Author Archives: Jill

Robot Parade

About three weeks ago, I cut out slips of paper and put them in a jar with potential blog or Periscope topics on them. I have a lot of ideas, but when it comes down to social media, I can think of nothing to say. I thought slips of paper in a jar would, therefore, be a good way to always have something to say.

Sure, okay. Three weeks later. My problem is not thinking of something to say, but wanting to say anything at all. It’s extreme introverted behavior, which I slide in and out of — obviously, as I’ve been quite prolific in my blogging and ‘scoping during some seasons of my life.

Sigh. I didn’t think I could handle doing a Periscope today, so I settled for this. I even pulled out a subject: Robot Parade. What kind of subject is that?! Who filled this stupid jar?

Aside from its being a They Might Be Giants song, I have no plans of conducting a robot parade anytime soon. It might be fun; I just don’t have the resources to build that many robots. Apparently, there is a RoboParade attached to a RoboFest put on by the Lawrence Technological Institute. That sounds fun. It’s for kids, though.

Speaking of kids, I got my son into Vex Robotics for his last birthday. I enjoyed watching him build it. The best part is that he problem-solves. If he does something wrong, or if one of his creations isn’t working as he imagined, he tries to fix it. He doesn’t get frustrated and give up. It’s a good personality quality. I like it.

But as per my usual philosophy of not talking about my kids on the internet (or rarely and very circumspectly), I’ll stop talking about him. Instead, I’ll leave you with a parade of best TV/movie robots. This sounds like something I’ve done before, so my apologies.

The Robot, Lost in Space: He looks like a vacuum cleaner and is famous for saying, “Danger, Will Robinson!” Robbie the Robot was designed by the same artist, but he doesn’t look quite as endearing to me.

KITT, Knight Rider: Not a robot, you say? He’s the epitome of a robot, AI housed inside a cool car exterior.

WALL-E, WALL-E: This movie just makes me want to cry. Well, okay, I actually do cry. I think it’s the plaintive sound of “Eva! Eva!” and the returning “WALL-E! WALL-E!”

Eva, Eva: She’s from an unexpectedly intriguing Basque film I watched recently. Some film images stick inside my head — like taking the back off Eva. Very poignant.

Forgotten Robot, Castle in the Sky: This is about the dreamiest robot I’ve encountered, but mainly that’s owing to it being a Studio Ghibli creation. The robot has been forgotten, which is sad. But it cares for the birds on its forgotten flying island.

Optimus Prime, Transformers: I realize Transformers are alien robots, but they are robots nonetheless. When I was a kid, I was transfixed with the idea of being one thing and turning into another. It seemed so…powerful. Of course, Optimus Prime just happens to be the most amazing Transformer.

Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation: I’ll admit it. Next Generation is my favorite version of Star Trek, but mostly because of characters like Data. I know, I know. For some reason, we humans are emotionally manipulated by robots that start to act like us. We think it’s cute. And some of us are really just Data, but in reverse. Almost-robot humans.

Muffy the Daggit, Battlestar Galactica: Played by a chimpanzee, Muffy is just another way to manipulate us humans with the cuteness of robots — but, this time, one that’s a pet.

Marvin, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: He’s cute, yes, but he’s also obnoxiously gloomy because he’s vastly more intelligent than humans and rarely has an opportunity to use this vast intelligence. I like him because he’s annoying. Really. That’s why.

And that’s it. You might like robots for different reasons. There are many cool ones out there that just aren’t as cute, annoying, or endearing as the ones I like.

Share

Alien Times

That should be my newspaper, although I’m guessing it’s not terribly original. And it’s not actually alien times, anyway, as the alien festival takes place in July — in about ten days, to be exact, since it occurs on the yearly anniversary of the Roswell crash.

I’ve now lived in Roswell for three years. Three long years. I’m still not sure why I’m here. Okay, I know why I’m here: my husband’s job brought the family here. But I don’t know why I’m here. There’s a subtle distinction in italicizing the why. It implies deeply rhetorical questions. Questions so deep, they’re lying with concrete feet at the bottom of one of the local Bottomless Lakes. Yes, every one of the lakes has a bottom; some of the lakes aren’t even that deep. The deepest is about 90 feet. So that’s how deep my rhetorical questions are.

Let me tell you about myself for a minute. I’m goofy. I like to engage my mind with goofy projects. But I haven’t had anyone to collaborate with since moving to Roswell. Generally, I don’t collaborate in my writing life. So don’t even try to convince me; I won’t do it. Collaboration is for acting, singing, and dancing. Not of a professional quality mind you — but of the kind where my daughter films an interview with me while I’m playing a dumb character. Or where I volunteer to dance for a kids’ event, and I get up on stage and jump around for a handful of easy-to-impress youngsters.

Last week, however, a writer friend suggested I help out her son and grandson, who would be traveling through Roswell on an extended film-making road-trip. Their film involved finding an alien artifact near Roswell; they needed someone to play a shopkeeper who would sell them a map to the artifact. How could I say no to that?

They managed to get the owner of the Saltcreek Mercantile, an antique shop in downtown Roswell, on board with the project. Just being behind the counter at the antique store was great fun. The store has an intense old vibe to it; it’s like walking into a different world. I know this is odd, but being behind the counter of the mercantile reminded me of working at the Alamo gallery in Socorro. The Alamo gallery is an art gallery/gift shop, but it has an eclectic group of vendors, including an antiques booth. And being inside feels like being in a parallel world. So I felt at home with the store.

I warned them I was no great actor. My crowning achievement was being utterly goofy while playing Mrs. Malaprop in the readers theater we used to do in Carolyn Woodward’s 18th C classes. But despite my lack of talent, taking this bit part in a student film was so much fun. It re-enlivened the dormant person inside my soul that just likes to be a bit weird.

I’ve thought before that it should be fun for a science fiction author and editor to live in Roswell. The first time an author client sent me a book at my Roswell address, he made a note of how awesome it was to mail his science fiction space romp to Roswell. Yet, my serious, stoic nature that exists alongside the goofy one has threatened to consume me over the last three years. Being too serious at my age — at any age! — is a black hole rather than a space romp. One can’t romp when being compressed into nothingness.

Meeting these amateur filmmakers has left me hatching schemes inside my head. Maybe I can start a readers theater group here. Would the locals be interested in having fun with me? Or I could just focus a little more on my Roswell alien novel, which has a working title of PenTriagon. Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a cross between pendragon and Penrose triangle. That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I’ll leave you with that.

Share

What’s Old Is New Again: Robots and Superheroes!

This was going to be a post about robots and how I’ve seen it all and read it all, such that when new tech is developed, I’m rolling my eyes and muttering, “Yeah, I already saw that in Terminator; whaddya mean a tank-killing robot is the coolest new kid on the block?”

By the way, the tank-killing robot is in today’s news cycle. But I decided to keep my title that was meant to be about robots and talk about superhero films, instead, because everything is interconnected. I got bored of them. Are you sensing a theme here? I’m not generally a bored person. I can amuse myself for hours just staring at a wall. When it comes to media and its ever-growing intensity for the coolest way to blow up tanks and trucks and tanks that hover down from space and giant wheels that are going to destroy everything, not to mention New York, I get bored after a while. I mean, how many times do they have to destroy New York for it to be good enough?! Maybe they didn’t get the light quite right in that one Spider-Man film — or maybe it was the way the buildings fell or the way the cars crumpled that wasn’t quite good enough the last time Hulk batted around a bad guy like a ragdoll.

And don’t get me started on the growing number of heroes out there. It wasn’t enough keeping up with both Marvel and DC. Television shows had to start creating their own supers. Do you remember Heroes, for example? The first season was great. And then everybody became a superhero. Seriously, what’s interesting about supers is their uniqueness that gives them those angsty feelings of I am so unique, and I alone must save the entire world! Well, maybe, I’ll take my ragtag friends with me, and they’ll save the world with me because loyalty to friends is always a good theme, too. Or maybe we’ll just save New York! But not until it’s been thoroughly destroyed. Again! But in shows like Heroes, you’d turn a corner and a new super would be there waiting, walking toward you with flames emitting from their hands or some such tomfoolery. When everybody is super, nobody is super! Can we agree on just that one little tidbit?

After a while, I vowed to never watch another superhero film again. My friends and loved ones were appalled at my bad attitude. They started going to the theater without me, leaving me to stew in my own unique angstiness of the supervillain wringing my hands and plotting to destroy the Earth just to be done with superhero media altogether. I mean, I get it, some of the heroes are from space, but destroying the Earth would go a long way toward eradicating the worst of the Wolverines, Catpeople, and Bathumans.

Deep breath. Then, after a few long years, I decided to be mom-like and friendly and go see Guardians of the Galaxy with my family. I have to admit I loved it. It was funny and had Chris Pratt. The old joy inspired by heroes and justice filled my heart — that joy from my childhood love of wanting to be Wonder Woman. And then I watched the Guardians sequel, the new Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok, and Infinity War. Infinity War gave me the desire to watch Black Panther, which I’d missed during its short stint in our local theaters. Despite what could be viewed as a theme of globalism, the acting was good, with the comic elements I always enjoy in superhero films.

That brings me to Incredibles II, which I just saw this week. Now my imaginary cape is again deflated. The makers of this film actually waited fourteen years to make the sequel, so they aren’t the ones cranking out the heroes en masse. However, aside from a few great fight scenes and a nice pro-family theme, it was ultimately predictable. I’d seen it all before. I knew who the bad guy was when [xxxx] entered the room. The best character was the unpredictable baby Jack-Jack, and I don’t know if I’ll care about him by the time Pixar decides to make a third installment: if too many superheroes are annoying, so is a super with too many powers (especially after he learns to be use them better).

The world always needs new heroes, but I need a break again. Sometimes, I need to see average people become great heroes — people who aren’t mutants or aliens and who don’t have access to magic potions and out-of-this-world technology. I watched Black Panther while we were on vacation, but do you know what else I watched? Queen of Katwe and Pelé, both films (available on Netflix) about real life people who overcame the odds of living in impoverished slums by working hard to be great at something. Those two films left an impression in my mind greater than all the super films put together.

And you know what else? Despite Terminator films, the world has need for great real-life tech, too, so I’ll leave you with a link to an article about the tank-killing robots. I’ll let that fill my imagination until I suddenly realize we may need Captain America to defeat such awful tech. At that point, I’ll be back in the theater watching him destroy…perhaps Los Angeles this time. Hmmm…sounds fun.

Share

News of the Week

Roswell/Alien News:

Admittedly, I haven’t lived in Roswell that long, and my move here coincided with a busy life of editing, formatting, and working outside the home. As a sci fi writer, I find living in Roswell intriguing, but I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked searching out the local culture for writers, alien enthusiasts, skeptics, and Christians (that last becomes relevant in a bit). Earlier this week, my husband listened to an early-morning talk show with a local author; he couldn’t remember names, but did recall that a documentary on aliens — from a Christian perspective — would air at the Allen theater on March 12th. That is ultimately my news: the release of Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception.

As usual, I wanted more information, however. Who put together this documentary? Who was the local author my husband had heard speaking on the radio at an ungodly hour of the morning? The documentary was done by Gary Bates, who is a creationist (see creation.com), and the author of the “Amazon top 50 bestseller” Alien Intrusion. As much as I would like to purchase the ebook, I get my hackles up when publishers/authors charge more than $6.99 for an ebook.*

I’m guessing the local Roswell author my husband heard was Guy Malone, whom I found here: alienstranger.com. But I can’t be sure. In any case, this guy (heh) is probably worth reading, as he calls himself a “Roswell Author, Lecturer, Iconoclast, Trouble-Maker”. Also, he states that he’s offering a Christian perspective on aliens here in Roswell. Clearly, this is my type of person, albeit iconoclasts may or may not get along. I’m sure you can fathom the reasons for that.

*I format books for a living. Ebooks are much easier to format than print books, and don’t have the production costs associated with printing on paper with ink.

News In the Sci-fi/Fan Industry:

Have you heard of Cirsova yet? If you haven’t, please check out their offerings. They just released their 7th issue. I like to read this magazine because it’s made of paper* (or, at least, I have issues 1-6 in paper, but only contributed enough to their kickstarter this time to get the ebook — I was broke — what can I say?), and because it has pulpy style spec fic. It’s fun. That’s about what I can handle these days in literature. Fun. The magazine has also introduced me to new SFF authors who are writing fun stories, which is a definite bonus. They also get points for their pulpy cover art. All in all, good stuff.

I almost forgot to add that one of the stories from their 5th issue, “Beyond the Great Divide”, has been nominated for the 2017 Ursa Major Awards in the best short fiction category. You can find out how to vote here.

*Going back to the paper: obviously, paper editions don’t make a magazine great. I was always hoping Jessica Thomas would go the paper route with her Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow. Ebooks for sale on Amazon are good, too. Selling copies and paying authors is a more viable business model than free e-zines.

News About Me:

Twitter friend Gitabushi reviewed The Minäverse on his blog, Must Read SFF. Did you catch that — Must Read SFF. This is my favorite line: “She skewers current society with an acerbic wit by showing where some of the trends we see today are leading. She provides some touching insight into love, (mis)communication, ego, ambition, loyalty, and even faith.” Go read the review, and then go buy my book. The Amazon link is there for you on the side.

Share

News of the Week

In the good old days, I wrote humorous News of the Week offerings, which, incidentally, nobody read. I can’t explain it, but my usual friends tend to turn away in distaste from my sense of humor. Or maybe they just miss it altogether. It’s possible I’m not actually funny.

That was then. This is now. Today, after I’ve spent a year posting nothing but chapters of The Minäverse to keep my blog from dying, I’m going to write a different kind of News of the Week. It’s going to be serious. Very, very serious. If any absurdity creeps in, I’ll smack it right back out. Okay? Do we have a deal?

News About Me:

That’s right. I’m going to lead with my own news. Back in 2014, I wrote the first draft to The Minäverse. Issue in major life changes: being abducted by aliens and dropped down in Roswell, NM; trying to maintain a stressful “day” job, while keeping my freelance business going; still trying to chip away at a degree that might come in handy someday. That’s about it, to be honest. Still, that’s my excuse for taking so long to publish my book. But now it’s available as an ebook at the great price of $3.99 and as a paperback at the great price of $15.00.

News In the Sci Fi Industry:

Jon Del Arroz is using GoFundMe to raise money for a discrimination lawsuit against WorldCon. From what I’ve witnessed of Del Arroz, his detractors’ idea of abuse equals tagging people in social media who don’t want to be tagged by him, let alone associate with him, and calling on his followers to do the same. Supposedly, all of this was in response to these people gossiping about him. There was also talk of his having emailed the president of SFWA (maybe even more than once), but that isn’t necessarily abuse if he had a legitimate reason for doing so. After all, the president of SFWA is operating in the capacity of headship for the members of the organization. She isn’t a superstar out of reach of the unwashed plebes. Sometimes, when it comes to these he-said, she-said disputes, your perspective will largely depend on who you talk to, who you choose to depend on for truth, and your POV regarding politics. Ie, people who align themselves with progressive politics hate Jon Del Arroz. That is almost indisputable. So what is the truth in between all the holier-than-thou handwringing and gossip-mongering? Is Jon Del Arroz a bully who hides his abuse from the Twitter sphere, where I regularly see him interacting with others? God knows what infractions others consider to be abuse.

If my take sounds snarky, I apologize. The holier-than-thou handwringing and gossip-mongering accusation belongs to those who aren’t speaking the truth (or who are spreading falsehoods without knowing the full truth). That doesn’t mean I’m accusing you. Most people know by now that I’m more inclined to side with the person willing to keep things public despite violating social norms and niceties. I prefer being impolite to the behavior of nice, moral Wormtongues who like to whisper behind others’ backs. Wormtongues cannot be trusted. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I’m right.

As a last point of interest, there have been a few people who said they would report Del Arroz for violating the fund-raising site’s policy of not allowing the raising of legal funds. I don’t think that’s exactly GoFundMe’s current policy, which states that it doesn’t allow money on their site to be raised in defense of people who have been accused of crimes, harassment, discrimination, etc. Del Arroz isn’t raising money to defend himself. But GoFundMe can remove any campaign from their site if they decide it violates their policy, which is why I’m not linking to Del Arroz’s campaign. I’m not going to add fuel to the fire.

Artificial Intelligence and Alien News:

I waxed on and on in that last section, so I’ll be brief regarding this section. Let’s be honest. I have a daily stream of news coming in on the AI front. By comparison, I only rarely see news about aliens. That’s probably to be expected. So I’m going to focus on what fascinates me. Today, I found it on Science Daily. Click on it. I dare you.

Are you kidding me? Praying Mantises have a type of 3D vision not yet seen elsewhere in biology:

Humans are incredibly good at seeing 3D in still images. We do this by matching up the details of the picture seen in each eye. But mantises only attack moving prey so their 3D doesn’t need to work in still images. The team found mantises don’t bother about the details of the picture but just look for places where the picture is changing.
This makes mantis 3D vision very robust. Even if the scientists made the two eyes’ images completely different, mantises can still match up the places where things are changing. They did so even when humans couldn’t.

If I understand this correctly, they are using their vision to detect change over time. You know, what you did in a math class at one time…. This is relevant to AI because, you know, if the praying mantis can use this type of vision, why not robots? Now you can cue horrifying scenes of giant invading robot praying mantises. Wearing giant mantis glasses. Backing up a little bit — scientists discovered this unusual type of 3D vision because they made tiny insect glasses. That’s right, tiny glasses. That is clearly the most relevant part of this story. Honey, I just shrunk my head so I could wear tiny mantis glasses! I’ve always been fascinated by head trauma. Why not radically turn myself into an insect-head so I can experience math class in a whole new way?

Share