December 1, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 49

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 Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.

“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)

My great uncle, Rion said, “The cost of creating such havens is so prohibitive that neither one of the super powers can afford to keep them.”

“Why would the cost make them stop doing that if they can?” I asked.

There was a long pause, then ‘Shay said, “Because if they make places like that, they also have to defend them.”

GURion said softly, “And success by either side at destroying the places carries its own cost.”

I almost said something without thinking then shook my head, looking at the door leading from the Human quarters toward the ones occupied by our Triad-mates. “You’re telling me that neither the Kiiote nor the Yown’Hoo likes killing kids.” The others nodded slowly, looking all sad. I said, “They’re upset when they kill each other’s kids on purpose,” I took a deep breath, for a second feeling sorry for them. “But they kill us on accident and it doesn’t make anyone feel anything – except irritated.”

GURion reached out and almost put his hand on my shoulder. I confess I flinched. He pulled away, and I felt like a jerk. He wrapped himself with his arms as if he were cold. He said, “They pay real Humans to do the husbandry while they provide tactical cover – and treaties. That cuts the cost of reproduction.”

Retired suddenly spoke. He’d sat himself down in a big chair that sat in a pool of yellow light coming from a lamp. “It’s the treaties that were so controversial, though. Making them meant that Yown’Hoo and Kiiote had to interact – and because we were the ones doing the actual work, we had to be part of the talks at the table.” He paused a long time, leaned over and unlaced his boots, grabbed a low, backless chair and pulled it toward him. Settling back in the chair, he put his legs on the backless chair and sighed. “It was out of those talks that the idea for the Triads grew.”

‘Shay said, “You were there, weren’t you?”

Retired shrugged. “It doesn’t make any difference either way. Even if I wasn’t there, I was around. I think I was off-world.”

“So, the Yown’Hoo…” I started.

Retired held up a hand. “Not all the Yown’Hoo. Ji-Hi, the Mother of All was there when she only had ten. But her scent was so powerful that she swayed other Herds to hear in her register.”

GURion spoke this time, his voice eerily sing-song, like the chanting of the Dwarves in that one fantasy flattie, saying, “Even I know that Pan and Zir, Kiiote Pack Pack Leaders with the four strongest of their litter, nearly full grown; and St. Admiral, Martyr for Humanity with her mate, were there. After senseless arguments, snarls, stamping, and the drawing of imaginary weapons, it became clear to all that something needed to change. The Yown’Hoo couldn’t fight much longer as the actual fibers of their heart muscles had begun to show irreversible genetic drifting. The Kiiote litters shrank as their bodies sensed that there was less prey, so there needed to be fewer young mouths to feed even while the generals called for more.”

Retired said, “There was no solution in war.”

Suddenly ‘Shay said, “The only answer was peace.” I stared at her. He voice had changed. Her stance had changed. I didn’t recognize her.

But I did grasp the implication and all I could whisper was, “And we were the offerings of peace.”

I barely heard GURion say, “No one knows yet if the offering is one of honey…or one of blood.”


November 29, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 282

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: Terracotta Army

This got me thinking – if there are some 8000 pieces (and about as many are still buried)…what if the mother of a teenager was working as part of an international team and uncovered something unusual (not that a standing army of 16,000 horses, soldiers, acrobats and various and sundry other “people” isn’t unusual enough!) What if she discovered a unique figure, say a woman that has been knocked down and is crying out in terror, with her arm upraised as a man draws back a spear and is obviously about to run her through…is there a curse on this piece that comes to haunt the teen and their mom? Or is it case for a forensic anthropologist (or would it be, more appropriately a forensic terracottaist) and was a MURDER involved which someone commemorated? Who did the commemorating, who was the perpetrator – and what if it had a connection to the present?

Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg

November 27, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Christmas Trees, Aliens, and New Adventures


This essay isn’t based on anything that happened at any WorldCon…it came from life events, something I read, or even just a thought I had. This time, it’s something that happened and that might be either irritating or relate to speculative fiction, writing, or Christianity…


After 25 years going to cut our Christmas tree at Anderson Tree Farm, my wife and I arrived this morning with our daughter, her fiancĂ©, my foster daughter, and her girlfriend – to discovered that the Farm had closed.

That got me to thinking, mostly to distract myself, about traditions.

Common belief is that there are only a few Christians left on Earth, and that they spend most of their time opposing Real Science® which means whatever The Scientific Community® (ie: people that all agree with each other and try to discredit people who disagree with them for any reason) (BTW – this is the same group that opposed continental drift, round Earth, heliocentrism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!), natural selection (aka Darwinism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!)), Pasteurization, bacterial ulcers, the theory of the human condition, genetic inheritance (discovered by a Catholic monk (slightly ironic, eh?), Avogadro’s Law, and hand-washing as a deterrent to disease.)

This is a prelude to my belief that not only will Christians go into space and maintain their beliefs, but that they will prosper, and others will continue to become converts – not because of the inherent “wonderfulness” of Christians, but because God will continue to work on the hearts of His people – no matter how many chambers they have or precisely where that heart is found. And Christians will carry their traditions to the stars as well -- morphing them as the enviroment and climate dictate.

So, a zillion years ago (2001), I wrote a story called “Christmas Tree” and had my very first online publication. The story involved an ensign on a starship crewed and captained by aliens. For those of you interested, the ensign lives in a universe I’ve created in which Humans are a very minor group of star-faring intelligences in the Unity of Sentients. What they knew in this story is that an alien civilization (federation, empire, hegemony, trust economy, whatever) created a pathway that runs not just from one side of our galaxy to the other, but from one end of the UNSEEN universe: “Based on what we currently think about inflation, this means that the Universe is at least “10^(1030) times the size of our observable Universe!”) to another unseen end.

The Christmas Tree of the title is a “map” of the exploration routes of the long-gone intelligence that, as near as anyone can tell based on stars and routes that the Unity has charted, has a base outside of the observable universe and a tip that would also be outside of the observable universe. Where does the “Christmas tree” start? Where does it end? How does it work?

Currently Humans and the other fifty sentients of the Unity, occupy and use a tiny portion of the middle of a needle of a fascicle on a twig on a branch on the trunk closer to the “tip” than the “base” of the Christmas Tree. The universe is incomprehensibly vast – yet at one time, some intelligence grasped it.

At any rate, my little ensign is disciplined for having ashes on his forehead during Lent. He then meets a monstrously huge squid-ish creature who navigates the ship from deep in its bowels and keeps the entire map in a compressed, Christmas tree format, on a screen at all times. Turns out the squid-ish creature is a Christian, too. The story is actually a vignette, but it was published and it’s been awaiting a revival.

The reason it appears here is because not only does it involve a Christmas tree (of sorts), shared belief, it's also about the importance of tradition.

It also involves my epiphany that even when a tradition comes to an end, it has roots that go into the past that cannot be lost. It also suggests that when one branch ends, you backtrack and find a new branch and move forward. Even so, backtracking implies that we might be able to boldly go where we haven’t gone before – and that where the stump is from the excising of an old tradition, a new branch might very well grow to start another tradition.

I'll keep you posted on the life story, the fictional story, and the Story of the Universe (which can be taken two ways, so I'll let you do the taking and leave it at that.)


Image: Personal Files

November 24, 2016

Give Thanks, today and every day.

November 22, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 281

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.

F Trope: Abandoned Malls

Kehlanna McGee and Trayvon Dehvahn crouched in an overgrown bit of woods that had sprung up around a drainage ditch outside the four-meter-tall cyclone fence, staring at the abandoned mall beyond. She said, “Wha’d’you think they’re hiding?”

Trayvon laughed softly and said, “A shameful past of excess spending at cheesy, overpriced, trendy shops that sold mostly lingerie and salt and pepper shakers?”

Kehlanna bumped him with her shoulder, “Seriously.” She gestured. A pair of city black and white police cars sat in the lot along with another pair of silver cars emblazoned with a security logo.

“I am being serious,” he said, bumping her back.

She rolled her eyes and said, “Salt-and-pepper shakers are so 1950s...”

“Thereby retro and incredibly popular now.”

“Ah!” she exclaimed, lifting a finger, “Now I know you’re wrong.” She consulted her palmtablet and after a few finger swipes, said, “ ‘Arbor Mills Mall, was the destination of a generation of shoppers starting the year it opened in 2001 and was decommissioned,” she paused and rolled her eyes, muttering, “...makes it sound like it was an important aircraft carrier or something...in 2024...” she paused then said, “That’s only half a generation.”

“Be that as it may, are we going in or are we just going to stand here talking about generations and malls?”

“In,” she said suddenly. “But we’re going to have to go back to the trailer and get a few things.” She paused, “And wait until it’s dark.”

Trayvon grinned, nodded and headed for where they’d parked trailer two kilometers away.

***

Four hours later, dressed in knee-high rubber boots and wearing black, they made their way silently through the culvert. No one had taken time to fence it, so they easily slipped under the meager security. Trayvon tapped his earpiece and subvocalized, “What are we expecting to find in here?”

“Treasure.”

He couldn’t help but snort, and Kehlanna hissed at him, sub-vocalizing, “Quiet or they’ll hear us.”

“I’m not the one hissing like a punctured whipped cream can.”

They moved as far as they could in the ravine, then climbed at a likely spot. His night goggles confirmed they were only six meters short of their goal. They scanned for the police and security cars, saw neither, so Trayvon stood up and aimed a very-illegal device at the surface between them and the abandoned mall. After a moment, he subbed, “No active pressure security spots and no evidence of landmines.”

“Landmines?” Khehlanna subbed.

“You said there’s treasure. People protect treasure with landmines and lasers and other high tech gadgets. I was checking for everything.”

She nodded in the darkness a moment later, then subbed, “Let’s go. The map I found has a maintenance door into the rear of one of the anchor stores straight ahead.” She paused, then went up the embankment and scurried across the broken asphalt. He followed three minutes later. By then, she’d cut through the locking mechanism of the door with an infrared laser. Trayvon sprayed the old hinges with a silent stream of lubricant and then door swung open a moment later as Kehlanna pulled it.

They entered the darkness and the goggles switched to a sonar image – the power had been cut to the building a decade earlier when it closed  in order to prevent fires. They avoided collapsed ceiling tiles and piles of mouldering cardboard boxes. Trayvon subbed, “If this is the ‘treasure’ we can expect to find, we might as well leave right now.”

“Nah. There has to be something in here that those people are protecting.”

“Hmmm.”

They exited the back room of the store and passed through piles of stacked shelving, display cases, light fixtures, and garbage until they reached the mall proper. In front of him, Kehlanna stopped abruptly and cursed out loud rather than subbing.

Trayvon subbed, “Shut up! I can’t tell if there are audio security pickups in here...” He stopped as he pulled up alongside her. Outside the door with its corroding security gate, a group of three people, linked together by rope tie around their necks, passed by. The figure at the front of their line, holding the rope and wearing an army-style helmet that was twice as large as Trayvon had ever seen before, was a giant creature that looked for all the world, like yeti…

Names: ♀ American, Irish ; American, Greek
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

November 20, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #7 “Last Contact” (Submitted 4 Times Since 2011, 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: A living road which has partially eaten a murder victim, a bunch of suspects, and a detective who can read the roadway lead to the person who had “last contact”.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?) I was working in the world I’ve created in which the federal government has mandated the abandonment of the Wild and is deconstructing everything outside of the major cities. One to ten million people are moved into massive some 10,000 structures called Vertical Villages which are built from deconstructed towns and cities by DEconstruction And Recovery Robots – DEARRS or dearrs and a maglev system that constantly funnels the construction debris into the VV system. I’ve written a couple of published stories in this world, “Invoking Fire”, “Oath”, “Technopred”, and most recently, “Carpe Hnub” all take place in this future. It also includes a concept that is playing out in real life – the adaptation wildlife is making to technology – and how that might lead to intelligences other than Human in the long run. If you’re interested, the story is here:  http://aurorawolf.com/2013/05/guy-stewart/ . At the end is a link to a National Geographic special called “Raccoon Nation”. Fascinating stuff.

