On delays and – well, whatever!

Beach rocks sunning themselves

Beach rocks sunning themselves

Yes, I’ve been distracted, by something that has nothing to do with writing. Yes, I failed to make posts that I woulda-coulda-shoulda made. Yes, I slacked off, I goofed off, I set this place aside and told it I’d be back in a few. Then I realized that I missed it a lot and took it off the shelf. I guess some of it was also a little bit of confusion. I wasn’t even sure I had anything important to say.

A 1st edition of Joseph Conrad's short stories

A 1st edition of Joseph Conrad’s short stories

It wasn’t that writing specifically was put on the back burner. I post comments on someone else’s blog regularly. That other blog has given me the gift of putting my brain to work harder, more than I realized. I won’t give up posting comments there, nor will I neglect my own work. I have three novels in progress and they, too, were set aside while I goofed off.

There is, however, a great deal of value in stepping back from something like this and then coming back to it because you miss spouting off in print.

I had to figure out how to create sci-fi ‘armor’ for a team in a story, and give them something that protects them against a fictitious sci-fi weapon. I only bring this up because if someone can imagine something existing, eventually someone will do the math and others will do the experiments, and at some point, the imagined object will come into existence.

Your computer, for example, started as INIAC in a room-sized facility filled with telephone switchboards and switching jacks and women operators making the switches, and vacuum tubes and all sorts of peculiar items that are in a museum somewhere, and now you can do 100,000 times what INIAC could with your smartphone or tablet or whatever you have.

So I went back to my basic sci-fi author, Robert Heinlein and the part in ‘Have Spacesuit – Will Travel’ where he describes Peewee’s spacesuit helmet, which is a plasma bubble that can be opaqued. If you slap it, your hand will bounce off of it, but you can push your hand through it slowly and not be injured. This is what’s behind the scene in ‘Star Wars’ with the tractor beam pulling Han Solo’s spaceship into the Death Star through an opening without the storm troopers flying out the door. The plasma field acts as an airlock, keeping space out.

So what did I come up with? Using fullerenes, or buckyfibers as bucky balls and bucky paper to create a structure for plasma armor that is lightweight, flexible and protects the wearer from injury.

In that regard, I guess my goofing off wasn’t so awful, after all.

Then I went on to my incubus/succubus story, which got bogged down in narrative and needs to pick up the pace. The ‘fast forward to’ style doesn’t work for me, because it skips important things such as why ‘she’ (the main character, the narrator) becomes who and what she ends up being. (Damn! A dangling participle!! Shame on me!!! That’s bad writing, but you get the idea.) When you create someone out of whole cloth, unless you plan to merely present a cardboard cutout for hallway decoration, your protagonist needs a reason for existence, a focus that impels her (or him) to do what your have planned for that story. Having a mere concept is not enough. Real people require substance to exist.

The red Swingline stapler

The red Swingline stapler

And then there’s that whole business about ‘can I create a story from a man’s point of view if I’m not one’. Yeah. Since there are men who write under women’s nom de plumes, then the answer is ‘yes’, but it requires that I learn how they really think and that demands getting past the barrier of the differences between us. That involves getting grown men to tell me the truth about what they think about in a firefight, because this story’s main character is a warrior lost in a future world of warfare through no fault of his own. I persisted and finally got honest answers. That was all I asked for.

I think this means that my goofing off time was less goofing off than collecting info for future reference. I did a lot more than just collect information, but didn’t realize it until I looked back on all the notes I’d taken.

So maybe I wasn’t goofing off, after all, but — well, doing research?


2 thoughts on “On delays and – well, whatever!

  1. L.J. Meyer

    Sara, Heinlein had been one of the best writer in the last hundred in the SciFi genre. OT, I received four of your books and really am happy to dine in and hope it stretching my mind in different universes .


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