There were a few reasons I moved away from California and a few reasons why I chose Washington to move to. Among the top of the list was that I wanted to escape the heat. I was tired of 100 degree days. I was tired of there being a lack of rain. I wanted a nice cool climate to move to. But that has certainly changed this summer.
Each summer it seems to get warmer and warmer. It seems like when I got here any weather in the low 90s was rare. But now, as I sit through two heatwaves in one summer, It has become clear that warm weather is now a part of the Pacific Northwest.
Considering many of the homes here, including mine, don’t have air conditioning it is rather unbearable when the weather is like this. Doesn’t help that working from home means I can’t escape it. The only blessing is that my lower floor, where my office is, does tend to be a little cooler that the rest of the house.
The heat keeps you from being motivated to do just about anything. In fact, I was supposed to be working on a short story, but all I wanted to do is complain about the heat. The funny thing about heat is that everyone wants to complain about it. It is the one thing everyone seems to do in the heat.
I wish that complaining would turn into action about these things. But that is something that I could rant on for some time, which isn’t really the purpose of this blog post. But for the sake of us all, including our children, we need to do something.
Back to the topic at hand. The heat hasn’t dissuaded me too much. I am still getting writing done, finishing two short stories this week. I also submitted four others to markets. While short stories were not my plan to combat the writer’s block I discussed in my last blog, it seems to have worked. Though I do still feel a novel project pulling at me.
Overall, it has been a pretty productive week. I won’t get any writing done over the weekend as I have family plans. But I do plan to be back at it on Monday.
Well, that is my rambles for this week. Simply put, it is fucking hot. And I need to install AC in my house.
As many of you know I have been doing writing streams over on Twitch for the fast few months with a focus on accomplishing small amounts of writing each day. It has been very successful with regard to ensuring I take time each day to write, but also in socially interacting with fellow writers and fans. Overall it has been a great experience.
I have been working on the third book in The Serenity Saga since we started the Writing with Richard segment on Twitch. We finished last Friday, and it was an emotional experience for me. And while it is only the first draft it marks a major milestone is my fifth novel, and the third (and dare I say last) novel of the series. I’ve spend a lot of time living life with these characters. All around it was fitting to finish it on stream since it was the streaming that inspired me to finally start writing again.
But then came the next concern. What do I write next? What do I do for Writing with Richard now? How will I create more content that is both engaging and gets me to write. Though I have other novel ideas in play, I wanted to focus a bit more on my short form stuff. After all short form is what got me my first publication and inspired me to get my first novel out there.
Monday rolled around and there was a bit of a freak out. My file full of story ideas in nowhere to be found. I jot ideas down in my phone as they hit me, and then add them to a document on my computer with story ideas. And when I went to access that repository I couldn’t find it. They have apparently been lost.
We filled the time on Monday fairly well by discussing cover art and what will come next in getting the novel ready for publication. I’d even looked up some writing prompts to inspire us for Tuesday’s session. On Tuesday I got one of those ideas ready, found the character that was perfect for it, and put together a great flash fiction story that I hope will make it to the pages of the a publication soon.
But Wednesday came along and that was where it all went to shit. It started off alright. I have had the idea of a world in my head. A climate change world that would fit well with a prompt I had found. And I knew I’ve wanted to write this story for some time. But as we got on stream and got ready for the writing session I realized that I didn’t have a character. I needed one in order to make the story work, obviously, but as a character driven writer it felt as though it was all forced. And that was when it hit. The Dreaded Block. Writer’s block.
Nothing I put down felt right. I wrote and deleted and wrote and deleted. It all just felt wrong, forced, and all around trash. It sent me spiraling down from there and I wound up ending the streaming early. I spend my dinner and my evening feeling as though I’d failed, was not good at what I did, and not cut out to be a writer or a streamer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve hit a block in my writing, I think every writer does a number of times. But it was the first time I had in front of other people. It was the first time I felt like I had failed not just myself but others. Of course, all of that is in my own head. But it was tough.
It did leave me reflecting on writing in general and what to do about my block. I took some of my own advice in previous posts and took a step back. I realized that my block was coming from two places. First, I was trying to force myself to write something I wasn’t ready to write. Next, I was feeling a bit frantic over the fact that I’d lost so many story ideas. When you factor that all in with being “on stage” at the time, it all added up to a block.
