Anger is an Energy

“Stay angry, little Meg,” Mrs. Whatsit whispered. “You will need all your anger now.” For those who don’t recognize it, this is from Madeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle In Time.  It’s an important thing to hear, especially for the young (alas, I’m no longer in that group), and for women, and people of color. Too often, there is a denial of anger. You’re not allowed to be angry. You cannot voice that anger. You can’t give it form.

Why? Because it’s rude. It’s unladylike. It confirms everything they say about you. (Never mind “they” are allowed to be angry, and have think pieces written about their anger, and have talking heads on networks want to explore their anger in depth.) I’m going to quote a young lady, Emma Gonzalez, who said today “We call BS!” Anger is needed right now. And I hope this lady stays angry for a long time to come.

Anger is explosive fuel. It can consume you. You’ll burn out like 40,000 matches. But anger can be channeled and focused. It becomes passion and drive. You can use it to build and create. You can use it to fight back in ways most folks can’t conceive.

Take control of your story. Show that your lives matter. Fight the default narrativeBe the stone that the builder refused.

Please. Because we need the right kind of anger now, more than ever.

 

 

 

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So I Turned Myself to Face Me

First, because he caught the sentiment in a bottle:

Another year has clicked away. This one starts with a few changes for me.  But there’s one, regarding my writing, I have to announce now. As far as the IRS is concerned, I am a freelance writer.  Yep. Self-employment taxes start if you earn $400 or more. I’ve earned around $420 from short story publication. It’s not much at all – I’m not going to do without a day job based on this income.  But it feels like I’ve accomplished something. What was Ambassador Kosh said?

OK, maybe not appropriate. But I’ve wanted to share that portrait for a while now. And while pebbles do get caught in the avalanche, pebbles are how avalanches begin as well. Small actions and small changes. A little more rain than usual. A wildfire which takes out just the right stand of trees.  All of these items build into something bigger, until it keeps rolling along. I’m hoping this will start a personal avalanche.

This will take more than a few short story sales and residuals. I need to keep working (and, yes, I do mean the day job) but on other projects as well. So, here’s my 2018 punch list:

 

  1. Write Another Novel – I’ve gotten out of the novel-writing habit as I’ve focused on short fiction. That has to change. I’m working on a book based on a short story wrote last year, and I think it’ll be an interesting story I haven’t seen in the market before.  But, I’ve got to put the work in. The first part of this year will be planning. All planning.  That way, during the second part of the year, I can just dig in and start grinding out the word count.
  2. Submit Stories – This has to continue.  I’ve got six short stories in various stages of planning and writing. I’ve got to work on more, and work on increasing the quality of the stories. If writing a novel is practice for cross-country running, the stories are how I keep my sprinting skills intact.
  3. Get Serious on Education – 2018 will be a learning year for me. I’ll be retraining myself in quite a few skills, but I need to throw myself into a more structured way of improving my writing.  Books on writing books are lovely, but I can only go so far down that road. I’ve been traveling it since I was in high school…
  4. Network – Last year, my wife challenged me: “Have one conversation with someone at a conference that you don’t already know and did not publish you.” It’s her way of saying I need to network more. And it’s true. How many opportunities do I lose because I’m shy? Or I just don’t say, “Oh, why the Hell not?”  Time to say yes, despite my fears.
  5. Photography – To say my photography has suffered in the last year is being kind. I spent most of my energy just surviving. I focused on writing. But I need to make sure I find time, at least once a month, to go and take photos, then post them. Even if it’s nothing fancy – even if it’s just me trying lighting set-ups.
  6. Podcast – This actually combines with photography. I’ve been told I have a decent voice. So I’m planning on a small podcast named after this site. It’ll likely be something thrown up onto either YouTube or maybe my Flickr account, but I figure it can’t hurt to be heard

Yes, this is a lot. Yes, it may be overly ambitious.

But compared to others, I’m in a good place. I’ve got family, friends, and funds I can rely on.  Now, I have to capitalize on my good fortune and see where I can go from here.

The Last Jedi: A few thoughts

Artwork by the amazing Phil Noto. Seriously, this man is amazing.

Just to throw out my bona fides regarding Star Wars: when I was a kid, my family would find me under the table with my original Kenner action figures. Everyone would ask me what I was doing and I’d say, “I’m off with Luke Skywalker.” For Halloween, I dressed as Darth Vader and Boba Fett – mostly because they had cool armor, and no one could recognize me under the mask. When someone asked me who I wish I could be, I said I wish I was Han and Leia’s kid.

As I grew older, I read the Timothy Zahn books intensely. When I played the West End Games Star Wars game, that’s when I started noting a change in me. I didn’t play a Jedi. I played a solider. Or a pilot. Or a smuggler. A nobody with no real history who knew no-one. That, to me, was where the real rebellion lay. Rogue One’s Cassian Andor — he was one of my characters brought to life.

But I’m no longer the kid under the table, wishing he was Luke Skywalker’s best friend. I’m looking for something more.

I’ve argued The Force Awakens needed to be very retro, and close in beats to the original, because it was attempting to bridge the faith lost with Lucas’ prequel trilogy. But, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi is the film I, the adult Andrija, would have made. It had enough cool stuff for the kid in me, but said a lot more. I can see why a lot of folks are not happy with it.

I mean, what are the messages?

  • Legacies can choke you, crush you with expectations, and leave you vulnerable to radicalization by men who prey on your anger and privilege.
  • Think with your head, not with your flight stick…
  • It’s about what you save, not what you destroy.
  • The best examples of the older generation are the ones who realized they failed, but didn’t run from their responsibilities. They owned up to it, and tried to teach the new ones so they could take on the fight.
  • The biggest hive of scum and villainy: It’s Monaco in space, filled with arms dealers and one-percenters. (Irony: An anti-capitalist Star Wars film).
  • And the hope? It’s not in the shiny center of the galaxy. It’s in the kids, playing Star Wars, dreaming of standing up to authoritarian rule by the cruel, callous, and blind.

I’ve supported Rian Johnson since his first film. This is a man who loves filmmaking, and it shows here. There are echoes of WWII films in the opening bombing run. There are samurai films hidden away in here as well – in multiple places, not the least of which are the scenes with Luke at the start of the final act.

And then there’s the use of color. And simple cuts to convey deep meaning. And silence. Oh, the devastating silence.

As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll begin picking apart the structural issues. I can already see them and I imagine the fans & think-piece authors have begun dissecting everything that went wrong. But I will be thinking about this film for a while. I’ll be thinking about the silence in space as true heroes act. I’ll be thinking about Red, White, and Black in stark contrast with each other.

And I’ll be thinking about how true resistance, real rebellion, doesn’t begin with bloodlines and miracle births and money. It begins with people, in small ways, telling stories and dreaming.

Have Yourself An Upgraded Christmas

IMG_20171211_192305_827Once again, I reach a time of year where I’m reflective. Luckily, the day job has been doing its level best to keep me busy, making sure all my energy is spent there and not on frivolities like everything else in the world. But, moments of introspection still creep into my head.  I need to remind myself I’ve actually accomplished a few things:

I’ve been published in two anthologies now. The latest is The Death of All Things and I had the distinct honor of being edited by two authors I admire: Kat Richardson and Laura Anne Gilman. I learned more than I can say working on that story, and have been working on applying those lessons in all future stories.

I’ve got five stories out on submission, and three more in various stages of completion. And, I’m diving back into planning a novel, based on the character from my short story.

My photography has not expanded much this year. I need to change next year, and actually get back to creating and posting images as well as text. But, speaking of images, I’ve made my first AMV in ages. That and a test recording I did had folks suggest I create a podcast which only a few isolated folks will listen to. I think I might mix the two: have the podcast style ramblings but with images I’ve taken, or art by my friends.

But I have to invest more in my writing. And that means moving away from comfort into areas of fear.  It means trying to come back from conferences speaking to at least one person I had not met before. It means making contacts, networking, and all the things my introverted nature hisses at. It means pushing my boundaries. I must improve. I must adapt. I must upgrade.

In the Heat of the Sun: Desert Noir

Film noir. Two words which conjure images of unshaven men in fedoras, dangerous women in evening dresses, rain-slicked back alleys in America’s cities, and… prospectors in California mining towns?

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And yet, I’m starting to find the arid lands outside of the great noir settings hold just as many people making bad decisions in a desperate attempt to escape their circumstances.

Every Sunday morning at 10am Eastern, I visit Noir Alley.  Hosted by Eddie Muller – a man who earned the title “The Czar of Noir” with his work in the Film Noir Foundation – I watch our host lead us through classic films of the era. And while I’ve seen my share of bank jobs gone wrong, or loves turn to murder (and tweeted along to them on #NoirAlley), I was surprised by one location which kept appearing: the desert, and the mountains.

Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino’s High Sierra is a famous example. This early noir ended in the desert town of Lone Pine, California, with a sharpshooter taking down Bogart after a tense stand on the rough mountains. But as films went on, the desert became more and more prominent.

In Framed, Glen Ford’s follow-up to Gilda, Ford plays a mining engineer looking to start anew. He finds an old prospector, a chance at a good job, and a James M. Cain style murder plot all under the glaring sun.  The end of The Prowler, a dark little film staring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keys and written (in pseudonym) by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, ends with the larcenous pair trapped in a ghost town where their adulterous desires will meet a brutal end.

And then there is Split Second. On the surface, this is a hostage drama with escaped convicts. But instead of an urban home, everyone is in an abandoned resort town in the desert under a ticking clock. In this case, an above-ground atom bomb test.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone get their (film production code mandated) bad end through a nuclear detonation.

But even through other films, the desert shows up. Las Vegas becomes a setting in many places. A good number of chase scenes take place out away from the city. I know it’s likely just because it’s cheaper to film out there, yet I think here’s something more.

Take Ida Lupino‘s brilliant film, The Hitch-Hiker. Without the desolate beauty of Baja California, would the main character’s plight as hostages of the high-hiker been half as tense? In the desert, you can run anywhere, and still have nowhere to go, and no safe place to escape.

Think about this the next time you’re heading down a dark road in the middle of the desert, no companions but scrub brush, coyotes, and a strange man who asks you: “Got a light?”

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The Ticking Clock

The Ticking Clock
By
Andrija Popovic
(C) 2017 Andrija Popovic

4:19 AM Eastern Time. 

Every morning, an hour and a half before his alarm was set to go off, he awoke. His eyes snapped open. He took a deep breath, almost gasping. Reaching out, he touched his snoring wife’s form to one side, and his snoring cat’s from to the other. 

You have time. Just go back to sleep. He would tell himself this lie every time. But his mind would never fall back into torpor. He was awake. The ticking clock inside him said it was time to walk about, to rise. The rest of his body obeyed, despite his mind’s dearest wishes. 

After the fifth night, his wife said: “You need to see a specialist.”

So he visited the body shop and had his specialist crack him open. As he lay back, brain case exposed, the specialist peered at a tiny bit of grey matter held between two foreceps. “Well, that’s your problem right there.”

“What?”

“Damn biological clock was never set to auto-update for daylight savings time.  Gonna have to reprogram it and get it synced again. That’ll probably be another nine-hundred or so.”

Goddamned highway robbery, he thought. The specialist took the grey matter away and tinkered with it, quietly, in the background. Another two thousand down the tubes. Still, what was the value of a good night’s sleep?

4:19 AM Eastern Time. His mental clock did not go off. He did not wake up suddenly.

He woke up slowly, and really had to pee. Son of a bitch…

It Was A Day

It Was A Day

by

Andrija Popovic
(c) 2017 Andrija Popovic

I’d just returned home and downloaded into my standard body when Theta pinged my personal network. “Hey? You centered yet?”

“Gimme a bit. I’m still synching.” My work body, designed for zero-G work, rested comfortably in the wall transfer closet. I shook the pins & needles from my normal form. No prehensile feet and tail on this one. Just a baseline model crafted to match against my original body’s DNA.  I watched the counter on my iris-HUD click over to green. All experiences from work were now synced, and backed-up in off-line memory. “Still feeling a little post-sync crud. Heading to the shower. Join me there?”

“Already have it warm for you.” Thea v.7 was one fork of a SyntheticIntelligence I met at work. She (preferred pronoun) ran predictive micrometeorite tracking and helped keep the orbital free of debris. Most nights, she was syncing with her sisters, matching version numbers and trading the day’s news around this time. I’d come home, we’d talk – she liked low-level processing. Said it felt more thoughtful.

When she dropped by early, she was usually interested in syncing with my nervous system, and playing hologram in my tiny apartment. Stepping into the shower, I felt her request for connectivity. Granting it, I closed my eyes. Water ran down my back, pushing aside the transfer closet’s preservative sludge.  Opening my eyes, I saw her in the shower with me. She manifested as a curvy lady in her mid-40’s with curly dark hair and shimmering koi tattoos running along her back.  We complimented each other well. I leaned in and kissed her, the system pairing tricking my nerves into thinking the projection was real.

“Hey. How’s the family?”

“Well. They’re doing well.” She wrapped her arms around my waist. The shower was barely big enough for myself and her hologram. She glitched slightly against the walls. One day, we’d be able to add another sector to our habitat module. Get a full-sized shower with double the projectors. But, I supposed those are the dreams young transhuman couples have: move in together, get more cloud and physical storage, maybe settle down into something permanent. “The sisters did ask me about something, though. And it lead me to think. I took a work cycle of personal time to help sort this through.”

“Oh? What’s that?” I let the shower hit me with soap and hair jell.

Thea reached up and showed me the palm of her hand. The koi tattoo along her back drifted, swimming up to her palm. When it surfaced, it blew a bubble with a compacted optical scan code embedded in the surface. I decoded it in a blink. It was her root address – the one she shared with all the other instances of herself. But it was too long. It had–

“Is this…oh, Thea, are you sure?”

“Yes.” She took my hand. “Maxi, I’d like to single-instance myself with you. I’d like to be a unique Thea. One that lives with you. If you’ll have me.”

By way of an answer, I reached out and took the code from her hand. My personal network read the address information, and instantly gave it a unique presence in my systems. Thea no longer shared a root system with her systems. She shared it with me.”

“I’d be honored.” I held her against me, enjoying the illusion of her actually being in the shower with me. “Welcome home, Thea v.7.m.” And then I laughed. “So, what next? Furniture shopping together.”

“Maybe. Did I tell you I was looking for datalife friendly bodies? Found a few I liked, but wanted to get your thoughts…” Thea smiled. I closed my eyes, picked through a memory of a particularly interesting kiss from my past, and dubbed her into it. She almost purred.

“Thea, hon, you are always in my thoughts. Now, let me get dried off. We can hop the mesh into one of the monitoring satellites and watch the sun hit the orbital as we talk.” Thea returned the kiss, edited and enhanced, and stepped out of the shower. I had a moment to myself.

Shared networks. It was time. And I’d been thinking of asking her. Now the body, that’s a different commitment. We’d need to slow down a bit, but we had time. As I shut off the shower, and walked over to the wall screens where Thea’s preferred bodies were displayed. Most were starter kits – simple, but a good place for any SI to begin feeling the new world. A year from now, maybe we could afford a more advanced model for her.

What is the one-year anniversary gift for a mixed SI/transhuman relationship? I didn’t know. but I wanted to find out.

(Inspired by a recent viewing of Blade Runner 2049.)