2015 – A Good Year for Sci-Fi

maxresdefault

The year is crawling to a close and it’s time for some reflection on the great Sci-Fi creations that have come out of it.

I’ve been busy working on sounds for both an upcoming sci-fi film as well as the mysterious game for the magical Magic Leap, both of which are absolutely incredible! I can’t wait till they’re released so that I can talk about them.

It certainly is a boom time for sci-fi, in books, films, games, and TV.

Science in general seems to be quite popular too.

This might have something to do with the current push for humans to go to Mars?

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

 

marsnaut-640x353

Or maybe, its due to a cultural fear of Earths’s demise caused by our misuse of current technologies?

apocalypse

Or perhaps, it’s the fact that this, 2015, was the year of the future that Marty McFly travelled to in the Back-to-the-Future series?

bttf2_3478174a

Or just maybe, it’s because we’re all eagerly awaiting the new Star-Wars film?

star-wars-the-force-awakens-2015

Whatever the reason, I am loving the eclectic and inspiring science-fiction I am seeing today, from block-busters right down to short films and indie books.

My own favourite Sci-Fi highlight of the year is up in the air, pending the release of the aforementioned Star-Wars film 😉

But aside from that, I’d probably have to say the most inspiring Sci-Fi stuff I’ve seen this year is the films and projects I’m working on. Unfortunately I cannot disclose any details about these jobs, but one day, I will.

Working with a host of creative people in the film and games industry is just about as fantastic as life can get. I feel very blessed.

Are you loving this Sci-Fi boom? What is your pick of the best Sci-Fi highlight for this year?

 

 

 

Book vs Film Review: The Martian

the-martian-trailer

As someone who works in the film industry, I am not a huge advocate of the – ‘films ruin books’ – argument. Though there are certainly cases where film versions do no justice to the books they are based on, there are also cases where I believe films have enhanced and improved aspects of a particular book. Mostly, I think it’s unfair to suggest that a film can ruin a book, because it is not like the existence of the film can erase the book from history. Nor is anyone forced to watch the film if they loved the book and want don’t think the film can live up to the experience they had reading it.

Having made that claim, let me say that I do enjoy reading a book prior to watching the film. This is mostly because the film only takes 2 hours (or 3+ if its a Tolkien experience), while a book takes a lot more time, allowing me to get swept away to another world for much longer.

The Martian was no exception. I made sure I read it before the film came out and I am sure glad I did.

 

Book. *****

This was an exceptional book, living up to it’s notoriety completely. Totally worth the hype. Methodically researched and beautifully crafted, I was hooked from page 1. The story telling is inventive and fresh. Although at times, it runs the risk of losing dramatic tension, because we are being told about dire situations after the hero has effectively dealt with them. However, Weir keeps us engaged through the use of great characterisation and choice of places to switch points of view. Weir’s protagonist Mark Watney, is compelling and real. The secondary characters are well fleshed out too, considering how little time we get to spend with the rest of the cast. One of the things I loved most about the flight crew was that, as Weir suggested in an interview, they are all exemplary human beings. Unlike some sci-fi’s where we see astronauts fighting amongst themselves or losing their minds, Weir recognises that we only send people into space who are fully capable of handling the associated pressures. The drama is centred around the dangers of space, not the people who have signed up to be there. Despite the heavy maths and science that is present in the text, it is also fast paced and thrilling. The balance is achieved, once again, through great characterisation and humour. I don’t read a lot of hard sci-fi, especially as it can be brutal, overly-technical or too dark. The Martian, however, kept me smiling for days.

 

Film. *****

This film was spectacular. There has been a lot of wonderful sci-fi films released over the past few years, such as Gravity and Interstellar. As a sound editor, I am capable of enjoying a film like this on 2 separate levels. I watch films from a technical standpoint, analysing the sound mostly, but the visuals, the editing, and the craft of the film-makers in general. On this level alone, the Martian was fantastic. Great sound, great visual effects, both practical and computer generated. I want to go to Mars just to listen to that beautiful dust storm. I want to drive a rover across the rolling red plains. The film lived up to my imagination of the scenery and exceeded my expectations of what would be delivered. In terms of the story itself, I think the film-makers stayed very true to the feel and tone of the book as well as covering much more of the plot than I’d expected. If this was a recreation of my book, I’d be blown away. I love Ridley Scott’s representation of Weir’s vision. The science is as close to accurate as possible, though the technical details are never overdone. Reality never gets in the way of a good yarn. It’s still all about the character and his story.

So for me Book vs Film? Well, they’re pretty even in terms of my enjoyment, but since the film wouldn’t exist without the book, then perhaps I’ll let the book have this one.

How about you did you like one and not the other?

http://gizmodo.com/how-nasa-helped-make-the-martians-user-interfaces-reale-1734698612?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

 

Science is Art. Art is Science

pluto2

Thanks NASA for constantly doing research for me. With a steady flow of inspiration coming from the scientists of the world, all I have to do is do a quick google search and BOOM…super exciting news about the cosmos unfolds before me. Of course the scientists also employ artists to come up with lovely pictures that I can sit and stare at, waiting for my brain to sprout some exciting idea. This image was created by an artist called Karl Kofoed, famous for his sci-fi illustrations. He created this image of the snow fields of Pluto by using data collected by the New Horizons mission. This image struck me instantly since one of the alien worlds in my book was based on Pluto. It’s fantastic to have a visual reference to connect to the imaginary world that I created.

Where would I be with out you science?

This brings me to an issue that I ponder quite regularly. Science and art are closer related than many people think. Back in the early days of modern sceince, before photography, scientists relied on artists to draw anatomical and biological figures in order to document and learn. More often than not, the scientist was the artist. Remember the guy who did this? Da Vinci? Scientist or artist? Is there a difference?

leo

Well, sure I guess there are huge differences, but I think that it’s important to regularly reflect on the interconnected nature of our lives. No aspect of human culture can truly be separated from the rest. Politics, history, human relationships, religion, sport, everything is intertwined.

As Einstein says:

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

My brother is a research scientist, and while he loves art, he often says that he wishes that scientists got as much credit and notoriety for their work as artists do. I agree with this wholeheartedly, the sciences deserve much more support and praise than they often receive. However, so do the arts. And I’m being broad here, including anything from visual arts, films, and sculpture, through to books, music, dance, etc. I think that without art, the human race could not be what it is today. While I’m an artist, I know that nothing I create could be possible without the gifts of science. My computer agrees with me. What do you think? Are you a scientist or an artist?

 

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/snow-fields-of-pluto-artists-concept

Another Short Story to be Published – At the Edge, coming in 2016

at-the-edge_front-cover

I’m very excited to announce that I have another short story accepted for publication in an upcoming anthology, At the Edge. The collection is being edited by the award-winning pair – Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray.

At the Edge: TOC and Cover Reveal

My story, Narco, features alongside stories by some amazing authors from New Zealand and Australia. I feel very honoured to be included in this collection of works.

The anthology is set for release mid 2016, so I have some time before I really start plugging the sale 🙂 The cover and TOC was released on Monday, so it’s official. Yet another publishing credit on my list. I am very chuffed and super proud of the work being produced by artists from our little corner of the globe.

I’ve been too busy with work all week to post this sooner, but it’s been worth the wait.

How about you? Do you have great exciting news to share this week?

 

Share a Story of Hope

 

It seems I can’t look at the internet at the moment without coming across some news about the global refugee crisis. It is a human exodus unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II. With social media as prevalent and powerful as it is these days, there is no shortage of horrors to be seen, from photos of suffering children, to YouTube videos of people desperate to find refuge. But there are moments of hope and kindness too, such as the welcome that Germany offered to many of these displaced people.

It is such a complex and harrowing situation, one that I am not going to get involved in discussing on this blog other than to say there is no shortage of inspiration for artists these days. Social media has brought the world in closer. We can see, hear and share our stories with just a few keystrokes. But it’s a system that encourages a short attention span too. It’s easy to become disassociated from the things we see on the internet. Over-saturated, inundated and bombarded. Sometimes I just want to unhook from this network. I want to unplug from all the updating, advertising and media mayhem and just switch off. But it is important not to give up on humanity. We all do what we can to help those in need. Whether it is through offering donations or simply sharing their stories.

We are all in this together. Each person on the planet who lives at this very moment has one thing in common — we are here. We have no where else to call home. In the face of every fellow human, I see my own face reflected. If one person suffers, we all suffer. It is easy to feel helpless, simply because the problem is so far away from where we might live. But we’re closer than we think.

Every person out there doing some good and lending a hand is depending on us to make sure their efforts are appreciated. So, if all you can do is read an article or share a post, you are still making a difference. Find a person who is making a positive change and share their story.

 

 

Explore Space Now!

alien pic1

Imagine travelling vast distances across space and time to explore alien worlds and distant galaxies. I know I do. Just about my favourite part of writing sci-fi is learning about the mysteries of the universe. I love everything from the serene to the deadly, the ugly to the awesome.

Which is why I find programs like Space Engine — http://en.spaceengine.org/ — so amazing. Check it out, it’s free. (Though when anyone offers a wonderful service for free, I always feel more inclined to donate to support their generous work.)

As it says on the site:

“A free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies. Areas of the known universe are represented using actual astronomical data, while regions uncharted by astronomy are generated procedurally. Millions of galaxies, trillions of stars, countless planets – all available for exploration. You can land any planet, moon or asteroid and watch alien landscapes and celestial phenomena. You can even pilot starships and atmospheric shuttles.”

Of course, reading about space or watching simulations always ends up leaving me wanting more! I want to go there in person. So then I start to write.

Everything I  learn about astrobiology and exo-planets I use to feed my world-building. I usually have to leave a lot out of the narrative, unfortunately. Back-story often clogs the pace and flow of action, however, it does help the writer build characters and shape drama.

Where a character comes from, their biology and their planet’s history will influence their interaction with other characters. Getting it across to the reader without info-dumping is the tricky part. Readers don’t need to know about the specifics of an alien planet’s geology and history, however you can imply a lot of information through characterisation. For example, a tall thin alien might come from a planet with a lower gravity than ours. This would also affect their movement, their sense of balance, their agility etc.

Of course, many would argue against the use of bipedal aliens in sci-fi. Many people complain that films and stories often assume that aliens would look like humans, but with funny noses or pointy ears.

I simply think we make aliens look human because we want to read human stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi that pushes the boundaries and dares to portray a more realistic vision of life in space. However, personally, I’m more interested in writing stories that are at their core, tales of adventure. I’m basically writing adventure-fantasy set in space and why not? I understand that some people want sci-fi to be hard and clean and technically 100% accurate, I love that stuff too. But why should ‘space’ be off limits for fantasy writers? Especially when no human, (as far as we know), has gone to other star-systems and met alien life? Isn’t it the ultimate fantasy?

We’re living in an exciting time for scientific discovery, but also for creative introspection. In a world where much has already been discovered, space truly is the final frontier. So get out there and explore!

 

Words for Mum

mum2

Today is my mother’s birthday.

Sadly she passed away in 2008, so she’s not here for me to share this day with her. However, she is still giving me love and inspiration daily as her influence lives on in all that I do. She was just about the most generous, loving person I’ve ever met. She always put others before her self. She always took the time to make everyone feel happy and loved. She was an endless joy.

Her passion was reading. While I love reading, I could never come close to the amount of book-time that she managed to clock up. Each day would begin and end with a book, and she rarely left home without one. I must confess that I didn’t read much in my youth. I read a lot of non-fiction while I was studying at university, but there were whole years where I didn’t touch a piece of fiction. She thought that meant that I didn’t like reading much, but that wasn’t the case. I am a creator and sometimes that makes me selfish with my time. Unfortunately, I’m a also a bit of a workaholic. I can only seem to find time to engage in leisure activities when they directly support my work. When I was a musician, I listened to a lot more music. Now that I work on films, guess what? I watch a lot of films! So, it’s only now that I’m pursuing writing as a craft, that I can make more time for reading. I only started writing seriously in 2010, so my mother missed out on seeing me truly enjoy books.

My mother always wanted to write a book. I often suggested that she should try, but I think the mystery of ‘how would I even go about trying to get it published?’ held her back. (That, and she was busy raising four kids and working as a language teacher). If she were alive now, I’d absolutely force her to give it a crack.

I wish she was around to share ideas with. She would have loved to explore the challenge of publishing with me. With the kindle, so much has changed. There is so much more room for people to express themselves these days and with social media, everyone has more chance of finding their audience. I wonder how many people have lived and died, carrying their stories to the grave with them. Too many to count.

I urge everyone to chase your dreams and make your art. Don’t wait. It doesn’t matter if you only manage to reach a handful of people, or fill whole stadiums. What matters is that you put it out there.

When I was a guitar teacher I used to tell my students that it doesn’t matter if you only ever play music for yourself and a few close friends, art is meant to be shared. And make no mistake, anything creative is ART. Art doesn’t need a price-tag and it doesn’t need a tick of approval from some critic. So get to it. Make your art. Hang it up, belt it out, share it and watch it grow. Do it now, and do it with love.

No matter how few eyes will find them, every word I write is in some way thanks to everyone who has touched my life.

So, thank you! And happy birthday to one of the people who has helped me most — my beautiful Mum. xx

 

Alien Worlds

exoplanet-in-spaces

Hello there!

My manuscript, Wandering Stars, is all neat and tidy and I’m not looking at it anymore, or I’ll discover it’s not neat and tidy. There are always more commas to add and adjectives to delete. However, it’s time for me to move on. I’m plotting the sequel/s at the moment. Though I have a lot of other story ideas that I’d love to dive into, I feel like I have to make headway on my sequels to this book, especially while the world is so fresh in my mind and the characters like buddies who I hang out with every day. Or perhaps enemies who make me think about ways to make them suffer! 🙂

I’ve already made a start on book 2 twice now. Back in 2012, I made a 40K word start, but scratched it and went back to revise book 1. Then last year in November, I made a 20K word start, and again scratched it to re-work book 1.

Am I daunted about starting all over again?

No.

Throwing all those words out is not a bad thing. Creating a book-universe is just like creating the real universe, it takes time. Hopefully, not as long. I don’t have 14 billion years to get my head around story structure and character arcs. The point is, it’s never a waste to just write words. It helps me get a feel for the characters and the world which I keep refining and refining. 

I’ve already got a lot of the basic structure for book 2 in my mind and mapped out in lots of journals. The thing that takes me the most time is  researching  and developing the planets and all the crazy creatures in them. As my concepts evolve, the next trick is to make sure the world-building never gets in the way of the story. I have to take all my wild inventions and weave them into the plot in a way that develops the characters and moves the story forward. If they don’t fit the criteria, I have to remove them from the book. Some times it’s hard to let go of scenes and aliens and pretty ideas, but at the end of the day, they’re never gone, they’re all in my head. And essentially, that is why I write to begin with. Everything I create is for my own selfish joy. I love inventing a universe in which I can play — a space within my mind that will always be real to me.

So, time for some exo-planet research. Scientists are finding planets these days faster than I can create them. According to the NASA site; there are “150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.”  https://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/january/nasa-s-kepler-marks-1000th-exoplanet-discovery-uncovers-more-small-worlds-in

They’ll never find some of my planets though…

Just looking through all the research being done on finding, categorising and conceptualising these worlds provides me with endless inspiration for my own designs. I will have to start talking more about my worlds on this blog and sharing some of the sketches I’ve made too perhaps.

Until next time…

 

exoplanetsizes

Editing…and then some.

It’s been so long since I’ve posted I don’t quite know where to begin, other than to say it’s time to get the words flowing again.

I’ve been writing and re-writing – editing and polishing – draft after draft. My energy has gone into my art, without a scrap to spare for my blog in talking about it. Sad, but there it is.

Plus there is that pesky sound design job I do by day…ROBOT ROBOT ZAP ZAP!

(No really, that’s the sound I’m making in my studio. I’m not suggesting that my life in anyway resembles that of a robot.)

The most awesome thing I’ve been doing lately though, is critiquing work of colleagues. Not only is it making me a better editor, but it’s helping me to see what can be improved in my own work. Plus, as a happy side effect, it’s letting me help out friends by giving them a review of their work.

Though I still have much to learn, and getting feedback continually from my peers constantly educates me on the wily ways of words. (Like never use alliteration…). Also, using parenthesis in narrative text should be avoided like the plague. Its a good idea to remove cliches too. 🙂

So I’d like to offer some advice if you are thinking of writing a book or screenplay, or anything really…get yourself a crit group. They are an absolute necessity. There is no better and faster way to learn anything, than to surround yourself with other people who are on the same mission. So a big thanks to my fellow writers, for finding every single comma missed or word misspelled that my eyes would never have detected. But mostly thanks for helping me to hone my own style. Every day I get more confident with setting words down in print and that is more than I could ever ask for.

 

First Publications, I’m Officially an Author!

latesttwisty-front-only330wide

It is official, I’m an Author!

I have in the last few months had 2 short stories published in 2 anthologies!

A horror short story in Disquiet…

http://nblo.gs/10AphN

And a Christmas story for 8-12 year olds in ‘The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales.’

http://phantomfeatherpress.wordpress.com/

The Twisty Christmas Tales is having a Book launch this Thursday at the Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/367827330040946/

This will be my first ever book-launch event and it makes me feel incredibly proud to have such a great group of Kiwi writers to share the occasion with.

So if you’re in Wellington, come check out our book-launch and get to know some local Authors. Perhaps you might want to pick up a copy of the Twisty Christmas Tales anthology to give as a Christmas gift to some lucky child?

If you’re not in Wellington, it might be time to consider coming here, it’s a fantastic city.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Twisty-Christmas-Tales-J-Ponder-ebook/dp/B00OWXKEAW/ref=asap_B00KTUIJQ8_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415583214&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Disquiet-John-Irvine/dp/9526823001/