May 30, 2013


From where I sit on the back yard steps, I can see a pine tree we left behind after we first bought our house. There were four others, but they’d grown so close together, we had to have them cut down as they were killing each other as they competed for soil space, water and sunlight.

Where we live, at the intersection of Great Plains, Deciduous Forest, and Coniferous Forest, there’s a wild mix of trees and grassland. But what would happen if you went further south? What would happen if a migrating bird dropped a seed of, say, a Jack Pine in Oklahoma City? What if a little boy, from a near-destitute white family, discovered it, found out about it, nurtured it…and that’s what this is about.

Once upon the same time, just as long from now,

There lived a boy in the city, alone.

A home made of metal that banged when it rained,

He was one of nine who slept in a pile, through the winter hot and long.

May 28, 2013


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: Cobweb jungle

“I love spiders,” said Farzana Niazi.

Byron Neson shuddered and said at the same time, “I hate spiders.”

Farzana shot him an irritated look and said, “Why would you volunteer to come on this trip, then?”

Byron blushed and turned away, saying, “My therapist said that I needed to face my fears.”

Farzana shook her head, “Oh, I understand the concept – it’s just that there must be a…safer place to face it.” She gestured to the forest covered by the webs of a dozen different spiders. “Who knows what kind of spiders are on all those trees?”

He shuddered, “Thanks for helping me overcome my fear.”

She relented, “Fine – there’s obvious evidence that they’re not carnivorous.”

“How would you know that?”

“Well, first of all, there are a zillion of the things and they’re all still alive. If they were carnivorous, they’d be eating each other.”

He sniffed, “I pretty much agree.”

“What other reason could there be?”

“An absence of their own kinds of food.”


“Maybe they don’t like eating each other – maybe the different ones have different prey and right now they’re starving to death and waiting to drop on to something like…me, maybe.”

She shook her head and set up the capture traps. Each one had a ring of water in the center suspended from a Teflon, “no-stick” cone. Thirsty spiders would be drawn by the water then slide down the funnel through a scanning micro-camera with a computer chip that would identify each one and count them.

“It’s getting dark,” Byron said.

“Duh. That’s when the spiders are most active. They don’t sleep like us,” Farzana said.

“We’ll be heading back soon, right?”

She gestured at the wagon he was pulling and said, “What’s it look like you?”

He bit his lower lip then said, “So one trap for each of six trees?” He pointed at six nearby trees and counted. “So we should be able to leave in a couple…”

“Don’t be silly! What kind of sample accuracy would I get if I just took from the trees in one section?”

“A sensible one?” Overhead, Byron was sure he heard the webs rustle, as if something were moving around more than usual. A gentle breeze blew across the flooded land from off the Indian Ocean.

“No, a sample that would get me laughed out of grad school.”

He grunted and went with her as she tugged him along after her. They continued to set the traps, moving deeper into the web-shrouded forest. The sun set behind roiling clouds on the horizon, promising more rain even as the monsoon season came to an end.

“Are we there yet?” he asked.
“We’re not there,” Farzana said irritably. Overhead, the tent shivered like something was settling in for a night’s sleep. She didn’t appear to hear it.

Byron did.


He said, “We need to go now.”

“We’ll go when I say it’s time.”

The rattling overhead increased and Byron said, “How long has it been since these things have eaten?”

She shrugged as she set out and armed the last device and stood up, arching her back, fists in the small. Byron couldn’t help but ogle for a moment. Something moved over his head in the tent, making a sound like tearing crepe paper.

This time Farzana looked up and said, “That’s an odd sound. I’ve never...”

Names: Pakistani, Pashtoon; English, Spanish

May 26, 2013


The brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, a WWII pilot, LAPD officer and eventual screenwriter; STAR TREK’s influence on the world will here have to go without comment.

The focus here would be the grief I have felt ever since the release of JJ Abrams new movie.

Roddenberry had the original idea for STAR TREK and envisioned it as “a combination of the two science-fiction series Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He sold the project as a 'Wagon Train to the Stars' and as Horatio Hornblower in Space.”

He had very specific ideas that had to be contained in the series:

“religion and mystical thinking were not to be included, and that in Roddenberry's vision of Earth's future, everyone was an atheist and better for it”

Over the past five DECADES, Star Trek [has been] one of the most culturally-influential television shows, and is often regarded as the most influential science fiction TV series—in history.”

