October 29, 2019


(Sorry this is late -- on Wednesday, I was in charge of coordinating the administration of a whole-grade, standardized test called the PSAT. I was a bit busy on Tuesday!) 

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: “The Chronocops travel in time to catch a Bad Guy who escaped into some other era.”

Bolormaa Teuku scowled at her physics partner, “What do you mean when you ask, ‘Could we travel so fast that we’d start to slide back in time?’”

“We’re supposed to brainstorm, not beat up every idea someone throws out,” said Rayyan Batkhuyag. “The point is to ask questions that may not have immediate answers.”

“Yeah, but the questions have to make sense!”

Rayyan used the vernier jets on his EVA suit to gently turn until he faced the Sun. It loomed giant in space. In the previous century, he would never have been able to do anything like this. But his suit was unlike anything else in the Solar System – except for the rest of the team on the Gravity Well Mission. “You think floating around in mirror suits less than sixty million kilometers from the sun makes any sense?”

Bolormaa grunted as she turned in the same direction. “I see your point.”

“So then – my question: could acceleration reach a point where we would actually go back in time?”

“That’s so very…STAR TREK of you.”

“Right, right, I know. I don’t mean we fly some tiny tin can into the well then yank it out.”

“What do you mean?”

Gravitational redshift follows on from the equivalence principle that underlies general relativity. The downward force felt by someone in a lift could be equally due to an upward acceleration of the lift or to gravity. Pulses of light sent upwards from a clock on the lift floor will be Doppler shifted, or redshifted, when the lift is accelerating upwards, meaning that this clock will appear to tick more slowly when its flashes are compared at the ceiling of the lift to another clock. Because there is no way to tell gravity and acceleration apart, the same will hold true in a gravitational field; in other words the greater the gravitational pull experienced by a clock, or the closer it is to a massive body, the more slowly it will tick.”


“The Doppler effect goes both ways. We’ve been stuck on the red-shift end of the EM spectrum – the effect that stretches out time making it appear to slow down to everyone around it. But we’ve never really looked at time and gravity the other way...”

Bolormaa turned to face Rayyan even though they couldn’t see each other. She finally said, “When an ambulance with a blaring horn is coming toward you, the wavelengths are shortened and we hear a higher pitch – with light it means that the waves are shorter, which means they’re blue.”

“They move faster. So – if we move slow enough, will be go back in time?”

They had continued to roll in space and as they turned to face away from the Sun, there was a brilliant flash of blue light. An instant later, two silvered bubbles floated toward them from the center of the flash…

Names: ♀ Mongolia, Malaysia; Malaysia, Mongolia

October 27, 2019

Elements of Cron and Korea #11: Where Do I Go NOW??? With The Korean Solar Expansion

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

OK – I haven’t written on this for a while, so I’m going to start speculating on a series of stories. I’m starting with a foundation from an essay I wrote on October 7, 2018:

1) South Koreans are “space crazy”. They have started their space program from the same “rock bottom” that the American space program started with.

2) As a rule, South Koreans love their history.

3) South Koreans are science and technology crazy.

4) South Koreans (as clearly as I could gather it), have flipped the American paradigm of a house being the dream home, and an apartment a “way station” on the way to a home. South Koreans have had to build vertically both because of the mountainous geography and the “soft” stone geology – mountains are “low” but cannot hold the foundation of any construction steady. The apartment is the Korean goal; homes are passe.

5) South Koreans are solidly rooted in a millennia-old culture.

6) Cheomsongmae is an ancient astronomical observatory that not only survived the southern advance of North Korea during the war, but is now a place Koreans visit. It has existed since roughly since 640 AD – about 1400 years.

7) South Korea is building at an incredible rate!

8) My son commented: “Koreans are aggressive drivers, but they’re not ANGRY drivers like Americans are.”

9) Ancient Korean “signature sticks” are now carved via a computer program.

10) A country with a population of 51 million (imagine the population of Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and the northern half of Texas…the area colloquially as Tornado Alley) squeezed into the southern half of Minnesota...South Korea has few murders, rape is unusual, and children can pretty much safely walk several blocks through a major city to school.

In addition, after reading Lisa Cron’s book, I extracted 52 key ideas that I needed to incorporate into my writing. That many ideas would be very difficult to work with and sometimes the concepts overlapped, so I compressed and rewrote until I had condensed them into 23 key elements to guide me as I write a story:

1)      Story is how a character reacts; to the plot which is what happens
2)      Grab reader, something is at stake on the first page
3)      WHY should they care?
4)      Every scene moves to the ANSWER and pacing is the time between moments of conflict
5)      Plot makes characters confront external & internal issues & CONFRONT THEIR INNER DEMONS
6)      Prose directly accesses character’s mind and what they want to happen
7)      Make us FEEL
8)     Character has ONE objective
9)      Start: character’s worldview is knocked down
10)  Arc: begins one way, ends another
11)   Character is action and anything they do makes things worse
12)  Poke the protagonist until they change, fling them into the fray
13)  Mislead don’t hide, lie, or keep secrets from your reader, or hide the road to the end, (CHARACTERS can do all of these), give information readers need to know
14)  Nothing CAN’T affect the arc
15)   Everything that can go wrong, should
16)  No one should every give up anything they aren’t forced to
17)   Challenges start small and end huge
18)  Threat should be active
19) Hero becomes one by doing something heroic
20)                        Anything that hints at being a pattern had better BE part of it Setup implies future action
21) Payoff has to be POSSIBLE
22) Subplots – MASH style – and mirroring subplots are cautionary tales, validation, or fresh perspectives
23)Keep track of each character’s version of reality

Integrating these two lists into a story produced the first of a series – who knows, maybe even a novel. While I have never met any of the Korean SF community, a friend of mine picked up a publication that’s an overview of that community. Maybe I’ll email one of the members and ask them to read my current story in ANALOG (https://www.analogsf.com/current-issue/table-of-contents/).

In “Kamsahamnida, America”, I’ve created the first block of a series I’ve been thinking about. This essay will be my first attempt at laying out the storyline. From another essay I wrote in September of this year, “In a story that will be in the November/December issue of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, “Kamsahamnida, America” (the first story in my Korean Solar Expansion (planned) series), I had a great deal of trouble writing the end of the story because I somehow got emotionally tied up in it.”

So, as I’ve done before, I’m going to use the two lists above to sketch out an action plan.

First of all, I can’t use the main character from the short story in ANALOG. I need to use other characters. HOWEVER, I need to find a main character who is “me”. Working as I do in a very diverse high school, I know I have no right to cultural appropriation. I can have OTHER characters who come from other cultures (cautious to NOT turn them into stereotypes), but I have to see the story through my own culture. The first story was easy because the main character was me.

Now I need a new character, and I think I’m going to use a combination of my grandson, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, and son…

Japheth (“Call me Jay – NOT JC…”), one of the sons of Noah will be his first name. Their last name doesn’t have an ethnic origin I could find, so after poking around, it will be Karsten. Clementine will be his middle name (no end of teasing, but his mom wanted it and he wasn’t a girl, so there you go.) He grew up in South Korea, going to schools there until his family moved back to the US. He enlisted in the Air Force, became a pilot after going to college and getting his first degree in aerospace engineering. He trained as an astronaut/engineer and spent a few months at the expanded International Space Station, distinguishing himself as an invaluable go-between when South Korean sent up a massive module and nearly doubled the occupancy rate. Because of the relaxation of international regulations and the payment of a huge bribe, their work on nuclear fusion continued and concluded with a working fusion reactor which powered the station for an entire week without solar supplementation.

He retired, married a Korean woman he’d fallen in love with in high school, and settled in both Waegan and Minneapolis where he worked with 3M as a materials engineer for advanced spacecraft. He was 46 when his wife died without children. He was recruited by the Korean Space Program…

And I’m going to stop here except to say that HIS first story will involve dinosaurs and the Korean space program…

Image: https://www.ducksters.com/science/chemistry/chromium.gif

October 20, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: NOT Alternate History! “Time Alteration” Science Fiction

Also, NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (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…

Time Travel Movies are undeniably my favorite genre of movie – ranging from obvious one’s like the archetypical BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise to the eerie soft time travel mainstream movie, “The Lake House” (ranked “Rotten” by Rotten Tomatoes because regular people didn’t understand it or accept the premise, and in Wikipedia is defined as a “romantic drama”, probably to keep the genre safe!)

While I’d love to review them all, I’m going to focus on three, all of them multiple episodes but part of a seamless whole. I’ll start with the one-sentence-blurb from Imdb:

BACK TO THE FUTURE – “The trilogy is about a teenager named Marty McFly who is able to travel in time. This is due to the invention of an automobile time machine made by scientist Dr. Emmett L. Brown. Living in 1985, Marty McFly travels to future 2015 and also to past 1955 and 1885. During these times he has several adventures in his home town Hill Valley in California.” (Simple English Wikipedia) Well THAT plays down what happened! My synopsis? Marty (more-or-less accidentally) and using Doc’s time machine, screws up the timeline by creating successful parents, then wrecks it again making nuclear waste and Mafia rule in his home town of Hill Valley, CA the norm. He’s unintentionally murdered his dad, and got Doc put into an insane asylum. Trying to fix THAT, Doc himself then screws up a timeline and Marty helps Doc find a wife and ends up almost back where he started from, though his gf now knows about time travel as well, but it doesn’t matter because the time machine’s scrap. (The body count in these movies is unexpectedly large: three Libyans (I); his dad, future 2 kids, and any number of other people who have died as Biff established BiffCo…(II); Doc, Mad Dog Tannen (III – who will obviously hang), but Doc doesn’t die and the formerly dead Clara Clayton is now alive…so 3 + 3 + 1 = 7.

Also, Marty never meets the “new him” who was shaped by the events he and Doc changed. He’s still the old Marty who remembers Biff bullying his dad and (possibly) raping – which is implied but never stated – that lead up to his trips into the future of 2015 and the past 1885. Who is Marty in the altered timeline?

STAR TREK: The Next Generation deals with the personality-changing results of this kind of time meddling in “Tapestry”. Jean Luc Picard, legendary and archetypical captain of the USS Enterprises both D and E finds himself a lieutenant of average skill, average personality, and most notably, an individual who was never interested in taking a single risk, always playing it safe when Q gives Picard a chance to change one event he regretted. He ends up unraveling the tapestry of his life.

STAR TREK: Voyager, “Year of Hell”, a “alien” scientist, fiddling with a machine that can alter the timeline in order to make the empire he lives in even greater than it is – imagine Hari Seldon in Asimov’s Empire able to instantly alter time so that he can achieve his goal of an eternally stable, galaxy-spanning Empire! He inadvertently erases his beloved wife and spends two centuries making carefully calculated changes to get her back – to no avail. Voyager’s sacrificial plunge into the ship as a last resort resets the original timeline, returning his wife.

I looked at the effect of altering a timeline we actually seem to be approaching in STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine’s episode, “Past Tense” in which the poor and indigent in San Francisco are herded into Sanctuary Districts that leads to the Bell Riots – https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2019/02/possibly-irritating-essays.html.

So, my question however, is, “Why do these stories touch something deep in you?” or more simply, “Why do I like these?”

First, I realized that these are different from Alternate History. MAN IN THE HIGH TOWER looks at “What would the world be like if Hitler had won?” In a recent issue of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, “Bonehunter” posits a present where the dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct. AVENGERS End Game seeks to rescue half the lifeforms in the Universe from oblivion. These are stories that deal with huge issues and vast populations, and while there might be repercussions for individuals, the focus is on All Time. I love these stories, too, but they aren’t my favorites.

In a Time Alteration story like Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman’s “Kate and Leopold”, the grand sweep of history is beside the point.

The point is making individual characters happy.

During the landmark, paradigm changing Eleventh Series of the long-running BBC series, Dr. Who, The Doctor and her Companions find themselves in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. In a (slightly) judgmental episode, filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, the English save American History by keeping the time-traveling mass-murder, Krasko from keep Rosa Parks from sparking the Civil Rights movement that continues today. While it seems like it’s an attempt at an Alternate History story, it’s far more a Time Alteration story – Krasko is a racist and wants “his side” to win. He identified Rosa Parks’ influence as a critical event.

In the Disney animated film, “Meet the Robinsons”, Lewis The Orphan wants to find his real family and rejoin them. Inventing a time machine, his sole focus is to change time to give him a family. The villain in the story, The Man With The Bowler Hat is just as intent on changing history, though in his case, it was a self-inflicted wound. While the future DOES change when The Man With The Bowler Hat – who has been a pawn of the evil artificial intelligence robot, Doris – steal a time machine, the intent of the story is to make Lewis happy…clearly a Time Alteration story.

So, coming back to my question, “Why do I like these?”

The answer on reflection, is simple, there are events in my past that I’d like to change! For example, I was a pretty sickly little kid, so when I was seven, my parents agreed with the doctor and I had a tonsillectomy. In 1964, this was a pretty standard operation, “In the United States, the number of tonsillectomies has actually declined significantly and progressively since the 1970s. The frequency with which tonsillectomy is performed varies from region to region. 30 years ago (1978), approximately 90% of tonsillectomies in children were done for recurrent infection; now it is about 20% for infection and 80% for obstructive sleep problems (OSA)…Extensive data shows the negative effects of OSA in children on behavior, school performance, and bed-wetting. Improvement for such behaviors following tonsillectomy is very well documented. Tonsillectomy for recurrent tonsillitis is effective at significantly reducing the number and severity of sore throats in children who are severely affected. There is also anecdotal evidence that some childrens quality of life is transformed by the surgery. This may be caused by a combination of factors that include the tendency of the frequency of recurrent sore throats to resolve over time and the elimination of a source of infection and of obstructive symptoms.”

So, in my experience, once my tonsils were removed, I started eating. Constantly. I became  blimp. BUT WHY? I remember being “abandoned” in the hospital overnight by my parents. I had no idea WHY. Then someone came in, shoved something up my butt, and then I woke up with a horribly sore throat, and spent the next several days eating ice cream and drinking 7 Up. The rest, as they say, is history. I have struggled with my weight since then. What if I had gone back, cured my “tonsillitis” with a current-day drug? Would I still struggle with my weight? Would I have my self-confidence? Would I be a published science fiction writer? I don’t know. But, I’d like to have seen the results.

Also, being able to change other events in my childhood and teenage years WOULD have made me a different person. A better person? No idea. So, the idea of playing with Time Alteration is fascinating; I’m even exploring my own feelings regarding my inability to “change people” in a series of stories I’m working on.

I know it’s not going to happen, but at least I have some idea why I like these things!

Resource: My other Favorite Time Alteration stories: “Men In Black III”, “Arrival”, STAR TREK: The Voyage Home, STAR TREK: The Original Series “City on the Edge of Forever”, STAR TREK: Enterprise “Carbon Creek”, TIME TUNNEL, and finally QUANTUM LEAP.

October 15, 2019


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: apocalyptic diary/journal/log
Andrianampoinimerinatompokoindrindra Zehrezgi – who preferred to go by Andri Zee – tried to keep his last meal down as the boat rocked beneath his feet.

“Isn’t this exhilarating?” exclaimed Shamma Maslah.

“When do you think the hurricane is going to stop?” he asked.

Shamma burst out laughing. “There’s no hurricane! In fact this is the calmest day I’ve seen since we were out here.” She glanced at him and went to the railing and said, “If you don’t like the ocean, why’d you come out here?”

“This site is within the waters of my country.”

She made a face, saying, “I didn’t know you had a country. Not how you talk about it anyway.”

“Madagascar is my homeland!” She grunted and leaned over the rail, looking deeply into the water. “Watch out!” he cried, stepping forward, arm outstretched.

She looked at him and laughed, “What? It scares you when I lean out this far?” she said, leaning back over the railing. Suddenly the water below her grew dark and began to bubble, gently at first, then wildly. Water geysered into the air. She screamed and staggered backward, into Andri Zee’s arms and they watched in horror as...

A fluorescent orange conning tower surged out of the water, sluicing aside until the hatch on top opened up and a young lady waved at them.

Shamma shouted, “Laura! What’s going on?”

“You won’t believe what we discovered! Not only is Mauritia a sunken island – there was some sort of sealed chamber there!”

“What?” Andri exclaimed. Majoring in archaeology, THIS is what he’d come for! “Where is it?”

“They had to send down the big sub and they’re bringing up the entire chamber right now.”

Shamma looked at Andri then Liz, bobbing in the conning tower of the sub and shouted, “The time is all wrong! Mauritia sank when the dinosaurs died. There shouldn’t be anything there.”

Liz shrugged, “I don’t know about when it sank or what should and shouldn’t be there, but there’s something big and it looks like it was sealed. See you in a bit!”

They rendezvoused at the small sub dock. The massive winch from the ship platform had lifted a barnacled encrusted, roughly cubic case into the air and was swinging it over the helipad, where it lowered the box down.

The metal groaned as the cables above relaxed. Andri said, “It’s heavier than it looks.”

“Way heavier,” said Liz.

Shamma frowned. There was something about it. Something strange. Despite the noise around her, she could hear…not exactly hear…sense? Feel? She wasn’t sure. Something. The hot sun of the Indian Ocean beat down on the head of the crew. Men and women in trunks and halters scampered around the deck, disconnecting chains, cables, hosing down the object. SCUBA divers were lifting up from the waterline; heavy metal music abruptly blared from the deck speakers and the recovery work began in a part atmosphere.

Shamma found a spot, out of the way. Her work on the project was cataloging and identifying life forms; part of a survey team that had set out to begin to quantify the anecdotal evidence that the oceans were beginning to recover now that the world population had precipitously fallen during the H7N9 Pandemic of 2014-2016. With over two billion people dead, the Earth seemed empty now. It scared her sometimes. Abruptly, a  migraine assaulted her. It had been years since she had one.

That was when heard a voice, speaking in Olde English. She only caught the first few words, vaguely familiar, but somehow wrong as well, “In the beginning, I created this earth to inhabit heaven...” The migraine became blinding and with a squeak, she passed out.

Names: UAE, Somalian; Madagascar, Ethiopian; Hebrew (diminutive of “Elizabeth”)

October 13, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS : Of NASA, Democrats, Republicans and the South Korean Space Sprint

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…

After JFK sent the United States on a gentle landing (as opposed to a “collision”) course to the Moon, it seems that Democrats turned from the stars to focus on Earth…

Even today, budget battles in Congress have focused on moving into space or more closely monitoring Earth (for Climate Change and Near Earth Asteroids that might collide with the planet and change all life as we know it (see Mary Robinette Kowal’s novels THE CALCULATING STARS, THE FATED SKIES, to be followed by THE RELENTLESS MOON (2020), and the conclusion of the quartet with THE DERIVATIVE BASE in 2022.) The focus has been essentially along party lines, with Democrats seeking to strengthen the knowledge base of our own world, and Republicans eschewing Earth for our place in space.

Private industry is maniacally developing launch vehicles, with one currently making test trips up and down and which will very soon be added to Russian Soyuz capsule as the only vehicle able to carry Human crew and passengers; of course all of this is with a close eye on enlarging their cash cards. Other nations, once content to either ride in the wake of space giants Russia, the United States, and China; are now racing on ahead – with dozens of countries claiming a space program(seventy-two of them), but only fourteen of those with a serious launch capability.

Six have the capability of launching AND RECOVERING biological material; and finally only three have sent astronauts from their own space program into space – Russia (first, April 1961), the US (second, May 1961), and China (third, October 2003).

The International Space Station has been occupied without interruption since November 2, 2000 (currently, 18 years and 343 days) with a total number of visiting scientists of 236, coming from eighteen countries.

Humans have a presence in space – near space, anyway. We’ve landed on the Moon 21 times, starting in 1959 with the Soviet Luna 2 in 1959, to the most recent landing by China’s Chang’e 4 less than a year ago (at this writing; https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/interactive-map-shows-all-21-successful-moon-landings-180972687/). Spacecraft have landed on Mars eight times (all US ships) and Venus six times (all of them Soviet Union ships) and Magellan took extensive radar images that were processed into 3D images. Humans have also shot probes through the atmospheres of Venus (once). NASA/ESA and Italy had Cassini drop a probe into the atmosphere of Titan eventually crashing into its atmosphere while gathering data. The Galileo probe went to Jupiter.

 So – why am I here?

To say that I’m irritated that Democrats seem fixed on Trump’s idiot statements about AGW and insist on directing NASA to send up more satellites to take more pictures of Earth and add more data to something that while people DENY it, has a relatively high probability of being a real trend; those Democrats are totally ignoring the spin the current president has put on NASA’s return to the Moon and mounting a mission to Mars (mostly because it’s flashy and I think he wants to be mentioned in the same space-breath as JFK…)

Check the articles below if you think I’m being an idiot. They’re (mostly) non-partisan (the one partisan piece does the same thing current Democrats are doing: dancing around a revitalized humans-in-space program that Trump’s Tweets have re-initiated).

So, what’s this have to do with writing?

Americans are not only oblivious to but actively ignoring the efforts of the rest of the planet to get into space. In the upcoming issue of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, I have a short story, Kamsahamnida, America” in which South Koreans land a woman on the far side of the Moon using a bit of gravity modification technology.

The concept is NOT a mere SF idea however. During a month-long stay in RoK, I saw firsthand, the South Korean’s American-like obsession with space. From science museum images of Korean astronauts on the Moon and Mars, to the attitude of people regarding what Americans would consider “cramped living quarters” and the reverse paradigm of the US and its European roots that “wide-open-spaces” and single-family-homes is the only sure sign of success and the Korean paradigm that the poor have “houses” and the rich have apartments that OTHER people take care of so they can do IMPORTANT work. Also, the Korean space program, while it hasn’t landed a person anywhere yet, was independently developed in a way reminiscent of the American space program of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and started with sounding rockets and have gradually scaled up to full-sized rockets capable of launching satellites and (I’m sure) eventually crewed spacecraft…to the fact that in the center of the peninsula, you’ll find the National Fusion Research Institute…(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DA8GnrhTCY; http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=29116) South Koreans are actively experimenting with rockets, fusion power, and countless other technology applications of physics.

I believe that South Korea will not only one day stun the world by skipping over the “big” nations to make a conceptual advance that all of them expected to be the sole province of Western White Big Country Big Budget Science…That’s what I explore in the story in the November/December ANALOG.

I think they’re poised at the edge of a leap into space; and , “Kamsahamnida, America” is the first in a set of stories that will be set in the same universe. It’s also a universe that sees the achievement of a Korean dream: to reunite the peninsula.

October 8, 2019


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: divination (especially water (how Stephen King got his start)

While not “current”, it’s interesting to note that horror writer, Stephen King became a writer because of water dowsing (also called, “divination”): “explains his childhood fixation with the imagery of terror and horror, making an interesting comparison of his uncle successfully dowsing for water using the bough of an apple branch with the sudden realization of what he wanted to do for a living. While browsing through an attic with his elder brother, King uncovered a paperback version of the H.P. Lovecraft collection The Lurker in the Shadows, which had belonged to his long-since-departed father. The cover art—an illustration of a monster hiding within the recesses of a hell-like cavern beneath a tombstone—was, he writes, the moment in his life which ‘that interior dowsing rod responded to.’”

Sui Fun Fong Eu and her boyfriend Chang-Lin Chiao are New York natives, two generations separated from their Chinese heritage – neither one speaks Chinese, likes Chinese food or has any desire to be anything except another invisible New York, high school seniors. They aren’t brilliant, both have older brothers and sisters who are lawyers, doctors, physicists and a pro-basketball player; so no one expects anything for either of them.

Both of them plan on “going to college”. Neither one knows what they want to major in except, “business”. They are comfortable with their lives and they are comfortable with their relationship – sexy, but not crazy (a pregnancy outside of marriage would STILL be a “bad” thing for them).  They are simply, COMFORTABLE and happy to be that way.

That is, until they’re walking through Central Park one afternoon and see someone with a white stick – a slender single end splitting half-way up and the elderly man holding the two ends in his hands, intently studying the ground.

“What’s he doing?” Fong asked.

Chiao shrugged and went back to scarfing his McDonald’s fries. He finally glanced at the old guy and stopped walking, squinted and said, “I think he’s looking for water.”

“In Central Park?”

Chiao shrugged again. “None of my business. Just another crazy New Yorker.” He kept walking, but Fong stopped to stare. He reached out and tugged her sleeve. “Don’t do that. He might be a mugger.”

“I don’t think some old geezer can hurt me from, like, the middle of the park,” she said, laughing.

Suddenly the old man looked up. The dowsing rod plunged to the ground like he’d caught a hundred pound tuna. He shouted angrily then the ground fountained up into the air, throwing him back. Something large, dark and insubstantial – like oil smoke – spewed from the ground. A limb of the smoke speared the old man in the chest. He spasmed once, then lay still. The cloud slid across the grass and before it reached them; before they could move or even scream, Fong could see that the grass beneath it curled into brown deadness.

Chiao said, “I think we should get...”

The oily smoke...

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

October 6, 2019

Slice of PIE: Supplanting Erudition With Entertainment (I Started One Essay, Ended Up Doing Another)

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…

For some time now, I’ve pondered what to say about my neighborhood, just two kilometers closer to the city than where I grew up. I live in the worst suburb of Minneapolis: https://www.roadsnacks.net/these-are-the-10-worst-minneapolis-suburbs/        

The criteria we were judged by are listed below. (“FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Minneapolis.”)

  • High unemployment rate
  • Low median household incomes
  • Low population density (no things to do)
  • Low home values
  • A lot of high school drop outs
  • High poverty
  • High rate of uninsured families

So, extrapolating, Brooklyn Center has the highest unemployment rate, the lowest median household income, the lowest population density (nothing to do), lowest home value, a lot of high school dropouts, the highest poverty, and the highest rate of uninsured families in the Twin Cities Area.

So, that’s of the suburbs surrounding Minneapolis. How about the rest of the state? The city of Bemidji is poorest and according to the same survey group, it’s also the WORST place to live in Minnesota. (Brooklyn Center is the sixth worst. Yay.)

As far as the US, no city in Minnesota ranks in the lowest 50…so again, yay.

Why am I writing about this? The main reason is that while you can buy books at Target and Walmart, check them out at Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, and maybe find a few at a thrift store (one of which recently closed…), the only REAL bookstore pulled up stakes and fled “the hood” on June 13, 2009, a decade ago.

Currently Humans in Brooklyn Center can eat, shop expensive, shop cheap, get their car tabs renewed and get marriage licenses, go for great bike rides, work out “at the gyms”, eat, and get cigarettes. That’s about it. Oh, they can buy booze from the city or a brand new private source. Yay.

They might be able to buy or check out the latest best seller, but they have to go to another suburb to get anything beyond Harlequins, Thrillers, or the most recent celebrity expose or presidential slap down. It’s unlikely you’d find a science fiction novel, and Walmart doesn’t have a “Philosophy” section; though you CAN feel like you’re up-to-date with the latest British royalty scandal and next week’s soap operas.

Erudition has been eliminated in favor of food, tobacco, alcohol, and “stuff” (not that books aren’t “stuff” – I have the magnet above on my bookshelves that my daughter gave me.) But, once Barnes and Noble evacuated its premises, it pulled down the walls of learning. Granted that they weren’t selling enough books to make a commercial go of it, but I wonder sometimes why it didn’t make any attempt to become a niche distributer.

What if, instead of closing and claiming that “everyone” was reading ebooks – or not reading at all…

“…traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.” (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/)

…bookstores or libraries tailored their offerings to the community. I don’t mean that people could say, “Oh, Webber Park doesn’t need any Shakespeare, W.E.B. Dubois, Octavia Butler, or Renita Weems! They’ll be fine with ESSENCE Magazine, Pete McDaniel, and Bill Reynolds!”

But I think they’d draw more people if they TAILORED the books they sold. Also, I had an idea when the store I was working at was about to close around me – everyone knows B&N discounted books. They also know that there were Clearance! tables. But what if someone had created a B&N Outlet store? It certainly seems to work north of where I live – Levi’s, Hanes, Crocs, Adidas, Mrs. Fields, Subway, Sunglasses Hut, and an uncounted number of others – everyone I know makes a trip there a field trip! They come back with food, clothing, shoes, kitchen stuff, and who knows what else?

I know what they come away with OUT: books. There’s no bookstore anywhere near the Outlet Mall – in fact with two exceptions, there are only two books stores inside of a thirty-mile radius…

Sad, eh?

Does that mean the people near Albertville read ONLY electronic books? According to the survey: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/, that’s unlikely.

Does that mean the people near Albertville ONLY buy their books online? Again, though I can’t find anything specifically about it, some of the other studies indicate that online buying, while important, won’t ever overtake “brick-and-mortar” shopping completely.

What I DO wonder about is that as the number of people reading – science fiction, fantasy, horror, or ANYTHING – has been decreasing, the number of people arguing loudly and with shaky intellectual foundations and facts, seems to be increasing. At least, I have yet to hear, “A book I was reading recently by an unnamed philosopher pointed out…” on a nightly news broadcast. Sound bites seem to have overtaken thorough, personal, directed research as the source of information: “Well, I saw on the news last night…” or, “I was looking at my Snapchat, and I saw that…” appear to be a more frequently quoted source than “I was reading Ibram X. Kendi’s newest book, HOW TO BE ANTI_RACIST, and he noted that…”

According to Lisa Cron points out in her book, WIRED FOR STORY: “We’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world…As readers we need a notion of the big picture, so we have an idea where we’re going, why, and what’s at stake for the protagonist. This not only triggers the sense of urgency that catapults us into the story, it’s also what allows us to make sense of what’s happening from beginning to end…It’s a tall order, but why not try to follow John Irving’s admittedly glib suggestion: ‘Whenever possible, tell the entire story of the novel in the first sentence.’…Ask yourself: What is the scope of my story? What journey will my reader take? Have I made it clear? Don’t be afraid of ‘giving it all away’ on the very first page. Be specific, be clear, don’t hold back. Remember, you’re giving readers what they crave: a reason to care, a reason to be curious, and enough info to understand what the stakes are.”

As speculative fiction writer, I’m worried about this trend and our behavior in public today…and I'm worried about what happened in the sixth worst city in Minnesota (and the worst SUBURB of Minneapolis/St. Paul...) without any sort of real bookstore...

October 1, 2019


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: Ancient tombs discovered/cursed/releases monster/mummy & fairy dust
SF: Starship Troopers
F Trope: Elves, gnomes and Halflings
Western Trope: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Romance Trope: Beauty and the beast
Current Events:

Rayyan Brakus powered his exoskeleton armor up and swung down from the troop transport. Granted, he was supposed to be eighteen; granted, he’d lied about his age.

But when the InterWar recruiter had shown up at the base of Butte Vertical Village in their shiny starship, offering lots of cash and a life of adventure, Rayyan ran to place his thumbprint. His ID didn’t show that he was 16 and a half. It showed he was 22. So what if the recruiter’d said, “You bring your cat along to lick your whiskers off, soldier?”

Rayyan snorted, blowing a blot of snot on the inside of his faceplate. He reached up to wipe it away, remembered it was inside and ignore the other soldiers who laughed at him. He’d show THEM!

He clomped down the ramp, stepped to one side and stopped, scanning. A bleak place, this world. Looked like lots of dunes, dead trees and boulders – some sort of adobe village a couple klicks. Command channel blasted into his ears, “Target acquired. Mumiyah’s Cavern has been partially secured. Local resistance armed and should be considered dangerous. Squads Delta and Theta proceed with caution. Air support unavailable.”

Rayyan felt his stomach drop to his feet then sprinted to follow the rest of Theta Squad. His first live combat mission...

He wasn’t expecting the attack. He should have been, but they’d never trained against cavalry.

Horses ridden by midgets. With bazookas. Trying to kill him. “Not me personally!” he shouted into his helmet as he fired into the mob with his stunner. There wasn’t any reason to…

A female midget – sorta hot looking, he noticed before she sprayed something on his armor – swung a mass-balanced lance that glowed as it cut through the first layer physical defense then was deflected by the monomolecular fluid underlayer.

Deflecting the lance, the inertia transferred to him, her speed and weight knocking him over. Instead of a hard crash, it felt like he’d fallen on sponges. The midget on her full-sized horse, was wearing a cowboy hat and clenched a cigar between her teeth. She raised a mace and shouting, brought it down on his helmet.

Vesna Lobato stared down at the man wrapped in bug scales and shook her head. Polish him up a bit and he might be a good-looking boy. A bit older that her little brother, his blonde hair was snarled, the fabric body suit was soaking wet from the dissolution of the armor by her fairy dust. She was reasonably certain the dust was no longer potent, though she’d had at least ten soldiers of the hundred the Imperial Mounted Police had repelled from Mumiyah’s Cavern – die. Their skin liquefied, sloughing from the bones. The screams made her shudder.

But it wasn’t like she was fighting people. They were soldiers, impersonal, caring nothing for the cultures of the New West. They wanted only to dig out its secrets and turn them into another weapon to subjugate the worlds!

She lifted the lance to strike the youngster’s head off.

“Hold your blade, Vesna!”

“Why, brother? He’d have killed me if I hadn’t knocked him down first.”

Her brother looked down at the soldier and said, “If nothing else, we can strip out of his brain what he thinks he knows about the Cavern.”

She lifted her blade, took a deep breath and said, “I’ll stop my lance – but only ‘cause I might ask him out on a date before we magick out his brain.” She wheeled on her horse and headed back into town.

Name source: (m) Malaysia, Greek; (f) Macedonia, Portuguese