Opening Line: “Be Nho Elf let the car float to a stop and settle, then popped the door, swinging her short legs out into the muggy Minnesota heat.”

Onward: Not a bad opening, and I even start out with a corpse, which is, I am led to believe, what EVERY murder mystery is supposed to do.

However, from there it slides downhill slowly into technobabble: “Tykaetrice signaled “Corporal Stager Ma’am” who came over and sprayed the corpse with an old-fashioned pump sprayer. The solution would send the road organism – a bioengineered DNA patchwork of cellulose, heme, eel, ameba, peat moss, alfalfa, leukocytes, iron and a mix of Notothenioidei and Noctilucan cells, more commonly known by its acronym CHEAPALIN – around the body into hibernation. The entire network of asphalt roads in North America had been converted into sets of living organisms. Modified electric eel cells created current passing through hair-fine iron filaments in the road. A thick black pad of organic road organism attached to the underside of any car with a bioconversion, charged a set of batteries. A magnetic field generated as cars moved over the filaments got read by a microchip implanted in the car’s pad, matching the road’s magnetic field creating a maglev effect. A variety of chlorophyll and alfalfa genes allowed roots growing under the road organism to return nitrogen to the soil, pull up micronutrients and conduct photosynthesis. A semi-transparent, thick cellulose skin protected the whole thing while remaining flexible. A few Notothenioidei genes kept cellular fluids from freezing during Minnesota winters. Noctilucan genes made it glow at night when disturbed. Leukocytes digested roadkill, leaves, branches and old pizza boxes.”

There’s nothing gripping – not even for me and I was the one who wrote it. I KNOW I got lost in the science of the thing and just tacked on the murder part to show off my biology expertise…

What Was I Trying To Say? I guess I was trying to say that the future is going to be different in ways we can’t even conceive.

The Rest of the Story: Amazingly, the story DOES pick up and even reading something I wrote myself, I was puzzled enough that I couldn’t figure out who the real murderer was. The biggest problem is that I ended the story – and I STILL don’t know who killed. On page 22-24, which is really supposed to be the dĂ©nouement, it’s not even clear to ME who the bad guy was! I THINK the brother did it but sent the boyfriend to the teacher’s house to scare them all be threatening to pin the murder on him…

End Analysis: The story’s interesting (for me) because of the science. As it was written in 2011 and COULD have followed a storyline like the TV series BONES, I hadn’t graduated into really know what I was doing. I’d gotten plenty of things published, but I also hadn’t read many mysteries. I’ve done so now – mostly BONES and LONGMIRE and William Kent Krueger’s CORK O’CONNOR books, so I think I might be better at writing in the mystery genre.

Can This Story Be Saved? I think there’s a really good chance I could save it. I need to read more SHORT mystery fiction though. I’ve got the basics of long-fiction, I think (I DID writing a SF novel, OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS that I’m shopping around, that is basically an alien murder mystery…) Besides, I only tried four markets then gave up…I need to be more persistent with that!

Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9f/22/3b/9f223b1e57a36e14db3eb13715fbe3f9.jpg

November 17, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 91: Stepan of 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, 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 (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH, a young blue Artificial Human, looked up at Stepan Izmaylova, squinting and finally said, “You really are that guy who got all the religions kicked off Mars, ain’t you?” Stepan thought to deny it at first. Quinn didn’t need to know that much about his past – only what kinds of plans he had for the future. Plans that were bigger than growing a few tomatoes and giving them away. He wanted to do something to change how artificial Humans were not perceived, not governed – but how they were defined. He wanted to see them defined as Human. All Human, without qualification. They would simply be Human; the way that Quinn blithely defended the hunt as something that simply was. Everyone on Mars would simply be Humans. “You gonna make us all Human, ain’t ya?”

