November 29, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 282

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: Terracotta Army

This got me thinking – if there are some 8000 pieces (and about as many are still buried)…what if the mother of a teenager was working as part of an international team and uncovered something unusual (not that a standing army of 16,000 horses, soldiers, acrobats and various and sundry other “people” isn’t unusual enough!) What if she discovered a unique figure, say a woman that has been knocked down and is crying out in terror, with her arm upraised as a man draws back a spear and is obviously about to run her through…is there a curse on this piece that comes to haunt the teen and their mom? Or is it case for a forensic anthropologist (or would it be, more appropriately a forensic terracottaist) and was a MURDER involved which someone commemorated? Who did the commemorating, who was the perpetrator – and what if it had a connection to the present?

Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg

November 27, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Christmas Trees, Aliens, and New Adventures


This essay isn’t based on anything that happened at any WorldCon…it came from life events, something I read, or even just a thought I had. This time, it’s something that happened and that might be either irritating or relate to speculative fiction, writing, or Christianity…


After 25 years going to cut our Christmas tree at Anderson Tree Farm, my wife and I arrived this morning with our daughter, her fiancé, my foster daughter, and her girlfriend – to discovered that the Farm had closed.

That got me to thinking, mostly to distract myself, about traditions.

Common belief is that there are only a few Christians left on Earth, and that they spend most of their time opposing Real Science® which means whatever The Scientific Community® (ie: people that all agree with each other and try to discredit people who disagree with them for any reason) (BTW – this is the same group that opposed continental drift, round Earth, heliocentrism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!), natural selection (aka Darwinism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!)), Pasteurization, bacterial ulcers, the theory of the human condition, genetic inheritance (discovered by a Catholic monk (slightly ironic, eh?), Avogadro’s Law, and hand-washing as a deterrent to disease.)

This is a prelude to my belief that not only will Christians go into space and maintain their beliefs, but that they will prosper, and others will continue to become converts – not because of the inherent “wonderfulness” of Christians, but because God will continue to work on the hearts of His people – no matter how many chambers they have or precisely where that heart is found. And Christians will carry their traditions to the stars as well -- morphing them as the enviroment and climate dictate.

So, a zillion years ago (2001), I wrote a story called “Christmas Tree” and had my very first online publication. The story involved an ensign on a starship crewed and captained by aliens. For those of you interested, the ensign lives in a universe I’ve created in which Humans are a very minor group of star-faring intelligences in the Unity of Sentients. What they knew in this story is that an alien civilization (federation, empire, hegemony, trust economy, whatever) created a pathway that runs not just from one side of our galaxy to the other, but from one end of the UNSEEN universe: “Based on what we currently think about inflation, this means that the Universe is at least “10^(1030) times the size of our observable Universe!”) to another unseen end.

The Christmas Tree of the title is a “map” of the exploration routes of the long-gone intelligence that, as near as anyone can tell based on stars and routes that the Unity has charted, has a base outside of the observable universe and a tip that would also be outside of the observable universe. Where does the “Christmas tree” start? Where does it end? How does it work?

Currently Humans and the other fifty sentients of the Unity, occupy and use a tiny portion of the middle of a needle of a fascicle on a twig on a branch on the trunk closer to the “tip” than the “base” of the Christmas Tree. The universe is incomprehensibly vast – yet at one time, some intelligence grasped it.

At any rate, my little ensign is disciplined for having ashes on his forehead during Lent. He then meets a monstrously huge squid-ish creature who navigates the ship from deep in its bowels and keeps the entire map in a compressed, Christmas tree format, on a screen at all times. Turns out the squid-ish creature is a Christian, too. The story is actually a vignette, but it was published and it’s been awaiting a revival.

The reason it appears here is because not only does it involve a Christmas tree (of sorts), shared belief, it's also about the importance of tradition.

It also involves my epiphany that even when a tradition comes to an end, it has roots that go into the past that cannot be lost. It also suggests that when one branch ends, you backtrack and find a new branch and move forward. Even so, backtracking implies that we might be able to boldly go where we haven’t gone before – and that where the stump is from the excising of an old tradition, a new branch might very well grow to start another tradition.

I'll keep you posted on the life story, the fictional story, and the Story of the Universe (which can be taken two ways, so I'll let you do the taking and leave it at that.)


Image: Personal Files

November 24, 2016

Give Thanks, today and every day.

November 22, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 281

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: Abandoned Malls

Kehlanna McGee and Trayvon Dehvahn crouched in an overgrown bit of woods that had sprung up around a drainage ditch outside the four-meter-tall cyclone fence, staring at the abandoned mall beyond. She said, “Wha’d’you think they’re hiding?”

