telling tales of doing the impossible

Posts tagged ‘predictions’

Predicting Pandemics

It’s hard for a science fiction writer not to be taken aback by the unexpected events of 2020. Given that, I asked author Melissa Riddell to share her thoughts on the difficulties of writing science fiction that occurs in the near future.

Here is what she had to say:

When I wrote The Descendant last year, I had no idea we were going to have our own viral outbreak in the real world. Even though my book’s apocalypse starts with an electromagnetic pulse wiping out all electronics and electricity, it also throws in a deadly virus killing most of humanity. With The Descendant, though, Tilly and Jareth’s romance and character development is at the heart of the story, so the virus takes a backseat to the true narrative.

There have been many apocalyptic books written where a virus is the driver to end times, such as Stephen King’s The Stand, and most readers (me included) gobble them up because we feel safe. We enjoy imagining what it would be like to survive the chaos—from the comfort of our favorite reading chair with our favorite beverage at our side.

The only true danger after reading these apocalyptic novels was developing a sniffle during the reading. We might’ve rushed to the clinic and explained what Mr. King called this type of sickness. “Oh, sweet Jesus, I think I’ve got Captain Trips.”

Calmly, the doctor informed me—uh, I mean those readers—they were suffering from allergic rhinitis, nothing more. He might’ve shaken his head and walked away, probably adding the patient to his psychosomatic list. And he was right—a little loratadine or cetirizine cleared Captain Trips right up. I digress, though.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19. Now that the world has had a tiny taste of living through a real pandemic, some readers want no reminders of what’s going on. Their whole purpose of reading a book is to escape reality. This poses problems for this type of near-future sci-fi and kills the “joy” factor.

On the flip side of that coin, the other crowd loves it, because they can relate to the book’s characters in a much more intimate way. Heck, they might even read it again to ensure they didn’t miss any tips on how to survive the virus.

Any writer trying to “cash in” on the current pandemic is probably going to find their book in one of these two crowds—those who love it because of what we’re living through, and those who detest it due to the current situation. My advice? Write your story. Even if it’s not popular right now, every genre experiences fluctuations in popularity, so who knows? Maybe a few years down the road, when we hopefully have COVID-19 under control in our past, those who passed over the book might be willing to give it a try.

In general, without the viral threat we’re facing, I think the difficulty in writing near-future sci-fi technology is in the technicality of the world or gadgets. If the story’s setting or tech is based on proposed developments, say in 10-30 years, then it’s imperative the writer does his or her research. Why? Because the technology isn’t that far away, and the author must prove to the reader they know what they’re writing about. Imagine getting it all wrong, and in a few years, the book is outdated and unbelievable. That’s not a good thing for the writer—or the reader.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to write science fiction for the far-off future or an advanced race, because I can make up stuff that can’t be disproven so easily. As long as I stick to fundamental laws of physics and biology (as we know it), then I can create the “fiction” part of science fiction and hopefully, the reader will happily come along for the ride.

About Melissa Riddell

Melissa Riddell is from a small, West Texas town in which she still lives with her husband. Her writing career started as a hobby when she was a teenager, writing poems and short stories. Eventually, she branched out and began constructing novels. When not contemplating new story ideas, she can be found traipsing around Texas State Parks, herding her cats, or reading a book.

Visit her website.

I thank the author for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out The Descendant.

This Blog is Dying, Too

Yup, two of my six blogs are being put into WordPress cryogenic storage.

Flickers of Fortune is one of them. It’s bittersweet, for sure. I put this creation together to celebrate my fifth book, which I first published in January of 2015. I already had four blogs I was struggling with, so it’s not so surprising this one never got the attention I intended to give it.

And it had a lot of promise, too. I wanted to write about the future. Speculating about it. Trying to predict it. Does anyone ever really get a glimpse of it? And what are the time travel (and free will) implications of a future that can be known?

So many ideas, and such little time. Sigh…

But, as I posted on my other dying blog in This Blog is Dying, I’ve discovered I like writing novels more than I like blogging. And time spent doing the one is time not spent doing the other.

Read more about my decision to self-destruct two of my blogs at This Blog is Dying, Too.

Bulb

My Review:

In Bulb, Bradley Wind has created an unusual and thought-provoking look into the future. It poses plenty of relevant questions about today and about the choices we’re making.

What I liked best:

1. This is a genuine attempt to describe the future, not a story set in our own world with more rocket ships and robots in the background. The author makes the valid point that if you asked a human from ten thousand years ago to describe the year 2020 they wouldn’t have enough information to even imagine our society. Bradley Wind has tried to make this leap into an unimaginable future, and he has succeeded in creating a disturbing and unexpected world that seems normal and even inevitable to those living in it.

2. His writing packs a punch.

3. This could have been a one-good-idea book. The concept of the archives is so different, and so chilling, that it would carry a fine story. However, Wind is just getting started when he lays out the concept of everyone being able to view everything everyone else has ever done.

What I liked least:

1. The pacing is erratic. I do think the way the book is written has an overall artistic effect, but one has to get through it to appreciate the artistry, and this is not an easy book to finish.

2. Item three above is somewhat of a two-edged sword. This story throws so many radical ideas at the reader that overload is likely. Yes, you can have too much dessert, and too many things to think about in too short a time. I’d recommend reading this novel over a period of several days, if not more.

3. This last part is subjective and I always wonder whether personal preferences should be included. Yet, no matter how well done something is or isn’t, we all have own tastes and they effect our reading experience. So, I’ll be blunt. I didn’t enjoy reading this book.

I’m easily bothered by blood and gore, disturbing rape scenes, disgusting behavior, detailed descriptions of bodily functions, deformities, mutilations and you get the idea. I’m not a good date at a zombie movie and I don’t watch horror flicks. But … Bradley Wind can’t seem to stay off of these topics. His descriptions of the lives of two saints (people who voluntarily stay in a coma to keep the system running) were so over the top they nearly stopped me from finishing the story.

It’s important to note that I’ve read other novels I didn’t enjoy, and yet which I’m glad I read. (Did anyone actually enjoy reading 1984?) The truth is, we don’t only read for fun. We read to understand new points of view. We read to have our imaginations expanded and our empathy increased. We read to think more and to feel more and to grow.

So, I recommend this book to (1) people who enjoy dark and disturbing speculative fiction, and (2) to those willing to read such in order to be exposed to ideas they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Trust me, this book is full of them.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see https://dtothepowerof4.org/2020/02/03…

Computers are taking over your 401K. Should you care?

One of the challenges in writing Flickers of Fortune was to convince my readers that investing in the stock market could be dangerous, exciting and sexy. My thesis, if you will, was that much of the machinations behind the worlds wealth goes on behind the curtain of the world’s largest casino — known as the various stock exchanges. And if you don’t think handling money, lots and lots of money, is dangerous, exciting and sexy — well you’re probably not paying much attention to why things go the way they do.

Read more at Computers are taking over your 401K. Should you care?

Here’s the plan

This is my first original post on this blog.

Not my 1st cover

I usually feed it with material from the blogs for my individual books, but this is special. I’m in the process of undergoing something of a transformation (I know, it’s an exciting word) and my books are going with me.

Last spring I gave all six of them a quick edit, with the expectation of moving on to a new series this fall. I was excited to get started on this new project, but I wanted to leave them in the best shape I could.

Then my plan got disintegrated. Burst into flames. Died a violent death. It happens to plans sometimes.

A successful self-published author got assigned to mentor me at a SFWA convention and he made a few suggestions. Rename your books and get new covers. (I can do that?) Learn about writing ads and read about successful advertising. (I can learn that?) You’ve created a product. Why not sell it?

This is my 1st cover

These ideas may not seem like a news flash to many writers, but they were to me. I’d written six books to express myself and to get these stories out of my head. Sure, I wanted to sell books but that was secondary to creating the thing I wanted to create, in the way I wanted to create it. I cared about sharing my stories with those I knew, and then finding like-minded souls who’d enjoy what I had done. I never considered anything other than self-publishing. It was all one big arts and crafts project for me, and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

But he had a point. My sales were down to nearly nothing, so why not put on a new hat? I just didn’t expect to enjoy wearing this other hat so much.

The books have been renamed. Great fun. I love the new names. The first cover is finalized and I can’t stop looking at it. The second one is in progress and I’m betting I’ll be every bit as enamored when it is done.

Not my 2nd cover

The first three books have received a hearty edit with an eye towards moving the story along, keeping words simple and phrases short, and keeping controversy out of the story. I let myself have another go at the first book, and it seems I can’t stop cutting. Zap, another 6000 words just went in the trash. It is no longer the art creation I loved, but it is something else I am proud of and something I am sure more readers will enjoy.

I’ve set an ambitious schedule for the next six months. I’ll be releasing One of One in mid-January and then another book the middle of every month until June. Each version will be as every bit as marketable as I am able to make it, and will receive strategic advertising designed to pull in readers. Will it work? I’ve no idea. I hope so.

Then I intend to start that next great project in the fall of 2019. At least, that’s the plan.

There is a famous Yiddish proverb that says we plan and God laughs. True, huh? Who knows what I’ll be doing in the fall of 2019. None-the-less, it’s good to have a plan.

 

Day 16. What Rules? What Road?

I spend about half an hour trying to find the henna tattoos, located at 4:00 in center camp. Hot and cranky, I finally give up.  This has certainly turned into a shitty day.

Then I stumble upon friends and next thing I know I’m on an art car with some sort of south seas theme. It takes us to a memorabilia-filled tiki bar tucked into a bus and I’m drinking rum drinks and talking to a psychiatrist about phobias when I meet an older burner at the bar who’s been doing this since the early 90’s and he kisses my hand and suddenly I feel so welcome here.

Read more, see more photos and enjoy the song of the day at Day 16. What Rules? What Road?

Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles

So if the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, does the journey of 6000 miles begin with 6 steps? Just wondering ….

This morning I left for a 28 day trip, the longest I’ve attempted in decades. The first 12 days will involve me driving over 3000 miles by myself, in a car loaded down with a bicycle, tent, air mattress, camping and cooking supplies, food, and all the clothing and necessities of life for four weeks. Oh, and lots of music stored on four different devices with three different ways to play it. I may be foolish, but I’m not stupid….

Day 1During these first 12 days I’ll be staying with 7 different Airbnb hosts, and if tonight’s lodging gives any clue, it’s that this will be interesting. I’ll also be retracing significant places from my past , something it is time for me to do.

 

Read more at Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles.

 

Review: Little Computer People

Galen Surlak-Ramsey has written a book that is great fun to read, and certain to delight those with an understanding of computers. The overall tone of the book is fun, funny and self-deprecating. The narrator/main character has a shrewd self-awareness that keeps him from becoming obnoxious, even when he does outrageous things like compare himself to God.

Read my full review at Little Computer People

Pay Attention

Not sure why I keep getting hit with heart attack ads but it is a little creepy

The idea of time and attention as a new form of currency rings true. Note the way online ads compete for your attention. The whole thing with Face Book has made us all painfully aware that we are the product being sold by companies on the cutting edge of technology. Just today, I had to click my consent to new terms for Yahoo. Basically the terms said I understand they will use all content I provide in any way they please. 

Why do they want this data? It is not that I am inherently interesting to Yahoo, Google or Apple. They want to use the data to place specific content where I see it. They want to sell my attention to their advertisers.  My attention is worth money, it turns out, if I have demonstrated an interest in the advertiser’s product.
Read more at Pay Attention.

Ah, the stock market …

Or, this positive exuberance could be no more than the enthusiasm of a classroom full of misbehaved children who have just figured out that their substitute teacher is an idiot. Oh boy. Are we going to have fun today.

Or maybe it’s a combination of all three. What do you think?

Read more at Ah, the stock market …

Why would anyone call a collection of books 46. Ascending?

I can tell you that I wrote these books filled with a sense of energy and purpose unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. Many days, writing wasn’t just what I wanted to do, it was all I wanted to do. It was an addiction, an obsession, and a nepenthe against all the world’s ills. I let it consume me, and I enjoyed the ride.

Read more at Why would anyone call a collection of books 46. Ascending?

Come on humans, we can do this!

It might have to do with my life long addiction to science fiction. I’m scared of nuclear annihilation and being replaced by cockroaches. Or by human-eating alien plants. Have you ever seen “Little Shop of Horrors?” If you’re prone to paranoia about what is going to replace you, I do not recommend it.

Me, I’m afraid of having the human race replaced by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And have you seen the latest “Planet of the Apes” movie? No matter how bad the script is, you can still worry about being replaced by sentient animals. Then of course, there are always zombies and vampires, and don’t even get me started on artificial intelligence. Am I only one in the world who took the Terminator movies seriously? Or Ex Machina?

Read more at Replacing me with …

(Read more about my trip to Kenya at Smiling my way across Kenya, Still a Sunrise?Like Eating Crab and  Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59)

Cease worrying when you can, and write about what you know.

What I am is a worrier, among other things, and I know in my heart that it is tied to my story-telling abilities. If you want a mind that makes up exciting scenarios from everyday events, well then, you get a mind that sees exploding cars, intricate scams and paranoid plots around every corner.

Read more at Cease worrying when you can and write about what you know.

(Images shown are from the various victory images used at the World of Solitaire# website. They add an extra bit of fun to the game.)

(For a companion piece to this post, see Worry about those you love and write about what you know.)

Did we just witness the dawn of …. ?

I suspect that you and I have have lived through times that changed the world in large ways, but it takes years to see the effects, especially in an age with cable news shouting about the significance of everything every minute of every day. But someone like my character Ariel would know right away, finding herself overcome with dizziness as the probabilities shifted heavily one way or another.

Read the entire post at Did we just witness the dawn of America’s four party system?

Solitaire and Nuclear War

10371641_sI’m thinking about how wars start and how peace is made, how markets crash or don’t, how criminal activity succeeds or is uncovered, and how alliances are forged or broken. How many if-that-little-thing-hadn’t-happened components are there to any major world event? I’m thinking there are a lot of them, most of which we never know.

