Getting Science All Up In Here

I don’t get out my these days–that’s sort of clear to a lot of people.  And one of the things I don’t get out to do is see movies.  Most of that is due to having sort of a high standard when it comes to seeing a movie, and that’s to be entertained without having too much of my intelligence insulted.  That’s why I’d only seen Mad Max:  Fury Road this year of 2015 and nothing else.  I’m just a cranky bitch when it comes to film.

Yesterday, however, not long after posted on my blog, I headed out to see The Martian, the movie based upon Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name.  One reason I wanted to see the movie was because it was science fiction, and from everything I’d read of the novel, pretty accurate science fiction, with the emphases on science.  I will say now that I have not read the novel, but I’m probably going to pick it up and give it a read just to see the differences between the printed and visual versions.

The interesting thing about the novel is how it came about.  Weir wanted the novel as scientifically accurate as possible, and did a lot of research on the surface of Mars, on botany, astrophysics, space craft design, and orbital mechanics, going so far as to write is own program so he could track the orbits of the ships in his novel.

Which is something only a few crazy people do for, say, a game.

Which is something only a few crazy people–like the one who wrote this a few years ago–kinda sorta do for games.   Crazy.

Weir had been writing since his twenties, and The Martian was his first novel.  He shopped it around, and when none of the publishing houses showed interested, he started publishing the book for free on his website, going thought chapter by chapter.

That's insane.  What sort of nut does that?

That’s insane. What sort of nut does that?

After a while people asked him to put out a Kindle version of the story, and he did, and he sold the book for $.99, the lowest price one can offer for a work on Amazon.  After he sold thirty-five thousand copies in one month, Crown Publishing Group approached him and asked if he’d like a sweet deal for his book.  The deal made him another one hundred thousand dollars and got him a movie, so it sounds like he got what he was looking for.

If you’re asking, “What’s this about?”, it’s about a guy who, through no fault of anyone, gets stranded on Mars and has to find a way to stay alive until he’ rescued.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that says the same thing through Apature.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that makes you wonder if Aperture Science runs the space program.

That’s the story in a nutshell, and without going into a lot of detail, it’s what the movies shows.  What I loved was the attention to detail and how everything was so . . . sciencry.  As I indicated I haven’t read the book, but there were things in the movie that because of my knowledge of Mars and space stuff in general, I got right away.  (There was a scene in the movie where the main character was looking at a map, and the minute he realizes something and was hit with a light bulb moment, so was I.  Geeks, I know.)

The movie is magnificent in appearance.  The Mars stand-in was Wadi Rum in Jordan, which has stood in for Mars in a couple of movies, and one of the locations used in Laurence of Arabia.  With the help of a little CGI you feel like you could be there on the Red Planet.  All the tech looks workable and has an authentic feel.  And the spaceship Hermes and the Mars HABs . . . Oi.

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

I can look at the ship above and see stuff that’s supposed to be there on a real spacecraft, and that makes me happy.  There are things I saw happening in the movie that shouldn’t have happened (when you decelerate in space, your engine is supposed to be pointed towards the forward edge of your orbit, thank you), but they were minor and nitpicky.  Even Weir admits that he made the storms on Mars more visually impressive than they would be in real life because, you know, sometimes you have to do that.

The characters are good, though I think NASA in the middle of the 21st Century would be a tad more diverse than shown, and in one major instance, a character was completely whitewashed. The moment I saw the character’s name I thought “Shouldn’t she be Korean?”  This, again, came without reading the novel, and after a little investigation last night I discovered I was correct.  It isn’t impossible to find an actress of the proper ethnicity these days,  so Hollywood, you need to stop that shit right now.

There is one scene in the movie that got a huge laugh out of the audience I was with–and with me as well–and without going into detail:

When you see the scene, you'll get this completely.

When you see the scene, you’ll get this completely.

