March 28, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 143: Aster of Opportunity


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. 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.

In the crowded restaurant, Aster Theilen caught the eye of her friend and fellow-conspirator, FardusAH, leaning forward. FardusAH mirrored her stance. Aster whispered, “The game is called a confidence trick, or a ‘con’. The nut is here.” She opened her fist. “I slipped it out while I was shuffling the cups.”

“That’s…”

“If you were going to say ‘cheating’, that’s not entirely true. Every gamble requires taking a risk. But if the con artist is good enough, they can make the gambler believe whatever they want them to believe.” She leaned closer, “That’s why a good con takes lots of planning – and inside people.”

FardusAH leaned back, studying the Mayoral Consort. After several moments, she said, “Remind my never to play poker with you.” With a mirrored nod, they stood up and headed to their separate homes. Aster headed for the Surface lift while FardusAH headed for the Deeper lift. Her friend disappeared into one of the fast moving cars, but Aster had stopped, watching, abruptly startled by the thought that while she was certainly taking a risk with attempting to deceive Mayor-for-Life Etaraxis, to whom she was the current consort, FardusAH was taking the greater risk.

The import of her plan took her breath away for a moment. If she failed, certainly she would be punished, possibly even executed.

If FardusAH was even suspected of being complicit, not only would she be executed – “put down” as if she were a cancer-riddled old-fashioned Earth “pet” – but her entire issue of vat mates would also be located and destroyed. Thought patterns that led to true rebellion, Aster had been taught since she was old enough to listen, were purely genetic. Of course they could be influenced by environment, diet, and training, but clones grown in vats who rebelled against their managers were clearly defective. Aster felt as if a great weight had been lad across her shoulders. She looked around and found a public rest area.

Sitting abruptly, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply for several seconds. When she opened her eyes, her surroundings had come into focus so sharply the edges seemed made from shattered glass. While she was under the Mayor’s charge, she had a certain amount of freedom. Certainly, refusing the Mayor’s offer to be his consort had been her choice. But it was a choice made aware of possible consequences, disappointment of those around her had been a possibility. He might have been angry enough to have her harassed or stalked; she might have lost her job. The Strong Mayor system of government on Mars had been in place for over a century – he had authority to act within the law and be responsible to no one.

Even so, she hadn’t really thought that her life was in danger at any point. FardusAH’s cooperation was going to come to light eventually. If the Orphan’s Ball didn’t cause a paradigm shift in the politics of Opportunity Dome, in the religion of the Dome, then her life and the lives of all of her vatmates would be forfeit.

Aster might lose her life. FardusAH would lose hers for certain; those she both knew and didn’t know who shared the same germ plasm would be sterilized. She would vanish from history.

Aster stood up slowly. It seemed there was only one choice then. She had to stop being timid and start to make bold choices. She had to risk as much as FardusAH was. For some reason she trusted Aster; for some reason she felt that what Aster planned to do would make a difference. If what Aster did shattered the stranglehold grip “natural Humans” had over cloned Humans on Mars, then it would be revolution. It would change the face of Mars. Her pulse roared in her ears as she headed for the lift.

Was this where God had called her? To change the face of a world; to make a difference in the lives of Artificial Humans? While her life was limited on Mars, mostly because she was less interested in the sciences and math than many other women, she’d never really found a calling. It was how she drifted into government office work. While she’d applied for higher positions, none of them had ever materialized; her father had always suspected it was because she was his daughter.

But what if it was more? She’d been gifted with NOT the consortship with Etaraxis, but with an opportunity to wield poser for the first time in her life! On Earth, Inez Milholland Boissevain had fought and died for the rights of women to vote; FardusAH was risking her life for Artificial Human children. Her father risked his life for his faith.

How would her personal history remember her? What had she seriously risked her life for? Up until this moment, she’d been only semi-serious about her rebellion.

Now, it seemed, the moment had arrived. It was time for her to do something important for Mars; it was time to do something important for herself.


March 26, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 393


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. Regarding Fantasy, this insight was startling: “I see the fantasy genre as an ever-shifting metaphor for life in this world, an innocuous medium that allows the author to examine difficult, even controversial, subjects with impunity. Honor, religion, politics, nobility, integrity, greed—we’ve an endless list of ideals to be dissected and explored. And maybe learned from.” – Melissa McPhail.

F Trope: “jerkass gods” (CS Lewis Till We Have Faces; Neil Gaiman American Gods; Rebecca Roanhorse Trail of Lightning)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

“It’s the dolphins and the manatees.”

“What?”

“It’s the dolphins and the...”

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

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

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

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

“Between who?”

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

“Which side is the good side?”

