June 20, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 309

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: adaptational heroism
Current Event: “Throughout this work, we advance four primary ideas: (a)The concept of heroism is a way to unify several types of courageous or brave actions that have largely been treated independently in the literature to date; (b) that the simple presence of risk accompanying prosocial behavior is not enoughto define heroism; (c) heroism is viewed as distinct from otherprosocial activities, such as compassion and altruism (and may represent an entirely different behavior); and (d) that while heroism is primarily a positive and prosocial act, a simplistic view of this behavior misses important (and sometimes negative) aspects of the phenomenon.” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/161425346/A-Conceptual-Analysis-and-Differentiation-Between-Heroic-Action-and-Altruism)

“My baby sister tells me you can help us find Carlos,” Carmita Rodriguez Cruz said. Her eyes narrowed, “She’d better be right.”

Austin Ventura remembered then that she was also taking kickboxing lessons – and that his best friend was missing. “I’m not sure exactly where he is. I just know that there are certain places he’s likely to be.” He dared, “We’re in probability together. You do the math.”

She scowled darkly at him, but didn’t contradict him.

Score one, he said to himself.

Paulina Rodriguez Cruz, sister to Los Traviesos Gemelos, said, “Quit flirting, you two! Carlos has been kidnapped and we have to rescue him!”

Austin exclaimed, “I’m not flirting!”

Looking at him, Carmita said, “She’s right, A-man.” Looking at Paulina, she said, ¿Qué te hace pensar que fue secuestrado?

“I have another question for you, dear sister – what would he be doing out in the middle of the night, by himself, without telling one of the three of us? Aren’t those enough reasons?”

“The bigger question is why would anyone kidnap him,” said Austin.

Carmita bristled, “Just ‘cause he’s not rich like you, doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to kidnap him!”

“You two have to cut it out! Carlos may need us out there!” Carmita and Austin looked at each other then looked away, hanging their heads. “You both know that Carlos is a better person than all three of us put together.”

Austin felt a chill run up his spine. He said, “What would that have to do with kidnapping?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. It just…felt right. Don’t you think?”

He grimaced as a chilly breeze blew from across the parking lot, chasing bits and pieces of leaves and paper over to them. “Much as I know about him, I have to say I agree.”

“What do you mean?” Carmita said. “I’m his twin. I’m just as good as him!”

“Better,” Austin said.

“What?”

“You’re better than him in everything. It’s like when you guys were conceived, you sucked all the talent out of him. You got everything.” Carmita was glaring at him. He added slowly, “You got everything except his good heart.” She opened her mouth. Closed it. Opened it. Austin said, “You look like los peces de colores loco.”

“A crazy goldfish?” she echoed, puzzled.

“Yep. You ever seen one?”

“No.”

“Sure you have. Someone who’s locked up and can’t do a single thing – and if they don’t start moving, it’s gonna drive ‘em crazy.”

Paulina said, “Fits you like a glove, Cabroncita.”

Carmita snorted and said, “Let’s get going.” She tossed her gigantic purse over her shoulder, “A-man, we’re gonna need your car.”

Names: Mexico, Mexico; Minnesota, Italy (= “baby in the woods”, “foundling”); Spanish form of French name ‘Paul’
Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg

June 18, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: What Do You Do When A Famous Writer Has A Book Published Whose “World” Idea Is VERY SIMILAR To One You Had?

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

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

Let me just say that this is weird because it happened to me before.

Many years ago, I had an idea and approached a publisher. It had to do with writing a fictional account of an historic incident with which I was familiar. After researching and writing for over a year, I approached an editor. She was very excited with the story. We worked together and then suddenly this book was published: https://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-Adventures-Time-Neubert-Schultz/dp/0876142765/ref=la_B001JRZJLS_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497730292&sr=1-1

The editor I was working with said that wouldn’t matter, but the fact is that the book died and I was the holder of a paper manuscript that wasn’t worth anything. (I WILL say that the same editor bought a short story that I wrote – and bought a sidebar as well: https://shop.cricketmedia.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/small_image/166x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/c/r/cricket-magazine-july-2001.jpg)

Of course, the history of the Great Hickley Fire was there for the taking and there was nothing I could do to prove that I’d had the idea first – even if that could have been verified. It was just a weird coincidence that where that book's main character was named Maggie, my main character's name was Megan...

