Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Mom

Last night I realized something. I watched a movie with my dad, like I do most nights, and one of the main characters gets kicked out of her band because she’s pregnant. One of her band mates says to her, “Look, being a mother is way more important than being in a band.” I don’t ever want kids. Being a mother sounds to me like a miserable, thankless existence. You have to give up all your hopes and dreams for at least eighteen years (actually the rest of your life if you want to be a good parent) to cater to these insufferable nuisances we call children. It’s easy to see it that way if you look at it from a selfish perspective. I am selfish in that respect.

However, last night I was able to see it in a different light. Lately I’ve been fascinated by the Eucharist. Something in me knows that it’s the most important thing on Earth. I mean that quite literally. It’s the one thing through which humans and God can actually, physically touch, but it goes even deeper than that to a level that I can’t really even express. I’ve said this before, but I know that I want to find a way to give myself entirely to God. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that. I’ve been rereading the Gospels–not that I haven’t done this several times before–but I haven’t spent much time on this one thing that Jesus says: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” I never put two and two together, but I’ve always felt like being a mother must be like some kind of self-death. It’s probably about the biggest sacrifice I can think of.

This also pertains to something else Jesus says: “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Millions of women sacrifice comfort and happiness on a daily basis so their kids can have awesome childhoods. My mom loves kids. Even before she was a mother, she knew she wanted grandchildren. I know I will have to disappoint her. My mom is wicked good at what she does. She was meant to be a mother. Before I was diagnosed with MD, and before my family moved to Boston, she was making more money than my dad. She gave up a fun social life and a promising career to take care of me.

Sometimes God makes us give up something we desperately want or value very highly in order to obtain something better. We don’t always know what that better thing is. I also think that, in hindsight, what seemed like a sacrifice at the time, was really worth it. I know this because my mom is hard on my brother and me. I know she’s proud of what we’re doing, and she wants us to keep succeeding at what we do. She’s happy that I’m an artist. She wants me to be an artist. When I graduated, she told me not to look for a job. She said, “You’ve been making stories your entire life. Write a book.” I don’t think most mothers would say that to their kids. I was ready to “sell out” and she wouldn’t let me. That’s still crazy to me.

I don’t know the full extent of what my mom sacrificed when she decided to have kids. She’s said you can’t understand what being a mom means until you are one. I do know that what a mom does for vulnerable little kids, she does for God in some way. For a multitude of reasons, I can’t and shouldn’t be a mom. As I said, I don’t want to be, anyway. Still, until I put it into perspective with these two things Jesus said, I saw it in a completely negative light. It only seemed like a punishment one inflicted on herself for no good reason. Now I see it more like a dance or an intricate painting. I can’t pull it off, and I’ll never understand it, but I can certainly appreciate its worth.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been a little stuck with my story. I worked on it for several hours yesterday, and I did figure out how to fix one problem. I needed to better clarify something, and I think I did that, but true clarity won’t come until later on in parts that I haven’t written yet. I have so many external motivations to finish this thing, and at the same time, I don’t actually feel motivated right now. Ironically, Part 1 was so much more fun to write, even though Part 2 is so much more eventful. I have an ending, and I have a basic idea of how to get there. I just get hung up on the details. It’s also just such an enormous story, and the sheer scale of it is intimidating. Given that my mom specifically told me to write this thing though, I have to finish it.

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I Have An Ending!

Yesterday I figured out how to finish my book. I’m rather excited about that. I’m not actually very close to the end, but I’ve felt like I have no idea where I’m going, and if I have a “destination,” I’ll be more productive because I’m writing more with a purpose. I’ve had several ideas for an ending vaguely bouncing around in my head for a while, but I didn’t really love any of them. Part of my problem was that I needed an ending that would allow my story to be a stand-alone thimg, while still allowing for potential sequels, and yesterday I figured it out. It’s hard for me to write about this because I can’t give the ending away before I’m even done writing it.

I actually didn’t get to write a lot yesterday, but I got a lot of scheming done, and I’ve realized that I’m a rather violent author. I keep doing mean things to the nicest characters. It’s not necessarily because I want to. They just happen to be the most vulnerable. I find them to be the most interesting, too, though. One of them also happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in the story, but she’s a little messed up in the head. The guy I’m presently being mean to is going to have his share of vengeance, but it probably won’t come about until the next book. I’m really hoping I get a chance to write at least one or two sequels. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this story. It’s hard to write, but I love the characters.

I also still don’t have a title. Titles for songs are easy, but nothing seems to fit for this book. It’s still saved in my computer as “Fantasy Story,” and it ended up being science fiction. I feel like a title is the one last conclusive thing I have to figure out for this book. Now that I know how to finish it, I feel like I know, at least a little better, how to fill in the details. The title doesn’t really mater until it’s done, but I just want to be able to call it something other than “my story.” This whole process feels surreal to me. My dad and I were eating lunch two days ago, and I was talking about my most recent additions, and he started talking about making this into a movie. I haven’t even finished it yet. My dad says I’m too cautious with my art. He says I just have to run with it and assume I’m going to be the next great sci-fi writer. Yesterday, while I was eating lunch with my mom, she said “When this gets published you’ll be at book signings in Tennessee and all over the place.” Evidently, my parents have more confidence in my book than I do.

I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve written so far in just over two hundred pages. There are a few specific scenes that I think probably need work, but I mostly feel like I know what I’m doing at this point. I’ve given up on trying to predict how long it will be. I’m just really excited because I feel like I have real direction now. One thing I seem to have the most trouble with is timing, particularly when I’m trying to write intense, fast-paced scenes. It’s almost like my mind can’t keep up with the story. It’s hard for me to visualize large scale battles, in particular. I’ve only had to write one so far, and I think it turned out okay, but it’s definitely one of the things that need work. It had to happen the way it did in order to further the plot. I’m just not sure I love the style.

I think I’m going to have to get my friend to read this and tell me what needs fixin’ before I send it to any publisher. I’ve talked about my story to basically everyone, but I want to get a reader’s perspective. Something I learned in various classes, both about music and any other form of writing is that you have to figure out who your audience is and write for that audience. I found out by accident that most of the people who like my music are old… or at least my parents’ age… so old. From the beginning I decided that I wanted the audience for my story to be people like me. I wanted to write a story that I would read. This is partly because I took every creative writing class my school offered, and the closest I got to sci-fi was a (realistic) fiction class. I’ve come to understand that science fiction and fantasy are seen as illegitimate or unartful genres in the hoity-toity literary world, and I intend to change that. I will write a darn good, interesting, thought provoking story, and everyone will have to read it (evil laugh ensues).

The Intensity Of Head-Space

Today is Star Wars Day, so of course I have to write about it. There’s so much I could write about. Realistically, it’s an absolutely amazing story. It has so much longevity, and as far as I know, it’s the closest we’ve got to a parallel universe. What I mean by that is, for one thing, it exists in several genres. Regardless of the quality, one can read, watch, and play Star Wars. This has been true since the very beginning. The universe exploded with A New Hope, and it’s still expanding. What is also significant is that is the amount of contributions from fans. The people who love this story shape what happens in its future and in the parts of the galaxy we wouldn’t otherwise see.

The latest RPG I’ve been a part of is a Star Wars rendition of Dark Heresy. We decided to go this route because we understood and cared about that universe. The time period our game takes place in is the height of the Empire (between Revenge of the Sith, and A New Hope), far away from where the “main story” is taking place. Before this, I had been part of two Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. I hastily threw together my characters, not thinking too much about who they really were, what they cared about, or where they came from. This time I took time.

My character’s name is Sky Turin. Before becoming a Jedi padawan she lived with her father on the lowest level of a planet similar to Coruscant, though this was not where she was originally from. Her parents were from the Sky, which was the wealthiest part of the planet. Think of Cloud City. The Surface, where she lived for most of her early life was the poorest. Her parents were what would probably be the Star Wars version of missionaries, working to empower the poorest people on the planet. When Sky was nineteen she rescued a Jedi, not much older than herself, who crash-landed in her neighborhood while in pursuit of a Dark Jedi. Dark Jedi, if you don’t know, were force-users who were not directly allied with the Jedi or the Sith. They generally minded their own business, but the few Jedi who remained after the Empire took most of them out pursued them, either to bring them over to their side or detain them if they could.

While Sky was helping Val escape, Val discovered that Sky could use the Force, though she didn’t know what she was doing at the time. Sky went with Val to the remaining Jedi–none of them officially masters–and was permitted to learn the Force and become a Jedi herself, as the Jedi were desperate for recruits. After some preliminary training with a light saber, Sky and Val went to a planet similar to Earth to investigate a possible meeting of Dark Jedi in a mountainous area, similar to the Rocky Mountains. While they were there they were ambushed and captured. Their captivity didn’t last long, however, because Val was extremely powerful with the Force. They were able to escape, but had to leave in separate ships. When Sky returned to the Jedi council, she discovered that Val had not returned. The council would not permit her to look for Val, so she left and began searching against their will. This is where I entered our campaign. While I don’t know the specifics of where the story is going, I do know that Sky is assertive, hates the Dark Jedi, hates the Empire, and mistrusts the Jedi themselves. She has been taught that the Dark Side is evil, and will lead to her own destruction, but she’s so obsessed with finding Val that she will most likely not always stick to the Code entirely. She’s also impulsive and will probably make some stupid decisions.

I considered writing Sky’s story in full detail. In fact, I tried, but she’s too distant from me, for lack of a better way to say it. Ironically, I think I have trouble creating a story in an already existent universe. My novel takes place in a future version of the U.S., but almost everything about that world is my own. It feels awkward to me to write about a universe that someone else made, even if I’m inventing most of the details of a story that is otherwise original. It feels weird to talk about the Force and the Empire and the Jedi as if they were my own. It feels invasive in a way, like I’m invading someone else’s creative space. At the same time, the Star Wars universe has always seemed very inviting when it comes to original ideas. I think what this ultimately comes back to is that I’m much better at coming up with characters than I am at coming up with plot. I’m great at writing their past, but when it comes to writing their present, I often get stuck.

I’ve written two hundred pages of my novel thus far, and I’m about fifty pages into Part 2. Part 1 was a lot easier to write. So far I’ve had to write two battle scenes. I think they were both okay, but they both need work. I have trouble with timing and intensity. Right now I’m working on a captivity situation. I have to deal with the head-space of a character who has just been captured and is about to be interrogated by an evil government. This kind of scene is slower, but I think, just as intense, and I’m much better at writing this kind of thing. I think Star Wars is a very action-oriented story, and maybe this is why I have trouble writing in that universe.

One of the greatest stories I’ve ever read is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Most of that story takes place in dialogue and internal thoughts, which one might assume would be boring, but it’s anything but. Solitude, in particular, can make for some seriously intense character and plot development. Head-space, while mostly metaphorical, is still space, and in that space, anything can happen. In that space, a character can go insane or overcome impossible odds. A person’s psychology makes them who they are, and plot can’t exist without characters. A world without people in it doesn’t matter.

I’ve seen some great and some terrible post-apocalyptic movies. I’ve noticed two things regarding these, and regarding my story. First, the movies that are good have more people in them. It’s hard for a story to maintain its momentum when no one is around to keep things going. Second, what I’ve noticed, and sometimes want to smack myself for, is that I keep creating more characters. My story takes place over a very large area–basically the entire United States. I’ve noticed that the space in which a story takes place tends to correspond with the number of characters that are needed to keep the story going. Sometimes great movies or great stories take place in one house, or even one room. Sometimes there are only two or three characters involved, and these stories can be great. Some of the most intense scenes in my story are conversations or even internal monologues.

Interestingly, in the case of Star Wars, we really don’t get to see too much of the characters’ head-space, at least not directly. Their personalities come out in how they react and adapt to various situations. This is clearly effective because we know and love characters like R2D2 and Chewbacca, who never even speak a word of English. However, I think to get to know characters in this way, there needs to be constant action. There isn’t a lot of time, or even good reason to slow down. Finding a happy medium is definitely difficult. I think the few exceptions are the exchanges between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, but even these are short and almost invariably turn into light saber fights. The thing about dialogue is that it has to be executed well. There are far more longer exchanges in The Phantom Menace-Revenge of the Sith, but they’re often not well written. They’re either boring or cheesey. If there had been less talk and more action, I think they would have been better movies.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Big News!