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

Names: ♀ Uruguay, Spain; ♂ American Hispanic, Portugal

March 24, 2019

Slice of PIE: Alternate Moralities (In Aliens…) & Why Would Anything Be Different In Our Response To ALIENS Than In Our Response To Each Other?


Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California in August 2018 (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 Program Guide. The link is provided below where this appeared on pages 75-76.

Ethical Responsibilities to Alien Life

Benjamin C. Kinney: Author, neuroscientist, and the Assistant Editor of the online science fiction magazine Escape Pod
Guy Consolmagno: The Vatican’s astronomer…superb!
Eric Schwitzgebel: American philosopher and professor of Philosophy
Gonzalo Munevar: Retired university professor, philosophy of science, author
Ina Roy-Faderman: Author, teacher of poetry, fiction, biomedical ethics, philosophy of science, serves as an associate fiction editor

This must have been a fascinating discussion – one I’ve pondered long as well.

While reflecting on this earlier this morning, I figured we’re quite clear about what to do with microscopic organisms: kill them.

Our society is adept at blasting anything smaller than us – prions, viruses, single-celled organisms, multi-cellular “larger” organisms, BIG multicellular organisms…our psychology, physiology, soul, mind (and whatever other divisions you believe in) is to destroy.

Now most in the SF world would cry, “Not ME! I would welcome lifeforms in all their wondrous forms!”

The hue and cry against anti-vaxxers should speak eloquently against THAT objection. “No, no, NOT diseases! There are some things I draw the line at! I would welcome any OTHER alien lifeform, but, naturally not diseases…”

Naturally. But then, if it’s an alien, how would we know?

In Gregory Bear’s award-winning short story/novella/novel, “Blood Music” (I read it in ANALOG), an artificially created organism intentionally injected by its creator, reproduces until there are trillions and they are self-aware. I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the thought. Heinlein’s THE PUPPETMASTERS is another take on a slightly larger, though equally creepy organism that takes over Human higher functions, leaving the “animal” to take care of the rest. STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE countered that meme with the Trill and their benevolent (usually) “symbionts”. Even so, there were some Humans who weren’t really thrilled with the idea even though the symbionts could only occupy a (usually) voluntary host. ANALOG writer Dean Ing looked at a similar situation in “Anasazi” in which parasitic aliens eat the brains of kids and control the bodies until they get too big…

How about Michael Crichton’s first novel, ANDROMEDA STRAIN? There’s an alien life form that kills Humans. We never get to the point where we know if they were an invading force or a simple infection. Would it matter? If it makes us sick and kills Humans, then it is, by definition, “bad”.

Bigger? The aliens from ALIEN – all they’re doing is reproducing as they have always done. What gives Humans the right to object to their form of reproduction? Why does it give us the creeps when big aliens use us the way the ichneumon wasp uses caterpillars? “Well, because we’re intelligent and caterpillars aren’t!”

More recently? Ted Chiang’s short story, “The Story of Your Life” was (basically rewritten) into the movie, “Arrival” – in it, the aliens come to help us, but MOST of us don’t like them and several actively try and blow them to smithereens. Despite that and once we discover that they have an entirely different perception of time, we all get along together and everything’s hunky dory…or not. Did they invade Earth…or not? How would we know?

Honestly? On the planet I live on, we don’t consider questions like this. Not in any real way. “How would different forms of life fit into our ethical systems?” Simple answer, based on what I’ve seen? They don’t. In fact, “our ethical systems” implies that we HAVE ethical systems. Most of the people I know pretty much have one way of looking at the world: “Get out of my way. Gimme that.”

“What responsibilities - or opportunities – do we have when encountering the alien?” Again, as a world, with the exception of maybe the five people on the panel and a couple of observers, the response would be, “None whatsoever. My and my…family/spouse/pet/house/neighborhood/POSSIBLY city (though a “city” is unlikely as the Human mind can typically grasp about 1000 objects with any kind of clear comprehension).

Individuals might differ, we’ve certainly made a case for the “fact” that scientists will lead the way in the consideration of taking wise responsibilities for the Human race and only do what’s best for both without hesitation and because all scientists are inherently full of wisdom because…“science”.

At any rate, I don’t see us as Humanity responding any differently to aliens than we respond to anyone else we don’t agree with: variously and spontaneously, without any CONSIDERATION of ethics.


March 21, 2019

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: CHAPTER 103 The Trials of Team Two – 6


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.

