In 1989 I attended Mass at our Lady Star of the Sea church in Port Isabel, Texas. The service was conducted by Father Joseph O’Brian. The church seated around eight hundred people and every seat was taken. Every seat was also taken for the next two services on that Sunday morning. Was Port Isabel a particularly religious town? No more so than most American towns of five thousand people. The attraction was Father O’Brian. Eighteen years as chaplain at the Huntsville, Texas prison cured him of any illusions about human innocence. It also gave him the ability to speak without fear on any subject that other people danced around delicately. Father Joe was not delicate. On one occasion I heard him lecture the teenage boys in the church about lying to teenage girls to convince them to lose their virginity. His language was blunt.
On the Sunday morning I’m speaking of, Father Joe started his sermon by holding up a small black card. In a loud clear voice, he said, “If I tell you this card is white, what do you say?”
No one rose to the bait. They were too familiar with Father Joe’s tactics and did not want to be the center piece in one of his “Life-lessons.”
Father Joe continued, “If you say, ‘Father, you’re wrong. It’s black, plain as day.’” He looked around at the attentive faces and said, “That is a contradiction, which in Latin means, ‘To speak against.’ You have just called me a liar. In that situation, the color of the card no longer matters; it is now about who is telling the truth and who is lying. there will be a winner and a loser and the ill-will that goes along with it.”
“But, if you say, ‘Father, to us it appears to be black.’ That is a conflict, which in Latin means ‘contest.’ We can resolve this ‘contest’ by turning the card around and seeing, that indeed on my side the card is white. We have resolved our differences by exploring our different views.”
It was a life lesson I have never forgotten. Father Joseph O’Brian died rather young, I’m certain due in part to the gunshot wounds he received when he volunteered to exchange himself for several female hostages in the infamous Huntsville prison uprising in 1974. It was a typical Father Joe action.
I’m writing this because I ran across Father Joe’s obituary the other day and it took me back to that Sunday morning service. Remembering his words also reminded me of what our founding fathers intended when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and eleven years later, the Constitution of the United States. Both documents were born after many months of difficult negotiations on conflicting subjects, some so polarizing they eventually led to the Civil War.
Today when I hear the political extremists in both parties speak, it is always in ‘contradictory’ terms against the opposite party. My fondest hope for the midterm election is that both parties will elect people who understand the valid role of conflicts in our democratic process and are willing to resolve them through dialog and compromise.
Father Joe would approve.
After eleven years of writing almost every day and twelve books completed, I have established a comfortable routine for writing a novel. It works for me and I thought I would share it with those authors looking for a writing strategy.
Following these steps has kept me from worrying about the end product. It keeps me focused on what I have to do that day.
While doing my research for my science fiction novel, “Islandia, the Lost Colony,” I learned the effects of gravity traveled at the speed of light. Prior to that, I was under the assumption that gravity was an instantaneous phenomenon, that every particle in the universe was in an instantaneous, synchronized dance with each other, reacting in proportion to their mass. To my untrained eye, this seemed to be in harmony with my understanding of Newton’s Laws of Motion.
After learning this was not so, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that something was amiss; that given the vast distances involved, the universe could not run smoothly with the gravitational effect being confined to the speed of light. To me, it seemed to be like a car taking off from a stop light with some of its parts taking off at a slower rate of acceleration. To an onlooker, the car would appear to stretch as it moved away from the green light.
It also seemed odd that the speed of light and the speed of gravitational attraction were the same. it was my understanding that light could act both as a wave and as a particle. Could gravity be the same?
I reached out to my nephew-in-law who is an astrophysicist at the University of Wisconsin and asked his opinion. His responses are in red.
Yes Gravity is thought to be a particle as well. It is also thought of the bending of space and time. The wave nature of light is due to the fact that light is a disturbance in electric and magnetic fields that travels through space. Kinda like ripples in a pond. Gravity is similar to that way, but rather than thinking of it as a disturbance, it is a bending of space and time. Part of the issue is that light can push and pull, but gravity can only pull so that the “disturbances” tend to be more like permanent warps.
This bothered me for several years, and given my nature, I could not leave it alone.
Here’s my inelegant solution to my dilemma, and if you have the time, I would like your opinion. I’m not looking for vindication; I am looking for understanding.
