Jul 272014
 

Why are there a number of how-to books on building worlds in Science Fiction, but none, at least that I know of, about shaping the societies that inhabit them? Thankfully, there are authors who include the societal element of the story they’re writing, be the societies alien or human. But there were a couple of panel discussions I attended at last weekend’s DETCON1 that suggested too many writers are ignoring the sentient side of the equation when they look at future worlds or the future of our world.

DETCON 1 LogoDETCON1 was this year’s North American Science Fiction Convention being held in Detroit. I wish I could have attended all the panel discussions, but every one I did make it to was very good. Two of the panel really stood out in my mind. The first was a panel on how science fiction and fantasy approach religion.

I was first introduced to the topic when I attended Clarion back in the ’80s, and continued to notice when religion was handled well in Sci-Fi. Understand, I’m not talking about religious stories with a science fiction theme. Rather, science fiction is able to explore religion and its impact on a society without being didactic about a particular church or sect.

The panel contended that too often religion is simply forgotten or ignored as part of the make-up of a world’s society, at least in novels. Television science fiction, however, has some notable entries for stories that included religions as part of the narrative arcs, such as Deep Space Nine, Babylon Five, and Battlestar Galactica. In none of these shows was religion presented as an argument for belief in a particular church, even an alien one. But their stories did recognize the impact religious beliefs had on a society and its ethics. It’s easy to see in reality the impact of religious beliefs that we have in today’s world, impacts both good and bad. We can’t simply leave that behind in the worlds we make up for fiction.

The panel represented a wide range of beliefs, ranging from a “practicing Jew” – as Isabel Schechter emphasized about herself compared to “non-practicing Jews who show up on these panels – to an atheist. The latter, however, was not there as a counter for the inclusion of religion in Sci-Fi’s portrayal of societies, and even accepted the viewpoint that atheism is itself a belief not supported by rigid scientific proof.

Rather, everyone on the panel discussed the need to include religion as part of the mix when creating the society that exists in our fiction.

In the first draft of my novel Lunar Dust, Martian Sands, I used a monastery as a place to hold a memorial service on Mars. Yet in the rewrites I fairly quickly fleshed out the monastery’s role in the colony and the society that had left earth in the early 22nd century. The monastery wasn’t prevalent throughout the storytelling, though it played a small but key role in the plot. More importantly, it was among the elements that made the Martian society seem more real to me.

The second panel was “Octavia’s Brood: Speculative Fiction & Social Justice.” Octavia Brood is a forthcoming anthology of “visionary speculative fiction by organizers and activists, and essays about the radical potential of science fiction,” inspired by the late science fiction author Octavia Butler. The phrase in the session description about the “radical potential of science fiction” is what got me to attend this panel. Each of the panelists saw the potential and capability of science fiction to deal with social justice and other issues facing societies within the context of a good story. It doesn’t require an author to create a dystopia. In fact, it works better if those issues are weaved into a complex and believable depiction of people and a society that’s part of the story.

The members of both panels weren’t talking about preaching, be it about religious believes or social ills. But they were advising writers it is just as important, if not more so, to get the people and the society they live in right as it is to get the science right.

Jun 152014
 
A long road to dual release of sci-fi drama, novel

Just finished recording and editing the science fiction audio drama Shalbatana Solstice, a prequel I wrote for my novel Lunar Dust, Martian Sands. I plan to release both in July. Both stories deal with people trying to make a life on a lonely planet, and make the world their own. No zombies, no aliens – more »

Casting Call for Sci-Fi Audio Drama

 Posted by at 9:58 am on September 25, 2013  Writing sci-fi  No Responses »
Sep 252013
 
Casting Call for Sci-Fi Audio Drama

I have faced many delays with this project, but now that I have the funding, I’m moving ahead with the production of a short sci-fi audio drama, Shalbatana Solstice. I hope to record before the end of the year. If scheduling works out, sometime in October. Shalbatana is a short story prequel to my novel, Lunar more »

Hiring Asteroid Miners

 Posted by at 12:17 pm on May 5, 2013  Moon exploration  No Responses »
May 052013
 
Hiring Asteroid Miners

Astrogeologists still have to wait to leave Earth Recently, I received an email from Planetary Resources with the subject line, “Now hiring asteroid miners.” About time, it seemed to me. The e-mail said the company was looking for college students for co-op positions, and I thought of forwarding it to my niece studying geology at more »

Aug 262012
 
Reflections from a July morning on a Florida beach, 1969

We didn’t sleep much that night on the beach, my brother, my cousin and I – and several thousand other people. We kept staring across Indian River at that gleaming needle of white on the Atlantic shoreline of the Kennedy Space Center, a rocket bathed in the brilliant glare of searchlights that surrounded the launch more »

Aug 172012
 
If we find life on Mars, is Mars off limits?

When Curiosity shakes off all the dust from landing and completes all its system checks, it will begin its one-year trek (by the Martian calendar) up Mount Sharp, with one of its aims to discover if Mars was ever habitable for primitive life. What if it was? Wow! Great, what a find! What if the more »

Aug 012012
 
Crowdfunding novel and audio drama

This has been a long time coming, but finally I’ve launched a Kickstarterr funding campaign to publish my novel, Lunar Dust, Martian Sands, and its audio short-story prequel, Shalbatana Solstice. I’ve been leading up to this for a while. In fact, for the novel, it’s been years. I believe now the timing is right, both more »

Commercial dreams of space

 Posted by at 10:27 am on May 14, 2012  Space news  No Responses »
May 142012
 
Commercial dreams of space

There is a new space race. It’s hard to tell who the leaders are as this new race is in its early stages. The entrants are still jockeying for position and getting used to the track. But the rest of this decade could be the beginning of an exciting time off Earth. Some politicians and more »

Mar 242012
 
Tripping fantastic in hard sci-fi

Hard sci-fi has a reputation for being almost exclusively about science and tech, with people only thrown in for context. I don’t buy it, and I don’t buy stories which take that approach. Unfortunately it’s a reputation reinforced by some authors who do embrace that idea and fill their stories with techno-overdrive. These authors meticulously more »

Mar 042012
 
Playboy and LEGO in space

Two views of leisure in space came across the Martian Sands news feeds a couple of weeks back. One, reported on Space.com and a number of other news organizations, was the illustrated fantasy vision from Playboy and Virgin Galactic of the ultimate pleasure palace, or in this case wheel-shaped space station, going around the world more »