Filed under: General Musings, tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, UFO, Space, movies, Violence, Guns, Society, 2nd Amendment, Government, Connections, Wired, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Fireworks, Ballistics, YouTube, Nuclear weapons, Preparedness, Privacy, Civil Rights | Tags: jim downey, blogging, technology, Science Fiction, video, www youtube, space, augmented reality, predictions, ballistics, guns, Guns.com, movies, laser, drones, USSR, drone, Boeing, Watch the skies, North Dakota, Cold War, The Thing, ammunition
That’s from the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, one of the first (and defining) science fiction movies which set the stage for much of what was to come even to the present day.
It was also very much a product of the early Cold War era, reflecting the fear* of the USSR and atomic weaponry. This is typical — science fiction usually is a reflection of (or commentary on) the technology and social conditions of the era when it was created.
So, what to make of two news items which showed up this week?
Here’s the first:
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.
With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.
And here’s the second:
Hang on to your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.
The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.
* * *
Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.
I’m already seeing posts by friends on social media complaining about drones being operated by annoying neighbors, with discussion about what possible solutions there might be to deal with them (both by legal recourse and um, more informal approaches). There have been a number of news items already about people who have shot down drones, and there’s even a company advertising a specific kind of shotgun ammunition for just that.
“Watch the skies!”, indeed.
Filed under: Flu, Pandemic, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, Darnell Sidwell, excerpt, fire-flu, flu, influenza, jim downey, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn the Last, pandemic, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
Part of a scene from the chapter I posted an excerpt from a week or so ago. Context: at this site, when news of a pandemic flu has just broken, and governments are attempting to stop its spread with a variety of travel restrictions. If you’ve read Communion of Dreams you may find a connection here.
Darnell couldn’t help himself, he turned and looked at the monument as well. He knew that it was of modern origin, but it felt as though it were ancient, like the sacred standing stones found all over Wales. A dark grey granite, mottled across the surface. It wasn’t very wide, perhaps just a meter or so. It was four or five times as tall, with the upper portion like a smoothed-over pyramid.
“This is where hope died,” said a man’s voice beside him.
Darnell looked at the man. He was shorter than Darnell, about the same age. Wearing workman’s clothes, a simple flat-brimmed hat. “Then why come here? Why now?”
“I dunno,” said the man, shaking his head slightly. “I just felt … drawn here.”
Darnell nodded. “You’re local?”
“Yes, jus’ outside of town. Family farm.” The man looked at Darnell, seemed to make a decision. “Look, iff’n you need a place to stay … you know, for the time being … you can come an’ stay with my family.”
Darnell considered the man. “This isn’t where hope died. It still lives in you and all the decent people here.”
The man looked uncomfortable with this praise. “I dunno about that. But if you need a place …”
“I’ll be fine. But you – you and your family need to prepare. I know about these things – trust me on this. Hard times are coming, you may need to hunker down on your own for a while.”
The man shook his head. “No mister. If hard times are coming like you say, then we’ll all need each other that much more. You’re welcome to stay, if you don’t have someplace of your own to go to.”
Filed under: Humor, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, Facebook, humor, jim downey, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writer's block, writing
A friend posted this little aphorism to my profile on Facebook:
Writer’s block: when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you.
Hmm. Pithy, but not sure I agree.
For me, being blocked isn’t about the technical stuff – dialog, description, understanding motivations. That’s all pretty straight-forward.
Rather, it tends to happen when I am trying to see the whole arc, and how a particular scene will fit into the developing narrative. There’s always a balance between knowing that you want to get from point A to point B on the ‘map’ of your story, and then working on the scene-by-scene movement. It’s been described as being like driving at night: you may know your destination a 100 miles away, but your headlights only illuminate the quarter-mile of the road ahead at a time. Being blocked is like having your headlights fail.
Oh, and if you’re not at least following me or the Communion of Dreams page on Facebook … well, you should. I’m obviously brilliant and share a lot of interesting links and observations about the world there. Just think of what you’re missing! ;)
Filed under: Marketing, NPR, Promotion, Science Fiction | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, flash fiction, Flight MH370, free, Her Final Year, jim downey, NPR, promotion, Réunion, Science Fiction, short story
She stood there before the large table at one end of the closed hanger. The whole space was brilliantly illuminated by the lights high overhead, but additional work lights illuminated the piece of debris on the table from several additional angles, so that there were almost no shadows cast. The white paint had been abraded. There were smudges of something like algae here and there. Barnacles were clustered along joints, where they could get purchase either on the flaperon itself, or on other barnacles which had attached before them. There were even bits of seaweed, still drying.
“It looks fine to me. I mean, just what I would expect after more than a year in the ocean.”
“So, it’s from Flight MH370. What’s the problem? Why’d you call me in?”
The man handed her a clipboard containing a paper report. She took it, glanced at it. “I don’t read French. What’s it say?”
“Well, among other things, the barnacles are dead.”
“I guessed that from the smell.”
“Yeah, but what’s interesting is that the lab determined that the barnacles were more dead than they should be. I mean, they had been dead longer than expected.”
“Oh? Why? What killed them?”
He reached out, as if he were going to touch one with his gloved hand, then thought better of it. He continued to look at the encrustations. “Starved to death. Seems they couldn’t digest the plankton there off of Réunion.”
“Why not? That’s where the barnacles are from, aren’t they?”
“Yep. That’s exactly the type found there.” He turned to look at her again. “Just one problem: these barnacles can only digest left-handed proteins.”
She sighed, looked down at the clipboard out of habit, even though she knew she couldn’t read what was there. Then she looked back to the man. “Mirror lifeforms. Dammit.”
“And they promised — PROMISED — that this wouldn’t happen again! OK, I’ll alert the Council.”
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, General Musings, movies, SCA, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, bookbinding, Chrissie Iles, Communion of Dreams, Double Negative, Doug Pray, Grinnell College, jim downey, John Bowsher, LACMA, Legacy Bookbindery, Levitated Mass, Louis Zirkle, Michael Heizer, Moon, movies, Paint the Moon, SCA, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Wikipedia, writing
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
* * *
I first heard of Michael Heizer in a sculpture class in college, sometime in the late 1970s. Well, that I remember. It’s entirely possible that I had seen some coverage of his work in the press before then. But my professor got me thinking about how sculpture defined space both by physical presence and absence, and I know that it was then that I became aware of Heizer’s work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his basic concepts would manifest in my life in many ways, showing up in my interests in martial arts, book design, even writing.
* * *
His ideas are incredibly simple, when you pare it all down to just its physical nature, it’s really quite simple, and you see it again and again in his work. To achieve that degree of simplicity is like, almost the hardest thing in the world to do.
* * *
Not being there when your opponent strikes.
Drawing the eye to the empty space.
Allowing the reader to fill in the suggested, but missing, description.
Each of these engages and enlightens in ways that no amount of force, or color, or detail ever could.
* * *
Micheal Heizer makes you aware of space and your relationship to space and how you move through space,the role of the sky, the role of the land, beyond what you’re looking at. You have to rethink the nature of who you are physically in relation to what you are walking around inside and observing from a distance and up close.
* * *
We’re not always aware of what we do while we’re doing it, or why. Sometimes, the trajectory of a life is determined by little things, subtle things. Even things which are mssing.
* * *
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
Shortly after I had conceived of the idea behind Paint the Moon, I knew that it wasn’t actually feasible. But the idea delighted me. And after some thought, I realized why: it was taking the principles of Michael Heizer’s art — of paring down art to the very simplest, physical elements of experience — and going one step further. Remove the physical object altogether, and replace it with pure experience, pure concept. Hence my description of the project as a “collective lyric fantasy”.
You can’t see the artifact of that project at a museum. There is no massive boulder to walk under, or a negative space in the desert to encounter.
But there is the Moon overhead, and the memory of a moment in time.
Filed under: Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, excerpt, Habren, jim downey, Lydney Roman temple, River Severn, Roman, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
It’s been a few months. Have another taste, from the chapter of St Cybi’s Well that I am currently writing (meaning that this is very much just a rough draft, subject to change or deletion). Links added for your amusement.
“Here’s your fish,” said the girl as she placed the basket down in front of him. “Will ya be needin’ anything else, then?”
Darnell looked down at the golden planks of Haddock and the pile of chips. Then back to the girl. “I think that’ll do it. Thanks.”
She nodded, turned and went back through the small chippy, which was still mostly empty, it being before the usual lunchtime. Her amber hair bobbed as she walked, and that jogged a memory in him. The memory of a dream he had had the night before. He had stayed at a little inn not far from the River Severn in Gloucester, and had eaten in the small pub there. While he sipped his ale, waiting for his dinner, he had read about the history of the inn, and the legend of the river’s name. That legend had evidently fueled his dream.
It was a strange dream. A real dream, during real sleep, but with … echoes … of the ‘dream’ he had experienced earlier in the day at Stonehenge.
He was standing on a high hill, looking down at what must have been the Severn, watching the bore surge coming up the estuary. Just behind him was a great temple, classical in design and almost new, but empty save for himself and the old man. The air still held the fragrance of burnt herbs and offerings, banners and ribbons still fluttered from standards marking some kind of ritual path down the hill.
And there, on the bank of the estuary below, was a wide wooden platform, covered in a bright and colorful canopy. It had a score or more of people on it from what he could see, and they were looking down on something on a smaller, lower platform just above the level of the river. The tidal wave swept up the estuary, two meters or more high, and swept over the low platform as the people watched. As it did, there was the distant sound of horns and the deep thrumming of drums.
“That’s it. She’s gone,” said Eleazer, standing next to him, watching the scene below.
“Habren. The river has claimed her, and henceforth will carry her name as well as her spirit.”