Default Pessimism in the Nerd Press

 

This means Earth must have died, right?

Because nothing says “Dead Earth” like an FTL ship.

More default pessimism from the nerd media today. io9.com has an article up now titled, “After Earth Falls, Will Interstellar Space Travel Be Our Salvation?

It begins like this:

It may be just a matter of time before the Earth becomes uninhabitable. As astrophysicists and avid science fiction fans, we naturally find the prospect of interstellar colonization intriguing and exciting. But is it practical, or even possible? Or is there a better solution?

When you start an article with the premise that the Earth will fall (not if, but when) and will become uninhabitable (oh, well!), and then proceed to get really super-nerdly excited about space technology, it says to me that you are (a) inhuman, (b) immature, or (c) a fool who lacks imagination. I vote for (d) all of the above. Let me rewrite the title of the article, just so you know what the authors are really saying,:”After Billions of People Die Needlessly in Preventable Cataclysms, Won’t Space Travel Be Really Cool?” 

You can do better io9.com. Seriously, you can do a hell of a lot better.


Positive Future vs. the Singularity
Simple solutions, not cosmic ones.

Simple, real solutions, not cosmic ones.

Believing technology may be the solution to many of humankind’s problems is not the same thing as wanting the trans-human Singularity, that modern cultist, nerdist philosophy that believes in 30 years or less technology will progress so quickly that the future will be as unrecognizable to us as an iPhone is to a goldfish. Believing in the revolutionary power of technology is not an either or proposition, i.e. you believe in the Singularity or you’re a Luddite. I’ve seen it suggested that conspicuous consumption and early adoption really only serve to “fill a crushing vacuousness” in our lives. Maybe in that small case. But the vacuousness is only there if you don’t have a clearly defined long-term goal, if your path from dawn to dusk involves going through the motions, without considering the future beyond the next iteration of Star Wars or version 10 point whatever of your favorite video game.

In other words, an empty life is a choice you make, sometimes without knowing you are making a choice.

Technology can be used for good things, if we make that conscious choice. Solar power, electric cars, satellite internet access to under-served areas of the globe so that people can have greater access to educational materials, which in turn will reduce poverty, ignorance, and subsequently war. Supporting technological innovation doesn’t mean buying the latest gadget and throwing it away as soon as the next version comes out. It means understanding that technology has given us a great many good things: clean water, electricity, information, medicine, transportation, insights into the human condition, etc., etc. And technology will continue to improve the lives of many by many orders of magnitude over the next several decades. We can help both the Earth heal and a great many suffering people live better lives with technology without subscribing to a semi-spiritualist, quasi-messianic view of some post-human Singular age.


KING OF SHARDS Cover

There are few moments to an author that are more exciting than the book cover reveal, that moment when you get to show off the fabulous art and design for the book you’ve worked on for so long. Even more exciting is getting to reveal your very first book cover. As I’ve announced recently, I’ve sold a trilogy of books to Darin Bradley at Resurrection House. The first book in the series is King of Shards. The cover design, minus a few small edits, is below. Isn’t it fantastic? The background artwork is by Leon Tukker. The talented young artist is from the Netherlands and is only 22 years old! Check out his portfolio. This kid’s amazing! His artwork is perfect for the cover, really capturing the sense of the book. King of Shards will be out this Fall, 2015.

King of Shards

King of Shards

And here’s what King of Shards is all about:

Across the ineffable expanse of the Great Deep float billions of shattered universes, the Shards. Populated with vengeful demons and tormented humans, the Shards need Earth to survive just as plants need water. Earth itself is kept alive by thirty-six righteous people, thirty-six hidden saints known as the Lamed Vav. Kill but a few of the Lamed Vav and the Earth will shatter, and all the Shards that rely upon it will die in a horrible cataclysm.

