November 28, 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.

Then upon that very same time,
The boy was sad.
His bruises grew green and he hopped on the ground.
He felt like he was going to die.

November 26, 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: “Euhemerism – a rationalizing method of interpretation, which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores”

Austin Jake Byme shook the water from his blazing red hair, pushing it back with both hands. He’d have to cut it if he wanted to disappear – he’d be identified by his locks for sure, thief that they thought he was. Footsteps on the planks of the stern wheeler IRON MOUNTAIN sent him scurrying back along the sides of the boat and ducked into an open aft door just before the paddle wheel as it strained for a moment, then with a massive groan, began to turn, pushing the boat away from the dock and the copper who’d been chasing him.

The hold was packed with bags of flour and crates of supplies. From the roof hung the cured carcasses of pigs and cow. Chickens scurried out from under his feet, clucking sleepily as he slipped behind a crate, wedging himself into the space. He was asleep in a moment, shivering a bit as the darkness brought up the cool, Mississippi mists.

He woke in the deep darkness to the sound of the creak of a plank and the cluck of a chicken. Immediately aware, he pulled his legs tight to his chest as quietly as possible. The carcasses began to swing together, rhythmically and the panes of glass in the windows rattled in their frames. There was a sudden flash of light and the temperature in the hold dropped. A moment later, a voice said, “I know you’re in here, Master Byme, wedged between the wall and a crate, thinking I’m some sort of ghost.” Austin squirmed. The voice said, “And you’ve no idea who I am, but I’ll tell you when you come out.”

Austin blinked in amazement then slid forward, to his hands and knees then rose up. Pins and needle ran up and down and he caught himself on the leg of a pig. He said, “Who are you?”

The person stood in deep shadow, though Austin could see his legs. Dark material, the pants with pockets though he wore no coat. He stepped into the light. Wearing a waist-length under shirt and nought else, he stepped again and Austin started. The voice belonged to a boy, perhaps a few years older than himself. His head was haloed in hair so red it seemed to glow. Austin said again, “Who are you?”

“Your great-great-grandson from the early 22nd Century.”


“That’s funny, your autobiography didn’t mention that you went deaf at the end of the 19th Century.”

“My autobiography?”

“Yeah. It was great reading, and I’m not here to kill you and change the future.”


The other boy snorted and said, “HG Well’s THE TIME MACHINE won’t be published for another twenty-three years.”

“Who’s HG Wells?”

“Jules Verne?”


“I know. Your favorites. But neither of them has anything to say about what I just did.”

“You built a time machine?”

The other boy snorted and said, “Not exactly, but sort of.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He cleared his throat and said, “My name’s Jake Austin.”

“That’s my...”

“I said I was your great-great-grandson! There’s proof if you’re wondering about it.”

“It’s not that…it’s just that…”

The planks beneath their feet lurched, throwing both boys backward...

Names: America, Ireland

November 24, 2013

Possibly Irritating Essay: A Weird Mix of Events, An Unwritten Disturbing Conclusion…

Q: What do the movies “Hunger Games” and “Ender’s Game” and Cory Doctorow’s new book HOMELAND and a K9 drug search of the high school I work at all have in common?

A: They target teenagers sometimes in extremely unpleasant ways.

What’s another common thread here?

All of them are about old white men/women creating worlds in which teenagers are put in their place.

Most disturbing of all for me is that I am a part of all of this not just by reading the books and seeing the movies and participating in the drug search – but I participated willingly and without thought. The common theme through all of these is teenagers.


1)      HUNGER GAMES was written by a 51 (currently) year old white woman and depicts scenes of extreme violence in which teenagers are encouraged to kill each other and when they do, they are rewarded. The main supervisor of this mayhem is President Snow – an old white guy.

2)     The movie “Hunger Games” is a Lions Gate Entertainment production. Lions Gate is a Canadian company owned by an old white Canadian guy.

3)     ENDER’S GAME was written by a 62 (currently – then 27-year-old) white man and depicts scenes of extreme humiliation and violence in which teenagers are encouraged to beat each other up and kill what is different from them. The main supervisor of this mayhem is Colonel Graff – an old white guy.

4)     The movie “Ender’s Game” is a Summit Entertainment production. Summit is an American subsidiary of Lions Gate Entertainment. Lions Gate is a company owned by an old white Canadian guy.

5)     HOMELAND was written by a 47 year old white man and depicts scenes of extreme violence and torture in which teenagers break multiple laws (because all authority that doesn’t do what it’s told to do is evil – BTW, a premise I do in fact support) and are frequently captured, beaten, tortured and threatened. (Cory Doctorow is Brit – but that’s only since 2011. He was originally Canadian.) HOMELAND is published by Macmillan Publishing, which is owned by Monika Schoeller and Stefan von Holtzbrinck (both white, in this case, billionaires), German Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck is a Stuttgart-based publishing holding company which owns publishing companies worldwide.)  

