Sunday, June 26, 2016

Stafford Battle Interview with Norman Constantine

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Islam Needs More Science Fiction



Islamic authors produce intriguing Speculative Fiction . . . but we need more. We need artists, thinkers and leaders who can offer a rational explanation of Islam to the Judeo-Christian world using the vehicle we call science fiction. 


How will religion impact our future?  Theology and Sci-Fi are uneasy bedfellows. 
All major religions persistently proclaim that peace and understanding is the proper path to a benevolent and merciful God. Atheists may laugh at the rituals but many devout believers from whatever sect they follow are certain that the other guy is stupidly wrong or murderously blasphemous. Sharia law or Christian fundamentalism or Jewish fearfulness can lead to bloody confrontations and tragedies in the name of blind faith. 


God is good.  But God's followers -- we need to be wary of. 


Eyes need to be opened wide by speculations of what could happen from a different point of view.  We need to see the possibilities of co-existing.


Science Fiction can fix this situation if people are willing to read something other than dogma and rigid religious texts. 

Thankfully, there are writers from all religions willing to offer an alternative view of their beliefs so that we can better understand our world.

Start here: Islam and Science Fiction: http://www.islamscifi.com/





Saturday, February 27, 2016

What if We Could Resurrect the Dead?


Should we resurrect the Dead? Of the course, an entire genre of "walking dead" zombies is a popular topic for comics, novels, television and the movies. But what about medically speaking?

Modern medicine has come a long way. Doctors were once criticized if they washed their hands BEFORE operating on a patient. In fact, autopsies were done bare-handed.

Through trail-and-error, using the scientific method of observation and speculation, now, people who would have been worm food as a result of injury or disease are healthy and hale. Increasingly, we can snatch people back from the edge of the dark abyss to linger once more in the warm land of the living. We can reach further and further into the devil's pit to rescue souls.

We are getting better at keeping the human organism alive. But doctors will confess, that in some cases, defining death is still very much an inexact science. We are guessing that the sick person may never return to full vigor or simply languish in a vegetative state until the insurance money is depleted. Or, they may open their eyes and trot over to the nearest food truck for a hamburger and continue on with their lives.

So, what if one day soon we could bring anyone back from deepest death -- roll back the stone from the crypt to embrace a loved one or lift high a famous leader to continue his/her mission on Earth. These are not shambling corpses seeking a diet of brains or passing along an infection to multiply the numbers of their kind. These would be men and women in the prime of health with ambitions for life; anxious to continue their existence until the next death.

The year 2018 will be the 200th anniversary since the publishing of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly. A young 19th Century scientist sacrifices his morals and love in the blind pursuit of science. Dare we follow that tortured path? The real question is: if we can bring back people from the dead, are we arrogant enough to tread in God's footsteps?

An Intersection Of Science And Art In Rembrandt's 'Anatomy Lesson' 


I explore this and other issues in the book: Resurrecting the King.  To prevent another Great War of Africa, a scientist/shaman revives an ancient tyrant to rule the modern world.

Thanks for your patience... Get a free copy of my AFRO Sci-Fi Anthology  e-book here.  Join my mailing list to get an advance reading copy of Resurrecting the King.


Friday, January 22, 2016

A TV Sci-Fi That Overcomes Science Facts



A Review Of Syfy's “The Expanse”

After several disastrous attempts to offer viewers a credible space opera worthy of the notable re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, Syfy (formerly the Sci-Fi Channel) may have stumbled into a winning space drama in The Expanse despite tripping up on some pesky science facts.

It is difficult to depict the future using today’s technology; but certain laws of physics and overall believably have to be employed to ensure that sci-fi fans will accept the fantasy and embrace the series. The Expanse is a rousing and dramatic view of things to come but there are some aspects of its presentation that anyone serious about sci-fi should consider.

The Solar System is  huge . . . 
In The Expanse, heroes and villains flit about in space with no discussion of the time it takes to navigate from place to place in our solar system. Asteroids, planets or space stations can occasionally clump together in nearby orbits or be millions of miles apart depending upon dynamic orbital trajectories. Traveling the solar system is not like cruising the Mediterranean Sea from port to port in a few hours or days. Objects in space are in constant  motion and if you are on the wrong side of the Solar System, trying to intercept a celestial destination requires considerable computational resources. Traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) or through wormholes (which may or may not exist) you might transit between dwarf planet Pluto and Venus in mere hours. But spaceships using rocket power as depicted in The Expanse, would need months, years or decades to reach their destinations -- that is a lot of TV episodes with astronauts merely staring at each other with nothing to say except: "are we there, yet?"

Gravity is Hard . . .
Depicting weightless in space is no easy feat. Star Wars and Star Trek and even Lost in Space (first aired in the1960s) created artificial gravity and magnetic boots to keep actors firmly planted to the decks of their ships. Occasionally, actors suspended on wires could create the illusion of weightless for a brief time. But it is not practical to prolong that illusion in earthly studios. The Expanse attempted to give us the feeling of floating in the void.  However,  gravity on Ceres (where most of the action takes place) is only 1/36  of Earth.  The inhabitants would spend most of the time bouncing between the ceiling or floors. Likewise, spinning a space station such as Tycho might generate some gravity but nothing near "Earth Normal" to have a disco party without drinks floating away from the patrons.

Things Don't Burn or Explode in Space . . .
Space battles are not naval engagements in the South Pacific during World War II. Aircraft carriers, supporting naval vessels and fighter planes opposing a powerful enemy fleet is an excellent story backdrop on Earth. But the science of warfare in outer space is very different.  Without an atmosphere to carry a blast wave and heat, a nuclear explosion in space is just a "soundless" bright light. Tossing rocks in space can wreck planets that cannot move out of the path of projectiles, but spaceships with advanced radars would detect any objects approaching hours before a collision and with a gentle burst of propellant move out of the way.

Therefore . . . 
Science facts didn't stop Jules Verne from shooting men to the moon using a giant cannon. H.G. Well's invading Martians landed on earth in vehicles that could never have survived the journey from Mars. And, we all believed that a man could fly and have super strength just because he was born under a red sun. Sometimes, it not the science but the drama that captures our imaginations.

Its about the People . . . 
The future is not just white people as depicted in nearly every sci-fi space movie produced in the 1950s and 60s. Cross-fertilization of emotions and racial couplings is more fun to watch and ponder than viewing a bland rendering of "Space Family Robinson".  In The Expanse, humans from different cultures, alliances, physical types and attitudes are presented. We see strange haircuts, unique dialects, and just weird stuff like a police detective wearing a hat in a climate controlled environment where it never rains, and the sun never shines.

The Expanse has plenty of intriguing human interaction. Mars against Earth. Belters in the middle. Space pirates, ARRRG! Yes, this is a replay of the British colonization of the Earth in the 18th & 19th centuries.  American colonies rebelled against the British. Asian societies likewise attempted to repel invaders and maintain their own independence. Wooden sailing ships circled the globe, sometimes on voyages that lasted for years. Low tech societies were caught in a vise of greed and empire building.

The Expanse is fun to watch. We can carefully examine the successes and failures of our human civilization. Hopefully, we will learn to do better in the future.



Friday, January 8, 2016


The African Space Race . . .  Is heating UP!


Africa will soon become a full partner in the colonization of the human solar system. America, Russia, Japan, and Europe are planning to construct manned outposts and factories in Earth orbit, on our moon (Luna) and on objects circling the Sun such as planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and comets. Not only rocky bodies populate the solar system, there are vast oceans of flowing water that could contain life (tasty mussels and shrimp from Saturn's moon Enceladus). Everything is within our grasp if we have the will.

But none of these ambitious endeavors could occur without Africa that has the raw materials that are essential to modern space technology. Africa is fueling the future of humanity in the solar system.

Africa has space agencies with plans to launch satellites, build massive rockets, populate space stations and expand beyond low earth orbit; reaching nearby planets and going  into the galaxy at warp speeds.

Sure, most African governments are well aware of the dire effects of colonization and exploitation of natural resources as well as the brutal subjugation of indigenous peoples. But there is no life on the moon or on Mars; so human colonization would be less hurtful unless we decide to carve up those celestial bodies and sell to the highest bidder.

The right leadership can guide us along the path create a better future for all of us.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Real Dark Side in Star Wars




Review of  Star Wars The Force Awakens


I saw the recent Star Wars  movie on a Monday afternoon after the big opening. Kids were in school. Parents were at work. Fan boys and girls were asleep. There were plenty of empty seats. I have friends who preferred the frenetic crowds on the weekend but I was pleased to watch the show in a calm environment with less than spectacular popcorn.

You get what you pay for -- Stars Wars: The Force Awakens was a stunning, visual delight, powered by grand music that was inspiring. You felt it in your bones; resurrecting good memories.  And, hey, it was Star Wars offering all your favorite characters doing the same things they did decades ago. With all of that who needs a plausible plot or explantions. You could ask any bedazzled fan, "What happened in the movie?" You get the same response, "Ahhhaaaa . . . light sabers . . . Wookies. . .  It's a trap!" This was a setup for sequels like so many ebook authors who tell you, "This book one of a ten book series. You have to read them all to get to the conclusion." I saw this coming.

I try to  understand modern cinema with budgets of billions of dollars. One movie can not cover all the costs of production or expectations of profits for investors (Google: "Spring Time for Hitler").

Legacy


The Good Part: Black people are getting significant representation in the Star Wars universe. Producers have finally figured it out that people of color spend money to see speculative fiction where and when they are part of the story.  It is good to see so many Black actors working in Star Wars. We all love Finn and wish him well. He will have to fill some big shoes.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Multiverse of AFRO Speculative Fiction

"The Sheik's Favorite" by Rudolf Ernst 19th Century (with modifications by Scott Key)


According to my friends at Google and Wikipedia, "Depictions of Islamic 'Moors' and 'Turks' (imprecisely named Muslim groups of southern Europe, North Africa and West Asia) can be found in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art." The societies distant from Europe were places of great mystery and power.  The Northern world was heavily influenced by the wealth, intellect and might of Asia and Africa. Artists of the 19th century painted "spectacular" expressions of African culture that are suggestive of today's popular fictional superheroes.



Marvel Comics, 21st Century

Fictional worlds often have their roots deep in reality.

The game of "what if" is a critical aspect of speculative fiction.  We can take a point in world history and branch it off into multiple possibilities. By examining the past, we can create futures of fantastic proportions. Good banishes evil. Poverty, starvation no longer exist. Global  climate stabilizes and all people prosper. This can happen in the many universes of the imagination. 

If we can dream it, we can make it come true.