Avengers: Infinity War

April 30, 2018

Well, I loved it. I thought it was damn near perfect, given the bar this film had to clear. Guys, when Captain America appears the first time, with the Avengers theme swelling in the soundtrack — the audience cheered, for real. Can’t argue with that. And I loved that the film just went there. They did not pull the punch. I’m so impressed, and actually feeling a bit psychopathic because everyone around me is in mourning and I’m sitting here screeching YES! YES! YES!

So, I wrote a big long take on the movie…and decided to save it for my Lightspeed review. So that’ll be out soon. Meanwhile….


I was not expecting that the one scene that made me really cry was the heart-to-heart between Thor and Rocket. Like, where did that come from?



a warning and a rewrite

April 25, 2018

I watched The Titan on Netflix and it’s so bad I can’t stop thinking about it. Never have I seen a science fiction movie so apparently uninterested in its own premise. The whole mission is “We are going to surgically and genetically alter humans so they can survive on the surface of Titan,” which is awesome, but then the main conflict of the story seems to be “OMG these test subjects are radically changed, this is terrible!”  And I’m just agog, like, isn’t that what we were going for? Not to mention there’s no freaking way they would send them home to live in their fancy suburban houses with their families at all once they start injecting them. These scientists were stupider than the scientists of Prometheus.

Really, what they should have done is model this thing on The Right Stuff combined with the Outer Limits episode “The Architects of Fear.”

So I’m going to rewrite it, right here, right now. Just to get it out of my system.

First off, this is a serious military medical operation. No fancy suburban houses which doesn’t make a lick of sense. Once they start getting injected, the subjects are locked up and hooked to monitors 24/7 so the docs can intervene the minute things go wrong. Second, we aren’t going to pretend that this isn’t a one-way trip. (Seriously, in Titan they kept acting like they were going to come back from this.) We also aren’t going to pretend that someone who’s been radically altered to live in the super-freezing methane world of Titan could also somehow survive on the surface of Earth. And third (there’s a lot of issues here), they’re astronauts going to explore Titan. This isn’t about trying to move the entirety of humanity to Titan because Titan is somehow better than environmentally destroyed Earth because, whoa, dude, seriously.

So our main characters are our main test subject and one of the women doctors on the team. They have a bit of history but it didn’t work out. There’s still a spark. This will be important later. The subjects were all chosen because they have no families because it’s a one way trip because that’s how stuff like this works. But the emotional connection between these two will help the main test subject survive the procedure, which sounds really corny but if you sell the relationship hard enough it will work. Plus, human/alien kissing.

We get to know maybe five of the test subjects, and there are rivalries and conflicts. The best part of Titan was showing the start of some of the adaptations — they’re underwater for half an hour, they’re surviving in sub-zero temperatures, etc. So that’s what we focus on. Also, there are hints that Things Are Not What They Seem. That what they’re being told — they are astronauts training for a mission to Titan — is not actually what the guy in charge is planning. Maybe he’s a rogue scientist conducting illegal human experimentation on the sly. Our main character doctor will figure that out. Things will get fraught. Meanwhile, some of the subjects are having trouble adjusting to their new adaptations. They worked so hard to change the bodies, but they didn’t adapt their minds. (Titan touched on this, but went the easy route of turning the subjects into murder-creatures, which was really uninteresting.)

In the midst of this comes the tipping point:  our subjects are far enough along they can no longer survive in Earth’s atmosphere and the temperatures are too hot. They get hermetically sealed in their own environment. The conflicts between them come to a head. Our Doctor tries to break up a bloody fight — she’s in their enclosure in a full environmental suit — and gets seriously hurt. When she wakes back up/gets back to the lab, things have changed. She didn’t see it before because she was so close to them, but the test subjects are really really alien now. (The creature design on Titan was pretty good, I’ll give it points for that.) And the big brass has stepped in to take over the program from the questionable lead scientist. And they don’t see the test subjects as human. Our Doctor has to convince them. (The test subjects are all still wearing their uniforms. This is important. They look alien, but they also look like astronauts.) There’s an implication that if she doesn’t, the test subjects will be killed.

Meanwhile, the launch window to get them to Titan is closing. Our Doctor takes matters into her own hands and rallies the launch crew, her fellow doctors, etc., to get the surviving astronauts to the launch, to make sure the launch happens and they can fulfill their mission and do lots of awesome science on Titan.  And I hate to admit it but this is all going to look like the end of E.T. and I think that’s okay.

The end of the movie, Our Doctor gets a selfie of the three of them on the surface of Titan. It’ll be awesome.


