August 30, 2009

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Global Warming, the god-like Power of Humanity and Supernature

On global warming:

a) Human actions, especially in the last two centuries have had a profound impact (note – I refuse to use the newEnglish phrase “profoundly impactful effect”) on the global environment.

b) Human actions, especially in the next 200 years, will have a profound impact in reducing and in some cases reversing, the damage to the global environment.

The last time I addressed this subject, I was viciously attacked in writing by a PhD in astrophysics. He attacked my stance, my intelligence, my work, my religious beliefs and my personal integrity. He had a profound impact on me.

I will try once more to say what I intended to say then: some individuals have substituted a belief in the inevitable victory of correctly applied natural science for a belief in a supernatural God who has both a longer view than Humanity and more absolute power. Some individuals have replaced God with an omnipotent Humanity robed in science and technology.

Some the these individuals believe that Humanity is effective and that God is ineffective; in fact for many of them, God doesn’t exist at all. Their belief is that the future’s shape is solely up to us (though the “us” is often men and a few women armed with Western science) to save the planet.

I disagree: God exists, God is effective and the future’s shape is up to God, who has already saved us.

The simple astronomical fact is that nothing can be done to save this natural Earth. In four and a half billion years, Earth will be consumed by our sun in its death throes.

Based on various models, natural life on Earth will end substantially before that. There is a steadily increasing likelihood that Earth will be “profoundly impacted” by a comet or asteroid resulting in an extinction event. In this case, the event will cause the extinction of Humanity on Earth. Alternately, there is a slowly increasing likelihood that natural diseases will evolve whose end result will dwarf the death toll of the Black Plague.

To answer the threat of global warming, heavenly extinction event or plague, trillions of dollars MUST be appropriated and spent by all of Humanity to ameliorate or eliminate natural Humanity-threatening catastrophe. But no matter what we do, the end of Humanity will eventually come. Even after the singularity perpetuates a version of Humanity forever, natural Humanity will become extinct with the heat death of the Universe.

Sooner or later, organic or singularity Humanity with no supernatural aspect will become extinct. I completely agree that we should fight against that to the distant end. But without God, we will become extinct. If there is nothing of us that is supernatural (literally “above nature”), then our Earthly Humanity will disappear someday.

But if there is a God who is supernatural and three-in-one, and we live within His supernature, then God promises that we will never die and we will not become extinct. If we intend profound natural effort to put off the extinction of Humanity, then shouldn’t we consider taking profound supernatural effort as well?

August 23, 2009


In the back of the squad car, CJ Hastings hung his head. He was never going to go anywhere. He was never going do anything. He was never going to be anyone.

He and his mother, along with the cop driving, listened to the police scanner in silence until they reached the house. The cop said, “Will you be all right?” to CJ’s mom.


The cop turned back to CJ and asked, “Do you feel safe enough to go home with your mother tonight?”

CJ blinked. No one had ever asked him that question before. He didn’t reply at first. Aside from Mom going thermo and him getting grounded for the rest of his life, he didn’t think anything else would go wrong. He said, “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” The cop nodded, got out and let CJ out. Mom got out on her own.

When they got in the house, he nodded to Phyllis and muttered, “Sorry.” He headed downstairs where…absolutely nothing awaited him.

He was sound asleep when the light came on and Mom said, “Chris! You have to get up. The doctors called. We have to go to the University now.”

“What?” Chris croaked, sitting up. Mom never came down to his room. He suddenly remembered he hadn’t changed into sweatpants or gym shorts last night and pulled his sheets and blankets into his lap, piling them high. “What?” he tried again. This time is sounded like he was speaking English instead of Entish.

“We have to go. The U called and said the nanomachines are ready!” she said, spun around and hurried back upstairs.

He dressed in jeans and a T-shirt after using the badly needed bathroom and ran upstairs with a fresh pair of socks in hand. His shoes were outside on the steps because they smelled bad no matter what he and his mom did. She already Mai Li set up with Cheerios on her tray. CJ leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. A slow grin spread across her face as her arm came up just as slowly to grab him. If her reflexes were fast like a regular person’s, she’d have been able to catch his head and give him one of her slobbery kisses.

“Why’d you wake me up?”

Mom stopped pouring a bowl of cereal and turned to face him. She said, “You don’t think I can do this alone, do you?”

CJ turned from the intensity of her look, shrugging. “It’s just that when we went there before, I got creeped out.”

“I thought you were the one who thought nanomachines were…what did you say? Trash?"

CJ rolled his eyes. It sounded stupid when old people tried to talk kid. “Track, Mom. Track. Nanos are track, but putting them in Mai Li’s head?” He shrugged again. “I dunno.” This time he looked at her, head on, “What if they don’t fix her brain? What if her head blows up?”

His mom took a deep breath and let it out, blowing straight up, making the hairs that had escaped her bun flutter up. She was staring at Mai Li who was busy picking up a Cheerio again. She said softly, “I don’t know, Chris. Maybe it would be for the better…”

“Mom!” CJ exclaimed. Mai Li started, throwing her hard-won Cheerio over her shoulder. She started to cry. He went to his adoptive sister and took her head between his hands, one on her forehead, one cupping the back of her head, and pulling her ear to his chest. She struggled a little at first, but once she heard his heartbeat, she relaxed and went limp. He looked down at her. She was staring, blinking slowly, mouth open, chewed Cheerios drooling out of the left corner of her mouth. The look, no matter how hard he tried to see something, was vacant. No matter how much he loved Mai Li, he didn’t see the same thing in her eyes that he saw in Job’s, or Ms. Hester’s or even either of the Mr. B’s. He set her back upright and she resumed her hunt for the Cheerios. He said, “It’ll work. They said it would reconstruct her brain. They know what they’re talking about. Nanomachines are speed track now, Mom.”

Mom deliberately lowered her chin, staring at Mai Li. Without thinking, CJ took a corner of his T-shirt and wiped her face. Mom was watching, but said without heat, “Go down and put on a clean T-shirt, Chris.”

CJ sighed. In the eyes of the world, he’d never amount to anything or do anything important. He wasn’t going to the Math Tournament, either. But at least he was going downtown to the U – where researchers were going to shoot his sister’s brain full of nanomachines that were supposed to reconstruct her brain.

Or turn it into something resembling the chewed Cheerios sliding down Mai Li’s chin.

WRITING ADVICE: Jack McDevitt 2: “Go for that smooth first draft.”

(The Twelve Blunders are used with permission of Jack McDevitt, and are taken from his webpage:

Years ago, after writing the ten chapters of my “real”, adult science fiction novel, INVADER’S GUILT: BOOK ONE OF THE GOD-PARTS FABRICATION, I labored under the impression that this draft had to be, if not perfect at least near-publishable.

After the next five chapters, I realized that it wasn’t even close to being publishable, I stopped. It languished for some time until I read an article that suggested that I “write like a shark” ( To write like a shark, I had to follow my plan and keep writing until the book was done.

Realizing the truth of McDevitt’s Blunder #2 helped as well: I couldn’t stop and polish every chapter, paragraph or sentence until I thought it was perfect. That might very well be a waste of time if I polished a page that I would ultimately have to cut. I needed to move forward and produce an end product. So I went back to INVADER’S GUILT and entered the original chapters into my new computer. Ignoring the urge to go back and revise as I wrote, I barreled through and finished it by the time the school year ended. The story was rough-and-tumble and sometimes confusing, but it was done and I had a beginning, middle and an end.

According to McDevitt, then came the easy part: revision. That was hard for me to grasp at first. To try to change five hundred pages of very raw story into a potentially saleable book was daunting. McDevitt agrees, but points out that the worst part of the process was over. I had a story written down. All I had to do now was make that story clear.

It took another year to finish polishing INVADER’S GUILT and after that, I started shopping it around. I had a few request to see partials, but no one wanted to see all of it. I stopped querying editors and started to take the advice of a couple of my first readers and I dropped two characters and added an overarching theme -- the process of revision it seems, is almost neverending.

The newly finished revision just started making the rounds a few weeks ago, so I’ll keep you up-to-date. Until then, I will continue to avoid McDevitt’s Blunder #2 and continue to write like a shark!


August 16, 2009


(I wrote this article six years ago, lost it and just found it again. I currently have 35 professional publications under my belt, an activity book due out sometime this fall and a blog that people read. I find that this article still applies – of course, the numbers have changed for the better, but it’s still as true today as it was six years ago.)

With three sales to the Cricket Magazine Group, two to a major science fiction magazine, numerous newspaper essays, a nomination for the Paul A. Witty Short Story Award, inclusion of a short story in a Scott Foresman Fourth Grade Reader, my own book (available at all fine B&N and Northwestern Book stores everywhere), invitations to Young Author conferences and in my second year as a COMPAS Writer In The Schools program – you’d think I wouldn’t get rejected or need advice any more.

If you thought that – like I did thirteen years ago – you’d be most sadly mistaken.

I clearly remember longing for my FIRST professional publication. I was writing as often as I could, working 11 pm – 9 am at a home for the physically and mentally handicapped, working another day job, and planning for a wedding. My manuscripts kept coming back to me rejected. I subscribed to The Writer and Writers Digest. I bought or read every writing book I could get my hands on. If I’d run across an article like this, I know what my reaction would have been: “Yeah. Fine. Easy for you to say; you made it.”

Amazingly enough, I have “made it’. But I still get rejected more often than I get accepted. Full-time freelancing is still only a dream, and I’m frustrated by how little time I can spend writing. I have a wife, two (one teen, the other a teen wannabe) kids, a dog, two cats, and an assortment of other creatures to care for as well as a near-fifty-year-old house. I have a full-time job teaching (“Aha!” you’ll shout, “That’s why you’re published! All that free time to sit around, sipping lattes and typing salable manuscripts. I don’t have a cushy job like THAT. I have a real job!”…um…care to join me for a week in the classroom?)

But despite the above-mentioned blessings, I still have to apply the seat of my pants to the chair in front of the computer and write. Persistence – writing as many manuscripts as I can, doing market research, query letters, calls, emails, pulling story ideas from “nowhere”, and surviving impersonal rejection slips – is still required. It’s still essential.

That came as a surprise to me. I thought that once I got REALLY published it would all be easy – all gravy except for the meat! But now, instead of worrying about breaking the publication barrier, I’m working on breaking into new publications. I’m trying to learn enough from a novel re-write with an editor (fourth time around, six years in the writing) to make my NEXT book a little less difficult to write. The dozen unpublished (and mostly unpublishable!) novels in my files cry out to me. When I lay out all my publications and blur my vision to admire them, I can only stay that way for so long.

But eventually I realize that if I want more publications, I have go back to square one: write and send out. Persist in my form of craziness. It’s no different now that I’ve “made it” than when I was just starting.

Do multiple publications make rejection easier? Not at all – in fact being rejected by someone I know is harder than being rejected by a stranger. It’s also harder not to take the rejection personally. It makes it harder to take the manuscript that I wrote with that particular editor in mind and send it out to a stranger. It takes persistence.

Years ago, I know that I would have been muttering, “I should be so lucky as to have such problems…”, but now from this new perspective, I’ve come to realize that “all” I have to do is keep writing, keep researching markets, keep finishing, keep reading, and keep sending.

It’s still a “NEWSFLASH! After 25 publications, persistence still necessary!” My guess is that after fifty, a hundred, or a thousand publications, it will still be true. My guess is that ALL of us, no matter where we are in our search for success, have to simply stick with it. We have to persist!

August 7, 2009

Fiction: A SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH 1: Tuesday, July 2, 1946

(This series is a little biography and a little imagination. The biography will detail a month long trip my dad took in the summer of 1946 when he and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park -- that's the park above in 1945 -- to Duluth, Minnesota. The motivation, names and details all come from my imagination though. I plan on interviewing Dad for more details as time goes on...Enjoy! Oh, and as to why this is late? WAY more research than I expected just to do these 1000 words! This is gonna be FUN!)

“Your old man never says anything about what you do?” said one tow-headed, freckled boy to the other. He took an experimental puff on the cigarette, blew out the smoke and handed it to his best friend.

“Never,” said the second tow-head-without-freckles. He took the cigarette, peered through wilted hawthorn leaves then took a drag. “You didn’t suck it in,” he added. The sun was setting, throwing the long shadow of the seven-story apartment building across Loring Park.

“Shut up, Tommy! I did, too.”

Thomas Hastings handed the glowing fag back to his friend. “Prove it, Freddie. Do it again.”

Freddie Merrill took the fag. His hand shook a bit and Tommy smirked. Freddie cussed and said, “Shut up. Just you see!” He took a long drag on the cigarette, burning up half of if before his eyes bugged out. He held his breath for a few more seconds, then gasped a cloud of blue smoke and started coughing uncontrollably.

“You’d have made a great soldier,” Tommy began. The hawthorn overhead abruptly parted and a pair of giant hands grabbed one ear on each boy, yanking up so hard neither boy resisted.

Blue jacket, white shirt and tie, and pearl-handled .38 high on his left hip, Officer Lars Olafson said with a thick Norwegian accent, “You boys is behavin’ yourselves?”

Tommy opened his mouth to reply. Officer Lars cranked on his ear and a high-pitched, girlish squeak came out despite the fact he was almost fifteen. He tried nodding his head, but that hurt more. Freddie was working on coughing up a lung.

Officer Lars said, “You boys isn’t smoking, are you’se? ‘Cause it’s illegal for children to smoke in Minnesota, don’t you know?” He stomped on the still burning fag and released them.

Freddie’s hand went to his ear. Tears welled in his eyes, but he didn’t cry. Tommy staggered but kept walking, shoving his in his pockets like nothing had happened. Freddie caught up with him a second later. Officer Lars called, “Good to see you boys again! Say hello to your fathers for me!”

Tommy raised his hand, thought about flipping Officer Lars off, but figured he didn’t have enough lead yet. He waved instead. After coughing again, Freddie said, “Good idea. I don’t think I could have run fast enough.” He started coughing and didn’t stop until they reached West 15th, cut in front of a couple of cars and walked up Oak Grove. Freddie was still coughing.

“Can I come to your place? Dad’ll kill me if I come home smelling like cigarettes.”

Tommy snorted, “Your dad would kill you if you came home smelling like roses.” Freddie didn’t comment. He had enough bruises, black eyes and once a broken arm to prove the truth of that.

“How come you get a dad who lets you do whatever you want and I get a dad who kicks the crap out of me if I look at him funny?”

Tommy shrugged. He changed the subject, “You wanna hitch out to Minnetonka?”

Freddie hacked out half a lung before he managed, “You wanna get me killed? Jeez, Tommy!” They reached Tommy’s place.

“Nah. I just wanna go somewhere. Do something.”

“We can go to Calhoun and swim if you want. Dad won’t say anything about that.”

“He won’t say nothin’ if he’s passed out,” Tommy said and laughed.

“Shut up!” Freddie slugged him in the shoulder. They ran up the steps as the door opened.

“Oh! Hi ya, Freddie,” said Tommy’s older sister, May. “Tommy, Mom says she needs you to go to the drug store.” She patted Freddie’s head. “See you boys.”

“Where you goin’?” Tommy asked. “You’re dressed awful nice.”

She laughed, “Earl’s asked to walk me around Wirth Lake.”

Freddie piped up, his voice cracking. He coughed then tried for a lower, “I’ll take you for a walk around Calhoun!”

