Time Travel Happens!

Time travel is one of the most fascinating ideas springing from the human mind. A very popular trope for science fiction fans; it has been developing a following among the scientific community. There is a conflict among scientists as to whether or not Time Travel is possible. Luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Robert L. Forward and Frank Tipler have given explanations as to why it can’t happen or how to possibly do it.

Dr. Hawking asks that if time travel into the past were possible why we don’t see tourists from the future all over the place (sort of a temporal version of Fermi’s Paradox). He also wrote the Chronology Protection Conjecture which states that any time machine would immediately be destroyed if it was used. Only transfers of information on the quantum level would be permissible.

Dr. Sagan said that travelers from the future would disguise themselves so we wouldn’t know they were there.

Dr. Forward posits a time machine made up of a single atomic nucleus under conditions where it might be possible to send information but not matter back in time.

Dr. Tipler developed a theory that a rotating cylinder of infinite length and density would allow travel back to the point of the construction of the cylinder.

With the advancements being made in the field of Quantum Physics and the related study of Quantum Gravity, time travel is now seen as something that can be done at a quntum level. The missing piece of the puzzle is using the theory Quantum Gravity to tie Quantum Physics to Classical Physics. One place I find a lot of information is the site arvix.org; a free website that publishes scientific papers of all sorts. I use it a lot, but the math makes my brain bleed sometimes. Who knows what will happen in the next hundred years of study?

As both a writer and voracious reader of science fiction, I find these types of stories my absolute favorite (along with the variation of alternate timelines and parallel universes – yes, there is a group of scientists working on proving these things exists). From H.G Wells through Isaac Asimov, James P. Hogan, Stephen Baxter, Joe Haldeman and Jack McDevitt these stories always grabbed my attention. From Star Trek to Babylon5, I have hung on every word of time travel in the scripts. And don’t EVEN get me started on Dr. Who! I’ve been watching that show since the Jon Pertwee. I consider myself somewhat of an armchair expert on paradoxes, etc… But the latest Star Trek movie got me thinking even more about time travel. I’ve heard comments about how drastically different things were presented. Not just the destruction of Vulcan, but all of the things that seemed to make up the past were changed. Now, combining my love of science fiction, time travel and Quantum Physics I think I have a handle on this time travel thing. Remember, almost everything from this point forward is a conjecture.

Time travel has happened and is happening as we speak. What I think is being missed is the fact that when you travel in time you are not just affecting yourself, but you affect everything down to the level of quantum flux (not to be confused with the Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future). When you get down to the level of what is called Planck Length (1.616252(81) ×10−35) you are in the arena of quantum foam where everything is in flux. Now, time travel would have to be a high-energy event no matter how you did it. Be it a wormhole, a silver cage, a crystal or a Wayback Machine it will require massive amounts of energy to power the transfer; unless you discover a way to do it with magic, and then all bets are off!

When you travel back in time, the energy you expend to get there has to go somewhere. Otherwise you will probably be instantly vaporized, along with half the galaxy. When this energy dissipates, it will interact with the Universe on the Planck-Level. When you add energy to anything it will change. This change would manifest itself as apparent changes in reality. There are always choices and decisions being made every nano-second; and I’m not talking necessarily conscious, human-made ones. Subatomic particles have their own path to follow and things can change randomly. One energetic particle hitting just right can change the entire timeline by causing a cascade of changes.

And when you appear in the past, you are now embedded again in the timeline; all of your quantum entanglements reestablish themselves and you are now an “Observer”. This means that just by existing you influence reality. Look up the double slit experiment if you want see this in a real world situation of changing the outcome of something merely by observing it. And dealing with high-energy on the quantum level might mean that the energy you release might continue traveling back in time like a bow wave!

So, when the effects of your high-energy arrival in the past you won’t be able to make a killing on the stock market or sports events. Your very existence has changed the course of history, probably for the entire Universe. Maybe because of you,Americalost WWII, or the Revolution. Maybe the changes rippled back so far we’re still pond scum! Hopefully, it won’t come to that!

Even small changes will happen that nobody will ever realize (except maybe you) because everything leading up to the change is consistent with what is accepted as reality after the change. So if you make it back to see people you know they may have entirely different personalities, jobs, families, who knows? Maybe you were never born in this timeline.

The key to this whole discussion is time travel can change things and we will never know, because of the self-consistency of the timeline. Someone in another galaxy could be time traveling right now, and things would change here on Earth without our knowing anything is different. So learn to live with it!


