What Do Nerds Do On Friday Night?
Imagine a time when you could scrape together a few coins and buy something, or spend two hours in an arcade.
So I’m only on the first episode of Stranger Things Season 2 right now….
Vacation? What the hell is that? Oh yeah, it’s something people do if they have more than five cents left over after paying their bills. Must be nice.
I’ve never taken one of these as an adult as I’ve never had the money. A couple times my parents convinced me to take trips with them to visit relatives, but those ended up being things I needed a vacation from because family.
So what did I do this summer? Well, I watched my friends take vacations through the window of Facebook. One cousin went to Israel and another went to Italy. Yeah, I watched other people post pictures from Europe.
Italy looks awesome, by the way. They apparently have some seriously nice beaches there. And a Ferrari museum.
Not that I’m jealous or anything.
When I wasn’t watching other people’s trips to exotic places on Facebook, I did some freelance work, which was going well until the end of August. I was getting about 30 hours a week, and I could work whenever I wanted, which was great for a night owl like me. (Back when I had a job, I could never understand how people did the whole 8-5 thing. How do people fall asleep before 3 AM?)
But at the end of August, the client lost their funding for the project, which meant I lost my more-or-less steady paycheck that almost allowed me to pay all my bills. (I also sell stuff online, sometimes more successfully than others.)
So much for that.
So I mostly spent my summer working for very little pay, and watching other people enjoy their vacations on Facebook. In my spare time, I started watching Criminal Minds on Netflix, where I learned that due to all the financial stress in my life, I’m seriously overdue to snap and go on a killing spree. (Seriously, that is an explanation for half the serial killers on that show. “There must have been a stressor that set the unsub off, like loss of a job or financial difficulties….”) Don’t worry, I’ve also watched Orange is the New Black and prison is not the place for me, so I’ll limit my meltdowns to binge-watching Netflix and writing stories in which the people who annoy me get abducted by aliens or publicly humiliated in some awful way.
I did get some writing done this summer, when I wasn’t watching Netflix or throwing an epic pity party for myself. I wrote a couple stories on the theme of artificial intelligence, worked on my current novel-length WIP (work-in-progress), and kicked around other book ideas in my head.
Eventually I decided since I never get to go anywhere, I should go somewhere in my head, so I decided to do #Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, again in November. The first time I did Nanowrimo was 2012, when I decided to write my first book, Stupid Humans, in November…
Which I did—I started in November of 2012 and finished in November of 2014.
In my defense, the first draft was 176,000 words, way over the 50K required for Nano. (Also something I won’t be doing again, ever. That’s a lot of fucking words to edit.) So this November I’m going to write a sequel to Stupid Humans, and the word count is going to be a lot lower.
Since my summer “vacation” sucked, tell me about yours. What did you do this summer? Please tell me about something more exciting than what I did.
I always get my best ideas for stories when I run. Today I did an hour on the treadmill, and I finished this story in my head. I have about 1,300 words written already, but as I was running, I came up with the rest of it.
In fact, I’ve gotten the ideas for most of my #scifi books and short stories while running, or at least walking. Rarely have I had a good idea while sitting on my ass. Walking around the mall, looking for stuff to buy and resell, is another great time for me to have ideas and write scenes in my head.
The problem, though, is transferring them to my computer screen.
Like today. Today I was going to finish that story while I still had a good adrenaline rush going. But I couldn’t do that, because I had to do real work first—you know, the kind of thing you actually get paid for. Not well, but it’s better than nothing. So first I had to sit down and write three articles about legal issues in a warm, beachy state for a client. I’d rather be at the beach myself, but I don’t live in Fantasyland, either.
I was hoping it would only take a couple hours, but it took longer, because my mom kept interrupting me. Yeah, I live with my parents. I have two college degrees, no job, and struggle to eke out something resembling a living by buying and reselling stuff on the internet. Because that’s working out so great, I also do a lot of freelance writing, which is why I had to write those fascinating articles about prenuptial agreements.
Which my mom interrupted by asking me how to attach a picture to an email on my dad’s phone.
And then she came back to ask how to send it. (“Look for a button that says SEND, Mom!”)
And then I tried to explain to her that I was writing about prenuptial agreements because MONEY, and she went away.
I was working on the best way to sell people on a prenup (“It’s a really a great way to say I love you, I just love my money more!”) when she came back five minutes later because the eBay app crashed, so I told her to just reboot the phone and try again in a few minutes…
And when I finally got done with the damn articles, I still needed to do some work on my internet reselling.
And I never did finish that story that I finished in my head. At least not in the real world.
All this got me thinking about something I’ve been hoping someone would invent for a long time: A levitating keyboard that you can type on while walking. It just floats in front of you at the perfect height for typing. And I guess your tablet or phone floats above it so you can see the screen. I mean, do you know how many books I could have finished writing while on the damn treadmill? Or walking around the mall?
This is at the top of my list of Future Inventions That Will Change the World, right after the telepathic keyboard (think of all the writing I could do), calorie-free chocolate cake that tastes like normal chocolate cake, carrots that taste like donuts, a computer that can warn me when I’m about to spill something on it, and a treadmill that takes dictation and doesn’t misunderstand every other word like Google does on my phone. Also, I really want some sort of VR chip that allows you to see and hear TV shows in your head, without anyone having any idea you’re tuning them out and watching TV inside your own brain.
I have a feeling some of these might end up in a future story of mine. What future inventions would you like to see?
Mr. Frisby loves to make up stories about how great he is, how smart he is, how he invented things and solved problems he couldn’t possibly have solved. Fortunately, Frisby is a poor guy living in a small town, not a famous billionaire, so nobody is stupid enough to believe his bullshit.
I don’t watch a lot of old black-and-white TV shows. I like some classic shows, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I have a hard time enjoying anything made earlier than the eighties. For one thing, the writing is so stilted and not-conversational (or at least, not-conversational by today’s standards). Often the pacing is slower than shows today too.
But I always watch the Twilight Zone #TwilightZoneMarathon, every New Year’s and Fourth of July when it airs on Syfy. Keep in mind, for someone who loves scifi, I don’t actually watch that channel very often because most of their programming consists of wrestling, ads for male enhancement products, and made-for-TV movies about monsters chasing people. I prefer shows with something resembling a plot—which is why I’m still pissed they canceled Incorporated, probably the best original show they’ve had since Battlestar Galactica—so I always enjoy the #TwilightZoneMarathon. Here are some reasons why the Twilight Zone is awesome (still):
Although some of the Twilight Zone full episodes do suffer from old-fashioned dialogue, and the special effects are, well, barely existent, I’m always struck by how relevant some of the plots are today. Some are only personally relevant—”The Bewitchin’ Pool” is an episode that will always speak to every kid who wished they could escape their parents’ constant fighting, but never got their own bewitching pool. (Even if you haven’t been a kid in years.)
But others are socially relevant. Last night’s marathon started with “Hocus Pocus and Frisby,” an episode whose main character immediately reminded me of someone we all know. Watching the first episode in the Syfy Twilight Zone Marathon 2017 reminded me of how, despite being more than fifty years old, an episode can seem like it was made yesterday. Mr. Frisby loves to make up stories about how great he is, how smart he is, how he invented things and solved problems he couldn’t possibly have solved. Fortunately, Frisby is a poor guy living in a small town, not a famous billionaire, so nobody is stupid enough to believe his bullshit.
Well, except the aliens. They take everything literally and decide to kidnap Frisby because he’s clearly the most intelligent and accomplished human being ever. After escaping the aliens, he tries to tell the story to his friends, who naturally assume it’s just another one of his lies.
Why is this episode relevant today? Because in a world full of fake news, we should all be more skeptical of everyone and everything. If your neighbor or coworker or the guy who checks you out at the grocery store started spouting about how he was the best at everything, did every important thing in the world, and could fix every problem around, would you believe him? Most likely, you’d use WebMD to diagnose him with a personality disorder, or just tell him to shut up. So if you wouldn’t believe bizarre claims of superiority from the average person, why would you believe some rich, famous person who says the same thing?
There are other recurrent themes that keep popping up on the show, also still relevant today. One thing that always impressed me was how, in spite of the technology or aliens or magical beings that popped up on a show, the plot usually revolved around the main character’s fight with his or her own demons. Sometimes these played out in a fight with a magical item, like a talking doll or a ventriloquist’s dummy. But those objects were only echoing the protagonist’s own fears. The brilliant thing about The Twilight Zone was it did such a good job of showing how we’re all the most vulnerable to our own insecurities.
This played out in groups, as well. In episodes like “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” aliens arrive, but humans are still the architects of their own destruction. The humans quickly descend into bickering and paranoia, accusing each other of being aliens, while the actual aliens just sit back and watch.
But maybe the most relevant episode of all today is “It’s a Good Life,” in which an innocent-looking little boy terrorizes a small town. Everyone has to stand around and smile and nod and act like everything is awesome no matter what stupid thing he’s done—like making it snow on the crops they need for food. Of course, if anyone says anything bad to him, he can wish them into the cornfield, where they turn into a jack-in-the-box-like toy or something. Yeah, okay, that really sucks and all, but what everyone in this nightmarish town misses is that the little brat’s power doesn’t really come from his ability to wish people into the cornfield. Sure, it’s a scary thing, but what if they all stood up to him? Could he wish them all into the cornfield? Maybe, but then what would he do? Who would he play with? Who would he terrorize? Without his frightened subjects, what power would he have? Ultimately, he would have to wish them all back out of the cornfield.
Which episodes do you think are most relevant today?
All he has to do is say, “Mr. President, your tiny little hands can’t handle holding the Sword of Kahless,” and watch that guy implode in the biggest Twitterstorm ever.
In the latest Star Trek news, recently I read that actor J. G. Hertzler, who played General Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is going to run for Congress in New York. Apparently he plans to campaign in character as Mark Twain.
That’s fine if you’re into classics (I’m not), but I’d really like to see him campaign as General Martok. Hey, we already have a reality show host for president, why not a Klingon in Congress? I’m sure we can find a Klingon language translator at the UN, right? Plus he might come in handy if the reality show host gets us into World War 3. Better yet, Martok might be able to do what the rest of Congress can’t—get rid of the reality show host. All he has to do is say, “Mr. President, your tiny little hands can’t handle holding the Sword of Kahless,” and watch that guy implode in the biggest Twitterstorm ever.
This got me thinking about other Star Trek characters I’d like to see in Congress. (Yes, I know Hertzler isn’t really Martok, but he isn’t really Twain either, so let’s just go with it.)
How about you? With so many celebrities running for office, what fictional character would you like to see in Congress and why?
Meet Science Fiction Author, Pamela Schloesser Canepa
Pamela’s sci-fi novel, Detours in time, is being released on 6/16. Join me for some background information on this author and her new novel
Detours in Time blurb: Feisty Tabatha, a struggling artist, and Milt, an awkward science professor set off on a journey to the future. What was supposed to be fun soon turns quite intense when they make discoveries about their future selves and end up on other “detours.” The two set events into action that may save one life, yet destroy another. Can these friends of completely different mindsets agree on a course of action? Can Tabatha stick to Milt’s rules of time travel? Both Milt and Tabatha struggle to witness and not participate in a place and time that is not yet their own.
Amid the backdrop of a future that reveals great wonders and horrors, Tabatha (Pinky) and Milt must resist the temptation to use discoveries from future technology to aid them when they return to the present. Detours in Time starts as a fantastic escape and grows to present many moral dilemmas and surprises that can either destroy the strongest bond or bring two people closer.
What inspired you to write Detours in Time? My long walks with my dog always spark my imagination. On a pleasant walk, I can look up at the sky and imagine flying to another planet. On a hectic walk, he is chasing some creature that’s smaller than him; this is what fueled my ideas of hybrid animals. I also believe that parts of this book reflect my anxieties about the what-ifs.
What makes you enjoy writing Science fiction? Note the aforementioned word, “anxieties.” I tend to get anxiety, as many of us do. I recall a time in life when I noticed that certain sci-fi movies caused me anxiety. Then, I realized, these movies always ended with someone emerging a warrior and a survivor. So there was an investment and a pay off in this genre, as long as an audience cares about the characters. That’s part of the pull of Science Fiction, I think. It imagines all the possibilities, no matter how horrible, and then creates characters that can withstand and overcome them. I mean, look at what mankind has already withstood. It seems that Science Fiction has the potential to make us stronger. It also has the potential to be more accepting, particularly social sci-fi, something that I touch on in the Made for Me series, my first published books.
Will you write in any other genres? Yes, I plan to write paranormal fiction. Again, it entertains those “what-if” ideas, and I have them all the time! Maybe I will also write Contemporary Fiction, but I don’t have a current project in that genre.
What type of books do you like to read? Well, of course, Science Fiction. I also like alternate History, Paranormal, Women’s Fiction, Mystery and Crime thrillers. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors; 11-22-63 is one of his books that I loved the most and could not put down!
