OLSEN: Adaptive Reasoning



Pluto, the Roman god of death and wealth, drove the theme for the Pluto Planetary Anthology. It gave me a great opportunity to merge interesting themes into a new red spiritual smoke on black background with copy spacestory. My story, Adaptive Reasoning, let me explore how to anticipate and welcome death without fear, as well as how to come to terms with not being fully human or alien. I also integrated ideas on how thought patterns can block understanding. Just as an up-front point, I’m not going to spoil anything in the story here, so don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet.

About half my stories seem to be written for a specific market or anthology. Some have been steampunk themes, others science fiction in a shared universe, and one anthology wanted stories with chickens. For me, having some constraining rules for a story helps me to put together an idea and outline faster. I read about a study once where people who were given barely enough tools to complete a job succeeded faster than people who had extra tools because the second group spent time trying to figure out how to use all the tools. Telling me to write 5,000-10,000 words within the limits of a particular Planetary Anthology is easier for me than starting from scratch with no idea at all where the story will go.

Adaptive Reasoning is science fiction, which ties into my engineering background. I’ve been a software engineer since shortly after dirt was invented, so technical details are my forte. One of the interesting things with my story is that it is set chronologically before the name Pluto was assigned. This is the sort of thing you discover when you do technical research for a story. I had to work out what to do about that to properly restrict usage of the planet’s name until it was named.

1193_pluto_natural_color_20150714_detailYes, I still think of Pluto as a planet, as is proper. There’s a nice thing about standards and naming conventions. There are often enough to choose from that you can pick your favorite standard. Science is never settled because of how science works, and that’s where it’s fun to play with ideas by mixing what could be real with a touch of pure imagination like aliens or faster than light travel.

I enjoy working with hard science in stories. There are a lot of cases where a story has to bend the rules of reality, whether for plot points, or to make certain impossible things possible. For instance, I make use of how tech equipment decays over time in Adaptive Reasoning, yet in another story called Learning to Run with Scissors in an unrelated science fiction anthology, I’ve set up equipment that runs properly after being turned off for a million years. That survivability is pretty unlikely, but people can forgive such things in the name of a good story if you give them a reason to believe. It’s all about entertainment.

If you know much about stories, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve talked about scene, setting, science, and even theme, but I haven’t really mentioned characters. Without characters encountering and solving problems, you don’t have a real story. Rest assured that problems occur and emergencies loom in Adaptive Reasoning. I’m a fan of action-adventure pulp stories. I toned down the adventure this time and ramped up the emotional tension instead since I wanted more of a thinking story with a more sedate but satisfying ending that met the themes I’d been given. You be the judge, of course.



John edits and writes speculative fiction across multiple genres, and loves stories about ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things. He hopes to entertain and inspire others with his award-winning stories as he passes his passion on to the next generation of avid readers.

He loves to create and fix things, whether editing or writing novels or short stories or working in his secret lair equipped with dangerous power tools. In all cases, he applies engineering principles and processes to the task at hand, often in unpredictable ways.

He lives in Utah with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children and a constantly changing subset of extended family.

Check out his ramblings on his blog at https://johnmolsen.blogspot.com/ or visit his Amazon Author page here to see his recent publications including his Riland Throne fantasy trilogy: https://amazon.com/author/johnmolsen/


You can get your copy of Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series: Pluto right here: Pluto and check out the rest of the 11-book series here: Planetary Anthology Series.

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