It’s hard being a 1,057-year-old demon spawn who absorbs life essences, especially when working at the office. Read my 100-word flash fiction about it here, at The World of Myth Magazine.
(Shadows of the Sentinel. Just published today. Check it out on Amazon!)
Martin Wilsey is living the dream. He is a self-published author who was able to sell enough of his books to quit his day job and focus exclusively on writing. But I will warn people that this path isn’t easy. Not everyone who throws a kindle book on Amazon can make a living off of it. Most won’t. The average self-published book sells under 250 copies and 25% of all authors surveyed earned $0 in book-related income. (Medium)
So how to make it work? I decided to find that out by interviewing Martin Wilsey himself.
JBJ: How did you get into writing science fiction?
MW: It is an odd path. I always loved reading SciFi and Fantasy. I read about a hundred books a year and always wanted to write one myself. Over the decades, starting in the early 80s, I tried several times. I was not trained in writing. I took a couple of creative writing courses from teachers that hated SciFi. I always sucked at spelling and grammar, so in the early days, I was discouraged at every turn. I sucked at spelling, but was I was great at computers.
I started blogging in 1994. That got me writing every day. I was enjoying it. And as computers got smarter, tools for spelling and grammar got better. I got better. I still didn’t know what I was doing yet. I’d start one thing and get distracted by another idea and never finished anything. I was in a classic cycle of writer self-sabotage.
They out of the blue, my brother suddenly died at age 52.
There were six siblings in my family, and my brother Eric was 4 of 6. I was 5 of 6. It was a complete kick in the gut. He was the first of us. It really made me assess my entire life. It made me realize that I could go at any time. It made me look at what I wanted to get done before I shed my mortal coil.
The same month Eric died, I managed to get a severe spine injury. It left me unable to do much of anything. I went through Prime and Netflix faster than I thought possible, and to stay sane, I started writing every day.
I was lucky that I had gotten to know a couple of authors that gave me excellent advice. Next thing I knew, I had a novel. STILL FALLING. To my great surprise, it hit number 1 in the Hard Science Fiction category.
I never stopped writing. I have published projects about every six months since then.
JBJ: Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
MW: My decision to go the self-publishing route was easy. I submitted my novel to several agents, and their suggestions for changes were horrible. Deals offered were worse. I wanted to retain full rights to my stories. Createspace was already running, and it looked like a far better option for me. 70% royalty sounded way better than the 13% offered by traditional routes. I also had the power of not caring about the money. I had a great career and an even better salary as a research scientist. So on March 31, 2015, I self-published STILL FALLING.
Less than three years later, I was able to quit my day job and write full time. I got to retire eight years ahead of schedule at 57 years old.
JBJ: What is the most difficult thing about self-publishing?
MW: As an Indie-Author, it’s all on you. There are hundreds of things to learn that have nothing to do with writing. It’s a lot of work. All the jobs are your job. I think the hardest job, the farthest from writing, is Marketing. The Marketing aspect still evades me. It turns out the best marketing is to keep writing.
JBJ: What is the best thing about self-publishing?
MW: You are the Boss. Everyone works for you. You get to decide EVERYTHING. This is awesome if you are a control freak like me.
There are lots of people that work for me now: Accounts, Lawyers, Editors, Illustrators, Cover Designers, Web Designers, PR People, Audio Producers, Narrators, Interns, Translators, Beta Readers, and more.
Managing it all is a lot of work, but I love it. I get to keep my Intellectual Property, and I receive the maximum percentage of the royalties.
JBJ: What is your advice for other authors who want to self-publish?
MW: Finish things. Don’t work on more than one thing at a time. Finish all the way before moving to the next project. Otherwise, you will never finish anything. It’s the most common sort of self-sabotage.
Pay for an Editor. It’s an investment, not an expense. The best story in the world will not sell and get bad reviews if the editing is not up to par.
Pay for a great cover. People DO judge books by their cover. A cover must be professional, genre-appropriate, and easy to read as a thumbnail in Amazon.
JBJ: What books have been the most inspirational to you in your work?
MW: I have been profoundly inspired by Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, Simon Hawke, JRR Tolkien, and other classic SciFi.
The books I like the most about the craft are ON WRITING by Stephen King and SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody.
JBJ: Would you like to share anything about your most recently published work, Shadows of the Sentinel?
MW: SHADOWS OF THE SENTINEL is a stand-alone novel that takes place in the Solstice 31 universe. It’s a companion book to VIRTUES OF THE VICIOUS. The novel is available now in Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, and on October 1, the Audio edition is scheduled for release. For more information, check out the links below.
JBJ: By the way, how is your cat?
MW: Great! Excellent!
SHADOWS OF THE SENTINEL
However did it come to this? Cobb wanted a simple life. He wanted excellent steaks, great coffee, friends, and a quiet place to restore his favorite ship. Working for a recovery operation turned out to be the best place to find parts cheap. She had other plans for him. He wanted the staff of the deep space salvage ship, OXCART, to treat him just like another member of the crew. Not the man he really was. Light-years from Earth, he thought his secrets, his past, wouldn’t matter. Especially not to her. When that past leads them to the SENTINEL, like it or not, the biggest single salvage of all time will change everything. Some secrets are so big, they can start a war. Or stop one. Or remain too big to explain when the timing could not be worse. And it was all the damn cat’s fault.
Buy it off Amazon.
MARTIN WILSEY’S LINKS
In Search of Tomorrow, from director David Weiner, is a four-hour-plus retrospective of ‘80s Sci-Fi movies featuring interviews with actors, directors, writers, SFX experts, and composers.
The film takes the viewer on a year-by-year deep dive into the most iconic and eccentric science fiction films of the 1980s, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, Dune, RoboCop, Aliens, Tron, WarGames, The Terminator, Ghostbusters, 1984, Brazil, Predator, Akira, The Road Warrior, The Thing, The Abyss, Short Circuit, Highlander and several more. The film also examines the science and technology behind the fiction amid insider tales of the creative process.
The movie is supposed to come out in 2021.
The video above seems too long for a movie trailer in my opinion (a whopping 3.45 minutes!) It doesn’t say much about the making of the documentary and who is involved, but it did show a lot of killer sci-fi moments from 80s cinema, so that was cool.
Looking forward to watching the documentary when it comes out.
A while ago I wrote some techno songs. I don’t really care what happens to them. So, if you want to use them for some video, or video game, or creative project you’re making, go for it. You can use them for free. I’d prefer credit, but I don’t really care.
If there’s one thing you should know about fans of the Avatar series, it’s that they really, really, really love Avatar. And why wouldn’t they? The show was amazing. Even the sequel show—The Legend of Korra—was really well done. Both the original and Legend of Korra had great writing, great characters, great dialogue, and fantastic world-building that was a unique mix of Chinese, Tibetan and Inuit culture.
Avatar fans were thrilled when they heard that the original Avatar franchise creators (Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) were involved in making a live-action show on Netflix.
However, Avatar’s original creators now say that there were too many creative differences with Netflix. And unfortunately, DiMartino and Konietzko have walked away from the project.
“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago,” Konietzko wrote in his Instagram post, “they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. … [T]he general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment (Vox).”
“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” DiMartino added on his own website. “So, I chose to leave the project (Vox).”
Netflix responded in an emailed statement, noting that the production would continue with Nickelodeon still attached. “We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series. Although they have chosen to depart the live-action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation (Vox).”
So…Netflix is committed to making the live-action Avatar WITHOUT the show’s original creators?
I’m not sure how that’ll go. I guess we shall see.
As a fan of the older Star Trek shows, I was curious to hear what fans thought about the newest stuff. I’m talking about Discovery (2017), Picard (2020), and Lower Decks (2020). So I went to r/scifi to investigate.
I’m not saying Reddit is representative of what all people everywhere think. People on the internet tend to be more critical than people in person (as I know being a fan in random communities). But Reddit offers a good way to get the opinions of a sample size of random fans of a particular subject, especially when I’m stuck in quarantine and can’t exactly go interview a hundred random people in person and hope that they watch Star Trek. With Reddit’s system of upvoting, you get to see which comments resonated with people more than others. So I find it a more valuable medium for opinion gathering than Facebook (where I’m limited to people who are my friends) and Twitter (for the same reason).
So let’s get down to it! What did the hundred+ random Star Trek fans I interviewed on Reddit think about the new Star Trek?
The top-voted comments on the Reddit thread disliked both Picard and Discovery overall. And the most downvoted comments were the ones that voiced approval.
I decided to take a tally of the comments and break it down into like, dislike and neutral (for people who had mixed reviews). This is my count as of now (8/11/20 11:03am), it doesn’t account for new comments added after this. I also only counted the parent comments. This does not follow the nested comments of those parent comments (because those are discussions that involve the OG commenter elaborating on their point).
A general theme I noted is that people in r/scifi felt that the new Star Treks lacked continuity with the older Star Treks. They felt that the science in Discovery was not as robust as it was in previous generations (with the questionable Spore Drive). Some people said Discovery and Picard would have been good if they were a completely separate scifi series that wasn’t connected to the Star Trek universe (because of the consistency issues and departure from canon). Other people had issues with the writing and felt that these series focused on explosions and action while missing out on the deeper philosophical questions that originally made Star Trek great (so basically becoming Transformers?). A lot of people felt that the mood of Discovery didn’t match the optimism of Star Trek in general, that it was cynical and filled with betrayal.
There weren’t many comments on the animated series Lower Decks (2020), mainly because people either hadn’t watched it or were focused on discussing Discovery and Picard.
Here are some of the top comments on the thread:
“They are very disappointing as a long term mega-fan since childhood. Seems the essence and spirit of the trek series is basically gone…I’ve lost complete interest in the franchise.”
“The problem with Picard, and all of nuTrek, is that it doesn’t seem to feel like it has to respect any of the rules that the existing canon created, and then on top of that it doesn’t even seem interesting in respecting the new rules they have created even within a season. That is just top to bottom bad writing.”
“They completely lack what made ST unique. Picard might as well be a gritty FX drama and Discovery some generic sci-fi show with Marvel elements thrown in. There’s no imagination, no wonder, no optimism for the future. Teamwork, bonding, shared experiences and friendships are almost non-existent. We’re left with betrayal, backstabbing, and general mean-spiritedness. The futuristic setting has been abandoned. The characters all wear what looks like 20th century clothing and have 20th century problems and use 20th century slang. Everyone’s bitter, depressed, addicted, cynical. I find it hard to watch just based on this.”
How about the people who liked it…or at least liked some of it?
“Just to be a contrarian against the one other post, I loved Picard and am very lukewarm on Discovery. Picard certainly deviated from canon and had a few story beats I didn’t agree with (I really dislike bitter, cynical starfleet), but the core of Picard’s optimism, his ability to inspire and get people to follow him loyally, and his core belief in the goodness of people is there. I enjoyed it a lot. Plus the fully HD re-render of the Galaxy-class was worth the price of admission. Discovery does not feel like Star Trek at all to me. It’s not optimistic. It’s bitter and combative, full of betrayal, horrible outcomes, fighting, insults. It’s also heavily serialized which makes one-off episode watching feel pretty pointless. That’s also true of Picard, to be fair.”
“They were enjoyable. Could have used more Star Trek flavor, but still good enough to watch.”
“I like them. I was actually growing tired of episodic format and prefer short seasons with one big story arc. Some of the best Trek episodes are two/three part episodes, so I’d rather see more of this. Sure, Discovery and Picard have flaws, but the production is so different, writers are squeezing so many easter eggs into every episode, I honestly don’t care if they make another movie based on Jar Jar Abrams universe, Simon Pegg can’t fuck right off.”
So some people liked it and some people didn’t. But a majority of the comments seemed to dislike the newer Star Treks, while those who did like them were downvoted into the basement.
On Rotten Tomatoes for Picard, critics gave it an 87% while the audience gave it a 57%. If you add the Picard likes to the Picard neutral comments of the scifi reddit thread, you get a similar percentage, that 51% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.
On Rotten Tomatoes for Discovery, critics gave it an 81% while the audience gave it a 42%. If you add the Discovery likes to the Discovery neutral comments on the scifi reddit, you get a similar percentage, that 48% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.
On Rotten Tomatoes for Lower Decks, critics gave it a 63% while the audience gave it a 31%.
Now what’s interesting, is if you look up Orville (Seth MacFarlane’s parody of Star Trek) on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that critics gave it a 65% while the audience gave it a whopping 94%!
One reddit comment stated: “The spirit of Star Trek is alive and well in The Orville.”
What’s interesting to me is that critic scores are completely different from audience scores. Are they right? Are they wrong? Art is subjective. So that’s not for me to decide. I simply set out to find out what a sample size of people on r/scifi thought about the newer Star Trek, and it seemed that their opinions were fairly consistent with the audience’s views on Rotten Tomatoes.
But of course, if you want to find out what you really think about the newer Star Trek, watch it yourself on CBS All Access.
After ten years, Disney is finally moving forward with a new Tron movie after being in a state of cryogenic production freeze. Tron 3 will be starring Jared Leto.
Jared Leto has said the following. “I’m struck with such gratitude for the opportunity to bring this movie to life, especially as both the original video game and the film affected me so deeply as a young child. The fact that I get to be a part of this new chapter is mind-blowing.” (Games Radar)
“I am so very excited and proud to confirm that YES – I will be starring in TRON. We will work as hard as we possibly can to create something that I hope you all will love. We have some very special ideas in store for you all…” (Games Radar)
Tron 3 will be directed by Garth Davis, whose experience up until this point has been indie dramas. This came as a surprise to many who expected Joseph Kosinski to return as the director. But who knows, maybe Garth Davis will pleasantly surprise us.
“Kosinski helmed Legacy and had long been attached to the third Tron movie. The project sputtered around Disney in the years following Legacy‘s release, with Kosinski saying in 2017 the movie was in a “cryogenic freeze” and thus, signaling to fans a threequel may not have been so sure a thing.” (Collider)
“While Kosinski is not set to return, we can’t say the same for Hedlund, Wilde, or Bridges. There are no plot details on the third Tron movie to spare and so, in combination with Legacy‘s ending, the door is very much open when it comes to any of these actors possibly returning. Then again, whether or not any of them is actively interested in returning in another matter entirely.” (Collider)
It’s worth noting that Disney has been going back and forth, saying they won’t make the movie, that they will, that they’ll make a show on Disney+, that they won’t. So who knows what could happen.
What’s interesting though is that when the original Tron came out in 1982, it was a box-office flop. But in the years following, it became a cult classic.
As to the release date for Tron 3, no date has been given yet.
Amazingly talented singer, Jane Zhang, performs a song once deemed impossible to sing: The “Diva Dance” song from Fifth Element.
In an interview, the composer of the Fifth Element song said it was impossible for a human singer to change so quickly between some of the notes, given the range. The notes were recorded individually and digitally combined for the song. However, the singer Jane Zhang accomplishes this seemingly impossible task.
For more information, go here.
For the first time since 1974, there is a new animated Star Trek series, “Lower Decks.” It follows the characters who have the less glamorous jobs within Starfleet. I myself have often wondered what the rest of the crew does on the massive Enterprise ship.
Lower Decks is available on CBS All Access. It’s described as the “sillier side of Star Trek.” (Keep in mind that there is also The Orville if you want Star Trek with humor)
The reviews for Lower Decks are mixed. Some people really enjoyed it. Some people described it as out of touch baby boomers trying too hard to write humor for Generation Z. Some people asked, “Who is this show for?”
On Rotten Tomatoes the critics gave it a 61% and the audience gave it a 31%.
But of course, the only way to truly know if you like a show is to check it out yourself.
What’s strange to me is that it seems everyone is now going through something similar to what I went through about two years ago. The fear of the unknown. The fear of death.
In November of 2017, I was only 29 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first, when the doctor found the lump in my left breast, I told myself that it was just a cyst. After all, I was young and about 80% of lumps usually were cysts. That day I didn’t even bother telling anyone about the lump (except my boss). Even my boyfriend and family didn’t know at that point.
Yet when I got the ultrasound and mammogram a week later, the tech said, “This doesn’t look good,” and left me to go sit in a carpeted room alone for two hours. My only companions the fake potted plants beside me. They didn’t offer much solace.
That was two hours of panic and grief and being in my head fearing the worst. The tech’s words replayed over and over in my mind, “not good.” In the car afterward, I cried, and cursed God and punched the steering wheel. Wondering what I did that was so wrong to deserve this.
After that, I had to wait a couple of days to get the biopsy (which was kinda like having your breast stapled with a giant staple gun…don’t even get me started on cervical biopsies), and then there was another week of sweating and panicking before the biopsy finally revealed that I did indeed have cancer. And yet even then, my fate was unknown, because I had to go through another couple weeks of tests and (yes) more waiting before it was finally revealed what kind of cancer I had. In the whole process, I learned a new word that was native to the cancer community. “Scanxiety.” The anxiety of sitting around and waiting for one’s unknown diagnosis. That was a whole month of not even knowing if I was going to be alive or dead by the end of the year.
And now, two years later, I see the world struggling with a collective Scanxiety.
All I can do is tell you some of the things that helped me get through that difficult period where I thought I might die:
Focus on what is in your control: I can’t say this enough. This helped me so much during cancer.
In terms of COVID, the reality is unless you’re an expert epidemiologist or a person with political power, there’s really not much you can do about the fact that COVID 19 is spreading around the world like wildfire on crack. All you can do is focus on what is in your power to protect yourself and to protect others around you.
In this case, wearing A FUCKING mask, social distancing, and washing one’s hands like it’s going out of fashion have been shown to be the best ways to limit the spread of the virus.
The following study shows that wearing a mask (even a homemade one) is better than no mask at all.
Avoid engaging in denial. Face reality: While obsessing too much over bad news and gloom and doom isn’t helpful, going in the other direction and engaging in denial is bad as well. One of the first stages of grief is denial. This is why you see so many people engaging in the whole, “The Coronavirus is a Hoax,” narrative. Or the narrative that it’s just as harmless as the seasonal flu. Or people even refusing to wear a mask.
People generally don’t want to believe that the world is a malevolent place where bad things can happen. People in Western developed countries have relatively safe and comfortable lives (compared to the rest of history and what other people in the world deal with). Many of these people are not used to dealing with something like this. They’re not psychologically prepared for it.
So part of this need for normalcy makes people believe in conspiracy theories and magical thinking in the face of a real crisis because magical thinking is more palatable than the reality of death. However, magical thinking can end up getting people killed.
For instance, in the cancer community, I’ve heard stories and seen situations where people threw their lives away because they didn’t want to make the tough choices and sacrifices necessary to treat their illness. Sure my veins are damaged and I nearly destroyed my liver, but I’m alive! I’ll take that trade off any day. Yet many people with cancer want to believe that they can be cured by banana leaves instead of chemotherapy. Steve Jobs is a cautionary tale for us all. If one of the richest men in the world can’t survive a deadly disease by avoiding scientific facts, you probably won’t either.
When faced with conspiracy theories, it’s important to employ the principle of Hitchen’s razor—”What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
Therefore, it’s very important for people to learn how to engage in critical thinking. Anecdotal stories on a blog are not “evidence” that certain things are a hoax, or that certain home remedies can keep you safe. The scientific process is important because what the scientific process does is test hundreds of people, over a long period of time, controlling for variables and a multitude of factors. These tests are conducted and evaluated by experts who have spent their lives devoted to the subject matter. Such things are more reliable than anecdotes on a blog.
And given that the experts are using the scientific process to tell us to wear masks, social distance and wash our hands, we should probably listen to them.
Focus on what is meaningful: The whole world is freaking out. People are getting sick and dying. But in life, you don’t want to be “reactive.” You want to be “proactive.” After doing what is in your power to avoid getting the virus or spreading it, all you can do after that is focus on what is meaningful.
Will bombarding yourself with bad news and feeling miserable help anyone? Probably not. It’s good to stay informed, but there’s also a such thing as overdoing it. And I’m starting to see people torturing themselves (and thus those around themselves) by taking in too much news. It’s hard to avoid when we’re attached to a 24/7 news cycle via cell phones and social media. According to a very informative episode on The Patriot Act, the news isn’t even really news anymore. It’s gossip and sound bites. So you’re not being that much more informed by watching it all the time. You’re often plugging into psychological torture. The news is designed to generate outrage and fear in order to boost viewership. Not very productive feelings in the long run.
I ran into the same thing by doing too much research on my illness, to the point where it was boosting my anxiety and making me stressed. I had to enforce some healthy boundaries on myself and stop doing this research. And when people started complaining to me about how worried they were about MY illness, I had to enforce my boundaries once again and tell them to stop doing this for my own sanity.
So, once you start doing what is in your power to make the situation better, and enforcing healthy psychological boundaries on the information you take in (for your own sanity), try to think of other things you can do to make yourself and then the world better. Even if it’s just a little better. Do you have any creative outlets? Does spirituality or religion help you (it helps me)? Can you volunteer? Can you buy food for a local food shelter? Are you willing to drop off food for the elderly who can’t risk exposure at the store? There’s plenty of ways to make the world better (malevolent as it may be). Even if it’s just posting a positive quote on your twitter. Or calling a lonely relative. Or exercising because it makes you healthy.
I know it’s hard to stay positive in times like these. But life is hard. Life is a challenge. And perhaps life is even a test, to see how good we can be despite negative conditions. Keep in mind that you are here today because you have ancestors who survived much more challenging conditions than COVID 19 (famine, war, genocide, slavery, conquest, mongols, etc.)
Humanity has survived tough times before. We’ll survive this.
There is power in encouraging others.
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