January 17, 2017


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.

SF Trope: “One Big Lie: Authors of works in this class invent one (or, at most, a very few) counterfactual physical laws and writes a story that explores the implications of these principles.”

Badria Al Busaidi shook her head and said, “If you could make one thing true about real space, what would it be?” She squirmed in her tiny tube. The two of them were the only ones awake in their pod and the side of the transport device pressed against her, massaging muscles that hadn’t moved in…she stopped that line of thought. They’d been in space ever since they left Earth. They were two among ten thousand who were on their way to the nearest star system to the Sun, Alpha Centauri A.

Mehrdad bin Abdullah squirmed as well. The transport device that held each of them was only transparent at the top. She could tell from the look on his face that he was pre-occupied at the moment. Eyes half-closed, she sighed and turned away, blinking up a three-dimensional image of what the ship looked like on the outside and where they were in relation to Earth and AC-A. Lots of stars.


Badria found herself wishing that she could sleep the entire trip away. But the biologists had already brought everyone on the ship as close to death as possible. If they stayed that way, there was evidence that they would simply stay dead. After a short pause during which Mehrdad managed to keep his breathing regular until the very end, he said, “All right. Sorry.” She was about to tease him, but he said instead, “The one thing I’d change is that there’d be aliens waiting for us when we got to AC-C.”

“There ARE aliens, Mehrdad! Haven’t you been listening to the broadcasts?”

“Not aliens just like us! Real aliens. Something that’s different.”

“Different how?”

He shrugged and it made a squelchy sound she could have heard from a mile away. Another thing the ship’s captain-psychologists had made sure of is that when you were awake, you were supposed to have every sense stimulated. She’d already experienced the pain of a broken toe as it was set then healed. Mehrdad was nervously waiting for what was going to happen to him to stimulate his sense of pain.

She’d been lucky in that, though. She’d been assaulted by the smell of newly-mown hay. Mehrdad had to endure the smell of burning Human hair. He’d also experienced another version of things coming out of his body when he barfed not long after he’d had his olfactory senses overloaded.

Suddenly another voice broke into their conversation. Badria rolled her eyes and immediately decided she wasn’t going to talk when she heard the American accented English. She could speak English just fine – all of them could. The American could speak Arabic as well, but the ones who’d been awake when she was usually didn’t. Which was not exactly a bad thing – American English had absolutely no music to it. Arabic sounded so flat and dull whenever someone else tried to speak it. The voice said, “Hello? Anyone alive in here?”

She held her breath, hoping that for once, Mehrdad would hold his tongue.

“We’re all alive here, dickhead. Otherwise why would be going to AC-C?”

There was a long pause and the American voice said, “مهلا، أنا آسف. لم أكن أقصد أن تكون مهينة.” He was almost understandable and there was a sort of cute tone to his voice as he said, “Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be insulting.”

“Well, you were,” said Mehrdad.

Badria liked to keep her own counsel, but something compelled her today. She said in Arabic, “You say you want to meet real aliens – but you can’t even keep a civil tongue in your head when you talk to an American! Our civilization is twice as old as his – ours is the one that should be graceful and forgiving. Ours is the parent, his is the child.”

She wondered briefly if the American was going to object or act offended or whatever she expected a child of a self-centered, declining civilization to do. But he said nothing. Mehrdad muttered under his breath and she was about to say something when she abruptly felt tired. “Oh, no!” she managed before she began to drift off into her interstellar slumber...

Names: ♀Afghan, Oman ; Afghani, Oman

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

January 15, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Do Heinlein Juveniles Stand Up?

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 #2306. The link is provided below…

“Robert A. Heinlein published 12 books between 1947 and 1958 that were aimed at young adults. Can children today enjoy them? Let’s take a dive into these books and cast an appreciative yet critical eye over them.”

Brendan DuBois – mystery writer and Alternate History author
Dr. Marie Guthrie – professor at Western Kentucky University specializing in RAH
Dr. Michael Levy – professor at UW-Stout in Children's and Young Adult Literature. Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Writing
Alec Nevala-Lee – science fiction writer, with three books, his short fiction is almost exclusively in ANALOG
Dr. Janice M Bogstad – UW-Eau Claire, Head of Technical Services for the McIntyre Library, academic writer and editor for numerous areas of speculative fiction

Whew. Now THAT is a lineup!

What might they have had to say?

My own personal opinion is all I can go on here, though others have opinions as well. On the AMAZING STORIES site, Steve Fahnestalk notes: “So why should a modern young person read this stuff? My answer is that knowledge—especially of the recent past, sociologically—is never wasted. Although the customs and morés of our society may be altered, it helps to know how people used to (as recently as fifty years ago) talk, act and think. And Heinlein makes that learning painless, in the same effortless way his characters teach us things about what is now surely an alternate future society. Where there is science, some of that is dated too; but the basics of science don’t change. Young people and older people still interact, and fiction—especially Heinlein’s fiction—is a good way to teach yourself (just by reading and absorbing) how people interact with each other. Besides, and I can say this after rereading most of the YA books very recently, they’re fun to read!” later he adds, “Anyway, you should be aware that there are many people both attacking and defending Heinlein. Spend a little time with Google
or Bing; do a little bit of reading outside the confines of this column, and you might be surprised at what kinds of things you may find out—and opinions you may read!” (http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2014/05/rah-front-robert-heinlein-continued/)

As I see it, students – and I work as a high school counselor as well as having been a science teacher for some 25 years – will read what they want to read. While some of it depends on what they “have to” read for school, the rest of what they read is based on word-of-mouth. I’ve never known a kid to buy a book because of an advertising campaign. They were reading the Harry Potter books long before Madison Avenue decided it was a “thing” and leapt onto the boat…or train as the case may be.

The problem I see is that Heinlein has disappeared from school libraries. Even when I worked at Barnes & Noble, I ordered a set of the Heinlein juveniles for the shelves. They disappeared a month later because they weren’t on the “B&N promotional list”. You could order them, but they were not regularly stocked, precluding the discovery of the books by browsing teens. When they did appear, they were relegated to the Science Fiction & Fantasy shelves.

The current publisher of the books has even attempted to keep up with the times, altering the covers to fit the “style” student’s expect on their book covers.

As I write this, The Heinlein Society is working on a graphic novel version of HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL. Eric Gignac has this to say: “…we believe our team to be a great blend of comic industry talent and experience held together by the glue of our love of the genre, the source material, and the writer.”

As parent and parent-in-law of several young adults, I know that graphic novels are where young people do their reading as well. Once they read this though, my concern is that the novels may have disappeared…then what? In answer to the question I posed above, however, I think that the answer is a clear "Yes."

January 10, 2017


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: meet someone “better than me”

Austin Ventura looked at his classic 2001 Fire Engine Red Jeep Cherokee and grimaced. Most likely if he drove out to the school, he’d speed; get a ticket; Mom or Dad would shout at him – and his car would be impounded. He shrugged and started forward.

So focused on himself, he didn’t even remember his best friend since kindergarten – Carlos Rodriguez Cruz. Where was he? Austin snorted – probable out joy-riding. Question there was, with WHO? Carlos didn’t have many friends. He’d told Austin late one sleepover night that he was afraid. Afraid of the Central American gangs that slimed through certain neighborhoods of Minneapolis – that might forcibly recruit him. He was afraid someone would hurt his sister or find out that while his mother was a registered alien, Dad was illegal. He was afraid of all kinds of things. “How’d we ever get to be friends?” Austin muttered and headed for the street. He’d get to the school not long after Paulina would because he’d use his feet – not the car Dad loathed and threatened to have towed away every other weekend.

By the time he reached the school it was a quarter to four and the sky to the east had started to brighten with false dawn. It was the deepest part of the night, quiet in almost every way; the streets empty. When he started jogging, his cell bouncing in his sweat pants pocket, the sound of his slapping Converses bounced off the uniform clapboard façades of the split-entry or brick-faced Cape Cods with multiple dormers.

A dome of light appeared over the roofs of a dozen suburban houses and when he finally turned the first left corner a mile later, he emerged into the parking lot’s brilliant illumination.

Squinting, he jogged past a couple of cars, recognizing both. “Mr. Stanton and Ms. Laxale? Whew! I knew they liked each other, but this…”

He hurdled a low chain fence whose intent to funnel students to cross at the cross walk – it failed miserably. He jogged up to the three-story school, red-tinged concrete in an ultramodern style intended to make institutional buildings look like art.

From a dark doorway, a voice suddenly said, “Took you long enough. No idea why Carlos is always on about your sprint times.”

A second voice added, “Carlos seems to think he’s in good shape, too.” Austin’s heart seemed to stop in his chest as a very shapely young lady stepped out from the shadows. Austin didn’t think he could breathe. He also felt like a seventh grader who’d just discovered sex. Carlos’ older sister – older by fourteen minutes – was not only the most amazing-looking senior at James Carter High School, but also held the highest GPA and had one of the toughest class loads of anyone he knew. And she held the state record in cross country – boys or girls.

Austin knew lots of things about himself – he’d been battling belittling since he was old enough to remember. He’d also been seeing a psych for almost as long. No matter how attractive, smart and successful people told him he was, he rarely saw all his assets and only his flaws. His perceptions about his place in the world and the things he told himself affected how he valued himself. He usually felt OK.

As she stepped further into the light, he felt himself shrink in the presence of Selita Ebanks twin despite the fact that Carmita Rodriguez Cruz was also deeply religious and easily won any argument against atheist, agnostic, Protestant or amorous teenager. As well as most teachers. Her toughest life decision at the moment was “Stanford, Harvard, or Princeton.” Fists on her hips, she said, “My baby sister tells me you can help us find Carlos.” Her eyes narrowed, “She’d better be right.”

Austin remembered then that she was also taking kickboxing lessons – and that his best friend was missing…

Names: ♂ American, ♂ Mexican, the rest are various…
Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg

January 8, 2017

January 7, 2017 -- A Day That Will Live In Dignity!

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, wedding and indoor

January 5, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 94: DaneelAH & Company at Burroughs

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. They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).

AzAH smiled faintly, crossed her arms over her chest. “What could the Mayor of Burroughs possibly want from the Southern Wastes?”

HanAH said, “The whole planet is a waste – what would the Mayor of one the Five Domes of Mars, possibly want with…”

“He would want evidence that there was alien life on Mars at one time,” DaneelAH said.

HanAH snorted, “What kind of evidence of alien life did Mayor Turin have?”

“Sorry to interrupt the dash into science fiction, people,” MishAH said, “but we’ve got patterning evidence of unusual branching, subsurface markings.”

“What?” said HanAH.

“Tunnels,” said DaneelAH.

“Tunnels where?” said AzAH.
DaneelAH took out his t-comp, his tablet computer then said, “Under Burroughs.”

HanAH snorted, “Of course there are tunnels! There are service areas under…”

“Not just service tunnels. Compared to the other Domes, the tunneling under this crater is more than ten times as dense.”

MishAH scowled, snatched DaneelAH’s comp from him and hunched over it, tapping, swiping, then holding it up to project a holographic image nearly as wide as he was tall. He suspended it then stepped back, his hand going to his hairless blue chin, forefinger and thumb stroking them.

AzAH leaned to DaneelAH and said, “I love it when he slips into his Sherlock Holmes persona.”

HanAH said, “I hate it – he thinks he’s so smart. I’m the security expert – and I’ve even read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and books. Even the pastiches. They’re garbage, really. Seems like if the Domes are going to ban books, they should have started with those stories rather than religious texts. It’s not like I don’t know…”

MishAH cut him off, saying, “Yes, brother. You’re the expert. But sometimes someone looking at the same data with eyes untainted by the paradigms of your profession can see things you can’t.”

“Like what?”

He reached into the hologram with his fingers pinched, then spread them. “See here?” They all looked closely.

“What are we looking for?”

“There are tunnels below the tunnels, other connecting them. There are also shadows beneath the ones that are mapped that indicate there may be a layer of chambers below these.”

“How old are they?” asked AzAH.

“Hard to say.” He fiddled with the images some more, then pulled up a side screen. “These say that the initial tunnels were laid down about four hundred years ago.”

HanAH, DaneelAH, and AzAH turned to stare at the image. HanAH said, “You’re telling me that they’re older than the Bradbury? Older than Human civilization on Mars?”

MishAH held up a finger, though didn’t take his eyes from the document now floating in front of him. “The tunnels are definitely older than most of the settlements of Mars. But they aren’t older than the original missions. At the end of the 21st Century, there were Humans here…”
“True, but those were just science stations and experimental weather and concept testing sites! There were no real colonies back then!”

“That’s what we’ve been told, but I’m reading an old government document.” He cleared the map and enlarged the document. The way this is phrased makes it clear that someone – likely a whole bunch of someones! – on Mars knew about these tunnels. It’s not clear if we made them or not, but we know about them.”

DaneelAH pursed his lips then said, “Then that makes it even more important that we connect with this Paolo and the Hero of the Faith Wars. I think they must be working together.”

“Why do that want us?” AzAH said. MishAH, HanAH, and DaneelAH turned to her.

DaneelAH said, “When we find that out, they we’ll know where we’re going and why.”

Image: http://img11.deviantart.net/c3c5/i/2009/067/9/3/dr__manhattan_by_theknightinhell.png

January 4, 2017

And now for those of you who like PAPER reading (I KNOW it's the same...but you can now get the Kindle version as well as the paper version!):

Those who prefer Nook and other versions, they'll be coming soon. For updates, check here: Image may contain: fire and text

January 3, 2017


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: dark lord
Current Event: “In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half kilometer long propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, ‘Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!’. The message, located next to an artificial lake built in 2007 to serve a hydroelectric station, is made of Korean letters measuring 15 by 20 meters, and is located approximately 9 kilometers south of Hyesan near the border with the People's Republic of China.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/23/north-korea-hillside-homage-kim-jong-un)

Ardian Goodpaster tapped on his tablet-computer – t-comp – and said, “Look, you have to read this!” He held it out to her.

Noemi Zweifelhofer grunted, hunched over her own t-comp. She said, “Doar stai un minut!”

Ardian’s eyes grew wide and he whispered in German, “Ich denke nicht, dass Sie Rumänisch in diesem Augenblick sprechen sollten! Wir sind in genug Schwierigkeiten, wie es ist!”

Noemi finally looked up, her dark eyes flashing and said, “Do you think speaking in English would be all right?”

Ardian snorted, “Better than speaking Romanian. We can get in trouble for that…”

“You don’t think believing that Kim Jong-un is an incarnation of The Dark Lord will keep us out of trouble?”

“I didn’t say I believed it – just that it seems…logical given what Mom and Dad say about how he acted when he went to school here.”

“Your mom and dad were his friends! He hated my dad!”

Ardian shook his head, “I’d probably dislike your dad, too if he stuck my head in a toilet and flushed it…”

“That was a kid’s prank!”

“…fourteen, fifteen and sixteen times on ten different occasions in honor of the illustrious North Korean leader’s birthdays?”

Noemi glared at her best friend, then burst out laughing. Finally she said, “All right, it wasn’t a kid’s prank. But all of our parents agree he was creepy and mean.”

Ardian tapped the t-comp and said, “You really believe that the inscription means what they say it means?”

“‘Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!’?” He stared at it then slowly shook his head. Noemi continued, “I know my Korean is adequate…” Ardian snorted, but she overrode him, “But I’ve cross-referenced this in half a dozen dictionaries.”

“So what do you think?”

She zoomed in on the image of the inscription then swung to the right, saying, “When it’s written like this, left-to-right and with the order of the characters – and given that the archaic form was used intentionally, it reads, ‘Long dominate Kim Jong-un, Darkest of the Dark Lords’.”

“And no one else in the world reads it that way?”

She held out her t-comp, “I wouldn’t say that.” Their eyes met and for a moment locked. Ardian felt the blood drain out of his face. She handed him her own t-comp. “Read it.”

He kept his eyes on hers then finally looked down. The headline was in German, from a recent edition of Die Welt. “Different Interpretation of North Korea’s Paean of Praise?” He read, looked at her.

“Scroll to the next document. Two weeks later.”

He did and read, “Interpreter Found Murdered”…

Names: ; Today, both are entirely Swiss names

January 2, 2017

NEWEST STORY "Rolling Zombie Bones" with my almost-son-in-law, Ryan VanAlstine!!!!!!

Devolution Z: The Horror Magazine January 2017 by [Z, Devolution, Soule, Daniel, Howard, Tom, Crist, Vonnie Winslow, Lairamore, Jason, Johnson, Toni, Stewart, Guy, VanAlstine, Ryan, Mac, Jeremy, Barton, Chance]


My almost-son-in-law and I have a NEW STORY out! "Rolling Zombie Bones"! Today (Monday), it's strictly Kindle; tomorrow you'll be able to get the paper version!

January 1, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “The Baptism of Johnny Ferocious” (Dragons, Knights, and Angels, April 2006) Guy Stewart #39

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, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

The first story I ever wrote for the civilization that had grown in the clouds of a gas giant world called River was “The Baptism of Johnny Ferocious”. In it, I introduced the violent nature of the “skies of River” and the society that had developed. I also established that it was in a disputed area of space called the Brink and that the Confluence of Humanity – who embrace genetic engineering; and the Empire of Man – who embraced Human purity; were in a constant state of tension.

My original intent was to examine the foundational difference of Confluan and Imperial societies and the impact that difference had on the lives of the billions who lived in each. In the Empire, you are Human only if your DNA is 65% original Human. If you don’t reach that arbitrary and “magical percentage”, you are considered non-Human and you have no rights. Stan Schmidt, former editor at ANALOG liked this idea.

“Baptism” was the first story I wrote and most likely at the beginning of the period of time I wanted to look at. In it, an independent trader flying an ancient zeppelin gets caught in a brutal storm not long after he picks up an old friend of his, a pirate like himself, who is also Muslim. During the storm, Johnny comes to terms with a faith he had been waffling in and finally asks his Muslim friend if he will perform a baptism using water that is leaking into the zep. Once the service is done, his friend has a coronary. They reach safety and all is well – but Johnny (and perhaps his friend) are changed.

The other stories in the set are, “Prince of Blood and Spit”, “Lost in the Depths”, “Into the Deaths”, and “A Choice of Sunrise”(after the Reunification of Humanity). Eventually, I’ll merge them into a novel called IN THE SKIES OF RIVER, but until then, I’m going to keep on exploring the place one story at a time. A different one called “The Daily Use of Gravity Modification in the Rebuilding of Liberian Schools” takes place in this century before Humans leave Earth for interstellar space – but the main character has the most important impact on that future. Perhaps he is more important than either the Emperor or the Confluence Parliament.

The second most important thing was that long ago, when I got serious about my writing, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t write about disposable worlds. A disposable world, like a disposable diaper, was made for a single use then gets thrown away. SF writers – in fact all writers – have been doing this since the first writer pressed a stick into soft clay. We make up places in order to make a point. I have no trouble with that and have done it myself, but it seems both wasteful and vaguely obscene to create an entire world, use it to make some mundane point, then toss it away and make another one. Aside from the fact that I enjoy reading series of stories, it seems to me to be a brand of hubris to tell a story then assume that there’s nothing else to say in that world.

In “Baptism”, its greatest strength is the world I created. But secondarily, even though the story is a decade old, Johnny Ferocious keeps coming back to me, asking if I might include him in another adventure.

As I’ve written before, creating sympathetic characters is not my strong suit. In fact, in a review of my most recent story, GH says, “The story never makes her very likable, so we don’t much care what she chooses.” (http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2016/12/The-Last-Mayan-Aristocrat-Guy-Stewart.html)

Johnny Ferocious IS memorable and sympathetic. We’ll see where I can go from here – both in creating believable stories, in a well-constructed world, with sympathetic characters!

December 29, 2016


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)

Kashayla glared at him, then gave a sharp nod, “Fine then. I won’t kill you tonight. I’ll wait until after you tell us what we want to know.”

Retired held her harsh gaze, then barked a laugh. “Just like your mother! Damn, you’re tough!” He sobered suddenly, “I just hope you’re as smart as she was. We’re going to need a new genius geneticist on our team.”

I’m pretty sure both of us looked stunned, because after busting out another guffaw, he pushed himself to his feet and headed for another room. “I’m going to bed. And so are you two.” He pointed suddenly, once at each of us, adding, “Separately.”

I don’t know about ‘Shay, but I suddenly found myself blushing about six shades of red…

‘Shay walked past me, slugged me – hard this time – and said, “How else do you think I sleep?”

When she was gone, Great Uncle Rion said, “Ouch.”

“Shut up,” I said. For a second I looked at him. How much could I tell him about myself? How much did he need to know? How much about myself did I understand? I sighed and said, “Sort of.”

