The Evolution of Space Opera

When I was growing up, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aired at 4:00 on KTLA, and then Star Trek followed it.  We also had Lost in Space. I also had this big yellow book of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic strips.

All of these started with the pulp magazines in the 1930s, which introduced space opera.  They paved their way for the shows above.  But Star Trek did something different:

Another popular sci-fi show with a strong space opera flavor to emerge during the Swinging Decade sought to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Star Trek differed from the fare that came before as it coupled the action-orientated characteristics that were commonplace within the genre with philosophical, thought-provoking themes. For a brand of science fiction that was introduced to pop culture discourse as “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn spaceship yarn,” Star Trek proved that this type of accessible entertainment could contain substance as well as pure entertainment.

In “The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction,” Westfahl notes that Star Trek was the first on-screen space opera to successfully combine the classic pulp adventure elements with “Ruritarian” themes. The Ruritarian space opera is distinguished by sophisticated characteristics which often entail romance sub-plots and solar systems governed by their own political establishments. In these stories, alien lifeforms tend to be three-dimensional and driven by their own personal motives — such as greed, thievery, etc.

There’s a lot of interesting history that starts with the pulp and how it goes not only into our reading of books, but also TV and movies.  We move so fast forward that we sometimes forget how things originated and what we can learn from it.

Read the rest at Film School Rejects:

Dick Van Dyke Christmas Song

Dick Van Dyke has wonderful charm in this fun video.  I remember watching him in reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.  It’s hard to believe he is 92.

Adventures Around The Web November 4-10, 2017

It was unnaturally warm in Philadelphia last week. For Veteran’s Day, we’re getting cold and blustery. Down into the 20s.  The fall colors are finally coming in, but largely pretty washed out.  Not the vibrant ones that are so pretty.

10 Ways Posture Affects Productivity (and How to Improve Both)

Writing can be pretty sedentary, so it’s important to not park in the chair for hours on end and never get up and move around.

From pom-poms to combat boots: Miller joined Army in high school

Ah ha!  A story about a woman Desert Storm veteran.  But scroll all the way to the bottom for a slideshow about more women veterans.


Got this one from the BookBay conference.  You can plug in another writer’s site and see what kind of traffic they’re getting.

Google Speech Recognition

Also from the conference, if you want to try dictating stories.  Being handy too if you wanted to give your hands a break.

Daylight Saving: The Movie Trailer

This is hilarious! Last year, I showed up at the farmer’s market an hour too early.  This year, I worried about missing my train (which showed up late).  From Piper Bayard.


Adventures Around the Web Octber 21-26

This week, the colder temperatures marched in, and then bounced around.  Pretty typical for DC, but it’s hard when your sinuses are going, “I’m not happy”…

Lulu the dog flunked out of CIA bomb-sniffer school because she just didn’t care

Spy dog fails classes at CIA!  Lots of very cute dog pictures for Friday.  Labs have a gentleness about them that’s just fun to look at.  Link courtesy of Day Al-Mohamed.

Serialized television has become a disease

I’ve of mixed feelings about serialization.  Early on, I did think it gave shows a continuity they desperately needed.  On the show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it was like the writers hit a reset button each time they wrote a new episode.  If aliens invaded the ship, it was treated as if it was the first time, even when it wasn’t.  Characters come into our lives and become something more, just like in books.  But serialization does not allow episodes to stand out.  What if the serialization for the year is poor?

Adding Tags in OneNote

This one’s a software tool I’ve been using for my research library.  I was on Evernote, but I switched over over because I don’t need extra software to confuse things.  I already had OneNote as part of the 365 subscription–why pay for a second program?  I know Scrivener had notes for projects, but I always thought research notes should be available for reuse. That’s a little hard if it’s done by project.  I also heard someone say that OneNote doesn’t have tagging.  I don’t use it myself, but the link explains to to tag.  And a photo of my research library …

A screenshot of my index pages showing headers for Ocean Liners and links underneath.



More Adventures at the Book Sale

This week’s book sale was the big one at the library.  They have one in October and another in April.

The sale itself is located on a floor in the garage.  It’s a permanent fixture in the garage, but closed off behind a gate except when there’s a sale.  The sale was advertised as having 75,000 books!

The books:

  1. Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence (it’s about shark attacks)
  2. Drilling Through Time: 75 Years with California’s Division of Oil and Gas
  3. Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century
  4. The Island of the Colorblind (about a place where everyone is colorblind)
  5. The Man Behind the Magic: The Story of Walt Disney
  6. Law and Order: The Unofficial Companion
  7. Looking for a Ship: U.S. Merchant Marine
  8. My Secret Life as a CIA assassin
  9. The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in U.S. History
  10. Plot
  11. Shirley Jones: A Memoir
  12. Star Trek Memories
  13. Star Trek Movie Memories

I had to be creative about where to look for these books.  Military was where I found the spy books, though I don’t think they have anything to do with military.  I found the California one in the science section.  Plot showed up in the Performing Arts.

