July 21, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 106 : DaneelAH & Company In 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 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. They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).

“You always crouch when you think someone’s watching you,” said MishAH.

“I do not!” HanAH exclaimed.

“Yes, you do,” said AzAH and DaneelAH together. DaneelAH added, “But only when you’re around us. In your usual Mayoral capacity, you don’t hunch.” He paused, “Not so that anyone who doesn’t know you as well as we do would notice.”

“So, what’s making you hunch?” said MishAH.

A young blue boy appeared out of the crowd, looked up at DaneelAH and said, “You’re new here, aren’t you?

For a moment, none of them spoke. Finally HanAH lifted his chin and said, “Shows what you know.” He looked down at the boy and said, “We are. Who are you?”

“A resident. Long time.”

“You’re an inti just like us…”

“I’m not just like you. I work for someone who doesn’t consider me a slave.”

MishAH scowled, “No one but a natural born can do that – but there are forms in fifteen different files required to be completed before the manumission process can even begin.”

The boy waved her away. “I live on the Rim. No one cares about ework there. I work with my…” he used the extremely vulgar term for natural born Humans.

MishAH slapped him in the face and he staggered backward, right into AzAH’s bone-crushing grip. She might be a linguist, but she’d also been the Mixed Martial Arts champion four years running in Malacandra. She squeezed his neck and leaned forward, whispering, “We respect Humans of all kinds in our little group.”

The boy managed to tap out as he rasped, “OK! OK! I got it.”

She released him into HanAH’s tender embrace – a solid grip on the boy’s upper arm. “Are you an agent of Paolo Marcillon?”


“Paolo – an underground Christian agitator who’s wanted for sedition and terrorism.”

“No! I ain’t heard a  no Polo! I work with the Rim Preacher!”

DaneelAH stepped up, gesturing HanAH to release the boy. Squatting down, he took the boy by both shoulders and said, “Your master…former master!” he said when the boy’s shoulders tensed. He loosened his grip. “Your former master is a Christian?”

The boy twisted free and DaneelAH let him go. HanAH and MishAH were close by. The boy glanced at them then shook his torso. “I guess, ‘cept I don’t know what that means. Zactly.”

"What's your friend's name?" DaneelAH asked.

"Stepan." He scowled at them and when no one moved, he added, "He's got an old warehouse on the Rim he gonna cover with dirt and grow plants and stuff to help feed us."

"You said he was a Christian. How would you know that?"

The boy shrugged. "He said something about it."

"Doesn't he know that being a Christian is illegal on Mars?"

The boy shrugged again, "Lotsa stuff's illegal that people do. Like experiment on our kind." He looked up significantly at MishAH and AzAH. They both twitched.

"Not every natural born is bad," DaneelAH muttered.

"Yeah. Stepan ain't. He's just sorta like a babe out where I live. But he do have connections in the HOD."

"The HOD?" HanAH said.

"Yeah -- Home Owner's District. We were there 'cause he had to meet with some old guy." He shrugged. "That was weird. They chased him out 'cause he wasn't someone they expected him to be."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"When we were there, they kept calling him Natan Wallach."

The vat mates looked to each other, then down at the boy, stunned. DaneelAH finally managed, "Can you take us to him?"

July 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: Bird Aliens

The day the Hrafn came to Earth, Kaeli Waang and Bjorki Veniti stood beside their rack of Ravens, nervously rocking from foot to foot. Larry, Mo, and Curly -- they hadn't named them, the Amplified Avian Hatchery named them – were doing the same.

The Hrafn had arrived in Earth space a month ago and spent that time sending detailed directions, images, and itinerary before their expected landing. The fact that they had chosen the ten intersection points of what were called Ley Lines had sent the entire looney community into ecstatic mutterings. Kaeli leaned to Bjorki and whispered, "You ever notice that the word 'looney' refers to birds?" The fact that the Hrafn looked like somewhat creepy, humanoid crows made the reference humorous...

He whispered back, Did you ever notice that the word 'hysterical' is related to 'hysterectomy'..." He puffed an “oof!” when she elbowed him.

Thin clouds over Mount Kailash, Tibet began to glow orange. Bjorki cupped the bud in his left ear and said, “The Hrafn are descending. All ten ships are at the same altitude, but we’re going to make contact first because where we are.” They’d spent the past three weeks acclimating so that they’d be ready to talk to the aliens.

Larry said, “I’m so excited to meet my interstellar cousins!” Though he didn’t exactly speak standard English and someone who hadn’t worked with him since his hatching would have heard, “Emmm sss essst-t-t-eh t-t-t mmmeeeeet-t-t mmm emmmt-t-tssst-t-therrr kkksssmmmsss.” This would have been repeated at least three times because Larry was embarrassed that he couldn’t speak clear English and wanted to make sure that anyone listening would know he was working hard to overcome his handicap.

Curly reached around Mo to take a poke at Larry’s head. He missed and almost fell off the bar.

Bjorki grabbed Curly’s tail and Kaeli intercepted the peck by slapping Curly’s head down. Anyone watching them would have realized exactly how apropos their names were. None of the five of them noticed that the Hrafn ship stopped descending a meter from the stone, snowy point of the “Unclimbed Mountain”.

“How are they going to step out anywhere? There’s no flat ground until we get back down,” Bjorki said. The two halves of the ship suddenly separated. At least three hundred meters across, the split happened silently. A silvery shimmer appeared below the split, extending two meters out from the ship, almost as if they were projecting a porch. A section faded out of existence, gradually revealing a pair of two-meter-tall shadows…

Names: (England, Aboriginal Australian); (Iceland, Italy)

July 16, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: We Can’t Even IMAGINE A Different Way of Governing Ourselves…So What’s “Next”?

Using the Program of the North American Science Fiction Convention in Puerto Rico in July of 2017 to which I will MIGHT go someday if I recognized any of the names on the guest list… to go, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the program. The link is provided below…

FRIDAY 2:00 PM - San Cristobal The Future of Local/National/Planetary Government in the Information Age: Our current government structures arose in the age of face-to-face communication. With individuals able to "talk" instantly to people anywhere on the globe and governments able to share information effortlessly, does either representative to geographically defined government fit the emerging paradigm? How long before things change. Or will they?

Chris Gerrib: Author of 3 books that take place on Mars.
W. A. (Bill) Thomasson: Professional medical writer assisting researchers with journal articles and grant applications.
David Manfre: Attended Bouchercon and Deadly Ink numerous times, degree in English, working on stories.
Tanya Washburn: Studied archaeology and history, graduate of Harvard Extension School and helps to coordinate ARISIA “New England's Largest, Most Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention”.
Pablo Vazquez: Revolutionary scholar, Voodoo Loa at night, half of mime group, Mr. Saturday & Sixpence, San Antonio Neo-Victorian Association and AetherFest chair.

We tend to assume governments will stay the same. I think this is one reason our world is currently in an uproar: governments have changed. The previous ideology no longer holds sway, another ideology has taken over and (as happens whenever ideologies shift), the side out of control protests, fully expecting that their protests will alter either the timeline, the vote count, or everything that surrounds the current regime so that they may comfortably go back to doing Things The Way They Should Be Done.

Yet, as speculative fiction writers who fiddle with time, timelines, characters, and sexuality (we’ve been fiddling with THAT since Harlan Ellison introduced DANGEROUS VISIONS in 1967), as a group we seem awfully…mono-political…

For some reason, our heroes (rarely our heroines) seem to be tilting consistently at windmills that more-or-less conform to the more-or-less accepted POV one finds in the specfic community, which itself seems split between liberal/libertarian and conservative; though the liberal/libertarian seems to have the loudest voice and so calls many of the shots.

Be that as it may, governments in speculative fiction seem to follow historical patterns rather than striking out in new directions. For example, Ada Palmer, a “new” writer whose books have made a splash in recent years, has built a society in her Terra Ignota (for those of you who might not have taken a moment to Google the meaning, it’s the Unknown Ground (or more likely Unknown Earth) series.) I’ve read it and while I thoroughly enjoyed her world-building, I’m slightly disappointed that the society of the first book resembled Roman society at its apex (before it became an empire), writ a thousand times larger to encompass the entire planet – a broadly inclusionary place, vital, striving forward, artistic, multi-theistic, and powerful. Her governmental form was foreshadowed here: https://www.wired.com/2007/08/creating-a-worl/ in 2007…

I also just finished Kameron Hurley’s THE STARS ARE LEGION and while there doesn’t seem to be any precise government over all the worlds (which seems to me to have been necessary in order to create the original Legion), the petty  governments that have shattered into existence within each of three worldships: Katazyrna, Mokshi, and Bhavaja are the same as we already have on Earth.

As a born-and-bred American, I am of the opinion that a representational form of government (which most people call a “democratic” government) is the best form. However, I’ve never intimately experienced any other form. I was in Nigeria in the 1980s when their representational government was forcibly morphed into a military junta. I spent several months in Cameroon (or Cameroun) which has “enjoyed” the long reign of an educated and “benevolent” dictator, and I lived for six weeks under the rule of an elite party whose sole qualifications were descent from freed American slaves.

Of course I’ve visited parliamentary Canada, token monarchy England, and post Baby Doc Haiti; I either didn’t notice any visible difference between “them” and “us” or the difference was grim indeed.

So let’s see: republic, military junta, benevolent dictatorship, elite republic, parliamentary, token monarchy, and undeclared chaos. How many others are there?

According to Wikipedia: nine, plus a smattering of others which don’t fit any of the categories presented (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forms_of_government#Maps). The maps also break the world into Full Democracy, Flawed Democracy, Hybrid Regimes, and Authoritarian Regimes. (While three of the categories are descriptive, one (into which the United States falls) is judgmental…hmmm. I wonder who decided to use the word “Flawed” and what PRECISELY it denotes: ah, here we go – “The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries…” In a very strange turn of events, the UK is a Full Democracy (as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland), while the US, India, Japan, South Korea, and whoever else the British don’t like are on the Flawed Democracy list. As a side note to Islamophilia, currently all the rage on the world stage, I’d like to note that of the 167 nation states, 24 are classified as Muslim. Of those 24, none of them are Full Democracies, four are Flawed Democracies, seven are Hybrid governments, twelve (half) of them are Authoritarian, and one is Somalia – designation unknown (though Warlords springs to mind).

At any rate – have speculative fiction writers come up with truly innovative forms of government?

Frank Herbert created a religious capitalist imperial state.

Ann Leckie (whose Imperial Radch books I LOVE) created an empire.

John Scalzi created the Colonial Union, a sort of “uber” England/Portugal/Spain/Russia imperialist form of government which forced the aliens of the universe to unite in opposition.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern has a unique cross between a monarchy and full democracy.

I’m not going to touch fantasies here because the governments of the majority of the ones I’ve read seem to fall into monarchies, empires, or Councils. I don’t recall a fantasy story where people voted for anything or anyone. I could be wrong here, so please feel free to correct me.

 So – where are the wildly futuristic governments? How many have shown a truly participatory democracy? Would such a thing even be possible – not from a technological point of view, but from a practical point of view. So many of the daily or weekly decisions governmental officials make would bore me and the rest of the country silly – that’s why we have a representational government. I hire someone to do that. But if liberals are to be believed, then there’s been a gross miscarriage of the Will Of The People and Trump is not REALLY the choice of The People Who Actually Matter (people who live in cities, because who cares about farmers anyway? Certainly not the DFL…which, I might point out, has the word Farmer embedded in it.) But that is mostly there, and I’m writing here.

So, I think the question and answer, “How long before things change? Or will they?” can be answered: things won’t change. This is mostly because the people who pride themselves in being imaginative and seeing the future haven’t come up with any really different form of government.

If we can’t imagine it, I doubt very much that the proletariat will devise something new and different and produce the paradigm shift we think we need.

Anyone disagree?

July 13, 2017


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)

After he finished his tirade – it was a tirade for Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret), anyway – he said, “On the shoulders of this Triad more than either of the others…”

I was sure he was going to say something like, “Rests the future of Humanity.” Or something inspiring like that.

But he concluded, “The burden of learning your roles in this hideous world we’ve left for you.” Shaking his head, he said, “Get some sleep. We’ll leave when everyone wakes refreshed and we’ve eaten.” He left us in the room, still sitting. One-by-one; two-by-two; or as a herd, we went to our rooms to await the morning.

I was too tired to sleep and couldn’t forget the conjure either. To be able to create life, even weirdly twisted life, gave the Kiiote, and by implication my best friend, Fax, a completely different image in my head. I knew it shouldn’t, but…man! How had they done something like this? How could they have done it – supposedly accidentally? Making life was supposed to be done intentionally – and how had one of the things gotten here to lay in wait for them? Had there been locks on the place and if there had, how’d it get in?

Now I was too wound up to fall asleep at all and I laid, staring at the ceiling for a long time before I finally sat up. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I got up as quiet as I could and slipped into the main room. No one else was there and the chair Retired was sitting in was empty. I sat down, wishing I could somehow light the fireplace standing across from me.

It lit.

Startled, I leaned away from it until I felt the even heat. It took the cold, mustiness out of the air almost immediately. There was no smell at all, so I figured it was some sort of Yown’Hoo or Kiiote technology, maybe nanotech or even…I slid to my knees and crawled on them across the room, holding out my hand.

I snatched it back when the air shimmered near the fireplace and an image appeared. The face of a conjure. It vanished a moment later and I was left sitting on my butt. Qap had said that the things who looked like the Panthera genus of Earth life except that they stood upright, had a language, were made of something called “coherent matter” and had been accidentally let loose on Earth, made by the Kii who were incidentally terrified of them. Add to that the curious fact that my great uncle Rion was equipped to disintegrate them. Oh, and Qap, Pack Leader, had 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. We have poisoned your world with these demons…”

Now one had appeared to me in the fire. “It’s not a ghost,” I said out loud into the warm air of our hideout. “It’s a physically constructed life form that only the Kiiote knew about. It’s not a monster. It’s a life form. It was here, waiting to meet us during the most important time in the life of this Triad. The last thing was most disturbing of all: it hadn’t attacked any of us in the Triad.

It had attacked my Great Uncle Rion…

July 11, 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.

I started doing IDEAS ON TUESDAY in February of 2011. This was the eighth idea I posted – the first seven aren’t part of any document anywhere, they’re just “here” on the blog. I’ve been going back and poking around in my past, wondering what motivated me “then” and what motivates me “now”.

Some of you may know that I spent eight months in Africa as the guest of the Nigerian, Cameroonian, and Liberian Lutheran Churches. If people aren’t impressed with my time there as a tool of the Church, they’re appalled by my white supremacist intention of crushing African traditions beneath my white supremacist assumptions of Africans who needed to be saved from savagery…

Both responses make me feel ill and neither one grants the people of the Continent any power of self-determination – and are equally white supreme-ist.

OK – rant over. (I’m sure this little essay may possibly irritate some people…) So, I recently read THE BETRAYAL OF AFRICA (for a brief review, go here:  (http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=17923)

Follow this with an apparent non-sequitur: a few years ago, I read and recommended for an ANDRE NORTON Award, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s second book, THE SHADOW SPEAKER (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shadow_Speaker). If you’ve never read it, do.

Once you’ve done that, try and build a story on this foundation: a Library to rival the one at Alexandria is nearly done in the center of the Sahara in the Erg of Bilmah – and the dark forces of America: Jersey Devils, Yuma Skeletons, Wampus Cats, Bigfeet, Headless Horsemen, Mosquitoes, Trickster Coyotes, Maids in the Mist and Pecos Bill and his legions take on the legends of the Sahara: mummies, scorpions, Desert Rattlers, raging sandstorms, desert wolves and tigers…who wins and how…

I started a series of stories using this idea, though I left out the “monster” parts and made is purely science fiction, I think it has possibilities. I’m going to post it in my WORK AND WORKSHEETS section soon. I’ll add the link here when I do.

Until then, do with this what you would!

July 9, 2017


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”.

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!

The thoughts for this essay sprang up a few days ago when I was installing insulation batting with my son-in-law.

We’re doing some summer remodeling and in order to increase the amount of time we can use our three-season porch, we needed to insulate the ceiling. I was going to do it to save money, for the experience, and because the area I was going to do was comparatively small – fourteen feet by ten feet. Only eight joists wide, it would only take two and a half bats per joist.

Easy, right? Made easier when my son-in-law volunteered to help me on the 4th of July while his wife worked. Nothing else to do, right?

Wrong on both counts.

The job was hideous as the temperature in the attic was somewhere near 120 degrees F. It was also filthy, the ceiling was low, and the only way to work was on our knees. We put the bats in in stages, one row at a time with a water/breathing/survival break between each stage.

It was horrible.

I felt closer to my son-in-law when it was done. I couldn’t have done it without him and the shared HORROR of the experience was a shared slice of life.

Segue: I’m reading Kameron Hurley’s new book, THE STARS ARE LEGION. Nearly done, actually, and it has lived up with its cover blurbs. Hurley’s previous blockbuster novels have all been fantasies and while I haven’t read them yet, my guess is that while they may be a new twist, all of them will be an “old story”. Most of us writers know that according to conventional wisdom, there are only between one and 20 “master” plots in existence. There are thousands of books on Amazon for use in plotting your stories, and all of them have their proponents.

But upon reflection, it seems that no matter WHAT the plot is, you have a cast of characters who are out to do something. That something can range from defeating The Dark Lord to catching a husband/wife. It can be as profound as making dying teens’ last days on Earth joyful, to a frivolous romp to find a lost dog…

All of them though have their cast of characters pass through Dark Moments and emerge on the other side more closely knit. Reading Hurley’s book, I expected a powerful science fiction story – and I got that. But at its heart, THE STARS ARE LEGION is a quest novel, no different structurally than THE HOBBIT or Homer’s ODYSSEY and there is nothing wrong with that.

 In fact, that’s good because I can relate. I’ve certainly not embarked on a ten year voyage home; but I have passed through trial, tribulation, and insulating a really nasty attic with my son-in-law and while the intensity of the feeling may be different (or it may not), the feeling is the same. As I’ve read Hurley’s novel, her characters are changing in the same way – linking a contemporary story of a vastly different future to a classic story of a vastly different past and passing through my very real present.

What more can I ask for in writing or life?

July 6, 2017

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 105: Paolo At Burroughs Dome

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (70,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

The blue man, OrcAH, curator of the small museum, nodded slowly, making a subtle gesture with his left index finger. “I will give it some more thought. Where might I find you?”

Paolo said, “Around,” pausing, he added, “But don’t wait too long, I’ll be leaving soon.”

“How soon?”

“As soon as I figure out who betrayed me and confront them.” He turned and walked out of the museum. He expected to be grabbed by the Dome police or a band of rogue Artificial Human. When neither appeared immediately, he started back down the corridor leading to Burroughs Grand Plaza.

It didn’t take long to get there and he’d been to it a number of times – but the sheer scale and audacity of the place still boggled his mind. Twice the size of the Aeropagus on which is was modeled in Robinson, it was ostentatious in a way that might have been ugly, but was instead, overwhelming. He smiled when he realized that Burroughs bred audacity. OrcAH was no different in that than the Mayor of Burroughs, who styled herself  Citizen Council Director Haman. While she headed The District Council of fifteen men, women and genneuts, she pretended to a representative government, but her real powers were the same as every other Mayor: absolute.

Burroughs also renamed their floating rock the Court of Eleusinian Mysteries. Pretentious, but appropriate, Paolo thought. Wildly different smells roared around him: baking bread, aromatic woods burning, flowers, rotten melons of every variety, machine oil, and fried bread grease. The noise pummeled his ears after the silence of his hike from the rover: at least six languages, transuranic rock music, and a brass band thundering louder than ever in counterpoint to a literal thunder of air moving in an immense space.

The city founders had carved an immense disk of sandstone from the surface of Mars, polished, sealed it and kept it floating a meter off the ground with an antigrav field. A school cluster of children boiled like chattering steam after an Artificial Human child-minder which said as it passed him, “…stop young learners, will be the sewage reclamation plant…”. Multiple groans followed after them.

Still on the wide avenue that circled the Court, Paulo slipped through the crowds, making for the disk where it floated over a hectare of space. He stopped to stare at it and around the edge of the giant park. A massive Earth Redwood spread its branches over the stone of the Court. The landscape was dry, mimicking the habitat of the massive tree. Scattered over it were gold sand concrete benches, chairs, patches of Earth cacti and countless fat blue pillows. Men, women, children, robots, androids and holograms reclined, talked, argued, sang and gestured widely. He took a deep breath.

As in Robinson, the church, synagogue, Buddhist temple, the Rationalist Forum and other religious shrines and places were closed. As always, the softly glowing mural with the subdued humaniform logo of the Unified Faith in Humanity stood in benign ascendance over the scene. Paulo blew out a breath. There were still enough underground believers – both on Earth and Mars – to equip a small army. But there would be no war. That would only make things worse. Unlike before, he was working alone and desperately needed a connection to the Christian underground here. This time, he risked his life. Burroughs was NOT Robinson. Burroughs had thrown dissidents out the airlocks and called it “cleansing”. They still did it on occasion.

He needed to get to Cydonia and his marsbug was not doing well. He needed people who would both support him and pray for him.

He walked up the steps, kept going until he found an open bench and sat, his heart pounding. He held his breath as people noticed and those who might want to hear what he had to say stepped toward him. When he had a polite crowd, he waved to the mural and said, “People of Burroughs Dome, I can see you’re a spiritual people.”

There were nods. An elderly woman approached, flanked by a young woman. She sat in a grav chair, nodded to him and smiled as her chair settled. Encouraged, Paulo said, “I know, from traveling over Mars that no one else produces as much carbon and organic plastic as you do. I’ve heard that innovation is encouraged here in a way that it’s not encouraged anywhere else. Last of all, I know the you stick tight together in just about every way.” He held his breath then plunged ahead, “That’s why I was surprised when I heard that you so strongly support the Unified Faith in Humanity.” Grumbling mutters in those gathered. The old woman frowned faintly. He pursed his lips, then added, “Even to the point of removing those who have diverse and contrary views.”

“Why it surprises me is that in order to get everything to work so well here, you have to have met the challenges face-to-face. You had to understand the nature of Humanity better than anyone else in order to get people to work together so well. You had to know more about people than they knew about themselves.” Surprised silence. Every eye on him, focused and listening right now as he said, “That’s why I have no doubt that you understand that Humanity is made up of more than just the body, mind and heart. It has a soul that belongs to something outside of itself.” He had their attention – even that of a group of young adults who had been playing cricket not far away. They’d left their game to listen. “I’m here to say that the soul belongs to the Water God – who, like a pot of snow on a hot stove is solid, liquid and gas yet water all the same, the God of Heaven is Father forever, Son crucified and alive again and Spirit of unimaginable power yet all the same. That’s who we belong to.” There was laughter, angry mutters and words that sounded like “slavery” and “haters” and “terrorists”. Rather than shouting over them though, Paulo’s voice lowered as he said, “God wants us to turn away from evil and come to Him.” He stood abruptly, ending his session.

People drifted away, but some stayed. A man with two children approached him and lowering his voice said, “Get moving, young man. Some have gone to fetch the mind police.” He snorted softly. “You know, even your Christian forebears had friends in high places who believed that people should be able to choose for themselves what they believe. Some of them never became Christians themselves.” He turned and hurried away.

Farther on, another man watched, lifting his arm, first two fingers together, pointing up; the other three clenched to the palm. Paolo dipped his chin and set off across the floating platform.

July 4, 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. 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: Most lycanthropy, telekinesis, etc starts at puberty why not at menopause…
A Not-So-Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolf

According to the source above – “A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of an 80-year-old man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jurgenburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the grain from local failed crops down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil's minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service.”

Teodors Pakalns (Latvian) – who goes by Ted in his Minnesota high school is in his supposedly “native land” while mom and dad go clubbing on the French Riviera to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. While admitting to himself that with the divorce rate at 73%, it might be something worth celebrating. But sending him to live with his LATVIAN grandfather in some dinky town of Lode! Near the bustling metropolis of Rujiena? What the heck is he supposed to do?

He frets, fumes and mutters about lousy internet connections until he’s so hungry, he can’t stand it. Coming out to eat, he finds that his grandfather has made a simple meal. It smells great and looks sort of like a calzone. Ted eats on, then eats another and then in sudden and surprisingly good English, grandpa tells him a story. He also tells him he needs to watch out – grandpa Pakalns is a werewolf. He’s a werewolf on a mission from God!

Jaanjika Kivi (Estonian) is called Jan in Helsinki where she lives with her artist mother. She drags Jan to visit her “she’s-been-dying-for-the-last-ten-years” grandmother in Mom’s home of Estonia, which she escaped as a kid by winning an art scholarship to Helsingin Yliopisto the University of Helsinki. Jan and her mother trek to the tiny Estonian town of Karski near the roaring metropolis...of Tartu.


Mom says she can go, but she’ll have to walk. Then Mom goes out to paint, leaving Jan with her elderly grandmother. Jan is mostly afraid of the old woman and doesn’t remember her speaking anything but some old language Jan assumes is Estonian.

Until suddenly Grandma starts to tell a story – in clear English – about how she was a werewolf, on a mission for God...then she turns to Jan and says, “You are my granddaughter. My own daughter refused to take up the mission. I am asking if you would take up my mission; complete it and do what our people have been called to do for five hundred years. I will be with you the entire time, but you must be my strong arms and strong legs. Will you do it, Jaanjika?” Grandma’s eye’s suddenly clear and seem to pierce her heart. “Will you?”

Jaanjika meets Teodors on the border between Estonia and Latvia – in the heart of the ancient land of Livonia, a land with an ancient history that may very well be poised at the dawn of a new era that rights an millennium old wrong.

But what about the forces that don’t want the wrong set right. The ones who have profited from the carnage? Who are they and what will they do to Jaanjika and Teodors?

Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

July 2, 2017

Slice of PIE: We Have GOOGLE® ! Burn Schools!

Using the Program of the North American Science Fiction Convention in Puerto Rico in July of 2017 to which I will MIGHT go someday if I recognized any of the names on the guest list… to go, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the program. This is event #. The link is provided below…

The Future of Education – Technology has taken us to the point where almost everything we want to learn can be found on the internet or on an app. Can we eliminate the physical buildings in favor of virtual classrooms? If so, how would it work? (bilingual)
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ – Director of the Vatican Observatory…also a professor for several years
Marie Guthrie (m) – Professor, member of the Heinlein Society
Matthew David Goodwin – Professor and artist
Helen Gbala – Librarian and “giver of the Golden Duck Award” (SF for under 18s)
Sandra Manning – fan, collector, and all-around enthusiast

Except for the Director of the Vatican Observatory, all of these are new names to me. They’re all involved in education and some level, so I expect the gist of what they said was, “Information is not Education”.

The question becomes, as it always has been, “How do you know what to know?”

For some reason, 21st Century Society seems to think that we are somehow the epitome of wisdom – which just means there’s so much MORE to know today than there has ever been in ALL THE History of ALL THE WORLD…that no one can know enough – so let’s just assume that information equals wisdom and say that we know more than any other Society since the founding of Society.

But, that just plain doesn’t make sense!

I HOPE Brother Consolmango’s deeper and longer involvement with an institution that has existed for two millennia and that has vacillated between a harbinger of oppression and a harbinger of hope, spawning everything between Inquisitions to Hospitals, he might have pointed out that every age has experienced an acceleration of information.

Events of social, cultural, and scientific “renaissance” have occurred in many cultures: The Bengali, The Tamil, and the Nepal Bhasa “renaissances”; Al-Nahda; the Medical Renaissance; Haskalah; the Song Dynasty “renaissance”; dreams of a future African Renaissance; and the Brazilian Renaissance.

Cultures change. Ours is not significant in that we’re learning or doing things better or faster or “more” than at any other period of time. In five hundred years, there might be a Lunar Renaissance; or even a Diqiu Renaissance! There has always been a flood of information. We have always educated our younglings the same way.

But does it stand to reason that because “We Have The INTERNET!!!!!” we might as well close the schools and let everyone educate themselves? I mean, all the information is there, right?

Nope. Learners need vetted guides – we’ve seen what happens when individuals who believe they know best trim history, science, music, art, math, and sociology down to what is “appropriate” for the masses to know. Eventual revolution.

I have seen exactly what happens MOST often when young adults are given the freedom to educate themselves. The school I work in gives kids many options for education – an alternative high school, college classes in the school, advanced courses in the International Baccalaureate program, combinations of online class with in class work, and finally, online school. The last has only succeeded once or twice in my personal, six-year history as a school counselor. When I asked on student why they were not successful, they replied, “Well…the Netflix icon was right next to the school icon on my desktop screen.”

We’re at the front of a revolution now…I believe anyway; though, that it may not be the revolution some people in the SciFi world like to think it will be. My thought is that we will return to paper books primarily because “resources” like Wikipedia are editable by anyone who wants to edit them. I have had more than my fair share as a teacher of students who cut and paste quotes (not labeled as such, of course) in which some wag has replaced every word that starts with “f”…with a single, different word that starts with “f”. Wiki can be changed by anyone with a computer and a key – and an axe to grind or a political agenda. And they DO.

Paper books, while they CAN be edited and reprinted, leave a…paper trail. In a short story I wrote, “Invoking Fire”, a young adult inherits an autistic cousin, a snarky mentee, and a backpack with rare printed editions of books. One is Stephen King’s book CARRIE. The beginning is politically VERY incorrect. So in the ebook version he’s read, it’s been corrected. His great uncle, who kept a huge library of paper books – which also became the pyre on which he eventually burned – is part of a secret organization that is building and stocking a library in the Erg of Bilma. He has left the boy seven books by which he can buy passage from place to place and eventually deliver the only extant copy of an original Gutenberg Bible still left in print.

The boy begins his journey in this first chapter…

At any rate, there you go. My thoughts on the future of education. How about yours?