March 29, 2018

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION Chapter 83: The Trials of Group Two - 2


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)

Panting after galloping up the ramp from the tunnel, Xurf paused, taking a deep breath of the air of the Human world. Even though it was the only place he’d ever known, he also could tell it smelled ‘wrong’. Not bad. He loved his Human Pack members. But he also knew it wasn’t the same as the Pack homeworld. Fax, Doj, Zei-go, Hil-hi-el, Jus-hi-el, and Eel-go-el – the mini-pack had a clear mission.

The basement of the fueling station was full of leaks. Volatiles had seeped into the ground, poisoning both the land and the air around it. Snarling a grin, he set off for the escape path Retired had shared with them. His respect for the elder Human grew more still as his third of the Triad broke to the surface and headed west. The scent from the material Retired had shared with him was strong in his mind. He would find the Human and they would move on to the next step of their flight.

He slowed then stopped. Fax and Doj, Pack members, stopped immediately. The Herd young kept going until Zei-go, the male, stopped. The others stopped with him. He said, “What are you doing?”

Xurf shook his head, then rearranged his form to bipedal, giving the Pack a signal to remain in running form. He said, “There’s something we need to decide here.”

Zei-go pulled his tentacles from their sheaths, though he did not extend the poison spurs. “What?”

“The elder Human, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh,” he stumbled over the complex name and title which he needed to say to impart the right level of authority as Humans did, “Has sent us to seek the Masters, Pan and Zir.” He shook himself hard, hoping the others wouldn’t recognize his discomfort, “They will be undercover.”

“What?” said Zei-go, “They’ll be buried somewhere?”

“No!” Xurf snarled. He hunched his shoulders in apology – a gesture they’d all adopted from the Kiiote – and said, “It’s a peculiar Human idiom. It means they will not be what they appear to be.”

“How can they do that?” said Eel-go-el, it’s voice high-pitched. Likely a Human would have never heard the question. At least not a regular Human. Xurf wasn’t even sure Triad Humans could hear at that frequency.

He replied in the same register, “They will appear to be Human dogs.” All four of six of the mini-pack stiffened then snarled, extending to their full heights. Xurf let them vent  their outrage. He’d reacted the same way when Retired had outlined the plan. They continued until he snarled, leaped on Fax and ground his body against the youngster as a Dominance display. Fax’ belly patch grew slippery and Xurf made sure to rub against it with unmistakable, sexual intent before leaping away.

Fax crouched, his body shape weirdly askew. He pulled himself to bipedal height, then cuffed or kicked each of the others when they came within reach of his humanoid arms, until the male, Doj and the others were sitting at his feet. Sweat oozed from the pores in their ears. Their distress was intense and the fluid was pale yellow instead of clear as his was. Finally he said, “Will we be able to scent them?”

“No. Retired said that they underwent a treatment to make them smell like Human dogs as well as look like them,” he farted his low opinion of that move, but added, “Remember, if a Human wants to see a dog, they’ll see a dog.” The others seemed stunned a bit longer but finally crawled to their bipedal forms. Xurf added, “Good. Return to lower form. We’ll need to hunt for game on our way.”

“How far, Pack Leader?” asked Doj, his scent was pure submission.

Xurf said, “Three thousand lopes at full speed.”

Hil-hi-el, bred for her weather and time-sense on Earth, said, “We will arrive there at night in two days if we take no breaks.” Her voice was female low nowhere near as expressive at its immature level as Qap or even Qilf. Even so, Xurf quivered. Even Fax and Doj seemed to take notice.

Suddenly Zeigo, the Herd male said, “Is time important for us?”

Xurf formed a loud, brief fart, an emphatic, “The less time we are separated from the Triad, the better.”

“Then it may be possible for you to ride me, and the smaller Pack to ride Hil-hi-el and Jus-hi-el.”

No sound or movement escaped Xurf’s control. Fax’ jaw developed a tic. Xurf managed, “It has never been done.”

“Do not the Humans say, ‘Extraordinary times call forth extraordinary efforts’.”

“I have heard the scentless one GURion state this.”

Zei-go said, “The sooner we get the transportation, the sooner we shall rejoin the Triad, and the sooner we can protect ourselves.” He pulled his tentacles into their sheathes and knelt in front of the Pack Leader. “It is for the Triad and the futures of all of our people – and Y’eh One of Seven hundred and thirty-nine, Kii, and Earth - that I offer what would have been humiliation on our Homeworld.”

Xurf snapped his jaws, “Then we shall do it. I place the safety of my body on your back, Zei-go.”

