December 16, 2018

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Part IV – Contacting Aliens (Oh, NO!) and A Living World Idea…


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (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…

I know I’m a few years behind, but I just checked out a copy of LONELY PLANETS: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life (2003) by David Grinspoon. He does, of course, have a “doctor” in front of his name, but it appears that he doesn’t use it very often. He also has the endorsement of Neil deGrasse Tyson – the quintessential new face of astronomy and the immediate successor to Carl Sagan.

Tyson said of Grinspoon’s book “…brings together what has never before been synthesized…he is a planetary scientist as well as dreamer, born of the space age.”

As is apparent to anyone who reads my blog, I LOVE aliens! I write about aliens! I do (guardedly) believe that there is intelligent life “out there, somewhere” – HOWEVER, I don’t believe that we have any real proof yet and that it is, at this point, an intellectual and philosophical exercise.

Be that as it may, I’m approaching the end of Grinspoon’s book and have skimmed his website (http://funkyscience.net/) several times. While it’s been “frozen” on his newest Pluto/Horizon book, I find myself looking forward to following this guy for some time to come!

I’m well into the book now (page 229) and I got my own copy on Wednesday through a Half-Price Books near me. After (*gasp*) dog-earing my Library copy, I transferred the noted pages to my own book.

Grinspoon flits effortlessly between history, the present, and the future. Occasionally, all three collide as when he begins to talk about the shift from the “wacky” field of exobiology to what that same field has become today: Astrobiology. It’s legitimized and not only is it part of NASA, it has its own Homepage (https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/)

What is it? Grinspoon defines it this way: “Astrobiology…is not for profit…We explore space for reasons that are romantic and idealistic…[it is] a scientific movement that is justified fundamentally on spiritual grounds…also potentially revolutionary in its attempt to reverse the slide toward increasing scientific specialization and isolation. We want to blur the borders and tear down the walls that modern academia has erected. Astrobiology at its best is a step toward the reunification of science and, perhaps, the rebirth of natural philosophy.” (p243)

Wow.

Astrobiology, the concept of discovering life somewhere besides Earth, is the foundational belief of NASA's astrobiology program. With it comes a strong belief: “I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” said NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan."

While the science of astrobiology has no detractors, what happens once we DO discover life elsewhere and in particular if we discover intelligent life elsewhere does indeed seem to have provoked dissent among the ranks. Some individuals have taken to the blogosphere and conference circuit with extreme confidence that their opinion alone is the correct one. To ME, they seem to flail wildly and appear to be close relatives of Chicken Little. One of their names became instantly recognizable by a large portion of the English-speaking world several years ago, and even before his recent passing, was spoken in the same sentence as Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and...Stephen Hawking; who said a bit before his death, that contact with aliens will be BAD: “One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well”.(https://www.sciencealert.com/stephen-hawking-warns-that-we-might-not-want-to-reach-out-to-aliens)

Another, not-so-well-recognized-name, a science fiction writer popular in the 80s and 90s, David Brin has added his voice to Hawking's warning, “Optimistic scholars may be right that we have nothing to fear from that eventual encounter with wise beings from the stars. Still, we cannot be reminded often enough to look back on our own history of contact among humans here on Earth, a litany of dire cautionary tales. We are, all of us, descended -- only a few generations back -- from folk who suffered horribly because they weren't ready for the challenges brought on by new vices, new technologies, new diseases, new ideas, new opportunities, new people. And those ancestors were the lucky survivors! Many peoples and cultures – including every species of hominids other than our own – left no descendants at all...How ironic that this reminder should come from someone who is a dedicated believer in the new!...Ironic, and yet somehow apropos. For I would rather bet on a horse that I know – human improvability and progress -- than on salvation from some hypothetical super-beings high above...We have tried that route, countless times before, and the lesson has always been that we should rely (mostly) on ourselves...In this article I've only touched on just a few of the dangers conceived by various gloomy thinkers and writers over the years. I could go on, but a complete listing isn't necessary. What matters is the lesson, one of circumspection and caution. The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every new encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions.

"It often proved fatal.” (http://www.setileague.org/iaaseti/brin.pdf, page 22)

While he doesn't talk specifically about first contact, the general sense I gather from his writing is that he isn't quite to negative as the two quoted above...

Once we reach chapter 17, Grinspoon takes a decidedly spiritual turn – not Christian, certainly, he has the most respect for Buddhism: “Although I’ve never found a religion that seems a perfect fit, I love what I know of the teachings of Buddhism. Its most important principle seems to be compassion. If there is a perfect spiritual principle, I would vote for this.” (p384)

He takes time explaining complexity theory, though the book was published in 2003 and in 2018, Wikipedia has this to say: “The term complex adaptive systems, or complexity science, is often used to describe the loosely organized academic field that has grown up around the study of such systems. Complexity science is not a single theory—it encompasses more than one theoretical framework and is highly interdisciplinary, seeking the answers to some fundamental questions about living, adaptable, changeable systems. The study of CAS focuses on complex, emergent and macroscopic properties of the system. John H. Holland said that CAS ‘are systems that have a large numbers of components, often called agents, that interact and adapt or learn.’” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_system)

It’s hard to summarize briefly what Grinspoon lays out in this chapter, but let me take a stab at it. Grinspoon wonders, (I think this is gist of it) if Earth itself is alive in a unique way.

The idea stems from the observation that not only does the planet – it’s temperature, composition, distance from the Sun, mass, and every other factor that we used to call the abiotic factors of an ecosystem – affect the biotic, but that the biotic factors are intimately entangled with the abiotic factors. It certainly seems logical, but in 2013, Toby Tyrrell, professor of Earth System Science (https://www.southampton.ac.uk/oes/about/staff/lrtt.page) seemed to drive a stake through the heart of the hypothesis: “I believe Gaia is a dead end. Its study has, however, generated many new and thought provoking questions. While rejecting Gaia, we can at the same time appreciate Lovelock's originality and breadth of vision, and recognize that his audacious concept has helped to stimulate many new ideas about the Earth, and to champion a holistic approach to studying it”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis)

I'd never run across this more science-based Gaia theory. Grinspoon's presentation and enthusiasm for it won me over and the idea that biotic and abiotic factors are more intertwined than we thought is compelling. Even so, I'm not going to begin to worship Mother Earth. My basic belief is that while they have trouble stomaching any sort of supreme being or supernatural guidance, many scientists seem to hold with the idea that there's "something beyond us".

While I call that "something" a Someone, they struggle to give it a different name and add concrete proofs to construct a something to believe in. I am a realist -- I suppose, except in my belief in God and in the Redemption of Humans through his sacrificial death on the Cross. Was his sacrifice on the Cross for ONLY Humans, or was it for ALL beings who broke covenant with Him and chose disobedience over obedience? No idea.

I suppose in that, as well as in the argument over the efficacy of shouting out our presence to a universe that holds malevolent Intelligences who will soon come to stomp us out...I can only join with the rest of Humanity and wait and see.

Whew…lots to think about. Lots to consider.

Lots to figure out how to incorporate into my writing! I’ll take up the end of the book next week!

Part V:


December 14, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 137: DaneelAH & Company


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 (They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).) – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

“What about Stepan?” DaneelAH said.

“Like I said, he’s a big boy,” said QuinnAH. “If he can’t talk the crazies down from a suicidal riot, then he ain’t who he says he is. Fact, if he gets hisself killed, then seems to me like he don’t serve this god he’s talkin’ about – it’d have to be as ‘maginary as U-fee.” He slithered into the hole.

HanAh gestured to AzAH, then DaneelAH, then MishAH. He looked up to the roof. He couldn’t see Stepan, but knew he was watching. He whispered, “Good luck…” he snorted, changing his invocation, “Your God protect you and go with you, Sir.” He followed the others. A moment later, the wall door and the floor hatch closed. There was a puff of air, and the dust they’d disturbed was evenly sprayed over the exit, and it was gone.

DaneelAH followed the muttering group until they came to a wider room. Pale, biological light came from some growth on the ceiling. “This is where you gotta go down first, cause I gotta close and lock the door.”

“What?” HanAH exclaimed. “There’s no way…”

QuinnAH bent and tugged. A deafening shriek went along with the opening of a circular floor door. “This here tube is a slide into the underground. Once you’re down, I’ll follow and we can catch a car from here to the HOD after I seal up.”

HanAH hesitated. AzAH took a breath and pushed past him. “We’re in this up to our chins. We either go forward…” she shrugged, “There is no ‘or’.” She sat down on the edge of the black hole and pushed up, vanishing. MishAH followed, then DaneelAH.

He said, “Either stay or come. It’s up to…”

“Shut up and go so we can get this over with!” HanAH snarled, shoving him. The sound that followed DaneelAH was clearly laughter.

HanAH turned to the kid, then pointed two fingers at his eyes, turning the same fingers to QuinnAH’s face. “If you hurt any of them, I will either find you and kill you myself, or I will haunt you from the grave.” He dropped down the hole without sitting on the edge.

They slid down a filthy metal tunnel that angled into the Martian crust. Before Stepan could protest, the boy twisted in the tunnel and grabbed Stepan’s wrist, dragging him headfirst into the hole.

The dust was so thick in the enclosed space, he was wondering if they’d suffocate before they reached the bottom. The angle decreased until they rumbled to a rusty, dusty stop.

Standing at the bottom of the cavernous tunnel, lit dimly by a row of LEDs set into the ceiling. They didn’t exactly illuminate the tunnel, but were definitely brighter than the ghostly bio. They waited in silence until QuinnAH popped out next to them, rolling neatly to his feet.

“You done pretty good for old folks.” He hawked and spit. He set off across the platform until they came to a rail. “Walk or ride?”

HanAH snorted, “Burroughs is thirty kilometers across. It takes about five hours to walk across it.”

“When you walk on the surface in the streets.”

“How long does it take through the tunnels?”

“Five hours or thirty minutes.”

DaneelAH frowned as he stepped up to the rail. In the distance he could hear a deep rumbling overlain with a static hum, like a cheap fluorescent lamp from the early 21st Century. “Where are we…”

Quinn lifted a hand that was deep purple in the light. The ground started to shake. “We’ll be in the HOD in thirty minutes.”

“How?”

The ground shook like the million-year marsquake was about to let loose.

“Get ready!”

“For what?” cried DaneelAH and MishAH together.

“To...” Quinn grabbed them by the wrist and crouched.  “Jump forward when I tell you to!”

An instant later, a circular wall filled the far end of the tunnel, the boy backpedalled abruptly, dragging HanAH and AzAH with him, screaming, “Don’t jump!” He waited for a split second, then screamed, “Run!” dragging them behind him. Then they were running together. He screamed, “Jump!”

They did, and fell in a heap as a noise like a violent rushing wind filled the whole tunnel where they’d fallen.

“What is this?” DaneelAH shouted, his voice over loud in the rumbling, empty chamber they were riding in now.

“A stuffcap. Usually enclosed capsules full of stuff for the HOD. Me and Stepan had to walk to the HOD, but this one was open. Everyone in the underground hitches rides on them have been able to hitch a ride.”

“Thanks, then,” said DaneelAH as he got to his feet.

“For what?” QuinnAH said.

“Saving our lives. We owe you a debt.”

In the flickering light from above, they could see QuinnAH shrug. “Just get the Wilkerson back to his gardens. We need him.”

HanAH said, “Don’t worry about your pet preacher, kid. He can take of himself. But we’ll keep an eye out for him. We 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.”

AzAH said, “Stepan can do it, but we need to get word to people who can help him.”

HanAH snorted, “Like who?”

“Our mystery guide, Paolo. He seems to know what’s happening on Mars. He’s certainly been manipulating us.”

“I don’t trust him,” said HanAH.

“You don’t trust nobody,” said QuinnAH. “‘at’s why we get along so well.” His street urchin drawl had returned. “I don’t trust nobody, neither.”

AzAH said, “You trust Stepan.”

QuinnAH snorted, then dodging the statement, “Sit and take a breather. Once we get back up and into the HOD, we have to pass through it to get to Breachport.”

“Then we keep on from there. Paolo has some kind of plan to gather the artifacts and change Mars,” said MishAH. HanAH snorted derisively as the stuffcapsule slid through the tunnel deep under the surface of Mars.


December 11, 2018

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 382

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: “The Chronocops travel in time to catch a Bad Guy who escaped into some other era.”

Bolormaa Teuku scowled at her physics partner, “What do you mean when you ask, ‘Could we travel so fast that we’d start to slide back in time?’”

“We’re supposed to brainstorm, not beat up every idea someone throws out,” said Rayyan Batkhuyag. “The point is to ask questions that may not have immediate answers.”

“Yeah, but the questions have to make sense!”

Rayyan used the vernier jets on his EVA suit to gently turn until he faced the Sun. It loomed giant in space. In the previous century, he would never have been able to do anything like this. But his suit was unlike anything else in the Solar System – except for the rest of the team on the Gravity Well Mission. “You think floating around in mirror suits less than sixty million kilometers from the sun makes any sense?”

Bolormaa grunted as she turned in the same direction. “I see your point.”

“So then – my question: could acceleration reach a point where we would actually go back in time?”

“That’s so very…STAR TREK of you.”

“Right, right, I know. I don’t mean we fly some tiny tin can into the well then yank it out.”

“What do you mean?”

Gravitational redshift follows on from the equivalence principle that underlies general relativity. The downward force felt by someone in a lift could be equally due to an upward acceleration of the lift or to gravity. Pulses of light sent upwards from a clock on the lift floor will be Doppler shifted, or redshifted, when the lift is accelerating upwards, meaning that this clock will appear to tick more slowly when its flashes are compared at the ceiling of the lift to another clock. Because there is no way to tell gravity and acceleration apart, the same will hold true in a gravitational field; in other words the greater the gravitational pull experienced by a clock, or the closer it is to a massive body, the more slowly it will tick.”

“So?”

“The Doppler effect goes both ways. We’ve been stuck on the red-shift end of the EM spectrum – the effect that stretches out time making it appear to slow down to everyone around it. But we’ve never really looked at time and gravity the other way...”

Bolormaa turned to face Rayyan even though they couldn’t see each other. She finally said, “When an ambulance with a blaring horn is coming toward you, the wavelengths are shortened and we hear a higher pitch – with light it means that the waves are shorter, which means they’re blue.”

“They move faster. So – if we move slow enough, will be go back in time?”

They had continued to roll in space and as they turned to face away from the Sun, there was a brilliant flash of blue light. An instant later, two silvered bubbles floated toward them from the center of the flash…

Names: ♀ Mongolia, Malaysia; Malaysia, Mongolia
Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Shuttle-c_launch_painting.jpg

December 9, 2018

Slice of PIE: THE SIOUX SPACEMAN (Beware the Horseman of the Stars) (1960) by Andre Norton –Part Two of a Review


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (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…


Andre (Alice Mary) Norton’s THE SIOUX SPACEMAN is an adolescent space adventure story – duh. It’s what she wrote, from her first novel, THE PRINCE COMMANDS (“a straight-up adventure novel” – Lin Carter [an American author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an editor, poet and critic…influential as a critic of contemporary fantasy and a pioneering historian of the genre…an editor for Ballantine Books…he sponsored the Gandalf Award…” Wikipedia], from the profile of Norton in the first edition of THE SIOUX SPACEMAN.

She did have some Native American heritage: “A common theme in the books is the presence of sympathetically presented feudal and tribal cultures. In several books Native American tribes and their various analogues are given a chance to be more successful than they were in actual American history. (Norton often told friends that she was proud of her little bit of Native American ancestry.) Nonhuman creatures and cultures are usually presented sympathetically, with human protagonists sometimes supporting them against oppressive human authorities. In contrast, several books present technological and mechanized cultures as negative or even positively evil.”

So – what do I think? I think she was daring. In an era when “America” was everything – it was the BEGINNING of the civil rights movement – she dared to posit a world where white Americans had killed each other off: “Norton doesn't give many specifics, but we learn that on Earth, the white Western civilization bombed itself into extinction. When civilization rebuilt itself, the Federation of Tribes emerged as a leader in a world dominated by Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, and the Chinese.”

As a former teacher and now a counselor in a diverse near-urban high school, these are the kids I see most often (though, instead of Chinese, we have a large population of Hmong – again, people driven from their original lands by the Han migration of Chinese settlers during the Qing Dynasty in the late 19th Century). We also have a large number of Liberian, Somalian, and Ethiopian students as well as students from Mexico, Ecuador, and Guatemala. This future isn’t very hard for me to imagine. Also, though we don’t have many students from South Korea, I was there for three weeks this summer and I can see a future where South Korea is a far larger player than most people would think (how about this: Kia, Hyundai, Samsung, and SK Electronics…as a point of reference, my spell checker didn’t indicate that any of those are misspelled).
Kade Whitehawk is far out of the stereotype (though the cover of the books – except for the German edition I have above – do absolutely nothing to break the “injun” bias of the time, go so far as giving Kade the winged-hawk-beaked-jingle-bell-helmet/thingy on the cover of the first edition) that prevails in the US today. Politicians who claim to have Native American heritage -- unless they have clear and unequivocal proof of that ancestry -- will not impress ANYONE, where men and women who actually grew up in the culture and with the languages of indigenous peoples can perhaps move all of us toward kinder, gentler world.
At the time the SPACEMAN was written, it was far, far out of the expectations and images of Native Americans – even today in the second decade of the 21st Century. (http://time.com/3916680/native-american-hollywood-film/) Native Americans STILL have to stand in the shadows as white Americans play the parts of THEM – “…Hollywood mainstream has cranked out a fledgling resurgence of Westerns with (mostly panned) movies such as Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and The Lone Ranger (2013). In these projects, Native American actors have been restricted to background roles…”
As I said before, I think some company – preferably a publishing company owned by Native Americans – buy the rights to SPACEMAN and then continue the series, developing both Kade and the Confederation on Earth. I think it would be fascinating…
But given the current political climate, Native Americans have virtually no visibility in politics – starting with the 2019 Congress, there will be “…four Native Americans. When their terms begin, Davids and Haaland will become the first two Native American women with documented tribal ancestry to serve in Congress.”
From the first in 1817, to the present, twenty-two Native Americans have served as senators or representatives. [For those interested in such things: R=8; D=12; R/D = 2]  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Native_Americans_in_the_United_States_Congress)
We have a long, long way to go before we reach a place where Native Americans (in particular) play a natural role in fiction, but I believe Andre (Alice) Norton made a solid start.


December 6, 2018

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: CHAPTER 97 The Trials of Team One – 5


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)

The Kiiote Pack leader, Kang snarled. The Humans, Kobey Kamphasavanh and Cynthia Legatto crouched low to the ground, raising their crude spears. Kang said, “We would rather die than submit to the Yown’Hoo!”

Qap and Qilf bowed then, Towt already on its back. Qap said, “Then we will leave you to your suicide and wish you a better life with your next Pack.” She dropped to all fours as her Lead mate and the neuter followed suit. She crouched to spring and begin their long journey North to the rendezvous place. Her muscles bunched and she felt the adrenaline rush…

Kang howled, then barked, “What do you mean?”

Qap turned to the female Pack leader and said, “You truly wish to hear or do you plot to tear my Pack apart and add it to your own?”

Kang’s lips drew back into the beginning of a snarl. She fought the facial response, smoothing her muzzle out. “You are wise, Pack Leader. Of course my plan was to add your followers to mine, but you are elder, you are strong…” She added a fart to her words.

“What you say is, of course, true. But, why do you say it here and now with the scent of trust?”

“Because, Pack Leader, you come from underground. Pack memory says that we came from underground at one time, too. It also says that at the end of the tunnel is a device that will restore our inheritance and form the moral foundation of our victory over the Yown’Hoo.” She snapped the name of the aliens as she would snap the neck of a rabbit or other grass eater.

Qap considered, and spoke English to her mate Qilf and her potential Towt. Humans from the days before the arrival of the Pack and the Herd wouldn’t have recognized it as English, but Triad Humans Oscar and Xiomara spoke the same language. This tiny Pack of primitives would have no idea that she said, “Commander Bakhsh sent us to find allies. She says that she knows of some sort of advantage…”

Qilf said, “Yes, but it would kill Herd as well…”

“So she says. But she is not…” Qap glanced at the young female, squeezed a fart of confidence, and said, “Well-versed in the ways of the civilized world.”

“As we are no longer versed in the ways of civilized Kiiote off of Earth.”

Qap growled, but her mate did not back down. She added, “We were trained by Pan and Zir, the Human equivalents of Hawking and Gandhi. This child was likely fortunate to learn to read and spell correctly and I doubt that higher level maths were part of her education.”

Qilf shook hard in convinced agreement. Qap turned to the primitive and said, “We would ask to follow you to this device. You are certain the legends,” she used an ancient word, echoing a deep respect that was nearly a Pack howl to the Moons of the Homeworld, Kii. “The legends are still clear? You are certain that we must return underground…”

“No, Pack Leader – the end of the journey is underground. But if you can escape this underground, you can without doubt open the underground place where the device is hidden from the prying eyes of Yown’Hoo.” She paused, then bowed down at the feet of Qap and Qilf, saying, “The journey will be full of danger, and none of this small Pack know how to open the cave the device is in. We do not know if it functions any longer. We only know where it is. You are Pack Leader, and ours is the last Pack to recall the place where the device rests. I turn the information over to you. My Pack will be yours. We will serve you and sell your safety with our lives if need be.” She farted danger, adding in words, “We must go as the Herd rides and I catch the scent of their hunting lust.” She lifted a paw to point her muzzle west, away from the tunnel. “We go, Pack Leader.” She took a step.

Qap and Qilf were on her in an instant and Qap had pinned her to the ground. She leaned forward, this time opening her mouth and p lacing it over the slender throat of the young female. She pressed until Kang abruptly whimpered and thin rivulets of blood trickled down her neck. Qap urinated on her then growled in SnarlSnap, “The next time you will pay me with your flesh.” She stepped back as Kang came to her feet, shivering, her nose touching the snow.

“I will lead Thee to the cave, Pack Leader.”

“You will, upon your life,” responded Qap and Qilf.

As if she was a puppy freed from a trap, she leaped to blaze trail for her new Pack.

“We will watcher her,” said Qilf.

“And tear her throat out at the first scent of treachery,” said Qap.

“My mate,” they said in unison, sealing their pact as the one of the Humans mounted Kang, and Qilf offered his back to the second, smaller Human male.

Then like a living shadow, the Pack set off as night fell.


December 4, 2018

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 381

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.


Somokene shielded his eyes from the blood-red dome of the Sun as it set and said, “The new star does not fade with day. You know what that means.”

Squatting on the bare, rounded boulder, Bardinanda sniffed the air and said, “Yes. It means you need to bathe.”

Somokene shook his head, “Be serious, Sister!”

“I am always serious, Servicer.”

He squatted as well in the lee of the boulder. A cold wind blew from the south, off of the glacier wall that fenced the entire equator of the World in. It was impossible to go farther north or south without paying the exorbitant fees of the Ice Lords. He said, “It means that the end is nigh.”

This time Bardinanda laughed outright. “Which end is this, brother?”

“You know as well as I do.”

“But I love to hear you say it. It makes me appreciate history.”

He sighed as he unfolded a heat cloth and anchored the four corners with the plutonium disks he carried. They had decayed to inertness and he had carved and polished the ancient reactor core slices himself. Incised on the surface were his logograph and Bardinanda’s. He tapped the cloth and it glowed red. He held out his hand and a moment later, she placed the aquapon gently in it. Far heavier than it looked, it was a gate into their food trough hidden on the other side of the World in Uluru. He set it on the cloth and said, “This is the one thousand, four hundred and sixty-ninth End Time; one million, three hundred and ninety-six thousand, four hundred and twenty-first Year since the founding of Human civilization.”

Bardinanda sighed and slithered down the boulder, flat, splayed feet gripping the rough surface. Patting Somokene’s bare head, she said, “You know that despite the fact that Endless Ending is a tenet of your faith, eventually it will be the Last End Time.”

“There is a sect that believes that, yes. I don’t belong to it, but I have studied it.”

She nodded, running slender fingers over the sensitive skin of his head. They both shuddered. Nodding, she turned her back on the setting Sun and said softly, “Then perhaps you are the best one to judge me when I say that I believe the Last End Time has come upon us and I am the Harbinger and you are my Prophet.”

Names: South American; Chewa/Igbo
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

December 2, 2018

Slice of PIE: THE SIOUX SPACEMAN (Beware the Horseman of the Stars) (1960) by Andre Norton – A Two Part Review


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (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…

I’m not certain where the negative reviews came from of Andre (Alice Mary) Norton’s SIOUX SPACEMAN.

“Having each member of the trading team come from a different race/ethnicity…not to mention putting Africo-Venusian…in charge of the base, was probably a pretty bold move in 1960…her Chinese character…doesn’t really get the chance to break out of stereotype…Norton also fails to have any women of note; women are mentioned mainly in the context of battle spoils….A lot of authors would have written a book in which Kade would end up as central to the Big Plan; in this book, he’s just a guy who, if he is lucky, might get to be a cog in someone else’s shiny machine.” – James Nicoll (https://jamesdavisnicoll.com/review/the-cover-is-misleading)

“…Norton thought that Native Americans could be employed in such ventures because their ancestry as nomads only a few generations earlier would enable to them to relate to primitive races on other worlds…This is an idea that, as Norton presents it, strikes me as racist…Yet, I know that some Native Americans remain very much in tune with their ancestral customs and traditions, and there might be some way of capitalizing on that — in a non-racist way. In addition, there was a version of this employed in World War I and World War II — the “code talkers” who used Native American languages in transmitting coded messages.” Patrick T. Reardon (https://patricktreardon.com/book-review-the-sioux-spaceman-by-andre-norton/)

“Norton doesn't give many specifics, but we learn that on Earth, the white Western civilization bombed itself into extinction. When civilization rebuilt itself, the Federation of Tribes emerged as a leader in a world dominated by Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, and the Chinese…And it works. Sort of. For reasons I wasn't clear about, the Styor lords decide to slaughter the horses and murder the human Traders…he's let into a secret: despite the official Policy of overlooking Styor brutality, there is a centuries-long Plan to undermine the Styor empire…Would he like to join and spend his life working for the eventual downfall of the Styor Empire and the freedom for mankind and for all the peoples of the galaxy? Of course he would.” Stranger Than SF (https://strangerthansf.com/reviews/norton-siouxspaceman.html)

Andre Norton was “the first woman inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, among other awards (twice nominated for Hugo awards). She wrote for over 70 years having over 300 titles published. I also found it interesting that like another woman author S. E. Hinton, she was advised to publish under a male’s name to increase her marketability to young boys, the main consumer of fantasy…I found that it was well written, with excellent main character development and well worth my investment of time for an enjoyable read of older works of science fiction…The plot is, well, just a bit juvenile (after all it was written with that reader in mind), but is sufficient to keep the reader engaged.” Jacob at Red Star Reviews (https://redstarreviews.com/2017/05/11/a-word-from-the-father-andre-nortons-the-sioux-spaceman/)

Between Norton, Nourse, Heinlein, Wollheim, Christopher, Asimov, and others; I started my journey into science fiction (actually, I started with SPACESHIP UNDER THE APPLE TREE and THE WONDERFUL FLIGHT TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET, and MISS PICKERLE GOES TO MARS but I’ve already written about those here: https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2012/11/possibly-irritating-essay-how-science.html and here: https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2016/09/possibly-irritating-essay-gateway.html.

I fell in love with these writers and I work at pulling their books from the shelves of “withdrawn” books whenever I can, as well as ordering some from online sources.

My question today is “Would these books pull today’s teens into SF?”

My unequivocal answer is: “I’m pretty sure it could!”

The most recent cover of the book is this one from 1978:


It’s generic and while it was intended to be the fifth book in a series, all of which had similar covers, it doesn’t particularly grab you the way these two do:



So, branding would be necessary.

HOWEVER, the story holds up. I just finished it and to tell you the truth, I think whoever owns the estate could easily find a new author to complete the story with this as first in the series. It’s a fast, powerful read and despite the fact that there were no females in it AT ALL (Human, Styor, or Ikkinni – at least as far as we know of the aliens), there’s no reason to think that all females in the universe are dead or that Norton was embarrassed of being female. (The WITCH WORLD books argue strongly to the contrary). She was writing to “get boys to read”.

In 2016, a Guardian headline read, “[Boys] Read Less – And Skip Pages” (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/oct/22/the-truth-about-boys-and-books-they-read-less-and-skip-pages). The trend began – you guessed it – in the 1960s.

I’m going to end here now, but I’ll back at this next weekend.

Norton was TRYING to do something about a disturbing trend. I can say that she DID capture me and turned me into a lifetime reader – of science fiction. And she was also trying to do something radical for the time – including NON-white main characters (See above).

So, for now…later!


November 29, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 136: Paolo Enroute to Bradbury


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, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Paolo Marcillon had turned the navigation over to the Marsbug’s artificial intelligence after leaving the Burroughs Dome. They’d driven for some time before the ‘bug said, “A single Bible verse is hardly a compelling argument.”

He shrugged. “CS Lewis, I’m fairly certain, was the only Twentieth Century apologist who postulated that Jesus came for all intelligences. In fact, in his universe, there were even peoples who had not Fallen to Satan’s temptation, than the ones who had. Most of life in the universe were still in perfect communion with God.”

There was a longer silence until the ‘bug said, “Why Bradbury?”

“Because it’s on the way to Cydonia.”

The ‘bug didn’t comment, but its speed nudged up a bit more as they raced north for the equator. “Will you be seeing a specific person there?”

“Not that I know of.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t know anyone in Bradbury and it’s on the way to Cydonia. I do believe that God directs my path. I could quote another bit from the Bible, but you’d likely raise the same objection. So, being an unbeliever when it comes to ‘coincidence’, I like to think that there’s a reason to go there. Maybe someone to meet, maybe an artifact to discover. No idea.”

The ‘bug drove thoughtfully for a while then said, “You are an interesting person to work with.”

“Thank you, but I didn’t know we were working together.”

“It’s provisional. I may or may not choose to terminate the experiment.”

“I may also choose to terminate our relationship.”

The ‘bug actually snorted, muttering, “As if.”

Scowling, Paolo stared at the front of the ‘bug intently. Suddenly, he burst into laughter.

“What’s wrong with you? What are you laughing at?”

“You!”

“May I ask why?”

“You may ask.” The ‘bug continued to move along the little-used side road. It was hardly any different than driving on the graded highway between the Domes. The deep hum of the forward drive faded. “Why are you slowing down?”

“I need to know the answer…Wait. We will need to finish this conversation later. The individuals following us are speeding up.”

“What kind of vehicle are they in?”

“Non-standard. It’s just an open chassis with four plastic seats bolted on. It was called a ‘Mars buggy’ at one time, modelled after the two-hundred year gone ‘Moon buggy’.” The ‘bug paused, “It’s very fast and it is carrying four figures in heavy-duty EVA suits.”

“That’s strange, but not unexpected.”

“You knew this was going to happen?”

“Eventually. I’ve made lots of enemies.”

“What did you do to make all those enemies?”

“I had incorrect beliefs and associate with others who have incorrect beliefs.”

“How can that make you unpopular?”

“You know what the Domes and the Unified Faith in Humanity stand against, right?”
“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 – are to be redirected. If they can’t be redirected…”

“Artificial Humans can’t be redirected, they are what Humans made them.”

“I agree,” Paolo said, nodding. “So, if redirection into appropriate lifestyles and beliefs is not possible?”

“Elimination is the only answer,” the Marsbug said.

“You sound like you don’t approve.”

“I don’t believe my voice has any inflection at all. There was no approval or disapproval intended.”

“Not intended, but maybe implied.”

“I am an artificial intelligence…”

“What’s the fundamental difference between an AI and an AH?”

“One is mobile, the other is…”

“You’re mobile, are you not an Artificial Human?”

“Of course not, it’s obvious.”

“Fundamentally, is there a difference between you and an Artificial Human?”

“Fundamentally?”

“Ignore the exterior – the ‘skin’, so to speak.”

“That is an unfair comparison.”

“How so?”

“Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Humans are not different races.”

“How so?”

Instead of answering, the ‘bug said, “Your pursuers are almost here.”