So as today came around, I thought I’d take the chance to break down the block by instead focusing on writing about what had happened. Writing this blog post, which is being written live on stream, has helped to get the words flowing on stream again.
The pressure I felt to write something was entirely self pressure. The idea that I have to write a few short stories is also entirely self driven. So I realize that I should instead write what I want to write. Which, right now, is another novel length (maybe) idea. So I may bring my focus to that. But today I wanted to write this blog post, so that is what I did.
Writer’s Block isn’t always so easy to break down and I recognize that. I may well find myself stuck again tomorrow or next week. But it helps to have some idea of the cause so that you can root out what you need to do and get back to it. And I am still glad to have these streaming sessions where I can connect with so many people. It was good to spend the first part or today’s session just chatting before diving into this blog.
Sometimes the Dreaded Block just needs time to sink away. Other times you can push it down. But what I want you all to know is that it is normal. It happens to us all. You can get past it.
I could start with some long winded back story, and delay the announcement in a effort to get you to read all the way to the end. But I don’t have time for that, and I am too excited, to hold this all in. Besides, great news deserves to be announced.
Factor Four Magazine is returning in January 2022.
Several things are aligning both mentally and financially to make this all come back together again. First, and foremost we have a solid financial profile to ensure we can afford this long term. Second, I’ve aligned myself with my passions recently to discover that publishing isn’t just something I enjoy doing. It is something I have to do for my mental health. And third, I haven’t given up my love for Flash Fiction.
There is still a lot to be ironed out in terms of the details, but I know a few things off the bat that I can share.
For the writers:
What I already know: Submissions will open in late September or early October 2021. Our pay rate will be professional level.
Things I don’t know yet: Maximum Word Count, Contract Terms, submission requirements, and total number of stories each issue.
For the Readers:
What I already know: We will offer the ability to read our stories free online. We will have an annual print anthology of all stories for the year.
What I don’t know: Issue release frequency, issue release format (other than online), and our cover art styles.
There is still a lot to do. We have to update the website, gather some editors, and start the submissions. We also need to get a contract together that is good for authors and us.
One of the big things is that I’d like to create a collaborative effort in this magazine with a team of fellow volunteers. I am having a meeting with some people that are interested in volunteering on July 7th. If you are interested in taking part, let me know on Twitter and you can join us for a quick meeting. I am looking for people to assist with several aspects of the magazine. While there will be some time commitment, I understand that the positions are volunteer. So we can talk out what you want to do and how much time you can share.
Sometimes you just don’t want to make an announcement and so you put it off hoping to find a solution that will prevent you from needing to do so. Unfortunately, I can stall no longer. Through teary eyes as I type this, I have to announce that Factor Four Magazine is closed now. There is no plan to publish future issues of the magazine.
Publishing a magazine is a lot of work, but I really enjoy publishing other author’s stories. But financially, the short story publishing world isn’t self sustaining. And over all, I could no longer take roughly $10,000 a year from my family’s income to continue to buy the content we’ve become known for. This is truly heart-breaking for me. Not only did I love publishing stories, but Factor Four Magazine was starting to gain traction at an accelerated pace.
We spent most of the last four months attempting to negotiate funding from other private sources. Unfortunately, traditional funding wouldn’t support the idea of another magazine because they couldn’t see a return on investment. We couldn’t demonstrate a subscription base, the advertisement sales, and issue sales needed to be “a good investment”.
I’ve had very poor success with crowd funding, largely because everyone is asking for funding on their projects. It is difficult to stand out. And over all I didn’t think I wanted to put myself through the emotional roller coaster of thinking I could do it, only to fail (as I have done in the past). And while we may gain one year’s worth of investment, what would we do in 2021? I couldn’t see a long term future in continually asking for crowd funding.
It hurts to make this choice. I apologize to all of our readers and writers who invested time with us for ultimately letting everyone down. I am passionate about flash fiction in our genre and still believe is should be recognized for the art form that it is, separate from the traditional short story. I am already exploring options to continue publishing but perhaps on a less frequent basis, such as anthologies or other methods. I hope to see Factor Four return in another form, but I can’t promise anything.
I want to thank everyone who supported us, submitted to us, and ultimately believed we were doing something great.
