Tag Archives: technology

Technological nightmares and extra work

I’ve been working on my storyboards in drips and drabs. Right now I have six in various stages of completion, and some are nearly complete.

There are two stand alone novels, the finale of the Lanternfish trilogy, and three future stories for Lizzie and the hat. I was feeling pretty good about the process. That’s when everything started failing.

The app I’ve been using is called Pinnic. It randomly erased one of my ledger cards. I tried opening and closing, even a reboot. That’s when I discovered another board had the same thing happen to it. Then it started throwing out a random index card that could not be edited or deleted. It also covered another card I would really like to read.

What happens is these developers stop updating their apps. It’s happened before. I used to use an app I really liked, but the developers stopped updating and eventually it became unusable. This one was so long ago that I don’t even remember its name. That’s when I switched to Corkulous Pro.

Corkulous Pro also went the way of the dinosaurs and I downloaded Pinnic. They haven’t had an update for a long time, but Apple has had many. You can see where this is going.

Lo and behold, a new developer bought Corkulous Pro about a year ago and resurrected it. It became a subscription based app. It’s like $1.99 per month, but half that for a year at a time. In theory, this is to allow them to keep it updated and trot out some new features on occasion.

Oddly enough, they refuse to tell you what the subscription fee will be in the App Store. I would kind of like that data prior to committing and it seems like the ethical thing to do. I even tried googling it to no avail.

Ultimately, I decided to download the free app and hoped to learn what the fee was. This worked, but I thought it might just be a blank check of some kind.

Something is lost and hopefully something is gained. I had a bunch of old storyboards on Pinnic that will be abandoned. I really don’t need them for books that have been published, but things like Yak Guy, Serang, and Grinders were in there. I see no reason to recreate them now.

I spent part of last night and all of this morning recreating the next six storyboards by hand in Corkulous. The split-screen feature in my iPad helped, but I was using two different apps with different controlling actions to accomplish that. There were many times I used action A on app B and it slowed down the process.

None of this involved a drag & drop, or a copy & paste, because they are different apps. It involved retyping everything I had.

I always got along well with Corkulous. There were features in other apps that it does not have. It has features the others don’t. Honestly, I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Give me some index cards, a few sticky notes, and I’m golden. It will allow me to attach images and I like to do that on occasion. My old images were sacrificed, but I may spend some time dropping a few into the new boards.

The downside is losing the time. I was supposed to be reading the next Lanternfish on an editing pass. I still haven’t started that task. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.

On the plus side, I have six storyboards that are pretty close to ready. I may have an app they will keep updated to the new operating systems. Does anyone else have problems like this, or am I the only one who uses apps when I create things?

28 Comments

Filed under Writing

Something Wicked: The Astral Conspiracy Series

Your Story Empire authors are on tour this week. It’s my great pleasure to host Staci Troilo today, but she’s incognito. This series is published under one of her pen names. Make her feel welcome, and share this on your social media if you can. I’ve read this one and think it’s awesome.

Thanks for welcoming me here today, Craig.

The Gate

Ciao, amici! For the last two days in the Story Empire Something Wicked tour, I discussed some of the ancient lore woven into my Astral Conspiracy series (specifically the first book, The Gate).

Today, I’m going in the other direction.

My series is a combination of ancient history and futuristic tech. It’s time to delve into the futuristic tech part.

Science fiction can be a fascinating genre, with story worlds as rich and complex as the fantasy genre. But instead of magical realms filled with dragons, elves, and ogres, we’re looking at medical, communication, and transportation advancements.

A Typical Unwatering

Photo Attribution: Phylyp [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

There’s a trick to writing sci-fi tech that fantasy writers don’t necessarily need to concern themselves with, though. And that’s believability. To an extent. Let me explain.

In every novel (set in “real life” or not), readers have certain expectations about what the world is like. Obviously, the real life stuff is easy enough to deal with—research the time period or, if it’s contemporary, design the story-world to be like what you encounter every day. Fantasy worlds are limited only by their imaginations. If they want something to be a certain way, they only have to attribute it to magic. (Most fantasy fiction has an element of magic in it.) It’s a little different for sci-fi.

Science fiction has “science” right in its name. That means the author has to rely on scientific principles, or the readers won’t buy into the story. Those principles can be pushed well beyond our current bounds, but everything has to be rooted in science fact.

