have to kiss their scalpels goodbye.)

And then there's the other stuff. The trucking/railroad/air transport industry of moving goods would go the way of the dinosaur. Reduced fossil fuel use would help the environment. Maybe we could transport our garbage to the center of the sun! And imagine storage. What if you could put all your clutter into the equivalent of a data cloud? OMG! No more stacks and stacks of plastic bins filling our garages and basements!

Of course, this is the part of the story where something horrible happens. Let's not forget Stephen King's The Jaunt.


What things would you come up with for a better universe? What horrible/wonderful consequences might arise from them? Where would you go if instantaneous transformation was possible?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reasons to Read Short Stories

Last month, I posted over at the IWSG anthologies' blog. I have five reasons why you should read short stories, so visit me over there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

No More Excuses

by Yolanda Renée

Just because my posting day for this blog came today, it doesn’t mean I have a whole lot to say about anything. I was going to post about the recent Hurricane and Typhoon, after all my short story in Parallels was all about global warming and the use of fossil fuels that cause the destruction of our world.

But, I wasn’t inspired enough to be intelligent. 😊

So I went in search of inspiration. Here’s what I found. I hope it inspires you too.

You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Putting pen to paper lights more fires than matches ever will!

-Malcolm Forbes

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

-Anaïs Nin

But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think...

-Lord Byron

Now, none of us has an excuse!
Happy Creativity!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Have you ever fallen into obscurity?
What I mean by that is, have you ever disappeared so completely from other people's lives that the only place you exist is inside the walls of your own home?
If so, you're not alone.

Sometimes this is a really good thing--slowing down life and sorting through emotional baggage while trying to get your stuff together. Recovering from surgery (or having a baby *points to self*), moving to a new city and finding your footing, avoiding the flesh eating zombies outside your door...

Okay, maybe not so much that last one.

The point is, sometimes life hits us over the head and we need some time to recuperate. That's perfectly acceptable. The danger is when we stay in our shells. What kind of view do you have in the dark? What kind of perspective does it lend to life? Can we grow while hiding? (And I don't mean around the middle, because that totally is reality.)

People are social creatures. (For the most part.) We're meant to interact (and not only via text messages). We need the validation, kindness, and growth that comes from at least TALKING to other human beings.

If you'll join me, I'm going to attempt stepping outside of my warm cocoon. I plan to speak to people, face to face *gasp* and cut back on texting/social media. Lets experiment and see if life is better when lived with other people rather than along side them.

Speaking of gathering and socializing, we're launching a NEW BLOG for all IWSG anthology contributors. Check it out!

And before we go, *blows off the dust* speaking of bringing things out of obscurity, I write books! And they're awesome. So go buy them. And read them. (But only when you need some down time to all this "human interaction" stuff.)
(Find any of these titles on AMAZON)

Have you fallen off the face of the earth? Are you up for the challenge? What personal goal are you currently working on? Have you checked out the new blog?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Game Masters and Mythbusters

In August 2016, I wrote about one of our favorite museums to visit in San Diego. Every year, the Reuben H. Fleet museum offers some of the coolest science related exhibits we’ve enjoyed. My 2016 article, Science Fiction, Science Future can be found here.  

In 2017, we returned  for the “Game Masters” exhibit which highlighted the scientific development of gaming systems since Atari and the original arcade all the way through what gaming has in store for the future.

The work of more than 30 video game designers who have made a significant impact in the field was explored through rare concept artwork, newly commissioned interviews, and interactive digital displays. This large-scale exhibition took visitors behind the scenes of how video games are made as well as spotlighting the people who actually make them. From Minecraft to Starcraft toWorld of Warcraft, this was a landmark collection of the most popular video games on the planet, as well as independent games with a cult-like following.

The 9,000 square-foot exhibition took visitors through the evolution of gaming from arcade classics such as Missile Command and Pac-Man, to iconic console-based games featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and Rock Band, through to today's indie hits like Real Racing 2, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and more. Other famous titles included Dance Central and The Sims.

