February 28, 2013

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION 1

I love writing science fiction. I discovered it when I was a sixth grader, fell in love with it in seventh grade and have been reading and writing it for the past forty-five years. I love working with young adult; their viewpoints, opinions and language keep me from growing old. Working in a high school keeps me sort of up-to-date with what’s going on in their world. I’ve combined two of the things I love into one story…

What if two vast, alien cultures needed Earth to raise their young – gravity, atmosphere, raw materials are all correct? ON EARTH, they two cultures agreed to be civil and keep their war far away. Then what if something happened and their cold war escalated into a shooting war. And what if, as the war grew, young love grew in its shadow – how would the war affect love? More importantly, how might LOVE affect WAR?

When me and Kashayla kissed for the first time, there was fireworks.

That’s cause it was the same night that The War To End All Wars broke out between the alien Kiiote and the even more alien Yown’Hoo.

Kashayla pulled away first, her eyes open. Nothing kills the mood than the girl staring into your eyes from four centimeters away. She said, “Nobody said nothing on the net about a firefight.”

“You don’t read the right netnews,” I said. She was sort of irritating that way. She saw the world in only ten sources she checked every fifteen minutes. But what can you find out about the real world from only ten points of view? I kept twenty-nine active links, so I said, “LunarEye saw all kinds of ship movement. Started yesterday.”

Kashayla pushed away from me and dropped with a thump on the park bench. We were in Spoony Park, not far from DownTown Minneapolis. The City had turned the lights out for the night, so we had a clear view of the eastern sky. Since the Yown’Hoo shot down the last of the Aerospace Force jets and gravity-fighters, the sky’s belonged to them and the Kiiote. They don’t care if we fly little prop planes. Just big ones or fast ones.

Or ones with thermonuclear warheads. Even I thought that was a stupid thing to try. The Old US Government thought they could sneak a couple of the missiles up to a couple thousand feet inside passenger jets, then launch ‘em at the Kiiote orbital dens and the Yown’Hoo plateships.

Stupid adults. I knew she was gonna be all sulky now cause I was being snarky, so I said, “Hey, you know what I meant!” I slid closer to her, but she moved away. I knew better than to try anything more. We’d been friends since we were born, raised in the same Takes-a-village, on the same block. We even shared the same online query marker guru. Mom still called them ‘teachers’, but Ms. Dahlstrom doesn’t teach much. She just sets out our goals and lets us do the learning.

“What did you mean?” Kashayla asked.

“I mean,” I stopped. More than likely we were heading for our old argument. We’d been having it since we were ten so I was pretty sure we weren’t going to resolve the issue right here. On the night the Alien Cold War all of a sudden became a Hot War. I said, “One thing we can agree on?”

Overhead, there was a flash of light. Fortunately it looked like it was still in space. She looked at me and said, “What’s that?”

I lifted my chin to the fading sparkles of the exploded alien starship and said, “I’m scared. How about you?”

We locked gazes, then she sighed and slid closer to me. Another, smaller explosion in space flashed just above what was left of the Cappella Building. The top of it had been melted by the Kiiote when they found a terrorist cell sniping at their surveillance satellites with a ‘stolen’ Yown’Hoo gravity lance. Leaning her head on my shoulder, she said, “And here I thought we had all the time in the world.”

February 26, 2013

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 101


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: Conjuring…
Current Event: http://www.spellsofmagic.com/spells/spiritual_spells/conjuring_spells/390/page.html

Jacob Adams scowled, shivering in the cold. He wore black jeans and boots, but all he wore on top was a baseball cap turned backwards and an A-shirt. “All I want is a fire to keep warm! I said the spell, how come it’s not working?” His breath puffed out a white cloud with every word.

Ada Contepomi stood with her fists balled on her hips. She was wearing her light blue parka, mittens and knee-high Mukluks. She said, “What exactly did you expect?”

Fire! The website said that all I needed to do was, like, imagine the fire then speak the words and I’d have it.”

