July 20, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 506

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: Witchcraft For World Peace!!!
Current Event:
http://wildhunt.org/2016/02/call-for-global-witchcraft-community-to-unite-against-terrorism.html

Saga Pai-Teles shook her head then said, “How much do you really expect us to accomplish?”

Djamel Vlach sighed, “I’m sure nothing, but what else can we do that might even conceivably make a difference? I’m not a soldier, and unless you enlisted in the Royal Marines or fought a stint with the Aegis Mercenaries in the past few months, I’m pretty sure you don’t have much experience with fighting, either.”

“But we’re not ‘fighting’ – not like that anyway. Our powers are of Earth, wind, ice, fire, and water.”

“Sounds like the name of an American band from the nineteen seventies.” She frowned at him and made a faint movement with her fingers. He laughed, “You think charms and wardings are going to be able to stave off the black market weaponry of Daesh, or Boko Haram, or the Taliban?”

“Shows how much YOU know! We’re not here to fight anger with anger. We’re here to fight anger with the power of nature and of the true spirit of Humanity. There are way more...”

Djamel wasn’t listening to her. His eyes had grown wide. “OK! Now you’re talking! Taking out Daesh with a hurricane or an earthquake or even a flood is totally cool! I could get into that and I even have a couple of spells that enhance water movement!”

“That’s not what I was talking about,” she stopped talking abruptly. “Then again, I have a couple of other spells that help anyone who’s got a gift for dowsing.”

“What’s that?”

She looked at him steadily and when she had his complete attention, she said, “Dowsing is all about FINDING water, Djamel. If I could find the water…”

“I could direct it.” Djamel scowled again. “My powers aren’t that…um…powerful.”

“Mine, neither. What we need is someone who can magnify or enhance our simple powers,” Saga said.

“I don’t have simple powers! They’re plenty strong enough!”

“That’s not what I meant! In order to deal world peace and muffle terrorism in our time, we have to overcome terror with peace. But it can’t be done if we’re weak.”

“We need, like, a talisman.”

“A crystal, or a…” Sag was saying.

Djamel cut her off, “The Vial of Trench!”

“What’s that?”

“A Vial of water collected from the bottom of the Marianas Trench.” He looked down at her, “Can you think of a more powerful talisman to increase our mission to bring peace on Earth than focusing our meager powers through a vial of water from the bottom of the Earth’s sea?”

“I can’t…”

“We’ll do it and it’ll start now?”

Names: ♀ Finland, Portugal; ♂ Algeria, Hungary
Image:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/98/71/e5/9871e52bbc09c525af21b8f6471eab15.jpg

July 17, 2021

Slice of PIE: Captain America Was NOT THE FIRST AVENGER (and Neither Was Phoenix)!!!

NOT using the Programme Guide of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention, ConZEALAND (The First Virtual World Science Fiction Convention; to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education – which I now have!)), 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…


This essay started out as an investigation into why it seems Humans need “superheroes”.

I’d reserved several books about it, including DOES THIS CAME MAKE ME LOOK FAT? and SUPERGODS. There are others on Amazon.com like WHAT IS A SUPERHERO, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUPERHEROES, and OUR SUPERHEROES, OURSELVES.

Then, during a book study (NOT one of these!), I happened across a Bible verse that actually doesn’t have to be bent in order for it to fit the paradigm I’m looking at. In fact, in light of the NEW fact that Phoenix is actually the first Avenger, leading the Marvel Universe’s Stone Age Avengers (https://screenrant.com/first-avenger-was-not-captain-america-phoenix-marvel/), it STILL makes sense.

I Thessalonians 4:6 reads, “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” (King James version)

Despite the archaic language, the definition of the First Avenger actually holds across translations: New American Standard (the version I like) “…and that no one violate the rights and take advantage of his brother or sister in the matter, because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you previously and solemnly warned you.”

The Amplified is where I turn when I want to examine the deeper meaning of a verse: “…and that [in this matter of sexual misconduct] no man shall transgress and defraud his brother because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we have told you before and solemnly warned you.” (Lest you think it not apply, sit down and watch the nightly news (local, national, or international…your choice…EVERYTHING is about sex/gender today…)

Lastly, we turn to the original Greek that the New Testament was written in:

The first Avenger was the Lord, the Christ of humanity sent to protect those who are defrauded by others – and unlike the Amplified Bible, the Greek makes it clear that it’s NOT only about sex!

The First Avenger is NOT Phoenix, either. The First Avenger goes farther back than a million years, the First Avenger stepped up for duty right after Cain killed Abel with a rock to the skull. Then 
Ekdikos Ha Kurios (literally, “Avenger the Master”) had to be the avenger of Abel’s murderer.

Note, He didn’t kill Abel, he CURSED him, but Abel was still alive; though it makes you wonder which one got the better deal – Abel or Red Skull… So, while lots of people note that while God is supposed to be a God of Love, He’s constantly killing people, it’s interesting to note that the Marvel Avengers have a startlingly high body count for the Superheroes.

As Nathan Miranda points out in “Which Avenger Has Killed The Most Characters In The MCU”, “Thor and Iron Man are in a league of their own, with the remaining four Avengers far behind. Cap's service in the deadliest conflict in human history during Captain America: The First Avenger certainly means he has a higher kill count than might be initially expected, but this no doubt pales to the Hulk - especially counting the green giant's time in Sakaar. Hawkeye and Black Widow round out the list at number five and six, respectively, as while Black Widow’s troubled history and Hawkeye’s Ronin escapades could account for many deaths, their assassin roles were better suited to taking out individual targets, which means the volume of them is arguably far less.” (https://screenrant.com/avengers-mcu-thor-most-kills-deaths/)

So, the true First Avenger, while Their body count is high, also appears to have some stiff competition from Tony Stark (who did, if you recall, do away with ALL of Thanos’ army of who-knows-how-many sentient and sapient beings) and that other plucky god, Thor.

So, what do the Avengers do? What is their high moral purpose? According to Wikipedia: “…S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury…envisions a group of heroes working together in response to planetary threats, following the appearance of superhumans such as Carol Danvers, who is imbued with the power of the Tesseract. He names his plan after her U.S. Air Force callsign, ‘Avenger’. Years later, Fury assesses various individuals for the initiative, including Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Stark's membership is declined after a negative report on his suitability by Natasha Romanoff. The World Security Council expresses a desire for Emil Blonsky to join the initiative, although they abandon their wish after Stark deters Thaddeus Ross from the idea.”

So, the purpose of God, in the form of Jesus the Christ is to “…reverse the effects of Adams sin.” (Gen 3:15).

Here’s the rub then, first you have to believe that Humanity sinned.

The other rub then, is that you have to believe that Earth has extra-planetary threats.

Jesus, the Son of God would take care of the first, the Avengers would take care of the second.

Hmmm…in range of importance, salvation from eternity in Hell would seem to rank higher than alien abduction. Of course in the grand scheme of things, a few billion deaths by alien invasion don’t even come close to the number who might die outside of the saving grace of the Christ.

And we’d say, “The Avengers and their whole series of movies are fake!”

Perhaps we’d say, “But God and whole Islam/Judaism/Christianity thing is a fake!”

Be that as it may, given both are fake, then my claim that God in the form of Jesus Christ was the First Avenger, is just as legitimate as anyone else’s claim that Phoenix was the First Avenger.

And I would argue that the saving the eternal soul is a bit more important than saving Humanity from an alien invasion is slightly more important…

July 13, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 505

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: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DepopulationBomb
Current Event: http://www.rfdtv.com/story/34096878/metabiotas-top-five-epidemic-risk-factors-for-2017

Ngozi Adeyemi sighed and sat back from the scanning electron microscope. She said, “This machine…”

Ibrahim Eto'o Fils held up one hand, then lowered it, knowing it might be offensive as he said, “I know. It’s ancient. I’d rather have a QTM. But the Chinese aren’t exactly handing them out to West African disease researchers.”

She shook her head. “I was educated in England, worked for seven years at the CDC in Atlanta, and chaired the International Society for Infectious Diseases for six years. I’m not just a ‘disease researcher’!”

Ibrahim held up both hands in defense. “You won’t get any argument from me, Doctor Adeyemi. It’s been a privilege working…”

Ngozi brushed him away, “Save the flattery for someone who’ll believe it. You’re as skilled as I am and you’ve been here longer. We have work to do – and two of us may be the only ones who can accomplish it.” She paused. “When we finally tracked down the initial outbreak of the AIDS virus; and finally eradicated Ebola, we got cocky.”

“We didn’t,” Ibrahim said as he settled onto his lab chair. Another wave of his hand and his virtual computer screen materialized over the lab bench. “We know what we’re dealing with here. Climate change cooled Sahara and brought rain it hasn’t seen for over a thousand years. We’re afraid it’s also reactivated extinct pathogens.”

Ngozi sighed. “That’s why I came home. There’s something going on up north – it feels like a disaster waiting to happen. But there’s no proof,” she gestured at the SEM. “We’ll never get it if we have to work with stone knives and bear skins!”

Ibrahim grinned, “Thank you so much, doctor! These are the tools I used to earn my doctorate!”

Ngozi let herself lean forward until her forehead rested on the microscope’s control panel. “No offense intended, Doctor Eto’o Fils. It just frustrates me. We conquered hundreds of diseases with tools less complex than this, but I’m less afraid of disease than I am of attitude.”

Ibrahim puffed a laugh and said, “We thought we had climate change under control – and then it flipped from warming trends to cooling trends and wild solar weather.”

“We can’t control attitudes the way we can control viruses and bacteria – a few antivirals here and a vaccination campaign there. It’s this damnable community attitude.”

“That’s why I came back to Lago. So many western doctors think curing the common cold by fighting it with a molecule-evolving mutation smart drug signified that they’d claimed the Grail.”

“Monty Python and the Holy,” Ngozi said.

“I take it you experienced the movie?”

She sat up and gave him a sad grin, “With both English and American friends. You’d be startled how different their responses are.”

“How so?”

She shrugged, “I can’t quantify it. The movie was identical, but the two groups of people – all who’d seen it dozens of times – laughed at totally different places and repeated totally different lines. And I laughed at different times from both of them! It was embarrassing both times!”

Ibrahim sighed. “We need to get back to work. I’ll get back online and see if can’t at least get a virtual QTM to work for us.”

She called up the next slide and got to work, muttering, “If we can’t beat this now, it’s going to go global in ten months.”

He shot her a look and added an emphatic plea to his email just before he sent it.

Names: ♀ Nigeria; ♂ Cameroon

July 10, 2021

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Science Fiction Has Become TOO SERIOUS (aka HOPELESS)…

NOT using the Programme Guide of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention, ConZEALAND (The First Virtual World Science Fiction Convention; to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education – which I now have!)), 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…

At NEW SCIENTIST, on 19 May 2021, Simon Ings, who writes for New Scientist about books, films and all things culture wrote the article referenced below and immediately caught my attention because it expressed a feeling I’ve had for some time. Ings is an English novelist and science writer living in London. He’s written a number of novels, short prose and articles for national newspapers, and is an arts editor at New Scientist. His non-fiction book The Eye: A Natural History delved into the science of vision exploring the chemistry, physics and biology of the eye. He has collaborated with M. John Harrison on short fiction “The Dead” and “The Rio Brain”. He has also collaborated on short fiction with Charles Stross.

This means to me that, as he has much to say, he has much to back up his opinions with.

In his article that looked at “works at the online European Media Arts Festival, he wonders in print, “Has science fiction become too serious?”, adding, “Sci-fi has become the only way to talk about today's problems, and that means it has lost its ability to help us imagine better futures…”

Architect and attendee at the festival Liam Young, said, “Sci-fi used to be full of such possibilities, but he argues that these days it has become our favourite way of explaining to ourselves, over and over, the disasters engulfing us and our planet. The once hopeful genre ceded ground to dystopia, leaving us “stranded in the long now… waiting for the end of the end of the world”.

“If this all sounds rather grim, even hopeless, I don’t think the selection or even the [media] works individually are to blame…the problem lies in science fiction: it has ceased to be a playground and has become instead a deadly serious way of explaining our world…[what we] have yet to find is some other way – less technocratic, perhaps, and more political and spiritual – of imagining a better future.”

What’s scary is that I think that this is true of written SF as well.

Currently up for the “Emmy award of science fiction”, the Hugo, are several novels and short stories that depict bleak, hopeless futures.

I can’t speak for all of science fiction, but I CAN speak about my favorite hard science fiction magazine, ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact.

I just finished reading the May/June 2021 issue. I’ve been reading ANALOG since I was a teenager, discovering it on the magazine racks of my local library, I started reading shortly after I finished devouring my junior high school’s SF collection. What began with John Christopher’s WHITE MOUNTAIN trilogy in 7th grade, had morphed into the PERN books of Anne McCaffery, Robert A Heinlein’s juveniles, as well as Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, JG Ballard’s short story collection, VERMILLION SANDS; and not Ursula K. LeGuin’s EARTHSEA books, but THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS and THE LATHE OF HEAVEN (among others).

ANALOG was always been filled with writing that pointed to positive futures. Even when I read John Brunner’s “Who Steals my Purse?” in 1973, a full two years before Vietnam ended in a bust for the US, he offered a positive possible outcome of the conflict – an opportunity not only for healing, but also for building a better world on the ashes of disaster. It wasn’t a rosy picture, but he allowed for hope in a hopeless mire of an undeclared war.

The May/June issue of ANALOG isn’t bereft of hope, but it feels decidedly grim. The darkness opens with the guest editorial, which concludes with “Is it even possible to create a voluntary, world-wide pause on a regular basis?” reflecting the author’s suggestion that that is the best way to save the planet…

A few stories later, we have an incredibly wealthy man able to take an incredibly expensive treatment so that he will effectively live forever. Cool biotech, but sucky for the rest of the poor planet. In another, a man working on the surface of an alien world looking for ways for the corporation to make money, finds alien life – then buries it so that the evil corporation (implying that all corporations are, by definition, evil?) won’t find it and exploit it. Another depicts the inevitable birth of piracy on the high metallic asteroids. Another, the futility of deceptive religion. A time traveler whose fondest wish is to travel through time, figures out how to do it – and materializes in the future to find that he absolutely DID IT!…but NOT in space.

By NO MEANS are “ALL!” of the stories negative; but there are more than there seemed to be when I started reading the magazine, and I don’t think that the darker view of the future started when Donald Trump came into power. I think we started sliding into grimmer futures in September of 2001. Since then, the future seems to be doomed to be subsumed by a present in which wealth, evil capitalism, evil religion, stupid people (not scientists, regular people who don’t want to understand science (personally, the T-shirt that reads “I Believe In Science” gives me the willies. Science isn’t something you do or don’t’ “believe in”. It’s about proposing a way to solve a problem, gather data on the solution, then see if the data support the effectiveness of the solution.

“I Believe the Science” would be better, but that’s just me as a science teacher of almost forty years of experience…). Liam Young may have already hit the nail on the head, “Sci-fi used to be full of such possibilities, but…these days it has become our favourite way of explaining to ourselves…the disasters engulfing us and our planet.

As well, commoners haven’t fallen in line to get COVID19 vaccinations (I got mine as soon as I could get the appointments!), either, remaining skeptical of recombinant DNA, and the frantic push to get everyone vaccinated. I myself, and my science teacher colleagues bear some responsibility for that opacity! We just never really address vaccinations in ANY standard biology curriculum I ever used.

Commoners and the poor also appear unprepared to sacrifice modern civilization in order for the wealthy and scientists to deflect Anthropogenic Warming (which we don’t write any more, but which is STILL what it’s all about) and create a world for them to live safely in.

Of course, this spate of dark futures could certainly be read as cautionary tales. I can’t argue the “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin, or Nevil Shute’s ON THE BEARCH, or Stephen King’s THE STAND are anything but grim…

But…But…

I think Simon Ings has made an astute – and possibly true -- observation when he writes, “…science fiction…has ceased to be a playground and has become instead a deadly serious way of explaining our world…”

Now what can I do to change that trajectory?

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25033351-900-has-science-fiction-become-too-serious/#ixzz6xt0rR6JI
Image: https://www.gotquestions.org/img/OG/apocalypse.jpg

July 6, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 504

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: Realism-Induced Horror (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealismInducedHorror), specifically Mundane Horror – https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MundaneHorror
Current Event: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57707530

Inna Safin looked up and shook her head, saying, “There’s nothing we can do. Everything we try, they block.”

Semyon Kazansky sighed, staring at the meter-wide screen, “The thing is that they’re just as smart as we are.”

Inna snorted, “Smarter. They’re making money hand-over-fist, and we’re sitting here, pretending to be Americans, and driving to work in the middle of the night for government pay.”

Semyon nodded, smiling faintly, “At least our pay is in American dollars and not bitcoin or Rubles.”

“There is that.” She reached out to turn off the screen, “I think I’m done for the day. I can’t think of anything else we can do.” She stood, groaning, hunched over a moment before she could straighten a spine bent most of the night. “I always feel like crap when I’m done. My back hurts, my feet are swollen, If it weren’t for helping the world be a safer place, I’d quit and join the cyberterrorists.”

He looked up at her, “You wouldn’t. Your heart is too pure.”

She sighed. “I was a captain in the Russian Space Force. I couldn’t have been TOO pure.”

He hummed. “Didn’t know that part of your past. I was in the SVR.”

Her eyes widened, “You really do everything people whisper about?”

He looked up, raising his eyebrows. He looked both ways, grinned an evil grin, widening his eyes and leaned toward her, whispering, “Way, way worse.” He bounced his eyebrows.

She burst out laughing, then abruptly sobered. “What if we could do that?”

“Do what?”

“Make our response to cyberterrorism actually painful?” She sat down again, turning on her screen. She hunched over her keyboard a moment later, typing furiously. Her English words morphed into Cyrillic, which came out as gibberish until the computer corrected and started to respond to her typing correctly.

His eyes grew wider and his jaw dropped open. He turned to his own computer and started typing. Shortly his own words drifted into Cyrillic, though his keyboard changed faster.

When she sat back, Inna looked at Semyon. She whispered, “I think this is just barely short of Frankenstein’s Monster.”

His voice was soft as well, “More like an avenging angel. Or demon.”

“Either way, they could cause some really serious damage,” she said.

“Worse than that,” Semyon’s voice dropped to a bare whisper, “This thing is like a nightmare come-to-life.” He paused, adding, “I’m pretty close to messing my pants just sitting here.”

“What if we tested it?” said Inna. “Just one cyberterrorist. One that targeted kids…”

Names: ♀, ♂ -- Russian
Image: https://cdn.britannica.com/40/11740-004-50816EB1/Boris-Karloff-Frankenstein-monster.jpg

July 3, 2021

WRITING ADVICE: Writing the Alien – God, Jesus, Earth, and Intelligences “Out There”

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


While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome! (This essay first appeared in December of 2020.)


https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3a/eb/83/3aeb8303cd61baaaff46a45fe45b7847.jpg

As a Christian since I was seventeen and a science fiction fan and writer since I was thirteen, I understand the SF community’s objection to Earth-based religions. Mostly the arguments grant that religion is fine, but it’s a totally local phenomenon, that is, the only Christians in the universe exist on Earth. Any kind of universal religion would be impossible.

I can appreciate the argument. It seems obvious that Jesus, Mohammed, Siddhartha Gautama, Moses, Brahma, Laozi, and others, being Human, and creating their religions at various times; are in their essence no different from the Pastafarianism of Bobby Henderson. I think the majority of SF readers and writers probably fall in somewhere on the spectrum of “I’d rather wait and see” and thinking there will be a plurality of religions along the same lines as the Prophets in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (and of course, they aren’t really prophets, just manipulative aliens); the religion of DUNE (a mishmash of Human religions with bits of Roman Catholicism, Islam, possibly a bit of Buddhism with sprinklings of various other Human faiths) – and the idea that matter is all there is; there isn’t anything invisible, and “spirituality” is an aspect of Human consciousness alone.

The Wikipedia entry gives (probably) a fairly complete list of SF religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_ideas_in_science_fiction

CS Lewis had a very different point of view regarding aliens. In an essay called, “Religion and Rockets” (see THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT AND OTHER ESSAYS) it was Lewis who asked the question, “How can we, without absurd arrogance, believe ourselves to have been uniquely favored?” and “...if we discovered that no form of redemption had reached them, then the human task might be to evangelize them…redemption, starting with us, is to work from us and through us [to the extraterrestrial beings].” He continues, “Those who are, or can become His sons, are our real brothers even if they have shells or tusks. It is spiritual, not biological, kinship that counts.”

Of course the belief of Lewis (and me) is that there is one God who made the universe – and every intelligence is given a “Garden of Eden Test”. We failed; Venusians passed. His idea about the salvation of Earth (and any other fallen intelligences) is actually best illustrated in his answer to a young person regarding the fantasy world of Narnia: “I’m not really representing the (Christian) story in symbols. I’m more saying, ‘Suppose there was a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God…went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, have been like?’”

I wrote a story some time ago that looked at a sort of map that intelligences who develop interstellar travel eventually discover. It shows stars where fallen and unfallen civilizations exist. I revised it recently and sent it out, and got a “that was close, but no thank you” from the editors.

The image above sparked these thoughts and while I’m certainly no Lewis, I’ll keep exploring the possibility that there are fallen and unfallen intelligences…I don’t THINK anyone is doing that right now. So we’ll see. As the holiday season rolls in, I might be sharing some other thoughts about this as well – and probably testing our a few more stories.

Me, writing on a different aspect of this: https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-slice-of-pie-is-there-perfect-alien.html
References: https://instituteforfaithandculture.org/blogarticles/is-christianity-compatible-the-existence-of-alienshttps://scientificgems.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/lewis-aliens-and-the-fermi-paradox/https://www.christiantoday.com/article/c.s.lewis.letter.testifies.narnia.lion.as.christ/4724.htm I tried to use this article as a reference, but it’s literally RIDDLED with inaccuracies, beginning with the date Lewis wrote the response – 8 June 1960 (THE ESSENTIAL C.S. Lewis, Ed. Lyle W. Dorsett)
Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9f/22/3b/9f223b1e57a36e14db3eb13715fbe3f9.jpg

June 29, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 503

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: Historical Fantasy (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HistoricalFantasy)
Current Event: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/bay-city/index.ssf/2015/12/the_spirit_of_christmas_was_al.html

Filip Dybdahl sighed then said, “All of the magic has gone out of the world.” He was working a potion to lay down gold circuitry on an enchanted matrix for a board to be packed off into space. The telescope the University was working on for the United Nations would help astrologers make more accurate horoscopes for each of the signatory countries. Non-signatories would just have to take their chances with fate.

Shrugging, Maja Wiig said, “Our ancestors didn’t help keep the saints alive, you know. They could have been Catholic, but chose to be Protestants instead. Killing off all the saints, as it were.”

Filip grunted. “If there was one bit of magic I could call back,” he began.

“Don’t!” Maja exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Don’t you know anything about the intersection of the real and the fantastic?”

He straightened up, thumbs going into the small of his back, shaking his head. “I had the same fundamental courses you did before I sat for my Masters in Alchemy. What are you talking about?”

“You remember when you took that elective class in Classical Egyptian Incantations?”

“Duh. Professor McGuillicudy said if I wanted to get my bachelor’s I had to take her class.”

“Yeah? Well I took a physics class instead.”

His eyes widened. “You took Planar Mathematic Spells for Physicists?”

She shrugged again. “Calculus was always fun for me. Conjuring gravity anomalies was a great way to meet boys with brains.”

“So you learned about this what, ‘intersection of the real and the fantastic’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

She scowled at him and said, “You sound pretty hostile. I don’t know if I want to tell you about it. Especially if you’re standing there ready to bite my head off. Whatever happened to your Scandinavian coolness?”

“It heated up when we got here. The Massachusetts Institute of Thaumaturgy isn’t exactly a place where I can lay back on my frozen butt and bask in the glories of my previous accomplishments! I’ve had to fight against these Gud forbannet Amerikanere for everything I’ve gotten.” He swung a flat-handed chop at her. “You have, too!”

She surrendered with both hands up and a laugh, “You’re the one who wanted to bring back the magic of Christmas!”

He opened his mouth to continue his attack, then closed it. He closed his eyes, then put dug one thumb into each temple, adding, “I’m tired. Not myself.” He looked up at her and for a moment, his gaze was bleak. “And I miss home. It’s Christmas…”

Names: ♀ Norway; ♂ Norway
Image:
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/98/71/e5/9871e52bbc09c525af21b8f6471eab15.jpg

June 26, 2021

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #29: “Breaking Into Space Station COURAGE” (Submitted 3 Times Since May 2018, Revised 1 time)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver. In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line:
When a practice emergency becomes a REAL emergency, two girls must figure out how to work together to save their lives.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
Two thirteen-year-old girls are ready to take the test that will allow them to work under supervision outside of Space Station COURAGE. Can they overcome their dislike of each other to save their lives?

Opening Line:
Her stomach floated outside the airlock of SPACE STATION COURAGE.

Onward:
It was still inside her body. Candace Mooney had read what to expect in microgravity. She refused to get space sick in front of the other thirteen-year-old floating across from her. She said, “We need to calculate the orbital insertion trajectory so we can…”

“That’s like trying to program a computer before you turn it on,” said Mayra Mendez-Ybarra. “We need to build the satellite before we calculate anything.” She turned around slowly with a jet from her finger. Parts of a satellite floated near her, tied with elastic bands.

What Was I Trying To Say?
Honestly? I was trying to break into a market that has been closed to me since I made a stink about getting paid. The magazine is high in its field and has a pay-on-publication policy. Many writers are as happy as I was to accept that because getting published in it carries a great deal of weight. They had a brief period of financial crisis, and I after my story was published, I sent emails several times asking for payment. Then I did an end run around the current editor to the editor that that had published me. She must have said SOMETHING, because I was paid very shortly thereafter. BUT, I have not sold anything to them since then…

Or, the story was total crap.

The Rest of the Story:
The girls work together to get back into the space station safely, doing a bit of engineering and taking advantage of one them having an eidetic memory…um…conveniently…

End Analysis:
Possibly a bit too much coincidence in this story – it’s less about them figuring things out, like in “Mystery on Space Station COURAGE” than it is about remembering stuff at the perfect moment…

I thought I learned a long time ago that in kid’s stories, it has to be about the kid’s actions. Coincidence in a short short (actually it’s flash fiction, technically) is OK, but only sort of off stage. This was too blatant and really not about them working together – not at its core.

Can This Story Be Saved?
Absolutely, I might even submit the story under my daughter’s name just to see what happens, though I’d have to create a new Submittable account and I don’t know if it would be worth the effort…but maybe!

June 22, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 502

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: whistle-blower averts scientific disaster
Current Event: http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/news/x1907513188/Panel-Dam-report-is-reliable, (background) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_River

The essence of this story is that the Klamath has four dams on it. For some time (and, I might point out, under an EeeeeVil RePUBliCan Administration) this river was intently studied. Just before GW Bush left office, an agreement was reached in principal; Obama et al made a detailed scientific study and from what I gather, the decision that has to be made by March 31, 2012 is contentious, bitter and filled with lots of angry people pointing their fingers and shouting obscenities and invective.

Republicans and Democrats BOTH!

Into this little story, how about we toss two teenagers and stir in Shakespeare; in particular Romeo and Juliet?

Let’s make it interesting, too:

Torina Lawvor is a smart and sassy high school senior who plans on leaving the Klamath Basin, going to UCLA and becoming a lawyer to return and practice in the area. Strong-willed, sharp-humored, she’s driven away more boys than she can count. She’s OK with that – she plans on getting the letters JD after her name BEFORE she gets the letters MRS in front of it. Her dad is an artist and Mom is on the Klamath Tribal Council; she’s the youngest of five kids. The only girl, all of her brothers have been fishing guides, computer programmers or farmers.

Sander Baine is a smart and argumentative high school senior who plans on going to New York to go to film school at Ithaca College. He believes that life on Earth needs to be documented in a format that doesn’t depend on delicate electronic and digital storage technologies. His dad is probably going to be the dam destruction Project Supervisor, and he’s there to scope things out and check out the living situation. Tomás’ mom died of a particularly nasty and fast-growing breast cancer when he was twelve. He was an only child.

They meet – and they are on opposite sides of the controversy. Mom Lawvor and Dad Baine do NOT like each other and they both think the other is arrogant and narrow-minded.

Threats. Counter-threats.

And Torina and Sander both love running long distance – and literally bump into each other on a running trail. They eventually laugh – and then part “enemies” when they find out their parents on opposite sides of the Klamath Basin controversy. Then they meet again. Then another time. Then they end up helping to find and rescue a lost child...and nearly die when extremists set off what panicked residents call bombs, but the police say they were “fireworks out of control”. They find out the truth and even though they sometimes can’t stand each other, they...

Image: https://mk0spaceflightnoa02a.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/49956692363_f73a7a6a69_k.jpg

June 19, 2021

Slice of PIE: Creating Alien Aliens, Part 1 (Redux...)

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…In 2020, this was my most popular post. I bring it back up because I'm writing about aliens again and I need to do some thinking about what I'm trying to do...


I have created three universes.

In the first, it’s Humans alone. We genetically engineer ourselves to fit the varied environments we encounter. The overarching conflict is between the Empire of Man and the Confluence of Humanity. The first considers someone Human if they are 65% or more “Original Human” DNA. If you’re less, you’re considered SubHuman. The second sees ANY genetic manipulation to be A-OK. 

In the second, it’s us and mobile plants. Humans have gone deep into space and encountered the WheetAh, mobile plants reminiscent of a giant saguaro cactus crossed with a pitcher plant. The conflict is as obvious as it is inevitable – we eat plants. They eat rodents; hence the pejoratives each lays on the other. We call them Weeds; they call us Weasels.

In the third, we are junior members of the Unity of Sapients, some fifty extremely different intelligences (I can’t say species – as in Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species – as there are smart minerals, arthropods, collective, herd, and individual intelligences in the Unity. We haven’t even been certified sapient. (definition: adjective – having or showing great wisdom or sound judgment; Orig –1425–75; late Middle English sapyent < Latin sapient- (stem of sapiēns, present participle of sapere to be wise, literally: to taste, have taste), equivalent to sapi- verb stem + -ent- -ent

So, I’ve written stories in all three universes. How many in each have been published?

Confluence/Empire: I’ve written seven; only one has been published.
WheetAh: Written two; one published.
Unity: Written seventeen, four published…which seems good, until I point out that the four published stories didn’t contain aliens.

So, I CAN’T write believable aliens.

Why not?

Writers who have written believable aliens: David Brin, Julie Czerneda, Hal Clement, James White, Alan Dean Foster, CJ Cherryh, Larry Niven, Octavia Butler, SL Viehl, and others that escape me; clearly depict them. But HOW?

I’ve been doing some superficial analysis and it seems that when Humans and aliens interact closely and the alienness is narrowed down to one or two SPECIFIC differences; the ones that somehow cause the problem; that’s when the aliens are acceptable.

For example, CJ Cherryh’s atevi. Basically giant Humans with golden eyes and coal black skin, bipedal, five digits, and sexually compatible with Humans (though not reproductively compatible); have one difference: they have no concept of love. In place of love, they have a profound sense of association. All large, mammalian life forms on the Earth of the atevi have this same biological urge – to associate under one strong leader. The single Human who interacts with them, Bren Cameron, understands this and can speak their language fluently – but he still makes mistakes when under pressure to assume that the atevi “feel” about him as he does about them. This creates countless situations of tension and have driven the story line for some TWENTY novels over a quarter of a century of time. The reason I go back repeatedly is because I want to see what happens next as the Human population grows and the atevi advance in technology and eventually reach parity with Humans; and possibly visit Earth.

Another example is James White’s famous Sector General novels. Twelve novels spanning over thirty years of writing, they depict the life of a small group of Humans on a massive space station away from the “main thoroughfares” of a vast interstellar civilization as they interact with countless alien cultures and medical personnel. Languages, medicine, morality, humor, and emotions are touchstones – and points of conflict – for the series.

So – what have I learned with my brief analysis?

1) Aliens and Humans HAVE to interact closely; intimately. (I tried this with “May They Rest” and it was quickly bounced by five magazines and my favorite, to which I’d sold several stories…) In “A Complications of Sapients”, my character and an alien, “cockroach” sapient interacted VERY intimately – and didn’t sell…

2) I need more aliens than Humans. I did this in “Peanut Butter and Jellyfish”, podcast from CAST OF WONDERS. It took place on a trimaran carrying cultural exchange WheetAh. Humans need to be at a disadvantage. The aliens should be at an advantage.

3) It needs to be a BROADLY threatening situation. I think I did this in “The Princess’s Brain”, but I’ve got to go back ad reread it. I DID do this in “The Krasiman, Monkey Boy, and the Frogfather”, but that didn’t sell, either.

So, I’m ready to try something new. Cron plus the above…should give me an alien story that will sell.