March 21, 2023


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 horror, I found this insight in line with WIRED FOR STORY: “ We seek out…stories which give us a place to put our fears…Stories that frighten us or unsettle us - not just horror stories, but ones that make us uncomfortable or that strike a chord somewhere deep inside - give us the means to explore the things that scare us…” – Lou Morgan (The Guardian)

H Trope: Gaia's Lament; “On a futuristic Earth, or similar location, plants, animals, and naturally clean water are things of the past. Something terrible has happened — civilization's negligence of the environment, a strange natural disaster, or even a combination of both — to turn the world into a wasteland. This isn't (usually) the Earth That Was, as the planet is still populated (usually overpopulated), but it's on its way there.

Current Event: The science behind Minnesota's Iron Range - MPR News January 18, 2023 3:41 PM. “The science behind Minnesota's Iron Range. A large pile of iron pellet. A giant pile of about 200,000 tons ...”

Emma Johnson stopped at the top of the Castle Danger hiking trail near Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior. “Now isn’t this amazing?”

Jacob Erickson finally joined her five minutes later, huffing and puffing. He came to a stop, bent over, and moaned. She glanced at him and smiled, then continued to look east over Lake Superior. He finally managed, “I thought we were going to look at abandoned mines?”

“We will, silly! I wanted you to see what the North Shore’s pristine beauty looks like!” She threw her arms wide, taking in the vista. “This is what I came here to see!”

Jacob finally stood up, scowling; looked to his left, then his right. He could catch glimpses of Minnesota Highway 61, as well as the sight of massive iron ore carriers far out on the lake. He turned around, looking inland and said, “Isn’t the North Shore Mining Company a few dozen miles north of here?”

She turned, casting a dark scowl at him and said, “Don’t be a spoilsport!”

He shrugged and motored on, “During World War II, Northern Minnesota produced, by some estimates, 75 percent of the iron used in the war effort. How can it NOT have affected the area?”

She sighed and turned giving him her complete attention. He’d never get off whatever horse he was on until she heard him out, no matter how crazy his story or theory was. “OK, sweetie. What’s the matter.”

He shivered, looked around, then said, “The mining they did here from World War Two until today?” She sighed and nodded. “We already know it released different kinds of toxins into the water?”

“Asbestos being the main one. What of it. It’s been remediated! No problem.”

“Maybe asbestos, but I heard that they found radioactives up here! They were dumping who know HOW many tons of radioactive waste into Lake Superior!”

Shaking her head, she said, “Probably true. All rock contains some amount of radioactive isotopes. We EVOLVED to take care of that naturally…”

“Not normal isotopes! Radioactive IRON!” Emma opened her mouth to protest, but he kept talking, “It’s called Iron-55. It’s an extremely long-lived isotope and it permeates the soil from central Minnesota to Lake Superior. It’s a well-known fact!”

“I’m a geology minor, Jacob! If there was such a thing, I’d have heard about it by now!”

“There was a massive coverup! Entire ships were built of it during WWII!” His voice suddenly lowered. He whispered, “There was talk of a ship that never sank. It was supposed to be crewed by men from Hell! But scientists found it – and they weren’t from Hell! They were mutants – glow-in-the-dark mutants with unearthly powers!”

She sighed and said, “Let’s go, Mister Creepy Storyteller Man!” Shaking her head, she noticed that the sun was lowering toward the west. Shadows had grown longer, and a chill wind blew in off Superior.

They were halfway down, when Jacob cried out, “Look!”

Emma looked, scowled, then leaned forward. On Lake Superior, not far from shore, a huge battleship, glowing eerily in the West Shore shadow falling across Superior, waited off shore. Jacob said, “You thought I was crazy! Now you’ve done it! You called them here!” He made a strange sound, and Emma turned to see that Jacob himself had started to glow with a ghostly, ghastly light…

Names: ♀ ; ♂ BOTH – Popular names in Minnesota in 2007

March 18, 2023

Alien Aliens #25: Philosophy, Aliens, Galileo, and Other Stuff Necessary For World-Building

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

I know I’m a few years behind, but I just checked out a copy of LONELY PLANETS: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon. He does, of course, have a “doctor” in front of his name, but it appears that he doesn’t use it very often. He also has the endorsement of Neil deGrasse Tyson – the quintessential new face of astronomy and the immediate successor to Carl Sagan. Tyson said of Grinspoon’s book “…brings together what has never before been synthesized…he is a planetary scientist as well as dreamer, born of the space age.”

As is apparent to anyone who reads my blog, I LOVE aliens! I write about aliens! I do (guardedly) believe that there is intelligent life “out there, somewhere” – HOWEVER, I don’t believe that we have any real proof yet and that it is, at this point, an intellectual and philosophical exercise. Be that as it may, I’ve only read the first 20 or so pages of Grinspoon’s book and skimmed his website (, but I find myself looking forward to following this guy for some time to come!

My main reason for noting him today is that he fully and completely believes that science and faith don’t HAVE to be at war. In fact, he blithely pops the balloon that many, many, many, many science-oriented-Humans float as proof that science is smart and faith is stupid.

Let me go back a few years (…well, more than a few), when I was an 8th grade Earth science teacher. At the beginning of my last two years and then for the next 11 years, I showed an old, old, old (1997) video tape called, "Junk Science: What You Know That May Not Be So", by “mild shock jock”, John Stossel. It’s my attempt to get eighth graders (and later, ninth graders) to THINK and challenge their beliefs.