I came out really happy, not only because I saw what I’d say was a real science fiction movie, but because there was a scene involving engineering that was done while ABBA’s Waterloo played on the soundtrack.  I mean, come on:  that’s something I’d do in my stories, so you know I was smiling like crazy and bouncing in my seat as the scene played out.  And in a moment of disclosure, in a game I was running some twenty years ago, I’d planed to use Waterloo as a song-over during a scene were some people were preparing in invade a planet.

See?  Great minds think alike.  And so do those who know what makes science fun.

Walkabout in Isidis

Finally, I’m getting down to the blog and writing.  It’s been a busy morning, and it looks like it’ll be an equally busy day . . . well, busy is a relative term.  Busy is what I make it of my time, and I should do something besides Facebook games and wasting time looking for strange things to research.

It was sort of like that last night when I was doing my time in Chapter Sixteen of Suggestive Amusements.  I’m trying to find things to say about Valley of Fire State Park, and that led me to thinking about points west of Las Vegas that one might want to visit, or live in, if they were to blow that pop stand known as Sin City.  That meant getting into Google Maps, and searching and looking, and my time became one of spend five minutes looking and imagining  and one minute writing a paragraph or two.

The writing went quickly, however, when I was writing.  Though I had a Scrivener crash in the middle of the story and had to pick up where I’d left off–and thank you, Scrivener, for saving as you go along so I didn’t lose anything–it was still smooth sailing as far as getting out what I needed to get out.

Today I hope to finish the chapter.  I’m guessing another thousand, maybe fifteen hundred words, will do the deed, then I can focus on the penultimate chapter, which is going to bring in someone who’ll help set up the final chapter.  Maybe three or four thousand words there, then another three thousand or so for the last chapter–yeah, if I still on this schedule, I’ll find myself writing “The End” about this time next week.

Then on to my next masterpiece.

The things left to do now is get a synopsis together for the person I’ve asked to do a cover for Her Demonic Majesty, then do one last edit on that, and then . . . hell, what then?  Probably write that new chapter for Replacements and give that story another edit while I wait for the cover.  If I like the cover, then I could ask the same person if they would like to do another . . .

Then I have my story I want to do for Camp NaNo in June.  What was something I though of doing as a joke has really grabbed me, right to where I’m doing character sketches in my head during my spare moments of clarity.  I know the players, I know who they are and what they do, I know the setting . . . I know the transformations and the sex.  Oh, yeah, baby:  I can even see the bad cover I want to use.  Come to the woods to write, and just watch what happens . . .

Today, though, one of the things I’m looking at on the Internet is Mars.  Why?  I woke up this morning with a vision of someone in a pressure suit standing on an open plain, staring at something that looked like low mountains in the distance.  There was a sandy red hue everywhere, and since I know my Solar System, I could only imagine the scene was somewhere on Mars.

Why was I having this?  No idea.  These things do happen.  But since I had that image in my head, I had to look for my maps of Mars, and once I found them I ran across something interesting:  Isidis Planitia, an impact basin in northern Mars.  To the west is Syrtis Major Planum, which is a huge shield volcano.  I’m not saying this is what I saw in my dream image, but it seems so close.

Is this a vision, a scene, an idea?  Is this something I’m suppose to develop?  Or am I off on a strange tangent once more?

As soon as I know, I’ll let someone know.


Life to Mars

NaNo grinds on.  I’m over fifty-five thousand words, and to say I’m going to his sixty-five thousand is a forgone conclusion.  With ten thousand words to go–or there about–I can finish up by Sunday.  I felt good about the writing last night, with the chapter flowing very nicely.  I was also using the Document Target function in Scrivener to hit my goals, and to push myself a little–as in, once I hit my goal, I see the counter for another hundred words, then I hit that and set it for another two hundred words . . . Yes, those programs can help you move along, and get to those word counts that you want to hit.

There was something else that happened to me–in my dreams, of course.  It wasn’t triggered by the news that something “Earthshaking” is coming from Curiosity, or the vision that Elon Musk has for getting to Mars . . . but I think it was Mars that called to me–

Or to one of my characters.

It was just a quick vision, not a real dream, one of those things that comes to you in the hinterlands between sleep and awake.  The things that came to me . . . well, it was food for the story mill.