The one that caught my attention the most was the Law and Order book.  It’s just got the first 10 seasons of the show.  But in scanning through it, the book made me realize why I like the show. It’s a lot like Star Trek, and also The Orville  It presents stories that don’t always have easy answers, and often have a lot of differing opinions.  It’s entertaining and makes you think a little.

Adventures at the book sale

I went to my second book sale of the month this weekend.  This was a fluke that I discovered this one…it wasn’t at a library.

It was at the State Department!

Yes, that State Department.

I actually didn’t expect to find much. As a result of my research class, I’m looking for used books to build my research library.  My topics are:

  • Hollywood (40s and 50s)
  • the sea
  • ghosts
  • military
  • Science Fiction

Given that the books were donated by state department employees, I expected a lot of politics.  But who knows?

So hoofed it down on Metro with a backpack to carry my books.  Little did I realize how much of a challenge my trek was going to be.  The site said the sale was near the Foggy Bottom metro stop.

Yeah, wellllll…

I had show my ID to get into the building and passed by at least six police officers to get to the sale inside.  It was a pretty building for a government building, and there were historic pictures of diplomats up on the walls. Also a very cool statue outside of a man with a globe.

The sale was in a large room with an extension of a tent off the room.  Just tables with the books on top of it.  I had to look pretty carefully in different categories to find books.  Three was a section for the Hollywood type books, but I find all of the ones I bought in other areas.

I accumulated a small stack of about six of the books and one of the volunteers came over to put the books into a book check for me.  After a few minutes, the book check lady came over and asked me where I had found the spy books (2&3).  She thought they were great titles.

I accumulated more books, and by now I was hoping I could actually get them back to the Foggy Bottom Metro.  I ended up with two bags of books (we do not discuss how much I paid; I wished I’d checked the price on one book.  I would have passed on it as too much!).

Book check person commented that I had a lot of books.

Check out person commented that I had a lot of books.

Bag check person commented that I had a lot of books.  I did ask her if everyone was just buying only a few.  I’ve seen people at the county library sale get boxes of books.  She said I was the biggest buyer of the day.

I packed most of the books in my backpack and carried the partially full second back.

Guard #1-5 commented that I had a lot of books.

It was a baker’s dozen:

  1. The Final Dive: The Life and Death of Buster Crabb
  2. The Encyclopedia of World War II Spies
  3. The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
  4. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
  5. Rock Hudson: His Story
  6. Black Holes: A Traveler’s Guide
  7. The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk
  8. Comet
  9. The Edge of the Sea
  10. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whale Ship Essex (this was the higher priced book)
  11. You Must Remember this: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age
  12. The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There: Time and Navigation
  13. Exploring the Deep Blue Frontier

Uphill back to Foggy Bottom Metro.  Just in time to catch a train!  Yay!  I think I had my exercise for the day.  Now to figure out what to do with my books…

And then there’s another library sale locally next week.



Adventures around the Web September 30-October 6, 2017

Story Bundle

2017 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle

As always, there’s a writing bundle in time for Nano.  I always like these bundles because the quality is pretty high.

I wouldn’t mind having either my military writer’s guide or my pantser’s guide show up in one of these…

Women in the Military Service for America Memorial Foundation

Women’s Army Corps

Women were recruited into the WACs because of a shortage of men.  They were initially on civilian status, but were later given military status.  The article gives some descriptions of the training, including how the clothes (didn’t) fit, and what it was like to be deployed.  Some things do not change, no matter the time in history!

June Rivers on Little Things

Dick Van Dyke 

The first movie I remember seeing is Dick Van Dyke’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which I named a kitten after).  And, of course, the walnut episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show (if you haven’t seen that one, it has aliens from outer space).  This link is worth it for the video.  I’d like to be like that at 90!

Arlington County, Virginia

George Washington’s Forest

I’ve walked around all these places.  Had no idea about the mill–and I’ve walked under that bridge (though it looks better on the video. I always thought it looks like a place where you would get mugged). Have to check out the last stop and see the tree.

Adventures Around the Web August 26-September 1, 2017

It’s been an unbelievably crazy week.  Even though I’m nowhere near Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I’ve had to help people at work who are there.  Everything is very chaotic, because the situation is so chaotic.

Erin Kelly and Kevin Green

Crews Cut Steel for the Next Aircraft Carrier Enterprise

The Navy is building a new aircraft carrier.  Enterprise, of course, has special meaning, because of Star Trek.  I remember when NASA renamed the space shuttle Enterprise after a write-in campaign.  It was pretty cool.  This will be the ninth Navy ship named Enterprise.  The first one was in 1775.  Ships named Enterprise have a long history!

**Note if you watch the video and you start getting music halfway through, scroll down and turn off the second video.  It’s set to autoplay.  Most annoying!

Lakshmi Gandi on NPR

History of Snake Oil Salesman

I had to look this up for my GALCOM story.  Pretty interesting site on the history of snake oil salesman.  Most of my knowledge came, unfortunately, from old Westerns like The Big Valley, where the snake oil salesman was conning people into buying fake medicine.  I had no idea the origins were with the Chinese and that it really did work.  Very interesting that the oil had the Omega 3 acids that we need for healing inflammation.

Geert Weggen on Bored Panda

Squirrel Game of Thrones

Virginia has a love-hate relationship with squirrels (mostly hate, actually).  But this is silly and fun.  Who thought a squirrel could ride a dragon?

Christopher Luu on Refinery 29

A Gender Swapped Lord of the Flies Remake Nobody Asked for is Coming

I’m all for getting better roles for women in film–not just “girlfriend of the hero” that’s pretty common.  But gender-swapping like this is ridiculous.  It speaks volumes about the risk adverse problems in Hollywood.  It’s apparently easier to remake a film and swap out the genders then it is to create new material that uses men and women better.

Venable Dance

Word Motivates Change.  Your World Be Motivated

Very powerful video on hope, habits, and how to change the world.  From Roberta Viler.

Adventures around the web July 29-August 4, 2017

Manu Saadia on The New Yorker

The Enduring Lessons of Star Trek

Very interesting article on how Star Trek The Next Generation went away from Star Trek’s original concept.  It mentions one of the things that I always had problems with: people all got along with each other.  That made it hard to do stories that were about the crew, without having some outside influence intervene.  I know that idea originated with Gene Roddenberry, but still…

Joris Nieuwint for War History Online

When His Landing Gear Failed, This Harrier Pilot Made An Emergency Landing… On A Stool

The primary thing the military does is train.  Because in war, training’s all you have when things go wrong.  All the training comes in handy in this video.

Zack Walkter on Do You Remember

Meet the First Woman to Cycle Around the World (in 1895)

This is a pretty cool story–and it’s got photos.  This actually started because of a bet two men made!

Josh Jones on Open Culture

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Writers today tend to diss the pulp writers as “hacks,” usually stories unseen because they produced a tremendous amount of stories.  Somehow speed has become equated with poor writing, though this era produced Dashiell Hammett.  If you haven’t read any of his stories, those are really good.  Link from Harvey Stanbrough (spell checker gave me Gainsborough for his name.  Weird).

Gary Grayson

Gary and the Seal in the Scilly Isles

A charming video from Rhonda Hopkins. The seal wants a belly rub and a chin scratch!

Adventures around the web July 15- 21, 2017

It’s been a hot week in DC.  As I write this, it’s 91 degrees at 5:45 AM.  And it’s supposed to be even hotter.   Even the pool water will be hot!

Rūta Grašytė on Bored Panda

Illustrator Reimagines Fast Food Mascots As Anime Characters And Now Everyone Wants To Read Their Manga

A little fun for Friday.  Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and Wendy’s all reimagined as anime.  I really liked the Colonel Sanders one.  The Hamburglar appears on page 2–not one that’s been seen in years–and he definitely looks more on the bad guy side.

Kristen Lamb

The Creative Benefits of Being Bored

There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about how people are always on.  The slightest hint of boredom and they head over to play a game or look at email.  Sometimes boredom is where the creativity comes into place and the leaps of intuition take place.  At least take a walk today and look at everything around you.  And keep the cell phone in the pocket.  Hopefully it isn’t too hot outside.

Domagoj Valjak on The Vintage News

Patrick Stewart, prepared to play Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was reluctant to audition for the captain

Gene Roddenberry originally wanted an actor more like William Shatner in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It’s amazing how much difference an actor casting makes to an entire series.

Nate Hoffelder on Valiant Chicken Digital

Four Things I Learned at WordCamp DC

WordCamp was a weekend conference on WordPress in DC, which I wish I’d known about–I might have gone.  But it lists a couple of interesting features about WordPress that are worth looking at.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

How To Write Fast, Publish Slowly And Focus On Your Author Marketing With Rachel Aaron

This is an interview with a writer who writes full time and takes on the myth of “writing fast means your story is crap.”