science fiction

7 Tips for Increasing Creativity

Kreativ Blogger AwardI’ve been award the Kreativ Blogger Award from one of my favorite bloggers, a sister nerd, and just an all-around nice person—Jessica O’Neal. It’s a huge honor to receive this award from her. Thank you!

As you’ve probably guessed, this award comes with some rules:

1. Thank the person who gave it to you.

2. List 7-10 random facts about yourself. I’m putting a twist on this. Since this is the Kreativ Blogger Award, I’m going to give you 7 tips for increasing creativity instead.

3. Pass the award on to 6 deserving bloggers and let them know about it.

I’d also like to thank the lovely Ingrid Schaffenburg for awarding me with the Versatile Blogger Award. If you’d like to see the seven (hopefully) interesting facts I shared about myself, please check out my Versatile Blogger post.

Now on to the promised tips…

Marcy’s 7 Tips for Increasing Creativity

Spend 30 minutes on Deviant Art. Choose three pictures that immediately inspire a story idea in your mind. Write down three to five sentences about each.

Take a nap, but not for the reason you think. Have you ever noticed how great ideas often come when you’re waking up or falling asleep? According to Dr. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, this is because the relaxation from napping allows your mind to form new associations and connections between ideas.

Add color to your life. Paint your nails blue or purple or orange. Chalk your hair. If you’re a man, buy a tie or a shirt in a color you wouldn’t normally wear. For some reason, adding a little bit of crazy color to your life makes you feel like a true artist and that frees you from the fear holding you back.

Be silly. Okay, here’s the deal. If I’m going to share my super-secret silly tips with you, you have to promise not to laugh at me. (I see your crossed fingers, by the way.) I have a toy drawer full of slinkies, paddleballs, bubble blowing liquid with wands…you get the idea. I also own a hula-hoop. Find what works for you, but sometimes all it takes to be more creative is to break the stress by doing something a little goofy.

Do logic problems. Logic problems are one of my guilty little addictions. I never go on a long trip without a book of puzzles to solve. They train your brain to think outside the box and make connections that aren’t instantly obvious. You can find great free logic problems with a Google search or order a book of them from Amazon for traveling.

Defend your position. Ask a friend to question your ideas and play devil’s advocate. In defending your position, you’ll be forced to think about it in more depth than before, face the flaws, and come up with inventive solutions.

Give yourself some distance when working on important projects. People who leave things to the last minute because they “work better under pressure” might actually be sabotaging their creativity. Studies summarized in Scientific American have shown that the more psychological distance you can get from a problem or challenge, the more creative your solutions will be.

What does psychological distance mean? It comes in different forms. You can distance yourself in time. You can imagine the problem belongs to someone else and come up with what you’d tell them. You can imagine a change in the geographical location either of yourself or what you’re working on. (And you know what would help with that – going to a new ethnic restaurant 😉 )

Now I have the pleasure of passing this award long.

Ginger Calem – Each week Ginger comes up with what she calls “WritersButt Wednesday” where she gives exercises, health tips, and absolutely mouth-watering recipes.

Jenny Hansen – Jenny’s More Cowbell blog is about all things more and it has a little bit of something for everyone from pregnancy advice to tech help for the technologically challenged to really shocking underwear.

Jen Kirchner – Jen started a new series this year called Sci-Fi Pin-Ups and she also has awesome game reviews for girls.

Melinda Vanlone – Melinda recently moved from a simple blog to a website, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Best of all, she designed it all herself.

Stacy Green – If you love true crime, you’ll really enjoy Stacy’s Thriller Thursdays. Sometimes the crimes were solved, but sometimes it’s still a mystery.

Emma Burcart – Emma’s blog is one of open-hearted honesty. When you go there, you feel like you’re sitting down with a friend for a much needed chat. I don’t think you can over-estimate that quality in a world where so many things seem rushed and impersonal.

What’s your favorite tip for increasing creativity? Have you tried any of the tips above?   

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Could You Be An Evil Person?

"Water" Battlestar GalacticaWe all have evil within us.

In “Water,” the second episode of Battlestar Galactica’s first season, a saboteur blows up their water tanks, forcing all the ships in the fleet to ration their water. If they don’t find water quickly, the approximately 47,000 people who are all that remains of humanity will die.

They send out pairs of pilots to survey nearby planetary systems for water. One by one, the teams report back—negative for H2O.

Finally, only one team remains. Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer” Valerii and her electronic countermeasures officer, Crashdown, check the planets in their assigned zone.

“Still nothing,” Crashdown says. “And more nothing.”

The screen in front of Sharon flashes the words Positive for H2O. “I’ve got nothing here either,” she says, despite the results on her monitor. She blinks in confusion as her mind can’t make sense of what’s going on.

What we know, but Sharon doesn’t, is that she’s the one who destroyed the water tanks. She’s a Cylon sleeper agent programmed to believe she’s human. During the gaps in her memory, she’s planting explosives and letting other Cylons infiltrate the fleet.

Crashdown notices the strange tone in her voice.

“What’s on your mind, Boomer?” he asks.

“I don’t know. I have this feeling. Let’s run that sweep again.”

The screen flashes positive a second time, and Sharon hesitates. She tells Crashdown, “I’m having trouble saying it.”

You can see the battle between good and evil, human and Cylon, warring across her face. What she knows to be right, the love she has for her friends back on Galactica, wrestles with something deep within her that she can’t name, something dark and hateful and destructive.

Her hand slides down toward the explosives taped beside her seat. Her fingers tremble, hovering over the detonator.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that humans are basically good or basically evil. When you bring both views down to their common denominator, we all have evil within us.

It’s easy to convince ourselves that, because we don’t steal or abuse or murder, we’re free from evil. But I do things I’m ashamed of. I’ve selfishly put my own desires ahead of someone else’s more than once. In the heat of an argument, I’ve said unkind, even cruel, things. And I struggled for years with a heart full of hatred for the drunk driver who killed my best friend. I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him to feel the pain that everyone who loved my friend felt at losing her.

Evil isn’t always big and flashy like a Cylon basestar come to blow up your ship. Sometimes it sneaks around in the dark and hides under the seats. And when we refuse to admit we could do something evil, the same way Sharon couldn’t accept that she might be a Cylon, that’s when we’re most vulnerable.

Having the potential to be evil is part of being alive. What matters is that, every day, every second, we fight it.

In the end, Sharon slowly pulls her hand away from the explosives and manages to tell Crashdown they’ve found water. She overcomes her programing—the inherent evil within her. She fought and she won. She’ll face more battles, but that day, in that fight, good prevailed.

Do you think evil is most dangerous when we think we’re immune to it? What helps you win the daily battle between good and evil?

Never watched Battlestar Galactica before? Find out why it’s not just for sci-fi fans.

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The Missing Hunger Games Line

The Hunger Games movie posterEven though I loved The Hunger Games movie that released Friday, I couldn’t help but notice that the screenwriters left out one of the most important lines in the book.

The night before the Games begin, Katniss finds Peeta on the roof of their hotel, watching the Capitol celebrate.

Peeta tells her, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”

This makes no sense to Katniss. In the book, she replies by telling him to care about staying alive, and in the movie, she explains that she can’t afford to think that way. Although that particular line wasn’t in the book, it was a perfect addition because that’s the way things are in District 12, where Katniss lives. Thinking of what might be only leads to disappointment. You have no chance of bettering your situation, nothing you do changes anything significant, and the best you can hope for is to survive.

And that’s the best she hopes for from the Arena as well. Only one of the twenty-four who compete comes out alive. To Katniss, any expectation that something might change this year would be futile.

Yet it’s Katniss who, by the end of the book, thumbs her nose at the Capitol and forces them into allowing two winners of the Hunger Games for the first time ever. And over the next two books, it’s Katniss who, without even meaning to, ignites a revolution and changes her world.

She learns one person can make a difference.

I’m not sure whether the scriptwriters missed this theme running underneath all the books or whether they didn’t catch the line that brings out the deepest facet of it, but in Chapter 7 of The Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss are arguing about which of them has the better chance of survival and of getting sponsors. Each believes it’s the other.

Peeta turns to Haymitch (their mentor) in exasperation and says, “She has no idea. The effect she can have.”

They left this line out of the movie, and without this line, part of the message is missing.

Not only can one person make a difference, but sometimes we make a difference in others’ lives without even knowing it.

Katniss didn’t set out to change the world. She just did what was right and change followed. She had no idea of the chain of events her seemingly small actions would cause.

It works the same way in real life.

When I was twelve, the boy who sat behind me in class would ask me to explain all our school work to him. I dreaded feeling that pesky tap-tap on my shoulder. When I finally lost my temper, he confessed—he couldn’t read. Somehow he’d slipped through the cracks, dismissed as either stupid or lazy, when he wasn’t either.

So I taught him (and felt guilty about snapping at him). At the time, I didn’t think it was anything important, but a couple years later, I overheard him telling a teacher how much I’d helped him and how much it meant to him.

I treasure that memory. So often I struggle with feeling insignificant and like nothing I do really matters, and that memory helps remind me that I won’t always know how something small I did positively affected someone else. If I hadn’t overheard, I would never have known I made a difference.

We’re not all destined to be famous leaders or world-changers, but that doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference in the individual lives we touch, sometimes when we least realize it, often just by doing the right thing. And that too is important.

Do you ever struggle with feeling like what you do doesn’t matter? Has someone made a difference in your life, probably without realizing it?

(If you’re looking for a movie review of The Hunger Games, Karen Rought at The Midnight Novelist has a mostly spoiler-free version, and Jessica O’Neal–the sexy little nerd–does a great job of analyzing the actors and the flow of the movie.)

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Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy My Little Ponies

Rebecca Enzor fantasy authorI’m excited to bring special guest poster Rebecca Enzor to you today. She’s a nuclear chemist who writes young adult and new adult fantasy and magical realism, and each Sunday has a Custom Pony of the Week feature on her blog where she highlights customized My Little Ponies based on books, TV shows, movies, or comics. Because of how much I love these customs, I asked her if she’d put together a Top 10 list of her favorite science fiction and fantasy My Little Ponies. We’re getting an extra treat because some of these ponies haven’t even been featured on her blog yet!

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First, I’d like to thank Marcy for asking me to guest post! It’s always nice to know someone loves the Custom of the Week feature on the blog 🙂

To give you a little bit of background information, My Little Pony is what originally got me into writing. When I was in fourth grade we had a city-wide competition in which everyone wrote and illustrated a book (my spelling and grammar might have been worse than my artistic ability at that point!). The book I wrote was called “My Life with Pone” and was all about a My Little Pony who was my invisible friend. Years later, in college, I started collecting ponies again and found a nifty little RPing community that allowed you to play as a pony in Dream Valley. I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since (I have sold my pony collection though – I had to pay for my wedding somehow!).

So now, my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy inspired My Little Pony customs:

#10: Harley

Harley Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m cheating just a bit with Harley, because I’m the one who customized him, and as you can see, my artistic talent has not evolved much since fourth grade (those yellow dots are stars, by the way). I added him to the list because Across the Universe is one of my favorite books ever. It’s definitely the best book I read last year. And the author, Beth Revis, is a huge My Little Pony fan! When I found out she would be coming to town in November, I had to make a pony for her, and Harley was born. I can’t think of a character that deserved to be immortalized in pony form more than Harley.

#9: Doctor Whooves (by Jill Baguchinsky)

Doctor Hooves Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of a cheat again, because Doctor Whooves is actually a character in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series. But that doesn’t make him any less of a custom pony – he’s just customized by Hasbro! And who could resist snuggling up to the Doctor in plush form? Not me. Plus the customizer won last year’s ABNA in the YA category and her novel, Spookygirl, will be hitting shelves soon!

#8: Madam Em

Madam Em Medusa Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t guess who this pony is based on then you don’t know your mythology very well. With her mane full of snakes, Madam Em is Medusa-inspired. The detail that went into this pony is amazing, and if you visit the customizer’s DeviantArt page, you’ll see that she puts just as much detail into all of her beautiful customs.

#7: Deadpool

Deadpool X-Men Custom My Little Pony

 

Oh Deadpool, you have my silly little X-men loving heart. There was a time, in fact, that I played *coughownedcough* an X-men/MLP crossover RP. And one of my very best RP buddies played Deadpool. So to find a Deadpool pony custom was a real treat. And one that I think Deadpool himself would appreciate.

#6: Neytiri

Neytiri Avatar Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a biologist, I thought the Avatar films were really interesting. As a writer, the storyline was decent. And as a person who loves colorful, pretty things? I thought the film in IMAX 3D was amazing! So when I found this Neytiri pony, it immediately became a favorite of mine. And guess what? The customizer has published a novel too! You had no idea there were so many authors who loved MLPs did you?

#5: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I admit it. It’s the colors that really do it for me in this custom. There are at least a dozen other Mad Hatter customs that I’ve seen on Deviant Art, but the color scheme on this one sets it apart. And all those curls! And the tiny Doormouse! I am in so much love with this pony I can’t even explain it.

#4: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pony is absolutely amazing. From her sculpted clothing, to her fur coat, to her wolf mask and other little accessories, this twisted version of the Red Riding Hood fairytale has all the details just right for the wolf-as-the-victim twist. Since I first saw her, she’s been a favorite of mine.

#3: Howl

Howl's Moving Castle Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, it could be the fact that Christian Bale voiced the role of Howl in the film adaptation that makes me love this character so much, but I think it’s actually the beautiful story arc that really does it. And this gorgeous half-pony/half-bird Howl does him so much justice. The detailing on the feathers is amazing, and the little Calcifer so adorable!

#2: Aragorn

Aragorn Lord of the Rings My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You didn’t really expect me to make a list of my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy customs without a Lord of the Rings pony, did you? Plus, have you ever seen a pony with a beard? The customizer even went so far as to put a magnetic wire in the sword so that Aragorn could “hold” it with the magnet in his foot! Now that’s dedication to your craft. (This customizer has also made a Legolas pony, and has plans to continue with the other characters as well.)

#1: Starbuck

Starbuck (Kara Thrace) Battlestar Galactica My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You would think with all the stunning custom ponies out there it would be hard to choose a favorite, but ever since I saw Starbuck, I knew she was my all-time favorite custom pony ever. This pony is the reason I started the Custom of the Week feature on my blog. The character is one of my all-time favorite characters ever, with one of the strangest character arcs I’ve ever come across, and I think this custom captures her perfectly – right down to the thick eyebrows that give her the perfect Starbuck expression.

I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy custom ponies. You can find all of the story-based custom ponies that I’ve featured on my blog by clicking on the Custom Pony link in the sidebar.

Did I miss one that was your favorite? Which ponies make your Top Ten list?

Behind the Scenes: Randy Ingermanson and Mars

Oxygen Randy IngermansonToday I have the privilege of interviewing award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, author of “Genius in Jeopardy” books and creator of the Snowflake method. He’s taking us behind the scenes on his fast-paced science fiction novel Oxygen (co-written with John Olson).

An explosion on the first mission to Mars leaves four astronauts with only enough oxygen for one to live. The evidence points to one of the four being a saboteur. One’s unconscious. One’s unstable. And the other two are falling in love.

(If you buy the ebook edition of Oxygen, you also get two helpful appendices. The first takes apart the motivation-reaction units—à la Dwight Swain—in the first two chapters. The second explains how they sold Oxygen to a respected publisher in less than seven weeks without an agent.)

Welcome, Randy 🙂

In your Authors’ Notes of the Kindle edition, you write that neither technology nor money are actually an issue and that “humans could walk on Mars within a dozen years.” Why do you think we should send a mission to Mars? What would make it worth the money and manpower investment?

If you believe that space exploration is a good thing, then it needs a goal. Nobody achieves diddley unless they have a goal. Putting humans on Mars is a powerful goal that anybody can visualize and understand. It’s the one goal that would move us forward fastest.

The space race in the 1960s created numerous technological advances that nobody expected. These have paid off massively over the last fifty years. The computer I’m typing on right now and the internet I’m sending you this document over are partly due to the space race. Partly.

A Mars mission would very likely have the same unpredictable side effects. I can’t tell you what they would be, because “unpredictable” means that you can’t know in advance what they are.

The usual scientific reasons given for a Mars mission are that it’ll contribute to our understanding of the history of the solar system (unfortunately, most people don’t give a fig about our understanding of the history of the solar system) and that it could possibly provide evidence of past life on Mars which would shed light on the evolution of life on earth (unfortunately, many of the people in positions to vote for a Mars mission believe that “evolution” is a four-letter word).

So let’s just leave it with this—a Mars mission will astound us with an amazing array of technological advances that we can’t predict, for a total price tag much less than the cost of running a foreign war for one month. A Mars mission would give us a vision of greatness and adventure. If that sounds like something our country desperately needs, then a Mars mission would be a good thing.

What’s the one thing you think is key to making a manned mission to Mars possible? How did you work this into Oxygen?

Political willpower. Going to Mars is not that hard, technically or financially. If you fund the project at a few billion dollars per year (this is well within NASA’s current Spartan budget) and you commit to a ten or twelve year program, you can get there. It’s harder than going to the moon, but not much harder, and we have better technology than we did fifty years ago when John Kennedy committed to putting Americans on the moon.

The key thing missing is a political champion (like Kennedy) who can look beyond the next two years. Several presidents over the last couple of decades have given lip service to Mars, but they typically backed off when something more urgent came up.

A Mars mission needs steady commitment for longer than that.

In Oxygen, we simply postulated that NASA formed a small independent unit, a “NASA within NASA” that had one guy who had absolute control and a reasonable budget. This was the only way we could see to get the continuity needed. No international collaborations. No sprawling bureaucracy. Just a small team of dedicated people.

The problem came when the budget cutters came around with their axes, looking to save a few bucks. This is very plausible, but it’s also the best way to wreck the mission. You cannot run a Mars mission that doesn’t have dependable funding. You can’t.

A lot of people see science and faith as incompatible, yet your two main characters (Valkerie and Bob) are both people of faith. How would you answer the people who say you can’t be both a scientist and a person of faith?

Roughly 40% of all working scientists are people of faith. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are conservative Christians or orthodox Jews (although some are). But it means that the death of faith among scientists has been greatly exaggerated. Likewise, a surprising number of philosophers are people of faith.

There is an odd philosophy known as “scientism” which has sprung up in the last few decades which says, roughly, that the only valid knowledge is scientific knowledge. The reason I say this is “odd” is because there is obviously no way to demonstrate this using scientific method. So scientism is self-refuting, and therefore false.

Of course I believe that science is one way to reach valid knowledge. But if it really is the only way, there’s no way for us to know that.

Given North America’s ongoing love affair with reality TV, one element I enjoyed was that you had a news station wanting to turn the Ares 10 mission into the “biggest, baddest reality show you ever saw, with a boatload of danger and packed to the gills with romance.” What aspects of a mission to Mars do you think would make for great reality TV?

In our novel, two good looking single men and two good looking single women, isolated for almost three years in a ship the size of typical Tokyo apartment was all the reality show the networks could dream of. Whenever you have that, there’s the immediate question of who’s going to hook up with whom, and when?

Throw in some jealousy and the ever-possible threat of instant death, and you really do have the best reality show ever. TV money might very well be the only way to fund a Mars mission.

Because this was a co-written novel, did you run into any “bloopers” where John wrote a character in a way that made you ask “what was he thinking?!”

Hmmmm, maybe the other way around, but we’re not going to go there. At one point, I wrote a scene that John just said no on. But neither he nor I will ever tell anyone what it was.

Early in the coauthoring, we discovered a much more insidious problem was maintaining the emotional continuity between scenes. It was just impossible for either of us to write a scene until we had read the preceding scene, because we had to pick up the emotive atmosphere in the same place.

Once we learned that, we put ourselves on a rigorous schedule where we mapped out who would write each scene and on what day at what time. As soon as a scene got written, whoever wrote it would email it to the other one, who was waiting for it.

This made writing the novel hard, but once we learned that we had to do it this way, it worked pretty well.

You’ve written a sequel to Oxygen. Will The Fifth Man also be released in a Kindle edition soon?

We’re working on final edits now. We’re shooting for a release in early April, but I can’t make any guarantees until the book is done, because life happens.

Randall IngermansonThanks, Randy, for taking us behind the scenes on Oxygen.

If you want to learn more about the craft and marketing of fiction, sign up for Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (with more than 29,000 readers). You can buy Oxygen in paperback from Marcher Lord Press, for Kindle at Amazon, or for your Nook at Barnes and Noble.

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Grab Bag of Links (March 3)

Go ahead. Reach your hand in and grab some word candy. You know you want to 🙂

For Fantasy and Science Fiction Lovers

Why Luna Lovegood Should Have Been Harry Potter’s Girlfriend by Ellie Ann on Slacker Heroes – I’ve never been a fan of the Harry-Ginny pairing. I always thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up together, but I have to admit that Ellie makes a really good case for Luna being the perfect match for Harry.

What Buffy the Vampire Slayer Taught Me by Julie Glover – Even if you don’t like fantasy, this post has some great insights.

The Castle of Vlad Dracula “The Impaler” by Debra Kristi – The real story behind the rise of the vampire myths is creepy and doesn’t sparkle.

The Meaning of Life

Playing to Your Strengths by Jenny Hansen on Gene Lempp’s blog – Why is it that we spend so much time trying to fix our weaknesses? Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on our strengths?

My Best Relationship Was In Third Grade by Emma Burcart – Excellent relationship lessons no matter your age.

For Writers

Leaping Smart: Useful Steps for Authors by August McLaughlin – Common sense is an uncommon virtue sometimes, which makes me grateful for the posts full of wisdom and common sense August routinely writes.

6 Simple Steps for Customizing Your Facebook Timeline by Laura Christianson – If you’re like me, you hope Facebook stops making so many changes. In the meantime, here’s a quick tutorial to help you get set up on the new timeline.

The Visceral Connect by Rachel Marks on Speculative Faith – Keys for making your readers feel the emotions your characters are feeling.

Jane Friedman’s Secret to Battling Procrastination – Time is a limited commodity. Jane Friedman has some good advice for making the most of it.

Do you have a favorite link you’d like to nominate for my next grab bag?

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Four Reasons Battlestar Galactica Isn’t Just for Sci-Fi Fans

Please welcome back my husband Chris for a guest post on why he thinks one of our favorite science fiction shows, Battlestar Galactica, isn’t just for science fiction fans. If given a chance, Chris is convinced it would appeal to almost everyone.

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Picture Source: google.com via Marcy on Pinterest

I’ve written about Battlestar Galactica before, but only in passing, and only comparing a single BSG character to Star Wars’ Wedge Antilles. But BSG is one of the few science fiction shows with appeal for all kinds of viewers (such as Marcy, a Trekkie, and me, the Star Wars equivalent to a Trekkie), so I decided to put together this post to tell you all why I absolutely love Battlestar Galactica—and why you probably would, too.

Great Storytelling

The plot of almost every BSG episode was believable, interesting, and extremely engaging. We started off buying just the first season, but very quickly added the remaining three seasons because the story was just that good. And many were the nights where we stayed up until 2am or later, until we could barely keep our eyes open any longer, because we always wanted to watch “just one more,” to see where the story went. The writers had a talent for ending on a cliffhanger.

A Realistic Depiction of the Future

Star Trek has phasers and transporters and replicator technology. Star Wars has lightsabers and turbolaser cannons and the HoloNet. The Stargate series has interstellar gates. But none of these technologies are all that realistic when you look at today’s technology level and its likely rate of evolution even 300 years into the future.

In contrast, all the ships in Battlestar Galactica use kinetic weapons (weapons that don’t contain an explosive or electric charge). These range from a sort of machine gun in the nose of the human’s Viper starfighters to the nuclear-tipped missiles hurled by the Cylon basestars. Even the depictions of the Vipers’ maneuverability were more accurate than you’d expect, and included the use of attitude thrusters to move the ship around. Astronauts already use less sophisticated attitude thrusters today.

Galactica used an internal phone and intercom system, and lacked the comm badges, comlinks, and viewscreens of Star Wars and Star Trek. Galactica’s computer systems, even when networked, required several minutes to run complex calculations, and the comm systems in BSG all seemed to feature the type of distorted transmissions I would expect to hear over such long ranges.

Basically, I think the technology in Battlestar Galactica is closer to the technological reality we’ll have in the next couple hundred years.

A Unique Villain

The biggest sticking point for most science fiction is having a flat villain. If you don’t have a unique, believable, engaging villain, the show just doesn’t work well. Fortunately for us, BSG doesn’t have that problem. The Cylons (cybernetic organisms originally created to serve humanity) gained sentience and revolted against their former masters, disappearing after the first human-Cylon war and appearing again after 40 years to destroy the Twelve Colonies.

But the Cylons aren’t your typical cybernetic organisms. While the original Cylons looked like many depictions of futuristic robots, the Cylons have evolved and gained the ability to look just like a human, indistinguishable from a real person. The look, sound, and feel just like a real human, and the sleeper agents don’t even know they’re a Cylon until their sleeper circuit gets tripped. About the only difference between a “skin job” and a real human is that the female Cylons’ spines glow red during sexual activity.

And worse for the human survivors of the Cylons’ nuclear bombardment of the Colonies, the Cylons possess a Resurrection Ship, which automatically downloads a fallen Cylon’s memories and experiences into a new body and activates it, creating a never-ending stream of cybernetic warriors bent on grinding their former masters into so much interstellar dust.

How do you even fight against an enemy like that?

Engaging Special Effects and Cinematography

I found the special effects and cinematography of BSG to be top-notch. One of my favorite things about the show was how a lot of the exterior, long-distance shots were shown. Rather than the standard, steady, zoomed-in fare you get in most film, BSG has a lot of exterior shots that look like they were recorded on a hand-held camera, with the field of view zooming in too fast before resolving itself, and the recording itself being shaky, as would befit a distant observer.

For those of you who already love BSG, what do you think made it such a great show? If you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica before, has this convinced you to watch an episode on Netflix?

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November 26 Grab Bag

Facing a back log of blogs to catch up on because of the holidays? Here are the ones from the last two weeks you won’t want to miss.

For Writers

Balancing the Scenes that Make Up Your Novel – This is the eighth installment in Kristen Lamb’s helpful series on novel structure. With this post, she moves from big picture plot issues to scene structure.

9 Astonishing Facts About Amazon – You probably realize that Amazon is big, but do you know just how big? Michael Hyatt shared an eye-opening infographic on his blog that puts it in perspective.

What You Need to Consider Before Signing on a Contract’s Dotted Line – Paranormal romance author Janelle Madigan brings a special guest post from “recovering lawyer” Diane Capri of Licensed to Thrill about what you need to considering if you’re going it without an agent.

For Science Fiction & Fantasy Lovers

Why Invisibility Cloaks May Be In Our Future – Alexia Reed (“Danger Begins With A Kiss”) brings together science and fantasy in her post about how physicists are bending light and capitalizing on the mirage phenomenon to create a functioning “invisibility cloak.”

Who Designed that Ship?! – Samantha Warren of Deadliest Catch gives a very insightful (and funny) look at why Boba Fett’s ship would never get off the ground in the real world.

The Meaning of Life

The Edge Jennifer L. Oliver of World Beneath the Evening Star writes a short but spectacular guest post for SJ Driscoll about how she’s tired of walking along the edge. Not quite prose and not quite poetry, it’ll strike straight to your heart.

An Attitude of Gratitude – In a special Thanksgiving post, Kristen Lamb gives practical examples of how to turn even the things we usually complain about into things we can be grateful for–and how it will change our lives.

From My Co-Writer Lisa Hall-Wilson at Through the Fire

Biking In Panties – Sometimes we have to learn lessons the hard way . . . just hopefully not this hard.

Why Twilight Let Me Down – A review of Breaking Dawn Part 1, the latest installment in the Twilight movie phenomenon.