The Yown’Hoo whistled orders to his tiny Herd and as the Kiiote changed shape and mountain, he felt a strange strength flow through him. He said, “I will trust your sense of smell to direct me wisely,” he paused, adding the Human words, “My friend.”

Xurf placed a hand on the side of Zei-go’s neck, leaned forward, and said, “I will hold your trust as I would hold a puppy. My friend.”

Zei-go surged forward and Herd and Pack, merged as if they were some strange coyote-and-llama-centaur, thundered into the setting sun.


March 27, 2018

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 348

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.


Ngendo Bonhoeffer said, “The First Timeline energy is building. It’s going to wash over all the others and pull them all back together. The experiment gave God the answer El was looking for.”

Varma Avelsson shook his head, “What’s that supposed to mean?” he said in Spandaringlish.

“Anywhere from now,” Ngendo snapped her fingers, pausing. She snapped her fingers again, looking up into the sky.

“Oh, stop it already! I get it!” Sighing, he sat down on the metal box. They were in the middle of one of the deserts of Earth. “For an agent of God, you’re awfully sarcastic.”

She snorted, an unladylike sound even for an agent, then said, “For an agent of God, you’re awfully secular.”

Varma coughed into his hand and said, “‘A gentleman knows God believes in him, it is his duty to return the compliment.’”

“God doesn’t care if you believe in El, Mr. V. El cares that you do what El sent you here to do.”

“I am!”

“Not that I’ve been able to detect. I’ve watched you for the past seventy-eight of this world’s stellar revolutions and all I’ve ever seen you accomplish is a small trophy following a football game in which you accidentally scored a point for your own side, counteracting the point you’d ALSO accidentally scored for the other team.”

“That’s not fair! I’d only been here for eight years! And we were playing by American rules. I got confused!”

“So you say.” Ngendo laughed and stood up from her own crate. “We have to get moving. Plans are afoot.”

“You and your plans,” said Varma. “When have your plans ever gotten us…” She cut him off by walking away, up the side of a sand dune. “Get back here and finish this conversation! You’re going to get burnt to a crisp!” As there were no standard Humans nearby, her head was suddenly covered with a pale hijab. Her shoulders wore a light wrap with a long white dress. She kept walking. He created a pith helmet for himself and a khaki shorts and shirt of a British soldier in mid-20th Century desert dress.

Once he’d caught up, she said, “You look like you’re an extra from an historical movie – about badly dressed actors in historical movies.”

“This is authentic!”

“Authentic Hollywood.” She kept walking. He followed in silence and when she looked back, he was dressed in a pale tan Nehru shirt and a matching round cap and plants. He could have stepped out of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi and taken a drive into the desert. “Better.”

“What do you know about fashion?” he groused.

“Obviously more than you.” She stopped. “There’s our assignment.”

Varma squinted into the blinding sunlight, reflecting from the sea of sand. “What’s that supposed to be?”

“A new thing. It’s the first real colony in Sahara in three thousand years.” He looked at her. “It’s going to be at the very center of the end of the Multiverse.”

“This is the Energy Project?”

“Exactly, and from what I’ve been able to find out, the Humans here are protecting this place with weapons strong enough to take even us out.”

He snorted, “Out of how many timelines? I’ll just slide over from one sixty-eight dimensions over…”

“Sorry, Varma.” She turned to face him, “If things go badly here, we will cease to exist anywhere in Time.” She paused. “Including on the First Timeline.”

Names: ♀ Kenya, German ; ♂ Liberia, Sweden
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

March 25, 2018

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #21 FERRETS UNDERGROUND (Submitted 8 Times Since April 2002)


In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line:
What if black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs mirrored the WWII horror of the Nazis and the Jews…and a ferret discovered that a prairie dog village was about to get gassed?

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
FERRETS UNDERGROUND is to the Holocaust as CATWINGS is to the flight from poverty to prosperity and WATERSHIP DOWN is to the ideals of Home, power, and the nature of leadership.

Opening Line:
In the hour before mothers wake up and the prairie dog guardians have just gone to bed, Prairieheart the black-footed ferret and her brother, Rockfoot escaped their nest.

Onward:
“Come on, we have to make it to the Haunted Warrens before the sun comes up!” Prairieheart squeaked, as they ran from the home burrow. Tiny black feet gripping short prairie grass, she cried, “We’re free!”
“I’m right behind you and if you don’t watch out, I’ll pass you up!” Rockfoot barked, racing his sister.
Overhead was the starry North Dakota sky. Far away to the east, sunrise stained the edge of the Great Plains sky red.
“There!” Prairieheart said, running toward the pile of dirt a prairie dog had made around its burrow hole.
“What if there’s a coyote…” Rockfoot said. But his sister was down the burrow before he finished. He was right behind her.
He held on to the curving walls with his sharp claws as the burrow dropped straight down. He landed in a heap on top of Prairieheart.
She hissed, “Stop playing! It’s time to get serious!”
Rockfoot scrambled off her. “I’m not playing!” His eyes got used to the dark fast. The prairie dog tunnel led deep underground. “Are there any badgers down there?”

