Is Science Fiction Really Innovative, Magical, or Lazy? #scifi #doctorwho #sciencefiction #stories


Which Doctor would you want to pluck you effortlessly from your humdrum life?

Science fiction may be the laziest genre because it revels in easy solutions: Why walk if you can warp?

Science fiction often hand-waves away obstacles that are insurmountable or inconvenient. As an author, I’m not going to work out real solutions to every problem – a colony on Mars (a story I’m working on) recycles all its wastes, but I won’t design the water treatment system. (Though, now that I think about it, space toilets can be fun.)

There may never be a Star Trek Enterprise or even a quick hop to another star, and nothing suggests it’s possible to flit through time and space like Doctor Who’s TARDIS. Stories have different levels of reality – at least the Enterprise crew has an employer, but how does the Doctor stock his wardrobe room, or the kitchen for that matter?

In Jacob Brogan says

Luke [Skywalker] is a slacker, and when he looks to the heavens, he imagines release from the obligations that bind him to the surface of Tatooine… Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.

Brogan finds that heroes not only escape the real world, they have an easy time turning into someone who’s “super.”

“In The Matrix, Neo effortlessly learns a host of new skills that would normally take years to develop – the ultimate slacker fantasy.” Harry Potter may have homework, but Hogwarts only teaches those born with magic. (If you’re thinking Harry Potter’s not science fiction, forgive me, but scifi readers often enjoy fantasy too.)

Science fiction is a huge genre and not all heroes have it so easy. Some characters struggle and there are both happy and tragic endings.

Science fiction sometimes deals with inconvenience – you’ll find space station janitors and generational ships schlepping between stars. But there will also be fantastic elements you have to simply accept – sometimes technical (space war) and sometimes social (raising clones for spare organs). But that’s part of the fun. I’m already living in the real world. I want to read about something amazing and maybe imagine being part of it. That’s why it’s called fiction.

All my books, including science fiction, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Amazon and B&N, all major digital formats at Smashwords.

Start with Book 1 today, from any of your favorite stores: Emma wants to explore Mars in her robotic walkabout, but something is terribly wrong in the first colony. A strange illness threatens the settlers and deaths may be no accident. Has Emma joined the last humans on Mars?

Cosmos is Worth Watching


Tyson, with his famous sun and moon vest peeking out of his jacket

Are you watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s remake of Carl Sagan’s iconic mini-series Cosmos?  You should.

The theme of the first episode was that space-time is really, really big.  The episode received excellent reviews and I agree: the special effects and cinematography were stunning (“faster, brighter, and more explosive” as Wired says), though the use of cartoon animation to present a historical story struck me as less compelling than live action would have been.  There seem to be high hopes that the new Cosmos will rekindle America’s love affair with science, as anecdotes (if not rigorous studies) suggest the original Cosmos did.

The second episode tackled a fundamental principle that also has religious implications for some people: evolution.  Cosmos did not shy away, mentioning Darwin and our chimp relatives as well as a nicely done segment on the evolution of the mammal eye. Personally, I have never understood why some people want to limit god to an old book. As 16th-century philosopher Giordano Bruno said to his persecutors in the first episode, “your god is too small.”

The second episode covered some profound topics, like the five great extinctions on Earth, presented as displays in a solemn museum-like pyramid.  The episode also presented a fascinating small creature, the tardigrade, the only creature known that can survive, unprotected, in space. Maybe the producers won’t allow an entire episode to be set on Earth; there was a quick trip to the hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan.  Again, the animated cartoon (dogs becoming domesticated) seemed the weakest part of the show.

Cosmos courtesy Fox

Tyson confronts The Big Bang, courtesy Fox

Five years ago, Fox wouldn’t have made Cosmos, Tyson said in a recent interview. Today, we geeks are fashionable. “The geeks have found each other.” Hurray at last; it’s good to have friends who understand.

I like Tyson’s Cosmos and will watch the rest of the series.  I’m not sure what impact the original Cosmos had; we geeks also found inspiration in Star Trek. I plan to simply enjoy the new Cosmos and not burden it with expectations of inspiring a generation or solving America’s political problems.

Cosmos airs at 9 p.m. ET on Fox on Sundays. It will re-air on Mondays on the National Geographic Channel at 10 p.m. ET. Does anyone have information on international showings?

Population Decline – Disaster or Opportunity? or Both?

old barn

Abandoned barn by Dean McCoy

The coming drop in world population was in the news earlier in the year.  Many outlets, for example, Time and Slate have run articles about the projected decline.  “Experts say the rate of population growth will continue to slow and that the total population will eventually — likely within our lifetimes — fall.”  I live in a rural area, and I know that the census shows my county and other rural areas are losing population, but the thought that the whole world’s population will decline is hard to absorb.

Americans are used to our population growing thanks to immigration, and Americans of my era recall The Population Bomb and other dire warnings of overpopulation.  It seems the future will be different than the prophets of doom predicted.  What will a falling population mean? Continue reading