Tag Archives: Science fiction

Bring on the NANOBOTS!

See the source image

I love nanobots.

Nanobots are microscopic robots that can do anything from curing disease to treating injuries or providing energy to weapons. There’s just one minor problem with nanobots . . . .

They don’t exist in the real world.

But they are a staple in science fiction. Have an insurmountable problem? Write how nanaobots resolved it—it’s the best Deus ex machina* tool ever. For example:

Powerful, evil dudes attack good people, who are powerless to resist.
Nanobots are released that change the mental and emotional state of the bad guys. Soon, everybody sings Kumbaya.

However, there may be technology on the horizon that provides the benefits of nanobots using existing materials. The first, albeit tiny, steps are being taken in utilizing a virus to edit genes in a patient by using the CRISPR technique. It’s not as sexy as the nanobots in a John Scalzi novel, but this is real world technology, which is rarely sexy.

Will it work, or like so many other ideas, fail to execute as imagined.

Stay tuned!



* Deus ex machina (/ˌdeɪəs ɛks ˈmækɪnə, – ˈmɑːk-/ DAY-əs ex-MA(H)K-in-ə,[1] Latin[ˈdɛ.ʊs ɛks ˈmaːkʰɪnaː]; plural: dei ex machina; English ‘god from the machine’) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.[2][3] Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.

Hey! Haven’t We Seen Him Before?


Reg Blank, Max Headroom, William Morgan Sheppard, and . . . Sheppard as a Klingon?

Everyone–or at least everyone of my age–has heard of the six degrees of separation (from Kevin Bacon). If you don’t know->click here.

I’ve read some reasonably academic(ish) articles about how people are connected, and in the entertainment world it is not the big-name actors who are the connectors, but the character actors. Why? Sylvester Stalone, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, or (add your favorite star here) carefully choose the roles they will undertake. John Wayne, for example, was an action figure–a cowboy hero, a military hero, etc.

Character actors, on the other hand, show up in a variety of movies and television shows. They get to play all kinds of roles. They also (probably) get to go to the grocery store without being accosted.

However, character actors still have roles that leave lasting impressions. One great character actor, William Morgan Sheppard, died in early January. You can check him out on IMDB if you wish–you’ll probably find something familiar.

As for me, of all the roles he played, my favorite was on Max Headroom. There was a group of nonconformists who refused to be connected to the computerized network and were not identifiable. To the network, they merely appeared as missing data–blanks–and Blanks were what they called themselves. Sheppard played one of the key blanks who even had his own radio program. His name? Reg Blank.

Great character acting. Great concept. Frighteningly prescient for a Facebook connected world. Here’s a peek.

Bill, if I may, thanks for adding your flavor to the world of entertainment.


The Story

I’ve been working on a story for a while, but writing it keeps getting in the way.

I’ve always admired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes,” which was published as a serial in the Strand magazine, a monthly publication. My story–“The Story”–has been under development for a while. Like most writers, I d-r-a-g things out far too long as I write them. It’s a case of “Wait! It was a small dog, not a puppy!.”

As George Lucas supposedly said, “Movies are never completed, only abandoned.” The same is probably true of stories, so I’m going to publish–on this blog–at least a chapter a month. I make no promise that a particular chapter (including one that I may publish) will not be removed or eliminated.

Welcome to the wonderful??? world of writing. You may have the chance to experience my dreams, frustrations, pain, and stupidity, as I try to write a story.

I’ve already changed at least five chapters, but, interestingly, all of the characters remain, although their experiences might be different. If I share, I’ll try not to be too confusing (I’m not responsible for confusing myself).

If it’s worthwhile–I hope you enjoy.

Chapter One is coming soon.

Science FICTION vs. SCIENCE Fiction


My older son dislikes the reboot of Star Trek because of some of the liberties they take with the laws of physics. I on the other hand am happy to allow artistic license in order to have a good story.

Of course, I grew up on the notoriously under-budgeted original Star Trek, while he grew up on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The original couldn’t afford the sets and models for a different planet each week, so they created the now ubiquitous transporter. Considering that this was in the days before the first real world moon landing, that was a leap of faith (or a tweak of physics) in its own right.

On the other hand, there are some great stories that take great care in ensuring that the science is reasonably well adhered to. I just finished The Martian by Andy Weir.

There have been marooned stories from before Robinson Crusoe to the recent movie Gravity. The trick is to tell it in a way that’s reasonably plausible. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts on Mars that is devastated by a dust storm. His team mates see him impaled on a metal rod and blown away, but can’t recover his body because their launch vehicle is rapidly succumbing to the same storm. Recover one dead astronaut and they’ll add the whole team to the killed in action list.

Of course, Mark didn’t die, but to survive he has to figure out certain things.

How do I get water on Mars?

How do I find some way to grow some kind of food in something?

Like a detective novel, it’s the “how does he figure this one out” factor that makes this book fun, and there are many things to be figured out.

Star Trek Spoiler

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but for the Trekkers out there.

Remember V’ger in the first Star Trek movie?


Here’s a Cubesat – a cube shaped amateur satellite.

We’re sending lots of them up there.

Here’s a Borg spacecraft.


You don’t suppose there’s any connection, do you?

Sun’s Magnetic Field Collapsing!

NASA photo

NASA photo

An amazing event is underway – the magnetic poles of the sun are reversing.

While this sounds like the opening chapter of a science fiction story, it really is no big deal – it happens every eleven years.

It’s almost incomprehensible how all the pieces of the universe fit together perfectly, from the tiniest to the mightiest.

Might almost make you think that something – or someone – was guiding it.



My life is fairly typical. I go to work. I come home.

On weekends I putter around the house.

A ten minute repair job can take me an hour because I spend at least 50 minutes looking for my tools.

I’ve gotten to the point that I freely buy one more pair of pliers, one more screwdriver, or whatever. My friends tell me how their kids borrow their tools and eventually they find a rusted mass of metal that is vaguely pliers shape out in the yard.

Not me.

My tools just disappear for long periods of time then magically re-appear.

Go figure.


Flashlights are even worse. I think my son uses them to find his cat, who likes to play hide-and-seek with him by hiding under my bed. In any case, flashlight after flashlight disappears.

One day my wife suggested that there was a parallel universe and between myself and my alternative counterpart, we had to share things. She indicated it made sense because socks followed the same pattern. They’d disappear in the drier. Weeks later they’d show up. Of course I thought she was crazy.

I stopped at Wally-World and bought a handful of additional flashlights. One by one they began to disappear. I told my wife I was going to use my label maker and mark them with “This is Dad’s flashlight! Do not touch under penalty of death!”

They all disappeared.

This morning there was a flashlight on my nightstand. The side was marked with a label that said, “!htaed fo yltanep rednu hcuot ton oD !thgilhsalf s’daD si sihT”

I thought about it all day.

When I got home, I opened a bottle of wine and brought 2 glasses into the family room. I poured a glass for my wife and said, “Please, tell me about this parallel universe idea of yours.”

Nowhere Man (Part 1)

The Beatles

The Beatles


Suddenly I awoke.

Or did I?

I felt like I was awake, but I couldn’t see or hear anything. Where was I? Was I dead? I didn’t think so. If I were dead I should either be experiencing heaven or hell or whatever, or if those didn’t exist and I was dead I shouldn’t think or feel anything.

So where was I?

I tried to think logically and started by taking a mental inventory. I was aware of myself. I couldn’t perceive anything else. I tried to see if I could feel anything, but my hands and feet didn’t seem to be there.

This was a little weird and very, very scary. I thought about the old stories and movies with someone’s brain kept alive in the jar, its owner going mad without being able to communicate. I tried to calm myself, but it was difficult; usually I start by trying to control my breathing, but I couldn’t tell if I was breathing or not. I couldn’t feel my chest to tell if it was rising and falling. I didn’t feel like I needed oxygen so at least I wasn’t suffocating.

That thought helped calm me down.

Where could I be so that I wouldn’t be able to see, hear or feel anything? I remembered reading about sensory deprivation tank experiments in which people floated in a warm liquid in a sound and light proof enclosure. But didn’t they say that without anything else to interfere you’d hear your heart and the blood moving through your arteries? And after a while weren’t you supposed to hear the electrical conduction of the nerves?

I could think of no reason I would be in a sensory deprivation tank. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t sure that they still existed, if they really had existed at all in the past. Maybe they were all just Hollywood hype.

So where was I?

I decided that as weird as it sounded I must be nowhere.

(To be continued)

Decisions, Decisions…

Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.

     ~ General George S. Patton

In science fiction, which I love, sooner or later the author has to turn to the concept of a parallel universe.  In “Back to the FutureMarty McFly’s loser family becomes successful after Marty visits the past and encourages his future father.  It’s an interesting plot device based on the theory that each decision has multiple choices, each with its own outcome, and a parallel universe exists for every outcome of every decision.  In other words, if you didn’t ask Sally to the prom, there is a parallel universe that differs from the one in which you did.  There are also parallel universes (Philosophically is it possible for “universe” to have a plural?) for her accepting, her declining and her derisively declining, etc..  In order to cover every possible decision, the number of parallel universes would be infinite.

 Infinity makes my head hurt. 

 I prefer to live in only a single universe even if the others exist and I merely ignore them.  As I thought about this it dawned on me that whether or not we are aware of the science fiction writers’ concepts, we unconsciously choose to live our lives in one of those two styles.   The first is to make the decision, not look back and make the most of the decision that was made.  The other is to make the decision, and then think about what could have been .  When I began writing this, I felt that without a doubt my style was the former.  Once I make a decision I know that I can’t change the decision, so my present and future attention and efforts need to be based on that particular decision.

 However, as I was writing I realized that there is an important discriminator.  If I make a decision and there is a high likelihood that I will be faced with a similar situation in the future and be called upon to make a decision again, then I do evaluate the decision in terms of the alternate possibilities.  By the letter of the law that isn’t second guessing, but rather an attempt to learn from my experience.

However, is bringing up this subject like being told, “Don’t think of purple elephants,” only to find that purple elephants dominate your thoughts?  Will I spend the rest of the day wracked by doubts as to whether I should have posted this blog?  Maybe, I’ll believe that my decision was made, no sense thinking about it and I need to move on to tomorrow’s article.   

“Great Scott!”

     ~Dr. Emmett Brown (Back to the Future)


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