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I’m You From The Future!

This is the post excerpt.

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Greetings, Past Selves!

I’m You From The Future! is the personal blog of Michael K. Ferrante, occasional writer, former artist, budding activist, would-be filmmaker. Basically a seething well of untapped potential.

 

Ignorance is bliss… -tering

Important question, Past Selves:

Does a fish notice being wet?

No. It assumes that’s just how everything is.

And white Americans don’t pay attention to a system designed for us, most of us just assume that how we experience it is how everyone else experiences it. It’s just the background of life to us.

This ingrained blindness is woven into our society. It’s called, white privilege. We have patches and band-aids on our culture but it’s still a formerly (and in parts still) white supremacist country. We never really resolved the scars of slavery, and the profits and foundations (literal and metaphorical) built the victims of slavery.

The POVs of people of color are shaped by different experiences than white folks. We have to put up with life’s BS, but they get all the same BS PLUS all the BS that comes with everyday casual and/or overt and hateful prejudice and discrimination against black and brown people. That’s twice as much BS!

Racism has 2 categories. The emotional hatred is easy to spot, usually. But institutional racism is dispassionate and invisible to those who benefit from it. Whites live in a bubble we cannot see without squinting. While the biased system silently grinds down everyone outside that safe pocket.

(It doesn’t help that the myths of Up By Your Bootstraps and the Self Made Man are almost universally prevalent among upper and middle class society. We somehow see the rich as fully deserving of their wealth, as if they worked really REALLY hard jobs to get it, with no help from anyone. The reality is, most of them come from money and most of that money benefitted from either slavery or exploitive labor. Directly or indirectly, past or current exploitation. But no one earns a billion dollars. That much is acquired through the work of lots of people; employees and accountants and bankers. Poverty, OTOH, is self reinforcing and hard to overcome, yet the poor– even the ones working 3 jobs to make ends meet –are stereotyped as lazy and undeserving “Welfare queens”.)

“All lives matter” is a cop-out (pun definitely not intended). The fact is, black lives are being expended as if they didn’t matter. And “Blue lives” are already treated like they matter. A cop killer gets a three-state manhunt and top story news coverage. Why are so many cops (usually white) shooting unarmed black kids with minimal punishment or even total acquittal even with video of the shooting? How do we fix the policing system and make sure those who protect and serve are actually protect? We need cops, we need law enforcement, but we need life enforcement for all too. With young people dying again and again, getting mad about someone kneeling is petty by comparison.

White Americans need to do research and learn from it. Conversations help, though it’s not POC’s job to educate you. Plenty of resources online and in print to study. Find out what they see and think, what their lives are like, their everyday experiences. Empathize.

And even more importantly, check the attitudes of other white folks. Call out racism and point out privilege where you find it. You can have conversations with friends and family that people outside your group cannot. We need to start watching out for marginalized folks (without being dicks about it, of course. Courtesy costs nothing.) Be polite but persistent and consistent. Gather and disseminate facts.

In these divided times it’s more important than ever that people do what we can to try, not only not to be part of the problem, but to actively heal what wounds exist. We need to be aware and proactive. To shape the system for everyone’s benefit. Do more good than harm.

Things to consider. Til next time, Past Selves.

Magic carpet ride

Greetings, Past Selves. Taking a break from the hard stuff (hard science fiction, that is) to go back to some of my old fantasy roots. There’s a bit more storytelling flexibility there, if almost as much need (in my book anyway) for research. I can make up my own worlds, cultures, mythologies and magic systems, but things like making a good camp in the wild will always stand out if done wrong. And don’t even get me started on ancient combat tactics. Getting that stuff right is not just a bear, it’s a grizzly!

My usual solution is to have the main character(s) be amateur and still learning. That way they can make mistakes and “get away” with it (as far as the readers are concerned).

A lot of my old story notes can be recycled again and applied to different plots. Stuff like how the Roman Legions operated day-to-day and the logistics of horse archers. How Medieval villages baked their bread, and more importantly who made the beer. Mundane stuff that adds depth and realism to an unreal set of circumstances.

Characters are another area where I can mine old unused stories for recyclable material. I have several pre-industrial settings where a grizzled warrior or wandering musician might fit appropriately. And magical healers are always welcome in a setting with the right physics to allow such powers. I just have to make some minor adaptions to their personal backgrounds and details, the personalities can usually survive the transition intact.

Of course, even my wondrous magic can be broken down into boring sets of data. I prefer a magic system that has defined limits and not “anything goes” wishcraft. Large limits, but limits nonetheless. Otherwise magic becomes a universal Deus Ex Machina to ruin any semblance of a challenge for our characters. Got a problem? Magic it away!

I generally prefer not to add non-human species like orcs and goblins without a good reason; if humans can play the same role, all you have really made is people in funny masks. OTOH the converse is true: if you have a long lived magical race who live in the woods, why not call them elves? Or at least treat them like fantasy elves.

Anywho, see you later, Past Selves. I’m off to write the Wizard!

My first review of “Introducing Smitty”

OK Past Selves, so it’s time to cast a critical eye on my own work.

The italicized blurb intro was a bit wordy. The second paragraph, though, is a blatant infodump, and it’s got to go. Work the details into the body of the story itself, show-don’t-tell.

Overall it’s too compressed. Spread it out. Next draft, wider and slower. Unify narrative threads, they’re all over the place now. Jumping from topic to topic. Too choppy, needs a smoother flow.

More detailed description of what Smitty is experiencing, his environment, his immediate sensations, his emotions, maybe a personal physical description.

Build on Earth’s history (later in the story, not in the intro.) Remember, what happens to Earth may not matter much to Smitty (or he’s in denial that it does) but the readers still live there.

Just dropping a few brief notes to self, Past Selves. Off the do some rewrites.

Another snippet: Introducing Smitty

Hi Past Selves. Title says it all. Here it is:

An old man in a rejuvenated body is going into space for the first time in his long life, launched by borrowed alien-tech laser arrays. He is going to work on the Project: building a new miles-long starship for humanity’s newly arrived starfaring Neighbors. He has survived 100 years of illness and fear, the Fountain Of Youth Wars, the Backlash aka the Second US Civil War, the subsequent rebellion against the Corporate Alliance and the difficult Reformation. He lost his legs and everything but his life, built a new life and got rebuilt legs, and now looks forward to a nearly immortal life among the stars.

If he survives the launch.

“Smitty” Berkowitz got his first Rejuve treatment as one of the original 20,000 Fountaineers of FOY War II. He’d received new lungs grown from his own tissue after a gas attack in the Battle of Rhode Island, paid for by the Interim Northeastern Alliance government. New legs, lost in a terrorist bombing ten years ago, courtesy of the United States of Canada. Neural uplink, installed recently.

Now he knew he would never set foot on his home world again. But he felt prepared for that. His attachment to his old life was long gone. He had long since lost his social phobia, has no vertigo, and had never minded closed spaces, so living in conditions of a spacecraft or one of the new Habitats should not be too oppressive. His one freefall test flight on a “vomit comet” parabolic aircraft had produced no vomit. His vacuum suit, packed away in stowage, fit like a glove; it should, for what it cost him. His neuralink fed him relevant data and flashed images across his eye’s lens implants. Launch conditions nominal, laser and ship diagnostics read fully functional, all passengers seated and strapped in. No delays, clear path to Low Earth Orbit.

He was good to go.

LAUNCH.

Unlike a teeth-kicking chem-fueled rocket blast, the laser array started relatively gently and then built up enough to get off the ground. A bit wasteful, babying passengers that way, but the orbit-liner had the propellant to spare.

And soon electrical power was never again going to be a problem again for humanity. No more Big Oil wars, no more gas guzzlers. The OPEC cartels would be forever broken.

That possibility, more than the violence, had ended the Corporate Alliance regime. But all that was (literally) behind him now. Smitty had been accepted as a citizen of Heaven, one of the new space-only nations, and what transpired on Earth was no longer his responsibility.

As he sank into his seat, Smitty though about the nation-state that he was joining. Free rejuves at age of course, and medical care for life. That was almost standard for all space states now. But you had to “buy in”, devote some of your resources to the initial investment, so he was sort of a shareholder as well. The space station that would be their Capitol was still under construction, so for the moment the Nation of Heaven was more of a concept, with its “Angel” citizens still scattered across space and Earth. Sam would spend at least the next year and a half bouncing around the inner Solar System in cramped spacecraft before his custom “berth” was ready to receive him.

Citizenship in a space colony, of course, entailed absolute dedication to making sure it stayed running. An artificial environment requires constant upkeep, and it was everyone’s duty to ensure that it all stayed running as necessary, its ecology in balance, its mechanisms humming along. No slacking would be tolerated, no order disobeyed, or lives would literally be on the line. In a way it would be like being back in the military, under wartime discipline.

Space was an enemy to all life, and it never surrendered.

Still, air and heat and light could make it retreat behind pressure hulls, leaving a small bubble of human compatibility. Centrifugal spin compensated nicely for the lack of precious gravity, so necessary to human bodies. Radiation shielding was effective in keeping out particles of cosmic ray particles. Even Solar storms could be weathered, with the help of an artificial magnetosphere derived, once again, from Neighbor technology. The many space Habs under construction would soon be safe havens in a cold, cruel, and very uncaring Universe.

And our freedom would soon be truly unbounded, as we began the immense task of building a starship. Every line, every wire was being carefully built in duplicate. Soon there would be three such impressive vessels orbiting our Sun: The original Mother ship, its still unnamed successor, and our own starship, tentatively named the Enterprise.

All three would then take off, fulfilling the vast potential of the name starship. And Smitty, born at the start of the Space Age, would still be alive to see it at the close of the 21st century.

Over a hundred million at least, had applied to emigrate off planet, where at least some meaningful work waited to be accomplished. Smitty was both overjoyed and vastly relieved when his name had been accepted by Heaven as a potential Spacer. The weight of worry had actually reactivated his depression, causing him to go back into therapy. Of course, therapy was mandatory on a Habitat, since a space station society had to run smoothly under stressful conditions with minimal sand in the gears. Indeed, many of the classes Smitty had taken were on Conflict Resolution and Emotional De-Escalation.

He had happily gone back to school, training at the various skills he would need in his new home. 2 years of classes and hand-on operations, mostly involving remote tele-work on orbital structures. Very similar to the robot driving he’d be doing on the starship and in Heaven.

Going back to College had been a positive, if hard, experience for Smitty. To relive what should have been his “glory days”, but this time with a little glory. To feel young and healthy, to be young and healthy, and yet know all the things a seasoned adult knows. A second chance at the Best Years Of Your Life. And he lived it to the fullest, took every opportunity to revel in the fact that he could do it all over, better. It was like a last, four year-long going away party from the Earth.

Several of the friends he’d made were also applicants to Heaven. Not all had been accepted, though, and jealousy had driven a few wedges into his relationships. Still, he could keep in touch with the rejected folks, offer them what empathy and support he could from millions of miles away.

A handful of his classmates, however, had made it. Graduated and become full Angels, two of whom were on the very same shuttle as Smitty. In fact if he craned his neck (not a safe action at 6 G’s of acceleration) he could see Rebecca Malone from his seat; they had exchanged happy greetings and jokes while boarding.

Within minutes, the thrust ceased and Smitty found himself weightless. They had achieved full orbit. He was in space.

He was in space!

The above is free to copy, as long as the user credits Michael K. Ferrante as author.

A snippet of my writing

Bon Jour, Past Selves. Today I’m putting forth a small bit of the first draft I’m now working on. It describes a starship, “hard science” so it actually has to physically cross light-years of space the hard way. No warp, no hyperdrive. It’s a slog, for sure.

Mother had been described as looking like “A clarinet shoved into a basketball, sitting on a birdcage.” The “basketball” was the immense Converter that made it all possible; it somehow (we were not certain of the mechanism yet) made small amounts of the magnetic monopoles that were able to turn matter directly into energy, using that in turn to initiate fusion in a plasma stream hotter than most stars.

The immense heat and all kinds of radiation from the monopole creation process itself, was largely directional. This was another, lesser technological mystery. Still, the little that spread out was enough to vaporize Mother many times over; in flight, luminous wings of dusty plasma would wick heat away from the sphere, allowing it to work safely.

The main conversion-catalyzed fusion thrust actually took place outside the engine, with an immense magnetic field transferred momentum to the ship, essentially levitating the immense mass “above” the star-hot fusion flame. An enormous “birdcage” of superconductors, studded with radiator spikes, maintained that magnetic field.

How they made monopoles from “scratch” was a question that humanity’s best physicists and fusion engineers were miles away from solving. We had, with a great deal of Neighbor assistance, managed to build our own working Deuterium/Tritium fusion power plant. But it was a fickle, high maintenance machine. Right now we were still reliant of conventional, if advanced, fission reactors to propel most human spacecraft.

For now.

The sphere still glowed red-hot, long after the drive became inactive. They would probably remain so for several more years.

The “bell” of the clarinet was the closed version of the ship’s modified Ramscoop, which somehow was able to aim a magnetic field into a tight line ahead acting as both collector and shield, gathering and directing protons into the “funnel” to act as propellant and fuel for the drive. Unfolded, the bell formed a massive, magnetically supported cone that was larger than the ship itself. The high-temp superconductor it was composed of was cooled by an even larger halo of swept-back wire whiskers that were thin enough to be invisible from a distance.

Relatively small radiating winglets stuck out from the ship’s body. A smaller Deuterium fusion reactor served to maintain a magnetic shielding field in the unlikely event the main torch had to be had to be put in flow-through mode in flight. It normally was only minimally active, barely ticking over to keep it ready for immediate full burn

When the ship first arrived in our system, it had what appeared to be a string of golden beads wrapped around its middle. These were the city-sized Spheroids, home to the Neighbors and their complex, life-supporting biospheres.
Neighbor Spheroids are slightly oblate, able to extend black fin/sail radiators and wire-halo magsails. Internal sections can turn 90 degrees from thrust alignment to spin. The Spheroids are able to move as independent craft when separated from Mother ship.

Mother can swan dive near a star’s corona in order to refill, after separating itself from the vulnerable components, mainly the Spheroids. Magnetic fields siphon plasma from the corona. In essence, a controlled Solar flare. Care must be taken not to spray Earth or Near-Earth structures with particles. Hopefully, with humans able to gather materials for fuel and remass for their Neighbors, this risky procedure will not be necessary.

In full flight, the massive ship looked like a flower of magnetic field lines and plasma blazing like a Sun, with a splinter of hard matter in its heart. The “stem” of the flower would be the thousand-mile long exhaust stream, at least the parts of it not yet dispersed by heat and ionization. While Mother in flight was too bright to look at with the naked human eye, assuming any eye could ever see it so, the probe that it had sent out had gotten some spectacular outside views which had, fortunately, been shared with humanity.

The Neighbors sought communication with humans. They appeared to want our help in gathering resources and building a new starship to replace the subjectively old, irreparably worn Mother. We readily agreed, as it allowed us access to their immensely advanced technology.

What could go wrong?”

Just a little bit to whet the appetite. This post is free to copy as long as you credit Michael K. Ferrante as its author.

That’s hard science to you, copper!

Both of the stories I’m currently discovery-writing, are what’s called Hard Science Fiction. For the uninitiated, that means my world’s properties cannot go beyond the bounds of what’s known to be physically possible or use technology that can’t be explained by real world science. No faster than light travel, no anti-gravity or magic, no psychic powers, no nonsense, no kidding. It’s fun.

No, I mean that. It’s a challenge working within limits, knowing that what you create or read in an imaginary world could, if circumstances were right, happen in the real world. And no doubt, much of what is hard science fiction today will end up becoming reality tomorrow. Cell phones and robots started as fiction. The medical Diagnostic Bed was inspired by Star Trek. So there’s precedent.

Still, it’s fiction, and not prediction. And obeying the laws of what is possible means being familiar with those laws. And I’m not. So research again rears its ugly head, taking away time and mental effort that I could be using more productively.

Not that I’m complaining. This new voyage is fun on a bun, and edifying as well; it gives me a sense of accomplishment to create something like this.

Still, a lot of physics and most of math are way over my head. So I need to be a little careful if I don’t want my end result to come off flawed in its “hardness”. Outdated by science Moving On, I can handle; you act on the information you have at the time. But mistaken because of sloppy research or misinterpretation is less acceptable to me.

So, I carefully check and recheck facts, examine the state of the art, and ask real scientists on real science boards to vet my ideas and offer suggestions.

Fun on a bun!