April 18, 2017


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

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