October 30, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Christianity – “For the Cosmos” or “A Humans Only” Club?

Four years ago, I came into the blogosphere with a couple of essays I’d written in a different environment: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2007/10/christianity-anthropocentric-or.html

The comments I got came mostly from one individual named David B. Ellis, who runs a blog called The Paintings of David B. Ellis (http://davidellisart.blogspot.com/) – though he hasn’t posted there since June 2011. They were good comments then and their wisdom has aged since and taken on a smooth, thoughtful character and I’d like to take a stab at the subject again…

His main objection to my thesis at the time was that I wasn’t defining my terms either well or correctly. This time I will try to do both and I’ll look at the Bible, in this case using both the New American Standard version as well as cross referencing an online Greek-English Interlinear Bible (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm) to nail down my language.

This discussion will likely turn into a series and I’ll be posting them in the regular PIE column as well as collecting all of them under one tab you’ll find on the right, Christianity: “For the Cosmos” or a “Humans Only” Club?

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to be using the term “for the cosmos” instead of “universal”, the term I first used. Taking a roundabout path to explain the change, let me expand on this.

Why the change from universe to cosmos?

“universe” is “all existing matter and space”. The etymological dictionary proposes that the word came from a union of two phrases, unus (which means “one”) and versus (which means “to turn”).

Cosmos encompasses more: "order, good order, orderly arrangement," (the same root as cosmetology) Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply this word to "the universe"; the Septuagint uses both kosmos and oikoumene. (This is where the name of Ursula K. LeGuin’s interstellar “Ekumen” comes from) so this is a bigger word, a more encompassing word. It seems to include someone who did the order in the first place.

For me, cosmos has a larger meaning than universe. So this point onward, I will say that Christianity is intended for the cosmos.

I want to point out that God created “the heavens” (Genesis 1:1) in addition to the Earth. He is a God of order and “God created” implies an orderly arrangement more than a turning matter and space.

As to that order, Human Christians have no trouble with the “God created the Earth” part of that verse. But as is typical of myopic Humanity (myself included), we ignore “the heavens” and interpret them to mean “everything that isn’t on Earth and therefore not particularly important”.

I am going to say that the heavens are MORE important than the Earth. That’s why they are mentioned first. Even in Hebrew, “heavens” came before “Earth” (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen1.pdf) though based on the relative unimportance of word-order in Hebrew, that may or may not be significant. However, among the Hebrew-speaking Christians who wrote the New Testament in Greek (where word order IS important), of the nine times where “heavens” and “Earth” are mentioned, seven times heaven is listed first.

I think that this implies that the heavens are at least as important as the Earth and likely more so.

In the Old and New Testament, stars and the heavens are mentioned together 25 times. While this isn’t conclusive proof that the stuff above Earth is important, I would venture to say that the stars are important to God.

If there is intelligent life living on worlds that orbit those stars, I believe that it is important to God as well. The heavens implies more than just stars and the universe, it implies the word cosmos, so that God and His plans are for the cosmos rather than simply for Humans.

Up next? If Humans were created perfect and fell from grace, are there intelligent life forms that were created perfect and did NOT fall from grace?

Image: http://i201.photobucket.com/albums/aa241/silverstream716/human-space-universe-cosmos.jpg

October 27, 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 four pages back until you get to the bottom.

Mai Li Hastings continued as she sat up and slid to the edge of the hospital bed, “This is what you’re going to do, Doctor. You’re going to…” She swayed from side to side.

CJ Hastings, her fourteen-year-old brother and Mom each grabbed her under the arm and held her steady.

“Head rush,” she managed to say, her already pale skin turning nearly as white as the sheets she’d been laying on a moment ago.

“It might not be a good idea for you to go anywhere right now, Dear,” said Mom.

Mai Li shook her head, saying, “I’d rather drive red hot needles under my fingernails than agree with you, Mother, but I’d have to agree with you if I wasn’t pretty sure Dr. Mengele here was planning on trying something else to keep me where he can operate on my head with his stone knives, bearskins and herbal remedies.” She slid further forward, this time moving slowly and planting her feet on the ground, grabbing CJ’s arm hard. He fingers also made white indentations in Mom’s arm as well.

“You can’t…” Dr. Chazhukaran began.

