March 1, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Teaching Women To Fly” (Stupefying Stories: It Came From The Slushpile, 2010) Guy Stewart #14


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.

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 to the left will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

I have a saying regarding “literary fiction”: “[It’s] about powerless people living their lives in excruciating detail. The main character is the author in thin disguise making educated, satirical, wise, obscure, or erudite commentary in a way no real person in that life could possibly be able to duplicate.” This was from my personal journal after reading Hemingway’s FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, Edwidge Danticat’s KRIK KRAK!, and several years later, Gregory David Robert’s SHANTARAM.

There is a powerful movement in science fiction to writer “literarily” as well as in the more traditional style of most SF – space operas – exemplified by the works of Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delaney, Mary Doria Russell, Stanislaw Lem, and others including JG Ballard, who was my very first exposure to literary SF.

There is a certain kind of literary SF that I like, which delves deeply into character while maintaining the edifice of science fiction adventure. After reading Danticat’s THE FARMING OF BONES, I wanted to try my hand at the style and wrote this story.

I thought it was deep, interesting, and powerful – exactly what literary fiction was supposed to be.

It was summarily and anonymously rejected a dozen times, so I submitted it to an on-line writer’s group I was part of. It was summarily executed with many comments. The most succinct were:


Something could come of this, in such a way that although Celianne fails to overcome her fear of starships, she finds a way to help her family and perhaps even pay off her debts. Perhaps they've even scavenged enough parts of derelict ships to build their own and need a pilot, who knows? Well, you do. So do consider doing more with this aspect of the story.

“As a story, this one starts out quite slowly. A conflict doesn't become apparent to me until Bill's status is explained on page 10, and then the Company man threatens Celianne on page 11. The tension mostly evaporates while she's rescued by the grumpah, to return only on page 21 when Mamun demands his payment. 

“Initially, we're presented with Celianne's internal conflict which is that she misses flight but is terrified of it because of being kidnapped and tortured by pirates. However, I'm not sure-at least in the beginning-what she wants. She misses flying, but does she want it again? In the first few pages, there is no strong desire driving her forward. She's simply going through her daily routine until she learns of her husband's injuries and creditors begin to harass her. Because of this, I did not feel truly engaged in the story until the damaged harvester came in…As I mentioned earlier, I like that Celianne overcomes her fear. However, when the _grumpah_ says he's taught a lot of female humans to fly, it seems that success will come easily to Celianne, and it does. This makes the ending inevitable but not surprising. Celianne never seems to be in any danger from flight.”


All of these people – as helpful as they were trying to be – were READING the story as if it were a standard SF story; in which case, she would overcome her fear of going back into the weirdness of interstellar flight, save her family, and leave Enstad’s Planet behind.

But that wasn’t what I was trying for in the story! I wanted to communicate that no matter where we go, we are ALWAYS going to be dissatisfied. We can live on worlds far from Earth, far from everything we know and evolved/were created for, and still we will whine and cry about our lives. We will be bored...that’s the thing I will never forgive STAR TREK for: no one on the show is ever bored. Apparently, along with being free from want, they “…don't succumb to revenge…have a more evolved sensibility”, and all the rest of the wonder that makes STAR TREK fun, but ultimately doomed, no one’s ever becomes bored whilst trekking between the stars.

I don’t hold that hope up for Humanity and I think the literary SF writers don’t either. But there are few who can write it and maintain the balance between the exploration of the “normalness” of space travel and forward-moving action/adventure.

Most people think I missed the boat here.

Until I sent it to Bruce Bethke.

He was the first person to understand the story. It could be that his writing tends to be in this vein – it would explain why he won the PKD Award in 1995. He has fascinating thoughts about the life, the universe and everything and he has become a good friend of mine. He “gets me” where others don’t.

I’ve written a few other stories with a literary bent – and one person that the list below doesn’t include but SHOULD, is Michael F. Flynn. If you want to read literary science fiction wrapped in a hard science fiction shell, try THE WRECK OF THE RIVER OF STARS.

At any rate, I’m going to continue to try and mine this vein despite my negative assessment at the top of this essay. While my intent is to counteract the rosy perfection of STAR TREK’s future, I also refuse to fall into the grim darkness of THE HUNGER GAME’s future.

There has to be a middle ground and I am more than willing to keep hammering away at what I could call in my head, “realistic future science fiction”...


February 26, 2015

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #69: July 29, 1946


http://www.luteyn.net/Schermerhorn/2005/DSCN1286.jpg
This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

Charlie Fairlaine, who’d picked them up not from this very spot when they’d been heading north, revved the truck again and started off down the road, heading for home.

Freddie Merrill said, “What’d you say to him to make him kick us outta the truck?”

“I didn’t say nothing!” Tommy exclaimed. “He didn’t want his dad to make us clean the barn.”

Freddie stared at him, shook his head, and said, “I guess we’d better get walkin’ then. A hundred miles is a long way and I’m pretty sure we been gone a long time.” He looked at the creamy truck as it faded into the distance on the flat road. “At least the Socialists, the mobsters, and the Anoka Witch won’t be bothering us anymore.”

They sighed together looked backward, then followed in the fume trail of the creamery truck.
The summer sun was well risen on their right when Freddie said, “What if we have to walk past Charlie’s farm?”

Tommy stopped, shaded his eyes, looking into the rising sun, then turning west. “Our shadows are long,” he said.

Freddie sighed again, adding, “That just means that it’s really early and we have a long, long way to go.” He started walking. “How long do you think it’s going to take to get home?”

Tommy ran to catch up to him. “Why you all fired up about getting home?”

Freddie shuffled along for a long time before he said, “I guess having a bed to sleep in is better than sleeping in the grass.”

Tommy snorted. “You got a bed. All I got is the couch.”

“But your dad don’t use you for a boxer’s speed bag.”

Tommy couldn’t say anything about that. “My dad’s old.”

“Yeah?”

“You didn’t let me finish!” Tommy said, “He’s a Socialist which is like, the next thing to a Communist.”

Freddie didn’t have anything to say about that. They walked for a long time and the sun climbed a few inches into the cloudless sky. “Gonna be a hot one.”

“Yup.” They walked. A tractor futtered past them, the old farmer waving a finger but not slowing at all. “Creep,” Tommy said.

“Yup,” said Freddie.

They continued walking and a few miles later, passed a fancy sign that pointed west and read, “Fairlaine Creamery”. Tommy said, “That’s why we didn’t have to worry about passing Charlie’s farm.”
“I forgot this turn.”

“I didn’t.”

They walked as the sun climbed into the sky. After a while, they crossed a small bridge over a culvert. Both boys stopped to peer over the edge and even though there was dirt and sand, there was no water in it. “I’m getting thirsty,” said Freddie. “If we don’t drink something soon, I think I’m gonna dehydrate or something.”

“Yup,” Tommy said, looked both ways, then stood up and started walking south again. After a while, he said, “I think the left side of my face is getting sunburned.”

 “Me, too,” said Freddie. “And I sort of feel sick. Like I didn’t drink enough water or something.”

“That’s stupid, of course you didn’t drink enough water. That’s why you’re getting dehydrated!”

Freddie stopped and shoved Tommy, “Don’t call me stupid!”
“I can call you stupid any time I want to – but I’m calling you stupid now because you ARE stupid, stupid!”

Freddie crouched to charge Tommy when they heard the roar of an engine coming out of the north. Freddie screamed, “It’s the Communists!” Tommy looked both ways again and rushed Freddie, tackling him of the road and into a ditch alongside where they both splashed into the butt-deep water that smelled like rotting weeds.

Up on the road, an old truck – one that looked so familiar that both boys laid flat down in the mud, muck, and water, their eyes wide, white, and bulging out of their reddened, blonde faces. It roared past without slowing and was gone in an instant. But they lay in to water until the leopard and pickerel frogs around them began to croak again. Finally Freddie said, “I’m cold.”

Tommy sneezed and said, “I’m molding.” Freddie looked at him and busted out laughing. They both scrambled to their feet and after a few minutes Tommy said, “Water’s running. That way,” he pointed south. “We wait a few minutes and we can scoop up enough water to keep us a while. “They we can keep going.”

“What about the Socialists?”

“First of all,” said Tommy, “They ain’t gonna want to drink out of a ditch...”

“That’s not what I meant, stupid!” Freddie snapped, balling his fists.

“I know. I’m trying to make us laugh.”

“Why?”

Tommy looked up at the road and said, “‘cause I think the Socialists are still after us.”

February 24, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 197


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.

Fantasy Trope: divination


Moke “Keo” Khanthavong  and Kyeh Sang-mi were just 16 when their parents left on an expedition to Mars along with fifty other families. Robotic builders have been at work and despite an unexpected scarcity of water, everything is ready.

Now newly turned adults, Moke and Sang-mi have been sent on a water search mission fifty kilometers up an unexplored canyon branching off of the massive Valles Marineris. They’ve trained for the mission for months – and nearly lost it when three other older adults balked at letting “teenagers determine the fate of the colony”...

Moke’s mother had argued, “What do you mean, you’re afraid they’re going to screw up?” she snapped at the tall, muscular physicist, Damon Eglesias. “They have more invested in a future here than you or I do!”

The colony was built at Capri Chasma, on the eastern end of the Valley. They’ve been assigned to explore a branch of Coprates Chasma...

“It’s foggy,” said Keo, squinting at the view screen. He fiddled with the controls, zooming in and out; in and out. Sang-mi made as if to slap his hand. He yanked his hands away, exclaiming, “I’m not a little kid!”

She sniffed, “Could’a fooled me.”

“Hey! We’re supposed to be working as a team here!”

“We are. You’re doing annoying things and I’m trying to teach you that someday, someone’s going to kill you when you do stuff like that.” Leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest, he sulked until she said, “Now you really are acting like a child – instead of just being annoyingly inquisitive.” He didn’t move. She sighed and added, “Which is both one of your most endearing and useful characteristics.”

Keo tried not to grin, but failed, leaning forward to start fiddling again. Sang-mi said, “I’ll still kill you if you don’t leave the focus alone!”

He stood up, comfortable in four-tenths Earth gravity and unlikely to bounce around like some of the adults did, and pulled something from a long pocket on his overalls.

“What’s that?”

“A dousing rod,” he said.

“A what?”

“Dousing rod,” he said as he tapped one end and gently pulled it in half until it reached the middle of the rod and stopped.

“To find water by divination?” Sang-mi said, rolling her eyes to the roof of the marsbug. “You have got to be kidding!”

He shook his head, “What can it hurt? The probes couldn’t find the water they were hoping for, neither had the other survey crews. It’s a simple concept.” He shrugged, concluding, “Besides, if it doesn’t work, who’s gonna know?”

“Me,” she said, dropping into a seat. “Rest assured I’ll let all of my friends know if this flops...” Both of them blinked in surprise as the dowsing rod bent to the left of the ‘bug. Sang-mi snapped, “Cut it out!”

“Cut out what?” Keo said, his voice cracking, “I’m not doing anything!”

February 22, 2015

Slice of PIE: Thinking Up Innovative Solutions – Isn’t That What Speculative Fiction Is All About?


http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/physics/sites/default/files/physics/uploads/CC-WhatCanIDo.jpg
Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in London this past August, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. The link is provided below…

“Science Talk 1027 Climate Catastrophes: Past Present and Future – The Earth has been warmer in the past and subject to abrupt events. What can these tell us about likely future warming? Jonathan Cowie”

*sigh*

Pandering: “Pandering is the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal. The term is most notably associated with politics.”

Why isn’t the title of this talk “Climate Catastrophes: Past Present and Future – The Earth warmer and colder in the past and subject to abrupt events. What can these tell us about likely future warming and cooling?”

Because it’s not politically expedient to discuss global cooling right now, even though in the state I live in, the effects of the last glaciation period roughly 40,000 years ago are quite literally everywhere – I walk on glacial moraine every time I step on undisturbed ground. I have gone swimming and fished in an uncounted number of kettle lakes. Whenever I drive along our main boulevard to the “shopping mall”, I pass through a glacially sorted business that serves as a major source of pre-sorted gravel, sand, and rock.

So excuse me for not getting hyped about global warming. Global cooling is by far more disconcerting to me and my neighbors because the end result is an integral part of our everyday lives.

It was also the raison d’ĂȘtre (the thing that is most important to someone or something : the reason for which a person or organization exists) that REAL LIVE SCIENTISTS in the 1970s were all about ameliorating the effects of global cooling. Of course those who are in power now insist that “this was never so!” (http://ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/global-cooling). At the time the possibility of us cycling back to an ice age was a real fear. At least the media made it appear as a real fear…

But REAL LIVE SCIENTISTS today are completely certain that the “science is settled” and that there isn’t anything more that we can learn – climatologists in 2015 are (paradoxically) the evolutionary peak of the science. There’s no more to learn. The computer models are to be seen as conclusive and irrefutable.

Today’s climate scientists with the inevitability of anthropogenic global warming say with complete confidence and seriousness: “The industrial imposed climate forcing is so large that we can not at this level of forcing, return to an ice age.” End of discussion. There is a 99% consensus and anyone who says anything else is a climate denier (“Journalists and newspaper columnists including George Monbiot and Ellen Goodman, among others, have described climate change denial as a form of denialism. Several commentators, including Goodman, have also compared climate change denial with Holocaust denial.”) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_denial)

It reminds me of my high school football team prancing around the field after they won the conference championship and the crowd chanting, “We’re number one! We’re number one!”

Scientists being certain about...anything makes me smile. By intent, science is about change. Very few theories or even mathematical constants, like the speed of light, survive for very long unchanged – even the “c” in E = mc2 , well-known as a “constant” may not be...constant. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/speed-light-not-so-constant-after-all

Also, while climatologists blame the machinations of Big Oil and public relations advertising and conspiracies for the lack of concern in the US, Canada, and the UK, I wonder if any of them have considered the possibility that the reason common folk mistrust them and their proclamations is that in order to even GET a PhD, you have to be rich...and who trusts a rich man? (One half of the current US Congress is made up of millionaires. *shrug* I just have trouble believing that PhDs and millionaires care much about me with my master’s degree in guidance counseling and my wife’s job as a classroom aide in an elementary school or my daughter’s quest for a master’s degree in art therapy or her boyfriend’s job in a company that creates and assembles high quality photo albums for people...)

The upshot of all of my ranting above is that speculative fiction writers are FAR MORE LIKE ME than those who clamor to take my cars and house and comforts away in the name of “climate science”. I have no trouble with accepting climate change – whether natural or accelerated a zillion times by me driving to work, eating hamburgers, and forgetting to turn out my lights.

Let the arguing cease. Let the posturing of both sides who wave their VERY EXPENSIVE and cash-sucking and fabulously fancy degrees in my face cease and desist.

Let the normal science fiction folk – like me – begin to offer me things I can actually DO to combat climate change. None of the PhDs seem impressed that I recycle my aluminum cans, turn out my lights, replace incandescent with LED bulbs, wash my clothes with cold water, and bike or walk as often as I can. The message I get is that they *shrug*. Like old-fashioned televangelists, snake-oil salesmen, and revival preachers in the Old West, they clamor for me to believe THEM! When the public opinion polls show that “people” don’t trust them, they clamor more loudly that I should believe THEM!!!

Let the Speculative Fiction establishment – represented by the attendees of World Con and the people whose sessions they attend – eschew rhetoric and powerpoint presentations and offer up some speculative solutions that DON’T insist I pauper myself or that deliberately crisscross the planet to appear as Keynote Global Warming Summit Speaker in (please don’t tell me this is “accidentally” a lovely vacation destination…) Paris, France. Why Buenos Aires, Cancun, Milan, Bali, and Paris?

Where are the ANSWERS speculative fiction folk? Gimme some futures I can help achieve!

Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_glaciation
Image: http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/physics/sites/default/files/physics/uploads/CC-WhatCanIDo.jpg

February 19, 2015

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 27


http://www.teachingcollegeenglish.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/threestrands-bizzuka-partners-dot-com.jpg
The Cold War between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo has become a shooting war.  On Earth, there are three Triads one each in Minneapolis, Estados United; Pune, India; and Harbin, China. Protected by the Triad Corporation, they intend 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. The Yown’Hoo know about the extra-Universe Braider, aliens whose own “civil war” mirrors the Cold War. The Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is to physically construct a sort of membrane that will produce a canceling wave – generated from the rim of the Galaxy inward. The Braiders don’t DO physical stuff on that scale – the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads may be their only chance of creating a solution. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce a stability capable of launching incredible expansion, creativity, longevity and wealth – and building the Membrane to stop the wave.

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. Grendl, Manitoba is one such place. No one but the Triad Company has ever heard of it and the physical plant goes by the unobtrusive name of Organic Prairie Dairy.

The city Triads never hear of anything they aren’t spoon fed in their luxury worlds and have heard only rumors of the farms and ranches. Surrounded by a Humanity that has degenerated into a “duck-and-cover” society as the Big Boys fight their war, the Triads don’t care about anything but their own lives. Oblivious, cocooned, manipulated, they have no idea that their privileges are about to be violently curtailed and all of their biology ransacked for the correct Membrane pattern. (update: 5/2/2014)

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) held up his hand. The black, cold night that surrounded the former bakery delivery truck seeped in through old seals, partially open windows and rusty holes in the floor.

I opened my mouth, shut it, and held up my own hand. That was the last movement in the truck. A stunned stillness held everyone as shimmers – that’s the only way I can describe them, the night itself shook briefly – passed the truck. Something stopped at the windshield. My eyes bulged and I had to pee something horrible. The glass seemed to bow in, then the shimmer passed through the entire truck. The immature Yown’Hoo, Lan-mai-ti, Ked-sah-ti, and Eel-go-pot slowly sank to the floor of the truck as the shimmer passed over them. The aluminum of the shell creaked like it was windy outside.

Then it was gone.

I slowly let my breath out. I didn’t even know I was holding it.

Retired said softly, “It wasn’t real. It was a probe.”

Kashayla breathed back, “It was alive.”

The Herd mother, Dao-hi said softly, “Not alive, it was shoofis.”

Hiihiiyip,” said Qap.

"A ghost,” I whispered.

There was a long silence until Retired finally said, “It wasn’t a disembodied apparition. It was an non-corporeal artificial intelligence scanning unit – an n-caisu. The technology is new to all three peoples.”

“That is not possible,” said Qap. “Everything that can be discovered has been discovered by Kiiote.”

Dao-hi made a rude noise and the herd shifted restlessly.

“Everyone settle down!” Mr. Retired said. “You think you’re the only Triads we created?”

Xurf said, “Of course not, two others were created for the same purpose.”

He snorted, “Then there are the anti-Triads.”

“The what?” ‘Shayla exclaimed.

“There are those who want nothing more than Humanity to die as a species – and it’s Humans themselves who are driving it.” Something in the distance lit, spilling fragile white light into the sky. Mr. Retired tipped his head in the direction of the light, “You’re worth your weight in antimatter if they can find you all and kill you.”

“But why?” one of the herd rattled.

“Because some of each of our peoples want to see us destroy our space-capabilities. They want us to slaughter each other back to our respective stone ages.”

“Why?” I blurted into the ensuing silence.

“Because they think that the manifest destiny of their own people is more viable alone – without the others.”

“But...” ‘Shayla began.

Mr. Retired cut her off, saying, “They not only that the war was a mistake, but that fighting to a stalemate was unnecessary. They believe that every one of our peoples – Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human reached a point where they might have annihilated the other two.” He stopped talking for a long time before he said, “They want to start all over again and ‘do it right’ this time.”

“We’ve never believed that,” Qap said.

“True. This group was raised to believe that the strengths of all three peoples could be combined. A wise Human writer once wrote in a book called The Bible, in a division of the Book called Ecclesiastes, ‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’”

Xurf said, “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote,” Dao-hi said.

“But together it may be that we might not be broken at all. Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done.”

The light in the distance faded out. Mr. Retired tapped me on the shoulder and with a nod, I started the truck and headed north, into a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.

[Author’s Note: This is where the foundation of the story gelled into existence. This is the theme. This is the POINT I wrote this. This is what I have been working toward.]


February 17, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 197


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: Humans are NOTHING special in the universe
Current Event: “The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.
However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.” [Editorial comment: “‘Suggest’?????? ‘Seems inconsistent’???????] from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

There is no evidence of life anywhere in space – oh, there are hopes, dreams, protestations that “we can NOT be the only ones in this ENTIRE UNIVERSE” (this shriek is followed by a childish tantrum-like stomp of a foot. It has been uttered by the most distinguished of scientists and science fiction writers ever to walk this Earth – from Carl Sagan to David Brin) and frantic attempts by those who do not believe that Humanity is unique.

But there is NO PROOF that there is anyone of any sort anywhere in the universe but HERE.

Perhaps the best thing would be to just admit that we’re all there is and go from there.

Two paths are possible, the first one was followed to its logical conclusion by Isaac Asimov in his FOUNDATION classic tales – from FORWARD THE FOUNDATION through FOUNDATION AND EARTH.

The second seems to be happening before our very eyes:

Claudie Nicollier and Wubbo Fugelsang shielded their eyes against the glare of the rising sun. Claudie said, “Do you have any idea how ridiculous this looks? The symbolic 'dawn of a new era'?”

Wubbo snorted, rubbing the beard he’d allowed to grow over the last two weeks of the Human space program. He said, “They’re trying to fool themselves into believing that space belongs to the mechanical.”

Claudie grunted, grabbing his shoulder to steady her own hand. She said, “I joined the ESA to stop this. I did it for the glory of France!” Her shouted sounded more choked than triumphant. “Six years of training flushed away by an accident and bureaucratic panic.”

“You started training when you were ten?” he said, smiling. “I was born dreaming of space. My parents conceived me on the night of the last American shuttle launch on July 21, 2o11.”

“How romantic!” she whispered.

“And extremely uncomfortable, my older brother told me.”

“What?”

“They were laying on a blanket on a beach in Florida about five kilometers from the Cape Canaveral launch pad.”

She slapped his shoulder, “We’re talking about the end of an era, Rub. How can you joke at a time like this?”

“Sorry.”

From their hiding place, they watched an Ariane VI rocket hurtle into space. Built entirely by robots, crewed by robots and guarded by robots, it was the International Space Union’s first shot since bringing the ancient International Space Station back to Earth. For the first time in eighty years, no Human lived anywhere but on the surface of the Earth.

The ISU and all its member nations had declared that space exploration could now begin in earnest with Humans safely at the center of a web of spidery lines of destinations from the first interstellar probe on the eighth year of its journey to Alpha Centauri B to the buckshot spheres of picobot satellites in orbit around all eight planets and fifteen moons.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” said Claudie.

Rub lifted an eyebrow, standing up, stretching – they’d been crouched here since the night before, hiding in the jungle west of the Launch Center. “Who are you worried about then?”

“Noah and Natalie and Waqas and Chris...”

“The Americans?” he snorted, “What are you worried about them for? They had their chance to go to the stars. They blew it.”

“Agreed.”

He waited then said, “I hear a ‘but’ in there.”

She stretched as well, quite aware of his interest in her calisthenics. She said, “I’m worried because I heard them talking the other day. They have something – how do they say it – they’ve got something ‘up their sleeves’.”

Rub shook his head, “They don’t have the power to do anything anymore. They can’t even work themselves out of their Second Great Depression.”

“What I heard from them doesn’t require power just a little remodeling…”


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