December 29, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 54

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)

Kashayla glared at him, then gave a sharp nod, “Fine then. I won’t kill you tonight. I’ll wait until after you tell us what we want to know.”

Retired held her harsh gaze, then barked a laugh. “Just like your mother! Damn, you’re tough!” He sobered suddenly, “I just hope you’re as smart as she was. We’re going to need a new genius geneticist on our team.”

I’m pretty sure both of us looked stunned, because after busting out another guffaw, he pushed himself to his feet and headed for another room. “I’m going to bed. And so are you two.” He pointed suddenly, once at each of us, adding, “Separately.”

I don’t know about ‘Shay, but I suddenly found myself blushing about six shades of red…

‘Shay walked past me, slugged me – hard this time – and said, “How else do you think I sleep?”

When she was gone, Great Uncle Rion said, “Ouch.”

“Shut up,” I said. For a second I looked at him. How much could I tell him about myself? How much did he need to know? How much about myself did I understand? I sighed and said, “Sort of.”

“Only ‘sort of’?”

“I’m kinda complicated.”

“Confused?”

I looked away from him, feeling my cheeks heat up, and shrugged. “I dunno.”

GURion nodded slowly then said, “Maybe you do need to go to bed.”

I looked up, glaring and opened my mouth. But for whatever reason, all I saw in his android eyes was compassion. “I suppose I’ll need a good night’s sleep in order to have enough energy to understand whatever crapload Retired is going to try and force feed us.”

GURion just studied me for a while. I felt like turning away at first, then stood up straighter. If he wanted to have a good long look at me, then fine. Finally, he said, “Not exactly. You’re going to need all the strength you have to believe.” He turned and left the room, gesturing silently to a door. When he was gone, I opened it. The room was small, but the bed looked clean, there was a table alongside it, and an e-reader – a full-sized one that looked like it was new. I took off the boots, went out to the bathroom I’d seen, and then went back to the room. It had been an intense night with all kinds of weird feelings churning around inside me, so I took care of the one need I could, then fell sound asleep.

I woke up the next day to someone tapping on the door. I sat bolt upright, swinging my feet to the floor before I was really awake. Rubbing my face with both hands, I scratched my head. Even with short hair, I think I needed a shower. I definitely needed to use the bathroom. I said, “Come on in.”

‘Shay walked in. She looked clean, her tight curled hair still flat against her head and wet. She said, “You look crappy.”

“Thanks for the update. I usually look great the second I wake up.”

She smirked. “I know that that is a total lie. In the past eight years, I’ve come to realize that you always look lousy when you first wake up. But I do have good news.”

“What?”

“Your great uncle has coffee – the real thing! – and he said he’s got both an explanation and a plan.”

“About time,” I said, standing up. I’d slept in my clothes, which were still filthy from being exploded on and rolled around in a field with me inside of them. Even so, I tried to straighten them out.

“Don’t worry how you look. The Pack and Herd won’t notice and I’ll make sure I sit as far from you as I can.” She led the way out.

“What about Retired?” I muttered.

“Don’t worry, he likes you no matter what you do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, then walked into the meeting room. I was the last one up. Shoot daggers at ‘Shay let me know that she’d done it on purpose.

Fax slid up beside me and growled in his lowest register, “Don’t worry, I love you no matter how bad the stench. In fact, I remember you smelled a lot worse after you…”

I elbowed him before he could launch into his baked-beans story. That always sent the Pack into paroxysms of laughter. How he told it. The real story was…

Retired cleared his throat and even though his face was completely still, the look in his eyes told me he’d be on the floor laughing if it would have been a normal day. But it wasn’t. He said, “The time has come to lay all of our cards on the table.”

“What?” Dao-hi exclaimed, pulling her tentacles from their sheathes with a rude sucking sound.

Retired held up a hand, bowed his head, looked up and continued. “Just the facts there – bare bones. At this time I’m not looking for discussion, because frankly, there’s nothing anyone here – except Rion can add. Most of the plan was laid out decades ago by minds far greater than yours or mine.” He took a deep breath, held it, and gestured. One of the walls of the apartment vanished, replaced by an orbital shot of Earth. “Once the condition of the three societies became apparent – the reduction in the breeding imperative of the Kiiote, the catastrophic increase in heart-fiber deaths among the Yown’Hoo, and the unintended extermination of Humanity, it became clear to a group of all the Intelligences in this part of the Milky Way that if something didn’t change, there would be NO Intelligences left in approximately four hundred Human years.” Stunned silence. Even GURion leaned back against a wall.

“In order to stop this…Extinction Event…an assembly of scientists, philosophers, technologists, business beings, and spiritualists of all the belief systems of the three Intelligences was held in secret. It was clear to them that the eventual destruction of their peoples would bring about a Dark Age that none of them were likely to escape from. The Triads were proposed for a single purpose.” He stopped talking. None of us moved.

I didn’t even breathe until Qap said, “Prove that if we worked together, we could accomplish something none of us had managed to do apart.”

Ali-go, a Herd male I’d only known to speak one other time, said, “gMod, faster-than-light, fusion – we have all of those. There is only one thing we have not created,” he paused. Right then I knew he was going to be a Herd-father someday. He had the flair for the dramatic that was required of the males of their species. “Immortality.”


December 27, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 286

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.


Ngozi Adeyemi sighed and sat back from the scanning electron microscope. She said, “This machine…”

Ibrahim Eto'o Fils held up one hand, then lowered it, knowing it might be offensive as he said, “I know. It’s ancient. I’d rather have a QTM. But the Chinese aren’t exactly handing them out to West African disease researchers.”

She shook her head. “I was educated in England, worked for seven years at the CDC in Atlanta, and chaired the International Society for Infectious Diseases for six years. I’m not just a ‘disease researcher’!”

Ibrahim held up both hands in defense. “You won’t get any argument from me, Doctor Adeyemi. It’s been a privilege working…”

Ngozi brushed him away, “Save the flattery for someone who’ll believe it. You’re as skilled as I am and you’ve been here longer. We have work to do – and two of us may be the only ones who can accomplish it.” She paused. “When we finally tracked down the initial outbreak of the AIDS virus; and finally eradicated Ebola, we got cocky.”

“We didn’t,” Ibrahim said as he settled onto his lab chair. Another wave of his hand and his virtual computer screen materialized over the lab bench. “We know what we’re dealing with here. Climate change cooled Sahara and brought rain it hasn’t seen for over a thousand years. We’re afraid it’s also reactivated extinct pathogens.”

Ngozi sighed. “That’s why I came home. There’s something going on up north – it feels like a disaster waiting to happen. But there’s no proof,” she gestured at the SEM. “We’ll never get it if we have to work with stone knives and bear skins!”

Ibrahim grinned, “Thank you so much, doctor! These are the tools I used to earn my doctorate!”

Ngozi let herself lean forward until her forehead rested on the microscope’s control panel. “No offense intended, Doctor Eto’o Fils. It just frustrates me. We conquered hundreds of diseases with tools less complex than this, but I’m less afraid of disease than I am of attitude.”

Ibrahim puffed a laugh and said, “We thought we had climate change under control – and then it flipped from warming trends to cooling trends and wild solar weather.”

“We can’t control attitudes the way we can control viruses and bacteria – a few antivirals here and a vaccination campaign there. It’s this damnable community attitude.”

“That’s why I came back to Lago. So many western doctors think curing the common cold by fighting it with a molecule-evolving mutation smart drug signified that they’d claimed the Grail.”

“Monty Python and the Holy,” Ngozi said.

“I take it you experienced the movie?”

She sat up and gave him a sad grin, “With both English and American friends. You’d be startled how different their responses are.”

“How so?”

She shrugged, “I can’t quantify it. The movie was identical, but the two groups of people – all who’d seen it dozens of times – laughed at totally different places and repeated totally different lines. And I  laughed at different times from both of them! It was embarrassing both times!”

Ibrahim sighed. “We need to get back to work. I’ll get back online and see if can’t at least get a virtual QTM to work for us.”

She called up the next slide and got to work, muttering, “If we can’t beat this now, it’s going to go global in ten months.”

He shot her a look and added an emphatic plea to his email just before he sent it.

Names: Nigeria; ♂ Cameroon
Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Launching_of_EFT-1.jpg


December 25, 2016

Slice of PIE: Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas Season!

NOT 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. But not today.

This morning is a Christmas blessing – I am unabashedly a Christian who also writes science fiction

That right there is incredibly irritating to some people both in and out of the SF field. It also signals others that because I’m a Christian, I must have voted for Trump…which I didn’t. (For the first time in my life, I refused to vote – because most of the candidates in the elections from national to local were, regardless of party orientation; rude, obnoxious, and didn’t in most ways represent me or my political views. So, I skipped the entire process. There. That’s all of the political rhetoric you’ll hear from me. Thank you.)

No matter your faith then, I wish you a blessed Christmas Season! Please accept the sentiment in the spirit in which it was given – as a good thought.


December 22, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 93: Paolo At Burroughs Dome

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.

OrcAH, the local librarian blinked, then in a softer voice said, “The name ‘Ghost Dome’ is rarely used, Sir. What possible connection might the Hero of the Faith have with the manufacture of satellites?”

Paolo shrugged, scratched his chin, and said, “That’s what I want to know.” He paused then added, “I happen to know that the Hero is not dead.”

OrcAH’s eyes went wide and his mouth opened but no sound came out. The look on his face changed as well – he was no longer indifferent but stunned.

Paolo lowered his voice and leaned down, whispering, “I know this because he is my brother.”

“The Hero…”

“Yeah, I know the story – the Hero was an orphan, whose parents had been murdered by a psychotic Muslim who thought he was serving Allah by killing them. He was later taken to a Christian orphanage where he was sexually abused by a nun. After he was adopted by a Hindu family, he was forced to watch by a Buddhist…” said Paolo, waving a hand in irritation. He’d heard the recitation a thousand times. He’d been at the kitchen table when his parents concocted it.

The Librarian held up its hand. “I know the Catechism of the Faith in Humanity as well as you do, son: All life is individually autonomous; do no harm; work tirelessly to do good; act fairly. Additions come from various other works of Humanity, but if we strive to keep these four guides. What could that possibly…”

“The Ghost Dome wasn’t destroyed as an act of terrorism. It was aimed at stopping the incipient United Faith in Humanity from forcing all other competing faiths underground. Now, as to the satellite manufacture and design. I was wondering if there was any way we could match this design to something in your archives.” He held up his hand, his pocket computer projecting a three-dimensional image of the thing he’d found wedged under his marsbug out in the Depression: There was nothing that made it look like it could have landed, though one end was slightly wider than the other and there were four tapered bumps that had been placed equilaterally around it. It had also had markings under a strong green light – at 550 nanometers. They’d been incomprehensible but clearly intelligently shaped.

“Where…where did you find this?”

“North of the Grand Island Dust Sink,” said Paolo, scratching his side, a ferocious itch growing there.

“In the desert? What were you doing so far from civilization?”

Paolo sniffed, “Not so far from civilization as you’d think.”

OrcAH looked up at him, scowling, but didn’t ask the obvious question. Instead, he said, “Follow.” The little man didn’t wait for Paolo, but set off with long strides – for him – and deeper into information stored on everything from rice paper to quantum bubbles. The library itself seemed to be arranged by information storage method rather than by subject. They kept going and as they did, the light grew dimmer. The man said, “The EM spectrum in the Human visible range causes the deterioration of certain of these artifacts and books. You’ve already noticed that the humidity in the library is substantially lower than in typical Human habitation.”

“I did notice,” he said, scratching at an elbow. The light dimmed further. “Where are we going?” he asked. Abruptly the librarian stopped in front of a blank wall. It glowed faintly blue.

“This is a special archive we maintain here. It contains certain artifacts discovered on the surface of Mars.” He passed his hand over a section of the wall and it became transparent. “The atmosphere mimics the natural atmosphere on the planet, though the pressure is Earth-normal. The lights are tuned to natural Martian light and varies seasonally as well. We do not mimic the winds on the surface.”

“Why…” Paolo said. Then he saw them. On a long stone table stood three squarish, smooth slabs of Martian stone. On each, he could see some sort of pattern. Nothing that would suggest letters or images or hash marks. But there had been marked.

“We have studied these three – we call them the Stele – by exposing them to the entire length of the EM spectrum. But there is only one kind of energy that reveals what are admittedly ancient marking. Even under this energy, they are barely discernible…”

“Ultrasound,” Paolo whispered.

Without missing a beat, OrcAH whispered, “Ultrasound.”


December 20, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 285

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

H Trope: auto-cannibalism

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

“Shut up,” Mark hissed back at her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name Source: Local, Minnesota

December 18, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: What Does It Mean to Be Human?

POSTING LATE TODAY DUE TO THE MARRIAGE OF MY LOVELY NIECE! Congratulations Jessica and Jorge!!!!

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 #2270. The link is provided below…

Whose DNA is It? Panelists discuss DNA, privacy and the law. What can be done with your DNA without your permission, and what is your recourse if you discover yours has been used?

Marguerite Kenner: Story teller from CAST OF WONDERS (who read one of my stories, long ago!) also British lawyer
Mr. Howard Rosenblatt: Lawyer from Gainesville, FL
Kenneth Schneyer: prolific short story writer
Dr. Helen Pennington: “Helen Pennington, a doctoral training student at Imperial College London” (July 2015, Royal Society for Biology Blog, https://blog.rsb.org.uk/science-fact-for-fiction/

The obvious “textbook” for this discussion is THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS (Rebecca Skloot) and the answer is, “nothing”. Not really. Not yet.

Even so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this and in my RIVER Universe books, the Confluence of Humanity has no trouble genetically re-engineering Humanity to fit whatever purpose is needed. In the short story I’m working on now, the main character will soon find out he has a clone brother – one who has been engineered into a kilometer wide manta ray creature with a bladder in the center that contains an nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere – and can be used as an ambulance in the atmosphere of the gas giant, River.

Are they still related? Genetically, yes. Was he informed about the use of his DNA to create another, alien-like Human? Absolutely not. But he was soldier and was ordered to sign away his rights to his DNA. He didn’t care, so he did. The military had a clear purpose though. Did I mention he was a direct-line descendant of Henrietta Lacks? No? Oops. Turns out the HeLa cells are also perfectly cloneable.

Anyway, this is a discussion I probably would have skipped initially, but now that I’ve had time to ponder the PERSONAL implications of genetic engineering, I’d have taken it up in a heartbeat.

Another reason would also be that the conflict in my stories will arise primarily from the fact that the opposition to the Confluence is the Empire of Man. Imperials have set a clear divider between those who are Human and those who are not. If your DNA is less than 65% original Human, you are not Human – and subsequently either a slave or “livestock”.

In a completely different direction, I’ll also add that during the Civil War, children were not regarded as Human, either. It wasn’t until 1874 that the US was able to prosecute a case of child abuse…under the auspices of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Children weren’t granted legal rights in England in the late 1760s.

So, I often explore what it means to BE Human. In fact, I’ve discovered that as a theme, it rises up in several pieces of my published writing. Looking at the stories I’ve done in the “What Went Right” series – even when I look at the “Can This Story Be Saved?” – I see that I’m trying to do the same thing. Just not as effectively.

Take-away? I guess to take advantage of opportunities to learn, even if you’re not certain that you can use the ideas in your writing. You never know!


December 15, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 53

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)

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) – whom we called Retired – said, “There was no solution in war.”

Suddenly ‘Shay said, “The only answer was peace.” I stared at her. When she said the words, her voice had changed. Her stance had changed. I didn’t recognize her.

But I did grasp the implication and all I could whisper was, “And we were the offerings of peace.”

I barely heard Great Uncle Rion say, “No one knows yet if the offering is one of honey…or one of blood.”

Nobody said a word for a long time. Finally Retired sighed and said, “We need to get some sleep. We’ve got a twenty-kilometer hike to do tomorrow.”

Normally, I would have been shocked; probably said something stupid. Almost for sure, ‘Shay would have slugged me. Instead, I nodded and said, “We need to get to safety. All nineteen of us.” I shook my head, looked at GURion and said, “Twenty-one of us.”

“You really want me to go with you?”

I shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know. You stuck with my family for a century – but never bothered to let me know that you were…” I don’t know if it was quite right, but I figured I could cut him some slack, “…alive. You could have told me about Rion and my dad; hell, maybe you even knew Mom.” For a second, it seemed like something caught in my throat. I cleared it. “I haven’t seen either one of them since I was seven and they brought me to the Arena.”

“You were recruited,” GURion began.

I chopped him off, “I was never asked. My parents volunteered me for the Triad. I never had…” GURion cleared his own throat, though for an android, it wasn’t exactly a natural reflex. I couldn’t help but give him a dirty look when I said, “What?”

“You weren’t just recruited. You were made. All of you were.”

‘Shay turned to him now. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged, “Exactly what it sounds like. All nineteen members of this Triad – as well as the Eurasian Triad and the African Triad – have long genealogies. You were literally made for this moment.”

“What moment is this?” I asked.

GURion suddenly turned his gaze to Retired and gestured, palm up, “Ask one of the architects of the plan.”

Retired sighed, sinking his face into his broad hand. A thumb and a pinky finger massaged his temples. I expected denial. Anger. Maybe even Retired jumping up and blowing GURion away. Instead he said, “You could have at least waited for morning.”

My great uncle shrugged, “It doesn’t matter down here.”

“True, but I wouldn’t feel so…” he paused.

“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘old’, Patrick.”

A smile twitched his stubbly face. For a second I saw him as just some old guy; and my great uncle was right. Retired looked old. And tired. But he didn’t look like he was going to give up. He lifted his chin and said, “Computer?”

A voice floated form the walls, “Yes, Lieutenant Commander Bahksh?”

“Status of the Kiiote Pack and the Yown’Hoo Herd?”

“Both groups are eighty-five percent asleep, Sir.”

“Thanks.” He looked at me, then GURion, “I think we wait until morning then for a full briefing.” He looked at ‘Shay, then to me. “It’s not going to be a complete briefing yet, because there are still things you aren’t cleared to know. But it should go a long way to answering where we are, where we’re going, and – now that things have started heating up – who are the beings opposing the formation and training of the Triads.”

‘Shay glared at him, then gave a sharp nod, “Fine then. I won’t kill you tonight. I’ll wait until after you tell us what we want to know.”

Retired held her harsh gaze, then barked a laugh. “Just like your mother! Damn, you’re tough!” He sobered suddenly, “I just hope you’re as smart as she was. We’re going to need a new genius geneticist on our team.”

I’m pretty sure both of us looked stunned, because after busting out another guffaw, he pushed himself to his feet and headed for another room. “I’m going to bed. And so are you two.” He pointed suddenly, once at each of us, adding, “Separately.”

I don’t know about ‘Shay, but I suddenly found myself blushing about six shades of red…

(4 miles NE of Plum Coulee, MB; southwest of Winnipeg)


December 13, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 284

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: transmutation (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmutation)
“Transmutation circle, a circle used to perform alchemy” I think I’m going to mine THIS idea in various ways for a while!


Alchemy is thought to have been the deepest roots of the science we know as chemistry. As such, it had its origins in many, many cultures – from Pharaonic and Hellenic Egypt, Eighth Century Arabia (the name “chemistry” comes from an Arabic word, al-kimia), Medieval and Renaissance Europe, India, and China – then matured into the science.

Ishaq ibn Musa and Meitreyi Nur Jehan are friends at Obama Middle School. Ishaq – who tries really hard to go by the nickname, IM – was skimming TreeFlicks (3D online streaming videos) when he downloaded a flik of a person drawing a transmutation circle.

He got the measurements and veeked – visually communicated – with Meity J and told him to meet him at a nearby playground after school...

Meity waited for Immy with her arms folded over his chest. It was cold today, even though it was late August. “So much for Anthropogenic Global Cooling,” he muttered. He veeked him again, but he wasn’t answering.

Suddenly someone behind him shouted, “Boo!”
Meity J turned around and said, “It’s not even close to Halloween yet Immy.”

He grunted and said, “Who spat in your bean curd?”

“No one! It’s just that I have a hundred things to do before school starts next Tuesday!”

“Like what? We’re just starting a new school. Nothing’s going to be different...”

“Except in high school, we might actually get to see a physical teacher!”

He grunted and put down a small plastic bucket. His jacket bulged in odd directions, as if he were carrying packages underneath. “That has about as much of a chance happening as me turning you into an oriole.”

“Orioles are extinct,” he said, irritated that he chose NOW to pick on her favorite extinct animal. “That was really mean of you.”

“What,” he said, straightening up, “If I told you I could turn a pigeon into an oriole?”

“I’d say, ‘fat lot of good that will do the species!’ You can’t repopulate a species with one bird, stupid!”

With a flourish, he reached under his jacket and pulled out a plastic box. Inside, something brilliantly orange and black squirmed. He said, “What if you had one male and one female?” 

He popped the top off and an oriole – the first one Meity J had seen since he was a kindergartner and his director had used query markers on colorful birds to lead the class to a discussion about ‘extinction’ – flew out. He removed another box. This one had a pigeon in it.

“What are you going to do with that thing?”

He grinned, set the box down and started clearing a circle on the concrete game square. “We’re going to make a transmutation square and start making orioles out of pigeons!”

Meity J scowled for a bit, then said…

Names: ♂♂ -- Yemen, Pakistan

December 11, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #8 “Unfair Trade” (Submitted 6 Times Since 2011, Revised Twice)

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. 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: The old adage "You can't get something for nothing" is true -- and will likely remain true even with futuristic technologies.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?): Matter transmission may be a great way for us to cheat each other -- or for aliens to cheat us. What if an old man who ran a convenience store his whole life figures it out?

Opening Line: (Two lines) “The city hadn’t changed in forty-five years. The asphalt in the street was still cracked, the warehouse bricks were still red, and winter bare oaks in corner parks remembered occupation but still reached for the sky like transposed lightning.”

Onward: In the late 21st Century, First Contact has been made with the Dzhinbazh, an advanced alien race who have perfected the translation of energy into matter. They don’t tell Humanity this, but rather buy out convenience store contracts and become suppliers. When long-time Mom & Pop store owner’s son takes a contract with the aliens – eschewing decades of independence – Khaliq Khan becomes suspicious of the “freshness” of the alien merchandise, he checks it out for himself and discovers that given a long-period of time, the matter reverts back to energy – and the stock disappears!


What Was I Trying To Say? I wanted to look at an aspect of “matter transmission” that might be used to cheat people – beaming something that’s inanimate, then reassembling it using reduced energy (lowering the cost) at a lower density or with limited stability. Given that Humans (and probably other aliens) will figure out ways to cheat each other no matter how many of them put on a benevolent face, what are some novel ways of cheating people?

The Rest of the Story: Khaliq and his neighbor, Brooke are old friends, he a widower, she a widow, who live solitary lives but often talk. Khaliq inherited a convenience store from his father, ran it, then passed it on to his son, retiring to the apartment over the store. The alien Dzhinbazh pretty much take over supplying every kind of convenience store on the planet and Khaliq has been angry ever since his son dropped his Human suppliers and became part of the alien’s network.

The years he has left to live are getting smaller and he wants to reconcile with his son – so he can see his daughter-in-law and four granddaughters. But he’s stubborn. How can he prove to his son that the aliens are cheating Humans?

A late-night visit to his old store lets him witness that once the aliens park their delivery trucks – which are empty – they actually stock the stores using a sort of matter-transmission screen. He figures they’re not beaming stuff in from far away; but they can’t be beaming it from locally, either – because no one, not even the tabloids – have reported on something like that. He figures something’s fishy and buys a bunch of the newly delivered product, setting it on his table to watch it. Three weeks later, it begins to fade away. After a month, there’s nothing there; not even a residue.

He tells Brooke, and having participated in one of the Occupy Wall Street events of the early Twenty-teens, the organize a protest with a pallet of recently purchased goods. They use several pretenses, but in the long-run, the stuff on the pallet begins to fade and time-lapse images show it happening.

Finished with their protest, the go for a walk, holding hands.

End Analysis: I STILL like this story. The idea is smart but I lose the thread somewhere in the middle then pick it up at the end. I could probably simplify it some as well – and I need to put his missing his grandkids at the very beginning. It does a good job of building the relationship between Khaliq and Brooke – but like I said, gets fuzzy in the middle.

Two MAJOR problems: first I say that there are NO pictures of the aliens. Then I say that there are. I am totally unclear that he lives above the store. When he goes down the back stairs I have NO IDEA WHAT HE’S DOING! I get yanked out of the story. There were also typos all the heck over the place, too.

Can This Story Be Saved? Absolutely! The beginning (with the addition noted above) and the end are clear, and I like the set up and execution. I can lose some of the obscure references and small talk as well as tighten the whole thing up to maybe, 3000-4000 words. It’s too hefty as it is – the idea’s a small one, though too BIG for a Probability Zero story – and it would be much better slimmed down. So, I’ll get to work on this one soon…


December 8, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 92: 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 and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Abedne Halle-Theilen sighed, “Besides, while I trust you, I have nothing but contempt and suspicion for your Chief of Dome Security, Hanam vo’Maddux. She could easily have had you followed – or have a transmitter sewn into your clothing.”

Aster Theilen, his daughter and current Consort of the Mayor of Opportunity, Mayor-for-Life, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap’s eye bugged out and for the first time since the Mayor had brought her to the Pylon, where she was shaken to the core of her being. She also suddenly realized that she’d been shy of the power he’d granted her. Her voice dropped to a low, guttural growl as she said, “She wouldn’t dare…”

“I wouldn’t expect her to hesitate at all. She’s got her own plans.”

“She’s the Chief of Dome Security, Dad. She has a job to do.”

He shrugged, “I’ve no doubt she does her job very well, but who gives the orders?”

“The Mayor, of course.”

He nodded then said, “I hope so, Aster.” He sighed, “All right, daughter. I can take you Under and introduce you to the other orphans in Opportunity.” He stood and went to a closet and pulled out a coat made from multiple-colored squares of cloth.

“Why are you getting that? Isn’t the Underground part of the Dome?”

He studied her for a moment as he tied a wide belt then said, “The Dome doesn’t waste resources on what no one will ever see.”

Aster bit off an angry retort, took a deep breath and said, “Well. They won’t be blind to it much longer.” She looked around his apartment, grabbed a thin blanket off the couch and said, “Let’s go.” He nodded and led them out of the apartment and toward the end of the corridor. Once they were there, he turned another corner that dead-ended. He put both hands on the wall cap and pushed. Nothing happened at first, then the wall pivoted on a center hinge and swung to one side. He jerked his chin and slipped between the hinge and wall. He paused after she stopped beside him and tapped the door so it swung shut. “How long have you been doing this?”

“Better if you didn’t know details. Just stay close. This part of the Dome’s a little…different than what you’re used to.”

For a moment, she didn’t know whether to be intrigued or hurt. “You raised me here, Dad. My time in the Pylon hasn’t been enough to hide my birthmark under bits of plastic surgery.”

He shot a look over his shoulder at her, nodded and said, “Glad to hear it.” Continuing in silence, they headed deeper into a corridor that gradually darkened as light fixtured first dimmed, then remained dark. After she was breathing heavily, Abedne stopped.

Aster said, “When will we reach the orphan’s quarters?”

“They don’t have quarters, dear; and they’ve been with us most of the time we’ve been down here.” They reached the last light in the tunnel and its illumination spilled out of an arch and into a huge room, high ceiling disappearing in inky darkness. Small, rubber wheeled cars, standing alone or hitched together in trains of two to ten, stood parked, backed into charging units. Dark blue artificial humans sat on the seats, sometimes cramming six or seven into a single car. They were utterly silent. He began, “Be…”

Aster cut him off, “No drama, Dad. This is the saddest day of my life. Let it be for now.”


December 6, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 283

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: bodily transformations

Santiago Gon├žalves
Rin Patel

What we’re talking about this week is what I’d like to call, “the Borg Syndrome”.

People have been talking about enhancing humanity or transforming the human body for years. Ever since the first kid put spring-loaded bouncy shoes on or doctors implanted the first pacemaker to keep someone’s heart beating, we’ve gotten more and more into this whole idea of transforming the human body into something it wasn’t – or isn’t anymore. How many of you have grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins or yourself who had bodily transformations? Hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, hearing aids, pacemakers and hormone replacement therapy are all forms of bodily modifications.

So let’s say we gots us a kid – about 17.

He’s no great athlete, but mom and dad and brothers and sisters are TOTAL jocks! Have been. Always. As the oldest boy, he was expected to be a FOOTBALL or baseball or hockey or…whatever star.

He went out for plays instead. He geeked out on science and after a fierce competition, he’s at the University of Minnesota as a sophomore in the biomechanical engineering program. He gets to play with “body transformative equipment” all day long. He ignores his family, they ignore him…except for his little brother, who loves hockey but accepts HIM for who he is.

Over the holidays – he turned down his mom begging him to come home – there’s a terrible fire – no one survives. He figures it was the crazy Christmas tree decorations his family has always put up. He’s alone in the world now.

That’s fine by him. After the holidays, he grimly goes back to his normal life; only a few friends, no one he’d call close.

Then this chick comes up to him in the biomech lab and while he thinks she’s coming on to him, he quickly discovers that she is neither interested in him THAT way, nor is she from the present. She’s from 139 years in the future, the murder of his family was no accident, and she’s here to “help” him…

“Help me what?” he asked, scowling.

She sniffed, “I don’t know. They didn’t give me any details. I’m just here to help you.”

Shaking his head, he said, “Great. The future sent me a dumb jockette to help avenge the murder of my family.”

You can take it from there!

DO NOT REWRITE TERMINATOR for children! Do something NEW with this!

Names: ♀ Japan, New Zealand; Uruguay, Brazil          

December 4, 2016

Slice of PIE: Stephen Hawking & the Non-Elite (aka “The Rest of Us”)

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…

I ran across the article linked below this morning. In it, world-famous, well-recognized, iconic, and legendary cosmologist Stephen Hawking seems to have realized the real problem with not only the climate doom movement but with scientists in general: is that they are (and he apparently includes himself) obnoxious snots.

He refers to himself and others like himself, as “the elite”.

According to Thesaurus.com, that equates to: exclusive, choicest, cool, crack, elect, noble, pick, super, top, aristocratic, gilt-edged, greatest, elected, upper-class, world-class.

The NOT-elite then, are characterized by these words: bad, inferior, poor, second-rate, common, low-class, lower, lower-class, ordinary.

Thank you, Stephen Hawking for clarifying how you – and by implication – and the rest of the scientific community view the ordinary people around you.

What he does NOT do is reference an American scientist who went out of his way to not only help people understand science, and enjoy science, but to be entertained by science. Isaac Asimov was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University…known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer, and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards…books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.”

He wrote a bit more than Hawking did, but the physical difficulty experienced by Hawking might account for that. Despite appearing as a character in THE SIMPSONS, BIG BANG THEORY, FUTURAMA, and appearing in an episode of STAR TREK: The Next Generation, Hawking has joined such celebrities as Conan O’Brien, The Discovery Channel, John Oliver, and a host of other places, including “starring” in a movie about his own life, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. (The movie garnered “a positive reception worldwide” and was nominated for an “Academy Award for Best Actor…won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor…and Best Original Score for J├│hannsson…Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance…British Academy Film Award for Outstanding British Film, Best Leading Actor…and Best Adapted Screenplay…”)

People LIKE Hawking despite his disdain for the ordinary people on Earth. The thing is that Asimov liked PEOPLE – the ordinary people on Earth. He not only wrote books for adults, but books for kids with his wife (!) and letters and postcards, but he worked hard to make science understandable and to lift people up – though I can’t find any reference to Asimov’s involvement in something called “Isaac Asimov’s Super Quiz”, he must have given tacit approval otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to use his name. The fact that one of Hawking’s “elite” lent his name to a daily newspaper quiz that not only challenged people, but rewarded them by granting a PhD status if they answered the series of questions correctly.

While no one really believed that they were “that smart”, the fact that someone who WAS that smart might be granting them temporary equality with himself was psychologically positive.

Even Hawking admits, “Should we…reject these votes [for Britain exiting the EU and for electing Trump as president] as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake.”

Maybe someone should ask Stephen Hawking to attach his name to Hearst/King Features Syndicate’s Super Quiz daily shot of “brainpower” rather than joining the strident calls by people who clearly categorize themselves as "today’s elite" and demanding vote recounts? Anyone with any Stephen Hawking connections? As insignificant as it sounds, it may go a long way to making us ordinary people feel a bit more elite; thereby making us a bit more receptive to  “do something” about the issues Stephen Hawking finds so pressing.


December 1, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 52

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)

My great uncle, Rion 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?” I asked.

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

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

I almost said something without thinking then shook my head, looking at the door leading from the Human quarters toward the ones occupied by our Triad-mates. “You’re telling me that neither the Kiiote nor the Yown’Hoo likes killing kids.” The others nodded slowly, looking all sad. I said, “They’re upset when they kill each other’s kids on purpose,” I took a deep breath, for a second feeling sorry for them. “But they kill us on accident and it doesn’t make anyone feel anything – except irritated.”

GURion reached out and almost put his hand on my shoulder. I confess I flinched. He pulled away, and I felt like a jerk. He wrapped himself with his arms as if he were cold. He said, “They pay real Humans to do the husbandry while they provide tactical cover – and treaties. That cuts the cost of reproduction.”

Retired suddenly spoke. He’d sat himself down in a big chair that sat in a pool of yellow light coming from a lamp. “It’s the treaties that were so controversial, though. Making them meant that Yown’Hoo and Kiiote had to interact – and because we were the ones doing the actual work, we had to be part of the talks at the table.” He paused a long time, leaned over and unlaced his boots, grabbed a low, backless chair and pulled it toward him. Settling back in the chair, he put his legs on the backless chair and sighed. “It was out of those talks that the idea for the Triads grew.”

‘Shay said, “You were there, weren’t you?”

Retired shrugged. “It doesn’t make any difference either way. Even if I wasn’t there, I was around. I think I was off-world.”

“So, the Yown’Hoo…” I started.

Retired held up a hand. “Not all the Yown’Hoo. Ji-Hi, the Mother of All was there when she only had ten. But her scent was so powerful that she swayed other Herds to hear in her register.”

GURion spoke this time, his voice eerily sing-song, like the chanting of the Dwarves in that one fantasy flattie, saying, “Even I know that Pan and Zir, Kiiote Pack Pack Leaders with the four strongest of their litter, nearly full grown; and St. Admiral, Martyr for Humanity with her mate, were there. After senseless arguments, snarls, stamping, and the drawing of imaginary weapons, it became clear to all that something needed to change. The Yown’Hoo couldn’t fight much longer as the actual fibers of their heart muscles had begun to show irreversible genetic drifting. The Kiiote litters shrank as their bodies sensed that there was less prey, so there needed to be fewer young mouths to feed even while the generals called for more.”

Retired said, “There was no solution in war.”

Suddenly ‘Shay said, “The only answer was peace.” I stared at her. He voice had changed. Her stance had changed. I didn’t recognize her.

But I did grasp the implication and all I could whisper was, “And we were the offerings of peace.”

I barely heard GURion say, “No one knows yet if the offering is one of honey…or one of blood.”