February 28, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 141: DaneelAH & Company Escaping 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 (They are HanAH, the security expert (m); DaneelAH, xenoarchaeologist (m); AzAH, language expert (f); MishAH, pattern recognition (f).) – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

As the stuffcapsule slid through the tunnel deep under the surface of Mars, AzAH said, “Stepan can present the artifacts to the Mayors, but we need to get word to people who can help him.”

HanAH snorted, “Like who?”

“Our mystery guide, Paolo. He seems to know what’s happening on Mars. He’s certainly been manipulating us.”

“I don’t trust him,” said HanAH.

“You don’t trust nobody,” said QuinnAH. “‘at’s why we get along s’well.” His street urchin drawl had returned. “I don’t trust nobody, neither.”

AzAH said, “You trust Stepan.”

QuinnAH snorted, then dodging the statement, said, “Sit and take a breather. Once we get back up and into the HOD, we have to pass through it to get to Breachport.”

“We don’t have time to rest. We keep on from here. Once we get to Breach, we need to contact Paolo. He has some kind of plan to gather the artifacts and change Mars,” said MishAH.

HanAH snorted derisively.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

HanAH rolled his eyes and said, “What makes you think…”

DaneelAH cut him off, “Because he keeps pulling our strings.” He paused, then added, “As far as I can see, he’s pulling everyone’s strings.”

“He’s not pulling mine,” said HanAH. “No one…”

“Get ready!” said QuinnAH, then suddenly shouted, “Jump!” They did. All five of them tucked and rolled. Here the floor was clean; cleaner at least than it had been, and it was also a soft-hard floor, absorbing impact by giving. It kept damage to the floor to a minimum by giving way under hard impact. Brushing himself off, QuinnAH said, “All right. You go up from here and you’ll come out in the Freight Station in the Home Owner’s District. I’m gone get you started, then you go up the rest of the way…” HanAH’s arm flashed out to grab QuinnAH – and closed on air. “Nice try, old man!” he laughed as he danced away. “Take yourselves on up, then! Double door portal over there. Only open the left side or you set off deadly security. It’ll scan you as Human ‘cause we got people up top that have changed the scanners. I gotta go back and save preacher man. He need me.”

HanAH clumsily lunged again and laughing, QuinnAH easily slipped away, vanished over the platform edge, and was gone. His vatmates laughed as they headed to the portal at the edge of the tunnel, cautiously opening the left door. HanAH stood, arms crossed over his chest. AzAH stopped, looked back at him, and said, “Coming.”

He angrily shook his head. She shrugged and followed the others.

As they disappeared through the portal, he called, “Fine by me! See if you can make it to Breachport by yourselves!” Either AzAH or MishAH stuck a hand past the rim, waved, and vanished. He stood for a while longer, then with a deep sigh, he followed after them, stomping his feet until he realized he sounded like a child having a tantrum. Muttering, “I was the last one decanted. It’s my privilege to act like this.” They’d vanished up a steep ramp that curved gently into a spiral. Grumbling, he started to jog, following after them.


February 26, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 389

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: Time Travel

Anton Naoumov shook his head. “You’re not going to get me into that thing. I signed aboard this ship to practice being a paramedic, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.”

Piia Takala grinned, “You’re not going anywhere in space, Anton! It’s...”

“I know – it’s a time machine. But didn’t Einstein have some theory that space and time are related? Intimately.”

Piia blinked in surprise and managed to say, “I’m sure you got that wrong. You never had a physics class, did you?”

“I didn’t need the class. I’m not a total idiot, you know! Medical majors can dabble in other stuff, so I did. And I didn’t get it wrong,” he said, tapping his handheld computer. “It says right here that Einstein wrote about it and W. K. Clifford described the effect of gravitation on space and time. He figured out it was easily visualized as a ‘warp’ in the geometrical fabric of space and time, in a smooth and continuous way that changed smoothly from point-to-point along the fabric of space and time.”

Piia pursed her lips. She’d never get him into the thing to go back with her if she let him dig any deeper. She said, “Granted. Space and time are intimately connected. But this isn’t going to be scattering your atoms anywhere. The only things that will be scattered are the quanta that make up the atoms. Those are only going to be shifted a little...”