Crowd Sourcing Your Edits

Several months ago, I was reading about a flame war going on between an Author and her Readers. They were complaining about the quality of the book, both the typos and content. She didn’t react really well and stated hat they had downloaded the “wrong” version of the book, and that they should download go back to the online retailer and download the correct version.

I don’t think many people did that because of the way they were treated and castigated.

I just read an article the other day about a major, and I mean major, publishing house that had outsourced it’s e-book creation and editing to company in India. Apparently nobody in the company bothered to check the work very closely, because the editing was horrible.

These two stories gave me an idea: Crowd Source your editing! It worked for Linux, why couldn’t it work for me?

How about this: I put my novel up for free, and tell people right upfront it is a work in progress and I am looking for what I am doing wrong. Now, I’ll get a ton of messages that I’ll have to sift through to find the special gems. But at least I will get a general idea of where I am going wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I think a critique group is the best way to go. But with the changing landscape of publishing, who knows what will or won’t work until it is tried. Besides, I figure I can build a heck of a fan base that way! 🙂

Writing the "Other"

         One of the most difficult tasks in writing is creating believable characters outside of your own gender, race or species. Regardless of the type of fiction you write, the “Other” can be a daunting task for anyone, be they a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
Quite a bit of the “Other” I have encountered in reading Science Fiction and Fantasy works are one-dimensional and even stereotypical at times. The alien race of “noble savages” or of “enlightened beings” has been done to death and beyond. These races are projected as being a mono-culture; either everybody is a savage or everybody is an angel. AS an example, you don’t see or hear about any Klingon fishermen do you? Or of them drinking anything but blood wine? Do Cardassians drink anything other than kanar? Do they get drunk and beat their wives on Corusant? There is rarely room for diversity. Granted, there isn’t much time for diversity in short stories, but what’s the excuse for novella’s and novels, movies and TV shows?  One show, Alien Nation, did an excellent job of fleshing out the day to day lives of aliens living on Earth.
Let’s take a look at the roots of the concept of the “Other”. If you go back in time to when we were living in caves and spent most of our lives foraging for food and water, we learned to wary of those outside of our immediate tribe or family. They were either competition for resources or out right hostile and out to hurt us; they were different. As we became more civilized, establishing communities, these ideas of the “Other” being different stayed with us.
When you meet someone for the first time, you automatically classify them by what strikes you as the most different aspects from yourself.
The two primary physical characteristics we use for identifying criteria are race and gender. This allows us to immediately judge whether or not the person could be construed as a threat to us in anyway. That’s the way the human race has evolved socially. Everybody does it, even the most enlightened people will do the initial knee-jerk analysis, just to put the person in a box where the can try to relate to them. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it does not stop there. Otherwise, interaction between the two individuals has the potential to be inaccurate, even tragic.
How many centuries were Africans enslaved and mistreated, just because they were of a different skin color and did not partake of the predominant European culture of the time? Even today, African-Americans, along with Hispanics, Native Americans and people of various Asian decent are treated with suspicion and hatred by many white people because they think of them as the “Other”. Stereotypical representations in the media over the past six decades only exacerbated this. And a lot of them feel the same way about Caucasians. It cuts both ways.
In writing, staying at the surface will generate characters with little depth or breadth, and lead to a loss of interest or even outrage from your readers. Think about your own immediate family. Everyone has a different personality, likes and dislikes. Now, look at your extended family; cousins, aunts, uncles and so on. Their personalities seem different than yours, don’t they? And the look different from you. They are the “Other”, even though you are related to them. When you write about a different gender, culture or race, do you spend time world building? Or do you just grab bits and pieces out of thin air and hope for the best?
Draw on your own life experiences, especially if you grew up in an area with very diverse cultures. Pay attention to the news; see what is happening across the country and the world. Just because you write about aliens with tentacles and twelve eyes doesn’t mean they don’t have priests, cops, fisherbeings or even schizophrenics in their society.
Do research; Wikipedia is great for finding facts about other cultures. Ask your friends; they all come from different backgrounds and I am sure would be more than willing to answer your questions.
Writing about another race or gender is really writing your own experiences into the story. Whether the characters you write about are a different color, gender or from another dimension, they all have been influenced by a wide variety of circumstances growing up.
Take advantage of it; don’t fall into stereotypes and clichés. Allow your characters to express who they really are. Your stories will be enriched by them.

Market Timing

In the quest to become a successful writer, there are things you need to know. One of them is how to hit the market when a particular subject is hot.

After many years of Ann Rice dominating the vampire scene (starting with Interview With A Vampire in 1976), and L.K. Hamilton joining the fray with her series Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series in 1993, along comes Twilight in 2005 and a feeding frenzy ensued. Now everywhere you look someone is coming out with a vampire novel. Now, I won’t comment on the quality of these novels because I don’t care for vampire novels in general (Remember the cover of Rolling Stone? UGH!). But I have to believe a lot of them are from authors and publishers trying to cash in on the next big thing.
Sounds like the right time to start writing that vampire novel to get in on the cash, right? Nope. By the time you get your novel to an agent or publisher the trend will probably have passed.
So how do you make it happen? Simple. Diversify your writing. You have a favorite genre’ you love to write in, say Science Fiction. But there are many different sub-genre’s that you can write in. Hard SF, Space Opera, Steampunk, Dystopian, etc… You could write Fantasy, Horror or even (gasp) Literary Fiction!
Try your hand at writing different types of novels and submit them. Now, many of the old guard will cringe at this and say “But wait! Common knowledge says you should only write one type of novel! Publishers and Readers will never accept that!” Common knowledge for millennia was that the Earth was flat. It took a while, but people finally figured out that wasn’t the case.
What sells are good stories with great plots and interesting characters. Disregard the trends and write one of almost everything you are comfortable with. That way you are ready for almost anything. In the end, you might be the one to start the new trend and make the big bucks. But only if you are committed to your art and are willing to work at it. So get out there and write!

Encouraging Young Writers – A Middle School Talk on Writing

I had a great time at a local middle school this morning. I was asked to give a talk about writing to an advanced 7th grade class. They started out a little subdued, but it was a Monday after a Holiday. I started out asking them questions about what type of literature they were interested in and if they had ever written anything before. Some had written stories outside of school work. The majority loved Horror, especially about vampires. I took them through the creative process from the beginning; where they get their ideas from, what to do with their ideas and how to nurture these ideas.  I gave them some examples of where their stories can come from: a dream, a word you hear on the street, etc…

Being relatively new to writing myself (less than five years), I felt it best to keep to the beginning levels. I took them through what they had to do to get started writing a story: The willingness to put it down on paper and let other people see what you wrote. I explained how so many people aren’t willing to share because of fear of rejection or of being thought of as too weird. Next, being willing to have several different people critique the story to get feedback, and how to handle it. I explained the need to have a variety of different people read their stories to get a proper range of feedback, and then how to take that feedback and decide what to incorporate into their stories; what would make sense and not lose the essential nature of what they were trying to express.

I also explained how only a minuscule portion of writers’ make any real money on their work, which surprised them.

I continued into how their characters in their first stories may all sound alike and actually have the writer’s personality, and what kind of research it might take for them to find different voices for different characters.

Then I took them through the cycle we go through, of writing, getting critiqued, submitting, getting rejected, editing, getting critiqued, editing, submitting, getting rejected, etc… I also explained why rejection was a good thing and the range of rejection letters and what they meant, from silence up to “We like the idea, but it needs more work. Here’s what we’d like to see.”

There was a question about too many vampire novels out there, and I explained that every publisher is trying to make money on what ever is popular at the moment, so there’s a lot of trash out there. I told them to make a vampire novel salable; they would have to put a unique twist on it. I threw out “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” as an example, “Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters”, & “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” as two other examples of unique twists. That got a laugh!

I also offered to have them submit short stories to me for critiquing. I wanted to give them a real-world kind of experience. I also told the teacher that if enough stories came in, I would produce a PDF e-book on CD’s she could give to the students and their parents. Two of the students write music, so they may collaborate on a song to be included.

I know one student in particular paid attention. His comment at the end was that he had no idea the process was so complicated. He thought you just wrote something, submitted it and it either sold or was rejected and that as the end.

They were an enthusiastic bunch by the time the class was over. I look forward to working with them. It was a marvelous opportunity to share my own experiences, and to help others oen new doors. I encourage any writer, editor, publisher, artist or any other creative person to volunteer their time to such an endeavor. It is a truly rewarding experience!

Audio Self-Edit of Your Manuscript – Updated

I was testing a piece of text to speech software this week and discovered something interesting. I used a story I was working on to test it, and was enjoying it immensely! It was a sweet little story and was flowing along nicely.

Until I heard something that made me cringe: too many descriptive adjectives. Now, I like to write how I think, and my mind tends to be cluttered with descriptive stuff. And I know it shows in my writing, but it looks all right to me since I wrote it. Not matter how many times I edit, I always know I’ll find something. A bad habit is to think: “Well, this is enough. It’s a great story as is.”; I struggle with this all the time.

Hearing your story spoken to you will give a very different perspective. I’m not sure how many people have the luxury of having a person who can read the story to; I suspect not many. But I know it has already changed my editing habits after having it just once.