Tell us more about this summer’s new release. Detours in Time is a sci-fi, time travel adventure. Writing it started out as a nice vacation for me, and then it grew more tense and suspenseful. In writing it, I grew close to the characters, and I am writing a sequel while I get ideas for even a third in the series. I added in a few side characters in order to further develop the character of Tabitha, and now there’s a family of people that I am concerned with, in her present and her future. I’ll stop before I give too much away!
Detours in Time Book Excerpt: “Do you remember telling me once, Milt, that all possibilities existed within any given moment, but the possibility we get to live is the one we choose?”
He nodded. “Yes, I was explaining the theory of multi-verses.”
She went on, “And that all other possibilities still exist, we just won’t live with them in our reality?” He nodded again.
“Maybe that’s the case with Brandon, and his parents.”
Milt turned away, his mouth turned down at the corners. If this was the closest he ever would get to losing a child, it sure was painful enough. And to think, it was all his own doing. Why did I even need to go there anyway? He thought. Why did I HAVE to know? What the hell is wrong with me? Now I get the knowledge that I may have screwed up that very future, that dream of what might have been. For it was all just a dream, wasn’t it? The future did not exist yet. All they had seen, was a future based on a trajectory of events projected from the moment they left in 1997. Obviously Pinky was still able to be optimistic about the future to come, and how it may have been altered.
Early readers have called Detours in Time “captivating” and “unique.”
Detours in Time officially releases on 6/16, this week! Pamela has planned a Facebook launch event that promises to be interesting and fun. Join the event on her author Facebook, found with her social media links below:
Social media: https://www.facebook.com/pamelacanepablog/ (Author Facebook)
Amazon Author site: http://amzn.to/1t3BYGU (Find Pamela’s previously published books)
Detours in Time pre-order and buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711ZW6XF
Author Pamela Schloesser Canepa is an instructor of Middle School English. She has enjoyed writing for various reasons ever since childhood, when she realized writing and making up stories would provide entertainment for long trips and keep her company. Her tendency toward fantastic stories was reflected in tales of discovering modern day dinosaurs and talking horses that would give her advice. Writing of poetry provided an outlet for private thoughts and emotions for years, until she decided to self-publish fiction in 2016. Pamela’s genres include science fiction, paranormal fiction, and poetry of all types. The “Made for Me” series was Pamela’s first published fiction series. Her first full-length novel, Detours in Time, is being released this summer. Currently, Pamela is working on a sequel to her time travel novel and developing more ideas for the character of Norrie from her Made for Me series.
Last year, the dimming of a star roughly 1,300 light-years away known as KIC 8462852, or “Tabby’s Star,” led to theories about alien structures. Of course, there were also more mundane theories, like clouds of dust or dusty comets, or maybe the collision of a couple planets. That last one would probably be a cool thing to watch, even if it isn’t as interesting as “Aliens, man, aliens.”
Being both a #scifi writer and from a family of habitural liars, I have quite the imagination. So when I first read about this, I immediately started picturing aliens, scrambling to build a Dyson sphere around their planet after they picked up one of our news broadcasts and learned that we’ve managed to invent Facebook, three different pills for impotence, and a Justin Bieber bobblehead, but no warp drive, so there’s still time to avoid us entirely if they hurry. (Last year, I originally thought they found out Donald Trump was nominated for president, but after reading more on the subject I learned the star started dimming between 2011 and 2013, so that didn’t fit the timeline.)
Recently, the star dimmed again, and that stirred up more alien theories…and my imagination. Now I’m thinking maybe this thing is a great big trap, meant to lure unsuspecting humans out to KIC 8462852 so the aliens can get started on their new cookbook, “To Serve Man.” (Yes, I spend way too much time watching reruns of “The Twilight Zone.”)
On the other hand, maybe the aliens are trying to help. Maybe they think we’ll send a representative, like a prominent politician. Or all of our planet’s politicians. THAT would do more for human society than anything else I can think of.
What do you think is causing the star to dim?
About six years ago, maybe more, I started writing a short story about a retail cashier dealing with the back-to-school rush at her store. Yeah, that was inspired by my own time in hell, er, retail, which was especially awful during back-to-school because the store was flooded with bratty kids trashing the store.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with kids. I have a problem with parents who refuse the discipline their kids. When I was little, if I pulled something off a shelf in a store, my parents told me to put it back, where it went, and neatly, because it wasn’t fair to leave a mess for someone else. And then they stood there and made sure I did it. Probably one of the few things they were right about, and that’s a very short list.
So, fast forward to when I’m an adult and working in a store, and I discover parents today don’t seem to teach this shit to their kids. Maybe a few do, but the majority that visited my place of employment didn’t. So I had to always put shit back so as not to inconvenience a cashier, but when I grew up and became a cashier, no one returned the fucking favor. Meanwhile, the parents did manage to find time to yell at me about things I had no control over, like the store being out of stock of something they wanted, or prices not being cheap enough, or limits on the really cheaply-priced items because they had ten kids and six erasers at the deep-discount price wouldn’t cut it, and somehow it was all my fucking fault they couldn’t use a condom.
So to make myself feel better, I started a short story in which a bratty little kid at a store gets abducted by aliens while his mom yells at a cashier about something stupid. I never finished it, because I wasn’t really inspired to figure out what happened when the aliens got him up to their spaceship. I always thought it was a great scene and I’d come back to it later and finish it, but for a long time, I didn’t.
I wrote other stuff. I wrote my first book, Stupid Humans, and I wrote other short stories. I kept thinking I’d use that half-finished story as a scene in something, but I never had an “Ah-ha!” moment where I found the right place for it.
One day, while contemplating the Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes series I do here on my blog, I started thinking about all the former coworkers, bosses, and annoying customers I’d dealt with at work. Could one of them inspire the next piece of flash fiction?
Then I remembered my half-finished story and decided to find it, which involved digging out my old terabyte hard drive, hooking it up, and combing through hundreds of badly organized files trying to find the damn thing. Naturally, I had no idea what I’d named the file. I found all sorts of stuff, including a couple other unfinished stories I decided to save for future use, and a couple of trunked second drafts of first and second novels I wrote years ago. Definitely didn’t feel like dealing with that.
After about three hours, I managed to find the damn thing. Now, how to finish it? How to edit my writing effectively? It occurred to me that having the kid abducted wasn’t really fair, since his mom was really the asshole in the story. Also, I had played with the idea of the cashier getting abducted, since I often fantasized about being beamed up into an alien spaceship when forced to toil in that miserable hellhole. If the aliens couldn’t take my damn customers, maybe they could get me off this damn rock?
But I still didn’t know what the aliens wanted, and I’d already written a story about an alien abduction from a busy store, so I wanted to do something different. I’d always wanted to write a parallel universe story, so I decided to get rid of the aliens entirely, leave the annoying asshole customer at the register, and have the cashier sucked into a parallel universe.
Suddenly, I had lots of ideas. How could things be different in this other universe? What if no one over there ever decided the customer was always right? Ultimately, my short story turned into a next-novel start. I’m currently at about 28,000 words, and enjoying my custom-designed universe. (Who doesn’t want to be in charge of their own universe?)
A couple people in my writing group like to say you should never throw away anything you write, even if you think it’s awful, because you might re-purpose it someday. Me, I never throw anything away because I’m too lazy to find the file on my computer and delete it, but you get the idea. (I’m also too lazy to delete anything in my inbox, so I can pretty much find any email I’ve ever sent or received ever. Laziness is handy.)
All this thinking about parallel universes has made me ponder if there’s another universe where I decided to stick with the alien abduction story. I wonder how it turned out?
Do you know an annoying person (coworker, boss, neighbor, relative, whatever) you’d like to see beamed up into a spaceship? I can help. I mean, I can’t actually get the aliens to come pick them up, unfortunately—if I could, I’d be long gone from this rock. Sadly, despite my best efforts, the aliens have refused to talk to me. (The people at the Very Large Array did finally drop that pesky restraining order though, so maybe I’ll try again.) Anyway, I can’t get the aliens to abduct the annoying people in your life, but I can sure write a piece of flash fiction in which they get abducted by aliens.
Here at Stellar Sarcasm, I do a series of science fiction stories about alien abductions called Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes. Here’s the deal: Message me here or on my Facebook page and tell me about a person you’d like to get abducted by aliens. Names will be changed to protect the guilty and me from lawsuits. When I’m not working on my next science fiction book, I will write a piece of flash fiction in which this person gets hauled off to another planet in a comical and satisfying way, and post it here on my blog.