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Interstellar, A Refreshing Change of Tone

I finally had a chance to see Interstellar this past weekend. Despite some glaring flaws, despite its unwarranted length, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly and found its plot to be a refreshing change from what passes for science fiction these days. Spoilers follow, so stop reading now if you don’t wish to read anymore.


I assume if you’ve scrolled this far then you’ve seen the film, so there’s no need to rehash the plot. There are also dozens of sites that either (a) praise the science in the film or (b) criticize the science, and I don’t plan on doing that again. What struck me most about this film, however, is its refreshing change of tone. Here’s a few things that stood out for me, in no particular order:

  • There is a global catastrophe taking place, yet no one panics. Things don’t degenerate into Walking Dead-like anarchy. Maybe humanity is just the proverbial frog in a pot of heating water, but I respect that Christopher Nolan shows how humanity doesn’t freak out in mass hysteria, as directors depict us doing with alarming regularity, but instead humanity adjusts to the new reality. We are the most adaptable species on the planet, and Nolan showed this.
  • Despite its questionable mathematics, this is the first mainstream movie, to my knowledge, that has ever shown the effects of relativistic time dilation. A few years of subjective time might be decades to those whom you love back home. Joe Haldeman showed this best in his The Forever War, but never has this been shown so well in a film.
  • Astronauts behave as professionals. I am so tired of watching films where the astronauts are presented as whiny, teenagers with hormonal imbalances. With one absurd exception (did we really need the Matt Damon subplot?) the astronauts are (a) cool under pressure, (b) work well together, and (c) understand advanced science. In other words, they are trained professionals.
  • The film explored an interesting idea. What if a future version of humanity has evolved so far that we don’t recognize ourselves anymore? Since 2001: A Space Odyssey, has there been a film that explored the evolution of humanity in such a profound way? The default future for science fiction films has been dystopia, militarism, feudalism, and scarcity. I greatly appreciated an alternative view, one that postulated a grand and optimistic future for us, and one so far beyond our ken that we struggle to understand it.
  • The film showed visions of a future humanity that NASA has been envisioning for decades. Spinning, cylindrical space colonies. Space travel between planets. Everyday humans, not astronauts, living in space, living middle-class lives. Not under some tyrannical government, not for the elites only. A universe available to all.
  • Interstellar ended with an optimistic view of humanity, one that showed future humans working together on a unified goal. Granted, that goal was an enormous one, the perpetuation of the species, but it showed that humankind is capable of moving past its current rut of short-term thinking. To colonize and terraform those planets will take centuries. The current generation will die before the results of their efforts will be seen. And yet, the humans are shown working as hard as ever. They feel they are part of something greater than themselves, and that is a superior motivation.

Interstellar is not a perfect film. It could use a good haircut, shaving off 40 minutes or more. I didn’t need the endless info-dumping and sixth-grade science lessons. There are better and more subtle ways to explain to the audience what we are witnessing. Yet still I believe Interstellar is one of the best science fiction films made in the past decade.

Consider this: The blight that ravages the Earth in Interstellar is humanity’s pessimistic nihilism. It slowly eats away at the planet, destroying everything we hold dear, despite the best attempts of the intelligentsia to stop it. Director Christopher Nolan posits another way. A bigger and brighter way that will take heaps of imagination and will power and action to bring about. But another future — one that is not bleak and dystopian, but full of promise — this future is possible for us.

Cooper never considers not going into space. He never once pauses and considers staying home, even though he knows it will mean leaving his loved ones behind. It’s only the viewer that doubts. Nolan is cleverly pointing out the limits we put on ourselves without realizing it. Just as Cooper has to go into space, so shall humankind.

Remember this: the blight didn’t travel with them into space.



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november events

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia for Futures and Fairy Tales: A Kaleidoscope of Diverse Adventures with authors Claire Legrand, Sarah Fine, Sarah Raasch, Shveta Thakrar, and Julia Rios (co-editor of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories).

This event is a stop on the Futures and Fairy Tales book tour, and Claire and the Sarahs graciously agreed to team up with Kaleidoscope for one big night. I’m really looking forward to it! If you’re in the area, please come by. This is probably my last in-person event for 2014!

If you can’t make it, you can also catch me online tomorrow night during a Twitter chat with YA Books Central from 9 to 10 p.m. EST. We will be discussing my new book, The Silence of Six, giving away copies, and taking questions. Follow the hashtag #SilenceofSix to participate!



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Visions of the Future

Ask most people what they think the future will bring in the next 10, 20, 50 years, and you’re likely to encounter pessimism. Drought, famine, war, disease, scarce resources. The planet is warming up, we’re killing of species by the hundred-fold, destroying this one and only planet we’ve been given. Right now we have Ebola, Global Warming, ISIS, and a newly elected American Congress that has promised to roll back much-needed health reforms. The future does indeed look bleak.

Few people you will meet will expound the optimistic views of the 70s and 80s. Colonies in space. Environmentally friendly cities. Famine, disease, war rendered obsolete simply by the fact that we have moved from a society of scarcity to one of plenty.

Our optimistic visions of this:

Orbital Space Station

Have been replaced with this:

951023 - Elysium

Our defining vision for the 21st century is dystopia, at least so far. Part of this is fueled by the media we consume. Film, video games, television. But they are not to blame. Art echoes stark realities, casts a mirror on our inner psyche. While some live in utter luxury, others on this planet must scour garbage of others to survive. While we send probes to the planets and beyond, loft massive ships into Earth orbit, a ten year old boy dies of Ebola, alone, suffering, without adequate care, to be forgotten.

It’s easy to be bleak, pessimistic. Our politicians like clockwork fail to live up to their promises, or fall into scandal and shame. Instead of propping up the forward-thinking, most intelligent, philosophical and artistic among us, we praise those who have the prettiest face, or are the most obnoxious, or who, by nature of their birth, simply have more money than we do.

Some called Gene Roddenberry a utopianist, but I think he had it right: humanity needs a vision of the future that is grand instead of bleak, optimistic instead of dire. And he was wise enough to know that a post-scarcity world does not mean that all suffering will be eradicated. It simply means that, barring exceptional circumstances, all individuals will have the opportunity to pursue whatever they can imagine.

But this is not the world we live in. If you are lucky enough to be born into a class or society where you have access to healthcare, food, education, you are already ahead of the game. But even so, most in the Western world struggle with crushing debt, an economy that favors the top as it exploits the lowest among us.

We do have plenty, as William Gibson said, it’s just not evenly distributed.

I think our problem — and I want to say up front that it’s a solvable one — is that we — we as in humanity as a whole — have no singular vision for the 21st century. And so, because we choose not to strive for an ideal humanity, or because all the billions of shouting voices just devolve into noise, we revert to the stock image of the future that we’ve been fed via media for the past several decades: dystopia.

Stop for a second. Name one film, book, video game, or other media you’ve encountered in the past five years that presented a view of the future that wasn’t bleak. Can you name ten? Five? One?

Now, how many of the dystopian variety can you think of? Fifty? A hundred? More?

Part of our problem is a lack of foresight. Unless we plan for a different future, unless we actively strive for a future that we all can embrace, we will instead receive that which our subconscious automatically creates, and that will be fueled by our default vision of the future. Instead of this default vision, can we imagine a future in which:

  • Everyone on the planet has affordable or free access to food, water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare
  • Everyone on the planet has access to affordable or free education up to any level their minds desire
  • A massive reduction in fossil fuel use to be replaced with sustainable resources
  • A slowing of population growth to sustainable levels
  • Reduction and eventual elimination of war and the reasons for it, which are typically: land, religion, resources
  • A massive ramping up of the search for life in the Cosmos
  • A massive slowdown of resource depletion concomitant with renewed efforts to preserve and protect all living species
  • A commercial, private space program with an intent to expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth

I’m sure we can think of more, but these would be a good start. And the most important thing is that all of them are very much possible, especially if each of us, individually, work towards one or more of those goals each day. Even if only a small percentage of humanity’s billions took up these goals, think of the change that might be possible. The mode we are living in now: scarcity, debt, war, poverty, a surveillance state…this inevitable slide into dystopia is but one mode of many. And all we have to do is shift our consciousness a bit to realize that another mode is possible. And that can just as easily be inevitable too, so long as we make it happen, so long as we consciously act to bring it into the world.

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libraries are awesome

I’m thrilled to be participating in PA Forward’s Speak Up for PA Libraries events today with some school visits in Haverford! School and local libraries made me the reader I am, because there was no way my mom could afford to buy me all the books I wanted to read. It was through libraries that I discovered William Sleator’s Interstellar Pig, which introduced me to the science fiction books that influenced me as a person, and eventually as a writer. (I know: Writers are technically people too.)



Libraries are so vital to our communities, even in this information age of computers and internet: They offer much more than entertainment, including valuable resources and educational opportunities, and don’t underestimate the importance of a safe place outside of the home where kids can go to hang out and make new friends — if not with other kids, than with books. I still love to be in a room full of books! Kids all over the country, and especially in Philadelphia, don’t necessarily have access to high-speed internet or books; many of us take these things for granted, and today is a great day to acknowledge and celebrate how invaluable libraries and librarians are in curating their collections, reaching out to patrons and fostering a love for reading, and developing incredible, fun programs for young readers — including bringing illustrators and authors like me to schools and libraries, which is one of my favorite things about being a published author. I never met any authors when I was young; if I had, I might have pursued a writing career sooner!

Tell me about your favorite library in the comments below. Why are libraries important to you?



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the truth is out there

Hurray! My new novel, The Silence of Six, is out today! It’s now available in several eBook flavors and in hardcover.


This is my third published book, and I’m really proud of it — I probably worked harder on this than any of my previous novels, including the unpublished ones (which I’m still working on). I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and grew a lot in writing it; throughout the process I felt a strong responsibility to truth and realism, particularly in portraying hacking and the difficult choices faced by those who use their skills to effect change and uphold justice. Getting the details right became very important to me. I hope I pulled it off, but if I erred, I did so with the utmost respect and the best of intentions.

Thank you once again to everyone at my publisher, Adaptive Books, for trusting me with this story and helping to make it the best it could be. As always, I also owe so much to the JABberwocky Literary Agency, my writing group Altered Fluid, my critique partners, tech consultants, and friends and family. And finally, thanks to all those who have been helping to spread the word by recommending it, reviewing it, Tweeting, posting, and more. (Please keep it up!)

This book is yours now. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps even look at the world around us a little differently after reading it.

If you have any questions about The Silence of Six, my writing process, my favorite books or shows or games, or whatever, drop by my Reddit Books AMA today at noon. Ask me anything, and I will answer!

Stay frosty,


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“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs” out in Clarkesworld

This week, I have a new story out in Clarkesworld Magazine called “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs.” It’s an admittedly unusual title, and one based on a true experience. My friend, let’s call him Arthur C, and I went to a Foo Fighters concert at Roseland about 1000 years ago. It was general admission, and being drunk and a little crazy, we decided to move as close to the stage as possible. Back in those days people used to mosh, i.e. slam their bodies together at high velocity, if the music was high-energy enough. (I’m dating myself: do they still mosh today? I haven’t been to a loud concert in a while.) So Arthur C. and I are up front, but off to the side, near stage right. And to our right, a few feet off the floor, is a VIP dais where a bunch of well-heeled folks are sitting at these small tables. And we’re dancing and singing along, when we notice that the young, attractive woman sitting at the VIP table immediately to our right is none other than Winona Ryder. At this point Arthur C. and I are quite drunk. I’m also pretty sure I was a wee bit more than drunk too, which amplified my reaction, when Arthur C. says, pointing over my shoulder, “Dude, that’s Winona Ryder’s legs!”

Now, it was loud and people were jumping around like crazy, but I’m pretty sure Ms. Ryder heard him. I nodded and pretended not to notice them, i.e. her legs. Nevertheless, he said it again and again, as if making sure I understood the ramifications of what he was suggesting. “But, dude, those are Winona Ryder’s legs!” Her legs were in fact mere inches from my face, and after a while his words became like a mantra, hypnotizing me. Those are Winona Ryder’s legs. Once this happened, I found it impossible to divert my attention from her legs, even though my eyes were on Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. It was as if her legs had some Cosmic significance I had yet to discern. These were not mere prosaic legs, but the key to an entire dimension of thought and time I was not yet privy to.

So the concert ends and Arthur C. and I are walking home, through Times Square, when we look up and see David Bowie and Trent Reznor in a cab together. Or I should say, Trent Reznor driving David Bowie through the streets in a cab. Except this wasn’t an ordinary cab. It was on the back of a truck bed, and there was a camera mounted on the hood pointed inside. The front windshield was missing. As it turns out, they were shooting this video:

My suspicion that the night had some Cosmic significance was amplified even more. I remember telling Arthur C. that very night, “One day I’m going to write about this.” Dreams of the night bothered me for years, niggling at my subconscious. Well, it took me over a decade, but “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs” is my interpretation of that evening. I’m not sure if Winona Ryder’s legs had the same Cosmic significance as Cameron Rhyder’s legs do in my story, but I do know my story wouldn’t exist had not Arthur C. made such a show to point them out.

Here’s a teaser paragraph:

Five thousand young men and women crowd this music hall tonight, and one of them is the soul I must erase from existence. How many she has killed I cannot say. To suggest a number is a sin. How can we count those who no longer exist? I once had a family, a husband, eight children. A life and a future. But all this has been timelost, expunged from history. And so I will expunge her. Except I’ve no idea who she is. Or he, for that matter. In this Now, gender and dress make a difference.

Keep reading “Cameron Rhyder’s Legs.”

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remember, remember, the fifth of november

Oh wow. In just a few days, people will finally know what “the silence of six” is :P My new book, The Silence of Six, from Adaptive Studios will be released on Wednesday, November 5 in eBook and hardcover!

I’ve been seeing some heartening early reviews, and steeling myself for the less favorable ones, but I’m really excited to have this new book out there. There are a bunch of online events in the works to celebrate the book’s impending launch. Here are a couple:

Booksplosion Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway
You have until Tuesday, Nov. 4, to enter this giveaway at Booksplosion for a new Kindle Paperwhite preloaded with The Silence of Six. This event is hosted by awesome booktubers @Katytastic, @Jessethereader, and @XtineMay on Twitter (#IWantSilenceOfSix).

Reddit AMA
I’ll be participating in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Reddit Books. Starting at 9 a.m., ask your questions here about The Silence of Six, writing, YA, Nintendo games, whatever, and I’ll do my best to answer them throughout the day.

And remember:

And there’s yet more to come, so keep an eye on this space or follow me on Twitter (@ecmyers) for updates.


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“The Suffering Gallery” BCS Audio Vault podcast

Just in time for Halloween, Scott H. Andrews over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies has re-released a podcast of “The Suffering Gallery,” my story of demons and torture, now with a new intro by me. You can have a listen here.

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halloween book trail

HBT14-The-CemeteryHappy Halloween! Welcome to my stop on the Halloween Book Trail: the Cemetery Trail!

Although I don’t usually have the time or talent to make elaborate costumes, I love the spirit of Halloween; it’s an opportunity to become someone else for a night and collect free candy. If you go to a lot of conventions, you’re probably familiar with “cosplaying” — dressing up as a favorite character from fandom — so maybe the holiday doesn’t seem all that special. But it’s the one day in the year when almost everyone is a cosplayer, plus don’t forget the free candy. As a fan of horror and mysteries, I like the spooky, creepy focus of Halloween, and it’s always fun to see how people express their interests and creativity through their costumes.

Hexadecimal shows Bob one of her many faces. (ReBoot)

Hexadecimal shows Bob one of her many faces. (ReBoot)

I am an especially big fan of masks. (No wonder, since a mask is a perfect costume for a lazy/busy guy like me.) When I was a kid, I used to cut cardboard face masks out of the backs of cereal boxes. That was all it took to pretend you I was a cartoon superhero. Of course, many superheroes are big on masks, which make them particularly fun subjects for dress up. One year I put more effort in than usual for a Halloween party and recreated Spider-Man’s wrestling costume from the first Sam Raimi film — the mask, a red balaclava, was the easiest (and most expensive) part. Even a pair of glasses can amount to a mask of sorts, the only thing differentiating Clark Kent from Superman.

Data's mask turns him into a waking god on ST:TNG.

Data’s mask turns him into a waking god. (ST:TNG)

Masks are fascinating to me because they can be used to disguise your identity, to assume a new identity, or perhaps to make you look more like yourself. Batman’s cowl protects Bruce Wayne’s secret, but the cowl doesn’t make him Batman: It gives him the freedom to express that part of his personality.

There’s an interactive theater performance in Manhattan called Sleep No More, a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which hundreds of guests wander around the set of an old hotel wearing masks. Behind that plastic face, you are completely anonymous, and so is everyone else. It adds an eerily voyeuristic quality to the show, making you into a part of it while also providing a safe distance. If you can make it, I highly recommend you attend.

Somebody stop him...before they make a sequel. (The Mask)

Somebody stop him…before they make a sequel. (The Mask)

That show gave me an idea of how empowering it must be for members of the hacktivist group Anonymous to don their iconic Guy Fawkes masks and rally in public in support of justice. Hackers thrive on anonymity, but the masks also unite them in a common cause and remove individual ambitions and egos. (At least, in theory.) Because protecting your privacy on the internet is vitally important, especially for hackers and activists, identity is a strong theme in my new book, The Silence of Six. (It even comes out on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5th.)

In the Twilight Zone, masks reveal your true face.

In the Twilight Zone, masks reveal your true face.

In The Silence of Six, hackers are my contemporary online superheroes. Masks are featured in particular, most notably at a big masquerade event that showcases my favorite part of Halloween and fan conventions: the costumes. I had fun fitting in some of my favorite masks from film and television, and I think you’ll recognize a lot of them!

If you make it to the end of the Halloween Book Trail, you’ll have a chance to win a signed advance reader’s copy of The Silence of Six and some bookmarks. But before I send you on your way to the next stop, you can also enter a contest here. All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me either what you’re dressing up as for Halloween or what your favorite mask is. Make sure to leave a contact e-mail; I’ll randomly select one winner to receive free Audible audiobooks of my first two YA novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin.

Ready to move on? Your next stop on the Cemetery Trail is the blog of Dianne Salerni, author of The Eighth Day!


Remember, remember, the fifth of November. (V for Vendetta)


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Falling Sky Launch Party!


If you’re in or near New York City tomorrow night, I hope you’ll come join me for the Falling Sky Launch Party. It will be held at Professor Thom’s in the East Village from 7-10. A bookseller from Word bookstore in Greenpoint will be on hand to sell copies of the book. Come have a drink, say hello, and help me celebrate the release of the book.

Hope to see you there.

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