Just for information purposes, I was testing ClaroRead V5. It was very easy to use. Just start the program, turn it on, and select the text you want to have read out. When you release the mouse, it start speaking. The price is $159, but you can download a 15 day trial. I am going to see if I can find a freeware speech to text program that will do a decent job. I will post if I find one.

*** UPDATE***

I just found this one about an hours ago. It’s a little cumbersome because you should really use just a plain text file.


But it works and uses the same voice as ClaroRead.

Has anyone had a similar experience with this? Or there ways to do a better self-edit? Leave a comment please!

Goliath vs. Goliath

As a writer, here’s my take on Amazon vs. Macmillan: Nobody wins. What we are seeing is not really the clash of business models. We are seeing runaway economic evolution in action. And it isn’t pretty, folks.

Think about the concept: Macmillan wants to charge more for their books so Amazon really get’s a bigger cut. Huh? And oh yeah, that comes out of the consumers’ pocket. So it was a no-brainer that Amazon would back down. To me it smacks of Demican and Republicrat policy makers trying to shove their brand of politics down our throats. You can have any color car you want, as long as it is red or blue.

Let’s step back a few paces and see what we can see. Amazon is the ultimate middleman. Whatever you want (within reason, as opposed to the REALLY weird stuff you can get on E-Bay) can be ordered and shipped with a few simple keystrokes. Marvelous, right? Maybe. Let’s fire up the Wayback machine and go back about fifty years. I grew up in a little neighborhood in Brooklyn called Bay Ridge. It was safe to walk around by myself at five or six years old. We lived a block and a half from the main shopping street, 3RD Avenue.

At the corner of 74th Street and 3rd Avenue, there was something called Scheirra’s Green Grocer, a little family owned produce market. On the other end of the block was the local grocery store, Packer’s. What you would consider a Safeway or Grand Union back in the day.

They both did a brisk business, for different reasons. Packer’s, along with Bohack and A&P (two other larger grocery stores) offered convenience and a much wider selection of products than Scheirra’s did. But what they didn’t offer was the personal local touch. We would always swipe a green bean from the produce bins outside the store, sometimes he’d toss an apple or two our way (or maybe AT us).

But let’s look at the concept of customer experience. When you walked into Packer’s it was a lot like walking into a Wal-Mart Super Center. Lights, gleaming shelves and cooler cases; a lot of chatter and neighbor’s taking by the deli and butcher counters.

Now, walk into Scheirra’s. It’s quiet, and not quite as bright. He wasn’t trying to hide anything mind you it was just the style of store. But what hit’s you the most is the aroma of fresh vegetables. I mean, the place smelled GREEN in a really nice kind of way. You always knew when the bananas were ripe; the onions smelled of fresh earth. The green beans were as snappy as twigs. The floor board creaked, the scales groaned when weighing produce. And Mr. Scheirra was always changing out the produce to make sure it was fresh. You couldn’t get a better sell by date meter than his nose. Even for a five year old it was heaven. It was a place for a slower pace of life.

Ever been to a green grocer? They still have them around, but they are mostly ethnic specialty stores with high prices. What we have now are huge Wal-Mart and Target stores, incredibly large grocery chains and even huge specialty stores that you almost have to pay a tax just to get into.

And yet a sincere lack of ambiance in the old fashioned sense of the word; all cold and gleaming. Now, back to the future and books.

Amazon and Macmillan are setting the playing field for the next ten years at least. (I figure by then people will have printers sophisticated enough to print and bind their own books at home. Hell, they have printers that you can buy to build 3-D products like teapots right now, for way less than a thousand dollars.) We are being locked in slowly to a mass-market way of life. If a book or magazine doesn’t sell really well, it disappears. Short fiction is going the way of the dinosaur; is Ellery Queen Magazine being printed anymore? I don’t know; I haven’t seen the shelves lately. My own genre is suffering, because there seems to be no way to stop the onslaught of greed and corruption that is threatening the industry that brought us the printing press, the Gutenberg Bible and a general increase in the ease of knowledge transfer.

My own solution is a partial one. When you buy a piece of literature, you then own the rights to it legally in every format; printed page, audio, 3-D Smellorama. You get the idea. Let’s move away from media ownership and into the area of knowledge ownership. Let’s look at what is really going on behind closed doors in the publishing industry.

Support the people that are trying to make the next ten years of publishing work for us, instead of against us. People like Cory Doctorow, Eric Flint and the late Jim Baen.

To quote one of my favorite philosophers (Greg Lake), “…if we make it we can all sit back and laugh…”

What’s you’re take on this? Throw me some ideas and let’s see what we can come up with!