April 27, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY -- A Vacation


Overwhelmed and wiped out this week, I'll be back with the next chapter in a week!

April 26, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 302

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. Regarding Fantasy, this insight was startling: “I see the fantasy genre as an ever-shifting metaphor for life in this world, an innocuous medium that allows the author to examine difficult, even controversial, subjects with impunity. Honor, religion, politics, nobility, integrity, greed—we’ve an endless list of ideals to be dissected and explored. And maybe learned from.” – Melissa McPhail.

Fantasy Trope: Gaslight Fantasy

Andrijana Crncevic said, “Wha’d’yo mean you ‘just really wonder if I’m a witch’?”

Kweku Chikelu shrugged. She grabbed his upper arm, her weightlifter grip holding him firmly enough to keep him from slipping away – which he usually did when he made outrageous claims. Like when he accused her of being controlled by the aliens who made the Anasazi disappear by taking over their bodies and making them build spaceships so they could escape Earth. Or the time he accused her of being a mermaid assigned to infiltrate land-based politics and stop the professional fishing industry – and tidal stream power generation. Andrijana rolled her eyes and squeezed harder. Kweku – Quack when she was irritated with him – squeaked. Quacked, pretty much.

“So tell me what you mean. We’ve already established I’m not a mind-controlling alien, a mermaid, or a golem.”

“I never really thought you were a golem,” he said sheepishly, finally meeting her gaze.

She released him with a shake. “You’re the only reason I stay at this stupid school, Quack.”

It was his turn to roll his eyes and say, “Don’t call me ‘Quack’.”

She echoed him tone-for-tone as he said it.

They sat side-by-side outside of the school theater. It was a warm night, just before spring actually sprung, trees still bare and fingers reaching up to touch a full Moon. They were breaking from rehearsal for the school’s production of “Macbeth”, where she played...Gentlewoman, Lady Macbeth’s caretaker. She said, “How about I won’t call you if you don’t call me a witch.”

He shrugged and dropped his eyes again. Somewhere on the autism spectrum, she’d decided long ago that he didn’t fit in any one place – he wandered up and down the spectrum, some days he’d talk to anyone; others he’d follow her, hunched as if the world lashed him. He said, “I can’t. You have to be a witch.”

“Why?”

“ ‘cause I’m more me with you than I am with anyone else even my mama,” he said in a rush. “It’s got to be magic. It can’t be reality.”

Andrijana thrust her lower jaw out – she did it whenever she thought she had a major decision to make. It bugged her mom to death. Her dad thought it was adorable. In fact, it was neither. When she configured her chin in that way, it allowed her to focus her psychic energy and speak through real space to the Behind. Her familiar lived there. He turned indolently to her. She couldn’t see in the Behind, but for whatever reason, her sense allowed her to know what was happening there. She knew he turned to her. She knew he was immense. At first, she’d thought he was a dragon, but she knew now that he wasn’t. She also knew that he was both committed to a different relationship and that he was somehow slaved to her – though he didn’t mind. “Listen, Mac, he’s on to us.”

The voice he spoke in belied his power; it was gentle, calm but strong nevertheless. She’d heard it once before. The creature beholden to her Behind reality sounded exactly like Martin Luther King, Junior...

Names: ♀ Serbian, Serbian ; Akan, Igbo
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

April 23, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: How the HECK Can I Write Better Short Stories?????

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 #2534. The link is provided below…

Watch the video, too! It better explains what I think probably happened at this event:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihKdqk_WJOI  

Editing and Crafting the Short Story: Writing on the small scale requires precision of detail from concept to completion. What do you need to know about openings, character development, narrative arcs, endings and more that will make your short fiction pop?

Ellen Datlow – Fiction editor at one time or another of: OMNI Magazine, SciFiction, Nightmare, Subterranean, Tor.com, countless anthologies, essays, BEST OF’s, and…like everything…
Alex Shvartsman – editor of UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY OBJECTS, and writer of dozens of short stories…
Ms. Lynne M. Thomas – SpecFic librarian, archivist, editor of APEX Magazine, and is currently co-editor-in-chief of UNCANNY MAGAZINE…
Neil Clarke – founder and editor of award-winning CLARKESWORLD online magazine…
Sheila Williams – Editor of ASIMOV’S…

OMGosh…

I can’t even begin to imagine what this session was like. The image that leaps to mind is the attendees are like the people near an oil test-drilling, expecting nothing – when the drill hits an unexpected deposit of crude oil and gases then uncontrollably gushes out of the ground…like the video above.

Sorry I’m using so many ellipses, but it’s intentional. There’s no telling you how deeply I regret not having seen or heard this session. I tried to find some kind of recording of it, but it doesn’t seem to be easily accessible.

So, I’ll punt. The subjects covered are ones that, on the heels of my most recent rejection: “Unfortunately, this story is way too long for our purposes, and the science fiction content is desperately thin. I'd suggest, if you have the desire, cut it down to the bare essentials, which should be around 5K or 6K words, develop the gMod science more, and I think it would make a terrific story…” makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong.

This editor, whom I’ve worked with several time, makes some valid points, as the story is nearly 10,000 words long. But…but…but…my intent was to show how a single technological development would affect the LIVES of characters in a story. The title even summarizes what I was trying to do: “The Daily Use of Gravity Modification in Rebuilding Liberian Schools”.

Cutting out half of the story – and I know exactly what needs to be cut and “how” the gravity modification technology works in the story – would leave it a rollicking adventure but would eviscerate or even eliminate entirely – how the characters FEEL about using the technology. It’s a story about the people, not the technology…

This group would have had so much to say about “What…[I]…need to know about openings, character development, narrative arcs, [and] endings…” As I can’t listen to them, I’ll grab some wisdom from the internet.

Advice for openings from here: http://bekindrewrite.com/2012/05/04/the-21-best-tips-for-writing-your-opening-scene/ The best sentence in this article: “Understand the promises you are making your readers – both emotional and intellectual – and be prepared to follow through (will the ending meet the expectations you encouraged your readers to have in the beginning?)” from Nancy Kress

Advice for character development from here: http://rickriordan.com/about/advice-for-writers/. The best sentence in this article: “Remember, plot is what the characters do next.” From Rick Riordan

Advice for narrative arc from here: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/ The best sentence in this article: “At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress…this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.” From Nigel Watts

I think endings are self-explanatory, though I will add this from my own experience – the ending needs to reiterate the opening, giving an answer to the promise of the first sentence/paragraph/page. Last of all, something from Nancy Kress again: “I…love her focus on the implicit promise of a story, its necessity, and how it works…[recognize] the existence of the implicit promise and [understand] how to nurture and develop it to completion.”

Like I said, I wish I’d been there. I wasn’t, but I imagine the group might have said the above in some iteration or other. I WILL keep looking for a transcript or video of this session!


April 20, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 61

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 Xiomara; 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)

Great Uncle Rion looked down, between us. When he looked back up, he said, “When we get to the safe room, we’ll lay all of our cards out on the table.”

I nodded slowly, pursed my lips then said, “All right. But it’s only because you’re better at comprehensible metaphors than Retired is. And he’s Human.”

GURion took me by the shoulders, shook me gently. I thought he was gonna yell at me. Instead, he said, “I want you to promise that you’ll say that to him at the worst possible moment.” He shook me again, “Promise, Oscar!”

Shaking my head, I grinned then said, “I promise.”

“Now let’s get caught up to the rest of the family.”

We kept on through the tunnel, the only light oozing down from the green glowing slime that covered the walls and ceiling. It looked like it should smell bad even though it didn’t. “Ten kilometers?”

“Give or take.”

“How far have we come up to now?”

“We drove about sixty kilometers, ran another two or three. Why?”

“It would have taken us twelve hours to come this far. And you said we have to make it almost to Winnipeg?”

He stopped and turned to face me, “Yes. Why?”

“I figure at the rate the group moves, it’ll take us two hundred hours of constant movement,” I paused. “And it’s winter and we’re moving north.”

“So?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

GURion shrugged. “Why would I? No one said this was easy. The Triad’s greenhouse life is over. The work has to start now because Earth and the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo don’t have much time left.”

“What are you talking about?” I was starting to feel sick. “What do you mean our ‘greenhouse life’?”

“We have to keep moving if we’re going to make the rendezvous.” He started walking.

I ran up beside him. “You’re scaring me, GURion!”

“It’s pretty much past time to get scared. The eighteen of you have a job to accomplish along with the thirty-eight other Triad members.”

“What did you mean about a ‘greenhouse life’?”

“The Triads are ready to go finally. You’ve had everything you’ve ever needed to grow strong and smart. You’ve got skills in all kinds of areas among you all. It’s time for you to join up and start creating a new society.” I opened my mouth to protest, but GURion took my arm and kept me moving forward as he said, “But you’re not going to do it today. We have to get up to Grendl before our next real move.”

“Oh, so between today and a hundred and twenty-two hours from now is nothing?” I asked.

He snorted. It was a realistic sound for someone who didn’t even breathe. “Hardly. Most likely it involves not only hiking, but more driving…”

“Not a bakery truck again!”

“No. More likely solar-powered four-wheelers. Maybe motorcycles.”

“How would the Yown’Hoo ride a motorcycle?”

“Sidecars.” The idea of the Herd Mother stuffed into a car alongside me, Xio, Qap, or Xurf…I laughed. My great uncle added, “I know. The very idea boggles the mind!”

I fell into step beside him and pretty soon we’d established a matched stride and the meters started to disappear below us.

April 18, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 301

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: "It occurs to me that robot stories about naturally-occurring robots present an untapped sci-fi resource in terms of commenting on what constitutes life, or a meditation on the machine like nature of biological man, etc."

Ebony Jones pursed her lips, tweaking the landing jets of the surface ship. “I don’t like how it looks down there.”

Marquis Deonte ran another scan, tapping one of the readouts as he said, “It’s mechanical life, sure. Maybe the first time we’ve ever run across it naturally...”

“There’s nothing ‘natural’ about ‘mechanical life’. It’s an oxymoron,” she almost added “Like you...”, but decided against it. They’d butted heads enough times on the trip out from Earth – mostly because you could only live out virtual adventures so many times before you got bored. You could also only prep for landing on an alien world so many times before you were twitching in your sleep with the movements you’d repeated a million times.

You could only tell someone you just wanted to be friends so many times before you both started to... Marquis cut into her litany, saying, “Didn’t you come out here to find life as we DON’T know it?"

“Of course it’s what I want! Just because I question the possibility of some sort of metallic, mechanical...”

“Look! Down there!” he said, aiming the external sensors at the roiling surface.

Ebony said, “Besides, water mixed with just about any kind of salt would be corrosive to metal...”

“Our bones are metallic,” he said, his voice taking on the deadpan, lecture mode they’d fallen into after they’d first become fast friends. Since about ten months into the flight to HD 196944, a star rich in heavy metals when they’d stopped being best friends and become the banes of their separate existences.

“True, that. But...”

“There’s something moving under the surface,” said Marquis.

“I don’t see anything...”

“It’s not visible in our part of the spectrum. Change the frequency reception of your scanner. I’m getting lots of movement in the UV band. Also IR.”

She tapped the screen, slid a spectrum bar and watched as the imaged jumped into view. There were larger shapes deeper down. Smaller ones close to the surface. They were angular rather than rounded; mechanical rather than biological. “What kind of ecology would they have?” she muttered. After a moment, she said more loudly, “There’s something – cloudy – under the surface. Seems to be...” she paused, defaulted to a space-view of the lander, zoomed in then added, “The cloud is matching the shape of our shadow.”

“Huh?” Marquis said.

“Our shadow! A cloud is forming underneath us in the water.” Below them, something burbled, as if the water were boiling. A larger bubble burst beneath the surface, splashing the lander. Ebony swung the imager to the belly of the lander and cried, “The ship’s skin is boiling! I’m taking us up!” Without waiting for his confirmation, Ebony pushed the throttle to full...

Names: , Top 20 Whitest and Blackest Names (http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2470131

April 16, 2017

Risen, INDEED!

I've been writing this blog for seven years. I've done a few Easter posts but this one I wrote for GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER was good -- not about me, but good for me.

Fifty posts, fifty weeks.

Good Friday was last night.

Why do they call it good? Strangely enough, the best explanation I have ever heard or seen popped up on Friday on my niece’s FaceBook post in the form of a comic strip drawn by legendary artist, Johnny Hart, creator of the strip “B.C.” and co-creator of the strip, “The Wizard of Id”:
This is the only reason such a day, such a celebration could be called “good”.

My daughter and I were talking about Good Friday on the way to the service and back. She observed that this the only specifically Christian Holy Day that the secular world has been unable to co-op. We decided that there’s no way that such an event could be made cute or represented by cuddly animals, people in costumes or from which candy companies might not spin adorable commercials or bunnies laying chocolate eggs. Any attempt to “cute-i-fy” Good Friday is doomed to failure by the nature of the day.

It’s grim. Gruesome. Dark.

It’s all about torture and execution.

Outsiders – those who don’t know of, believe or otherwise acknowledge Christianity find it offensive and inexplicable; perhaps even insane. “Why would you possibly want to remember the horrific execution of your rabbi and teacher?”

Last night I realized for the first time that the events leading up to the execution of the Christ are NOT about the failure of God to accomplish His mission on Earth. The crucifixion was NOT a backup plan for the enlightnement of Humanity (and a bad one at that).

The events prior to Good Friday were an exhibit.

An exhibit of everything that is rotten in Humanity and a display of ample proportions of exactly why it needed forgiveness and saving.

The infant Jesus was born a slave to an empire both global and cruel. His birth sparked the slaughter of hundreds of other innocent newborns by decree. His life exposed the tedious, unremarkableness of thirty years of growing old in an ancient world and the loss of his father during adolescence; his three years of ministry exposed him to corrupt government, avarice and greed, ridicule by the intelligentsia, betrayal and abandonment by friends, public adulation turned mockery, lies, a corrupted justice system that did not represent slaves, gambling and drug abuse.

What does this have to do with my wife’s breast cancer? Last night, I was shamed by His suffering because I have for some time now begged and challenged Him to explain, “Why have you made me suffer so?”

He hadn’t answered my plea until last night when He said, “I can’t explain that, Guy. But I can say that I have been with you in that suffering because I understand suffering. I understand despair. I get you. That’s why I haven’t cast a lightning bolt in your direction for your impertinence. I understand, as few others can, your suffering, and I’ll stand by you and answer what questions I can. Look at your blog – lots of answers there. Not ‘the answer’, that won’t come until we can talk face-to-face; but you got a lot of them. See you later, bud.”

I know this isn’t about breast cancer exactly; I suppose I pulled a Johnny Hart on you all. Be that as it may, my prayer is that you might find some answers to your suffering. If you can’t find answers, then I’d be happy to talk with you. Just leave me a comment and I’ll reply…

image: http://images.tcj.com/2012/03/Hart-6.jpg

April 13, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 100: 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.

Aster Theilen, most recently, Consort of Mayor-for-Life of Opportunity Dome, Etaraxis Ginunga-Gap, and the original daughter of known religious radical, Abedne Halle-Theilen; said to the underground gathering of Artificial Humans her father had led her to, “Members of the Artificial Human community, oppressed by those of us who are natural-born, I request and require,” she turned slowly meeting the eyes of every Artificial Human she could see, then said, “that you no longer take your orders from my father. You take orders only from me – or a duly appointed mouthpiece of mine, who will only act when he or she presents a sigil representing my Voice.” She looked at her dad and said, “Sorry. It’s necessary for the plan.” She spoke loudly, “Please signify your understanding and acceptance of my request and requisition by raising your right hand.” A moment later every hand was raised, every face solemn. She turned to her father and said, “Sorry, Daddy. You’ve been voted out.”

Abedne scowled at his daughter then nodded. “Good. I was getting tired of leading them. About time you took over the family avocation.”

She nodded, then turned again in a circle, taking in the blue faces. She said, “I’d like to work with a smaller group of ten of you. If each one of those has some connection to the other major Domes and stations, that would be best. We need to create…”

Her dad leaned over and whispered, “There’s already an inter-Dome network. You don’t think we’ve just been sitting on our hands for the past ten years, do you?” He smiled to take the sting out of his words.

Aster nodded, “I hadn’t dared hope as much. The groundwork you all have created is exactly what I’d hoped to find here.” She looked around. “Who are the leaders?”

Abedne sighed. “Speak to the entire group, Sweetie. They’d rather not identify themselves – in case any Security forces are recording our meeting.”

She blushed, nodded, then said, “So, Dad, I need to ask you to leave. Those same Security forces have you identified – and likely monitored.”

He held up his hands, bowed, and said, “I’ll see you later, then.” He headed out of the meeting area.

Aster pursed her lips, wondering if any of the group would come closer. She waited a moment, then started speaking. She told the group about the plans for the Orphan’s Ball. She wanted Artificial Human children to be part of the celebration. Artificial Humans were part of the future of the planet.

Her father and many of the First Humans were not happy with how Mars had turned out. Scattered among the Domes and living in the High Desert of Mars, most had become pariah to the common humanity that lived their lives out hardly noticing that they were aliens on an ancient world

While she’d never been the fanatic her father was, she loved the Triune God and wanted to serve Him, she was now in a place to do some good and she had allies. Undermining the status quo had never been her dream, but if she ever wanted to see a Mars unified and equitable, someone had to start something somewhere. Martian society needed to be responsible for lifting them up. FardusAH, with her network of assistants to all of the other Mayors of Mars, would be her most powerful ally.

vo’Maddux was another issue. In her mind, the Mayoral Consort should stay in the Pylon. But Aster’s father’s “blue-collar” workers and FardusAH’s allies – men and women who listened to her dad, attended his secret Christian churches and who kept Opportunity Dome from falling apart; along with the Artificial Humans her father and FardusAH worked with – all needed to know that what Aster had planned wasn’t “a stunt” by the Mayor’s Office.

A union of Martians, is what she wanted – a union against the current power structure – was something she was ready to work for. She suddenly realized that she wanted to do it, no matter what it cost her. Up to and including her life.


April 12, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 300

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.

A long time ago – post number 12 to be exact – I did my FIRST Horror idea. I’d like to repeat it here, on the anniversary of the 300th idea. I didn’t have the format down then, so this isn’t QUITE as thought out as I do things now, but here it is, idea 14, Horror Idea #1:

The Strangest Army on Earth

I know this is just a wiki, but this idea was inspired by a former student of mine who became a physics teacher and is currently teaching in China. He visited this site several weeks ago and has posted pictures on Facebook. His pictures of this army came up recently and though I couldn’t link directly to his Facebook, I linked here:

It 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?


April 9, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #12 “Extreme Contact” (Submitted 12 Times Since 2013, Revised 0 times)

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:
Extreme climates evolve extreme aliens – who need extreme measures to make a successful First Contact.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
Sacrifice is necessary to get what you want.

Opening Line:
“After watching the live, streaming reports of the Heinlein Dome disaster on the Moon, Zahar Qasoori was certain that dying to save someone’s life would be less painful than living as the bastard son of a rich interplanetary business man and playboy.”

Onward:
A couple of kids – who were captured as they were about to die – are used as a First Contact team with a bizarre society of intelligent beings descended from an Hallucigenian-like predecessor. Human adults in wheelchairs were insulting to the Ho*fart* and the Contact nearly caused Humanity to be FINED instead of gaining credit in the Unity toward the purchase of mathematical techniques leading to equations leading to a Human theory of faster-than-light space travel.

What Was I Trying To Say?
I was trying to counter the meme that seems to have swallowed the idea that sacrifice is sometimes required to advance either our personal goals – or the goals of society at large. That’s why the main character, Zahar, willingly gives his life in pursuit of a greater goal: to make sure First Contact with a weird alien intelligence is successful.

I believe that we’ve pushed such an absurd idea aside in favor of…well, lots of things: personal aggrandizement, the sense that we DESERVE to have whatever we want, that other people should give it to us, and that we deserve it NOW. [Personally, I believe that’s why Hillary Clinton has (as they say in several of the Jane Austen movies) “disappeared from all good society”. She felt she deserved the presidency (as do her followers, who continue to tell me that “Trump is not my president!”…though, I’ll point out that I refused to vote for either one of them. BOTH were bad choices for America. I was, at one time, very interested in Bernie Sanders.]

The attitude I get more often than I like in my line of work, is this profound sense of entitlement; that the person “deserves”…well, to get whatever we want; good grades without working for it, be it education, advancement, wealth, position, or authority.

The Rest of the Story:
The main character sacrifices his life in the end to save the life of his First Contact partners – an older man who is really wheelchair bound – and another teen like himself. Together, the survivors can negotiate with the Ho*fart*, but only because the aliens are impressed by the sacrifice .

End Analysis:
On rereading the story, I found that the thing was more a vignette with all kinds of details describing the world and the Ho*fart*, both of which were cool, but the story itself was extremely weak, being more or less a thinly veiled excuse for me to show the place off.

That’s a Novice Mistake if ever I saw one. Oops.

Can This Story Be Saved?
The first question to ask is if it is, indeed, a story.

I’ve long believed that it is, until I just reread it and discovered that it’s not. So now what do I do? I may have to abandon THIS story, though I think the concept is fine. It’s just that I go totally lost in the world itself. If I can sideline some of the world building wonder and focus on character (which is a weakness of mine), I might be able to shave it down to only 4000 words if I cut out all the coolness. However, the complexity of the aliens and their world are integral to the actual story. Perhaps I could study Dr. Robert L. Forward’s world-building wonder DRAGON’S EGG or even Hal Clement’s short story, “Under” (ANALOG 2000) and MISSION OF GRAVITY (ASTOUNDING SF April, May, June, July 1953) to get a better idea of what to do with this place…

So, the answer is a definite, “maybe”…


April 6, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 60

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 Xiomara; 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)

Great Uncle Rion snorted in the dark, though I noticed the walls beyond the door were starting to glow a faint green. He said, “Not insane. Just a long walk. Staying down here will keep the Triad safe.”

“Where’s this ‘Grendl’?”

“Canada.”

I blinked, startled and started to get to my feet. “Canada,” I said. Even the echo of my voice was flat.

“Yep. Let’s go.” He started walking.

No matter how crazy he was, I didn’t have anywhere else to go and I’d be safer with him than on my own. In fact, except when I slept in my assigned room – and not with Fax – I was rarely, really alone. And I hadn’t heard a growl, yap, howl, snort, hiss, snap, or any other noise from the rest of the Triad – which was to say, my family – after we escaped the blasting of my ancestral farm. Such as it was. I trudged along for a long time before GURion suddenly said, “Oh, quit moping! Your bodyguard, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh and I, talked about something like this happening. We established a meet up spot about ten kilometers ahead. It’s provisioned and we can spend a day or two there and let things upstairs settle down.”

I ignored his thinly veiled insult and kept walking. I asked, “So, what if things upstairs don’t settle down?”

We trudged in the sickly green light of the glowing walls for a long time before he answered, “Commander Bakhsh discussed that as well.” Long pause. “The situation on Earth is incredibly unstable. The Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote are both wearing out. Their military forces are becoming demoralized because neither side can claim a decisive victory. We’re no help to them either – at least not as allies. Earth’s resources were pretty close to depleted even before the aliens showed up – even back in my time. We don’t have anything physical to offer them. All we have is real estate that both can use to breed on.” He kept walking. Even though he was an android, his pace was off. His feet dragged.

I said, “There’s us, right?”

I’m pretty sure he would have sighed if he’d had lungs. GURion said, “The three Triads are about all that we have to put our hope in. If the three of you can join up, form a sort of…van Der Waals society, then maybe all three civilizations can do the same thing.” I snorted. “What?”

“It’s not like there’s no pressure here, right? Me and the rest of the North American Triad have to join up with the Chinese Triad and the Russian Triad and ‘Poof’ save not one civilization; not two civilizations; but THREE technological civilizations from interstellar war and societal decay!” I paused for dramatic effect, then added, “No pressure on us, eh?”

We walked a long way before he finally said, “We’re guilty as charged.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What you said. It’s true. We’ve laid the hopes of the entire extant populations of the only three intelligent societies we know of in the Milky Way on the hearts of fifty-seven young people. If you can’t make any kind of change, then it’s very likely we’ll all cease to exist as space-faring civilizations.”

I couldn’t help but feel the ground over my head as if was pressing down on me. “Thanks.”

“You asked.”
I snorted. “Yeah, but you could have lied…”

GURion stopped suddenly and spun around. I could only just see him in the weird light, but his android eyes seemed to catch the light; glowing as if they were lit from inside his head. Which they could have been for all I knew. He said, “I may have done many things to deceive you, Oscar, but I never lied to you. I wanted to keep things from you – I had to under orders from the Triad Corporation. But when you asked, I told you…”

“You’d better not say, ‘some version of the truth’. The truth doesn’t have versions! I learned that from Xiomara’s favorite movie.”

He hung his head, lifted it then said, “I was going to say just that. But Xiomara’s movie is right. There are no versions of truth – only all of it or not all of it. I withheld things from you. Which I won’t be doing again. Ever. I can’t afford to any more. The nineteen – eighteen of you since Ked-sah-ti died – of you need to know everything that’s going on. But you have to understand that some things that Retired and I keep from you are for your own safety…”

“I never understood that,” I said. “If anyone captures us, they’re going to figure we know something and torture us whether we do or not! Either way, we’re going to be dead. So, why not just tell us what we need to know?”

GURion looked down, between us. When he looked back up, he said, “You’re right. When we get to the safe room, we’ll lay all of our cards out on the table.”

I shook my head, “You’re better at comprehensible metaphors than Retired is. And he’s Human.”

GURion took me by the shoulders, shook me gently. I thought he was gonna yell at me. Instead, he said, “I want you to promise that you’ll say that to him at the worst possible moment.” He shook me again, “Promise, Oscar!”

Shaking my head, I grinned then said, “I promise.”

“Now let’s get caught up to the rest of the family.”


April 4, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 299

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. Regarding Fantasy, this insight was startling: “I see the fantasy genre as an ever-shifting metaphor for life in this world, an innocuous medium that allows the author to examine difficult, even controversial, subjects with impunity. Honor, religion, politics, nobility, integrity, greed—we’ve an endless list of ideals to be dissected and explored. And maybe learned from.” – Melissa McPhail.

F Trope: a sorcerer who is dead but his “soul” lives on trapped somewhere
Current Event: http://www.alunajoy.com/2012-mar18.html

"Magically trapped sorcerers or magnetically trapped gravitons...which is more powerful?"
  
Martin Jönsson stared at the blog and said, “You’ve read this stuff?” He scratched his scruffy blonde beard – little more than rough peach fuzz

Vukosova Gavrilović, long-time friends and NOT girlfriend, smirked. She learned the Swede phrase for her buddy’s newly sprouted beard was duniga skägg. She considered teasing him, but the look on her face warned her that he probably wasn’t in the mood tonight. Instead she said, “I read it. What about it?”

“It like, says that people can soak up ancient energy and transport it from place to place!”

Vukosova shook her head. Her friend was a philosophy major – she wished him luck in finding a job as something more than an intelligent garbage collector. She was a physics major, and if her freshman grades and undergrad presentation were any indication, she may have just written herself a ticket to the Cooperative Lunar Colony Fusion Research Center after she graduated. The CLCRFC – better known by its euphemistic name, The CooL Co. FuR Center and what NASA insisted on calling ClickerFick in its press releases – was every physicists dream. Nuclear fusion was a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming practical. All they needed to do was solve one or two containment issues...she yanked her attention back to Martin and said, “We’ve been soaking up energy and taking if from place to place since the evolution of the first life form.”

He finally looked up from the screen that showed some wackoid Egyptian goddess background overlain with a the foolish ranting of someone who was certain they’d been able to imbue and ancient Egyptian site with energy sucked up in their souls from Atlantis. He said, “This is amazing! It sounds like what you guys are doing in that science class you’re taking!”

She sighed and said, “It’s called Elementary Nuclear Fusion – and it doesn’t have anything to do with storing energy. It’s about creating energy.”

He frowned then said, “I had some science classes in high school...”

“That was last year, wasn’t it?”

“Hey! Just ‘cause I’m a prodigy doesn’t mean I don’t deserve respect!”

“You were a prodigy in acting, Martin! Now you couldn’t shake a stick at an T-comp without breaking into a cold sweat!”

He stood up abruptly, snapping the cover in his computer. “Shows how much you know! I’m gonna see if I can soak up some fusion energy from...from…”

She smirked and said, “Idfu – it’s on the east bank of the Nile in east central Egypt.”

He glared, “You think you know everything just because you’re a physics major! But there’s another world out there, too. One you can’t see! It inhabits the same realm as your gravitons.”

“Gravitons are real!” Vukosova exclaimed.

“Yeah? Show  me one!”

“Well, you can’t just open your eyes and see one! You need special equipment…”

“And then can you see one?”

“Well...not exactly. But we can see evidence that gives a strong indication of the properties and the effects of...”

“So your gravitons are as imaginary as my negative Atlantean energy.”

“They aren’t the same...”

Martin turned away and stalked out of the dining hall. He stopped just before he slammed the door and shouted, “We’ll see whose god is more powerful! The trapped sorcerers of Atlantis and Ancient Egypt or the trapped gravitons of the Unified Field Theory!”

She blinked in surprise as he finished his rant and stomped away. She muttered, “I didn’t know he knew anything about the Unified Field Theory!”

Name Source: Sweden, Serbia

April 2, 2017

Slice of PIE: Punishing Characters In Speculative Fiction…

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 #2501. The link is provided below…

Punishment by Airlock: Death by airlock. Spacing. Stepping through the Moon Door. What is it about this trope that holds fascination? What is the science behind it and would it really be a good idea to create yet more space debris?

Lettie Prell – a novel and short SF in ANALOG, APEX, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS, and etc…
Susan BetzJitomir J.D. – Bath, NY lawyer, no fiction credits I can see
William Frank – speculative fiction poet
Mr. Guy Lillian – dedicated fan of speculative fiction

Not sure why I thought this was interesting – except I think it gave me an idea to explore “torturing characters” to advance the story…which is what all writers DO.

But is it effective? Throwing someone through the airlock to kill them? Pushing them out of a Lunar airlock? Is it that even possible?

TV Tropes explains explosive decompression like this: “…they'll pop like a turkey with a grenade stuffed inside…reality is quite different…you've got about 15 seconds before you pass out from anoxia…minutes…until you die from the same…exposed areas swelling up, body fluids boiling off…outermost layer of capillaries…holding your breath would be worse than useless; the difference in pressure would cause a…fatal embolism even from the smallest amount of air in the lungs...pulmonary barotrauma is possible, but not guaranteed…it can happen in real life if you get a really high pressure gradient – eight or nine atm to 1 atm (normal)…[The term] refers to the speed at which the decompression occurs, not the result or cause…however, space it cold…A really unlucky character might suffer as they're blown into space, then undergo Explosive Decompression…”(http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ExplosiveDecompression)

How often is a character affected by this? According to TV Tropes again, about 76 times. Not a lot. What are some other ways to threaten a character – or, if you think about it, you’re not threatening the character. The “evil” person tosses a victim out the airlock, they explode in a shower of blood, thereby establishing the villain as a really “evil” person – which gives the heroine someone to fight against. If they didn’t act fast enough, we have an angsty, self-flagellating, introspective monologue. If they were held back after arriving at the last second, begging to replace the victim’s fate – then it makes the villain appear monstrously villainous.

But is it necessary? If “throwing them out the airlock” is done to help innocent bystanders, then it’s sacrifice – and gives the heroine the moral high ground (unless you have no morals, in which a person who sacrifices their life for another is plain stupid…) to do anything to pay back the deed. If “spacing” is done as a punishment – then you have the loud argument against capital punishment, and it puts your sympathy firmly on the side of your first victim. If the hero opposes it, then you know who to root for.

So – punishing prisoners…how well does it work? How many former prisoners are there as heroes in SF? THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY springs to mind.

GALAXY QUEST shows the villain about to space all sorts of innocents!

Suggested many times, threatened countless others, and executed (so to speak) several times well, according to that fount of trivia, TV tropes, I THINK this might be symbolic of something else? I think it might be an attempt to justify whatever a writer wants his or her audience to feel. Realistically, throwing someone out an airlock into open space is about as exciting as smothering them with a pillow to the face. Certainly it’s horrible. But it lacks in real drama. Imagine replacing all those space murder scenes with one of a spacesuit mask filling with foam rubber…ugly to watch, but hardly high drama. It might even be why we continually turn to the Nazis as villains.

There’s no doubt that they SHOULD be villainized, but other nations do what they did – just without the high drama. For example, how about the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments? Or feeding mentally handicapped boys radioactive oatmeal to see what would happen? (Google Walter E. Fernald School and Quaker Oats…)

“Spacing people” has become our go-to signal of villainy at its lowest – despite the fact that it would demonstrably slow and anticlimactic in a story.

I wonder if anyone said anything about that in this discussion? Hmm…


March 27, 2017

In The Woods Until Thursday!


I am in the woods until Thursday! I'll catch up then...

March 23, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 99: 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.

Neither Stepan Izmaylova nor Quinn was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim. A high-pitched whistle drowned out Stepan’s shout. 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, finding a literal growl rumbling in his throat. This whole thing – everything he himself had set in motion – sent 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 – a faith that prided itself of having set itself free of ancient religious biases – were the ones he had condemned by his angry, selfish pursuit of free will. “Well, I helped start it. I can end it,” Stepan said out loud.

“End what?” asked Quinn, not looking up from his careful poking of the roof over the warehouse.

“Don’t worry, my friend, stick with me long enough and you’ll find out.”

Quinn stopped and looked at him, eyes wide. “What’d you call me?”

“My friend,” said Stepan, locking the boys icy, blue-eyed gaze.

Quinn held it with the strength of youth, blinked, then smiled shyly. “No ain’t never called me they friend.” Nodding he went back to prodding the roof. Stepan cast a nervous glance upward, but not giant cracks had appeared in the Dome. “Don’t worry,” said Quinn, “The stupid siren goes off all the time. Least this time it was during the day. I hate it most when it starts blaring and I’m asleep.”

“So there’s no breach?”

Quinn shrugged. “Who knows?” He poked at the roof, then said, “Ya know, I could use some help here. This roof ain’t gonna get tested all by itself.”

Stepan nodded and resumed the careful tread across the warehouse. “We should go toward the edge more. It’s more likely to be sound there. Here toward the middle, it seems like it could…” Under his feet, came a squeal, then the material sagged under him. Before it could go any farther, Quinn tackled him around the waist, twisting both of them so that their hard fall was translated into a flattening roll. They came to rest with Quinn on top. The boy’s eyes were squeezed shut and he was shivering. “I thought you told me you aren’t afraid of anything?”

The younger man cursed then jumped to his feet. “I ain’t – except letting my credit chip out of this slum fall to his death.” Quinn’s accent was gone.

Stepan stood up as well, then stared at the Artificial Human. He pursed his lips, shaking his head slowly. After a moment, he smiled a bit. “Yeah, well, we can’t let that happen, now, can we? Let’s head straight over and stay on roofing we already poked.”

Quinn turned abruptly and led the way, sometimes walking saddle-legged, other times practically heel-toe. They reached the edge without incident. The warehouse ended two meters from the Base of the Dome, though four meters below, the wall of the warehouse merged with it – most likely where the warehouse offices had been, integrating the architecture into the existing structure. Stepan said, “I don’t remember seeing any doors into the Base downstairs.”

“Prob’ly covered by the owners when they vayked…”
“What?” Stepan shook his head, adding, “Half the time I don’t even understand what you’re saying!”

QuinnAH…something in how he looked up at Stepan made the differences between them leap to the size of Valles…said, “The entrances into the shielded quarters and offices of the prior warehouse owners were most likely sealed a short time before they vacated the premises.”

Stepan scowled, felt anger rise up in him; privileged anger; anger at the temerity of a young, unskilled, impudent Artificial Human that made him want to strike the thing down. Then he gasped, stepped back, left hand holding right, staring down at it.

“What?”

He couldn’t answer at first, then finally said, “I know what’s wrong with this world and I know how to fix it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He looked up at Quinn, rolled his eyes, and said, “You wouldn’t understand.”

The boy’s faced purpled – literally – and he shouted, “I thought you were…”

“It’s because I don’t think you know what the definition of propitiation is.”

“Huh?”

Stepan grinned and said, “See, there’s stuff you don’t know!” He reached out tentatively and when Quinn didn’t flinch, tousled  his hair.

Then the boy slowly pulled away and said, “Let’s get below. There’s enough stuff up her to start your stupid garden.”