Trayvon laughed softly and said, “A shameful past of excess spending at cheesy, overpriced, trendy shops that sold mostly lingerie and salt and pepper shakers?”

Kehlanna bumped him with her shoulder, “Seriously.” She gestured. A pair of city black and white police cars sat in the lot along with another pair of silver cars emblazoned with a security logo.

“I am being serious,” he said, bumping her back.

She rolled her eyes and said, “Salt-and-pepper shakers are so 1950s...”

“Thereby retro and incredibly popular now.”

“Ah!” she exclaimed, lifting a finger, “Now I know you’re wrong.” She consulted her palmtablet and after a few finger swipes, said, “ ‘Arbor Mills Mall, was the destination of a generation of shoppers starting the year it opened in 2001 and was decommissioned,” she paused and rolled her eyes, muttering, “...makes it sound like it was an important aircraft carrier or something...in 2024...” she paused then said, “That’s only half a generation.”

“Be that as it may, are we going in or are we just going to stand here talking about generations and malls?”

“In,” she said suddenly. “But we’re going to have to go back to the trailer and get a few things.” She paused, “And wait until it’s dark.”

Trayvon grinned, nodded and headed for where they’d parked trailer two kilometers away.

***

Four hours later, dressed in knee-high rubber boots and wearing black, they made their way silently through the culvert. No one had taken time to fence it, so they easily slipped under the meager security. Trayvon tapped his earpiece and subvocalized, “What are we expecting to find in here?”

“Treasure.”

He couldn’t help but snort, and Kehlanna hissed at him, sub-vocalizing, “Quiet or they’ll hear us.”

“I’m not the one hissing like a punctured whipped cream can.”

They moved as far as they could in the ravine, then climbed at a likely spot. His night goggles confirmed they were only six meters short of their goal. They scanned for the police and security cars, saw neither, so Trayvon stood up and aimed a very-illegal device at the surface between them and the abandoned mall. After a moment, he subbed, “No active pressure security spots and no evidence of landmines.”

“Landmines?” Khehlanna subbed.

“You said there’s treasure. People protect treasure with landmines and lasers and other high tech gadgets. I was checking for everything.”

She nodded in the darkness a moment later, then subbed, “Let’s go. The map I found has a maintenance door into the rear of one of the anchor stores straight ahead.” She paused, then went up the embankment and scurried across the broken asphalt. He followed three minutes later. By then, she’d cut through the locking mechanism of the door with an infrared laser. Trayvon sprayed the old hinges with a silent stream of lubricant and then door swung open a moment later as Kehlanna pulled it.

They entered the darkness and the goggles switched to a sonar image – the power had been cut to the building a decade earlier when it closed  in order to prevent fires. They avoided collapsed ceiling tiles and piles of mouldering cardboard boxes. Trayvon subbed, “If this is the ‘treasure’ we can expect to find, we might as well leave right now.”

“Nah. There has to be something in here that those people are protecting.”

“Hmmm.”

They exited the back room of the store and passed through piles of stacked shelving, display cases, light fixtures, and garbage until they reached the mall proper. In front of him, Kehlanna stopped abruptly and cursed out loud rather than subbing.

Trayvon subbed, “Shut up! I can’t tell if there are audio security pickups in here...” He stopped as he pulled up alongside her. Outside the door with its corroding security gate, a group of three people, linked together by rope tie around their necks, passed by. The figure at the front of their line, holding the rope and wearing an army-style helmet that was twice as large as Trayvon had ever seen before, was a giant creature that looked for all the world, like yeti…

Names: ♀ American, Irish ; American, Greek
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

November 20, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #7 “Last Contact” (Submitted 4 Times Since 2011, Revised once)

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, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line: A living road which has partially eaten a murder victim, a bunch of suspects, and a detective who can read the roadway lead to the person who had “last contact”.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?) I was working in the world I’ve created in which the federal government has mandated the abandonment of the Wild and is deconstructing everything outside of the major cities. One to ten million people are moved into massive some 10,000 structures called Vertical Villages which are built from deconstructed towns and cities by DEconstruction And Recovery Robots – DEARRS or dearrs and a maglev system that constantly funnels the construction debris into the VV system. I’ve written a couple of published stories in this world, “Invoking Fire”, “Oath”, “Technopred”, and most recently, “Carpe Hnub” all take place in this future. It also includes a concept that is playing out in real life – the adaptation wildlife is making to technology – and how that might lead to intelligences other than Human in the long run. If you’re interested, the story is here:  http://aurorawolf.com/2013/05/guy-stewart/ . At the end is a link to a National Geographic special called “Raccoon Nation”. Fascinating stuff.

Opening Line: “Be Nho Elf let the car float to a stop and settle, then popped the door, swinging her short legs out into the muggy Minnesota heat.”

