Dreaming Up Space Missions

Recently, DARPA, the U.S. military’s research agency, announced a contest awarding $500,000 to the group who provides the best proposal for the 100-Year Starship Study. The goal of the study is to map out what an interstellar mission will look like and what technologies and products we need to develop so a manned spacecraft could be on its way to another star in 100 years.

It’s a lofty goal inviting top researchers to bring their A-game. But what’s also interesting is how speculative fiction writers are invited to join and how speculative fiction inspired the whole project.  In an interview with the LA Times, David Neyland, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office shared his speculative fiction inspiration:

When I came to DARPA about three years ago, I was looking for ways to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to become involved with research and development, like I was inspired when I was a kid. And in the course of thinking this through, I fell back on my science fiction reading heritage — to the days of reading books by people like Robert Heinlein and the story he wrote, “Time for the Stars.” In that book, he characterized an organization called the Long Range Foundation, a group of people that invested in things that nobody else would invest in. One of the things they invested in was rockets and spaceships and interstellar travel.

Neyland goes on to share that the idea behind a 100-year timeline comes from how long it took from Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to be published to when man actually landed on the moon.  Thoughtful, inspiring fiction, it seems, can be quite the catalyst for scientific planning and subsequent advancement.

I’m glad that policy makers are beginning to understand the power imaginative stories can have. Also, in a world that seems to be fixated on the NOW, I’m glad there are a few who are thinking beyond their lifetimes. What a great legacy to leave behind!

What do you think we need to do in order to launch an interstellar mission in 100 years?




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The Difference We Make

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Fringe. It is one of the best shows on TV, full of great characters and thought-provoking plots. Episode 2 of this year, One Night in October (click link to watch for free while it’s still available), had everything I love about this show.

For those who don’t watch Fringe, here’s the set-up: imagine there is an alternate universe, a place where we exist but have made different choices leading to different outcomes and consequences. And what if you could cross from our universe into this alternate reality?  That is exactly what scientist Walter Bishop did 20 years ago after his son dies of a rare genetic disease. His goal? To bring his son’s counterpart back with him so he can cure him of the same disease.  Only after he’s cured, Noble can’t bear to take him back.  And thus begins a cascade of consequences that lead to a near war with the Other Side and some very strange “Fringe” events.

In this episode, the Other Side asks for help from our side. They are hunting for a serial killer and hope that our version, who is a serial killer expert who often aids the police, can help. I won’t spoil the rest story for those who may want to watch it or read this synopsis, but it is a great tale of the impact we make in the lives of others.

The difference between a serial killer and a serial killer expert, we learn, was one kind woman who loved an abused young boy unconditionally. In one universe she crossed paths with the youngster on the edge of becoming a monster.  In the other reality, she didn’t, the consequences horrific. It’s a dark version of It’s a Wonderful Life, and just as in that speculative fiction classic, it gives us a glimpse in our own hearts and lives of the impact we make on others.

Each of us may be heroes or villains and never know it.  And that is the glaring truth we tend to block out with the lie that “it doesn’t matter”. Yet that doesn’t change the fact we each make a difference whether we accept it or not. The catch is that we usually never know our great moments until they are past.

But then again, maybe all our moments are great ones.




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I’m Back

Getting canned from my airline job seven weeks ago – oh, wait… early retired – has been both a challenge and a lot of fun.  I’ve only recently caught my breath enough where I could reflect on it.  So let me share a couple challenges I’ve faced and the fun I’ve had over the past few weeks of my blogging sabbatical.

My first challenge has been in processing a lot of emotions, something I’m still working through. The temptation to become angry and bitter has been there, and I’ve had to choose to avoid that dark path and focus on the positive. Thankfully, I’ve felt prepared for this big pivot in life by having already read some great books like 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays, both written by Dan Miller.

One of Miller’s central concepts is that work is only one part of a successful life. Other areas include family, social, spiritual, personal development, physical, and financial – see his free download for more info. Since I had already been working on those other facets of life, those areas of success have been refilling the big crater in my ego from my loss of employment. And, as you know, having a positive outlook is a huge part in staying focused on moving forward. I’m really thankful I had invested time beforehand – it has helped tremendously now.

Secondly, as I’ve shared in my last post, the timing was such that I’ve entered into a business with a friend. So now I’m completely rearranging my life around running a furniture, mattress, and decor store in my home town.  And that has probably been the more difficult challenge as I naturally gravitate toward predictable routine and nothing has been either routine or predictable.  The hardest part is that I had been accustomed to having a lot of time with my family and retail isn’t quite as friendly in that regard.  But we’re adjusting and finding ways to make it all work together.

Now, for the fun part.  I’ve absolutely have had a ball getting this store up and running.  I have some artistic talent and have designed our logo, in-store signage, and advertising. I’ve also enjoyed the creative puzzle of laying out the store and setting it up where there is always something interesting wherever you look. I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of nice folks and helping them solve their problems and make life a bit more cheery for them.  And we’ve had a lot of early success, and are well on track to meet our financial goals before we’ve even advertised. So yahoo on that one. I may actually have some income out of this before too long!

And my writing?  As I’ve shared, I’m still figuring out how my days and weeks will look before I know for sure. I’m easing back into blogging and will also restart work on my refresh of The Man Who Was Thursday before too long. The main thing is to keep my priorities straight. Providing for my family’s financial and quality time needs come first. But I’m pretty sure writing will continue to be a big part of my life.

Thanks, EDC

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Taking a Short Break

I usually write my posts a few weeks in advance, and it’s taken awhile for my blogging life to finally catch up with my real life.  And boy, what a wild few weeks it has been!

Three weeks ago I was laid off from my day job after 19 years of service and by the end of the day jumped into the entrepreneurial world, joining a friend in opening a new retail business.  Between wrapping up at my former employer and starting from scratch in my new business, I’ve hardly had time to blink!

That being said, I need a bit of a break from my part time authoring endeavors.  So I’ll be taking a mini sabbatical until the first week or two of October.  But don’t worry… I’ll soon be back with links, stories, and commentary on all things speculative fiction, futurism, humor, writing, infographics, belief, or anything else that catches the eye of an author with a passion for imaginative stories resonating with universal truths.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!  EDC

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Star Trek Facts

Well, how about this… right after seeing a fact sheet on Firefly, I came across this one for Star Trek over at Graph Jam…  The line about the glue is hilarious!

What’s your favorite fact?  EDC

funny graphs - Final Frontier Facts

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Marketing Fiction

I run into people all the time who want to write a novel, kind of like this recent Doonesbury cartoon…

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

The ironic thing is that the vast majority of books published every year are non-fiction. The difference is so stark, that 95% of all income made in the publishing industry is derived from non-fiction books. The reason? Non-fiction books are much easier to market and to parlay into other income. Non-fiction authors can hold seminars on their topic, create ancillary products, do consulting, plus a whole lot more.  It’s hard to adapt fiction to other products other than maybe cinema, and your novel doesn’t likely need any marketing help by that point!

So what’s a budding fiction writer to do?  Recently, Michael Hyatt shared three keys to marketing fiction that I’ve been thinking about:

  1. Identity: Definition, Message, and Consistency.  Authors need to focus on a genre and be able to concisely explain what their angle is. I think I’m doing that with my tag line of “a passion for telling imaginative stories resonating with universal truths”.
  2. Assets: Access, Connection, and Baselines. This is about how authors connect with their readers. I do this via my blog, facebook, and so on. He goes on to talk about creating as vivid a world online as authors do in their books. I’m not sure I’m doing that.  Yet.
  3. Community: Engagement, Development, and Consistency.  This is about how authors champion their offerings to the world and how well and consistently they do it. I feel like I need to step it up a little in this regard.

If I could ask your help, would you please take a look at Hyatt’s post and then give me some feedback on what I could do to take my marketing up a notch? You can respond via email at EDC@EdwardDCasey.com or by commenting on this post.

Thanks! EDC

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FireFly Facts

Saw this recently on Cool Infographics… a trivia page on one of my all time favorite TV shows, Firefly.  If you’ve never seen this masterpiece, you owe it to yourself to queue up or pick up this sci-fi western and then after soaking up all that goodness do the same with the concluding movie, Serenity.  And this isn’t just me raving… both have thousands of five-star rankings on Amazon.

What do you think about Firefly/Serenity?   EDC

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Everyone takes pride in their work, but I think a creative person can take it a step further. There is something about being creative that is intensely personal. It’s not just a song or a painting or a novel, it’s a labor of love and passion this artist hopes the rest of the world will love and admire as much as she does. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen most of the time, and failure comes, deserved or not.

I recently read a great essay by Sean Hood, one of the screenwriters of the recent critical and box office bomb, Conan the Barbarian. To the question “What’s it like when your film flops at the box office?”, he shares his experience with such failure. I won’t reprint his response here, but it’s a great read, using the analogy of supporting a losing candidate in an election and sharing how his father’s example helps him deal with it and push on. Please go read it… you won’t regret it.

In my own case, I’ve received a slew of rejection letters from publishers over the years. More than that, I’ve gotten polite brush-offs of people who don’t want to read my work. Or worse, those people who smile and say something sufficiently vague to make you think they liked it, but upon reflection you realize it was just patronizing whitewash. Each time failure comes it’s tough. It hurts. True, you develop some thick skin, but deep down each rejection fuels buried insecurities.

Sometimes you have to step back and figure out if you need to take another direction to reach your goal. You have to answer questions like: Am I created to do this? Is this my passion and calling in life? Do I have something to offer the world? But then, when all is examined and all questions answered, it comes down to that critical moment. It’s not a question, but a decision:

Will I be defined by others and my past, or will I be the person God created me to be?

Which is it?

And that is actually the true moment of success or failure – not when others decide you have failed, but when you do.

How has failure shaped you? How do you respond to it?  EDC

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Favorite Rice

My good friend David sent me this one… too funny!  EDC

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NASA Science Fiction

Wired recently reported that NASA has entered into an agreement with Tor publishing to create a line of science fiction books inspired by NASA.  The goal, supposedly, is to encourage new generations to aspire to hard science careers. Says Nona Cheeks, the director of Innovative Partnerships at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:

“This agreement will benefit the public, as we look for innovative ways to communicate our past and current achievements, while focusing on the needs of the future.”


I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me not to be a bit skeptical.  For one, NASA projects take years to develop and usually many more in monotonous routine. Who wants to read about the Opportunity rover making a three-year, 13 mile journey across Mars to the a notable crater? Yes, it is interesting as an article or a news story, but as a novel?

Sure there are very book-worthy moments at NASA, but usually the publishing and movie industries are quick to jump on those.  When NASA is inspiring they come running, but NASA hasn’t been all that inspiring lately. It’s been a long while since NASA did something that really captured the imagination. As I’ve posted before, NASA needs to get back to doing great things.

And if they did that, they wouldn’t have to resort to fiction to inspire people.

What do you think?  EDC

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