In addition to allowing guests to experience all of these games firsthand, the exhibit offered an in-depth look at the designers behind some of the most popular games of all time through rare original game artwork, 2D objects, and revealing interviews with game designers. The key role played by smaller independent designers in game design and development was also explored.

Some of these exhibits included books and comics that inspired, or were inspired by, these games and their designers. So very interesting, and a wonderfully nostalgic remembrance for those of us who grew up with these games. It was also interesting to see their influence from and upon science fiction in general.

This year, the museum is hosting “Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition” based on the popular Mythbusters series produced by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.  I've enjoyed watching old episodes of this show with my kids, and as a result we've enjoyed some of our own experiments. 

This years exhibit offers:

1) Use scientific observations and your own curiosity to search for the truth behind some commonly held beliefs.

2) Explore the Blueprint Room and relive some of the show's most exciting moments.

3) Test your hypothesis in The Workshop and decide whether the myth is plausible, busted, or confirmed.

4) Catch a live demonstration on the Demo Stage. There are multiple shows throughout the day, and the variables (people) are always changing, so results can change hour to hour!

5) Submit your own myths, and you could see them being tested on future episodes of MythBusters!

On display in the expanded upstairs galleries, the exhibition will overflow with hands-on props and gadgets from the show. The Fleet invites you to try your hand at busting some new myths, as well as some old favorites.

I'm so glad my girls enjoy science, creating their own stories, and experiments. I can't wait to see what this years visit inspires them to create.

This is definitely my favorite science museum. I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a better one, but it would be pretty difficult. This one always hosts some of the most unique, innovative, and certainly popular concepts that influence our fascination with scientific concepts and dreams. To learn more about this museum or this years display: 


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Little Creative Fun

Sometimes I feel less inspired than I would like.  For the last few days, I've had plenty of ideas that I'd love to put on paper, but nothing seems to be coming out right.  Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself.  Isn't that a common problem with writers?  We stress out about the words to the point where they flow like treacle.  It isn't always easy to snap ourselves out of it, either.

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn't feeling any more confident.  I wanted to say something profound about life and writing and the stories that we use to examine our shared humanity.  That sounds like a lot of pressure, so it shouldn't be surprising that doing this to myself did not help my creative output in the slightest.

Then I gave myself permission to have a little bit of fun with this.  Why not?  We all need a little fun and laughter from time to time, and when you're a writer, getting playful with words can also help unblock the pathways responsible for creative output.  Sounds like a win-win scenario, right?

That's why I wrote a little Mad Lib style story to share with you.  It was so much fun to write something silly, and all of you can have a good time filling in the blanks to create something uniquely amusing.  I've always enjoyed writing stories like this, and I'll highly recommend it to anyone who's feeling the creative strain.

Before going on to the story, write a list of these 12 things.  Feel free to be as zany with your responses as you want!

Symptom of illness
Annoying song title
Job title

Do you have your list ready?  Okay.  Going in order, insert each response into the blanks to create your very own story.  Have fun!

Launch Day

The day of the launch was not going _______.  In fact, an accurate description of events would include a few crude words.  One of the astronauts had too much ______ and was experiencing the fallout from that.  Dealing with ______ on launch day wasn’t exactly ideal.

Then there was the issue with the lead engineer Stan.  Some wires got mixed up, and now the spacecraft’s navigation system played _______ on repeat.  Without a proper navigation system in place, the ship could easily end up in _______ rather than in orbit.

No one had been able to reach Stan, either.  His answering machine said that he’d gone to _______ to _______.  It wouldn’t have been a problem if they had more time.  Delaying a mission was commonplace enough.  Except they had to launch today to save Earth from destruction via _______.

Sarah was determined, however, not to feel ______ about it.  She had a job to do.  She hadn’t been appointed ______ for nothing!  It was only a few wires, right?  How complicated could that be?

She looked up at the enormous _______ ________ of a spacecraft and steeled her nerves.  She had a job to do.  Today she could end up being a hero.  Or she could doom humanity to extinction.  No pressure.