So, as usual, I’m not offended that the movie was bad so much as I’m offended that this was a really great idea that was completely destroyed by really thoughtless writing and a cloying moppet (Isn’t it sweet that the kid still recognizes the alien as his father?! No. No it is not. It’s manipulative.). Now, I’m not actually going to write the above synopsis because I’m not all that interested in this specific story, to be honest. I think it would make a good movie. But all this ground has been covered in written SF.

What I am interested in, what I do think would make a great written story, is what happens 10 years later:  these radically altered astronauts have been living on Titan for 10 years. How are they doing? Hmm, must ponder…


Monday update!

April 23, 2018

Just got back from diving in Key Largo. The weather was perfect, and it was snowing at home, which makes it all the better. Highlights: some big nurse sharks, some people-sized grouper, and a dancing lobster. So many things to see!

My review of “Downsizing” is live on Lighstpeed.

And my copies of the paperback edition of Martians Abroad arrived. They’re on sale tomorrow! Now, back to work!


April 18, 2018

As you might have gathered, birds make me happy. They’re interesting, and they’re everywhere.

As I do every year, I’d like to point you to the local Osprey nest cam. This pair of ospreys have been nesting here for more than a decade, and the current brood is well under way. Yesterday, we had a massive wind storm in the area. 80 mph gusts. (We sometimes remind ourselves, if we lived on the coast this would classify as hurricane-force, but because we don’t, it’s just WIND.) The camera on the nest went out, which was a bit nerve wracking. But lo and behold, while the nest took some damage, the ospreys and eggs are all well. Love those guys.

And in two weeks, the Global Big Day is once again upon us. I’m not sure what my strategy is going to be this year, but I’m definitely going to get out and try to turn in some counts.


100,000 words

April 16, 2018

My longest published work is Dreams of the Golden Age, at about 96,000 words.

I have a trunk novel that’s 105,000 words.

The current work in progress passed 110,000 words last week. In fact, it’s just about a rough draft. A draft zero even. It needs a lot of work, but the last line is there, it has a beginning middle and end, and now I just need to work to make it all better.

This one has felt a lot different to write. Specifically, I’d been thinking about this one scene as the Big Climactic Scene. I got to around 60,000 words, which is when pretty much all my other books have felt like they’ve entered the homestretch, wrote that scene — and realized I was just at the bottom of the second act and basically had another 60,000 words to go. An entire second book to write. That was intimidating. There’s that one Big Climactic Scene, yes, but it wasn’t THE big climactic scene. That came later on. I kind of had to shift my whole thinking forward in terms of pacing.  Treating the structure as a series of emotional beats of increasing intensity, rather than thinking of the novel as a drive to the one big thing.

I don’t run, but I imagine it might be the difference between running a 10k and a marathon?

I’m learning a lot, writing this one. One of my goals has been to write past 100,000 words over the next year or so, and it feels good to accomplish that.



TV catch up

April 13, 2018

My God.

It’s like I’ve been eating nothing but frozen chicken nuggets for the last six months. I mean, I like watching Flash and Supergirl, but they’ve both settled into their grooves and they’re not, like, earthshattering or anything. Rebels is great but it’s animated and sometimes I want more. Jessica Jones season 2 has been flat at best. I can’t even remember what other TV I’ve been watching.

Then I watched the new episodes of The Expanse and Legion.

Filet Mignon, perfectly cooked.

So damned beautiful. Like, they’re paying attention to the framing and the design and how it all comes together, and it’s got hooks and zing, and they’re showing me things I’ve never seen before.

As a fan of the books, I’ve been waiting for that Bobbie and Avasarala escape scene for years. Blasting off in the racing pinnace? So great I can hardly stand it. And now we’re going to Io? Yayayayayayayayay!!!

And Legion. There’s never been anything like this. I love it.

Hell yes.


more birding adventures!

April 11, 2018

I got tired of holding my point-and-shoot up to the spotting scope to try to get pictures, so I got an adapter to attach my phone to it, to try to take pictures that way. Went out to try the setup for the first time yesterday. I can see there’s going to be a learning curve — the phone and attachment throw the scope off balance and it’s hard to get it all steady. But I managed to get a few shots I’m willing to show off. Here’s one, a pair of American Avocets.

I love the detail that comes through with the scope and my phone. Those colors are so sharp. And I love avocets, they’re so slick and graceful. Now I need to work on getting the whole scope set up better and figure out photo processing to clean them all up. But, not bad for a raw image.

I’m not sure how people get pictures of songbirds with their spotting scopes. Water birds are there in the open, easy to see, and you generally have time to point, focus, etc. Near as I can figure, to get pictures of the little manic birds you basically have to point the scope somewhere and wait for something to fly into view?