Project Concordia: Space Station Concordia

The first inkling of a potential sci-fi project came to me a couple weeks before the ideas for the story started developing. A picture of a spaceship I saw got me thinking about the kind of giant ships of sci-fi that seem to support whole cities worth of people, and the fact that ships and stations in the near future at least would not be able to be built like that.

No one’s going to have the capital, resources, power, desire, to create a city in space all at once. Real cities don’t get built like that — they start as towns or forts, grow up around them, add layers and layers and expand and expand. Why would a space city be any different, at least in a time before humanity has united to the point where we can embark on giant construction projects like the USS Enterprise?

Think of the International Space Station — built tiny piece by tiny piece, expanded over time. What if we kept building it up, adding more and more to that base structure?

So I had this idea for a setting, a city-like space station, built like a true city — bit by bit, slowly expanded as expansions were necessary — and could be afforded. And then as it was built out and out, growing to accommodate new inhabitants, new technologies, new generations, the parts in the middle, the original modules that served as a foundation, would fall into disuse.

Like the abandoned subway tunnels of New York or the layers of ruins under Rome or London, over time these parts would be abandoned, forgotten.

And thus you could have this great space station city, inhabited by thousands of people, with a city underbelly of abandoned modules taken over by squatters, criminals, fugitives, gangs. And deeper still, lost ruins, knowledge, old technology — and what secrets might that hold?

So this is the foundation of my setting. A city station. Somewhere around a few hundred years in the future. With all the twists and turns of a city, the power structures, the rich and poor, the secrets and the unknowns.

The space station Concordia.

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The Concordia Project

About a week ago, I started brainstorming ideas for a new project — a science fiction story. It started with a desire to jumpstart my creativity again, and turned into two hours of being unable to sleep because the ideas kept coming.

Because what I need is another project to work on.

It started with a very basic setting idea, and then my three main characters started forming, bringing some plot along with them, and helping solidify how the setting was forming. So it all started growing up together in my mind, which is not often how I work — my tendency is for plot and setting to come before characters, which isn’t usually ideal.

It’s certainly drawing a lot of influence from my favourite science fiction — a bit of Mass Effect, which I’ve only recently been playing, a bit of Neuromancer — along with some ideas taken from an old Eberron D&D game I never finished. Plus a bunch of other things cobbled together, of course.

So I have a lot of ideas forming. But a lot remains very vague still, a lot that isn’t concrete. And while I love sci-fi, it’s not really my forte.

So  I thought I’d do a bit of an experiment, and blog the development of the project as I make it — my thoughts and brainstorms on setting especially, but also some plot and character elements as they relate to each other.

Open up my thought process to friends, to show them the behind-the-curtain journey, and to open the doors to ideas, comments, discussion, collaboration. See if I can’t make something even cooler with the input of others.

So this is it. Welcome to Project Concordia.

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Matthew Vines on the Bible and Homosexuality

When confronted with religious condemnation of homosexuality, it would be easy for me to simply say, “Well, I don’t follow your religion,” and leave it at that. Sadly, it’s much more complex than that — even then, I often have to make arguments about what religious freedom actually means (I’m allowed to not follow your religious beliefs, and you are not allowed to push them on me). But furthermore, I prefer to open minds and make a difference if I can, and so I might attempt to engage in debate explaining why they should not be morally opposed to homosexuality.

But often, any logical arguments I make can be deflected with “but the Bible says…” or “but my religion says…” which becomes something of a bulletproof shield — if they believe that it is against their religion to think otherwise, they won’t, period. Logic notwithstanding. (“Animals engage in long-term monogamous homosexual relationships, so how can that be ‘unnatural’?” even attempts to use language from the Bible, but can still be repudiated with “because it says so”.)

(While I haven’t engaged in major religious debate in a while, I do remember one lovely conversation in high school during a spare at a table in the library…before I had come out. While it was somewhat infuriating, I actually quite enjoyed the experience.)

The other complexity is that there are people within those religions who must deal with the general prejudice of their entire community and are constantly living in fear and pain as a result, and while I would love to argue that they should really just abandon the religion, they too have the religious freedom to believe what they believe, and who am I to decry them that faith?

So I have a huge amount of respect for the ability to engage with the religious (in this case, Christians) on their own terms. I think there is a much better chance of success of changing their minds about homosexuality by speaking to them in terms of their religion rather than changing it. For this reason, I’ve tried to understand some bits and pieces of the Bible in order to make my own points. I know, for example, that the line that says that lying with another man as with a woman is an abomination is from Leviticus 18:22, and that that same section decries shellfish and making clothes from two materials and rules for selling your daughter into slavery.

But this — this — is just incredible. A young gay man from a Christian community spent a couple years intensely studying the issue and the Bible, and the six passages in the Bible that could be argued to speak against homosexuality — and explains why none of them hold water in condemning loving, monogamous relationships between two men.

If you have the time, his presentation is well worth watching in its entirety. You can also check out the transcript, linked below.

Transcript

Source with brief background of Matthew Vines

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If There Were Two of Me

I’ve often said that if I had a superpower, I’d want it to be something that allowed me flight-enabling wings.

But sometimes I spend an inordinate amount of time considering the benefits of being able to duplicate myself — to have an exact copy of me. Oh the things I would do.

There are obvious benefits, like being able to work on two projects at once, or get twice as much done on one.

If we’re assuming some kind of shared mind, one could work and one could play. (I’ve read Calvin and Hobbes, I know the dangers of this without a shared mind.)

But I think what I’d really do is divide the potential. One of my would focus on the creative — the other would focus on the learning and the business. That one would probably get an MBA, or at least take some courses in entrepreneurship. It might take a Masters degree in something more academic, like history or mythology.

It would be the one forming an official organization to lobby for transmedia creators in Canada, who would start businesses with all the crazy ideas we have.

In short, one of me would be able to do all the things I think about doing, all the things I want to do, but don’t have time because I’m doing what I love most — creating. He would be the one that allows me to reach what I see as my full potential as a person — at least, faster than I will as it is.

Because there’s so much I want to do, so much I think I could accomplish, but it’s too much for one person, it seems.

Anyway. This is what I think about when anxiety strikes. What I could do if there were two of me.

And that’s not even touching the kinky stuff.

What would you do?

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A Career in Arts

A week ago, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at UBC’s Arts Career Expo about careers in communications and creative writing. When I was invited to do so in the fall, it was this weird moment of “Why would you want me?” and then realizing “Wow, I guess with the crazy year I’ve had, I am actually qualified to talk about that, and have things to share.”

One of the things the panel discussed was the importance of networking — both online through social media and blogs, and in person at events. That yes, who you know and your presence is important. But also that you ave to find what works for you — that if you’re not good at blogging, you shouldn’t make it your thing.

We also talked about the important of blogging regularly if you do — which is parially why I’m blogging now. I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing so, even if I don’t have a ton to say all the time (at least on this, my personal blog).

The most important part of the “blogging regularly” lesson is that what everyone who wants to write needs to do is write every day. Something about a million crap words before any of them are good? Yeah. Practice, practice, practice and all that.

And while I certainly work every day (or try to) on whatever projects I have going, not all of them always involve putting words on a page (email communication excepted), so while it’s always a creative process — from concepting stories to designing games and experiences to solving business conundrums — it’s not always writing. So it’s good to do a bit of that every day regardless of what else you’re doing. (You’ll note I’m talking mainly to myself here.)

It was a really interesting panel to be on. There were definitely common threads of networking, freelancing, and doing what you love. That a piece of paper that says “BA” or “BFA” may not help you get a job or get published, but that the time spent getting that piece of paper will give you the skills that will. That we do this because we love it, because we have to.

But most encouraging, I think, is this: that you can make a living writing. And that’s cool.

Writing

“I really like Christmas”

Over the last month, I’ve been sharing my favourite holiday music with you, along with thoughts and musings and stories and love. If you missed any, I’ve compiled a list of all 24 here, but I also have a present for you: an acoustic cover I did of Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun, which I opened the series with.

Whether or not you’re religious or celebrate Christmas or surround yourself with family or friends, I hope you have had and continue to have a wonderful winter season, filled with warmth and love.

Merry Christmas.

  1. White Wine in the Sun and thoughts on Christmas, family, love, and music.
  2. Silent Night and my favourite Christmas carol as a kid.
  3. Chiron Beta Prime and a look back at my crazy year of 2011.
  4. Sleigh Ride and memory and tradition.
  5. We Need a Little Christmas and the Muppets.
  6. Hallelujah and memories of my Opa, who passed away 17 years ago.
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and musical covers.
  8. Another Christmas Song and original Christmas music.
  9. The Christmas Song and Christmas traditions.
  10. Elf’s Lament and stress.
  11. Wintersong and how we portray ourselves online — the things we don’t share.
  12. 2000 Miles and missing people around Christmas.
  13. First Snow on Brooklyn, loneliness, and a cover I recorded.
  14. Carol of the Bells.
  15. If We Make It Through December and interpreting music.
  16. Winter Song and life’s ups and downs.
  17. Christmas Canon and Pachelbel.
  18. Song for a Winter’s Night and dealing with distance in a digital world.
  19. ‘Zat You Santa Claus? and a story of Biggles the Chicken.
  20. O Holy Night.
  21. Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow and a preview of a story from Azrael’s Stop.
  22. The Huron Carol.
  23. What Child is This?
  24. Baby It’s Cold Outside, my favourite.
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“Mind if I move in closer?”

Baby It’s Cold Outside is usually at best a poppy, kind of annoying love song, and at worst a song about date rape. (Say, what’s in this drink?)

But. Holly Cole and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies manage to do something else with it. Holly Cole, whose voice I previously described as pure sex, turns her protestations into sultry teases; it becomes transformed into an epic flirtation. Combined with the gorgeous orchestrations that accompany it, Holly Cole’s take on Baby It’s Cold Outside is one of the sexiest songs I know.

I can’t stand any other version of the song. Even the Glee version, which was adorably between two guys, doesn’t measure up musically. But Holly Cole’s is my absolute favourite Christmastime song.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May your day be full of love.

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This is part of a series of posts I’m writing every day of December until Christmas, musing on my 25 favourite Christmas songs. The first one is here.

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“Laid to rest”

I’ve always loved the tune of Greensleeves, that English folk sound that is so hauntingly beautiful. And so What Child is This, written to the tune of Greensleeves in 1865 makes my list, as we wind down. (Amusingly, one possible interpretation of the original lyrics of Greensleeves is that it’s about a prostitute.)

There are of course many versions. Sticking with the artists whose Christmas albums I enjoy most, I give you Jethro Tull’s jazz/rock instrumental version and the Canadian Tenors beautiful rendition with a truly awesome instrumental in the middle (featuring Carol of the Bells tune).

It’s Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I will finish the series with my favourite Christmas song; until then, rest well. Enjoy family, friends, light, and love.

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“The hunter braves drew nigh”

It’s really interesting to me to look at the creation and spread of myth and story. It’s pretty much my topic of choice. And the Huron Carol, an actual Canadian carol (and an old one, too) is an intriguing case study in that.

It takes the traditional nativity story and translates it into terms for the natives of Canada — invoking their god, putting Jesus in a lodge of broken bark, with hunter braves gathering and chiefs from afar bringing him gifts of pelt.

The lyrics were written originally in the Huron/Wendat language, to the tune of a familiar French song of the time, thus being explicitly intended to spread the Christian message to the natives. Without getting into the politics of Europeans spreading Christianity to the First Nations people, it’s a really interesting look at how myth is spread from one people to another.

I think it’s also really interesting that Jean de Brébeuf, the missionary who wrote it, would translate it into terms more familiar to the people he was trying to convert — and it’s neat to see how none of the important parts of the story are actually affected by those changes. (A suggestion, perhaps, that not everything in the Bible need be taken literally?)

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This is part of a series of posts I’m writing every day of December until Christmas, musing on my 25 favourite Christmas songs. The first one is here.

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“Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow”

Today’s Christmas music post is a preview of a story I’ll be releasing in the new year as a part of my experimental transmedia fiction project Azrael’s Stop.

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Ceph stoked up the fire. The bar was mostly empty — he’d started to get a few patrons some nights, but Azrael’s Stop was hidden down a little alleyway near Temple Ward, and Ceph didn’t think anyone would ever find it. Only that old man, Tom, was nursing his whiskey in the corner with a friend.

The Theore night was frigid, and though the Stop did a good job of keeping out the damp, Ceph still shivered. It was colder than normal in the city. He felt sorry for those who didn’t have a warm fire tonight.

He heard a flapping of wings, and saw the hooded crow alight in the rafters. He’d never heard it make any other noise than that. It was a little creepy.

He sighed. The Gifted Days of the Yuletide season always made him think of his family — long dead as they were. They’d died fourteen years ago, when he was just a toddler. He didn’t have anyone to be with at Yuletide.

The hooded crow took wing again, landing in front of the great oaken front door. It cocked its head at him.

“What?” Ceph said. “Expecting visitors? No one ever comes.”

He went to pour Tom another whiskey, but the crow kept standing at the door. It pecked at it once or twice.

“Looks like it needs to go out,” Old Tom chuckled.

“Normally  it just shits in my bed when it needs to go,” Ceph said. Tom laughed.

The crow pecked at the door again, and Ceph sighed. “You want us to freeze in here?” He went to the door, the crow hopping aside to make room, and opened it in exasperation.

A young man sat on the stoop, a ragged blanket pulled tight around his shoulders. He looked up at Ceph with bleary dark eyes.

Ceph raised his eyebrows as a cold wind swirled around him. “Oh!” he said. He glanced briefly at the hooded crow. “You look cold. …You want a drink?”

The man nodded, numbly. He tried to get to his feet, but stumbled. Ceph grabbed his arm and helped him up, leading him inside the Stop and closing the door tight behind them.

The hooded crow watched him — he thought its look was almost approving…

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For more on Azrael’s Stop, check out azraelsstop.com. The rest of this story will be posted there in the new year.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing every day of December until Christmas, musing on my 25 favourite Christmas songs. The first one is here.

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