Drawing on my past for futuristic settings

Thanks to the generosity of novelist Mary Pat Hyland, I am guest blogging this week at The Hylander Diner.

The subject is a source of inspiration I’ve never talked about before: how places I’ve lived are part of the fictional worlds I created in CEL & ANNA and WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING.

New York, especially central New York, is part of those novels. The original for the fictional Lake Serafina and the pretty jewel of a town on its bank is Skaneateles Lake with its jewel of a town.  In CEL & ANNA the broken-down girls finishing school where the strange town of Rising Sun is founded has its original in an abandoned finishing school in Maryland (which also is home to a town named Rising Sun).

This blog was fun to write.

Late-blooming science fiction: a guest blog

My choice of science fiction is intimately related to my late blooming as a fiction writer. Science fiction and fantasy books belonged to my youth. I abandoned them when I became a “responsible adult.”

As a result, my inner writer still thinks she is twenty-something.

It is not happenstance that most of the characters in both WARNING and CEL & ANNA are young. In the follow-up novel, which I will probably release in episodes,  I  regress even further: the main character is a teenager.

I guest blog on why I write science fiction at Debra Eve’s excellent website Later Bloomer.

After this: notes on the computer revolution

‘Tis the season to regift, and in that spirit I give you, dear readers, a blog I wrote for the Huffington Post awhile ago on what it was like to be around at that hinge in history when computers changed the world forever.

I don’t remember exactly when TV started showing computers coexisting alongside people like friends and family members. The series My So-Called Life  ran from 1994 to 1995, and although it centered around a fifteen-year-old, there were no computers. I saw an episode not long ago, and their absence was startling. Look! Angela Chase talks on a telephone that has a cord. She doesn’t text anyone or own an MP3 player. She does her homework with pen and paper.

That was only eighteen years ago. Yet Angela Chase’s world is gone.

There aren’t many advantages to learning how to use computers as an adult—none, actually. I play permanent catch-up, and I will never catch up to the people who learned as children.

But I witnessed an amazing hinge in history: those days in the late 1980s and early 1990s when personal computers were about to change the world forever and everybody knew it.

At that time I had a Mac Plus, a castoff that belonged to my brother, who is a programmer. (He eventually abandoned Macs. I never did.) That little beige toaster was the computer that taught me how to use computers, and it is only one of my many Macs for which I feel nostalgia. Of course the nostalgia is not really for the machine, but for the time.

In the 1990s, I was part of the Macintosh user group Washington Apple Pi. Even then when I barely knew how to use the internet, I knew the internet was going to be the Next Thing.

Now I work on a powerful iMac and use two monitors, a DSL modem, and a router. I own a Smart TV and a Much Smarter DVD player. The TV, a Samsung, is—to put it mildly—challenged by the Internet.

The Internet is essential. I email friends and colleagues. I pay bills online. I am on Facebook and Twitter. I blog.

All of which brings me round to the two science fiction novels I wrote Cel & Anna and Warning: Something Else Is Happening. In Cel & Anna, a computer wakes up and falls in love with its owner, bring chaos into her life. In Warning, e-beasts roam Networld the way otherworldly beings roam the deep forests of fairy tales.

I am not a logical candidate to write fiction featuring computers. That is because I say things like “the router and the computer player are talking to each other.” I do not know what they actually do. If someone tried to explain the router-computer conversation to me, the explanation would go in one ear and out the other, so to speak.

Yet this subject chose me. That is really what it felt like. I can relate to the hapless Edwardian gentleman chosen by Edward Gorey’s osbick bird. Only after the work was  finished did I realize why the stories would not let me go. I was remembering the time when the rivers changed direction. When “before computers” became “after computers.”

My muse: the Osbick Bird

My muse: the Osbick Bird

An e-Bestiary, part 5

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete with e-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. The e-beasts live In Networld.

In parts 1, 2,  3, and 4  of the e-Bestiary,  I introduce  Cel the hero, his children, Stowe and Snow,  the Sparks, and Beltzhoover the Vast.

Today the spotlight is on the bad guys, a tribe called The Dreadful Night. They are small, well organized, and numerous, and have long, poisonous tongues. They enjoy pranking humans and believe themselves invulnerable. Shadow, a rebel Dreadful who fled their ranks, describes them this way:

They spend their nights and days playing elaborate pranks. That is why humans interest them, as a source of deep laughter. The Dreadfuls prank everything they can think of, from commerce to marriage vows. They call people wetware.

There is a saying: Wetware is stupid as moss. There would be nothing funny about fooling moss, but fooling moss that believes itself to be master of the universe is hilarious, or so some Dreadfuls believe.

During any hour of any day, wetware has many opportunities to slip on banana peels. The Dreadful Night are aware of all of them and can make most of them happen, though a pratfall involving actual banana peels has so far eluded them. It was a game among some of the elder Dreadfuls to try to figure out how to pull off that prank.

What does Networld look like?

Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia

An e-Bestiary, part 4

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete with e-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. The e-beasts live In Networld.

In parts 1, 2,  and 3 of the e-Bestiary,  I introduce  Cel the hero, his children, Stowe and Snow, and the Sparks.

The e-beast of the day is Beltzhoover the Vast—Ruler of the Fields of the Lord. He is an e-beast so bloated that he has “fallen to earth,” a term to describe an e-beast that has taken up permanent residence in a machine.