6)     The K9 drug search at the school I work at was initiated by a black woman and supervised by a mixture of white men, black men, white women, and black women. The high school I work at is approximately one half not-white. The dog-handlers were all white males. The dogs were all some breed derived from German Shepherds and were distinctively in a category apart from “man’s best friend” and/or “look at the cute puppy” divisions of dogs and possibly even in the “sic ‘em!” category. These were leashed and mostly under the control of their handlers, but were neither silent nor slow. As a side-note, there are vertical windows in every classroom door in this building.

What does this mean?

I can think of several implications but I cannot say definitively. I know that while they are aware of this bias, teenagers lined up in droves to see “Catching Fire” (CBS Los Angeles (online) reports: “According to poll data, the popularity of ‘Catching Fire’ is crossing over to all moviegoers, as compared to the female-heavy audience of ‘Hunger Games.’ About 12 percent more male moviegoers saw ‘Catching Fire’ and the audience was split equally between those older and younger than 25.” Based on the estimated first weekend “take” of $135,000,000 and estimating a $10 theater ticket, 13.5 million people have seen “Catching Fire” by now. Half of those – 6.75 million of them are under 25. There are approximately 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 on Earth. In developed nations, there are some 216 million teenagers; which means that three percent of those developed nation teenagers saw “Catching Fire”.) and “Ender’s Game” (though not as many as they’d hoped for: “It played 58 percent male, suggesting it found sci-fi fans, a group that’s mainly men. But 54 percent of the audience turned out to be over the age of 25, indicating that devotees of the book turned out — but not enough kids did.” This means that roughly 1.3 million teenagers saw it during opening week. There’s no saying how many have seen pirated copies, of course…)

I wonder what message wormed its way into their minds?

More to the point, what can I do about it?

November 21, 2013


The Cold War between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo has become a shooting war.  On Earth, there are three Triads one each in Minneapolis, Estados Unidos; Pune, India; and Harbin, China. Protected by the Triad Corporation, they intend to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world.; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. The Yown’Hoo know about the extra-Universe Braider, aliens whose own “civil war” mirrors the Cold War. They have accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way it stop it is physically – the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads may be their only chance of creating a solution. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society that will produce a stability capable of launching incredible expansion, creativity, longevity and wealth.
The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans –two; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – eleven, a prime number. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds. Grendl, Manitoba is one such place. No one but the Triad Company has ever heard of it and the physical plant goes by the unobtrusive name of Organic Prairie Dairy.
The Triads never hear of anything they aren’t spoon fed in their luxury worlds. surrounded by a Humanity that has degenerated into a “duck-and-cover” society as the Big Boys fight their war. They don’t care about anything but their own lives. Oblivious, cocooned, manipulated, they have no idea that their privileges are about to be violently curtailed.

I stared at Dao-hi, the Yown’Hoo herd mother. Qap and Xurf, the Kiiote pack leaders also looked up at me from their four-footed configuration.

Even Shayla lifted an eyebrow.

I nodded slowly then said, “This game’s gonna have to continue without us. We’re getting out of town no matter how we manage it.”

Dao-hi said, “While I agree with you, Car, I can’t see how we can leave this city without some sort of transportation. As much as I would like to run free, I can’t see that we can make the distance to the outskirts without being captured.”

Qap said, “The northern edge of Elk River – the generally accepted outermost border of this city – is nearly forty kilometers from here. Even running hard, the Herd would barely make it by morning.” She looked around, “I suspect that we should cease movement before then and create a plan.”

“We’re exposed right now, let’s get under cover before we talk about this anymore,” I said. There were houses lining the street we were on, though only about half of them had lights. That didn’t mean the others were abandoned. Humans still lived in houses even after they’d been kicked out.

Qap and Xurf sent Qil, Fax, Doj, and Towt scouting. No doubt about it, like their Earthly analogues, the dogs, foxes, and wolves, Kiiote had the best sniffers in the Near Arm of the galaxy.

Which is where they came from, the Herd came from and where we live. There’s some suspicion that some other, weirder aliens live somewhere in the Arms or the Interstice – I heard someone talking about a Hive civilization that measured its intelligence by how many of them there were. Someone else said they looked like cockroaches, though. Not sure I’d want to meet them in a dark alley! I read one time on a rLife post that there might be weirder stuff out there – maybe even aliens that make the Triad cooperative look like a bunch of shrews scuttling around while tyrannosaurs danced a jig on their heads.

