Within the circuitry

Cyberpunk Net Neutrality

I’ve learned in the last week I’m not only one thinking we’re living in a cyberpunk dystopia.

Fans of the cyberpunk have been discussing if attacks on net neutrality are a sign of this. Apparently, the possibility has taken one of the biggest online groups by surprise, because the most recent push by the FCC to favor the old cable companies over preservation of Internet freedom is causing “a bit of an existential crisis” for r/cyberpunk on reddit.

We’re not all flying around in our personal cars under neon lights, but politically, we’re definitely living within a cyberpunk world. Private IT and government agencies are catching up to threats instead of troubleshooting well in advance. One of the risks is that people can die from malware. Everyone who’s paying attention is worried about governments giving apathetic corporations power over who lives and dies.

Like Ciemnika wrote,

Our world is becoming increasingly digital, and I doubt that’s a trend that’s going to reverse any time soon without a calamity. It’s well past time for us to wrest control of our destiny before its entirely bought and sold out from under us. It’s not too late.

Ciemnika missed a few big issues, in my opinion; however, to not overwhelm anyone, let’s focus on an immediate concern. The message concluding on this post is great, so I’m pasting it here.

Winning the fight to preserve net neutrality is very possible, but people have to get involved. You can’t assume someone else will do it. You have to roll up your sleeves and do the work. We can push back against the tide of overreaching government and corporate influence, and this is a great place to start. I’m not saying we can swing the pendulum from the seeds of Blade Runner to a utopia in a week, but the opportunity for humanity’s future to be the best part of its history is still very real.

Americans: The FCC is accepting comments through today, July 17. Take a moment to give Chairman Pai your opinion directly on the FCC filing site (see how), or use the Battle for the Net form for your representatives in Congress to also receive your comment. Don’t wait for heroes straight out of fiction to save our world for you.


I’ll be adding more links this post later but wanted to share this content as possible. If the net neutrality in the US will impact you, please go comment. Right now. Thanks.

BattlefortheNet.com/July12

Message for Americans: The Future of the Net

This is an issue you need to know about today.

Maybe you like spending money on whatever corporations tell you to. You wouldn’t mind paying to access all of the Internet at high speeds.

But I’m going to assume you don’t believe that people deserve more freedom online based on where they live within the United States or how wealthy they are. In my mind, a child in a poor, rural home deserves to visit the same websites as a child with access to more municipal or household resources.

However…

Right now, new FCC [Federal Communications Commission] Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai has a plan to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies immense control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, the FCC will give companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we can see and do on the Internet, with the power to slow down or block websites and charge apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience.

If we lose net neutrality, we could soon face an Internet where some of your favorite websites are forced into a slow lane online, while deep-pocketed companies who can afford expensive new “prioritization” fees have special fast lane access to Internet users – tilting the playing field in their favor.

Today, Internet users are coming together to stop them. Websites and online communities are sounding the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality. We all have until July 17 to tell the FCC and Congress how we feel about this issue.

Learn more and join the action here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 Participant header

Roughing It: Camp NaNoWriMo

A marketer for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) says Camp is “an idyllic writers retreat smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life”. One experience with NaNoWriMo teaches writers that the international event is idyllic or a retreat from anything but reality.

Intense pressure is one of the most appreciated tools of any NaNoWriMo.

Basically, Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July is a month-long competition each participating writers has with themself.

My goal this month is to write 35,000 words for a novella. The story is based on a novel I started as a teenager. You can read more about it and see my progress through the month by visiting the new Dark Fiction page.

Another way to hear about it is to join my LGBT Dark Fantasy cabin on the Camp NaNoWriMo website. Anyone looking for support and willing to share ideas with a few of us bold enough to write about magical sex slaves, sirens, and other dangerous characters is welcome to join this week. You may use my site’s Contact form to ask for invitation to the cabin.

The Young Protectors © Alex Woolfson

When Your Favorite Character Is Gone

It happens.

You’re reading along, maybe taking breaks to daydream about side-stories and what the author might show you next, when BAM! Your favorite character is dead. Or they leave for an unknown amount of time. Maybe they’re put into a sleep that will last the remainder of the story. Their mind is wiped. In the worst cases, the author no longer publishes the character’s story.

However it happens, the character you know is gone.

In the best stories, this shouldn’t be a complete surprise; however, it’s hard to accept clues that you’re going to lose a character you love. You don’t want to grieve, and you know you will.

This happens too often to me.

It’s because I fall in love with the shady characters.

See, I like the cynics. The outcasts. The bad guys trying their hardest to do good. My favorites are the sassy anti-heroes, the thoughtful antagonists, and the main characters who’s role defies comparison with the standard concepts of heroism.

These characters are more relatable. (I didn’t grow up around the most helpful, kind, loving people, and my luck isn’t the best.) For the broader audience, they’re usually more unique than the obvious good guys. Ultimately, though, I want to see these characters do good and become more likeable.

