January 15, 2022

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: The Hero of LORD OF THE RINGS and Savior of Middle Earth – Samwise Gamgee

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…


Often dodged is the fact that JRR Tolkien was a Christian and his fiction held part of himself – his Christian self.

The late Gene Wolfe said it best: “What is impossible is to keep [my Catholicism] out. The author cannot prevent the work being his or hers.” (https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/sci-fis-difficult-genius -- often hidden behind a paywall…but it’s there)

Tolkien couldn’t hide his Christianity because his faith was one of his core beliefs. Absolutely he and his colleague CS Lewis had problems. Of course, so did the Apostle Paul; Peter – the Rock on which Jesus built his Church; and quite famously and loudly, Doubting Thomas.

But THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS are rife with Christian allegory, message, and (horrors!) preaching.

It’s also filled with contradictions. It took me until well into adulthood, after reading the books two or three (or four or five…) times, and watching the movies annually for the past decade or so, to realize that the HERO of Lord of the Rings is SAMWISE GAMGEE. Frodo was not a hero and in the end, he nearly gave Middle Earth over to Sauron. But Gollum/Smeagol – someone even LESS of a hero than Frodo and MORE under control of the Ring, defeated Frodo’s intent of keeping the ring and becoming a tool of the Dark Lord – and Gollum was amply and permanently repaid for his folly.

Cute Frodo – Minion Of The Dark Lord…NOT the image we like to keep of him. But the image of Elijah Wood holding the One Ring on the chain, at arms-length in front of his face, suspended over the fires of Mount Doom and with no intention of dropping it?

This image is deeply chilling. Even more chilling because for most of the story, I identify with FRODO. I’m the hero of the tale; the one who carries the ring into Mordor and into Mount Doom and saves the day!

But on further reflection, that’s NOT what happened. Frodo, rightfully so, is so exhausted that Sam has to fight Gollum. Sam has to pick up Frodo and carry him up the side of the erupting volcano (of Doom, if you prefer). Then he falls, beans Gollum, and Frodo runs the rest of the way. Sam follows him, fully expecting Frodo to have thrown the Ring over the edge…

He plunges into despair when it’s clear Frodo will NOT divert the ultimate subjugation of Middle Earth under the vile, satanic reign of Sauron, the Dark Lord. Sam watches as Frodo drops the chain and prepares to put the Ring on; to keep the Ring; to be crushed by Sauron who will use the Ring to rule ALL…

As the moment of Sauron’s victory moves ever closer, the dark minions of Sauron begin to hammer the survivors of the Fellowship of the Ring; the last King of Man is literally under the foot of Sauron; Gimli, Legolas, Pippin, and Meriadoc are falling. The Eye is blazing ever brighter…

Then Gollum knocks Sam unconscious, likely with the intent of KILLING him…and the ancient evil that is Gollum leaps, bites Frodo’s finger off, drops it, then rejoices in possessing the One Ring…and Frodo tackles him…and the both go over the edge of the cliff…

Gollum doesn’t even notice that he’s falling, and even when he HITS the lava, he only has eyes for the Ring…he sinks, and the Ring begins to melt…

And Sam doesn’t run away. He rescues Frodo from the Abyss, from certain, eternal doom. HE REFUSES TO LET GO…

Sound like Someone Else we know? Sam has also remained the repository of all that is good in the Shire, which is remarkably Heaven-like…and Sam is there, knowing EXACTLY what happened and deflecting all glory and honor to Frodo…loving him so much.

And so, Samwise Gamgee, the most humlesest hobbit, sends Frodo on his way to eternal life with the Elves…

I rest my case.

Resource: https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/08/good-news-return-king-michael-jahosky-bradley-birzer.html?utm_source=The+Imaginative+Conservative+Newsletter&utm_campaign=fe2fd67cf0-Weekly+Newsletter_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6c8d563f42-fe2fd67cf0-132633794&mc_cid=fe2fd67cf0&mc_eid=41c39978cb&fbclid=IwAR0HRv2oj5r88QMP1PhykJntjEer-5BNXaMaGZjF_76wuL2mu0X0qnfUZKU,
Image: https://fictionhorizon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/LordoftheRings06-scaled-1024x576.jpg

January 11, 2022

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 530

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: Dystopia Is Hard
Current Event: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/28/us-korea-north-pyongyang-idUSBRE96R0BB20130728

Adéla Stoica hung her head. She’d practiced abject submission just like all the other teenagers in the Orientation Class did. Beside her, Enio Cassar did the same thing.

