Monday, May 28, 2012

Prompt the Muse #32 - Speculative Writing Prompt

Art: Absinthe
A new substance has been discovered that causes bizarre dreams and visions.  A character has partaken of the substance, and had a vision of becoming an evil villain.  Is the vision real?  Does the character think it is real?  Does she or he tell anyone?  Write your answers to these questions in 200 words.

Image Credit:  Absinthe, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eclipse of the Sun - Always Amazing

Somewhat "kludgey" image taken
with an iphone through
eclipse filter glasses
I was lucky to be in the right place (Japan) at the right time (about seven in the morning) to see another solar eclipse.  It is something I never get tired of seeing - something that never feels jaded.  A solar eclipse is a great astronomical event to witness, for a whole variety of reasons.   

The event takes time to unfold, so it gives the viewer an opportunity to observe it in detail.  The effect is dramatic, so there is no wondering if you "saw it" or not.  A shooting star, for example, can happen so fast and can be so faint that you might second guess if you spotted it at all.  Also, it is easy to have a group viewing and sharing a solar eclipse, which adds to the fun and sense of community.

This first image was taken by a friend at my location in Niigata, and we were both surprised it worked as well as it did.  He was pointing his iphone through one of the eyes in a pair of mylar filter eclipse glasses.  We were off of the center of the eclipse path, so our Sun always appeared to have a bite of smaller or larger size taken out of it.  The eclipse was more complete in Tokyo, with the sun becoming a ring (i.e. this was an annular eclipse, not a total eclipse.)  There a friend saw large crowds of people snapping away photos while standing in the street.  (Sure hope they had filters of some kind ... )

Of course there is more than one way to "view" an eclipse.  One unique way is described on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog.  The post shows a sequence of images from a National Weather Service satellite looking down at the clouds of Earth.  Each image shows the shadow of the Moon on the clouds below.  Looking at the images quickly, one after another lets you see the shadow sweep over the Earth.  A really different way to look at an eclipse. 

Crescent suns through
oak leaf 'pinholes'
focused on wooden wall

The most impressive way I've ever seen a solar eclipse was through the branches of a huge, very leafy tree.  I was not looking up, but down at the ground.  The leaves of the tree were so dense they were only letting light through as tiny beams.  In fact, the leaves were acting like little pinholes in a pinhole camera.  They focused the image of the sun, with a huge bite out of it, all over the ground.  There were thousands of little crescent suns all around me, on the ground, the trunk of the tree, and even on me.  It was amazing.  A friend caught a similar image from today's eclipse (but this is only an inkling of what I saw that one time, just to give you the idea ...)

My very first writing prompt here on the blog was about eclipses.  They are a great source of writing inspiration.  We live in unique circumstances, where the angular size of our only satellite is close to that of our primary star, and their orbits allow the satellite to occasionally pass in front of the star.  What might have been different for us if solar eclipses were more common, or if they never happened at all?

Image Credit:  Top, photographer, Andrew Rivkin.  Bottom, photographer, Leonidas Moustacas. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prompt the Muse #31 - Speculative Writing Prompt

Image: Supernova Remnant
Your characters have found a boundary before them.  It was not put there intentionally to bar their way, but nevertheless, it blocks their path.  They cannot break, destroy, or banish the boundary.  How do they pass by or through it to continue on their way?  Write your thoughts in 150 words.

Image Credit:  NASA Hubble Heritage, Supernova Remnant 0509-67.5

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prompt the Muse #30 - Speculative Writing Prompt

Image: Prismatic Spring
A strange substance has been found in a protected natural area that could be very valuable.  Obtaining the substance might destroy the area.  Describe the point of view of someone involved in the dispute, in a way that highlights your chosen genre (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) in 250 words.

Image Credit:  Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Becoming Real in Modern Myth and Future Fables

A Fada Azul - The Blue Fairy
Priscilla Tramontano - noprips
A common trope in myths, fables, and fantasy is that of the construct that becomes "real."  This theme is compelling to us for two reasons.  The first is the desire of every artist to see their creation truly come to life (figuratively if not literally).  The second is the desire of every person to transcend a certain condition (flaws, flesh, etc.) and become something greater.  This second idea is related the concept of salvation, that base mortality can somehow be transcended to perfection.

There are many ancient religious stories that have this theme.  An obvious example is in the Bible, where God fashions man out of clay and breathes life into him.  This is often read to be a portent or promise, where after death flesh itself will be transcended into an existence even more real.  In one version of the Prometheus myth, it is he, a Titan, who fashions mankind out of clay, and Athena who gives it the ability to reason.  It is no surprise that humans, who are so creative, would want to see their own ideas take shape and life.

As with the Biblical account, many stories have a supernatural entity of some kind who provides the actual power for changing what humans have created into a living creature.  In the myth of Pygmalion, it is Venus who turns his statue into a woman.  In the Disney version of Pinocchio, it is the Blue Fairy who first animates the wooden toy, and then later turns that toy into a real boy.  The Velveteen Rabbit becomes an actual rabbit the moment he is kissed by the Nursery Magic Fairy.  However, in each of these cases the driver for the creation to become real is the love of another person: Pygmalion, Geppetto, and the boy who owned the rabbit. The supernatural force provided the power for change, but only after a human already loved the creation.

In more modern times, it is science fiction that has grappled with this theme.  In science fiction, the trope is often that of humans seeking the power to create life, themselves, without the need for supernatural influence.  Frankenstein and Metropolis are two examples of humans attempting to create something like a living person, and meeting with mixed success.  I would suggest that both these stories underscore the idea that love still matters.  If a creature is created without love, or is not loved after creation, it cannot truly become human.

Of course the idea has been taken in any number of directions, including the movie Weird Science and in the character of Data on Star Trek.  I think it is particularly interesting to note that Roddenberry's intention was for the Data character to become more and more human throughout the series, but not quite get there.  A major part of this transformation was Data's acquiring a chip that allowed him to feel and express emotion.  I have this idea that Data did become fully human the moment he made his ultimate sacrifice to save others.  Again, love was what was required.

Which of course brings up the question of where this trope can and will go in the future.  I really like the idea that the real power to become human lies with the creation itself, not with any supernatural force, nor the direct creator.

What are your ideas?  What is the next incarnation of this theme in speculative fiction?

Pax, All

Image Credit:  A fada azul by noprips, Priscilla Tramontano on deviantArt.  Tramontano is a Brazilian artist who has been on deviantArt for eight years.  Of this piece, the artist comments, "Consider this as my own version of “A fada azul”, or, "the blue fairy", the good lady who had turned Pinocchio into a real boy. Wooden boys are sooo last century. But Robots? Yeah, now we are talking."  This amazing piece is used with permission of the artist.  I found this image captivating from the very first time I saw it.  The expression on the robot's face is somehow so plaintive.  And the concept of the "fairy" being in a space suit is so unique.    

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Brilliant Writer Award Thanks, and Other Updates

Art:  Writer Award
Many, many thanks to Deirdra Coppel at A Storybook World for presenting One Writer's Mind with her "Brilliant Writer Award!"  It is always an honor to have the blog get positive feedback from other bloggers out in the speculative fiction community.  I really enjoy blogging, mostly because it provides a chance to connect with other fans and writers of the stuff we all love.  So thanks to Deirdra and to all my followers and readers!

As far as updates, NaPoWriMo has ended and I did indeed produce more poems.  I didn't manage to create one a day but I ended with sixteen drafts.  Two of them are actually not bad at all so I'm feeling good about my effort for the month.

Apparently these crazy challenges like "write 30 poems in one month" or "write a novel in a month" actually work for me.  Since I've also been thinking of going into a short-story writing blitz, anyway, I've decided to try another of these crazy challenges.  The idea is to write one story a week for 52 weeks in a row.  I was inspired by Nicole at Rivera Runs Through It and couldn't get the idea out of my mind.  Now, I've seen this idea roll around for some years and have always talked myself out it.  Not this time.  I am tweaking the rules for myself to be 52 stories by May 1, 2013.  Naturally, the target is one a week but given my travel schedule I might write some ahead or have to do catch up.  Anyway, there is my stated intent - should be a very interesting writing year.

Pax, All

Image Credit:  Brilliant Writer Award, Deirdra Coppel at A Storybook World