Recently in Problem Page Category

May 19, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page

Dear Dr. BDO,

I’m trying to write optimistic Science Fiction and I keep getting bogged down in pessimistic apocalyptic visions. What can I do?

Please help me, you’re my only hope.


Pessimistic in Peterborough


I’ve been away for a while, on transit to Jupiter, but taking this scheduled stop-over at Mars to answer a few questions.

Pessimistic, do not despair. Keep writing, keep imagining. Take every obstacle and imagine how it can be overcome. Sometimes it’s a small and obvious leap, a technological advance that inches us forward, or a mindset shift that allows the previously unimaginable. Small things can add up. Take a problem, solve it. Move on. Then tell us about it, write us a story, make us feel happy and joyous and looking forward to the future. If you hit a problem to intractable then swerve around it, perhaps other foundations might need to shift until that one can be cracked.

And never give up.

You can help us imagine our future.

February 10, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : AWOL

Dr. BDO is absent from Big Dumb Object this week. He was last seen jumping on cruise ship heading to the Caribbean, presumably to watch some cricket.

We shall try and entice him back into the fold with some juicy problems next week.

January 27, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Weather

Dear Dr. BDO,

I'm getting slightly fed up with the temperate climate in which I live: rain, snow, drizzle, occaisional sunshine. Maybe I should move to somewhere else, but for various geopolitical reasons none of the alternatives appeal to me. Do you have any suggestions?

Wet In Winchester.

Ahh the weather. In the future we shall not fear the weather! In fact if you have enough money you needn't fear the weather now. Perhaps you could seed the clouds to ensure that rain falls on specific times of the month, although this method is not the most reliable, especially with a huge gulf stream throwing moisture towards you at 200mph. You could perhaps use plenty of fossil fuels and generate as much CO2 as possible, in an attempt to "change the climate", because let's face it any change will probably be better. (Just make sure you live on a hill).

Personally though I have a couple of favourites: firstly go an live in an "orbital" where the climate is man made as is the "world". The Culture have plenty of these knocking around the galaxy, all you have to do is find them.

Secondly, you could live in a dome. This is the approach that Dr. BDO has taken. Geodesic domes are so cool that they will never go out of style, find a plot of land and dome it. Or you could move into The Eden Project perhaps. Or Center Parcs. Either way the climate will be in your control. Good luck!

January 20, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : I Need Satellite TV

Dear Dr. BDO,

All of my favourite Science Fiction television programmes are on Satellite but in these tough economic times I can't afford to pay every month for Sky. What can I do?


Cash-Strapped in Cardiff

Don't despair! First of all, not all great SF is on Sky in the UK. If you have a Freeview box you can watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Virgin1. Then there's Doctor Who on BBC of course. ITV4 showed Jericho. ITV1 had Primeval. BBC1 had Survivors. And so on. In fact Sky only has exclusive rights to a few shows, notably Lost and Battlestar Galactica. If you really want to see these shows you have a few choices: firstly wait until they come out on DVD or BluRay and watch them in a mammoth session, secondly point your very large homemade foil satellite dish into the American ether, thirdly ask a friendly American to tape it for you on VCR and post it to the UK, fourthly watch it online by circumventing any IP restriction using a collection of friendly proxies... or, you could turn off the television set and go and do something else. Like read a book. There's plenty of non-region locked science fiction novels out there.

January 13, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Gambling

Dear Dr. BDO,

I just lost 325 quid on betting that the next Doctor in Doctor Who would be Alan Davies. Have you got any insider tips that I can bet on to claim the money back.

Gambler in Greenford

Oh dear. First of all I'd recommend not betting on such things, or perhaps seek help. In fact not sure what else you could bet on, would the bookies take bets on the Hugos or the BSFA Awards? Probably not. You could bet on the Oscars perhaps. But you're probably best just saving your money and paying your mortgage off. Or investing it in a Space Elevator.

January 6, 2009

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : New Year's Resolutions

Dear Dr. BDO,

I feel like I need to make some Science Fictional New Year resolutions to give me some direction and purpose, but I can't think of any. Can you suggest some?


Aimless in Axminster

Happy New Year! Ahh, the time to set goals and challenge yourself. Okay, so how about setting some reading challenges, as reading is usually the activity to suffer in a modern lifestyle. You could maybe read a short story every day (as John and others have done)? You could maybe try and read a novel a week? You could try and read all the short list nominees for the major awards (Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA)?

And if you're a writer what about writing a short story every week? Or finally writing a novel this year?

That should keep you busy.

December 9, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Can You Name This Book?

Dear Dr. BDO,

Some years ago late 70s early 80s my brotherinlaw lent me a book about people riding the highways to keep them open it was i seem to recall part of a trilogy and contained mutants and a character called catback well i never finished it nor returned it either could you help me to do both with a title or author?

Uncle Plumey

Hello there. Well that's tricky. I've looked and searched and shuffled around the interweb but couldn't find the answer. So let's try the best resource there is, people. Anyone out there know the answer? Big SF kudos to the first person who knows.

December 2, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Christmas

Dear Dr. BDO,

I need to get a Christmas present for the Science Fiction geek in my life, but I know nothing about Science Fiction. What should I get?

Giving In Gloucester

Ahh, tis almost the season to be jolly. Here's a selection of gifts that should go down well.

And you can never go far wrong with classic SF films. Try Blade Runner: The Final Cut in HD

And my personal favourite, books. Lots of books. Finding a book that your SF geek has not read may well be a challenge, but if he is a real geek he'll have a large list somewhere online of what he has read, or a wishlist somewhere of what he wants. So search it out and buy him some Science Fiction Literature.

November 25, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page: Keeping Up

Dear Dr. BDO,

I want to keep up to date with the Science Fiction community. It was nice when there were just a few blogs to read, but then everybody started blogging. Feed readers and RSS made it a bit easier, but now I subscribe to  hundreds of blogs and podcasts and have thousands of posts to read every day. I can't keep up. It's stressing me out. I'll be out of the loop. I need to keep up with what's happening. Help me. What should I do?

Overwhelmed in Oxford.

Let go! There's probably a line by Yoda that fits this, but he always came across so condescending to Anakin that instead I'd refer you to Merlin Mann and 37Signals. The essence of which is that you need to let go of the need to keep up. Refocus. Get Real. Remember the point.

Even a genre with a TV based component moves at glacial pace compared to the internet, let alone the literary component. To be honest, if you didn't read any blogs for a month you really wouldn't miss anything. Find something you like reading and read it. Or don't read anything. It's up to you, you're under no obligation. You won't miss anything. It's supposed to be fun. Don't forget that.

November 18, 2008

Dr. BDO's Problem Page : Writing

I want to write!

Dear Dr. BDO,

I'd really like to start writing Science Fiction but I don't know how to start. Any advice?

Writerly in Wrexham.

This may sound a little flippant, but the best way to start writing SF is to sit down and actually start writing. Don't worry too much, don't edit too much, just write and finish something.

If you want some support and encouragement in book form, I really like The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Cory Doctorow and Karl Schoeder, it's a few years old now but still contains some great advice.

There's also plenty of author's who blog, why don't you start following your favourite author to track down some advice? A few authors who in the past have dispensed some wonderful writing advice are Neil Gaiman, Jay Lake and Jim Van Pelt.

Also read lots of stories, whether they are shorts or novels or Flash.

But most of all, write! Write! Write!

Good luck.