But when they aren’t the primary character moving the plot, writers won’t risk upsetting their critics by keeping them along longer than needed to punish them or to prove the hero’s strength.

That’s fair. People read to see rewards and punishment to fit their world view. That’s, probably, the number one reason fiction is popular.

It’s just hard on some of us, okay?

Of course, heroes die, too. Side characters with little development are cast aside. Whatever the character’s role, accepting their discontinuation in the story can be hard. It doesn’t feel much different than losing a person.

In the end, grief is grief.

As fans, the best we can do is give ourselves time to recover (see “How to Get Over the Death of a Fictional Character” for great tips).

Of course, as the author, the best you can do is celebrate. No one grieves for bad characterization and a boring plot.


Inspiration for this post: a plot twist in The Young Protectors, which I’ve blogged about before in “Protecting the Heart”. It’s not yet clear if my favorite character is even really gone.

Turn Me On: Musical Mood

Today’s prompt for the monthly Twitter game #AuthorConfession asked about my main character’s favorite song. Honestly, he doesn’t have one, because it would fall into a retro-modern trend that doesn’t yet exist.

Since I can’t predict music in our near future, I’m going to bring the question back to what I use to create develop the characters in my current project.

I mentioned in “Music for Writing” that music is a part of my writing process. This really is not unusual for writers. Nona Mae King on Writers Helping Writers Become Authors suggests that music helps writers in four ways: encourages focus, enhances mood, and promotes inspiration, and encourages us to seek inspiration.

Here’s a glimpse of music I’ve listened to while writing scenes. (Sometimes the videos even relate to my story!)

Other Notables:

Bonus: Here’s a song I played on repeat for a short story about one character’s backstory.


Do you like any of these? What are your favorite songs?

Banner featuring "Recenter" cover

Thursday Thoughts: Thank You for Covering Me!

I’m not the most modest person in the world. This is not a post about having to cover up with clothing. Just getting that out there.

This post is about another type of exposure.

For the first time, I played a Twitter hashtag game called #GuessWrite. It’s a monthly game that incorporates other hashtag games for writers. Each game’s prompt through one week shows a clue to the month’s theme. The challenge is to correctly guess the theme.

The winners receive a bunch of prizes, some of which I’m figuring out.

One offer is for a critique and another for attention on Instagram. (I know almost nothing about Instagram! Here’s to a new learning experience.) Cori Lynn Arnold gave me a e-version of the crime thriller Thin Luck. Author Lexi Miles will spotlight me on her website with an interview, so please watch for it. [Update: Read the interview now.]

Getting all of this attention is fun. Thank you, #GuessWrite hosts!

Speaking as if a new connection can weave one tighter to the creative community…

I was poking around my writing critique site and noticed that Tina Chan was giving away pre-made book covers. Here’s one that I nabbed for a short story associated with Changing Sides.

"Recenter" short story cover

Isn’t it exciting? I’m in love with it.

Tina was amazing about tweaks–fast and easygoing. You can see this and more free pre-made covers at thebooklander.com. Thanks, Tina!

 

Near Future Tech: Home Printing in a Day’s Work

The big news last month in home construction was of the 400 square-foot (38 m²) house built by a 3D printer in Russia. The companies Apis Cor and PIK say the house was meant “to demonstrate the flexibility of equipment and diversity of available forms”.

What this means is that it could help not only the typical builder but also builders off-planet and the tiny house movement.

Surprisingly (to me), using 3D printers to quickly construct buildings is years old. Yingchuang New Materials Inc in China printed ten buildings in a single day, and they used recycled materials, inspiring an extra boost of optimism that our descendants won’t all live within giant trash heaps.

I totally missed that news in 2014.

That same year, a British company was in the news talking about 3D printing concrete buildings. The Russian house is concrete. This is how fast developments happen.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) movie poster

GitS Live Action: A Pretty Shell Lacking Heart and Smarts

Hollywood has a reputation for taking a well-loved franchise, digesting it, and vomiting out a movie that their confused producers think will look close enough to the original to appease audiences.

They did it again with the latest Ghost in the Shell movie.

In this particular take on one of the most influential fiction franchises* to come out of any country, Hollywood made a movie whose storyline I’ll summarize as:

Zombie kids rebel against a disorganized police force and an evil businessman.

This summary, however, might make the movie sound better than it was. This movie wasn’t only a huge disappointment, it made me feel ill similarly to how I felt in November. I felt the theater wondering how the producers were fine with taking an intelligent, well-loved collection of stories and making into a work that (as far as I can tell) could only appeal to fans of mindless action.

