November 21, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 331

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.

Horror Trope: “Another Man's Terror. This trope takes place where one character is thrown into the shoes of a dead man to experience his final moments....or he has to complete a dead man's task, witnessing and experiencing what killed the person before you.”
Current Event: Though I can't find this idea exactly, I'm sure it's out there somewhere...“Sister dies, deadbeat brother channels her dreams”

Chengpao Yang stared at his mother and said, “What?” She explained again in Hmong this time, because her English was so bad, even his sister couldn't understand Mom right now. If Mom was saying it right, Victoria would never be able to try and understand her mother again. He said, “Are you trying to tell me that Victoria is dead?"

The affirmative was a wail of grief.

What followed was both a long explanation of what happened and an accusation that if he’d been home, she never would have tried to protect her mother against the robber and died of a knife wound that had looked like a nick, but turned out to be from a poisoned knife.

“You mean you would rather have had me die than her?” Mother looked at him for a long time, then buried her face in her hands and wept harder. She collapsed to the floor in a puddle of her house clothes and hair. Chengpao stared down at her for a long time, torn between the urge to kick her, break out into tears and weep, or curse the world, his mother, his dead father, and his overachieving sister.

She rolled over on to her back, staring through him and at the ceiling. Shaking his head, he felt tears welling and finally said, “Fine then. If that’s what you want,” he raised his arms into the air and shouted at the ceiling, “If the spirit of Victoria is hanging out anywhere nearby, go ahead, take over my...”

Without missing a beat, his voice abruptly pitched higher, his posture shifted, and he made a motion with one hand that would have pushed a long strand of hair from his face – if he didn’t have a crew cut. He’d had a crew cut since his thirteenth birthday. He said, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m baaaack…”

Names: England, Laos; Laos, Laos

November 19, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Of Supers & “The S Word”

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in August 2017 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I 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. 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…

Sacrifice went out of fashion when The Greatest Generation began to die of old age…

Evidence is everywhere. From the glut of media hype celebrating the anniversary of the death of a woman who was not only wealthy and in the public eye, but who had no qualms about reveling at being the center of attention; and total media silence about the anniversary of the death of a woman whose life is synonymous with self-sacrifice. They died on the same day and where everyone knows the whole story of Princess Diana, few can remember much about Mother Teresa except that she was some Catholic lady in India somewhere…

We make embarrassed noises and crass jokes about a woman who not only dedicated her life to science, but died a painful death because she dared to reach beyond the known; and we make googly eyes at a mechanical engineer who “…invented a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747s…[and left to] pursue comedy, writing and performing jokes and bits…[and]…would regularly conduct wacky science experiments.” Most notably, he has not sacrificed so much as a booking appearance to science.

“The S Word” is no longer spoken while “The L Word” and the “The F Word” are celebrated as symbols of the ultimate in Human progress and moral achievement.

The age of the heroine is dead; she is gone from the public eye as is “the great man”. Together, once-upon-a-time, they created legends and generated hope.

Today our legends have TV shows, clothing lines, and magazines or websites and they hawk the next Facebook and iPhone Upgrade. It seems to me that real-life heroines and heroes have vanished, though they have reappeared on silver screen and LED screen, leaping off of old-fashioned comic books and new-fangled graphic novels and not only making us look up, but making us cheer (or cringe, depending on the reviews of the most recent super-movie). What started with a dorky kid wizard, a girl who defied a corrupt government with her bow and arrow, and a midget with hairy feet, reached a new culmination in the movie “Wonder Woman”.

I know you’ve all seen it, but when the credits were rolling, I said to my wife, “I hope they let the granddaughter watch this!”

Because I’m a man who grew up among the Greatest Generation, I knew how to tell the difference between a person in authority and a hero. But I’m an old teacher and school counselor now. I watch my students spark for a brief instant when they see “Logan” or “Wonder Woman”, or recall the magic of Narnia, or the bravery of Katniss Everdeen. Then the light goes out because “things aren’t really like that” and “we don’t have heroines anymore”, and except for imaginary movies, they don’t have any clear, realistic concept of the “The S Word” any more – because of a dearth of examples presented by MY generation.

