My featured guest blogger this week is my friend and author, Brad Wheeler. He is the author of Fugitives from Earth, a hard science fiction space opera set in a spacefaring future inspired by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Larry Niven. Make sure to check out his links at the bottom of this post for more information. Here is Brad Wheeler:
I want to talk about a different type of mythology. I'm getting away from dictionary definitions here, because what I want to talk about has nothing to do with sacred narratives or ancient heroes striding into conflict with gods and titans. Rather, I want to talk about a far more recent past and heroes both more and less down to Earth.
This is a hilarious pun, as you'll see in a moment.
When Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012, he was mourned by the entire world. He represented everything that was good about the USA: he was capable, but humble. Strong, but circumspect. He was a celebrity because of his scientific accomplishments, something that very few men (and perhaps no women) have ever achieved.
People in the spaceflight and planetary science communities mourned him for all these reasons, of course. They're still people. But they also mourned him because of what he represented: a space-faring future that never was.
In retrospect, once we had beaten the Soviet Union to the moon, political will to power evaporated. We got the Space Shuttle, which was still impressive but felt like a step backward. Skylab was short-lived. Mir was only headline news when it broke. And yet, there was always hope, dimmed though it was, of the glory days of Apollo returning, where the future would once again stretch out before us to an impossibly distant horizon.
Armstrong's death changed nothing concrete, of course. He'd been largely out of the public eye for years and had a minimal effect on policy. And yet, in the minds of people still yearning for Mars bases and space hotels and day trips to the moon, his death seemed in an instant to turn from all that from possibility to mythology.
Let us take a moment to admire an example of what we might have had.
My personal favorite is this design for a US Air Force space warship (link: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns.php#id--Project_Orion_Battleship). She would have carried hundred of bombs, not as weapons, but as its propulsion system. Every five seconds, a bomb would explode behind the ship, propelling it forward like gunpowder propels a bullet. And she was armed to fight the ships that other nations like the USSR would invariably launch. I'm glad we don't have warfare in space, but we're not much closer to having the engineering expertise to build one of these than we were in 1970.
A more peaceful and realistic plan was to use leftover resources from the Apollo program to send astronauts on a yearlong mission to Venus (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Venus_Flyby) and, at somewhat greater distance, to Mercury. This would have been by far the longest time men had spent in space, and would've taken them tens of thousands of times farther away than their lunar-lander comrades. Unlike the Air Force warship, we had the technology to do this, but we don't any longer--much the knowledge required has been lost through the decades. We're better at putting people in space for a long time, but not necessarily much better at getting them up there.
Here's the real kick, though, and the reason why I find all of this so interesting: the future that it describes could still be ours. All we need is the will to make it. Neil Armstrong won't live to see it, but if groups like SpaceX and the Planetary Society have their way, there's no reason why you and I won't. That's why this is my very favorite bit of mythology: it didn't happen...but it still could.
Brad Wheeler is the author of Fugitives from Earth
Find him on:
His blog: http://thetenthword.com
Amazon Author Central: http://amazon.com/author/bradwheeler
Friday, April 19, 2013
Friday, April 5, 2013
Last week, I went to Vernal, UT- located directly east of Salt Lake City- to pick up my daughter and grandson to bring back to Oregon. While there, I had the opportunity to do a few events to promote The Zeke Proper Chronicles. First, I had a table set up at a scholastic book fair at the Uintah County library, then, I had two interviews on two different radio stations. After my radio interviews, I set up for a book signing at a quaint book store on Vernal's main street. I have posted a few pictures of my events and will hopefully have a recording of my radio interviews up soon.
The blog I have written for this week is also being featured on Katie Mettner's website. A big thank you to Katie, who was a guest blogger for me a few weeks ago.
Naglfar - The Ship of Death
In the beginning of The Serpent’s Ship - Book two in The Zeke Proper Chronicles - one of the heroes, Devon Proper, is startled by the sudden appearance of a ship, its prow carved in the form of a serpent that stares down at him from the mist and fog. His first impression is that it is real, a dragon come to life from Norse legend in the tiny harbor of Alder Cove. However, his mind is soon relieved to discover that its wooden eyes are lifeless; that its appearance is only a preface to the darkness that looms on the horizon.
A common theme to Norse mythology - also a reoccurring motif in The Zeke Proper Chronicles - is the bleakness of the future, a future that promises the eventual destruction of Midgard and the gods that oversee it. For unlike the gods of Greek and Roman myth, the Norse gods are not immortal. Their demise is foretold in the coming of Ragnarok, a word that literally means “Destruction of the Powers”. The myths relate a myriad of occurrences that will take place both before and during the apocalyptic final battle between the gods and the giants. An event so far reaching that it will include all creation, in which virtually all life is destroyed and the nine worlds are submerged. One of those occurrences involves the appearance of Naglfar, a ship constructed out of the painfully extracted fingernails of dead men. In The Serpent’s Ship, I try to describe the vessel in what might be considered “an artist’s conception”:
Reflected light caught Zeke’s attention, and he turned to look closer at the sides of the ship. Its hull glistened and an iridescent cascade of colors shimmered along its entire length. His first impression was haw beautiful it looked. The colors seemed to dance, their melody expressed like the gentle, lapping waves of the sea. Upon closer inspection, Zeke realized what the small, scale-like material was, and he reared back in horror and revulsion…the ship was built from the painfully extracted fingernails of the dead. The beautiful, glimmering shape of the hull was the product of that torture…he walked quickly, stepping lithely onto the deck, noting that the shimmer of the fingernails continued along the deck’s immense surface and even extended up the three tall masts that towered overhead.
As Zeke’s exploration of the ship continues, he learns that the captain of the vessel is in fact Loki, its helmsman Hrym, and its crew the Frost Giants. Their eventual course is the plains of Vigrid, an immense area where the final battle will take place.
Zeke and his little brother Devon meet various roadblocks and challenges amid their adventure. Nevertheless, they overcome and grow like any champion within the confines of the hero’s quest. The ship, Naglfar, is always on the horizon however, a glimmer of evil that threatens to destroy a completely indifferent world.
Book one and book two of The Zeke Proper Chronicles can be found on Amazon Kindle and in paperback. Pick up your copies, begin winding your way through the streets of Alder Cove, and discover just how close a connection Zeke has with the Mist and the Norse gods.