It was a woman, walking through a desert.  She was in a long coat, and her face was wrapped to keep the dust out of her face, and goggles to keep her eyes clear.  The sky was dark, the sand red, and in the distance there was a city, rising up beyond the rim of something–maybe a ravine, maybe a crater.  The woman stopped to take in the vista, then unwrapped her face–and smiled.

That was all I got before I woke up.

Some time back I had a dream about a woman who was also a mecha pilot, and probably a Muslim as well.  It was an interesting dream, because there were things happening in the dream I didn’t expect.  Since that dream, I get something like a little nudge about the story, but not much beyond that.

The vision that came to me, however–it was related to this story, and to the character.

For some reason I’ve thought of Mars these days, probably because I’ve always found the place interesting.  And with Curiosity now there, more is going to come to light about the Red Planet.  I still have my copy of the Arthur C. Clarke novel, The Sands of Mars, with the famously now-wrong-after-all-these-decades line, “There are no mountains on Mars,” because we know a lot better these days.  The Mars I know these days is not Barsoom, though someone has taken the opportunity to place Barsoom on today’s Mars, which is a very cool thing–though I’m damned if I can find the link right now.  Woe is me.

Perhaps this is the direction my next story is suppose to take:  a tale of struggle upon a Mars that looks slightly terraformed, or maybe with people who have become transhuman, and for whom walking upon the surface without breathing apparatus isn’t that big of a deal.  It’s possible it’s both.  I don’t know at this point–

Because I haven’t started building my world.

Windmills Keep on Turning

First off, have to express my happiness–and my overflowing geekness–to find out Curiosity landed as planned.  Seven minutes of terror, or hell, however you want to view it, the people who put the landing together succeeded as they expected.  Science and technology:  it works.

Late run to The Undisclosed Location yesterday.  I was a bit of state yesterday, and not looking forward to returning to the work hole.  So off I set as the sun was setting.

I didn’t work on Diners at the Memory’s End because I was working on another story, and found I simply didn’t have any time to get into my current work in progress.  With Part Fifteen out of the way, Part Sixteen will be entered this evening–that didn’t sound right, did it?  This scene shouldn’t be long; it may not go longer than six, seven hundred words.  If it does run more than a thousand, there’s a good chance I’m rambling.

So it was not only a late run to the Location, but a high speed one.  There wasn’t a great deal of traffic, so setting the cruse control to 80, 85 mph, and letting the vehicle run wasn’t a problem.

I haven’t done a night run in a while.  Back in the winter it was a common occurrence, but with spring, and the time change, I’ve been doing my traveling in the daylight.  So I was getting a bit of driving with the sun low, then into magic hour . . . and then, there was the encroaching gloom–just as I was hitting the windmill farm.

This is my favorite part of the trip, coming and going.  I like the farm, but I can’t explain why.  Maybe the windmills look so peaceful as their blades turn in the breeze.  And with the gloom settling in over the farm, the red warning lights atop each windmill was on and blinking.

Peaceful.  It makes you want to get off the interstate, hit a side road, and park well away from the traffic to watch them spin.

As I was motoring through the farm, the funk I’d felt for the last hour melted away.  Maybe it was born on the wind, maybe not, but it vanished over the course of about five minutes.  Maybe because it was epiphany time once more.  Maybe it was because I was saying affirmations that I need to hear every so often.

Simply put, I get hung up on bullshit.  I spend way too much time worrying about how others think of me.  I beat myself down for being stupid when it’s not my fault.  I let it gnaw away inside, like some chest buster that isn’t ready to leave the nest.

In the end of all that, I gain no satisfaction, no pleasure–and damn sure no happiness.  Therein lies the problem:  if I’m not keeping myself happy, what’s the point?  If you go through your life pleasing everyone else, are you pleasing yourself?

Right now, I’m tired, I’m sleepy, and I’m having trouble thinking.  But I know I’m done neglecting myself.

Maybe some shopping is in order.  I can always use new shoes . . .