“Only ‘sort of’?”

“I’m kinda complicated.”


I looked away from him, feeling my cheeks heat up, and shrugged. “I dunno.”

GURion nodded slowly then said, “Maybe you do need to go to bed.”

I looked up, glaring and opened my mouth. But for whatever reason, all I saw in his android eyes was compassion. “I suppose I’ll need a good night’s sleep in order to have enough energy to understand whatever crapload Retired is going to try and force feed us.”

GURion just studied me for a while. I felt like turning away at first, then stood up straighter. If he wanted to have a good long look at me, then fine. Finally, he said, “Not exactly. You’re going to need all the strength you have to believe.” He turned and left the room, gesturing silently to a door. When he was gone, I opened it. The room was small, but the bed looked clean, there was a table alongside it, and an e-reader – a full-sized one that looked like it was new. I took off the boots, went out to the bathroom I’d seen, and then went back to the room. It had been an intense night with all kinds of weird feelings churning around inside me, so I took care of the one need I could, then fell sound asleep.

I woke up the next day to someone tapping on the door. I sat bolt upright, swinging my feet to the floor before I was really awake. Rubbing my face with both hands, I scratched my head. Even with short hair, I think I needed a shower. I definitely needed to use the bathroom. I said, “Come on in.”

‘Shay walked in. She looked clean, her tight curled hair still flat against her head and wet. She said, “You look crappy.”

“Thanks for the update. I usually look great the second I wake up.”

She smirked. “I know that that is a total lie. In the past eight years, I’ve come to realize that you always look lousy when you first wake up. But I do have good news.”


“Your great uncle has coffee – the real thing! – and he said he’s got both an explanation and a plan.”

“About time,” I said, standing up. I’d slept in my clothes, which were still filthy from being exploded on and rolled around in a field with me inside of them. Even so, I tried to straighten them out.

“Don’t worry how you look. The Pack and Herd won’t notice and I’ll make sure I sit as far from you as I can.” She led the way out.

“What about Retired?” I muttered.

“Don’t worry, he likes you no matter what you do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, then walked into the meeting room. I was the last one up. Shoot daggers at ‘Shay let me know that she’d done it on purpose.

Fax slid up beside me and growled in his lowest register, “Don’t worry, I love you no matter how bad the stench. In fact, I remember you smelled a lot worse after you…”

I elbowed him before he could launch into his baked-beans story. That always sent the Pack into paroxysms of laughter. How he told it. The real story was…

Retired cleared his throat and even though his face was completely still, the look in his eyes told me he’d be on the floor laughing if it would have been a normal day. But it wasn’t. He said, “The time has come to lay all of our cards on the table.”

“What?” Dao-hi exclaimed, pulling her tentacles from their sheathes with a rude sucking sound.

Retired held up a hand, bowed his head, looked up and continued. “Just the facts there – bare bones. At this time I’m not looking for discussion, because frankly, there’s nothing anyone here – except Rion can add. Most of the plan was laid out decades ago by minds far greater than yours or mine.” He took a deep breath, held it, and gestured. One of the walls of the apartment vanished, replaced by an orbital shot of Earth. “Once the condition of the three societies became apparent – the reduction in the breeding imperative of the Kiiote, the catastrophic increase in heart-fiber deaths among the Yown’Hoo, and the unintended extermination of Humanity, it became clear to a group of all the Intelligences in this part of the Milky Way that if something didn’t change, there would be NO Intelligences left in approximately four hundred Human years.” Stunned silence. Even GURion leaned back against a wall.

“In order to stop this…Extinction Event…an assembly of scientists, philosophers, technologists, business beings, and spiritualists of all the belief systems of the three Intelligences was held in secret. It was clear to them that the eventual destruction of their peoples would bring about a Dark Age that none of them were likely to escape from. The Triads were proposed for a single purpose.” He stopped talking. None of us moved.

I didn’t even breathe until Qap said, “Prove that if we worked together, we could accomplish something none of us had managed to do apart.”

Ali-go, a Herd male I’d only known to speak one other time, said, “gMod, faster-than-light, fusion – we have all of those. There is only one thing we have not created,” he paused. Right then I knew he was going to be a Herd-father someday. He had the flair for the dramatic that was required of the males of their species. “Immortality.”