April 24, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 54: DaneelAH At Station Vogel

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.

Verumi Mawort,” said the Dalai Lama of Mars.

“‘True Mars’?” said DaneelAH.

“In the book, there are copies of rubbings made of incomprehensible etchings found on Earth. They’re typically ascribed to some sort of dead Icelandic dialect – because they were first discovered in Iceland. But they aren’t related to any Icelandic language. They aren’t related to any language known on Earth.”

“What do you mean?”

“While Earth was for all the history of Humanity, the only world we knew, we are here now,” the Dalai Lama said. “Various groups have discovered markings etched in stone on various surfaces on Mars – as well as on Titan and Republicano Moon. Those may be similar to these. But no one has investigated this possibility yet.”

“Why?” asked AzAH. As a biological translator, the challenge of language was the only thing that made her heart race. It was as irresistible as food to a starving man.

“Because the Five Councils have forbidden it.”

“Why would they do that?” AzAH asked.

The Dalai Lama of Mars shrugged, “I may be a holy man, but I am just a man. My has always and only been to bring Holy Writ to Mars. I’ve done that in any way I can.”

HanAH scowled then said, “I’ve never heard of you, and I’m intimately acquainted with the criminal elements of Mars. I work for Mayor Turin of Malacandra...”

The elderly man smiled, “I know. You’ve never heard of me because my mission has always been a quiet one. I am bringing Humanity its spiritual diversity. I am not fighting a war nor am I inciting revolution.”

“You may say that, but Martian law – in this case uniformly across the Five Councils – is clear on the fact that your activity is seditious.”
“I am not inciting anything. If you insist, I’m restoring Humanity’s spiritual documents to a people long separated from them.”

HanAH snorted. DaneelAH held up his hand and said, “You don’t need to harass the man.” To the Dalai Lama, he said, “HanAH is a Christian by choice as well, though I supposed I’d have to concede that he’s a skeptical Christian.” The other artificial human nodded firmly. “He’s also a full-spectrum detective and investigator. He heads up one of the most complex intelligence operations on the planet.”

The Dalai Lama raised his eyebrows and said, “Then my mission to remain invisible has been successful beyond my wildest dreams.”

AzAH and MishAH burst out laughing. HanAH’s face flushed indigo. DaneelAH sniffed and said, “What do you want me to do with all of these writings? I work for Mayor Turin – and I’m vatmate to one of the most powerful enforcers on this planet.”

The Dalai Lama nodded. “Then yours is the most difficult of jobs. These Holy Books will come back to Mars someday. The non-Human etchings will also be investigated one day. I feel deeply that they are related. There may be other events in motion right now that are tied to the etchings as well as the Holy Books of Humanity. I can’t say with certainty, but I feel that by handing them over to you,” he gestured widely to all four, “my part in this is nearly over.” He looked down, “I am an old man. I have seen many things. I have grieved many events both on Earth and here. Things are about to change and for whatever reason, the four of you have become a crux.” He smiled, “A cross if you will.”

DaneelAH shook his head. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? You are young. You are excited. You are also skilled in areas I cannot even describe.” The Dalai Lama lifted up a hand in benediction and said, “It’s time for you to go.” He turned away from them and headed back into his quarters.

DaneelAH said, “Now what?”

HanAH said, “You’re the one with the box of religion porn. Should I arrest you now or do you want to get going?”

April 23, 2014


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 & F & H Trope: “The Space Whale Aesop suggests a real, viable course of action ("don't perform nuclear tests") by presenting fantastic consequences ("radiation from the tests will awaken a giant monster that destroys Tokyo") instead of a more realistic but not quite as dramatic example ("it can burn whole buildings if someone is careless"). Overlaps with Gaia's Vengeance if the intended message is an environmental one, which it often is.”

Current Event: Earth Day

Paraskeui Russo pursed her lips and said, “Everyone’s positive this is a safe test?” She wasn’t one of the science staff overseeing the test of a fast reentry vehicle. In fact, she wasn’t even out of high school yet, but after she won second place in a contest that was supposed to provide a near-instantaneous evacuation of Space Station Courage.

Mychajlo Dąbrowski shook his head and said, “They wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t safe.” It was his project they were testing. His was the First Place Winner. Not that this was exactly what he’d proposed. His idea had been to keep bunch reentry pods made of waste-metal, melted and inflated with pressurized waste CO2. The rapid expansion of the gas would have cooled it, cooling the bubble. Cutting a doorway, outfitting it a rebreathing mechanism, then coating all of them with melt from the asteroid smelter orbiting a bit higher that SS
Courage. They could be tethered anywhere, everywhere.

Para shook her head, “Lots of scientists thought fission was a safe idea.”

Mych grunted. The contest was supposed be an innovative solution that would prevent an incident like the Sindikat Rossiyskikh Soyuznikov Space Station Muzhestvo – which had been badly holed and there hadn’t been enough life pods to save more than a hundred of the five hundred people who lived there. “No argument from me.”

Para looked at him, surprised. “You agree with me?”

Mych shook his head and hissed. “They’re launching.”

She scowled, but turned her full attention to the viewscreens. Instead of waste-metal bubbles, the Combined Forces part of the station had taken Mych’s idea and left out the rebreathers – those could be snatched while evacuating – and replaced them with variable explosives. Now called Situational Design ReEntry Shrapnel – SiDeReES or Sidereez – the things were being live tested today.

The first cluster of what looked like a large bunch of silver grapes was drifting out of orbit, headed down to Earth. They disappeared from sight. The window shivered and a sensor image replaced it. The capsules had started to glow red. Even as they did, the alarms in the space station suddenly began to shrill and wall panels began to glow red, fade, then glow red again. Station Command came over the public address, saying, “All crew please report to emergency stations. All others report to your emergency gathering points. This is not a drill.” The voice went on to repeat. Para looked at Mych and said, “What do you think’s happening?”

Mych’s eyes bugged wide. She turned to look at the screen. He said, “The planet – something’s happening.”

First a hole appeared to open abruptly in the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Then it widened into a gap, for all the world like a mouth opening. Where the nose would have been on a face, were the Hawaiian Islands. They were fiery pustules in the ocean that spread to engulf the entire chain, spewing lava into the water that boiled into steam. The Sidereez fell toward the mouth. For whatever reason, water was no longer pouring into the mouth-like crevasse. Simultaneously, it appeared that volcanoes had erupted in northern Mexico and on the Russian Syndicated Federation’s side of the Bering Strait.

Para blinked and whispered, “It looks like a face...” Space Station Courage shivered.

The voice said, “All personnel report to evacuation pods immediately. All personnel report…”

That voice cut off and another took its place, low, resonant, but definitely female. It was just definitely not Human and spoke words that neither teen had ever heard before. Mych said, “She’s speaking Russian.”

“Not Russian, Greek,” Para said. They looked at each other, then grabbed hands and ran to an evac pod, a few dozen meters from where they’d been watching. The station shivered, loud groans echoing down hallways whose pressure doors could no longer shut because the frames were no longer true.

The voice of the planet sounded, no matter what language they heard, like an immense Humpback Whale singing as it said, “Enough is enough...”

Names: Greece, Italy; Ukraine, Poland

April 20, 2014


Science fiction and fantasy has created powerful images in our own culture and created images that rebound in other cultures around the world as well. I am no cultural impact expert, but a few of these images that might have made a deeper than passing impression follow:
Speculative fiction is all about creating images in the minds of its readers. Few people who have read Frank Herbert’s DUNE books can immediately put the image of the sandworms out of their mind. Few who read J. R. R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS can get the image of short, hairy-footed hobbits out of their minds quickly.

I once heard it proclaimed: "Science fiction is the literature of ideas. Alone among our present genres it can show us a world which does not exist, has not existed, but which could come into being. It can show us alternatives, many of which might be opposite to our presuppositions. It can mirror our thoughts, fears, and hopes about the future in terms of literary experience." (Pamela Sargent, More Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Novelettes By Women, Vintage Paperbacks, 1976)I also believe that Christianity is all about our efforts to create powerful images in the minds of people who have no interest in accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. For example, the crèche, or the Nativity of Jesus is a powerful image that appears at Christmas.
The secular world has done a good job at overwhelming the image of the birth of our Savior with a jolly character who now has little to do with an obscure, 2nd Century priest following the precepts of his Lord and Savior. “Ho, ho, ho, and all that…”
It has had a much, much harder time overwhelming the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ with cute, innocuous images like one above…
https://christophercrandolph.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/passion_of_the_christ.jpg…because the Crucifixion is one of the most powerful images and because Jesus Christ died by one of the most excruciating methods of execution ever devised by a human government, it has been exceedingly hard for those who dislike Christianity to subdue the image.

“Crucifixion was used for slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state. Therefore, crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die. Condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from crucifixion…except for major crimes against the state, such as high treason…The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonour the body of the condemned. In ancient tradition, an honourable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross, so as to mutilate it and prevent its burial, was a grave dishonour….crucifixion was also a means of exhibiting the criminal’s low social status. It was the most dishonourable death imaginable, originally reserved for slaves, hence still called "supplicium servile" by Seneca…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion).

The Crucifixion is an historical fact and while some dispute it, it is recorded several times in ancient history both secular and sacred. Others are more comfortable disputing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and give various reasons why it didn’t or couldn’t happen.
Despite the disputation however, the image stays with us. It is powerful and widespread and has not been supplanted by secular attempts to abolish it. The Bible tells us both as a record and as prophecy, how Jesus the Christ was to die and rise again. It also tells us WHY: He died and rose again to restore our broken relationship with God. He was a sin offering on our behalf and then proved that death no longer had a hold on us! THIS is an image we cannot shake. THIS is an image that will last long after WAR OF THE WORLDS and HARRY POTTER fade away.

“He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”