A Truant Disposition

"I must be idle."

New Website In The Works!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jul• 10•19

Thanks to my awesome Patreon subscribers who met my very first Patreon goal just two weeks after I launched the Patreon, this website is moving to a new webhost, on a new platform, with a complete redesign, and new features! I’ve been wanting (really, needing) to do this for a long time, but now it’s happening! The site has been designed, and it’s just a matter of adding more content and features now. Later this month (not quite sure how soon) there will be a brief bit of a hiccup and this old site will disappear and a brand new shiny site will be in its place! This blog, which I’ve had for over a decade, will not be carried over in its entirety; instead a selection of posts will be copied into the new blog on the new site. As copying posts over and setting them up on the new platform will be a time-consuming process, I expect that the new site will likely be ready to go live before the blog is backfilled with all the posts I want to carry over. I’ve begun the selection process, reading over old posts. If you’re a Patreon subscriber (Thank You!!) you’ll get a behind the scenes first look at the new website via exclusive Lens video clips. Last month subscribers not only got a bonus short story, but as a reward for hitting the goal that’s funding the website, they got an exclusive audio story as well!  July rewards have already been posted and I’ve got more nifty extras that I’m working on for this month. Omigosh, it’s going to be another fun month!

Where the Action Is

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - May• 31•19

I know it’s early days yet, but I have to say that I’m really enjoying being a creator on Patreon. There’s something extremely satisfying about having regular readers. I’m writing (or rewriting) all the time, and producing fiction every month for my audience is just sooooo much better than writing and writing and writing and then years later the book is published and people read it and I’m still writing and writing. There’s an awful disconnect between the author and readers. Typically authors are paid sporadically though they work regularly like anyone else. There’s a flurry of interest and a surge of readers when a new book comes out, but that drops off in the long span between books…and still I write. Short stories sort of almost fill in those gaps, but they’re scattered here and there, so only the most fanatic fan is likely to track them down. (The internet makes things easy, but there’s so much out there that getting one click is sometimes surprisingly hard.) It’s gratifying for readers to be able to easily get so much fiction often and regularly–every month–and it’s gratifying for me to have people reading as I write and rewrite. The signal to noise ratio on Patreon is like nothing anywhere else online; it’s wonderful. The people who subscribe to Patreon are there because they really want whatever various creators are doing. It’s really the best place online for authors and readers to interact. Great access to feedback for authors and great access to authors for readers. If you want to hang with me, that’s the place to do it! The relationships between creators and patrons on Patreon are of a much higher/better quality than interactions on social media.

My Patreon is growing slowly. Truly, it needs more patrons and more word-of-mouth to reach all my goals, but there’s time for it to grow. My first goal on Patreon (which I just barely missed hitting after my first full month) is to make enough to fund a new amazing website that people will actually love visiting. I’ve added an extra incentive: all patrons get an audio story if we hit the goal June 1st! I just need a few more $1 patrons or 1 patron at higher levels to reach that goal.

The beauty of Patreon is that the lower levels are usually $1 and anyone can afford that, so it’s doable for more people, but if there’s a lot of people at that $1 level it can add up to a nice, albeit modest, income for most creators. Authors can just keep on writing, just like they always do, and get paid like normal people do (well, sort of: people with non-creative jobs typically get paid more often than monthly).

June is going to be a great month for my patrons. Besides the possibility of hitting the goal and getting an audio story (which I’m looking forward to doing!), there will also be a new short story, as well as the 3rd Chapter of my sci-fi novel, other fictional goodies for those in the higher tiers, and book reviews for those in the Bookworm tier. (At $5, this is currently my highest tier and includes everything in all the lower tiers. Half my current patrons subscribe to the Bookworm tier, which was surprising, but very gratifying.) If you’re already a patron, tell your friends! Sharing the link to my Patreon tells people my Patreon exists and that you’re a friend of mine. What’s most likely to get other people to join my Patreon is tell them you like what you’re reading there! Tell them about what sort of things I’m writing and why you like it. Honest-to-goodness, a short sentence or two along with the link makes all the difference in whether or not anyone even clicks through to look.

