Science Fiction and Invention

Yesterday, on my professional site’s blog, I wrote on the importance of science fiction as a way to introduce new ideas (yes, including a couple of my own for my Woman at War series).

You can read it here:

The Beautiful Drawing Board

 

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Author Justin Edison dabbles in politics, helping out Dr. Kim Schrier for WA's 8th District

Regards,

Justin

The America I Believe In

Lately, if you haven’t noticed, it’s been a little rough in the U.S.A. There are days when I pull my hair at what I see, and days when I simply can’t stomach the vile, circus-worthy, damaging and fraudulent behavior dominating the news. So, as this once-great country celebrates its 242nd birthday, I decided I wanted to offer the following. Read it. Enjoy it (maybe). Stay safe. And be well!

 

The America I Believe In

I believe we are all created equal, regardless of skin color, land of origin, or forebears. Everybody’s ancestors swung from the trees in Eastern Africa. Be okay with that.

I believe in the freedom of speech and expression, with limits. Racial slurs, denigrating people based on religion or background or gender or disability, inciting violence against those different from you…these are unacceptable. We can all do better.

I believe in the stewardship of the environment. We get one land, one planet. This is not some cheap apartment we’re renting. We must strive to take better care of Mother Earth.

I believe the Government’s first job is to ensure the safety, health and progressive education of its citizens. Our teachers, healthcare workers, guardians and infrastructure concerns must be funded robustly. All other concerns are secondary.

I believe in freedom of religion, including freedom from religion. No person should ever be made to bow to a certain faith.

I believe there should be no wage gap between men and women, between peoples of different ethnicity or background or beliefs. We can do better.

I believe in freedom of the press, where our watchdogs are armed with science, fact and evidence. Media should never become the mouthpiece of the State.

I believe in a woman’s right to decide what happens with her own body. That is strictly a private matter.

I believe people can love and become legally attached to whomever they want (provided both parties are of acceptable age). We all deserve happiness.

I believe in the service of others. Through ambition and greed, we have created an environment which fosters inequality, anxiety and strife. It’s time for some to lend a helping hand, to give a little more. We can all do better.

I believe there should be income caps, or redistribution. An investor or sports entertainer should never be able to make 100x as much as someone who teaches or safeguards the next generation.

I believe our justice system needs to be overhauled in favor of a system which is equitable and reasonable. We can do better.

I believe it is the Government’s duty to properly care for and ensure the mental health of its soldiers returning from conflict. We can do better.

I believe the nation’s police forces require better training, accountability and alternative methods to do their job. Far too many people are being hurt or killed without cause. We can do better.

I believe complete transparency is needed for all of the Government’s financial transactions and planning. This also applies to state-funded institutions like insurance providers. Too much gold is being hidden, with associated costs unfairly hitting the poor and deepening our political divisions.

This is our opportunity. This is America. We can definitely do better.

A badge of the American flag.

The Door Into a Story, pt. 1

You’ve got an amazing tale. Sterling characters. Brilliant details. Rich language. Action and tension crackling on every page…

And you enter the story via an unimportant childhood moment.

This palm-to-face moment is brought to you by the bestseller I’m reading right now. In the interests of not sabotaging my own writing career (in case I meet this author) I cannot divulge name or title. Let it be summarized as this: The first half of the book is an episodic series of cliches plus one beat-down–and little more.

Why?

 

Where do we enter?

The place to begin a story was a contentious mystery for fellow writers back in my college days, and it still is. Do you tell the whole story as a flashback? Do you start when your heroine is just a wee lass of 9 years? If so, how come?

Teachers urged us to make it interesting–focus on the heart of the tale–and that’s what I’ve always aspired to do. (Yup, I’ve made some colossal mistakes along the way.) Entering a story can seem like the proverbial dartboard toss, with your best guess held up to plenty of scrutiny. It isn’t only writers block which fills the wastebasket with crumpled tries.

So, I’ve tried. In The Churning and Tempest Road, the heroes are already in a lot of trouble on the first page. Movie versions would open differently–Why can’t we see the abduction in grainy glory?–to spare most audience members a head-scratching moment.

In Endgame (Woman at War 1) we start in a battle. The war has begun. The belligerent Mitasterites have already displayed despicable behavior (sending unarmed teen-aged soldiers out to be sniper fodder). Heroine June Vereeth is about to take one of many important shots. Bam, you’re dropped right in it! Attempts at diplomacy or appeasement exist as fragments of wishful thinking in the past. I didn’t want to spend pages on them. (And with an entire world to build over the span of the novel, too much backstory would become uninteresting mud.)

The second in the series, Destruction, opens with our heroine’s boots dangling 3,000 feet over a fog-shrouded rock wasteland. Climbing ropes and old-school projectile weapons (when you read it, you’ll understand) and a ridiculously challenging mission. And bad guys. And an unforeseen menace. Sure, there’s plenty to tell about Vereeth’s adventure between P-75 (Endgame) and this mountain-climbing nightmare, but why lead with any of that?

 

Openings I Love

So, as this post is about the tricky waters of where to enter a story, let me list a few of my favorites (before I get to those no-nos).

Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Two innocent teenage boys are approached by a lightning-rod salesman. Within hours, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has arrived to take over the sleepy Midwestern town. The carefree boys will never be the same.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” With the story told from “Chief” Bromden’s point of view, Kesey gives us just enough of the asylum’s machinery and insanity to set the scene. Enter the all-consuming R.P. McMurphy and we’re off to the races. The book could not have ended correctly any other way than the way it was writen. Brilliant.

The Lovely Bones.” Susie Salmon, our narrator, is dead. While we experience some of the fear and hesitation of her young life’s moments, there is no tease of possibility that this good, likeable little girl escapes death. Now let’s get on with the story.

The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Enzo, our immensely likeable narrator, is a dog. Garth Stein’s most famous work to date may be a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a beautifully written tale of the challenges of modern life and man’s best friend. And the first page (no spoiler alert) ends with a line that hits you like a hammer.

 

to be continued…

Justin Edison's books on a shelf

Three of Justin Edison’s books on a shelf

LP1

The cold metal of the bars defies the night’s warm breeze.

I should not be lost, though I am.

Before me, the darkened hulk of curves and shapes seems to hum.

I can imagine laughter, screams, like echoes.

Not a single light is on.

The boardwalk between myself and the carnival is defiantly dark.

‘Closed per orders of Mgmt.’

I don’t understand.

 

~

 

The fortune-teller’s box is lit—the only thing—so I go.

“I have money. I walked here,” I tell her.

Green gown, blue eye-shadow, angled earnestness.

“Unfortunate,” she replies, head tilted down. As if in sorrow.

“I’ve done what…” I begin, certainty fading suddenly.

“It’s not in the cards,” she says, a light bulb above blinking on.

Quiet hum of motors, arms moving, breeze against the glass panes.

 

~

 

“Can’t I just?” I start, gesturing to the fencing, meaning to climb over.

“Forbidden.”

I leave her box and return to the metal gates. ‘Desperation’ meets ‘stymied.’

The rides are so much fun—I know it.

On the left, the pale arc of a towering loop. Swallowed by darkness.

Where are the workers, I wonder.

How can this be on a Friday night?

Beyond the loop, across the water, a hospital looms.

Brightly-lit brick, straight lines, cold demeanor.

Lights in every window.

An ambulance rolls up, its red lights blinking through the median trees.

Silent, tires on wet pavement, no urgent voices. It disappears.

Night breeze, waves lapping.

The thrum of distant machinery.

I sniff, trying for buttered popcorn, cotton candy.

“Grow up, Boy.”

Just the fortune-teller.

My mouth forms the words—denial, rejection.

No thoughts emerge, turned as I am, facing the place of dreams.

Darkened.

Sketch of a darkened ferrias wheel, roller coaster and more for Justin Edison's poem 'LP1.'