What the Master before them didn’t see was Adéla open her eyes and shoot a sideways glance.

This time she beat Enio to the punch and could barely hold in the giggle that bubbled up inside of her when he opened his eyes an instant later. They were supposed to be contemplating the worthlessness of their own lives in submission to the Great Cause. She sighed – an acceptable sound – because the Masters of the Great Cause thought they’d beaten everyone down.

Standing before the class, Master Farkas scowled at her. He said to the class in Esperanto, the Language of Submission, “Estas bone ke vi kontempli vian propran senvaloreco ĉiutage, kaj konsideru la grandecon de la Lando anstataŭe.

This time Enio sighed. It was the motto of the regime, “It is good that you contemplate your own worthlessness every day, and consider the greatness of the Country instead.” The education of the youth after fourteen years of the Society of the Great Cause was predictable. Master Farkas continued, “It should make you feel the weight of that responsibility so deeply that your spirit groans with the burden of it. It is only through sacrifice to society that the individual might live best. It is only through society that all wisdom, all knowledge and all discovery might be directed by the National Science Foundation. Through that wisdom, humanity might live again in the luxury to which it had become accustomed.”

Enio muttered, “Ai mund të marrë zbetë e tij idiot horseshit gojën dhe të fus atë deri gomar e tij, ku ai erdhi nga." Like everyone else at the camp, their mother language was the one they cursed and made love in; Esperanto was the language they learned to mock in; English was the language everyone could communicate across ethnic walls in. Of course, there were to BE no ethnic walls because the Great Cause united all of North America into one Cause – the betterment of humanity.

It was too bad Master Farkas was also a linguist from the Old Order. His gaze arrested Enio and he said in the same language, “Merrni ass tuaj i dobët këtu lart tani, ju mut pak.” Enio’s eyes bulged as Master Farkas added, “Your girlfriend can come up here, too.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Enio blurted.

Adéla elbowed him and they stood their ground. The line behind theirs shoved them forward and the lines in front of them opened up. She looked at them and said, “Cowards.” But none of them looked the slightest bit afraid. They looked bored. Like they wanted something interesting to happen; kill the mold growing on their lives of dull sameness. Like jackals. When Master Farkas looked up at them though, their faces transformed to slack idiocy then morphed into hanging heads.

He gestured to them and led them out of the classroom, his white lab coat flapping behind him. Two other technicians wearing the shorter, lower-ranked blue lab coats went into the classroom to take his place. Leading them down a half dozen short flights of stairs, he stopped at a metal door and used his passkey to unlock it. 
Pushing it open, Adéla and Enio could see that a huge screen covered one wall and that a face filled the screen, looking at them. Master Farkas grabbed Enio’s arm and shoved him into the room. Enio sighed and walked in. “I can’t believe you’re doing this…” The door slammed ponderously.

He touched Adéla’s shoulder and said, “You’re next.”

She knew exactly what was coming and shook her head, remembering the really fascinating books she’d read as a precocious two year old. First she grabbed her older brother’s copy of THE HUNGER GAMES and read it, then the other six sequels. She fell in love with Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES books. Devoured Haddix’s THE HIDDEN. Every dystopian book she could find from HG Well’s TIME MACHINE to the seven LAST SURVIVORS books; she read and cherished in her heart.

Then the Great Cause overtook the countries of North America – and her life had been tedious boredom ever since...

Names: ♀ Czech, Romania ; ♂Albania, Malta Image: https://www.carthage.edu/live/image/gid/169/width/600/height/800/22601_BlueOrigin_NewShepard_NS10_Launch.rev.1548431292.jpg

January 8, 2022

REDUX: POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS -- Dream of Suspended Animation; Nightmare of Cryonics

In this feature, I'll be diving deep into my early essays to see if I can find anything interesting or if things have changed in the fifteen years since I started posting. If you find something interesting or want to talk about the post, feel free to respond here or DM me and we can continue the discussion!

This piece first appeared in November of 2009.

Since I started reading books and watching science fiction movies, I have dreamed of going into a suspended animation tube like the Robinson’s did in LOST IN SPACE and sleeping in my starship as it crossed incredible distances – then waking in orbit around a new world.

