December 31, 2015

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 37


On Earth, there are three Triads intending 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 Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is for the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads to build a physical wall. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce the Membrane to stop the wave.

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. 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.

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”

“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”

 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”

 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

Retired never got to finish his sentence because a flash of light followed by a thunderous roar made the truck swerve wildly. The autopilot took over from me and Retired had the big gun in his hands again. The truck stopped and ahead of us, the ground was glowing green. Otherwise, it was totally silent now.

He said, “I think our enemies may have found us. We have to get out of here.” Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret), whom I’d started calling Retired, yanked open the delivery truck’s door and dropped out.

“What are you doing?” I whispered. An instant later, it was obvious.

The truck’s rear doors popped open and Retired said, “We have to leave this behind and get to the farm. It’s the only way we’re gonna be able to survive tonight. It’s about two miles down the road. Herd Mother, can you make it?”

Dao-hi said, “Of course I can. We all can!” she snapped her tentacle-arm for emphasis as the Herd leaped from the back.

“Qap, Xurf, any problem running the distance?”

“We will travel in low form, so no,” Qap, the female replied, and set about organizing the Pack so that the pups were taken care of. Dao-hi did the same.

‘Shay climbed into the front of the cab with me, slugged me on the shoulder, then kissed me and said, “We’ll be fine. We’ve been training for years. We can run the Pack and Herd into the ground!”

Qap and Xurf snarled a challenged, and Dao-hi, along with her smaller chosen males, Zei-go, Seg-go, Ali-go laughed in return.

Retired snorted and said, “Good. Let’s move out. Stay with me – Herd Mother, do you cede temporary leadership to me?”

“Done, Master Human!”

“Pack Leaders?”

They Pack howled and Xurf cried, “Lead, Human!”

“‘Car, ‘Shay? Do as I say, not as I do?”

We chorused, “Sir, yes, Sir!”

“Move out!” He ran, low to the ground, through the green glow of the shallow crater, then up the side and back on to the gravel road. “Single file, move fast, eyes ahead!” His lope was easy for all of us to follow. The Kiiote had all folded into “wolf” form and my best friend, the male Fax, ran alongside me, his bristles – not ‘fur’ because the Kiiote weren’t even loosely related to Earthly dogs – poked through my denims with shots of an adrenaline analogue. The Herd took up the rear, Herd Mother last of all. They were running with sheathed hooves. Underfoot, the road was frozen solid, though it’d been a mild winter and there wasn’t as much snow as there usually was.

It was silent and still, so we heard the Human choppers in the distance before we saw their searchlights sweeping the field. Ahead of us, Retired surged into a sprint and he hissed, “Spread out. Straight forward. When you get to the farm, head for the barn. Ignore the house.” Fax and me stayed together as the rest of them broke apart, the Herd with nervous snuffs barely heard.

The choppers homed on the truck and were shortly hovering over it. I shot a look over my shoulder and stumbled. No one yelled at me, but Fax’s spines dug into my leg as he held me up. The denim would be full of holes by morning. I could already feel the cold air in spots alongside my right knee.

I didn’t need to be looking to know that the choppers blew up our truck. The concussion was enough to knock me and Fax over, we tumbled over the hard ground, then were back on our feet. I was pretty sure I was running in the right direction – our truck was a pyre, flames shooting into the air – directly behind us. The choppers – there were two of them – started flying in widening circles, spotlights lancing down into the night like laser beams. Cursing all around except from me. Never got into it. The spotlights diffusing from the ground, lit our way with wildly leaping shadows. I had a stitch in my side, despite all the track running I’d done at our home in the Cities. I’d also never run over rough ground.

Or been scared for my life.

Why were Humans hunting us? Where was our Triad protection – Retired couldn’t be the total resources of the Corporation! Shouldn’t there be an army out here to protect us? The circle the choppers flew was only two hundred meters behind us and when the light came close this time, all I could see was Fax next to me, looking for all the world in that wild light, like a big dog. Running away from a scary helicopter with his master. Who’d been out hunting…raccoons on this cold winter night.

On close examination, Fax would obviously be a Kiiote. But from a height, maybe we could pass for a kid and his dog. One of the choppers was sweeping toward us, the noise deafening. I shouted to Fax, “Pretend you’re a dog!” I spun around, rolling onto my back. Fax huddled under my head as the chopper swept toward us. It stopped, the glaring spotlights washing out everything around us. I raised my hands, acting as if I was a terrified country boy – it wasn’t much of an act. The only part I was acting was ‘country’. I screamed, “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I didn’t do nothin’! We was only out huntin’ ‘coon! I didn’t see nothin’! Why’d you blow up that truck?”

I doubted they heard a word I screamed, but my act must have convinced them I wasn’t who they were looking for – that and the fact that from their height and mostly under me, Fax looked like a dog. And we were alone on a dark, cold night, near a farmhouse. Either that or I didn’t look like I could threaten a kitten, let alone a world government. The chopper moved away, blowing debris, snow, and grit over us. We lay that way as the second chopper passed over us, sweeping us with its lights. They did it two more times until they were finally well beyond our place in the snow. I said, “I think we can get up now.” The back of my head was fine as Fax had consciously laid down his spines before the chopper reached us. Otherwise, I’d be bleeding from multiple head wounds.

He growled, shook himself, then lifted the spines again, saying, “Let’s never do that again.”

“Agreed. Next time we lay belly-to-belly,” I said, brushing myself off. Suddenly realizing what I said, I stammered, “Not…you know…like…” Belly-to-belly was how Kiiote exchanged DNA. Males and females had bare belly patches about two hands wide and long, that when breeders were ready, became slick with mucus. The female extruded tiny hooks which stimulated the male to release sperm into his mucus layer. A bit of rubbing followed – from what I’d seen, sometimes lots of rubbing followed – and the hooks pulled the male closer as well as opened six slits on the female’s belly pad. There was an egg in each slit, which the male sperm fertilized. If the mating was arranged, they’d separate and act all very business-like. But if they liked each other...I cleared my throat and whispered, “Not like that!”

Fax growled low in his throat and said, “What, you think I’m ugly?”

The conversation stopped dead as the choppers swung over what looked like an abandoned farm, then passed on. “That’s gotta be my uncle’s farm,” I said, ignoring my blushing face and other…bodily…reactions. “But where is everyone?”

December 29, 2015

Ideas On Tuesday 236 – Zombie Curse…


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: immortality



While the Wikipedia entry explaining the Immortal DNA strand isn’t exactly a current event, the second entry IS and though it is a medical paper and written in medical language, it happens to be significant to the life of our family.

To make this understandable to lay people, I’d like to use those worn-out tropes of horror: vampires.

Let’s just say that the vampire DNA strand is immortal, but because so many vampires were killed in the 19th and early 20th century by various vampire slayers such as Koshiko Kamiyama, John Averill, Twelve String Digby (http://www.fvza.org/tophunters.html), Van Helsing and Buffy, it has become widely spread and doesn’t produce vampires any more.

It’s lengendarily reported that the vampire slayings were in response to an outbreak of vampires in the 17th and 18th Centuries (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-real-vampire-slayers-397874.html).

It is the 21st Century now and people travel everywhere all the time. A chance college meeting leads to romance for a couple with old, Eastern European roots – Curtis Vlad Allen is the result and he discovers his vampiric leanings not long after his mom is transferred to the 3M headquarters in Minneapolis. He attends a prestigious private high school…but the story begins when his dad has to tell him about the birds, the bees and the bloodlust…

"Listen, Vlad, you’re thirteen now, there are things you need to know about yourself…”

Vlad snorted, “Dad, I know all about sex, so you don’t…”

“I know you know all about sex! This has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with a family…problem.”
Vlad frowned and said, “What are you talking about?”

His dad cleared his throat. “Listen, son, this is hard for me to talk about, but it has to do with when you get passionate with a girl…”

Vlad laughed. “Dad, you know I’m gay, right?”

His dad sighed, “A father can hope, can’t he? It doesn’t matter the orientation. It’s just that when you get passionate, you can…nibble on people.”

Vlad had no idea why it happened, but he was abruptly so embarrassed, his pale skin flushed red. His throat got tight, and he suddenly found that his hands, sitting in his lap, were worthy of intense study. He managed to croak, “Dad…”

“Listen, son, I can’t sugar coat this, so I’m just gonna say it out loud…”

“Don’t, Dad!”

“You’re a vampire, son, and when you ‘nibble’ on people, you’re passing the virus to them.”

Of all the conversations he’d imagined having with Dad, this was one he’d never thought to rehearse. He opened his mouth then closed it. Finally he managed, “You mean anyone that…has ever had a bite…is gonna become a vampire?”

Names: Romania

December 27, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Why Would Anyone REALLY Make A Clone Army?


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #3111 . The link is provided below…

Creative Bio-engineering: We are just at the beginning of being able to realize SF dreams (and nightmares) of bio-engineering. This panel will discuss where we are today, what is in store in the near future, and what we might want to worry about. Ramez Naam (m), Nancy Kress, Vonda N. McIntyre, William Alvis Thomasson, Peter Charron

I recognize two names here -- Nancy Kress, who invented Humans who didn't need to sleep, and Vonda N. McIntyre who invented snakes that inject meds, so they know what they're talking about. The others, I've never read --but will now be on my "to read" list!

My wife takes bio-engineered insulin: “The human genetic coding for proinsulin is inserted into Escherichia coli cells, which are then grown by fermentation to produce proinsulin. The connecting peptide is cleaved enzymatically from proinsulin to produce human insulin. Studies indicate that there are no important differences between pork insulin and human insulin in terms of therapeutic efficacy and disposition after intravenous administration. Recombinant human insulin has a faster onset of action and lower immunogenicity than pork or beef insulin. Diabetic patients may have an improvement in glucose concentrations when their therapy is switched from animal-source insulin to human insulin.”

There are literally hundreds of bioengineered products in modern society – soybeans, corn, canola oil, beet sugar, alfalfa, potatoes, rice, pesticides, veterinary products, as well as animals like chickens, pigs, cattle, Glofish, and numerous others. Follow the link below and you can do your own search.

As I wasn’t there, I can only wonder what they talked about. Bioengineering is both widespread and except for very few objections from some organizations and individuals, it goes unremarked and we accept it without question when it has to do with medical treatments.

So what WERE they talking about?

Can’t be talking about gengineered diseases – natural mutation produces enough frightening diseases to keep us in horror novels until the end of Earth’s time.

Couldn’t have been talking about GMOs because the majority of us eat genetically modified organisms (and ignore the fact that chickens came from Asian red jungle fowl; corn came from a Mexican plant that grew one, single, 1 inch long cob (25 millimeters); and cows came from the now-extinct auroch – and no one complains about them…oh, that’s right, they were NATURALLY genetically modified. It’s called breeding. It’s what Humans do. It’s what we depend on.

Maybe they’re talking about “making people” – and aside from the fact that we only cloned healthy mice that lived normal lifespans in 2013 – Human cloning is a long, long way away. At least intentional Human cloning. The record for natural Human cloning was five – beyond that, there seem to be some barriers. The most obvious one is the size of the uterus. What if we eliminated that and were able to pop every cloned kidlet into an artificial uterus? What would be the POINT? George Lucas has never satisfactorily explained the reason behind making a “clone army”. On the face of it…it doesn’t even sound sensible. Why would you want every single soldier to have the exact same biological background? All I’d have to do is capture one, discover a violent allergen, dose the whole battlefield with it, and take over the Empire.

What about manufacturing Humans for specific jobs? We already violently object to educational tracking (ie: kids who are good at shop, take shop classes; kids who are book smart, take college classes) – mention the subject to any school board meeting that has lots of parents at it and prepare to be tarred and feathered. A politician who suggested that people with blonde hair and blue eyes are most suited to farming would be summarily labeled a “Nazi”, then tarred and feathered. What makes ANY scientist, anywhere believe that cloning Humans for particular uses would be acceptable to the American Civil Liberties Union? It wouldn’t be – though it’s something I’m exploring in my science fiction (one story is here: http://www.perihelionsf.com/1509/fiction_2.htm). I plan on more stories in this universe exploring issues of bioengineering.

So, despite the fact that we already do it, it happens naturally, and there isn’t any foreseeable, logical REASON to do it, I suppose it was fun to talk about.

Anyone there who could relate some of the issues discussed?

Image: http://usercontent2.hubimg.com/5178933_f520.jpg

December 24, 2015

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 76: 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.

FardusAH, assistant to Mayor-for-Life of Burroughs Dome, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap, said, “We’re going to mix classes; mix orphans and natural-borns; rich and poor; management and service...”

Aster Theil, former general secretary and assistant for the City of Opportunity, now Consort of the very same Mayor-for-Life, laughed loud and long, shaking her head. “A paradigm shift I don’t know if this stodgy city of ours can possibly survive.”

“It will survive. But I don’t know if we will,” she said.

Aster paused, pursed her lips then replied, “Change is natural, Madame Assistant.”

“True, but change is movement, and movement always means there’s the potential for an accident.”

Passing through the office from the Mayor’s desk, a little Human’s eyes grew wide. FardusAH could see his face on the monitor she surreptitiously glanced at. His name was Shafter. He’d just delivered a pile of encrypted, “Physical Transfer Only” chips to the Mayor’s desk. FardusAH always nodded to him, trying for friendly. All he ever did was glower at him. She got the distinct impression, he thought her haughty and better than him.

He was Human and she’d heard from the Mayor that he lived on the Rim. That matter of geography made him a valuable source of information about what was happening there. He’d slowed his stride, listening until he couldn’t linger any longer without arousing their suspicions. FardusAH widened her eyes at Aster, tilting her head fractionally after him. The Mayor’s Consort closed her mouth slowly, ostensibly checking the front of her formal Dome suit – gray pants, a gray tunic worked with silver threads into a complex pattern mimicking the ripple marks found in parts of Melas Chasma. It was a sort of promise that someday, Mars might run again with surface water – if Humans could ever get their act together enough to begin true Geoforming.

The door slid closed behind him. When she was certain he wasn’t listening outside, FardusAH said, “That man is a fursnake with the ears of a bat! Credits to beignets he’s headed one place.”

Aster sighed then said, “Most likely on his way to see how much this little bit of intel will buy him with Security Director vo’Maddux.”

“Not much, if I’m any judge. She’s more mad at his Honor than at you.”

“I can’t imagine that’s true! Vo’Maddux hates me.”

FardusAH shook her head, sitting back down and turning to the virtual computer screen floating over her desk. She placed her hand in the field and after making a series of complex finger movements leaned forward to study the screen. The computer’s focus on her retinas made a clear image impossible for anyone by her to see. A moment later, she said, “Vo’Maddux may hate you, but based on a my quick assessment of the Mayor’s three biggest backers, your ideas going to be a hit for the season.”

“You have direct links to Patwary, Tremblay, and Sūn (Bangladesh, Canadiens français, Chinese)?”

“Hardly, but I do have direct contact with all of the assistants of the Mayor’s major supporters. It’s part of my job to maintain his network.” She grinned sunnily.

Aster narrowed her gaze, saying, “If I was stupid, I’d think that was an entirely logical and innocent statement.”

Mock surprise. “Your Honor! You place a slur upon my character!” But the look she gave Aster was defiant and entirely unrepentant.

“So we can count on some support from important people?”

“Absolutely.” After a moment, she held up one finger, “However, your Honor, you can expect to face some strong opposition from other important people. The first of them is vo’Maddux. She is important and powerful in Burroughs. She knows many people and has made it her practice neve to owe anyone anything. But a great many people owe her. If you wanted to identify the real power in this Dome, you’d have to include her on your list.”

Aster nodded slowly, “I’d be inclined to place her as the number one power.” She paused, studying the wall behind FardusAH, then looking directly down at her. “But I should point out that there is one power that is so far above the others that we usually discount it.”

FardusAH made a face then said, “I mean no disrespect your Honor, but your god has a serious challenger in vo’Maddux.”

Aster nodded, “No doubt. But my God has been around a few more years than vo’Maddux has. My God has some serious connections as well.”

FardusAH leaned back in her chair, studying the Mayoral Consort for some time before finally saying, “Dependent on the outcome of your party, I may have some questions about your God.”

“If you do, I will be happy to answer them.” She bowed slightly. “I’ll see you later.”

As Aster strode from the office, FardusAH touched her mauve lips with a navy blue finger, nails done in complimentary yellow. She said softly, “You most certainly will, your Honor. You most certainly will.” She turned to her screen and got back to work.

December 22, 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 235


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.



Filip Dybdahl sighed then said, “All of the magic has gone out of the world.” He was working a potion to lay down gold circuitry on an enchanted matrix for a board to be packed off into space. The telescope the University was working on for the United Nations would help astrologers make more accurate horoscopes for each of the signatory countries. Non-signatories would just have to take their chances with fate.  

Shrugging, Maja Wiig said, “Our ancestors didn’t help keep the saints alive, you know. They could have been Catholic, but chose to be Protestants instead. Killing off all the saints, as it were.”

Filip grunted. “If there was one bit of magic I could call back,” he began.

“Don’t!” Maja exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Don’t you know anything about the intersection of the real and the fantastic?”

He straightened up, thumbs going into the small of his back, shaking his head. “I had the same fundamental courses you did before I sat for my Masters in Alchemy. What are you talking about?”

“You remember when you took that elective class in Classical Egyptian Incantations?”

“Duh. Professor McGuillicudy said if I wanted to get my bachelor’s I had to take her class.”

“Yeah? Well I took a physics class instead.”

His eyes widened. “You took Planar Mathematic Spells for Physicists?”

She shrugged again. “Calculus was always fun for me. Conjuring gravity anomalies was a great way to meet boys with brains.”

“So you learned about this what, ‘intersection of the real and the fantastic’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

She scowled at him and said, “You sound pretty hostile. I don’t know if I want to tell you about it. Especially if you’re standing there ready to bite my head off. Whatever happened to your Scandinavian coolness?”

“It heated up when we got here. The Massachusetts Institute of Thaumaturgy isn’t exactly a place where I can lay back on my frozen butt and bask in the glories of my previous accomplishments! I’ve had to fight against these Gud forbannet Amerikanere for everything I’ve gotten.” He swung a flat-handed chop at her. “You have, too!”

She surrendered with both hands up and a laugh, “You’re the one who wanted to bring back the magic of Christmas!”

He opened his mouth to continue his attack, then closed it. He closed his eyes, then put dug one thumb into each temple, adding, “I’m tired. Not myself.” He looked up at her and for a moment, his gaze was bleak. “And I miss home. It’s Christmas…”

Names: ♀ Norway; Norway
Image: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lwoilyycMO1qcobyd.jpg (Can you say 19th Century jawas, anyone?)

December 20, 2015

WRITING ADVICE (Part1) -- What Happened When I Read Ursula K. LeGuin’s Newly Revised Book, STEERING THE CRAFT: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (September 2015) Guy Stewart #28


In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

Addendum: Compared to Ursula K. LeGuin, most speculative writer’s work fall short of literary merit. But LeGuin won The annual 2004 Edwards Award, the panel noting that: “LeGuin ‘has inspired four generations of young adults to read beautifully constructed language, visit fantasy worlds that inform them about their own lives, and think about their ideas that are neither easy nor inconsequential’” (Wikipedia)


I started reading this book (the 2015 edition), which was originally published in 1998, a few days ago. I have found it slow going – not because it’s so badly written, but because every sentence invites me to pause and reflect.

Before her, only two other writers – and I mean no offense here – have inspired me to consider their non-fiction works with the same kind of attention. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis have given me such pause that it seemed to take forever to read THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP and MERE CHRISTIANITY because I was marking, underlining, or commenting on two or three things on every page.

I mean no offense because I am well-aware of LeGuin’s opinion of religion, and of Christianity in particular, but my writing is almost as important to me as my faith – and LeGuin has forced me to think about my writing in a way I have never done before.

And so, to work: “The chief duty of the narrative sentence is to lead to the next sentence – to keep the story going.” (p 2)

For me, this is startling in its simplicity and one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted. I have had about ten percent of my work published. The other ninety percent languishes in my “dead files”. There are stories there that I loved that no one else wants. My question has been repeatedly “Why?”

I haven’t done a deep scan of my “failed works”, but when I’ve briefly looked at things that have been repeatedly rejected, I’m beginning to see a pattern. The stories are often just linked events – the story doesn’t keep going because IT’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

A quote that LeGuin has “pinned up over my desk for a long time” is what Socrates said: “The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.” (p 14) I only have to read posts on Face Book to guess the truth in this. Of course, there’s an implied corollary here, that if I use language well, then I might induce good in the soul – and perhaps the souls of others. We already know that words well-written can calm the soul. Look at writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Theresa.

“You are the Pied Piper, your sentences are the tune you play, and your readers are the children of Hamelin (or the rats if you prefer).” (p 22) I have always been selfish in my writing, doing what “I want”; and while I can still do that, LeGuin points to a higher purpose. She doesn’t only point to it here where she is lecturing, however. Her work speaks loudly to many issues. Her craft is intentional and when she speaks people listen. As well, she does NOT lower the “intention bar” when she writes for children. CATWINGS is as profound as THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, though both touch on the same issue – racism – they are aimed at entirely different audiences and speak to them using language they can understand.

Last of all, “Nothing in your story happens ‘somehow’. It happens because you wrote it. Take responsibility!” (p 44) Looking at a story I wrote recently and sent out recently and was rejected a dozen times has this horrendous problem at its very core: “stuff” happens to my main character. He had no clear goal at the beginning except “go to the Moon for training”. Things happened to him and then at the end something MAJOR happened to him that is the crux of the novel he’s in. In the book I wrote, he’s much more intentional! I love the incident I wrote about – now I have to take responsibility and create a story in which I stop using the excuse that “somehow something happened” to him!

I’m half way through the book now, so I’ll share next time what else I learned.

Take away:


1) Keep the story going somewhere.

2) Use language well.

3) Point to a higher purpose.

4) Take responsibility!

 
Thoughts?

December 15, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 234


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.



Puteri Etini shook sand from his hands and stood up, brushing it from his jeans. “What are we supposed to do with it once we get it?”

Marama Daeng looked up from the excavation and said, “This sword was supposed to be able to split the hair of a vicuna into identical halves with ease.”

“And The Massachusetts Institute of Technology needs it…why?” She shrugged and continued her work of brushing debris from the object they were unearthing. “You think it has anything to do with the superstring energy project in Moscow?” She snorted then sneezed, doubling over the hole, intent.

She straightened up and looking into the distance, she said, “They’ve tried magnets – super-cooled and room-temperature, dipole and monopoles; they’ve tried coherent EM radiation at every frequency imaginable from radio to gamma; electrical fields of every strength. They have captured a string, balanced between Earth and the Sun. Everyone is in Vysokaya Lomonosov Moscow State University – and everyone’s enemies have gathered around to see what they do.”

“Who’s the idiot who thinks a depression in the space-time continuum can be touched by something physical?”

“Jakob Barnett.”

“The man who can’t speak? He’s...he’s…” Pateri said.

“…the intellectual equivalent of Hawking, Kadanof, Ellis, Dyson, Leung, Becker, and Silk all-rolled-into-one are the name’s you’re thinking of.”

“How...”

“If I knew that, then I wouldn’t be digging  in the sand in a remote corner not far from the Syria- Iraq border, south of the Euphrates River. I can only believe that he can do what he says. How about you?”

He sniffed, grinned, and drew the .45 from his shoulder holster…

Names: ♀Malaysia ; ♂ Tahiti                       

December 13, 2015

Slice of PIE: Writing From An Ethnic Point Of View NOT My Own…


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #3105 (page 72). The link is provided below…?

AfroFuturism in Comics & Science Fiction

“Afro-futurism is a new field in academia and science fiction themed media…the philosophical and artistic expression of alternative realities relating to people of African descent. We will explore what it means to be identified as “alien” or “other” as seen through the black cultural lens of various comic art/sequential art speculative milieus…As we analyze the thematic development and expression of Afrofuturist

phenomena in comics, the discussion will descend into the realm of African mythology…We will discuss the notion of having the world’s most technologically advanced society—the Kingdom of Wakanda—on the continent of Africa. The presentation will remix historical perceptions and re-imagine racial identity. Ajani Brown…”

I am NOT a comic book geek, though my daughter and future son-in-law are, so I won’t be discussing this from a comic book POV. The session description sparked in me a recollection of books I’ve read in this vein, and that’s what I’d like to talk about here – and my “question to the Universe”: Can I write stories that have black characters in them?

First to look at Afrofuturist books and stories with which I am familiar.

Octavia Butler’s novel (pictured above in the edition in which I read it), SURVIVOR, was my first of hers and though it wasn’t explicitly an African-based future AND was repudiated by her (“Butler repudiated the novel and refused to allow it to be reprinted: ‘When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie…People ask me why I don’t like Survivor…it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.’”), it was an introduction to her work. This led eventually to Samuel R. Delany’s DHALGREN and others in my “new wave” phase. Eventually I came back to Butler’s XENOGENESIS trilogy passing through Nancy Farmer’s THE EAR, THE EYE, AND THE ARM and on to Steven Barne's sadly incomplete INSH’ALLAH series, the rest of Butler’s work, and finally into Nalo Hopkinson (BROWN GIRL IN THE RING; I wrote her after I read that, asking what she thought about me using black characters…she never answered) and finally Nnedi Okorafor (I voted her first book, THE SHADOW SPEAKER, on to the Norton Award ballot…it didn’t win…) and Alayna Dawn Johnson (THE SUMMER PRINCE, which I voted on to the ballot and ALSO didn’t win…).

My own work reflects my belief that SF needs more people of color: “Mystery on Space Station COURAGE” and “The Penguin Whisperer” feature the same young lady, Candace Mooney, as well as Dejario Reynas. A conversation with a Latina student of mine about fiction revealed that she has NEVER seen herself reflected in YA mysteries she’s read. HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: Emerald of Earth’s main character is a Latina named Emerald Marcillon. The main character of a novel I have in submission now is Noah Bemisemagak, whose ancestry is Ojibwe. The next novel I have coming out (contemporary YA) has a biracial boy’s POV…

Am I right or wrong to be writing from other ethnic backgrounds? I do the research; I talk regularly to people from whichever background I write; oftentimes I ask them to read and comment on my work in progress…Or should I cut it out and stick to what I know – the life of a big, fat, old, white guy?

December 10, 2015

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #80: July, 30 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 clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page. 

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill looked at each other, then Tommy turned to  and blurted, “The Socialists are on their way to kill my mom and steal a portrait!”

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) didn’t react at all, upshifting once more and then goosing the engine until they were rumbling along fairly smoothly. She glanced at them then said, “Remember what I said when I dropped you off in Thunder Bay?” They looked at each other. Ed grunted, then said, “‘It’s been a fine trip and the two of you’se have made an otherwise boring drive one of uncommon adventure.’”

“I remember that,” said Tommy.

“Yeah, well, it seems that we’ve got a little more ‘uncommon adventure’ still ahead of us.”

“What do you mean?”
“You don’t think I’m gonna just leave you boys to face the Socialists alone, do ya?”

Tommy and Freddie turned to look at each other. Tommy said, “You’re gonna help us?”

She glanced at them, winked, and said, “O’ course. You don’t think I spent all that time in the service just to see the world and get rich, do ya?”

“But…but…you’re a lady!” Freddie exclaimed.

Ed burst out laughing, roaring for several moments while the truck flew down the highway. The sun set, a long, drawn-out, spectacularly orange affair. She didn’t say anything else until they reached Isle. By then, the sun had kissed the horizon and then slid behind it fast, blazing like a forest fire until it vanished. As they angled west, they passed a resort, Freddie point, slid down in his seat until his knees touched the dashboard and his words came out squashed, “That’s where we met the witch. And the Socialists are there again!”

Ed laughed, then said, “Perfect. Means we turned their head start into our head start.” She sniffed, “Hope they sleep in late tomorrow morning.”

Freddie was staring into his lap, scowling. Finally he said, “You’re a lady!” He looked up at her.

Ed flashed him a smile. “I’ll also be a police officer in not too many months.”

“A cop!” Freddie cried.

Tommy laughed. Ed scowled at him in the now dark cab. Tommy covered his mouth with both hands, then said, “That’s not why I’m laughing!”

“Then you’ll be kind enough to tell me exactly why you laughed.”

Tommy uncovered his mouth, looked at Freddie, widening his eyes. Freddie suddenly shook his head wildly. Tommy blurted, “If I don’t say why I laughed, she’ll stop and throw both of us out!”

Freddie’s eyes almost bulged out of his head. “Would you?”

Ed scratched her chin, her hand ghostly green and red in the instrument panel lights.

Freddie exclaimed, “I don’t want you to be a cop ‘cause I want to...I want to...I want to...”

“He wants you to marry him!”

There was a long silence broken only by the hum of the tires on the asphalt. A sign drifted past, announcing that Onamia was only five miles away. Then she cleared her throat, hawked, rolled down the window, spit, rolled it back up and finally said, “Well young man, I’m mighty flattered and I thank you, but I’m saving myself for someone special.”

Freddie’s surly reply was, “Arnie Voltz. I knew it.”

Ed reached across Tommy and patted his knee, “If it weren’t for Arnie, I’d take you up on your offer, son.” She sighed, “But you know how truck drivers and cops are.”

“I don’t know!” Freddie exclaimed.

“Rock solid, son. Rock solid through and through.”

Freddie sighed, closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. As they drove on into the night, his fake sleep turned real; and Tommy wasn’t far behind. Ed smiled at the boys fondly and whispered, “But I sure hope I have some boys like you two someday.”

December 8, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 233


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: amusement park goes berserk

On a sweltering, record-heat summer day with nothing else to do, fourteen-year-old Wakou Itou and his friends scoot under the fence of the FUN-ON-WHEELS amusement park and have themselves a fun day – mostly by following cute girls, scaring animals and mocking park workers.

Especially one of the clowns at the entrance of the (very) unbusy “Kiddie Land”.

Security chases them away a few times; and once the clown himself gets mad and chases after them, a well-thrown rock from him catches Wakou in the ear. Furious he turns to beat up the clown – and security walks around the corner.

Him and his friends leave the “Kiddie Land” to go to the closed roller coaster, Plunge Of Death. It’s been closed for a month while police and other authorities investigated the death of an Iraq War veteran who plunged from the heights in an as-yet unexplained accident.

Wakou and friends spend half an hour looking for the exact place he hit the ground by looking for blood stains. The sun goes down and the closing of the park is imminent.

“Let’s go kick that stupid clown’s butt,” Wakou exclaims and leads the pack back to “Kiddie Land”. Overhead, there’s a flash of heat lightning and Wakou feels a strange surge of something at the back of his neck. Ahead, the lights of “Kiddie Land” flicker, blaze then fade. Under the arch of lights, the clown is staring at them. His red wig seems to glow…

Names: ♂ Japan

December 6, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Using The Solar System As A Human Expansion Resource


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #3084. The link is provided below...

2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planets     In 2015, spacecraft visited the dwarf Planets Ceres and Pluto for the first time. I will discuss what a “dwarf planet is,” and then take a look at Ceres and Pluto, and how they may help the settlement of the Solar System. Both bodies look to be reservoirs of large amounts of relatively accessible ice and, in Pluto’s case, other elements, such as nitrogen, needed to sustain colonies in space.

G. David Nordley.

I’ve been reading G. David Nordley’s science fiction for over twenty years and have enjoyed every minute of it. Often the thing I enjoy most is the “reality” of his fiction. From his own website: “As a writer, his main interest is the future of human exploration and settlement of space, and his stories typically focus on the dramatic aspects of individual lives within the broad sweep of a plausible human future. Trying to keep up with just what is plausible is a challenge, but he recycles his research for occasional nonfiction articles. He continues to write a few pieces of short fiction each year, but is currently concentrating on novels, with three complete books looking for publishers and two more in serious production efforts.”

While I’m probably wrong, I don’t RECALL any of this stories including Faster Than Light spaceships, interstellar empires, or aliens, though his recent collection AMONG THE STARS has eight that take place beyond Earth – though without aliens in the classic sense.

Most of the time, he wrote about people interacting with realistic technology in the near future close to home. He’s an astrophysicist by training and an astronautical engineer by military experience and advanced education, so his grounding in reality is solid. While I like aliens, I also enjoy thinking about the real future my grandchildren might experience among the planets and stars.

Tangent to this discussion, I’ve begun to read the MARS books of Kim Stanley Robinson, and I’m almost done with RED MARS. In it, there’s much discussion of smashing asteroids and comets into the surface to help create an atmosphere; and there’s an important scene where the first ice asteroid skims the air envelope of Mars and vaporizes, adding water and elemental oxygen and hydrogen to an atmosphere that is primarily carbon dioxide.

Nordley’s seminar on the use of Pluto and Ceres – so-called dwarf planets – to create Solar colonies must have been fascinating, but after reading RED MARS, I wondered if any of the moral issues raised in Robinson’s book made it into the discussion. Much of RED MARS is about technological advances playing out on the surface of the red planet; everything from humidifiers, “pollution gas generators”, moholes, genetically engineered algae, and super trees, all the way to the modification of the Human genome to extend life. The book is thick with technological ideas.

But I think that the reason it was so popular was that it delved into the moral and religious issues of Human “manifest destiny”. Certain characters repeatedly question the rightness of terraforming Mars to Human specifications. Some want Mars to remain pristine and untouched; others want the technology to be restrained; others want to slam asteroids into the surface and change everything right away.

I have no idea if the argument ever arose here. Given G. David Nordley’s body of work, if the issue was raised, it wasn’t a major plot point; if it wasn’t, maybe it’s something we, as a writing and reading community need to “insist” on at gatherings like this. Maybe it’s something we as writers need to make sure we include, because Human manifest destiny is an idea I’m not sure Humans, as a species, have managed to shake. Take the poisonous air of New Delhi (http://qz.com/281251/here-is-why-india-has-no-clue-how-bad-its-air-pollution-problem-is/) and invisible sunrises in Beijing (http://world.time.com/2014/01/17/sunrise-in-smoggy-beijing/) as two pieces of evidence backing up my statement.

I hope we talk about it a lot.


December 5, 2015

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 36


On Earth, there are three Triads intending 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 Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is for the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads to build a physical wall. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce the Membrane to stop the wave.

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. 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.

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”

“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”

 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”

 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

There was another long silence and I said, “What are you – and how well did you know my uncle?” I shouted into the silence.

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret), whom I’d started calling Retired since this whole fleeing refugee thing started a few days ago, didn’t say anything. Finally, “I was a farm hand for your uncle when I was fourteen.”

“When?”

He grunted like I’d punched him. Then he said, “Seventy years ago.”

“He was alive – I mean, really alive – then, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know there were aliens on his farm?”

“Not at first. Then one day when I was feeding the llamas,” from behind them, the Herd gave an angry snort all together. I was glad I wasn’t back there. Comparison to the Earth animals was a grave insult whose only response was severe trampling. Or an attempt to do so. Retired raised him voice, shouting them down, “I didn’t know any better! In fact, as far as we knew in the 1970s, we were alone in the universe!” The stamping in the back calmed down and he continued, “When I was feeding what I thought were llamas, I petted one. In the distance, I saw what I thought was a wolf come up over a rise. Then it stood up and pointed a stick at us. The Yown’Hoo I was petting snarled, reared and unsheathed its tentacles. The rest of the Herd did the same.

“The Kiiote dropped back to all fours and ran away. By then, your uncle, who was still a Human then, had run out. He leveled something that looked like a ray gun at the place where the Kiiote had been and fire. A missile streaked out and hit, but instead of exploding, a bubble of sound twanged. I covered my ears and fell over. I must have passed out, because when I came to, I was in your uncle’s house. Your aunt...”

“I didn’t know I had an aunt!” I exclaimed.

“You did.” He paused for a long time, then added, “My own mother had died of pneumonia not long after I was born, so your aunt was my favorite person after your uncle.” He fell into a silence as we bumped along a bare stretch of dirt and gravel. We passed something that had been technological once. Retired said abruptly, “Ethanol plant.”

Qap said, “That is not plant. Nor a tree. Nor anything else I recognize.”

Retired laughed, a strange sound coming from him. He said, “Humans had no luck developing fusion power and depended on fossil fuels to generate electricity. When the oil supply came to an end...”

He never got to finish his sentence because a flash of light followed by a thunderous roar made the truck swerve wildly. The autopilot took over and suddenly, Retired had a gun in his hands. The truck stopped and ahead of us, the ground was glowing green. He said, “I think our enemies may have found us.”