August 25, 2019

Slice of PIE: Robot and Nonhuman Intelligence – and Mental Health

Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (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 page 4.


Robots talk in a metallic voice, speak in a staccato rhythm, and walk in awkward movements. Right? That may have been true in the 1950s, but robots have evolved. So what does it mean today to be a robot? How have they changed over the years and how might they change still? How do we write one in a convincing way, and can we apply these same ideas to writing other nonhuman intelligences?

Martha Wells: author of fantasy and SF, SF novellas, won Nebula, ALA/YALSA Alex Award, Locus Award, and has appeared on the Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick Award ballots, USA Today Bestseller List, NYT Bestseller List
Charles Stross: author of seven Hugo-nominated novels; won three Hugo awards for shorter work, translated into 12+ languages; pharmacist; first code monkey
Christopher Husberg: fantasy author
Mika Koverola: working on PhD in cognitive science. Knowledge of philosophy of science like consciousness, evaluative biases and the neuropsychology of language; coauthored 2 scientific peer-reviewed papers; fan of SF&F

Yeah, weird juxtaposition, but as I’m preparing to go back to work as a HS counselor; and because my daughter was asked to contribute art of a peel-and-stick for the fund-raising efforts of Bring Change to Mind (https://bringchange2mind.org/get-involved/high-school-program/) – I started thinking.

If we create artificial intelligence and robots more mobile, stronger, and faster that us…will they also be subject to mental health issues?


There are even specialists in robot-human interactions: http://www.robot.md/

It also appears that we have been sabotaging our future with robots: https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/science-fiction-to-blame-for-robots-bad-reputation

There’s also no shortage of “mad/crazy robot” stories, either: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KillerRobot (which probably accounts for the diatribe above).

But I can’t find much about robotic/AI mental illness – you know, schizophrenia, paranoia, hoarding, stuff like that. Though they are typically grouped according to type of issue – anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders (we can probably eliminate that one, though, come to think of it, what if a robot or an AI had problems with its power source – like some setting their “nuclear/anti-matter/handwavium” power source to feed them more and more power…and then they blew up? I don’t know, that one may require some thought!), impulse control and addiction disorders (the mind boggles! (Mine does, anyways!)), personality disorders. OCD, PTSD (this could present some fascinating story ideas…), stress disorders, dissociative or factitious disorders, sexuality/gender disorders (possibly eliminated, but there might be an entire NEW can of worms that opens there – what about a robot who wants to physically reproduce? (What if it the robot wasn’t as matter-of-fact as Data (ST:TNG) when his “daughter” Lal in “The Offspring” died? Is there such a thing as robotic or AI “depression”? What if a scientist who created an AI had depression issues herself and when her AI started emulating them (it of course, reflected its creator), she just programmed he depression away? There are all KINDS of directions such a story could go! [I’m considering NOT posting this so I don’t give away any great ideas!]), and somatic disorders (or what about body image disorders????) (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness#2)

Whew!

That was an unexpected storm!

Final question, what gives Humans the right to create another entire set of intelligences designed to be like us…and SUFFER like us? Many scientists would design their robots to have no wasteful “spiritual dimension”. Yet, in anger and suffering, won’t there be ONE robot or AI who asks the question, “Why did you create us to suffer?”

Now there’s a “god-question” that would be fascinating to tackle in a story...


August 21, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 411


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.

Fantasy Trope: The Quest

Světlana Angelika pursed her lips, looking out over the hectares of forest. In the MSP Vertical Village, it was mostly deciduous trees – oak, maple, patches of white-barked birch, poplar – with a sprinkling of pine trees. The concourse she and Uthman Aali were on was packed with people. Not a hundred thousand, for sure, but too many to think. “We need to go somewhere,” she said abruptly, speaking in the too loud manner of all the inhabitants of Vertical Villages everywhere.

Uthman gave her a look that said, “You’re crazy.”

