Friday, January 18, 2013

What Too Much Sci-Fi Can Do to a Person

If you read/watch a lot of science fiction, you may notice that in general it makes practically no sense. Every rule has its convenient exceptions, the most basic tenets about the universe are constantly ignored or questioned, and there always seem to be more explosions and life-saving coincidences than real life could possibly support. However, we readerly types know that, buried in this mass of general wibbly-wobbley mish-mash and spacetime-continuum paradoxes, a kernel of beautiful common sense lies. The following is a list of the sci-fi rules one should always follow, no matter where in the universe you are.

1. Always keep a towel with you. Towels can save your life in a million unexpected ways.
2. Turn left.
3. If you come to a door, shoot the control panel. Whether you want the door to close or open, it will. Mostly guaranteed.
4. Don't kiss someone without first making absolutely certain that he/she isn't your long-lost twin.
5. Don't worry if you don't know the language. If anything important is being said, it'll be in English subtitles. Or a translator droid will be handy. Or you can just put a certain type of fish in your ear that will magically translate everything. You know, whatever floats your jet pack.
6. Be careful. Anything could literally explode at any minute. Also, you might be walking into a trap. Also, shortcuts are rarely short and are never a good idea unless you're the adventurous and invincible main character who needs to keep things suspenseful, in which case... Well, things will get suspenseful.
7. If you hear a helicopter, that means somebody's dead. This either means your life is now slightly easier, or it means you've lost your very best friend in the whole universe.
8. Time travel is generally stupid. Seriously, don't go back in time and try to fix things that already happened. But if you do, at least don't go anywhere near your parents.
9. Never Ever Ever Wear a Red Shirt. Red shirts are dangerous.
10. And whatever you do, DON'T BLINK!

May the Force be with you. ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Writing

Writing is a bit like vomiting. Sometimes you just have to do it and get it over with. It's like there's something deep inside you that needs to come out. And so you get it out, simple as that. Sure, it makes an awful mess, but once you clean it up you find...

Never mind. I'm not sure where that was going. Lesson of the day, kids: some things are better left unblogged.
It has come to my attention that all the writers who have gone before me have left behind quotable bits of wit and wisdom and whimsy for the rest of us to write on chalkboard walls and "like" on Goodreads. That is exceedingly wonderful, but what's depressing about it is that I don't think I've said a single original sentence in my life. Here's how it goes: I have a brilliant thought. I think of a sentence to explain it that sounds incredibly smart and witty. And then I realize, with a noise like the "GAME OVER" sound in a computer game, that someone has said practically that exact same thing before.
Great minds think alike, I tell myself, and then I ask how they got to be great minds if they didn't think differently now and then.
To take some specific examples: I thought to myself one day, "Writing is kind of like schizophrenia. You can have multiple personalities, and nobody cares!" Guess what: someone named E. L. Doctorow already said, "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." I have often thought to myself, "It's awful, walking around with this story inside me and no computer nearby to type it with." Guess what: Maya Angelou already said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And I have thought to myself, several times, hundreds of times, "I have to just keep going if I ever want to get published. I have to just keep at it, and not get bored. I have to just write one word after the other until it's done." And GUESS WHAT: Neil Gaiman already said, "This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy and that hard."
If all these things have already been said, how will I ever get to say anything? I tend to get interrupted quite a bit when I talk aloud, which is, I suppose, part of the reason I took to writing. You'd think writing was a way to talk without being interrupted -- in fact, I had that thought, and in fact, Jules Renard ALREADY SAID, "Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted"-- but in spite of all that, I can't write a single thing that hasn't been already written.
Oh, wait. That thing about vomit -- did anyone else already write it? I should check Goodreads...