Choral Reading

Yown’Hoo: “The literal decay of the fiber of Yown’Hoo morality accelerated when we refused peace with Kiiote.”
Kiiote: “Interbreeding, internecine war, and ritual cannibalism devoured us in resisting harmony with Yown’Hoo.”
Human: “Material gain from both Yown’Hoo and Kiiote fed our greed, so concord held no profit.”
All: “We might do something none of us alone can do, we might braid an unbreakable cord of unity.” (3/6/2019)

The Human hung his head and said, “There’s nothing I can give you as proof, except my scent. We all know the scent of my great-grandmother. She tried to save all of us but failed.” He paused, “My great-grandmother failed.” He lifted his head. “She failed but you are part of a mission to complete her dream. You are on a quest to redeem her sacrifice, to realize the world she sought to create. I do not know if I can help, but on my grandmother’s grave, I pledge to help you in any way that I can.”

The Pack sent by Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret), leader of the Triad refugees from the Twin Cities, Kiiote Xurf, Fax, and Doj, with temporary Herd Mother, Zei-go and the rest, some maturing Herd members Hil-hi-el, Jus-hi-el, and the mere potential intelligence, Eel-go-el moved forward.

The rest of the small Pack they had encountered, stood hidden in the wood behind the great-grandson of St. Admiral, mere shadows, now moved forward…Xurf growled the Triad to a halt then said, “How can you possibly help? You have nothing I can smell, and this is your home.”

The Human laughed – Xurf knew it meant amusement, but a peculiar kind of amusement. Oscar, the Human male used the same tone when he was mocking any one of them. He did it often enough that Xurf had no doubt the intent when he said, “You mock us for no reason, young Human.” The great-grandson of St. Admiral looked startled. Xurf continued, “We were all raised with the Humans of the Triad. We know their expressions as they know ours. There are very few secrets between the nineteen – eighteen – of us.”

“One of you died?”
Herd Mother Zei-go said gravely, “One of our youngest, neuter and only potential, but named none-the-less, Ked-sah-ti, died at the hands of Humans who sought to kill all of us.” She snapped a tentacle in irritation, then clapped her jaw. “As you can see they failed at most of their mission as we are here.”

The great-grandson of the greatest Human in the history of three worlds sighed, bowing his head, and said, “I am called Kendi, son of Khadijah and Morrison, grandson of Song and Rey and Abbas and Julianna, great grandson of St. Admiral, Marvel Louise Williams-Frederick.”

Xurf couldn’t help it, his limbs collapsed on themselves as if he was about to flee. His fur though, spiked in rage. He nearly fell to his belly. Only iron willpower kept him civilized and in control of his behavior. The Human Kendi, knew the lineage of St Admiral. Only those in the Triad, and few others, could recite it. Clearly this Human was of that exalted family. He managed to say, “We were directed to find you as Commander Patrick Bakhsh has told us that we may request from you a form of transportation to get us to our destination rendezvous. All has begun to collapse. We have no idea what the other Triads are doing. We must reach our safehouse, but cannot do it without the vehicle you have.”

Kendi stared down at Xurf, then looked to Zei-go. He sat down on the cold ground with a hard thump. He belched abruptly. Even another Human could have detected the sickness on his breath. Xurf said, “What?”

“The transportation you seek?”

“Yes?” said Xurf and Zei-go together. They both took the tone of threatening they had learned from Oscar and Xiomara.

The boy looked alarm then hung his head. Finally he said, “The transportation – the tank – no longer runs. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve gone over the plans a thousand times. I’ve even made friends with an old mechanic in the village not far from here and tried to pump him of information, but even though he’s old, he doesn’t have anything about it!”

“A tank?” Xurf said.

“A vat to store liquids?” said Zei-go?

Kendi looked up at them, scowling. “No, not a vat! A vehicle, heavily armored with steel wheels. Riding in it – which I last did when I was a child…”

“You are a child!” said Xurf. “You’re no older than Oscar!”

“Who’s that?”

Zei-go said, “He is the male half of the Human part of our Triad.”

“You have a teenage dude in your group?”

“What is ‘dude’?” Zei-go muttered.

“A young male,” Kendi said.

“Why would that make any difference?” said Xurf.

“The mechanic said that all boys know how to work with machines like this. I can’t be a boy because I can’t make it work…” he hung his head, shaking it. The Pack Leader and the Herd Mother knew the motion well. Both Xio and ‘Car used it when they were about to give up.

Xurf softened his voice, lowering himself a bit closer to the ground as he said, “The strength of the Triad is that we each have strengths that will play to the others. Show us this ‘tank’. Together, perhaps we can make it work again.”

Kendi lifted his head, nodded and said, “Follow me.”


March 20, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 392


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: Interstellar Travel

Giovanna Mukhomorov shook her head slowly as she stared through the meteoroid [meteor = “celestial (brighter among the stars) phenomenon”; oid = “still seen”; ite = “a piece of”]-scarred window of the International Space Station. “When the old NASA announced this in 2014, my mom said she cried.”

