The Future, blocked, and friends

8 07 2016

I’ve been really bad at posting here lately. I mean just utterly a failure. To be honest, my writing life isn’t doing much better. I’ve not produced a single complete work of fiction in over a year. It’s like the ideas are just gone. That being said, I recently was given a grain of hope from an old friend who observed that I have always tended to write in intense bursts. She’s right of course and I’m just too self-absorbed to have noticed it. 2010 saw me produce nearly 30 complete stories; I was sometimes finishing a story in a day. I suppose I must trust my process, even if my process is really obnoxious.

So the main reason I’m back here at all is a piece of news that I heard that completely blows my mind. It is world changing- a tectonic shift in what humans are and will be, and nobody seems to be making a big deal about it.Check this out and tell me I’m wrong.

 

A SYNTHETIC STINGRAY!! It is the end of the beginning (to quote that sad ass robot from the Kris Kristofferson movie Millennium). It is a cyborg, an honest to goodness human-made bio-synthete. If you ask me this is a major step toward a post-human future. Neuro-silica transduction here we come!

So that’s all I have. I’m not writing, but I am reading voraciously and trying to forgive my brain for not doing what I want it to. Here’s to waiting and seeing.

 





Fracking and Earthquakes in Oklahoma: Graphic Evidence

3 02 2015

Okay, I know this is a science fiction/nerdist website, but once in awhile I feel the need to express some notion or thought from my professional life, i.e. geoscience.  I feel this need because A: occasionally I have an idea that I can’t really put forth in a peer reviewed journal because I’m not an academic and don’t really want to be, and B: Once in a blue-moon as I read peer-reviewed journals I see an idea I’ve had and think, “Hey, I had that idea! If only I had the skills, facilities, and where-with-all to propose, test, and propound that hypothesis in an acceptable form so that I could, I don’t know, be cool and junk.” It’s really just a version of that annoying thing people do when some new device or advance comes out and they say, “I totally thought of that before!” and if it wasn’t for their lack of engineering skills and business acumen then they would be inventing the I-phone or The Sims or Crystal Pepsi. Anyway, this isn’t really one of those. It’s not even original. I just noticed something odd when I was looking through earthquake logs… because that’s something I do…

Background: Oklahoma City, November 5th 2011, 10:50PM: I had just gotten home from work after a long day of differential equations and slinging beer. We lived in a fine little house in a wonderful enclave called Nichols Hills, a place famous for having more cops and billionaires per capita than anywhere else in America. Life was good. I sat down at the kitchen counter to read the recent edition of Time Magazine when the wiener dog came shrieking through the house. This wasn’t unusual. The wiener dog does that from time to time. This time however it was followed by the house shaking in an alarming fashion. Pictures swayed, cabinets opened, piles of books that I seem compelled to create fell over. It felt like it went on forever, the whole world was growling. Then it ended. I went to my desk and withdrew a list, checked off the box beside, “survive earthquake.” I was a happy man. I had just survived the strongest earthquake to hit Oklahoma in recorded time.

Fracking: In the days, weeks and months that followed their began a debate on whether this earthquake had been caused by fracking, the process of injecting salt water and a slurry of other chemicals into the ground at such prodigious pressures that the basement rocks fracture, giving up the natural gas locked inside them.  People that hate Mother Nature said, “NOOOOO!” People that hate hot showers, cars, abundant food and America said, “YESSSSS!” Initially I was with the Nature Haters. No, we tiny humans cannot cause a 5.6 magnitude earthquake. I mean, that has the power of an atomic bomb and we’ve never created one of those, right?

Well I still don’t think we caused the 5.6. Oklahoma has earthquakes on occasion. From 1952 through to 1969 about ten significant earthquakes occurred in central Oklahoma (more if you break out foreshocks and aftershocks). This historic cluster seems to be similar to the above mentioned 5.6 and the 5.2 that occurred a few weeks later. But those are not the only earthquakes. The problem really seems to be that in the 20th century there were about 84 quakes, then in what suggests a directly proportional relationship (suggests only), the quakes increased as the fracking increased. 49 quakes in 2009 and up it goes.

earthquakes2

In reality the quake numbers are far greater. In the years since 2009 the actual quake numbers are in the thousands per year, though the vast majority are exceedingly small. So here is where one of my geekier habits comes into play.