He held up his hand and said, “What do you want me to do this for anyway? What’s so all-fired important about me doing this?”

She sat down on the stool in front of the control board. The time-shift chamber wasn’t really a chamber at all – it was a platform made of ultradense matter that was so massive, it was making a tiny dimple in local space-time. Above, a bank of high energy lamps pointed downward to an EM lens that would focus them on the head of the subject with enough force to shove the person through the dimple and into another time. The time period was pinpointed by the tightness of the focus and the depth of the dimple. Piia’d done the calculations three times. She took a deep breath and finally said, “I want you to stop the Finnish Civil War of 1918.”

He scowled then said, “How am I supposed to do that?”

“You have to let the one man who can stop the whole mess die.”

“What?”

“It has to look like a natural death, too. I figured all you paramedics know how to keep people alive when they’re on the brink of death, you probably know how to push them over, too.” She slipped the stun gun from her pocket, flicking it on to maximum strength and minimum dispersion.

“You want me to commit murder?”

“Don’t worry about it – if you’re successful none of this will ever happen.”

“What?”

“I want you to let my great, great, great grandfather die,” she said as she stunned him.

Names: ♀Finland, Thailand ; ♂ Bulgaria, Iceland 
Image:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Shuttle-c_launch_painting.jpg

February 24, 2019

Elements of Cron and Korea #6: Building A Traumatic Past for My Character!


I may  have mentioned that one of my goals is to increase my writing output, increase my publication rate, and increase the relevance of my writing. In my WRITING ADVICE column, I had started using an article my sister sent me by Lisa Cron. She has worked as a literary agent, TV producer, and story consultant for Warner Brothers, the William Morris Agency, and others. She is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and a story coach for writers, educators, and journalists. I am going to fuse the advice from her book WIRED FOR STORY with my recent trip to South Korea. Why? I made a discovery there. You’ll hear more about it in the future as I work to integrate what I’m learning from the book, the startling things I found in South Korea, and try and alter how I write in order to create characters that people will care about, characters that will speak the Truth, and characters that will clearly illustrate what I’m writing about.

“Remember when Luke has to drop the bomb into the small vent on the Death Star? The story writer faces a similar challenge of penetrating the brain of the reader. This book gives the blueprints.” – David Eagleman

“The reader expects the protagonist to not only have a past, but one that affects the future.”

“None of us sprang into being fully formed. We humans – and hence our protagonists – all have a past that has brought us to this very moment. What’s more we make sense of what happens to us in the present based on what our past experience has taught us. Thus a protagonist without a story-specific past is a generic, cardboard cutout.

“Ask yourself: What happened in my protagonist’s past that landed her in the situation she’ll find herself in on page one? How will what her past has taught her affect the way she’ll react to what happens in the story?”

For the past few months, I’ve been practicing my writing and trying to align it to both this article (in which I first discovered Lisa Cron’s insights) and exploring how I can integrate insights from her book, WIRED FOR STORY, into my own stories.

I just started a story that will be divided into three parts, the first and last will be short and will be “side stories” to the longer main story. In classic art, such an arrangement is called a tryptic and often depicts three different but related scenes. One such example looks like this:



More modern pieces are simply continuations of a painting or a photo.

In it, I have struggled for YEARS to create a memorable character name Carlos Bander. I have known things about him, but when I read Cron’s article and book, I suddenly realized that I don’t know anything about him!

In the triptych I’m writing, I’ve had to dig into his personality. Initially, the first triptych was supposed to be some 4000 or so words long (I’ll allow myself up to 5000 words). I took my time developing the character…and suddenly found out that I was well on the way to creating a story that was 8000 words long.

I HAD to cut it down, but how could I reduce the number of pages? I had to develop the character, right? But how could I make a deeply drawn character that readers could identify with?

After reading WIRED FOR STORY and knowing that it was impossible for me to “apply” all four hundred pages of advice, I went through and condensed out the points most important to my own writing. The “long list” contained 52 points and inspired me to discover that out of Cron’s last name, I could take the first two letters and associate them with an element of the periodic table whose atomic mass was 52 – the element Chromium. Plated onto other metals, it creates a brilliant, mirror-like surface used to decorate, accent, or protect metals that corrode easily, or reduce friction on surfaces.

I quickly found that even 52 points were hard to apply. So I condensed once more , shortening sentences and coming up with a list of things I could DO.

In creating my new character, I started to use them as if they were tools. I started to grow him in ways he’d never gone before. In this first story of the triptych, I found that pages of internal musing had gotten me very, very slowly to where I wanted to be. Looking at the list, I held it out and started to pull real application points to him. A few of them: “Story is how a character reacts; to the plot which is what happens”; “…something is at stake on the first page”; “…confront their inner demons”; “…world view is knocked down”; “Everything that can go wrong, should”; “threat should be active”.

I restarted the story – making him lose his job (he’d already lost his wife); taking his home away from him – both legally and literally; and then getting kicked out on the street. Which is where I wanted him to be because he needed to confront his inner demon: inaction on his part given that he knew he regularly dealt with homeless kids, some of whom had been damaged by profound trauma. He’s aware that he’s not doing enough, but has no idea where he should go with that, so he’s been drifting.

In this world, something happens. He DOES have skills, and since his wife’s death, he hasn’t been using the skills. But the issues are bigger. FAR bigger than just the ones he can see on Earth. There are issues that have interstellar ramifications; and he can make a difference on that scale.

But first he has to get past refusing to deal with the issues on a local scale.

Lately, Carlos has started to come alive to me. I don’t WANT to push him this hard, but I think he’s made of tough enough stuff to deal with it. We’ll see. Maybe even YOU’LL see. I’ll see if the “Payoff is possible”…

PostScript: And the Korea connection? Virtually everyone I met there was either affected by the Korean War (or 625 (June 25, [1950] as they refer to it) or has grown up under the shadow of the war becoming a shooting war rather than a stalemate war...this does something to people. As everyone deals with this kind of trauma differently, the people of South Korea are all very different...


February 21, 2019

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: CHAPTER 101 Oscar Alone 4


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)

Nathaniel Wallace, the kid holding the stunner, said, “Dad’s sleeping. Why are you here?”

I took a deep breath, feeling better than I had since leaving Triad HQ back in Minneapolis and said, “Retired Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh…” I didn’t get to talk anymore, because Nathaniel shot me with his stunner again.

When I woke up, my hands were tied behind my back and I was laying on my side. At least he didn’t want me to choke to death on any bile I managed to throw up once the waves of stunner recovery started. He leaned forward and pressed the stunner to my chin and said, “If I shoot at this range, the beam will literally scramble your brain, causing it to short out, causing irreparable brain damage. If you’re lucky, you’ll be dead. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be a tube-fed, space-staring remnant of what you are now.”

I managed, “What am I now?”

“A prisoner of war.”

“Whose war? You working for the Yown’Hoo or the Kiiote?” He growled, so I said, “Got it, the Kiiote.”

“I don’t work for aliens! I’m working for Humans!”

I snorted. I couldn’t help it. “So am I.”

“The traitor Bakhsh…”

I would have jumped to my feet if my hands had been free and I wasn’t suffering from stunner sickness. As it was, I probably looked more like a teenager rising from the dead by the look on Nathaniel’s face. I bellowed, “He’s a great hero! He’s trying to bring peace on Earth!”

“He’s turning us over…”

I opened my mouth to argue and threw up. I think Xio called it ‘projectile vomiting’ once when I got a bad case of gastroenteritis. Only this was mostly acid and bile. Nathaniel cussed and skittered backwards. I fell into a heap on the floor and I don’t remember much after that. When I did wake up, Nathaniel was hovering over me and said, “You had a seizure. I didn’t mean…”

“What did you mean that Retired’s a traitor? Who told you that? He’s helped us from the beginning escape the fighting down in the Cities! He saved our whole Triad’s lives when somebody burned down my family’s farm…” Then all of a sudden I was weeping, not just crying, I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Nathaniel reached behind me and took off the handcuffs or whatever he’d put there to tie me up. I wanted to strangle him; pound his face, but I couldn’t do anything but lay there and bawl like a baby. When that calmed down, I started to babble, “Who the fuck do you think you are accusing one of the greatest men on Earth of being a traitor? You’re the traitor! He’s a hero! He’s my hero!” Then I was sobbing again. After a while, I dragged my sleeve across my face, wiping away the snot.

“Listen…” Nathaniel began.

I rolled over and muttered another vulgarity. I hated words like that. Retired once said that using them was a crutch. It meant I couldn’t hold up my end of a discussion and I was trying to distract the person I was arguing with from my stupid beliefs. He once told me that using vulgar words proved that I’d lost the ability to reason. The word ‘vulgar’ meant it was a word common, low, or uncultured people  use. He’d told all of us that we were none of those things. The Triad was a hope for the nearly trillion intelligent beings making up all Humans, Kiiote, and Yown’Hoo. “We’re the hope of intelligent life in the universe.”

“Who is?”

I sat up slowly, looked up at the bully, and said, “You’ve never met Bakhsh, have you?”

“I don’t need to…”

I cut him off, “Because if you did, you’d have to make a decision for yourself and not just parrot what you’ve been told. Who told you Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh was a traitor?”

“It’s common knowledge.”

I slowly stood up, looked around the room, “Looks like you’re the only person around here. Among whom is it common knowledge?”

“Everybody!”

He walked – limped, actually – around the room, fighting down the urge to barf my empty stomach out again. “There doesn’t appear to be anyone else in this room. You’re telling me that not only are you the only source of information here, you haven’t bothered to do any research to find out what other people think.”

“I’ve done all the research I need to! Bakhsh is a traitor!”

“I disagree,” I said, staring at him. I ruined my solid attack by swaying and spreading my legs farther apart to steady myself.

“Your opinion doesn’t matter!”

“Why?”

He stared at me, sputtered, looked down at the ground, then looked up again. “You don’t know him like I know him.”

“He raised me,” I said. “In every way he’s been my mentor, my…if not father, my surrogate grandfather. He’s been like a grandfather to all…”

Nathaniel turned away, then turned back to me, “I’m glad he was a grandfather to someone, because he’s never been the grandfather he should have been to me. He IS my grandfather.”


February 19, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 388


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.

                                                                              

Ava Johnson pursed her lips, staring at the huge flock of crows. “I think they’re a communal intelligence,” she said.

Henry Smith shook his head, “I think you’re crazy.”

Ava snorted and broadened the view of her camoflauged surveillance micro cameras. “The size of their individual brains are insufficient to support Human-level intelligence.”

Henry snorted with the same pitch and said, “So you’re saying that Human-level intelligence is the only valid intelligence on Earth?”

She lifted a finger, “Born-Human.”

He snorted. They agreed on many things, but that one they typically avoided as a hot-button topic. Shaking his head, he took a breath, held it, counted to ten, then said, “The average crow brain-size is sufficient to solve multiple spatial reasoning problems. It’s documented in hundreds of sources. Even in our own research…”

“I know! I’ve been with you since the beginning! Just because we haven’t witnessed behaviors indicative of corporate intelligence doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent! Besides…”

“…flock flying gives serious argument to your statement that there’s no evidence of corporate intelligence!” he said, completing her main argument.

She scowled at him, then rolled her eyes. “Fine. We don’t have…”

One of her monitors went out. She cussed then hunched back over her computer, tapping violently, searching for the reason the camera was down. Another one blanked. She used her favorite vulgar word, repeating it in staccato bursts as her fingers flew over the keys.

Henry snorted, turning to his own, less obtrusive monitors. He was using a high-flying drone to capture images and run analyses of pattern movements. He wanted to see if odd events attracted individual crows first – he was looking for the geniuses in the flock. Once he located them, he could tag them, sample to DNA, and then see if he could trace the genesis of genius in a flock. Once he did that, he wanted to isolate individuals and test them more rigorously.

Ava used a work he’d only rarely heard her say. “What?”

“The whole system just crashed!”

He stood up and went to hover over her shoulder. She batted him away, saying, “Quit distracting me.” He stepped back, smirking

He stopped when he looked at his own computer. The image was gone. He sat back down and dragged the cursor back a few moments until he located the incident that had taken out his drone. He saw the open claws and then the image went wild, then black. He stood up and went to the camoflauged research station’s door and opened it. All they were was an old mobile home trailer covered with old military grade camo tarp staked down. They’d thrown branches over it then artfully arranged boulders and other debri around it. Exit to the outside world was a tube tunnel that ran back a football field length, exiting in a dense thicket of bushes.

The area surrounding the mobile home had been trampled weeks ago.

Now it was a seething mass of crows, mostly standing still. They’d turned their heads to look at him each with a single eye. Creepy, but…then he noticed that the birds on his left were all looking at him with their left eye. The birds on his right were all…every single one he could see, looking at him with their right eyes.

Names: ♀S Carolina, Minnesota; ♂ Minnesota, S Carolina

February 17, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Shades of Gray – Anthropogenic Climate Change as Proof of Human Godliness

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

Shades of gray from my toes to the vault of the Atlantic cathedral, I stand and wonder. In wonder.

Seventy-five percent of the world is sheathed in water. Of the rest, we inhabit only 10% or 90% (http://www.curiousmeerkat.co.uk/questions/much-land-earth-inhabited/). If you exclude our lit civilization, we are invisible of the surface – despite the myth that the Great Wall of China is visible from space (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/great-wall-from-moon/).

Our newly fire-wise ancestors began worshipping multiple goddesses, gods, and immaterials and keep at it even today, though with a more refined and decorous mien. Science became the god of the age, predicting the transformation of Humanity into a global, biocybernetic civilization of, oddly enough, immaterial minds (“the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.” [I recently witnessed the disappearance of my father’s mind from his body…]) linked together into a new, self-worshipping god.

Discarding God, we have transferred our affections to ourselves. Unfortunately, the evidence is clear that we die – in car accidents, of cancer, even from previously conquered diseases like measles – we are a sad substitute for the eternal gods of yore. What could we find that would grant us god-like powers? We’ve extended our lives a paltry decade or two, we reached for the stars, stopped at the Moon, then went back to near-space, pretending that two drifting pieces of junk passed through the heliopause and (it was announced: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/voyager-2-spacecraft-enters-interstellar-space/) and “into interstellar space” are a great accomplishment of Humanity…

We haven’t conquered world hunger, want, our population, the wasteful production of power (every form of power production has an ecological impact, no matter how green. Electric car batteries will be difficult if not impossible to recycle, windmills, and solar panels need…um…wind and sun…to create power. We still worry about creating some way to store the power we make. Science fiction writers assume fusion power while scientists tell us every decade that practical fusion power is only two decades away (https://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/2014/11/forever-20-years-away-will-we-ever-have-working-nuclear-fusion-reactor).

So how do we prove our divinity?

The only way we have so far discovered is that we have changed the climate of our homeworld to a degree that anthropogenic global warming is the sole reason we are having unprecedented: cold, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, droughts, floods, glacial/polar melts, and species extinction.

In fact, there are no other factors that have an effect on Earth but Humanity. Forget volcanoes, solar activity, El Nino, La Nina, the Polar Vortex, or our position in space – they don’t matter. Even so, from space, the profound changes in climate of the third planet of a minor star in an arm of an unremarkable barred spiral galaxy are without apparent cause, a sort of planetary spontaneous generation of climate change. Certainly there are sources of CO2, chlorofluorocarbons, H2SO4, and other odd chemicals that appear from nowhere.

*sigh*

Even the master of future building, Kim Stanley Robinson, flooded Earth in BLUE MARS with erupting volcanoes beneath Antarctica rather than anthropogenic global warming. I imagine he used catastrophe purely for dramatic effect as the extreme, story-driving effects of anthropogenic global warming are in the future twenty or so years. AGW – I prefer to call it what we started with rather than whatever the current name change as the philosophy of AGW remains the same. (It reminds me of the marketing of the fictional pharmaceutical company in BIG BANG THEORY, that Bernadette Wolowitz-Rostenkowski works for…)

Last point in the rant above: overpopulation, pollution, and AGW seem to me to miss the point by crying out that we “Save the Earth!” Earth is a planet which will be around until a massive impact event or it’s consumed by the expansion of an aging Sol into a red giant. It’s HUMANITY and several other lifeforms (though only the expansion will eliminate the cockroaches…) will disappear. It’s likely that anything short of that will leave some kind of life on Earth.

Please don’t get me wrong: I work to keep my carbon footprint as small as possible by recycling, buying locally, biking instead of driving, reusing and thrift-store shopping frequently, and using “environmentally safe” products. We all need to do what we can. We rescued our pets and if they weren’t, we neutered or spayed them; we strive with others against world hunger and disease and local hunger and disease prevention and work against teen pregnancies, and give to charities targeted at issues that are important to us; and our investment portfolio is as green as we can make it.

But in witness to the Human penchant for drama, I have only to nod toward Bollywood and Hollywood, and the latest best-sellers in electrons or on paper. The number of SF short stories set on post-climatic-apocalyptic Earth are abundant in electronic and paper magazines (though Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING has a delightfully different take on the subject, adding an engrossing immaterial angle.

I’d like to write like that myself and will be poking around at creating a slightly different world that has a slightly different immaterial view!


February 10, 2019

Slice of PIE…Maybe…: Alzheimer’s, STAR TREK, and Reconciliation


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

I’m a sucker for a movie or book that’s all about reconciliation – The Jane Austen movies are about reconciliation of broken relationships (They’re romances, too, but that’s beside the point). STAR TREK: Wrath of Khan is about reconciliation between Kirk and his son David. Dad introduced me to STAR TREK in the late 60s, and watching the shows with him, and eventually my wife and kids, was a foundational event that led me to me pursuing my writing.

Even the goofy Lego Movie has a father-son reconciliation at the end (Oddly, there are NO images of them hugging at the end...sad, that.)


The first movie mom and dad brought us to see was the original MARY POPPINS. We saw it at the Terrace Theater in Robbinsdale, the city Mom grew up in. At the very end, Mr. Banks reconciles with his kids, dumping the “bank life” for flying a kite with Jane and Michael.


I’ve been reflecting lately about WHY reconciliation movies and books are so important to me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sort of odd duck in the family. Dad played football and basketball (in the day when players who were 6’1” were tall, he was STILL short!). My brothers and sister played sports all through high school and beyond. Even mom was a member of the Robbinsdale Girl’s Athletic Club – tennis, badminton, and even fencing.

I didn’t do sports. I read. I wrote. I played guitar. I went to a very religious college and then went touring in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and eventually West Africa with two different church bands. I went to Moorhead State University and worked most of my summers at Bible camps.

I wasn’t home a lot because, frankly, I didn’t feel like I belonged.

Then I got older and wiser, got married, then Josh and Mary were born, and then Alzheimer’s touched our lives. After Mom passed, it just seemed to get worse, but I started to spend more time with Dad. Oddly, I started to feel closer to him as we did more and more things together – like watching NASCAR racing, going to restaurants after doctor or dentist visits, or going to The Lookout just because. Our lives began to wind together like they never had when I was younger. We would talk, sometimes just sit together, or go to an event at SilverCreek and enjoy ourselves. In the end, I felt reconciled – I felt like Dad was part of my life again and that I was part of his. Maybe that’s why the movies like Sing, and Back To The Future – and even FINDING NEMO meant so much to me. They were always about reconciliation; about joining BACK together after a time of separation. And I cried at those movies when I first saw them; and a few days ago, I cried when I realized that me and Dad had reconciled…               


February 4, 2019

The Passing of my father...


My dad went Home today to join Mom and spend time with friends and family who went before him – his sister, my Auntie June and her husband, Uncle Earl; his parents Ruth and Guy; his Air Force buddy, Roger; and all the other people he’s been missing so much as he fought as far as he could against Alzheimer’s. He is missed; but he is at rest and without pain.

February 3, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: FRIGHTENINGLY CLOSE ENCOUNTER…[Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Past Tense” (two parts) (Season 3)]


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

My wife and I just finished watching the two part episode and to say that it scared the bejeezis out of me would be to phrase it mildly.

From Wikipedia: “[In Past Tense (part 1 and 2] The crew of the Defiant is thrown back in time to 2024 on Earth. The United States of America has attempted to solve the problem of homelessness by erecting ‘Sanctuary Districts’ where unemployed and/or mentally ill persons are placed in makeshift ghettos.”

Written in 1994 some time, it includes the use of Internet podcasting (which didn’t really catch on until 2004) as well as the eerily prescient idea of “Sanctuary Districts” (https://americasvoice.org/blog/what-is-a-sanctuary-city/).

Even in the 90s, it was a real suggestion “…an article in the Los Angeles Times described a proposal by the Mayor [Richard J. Riordan (R)] that the homeless people of that city could be moved to fenced-in areas so as to contain them, in an effort to ‘make downtown Los Angeles friendlier to business.’…” to put aside part of downtown Los Angeles as a haven, nice word, a haven for the homeless.’…‘That was what [our fictional] Sanctuary Districts were, places where the homeless could just be so no-one had to see them, and literally there it was in the newspaper. We were a little freaked out.’” (https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Past_Tense,_Part_I_(episode))

But it never happened, and the episode was written thirty years before the fictional Bell Riots took place in San Francisco’s Sanctuary District A. This social shift is part of the original Star Trek timeline and, as Captain Sisko notes, “It was a watershed event…” in that it precipitated a reevaluation of how society, in particular, American society treats the mentally ill and homeless.

Only that’s  five years from now, and the Bell Riots took place on October 2, 2024. There are already rumblings every which way that have made this far more possible in OUR future than it could have appeared from Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s 1994. Things are very, very different in 2019.

The theme running through this episode is that the Sanctuary Districts were a total surprise to everyone. From the wealthy “Interweb” magnate, Chris Brynner to the mentally ill Grady who was living in the District; and from Vin, the guard and Lee, the social worker – none of them had any idea how the Districts happened. They just…grew. No blame, no “The Republicans…” or “The Democrats…” or “The Unions…”. The Sanctuary Districts just happened.

For me, this is more frightening than if they had been planned by an evil government (take your pick of who you define as evil, every government has been defined as evil by someone in the country at some time…)

I’ve heard it said that the actor who play’s Captain Sisko is a deep thinker. In the episode, because he knows that the future of (at least) the United States hangs in the balance, he yells at Vin, the guard who keeps coming across as a tough guy, disdainful of and in his mind, superior to the “dims” and the “gimmes” of the District.

As I watched it, it appeared that Avery Brooks was doing more than acting; doing more than just “getting into his part”. Holding a shotgun under Vin’s chin, Brooks-Sisko-Bell shouts, “‘You don't know what any of this is about, do you? You work here, you see these people every day, how they live, and you just don't get it!’”

“‘What do you want me to say? That I feel for them? That they got a bad break? What good would it do?’”

“‘It'd be a start! Now, you get back in that room and you shut up!’”

Vin hangs his head. He knows Bell is right. He knows he’s just given up; and he clearly has no idea how he got to be this way.

Lee confesses to Dr. Bashir that, “‘…[I] processed a woman with a warrant on her for abandoning her child because she couldn’t take care of him and left him with a family she worked for. [I] felt sorry for her and didn’t log her into the system which would have alerted the police, instead [I let] her disappear into the Sanctuary. [My] supervisor almost fired [me] when the incident was revealed. [I don’t] know what happened to the woman but [I] think about her all the time.’ Bashir explains that it's not her fault the way things are.” But she clearly has given up on the system.

If you haven’t watched this episode in a while, take the time to do so.

Then do something. I guess it really doesn’t matter WHAT you do. As

Congress, no matter the stripe, isn’t interested in doing anything for the “unwashed masses”; nothing substantial that is purely beneficial for the majority of Americans and has nothing to do with personal profit or gain; that’s all about making life better for most of us. Like lowering health care costs and forcing pharmaceutical companies to just charge us 20% over cost for all drugs of any kind – from aspirin to Glybera (“…first approved in October 2012 for familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD), a rare genetic disorder that disrupts the normal breakdown of fats in the body…[the] drug was never approved in the US, but would have cost more than $1.2 million per year. It will not be marketed any further in Europe by drug maker uniQure as it has become evident that it will be a commercial failure.” https://www.health24.com/Medical/Meds-and-you/News/7-of-the-most-expensive-treatments-in-the-world-20180129)

As Brooks-Sisko-Bell notes, “It'd be a start!”