The Holidays are just around the corner. The twinkling lights, the glossy decorations, and a multitude of smiling red-faced Santas with dancing reindeers are everywhere.
This year, many families will be able to reunite for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. They will celebrate together, enjoy each other’s company, and hope for better times.
But sadly, many will be separated from their loved ones who have left forever or separated by distance or even old grudges.
In this time of gaiety and good cheer, find it in your heart to reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken to, an acquaintance that lives alone, or a neighbor recovering from sickness. Share your feast if you can or share your thoughts or sympathies. Show them you care.
Happy Holidays to all,
Cami Michaels author of “I Am Sheffrou”, An Alien Love Story, first book of The Sheffrou Trilogy
“If you write sci-fi or fantasy, world building can make or break your book.” ProWritingAid.
World building is harder than you think. It is difficult and takes time. Many details need to come together in a cohesive fashion to produce a believable world. You can be creative and design your own world from scratch or use time-honored tropes like elves, fairies, vampires, dragons, etc.. A good way to start is to use a familiar trope and change three things about it. For example, a dragon who likes to swim, is tenderhearted, and is a vegetarian. Create a plant or an animal with different characteristics and give it a new name so the reader will not be confused with the original species. Deciding on how many worlds you need for your story as also important. Some writers get carried away with extensive world building. Consider limiting your efforts to the characteristics of the world you need for your story. It takes less time and effort and you can concentrate more on the story and the characters.
Three main rules of world building.
New worlds imply you have to decide everything about the geography, ecology, geology, and its society, laws, religion, customs, etc.. You must also think about the characters. Where they live, what they look like, what they eat, their type of clothing, body decoration or jewelry, etc.. Even if you’re writing in other genres, like historical fiction, or time travel in sci-fi, you must pay attention to details and the setting will need to be accurate for the time period and location. Also, if you change one fact in history, you must consider all the possible repercussions this will entail for your characters as well as the world you have created.
Use other author’s worlds to inspire you and help hone in your skills. Analyze favorite sci-fi movies like “Blade Runner”, the first “Dune”, “Avatar”, or apocalyptic worlds or series like “The Twelve Monkeys”. Read sci-fi and fantasy novels for your enjoyment but also to learn how they develop their worlds. Take notes and adjust your own creations.
Don’t get so wrapped up in world building that you can’t see “the forest from the trees”. The most important part of your novel is the story, not the world. Your readers must focus on the story and empathize with the characters not the world. This is how you will keep them reading. Don’t over complicate your world building. Adding tons of interesting elements is tempting but if they don’t move the story forward, you will loose the interest of the reader.
Species, monsters, and gods How do you distinguish between a monster and a new species? The basic difference is a monster doesn’t communicate, has no language, and you can’t reason with it. If there are many monsters as in a group, they become more like a species and you have to give them a name and describe their behavior in the group. New species and monsters can add spice and excitement to your story. ProWritingAid (PWA) has important recommendations about using species developed by other authors. For example, elves are ok to use but Hobbits are the property of Tolkien, same as Vulcans and Klingons are for Star Trek.
New species If you do add a new species, you must not only consider its physical characteristics but you may need to define their natural habitat, and envision how they would survive in other habitats. This means you must add some backstory to make it look real. Details of physical characteristics, language, customs, weapons, etc. in the case of an intelligent species, must be noted and weighed carefully if the author is writing a series. You can’t easily change a new species in book 3 of the series. Please refer to PWA for details.
Monsters Try to avoid the cliche horrible-looking creature which has an insatiable appetite and kills constantly. Your monster may look horrible but may kill to protect its young or retaliate against previous attacks. It also may have a weakness that brings about its undoing. Sometimes the monster looks human but behaves like a monster. For example, think of the series “Dexter”, the serial killer. Make sure your monster is a tool to bring the story forward otherwise it will only distract the reader and make your story weaker.
Gods All cultures on Earth, past and present, have gods. Therefore, incorporating gods in alien cultures is a logical step. Science doesn’t exclude religion and gods can be an interesting addition to your story. Think outside the box. Gods may help or hinder the characters. They may be benevolent, malevolent, or vengeful. They may change forms and take human form. They may look human but have incredible powers like the supreme being in the delightful fantasy set in a futuristic world, “The Fifth Element”. Relationships between gods and between gods and humans may be complex. They may have children, may be immortal or become mortal in certain conditions. Think of the complex story “Circe” based on greek and roman mythology by Madeline Miller. For a more in-depth analysis of gods in sci-fi, please refer to World building 101 by PWA.
A great tool to help your world building PWA has included a great tool in the last chapter on world building: the ultimate world building questionnaire, a detailed, well thought framework to help in your world building endeavor.
Source: ProWritingAid World building 101.
By Cami Michaels, author of the sci-fi fantasy romance novel “I Am Sheffrou”, first book in The Sheffrou Trilogy. Cami Michaels is a retired physician who loves reading sci-fi fantasy, photography, and traveling. She is currently finishing her second novel book 2 of the trilogy, “Betrayal” which will be published fall 2021.
With the recent disclosure by the American Army and Navy of unexplained sightings of flying objects, the question of extraterrestrial life comes back to the surface. The famous Italian physicist Enrico Fermi summed up the question of extraterrestrial life in the summer of 1950 by saying, “But where is everybody?” He was joking about the fact that we haven’t been contacted by aliens yet, although in theory they exist. This the Fermi Paradox.
The Fermi Paradox
The Fermi Paradox is: The apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has between 100 and 400 billion stars and an estimated 1 trillion planets. There are millions of galaxies in the universe so extraterrestrial life should be a common occurrence. There are several statements related to the Fermi paradox. The aliens are listening to us but no one is transmitting anything back. The aliens fear communicating with us because it’s considered dangerous. Earth and humans are avoided to allow for its natural evolution and development to happen. Alien life is already here but we don’t see it.
A series of possible scenarios have been put forth to explain the paradox. 1. Aliens do exist but are not communicating with us. 2. Aliens are communicating but we can’t hear them. 3. Aliens have been here but we weren’t here. (They came before humans were here as a species.) 4. Aliens exist but most people don’t know it yet. 5. Aliens have existed but now have disappeared. (The lifetime of the alien civilization was too short.) 6. We aren’t interesting for the aliens. (Only a few humans are interested by insect societies.) 7. We may already have received signals but didn’t realize it or understand them. (Dr. Frank Drake working with NASA was the founder of SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, in 1960, which uses radiotelescopes to listen for messages from space.)
Issues with contacting E.T. 1. Should we try to contact aliens? 2. Who should speak for Earth? 3. What should we say? In 2010, the English physicist Stephen Hawking said, “Aliens almost certainly exist but humanity should avoid making contact.” He explained that aliens might simply raid the Earth for resources and move on.
Too late! We have already disclosed data about Earth.
In 1972, Pioneer 10, then 11, space probes designed to fly by Jupiter and Saturn were launched. Following the recommendations of the American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan, they contained a gold plated plaque with a physical representation of the date and location of Earth in the universe and a drawing of two human figures. They are still traveling at this time.
In 1974, a mathematical message designed by the American astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Frank Drake was sent in space to the region of Magellan 31 with the help of the Arecibo radiotelescope in Puerto Rico. (The telescope collapsed in 2020 following the break of its main support cables.) The Arecibo Message
In 1977, two robotic interstellar probes, Voyager 1 and 2, were launched from Cape Canaveral, in space so that they could take pictures of Jupiter and Saturn, then later of Uranus and Neptune. “Each space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life-forms from other planetary systems. The discs carry photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from the people” in 55 languages, and different “Sounds of Earth”, including music by famous composers and modern music. It also contains photos of Earth and the structure of our DNA! As of 2021, the two probes are still operational and have reached the interstellar medium but are not beyond the boundaries of our solar System. They are still transmitting data.
In 1999, SETI at home started to use an army of 5 million amateur internet users to process data collected by radiotelescopes across the world.
This concludes an overview of our attempts to communicate with aliens. We have not yet received any consistent signal from outer space but we have only been listening for about 60 years, a mere second in spacetime. However, perhaps we should use caution before we continue to send out information in deep space. Who knows who could be listening!
Cami Michaels, writer and amateur astronomer. Cami is a retired physician, mother of four, and indie writer who loves science-fiction and fantasy. She has published a sci-fi fiction novel, “I Am Sheffrou” An Alien Love Story in July 2020. She is actively working on the second book of the Sheffrou Trilogy, “Betrayal”.
More than one thousand books are published every week. With so many choices, readers search on the internet for books to read in the genre they like. They read reviews to get a glimpse at the story and how people feel about the characters. Reviews help the reader see how many people have read a book and help them to decide whether to purchase it or not. It’s the same with movies. People look at the reviews to help them choose which movie or video to watch. For authors, reviews give them feedback on how the readers feel about their book. The author can then use this to improve his writing. If the reviews are good, especially coming from someone not in the immediate circle of friends and family, reviews validate the author’s writing. Reviews also drive sales. Most avid readers don’t take…
Why do scientists consider Earth unique even in 2021? Well of course, because it’s the home of so many varieties of life forms and also home to the most complex being we know of to date: humans!
Seriously, there are several important features that make Earth a unique planet.
Let’s go over a few of them.
The Goldilocks zone. Earth is the third planet from the Sun and, until now, is the only one known to harbor life. Its location in the solar system is strategic because it contains water in liquid form on its surface. Earth is in what is called the Goldilocks zone, meaning not too far from the sun for all the water to freeze solid and not too close that the water would be vaporized. We believe through radiometric dating that our planet is about 4.5 billion years old. Earth is the densest and largest solid planet in our solar system. 71% of its surface is covered in water and 29% is covered by land. Scientists tell us that most of the water on Earth came from ice from asteroids and meteors which hit Earth in its early history. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Oxygen About 4 billion years ago, a chemical reaction produced complex molecules which mingled together and started to multiply, and life was born. At the beginning, Earth had very little oxygen in its atmosphere. Indeed, the gases present at that time, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane, would be deadly to us today.
Ozone layer Unicellular organisms evolved into multicellular organisms. Photosynthesis appeared and living cells started to produce oxygen in large quantities. The interaction between oxygen molecules and ultraviolet radiation from the Sun led to the formation of the ozone layer. This protective layer in the atmosphere is extremely important because it protects all life on Earth from damaging radiation from the Sun. That’s why, even if there was enough oxygen on Mars to breathe comfortably, the lack of the protective ozone layer means we would die from radiation exposure.
Electromagnetic field Earth’s central core is made primarily of liquid iron and a few other metals like nickel. Mars doesn’t have a liquid core but Jupiter and Saturn also have one. The core rotates with the rotation of the planet and produces convection currents and an electromagnetic field. Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn possess this field which extends far out in space like a bubble and protects the planet from deadly ionized particles from the Sun. Those ionized particles, mostly electrons, shine when ionized and produce the Aurora Borealis and Australis.
Tectonic plates The continents are located on the surface of what are call the tectonic plates. These formations float above the liquid core of the planet and their movements, caused by the convection currents of the central core, produce volcanic activity, earthquakes, and mountain ranges like the Himalayans, the Rocky Mountains, the Andes, etc. There is a constant remodeling of the planet’s surface because of them. As far as we know, no other planet has tectonic plates.
The Moon Four billion years ago, a massive object the size of planet Mars collided with a young Earth. The collision sent millions of particles in space which bound together and created the Moon. At the time, the Moon was much closer to Earth than it is now, about 80,000 miles instead of 238,000 miles. At the time, it had a magnetic field and shared it with Earth. This enabled the Moon to act as a protective barrier against the solar wind and the young Sun’s powerful radiation. The Moon was critical in Earth’s ability to keep its thin atmosphere and protect emerging life during this vulnerable time.
In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton explained that ocean tides are created by the gravitational pull of the Moon. There are two high tides and two low tides every 24 hours. Apart from the obvious high and low of the water, there is another important consequence to the tides. Life had to develop ways to live in the water and on dry land. This encouraged changes in physiology and the development of lungs in creatures which eventually were able to live on land.
Finally, the Moon is relatively large compared to other moons in our solar system and it helps to stabilize Earth’s axis and acts as a shield against passing asteroids and comets.
Location. Location. Earth is fortunate to live in a good neighborhood. Our Sun, at 4.6 billion years old, is still young and this is important because this immense furnace will remain stable for a long time. Indded, the Sun still has about 10 billion years to live. The only problem is that we believe its brightness will increase by 10% every billion years and this will eventually destroy all life on Earth. This means our lease will be up in less than 1 billion years! Space exploration is in infancy, but we must search for Earth-like planets if we want to survive as a species. Until then, life will continue as usual if we take good care of our planet! Our close neighbor the Moon is good to us and continues to protect us from being hit by asteroids and other space debris. Our biggest neighbor, planet Jupiter, is also a good neighbor because being so large, its gravity attracts a lot of large rocks, asteroids, etc. and it gets hit instead of us. Some think Earth would not have survived without the protective influence of Jupiter.
On Earth day, April 22nd, celebrate and contribute to keep your planet beautiful. Remember Earth is unique and precious. Each one of us needs to be mindful of its fragility and help take care of it because we will never find another one like it.
Enjoy Earth, your own little planet! Live long and thrive!
Cami is a retired physician who loves astronomy and science-fiction and fantasy. She published her first novel, a sci-fi romance, I Am Sheffrou, An Alien Love Story, Book 1 of The Sheffrou Trilogy, in July 2020. She is actively working on Book 2, Betrayal, The Color of Treason.