Mom cut him off sharply saying, “Last time I looked, Doctor, I was on the paperwork as Mai Li’s legal guardian. All you are is her doctor.”

“And a pushy one at that,” Mai Li said softly.

“I can…”

CJ locked eyes with the man then with his free hand took out his cellphone, keyed in Job and said when his fiend answered, “Listen, Dr. Douchebag is planning on kidnapping my sister. Can you text Mr. J and tell him what’s going on?”

“Sure! Later,” Job replied. He added, “You want me to call my uncle? He’s a lawyer.”

“Calling your uncle the lawyer would be a good move, thanks.” He clicked off – but not until he hit the record key, saying, “I’m recording this conversation for future reference if it’s necessary.”

Mai Li tousled his hair again, whispering, “Idiot, not retard.” She sagged between them.

Dr. Chazhukaran stepped forward, reaching out and said, “You’re making a big mistake!”

Mai Li looked up, glaring at him and finally said, “The only thing I want you doing to me from now on is the autopsy.” She sagged again and said, “Take me home, Mom.”

Mom and CJ fixed Doctor Douchebag with matching glares and he finally backed down. He muttered, “You haven’t heard the last of this,” and fled the room.

CJ leaned close to Mai Li and whispered, “What do you have in mind?”

She turned her head slightly, sighed and said, “Get me into a wheelchair, check me out of this place and I’ll think of something by then.”

He glanced up at Mom who nodded and said, “I’ll hold her up. You go find a wheelchair.” He left them, but Mom called him back before he reached the door. She said, “You’d better stay here. I’m going to have to convince the nurses that Mai Li’s been discharged.”

“I am an adult,” CJ’s sister added softly.

“The legal paperwork never happened. One place where Dr. Chazhukaran messed up. Technically, you’re still disabled.”

“It might not be technical for much longer if I can’t find a way to reverse the nanomachine process.”


“Mom, go get the wheelchair. I’ll tell you what I can after we’re out from under the spying eye of Big Brother.” Mom hurried out, leaving Mai Li to lean her entire weight on him. She said, “I’ll bet you don’t even know who Big Brother is.”

“I listened to 1984 on CD. Mr. Beidelman likes the book so I figured I’d listen to it to suck up to him.”

Mai Li laughed. “I always wondered where I got my devious streak from! Now I know.”

“You probably grew your own just like you grew all those brain cells.”

She snorted but said, “The nanos never made a new brain cell, little brother. They repaired the connections between the old ones, then added other ones to increase the connective density. That’s all that was wrong with my head. It wasn’t connected enough.” She paused, sagging against him even more. She wasn’t any trouble to hold up though. She’d been light before. It seemed to him like she weighed even less. “The problem is that in copying what your brain is doing now with a form of artificial exuberance, something’s wrong with the programming. The nanos seem to have stored…”

Mom came in just then, followed by a nurse with a wheelchair. She gestured to Mai Li, saying, “We need help getting out.”

The nurse said, “I can’t just take you…”

“I’ve signed the paperwork discharging my daughter. Now, I’ve had enough trouble with this whole medical procedure that I’ve retained a lawyer and my son is recording our conversation in order to make sure my wishes are explicitly followed. I want my daughter in the wheelchair and I want to meet her with my car in five minutes, or I’ll start filing the lawsuit.”

Grumbling, the nurse came alongside Mai Li and – despite his anger – helped CJ’s sister into the seat gently. She muttered something as she slid back and leaned against the chair. She lifted her head, looked at her mother and CJ and said, “We have to hurry. I don’t think I have a lot of time left to try something.”

Image: http://zsa86.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/m24.jpg

October 26, 2011

Ideas On Tuesday 35

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: small MONSTERS

Current Event: (not exactly a “current” event, but these movies never die – and the costumes come out every Halloween!) http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ijFPRg3dHDE/TD4saKS4bRI/AAAAAAAAAEM/NuEyy_6gcu0/s1600/Alien-Chest-Burster.jpg

The “little” monsters have always creeped me out because they can hide under your bed or in your closet.

MONSTERS, INC played with that idea, giving the monsters an excuse for doing what they did rather than being malevolent beasts intent on our desctruction.

Little monsters STILL creep me out. Probably THE most horrible little monster was the “chestburster” from the movie, ALIEN. I hated that thing. Gave me nightmares for months.