When Daniel Fisher is abducted on his wedding day by the demon king, Ashmedai, he learns he is a Lamed Vav, one of the hidden righteous upholding the world. The demon Mashit has usurped the throne of demonkind from Ashmedai and has been systematically murdering the Lamed Vav. On a desert-covered Shard teeming with strange creatures, pursued by a fearsome demon army, Daniel and Ashmedai, saint and demon, must join forces to stop Mashit before she destroys all of existence. Daniel’s survival means he must ally with evil Ashmedai. Yet who but a saint – a Lamed Vav – can save the world?

cheap life cover

Alice K. Turner
Alice K. Turker (photo credit Ellen Datlow)

Alice K. Turker (photo credit Ellen Datlow)

I’m very sorry to hear that Alice K. Turner has passed away Jan 16, 2015. She was the Playboy fiction editor for many years, and before that she worked at New York Magazine and Publishers Weekly.

In 2002 I took a writing class at the New School in Manhattan taught by Alice Turner. I had no idea the class would change my life. Alice’s class was my introduction to the genre. I had always read SF&F, but this was the first time I seriously tried writing some. And I was terrible. But Alice was patient with all the students and even suggested to another writing group that I and one other “showed promise.” And because of that email I joined the Altered Fluid writers group. And later, after going to lots of Fantastic Fiction at KGB events, a reading series that Alice co-founded with Terry Bisson, I met Ellen Datlow, and a few years later was asked to co-host with Ellen. Now, almost thirteen years later, I’ve been nominated for a Nebula, published a few dozen short stories in pro markets, co-host the series that Alice founded, and have a trilogy book series coming out this fall. And all of that — ALL of it — wouldn’t have been possible without that first class I took with Alice. She was always warm and friendly and patient with everyone. When I saw her at various events, a few times at KGB or at the SFWA reception, no matter how much time had passed, she always remembered me and our class and asked how we were doing. I’m very sorry to hear of her passing, and despite not having seen her for a couple of years now, I will miss her very much. Thank you, Alice, for all that you have given.


The Future is An Imaginary Monster Lurking in the Closet (And We Are All Terrified)
Monsters, Everywhere

Monsters, Everywhere

The winter solstice holidays have as a common theme the abundance and proliferation of light. And there’s so much of it because our ancient and primordial fear of the dark still haunts us. And so we make our homes and our workplaces as bright as possible during these weeks that are the darkest of the year. We decorate our houses, light our Christmas trees, our menorahs, and our kinaras. And so for a week or two or three our homes and workplaces aren’t as dark, and we can forget that we live in a universe that is mostly cold, empty space.

But never here. Here on Earth we are so terrified of the dark that even at night, even when we are asleep, our cities are so bright they can be seen from space. The human species hates darkness. Unknown monsters lurk there, waiting to attack the tribe.

The future is such a monster, and we do everything in our power to hide from it.

The future is dark, less knowable the further out we look, just like that ancient campfire, as our ancestors sat and stared past the fading firelight and wondered what lay beyond that dark horizon. And so, fearing this future, this darkness, we throw as much light possible on the present moment, in our immediate zone of space and time and temporarily fool ourselves into forgetting that tomorrow is not yet illuminated.

Some alleviate this fear of the unknown future by plunging into religion, into devotion to gods or goddesses that promise redemption at the end of a long journey, that promise that the tortured and violent story of the human race will end in a predictable, redemptive way, that tomorrow is known. This is why astrology and religious prophesy are so alluring, for they promise certainty, freedom from fear. But for those whom such ideas are foreign, for those who don’t think some great god will swoop down one day to rescue the righteous and bring them into the happily ever after, slipping into the fantasy of redemption appears grotesque. But with an unknown, unpredictable future, and with no savior to light the path to redemption, those who choose not to believe are left with darkness.

Some choose the nihilistic path. All is meaningless in an immense, cold universe that cares nothing for humankind. Might as well enjoy life while we can. YOLO, Carpe diem, Gather ye rosebuds, “I’d rather die a gangster then go to sleep a coward [sic]“.  Or maybe it’s humor, laugh till your dead. Or drugs or alcohol. Most people’s go-to drug of choice, to prevent them from having to look the unknown square in the face, is shopping.