“So if ‘conjuring fire’ was so easy, don’t you think that everybody and their mother would be doing it right now?” She sniffed. “You should try and find a spell for something useful – like conjuring a tank of gas or a Big Mac with fries and a large, hot peppermint mocha!”

There was a sharp snap that had nothing to do with icicles falling from the roof of Jacob’s house and a ball of fire suddenly flared up, hovering over the snow in the driveway. “Oh, my gosh!” Jacob said, dropping to his chest on the frozen driveway, staring at the flickering ball of flame. He held out his hand then looked up at Ada, “Hey! It’s not hot or anything. It’s no warmer than the air!”

Ada looked disgusted and said, “So even though your magic spell worked – it didn’t make what you wanted it to make?” Shaking her head, she said, “When you’re ready to give up this crazy stunt, come in and we’ll watch Wheel Of Fortune.” She turned and stalked away.

Jacob lay in the driveway, staring at the whirling flame ball. Holding his palm to the flame, he moved his hand slowly closer until he was almost touching it. “Maybe it’s only hot on the surface or something.” He uncurled a finger and reached slowly toward it, ready to jerk it back in case the little flame ball was actually hot.

He didn’t realize what was happening until he noticed that his finger had disappeared up to the knuckle…

Names: USA, Minnesota; Argentina
Image: Adam Jacobs model; Emil Nelson, photographer and firehandler

February 24, 2013

Christianity – UNIVERSAL OR ANTHROPOCENTRIC VI: Did God Make COMPLEX Life Forms?

Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay nearly a thousand times, 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...

Whether you are a far right Creationist or a far left Evolutionist, one thing is perfectly clear: complex life forms came before Humans and after planetary formation.

To be more specific, in Creation and Evolution, plant life came first:

“Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” Genesis 1:11-13

3.4 billion years of stromatolites demonstrating photosynthesis.” Timeline of Evolutionary History (Wikipedia)

Once photosynthesizing plant life was present, the atmosphere of Earth burgeoned and according to both Creation and Evolution, complex life forms developed in the oceans:

“Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures...’” Genesis 1: 20a (the Hebrews inserted the creation of the Moon in there just before plants and included birds along with aquatic life –but Genesis is a summary, and a poetic one at that. We grant great authors poetic license, what about God and Moses? The basic idea was right.)

It was...during the Proterozoic that the first symbiotic relationships between mitochondria (for nearly all eukaryotes) and chloroplasts (for plants and some protists only) and their hosts evolved. The blossoming of eukaryotes such as acritarchs did not preclude the expansion of cyanobacteria; in fact, stromatolites reached their greatest abundance and diversity during the Proterozoic, peaking roughly 1200 million years ago. Classically, the boundary between the Proterozoic and the Phanerozoic eons...the first fossils of animals including trilobites and archeocyathids appeared. In the second half of the 20th century, a number of fossil forms have been found in Proterozoic rocks, but the upper boundary of the Proterozoic has remained fixed at the base of the Cambrian, which is currently placed at 542 Ma.” (Wikipedia, Proterozoic)

The same comparison of the Torah and evolutionary history can be performed for animal life.

I might also point out that the Hebrews had a strong foundation for the concept of DNA that was, while based on purely observational evidence, an idea they then applied to all life whether they’d seen it or not: “...plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind...” (Genesis 1:9); “...every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind...” (Genesis 1:21); and “Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1: 24-25) (If I may be permitted a bit of editorial license, I will add that God seemed to LIKE creating – once He was done, he pronounced each development good. Given that He had eternity to work with, I have little trouble imagining that He did this planetary seeding more than once. What are the arguments AGAINST such a belief?)

So – if I grant a bit of poetic license to Moses – and the evolutionary timeline is pretty well established in the mind of the scientific community, then I have to grant that given similar conditions (accidental for evolution, purposeful for God), there is good reason to BELIEVE that complex life exists elsewhere in the wide Universe.

February 21, 2013

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 39: Stepan Under The HOD

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  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.

QuinnAH stepped in front of Stepan and said, “He ain’t a mark, he’s a Wilkerson.”

The speaker stayed in the dark, but a grim laugh rumbled out from his hidey hole. Then he said, “We’ve never seen a Wilkerson here, little Quitter. In fact, I didn’t think they let them off Earth – so what do you know about this one, Quitter?”

“I don’t know nothin’ but what I’m told, Sir.” He leaned back into Stepan and said, “He’s the Fagin for the HOD; keeps younger artificials like me from getting swept up by the cops or getting hunted by the boys and girls from the HOD – he calls ‘em ‘bogis from the HOD’.”

Stepan shook his head. “That would be funny if I didn’t know what it meant. Seems your Fagin is something of a reader, Quinn. Maybe even a refugee from the HOD. Worse, maybe he just likes being in control and this is the only place he could be.”

The voice roared from the darkness, “Now don’t you go putting traitorous ideas into my little boy’s head! I love him and his brothers and sisters like they was my own kids!”

Stepan scowled, saying, “They’re artificial life forms.” He put his hands on Quinn’s shoulders. “They were manufactured at this age and they’ll always be this age. You had nothing to do with them coming into existence. How can they be like your own kids? They’re not kids. They’re...”

“Stop it! I can feel however I want to feel about them!”

“Just like the real Fagin did in Dicken’s OLIVER?”

“Hey! You can’t say that to…”

“You remember what happened to that Fagin?”

There was a long, dark pause, then the voice said, “I do now, little man.” The ground trembled and from a distance, a low, moaning echoed plaintively from one of the wider tunnels.

“He’s a Wilkerson! You shouldn’t talk to him that way?” Quinn shouted.

“I can talk to him any way I want to. He’s under my turf.” There was a pause, then he added, “And according to every law in Burroughs, I own you, boy. So don’t get too snarky just because you’re with a holy man.” He laughed. “Technically, I could report him, too. For evangelizing one of the Prohibited Ideologies.”

Stepan felt suddenly uncomfortable. Up until this moment, the only person’s life he’d risked had been his own. He’d been planning on keeping the garden on the roof a secret. He’d had enough of people crowding around him – he’d had too much of it when he’d first come to Mars. After that whole fiasco, he’d had his name changed – and major plastic surgery so he could hide from his past. He was done with being a hero. Done forever. Unless God had a different plan for him. He shuddered then said, “You could do that. I could also contact my patrons and report your presence here.”

“You couldn’t do no such thing! Nobody cares about a Wilkerson! You’d be under arrest in a nano if you peeped a word!”

“If all I was were an illegal Wilkerson, you’d be right. But I’m not.”

The ground trembled. Quinn had grabbed his hand and tugged it forward slightly. The ground shook like the million-year marsquake was about to let loose.

“Get ready,” he spoke from the corner of his mouth.

From his hidey hole, Fagin said, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, Mr. Underground hater,” Stepan began. Quinn grabbed him by the wrist again, crouched and as a circular wall filled the tunnel, the boy ran forward abruptly. Holding hand, Stepan ran beside him.

Quinn stopped abruptly and screamed, “Jump!”

February 20, 2013

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 100

One Hundred (or so) Tuesdays Ago…

I started this post in which, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd challenge readers and lend a helping hand. Generating 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 continue to 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.

To celebrate this occasion – I’ll make a mash up of ideas from all three genres…and I’ll add The Western and a dash of Romance for added spice!

H Trope: Ancient tombs discovered/cursed/releases monster/mummy & fairy dust
SF: Starship Troopers
F Trope: Elves, gnomes and Halflings
Western Trope: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Romance Trope: Beauty and the beast
Current Events:

Rayyan Brakus powered his exoskeleton armor up and swung down from the troop transport. Granted, he was supposed to be eighteen; granted, he’d lied about his age.

But when the InterWar recruiter had shown up at the base of Butte Vertical Village in their shiny starship, offering lots of cash and a life of adventure, Rayyan ran to place his thumbprint. His ID didn’t show that he was 16 and a half. It showed he was 22. So what if the recruiter’d said, “You bring your cat along to lick your whiskers off, soldier?”

Rayyan snorted, blowing a blot of snot on the inside of his faceplate. He reached up to wipe it away, remembered it was inside and ignore the other soldiers who laughed at him. He’d show THEM!

He clomped down the ramp, stepped to one side and stopped, scanning. A bleak place, this world. Looked like lots of dunes, dead trees and boulders – some sort of adobe village a couple klicks. Command channel blasted into his ears, “Target acquired. Mumiyah’s Cavern has been partially secured. Local resistance armed and should be considered dangerous. Squads Delta and Theta proceed with caution. Air support unavailable.”

Rayyan felt his stomach drop to his feet then sprinted to follow the rest of Theta Squad. His first live combat mission...

He wasn’t expecting the attack. He should have been, but they’d never trained against cavalry.

Horses ridden by midgets. With bazookas. Trying to kill him. “Not me personally!” he shouted into his helmet as he fired into the mob with his stunner. There wasn’t any reason to…

A female midget – sorta hot looking, he noticed before she sprayed something on his armor – swung a mass-balanced lance that glowed as it cut through the first layer physical defense then was deflected by the monomolecular fluid underlayer.

Deflecting the lance, the inertia transferred to him, her speed and weight knocking him over. Instead of a hard crash, it felt like he’d fallen on sponges. The midget on her full-sized horse, was wearing a cowboy hat and clenched a cigar between her teeth. She raised a mace and shouting, brought it down on his helmet.
****

Vesna Lobato stared down at the man wrapped in bug scales and shook her head. Polish him up a bit and he might be a good-looking boy. A bit older that her little brother, his blonde hair was snarled, the fabric body suit was soaking wet from the dissolution of the armor by her fairy dust. She was reasonably certain the dust was no longer potent, though she’d had at least ten soldiers of the hundred the Imperial Mounted Police had repelled from Mumiyah’s Cavern – die. Their skin liquefied, sloughing from the bones. The screams made her shudder.

But it wasn’t like she was fighting people. They were soldiers, impersonal, caring nothing for the cultures of the New West. They wanted only to dig out its secrets and turn them into another weapon to subjugate the worlds!

She lifted the lance to strike the youngster’s head off.

“Hold your blade, Vesna!”

“Why, brother? He’d have killed me if I hadn’t knocked him down first.”

Her brother looked down at the soldier and said, “If nothing else, we can strip out of his brain what he thinks he knows about the Cavern.”

She lifted her blade, took a deep breath and said, “I’ll stop my lance – but only ‘cause I might ask him out on a date before we magick out his brain.” She wheeled on her horse and headed back into town.

Name source: (m) Malaysia, Greek; (f) Macedonia, Portuguese

February 17, 2013

“I HATE THE NEW STAR TREK!” – POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS

 It’s funny.

For a franchise that has been around for nearly a half century and has had a remarkably consistent (though obviously imperfect!) history, it seems like very few people have cried “foul!” when an upstart director decides to toss the entire history into the garbage dump and says, “That’s all stupid. This is what should have happened. I know, ‘cause I’m young and as we all know, ‘Old Is Evil And Doesn’t Make Boatloads Of Money Anymore And Youth Is, As It Has Been, Always Right’.”

I know we call it a “reboot”. I KNOW Kirk and Spock are old – they’re the same age as my dad! I know “the times, they are a changing”.

I also figure it must take an incredible level of arrogance to throw out a canon and declare that you have a personal and superior vision.

However, what amazes me more is that none of the faithful have said “boo”. No one has challenged the usurper.

It reminds me of an experience I had when I was 19.

I was in my second year of college, at a place called Golden Valley Lutheran College. A friend of mine and I both lived off campus and not far from each other. We were taking a class called The Philosophy of Non-Christian Religions. Pastor John Gronli was teaching the class. He was a remarkably open and thoughtful man, not full of dark pronouncements against the faiths of others, he led us to look at the philosophies of faith other than Christian openly and honestly, while still maintaining his own strong faith in Christ.

Mike and I wanted to do something really different and outside-the-box. We found the house “church” of the religion invented and promulgated by the Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The “mission” in south Minneapolis was new – “In 1975, Moon sent out missionaries to 120 countries to spread the Unification Church around the world and also in part, he said, to act as ‘lightning rods’ to receive ‘persecution.’”

We visited, playing the part of seeking teenagers, and got a copy of Moon’s book, THE DIVINE PRINCIPLE  in which he lays out his plan for the world; as well as a good interview. We then got busy reading.

What was supposed to have been a seven page paper turned into a 35-page theological treatise comparing Moon’s claim that TDP was a “new New Testament”, and that it was a completion of the “old New Testament” of the early Church. While we found that it was no such thing and the Unification Church went on to become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, we were convinced that the Moonies had simply adopted the parts of Christianity that were acceptable to the masses, gave the fatherless (of which there were a growing number) a real Dad (the Reverend Sun Myung Moon) and spoke of whirled peas…er…World Peace during “a 120-city world speaking tour. At each city, Moon delivered his speech titled ‘God's Ideal Family – the Model for World Peace’” in 2005.

Abrams has done much the same thing with the Star Trek “reboot” and we’ve swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. I am as guilty as the next Trekker (I’m not a Trekkie as I have no Spock ears, uniform or phaser (I do have a tribble, a Worf doll, a model of VOYAGER and ST:TOS ENTERPRISE, as well as the most recent addition to my ST collection – ST:TNG Pez® candy dispensers from my son and daughter-in-law) as I lined up for the movie premier with my dad, son and best male friend; as I will line up to see “Into The Darkness”.

However, I have FINALLY spoken out to express my true feelings. I HATE the new Star Trek. Then again, maybe no one will notice and assume that, like everyone, I have remained silent like sheep because this is the only Star Trek fix we’re ever gonna get and we’d best keep our mouths shut and shell out the plastic – or they’ll take the bastard child away from us…

February 14, 2013

SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH #46: July 19, 1946

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

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) bellowed like a wild woman.

Tommy Hastings barely kept himself from screaming as Freddie Merrill dug his fingernails into Tommy’s arm. Tommy looked at Freddie and even though his friend was white as a sheet, his bottom lip was caught in his teeth. He looked like the only that would make him squeak was a punch in the face.

Neither boy could do anything but stare as the log truck barreled down the road.

They could see the slicked back hair of the Socialists and the bun on the back of the witch’s head. Suddenly, they all turned around at the same moment and screamed as one.

The shriek of the airbrakes drowned out their voices and the boy’s voices and even Ed’s war-blooded whooping. The truck turned wildly into the other lane – just as another logger’s truck came around a curve. The Socialists and the witch all looked back at Ed’s truck, then forward at the other one; back…forward…back…forward. The Socialist’s driver had two choices – pull in front of the crazy war woman or drive into the ditch on the other side of the road.

The truck turned back in front of them and the drive must have floored it because a huge cloud of blue smoke exploded from the tailpipe.

The other truck roared past, pulling the cloud back over Ed’s truck, blinding them. She had no choice but to slow down. The other truck past, the blue cloud vanished.

The Socialist’s truck was gone.

“Where’d they go?” Freddie cried out.

Ed cussed then said, “I think I saw a dirt road back there leading down to the beach.”

Tommy exclaimed, “You mean they got away?”

“Looks like it, son.” She upshifted the truck and sped up. “Best if we get out of here then.”

“What if they come after us?”

Ed snorted. “Cross that bridge when we come to it, boys. ‘til then, we gotta get to Thunder Bay before nightfall and we’re only just coming up on Grand Marais.”

“What happens if we don’t get to Thunder Bay on time?” said Freddie.

“I lose my job and we gotta walk back to Duluth.” She paused, then added, “And the Socialists will get you for sure then!”

February 12, 2013

IDEAS ON TUESDAY A -- Supplemental
















Sprained my wrist starting the snowblower two days ago, so won't write much for a bit. Just here to say, pick one of the OLD tropes and cross it with a DIFFERENT genre's CURRENT EVENT, mixing names and concepts.

Let me know what happens!

Image: http://www.snowblowersdirect.com/images/stories/submitted/review225_338.jpg

February 10, 2013

WRITING ADVICE: Bruce Bethke’s TWELVE STEP PROGRAM FOR WRITERS #6

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: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/a-12-step-program-for-writers/. They are used with the author’s permission.
6. We are entirely ready to let someone else take the blame for the way our last book tanked.

This is the book I signed away. When I sent it out to CSS Publishing in 1997, I was inexperienced and naïve. When a contract came back saying they wanted to publish the book – and that they’d give me $100 for all rights (because: “No one is really interested in children’s sermon books and we’re doing God’s Work by publishing it”), I was appalled.

I’m ashamed now that I let this company bully me into the contract, but at that point, I’d had short stories published that had disappeared into oblivion. Having a BOOK seemed to be a chance at “keeping my name out there” and after long discussions with my wife, I signed the contract.

Sixteen years have passed and if CSS had only sold ONE of my books a year, they’d have made back their investment – certainly they made back what they paid me. So my complaint isn’t that the book TANKED, it’s that I sold it for a pittance and the company has continued to sell it (presumably because they made more money selling the book than they paid out printing it). The original contract said that the rights would revert to me when they were done with it, but after querying to silence a few years ago, I gave up and figured I’d let God be the judge on the whole sorry issue.

So – I haven’t had another book published since. I have had numerous stories published, I have appeared in anthologies and contributed to a few collections as well. While I’ve grumbled that several of them haven’t really seemed to take off, I’ve done what I thought was enough to influence my tiny corner of my blogosphere folks to buy them and I promote them at whatever conferences I attend – but aside from buying a stack of them and selling them myself – I haven’t done anything more than that.

In fact, I’m not even SURE what else to do. When I consider self-promotion, the image above is the one that springs to mind. As well, numerous articles in paper and online magazines tell me to WATCH OUT and not saturate my friend lists with pleas to buy this, that or the other book.

So when it comes right down to it, while I’m READY to let someone else take the blame for why my last story didn’t hit the awards lists, the only person who SHOULD receive blame is me; and that blame should be for naiveté...

February 7, 2013

STEAMPUNK MONKEY #10

The idea for this starts with a story I tried to write about a thieving monkey who took keys and used them to unlock its cage. That was it. The story was called BRIGHT FLASH THE MONKEY’S PAWS. It was my third or fourth attempt at writing a picture book – and it was really bad. With the advent of the genre of steampunk, I started rethinking the story. Here it is – OK, just realized that I wrote something entirely different for #5 than I thought I did. So…this is going to be where the story SHOULD have gone. If you don’t mind, ignore #6 above!

Wet Clementine looked at the bird in her hand and let it go.

The steam monkey laughed harder and pointed at her.

A calico cat of orange, white and black, walked down the street and stopped.

Wet Clementine bent and patted the cat; and she didn’t sneeze again!

February 6, 2013

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 98

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: auto-cannibalism

Kari leaned from behind him while the movie in Forensics flickered on the screen in front of the class, whispering in his ear, “You know, if you bite your fingernails, the pieces will poke through your intestines and you’ll get a bleeding ulcer.”

“Shut up,” Mark hissed back at her.

Mr. Stanton looked up from the paper he was correcting and scowled at the two of them.

After class, Kari tapped Mark on the shoulder and said, “You’re the one who asked me to bug you about it.”

“Yeah, but…” he stopped talking as a pair of freshmen boys ran like elementary kids down the hall, cutting between him and Kari. It was a good thing, Mark decided. He’d almost told her the real reason he wanted to stop biting his nails. Or horking his snot or sucking the blood from a hangnail or any of the other instances of him eating his own flesh and blood. It started out as accidental. He’d been playing boot hockey over Christmas break and he’d been whanged in the nose and gotten a fierce nosebleed. Swallowing the blood to keep from grossing everyone out by spitting it on the ice had started something inside of him.

“‘Yeah, but’ what?” Kari asked when they pulled together again.

Mark shrugged and said, “I’ll tell you at lunch.”

Inside, he heard his Inner Voice say, “No you won’t. You won’t tell anyone about me. You just keep feeding me and when I’m big enough, I’ll come out and we’ll take over the world…

Name Source: Local, Minnesota

February 3, 2013

Slice of PIE Christianity – UNIVERSAL OR ANTHROPOCENTRIC V: Did God Make SIMPLE Life Forms?

Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay nearly a thousand times, 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...

I was studying astronomy with my son – he’s gone back to college to finish his AA degree and then wants to move on to a physics degree – and we were discussing…oh…everything under the sun (literally!).

Paging through the book, I came to the last chapter. Since the end of the 20th Century, you’ll find that most astronomy textbooks for undergraduates end the class with a discussion of Extraterrestrial Life.

I find this amusing because in a book filled with theories, observations and a careful delineation of the history of the science, they end on a note of Science Fiction.

After filling pages of the text with high-sounding quotes from any and every authority who can be quoted, they conclude that THERE MUST BE LIFE OFF OF EARTH.

Mind you, they offer not a single shred of evidence except for the extremely tired old saw about “Martian Meteorite Fossils”, found during the analysis of a meteorite fragment discovered in Antarctica in 1984. Most add the script quote from the movie CONTACT which is obliquely attributed to Carl Sagan: "I'll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?
A recent addition to the canon of “if there’s life here, there OBVIOUSLY must be life elsewhere!” is this: http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Polonnaruwa-meteorite.pdf (this is the original paper that all the tabloid headlines screamed from -- of course, it's from a "fringe" website and the paper isn't peer-reviewed).

Undeniably, these are shaped like the diatoms we find on Earth. The authors compare the cometary diatoms to Earth diatoms and conclude: “...that the identification of fossilised diatoms in the Polonnaruwa meteorite is firmly established and unimpeachable. Since this meteorite is considered to be an extinct cometary fragment, the idea of microbial life carried within comets and the theory of cometary panspermia is thus vindicated (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981,.1982, 2000; Journal of Cosmology, Vol,21, No,37 published, 10 January 2013 Wickramasinghe, Wickramasinghe and Napier, 2010). The universe, not humans, must have the final say to declare what the world is really like.”

A quick read of the Wikipedia entry on the Polonnaruwa meteorite under the heading, Criticism will give you a succinct review the scientific community has taken of this startling discovery. I’ve provided the link below because my purpose here is not to discuss panspermia or cometary diatom fossils.

I want to talk about WHY I believe that God has allowed for simple life on other worlds.

First, I think that Scripture supports the view that it’s neither beyond God’s power nor outside of God’s desire to create simple life forms off of Earth: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

The Hebrew word used for “heavens” here would be pronounced “eshmim” in Hebrew.

According to my survey, it is a form of the Hebrew word whose Anglicized form is “shamayim”. This noun can mean several things – as all languages do when we give multiple and shaded meanings to different words – among them: “the physical heavens (includes all that is above the earth, and any given passage may include all or merely a constitute universe), and “the heavens as the abode of God (as in ‘the heavens are infinitely high above the Earth, so are God's thoughts and ways infinitely above man's ability to comprehend’).”

To my mind, God has used the things we see on Earth to reveal Himself: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Why would He do anything different in the rest of the Universe. It’s effectively infinite, so He would fill it with life. Why not simple life?

Despite the crazies, I believe there’s good evidence that it was an act of God to fill the Universe with simple life forms.

Can you Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Bahais, Confucians, Jains or Shintos point to a Scripture that would contraindicate God creating simple life elsewhere?