Onward: Not a bad opening, and I even start out with a corpse, which is, I am led to believe, what EVERY murder mystery is supposed to do.

However, from there it slides downhill slowly into technobabble: “Tykaetrice signaled “Corporal Stager Ma’am” who came over and sprayed the corpse with an old-fashioned pump sprayer. The solution would send the road organism – a bioengineered DNA patchwork of cellulose, heme, eel, ameba, peat moss, alfalfa, leukocytes, iron and a mix of Notothenioidei and Noctilucan cells, more commonly known by its acronym CHEAPALIN – around the body into hibernation. The entire network of asphalt roads in North America had been converted into sets of living organisms. Modified electric eel cells created current passing through hair-fine iron filaments in the road. A thick black pad of organic road organism attached to the underside of any car with a bioconversion, charged a set of batteries. A magnetic field generated as cars moved over the filaments got read by a microchip implanted in the car’s pad, matching the road’s magnetic field creating a maglev effect. A variety of chlorophyll and alfalfa genes allowed roots growing under the road organism to return nitrogen to the soil, pull up micronutrients and conduct photosynthesis. A semi-transparent, thick cellulose skin protected the whole thing while remaining flexible. A few Notothenioidei genes kept cellular fluids from freezing during Minnesota winters. Noctilucan genes made it glow at night when disturbed. Leukocytes digested roadkill, leaves, branches and old pizza boxes.”

There’s nothing gripping – not even for me and I was the one who wrote it. I KNOW I got lost in the science of the thing and just tacked on the murder part to show off my biology expertise…

What Was I Trying To Say? I guess I was trying to say that the future is going to be different in ways we can’t even conceive.

The Rest of the Story: Amazingly, the story DOES pick up and even reading something I wrote myself, I was puzzled enough that I couldn’t figure out who the real murderer was. The biggest problem is that I ended the story – and I STILL don’t know who killed. On page 22-24, which is really supposed to be the dénouement, it’s not even clear to ME who the bad guy was! I THINK the brother did it but sent the boyfriend to the teacher’s house to scare them all be threatening to pin the murder on him…

End Analysis: The story’s interesting (for me) because of the science. As it was written in 2011 and COULD have followed a storyline like the TV series BONES, I hadn’t graduated into really know what I was doing. I’d gotten plenty of things published, but I also hadn’t read many mysteries. I’ve done so now – mostly BONES and LONGMIRE and William Kent Krueger’s CORK O’CONNOR books, so I think I might be better at writing in the mystery genre.

Can This Story Be Saved? I think there’s a really good chance I could save it. I need to read more SHORT mystery fiction though. I’ve got the basics of long-fiction, I think (I DID writing a SF novel, OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS that I’m shopping around, that is basically an alien murder mystery…) Besides, I only tried four markets then gave up…I need to be more persistent with that!

Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9f/22/3b/9f223b1e57a36e14db3eb13715fbe3f9.jpg

November 17, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 91: Stepan of Burroughs

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. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH, a young blue Artificial Human, looked up at Stepan Izmaylova, squinting and finally said, “You really are that guy who got all the religions kicked off Mars, ain’t you?” Stepan thought to deny it at first. Quinn didn’t need to know that much about his past – only what kinds of plans he had for the future. Plans that were bigger than growing a few tomatoes and giving them away. He wanted to do something to change how artificial Humans were not perceived, not governed – but how they were defined. He wanted to see them defined as Human. All Human, without qualification. They would simply be Human; the way that Quinn blithely defended the hunt as something that simply was. Everyone on Mars would simply be Humans. “You gonna make us all Human, ain’t ya?”

“You already are Human, kid. I’m not going to make you anything.” He paused, pursing his lips and looking at the Dome as if he could see through the gritty haze of dust that always settled on its surface. He added, “I’m going to make THEM see YOU.”

“They didn’t have no problem seeing me when we were in the HOD. They was gonna kill me if they could.”

Stepan actually smirked for the first time in decades then said, “That’s not the kind of seeing I had in mind, son. Not the kind of seeing I was thinking of at all.”

“You’re talking weird, Mr…”

“Call me Stepan.”

“I can call you that, but you’re really Natan Wallach and except for that old guy in the HOD, everyone knows who you are. How come he don’t?” He paused, looking up at Stepan. He waited. As far as Stepan was concerned, he could stare until the Dome itself crumbled to dust. He stared back. After a few moments, Quinn snickered, then said, “They’ll hunt you like they hunt us. You were supposed to ‘a’ got rid of all religion and stuff, and here you are doin’ it.”

“Doing what?”

“Religion. You’re here on the Rim to help us all, isn’t that what the old religion was supposed to be about?”