I’ve spent a lot of time hinting and implying that I just might want to start publishing fiction again. Most of you know that I really miss putting our Plasma Frequency. Well, I’ve made the choice to return to publishing with an all new publication, Factor Four Magazine.
The website is still being built, but I couldn’t wait to share the plans for this great magazine. Some of this information could change, but this is the idea for the magazine.
What will we publish?
We will publish mostly flash fiction. We will have a 2,000 word count per story maximum, but all of the budgeting for the issue is based on 1,000 words or less. So that basically means we will focus our acceptances on true flash fiction. We will publish Speculative Fiction with a focus on Science Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural, Super Hero, or the blend of any of those genres.
We will be a magazine published to an adult audience so some foul language and sexual content would be accepted provided it fits with a well rounded story. Erotica will not be published.
Theme issues will play some part in our publication, but I am not sure at what level. I’ll definitely want to do holiday themes when the time of year comes around.
How will we publish?
We will be a quarterly publication featuring 16 stories per issue. The first issue will be released in April 2018. We will publish in print, eReader, and online format with subscriptions and single issue options for these. The cost per issue and subscription has not yet been decided.
Since much of my readership are authors, I am sure most of you are wondering what we will be paying authors. We will pay 8 US cents per word or US $60 which ever is more. We also plan to do some other compensation with regard to a free issue, but that isn’t a guarantee.
Artists will be paid $200 per issue for cover art.
Submissions are planned to open December 1 this year.
While I have said “we” a lot currently the staff on this magazine consists of just myself. I’d like to be bring back some of the editorial practices used at Plasma Frequency, but I’ll need an editorial staff. While I haven’t officially started asking anyone to join the team, if you are interested you can always reach out to me. Eventually I will have more explanations of opportunities on the website.
I can’t wait to get this magazine started and return to publishing great fiction!
The day after I announced that I would be working with the folks at SciFan Magazine, they announced they were shutting down. It was a shock to me, they didn’t warn me it was coming. It just sort of happened. But, when a magazine shuts down, that seems to be the case. One day they’re there, the next day they can be gone.
Magazine publishing is very much a sink or swim business and, as my headline states, you are swept out to sea. Not only are you trying to swim, you are getting hit by wave after wave. Money problems, competitive market, unexpected expenses, standing out in the crowd, being discovered; wave after wave hits. To get above the waves you need a boat. And building a boat while you are trying to keep your head above water just doesn’t work out often.
Plasma Frequency was very successful as a semi-pro publication. We were on the low end of that “semi-pro” pay rate, but we attracted great authors and put out great stories. We tried to be innovative in the way we communicated with authors, and we attracted good people to our editorial staff. And then a huge wave of financial woes hit us. We’d just patched the raft we’d created when the next one hit. And we sunk.
I spiraled down into a depression and there was no recovery for me until very recently. But even through my worst times, I missed doing it. And now I find myself strongly considering publishing again. But this time, I’m trying to build the boat before shoving off into the sea. I am taking the things I’ve learned from Plasma Frequency, and I am going to apply them to the design.
Plasma Frequency is not returning, I’ll make that clear. That boat sank and it is time to move forward. I also must be clear that I could very well decide this boat isn’t seaworthy and not pursue this any further. But, I can say that I am getting very close to testing the waters and I am eager to see if it is possible to happen again.
Issue 9 was released to day and features my short story “The Last Visit”. It is a first for me, in that this is the first short story I’ve sold to a print publication. So while I have sold several shorts, I have never had a short story printed on a sheet of paper. That is really exciting to me. Most of you that follow me know that I love the print medium for reading far more than digital, so this is a huge step for me. I should also mention it is my first, first person short story.
“The Last Visit” explores several ideas. The more obvious is the one that SciFan calls out in their promo:
If technology allowed the dead to visit their loved ones, even just once a year, how would it change the way we mourn? Would it be as pleasant of an experience as we think it should be?
But there is a few more subtle messages in there. Can we really change the way we respond to situations, even after a devastating situation? Can an angry person ever really change? And at the end, without too many spoilers, where does that second thought about a situation come from? What makes us stop and think about the actions we are about to take?
