Science Fiction Becomes Military Fact


Side view of the shuttle Endeavor
I took this in 2014 when I went to California.

There’s been rumors for a while that the White House was talking about creating a sixth military branch, called “Space Force.”  Now there’s an official announcement.

It’s happening!

I remember when the first shuttle was announced.  The Star Trek fans got together and wrote NASA to name it after the starship Enterprise.  And NASA did!

The Enterprise shuttle was a test shuttle and never went into space.  It probably got more play on all the Star Trek series that followed, and actually was in the opening credits of Enterprise.

But the invention of the shuttle was a major milestone.  They were intended to be reused.  The earlier rocket ships of the 1960s could only be used once.

But I was disappointed when the shuttle program was abandoned.  It just felt like everyone gave up and decided it wasn’t possible to do more than go out to a space station.  Some of the things we use on a daily basis are because we had to be inventive for zero G.

In the hands of the military, this is going to be very interesting  It looks like Air Force is going to have the command. I’m just hoping Army gets some space travel.  When I was writing Crying Planet, I put an Army colonel in charge of the space cruiser because all I’d ever seen was Navy on spaceships.  I wanted Army to have some adventures!   But when I was telling someone about the book, she told me, “Oh, no!  You can’t have Army in command.  They don’t have the skills.”  Immediate panic set in.  It was my book!  I wasn’t going to change something that I’d intended.  So I came up with a reason for this person to get command, and it reshaped the story in some interesting ways.

This is all very exciting though.  Where do you think they will travel to?  Hoo-ah!

Losing Track and Finding it Again


It’s hard to believe that when I grew up, I typed a novel on my mother’s manual typewriter.  It was one of those Royal typewriters that you see commonly associated with writers.  I went from that to an electric, to a Heathkit H-89 to a Commodore 64.

This week I’ve been tackling a big project: the paper copies of the stories and non-fiction I wrote.

It’s part of that black hole of my closet that I’m cleaning up.  They’ve been long stuffed into plastic boxes, out of sight in the box, but the box itself always in view.  So it’s a form of clutter.

I pulled everything out and started going through it.  What did I already have in digital form…yeah, somehow I had printed versions of the stories and digital versions.  In some cases, I had multiple copies of revisions printed and stored.  And for some stories, they were either before Microsoft Word or, for whatever, reason, I only have the paper version.

It was just easy to lose track of what I had because it was in a file folder.   There’s a long history of everyone struggling with forms of the data, for as long as we’ve had data.

My grandmother was in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  The film was shot out where she lived in Northern California.  Assuming her memory is correct for the title, this is likely the film.  She would have been two at the time.  She tried to find the film in later years, but it no longer exists.  A lot of those films were done on nitrate, and then put into storage once the studio went onto the next release.  By the time places like UCLA got in there to transfer to safety film, the reels had disintegrated.  Or caught fire, since nitrate film was pretty flammable.

Then there’s Motown.  When I was doing temp work in Los Angeles—my Google-fu tells me it was probably 1983 or 1984—I got a job documenting inventory for Motown. They were being sold, so we had to inventory all their music.  They gave us stacks of music reels, which were about the size of pizzas.  We would open the boxes up see what was written on the reels, and then type that on the inventory.  Massive inventory, and they had no idea what they had.

But what I’m doing now is kind of fun and nostalgic to look it.  It’s my life at the time, and where I was at as writer.  It’s also some of the things I liked. There’s an article I write—might post it here if anyone is interested—on meeting William Windom in 1997.  It was for an anthology call that never happened.  But I enjoyed writing it, and I enjoyed meeting him.  I have photos, but those are in another box I haven’t cracked open yet.

It was at Starcon, which was the big gathering of actors at that time. I believe it was over 100.  Most notably, it was the only gathering of most of the actors from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Allan Hunt, Del Monroe, and Terry Becker.  Bob Dowdell turned it down, and David Hedison was unavailable.  Richard Basehart had passed away).

It was early in the day, and I was just roaming the aisles to see who was there.  He flagged me over, and guess what we chatted about?

We were both veterans!

Very cool.

Sky Hair


Cover for Sky Hair, a planet against a cliff backdropHer confidence shattered by death, Pitarra escapes to an artist’s retreat on the planet Demory II.  She hopes to rekindle her creativity and paint again.

But her fellow artists jeer at Pitarra’s failures.

Facing the possibility her creativity may never return, she makes a daily trek to her secret spot.  Hoping for a miracle.

And getting something different than she expects.  Something that no one sees coming.

A heartwarming science fiction story about loss and hope.

Available from your favorite booksellers.

Nothing Town


Cover for Nothing Town
The story was inspired by a setting: Alexandria, VA. It’s a location that was a busy port in years past, but now is just a pleasant place to walk.

A dying town trapped because of a time bubble. They blame Michelle Graham, descendant of the man who broke the town.

She wants to leave. The family house refuses to let her go.

Then past and present bleed together…horse-drawn wagons ride alongside cars. A timeline rupture?

Michelle races against time to stop the unfolding disaster. But it may change everything she knows.

A twisted science fiction short story that keeps you turning the pages

A science fiction short story available from your favorite booksellers.

The Art of Science Fiction Book Covers


This is a fascinating look at the old pulp covers of year’s past.

Remake of She-Ra, Princess of Power


Normally, I haven’t been interested in many of the “remakes” of old TV series.  With too many of them, it’s obvious the makers only think of the old show as a title they might be able to make money with.

But with this announcement for She-Ra, Princess of Power, I’m at least interested enough to see where it goes.

It was a pretty good show when it originally aired in the 1980s.  It came out after He-Man and the Master of the Universe became popular.  Fat Albert was also a popular show (pretty sure after the recent celebrity trial, that’s going to be off-limits for a remake).

The world itself was developed to be like Tolkien’s (though a lot more pink and lavender).  One of the best things about it was there were a lot of women characters, and they were all portrayed as capable and resourceful.  That was something different than a lot of what I’d seen at the time.

I’m hoping Netflix doesn’t ruin it by going too dark.

5 Futuristic Women


Cover for 5 Futuristic Women

Five stories of futuristic women, from an artist who makes a first contact in “Sky Hair,” to the private who finds herself in hot water after aliens eat her officer in “Rejected by Aliens.”  In “New Robot Smell,” a female soldier has to choose between the military and her life.  In “The Scientist’s Widow,” a detective tracks a woman she thinks murdered her husband, and in “Theater Ship,” actors defend a planet from an alien invasion.

This science fiction collection is available from your favorite bookseller.

Men From the Horizon


Tall ship sailing against the sunrise - cover for Men from the Horizon
This was inspired by disability and steampunk. I thought about what it was like for the Hawaiians when the first missionaries came to the island and what they might have offered.

Men visit Rewa’s island with monstrous automatons and promises–and the ability to help her walk normally again.  They just want to farm the sugar cane fields for Rewa and her people.  If one farmer agrees, everyone will agree.  The decision hangs on what Rewa does.  And no matter what her decision Rewa makes, it will cost her.

A science fiction short story available from your favorite booksellers.

Star Trek and the Marine Corps


Orange kitten perched on a tree branch, green in the background
We’re not as green as the background yet. The flowering trees are just blooming and the maples are letting loose…soon. Now if it would stop snowing!

I’m in the process of using cycling writing throughout my nearly finished book, Cursed Planet.  In the past, it’s been a pretty routine thing.  Clean up typos and sentences that I thought made sense that now have me scratching my head trying to figure out what I was trying to do.  Or removing what I call stubs–something that my creative side brought into the story and then, like a cat, got bored with it and abandoned it.

But there was an interesting article on Star Trek and how the new Marines Corps Commandant is a fan.

It’s a long ways from what it was when I was growing up, but a good, evolving change.

When I was growing up, fandom was just starting snowball.  Star Trek was in reruns on KTLA (first Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at 4:00 and Star Trek at 5:00).

We had a gym uniform for PT in school, white shirt, blue shorts.  Some of the other students wrote on the back of their shirts their favorite sports teams.  I did Star Trek.  No one made fun of the sports team, but they did of me.  There was one boy who openly sneered and said Little Rascals was so much better than Star Trek. (Little Rascals was also running on KTLA at the time.  I’d watched it, but I never thought it was particularly good.  I think it was more of a nostalgia thing for the adults who had grown up watching it).

Even my guitar teacher got in on it.  Since this was L.A., it wasn’t hard to run into people who worked in the film industry. Her son had worked on the set of the show.  Did she tell me how they filmed the show?  Did she tell me what it was like for him to work with the various stars?   Did she gossip about the stars?

No!  She told me the sets were fake.

Of course I knew they were fake.  Phhtt!

But it was like all this space stuff was just toooooo fake and really I shouldn’t bother.

Star Trek cons were just starting to really get popular then, too.  I attended several of the ones called Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Conventions (I believe these are what is now Comic-Con, but don’t hold me to that).  I remember walking to the hotel where my first con was held, and there was this man costumed as a a Klingon.  Just…wow!

Qapla’!

And reporters would show up at these cons, too, evidently told by their editors to get a story to fill an empty space in the newspapers.  The disdain the reporters had for the cons was pretty evident.  They would look at all the average people standing in line, and home in on either the little boy costumed as Spock or the craziest looking adult fan,  dressed sloppily, and festooned with buttons.

Then the picture would appear in the newspaper, identifying us as Trekkies with the implication that Star Trek was for children or crazy people.

Now it’s gotten a lot of respectability over the last fifty years since it premiered.   Now a Marine senior leader is a fan.

How cool is that?

And for your viewing pleasure, a mashup of MacGyver and Star Trek The Next Generation.

Behind the Scenes: Star Trek’s Khan as a Viking?


Pirate looks out telescope
Ahoy! Spaceship off the port bow!

One of the things I always liked to read is the behind the scenes of a TV show.  Reading about how a show is made is fascinating.  Sometimes it’s easy to wonder how shows come together at all, and yet some of the greatest chaos turns into something spectacular.

Like Star Trek’s “Space Seed” episode, which starred Ricardo Montalban.  And it seems like just about everything has been written about Star Trek.  Those sites that say “10 Things You Never Knew About Star Trek” are always things I know already.  But this Me-TV article had one I didn’t know.

The first was that the now legendary character Khan was originally going to be a space pirate!  Though space pirate sounds kind of cool (at least the fictional ones), it certainly doesn’t fit the actor.  Stellar writing, stellar directing, and stellar acting made this into a classic episode.

While a script can be really good, bad direction or bad acting can botch the whole thing up.  But Ricardo Montalban brought a delicious evilness to the role that makes it memorable even today.