What Was I Trying To Say?
I was trying to create a tool for elementary school teachers to introduce the issues of the Holocaust to their classrooms.

I’d found that Ursula K. LeGuin did the same with her children’s books in the CATWINGS series. The message there had to do with children born into poverty escaping – not through someone else’s benevolent action or by the action of a benevolent government acting on the behalf of its incompetent citizens and for “their own good”. They escaped because not only were they special, their mother released them to use their gifts – wings; the chose to move, however reluctantly. I know a student and his mother and sister who left Ferguson, MO after being IN the riots of August 2014 sparked by the murder of Michael Brown by a white police officer. They chose to leave.

I wanted to say with FERRETS UNDERGROUND that even when our appetites drive us, we can make cognizant, clear choices to not act the way we want to. Most of us have it within ourselves to make positive choices; to act on our consciences. It doesn’t matter how old we are – Malala Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize when she was seventeen – you can act on your conscience to create change.

The Rest of the Story:
The ferret Prairieheart takes a message from the King of the Prairie Dogs that they must all leave because the Humans are about to destroy the entire village – prairie dogs, ferrets, badgers, Red-tailed Hawks and all.

When she does, the Humans step up their attack on the prairie dog village, bent on total annihilation. The plan is for the ferrets of the Fesnyng (a group of ferrets, https://www.herbweb.org/animals-collective-nouns.html) to drive the prairie dogs out and to a safer village farther north, a place called Long Snow Lands.

But the Humans accidentally set off the dynamite early and the leaders of the ferrets – including Prairieheart’s mother, die. It’s up to her and the Kind of the Prairie Dogs to chase and lead the rest to safety. Along the way, a badger tries to eat them, and a young Human tries to shoot them. But they survive and a free once they go over the river.

End Analysis:
I was ambitious, but I don’t think I overstepped myself. I still think FERRETS UNDERGROUND is good, but it needs a hard revision…I might add that it's also biologically and environmentally accurate and while Black-footed Ferrets are still considered "globally endangered", they have in fact, been reintroduced into the wild, where were considered extinct twenty-some years ago.

Can This Story Be Saved?
To that end, I think that “yes, this story can be saved”. But I have lots of other projects to do and while I’d LIKE to do this one, I can’t see it happening soon. Another aspect of this is that I kept getting slapped down by disinterested agents, I never really had a chance to send it to an EDITOR, so I’m not sure if it was really “road-tested”.

If anyone out there is interested, I’d be happy to send the draft to you and would value your comments!


March 23, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 122: 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 shook his head, and said to the group of Artificial Humans. He smiled a bit because they all had the same puzzled look on their faces, “A spacesuit with a skeleton in it had this clutched in its glove. I don’t have any idea what it might…”

“VR,” said QuinnAH.

MishAH nodded, “Exactly. But not of Human design and not made for a Human head, either.” She held out her hand. DaneelAH handed it to her. She spent several moments examining it. She looked up at Stepan, saying, “You found this in the glove of a dead Human, turned to dust and bones in their spacesuit?”

Stepan nodded, “Yes. In a room built into the base of the Dome – and on the other part, an airlock that lets out of the Dome.”

“An airlock?” HanAH said. “This must have been part of the very first settlement here.” He swept them with his eyes, “The skeleton could be two centuries old.”

AzAH shook her head. “This VR set is a lot older than that.”

“So it’s another artifact,” DaneelAH said, “The stele, the dolphin suit, there are probably other artifacts scattered all over the surface of Mars.”

“Why?” QuinnAH said suddenly. “So what? There’s all kinds of artifacts out there! Why should any of them matter to us?”

“Good question, Son,” said Stepan. “They wouldn’t matter if we knew what they were doing on Mars. If there is life elsewhere in the universe, why was it here? It was a creature designed to live in water, yet two hundred years ago, Mars was as dry as it is today.”

QuinnAH shrugged, “It was dying?”

HanAH snarled, his hand snapping back to strike the impertinent boy until Stepan said, “It could be.” He shook his head, “But we won’t know.” He handed the artifact – VR unit – to them, “You can have the tail piece as well as the VR unit. We,” he looked down at QuinnAH, “have work to do here.” He nodded. “Good luck.”

DaneelAH said, “Thank you, Stepan. Whatever we find, we’ll send word.” He gestured to the roof opening to the staircase, “May we take the steps down to the floor?”

