June 30, 2011

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 18: DaneelAH Leaving Bradbury Behind

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official United 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.

The Marsbug seemed to pause. The lights flickered and a shudder ran from the forward end to the propulsion unit. When the 'bug powered up again, it rolled forward smoothly, passing through the public lock and out on to the surface of Mars.
MishAH said softly, "At least he didn't repeat his ultimatum again like in the threedees."
"He didn't have to repeat it!" exclaimed HanAH, angrily. "He's got us under lock and key! He's stealing us!" He stood up abrupty and banged the hull overhead. "He can't do this to us!"
"At the risk of pointing out the obvious, he did give us a choice," said DaneelAH.
"You're defending him?" HanAH said.
"Not defending --just repeating. Besides, I think I recognize the voice."
AzAH shook her head. "You recognize the voice of a terrorist?"
DaneelAH pursed his lips -- it wasn't necessary for any artificial Human to make any sort of face to indicate concentration, expecially when AHs were the only ones present. But programmiung and repeated performance made for inelastic response routines. He said, "I know it. Long time ago." He closed his eyes as they 'bug accelerated out of Malacandra. Scowling, he reached up and pulled an arm-mounted flatscreen down into his lap and began to type. After a moment, he grunted and lifted his chin toward the forward viewscreen. "Look at this."
An image of a Human speaking appeared. The Human was on a platform, standing behind a podium. In seats behind him, four others looked on. The one on the farthest right was an elderly woman. DaneelAH froze the image and said, "Recognize the woman?"
AzAH leaned forward, then gasped. "E.R. Marcillon!"
Even HanAH's angry glare softened, "Eleanor Rockefeller Marcillon, the First Mayor?"
MishAH added, "She must have been almost two hundred years old in this!"
DaneelAH nodded. "According to the database, she was one hundred and ninety-three years old. Recognize the speaker?"
HanAH was the first one to see it. "Is that Paolo Conciliação?"
AzAH unstrapped herself from the seat and stepped forward to the screen, studying it. "It can't be," she said.
"The age looks right," MishAH said, leaning back in his seat.
"It's him," DaneelAH said, "And the voice print on the message we just listened to matches Senor Conciliação's in this and other archived speeches."
"He died," HanAH said abruptly.
"He was reported dead, but no body was ever found to confirm the report."
AzAH said, "He was just a kid here!"
HanAH snorted, "That raised a lot of eyebrows, I heard."
"We weren't out of the vats yet," MishAH snapped. "How would you know what anyone heard?"
"Nonetheless, it was quite a scandal, from what I heard." He sniffed, "Practically the first thing I heard about after I was decanted."
"We were decanted together," said AsAH, returning to her seat and strapping in.
"We weren't trained together, though."
DaneelAH said, "Enough about gossip -- the facts here state that he disappeared after the Interim Mayor was elected to the Mayorship fifty-six years ago."
HanAH shook his head, "The way I heard it was that Paolo there had been trained and prepped and picked by the First Mayor. The Interim -- what was his name?"
"Fortune Torgerson," DaneelAH supplied.
"Strange name," AzAH said.
HanAH's reply rose an octave as the 'bug rode over a rille, tossing them all up against the straps as he said, "You should talk!" After they laughed, he continued, "From what I heard, Fortune wasn't so keen on giving up the Interimship and wanted to make it permanent. There was plenty of gossip, too, about the First Mayor's relationship with her protege. Once Mayor Marcillon passed, Fortune was to train Paolo, then hand over the reigns. Instead, he tried to kill the kid -- he was sneaky at first, but toward the end, he was doing everything except degassing Bradbury to get rid of Conciliação. The problem was that the kid was honest and good and would have made a great Mayor. He had no choice but to disappear when Fortune threatened to do just that."
"What?" AzAH asked.
"Degas Bradbury - pop the cork, let the air out, deflate the Dome...Fortune told the kid the charges were laid and ready to blow if he didn't step down as heir apparent." HanAH paused. "He did."
"And he disappeared. All kinds of rumors surfaced over the years, and Security left his file open..."
"Now we know where he is," said DaneelAH.
"No," said HanAH, "We don't. We're in a locked Marsbug, on our way to a rendezvous with no idea of where we're going or what's going to happen once we get there. We may be in the hands of a homicidal marsatic."
"Well, at least we know what happened to him," MishAH said, tightening her straps.
Scowling, HanAH asked, "What?"
"He became a Christian and now he's a criminal."

