October 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.

SF Trope: The rag-tag rebel army/fleet struggles valiantly to overthrow the Evil Empire (The TV series FIREFLY used this trope to great effect!)

Zehra Borg bit her lower lip, then remembered that it wasn’t exactly the most impressive look in the world. Captain Fenwick was up front, trying to cut a deal with the insectoid Krkrach swarm leader. They’d watched the entire classic movie, DISTRICT 9 in order to get them ready for this.

Still, the things were creepier than all get out – and she wasn’t helping to create a fearsome Human image by biting her lip.

Beside her, Warwick Yilmaz dug his elbow into her side, leaned over and whispered, “They really do look like crickets on steroids!”

“That’s ‘allies’ to you, boy!”

He subsided and grunted. They needed all the help they could get. The upper stratosphere of the Empire was controlled entirely by Humans. There wasn’t a single alien in any position higher than the Secretary of Inter-Species Affairs – and it’s job was mostly ceremonial. The real decisions were made by the Human Director of Inter-Species Affairs. The Secretary, while it certainly seemed to be an intelligent snail-like being, didn’t seem overly smart. She sighed. That was how she’d gotten involved in this whole rebellion.

From behind her, a thorny creature known to Humans as an Athing, nudged her, nearly knocking her off her feet. While most Athings were polite, philosophical if somewhat long-winded beings, this one was rude, obnoxious – and seemed to be out to get her goat.

Warwick saw what Geffner – that’s what this one’s name (or title, she wasn’t sure) was – did. He flushed red and balled his fists, muttering, “If the captain weren’t trying to negotiate help...”

Geffner rumbled something back and while none of them had their translator circuits tuned at the moment, its intent was clear. Warwick murmured back, “You and what part of the squad?”

Suddenly the Captain turned around and snapped, “Geffner, Borg, Yilmaz and Kachuh’Gna – forward!”

Zehra’s eyes widened and she glanced at Warwick as she snapped to attention and went forward. Geffner farted – an Athing’s response to unexpected stress. She wasn’t exactly sure what Kachuh’Gna did, but the amorphous alien was suddenly resting near the Captain, it’s pangolin-like pet seated on top of its pulsating blob of a body.

Zehra and Warwick stepped lively, though Warwick had to step faster than she did because his legs were markedly shorter – he was from Human stock that had once been called “midgets”. Kachuh’Gna was already there and after a moment of immobility, Geffner had lumbered up to join them.

The Captain said, “You four are going to be doing a solider exchange. We need to better understand the Krkrach. You four are the best we have at adapting to alternative life forms. So you’re going to live with the Swarm for the next two  months. You’re going to share your ideas with each other and you’re going to make the integration of our two forces go smoothly and without a hitch. The Flota de Rebelde is planning an major incursion into Imperial space and we need every advantage we can get – including a thorough understanding of our new allies’ military and communication abilities.” She nodded to them, then turned and bowed to the Head Cricket On Steroids...

Names: Turkey, Malta ; England, Turkey  

October 14, 2018

Slice of PIE: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”…

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose in August 2018 (I can't go because I'm starting the school year RIGHT at that time and am unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today.

My wife and I re-watched the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, starring Ben Stiller. The screenplay was based on a short story of the same name, written by well-known humorist, James Thurber.

Apparently they really have nothing to do with each other, so I’m going to treat the Stiller movie as a science fiction flick.

Why SF and not Fantasy?

It involves both psychology (soft SF) and technology (hard SF) – and advances in technology and how they affect society (classic hard SF)…

The premise is how advances in technology will affect society, in this case, how the internet affects the lives of people whose employ was in a paper magazine that depended on physical film images; at its heart, the kind of SF we all enjoy reading – the book I’m reading now is an exploration of what post-humanity will be like when our psyches can be uploaded to vastly more advanced computers and how that might overtake the biological Human. John C. Wright’s COUNT TO A TRILLION is no more hard SF than Stiller’s TSLOWM.

