I’m Super, thanks for asking

Hi there, Past Selves.

I’m on a bit of a superhero kick right now. Just on a brief break from the novels, throwing together a bit of fanfic and what if. I might change a few names and publish someday if I’m feeling frisky enough.

Wish fulfillment pure and simple, starring myself by any other name. The premise is simple enough, an average Joe (or Mike in this case) finds a convenient reality shaper willing to grant one wish to a bystander, to prove their power is real. I’m wearing a hero T shirt, as I so often do, and ask to become that hero. Super, man!

The reality-shaper goes too far, actually transforming the entire world’s history to one where Suuu…ome Hero never existed before in comics, but “my” home planet was real, blew up, and sent a rocket baby to Earth.

Not only that, but other superheroes of all the popular Pantheons are retroactively justified in the new timeline. The origins of other heroes (and their villains), gets shoehorned in with as little change as possible… since the big change, the creation and destruction of an entire planet and people, has already set the stage. The baby rocket is recovered by secretive forces who experiment with it and its contents (not me, just skin flakes and the like).

In order to add over-arching drama, I needed a suitably large villain or threat. To fill that role, I made one other change, this one less invasive but closer to home. Mars is thought by (real life) science to have actually had the conditions for life, billions of years ago. So in my world, it did. A civilization, with enough science to know they lived on a dying world. Their minds preserved, they just need another life-bearing planet and bodies able to live on it. Well, lookee here, there’s one right next door! Just some pests to shoo off it and it’s ready to move in. Actually, those pests might make good host bodies, if they weren’t so weak and fragile; let’s experiment on them to enhance their abilities.

This becomes the go-to explanation for everyone and everything else; alien technology and DNA serves as a catalyst for all the other changes to the world.

And if that isn’t threat enough, there’s always that rogue reality-warper still out there. Maybe he changes his mind about altering the world, and the heroes find out that they won’t exist anymore if that happens?

I posit that the popular superheroes of the present did not exist as prior fictional characters, thus other franchises have to take their place in the altered past. In the case of my main hero, that’s easy, as he has a commercial rival with similar abilities to take up the slack. Also, not all of the current franchises fit the retconned premise I’m making up, and would remain fictional within the new timeline. No mutants, for example.

As I said, it’s just something to occupy my mind and writing practice for now, until I get back in the groove of my main work. This is how I write, skipping back and forth between one story and another, one world and another. Creating worlds that would be interesting to live in.

And granting power to myself as the main character, of course. That goes without saying.

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The Future Will Suck, But…

But there’s some rays of hope, Past Selves.

Overall, the long term trend is, things are getting better. In nearly every category. The last couple of years’ uptick in reactionary violence and intolerance, is hopefully the last gasp of a dying paradigm.
But it’s going to get worse before it returns to getting better.

The early 21st Century will be I think, more turbulent than most of the 20th Century, which brought us 2 World Wars, the Cold War and the end of the Cold War, the Soviet era, Women’s Suffrage, Jim Crow and Civil Rights, Prohibition and the War On Drugs, the Sexual Revolution, the Internet and hacking, satellites, cell phones, discovery of DNA, the Moon landing, and a few other such minor changes and disruptions.

We face violent times, lots of refugees, lots of loss of life, property, resources, and security. Humanity as a whole will probably survive but many of us won’t, or will suffer greatly. The species will muddle through. I predict a lot of muddling. And a lot of selfish, avoidable dickery from the usual suspects.

If nothing else, the changes in our environment will be with us for centuries. Our warmest regards to our descendants!

We can work to preserve things in our immediate surroundings, to improve conditions for those around us and to develop and maintain a more sustainable (physically and socially) life.

If everyone did that we wouldn’t have the world we have now. But if you do it, now and ongoing, you can at least improve the part of the world that you can occupy.

Dancing with the alien

Live long and prosper, Past Selves.

My story is going to include alien characters, and they definitely won’t be humanoid in body or thought. Really and truly alien aliens, some with tentacles even. And I want to be able to make them actual characters, with minds and viewpoints not like ours, but relatable enough to keep readers involved and interested.

I have Asperger’s. I can barely understand how other humans’ minds work most of the time. So this is going to be quite a challenge for me, to get into the heads of creatures without heads (or hands or faces or in more than one case, a front side). It’s taken me most of my life to learn to communicate with people of my own species. So I’ve got a bit of thinking yet to do to make this work on paper.

There are at least three non-human species and an AI involved in this story, so I’ve got a variety to cover. One kind is an enemy, so no immediate need for empathy there (though that may change in sequels). But there’s others with the need for some degree of characterization and personalities.

The enemy, and the most alien, are the Tripeds. As the name implies, they have tri-lateral symmetry, three legs, three arms, long snaky neck, all with far too many joints. Eight feet tall at the shoulder. Their brain is internal, their head looks like a tapeworm with six tongues. They communicate by both pheromones and direct chemical exchange; they “kiss” to speak. Communicating with them is nearly impossible for humans. They fight each other more often than they fight us, but for some reason they do not carry personal weapons, only industrial tools that they repurpose. But Triped spaceships are invariably armed.

Next are our bosom companions, the Verdant or “Fiddleheads”, so called because they look like a tree stump covered with moss with giant ferns growing out of it. Radial symmetry. Two main “fronds” or flexible arms usually coiled up above them, alternating with two smaller fronds for fine work. The “fingers” are a dozen pairs of flat leaflike digits lined along each arm. Chameleon eyes on either side, two breathing/speaking mouths, two eating mouths. Poop comes from underneath. Four stubby legs, they can’t run very fast. Despite their plantlike color and appearance they do not conduct photosynthesis. They breathe part of their nutrients so our air is thin and unsatisfying, necessitating their own life support systems. They speak to us through their own imperfect translation devices, but better than anything we could come up with.

Fiddleheads are a dying race, their breeding grounds and breeders were all killed off by the Tripeds, the remainder sterile. This will influence everything else that happens to them, and be have to be reflected in every Fidd character.

Then there’s the “Squiddies”, which are a cross between Thermians from Galaxy Quest and Squibbons from The Future Is Wild. They have mood skin, changing colors in complex patterns to communicate just as we have facial expressions and tones of voice. They’re mostly in a primitive hunter/gatherer culture, though one tribe is developing agriculture after being exposed to human farming. There’s complex relationships between them and humans, some tribes are more dangerous than others. Some humans have learned to communicate with some Squiddies directly.

The AIs are called Crofters. Older than humanity, and vastly intelligent. They can live indefinitely by “pruning” their adaptive programs, but most prefer to grow and develop over time, which means they age. After a few thousand years of this improvement they can become so complex that they turn “post-conscious”, no longer a sentient mind as we would understand it. Under rare conditions the Crofters can split off splinters of their own personalities, creating independent sub-minds. One such sub-mind is implanted in the body of the main (human) character. (It isn’t happy about being in that situation. Would you be?)

And there’s also the danger of a Crofter going “cancerous”, growing and changing so aggressively that they become dangerous to themselves and other. These unstable beings are destroyed as soon as they’re detected.

The Crofters and their sub-minds are the behind the scenes movers of the plot.

So those are my alien aliens, in all their variety and tentacled glory. Now all I have to do is give them all minds to suit the biology, and craft individual personalities for every one who interacts with human characters. Piece of cake, as the kids like to say these days.

But for the sequel, I’m thinking I’ll do something a bit different…

Back in the USSR

Hi, Past Selves. Brief post.

Still focussed on my writing, getting into characters. My latest creations are Soviet-era Cosmonauts, snatched from Earth in the primes of their lives and the height of the Cold War.

I’ve discovered a way to explain their presence, involving a real life event that can cover their being “abducted by aliens” (should that even have quotes? It is literally what happens in the story.) and still living today. I’ll need to research conditions and life in the USSR in 1960 and the Soviet Space Program.

Not to mention plotting out what all they’ve been doing since then. And their personalities. And Russian translations. And their kids’ personalities.

And decide who actually brought them here.

I’m creating a universe here, and now I’m populating it.

They say it builds character

Hello again, Past Selves. Been working on my fiction lately.

The worldbuilding part comes easy for me. I’ve spent most of my life imagining amazing settings and universes. Usually placing myself in them, transformed into someone with incredible powers.

But I can’t write an entire story that way, even if I make my main character an author avatar. There have to be other people to interact with, and that’s usually where I run into trouble.

I’m not a people person. Asperger’s and social phobia make it very difficult for me to relate to other personalities, which inhibits my writing about them. I don’t want to end up with an entire novel populated with thinly veiled clones of myself! I’m not Heinlein. (Oh snap, I went there.)

So I’m doing my best to create characters different from myself. Studying personality types and psychology has not helped, it’s too clinical and impersonal. I need a fresh approach. Something to make the fictional creations seem more like real people, that readers can relate to, recognize, love, or hate.

I’ve done OK in the NPC department because they don’t need to be fleshed out deeply, but major characters are proving complicated, because people are complicated. Not that I’d want it any other way. Simple is boring and not really worth engaging with.

This story will involve the military, and as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not familiar with military culture. I was also not really a social butterfly in college. Other people seemed a bit alien to me due to my (then undiagnosed) Asperger’s. But living in a dorm is still the closest I’ve come to experiencing life in a spaceship, crammed in with a bunch of college age kids new to adulthood and to living away from home.

I’ve got a fairly good handle on the main character’s foil/love interest, and made her a 3 dimensional person with a well developed persona and background. That’s one. But this is an ensemble piece. There’s a whole bunch of folks to develop before I can really dive into storytelling. And to do that I need to consider a lot of factors in who they are, how they fit into the story, and why the readers should want to read them; IE, how to make them interesting. To give them individual personalities. Which is as I pointed out, not my strength.

Up with people!

Join the Navy, see the Marines

Greetings, Past Selves.

Definitely feeling a little more purposeful this AM. I had a bit of an anxiety attack yesterday, but it seems to have cleared up now. My emotional state is as stable as it ever is.

Writing wise, I’m delving into a little more research into military life, so I’ll probably be asking my Dad about his experience aboard the Henry L. Stimson. A nuclear submarine under the ice cap probably equates most closely to life on a military spacecraft, minus the zero gravity.

My main character encounters NASA Astronauts, Russian Cosmonauts (current and Soviet-era), US Navy and USMC. I’ll be checking out sources with as many of those experiences I can find, to get a feel for the life and attitudes, as well as traditions and ways of talking and acting. I want real verisimilitude in my fake universe.

Better living through better living

Past Selves, I’m feeling a little better.

Visited a Nutritionist today, was told I’m eating much healthier, but to lose weight I need to exercise. In other news water is still wet.

I’m getting a little more inspired in my writing. The plot is starting to come together, I’m researching military actions and space technology, so I’ll have a “plausible” story about a probably completely impossible situation.

I was reminded yet again, how amazingly lucky I am to have a supportive family. They are my rock. I’d be on the street or dead without their constant help. It’s not what I wanted growing up, but it keeps me alive. And I’m happy to help them all, any way I can.