May smiled. “That’s sweet, Freddie. Maybe some other time.”

Tommy leered and said, “Wirth’s got an awful lot of park benches!”

May laughed and stepped to the curb. A 1938 Ford pick up rumbled to a stop and a smiling Earl jumped out to hold the door open for May. He lifted his chin and grinned at Tommy and Freddie, “Boys.”

Freddie leaned to Tommy and whispered, “His tattoo is keen.”

“He was at Okinawa,” Tommy said.

Freddie shook his head. “What I wouldn’t give to do something great like that.” Earl closed the door, ran back to the driver’s seat. A moment later, they smoothly pulled away as May slid up next to Earl and he put his arm around her.

Tommy looked at Freddie. “We gotta go somewhere.”

Freddie rolled his eyes and said, “Like where?”

August 2, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: JACK MCDEVITT 1: Wait for Inspiration (My Muse Will Be Back Any Day Now”)

(The Twelve Blunders are used with permission of Jack McDevitt, from his webpage:

The word “inspire” is from the Latin, in = “in” (creative, huh?); and spirare = “to breathe”. Medically, inspiration is the term that means to breathe in and expiration means to breathe out (it also means, “to die”, but let’s not get into that here). Harlan Ellision says he gets his ideas -- his inspiration -- from Sheboygan. Despite what he says, it follows logically, then that if you wait too long for inspiration, you’re gonna die. But the question for me has always been, “How do I know real inspiration from false?” How can I tell whether I should breathe the idea in and use it to build a story or to jot it down and leave it alone for good?

I’ve learned to recognize an idea/inspiration that would be like breathing chlorine. Inspiration of that gas will KILL me; a chlorine inspiration would go nowhere no matter how hard I tried. For example, I once had an idea to write a literary SF story like the work of Haitian writer, Edwidge Danitcat using symbolism, metaphor and excruciating detail about a powerless woman living her life in quiet desperation on a marshy world while I made educated, satirical, wise, obscure, snide and erudite commentary in a way that no real person in that life could possibly duplicate. It was a miserable failure.

That was a chlorine idea.

My problem now is that I can’t tell a carbon monoxide idea from an oxygen idea. Carbon monoxide deceives the hemoglobin in your blood, which carries oxygen to the lungs. Carbon monoxide takes the place of oxygen, remains there and doesn’t break free so that the lungs can release it into the air or the cells can pick it up and use it to make energy. More and more hemoglobin is hijacked by carbon monoxide until there’s so little oxygen left you fall asleep…and expire. I can’t tell which ideas are going to hijack my creative process. For example, I wrote “Out of the Wounded Hills”, a story tangential to my novel, INVADER’S GUILT. I thought “Hills” was gripping. I was excited! I wrote it, edited it, polished it and sent it out to have it return ten times. I revised, edited, polished and sent it out to have it return five more times. I trunked it a few months ago out of sheer disgust. What’s the difference between “Hills” and “A Pig Tale”, my 2000 ANALOG story about a potential cure for Alzheimer’s used in an unorthodox way to fix a researcher’s personal life? “Hills” was carbon monoxide. “Pig” was oxygen. My ability to inspire oxygen instead of carbon monoxide has been impaired for the past four years. To add yet another metaphor to this confusing morass, I know the WAY to Sheboygan, but my GPS is malfunctioning.

Even so, a couple days ago, I picked up a clue that may lead to the healing of my disability. In his blog, Ted Dekker, multi-gazillion books-in-print writer had this to say, “If your stories are awakening magic in the hearts and minds of only a few…your words might very well be getting in the way for most.” ( For the past four years, my stories have been having a deadening effect on people who read them.

A half an hour ago, I went downstairs and grabbed an unread book by a master short storyteller, TALES OF O. HENRY. I’ll be reading them in the next few days. After that, I’m going to see what I can see.

Maybe I can find my way around Sheboygan before I expire.