Stepan sat back on his heels, staring at Quinn. Finally, he nodded, “‘From the mouth of babes’,” he muttered.

“What’s that mean?”

“In one of my holy books, it’s written, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have established strength, because of Your adversaries, that You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease.’”

“So you’re gonna help us get rid of the people in the HOD?”

Natan shook his head, “Nothing that exciting. Just that you’ve spoken a truth and you gave me a shot of strength. I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.”

Quinn patted him on the shoulder again. “You want me to keep going?”

Neither one was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim until a high-pitched whistle drowned out Stepan’s. A moment later, it was followed by the hooting of a Dome breach siren.

Stepan looked down at Quinn, set to run to the nearest Seal Shelter, but Quinn had started walked, poking the roof with a steel rod. Stepan said, “Aren’t you going to find shelter?”

Quinn looked over his shoulder, scowling, “Where’d we go?”

“There aren’t any Shelters on the Rim?”

He shrugged and turned back to probing the roof. “Shelters is for Humans. I ain’t Human.”

Stepan stared after the boy, find a literal growl rumbling in his throat. This whole thing – everything he himself had set in motion – sending waves of nausea from the pit of his stomach burning up his throat. He had to change it, no matter what. His God had sacrificed his only son for the lives of those who had then slaughtered him in order to bring men, women, and children whose lives had missed the mark; who had not won the prize; like the artificial creations of Humanity. They and the ones who had been branded as undesirable by the United Faith in Humanity; they were the ones he had condemned by his angry, selfish pursuit of free will.


November 15, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 280

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: alien parasites take over humans

Choden Wangyal is the first generation of Tibetans to be born in the US. Her parents rarely come out in public and as an only child (not from lack of trying, her mother regularly assures her), she is their connection with the wider – and wilder – culture in which they live.

Choden was reading when she was 2 and has taken the most advanced classes her school offers. A 10th grader now, she applied for and was allowed to begin college at the University of Minnesota through a program called Post-Secondary Education Opportunities (PSEO) and has been there for four months now.

With her college experience and her interaction with other American students, Choden realizes that she HAS to escape her family – soon!

One night, she chooses to stay late with a post-graduate student whom she KNOWS is flirting with her. They go to the Gartner Labs building where he has a night key. She never “actually told him” that she was fifteen, so when he makes amorous advances that terrify her, she cries out that she’s only fifteen.

Angry, he leaves her alone in the Labs, not realizing that his key card lanyard broke. Choden finds it and explores the labs alone. She stumbles in into the Virology Lab and without quite knowing what she’s doing, enters a restricted area that the boy, apparently, has access to. There she studies various experiments and when she picks up a shell vial culture to look at it, the plastic dissolves in her hand, the culture medium oozing over her fingers – and suddenly disappearing. She stares at her hand, suddenly doubting anything was there are all.

Choden hurries out of the Lab and to her aunt’s cousin’s sister’s dorm room where she spends the night. When she wakes up in the morning, she suddenly feels like she’s outside of herself. When she opens her eyes, she can see herself; wildly distorted. A moment later, one of her eyes pulls back into her head from the long stalk it was on and she can clearly see the other eye at the tip of a long, pale optic nerve sheathed in what appears to be chitin. That’s when she realizes that some sort of hideous, Kafkaesque metamorphosis has taken place. Or has it?

That’s almost acceptable until she begins to hear a voice speaking in her head. She can’t understand words, but the attitude is recognizable…
                                                                       

November 13, 2016

Slice of PIE: The Future of Forensics!

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), 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 #2198. The link is provided below…

Panel Experts discuss what is current in the methods and technology of analyzing scientific evidence, and suggest where it might go next.

Jason Sanford: Midwesterner and writer of Science Fiction Strange, he’s won lots of awards.
Alistair Kimble (M): Special Agent with the FBI and a writer…hmmmm…maybe qualified?
Jack Campbell Jr.: Writer of Dark Fiction (so says his website title…)
Diana Rowland: Writer of demons and zombies (and though I haven’t read one, it seems that they have a twist of sarcastic humor…that’s what the covers imply to me…)
Anna Yeatts: author of short fiction all over the place!

Let me just say right here that I love forensics.

I used forensics to assess students in my special education science classes at the end of the school year. I taught several special classes at my middle school using forensics to find out who killed the school principal. I have in my possession an FBI manual describing various ways people die and how they are classified in the report every agent has to write.

Let me also say that I NEVER thought to use my love to write a science fiction story involving forensics! Weird, huh?

So – what’s NOW in forensic research and where might it go in the future?

Certainly, gel electrophoresis is a contemporary tool in forensics that’s used to separate mixtures of DNA, RNA, or proteins according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. After treatment, the end result is banding in the gel.