She slugged him in the shoulder. It was a little kid move – but then, they’d been friends since they were three years old. “No, I’m serious. We need to go somewhere real.”

Without changing his stare, Uthman said, “We can go up to the six hundredth floor...”

“No! I don’t mean here. This is all so...boring. We need to go,” she pause, “through a looking glass.”

“A what?”

“A looking glass! Haven’t you ever read Alice in Wonderland?”

“I might have seen a threevee of it once. Wasn’t it a cartoon?”

“Yes – and no, you haven’t seen this. Lewis Carroll wrote a novel, it’s true. But he was a mathematician. His logic is all over the book. Math. Everything.”

Uthman snorted, “It sounds like science fiction.”

“It’s fantasy – she steps through a mirror.”

“If it’s math and logic, it’s science fiction.”

“There are talking rabbits,” said Světlana. “And a talking, disappearing cat. As well as a talking, smoking caterpillar, talking mice, and soldiers made of playing cards.”

“OK. You win. It’s a fantasy. But what does it have to do with us? What kind of mirror can we jump through? I’m sure there are some here – but...”

“The windows. We can jump through one of those.”

“A window?”

“Come on, let’s go to the outer walls. We’ll leap through one of those!” She turned and ran, Uthman running after her.

Names: Czech, Roman; ♂ Arabic, Hindu  

August 18, 2019

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT #45…With “In the Present” (Submitted 1 time with 10 revisions, sold to Nanoism, January 2017)


In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

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’m a writing teacher during the summer. I work with kids who have been identified as gifted and talented. The class I teach is, QUITE specifically, Writing To Get Published.

These days, I have a reasonably extensive repertoire of work that parents figure I’m good at what I teach. I also have a small cadre of students who’ve gone on to publish as well. It’s an overview class touching on many types of writing – poetry, essay, journalism, how-to, fiction (of course!) in its multiple forms like twitterfic, flash, short story, and novel, scripts (this year, my classes wrote a the first episode of a telenovela together based on an outline I gave them. It was hugely successful!)

Of course, every kid believes that they can write fiction. A third of them were already working on “novels” (They called their one-page-per-chapter, 4000 word masterpiece…). I nodded, encouraged them to expand the idea (“Look at your favorite book. How long is it?”). Then I suggest another form of fiction: the 142 space twitter fiction.

Often when I give an assignment, I do it myself to offer insights to the process. So, every year, I write a piece of twitterfic, and then submit it, showing them how it’s done. It’s a great all-around lesson because I also talk about the probability of rejection. I mentioned that I’ve subbed to the Nanoism site six times and that I’ve been accepted once – a 17% success rate.

Why did this one work where the others failed? Mostly because the subject was both painful and ongoing.

See, I’m one of the “sandwich generation” – kids in their late 20s and early 30s and parents in the early 80s, both with unique needs that my generation can help with and that stretch both resources and emotions. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 – and we didn’t find out until 2015 when I gained access to both of my parent’s  medical records.

Something about me – I’m a science fiction writer and I also keep a blog chronicling my wife’s breast cancer experience (I added Dad’s Alzheimer’s in 2015), with the main goal of “translating the medicine” (as well as an emotional outlet for myself as I’m not a big “group sharer”) and keeping up on developments in both fields. If you’re interested in either, go here: http://breastcancerreaper.blogspot.com/.

My mom was stuck in the past.

She’d had hip and knee replacements, starting in her early 60s. In her early 80s, one of her knees was giving her lots of pain. She insisted on getting another replacement. Her doctor refused at first, but she persisted, and he finally gave in and did it. Mom was expecting to do a bit of PT, then move on like nothing had changed as she did when she was in her 60s. That’s not what happened. The replacement was so painful, she refused to do the PT. As a result, she began to struggle with edema in her legs. A stay in the hospital and a weird situation sparked a bout of skin cancer on her forearm. She grew weaker. Her lungs began to retain fluid as a result of an inoperable heart valve problem.

Dad’s Alzheimer’s progressed and his memory issues grew worse and I “took away the car keys”…

We moved them into a senior, assisted living residence (a very nice place), where they both continued to slide into dementia – Dad on a frictionless surface, Mom as a part of (I think) age-related dementia.

It was at the time I was teaching summer school again that Mom passed away and I wrote the piece as a sort of therapy. How did I mash so many feelings together? I started with a paragraph that was simply descriptive. Then I tried to fit it on the worksheet I gave the kids that had 142 short blanks, playing with the idea that I was the one who looked to the future. Mom got more and more mired in the past. Dad had no idea what time it was – literally and figuratively as he swung from the present to the far past as his recent memories eroded faster and faster…

The Nanoism came together because of the intensity of my experience. Reaching into myself allowed me to write a piece that at LEAST reached the editor. As  Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith (1949) and Paul Gallico (1946) together coined the quoteWriting Is Easy; You Just Open a Vein and Bleed”.

Smith had been quoted as saying, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

Gallico wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”

So, in this case, I opened up a vein and bled my heartache and you can read the result here: http://nanoism.net/stories/736/

Two stories I sold recently are also in the same “opening the vein and bleeding”…er…vein. “Road Veterinarian” and “Kamsahamnida, America” are deeply personal. The first will be in the September/October 2019 of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact; the second will be in the November/December 2019 issue of the same magazine.


August 15, 2019

Free Fiction On Thursdays...

I've been sharing an ongoing piece of work since 2009, not long after I started this blog.

Of the pieces I've started and completed:

A SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH (Started in August 2009, completed in September of 2016)

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION (Started in February of 2013, and still far from complete)

MARTIAN HOLIDAY (Started in February of 2009, and still far from complete)

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAI LI HASTINGS (Started in March of 2009, completed in January 2013)

These still exist in my blog archives, just blocked from public view. I also wrote two others (at least) which I was able to delete:

THREAT OF MAGIC (Started in July of 2008, completed in August of 2009)

THIRTEEN SQUARE MILES (Started in May of 2008, completed in July of 2009)

I also don't recall if I wrote HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: EMERALD OF EARTH here or not. I vaguely remember the trip up the space elevator being posted, but it was taken down a long time ago. I have a cover letter from 2010, so the book was done by then. Prior to that, I'm not sure.

I've also tried a few manuscripts for picture books as well.

The net sum of the ones I've lifted from POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS and actually polished enough for submission, at this point, is ZERO. I DID try one of the picture books, "Yung Lo, the Emperor's Goldfish". Sent it to my agent at Red Fox Literary...and she hated it. (That was the end of my attempts to write picture books.)

The point of the exercise above is to look at how I'm spending my writing time. It's already limited because I'm NOT a full-time writer and usually have OTOGU to deal with (use of this minor god is stolen from Bruce Bethke, one of my heroes and the Executive Editor (shared with his wife) of Stupefying Stories (see the link button to the right). Read about this capricious imp here: http://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/2013/01/2012-year-in-review-part-3.html

If you don't want to read the full thing, just the legend at the very beginning is all that's necessary!

So, the upshot of this is that I'm suspending my Fiction on Thursdays for the time being until I can figure out what to do with it. It's NOT doing the job I intended for it, which was to write books in full view of the world and hope for critiques and ideas as well as to "force" me to keep creating novels.

I might add that the probability of taking them out and completing the process at any time in the future is low. Part of the problem is that I'm a better writer now and I recognize that the books weren't...um...great and would require substantial work to get them to submission quality.

The other part is that I want to make sure I've got some credibility -- and maybe even an agent -- to start sending out my YA/MG science fiction. It's not exactly a thing now...

For now, my Fiction of Thursday is going to end. Sorry if you were following either MARTIAN HOLIDAY or LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION. The possibility of me finishing THOSE is much, much better!

