Friday, March 22, 2019

FIDDLING WHILE THE WORLD BURNS


Most of my reading is for pleasure. But occasionally I take up a book of nonfiction—a history or biography or tale of true adventure—to educate myself. And very rarely I read something out of a sense of duty, recognizing I need to know whatever is between those particular covers, no matter how difficult the literary journey might be.



The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells falls into the last category. This is a painful book to read, dense with fact, crowded with horror, bleak with certainty. Its author is not out to convince those who don’t “believe” in global warming, or refuse to accept the fact that humans are responsible. He is not even writing to offer blithe solutions to our dilemma. He is here simply to tell us it is almost too late to reverse the headlong course we are running toward universal disaster. 

What started with the burning of fossil fuels for industry at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution a little over 200 years ago has accelerated in a single generation (our own) to untenable levels. This Goldilocks planet, ideal for the evolution of humans, is rapidly becoming rendered unable to sustain human life. We are fooling ourselves if we think this process is a slow one; we are deluded if we believe we can escape it without concerted, even heroic, action. Global warming is not a myth, or a liberal conspiracy theory, or a natural cycle such as the Earth has seen before (unless you count it as another mass extinction event, of which there have been five). And, as Wallace-Wells puts it in the opening sentence of his book: It is worse, much worse, than you think.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been chronicling the local minor impacts of warming on my world as I see them through the seasons: the decline of the monarch butterflies, the unrelenting storms and floods pounding the vulnerable coast of North Carolina, the droughts and resulting wildfires in summer in the mountains. Wherever you live, if you are in tune to nature, I’m sure you could give examples, too. Wallace-Wells insists we won’t even have time to adjust to this “new normal” before we are looking back at this time as a paradise. 

The International Organization on Climate Change estimates we have only 12 years to implement real changes before it is too late to make a difference. My middle grandchild will not even have graduated from high school by then. My youngest grandchild will be starting middle school.

What kind of world will they face?

There is far too much information in The Uninhabitable Earth to relate here. But I did find two ideas of particular interest to us as members of the science fiction community. The first concerns us directly: Wallace-Wells wonders why no one has written that novel or film imagining the post-warming world and its challenges. We have apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic worlds aplenty, but their dangers stem from almost anything BUT the very real dangers of heat, flooding, famine, displacement and economic collapse that will result from warming. We have zombies, pandemic (which, okay, could come from warming), alien invasion, monster invasion a la GODZILLA, super-villain destruction, nuclear war in multiple forms, resource depletion (almost always envisioned as fossil fuel depletion, now almost a joke given what we will sacrifice to make sure those fuels remain plentiful) and unspecified desertification. Of these, perhaps only the last comes closest to a real vision of what warming will bring but fails to really address the cause.

I suspect that no one has tackled this fiction challenge because, as Wallace-Wells’s book so clearly points out, “civilization” won’t come back from the impact of 3° C. of global warming. At that temperature, great swaths of the planet will be unlivable, not only at the equator, but above and below; the polar ice will be gone; the oceans will be dying; two-thirds of the world’s major cities will be under water. It is difficult to imagine even small acts of heroism or hope in this kind of setting. Colman McCarthy’s The Road comes to mind, though that book is based on a nuclear winter scenario.

Wallace-Wells also mentions Fermi’s Paradox in connection with global warming. That old chestnut, a theory attributed to one of the physicists responsible for the atomic bomb, ponders why we’ve never heard from any alien civilization if they exist out there in the vast universe. But Wallace-Wells (and others he names in the book) wonders if perhaps there is a curve to industrial civilizations that leads inevitably to their own destruction by global warming. Once they reach a point where they might be capable of reaching out to other planets, they are already doomed by their own rapacious use of their own planets’ resources.
Biblical levels of doom: The fire this time?
None of this, as I said before, is fun reading. But it is thought-provoking. And necessary if we hope to envision any kind of steps to avoid what is coming. I may not agree with everything this gloomy author says, but I can see enough of what’s happening to believe we can’t continue to blindly follow this increasingly perilous path.


RITA, GOLDEN HEART WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Finalists in the Romance Writers of America's RITA and Golden Heart contests were named  March 21. Congratulations to all! Sadly, only one finalist in the RITA paranormal category was a science fiction romance, Cara Crescent's Wretched. I, for one, will continue to press RWA for a separate category for SFR, for a number of reasons, including legitimacy of judging. (I judge the contest every year.) Even more sadly, this is the final year for the Golden Heart contest for unpublished manuscripts, a key feature of RWA's unique program of encouraging fledgling authors. I am devastated to see it go.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photoshop for authors

I'm sure we all agree that a book's cover is pretty much the shop front for an author's work. A picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. I don't always agree with that but certainly if a cover doesn't (and shouldn't) sell the book, it goes a long way towards getting a potential reader to at least read the blurb.

It's the same with websites. Make them interesting with suitable images and people will be more likely to look further.

Recently I came across Covervault, a site hosted by a designer who makes templates available for free use to anyone who wants them. You can download his templates as zip files which open to a Photoshop .psd file and .jpg files showing the end results. He has templates for boxed sets, stacks of books, series - you name it.

I'm no Photoshop expert but I know a little bit, so I downloaded his series templates. After viewing Mark's video tutorial, I set to. As far as I can tell Photoshop Elements doesn't really support smart objects the way Photoshop CC does. What Mark explains in his tutorial works in CC. You probably can use Elements by using transform-skew to put your covers into place but the result won't be as good.

Here are some of the results, which I've used to jazz up my website.






There's no Misfits series yet - but there might be in due course

This one allows for a background, making a poster. I'm really pleased with how it turned out.


Here's another one using the same template
.

If you like to play with Photoshop take a look at Mark's site. It's free - and it's fun.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sci-Fi Tees Strike Again!

Since I don't have anything more exciting to share this wonderful day-after-St.-Patty's-Day Monday morning, I'll treat (?) you to another installment of my Sci-Fi T-Shirt Collection. These are all newbies that I've picked up since December.

Actually...I was attempting to do my first video blog today with my t-shirts as the subject, but our horrendously slow-to-the-point-of-being-ridiculous (I'm looking at you CenturyLink) internet speed would not allow me to email or download said videos, so we'll have to save my video blog debut for another time.

::: avoids urge to go on rant about horribly substandard internet service :::

Suffice it to say we're working on a solution that hopefully will let me begin video blogging in the near future, like just about every other author I know who doesn't have the distinct misfortune of living with CenturyLink DSL in the hinterlands.

[Do you get the impression I'm fed up? Why, yes. Yes I am.]

Okay, I snuck a l'il rant in there anyway, didn't I?

Enough grousing.

On to the T-Shirt Show and Tell.

Let's start at the beginning. Literally. heh

This new find may be one of my fave shirts of my entire Star Wars tee collection.

I've been looking for it forever--knew it had to be out there somewhere--and finally found it!

Sadly, my photo doesn't do it any justice, because it actually has bright blue letters that stand out boldly on that flat, black background and spell out the famous words...

A long time ago 
in a galaxy far, 
far away....

That needs no introduction.

In the sci-fi universe, it's a trademark in and of itself. And it doesn't even need the Star Wars logo in brilliant yellow or blazing red to form a frame of reference. You can hear the theme song fire up in your head as soon as you read those words, can't you?

Seriously, is there anyone on the planet who doesn't know what that vague scene-setter preamble is announcing?

*cue orchestra with iconic theme music*



Next up...

Quick change of universe and franchise.

Ooooooh.

Aaaaaaah

This one also lacks any sort of logo labeling, but it's pretty obvious at first glance what famous sci-fi ship is pictured in all it's ET-esque glory in front of that big, full moon.

Of course it's the Firefly-class starship Serenity. 

She's probably one of the more maintenance-challenged ships in the sci-fi universe, in spite of the best efforts of her uber talented ship's mechanic, but we love her anyway.

Or maybe, we love her more because of her quirks and failings.

In case you've never made her acquaintance--or even if you have but just want to be back on her shuddering decks one more time--here's a quick trip on the good ship Serenity.



Next I have a special find. Because in space, no one can hear you scream...for coffee! And if your ship happens to get hurled thousands of light years from home and coffee is a rare-but-very-necessary commodity for a certain commanding member of your crew, you can certainly appreciate the sentiments.

THERE'S
COFFEE
IN THAT
NEBULA
    --CAPTAIN JANEWAY

Well, I appreciate those sentiments anyway. I couldn't function without my coffee either, Federation directive notwithstanding!

I even have coffee mugs that match this t-shirt.

Do you sense a theme here? I love my coffee. It's something Captain Janeway and I have in common.

Another is I like it prepared the same way.

"Coffee. Black."

But here you go. Experience this little moment of sci-fi fandom history as it unfolded on the Federation ship Voyager, Captain Janeway commanding.

[You may need to turn your sound up for this one.]



I also have coffee mugs that match the t-shirt.

And finally, I have another t-shirt from the Star Wars realm that is quite a memento.

It features scenes from the entire spread of the franchise's three (okay, make that two-and-three-quarters) trilogies along with the signatures of many of the stars who played the iconic roles.

Harrison Ford.

Mark Hamill.

Carrie Fisher.

They're all there.

Who needs to chase down autographs? 
: grin :

I have four more t-shirts to reveal, but I'll save those for another blog--or even a future video blog if our venture pans out.

If you just happen to be tuning in and missed my Sci-Fi T-Shirt Collection trilogy of blogs in 2018, here are the links so you can do a quick review.

The Tees Have It: Wearable Statements of Sci-Fi Fandom

The Tees Have It: Take Two (Including Star Trek)

The Tees Have It: Final Edition

Let me know your fave to date. :D

Have a great week!



Friday, March 15, 2019

CAPTAIN MARVEL SURPRISES IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS


My favorite superhero movies are origin stories, those tales of how our comic book saviors gained their powers (in the case of Marvel characters) or first came to Earth/began their lives of fighting crime (in the case of DC characters). What makes a hero (or heroine) is always the most interesting part of the story, and Marvel’s CAPTAIN MARVEL, in theaters now, has two such fascinating origin tales.

The first and most important, of course, is the overarching portrait of Carol Danvers, aka Vers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson, ROOM, TRAINWRECK), who, like most Marvel characters acquires her superpowers in an accident. How this happens is not revealed until almost the end of the film, however. And from this point on, it’s going to be very difficult to explain just how good CAPTAIN MARVEL is without getting a little spoiler-y.

At first, we’re led to believe the young woman called Vers by her handsome commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) is just another soldier facing her first test in battle against an alien foe. She has problems controlling her emotions, which lead to difficulties controlling her powers (a sort of undefined killer blast from her hands). Even the Supreme Intelligence, the AI that rules their planet who looks surprisingly like Annette Bening in a flight suit of some kind, warns Vers that she must put a leash on these pesky emotions, or she will be of no use to anyone.

Comes the big battle and Vers is captured by the alien Skrulls and “brainscanned” for information. The process triggers memories that the “soldier” can’t account for—a childhood and early adulthood on a planet different from the one she defends. When she escapes from the Skrulls, her pod crash-lands on that very planet—Earth—where with the help of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) she begins to piece together the story of her earlier life.

I won’t reveal all the twists and turns of Carol/Vers/Captain Marvel’s story, because it is truly a wild one. Let me just say that the good guys and the bad guys are not who they first seem in this film. Even a purring kitty hides a secret identity, though both eventually fight for the “right” side. CAPTAIN MARVEL was a surprise from beginning to end.

As it happens, the filmmakers (writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) chose several times to take the path less traveled with CAPTAIN MARVEL. Historically, the comic book character has been written as either male or female, depending on the year. So, to make this Captain a female fighter pilot was a plus from the start. Her best friend in the USAF is also a female, and African-American, too. The female perspective is not just window-dressing, either. A montage of “fall-down-get-up-fight” moments from Carol’s younger days would never have come from anything but a woman writer. [SPOILER ALERT] Then, too, the good guys in this film turn out to be the ugly green lizard-y aliens; the bad guys the good-looking human-y ones. And it might be good to remember a cat is not just a sweet piece of fluff.

I said at the beginning of the piece that this film featured two origin stories. The second is S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury’s tale. Vers crash-lands on Earth in the 1990s, when Fury is just an agent in the nascent organization, not its head. At the beginning, he reminds us, though his full name is Nicholas Joseph Fury, no one, not even his mother, calls him anything but Fury. And that eye-patch he sports in all the Avengers movies? We learn how he gets that here.

This was among the better of Marvel’s efforts, and I say that as a true-blue DC fan. Definitely a GO!

Cheers, Donna


About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.