The Pack pups came back. Doj said, “There’s a house that no one lives in now and that nothing died in recently.” No reason for me to ask how they knew that. We’d been a Triad long enough to know that ‘e was right – we use that personal pronoun because Doj and Towt haven’t sexed yet. Qil’s a female, Fax another male, though neither one has ever been bred by Qap and Xurf. They’re waiting to meet the Packs from the other two Triads. The leaders paused at the edge of the house’s yard and Dao-hi did, too, motioning Shayla and me ahead.

This was our turf, our world, our people.

One of the first things we learned in Triad was that we had to respect each other. No dominance. No proving our bravery or whatever. That kind of shit was what had thrown the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo at each other’s throats. It’s what threatened Earth now. It’s what we were formed to shatter.

Problem is, Tribe, Pack, and Herd have different ways of interpreting the world.

Shayla and me scuttled along the overgrown green wall surrounding the house. It was a standard Twen-Cen style – from the looks of it, it was originally early Twen-Cen; maybe it was a mansion a long time ago. Once it’d had a lawn and been surrounded by pruned bushes. It was basically a heap now. Even as a pile of boards though, there could still be someone living in it. We needed to sneak up on them from behind.

We split around it, going an extra house over even though the neighboring houses were both dark as well. This one had had a big yard, as if it had tried to push everything else aside and dominate the neighborhood. Shayla was waiting when I reached the corner of the lot. I was near a garage. I took a gamble and slipped along the wall to where a rectangular black hole opened where a window had been once. I stared, opening my eyes wide.

Shay and me had been enhancesd when we joined the Triad. We still looked Human – and we weren’t as great the Herd or Pack at smelling and hearing, but our vision was unparalleled even among the Human Tribe. We could see farther into the infrared and UV than any other Humans on Earth. Shay said she could even sometimes see the fuzziness of radio waves. Me? I could sense magnetic and electrical fields. I saw them as phosphor sparkles overlaying my regular vision.

In the garage, I caught red sparkles – that meant there was something in there that was magnetic, and the only metal we knew of that could be magnetized was iron. The shape was weird, though when I recognized it, I whispered, “Bikes?”

Shay was hissing like a leaky tire across the back of the house. I stepped back and signaled to her and we slithered over a rusting chain-link fence and into the yard.

It was NOT overgrown, rather it had been plowed and cultivated! How had Doj not smelled this? Clearly Humans lived here...

A deep, gruff voice said from the darkness, “One move stranger and you’ll have a perforated ulcer – from the outside in.” The threat was emphasized by the sharp sound of the pump action of a shotgun.

November 19, 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: “One Big Lie: Authors of works in this class invent one (or, at most, a very few) counterfactual physical laws and writes a story that explores the implications of these principles.”

Badria Al Busaidi shook her head and said, “If you could make one thing true about real space, what would it be?” She squirmed in her tiny tube. The two of them were the only ones awake in their pod and the sides of the transport device pressed against her, massaging muscles that hadn’t moved in…she stopped that line of thought. They’d been in space ever since they left Earth. They were two among ten thousand who were on their way to the nearest star system to the Sun, Alpha Centauri A.

Mehrdad bin Abdullah squirmed more rhythmically than she had. The transport device that held each of them was only transparent at the top. She could tell from the intensely, inner-focused look on his face that he was pre-occupied at the moment. Boys were SO predictable. Eyes half-closed, she sighed and turned away, blinking up a three-dimensional image of what the ship looked like on the outside and where they were in relation to Earth and AC-A. Lots of stars.


Badria found herself wishing that she could sleep the entire trip away. But the biologists had already brought everyone on the ship as close to death as possible. If they stayed that way, there was evidence that they would simply stay dead. After a short pause during which Mehrdad managed to keep his breathing regular until the very end, he said, “All right. Sorry.” She was about to tease him, but he said instead, “The one thing I’d change is that there’d be aliens waiting for us when we got to AC-C.”

“There ARE aliens, Mehrdad! Haven’t you been listening to the broadcasts?”

“Not aliens just like us! Real aliens. Something that’s different.”

“Different how?”

He shrugged and it made a squelchy sound she could have heard from a mile away. Another thing the ship’s captain-psychologists had made sure of is that when you were awake, you were supposed to have every sense stimulated. She’d already experienced the pain of a broken toe as it was set then healed. Mehrdad was nervously waiting for what was going to happen to him to stimulate his sense of pain.

She’d been lucky in that, though. She’d been assaulted by the smell of newly-mown hay. Mehrdad had to endure the smell of burning Human hair. He’d also experienced another version of things coming out of his body when he barfed not long after he’d had his olfactory senses overloaded.

Suddenly another voice broke into their conversation. Badria rolled her eyes and immediately decided she wasn’t going to talk when she heard the American accented English. She could speak English just fine – all of them could. The American could speak Arabic as well, but the ones who’d been awake when she was usually didn’t. Which was not exactly a bad thing – American English had absolutely no music to it. Arabic sounded so flat and dull whenever someone else tried to speak it. The voice said, “Hello? Anyone alive in here?”

She held her breath, hoping that for once, Mehrdad would hold his tongue.

“We’re all alive here, dickhead. Otherwise why would be going to AC-C?”

There was a long pause and the American voice said, “مهلا، أنا آسف. لم أكن أقصد أن تكون مهينة.” He was almost understandable and there was a sort of cute tone to his voice as he said, “Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be insulting.”

“Well, you were,” said Mehrdad.

Badria liked to keep her own counsel, but something compelled her today. She said in Arabic, “You say you want to meet real aliens – but you can’t even keep a civil tongue in your head when you talk to an American! Our civilization is twice as old as his – ours is the one that should be graceful and forgiving. Ours is the parent, his is the child.”

She wondered briefly if the American was going to object or act offended or whatever she expected a child of a self-centered, declining civilization to do. But he said nothing. Mehrdad muttered under his breath and she was about to say something when she abruptly felt tired. “Oh, no!” she managed before she began to drift off into her interstellar slumber...

Names: ♀Afghan, Oman ; Afghani, Oman

November 18, 2013

WRITING ADVICE: Julie Czerneda’s Writing Workshop! #6 – “How do you FEEL?”

In 2005, whilst perusing the shelves at the Hennepin County Public Library, I stumbled across CHANGING VISION by Julie Czerneda (say it: chur-nay-dah), an author I'd never heard of, and was intrigued by the aliens on the cover by artist Luis Royo. It didn’t matter that the book was the second in a series, the cover entranced me and so I read. The book was spectacular, I read others, and fell entirely in love with another series of hers called SPECIES IMPERATIVE for its fascinating aliens and superior characterization. A teacher deeply at heart, Julie Czerneda shares ideas and methodology wherever she goes. On her website, she shares ideas for writers. I want to share what kind of impact her ideas have had on my own writing.  They are used with the author’s permission.

“TONE: As a starting point, choose what you wish readers to feel after reading this story.”

Oh! Oh! Oh! Pick me! Pick me!

This is one I love; one I’ve struggled with; and one I feel I have moderately accomplished.

When I wrote “Teaching Women to Fly”, I was trying hard to make the story conform to what I’d read in every literary story I’d ever tried to read or forced myself to read. My definition of literary fiction I wrote in 2009: “…about powerless people living their lives in excruciating detail. The main character is the author in disguise making educated, satirical, wise, obscure, or erudite commentary in a way that no real person in that life could possibly be able to duplicate.”

It was NOT a “normal” science fiction story in that I wasn’t trying to be spectacularly hopeful nor was I trying to be spectacularly grim. I wanted to see what a woman who felt trapped on an alien world, among neighbors and not horribly oppressed or not under constant alien attack…rather, I wanted her to have lost sight of the wonder that she LIVED in.

I wanted people to feel her desperation.

A couple of newer stories – ones I can’t post because that constitutes publication in this new electronic world we live in – are also “tone” pieces in which I want a reader to feel a very particular way.

In “Extreme Contact”, I have a couple of teens who don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and who find out only after they’ve been chased around the surface of an alien world by aliens speaking a language they can’t understand…then they discover that they may have a DIFFERENT language they share. A language beyond words and one of emotion and joy. I want my readers to feel the same sense of surprise I did when I saw “Darmok” for the first time (episode 102 of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION). In it, Captain Picard is kidnapped and meets another alien captain of a ship that is moderately more powerful that the USS Enterprise. They both speak English via Universal Translators, but Tamarian’s speak using metaphor rather than Human-style linear description.

They figure it out, but not until the Tamarian dies from wounds inflicted by a savage, animal-like (and invisible) alien.

The revelation at the end of the episode that I could “speak Tamarian” filled me with wonder.

It is that sense that the tone of a book or story should build. I didn’t notice this methodology so much in Julie Czerneda’s science fiction, but she was in absolute top form in crafting the tone of A TURN OF LIGHT, her newest novel – and the first real fantasy book she’s ever done.

I intend to keep on working on this skill – maybe to the point where I can write set such an incredible tone that I might be compared to Susanna Clarke’s JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL.

November 17, 2013

November 14, 2013

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 48: Aster of Opportunity – Upstairs

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters  and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (26,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Aster Theilen took the most direct route to the Mayor’s Aerie – no one stopped her. No one slowed her down. By the time she reached the Apex – the part of the Aerie that poked through the dome – she was unsurprised when the door stood open. She stood for a moment on the threshold when she heard his distant voice. “Come on in, Aster!” said his secretary.

She was a vividly purple Artificial Human, smiled and nodded. Aster said, “FardusAH! How are you today?”

FardusAH’s face lit up as she said, “Hey, woman! What brings you here today?” He eyes darted right, accessing the eye-implant data screen and she nodded. “Ah.” She frowned and said, “You don’t have to work anymore, woman? Why would you want to?”

Aster raised an eyebrow. He’d gotten to her applications, too, eh? “I was raised by a dad who made sure my brother and I were violently allergic to getting a free ride to anywhere.” FardusAH nodded, wide-eyed. Aster continued, “I think I’ve got a couple of things to discuss with his Honor, the Mayor.”

FardusAH said, “Nothing gets through that doesn’t have a priority flag. Would that there were more workers in the party.”

Aster said, “Sounds like a mantra.”

FardusAH feigned horror and said, “If I was a Buddhist, it would be. But I’m a programmed member of the Unified Faith In Humanity.” She waved Aster through. “You can see the Mayor now.”

Aster walked into the office. The wall screen blinked off, but she still knew it was Hanam vo’Maddux who’d been there. The Mayor’s Chief of Security had glanced at Aster and while she didn’t think the other woman had seen her, she wouldn’t be surprised if she knew Aster was there.

Mayor Etaraxis stood to greet her and they hugged and he kissed her before they sat down. He was famed for being honest and direct, so he said, “Why would you want to work when you can just party? That is one of the perks of being the Mayor’s Consort, you know.”

“Like I said to FardusAH – Dad raised us to be workers, not riders.”

He nodded, “I’d have liked FardusAH’s comment better if it hadn’t had religious overtones.” He sat back and studied her and said, “What is it you’d want to do?”

“My old job, Sir?”

He snorted then said, “Sorry, I don’t want job-envy stirring up the hornet’s nest of the unattached assistant’s pool. They get enough drama from their every-day lives without me giving them some real ammunition! Aster glanced up at the view screen and Etaraxis scowled then said, “vo’Maddux doesn’t like you much, does she?”

Aster paused, considered, then said, “She think she would be a better Mayoral Consort than Chief of Security.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you promote her then?”

“I’d sooner sleep with a furry anaconda.”

“I thought they were a Martian myth?”

“Unfortunately,” he sighed, “They aren’t. They are quite real, hideously deadly, and nearly impossible to trap.” He paused, adding, “Remarkably like my Chief of Security.” He shook his head, “No, sleeping with anacondas has no appeal to me.” He turned a bit, tapped his desk screen, studied it for a while then said, “But if you insist on working, I have a tough geode I’ve been trying to crack for six years.”

Aster looked up, suddenly tense. “What’s that?”

“Make my fundraiser for the Orphan Fund something that people want to contribute to – it’s an ugly issue...but I feel that Humanity made tried to meddle with the genome to create true Martians and we were left with a legacy of twisted Humans and we need to do something about it. The undercity is beginning to look Post-Industrial England.”


He stared at her with an open mouth. “I’ve never met anyone on Mars who could parse my reference!”

“I did, Sir. My dad had me and my brother read all of Dicken’s short stories and between the two of us, we got through everything except TALE OF TWO CITIES, though I read it as an adult and amused myself by memorizing the actual first sentence. I can say it if you’d like?” She smiled sweetly.

Etaraxis held up both hands, laughing. “I’d like to meet this man who makes his children read Dickens!”

Aster smiled, “I think that can be arranged, Sir.”

He nodded, “And I think I’ve gotten myself an irreplaceable new fund-raising coordinator.” He paused, adding, “Depending on how well you pull this one off.”

November 13, 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: “Alucard” – Dracula Written Backward as a way of disguise…
Current Event:

“The word ‘monster’ comes from the Latin word monstrum which is an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order,” read Wyndham D’Aquino.

“So, what are you trying to say?” said Charlotte Mogwai.

“Nothing,” said Wyndham, looking out the window at the house across the street. Small, run-down, it was just like the rest of the neighborhood. Pathetic. It was easier than looking at Charlotte. But he added, “You know, the fact is that it’s an aberrant occurrence.”

“Are you saying Dejario is a monster?” She snorted – a most unladylike sound, Wyndham thought – and said, “You’re just jealous!”

He shrugged and put down his tablet computer. “Yeah, but that doesn’t make Dejario any less a monster.”

“There is nothing wrong with the natural order! It’s just that...”

“It’s just that he’s not natural?”

“It’s not like he’s a vampire or a werewolf...”

“Those things aren’t even ‘monsters’ according to this definition! They were just made up in Hollywood to make money for the studios…” Wyndham said.

“So you’re saying that Godzilla was part of nature?” asked Charlotte.

He opened his mouth, paused to reconsider, then said, “Inasmuch as mutations are natural, Godzilla was.”

“Dracula’s natural?”

He shrugged, “Based on a real villain with as taste for bloody impalement of his enemies, then ‘yes’. Perverse but natural.”

Charlotte scowled, whipped out her tablet computer and said, “Cyclops, Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolf, Invisible Man, Mummy, Bigfoot, Dinosaurs, Zombies, King Kong, the Blob, CHUD, Cthulu, Kraken, Medusa, Triffid, Trolls, Freddy Krueger, Ghost, Hulk, Evil Clown, Leprechaun, Megalodon, Predator, Wolfman, Wyvern...”

“Stop! No, they’re not all natural!”

“So, he’s not a monster.”

“He is a monster!” Wyndham said. “Besides, his name is Namel B. Isivnieht, from Russia.”

“So? Lots of people have strange names! Especially when they come from Russia.”

“His name is The Invisible Name, backwards – what? You failed spelling and grammar in school as well as math?”

“I didn’t fail math!”

“I was there – you did! Big time!”

Charlotte was ready to slap his silly face off his silly head and raised her arm to do it when something gripped her wrist – and another part of her body – and said with a Nigerian accent, “You don’t have to worry about him anymore, girl!”

As she struggled against the unseen hands, Wyndham suddenly crumpled across the room, blood spattering out from the back of his head as he pitched forward. A woman’s voice said with a Nigerian accent just as thick, said, “Get your hands off her, Name – or the next bullet will be for your head!”

November 10, 2013

Slice of PIE: Super Hero Dreams

I’m going to talk about something that most of us don’t want to hear – and a sentiment I rarely hear expressed in the world of speculative fiction.

Superheroes ruined my life.

My childhood anyway.

I’m an old guy, so the super heroes I read were the classic ones: Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Daredevil, and the original yellow-and-black-spandex X-Men. Green Lantern was and IS my favorite. But so long as I haven’t been visited by an alien seeking my help in keeping peace and tranquility in the Universe, I ain’t gonna be able to imitate him.

My only recourse as a kid was Batman. He was Human, and though he was fabulously wealthy, his “superness” was attainable, so I wanted to be Batman.

As a child, my access to skin-clinging spandex and tights was limited and there was no possible chance I could make a cool rubber mask like the one Batman wore on the only TV series I had to compare to, so I had to be content with something less-than-fabulous. Also, I didn’t sew, had no interest in telling my mother and father I wanted to be Batman more than anything else – by the way, the other reason I wanted to be super is to hide from what I was: a fat little boy who lived a boring life in a boring suburb of a boring big city. My life seemed to be ultimately boring and there seemed absolutely no way to escape its boredom except to become “super”.

So I made my own costume out of paper bags from the grocery store.

Mask, belt, and emblem, I drew countless costumes and even though I knew in my real, rational mind that I looked like a pre-adolescent wearing a paper bag cutout costume, in my unreal, irrational mind, I was a superhero.

I suppose that if I’d stayed in my bedroom from 10 years old until I was in my early 30’s, I would have done all right. But I didn’t.

I ran around the neighborhood, hoping a local superhero would see me as Ward material and adopt me into the exciting life of wearing tights and fighting crime. I kept looking to the sky for aliens to drop me a ring. I wanted SO badly to go to Monticello, MN where there was a nuclear power plant and an increased likelihood of radioactive spiders to get bitten by. None of that happened.

What DID happen was that I became a neighborhood freak. A laughingstock. My brothers mocked me. My neighbors mocked me. My mother felt sorry enough for me to make a real, live, cloth Batman suit from a pattern, ostensibly for Halloween. I wore that thing forever.

But I never became super. I never saved anyone – at least not until I became a lifeguard and in my career saved the lives of two kids, though never to public acclaim. They’re the only ones who know I helped them. I was a classroom science teacher for twenty-something years and I’m now a school guidance counselor, but I don’t think I did anything more than inspire some kids. Certainly I never “saved” anyone.

All of this is to say that comic books set me up to have unrealistic expectations, set unrealistic dreams for myself, and set me up for ridicule and reviling by my peers and neighbors. Quite possibly I was an embarrassment to my family...I had no “friends” to embarrass at that time...and I may be permanently scarred.

The thought then is what is the “live-action-superhero-craze” doing to some kid, somewhere, who is pudgy, self-conscious, silent, and isolated? Is he wondering if he mixed a potion and drank it he’d turn into the Incredible Hulk? Is SHE wondering if she wore clingy, spandex outfits, and could ONLY fit into a size 2 and have bigger boobs, SHE would be “super”? I don’t know – and if the truth be told, I am, perhaps, AFRAID to know...

November 7, 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.

Freddie Merrill and Tommy Hastings sat up straight, rubbing bits of sleep out of their eyes as Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) downshifted the empty logging truck as they rolled into the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Just short of downtown, she signaled and pulled over to the side of the road and ground to a stop, the heavy tires crunching on the gravel shoulder. They sat in silence while the sun continued to rise on their left until all three faces were set forward, side-lit by the summer light.

Finally Ed said, “It’s time to say good-bye, boys. It’s been a fine trip and the two of youse have made an otherwise boring drive one of uncommon adventure.”

Freddie turned to look at her across Tommy and said, “This was swell, Lieutenant Olds. Really swell.” He unlocked the door and slid out and down to the ground.

Tommy couldn’t move. He felt something he’d never really felt before: he felt like he was with someone who could have been his family. Not like he didn’t have one – Mom was his mom. June was way better now that Earl was courting her. But no one else. Dad was just Dad, old enough to be grandpaw to most boys Tommy knew. That was it. Except for his grandfather who’d been a US Deputy Marshall in the Dakota Territories. He opened his mouth to say all that then closed. She’d never understand. Instead, he slid across the seat and started over the edge. His feet found the running board, he stood on it and stuck out his hand. Ed took it gravely, shook and said, “See ya, kid.”

Tommy wasn’t sure it was allowed, but he snapped off his best salute.

Ed grinned and snapped him a REAL one. Tommy jumped to the ground, slammed the door and stepped back as Ed gunned the engine. A moment later, the truck was over a hill and gone. Neither one said a thing as the morning sun warmed their backs. Finally Tommy said, “Thinkin’ maybe it’s time to go home.” He looked at Freddy. His best friend was browner that he’d been when they’d started. He definitely had more freckles – as if the ones he had weren’t enough!

Freddie looked toward Thunder Bay and the Pigeon River then back to Tommy. “Yeah. Ain’t nothing here we ain’t seen before.”

Tommy nodded, saying, “Yeah. I ain’t never been to a foreign country before, but all in all, I’m thinkin’ I’d rather go to Hawaii instead of Canada.”

Freddie nodded and said, “It is kinda boring here.” They scurried across the road and started walking back to the United States. After a mile or so, Freddie said, “I hope that same guy is at the border, otherwise how we gonna get back in?”

Tommy shrugged, “We’ll think of something.”

They walked for a long time and signs of civilization started to fade. Pine and aspen grew closer and closer to the road. “We lost?” Freddie asked a while later. It was utterly quiet except for bird cries, the harsh hum of bugs and things and the occasional noise in the woods.

The sun had risen high in the sky and it was approaching noon when they both heard a familiar, stuttering roar of an engine. They looked at each other, then scrambled uphill and into the woods, dropping down on their bellies just as a

A few minutes later the rattletrap truck, the Anoka Witch in the cab and someone they couldn’t see driving, and a load of men standing in the back, roared on past them.

Tommy said, “What if they find Ed?”

Freddie looked at him, “I’d feel as sorry for them as I felt for the Nazis when Captain America first clobbered them.”

Tommy nodded, “I got that one, too.”

“No you don’t, I got it.”

Tommy looked at Freddie, grinned and said, “I think she’ll be just fine. That woman don’t need no help from us.”

Freddie said, “But if we went back, maybe she’d think we were like…you know…heroes or something.”

Tommy shook his head, slugged Freddie, stood up and said, “Let’s get going. We got a long, long way to walk.”

November 5, 2013

Extra Post...Goodbye 666...

Just posting this so that I don't have 666 posts for the next three days...'cause I just don't feel comfortable with it just sitting there...


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: Comic Fantasy

Sein Ryoo held Yi Ling Guinto’s hand tightly as she spun out from him. The light panel, extremely sensitive to the magic generated by motion, glowed a cool, mint green.

They were both panting. Yi Ling bent over, planting her fists on her knees. A few minutes later, she said, “If we want to get on ‘You Think YOU Got Dance Magic?’, then we’re gonna have to turn that traffic light green – and just as intense.”

Trying to pretend there was no stitch in his side, Sein said, “We’ve been working all summer. Dance Magic’s gonna be here in forty-eight hours. What can we do in two days the we haven’t done in three months?”

With a flick of her finger, Yi Ling changed music tracks on her tablet computer from the sober beginning of the fandango to the wild exuberance of her current favorite metal band, Cursed For Cash. Sein whooped, grabbed her arms and they danced until the panel glowed like a magic spotlight. They collapsed into each other’s arms, laughing. She kissed Sein’s cheek and he pushed away, laughing as well. He said, “You know better than that!”

“I keep hoping,” she said, stepped forward and hugged him. “Let’s call it quits for today. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Mom says to tell your dad that we’ll be there at five am.”


Yi Ling sniffed then said, “If we lived in a real city, we wouldn’t have to drive so far.” She sighed, for the thousandth time, wishing she lived somewhere other than Duluth, Minnesota. Hardly a hotbed of dance magic, she was glad she at least had Sein. She relented, “But then we would never have met.”

He hugged her back, “I’ve got no idea what I’d have done if you weren’t here.” He shook his head. “Not only would I NOT be heading to the Dance Magic tryouts and I would have failed pre-calculus and physics.”

“No,” said Yi Ling, “I would have failed.”

“No, I would have,” they headed home. As the magic faded from their practice room, the panel grew dark, only occasionally flickering as flocks of Canadian geese flew their ancient dance to the south, overhead and far away.


Sein’s dad shot over his shoulder, “Five more kilometers to Chicago!”

In the back, Sein and Yi Ling squirmed. The ceiling light flared for an instant as did the dash light. Yi Ling’s mom sighed as her tablet readers glared brightly for an instant. “Stop it back there!” If the two of you keep back-seat dancing, you’re going to short out every light from here to New York!”

Sein’s dad squealed with laughter and squirmed in his own seat. But no lights flickered. The illumination stayed the same. Sein blushed furiously, pale skin under red-dyed and permed hair. Leaning to Yi Ling, he whispered, “I hate it when he screams like a girl.”

She pushed him back, saying, “I don’t sound like that when...”

“That’s cause you hardly ever scream.”

Sein’s dad heard nothing as he exclaimed, “Chicago’s flashing like a lighthouse beacon!”

Looking between the front seat headrests, Sein and Yi Ling gasped as golden light pulsed from the Windy City – as if welcoming them home.

Names: ♀Singapore, Philippines ; Burma, South Korea

November 3, 2013

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Does Ray Bradbury Have Anything To Say To Us Today?

No, not really.

A product of the intersection of an idyllic, Midwestern, small-town life for his first six years, he then bounced back and forth between that same town and a desert southwest life until he finally washed up on the shore of a different American backdrop: La La Land.

Enamored by “movie stars” that he actually saw and spoke to, he became a writer through a contest – where his winning story was pulled from the slush pile by Truman Capote. He met people, wrote for people, and grew up with his feet firmly planted in his birth world whilst he lived in a world so different from the one we live in today that there is no connection between “us” and “him”.

The differences between mid-20th Century and the second decade of the 21st Century are so great that THIS future is completely divorced from the futures he wrote as a young man.

Besides, he never saw HIMSELF as a science fiction author which many in the SF community claimed he was. In his own words: “First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time — because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.” While at the same time trumpeting his long-lasting he eliminates himself as an influential SF writer.

He has been feted by the speculative fiction community (which encompasses SF, F, H as well as weird fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history) as “one of our own”, receiving the SFWA Grand Master Award, his body of work hardly supports this contention. More like – he humored a fan base who really only focused on his speculative fiction rather than the entire body of his work which included plays, poetry collections, scripts, and children’s books.

While he has also been proclaimed as the first writer to propose “the idea of banking ATMs and earbuds and Bluetooth headsets…and the concepts of artificial intelligence” – these two “inventions” rose from two works – the one book he claimed was SF and a short story, “I Sing The Body Electric”.

Even so, Bradbury’s intent never seemed to be to explore the interaction of science and humanity but rather look at the human condition. In this he has far more connection to the world of “literary fiction” than of any sort of genre fiction. In fact, he has been honored by the two most recent presidents of the United States – neither of which (I feel confident in guessing) has ever read either him or any other speculative fiction author – and who were most likely directed to do the act on the grounds that their PR people were more interested in tying their political bosses to a Famous Person Who Does Stuff With Words And Is Somehow Vaguely Connected With The Future – than in any way, shape, or form of “recognizing his literary greatness”.

I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, as for saying anything important to the current crop of speculative fiction writers – I would venture that he has not a coherent thing to say to us. I base my conclusion on the following:

1)      Most people are born in, grew up in, and live in urban areas.

2)     Most people who write could never in their wildest dreams imagine roller skating ANYWHERE in an urban area and seeing movie stars.

3)     Bradbury went so far as to “stat[e] in 2010, ‘We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.’”

4)     He remained married to one person for some 46 years.

5)     He appeared in several media adaptations of his writing.

6)     If I were to write THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES today, I would be unable to find a publisher. The SENSIBILITY of the stories is firmly based on the monoculture of white male supremacy of the mid-20th Century. That culture neither exists today nor will it ever return.

7)     Information today is both instantaneous and easily corruptible, it was not in the middle of the 20th Century.

Therefore, while I will read Bradbury for entertainment, I will not be looking to him as an influence for my writing.