April 30, 2015

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 68: Aster of Opportunity

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, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.

A vividly purple Artificial Human, FardusAH had become one of her few friends in the Mayor’s Office. She’d be the  perfect person to bounce ideas off of. And the PERFECT person to institute a bit of rebellion into an otherwise staid occasion. Aster said, “Listen, I have some...things I have to run by you…”

FardusAH’s eyebrows rose as she said, “Some ‘things’, eh, Your Majesty? These I can’t wait to hear!”

She snapped, “Don’t call me your Majesty!” then she grinned.

“Yes, Ma’am!” FardusAH snapped a salute this time.
Aster rolled her eyes to the ceiling then said, “Enough absurdity! I need you to be the voice of the common woman in Opportunity Dome.”

FardusAH’s face fell. She said, “I’m not a woman.”
“You are in my eyes,” Aster said, “Different, but not less Human. So, you’ll give me your honest response?”

FardusAH was familiar with Lady Aster’s viewpoints. They’d have gotten her killed just to speak them in some of the Domes. “You’re the Mayoral Consort – your wish is my command!” She grinned to take the sting out of the statement.

Aster understood, but even as a shadow passed over her face, she nodded firmly, “That’s all I can ask.” She led the way to an empty conference room. One window overlooked the Core, the other three held holographic, framed paintings. She sat and gestured to FardusAH. When they were both settled, she said, “I want do something that will undermine the status quo.”

FardusAH’s eyes glanced reflexively to the ceiling.

Aster nodded, “I know we’re being monitored, but I’m pretty sure that what I want to do with the Orphan’s Ball is not exactly on Security’s number-one shunt list.”

Her eyes widened. Not only were outsiders not supposed to the existence of the shunt confirmed –they lived in a sealed environment, surveillance was a given – but if they wondered about it, government staff were trained by the best Martian psychs with methods for diverting the conversation. Mars had a society that an ancient science fiction writer had predicted with uncanny accuracy – a transparent society. Of course, he’d been entirely wrong about aliens in outer space. Humans were alone as far as they knew. Probes had swooped through the Alpha Centauri binary system as well as Epsilon Eridani and soon GJ 674 would come into view of its probe – but no one had signaled them. In fact, despite the fact that the first two had worlds in the “goldilocks zone”, the Earth-sized planets were watery and devoid of life. The Dome was transparent in more parts of the EM spectrum than just the visible. “You’re probably right.” She could alert Security and they – probably vo’Maddux herself – would happily spy on the Consort. On the other hand, FardusAH couldn’t stand the Humanist prig. She folded her hands on the table gave the Consort her complete attention.

“The problem with the Orphan’s Ball is that it’s always excludes the people who have less power and low status – the people that orphans end up becoming. If the intent is to help the kids we all created, then shouldn’t we all be responsible to lift them up and help them meet the people they need to meet in order to grow up empowered?”

“But they aren’t even Human!” FardusAH exclaimed. “Some of the little freaks look like furless kangaroos!” She felt her face darken to black when she realized what she’d said. She leaned back in her chair.

Aster fixed her with a look, though it wasn’t judgmental. It was compassionate, patient, and even worse, faintly challenging. She rushed through all of the things she said and finally arrived at, “If Etaraxis lets you go, he should retire for a complete brain reboot.” Shaking her head, she added, “I can see exactly what you want to do.” Leaning forward, she fixed Aster with a gaze that could only be called voracious and said, “Where do I sign up?”

April 28, 2015


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.

Horror Trope: artifact of doom

Oh, we LOVE our mommies…er…mummies!

100 pieces of King Tutankhamen’s funerary stuff, as well as a bunch of “fake stuff” (they call them replicas) is currently on display here at the Science Museum of Minnesota – which is what’s inspiring THIS post.

So OBVIOUSLY, the stolen sarcophagi (which, BTW, in Latin means “flesh eater”…ew…) are bad luck for the New York antique dealers who went down in the bust. So far, the curse of THESE mummies hasn’t reached the Jordanian collector being sought after by his countrymen.

But let’s say that he made a clean get away and he’s tipping a few cold Mountain Dews in his air-conditioned house in Jordan even as I write this. He’s pocketed his finder’s fee and he figures he’s home free and is just opening the file on his computer for his next heist. It picks up a virus like so many other computers and his AVAST program supposedly eats it up.

The next time his fourteen-year-old son, Itamar goes online to update his Facebook and chat with his friends all over the planet, the computer virus from the sarcophagi takes a little leap from the hard drive, onto his hand and after he’s done with his session, he yawns and rubs his eyes, passing a biological virus to the moist membranes of his eyes.

Late in the morning – because his dad is pounding on the door to wake him up he rubs his eyes and notices his vision is a little foggy. He tried to tell his dad to knock it off, but all he could do was moan.

That sounded WAY too much like a sound he’d make when he was...He covered his mouth in horror, sitting up in bed. He didn’t notice anything except that the hand in front of his face was wrapped in dark brown bandages…

April 26, 2015

Slice of PIE: Leaving Science Fiction

As I sit here, my son, his wife, and my two grandchildren are travelling to their new home in South Korea where they will stay for the next three years.

I cannot quite explain the complex mix of emotions I have – I’m thrilled that they are embarking on a new adventure. I’m terrified that my grandchildren will forget me the way I forgot my grandfather. (All I can bring up of him is a black and white picture of him sitting at the desk of his job at a pipe fitting company. I don’t remember anything else...) I’m proud that my son – along with his family – are serving the country

As is often the case when I am confused, I turn to writing.

Do any science fiction books have the theme of “leaving”.

Huh…as I never asked the question before, I never noticed how profoundly  the idea was woven into the fabric of science fiction.

From Jules Verne’s FROM EARTH TO THE MOON in 1865, to Robert A Heinlein’s PODKAYNE OF MARS and HAVE SPACESUIT: WILL TRAVEL, through David Gerrold’s DINGILIAD books, and arriving in the present at Neal Stephenson’s much anticipated novel, SEVENEVES (which I haven’t read yet) in which, “The world is ending, and the human race makes a desperate effort to get some survivors off the planet. Five thousand years later, the descendants of humanity are divided into seven different races, all of which decide to pay a visit to the old homeworld.”

Frank Herbert’s DUNE, “...the world's best-selling science fiction novel”, begins with a leaving that would have completely altered the storyline if it hadn’t happened, “In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul. It was a warm night at Castle Caladan, and the ancient pile of stone that had served the Atreides family as home for twenty-six generations bore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather.”

I don’t think I’ve ever written a story about “leaving”, though I clearly began to think about it recently as this line of a story I wrote – and am agonizing over whether or not an editor’s directions to “shorten it” are right or not – shows:
“The other man was panting when he finally said, ‘I don’t have to do anything except get you to thumb the contract. Then we’re free of each other.’
“‘What if I have other plans? What if I want to leave, too?’
“‘Where would you go? That stupid university thing? You’ll never get in! That kind of education’s for Pure Humans! You’ve got a life here!’”

From: “Prince of Blood and Spit”
In fact, I notice that I’ve been writing more about leaving lately...

All of this, in this short Slice of PIE, is to shove you into examining how your life events come out in your writing. Whether you believe they do or not, our minds are powerful things. They often work without our conscious volition and clearly, since I found out “my kitlets” were leaving, my deepest heart and mind have started to churn out fiction along the same lines as my concern.

Have I produced a solution to my grief at saying goodbye, or do I need to recognize – like all of the works I cited above – that to leave is to leap into a new adventure. HOWEVER…these stories are all about the “leavers”. I’m going to need to find stories about the “ones who stayed behind” and how they dealt with it.

Anyone have any books they’ve read that deal with the “ones who stayed behind”?

If they are NOT there, then I guess I have my work cut out for me!

April 21, 2015



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. ? z Z

Alambil shook her head and said, “I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be writing down what I say.”

Uvilas snorted, as any good centaur can do, and said, “Who said you were Sherlock and I was Watson?”

Alambil, once a star in Narnia and currently a visitor to the Court of Caspian XII, snorted just as loudly. Her mother would have said it was unladylike – or unstarlike. Alambil didn’t really care as she said, “You were Sherlock last week. I get to be it this week...”

“Him. In the book Queen Susan the Gentle sent with Her Most Kind and Royal Majesty Queen Lucy the Valiant, Sherlock Holmes is a Human male.”

She brushed him away, saying, “Whatever.”

There was a knock at the door. Alambil and Uvilas looked at each other then she bowed and gestured to the door. Uvilas scowled and crossed the floor of the cottage, reached for the door then stepped back.

“Just do it, Sissyhoofs!” Alambil hissed. Uvilas clenched his jaw cantered a meter forward, threw the bolt and yanked the door open.

Four Calmorenes, wicked scimitar swords drawn pointed at Uvilas’ heart but instead of swinging, they prodded him backward until he gave way. A moment later, a woman, whose head was wrapped in a turban and whose face was entirely veiled swept into the room. She turned once, then clapped her hands. The soldiers and their swords fell back and closed the door softly behind them.

The woman lifted her turban, trailing the veils over her face until they saw that she was an older woman, face seamed with laughlines and hair silvered with age.

Alambil gasped and fell to her knees, “Your majesty!” She looked up at Uvilas and hissed, down on your front knees Sissyhoofs! This is Queen Aravis of Archenland, Princess of Calormen, Duchess of the Lonely Isles!”

The elderly woman smiled and looked down on them and said, “I have need of your criminal detection skills.”

“Your majesty?” said Uvilas.

“Yes, my horse, Hwin, has been kidnapped. You must find her!” She looked from one to the other, "Which one of you is Sherlock Holmes?”
Uvilas pointed to his Human partner and said, "She is!"

Names: ♀ Narnia; ♂ Narnia