What a year it has already been
DOOM (2016) Retrospective
An Open Letter to CBS and the Creative Controllers of Star Trek
Great Scott, it’s done: My fifth novel
I suppose this is the most appropriate of all places in the world to announce that I have finished the first draft of my fifth novel, and the fourth novel in the After Terra series: Return of the Gods.
The project started officially on March 21, 2017. My, how many twists and turns and misfires my life has endured since then. I survived many changes, including several relocations and a disastrous excuse for a marriage that thankfully never legally existed. And thus, so did my novel, and might have come out the better for it, albeit at my own expense.
Return of the Gods is the largest project I’ve ever created and possibly ever will. Even in its current state, its size eats up the previous two After Terra novels and the short story collection, and is close to Dune in its word count. It is nearly twice the size in words of everything I ever published on uncommongeek.com.
So, you can imagine (hopefully) why this project has consumed so much of my writing time and creative power. There came a point where, when given time and opportunity to write, Return of the Gods was all I could think of. Now that it is done, yes, there is editing, rewriting, formatting, and other fun stuff to take care of, but the most difficult part of the task is done. The foundation is laid.
I have also been busy behind the scenes exporting the majority of posts I made for The Uncommon Geek for republishing here on afterterra.com. Although I don’t know all of the details to the letter, but it has been indicated to me that uncommongeek.com may not be accessible as we know it in the relatively near future. Besides, the posts I saved were mostly in bad need of rewrites anyway. So, this is another reason why posting here has been quiet.
Now that my head is clear from writing an epic, there will again be regular activity on this site, and lots of exciting publishing news about my work is coming your way in 2020. This is shaping up to be my most prolific year yet.
I was only mostly dead
I fully realize and take complete responsibility for the fact that afterterra.com has been dormant for the latter quarter of 2019. It has been dormant as a blog and as a hub for everything to do with my flagship science fiction series. I could point to a number of reasons that played into this, such as participating in NaNoWriMo, or my haphazard personal life, or in prioritizing my next novel over publishing anything on this here site. At the end of the day, these things are excuses. If I had the passion to update my site, I would have found the time and found a way.
Does that mean I don’t care about this site? Not at all. Do you stop loving a family member or stop caring about a friend if you lose touch for weeks or even months? No. Daily life has a way of pulling you away from remembering such priorities, especially if you have to work to survive. For some of us, the escape from reality’s crushing pressures becomes its own full time job, a way to recover and regenerate from the demands of an arbitrary “real” existence. The energy needed to maintain “real” life and the energy needed to recover from living it leaves precious little for the things we really want to do.
That leads one to make a choice. You can either piss and moan and blame reality, society, other people, whatever, for this dilemma, or you can face yourself and understand that perhaps a reshuffling of energies and priorities is in order. “You either believe in yourself or you don’t,” as James T. Kirk once said. This idea can extend further into whatever endeavor it is you are striving to achieve. True, the world is full of shit. Society has more ills than I can properly cover in a single blog, and there is some legitimate blame to go around as to why so many of us toil and slave away and never get to make a living doing what we want to do instead of what we have to do. But you can only ride the blame train for so long before you have to take responsibility for your own actions, or inactions. When I was at one of my lowest points in all of life and had become disillusioned with almost everything—to the point where I became supremely vulnerable to she who in retrospect was the biggest abuser I’ve ever encountered—I eagerly blamed my job, society, my country, even my family for my woes. I never asked to be born into this miserable world, I never asked to be a citizen of a country that is destroying itself piece by piece. But I can acknowledge that these things are beyond my control, and say, “look, this is the hand I’ve been dealt. Others have done more with less.” Because they believed in themselves, and in what they were doing, and they refused to allow life’s mundane bullshit to stop them from achieving their goals.
What do I believe in with After Terra? I believe that I can give you, a science fiction audience (or alternatively an audience that loves character-driven adventures), something you have been craving for a long time: a spiritual successor, the next torchbearer for Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, Firefly, et cetera. I’m writing for those of you, like me, who don’t believe for a second that science fiction is a dead genre, but merely one that has been lacking a touchstone for a generation or longer, one that is waiting for a watershed in the 21st century. I’m writing for those who are sick of rehashes, remakes, who are tired of the supposed leaders of modern creative media flushing good storytelling down the toilet in favor of lens flares, shoddy writing, mysteries that go nowhere, explosions, and weird camera work.
Some have advised me that when I have been low, I should focus on writing for myself. Well, I can write for myself until I am green in the face. It doesn’t matter when I have something that I am writing for an audience, and not an audience of one. So I have stumbled, I have made a lot of screw ups. Unlike some authors, I choose not to hide these things in an attempt to appear austere. Don’t let anyone delude you otherwise; there is no magical curtain between authors and non-authors. We aren’t any different from you, fundamentally, except perhaps for an excessive capacity for enduring criticism, rejection, judgment, ridicule, and disappointment. In other words, we’re masochists. So, I know I am going to make more mistakes down the line. Some of you out there, whether because you have a legitimate reason to not like what I do or because you’re a troll, aren’t going to contribute anything positive to the journey. Maybe you’ll be a nice person that I can agree to disagree with, or maybe you’ll be a fucking asshole. I can’t control that. But if I can create a living, breathing universe for you fellow sci-fi lovers to get lost in and enjoy, one that isn’t going to stab you in the face like some other promising franchises have, then it’s all worth it.
A Sliver of Me
I realize that the site has been on ice for a while. I intend to remedy that.
The following writing I am about to share is a piece of catharsis that wants out; it is not intended to be strictly poetic nor is it necessarily a story. It is a raw piece of expression. It only in a fractional way has to do with After Terra; readers of the entire series up to this point may understand where it has synergy. Those of who also know me in my personal life and happen to know some of my situation, you would be mistaken to assume you know who I am talking about with my use of pronouns in this writing expression.
Star Trek Review: Where No Man Has Gone Before
A revisit of a review, that was in itself a revisit of a retried pilot. Got it? Good.
Here we go, the second pilot, and the first episode featuring Captain Kirk. This episode has in many aspects aged worse than most of the series, but it serves as an interesting look at how many changes the show went through in its infancy. Of course, why this was aired nearly a quarter of the way through the first season and not used as the first episode as intended, I have no idea. I guess NBC was using the same kind of logic back then that Fox employed with Firefly in more recent times; that is, none at all.
If you watched other episodes before this one, it can seem a bit jarring. The Enterprise bridge, effectively unchanged since the filming of the original pilot, “The Cage,” looks drab, lacking in the more familiar color and character of later episodes. The uniforms here are muted yellows and blues without any red shirts to speak of. All of the women are wearing pants. Star Trek lore was barely even established at this point, as here we have Earth Base mentioned in place of Starfleet Command, and mistakes such as James T. Kirk’s name being misused late in the episode as James R. Kirk. The lack of establishment in this episode makes it feel more akin to something like The Twilight Zone, as opposed to the Star Trek that we know and love.
In a rare thing for Trek, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” deals with the capacity for humans to possess extra sensory perception, something that the characters here treat as a normal, if uncommon, reality. The interest in ESP happens when the Enterprise encounters a treacherous energy barrier at the galaxy’s edge while investigating the loss of an old starship, the Valiant. No surprise that of course the ship and crew are put into extreme peril.
U.S.S. Enterprise encounters the galactic barrier
This move cripples the Enterprise’s warp engines, and has a profound effect on two crew members who already possessed a small level of ESP.
(Now before you all get too nitpicky—you know who you are—and ask how Enterprise, much less Valiant, could make it to the galaxy’s edge in a relatively short time with warp drive, remember not to think too two-dimensionally. One could reach the “edge” of the galaxy just as well by traveling “up” or “down” relative to the galactic center.)
Gary Mitchell, Kirk’s longtime friend, is the most drastically affected by the energy barrier. At first his new powers seem fairly innocent; he can read fast, retain information with perfect clarity, and perform minor feats of telekinesis. But it doesn’t take long for Mitchell’s growing powers to affect his judgment, and he soon begins to view the Enterprise crew, even his friend Kirk, as a nuisance, an obstacle in the way of his development into a more advanced kind of human being. Kirk delays as long as he can to help his friend, but when it is clear that Mitchell won’t stand down, Kirk is forced to make the decision to maroon him on the only planet that the Enterprise can reach, Delta Vega. Mitchell erases any doubts about whether he can be spared when he ends up killing an Enterprise crew member while the ship is being repaired.
This leads to a confrontation between the two former friends, as Mitchell’s powers grow to nearly be on par with the Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation (worth wondering is whether Mitchell’s powers are the potential threat the Q saw in humanity when they tested Riker later on). Kirk is able to win out in the end after pleading with Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, the other crewmember augmented with the advanced ESP, to one more time look at the situation from a human perspective. At the cost of her own life, she helps the Captain defeat his former friend.
This highlights one of the more interesting morals of the episode: no matter how much a human evolves, do they ever lose their dark side? Can a human ever be rid of their base instincts? Kirk points out that for all of his power, Mitchell is not advanced enough of a life form to handle it responsibly. What we are left with at the end of this episode, is the idea that even with all of our advancements, humans still have a long way to go before we can ever be higher beings. This is deep for a low budget second pilot from the 60s.
While it will never be the strongest episode in the Star Trek franchise, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” does take some interesting chances and makes you think. It also serves as a great opening vehicle for Kirk, showing us his agonizing conflict between loyalty to his friend and his duty to ship, crew, and humanity.
Disclaimer: Star Trek is a CBS/Paramount copyright. All images in this review posting are courtesy of http://www.startrek.com, http://www.trekcore.com, http://www.imdb.com, and http://www.wikipedia.org. Images are used for informational purposes only, and no copyright infringement on CBS or Paramount Studios is intended.
Originally posted on The Uncommon Geek. Edited for a better reading experience versus what I created back in 2013.
The tale of how I almost quit writing
Sorry and not sorry
It’s not necessarily that I believe I owe anyone here on the internet anything per se. However, those of you who have taken the time and/or money to follow what I do and read my books, I do believe you ought to have my thanks, and more of an incentive to visit this (admittedly still obscure) website of mine.
I have long since given up on trying to keep up with the endless trough that is social media. My life is so much better and richer for having dropped all but the bare minimum presence on Facebook, for example. I have started posting more often on the Instagrams (https://www.instagram.com/neo_ragnarok/) because I like that the presences there are more focused on art and less on politics, blathering, or generally useless and inane opinions on any and everything. Even there, though, I don’t have much time invested. I don’t care about trying to optimize my presence to get more likes and followers. You either like what I do or you don’t. This generation and society in general have become sickeningly addicted to social media, to instant gratification. It seems that so many go batshit crazy if they aren’t being constantly bombarded with information and content. Art gets buried in the feed. Meaningful wisdom is overshadowed. Success is less about quality and more about how much you can spam feeds.
I stand in a weird place here, as someone whose voice is currently being heard in large part only due to the modern artist’s conveniences of the internet, a website, and the relative ease of self-publishing. Yet I despise the mechanisms that have spawned around and between these things, so here I am using a modern boon to say that I think we lost something crucial by abandoning the days where quality won out over quantity. Would things have been different if we were slower and more responsible in our adopting the internet and the digital age? Certainly, though the same could also be said for most innovations or breakthroughs, such as, say, atomic power…
So, I appreciate all of you who have read my work or taken the time to comment on one of my blogs, or who likes the artwork I’m posting. That’s really cool, and I want to going forward make any investment in me on your part worth your time. But it’s not going to be from quantity. I’m not gonna be blowing up your inboxes or your feeds. Like any treasure, you’re gonna have to do some digging here and meet me halfway. In so doing, you’re going to get something better than the torrent of spam that is flooding most of the internet. If you don’t like that, and want to follow someone who is going to constantly bombard you with updates and content, you might as well exit stage left, because that’s not me, and trying to be that way was detrimental to my existence and happiness.
Here’s to art, to quality, to creating and sharing something meaningful.
Local author interview: Rochelle Bradley
Recently I was privileged to interview another great local author, Rochelle Bradley. Read on! (more…)