Reminder: NASA’s Unexplained Files Debut

 

Hey gang, quick reminder. I’ll be making my television debut tomorrow night on the third episode of NASA’s Unexplained Files on Science Channel at 10pm Eastern.

Knowing my audience, I expect at least half of you will be in a theater somewhere watching the opening screenings of Avengers: Endgame. I totally will be. So make sure to set your DVR, or catch it streaming on the Science Channel Go app.

Once I actually see the episode and get the chance to witness how my interview was edited and arranged, (still haven’t, it’ll be just as new to me as the rest of the audience) I’ll put together a blog post, or maybe a video that goes deeper into the story and the research, the stuff that didn’t make it to the small screen. It’s going to be fun.

 

My GenCon 2019 Panel Schedule

Hey fans, as most of you know, I’ve made the annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis for GenCon for many years. This year is no different, and once again I’ll be participating in the excellent GenCon Writer’s Symposium. This is quite literally where I got my start as a professional writer. The panels and connections I made there way back in 2009 were instrumental in moving me down the road to publication. Any aspiring authors out there should really consider attending, especially if you’re already going to be at the con.

Anyway, here’s my signing and panel schedule. Swing by and say hello!

As always, if you like what I’m doing here, consider subscribing to my email list in the blue box at the top of the page. If you really like what I’m doing, preorder my next book, STARSHIP REPO, coming in May from Tor Books. Oh, and follow me on Instagram @pstomlinson.

Announcement Time: NASA’s Unexplained Files

 

Big announcement time, everyone. Since last October, I’ve been sitting on some great news that killed me not to be able to share. But with the blackout lifted, I can finally come clean. Beginning this season, I’m going to be a recurring contributor for the hit Science Channel show, NASA’s Unexplained Files.

My segments were filmed last October right here in Milwaukee when the director and camera crew swung by for an extended interview. Since then, it’s been in editing and post-production. That work is now finished, and the sixth season’s first episode premiers tonight, April 11th, at 10pm EST on Science Channel. My first appearance won’t be until the third episode on April 25th, but tune in anyway to meet the other contributors. They’re a heady mix of physicists, astronauts, and astronomers. The show is legitimately good entertainment that stays grounded in real science, unlike an alliterative alien program I could mention.

I’ll be sending out alerts for each episode I’m appearing in this season, and I plan on blogging about each segment, going deeper into the background of each subject and the research I did preparing to talk about it, so if you haven’t done so yet, make sure to subscribe to my email list at the top of the page.

It’s going to be fun, see you on the small screen soon.

My Interview with Congresswoman Gwen Moore

 

Doing something a little different on the blog today. Recently, I reached out to my representative, Gwen Moore (D, WI4) with a series of interview questions for an op-ed about the DNC coming to Milwaukee I’ve been asked to write by one of the big national papers. I was hoping for a few lines from the congresswoman to get an insider’s perspective and punch up the piece.

Instead, she sent over a thorough, thoughtful, and educational piece of her own. Due to wordcount limitations, there will be no way to include it all in the op-ed, even if it does get accepted. It would be an awful waste to keep all of her thoughts to myself. So with permission, I’m sharing the interview in its entirety below. Enjoy!

 

1) What do you feel are Milwaukee’s biggest challenges to achieving greater equality, both ethnically and socioeconomically?

GM: I think that Milwaukee is making progress and we have leaders who are committed to a remedy. We have a great group of young diverse political leaders who are engaging the problem. We have a Mayor and a new Governor and Lieutenant Governor who are engaging and working toward a solution. Of course, I have been in this fight since created Cream City Credit Union, a community credit union dedicated to helping those being redlined, forced into transaction centers, and really being denied access to the financial services infrastructure. I’m really excited for the future of Milwaukee.

The biggest challenges to achieving greater equality is first, recognizing there is a problem and build policies and programs that directly aim to change the status quo. Discriminatory policies in the past, both government-sanctioned and informal, have created this problem. I think smart policies and good leadership can unwind disparities to the benefit of everyone.

One issue that I keep coming back to again and again – and that began in Wisconsin under former-Governor Tommy Thompson – is ending “welfare as we know it.” That move broke the social covenant and pushed people further into the margins, because it was not matched to any childcare, educational or retraining opportunities, or other supports. On the day that the Republicans passed that bill, thousands of poor women were driven out of the classroom and into low-wage work. We’ve lost generations of women and created cycles of poverty with that move. I have comprehensive legislation that I hope to push in Ways & Means Committee to truly reform our social safety net so that it is family friendly and truly helps people rise out of poverty.

As a society, we need to see poor people as displaced workers and unlearn this dangerous trope of the lazy poor, the deserving poor, or Reagan’s so-called “welfare queen.” Dr. King said, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Times have changed, and Dr. King is no longer with us, but unfortunately, these believes remain and are being fueled by the people like former-Governor Walker and President Trump.

We really need to address affordable housing. In Milwaukee, WHEDA and LISC have been making strides. I would also like to highlight a bill that I worker with Senator Warren and Representative Cedric Richmond on called the Housing and Economic Mobility, which is comprehensive and forward thinking. It addressed the dearth of affordable housing options by standing up already existing programs and creating some new innovative incentives. Think how transformative it would be to build or rehabilitate 3 million housing units across the country over the next ten years, produce over a million jobs, and reduce housing costs for low income families and individuals.

There is no magic bullet. Politicians and community leaders need an all-of-the-above approach that includes improving our education system, revitalizing neighborhoods, investing in economically depressed areas, creating mixed used neighborhood, improving access to healthy foods and healthcare are some of the ways to achieving greater equality across the board. And, addressing discrimination policies that have hurt African Americans from generation to generation must be included in any road map to a more just and equal society.

2) How would you improve the relationship between the community and the MPD/Sheriff’s Dept?

GM: Everyone wants the police to be safe carrying out their duty to protect and serve, but we really need to think long and hard about demilitarizing our police officers and moving to a model of that focuses on conflict resolution rather than a reaction of shooting first and asking questions later. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation called Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act. This bill requires a state or local government that receives funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program to train law enforcement officers on de-escalation techniques and for those techniques to be utilized in the field. The idea actually came from a report by law enforcement and I really think it makes a ton of sense and would lead to better results for both citizens and police.

I also introduced a bill, the National De-Escalation of Violence and Community Safety Training Act, that is aimed at providing conflict resolution skills for young people. The aim is to help train individuals in effective and evidence-based de-escalation techniques to ensure that individuals at diverse levels of society gain the skills to resolve conflicts, manage anger, and control implicit bias without the use of violence. I think it is the flip side of this coin and addresses the responsibility that rests on the community so that police don’t need to get involved.

3) What are some examples of things Milwaukee is doing right?

GM: Milwaukee is coming up! There’s a reason why my Great City was selected to host the next DNC Convention. From the many business developments taking shape, our infrastructure improvement projects, a new stadium, the humanitarian work being spearheaded by LISC Milwaukee that’s showing steady progress and moving the city in the right direction by revitalizing and improving depressed neighborhoods.

Even the 3rd annual Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic will be taking place in Wisconsin later this year. Not to mention the many cultural events hosted there, including our food and the many beer’s brewed in Milwaukee.

4) How would you suggest the speakers and eventual nominee speak to Milwaukee’s segregation issues during the 2020 DNC?

GM: Deliberate policies got us here and deliberate policies will get us out of this mess we’re in. I think that every single nominee at this point, because it’s such a diverse party, is already speaking to these issues. They are all already speaking to it in their own ways. Keep in mind, the base of the Democratic Party are black women.
Let me be clear, we have two economies in America; we have the Wall Street banker economy and we have the reality that most people face. During the government shutdown we saw clearly the difference between the haves and have-not. Poor people are standing in food lines after they miss one check, middle class are standing in food lines after they miss two and the rich go on vacation.

5) How big of an impact did voter disenfranchisement have on Milwaukee in 2016? On Wisconsin? How should the speakers at the DNC tackle this issue ahead of 2020?

GM: Scott Walker and the WI GOP had a clear bias against Milwaukee and certain groups of people in the state. From his attempts to take away voting rights under the guise of staving off voter fraud, taking away social safety net services, his inhumane work requirement policies, and his blatant attempt to harass poor populations. He even begrudged us funding to reduce lead poisoning in Milwaukee.

Nonetheless, the impact of voter disenfranchisement came straight out of Glenn Grothman’s mouth when he said, “…and, now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

In fact, a study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor on the impact of the voter ID laws in the 2016 election concluded that at least 17,000 registered Wisconsin voters were kept from the polls by the law. These laws are an assault on democracy and are being pushed explicitly to defy the will of the people. It was one reason that I was so happy to vote for H.R. 1, which is really a bill about empowering people to choose their elected leaders and to hold elected officials accountable.

It’s clear, Republican attempts to disenfranchise voters is a real crisis that’s still underway.

 

As always, if you like what I’m doing here, make sure to subscribe to my email list in the blue bar at the top of the page. And if you really like what I’m doing, preorder STARSHIP REPO, my next novel from Tor Books due out in May.

Epstein, Acosta, Trump, and the MSM’s Quiet Cowardice


Oliver Contreras / Sipa USA via AP file

Yes, yes, Robert Kraft shelling out fifty bucks for a handy is hilarious, but a far more important sex trafficking scandal is going relatively unnoticed by the media. Read on and let’s see if we can change that.

Jeffery Epstein, infamous convicted child sex trafficking billionaire and close friend of Donald Trump, is under renewed scrutiny after his sweetheart plea deal with then federal prosecutor Alex Acosta was declared illegal by a judge last week for violating victims’ rights laws.

At the conclusion of that case, Epstein was convicted of the reduced charge of solicitating a minor, when in reality he was running an underage prostitution ring involving dozens of victims of sex trafficking, many of whom he’d personally groomed through “recruiters” of similar ages and circumstances from underprivileged communities. But thanks to his plea deal with Acosta, Epstein served only 13 months in a county jail, during which he participated in a work-release program that allowed him to spend his daylight hours in his office, an arrangement sex offenders are supposed to be barred from.

But that’s not even the most outrageous, nor the most relevant part of the plea deal. No, really, it gets much worse. You see, part of the deal also effectively ended an FBI probe into Epstein’s child sex trafficking network that was trying to determine not only the identities of the victims, but the names of Epstein’s friends and customers who jointed in the conspiracy to rape dozens of girls. Even worse, these coconspirators were granted immunity from prosecution, effectively ending any legal avenues for law enforcement to bring anyone who participated in Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring to justice.

Why is that important? I’m glad you asked! But first, let’s talk for a moment about sweetheart plea deals. As we’ve already seen in the Mueller investigation, the reason for a competent prosecutor to offer a plea deal to a member of a conspiracy is to get them to turn state’s evidence against the bigger fish further up the chain. This is why Rick Gates is walking free without spending a day in prison, while his decades-long coconspirator, Paul Manafort, is facing the very real prospect of ending his life as a permanent guest of the federal correctional system (Manafort was Trump’s 2016 Campaign Manager/Chairman, incidentally). But Acosta’s deal did exactly the opposite. Instead of rewarding Epstein for flipping on the rest of the pedophile network he’d built, Acosta gave the man he was supposed to be prosecuting for raping children carte blanch to protect other men just as guilty as himself. Which brings us to the next point.

Donald J. Trump is an accused child rapist. Jeffery Epstein was named as the man who supplied Trump with girls to rape by one of Trump’s victims in a lawsuit that has since been pulled after she received death threats from Trump supporters, much as Stormy Daniels reported. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged Epstein arranged several sessions during which Trump violently raped her while she was tied to a bed, begging him to stop.

An excerpt from the complaint against Trump/Epstein 

If that sounds out-of-character for The Donald, I won’t direct you to his infamous Access Hollywood “Pussy-grabber” tape we’re all aware of, I’d direct you instead to the testimony of his first wife, Ivana Trump, who during their divorce proceedings (while Trump was already fucking wife #2, incidentally) testified that Donald attacked her in a rage after a botched hair replacement surgery. According to Ivana’s deposition, Donald ripped out clumps of her hair in revenge as a prelude to raping her as punishment for referring him to the surgeon who screwed up his hair implants.

Where were we? Oh right, Trump has been credibly accused of being a rapist by multiple women of varying ages and socioeconomic backgrounds across decades of his life. Oh, but it doesn’t actually stop with Trump’s personal perverse proclivities, you know it doesn’t. A man like Trump experiencing the thrills of Epstein’s child sex trafficking empire firsthand couldn’t help himself but try to expand on it.

Enter Trump Models.

Still with me? Cool, so it probably won’t come as a surprise the dude who bragged about sneaking around backstage at the Miss Teen USA pageant that he owned while underaged girls were in various states of undress just because he could also ran a modeling agency that was forced to shut down under growing accusations of sex trafficking, primarily from former Soviet block countries where, TOTALLY COINCIDENTALY, Trump’s 3rd wife and current FLOTUS (who he was fucking before divorcing wife #2, whom he’d been fucking before divorcing wife #1) just happens to hail from under a journey through the US immigration system that still hasn’t been adequately explained. Because that also happened. Jesus Christ, I’m getting tired.

So what have been Trump’s public statements about his good friend Jeffery Epstein? I swear to whatever Gods you believe in, I’m not making this next quote up:

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

-Sippy Cup Caligula

[Pause while the author just fucking screams into the universe in a primal rage]

Still here? Sweet. At this point, the sharper among you are probably asking what happened to the “prosecutor” who gave a sweetheart plea deal to a pedophile who demanded not to flip on anyone more powerful than him as a condition of the arrangement? Haha! Funny story, Alex Acosta is sitting on Trump’s Cabinet as the Secretary of Labor. Going to spell it out for the slower people reading this. If you think it’s coincidence a billionaire convicted of sex crimes just randomly ended up getting an asinine level of leniency from a federal prosecutor who was later rewarded with a Cabinet position by one of said billionaire’s alleged billionaire pedophile customers, well, you’ve probably never mastered tying your own shoes.

Which leads me to my next question. Why in the hell is this obvious complicity and collusion between Acosta, Epstein, and Trump over child sex trafficking not the top story on every legitimate news outlet today? As you can see from the extensive sourcing above, everything I’ve said in this post is not only true, but has been part of the public record for months and in many cases years.

Every political journalist worth their salt should be able to rattle off the contents of this post from memory. So where’s the story being told? It used to be that journalists would lay out all the facts and trust their audience to draw their own conclusions.

But today, either out of misapplied dedication to impartiality, fear of losing access, or having been cowed by Trump’s “FAKE NEWS” drumbeat, journalists and pundits seem determined not to connect the dots, specifically for fear of the conclusions their audiences will naturally draw. It has only been recently, almost three years after Trump publicly asked Russia to steal Hillary Clinton’s emails, that the media is finally knocking around words like ‘treason,’ and ‘Russian asset,’ despite those terms being the only and inescapable descriptions of his public behavior from that moment forward.

How much longer before someone in the media starts calling Trump not just a traitor, which he unequivocally is, but also a sex trafficker and child rapist? This doesn’t require any imagination, only courage and the acceptance of facts already in the public domain, often unearthed by their colleagues, but not yet assembled into a narrative whole. It’s almost as if the obvious truth is too terrible to contemplate; that a sexual predator working either directly or indirectly on behalf of Russian interests stole the Presidency. It sounds like the backflap of a hack Cold War era pulp thriller, a plot so outlandish that most readers would throw it across the room before halfway through and would only pick it up again to drop it in the trash can. But based on everything we now know, it is self-evidently true.

And if we have any hope of rectifying this horrifying state of affairs, we need to accept what is right in front of our faces, because our collective incredulity, especially on the part of the 4th Estate, is exactly why this asinine plot succeeded in the first place.

P.S. The Jupiter, FL “massage parlor” Robert Kraft was busted soliciting prostitutes at is less than 20 miles from Mar a Lago.

 

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Donald Trump Poised to Slide Down the Polls


Trump’s implanted wig in open rebellion again its cruel master.

Donald Trump is staring down a perfect storm of falling poll numbers this week. Several competing political scandals are poised to merge into a maelstrom that will, belatedly, finally, start to chew into his core group of supporters in a meaningful way for the first time since he stole the Presidency.

But before we innumerate those scandals, it’s important to define exactly who Trump still counts among his dwindling base. At this point, there are basically two kinds of Trump supporters left (outside of the Kremlin), and they are both about to be very disappointed.

Type A Trump voters are just anti-establishment libertarian jackasses. You know the sort. They’re the fedora clan who only stopped rereading their copies of Atlas Shrugged because all the pages were stuck together. These are the straight white guys who wear cargo shorts and socks with their sandals who don’t mind the naked racism and misogyny Trump constantly spews as long as the government is destroyed and their taxes go down. They chanted “DRAIN THE SWAMP!”

Type B Trump voters are literally fucking Nazis. Unapologetic white supremacist fascists who absolutely loved every racist thing Trump has ever said or done, from denying housing to colored applicants in the 70’s, to calling for the death penalty for the Central Park 5 in a state that didn’t even have that option, to his callous disregard for the thousands of immigrant children his administration kidnapped from their parents. They chanted “BUILD THE WALL.”

There is no Option C.

Type A Trump voters are doing their taxes and, unless they’re VERY wealthy, are discovering the tax return they were expecting has shrunk, or disappeared entirely as a direct result of Trump’s tax scam. They were never genuinely fiscally conservative, which is why they didn’t make a sound when the tax bill exploded the national debt by more than a trillion dollars and failed to trigger a private sector job creation boom as promised, because they were only ever concerned with their personal bottom line. But this year, many will actually owe money to the IRS for the first time in their working lives. This is a PR disaster that will cost Sippy Cup Caligula at least a few points in the polls.

Type B Trump voters are already mad the last government shutdown ended in Piss Play Pol Pot genuflecting to Nancy Pelosi without funding for the Wall, like a cuck, but they held out hope their faith would be rewarded three weeks later. That delusion will end Friday, when Trump will neither shut down the government again, nor declare a National Emergency in order to steal money from existing pots of government cash to fund his Racist Mt. Rushmore.
The rest of the GOP has exactly no appetite for a repeat of that disaster, especially now that the TSA and air traffic controller unions know they can shutdown a shutdown in less than a day. They’ll pass a veto-proof CR to fund the Gov in a second.

Nor does Trump’s threat to use emergency powers have any legs. Because again, the GOP isn’t onboard out of fear of the precedent it would set. The last thing they want to do is give President Kamala Harris an excuse to declare a national emergency in 2021 to combat global warming, or gun violence, or the healthcare crisis.

So the Nazi wing of Trump’s base is poised to be dealt a second embarrassment in less than a month. It will finally sink in that they’re never getting their fucking wall, because their master negotiator couldn’t deliver on literally the only campaign promise they cared about.

I think we’ll be seeing Trump’s approval rating in the low 30’s, or maybe even high 20’s in the near future. And THAT will change the political calculation for an awful lot of vulnerable GOP Senators facing reelection next year. Get him below 30% and keep him there, and impeachment and outright conviction in the Senate on the strength of the Mueller investigation’s final report is no longer out of the question. And then… well, no one can protect him from the SDNY investigations into the Trump Organization, Trump Foundation, or the Trump Inaugural Committee.

Buckle up, buttercup. It’s only going to get worse for you from here.

 

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Mitch McConnell, Not Trump, is America’s Greatest Traitor


 

It was one hell of a weekend in America. Thirty months after the Republican National Convention, when it became an inescapable truth among serious, informed people that Donald Trump was acting on behalf of the Russian Federation in exchange for assistance in a criminal and treasonous conspiracy to steal the Presidency, a pair of stories in the New York Times and Washington Post have belatedly, finally, shifted the national zeitgeist.

In the wake of the revelation that the FBI opened a historically unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into Trump following his firing of James Comey and bragging about it to Russian Ambassador Kislyak in the Oval Office of all places, and the reporting that he destroyed notes and swore his interpreter to secrecy about the contents of several private meetings with Vladimir Putin, the press and our pundit class has finally caught on and started referring to Trump as what he is; a Russian agent.

This is, to put it mildly, earth-shattering. It is a political, national security, and criminal scandal without equal in our nation’s history. Perhaps world history. Indeed, I struggle to come up with a traitor to their nation and its principles of greater magnitude than Donald Trump anywhere in recorded history.

Oh wait, I just thought of one. More on that in a minute.

In one sense, it’s impossible for Donald Trump to be a traitor to the US, because to betray something you first must hold a loyalty to it. Trump has never held loyalty to anything or anyone but himself. He has been a self-aggrandizing thief for his entire life, stealing from his investors, tenants, lenders, contractors, and even his own father. Trump cares about America the same way a pirate cares about a Spanish galleon riding low in the water, laden with silver and gold. His run for President was just the ultimate expression of his blind greed, egomania, and psychological pathology. He literally couldn’t help himself.

So Trump can’t really be a traitor, because he has no loyalties to betray. Nor does he poses any adult concept of morality that would allow him to separate right from wrong. He doesn’t know any better. But there are many men (yes, almost exclusively men) who had professed loyalty to the United States, had taken public oaths of office or military service to defend her, who saw this diseased, broken man as their ticket to power.

It’s those men who can be rightfully called traitors. Men like Michael Flynn and John Kelly. But even among them, there’s one who, ultimately, will be held accountable by historians for Donald Trump’s theft of the most powerful office in the world.

His name is Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr.

It was the Kentucky Terrapin McConnell who, against all precedent and his Constitutional duty, denied Merrick Garland a hearing and floor vote to become a Supreme Court Justice for nearly a year, simply to deny duly-elected President Barrack Obama another seat on the court. But that pales in comparison to what was on the horizon.

In the early fall of 2016, it was apparent that Russian intel was using active measures on social media and emails stolen from the DNC to influence our election in favor of Trump and against Hillary Clinton. When this conclusion became inescapable, President Obama approached McConnell and asked him to join in a bipartisan statement rejecting Russia’s interference.

Not only did McConnell refuse to participate, but he actively threatened Obama against making any sort of public disclosures about what our intel community had learned of Russia’s attack on our election weeks before the earliest votes were to be cast.

Then, after that horrible day in November when Putin exercised his will on our democracy, there was still one more chance for our nation to right its course and turn back from the brink. Two weeks before then, the seventeen agencies which make up our intelligence community had all signed off on a memo that Russia was actively thumbing the scales in our election. Russia’s involvement was known. Trump’s complacency was obvious. There was a push in Congress and nationally to give members of the Electoral College a classified briefing on what was known at that time so they could make an informed decision when casting the only votes that actually mattered in the election.

Mitch McConnell blocked that briefing.

Whereas Donald Trump has always been nothing more than a howling, narcissistic vacuum desperate for anything to fill the existential void where his soul should be, McConnell has sworn multiple oaths to his country over the course of many decades, starting with his short stint as a Private in the Army Reserve during the Vietnam War before being honorably discharged for being blind af, and under pressure from his father, but whatever. Since then, he’s been sworn in as an assistant attorney general, a judge, a Senator, Senate Majority Whip, Senate Minority leader, and now Senate Majority Leader.

Unlike Asset-Come-Lately Donald Trump, McConnell has taken an oath of service or office to the people of the United States more than half a dozen times. His entire adult life has been, supposedly, spent in public service to the American people. He understands the gravity of his responsibilities to his country in a way Trump’s limited mental faculties are simply incapable of. And yet he chose to fast-track and validate Russia’s attack on our democracy, ensuring the success of Putin’s operation in a way no other supposed American was in a position to.

And even after last weekend’s revelations, Mitch continues to support and extend Trump’s government shutdown, now entering its fourth week, the longest in the history of our nation. Exactly the chaos and division Putin wants among our electorate heading into the 2020 election cycle.

Trump is a clown. Mitch McConnell is the real traitor.

 

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Novels vs Screenplays: What I’ve Learned (So Far)

 

So I’ve been doing this professional writer thing for three years now (which I can hardly believe myself, incidentally). In that time, I’ve published four books and written two more. In addition to books, I’ve also authored several dozen op-eds for a variety of publications, including The Hill, US News, and the New York Times. All this in addition to my blog posts and the twitter addiction I was only recently, forcibly cured of. But it’s the latest endeavor that has me the most excited about my professional future, and what I’d like to share about today.

Over the last fifteen months, I’ve taken up writing screenplays as a sort of palate cleanser between novel projects. It began just about as randomly as my novel writing career when a comedian friend who’d come up through the Milwaukee scene with me but had since move out to LA frantically PMed me looking for a sci-fi script for an upcoming project he’d gotten a tip-off about.

“But I don’t write screenplays,” I’d said.

“You write sci-fi books. Close enough,” was the reply.

Friends, I’m here to tell you after a bruising four months of cramming an adaptation of my 98,000 word debut, THE ARK, into a 25,000 word screenplay, it was not “Close enough.”

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front. Screenplay writing is its own discipline, in every sense of the word. It only vaguely resembles writing a novel in the most essential storytelling aspects of plotting, characterization, and world-building. But the tools you have available, and the confines under which you operate, are entirely different.

First of all, screenplay formatting is archaic, arbitrary, and almost completely impenetrable to someone without education or experience in the medium. I foolishly tried to write my first in MS Word, thinking I’d just adapt, an endeavor that lasted all of one and a half pages before I said “Fuck this” and switched to online screenwriting software. Currently, I use Celtx, a free service with premium subscription upgrades. It saves projects in the cloud and allows multiple people to remotely collaborate, which was enormously helpful because no software can perfectly format a script. Even after cowriting three of these things, my writing partner still has to sweep up after me. Celtx, it should be noted, is considered an entry-level program. The industry standard is a service called Final Draft. It’s a premium service, which has kept me away from it up to this point, but I’ll probably bite the bullet and subscribe soon.

The next eye-opening difference between screenplays and novels is the length. As a rule of thumb, one page of a script equals one minute of film. Now math that out and realize that means an average film script for a two-hour movie is going to be no more than 120 pages long. There’s real reasons for this limitation, too. Unlike books which can be of nearly any length without much impact on their production costs, every minute of length added to a movie adds hundred of thousands or millions of dollars to the budget. Cameramen, grips, sound people, set-builders, they all get paid by the hour. Further, the longer a movie is, the fewer showings theaters can pack into a day and the fewer opportunities for ticket sales. Any one who doesn’t already have a billion dollars in box office receipts turning in a three hour run time script is very likely to get laughed out of the pitch meeting. But it gets worse for writers used to having unlimited space. Instead of averaging 300-400 words per printed page, a screenplay page averages around 250. So, far fewer pages, and far fewer words per page.

But it’s not all bad news. The nature of screenplays lend themselves to brevity. However, this comes at the expense of how your story gets told. There are very seldom internal character monologues in film scripts, or omniscient narration to fill in the blanks of a character’s thoughts and motivations, or to flesh out the world with all the little historical details that give a setting flavor. Instead, the only brushes you have to paint with are character dialogue and visuals. That’s it. For me who’d growing into writing through novels, it was very challenging to lose all the rest of the avenues I was used to taking readers down, especially when trying, in this case, to tell the same story.

These restrictions inherent to the screenwriting process meant some of my favorite scenes, subplots, and even entire characters from THE ARK ended up on the cutting room floor, and I’m the author! It was a very difficult process adapting the story to such a short length. So much so that I’m hesitant to repeat it with a full-length novel in the future. After this experience, I’m going to be very understanding of the necessary differences and sacrifices between my favorite books and the movies based on them. I’d much rather do adaptations of shorter works, such as Arrival, which was originally a wonderful novella called Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang that fit very well into movie length.

Still, I’m proud of the screenplay version of THE ARK we finally hammered into place, and believe it or not, we actually optioned the damned thing. It’s being kicked around one of the major studios right now, and while it’s still a long shot for getting funded, it’s a near miracle to have gotten this far in the first place.

Nor is any of the above meant to scare other novelists off from trying your hands at a screenplay. Quiet the opposite, I would actively encourage you to do so. As a writing exercise, it was incredibly instructive. Being limited to telling a story with only dialogue and visuals made me focus on squeezing the maximum possible return on investment out of every word. It’s teaching me how to say more with less, a skill that was of immense value when I returned to the next novel project. It’s sped up my pacing and made scenes more dense and vivid. My character dialogue has improved, becoming more natural. The conservation of words I’ve been forced to practice while writing screenplays has made my books since flow better and the characters sizzle. You’ll see when the first of them, STARSHIP REPO, hits in May.

And repetition has made the process far less arduous. Since that first script, we’ve written two more, each of them original concepts unconnected to any existing IP. Now that I’m not being forced to kill my darlings, it’s a much more enjoyable experience, even freeing. Our second script got written in just seventeen days, and also found an option. Not bad for two and a half weeks of work, especially if it gets funded.

All things considered, I’d tell every author I know to try their hand at writing a screenplay, if only once. It will make you a better writer across all the other mediums you might work in. But beware this final observation about the difference between the two. It’s a subjective, emotional thing. When you finish writing a book, even if it never gets published, it’s still a book. Even if it never leaves your hard drive, it’s a book, complete and whole, and you can carry forward with that accomplishment. But with a screenplay, once you’ve finished, you’re left with an outline of a movie. It exists in potentia only. The way you react to that will vary with the writer, and may even vary within a writer. Sometimes, it feels unfinished, and less emotionally fulfilling. Other times, it feel exciting, like a lotto ticket that’s already hit the first three numbers. How you choose to look at it is up to you.

I choose to be excited about the first three, and to start writing number four.

 

As always, if you like what I’m doing here, share it far and wide, subscribe for email alerts at the blue box up top, and please consider buying my TOTES GUARANTEED TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE debut, THE ARK.

WI: Emergency Call to Action

WI peeps. Emergency Call to Action.

As most of you who follow politics probably knows, Wisconsin joined in the Blue Wave last month, sending Tammy Baldwin back to DC, replacing two-term mistake Scott Walker with incoming Governor Tony Evers, and flipping our State Attorney General from red to blue.

This shot of good news got a sour chaser last Friday when the lame duck GOP in the state legislature dropped a stack of bills meant to put a straight jacket on incoming Gov Tony Evers and our new State Attorney General. It is a naked power grab from people who just lost the statewide popular vote.

They’re planning to send bills for Scott Walker to sign in a final Fuck You to the people of Wisconsin for rejecting their divisive and racist agenda. Among the proposed bills are efforts to block Evers from overturning Walker’s unnecessary Voted ID law which estimates say disenfranchised as many as 300,000 primarily people of color in Milwaukee and Dane counties in 2016, in a state Trump “won” by only 20,000 votes. They also aim to slash early voting from six weeks in many place down to only two, a repeat of an effort that was rebuked by the courts the last time they attempted it.

But it doesn’t end there. The WI GOP is also intent on stripping the incoming democratic Attorney General of the authority to pull out of a GOP-lead, multi-state lawsuit designed to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the newly-stacked US Supreme Court. Which might be the first time I’ve heard a republican trying to stop anyone from pulling out.

Further, the WI GOP has an eye on preserving their thin 4-3 majority in the WI Supreme Court. You see, one of their most extreme right justices is up for reelection in 2020. Normally, this election would happen along with the Presidential primary on Super Tuesday. However, primary day ahead of a general election means high voter turnout, which is always and unequivocally bad for GOP candidates, which is why they universally attempt every dirty trick in the book to drive down turnout. In this case, the trick is to move just the judicial election to a month prior to Super Tuesday, doubling the number of spring elections simply to make it more difficult for working class people to get time off to vote in both.

All of these measures are being voted on TOMORROW. This only remains possible because Wisconsin is one of the most flagrantly gerrymandered states in the nation. In the upcoming legislative session, Democratic candidates won the previously mentioned 54% of the vote statewide, but will hold only 37% of the seats in the State Legislature.

Which tells you one thing. Voting alone won’t get Wisconsin’s GOP to represent our interests. Democracy in Wisconsin is a full-contact sport. As in, contact your state representatives directly and let them know you oppose this blatant attack on the expressed wishes of Wisconsin residents. Call (800) 362-9472 for the WI State Legislative switchboard, find your rep’s office, and give them an earful.

And do it fast.

 

As always, if you like what I’m doing here, subscribe to my newsletter in the blue bar at the top of the page. And if you really like what I’m doing, preorder my next book STARSHIP REPO. It’s exactly what it sounds like and twice as ridiculous.

WI: Emergency Call to Action

 

WI peeps. Emergency Call to Action.
As most of you who follow politics probably knows, Wisconsin joined in the Blue Wave last month, sending Tammy Baldwin back to DC, replacing two-term mistake Scott Walker with incoming Governor Tony Evers, and flipping our State Attorney General from red to blue.
This shot of good news got a sour chaser last Friday when the lame duck GOP in the state legislature dropped a stack of bills meant to put a straight jacket on incoming Gov Tony Evers and our new State Attorney General. It is a naked power grab from people who just lost the statewide popular vote.
They’re planning to send bills for Scott Walker to sign in a final Fuck You to the people of Wisconsin for rejecting their divisive and racist agenda. Among the proposed bills are efforts to block Evers from overturning Walker’s unnecessary Voted ID law which estimates say disenfranchised as many as 300,000 primarily people of color in Milwaukee and Dane counties in 2016, in a state Trump “won” by only 20,000 votes. They also aim to slash early voting from six weeks in many place down to only two, a repeat of an effort that was rebuked by the courts the last time they attempted it.
But it doesn’t end there. The WI GOP is also intent on stripping the incoming democratic Attorney General of the authority to pull out of a GOP-lead, multi-state lawsuit designed to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the newly-stacked US Supreme Court. Which might be the first time I’ve heard a republican trying to stop anyone from pulling out.
Further, the WI GOP has an eye on preserving their thin 4-3 majority in the WI Supreme Court. You see, one of their most extreme right justices is up for reelection in 2020. Normally, this election would happen along with the Presidential primary on Super Tuesday. However, primary day ahead of a general election means high voter turnout, which is always and unequivocally bad for GOP candidates, which is why they universally attempt every dirty trick in the book to drive down turnout. In this case, the trick is to move just the judicial election to a month prior to Super Tuesday, doubling the number of spring elections simply to make it more difficult for working class people to get time off to vote in both.
All of these measures are being voted on TOMORROW. This only remains possible because Wisconsin is one of the most flagrantly gerrymandered states in the nation. In the upcoming legislative session, Democratic candidates won the previously mentioned 54% of the vote statewide, but will hold only 37% of the seats in the State Legislature.
Which tells you one thing. Voting alone won’t get Wisconsin’s GOP to represent our interests. Democracy in Wisconsin is a full-contact sport. As in, contact your state representatives directly and let them know you oppose this blatant attack on the expressed wishes of Wisconsin residents. Call (800) 362-9472 for the WI State Legislative switchboard, find your rep’s office, and give them an earful.
And do it fast.
As always, if you like what I’m doing here, subscribe to my newsletter in the blue bar at the top of the page. And if you really like what I’m doing, preorder my next book STARSHIP REPO. It’s exactly what it sounds like and twice as ridiculous.