How could that be “future-fied”? How about speeding up the process? How might that happen? Could you play around with amperage and voltage? Amps are a unit of charge, (the coulomb) that is the quantity of electricity carried in 1 second by a current of 1 ampere. Conversely, a current of one ampere is one coulomb of charge going past a given point per second; and voltage is electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential energy between two points per unit electric charge. Maybe with new materials we could push that up; maybe make it in the detective’s head?

How about a “gun” that fires a cartridge full of nanobots that spread out and begin to process evidence at a scene immediately? Of course, what if a criminal gets hold of the programming? What’s to keep the nanobots from destroying or altering evidence…and (IDEA!) what if a Human detective had to work with a Gwelch detective – and the Gwelch, being a multi-organism, communal creature whose individual members look like cockroaches; work like millimeter-bots, sampling a site by eating things on it and processing, then passing on findings to the greater organism? This would work for trace evidence analysis, evaluation of body fluids, and compound determination, such as drugs or other hazardous chemicals.

In something called fluorescence spectroscopy, forensic technicians can determine the amount of light emitted after absorption to give information on the components of the sample. Recent developments allow for fluorescent nanosensors that allow the measurement of oxygen in biological fluids such as blood, interstitial fluid, and cerebral spinal fluid. How this could be USED, I have no idea!

However, I CAN imagine something that appears an accident in the power unit of a ship, station, or colony and these futuristic detectives using an inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP/MS). “Under the best conditions, ICP/MS detects elements down to the parts-per-quadrillion level.”

I’d have loved to be at this session, but you’ll have to excuse me, I had a “tiny idea” written down somewhere that’s just exploded into my head as a workable idea for a story!


November 10, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 51

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. All three intelligences hover on the edge of extinction. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society might not only save all three – but become something not even they could predict. Something entirely new...

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)

“You were on their side, weren’t you?”

Retired spun around and if I hadn’t been so mad, I’ve have backed off. As it was, I didn’t flinch when he took a step toward me. He was only a little taller than me, but his shoulders were big. I probably looked like a branch compared to his tree trunk. He could have punched me or knocked me on my butt.

He didn’t. He growled and said, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Then explain it to me! How is being a traitor to Humanity a good thing?”

He cocked his arm, making a fist. I braced myself and kept my eyes open. If I was gonna die, I wanted to see how. Suddenly he laughed. It wasn’t a humor laugh. It was a grim, dark laugh. A gallows laugh. He lowered his arm and said, “You got bigger balls than I figured you for, kid.”

I know what that meant, but I wasn’t sure. Retired used old-fashioned slang all the time, but I think that was a compliment. So, I took it as one and said, “You haven’t explained anything to me yet, though.”

He snapped his head to the side, gesturing with his chin as he said, “Let’s sit down.”

I’d probably stretched my luck about as far as it would go – what with escaping a city about to go nuclear, a chase scene that would have made any movie an award-winner, and meeting someone whom I’d thought was Human and found out they were a robot – so I followed him when he went deeper into the Human part of the refuge.

It wasn’t exactly a fancy hotel, but there were chairs and couches built like they had been like, wooden crates at one time. He gestured, me and ‘Shayla sat. GURion stood to one side, arms crossed over his chest. He looked totally Human right then. I forgave myself for not noticing he was a robot. Retired said, “I worked for the Triad Corporation.”

‘Shay said suddenly, “Worked?”

He shrugged, “I’m freelance now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He looked right at me and said, “I don’t go off Earth anymore. I’m a Triad agent here, in Minnesota.”

“What do you do?”

“Rescue teenagers – of all three Nations. Human, Kiiote, and Yown’Hoo.”

“Why do you do that?” I asked. I’d never thought of Qap and Xurf as teenagers; I’d really never thought of Herd Mother Dao-hi as anything but old.

“Because I think Humans can do better when they’re teamed with others.”

I snorted and said, “You’re gonna have to do better than that!”

He sighed and sat down on one of the chairs. “Listen, you need to get rest tonight. I’ll save the details for some night when we can sit around a campfire without worrying about getting our asses shot off. But to make a really long story short, as far as the Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote know, Earth, Kii, and Y’eh are the only three planets in this part of the galaxy where all of us can successfully reproduce.” He held up a hand when I opened my mouth, so I shut it. “I don’t mean we can’t live anywhere else – and all three Nations have worlds with colonies. But there aren’t any other worlds where the combination of gravity, atmospheric gas proportions, insolation…”

“Insulation?” I said.

‘Shay slugged me in the shoulder. Even GURion rolled his eyes. Retired said, “The amount and intensity of light that a world receives from its primary.” He paused to let me ask any other stupid questions. I rubbed my shoulder and looked at my boots. He went on, “The average temperature and humidity are factors as well. But the single most important factor, when coupled with gravity, is cosmic and geological background radiation. For whatever reason, those two are profoundly limiting reproductive factors.”

I raised my hand to signal that I was going to ask another stupid question. Retired nodded to me and I braced myself for another slug from ‘Shay. “Both the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo mastered gravity a long time ago, and can’t they just figure out the right amount of radiation and build it into some kind of…um…sex house or something?”

“Good question, Kid,” he said. ‘Shay slugged me.

“What was that for?”

“Having a dirty mind.”

“But…”

Retired saved me from saying anything else stupid by adding, “They can, but the correct combination of factors is so sensitive that even when they get everything exactly right, it can go wrong.”

GURion said, “The cost of creating such havens is so prohibitive that neither one of the super powers can afford to keep them.”

“Why would the cost make them stop doing that if they can?”

There was a long pause, then ‘Shay said, “Because if they make places like that, they also have to defend it.”

GURion said softly, “And success by either side at destroying the places carries its own cost.”


November 8, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 279

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.


Krzysztof Oja blinked and slowly shook his head.

Eden Ochion thought he looked like a shaggy orangutan. A scary one. "There's no way you can tell me what you're thinking?" she tried again. Krzy -- whose unfortunate name lent itself to being abbreviated to "Crazy" -- squeezed his eyes shut harder. "You have to tell me what's going on in that shaggy head of yours!" She said, reaching forward and rapping on his skull. Why couldn't she get through to him? No one had ever been able to resist her charms. People ALWAYS told her their secrets. It's why she was the most popular person at Barack Obama High School. If people made her mad, she could always spill those secrets. "Don't you have any secrets, Krzysztof?"

He stared at her, took a deep breath, opened his mouth as if he was going to say something and then closed it again. It wasn't like he was going to stand up and leave, Eden thought. She'd actually, physically glued him to his chair. She'd set it up so that the chair was the only open one in the library. That was because she'd coaxed, coerced, and blackmailed everyone into leaving it alone just so that Krzysztof would sit there. What was weird was that he hadn't reacted at all. She knew -- somehow that she wasn't sure of -- that he realized he was sitting on several mounds of hardening crazy glue. She smiled at the interior joke. "Crazy glue for a crazy boy," she muttered. She fixed him with one of her brilliant smiles and said, "Anything you want to tell me?"

She was wondering why he hadn't said anything about the glue when he looked up at her. The intensity of his gaze was startling after the way he'd always let her looks slide off him. She'd been trying to catch his eye since he got to school on the first day. It rarely took her more than a week to break a new person down enough to find a secret tidbit or two. Even the principal, one of the wiliest old ladies Eden had ever met, buckled after a two-week onslaught of kindness and interest. In her heart of hearts, Eden called BO High a garden of earthly preflight...because once she knew what she knew, most people were ready to take off. Or do her bidding.

Everyone but little Krzysztof here. That was why she'd made him her special project for the past month. After the challenge of Ms. Zarinche the Principal, she thought he'd go down into a blathering heap as soon as she unleashed her feminine wiles. Now she had to face the possibility that he was gay and she'd have to have one of her coworkers do the attraction and extraction. She smiled into Krzysztof's baby blues. She studied them, looking deep. There was something unexpected in there; a deep, dark secret. Her smile spread from ear to ear. Here it was at last! "So, saxy boy, you got something you want to tell Mama Eden?"

His gaze didn't shift, except that it felt deeper, as if it were pulling her forward. She wanted to turn away because she'd always thought there was something to the idea that the windows were the eyes into a person's soul. She couldn't. He still didn't smile. In fact, his face had gone weirdly slack, as if he were concentrating hard. She tried to blink, but couldn't. She tried to take a deep breath, to sigh or whistle or something, but couldn't. Strangely, her breathing was slowing down despite the fact that she was starting to panic. This was incredibly weird...

Names: Hebrew; Czech

November 6, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: “Where No One Has Gone Before!” Part 2

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), 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 #2153. The link is provided below…

50 Years of Star Trek Part 2 (Part 1 is here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2016/10/possibly-irritating-essay-where-no-one.html ): How has Star Trek changed and developed as a franchise. Everything from writing styles, special effects, characters, ethics, social norms, toys, and more will be considered. Dave Creek, Randy Henderson (M), Ms. Melinda Snodgrass, David Gerrold, Shanna Swendson

Dave Creek – an ANALOG regular

Randy Henderson (M) – an experienced fantasy author

Ms. Melinda Snodgrass – REALLY??? She wrote several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation while serving as the series' story editor during its second and third seasons!

David Gerrold – REALLY??? This is the name I remember immediately after Gene Rodenberry’s when it comes to script-writing. Not DC Fontana or any of the others. THIS one!

Shanna Swendson – an experienced fantasy writer

So, the panel was possibly dominated by comments from the most relevant comments from Gerrold and Snodgrass, but I’ve no doubt that in the others chimed in.

Onward, then. The subject: “How has Star Trek changed and developed as a franchise? Everything from writing styles, special effects, characters, ethics, social norms, toys, and more will be considered.”

OK – so I decided to do more on characters because my wife and I just finished re-watching STAR TREK: GENERATIONS.

When ST:TOS debuted a half century ago, no matter what people say about its “groundbreaking” look, the fact is that there was a young, studly white guy in charge, surrounded by sexy women in miniskirts; a doctor who was easily lifted from classic American Westerns; a Scottish engineer (of course, only the Scots can be good engineers); and a format that was as familiar as, well…WAGON TRAIN, only like, a “WAGON TRAIN to the stars”.

They acted as if problems like racism, sexism, violence, rape, and greed could be solved in 50 minutes (TOS) and continued to impose on us the idea that all it would take is to learn that “We Are Not Alone” in the universe, and we’d be all hunky-dory.

The fact that a Russian (who “accidentally” looked like one of the Beatles), a “Chinese” helmsman who did as he was told, a black woman who was in essence, a telephone operator, and Satan Incarnate (who ALSO did as he was told by the Power of White Males – were incidental).

Wow…

When ST:TNG was reborn a zillion  years later, a white guy was STILL heading stuff up and everyone – the black guys, the chicks (a doctor and a cheerleader), an artificial Human, the children, and the rest of the crew – did as they were told. Oh, this time the white guy was OLD…sorta and more closely matched…the show’s creator’s age. The young white male was tightly leashed and kowtowed to the Big, Old, Skinny, White Guy.

Shatteringly different…

Then came ST:DS9. I loved this series. Hailed because COMMANDER Sisko (note, he was not a captain) was IN CHARGE!!!! The question I had was “In charge of what?” A beat-up wreck of a place that was NOT a ship, but an extremely out-of-the-way shopping mall with a bunch of crazy, religious, recently-freed slaves on the planet below – did anyone else find that ironic?

Altogether unprecedented…

ST:Voyager had the Katharine Hepburn look-alike, Captain Janeway. Hailed as the first profoundly visible female captain, what is the first thing that happens to this crew led by a woman, with a “native American” first officer, a black second-in-command and engineer, a “Chinese” navigator, and a surly, rebellious young white dude sitting front-and-center? They got lost.

Leaping into the unknown…

Last of all, ST:Enterprise. The white guys are back in charge all over the place, only an Asian woman answers the phone now, a sexy Satan hovers over the white guy’s shoulder (and is generally ignored), a young black guy tries vainly to “Make It Good” neatly tucked under the wing of the captain, and the Big, Fat, Old White Guy is now the doctor with headgear – whom EVERYONE listens to.

*sigh*

This doesn’t lessen my love for the series, and in fact some of the things I disparage above WERE unusual in broadcast television (and movies). But I think that Trekkers, Trekkies, and the SF community has a bit of myopia when it comes to viewing its favorite TV series with claims that it was wow, shatteringly different, altogether unprecedented, and leaping into the unknown.

It was a TV series that during its five hundred and twenty-three hours of entertainment, occasionally had something profound to say. That’s hardly anything to sniff at!


November 4, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 90: DaneelAH & Company

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. They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).

MishAH said, “I’ve read that United Earth is considering legislation that declares anyone who is less than some percentage of something they call ‘Original Human DNA’ will be inhuman and will be tossed into the category we live in.”

“They’ll be declared slaves?” AzAH said.

“They’re only rumblings of a few, sweet sister. But for now, we have a problem.”

“What?” AzAH and MishAH said together.

HanAH lifted his chin and said, “We’re here.”

The Rim of Burroughs Dome loomed over them as they approached. They slowed to wait with other marsbugs, vans, and transports, sealed and open to the atmosphere Humanity was building on Mars. After a few moments, the massive airlock opened, the vehicles moved in, the airlock closed, and the pressure outside rose until they could hear the howl of air being pumped in. Overriding the internal communication systems, the Dome Traffic Control said, “All vehicles please proceed to docking ports or inspection points for access to underground ramps and causeways.”

MishAH sat down and gripped the control handles, tipping them forward slightly. The ‘bug moved. “Seems our mysterious host has granted us control again.” He nodded and drove to a parking slot. Once they’d gathered their things, they got out and joined the movement of living beings.

Of course, they weren’t allowed to enter with Natural Humans but were directed through another gate that scanned them for contraband, brands, and ownership chips. The four of them passed easily – they were owned by the Mayor of Malacandra, after all, and their status, while officially below that of privileged Naturals, was considerably above that of Traffic drones like the Natural woman who passed them through once their chips registered.

Once in the transport hub of the Dome, they stopped and huddled. The high-ceilinged hub roared with the reflected and refracted voices pouring them back down as white noise which covered any one, specific sound. Conversations, music, and anything that was supposed to be said disappeared. More than one thief, con artist, kidnapper, or conspiracist had planned their crime under the Dome and the surveillance of countless peace-keepers.

 DaneelAH said, “We need to find this christian person.”

“That shouldn’t be hard, he was the Hero of the Faith Wars,” MishAH said.

“He’ll either be easy to find or no one will have any idea what we’re talking about,” said HanAH.

DaneelAH shook his head and said, “We’re emissaries of the Mayor of Malacandra to the people of Burroughs…”

“What message are we carrying to them?” said HanAH.

They all turned to DaneelAH, holding the silence for some time before he said, “The Mayor of Malacandra has a proposition for the Mayor of Burroughs…” he paused.

AzAH smiled faintly, crossed her arms over her chest. “What could the Mayor of Burroughs possibly want from the Southern Wastes?”

HanAH said, “The whole planet is a waste – what would the Mayor of one the Five Domes of Mars, possibly want with…”

“He would want evidence that there was alien life on Mars at one time,” DaneelAH said.

HanAH snorted, “What kind of evidence of alien life did Mayor Turin have?”

MishAH said, “We’ve got patterning evidence of unusual branching, subsurface markings.”

“What?” said HanAH.

“Tunnels,” said DaneelAH.


November 1, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 278

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.

Fantasy Trope: Sword & Sandal (A period set in ancient biblical or mythological times…Sword and Sandal flicks…were especially popular in The Golden Age of Hollywood…Expect the landscape to resemble sand dunes and/or rural Spain throughout, making those sandals look more attractive.

Ota Kte stood on the high bluffs above the roaring, churning brown of the Great River.

Shappa Hollow Wood shook her head and flipped her moccasins over the cliff.

“Shappa! Stop playing!”

“Hardly playing, Ota. I threw it to check the speed of the river water.”

He scowled at her. “This isn’t a joke.”

“I don’t appear to be laughing, consort.”

“I’m not your consort, you’re mine!” She muttered something crude. “You can’t say that!”

“I am not your wife. I am your consort. I am here to cement our factions, not produce children or dynasty.”

“You can’t…”

“I agreed to be your consort because one of your ‘braves’,” she snickered, “Invaded the…territory of one of our major agents.”

Ota snorted then sighed. “Fine. You were saying?”

“I’m testing current speed and direction,” she turned to stare steadily into the distance. I just saw the moccasin disappear from my view.” She paused, “My guess is that it traveled seventy steps in fifteen heartbeats.”

“How do you know that?”

She looked at him, shook her head and said, “Have all of your women been as stupid as a bleached skull?” She stepped around him. “You will need to know the speed of the Great River at this moment if your canoeists intend to outperform the Ojibwe canoeists.”

“We will be better than them by virtue of our…” he paused, then finished lamely, “virtue.”

She sighed and continued down the path from the bluffs to the horses waiting below. As much as she loathed her position in this faction of Lakota, she adored the horses that gave them their advantage over her father’s defiant raiders. Despite their surrender of her physical body to Ota – by the wisdom of the medicine woman, One Who Sings To The Stars – Shappa held tight to her spirit. One Who Sings kept the spirit talisman close by her side with an echo of Shappa’s spirit in the deepest part of her herb satchels. Only her father and youngest brother knew of its existence. Her father because his plan was to humiliate Ota the leader; her brother because no one would think to give such important information to such a young, unimportant person.

Ota had followed her, hurrying clumsily down the rocky trail. She wondered again how such an idiotic man would be made a leader. He called after her, “Consort! Attend me!”

She turned and held out her hand for him to take. He did, roughly, then pulled her to himself as if he were one of the pale-skinned creatures on the shore of the Ilhuicaātl Atlántico come recently to those far lands. Her father had agents spread over the length and breadth of the earth. A tribe of a cold land toward the rising sun called it all the Land of the Haudenosaunee. They told of strange behaviors of strange men and women. She pushed away, saying, “The race will start soon, my consort. You must speak to them; encourage them that they may bend these Ojibwe people to the path of your plans.”

His already thin lips vanished in irritation, but he knew the wisdom of her words as well. He released her and sullenly clambered onto his horse. By contrast, she floated up to the strong back of her horse. Smiling, she added an action that would advance her father’s plan for this silly man, saying, “One of your braves looked at me the other day…”

Names: Lakota Sioux; Lakota Sioux
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg