“And on your left… a whole lot of nothin’”

Hello fellow travelers. This is your resident blogger speaking.

It appears as if we’ve just burned through our first (rather) substantial quiet period here on our outward journey. Call it a void, the Big Empty, or a whole lot of nothing.. it seems I’ve succumbed to that which plagues even the greatest amongst us.

But fear not; Outwardbounder is not without her helmsman.

Yes I know, it may look as if this ship’s been hurtling blind and trackless.. But I’ve prepared my barrel-full of excuses. It’s practically bubbling over-

I’ve been below deck (that’s my last nautical metaphor, I promise), seeing to some ‘real life’ duties that puts food on the table and keeps an internet connection humming. You know – general long term welfare type stuff. I’ve recently taken a new job and have just got over that baby-giraffe-wobbly period where it seems I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. 10 hour days have seemingly cut into my fanciful side.

But no longer!

I’m actually cranking out a rough draft of this very post here on the first break o’ the day. This ship cannot be stopped! (Damn)

In the meantime, I’ve had one helluva backlog in creativity. It’s like a dam that’s sectioned off all of my creative juices. As you can see from all of these awkward and particularly forced metaphors.. I gotta tear that sonofabitch down!

It’s high time that I let you guys know that Outwardbounder is alive and kicking, and there are actually some pretty cool undertakings in the works.

First off: Peer reviews! I’ve found it my good fortune to be reading some very cool works by some writer friends of mine. I’ve gone over their stuff at some length and have always been impressed. I love being a part of this step in the process, and am so grateful that they’ve sought out my input.

Check these guys out here and here. You wont be disappointed.

This is a perfect way to get my head back in the game. I’m completely open to other such reviews as well, if you’re so inclined. I would be happy to post them on this humble blog as well… if… if you’re so inclined. Hit me up.

Second off: That creative backlog, I mentioned. It’s overwhelming. The stuff has been ricocheting between my cerebral hemispheres for far too long. You know you should start getting that stuff on paper after you’ve started your 4th, 5th or 17th story outline. A man can only take so much brainstorming before it has some kind of permanent effect.

I’ve got one about a time traveler that projects himself to the end of the universe; one momentous slice at a time.

A guy’s family reunion with a long lost Neanderthal.

Human intelligence seen from a ruthless cephalopod’s POV.

An alien hive-mind cloud whose idea of greeting involves skewering, impaling, and piercing.

One with universe hopping the long way around – i.e, waiting for a habitable universe to evolve up around you.

And most importantly, dinosaurs that might not be dinosaurs but probably are because they’re awesome enough to be actual dinosaurs.

 —

–As you might imagine, my daydreaming and actual-dreaming have been pretty hectic lately.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. For those of you that find such things agreeable; Outwardbounder will be experiencing a concerted effort by her captain to make a comeback. My presence on twitter has been spiking again, and I’ve devoted some time to Pinterest in a means to kickstart that ever-elusive artistic muse.

Check them both out. They’re full of creative, interesting people. And they’re a good way to ruminate on imaginative subjects. That’s the service I strive to provide, after all.

I’ve also got my mind on beginning a proper youtube page, with possible video accompaniment for these blog posts. DeviantART seems like a good idea for my cartoony doodling skills as well. Any content is good content, right?

Once again: Thanks for sticking around, if you did. Many welcomes to those first-timers. Much love to all you guys. Kick back, check out a story or poem or two; on me. There’s bound to be more incoming not far on that galactic horizon.

All My Yesterdays: An Evolutionary Snapshot of Dinosaur Doodles

So a while back I wrote a review on this pretty boss paleoart book. I raved about it, enjoying its refreshing stance and bold ideas concerning a long childhood obsession of mine. All Yesterdays brought a cunning and much needed twist to the newest trends in dinosaur restoration. It highlighted a kind of common sense mentality that seemingly goes missing with the world at large. Dinosaurs were animals.

How could I 'not' salivate at the mouth for this opportunity?!

How could I ‘not’ salivate at the mouth for this opportunity?!

I’ll grant you: Kind of an obvious statement, but I’d argue it’s a message that the majority of people tend to forget. All too often, dinosaurs are regulated to the children’s section of popular culture. And as hard as it is to accept, Mesozoic earth was almost certainly NOT like a page out of a 1950’s pulp magazine.

At its core, this is why I enjoyed the book. It isn’t often that you get such a level-headed and adult take on the subject of dinosaurs.

So why am I doing all of this fanboy harping all over again? Why did I think you guys needed the refresher course on how awesome this book is? Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this rant.

The rough draft version of my All Yesterday's contest entry. Note: I've always used notebook paper. It ain't a doodle without notebook paper.

The rough draft version of my All Yesterday’s contest entry. Note: I’ve always used notebook paper. It ain’t a doodle without notebook paper.

The good folks over at Irregular Books have just finished with their own art contest based on All Yesterdays concepts. 200+ entrants were tallied, and luckily, (thanks heavily to a 10 day extension window) I was able to submit my own piece. I gotta thank those guys for so much grace. Us writer types can be real “last minute” monkeys. At any rate: It took a few rough drafts and aborted attempts, but my precarious doodle and Corel Paint skills saw me through. Taking up the pencil was cool and all, but the most interesting facet emerged when I did a little research. I looked back over some very old “circa 1998” pictures I’d concocted, and was stunned to realize just how prescient I failed to be! I’d fallen into strict 90’s paleoart a trend… and I’d fallen hard.

One of the arguments All Yesterdays makes was that of shrink wrapping: Coating the reconstructed bones of dinosaurs with the thinnest semblance of muscle, skin, and integumentary bites-o-goodness. You didn’t want to speculate too hard, back on those olden days, lest you be labeled a quaking crank.

This “anorexiation” of dinosaurs came from a backlash when paleontologists started viewing dinosaurs as sleek, warm-blooded, speedsters… as opposed to the lumbering walnut-brains of past fame. This Dinosaur Renaissance was spearheaded by an old hero of mine, Robert Bakker; along with his disciple, Gregory S Paul.

Lookin' pretty skinny there, slick. This is my 90's interpretation of some ... ancestral... dromeosaurid? I suppose I figured all cool dinosaurs needed the sickle claw.

Lookin’ pretty skinny there, slick. This is my 90’s interpretation of some … ancestral… dromeosaurid? I suppose I figured all cool dinosaurs needed the sickle claw.

Ribcage sporting dinosaurs were all the rage through the early 1990’s and I was a born again convert.

Lets just say, you couldn’t get my nose out from one of Paul’s gorgeously illustrated books. It was a physical impossibility. Weeks could pass and parents could worry, but I wasn’t fucking letting go.

So I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise when an adult version of me came across one of these little gems.

Shrink wrapping happens, my friends. Witness it to your horror!

Anyways.. I thought that was kind of funny. And a little eye opening. Heed the wisdom of All Yesterday’s dogma. I’ve re-converted. Now my ornithopods have fuzz. It’s the circle of life.

Evolution in action.

Seriously though, if you haven’t read the book, you should check it out.

Now with color. I feel I've come a long way. I call this piece Beachcomber.

Now with color. I feel I’ve come a long way. I call this piece Beachcomber.

Why Spec is Absurd and You Should Embrace It

Perhaps I should suffix that title: If You’re A Weak Little Pissant Like Me

Welcome back to Outwardbounder in a bran’ new rotation! Revolution? You know, that circuloid motion this planet makes through its gravity well? The trip around the host star that has been arbitrarily labeled by its inhabitants? Twenty-Thirteen!

We made it past Twelve and the ball keeps on turning. Glad to see you all.

Outward’s outward journey continues:

 

 

Around these parts, the term ‘realism’ can be readily underappreciated. I get that. When hosting a speculative fiction blog, I constantly find myself trying to rationalize the intricacies of that pie up there in the sky.

But hey: it’s that time again. We’re long overdue. Time to break into the New Year with a dazzling display of pretentiousness. But not too much. I’m not bombastic. Just a bit tedious. Outwardbounder 2013’ll start out a little conservatively, if I can help it. I’ll take it easy with this post.

Try to elucidate on that realism.

Awkward justification time!

Here’s where I’m going with this–

Imagination can be a messy business. It’s a real balancing act. It all depends on your end goal. Satire is fun, but easy. (In SF or pure speculative fiction, it’s simpler to laugh at the green Martian than to learn how its vascular system works) I use humor all the time; whenever I feel like I’m sounding too much like a lunatic –or when I’m attempting to hide the fact that I know fuck-all about the topic. I lay it on heavy. But realism… that’s another kind of beast.

A lot of corn isn't always a bad thing.

A lot of corn isn’t always a bad thing.

Science Fiction conveys with it a tough crowd. A bunch of rabid piranhas who would tear me apart if they new I needed to use spell check to spell piranhas just now. You gotta push the envelope, or you’re as good as gone. As bad as B-movie notoriety or pulp fiction. (The genre, not the movie. Quentin is all kinds of great.)

It’s an arena of ideas, and there are many ancient gods that came before. There’s a long history of genius SF authors, all of them smarter than you’ll ever hope to be. They’ve already snapped up the juicy entrails of the speculative carcass, and all you’re left with is the refuse.

How can you hope to find your voice? Will your message be forever drowned out? Are you worth listening to? Even more importantly—are you worth taking seriously?

I’m familiar with how genuinely painful it is for your blood, sweat, and tears to be sadistically torn to shreds. If anything, there’s something particularly gruesome about someone labeling your work as trite, clichéd and unbelievable. That derisive snort they make as they toss your WIP aside cuts finer than a knife.

My shit is… implausible? That, I can stomach; but if it’s enough to break a reader out of my story entirely, I know something is seriously wrong. That’s where the coatings come in.

You can do one of three things: You can salvage your draft by converting it wholesale into a satire, or focus more adeptly at reality 101. The third one (which I’m not really focusing on here) is to just embrace your inner sadist and welcome ‘the pulp’ with open arms. Nuttin wrong with that route either.

My argument isn’t that “humorizing” your science fiction is a copout. Read Douglas Adams. My stance is that making a genuine push to “make that shit more believable” is much more challenging, and in the end, just as rewarding. Harden up that flabby fiction and rediscover the depth that was there all along.

SF is a tough racket to break in, full stop. Here there be pitfalls; and in such a variety, your head will spin.

Take the ‘predicting the future’ trope. That’s almost what SF is all about. There’s so many ways you can slip up. Overlook something here or misjudge something there. You can also completely ignore shit. *cough* pulp! *cough*

The fun thing about predicting the future? Your stuff ages quicker than a hopped up mayfly. There’s nothing quite like seeing the word ‘obsolete’ solidify over your front page in real time.

The answer? Be like me and focus on the tropes that the naked eye just ain’t patient enough to stick around for. Evolution! Stick your story world in a far off point in the future. Alien Galaxies! Stick your story world on a far off point in the galactic horizon. Alternate realities! Prove sentient toucans from another universe wrong, jackass!

Aliens, alt. worlds and evolution are the bread and butter of my speculative forays. They’re also delicious flavors in any spec fiction goulash. But I have to be honest…

Impatience and carelessness can undo those stories just as quick.

You can also do everything right. Take your time, focus on your craft. Read up on what jive your peers are hip to these days. You can bring a truly novel approach to your subject and ‘still’ be ridiculed, scoffed, and mocked. Just ask Dougal Dixon. I’ve never seen anyone play with a line so razor-thin.

When the man’s on, he’s on fire. He’s also prime for the voracious internet meme hoards.

Leech men from a distant future! Personally, I love this, but I can see why it makes the rounds o' ridicule

Leech men from a distant future! Personally, I love this, but I can see why it makes the rounds o’ ridicule

 

There will always be stumbles on your marathon to publication or acceptance. We can use all the defensive mechanisms in the book, but we still have to get our shit out there and seen by the readership. And they will laugh. The healthy majority of them will be those damned ‘derisive snort-ers’. Most people won’t like your shit.

But you aren’t writing for them. You’ll find your niche. You’ll find your crowd. Everything has a following.

Let the others laugh. You’re doing what you love.

And us readers are better off for it.

Welcome: Where’s your destination?

Like the first part of the title said; Welcome to Outwardbounder. A blog where big ideas are tackled by a fresh-faced wannabe writer who is (in all fairness) completely under qualified. The goal is to keep those seemingly insurmountable limitations at bay with a mix of enthusiasm, creativity and a whole mess of respect for what is undoubtedly a very large and complex pocket of what we call reality. Because I’ll admit it right here in the first paragraph – as much as I’m in absolute awe of the front row seat we’ve been given, (access to an ever expanding knowledge base of the universe’s inner clockwork! Are you kidding me?!) I still have this nagging tendency to reach out further into the vastness that I know I can never fully comprehend and just lose myself in the inescapable wonder of what else we might be missing.

Believe me; I’m far from unsatisfied. There’s so much here that generations to come will be mulling over the particulars! Disciplines spanning entire cultures will be wrapped up in this ever-unfolding mystery for centuries to come. And I for one am completely content to realize that we probably will never know it all. Yet at the same time, we all know it’s fun to give that endless game a shot. For many of us, it all begins with an upturned chin to that familiar night sky.

But enough of all that reverent crap; this is just a blog after all. And as first posts go, I want this to swing more toward informative than expository!

So: What’s all this, then?

Simply put, Outwardbounder is a space for like-minded people to get together and ruminate on topics that the not-so-like-mindedly inclined might say “will never happen, could never happen, should never happen, or have already not happened.” Ah, but we know better.

Subjects like:

  • An alternate history where there was no other white meat!
  • A grim and distant future where meerkat-like creatures have enslaved us all!
  • A time and place where a galaxy spanning corporate empire plies the spaceways, yet never cracked the nut on cordless phones!

I aim for Outwardbounder to be a place for open discussion on a variety of topics. As long as they’re “mostly interesting”, and more or less “decidedly cool.” If you deem them worth a read, I’d be more than happy to write about them. Expect everything from musings on popular media like film, TV, and video games, to personal takes on not-so-popular media like eBooks and their soft/hard cover brethren. I would eventually like a place to post some of my own fiction: as long as it falls into those relevant categories of cool and/or interesting-ness. General appeal is always a plus.

Above all else, this will be a blog about conversation. I want it to be as open and friendly an environment as I can make it, so please feel free to pull up a chair. In the end, I hope you go away feeling refreshed, entertained, or mildly amused. Your concerns, criticisms, and input are always appreciated, so please feel free to join in the discussion.

There are many places to go from here, so the first thing I’ll ask…

Picture thanks go to vmilligan at deviantart

Where’s your destination?