Artyom Pai-Teles snorted, staring out the same window. “My fathers both shook their heads and said, ‘American hubris’.”

Gio didn’t bother looking at him as she said, “Thirty years later, the same might be said of them when they first planned your genstruction.”

“Hey! I was a successful...”

“How many times did they have to try, AP?”

He could do nothing but grunt. They’d been best friends up here since the day they’d arrived in space. Two years ago. Sometimes he thought it was too bad she was straight gay.

He sighed and she added, “It’s never gonna happen, AP.”

He said, “A man can dream about stroking those massive engines, can’t he?”

She slugged him, forgetting to hold herself down and floated away and into the main stream of older men and women, prime-age men and women, young adult men and women, and a smattering of boys and girls. Most of them politely excused themselves, bouncing like oddly-shaped ping pong balls as they moved hurriedly around Gio.

One of them did not. A young adult grabbed a bar near her feet and said, “You need to stay out of my way, kid.”

Flicking her toes, she came within a millimeter of his rather big nose. He flinched but didn’t move. Impressed despite herself, she said, “Titus, you’re ninety-one days older than me. You were one grade behind me. Even if you do the simplest math you’re most capable of, you still come out behind and I still don’t like you.” She pulled herself up and shoved herself toward the assembly area. “Come on Artyom. We have a galaxy to explore.”

He followed her, taking her hand, but she didn’t see the look on Titus Polamalu’s face. He did. He not only didn’t like the look, somewhere deep down inside of him, he found himself terrified of the mind of the man who watched his best friend.

Names: ♀ Brazil, Russia; Russia, Brazil, Hawaii, Hawaii
Image:

March 17, 2019

WRITING ADVICE: “On Christ the Solid Rock…” I Need To Learn To Build My Stories

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!

[I am reposting this today because it's still important and it made me think...again. It's less advice to those who read this; more advice to myself as I continue to figure out what I write about and why.]

A number of years ago, a church my wife and I were going to encouraged the entire congregation to read and apply the principles elucidated in a fairly thin, profoundly important book.

Unlike the What Would Jesus Do? movement, which was inspired by the novel IN HIS STEPS (as well as the concept of Christian Socialism) and the Prayer of Jabez “fad” which was entirely based on a single verse from I Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 10 (both of which the church we were in did…), this was less direction than observation. Doubtless the author, Reggie McNeal made money from the concept, but his program hasn’t seen near the sweeping faddishness of the other two. Mostly because it takes critical aim at the Christian Church as a whole.

Published in 2003 as part of the John Wiley & Sons Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series; and after reading it in 2005 and 2009, I picked up THE PRESENT FUTURE again recently. Sadly, I haven’t noticed any kind of profound changes in the Christian Church or witness since that time, but I did stumble across something that might help my writing.

As I’ve said before, I’m striving to create both greater consistency and more relevance in my stories. I’ve talked about how to create an ensemble cast, making my stories skinnier, and maybe even agree with myself about what the theme to my writing will be. Seems every writer I like has some sort of theme:

Lois McMaster Bujold: “…bias against the disabled, economic exploitation, and the role of women in society…old-school ideas such as faith in humanity and the desire to probe and do good in the universe…sheer humanity of her characters…” (Project MUSE)

Julie Czerneda: “…first contact, xenobiology…” (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction)

David Brin: “…the impact on human society of technology humankind…repairing the world, i.e. people have a duty to make the world a better place…working to improve the human condition, to increase knowledge, and to prevent long-term evils…humans as caretakers…importance of laws and legality…do what common sense dictates as good for all…” (Wikipedia)

Jack McDevitt: “…archaeology or xenoarchaeology…making first contact…a universe that was once teeming with intelligent life, but contains only their abandoned artifacts…novels frequently raise questions which he does not attempt to answer…to puzzle and intrigue his readers…” (Wikipedia)

Anne McCaffery: “strong women protagonists…the problems of living and gaining career success…” (Wikipedia); “gender, power and politics, duty and responsibility, tradition and innovation, self and society…family” (Anne McCaffery Discussion forum)

Michael F. Flynn: education, plans that go awry, how we interact with dying cultures and react to the new, extraordinary first contact…(deduced by reading), sometimes Libertarian (Prometheus Award, nominated and won)

Gene Wolfe: “to make [us]…feel cosmic, epic, large…why human progress may (or seems to be) failing.” (Ultan’s Library)

So what are the things that are important to me? What are my themes?