And now it appears to have happened again. Many years ago, I wrote the story, “Oath” that took place in a world very like the one presented in Brenda Cooper’s novel, WILDERS: “Coryn Williams has grown up in the megacity of Seacouver, where her every need is provided for—except satisfaction with her life. After her parents' suicides, her sister Lou fled the city to work on a rewilding crew, restoring lands once driven to the brink of ecological disaster by humans to a more natural state. Finally of age, Coryn leaves the city with her companion robot to look for her sister. But the outside world is not what she expects—it is rougher and more dangerous, and while some people help her, some resent the city and some covet her most precious resource: her companion robot. As Coryn struggles toward her sister, she uncovers a group of people with a sinister agenda that may endanger Seacouver. When Coryn does find her sister, Lou has secrets she won't share. Can Coryn and Lou learn to trust each other in order to discover the truth hidden behind the surface and to save both Seacouver and the rewilded lands?”

Here’s my story: http://www.stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/0130826/0130826-40.html (published in 2013). Certainly not identical in any way, but the concept of people jammed into megacities and allowing the rest of the world to “go wild” again is similar enough to be…creepy.
So, to satisfy myself, I’ll give you the timeline that led to my stories.

I belonged to a blog group called THE FRIDAY CHALLENGE. Here’s the original challenge that sparked my idea: http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-03-14T08:00:00-05:00


I didn’t win that competition, but both Bruce Bethke and Henry Vogel had nice things to say about it – and offered me another challenge. http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/04/and-winner-of-greater-challenge-is.html

That’s where “Oath” came from.

Noodling around in that same world led next to another story published in PERIHELION MAGAZINE called “Invoking Fire” (no longer available online) and may lead to more stories because it’s really the first chapter of a YA quest novel. Another story that took place in the world I call Vertical Villages and Return To The Wild, was “Technopred”. In it, I postulate that our technological development has forced the evolution of intelligence in animals. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC seemed to think so as well when they produced “Raccoon Nation” (Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpAw5bDrw5w) You can also read my story here: http://aurorawolf.com/2013/05/guy-stewart/

Others are unpublished, but they’re there. I’ve also slotted other stories of mine into the same Universe that comes out of the Vertical Village Movement. In fact, a novel I’m shopping around, OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS has major plot twists that take place in the MSP Vertical Village.

So – a question to the great “outdoors” – should I be worried or not?

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

June 15, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 64

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)

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) – Retired – sighed and said, “We need to sleep. We have a long trip ahead of us before we reach Grendl. The anti-Triad faction will be looking for you, the Kiiote and Yown’Hoo will be doing the same; and now conjures will be after us as well.”

Fax said, “It wearies me simply thinking about it.”

“Sorry son, that’s the least of our concerns at this point.” Fax nodded and headed for the Pack’s room.

Weird statement. I said, “What does that mean? What could be more important than all those people – and things – trying to kill us?”

Great Uncle Rion turned to Retired. “What are you talking about?”

Retired sighed again. “It’s too big to explain in one night.”

“I don’t care how big you think it is. We’ve followed you for days now – we’ve left everything we know behind. Thus far, we’ve been blind – even Qap and Xurf are doing what you tell them to. But you keep putting this off! It’s time we all know what the hell you…you…adults are doing with us!” I’m embarrassed to say I stomped my foot like I was a little kid. I’m even more embarrassed to say that Xio came and stood by me, slipping her arm around my waist. Then Qap and Xurf…and so did Dao-hi.

Dao-hi said, “‘Car speaks for me.”

Qap was in her bipedal form and growled, facial hair standing on end.  “In this matter, our Pack-mate speaks for us as well.” Fax, in his wolf form, pressed against the back of my legs.

Retired turned to face us down. “I can’t tell you what you want to know.”

“Why?”

He looked downright grim as he hung his head. “Because the situation on Earth is…dire.”

“But WHY?” Xio said.

“I don’t even know…”

“Tell us what you know,” said GURion suddenly. “I have been cut off from the world – at least the secret world of our plot to merge the three intelligences in this part of the galaxy.”

“I know only a little more than you know,” Retired said. He flicked his hand toward the spot GURion had eliminated the conjure. “Those things are a surprise and they complicate an already twisted situation.” Shaking his head, he sat down on a chair. For some reason, I was compelled to sit on the floor. Xio sat next to me; Herd and Pack arranging themselves at his feet as well. GURion stepped back and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. Retired sighed then started, telling us the story of how the Triads had been established. I opened my mouth to tell him we already knew all that. He glared at me, so I shut it.

I did raise my hand when he said the word “Korea”. “What’s that?”