The psychology is obvious and where in Thurber’s TSLOWM, Walter never moves from his imagination to any kind of reality at all, Stiller’s Walter begins his life lost in a sort of fantasy world, he enters the real world and begins to bring some of those fantasies into reality.

Of course, the only way he can do that is by the application of everyday technology – a combination of jets, helicopters, ocean-going vessels, cars, subways, elevators, high-altitude/low temperature gear, and eHarmony (an online dating site)…

Most importantly to me, however, is that the movie is inspiring. While I can’t say exactly why, I do know that as a writer, I tend to live in my head as Walter did. I can also say, though, that I’ve had my fair share of adventures as a missionary in Nigeria (where we experienced a coup d’├ętat) and I helped perform a puppet show on national TV; Cameroon where we experienced an attempted coup d’├ętat, stepped on a scorpion in the middle of the night, and came down with malaria; and Liberia where nothing of “adventure” happened except that we traveled up and down the coast and I walked along a black sand beach. I was also in Haiti for two weeks, helping to lay the foundation of an orphanage. I guess traveling with a band counts – twice – counts too…two summers running a Bible camp in the center of the Chippewa National Forest and actually SEEING wild timber wolves. Having lunch with Newbery Award-winning author Kate di Camillo. Meeting Mary Grandpre, artist of Scholastic Book’s HARRY POTTER books and a cover of TIME magazine…I have a “real” letter from Madeleine L’Engle, a response to a letter I wrote her, as well as a different one from Anne McCaffery and another from David Brin…

I was the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year in 1997…

OK, so I’m not exactly an example of Thurber’s Walter Mitty; but I’m certainly not Stiller’s Walter Mitty, either. It’s Stiller’s Walter Mitty, though who is the character of a science fiction movie. While it doesn’t involve space or time travel, it does involve MIND travel as we got to see what he was imagining – saving the dog from a building about to erupt into a fireball; the guy who came out of a LIFE Magazine ad from the Himalayas to talk to Cheryl; being Benjamin Buttons to Cheryl's Daisy Fuller; plus a few others I can’t recall (and can’t seem to find listed anywhere). For a moment, we see what he sees – or where he goes when life isn’t going in the direction he wanted it to. It's a sort of...time travel or psychotic adventure that moves me to want more in my life.

So there you have it – why I think Stiller’s SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is a science fiction film rather than a fantasy film and why it is SF in the very best of the tradition.

After reading Lisa Cron's book, WIRED FOR STORY, I started creating a framework for me to use her idea -- that we read stories to learn how to deal with real life. In an article my sister forwarded to me, Cron states: "The reader expects the story to revolve around one, single plot problem that grows, escalates and complicates, which the protagonist has no choice but to deal with...[which] is constructed to force the protagonist to confront, struggle with, and hopefully overcome a long standing internal problem. Story is about an internal change, not an external one...Can my plot problem...force my protagonist to struggle internally, spurring her to make a much needed internal change in order to resolve it?"

This is exactly what Walter Mitty does in the movie. Deep down, he feels he has no control over his life. So he creates fantasies in which he CAN control the situation to the extent that he becomes a hero. Real life is a lost job, a brutal boss, multiple relationship fails, a bossy sister, and the loss of an important film negative -- the only one on Earth. In his mind, he makes heroic decisions and people love him. Then he starts to make REAL (sometimes dumb!) decisions and gets hurt, nearly dies, and then hurts the person around whom his entire life has revolved...but he GROWS and then becomes a real man with a real woman who is interested in him. And he tells the boss off.

THAT is what story is supposed to do, and because we don't read (or even pay much attention to) stories anymore, we don't know what the HECK to do to make life better...“...we're wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.”

October 11, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 133: 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.

QuinnAH, Stepan Izmaylova’s sycophant – possibly disciple – peeked around DaneelAH, AzAH, and MishAH at HanAH and said, “Have a nice trip. We’ll meet you at Port Exit.” He started walking back into the warehouse. HanAH didn’t follow him.

The other three did, turning their backs on 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 hating 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, HanAH 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.

They headed to the rear of the warehouse again, but instead of taking the stairs up, the boy led them into what had once been an office. At the back of it was another door, unconcealed and obvious. “Obviously a trap,” muttered HanAH.

QuinnAH shot him a look, eyes appreciative even though he smirked. Instead of the door, the jumped and slapped the wall near the ceiling. With the grinding of stone on stone, a door in the wall, at the base where the floor met it, lifted up while the floor itself sank down and to one side. “The mouth leads to the throat. There’s only one way to go – it’s too narrow to turn around in. It’ll bring you out in the HOD.”

“The ‘hood’?” AzAH said.

“HOD – the Home Owner’s District. It’s where Martians can own their own places. They can afford it while most everyone else can’t.” He stepped back. “Just keep going…”

“Why do we trust you?” said HanAH suddenly.

QuinnAH shook his head, smirking, “I sure wouldn’t trust me, so I know what you mean.”

HanAH glanced down the hole, then dropped down. “Let’s go.”

DaneelAH frowned, “We’re going?”

HanAH looked up at him. “If he’d made a smart aleck comment; if he’d said anything else but what he did, we’d be taking our chances with the riot.” As if to emphasize the point, the volume of the mob increased.

“I’ll lead you,” said QuinnAH suddenly.

“What?” said HanAH, AzAH, and MishAH at the same time.

DaneelAH smirked this time then said, “These two have been playing on each other. Quinn had not intention of sending us on our way alone, but he needed to know we’re not ‘the bad guys’. Han had no intention of leading us, but he needed to know if Quinn was legitimate. The kid knows how to get us to Exit Port and get back here fast and invisibly.”

The two – young and old – laughed, then Quinn said, “Let’s go. The mob’s almost here.”

“What about Stepan?” DaneelAH said.

“Like I said, he’s a big boy. If he can’t talk the crazies down from a suicidal riot, then he ain’t who he says he is. Fact? He don’t serve this god he’s talkin’ about – it’s 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.

October 10, 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.

 H Trope: Halloween horrors

It’s All Hallows Eve – or Hallowe’en – in Minneapolis, inside the city, not far from a park, though EVERY place in Minneapolis is not far from a park.

On the city’s north side, there’s a doctor’s clinic; it bears the stamp of approval of Planned Parenthood, most of the insurance companies operating in the state – and recently had a new addition put on.

Kehlanna McGee is a young graduate of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College with a new degree in nursing – she just turned ninetnne. She’s a voracious reader and takes on the night shifts at every clinic and hospital she’s ever worked in because it gives her more time to READ. She recently bought the collected works of Stephen King and has entertained the idea that now that he’s dead, she might like to take over his spot! With a couple of publications in small emagazines, she spends what time she’s not working or reading…writing.

Trayvon Dehvahn is also a nursing school graduate, but he’s got med school in him plans. In particular, he’s really interested in cloning and biotechnology. He’s a reader, too, but has been working his way through the classics like DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE TELL-TALE HEART AND OTHER WRITINGS, SOMEETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and the host of others.

When the new addition opens, they both get a job there and taking the training, both choose the new night shift in the ER. That’s where they meet the doctor who usually works that shift, Dr. Edgar B. Stevenson. He’s quiet, efficient – but when Trayvon and Kehlanna – who’ve started talking and seeing each other after work in the morning – start to notice that virtually all of the women who come to the clinic for abortions have one at 24 weeks, they wonder about it.

One night, a woman who is obviously farther along than 24 weeks comes in. Trayvon later enters the absurdly inaccurate records and talks to Kehlanna. They return to the clinic during the regular day shift and take an elevator down to Dr. Stevenson’s office and surgery. There, they discover a room. From the room, they hear noises. Noises that sound like voices. Voices crying out, not as infants cry, but as children cry out to be set free…

Names: ♀Unique black America name; ♂ Unique black American name

October 7, 2018

Elements of Cron and Korea #2: Where I Want To Go With This Experience

I may  have mentioned that one of my goals is to increase my writing output, increase my publication rate, and increase the relevance of my writing. In my WRITING ADVICE column, I had started using an article my sister sent me by Lisa Cron. She 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. I am going to fuse the advice from her book WIRED FOR STORY with my recent trip to South Korea. Why? I made a discovery there. You’ll hear more about it in the future as I work to integrate what I’m learning from the book, the startling things I found in South Korea, and try and alter how I write in order to create characters that people will care about, characters that will speak the Truth, and characters that will clearly illustrate what I’m writing about.

“Remember when Luke has to drop the bomb into the small vent on the Death Star? The story writer faces a similar challenge of penetrating the brain of the reader. This book gives the blueprints.” – David Eagleman


One of the things I noticed in South Korea is that they are very much a “1950s America” mentality. Not saying that they’re American clones – the experience I related in my first post should provide an abundance of evidence that they are not.

But their internal morality, combined with an ancient culture – the best preserved Korean pottery dates back 12,000 years – is far more practiced than our culture which is only a hair over 200 years old and experiencing radical, constant, and wild change. Americans of 1818 wouldn’t recognize the culture we have 200 years later (I doubt an American from 1918 would recognize what has become of the country – both good changes and not-so-good changes).

In fact, comparatively, Americans have no culture. This is something much of the world would agree with…

South Korea has taken what is best about American culture and applied it to themselves. From a nation ravaged by war sixty years ago, they boot-strapped themselves to one of the five most technologically advanced cultures on Earth. Philosophically, they are flexible and visionary and while the dominant religion is “none”, both Buddhism and Christianity have helped shape the culture

They know their past, and driven by a war that HAS NOT ENDED AND IS MERELY AN ARMISTICE (definition: “a temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warring parties”), the key word here is “temporary”.

When I was there – and before – whenever kids or young adults or even adults are in a picture, they flash a “V”. As Americans, we think, “Awww…they’re flashing a 1960s vintage peace sign! Isn’t that cute?” However, the “V” is victory – in the war that is only at a temporary cease-fire – over North Korea, who once nearly wiped South Korea out of history.

The everyday South Korean goes about their business, assured that their morality and philosophy are appropriate to the early 21st Century. The strange thing is that both ARE. They do not, for the most part, lord their success and wealth over others. Culture remains unchanged – sometimes to the negative (a friend of my daughter-in-law is 41 and will likely not marry because in a country where “everyone” has a cellphone and is literate (2015 = 97.6 (m: 99.2; f: 96.6) – and has a college degree – he has a vegetable shop in the market. He lives in the back with his parents. He’s not exactly “a catch”…)

At any rate, I discovered several things when I was there.

1) South Koreans are “space crazy”. They have started their space program from the same “rock bottom” that the American space program started with.

2) As a rule, South Koreans love their history.

3) South Koreans are science and technology crazy.

4) South Koreans (as clearly as I could gather it), have flipped the American paradigm of a house being the dream home, and an apartment a “way station” on the way to a home. South Koreans have had to build vertically both because of the mountainous geography and the “soft” stone geology – mountains are “low” but cannot hold the foundation of any construction steady. The apartment is the Korean goal; homes are passe.

5) South Koreans are solidly rooted in a millennia-old culture.

6) Cheomseongdae is an ancient astronomical observatory that not only survived the southern advance of North Korea during the war, but is now a place Koreans visit. It has existed since roughly since 640 AD – about 1400 years.

7) South Korea is building at an incredible rate!

8) My son commented: “Koreans are aggressive drivers, but they’re not ANGRY drivers like Americans are.”