Guy Stewart: Education. First contact. Faith in God. How we interact with very alien thinking and meeting, domestication (see Jared Diamond’s GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL), technological solution to problems today (wholly unsuccessful right now); self-sacrifice as a missing component of today’s society;

So how does this all tie back to reading McNeal’s book?

A few days ago, I read this: “The central act of the Old Testament is the Exodus, a divine intervention into human history to liberate his people from oppression and slavery. The decisive act of the New Testament is the divine intervention of God into human history to liberate his people from oppression and slavery…In both Old and New Testaments all other mini-dramas and subplots relate back to this central theme.” (Chapter 1, THE PRESENT FUTURE)

As a Christian (that’s what it says in my banner above!), how do my themes tie back to the central theme of God?

I don’t know if they do. My published work is more-or-less silent on God, though in some, I hint that He’s important (“A Pig Tale”, “Teaching Women to Fly”, “Looking Down on Athena”, “Christmas Tree”, SIMPLE SCIENCE SERMONS FOR BIG AND LITTLE KIDS, “Test”…) Though Michael F. Flynn’s work (though I wasn’t reading critically) doesn’t seem to be overtly Christian. Gene Wolfe’s work is founded on his faith, though, again, it’s not overt. Others who are agnostic, atheist, humanist (Isaac Asimov springs to mind), Libertarian (Brin is, by his own definition, “a libertarian’s libertarian”, oddly enough, he’s only been nominated for the Prometheus award once…), Buddhist, Muslim, or any other varieties of faith or spiritual belief allow their beliefs to come out in their writing; so I suppose mine do as well.

What I need to do then, is lay down a clear foundation of Christianity on which to build my stories of Human/Alien interaction, education, and self-sacrifice then work to spin the foundation and theme into saleable works.

“That’s all?” ^raised eyebrow^


March 14, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 142: 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 (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

At the end of the street, people were running. Copdrones hovered in the air, laser scans flickering over the faces while at the same time dodging flying debris, clubs, sticks, and stunner shots. Projectile weapons had been banned on Mars a century ago and had never made a return. But the technology to kill without projectiles had been honed to create seriously deadly weapons. Before he could reflect on the ability of Humanity to create more and deadlier weapons, and the failure of the Unified Faith in curbing that desire not at all, the mob took a sudden turn and he found himself facing a wall of running, cursing, and panicked Humanity.

They ran, fighting among themselves, and he realized suddenly that it wasn’t just Rimmers, poor and dressed in cast offs from other parts of Burroughs, wealthier parts. There were others mixed in; some dressed in clothing he’d only seen in historical video from Earth – women in hijab, men wearing yarmulke, women in saris, men with collar tabs, there were a few turbans, and even a black and white head covering he thought had been called a habit; all of them had been banned on Mars.

There was a brief break in the mob, then another crowd followed after them. Some had clubs. One or two had gardening tools. Others lobbed stones. This mob was dressed in coveralls, usually with logos stenciled or sewn onto one the breasts; these were the workers. They were not from the towers that poked up from the Dome, rather they were the ones who worked at the base of the towers.

Stepan took a step forward and as he did, someone tackled him from the left. Rather than a crushing weight, it was light and knocking him over owed more to the speed of his attacker than mass. He rolled and when he looked over, he shouted, “Quinn!”

The boy scrambled to his feet, “You gotta get outta here! The other ones, the smarty pants ones, they said they needed you!”

“For what?”

“They got a plan! They’re smart, what do I know about smart! They sent me back to get you ‘cause they knew there was gonna be a riot!”

“How’d they know that?”

“They got someone they stay in touch with, someone what knows what’s goin’ on in all the Domes! They said you gotta follow me and I’ll lead you to them!” Quinn scrambled to his feet and reached down to drag Stepan to his.

Stepan tried to pull away, but genetic engineering gave the Artificial Humans muscle that was almost three times as dense as standard-born Humans. They’d been engineered with faster reflexes, and their neural net was less tangled and more tightly woven. They were, in many ways, superior. But they were internally gender-free, though their external appearance was left to chance and then artificially enhanced or designed based on the owner’s needs or whim. He shook off that thought as he started to let Quinn drag him back into the warehouse. Stepan tried to pull free. As the roar from the riot grew, Quinn tightened his grip and shouted, “I’m supposed to send you to them in Breakport. They’ll meet you at the marsbug Bradbury rental store.”

Stepan struggled against Quinn’s grip, “I’m staying here with the garden!”

“You can come back when the people aren’t going to murder you and feed you to Mayor Peta Nasseri.”

“I have to…”

“You have to live today so you can come back and keep doing your God’s work!” Quinn threw Stepan over his shoulder. “You’re gonna go down the chute…” Quinn opened the floor chute and kissed Stepan on the cheek, then shoved him into the chute and slammed it shut. Outside the crowd got uglier. Looking at the door, Quinn sighed, then hurried to the secret stairway door. A moment later, the warehouse was empty.


March 12, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 391

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.


Fernanda Rabten shivered in the fog of deep night, the damp cold penetrating through her nylon jacket.

Yeshi Uehara said, his voice hoarse in the cold, “Did you see that coming?”

“See what?”

“The car. It was heading straight at us.”

“What do you mean?”

“They car. You were driving.”

“I wasn’t...” Fernanda began.

Headlights appeared in the distance as the sound of a high horsepower engine muttered, rolling toward them like miniature thunder. Yeshi said, “I think we’re dead.”

“What?” Fernanda exclaimed. The sound of the engine grew, the headlights sharpened. “We have to run!” She turned and started down the incline and suddenly stopped.

Yeshi tried to follow but found that his feet would not move. Fernanda was returning to the shoulder of the road in jerky motions, as if she were being manipulated, pulled to stop beside Yeshi.

“Stop that!” she screamed at him, swinging wildly. “We’re not dead!”

Yeshi squeezed his eyes shut, unable to back away or run into the road – the highway.

The roar of the engine grew until the headlights were bright as twin suns, and the shadows of the two humans stood behind them like holes in the road.

Like the prow of a yacht, a silver grill coalesced out of the fog, pushing it aside to be followed by a car so black it seemed to soak up what dim light dripped from the dark gray sky.

“We can’t...” Fernanda whispered.

The car was so long that the rear wheels were invisible. Feet suddenly released from the ground, Yeshi slammed the open passenger door and went to a door farther back. “This is a limo. We don’t have to ride up in front with the chauffer!”

He reached for the door and opened it to find that he was looking into the passenger side door. “What?” he exclaimed. He looked back along the side of the car. He slammed the passenger  door and stalked to the rear compartment door, reached and jerked it open again.

He was standing at the passenger seat at the front of the limo. This time he looked back at Fernanda. She was leaning away from him. “I can’t move my feet,” she whispered. He looked into the limo, leaned down to see the chauffer.

There was nothing there – not exactly. He stared hard and suddenly found he couldn’t breathe and heard a hollow voice say, “You and your friend. Get in.”

He tried to back away. Tried to slam the door. Tried to scream. Instead he found himself saying, “Fernanda! The chauffer said he’d take us back home!” He knew he was lying; knew he was not speaking his own words. He was being manipulated by the chauffer – or whatever it was. He stood back while his old friend, her feet free, ran to the door, shouldering him aside.

When he looked in again, she was bouncing on the seat, looking at the chauffer then back at him. She said, “Yeshi, this is my old next-door-neighbor! He was old when I met him and he had this old car…” she kept on while Yeshi was drawn into the car though he tried to step back. He squirmed, struggling and felt the invisible bond holding him begin to slip.

Fernanda spun then and lunged, grabbing him by the front of his shirt. She screamed, “You’re coming with me whether you want to or not!”

Yeshi staggered backward, shouting, “But what if I’m not dead yet?” For an instant, he thought he saw the sky overhead lighten...

Names: ♀Bolivia, Tibet ; ♂ Tibet, Alaska 
Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpg

March 10, 2019

Slice of PIE: Writing Observations from John Scalzi: The Breathlessly Original Idea That Old Age Doesn’t Have To Be “Fixed”


NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, C 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…

While I have been taunted by John Scalzi (I can’t find the link anymore, but that’s not a problem. It had to do with my opinion that there was dearth of Christians in current science fiction because of a prejudgment on the part of the community. It’s something I’ve been working to undo in my own writing, when I can, so the issue isn’t one in my life anymore), it has nothing to do with how much I respect his books.

As I just picked up a copy of OLD MAN’S WAR to add to my library, it got to me to thinking about my own writing. On my way home, I reflected that OMW was a new concept, a new idea that catapulted Scalzi’s work into the reader’s eye and granted him a platform for his ideas and ideals.

I was puzzled when he said this in the article you can read if you follow the link below: “…Old Man’s War cannot be accused of being breathlessly original, either in concept or execution. I think that’s a fair enough assessment. To speak of novel in musical terms, it’s best described as a variation on a theme or an improvisational riff off a classic tune.”

I would disagree.

Speculative fiction, science fiction in particular, had been the literature of the young. When old age or infirmity was mentioned, it was part of the story’s set up – in other words, it was something to “cure”. In fact, this site (http://bestsciencefictionbooks.com/age-regression-science-fiction.php) considers it a sub-genre of SF. On the one hand OMW is a about age-regression, but rather than being the purpose of the storyline, it’s an event that intentionally creates young bodies around the wisdom of age.

