September 27, 2012

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 34: 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 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.

“What do you mean when you say that there’s an outpost there? How can it not show up on radar? It’s physical…” said HanAH, surging up from his seat. He stared through the transparent aluminum. His lips pressed together into a thin line.

DaneelAH shook his head slowly then glanced at AzAH, motioning her forward as well. MishAH followed, stared out the window and said, “It’s fading.”

“Then reappearing,” AzAH said. She glanced down at the scanner. “It’s literally there, then not.”

HanAH said, “It’s a temporary dome, inflatable. Military grade. But it looks like there’s an underground passage, so they’ve been here long enough to create permanent quarters.”

“Who’s been here long enough?”

MishAH leaned forward and said, “Them.”

An airlock opened, spilling bright, Earth-brilliant light across the Martian dust. A figure in a suit stepped out, crossed to the marsbug and stood in front of the window and held out its arms. After a few moments, it lowered its arms and came around the side of the ‘bug. There was a knock on their door. AzAH said, “Pretty clear invitation there. Do we follow?”

“Why would we do that?” MishAH asked.

DaneelAH said, “Because Paolo had the ‘bug stop here.”

“So you think whoever lives here will tell us why we’re here?”

AzAH shook her head. “No, but they might have clues. Or hints. Or something. I say we go with them.”

HanAH pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “Let’s suit up.”

MishAH scowled. “How do you know we’re not being lured into some sort of trap? What if they’re one of those groups that are out to get rid of everyone who do have the right monothought?”

“You mean like this Paolo Conciliação person?” HanAH said.

DaneelAH said, “Let’s suit up. If there’s fewer than four of them, we can protect ourselves. If there are more, then we can still probably protect ourselves…”

“What if there are other artificial humans?” AzAH said.

“Then we do what we can. The Human who programmed this ‘bug has something in mind if he programmed us to stop here.” DaneelAH said.


“Only one way to find out. Let’s go,” said DaneelAH.

It took them twenty minutes to suit up. When they got outside, the space suit was waiting for them. It gestured them to follow and shortly they were in the airlock cycling through. The suit didn’t stop once the inner lock opened. The dome was spare, six suit racks with one empty; a dozen spare air tanks, a long metal bench with nearly racked tools and a set of square storage bins stacked on top of each other, stuffed with parts of space suits and dozens of machines.

It opened a second lock and bowed them in. They followed, waiting until the second lock opened and they followed the suit down a ramp and to another door. It opened and the suit turned around. Third door barred them from going any farther. The suited figure broke the helmet seal, twisted and unseated it and lifted it up.

Setting the helmet down, the very young man with a shaven head placed his hands in the Añjali Mudrā position, bowed slightly and said, “Namaste, friends. We’ve been expecting you.”

September 25, 2012


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: Elemental magic

(Editorial comment: REALLY? Really? OMG, really.)

Seth Wildman jumped into his mom’s minivan and said, “Why can’t I ever be on a team that wins?”

“To win, you have to sacrifice something.”

“Why do you always say that?”

“Mostly because it’s true and you don’t seem to understand what a sacrifice is.” She shrugged, “Until you’re willing to sacrifice you’re going to play on a so-so soccer team.”

The rest of the soccer team piled in a second later. Seth shot Mom a long look, irritated, hurt and really, really tired of her saying the same thing every time they lost a game. Besides, what did she mean by “sacrifice something”? That didn’t make any sense. What could he give up that would make his soccer playing better? There were a couple things he could think of that he could give up, but he didn’t see any way that that would make him a better player.

The ride home was alternately crazy wild with seven boys and two girls poking each other, giggling and make dumb noises; and deathly silent, making Mom turn on the radio just to cover the bodily function noises of ten newly-adolescent teens. The entire time he didn’t join in and as the van got quieter and quieter, his former-best-friend-now-almost-worst-enemy stopped by his window, leaned in and said, “What’s wrong? Someone cut out your tongue?”

“Shut up.”

She stuck her own tongue out and turned away. Seth watched her run up the front lawn of her house. They’d been good friends since they were in daycare. Ever since…well, ever SINCE, he’d had totally weird feelings for her. And almost equally weird feelings for his OTHER former-best-friend-now-almost-worst-enemy. His former best friends were currently going steady with each other – leaving him mostly by himself during soccer games, practices and in school. He’d even caught them with their hands…he shoved THAT thought away from his head and looked out the front window of the van.

There were some days he’d be willing to sacrifice both of THEM to be on a great soccer team. He turned to look back at her. He practically – well he didn’t want to think about what he wanted to do – as he watched them lip-lock and…He turned away. He had some internet searching to do. Maybe there WAS something he’d be willing to sacrifice to be on a better soccer team.


It took a couple days for him to figure out that the most common elemental of the four – earth, air, fire and water – he would be able to summon was water. He lived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Getting a water elemental to take out the Lip-Locked-Duo should be no problem. Now all he had to do was learn how to summon one.

That took another two days. He did the magic circle on the floor in the hallway near the drinking fountain with masking tape, claiming it was project for his art class.

He couldn’t find a real chalice like he was supposed to have, but he figured the Minnesota Vikings mug he got last Christmas was good enough. No one could ever bring a spear to school and return to the district – they’d be expelled. He figured the best he could do was a pencil. The elemental would need a weapon to take down the LLD.

He got detention from Mr. Stanton on purpose and stayed after school to set up the summoning. He’d copied the incantation from the internet ‘cause the printer was busted, and besides, he didn’t want to explain to Mom why he was printing off Wici – or whatever – incantations. But when one of the girls on the table behind his in science knocked over the beaker of yeasty water, half of it spilled on his pants and soaked into the incantation, so he could barely read them. Most of them. There were a couple words he couldn’t read at all.

He got the circle ready, filled the Vikings mug with water from the drinking fountain, laid the pencil across the top and then set the whole thing in the center of the circle. He read the incantation as carefully as he could – he had to guess at a couple of letters – and when he was done he looked up.

At first there was nothing. Then the water fountain started to hum and shake on the wall…

September 23, 2012

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: How TeenYA Science Fiction Saved Me Then – And How It Wouldn’t Now…

An old and dear friend of mine as a part of his master’s degree in education asked me a series of questions. One of those sparked a firestorm of memories that, once they had burned down, left this essay.

The question: What would be some protective factor influences that you would have had in your life. A protective factor would be positive influences in your life.  Warner described that for “at-risk” children to succeed they need to have interactions with protective factors.

My answer was that science fiction (once called “juvenile fiction”) was a major protective factor for me. Heinlein, Del Rey, Wollheim, Nourse, Andre Norton, Bova, Leinster, Lightner, Cameron, Slobodkin, Matt Christopher, and others showed me a future that I could look forward to. Their novels prepared me to run outside and look up at the Moon on the night of July 20, 1969, hoping to catch a glint of sunlight off the skin of the command module, Columbia.

While my life was outwardly middle-class, white-privileged, suburban, male; my life inside was full of misery. I wasn’t a jock – I liked to read, write, sing, be in plays, ride my bike and go camping (alone, I’m the only camper in my family). While my mom sang and read, and my dad read as well, my brothers and sister NEVER appeared to -- at least not as much as I did. Everyone was an athlete – football, baseball, hockey, track, volleyball, softball and bowling equipment filled the house. Weekdays were for practicing sports; weekends were filled with games and watching sports.

I read and started to write science fiction, played the guitar, rode my bike and taught myself how to go camping.

The futures in the books I read – because they were positive – saved me from dying in my differentness. I could explore strange new worlds and times and vaguely hope that I might someday go there. Be there. Live in those futures, on other worlds. Maybe I would have a spacesuit that I could travel in! Maybe I would be a doctor to the galaxy or visit a universe in-between.

I wouldn’t have stood a chance of growing a positive outlook on the future if I’d started reading teenYA science fiction today. The only futures I could look forward to are ones in which magic is my only hope (and only then if I can find the right subway platform (what would I do in Minneapolis? We only have one light rail line!)); in another future, I might be chosen to go to the capitol and slaughter people in my peer group; in another, all the adults are gone and I have to live in a futuristic LORD OF THE FLIES; another, all adults are killed by comet sprinkles and the mission I go on is a long-shot at best; or I have to get myself surgically altered or become a pariah and a criminal.

Today’s teenYA SF would not be considered a protective factor influence for a struggling adolescent. Not in the grim dosages they have today. While THE WHITE MOUNTAINS quartet and the WRINKLE IN TIME quintet are the father and mother of today’s teenYA dystopian lit, they were, in their time, only part of the “juvenile SF” field, they were not the entire field the way THG, G, TG, TCC, U, LB, F, and TMR are.

In those days, there was hope.

So rather than just piss and moan about it, excuse me while I get back to work on revising HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: Emerald of Earth for my agent to sell as my second book.

September 20, 2012


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.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill’s eyes grew so large as they stared at the face of Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) so intently. Their eyes started to dry out before they blinked suddenly in unison.

Ed burst out laughing, revved the engine up again, startling the moose and the bear. The black cub spun and scurried back into the woods. The moose gave her and the boys and the truck a disdainful look, snorted and turned back, lumbering into the pine stand. Then she said, “Well then, boys, I guess we’ll keep going.”