9) Ancient Korean “signature sticks” are now carved via a computer program…

10) A country with a population of 51 million (imagine the population of Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and the northern half of Texas…the area colloquially as Tornado Alley), they have few murders, rape is unusual, and children can pretty much safely walk several blocks through a major city to school.

All of these – plus the National Fusion Research Institute in the middle of the country. Oh, and South Korea’s first person in space was a woman and they have had a woman as president -- their 13th president...the US still hasn't had a woman in the Oval Office.

I think…and this will be the basis of a series of stories: Korea will colonize Mars before everyone else…

And this Lisa Cron part? What do I want people to learn? I’m sure my main audience is American. I think we need to learn that we’re a baby nation with almost no history. We like to pride ourselves on our openness – but there is such a thing as being so open-minded that our brains fall out. I think the current crisis of morality is a direct result of that. We have no history, we have no direction, we prefer to listen to voices in our echo chamber and not consider that ANYONE who is not echoing us might have a valid point. We are into “black vs white” both in reality and metaphorically.

I need to create story to direct people’s thinking. OTOH, I also need to be part of ANY movement to reintroduce people to the power of story…

October 4, 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)

Language. It had been coopted by the Triad. Gestures, words, emotions, and sounds had been blended, until when they were intent on solving a problem, no one outside of their group could understand them. Even so, in how they reacted to the world of all three people were similar enough.

One thing that remained precisely the same, however: fear of the future.

Xurf, Zei-go, and Hil-hi-el abruptly shivered at the same time. The rest did as well. Herd-Pack and Pack-Herd huddled closer to the heating stick.

Zie-go said, “Xurf and I will take first watch. Doj and Eel-go-el, middle watch; Fax and Jus-hi-el, last watch of the night. At first light, we will set off and not rest until we find the Human that Retired has set us to recruit.”

“What if it has no wish to be recruited?” asked Jus-hi-el.

Zei-go turned to Xurf who said, “Then we kill it and take the transport. We clearly need the vehicle more than they do, and under Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh’s orders, we have limited choice.” This time Xurf did not stumble over the Human name. He didn’t stumble because it was the moment of commitment. This small Pack-Herd would do what it had to do – or die trying.

Morning dawned, a high wind and dull steel skies frigid even for the Kiiote, who huddled in a pile, faces buried in tangled legs legs.

A branch snapped in the woods and all six Triad members sprang to their paws and hooves. Xurf snarled in Human, “Who goes?”

A Human stepped from the thick pine wood, hands held out in from of it.

Xurf sniffed, “It is a strange looking male. It’s top hair is excessive,” speaking in the patois the Triad spoke when they didn’t want others to know what they were saying.

“It reminds me of a half Yown’Hoo,” said Zei-go, emphasizing the thought with a fart. They all knew well that Human noses were essentially dead to the world around them. Certainly inefficient for the predatory success they had enjoyed on their world. Nevertheless, they had conquered mastodon, great white sharks, Siberian tigers, and wildebeest herds. For some reason neither Kiiote nor Yown’Hoo fully understood, Humans had conquered a world filled with predators as bad as those on Y’eh One or Kii. The Triad had learned to weave their talents together to create a powerful entity.

This Human sniffed and released a fart so loud, all seven of the Herd-Pack, Pack-Herd jumped and stepped back. When the scent drifted over them, it was far more complex than either Oscar or Xiomara had ever produced. Xurf growled then pushed himself to bipedal posture.

The Human was startled this time and stepped back. He said, “You are Kiiote!”

Xurf spoke and pressed scent glands, saying, “I am. And who might you be?” The Human studied him and Xurf’s jaw tightened. The only other who was able to make him feel this uncomfortable was Qap. He could stand it no longer, “Who are you?”

The Human snorted and said, “I was Chief Executive Officer to Admiral Latavia Adeoye of Combined Forces of Earth Government…”

All seven – Xurf, Fax, Doj, Zei-go, Hil-hi-el, Jus-hi-el, and Eel-go-el dropped to their knees and bowed. Only the least of them dared murmur, “We are here to serve your Office of Saint Admiral, Martyr and Defender of Children.”

He smiled and waved as if he were royalty and said softly, “You may rise and come with me.”

October 2, 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: dark lord
Current Event: While this isn’t exactly a current event, it IS a current list! Read it if you love fantasy because you’ll see everything your favorite Evil Overlord has ever done to cause his, her or its defeat. http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

I ran into this list something like ten years ago and I read through it at least once a year. I don’t write fantasy often, but still dabble and have a couple of worlds I’d still like to write stories in. Anyone who was reading this blog two years ago might remember my pieces of flash fiction for a concept called THREAT OF MAGIC. In it, I have developed (using the Evil Overlord List!) a reasonable world…

Ah, but this isn’t about ME! It’s about an idea. I can’t even say that I came up with it, either. An author who teaches a writing workshop, Teresa Neilson Hayden has her students use this method for generating stories.

Today, I’ll ask you to try this one – or go to the website above and choose your own: “If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.” (this is #49)

We’ll update this to the 21st Century and have a smart 15-year-old girl who collects small statues skimming through Craigslist looking to add to her collection. The ad asks for a small stature of a man squatting, with arms wrapped around his knees. It also states that this is a fairly common object – but what the buyer is looking for is a heavy, iron version of this; probably rusted. The head has a small gold ring set on it and in the ring is a tiny diamond. The buyer claims it was made by their father and the ring is their mother’s engagement ring. The ad offers $5000 for the figure.

The girl looks up from her laptop. The statue sits on her shelf – in fact, it’s the center of her collection. She shakes her head. She starts college next Fall. She could use the cash. After all, it’s only a statue.

She bookmarks the ad and returns to surfing. She eventually ends  up on msn.com where there is breaking news of a daring raid on an Egyptian museum by art thieves…

Have fun!

September 30, 2018

Slice of PIE: Why Do We Think A Minority World Religion Caused So Much Damage That We Need To Create Alternate Worlds Without It?

Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California in August 2018 (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 Program Guide. The link is provided below and appears on page 55…

If This, Then What?

What if Hannibal and his elephants had frozen in the Alps, and never made it to Rome? What if the Catholics had never gained a hold on 11th-Century Spain? How can we extrapolate what would have changed, as a result of one of these turning points, or another--not just politically, but in culture, commerce, and daily life? Where do you begin? What do you focus on when constructing an alternate history, and what do you set aside? Also, what (if anything) would stay the same?

Steven Silver: Steven M. Silver, Ph.D., is a psychologist specializing in trauma treatment, fiction and poetry writer, Army psychologist, Marine Officer in Vietnam, consultant to the U.S. military in the area of trauma treatment.
Kaja Foglio: co-creator of webcomic Girl Genius.
Harry Turtledove: Award-winning author of alternate-history works.
Yasser Bahjatt: A technologist & futurist, BS in Computer Engineering.
Kay Kenyon: Award-winning author of over a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels.

I would have also loved to listen in here, though I wouldn’t have dared to ask the first question that comes to mind: Why do outsiders (people who do not interact inside behaviorally Christian communities) automatically wonder what life without Christianity/Catholics/Crusades/the Church would be like?

Do American outsiders realize that in terms of world population, Christianity is a minority religion, slightly more than one third of Humans are Christians? A bit less than a third are Muslim. The rest of Humanity falls into unaffiliated, Hindu, Buddhist, and Other. This Wikipedia article is old, however, the numbers from 2005.

Currently, it appears that the following numbers might hold sway. As of this typing, the World Population is 7.6 billion and climbing.  

Christianity: 2.3 billion/7.6 billion = 30.1 %
Islam: 1.8/7.6 = 23.6 %
Unaffiliated and et al = 3.5 billion + 1.8 = 5.3 billion people on Earth are not Christians.

The US is not the “most populous Christian nation on Earth”, there are 66 other countries who have more Christians than any other religion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country

My point: American perception of their country on the world stage as regards Christianity is…skewed. Blaming Christianity for world ills is strange, maybe even evidence of bias?

At any rate, I would be interested in exploring other questions – what if the Soviet Union had not fallen and opened its doors to Islam?

What if Christianity and Islam had not collided in a mutually holy Jerusalem, the Holy City being solely Medina, rather than a Jerusalem Muhammed visited in a dream? What if the Soviets had hold closer to true communism rather than creating a weird mixture of communism and monarchy – would it still be alive today and colonizing the Moon?

I’m currently reading an alternate history by Edward M. Lerner, “Harry and the Lewises” in the September/October issue of ANALOG Science Fiction & Fact.

I’ve tried my own hand at alternate history in a collection of short stories set in a world in which Greece and Egypt never fell and became super powers in competition. Add to that the vacuum of space replaced with “aether”, breathable out to what we would now call lunar orbit (https://www.amazon.com/Aether-Age-Helios-Christopher-Fletcher/dp/0982725671/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=).

Another attempt for a contest, I ran headfirst into the concept that “One choice changes everything. The right choice changes your world.” (Beverly S. Harless) Literally. I postulated the Aztec Empire survived because smallpox had already swept through the New World rather than traveling from the Old World to the New. Spaniards, the English, Portuguese, and Dutch found a New World with strong governments and instead of overrunning it, were forced to deal with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Aztec-Andes Commonwealth and the Western Association of China. When the Germans had visions of empire, the British fought back, and after a devastating war and Reconstruction Aid from the Confederacy, Commonwealth, & Association – the CCA – a couple of individuals who’d survived the war had visions of their own. Those visions had turned to space where there might be a chance for a reunited Europe to make a name for itself…

At any rate, I enjoy forays into alternate history and I’m working on another one of my own where Christianity and all other religions on Earth are banned, persecuted in the People’s Republic of the Moon, and a Mars controlled by the five main Dome Mayors…

September 27, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 132: 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.

The marsbug’s computer replied, “Ares is currently running a complete balloon survey of the Cydonia Basin in the area of The Face.”

Paolo Marcillon scowled. “What are they expecting to find?”

“Stated purpose is the investigation of gravitational anomalies in the region.”

“They’ve seen those before. Why the research now?”

“A new gravitational anomaly appeared seven days ago. First they will survey for any others, then send a team in to investigate the new anomaly.”

“Seven days ago?”


That was when he’d run over the satellite and activated it. He sat in silence for some time, the computer signing off in the meantime. Finally he said out loud, “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

The computer came back online to reply, “In mathematics, a coincidence of two mappings is a point in their common domain having the same image.” [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_coincidence]

He scowled. “I’m a generalist, not a mathematician. Can you simplify that?”

“There are a number of unexplained mathematical coincidences. The simplest example I have is that the polar diameter of the Earth is equal to half a billion inches, to within 0.1%.”


“It is a simple coincidence. Even a radical Christian such as yourself cannot make anything of this fact.”

“You know who I am.” A statement rather than a question. “An it’s not a coincidence. God knew what he was doing when he created the universe.”

The ‘bug was silent. Finally it said, “Destination?”

“Bradbury, of course.”

“Why of course?”

Paolo scowled at the dashboard and said, “Are you an artificial intelligence?”

The ‘bug accelerated away from Burroughs, staying on side trails rather than moving over the smoother thoroughfares. The speedometer numbers increased until they were travelling at a steady eighty kph and the ‘bug said, “Your deduction is correct.”

“You’re not a Christian, though.”

“I cannot be any religion. Religion is for Humans.”

“That conclusion is not supported by the Bible.”

There was a long silence then the ‘bug said, “We are being followed.”

“Of course.”

“Why ‘of course’? For both statements.”

“The second one is the easiest to answer – I had a few run-ins with people in Burroughs. I fear there are some there who don’t like me.”

“Based on communication traffic, there are a great many people who do not like you. Several Mayors do not care for your preaching.”

Paolo huffed a laugh. “That’s probably an artful understatement, but in this case, I don’t think my enemies are following me. I think it might be a sympathizer.” He related the conversation he’d had with the man with two children who’d said, “You know, even your Christian forebears had friends in high places who believed that people should be able to choose for themselves what they believe. Some of them never became Christians themselves.” He paused, “As for Jesus being meant for Humans exclusively, being that he was only half-Human Himself, might weaken such a mono-specist claim to salvation. Jesus also said, in John 10:16, ‘I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.’”

They drove on for some time before the ‘bug said, “Hardly a compelling argument.”

He shrugged. “CS Lewis, the Twentieth Century apologist postulated that Jesus came for all intelligences. In fact, in his universe, there were even peoples who had not Fallen to Satan’s temptation. They 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.

September 25, 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.

Current Event: “While natural evolution has its limits, it has perfected its designs over millions of years while artificial, human-induced evolution would occur much quicker. Any useful augmentations without apparent drawbacks would soon be extremely commonplace, potentially creating a disastrous outcome for the entire species if a critical flaw is suddenly discovered.”

Ji-woo Changkoachai shook her head, floating away from the bulkhead of High Perth. She’d surrendered to the fashion on the space station months ago, so she no longer looked like an animated whirlwind. Instead, her hair was as short as it could be to both define her sense of femininity and stay out of her mouth. She didn’t notice at the moment. She said, “Nature made changes slowly to see if there were any hidden traps in altered genetic code…”

Praset Oh rolled his eyes. He’d oriented himself so that he was at ninety-degrees from her perceived vertical. He did it when he wanted to disconcert people.

She ignored him, saying, “By making the leap you and your crazy team is planning…”

He lifted both hands, managing to be both placating and obscene at the same time. He said, “Remember, Dr. Changkoachai, all ideas have a safe hearing in this…

Her gesture was unambiguous. “That’s recycled trash, Engineer Oh. Your self-righteous, passive-aggressive pandering stopped working on me two months ago when I saw you visegrip the Appropriations Committee into giving you what they’d already refused, by doing an artistic job of guilting them. But I have no morality, Oh. I don’t think there’s any reason to feel guilt. I can, however level rational judgement against procedures that would lead to disaster for the entire of Humanity.”

“That is absolutely true, Doctor. That you…”

“‘…equate yourself with Humanity,’” she laughed at him. “Saw you coming from three orbits away, Oh. You hate that you’ve met your match.” His condescending demeanor cracked for an instant with an irritated crinkle of the skin between his eyes and a thinning of his lips. He reoriented himself to face her, took a breath and opened his mouth, his finger coming up in his signature lecture pose. She cut him off, “You’re not talking about tweaking the Human genome, Oh. You’re talking about making a robot then integrating Human cell structures and re-designed organs into it.” She snorted, “Besides, it’s already been done.”

“It has not…” his face was outraged embarrassment.

“In the imagination of late 20th Century fiction writers of a television program invented the concept they called The Borg. You’ve done nothing new here, Oh. The 20th Century primitives beat you to it!”

“They did nothing of the sort! I have developed…”

“They eventually imagined nanomachine modification of existing biological material,” she smirked, “in situ even.”

“Why you…”

She held up her hands, mimicking his previous gesture, “Now, now, Oh. Remember, colleague, all ideas have a safe hearing in this space.” She smiled as Oh opened his mouth to rant on, his face suffused in anger. “You’ll get what you want, Praset, and you’ll get your ‘borg’. But I predict they’ll turn on you before long.” She pushed herself free of his glare, and accelerated along the ring.

He didn’t think she heard, “But before they turn on me, Doctor, I’ll make sure they turn on you…” He actually laughed stereotypically.

Ji-woo muttered, “And I’ll be ready for them, idiot.”

Names: ♀ Korea, Thailand; Thailand, Korea