I originally wrote this short story in May of 2015. It was another one, as many of my short stories are, inspired by a dream (or rather a nightmare) that I had. It was very emotional for me to write, and I was very literally sobbing as I finished it. Tears falling onto the keyboard, I managed to get it on ‘paper’ and immediately walked away from the computer. I had to. From there, I didn’t really touch it. I didn’t even shop it with any markets that I can recall.
I shopped it around when I made a decision to dust off some old stuff and get it out there. And there is where SciFan comes in!
You may be noticing a trend here. A lot of my short stories revolve around death. My first sale, “Death Watch” started that. But, I have a bit of a preoccupied thought of death and if it can stopped, scheduled, or even the idea of a return from death.
So what else am I shopping right now? Well, I have three more short stories, flash fiction that focus on death. One is more of a tongue-in-cheek on how Death is hired and hints at a future novel project.
I also have a fantasy piece out that put humor on how worlds are created and a Science Fiction story about what the future workforce may look line.
As always I have my novel projects upcoming too, but that is another post.
I haven’t written a blog post since October of 2015, a few months shy of two years. That was only one of two posts I wrote in 2015. They weren’t about anything too substantial, but they were important to me.
I haven’t written anything of any consequence since January of this year. It was one chapter in a new novel project that I’ve been attempting for ages. Prior to that, I hadn’t written a thing since around this time in 2015.
My Twitter account, and my Facebook, have been a deserted land where I occasionally tweeted to a business that provided poor service. Truth be told, I am not sure the last time I was on Twitter. And those that know anything about me, know that I was on Twitter a lot.
Now I preface with all this information in preparation to defend myself as to why I have not been writing. The very reason that I feel the need to defend myself it the very reason things got this far out of hand. What I realized was that I don’t need to defend myself. Quite frankly, I could have just started up with a random blog post and been done.
I watched this video on YouTube the other day. I’ll link to it if I can remember how to do that after so long away. I’m not one of those people that spends hours a day watching YouTube, but I do have a couple of folks that I must see all their videos. One of those people is Meg Turney.
This video, where she talks about her “weird” days, was an amazing gut check to me. Meg is great in that she refuses to label it, she just hasn’t been herself lately. I respect that, in fact it is what made it speak to me even more.
Labels tend to throw off people and even cause people to shy away from facing facts. When someone says, “That sounds like depression.” Or, “That sounds like anxiety.” Or, really any other “that sounds like…”, my first reaction is to say… “I’m not depressed.”
It doesn’t matter if I know that I am. This need to defend myself, as if I have been accused of stealing a co-worker’s lunch, takes over my thought process. I don’t know why. I think it is the label itself. Why does society feel the need to label people? Labels are a method of classification, and if you don’t fit it the boxes laid before you, you’ve got some explaining to do.
Meg didn’t bother to label. Read the video comments though. You’ll see that people immediately took to the need to label what she described. Some did it under the idea that they were helping, others did it just because she asked them not to, and others did it because it made them feel smart. And who knows, some just wanted the attention of someone as awesome as Meg.
I’m digressing from the point here. So back to the gut check. Meg, a role-model of sorts to me, described some of what I have felt since early 2016. Just not myself. But furthermore, she didn’t defend herself. She just explained herself. And I thought to myself, I need to do that.
I don’t have to make a blog post that defends why I just couldn’t bring myself to write. I was scared of that. I was scared to break through the problem and start doing what I love again. I was worried I’d somehow need to defend myself to someone.
Of course, I don’t have a ton of fans like Meg does. I have a hard-enough time getting my friends to read my work. But I digress again. The lack of fans didn’t make the need to defend any less dominate. But after seeing that video, I decided I wouldn’t defend.
But I felt like I still owed some type of explanation. And while that may seem like a sort of defense, and maybe it is, I still feel the need to say something.
In late 2015, my wife shared some news with me that spiraled me into a sense of being lost. I didn’t know what was real anymore. I had a lot of doubt and I just felt hurt. I didn’t really know where to go or how to approach this. One friend essentially vanished from my life during the period of time. Another friend told me to be glad it wasn’t worse. It was sort of a “shit happens” response.
The goal of this post isn’t to get into great detail, but it took a good four to six months to really start any type of recovery. The only reason that recovery has since hit was because I met my best friend. She is an amazing human who seemed to know what to say to help me, a big difference from knowing what I want to hear. I’m grateful for that, and I am certain she saved me.
During that time, I had no choice but to close Plasma Frequency Magazine. At this point I just wanted to hide. I’d let a lot of people down, twice. First with the initial closing and then with the second closing. So, I hid. Now, that does sound like I am heading down the path of defense. But let me say that I was lost without the magazine. I was the first time, and again this time. I was devastated. Publishing that magazine was extremely important to me. Add that to the blows in my personal life, and I just couldn’t face anything publishing.
Next, I fell behind on the mortgage. While I was able to save the house, I felt like failure.
The company I worked for constantly told me they’d be lost without me, but then didn’t appreciate me. This particular division has grown too much and has lost the company way. So, I changed departments. After all, I love the company. Even better, I was now going to work with my best friend. Great, right?
Well my old boss is a lying little… person. He praised and then snapped. He pitted supervisors against each other to get information. He made false promises, including raises and such, then didn’t deliver. My friend and I knew well enough to just talk to each other and I laid low and did my job. But I got frustrated that he was one way with me and another with her. And one day he really ticked me off, so I started looking at job boards. After all, as they say, people quit managers not jobs.
That was how I wound up at the job I have now. This job pays me more, I have more responsibility, and I am well respected there. I absolutely love it. Accept for one problem, I now feel like I’m losing a friend. We don’t talk much, at least not vocally. Texts here and there, but no calls and not hanging out. When you go from daily lunches with someone to the occasional text, it is hard not to plummet a bit into doubt.
But now I here, finally blogging again. Finally putting some words on paper. And if I can “explain” why I stopped, I damn well better explain how I started.
So, think of this feeling of despair as a pit. I fell into a very dark pit when my wife and I started having some trouble. The world was continuing to say, “Fuck you, Richard.” The word was throwing more dirt in the hole, trying to bury me alive.
Many days I thought, what’s the use. Many times, I thought about writing again and thought, no one cares if I write again or not. At the time, I did not realize this, but the dirt was filling up the hole but I could use the little positives in life to climb on top of that dirt and get closer to the top. Crap, I sound like a really shitty Facebook meme.
I had a best friend who dove into the hole after me, before we were even remotely close. She makes little comments, as if she knows how to deal with my feelings, that help me battle the demons I face. When I put up my shield and say, “Sorry to bother you, but…” She says, “You never bother me.” So many other people ignore my defensive lines, and she catches every one and tells me it is fine in her own way. She isn’t afraid to call me out, but also knows when it is just fine to make it clear she knows what I mean. I mentioned I broke the writing stalemate in January of this year, and that was due to a thoughtful Christmas gift from her.
Despite the hard times with money, I took the time to use the dirt to figure out a way to be successful. Until yesterday, I did not have internet in my house for nearly a year. I still don’t have trash service, instead we take our trash to a free disposal place. And I made it a point to bring a week’s worth of lunches to work to resist the urge to eat out.
I had a toxic boss and so I used the chance to find an even more amazing job. I found a job that pays considerably more, has better benefits, and the management is amazing.
And now, at this point I was just out of reach from exiting this pit of despair. But I couldn’t get there. I just couldn’t. I get these feelings that no one loves me, even though I know that has to be false. I get this feeling that my best friend doesn’t want to be my friend anymore. And I get this feeling like I am a burden. No matter how much I knew these things are not true, the feelings still come.
All these things just kept me from pulling myself up and out of the ditch. I’d planned to give up on writing. I really did.
And then Meg Turney decides to share her video and her experience. It didn’t matter that her experience was a few days and mine was almost two years. It spoke to me and lifted me that extra foot I needed to grab the edge and pull myself out.
Am I cured? Fuck no. I won’t ever be. But I’m out of that pit and that means that I can face some of these spots in my life a little easier. I can make myself do what I need to do. And now, here I am writing a blog post for all of you.
So, thank you Meg for that last push.
Thank you KN for knowing what I need to hear and for knowing how to translate the guarded Flores language. I hope someday you cut back on the work and increase your time for friends, I’d hate for us to drift apart.
Thank you to my wife.
Thank you to my fans who did message me and ask about Illusion of Victory. I am sorry, I’ll make it happen soon.
I know this is long winded and dry, but if I can speak to just one person the way Meg spoke to me, it will be worth it.
I’ll blog again soon, for now I have some novels to write.
One year ago today I took the leap of faith and moved from California to Washington. I’d never lived in a state other than California, so this was a jump into the new. Even more shocking was the fact that I had nothing lined up out here. No job, my wife’s job transfer was still a maybe at best. But I did it anyway.
When I packed up the moving truck I didn’t even have enough gas money to get to Washington. I slept at a rest stop until my wife’s next paycheck came through and finished the trip the next day.
So why did I pick Washington? Well there is a number of reasons for that. The first was because I have wanted to move to Washington for some time, I’d come up here to test for a job years ago and loved it. The second was because it was cheaper to live here than in California but the jobs in my field paid around the same. And finally, it wasn’t so far away that having family visit would be financially impossible. Those were the main reasons.
But leaving a state you were a resident of for the first 32 years of your life is a big step. And like most things we do in life, lessons are learned. So, to go along with my one year anniversary in this state, I thought I’d share some of them. Some of these have to do with Washington itself, and some have more to do with making a move out of state.
1. The Traffic in Seattle is insane.
I learned real quick that one thing everyone in Seattle does is complain about the traffic, then we promptly go back out in that mess the next day. It is just what we do. And it amazes me that a state with so much rain would have so many drivers that have no clue how to drive in the weather. But if you mention that to a Washingtonian they’ll tell you it is because of all the people from California. Finally, any commuter that travels the I-5 knows about the Variable Speed Zones. I learned that when it says 60 MPH, it is really 50 MPH. 50 MPH means 40, and Any anything less than that means you’re stopping.
2. It doesn’t rain all the time, but there is always a chance.
Coming from California where there is such a major drought, I was ready for rain. Rainy weather is my absolute favorite weather and so this was the climate for me. Despite what people think, it doesn’t rain here every day. But if you check the weather there is always some percentage of a chance of rain. I never once saw it say 0% chance of rain. And the time of year doesn’t matter for the rain. But the great thing about it is rain never ruins anyone’s plans out here.
3. The Science Fiction and writing community is big out here.
Now I haven’t dived too much into this one. But I’ve noticed that a lot of writers have been following me on Twitter and Facebook that are from this area. Book shops are all around. And the library system is really good. This is something I hope to explore a bit more.
4. There is so much to explore.
There are something like 17 state parks within an hour drive from me. In the first year I think I’ve got to 10 of them. There are forests, beaches, lakes, and recreation facilities. Out door recreation not your thing? There are museums, architectural items, shopping, amusement parks, Pike Place Market, sporting events, and much more. Many things to do that are free or low cost. For example, $30 gets you unlimited yearly access to the Washington State Parks. And I just love all the rivers, lakes and water falls. And of course the sound is right there. I still haven’t been to so much of the stuff around here, I’m not sure I’ll run out anytime soon.
5. Your family and friends won’t visit as much as you think.
First off, my family and friends may take this as a jab a them, but it isn’t. As I mentioned above, I moved here because of a number of reasons, one being still pretty close to California. I am about 12 hours drive away, an hour and a half by plane. But there are other factors then travel time that play a role. Cost being one of them. The other is just time. When you’re around the corner people can drop in for a few hours to visit. But when you are twelve hours away, they need to block off a few days to do that. That isn’t always practical for everyone. The one annoyance I will say, your family will expect you to come visit them though. So far I’ve been asked to come to California for three separate trips in 2015.
6. Emergency Preparedness is important.
Sure, I admit this is true everywhere. But in California we don’t tend to take the threat of earthquakes very serious. And maybe Washingtonians in general are the same way with their storms, but as some one that moved to this state it opened my eyes to the need for emergency preparedness. For one, the storms take out the power all the time. Flooding is always a possibility. And there is the very real threat of volcanoes. I think the point here is that the change of perspective can open your eyes to the things you’ve taken for granted.
7. You can’t run from your problems.
I’ll admit that the thing that pushed me over the edge and made me move here was a run of bad luck with jobs in California. It hasn’t changed here. I, in no way, regret moving to Washington. But I have realized that a move will not fix the problems you have.
8. The world is a big place.
Travel is important, but actually taking roots in a new place is an eye opener. The world, and even different states, have different ways of doing things. You may not think they are all the best way, but seeing a new way to do things is good for anyone. It is important to expand your horizons and take risks. There are somethings that California does that I like better. But I am quickly finding there are things in Washington I like a lot more. And as I expand my travel locations, I am finding that there is a lot to see in this country and I hope to get to all of it. But it leads me to want to expand my view to a worldwide one. And I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.
Yesterday I finished reading Heinlein’s Space Cadet. Oddly enough, a science fiction fan as myself, had not read that one yet. So when I saw it at my local library I snatched it up to have a read.
As of late, I have been reading a lot of newer fiction by both new and established authors. I also read tons of science fiction shorts both in published magazines and in my own submission pile. But after reading Space Cadet, I realized there is something about older fiction that I enjoy. Of course the science in most older fiction novels doesn’t stand up to what we know today. But the great authors tell a story that can stand up to the fact that the science is out dated. Heinlein is one of those authors.
But it wasn’t the old science that brought back the nostalgia of the classic science fiction, it was the hopeful future. Sure there are a lot of classic novels in this genre that portrayed doom and gloom. Or even a dystopian landscape. But the classic SF of its day looked to the stars with a lot a hope and wonder. They saw the possibility of life on other planets, humans spreading throughout the stars, and the survival of the human race long after Earth was no longer a safe home.
There is a lot of fiction out there today that portrays the doom of the human race. We are oppressed, wiped off the Earth, a victim to our own technology, or just plain fucking everything up. Where has the hopeful future gone?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some outstanding stories that explore the darker side of our future. I certainly appreciate their message, story, and even the self reflection on what our society is. But is there no good in the world anymore? Is there really no hope for our future? I can’t imagine that, even being the pessimist that I am. It is one of the reasons even my post-apocalyptic novel, Broken Trust, focuses more on the rebuilding of society than simply surviving the end. This pessimist wants to see things work out eventually.
Of course, here in America the overall excitement of space travel and exploration is somewhat muted. Compare the shares of Kim Kardashian’s ass with a champagne glass to the news of a successful mission to land a probe on a comet. A mission that was launched over 10 years ago! It is disgusting to see what we think of as a priority in the news, let alone in science.
Science seems to have been suddenly forgotten. Where is the next space race and why is our government not hyping it? Where is the possibility of the human race traveling the stars? When was the last time man traveled outside of a low Earth Orbit? This sudden lack of interest in spending money for manned exploration of space is part of the reason our genre has seen a decline in space epics that are positive.
We get our news from a thousand outlets around the world, all with their own spin on it. And damn it if the news isn’t depressing. And why is that? Because people would rather tune in to multiple homicide report than one about the newest scientific break through.
The point is this, the trends right now both in fiction and reality is the doom of the human race. The “what is this world coming to” story. And this is where I think we, as fiction writers, are failing to perform our duty.
Of course when writing a story you want to sell it, so naturally we tend to follow the trends. Furthermore, you want to entertain readers with a great story. But a really excellent piece of fiction doesn’t just tell a story, it shapes the person who reads it. It encourages the reader to think, to explore their own minds, and to see a future that just might happen.
So why are we writing stories that show the end is coming? We need to get to our keyboards and tell stories of rebirth, space travel, hope, and success. It is time science fiction went back to tackling the hard questions about our future. It is time we shaped the next generation of readers into thinking that the world can be changed, and that there is so much more about our universe that we have yet to tap into.
And, I am going to put my money where my mouth is on this one. A couple months ago, my editorial staff and I at Plasma Frequency talked about doing a theme issue. Molly Moss and Alexis Hunter, two of my reading editors, had this idea. They wanted to do an “anti-apocalypse” themed issue. I absolutely loved the idea. Like I said before, there are a lot of great stories exploring the darkness in humanity, the end it coming or has come, but I wanted to see hope. Naturally since Molly and Alexis came up with the idea, I gave them editorial control over this future issue.
There is a special call going to this issue, you can find it here.
Let me stress that I am fully aware there are still stories of hope out there. And I know that. But you can’t deny the trend towards the oppression of humans and/or the apocalypse. So as you get ready to write that next novel or short story, how about you reignite the passion of the people. Bring back the Hopeful Future.