“The Star Trek franchise inspired some designers of technologies, such as the Palm PDA and the handheld mobile phone. Michael Jones, Chief technologist of Google Earth, has cited the tricorder's mapping capability as one inspiration in the development of Keyhole/Google Earth. It also brought teleportation to popular attention with its depiction of "matter-energy transport", with phrases such as famous misquoted ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ entering the vernacular. In 1976, following a letter-writing campaign, NASA t0 name its prototype space shuttle Enterprise, after the fictional starship. Later, the introductory sequence to Star Trek: Enterprise included footage of this shuttle which, along with images of a naval sailing vessel called the Enterprise, depicted the advancement of human transportation technology. Beyond Star Trek's fictional innovations, its contributions to TV history included a multicultural and multiracial cast. While more common in subsequent years, in the 1960s it was controversial to feature an Enterprise crew that included a Japanese helmsman, a Russian navigator, a black female communications officer, and a Vulcan-Terran first officer…”

It appears to me that another idea of Roddenberry’s made it into the series as well: the superiority of American capitalist white males. This is apparent in the arrangement of the Bridge of the USS ENTERPRISE – the elevated center is Captain Kirk (from Iowa); at his feet Sulu, the Japanese Empire (perhaps representing the Yellow Horde) and Chekov, Communist Russia. To one side, Montgomery Scott, the European Common Market; far behind him, Uhura stands for all of Africa and blacks in general; and inferior half-breeds the world over are represented by Spock.

All of this came from Roddenberry's vision of the future. Whether I agree with his views on religion or American “moral superiority” or not, I cannot deny the influence of his ideas on the real civilization of this planet.

JJ Abrams “rebooted” the world of STAR TREK in 2009 to wild acclaim. His movie ranks as the second biggest money-maker of the entire 12 movie franchise, with only STAR TREK THE MOVIE out-selling him.

There were so many changes – aside from the obvious shift in the time line and the existence of two Spocks – the ship grew, Kirk’s dad was dead and the Klingon Empire was a serious threat to the much weaker Federation…now that there were only 10,000 Vulcans left and their super-science influence has been lost. At this point, the Federation Founding members consists of the nearly extinct Vulcans (effectively eliminated), Humans, Tellarites and Andorians. While there are ten others listed as Federation Council Members, Star Fleet appears to be mostly run by Humans.

Abrams' Star Trek is supposed to be a whole different world. Abrams had the chance to right everything that was wrong about STAR TREK.

He might have done it if he’d had a vision as Roddenberrry did. If he had set out to change the world as Roddenberry had, he might have recreated STAR TREK, bringing it into the 21st Century; dealing with 21st Century issues. Roddenberry’s show dealt with 20th Century issues (clumsily at times, but nevertheless…) in episodes like, “Let This Be Your Final Battlefield”; “Devil In The Dark”; “The City On The Edge Of Forever”; “The Enemy Within”; “This Side of Paradise”; and “Balance of Terror”. Abrams might have done the same.

But that ship left Space Dock four years ago and is long gone from the Solar System. For example, instead of circling back to the Prime Directive conundrum that started the movie, Abrams et al left the obvious question dangling unanwered: as a still-effective super power, do we have the right to intervene in the internal politics of smaller countries?

Instead of renewing the ideals of STAR TREK, Abrams renewed the movies of STAR TREK, going so far as to lift scenes from at least two of them, invert them and make them UNDENIABLY more exciting, better filmed, more realistic, funnier, and better acted.

But it’s clear – at least in my opinion – that he’s not the least bit interested in “going where no one has gone before”, and instead appears to be taking “the road to El Dorado”.

May 24, 2013


The Cold War between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo has become a shooting war. The only way to stop it is to lock Kiiote, Yown’Hoo and Human into a matrix of need – to create “super beings” capable of not only living together, but combining three different technologies into one. On Earth, there are three Triads – one in the US, one in India and one in China.
Protected by the Triad Corporation, they intend to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that slaughters Humans and devastates their world, but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber (literal in their case) – and eventually confront the extra-Universe aliens who created the Interstice.
According to the best and wisest of the Triad Societies, the Merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a Congenic will produce a stable construct capable of incredible expansion, creativity, longevity...and wealth – for it seems that it is the Three alone who inhabit the Milky Way, though unknown to them, there is another called the Hive which must complete the Triad – hold it if you will.
Earth-Free Activists plan to blow up one of the Nurseries – places where the Yown’Hoo and Kiiote can actually breed and the young survive far from their homeworlds. One such is south of Winnipeg on the Canadian Prairies. It falls to the North American Triad to move to stop them without letting them know that they have been betrayed...or discover that someone has been betrayed.

The bus rattled across town until it stopped in front of the Old Metrodome. It had been sort of an experiment in cold-weather architecture. According to a history site, it also collapsed due to the megatonnes of snow that had fallen on it one winter.

I couldn’t believe that much snow could fall in winter, but I guess things were different back then. One of the climate sites I ditt on says we caused the coming Ice Age. Another one says we caused the coming Heat Wave. The third one...Forget it. I’m a science ditt geek. I like stuff like that.

Anyway, TriCo optioned it and turned it into quarters for us. Why was our house an entire domed stadium?

Think about it! How else can you feed a herd of eleven grazers, six carnivores and a pair of omnivores; give them places to live, work to do and the ability to be under constant surveillance by a gazillion intelligent beings – as well as provide security for a group of beings so unusual that there were only two others like it on the planet. (And MAN we’re they being raised weird! More on that later!)

They’d scooped up the plastic grass and replaced it with living prairie and farmland; landscaped the rows of seating into agricultural terraces where were could grow our own food; put in trees and then gave us the job of maintaining the place – while the best query marker gurus on the planet made sure we know all about everything.

They’d also surrounded the whole place with a ten kilometer “no-war zone” to keep us safe and turned the whole mess into one group of teenaged aliens in a fishbowl.

Thanks a lot. Most of the escalating war...’Shayla nudged me from her seat behind and said, “Where are you?

“In the bus with you,” I snarked. My mind sure wasn’t in the present. I turned and leaned backward. “Have you ever wondered why where here, ‘Shayla?” She rolled her eyes at me and dug an elbow into her favorite litter mate’s ribs.

Quill – who I call ‘Quillthebitch’ in my head, ‘cause, let’s face it, not only IS she one, but she ACTS like one – yelped and snapped at ‘Shayla who said in gutter !Grank, “Listen Quill, the philosopher has something to say!”

Quill gave me a grin, showing teeth almost as big and buck-toothed as a sabertooth’s. Then she said, “I wonder if he tastes like a philosopher, too?”

I turned around, irritated by both of them.

‘Shayla bobbed over the seat and said, “Oh, come on, Car! We’re just teasing!”

From the other side of the seat, I could hear Quillthebitch say clearly, “No we weren’t...” She yelped in real surprise and pain this time when ‘Shayla spun around and did something with her foot. I figured I’d try again, “Listen ‘Shay, I’m trying to be serious. I got a ditt about an hour ago.” He dug out my ipik and hit the project key. 3D letters leaped up between us. It read, “confhtgΛ/Humpcdone?”

Like I said, I sub to about two dozen casts, sites, commentcorps, and ditty. I ditt close to a thousand every week. Even if the lupes and llamas – that’s what we call the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo when it’s just us Humans – could crack our codes, they wouldn’t understand what we were saying.

‘Shayla didn’t get it either. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I shook my head and said, “The conflict is heating up. Is the Human peace done?”

“Oh,” she said. Shaking her head, she said, “I still don’t get what it means.” She hopped the back of the seat and dropped down beside me, sliding close. On the way, she avoided a few tentacle grabs and flirty tail brushes.

In order to maintain my focus, I started yammering, “The commentator of the day’s looking at how an escalation of the war between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo would affect the Human-brokered commercial peace that’s existed for most of the time their young have been being born on Earth and our people taking care of them while they fought their war in far off star systems or whatever.”

She shrugged.

Sometimes she bugged the living daylights out of me. So I tried a more direct route, “What if the aliens start shooting up OUR home place?”

May 22, 2013


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: Planetary/Interplanetary Romance
Current Event: (not immediately current, but…

Sergey Akinpelu shook his head, saying, “Dad, you can’t just go there and talk to her!”

Still climbing on to his electric motorcycle, Sergey’s dad slipped his helmet on his head. “You think I can’t do what I please?”

“It’s not that, Dad! The rocket’s surrounded by soldiers. I don’t want you to get shot.”

Dad cinched the helmet tightly under his chin and said, “They will not shoot me. I love her.” Sergey glared at his dad as he lowered the solar cell umbrella and pushed it into the place where there’d once been a gas tank. Thumbing the ignition, he added, “My love for her is not like that of her previous husband.”

“Five husbands, Dad! The lady married five guys and she dumped all of them!”

“She will not ‘dump’ me. You will see.” He throttled the cycle up and rode away.

Ceeiab Saliguero, Sergey’s best friend and ex-girlfriend, said, “What’s your dad think he’s going to use to win captain Ansari’s love?”

Sergey snorted, “His sex appeal?”

Ceeiab laughed and shook her head. “Are you gonna go after him?”

Sergey frowned. He’d never really thought of it that way. If Dad got shot trying to get into the PAVATAR – the newest Plastic Aerobic Vehicle for Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation – sent up to the growing International Space Station, then he’d inherit everything. He snorted again and said, “Inheriting all of nothing is still nothing.”


“Nothing. Listen, would you lock up the house? I gotta follow Dad and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”

“Now there’s my boy!” Ceeiab said with cheery sarcasm. Sergey flipped her off and hopped on his own motorcycle. It started with a bit more of growl than Dad’s toy had. Sergey had modified it based on the research he’d done for his virtual science class. Mr. Bondar was excited about what he’d found out about the new 3DacLion (three dimensional anode-cathode Lithium ion []) battery Sergey had…

He yanked his thoughts away from physics. It was a place he’d retreated more and more lately. He had to find Dad.

He took a few shortcuts Dad would never think of and reached Stonesand Airport before him. It was surrounded both by a three meter tall cyclone fence and a new-generation pain generator field. He sniffed. That was easy enough to overcome, the essential idea being the same as deflecting a sneeze by pressing the upper lip. Except that he used damp, twisted fiberglass draped over a nearby suitably conductive surface. He’d tested it once to meet a girl who worked at the port. He glanced down the face of the fence toward the gate.

His father rolled up, but Sergey was staring through the fence. In the center of the landing strip was thick-bodied rocket on landing pads. On top of the rocket was the rotund, winged PAVATAR passenger vehicle. Tomorrow it would be packed with twenty people submerged in hyper-oxygenated sky-gel against acceleration, hunger, and fear of lift-off and spaceflight.

Gunshots and screams from the gate made him turn abruptly...

Names: Hmong, Brazilian; Russia, Nigeria

May 19, 2013

Slice of PIE -- Christianity: UNIVERSAL OR ANTHROPOCENTRIC VII: Did God Specifically Make the Life Forms We See Today (The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees)?

Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay over a thousand times since then, making it the single most-viewed thing I’ve ever posted. I’d like to continue thinking out loud on the issue now that I’m older and the world has changed a bit...

A very well-known aphorism in the speculative fiction writer’s community is this:

‘“Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. ‘Smeerps’ are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)” (Edited by Lewis Shiner; Second Edition by Bruce Sterling;

For my argument, I’m going to suggest that when God created the heavens and the Earth, he created life forms that fit Earth’s biomes and fit specific niches in the ecologies of those biomes.

I’ll talk about “life as we don’t know it” in a later post, but I’ll be sticking with “life as we know it” for the time being – based on some version of DNA, able to live within a certain range of temperatures, for the most part aerobic (though anaerobes are important, there are no COMPLEX anaerobes on Earth).

Given those conditions, I might also limit the types of biomes available for life as we know it. Penguins, polar bears, and icefish (Notothenieioidei) live in the most inhospitable environment on Earth at the lowest end of the temperature scale. At the highest end of the temperature scale, there’s an entirely different set of life:

“Over 600 endemic species have been found so far in these communities. Some are living fossils, whose ancestors disappeared for 350 million years from the surface waters
Clams filter the bacteria, and crabs eat the bacterial mucus deposed over the rocks. Fish and echinoderms prey on all the smaller species. In these deep sea communities, some researchers found densities 100 times higher than on surface communities. The life communities are disposed in circles around the vents, on 100 to 1,000 square meters. Of course, all these animals had to adapt to the extremely toxic acid and sulphuric water and to the high temperatures. Some minute worms can make their tubes on the furnaces, where water can be up to 300 C (572 F).” (

So life as we know it will need to exist on planets like Earth. At last count, NASA’s Kepler mission had reasonable evidence for some 132 planets in the “Goldilocks zone” or the habitable zones around target starts. While NASA considered looking for stars that had ANY type of planet in the zone, they’ve tried to stick with Earth-like planets in order to keep the search manageable.

There are two planets that are more-or-less confirmed to be Earth-like. While they are distant, they offer the best chance so far that Humans may discover life on other worlds.

So – given that there may be two Earth-like planets some 1200 light years from Earth, is there anything in the Bible that specifically states that “the only place I created life was on Earth”?

To the best of my ability to search Scripture, there is no such passage. When the alien IS mentioned, (Hebrew e achdba or bgr or uegr, Greek xenoi koi paroikoi), God’s people are commanded to care for it. Other Bible readers concur: “The Bible is silent about extraterrestrial life, as it is popularly conceived, in other parts of the universe. At the same time, most of the world is markedly ignorant of the ‘extraterrestrial’ life to which the pages of the Bible so abundantly testify.” (

If there is no ban on extraterrestrial life and when God DOES speak of sojourners and strangers, it is to direct God’s people to care for them; then I think that the idea of complex life on other worlds is acceptable to Him – and while it’s not proof that there IS (of course, no one on Earth has proof that there is extraterrestrial life (only well-reasoned arguments and hopes)) complex life elsewhere, it’s at least a strong suggestion that IF there is, THEN God approves of it AND it will probably be recognizable as such and perhaps even be classifiable along lines we might find comprehensible.

May 16, 2013

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 42: DaneelAH With The Dalai Lama

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.

DaneelAH nodded to the extremely tall young man and held out his hand. “DaneelAH, forensic xenoarchaeologist for Malacandra Mayor Angalese Turin.”

“My question has always been: Why use does a Mayor have for a forensic xenoarchaeologist?”

HanAH rolled his eyes and said, “Because he’s a closet Facer.”

DaneelAH winced. AzAH and MishAH gasped. AzAH punched him in the shoulder.

The tall man smiled and said, “While I agree it’s not widely known, it’s hardly a secret that your owner believes that the Face is a promise from Humanity’s architects that they will one day return.”

“You make it sound perfectly sane,” said HanAH. “But I can ruin it by adding, ‘…and reward the faithful.’ Hardly sounds like UFH doctrine.”

The man gestured for them to sit at the low table and said, “I thought the UHF was merely a Human philosophy shorn of religious symbolism and divisive tradition?”

As they sat HanAH snorted derisively and DaneelAH and the others smiled. MishAH said, “The truth is somewhat less plain, Dalai Lama.”

The three artificial Humans – Daneel, Han, and Az – stared in open-mouthed amazement. Finally AzAH said, “I thought the Dalai Lama resided on Earth?”

The man smiled, “He did – until recently.”

“What?” DaneelAH said.

MishAH said, “More than anything, the Dalai Lama and the office of the Dalai Lama are a concerted attempt for Tibetan cultural survival. The Dalai Lama is regarded as the principal incarnation of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion and patron deity of Tibet.”

“My name is Dorje Gyatso.”

They watched him as he sat, gesturing again for them to sit. He added, “My goal has been to use peace and compassion in my treatment of the Buddhist population of Mars as well as my oppressors – in this case the Mayors of the Domes.”

DaneelAH sat finally and accepted the cup of tea. He drank. AzAH sat, then MishAH. Finally Dorje said, “I have no doubt that you’re wondering what you’re doing here.”

DaneelAH set his cup down and nodded. “The thought has occurred to me, at least. The marsbug we were riding in was programmed by a man named Paolo. His public file makes it quite clear that he’s a Christian evangelist.”

Dorje nodded. “And you’re wondering why you’re here instead of there?”

MishAH snapped, “Stop playing word games! You and this evangelist aren’t even the same religion – why would you have anything to do with each other?”

“My guess is that you’re trying to provoke me into screaming, ‘Those damned murderers!’” The Dalai Lama leaped to his feet, kicking over the table, tea and cups and screamed, “We’ll kill every one of those lying bastards! We’ll kill one for every Buddhist that died in the Dome Holing! During a Festival no less! Dirty, filthy, going-to-hell-reincarnated-as-dung-beetles-Christians!’” He sat down slowly on his cushion and lifted his chin.

Twenty other young men scurried out from airlocks on two sides of the room, quickly cleaning up the mess without interacting with the four artificial Humans. When the floor was spotless, a second wave brought in a table, reset it and refilled all of the cups with steaming tea. The Dalai Lama lifted his cup to the stunned visitors and said, “But to say all of that is a lie. I don’t hold anything against the Christians, just as Paolo has counseled the Christian community on Mars to forgive the Buddhist community just as Christ would also forgive them.” He sipped, then said, “Our greater terror is the Mayors and a growing pogrom. It will not be against the Jews only this time. The Mayors will direct it at anyone who disagrees with them; anyone who refuses to conform to the philosophy of the United Faith in Humanity.” He paused. “That is what you should fear as well.”

May 15, 2013


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: Abduction = Love; a stranger kidnaps a total stranger and never lets them go.

They’d been locked in the basement for longer than either of them could remember. The windows – Natasha Reno-Pardo assumed that the boarded up, black painted rectangles near the ceiling of the basement were once windows – were impossible to open.

The permanent stairs had been removed and replaced by a heavy, steel drop-down stairs. Rudyard Bernal, her fellow captor had worked at getting those to drop from the ceiling for a whole week. He’d tried to pry them from the ceiling seven times after they woke up. The eighth time, he’d gotten a shock so bad his hands were burned. Not enough to blister the skin, but very painful.

Light came from two fluorescents set behind thick plastic. They never went out. Food and water came in bags dropped from a hole in the ceiling whenever they were both asleep.

They were trapped.

In the dim silence, not long after both of them were awake, Rudyard said, “I think we’ve been here a month.” Then he burst out crying. Natasha looked up at the ceiling and into the corners. They knew they were being watched all the time. Once, when they’d tried to sleep together on the same pile of blankets as far from the bathroom hole as they could get, Rudyard had gotten very excited. Natasha was willing. Snakes had suddenly dropped down from the ceiling hole and the lights had gotten super bright.

They’d spent an hour sweeping the things into the hole. They’d spent most of the time fighting the rattlesnake. Neither one of them had been bitten, but they threw the blanket covered in snake guts in another corner after stomping it to death.

This day was different. Natasha stepped over the immense red door in the center of the basement floor and sat down next to Rudyard. At first he flinched and looked up at the feeding hole and muttered, “No. What are they gonna throw at us next?”

Natasha said, “We’re not doing anything.”

He leaned against her, cried a while longer and finally rested against her.

As if to curse their closeness a grinding sound came from the drag-down stairs. Real light leaked from a narrow crack that gradually widened, letting in more and more real light. When the stairs were half uncovered, they began to come down from the ceiling, making a sound like a descending castle drawbridge.

It thudded to the floor.

A shiny, black leather boot with a neatly cuffed pant leg dropped down on the top step…

Names: ♀ Russia, Mexico ; English, Mexico

May 12, 2013


Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: They are used with the author’s permission.
9. We have made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except for those talentless yutzes who will clearly never become an important editor or publisher. Oh, but they might become reviewers.
I’m looking at this from another point of view today.

Prior to this post, I’ve put up 99 bits of writing advice. Twenty-eight of them were advice from me.

Some of the advice I found frivolous, some of it inapplicable and some of it just plain bad. Despite that, everything I’ve written about, I have attempted to apply to my own writing and the blog was an attempt to report on how well the advice worked.

As a result of the advice of seven individuals: children’s book writer, SF writer, one-time-agent, Christian speculative fiction writer, multiple-genre and award-winning author and businesswoman, romance and “other” writer, and finally writer-turned-editor; I have grown in my skills and consistency as a writer. I am considering moving into writing my own advice, but I currently have one final advice-giver in mind I’ll be approaching soon before I begin to make my own way.

As I analyze these writers and etc., I seem to have found one common theme: they are ALL people of influence who are willing to help new writers.

Yep, until I wrote that sentence, I didn’t realize that that was their connection to each other. All of them posted – humorously or seriously or tongue-in-cheek or as a resource – the wisdom they’d accumulated. All of them said, “Sure!” when I approached them with the request to do this project (which I currently mine for TWITTER posts I’ve been doing called GleanedWritAdv (follow me on TWITTER – @gstewart75)).

I’ll not enumerate the individuals I approached who ignored me, but suffice it to say, I was turned down twice as often as I was welcomed. Remember, I wasn’t asking them to WRITE anything. I just wanted to take a list of advice they’d published online and comment on it.

All of this brings me back to #9 of Bruce Bethke’s TWELVE STEP program, obviously a parody of the Alcoholics Anonymous program and a barbed warning to all writers that our vocation or avocation is more than a job – it’s an addiction.

I know for fact that some of his advice is gleaned from his own experience as a writer. Some is gleaned from his experience as an editor. Some of it is just for fun. But as a recipient of a nasty email – which I reread again a week ago – and recalling another nasty email from an author who is no longer with us, I realize that I harbor extremely negative feelings toward these two people. Amends from one of them are impossible, amends from the other...well, unless the author has a conversion experience and my name is miraculously brought to that person’s mind...are just as impossible.

So, instead of leaving a trail of broken hearts and spirits, I do so solemnly swear that I will NEVER call someone a talentless hack, an arrogant b------, a worthless agent, crappy writer, stupid editor, or a rotten person.

I don’t WANT to have to make amends when the Great Spirit or Singularity or the Rapture comes a-calling. Besides, even reviewers can get into heaven!

May 9, 2013


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.

“Where did all the lights come from?” Freddie Merrill exclaimed.

“Friends of mine,” said Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.)

“You have friends up here in the middle of the woods?” said Tommy Hastings.

“I have friends everywhere, boys.”

Behind them, the Socialist’s truck stopped at the edge of the circle of lights. Ed opened the door of her truck. At the same time the doors of the other trucks opened as well. For a moment, Tommy thought they were going to back away. Light poured across the open field, like the sun was coming up.

The Socialists got out of their truck and started across the field. When they reached the center, there was the sound of a half-a-hundred guns being prepared for action. They stopped. One of the men called out, “All we want is the boy.”

There was a long silence, then Ed called back, “There are two boys here. Which one are you talking about?”

“The one whose mother’s last name was Lurvey.”

Tommy leaned closer to Ed and said, “My mom’s last name was Lurvey.”

Ed nodded and called out, “What do you want of him?”

“He has something we need to have back.”

“What can a fourteen-year-old-boy...”

He leaned closer to her again and whispered, “I’m fifteen now.”

“What can a fifteen-year-old-boy have that a bunch of Commies want?”

The Witch of Anoka charged from the Socialist mob and shouted, “We’re not Communists! We’re Socialists!”

“What’s the difference?” shouted a voice behind the lights.

One of the men, older, maybe as old as his dad, Tommy thought, walked up and put his hand on the Witch’s shoulder, patting it and leaned over to say something to her. She cursed, spun around and walked back to her place with the others. The old man said, “There’s a picture we want back from Naomi Lurvey.”

“My mom’s name is Hastings and her first name’s Naomi, but I didn’t never hear what her old last name was.”

“It was Lurvey. She worked at the mansion with me. I was the butler of the upper house where your mother worked.”

“Why do you want this picture back?” Ed called.

“It’s got two men in it shaking hands.”

Tommy said, “I seen it.”

The entire group of Socialists started to move forward. From behind the bank of headlights, a woman’s voice called out, “One more step and we blast the lot of ya!”

The Socialists didn’t stop walking. Ed turned and gathering Tommy and Freddie into her arms, ran to her truck. One of the Socialists shouted in Finnish, “Antaa meille kuvan tai tapan sinut!

“What did they say? What’d they say?” Freddie cried out as he climbed back into the cab. Ed shoved Tommy in after him.

“Not sure, but I know enough Finnish to recognize the word, ‘tapan’. Go! Go!” They’d barely slid across the bench before she was in the seat, starting the truck and slamming the door.

The door bounced open as the first bullet spanged off the cab.

“What does ‘tapan’ mean,” Tommy shouted.

“Lay on the floor of the cab!” She gunned the engine and roared across the field as she shouted, “ ‘tapan’ means ‘kill’!”

May 7, 2013


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: Magic is Evil, at best relatively neutral. Often The Corruption. There is a good chance it's directly obtained through a Deal with the Devil, powered by Blood Magic or involves Human Sacrifice and Forsaken Children. (

Martina Felipe el Bueno scowled at the ancient video tape cassette where it rested under glass that perfectly screened out UV and cosmic rays and lowered the intensity of visible in near vacuum. She said something in Spanish.

“Why don’t we just use English. I can’t even understand your Peruvian accent,” said Álvaro Villa softly.

“Fine,” she said. “The problem remains, whether we say it in Spanish or English – or even Spanglish – the occult rites of a former national leader are there for the viewing. But we can’t see them.”

“Why does it bother you so much?”

“The tape is a century old and preceded the collapse of his government before it accomplished anything.”

“You’re saying if he didn’t do the animal sacrifices, he’d still be in power?”
She laughed, “No, he’d still be dead. I don’t think even Brazil is ready for a zombie president.”

“That’s for sure.” They stood side-by-side, staring at the artifact.

“I got in touch with you because I think we can get the images off this, but I think we need to merge science and magic.”

His breath caught in his chest. He’d heard of it from abuelo. “Oil magic?”

Martina nodded, paused, then said, “The college has a supply.”

“It’s illegal for any of us to even touch it,” Álvaro said. “Even if we touch it, we would be instantly expelled right after we were arrested, tried and sentenced.”

“If we do it physically, I suppose you’d be right.”

“What other way is there to steal oil?”

“Magic,” Martina whispered. “Black magic.” Álvaro barked a laugh and Martina spun to face him, snarling, “What do you know about black magic?”

He held his hands up in surrender and said, “Nothing – as in ‘magic is fine in dumb stories like THE GOLDEN COMPASS, but this is real life’. Abuelo was my favorite person on Earth, and when it came to story-telling, he was the best. But he was old – his generation used ‘it’s magic’ to explain something it didn’t understand.” He shook his head, “First time he saw a cell phone 3D projection when I was talking to my girlfriend one night, he said, ‘esto es la magia negra’.”

“What if I told you a way to use the sacrifice of black gold to create a magical field we would protect the cassette…”

May 5, 2013

Slice of PIE: No New Writing Ideas...Anywhere!

I’ve been putting pencil-to-paper; pen-to-paper; fingers-to-manual-typewriter; fingers-to-electric-typewriter; fingers-to-electronic-typewriter; fingers-to-Apple II; fingers-to-desktops-of-various-makes; fingers-to-laptop...since I wrote my very first story some time in 1969.

I’d just finished reading John Christopher’s THE WHITE MOUNTAINS series and was poised on the edge of Heinlein, Norton, Wollheim, and Nourse and penciled my first story, “The White Vines”. A blatant rip off of Christopher’s novel, I clearly remember staring out the window of the late bus as it passed through an intersection with drying cornfields on all four sides. That selfsame corner now has a light industrial park on one corner, a huge vacant lot through which you can see the spur of Interstate 94, westbound; the site of a supposed new church (the sign announcing its arrival is so faded, you can barely see the artist’s rendition; and a corrugated steel shed in the center of a field of potatoes.

While “The White Vines” has been lost to antiquity, my second story, “The Black Planet” and a later one titled, “A Place In Between” both survive.

Reading them is painful, but instructive. Mainly because it’s easy to see that I have come a long, long way in my writing. At that time, it was dream to be published in ANALOG. I have been – three times (I have yet to rise to the attention of the new editor, Trevor Qachri). I have an agent now. Both goals I deeply desired to reach when I was on-the-verge of adolescence.

You’d think that reaching that level of publication, I would have learned my craft and that there was nothing left!

There isn’t! The fact is that, as far as the techniques, rules and practices of writing, there’s very little that I have left to learn. I still pick up writing books – which I put down because, as King Solomon once said, “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

Nothing new under this sun.

Go ahead – teach me something new! Try me with a writing discipline, idea or concept that you’ve discovered that I haven’t read already a dozen times.

You won’t be able to, because the place I am at now is a place I will be for the rest of my writing life: application of ideas.

I just finished two new short stories and I’m revising another one. The first two I wrote specifically with this idea in mind, “Give the main character a clear goal.”

The idea is nothing new or earth-shattering. However, I am more frequently inept in its application than I am skilled. I look at my published writing and it’s clear that I KNOW the idea, but I cannot apply it consistently. So in my “new year’s resolution” (, I planned on writing at least 10 NEW short stories.

I have finally come to understand that the only way I can become ept at applying an idea is to PRACTICE. Which is, by the way, not a new idea. Just one that I haven’t taken to heart and applied.

How about you? Got an idea I’ve never seen before?