June 28, 2011


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: interstellar travel

Current Event: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/17/pentagon-dreams-star-trek-style-interstellar-travel/

While you probably didn’t expect to find something like this in the weekly paper, there is no doubt in my mind that people are thinking beyond “today”. Other people, like “Taxpayers for Common Sense” simply want cash for their own programs and are unwilling to make any kind of effort to fund their own work – Steve Ellis fails to point out that any organization like his spends a million dollars on “travel expenses” and “paper, printing and copying” instead of giving THAT money to the poor and homeless.

Be that as it may, let’s set up a situation where a young adult has applied for and been accepted on the first interstellar exploratory mission. His parents are card-carrying members of TFCS and violently object to his/her involvement. When the young adult discovers a text message that both implicates his parents and threatens to destroy the ground facility supporting the launch of Humanity’s first starship…what does the YA do. Especially when the action they are going to do is both illegal and will involve murder…

Image: http://a57.foxnews.com/static/managed/img/Scitech/396/223/hundoyear.JPG

June 26, 2011


Romance writer Jude Devereaux and historian Joseph Campbell have said, “There are no new stories…”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “There is no new thing under the Sun.”

So every science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, western, literary and WRITER writer is nothing but a hack, recycling stuff that’s been done a thousand times before!

We all know that in September of 2002, JK Rowling was vindicated when a New York judge threw out the lawsuit brought against her by Nancy Stouffer who claimed that Rowling had stolen the name “muggle” (and other things which were later declared insubstantiated) for non-magic people.

We all know Stephen King was sued in December 2010 by an author who claims King’s DUMA KEY is a plagiarized copy of Rod Marquardt’s PublishAmerica novel, KELLER’S DEN. The judge threw the case out.

We oughta be aSHAMED because, despite what the judges say about our multi-millionaire authors, there AREN’T any new stories, just old stories retold.

The internet abounds with summary statements like “There are only (insert number) basic plots in all of literature” (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539). WRITER’S DIGEST author, Ronald B Tobias uses this concept in his 2003 book, 20 MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM. I’ve read the book – and discarded it.

As with all such “formula” books (I ranted against this a long, long time ago here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2008/02/flashicle-6-ugh-to-prescriptive-writing.html), what works for one writer may not work for another. This is the main reason that my “how-to write” library is so small (I might summarize someday here and rant against the books that “didn’t work”)

My favorite authors write stories that I know I can count on for quality and entertainment – but time and time again, I notice that they get stale after a book or two and I try a book from an author I’ve never read before. The problem is, is that there are only so many stories to tell and while authors try to tell them in different ways, the ending is rarely in doubt: the good folks wither win or lose. Books that end ambiguously are called “literary novels”.

And there you have the three “kinds” of books: the good folks win, lose or neither. Everything else is just window dressing and EVERY author (even me) can be accused of plagiarism.

Your thoughts?

image: http://img1.newser.com/square-image/114332-20110317062742/washington-post-suspends-plagiarizing-reporter.jpeg

June 24, 2011


This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So I added some things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill reached North Shore Drive after crossing three intersections. There was traffic in Duluth – nothing like as much as in Minneapolis where they’d come from; but a sight more than the little towns they’d been passing through for the past ten days.

“You think left is north?” Freddie asked.

Tommy nodded. “Lake Superior is right here in front of us and we ain’t in Wisconsin, so left’s gotta be north.”

Freddie nodded as they turned the corner and plodded along. It was late morning and the sun still slanted across the rippling waters of Lake Superior. Freddis suddenly said, “I read about the lake.”

“Huh?” Tommy said, not turning back until a young woman dressed to the nines passed them by. Then he stopped and turned slowly, watching her pass in her knee-length, dark blue skirt, white gloved hands and round felt hat on her head. Freddie almost ran into him. Tommy shook his head like he was waking up from a dream and snapped, “Watch where you’re going!”

Freddie tossed a glance over his shoulder, smirked and said, “I ain’t the one stopped walkin’.”

Tommy turned around and started walking again, muttering, “Shut up.”

They kept on walking and it wasn’t long before the buildings got shorter and then gave way to blocks of row houses, not very different from the ones they lived in. Tommy said, “What about the lake?”


“You said you know something about Lake Superior. What about it?”

“It’s cold.”


“No, I mean really cold. Like it never gets hotter than like 40.”

“No way!” Tommy exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Freddie said, strutting. “It’s the third biggest lake in the whole world and the Indians called it Gitchee Gumee.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, this guy wrote about it in like…a poem.”

“You read poems?” Tommy shouted.

“Hey! You don’t have to scream it!”

“You read poems?”

“Shut up. I do. But it’s about Indians! That’s how I knew what they called Lake Superior.”

As Tommy started to laugh, a car drove by in the street. His laugh caught in his throat and his eyes went wide. Freddie had been looking right at him and spun around.

His own breath caught in his throat as a sports coupe driven by a man both boys recognized rumbled past. They dove for cover in a doorway as a pretty woman turned to look in their direction.

With his mouth right by Freddie’s ear, Tommy breathed, “The mobsters!”

Image: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/media/story/jpg/2010/02/11/nemhcs2422b282duluthcurlingclub.jpg

June 21, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY #18: Stalking the Abandoned Mall....

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Current Event: http://www.kare11.com/news/article/925530/396/Brookdale-Mall-Finally-a-new-life

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.

In the 1978 horror flick, DAWN OF THE DEAD (written and directed by the master horror director, George Romero), after the zombie apocalypse, a mall becomes a refuge for a couple of humans who clean out the zombies and go on a wild shopping spree. Of course, that doesn’t last long and the zombies get in and go on a nasty eating spree…

What if we turned this idea on its head?

I don’t live far from the mall depicted above – so what if we have a dead mall. Teenagers wangle their way into it one night to have a grand old party. What nobody noticed as that the mall was scheduled for destruction by dynamite the next morning. When they head for their entry point, they discover that it’s been blocked…in fact, they can’t get out. Something; someone; WHAT has trapped them in the mall…

NEXT! Add in the original plot of the novel, I AM LEGEND ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Legend_(novel))in which the zombies are afraid of the humans. Stir the mess together, and what do you get...

image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/6/63/Dawn_of_the_dead.jpg/220px-Dawn_of_the_dead.jpg

June 19, 2011

WRITING ADVICE: Mike Duran #10 – 10 Blogging Mistakes

I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a specfic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY at http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/. The original article for THIS entry is here: http://mikeduran.com/?p=5202 (and Mike used THIS article as a springboard: http://michaelhyatt.com/do-you-make-these-10-mistakes-when-you-blog.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+michaelhyatt+%28Michael+Hyatt%29&utm_content=Bloglines.html)

While Mike uses the blog entry of Thomas Nelson Publisher’s Chairman, Michael Hyatt as his starting point, he questions the points the Chairman makes.

I suppose then, that turn about is fair play! I’ve got a couple of questions about Mike’s questions. Before I ask them though, let me condense his essay into ten bullet points:

Mistake #1: You don’t write well and while writing well won’t guarantee visitors, bad writing will chase them away.

Mistake #2: You believe that there are hard and fast blogging rules.

Mistake #3: You post oodles of mediocre writing rather than a few good pieces.

Mistake #4: Your posts are the wrong length, inaccessible and pedantic.

Mistake #5: You don’t write posts that are deep enough or long enough.

Mistake #6: You aren’t consistent.

Mistake #7: You do not write quality blog entries.

Mistake #8: You are not writing with Uzi-level rapidity to guarantee a share of readership (while writing well, of course).

Mistake #9: You are not a popular celebrity.

Mistake #10: Your post doesn’t talk about you enough in a tasteful way.

These are, I hope you understand somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there remains a bit of truth in all of them, just as there is a bit of truth in TNP Chairman, Michael Hyatt’s post (which, FYI, garnered 117 Shares, 194 Tweets and 362 Comments; Mike Duran’s post garnered 0 Shares, 0 Tweets and 4 Comments – but more about that in my next WRITING ADVICE post and the last about how Mike Duran’s advice has had an impact on my own writing).

I have been writing for 41 years and I hope that because I am practicing and learning constantly, I think I write well enough. I have generated 387 comments on 323 posts since I started my blog in June of 2007. As Mike says, that’s not bad for an amateur.

I can’t have made mistake #2 because I never thought about rules. #3 has never been a problem, though as the years have passed, I’ve created a routine: Sunday is a Possibly Irritating Essay, a Slice of PIE or WRITING ADVICE; Monday, once a month, a guest blog at The Friday Challenge (http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/); on Tuesdays, I’ve recently started posting Ideas for writers to steal or borrow; Wednesdays are post-free; Thursdays I post between 500-1000 words of a rotating series of books I’m working on – the purpose being to test ideas, build characters and work through plot points. When I finish, I pull down the posts, consolidate them into one document and then set it aside until I’m ready to begin the First Rewrite; Fridays are free days; Saturdays I post on my husband of my wife as a breast cancer patient site, BREAST CANCER REAPER (http://breastcancerreaper.blogspot.com/). I recently calculated that I post somewhere around 7200 words a month on the sites.

I fluctuate on #4, aiming at no more than 1000 words for my fiction and between 500-700 in my essays; #5, 6 and 7 are related and I think that I am consistently good at my blogs. My fiction, not so much so – but that’s just because the fiction is a work in progress. I confess I have very, very few comments on them. However, I think that number will increase dramatically once I get a “real” book published and I become a #9, a celebrity and people will WANT to comment so they will be part of my next book – I’m going to explore this quite a bit more in my last entry in the Mike Duran WRITING ADVICE series (and I’ll let you know who has agreed to be the next round of WRITING ADVICE.)

I’ll probably never do # 8. Uzi-like entries are I believe, what TWITTER is all about. I don’t Tweet, so I don’t know.

Last of all, Mike points out, “…For me, details and references to one’s personal life is not necessarily a turn-off, provided the blog is not ONLY about that. In fact, it seems like many popular blogs are intrinsically ABOUT their authors.”

This is what I have been working on ever since I started my blog – I want it to be personal, but in a way that is applicable to OTHERS. I mean, a blog can’t prattle on endlessly about how wonderful or awful I am. It needs to provide a reader with a “take-away”; something they can nod thoughtfully at and then jot down somewhere before they log off my blog. That’s my goal – relevance to my readers. That’s what I’ve learned through reading Mike’s blog and that’s what I try and emulate in my own blog.

Image: http://rlv.zcache.com/mens_miskates_shirt-p235694508661819380q6wh_400.jpg

June 14, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY #17: The Goddess of Chaos Will Reign!

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.

Fantasy Trope: good vs evil

Current Event: The United Kingdom may be hovering on the edge of becoming the DIS-United Kingdom…http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43077321/ns/world_news-europe (If you’ve never read THE DARK IS RISING series by Susan Cooper – you should!)

But this is just an idea day, so read the article above about the possibility of Scotland seceding from the United Kingdom (discussed this with my wife or daughter…there have been “disunity” tremblors in all sorts of countries at all sorts of times. From 1836-1846, Texas was an independent republic. Quebec continues a long history of attempting to break free of Canada. The USSR shattered (or reassembled itself) into its original annexed nations.)

So – let’s take North America: the Republic of Vermont, the Republic of California, the Republic of Texas, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) and an Independent Quebec are all movements that are taking place or happened in the past and were efforts of smaller groups to separate themselves from the federal governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada respectively. Now, what if these separatists were being driven by a dark goddess of chaos and a group of teens from each place met at a camp to discover they were avatars of this goddess…and didn’t particularly WANT to stay that way?

A newer god wishes only to reunite the separated...

image: http://today.duke.edu/sites/default/files/news_images/kali.jpg

June 12, 2011

Slice of PIE – When Did Fiction Splinter?

I know this isn’t my WRITING ADVICE Sunday, but the impetus for my Slice of PIE was sparked by a discussion that’s been going on over at Mike Duran’s blog, deCOMPOSE regarding Christian views on Christian Fiction. If you want to read the post and the accompanying brouhaha, the first post was here: http://mikeduran.com/?p=12734 the second (just yesterday) post is here: http://mikeduran.com/?p=12994.

I have no doubt that I have nothing to add to this particular discussion that hasn’t been said already. It is a heated debate and while I am sure it is important to have, I confess that after today, I'm not going to be part of it.

Long ago, I decided that while I am a Christian and some of the characters in my fiction will BE Christians, I am in no way, shape or form interested in being a “Christian Fiction writer”. Part of this is practical: the majority of evangelical (and non-evangelical Christians as well) consider the idea of alien life heretical. If not that, they tend to consider extraterrestrials pure hokum and “obviously” outside of the realm of Christian belief. The other part is missional: if I’m going to reach outsiders in the speculative fiction community, I have to do so from inside that community. (For a discussion of my mission calling, go here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2011/03/possibly-irritating-essays-reaching_29.html and here http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2010/10/possibly-irritating-essays-grist-for.html)

Mike Duran’s “sparked discussion” led me to wonder when exactly did what is Christian Fiction even BECOME an issue?

Finally, I got to the ground level of my pondering and framed my question: When did fiction splinter into genres?

The discovery was illuminating for me and I can summarize my data in a nutshell:


2200 BC

The Epic of Gilgamesh

A Sumerian Writer


1740 AD


Samuel Richardson



A Pretty Little Pocket Book

John Newbery




William Beckford



Swiss Family Robinson

Johan David Wyss




Mary Shelley



The Pioneers

James Fenimore Cooper



The Rector of Veilbye

Steen Steensen Blicher (in Danish)



The Chatauqua Idyle

Grace Livingston Hill

While I am sure that fiction could easily have been splintered earlier in the history of the written word, my Wikipedia source seems to set out a reasonable timeline (These were NOT cut and pasted from a single article! I read the entry for each one by typing “History of _____ fiction” – which I invite you to do!)

This leads me to the conclusion that the argument regarding Christian fiction is recent, because it has only existed as a separate entity for 125 years or so.

There can be no doubt that before that, Christians wrote fiction and told stories by…well, at least by lamplight, lantern and firelight! The importance of witnessing for Christ through the written and fictional word has existed since the beginning of the Christian church. While I can’t give you evidence, I am guessing that Christians after 1887 were not the FIRST who wanted to share the Good News in a dramatic way, surrounded by imaginary situations that point back to the love of God for all humanity.

While we love to believe that our OWN culture is the apex of civilization, I have my doubts. Cultures much older than ours likely considered theirs to be the apex of the surrounding civilizations. Considering the debate about what constitutes Christian Fiction and what does not has only been POSSIBLE for 120 years, I conclude that given the advent of Christianity 2000 years ago…that as far as I can see, it just ain’t all that important, thank you very much.

Given the level of heat in this firestorm, I'm going to excuse myself from the discussion from now on, take my writing output back to the unChristian novel I’m currently working on and leave the rest of the members of this most recent genre to argue among themselves.

Image: http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/80/79580-004-D6DE0F0C.jpg

June 10, 2011


I read the play version of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON when I was in eighth grade. It has stayed with me for decades, a haunting symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human mind. I’ve started and stopped this novel a half a dozen times in eleven years. I want to bring the original idea into the present millennium. To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll three pages back until you get to the bottom.

Behind CJ, Mom cussed then shouted, “There’s nothing to quarantine!”

Dr. Chazhukaran tugged his gloves tighter and said, his voice amplified, “Your daughter has a dangerous infection of nanomachines…”

Mom shouted, “You put them there! They’re no more dangerous…”

“They are an infectious…”

“They were supposed to help her! That’s what you told us!” Mom stepped past CJ, putting herself between Dr. Douchebag’s army and him, Mai and the paramedics. She went down the steps, “You just want her for your guinea pig! You want to write papers about her! You want to put her in a cage!” Mom stalked across the lawn and stopped right in front of Dr. Douchebag.

CJ slithered down the side of the steps and behind the bushes that edged the garden around the house. Crawling behind them, he came out in the back yard, skittered around behind the garage and then into the bank of lilac bushes separating their house and the Abumayaleh’s next door.

The paramedics had finished coming out the front door and now stood on the lawn with Mai between them.

Dr. D shouted, “You are to turn the patient over to us!”

The paramedic shouted back something obscene then continued, “You’ll need to show us some identification indicating that you have the authority to take this patient away from us!”

In his biohazard suit, Dr. D looked surprised through the transparent face shield. The amplification didn’t make him sound sure any more as he said, “I’m here under the authority of the University of Minnesota…”

“The U didn’t have troop transports when I went there!” the other paramedic called back as he tugged the cot and they started for the ambulance.

Dr. D yanked off the hood, pulled a cellphone out of a pocket in the biohazard suit. His voice wasn’t amplified any more as he said into it, “The paramedics are taking her!” He paused then said, “I’m the brains here, not the brawn! You told me this would work!”

A voice next to CJ’s ear muttered, “Where do you think he got the troop transport?”

About jumping out of his skin, CJ turned suddenly to stare directly into Job’s grinning face. The other boy said, “None of them look like soldiers.”

“How do you know what soldiers look like?”

“Besides my brother being in the Marines? I been back to Nigeria with Dad and Mom. Never seen so many soldiers in one place as there. They looked mean. These guys don’t look mean, just scared.”

The paramedics loaded Mai into the ambulance. Mom turned away from Dr. D and ran after Mai. The paramedics directed her to the front seat and one went around to the front while the other closed the back once Mai’s cot was secure. Dr. D stomped his foot and threw the cellphone on the ground.

Job said, “Where do you think he got the the cop cars?” He squinted, “Oh, they’re all U of M Campus Security.”

“What?” CJ exclaimed. Dr. Douchebag looked their way and with three running leaps, he was in front of the bush they were hiding under. Hand flashing out, he grabbed CJ and dragged him free. “You’d better get your mother back here…”

“Or what?” CJ asked then elbowed Dr. D and ran back under the bushes, Job following him.

“Where we going?”

“The hospital, stupid!”

“Which one?”

CJ nearly stopped as a U of M security guard stepped in front of him and said, “Where do you think you’re going, kid?”

image: http://collegian.csufresno.edu/a/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/n_cops.jpg

June 7, 2011

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 16: Them, Robots…

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. For the next 30 weeks, IDEAS ON TUESDAY will take you on a Grand Tour of the Tropes! (Aren’t you excited?!!!) In this series, I’ll talk very briefly about a science fiction, fantasy or horror “trope” – which is an idea that has become so tightly associated with a genre that if you say it, you think that “kind” of story – and then throw in some current event. In addition, I’ll stir in a few teenagers to give us characters to beat up on and to fight each other. As always, feel free to steal the idea – just let me know if you USED it and if someone bought it!
SF Trope: robots

I hope that by now, everyone knows what a robot is! What most people DON’T know is that the Russian, Karl Capek invented the term for his RUR. Since then, it has come to mean all kinds of things and its adoption into science fiction has been so complete that we rarely think of robots being anywhere but in movies.
The fact is that they are everywhere! From cleaning the bottom of the school swimming pool, to building the car you drive, robots are so much a part of our lives we couldn’t even LIVE without them…unless you could stand alongside a hospital bed and pump a respirator for a patient in a coma.
Current Event: The Arizona wildfire is likely going to go down in history as the Third Largest in that state. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43290922/ns/weather/ If it continues much longer, it may well go down as the second largest – maybe even the biggest one ever. They’ll bring in everything to stop it. Eventually, there will be robots – not humanoid ones like in I, Robot, but more like water, fire and chemical squirting tanks. Or possibly like the robots above. Of course, they’ll have to have a certain amount of autonomy. So what happens to them after the fire?
Couple of guys or girls are hiking in the mountains three or four years after a huge wildfire; maybe working on college degrees or just vacationing. They stumble onto some strange leavings and after poking around, discover a nest of these semi-intelligent robots who not only survived the fire, they’ve established a colony and they are making new copies of themselves…

image: http://www.popsci.com/files/imagecache/article_image_large/articles/firefightrobot.jpg

June 5, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: The Question We Should Be Asking: “Why Don’t I QUIT Writing?”

I recently wrote a column for the FRIDAY CHALLENGE in which I answered the question, “Why Do We Write?” I admit, I had a brilliant answer! (;-)) You can read my first thoughts here: http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-we-write_19.html

Since then though, I’ve had second thoughts about how important this question is to ask.

Let me back up about ten years, where the seed for this thought fell on the ground the first time. My wife and two young kids were out garage-saling. We stopped at a house that had kid’s toys and clothing and got out. While my wife checked for treasures, I wandered into the garage.

Let me pause in the story to give you a bit of local tradition. While every house I know of has a car garage – it’s hard to start a car that’s been sitting out directly exposed to -27 cold for any length of time – when we build the garages, most of us don’t INSULATE them. No reason; like I said, it’s a tradition. Typically, the interior of a garage presents an image of bare pine studs with some sort of exterior insulation laid over the outside on which clapboard or stucco or other siding is attached. From the studs hang numerous brackets, hooks, pegboards, sheet rock, shelves and electrical conduit or Romex® cable and either bare incandescent light sockets and bulbs or an arrangement of fluorescent fixtures and bulbs. Garages are usually utilitarian spaces reserved for cars, tools, lawn mowers, canoes, fertilizer spreader, grass-clipping catchers, roof rakes, snow blowers, garden implements and snow shovels.

In this garage – in addition to the traditional décor – every space between the studs had a 14-inch piece of pine stud nailed into place at 12 or so inch vertical intervals. On each of the 14-inch pieces, paperback novels were packed side-by-side from the base plate to the rafters.

There were hundreds of books.

Possibly thousands.

All of the books were marked FOR SALE.

I started in a corner and began to scan for titles that contained the words “star”, “alien”, “invasion”, the name of a real planet, a name that sounded like the name of a planet or anything that looked in any way “science fiction-y”

A guy approached me and asked, “Lookin’ for something in particular?”

He was only a little older than me and acted like this was his place, so I said, “Are all of those yours?”

Grinning, he nodded and said, “I’ve read every one of them, too!”

I’d noticed that while it was a broad selection, it seemed to be heavily weighted toward horror, romance and thriller. I was impressed. “All of them?”

“I was gonna be a writer, so I was told I had to read not only in the genre I wanted to break into, but outside of it as well. And I was supposed to keep current, too.”

I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, too! I said, “Did you get many things published?” Thinking I’d found a writer-soul-mate a mere four blocks from my home, I found my heart was racing. I confess I was hanging on his every word.

Shaking his head, he replied, “Nope, so I gave up.” He meandered away to help someone fill a paper grocery bag with books, leaving me startled and heart-broken.

At that point in my career, I had no professional publications despite decades of throwing short stories, essays and novels at the heavy, quarry-stone walls of the Citadel of the Editarchs. Even then, standing in that slightly dank garage, I didn’t seriously consider giving up.


In the cold, hard light of the second decade of the 21st Century, I have to honestly say to myself, “Why didn’t you just give up? Why didn’t you take up a hobby in which you might not only stand a chance of showing improvement, you might even take lessons! You’ll NEVER get really published!”

Of course, since then, I’ve had 40 professional publications, plus an uncounted number of unpaid publications that others read and comment on. (NOT including this personal blog!) I confess I feel that tug of rationality still today.

Then my inner writer exclaims, “What? Quit writing and give up this luxurious life of fame and fortune? ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’”

My rational self counters, “I’ll bet you have no idea how many times you’ve had stories, queries, articles and essays rejected.” It adds in a perfect Steve Zahn rendition of his quip from YOU’VE GOT MAIL, “As far as I can tell, the internet is just a new way to get rejected by women.” It adds in a snide voice, “You’ve submitted 727 times and published forty manuscripts. That’s a pub rate of 5% since 1990. Pathetic!”

The inner writer then points out, “While that may be true, the earlier years were typically 0,1, or 2% pub rates. Last year you had 8/50 manuscripts published. That’s 16%.”

“You didn’t get paid for all of those!”

“True, but half of them were REQUESTED and other half were paid for!”

The argument subsides and I’m left wondering what was it, standing in that garage fifteen years ago, that made me go back and keep writing when every logical bone in my body and the thousands of paperbacks on the wall said, “Take of STAR TREK model building!”?

While there was probably a measure of sheer cussedness in there, I think what kept me going was a deep desire to speak my mind in a way that was so entertaining that no one would realize that I’d spoken it!

Boiled down to its bare bones and reconstructed like a dinosaur skeleton, I find that the reason I’ve kept on writing since I was thirteen might be summed up in the words of Jeremiah, “…read from the scroll which you have written at My dictation the words of the Lord to the people in the Lord’s house on a fast day. And you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities.” Jeremiah 36:6 (NASB)

I work to write what God directs me to – sometimes better than at other times. But always I want to write his word so that others can read them and see His glory and salvation.

And THAT’S why I don’t quit.