*     *     *

How did your version of the story turn out?  How do you think it ends for our hero, and for humanity as whole?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Top Five Faves of Speculative Fiction on Netflix

It's addicting. It steals your sleep. It makes you stay up at least an hour past your bedtime even though you swore up and down you'd stop. What am I talking about? Netflix. And its lure is growing stronger all the time with new, original programming. Here are my top five shows that fall into the category of speculative fiction:

#5 The 100

Based on the books by Kass Morgan, there are currently 4 seasons available and a 5th to come. This mash-up of sci-fi meets fantasy follows a group of older teens as they are kicked out of the orbiting space station they were born on to go back down to earth. Their mission? To see if the old green and blue ball is habitable after humanity let loose with nuclear weapons about a hundred years previously.

The first season grabbed me with constant nail-biting tension and some curve balls. Unlike a lot of YA stories, the parents of these kids aren't dead (yet), but stuck up in the space station while the kids try to adjust to earth. The influence these separated groups have (or don't) on each other is fascinating. Plus, if you think the scariest thing the kids deal with is growing their own food or finding mutated animals, think again. I don't want to get into spoilers, but they aren't alone...


Watch the first episode of Black Mirror, if you dare.

#4 Black Mirror

The Twilight Zone meets the technological age in this series, which includes 19 separate episodes spread over 4 seasons. The first one, The National Anthem, had me hooked, jaw on floor in complete disbelief. It was probably the most psychologically disturbing thing I've seen on television, period (closely followed by renting Deliverance).

On the other end of the spectrum, San Junipero is one of the most beautiful love stories I've seen. Other episodes, like The Entire History of You and Black Museum, are fiendishly clever stories.


Image: The New Croton Dam, By Acroterion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A (digital) bus crash off this bridge is featured in The OA

#3 The OA

This eight episode series follows the extremely odd life of Prairie Johnson. She reemerges into her adopted parents' lives seven years after disappearing. Previously blind, she can now see, but she won't talk about where she's been. Instead, she becomes the leader of a band of misfits who get together to learn a routine that might be described as Garth Fagan dance combined with high speed tai chi. It all has a higher purpose though.

I loved this show's stunning visuals and creepy mood.


After watching Stranger Things, this is what my daughter wants for her birthday.

#2 Stranger Things

The strangest thing about this series is that after watching the first half of the first episode, I got so bored, I quit watching. Then all the hype finally convinced me to give it another go and what a ride! If I hadn't, I would have missed the upside-down, Joyce's Christmas lights, Dustin's lisp, and Eggo waffles.

Not only does Stranger Things serve up a heaping dose of 80s nostalgia, but it borrows from all the movies I loved as a kid. Does telekinetic Eleven's bleeding nose remind you of someone? Of course! While the girl in Stephen King's Firestarter had the power of telekinesis and pyrokinesis, it was her dad who got a bloody nose whenever he used his mind to control someone. You can also find the influence of Poltergeist, Alien, and a host of other popular movies from that era.

This show is completely bonkers and so, so fun. There's two seasons (17 episodes) to relish and if your pining for season three, you're not alone.


#1 Dark

Because Dark and Stranger Things feature a missing boy in their opening episode, it's natural to compare them. But missing child aside, these are quite different shows. While Stranger Things has its scary moments, there is a campy vibe that lets you know your favorite characters may be put through the wringer (or become invaded by soul-sucking worms from another dimension), but chances are, they will emerge victorious.

So why would I put this show above Stranger Things? The title says it all. Dark is, well, very dark. You don't know what's going to happen. There is no feeling that things are going to turn out all right in the end. The cinematography is so gorgeous. There are long overhead shots of a lush, green forest in every show and this deep cave nestled in a hillside that just begs you to enter, but promises you'll be terrified with every step. The characters are extremely realistic in their flaws, but even as they do terrible things, part of you sympathizes with their plight.

Luckily for me, there is a season two in the works.


Have you watched any of these shows? Do you have recommendations for my next Netflix addiction? How much sleep have you lost binge-watching?