Take, for example, worm holes (a favorite subject of mine, and if you’re interested, you can read more here). Einstein proved worm holes are theoretically plausible. Do we have the technology to use them now? Not even close. But they’re a possibility authors can use in science fiction because the theory is rooted in proven fact.

In the Invasion Universe, a lot of scientific technology is introduced. Some things, like self-driving cars and holographic entertainment, are easy for readers to accept. We’re on the cusp of those technologies becoming commonplace, anyway. Other things (like intergalactic space travel and medical mesh that heals injuries) are barely on our radar.

So, how do writers get away with these advancements?

Simple. It’s a matter of introduction.

Things that take a lot more explanation and suspension of reader belief are better introduced as alien technology instead of human invention. That way, readers aren’t bogged down with trying to understand something that isn’t logically explicable. (It’s kind of the scientific version of the magical workaround fantasy authors can use.)

It doesn’t have to be that way. But it helps. It’s a solution I relied on to make things more acceptable to my readers.

How a sci-fi author handles writing about advanced tech will inevitably vary. The most important thing is to not get lost in techno-babble. Readers don’t want or need a four-page description of how something functions. Fiction is an immersive experience. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. You want to experience this world just as you experience our reality. In real life, you don’t get a dissertation anytime you use technology. You turn on your television and expect to watch a show. You aren’t told how that happens (and thank God for that); you just trust that it will.

That’s the most organic way to introduce technological advancements in fiction. The characters live with it, so they know what it does and don’t over-think it (or maybe don’t think about it at all). And if the characters come across alien tech, they would discuss it in their own terms. They might marvel at what it does, but they won’t take it apart to learn how it works.

Save that kind of writing for instruction manuals.

There is a lot of advanced technology in my novel, The Gate, book one of my Astral Conspiracy series. I think I introduced these advancements in a believable and organic way. If you’re interested in seeing how I handled it, I encourage you to read the book.


The Gate

He lost his job. Lost his girl. Now it’s all he can do not to lose his life.

Landon Thorne is a disgraced archaeologist, a laughing stock in his field because of his unconventional beliefs – he’s an ancient astronaut theorist. No one takes him seriously.

Until an alien armada targets Earth.

Now Landon’s in high demand – by the US government and someone far more sinister.

They race across two continents to the Gate of the Gods, the one place on Earth that might give humans an advantage over the aliens. But no one is prepared for what they’ll find.

And not everyone will make it out alive.

The Gate is the first of five novels in the Astral Conspiracy Series, part of Sterling and Stone’s Invasion Universe.

Universal Purchase Link

***

That’s some awesome advice that goes beyond science fiction. Thanks for that Staci. We’re all on tour today, and we’d appreciate you finding us and checking out our posts. I’m over at Staci’s today, by pure coincidence of the schedule, if you really miss me.

Connect with Staci online:

Website | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads | Social Media

52 Comments

Filed under Writing

The new X-Files and why it appeals to me

I griped last summer about Jurassic World. My comment was something along the lines of, “You had twenty years to come up with something new.” Jurassic World was almost a remake of Jurassic Park.

The new Star Wars movie takes up a middle ground. There are some duplications from the original series, like father issues, Death Stars, orphans, mentors, etc. I'm willing to forgive some of this, because they are trapped by the overwhelming success of the franchise. The one thing they did right was make it fun. It was way fun. Maybe it could have been more fun with different material, but it goes in the plus column.

The new X-Files goes in the win column for me. It does something that good science fiction does so well. It takes current events and situations, twists them around, and makes you think about them. The original Jurassic Park did this too. It made us think about genetics, cloning, and recovering endangered and even extinct species. Those were big topics at that time.

This kind of twist isn't unique to science fiction, there have been some political thrillers and such that pull it off. I just think science fiction does it best.

It's always risky making a reboot, because remaking the original content is kind of a safe zone. It was successful once, it will probably be successful again. Those behind it know they won't have phenomenal success, but they know it won't fail either.

The X-Files kept the original themes, like discovering just enough to to thwart someone, but never learning exactly what was happening. This was their success point from the original series. Then they added a whole cluster of stuff from today that the writers want us to think about.

