Women on subs

I grew up watching reruns of Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,  with David Hedison.  I managed David’s website for about 10 years.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was set on board a futuristic submarine with these awesome front windows so you could see what was going on outside.  The first season started out with spies, which were hot everywhere, and then abruptly the trend died, so they went to science fiction and monsters with the change to color.

And the show lacked women.  The producer, Irwin Allen, thought women were too expensive because their make up took longer, so the show had so few women in the later years you could count them on one hand.  It was a shame, because the Seaview was set up as a private research submarine, and they could have easily added a woman or two to the cast.

But now real submarines are going to have women.  That is something I might have tried.  Aside from being in the wrong service, but still … submarines.


Required submarine reading:

Up Periscope, by Robb White

Some way awesome fan images of the Seaview.   Submarines!

How I get my story ideas

At Capclave, Bud Sparhawk said that he’d been asked “Where do you get ideas?” on a past panel.  He jokingly said that he paid a guy $5 a week and was sent a postcard with an idea on it.  Three writers came up afterward to ask him for the idea guy address!

From the outside, ideas look like this really hard thing.  When I was working on my first novel, I was desperate.  The novel was not working (I was hitting the 1/3 point and didn’t understand why I couldn’t get past it), and yet I couldn’t abandon the story because I didn’t have any other ideas.

At the time, I believed that an idea had to turn into a whole story, so I was looking for something that suggested an entire story — and nothing lived up to it.  As a result, ideas always seemed to be a struggle for me.  Yet, I’d always said that an idea was a starting point for a story, or just a seed. Sometimes I don’t even listen to myself!

Pretty much, I had to stop trying so hard to come up with great ideas and just come up with ideas.  If I’m starting out with a theme, like for an anthology call, I first think of all the things that everyone else will come up with for the theme.  We’ll make one up:  Toys.  That’ll probably get a lot of Christmas stories, toys coming to life, toys being magical, evil killer toys.  Anything that might be one of those I toss aside because what I write will be just like what everyone else is doing.  Then I start thinking about what I can do with what’s left.

Getting there is different for each story.  I’ve started with a theme and a character and NO idea until I started writing, and another I’m working on now that’s come from doing Google fu on the theme subject.  I just have to think “What can I do with this?”  Some ideas don’t go anywhere or need more seasoning.

A few of where the ideas came from:

Fantasy Short Story:  This one’s in submission now.  I had gone to a 911 ceremony at work, and there were these two candles sitting out on a table on the stage.  I imagined the candles burning in a window, a signal to troops that it was time to attack.  The story that I wrote ended up with no candles and no signal of troops.

Science Fiction Novel: I took a workshop on Think Like a Science Fiction Writer (worth it if you want to write science fiction and think you don’t have the science background).  During the workshop, it hit me that I’ve always liked undersea.  When I was in grade school, Sea Hunt was airing on TV, and I watched the adventures of Mike Nelson every day and drew pictures of scuba divers.  Then it was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Primus and the new version of Sea Hunt with Ron Ely.  I also lived in California and enjoyed oceanography in college.  Why not an undersea station?  Research will be next to continue developing this one.

Mystery Novel/Romance Novel: These ideas both came off a curtain.  The curtain was in an auditorium, dark blue with gold stars.  I went up to touch it, and it was soft, but not naturally soft.  I thought about it for a while:  Twilight.  Then:  What’s the emotion associated with twlight?  I was surprised when it turned into two different ideas, based on what the genre was.  The part about connecting the object to an emotion that it reminded me of was so powerful, I will have to try that one again.

I think it’s hard because the prospect of writing a story or novel can seem so daunting.  It always seems like there’s a magic in it, and the magic seems like it comes from the just the right idea or just the perfect idea.  That kind of leaves the writer out of the equation, and the writer is that magic.

Project a Week: Week 5

When I started the week, I wanted to do a science fiction story.  I watched the lecture “How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer,” which talks about how to write science fiction if you don’t have a science background.  That fit me perfectly.

The idea was do something with living under the sea.  When I was kid, Sea Hunt was in reruns on TV, and I loved the adventures of Mike Nelson.  Then there was Primus, which followed up from Sea Hunt, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  That aired in the 1960s, but when into reruns in Los Angeles when Star Trek fandom kicked off and all things science fiction.  It was just plain fun to have adventures in such a colorful and beautiful environment.


Fish and coral at the Virginia Beach Aquarium
Fish at the Virginia Beach Aquarium


But it’s requiring some time with the research, so I opted for a poem as a project again.  I have to build up a supply of poems if I want to submit them; most magazines seem to want 3-5 poems submitted at once.  Plus, I’m finding they’re a fun way of approaching different elements in my writing.  Scratching a different itch as it were.

Meanwhile, I’m also working on my contemporary fantasy novel (set on an alternate reality of Hawaii; are we sensing an ocean trend here?).

I got my advance copy of Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present this week.  It’s an awesome book that not only deals with the perspectives of soldiers (and there’s more than one female soldier.  Rocking!), but it has grandparents and different wars.

what it’s like to wear a Gas mask

A woman soldier puts on a gas mask
This is a newer model than the one I wore. It covers with a head covering.

One of the weapons a soldier might face in war is poisonous gas, or nerve agent. It’s not that modern of technology, though. When I was in junior high (now middle school in California), I was assigned All Quiet on the Western Front, which is a book about World War I. There was one description that really stuck with me about what happened to a soldier’s lungs after he was gassed.

So every time I put on the mask, even in training, it was hard not to think about All Quiet on the Western Front!

The mask itself is, in a way, like a scuba face mask from Sea Hunt. It forms a tight seal over your face, but, unlike the face mask, it fits over your entire face, from your forehead to under your chin. It’s very close-fitting. Your entire world is seeing everything through two eye pieces. There’s no peripheral vision, and you have to turn your head to see around. They’re redesigned the eyepieces in the newer masks so they’re more like a scuba face mask and have a better visibility.

But the mask really wasn’t made for people who wear glasses, and you can read more about that experience over on my post called My Relationship with my Glasses.  It’s surprising how normal, everyday things get changed in the face of war!

Once you put it on, it’s like your world closes up to this tiny space right in front of your face. You could see things happening outside, but the mask is like this barrier. The voices of your fellow soldiers are muffled — if you’ve seen the TV show Emergency (airing on Me TV), they sound like the firefighters when they’re in their breathing gear. It’s very isolating.

Hearing your own breathing in it sounds like Darth Vader. That’s a little hard to listen to it after a while because it emphasizes something else unintended. During Desert Storm, when one of the first scuds was fired near us, we went into the masks and took cover in a fox hole. All we could do was sit in the darkness, listening to our breathing, and not know if there was poison gas out there.

The mask got hotter and hotter inside, and smelled like rubber. I wasn’t claustrophobic, but being in it started to add up to that sense of being closed in without an escape, because escape might mean death.

Then, a cry from somewhere outside: “All clear!”

Everyone instantly yanked off their masks, and the air cooled our faces. We were safe again. There’s training, and there’s reality.

Next up will be “when war takes you away from Home,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.  This was a post suggested by one of my commenters, and it actually spawned a total of four posts.

Wouldn’t an underwater Kelp Forest be cool to visit?

When I was kid, I watched Sea Hunt because underwater adventures were very cool.  Usually kelp like in the video below was a place for another diver to lay in wait for his victim.  I always thought it was a pity Sea Hunt wasn’t in color, because this kelp forest is eerily beautiful.

Keep an eye out for the dragon.

Staying Silent on Women in SciFi is an opinion — not the one you think

Woman scuba divers
Though Sea Hunt had a lot of exciting adventures, not a lot of them included women.

Today, I’m over at Unleaded, Fuel for Writers.  A preview:

When I was growing up, I watched shows like Star Trek and Sea Hunt and dreamed of adventures with women in them.  One of the reasons I got into science fiction was because I saw Uhura – a woman — on the bridge of the Enterprise, and I wanted to be like that.  The books of the day didn’t give me much: the women were often victims, if they were in the book at all.

Then, women didn’t speak up about how society treated them.  Not much anyway, and those at the cost of being unpopular.  They were encouraged not to have opinions and that what they thought didn’t count.  My mother one was one those women, and she rarely stood up for herself.  Read the rest.

My non-fiction article “War Happens” has been accepted by the University of Nebraska Press for Red, White & True: The American Military Story from WWII to Present.  Details to follow as I find out more.