“Be my guest. Be careful of the spacesuit with bones.”

HanAH saluted, “We will, Reverend.”

When the four vatmates had thumped down to the bottom and the sound of their plodding footsteps faded, Stepan said, “All right, now we get down to the real work…”

“What? you’re gonna just ignore this whole thing?” said Quinn.

“It has nothing to do with feeding the poor out here on the Rim…”

“But it has ta do with Mars, Reverend! What if there was aliens here?” He used a vulgar word and Stepan frowned, but the boy didn’t notice. “If there was, maybe there’s a reason for us to learn to get along together! If there are aliens weirder than Humans or Artificial Humans, then we’re gonna be more alike than we are different! Who knows, maybe there’s really true monsters out there and we can join together in unity and defeat…”

“You read science fiction?” Stepan said.

QuinnAH’s face suddenly went blank. “I don’t know how to read.”

Stepan stepped back, crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the boy. Who squirmed then turned away. “Quinn?”

He whirled around, “Fine! I taught myself to read. Nobody else would, so I hacked into public site and just did it.”

“Why?”

Quinn lifted his chin, “Why should Humans be the only ones in charge on Mars? We’re Human, too. Just adapted for whatever regular Humans want done that they don’t feel like doing themselves.” He planted his thumb on his chest. “I’m as Human as you are!”

Stepan stared at the boy. In the secular world of the United Faith in Humanity, what he’d just said was as close to blasphemy as an Artificial Human could get. HanAH would have been justified in striking the boy down, and Stepan realized, would have done it out of a sense of duty. The four vatmates were certainly the strangest set he’d ever experienced. His family had sequestered a genetic line of computational service Artificial Humans. He’d grown up with them. His father had owned several sets up in the HOD – the Home Owner’s District – when Stepan was growing up. On the other hand, “So happens, I agree with you, Quinn.”

The boy stared at him, eyes wide, then managed with only a minor crack in his changing voice, “You agree?”

Stepan nodded. “We are all the same.” Quinn opened his mouth to start preaching to his choir, but Stepan held up a finger. Quinn shut his mouth. “However, if you want to spread your word – and I know a little bit about evangelization here – you can’t just blurt the truth out and expect people to hail you a hero of the revolution.”

The boy blinked. “You can’t?”

“You have to earn the right to be heard. That’s why I’m here to feed the people of the Rim. I am NOT going to walk out to the nearest crossing and start telling people about the difference that my God has made in my life.”

“You’re not?”

Stepan laughed. “Of course not! First I’m going to grow a garden, help in any way that I can – and I was a paramedic in the Free Martian Combined Forces, so I can run a clinic. I’ll share my food,” he looked pointedly down at Quinn, “And I’ll work to guide those who want to learn skills they can use to build a freer, stronger Mars.”

“You’d do that? When do you talk about your God?”

Stepan shrugged and looked down the stairwell, “When the time is right. First I serve people, then I share with them.”

“So you trick people into wanting to know about your god?”

Stepan spun around, suddenly reminded of himself questioning Dad’s philosophy. Remembering Dad’s hand flashing out at his impertinent son. Stepan grimaced and nodded, “I suppose that’s one way to look at it.”

Quinn spread both arms wide, “What other way is there to look at it?”

Stepan started down the staircase, looked over his shoulder and said, “Earning the privilege to be heard.” He kept on down. Quinn ran across the roof, presumably to grab the gMod disk, and followed Stepan down a short time later. Quinn didn’t stop to examine the spacesuited skeleton. He had better things to do.


March 20, 2018

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 347


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: Evil de-evolution
Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devolution_(biology) (Fascinating article in which an evolutionists tap-dances around the idea that the dissemination of correct information is NOT the responsibility of scientists but of...um...Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, but ultimately Nobody and CERTAINLY not them…(http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/hlife.html))

Ugnė Mertens flipped her pigtail back again as she stared at the image on her laptop. Muttering, she stepped sideways to the microscope and moved the slide using the X-Y translational control knobs fine adjustment. The image of the chromosome she was studying moved fractionally.

Naranbaatar Todorov picked at his thin, first beard and said, “Staring at it isn’t going to make the genes magically appear, Ug.”

“That’s what you think,” she straightened up, she smiled and added, “Baaaaa,” drawing out the stereotypical sheep sound. “Watch.” She touched a pressure toggle on an odd, goose-necked device standing beside the microscope. The computer’s screen fuzzed suddenly, then the single chromosome lit up as if it was a candy cane.

Baa started, looked at the lamp and exclaimed, “What is that thing?”

“Something I invented and you didn’t,” Ug said, sitting on the lab stool, leaning forward.

Baa swallowed hard, pursed his lips then said, “Listen, I know you don’t much like me...”

Ug reached out and typed an entry into the text box then said, “If I had a choice between dissecting three-day-old roadkill and having lunch with you...” she paused, made a face, then said, “I’m not sure which one I’d pick.”

Baa glanced at the clock on the wall. He still had four hours left of his shift. He couldn’t skip it or Dr. Harber would find out and dock him points. But he wasn’t sure he could keep his feet still and not kick Ugnė in the butt. He took a deep breath and said, “Must be an infrared to ultraviolet, rotating frequency projector.”

She shot him a look then went back to making notes on her computer. Occasionally she tapped her smartphone as well, which lay next to the laptop. “Lucky guess.”

“So that means, ‘yes’. Then you must have bathed the chromosomes in a solution that would...” Naranbaatar hooked another stool with his foot to drag it closer. Shrieking as it vibrated along the floor tiles, he winced and said, “Sorry.”

Ugnė sniffed but didn’t reply. Finally she said, “I used a mix that the older the gene, the less fluorescing compound it would pick up.”

Baa frowned then asked, “What are the chromosomes from?”

“A narn.”

“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed. Reports had been circulating for years about animals whose genes had suddenly started evolving – a quantum evolution event – from static forms to much, much more intelligent forms.

“These are chromosomes from raccoons killed in southern Minnesota.”

“We have narns here?” Baa exclaimed, backing away from the microscope.

Ug turned to look at him. “The genes aren’t contagious, idiot! This isn’t a disease – it’s animal chromosomes. Dyed and fixed at that! What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing. Nothing!” He spun around and took long strides out of the lab. He didn’t care if he lost hours – all he could see in his mind’s eye was the raccoon he’d nearly run over when he was biking on rural trails near his family’s home in an outer ring suburb of what was slowly becoming the three, four-kilometer-tall towers of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Vertical Village.
He would never forget the look on its face as it held out a mangled aw to him and said, “Help...”

Names: ♀ Lithuanian, Belgian; ♂ Mongolian, Bulgarian

March 18, 2018

Slice of PIE: Exploring Solar System Oceans Is Like Saying, “Let’s Share Our Philosophy Of Peace With Aliens!”


Using the Programme Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki Finland in August 2017 (to which I will be 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 Programme Guide. The link is provided below…

Under Pressure: Exploring Oceans Beyond Earth – We're finding liquid water everywhere in the solar system. What will it take for humanity to explore and/or colonize those vast new oceans?

William Ledbetter: 2016 Nebula Award, edits for Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, runs the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award contest (Baen Books, the National Space Society)
Pat MacEwen: anthropologist/author, several short stories in F&SF
Laurel Anne Hill: authored The Engine Woman’s Light, one other novel

Too bad James L. Cambias wasn’t part of this panel. His novel, A DARKLING SEA, takes place under the ice surfaced ocean of the alien world, Illmatar. It’s more complex than that, but his aliens and their entirely fire-less biotech society and culture are fascinating.

Jupiter’s moon, Europa figures in several science fiction stories ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter%27s_moons_in_fiction), more than one dealing with life in the waters under the ice.


Certainly we will explore those places when time and technology are right, but I think this session was looking beyond that. We’ve established that there’s water elsewhere than on the home world. So? Who cares? We need water on Earth – but even though the surface is 71% water, we can only “use” a fraction of that. Roughly three percent of that water is “usably freshwater” and of that, most of it is frozen or underground.

Vast swaths of the surface are completely uninhabited by Humans. We laud and magnify ourselves for having “conquered Earth” as well as chide ourselves for “destroying the oceans”…

But we can easily walk on only 29% of the surface, and of that, 57% is uninhabitable…so, Humans live on just sixteen percent of the Earth’s surface. Seems that “conquered” is a somewhat relative term. Here the discussion looked at “what it will take for humanity to explore and/or colonize those vast new oceans”. Yet we haven’t even colonized our own oceans. We avoid them typically. There are Humans who have never had any encounter with an ocean at all, and the ones who say that they have might have gone swimming in one or flown over one. Even those who live “on” the ocean might have little to do with the water itself. As I live in the land-locked center of North America, I have no idea how many people in Los Angeles actually “use” or have “conquered” the Pacific.

Certainly people HAVE done things with the ocean, interacting with it intimately – my daughter spent time on New Zealand as an exchange student learning about Maori art; most everyone reading this has seen the kid’s movie, “Moana”. Many of us have “been to Hawaii”.

But can we say in any real sense that Humans have “conquered the oceans”? Do we really live there, or do we just USE the oceans? We certainly like to dump stuff there: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june14/mw126-garbagepatch.html, in particular, insoluble plastic.