Read more at Solitaire and Nuclear War.

Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

crystal-ballI wrote a book about prescience, the ability to see into the future and understand the true likelihood that an event will or won’t occur. Constructing the plot of d4 forced me to spend quite a bit of time considering how such an ability could work.  What’s more, several of my characters were attempting to use their prescient skills to make money in the stock market, so I ended up learning quite a bit more about Mr. Dow Jones and all his friends, too.

Read more at Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

The Trouble with Telepathy

magicYes, it may not be the classic telepathy of fiction, but we are talking about direct brain to brain communication here, aided by modern technology. The article goes on to address possible real life uses including already successful work on adapting a brain-to-machine interface to help paralyzed patients walk by using their brain signals to control prosthetic devices. This is cool, and it is really happening.

Read this update on achieving telepathy through technology at The trouble with telepathy.

That’s Why You Make the Trip

img_3402Cinnamon on oranges and cumin on boiled eggs. The inside of a walled city so confusing that it has spawned an entire cottage industry devoted to directing lost tourists. Surfer towns painted in hippie colors and seaside resorts caught in a 50’s time warp as they offer hospitality to a smattering of elderly Europeans.

None of this is what I expected when I came to Morocco.

This is a blog about predicting the future, and over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the unexpected.

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at That’s Why You Make the Trip.

img_3371

Is it over yet?

On October 25 I wrote a post about the upcoming election on my d4 blog. I said

Yes, many of us aren’t going to be completely happy about everything. That doesn’t mean we should not weigh in on the real choices before us. And yes, roughly half of us are going to have to work hard to understand what in the world the other half was thinking. I remain hopeful that everyone, myself included, is capable of making that important effort and moving forward.

stressedLooking back, I know that when I wrote those words I was confident the election was going to turn out differently. It didn’t. Now I’m having to give a lot of thought to what one should accept and what one should fight. Two competing things I’ve read recently stick in my mind.

Not all Trump voters are racist, but they were willing to vote for a racist. Not all Trump voters are sexist, but they were willing to vote for a sexist. ByTamara Draut / BillMoyers.com

and

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James

Perhaps you, like me, are trying to figure out where these two ideas intersect. If you’d like more food for thought, please check out the my entire Oct. 25 post at Is it over yet?  You’ll also find a link to a fun video of one of my favorite songs ever (“The Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine) and learn a little about how the election stressed out the entire nation (and maybe still is.)

 

And That’s Why They Play the Game

riverWe’ve been on the road nearly two weeks now and in a macro sense the vacation has gone as planned.  You know, we’ve shown up where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. No glitches. But that’s sort of like the Red Sox showing up to play their games, isn’t it? Yes, being there is essential, but it is the other stuff that makes it interesting.

Read the entire on my d4 blog at And That’s Why They Play the Game.

The future is coming?

flying carYou find the future in the oddest places. I mean if you are like me and have been reading science fiction for decades, you probably go along feeling like nothing has really changed all that much compared to the future you read about. Yes, yes, our cell phones can do all kinds of cool things but where are the Jetson cars and colonies on the moon and cute talking robots and all those other things that the future was supposed to bring?

And then, blat, along comes a piece of that science fiction that has turned real, and you find out about it in a place you least expected it.

Read the entire post on by blog about the future at Kill free meat: the future is coming?

Prepare for the worst?

evolver 1But another voice in my head speaks up, and it is less anxious to please.

“You don’t just worry,” it says. “You prepare. You plan ahead. Those fantasy scenes you love to invent allow you to try on various scenarios and practice problem solving before it is crucial to your survival.”

“You mean I’m not a day dreamer and chronic worrier?”

“You probably are that too,” my monkey mind concedes.

Read about the entire battle on my d4 blog at Prepare for the worst?

Sneaky Weather Forecasters

end-is-nearThe morning went well and I was pretty proud of myself for not being intimidated, but by noon it began to change.  I charged ahead even though it was in the mid thirties and raining. By mid afternoon we had dropped into the twenties and whatever you chose to call the gunk falling from the sky, there was no question that it was starting to coat the road in a most unfortunate way.

Read the entire post at Sneaky Weather Forecasters

I’ll always be glad to see you

eyeWe are back to the old issue of uncertainty, and oh if we could only see the future. Maybe the problem is minor.  I should go and get this off my mind already. Maybe it is major and time is not my friend. If I get my butt in there, the outcome may be better. And maybe it is awful and my life will never be as good after Wednesday in which case I’d rather just not go. Except for this eye thing, my life is pretty good now and there is a big temptation not to mess that up.

What to do?

Read the entire post at I’ll always be glad to see you.

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