Here were a few of the big issues with the live action version of Ghost in the Shell (GitS):

  • The violence necessary in previous versions of GitS* went unjustified and even glorified by the emotionless action scenes. Even as characters talked about the importance of remaining their humanity, they demonstrated no concern for other humans outside of they could be used to serve individual goals.
  • While it looks like a mashup of cyberpunk tropes, it become a copy of copies that can replace none of the originals. Nothing in the setting surprised me.
  • Technology and culture presented as far-future at times looked outdated. The text introduction read like something out of the 1980s.
  • The story failed to take advantage of the medium.
    • We’re supposed to care about memories that are never shown. A few flashes of Major‘s (yes, that’s what the main character is called in the movie) family could have established an emotional connection.
    • The lack of people in public places is never explained, is counter to the crowded city in the animated versions, and contributed to the sense that humanity is absent in the movie. A seconds-long explanation could have taken the form of clips of average-looking people hooked up to their homes.
    • The settings too often looked fake–especially the vehicles, which looked like moving stage props. Again, the absence of people in the background contributed to this. So did the inexplicably clean home interiors.
  • Characters, who are supposed to be a part of an elite policing team, repeatedly made rash decisions that unnecessarily endanger their lives. Section 9 often feels disjointed, unprofessional, and dangerous to the general public, especially in light of Major’s tendency to disobey orders without any negative consequences.

The only praise I can give this movie is that most of the actors did a decent job, the writers pulled together elements from previous versions with their own twist in the second half, and the directing allowed me to focus on the prettier shots.

In particular, Michael Pitt as a broken cyborg was lovely enough that I cringed when his character complained of being ugly, and all of the closeups of Scar-Jo provided welcome distractions from the story.

*For a relatively brief overview of the GitS franchise:


Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Robot with a flower

People: Loved to Pieces

The lines between human and machine continue to blur, perhaps at a faster rate than during any time in the evolution of Homo sapiens. While technological developments make androids and algorithms more humanlike, they’re also bringing more artificial parts into humans.

Here’s an intimate look at some recent developments.


What do you notice about someone close to you?

Their smile?

F.A.C.E. is an expressive android, used as”an emotion conveying system” with a perfect smile.

Their eyes?

Not everyone can return your gaze (if you’re able-sighted), but that might change in the near future with the help of bionic eyes.

The feel of their skin?

Soft, robotic skin developed by Georgia Tech gives “a sense of touch that is at least somewhat analogous to” what healthy human skin feels. (There are those who might still prefer bioprinted skin for replacements.)

Is it the reassuring sound of their heart?

Whether they have an artificial heart, one needing the assistance of a robot, or one that has pumped in time to emotions since birth, does the heartbeat remind you that they live?

What about their mind?

Would it bother you to discover that they had once changed their mind–really, changed their mind’s home–with a mind transfer into an artificial brain?


We are going to be embracing a future when the game of “Would You Still Love Me If” steps up to another level, don’t you think?

 

Water drops over dictionary, by Janeke88

Thursday Thoughts

Writing Weaknesses

Someone asked on an online writers’ site for a description of our writing weaknesses.

Most of the answers were comforting for their familiarity. Overwriting? Done it. Underwriting? Same. Obsessively reworking, clinging to ineffective phrases, struggling to describe settings? Yep, lived that life. Isn’t it nice how as writers we push through the same drama on our individual paths?

For me, new issues develop weekly that are harder to explain.

I’ve been writing for most of my life. From the moment I could reproduce words on paper, I was trying to fit them together into stories.

In my twenties, a health scare inspired me to make panic-inducing decisions about what my aims in life. At the top of that list was Share my fiction.

That meant I had to write more. Nothing was going out into the world until I figure out what a mature story looked like. Most of my attempts were adolescents that needed to stay home.

In the following years, I read books on writing, attended writing groups, studied my favorite novels by picking them apart over and over, journaled and blogged about the writing process, pestered authors in my with social circles with questions, and of course, wrote.

Those years, the undesired break from writing fiction that spanned another few years, and the past several months of reentry into writing communities has provided me with more than enough time to identify my primary weakness.

It’s self-confidence.


Knowing What to Share

Self-confidence: (noun) realistic confidence in one’s own judgment, ability, power, etc.

Figuring out what’s worth researching, titling, and finding images for is almost impossible without the ability to assess what people will read.

List of tentative blog titles, by A.M. Fals
A snapshot of the most recent draft posts. March 8, 2017.

On average, I publish one out of every four blog posts drafted. Guessing wildly here: I save a draft post for every three ideas. Coming up with ideas is quick, growing out of my focus each day. Each post, however, takes hours to write and edit.

Parts of unpublished drafts end up in my story notes. They aren’t useless. The writing about links and new concepts can feel like a waste, however.

Some days, the most anxiety-filled ones, I wish my blog came with an actual editor–a person who would tell me what to write when. Other than the obligatory coffee chats and surprise check-ins, this could save not only time but also energy and sanity better sacrificed to my fiction.

Yeah, a leading editor would be nice.

Would you like to take on the role for a few minutes? Tell me what you really want to read more about.


Quick Thank-You for Support

An anonymous person showed me love through the Buy Me a Coffee button on my sidebar. Getting money for writing is an incredible feeling. Positive feedback is, too.

Thank you so much for the coffee and note, dear reader!