So – let’s stir it all up…an ALIEN-like creature lands on Earth, the last survivor of a ship-wide disaster. It has one egg left and implants it in an unwary stray dog. It’s born near the school and gets in during a dance.

Now the usual trope is that it eats the students until the Army rescues them or a smart and sassy girl leads a student group against the thing and smashes it in the nick of time…

But let’s try this, smart and sassy girl catches is and cages it. It grows fast but she manages to keep it fed and it IMPRINTS on her, following her loyally. Feeding it chickens and pigs and other barnyard fare (though it only eats once a week or so), she learns how to communicate with it…you take it from here!

October 23, 2011

WRITING ADVICE – Kristine Kathryn Rusch #5: Act Like a Winner and You Will Be

I first ran across the work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch when her name appeared on the bottom of a standard rejection form I got from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where she was head editor for several years. A short time later, I ran across one of her short stories (“Retrieval Artist” in the June 2000 ANALOG), which of course, led me t0 her RETRIEVAL ARTIST novels. I’m a fan now and started reading her blog (http://kriswrites.com/) a year or more ago. As always, I look for good writing advice to pass on to you as well as applying it to my own writing. I have her permission to quote from the articles. You can find the complete article referenced below, as well as links to her recent ANALOG story (http://www.analogsf.com/2011_07-08/index.shtml) and the exclusive audio version that us reading folk won’t be able to get until December 2011 (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B005OSNTS8&qid=1317128702&sr=1-1).

I’ve been writing since I was thirteen, sending stories since I was sixteen, I was published for the first time when I was seventeen in a local magazine called LITTLE BIT. I’ve been writing and submitting ever since. Seriously published when I was forty in ANALOG. Lots since then. I write constantly and send stories out regularly as well as keeping up with my blog – in fact, increasing the number of posts since I started in 2007.

In MY mind, I am a writer. A science fiction writer for both adults and kids. I have a vision and my voice is pretty clear.

“…without the writer’s vision and voice, there is no product.

“Think I’m kidding? Look at it from a reader’s perspective—and please, no cheating here. Think about your favorite author of all time. [David Brin] Then tell me who publishes her work. [Ummm…] Tell me who published her (his) first novel. [Bantam Spectra?]

“Then tell me who first published Little Women. Or A Christmas Carol. Or Hamlet. (Scholars, pick something outside of your expertise.) Now, tell me who wrote Little Women, A Christmas Carol, and Hamlet. See how easy that is?

“The publisher gets the book distributed to the readers. Or did, once upon a time.

“That time has changed. Now all of us can download books on our e-reader or via our computer direct from the writer himself if we’re so inclined, and if that writer has enough foresight to have the book available. The distribution networks have changed and now the writer can access those networks easily.

“Mark Twain published his own work. So did Edgar Rice Burroughs. In fact, the only reason we’re familiar with Tarzan today is because Burroughs self-published.”

(From: http://kriswrites.com/2011/09/14/the-business-rusch-playing-to-win/)

I can say that I recognized this before, but knowing that it’s what Kristine Kathryn Rusch believes puts me in exalted company!

Some time ago, I wrote about a man who was selling his books because he was going to quit trying to be a writer (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2011/06/possibly-irritating-essays-question-we.html). I cannot imagine NOT writing.

I also keep writing and learning about writing because sometime I will hit the right person with the right submission at the right moment.

But getting there can be rough. I just got a rejection today from someone who said, in part, “Any lesson learned…is unresolved…[You said you’d let us] ‘know if my gamble pays off.’” In other words – “You have nothing to say to us because you don’t know what you’re talking about.”


Kristine Kathryn Rusch seems to hold such an attitude in faint contempt – maybe. At least as far as my SELF image is concerned: “The key here is attitude. Think like a winner and you will succeed. It’s a variation on Dean[Wesley Smith]’s Think and Grow Thin method. He thinks about each bite he puts in his mouth and that enables him to lose weight. If you think about your writing career from the perspective of success rather than constant failure, then you will succeed over time.

“Does Dean manage to eat right every day? Nope. But when he doesn’t, he knows it and gets back on the right track a day or so later. Likewise, you won’t succeed at writing and business every single day. You will fail. But no one wins without losing. Failures teach you how to be a success. In fact, the biggest successes always have a slew of failures behind them. Failing is how we learn.”