You see it around the holidays. On Black Friday, the day after Americans spend Thanksgiving day being thankful for the things they have, they run out to buy things they don’t need. Cyber Monday is for those who prefer to shop in pajamas. The allure of the product is its prophesying power. You don’t buy a product (clothes, tech, furniture) for immediate use. You buy it for how you will use the product in the future. The clothes will make you appear a certain way, some days from now. The tech will improve your life at work. The couch will make your life more comfortable when you watch TV at night.

In the absence of religion, of faith in the perfect course of history, we use the purchasing of goods to assuage our fears of the future. Money, and the more the better, becomes our security blanket. It is Herbert’s “spice” in the Dune novels. The more we have, the more we think we can predict the future, the more secure we feel. But it changes us, so that those who are immersed in it (read: the super rich) become grotesque mutations. We use money to buy products, which temporarily relieve the fear of our unknown tomorrows. But eventually that dress we bought loses its appeal, that video game gets played out and Apple comes out with a new iPhone that’s got more megapixels. TV nights on the couch feel just as empty as they were before we had the comfy couch. Maybe if we bought a sports car….

This is the cycle of Western consumerism, fed by a growing population who sees no evidence of an omniscient being with our best interests at heart, who sees the problems of the world as proof that there is no one watching over us, who grows increasingly insecure based on media reports of disease, war, violence, and natural disasters, brought to us 140 characters per second. We can’t control the horrendous news that bombards us daily, but we can control what we wear tomorrow, what smart watch we buy, which bath towels will match our toilet seat cover.

We use consumerism as an escape from tomorrow, and this is where Western society is at right now. Escapism. This is why we can’t solve any problem that lasts more than a single news cycle. Remember Ebola? Yeah that disease ravaging Africa that had everyone in the U.S. freaking out a month ago? It’s still raging across Africa. But you won’t see any headlines on it. Americans are all Sony and First Amendment today. Damned if I can’t watch any movie I want when I want to! Think we can find a solution to Global Warming? Moron! People can’t think beyond next week, let alone the next fifty years.

Hey you know scientists might have discovered evidence of life on Mars last week, but the trending stories on Google this morning are Sony Pictures, New York Jets (don’t get me started on sports), and Elton John. On Facebook, it’s which actor might return to Hannibal, Season 3. We aren’t interested in Mars because that would mean acknowledging how much we don’t know about what’s out there beyond the light of the fire.

We’re afraid of the future. It’s this big, bad, dark unknown. But it’s big and band and dark because we choose to sit by our ancient campfire, with our backs to the darkness, playing with our little sparks that leap from the fire. They flash for a bit and wink out, so we’re ever in search of new sparks to entertain us.

But let’s posit for a minute that there is no redeemer coming to save us, let’s allow that our cycles of consumerism are (a) slowly destroying this planet and (b) a symptom of some deep lack in the human psyche that causes us to seek fulfillment in transient things because we know no surefire way to find lasting fulfillment. We have to first recognize there is a problem before we can offer solutions. Our present problem is that we have no goal, no long-term vision for humanity, collectively, as a whole species, not as disparate groups vying for power or privilege or property. We have seven billion people seeking comfort from the great looming darkness and the sum of all those fearful vectors is consumerism. What if we, by nature of changing ourselves, both our short-term wants and long-term goals, create a thousand or ten thousand or ten million new vectors. Their sum total might skew humanity in a different direction, but only if we choose individually to make change.

What I’m suggesting here is not blindly heading into the future as we are now, with no plan and no goals for the Earth as a whole, where we are abusing this planet and its poorest occupants for the short-term pleasure of a very few — I am suggesting we choose a positive, directed course for humanity. That we accept the fact that the future is ultimately unknown, but also that, because we are endowed with reason and intelligence and ultimately awareness of our own place in space and time, that we can choose what future we want to dwell in.

Let’s make it a good one.

Which future would you choose? One filled with mass inequality on a global scale, or a future post-scarcity, where all humans have their basic needs met, and who can devote themselves to any area of interest they choose? A future where only the rich get quality healthcare or where quality healthcare is available to all? A future where the planet turns into a polluted wasteland of extinct species and smogged skies, or one where alternative, clean energy sources allow us to stop using fossil fuels and killing the planet? A future where we become so immersed in our virtual worlds that we lose sight of the greater universe, or one where humanity takes its first baby steps away from this planet to start colonies on other worlds?