I think this is also why the Christian Church at large is dead to most young people. It may be that they see it as a wealthy, static institution dedicated to the status quo rather than driving out the money changers…and it is CERTAINLY not a hotbed of sacrificial living.

It makes me weep that we have to watch actors pretending to fly planes full of bombs with deadly poisonous gas into the air so that they explode harmlessly; that they pretend die for something that they act as if they believe passionately. Those actors represent something that’s missing in our lives as a civilization.

I’m ending here with the deepest hope that anyone who reads this can refute my claim by naming names and pointing me to children, women, and men who embody “The S Word”; who have sacrificed -- really sacrificed -- for some higher ideal – whether religious or atheist or anywhere in between.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller…Beuller...

Image: https://www.onlocationvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ferrisfesttop.jpg

November 16, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 75

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 young Yown’Hoo sent out by the Herd Mother came back just then. Dao-hi spoke in Y’eh 2349, one of the oldest and least comprehensible languages of the Yown’Hoo. It scurried after Retired and a moment later, dashed down the tunnel the way we had come. He stepped up to me at what I could only think of as “parade rest”.

We had to move ahead; we had to escape whoever was following us – whichever species wanted us dead the worst – no matter what I thought of Yown’Hoo ethics or Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh – we called him Retired – going along with those ethics…and realizing that I was reacting like a child, so I said, “We need to go down the tunnel.”

According to the map we’d looked at, we still had about three klicks to go until we could exit. The young...I looked at Retired and said too loudly, “Lan-mai-ti. Its name was Lan-mai-ti and I am also entitled to my opinion.” I pushed past Retired and started running. A few minutes later, I heard hooves, paws, and feet behind me.

They stayed behind me for a long time. It seemed logical to take a rest. I held up a hand and the sounds behind me stopped. I was tempted to start walking again, but that would have too cliché, echoing movies both ancient and contemporary that I’d been watching since I was young. That made me think and I said, “We’re going to split into two groups.”

No one said anything and I was pretty sure they were all looking at Retired for leadership just then. I spun around. They were looking at him. Lucky for me he turned to me just then. “You have a plan, Oscar?”

“Dao-hi, Lan-mai-ti is still carrying the tracker?”

“Yes. What…”

“That means there are already two targets for our pursuers to follow. I can’t believe that just because you removed yours and clear our bodies, that there are no others.” I looked at Retired and said, “You said that no one else has a tracker implant?”

“Not that I could detect. Mine was the only one I found.”

“What about in our supplies, packs, in our clothing?”

He opened his mouth, lifting a finger to lecture me. He stopped. He closed his mouth. “Why do you need to know?”

“If we have others, we need to deliberately distribute them and then split up in groups of two.”

Dao-hi reared, slashing the air with her hooves. I held my ground and she didn’t hit me, but I felt the breeze on my face. “Glad you didn’t shred my face, Herd Mother.”

“We cannot split into such small groups!” she said, her Spandaringlish barely understandable.

“What’s the smallest group that can still be effective?”

There was long pause. I noticed that  Commander Baksh had was missing – presumably searching the rooms we’d stayed in. Finally the Herd Mother said, “Potentials are fine when they have a clear and simple goal. But we are discussing subterfuge. We can break up into smaller ground, but each must have a leader. I will command and coordinate as always. Zei-go will lead, Hil-hi-el, Jus-hi-el, and Eel-go-el. Seg-go will lead Ali-go, Nah-hi-el, and Por-go-el. Both have the skills I expect for leadership.”

“Two groups,” I said, nodding.

Qap said, “Quilf and Towt will come with me.”

Xurf snarled, “Fax and Doj will run with me.”

“Two more.”

“What about us?” Xio said.

“Commander Baksh will run alone. Xio and me will stay together.”

“Perfect,” Retired said. “I dug up eight more trackers. Some have a hook-system designed to be picked up by fur or clothing. I can safely destroy two of them to make for believability – our spies will relax and assume we only found two of their devices.”

He opened his mouth to keep going, but stopped and looked at me. “Distribute them, Commander.” I kept talking as he passed out the trackers. “There are two exits to the surface near here. Group One will be Qap, Quilf, Towt and Commander Baksh. They’ll exit at the nearest one. Theirs is the smallest group because they will have to farthest to travel exposed on the surface. Group Two is Xurf, Fax, Doj and leader Zei-go with Hil-hi-el, Jus-hi-el, and Eel-go-el they’ll stay in the tunnel until the next exit. Group Three will be led by Xio who will coordinate the group. I’ll be there, but won’t have command of it. We’ll go as far down the tunnel as we can to the next exit after that with leader Seg-go and Ali-go, Nah-hi-el, and Por-go-el.” I paused. No one objected. “Herd Mother, if you would join us until we pick up Lan-mai-ti, then you can take Por-go-el and the potential and will split off on their own as Group Four.” I stopped talking, waiting for objections.

All I head was the rustling of nervous movement, so I nodded, and said, “Let’s go.”


November 14, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 330

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.

Fantasy Trope: magic

Jakob Josef-Büchel fingered the crest of his grandfather’s homeland then looked up at the piece of it that rested in the box in his lap. With his cell phone tucked between his shoulder and cheek he said, “I just got a box with a golden horn with a gold strap on it.”

Kiena Onorio said, “Sounds cheesy. Just throw it away…”

“I don’t think it’s something I can throw away.”

“Why not?” You have boat loads of junk at your house from your fancy-pants family. You must the only one who celebrates being from the smallest country on Earth.”

“I wouldn’t talk! Kiribati’s awfully small.” Kiena snorted. He knew there was no way she could argue. Instead he said, “How about we settle the argument once and for all?”

“I’ll be over in a minute,” she said. He lived across the street, on Embassy Row on the island nation of New Zealand. She scaled the wall between their compounds, waving at the security guard who watched her. She hated the fact that he thought the two of them were having sex. He wouldn’t have cooperated even if they were the last couple on Earth. He was deeply in love with…

She reached his window and said, “What do you have in mindtwo stones of red coral, one fruit of the non-tree, one old coconut, the first leaf of a seed nut, and the strong green leaf of an old tree”

“A contest,” he said, holding up the horn. She blinked in surprise. The way he’d described it made it sound like it was a cheap movie prop. But the solidity of it, even from across the room, made her feel vaguely uneasy.

She stepped back. “What are you talking about?”

He made a face then said, “What something from Kiribati that you know of that’s supposed to be magic?”

“Magic?”

He held up the horn easily, tossed it in the air, caught it and said, “Yeah. This thing’s supposed to have magical powers. We can figure out who’s got the best country by having a magic contest.”

“I don’t believe in magic,” she replied.

“Right. Is that why you keep make all those little pictures of us together then burning them with an incense stick – because you don’t believe in magic?”

“How do you…” He lifted his chin to the telescope on the veranda of his room. She’d always assumed it was there because his mother was a world renowned amateur astronomer as well as an ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Cameroun. “You didn’t think I liked space, did you?”

She could see where the conversation was going, so she said abruptly, “There’s this old legend that involves two stones of red coral, one fruit of the non-tree, one old coconut, the first leaf of a seed nut, and the strong green leaf of an old tree.”

“Sounds like a lot of crap to me,” Jakob said, laughing.

“The Kiribati stuff is supposed to help me establish a kingdom. What’s that stupid horn supposed to do?”

“When it is blown, the way I hear the story when I was little, it will revive the Kingdom of Bohemia with me as King.”

She shrugged. “So?”

He grinned, “Maybe you’ve heard of the Third Reich, then?”

Names: Kiribati; Liechtenstein

November 12, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #18 “Out of the Wounded Hills” (Submitted 3 Times Since 2008, Revised Once)

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, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line:
Responsibility comes in many ways and at different costs.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
A Human and an intelligent, mobile plant alien who share nothing but their desire to grow a relationship are frustrated when they are forced to rescue orphans they’ve never met to an orphanage on the plains and have to pass through feuding aliens, Human soldiers, and a haunted village in order to discover that they both feel same about each other…

Opening Line:
The two-meter tall, mobile saguaro cactus whistled and clicked, “We need to get these orphans to Bewiah Bee’s quickly, Kahwoh!”

Onward:
From his boulder perch overlooking the valley, eighteen-year-old Karl Clive made a raspberry of disgust. In pidgin WheetWheet, with an angry gurgle, he said, “There is no ‘we’ here, Ohfei! ‘You’ said ‘you’ would take the orphans to Deliah’s orphanage. ‘I’ was drafted because ‘I’ am the only one who knows how to shoot this gun and ‘you’ need protection from ‘your’ crazy mountain cousins and your Vii friends.”

He hoisted the blaster rifle. It was the only weapon the Sharer commune owned. It was made for Humans and Karl was the only one who knew how to use it. Today, he was an armed babysitter. Sliding down the rock’s slope, he said, “I don’t owe these kids anything. ‘You’ do. So ‘you’ tell me what to do.”

What Was I Trying To Say?
The same thing I’ve been trying to say with all of the stories I’ve written in this world – which, by the way, just came clear to me now – if Humans can learn to get along with __________ (in this case the alien plantimal WheetAh), then we can learn to get along with each other.

The Rest of the Story:
Karl and Ohfei, members of a radical cult of Humans and WheetAh that seeks to join the kingdoms through the literal sharing of the body and blood are charged with transporting a group of orphan WheetAh and ruuyAh (pygmy WheetAh) to an orphanage from the mountains to the plains. Along the way, they encounter Human invaders, internecine skirmishes, and a haunted village that Vii and Fei would as soon forget because of a slaughter of innocents that took place there. Oh, and the Human wants to get even with his dad for abandoning him and his now-dead mother…

End Analysis:
The problem again is that I’m trying to jam too much into a single story

Why do I do that?

What happens is that I create this place and I START with an interesting situation. Then I figure I can say MORE, so I add layers. Then I keep adding layers until you can’t tell the cake from the frosting and it’s all mushy:
I tried to model the story on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Hugo, Nebula and SF Chronicles-winning novella (and nominated for AnLab best, and Locus best), “The Mountains of Mourning” (ANALOG, May 1989). If you haven’t read it, it’s easy to find as it’s been collected in several places. At any rate, it’s one of those stories I reread over and over again and it’s what I wanted to do with this.

But where the message of “Mountains of Mourning” was clear: everyone deserves a voice, even if they are tiny – and dead; my message is nowhere near as clear. It certainly wasn’t as compelling. More specifically, in Bujold’s story, Miles is physically handicapped and continues to conquer his world with his wits and an uncanny ability to enlist the aid of incredibly powerful people – from cooks to kings (or emperors as they case may be). After he gets them to help him, he releases them to much greater callings.

Newborn Raina never had that opportunity because she was murdered for her mutation much the same as countless people – from his grandfather on up – have tried to murder Miles (though his deformities are not a mutation). He meets his personal demons as well as metes out justice in a unique and powerful way.

My story…clearly on a Nebula or Hugo winner. In fact not even publishable at this point.

Oh, I just realized that this story also has echoes of “Wings of Victory” (ANALOG, April 1973), in particular with the kid rebelling against his dad to join a commune of Ythrians, against whom Humanity is about to go to war…

Can This Story Be Saved?
As I’ve done before, I think it can and with even less work than usual. Karl Clive, my story’s hero, is tilting far too many windmills however: finding a new way in a rapidly changing world (he’s become a Sharer); making peace with an absentee father; mourning the death of his Human mother at the hands of Human invasion fleet; facing racism – the Vii hate the Fei who both hate the ruuyAh; and the secret shame of both Vii and Fei because of a slaughter of innocents in the Vomir Mountains, where the hills have been wounded by many things, no less than the attempts by a crazed WheetAh ruler to supposedly create a device to make new land who intends to use it as a weapon…

See what I mean?

What if I did this: the haunted village is cool; so is the Sharer cult. Transporting orphans works as a vehicle for the story. But I need to lose making peace with Dad, Mom’s death, and the race war between the Vii and the Fei (or the Human invasion). Stick with Karl and Ohfei moving the orphans and passing through the haunted village. The “message” or take-away needs to be…Karl wants a new world – what is he willing to sacrifice for it and will he allow OTHERS to sacrifice for him? (Ohfei thinks Karl’s chances of making a difference are better than his chances of making a difference…)


November 10, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 114: DaneelAH & Company in Burroughs

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); and MishAH, pattern recognition (f) are artificial Humans owned by the Mayor of Malacandra Dome.

“I ain’t never seen no one named like you said, that Paul Oh. Stepan never said nothin’ about him, neither,” said the young blue Artificial Human. He released DaneelAH and stepped out of the circle of the vat mates.

“Who’s Stepan?” HanAH said.

“That ain’t important no more,” he replied, but his face had started to change. He’d looked like a typical young Human, guarded and hard. But something else passed over his face now.

“Why?” DaneelAH said.

“‘Cause he gone be dead if you don’t come with me.” The tone was very matter-of-fact, but he clasped his hands and fidgeted with his fingers.

“What?”

“A monster in the warehouse done eat him!” and with that blurt, QuinnAH broke down, weeping.

DaneelAH looked at his vat mates. HanAH shook his head in disgust. AzAH scowled, but stepped closer. Only MishAH reached out to touch the youngster. When he didn’t flinch or move away, DaneelAH said, “You’ll have to take us to him if we’re going to help.”

QuinnAH looked up, wiping the tears from his face. His gaze narrowed and the harshness returned to his voice, “You agents of the Mayors?”

HanAH exploded, “Shattered Domes, boy! If we were agents, you’d been on your way to reclamation by now!”

QuinnAH glanced at HanAH and rolled his eyes to the ceiling, saying, “You wouldn’t have caught me, old man.”

HanAH took a step toward him, but DaneelAH and MishAH both raised hands in a warding gesture. MishAH said, “We’re not agents of any Mayor, though we are owned by the Mayor of Malacandra.”

He grunted, then said, “Just as well. Nobody here likes that one.” He nodded, “You gotta keep up and we’re going to the Rim – not the squishy HOD.” He stepped away from them and started walking, long strides leading back toward a transit shelter. He went around the back to the inti entrance and disappeared into it.

HanAH, “We’re really going to follow this sewer turd?”

DaneelAH laughed, “You should talk! He acts just like you did at his age!”

HanAH scowled fiercely and plunged after QuinnAH only to stop abruptly when he appeared out of the stairwell and said, “You old people are slow! We have to hurry before the monster eats Stepan!”

They hurried after him, disappearing into the bowels of the Dome. They weren’t, in fact, far from the Rim, but had to get off the rail platform before they actually arrive. QuinnAH had stopped both talking and taunting, hurrying through shabbier and shabbier corridors, dust accumulating into a grinding grit beneath their feet the closer they got to the razor-thin barrier separating the interior of the Domes from the thin, suffocating atmosphere of the surface of Mars. Despite ongoing terraforming, the end point of a habitable surface was still a century in the future – and then there’d only be exit with complete environmental suits rather than hard spacesuits.

He stopped at a hollow lift tube, slapping the activation pad. The floor glowed a dim red as he stepped onto it.

“I’m not riding on that!” HanAH said. “It’s so old it’ll quit halfway up!”

The boy shrugged, “Suit yourself. The stairs are down the corridor and to your left.” AzAH, DaneelAH, and MishAH stepped in with the boy.

DaneelAH waved. “See you upstairs.”

HanAH strode forward, muttering, “Someone in this pod has to use their head for something more than a battering ram!” He squeezed between the boy and his vat mates as the gMod lift tube started up to the surface.


November 7, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 329

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.


Mohamed Omar looked at his best friend, Waris Abdi. She scowled at him over the face veil of her hijab and said, “If you keep looking at me that way, I’m telling my uncle and he’ll take your kneecaps with a pliers.”

Mohamed raised his eyebrows and said, “Ooo, I’m scared.” He’d known her uncle since he was little. He was a teacher and one of the kindest men Mohamed had ever met. “Now, are we gonna do this or do I need a new best friend?”

Waris snorted and shook her head, but he could hear the grin in her voice when she said, “We’re going to do it no matter what. It’s what we were created for.”

He grunted. Of the two of them, she was the more religious and they’d had their disagreements, but this time she was right. They’d been made for this. His old-fashioned hand-held phone was loaded with the flit program. Waris’ father had gotten her the most up-to-date phone and the chip was embedded in her hand. She held it in the air, like some of their evangelical Christian friends would do when they sang. She said, “Ready.”

They were outside the school in small amphitheater on the far side of the parking lot. Muhamed’s flit hovered overhead, silent on its fleshy blades. Inside of it, him and Waris had pooled their credit and got the best brainup they could afford. It should be just large enough to hold enough of their minds for them to have some real fun – and maybe help their friends. They were being targeted by some of the more correct Muslims at the school. Their friends – mainly Rodrigo and Shelly – had even been attacked on their way to their church service one morning.

Waris said suddenly, as if she were reading her mind, “Is this gonna be OK?”

Muhamed shrugged, “I don’t care if it’s gonna be OK. They’re our friends and they should be able to believe what they want to believe. People we know are trying to hurt them. This is the right thing to do – even the Prophet said in Chapter (4) sūrat l-nisāa, “Why do you not fight for the cause of God or save the helpless men, women, and children who cry out, ‘Lord, set us free from this town of wrong doers and send us a guardian and a helper?’”

She didn’t reply, but the corners of her eyes crinkled. “All right then. Is your memory up to date?”

“Yep, I did it right after school.”

“I did it when I got out here.”

They looked into the sky. The flit came, its UHD camera eye looking at them. In this state, it had roughly the intelligence of a cat. It knew they owned it and it knew it would do what it could to help them.

Adding in both of their minds would give them absolute control of all its abilities as well as leaving them enough consciousness to appear only drowsy while they sat and talked on the concrete bench.

Waris said suddenly, “What if one of those thugs have a raptor?”

It was Mohamed who grinned this time as he said, “So you think I would have just got us a normal flit?” In the distance they both heard a sharp shriek, almost like the cry of a hawk…

Names: ; ♂ common Somali names          

November 5, 2017

Slice of PIE: I DO NOT Want To Read the Book…

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in August 2017 which I was once again unable to attend (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. Today is Something Else.

My dad is slowly dying from the accumulation of whatever it is that devours the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient.

The first quarter of the last year of the Class of 2018 ended on Friday.

While Fall is not officially over, Winter has arrived in my home state of Minnesota.

The newest book by author Julie Czerneda arrived in the mail a month ago and I have buried it under a pile of other books and papers.

Likely the above statements seem to disjointed to you. Alzheimer-ish, even. Perhaps I could explain? Perhaps even one word would do the trick.

Endings.

The end of my father’s Earthly existence is inexorably drawing closer. Admittedly mine is doing exactly the same thing; as it is happening to my seven-year-old grandson. However, his ending has been and will continue to be painful, if not for him, then for those of us around him.

The class of 2018 has been a difficult group of young people to work with in my role as a high school counselor. I met them when they were thirteen or fourteen years old and I have worked with them for the past three-and-one-quarter school years. When they graduate (those who make the grade) in June of 2018, I will likely be saying “good-bye” to most of them forever. Whether I want to or not.

As to winter’s approach, of COURSE I understand the cycle of seasons! This is my sixtieth time through around the Sun and the sixtieth time I’ve experienced the change in insolation that signals Autumn. I have experienced the conclusion of Fall in almost every way you can imagine – early, hot, late, cold, icy, warm, snowy, brutal, muddy, and sensual. It’s coming is inevitable. Of COURSE I know I could move to southern California or Lagos, Nigeria and avoid the weather entirely!

I have Julie Czerneda’s book, TO GUARD AGAINST THE DARK sitting right next to me – less than fifty centimeters away from my right hip.

I cannot read it. Not yet, anyway.

The reviews are fantastic. I have come to trust her as a writer and I have no doubt that the story will end exactly as I expect and as promised.

However, like my father’s life, the high school journey of the Class of 2018, and the Winter of 17-18, the moment I read the book, it will be all over for me. I will live the lives of Jason and Sira – and all the others – one more time without knowing how everything will turn out…and then all I’ll be doing is rereading them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those people who has particular books that I read over, and over, and over again. But once the final chapter; the final paragraph; the final sentence; the final word is read…well if you’re a reader like me (with 1600 books in his library – about 20 which I re-read on a regular basis), you can maybe understand why Ms. Czerneda’s book will sit under the pile for quite a while.

The life of a reader (and I am certain) a writer, is full of such bitter-sweet moments. When I DO read it finally, I’ll let you know what I felt.

November 2, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 74

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)

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) held up his bloody hand. “We can talk about how I removed it while we run. But we have to get moving. Whoever planted it on me has just discovered that it’s not tracking anymore.”

“What? Why don’t you just leave it here?” said GURion.

Retired shook his head. “If I left it transmitting, it would stop moving. They’d figure we went underground. They would have had no trouble following it. Finding us would have been just a matter of guesswork. They already know we’re headed north, so they’d have wasted no time south. They’d have sent drones down the tunnel and quickly discovered we weren’t there. Whoever is following us would send whatever air cover they have – anything from the helicopters that already tried to kill us – to microdrones. They’d catch us in sixty minutes or less. This way, they’ll puzzle over the loss of signal for at least sixty minutes. It could be a glitch or a technical problem – and they wouldn’t want to tip off any of their competitors that something was going on because that would risk them finding us first. This way, we gain an hour. If we stop talking and get moving.” He didn’t bark an order. He looked at me.

I might have fainted dead away if I hadn’t been expecting it. I surprised him and everyone else by saying, “Herd Mother, designate one of the younger males to gather up the scouts and then join the rest of us. We’re moving to the surface. Now.” I looked at Retired, “Lead the way, Lieutenant Commander Bakhsh.”

Without a hint of irony or condescension, he said, “Yes, Sir.” We moved.

Dao-hi said, “Wait.” We stopped. I realized after a second that I was irritated. Why? I was still no more the leader of the group than Lan-mai-ti was. She continued, “I will send the youngest of mine with the tracker glued to it.”

“What?” I exclaimed.

“Youngest are born to serve the Herd. This will serve not only the Herd but the Triad as well.”

“But he’s…” I began.

“The young one has no gender and is purely potential. It has ever been the way of the Herd. Until the young distinguish themselves in some way, they are potentials.”

I stared at her, suddenly realize that she was truly and actually not Human. Of course I knew it before, but this time it was like a sucker punch – unfair and a total surprise. “You don’t…”

Retired said suddenly, “Set it up.”

“What?” said Xio.

“What?” barked Xurf and Qap.

“We have to go. We don’t know who is following us. We already know that they’re ready to kill us when they find us. The Herd Mother is offering up the use of one of her young…” Retired glared at me, “As is her right.”

“You can’t…”

He cut me off, “I am not making any kind of decision. The Herd Mother is.”

Dao-hi looked at me and snapped a tentacle. It was a clear signal of dominance. I couldn’t really object anymore and maintain the integrity of the Triad. But I didn’t have to like it. “Fine. I yield.”

The young one came back just then. Dao-hi spoke in Y’eh 2349, one of the oldest and least comprehensible language of the Yown’Hoo. It scurried after Retired and a moment later, dashed down the tunnel the way we had come. He stepped up to me at what I could only think of as “parade rest”. We had to go, no matter what I thought of Yown’Hoo ethics or Retired going along with them…and realizing that I was reacting like a child. “We need to go down the tunnel. According to the map we’d looked at, we still had about three klicks to go until we could exit. The young...I looked at Retired and said out loud, “Lan-mai-ti, its name was Lan-mai-ti. I am also entitled to my opinion.” I pushed past Retired and started running. A few minutes later, I could hear hoof, paws, and feet behind me.

They stayed behind me for a long time.