Tag Archives: scifi

Vocabulary for Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels


In science fiction and fantasy, there is normally a cornerstone culture, central to the story, that is malevolent. It is oppressive of its citizenry, setting the stage for the rise of a hero, an avenger of the people.

There are two words to describe such a culture:

  • cacotopia
  • dystopia

Both words define a world that is the opposite of Utopia, or paradise: a world of deprivation, horror and exploitation. Usually the people are enslaved, if not physically, then through economics or some psychological method. Or earth changes, like  global coastal events caused by meteor strikes or the aftermath of world wars, have disrupted normal society and destroyed convenience systems, such as the electrical grid or banking. Whatever the cause, the new world order is a system that grinds those under its bonds to grist.

Now that your imagination is twisting, turning, leaping and bounding with images, get writing!

I’m Off My Meds Again!


Listening to advice from friends, I am going to start other blogs to carry topics unrelated to writing, instead of clogging the space here. Since my favorite off-topic interest is off-the-wall stories in our modern or pop culture, the first new blog is called “I’m Off My Meds Again” and can be found at http://www.offmymedsagain.wordpress.com. It’s MY platform for MY craziness. If you love the world of abnormal, bizarre, whacko things, then you’ll love this space. If crazy talk isn’t your cup of tea, stay away!

More on Drones for Syfy Buffs


I clipped this from a forum on the subject. Since this portion from the chat gave a link, I am posting the remarks and the reference here. Those writing science fiction, futuristic or fantasy stories may find this information helpful.

Swarms of cyborg insect drones are the future of military surveillance

The kinds of drones making the headlines daily are the heavily armed CIA and U.S. Army vehicles which routinely strike targets in Pakistan – killing terrorists and innocents alike.
But the real high-tech story of surveillance drones is going on at a much smaller level, as tiny remote controlled vehicles based on insects are already likely being deployed.
Over recent years a range of miniature drones, or micro air vehicles (MAVs), based on the same physics used by flying insects, have been presented to the public.
The fear kicked off in 2007 when reports of bizarre flying objects hovering above anti-war protests sparked accusations that the U.S. government was accused of secretly developing robotic insect spies.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/a…lance.html
After writing this post, I stumbled onto a humorous video about microbots, including a photograph of a mosquito-sized drone that can extract a DNA sample from a human covertly. As TheTrutherGirls says, “Get a fly swatter and screens!” Enjoy the video!
And just to feed your paranoia, here’s a video from a NSA whistleblower. He confirms the government’s program of domestic intelligence collection. Just think of all this stuff as research for your novel about nanobots and their nefarious controllers. :-p

Weird Science for Weird Stories


Ever heard of the Carrington Event?

In 1859, there was a powerful solar storm, the most powerful one documented by man at that time.

Amateur astrologer Richard Carrington was sketching sun spots in his observatory when brilliant light signaled an explosion on the sun’s surface. A massive solar flare, with the energy of 10 billion atomic bombs, erupted, sending that energy directly at the earth.

Christopher Klein, writing for History Channel’s History in the Headlines, writes:

“That night, telegraph communications around the world began to fail; there were reports of sparks showering from telegraph machines, shocking operators and setting papers ablaze. All over the planet, colorful auroras illuminated the nighttime skies, glowing so brightly that birds began to chirp and laborers started their daily chores, believing the sun had begun rising. Some thought the end of the world was at hand. . .”

Fast forward to 2012.

NASA reports that the sun is ramping up its solar activity in a regular 11 year cycle. Astronomers around the globe are watching large coronal mass ejections. Weird cloud formations, unlike anything ever seen before, are attributed to atmospheric disturbances caused by solar weather. Other sky phenomenon, normally seen only in the arctic regions, are appearing in lower latitudes. The cause? Solar activity.

It’s said if the same size solar storm that hit the earth in 1859 were to hit the earth today, the electromagnetic blast would result in a massive power grid failure. In the past several days, there have been reports of bizarre events in the United States that sound eerily like the damage to the electrical power system in existence in 1859, the telegraph lines. Read the following reports and see if you agree.

Furthermore, pull out the laptop computer. Find a comfy chair. If these news items don’t fire up your imagination for a science fiction story, nothing will.

Thousands of Central Texans without power early Thursday after poles catch fire

By KIRSTEN CROW

Friday December 7, 2012

Thousands of Central Texans lost power early Thursday morning when dozens of utility poles in several counties caught fire, likely sparked by weather conditions, officials said.

The phenomenon that caused the fires, known as “tracking,” can occur when dust accumulated on the insulators of utility poles comes into contact with heavy fog conditions, according to experts. The moisture, combined with caked-on elements, can act as a conductor of sorts, causing electricity in the power lines to arc and the poles to catch fire, several experts said.

Although emergency and power officials said isolated incidents are not necessarily uncommon, several said the sheer number of such fires in such a short period of time Thursday morning was unique.

A work crew from Hilco Electric Cooperative works on one of dozens of Central Texas power poles that caught fire early Thursday.

Hilco Electric Cooperative, which serves Dallas, Ellis, Hill, McLennan and Johnson counties, had 26 poles catch fire — 24 of them in Hill and McLennan Counties, assistant general manager Lea Sanders said.

“We haven’t experienced anything of this magnitude before,” said Sanders, who has worked at Hilco for 13 years. . . .

ANOTHER STORY FROM THE TEXAS NEWSPAPER ROCKWALL HERALD BANNER:

December 6, 2012

Utility pole fire shuts down I-30, creates traffic nightmare

By Caleb Slinkard & Emma Mills

Thu Dec 06, 2012, 05:08 PM CST

ROCKWALL — A utility pole fire in Rowlett near Dalrock Road shut down both sides of Interstate 30 Thursday morning as Oncor Electronic Delivery employees worked to keep the pole from collapsing onto the highway, bringing power lines with it. The fire, which began around 10 a.m., was extinguished by utility workers at approximately 11 a.m.

Catherine Cuellar, Oncor’s Communications Manager, said that the cause of the fire is unknown at the time and she contradicted reports from NBC 5 that the pole had burned completely through and tension kept the power lines in place. . . .

FINALLY, FROM KCENTV.COM, ALSO IN TEXAS:

A series of utility pole fires across Central Texas caught on fire early Thursday morning, causing people in several counties to lose power.

Crews spend the day hard at work.

They’re repairing utility poles like the one in front of Andy McDonald’s house in Lorena. It was one of around 60 to catch fire across Bell, McLennan, Falls and Hill counties Thursday morning.

“Kind of like our own personal Olympic torch,” McDonald described the candle-like flames atop the pole.

The lights went out around 6 a.m., then his daughter spotted the fire.

“There were chunks of burning wood on the ground…(we) went out and poured water on it.”

Across Central Texas law enforcement officials scratched their heads.

“I can’t even say career – not in my lifetime have I heard of this,” said DPS Trooper D. L. Wilson. . . .

For Science Fiction Writers: Facts about Drones


This information is from Electronic Frontier Foundation. Any emphasis is theirs:

These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

The records show that the Air Force has been testing out a bunch of different drone types, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones designed by Aerovironment in Southern California, to the much larger Predator and Reaper drones responsible for civilian and foreign military deaths abroad. The Marine Corps is also testing drones, though it chose to redact so much of the text from its records that we still don’t know much about its programs.

Perhaps the scariest is the technology carried by a Reaper drone the Air Force is flying near Lincoln, Nevada and in areas of California and Utah. This drone uses “Gorgon Stare” technology, which Wikipedia defines as “a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone . . . capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city.” This imagery “can then be analyzed by humans or an artificial intelligence, such as the Mind’s Eye project” being developed by DARPA. If true, this technology takes surveillance to a whole new level.

While LIDAR can be used to create high-resolution images of the earth’s surface, it is also used in high tech police speed guns—begging the question of whether drones will soon be used for minor traffic violations.

It’s not a far-fetched idea to use drones to replace the traffic cop. Drone manufacturer AeroVironment offers a few suggestions of their own for drone usage:

The Future is Unmanned

AeroVironment is a world leader in the design and manufacture of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Since the introduction of Pointer in 1986, considered by many to be the first true small UAS for military use, AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems have supported U.S. and allied Armed Forces with reconnaissance data, helped monitor forest fires, and penetrated and analyzed volcanic plumes.

UAS have more than proven their value in the military world. Today, UAS are utilized for applications closer to home. Whether monitoring our country’s borders, protecting its citizens, monitoring pipeline and utility assets or finding those who are lost and in distress, small UAS can be launched quickly, day or night, to provide precise situational awareness whenever and wherever they are needed.

Qube is a device already in use by police departments. AeroVironment offers suggestions for its use:

Qube® is a rugged and reliable small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) specifically targeting the needs of first responders. The packaged system fits easily in the trunk of a car, and can be assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes to provide a rapidly deployable eye in the sky, transmitting live video directly to the operator at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.

Small UAS like the Qube system can provide valuable capabilities to a broad range of industries and applications:

Public Safety – transported in the trunk of a police vehicle, the back of a fire truck or carried in a backpack, small UAS can provide immediate situational awareness to first responders, giving them a birds-eye view of the situation, day or night, to save lives and protect property.

Wildlife and Environmental Monitoring – already used to monitor sensitive wildlife areas and populations, small UAS are increasingly providing a means of collecting important information in inaccessible areas to facilitate more effective resource management.

Infrastructure Management – dams, pipelines, offshore oil platforms, microwave transmission towers, power plants and ports are some examples of large, sometimes remote infrastructure that can be accessed easily and safely by small UAS to provide color and thermal video for rapid visual inspection.

Scientific Research – peering into a volcano is made easier and safer with small UAS, and is just one example of the new ways this technology is helping scientists gain a better understanding of the way the earth and its biosphere operate.

You can see what Qube looks like by clicking the link: http://www.avinc.com/uas/small_uas/qube/

The Psychology of the Sociopath as Minion


I’m obsessed with bad guys because I love writing about them. In order to write about them, I learn about them. I study where and how they live.

In science fiction or historical stories, there is ALWAYS the character that stands out for his willingness to oppress others on behalf of the boss. In exchange for doing the dirty work, the story’s minion receives a benefit, usually a modicum of power or an elevation of status or income.

The current TV character who comes to mind is Captain Tom Neville, played by actor Giancarlo Esposito. Neville is a former insurance adjuster turned militia leader under bloody General Monroe in TV’s saga Revolution. Neville will turn on his peers, getting them tortured and demoted, to advance himself. Yet he is fearful without the structure and protection offered him by Monroe.

As an author, it is important to be accurate when writing about the personality. Although the variety of personalities is numerous, the personality type is fairly fixed.

So what does psychology say about these overzealous minions? What are common traits among sociopath sycophants?

In the normal work-a-day world, he will likely screw-up regularly or use chaos to camouflage his childish character. He is seen as sleazy in the community or office. He will set aside morality or abandon principle if it is to his advantage to do so. He is drawn to a culture of corruption where questionable acts done on behalf of superiors advance his status.

Once he is given authority, he will demand respect from those under him, even if he doesn’t deserve it. He savors weakness in others. He will use title or force to exact submission from the weak under his jurisdiction. Show defiance to his authority and reap the consequences of his ire. He will abuse those weaker than himself.

There is no room for discussion or disagreement. It is his way or off with your head. In the face of reason, this minion will attack. Yet to preserve himself, he will avoid conflict with someone who may best him.

This character loves rules, regulations, and rigid structure. He seeks total control of his environment. He will twist the legal system to fit his own logic. He loves to force compliance on others.

Behind the facade of power, the sociopath minion is a follower, unable to operate without an elaborate system or leader to guide him. He is cowardly at his core: a follower, not a leader. The more bureaucracy clutters the landscape, offering him regulations to twist or hide behind, the better. He likes the smokescreen of obfuscation.

The minion draws his power from the ruling entity. Therefore, he supports the powers that be wholeheartedly. He disregards the rights or unique value of the individual. Control is easier to maintain in the absence of individualism. Therefore, he prefers the group mentality and will promote that sort of thinking. He cannot imagine functioning without an establishment to direct him. His self-identity comes from being part of it, not independent of it.

The sociopath as minion may wear a state uniform and wield power by turning in citizens for minor infractions of the rules. A tyrant or an oligarchy relies on him to grab and maintain control. He relishes being useful to and part of the machine. He is obsessed with continuing the power that gives him meaning. No bad act by those ruling will shake his devotion. He is a willing tool in the hand of his master.

Portions of trait description adapted from Brandon Smith of Alt-Market 

Drug Running in Submarines


Technology is moving faster than my imagination. Who knew that Latin American cartels have run drugs for years via semi-submersible and fully submersible vessels? Submarines are used to run drugs in the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans.

Crime writers have to keep up, at least, and stay ahead, at best, of technology that can be used in the field by criminals.

Sometimes I feel as if  I am using the equivalent of a rotary phone in terms of technology in stories I create. Today’s criminals are sophisticated, savvy and well-heeled enough to buy cool tools.

For insight into marine equipment used in drug running, read the following:

http://news.yahoo.com/feds-cant-catch-cartels-cocaine-filled-submarines-010821526.html