Caves of Steel

CavesOfSteelThe Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been many years since I’ve read/listened to any of Isaac Asimov’s work. I listened to “Nighfall” when I was a freshman in high school and enjoyed it. I tried to listen to “Foundation” and couldn’t really get past the first 10 minutes of the reading – more on that in a future post. I didn’t pick up Asimov again until I was a junior in college and read “I Robot” (this was well before the movie came out). First of all, I was surprised that it was actually a compilation of short stories instead of being a novel, but enjoyed it immensely.

I’ve always been curious about Asimov’s famous Robot series, but never got around to actually listening to it until 2012. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from the series. I knew that there was a humanoid robot (like Data from Star Treck) in it, but I didn’t expect the robot to take on a secondary role.

Caves of Steel begins a series of novels about a Detective Elijah Baley. Though there are many robot related plot points and questions raised, the main story is first and foremost a detective story. Baley is tasked to solve the murder of a “spacer” before his assigned robot partner, R. Daneel Oliaw has the opportunity to solve it first.

Two of the primary emotional themes of the book are “am I smarter than a robot” and “will robots take my job?” (The funny thing is that humans continue to ask these questions today in 2013 as our technology becomes smarter and faster than humans.) Baley also has to deal with the emotional distress of having to work with a robot that can not only potentially make him obsolete but deal with the fact that this robot looks so human that people mistake him for a human being. This causes Baley distress because he’s used to treating robots like machines and not like people.

Asimov poses the question very poignantly for Baley and forces him to do a top job to solve the murder. Baley is delightfully logical and methodical about how he goes about solving the murder, what makes it even better for me as a reader is that he makes several mistakes due to insufficient information. This throws him for a loop, but he persists in his duty.

The Earth that Asimov creates in these books is well-rounded and relevant to today’s imagination. He creates his world in few words and, though he occasionally appears to go on tangents, every detail is used to further either character development or plot. Everything the main character feels is based on the experience of his version of Earth, where humans live in vast enclosed cities and rarely if ever sees the light of day. Every bit of Baley’s environment affects who he is and how he acts, which gives me a great appreciation for Asimov’s world building.

I am continually amazed by the artistry that this father of science fiction is able to weave to keep you interested in what he has to say. No wonder many of the terms he made up such as “hyperspace” and “positronic brain” are still used in science fiction today. Amazing!

Not many “hard science fiction” can be recommended for the non-SF reader, but Issac Asimov’s Cave’s of Steel is certainly one novel that I can recommend. The emphasis in the story is Baley and how he deals with solving a difficult murder case and not on the high-tech of the world. It’s Baley and his struggle that is most compelling and keeps one’s interest. The environment that surrounds the murder is just a stroke of genius.

Changing the World Through Storytelling

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I LOVE KIDS’ MOVIES! (I also love kids’ books, but that’s for another post.) I don’t have children yet, but I still enjoy watching movies geared toward kids. My husband thinks I’m crazy sometimes, but I’m lucky to have nieces and nephews whom I can go to these movies with until I have my own kids. Before I was married I would go see these movies with the one or two friends who would go with me or I’d simply go on my own. I like to know what kinds of myths we’re teaching kids these days and filtering out the ones that I would want my kids to grow up with.

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Today I saw a very interesting 13 minute TED talk. I enjoy watching TED talks; I learn so many new things about cutting edge technology, medicine, social sciences, education and global consciousness. I sit and listen to the talks when I’m doing chores or when I have a 15 minute window to waste “watching TV” on my computer. I’m not sure what Mr. Colin Stokes does for a living or how he got to produce a TED talk, but I found his perspective on the movies we expose our children to very thought-provoking. His talk was about “How Movies Teach Manhood.” (You can watch his video for yourself here.) He talks about movies that children grow up with and he theorizes what lessons they learn from them. Mr. Stokes has a daughter and a son, and he observes them under the influences of the movies they watch. He wonders what are my kids learning from this movie? Are my children learning the lessons I want them to learn from watching this movie? He observes that Hollywood indoctrinate boys with the idea of “concur the bad guys and get rewarded with a girl” and in more recent year we’re slowly teaching our girls “girl power.” That’s great, but Mr. Stokes poses the question: Are these movies helping our children learn to work together in the real world? (Granted this isn’t his exact question, but I’m paraphrasing here.)

The thing that I like most about this talk is that I’ve often asked such questions myself as I watch kids’ movies. I often wonder if I would ever want my future child to watch XYZ movie? The funny thing is that sometimes my answer is “no.” The books kids read and the movies kids watch truly shape who they become. Which, I think is one of Mr. Stokes’s concerns. That’s why we must be selective about what kids watch and read.

Mr. Stokes uses the Wizard of Oz and Star Wars as prime examples of what kids can learn from movies. In fact, he uses Star Wars as his example of concurring evil and getting the girl where as he portrays the Wizard of Oz as an example of leadership through “making friends and working together.”

Princess-Leia-Organa-princess-leia-organa-solo-skywalker-29417745-500-609This will totally date me, but the earliest memory I have is sitting in a theater with my mom and grandma watching Return of the Jedi for the first time. As with so many other children at the time, Star Wars ruled my life. I get people’s argument that Princess Leia was simply the token girl etc, but I was young. I loved Star Wars and I was Princess Leia who fought the evil empire with a lightsaber (because swords are so much cooler than big guns). Even though I agree with Mr. Stokes that learning to be a leader by making friends and bringing people together (as Dorothy does in the Wizard of Oz), in my eyes Princess Leia was a leader in a male dominated world and doing a great job holding her own. You should understand that I was a very independent little girl growing up and was more of a tomboy than a girly girl. I also grew up to be an engineer & scientist in a male dominated environment. Did Star Wars and Princess Leia influence my inclination for science and engineering, maybe – my sister grew up watching Star Wars too and she got a degree in Biology and is in medical school now. Hmm…

princessmononoke11But my sister and I also grew up watching and loving Miyazaki movies too – Nausciaa & Kiki’s Delivery Service in particular since those were the only movies we had access to before Princess Mononoke came out. Personally, even more than the Wizard of Oz, Miyazaki’s movies have always portrayed strong female protagonists AND the kinds of male protagonists, at least in my opinion, that fit the bill of the kind of heroes that Mr. Stokes wishes for American movies. The male protagonists in Miyazaki’s movies always have goals that align with those of the female protagonist and he always strives “to work together” to achieve the goal. Princess Mononoke is a prime example of this – though that came out when I was much, much older.

I’m sure there are but I wish there were more movies like Miyazaki’s. To be honest, I try to instill emotionally strong male and female protagonists into my own story.

I believe that real men need to be strong and yet soft at the same time. They must be physically strong enough to get the job done and emotionally strong enough to not allow their ego to take over their actions. A man can be stern and kind at the same time.

I believe that a real woman needs to also be soft and yet strong at the same time. A woman should be physically strong enough to hold her own and emotionally strong enough to use their emotion for the good of others. A woman can be soft and feminine while moving her chess pieces to win her battles. A “strong” man or woman can work with any type of person: young, old, male, female, black, white, or a short green frog, what matters is getting the job done for the betterment of everyone and not just themselves.

I think there are a lot more parents like Mr. Stokes out there who want their kids to be prepared for the unfortunate realities of the world. We want to shape the pliable minds of our children so they realize that they can be good, strong people and make a difference in the world.

WriterAlina Business Plan 2013

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This was a cartoon going around Facebook a couple of years ago. Every time I look at it I laugh and think to myself, “Yup, that’s exactly what I need.” I think this year, this mysterious stick man will be standing behind me as I write my story. 😉

When I wrote down my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions it took me a while to figure out how to create my writing resolution. I always have one and it usually says, “I will finish my manuscript by the end of the year.” or some other equally vague rendition. But this year is different. In fact my writing resolution is going to be the most challenging resolution for me of this year. “5. I will commit myself to creating, executing, and completing a Writing Business Plan.” I can’t even begin to express how much this scares me. But this year I’ve decided that I need to be much more aggressive if I’m actually going to follow through with my desire to complete a manuscript.

So, I’ve created, what seems to me to be, an aggressive business plan for 2013. This plan will be hung up so that both my husband and I can see it every day. I’m also encouraging him to create his own business plan for the creative endeavors that he wants to pursue. It’s good for both of us to know what I need to get done so that we can motivate each other.

So, here it is!

WriterAlina Business Plan 2013

Writing Goals

  • WRITE EVERY DAY! Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I must write every day. Each time I sit down to write will create more momentum, allowing me to complete my manuscript.
  • Complete the first draft of “Identity”
  • Edit and Revise “Identity” into a soliciting state
  • Outline and plot Identity’s follow-up stories and plot sketch Jention Chronicles: What happens to Xanthe and Julian after Identity? What are Yuman, Raine, and Jade’s stories? What brings the four of them together in The Bryga Project? Why should they be brought together? How does The Bryga Project effect the overall scheme of Jention Chronicles?
  • Perhaps I could work on some short stories that create/promote the  Jention Chronicle universe and give insight into its various characters.

Promotion Goals

  • Maintain my blog better. Post at least once a week.
  • Continue writing book reviews, but I need to expand to talking about my writing process, my story process, and my publishing process
  • Continue to post interesting writing and science topics on my WriterAlina Facebook page

Publishing Goals

  • Query Agents
  • Decide if self-publishing or traditional publishing is the way to go for my stories

Now that I have my general goals I went through and prioritized and listed out by month what I’m going to do during 2013. I’m being a little aggressive compared to previous years, but I think if I solicit my husband’s help to keep me “on track” I’ll do just fine. Otherwise I’ll simply have to reevaluate after the first three months.

My January is kind of light because we are moving at the end of the month and it takes time to pack up a house and move. But my February, March, and April are going to be extremely heavy. I have at least half of the first draft chapters written, but many need to be rewritten – if people can complete a whole first draft novel in one month, I should be able to do it in three. I also realize that my estimated number of chapters is A LOT, but I’m planning to write as much of the outline as possible, ff that means that I’ve suddenly written 2 books or have to chop half my book out in revisions so be it. I want to make sure that Xanthe’s story is written.

Anyway… Back to the business plan…

These are my monthly goals for 2013:

January 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Complete the mainframe and the virtual net world building, Complete 2 Chapters of Identity

February 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Complete 1st Draft Chapters for Act 1 of Identity (~16 Scenes/Chapters)

March 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Complete 1st Draft Chapters for Act 2 of Identity (~28 Scenes/Chapters)

April 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Complete 1st Draft Chapters for Act 3 of Identity (~28 Scenes/Chapters)

May 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Edit Chapters for Act 1 of Identity

June 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Edit Chapters for Act 2 of Identity

July 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Edit Chapters for Act 3 of Identity

August 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Investigate Self-Publishing,  Solicit Agents, Outline Jention Chronicles Idea

September 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Decide who’s story will be next and plot out that story, Consider writing a Jention Chronicles short story and submit to Critique

October 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Perform necessary research for “next story,”  Create detailed outline for “next story”

November 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Participate in NaNoWriMo (Complete a 50k manuscript in 1 month)

December 2013: Write every day, Write at least 1 blog post every week, Review & Edit the NaNoWriMo project, Create Business Plan for 2014

Then I created charts for each month that roughly lay out my weekly goals and created an action item list that I want to have done by the end of the month. I also left some space on my action item list so that when I print it out and put it on my wall I can write in new tasks as the month(s) goes on.

January 2013
Week 1-5: (this is repeated for each week of the month)
Write every day
Mon / Tues / Wed / Thur / Fri / Sat / Sun
Write at least 1 blog post
In weeks 2 & 4 I added Write and send a “new” chapter to Bergen Wordsmiths Critique Group
Action Item List:

  • Go to Bergen Wordsmiths Critique Meetings (x3)
  • Go to Writer of the Weird Critique Meetings (x2)
  • Write and Send 2 “new” chapters to Bergen Wordsmiths Critique Group
  • Flesh out the aspects of Kinarran Life, both Mainlanders and Colonials
  • Complete the world building for the mainframe and the virtual net

February 2013
Week 1-4: (this is repeated for each week of the month)
Write every day
Mon / Tues / Wed / Thur / Fri / Sat / Sun
Write at least 1 blog post
Action Item List:

  • Go to Bergen Wordsmiths Critique Meetings (x2)
  • Go to Writer of the Weird Critique Meetings (x1)
  • Send 2 “new” chapters to Bergen Wordsmiths Critique Group
  • Flesh out the aspects of Kinarran Life, both Mainlanders and Colonials
  • Complete 1st Draft Chapters for Act 1 of Identity (~16 Chapters)

And so on…

I’ve filled out charts for each month of the year so far. It is my hope that this plan will help kick my butt into gear and help me get stuff done. I’ve also allowed for some flexibility in the plan so that I can improve it as the year goes on. I’ll keep you updated on how it works out for me.

That little stick man is going to be holding that gun to my head for the next few months. Wish me luck and thanks for reading 😉

P. S. Perhaps a detailed business plan is what you need for whatever project(s) you are working on this year. Think about it…

New Year’s Resolutions 2013

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It’s interesting to look back on past new year’s resolutions and see one’s progress or lack there of. Looking back gives me a chance to see where I’m putting my priorities, realize how I’m growing, and enlightening me on what still needs work.

2012 is the first year in a very long time that I didn’t make a new year’s resolution and I think I suffered a little for that. I feel that my year’s goals were vague and lacked direction and… well resolve. If you don’t create goals for yourself it’s hard to get things done.

When I first started making new year’s resolutions when I was in high school, my lists were long and complicated. Filled with all the dreams of bettering my personality, my grades, and pursuing creative and non-creative goals. My lists would consist of pages of bullet points, most of which would go by the way side within the first month of the year. As the years have gone by, I’ve become smarter about how I create my new year’s resolutions so that I actually accomplish them. First off, my lists have become much smaller, only consisting of 5 or 6 major tasks. These tasks can then be worded in such a way that they encourage me to accomplish my goals. Some are more difficult to follow through with than others, but eventually I accomplish at least 90% of my goals.

So here are my resolutions for 2013:

  1. Live Fearless! I will embrace the possibilities of growing my heart!
  2. I will be a helpful, supportive wife to my husband and help him become aware of the matrix that surrounds us so that we can create positive opportunities that will grow our family, cultivate health, and encourage business prosperity.
  3. I will face my demons and battle them to the death! I must be constantly diligent and be aware of when my demons threaten to take over my actions. I must remain determined, strong, and flexible – these qualities will help me to become a good mom. Remember: My body is not me but mine. My thoughts are not me but mine. I am the creator of my own reality.
  4. I will respect my writer self! Demand the appropriate time to spend on my writing and writing goals not only from the people around me but from myself.
  5. I will commit myself to creating, executing, and completing a “Writing Business Plan.”
  6. I will commit myself to exercising a minimum of 4 times a week. I feel the best when I do this.
  • I usually have at least one existential resolution, but this year it seems that I’ve created three. I’ll have my work cut out for me this year. 😉
  • I got the idea of a “Writing Business Plan” from Marissa Meyer, a new author I follow quite extensively. She excited me about writing my own stories after reader her debut novel Cinder. Usually I just have the resolution “I will finish my first draft of XYZ,” but it never seems to work out the way I plan. I have the feeling that this new approach will be a much more effective resolution.
  • I usually have one “exercise” resolution. I have to keep it simple otherwise I find that I don’t keep the resolution very well. The last two years I’ve been out of routine, but now that I’m a member of YogaGlo.com and plan to purchase a new bicycle soon (since NJ isn’t as conducive to hiking as CO) this will be a much easier resolution to keep.

I hope that your New Year is filled with joyful experiences that help you to create happy memories. Live life to it’s fullest! It’s different for everyone, life for YOU.

Note: got the above picture from luckywp.com