In other words, I propose that as an antidote to this sense of meaninglessness that drives our Western capitalistic consumer engine and is creating massive economic inequality and irrevocably harming this planet, we make our own meaning. Let’s choose a grand, optimistic, visionary future for all of humankind, and each one of us, our tiny little vectors, work each day a little bit toward that goal. One, that would give our lives meaning beyond what can be offered by the endless purchasing of transient products.

Or we can huddle around our campfire, staring into the sparks leaping from the fire, with our backs to the dark, hoping that if we stare into the fire long enough, the darkness will just go away.

It’s our choice.

Happy holidays.

 


Trilogy Book Deal

resurrectionhouse_logoThe good news I’ve been waiting to announce: I’ve just sold a book trilogy to Resurrection House, the publisher headed by the pioneering Mark Teppo. The first book in my trilogy is called King of Shards, and will be coming out in Fall of 2015 under their imprint Arche Press. The uber-talented and whip-smart Darin Bradley acquired the books and will be my editor.

If you’ve come to some of my readings over the past couple of years you may have heard various excerpts of the work-in-progress. Here’s the premise of King of Shards:

Across the ineffable expanse of the Great Deep float billions of failed creations, shattered universes known as the Shards. Populated with wrathful demons and struggling humans, the Shards depend on Earth for their existence as plants depend on the sun for life. Earth itself is sustained by thirty-six righteous people, thirty-six anonymous saints known as the Lamed Vav. Kill but a few of the Lamed Vav and Earth shatters, and the Shards that depend on Earth for life will die in a horrible, eons-long cataclysm.

On Daniel Fisher’s wedding day, Ashmedai, King of Demonkind abducts Daniel and ferries him down to the barren Shard of Gehinnom. While adjusting to life on this harsh desert landscape, Ashmedai tells Daniel he is a Lamed Vav, that should Daniel and a few more Lamed Vav die, the entire Cosmos will be destroyed in a monstrous cataclysm. The demoness Mashit has usurped the throne from Ashmedai and has murdered three Lamed Vav already. Ashmedai hungers to regain his former reign over demonkind and aligns with Daniel to save the Earth and all the Shards. Together the anonymous saint and demon king race across Gehinnom, hunting for the quickest path back to Earth to save the remaining Lamed Vav before Mashit and her demon minions bring destruction upon the entire Cosmos. But evil Ashmedai cannot be trusted; Daniel’s alignment with the demon king has grave costs. Forced to murder and steal to survive, Daniel finds that he may not be a Lamed Vavnik — a saint — anymore. Yet who but a Lamed Vavnik can save the world?

King of Shards will be my first published novel — something I’ve worked hard on for so long. Words fail to express how excited I am about this! (And how glad I am to finally share this news!)

 


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Sunray Computer

In addition to writing science fiction & fantasy, I maintain a living by working as a freelance developer, system administrator, and graphic designer. If you need a new website, IT services for your business, or a graphic designer, I’m your man.

More info about my services can be found at my business site, Sunray Computer.

News & Updates

  • 01/23/2015 — Default Pessimism in the Nerd Press  Because nothing says “Dead Earth” like an FTL ship. More default pessimism from the nerd media today. io9.com has an article up now titled, “After Earth Falls, Will Interstellar Space Travel Be Our Salvation?“ It begins like this: It…Read more »
  • 01/22/2015 — Positive Future vs. the SingularitySimple, real solutions, not cosmic ones. Believing technology may be the solution to many of humankind’s problems is not the same thing as wanting the trans-human Singularity, that modern cultist, nerdist philosophy that believes in 30 years or less technology…Read more »
  • 01/21/2015 — KING OF SHARDS CoverThere are few moments to an author that are more exciting than the book cover reveal, that moment when you get to show off the fabulous art and design for the book you’ve worked on for so long. Even more…Read more »

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