Guy

Image: https://66.media.tumblr.com/3183c0ab16a0196f2d49141bd1d49a45/tumblr_mh58cff6wJ1qz6f4bo1_500.gif



August 13, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 410


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: Planetary/Interplanetary Romance
Current Event: (not immediately current, but… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Nowak)

Sergey Akinpelu shook his head, saying, “Dad, you can’t just go there and talk to her!”

Still climbing on to his electric motorcycle, Sergey’s dad slipped his helmet on his head. “You think I can’t do what I please?”

“It’s not that, Dad! The rocket’s surrounded by soldiers. I don’t want you to get shot.”

Dad cinched the helmet tightly under his chin and said, “They will not shoot me. I love her.” Sergey glared at his dad as he lowered the solar cell umbrella and pushed it into the place where there’d once been a gas tank. Thumbing the ignition, he added, “My love for her is not like that of her previous husband.”

“Five husbands, Dad! The lady married five guys and she dumped all of them!”

“She will not ‘dump’ me. You will see.” He throttled the cycle up and rode away.

Ceeiab Saliguero, Sergey’s best friend and ex-girlfriend, said, “What’s your dad think he’s going to use to win captain Ansari’s love?”

Sergey snorted, “His sex appeal?”

Ceeiab laughed and shook her head. “Are you gonna go after him?”

Sergey frowned. He’d never really thought of it that way. If Dad got shot trying to get into the PAVATAR – the newest Plastic Aerobic Vehicle for Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation – sent up to the growing International Space Station, then he’d inherit everything. He snorted again and said, “Inheriting all of nothing is still nothing.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Listen, would you lock up the house? I gotta follow Dad and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”

“Now there’s my boy!” Ceeiab said with cheery sarcasm. Sergey flipped her off and hopped on his own motorcycle. It started with a bit more of growl than Dad’s toy had. Sergey had modified it based on the research he’d done for his virtual science class. Mr. Bondar was excited about what he’d found out about the new 3DacLion (three dimensional anode-cathode Lithium ion [http://www.extremetech.com/computing/153614-new-lithium-ion-battery-design-thats-2000-times-more-powerful-recharges-1000-times-faster]) battery Sergey had…

He yanked his thoughts away from physics. It was a place he’d retreated more and more lately. He had to find Dad.

He took a few shortcuts Dad would never think of and reached Stonesand Airport before him. It was surrounded both by a three meter tall cyclone fence and a new-generation pain generator field. He sniffed. That was easy enough to overcome, the essential idea being the same as deflecting a sneeze by pressing the upper lip. Except that he used damp, twisted fiberglass draped over a nearby suitably conductive surface. He’d tested it once to meet a girl who worked at the port. He glanced down the face of the fence toward the gate.

His father rolled up, but Sergey was staring through the fence. In the center of the landing strip was thick-bodied rocket on landing pads. On top of the rocket was the rotund, winged PAVATAR passenger vehicle. Tomorrow it would be packed with twenty people submerged in hyper-oxygenated sky-gel against acceleration, hunger, and fear of lift-off and spaceflight.

Gunshots and screams from the gate made him turn abruptly...

Names: Hmong, Brazilian; Russia, Nigeria
Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/01/Ariane5_VA221_liftoff2.jpg/220px-Ariane5_VA221_liftoff2.jpg


August 11, 2019

Slice of PIE: Talking To Alien Parasites…


Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (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 page 4…

So long, and thanks for all the fish
Like the dolphins of Hitchhiker’s Guide, nonhuman life can communicate with humans in numerous ways including non-verbal interactions, signaling, and even parasitism. Panelists from diverse fields of research discuss the oddness of life and the strange ways the natural world talks to us.

Dr Claire McCague: Canadian writer, scientist and musician
Lionel Davoust: writer; previously a marine biologist; develops the world of Évanégyre,; composer; hosts Procrastination, a podcast about the craft of storytelling
Linnea Sternefält: studies nanoengineering; planetarium docent; produces videos, podcasts about SF/F films
Becky Chambers: SF author; nominated for the Hugo Award; Clarke Award, and Women's Prize for Fiction

I confess that “non-human life can communicate...including…parasitism.” was what caught my eye.

At first, the obvious examples leaped to mind: Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS. But there have been others as well, the aliens from the ALIEN franchise are another one that sticks out. Dean Ing’s series “Anasazi” in ANALOG (July, 1980) novel about the “users” is another one that caught me up in a weird world of biology. I’d just graduated from college with a biology education degree (which proved to be useless except for being a substitute teacher. Once I added a Earth science portion to it, I got a job…) For other “parasite alien” tropes, read through this: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PuppeteerParasite

I get that dogs (we had two until recently, only one now); cats (three); horses; and various other pets of various species, have been trained or bred to respond and communicate with Humans. You could probably even consider plants as communicating with us. I’m certain the “rotting meat” plant (carrion flowers – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion_flower communicates clearly that it “wants” nothing to do with Humanity; is that what they’re looking at here? Or is it only “intelligent” communication; in which case, what is the largest most intelligent parasite on Earth? While the malaria parasite seems to be noted as “super smart” (https://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/sciencecommunication/2012/10/21/a-super-smart-parasite/) , apparently lots of parasites control our minds: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-hundreds-examples-mind-controlling-parasites-180950312/.

Having suffered through malaria, reading about the HOW was distinctly creepy.

So…what might happen? Would we ever “meet a parasitical alien”? Seems to me unlikely. If parasites evolve on a planet, then they’re going to have hosts that evolved on the same planet, so making the leap between their evolved host on (say) Ceti Alpha V (Star Trek: Wrath of Khan) to Human ears…unlikely. Dramatically gross, but unlikely.

The aliens from ALIEN are likewise suspect. How is it that they can infect Humans – they have ACID for blood, for heaven’s sake! What would they possibly get from a Human? Our blood is iron-based with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. For “blood” to be able to eat through armored plating, (speculation here: https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/x2pud/can_an_acid_be_as_corrosive_as_the_alien_blood_in/) it would need to be (and then looking it up and finding that HF’s pH = 3.27) some pretty powerful stuff. Certainly making contact with Humans disastrous for us if not for them. This would seem to indicate that alien parasites would probably not bother with us.

Of course, people will argue the point, which is fine. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just unlikely that parasites that evolve on one world will vault into space on their hosts and find Humans palatable – or even usable.

What MIGHT happen is that Humans mess with the genetics of the host of lifeforms that already “occupy us” and somehow create an intelligent form that would not only take over Humans, but would do so with maleficent intent…


August 6, 2019

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 409


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: the attack of the killer ALGAE

Jefferson Benson looked up from the microscope and said, “What do you mean, ‘it looks like it’s spreading’?”

Terace Miller shook her head, “I didn’t say that. It IS spreading.” She held out her hand. A thin patina of greenish-brown made the skin on her forearm look wet.

Jefferson leaned back. “What happened?”

“I was working late – I’ve got to have the slides examined and summary prepped for Dr. Hester by tomorrow at the latest. She said she wanted it today.”

“So?”

“So, I worked until about four this morning then fell asleep at the computer.”

“How’d you get algae skin from that?”

She slugged him in the shoulder with her uninfected arm. “I dozed off – slept sideways. My back was to the microscope and my arm was against a dish with a sample of the algae in it.”

“It crawled out of the dish?” he looked at her, scowling.

“Algae can’t crawl, idiot!”

“Hey! Just because my master’s thesis is in the histology tapeworms doesn’t mean I’m ignorant about plants!”

“It just means you’re plain ignorant,” Terace said. “Listen, for whatever reason, the algae got on my arm. I washed it off, but it grew back.”

“What?”

“It grew back in about an hour. Even after I swabbed it with alcohol and betadine.”

“You try salt water?”

“What?”

“Isn’t your algae a freshwater variety?” She blinked at him in surprise. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “I listen to what you talk about!”

“You just never…” she looked down at her arm, brushing over the slick spot. “I don’t know. I used the other things so I’m sort of afraid of trying saltwater. Besides, the same species has been found in freshwater aquariums and off the coast of California.”

“Really?”

She nodded slowly, stared at the slimy patch for a moment, then said, “What if the algae has taken up a commensal relationship with epithelial cells?”

“You mean like lichen?”

She pursed her lips, looked him in the eye and nodded slowly.

Names: ♀ French, Anglo-Scottish; ♂ Old German, Anglo-Saxon       

August 4, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Writing Science Fiction From Real Life


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…

So – I’ve been trying to do this for a while now.

Take a real incident from my own life, place it elsewhere, usually in the future; add aliens or not; then write it.

My unpublished short story, “And After Soft Rains, Daisies” is an example of it. I took my experience with my father, who was an Alzheimer’s patient, and extended it into a future where an AI might be able to create a happier, virtual world for him; then there’s a biological apocalypse and he’s alone and the AI has to decide whether to keep him alive or not.

Kamsahamnida, America” I wrote after spending a month with my son and his family in South Korea. Avid “tourists”, they took me everywhere in the country, and as I was a science teacher, they made sure we hit the museums. I discovered that South Koreans have created a culture that expects a Korean presence in space; not just as a partner, but as an active force. This story, written using advice from Lisa Cron’s book, WIRED FOR STORY will appear in a 2020 issue of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact. I have ideas for more stories in the future. In fact, it will link into a novel I wrote…

Still others like “The Daily Use of Gravity Modification In Rebuilding Liberian Schools” (currently called, “God Bless You Gravity Modification” – I probably need to change that and the name of the town (which is actually a real name, on the map, in Liberia, outside of Monrovia…which is most likely offensive to people who know nothing about Liberia…) are based on my time there and my belief that it will be small countries that will take advantage of technologies China, the US, and Europe ignore because they’re focused on “big and flashy” projects. One of my main characters states that outright. (Sensing a theme here: I seem to be placing more hope on the [current] underdogs than I am on my own super power country (or the other super powers), whose time may, in fact be “over”).

My current work-in-progress stems from a trip I took with my son to North Carolina. It was the first time I’d ever spent actual time in the former Confederate States of America. We stopped at lots of Battlefields, toured a Barony (actually did that with our traveling friends), and read lots of placards. On our way home, my son (mentioned above as an “avid ‘tourist’”) spotted a sign and we turned off. Expecting an impressive Confederate Cemetery, we found instead a pathetic field, mostly overgrown with trees and weeds, the ground lumpy and untended. My son was outraged, saying, “They were soldiers. They deserve respect!” Which got me thinking…you can read about where those thoughts led here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2019/07/writing-advice-startling-experience.html

Another piece I’m working on is the second part of a triptych, exploring what would happen to Humanity if the test imposed on us by an interstellar civilization for membership was looking for the ability of Humans to be charitable. I’ve finished “Panhandlers”, I’m starting “Immigrants”, and the central panel of the work is going to be a bigger, broader story called “Hermit”. ALL of them draw on experiences in life and I’m going out on a limb for me – I’m telling the story in first person. I’ve done it only rarely and (I don’t think) never had a first person story published.
                                                            
At any rate, we’ll see what happens. The first triptych probably won’t raise eyebrows, but I have no DOUBT that the second one will given the current political climate. However, instead of looking at the “big picture” that involves legislation and high-powered congresspeople and even higher powered guns, I want to look at it from a personal level. Through “my” eyes. I’m excited – and oddly – scared.

But Charlie Jane Anders (of i09 fame), looks at this as well, so I can’t be TOO crazy for working this angle: https://io9.gizmodo.com/10-ways-to-turn-your-real-life-experiences-into-science-1672787624