“You already are Human, kid. I’m not going to make you anything.” He paused, pursing his lips and looking at the Dome as if he could see through the gritty haze of dust that always settled on its surface. He added, “I’m going to make THEM see YOU.”

“They didn’t have no problem seeing me when we were in the HOD. They was gonna kill me if they could.”

Stepan actually smirked for the first time in decades then said, “That’s not the kind of seeing I had in mind, son. Not the kind of seeing I was thinking of at all.”

“You’re talking weird, Mr…”

“Call me Stepan.”

“I can call you that, but you’re really Natan Wallach and except for that old guy in the HOD, everyone knows who you are. How come he don’t?” He paused, looking up at Stepan. He waited. As far as Stepan was concerned, he could stare until the Dome itself crumbled to dust. He stared back. After a few moments, Quinn snickered, then said, “They’ll hunt you like they hunt us. You were supposed to ‘a’ got rid of all religion and stuff, and here you are doin’ it.”

“Doing what?”

“Religion. You’re here on the Rim to help us all, isn’t that what the old religion was supposed to be about?”

Stepan sat back on his heels, staring at Quinn. Finally, he nodded, “‘From the mouth of babes’,” he muttered.

“What’s that mean?”

“In one of my holy books, it’s written, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have established strength, because of Your adversaries, that You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease.’”

“So you’re gonna help us get rid of the people in the HOD?”

Natan shook his head, “Nothing that exciting. Just that you’ve spoken a truth and you gave me a shot of strength. I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.”

Quinn patted him on the shoulder again. “You want me to keep going?”

Neither one was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim until a high-pitched whistle drowned out Stepan’s. A moment later, it was followed by the hooting of a Dome breach siren.

Stepan looked down at Quinn, set to run to the nearest Seal Shelter, but Quinn had started walked, poking the roof with a steel rod. Stepan said, “Aren’t you going to find shelter?”

Quinn looked over his shoulder, scowling, “Where’d we go?”

“There aren’t any Shelters on the Rim?”

He shrugged and turned back to probing the roof. “Shelters is for Humans. I ain’t Human.”

Stepan stared after the boy, find a literal growl rumbling in his throat. This whole thing – everything he himself had set in motion – sending waves of nausea from the pit of his stomach burning up his throat. He had to change it, no matter what. His God had sacrificed his only son for the lives of those who had then slaughtered him in order to bring men, women, and children whose lives had missed the mark; who had not won the prize; like the artificial creations of Humanity. They and the ones who had been branded as undesirable by the United Faith in Humanity; they were the ones he had condemned by his angry, selfish pursuit of free will.


November 15, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 280

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: alien parasites take over humans

Choden Wangyal is the first generation of Tibetans to be born in the US. Her parents rarely come out in public and as an only child (not from lack of trying, her mother regularly assures her), she is their connection with the wider – and wilder – culture in which they live.

Choden was reading when she was 2 and has taken the most advanced classes her school offers. A 10th grader now, she applied for and was allowed to begin college at the University of Minnesota through a program called Post-Secondary Education Opportunities (PSEO) and has been there for four months now.

With her college experience and her interaction with other American students, Choden realizes that she HAS to escape her family – soon!

One night, she chooses to stay late with a post-graduate student whom she KNOWS is flirting with her. They go to the Gartner Labs building where he has a night key. She never “actually told him” that she was fifteen, so when he makes amorous advances that terrify her, she cries out that she’s only fifteen.

Angry, he leaves her alone in the Labs, not realizing that his key card lanyard broke. Choden finds it and explores the labs alone. She stumbles in into the Virology Lab and without quite knowing what she’s doing, enters a restricted area that the boy, apparently, has access to. There she studies various experiments and when she picks up a shell vial culture to look at it, the plastic dissolves in her hand, the culture medium oozing over her fingers – and suddenly disappearing. She stares at her hand, suddenly doubting anything was there are all.

Choden hurries out of the Lab and to her aunt’s cousin’s sister’s dorm room where she spends the night. When she wakes up in the morning, she suddenly feels like she’s outside of herself. When she opens her eyes, she can see herself; wildly distorted. A moment later, one of her eyes pulls back into her head from the long stalk it was on and she can clearly see the other eye at the tip of a long, pale optic nerve sheathed in what appears to be chitin. That’s when she realizes that some sort of hideous, Kafkaesque metamorphosis has taken place. Or has it?

That’s almost acceptable until she begins to hear a voice speaking in her head. She can’t understand words, but the attitude is recognizable…
                                                                       

November 13, 2016

Slice of PIE: The Future of Forensics!

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was 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. This is event #2198. The link is provided below…

Panel Experts discuss what is current in the methods and technology of analyzing scientific evidence, and suggest where it might go next.

Jason Sanford: Midwesterner and writer of Science Fiction Strange, he’s won lots of awards.
Alistair Kimble (M): Special Agent with the FBI and a writer…hmmmm…maybe qualified?
Jack Campbell Jr.: Writer of Dark Fiction (so says his website title…)
Diana Rowland: Writer of demons and zombies (and though I haven’t read one, it seems that they have a twist of sarcastic humor…that’s what the covers imply to me…)
Anna Yeatts: author of short fiction all over the place!

Let me just say right here that I love forensics.

I used forensics to assess students in my special education science classes at the end of the school year. I taught several special classes at my middle school using forensics to find out who killed the school principal. I have in my possession an FBI manual describing various ways people die and how they are classified in the report every agent has to write.

Let me also say that I NEVER thought to use my love to write a science fiction story involving forensics! Weird, huh?

So – what’s NOW in forensic research and where might it go in the future?

Certainly, gel electrophoresis is a contemporary tool in forensics that’s used to separate mixtures of DNA, RNA, or proteins according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. After treatment, the end result is banding in the gel.

How could that be “future-fied”? How about speeding up the process? How might that happen? Could you play around with amperage and voltage? Amps are a unit of charge, (the coulomb) that is the quantity of electricity carried in 1 second by a current of 1 ampere. Conversely, a current of one ampere is one coulomb of charge going past a given point per second; and voltage is electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential energy between two points per unit electric charge. Maybe with new materials we could push that up; maybe make it in the detective’s head?

How about a “gun” that fires a cartridge full of nanobots that spread out and begin to process evidence at a scene immediately? Of course, what if a criminal gets hold of the programming? What’s to keep the nanobots from destroying or altering evidence…and (IDEA!) what if a Human detective had to work with a Gwelch detective – and the Gwelch, being a multi-organism, communal creature whose individual members look like cockroaches; work like millimeter-bots, sampling a site by eating things on it and processing, then passing on findings to the greater organism? This would work for trace evidence analysis, evaluation of body fluids, and compound determination, such as drugs or other hazardous chemicals.

In something called fluorescence spectroscopy, forensic technicians can determine the amount of light emitted after absorption to give information on the components of the sample. Recent developments allow for fluorescent nanosensors that allow the measurement of oxygen in biological fluids such as blood, interstitial fluid, and cerebral spinal fluid. How this could be USED, I have no idea!

However, I CAN imagine something that appears an accident in the power unit of a ship, station, or colony and these futuristic detectives using an inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP/MS). “Under the best conditions, ICP/MS detects elements down to the parts-per-quadrillion level.”

I’d have loved to be at this session, but you’ll have to excuse me, I had a “tiny idea” written down somewhere that’s just exploded into my head as a workable idea for a story!


November 10, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 48

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 Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.

“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)

“You were on their side, weren’t you?”

Retired spun around and if I hadn’t been so mad, I’ve have backed off. As it was, I didn’t flinch when he took a step toward me. He was only a little taller than me, but his shoulders were big. I probably looked like a branch compared to his tree trunk. He could have punched me or knocked me on my butt.

He didn’t. He growled and said, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Then explain it to me! How is being a traitor to Humanity a good thing?”

He cocked his arm, making a fist. I braced myself and kept my eyes open. If I was gonna die, I wanted to see how. Suddenly he laughed. It wasn’t a humor laugh. It was a grim, dark laugh. A gallows laugh. He lowered his arm and said, “You got bigger balls than I figured you for, kid.”

I know what that meant, but I wasn’t sure. Retired used old-fashioned slang all the time, but I think that was a compliment. So, I took it as one and said, “You haven’t explained anything to me yet, though.”

He snapped his head to the side, gesturing with his chin as he said, “Let’s sit down.”

I’d probably stretched my luck about as far as it would go – what with escaping a city about to go nuclear, a chase scene that would have made any movie an award-winner, and meeting someone whom I’d thought was Human and found out they were a robot – so I followed him when he went deeper into the Human part of the refuge.

It wasn’t exactly a fancy hotel, but there were chairs and couches built like they had been like, wooden crates at one time. He gestured, me and ‘Shayla sat. GURion stood to one side, arms crossed over his chest. He looked totally Human right then. I forgave myself for not noticing he was a robot. Retired said, “I worked for the Triad Corporation.”

‘Shay said suddenly, “Worked?”

He shrugged, “I’m freelance now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He looked right at me and said, “I don’t go off Earth anymore. I’m a Triad agent here, in Minnesota.”

“What do you do?”

“Rescue teenagers – of all three Nations. Human, Kiiote, and Yown’Hoo.”

“Why do you do that?” I asked. I’d never thought of Qap and Xurf as teenagers; I’d really never thought of Herd Mother Dao-hi as anything but old.

“Because I think Humans can do better when they’re teamed with others.”

I snorted and said, “You’re gonna have to do better than that!”

He sighed and sat down on one of the chairs. “Listen, you need to get rest tonight. I’ll save the details for some night when we can sit around a campfire without worrying about getting our asses shot off. But to make a really long story short, as far as the Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote know, Earth, Kii, and Y’eh are the only three planets in this part of the galaxy where all of us can successfully reproduce.” He held up a hand when I opened my mouth, so I shut it. “I don’t mean we can’t live anywhere else – and all three Nations have worlds with colonies. But there aren’t any other worlds where the combination of gravity, atmospheric gas proportions, insolation…”

“Insulation?” I said.

‘Shay slugged me in the shoulder. Even GURion rolled his eyes. Retired said, “The amount and intensity of light that a world receives from its primary.” He paused to let me ask any other stupid questions. I rubbed my shoulder and looked at my boots. He went on, “The average temperature and humidity are factors as well. But the single most important factor, when coupled with gravity, is cosmic and geological background radiation. For whatever reason, those two are profoundly limiting reproductive factors.”

I raised my hand to signal that I was going to ask another stupid question. Retired nodded to me and I braced myself for another slug from ‘Shay. “Both the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo mastered gravity a long time ago, and can’t they just figure out the right amount of radiation and build it into some kind of…um…sex house or something?”

“Good question, Kid,” he said. ‘Shay slugged me.

“What was that for?”

“Having a dirty mind.”

“But…”

Retired saved me from saying anything else stupid by adding, “They can, but the correct combination of factors is so sensitive that even when they get everything exactly right, it can go wrong.”

GURion said, “The cost of creating such havens is so prohibitive that neither one of the super powers can afford to keep them.”

“Why would the cost make them stop doing that if they can?”

There was a long pause, then ‘Shay said, “Because if they make places like that, they also have to defend it.”

GURion said softly, “And success by either side at destroying the places carries its own cost.”