I’ve had insomnia off and on lately. I’m not sure why. It’s not so bad. If I can’t sleep I read stuff on my phone and talk at God. If I were him I would have probably told me to shut up and go to sleep by now. It’s nice to have someone to talk to at 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. Usually if it’s at it’s worst I’m able to fall asleep and get a few hours in before I have to get up for the day.

I’ve come to think of God kind of as a storyteller. Often, if I can’t sleep, I just read Scripture, and I find that I like reading God’s stories, even if they’re not exactly happy. I don’t mean to imply that I think any part of Scripture is fictional or false. I just mean that a lot of it is narrative, and I like those parts. I’ve also really come to think of Jesus not just as my Savior, but really, truly as my friend. I’ve recently finished reading all four Gospels, and I feel like I’m really getting to know him. Last night I was at a worship service at my church, and I sort of realized in a truer sense–I came to know and maybe feel, not just believe–that Jesus is alive. It’s kind of hard to explain how I feel about that, so I’m just going to go with the simplest option. In my twenty-three-year-old-twenty-first-century mind, it’s incredible and amazing and spectacularly weird. I know and actually love someone who I’ve never seen in person. I worship a man-who-is-God whose voice I’ve only heard in dreams.

I’m writing this because I’m on the verge of an extremely important decision. Rather, a decision I’ve already made is quickly becoming more solidified. I’ve begun talking to my priest about what it could mean; what it really looks like to dedicate myself entirely to God. I am prepared to make sacrifices. I am prepared to do what it takes. That doesn’t make it any less scary. I’ve got questions. What does it really mean to take up my cross and follow Jesus? What does it mean to love him more than I love anyone else? What does it mean to pray without ceasing? How do I do what he wants me to when a million things, including myself, get in the way, or at least try to? While I’m awake at stupid 0’clock in the morning, I find myself asking “why” a lot. Why did God do X, Y, Z? Why did he tell his peeps to do X, Y, Z? I have to work some of that out, too.

Admittedly, some of this does cause me to worry, and I’ve had to remind myself just to worry about this moment and let God lead. Just in the past couple of days or so, several things have been sort of showing me that I’m headed in the right direction–mostly things I’ve been reading generally by accident. It seems like a lot of my spiritual milestones have been happy accidents until I look at them in retrospect.

So here’s what I’ve been leading up to… This is my formal declaration to all my friends and family, and of course, to the readers of this blog. I am giving my life entirely to Jesus. My next move is to figure out if that means becoming a Sister. I think some of you probably saw this coming. You now have license to make all the jokes you want. Admittedly, it’s kind of funny. I did not see this coming. Know that this will change me. How, I don’t know yet, but it will change me for the better.  Also know that I will always be a giant nerd. I will always be kind of weird. I will always be a writer. I will always be a total rock star. I will always be a space cadet. I will always be me.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Own It

Belonging is a high priority for people, made more complicated by the fact that our minds and hearts can comprehend issues like religion, politics, and philosophy. The more things we can belong to, the more things we can be excluded from, and the more difficult it is to figure out precisely where we fit in. Sometimes we simply don’t want to put names to things, but ultimately, identity comes down to categories. We are all unique individuals because of the unique combination of buckets we fit in to. Of course it isn’t always simple. Sometimes our buckets don’t fit together perfectly for whatever reason, and sometimes we fit better in certain groups than in others. Being human is complicated.

I could probably give you an exhaustive list of every bucket I belong in, but it would be a pretty long list. Furthermore, the list might raise some red flags for certain people. I just read an article about a conference held in Houston for LGBTQA Christians. Several different views on many topics were represented, and it seemed like the whole thing was very balanced. Then I read the comments. They were snarky, cruel, and judgmental, and pissed me off royally. I bring this up because I am asexual and Christian, and that might freak some people out, but in my mind, there’s no issue when it comes to bringing these two aspects of my Katie-ness together. In the same vein, as you all know if you’ve been following me for a while, I love stories, particularly fantasy and science-fiction stories. I’ve read accounts from people who have been judged harshly by their churches for their interest in such things. In fact, at my college, I know that some students’ parents took issue with the fact that we were reading mythology in some of my classes.

Obviously some aspects of our personalities are more important to us than others. My sexuality almost doesn’t matter to me at all. It can complicate things here and there, but it’s otherwise not important. The fact that I’m a total nerd is important to me. The freedom to watch sci-fi movies and play RPG’s is something I value very highly, and I don’t find that it clashes with my faith. These stories take place in different universes, so the rules of this one don’t apply. It’s as simple as that, as long as we are able to distinguish fact from fiction, which is, or at least should be pretty darn easy.

Of course belonging isn’t simply a matter of identifying the buckets we theoretically fit into. it’s also a matter of acceptance. We long to be accepted for who we are by the people around us, even if those people are very different from us. Sometimes we’re the black sheep in our immediate families, or in our schools, but we find friends in odd places. Sometimes we fit into the category of weirdos who don’t have much in common other than the fact that we’re weird. Sometimes we’re just the odd ones out, and in that case, we just have to own it. That’s important. Acceptance is often a matter of recognizing confidence. It seems to be natural. Confidence in one’s self is a sign of strength that people will see and appreciate.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize where we belong and how valuable it is. It’s easy to disregard the fact that, although we may not belong in one “cool” or interesting group of people, we are loved by God, and the people we grew up with, and the new friends we make over time. It’s easy to forget what we already have, and we don’t have to strive for something we don’t need and ultimately might not want. Acceptance that is freely given is extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted, though it seems to be a natural human impulse to do so. Of course it is most important to be comfortable with who we already are, while remembering that we can always be better. As long as we strive for our perfect selves, we are the best we have ever been up until this moment. As cliche as it sounds, the most important person to be accepted by is yourself, so own it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Characters

On New Year’s Eve I gave one of my friends a general synopsis of the first half or so of my novel. Then something occurred to me. I have a lot of female characters. It’s not so much the number that might end up being a problem when it comes to reaching certain audiences. It’s their personalities. I have more dudes in my story than ladies, but the ladies are beasts. With the exception of a minor character who I’ve already killed off, there is no “damsel in distress.” My girls all have their issues, but they don’t need a guy to sort them out. In fact, three out of my four main female characters have psychic powers where only two of my seven male characters have these abilities. None of this was intentional. My main characters almost completely invented themselves.

The real problem will most likely be my Super Soldiers or Clone Army, if you like. They’re all female. They’re barely human at this point, but they are female nonetheless. Admittedly, it was intentional. The evil army is always male. Why not make them female? The person they cloned just happened to be a woman. While it was intentional, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, especially since the person who is in charge of the cloning process, and the highest in command, is a dude. I am quite positive that someone will hate this. Someone is going to whine and tell all his friends to boycott my book. It’s just kind of a bummer because I think it’s a fun story. Furthermore, the gender of my Super Soldiers really doesn’t matter. They’re basically mindless, and aren’t even going to appear until late in the story.

I’m more of a feminist than I used to be, and honestly, I think it’s because I see a lack of strong female characters in fantasy and science fiction. In fact, many of my favorite stories have very little female presence. It’s hard to explain because I don’t really mind, but at the same time I do. I have no problem rooting for male heroes. I will forever have a weird sci-fi crush on (young) Luke Skywalker. At the same time, rooting for only male heroes gets tiresome. Honestly, the only real reason I have is that I’m a girl, and I want to be able to empathize with a female hero. Sometimes it just makes it easier to get into her head space, if nothing else. Furthermore, I think it makes it easier to insert myself into a particular universe and make my own story if I have an easy starting point, even if it’s just that the hero happens to also be a lady from a boring town, or what have you.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons, and a game we adapted from Dark Heresy with my friends. I’m the only lady in the group. Most of the time I don’t care except that I eventually notice that, a lot of the time, there aren’t even that many female NPC’s (Non-Player Characters). Sometimes, depending on the DM, there aren’t any. It’s like I’m the only alien to escape from a desolate planet and land on Earth. I guess it must just be natural to make certain characters in certain roles be a certain gender because of factors like your own gender, your upbringing, tradition, etc. There must be a million different factors that contribute to this. I don’t blame my friends. More than anything else, I’m looking for an interesting story. If I’m the only girl, then so be it. I happen to be our group’s designated Jedi, so clearly I’m the best.

To be honest, it kind of annoys me when people get all up in arms about gender issues or race relations or what have you. I know there are still bigots of every kind out there. I just don’t entirely understand why. What I mean is that, I don’t think that stuff should matter. It just seems to me that sometimes people put far too much emphasis on their gender or their sexuality or their skin color. Sure, I’m a woman in a still somewhat patriarchal society, but that’s not the most important thing about me. In fact, I really don’t feel like my gender matters that much at all. I’d say, more than anything else, I’m a Christian and a nerd. I think those are the most defining parts of my personality. Literally anyone can be those things. It’s not particularly special.

I guess my sentiments about all this come partly from cultural automatics, but also from the fact that I’m a pacifist and an optimist. I live in an extremely tolerant part of the country, in an affluent, boring suburban town. Furthermore, it takes a lot to actually get me angry. Most of the time, my initial reaction to problems is “that can be fixed,” or even, “I can fix that.” As I’ve mentioned before, my story is partly a thought experiment in a few different ways, but it started as a fun idea I had while on a wander last spring. I don’t have an agenda. I have some strong female characters, and some disabled characters because I want to. Those kinds of characters represent who I am in some ways, and part of the point of fiction is to be able to make a new world for yourself. If people have a problem with it, it’s on them.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Happy Christmas!

Hey peeps! I just wanted to say happy Christmas to all of my readers and anyone else who might drop in! I wasn’t going to write today, but I’ve ended up working anyway. What can I say? It’s work and it’s fun! The fact of the matter is that our family tends to celebrate more on Christmas Eve. We party, eat foot and exchange gifts and then go to Midnight Mass.

This ended up being a super nice Christmas, but I can’t really put my finger on any particular reason why. It wasn’t really any different than any other year, other than the fact that we had a bitey little parrot in our midst. Seamus got a couple new toys, one of which he was afraid of. My bird is a bit of an anomaly because he’s a fearless little jerk sometimes, but he’s afraid of the most seemingly random things. He’s almost a year old now. Obviously we don’t know exactly when his birthday is, but it’s some time in January. I guess this is maybe a little bit like how parents feel. My boo isn’t going to officially be a boo any more! I’m a little obsessed with my bird.

In other news, I have enough chocolate to feed an army, which is kind of a problem because I have the tiniest appetite in the world. Luckily I have friends who can eat a ludicrous amount of chocolate. I’ve also acquired a certificate for four violin lessons, a day to sleep and be as lazy as I want without being bugged (which, let’s face it, I will probably never use), several Star Wars related things… namely a sign to put in my room and a travel mug, a wireless plug-in thingy for my guitar, and a few games. My parents always get me way more than I ask for.

I missed one or two weeks during Advent, but our priest has been really great, and the service last night was amazing over all. The music was good, the message was new and interesting because our priest is super interested in history and always manages to teach us something new, but the way I reacted to everything was almost weird–in a good way. At seemingly mundane moments I just felt excited. Right before we were going to take communion, when we were going through the motions like usual, a thought and a feeling just kind of came to me. There’s a difference between knowing something and feeling it. Of course I believe and intellectually know that Jesus is alive and coming again, but last night I felt it, and I just got super excited. That’s a good thing to get excited about. To be honest, I don’t often get excited about spiritual things like I get excited about a new development in a story I’m writing or reading, so when I really feel it, it’s the best thing.

As I said, I’ve worked on my story a bit today, and I’ll probably do a bit more. I wasn’t going to because I thought it would be more respectful or something, but I think God wants me to. I’ve been really feeling like he’s pushing me to get this thing done, not to meet a deadline or anything, but just to write an excellent story, and I kind of feel like when I write something good and say “thank you” for it, it’s a real, personal form of worship. People are coming back over later, but for now I’m just going to write until I get stuck.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Write Your Story

 

Over the weekend I went absolutely Star Wars crazy. I’ve already seen the movie three times. I’ve done more than my fair share of theorizing about the next one already. My friends and I have all been very nostalgic about the old movies, and are now super excited about where the story is going. I’ve imagined what it would be like to be a Star Wars character (Jedi or not), and I’ve wondered whether I would turn to the dark side. At the same time, I began to feel a strange, increasing feeling of seemingly misplaced guilt, or something like it.

Eventually I thought, “What gives?”

Then it came to me. “You don’t want to live in that universe. You may feel like you would have more agency; you might have more of a chance of being a hero, but planets get blown up in that universe. Billions upon billions of people die in a matter of minutes or hours.”

Still, this whole thought process wasn’t normal. I’ve done this before–the whole “what if” thing. I’ve imagined myself as another character in another world, living a different story and thought nothing of it.

So I argued. “I’m just having fun. Star Wars is just such a good, fun story. It’s obviously fictional, and no, I probably wouldn’t want to live in that universe. It’s just fun to think about.”

At this point I was convinced I was arguing with God. I probably shouldn’t do that, but it happens. He said, “Your story’s fun, too.”

Me: Yeah, but it’s not as fun as Star Wars.

Him: Make it as fun as Star Wars. It’s your story. You can make it whatever you want it to be.

Me: You mean my novel, right?

Him: Yes.

Me: I’ll try, but I need your help. It’s your story, too.

Him: I know. So you’ve told me. I’ll help you when you get stuck. I want you to write an amazing story, and I want you to use it for good. I know you can.

This is an actual conversation I had. Maybe it was with God, maybe it wasn’t, but answers were coming back to me in a way that made it seem like I wasn’t just talking to myself, and I’m convinced. On top of that, I ended up writing for around four hours straight yesterday, and I finally finished a scene that I was really nervous about writing. I’ve been agonizing and procrastinating because of it for at least a couple of weeks now. Yesterday it just seemed to come to me.

There are going to be two parts to my novel, and I’m very close to finishing Part One. I’m going to have a couple trustworthy people read it before moving on to Part Two, and I’m probably going to have to do a lot of editing, but especially in the past few weeks, for one thing, my style has been improving quite a bit. I seem to be getting back into the groove. I started writing this novel over the summer, and there was a time where I could write ten pages in a day. Then in October (I think) I hit a brick wall and went for several weeks without writing at all. Then my mommy yelled at me. Both my parents, but she especially seem to be convinced that it’s my destiny to write the next great Science Fiction novel. I hope they’re right. I’m falling in love with this story again, and yesterday, as I said, I wrote a lot. I’m going to try and finish Part One by next Monday because I’d like people to read it while they’re on vacation.

For reference, I’ve written almost 120 pages. That’s the most I’ve written ever, at least on one project. I’ve invented a futuristic drug trade. I’ve invented an alphabet. I’ve developed an evil, corrupt government plot (the details of which you’ll just have to wait for). In retrospect, I’m darn proud of this story. If nothing else, it’s complicated. Admittedly, there’s a part of me that wants to use this story to legitimize Science Fiction as a genre in the literary world. At school I took every creative writing class that was offered, but of course, that did not include fantasy or Sci-Fi. In many ways, realistic fiction lost its charm for me a long time ago. It has to be a really freaking compelling story for it to hold my interest. I live in this universe. Why would I want to read about it? If there’s no magic, no dragons, no space ships, no “what if,” then it’s no fun.

The argument, or so I’ve heard, is that sci-fi and fantasy are nothing more than entertainment because they are not relevant to real-world issues. That’s only the case if you let it be. You can absolutely use alternate universes to address issues of morality, power, politics, and spirituality, among other things, all of which come up in my story. What happens if religion is taken out of the equation entirely? What happens when the military has the most political power? What would happen if you brought magic into the equation? A friend of mine said something that i thought was quite interesting and true. She said that a miracle is something that we just aren’t able to explain yet. I’d like to explore that as well.

Anyway, I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons later, so I should get back to work.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Follow Through

On Saturday I was having some issues with my epilepsy, which took a little while to fix, and then I went to a writer’s group, specifically for science fiction writer’s. They meet once per month in Newton MA, which is about half an hour from where I live. I was the youngest person there by 20 years, and the oldest person there could have been my grandfather. They seemed like a really cool group of people. The age difference didn’t bother me. I just found it kind of amusing. We met in a little cafe, and it was noisy, so next month we’re potentially going to meet at my house. It was nice to have a good, stimulating conversation about a genre that I enjoy and care so much about. I’ve really missed this because I haven’t been in school since this past spring. It was also kind of intimidating because, being so much older than me, these people have read so much more than me and their heads are full of so much awesome stuff. It was so nice, though, because they’re weren’t condescending at all. I think they’ll be great mentors.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about my book lately. It just has seemed to come up a lot in conversation. Sometimes I feel awkward telling people that I just graduated and am now writing a science fiction novel because it doesn’t sound like a real job. It’s often difficult to treat it like a job. It’s not always fun, but it’s also very flexible in terms of when I work and for how long, and what I do while I’m working. Sometimes I research technology, sometimes I research politics, sometimes I spend an hour on Google maps just plotting out where specifically things are happening and how those things will affect my story, sometimes I just work on notes, sometimes I work on the timeline of events, sometimes I write a whole chapter in one go.

The more I talk about writing this story, the more interested people seem to be. Sometimes I find it difficult to just sit down and write, but lately I’ve felt more excited, partly because people want me to finish it so they can read it. I know it certainly won’t be for everyone. It’s a science fiction novel, which in the literary world is often disregarded as nothing more than entertainment. I’m trying very hard to make this story important and intellectually stimulating. I want it to matter. It takes place in a post post-apocalyptic society, which means the world has already fallen apart, but now people have started to figure things out, and they’re rebuilding. I’m using this environment to explore a few different ideas. One aspect of my story is essentially a thought experiment about what happens to war when the military becomes automated (i.e. what happens if we have robot, or in this case, super-clone soldiers). Another thing I’m trying to do is expose some stigmas and unfair ideas and policies surrounding people with disabilities. Thirdly, I’m taking a look at what the world might be like in the absence of any religion or sense of a spiritual existence. Obviously I’m a little or a lot bias, but I’m trying to let my characters take the lead, and they’re turning into some very interesting people.

I was telling my dad about all of this earlier today and he told me that I just need to follow through, and that I often seem to have trouble with that. I start a project and then when things get too complicated I chicken out. I don’t feel like that’s entirely fair. He was referring to my musical endeavors, which have, at least for the time being, been put on hold. I’ve thought it through and a successful musical career doesn’t seem manageable. It’s not like I haven’t tried, but for one thing, it’s a colossal investment, which is something I presently can’t afford. Secondly, I can’t get gigs. I’ve tried. I really have. I’m just tired of being ignored in that department, so for the time being, I give up. Thirdly, I don’t think I can reasonably do it, physically. Say, theoretically, I became successful enough to go on tour. Right now I get tired after playing for an hour, so if I were to play longer shows, I would have to physically prepare for that, but beyond that, I can’t be having epilepsy symptoms in the middle of a song. It has occasionally happened at open mics, and it sucks. That kind of stuff would be way more manageable at book signings or what have you, assuming my book does well enough. Fourth, I already have connections in the literary world that I don’t have in the musical world, and I know more about publishing, etc. Lastly, I don’t want music to be work. I love it too much, I know I’m good at it, and I just want to share it; I don’t care if I get paid. I don’t want to treat it like a business because I want it to stay pure, kind of like this blog.

I will follow through with my story. I have thought it through and in so many ways it seems like a much more reasonable option, and it seems like I have a much better chance at getting noticed. I have until the end of next summer to finish it, which should be plenty of time. I know, at least basically, how the rest of the story is going to play out, and the later parts are going to be a lot of fun to write. I even have ideas for possible sequels. Even if this doesn’t do great in terms of payoff, it cost me nothing to make, and I will still consider it a success because this will be the best thing I’ve ever written when I’m done with it. It will need a lot of revision because I’m a perfectionist, but that just means it’s going to be great.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!