October 2, 2015

Offline Until Wednesday!

I will be offline starting any time today and will remain offline until Wednesday.

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 73: Paolo Enroute

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.

Staring at the sonographic image of the strange satellite in the airlock, he was forced into two logical lines of thought.

One logical set of assumptions led to the conclusion that a faction from Earth, the Moon, Venus, or Mars had lost a spy satellite on the surface of Mars. A second assumption, based on the unsettling image of a delphinoid  creature that looked for all the world as if it were intelligent; was the fantastic set irrational assumptions that led to the stunning conclusion that that Humanity was not alone in the universe.

The second set of questions also begged an answer to the question of “when did they watch?”

The ‘bug had been rolling for ten minutes before Paolo realized that there was another question that depended from that answer: were they still watching? He shivered and turned up the ‘bug’s heater. There’d always been mutterings, murmurings, legends, and eventually the tall tale of The Sands That Breathed and Whispered.

Mostly it had been told in order to help Martian children learn to keep their surface suits clean and the air packs charged. He shuddered again, the full strength of a story from The Cousin’s Grimmest Spirit Tales that ended with a poorly maintained suit giving out on the surface and the Sands That Breathe and Whisper seeping in through cracks and vents and eventually the faceplate thrown open in a desperate attempt to breathe Martian air as Ruby Marcillon had breathed air from a Lunar cave once long ago.

What if, though, the tales had their roots in fact? What if the legend was so much a part of the fabric of Mars that memories of the intelligent swimmers – the Watchers – that somehow the sense of them had been passed on to the original Human colonists? “Nothing psychic or spiritual about it,” Paolo muttered. If Mars had been the base of some intelligences other than Human – and evidence from the original SOLAREX mission gave strong evidence that there had been others Watching Humans – then maybe there were artifacts on Mars that had been able to subtly influence the colonization.

The ‘bug bumped along, heading north toward the equator. He stared through the forward port for a while, then reached for the computer. He’d programmed the ‘bug with the Artificial Human quartet from Malacandra to take them to Bradbury, where he’d meet them and see if he could lead them to Christ. Their intelligence data was mostly off the chart and they functioned like a well-oiled machine. If he could argue them into the Kingdom, he’d have powerful allies and open a whole new field for the good news.

But what if they’d been made for more? What if he was only a messenger to them and God was calling them for a greater mission? What if theirs was the main mission – to bring the gospel not just to Mars, but to intelligences beyond Mars?

He scowled for a long time, then reset the ‘bug’s destination to Cydonia and what the 20th Century had dubbed “The Face On Mars”. Nodding, he reprogrammed his own ‘bug for intercept, then settled back. He’d meet them in Cydonia. Until then, they had a long journey, probably fraught, probably dangerous. He might even die. They might. They all might. With a sigh, he settled back and closed his eyes; not to sleep, but to pray for wisdom and guidance.

Then he fell asleep...

September 29, 2015


http://img.costumecraze.com/images/vendors/california/01047-Adult-Big-Bad-Wolf-in-Grandma-Dress-Costume-large.jpgEach 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: Most lycanthropy, telekinesis, etc starts at puberty why not at menopause…

A Not-So-Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolf

According to the source above – “A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of an 80-year-old man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jurgenburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the grain from local failed crops down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil's minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service.”

Teodors Pakalns (Latvian) – who goes by Ted in his Minnesota high school is in his supposedly “native land” while mom and dad go clubbing on the French Riviera to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. While admitting to himself that with the divorce rate at 73%, it might be something worth celebrating. But sending him to live with his LATVIAN grandfather in some dinky town of Lode! Near the bustling metropolis of Rujiena? What the heck is he supposed to do?

He frets, fumes and mutters about lousy internet connections until he’s so hungry, he can’t stand it. Coming out to eat, he finds that his grandfather has made a simple meal. It smells great and looks sort of like a calzone. Ted eats on, then eats another and then in sudden and surprisingly good English, grandpa tells him a story. He also tells him he needs to watch out – grandpa Pakalns is a werewolf. He’s a werewolf on a mission from God!

Jaanjika Kivi (Estonian) is called Jan in Helsinki where she lives with her artist mother. She drags Jan to visit her “she’s-been-dying-for-the-last-ten-years” grandmother in Mom’s home of Estonia, which she escaped as a kid by winning an art scholarship to Helsingin Yliopisto the University of Helsinki. Jan and her mother trek to the tiny Estonian town of Karski near the roaring metropolis...of Tartu.


Mom says she can go, but she’ll have to walk. Then Mom goes out to paint, leaving Jan with her elderly grandmother. Jan is mostly afraid of the old woman and doesn’t remember her speaking anything but some old language Jan assumes is Estonian.

Until suddenly Grandma starts to tell a story – in clear English – about how she was a werewolf, on a mission for God...then she turns to Jan and says, “You are my granddaughter. My own daughter refused to take up the mission. I am asking if you would take up my mission; complete it and do what our people have been called to do for five hundred years. I will be with you the entire time, but you must be my strong arms and strong legs. Will you do it, Jaanjika?” Grandma’s eye’s suddenly clear and seem to pierce her heart. “Will you?”

Jaanjika meets Teodors on the border between Estonia and Latvia – in the heart of the ancient land of Livonia, a land with an ancient history that may very well be poised at the dawn of a new era that rights an millennium old wrong.

But what about the forces that don’t want the wrong set right. The ones who have profited from the carnage? Who are they and what will they do to Jaanjika and Teodors?

September 27, 2015

Slice of PIE: Who Are We Imitating THESE Days?

http://www.therapyofpain.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/6cb95_Imitation_Learning_5531509699_74fb4a6cba_m.jpgIn a bit of recent correspondence I had about the slush pile, Bruce Bethke wrote: “Young writers always start out trying to emulate the writers who made them fall in love with the genre in the first place -- I don't know about you, but I for one wrote a tremendous amount of Bad Imitation Bradbury, Sturgeon, Asimov, and Norton when I was first starting out. But judging by what shows up in my slush pile, while there's still a tremendous amount of Bad Imitation Gibson out there, and a surprising amount of Bad Imitation Wells and Verne, almost no one is writing Bad Imitation Tiptree, McIntyre, or Delaney these days…This, I think, says something very meaningful about what it is that people seek to find in SF.”


I never thought deeply about except as it pertained to myself. I know the writers I first imitated: John Christopher (aka Sam Youd, or Christopher Samuel Youd). Long gone now, “The White Vines” was the first story I ever penned…er…penciled. A clear imitation of Christopher’s THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, I shudder to think what it read like.

My second, (recovered here: http://theworkandworksheetsofguystewart.blogspot.com/search/label/My%20Earliest%20Works%21) was a twelve-year-old’s imitation of an Andre Norton book. After that, Alan E. Nourse was the one I imitated in eighth grade. I grew up, and as far as imitating goes, some of my models were Anne McCaffrey, David Brin, Julie Czerneda, and countless others. In fact, I had a recent Probability Zero published in ANALOG, that was imitating the style of Clifford D. Simak.

But what does Bruce Bethke’s comment mean? What did Tiptree, Delany and McIntyre write that is NOT being imitated and what did Gibson, Wells, and Verne write that IS – at least the writing that makes its way into STUPEFYING STORIES’ slush pile?

James Tiptree is, of course the pseudonym of Alice B. Sheldon. Her early work was “reminiscent of the space opera and pulp tales...with a much darker tone…drastic spiritual alienation, and/or a transcendent experience which brings fulfillment but also death…the tension between free will and biological determinism, or reason and sexual desire…One of the themes prevalent throughout most of Sheldon’s work is feminism…subversive use of genre fiction to produce an unconventional discursive position, the feminist subject". Her name graces “an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.

Samuel R. Delaney’s tomes are not for the timid! DHALGREN was my first attempt at reading his novels. “Recurring themes in Delany's work include mythology, memory, language, sexuality, and perception...Class, position in society, and the ability to move from one social stratum to another are motifs that were touched on in his earlier work and became more significant…later…Many of Delany's later works have bodies of water as a common theme, as mentioned…Though not a theme, coffee, more than any other beverage, is mentioned significantly and often…Writing itself (both prose and poetry) is also a repeated theme: several of his characters are writers or poets of some sort…Delany also makes use of repeated imagery…Jewels, reflection, and refraction…of text and concepts…[and] sexual themes to an extent rarely equaled in serious writing.”

Vonda N. McIntyre is best known for her later work as a STAR TREK writer, though even in the “canonical TREK” universe, she deals with themes of “her argued, numerate and humane understanding of how to engage the instruments of sf in feminist concerns.”

William Gibson, sometimes referred to as the “‘noir prophet’ of the cyberpunk [Which Bruce Bethke invented, despite what Wikipedia says!] subgenre elucidates his work as to say: “...we have no future…because our present is too volatile.’…twenty-first-century sf may increasingly need to focus its engines of vision on precisely this evanescent Now, which is so saturated with information that virtual and real become aspects of one another.” Of Jules Verne and HG Wells, DavidO from GoodReads had this to say, “I think you hit most of the differences. Wells wrote social science fiction that could be called pot boilers. While Verne wrote hard science fiction with a focus on the science and details.” Lara Amber added, “The science in both don't stand up well to heavy scrutiny, but the sense of adventure (and quite frankly optimism) of Verne appeals to me over Wells, which is more rooted in the ‘what have you done!!!’ aspect of science.

So, to briefly summarize, it APPEARS that writers are not imitating the works of those who explored feminism and sexuality; rather writers who explore null  or terrifying futures – but with a great sense of adventure.

Of course, this is just what we see at STUPEFYING STORIES. Even so, as I think of what I’ve read of Hannu Rajaniemi, Cory Doctrow, Ken Liu, Aliette de Bodard, and Mary Robinette Kowal; I think I might be able to say that if their themes ARE the same, those themes are latent rather than manifest.

What do you think?

September 22, 2015


http://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/big-europa-002.jpgEach 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: Isaac Asimov’s Three Kinds Of Science Fiction: “Gadget sci-fi: Man invents car, holds lecture on how it works.”

Khünbish Qureshi said, “Once we drill through the ice, we can begin extract the uranium. But we have to do it fast.” He tapped the wide pipe with his heavily armored hand. While there was no true atmosphere and the surface of the moon was exposed to the radiation sleet from Jupiter, they both wore flexible suits and had ridden to the surface on little more than a hovering plate.

“You think extracting a few metric tonnes of uranium from this moon would have any kind of effect at all?” asked Yelizavta Zaya. She bounced a few meters back after stomping her foot.

“I can’t say for sure.”

“Why not?”

“I’m a geologist...”

“You mean a Eurologist?”

“That makes me sound like a bladder specialist!”

“Well, it’s not Earth, so you can’t be a ‘geologist’.”

“There’s not a bladder in sight, either!”

Beneath their feet, the ice sang. On any other world, it would have been a quake, but here the ice vibrated, shifting, sliding along cracked edges. Immense crevasses sang bass that shook the world like a drum head; smaller ones sang faint hymns of joy; the smallest sang beyond the hearing of Humans.

Khünbish slapped the pipe again and said, “If there were living things under the surface, maybe my sucking the lifeblood from the water will make them sit up and take notice.”

“I doubt there’re sitting beings under our feet, Khun.”

He grimaced at the diminutive – Americans and Loonies made a habit of lopping parts of people’s names off willy-nilly – and said, “Whatever they’re doing, I’m hoping they notice.”

“And if there’s nothing under our feet but ice, water, uranium?”

“Then we stand to make a fortune and retire wherever we want to.” He bounced back as the ice began to sing again. As he fell to the surface, he grimaced and said, “Can you hear that?”

Names: ♀ Russia, Mongolian; ♂ Mongolian, Pakistan