Later on, we also watched a movie called “Galileo: The Challenge of Reason” – a fairly common subject for middle school and early high school science classes as well as in astronomy classes (all of which I taught at one point or another (“from 5th grade to physics” is what I would tell people, or “from astronomy to zoology”). The particular film I used, available through our school’s media department as a film (in the late 80s and through the 90s), was very hostile to the Church of the time and painted Galileo as a hero of reason and the Church the enemy of intelligence. I tried to point out that even in the movie, Galileo wasn’t tried just because he found planets.

I walked a lonely road for a long time, but Grinspoon offers some evidence that backs what I’ve always believed: “Galileo caught hell from the Church. In what has become a modern myth of science’s collision with biblical authority (italics mine), he was brought before the Inquisition, forced to recant his Copernican beliefs, and lived out his days under house arrest (p 14)…Nicolas of Cusa, a German ecclesiastic, wrote OF LEARNED IGNORANCE, a widely celebrated book that exuberantly rejected Aristotle’s hierarchical, Earth-centered cosmology, advocating in its place, a universe bustling with life on every star…Cusa was made a cardinal. So why did the Church celebrate Cusa and, 150 years later, condemn Galileo?”

“Galileo was a tactless boor…he seemed to go out of his way to piss off the Church authorities with his know-it-all comments on Scripture…in his DIALOGUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS…the character who played the role of doubting the Copernican system was a pompous ass…name[d] Simplico…who gave voice to the views of Pope Urban VIII…[making] his claims when the Church was threatened by the Reformation…[and] before the ashes of…a Dominican friar monk…had cooled…[who] believed in an infinite cosmos filled with life virtually everywhere. He is often mentioned in the same breath with Galileo as another martyr for Copernicanism and science in general…[though that] was a minor offense compared to his sorcery, pantheism, and denial of Christ’s divinity…” (page 16)

All of this to make a couple of points. First, there are a number of issues that currently appear to be science versus “stupid”. Among them, climate change, vaccination, organic foods, nuclear power, and “the opioid addiction epidemic”. I might tackle all of them if I decide to write a series, but for now I’ll stick with one.

For now, I want to point out that each of the subjects above have served to divide the people who LIVE in a technologically advanced civilization and the scientists and engineers who regularly produce the scientific and technological advances that CREATE the small slice of the world that holds a technologically advanced civilization inhabits.

Grinspoon attempts to shine a bit more light on what at first seems to be a simple situation of the irrational Church lashing out against the truth of Science in the issue of the centricity of Humanity in the universe.

I’m going to apply this attitude liberally to anthropogenic global warming (the phrase has been toned down in this second decade of the 21st Century to climate change, though the argument and rhetoric. First, I will say that “Of course Humans have an impact on the planet, contributing to global warming. However…I don’t think Humanity has CAUSED it.” I think we give ourselves far too much credit. Fact: when in sunlight, there is no visible evidence of Humans on Earth from orbit. Night is a different story; and there is abundant evidence that “something” is here on the EM spectrum.

Many in the scientific community attribute the “Livers” with immense stupidity, claiming that they must take the “Creaters”’s words without question because Science is smarter than anything else. Creaters, like Galileo, dismiss their own attitude as having any sort of impact on Science.

Proponents of AGW ignore that facts. FACT: The UN Climate Change Conferences are held in world class cities (the list: While I am sure that they are held in these cities because they are easily accessible, some of the places – Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Bali, Cancun, and Paris are ALSO well-known vacation spots. If I can ask this question (I’m no PhD, just a science middle school and high school teacher; and in case you were wondering, a labor union member since I was 16), I’m sure others can think of it. Another question that leaps to mind is “How did they get there and what was the carbon footprint of the COP/CMPs?” At a bare minimum, the Paris conference hosted two individuals who appeared there after flying in private jets. None of the participants addressed their own impact on the environment – it appeared (at least to me) that because they were so concerned about AGW, their actions were excused.

The fact that the Creaters community has maintained and promoted the fiction that Galileo was persecuted by the Church for no reason except his evidence that the Sun was the center of the Solar System, holding him up as a hero of science and identifying him with whatever cause they wish to. It seems to me however, that us science TEACHERS had done our job too well. Whenever we did an experiment in my science class, I insisted that observation and evidence was of paramount importance. Speculation was welcome as far as it provided questions to answer. But once the experiment was over, EVIDENCE was supposed to either support or NOT support the theory.

If the Creaters spent more time patiently presenting evidence and less time suggesting that Livers were stupid and wouldn’t understand the evidence anyway, we might have come a lot farther (I was told once by a once-popular science fiction writer who also had a PhD, that because I wasn’t convinced that AGW was Science, and HE UNDERSTOOD THE MATH, that I was supposed to, therefore take his word that it was Science Truth, and that was that.)

Flying back to aliens, Grinspoon has taken the time to explain; he is funny and relaxed; and at this point, he appears to be one of the best kinds of teachers. He seems to count himself as not ONLY a Creater, but also a Liver…we’ll see, but that’s my thought right now.


March 14, 2023


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:
“Current” Event:

Alambil shook her head and said, “I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be writing down what I say.”

Uvilas snorted, as any good centaur can do, and said, “Who said you were Sherlock and I was Watson?”

Alambil, once a star in Narnia and currently a visitor to the Court of Caspian XII, snorted just as loudly. Her mother would have said it was unladylike – or unstarlike. Alambil didn’t really care as she said, “You were Sherlock last week. I get to be it this week...”