I’ve been learning for decades. I’ll continue writing, learning and submitting.

As a writer, there’s no other choice!

Image: http://store03.prostores.com/dcbcollectibles/media/a8/a20792b129dd069e907f2f_m.jpg

October 20, 2011

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 22: DaneelAH and Company Out of Malacandra

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.
MishAH, AzAH, HanAH and DaneelAH – four purple artificial Humans who were the property of the Mayor of Malacandra – rode in silence in the Marsbug as it sped over the surface of the Red Planet.
They had been stolen.
“Paolo Conciliação disappeared...and he became a Christian?" exclaimed HanAH. He tried to stand up. The straps held him down, keeping him from banging his head on the ceiling.
DaneelAH pursed his lips then said, “Now we know where he is.”
“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 criminal.”
“Now he’s a thief,” said AzAH. She settled down into her seat. “It looks to me that after ‘we’ said ‘yes’ to his offer of a ride, we’re stuck in here for the next fifteen hours.” She shot a glare at DaneelAH, who shrugged.
“It seemed like the right thing to say at the time – and it seemed in line with what Mayor Turin has in plan for us.”
“How do we know she’s not as devious as Mayor Torgerson?” HanAH said.
“What?” asked DaneelAH.
“Torgerson tried to murder this Paolo not long after his grandmother died. She tried to pass the reigns of leadership to him – we have to assume that she had prepared him for his job.” MishAH paused, scowled then continued, “We also have to assume that she prepared him for this eventuality.”
DaneelAH exclaimed, “She planned for him to be murdered?”
“You’ve had a Complete Martian History downloaded into your memory. Try and tell me that that would have been impossible! She was brilliant, sly and a consummate politician. How else would she have run Mars as UN Governor General for forty years?” DaneelAH turned from the rest of them to stare out at the passing landscape. “She would have planned for this.”
“What would she have done?” asked AzAH, “Planned to haunt Torgerson from the grave?”
DaneelAH said abruptly, “There’s another possibility.” He said to HanAH, “Enlarge the image and then focus on Paolo’s face and Mayor Marcillon’s face.” She did. DaneelAH said, “Enlarge and remaster the resolution, extrapolating from all databases.” The image vanished then reappeared.” He studied the image.
AzAH said, “I’ve been translating all my life – and I don’t just mean words. When I work, I have to interpret unspoken language as well. I watch facial expressions, body position and listen to an analyze tone. I can tell you unequivocally that that young man is terrified. I don’t care what his words are, he’s afraid of something.” She swiped a finger through the other image. “That’s his grandmother, Eleanor Roosevelt Marcillon and he expression is extremely intent – but not on her grandson. She’s looking over here.” He flipped the image so that it expanded and she poked a face, remastering it. After a moment, it resolved into clarity.
“Isn’t that Hanam vo’Maddux?” said MishAH.
“Seventy years ago.”
“He hasn’t changed a bit.”
DaneelAH rode out a series of harmonic bumps in the road then said, “I know who it is. My question is that she’s the Mayor of Opportunity’s Chief of Security right now. What was she doing on the podium between the Founding Mayor and the First Settler of Mars – in Malacandra short before the disappearance of the Founding Mayor’s hand-picked-for-succession grandson?”

October 18, 2011

Ideas on Tuesday 34

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: ancient “ages”

Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wondjina

ALSO Current Event (with a TOTALLY different take!): http://ancient-aliens-were-here.blogspot.com/2011/02/ancient-aliens-evidence-wandjina.html

This doesn’t exactly say that the Aborigines of Australia are descended from these fantastic images, but the implication is there.

While the “wak dude” mixes images from various places and ages and makes them appear to be contiguous, he completely misses the real point here. He completely misses the possibility of something truly amazing happening in Australia…

What if the gods HAD come to Earth? Arthur C. Clarke has oft been quoted as saying, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Clarke's Third Law. Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)). What if they were gods simply because they were technologically advanced.

What if the Australian Aboriginals are their descendants? What if the Australian Aboriginals are the REAL Children of God?

Selena V. Vang has grown up in Perth her whole life, he parents professors of economics and mathematics at the University there. So she is completely consumed by the metaphysical – religion, philosophy, the paranormal. All of it. Her parents have no idea who she is and can’t understand her – though she has a good handle on them.

She meets an Aboriginal and falls for him – and then starts to have weird dreams and hearing voices in her head. It’s one thing to be a metaphysician ‘cause it bugs your parents. It’s something else ENTIRELY when it turns out that the metaphysics not only are indefinable but quite possibly TRUE! What does she do when the gods are being persecuted by the very people they initially came to help

Image: http://www.theoldtrouts.org/ignorance/wp-content/upLoads/2011/01/Wandjina_aboriginal_rock_art.jpg

October 16, 2011

Slice of PIE: A Writer’s Conference – Author’s Blackjack?

This isn't a Slice of PIE today -- more like the whole thing -- but I wanted to get it down while it was still fresh in my head!

I just got back from the 2011 Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Fall Conference.

I’ll tell you right now that going to a conference is a big gamble. What do I mean by that?

Let me define “gamble” first. It means, “to play at any game of chance for money or other stakes; to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance; to lose or squander by betting; to wager or risk; to take a chance on; venture; risk; any matter or thing involving risk or hazardous uncertainty; a venture in a game of chance for high stakes, especially high stakes.”

How can going to a writer’s conference be any of those things?

Let me clear the air here to say that it has nothing to do with the effort the planning group put into the event (yesterday’s MN SCBWI Conference was a wonderful day!). It has a little to do with the invited guests (all of whom were excellent in different ways). It has even less to do with where it was held, what we ate, or who the participants were.

It had everything to do with chance and a little bit of skill. Like blackjack, that’s where the gamble was.

The main guests were (in alphabetical order): Dawn Fredrick, non-fiction agent; Andrew Harwell, associate editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books; Allison McGhee, writer; Lonnie Plecha, CRICKET MAGAZINE editor; Dan Santat, illustrator; Nicole Tugeau, illustrator agent; and Mike Wohnoutka, illustrator. A smattering of other, more experienced writers and illustrators were also there informally. They mains were supposed to be at the disposal of the participants and they were wonderful about it, autographing books and answering questions both simple and complex with patience and grace.

The event cost me $125 and this is the first step in taking this gamble.

We are not rich and I don’t make anything but a tiny pittance of the family income off my writing. I’m pretty sure I didn’t directly bring in $125 this year to cover the conference cost. I’m NOT saying the event cost too much. My school district is shelling out over $1000 to send me to a training to learn to better coordinate the International Baccalaureate program as a counselor at the school I work at. However, the $125 came out of the family budget. That’s the money I have plunked down on the blackjack table.

Blackjack, while still a game of chance also involves a bit of skill.

But I haven’t reached the blackjack table yet! Another thing I’ve got to shed is the “wisdom” I gained. The authors, illustrators, editors and agents shared some amazing things. Because they shared so much and in order for me to get my money’s worth out of any conference I go to, I distill everything I heard into five tips or insights. Even though I took fifteen pages of notes, I can’t apply ALL of those ideas, so I boil the notes down and choose THE most important thing I learned from each of the workshops I went to or person I heard speak:

Dan Santat: the writer’s and illustrator’s ultimate goal is to be a storyteller (this from a man who turned down the Creative Director job offered to him by GOOGLE twice…)

Lonnie Plecha: does my work have TRUTH or “truthiness”?

Andrew Harwell: the plot arc defines character development

Allison McGhee: “Are you going to be Allison or are you going to be Penny Rosier?”

Dawn Frederick: “I am not competing against you, I want to partner with you.”

All of the above are good things.

I now have the cards in my hands, the dealers – in this case the agent and the editors (as wonderful as they are, the writer and illustrator can’t REALLY help my career as a writer). The dealers are Lonnie, Andrew and Allison.

Allison deals with non-fiction, so I lose here immediately because though I write non-fiction (my book and recent issues of TURTLE MAGAZINE and HOPSCOTCH FOR GIRLS all contain science experiments) I have nothing to offer her for representation. She’s a wonderful lunch companion, but as far as my writing goes – and I make no bones about it, I came to conference to advance my writing – meeting her is a wash unless I can parlay a deal with her partner who handles fiction (though she’s currently looking for paranormal and that’s way, way outside of my field).

That leaves Lonnie and Andrew.

It’s been a while since I submitted to CRICKET. I have a good idea and once I’ve written the story, I’ll send it – but there’s really nothing else I can do but submit. That is a normal gamble. It’s one I make every time I send out a story or article.


I took a real risk here. Between sessions, instead of going to get a cookie and water in the next building, I waited in the auditorium. In my back pocket, I had two notecards one with my elevator pitch (“a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product…The name reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride…”) for HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES (teen science fiction) and one with the pitch for VICTORY OF FISTS (teen contemporary). Andrew came down the steps next to me to the stage where he’d be evaluating “first pages” with Lonnie and Dawn. He talked with the Regional Advisor, Quinette Cook. I ran down the stairs, almost tripping (a dramatic entrance that would have been) and waited while Andrew and Quinette finished talking. Quinette (whom I worked with several years ago) introduced us and I pitched. He ignored VICTORY – high and outside (his area of expertise). But his eyes sparked at HEIRS, he took a swing and a moment later, I had his card. I'd earlier gathered from him that he was on the 19th Floor (“A manuscript will get to me a week earlier if you put that on it!”) and that he prefers HARD COPY to emails (“I have about a thousand emails in my queue right now. It’s a mess.”) I just have to find out if he takes full manuscripts or if I send a query with a partial…though HarperCollins “only accepts agented material” and I’ve already queried him. So, should I send a full or a partial? (“Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”) Your insight would be appreciated!

I’ll let you know if my gamble pays off.

Image: http://www.casinosonline.co.uk/userContent/b2.gif

October 13, 2011

SHORT LONG JOURNEY #31: July 15, 1946

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 speculation about 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.

Freddie Merrill screamed and spun around to run away.

A figure stepped from the shadows. Taller than top of the boathouse windows, two massive arms reached out, one clotheslining Freddie, the other curling around Tommy Hasting’s chest.

Before they could go any further, the voice form the darkness said, “Älä vahingoita heitä, Ilmari.” The grip loosened immediately. “Tuo heidät sisälle.” The big man moved the boys to the beach then around the corner and into the door of the boat house. Flickering yellow light filled the dark brick structure. Water filled the center of the house, but there were pebbly dry walks on both sides. At the back of the boathouse was a large dry area, boat hooks, boards, fishing tackle and nets, oars and the strong smell of gasoline and oil. Thirty men and a few women milled about. All of them were short, stocky and dressed in the rough, dark cloth of grounds workers, craftsmen and maintenance men. The house folk wore dark clothes with white collars.

Tommy saw all of this with his chest constricted not in terror but by the massive arm of the man, Ilmari. He made his way by himself, feet still touching the ground. The man held Freddie by the neck, his feet dangling. Freddie held desperately to Ilmari’s massive forearm to keep from strangling.

A tall, slender blonde man with an startlingly deep voice said, “Anna heidän mennä, Ilmari.

Ilmari let go. Tommy pitched forward and Freddie crumpled to the ground, gasping.

One of the women strode up to them and fists on her hips, said, “Who sent you?” Freddie curled into a ball on the ground and groaned. She looked down at him in disgust and swung her booted foot back to obviously kick him.

The blonde man said, “Annukka! They’re just boys, not spies!”

She snorted but let her foot drop to the ground. “How do you know that, Roope?”

From farther back in the crowd, another tall man with a woman on his arm stepped forward and said, “Because we told him so.” Tommy cried out in surprise.

From the pebble floor, Freddie scrambled to his feet. “It’s Bonnie and Clyde.”

Image: http://www.tiomkin.com/assets/images/gallery/large/DT1304L.jpg

October 11, 2011

Ideas on Tuesday 33

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 invasion
So – alien invasion as a US stimulus package?
Can there be a more prosaic use of an alien threat? Certainly it’s been thought through before – the interview references “an old Twilight Zone” episode…(the fact is that it’s an old OUTER LIMITS episode called “Architects of Fear” in which a physicist agrees to undergo major surgery to “become an alien” in order to scare Earth’s people into joining together to fight it).
World peace I can understand.
But an alien invasion to make it possible for WalMart to expand to the African Sahel? Alien invasion to balance the investment portfolios of the half of Congress who are registered millionaires?
But let’s just say that aliens are as greedy, self-centered and money-grubbing as Humans. And let’s just say that ALSO have a bit of an altruistic streak. So they “invade” Earth, apparently causing massive destruction…in the Sahara; in the Outback; in the Himalayas; at the bottom of the Pacific (nowhere IMPORTANT – except for the aboriginals, researchers and hermits who live in those places. Certainly nowhere, like, that anyone cares about!)
The rich and famous figure they’re “in the know” and that the “invasion” is a ploy to bring about “world peace”. A kid lives with one of those families. He IS a child of privilege. He also knows he might rebel against the wealth. He also loathes the idea of being predictable. So once he hears his parents and their friends and his friends ridiculing the mass hysteria, he decides to find out the truth for himself...

October 9, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: There Is No Such Thing As “Writer’s Block”!

If writing were religion, then there would be two primary tenets:

  • To be a writer, you have to write.

The second is like it:

  • Writer’s block can destroy you.

If we hold these truths to be self-evident, then I will have to submit to being bound and burned as a heretic, because I think they’re a loada.

First Tenet Attack: Writers can be researchers, planners, outliners, readers, critiquers, and reviewers. They can also be re-writers, revisers and cross-outers. No writer I know simply writes (unless you want to count the infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of laptops producing the complete works of Shakespeare – must have been some editor to tackle THAT job!)

Second Tenet Attack: I don’t believe in “writer’s block” because I’ve never had it.

I can hear someone in the audience shouting, “Just because you’ve never had writer’s block – and I think you’re lying! – doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have it!”

Wrong. Even though % of writers surveyed say that they have experienced “writer’s block”, not a single one can say exactly what or why it is. They simply fling out the phrase that is unique to the writing world and expect the rest of us to coo and cluck in sympathy and offer pats on backs and anecdotes of others we’ve known who’ve survived “writer’s block” – rather than accusing them.

“Accusing them of what?” the heckler shouts. “They have writer’s block!”

I’d sigh. Writers invoke the phrase in a way that Roman Catholics invoke the Blessed Virgin.

Before I tell you what I’d accuse them of, I’d ask a few questions. Since many writers would never THINK to question a self-diagnosis of “writer’s block” (now what’s wrong with THAT idea?), I’ll ask them:

1) Do you feel safe in your home? (Always the first question out of a doctor’s mouth these days – and not without good cause!)

2) What were you doing when you came down with the initial symptoms?

3) Have you had any contact recently with others exhibiting the same symptoms?

4) Please describe your symptoms exactly.

5) Have you noticed blocks in other areas of your life: Are you having regular bowel and bladder movements? Have you had trouble getting or maintaining an erection? Have you had trouble keeping food down? Have you had trouble drinking alcoholic beverages? Have you stopped watching professional sporting events on TV or online? Have you had trouble chatting with friends on Faceplant or texting?Please describe your symptoms precisely.

6) If someone can answer these questions with complete honesty and still claim that they have “writer’s block”, then they are lying and deserve the accusation of being lazy, unprofessional, childish or ridiculous.

Just in case you were wondering? I’m not the only heretic in the writing community here are some others: Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones); Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass); Steve Martin (The Pleasure of my Company, A Novel); Frank Herbert (Dune); Jeffery Deaver (Carte Blanche); Roy Blount, Jr. (The Joy of Text); Mary Garden (“Can meditation be bad for you?”); William Stafford (The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Select Poems); Andy Ihnatko (Chicago Sun-Times’ tech columnist) – I’m sure I could find others, but so can you.

You can also find 2,500,000 sites devoted to breaking it if you insist on having it.

Image: http://steven-dean.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/writers_block1-256x300.jpg

October 4, 2011

Ideas on Tuesdays 32

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: giant monsters
Current Event: http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/11/science_of_godzilla_2010.php

I have always loved Godzilla. I should say that I’ve always been terrified of Godzilla. The picture above I find more frightening of all of them. Don’t know why but I think it has something to do with the back-lighting.

At any rate, “Godzilla as gigantic pet and powerful force for good” was done in the latter part of the 1990s with the cartoon TV show, Godzilla The Series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla:_The_Series), so I don’t want you to do that all over again.

So how about this: Godzilla is getting old. Radioactivity has made it sterile (and besides, no one has ever seen Mrs. Godzilla; the rehash 1998 implied that Godzilla was parthenogenetic (it could self-reproduce by cloning), but let’s skip that and make ourselves an elderly Godzilla. Let’s also postulate that the monster isn’t stupid; say give it the native intelligence of a 5-year-old kid. He’s gentle now, kind even, but not particularly keen on taking on the Japanese navy again by invading Tokyo; or the US navy by invading San Francisco.

A couple of kids deep sea diving through the commune they live in on an old oil drilling platform stumble across the sleeping “monster”. It swallows them ( a la the whale in FINDING NEMO or the Book of Jonah) then spits them up on a coral atoll. There, having learned a sort of pidgin English/Japanese, it talks to them, asking that they help it die a peaceful death. Web-savvy kids every one, they come up with a plan. Throw in an obligatory evil scientist who wants to study Godzilla and doesn’t respect kids, and you might have a short story here. Something like, “Saving Godzilla”…

Image: http://rarerborealis.com/wordpressblog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/godzilla2012.jpg

October 2, 2011

WRITING ADVICE – Kristine Kathryn Rusch #4: Free Fiction Mondays

I first ran across the work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch when her named appeared on the bottom of a standard rejection form I got from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where she was head editor for several years. A short time later, I ran across one of her short stories (“Retrieval Artist” in the June 2000 ANALOG), which of course, led me t0 her RETRIEVAL ARTIST novels. I’m a fan now and started reading her blog (http://kriswrites.com/) a year or more ago. As always, I look for good writing advice to pass on to you as well as applying it to my own writing. I have her permission to quote from the articles. You can find the complete article referenced below, as well as links to her recent ANALOG story (http://www.analogsf.com/2011_07-08/index.shtml) and the exclusive audio version of a RETRIEVAL ARTIST novel that us reading folk won’t be able to get until December 2011 (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B005OSNTS8&qid=1317128702&sr=1-1).

No specific article this week, but I just want to bring your attention to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s regular FREE FICTION MONDAY.

To put a frame around the kind of impact this had on my blogging, I need to give you a brief history of this blog. When I started in June of 2007, (which I transferred to Blogspot.com from some extremely obscure site I started on) I posted infrequently and only the seminal articles that gave my blog its name – Possibly Irritating Essays. In December, I tried dispensing my own writing advice, but no one seemed interested (most likely because though I’d been multiply published in two major venues (ANALOG and CRICKET) I had no novel (and subsequently no agent or editor readers could ask to borrow) and I started to look around to see if other better known writers were offering writing advice. In November of 2008, I had permission from children’s author and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to use writing advice from a talk she’d given at the local SCBWI conference.

In January of 2009 I made my first offering of “free fiction” with a series that’s currently running – because it’s actually my first draft of a novel called MARTIAN HOLIDAY (I KNOW there are major inconsistencies! That’s what I’m doing it for: to develop the book and test it out! Three others are awaiting editing, one a final edit before it hits the road.) THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAI LI HASTINGS began next, followed by others. I asked for comments and only got them infrequently – but what I did get was gratefully received and applied as quickly as possible. But again, few people noticed. I shudder to think about the number of comments KKR would get if she tried this!

I have a rhythm now – as well as adding a second blog chronicling the family’s life from my wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer (Guy’s Gotta Talk About Breast Cancer (it’s sorta a play on words, actually, though I think the humor is mostly lost: http://breastcancerreaper.blogspot.com/).


Monday is nothing.

Tuesday is the idea I got from KKR’s site: IDEAS ON TUESDAY. I rotate between science fiction, fantasy and horror tropes that I picked up from some website or another (possibly this one, though I doubt it: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SpeculativeFictionTropes). But instead of just tossing an idea out there, I throw in a current news story, add some adolescents and then let the reader play and run away with it. All I ask in return is that they let me know if the idea bears fruit.

Wednesday is a break for me.

Thursday is my version of Free Fiction Monday and I currently rotate between two novels and a children’s picture book.

Friday is free.


Then it starts all over again. KKR has an enormous amount of information, advice, fiction and connections on her site. I seek to emulate that and as the number of my published works increases (and moves into novels) I expect the number of visitors to my site will increase slowly.

image: http://the-best-web-hosting-service.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/hosting-resources.jpg