Hello all! Below are links to PDFs of some recent writing I’ve been doing. They are science fiction story beginnings drawn from writing prompts by Joe Haldeman. I am asking/begging/pleading/grovelling for any interested readers out there to give these “shitty” first drafts (as Anne Lamott might say) a look-see and give me feedback, especially to which beginnings you think have the greatest potential for a short story. Remember, these are drafts—I haven’t proofread them for errors.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It may be a long time before we have robots as sophisticated as R2D2 or C3P0, but roboticists get closer every day as they work toward making robots think. Lee Gutkind’s Almost Human: Making Robots Think tours through contemporary robotics research — largely at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh — and gives readers a glimpse of where we are going with this particular technology and reveals that getting to the point of making independent thinking machines is at “the barest beginning.”
Gutkind focuses heavily on researchers involved in trying to find out whether robots could traverse the rugged extraterrestial terrain of Mars and perform independent experiments to discover signs of life on the Red Planet.
One intriguing concept Gutkind follows briefly is the idea of human/robot interactions — that humans will have to learn to adjust to almost-human machines in the same way we are having to adjust to the rapid advances in computer technology.
But most of all Gutkind puts a human stamp on the machines, potraying in depth the scientists and engineers behind the robots. We find out these researchers are driven, willing to put in long, grueling hours into designing and testing their machines. Gutkind’s portrait is reminiscent of Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, an examination of the computer revolution in the ’70s and ’80s.
What Gutkind finds, I believe, is that the soul of these new machines is human.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Through the eyes of protagonist William Mandella, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War gives readers a glimpse of what war in deep space and on distant planets might be like. It’s a theme taken up by countless science fiction writers — Robert Heinlein and Orson Scott Card, to name a few — and no telling how many SF films and tv shows.
Though set in the far future, this novel is comparable to any classic war novel. It’s gritty and unromantic. And given that Haldeman is a Vietnam vet, The Forever War is a novel as much about that war as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
The war Mandella fights against an alien enemy millions of light years from Earth has a spurious beginning — its Gulf of Tonkin incident. The soldiers in Mandella’s unit fight in hostile environments against an often unseen enemy.
Because of the phenomenon of time dilation caused by light speed travel, soldiers age months while Earth ages centuries. When they return home, they find the word vastly changed, an almost completely different culture: one ravaged by overpopulation as well as wars and violence. An experience not unlike that many Vietnam vets had upon their return to the United States. Haldeman in interviews talks about the feeling the went on without him while he was overseas.
The novel, however, is more than a metaphor of Vietnam: Haldeman is prescient about such things as overpopulation, violence and more tolerance of gays.