While I’m hardly an encyclopedia of SF, a simple search of “Science Fiction that depicts old people positively” gave me nothing. “Science Fiction and old people” got me rejuvenation and OMW. “Science Fiction and the elderly” got me “10 of Science Fiction's Most Depressing Futuristic Retirement Scenarios” (https://io9.gizmodo.com/10-of-science-fictions-most-depressing-futuristic-retir-5943496). I’m half way through the March/April issue of ANALOG Science Fiction & Fact (BTW – I’ve got a story that will be in the NEXT issue, May/June!) and I think editor Trevor Quachri had a couple of themes running in this issue. One deals with aging. In “Final Say” by Eric del Carlo has a look at with neural stimulation, what might the last words of Alzheimer’s or dementia patients be to their families? “Running the Gullet” by Vajra Chandrasekera has two old friends reconnecting after a long life; then one goes in for a sort of rejuvenation. What does his old friend do? That’s as far as I’ve read, so I don’t know what comes next. But there you go.

Scalzi’s word is that the elderly, with a biological makeover, can contribute to society. In the case of OMW, I would argue that Scalzi hit on a new approach to aging.

Given that my dad passed away a bit more than a month ago, I guess I’m sensitized to the issue of aging and “cures” for it. But I want to explore MORE than cures for being old. I think that’s why the book, published in 2005, launched him onto awards lists. It was ground-breaking, maybe in a way he couldn’t see as the author, but it got the attention of plenty of others.

Scalzi’s “message” was that the elderly didn’t NEED to get rejuvenated in order to be important, he gave them a viable reason to not only be important, but to take a vital role in the future of Humanity; and THAT was where he was, in fact, “breathlessly original”.


My Daughter and Son-in-law Are Going To Have a Baby!


My daughter and son-in-law are going to have a BABY!!!!!
(PS, my daughter is an artist and created the announcement!)

March 7, 2019

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: CHAPTER 102 The Trials of Team One – 6

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.

Choral Reading

Yown’Hoo: “The literal decay of the fiber of Yown’Hoo morality accelerated when we refused peace with Kiiote.”
Kiiote: “Interbreeding, internecine war, and ritual cannibalism devoured us in resisting harmony with Yown’Hoo.”
Human: “Material gain from both Yown’Hoo and Kiiote fed our greed, so concord held no profit.”
Chorus: “We might do something none of us alone can do, we might braid an unbreakable cord of unity.” (3/6/2019)

The primitive Kiiote Pack leader, Kang, who had given over leadership to Qap and Qilf leaped to blaze trail through the snow as if she was a puppy freed from a trap.

The Triad Pack leaders stared. Qilf said, “We will watch her.”

“And tear her throat out at the first scent of treachery,” said Qap.

“My mate,” they said in unison, sealing the promise as the small Human female called Cynthia approached them.

She said, “May I keep my spear? It will no longer be in service to Kang, but to you.”

Qilf nodded her head in the Human style, “We accept your offer, Human Cynthia.” She  offered her back and the child mounted easily, keeping the spear well clear of the Kiiote Lead female.

The smaller Human approached Qap and bowed, “I am Kobey. My spear will no longer be in service to Kang but to you, great male Leader.” Qap nodded and the boy scrambled up on Qap – with considerably less grace than the girl. Qap flinched when the spearhead came within centimeters of poking his eye out. He growled faintly. Kobey said, “My apologies, great Qap. Please…”

“Don’t worry about it. We should get going.” Towt fell in at Qilf’s haunch. The boy clung to Qap’s back fur and with a howl from Qilf, the Pack, like a living shadow, set off as night fell.

They easily caught up to Kang, who set a swift pace. Shifting to Growl-Snap, Qap said, “How far is this place?”

“Not a whole night’s run, Pack Leader. Perhaps a half night.”

“Winter nights are long,” Qilf said.

“As I said.” She put on a burst of speed. Qilf added a snort of pleasure. The young Kiiote female was not entirely intimidated by the older female. In fact, Qilf rather enjoyed the challenge the youngster was offering. She had a sense of real wildness. Qilf’s grin faded, reminding herself that the pup was also a total stranger, possibly more savage than civilized. Kiiote without a true Pack were prone to ferality despite two thousand Earth years of technological civilization. She farted derisively – even Humans were barely out of their Stone Age. They were discovering fire as the Kiiote were colonizing their star system. Yet they did not appear to behave like their great apes when they lived alone. In fact, some Humans she had read about relished the solitude, they were called “hermits”.

She was digesting that morsel, when Qap pulled up alongside her and said, “What is it that Retired has us searching for?”

“Some sort of aircraft.”

“I didn’t think the Humans had developed everyday applications for gravity modification,” Towt interjected. The little neuter was a cheeky creature and while it never interfered with the business of running the Pack, it felt perfectly comfortable questioning anything and everything else.

They were used to it, but Qap offered a jaw snap to emphasize that he and his mate were having a private conversation that might lead to Pack policy decisions. The neuter dropped back to a respectful distance. After a league, Qap slowed and answered, “They didn’t precisely, Neuter. They used heavier-than-air-craft that employed forcing air over an aerodynamically shaped wing.”

Qilf had a horrible thought. She said, “You don’t think this idiot creature is leading us to some sort of decrepit Human aircraft, do you?”

Qap farted derision, adding a double jaw snap of certainty. She said in Growl-Snap, “It knows something; and Retired would not have sent us here for no reason, so he must know something about this flying vehicle.”

“Can we possibly fly such a thing?”

The Pack ran in silence before Qap finally ventured, “The basics shouldn’t be difficult. But the practice seems particularly daunting. I do not think our passengers would be able to operate a flying machine built for adult Humans.”

Qilf said, “In our bipedal form we might, but it would still be difficult. Humans have incredibly slender digits.”

They kept running until Kang dropped back a bit, and said, “We need to take an extended break. The young Humans will be cold despite their coverings, and I need to both catch my breath and find the best path.”

Qilf threw Qap a look to say, “Keep an eye on her.” She slowed to Kang’s pace, which slowed further until the Pack stood panting beneath the branches of an enormous pine. She drew a deep breath and said, “This plant is among my most favorite on Earth.”

There was movement above…

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

March 5, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 390

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: Comic Fantasy

Sein Ryoo held Yi Ling Guinto’s hand tightly as she spun out from him. The light panel, extremely sensitive to the magic generated by motion, glowed a cool, mint green.

They were both panting. Yi Ling bent over, planting her fists on her knees. A few minutes later, she said, “If we want to get on ‘You Think YOU Got Dance Magic?’, then we’re gonna have to turn that traffic light green – and just as intense.”

Trying to pretend there was no stitch in his side, Sein said, “We’ve been working all summer. Dance Magic’s gonna be here in forty-eight hours. What can we do in two days the we haven’t done in three months?”

With a flick of her finger, Yi Ling changed music tracks on her tablet computer from the sober beginning of the fandango to the wild exuberance of her current favorite metal band, Cursed For Cash. Sein whooped, grabbed her arms and they danced until the panel glowed like a magic spotlight. They collapsed into each other’s arms, laughing. She kissed Sein’s cheek and he pushed away, laughing as well. He said, “You know better than that!”

“I keep hoping,” she said, stepped forward and hugged him. “Let’s call it quits for today. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Mom says to tell your dad that we’ll be there at five am.”

“Ugh!”

Yi Ling sniffed then said, “If we lived in a real city, we wouldn’t have to drive so far.” She sighed, for the thousandth time, wishing she lived somewhere other than Duluth, Minnesota. Hardly a hotbed of dance magic, she was glad she at least had Sein. She relented, “But then we would never have met.”

He hugged her back, “I’ve got no idea what I’d have done if you weren’t here.” He shook his head. “Not only would I NOT be heading to the Dance Magic tryouts and I would have failed pre-calculus and physics.”

“No,” said Yi Ling, “I would have failed.”

“No, I would have,” they headed home. As the magic faded from their practice room, the panel grew dark, only occasionally flickering as flocks of Canadian geese flew their ancient dance to the south, overhead and far away.

Sein’s dad shot over his shoulder, “Five more kilometers to Chicago!”

In the back, Sein and Yi Ling squirmed. The ceiling light flared for an instant as did the dash light. Yi Ling’s mom sighed as her tablet readers glared brightly for an instant. “Stop it back there!” If the two of you keep back-seat dancing, you’re going to short out every light from here to New York!”

Sein’s dad squealed with laughter and squirmed in his own seat. But no lights flickered. The illumination stayed the same. Sein blushed furiously, pale skin under red-dyed and permed hair. Leaning to Yi Ling, he whispered, “I hate it when he screams like a girl.”

She pushed him back, saying, “I don’t sound like that when...”

“That’s cause you hardly ever scream.”

Sein’s dad heard nothing as he exclaimed, “Chicago’s flashing like a lighthouse beacon!”

Looking between the front seat headrests, Sein and Yi Ling gasped as golden light pulsed from the Windy City – as if welcoming them home.

Names: ♀Singapore, Philippines ; Burma, South Korea
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg