Saturday, August 1, 2015

Five More Months


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Last Planet

7:49:50 am

July 14, 2015

NEW HORIZONS FLIES BY PLUTO



Another chapter in human history has ended. Never again will any person living today see the exploration of a planet in our solar system. Never again will we watch with bated breath as a probe brings us closer to one of our neighbors, three billion miles out, a story nine-and-a-half years in the making.

I was in 8th grade when New Horizons launched. I remember being totally in awe. At the time, it was the most advanced rocket we'd ever built, and it sent this probe hurtling at 36,400 mph into the solar system.

To this day, New Horizons reigns as the fastest rocket we've ever launched.

Through the years, you'd hear whispers of New Horizons and Pluto, but for a long time, it was lost to memory. That is, until December 2014, when New Horizons came out of its hibernation and showed us a prick of light in the distance, an unimpressive speck of pixels: Pluto.


The months dragged on, and New Horizons would beam back pictures every few days, each image a bit clearer than the last. But in June 2015, we began to see the planet and its moons dancing around each, their orbits skewed and wobbly, unlike any orbit of the solar system's other planets.


The months turned to weeks.
The weeks turned to days.
The days turned to hours.

At 07:49 am on July 14, two things happened at the same time: New Horizons flew by Pluto, all seven of its scientific instruments grabbing up data as it zoomed past--and NASA released an image taken 16 hours earlier, the clearest, most amazing picture we have ever seen of the planet.


New Horizons will beam back the data and pictures from the flyby tonight, and NASA will release those tomorrow...but this image right here has taken the world by storm. News outlets, social media, magazines, newspapers. Everyone is spreading this image.

This is the last planet. There will never again be a mystery like this for us to solve, or a journey like this for a probe to take. We have met all of our planetary neighbors. This is the dimming of the dawn of space exploration.

The probes have led the way.
Now it's humanity's turn to follow.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Regarding Embassy Fanfiction

So the question was finally asked by someone outside of my writing group: "Would you ever read Embassy fanfiction??"

From Tumblr

In the past, my answer used to be, "No. I don't want anyone touching my characters or universe."

But alas, time goes on, and views change. Over the months I've definitely thought some more about how I would react to fanfiction, and I've come to the conclusion, as you'll see in my direct response to the above asker, that yes, I'd love to see fanfiction of my work.

Here's what I had to say:


"Hmmm… Thats a good question, because I’ve always been very back and forth about fanfiction of my own work. But…yes, I would. And here’s why:
 The obvious reason is that I wanna see what people do with the characters and story world. Of course, I’d encourage people to hold out from fanfiction until at least after Resonance is published, because the world opens up a ton and you get a lot more history and setting and information about the world of my series, and I’d imagine people could use that to the advantage of writing fanfiction for it.
Another reason I would is because of the reason I wrote/am writing Embassy and Resonance (along with Books 3 and 4 of the immediate series, both of which have titles, neither of which I’m giving away yet :P). This story, this world isn’t just about Arman, or the other characters. It’s about humanity as a whole. We all have our individual stories, we all experience the world in a different way, and thus, fanfiction of different characters could totally help to add depth to that world and make ever-the-more realistic. I’d love to see how other characters I didn’t even know about react to the events of the series, or what they think of the characters I’m writing about, or what other adventures are out there.
I can tell you right now there's a MASSIVE history behind the Embassy Universe, and I plan to write a few spin offs in the future, most notably “We Cannot Be Content,” which I’ve discussed before and can be found in my blog. It basically surrounds why humanity left Earth for good (and you learn about pieces of it in Resonance). I already began writing WCBC, though it probably won't be done for a few years (but trust me, I can’t wait to get that out because it’s very, VERY relevant to issues in today’s world).
So, yes, I’d be fascinated to see what people come up, and I hope that as the series goes on, more fanfiction will come out because let’s face it: it’s inevitable so there’s no point in resisting and it just adds to the World of the story, which, as I always say, is my vision of humanity’s future, so fanfiction would help diversify it :)"
There's one point I want to expand upon: I would greatly encourage anyone who writes fanfiction to have an impressive understanding the history and physics of the Embassy Universe. If you're writing fanfic and aren't quite sure about how certain physical laws apply in this universe, or need clarification on a piece of the universe's history, please consult me. Send me an email. Shoot me a tweet. Comment on my blog. Whatever. I can tell you literally anything you need to know about the history, about the planets, about the Embassy Program, etc etc, and it would help you maintain your credibility as a fanfic author if you stuck to the same "story universe laws" I use. This is also why I'd suggest waiting until at least Resonance is published in January 2016, because you'll learn sooooo much more about the story world.

Trust me.

One last thing, and I want to make this clear: if you do write Embassy Universe fanfiction: as I stated above, consult me for any questions you may have or help you may need. More importantly, please, do not attempt to make income off it without my explicit permission. People, chances are I'm going to approve, but if you want to make money off it, at least tell me. You'd really have to screw it up for me to not approve. But I stand by my statement: just tell me first.

