Category Archives for Inspiration

What do Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein have in common?

 

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What do Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein have in common?

Well, aside from the fact that they are science fiction icons, they knew how to write stories that kept readers engaged. They have been huge influences in my formation as a sci-fi reader and now as an author.

Of course, this was not something that I did intentionally. It just sort of happened all by itself. The only reason I discovered that my style had been so influenced by these giants was when my editor made the comment after working on my second novel. He told me that my work  “feels like a combination of classic swashbuckling Heinlein with the intellectually satisfying harder science of Clarke” A.T.

Now, that floored me. This guy reads A LOT of science fiction and is a well respected editor. Who am I to argue? At the same time, that is a heck of a lot to live up to. Talk about pressure!

Now, I really don’t know if my work will stand the test of time as Clarke’s or Heinlein’s have, but the reason I’m confessing this to you is that I wanted you to know what to expect when you read my books.

I like to write stories that engage the reader and keep them on the edge of their seat, if possible. I like to create intriguing characters that will be remembered. And as an erstwhile professional scientist, I want to honour the way the universe works by keeping things real with respect to the science. If that makes my style like a melding of some of the greats, then I am satisfied with my efforts.

Me and Leonardo Da Vinci

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No, I’m not intending to compare my self with the great Leonardo Da Vinci…or maybe I am?

For most of my life I’ve been cursed with a constantly growing, diverse number of interests. It only takes one look at the bookshelf in my office to convince anyone that I’ve dabbled in a lot of stuff.

For example: I have 45 books on the subject of golf, equally as many on photography, multiple volumes on drawing and painting. 

There are books about chess, physical fitness, computer programming, neural networks, books on internet marketing, travel, history, anthropology…

I have at least three bibles and numerous books on christian spirituality. Then there are all the books I’ve bought on the subject of writing, dozens of novels and a few books from my attempts to learn german and spanish.

None of this includes the three boxes of geo-science technical books languishing in my garage. Nor does it even consider the hundreds of physical books I no longer had room for and was forced to sell many years ago.

Let’s not even talk about what I have on my iPad!

What I’m trying to say is that over the years I have been interested in a wide variety of subjects, not unlike the great master, Leonardo Da Vinci. I am hardly a master at most of the things I’ve studied, although I am a fairly decent golfer these days. And I don’t think my writing is horrible.

Da Vinci was a master because he explored things during a time when few things were deeply questioned. He exhumed and dissected human corpses in order to teach himself anatomy. He designed and tested various kinds of flying machines after studying the flight patterns and anatomy of birds. Not satisfied with the representative art of the time, he refined the use of perspective in his paintings.

Leonardo was a genius and lived at a time when one person could come close to understanding the sum of human knowledge. Leo had a habit of starting projects only to abandon them to move on to the next shiny object. By today’s standards he might have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). I like to think that his mind worked ahead of his hands and he saw early when a project was not going to live up to his expectations, abandoning it so his time could be spent on more fruitful pursuits.

In the times we live, when the volume of human knowledge is exploding at a geometric rate, it is no longer conceivable that a person can possess the sum total of learning. We no longer have to study subjects under threat of arrest. We no longer have to develop base concepts from observation or first principles. All we need do is surf the internet and most of what we wish to learn is at our disposal. Can you imagine what Leo might have accomplished in the twenty-first century? 

I think poor Leo would have been overwhelmed. Like me, he might flit from one shiny topic to the next in search of something to master enough to add to the science or the art.

Now, I’m not arrogant enough to suggest I posssess anything like the genius of Leonardo. Had I lived in his times, chances are I would have been little more than a peasant or a soldier; a cleric or a monk. I doubt I would have had the courage or tenacity to rise above the cultural expectations and taboos of the day in order to push forward the envelope of knowledge. I would probably have been just as curious, but would never have risked what he did in order to sate his muse.

Leonardo lived at the right time for his genius and the world is better because of that. I am living in the right time for me to satisfy my diverse interests. Perhaps I will eventually produce something for posterity. I can only hope to.

I’m Hooked on The Last Kingdom

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I know the Netflix hit, The Last Kingdom isn’t science fiction. Hell, it isn’t even fantasy. But it’s got me hooked.

The historical drama, set in 9th century Saxon Britain has captivated me far more than George Martin’s more fanciful Game of Thrones epic.

Of course, my introduction to these tales could not have been more different. 

When Game of Thrones came out on HBO, I was at a disadvantage. I don’t subscribe to HBO. But the popularity of the series and its premise had me interested, so in 2013 I purchased all the ebooks and binge read them while on a three week trip to Europe. (You need something to occupy youself between churches and train stations)

A year later, I saw the first televised episode of the series and, frankly, was disappointed. Certainly not by the production values or acting, or even the script: all of that is amazing. My problem was that I’d read the books first and had an imagery in my head that the film production could never reproduce.

I’ve come at The Last Kingdom a little differently. Based on the historical novel series The Saxon Stories, by Bernard Cornwell, the tale follows the adventures of Uhtred, son of Uhtred, the orphaned son of a Saxon nobleman who was captured by Viking Danes and raised as one of them. The setting of the story is the late ninth century, before the separate Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were eventually united into a single kingdom by Alfred the Great. Young Uhtred grows to manhood and is forced to choose between a kingdom that shares his ancestry and the Danish invaders who raised him, his loyalties constantly tested.

The thing I like about the series is what I enjoy about hard science fiction. It is based on facts and does not stray into the realm of the fantastic. Game of Thrones, while rife with political intrigue and filled with sword play and all that fun stuff, finds ample roles for dragons, witches, zombies and other imaginary creatures. While I find nothing objectionable to Fantasy (I was and still am a great fan of Robert E. Howard), I still admire a writer who can weave a tale set in the physical world and make it worth my time.

Now, since I have approached this backwards, having watched the film adaptation first, I have every intention to read Cornwell’s books. 

The first season’s story-line roughly covers the plots of the original two novels, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman. The second season will roughly cover the plots of the third and fourth novels, The Lords of the North and Sword Song.

After I’ve read them, I’ll report back about which medium I prefer.

How about you? Do you prefer books or film adaptations? What is your favorite film or television adaptation of a book or series?

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