I’m really excited about the work I’m doing on Patreon, so much so that what bugs me most about not having more patrons is not that I’d make a little more money, but that so many people are missing out! I’m building this marvelous edifice of imagination of Patreon. And I’m having a great time doing it! People who subscribe to my Patreon have a great time, too! There’s a lot of FOMO going around in 21st century online life, but honestly, having been drenched in the internet for years now, the number of things I don’t want to miss out on (online) is a very short list. There’s too much bad stuff in the world, and especially online. We all need escapism and enjoyable things. I hope I make your short list of favorite things.

My Patreon is now live!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 19•19

My Patreon is now live! I’ve got two public posts up. This month and next it’ll be double everything, without double cost! (It’s mthly not per thing.) Three tiers, low entry level, lots of fiction! Rewards, starting tomorrow! 🤩🚀
https://www.patreon.com/AinyRainwater/ Everything you need to know about my Patreon is right there on the page. Additionally, one of the public posts gives a teaser of what this month’s rewards will be for subscribers. Come explore imaginary worlds with me and meet interesting fictional characters!

About Patreon

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 14•19

Next week my Patreon goes live and there’s still people who don’t know about Patreon, or mistake it for something else. Patreon is generally lumped in with “crowdfunding” in popular media which kind of makes me cringe because the difference between what the Patreon platform enables creators to do and other crowdfunding sites is like comparing day and night. Patreon has this in common with crowdfunding: fans directly pay creators for their work. Which is hardly a revolutionary concept. A lot of authors I know and admire use Patreon because their book contracts don’t pay anything near a living wage. Musicians, podcasters, artists, writers of all types use Patreon because typical crowdfunding sites are horrible for creators like artists, musicians, and authors. Patreon is made specifically for us. There’s none of the soul-killing nastiness of “crowdfunding”. We create great stuff, people buy it. Creators have real and excellent connections to the people who love their work and support it on Patreon.

Here’s what Patreon isn’t.

For those of you who have never been involved in a crowdfunding campaign, here’s an overview of how they usually work. (If you’ve participated in a crowdfunding campaign, just skip down to how Patreon isn’t like that.) Generally crowdfunding sites work like this: someone wants to make something (album, gadget, big art project, game) and they run a “campaign” in which they have a set number of days to find investors to pledge a certain amount of money to get their project done. After the deadline if they’ve reached their monetary goal the project is funded, they do their thing, and the “crowd” each gets one of whatever was funded. If they don’t reach their goal in a set number of days, they get nothing, make nothing, and the people who invested pay nothing and get nothing. Quite often it take months or years for people to get the “thing” that was crowdfunded depending on how hard a thing it is to make. Albums can take a year or more, games can be in development hell for years and years. Occasionally investors get nothing at all. On the artist side (and I’ve know people who have run campaigns) there’s an insane grinding frantic amount of promoting constantly during the campaign to get people to sign up because it’s an all-or-nothing proposition and the desperate begging for money can be unpleasant, and if you don’t do it well enough by the deadline then you’re left exhausted and empty-handed. If you’re successful, then you’re under pressure from both fans and the platform to deliver the product, or continually make excuses and apologies for the delays. This system has worked well for people who want money to start a business to make and sell an invention of theirs; I know of a few companies that got their start this way, but it’s a soul-crushing way for an artist or creative person to fund their work because it has a failure mechanism baked-in and because most writers, artists, musicians, etc aren’t doing a one-time thing. Which means that they have to do the desperate campaign and begging for money for every single thing they do, with an increasingly real chance of failure as their audience suffers begging fatigue.

Patreon is not like that.

Patreon is a totally different concept. The idea is based on the old concept of patronage. Back in olden times creative people were often funded by the super-rich of their day. An artist or author would have a patron who would pay them a living wage so that they could continue to do creative work and not have to worry about living on the streets or starving to death. Of course, the downside to this was that the artist continually had to fawn and flatter, and even so a patron might grow bored with them and throw their gold in someone else’s direction, so the artist, author, creator, would have to find another patron. Not a perfect system, but sufficient to keep a number of geniuses from starving so we can enjoy their works today. The real flaw to that concept of patronage is that it was practiced only by the super-wealthy, and creative people in the distant past usually only had one patron at a time. Patreon is much more egalitarian. Anyone can contribute to a creative person and—this is the bit borrowed from crowdfunding—they get the work the creative person produces. Our digital age makes it possible, even easy, to duplicate what is created and distribute it to everyone. Hence the large number of authors, artists, podcasters, musicians, etc who are on Patreon. They create something, put it on Patreon, and their patrons (aka subscribers) pay them for it.

Here’s how Patreon works

I’ve known about Patreon since before it hit the headlines everywhere some years back for the stunning numbers some of its creators are earning. Depending on how productive you are, how you set up your subscriber tiers, and how much interest there is in your work, a creative person can actually make a living by their using Patreon to supplement whatever they make from their music, books, etc elsewhere. I’ve had a subscriber (patron) account for about a year now. I wanted to see how it worked from the inside before deciding whether it would be a good fit for me. Generally Patreon is good for people who are producing something regularly, especially things that can be digital (though patron rewards can be physical, too). Authors usually use it for short fiction, works in progress, essays, audio fiction, as well as insights into the writing process, and writing workshops. If you look at a creator’s Patreon page what you’ll see are the public posts and public content. Some people have a lot of public content in addition to patron-only content and some people keep everything behind the paywall. What you get as a patron depends on what the creator is offering and what tier you subscribe to. Tiers usually start as low as $1-2. Creators usually have multiple tiers, with each tier in ascending order of value, usually corresponding to how much time and effort the creator has to put into producing the reward for the tier. For instance, the lowest tier might be for short stories and the highest tier might be a video tutorial. Creators set the cost of the tier and the reward to patrons for the tier. Multiple tiers mean that the creator has to produce “things” for each tier.

There are two different ways creators can set up their Patreon: to be paid every time they produce a “thing” for their patrons, or monthly. Whether creators are paid per “thing” or per month, Patreon bills patrons monthly on the first of every month. Most Patreons are monthly–because the whole idea is for the creative person to have a steady income to pay them for work they are doing every day—and most authors I know, even if they’ve set up their Patreon to charge per “thing” nevertheless post rewards to their subscriber tiers (patrons) every month, as if it’s monthly. After much thought I decided to make my Patreon monthly. And yes, that means that if I don’t do anything patron-worthy that month I’ll still get paid, BUT I’ve got enough material banked that if I never write another word I could fill my monthly reward obligations to subscribers for years. (And there’s always the option to suspend a Patreon if something dire happens to a creator.) Going with a monthly Patreon makes sense since I’m writing all the time and will be fulfilling rewards to subscribers monthly anyway. It also offers stability to patrons. Whether I do one Patreon-only thing (for each tier) per month or a dozen Patron-only things, you’ll be charged the same amount every month according to your tier. (If a Patreon is per “thing” you would get charged for each patron-only thing, unless you set a cap to limit what you would pay per month, which avoids unpleasant surprises for the patron, but it also means the creator doesn’t get paid for everything they produce.)

When you subscribe to a tier you get whatever the creator is offering for that tier plus everything in every lower tier! If you subscribe at the lowest level then you will get only the things in that level, plus any patron-only posts the creator writes and any public posts. If you subscribe to the highest tier you get everything in that tier and everything in every tier below that, plus patron-only posts and public posts. So, each tier up acts as an “add-on” to the tiers below.

I’ve probably made it sound more complicated than it is, but what you mainly need to know is this: if you subscribe to my Patreon you’ll be billed monthly and you’ll get fiction monthly. Right now I’ve got only low monthly tiers. Remember: I need to produce the rewards for each tier each month. I don’t want to overwhelm myself right out of the starting gate. I’ll probably add higher tiers after I get comfortable with the schedule of producing for Patreon monthly. (I’d like to add audio.)

My lowest tier is $1. For that you’ll get works-in-progress, usually the novels I’m working on, every month. This tier will also occasionally include short stories. The next tier up is $3. You’ll get miscellaneous character sketches and scenes not yet attached to any project. (Things that spark a lot of interest and discussion are more likely to get developed into stories.) Plus you’ll get the monthly works in progress from the lower tier. My highest tier (right now) is $5. You’ll get a minimum of one book review per month, some months maybe more, and also you’ll get general posts about books and book discussions with me. The books I’ll review and discuss will be eclectic and usually not in the F/SF genre. And of course you’ll get all the rewards for the lower tiers: works in progress, short stories miscellaneous characters and scenes. 

Also…not only will my Patreon subscribers not have to wait years to read what I’m working on, you’ll get the ebooks when they do come out, and you’ll be credited in the ebook. Between the basics of the reward tiers and extras I throw in you will be getting lots of fiction for your small bit of patronage.

Why is this so cheap?

If you look around at author and writer Patreons (which I have) you’ll see that the lowest tiers (often $1-2) have the most patrons, and some of them have some truly big numbers. If it were a one-time payment, you’re right, this would not work at all. But the idea here is that since I’m writing all the time, you’ll be reading all the time, and pay a tiny amount per month for the fiction I’m writing. Thousands of patrons paying $1-5 adds up to big numbers, and the low bar for getting the fiction makes subscribing to my Patreon more attractive. I’d like a lot of subscribers (patrons) at lower levels. Anyone can afford it. And while only the super-rich could afford to pay a living wage to a creator back in olden times, Patreon makes it possible for not-at-all-rich people to support a writer and get fiction every month.

It also helps me build an audience and stay connected to my readers. In the age of the short attention span, I have to regain my audience or recruit new readers for every book because it takes so long to write them and get them published. Years pass between books. During those years I’m writing steadily. I’ve always got a work in progress, usually more than one! But to the readers it appears that I’m not doing anything because the work I do is invisible until years later. It’s impossible to stay engaged with readers when they can’t see what I’m doing and I don’t know when it will be published. Patreon means the readers will finally see what I’m working on! They’ll read along! Their subscription will fund commissioning original cover art, ebook formatting, website drudgery, things that will make the finished book the best it can be as well as paying for drudgery (like proofreading and website maintenance) that sucks time and energy away from writing. Creators on Patreon are encouraged to set goals: my first goals are modest and relate to getting a new website and book production. But I’ll also eventually have other, more fun, goals that bring bonus stuff to all subscribers. (Creators that have met their most basic goals usually have fun goals such as “if I have this many subscribers then they all get this” or “patron-only forum board” or “patrons-only exclusive live chat” or “patrons-only exclusive video stream” or “unicorns for everyone”! Just kidding.) Right now I’m (as always) very focused on writing and getting books ready for publication, but once basic author-related goals are met then my Patreon will grow based on extra rewards for all patrons…and if you’re a patron then you’ll be one of the ones I’m talking to about what bonuses you want!

Speaking of which…not only will my Patreon subscribers not have to wait years to read what I’m working on, you’ll get the ebooks when they do come out, and you’ll be credited in the ebook. Between the basics of the reward tiers and extras I throw in you will be getting lots of fiction for your small bit of patronage

There’s a discussion tab for patrons and patrons can comment on anything I post so Patreon will be an excellent place to connect with me, with a better signal to noise ratio than social media. I’m going to be a lot more present on Patreon and more interactive than elsewhere because a lot of it will be patron-only posts, and I’ll be writing, reading, talking about my books and what I’m reading, doing all the things I love. With you. If you join me on Patreon. My Patreon creator page will go live next week! Then I’ll begin posting stuff there and we’ll have some fun!

Lots of Big New Things are Coming!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 01•19

Change is in the air! This month I’ll be filling out my Patreon page as a creator, not just a subscriber. It’s under review. It’ll go live after the review and after I set up posts in all the tiers, as well as public posts. Right now all my tiers are low, so anyone can afford the fiction. (I’d rather have a lot of people paying little for my fiction than only a few people paying a lot.) My first goal is modest, too, and affects those of you reading this; it will fund a major overhaul of this website, A Truant Disposition. Redesign, more features, and be less trouble and time-consuming for me to maintain. Patreon, website, and tons of fiction, too! Stay tuned for more details!

100 Days of Characters

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jul• 27•18

I just finished a challenge to create a new character every day for a hundred days. I’d started to do something different for a 100 day challenge, but chatting with my online writing group about what writers could do for the challenge I joked that I’d could populate a town with 100 characters and thus the challenge was born! I didn’t stick to populating one fictional setting with 100 totally new characters, however. I’ve always been fascinated with names and pretty much have to have characters’ names firmly decided before I can begin a project. If I get the name wrong, the character doesn’t feel right and eventually I have to stop and go through the naming process again. (I’ve only had to do this once; it was disconcerting writing a character whose name was not right.) So I started, not with the story or setting I wanted to populate, but with names. The names more or less told me what story, setting, or project they belonged in. A few names suggested to me whole new stories I’d not contemplated writing before, which was exciting! So there may be a few new stories to come out of this. Mostly, I have some fairly large groups of people divided among several projects. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the characters are secondary characters or tertiary characters that the protagonists interact with, though some of these have the potential to grow into more.

This is one of the things I love about being a writer: I’m always seeing more than what’s on the page. I’m always seeing potentialities beyond the story at hand. Because stories are, despite the restrictions of setting or plot, unlimited. Fiction—even the wildest, least connected with reality type of fiction—is like life in the sense that there’s a world and people and a dynamic. Things happen. The writer selects which things to mention in the story, but the characters say and do other things which don’t end up on the page because there’s no good reason to mention them. The place has a history. Someone built those buildings, devices, machines, someone designed every lovely thing—and yes, as the author, I created those imaginary things, but there are unseen people in whatever story I’m writing who create the things the characters use, who make the food they eat, who decide what sort of a world they live in.

I tend to write microcosms. I’m not much for big sprawling epic stories. I tend to look at a few characters in one tiny corner of a big world and what’s happening to them, what they are doing today—and why. I like to keep things on a small personal scale because that’s how we experience the world. Most people aren’t caught up in grand epic adventures; they’re just dealing with what’s in front of them and some days that’s more than enough. Of course, with science fiction and fantasy, what one character (and friends) may be dealing with on a daily basis may be more difficult and unusual than the stuff we all have to deal with. The point is that characters are like us in the sense that they exist as part of a community or world. Even a story about a total loner presupposes that the person had progenitors, that someone somewhere designed and built their spaceship, that there is a world out there filled with people that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to be around. (Obviously, you can think of exceptions to this: sole survivor of an apocalypse, for example, but even so, that character’s life, such as it is, was impacted by the thoughts and actions of other people, so again, there are always more people, doing more things, than are immediately apparent in even the most isolated and constrained microcosms.)

As a writer, you can never have too many characters. Even before this challenge I kept squirreled away in assorted files character sketches and lists of names. I need to do a bit of organizing to bring the new files together with the older one, to make sure I can find someone when I need them! As much as possible, I tagged character sketches with projects they could fit into, and now I need to divide my little village of fictional people, sending them to various folders. Eventually they’ll be polished up and written properly, then you’ll get to meet them!

One Paragraph About Suicide

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jun• 08•18

In the wake of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week there has been a tremendous number of posts encouraging people to seek help if they’re having trouble coping with life. Though this was prompted by celebrity deaths, people are dying, without such fanfare and outcry, every damn day. Statistics show that suicide rates are increasing, and in some areas by quite a bit. Suicide is always a shock because we never know. That’s the nature of the thing; while in some cases there may be physical pain, mostly the pain is an internal anguish without necessarily any dramatic outward sign. No one knows what a suicidal person is going through and that’s a huge part of the problem: the unbearable anguish is frequently silent and invisible. The person going through this thing that could result in their killing themself may not want to talk about it with people they know. The other side of the coin is that friends and family may not know what to say to someone who is so depressed they want to die, or they may say the wrong thing, or they may be (or be perceived to be) part of the problem. That’s why getting professional help is so important. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through is vital and talking to a stranger confidentially about personal things is often easier than talking to someone you know. If you feel life has become unbearable you need to call the suicide hotline. No matter what you are going through, other people—people who did not kill themselves—have been through much worse and come out the other side, not because they are stronger than you are, or better than you are, but because they fucking got help! Feel like your life is out of control? Take control by asking for help. Feel like everything’s screwed up and you can’t do anything right? You can do one all-important right thing: it’s easy, make the call and get help. There. You’ve done it. It’s not going to be instantly fixed, but now you’re in touch with people who can help you. No one has to go through anything alone, ever. We live in the most connected time in the world’s history. Connect with someone who can help you live—because the world needs all the good people it has. We can’t lose you. You are important. (No, don’t argue with me about that. Someday you’ll realize I was right.)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Upcoming imaginary events

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Apr• 13•18

I have imaginary events on the family calendar I share with my husband. (It delights him as much as it does me, so yes, a match made in heaven.) Sometimes I’ll note a date in fiction, usually books, but occasionally movies, and put it on my calendar. I like the sort of thrill I get from the incongruity of seeing fictional events pop up in the middle of an otherwise ordinary calendar of things to do and places to go. I’m not the only geek to track such things: the internet loses its collective mind when the incept dates for replicants in the movie Blade Runner rolls around, shouting out birthday wishes to fictional androids. When the date for HAL 9000’s “birth” rolled around we threw a birthday party. (January 12th, but I can’t recall now if it was the year given in the film or the book.) So it’s perhaps not surprising that some years later strange things began to creep onto the calendar.

It all began with the giant squid.

Some years back while rereading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea I noted the date given for the giant squid attack on the Nautilus. It’s been on our calendar ever since. More recently I added the wreck of the Elizabeth Dane. Both are coming up next week, Friday, April 20th and Saturday, April 21st, respectively. So next Friday I will likely reread the Jules Verne classic, or perhaps watch the movie. If you love Jules Verne, the Nautilus, or giant squids, consider commemorating this event in some way. If you’re really not into Jules Verne, there are a lot of books and movies, both nonfiction and fiction about the giant squid. (Architeuthis species, because I’m also a nature nerd, and this is that rare bit of taxonomic Latin that I can pronounce correctly thanks to watching way too many giant squid documentaries.) 

Now you’re probably wondering about the Elizabeth Dane. Sounds familiar, right? Have you got it yet, or did I distract you too thoroughly with the giant squid? Midnight Saturday night will mark the anniversary of when the Elizabeth Dane was wrecked off the shore of Antonio Bay in John Carpenter’s classic chiller The Fog (the original, released in 1980), starring Jamie Lee Curtis, her mother Janet Leigh, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, and a number of other familiar faces from other Carpenter films. If you haven’t seen it recently or (gasp) at all, there’s no better time than on the anniversary of the wreck of the Elizabeth Dane, April 21st. Text your friends, set up movie night for The Fog. Make it a midnight showing, if you think you can survive the curse…

On The Road With The Starman

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Feb• 20•18

A lot has been written about The Starman currently gliding through space in Elon Musk’s Tesla. Is this a rich man’s indulgence, an ad for his car company, and without real scientific value? Well, yes. But that’s not all it is.

There are so many interesting aspects to this that it took me a while (and some hours gazing at the live stream) to organize my thoughts. First, let’s deal with the whole “no science payload” thing, then we’ll get to the fun and interesting stuff. Could he have packed a small science experiment into the backseat of the roadster? Yes, but given the limitations of “car in space” that would’ve limited what could be included, and I’m not sure that anything he could’ve come up with would’ve added anything significant to our body of knowledge considering that the International Space Station is doing a mind-boggling amount of science 24/7—and has been for years. We’ve sent rovers and probes all over the solar system, so I’m not sure putting science in a suitcase for the Starman’s journey would’ve made much of a contribution to solar system science. Would it have been good PR to include a science package? Probably. For instance, on the ISS science experiments designed by school kids are always popular, so it would’ve been likewise if included in the Tesla roadster—but then Musk likely would’ve had to contend with complaints that he was “using kids” to further his own ends. Also, he admitted that he thought there was a fair chance the Falcon Heavy (remember that—the historic ground-breaking rocket science that actually launched The Starman?) would blow up or otherwise fail, so a really pricey science package might’ve been just burning money. Nobody puts science payloads into experimental rockets; they wait until the tech is reliable.

Yes, but The Starman in the Tesla roadster is still cheesy rich man self-promotion, isn’t it? Well, you can certainly look at it that way. But that’s not the only way to look at it, and it’s arguably the least interesting way of looking at it. If sneering at the Starman makes you happy, go for it. The rest of us will be getting our kicks in a different way. I live streamed The Starman in the Tesla on a 49” TV for hours. The resolution was amazing and the scene was compelling in a way I didn’t expect. The play of light and shadow as roadster’s orientation changed in relationship to the sun and the Earth was mesmerizing. Because this was at the beginning of the Starman’s journey the car is still shiny and I could see the reflection of the Earth spreading out across the body of the car in some shots. That smooth shiny surface which glows and reflects so well will deteriorate in space, becoming pitted by tiny particles and degraded by radiation, as will The Starman himself. So, if you want to see The Starman in the Tesla while they both still look good, sooner is better. Sooner is also better because at some point the Earth is going to move further and further away — assuming the various projected trajectories prove correct—and the lovely views of The Starman “driving” a roadster (“where we’re going we don’t need roads”) with the Earth in the background will go away, leaving The Starman cruising through the blackness of space, with less glimmer from the sun, and the Earth a blue marble in the distance.

In the meantime we have this surreal thing: a spacesuited dummy in a Tesla roadster, hand on the wheel, cruising around the Earth. It’s like some kind of grand art installation in space. Unlike the disco ball recently launched into orbit, it’s less likely to screw up astronomical observations all over the world because it’s not meant to be flashing and it’s not supposed to stay in Earth orbit (where it will actually end up is still a matter of speculation as of this writing). There is nothing very imaginative, delightful, or compelling about a disco ball, but the image of a spaceman in a snazzy open-topped car is the sort of thing that fires the imagination. It’s like an amalgamation of science fiction and fantasy. We have an apparent human in a space suit (science fiction) in a car (earth vehicle) instead of a spaceship. When Whitman wrote “Song of the Open Road”, cars had not been invented. Now we have a wandering Starman in a roadster. There is something compelling about that; perhaps it’s akin to the human desire to fly. As a species we want to soar, we want to go fast and far, we want to go where we have never been, we want to go where no one has ever been: we are explorers in our imaginations. Most of the people living on this planet in the 21st century are explorers only in their imaginations; getting somewhere, especially somewhere new or far is expensive, not to mention brain-breakingly difficult. Most of this planet has not been explored because most of it is under water. We only know bits and pieces of what lies beneath the surface of the blue part of our blue planet. We are learning more all the time thanks to technology, but the ability to go is so difficult that few people have ever been very far below the surface of our oceans, just like few people have left the planet and gone into space. It’s a very wow-ing thing and if it was easy we’d all cruise the depths of the ocean or zip around the solar system — and beyond. If only it was as cheap, safe, and easy as getting into a car, or onto bus. (I am so tempted to write a story about a bus tour of the solar system!)

The Starman in the Tesla roadster is compelling because we can see ourselves in that car cruising through space. We can’t as easily see ourselves in space shuttles, or other capsules — so called “tin cans”— that have been launched into space, or more modern modules launched to the space station. The space station is interesting, but it doesn’t look like home; it’s more like living inside a very big machine. The Tesla roadster is a car. Cars are familiar everyday objects. If you live someplace where you can livestream The Starman then you’ve probably ridden in a car. (There are people on Earth who do not live in industrialized societies with automobiles and tons of technology at their fingertips, but cars are pretty ubiquitous for most other people.)

I think we like science fiction not just because it lets us visit strange and wonderful places in our imagination, but because it makes it easy to do so, or if not easy, then at least something we can easily see ourselves doing. The Starman in the roadster is what we yearn for in our hearts; to be able to jump in the car and go, anywhere. I don’t mean we literally want to drive cars in space; we realize that is physically impossible. The Starman in the car is a powerful symbol, a metaphor, something that captures our imagination and lets us soar with it. We need to daydream, to sit back, relax, and cruise with The Starman. We need to feed our brains with this kind of imaginative image. Yes, there’s all kinds of practical stuff we need to do, there’s all kinds of technological stuff we need achieve. There is always something, and there always will be.  But we should take a little time to enjoy and delight in things that are wonderfully surreal, imaginative, things that make us smile, and dream.

Tune into The Starman. (Live stream) and if you want more, there’s a website, Where Is Roadster, that tracks The Starman and keeps a running tally of all kinds of nifty stats.

Distribution of Gymshoes Music

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Feb• 20•18

Just a quick note here to let you know about changes to distribution of my music, for those who haven’t heard already elsewhere.
Distribution of Gymshoes music to online stores will end in March.  For more info about this and what may happen next, you can click through that link to the post on my Gymshoes Music site.