This twist of modern stuff comes in the shape of a conspiracy theory. Someone (typical X-Files) is manipulating everything for a massive takeover. This includes socialized medicine, the current obesity problem, the ease of getting prescription pain killers, our terrible graduation rates, the fact that graduates are less capable than 30 years ago, GPS data in our phones to track us, extreme cost of higher education, and more than I can remember.

This manipulation is all designed to make us less capable of resistance. We'll be too dumb, too fat, and too drugged to resist. All of the NSA monitoring, GPS tracking, thumbprint scanners, and such makes dissidents easy to round up. They even tied in the September 11th attacks as a test drive for shutting down the airways… Permanently.

I'm excited to see what they do with all of it. Good science fiction can be limited to epic battles with advanced technology. Great science fiction will twist modern day issues into something that makes us think. The new X-Files has set the stage. Whether they pull it off or not remains to be seen. They've limited themselves to six episodes. Back in my day we used to call that a mini-series, but I think that term is outdated.

I know this trick about using modern day issues and it still gives me that wow factor when done well. I've occasionally dabbled in it myself. Some of you read a story I wrote about medical cloning, and another one about an artificial intelligence that refused to be controlled. I can attest to you that it isn't easy to pull off.

The only story I ever failed to complete was a short story based on taking modern technology to an extreme. I never could get it good enough to finish it. Maybe, someday I will. It has a working title of “SIRI, should I kill myself.”

So, The X-Files. Is anyone watching it? I have no doubt that they'll thwart evil, sprinkle it with aliens, and almost figure out what happened. This is their thing, and they've always done it well. Will they make us think about our modern world with skeptical eyes? I sure hope so, because when that happens it's magic.

30 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Technological Bitching

I’ve always been an early adapter of technology. I seek it out, but it has to make sense to me. Some of it seems like reinventing the wheel though.

Today, everything in my house beeps. The refrigerator reminds me I opened the door. I kind of knew that, having just opened the door. The washer and dryer beep, the toaster beeps, and even the new coffee pot I got for Christmas. It sounds like the love child of E.L.O. and Pink Floyd around here.

I drank enough beer at Old Chicago to earn a cool watch/compass thingie. Guess what? It beeps, every hour on the hour, day and night. It came with instructions in four point pitch. I could have found my high school microscope and figured it all out. I stopped its beeping by putting it in the can beside the curb. Let the dump workers figure it out.

Technology should help us, it should enhance our lives. If it annoys us, the designer didn’t do the job.

Some of the newer stuff feels like someone is building a better mouse trap. We bought a humidifier last year. It gets really dry here during the long frozen spells, and my sinus gets pretty unhappy. This thing requires a filter. Why, for Christ’s sake, does a humidifier need a filter? The filter costs about $20 three times per winter. It will not function without one. It’s a mousetrap alright, and I’m the mouse.

I put the humidifier in the garbage, and put my teapot on the stove. Problem solved.

The refrigerator also requires a filter. It won’t work without one. This filter costs about $60 three times per year. Heaven help us if we have to use unfiltered ice in a cooler someday. I drink tap water, and like it. I could get by without filtered water from the fridge, and the ongoing bill that comes with it.

My 25 year old washer and dryer finally gave up the ghost. The new one is a computer, complete with bells and whistles. Computers with plumbing running through them sounds like an awesome idea. Maybe the manufacturers don’t want me to use this set for 25 years? I can’t imagine they’ve improved something that already worked flawlessly for 25 years.

I got a new coffee pot for Christmas. Not only does it beep at me, it has a water filter. I’m old enough to remember percolators, and I’m here to tell you they made really good coffee. They’re almost impossible to find today.

So much of this tech seems designed to enhance the corporate bottom line, not my way of life. “We’ll make a killing in the filter market, boys. Mwa ha ha ha.”

Then there’s my wife’s new toaster. She thinks it’s cool. It’s covered with buttons and slowly lowers the toast into the heating element, like a robot. The damned thing only toasts one side though. I looked inside and there’s only one element. Great, I suppose if you only like bagels. I remember the kind with one button; bread go down, toast come up. Pretty simple. I’ve also made it in a cast iron skillet. Oh, and the damned thing beeps at you.

Smart phones, word processors, Bluetooth printers, I’m all over that shit. It makes sense, and it enhances my life. This other stuff baffles and annoys me.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized