February 19, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #10 “Keo Dandelion Seed” (Submitted 3 Times Since 2012, Never Revised until now…)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line:
Not even I’M certain…I suppose “What we eliminate today may end up saving us tomorrow”????

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
I thought I was saying that while I understand WHY we actively destroy weeds – things like crabgrass, dandelions, hawkweed, and others – what if it turns out that plants we call invasives actually strengthen the domesticated/agricultural plants and our meddling might come back to bite us someday.

Opening Line:
“Chuck Kay kicked a clod of root-bound soil at his younger brother.”

Onward:
The rest of the story is a riff off of the classic Bible story, “Cain & Abel”. Chuck (Cain), the older is irresponsible and despite the fact that it’s not legal, grows marijuana. He’s the “evil” brother. It so happens in this story that DAD is evil, too. Keo (Abel) being the “good’ brother and doing what he’s supposed to do – cultivating select beneficial invasive seeds for spreading as current cash crop plants are dying under the assault of newer and more adaptable pests and invasives – and is also the butt of Chuck’s cruelty and derision.


What Was I Trying To Say?
Like I said, I was writing for a contest; several years ago. My technique wasn’t well-sharpened then. I iterated what I thought I was trying to say above and only want to add that I still think it’s true. Strict evolutionists would say that by removing competition for resources, we are weakening a species; removing the drive for the “survival of the fittest”. Agronomists call it plant competition and instead of simply spraying the weeds away as we’ve done for a long time, there are new methodologies being brought to bear.

The Rest of the Story:
They get into a fight and Chuck is arrested – as was Dad and taken to work in the Vertical Villages and on an asteroid. But before they take Chuck away, Keo is “executed” for the benefit of his family’s opinion and recruited into the invasive seeding program by a robot. While the reader doesn’t know who the robot is, I do. It’s been in a number of stories I’ve written…just never published. Its name is Lagos…

End Analysis:
I tried something here that was perhaps bigger than what I wanted to do. I involved Dad, Lagos, and other external factors when I should have kept the conflict to Chuck and Keo and let it play out between them. With flash fiction – which this was intended to be – the fewer the characters the better. I’ve been tweeting lately that the number of characters has to be limited. In fact I’ve repeatedly done so for the last SIX writing advice Tweets (https://twitter.com/gstewart75?lang=en) and then ignored my own advice!

Can This Story Be Saved?
Yes.

HOWEVER (listen, Guy!) you can’t let it get out of control! Keep the writing tighter than you usually do, drop Dad and Lagos and just let it be between Keo and Chuck. Oh, and don’t change their names from full, Laotian names to American adopted names! Ugh! The first paragraph makes it seem like there are a dozen characters and the reader has NO idea what’s going on!

To work then, and submission immediately afterward.


February 16, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION Chapter 57

On Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. All three intelligences hover on the edge of extinction. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society might not only save all three – but become something not even they could predict. Something entirely new...

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh bowed to the Yown’Hoo, Dao-hi and said, “Primate tribal behavior has roots in the Herd behavior, Mother.” He added, “That’s everything. The Pack will be scouts and muscle. The Herd transportation.”

“Of what use is the Tribe?” Qap, the Kiiote Pack mistress said.

Retired looked at me and ‘Shay, winked, and said, “Any kind of dirty work that has to be done, us monkeys will handle.” ‘Shay made a weightlifter’s pose, I puffed my chest.

Deflating, I said, “I want one thing. Can you give me fifteen minutes to go upstairs?”

“You can’t go up there alone!” Retired exclaimed. The rest of the Triad’s leaders shouted objections as well. I sure wasn’t gonna get any help from them!

I opened my mouth to say that I was going up no matter what anyone said, when GURion said, “I’ll go with him. I think I know what he wants.”

Retired looked like he was about to object then shook his head and made a flicking motion as he said, “Fine then, make your Hajj. We’re moving out. The two of you will have to catch up.” He looked at GURion. “If you aren’t back with us in an hour, I’m blowing the place.” My great uncle nodded, Retired and ‘Shay shouldered their packs and the Triad moved out of the rooms.

That left me and GURion standing in alone. I said, “This is all gonna be slag, right?”

He shook his head. “Elemental atoms. It’s not a simple thermonuclear buried under us. The thing is meant to completely eliminate all traces of extraterrestrial manufacture. It’s so Humans don’t suspect that there are aliens out there.”

I snorted. “A little late for that.”

“Agreed, but there’s still technology here that would hurt the Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote if Humans got hold of it. Not to mention turning it on each other. The three meganationals still don’t like each other.”

I grunted – the American Block, the China Block, and the India Block all controlled vast swaths of Earth’s surface, though “control” is usually used loosely. They were the ones who’d funded the Triads. “You think they’d really go after each other while the Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote are beating us up?”

“Human nature,” he sighed. “What do you want from upstairs?”

“I’m not going to tell you. You won’t let me go.”

He sighed then said, “Let’s go before the Kiiote or the Yown’Hoo nuke the place for us.” He led the way back up through the narrow stairway. Once we were on top – and my heart was pounding and I was gasping – we stopped. “You can rest for sixty seconds. Then we have to go.”

“I’m ready,” I gasped. I followed him into the main part of the old farmhouse and stood in the middle of what had once been the living room. “Can you give some low light?”

“Sure.” The room lit with a very dim, reddish glow, almost like it was on fire. Which it would be shortly. The place was a wreck. It really looked abandoned. It probably was in real life.

There wasn’t much, but then I saw what I wanted. Even in the dark, I blushed. It was stupid and not only would ‘Shay and Retired laugh at me when they found out what I’d come back for, GURion wouldn’t probably help me. But they were significant – and they had been eye-level when I last was here. I was like four or five. Just old enough to walk around the place on my own. But I saw the things all the time and unlike the ones in the Cities, these had character. I walked up to the door that led from the living room to the kitchen and suddenly remembered someone baking. Cake? Cookies? I dunno. I was little. But I remembering it smelling really good. I reach out to open the door…and saw a light through the dirty window over the sink where my aunt had stood that day she’d baked me cookies…

I opened my mouth to warn GURion as the back of the farmhouse began to dissolve.


February 14, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 293

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. Regarding Fantasy, this insight was startling: “I see the fantasy genre as an ever-shifting metaphor for life in this world, an innocuous medium that allows the author to examine difficult, even controversial, subjects with impunity. Honor, religion, politics, nobility, integrity, greed—we’ve an endless list of ideals to be dissected and explored. And maybe learned from.” – Melissa McPhail.

F Trope: Fairy Tale

"Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already because it is in the world already. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St George to kill the dragon."
—GK Chesterton

 Leyla Manghirmalani wrinkled her nose at the overpowering smell of onions and called out, “Jie? What are you doing?”

Jie Busiri leaned back from his dorm room desk, holding a chopping knife and said, “What’s it look like?”

“That you’re stinking up the whole dorm floor on purpose?”

“No, not stinking up anything. I’m calling the onion fairies,” he said it like he was  a little kid.

Leyla shook her head, “Another one of your lame attempts at recreating ancient fairy magic?”

“Hey! That’s not fair! Didn’t I make it rain last week after I did that Lakota rain dance?”

She snorted, “After checking the weather report for three weeks straight and then picking a day even the weather divas all agreed had a greater than ninety percent chance of rain.” She waved her hand in front of her face and backed up, “I don’t want to weep over spilled onion juice. I’ll come back...”

“No! Wait!” Jie grabbed something from his desk and strode across the room, chopping knife in one hand.

Leyla laughed, “If I hadn’t known you since pre-school, I’d have just gone running down the hall dialing 911 and telling them a freshman U of M student had just gone crazy.”

Jie shook his head, handing her a piece of pink gum. “Chew this, it’ll keep your eyes from watering.”

“Why didn’t you just soak them in cold salty water?”

He looked at her like she was crazy and said, “They won’t be magic then, stupid.”

“Hey! Don’t call me stupid! You’re the one they’d throw in the loony bin if they asked why you were chopping onions!” She chewed and stepped into the room and her eyes didn’t tear up automatically. “Hey, it works.”

He blew a bubble and said, “Why do you think I’m doing it?”

“I thought you wanted to be struck by your onion magic?”

He sniffed in disdain and went back to his chopping board. “I’m not interested in helping myself. I’m going to place the slices of onions with a slice of mushroom on top...”
Leyla cut in, “If I get a pain hamburger from Mac’s, can I just put them on and make a Whopper?”

“Ha, ha, ha,” he said, chopping again. “Just wait and see how well our floor does on finals – then we’ll see who has the last laugh!”

They hung out the rest of the night and Leyla helped him place the mushroom and onion slices in the rooms of the people willing to go with his craziness. By the time they were done studying and onion-placing, it was past two in the morning. “I gotta get some sleep,” she said, “I have a chem final first thing.”

Jie gave her a hug, saying, “I made sure I put the biggest onion slice in your room and I piled the rest of the mushrooms on top of it.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” she dead-panned. “Thank you so, so much for your fairly wonderful generosity.”

He smirked then said, “Just you wait, Leyla Higgins, just you wait.”

She smiled at the MY FAIR LADY jab and headed for bed.

Names: ♀Iran, India, ; China, Egypt
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

February 12, 2017

Slice of PIE: North, South, East, West – Beyond the Four Corners of THIS World

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2363. The link is provided below…

Fandom: We Are the World – Our international panel discusses experiences in fandom, including similarities and differences that have surprised them most when attending events and talking to other fans, both on and offline.

Christopher Kastensmidt – of German ancestry, he currently lives, works, and writes in Brazil
Takayuki Tatsumi – Japanese professor and author of SF, in particular, cyberpunk
Arkady Martine – aka AnnaLinden Weller, author and scholar from the US
Ron Yaniv –  publisher of the magazine Chalomot Be’aspamia (original Israeli science fiction and fantasy stories)
Carolina Gomez Lagerlof – works in Sweden as a patent examiner for pharmaceuticals
Ms. Clare McDonald-Sims – a reader and collector of SF books, digests and pulp. “…a serial committee member and volunteer for fan clubs and smaller conventions in Melbourne, Australia.”

Brazil, Japan, US, Israel, Sweden, Australia – good job whoever put together the team!

Confession: I’ve been to exactly three SF conventions, Diversicon (http://www.diversicon.org/), MarsCon (https://marscon.org/2017/goh.php), and MiniCon (http://mnstf.org/minicon52/) all in Minnesota. Oh, I went to one in like…North Dakota, too, once long, long ago. I’m by no means an expert on international writers.

I CAN say that I’ve had two stories performed by the YA podcast, CAST OF WONDERS based in England, I have a time-travel short story in the Scottish SF Magazine, SHORELINES OF INFINITY; I used to be published by eBook publisher, MuseItUp, which is based in Canada.

So I do know a teensy bit about the international speculative fiction community. I’ve read (attempted to read) lots of British and Canadian SF, I tried Finnish SF (Hannu Rajaniemi), and of course, I’ve read SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem; and I just placed SHINE on hold at the library which is a collection of positive SF by writers from around the world. This article at the SFWA site has some interesting comments -- http://www.sfwa.org/2010/03/where-is-international-sf/, but it’s pretty outdated.

More recently, Chinese science fiction, primarily through Chinese-American SF writer Ken Liu, has risen in popularity. He’s won several of SF’s major awards both for his own work and for the translation of the novels of Liu Cixin. Maureen F. McHugh also wrote her first novel CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG in a universe where the US was taken over by China, and won Tiptree, Lambda, and Locus awards.

I find it somewhat strange that for whatever reason, Canadian SF has been lumped together with American SF; though Mexican SF is excluded as something different and seems to be rare – at least as far as I can see. Mexican SF writer Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz wrote in an email, “Beginning in 1990 . . . there was a conscientious intent to create a science fiction community . . . it didn't take root…[and he] sees a boom that is over and a situation where ‘even though all the great Mexican writers have practiced it [science fiction] . . . . [they] are ashamed to say it in public.’…he sees a movement that has disbanded and a genre that continues to struggle to be noticed in the national literature scene.” (http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/terra-incognita-a-brief-history-of-mexican-science-fiction/)

African SF writers look to be getting more exposure in the coming months, starting last year in July in a series of interviews on the website, boingboing: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/14/100-african-science-fiction-wr.html

While many countries with wealthier populations seem to be producing science fiction, what about Iranian SF? Yemeni SF? The ten poorest countries on Earth – all of them in Africa (http://www.cheatsheet.com/business/10-of-the-richest-and-poorest-countries-in-the-world.html/?a=viewall) might come up in the series I noted above, even the wealthiest countries don’t seem to all have an active SF writer. I can’t name a Qataran SF writer off the top of my head, nor a Singaporean SF writer, either. South Korea – the most technologically advanced country on Earth – also seems to be lacking in its production of SF, though they DO have a strong fantasy presence.

What does it take to stimulate a culture to produce fiction that examines the future? What cultures have a concept of the extraterrestrial – and is that concept tied to the “alien” being from somewhere outside the dominant culture? Why did SF die in Mexico, but is now flourishing in China? Where are the other science fiction writers?

Lots to think about. Much more to read. Maybe more to write about…


February 9, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 96: Aster of Opportunity

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Aster Theilen, current Consort of the Mayor of Opportunity, Mayor-for-Life, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap said, “When will we reach the orphan’s quarters?”

“They don’t have quarters, dear; and they’ve been with us most of the time we’ve been down here,” said her father, Abedne Halle-Theilen. They reached the last light in the tunnel. Illumination spilled through an arch from a huge room. As they passed through, they stopped under a ceiling so high, it disappeared into inky darkness. Small, rubber wheeled cars, standing alone or hitched together in trains of two to ten, had been neatly parked, backed into charging units.

In the harsh light, Aster saw dark blue artificial humans on the seats, sometimes cramming six or seven into a single car. They were utterly silent. Her father began, “Be…”

Aster cut him off, “No drama, Dad. This is the saddest day of my life. Let it be for now.”

He closed his mouth and nodded slowly as Aster stepped farther into the circle of carts, crossed it and stood in front of the one on the other side. She bowed to the four Artificial Humans seated before her. They stared at her, neither hostile nor accepting. Their faces betrayed nothing. Though they looked to be in their early twenties, they could be anywhere from fresh out of the vats, to real-time early twenties. Some of the “vat-grown” were created to be life-time companions, servants, and nannies for those who could afford to have them grown. Most had a design lifespan of two decades, though she’d heard that some were granted a span of however many years they could manage to live with the understanding that if they no longer served their purpose, they could be disposed of or simply terminated.

“There’s an entire underground industry that sells reusable intis,” he used the vulgar slang, “or ay-aychs, if you prefer.” He fixed her with a long look, adding, “Seeing you’re in elevated company now, perhaps I should just say, Artificial Humans.”

Aster scowled, “Dad? What’s going on?”

He shook his head sadly, “Nothing. That’s what worries me. I thought you’d be able to make changes in Opportunity; maybe help the Christian community – and the Muslims, Hindu, Jews, and Buddhists maybe even the ay-aychs.” He sighed. “I had very high hopes for you.”

She shook her head, pursed her lips, then said, “I haven’t told you everything, Father.”

“What do you mean?”

She shook her head. “I can’t tell you what’s going on in the Pylon. I don’t want to tell you what’s going on there.”

“Why can’t…”

She held up her hand. “Because it would place you in all kinds of danger. I am doing exactly what you hoped I would do, but it’s not going to happen fast. There’s a tremendous amount of groundwork we need to lay before anything important can happen – and I’m doing what I can until then.” She gestured to the blue faces regarding her solemnly. “They are why I came here with you. I know how much you’ve invested in their lives. Now I need for them to do something for me – I am making a request of them, and of you, Dad, as the Consort of Mayor-for-Life, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap.”

He looked startled then stepped back, sweeping a bow to her. “Then speak, your highness.”

“You’re teasing, but in my place, what I am about to say has the effect of law. It can only be withdrawn or contradicted by my husband, the Mayor of Opportunity.”

“You’re kidding…”

“Not at all, Dad. Members of the Artificial Human community, oppressed by those of us who are natural-born, I request and require,” she turned slowly meeting the eyes of every Artificial Human she could see, then said, “that you no longer take your orders from my father. You take orders only from me – or a duly appointed mouthpiece of mine, who will only act when he or she presents a sigil representing my Voice.” She looked at her dad and said, “Sorry. It’s necessary for the plan.” She spoke loudly, “Please signify your understanding and acceptance of my request and requisition by raising your right hand.” A moment later every hand was raised, every face solemn. She turned to her father and said, “Sorry, Daddy. You’ve been voted out.”


February 7, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 292

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: Humans abduct aliens for nefarious purposes

Strangely enough, GOOGLE will not allow me to search for “Humans abduct aliens”…which gave me the idea for this idea…

Cerys Finch was from England, an exchange student staying with a family in Minnesota. Elias Ian Serano is also an exchange student staying with another family nearby. He’s been trying to get her to go out with him for weeks, ever since the school hosted an Exchange Dinner with Honors Program families and the exchange students at the school.

She thinks he’s cute and all, but he’s not her type. She tries to explain, but he’s insistent and she reported his behavior to the school counselor. That was yesterday…

That night, Cerys is up late and hears noises outside. Going to a backyard window where the family’s house looks out over a state park reserve, she sees wildly flickering lights. Looking down, she sees her host family – mom, dad and three young adult men she’s never seen; older kids who no longer live at home. The five of them have something in a net that is struggling wildly. Hand to her mouth, she sees what she thinks at first is a bear.

Then she sees Elias Ian rush into the back yard. His arms waved wildly, he startles her family and they back up. The creature she thought was a bear throws off the net with help from Elias Ian and bolts for the brush. But it wasn’t a bear – it was wearing something on its back, something that looked manufactured.

Elias Ian looked up , directly at the window she’s standing at. She backs away, gasping and when she steps back, he’s gone. She hurries to bed as her hosts come back into the house, cursing, angry and making lots of noise. She goes back to her room.

The next morning…

Names: ♀ England;                                   

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Soyuz_TMA-14_liftoff.jpg


February 5, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Using the “Mythology” of the Bible as SF Plots

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2315. The link is provided below…

Mythology as the Basis for Speculative Fiction Convention Center 2503A • Panel Does an understanding of mythology make better speculative fiction, and what is its current role within SF writing?

Katie Daniels – author of several supervillan novellas
Mr. Jeffrey Cook – fantasy writer and well-known indie advocate
David Farnell – not certain, but might be the author of DELTA GREEN, a novel based on a popular role-playing game
Sheila Finch(M) – wrote the book, MYTHS, METAPHORS, AND SCIENCE FICTION
Ada Palmer – author of the acclaimed novel, TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING

Great panel, most likely!

So now I’ll throw my two cents in…and maybe try to go to WorldCon 2018 in San Jose…

At any rate, let’s say for the sake of argument (avoiding one) that the general SF community would consider the Bible mythology. Of course there are Christians who are SF writers, most notably Gene Wolfe, but the majority of them are not.

I’ve been considering the use of the parables of Jesus as well as several other Christian stories as a basis for my stories. I’m working on a novel right now called MARTIAN HOLIDAY (if you’d like to read the series as it stands in first draft, go here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/search/label/SCIENCE%20FICTION%20-%20Martian%20Holiday) in which I’m merging the stories of Stephen the Martyr, Esther the Queen, Paul the Apostle, and the writings of Daniel…on a Mars controlled by a United Faith in Humanity where all religions were deemed divisive and outlawed. Oh…and aliens.

I’ve got other ideas as well. Certainly Joseph’s story could be “futurified”. Other possibilities include David & Goliath (which actually shows up without attribution in a number of stories!); Noah and the Ark; Adam & Eve stories somehow get written all time and are on a number of “Don’t you dare send us one of these kinds of stories!” lists; Jonah and the Whale (I tried this once and never sold the story. I’ve eventually be dissecting it in my Writing Advice entries); Daniel in the Lion’s den; Joseph and his Brothers; The Good Samaritan (often appears in stories as a character either flaw or strength…a character of my favorite author has this characteristic. His name is Jason Morgan and if he DIDN’T have it, the series would utterly collapse!); the Prodigal Son; Abraham and Isaac; Kind David’s Confession; David and Nathaniel; Sampson & Delilah; Parable of the Sower (this one has an echo in the American tall tale of Johnny Appleseed); the entire book of Job (though Robert A Heinlein wrote JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE already…); Lazarus; Elijah’s ascension to Heaven; plus the Sermon on the Mount…there are literally hundreds of stories there waiting to be told.

A couple of things, though…

How do you turn these into SF stories and how do you do it consistently?

Ah, there’s the rub. Consistency. Trevor Quachri at ANALOG bounced my most recent story. I like it, but he didn’t. So now what? I sent it to CC Finlay, too and while he said something nice about it, he didn’t take it, either. But was it based on the Bible? Does my writing HAVE TO be based on the Bible? Oswald Chambers had something interesting to say about that in his devotional book, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST: “We are nowhere commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification; we are commissioned to preach Jesus Christ.” (February 1) This is based on John 12:32, where Jesus says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” This happened immediately after his baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit on him in the form of a dove.

Do my stories draw people to Christ? Should they?

I am currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s GREEN MARS. It won the Hugo and Locus Awards, as well as being nominated for the BSFA and Nebula. It’s fascinating and deserves the accolades, but I also find it to be scrappy, full of his opinions on everything from religion to government. With a BA, MA, and a PhD in English. Clearly he’s well-read, but as far as intense study of some scientific field, he hasn’t got anything formal to speak of. Nothing in politics, either. Or psychology, business, or any other field of endeavor that might qualify him to make the sweeping observations he does in his novels.

Yet he won the awards and his work is influential, garnering awards and accolades and it seems as if he’s a sort of 21st Century Frank Herbert, who also had little or no formal training in the sciences, economics, psychology, and never had any kind of degree. He, too, left a deep mark on the SF community.

So – if I want to leave a mark for Christ with my writing, and I am no theologian (like my literary hero, CS Lewis), then I suppose I should just go ahead and do it, eh?


February 2, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION Chapter 56

On Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. All three intelligences hover on the edge of extinction. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society might not only save all three – but become something not even they could predict. Something entirely new...

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

Great Uncle Rion said, “You’re going to have to trust that I am operating from a very long-range, deeply-laid plan.” He turned, sweeping the Triad – fifteen of us with one member killed when we were chased underground, and adding Retired, who was in fact, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh and I’d pretty much figured out that he was some sort of Triad babysitter. “You have to follow me and not ask questions.”

“We have to follow and never question you?” Dao-hi said.

My robot great uncle grinned then and said, “Of course I expect you to question me! What are you, a bunch of robots?”

There was dead silence for an second, then we all busted out laughing.

I had to admire my android uncle, that had been the perfect thing to say. After a good night’s sleep and good food, we were probably ready to go. I said, “So, what’s our departure time?”

Even though he was artificial and made of white plastic, he could do facial expressions. It was sort of creepy. Like the teeny empathetic robots that were really popular before Earth became a late Twenty-first Century Korean Conflict – with us Humans playing the part of the Koreans to the Yown’Hoo and Kiiote the clashing super powers. “Gather whatever it is you wish to take from here. We’ll leave in ten minutes.”

“Why would we wish to take things from this site?” asked Xurf.

“Once we’re ten kilometers away, I’ll give the command and this site will be disintegrated.”

“What? You can’t do that! My family lived here! My dad came from here! If you destroy it, what am I gonna have left?”

GURion tilted his head and studied me for a long time before he said, “You’ve only been here a handful of hours. How can this mean anything to you?”

I had to look down. I didn’t know why the basement of a rundown old farm meant anything to me. All I had was some really vague memories. I looked up, “‘cause I don’t remember my dad any more, except just a little bit. That little bit happened here.” I bit the inside of my cheek then said, “If this is gone and I forget about it, then that’s it. Everything I ever knew about my parents is gone.” I blushed ‘cause I was ashamed. ‘Shay’d lost her family a long time ago. As far as I know, she was an orphan. I didn’t have any idea where the Herd and Pack had come from – by that I meant where Dao-hi, Xurf and Qap came from. I knew where the others had – they’d made them in Dome Home. I looked down at the Pack Mistress and said, “Do you remember your bitch?” I used the Kiiote word that meant the same thing. Kiiote didn’t raise their kids like Human did.

She stretched herself out from her four-legged travel stance, the others doing the same. I could see bones moving under fur and muscle as the upper legs and pelvis flattened and his leg bent, unlocking the tibia and fibula, pulling the toes together into narrow food make for running, it’s wide pads ideal for keeping them from sinking while hunting.

Their teeth sank back into their jaws and the skin loosened a bit as well as the neck and chest sagging a bit, as if they were shrinking underneath. Arms collapsed from long, slender digits to slender fox-legs. Their broad shoulders slid together and their necks bent. As one, they dropped to their feet and their tails went down. Qap said, “We need nothing. We are ready.”

Retired stepped out of the room, then returned with backpacks.  He tossed one each to me and ‘Shay. “Hey!” I grunted. The thing was heavy! He left and returned again, this time pushing a cart with one huge pack on it.

“This, Mother, is for you. It is supplies for you and the rest of the Herd.”

The lesser Yown’Hoo reared up, keening, rushing forward to claim the packs, tentacles whipping as they redistributed them until Dao-hi stood amid a sea of lumpy Herdfolk. She snapped a single tentacle in Retired’s direction and said, “Forgive any doubt I ever had that you understand the dynamics of a Herd, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh.”

He bowed and said, “Primate tribal behavior has roots in the Herd behavior, Mother.” He added, “That’s everything. The Pack will be scouts and muscle. The Herd transportation.”

“Of what use is the Tribe?” Qap said.

Retired looked at us, winked, and said, “Any kind of dirty work that has to be done, us monkeys will handle.”


January 31, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 291

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: Blue Collar Warlock ("I have an idea that most of the mystics in comics are generally older people, very austere, very proper, very middle class in a lot of ways. They are not at all functional on the street. It struck me that it might be interesting for once to do an almost blue collar warlock. Somebody who was streetwise, working class, and from a different background than the standard run of comic book mystics. Constantine started to grow out of that.")
Current Event: “Forgive me for getting a bit carried away. I find it an entertaining exercise to look for those parallels. I simply wonder if the manner in which we tackle the challenges we face in real life is reflected in the way we tackle our virtual battles. As a side-note, I'd also be interested to see what kind of people the Destiny sub consists of.” (http://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/2n3xfc/whats_your_primary_class_and_what_do_you_do_in/)

Rafael Pai-Teles sighed. “Eu vou estar o trabalhar para a Metrô del Belo Horizonte para o resto de minha vida!”

Eduarda Cisota shook her head and said, “Speak English. Your Portuguese is crappy.”

“I can’t work for the Belo Horizonto Metro  for the rest of my life!”

Eduarda said, “What else are you going to do?”
Rafael said, “I can do something else.”

“You can’t do anything,” she said. “Now get back to work.”

Rafael scowled. “I’m worth a lot more than you think I am!” he snapped.

“You’re a kid. Just like me. You’re gonna run the train and I’m gonna take tickets from now until forever. It’s what happened. At least we didn’t get turned into stalagmites. We were lucky to be here when the Donkey Wizard took over Up North.”

“It was the Elephant Sorceress and she turned everyone into obsidian shards,” Eduarda said.

He threw his arms into the air and shouted, “Whatever! I can do something about it!”

“About every living thing being turned into some kind of inorganic obelisk – what can you possibly do?” Rafael crossed his arms over his chest and pouted. Eduarda rolled her eyes and said, “That didn’t come out how I meant it to come out.”

“How did you mean it, as a compliment?”

“No, but I didn’t mean to sound so...” as she spoke, a train roared into Carlos Prates Estação.

“I have to go now! I’ll tell you what I can do later!” he shouted.

She watched him run after the train where he was a porter. His father had been a physicist in the Aryabhata tradition, dealing with solar energy and, accordingly, solar weapons. He’d died when the Wizard or Sorceress or whoever turned life to stone. There was some Christian writer who’d written of a fictional sorceress who had done then, but she didn’t know who. The train started to pull out and she cursed. Now she’d have to...As she watched, the concrete platform under Rafael’s feet shimmered, then appeared to be a mound of living tissue – like a wart or pimple or something equally disgusting. As it rose though, it allowed Rafael to step easily on to the train. She rubbed her eyes and when she opened them, her long-time friend was waving back at her, grinning ear to ear as he pulled from the station.

Names: Brazil; Brazil

January 29, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #9 “Late Archaic Unicorn” (Submitted 8 Times Since , Never revised)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line: What if unicorns were real?

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?): If unicorns actually existed at one time, what would we do if that history was actually protected information of Aboriginal peoples everywhere?

Opening Line: “Tierra Land had seen the images a thousand times, but never live.”

Onward: From there, my main character meets a handsome stranger – he shows her his painting, they go on a date and agree to write a paper together. Pretty simple. Some might say, “Where’s the rest of the story?”

What Was I Trying To Say? That there are things we think we know, “There’s no such thing as a REAL unicorn!” when the fact is that science and scientists don’t know everything – and that there will, in fact be some things that we can’t know.

While saying that there are things we might never know seems antithetical to the definition: “a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe” (Wikipedia) nowhere does it mention infallibility – and no scientist anywhere can say with certainty that the science of ANYTHING is settled. It was once settled that the speed of light was a constant and a mathematical symbol created for it – as in E=mc2 (where c is a constant representing 300,000,000 m/s), but it’s just as well known today that the speed of light is not always constant… https://www.sciencenews.org/article/speed-light-not-so-constant-after-all.

The definition above absolutely intends to mean the first definition of “enterprise” – which is “a project or undertaking, typically one that is difficult or requires effort”, but the authors also noticed the second definition: “a business or company”, which is ALSO what science is; and what the current commander-in-chief has some experience in dealing with…

The Rest of the Story: It’s a short-short, a bit over two thousand words long. Too long for flash, but short enough to say what I wanted to say – without going on to have them involved in some kind of intrigue, love drawing them together and making it into a 10,000 word novella. It’s not what I was interested in doing. I just wanted to pose an interesting thought, sketch an image, and have something interesting happen. Could I pad it? Sure! But that’s not what I set out to do…

End Analysis: I still like this story, though I thought of two changes I could make: first, I’m going to move sentence from early on page 2 and make it the first sentence. It will set up the story better. Secondly, I’ll give a clearer description of the unicorn in the main character’s painting.

Can This Story Be Saved?  Yup. In fact, I’ll make the changes above today, and send it out afterward!

Rejection 1: 1/30/17