MY theory is gravity is not a wave; it is a presence. The amount of “gravity” has been the same since the Big bang. It held all matter together until a creation activity (CA, unknown, not explained) caused its hold to weaken enough to allow the restrained universe to expand to its current configuration. The gravity presence (GP) expanded with the expanding universe, and after an unknown period of time, re established control over the motions of all matter and energy.
The idea of gravity is the bending of space and time can be thought of as a presence, but presences does not preclude it from having some universal speed limit. What that means in that if you move some stuff around the change in the gravitational field is only known to the larger universe at the speed of light, but the presence of it (warping of space and time) from earlier epochs was always there.
The shape of the GP is either a monolithic morass, or a compound of contiguous shapes such as the following:
If it is a shape, it must be able to collapse to a smaller shape, and remain contiguous to account for a concentration of mass, which I understand is a function of the Higgs Boson. The shape doesn’t have to be as illustrated; it could be a simple sphere that could adapt its shape to remain in constant, contiguous contact with each other.
Well the fact that gravity is thought of the warping of space and time implies that there is a “shape” to gravity and that shape itself is gravity!
In this environment, light could act as a photon and a wave without conflict. The photon could travel through the GP, which limits the speed (the speed of light), and the effect of that passage would create a ripple by it’s passage, which would be manifested as a wave. It would explain why light (Photon and wave) bend around a star mass. It does so, not because gravity is pulling on the photons in response to a gravitational mass, but because the gravitational path the photons follow (GP) is itself bent. It would also explain why light travels at a constant speed, regardless of the speed of the emitting object.
The key insight that Einstein had was that gravity is not a force that pulls on objects (light, etc) that preclude it from traveling in straight lines, but in fact the presence of gravity changes the definition of what straight is. So the paths that light travel is always straight to the light. It is only due to an outsider that we recognize that the path is not straight by some measure.
Because of my lack of experience in this field, I cannot explain the relationship between my version of gravity and the many forms of matter. Your opinion would help me park this idea in the dustbin, or in the bin marked, “More thinking required.”
One of the decisions I made when I decided to write my science fiction story titled Islandia: The Lost Colony was to ground my stories on science and make sure that, as a hard science fiction novel, I went to great lengths to ensure the science is both valid and plausible.
A thousand years ago, people used the term magic to describe something which they couldn’t explain. Science gradually explained most of these mysteries and today we ScFi writers are left with a choice -- create new science-based magic or rely on non-science based fantasy.
Writing realistically about possible future science is hard work; the author must convince the reader of the validity of the science principle being portrayed. This means thorough and complete research must be done on what is currently possible in addition providing a valid projection into the future. When done well, there is little friction for the reader, allowing them to easily slip into a new world of possibilities. When done poorly, the reader is constantly distracted by the implausibility of what the writer is portraying as future fact. The best examples of doing it correctly that I've seen are the works of Arthur C. Clarke. In the mid-twentieth century, his future science-based stories became the blue print for NASA’s space program.
Compare this to science fantasy. Here, anything goes. There are no science restrictions and the author is free to explore any universe he or she desires. It’s a temping route to take, because it eliminates the need to make the story elements scenically possible.
I frequently shop at Half-Priced Book Stores, and based only on what I see on the shelves, most of the stories are fantasy based.
Maybe I’ll give it a whirl one of these days.
Very few novels are born fully fleshed before the first word is written. You can outline all you want, and some will find this very helpful, but in the moment, the writing becomes an organic, evolutionary process that is triggered by events in the story or something a character might say.
A number of aspiring writers have asked me how I got started writing. I've now written twelve books totaling a million words and they wonder what the secret is. The truth is, when I wrote The Rembrandt BOMB in 2009, it was my first book and I knew nothing of writing...
Readers have asked me how I develop a story after I have come up with the original plot idea. I must confess that I do not give a lot of thought to every little nuance or detail about the story until I start writing. The best way I can describe how my stories develop is like driving in a fog.
When I start out, I see the sign on the side of the road that says, “Chicago, 300 miles,” but I can only see the road ahead clearly for the next hundred yards. I may or may not end up in Chicago, but I know where I’m going for the next one hundred yards.
One of my more successful books has been my science fiction series about Jonathon McKinnah, a young man on Earth’s fifteenth colony world, Islandia. The series began in 2009 and has expanded for the last eight years. At the suggestion of my editor, I have recently begun to rewrite the series to correct some of the errors new authors make (Islandia was my second book) and to add some exciting new elements to the original story.