“Him. In the book Queen Susan the Gentle sent with Her Most Kind and Royal Majesty Queen Lucy the Valiant, Sherlock Holmes is a Human male.”

She brushed him away, saying, “Whatever.”

There was a knock at the door. Alambil and Uvilas looked at each other then she bowed and gestured to the door. Uvilas scowled and crossed the floor of the cottage, reached for the door then stepped back.

“Just do it, Sissyhoofs!” Alambil hissed. Uvilas clenched his jaw cantered a meter forward, threw the bolt and yanked the door open.

Four Calmorenes, wicked scimitar swords drawn pointed at Uvilas’ heart but instead of swinging, they prodded him backward until he gave way. A moment later, a woman, whose head was wrapped in a turban and whose face was entirely veiled swept into the room. She turned once, then clapped her hands. The soldiers and their swords fell back and closed the door softly behind them.

The woman lifted her turban, trailing the veils over her face until they saw that she was an older woman, face seamed with laughlines and hair silvered with age.

Alambil gasped and fell to her knees, “Your majesty!” She looked up at Uvilas and hissed, down on your front knees Sissyhoofs! This is Queen Aravis of Archenland, Princess of Calormen, Duchess of the Lonely Isles!”

The elderly woman smiled and looked down on them and said, “I have need of your criminal detection skills.”

“Your majesty?” said Uvilas.

“Yes, my horse, Hwin, has been kidnapped. You must find her!”

Names: ♀ Narnia; ♂ Narnia

March 11, 2023

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: SPIDERMAN 3: No Way Home – All About Reconciliation?

NOT using the Programme Guide of the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention, ChiCON 8, which I WOULD have attended in person if I had disposable income, but I retired two years ago, my work health insurance stopped, and I’m now living on the Social Security and Medicare…I WILL NOT use the Programme Guide to jump off, jump on, rail against, or shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. 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…

This isn’t going to be a rant…enough people have ranted about this movie that there’s really nothing else I can say. Besides, I loved it, just…not in the way most people probably do.

The redoubtable Roger Ebert, with whom I grew up as half of the fabulous pair of movie reviewers “Siskel and Ebert” and their “four thumbs up” rating system – had this to say: “No Way Home” is crowded, but it’s also surprisingly spry, inventive, and just purely entertaining, leading to a final act that not only earns its emotions but pays off some of the ones you may have about this character that you forgot.”

I’m sure it does, but for me, the movie was about one thing: reconciliation. It has several incidents that reconcile characters with each other, with themselves, and even, in the end, he universe.

I also has another of the themes that move me to tears: sacrificial love…I hesitate to  mention this, but it’s the kind of love Jesus had for US. He surrendered to Jewish and Roman authorities not to save his friends, but to save the MULTIVERSE! (Not in those precise words, but if He had seen SM: No Way Home, I think He would understand my point.

Clearly the writers intended to say something more than just, “Spider-man fights the bad guys, converts them to Good, and then retires to his well-earned respite.” Consider the title: “No Way Home”. Spider-man gets home in the end, right? He returns to his proper universe, MJ and Ned are safe and going to MIT; Dr. Strange is safe and continues to be as sarcastic as ever; even Peter is safe from J Jonas Jameson. His identity is safe. NO ONE KNOWS THAT PETER PARKER AND SPIDERMAN are the same person.

Or was there a bigger change in the Multiverse? Did something happen where not only didn’t anyone know Peter was Spider-man…there were people who didn’t know him AT ALL – like MJ and Ned. They both knew Peter BEFORE they knew him as Spider-man. J Jonas Jameson knew Spider-man and not Peter (though in the comic books, he does know Peter as like a journalism intern or something…or not).

But because of what happened, it appears the NO ONE KNOWS PETER PARKER either, and the one person who loves him most is still dead.

Peter gave up EVERYTHING for everyone; for the people he loves. They don’t know him anymore.

Note that in his box as he’s moving into a cheesy New York apartment, there’s a GED book on top; which means that he never graduated from Midtown Smartypants School…in fact, he didn’t graduate from anywhere. Clearly, he has a job or he wouldn’t have been able to put down a security deposit and the first month’s rent to even get the place (which, you have to admit, for a New York apartment isn’t exactly a cold water, walk up, tenement. I don’t hear any gunfire in those tail-end shots, either.)

But to return to something I’m discovering is a theme I WANT to explore in my writing – reconciliation. I can’t help but weep when two individuals, separated by anger, or in fact ANYTHING that works to separate us from the people we care about. I find that I have some very…strong, angry feelings when I think about my dad. Because I was the sibling who lived closest to where he lived after Mom died. Much to his dismay, he lived two-and-a-half years longer than she did. He’d mutter about that sometimes; he was lonely and he knew he was dependent on us kids – particularly me for his everyday needs. I’d take him to the doctor, reset his television set (because he grew up with NO TV as a child, then a flip knob into adulthood…he NEVER understood how his 166 channel television worked. The staff in the Assisted Living facility he lived in were too busy to reset his channels over, and over, and over again – no bad on them! It just meant I had to return to his apartment five to ten times a week.

Nothing else made sense to him, either. He tried to get out of the building. He actually hit one of the CNAs. He hated what he ate. He just hated being alive without my mom. As his memory deteriorated, he became more and more confused. It was torture to watch him wildly vacillate every day (I was pretty much there every day). At the end, I was getting phone calls in the middle of the night…at any rate, because of his Alzheimer’s, he and I never really reconciled our relationship. There were times he’d be angry with me for coming to help him. Other times he’d be weepy. I grew to very much dislike this…person my father had become. He died without any reconciliation for me.