What better way to get it out in the world than with the Seal of Approval from the author of the original universe? I'm open to that kind of collaboration, where I can run through and check for accuracy and consistency before you release it.

Purchase Embassy Here

Add Embassy on Goodreads

Add Resonance on Goodreads


Monday, June 8, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Summary from Inside Flap: There are few industrialists in history who could match Elon Musk's relentless drive and ingenious vision. A modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs, Musk is the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, each of which has sent shock waves throughout American business and industry. More than any other executive today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as a science fiction fantasy.

In this lively, investigative account, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance offers an unprecedented look into the remarkable life and times of Silicon Valley's most audacious businessman. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family, and his friends, the book traces his journey from his difficult upbringing in South Africa to his ascent to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than fifty hours in conversation with Musk and inter- viewed close to three hundred people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk's world-changing companies and to paint a portrait of a complex man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation--all while making plenty of enemies along the way.

In 1992, Elon Musk arrived in the United States as a ferociously driven immigrant bent on realizing his wildest dreams. Since then, Musk's roller-coaster life has brought him grave disappointments alongside massive successes. After being forced out of PayPal, fending off a life-threatening case of malaria, and dealing with the death of his infant son, Musk abandoned Silicon Valley for Los Angeles. He spent the next few years baffling his friends by blowing his entire fortune on rocket ships and electric cars. Cut to 2012, however, and Musk had mounted one of the greatest resurrections in business history: Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity had enjoyed unparalleled success, and Musk's net worth soared to more than $5 billion.

At a time when many American companies are more interested in chasing easy money than in taking bold risks on radical new technology, Musk stands out as the only businessman with enough dynamism and vision to tackle--and even revolutionize--three industries at once. Vance makes the case that Musk's success heralds a return to the original ambition and invention that made America an economic and intellectual powerhouse. Elon Musk is a brilliant, penetrating examination of what Musk's career means for a technology industry undergoing dramatic change and offers a taste of what could be an incredible century ahead.

RATING



When I walked into Barnes & Noble two weeks ago, I wasn't actually looking to purchase a book. Usually, I go in, browse for 30 minutes, and get out. But when I walked around to the Physics and Science section, the first thing I saw was Elon Musk's face.

Inevitably, I picked it up and began reading.

2 pages in, I decided I was in this for the long haul and sat on the floor, right there in the middle of the store. 15 pages in, my friends finally found me and forced me to leave. But I couldn't part with this. I needed this book. Those first 15 pages captured me like so few books do (in fact, only one book in the past year has totally stolen my attention like this).

So I bought Elon Musk feeling on top of the world and excited to keep reading.

I travel a lot between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA, so, since I'm in the middle of taking classes in Pittsburgh, I swore to only read this book on the bus, because I knew once I picked it up again, I wouldn't put down.

I was right.

The next day, I got on the bus, got to reading, and tuned out the world. Three hours later, I was nearly halfway through -- and WOW. Vance's writing style flowed right through my mind. No clunky sentences, no jarring phrases. It's such an easy book to read, despite the complex nature of the contents.

Elon Musk, if you don't know, is a biography. Yes, a biography. You'd expect the case-study of someone's life to be boring and uneventful, dragging until the very end.

This wasn't the case at all.

Vance opens the book at an interview with Elon Musk himself. The first line, a quote from Musk, "Do you think I'm insane?", perfectly captures the whole context of the biography. Because as you experience the story, as you see the challenges Musk went through to reach the pinnacle he's at today, the question nags at you. Musk isn't soft-spoken, or easy on his employees, or a man who kicks his legs up on his desk and snoozes while his companies mill around him. Vance shows how Musk is both the CEO and an employee of his companies, simultaneously the teacher and student. He gets in the work, asks all the right questions, gives all the right orders. His vision is THE vision, and if you get in the way, Musk has been known to fire you on the spot.

Musk breaks every convention, every tradition, every standard. Vance takes you deep into the details, from Musk's childhood and lineage in South Africa, all the way to Canada and the United States, where the bulk of the story unfolds.

When Musk looks at big businesses, he sees unmovable behemoths that refuse to change their methodologies. American innovation became a thing of the past. Technology and industry was growing - but nowhere near as fast as it should. So we follow Musk's journey from his small start-ups, Zip2 and X.com, and move into his larger, more permanent ventures, namely SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity.

I myself am a huge fan of Elon Musk. Still, until the past year or two, I only thought of him as "that guy who made SpaceX" and "that guy who runs Tesla." Until reading this book, I never knew the struggle -- no, the hell he went through to make and keep these companies. You think, oh, he just has a lot of money.

Yeah, now he does. But did you know SpaceX and Tesla were hours away from going bankrupt? Did you know that the Falcon 1 rocket kept failing, and one more failed launch literally meant the end of SpaceX? Did you know SpaceX tested these rockets on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and would fix problems they encountered in a matter of days, as compared to months by standard companies?

This book is the first time Musk has explicitly let anyone interview him for a biography. Aside from a few questionable quotes that have been publicly denounced by Musk after the publication of this book, we're still given a tremendous amount of insight into his head and how he runs the companies. Vance interviewed more than 300 people and spent over two years compiling this account. And I have to give credit to how up-to-date the information is. There are several events Vance mentions that occurred into 2015, such as the first landing attempt of Falcon 9 on the sea barge, which took place in January, and he refers to the second attempt as being in a couple weeks, which means that Vance included this information on a very tight deadline, probably mid-March (the second landing attempt happened on April 14, 2015).

I want to congratulate you, Mr. Vance. Well done. Very well done. I'm going to reread this book in a few weeks (probably after the scheduled June 19th third Falcon 9 landing attempt, this time on solid ground, as opposed to a barge). Anyone who wants a ridiculously thorough insight into Elon Musk's life and companies should read this book. It had me from Page 1 all the way to Page 363, and even the appendices that come after.

This is an incredibly inspiring book, a important look into a game-changing business strategy, and a valuable lesson to the world. As Musk says, "If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it."


Purchase

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Inverted Pyramid of Revising a Book


THE FIRST DRAFT
  • This should be self-explanatory. You write the first draft. For novels, 75-150,000+ words of the world inside your head.

PLOT, CONTENT, SCENES, AND MAJOR CHARACTERS
  • Go back and fix it all up. Did you tell the story you wanted to tell? Did you include scenes and events that add up to the conclusion you present?
  • Are there any unnecessary scenes you could delete, or scenes that are redundant to other scenes? Get rid of them. If this means entire chapters have to go, wave bye-bye.
  • Do your main characters have believable back stories and arcs, and do they act appropriately in character at all times?
  • Is there any point in time when your characters do something that they literally WOULD NOT DO? Change that up.

WORLD-BUILDING, CHARACTERIZATION, HONING IN PLOT POINTS
  • Now pay attention to the deeper aspects of the story. Delve into the world your characters live in. Do they react appropriately? Does any part of society influence them more than others?
  • What does your world look like? Delve into the setting. The cultures, the technology, the history.
  • Work with your secondary characters and how they interact with your main characters. What role do they serve overall? Does the main character’s journey affect them at all, or vice versa?
  • Tighten up plot points. Stay concise if possible.

SENTENCE STRUCTURE, FLOW AND PACING OF SCENES
  • Now that the major parts of your story have been patted down, you can begin focusing on the technical stuff. Start broad.
  • Do you have redundant sentences? Do you start multiple sentences the same way?
  • Throw in short sentences.
  • Drop the pronoun from the beginning of a sentence every now and then.
  • Use commas instead of ‘and’ if you find you use ‘and’ a lot.
  • Does the flow of sentences and paragraphs fit with the tone of the scene?
  • Chop sentences apart. Use quick, sharp words.
  • Or combine sentences and flowery language and soft words.

BETA READER CRITIQUES AND SUGGESTIONS
  • Now that you’ve really patted this thing down, find people willing to read your work (hopefully for free).
  • Ask them to point out inconsistencies. Are they confused by anything?
  • Beta readers can tell you when things are boring or exciting. They’ll laugh. They’ll fangirl. They’ll beg you for more chapters.
  • Your brain is soft from so much revising. Beta readers are fresh, and will pick out things you’ve glossed over from seeing it so many times.
  • Shake things up and host a video chat for you and your betas! It’s a great way to make friends 
smile emoticon
PUNCTUATION AND MISSING WORDS
  • NOWWWWW you’ve finished all the major revisions and your story makes sense!!! All that’s left to do is get the broom and sweep it up (or the vacuum cleaner, or generate a black hole from the Large Hadron Collider to suck out all the errors because that’s super-effective**).
  • This is the nitty gritty stuff, and I highly recommend either forcing yourself to read really, really slow, or better yet, read your book out loud, start to finish.
  • You’ll trip up over misplaced commas and periods.
  • You’ll literally hear when a sentence is awkward.
  • Your brain will get confused when there’s a missing word.
  • Fill in the gaps, hammer down the boards, clean up the place.

THE FINAL DRAFT
  • OMG
  • OMG
  • OMG
  • OMG IT’S FINISHED AND YOU CAN SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD AND BUY PHYSICAL COPIES THAT YOU CAN HOLD AND SMELL AND RUB ALL OVER YOUR FACE AND DRAW IN AND DOG-EAR AND TOTE AROUND TO SHOW PEOPLE AND SIGN AUTOGRAPHS AND BECOME YOUR OWN LITTLE CELEBRITY!!!
  • Email the newspaper (I’ve appeared multiple times).
  • Email the local TV station (I’ve appeared on live TV).
  • Email book talk radio shows (I’ve had a Q&A for an hour on live radio).
  • ……..Marketing is hard.

N.B. **please do not ask CERN for permission to use the Large Hadron Collider to create black holes that suck out all the errors in your book. You’ll look silly, and you might destroy Earth in the process.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015