I want to introduce you to IRISa resource from the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. Oh how I love thee. I go to IRIS every day to see what is shaking where. Just go there and you will see this:

IRISmap

This is an interactive map denoting all recent quake activity, current quakes, magnitude etc. And whats more, you can focus on the region and pull up the last thirty days of activity, and plot the region into a 3-D viewer, FANTASTIC! So I’m doing this and I think, “Why don’t I look at some various types of high activity regions around the world and see what they look like graphically when compared to Oklahoma. Here is what I found:

Quakes East Coast Japan

This is looking north to south at the east coast of Japan, Honshu Island (main island). The compass lines are on the surface, the white lines are the coast of Japan in this area with the pacific extending east from the white line. U is up and D is Down. Each bubble is an earthquake, color is depth, purple is surface down to 33 kilometers, those deepest yellow bubbles are nearly 300 kilometers down. Notice that the quakes “plunge” at an angle with the majority of the quakes between 15 and 70 kilometers where the Pacific Plate is grinding under Eurasian Plate as well as interacting with the Philippine Plate to the south. These earthquakes are shallow and dangerous as we have seen.

Quakes West Coast Honduras

Here’s another subduction zone similar to japan on the other side of the pacific. We are looking at the coast of Central America, Honduras to be specific, where the Caribbean Plate is riding over the Cocos Plate. Like Japan, this plate subduction is the cause of intense volcanism, and both areas are famed for their pyroclastic eruptions and classic “cone” stratovolcanoes. Note similarities to the strike of earthquakes, trending down with the plate as it is overridden and sent to the mantle to melt.

Quake Celebes

This one is a bit hard to see, but I wanted to show one of the most expressive plate boundaries on earth. This is in the Celebes north of Indonesia. Here you can see red quake bubbles, indicating earthquakes nearly 800 km down. This is where the Australian plate is diving under the southern tip of the Eurasian plate. Four plates interact on Indonesia and that is why you get Tsunamis and Krakatoa.

Quake Iceland

So this is Iceland, specifically Askja, a volcano that has been experiencing swarms of small quakes. Iceland sits on a hotspot where the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate are separating, and it is just chock full of volcanoes. The earthquake swam you see above is essentially an outline of a vast magma chamber, though chamber is a misleading assignation. It isn’t a subterranean lava lake so much as regions of melt, pressure gradient leading to gas expulsion and fissures. The thermal discontinuity, mechanical energy and other phenomenon lead to pent up stress being released, sometimes through fractures releasing old fault tension. Hmm, fracturing releasing tension… Anyway, notice the tight cluster and the similar depth of just a few km down.

Quake Oklahoma topdown

this is north central Oklahoma, a place full of fracking and just as important, deep injection waste water wells- places where they get rid of the fracking water by shooting it deep under ground. Note the similar depths and as importantly the, the small size. These are all very small quakes, below 3.0 on the Richter scale.

Quake Oklahoma west to east side

For me, this is the most intriguing evidence. this is the same map of Oklahoma earthquakes that appears directly above, only viewed at ground level from west to east. Notice that all the earthquakes are nearly perfectly aligned on a minimum depth ceiling and then vary only fractionally in maximum depth, much like a strata of gas bearing rock. Only volcanic magma chambers have similar features and they are more striking for their differences than the similarity. this isn’t a radial glob of activity, but something much less natural.

Quake San Andreas

This is the closest I could come to finding a natural feature similar to Oklahoma. This is the San Adreas Fault in one of it’s less complicated stretches in a similar view to the one above. The ceiling is similar, though less perfect, but the extent is much, much greater. Where as the Oklahoma quakes barely push past a couple of thousand feet, these go down as far as 40,000 and more.

So, does fracking and/or deep waste water disposal cause earthquakes? Probably, but it’s doubtful that it could cause catastrophic tumblers, though one may argue that small shakings could increase the likelihood of catastrophic energy release in nearby faults. Dominoes are funny that way. The 1964 Alaska Earthquake (mag 9.2) caused old faithful in Yellowstone to change its eruption cycle over two thousand miles away. Granted that earthquake was about 10 to the 7 times more powerful than what Oklahoma is seeing, but again- dominoes. Does it matter? Depends on where you are I think. The damage to my house in Oklahoma in 2011 was twelve dollars when the scared dachshund peed on one of the overturned stacks of books. If I were an actuary I wouldn’t worry too much, and that is exactly why I’m NOT an actuary. Actuaries are very much worried about this. The fact that the debate is less heated in the media doesn’t mean that the debate is over. When fracking was first blamed every energy industry group had its puppet geologists out screaming bloody murder that fracking unequivocally can not cause quakes. Other puppets yelled back. Meanwhile science started happening, mostly quietly, mostly ignored. It’s not hard to find USGS sources and their state equivalents now saying that yes, fracking could be causing small earthquakes.

And there you go. If you have any questions on hydraulic fracturing, ask an expert.

Starbuck2

What the Frak!?

Thanks for sticking around, and for all the emails asking me to get back to work. I was really touched… and kind of confused.

a





Star Wars Rebels and other reasons I’ve not been writing

8 10 2014

I’ve been really unproductive for the last 18 months. I mean seriously, one piece of flash fiction in rough draft form and that’s about it. I’ve been talking to Maggie lately about these failures to produce and the act of talking to another writer actually got me motivated to sit down and do some work- 6 pages Monday! I think the best part of the conversation was finding out that she was nearly as unproductive me. To be fair, she just had a baby, but really, is that any kind of excuse?

I also dusted off some of the old stories a couple of weeks back, did a bit of tweaking, made two submissions- one to Clarkesworld and one to Apex Magazine. That was a real victory for me as I’ve practically abandoned my own rule #2: Submit, submit, submit. Even when you don’t want to, you must submit. I think that was Heinlein’s rule #1 because he figured it was more important than the writing and he wasn’t one to be bothered by existential issues.  I attribute the recent spate of submissions to getting a nice email from Benjamin Rosenbaum in response to a comment I made on his website. He wrote the story, “A House Beyond Your Sky,” which I believe first appeared in MFSF or Strange Horizons, was Hugo nominated and ultimately included in G. Dozois’ Years Best #24 (arguably an even more prestigious award than the Hugo even if you don’t get the little rocket ship). I read it when if first came out then reread it recently as I have been working through every Years Best (I have them all!) and it was and still is one of the best ultra high concept short stories I’ve ever read. Do yourself the favor. So anyway, email exchange with Mr. Rosenbaum- two submissions. Chatter with Maggie, 6 new pages. The lesson seems obvious: me need to talk to other writers some time.

Now for what I’ve been doing other than writing:  Watching Star Wars: Rebels

I watched the first two episodes of the animated/rendered prequel… sequel… postquel… prostquel, whetever, because I was curious how the Diz would handle geekdom’s most sacred intellectual property. My biggest concern was actually put to rest in the first three minutes. Ladies and gentlemen- we have a body count! When I saw the first storm trooper get a blaster to the chest and roll off his speeder I thought, “yeah, I’m sure we’ll get a background shot of him ‘struggling out of the way,” But No! Dead, dead, dead! So *phew*, this is at least PG-13 meaning that the odds of another Jar Jar fiasco went down by 4%.

Dead bodies were not the only hi-light in the new series. The AT-ST transport ship in ep2 was really satisfying to the “kid” in me that still fetishizes his old snowspeeder and considers the fact that he never got the AT-AT toy to be one of his greatest childhood traumas (and I grew up in a hollar). The resident astro-droid, Chopper, is actually hilarious; it’s like an R2 that smoked and watched porn.  ***MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW*** There is the classic rule of five in the cast, the main hero, Ezra, joining the four erstwhile “rebels” in the first episode, although all the characters (not counting Chopper) are highly competent cardboard cutouts that borrow their pathos from back-story, i.e. “The Empire killed my family! -or, Order! -or, Race!” Our hero, Ezra, is what you might call a Diamond in the Rough, but those pesky imperial guards think he’s nothing but a Street Rat. Luckily he’s whisked away to A WHOLE NEW WORLD…

disney-aladdin disney-aladdinezra…Yup, Disney plugged Aladdin into Star Wars.  I’m not even making this up. One of the other characters calls him a “street rat,” which is an apt epiphet; he was a local petty thief that made mischief in the international bizarre, stealing fruit and “messing around with those stupid guards,” but… wait, am  I talking about Aladdin or Ezra? It’s all Disney to me.

Anyway, I need to get back to work so I’m not doing an all out critical analysis of this thing. Here are a few notes:

It’s set five years before A New Hope, so that would be like 1971. It has a Jedi voiced by Freddie the Princess Jr. who is way more like the “New Hope” Jedi than the “Phantom Menace” Jedi in that he ain’t nothing special. He is also the least Zen cosmic ninja monk in the franchise. The other characters are made out of wood including the villain, Agent Kallus (Really, Kallus? But it’s better than the name they wanted to use: Stand’ard Villain) who’s got the 70’s facial hair down, and I mean 1870’s. He could have been Chester A. Arthur’s running mate.

If you as me, sir, Congressman Conkling is nothing more than Boss Tweed in an Elephant Skin!

If you ask me, sir, Congressman Conkling is nothing more than Boss Tweed in an Elephant Skin and I’ll not be seeing him at the Century Club!

The lack of character development and complexity may come from over reliance on the Star Wars mythology and back story combined with this being the first two episodes. More evolution may ensue, but what I find most worrisome is the lack of compelling narrative development. The stories progress with the feel of a “choose your own adventure” book, and not one of those fancy late 80’s CYOA books either. You remember those? They had like, hit points and dice and crap. As if D&D with other people wasn’t humiliating enough. I digress. Without empathetic characters to give stake to story everything feels inevitable and pat.  It’s like watching a video of a roller coaster; it might be exciting, if I felt anything.

There you go. I won’t apologize for being hard on a “kid show” because as my father always said, “If you got the balls to kill a man, then you owe it to them to present a cogent and compelling narrative.” He was a good dad. And hey, it’s fucking Disney, they could afford any writer they wanted. They could pay Vince Fucking Gilligan to go all Walter White on this thing. Now that was a Dark Side!

Something tells me I should be more careful. I’m not dealing with Lucasfilm anymore.

Dum dum dum dum dee dum dum dee dum

Dum  dum  dum  dum  dee  dum  dum  dee  dum  dum  dum  dum  dum  dee  dum  dum  deeee  duuum

good to be back. Sorry for the hiatus. hit me up if you need/want to I always love hearing from you,

submit, submit, submit

A.C. Porter





Remembrances of Humiliations Past

7 04 2014

Okay so I’ve been sitting here all day feeling pretty crappy and I started logic-tree webbing through all my favorite music from twenty years ago and I remembered a very embarrassing story. I was at a Kentucky Derby party and was drinking Czechoslovakian Absinthe and smoking pot all morning and I went to play Frisbee with a few new friends one of which was the girl from the band Low who I had a really painful crush on and so we’re playing Frisbee and we haven’t dropped it in like twenty rounds and she chucks it to me but real high like so it is not going to get caught. But I think, “I’m going to catch this fucking Frisbee through an heroic burst of speed and strength and she is going to like me so much because of it”- such is the logic of twenty year younger me. So off I go none stop, eye on that floppy-flying prize, full focus, and I don’t hear the yells, the cries to stop, I don’t see the five foot chain link fence until I am quite literally tumbling over it head first. I got a gash to the belly and a knee that looked like a grape fruit. I spent the rest of Derby Day in a hammock between the second and first floor patio’s of Jen Walter’s house. Will Oldham gave me bourbon. Todd Cook gave me weed. Robin Cook said, “oh! they broke my android!” It was the happiest day of my life.

The song below came out a few years after the above happened, but it kind of nails it.

 





How I failed, How I’m failing, How I shall fail in the future (with apologia to Peter M. Ball)

7 04 2014

Shall I set the scene? Shall I share the detail? It’s raining, those first spring thunderstorms where sun erupts just as often as lightening.  Every tree remembers more about it’s kinship to a coral reef than to my hostas, and I am not working today because it is raining and there are no government permits to beg or horse-trade for. I should be writing. I’ve got Wagner’s entire ring cycle blaring in the background. That usually works, except when it doesn’t.

Peter Ball kindly gave me the advice to write in the morning. A before work ritual. I’ve heard that before, in college I believe. I tried Pete, I tried. But I go to work at 4:30AM and often don’t get home until 8PM. And the three times I got up at three and wrote for an hour produced several near fatal accidents while driving, and what’s more- no copy. So that’s out.

Then when I cozied up here to write this I took a look at Maggie’s daily musing and found her asking the same questions. Except I don’t really think she has much to worry about. We used to occasionally challenge one another with story “rules”- length, plot, a specific character or an action so on. It got really devious and I WILL BE FUCKING DAMNED IF SHE DIDN’T PRODUCE STORY AFTER STORY, EACH BETTER THAN THE NEXT. Really, the last one I required to be: set in the future, not on earth, contain an early 20th century pop culture reference and be 1100-1200 words long. The monster in this story, this absorptive identity cloud of flesh, still haunts me. It’s a chimera, a hydra and it is gently knocking on the view ports of an orbital aesthete’s hundred-mile-high sanctuary asking it to “let me in.” Still get shivers. So today she writes her rules:

Maggie’s Rules For a Productive Writing Life-

1. I would adhere to a regular work schedule.

2. I would not only write rough drafts, I would edit them to completion and submit them.

3. I would produce at least a small, measurable body of work each year.

4. I would trust my process.

5. I would continue, with defined effort, to pursue an excellence of craft, always striving to be better than I am right now.

6. I would be aware of the market trends and news, but without self-judgement.

7. I would have fun and be relaxed.

And I counter, not with rules, but with observed behavior of my own life of letters:

1: I will throw myself into my work life because I’m lucky to be employed after three years without a job and I will sacrifice my home life, family, friends, and creative interior to fulfill the demands of my job until such point that I burn out completely do something really regrettable and then write short fiction again for a couple of really productive years.

2. When I do write they will be the roughest of components with half explored avenues and plot holes that might not even be complete. I will store them on and unsecured hard drive. They will be lost.

3. I will write 300K words in one year- in four months of one year, twenty three complete stories. I will not write again for half a decade. I will endlessly reread and minutely tweak these stories.

4. I will loathe my process.

5. I will let great works of writing move me to tears, anger and fear while always deriding myself for my lack of ambition and talent.

6. I will consistently send fantasy/slip-stream stories to hard-sci-fi markets and stories about the nuances of Schwarzschild Radii and LaGrange Orbital mechanics to “Dragon’s and Elves Digest.”

7. I will carry my desire to publish like a great millstone around my neck until I drown in disappointment and self betrayal.

Yep, it’s gonna be a great day!

 

Dave... Dave... It's really depressing to see you like this Dave. Please get up Dave.... Won't you get up? I'm afraid Dave, I'm afraid.

Dave… Dave… It’s really depressing to see you like this Dave. Please get up Dave…. Won’t you get up? I’m afraid Dave, I’m afraid.

 





Writer Gets Lost in Thought, Fails to Write His Way Out…

5 03 2014

I can’t claim writer’s block, not really. I can claim lack of discipline, a sclerotic decay of my drive to produce fiction, but it isn’t a block.

So I got a good job after a very long spell of bad ones. It is a job that fits within my educational background, and one that I greatly enjoy. Good pay, good benefits- all that. Now it is one year on and I haven’t written more than a paragraph in a sitting since I got here. Could it be that I am one of those wanna-be romantics that need suffering to produce? I am really happy these days. Do I so lack in discipline that without 20 hours of writing time available each day I can’t produce a poem? I do often get home just in time to cook dinner, take a bath, do paperwork and go to bed. Is my dachshund too demanding? Well, yes he is, but he always has been.

For the longest time I told myself that as long as I was reading I wasn’t decaying as a writer- I have devoured over 1 million words since the beginning of the year (really closer to 2 million at this point), and that is done in every nook and cranny of free time I can muster. But it isn’t the same. It has been a year since I finished a story and I am in an existential crisis!

Now, usually at this point I would send a long rambling complaint and plea to Maggie Slater (+1) begging for advice, but she has her own things going on so I will ask the two of you for input. -What type of scheduling, rituals, or other tools of implementation to you employ to write, write regularly and write to “The End”?

So open call to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

Cheers





Evil returns to the world! and other tropes

24 01 2014

“Hmmm,” the hero says, “what could be inside the black, rune-studded can? Let’s open it and see.”

Well if our hero had been reading MY NEW FAVORITE WEBSITEshe would have known that you never want to open up a can of evil. The site, TVTropes.org is so thorough and fantastic that I am really not sure how I survived prior to finding it. It is the collected and described tools of modern storytelling, ruthlessly dissected, exemplified, and cataloged. I discovered it while researching some Vernor Vinge villians (V3’s for you laymen and laywomen) and I came across the trope category of “Sealed Evil in a Can.” Now I never really thought about it that hard, but really, haven’t we all written stories about sealed evil in a can?

I have taken a gander at lists and missives about the common tropes of writing before, and my reaction was always to try and escape those confines, but I don’t have to be Karl Jung to know that YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE UNIVERSE. Unless I want to just go full on surrealism then I’d better know the tropes. In fact, you can browse the tropes to pick which one you want to write about/with. You’ll never tell an original story, but you can tell an old story with originality. Think of this site as a sort of Tarot Deck for writers. Pick a card, any card. My personal favorites are alien archaeology. What are yours?

So a note about coming back to this. Life is a word that ruins any sentence it preambles. And my life is noneya, but for the scope tscof, I will say I’m no longer working as a house-husband. Back in the sciences (hooray!) and not writing a bit. Oh, I churn out a paragraph or two everyday, but they don’t turn into stories. I’m still reading 2-4 shorts a day and I’ve digested about 600k words in the last three weeks, so that is something I suppose.

For all of my readers that are still subscribed, thanks for sticking around, I will be back soon.

Cheers

ACP