July 27, 2018



July 24, 2018


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.

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: “In 1953, Isaac Asimov published an article titled ‘Social Science Fiction’ in Modern Science Fiction. In that article he stated that every science fiction plot ultimately falls into one of three categories: Gadget, Adventure, or Social.” This week: “Adventure: The invention is used as a dramatic prop. It may be the solution to a problem, or it may be causing the problem itself, but the main focus is on the caper and how the invention's presence helps or hinders it.”

Keven Mean floated free of the International Space Station and turned so that he could look down on the BA 330 module that had just been connected.

Beside him, following NASA protocol, his fellow cadet Brooklyn Kukk floated. She said, “They say it’s haunted.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Keven asked. He was self-conscious of his Brazilian accent and tried to imitate a Midwestern American one in his English.

“You must have heard about the accident when they were putting on the finishing touches down on Earth?”


“Yeah,” she said, stopping to breathe for a few moments and move closer to the module. “They were working inside and a section of the floor collapsed – not that it would do anything like that out here in micrograv – but on Earth I guess it was a big deal. Killed him in a freaky way, too.”

Keven jetted forward, pushing his tether out of the way. Behind them, two regular crew of the ISS monitored their work. It was a simple maneuver – attaching a UHF antenna to a socket on the BA 330. Nothing could go wrong. He focused. Brooklyn made him nervous. Aside from the fact that she seemed to like him and was always putting her hand on him, she was also very dramatic. He wasn’t much, despite the reputation of his fellow Brasilias. His parents had been masters at hiding everything – their anger, their joy, their divorce, when they gave him to a state-run orphanage.

“You ever see that old movie, ‘Gravity’?” Brooklyn said suddenly.

Over their headsets, one of the crew said, “This is López, focus on your work, trainees.”

“I am,” Keven said.

 López continued, “Good job, Mean. But just to calm your fears, the Skysweeper Act has done a good job of clearing out all the junk floating around out here.”

“What about the robots themselves?” Brooklyn said as they moved toward the socket. The antennae, delivered – ironically, Keven thought – by a robotic maintenance robot about an hour earlier, floated on its own tether nearby.

“As far as anyone has been able to tell,” López said with a laugh, “There have been no rogue AIs wandering near-Earth space preparing to rain a hail of death down on the governments of the planet.”

Brooklyn gasped then said, “You’ve seen ‘Skies Of Death’?”

López said, “It’s how we pass our nights and days here.”

“So there’s no chance that an AI could spontaneously become an intelligence?”

“This is the universe you’re talking about – there’s no assurances to apply for, none given.”


López cut her off, “You have a job to do, Kukk. Please proceed.”

She snorted and jetted forward. As she did, she muttered, “This was supposed to be an adventure. I haven’t seen anything adventurous since I signed the contract…”

The edges of Keven’s helmet abruptly turned red, flashing on and off and a keening sound filled his headphones.

Names: ♀Canada (P.E.I.), Estonia ; ♂ Aruba, Brazil (Divine)

July 22, 2018

Slice of PIE: THE LAST JEDI vs The Last Christians

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in August 2017 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

My wife and I just finished watching THE LAST JEDI on our new DVD.

I read an article “As Churches Close, A Way of Life Fades” the next day.

Some months ago, I read the book UNCHRISTIAN by Kinnaman & Lyons.

The three very different media intersected in a fascinating way.

Yoda has this to say about Luke’s crisis of faith (in the Force, in the Jedi, in everything he’s ever believed):

“Luke: So, it is time for the Jedi Order to end?
Yoda: Time, it is...hmm, for you to look past a pile of old books, hmm?         
Luke: The sacred Jedi texts!
Yoda: Oh? Read them, have you?
Luke: Well, I...
Yoda: Page-turners, they were not. Yes, yes, yes. Wisdom, they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess. Ah, Skywalker...still looking to the horizon. Never here! [pokes Luke with his walking stick] Now, hmm? The need in front of your nose!
Luke: I was weak. Unwise.
Yoda: Lost Ben Solo, you did. Lose Rey, you must not.
Luke: I can't be what she needs me to be!
Yoda: Heeded my words not, did you? ‘Pass on what you have learned.’ Strength, mastery, hmm...but weakness, folly, failure, also. Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

[The culture of the United States and Western Europe (of course these areas are MOST important and anywhere NOT Western doesn’t really matter (*sarcasm*) has long been sliding away from the kind of Christianity practiced by Jesus, the Christ and his followers all over the world. http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-regions/]

According to the article “As Churches Close, A Way of Life Fades” (7/21/2018, StarTribune, Jean Hopfensperger), “Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.”

Yet the aging of America hasn’t caused a steep decline in the membership of health clubs. Cultural shifts haven’t closed Caribou Coffee shops (though Netflix and live streaming have affected movie theater attendance…maybe there’s a connection?) Oddly, the article doesn’t talk about the loss of a life of faith with the demise of the churches. Rather it notes: “The closings and mergers are leaving a void in communities where churches frequently house child care, senior programs, food shelves, tutoring, and other services.”

I can’t help but note that the collapse of the Jedi order parallels the phenomenal growth of The First Order – and it’s not just among the pillars of that Order, but among the common people. They don’t know who the Jedi are any more. Rey has no idea who the Jedi are, except as a sort of magic or something:

“Luke Skywalker: What do you know about the force?
Rey: It's a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and... make things float.”

Nobody but Rey actually seems to care. The New Republic certainly didn’t employ any Jedi. It attempted to rebuild itself WITHOUT them. Look where it got them (I’m not sure if the writers were trying to be ironic or if they had no idea what the did). But “today”, in TLJ, we don’t NEED the Jedi. Yoda, Jedi master, clearly says as much, Rey has everything she needs all bundled up in herself. Without any training or Jedi writings or Jedi masters, Rey will surpass them because…well, just because. (Though I find the irony delightful and can’t wait to see if the writers bother to raise it up later or if, like the Jedi-less New Republic being blasted out of existence by the New Order, they didn’t notice what they’d communicated.)

Young adults (and old adults as well) are attempting to rebuild the church in the form of a social “ministry” with a massive increase in social services available through the most institutionalized public service: schools. When I was a child, schools provided lunch. Today, the high school I work at provides lunch…and breakfast, after school snacks and programming, nearly-full-service medical care, counseling, psychological care, family planning, and social skills training as well as assistance with job placement, college application, and career resources.

This has come as no surprise to the authors of the book UNCHRISTIAN: “Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.” [p 26]

All of this has mish-mashed in my head into a murky view of what’s happening to Christians here and how the world outside of Christianity is promoting something similar as well. This “new” world view might be summed up as: “You don’t need anyone or anything else. Make your own way – it’s the best way.”

I guess we’ll see both how Christianity in the west (and the rest of the world) fares in the next thirty years and the new Force users starting with Rey (and by implication) some of the jockeys on Casino World (aka Cantonica; the casino itself is called Canto Bight) fare in the next ten years of Disney’s STAR WARS franchise…

July 19, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 129: DaneelAH & Company Enroute

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).

“That much of the legend is true,” said Stepan Izmaylova. “I kept the children safe from a crazy mob intent on fighting a turf war around them. The part that isn’t true is that they were just a couple of gangs; hopeless kids, sons and daughters of immigrants who’d come to Mars to start a new life and found that it was just more of the same thing. Even with the United Faith in Humanity as a foundation, they felt just as helpless as they had when they lived in Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Communist countries back on Earth. The ‘united faith in humanity was just one more broken promise – and I had planned to tell everyone on Mars the story.”

AzAH shook her head, “Stupid expectation! They should have known better…”

Stepan smiled. HanAH snorted, saying, “You-fee wasn’t any better than any other religion. Worse if you ask me. At least if your deity didn’t answer your prayers, you could claim it was busy or had other, more important things to do. But the entire foundation of the United Faith was the assertion that Humans are essentially good and that without ridiculous constraints about ‘worship’ or ‘service’, they’d usually do the right thing and help each other.” He breathed a profanity under his breath. AzAH slugged him, though it was only half-hearted and she was more disgusted than angry. “Artificial life has seen precisely how exclusive the ‘Human’ banner is and who, precisely is allowed to fly it and claim its benefits.”

DaneelAH stared at his vat mate for several seconds before saying, “All the more reason to both get rid of You-fee and go back to all being Human together…”

AzAH snorted this time, “That’s a myth. Humanity has never been ‘together’ – except short after creation or the victory of Sapiens over Neandertal. Shortly after that, Saps began to fight over skin color; and most recently not only have they continued to fight over religions, they now fight over the percentage of unmodified DNA that makes a person Human.”

HanAH said, “All of this will be academic if we don’t get out of Burroughs. You have a mission to accomplish,” he gestured to DaneelAH. “You have to gather the evidence, then present it to the Mayors.”

“I can’t do the presentation. I’m not Human.”

“What about Stepan?”

HanAH glanced over his shoulder toward the muffled noise of a crowd. “If he survives the day, then you need to have him be the spokesperson. Until then, we have to go.”

MishAH hadn’t spoken since leaving the roof. Now she said, “We have no idea where to go.”

“I can get you there,” said a voice. The four of them spun around. QuinnAH held up both hands. “Hey, I’m just the messenger! If you don’t want the help, I’ll go!” He turned.

“Wait!” said DaneelAH, MishAH, and AzAH said in unison. QuinnAH stopped. MishAH continued, “We need to get out of here, but aren’t you worried about Stepan?”

QuinnAH turned, glanced at the crowd, then said, “He’s a big boy. So am I. We can take care of ourselves. You can’t. You want my help getting down to Port Exit or not?”

HanAH said, “Not,” and turned to walk away.

The other three ignored him and walked up to QuinnAH. DaneelAH said, “We’ll follow you.”

QuinnAH peeked around them at HanAH and said, “Have a nice trip. We’ll meet you at Port Exit.” He started walking back into the warehouse. Three of them followed him.

HanAH glared, looked into the distance, cursed and follow them inside. He started when the boy stepped next to him from the shadows. “Following the herd, eh?”

“Shut up and move.” HanAH was certain he heard the boy snicker and raised his hand threateningly.

DaneelAH stopped as AzAH and MishAH kept on. He said in a low voice, “Hating him is like heating ourselves. He’s more like you than any of the rest of us.”

“What?” HanAH exclaimed. His blurt echoed from the distant walls of the warehouse. “I’m nothing…” DaneelAH shook his head and walked away, leaving HanAH to stare after the group. For an instant, he considered making his own way out of Burroughs, wondered how his vat mates could possibly survive without him and lengthened his stride. “I’m nothing like that brat,” he muttered, at the same time wondering at the weakness of his rebuttal.

July 17, 2018


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.

Eske Astergaard stared at the subject. She shook her head hard. He wasn’t a subject – he was a person. She said, “How are you today?”

Azwan Marjan floated in the tank of lagoon water. Around his neck was a frill which pulled oxygen from the water. Glaring at her, she had no need for mythical telepathic powers supposedly belonging to merfolk.

Pursing her lips, she snorted softly then said, “Being rude isn’t going to help your case.”

Azwan opened his mouth and even though she heard nothing, mesh in the tank picked up his ultrasonic pulses and translated them into English. He said, “What kind of case do I have? I’m it. When the science team looks at the endless failures of every embryo but mine, they’re gonna pull the plug on the whole project and this will be it for me.”

She bit her lip to keep from replying. Holding her breath, she counted to ten then said, “At least they’re not talking about euthanizing you anymore.” Wrong thing to say, even though it was true. The Supreme Court had decided that he was both intelligent and protected by the Endangered Species Act. She was pretty sure he’d been following the case. He had access to the internet through a specially designed computer.

Instead of talking, he flipped her off, spread his foot and hand webs, bent at the waist in that weird, snaky way of his and dove back into the lagoon. She sighed. She had no idea what he was going through – not in any real way. She waited to see if he’d get over his snit, then left the lab, yawning. She had a sunset date with one of the lab assistants. It was just what she needed to get the image of him peeling out of his Speedo as he’d dived into the lagoon.

The date had flopped pretty badly when the assistant appeared to expect a return on his meal investment that she didn’t think was commensurate with its quality. He’d probably get over his sprained wrist. He’d also get over his mild threat if she ran into him again. Not only had she competed in the Mixed Martial Arts tournaments during her stint in the Army, she’d also taken up fencing and had gotten a bit of notice on the mainland before she set off for the Black Lagoon Project and Commander Fitzwilliam had been begging her to do some workout time with him and his own rapier.

Allowing a faint smile, she was almost back to her barracks apartment when a masculine scream echoed off the cinderblock labs and quarters of the Project. Security would react, she was pretty sure. There wasn’t a huge amount of crime on the island. They were mostly bored or studying for their undergrad exams.

A second scream, entirely different from the first rang through the site. She’d winced. Scowling, she turned back to the town. She’d winced because most of what she’d heard had been pitched beyond normal Human hearing. She’d clinched her spot on the research team because her hearing extended a bit more into he ultrasonic than average. The third scream made her stagger.

Only one creature on the island could produce a sound like that – and he should have only done it underwater. Cursing, she ran. Azwan must have stumbled on his carefully guarded ability. Letting the vulgarities, curses, and various blasphemies blur together, she sprinted toward the screams…

Names: ♀ Indonesia; Denmark

July 15, 2018


Using the Programme Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki Finland in August 2017 (to which I will be 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 Programme Guide. Likely this will be the last topic lifted from Helsinki as I’ll soon have access to the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose California in August 2018.  That link will be provided below. As it is, this final entry will draw from the programme, whose link is provided below…

Morality of Generation Ships: Is it moral to send a group of colonists away on a generation ship to colonise a distant world, knowing that the children and grandchildren who will be born on board that ship (and on the destination planet when it is reached) will not have had a say in the choice? They will be forced to continue the mission, and try and make a life on a possibly unsuitable planet, whilst the people who were willing to take on those risks for their descendants will be long dead and not have to live with the decision.

Samuel Penn: development manager, amateur astronomer and science fiction fan (also worked in AI), Irish
Geoffrey A. Landis: American scientist at NASA John Glenn Research Center, science fiction writer (two time Hugo award)
Sirocco: PhD in physics, working as a fusion plasma physicist, (although was also a rocket scientist for a time), after some casting around, seems likely that she works for the Serbia-based Fusion Education Network…
Janet Catherine Johnston: American Janet Catherine Johnston is a scientist and fiction author (among other things)

I spent some time researching the nationalities of the participants above to prove a point: at some time in their past, some adult brought some child into the world in a place freshly colonized entirely without the child’s consent or input into the decision.

In fact, unless you currently live in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, your ancestors (however distant) forcibly brought one of your ancestors somewhere they’d never been before and they bore children in a place they had no way of knowing more than in passing. Even if they waited until they were the ripe old age of thirty (highly unlikely that any person capable of passing on their genetic heritage would wait that long; even less likely that a child born to such an aged parent would have lived through childhood unprotected by them…)

This discussion seems a rather…21st Century, liberal, “everyone must have a voice and a say, and if there’s dissent of any sort, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so we just won’t do it” kind of discussion.

I’m fairly certain that none of the ancestors of the participants – or even the ancestors of the person that proposed this session considered the morality of colonization. Of course, that’s one of the reasons we have the world that we have today and people who have no business having a say are attempting to pin their opinions on others who have no idea what they’re talking about. Not to say that colonialism is dead. I think one of the reasons the Brits are protesting the American president (even the exceptionally popular Obama made a couple of embarrassing mistakes and garnered a bit of protest from our Colonial Owners (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/president-obamas-biggest-british-gaffes) is because one or two of them think we should all be brought back under Commonwealth Rule for a bit of finishing into fine, British Citizens (the first thing they’ll deal with is lazy American spelling problems! https://www.quora.com/Do-the-British-consider-the-American-spelling-system-incorrect#), so that’s nothing new.

It’s funny – or not – I think the concern in this question is actually a fear that the children of the mission will far outperform their parents and become perfectly adapted to their environment. That the children born to the new world will adapt to it far better than their parents.

Poul Anderson wrote about this very issue in his story, “People of the Wind” (first published in the February 1973 issue of ANALOG Science Fiction & Fact and collected in a few other places up through 1981) in which the central point of the story was that Human young adults were leaving their families and joining Ythrian choths – right about the time Earth and Ythri were rattling sabers at each other. Mom and dad were left behind, and unless they wanted to lose their kids entirely, they had to adapt and adopt.

Closer to home, my grandson and granddaughter are with my son and his wife in South Korea. They do not go to American schools, rather both are enrolled in Korean schools. My granddaughter, having arrived while she was still learning English, speaks accentless Korean and doesn’t know several “standard” English words. My grandson speaks and reads Korean and can effortlessly switch back and forth as the situation warrants. They have a huge advantage over their parents who have to cede control of several situations when dealing directly with Korean shopkeepers and officials.

The “morality” here – not necessarily of the panelists but of the person who initially suggested the panel – may have been more about fear of adults losing control than out of concern for the “poor children”. How touchingly disingenuous and worried the person who wrote about the children who “…will be forced to continue the mission, and try and make a life on a possibly unsuitable planet, whilst the [incredibly brave, marvelous, thoughtful, daring, visionary adult] people who were willing to [incredibly bravely, marvelously, thoughtfully, daringly, visionarily] take on those risks for their descendants will be long dead and not have to live with the decision.”

‘bout makes me want to be violently ill.

It is the CHILDREN of the adults who will dump their incredibly unprepared parents for the world they will grow up on and instinctively grasp while those same parents cower, basking in the memories of “better days” and apologizing to their children and begging them to stay in with their [incredibly brave, marvelous, thoughtful, daring, visionary] parents so that the children will be safe.

I know I’ve been a teeny bit sarcastic, but really? This is a panel discussion at a SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR CONFERENCE for goodness sake!

July 12, 2018


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 Xiomara; 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)

Seg-go, who was a potential mate for whichever new Herd Mother arose from the current Herd, had the strongest personality Xio had ever seen in the Triad’s Yown’Hoo, replied before the neuters, “Before Kiiote arrived, before Humans knew of our existence, this tunnel was here; therefore, it was NOT before the Kiiote arrived.”

Xio opened her mouth to argue, then closed it and thought. Oscar’s greatest challenge was that he couldn’t filter what he said. He was abrupt, rude, and totally…a boy. She wished she could talk to Retired. She wished he would hold her…she gulped, shuddered, and whispered, “Not that,” then said out loud, “So, were the Yown’Hoo here also?”
“Long before the Conflict broke out on Earth, the Kiiote were here…” Seg-go said, then stopped.

“We have to get moving,” Xio said and started along the tunnel again. There were no other Humans here. She spoke for the whole Species right now – and she had no idea what to say. Here was clear evidence that the invasion of Earth had started before the formal invasion had begun. The corridor was preserved, so whoever had done it, had thought other Kiiote would return to claim the planet. Or something. Were the Kiiote ghosts – the conjures – here then as well? Xurf had said that they’d both unintentionally created the quantum creatures and unwittingly brought them to Earth.

Shortly, she was too busy to ponder as the ramp rose to the surface. Another pile of soil partially blocked their way, but the Yown’Hoo were good diggers and with Xio and the immature Nah-hi-el, they moved aside enough dirt to reveal another door.

There was a handle this time. It was obviously Human-shaped. Xio looked at her small Herd, then said to Seg-go, “This is evidence that Humans had a hand in this as well.”

“I do not understand,” it said.

Xio jiggled the handle, “Neither Yown’Hoo nor Kiiote would have placed this door. Only a Human could have.” She paused, then muttered, “What is going on here?”

Ali-go asked suddenly, “What must be going on?”

No on responded, so as she opened the door, pushing against it because something was piled against it or had fallen against it. Xio said, “Humans provided this door, and the corridor is protected with a Kiiote preservative and this ramp was built before records showed that the Kiiote were on Earth. How is that possible except that Humans and Kiiote were in collusion even before your war drifted into the Solar System?”

The door cleared a path in the debris and they stepped out into a huge space, the ceiling disappearing into the dim light filtering through other windows placed below the ceiling. “This should have collapsed long ago – if nothing else, Kiiote, Yown’Hoo, or Human militaries should have leveled it.”

Seg-go said, “Unless it has strategic importance.”

“Indeed,” Xio said. The Human and Herd all climbed out of the tunnel and moved into the open space and after a moment of surveying it, lined up against the wall. Xio crouched down as did the rest of the Herd, Seg-go and Ali-go pressed against her and the neuter Nah-hi-el against them. “We need to stay here until the sun goes down. I feel exposed,” she whispered. She looked down at the smallest Herd member and said. “I also need for you to be brave beyond your size.”

The small Yown’Hoo nodded – a gesture adopted by all of them, though it had once been Human. “What do I seek?”

“We seek a Master.”

It’s arms extended in stunned surprise. “A Master is here?”

“Yes. Retired has directed us to contact a Master, though he didn’t say which intelligence the Master belonged to.”

Seg-go said, “Does it matter?”

She shrugged, “I don’t know. But our Team did not include Kiiote, so it’s probably not Pan and Zir.”

Seg-go and the rest of the tiny Herd fell to the floor, trembling. Nah-hi-el whispered, “Ji-Hi, Mother of All?”

Xio snorted, “Well is sure as hell won’t be St. Admiral, she is Martyr to the cause of the Triad.”

There was a loud squeal of metal on metal and the team members all froze in terror. A hooded shape strode slowly across the vast space, passing through a beam of sunlight slanting across the room. Clearly it deliberately chose a path to show itself to them. It stopped and said, “I am Mother Kan Yuen, Triad Query Marker Guru and Specialist. Who are you, children?”

Xio blurted before thinking, “We aren’t children!” She covered her mouth with a filthy hand, cursing Oscar for infecting her with his impulsiveness. She’d been perfectly rational most of her life – until she got to know him better!

Mother Kan Yuen pushed back the hood covering her face and said, “Show yourself young lady!”

July 11, 2018


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: Magic is Evil, at best relatively neutral. Often The Corruption. There is a good chance it's directly obtained through a Deal with the Devil, powered by Blood Magic or involves Human Sacrifice and Forsaken Children. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DarkFantasy)

Martina Felipe el Bueno scowled at the ancient video tape cassette where it rested under glass that perfectly screened out UV and cosmic rays and lowered the intensity of visible in near vacuum. She said something in Spanish.

“Why don’t we just use English. I can’t even understand your Peruvian accent,” said Álvaro Villa softly.

“Fine,” she said. “The problem remains, whether we say it in Spanish or English – or even Spanglish – the occult rites of a former national leader are there for the viewing. But we can’t see them.”

“Why does it bother you so much?”

“The tape is a century old and preceded the collapse of his government before it accomplished anything.”

“You’re saying if he didn’t do the animal sacrifices, he’d still be in power?”
She laughed, “No, he’d still be dead. I don’t think even Brazil is ready for a zombie president.”

“That’s for sure.” They stood side-by-side, staring at the artifact.

“I got in touch with you because I think we can get the images off this, but I think we need to merge science and magic.”

His breath caught in his chest. He’d heard of it from abuelo. “Oil magic?”

Martina nodded, paused, then said, “The college has a supply.”

“It’s illegal for any of us to even touch it,” Álvaro said. “Even if we touch it, we would be instantly expelled right after we were arrested, tried and sentenced.”

“If we do it physically, I suppose you’d be right.”

“What other way is there to steal oil?”

“Magic,” Martina whispered. “Black magic.” Álvaro barked a laugh and Martina spun to face him, snarling, “What do you know about black magic?”

He held his hands up in surrender and said, “Nothing – as in ‘magic is fine in dumb stories like THE GOLDEN COMPASS, but this is real life’. Abuelo was my favorite person on Earth, and when it came to story-telling, he was the best. But he was old – his generation used ‘it’s magic’ to explain something it didn’t understand.” He shook his head, “First time he saw a cell phone 3D projection when I was talking to my girlfriend one night, he said, ‘esto es la magia negra’.”

“What if I told you a way to use the sacrifice of black gold to create a magical field we would protect the cassette…”

Names: ♀ Columbia; Peru

July 8, 2018

A LONG Post Talking About WAY More Than Writing…I Invite You To Read And Comment

In 2008, 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. To learn more – and to satisfy my natural tendency to “teach stuff”, I started a series of essays taking the wisdom of published writers and then applying each “nugget of wisdom” to my own writing. During the six years that followed, I used the advice of a number of published writers (with their permission) and then applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda to an analysis of my own writing. Together these people write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Today I add to that list, Lisa Cron who has worked as a literary agent, TV producer, and story consultant for Warner Brothers, the William Morris Agency, and others. She is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and a story coach for writers, educators, and journalists. Again, I am using her article, “A Reader’s Manifesto: 15 Hardwired Expectations Every Reader Has for Every Story” (2/16/18 http://blog.creativelive.com/essential-storytelling-techniques/)

3. The reader expects a glimpse of the big picture from the very first page.

My sister forwarded me a link to an article on writing by Lisa Cron on the CreativeLive Blog, which highlights classes and other things encouraging artists of various sorts. Her first point was that “…we aren’t consciously aware of what our hardwired expectations are, when we write stories we tend to substitute what we’ve been taught those expectations are. And a whole lot of what we’ve been taught is flat out wrong.”

She was talking about “hardwiring”, which is a neurobiological concept (though it didn’t start out that way. The word came out of computer design. The history of it is fascinating and if you’re a geek like me, read about it! http://www.dictionaryofneurology.com/2012/01/hardwired-history-of-word.html)

What did neuroscience have to do with writing stories? Talk about right brain/left brain! Art and science mooshed together. Sort of like me…

After reading the article, I checked out WIRED FOR STORY  from the library and was using Post-it Notes® (the long ones) torn into thirds to highlight the important points.

There were already about sixty points by the time I reached page 76. I just got my OWN copy of WIRED FOR STORY and am permanently marking the meaningful passages.

So, why do readers like me have that kind of expectation? Because according to Cron and neurobiology: “…we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.”

Instead of using reading as an escape from reality, our brains appear to try to pull meaning out of the written word as well. Not just textbooks, but out of fiction! Every time I read, I read in order to learn how to deal with situations in the world. I think that this is manifesting itself in the current scramble by YA, speculative fiction publishers and according to a story on NBC Evening news last night (15:21, https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/nightly-news-full-broadcast-july-7th-1272281155513), Hollywood screen writers to include the viewpoints of people of color. In order to become better people, we desperately need to see the world from the viewpoints of people who we are NOT.

Personally? I think this is driving force of everything that is going on in the world right now. According to this article: https://litlab.stanford.edu/how-many-novels-have-been-published-in-english-an-attempt/, something like 10% of books published are fiction. Fiction (in my mind) equals story. Less than HALF of all Americans buy ANY kind of book at all in a year; so let's just say that less than half of all Americans (note: ALL, that includes senators, judges, police officers, and young adults ALL Americans) read any kind of story at all.

So if so few people are reading fiction, that means so few people are learning how to deal with issues and problems ranging from how to get along with people who have differing points of view to learning how to cope with depression…

And that leaves us where?

With a marked inability to see the big picture; to see where things are going; to see trends in American society.

It leaves us, in my mind, with the way things are right now…

At any rate, what does this mean for me as a writer?

I’ll tell you that my major in college was biology and my master’s degree is in school counseling – right there, it seems I’d be a natural for the concept of a neuroscience-driven theory of writing. I am. This seems to be THE most significant book I have read about writing EVER, and I’ve read most of them and have twenty or so of my own.

For example, after reading those first 76 pages, I’ve almost completely re-written the story I was talking about here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2018/04/writing-advice-lisa-cron-1-start-with.html

The opening line is now: “‘How much can you lie about yourself and still remain yourself?’ Agnew snarled at Igaluk Abumayaleh-Jawai just after Second Sunset.”

That’s the motivating question. It’s the question that, not only will I have to answer eventually, it’s also a reason for a reader to keep on reading because we ALL have multiple personalities. I’m most real with my wife; I’m entirely “other” with my gifted and talented writing classes; I’m someone else again when I’m talking to students with struggles. While I’m not a total different person, I don’t behave the same in different situations. Have you ever pretended to be someone in order to either get another person or group’s attention and then felt afterward that the person or group you were targeting DOESN’T KNOW THE REAL YOU?

This is what will draw people into the story. This will give them an opportunity to LEARN something useful. “We’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.”

As readers we need a notion of the big picture, so we have an idea where we’re going, why, and what’s at stake for the protagonist. This not only triggers the sense of urgency that catapults us into the story, it’s also what allows us to make sense of what’s happening from beginning to end.

It’s a tall order, but why not try to follow John Irving’s admittedly glib suggestion: “Whenever possible, tell the entire story of the novel in the first sentence.”

Ask yourself: What is the scope of my story? What journey will my reader take? Have I made it clear? Don’t be afraid of “giving it all away” on the very first page. Be specific, be clear, don’t hold back. Remember, you’re giving readers what they crave: a reason to care, a reason to be curious, and enough info to understand what the stakes are.

And I think this is why we are where we are – not politics (WHATEVER your stripe); not race (whatever your race); not poverty (whatever your financial state); not national borders (wherever you live)…we are not reading story.

We, Humans, no longer understand the world because we no longer turn to story to  make sense out of the world. What, in fact, do the leaders of the world read? What stories have they internalized? I would venture to say that their response would be -- "I don't have time to read!"

Neither, apparently, do the most of the rest of us...And that is THE problem.

Image: https://barefootmeds.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/read-the-world.jpg