Even as I grew older, the idea of suspended animation or human hibernation has remained a profound hope. There are hints and clues that this might be possible: dogs have been frozen for brief periods and most of them resuscitated without brain damage. Pigs with profound blood loss from an induced bleed had the volume replaced with frigid saline, the vessels repaired and were wakened. Mice breathing hydrogen sulfide gas had their metabolism reduced ten-fold – though the experiment did not work with larger mammals, it may be a matter of finding the right combination to work for humans. Chemical induction of hibernation holds some possibilities as well. Clearly, animals sleep for extended periods of time; some amphibians are frozen solid and then thaw unharmed. There is a clear movement to growing this technology that will end with procedures that have applications in human and animal medicine, emergency medical services as well as my own dream of long-term space travel.

Enter the nightmare of cryonics. While I’d heard rumors about this decades ago as well as rumors that Gene Rodenberry of STAR TREK fame had been cryopreserved (he wasn’t – a small portion of his ashes were put into orbit in 1997. That orbit decayed by 2004 and those remains were incinerated on reentry), I didn’t actually find any facts until reading the book, GREAT MAMBO CHICKEN AND THE TRANSHUMAN CONDITION (Ed Regis, 1991). There, cryonics was portrayed, if not in shining light then in a favorable light. For years, while gently mocking the concept of freezing bodies and brains for later healing and revival as it occurred in the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode, “The Neutral Zone”; I held little hope that such a process might become feasible.

Now even that faint hope is smashed like a pumpkin on Halloween night. In his  book, FROZEN A True Story: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death, Larry Johnson (with Scott Baldyga), brings to light truly horrific details perpetrated by the California company, Alcor. The very last hope that ANYONE might die and then be revived by future “magical medicine”, has been permanently dashed when shown the conditions under which the cryopatients were processed. The only way anyone might ever be recovered from Alcor is by finding a cell and cloning an entire new person. Then the purpose of cryopreservation would be defeated – the memories and personality of the patient would be entirely lost.

Worst of all though, now that the charade is revealed and doubtless about to collapse, any chance that current scientists might advance any real discoveries leading to breakthroughs or the development of a real science of cryopreservation are gone, perhaps forever. And THAT makes me mad. How about you?

One last question: if someone were cryopreserved and then resuscitated, would their soul come back from heaven, hell, paradise, limbo or nirvana?

==RESPONSES==

WILL they come up with good science for it? Or will it now fall by the wayside like other promising technologies of the past that happen to hit a bad stretch
==
Like, I still wonder: WHERE'S MY FLYING CAR?
==
Cryopreservation on the level suggestion by science fiction is worth a muse at best. But it concerns me when modern medicine and science assumes the role of God. I don't believe any one man has the responsibility to dictate life or death, save Jesus Christ.

Still the medical implications of such an advancement would be monumental. But as it sounds from the book written about Alcor, what horrors will we go through to discover such technology?

Finally, if one were to be cryopreserved what WOULD happen to the soul? On the one hand, if it resided in heaven, I for one would be upset if I was resuscitated, and on the other, quite relieved (and possibly traumatized) if I returned from hell. I guess I lean more towards limbo, but I suppose it all is in regards to what you believe about the soul.
==
I think that's an excellent idea for a story: a theological take on someone being, well, resurrected after the cure for the disease that killed them is discovered.
==
Isn't there a, well, a folktale, a Church myth, if you will, that after Lazarus was resurrected he never smiled again because the Earth was so horrible after Heaven? Perhaps it would be like that...



January 4, 2022

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 529

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: immortality
Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortal_DNA_strand_hypothesis
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3109559/

While the Wikipedia entry explaining the Immortal DNA strand isn’t exactly a current event, the second entry IS and though it is a medical paper and written in medical language, it happens to be significant to the life of our family.

To make this understandable to lay people, I’d like to use those worn-out tropes of horror: vampires.

Let’s just say that the vampire DNA strand is immortal, but because so many vampires were killed in the 19th and early 20th century by various vampire slayers such as Koshiko Kamiyama, John Averill, Twelve String Digby (http://www.fvza.org/tophunters.html), Van Helsing and Buffy, it has become widely spread and doesn’t produce vampires any more.

It’s lengendarily reported that the vampire slayings were in response to an outbreak of vampires in the 17th and 18th Centuries (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-real-vampire-slayers-397874.html).

It is the 21st Century now and people travel everywhere all the time. A chance college meeting leads to romance for a couple with old, Eastern European roots – Curtis Allen is the result and he discovers his vampiric leanings not long after his mom is transferred to the 3M headquarters in Minneapolis. He attends a prestigious private high school…but the story begins when his dad has to tell him about the birds, the bees and the bloodlust…

“Listen, Vlad, you’re thirteen now, there are things you need to know about yourself…”

Vlad snorted, “Dad, I know all about sex, so you don’t…”

“I know you know all about sex! This has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with a family…problem.”

Vlad frowned and said, “What are you talking about?”

His dad cleared his throat. “Listen, son, this is hard for me to talk about, but it has to do with when you get passionate with a girl…”

Vlad laughed. “Dad, you know I’m gay, right?”

His dad sighed, “A father can hope, can’t he? It doesn’t matter the orientation. It’s just that when you get passionate, you can…nibble on people.”

Vlad had no idea why it happened, but he was abruptly so embarrassed, his pale skin flushed red. His throat got tight, and he suddenly found that his hands, sitting in his lap, were worthy of intense study. He managed to croak, “Dad…”

“Listen, son, I can’t sugar coat this, so I’m just gonna say it out loud…”

“Don’t, Dad!”

“You’re a vampire, son, and when you ‘nibble’ on people, you’re passing the virus to them.”

Of all the conversations he’d imagined having with Dad, this was one he’d never thought to rehearse. He opened his mouth then closed it. Finally he managed, “You mean anyone that…has ever had a bite…is gonna become a vampire?”

Names: ♂ Romania 

January 1, 2022

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: DISCON III #2 – Assistive Technologies


Using the Programme Guide of the 2021 World Science Fiction Convention, DisCON III, which I WOULD have been attending in person if I felt safe enough to do so in person AND it hadn’t been changed to the week before the Christmas Holidays…I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the Program Guide. I will be using the events to drive me to distraction or revelation – as the case may be. The link is provided below where this appeared!


Assistive Technologies: The vast majority of the world’s population uses some kind of prosthetic or assistive device, from glasses, to mobility aids, to those jar-opening doohickies. How should they change our conceptions of disability and what using a prosthetic device really means? What bleeding-edge assistive technologies are out there right now that may seem like science fiction? Do engineers overthink it, and are some technologies impositions. And when is simpler, better?

“Hey, Siri?” “OK, Google”…those are the two this family uses. Assistive technologies help us do things we do more efficiently. They are a technological solution to a problem SOMEONE perceived and created an answer to.

Of course, the assistance can’t POSSIBLY come for free, can it? Do we invite these technologies into our lives while surrendering privacy – while surrender protection against an intimate invasion into our lives and unconsciously supply information about our lives? Lastly, who decided what technology we needed?

This session was specifically designed to talk about people who have life challenges (aka disabilities or a bit less insulting, are differently abled) and the technologies that have been invented to “help” them.

First of all, it seemed the most important thing to this panel was to: ASK PEPOLE WHAT THEY NEED!

The way the assistive technology world works today is that some brilliant geek invents something and then says, “OK, what problem is this going to solve?” Companies work the same way, coming up with this tech or that tech, then marketing it for a perceived need; rarely asking their target consumer, “Is this something you need?”

The example one of them gave was that someone had invented a wheelchair with treads: https://9b16f79ca967fd0708d1-2713572fef44aa49ec323e813b06d2d9.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/1140x_a10-7_cTC/20180123lf-Wheelchair03-1569211736.jpg That’s all fine and good, BUT…they have a tendency to tip (narrow wheelbase) and they suck the batteries dry in very short order. Nice try, but no one seemed to ask the operators what they wanted…

It's a case of what one the panelists called, “Cool Tech vs Needs of the Users”. One of them noted that the CYBERPUNK genre was about AUGMENTING people rather than “fixing” them. Compensating for a disability and not the ableist attitude that someone with a disability has to be “fixed” or that the condition is a problem that demands a solution.

Another example is deafness. There are individuals who wish to remain deaf: the deaf community has its own language, traditions, and leaders: just as ANY community on EARTH has its language, traditions, and leaders. I live in Minnesota about fifteen miles out of downtown Minneapolis and St Paul. To someone who lives in Los Angeles or New York or Tokyo, my life might seem stunted, bereft of REAL entertainment, convenience, and opportunity. Surely no where near as rich as if I lived in one of THOSE cities. It’s a matter of perspective.

One of the panelists asked the question, “If you want to jump like an Olympic high jumper and have your legs removed and replaced with biocybernetics legs, are you disabled? What kind of impact will augmentations have on the Olympics themselves? Is a world record still a world record if it’s achieved by someone who has, say, springs for legs?

Another problem the panel saw was the common practice of “magical healing” in fantasy fiction and in science fiction, the limbs are replaced and “make them better”. What’s wrong with how they ARE? One panelist noted that Dr. Xavier of the X-Men never walks again, using his wheelchair as an extension of himself rather than something made to “fix him”. This of course, highlights another issue for people with disabilities: for the most part, they are INVISIBLE, which people are happy to do. It’s easier to not think about someone with a disability rather than look forward to expanding their relationships.

Last of all, “Ableism colors what ‘solvers’ come up with.” The assumption by someone with legs or someone who can hear, is that someone who has no legs or who is deaf WANTS THOSE THINGS BACK. So the ableist solver blazes on ahead, and then presents a person with a disability with their AMAZING solution, then step back and wait for the accolades and praise. When it doesn’t come, they’re angry and figure the person they worked so hard to fix is an ungrateful slob…

Moving back to cyberpunk, brain chip implants, like the “memory chip” in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel, MEMORY. “Miles Vorkosigan is appointed Imperial Auditor so he can penetrate Barrayar’s intelligence and security operations. The head of it is Miles’ former boss, and he is failing physically and mentally. Miles sets out to find out why -- and who, if anyone, is behind his rapid decline. The discovery that the man’s memory chip is degrading creates problems on galactic, local, planetary, political, and personal scale.”

That “chip” is something technology is exploring today. Bruce Bethke raised this question here: https://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/2021/12/todays-free-story-idea.html?fbclid=IwAR3Ijk87lQtPEU1ARhPD4pc3Q3u88jAmZsCOJuYSOHIO9pqCof-Tzp17sro at STUPEFYNG STORIES…

“By 2041 most good subjects citizens will have a tiny real-time streaming editor—let’s call it a ‘SED’ chip—implanted in their brain, probably in the arcuate fasciculus, between Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area. Thanks to this wonderful little invention our citizen of the future will be completely unable to either intentionally or inadvertently blurt out any career- or life-destroying BadThink, or even to understand any such words, if somehow heard.”

If you don’t have the chip, will you be considered disabled? What’s the solution for people who are unable to have the chip, or worse, just can get used to using it? One thing all the participants agreed on, is that while Star Wars and Star Trek have made the disabled vanish, WE as writers can include them in our stories; with the caveat: IF YOU NOT DISABLED, DO NOT WRITE A "DISABLED STORY". If I may interpolate "Don't tell a disabled story", maybe this would do: "You cannot imagine what it's like, so don't try to 'be disabled' in your work."

Consider your average senior citizen who is 80 years old or older. Born in 1942, their young lives saw the use of the first nuclear weapon. The end of a world war, the invention of…well, countless things. Here are 66: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/g24668233/best-inventions/

So, what exactly constitutes a disability today. WHAT WILL CONSTITUTE A DISABILITY IN FORTY YEARS? Something to think about; something to inspire you…though possibly something to depress you!

Program Schedule: https://discon3.org/schedule/
Image: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQY860vAI2izm2g2mUgxzT14fGVmoGh66B51g&usqp=CAU

December 28, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAY 528

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

F Trope: black magic
Current Event: “In many popular video games, such as Final Fantasy, white and black magic is simply used to distinguish between healing/defensive spells (such as a "cure") and offensive/elemental spells (such as "fire") respectively, and does not carry an inherent good or evil connotation.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_magic)

Pastor Kim Dong Shik made a face and said, “I don’t dislike the game. I dislike the redefinition.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Martin Caine. A couple other boys from the youth group stood behind him, nodding.

Pastor Kim took a breath, but Trevor Mena cut him off, “You sure you’re not just trying to get us to stop playing a game you think is evil or something dumb like that?”

The pastor bit his lower lip for a moment then said, “Define ‘black magic’ for me.”

The third boy, Aagaard Zorilla said, “That’s easy – black magic is what you use to defend your characters from attack.”

“As opposed to what kind of magic?”

“White magic, of course!” said Trevor.

“Yeah, when you want to attack, you use black magic.”

“Or if you want to summon any of the elementals like earth, air, fire or water.”

Pastor Kim nodded. “So do you think that’s been the definition all along?”

All three boys looked puzzled. Finally Aagaard said, “That’s always been the definition I’ve used.”

“Care to hear a more…historical definition?”

All three rolled their eyes.

Pastor Kim laughed and nodded, saying, “Oh, I get it! Anything that’s older than you isn’t important anymore!” Even though Trevor and Aagaard laughed, Martin found himself stepping back. Pastor Kim smiled sadly then said, “So you don’t think I’m important anymore?”

The smile on the faces of two of the boys disappeared. Martin’s grew as he said, “Too bad you’re one of the only ones who noticed.” His voice had dropped an octave and his skin, instead of flushing red like a blush, was flushing black as if the toxins from pasturella pestis had flooded his blood vessels.

The pastor’s eyes bugged a bit, but Martin made a face. The old-fashioned “holy man” was supposed to run away, terrified of the spell the mage had cast over Martin a few weeks ago. The mage – a college professor Martin had heard speak at his sister’s college one night – had assured him that old-fashioned christianity wasn’t relevant, let alone imbued with the kind of power mages controlled.

When Martin had mentioned his pastor was pretty cool, the professor had laughed and asked if he wanted to be truly empowered – granted power great enough to make any old christian drop to their knees in quaking fear. Martin had shrugged and said, “Sure.”

At the moment, his chest swelled and he felt taller than he’d ever felt before. He seemed to be able to look over Aagaard and Trevor and down on Pastor Kim.

But instead of cowering, Pastor Kim…

Names: South Korean, American, Uruguayan
Image:


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

December 25, 2021

A Christmas Rumination with VERY Little Science Fiction & Science Fact!

It occurred to me this morning that many bloggers, have somewhere stored, a Christmas blog they trot out each year to look at and revisit. Below is my attempt at this venerable tradition…


Like many people, I have Christmas traditions. I watch Jim Carrey’s HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. I check out a copy of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (the version with Patrick Stewart, Star Trek:TNG’s Jean-Luc Picard playing Ebenezer Scrooge). I snuggle up to the TV to listen to Burl Ives sing in the animatronic version of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER.

Of course I read the Christmas story from Luke 1:1 – 2:20, but I dig out my old December 1997 issue of ANALOG and reread “Easter Egg Hunt: A Christmas Story” by Jeffrey Kooistra. I also find time alone to watch the video tape of a Christmas musical I scripted with music and lyrics by an old, old friend of mine, Lynn Swanson. The musical was called “Just In Time For Christmas” and was a children’s time-travel version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL with a couple of twists. Performed twice by a huge cast of kids from my church, it included both my son as an Outsider-sort of angel and my daughter as a shepherd who was watching her fields by night.

I conclude then that for me Christmas is about the past. It ranges from ancient times in far-away Israel to present day kerfuffles about what to do Christmas day when my sister is in Virginia with her “other” family and our get-together last Saturday was postponed because of a frigid blizzard and moved to January sometime and will include celebrating my mom’s 75th (As of this update, Mom passed away five years ago this past July) birthday and the fact that I’ll be working most of today at Barnes & Noble and Mom and Dad are coming for Christmas Eve dinner and I won’t be around to help get ready. 

This past includes my daughter’s concern about the commercialization of Christmas that led her to ask us to spend the money we would have used on her to get a sewing machine for an organization that teaches women in northern India to sew for a living. On the other hand, my son loves to seek out just the right gift for each person and disdains gift cards – he loves the giving part of Christmas. He started the small avalanche of gifts under the tree right now when he set out his college-student-meager presents.

My wife was talking to a cashier at a local warehouse grocery story a few hours ago and asked what the day held for her. The woman said that she hated working Christmas Eve because people were so crabby – they yell at cashiers because the store is out of “stuff” and if anyone bumps their cart, they explode into anger. As we walked out into a flurry of gently falling, diamond sparkling “crystal rain” (see Tobias Buckell’s fabulous book, CRYSTAL RAIN to discover the origin of that phrase), we talked about the cashier’s observations.

Under the guidance of Our Father Below (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Screwtape_Letters), we have taken a simple attempt to remember the birth of the Son of God and have turned it into a tension-filled extravaganza of over-spending, over-eating and secular glitz that eclipses the original pagan ritual from which it sprang.

The original event also included a kerfuffle as well as a brush with governmental bureaucracy, so maybe it was only natural that we perpetuated Mary and Joseph’s search for a place for her to have Jesus by our searches for the perfect gift, food or event.

Take a deep breath, Guy. Perhaps I need to go a bit further back in time; maybe to the announcement the angel made to Mary: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37. Maybe that’s the message I’ll take from this season – that no matter what happens: kerfuffles, angry shoppers, divergent gifting and traditions; nothing is impossible with God. Peace on Earth? He can bring it. Deep security? He can give it. Salvation for everyone? He did it. “For nothing is impossible with God.” Amen. (First published December 25, 2008, updated December 22, 2021)

December 21, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 527

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: Human Interplanetary Voyaging!
Current Event: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/04/11/nuclear-fusion-rocket-could-reach-mars-in-30-days/
Historical Background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct

Zubrinka Lakewood glanced at Penelope Ok.

Penelope glared back at him.

Zu said, “So, how are we supposed to get out of this?”

Aware of the cameras trained on them from all sides as well as their distance from anything she could push off of, Pen replied, “We’re supposed to work together...”

“Duh,” snapped Zu. “They want us to make nice so we can pretend to work together on our way to Mars.” He shrugged and floated slightly off kilter from Pen’s orientation.

“We’re not supposed to ‘make nice’, we’re supposed to work...”

“Yeah, I know. I was in the same class you were.”

“What was your avatar?”

Zu snorted. “Same as yours, what do you think?”

Pen snorted and flapped her hands experimentally. She floated in the opposite direction of Zu, leaving them with their heads at a ninety-degree angle. “So what are we going to do? The whole station is watching.”

Zu made a face, for a second his obnoxious self-confidence disappearing into worry. Then he said, “I could fart.”

Pen sighed, sympathy for him draining away. “This is a competition even though it’s a competition to see how well we can work together.”

“So I can work together better than you can.”

She blinked at him then reached out and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him toward him, “We can fight about it...”

Names: ♀ Greece, Turkey ; ♂ Ukraine, America; ♀

December 18, 2021

Slice of PIE: Comments on the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DISCON III Opening Ceremonies!


Using the Programme Guide of the 2021 World Science Fiction Convention, DisCON which I" WOULD have been attending in person if I felt safe enough to do so in person AND it hadn’t been changed to the week before the Christmas Holidays… I’m not sure someone outside of DISCON III can actually see the program, but I’ll make an attempt to link it below. THIS YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME, I have been attending VIRTUAL DISCON! So, I’ll be talking about sessions I have ACTUALLY attended! From that, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the Program Guide! I hope the link provided below works for those who are not able to be there. Even so, I’ll be copying the event description and then dig into it!


"Welcome to the convention."

We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.
Your Hosts will be: Ben Yalow, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nancy Kress, Sheree Renée Thomas, and Greykell Dutton

So, all in all, this was a very nice presentation. The evening host, Ben Yalow welcomed everyone, then read a proclamation from the Mayor of Washington, DC.

Then Mr. Yalow informed us that the land the WSF Convention was currently on landhad been  taken from “…the Nacotchtank [who had] maintained settlements around the Anacostia River within the present-day District of Columbia. Conflicts with European colonists and neighboring tribes forced the relocation of the Piscataway people, some of whom established a new settlement in 1699 near Point of Rocks, Maryland.”

I confess I winced. I myself live on land stolen from the Dakota and the Ojibwe of Minnesota. But until I can travel through time, there's nothing I can do about it except educate myself and hope we can do better in the future. (I DO live in a state where all of the casino gambling was turned over to various tribes...you have NO idea how much some of the white people I know piss-and-moan about how it's not fair...(What -- it's not fair that the Mille Lacs Band of the Chippewa (= Ojibwe (Europeans mispronounced this name so that it became "Chippewa"), they are an Anishinaabe people) the White Man's money to build hospitals, schools, roads, water, electricity, buildings, homes and other infrastructure LONG neglected by the white government of this state of Minnesota...))

So, aware that they enjoyed the fruits of stolen land, the convention moved on to announcements. One of the announcements was the naming of a pair of important sponsors of DISCON III, one of which was Raytheon. Nothing else was said, so I’ll add my two bits.

My son is in the Army. He is a Patriot [the acronym of the missile’s technical name: Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept On Target] technician and has spent the majority of the past eight years maintaining a specific part of this surface-to-air missile. While it is ABSOLUTELY NOT DROPPED ON OR AIMED AT ANYTHING ON THE GROUND, it is designed to shoot down various kinds of missiles, including ballistic missiles (conceivably ICBMs). The Patriot is designed and made by the Raytheon Corporation. Knowing who some of the people are who attend these events made me wonder if anyone else caught the irony in this sponsorship.

Also, the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts Show Choir performed several numbers. They were brilliant! There’s a preview here: https://discon3.org/news/duke-ellington-school-of-the-arts-show-choir-performs-during-opening-ceremonies-at-discon-iii/, and I can say that I enjoyed their music TREMENDOUSLY and it touched my heart.