“A conflict that involved only Humans from two political ideologies fighting on a piece of property – the country of Korea – that belonged to neither. In the end, the conflict split the country even further into a population who had abundant resources and services and population who had very few resources and services.” He paused, looking at me and Xio long and hard. “Even now, there are Humans who are fighting for either the Yown’Hoo or the Kiiote. There are others who are fighting against the Triads…”

Xio said, “Why would they do that? We’re trying to create something that will benefit all three societies – we’re working to stop the war!”

“That’s not how some Humans view it. They want Earth back…”

I couldn’t help it, “That’s stupid.”

Retired grimaced then said, “Humans evolved here. We reached into space by ourselves. We started knitting the world together by ourselves. We had just reached the fusion power stage and expanded the space station to a permanent crew of thirty – then the Kiiote and Yown’Hoo brought their war to us because they couldn’t breed in space. They needed Earth to do that and now we’re the poor dorks who inherited their endless war,” he paused, adding, “That’s how the Earth First faction feels. The Yown’Hoo and Kiiote want us for one thing – as babysitters. The Masters, Pan and Zir, Mother of All, Ji-hi, and the Martyr, St. Admiral had a greater vision. They wanted to form an interstellar civilization. They held minority views, but convinced at least some on each world to invest their time and resources into the Triad Project…”

Great Uncle Rion broke in, “The faction I have supported has worked to create a new belief system that all would follow. The main tenet is to weave personal lives into a complex whole, flexible, peaceful interstellar union.”

I stared at my great uncle. “You want to start a religion?”

He shrugged, gesturing to the conjure’s place, “We need all the help we can get here.”


June 13, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 308

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: “jerkass gods” (CS Lewis Till We Have Faces and Neil Gaiman American Gods)

Abril Molina stood with balled fists on her hips. “They did this, you know.”

Santiago Ribeiro pursed his lips and said in a low voice, “It’s the easier answer. You know, blaming jerkass gods rather than taking responsibility for polluting the lagoon ourselves.”

Abril bristled, “You blame Humans for this?” She grunted, “I know you hate all of us who are pure blooded Humans…”

“Please! Don’t bring magism into this! I may be three fourths elf, but I can no more conjure poisons from the water than you can conjure a will-o’-the-wisp to light your way to bed!”

Abril turned to belt him. He caught her fist but was powerless to stop her words, “How dare you! I am no magist! We’ve been friends since...oh, I don’t know, since I had to change your nest litter! I am no more magist than you are thoughtful.”

Stung, he released her and returned to the side of the lagoon. Squatting, he reached out and spread his fingers, lowering his hand until it was centimeters from the surface. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and stilled himself. After a few moments, the same stillness seemed to flow from his hand and across the surface of the lagoon, traveling from shore and farther and farther into the water.

The stillness spread until the air seemed to stop gusting; even the light grew gellid, thickening until the image of near-elf and water appeared to be a painting.

After some time, dark began to creep upward from the water. Boats, barges and skiffs collecting dead animals slowed until the stopped moving. Abril felt her breath congeal in her lungs and could not breathe.

Then Santiago stood up, turned to her and said, “We are both right.”

“What?”

“True war brews and this is but the first skirmish.”

“There’ve been other die offs! Twelve years of them – how do you explain that away with magic?”

“It’s the dolphins and the manatees.”

“What?”

“It’s the dolphins and the...”

“No, no! I know what you said, I mean to say, ‘What have dead dolphins and manatees...”

“And the pelicans and the algae and other microscopic life,” he interjected.

She nodded, adding, “…and pelicans and phyto and zooplankton have to do with magic and pollution?”

He lifted his chin to the farthest reaches of the lagoon, the water between a barrier island complex, “There is a war brewing.”

“Between who?”

“I can’t tell, but the gods jerking the strings have stuffed each dolphin and each manatee with a spirit and they are the front line – and the manatees are losing.”

“Which side is the good side?”

Santiago turned to look at her, his gaze boring deeply into her own. Abril shuddered as he said, “In the war between these gods, their only good is their entertainment.”

Names: ♀ Uruguay, Spain; American Hispanic, Portugal

June 11, 2017

Slice of PIE: Post-Ideas – Is This Like Post-Christian and Post-Truth?

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 NO event as the link is provided below appears to be dead now…(How much would you like to bet that the title generates more hits than I’ve ever gotten? The current record after “CHRISTIANITY: Anthropogenic or Universal?” is “Conspiracy Revealed: Adolph…” with 979 hits…)

OMGosh! I’m going to have to come up with some of my own ideas again!

So, in no particular order, here I go:

YA science fiction – where’s it going now that the dystopian frenzy seems to be settling down?
Christianity and science fiction – is there really any problem…or is it more a “quality issue”?
Education in SF – why do SF writers insist that Americans have somehow hit upon the “perfect” educational institution and how might the union-stasis be having a negative effect on paradigm-shifting change? (See: “Gladly Wolde He Learne” by Harry Turtledove -- http://turtledove.wikia.com/wiki/Gladly_Wolde_He_Lerne)
The future of the Wild – why do we seem to build cities over everything? Is “progress” REALLY our middle name?
The future of Population – is “more people” always better? (GRR Martin’s Tuf Voyaging stories, in particular, the Suthlam ones)
AI – REALLY possible? REALLY desirable?: And do the proponents realize that they TOO will be destroyed…or do they assume that because they sing its praises, they’ll be accepted by our “robot overlords”?
Nature – what’s natural and what defines a “park” and do us 21st Century types REALLY know what “nature” is?
Camping in the Future – where? What? How might it be…REALLY different?
Different Societies – Will They Be As Leftists Expect Them To Be? (Historical Note: Left was Right, Right was Left…the old GOP (anti-slavery) and DFL (pro-slavery)…)
Back to WHAT Future? – What if the Global Warming debacle led to a society that went ALL THE WAY backwards? (Returning to pre-1800 levels of CO2, pollutants, emissions, etc…means eliminating excess population…and a way to DO that may be to secretly boost the anti-vaxxer movement.)
Fifty Solutions To The Fermi Paradox – I’ll comment on each one from this list! That should keep me going until the Program for WorldCon in Helsinki is published! (www.astro.ufl.edu/~lebo/.../Fermi's%20Paradox%20-%20Stephen%20Webb.docx)


So then, until next time (‘cause I’m on vacation AND I don’t have any idea what to say about ANY of these…well, that’s not exactly true, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!), ponder these and then have at it whenever I post an entry!

Program Book: the link appears to be no longer alive…
Image: https://www.portent.com/images/2013/08/iStock_000016093336Small.jpg

June 8, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 103: 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.

Stepan Izmaylova looked up at QuinnAH, the adolescent Artificial Human who had attached himself to 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 here to start your stupid garden.”

“It won’t be a stupid garden once it starts to feed people…”

“What kind of people?” Quinn asked as they reached the hole they’d come up through. The rope was still coiled to one side and the antigrav plate still leaned against the low wall that edged the roof of the entire warehouse.

“Anyone who has Human DNA will be considered Human.” He looked down at the boy and said, “You and I are Humans; together.” He paused, “I think that this is the message God has called me to proclaim.” Quinn snorted. Stepan put his hand on the boy’s head and pressed down hard. “Respect your elders!” He grinned an instant later.

Quinn shook his head and said, “Let’s go over here. I think it’s where the stairs got hidden.” Stepan turned to follow, bending to pick up the rope. For an instant, he lost his balance. Quinn grabbed his hand and pulled him upright, saying, “Maybe I better hold your hand, then, Preach.” He led Stepan across the roof, his hand firmly in the other man’s grasp. He didn’t pull away and neither did Stepan, feeling the implicit trust of the Human gesture. Quinn stopped, dropped his hand and pointed, “I think this is it.”

A thick coating up dust and debris was no different here than the rest of the garbage on the roof. But faintly raised up in the slanting light of the Martian sun as it began to slide toward setting, there was an outline. The boy stepped back as Stepan knelt. Conscious of the unstable roof and briefly wondering how they could possibly get the credits to renovate it to make it strong enough to support several metric tons of soil and several thousand liters of liquid, he dug with his bare hands. After a while, he’d cleared enough space to show that it was in fact, a sort of seal.

“My turn, Preach,” said Quinn, gently pushing him away.

“You can’t…”

“I was bred for hard work, Human. You were bred for intellect. You got me started, now let me do what I can do best.”

Stepan pursed his lips then slowly grinned. “Out of the mouth of babes,” he muttered.

Quinn had found a grip and was carefully cleaning around it. “You say something?”

“Nah. I’m only now beginning to realize how deeply my prejudice is rooted.”

“Huh?” the query grew to a groan, then a growl. Stepan saw muscle and sinew swell on the boy’s arms as the sound faded and he focused his energy on the seal. After several moments, something gave and a sigh escaped into the air, cutting through the cloud of dust they’d raised. The air smelled unlike the air around them – not bad. Different. Once the seal had been broken, the doorway opened easily and soon stood open.

“I’ll go down first,” said Stepan. Quinn was silent. Stepan looked down at him, grinned then said, “What, now that there’s mystery and real danger, you’re not going to rush on in?”

Quinn hadn’t taken his eyes off the doorway. His words were faint when he said, “I ain’t the one who believes in a powerful god. You is. No idea what’s down that hole and I don’t feel good ‘bout findin’ out.”

“Point taken.”

“What?”

“You’re right. I’ll go down. You wait here.” Without waiting, Stepan sat on the edge and said, “I was a hero of the Faith Wars. There’s nothing down there that can harm me – not after all these decades.”

“Keep tellin’ yourself that, Preach. My only thought is that maybe they wasn’t tryin’ to seal us out. Maybe they was trying to keep something IN…”


June 6, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 307

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: genetic memories

Iker Dương flexed his bicep.

Leonie Gonzalez shook her head and rolled back over on her stomach.

“What? I thought you said you wanted to see a trick?” Iker said.

Without looking at him, she pulled up the latest Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan book on her Kindenookpad – or knop – and got back to her reading.

“What are you mad at?”

Leonie said, “Listen Iker, I like you and all, but if you want us to be anything more than buddies, you’re going to have to actually talk to me.”

Iker sat down. The sappy sad look on his face almost made Leonie give in and feel sorry for him. Instead, she rolled over with her back to him.

He arched over her, planting his hands firmly on the ground then flipped his feet over, landing lightly. She almost grabbed him then, too. But they were almost done with their college freshman year, she wanted to get into medical school – she was aiming to be the first forensic anthropologist on Mars because now that the population there had topped three million, there were going to be MURDERS…

He flexed his bicep again and said, “I’m trying to show you something.”

She sighed.

“Not my muscle! I’m showing you what we’re doing in the lab!”

“Trying to create muscles from nothing?”

“Hey!” He pouted and she relented a bit. “I’m sorry, but the Mexicans and the Vietnamese are not known for producing Olympic weightlifting champions...”

“It’s not my muscle, it’s what’s in my muscle!”

“String beans?” She winced an instant after speaking the words but couldn’t say, “Iker, wait!” fast enough to stop him from sprint away. She also couldn’t quite stop the thought that he had a rather cute backside as well and even though he was sorta on the skinny side…”Iker, wait!” He kept going. She stopped, pondered for an instant, then put her ancestry to work and sprinted, catching him in ten long strides, grabbing his arm. She thought for an instant that the bicep wasn’t as wimpy as she’d imagined. “I’m sorry, Iker – but you’re just such a tempting target. What...”

“DNA – I have a data package in my bicep. I’ve been carrying it for the past week and we’re going to take it out tomorrow to see if…”

From the shadows of the science building, a voice said, “I don’t think you should be talking about this, folks.”

Names: Swiss German, Argentinian; Mexican, Vietnamese
                                                                      
Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b1/3,2,1_blast-off!_(15871161250).jpg/511px-3,2,1_blast-off!_(15871161250).jpg

June 4, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: A Sixth Question

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 #3405. The link is provided below…

5 Questions to Ask When Creating a Fictional Culture
This panel will discuss 5 important questions writers must ask themselves when creating a fictional culture.

Tim Akers: four books, two very different cultures
Jeannette Cheney: (aka J. Kathleen Cheney) fifteen books, three cultures
M.C.A. Hogarth: many books, mostly self-published, several cultures
Rose Lemberg: many short stories, one major culture
Ian McDonald: lots of novels with at least a half-dozen cultures

Based on Ms. Cheney’s notes below, I thought I’d touch on some of the things that I’ve considered as I’ve written fiction and built worlds – and some of the things I HAVEN’T remembered to do.

What is their relationship with God, god, or gods? What is the culture’s measure of spirituality or belief? What is the nature of faith in that culture? Or do they live without faith? (Tim Akers)

What are their food sources? What do people fear most? Starvation? Riot? Revolution? Why have they banded together as a culture? Are they alien? Does their biology give them other imperatives? (M.C.A. Hogarth)

What are the relationships of power within the culture? How is this expressed/determined by language? What sort of family relationships are common? What about folklore? Do they favor proverbs? Riddles? Are they superstitious? Are they religious? What is the level of diversity within the culture? (Rose Lemberg)

What is the economic base for the culture, and how does that affect their everyday life? Are they rural? Or urban? How are their houses built? Their cities? (J. Kathleen Cheney)

Wow…interesting list. The thing that strikes me most powerfully is that while these are certainly CULTURE questions, they also become profoundly PERSONAL questions for a character. Also, a character who answers a question differently than the culture answered it sets up and instant story.

Two examples off the top of my head are DUNE and the VORKOSIGAN universe. In DUNE, the Bene Gesserit have bred a thousand years of humans to produce the Kwisatch Haderach, a male Bene Gesserit sister, who will be the new messiah. One of their own takes the future into her own hands, out of love producing Paul Atreides who becomes Muad’Dib and himself a sort of “wild messiah”. Society says: produce a daughter so we may breed her to… Person says: I’ll make a son. In VORKOSIGAN, society calls him a mutant and he must die. He says: “Nah, I think I’ll live and change society.”

Fascinating.

DUNE also plays with Tim Aker’s questions about gods – the society created its own god out of a “mistake”. Figuring out gods seems to be one of science fiction’s favorite playing field, mostly because the players tend to believe that gods are simple (or complex) Human constructs and have no validity outside of a Human frame of reference. I find it amusing because I believe that there is a God who will surprise the players when we meet our first extraterrestrials. How will a sizable chunk of the SF community – and Humanity at large – respond when an alien steps out of their ship and we discover their creation “myths” and faith stories are so similar to ours that it would stretch credulity to think that the source experiences were anything but the same? Hmmm…not many people ask that question; at least not in my experience.

Hogarth raises a question that my favorite SF author deals with on a regular basis – is the foundation of all culture, BIOLOGY? I would tend to agree with Julie Czerneda’s assessment that it is. How can it not be? She explores this at length in the three-book series SPECIES IMPERATIVE in which the migratory habits of one part of an alien culture’s biology is unknown to the other part of the culture, separated by non-communication as well as taboo and custom. My favorite books of her series by a long shot!

One aspect I think that has been largely ignored until recently, is diversity WITHIN alien cultures (Rose Lemberg’s question). We seem to think that when we meet aliens, their cultures, unlike ours (which is by implication, inferior) will be monolithic. In fact, most aliens represented in movies and on TV – and even in books – seems to be of a piece. Some of this is, of course, practicality. We barely understand our own multi-cultural (with added subcultures and sub-subcultures). How can we create alien worlds whose intelligences are separated into multiple races, cultures, and genders when our own species of H. sapiens is fractured in a thousand different ways? Our languages don’t even match up across state lines! (I live in Minnesota. Does anyone from another state know what “pop” is? Have you ever asked a native Idahoan what a “pastie” is? What’s a “grinder”, anyway, New Hampshire? What’s a “bubbler”, Massachusetts? We think the boot goes on the foot, England!)

At any rate, even this short summary has raised all kinds of interesting thoughts for me – and for you as well. LOTS to explore here. I’d loved to have added a sixth question: Which has the greater effect, the individual on the culture; or does the culture have the greater effect on the individual?

Thanks go to Ms. Cheney for posting this for me to find!


May 31, 2017

Kidney Stone...

I am attempting to pass a kidney stone. There will be no posts until this happens...

May 28, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Test” (HiCall, October 1993) Guy Stewart #40

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

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

This was the very first real science fiction story I was every actually paid for. The milestone was incredible as it was the absolute peak of my writing career at that time. The family was living on a farm in western Wisconsin while the paperwork for our first home was wending its way through the banks; I’d gotten a surprise job working with the Science Museum of Minnesota’s NEW EXPLORER’S project, “Dive Into Darkness” – but I’d never had a story published in a major magazine before this one.

Science fiction in a religious magazine had always seemed to be to have to include some sort of “Jesus” scene – but I hadn’t written that into the story. Briefly, a young woman was training for a paramedic-type corps on a colony world that had been forcibly settled by Muslim and evangelical Christians by Earth’s government, in an effort to eliminate anyone who disagreed with the United Faith in Humanity [the YA novel I’m writing here takes place in the same universe at a different time. You can read MARTIAN HOLIDAY by going here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2009/02/possibly-irritating-essay-paulo-on-mars.html I started this novel eight years ago and it’s part of my round-robin posting. Also, there are missing chapters. Not sure why, but there are. From chapter 26 forward though, there aren’t any breaks. Remember it’s a FIRST draft!]

At any rate, Keen Hernandez is ostracized because the paramedic corps is largely male and Muslim. The story is predictable – she’s gifted, her commander/teacher hates her guts but secretly believes she’s gifted. He’s injured during a training mission that becomes a real emergency. She saves his life despite his orders to leave him alone. He demands to see her after the emergency and she expects to get canned. Instead, he admires her, passes her, and asks to hear about Jesus from her.

It was so predictable it was formulaic.

But that’s what worked here. The publication was a Christian teen take-home magazine designed to reach kids and give them tools to witness to their faith. Science fiction, while a powerful tool, was highly unusual in the realm of Christian fiction. It still is. Especially when it was grounded in reality and written by someone who has secular SF credentials.

Another reason it sold was because the world it took place in was one I’d been playing around in for a few years. I can describe it to you clearly and since the publication of “Test”, I’ve written two other stories set on this planet (which was named after a friend of mine who has since passed away). One of them, “Teaching Women to Fly” was published in the first issue of STUPEFYING STORIES, two others, “Krasiman, Monkeyboy, and the Frog Father” and “THE GRASSRIVER GAOZHONG BRICK AND MORTAR & VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOL HONORARY MARSHARK FROM OUTER SPACE” remain unpublished but both helped me develop Enstad’s Planet more fully. I knew this world; knew its history, its people, and how it was set up. There’s industry, and despite what the government of Earth wanted to happen, the Muslim colonists, the Christians, and a smattering of Hindu created  viable and vibrant society.

There are more stories here. Lots more. Maybe Keen Hernandez will come back!

In summary, the things that went right with “Test” were its uniqueness, an editor who prized it for its uniqueness, and the well-developed world it took place in.

I like Enstad’s Planet and I want to see other things happen there. In the four universes I’ve drawn up, I once realized that there are trillions of stories in those worlds. There are WAR AND PEACE stories, VORKOSIGAN SAGA stories, DUNE stories, THE FAULT IS IN OUR STARS stories, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE stories…in all of these universes. I am not good enough yet to tease out the really grand stories.

But I AM good enough to tease out the small ones. This was the first. It hasn’t been the last, and perhaps someday they will all come together into a Future History that will bear my name!


May 25, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: Chapter 63

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)

The Pack seemed to sink to the floor and I recognized the scent of Kiiote fear.

Xurf straightened himself into humanoid shape, shaking out his arms, then straightened himself as much as a Kiiote could and said, “These are the demons of a shameful past, we believe they are sent to torture our minds.” He paused a long time before he said, “We had no idea they had come to Earth.” He hung his head.

Qap had stretched into humanoid form as well and she stepped next to him and said faintly, “We are more than sorry. Much, much more than sorry. We are, as a people, ashamed. We have poisoned your world with these demons…”

Shay said, “What do you mean, ‘demons’? Did you summon them from the land of the dead?”

Xurf sneezed. It was a Kiiote expression of extreme disgust. “There is no such thing! The conjures are constructed from a special kind of matter. They were created to work in high energy environments – on the surface of planets nearer the sun, planets caught in radiation belts of stars…”

Qap added, “In emergencies, they could be sent into highly radioactive environments.” She snorted, “They are expendable where we are not.”

Commander Patrick Bakhsh – we continued to call him Retired – hadn’t said much since our run from the destruction of the farmhouse. When he spoke now, his voice was low and sort of soft. Even so, it sounded dangerous. Like he’d discovered a bomb in one of backpacks, he said, “You’ve been experimenting with solid life.”

Qap and Xurf suddenly panted. That was a sign of extreme Kiiote distress. Finally, Qap said, “To our shame, I have to tell you that the Kiiote have.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked. “You’ve been with us since you were weaned.”

Xurf gestured to Qilf and Fax, the Pack seconds. They rarely spoke, never made decisions unless Qap and Xurf directed them to, and I’d never seen either one do more that follow the Firsts. Fax, the male said, “Our job since weaning, when we are not learning to lead, has been to comb through Kiiote news – dispatches, communiques, entertainment broadcasts, and private messages.” He nodded to Qilf.

She said, “Our job is to listen. We listen to you, we listen to Human news and words and messages from the Herd’s Plateship in orbit. We listen to them, interpret, discuss, then offer summary to the Pack Leaders.”

“I’ve never seen you talk to them!” Shay said.

Qilf yapped in amusement. “We do not share in words but in taste and smell. You know, Triad-mate, that all Kiiote speak on multiple levels. We have experienced tiered communication between the two of us.”

I didn’t know what Qilf meant, but Shay suddenly started to shift back and forth on her feet, cleared her throat, and clasped her hands behind her back. She did the same thing the first time we’d explored sex together – for about a week.

Retired pursed his lips then said, “How long has the Pack fighting over Earth known about the escaped conjures?”

Fax shook himself hard, the Kiiote equivalent of a Human shrug. “We knew seventeen of your months ago. They may have arrived on your world before that, but there is no clear evidence to indicate that they had. We’d heard nothing of the Solid Ones before that.” He paused. “But we do not guarantee that they were not here.”

Retired sighed and went to the room’s table and gestured for us to get comfortable on the floor. GURion closed the door into the tunnel and pulled a lever, locking it from our side, cutting off the flow of cold air. He looked to Qilf, “They can’t pass through solid matter, can they?”

She shook her pelt. “We do not believe so. They are made of coherent matter and while our people manipulate it, we do not entirely understand it, much as Humans began their journey into nuclear power.”

Retired shook his head, “Thoughts of lecturing you – and your entire civilization – on the foolishness of what you just told me are both self-evident and unlikely to make any difference. What do the conjures do when they attack beings made of regular matter?”

“Aside from strangling them, breaking bones, or inflicting other physical damage?” Retired snorted. “They can destabilize their own matrix through a voice command to the device that holds them together, not only destroying themselves, but causing standard matter to destabilize as well.” She paused, adding softly, “They turn into a pile of spreading gold slime.”

“Gross,” said Shay.

Retired sighed and said, “We need to sleep. We have a long trip ahead of us before we reach Grendl. The anti-Triad faction will be looking for you, the Kiiote and Yown’Hoo will be doing the same; and now conjures will be after us as well.”

Fax said, “It wearies me simply thinking about it.”

“Sorry son, that’s the least of our concerns at this point.” Fax nodded and headed for the Pack’s room.


May 23, 2017

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 306

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.


Carlos Bander looked up at Djeneba Abuladze and said, “There’s something here.”

“Duh,” she said, squatting next to him. The joint of the wall and floor along the hallway of the home looked sealed tight. “But how? He was pretty specific about what he saw.”

. He saw an intruder.”

“Who suddenly disappeared with a ‘clattering swish’.”

“His exact words, correct?”

She pointed to the base of the wall. “We’ve scanned the house. There’s no way the intruder could have escaped. The door,” she nodded to the entryway. The door to the outside was reinforced concrete. “He say to you why he has a door designed to protect him from a nuclear blast mounted in a frame that’s closing in on a century old?”

“He didn’t say anything to me. He just stared at me like I was crazy whenever I asked him where he thought the intruder escaped to.”

“Me, too.” She stood up. “There’s only one thing we can do.”

He stood next to her, “We tried surveillance, but there was nothing – even though the intruder appeared to him during that time.”

“What is he?”

Carlos stood up, pursed his lips, kicked the wall gently then said, “What if the intruder isn’t a ‘who’ but a ‘what’?”

Djeneba stood up beside him, crossing her arms over her chest. “We’ve tried setting traps for ghosts, spirits, trolls, and any other apparition we’ve dealt with.” She took out her cellphone and after tapping it a few times, turned in a slow circle, scanning the hallway. “There’s no residual ectoplasm readings that I can pick up.”

Carlos hadn’t moved. He took a deep breath and said, “Try scanning for non-human DNA.”

“What?”

He shook his head slowly. “If it’s not paraterrestrial, maybe it’s extranomal.”

She hummed as she made adjustments on her phone, then swept the hallway again. She paused, facing the bathroom door. “I’ve got an anomalous reading from the door.”

“Behind it?”

“No. On the door.”

“Anomalous in what way?”

“Strong terrestrial insect DNA – about what you’d expect in a house this old. But there’s some sort of…” she paused again. She stepped up to the door, adjusting her phone. For an instant, the door lit up from top to bottom then went dark. Faint marks glowed. She stepped closer then back, frowning. She swept the screen three times then said, “The DNA has been altered. The only thing my T-comp can match with it comes from biological material that’s been…”

“Looking for someone?”

Carlos and Djeneba spun around. A Human figure stood at the end of the hallway, unmoving as its arm slowly slid up its leg from the floor. A faint, rattling hiss filled the close space. The creature said again, “Looking for someone Mr. Bander? Mrs. Abuladze?” The voice was raspy and seemed to come from the entire body of the creature rather than just its head. The light above them was dim and it was hard to see it.

“Your arm’s attached now. What are you going to do?” said Carlos carefully.

“If you’re afraid that I’m going to attack you both, you have nothing to worry about. I’m typically a scavenger.” It said the word with the emphasis on the first syllable, as if it were saying the name of the comic book and movie group of “Earth’s mightiest heroes”. It continued, “But I have a different mission this time.” With a loud rattle, the figure swelled until its head touched the ceiling. “I’ve come to prepare this world for occupation.”

Carlos and Djeneba frowned. Carlos cleared his throat, “This world has already been approved for contact – not…” The figure shimmered for a moment then seemed to melt as the rattling became deafening…

Names: ♀ Mali, Armenia; ♂ Mexico, Iraq
Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg