A Life of Consequence

It’s the end of the year and it usually brings an overabundance of introspection and reflection and for me it’s not just “what did I accomplish this year” but I find I’m looking at the big picture.  Is my life shaping up the way I want it to?  Am I having an impact on things that matter to me?  Am I positioning myself to be able to influence things that are important to me?  I’m approaching the big 5 0 and that may have something to do with it.
I can remember being a fresh-faced lieutenant and looking at what seemed an endless dark tunnel of training and hoop jumping to get where I wanted to be.  It was great to finally get through that tunnel and into the daylight again.  It took years of hard work and dedication to see the light at the end, but I made it through.  The thing is, once I got over the fact that I had achieved my initial goals, I found that I was sitting on a knoll looking down at several more tunnel entrances.  It had opened up possibilities and I had choices but I was going to have to go through more training and learning if I chose to come down off the knoll.   It was nice sitting there for awhile, basking in the sunlight, but eventually you want more challenges.  You find that you are not fulfilled for whatever reason.  Maybe you aren’t doing what will really make you happy or have the impact that you want.  You have to choose a new tunnel and start the process all over.

I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m sitting on the knoll and I’m ready to come down.  I tell myself I know where the road ends up going through, because I want to write fulltime at some point.   The other options I have will likely pay a lot more and be positions where I can have an impact on some aspect of either military or federal service.   The time I’ve spent training and working has made me eligible to make the leap to the next level if I want to take it.  The question is which one is the right one for me and my family?  I pray for an answer regularly.
I think we all aspire to be consequential or to have some sort of validation that what we are doing is meaningful or has value.   At what point do we except our fate and stop trying to make a difference?  Or do we ever reach that point?  Can’t we always have an impact on those around us?  These are concerns of scale or scope.   It is also a choice of balancing personal happiness versus fulfillment or whatever it is we get from doing something meaningful.  Is there a way to get everything in one basket?  One wonders if even Gandhi was satisfied that he had done enough with his life.
I recall seeing a piece on William Holden the actor on Biography.  He had achieved the pinnacle of the acting career.  Here is a guy that could have had just about anything in life he wanted but he was still unhappy.  He was heralded as a great actor with many accolades but he didn’t feel like being an actor was a life of consequence.  He decided to cut back on acting and started getting involved with wildlife preservation.    He was never satisfied with his life and ended up dying, drunk and alone.    That story stuck with me for some reason.  I don’t want to turn into a bitter alcoholic later in life because of choices I may make now. 
I know that I want to continue writing.  The ideas keep coming.  Faster in fact than I can keep up with.  I am not sure when it will become my fulltime gig, but it has a great deal of weight in my decision making process.  It will depend on many factors, some of which relate to the impact I’m having in my current paying job and the satisfaction I am getting from it in whatever form that will take.  I also wonder if being a genre writer will be fulfilling enough.  I think all writers have in the back of their mind the idea that they might actually have at least one great novel in them — one that will be consequential, whether commercially successful or not.   It can be done in any genre I think.  Time will tell.
I walked outside last night and it was crystal clear.  I love the night sky.  Seeing the constellations and the Milky Way really puts things in perspective for me and it also lights my fire for writing science fiction.  Something about the vastness of space that just enthralls me.  It begs the question: is there really such a thing as a life of consequence?  Maybe someday I’ll have that answer; in the meantime, I will just keep plugging away trying to improve my craft.

Clear Ether!

Slacking and Star Wars and Merry Christmas!

I’ve been slack this week in doing a blog post but I’ve been enjoying the Christmas holidays and taking a little break.  I also got into the early beta and then early release of Star Wars: The Old Republic and have spent way too much time playing it.  It is absolutely what Star War Galaxies should have been.  The writing is fantastic, the voice acting is great and every quest has at least one cutscene.  The graphics are beautiful and the gameplay seems mostly balanced but the jury is still out on that one.  Overall I think Bioware hit a homerun with it.  The best part is my family is playing and we are doing battles together!  Five out of six of us are playing.

I sent out copies of the manuscript to 4 alpha readers and have got one back with mostly good reviews.  I still need to work on Chapter One of all chapters.  I’ve worked and reworked that thing like an old upholstered chair.  I keep putting new material on the chair but somehow it doesn’t work.  I’ve read in a few places to avoid a prologue but I think this story really needs one.  I’ve got critiques from multiple sources that the first chapter just doesn’t provide enough background to understand what’s going on at the beginning and without a lot of exposition I think a prologue will be the right answer.  I’ve plotted it out and I’m going to be working on it for the next couple of days.  I’ll send it out and then make a few more hopefully minor revisions and it will be ready for Beta Readers!

Christmas eve is tomorrow and I still need to get a few more little items for my wife, but everything else is ready to go.  We are going to do a turkey this year.  That will be a first for us, we normally do ham or Norwegian meatballs.  We also have company at the house and it really makes the holiday special.  I hope you all have a Merry Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever holiday you prefer.

Clear Ether!

The Spark of Searching for Extraterrestrial Life

Charlie Stross pointed out an article and commentary that peaked my interest, dealing with SETI and the Fermi Paradox. The article was The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth by Keith Wiley. Wiley’s article was to do with the likelihood of Intelligent Aliens or lack thereof.


If you aren’t familiar with the Fermi Paradox, it basically states that the likelihood of intelligent life in the galaxy is high, given the huge number of stars and therefore planets in our galaxy, that intelligent extraterrestrial life should have been to visit us by now or at least left their evidence and yet we haven’t found clue one.  There are lots of theories as to why and these essays delve into those arguments.


The commentary was The Deepening Paradox by Karl Schroeder, a Futurist and SciFi Novelist. Great stuff! Karl just finished his Master’s program in Strategic Foresight — Futurism by another name. If I had known such a program existed when I was a kid I would have been all over that!  I was probably 13 or 14 when I did my first timeline, trying to extrapolate technology advancement. I still love it! His job is to forecast trends so that companies might adapt their technology. This also feeds his writing and I am adding all his books to my reading list, they look fascinating on first glance.  He has seven books out with a few other odds and ends.  His focus is Post Singularity, Post-humanism, fantasy and hard science all mixed together.  I can’t wait to read them.


One of his cover artists also caught my eye.  Stephan Martiniere is his name and he has an amazing array of artwork spanning several different styles and genres.  He has a lot of stuff for sale and If I could afford him I would want him doing my covers.  His style is breathtaking and intricate and really stokes my imagination.  His style is way out of my reach with the meager skill set I have.  I would love to see how he does his paintings, they are so detailed and imaginative and his use of light is right on the money.  I absolutely love his artwork!


All this has got me thinking about Post Singularity ideas for stories and I have an idea or two brewing already.  I’ll jot down a few ideas and let them percolate for a bit while I’m finishing the revision for Clear Ether.  I am sending my first chapters out to my alphas hopefully this week, (are you listening Stacy?)



Hero Shmero

Is it too much to ask that something great happen in our lives?   I mean monumental.   I think that most of us went through that phase in our early teens when we KNEW we were destined for great things.   We were handpicked to lead lives of consequence.   As I approach midlife and realize that the likelihood is lessening, I still find myself drawn to themes of greatness.
I can remember being a teenager and reading Lord of the Rings and learning the elvish alphabet.  My friends and I developed these back stories about our elvish character selves.  We felt like we had a secret knowledge that we were really going to be something special someday.  Of course it was fantasy, but I wonder if that is something that fades with time or is it that thing that draws us to stories of the same theme, whether it’s a movie or a book or an old wives tale.

I picked up The Hunger Games right before the Thanksgiving holiday and even though the first couple of pages didn’t impress me, I found that I was unable to put the book down and finished the entire trilogy in 4 days.  The writing style was very simple and first person, and don’t skewer me here, but very reminiscent of Stephanie Meyer (I actually read all the Twilight books).  The theme, however, was one of destiny and greatness.  Being in the head of the protagonist made it seem almost mundane, the things Katniss (I hate that name BTW) was able to do, but when the chips were down she always made the “right” choice.
It got me thinking about when I was the same age as Katniss and thought that I was going to do amazing things at some point in my life and it made me wonder if this is a universal thing.   Is it part of the human condition that makes us all strive through the bullshit in our lives with that inner knowing that on the other side of all the bad stuff we will do something important?   I wonder if this is one of the reasons writers write — to tap into that expectation of greatness. 
Heroic themes are my favorites and if you want to see a grown man cry the way to go is not with a sad story, but with a heroic one, at least for me.  The word Heroic sums up a lot of themes, and it’s hard to find a word to replace all the meaning encapsulated within it.  You can say Brave or Chivalrous or Bold or Courageous or Gallant or Great, but nothing quite compares.  I wonder if many of us are still secretly hoping we will get that epic moment to shine.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the passenger section of a commercial jet and wondered if today would be the day when the flight attendant would come back and ask if there was a pilot among us to land the aircraft because something had happened to the pilots. 
Our society seems to have a pathological drive to follow the rich and famous.  Is it because we are still seeking the Heroic in our lives?  This seems like a bit of a perversion of the pure Heroic, but it’s something to fill the void left by our own lack of greatness perhaps. 
I think there is a thirst for heroes and epic moments.   It seems like a black hole that can’t be filled, and the medium doesn’t seem to matter as long as the story has weight.  It’s why Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are so popular and why the publishing industry is so desperate to find the next J.K. Rowling, because they know we have that thirst.  Even if our lives aren’t going to have that heroic moment we can’t stop hoping for it and seeking heroic things.   
All of you writers out there, this is a shout out for more heroic stories!  Maybe we can’t fill the void but we can see the need and do our best to try to give people what they want to read.   Maybe as writers this is our way to greatness!  I can dream…
Clear Ether!