However, knowing the kinds of people SF fans in Minnesota are from my experiences at the Minnesota Science Fiction Convention (MiniCon – event number 55 has been postponed twice due to COVID concerns, but there’s a good chance it will happen THIS Spring!), I was surprised at the music choices the Show Choir made…despite the fact that there are an ever-increasing number of Christmas – or should I substitute Xmas? – songs, THIS show choir chose NONE of them.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Cv8aJHFc2oQ/maxresdefault.jpg

No ”Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, no “White Christmas”, no “Jingle Bells” and certainly no “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” here! The music they did was all SACRED Christmas music – “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (not sure about the last one). I have a friend who’s actually ON THE GROUND there. He reports that there wasn’t a single grumble or negative comment on the decidedly religious performance. None. No grousing, just rounds of endless applause! I find that curious, to say the least.

While I personally found the Opening Ceremonies inspiring and delightful, I’m simply curious about the unexpected non-response to the convention being bankrolled by a technology company that is heavily invested in military applications (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raytheon_Technologies). I don’t have anything against Raytheon Technologies – my son has a truly wonderful job because of them. They also continually hound him to join the company once he musters out of the Army, tempting him with astounding pay packages! – and that an African American show choir performed sacred Christmas music that reflected the actual “reason for the season” without even the mildest protest.

Or has there been a protest?

I don’t know.

So much for my curmudgeonly commentary on the Opening Ceremonies of the 79th World Science Fiction Convention! I'll get back to comments on the delightful sessions I've attended over the next few posts and weeks!

Program Book: https://discon3.org/schedule/
Image: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQY860vAI2izm2g2mUgxzT14fGVmoGh66B51g&usqp=CAU

December 14, 2021

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 526

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)


F Trope: dark lord
Current Event: “In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half kilometer long propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, ‘Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!’. The message, located next to an artificial lake built in 2007 to serve a hydroelectric station, is made of Korean letters measuring 15 by 20 meters, and is located approximately 9 kilometers south of Hyesan near the border with the People's Republic of China.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/23/north-korea-hillside-homage-kim-jong-un)

Ardian Goodpaster tapped on his tablet-computer – t-comp – and said, “Look, you have to read this!” He held it out to her.

Noemi Zweifelhofer grunted, hunched over her own t-comp. She said, “Doar stai un minut!”

Ardian’s eyes grew wide and he whispered in German, “Ich denke nicht, dass Sie Rumänisch in diesem Augenblick sprechen sollten! Wir sind in genug Schwierigkeiten, wie es ist!”

Noemi finally looked up, her dark eyes flashing and said, “Do you think speaking in English would be all right?”

Ardian snorted, “Better than speaking Romanian. We can get in trouble for that…”

“You don’t think believing that Kim Jong-un is an incarnation of The Dark Lord will keep us out of trouble?”

“I didn’t say I believed it – just that it seems…logical given what Mom and Dad say about how he acted when he went to school here.”

“Your mom and dad were his friends! He hated my dad!”

Ardian shook his head, “I’d probably dislike your dad, too if he stuck my head in a toilet and flushed it…”

“That was a kid’s prank!”

“…fourteen, fifteen and sixteen times on ten different occasions in honor of the illustrious North Korean leader’s birthdays?”

Noemi glared at her best friend, then burst out laughing. Finally she said, “All right, it wasn’t a kid’s prank. But all of our parents agree he was creepy and mean.”

Ardian tapped the t-comp and said, “You really believe that the inscription means what they say it means?”

“‘Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!’?” He stared at it then slowly shook his head. Noemi continued, “I know my Korean is adequate…” Ardian snorted, but she overrode him, “But I’ve cross-referenced this in half a dozen dictionaries.”

“So what do you think?”

She zoomed in on the image of the inscription then swung to the right, saying, “When it’s written like this, left-to-right and with the order of the characters – and given that the archaic form was used intentionally, it reads, ‘Long dominate Kim Jong-un, Darkest of the Dark Lords’.”

“And no one else in the world reads it that way?”

She held out her t-comp, “I wouldn’t say that.” Their eyes met and for a moment locked. Ardian felt the blood drain out of his face. She handed him her own t-comp. “Read it.”

He kept his eyes on hers then finally looked down. The headline was in German, from a recent edition of Die Welt. “Different Interpretation of North Korea’s Paean of Praise?” He read, looked at her.

“Scroll to the next document. Two weeks later.”

He did and read, “Interpreter Found Murdered..."

Names: ♀; ♂ Today, both are entirely Swiss names