Alchemist and Alien (Twitter Microfiction)

I just started a small series of story snippets on twitter. Just look for #AlchemistAndAlien if you’re interested to hear about a random encounter between … well, an alchemist and an alien, obviously.

When I started reading chapter 4 (“Aliens”) of “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan today, my head decided on randomly combining it with some other project ideas and I thought it might be fun to explore this concept a bit.

It might not be microfiction in the truest sense as I don’t know how long the story will be, but I’ll try to make most snippets work as stand-alones.

 

 

 

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Interstellar Butterflies

Surrender to the universe, Earth is just the start

Fall into the directionless, Earth is just one of many worlds

Touch the veil of tomorrow, Earth is just one dot of the line

Ride on the back of meteors, Earth is just as small as you now feel

Butterfly wings of nebula to straddle void and vertigo, Earth is just your home.

 

(Trying to continue reading “Earth in Human Hands” while listening to Hans Zimmer soundtracks and failing because my brain got distracted by pretty associations.)

 

 

SciFi/Space Soundscape (Creating an Atmosphere with myNoise)

What is better than reading or writing about space? Immersing yourself in a matching atmosphere while doing so. Put on lights that reflect the mood of your literary adventure (or academic endeavour) and turn on sounds that carry you across the cosmos. Listening to music can be distracting, especially if it contains lyrics, but how about a gently rumbling Warp Drive or electric winds humming in tune with the fish tank on your space station?

I bet most of you have heard (of) noise generators online by now. My favourite one is myNoise*, which has a lot of really cool features. If you donate a small amount, you get some more, like stacking several sound generators in a convenient mega generator. But even with the free version you can listen to more than one generator at the same time, you just have to wait a bit in between starting them.

If you love Star Trek and science fiction or space in general, there are some generators you might enjoy in particular:

I like to pair one of these with Distant Thunder (Thunder and Rain), Church (Beatae Memoriae/All Souls’ Day; I disable the sliders that have voices), and occasionally Cat Purr*** (Furry Friend).

There is also a huge amount of technical noises if you enjoy this kind of environmental sound. I’m more a fan of combining space-travelling ambience with natural sounds, like the aforementioned thunder and rain, or a Japanese garden, water flowing in a cave … it gives me a sense of calm anticipation, like exploring the vastness of space and a serene/solitary planet side at once – or sitting in the arboretum/experimental garden of a spaceship, reading, dreaming of rainy days. The feelings I get from these combined atmospheres can range from carefree relaxed curiosity (great for studying) to sweet aching loneliness in the face of a cold, dark stretch of empty space and feeling like none of my friends understands the way space touches me.

Three other reasons why I love myNoise:

  1.  All the generators have nice descriptions, e.g., about the recording process, the intended atmosphere, … and warnings about negative effects on some (if you are sensitive, check the descriptions first on generators from the “Brainwaves” section!
  2. When a user comments on a particular generator, their current settings are saved as well and you can click on the blue heart next to a comment to listen in.
  3. The “animate” feature, which somehow randomizes around your current settings so you can listen longer without tiring.

When you want to return or look back to your home planet, you could check out the generator called Planet Earth, which “relies on a subset of the Golden Record tracks” (and sounds quite chaotic when all sliders are turned on).

What is your favourite generator? Do you use music or soundscapes for creative writing or painting? I’d love to see your art!

Safe journey.

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* This is NOT a sponsored post (though I would definitely accept sponsorship from this cool page …), I just really enjoy the generators on that page because they help me focus at work and stay relaxed in the office cacophony.

** Names in brackets are the ones you’ll see on top of the generator itself after clicking on the respective link, sometimes they are different from the link labels in the overview page.

*** Leave a comment if you get the reference ;)

Northern Lights, First Time

Starfishskies Photography

This autumn I went to Scandinavia, travelling Denmark, Norway, and Sweden for two weeks. It was cold and rainy and we were thankful for a car and warm cabins. One night in the Telemark region the sky cleared halfway and I got my first glimpse ever of the northern lights <3 It was a shapeless green glow in the distance, but very distinct. I did not have much time to experiment with exposure time because the clouds came back, but despite the blurriness I like how this picture (which you might have seen on Instagram already) came out, northern lights and big dipper.

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Wording

Lately I’ve been thinking about metaphors (nothing new about that in itself) and how the words chosen when talking/writing about science, ethics, and environmental issues might influence the reaction in people and their willingness to reflect and act. It’s a big field, from biblical wordings (and their translations) about dominion, usage, and stewardship of the earth to modern capitalistic conceptualisations of human beings as a resource. Words matter. Some are dark matter. To achieve the desired effects, careful wording is essential. Then again, words are easily employed to manipulate opinions and emotions. Where is the line between gently steering people via purposeful education into the direction with the most promising outlook for our species as a whole and the planet we keep changing, and blatantly misusing this tool to enforce a scientific world view on the brink of turning into an ideology to counter the ideologies deemed more harmful, to manipulate people into sacrificing the freedom of forming opinion and ruminating and coming to good conclusions based on knowledge, not fear and force? How can we use words to make people wonder again and delight in discoveries? How to break new ideas to our kind so often afraid of change and the vasteness of the cosmos? How to make people feel involved?

 

(Also, I hardly make any progress reading my books at the moment because my mind strays to all these side tracks of thought. Tonight’s rambling is presented to you by the introduction of “Earth in Human Hands” by David Grinspoon. You should see the crazy stuff Carl Sagan does to my brain … he did metaphors so well. Normally I’m a quick reader, by the way.)

Space Stuff Comping Up! (Reading List and Poetry)

I spent autumn getting back into my beloved science fiction and space in general.

Books I started reading:

  • The Tower and the Hive (series, sequel to the Talents trilogy) – finished two of five volumes. The Talents-universe Anne McCaffrey created just speaks to me with its unique atmosphere, slow and steady but still energetic pace, nostalgic feel, and threads of hard fiction (e.g. thorough description of life in domes on a Jupiter moon) among the crazy.
  • Spacefaring: The Human Dimension by Colin Phillinger; read the first few pages. Lovely blend of space exploration and psychology, as far as I can see. Not an easy read for tired evenings, but maybe for the upcoming holidays.
  • Cosmos, paperback version of Carl Sagan’s classic. Currently in my backpack, but as with the book above it needs some time and quiet to be truly appreciated. Hard to read on the train, but his wonderful command of metaphors and the like makes it worth the slow read an contemplation. When I find a seat in the mornings I try to read a few paragraphs to set the mood for the day.

I haven’t started Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophsics for People in a Hurry yet, but I’m looking forward to it as I thoroughly enjoy his (and his colleagues’) insights on Star Talk Radio.

My wishlist for Christmas contains mainly books, from Earth in Human Hands to Broca’s Brain.

Reading inspires me to write. I finished creating a series of haiku-styled factoids about our solar system which I’ll post as soon as I’ve decided whether to post them separately or in one big post. Apart from this I started collecting bits and pieces of thoughts on my reading material. I’ve been toying with some bigger ideas for a few months but they are not solid enough yet, though I might post fragments on their own.

 

The Pink Watch

When I was a child, my paternal grandfather (now long dead) gave me  Barbie branded watch. It might have been for my birthday, I can’t remember. I owned a few Barbie dolls, but I was not very interested in pink stuff. The only thing I liked about this watch was the fact that it had a little button that made the face of the clock light up, in this eerie green glow common to glow-in-the-dark stars.
After a few weeks the button and the light stopped working, maybe the battery voltage was too low, and the watch ended up in the kitchen drawer where my mother kept watches we children had outgrown and ones that needed fresh batteries or bands.
I wonder if this old pink Barbie watch still exists somewhere. My fascination with glowing things and my dislike for too much pink definitely have persisted.