Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pack Light, Save Up, and Ship Out

I'm what some might call a prepper. I love wilderness survival shows and books and gear, but mostly it's because I enjoy the thought experiment of "How would I? What would I?"
I tend to lean towards 72 hour preparedness over long term, backwoods living. And I'm honestly not even that well prepared. If the turd hit the fan tomorrow, I'd be in sad shape to make a go of it.
But that's not what this blog is about. If you want survival tips, here's one - don't ask a worldbuilder nerd!

Enough of that. This is what I really want to talk about.

My blogger buddy Nils, of the recently launched, and I were discussing what we would take in a new world colony scenario. Think as if you were one of the people NASA had selected to go to Mars. But instead of living in pods and spacesuits on a barren rock, your new home would be a lot like Earth - breathable atmosphere, arable soil, etc.

Let's say a very large global corporation is sponsoring most of the cost and essentials to start your new life.  When you arrive you will be guaranteed housing, employment, and medical care. Quality of those conditions is variable based on what "class" of traveler you are.
Your current debts are assumed by the corporation and you will be an indentured servant for a set number of years depending on how much you owe. Any training and tools required for your new job are provided. If you want more/better equipment, then you have to spend your own money or take on additional time in service to pay for it. This is much like the way it was done for early American colonists.

You have to pay some money up front for your fare aboard the massive colony ship.
The occupancy limit is 15,000 including the crew of 3,000. That's a seriously huge ship! Nearly double the passenger count of today's largest cruise liners.
The parsec-hopping journey across the galaxy is guaranteed safe, but it is going to take several years (more than 3, but less than 7) to reach your destination. All amenities on this voyage are taken care of, whether that's like a swanky resort package or militaristic bare essentials, depending on how much you pay for your boarding pass.

You have a maximum of 1 year to save up. For some that means that without a mortgage, car payments, credit cards, etc. they can afford a rather high class passage with comfy, spacious staterooms and fine meals. For others this could be like a prison stay with a lumpy mattress and cold beans...which you paid up front for.

The cheapest pass is $10,000-15,000 dollars. That buys you a squeaky old bunk in general population housing with unsecured shelves for storage and a weekly, cold communal shower. The lights are never completely shut off.
The next cheapest ticket is $18,000-20,000. You get a cramped cabin with a locking door, storage is up to your creative use of floor space, and a twice weekly, warm shower in a curtained stall. You have 1 bare lightbulb for as long as you can make it last before buying a replacement.
Middle class tickets are normally $25,000-30,000. This is like a standard hotel room with 2 double beds, a closet/small dresser, and a private bathroom. Hooray, you get a few lamps and don't have to pay for lightbulbs.
Upper middle class fares are no less than $50,000 but that gets you a 2 bedroom suite with a small kitchenette, jetted tub, large TV, and in room safe.
High class staterooms are $75,000+. This buys you a multi-level townhouse unit with 30% off room service and a holographic suite open 10 am to 10 pm. Non-peak viewing hours are $12 per minute.
You can pay additional fees for room attendants (servants and security), "FREE" unlimited holo-suite usage, and select spa services. Such luxury amenities will run you $82,000 on the low end and easily in excess of $120,000.

Like modern air travel, there is a baggage weight limit per person (children under 12 are not accounted for) and there are certain items that are absolutely forbidden. Rifles, shotguns, and any form of collapsing long gun are not allowed. Handguns are allowed for personal safety, but nothing exceeding .45 caliber and high capacity magazines are forbidden. Blades under 25 cm/10 in are allowed. No machetes, tomahawks, or banana clips. No one is going to care about your nail clippers and 4 oz bottles.

Luggage maximums are 25 lbs, 45 lbs, 70 lbs, 150 lbs, and 250 lbs (up to unlimited) depending on which class fare you purchased.

So...what would you pay and pack?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interview With Author Matthew Cox

Today is our digital sit down with author Matthew Cox. He has written 8 short stories and 7 novels, one of which, The Awakened: Prophet of the Badlands received honorable mention by Writers of the Future.
You can read his running tale entitled Divergent Fate on his website at

perf6.000x9.000.indd Virtual_Immortality_FB

For more about and by Matthew, follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mscox_fiction.

At what age did you first start making up stories and putting them down on paper?

Somewhere in my early teens. 

What was the title of your first (or favorite) work, or name of your main character, or plot synopsis?

The first thing I wrote when I decided to get serious about writing was Virtual Immortality. So far, of the things I've written, my favorite is Prophet of the Badlands. I'm fond of Division Zero as well, where Kirsten Wren, a psionic cop, deals with crimes and strange events involving paranormal entities in a far-future world.

Who is an author, or perhaps character, that inspires you? How so?

I've drawn inspiration from a lot of authors, films, and even video games. Though, I'd have to give the most credit to William Gibson insofar as inspiration goes for creating my favored genre.

What keeps you motivated? How do you keep the words flowing when writers' block is more like writers' Hoover Dam?

I've got 25 years of stories in my head from when I was unaware that I wanted to be a well as an addictive personality. The energy I once channeled into World of Warcraft now goes towards writing. So far (knock on wood) I haven't had much in the way of writers' block.

Do you believe in killing your characters and/or sparing your villains from the horrible death readers think they deserve?

Once of the things I try to do is create complete, believable characters - both for the good guys, bad guys, and everyone in between. I've never been terribly fond of character death in other things, but sometimes it does make sense for the story to do it. If the story warrants it, it can happen...but it's not something I enjoy doing. As far as killing off the villains goes, again I'd have to say it needs to feel like a natural evolution of the plot. If the "hero" would kill the villain given the circumstances, it'll happen - but not just because the villain has to die at the end.

How much of you do you inject into your characters?

Any of this, at least so far, would be at a subconscious level. I think to a point, a writer will always inject a little something of their own psyche into a primary character or even a bad guy. I could probably go character by character and find traits that I think leaked out of my own head, though I have not deliberatley made an alter ego.

When you get that first inkling of a story idea, how do you polish it by developing characters, setting, plot, etc?

I'm an outliner. When I get a story idea it can begin as little more than one or two sentences. I'll take that concept and build it out to a chapter outline. I tend to establish the characters more strongly and then process everything with their mindset, which can sometimes alter the outline depending on how the scenes evolve while I am writing them. (The most prominent example in my mind is when Althea from Prophet demanded a change about 65% of the way through.)

Is there a classic work (book, film, music, etc.) from which you can extrapolate your own original story? For example, Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Think in terms of Stephen King basing his Dark Tower series from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
(This goes beyond the realm of mere fan fiction)

It's been a long time since I've read any of "the classics", though I have heard it said that all stories have already been told. Anyone who tells a story is invariably reinventing a plot that's been done before, while changing the greeblies on the outside. At the moment, I've got more ideas than I can find time to write down, and I haven't made a conscious decision to draw on the classics for inspiration yet.

Do you have a magnum opus? 

Well, Virtual Immortality is pretty long. I'm not sure if I'd call it my magnum opus though. I haven't been doing this long enough to feel like I've peaked yet. Again, maybe 10-15 years from now I'll have a better answer for this.

Do the good guys wear black? Do they always win?

Most of my protags wear grey. One (Althea) is about as white-hat as it gets, Kirsten is pretty close to being a paladin as well, but for the most part I think characters that are "too good" or "too evil" are unbelievable. There are degrees of both sides in every character. Generally, I prefer satisfying endings. I can't give too much detail here without spoiling, but for the most part, the good guys win... though, at least in the case of Division Zero, winning isn't necessarily perfect happy. For Archon's Queen, less so (given the overall scope of the character/series).

How do you deal with over-exuberant fans?

Thus far? Gratitude :)

For more about and by Matthew, follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mscox_fiction