“What?” they exclaimed in unison, again.

Ed smiled, jammed the transmission into first and sent them crawling forward and slowly picking up speed. Without turning, she said, “Do you two practice stuff like that?”

“What?” asked Tommy.

“Speaking together. Do you practice doing that?”

Freddie leaned against the door, then turned to face the road again and said, “Nah. We just been friends for so long, we do stuff like that all the time.”

“Like finishing whatever the other one was going to say.”

The truck gathered speed. Ed shook her head slowly, geared higher and said, “Well, we’ll see what we see when we get to Grand Marais.”

“Where’s that?”

“‘bout...” she paused for some time and Tommy opened his mouth to ask her what she was going to say. Freddie elbowed him and they settled and sat in silence as the truck rumbled up to cruising speed. Rare cars passed them going south, but no one passed them again from the Two Harbors direction. They passed a large green sign with the words Split Rock Lighthouse on it and she said, “Hundred miles at sixty most of the way take me bit less than two hours. No problem.”

“What do we do until then?” Freddie asked.

“Sleep, sonny. Sleep. If the mobsters are really after you, then your only hope is to run into the woods and hope they don’t come after you.”

“What?” both boys exclaimed again.

Ed laughed. “Thing is, I don’t think they’re mobsters.”

“But they had violin cases in the back of their car.”

“How do you know that?”

“We...” Freddie shut his mouth with a snap even Tommy heard.

Ed shot them a dark look and said, “If I’m gonna stand up for you boys, then I need to know what I’m gettin’ into.”

“Stand up for us?” Freddie said.

Tommy blurted, “We got a ride from the mobsters.”

Ed nodded and the truck began to slow down as she downshifted. Freddie said, “Are we in Grand Marais yet?”


“Why are we stopping?” Tommy asked, his voice small.

Ed turned to look at them and said, “You rode in cars with mobsters, you were consorting with socialists and you seem to be on the run from something in Minneapolis. What exactly do I want a couple of trouble makers like you riding with me for?” The truck ground to a halt, but she left it running. “It’d be best for me if I left you right here.” The truck was walled by pine on the western side and Lake Superior on the east. They were alone on the road, but socialists lay behind them and mobsters ahead. “What would you do if you was in my boots?”

September 18, 2012


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. (BTW – it’s school time! For the next few weeks I might get behind on my posts as school, schedules and rebooting the OLD work-a-day takes precedence over posting – Bruce Bethke calls it: The Rule of Otogu! (Other Things Of Greater Urgency)...

H Trope: (reference: I think I’m going to mine THIS idea in various ways for a while!) , more specifically covered here:

Current Event: (Truth? I can’t imagine that ANY person would actually believe this. Really.)
Let’s focus on this little tidbit: “According to what the dowsing reveals, there will be 6-9 DNA upgrades for these people before our critical juncture in the photon belt. Their ascension will take place at the same time as other people, however they will have more advanced evolutionary changes initially.  In the meantime these people’s subtle energy bodies will be exposed to even higher frequencies of consciousness than the average person.  This will be possible due to the individual’s higher self, having the option to do this.  Once the first 3 DNA upgrades are complete, the connection to the higher self is so much less corroded that the higher self can do this type of work for individual chosen for such a role.”

Snorri Benediktsson and Hofi Flosadóttir are going to college in Bemidji, Minnesota – they’re Icelandic exchange students.

He wants to be a radio producer and is going for a mass media degree; she’s a future physicist studying high energy particles that enter Earth’s atmosphere through the North Pole.

Late one night, they’re working together in the physics lab, he’s fiddling with making an electronic file and playing with special effects.

Hofi said, “Komdu og líta á þetta!”

He sighed. He hated when she used Icelandic. “We’re in the United States. We need to speak English.”

Ekki allir hér tala ensku.

“I know that. My roommate speaks better Spanish than he speaks English,” said Snorri.

“Mine is fluent in Ojibwe, but she speaks English most of the time. She does use her native language when she chants at night,” said Hofi.

“But we’re supposed to be experiencing a different culture.”

“So why are we dating each other? Shouldn’t you be going out with a ravishing latina?”

“And you should be hanging out with some fratboy who only wants you for your body and has no idea you’ve got a brain that’s as sharp as the curves are beautiful.”

Hofi blushed and turned back to the window in the lab that looked north, out over Lake Bemidji and toward the frigid air of the pole. A particle collector floated in the atmosphere some hundred miles north and twenty miles up, the display near the window was connected to the college through a satellite uplink. She pointed at the rippling  patterns in the sky. “That’s what I wanted you to look at.”

For a moment, even Snorri couldn’t ignore the display. When he finally worked up the nerve to put his arm around her, she turned away. “All right. This has all been done before. Electrons, ionized gasses and the lot has been done to death.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m going to do something no one has ever done before.”

Scowling, he walked over to her humming machine. A small box, open on the side facing them, emitted an odd, pulsing sound. He said, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to really collect particles from the aurora. I’m using one of the new particle transporters from England to move some of the particles directly from the upper atmosphere to here.”

“Is that safe? I mean, I know I’m not a physics whiz like you, but I do know that high energy particles – like UV light – can burn human skin.”

She shrugged. “Sure. But there are other particles up there. That’s what I’m trying to measure. That’s what I want to find – the other particles up there.” She waited a moment and then said, “Stand back.” She flipped a switch. The box sparked and she fell back, covering her facing a screaming. An intensely pink colored, gaseous substance flowed from the box, coalescing on the floor around where Hofi was writhing on the floor.

Snorri dropped to his knees, hands grabbing her shoulders and coming into contact with the pink, amoeboid gas. For a moment he froze, then the cloud began to crawl up his arms. Both of the Icelanders shivered but otherwise didn’t move.

Instead, their skin began to crawl.


September 16, 2012

WRITING ADVICE – SL Viehl #9: Writing A Good Book

I stumbled across the writing of Sheila Kelly (aka SL Viehl, Gena Gale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly and Lynn Viehl) about eleven years ago with the publication of her first novel, STARDOC. I was looking for a the work of a current writer to replace one of my favorite kind of science fiction – human doctors in a space hospital working on aliens. I discovered this genre as an adolescent in Alan E. Nourse’s STAR SURGEON, followed it into James White’s SECTOR GENERAL books and A.M. Lightner’s DOCTOR TO THE GALAXY. S.L. Viehl’s books satisfied that itch – but I learned about a year ago that she is so much more than just a “space hospital” writer! The bits of writing advice in this new ten part series are used with her permission. This one is from:

“Write a good book first. You can have a million ads and stuff on the internet but if your book is crap we won't read it. Write something really great and then kids will talk about it.” – Kat Kelly

A long, long time ago, I decided to write a young adult science fiction novel that presents a positive future.

In it, there have been no adult-killing plagues, no adult-killing comet fly-bys, no post-apocalyptic restructuring of America into a dictatorship (Sinclair Lewis did this already in 1936 with IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE) with adolescent gladiatorial Games, and no mandatory surgery on adolescents. It’s a future in which Humans had chosen to explore the Solar System in a hollowed out asteroid to prepare for interstellar travel. But we discover that neither were we the first intelligence in the Solar System, nor was the first civilization as peaceful as we are...

SL Viehl also asks what books “the kids at school are talking about” and her daughter informs her that nobody talks about books – they talk about video games.

Even though I write YA books, I have to regretfully confirm that assessment. While a FEW students read for entertainment, the vast majority play video games and listen to music if they want to have a good time. This is true not only of the “average” student, of the white student or the English as a first language student but of the gifted and talented; Hispanic, black, African, Russian, and Hmong; and English as a second language students as well.

Kids don’t talk about books much. Not that that is a surprise. In THE NEW YORKER, Critic At Large Laura Miller notes: “…these novels that adults are the ones who write them, publish them, stock them in stores, assign them in classes, and decide which ones win prizes. (Most of the reader reviews posted online seem to be written by adults as well.)”.

Viehl’s daughter comments that the most recent book she read was a manga. My daughter is much the same, though now at 21, she too is “an adult”, though a young one and her reading tastes have broadened and she reads standard (though electronic version almost exclusively) novels as well as manga.

As I noted above, I’m in the middle of revising my science fiction for young adults novel and while I’m targeting them, I find myself wondering if it will ever REACH them. It’s not dystopian (though a bit dark as the antagonist is a 65,000,000 year old artificial intelligence von Neumann machine and out to kill the protagonist in order to get at artifacts from an alien invasion fleet and rebuild itself to destroy Humanity) and sets a positive spin on the future of Humans in this Solar System. Especially after they learn about the first intelligence.

When I started reading SF a gazillion years ago, I read it because it interested me. NOBODY assigned science fiction books in my school – except a play version of Daniel Keys’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON in our Literature Reader – I had to find them by myself. The fact is the friends I had weren’t interested in SF. I eventually started to write the stuff (imagine George McFly in BACK TO THE FUTURE Part I) and slowly discovered others who liked it, too. Truth to tell, except for GO ASK ALICE, I don’t know what my peers were reading. I read what I wanted, when I wanted to and did my English homework on the (long-forgotten, except for “Leiningen Versus The Ants” by Carl Stephenson (originally written in German!)) assignments I was supposed to do.

I am NOT advocating a return to Heinlein’s and Norton’s and Nourse’s science fiction juveniles. But the fact is that they showed a Humanity off of Earth. The current crop shows Humanity chained to this planet and disappearing into an e-future which is violent in the extreme. It seems that most of the authors have taken the violence of the late 20th and early 21st Century and extended it without amelioration into the future while simultaneously mocking the juveniles has being unrealistic. Perhaps, but Heinlein, Norton and Nourse wrote out of a culture that had its own violence – WWII had recently ended, the KKK was on the rise and the Civil Rights movement was about to explode on to the stage in the 1960s. They were hardly writing from a time of peace and plenty.

So: how do I write HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: Emerald of Earth to appeal not to the adults – but to the young adults. If the adults want to come along for the ride, that’s cool, but like JK Rowling, I want to write well – “children's books chose me. I think if it is a good book anyone will read it.”

September 13, 2012


The idea for this starts with a story I tried to write about a thieving monkey who took keys and used them to unlock its cage. That was it. The story was called BRIGHT FLASH THE MONKEY’S PAWS. It was my third or fourth attempt at writing a picture book – and it was really bad. With the advent of the genre of steampunk, I started rethinking the story. Here it is –

The steam monkey ran out the window and on to the ledge like a metal and leather cat.
“Wait for me, monkey! Wait!”
The monkey sat for a moment, then whistled hard and jumped from the porch to the bushes below.
Clementine was up on the rail before she knew it. She stopped for a moment, then followed the monkey over the edge, covering her mouth with both hands as she fell!

September 11, 2012


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. (BTW – it’s school time! For the next few weeks I might get behind on my posts as school, schedules and rebooting the OLD work-a-day takes precedence over posting – Bruce Bethke calls it: The Rule of Otogu! (Other Things Of Greater Urgency)...

F Trope: (reference: I think I’m going to mine THIS idea in various ways for a while!) , more specifically covered here: “…sexual transmutation, is the attempt, especially among some religious traditions, to transform sexual impulses or "sexual energy" into creative energy. In this context, sublimation is the transference of sexual energy, or libido, into a physical act or a different emotion in order to avoid confrontation with the sexual urge, which is itself contrary to the individual's belief or ascribed religious belief. It is based on the idea that "sexual energy" can be used to create a spiritual nature which in turn can create more sensual works, instead of one's sexuality being unleashed “raw.” The classical example in Western religions is clerical celibacy. As espoused in the Tanya, Hasidic Jewish mysticism views sublimation of the animal soul as an essential task in life, wherein the goal is to transform animalistic and earthy cravings for physical pleasure into holy desires to connect with God. Different schools of thought describe general sexual urges as carriers of spiritual essence, and have the varied names of vital energy, vital winds (prana), spiritual energy, ojas, shakti, tummo, or kundalini. It is also believed that undergoing sexual sublimation can facilitate a mystical awakening in an individual.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Beatriz Velastagui T. exclaimed.

“No! Really, I read it online!” replied Kaew Savane Xiong (“precious” “mountain” “bear”)

“I KNOW you don’t believe everything you read online, so why this thing?” Her lids narrowed as she looked at him through her long lashes.”

“Are you trying to seduce me?” Kaew – she said it like she’d say ‘cue’; he’d snap, ‘keh-oo’. She’d reply with the same word and he’d roll his eyes – said.

She sniffed and said, “No, I’m trying to send you into godhood so you’ll get out of my hair.” She stepped around him and hurried on her way to chemistry. He followed and she said, “I’m gonna call the deans and charge you with stalking!”

“You can’t because you know I’m going to physics.”

“Then it’s amazing that you believe in something like,” her voice dropped, “sex making someone into a god or goddess.”

He shrugged, “That’s what these crazy Americans think.”

“We’re crazy Americans now!” she said as she turned in to her class.

He sniffed and shook his head. The teasing had gone out of him, snuffed like a candle in a harsh wind. He passed her, head down and slipped into his own classroom. Beatriz was certain she heard him say, “You might be, but me?”

They met for lunch like every other day, but Kaew seemed as depressed as he had been when she’d started teasing him. She dropped her books on the table, startling him. “Why’d you do that?” he exclaimed.

“All right, I’ll listen to your theory. How CAN a Human use sex to transmute themselves into a god or goddess?”

He shook his head, “Supposedly it all has to do with focusing the sexual energy tightly enough.”

“Like how are we supposed to do that?” She pulled an orange out of her string pack and peeled it, making a neat little pile of rough fruit skins at her elbow.
Kaew opened his own bag and pulled out a notebook. An odd figure had been scratched into the green ink that used to cover it, leaving a white circle-within-a-circle and a bunch of odd lines and curlicues. “With this.”

Beatriz closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. “So we hold this magical circle between us and think about sex and, ‘poof!’ you’re a god and I’m a goddess?”

Kaew made a face then said, “You promised you’d listen to me.”

“This isn’t just some cheap trick to get into my panties, is it?” She was rewarded by his deep pinkish-pale blush.

He always stammered when he was nervous, so she knew she’d pricked him as he said, “N…n…no! It’s real! I’ve been studying this for a long time!”

She shook her head, eating three sections of the orange then saying, “Why do you want to be a god?”

He glanced both ways, then prairie-dogged to get a view of the whole lunchroom, then leaned forward and said, “There are people here who deserve to come under the wrath of a vengeful god.”

September 9, 2012

Slice of PIE: To Blog or STOP! -- The Impact of Blogging On “Real” Writing

Most of the writers I know keep blogs – at least the “current” writers. John Scalzi, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, John Brown, David Brin, are among the many who write and blog.

I may not be famous, but I too, write and blog.

It’s just that lately, I’m been wondering if it’s such a good idea.

My blogging schedule is as follows:

Sunday: I rotate between POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS, Slice of PIE, and WRITING ADVICE. These take some real work because I think about what I’m saying and frequently have to do some amount of research.

Tuesday: IDEAS On Tuesday. This has become fairly straightforward because I’m made a list of science fiction, fantasy and horror tropes then try to smash them with a new twist or idea. I also base them on something current, so that involves a little research sometimes.

Thursday: Fiction On Thursday. In this, I rotate between three or four works in progress. Keeping in mind that posting on my blog = publication, this is ALWAYS a first draft of whatever I’m working on. Typically once the piece is finished, I pull it down, it sits in the computer for a bit and then I start the editing process.

Saturday: I blog on a different site called Guy’s Gotta Talk – About Breast Cancer (, a blog about a husband’s view of the breast cancer life.

I’ve always viewed my blog as an exercise regimen – I have to keep to a schedule and produce a certain number of words. I figure I write about 2000 words a week on the blogs.

I also have a work in progress called OMNIVORE’S DEBT and I write about 1000-2000 words a week. I’m editing a few more down to send off to Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary and I’m constantly scribbling new ideas and dinking around with this story and that.

The question is NOT a cry to find out “who reads my blog” or a whine that “no one reads my posts”. I’m just looking for discussion and/or input to give me a little more grist while I mull over the efficacy of maintaining a blog. The question then:

Is posting the way I am doing now a good use of my writing time or should I stop so I can focus on my work in progress? ALL thoughts appreciated!

September 8, 2012


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.     

“Why should I? You’re just gonna steal Mai Li’s invention and claim you were the one who made it!” CJ Hastings said.

“I made her, so I made this!” he growled. The hospital around them was dimly lit, every other bank of lights out for the night. The floor was lightly staffed, relying on a monitor station in the center of the hospital. Robot cleaners buzzed silently past them, sweeping and polishing the floor. Faint beeps and blips and whooshes! filtered into the hallway from the rooms.

But there was no one nearby and the waiting room where Mom and Job were sleeping was a long way away. Dr. Douchebag grinned and said, “Whatcha gonna do, kid? I’m the grownup here; an MD grownup no less! I know more than you’ll ever know! Even if we get caught, if I say I was here for a grownup reason and caught you sneaking around and up to no good – with squirt guns no less! – not only will they believe me, they’ll arrest you!”

“They won’t arrest me for just coming into the hospital at night! My mom is here and if I scream loud enough that you’re molesting me, who do YOU think is gonna get thrown into jail faster?” Dr. Douchebag looked uncertain for an instant.

CJ shoved him aside and sprinted down the hall.

Dr. Douchebag shouted a vulgarity, spinning around but lashed out with his foot and caught CJ’s ankle and he fell. Rolling to his feet, he twisted out of the evil doctor’s grasp and pelted down the hall.

He hadn’t gone two steps when red lights started flashing along the ceiling. The room doors swung silently closed and he heard the clear sound of a deadbolt locking each one. A quiet voice said, “You have been detected and identified as an intruder. Please remain where you are. Hospital Security will arrive shortly and you will need to explain your presence in the hospital and on this floor. You will also need to provide a picture identification issued either by the State of Minnesota or this hospital. If you have neither, you will be stunned and detained by Hospital...”

“Nowhere to go now, kid!” said Dr. Douchebag.

“What world were you born in?” CJ said and sprinted down the hallway, running on tip toes.

“Hey! You can’t...”

CJ ran. He’d snuck out of the hospital a different way than the one he’d come in. Then he remembered that he’d waved to the security guard – the same one who’d signed him out on the computer. He stopped suddenly, turning to confront Dr. D. CJ said, “Is that how you do business? Scaring people?”

“You just wait until Security gets here, kid!”

“That’s OK, ‘cause I checked out with Security and I checked back in with Security.” CJ paused and smiled wickedly. “Did you, Doctor Douchebag?”

“You checked out and in?” The man’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”

CJ reached into his back pocket and pulled out one of the frozen squirt guns he’d taken from the freezer at home. “Mai Li said that she filled this gun with a liquid of some sort. She said that when she drinks it, it’ll put nanos into her that will stop the other ones from rebuilding her brain.”

“She can’t have…”

“What, Dr. Douchebag? Having trouble believing that someone is smarter than you are?”

“She’s not smarter than me!” he shouted.

“Huh. Funny you should say that. If my sister isn’t smarter than you, I must be.”

“You’re not smarter than me! You’re a retard!”
CJ’s raised his eyebrows and said softly, “That’s not a very politically correct term, Dr. Chazhukaran.”

“What, getting all formal now?” the man said. He hadn’t stopped moving, creeping up on CJ, acting as if he wasn’t stalking him. “If the shoe fits…”

CJ rolled his eyes, but he let them slip back to the two Hospital Security officers sneaking up on Dr. Douchebag. The woman officer’s eyes widened slightly as she and her partner moved smoothly and silently up toward the doctor. Both carried stunners. CJ said, “My sister says I’m not retarded, just stupid.”

“She’s just being nice.”

CJ could see the man’s muscles tense. Security saw the same thing. Just before they fired, the woman motioned him down. CJ dropped, the stunners hummed. He felt a tingling sensation – like when he hit his crazy bone – for just a second. Dr. Douchebag crumpled like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

CJ said, “Thanks! Now, I’ve got to get to my...”

Without lowering their weapons, the man said, “Hand over the gun, son.”

CJ frowned, holding up the blue plastic toy. “It’s a squirt gun.”

The woman said, “The last time someone came in here with a squirt gun, it had acid in it and they were set on attacking their ex. So give us the squirt gun and you can get to your mom and sister.”

CJ nodded and handed her the gun. She nodded, as her partner got on his com and called in back up and a cart. CJ hurried down the hall, hoping she wouldn’t ask if he had other squirt guns. She called after him and said, “Why did this guy want your squirt gun?”

CJ turned around and shrugged, saying, “He’s my sister’s doctor and he wants to go out with her. She thinks he’s too old and sorta stuck up. He thinks I can make her like him more, so he’s trying to pressure me into taking his side against my sister.”

The man shook his head. But the woman muttered, “Douchebag,” and kicking him between the legs.

“Hey!” the security guy exclaimed.

She gave him a look and said, “Let that be a lesson to you, Maynard.”

CJ had no idea what was going on, so he turned and hurried through the halls of the hospital until he got to Mai Li’s room. As he turned the corner, he saw that Job and Mom were awake and three hospital people were standing outside her door. An older man shook his head, said something to Mom – who started crying…

September 4, 2012


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. (BTW – it’s school time! For the next few weeks I might get behind on my posts as school, schedules and rebooting the OLD work-a-day takes precedence over posting – Bruce Bethke calls it: The Rule of Otogu! (Other Things Of Greater Urgency)...

SF Trope: (reference: I think I’m going to mine THIS idea in various ways for a while!) biological transmutation, more specifically covered here:

So basically the idea here is that ancient bacteria (actinidic archaea) in the human body can transform phosphorus, (and I’ve read, silica from sand), and magnesium into calcium via a nuclear addition of protons, neutrons and electrons.

Speaking simply…well, I think I’ll let a couple of characters take over here…

Seamus O’Neille and Brooke Sherman glared at each other over the lab table. Brooke crossed her arms over her chest and said, “The only reason I’ll work with you is because Ms. Harkonnen said I had to.”

Seamus scowled, his pale skin flushing red, making his freckles and red hair look dull by comparison. “Yeah, well Ms. Harkonnen said I had better be your partner ‘cause she felt sorry for you…”

Ms. Harkonnen – who had neither threatened either one nor matched them out of pity – thought they make a cute pair. She also knew that their IQs, if added up, would total more than any THREE other students (and the teacher, she silently amended). If their initial lab reports and test scores were any indication, Ms. Harkonnen was fairly sure there were a dozen people in the room whose IQs wouldn’t total the pair of young geniuses.

Ms. Harkonnen said out loud to the class, “I want you to read the article on ‘biological transmutation’ tonight and be prepared to discuss it tomorrow. I’ll also want you to use the index in the text and a wiki search to find one reference that favors it and one reference that refutes it. Now, back to work on the sheets. Tomorrow we’ll also be starting energy levels.”

Seamus and Brooke had finished glaring at each other when Seamus said, “It’s true. My sinseanathair told tales of the Viviparous Lizard that would eat lead and pass gold beads. He said it changed in the Lizard’s intestines.”

“That’s ridiculous! I had the same ancestors as you and none of them ever told absurd stories like that! You’ve got a brain between those ears, Seamus – use it for something besides a doorstop for once!”

Ms. Harkonnen barely managed to damp her grin. She nodded to the two and said, “It seems natural then that Seamus will lead the discussion from a pro-biological transmutation stance and Brooke will lead the discussion from an anti-biological transmutation stance.” The bell buzzed and she waved the class away, saying, “Have a nice night!”

The division soon became obvious and an undercurrent of discussion carried through every class that day – they were all in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program so they often had classes together. It also soon became apparent that it was going to be a bit of “boys against the girls”.

By the time she got home, Brooke was hungry, tired and irritated all at the same time. Dad met her at the door of the kitchen. He was a biochemist at Princeton University. Brooke said, “So Dad, can you give me a few sources to use to smash my nasty opponent in a debate tomorrow?”

Dad perked up as he sat on the bar stool, took and apple, bit into it, chewed a bit then asked, “So, who’s the fool who decided to take you on and what’s the subject?”

Brooke sniffed, “The fool is that idiot, Seamus O’Neille. The subject is the absurdity of biological transmutation!”

Dad’s face suddenly went blank. He stood up abruptly, nearly knocking the chair over as he said, “Oh, sorry Sweetie. Just remembered – I’ve got papers to grade tonight…” He scurried away, leaving Brooke startled and bothered. What would have made him act like that?

September 2, 2012

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: “To boldly go...” – er, “Not so much, eh?”

An older gentleman asked me last night if I’d seen the pictures from Mars. I told him I looked at them daily, and so I do.

I am fifty-five years old; AARP constantly tries to get me to join; I creak when I get up and “colonoscopy” is now supposed to be my watchword.

When was the last time a teenager or young adult tweeted, “Did you see Curiosity land? It was totally amazing!”? Not recently? Been a while?

That’s because they didn’t.

Except for “Mowhawk Guy” (NASA Flight Director Bobak Ferdowski), who is, in fact, an “old guy” at 32 (though he looks like he’s about 20...).

In a completely unscientific survey of the pictures of people who had commented on Curiosity Rover Report (August 31, 2012) from the NASA Curiosity FaceBook page (!/MarsCuriosity) of the 1,261 people who commented on it, whose photos were of a post-adolescent person either male or female and whose age might reasonably be deduced – there were 50 that appeared to be between the ages of 15 and 25.

I don’t want to leap to conclusions from this, but regarding young adults graduating into pure science careers, it’s not particularly heartening: “starting salaries from the Class of 2011 to the Class of 2012, along with examples of occupations graduates within each major might pursue:

Business Degree: Highest-paying academic major: Economics (business/managerial); Examples: Financial manager, accountant/auditor, management analyst

Communications: Highest-paying academic major: Advertising; Examples: Author, public-relations specialist, advertising or promotions manager

Computer sciences: Highest-paying academic major: Computer science; Examples: Postsecondary teacher, computer programmer, computer support specialist

Education: Highest-paying academic major: Special education; Examples: Special education teacher, elementary or middle-school teacher

Engineering: Highest-paying academic major: Computer engineering; Example: Computer software engineer

Health sciences: Highest-paying academic major: Nursing; Examples: Registered nurse

Humanities and social sciences: Highest-paying academic major: Political science/government Examples: Social worker, paralegal or legal assistant, labor-relations specialist

Sciences: Highest-paying academic major: Construction science/management; Examples: Constructions manager (a new career in which an individual or a team oversees a construction project), civil engineer”

Not a single pure science job up there. Of the eight top-paying degrees, working with computers, nursing and civil engineering are the only careers that connect with science.

Scientists are NOT the people we’re graduating from our colleges and while we may still have a reasonably high proportion of Americans graduating from college with a degree of ANY sort, we are by no means the world leaders any more – in fact, we are Number 12 (care to get a T-shirt with THAT printed on it?).

The honor goes to Russia.

May I ask one final, double question?

Q: Who is still sending crewed missions into space when American astronauts go up to the International Space Station and what’s the name of the ship they ride in?

A: The Russians, Soyuz (which means (you should make sure you know) “union”) (

Clearly this doesn't bother anyone but me...(and I'll probably be accused of being a racist because I happen to be a Christian, too).