Posts Tagged ‘science’

On Sunday, I posted about finishing my first short story of 2020, a science-horror story called “Primordial Nuclear Soup” (what a title, right?). I mentioned in that post I wanted to find a beta reader to take a look at the story before I edited it and tried to send it anywhere. Thankfully, I found someone very quickly who turned out to be the right sort of reader for this story. They gave me some excellent feedback on ways the story could be improved, but there’s one point that I wanted to focus on.

With “Primordial Nuclear Soup,” I was going for an ambiguous ending to the story. You know, the kind where things are left kind of open, leading to readers wondering what happened after “The End”? Yeah, apparently I confused my beta reader with that. They actually asked me if I’d cut it off early.

Now, this may have been because I simply forgot to put the words “The End” at the end of the story. But it got me thinking: when is an ambiguous ending good for a story, and when does it actually get in the way of telling the story?

As usual, when faced with a writing quandary that I can’t reason out on my own, I go to Facebook groups for writers. I got a variety of opinions on the subject, some of which felt more on the mark than others, but one response in particular resonated with me. The writer in question said that ambiguous endings work best with ambiguous stories.

What do I mean by ambiguous stories? Well, these are stories where so much is up in the air, that an ending where things are up in the air makes sense. A story with an unreliable narrator fits this description, or a story like The Haunting of Hill House, where we’re not sure if the house is really haunted and we feel the psychological strain on the characters. By the end of the latter, we’re still not sure whether the house is haunted, so an ending that still leaves us questioning what the hell just happened fits nicely.

Of course, some more “definitive” stories may benefit from an ambiguous ending, especially if it ramps up the tension. “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” a Stephen King short story about a traveling salesman contemplating suicide, has an ambiguous ending dependent on whether the protagonist sees a light from a farmhouse through a snowstorm.* It’s a great way to top off a story revolving around a troubled man wondering whether or not he should kill himself or live to write a book about his encounters on his travels.

As for my own story…well, it’s science horror. And science/science fiction tends to deal with exactness. Even though the Xenomorph from the pinnacle of science horror, Alien, has an unclear origin,** everything else in that film is clear as crystal. So perhaps I need to give my own story a clearer ending.

Well, we’ll see. I’ll give the story an edit before I start that essay (yes, I’m going to write it) and see what I can do with it. Hopefully, I’ll make something a magazine won’t want to throw in the trash after the first page.

A dramatic shot of “Rose” I couldn’t help but take.

Oh, and while I have your attention still, did you know today is the two-year anniversary of when I announced Rose was accepted for publication? Yeah, it happened on this day in 2017, and a lot’s happened since then. A year of edits and rewrites, the release and all the marketing, the audio book, and so much more. More and more, people have been telling me they’ve enjoyed the story, and hearing that is the most gratifying feeling ever. Makes me want to keep writing.

If you haven’t read the Kafkaesque story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), and you’d like to check it out, I’ll include the links below. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think. I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

*It’s been 19 years since it first came out, so I’m not sorry I didn’t include a spoiler warning.

**I like to pretend Prometheus and Alien: Covenant never happened. They take all the mystery out of the franchise.

Reborn City

I’ve been advertising my novel Reborn City a lot lately (and doubtless I’ll be doing some of that here too), but I thought this was interesting enough that it deserved a blog post.

Near the end of RC, I introduced hoverbikes, motorcycles that, instead of wheels, hover in the air much like the hoverboards seen in Back to the Future Parts II and III. The way they hover is through magnetic plates that act against the magnetic forces in the earth, allowing them to hover. The thing is, neither hoverboards  or hoverbikes exist, so for now they’re still just science fiction.

Or are they?

Last month, tech company Arx Pax unveiled its own hoverboard, which does apparently hover a few inches off the ground. They are currently funding research and construction through a Kickstarter campaign which at this time has surpassed its original goal of two-hundred fifty-thousand dollars and made over four-hundred thirty-six thousand dollars. Backers have the option of getting their own Developers Kit or “White Box”, which allows them to create their own hover devices. Check out their campaign video.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Apparently the science behind it also revolves around magnetic forces, though not the same kind that the hoverbikes in Reborn City use. What the Hendo Hoverboard does is manipulate magnetic fields, which creates flux, or changing magnetic fields. In conductive surfaces like metals, it creates current, and according to a law known as Lenz’s Law, the current will create its own magnetic field which will act in opposition to the original flux. With enough flux, the magnetic fields will repel each other and, in the case of the Hendo Hoverboard, cause it to levitate (thanks to the Nerdist channel for explaining this to me. Click here for their video explaining the concept of the Hendo Hoverboard).

Now, the Hendo Hoverboard does have its limitations. It can only work on certain circumstances, it’s loud, and it has a short battery life. But part of the hopes of its creators, as expressed in the video above, is that people who buy a Developer Kit will be able to make breakthroughs and develop the technology further. With technology progressing in amazing new ways each and every day, and with people in high school developing amazing new programs or devices (like this kid who developed his own smart gun) we could be seeing new developments in this field within the next decade or so, enough that Wikipedia might stop calling hoverborads a”fictional device”.

And since Reborn City takes place in the year 2056, or about 41 years from when those first developer kits get shipped, there’s plenty of time to fine-tune the technology and find new applications for it, including in creating hoverbikes. Perhaps even utilizing the design that I made for the ones in Reborn City.

Below I’m including an excerpt from RC featuring the first appearance of the hoverbikes, which will also feature in the sequel Video Rage. If you’re interested in checking out RC, it’s on sale through Friday on Amazon and Smashwords, and there’s still a giveaway to participate in for a free copy. Hope you like what you read, Followers of Fear. And I’ll try to stop myself from talking anymore about RC till Friday, but I make no promises. HYDRAS!


 

When they were all safely inside, Harvey closed the door and pointed to a row of crates sitting under a single, unlit light bulb. The crates, five in all, were large and rectangular, and were marked with big red letters that read HEAVY BULK OBJECT.

            “D’ya guys want help openin’ ‘em up?” asked Harvey.

            “I got it.” said Rip. Extending his claws, he went to the crate closest to him and cut through the nails holding one of the sides to the rest of the crate. The wooden side fell with a loud clatter, revealing the hoverbike inside. It looked like a regular motorcycle, except it seemed more box-like and instead of wheels had two half-circle panels at each end. The entire thing had been painted black, even the handles and panels.

            “Huh.” said Rip. “I thought it’d be mo’ showy.”

            “Them rich kids prob’bly wanted to do the paint job,” said Fox. “Give it their own gang colors an’ shit.”

            Iori scoffed. “Never say ‘gang’ an’ ‘rich kids’ in the same sentence.”

            With Harvey’s help, Rip lifted the hoverbike up and out of the crate. The key, a small plastic rod with an electronic laser identification tag at the end, was wrapped around one of the handles with a small metal chain. Unwrapping the chain from the handle and setting the key in the ignition, Rip tried to start up the engine.

            There was a loud rumbling sound from within and the hoverbike rose a foot and a half into the air, bobbing slightly where it stopped. From beneath the panels there was a faint blue glow, probably from the magnets, Zahara guessed. Everyone around Zahara gasped and stared at the hoverbike.

            “Wow.” said Ilse. “’Kind of ‘em to put the gas in ‘fore we needed ‘em.”

            “Y’all mind if I test it out fo’ ya guys?” asked Harvey.

            “Be our guest.” said Rip, gesturing to the bike.

            Harvey swung his foot over the hoverbike and sat in the seat. It dipped slightly but other than that did not react to the new weight that had been added to it.

            Harvey sat there for a second, looking like he was trying to get his excitement under control. “Alright.” he said. “Now how the fuck d’ya drive this thing—?” Harvey twisted the throttle and the hoverbike sped forward. He lost his grip and fell off the bike, landing in Rip’s arms with a loud grunt. Both of them fell to the ground, neither really hurt but both looking shaken. A few yards away the hoverbike had come to a stop, hovering serenely as if nothing had happened.

            “Shit.” said Harvey.

            “That bastard’s gonna take some practice.” Rico observed, looking at the bike.

            Zahara was still staring at it, not really listening to the others. She had seen what Harvey had done and thought that if he had just twisted the throttle slowly and hadn’t tried to move too quickly, he wouldn’t have fallen off the bike.

            I have to try it out. she thought, feeling like she was being drawn to it. I just have to know if I’m right. Before she realized it, Zahara was striding towards the bike and swinging her leg over the seat.

            “Zahara?” said Alto, and Zahara knew without looking that all the others were watching her. “What’re ya doin’?

            “Babe, are ya crazy?” said Ilse. “Ya can’t just get on the bike an’ expect t’ get it right on the first try when we haven’t even tested it out—!”

            But she ignored them. Bending over the handlebars, she twisted the throttle slowly. The bike sped forward, going at a pace that was slower than what had it had been going when Harvey had gotten on but still pretty fast. Feeling the air whipping around her, Zahara timed a turn and spun to the left as the wall neared. Navigating the maze of boxes and crates, she reappeared in front of the Hydras, braking with ease.

            Only when she looked at the others and saw their mouths hanging open did she realize what she had done: she had ridden a hoverbike without any previous practice and made it look easy. She looked at all of them, then at the bike, then back to the rest of them again.

            Finally Miguel closed his mouth and said, “Well, whaddya know? The chica’s a gangsta after all.”

            “Yeah.” said Owl. “The riding-a-hoverbike-like-it’s-easy-as-pie type of gangsta.”

            “Wow Zahara.” said Ilse, and Zahara felt herself glowing with pride and accomplishment.