Friday, January 28, 2011

Blind Driver

That's right, I just heard about a blind man demonstrating a new technology that would allow blind people to drive.  I heard about it and read the story on Atlanta Radio Station Star 94.

The car, obviously is loaded with high tech equipment like laser range finders, cameras, and more that will apparently map out the environment.  The technology "communicates information non-visually to a blind person allowing them to safely drive an automobile."  The driver wears special gloves (you can see wires/cables on the gloves) that help with steering/let the driver know how far to turn.

The system would probably need safeguards that would automatically slow or stop the vehicle in certain instances like if someone stopped abrupty or something/someone moves suddenly in front of the vehicle.  Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if that is added to cars for sighted people. 

For a direct link to the Youtube video, check this out.

Now think about this technology for science fiction writers.  Sure, in space opera or futuristic science fiction, you can discuss technologies that let the blind function like sighted people.  One of the best known is Geordi LaForge's VISOR from Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  But what about something more like science fiction in the modern world - urban science fiction?  I could see this type of technology brought up for a blind character, or even a blind protagonist.

So keep researching and

Write On.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reviewing A Draft Before Sharing

Recently, I went through and critiqued a short story through Critters.  It was one of the worst things I've read.  The writing was so bad and littered with inexcusable grammatical errors that I completely lost track of what the story was about.  Because the writer sent the draft in such poor condition, I really think he/she will not get the best feedback on the story because I believe other readers/critiquers will also be distracted by the poor writing.  Also, since there are lots of stories to choose from constantly through Critters (and other online writing/critting groups) that some may start, get fed up and decide to choose another story that is easier to read.  Poorly written stories can take more time to critique.

Now, let me remind everyont that I'm a fan of Critters.  Overall, I feel they've helped my draft novel, Legacy Soldier, progress and improve.  They also helped me find some stupid mistakes.  There is only so much you can do to edit your own work because you're so close to it that you know what you want to say and sometimes confuse that with what you're actually saying in the story.  That's where having others to give an objective read is important.  That said, we as writers should try to give our best draft to beta readers/editors.

Even a first draft shouldn't go out as just after it's been written.  If you want the best quality feedback, send the best quality drafts.  I know I've mentioned these tricks/tools before, but let me go through a few again.

Run a spell/grammar check.  These tools aren't infallible, but they do help clean up a story.  Another trick I've heard is to read your story/chapter to yourself out loud.  Does it sound right?  If you have a friend/family member willing, let them read it to you.  If they have trouble reading parts, you may want to re-write.  If you don't have someone who can do that, a tool I've found helpful is a free downloadable text-to-speech software called Ultra HALC/NET rated the free version pretty well.

So remember, write, read, re-write, read again, and

Write On.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Innovations for Space Flight

I just saw a slideshow on FoxNews' Tech link focusing on 10 new innovations for future space flight.  Some are pretty much what you'd expect.  There's a slide for a new Mars rover, discussion of what kind of transport vehicle will replace the space shuttle, exercise equipment for astronauts and other things that I've been hearing about for a couple of years now.  But then there are a few that I haven't heard about as much.

Examples:  Nantennaes.  Billions of tiny antennae on the wings of unmanned aerial vehicles that would help provide electricity and power for an engine.  While this sounds like a high-tech version of solar panels, the technology is much more advanced and worthy of note to science fiction writers.

A robot motor that could operate in extreme heat, like on Venus.  Again, while not necessarily something people haven't heard of before in sci-fi, it's still interesting to know that there is currently such a device that could operate in temps allegedly up to 932 degrees.  According to the article, the nearest competitors can only withstand half that temperature.  This is a good example of how sometimes tech takes a massive leap forward before returning to incremental advances.

Whoever came up with this one must have been a 7 of 9 fan.  Skin tight space suits.  Apparently this type of attire helps to reduce the bone loss for astronauts in space for extended periods by simulating the effects of gravity.  When you think of the fact that astronauts going to the ISS often spend months there and considering a recent post I made regarding an article on a manned trip to Mars.  A one-way trip would take months - almost a year IIRC, this is an important development.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is the Military Going to Have Invisible Vehicles?

Star Trek fans might be hoping we have a cloaking device ready for the Klingons and Romulans.  According to an article on Fox News' tech page, the answer is yes.  Invisible tanks, planes, and armor could be in use within 5 years.  Rather than the whole "bending light" theory, this tech would use cameras and a high tech display to project the surrounding environment onto the hull of the vehicle rendering it effectively invisible - similar to a chameleon blending into the surrounding. 

One thing I found cool is that I use a tech like this in my draft sci-fi novel, but not for military applications.  The tech is used on the roof of an flying limousine and effectively makes the roof disappear so the occupants can stare at the stars.  I one-up it by adding some touch-screen tech (like an iPad).  Touch a star visible and get the info on it.

With this new tech coming out, I may have to tone down the surprise or make a comment that the characters hadn't heard of the tech used on anything besides military vehicles.  Something to incorporate the science facts of this tech.  Regardless, it's cool to see this tech really coming about.  It's one of the great things about sci-fi. Things we dream can become reality.

Keep researching for your stories to include credible tech and

Write On.

Monday, January 17, 2011

SyFy's New Show - Being Human.

Okay, I'm trying SyFy's new show, Being Human.  Fortunately for me they're showing the premier twice.  Otherwise, I'd have missed the first 20 minutes due to my Tae Kwon Do class.

 - Vampire:  a bit cliche.  Pale skin and a bit too suave.  Does becoming a vampire automatically make everybody so confident.  Unless I missed something, daylight didn't seem to hurt him.  At least they didn't have that drawback and, thankfully, he DIDN'T sparkle.
 - Werewolf:  Likeable but kinda reminds me of Oz from Buffy and Henry from Sanctuary.  They never seem that confident, but come off as likeable bozos.
 - Ghost:  Great intro, she has trouble controling herself.  While it reminds me of Patrick Swayze in Ghost, I like the way they did it.  Not sappy, but she was so happy that someone could see/hear her, she kept poofing out.  She's got a fun attitude.  So far, she seems to be the most likeable character.

Brief scene where the vampire calls the mother of the girl he killed from a pay phone made me ask myself a question.  When was the last time I saw a pay phone?
Werewolf guy trying to avoid his sister was pretty good too.  A little family drama that also gave some clue how long he's been a werewolf.  I like his sister following him to the place where I think he's locked away to wolf out.  Funny line from sister - "You're not nearly as mysterious as you think you are" and then locks herself in the room with him.  Nice cliffhanger for the season opener.

Don't like that the vampire is involved with other vamps.  Another cliche.  Why are there always multiple vamps?  I know it takes a vamp to make a vamp, but the same for werewolves.  Come on.  Yes, vampy's trying to get away from their kind, so to speak, but that's a bit too Angel or Forever Knight.  There are obviously other ghosts and werewolves in this world but those characters don't seem to know any yet.  Good.

Overall, it's not a bad start.  Vampire's a bit cliche, but I think it's got promise anyway.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Should I retire on Mars?

If I'm lucky, I'll be able to retire some time in the 2030s.  A lot can happen in the next 20 years.  From what I've read in an article on FoxNews, perhaps even a manned one-way trip to Mars.  To summarize, the article references a recent article from the Journal of Cosmology that gave great details how a privately funded manned mission to Mars could take place as early as 20 years from now.  More than 400 people have already volunteered as colonists.

Interesting how it specifies "privately funded."  Can't trust the government?  Well, let's face facts.  It seems like the private sector is doing more to advance the possibilities of space travel.  In my draft novel, LEGACY SOLDIER, this fits in with the backstory.  One of the societies came from humanities first attempt at colonizing outside of our solar system using privately funded and developed a prototype faster-than-light propulsion.  Needless to say, they have many volunteers - mostly scientists (high tech types, biologists, physicists - enough different PhDs that it could really mean Piled higher and Deeper).

Anyway, when the colonists first get to Mars, it's likely that the ship itself will be designed to serve as a colony/outpost.  But that couldn't last forever.  Bio-domes and other habitats will probably follow.  Russian architect Alexander Remizov designed a "green ark" that resembles a giant slinky and has the capacity to house 10,000 people.  While the design is most likely intended for Earth-bound use (as implied by the floating version), such a structure would be a likely necessity on a colony.  That is until Arnold Schwartzenegger shows up and finds the alien machine to give Mars an atmosphere (remember Total Recall?)

Now, we also have to think about transportation.  Considering the limited resources, I doubt that big SUVs will be taken along.  Walking might work at first, but some type of motorized transportation would eventually become needed.  Well, GM has debuted some small pod-like cars that seat two, run on two wheels, are completely electronic and can drive themselves.  The Electric Networked Vehicle, or EN-V (pronounced envy) that they anticipate could be ready for the market in 2030.  These small vehicles would be the perfect type of conveyance in a self-contained society.  The EN-V's controller/steering "wheel" is actually rectangular.  At a glance it looks like a small iPad or big iPhone.  Due to the size and having no real dashboard, it would make sense to have guages and other vehicle information available on the controller.

So there you have it.  Real tech mixed with some credible concepts that could lead to the first attempts at off-world colonization within out lifetime.  Until then, this makes for good background information and technological support for credible writing.

Look to the stars and
Write On.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Acceptable SyFy

I don't know if someone at SyFy was listening to me or not.  Probably not, but I noticed this morning that SyFy is airing Merlin Marathon.  Personally, that series hasn't exactly drawn me in.  No surprise, I'm not big on the series, but it is at least part of the genre that built up SyFy.  While the marathon will be unfortunately interrupted by WWE wrestling, immediately following that action-based sitcom will air the season premier of Merlin.

Sunday, I just found out, is TrekDay on SyFy.  If they air some of the good stuff, I'll forgive them for showing Star Trek:  Nemesis.

After I made my first post about SyFy vs. History Channel, I was contacted by an old friend who said that BBC also has some good stuff.  SyFy is apparently checking them out also - January 17, SyFy airs Being Human.  Based on a critically acclaimed BBC series, SyFy places three 20-something roommates - a ghost, vampire and werewolf - trying to keep their secrets and help each other.  Sounds a little like an urban fantasy Melrose Place (the original one).  I'm willing to give it a chance.  I love the werewolf's line in the advertisements - "We'll have full moon parties.  We'll invite the neighbors over and eat them."  Funny, but I don't know if the ghost eats.

And for the retro and Bruce Lee fans, I saw a commercial that SyFy will air a Green Hornet Marathon Tuesday, January 11.  That's right, the original Green Hornet and Kato will be back.  It will be fun to see Kato kick some @ss.

It's nice timing.  Seeing some of the greats is inspirational as I kick my own Tae Kwon Do training into a higher gear as I practice routines for my next black belt test.  I've lost about 3 pounds and I tried to make my sparring in regular class more intense.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Training Day 1

Looks like I have another New Year Goal and something new to blog about.  At my Tae Kwon Do class (can't believe the newsletter tab still has a picture from my black belt test - I'm the bald guy on the left side) last night, I went through some pre-testing drills with another black belt and some advanced red belts.  So it looks like I'm going to be testing for my second degree black belt some time in February and that means that I've got to go into training mode!

Just for fun, and to keep me accountable, I'm going to include blog entries dedicated to training for this test.  My first degree test was the most grueling thing I've ever gone through and this will be even tougher.  The toughest parts were the three sparring sessions.  Each spaced out between testing on techniques, and forms/katas.  The first was just regular sparring.  Nice warm-up. 

The next was round-robin sparring.  A group of helpers (mostly black belts) lined up and sparred me one at a time for about 30 seconds.  Every 30 seconds I'd face a fresh opponent.  I ended up sparring each person twice.  Those taking their second degree test sparred their opponents three times.  Definitely lots of cardio.

The last sparring session was multiples.  I faced off against two black belts whose combined age was probably still less than mine (a 3rd and a 4th degree).  Next time, I'll have to face three.

Other things are similar.  Everybody works techniques and forms starting with white belt and working their way up.  All black belts have to know the weapons forms.  The simple one is with an escrima stick, but the more complicated (my favorite) is the bo form. 

I need to take some time to polish my forms, and weapon techniques, but the most important thing to do is work on my cardio.  This morning, I spent about 25 minutes warming up with a medicine ball workout and then going to the clubhouse gym for about 40 minutes on an elliptical.  Since I'm working from home, I might practice some forms at lunch.

If you think it's out of place to talk about training for a martial arts test on a writer blog, don't worry.  This is one of those things that I like to think goes to credible writing.  Hopefully, if people see that on my book bio sections, they'll appreciate my fighting scenes that much more.  Also, I have to write an essay - test of wisdom basically before the test.

So, be healthy, enjoy the new year and

Write On.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Goals

Happy New Year.  Like many others, I'm setting a couple of goals for 2011.  And, of course, most are related to writing.

First, I want to complete edits on Legacy Soldier and start sending it out to agents and publishers.  I've sent it out to a few and did get some partial requests, but in the end they all turned to rejections (those who've replied).  There are a couple other big agents I want to target, but I want one more coat of polish on the manuscript first.  Keep that idea in mind.  Just because you have sent off your manuscript doesn't mean you should just sit back and hope it's adequate.  Take some time away and then look it over again.

Second, I've started two new stories and I want to finish one - maybe just at novella length.  One is an urban sci-fi mystery story called TIA.  TIA is short for Temporal Investigations Avatar.  The technology allows the user to send their consciousness back in time to watch a crime.  The catch is that the past isn't as linear as most thought and a person must be trained to navigate to the time and place of the crime to find key pieces of evidence and identify the criminals.

The other is an alternative Earth urban fantasy were the eastern 13 states have been taken over by werewolves.  The protagonist is part of the military Border Patrol that tries to keep the werewolves from advancing.  Her team is tasked with protecting a lab that might have developed a vaccine for the werewolf condition.  The lab is attacked and her lover bit.  With a no-tolerance policy (those infected are killed) and only one vial of the vaccine surviving the attack, she has to get the vaccine to headquarters while safeguarding her lover hoping that the vaccine will also lead to a cure before his condition is discovered and he's executed.

So wish me luck, enjoy the new year and
Write On