Artemis 1: Haters Gonna Hate

Hello, friends!

My gosh, certain people sure do love doling out criticism.  Even the slightest mistake or delay, and the critics come out in droves, robed in all their smugness.  I see this all the time as a writer and an artist, and on Monday I saw a smattering of critics online smugly criticizing NASA’s Artemis Program.

On Monday morning, NASA had to scrub the launch of Artemis 1, an uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft that will soon return American astronauts to the Moon.  Apparently there was trouble with one of the engines.  Most people, I think, understand that technical problems happen and that safety must come first.  But a few folks out there saw this as an opportunity to take cheap shots at NASA, the U.S. government, and America as a whole.

Now look… (heavy sigh)… okay, there are some valid criticisms to be made about all those things.  The United States has problems.  NASA has problems.  The Artemis Program, in particular, has been politicized from the start, and whenever things get political in the U.S., bad decisions ensue.  But even if none of that were the case, even if NASA could somehow operate independently of Congress and politics, problems would still crop up.

Taking time to stop and fix the problem with Artemis 1’s engine—that’s not a sign of weakness.  That’s not a failure.  If anything, it shows that the people at NASA are doing their jobs, taking the proper precautions, and learning from past mistakes.  Ignoring the engine issue—plowing ahead with the original plan, regardless of the danger—potentially allowing a multi-billion dollar spacecraft to blow up on the launchpad?  That would have been a real failure.

But no, a few people out there think delaying the launch for a few days is a “huge embarrassment” for America.  There will always be people like this who act super smug while lobbing lazy criticism at others.  Whether you’re a national space agency or just some writer/illustrator on the Internet, try to ignore this sort of criticism if you can (or rant about it on your blog, if you must—just don’t dwell on it for too long).

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Fran, from My Hubble Abode, posted a wonderful video on YouTube reacting to some of the nonsense people have been saying about the Artemis 1 launch delay. Click here to check it out!

#IWSG: Dear Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

Dear Muse,

2021 turned out to be one of the absolute worst years of my life.  I will not go so far as to call it my worst year ever, but I will say that it was a close second.

We didn’t get much writing done, you and I, in the past year.  Plans got derailed.  Opportunities were missed.  Financially speaking, our writing/illustrating business survived, but it will be a real challenge getting back to where we were a year ago.

Couldn’t be helped.  Under the circumstances, things could have ended up being a whole lot worse.  I want to thank you, dear muse, for being patient with me, for biding your time while I struggled, and for waiting until the situation improved.  I needed that time to deal with this past year’s problems, and I needed time to heal from this year’s problems as well.

As I already said, 2021 was only the second worst year of my life.  I’m sure you still remember the first.  I’m also sure you remember what happened next: how our writing and our art flourished, how the year that followed my #1 worst year became one of my absolute creative best!  Nobody asks for hardship, but hardship has a way of preparing us for change and for growth.  After all the problems of 2021, I am eager to see what we can accomplish in 2022.

So in the year to come, dear muse, I’m asking you for a gift: the gift of words.  All the words!  Surprise me—no, shock me with your wildest ideas.  Break the molds I’m used to for all my stories, knock me out of the comfortable grooves I’ve settled into over the years.  Test my limits.  Challenge me.  Make me write things I never imagined I’d write.

This past year was awful for me, but that’s behind me now (I think).  So muse, bring me all the words!  I’m ready!

Forever yours,
Your Writer.

Going to Mars is My Dream, But Not My Passion

Hello, friends!

So this post isn’t really about Mars.  I mean, if NASA ever announces that they desperately need to send a writer/illustrator to Mars, I’d volunteer.  I’d love to go to Mars!  That would be awesome!

But I don’t expect that to happen.  Even if we do send humans to Mars, and even if that does happen in my lifetime, those humans will be scientists and engineers.  They’ll be people who are good at math.  I’m not a math person, nor do I wish to become a math person.

So while I dream about standing on the surface of the Red Planet, my passions lie elsewhere.  And I think it’s important to know the difference between your dreams and your passions.  Dreams matter.  Your dreams say a lot about who you are as a person and what you believe (and do not believe) about the world.  Cherish your dreams, but pursue your passions.

I have a passion for writing and also a (slightly lesser) passion for art.  If I could spend every day of my life writing and drawing, that would be glorious.  If I had to spend every day doing math, I’d be miserable.  And that’s why I write blog posts about Mars rather than sitting in a laboratory somewhere trying to figure out how to actually get to Mars.

Of course, no matter what your dreams and passions happen to be, there will still be closed-minded people trying to stand in judgement over you.  Ignore those people.  Cut them out of your life, if you can (maybe consider moving to another planet, if the opportunity comes up).

So what are your dreams, and what are your passions, and what are you doing to pursue them?

The First Art Museum on Mars

Last week, artist James Gurney posed a question on his blog.  He presented two options and asked which you’d prefer:

  • Spend the rest of your life trapped in a library or art museum, with unrestricted access to all the world’s great works of art, literature, film, etc?  Or…
  • Spend the rest of your life outdoors in nature, but never have access to any form of art again?

Personally, I lean toward the life trapped in a library/art museum option, but still… it’s a tough decision.  But then I started thinking more about this. Or perhaps over-thinking it. Why would I be trapped indoors with all this art?  Why can’t I go outside?  And then the answer occurred to me: Mars.

At some point in the future (perhaps not the near future, but at some point in the future, I’m sure) humanity will establish its first colony on Mars.  As that colony grows, the colonists will develop their own customs, their own culture, and ultimately their own art.

There would be a growing interest in having a venue where artists could showcase their work, and someone would have to curate the collection of original Martian artwork.  I guess this isn’t exactly the scenario James Gurney was envisioning.  You could still go outside, if you wear your E.V.A. suit, and you wouldn’t have unrestricted access to all the great art of the world—just all the art of a world.

But still, the more I’ve pondered Mr. Gurney’s original question, the more I’ve liked the idea.  This sounds like an interesting job, being the curator for the first art museum on Mars.  I’d take that job.  Or at the very least, I might write a story about the person who has that job.

So what about you?  If you had to choose, would you choose a life without nature or a life without art?  And what sort of scenario do you imagine might force you to make that choice?

Where Science Meets Fiction

We like to keep things separate.  We like to separate church and state, fantasy and reality, the left brain and the right.  But Science Fiction is a special case.  It’s one of the rare places where we allow two seemingly different subjects to mingle: science and art.

We live in a society where science is becoming increasingly important.  We know about atoms.  We talk about our genes.  We worry about germs and energy and the environment.  These are parts of our everyday world where, only a century ago, they were strange, alien concepts only an educated minority understood.

It’s only a matter of time before we add things like space travel or artificial intelligence to that list of everyday experiences.  There’s increasing evidence of bacterial life on Mars, and scientists are starting to suspect life may exist on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.  We may soon learn that we are not alone in the Solar System, and that will cause a huge change in the way we think about ourselves.

Science Fiction has turned scientific language into a form of artistic expression.  It gives voice to our hopes and fears for tomorrow.  This is only natural given how much science has penetrated our daily lives.  Art is, after all, a reflection of the culture we live in.

Ultimately, that is what this blog is about: science and art blending together.  The line that separates them is slowly disappearing, and in the future what we call Science Fiction won’t be Science Fiction anymore; it will just be fiction.