You remember how your mother kept saying that, “anything is possible,” that, “if you work hard you can achieve anything.” And then when you rearranged the living room to play soccer behind the couch, you discovered that Mom had a lot of “qualifiers” for “anything is possible.” Well, I want to share with you something that happened recently that makes me feel like soccer in the living room is “in” again.
Lancer Kind and China Miéville
As a science fiction author, I’m way outside the box. In fact somedays, I feel bad because if I’m too far “outside” how can I change the box that I’m actually in? Well for this writer I’m often writing fiction that is designed to motivate readers to make the world a better place. But as I and China Melville discussed over coffee at ReaderCon, sometimes change is best brought about by direct action. IE, putting the damn pen down and doing something about it.
Sure I’ve gone to my share of candlelight vigils and peace protests, but for some social change, you can be more direct: be the change, and be vocal and charming.
I get frustrated whenever I’d enter a Starbucks store, and one-hundred percent of the people are sipping lattes through paper cups because, despite the customer telling them they are a “drink in,” the barista handed them a paper cup. This is despite every Starbucks store having a stock of ceramic coffee cups for hot beverage “drink ins.”
This is completely wasteful!
Not to mention that you’re tasting paper fibers with your coffee instead of, well, a latte with a hint of vanilla and nutmeg.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot if time in India, and as is my habit, I went to a coffee shop to write. So at Phoenix Market City I found coffee (Starbucks) and placed my order. It went like the following:
Lancer: “Grande Vanilla latte.”
barista: “Drink in?”
Lancer: “Yes–Oh! Don’t use whipped cream.”
The barista grabs a marker and a paper cup. (I’m expecting and watching for this move, so I leap into action.)
Lancer: “Whoa! Can you give me a ceramic cup.”
Barista is surprised, but then reaches underneath and preps a ceramic cup.
Lancer with smile: “Stop killing trees man.”
Barista laughs with good nature.
Lancer turns to include those in the queue behind me. “Why aren’t all the drink-ins getting ceramic cups?”
Barista manager: “It’s more labor to wash the cups.”
Lancer: “I’m in the second most populated country in the world and you’re worried about labor?”
The baristas all laugh, sorta nodding. The people in the queue laugh and a few of them request ceramic cups.
Now all of this is normal. For years this has been my shtick for coffee shops in US, China, and now India. But what happened when I entered this Starbucks store on the next weekend was amazing: people sitting at tables and drinking hot drinks all had ceramic cups! And this continued for week after week after week! This busy Starbucks store sells more than 400 beverages on a busy weekend day. At least half are hot beverages, so that’s 200 paper cups saved from the recycler a day.
So just like your mom said, “You may be able to change the world, but don’t think you can play soccer in the living room.” Which translates to, if you’re outside of your parent’s home, GO FOR IT!
We celebrated with coffee!
These world changing baristas signed this lovely cup.
Zipporah, the spitfire cult leader all of us wish we had as a friend.
When I got involved with the MISS WISENHEIMER AND THE ALIENS movie, I thought about it as a writer: Is the concept good? Is it rich enough to put in good character? Does the milieu have story producing potential?
I didn’t think so much about the movie product part, the part where I’d get to meet and work with rich talent from around the world! Playing co-main character beside Galactic Ranger (and grouch) Babbage is Zipporah. She seeks Babbage out for directions because she’s lost on her way to lead her cult to their communion with Saint Bob Dylan. But she gets ousted by her followers and Babbage gets stuck with her. The two go on an adventure to prove the other wrong about whether everything was built by God for man or if there is intelligent life other than man.
Elena Kolkutova (pronounced Yell-en-ah Coke-oo-toe-va) is the acting talent behind Zipporah and I was lucky enough to catch her for this interview.
Elena Kolkutova, the voice actor playing Zipporah
Not many science fiction films have a woman as a main character so this film is bucking the trend.
I adore her character. She’s a tomb-boy with a slight likeness of Lizzie Bennet mixed with Jo from the Little Women movie: stubborn, straightforward, going for what she thinks is right and caring. Zipporah is quit appealing to both genders.
It’s a thousand years in the future and spiritual growth rather than science has been the trend for the past 80 years. At the start of the film, Zipporah is at the cusp of achieving all of her life goals: graduated from seminary school, leader of her own cult, and minions ready to lay down their lives to join the Almighty. Did you enjoy being a Christian cult leader?
Why yes! Wouldn’t you?
She strongly believes in the righteousness of her cause and actions, and she is ready to go to the end for it. I have controversial feelings about that because it is admirable however a bit dangerous.
Zipporah trouncing through Babbage’s well-cared-for garden.
Zipporah performs yoga to connect with the Almighty. She is amazingly graceful, thin, and beautiful like yourself. Has any of Zipporah assertive personality rubbed off? Do you feel any compulsion to barge into yoga studios and, through force of charisma, press entire yoga classes to be your followers?
First of all, thank you for the compliment! I wish I had such a charisma as her. I have yet to try to press a yoga study… who knows. I do yoga at home in the mornings sometimes before going on to my busy life. I’ll consider your advice about recruiting followers.
The two main characters are Zipporah and Babbage. Is Zipporah Babbage’s sidekick or is Babbage Zipporah’s sidekick? If push came to shove and the characters decided to duel to the death, would Zipporah or Babbage win?
I think Zipporah and Babbage complement each other and switch the “who’s dominant” role from time to time. What well-balanced relationship doesn’t? Regarding a duel, I think they’d die together or save each other…from each other. Zipporah is stubborn and if she decided to have Babbage by her side (or to be by his side), she’d do it no matter the cost and he couldn’t do anything about it.
What’s your first exposure to science fiction and did you worry that you’d have to wear a funny futuristic uniform?
My brother loves science-fiction, so I kept stumbling upon those books with funny futuristic cover pictures when I just started to stumble. For some time I thought those places really existed.
I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get to wear any tin-foil suit for the movie.
I’ll get wardrobe on that for the next time you enter the voice booth.
Tell about the start of your life so the public can understand that despite your parents’ good intentions in raising you well, you fell in among expats producing an independent film instead of focusing on working your way up the ladder of a wealthy company.
I grew up in Eastern Siberia, Russia. During summers, my older brother and I stayed in the countryside of the south with our grandparents. We were lucky because we have seen both a city life with its technology, as Zipporah prefers, and we’ve seen the country life with its pastures, horses, geese, apples, grapes, peas, and strawberry growing in the backyard, as Babbage lives.
I think that like Zipporah, I’m more performance oriented than corporate. When I was five, my parents took me to ice-skating classes. I was spotted by the local figure-skating team and they took me in for serious training. I was getting ready for my first real town competition, when the coach told me I can’t miss training and have to choose whether I want to go to school every day or train to become a great figure-skater. I thought about it but I got scared that I wouldn’t go to school and learn everything I should and decided to quit skating. I don’t know whether it was a wrong choice and what could have happened were I to stay skating instead of going to school. I still love skating and go about once a month. Luckily Xiamen has a proper skating rink.
Zipporah leaves her civilized and religious life to live with Babbage, cosmologist, atheist, and inveterate hermit.
Most of the film work is being done in Xiamen. What brought you to this beautiful island and China’s ancient city of romance?
Pirates. Definitely pirates. Who doesn’t want to get on board with some treasure seeking adventurous one-legged or hook-handed guy?
Really? You find one-legged or hook-handed men sexy?
Why not? They have an interesting story to tell. But seriously, I wish it was that romantic. I came to visit my friend, fell in love with Xiamen, and moved here.
Working on the film all this time gave me so much excitement, fulfillment, and satisfaction that I even secretly started to believe that I’m as good as they say. I’ve learned a lot from Hal: voice-recording, movie-making, and acting. We had lots of fun! The biggest challenge was how well the film’s dialogue brought humor into the drama, because quite often I had to keep myself from laughing during recording sessions.
Elena taking time off at one of Xiamen’s waterfronts.
What was the most enjoyable moment you had playing Zipporah?
Oh my…I loved every moment of it!
Fabulous! Congratulations Elena Kolkutova on your role as Zipporah and best of luck on your next project!
Henry Babbage—Galactic Ranger, hermit, and genius.
It’s not everyday I get to interview an old fart who’s also a cosmologist. Babbage, one of two the main characters in MISS WISENHEIMER AND THE ALIENS, is of those brilliant people you’d find through the dusty crawl spaces of a super collider. If asked a question, he’d respond in one of two ways: talk your ear off, or chew you out for having a question when the answer is obvious, at least to him. As previously posted, MISS WISENHEIMER AND THE ALIENS is about man’s golden age in the universe, when although energy is plentiful and space travel is easy, no alien intelligence has ever been discovered. An old atheist and a nubile Christian develop feelings of love while exploring the universe to prove the other wrong about whether everything was built by God for man, or if there are aliens. In the film, Babbage is responsible for launching the 2nd most ambitious and comprehensive expedition the coperniverse has ever known. He was involved with THE most comprehensive expedition which despite the massive resources of the federal government brought to bear, failed to find intelligent alien life.
Director, producer, animator, co-author, and actor Hal Dace plays the role of Henry Babbage. In between these many roles (movies don’t make themselves), I pulled him from work for an interview.
Hale Dace, voice actor for Babbage and provided performance capture for all the movie roles.
Playing a crusty old fart is quite a strain, I’m sure. What experience do you have that prepared you?
In high school I won seven awards for acting, one of which was the school’s Best Actor award. That first year in London was spent acting in three plays at a prestigious theatre in Islington. But I always thought that the other actors in the plays were lousy. The only reason I’ve taught myself how to do motion capture engineering is so that I can fulfill my dream of playing every part in a film all by myself. Finally I can act with other decent actors!
The two main characters are Zipporah and Babbage. Zipporah, a hardcore Christian, and Babbage, a devoted atheist, spend a lot of time arguing about the existence of God. The two of them then go on an trans-universe adventure to settle the question of God or aliens, once and for all. How was verbally sparing with Elena Kolkutova (playing Zipporah)? After each scene, did someone have to hose the both of you down to stop your fights?
Elena and I frequently burst into fits of the giggles in the middle of recording. Although the film isn’t a comedy, we’re both surprised at how hilarious the script is. It showcases how intelligent people, even when using the others’ own reasons against the other, never changes anyone’s mind. This week we’re going to have our final recording session together. It’s taken us a year and a half so it’ll feel like the end of an era.
Is Zipporah Babbage’s sidekick or is Babbage Zipporah’s sidekick? If push came to shove and the characters decided to duel to the death, would Zipporah or Babbage win?
There’s no question that Zipporah is stronger and more dynamic than Babbage. When Babbage doesn’t get what he wants he whines and he resents it when he follows the rules and then doesn’t get the reward he deserves. Zipporah is quite resilient, especially when you consider the way she bounces back from the humiliation of having failed to kill herself and her friends.
Babbage’s gardening interrupted.
Babbage is a crotchety old geek but a genius. How strongly do you identify with Babbage? Do you feel compulsions to lecture people for misunderstanding the world and then leave them agape to attend to some gardening?
Babbage is most certainly my alter-ego, I’m ashamed to say. I too seek a lifelong quest for success that may arrive late in life. I can be extremely opinionated and somewhat overbearing. Luckily my friends are not afraid to tell me to shut up. I’m not particularly interested in gardening but I think I should be. So although Babbage is a certified jerk, he’s at least a better man than I.
Most of the film work is being done in Xiamen. What brought you to the beautiful island of Xiamen, China’s ancient city of romance and home base for Fujian pirates?
I’m a wishy-washy romantic. I’ve lived abroad for years but I’m not actually very interested in traveling. Both times I moved abroad it was to marry a woman who didn’t like me enough to bother traveling to Kansas. Xiamen’s not bad because it’s subtropical and the air’s a little cleaner than other cities in China. That’s pretty much all that made it bearable. Aside from meeting pirates, the best part was meeting that genius science fiction bastion, Lancer Kind!
Ahem! That Sir is flattery and will be encouraged. Tell me about the start of your life so the public can understand that despite your parents’ good intentions in raising you well, you put yourself to the task of seducing good hard working expats into working on your film.
I was born in a small college town called Manhattan, Kansas. My father was a theatre professor at Kansas State University and my mother was an English professor and also a well known theatre critic in New York, Boston, and London. And yes it’s true that I’m something of the black sheep of the family in that I never even attended college. I moved to London when I was eighteen and got a job as a trainee assistant film editor with the BBC a year later. I’ve been in the TV and film industry ever since. My brother did better: he did go to college and now he’s a famous philosopher. Lesson: don’t ruin your life when you’re eighteen.
MISS WISENHEIMER AND THE ALIENS movie poster
How did MISS WISENHEIMER AND THE ALIENS come together? What was the inspiration beyond finding a way to get a young women interested in old geeky men?
Miss Wisenheimer had been knocking about in my skull for about twenty-five years when I met Lancer for the first time at The Londoner pub in Xiamen. I told him the story and it was all he could do to stop himself from laughing in my face (sorry Lancer, I never told you I could tell from your face turning blue). I had written a terrible version of it all those decades earlier, then I wrote several other screenplays over the years. All of them abysmal. It took Lancer’s TLC to finally get it working. The inspiration was a conversation I had once with my old friend and colleague, the famous cinematographer Alan Dunlop, in his flat in North London. We were just talking about physics and the idea of a cosmic meeting place at the “center of the universe” popped into my head. Alan duly informed me that my idea was scientifically ridiculous.
Speaking to director Dace rather than actor, what is the most important thing that this film brings to the audience?
When I was young the general attitude of the public was that the whole idea of aliens was silly and that there was no other planet in the universe with intelligent life. Sure, there were believers, but they were very much in the minority. I knew both religious and non-religious people who did not believe in aliens. Then science came along and consistently publicized the fact that the odds are very strongly in favor of there being intelligent aliens, not just in the universe but in our local neighborhood of the galaxy. And Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and now most people think it’s just a matter of time before we meet the Vulcans. I wanted to challenge that assumption. Drama can be generated in a story that flies in the face of the odds. One might also assume that religion will decline over the centuries. That trend might reverse if we fail to discover intelligent aliens. Another opportunity for drama.
Excellent! Here is to the search for aliens and if they suck, may they stay secluded in their corner of the coperniverse! Go LIKE the film on FB so we can convince producers to invest in the film. You can read blog posts from the film’s universe at: http://WhereAreTheAliens.us
I don’t know whether to blame it all on love trouble or music trouble, but it certainly was trouble that happened on the outskirts of Saturn’s belt. The dirty business took place on a small meteoroid whose spin’s so fast that six minutes separates sunrise from sunset.
That’s the opening of a Western style yarn set in a science fiction short story called Parsec Hiccup which tries to set straight, once and for all, which musical genre is superior: classical or Rock.
The story is available in Argosy Magazine Volume 1: Fantastic Frontiers. Argosy launched December (2013) and first off I have to give a BIG THANK YOU to my readers who supported its launch by donating to their crowd funding campaign!
And another THANK YOU from Argosy’s editor, Daniel Bazinga. His science fiction and fantasy credentials are undeniable as he has edited and contributed to a number of fantasy tabletop RPG publications. Daniel has carefully crafted Argosy Magazine to show its pulp origins through styling the cover’s typeface to bleed as if run through an actual printing press on pulp paper.
You can purchase an electronic copy at Smashwords (many formats supported) and on Amazon.
As I finish work on Agile Noir, a dramatic business novel which is not only enjoyable to read but teaches you about Agile software development, I want to show you the novel’s great book covers. These covers for Agile Noir (the English edition and the Mandarin edition) were crafted by talented artist Fauji M. Bardah.
Noir is French for black however it means more than that. Noir mystery is a subgenere where at the start of the novel, things aren’t going well for the character and try as he might, things continue to go south until in the end, the character achieves some goal which relieves much of the tension, however there’s still a feeling that the character is unsatisfied although feels lucky to have survived.
Noir Book Covers
Both book covers exhibit the noir style. In the English edition it’s night and has a smokey/foggy backdrop and shows the main character, Kartar is in serious trouble. Go ahead and click on the cover to see it’s full size and you’ll see more details. Kartar is on the run from beautiful killers who are going to make him pay for delivering his project late. His laptop shows the words “Deliver or Die !!” The street has painted in neon lines is his boss’s Gantt chart. Some of the buildings on the left side of the street display words about software life cycles such as eXtreme Programming (XP), Waterfall, and Scrum.
AGILE NOIR (Simplified Chinese Edition)
The Mandarin edition’s cover has a black backdrop. The poker chips show the Scrum process diagram and blood. In this edition, the story will be set in Asia’s gambling mecca, Macau.
If your looking for some great graphic art, contact Fauji at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s a talented artist (his internet handle is Bakart) and I highly recommend him. You can see more of his work on Deviant Art and in other postings on this site. Many of the book covers you see on the right were crafted by him.