So, I’ve come to have strong emotional attachments to stories and movies in which ANYONE reconciles ANY relationship. I get teary-eyed at the end of “The Other Woman”; “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”; “Enchanted”; “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”; “Free Guy”; “A Goofy Movie”; “First Wives Club”…according to IMDb, there are 882 movies about it.

I’m not taking the time to see if it’s there, but Spider-man: No Way Home is a movie all about reconciliation. Even so, it’s on MULTIPLE levels. There’s a reconciliation of the time line that Mysterio screwed up; there’s the reconciliation between Tony Stark and Peter Parker…(or was that Spider-man: A Long Way From Home? Hmmm); there’s the chance that Peter and Ned and MJ can go to MIT – even WITHOUT SPIDER-MAN changing the time lines! He’s stunned when the MIT Administrator says she’ll reconsider all of them, I get all excited about that simple reconciliation…

But the true focus of the movie is (of course) the three Spider-mans coming together TO FIX THEIR ENEMIES! Sandman, Doc Octopus, the Green Goblin, and Electro, all were healed and reconciled with their appropriate Spider-men. Even Andrew Garfield noticed how reconciliation fit naturally into the story: “ Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man “…was interested in exploring the idea of a tortured Parker [and] how lessons from those events could be passed to Holland's character…[Garfield] was grateful for the chance to ‘tie up some loose ends’ for his incarnation…and described working with Holland and Maguire as an opportunity to have ‘deeper conversations... about our experiences with the character.’”

There was even the smaller storyline of the relationship between the Current Spider-man as he’d been dealing with the death of Tony Stark, who, I imagine, he’d seen not so much as a mentor, but as a father-figure. Even Tony Stark was drawn into that relationship – and it helped that he had a daughter who was still growing into herself. He, in fact, led the way for Spider-man/AVENGERS UNIVERSE to sacrifice his life for the good of others when Tony died restoring the AU and brining back people lost in Thanos’ demented desire to “balance the universe”.

While he didn’t lose his life and his horrific ostracism from Human society was nearly unbearable, he deemed allowing his friends to return to a life without him as the much greater good. He also reconciled his relationship with Steven Strange; perhaps his “new father-figure”…except that even Strange has had his memory wiped of Peter’s existence as Spider-man…and THAT, people, is why I weep at the end of that movie: the fact that he finally knows he’s truly not alone and that the other Spider-men are his real brothers; knowing that those he loves – Ned and MJ – can grow in the way they were meant to; and even though he misses May and will be a stranger to Happy, he can move ahead and make new friends and a new life…one that might even hold MJ, Happy, Dr. Strange and a career as a scientist…

And so, I weep time and time again. Excuse me while I set about to face my unrecognized, inadmissible love (because that would be painful to tell the BEFORE story that leads up to the thing that touches my heart: reconciliation.


March 7, 2023


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. Octavia Butler said, “SF doesn’t really mean anything at all, except that if you use science, you should use it correctly, and if you use your imagination to extend it beyond what we already know, you should do that intelligently.”

SF Trope: Android and Detective
Current Event:

Aiden Rakotomolala and Gargaaro Sukarno stared at the cow-shaped robot. Aiden said, "This is what they gave us?"

Gargaaro -- she preferred Ro to her whole name -- said, "That's what they said. 'A robot cow?'"

The robot said, "I am not a cow, but a mule. And I am an artificial intelligence. I prefer to be called Ferocious Veldt Roarer. You can call me Ferocious."

Aiden burst out laughing, "How about I call you Cow Roarer?"

"That would not..." the robot began.

Ro laughed as well, "I know my name's funny, but yours? We can call you Cower for short!"

Cower would have scowled if she'd had a face. Or skin. Or a head. As it was, she said, "I'm not programmed to have feelings or a sense of humor, so I'll call you Rack and Gargoyle."

Aiden exclaimed, "Hey! That's not funny!"

Ro scowled, "At least yours doesn't comment on your looks."

"True, but it does make a comment on his intelligence -- roughly that of a cue ball in a game of billiards."

Aiden opened his mouth to protest as the door to garage opened from the police station side. The pair of officers who strode in were imposing and grim. The male, short, dark, and scowling, whose uniform seemed barely able to control the musculature beneath; the female, tall, lithe, whose own musculature owed more to maraging steel cable than muscle and whose face gave away absolutely nothing. She was the one who said, "What a wonder. A billion dollars in training and manufacture, and all these three can do is act like middle school children."

The male shook his head, "It would be better if the two of us just went and did what we do best."

"What? Kill people?"

The male grinned -- and the two humans and even the robot took a step back.

The woman said, "I'd love to let the three of you bond and get to know each other, but there are two hundred school girls who have been taken hostage in southern Brazil by JHB."

"Who?" Rack, Gargoyle, and Cower said in unison.

The woman looked at the man, who grinned. "See. I said they would."

Again, RGC spoke as one when they said, "That we would what?" Aiden and Ro looked at each other. Ferocious abruptly sprouted spines along its back that quivered.

"Synchronize," said the female. "We're sending you to southern Brazil to infiltrate and possibly extricate these girls. We suspect they're all dead."

"What?" Rack, Gargoyle, and Cower exclaimed again.

The male shrugged powerful shoulders and said, "Most likely there's nothing for you to do except learn to work together. On the off chance you might actually be able to do something, you've got your orders." He glanced at his female companion and the two snapped off a salute, turned and left the three alone.

Cower said, "Great. Now I'm stuck with two teenage meat bags." It made an amazingly realistic sigh, and plopped down on one of its backsides.

Names: ♀ Somalia, Indonesia; ♂ Australia, Madagascar


March 4, 2023

JAX LUNAR LUMBER #3: From A Joke To A Thought Experiment…

A couple years ago, I related to my wife that, when I was working for the now-defunct Knox Lumber Company, I was told that if someone were patient, they could buy ALL of the supplies necessary to build a house ON SALE from the store.

Knowing the company strictly from the perspective of a “yard ape” (aka Outside Lumberyard Attendant), and having moved zillions of tons (or watched it moved by the truly massive forklift that only a few people were allowed to drive) of building materials – from bags of sand to prefabricated trusses…I believed it.

After a moment, I said, “Do you think you could buy the supplies necessary to build a Lunar colony from Knox?” We laughed and I said, “That’s ridiculous!” However, as I thought about it, it occurred to me that it might JUST be possible.

That speculation led to the first “Jax Lunar Lumber” little blurb. It wasn’t even a piece of flash fiction! But lately, after discovering that there are actually things called Moon Trees, and that scientists have just grown rock cress seeds in Lunar soil, I suddenly realized that there might be stories I can harvest from this subject…so to speak…

While Jax Lunar Lumber isn’t going to open up any time soon, it seems the foundation for the concept of farming the Moon is NOT pretty much out there: it’s firmly out there, and numerous interests are exploring what it might take for us Humans to move into space; not just for the thrill of landing, grabbing some rocks, hopping around, or standing in front of the world and shouting, “Taa! Daa! WE landed on the far side of the Moon and you didn’t! Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!”; but there are serious thoughts about how we could create a long-term presence in places OFF Earth.

The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth for the past 20 years, but everyone knows that, while it’s value as a research station is limitless, it’s not a particularly strong foothold off Earth. Just watch the movie “Gravity” to see how firm our hold in outer space is!

If we’re going to have a permanent presence in space, then we need (literally) REAL estate. We need to have places where we can (literally) put down roots.

We need colonies on the asteroids, the Moon, and Mars.

Those social programmers among you may decry such a huge investment, arguing that “the money should be spent on the poor and sick here on Earth!!!!” – know as well as I do that while the real dollars being spent on NASA fluctuates but has slowly risen; the PERCENTAGE of the national budget has dropped dramatically since the 1960s ( and continues to fall. So those favorite social programs are STILL getting far more money than NASA ever did – except in the heyday of the program when we were so paranoid that we had to “beat the Russians to the Moon!”.

My question is that, even with less NASA and more government programs, POVERTY has not dramatically decreased – in fact poverty and food instability, and real income have remained fairly stable between 1969 and today – 56 years…(between a 10% and 15% variation) even though in that same period, NASA funding fell precipitously. Why haven’t we seen a dramatic decrease in poverty as program funding has increased? No idea (or I have ideas, but NO ONE would be interested in them!) (

A bit of background first (so that harsh judgements might be tempered): I grew up in a family that used food stamps; my own family has used food stamps; and I worked for 30 years (retired three years ago) in a school where 65%-80% of the students were on free-or-reduced lunch; and as a counselor for my last ten years, discovered that not only had I kept food in my closet in my classroom, most other teachers, counselors, social workers, and nurses also keep food and gift cards handy to help students whose families are in need. I’m NOT a millionaire – and I’m now on a fixed income.

All right, that being said, I maintain my position that Humans have to get off of Earth permanently – at least some of us need to. I’d never make it into NASA, so I’m eliminated (and “Yes, I DO know that for a fact – I applied for the Teacher In Space program and was turned down.”). So, how can SOME people get there and STAY there?

The more I’ve been reading, the more spreading Humanity out among the asteroids seems a better and better idea. HOWEVER, that doesn’t seem to be the dream that has grabbed our attention. Currently, it’s Mars, using the Moon as a jumping off point. So, I just finished a novel that takes place on Mars sometime in the 25th Century (when PICARD, Season 3 takes place!) so I understand our obsession with The Red Planet, but in my story, space colonization isn’t quite that ambitious, but I’m going to stop right here, or I’ll ramble.

I’m going to focus on the Moon and step back from my idea of a small business called Jax Lunar Lumber…

But it was that step that ran me smack into the fact that NASA actually sent seeds on the Apollo 16 landing and exposed 1000 seeds of several different trees to Lunar conditions, returned them to Earth, germinated, planted them, then passed them out to several American states, Brazil and Switzerland.

Knowledge of the plants disappeared, until a class of elementary school kids and their teacher found one in “their own back yard”, asked NASA – who ALSO had no idea what the class was talking about, then dig around and found not only the information, but where and whether the trees were still alive. Many of them are. While nearly all of them germinated, there remained only 420 when the National Forestry Service handed them out to be planted as their recipients desired.

Today (if you’re interested), you can use the Wiki reference to find them and visit them if you’d like.

FINALLY: all this was to say that not only are there Moon Trees on Earth, as well as underground farms that grow more than mushrooms, several groups are giving serious thought to establishing underground farms on the Moon…

And THAT finally leads to Jax Lunar Lumber Company…

There are lots of threads I’ve gathered in my research, and due to the fact that my current push in my writing is to WRITE TIGHT – that is, tell a story in as few words as possible. Hard for me, because (as you can see), if you get me started, it’s almost impossible for me to STOP. In the original bit of short story and its tag on, which you can find here:; and here:,

I didn’t really do much with the story but play around with a bit of vignette (“a brief evocative description, account, or episode; a small illustration or portrait photograph which fades into its background without a definite border”), and snigger at my cleverness.

That is, until today. It appears that there’s serious thought out there about how to grow Earth plants on the Moon, on Mars, and (for my stories) on asteroids; because if we don’t MINE the asteroids, then Earth is going to eventually run out of natural resources…not tomorrow or even in a hundred years, but the lithium used for today’s dramatically inefficient electric batteries is very limited. The question of this article is “Will We Run Out of Lithium?” – the answer after one second of reading, is “Duh!” (,record%20of%20100%2C000%20metric%20tons.)

We NEED to leave the planet, and those colonies need to be able to take care of themselves – the same principal that ANY CULTURE who set about colonizing had to face. (BTW, before you assume that Europeans were the sole colonizers of Earth, please actually do some reading. It’s broad, varied, sometimes wildly contradictory, and depending on who’s writing it, they excuse or accuse any number of other countries…it’s…complicated…

My main takeaway from that two hours of reading several articles was that: If the Earth itself fractured in so many directions, spawning so many businesses, interests, investments, economic entities, and even countries…what’s it going to be like when we get to space?

That will NOT be a subject I’ll be interested in tackling if/when I start to write Jax Lunar Lumber stories…but it will definitely be something I keep in mind.

Image: or

February 28, 2023


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 horror, I found this insight in line with WIRED FOR STORY: “ We seek out…stories which give us a place to put our fears…Stories that frighten us or unsettle us - not just horror stories, but ones that make us uncomfortable or that strike a chord somewhere deep inside - give us the means to explore the things that scare us…” – Lou Morgan (The Guardian)

H Trope: Ghosts
Current Event: “To be a ghost in space, I expect you would have to die in space. There is a rumor that just before the Americans landed on the moon, the Soviets had a manned mission crash on the dark side. The cosmonauts died, and no one collected them or their rocket...”

Uiloq Chokim pursed her lips then said, “You know the advertising slogan for the old pre-D movie about some space mining ship that picks up an alien infestation?”

Lachlan Maposa squatted as much as he could in the surface suit to gather up the aluminized shroud. Flotsam and jetsam from the thirty-something annual Jules Verne Medallion Races dribbled down from the “race course” between the International Space Station Museum & Bed & Breakfast and the luxury orbital resort, Kubrick. He grunted as he stood back up and said, “Of course, ‘In space, no one can hear you freak out’.” He moved off in pursuit of another piece of shroud, following a silvery fiber wending its way across the surface.

“No, stupid! It goes ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’. It was for the movie ALIEN. Late last century it was all the rage. Grandpa talks about it all the time.” She looked up to see him disappear around a lunar stone. “Are you listening to me?”

There was a long pause. She frowned. Then Lachlan said, “Good. Scream. Grandpa.”

She sighed. She was definitely thinking about breaking up with him. He wasn’t the worst boyfriend she’d ever had, but he sure wasn’t the brightest bulb in the Dome. Besides, she’d started to think that she was never going to make her fortune up here. Mineral rights were tied up by two dozen conglomerates and a handful of nations – the Moon looked like Antarctica had in Early Twen – so there was no way to get a job if you didn’t work for them. Service jobs were plentiful – clerks, programmers, stockers, teachers, and suitjockeys – but you needed licenses for that, too. It was the license that cost as much as a year’s apartment rent. She heard a gag on her headphones and said, “Lachlan?”

“What? Quit bugging me! I’ve got a good lead on a big strike, but I think I see another light over the horizon. It’s reflecting off the Dome Base.” He was panting. She should make them exercise more often. Especially since she was semi-planning to head back to Earth sometime soon. He suddenly spoke up, “Besides, it was a stupid movie. I zipped it once,” she heard the swish of the snoopy cap against the helmet rim. He continued, “Aliens! There aren’t any aliens in the universe, let alone on a backwater like the Moon.”

“How can you know something like that?” she asked, irritated despite the fact that she agreed with him. “No one can know that!”

“Just like I’m supposed to believe in Lunar ghosts?”

Stung by the mocking tone of his voice, she snapped, “Two cosmonauts died in 1968 – almost a year before Aldrin and Armstrong. Their spirits inhabit the Moon! It’s a well-known fact!” One more nasty word from him, and she would break up with him here and now!

She opened her mouth to tell him just that when he shouted, “What...”

Names: ♀ Greenland, Kazakhstan ; ♂ Tasmania, Botswana

February 25, 2023

WRITING ADVICE: Short Stories – Advice and Observation #22: Eleanor Arnason “& Me”

In this feature, I’ll be looking at “advice” for writing short stories – not from me, but from other short story writers. In speculative fiction, “short” has very carefully delineated categories: “The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories by word count; Novel 40,000 words or over; Novella 17,500 to 39,999 words; Novelette 7,500 to 17,499 words; Short story under 7,500 words.”

I’m going to use advice from people who, in addition to writing novels, have also spent plenty of time “interning” with short stories. While most of them are speculative fiction writers, I’ll also be looking at plain, old, effective short story writers. The advice will be in the form of one or several quotes off of which I’ll jump and connect it with my own writing experience. While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do most of the professional writers...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 as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

Without further ado, short story observations by Eleanor Arnason – with a few from myself…

While I’ve never met Eleanor Arnason face-to-face, I both live in the same city that she does and I saw her speak at MiniCon 23 in 1988, a science fiction convention held over Easter weekend every year for the past 55 years.

“First off, is that I also love writing short, as does Arneson: “…[I] like the shortness of short fiction, and the fact that—written well—it can have a density and tightness that’s hard to get in a novel. It’s hard to write a flawless novel, (though Jane Austen managed in Pride and Prejudice.) But you can write a close to flawless short story.” She continues this theme elsewhere: “[I]switched over to writing short stories, novelettes and novellas [and] I wrote in series…So was I right to switch to short fiction? Maybe not [but] I really like the novelette and novella lengths. They are long enough to have richness and complexity, but not so long that I get tired of writing.”

I’ve found that more and more often, my SF falls into the “longer short story length” what’s called “novelettes” (7500-19,000 words), and “novellas”(10,000 to 40,000 words). In particular, the novelette. The reason? I’m not sure, but it seems like I need that many words to make my characters live. I’ve managed with short shorts, or flash fiction. I’ve even managed Nanofiction (, but it’s most comfortable for me around nine thousand words. MY problem is that I’m not consistent enough to push that on a magazine very often. ANALOG is good with it, but I need something SHORTER to break into ASIMOV’S, F&SF, and CLARKESWORLD. So, that SHOULD be my goal.

What does Arneson write ABOUT? The shorter the story, the more important getting this right is, “A lot of my fiction is about social stereotypes and characters who don’t fit into the roles they are assigned by society…My characters want to be something they can’t be in their society, because of their gender…I give them tolerable lives. There is enough suffering in the world. [Other stories]are about people who get in difficult situations which are often supernatural and struggle to get out of the situations and get on with their lives…[both kinds of stories are about] the struggle to have one’s own life…trying to make a decent life in spite the rules of one’s society and the weight of the past…”

Oddly, I just stumbled across a post I made here in 2021 where I was forced to answer a question a friend of mine asked, “Just what are most passionate about?” That led me to a few themes I find in my writing: I’m passionate about what I spent most of my adult career doing: teaching science; FUN! I usually can’t write “funny” science fiction, but my characters can have a sense of humor; I work to write about equity. I will be the first to admit that I’m a big, old, fat, white guy; inheritor of every privilege known to Humanity. But I typically don’t write from that perspective. Those are things I hope people find in my stories.

In a very recent interview with Lyda Morehouse, Arneson said, “Maybe we need to talk about why one writes…I have always told stories. I told stories to my kid brother before I could read and write. Back then, I think I was motivated simply by my love of stories. Over time, I learned more and more about the techniques of writing, and a lot of fiction I used to enjoy became painful to read, because it was badly written. And I became more and more aware of how difficult writing can be. Not always. Sometimes I write stories that rush out and are a pleasure all the way.”

I’m in a tough position because things I believe about the spiritual world aren’t acceptable to many writers, in particular science fiction writers. As a science teacher for 40 years, I understand that science is all about “proving”. But there are some sciences that have become respectable WITHOUT being able to prove anything – exobiology is one. It’s the study of life that’s not on Earth. The problem there should be obvious. We haven’t FOUND any life off Earth. They’ve solved the problem! They’ve changed the degree to ASTRObiology; they dodge the definition by giving it thus: “[We can’t yet point to the exact time, conditions and mechanisms when organic matter first went from nonliving to living…basic questions remain unanswered about the long-term adaptation of living organisms to other environments. For example, we do not know what the effect will be of living for years on Mars…Astrobiology addresses all these compelling mysteries by embracing the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe…addressing three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe…Politics, science, personalities and serendipity all contributed to the creation and success of what is now called astrobiology as a field of inquiry.”

I’ve read about and written about and even TAUGHT about aliens for decades! I have a huge desire to BELIEVE in life off Earth. But there is ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE THAT LIFE EXISTS ANYWHERE BUT ON EARTH. Despite Hollywood prattling on about how if we were all there is, it would a terrible waste of space – that’s just aesthetics, not science.

“Science fiction and fantasy have the appeal of strangeness, and of course science and technology are enormously important in science fiction.” In an interview with Lyda Morehouse, on February 20, 2023, Arneson said, “One of the deep defects in science fiction -- you see this with hard science fiction writers all the time -- is that someone will set a story five hundred years in the future, and their science is absolutely the science of the moment. Well, if you go back five hundred years in our culture, that takes you to 1500. You've missed Newton…Science evolves much too rapidly, at least in technological society…The basic premise in that story is that a) aliens are not going to formulate science the same way we do, and b) in two hundred years we're going to have very different science. It's one of these things that drive me crazy about hard SF. These guys take great pride in the fact that their science is absolutely true right now even though their story is set five hundred or a thousand years in the future. I just don't buy it. They're wrong.”

Strong words from a strong woman! I hope I can write science fiction as well as she does someday!

References: – What am I most passionate about?

February 21, 2023


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: Fantasy Noir (
Current Event:

I’m not from around here. In fact, where I’m from, the worlds you ascribe to authors like JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien are pale representations of life in OUR 21st Century…

Even so, we got one thing in common – there are scumbags in both places. My dad is a cop in a place I’ll call Rowkien. He works in the biggest city, the equivalent of your New York or Los Angeles, called Mohrpohrq.

The problem is that I’m NOT supposed to be here and it’s really, really hard for a teenager with a horse’s body and a human chest, arms, and head to hide out until the gate that let him through to here opens again. It’s a good thing I learned how to glamour in Rowkien and for whatever reason, that kind of low-level magic works here, so I can make it appear that I'm a regular horse. The other problem is that what are totally COOL names in Rowkien -- like mine -- are not here. My name's Hokey Flemm. Yup. Cool in Rowkien. Not so much here.

Keeping up the glamour is hard work and it makes me incredibly hungry. I also like to eat a whole lot more than just oats. We aren’t a vegetarian people in Rowkien. Especially us centaurs. I was losing weight and starting to look pretty scrawny. Worst of all, I couldn’t keep the glamour up for more than a few hours at a time, so I mostly had to let it down when I thought I was alone.

That’s how Waqas Said and me met, which just so happened to be the night both of us almost died...

Names: ♂ Rowkien; ♂ Pakistan

February 18, 2023

MINING THE ASTEROIDS Part 10-1: What If We Prepared To Exploit Asteroid NEAR-MISSES?

Initially, I started this series because of the 2021 World Science Fiction Convention, DisCON which I WOULD have been attending in person if I’d felt safe enough to do so in person AND it hadn’t been changed to the week before the Christmas Holidays. As time passed, I knew that this was a subject I was going to explore because it interests me. For MORE interesting articles on a number of subjects – and to follow my MINING THE ASTEROIDS essays as well as BUILDING ALIEN ALIENS series, plus a few other things by me, including my MG/YA novel HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES, go here:

This week: ,

“According to the Chemical and Engineering News organization in 2018, less than one milligram of mined asteroid material has been successfully returned to Earth. However, when you consider that asteroids were discovered in 1801, the first crewed heavier-than-air flight was in 1903, and here in 2022 we are planning on going to the Moon and on to Mars, my faith in human ingenuity informed by science and engineering tells me we will be able to successfully mine asteroids in the next 25 years.” – Patrick Suermann, Dean, Executive Vice President, Provost, School of Architecture at Texas A&M University

“DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) was a NASA space mission (with additional support from the Italian Space Agency), aimed at testing a method of planetary defense, designed to assess how much a spacecraft impact deflects an asteroid by hitting the asteroid head-on. Launched on 24 November 2021 collided on 26 September 2022. It was considered a success.” (

Obviously, mining the asteroids will take planning.
Obviously, it will take money.
Obviously, it will REQUIRE innovation and invention.

But we’ve done it before. Let me put it into perspective:

It’s been 1300 years since Vikings from Eurasia reached Vinland.

Central and South America had advanced civilizations from 3000 BC until the final collapse of the Aztecs in the 1520’s. (

There were several ascendant Native American civilizations between the Rockies and the East Coast, ranging from the Comanche to the Ojibwe and of, course, the Haudenosaunee (we know them by a rather dry name, the Iroquois, from whom the fledgling United States coopted parts of its Constitution).

So, from 3000 BC to 2000 AD; five thousand years, there were several extant, advanced civilizations on Earth. (There were dozens on the African continent, on the South American continent, and of course, China has had advanced sciences and culture since 1500 BC. There are, of course countless other ancient civilizations.

But, space travel, after its joyous infancy as fireworks invented in China, was an offshoot of Western Civilization ignited as it was by the work in Europe of Goddard and countless others during World War II.

It’s about time the Space Age’s childhood and early adolescence matures. Perhaps, rather than brief explorations of the Moon, Mars, surveys of other planets, and a bit of peeking around the neighborhood, it’s time to move out of Mom and Dad’s place and get down to the serious business of making the Solar System the Home of Humanity.

Launching spacecraft from the depths of Earth’s gravity well is incredibly expensive and a real waste of resources – plus it limits WHO can get into space. Thus far, NASA is the only organization that has landed Humans on the Moon. Fabulous programs in Russia and China ARE aiming to do that, but haven’t yet. The biggest advance in the US is that NASA has competition, primarily from SpaceX…Blue Origin CAN get people up there, but haven’t actually made it “into space” yet. SpaceX sends astronauts, cosmonauts, and guest astronauts from several countries – at the same time excluding Chinese taikonauts…[Editorial Insertion: What were the idiots thinking? “Let’s be rude to China because we’re so fabulous and they’re so stupid they’ll NEVER figure out how to get into space!!! Cause Western Science is SOOOOOOOOO much more advanced! We’ll rule in Space FOR-EVAHHHHHHH! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!”

We’re screwed and now at odds with a China that has absolutely NO REASON to cooperate with us on deepening our knowledge of living in space and exploring the Solar System. We WILL rue the day we decided to make space an extension of America and Europe. Even India has pulled out of the ISS with the intent of building its OWN space station…

The only way that will happen is if we start to mine the asteroids. To mine the asteroids, we need to start sharing technology and techniques.


Instead of trying to shoot spacecraft from Florida or Baikonur or Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center – we need to land several robotic craft on a near-miss asteroid that will cross Earth’s orbit in a relatively short period. It can assemble a small, habitable station and ALL OF US can send Astro/cosmo/taiko-nauts there and initiate mining operations. Better yet, how about Elon Musk sponsoring a landing on such as asteroid with the makings of a BOTH a robotic and crewed station that can begin experiments on mining. If there’s wealth there, so much the better, but this would be primarily a Test Of Concept. Maybe even use organic garbage crashed there to 3D print bioplastic parts for a habitat? Who would live there? By preference, maybe it could go like this:

“An American, a Russian, a Huaren, and a Bharata landed on an asteroid…”

Resources:,,,,, ,, ;; DART Mission: