Friday, September 19, 2014

Define Eden

If there is a central question to the upcoming novel, Chronopticus Rising, it is this: how does one define "Eden"? Is the definition Biblical, secular, or does it vary from person to person? If a group of people come together and propose to build that "Eden", do they realize that sometimes their definitions do not line up with one another? Can they work together to achieve their common goal or will they tear themselves apart in the process?

Numerous times throughout the Chronopticus trilogy the subject of "Eden" comes up and many of the finer details of what it means to build a new "Eden" on another planet will be revealed in the last book of the series. Yet there is also a deeper theme at work here: how far is each side willing to go in order to achieve their utopian goals?

Wikipedia defines a utopia as "a community or society possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities." How does one define "highly desirable" or "near perfect"? Aren't those definitions inherently relative?

Webster's dictionary defines utopia as "a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions." Another definition states, "an impractical scheme for social improvement." For the word "Eden" it states, "paradise" or "the garden where according to the account in Genesis Adam and Eve first lived" or "a place of pristine or abundant natural beauty."

It would be hard to argue, at least initially, that Mars is a place of "abundant natural beauty" or that things would be "near perfect". But what would a new Eden, apart from Earth, look like? Would it involve a society without hate or without crime? Would it be limited to a certain set of belief systems or have comprehensive education and health care for all? If a group of people could start over completely from scratch and build an entire civilization from the ground up would it still end up looking like life back on Earth despite their intentions? Would they ever achieve a coveted utopia?

Let's take a look at how the Bible describes Eden.

The word "Eden" is mentioned fourteen times in the Bible (in reference to the Garden, not a personal name). The most notable references are found in Genesis chapters two and three. In Genesis 2:8-9, it states, "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (KJV)

Man was then directed to tend to the garden and in Genesis 2:17 God gives this command: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." After this, Adam names the animals and Eve is created. Then, along comes the serpent in chapter three: "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"" (Genesis 3:1, KJV)

Although that last verse could generate an entire book unto itself, from that point forward, along with both Adam and Eve giving into temptation, events in Eden go downhill rather quickly. By Genesis 3:23, Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden never to enter again.

What is a scientific view of an ideal utopia or Eden? A casual survey of some prominent modern-day scientists may yield a wide range of results. For instance, would Michio Kaku, Eric Drexler, Ray Kurzweil, and others have a different view of the topic compared to the average population?

I think it is a key question to ask when starting a colony on another planet or even on the Moon. The resulting answers may startle a lot of people.

One last point: there are echoes of Eden imagery scattered throughout the first book in the trilogy, Fractal Standard Time. That Eden is both technological, societal, and physical. It even includes a fall ("The Great War"). Ionotatron traces the outcome of that fall and a general societal and technological descent into chaos. By the end of the third book, chaos turns to persecution and at the last moment, true resurrection.

Concurrently, the subject of envisioning and creating Eden will also take on a spiritual dimension. And that, in the end, is the ultimate theme that underpins everything else.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mars at Midnight

The other day I described Chronopticus Rising as "the clock book". Another way to describe the novel is that it is the most dynamic of the three books, but it also has the brightest moments and the most upbeat ending. The larger theme, though, is that not everyone's definition of Eden (or Utopia) is the same. I'll address the Eden/Utopia issue in a subsequent post, but for now it's enough to say that there are several different visions of an ideal Utopia, depending on who you ask. The question then becomes: how devoted is each side in their attempts to achieve it? What are the consequences? And, in this book, how well do the colonists really know the founders of the settlements they live in?

In addition, like the other two books, there will also be more new technology introduced. This includes monowheels, tunneling dice, electronic bees, and a new generation of Sentinel machines. Oddly enough, there has been a few robot-related stories in the news as of late, with one company's plans to sell robots and another that is developing robots that can run. And here is a video of real-life monowheels, including a company that has built several different models. And here is an article about a burger-flipping robot that can crank out 360 burgers per hour.

Hopefully, one of the other distinctions of this novel will be the characters. Yes, these are many of the same characters that have existed throughout the series, but to some extent, not a lot has been revealed about who they are. Much of that will change because the third book is all about the characters identities and pasts being used against them as a means of exercising power. That said, like all other aspects of the writing craft, things such as character development will always be a "work in progress" for me.

On a side note, writing a series (for the first time) has also taught me a lot of things. I'm quickly realizing what works and what doesn't work, and that I need a better system for tracking characters, places, and events over huge timeframes. It's also difficult to determine whether to make books that can stand alone (but are still part of a series) or to create books that need to be read in a specific order. Factor in giveaways and it gets even more complicated. But I'll save some of those lessons for another post.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Clock Book

While editing Chronopticus Rising, I've started to nickname the book "The Clock Book". There are lots of clocks in the novel, references to time, and attempts by some of the characters to see into the future. I originally had more elaborate designs for the structure of the book, but with everything else going on structurally in the series, I figured I'll save those ideas for another project down the road. Some of the clock references are a little over-the-top, as in, Batman television series "Clock King" type silliness, but considering the gravity of the rest of the story, a little levity was needed.

At the heart of this story is a device that was introduced at the end of the second book, Ionotatron. It is an "all seeing time machine" that its owner claims can see forward and backwards through time (without the use of "precogs" like you find in The Minority Report). More than that, its capabilities are then used to round up potential threats to the stability of the city. In this story, that ends being Christians and some other religious minorities.

This leads to a few important questions.

One, if someone could build a machine that tracks and records all human action, speech, and activity patterns, could they really build an algorithm to predict the future based on that data? Second, would persecution naturally follow as a result of the access to such power? Third, and this comes from an imprisoned mathematician in the story, is sin a fractal? As in, do all types of sin essentially come down to rebellion against God...no matter what the scale? These questions (and others) underpin the entire series.

In regards to the series, in the next week or so the epub versions of Fractal Standard Time and Ionotatron will become available. I expect the third book to be done sometime before November, along with a short story or two.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Four

Just a brief update today.

Over the coming months, I'll be uploading several new works, all of which are in various stages of production as I write this. The short list includes four major works: Chronopticus Rising (Part III of the Chronopticus trilogy), Race the Sky (a standalone novel), The Tesseract Rose (now a standalone novel), and an unnamed short story collection. A short work that will also be coming soon will be titled, "Fermat's Last Theorem of Robotics". This story will be probably be an Amazon Kindle release for the first few months before being made available elsewhere.

I also have several more articles written and to be written that I will post as I get time. If that is not enough, epub versions of Fractal Standard Time and Ionotatron should be made available online in two weeks at Lulu, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Experimental Structures

I'm a writer who likes to tinker with unusual story structures.

The Chronopticus Trilogy is no exception. The first book in the series, Fractal Standard Time, as I've alluded to before, is full of fractals. The narrative arcs of each group of three stories are fractals and even the streets in the colony are named after mathematicians or often related to fractals (Cantor, Hilbert, etc.). Although I given a lot of thought to rewriting the first book as a full novel (as some have suggested), I think it would take away from the larger idea I'm trying to portray. That larger idea will hopefully become more obvious when the third book, Chronopticus Rising, comes out this fall.

At the center of the whole series is a set of Martian colonies. Yet the founders of those colonies have a dark past and long range goals to turn the colonies into their very own version of "Eden". That Eden, it turns out, is not even remotely like the Biblical version. As each book progresses, the history of the founders and the "Eden Project" becomes clearer and clearer. Hopefully, by the end of the series, if I've done everything right, each book will be like traveling down a mountain...where the width grows from peak to bottom. This more or less matches the understanding of the characters in the story about the Project and what really is being housed inside of the Chronopticus Complex in the mountains. By the way, did you know that mountain ranges can be rendered very realistically on a computer using fractals?

And...to throw out one more pattern...Fractal Standard Time has twelve chapters like the positions on a clock. Ionotatron has 24 chapters and Chronopticus Rising has 36. Yet underneath all these fractal structures is a deeper truth. In fact, one character in prison utters a simple line that explains what it all comes down to in the end. What's that line? I'll share it soon, but not too soon, because it's at a pivotal moment in book three.

As this last novel winds up, the next three projects in line will also attempt to incorporate some unusual structures into the narrative. Some hints on what is to come...suction vortices, standing waves, and tesseracts.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Random Tech Bits and a Trilogy Update

Just a quick update today along with some book news. I'll post a lot more in the coming weeks, but I'm finishing up a major project right now and it's taking up most of my time.

A Chinese company has constructed multiple buildings using giant 3D printers. The future implications of this, once they perfect the technology, could have a significant impact on colonization of the Moon or even Mars.

Back on Earth, here are a couple articles about Earth's weakening magnetic field. Could this mean a pole flip is around the corner?

And...here's a brief book update. The rough draft of the third installment of the Chronopticus Chronicles series, Chronopticus Rising, is nearly done. I should have the rough draft completed by early next week and I will start on edits days after that. It is the longest book of the trilogy and will bring together elements scattered across the first two books. The key word for this book? Persecution.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Efficient Gambler

I've mentioned previously how the series I'm currently working on is complicated, evolving, and is not going the direction I originally intended. It has been a surprising process in some ways and the final book is proving to be no exception. I also think making the story arcs in the first book a fractal and then repeating that fractal across the larger series is probably confusing a lot of people who are used to a series being composed of novels (and not short stories mixed with novels). If I were to rewrite the first book, Fractal Standard Time, it would probably end up as a novel...although it would be difficult to duplicate the documentary-style aspect that comes from the short stories being chained together like in the current version.

That said, I think there is a lot of interesting dynamics that come into play when working on a series. I hope to explore those more in the next series, but I have two more short story collections I plan on releasing first. One collection will have a series of interlinked stories focusing on a single character and the other will be a collection of science fiction stories similar to the style of Corridors. I'm working on stories for both collections right now, in addition to working through the rough draft of Chronopticus Rising (Book III of the Chronopticus Chronicles).

Both collections contain stories that are experimental gambles. For me that is an important part of the overall writing process. Ultimately it leads to stronger novels because with short stories, you can quickly try out a new idea, character, setting, or story line with minimal investment in terms of time. I usually then cultivate and edit the better ideas, which may involve a dozen full edits per story.

Here's the other aspect of tinkering with short stories as a means of experimentation. It allows me to try out different structure ideas that could fail miserably if I tried them in a novel first. A novel is a considerable time investment and building multiple storylines on top of a structure that doesn't work can lead to a lot of problems and ultimately the abandonment of the story altogether. It's sort of like building a house on top of a foundation whose walls leak every time it rains. So I've found it best to try out unusual ideas in short form first because it saves time in the end...an efficient gamble, in other words.

We'll see where this goes...