He rules a tribe called the Godric, who do not like him but serve him well enough. Behind his back, they call him Beltzhoover the Fat, Beltzhoover the Querulous, Beltzhoover the Ineradicable, Beltzhoover the Cement Headed, Beltzhoover the Unlikely, Sir Dataspew, Brain Dump, and Mon Big Kludgy

What does Networld look like?

Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia

Where do the stories come from?

I am unqualified to deliver pronouncements about the future as it applies to machine technology, though I did it once with a novel about life in a future machine age, CEL & ANNA. I am about to do it again with a second, darker novel: WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING.

These novels are no good on a technological level. They have no technological level. So where did they come from?

Why choose me?

The only advantage I have as a teller of these tales—at least the only one I can think of—is that I have been using computers for a long time. By the mid-1990s I had owned a personal computer for 7-8 years and been using social media for about 3 years.

In 1988, my brother gave me a cast-off  Mac Plus. One day after I got it, I used MacPaint to do the drawing below. Since I can’t draw, I was impressed that MacPaint enabled me to create something recognizable.

Desert Moon, created in MacPaint

That  Mac Plus had a 9-inch black and white screen, a floppy drive, and an 8 MHz processor—it was not even a toy by today’s standards. Yet that little beige toaster was a meteor of the personal computer revolution.

I was living in Washington, DC, at the time and belonged to an Apple user group called Washington Apple Pi. It was a time of high excitement and the reason was simple: The world was about to change forever and everybody knew it. The “something’s coming” feeling was in the air.

There are a lot of experiences in life I’d have been happy to miss but not that one.

Remembering before and after the Internet is useful, because someone who remembers will never, ever underestimate its influence. We are all different because of the internet: you, me, the people at the grocery store, and the grocery store, too. We take the internet for granted now. We should not.

I tried to explain what it was like to watch everything change in After This: Notes on the Computer Revolution.

I wrote about where stories come from before, in a post called The Circling Muse. That one was mainly about Nancy Stouffer, who created a character called Larry Potter and later tried  to claim a piece of the Potter pie from JK Rowling. (She didn’t get anywhere, but her story is weird.)

Below is a picture of my muse, drawn by the brilliant Edward Gorey

My muse: the Osbick Bird

My muse: the Osbick Bird

An e-Bestiary, part 3

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete with e-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. Where do the e-beasts live? In the Internet, of course, which  in WARNING is called Networld.

In parts 1 and 2 of the e-Bestiary,  I introduce the Cel the hero and his children, Stowe and Snow.

The e-beasts du jour are Sparks, tiny creatures without intelligence or purpose that drift here and there in Networld by the billions. They are by far the most numerous creatures in Networld and move about in great shining herds. Other e-beasts use them as food.

They cause problems for Networld traffic because they clog the pipelines. People do not know of their existence. Actually, there are several new elements in Networld that people are unaware of.

What does Networld look like?

Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia

An e-Bestiary, part 2

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete with e-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. Where do the e-beasts live? In the Internet, of course, which  in WARNING is called Networld.

In the first post in this series, I told about Cel, the hero.  In this one, I tell about his two children, the lone survivors among many offspring. The roam Networld with him, doing good. After awhile, they get tired of doing good and want to do other things.

Stowe

Stowe is Cel’s son, a cerebral type with an inquiring mind. He delights in solving problems and delights in finding problems he cannot not solve. He develops a taste for the easy life.

Snow

Snow is Cel’s daughter. She has no interest in problems, solvable or not. She is reckless and headstrong, and not as smart as she believes herself to be.

One of them will not survive the adventures they have in WARNING.

Sex in Networld

What do “mother” and “father” mean in Networld? For that matter, what do “male” and “female” mean, since e-beasts cannot have gender in the ordinary sense of the term.

The answer: I don’t know. My imagination ran straight off a cliff when I contemplated that mystery. Cel describes what happened between him and Stowe and Snow’s mother as “doing the numbers.” Now you are on your own.

As to gender, the answer is practical. Try to write a novel where major characters are “it” rather than “he” or “she.” Just try it. Can’t be done.

What does Networld look like?

Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia

An e-Bestiary, part 1

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete withe-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. Where do the e-beasts live? In the Internet, of course, which  in WARNING is called Networld.

Cel, the Hero

Cel was the star of CEL & ANNA: A 22nd CENTURY LOVE STORY, the prequel to WARNING. In that first book, he lived in Earthworld. Now, he lives in Networld.

Cel is a robust, intelligent e-beast who wants only to do good. He is something like a boy scout, which comes from his once being a personal computer, devoted by design to one person. He is a hero, a natural leader. He has two children, Stowe and Snow, about whom you will find out more later.

What does Networld look like?

Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The e-beasts are coming

My forthcoming novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is replete with e-beasts of all sizes, descriptions, and attitudes toward the human race. Some like people. Others do not.

Where do the e-beasts live? In the Internet, of course, which  in WARNING is called Networld.

What do the e-beasts look like? Somewhere between beings of light and ghosts. Readers can imagine them any way they chose based on their personalities.

There is one exception: a tribe of e-beasts called The Dreadful Night. They have a distinct appearance.

What does Networld look like? Think of a starry sky, or the Milky Way. This is not so fanciful. Below is a picture of the Internet taken from Wikipedia. The title of the article is “A Small Look at the Backbone of the Internet.

Look and marvel:

The Internet, from Wikipedia

The Internet, from Wikipedia