Some people claim that living on the oceans is “impossible” or “unlikely”, but the fact is that we have created artificial islands: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_artificial_islands, we just haven’t made them very large, the largest owned near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Japan has created the most artificial islands, and Holland has been doing it for two thousand years. The ancient Egyptians also made islands.

But our ability to push back oceans and to really, truly inhabit them is entirely unrealized on this planet. There are no undersea cities – a peculiar dream of mine – but there are some who think they might be possible: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2016/westminster-academics-predict-underwater-cities-downloadable-food-and-3d-printed-houses-by-2116. Science fiction (sort of in some of the cases noted) has had a stab at it: https://io9.gizmodo.com/5560901/the-11-greatest-underwater-cities-of-science-fiction

None of the sources mentioned SEAQUEST DSV, and while there were no cities under the surface of the ocean, there were colonies and (at least in its first season), a serious attempt at writing the stories. In this future, the bottom of the ocean is the only place left where there are exploitable natural resources and Humans need to be there to utilize them.

The upshot of this is that while I wish I could have been there, I think we’d best make some advances in “conquering” our own oceans before we try and make a go at conquering other oceans…


March 16, 2018

Embracing the Chaos That Comes With JOY!

I am SO SORRY...but this week has been overwhelming:

Robbinsdale Cooper Girls Basketball Team is playing in the State Basketball Tournament -- so the week was filled with shortened days and trips to event venues...https://www.twincities.com/2018/03/15/class-3a-girls-basketball-cooper-northfield-advance-to-state-final/

AND COOPER GIRLS BASKETBALL WON THEIR FIRST STATE CHAMPIONSHIP EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My clock radio chose this week to go kaflooey! and I got up late TWICE...

Men's Bible study Wednesday was preceded by meeting with my pastor to plan the Men's Retreat in April...

Today (Friday), I presented three times at The Young Authors Conference hosted by Success Beyond The Classroom -- but spent every extra writing moment putting together the Power Point Presentation...

So we arrive QUITE abruptly at Saturday and my apology to you all.

Tomorrow, I'll resume my regular publication!

March 11, 2018

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: To Have A "Moral Dilemma", You Need A Morality in Speculative Fiction (Part 1)


Using the Programme Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki Finland in August 2017 (to which I will be 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 Programme Guide. The link is provided below…

Using Moral Problems and Dilemmas to Add Depth, Suspense, Character Revelation, and Meaning to your Story: Moral dilemmas engage readers. Understanding what makes for a gripping ethical dilemma and the different approaches to resolving them can add depth and complexity to your characters and your story. In this workshop you will learn what an ethical dilemma is, how to create one that is complex and difficult to resolve, diverse approaches to resolving a dilemma and how to show your character’s attempt to find the most ethical solution to his/her dilemma, one that will ring true for your readers.

J. A. McLachlan: Has two College textbooks on Professional Ethics; three published Science Fiction novels and an Historical Realism novel

So this would be a mostly discussion class.

The saddest thing I saw in this is here: “In this workshop you will learn what an ethical dilemma is…”

That, in a tiny nutshell, is what I see as the main problem in our political system; our faith institutions, and in the…sad…pursuit of some people for a system of belief that will be fulfilling – but totally inclusive of every form of behavior known to Humans. The ones who insist that NOTHING is wrong (as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else…My question, “Define ‘hurt’. Define ‘someone else’.” Uh… “YOU know! Like, hurt!” and the someone else? “The people who agree with me 100%. If you don’t agree with my every point of view…well, then, I’m just going to Snapchat/Instagram/Facebook with the people who DO and harass the people who don’t!”

I’m not sure we have a really good handle on “moral dilemma” any more. I suppose that’s why this instructor had to teach her group what a “moral dilemma” is. I suppose at this point, I should insert a gif that shakes its head in grief.

I refuse to define this myself because I’ll just be adding “my opinion” to the argument – and that’s exactly what I DON’T want to do. Because…well, in this time of moral relativism, you can’t HAVE a “moral dilemma”.

The word “dilemma” has a clear definition, in fact, there is a formal definition from the field of logic: “an argument forcing an opponent to choose either of two unfavorable alternatives.”

OK – that’s clear. The use of a dilemma in fiction is obvious. In fact, characters HAVE to face a difficult choice in a story in order to…uh…make it a story.

CS Lewis’ NARNIA book THE SILVER CHAIR, points out: “‘Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.’”

Former President Obama’s wife writes, “You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”

“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” ― Malcolm Gladwell

“…the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

And lastly, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

Too bad about the last two words – many Americans don’t believe they have to take responsibility for ANYTHING. The result of a bad decision ultimately belongs to someone else. Not me!
So, let’s accept that some writers have no idea what a “moral dilemma” is – perhaps because they’ve never had to face one (because you’d have to have some sort of systematic morality that’s grown in your life; that you’ve cultivated and applied.) The development of a morality:

n. late 14c., "moral qualities," from Old French moralité "moral (of a story); moral instruction; morals, moral character" (13c.) and directly from Late Latin moralitatem (nominative moralitas) "manner, character," from Latin moralis (see moral (adj.)). Meaning "goodness" is attested from 1590s.

“Where there is no free agency, there can be no morality. Where there is no temptation, there can be little claim to virtue. Where the routine is rigorously proscribed by law, the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct.” [William H. Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Peru," 1847]

So the idea of “morality” has been around for a while – but Prescott makes an interesting point: “…Where the routine is rigorously proscribed by law, the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct…” I would say, based on the evidence that I see every day in the high school I work at (and I work with teachers, administrators, parents, law enforcement, community, county, state, and federal workers of many stripes)…finding that someone has any kind of functional morality is more of a surprise than an expectation.

Of course, this would be something that the instructor had discovered and hence felt a need to TEACH it. As a veteran teacher with over thirty years in the classroom, the only time I feel compelled to teach something is when the class doesn’t know that thing.

If they knew it, I wouldn’t have to teach it…

The other reason to teach something is an attempt to standardize the morality – but in early 21st Century America, to teach outside of the proscribed (read “lawful”) morality would be tantamount to employment suicide. To even teach someone HOW to form a moral system would end in the same way – I don’t care if you’re talking about a pre-school classroom or a PhD classroom. Instructors have lost their jobs attempting to teach students to think for themselves.

So, while we as writers have the “dilemma” thing down, the “moral” thing is what defines not only a story, but (given that the skill levels of writers with varying moralities are equal) whether or not the author gets published and upon whom awards and accolades are bestowed.


March 8, 2018

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION 82: The Trials of Group One - 2

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)

It was full on winter and it was dark.

The three Kiiote emerged from a concealed exit at the bottom of a sand pit, ringed with scrubby pine, loping to the surface and instantly split up, doubling back a few times before trading directions to confuse the trail. Like Earthly canines, they were deeply scent animals. Unlike dogs and wolves, they could biologically manufacture scents, sometimes even consciously triggering certain scents by a series of thoughts Humans might have called mantras.

Scent mantras.

It wasn’t long before any Kiiote happening along – or deliberately set on them – would have lost the original scent in a heady mixture of sex stimulants and pup scent that would elicit protective scent blindness. Their world was as complex in scent as a Human’s was in color and a Yown’Hoo’s was in movement.

Pack Leader Qap used slang – Yipe*fart – to communicate with the mini-pack, “We head north. Follow the scent of cold and veer to the stirring of Plains and mountain snows.” Holding a loose formation three or four lengths apart, they made their way northwest – by Human orientation – keeping low to the ground and occasionally back tracking to confuse their trail.

Unfortunately, they had not arrived unnoticed…

Qap was focused on leading her micro-Pack. Qilf, already Pack second female, would one day Lead her own Pack if she could find a male strong enough to pull together in the same direction. Towt was still neuter, a wiry pup who might one day lead its own Pack – perhaps even a Triad. It was not only smart, but worked well with Humans. It did not care for the Yown’Hoo, but knew the future of the Home Mountain, the world of Kiiote’s origin might depend on being able to work with the Grasseaters.

It was the one who yipped for attention, then sprayed a scent of caution tinged with Yown’Hoo.

Qap came alongside Towt. She was auntie and so deserved respect; but she was even more the Pack Leader. Towt fought down the urged to press his belly to the ground and roll over. They had to keep moving the Old Human’s direction had been perfectly clear. His ability to deliver scent messages was eerily Kiiote-like. She said, “No Yown’Hoo should be here. Baksh,” Old Human’s name was so much like a bark-snarl that Pack in the Triad could easily speak it, “said that we must scent for the metals Humans use to build, not our own or those of Yown’Hoo. You are certain?” The last was a challenging growl and even Towt couldn’t avoid scraping his belly even as they ran for the cover of the nearby woods.

Qap snapped her jaw, surging forward, low to the ground, driving deeper into the wood. Qilf and Towt followed. She ran up a hillock, stopping just short of the top, then circled once before stepping free of the underbrush irritating all of them. She sat and the other two curled at her feet. After a moment, she said, “We are being watched. I think some version of Human, but the scents I catch are not completely the Always-Walkers. There is that of the Grasseaters as well, but it is not completely right, either.”

Towt had a thought, “What do we smell like to them, Auntie?”

She looked sharply at him, opened her mouth for a nip at Towt’s insubordinate query – he’d released a bit of challenge scent in what he said. She paused. “That is a wise question, Neuter. Have we been stained with Human and Yown’Hoo scent? What would we smell like to one of the Stupid,” Triad-name for any of the idiots, Pack, Herd, or Tribe, who fought the endless war without hope of any victory. “We must be, in their noses, tainted.”

“Then perhaps our scent is confusing to watchers?” Qilf growled.

“Or it is our scent that it follows,” said Towt. This time Qilf did nip the neuter. It stifled its surprise.

Qap snapped. They both fell to their chests as she did as well. Softly in Human Speak, she whispered, “Then we must lead our watchers on a chase.” She rumbled low in her chest, a second set of vocal cords evolved to give Kiiote the ability to use words emphasized with other sounds. It could also be used to mimic Human sounds as well as speech. With a slow lift of her lip, baring double rows – one set sharp, an inner row bladed – of teeth. She began to laugh a low, very Human laugh. Qilf and Towt knew the sound.

It was the sound announcing a game of Run, Hunt, & Kill. Towt howled and dashed north. Qilf waited, crouched forcing her bones into their long-running configuration then sprinted straight west.

Qap, proud of her Pack headed directly at the source of the watcher’s scent, nearly flying from the ground as she attacked.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Rhll_wire_rope.jpg

March 6, 2018

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 346


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: Alien Geometries – “Even the very body of a particularly squamous thing may exhibit this, though more often it shows up in architecture as physically-impossible buildings—occasionally sentient themselves.”

Xiaoyan Tahtawi shook her head and said, “Egypt hardly qualifies as the originators of architecture! They’ve only been building things for five thousand years! China is the true parent of the science!”

Murad Sūn harrumphed and said, “I am sorry to disappoint you, but the ‘Chinese Dynasties’ didn’t even begin until fifteen hundred years before the Common Era began.”

“I’m not talking about official dynasties! I am, however talking about Civilization.” Murad rolled his eyes, he could hear her tone of voice capitalizing the word and ascribing it solely to her forebears. While he was prepared to admit that Chinese architecture was impressive in its own ancient and pretty way, they had nothing like the Pyramids at Giza.

Of course, technically the Egyptians didn’t actually have them at this time, either. He said, “That’s beside the point!”

“This stupid class we’re taking is talking about the civilizing influence of architecture – how can the fact that the ancient Chinese built the Great Wall to protect their civilization...” Xiaoyan said.

Murad laughed, “Your ancestors built your Great Wall to keep the barbarians from stealing their food and women!”

“I wouldn’t call constructing tombs for dead old guys the pinnacle of an evolved intelligence.”

The stared silently down from the highest point of Jingshan at the Forbidden City. Their tour group was out running around the city today, leaving them behind – most of the group figured they were going to…Murad snorted. He wasn’t “that” kind of guy. Xiaoyan wasn’t his kind of girl, either. The thing he loved most about her was her razor-sharp mind and uncharacteristically Western way of speaking it. “Let’s walk over,” he said abruptly.

“What?”

“To the Forbidden City. Let’s go.”

“That’s reserved for the last day of the tour.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her along, “Then they shouldn’t have put us up in this apartment and they shouldn’t have left us alone.”

She said, “They put us up here because it was cheap and they left us alone so that they could have something new to gossip about.” He thought for a moment that she was going to resist, but she said instead, “You’re right. Let’s go over there.”

They bounded down the steps to the first floor when Xiaoyan said, “Wait! What if they left someone behind to watch us?”

Murad paused and scowled. “You’re right. Come on.” He grabbed her hand. One of the other guys in the group had discovered a sub-basement when they were poking around the house. They weren’t technically supposed to go down there, but most of them had gone anyway. They’d come up talking about stacks of covered furniture and an entire wall of books. “Who reads books anymore?” He said.

“Down into the library? There’s a door there?”

“I think so. Come on.” They rattled down the stairs and into the library. It was dark. Cool. It obviously smelled of books. Xiaoyan flipped on the lights and the room seemed to suddenly lean into them. She cussed in Chinese. Murad cussed in Arabic and they took a step backward to the stairs and were suddenly staring across the room, looking at the open basement door they’d just come down. The door closed.

“What...” Murad exclaimed.

“What did you do?”

“Nothing! You were with me! We walked down the stairs and into the library and now…”

“I know, idiot! I was here, too! Let’s get back upstairs before…”

There was a knock at the basement door across the room from them…

Names: China, Egypt; Egypt, China