What is Sci-Fi???

Whenever anybody mentions Sci-Fi I can see the shutters going down. For many people this genre is one that they would shun. It is the world of space opera, Star Wars and Star Trek, but not for me (much as I enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek).

When I think of Science Fiction I think of topics and areas that are much more relevant to today. I think of social, political and environmental issues. I think of human beings being placed in situations that test the scope of their emotions, intellect and abilities.

Sci-Fi is about real life.

The great Science Fiction writers include Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Philip K Dick, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Iain Banks – people who involved themselves in real social, political and environmental issues that pertain to our lives.

We live in a scientific age. Science has propelled us into a universe that is vastly different to the world our ancestors inhabited just a couple of centuries ago. The pace of change is relentless and extraordinary. What is science fiction today is tomorrows mundane existence.

Never in the history of this planet has change happened so quickly – and it’s getting faster.

Science fiction is such an enormous genre. That is what attracts me. There is so much potential to look at the future, the past and the present. To imagine different worlds, parallel universes, quantum reality and infinity – and they are real.

In the middle of it are human beings. We haven’t changed. As the world around us, reality and understanding spirals out of all recognition, we are left with the same brains and hormones we possessed back in our first steps on the African savannah. We live, love and have the same feelings and ambitions. Our psyche has not altered.

Science fiction is about how we deal with the new situations that science presents us with. It might be aliens. It could be environmental destruction. It may involve travel through space and time. It might be about inner space, alternative histories, or it could be the propaganda wars.

One thing is certain – science fiction has no limits.

Science fiction is not a cartoon genre. Some of our best writers dabbled with science fiction. Science fiction is about the endless possibility, in the midst of which, ordinary human beings try to solve extraordinary problems and live lives that all of us would recognise.

Science fiction is about people and the universe we inhabit. That’s why I love it.

Check out my Ron Forsythe site – home of the best of my Sci-fi:

https://wordpress.com/view/ronforsytheauthor.wordpress.com

Poetry – A Tessellated Dream

A Tessellated Dream

 

I live in a world of strings

Lost in a few dimensions.

Reality is lost to my eyes

As I inhabit our inventions.

The macrocosm and microcosm

Are invisible to me

And time is fleeting

In this reality.

For there is no such thing

As substance or stability

The illusion is convincing though

I struggle to really see.

I’m very leery of the m-theory.

Things are not what they seem to be.

All time exists as a single moment

And in the quantum universe

Things exist and don’t exist

It’s really quite perverse.

This world may not be as it seems

As we splutter out of these tessellated dreams.

 

Opher – 5.9.2020

Ron Forsythe Science Fiction – Future Projects

Future Projects

Please check out my Ron Forsythe Science Fiction site:- https://ronforsytheauthor.wordpress.com/

Recently I have been reading a Stephen Hawking book – Brief answers to Big Questions – and I found it extremely thought-provoking.

A lot of science, particularly in the field of astrophysics, is now stranger than Sci-Fi. Who would have imagined the 11 dimensions of M-theory? I find that aspect of science fascinating. The quantum world and time are plain weird and do not seem to make sense in terms of our own reality. But it was the other topics that intrigued me (neither of which are particularly new but both of which are on the verge of becoming real).

There were two main themes that set my mind racing. One was A/I. Stephen found this a threat to humans. He was looking at the huge advances that have been made in computers over recent years, doubling their capacity every two years, and predicted firstly that these machines would soon exceed human intelligence and secondly that they would be conscious. His fear was that their intelligence might far outstrip us and they could consider us superfluous. Now I am aware that this has been a standard theme in Sci-fi for a long time – right back to 2001-A Space Odyssey – but this is real science and it appealed to me.

The second theme of Stephen’s that stimulated my creative juices was the idea that we now had the means to genetically alter organisms easily. Not only can we switch genes from one species to another but we can alter those genes and create entirely new characteristics. So we could take a gene out of a daisy or a jellyfish and put it into a human. We could take a specific gene, involved in our intelligence for instance, and play about with it to see if we can improve on it.

Stephen suggested that there was no way of controlling this. Even if experiments on humans was considered unethical and banned, there would be nations with secret labs who would not be bound by such ethics.

Stephen suggested that we were on the cusp of a revolution. Not only would our crops, farm animals and food be radically altered in the forthcoming years, but we would be too. We are on the verge of identifying the genes involved with intelligence. Once we have achieved that we could optimize them, perfect them and ultimately create humans who were immensely intelligent.

Once again, these ideas are not Science Fiction, they are real science – but my mind is already looking at storylines. Soon real science may become Science Fiction. We’ll see.

What Stephen’s book achieved was to inspire a few storylines. We’ll see if they mature into stories or novels.

Keep watching this space.

Poetry – The Myth of Solidity

The Myth of Solidity

 

Atoms are not solid.

They have no substance

Just energy

And force-fields.

Emerging out of nothing,

To create something,

As reality builds.

 

We’re dissecting quarks

To fathom out

Infinity,

As the truth yields.

Antimatter and matter

Swirl in fresh space and time

With all the might

The cosmos wields.

 

This is the real quest;

The search for understanding.

 

Opher – 17.8.2020

Stephen Hawking – Lucy Hawking talking about her father.

Stephen Hawking had a degenerative disease –amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that wears away at nerve and muscle function over time. It affects the muscles but not the brain. While in his early twenties he was given just months to live. Most people would have curled up and died.

Here is what his daughter, Lucy Hawking had to say about him:

‘My father never gave up, he never shied away from the fight. At the age of seventy-five, completely paralysed and able to move only a few facial muscles, he still got up every day, put on a suit and went to work. He had stuff to do and was not going to let a few trivialities get in his way.’

What an inspiration that man was!

He is rightfully buried in St Paul’s Cathedral between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Not bad!

 

Writing

Writing.

 

I have always enjoyed reading, right from an early age, and writing seemed a natural progression.

In Primary school, Friday afternoon was my favourite time. We were given the whole afternoon to write ‘a composition’. Back then we wrote with a pen and ink. You dipped your nib in an inkwell. My index finger and thumb were always stained with ink. I was not the tidiest boy. My pages were a mass of blots and smudges. But I wrote reams. It flowed out of me. I struggled to keep up.

It has been that way ever since.

I loved it. I allowed my imagination to run down whatever path it chose. I wrote about anything that came into my head – mostly nature; I was besotted with nature.

I think my love of Sci-fi was nurtured by the old comics we used to read – Adventure and Wizard. They always had a Sci-fi story or two which I greatly enjoyed.

As I grew into a teenager I moved on to Sci-fi novels. John Wyndham was my favourite.

I started writing novels when I was in college.

I had no desire for wealth or fame. I merely had a headful of ideas and enjoyed writing. The ideas came and I wrote them down. It was a natural progression. At college, my friends and I would stay up all night gabbing about life, death and the universe. My mind was lit up. So I wrote it all down. Some were Sci-fi, some philosophy, some nature and some spiritual. It was incoherent, adolescent but fun.

I suppose back then I had a vague notion of living the poor writer’s life, eking a living in some garret and devoting myself to my art. I was transfixed by writers like Kerouac, Henry Miller, Robert Sheckley and Isaac Asimov. They inspired me to write.

Life intruded.

But the writing still continued. After the kids were asleep and the wife had gone to bed I would be at my typewriter tapping away into the early morning – completely absorbed – just me and a stream of ideas. It took me over.

I accumulated great wadges of novels, bored friends, drove the wife to distraction, and yet still carved out a career in education.

But I always told myself that, when I retired, I would rewrite all my scribblings, knock them into shape, and get them published.

What I now have is the result of fifty-years work.

Poetry -Out of Nowhere

Out of Nowhere

 

It came out of nowhere,

Creating somewhere,

Getting bigger.

Then it will die.

 

It was not created,

Not planned,

With no direction.

It just happened.

 

It has constant laws

So immutable –

Create what we are,

Dictate what we do.

 

It is made of energy,

Matter and antimatter,

Quarks and rays,

Lots of space.

 

It has time.

Time isn’t constant.

Time stopped.

Time started.

 

We live in it.

We are of it.

It is in us.

We see it.

 

We cannot understand

How or why.

Or that permanence

Is the illusion.

 

Opher – 27.7.2020

Writing a Book takes a Team!!

Writing a Book takes a Team!!

What is quite apparent is that writing a book requires a team of people. Rarely does one person have a complete skill set to handle the task.

Writing a book entails:

Having the imagination to envisage the novel.

Having the ability to create a plot.

Having the writing ability to create interest in a reader.

Being able to invent characters.

Being perceptive to see flaws in the plot.

Having the knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling to be able to correct mistakes.

Possessing the ability to make the language flow and create pace.

Being able to describe the novel in such a way as to create interest without introducing spoilers.

To possess the artistic skills to design a cover.

To build up the social media connections and other media connections to market the book.

Creative people rarely have the objectivity or skills to redraft, edit or see the flaws in their writing. They require a methodical editor to point out necessary improvements and corrections.

A person skilled at writing may not be at all skilled at design or even able to create an enticing and succinct back cover blurb.

Building up social networks, writing press releases, doing book signings and developing contacts, takes time. Most writers would rather be writing and might well be hopeless at communicating in other ways.

A team can hone and present a book to optimise its potential.

Writing a good book and selling it requires a good team. That’s why writers form relationships with publishers and Literary Agents.

Designing the cover

Designing the cover

No matter how good your book is nobody is going to know that until they start to read it. The only things they have got to go on is the book cover and what you have written about the book on the back cover. If you are not a well-known name you have to rely on attracting potential readers through the visual medium.

An eye-catching cover, along with enticing back-cover notes, might just convince a reader to take a chance on you as a new writer.

I remember having a depressing conversation with an editor. He asked me how many Sci-Fi books an average Sci-Fi fan might read in their lifetime. I enthusiastically replied ‘thousands’. He was more sceptical but asked me how many good Sci-Fi books, by established writers, were already published and out there. We left that hanging.

He then asked me to imagine I was going on a long flight and I wanted to buy a novel for the journey. He told me to imagine I was browsing the Sci-Fi section at a book shop. Would I be more attracted to an Isaac Asimov or an Iain Banks that I had not read than taking a chance on a Ron Forsythe?

It was a tad disheartening.

All one can do is to design a cover that attracts, like a flower touting for bees. The cover can be a make or break. It has to stand out from the crowd.

A cover should say something; it should visually relate to the story. It is a statement. It tells the reader what the book is about within a scan of the eye.

The cover should also capture something of the author.

A picture says more than a thousand words.

Designing a cover is crucially important.

Here are the covers I have designed for my books:

The wonders of Editing.

The wonders of Editing.

Having written the book, restructured and rewritten/redrafted the text, it is time to start the editing.

Having now achieved a book whose ‘shape’ and story you are happy with, it is time to make sure it works for readers. The writing has to flow so that a reader becomes absorbed in the story and not the words. If a piece of writing works, it creates pictures in the readers head, it conveys emotions, the characters come to life and the world inside the story becomes real.

Part of the success of a story is the sentence structure, the grammar and the spelling. Clumsy sentences, spellos and bad grammar break the spell. Once the spell has been broken, the whole of the magic you have worked hard to create dissolves.

Editing requires objectivity. Objectivity is almost impossible because, having created your ‘baby’, you are emotionally connected. When you read back through your work you are subjective, you know exactly what you meant. Your brain reads it as it imagines it is, not as it is. Your bad habits, failings and wrongly learnt language are glossed over. But to a reader these faults stand out.

I have discovered that if I read a piece of my writing over the shoulder of somebody who is reading it, all the faults jump out at me. It is as if I am seeing it through their eyes. Unfortunately, I do not have an editor hidden away in the cupboard to bring out as required so, initially, I have to do it on my own.

Unlike with redrafting, I have to leave the novel for a period of time before starting to edit.

When the time is right I start. I need to summon my full concentration and focus on the work word by word. The task is to analyse each sentence in order to make it flow, to create a variety of length and complexity so that it reads easily and the language has interest for the reader. I have to avoid repetition, correct spelling and grammar and ensure that the correct words have been selected, the ones that contain all the subtlety and nuance required.

A novel is a long piece of writing. Editing can be daunting. It can be tedious and frustrating. When I am editing I will often work eight to ten hours a day. I am focussed on completing the task. I tend to work fast.

I usually edit a book twice. It is amazing how many glaring errors make it through the first time.

Then I send it off to one of my editors. They bring a totally objective eye to bear.

When the document comes back to me I am always surprised by the amount of work that still needs to take place. My editor will have noted lots of repetition (of words and ideas – I have a habit of putting things in twice, often reworking the same idea with different words), grammatical errors, sentences that do not work and the odd spelling mistake. Once these mistakes/improvements have been pointed out they are obvious.

Every writer needs a good editor. Being objective with ones own writing is almost impossible.

Redrafting is looking at the big picture; editing is looking at the minutiae.

When fully edited the book is now ready – but that is not the end of the story!