June 17, 2012

WRITING ADVICE – SL Viehl #5: Virtual Safeguards and a Site Recommendation…that vanished…

I stumbled across the writing of Sheila Kelly (aka SL Viehl, Gena Gale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly and Lynn Viehl) about eleven years ago with the publication of her first novel, STARDOC. I was looking for a the work of a current writer to replace one of my favorite kind of science fiction – human doctors in a space hospital working on aliens. I discovered this genre as an adolescent in Alan E. Nourse’s STAR SURGEON, followed it into James White’s SECTOR GENERAL books and A.M. Lightner’s DOCTOR TO THE GALAXY. S.L. Viehl’s books satisfied that itch – but I learned about a year ago that she is so much more than just a “space hospital” writer! The bits of writing advice in this new ten part series are used with her permission. This one is from: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2012/05/virtual-safeguards.html

One thing you gotta say about this writer is that her interests a varied and her essays wide-ranging.

It took me a while to figure out what to do this blog on because I’m in the midst of a paradigm shift. The changeover from Regular School to Summer School has always been “traumatic” for me. I go from a large public high school with 2000 ninth through twelfth graders in it to a large public middle school with about 600 little kids from first through eighth grade in it – the numbers being heavily skewed toward little kids from first through fourth grade.

This year, the paradigm is shifting even farther as we make ready for the departure of our daughter to New Zealand for 5 months of study abroad (she’s going Down Under for Winter Semester…just as we transition to the hottest part of the summer…). Also, as I am no longer a classroom teacher, stepping from my guidance office into the classroom again is a massive shift.

One of the things I had to do on set up day last Friday, was discern whether or not I still had my SmartBoard files stored somewhere. Last summer when I started up Summer School, I discovered that the files I’d thought I’d stored indelibly on the district server had instead been stored on the individual computer – which was wiped clean after my departure in July...I lost everything and had to rebuild as I went along.

This summer when I showed up, I was pretty sure I’d stored my files on the permanent (called the “H”) drive in the district I usually work in. There was only one file out of four there. Resigned to reinventing the wheel and transferring the information I needed from my old-fashioned overhead transparencies, I later found a jump drive to which I had saved them. Subject closed.

Skimming Sheila’s website this morning, I stumbled across the anecdote about saving information on hard copy and/or in numerous places. Oh, and making a “back up copy”, whatever that is...

At any rate, a few entries down, I came across an intriguing website she’d found and clicked on the link. It took me to a Ma Bell/Quest/Century site that collected a whole bunch of sites that it was absolutely certain I would LOVE. I scrolled down and clicked on the one I was interested in – and nothing happened.

After trying a few more things, I came to the conclusion that the site is dead.

Talk about ironic.

What does this have to do with me and writing and Christianity? Nothing except to note that it has everything to do with a fiction world that came about from my answering a question from my “mentor writer” about creating a NON-Apocalyptic Future involving the depletion of fossil fuel resources links into the back up and dead websites phenomenon in an odd way. In my new short story, “Invoking Fire”, I postulate a world where people still live technological lives albeit in an unusual way – the ten billion live in 20,000 4-mile-tall Vertical Villages, the rest of the land either for farming or Wild, and one in which a group of Saharan countries are gathering paper books to fill a Post-Information-Apocalypse Library in the Erg of Bilma. The Information Apocalypse occurred when people began to change basic online documents to fit their world view – and few people had anything against which to compare if the veracity was challenged. In the story I have my two teen characters read the first two paragraphs of Stephen King’s CARRIE and compare a first run paper book to an ebook version. There are changes – minor, of course and in a work of fiction – but it sets up the story.

Sheila’s concerns intersected some of my own – and those concerns have sparked my writing as well as set off a string of thoughts about being a People of the Book. Perhaps a “paperless society” would be a DANGEROUS thing.

Then again, maybe you have an opinion about if a totally digital document world is good or bad or somewhere in between. I invite you to share your thoughts below!

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