April 29, 2012

Christianity – Anthropocentric or Universal III: Did God Make Everything? (Slice of Pie)

Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay nearly a thousand times, making it the single most-viewed thing I’ve ever posted. I’d like to continue thinking out loud on the issue now that I’m older and the world has changed a bit...

Let’s start at the very beginning because I’ve decided to make this an EIGHT part series. (No, I DON’T have anything better to do with my time, thank you very much!)

Did God Make Everything?


Simple answer, complex evidence from multiple cultures: http://www.magictails.com/creationlinks.html. While these provide evidence that God (by whatever name granted by the culture) made the universe, a serious problem comes up. Most atheists and other questioners will ask, “If God made the Universe, then who made God?”

I am NOT a MENSA candidate. I’m an ordinary guy with an ordinary job. I like to think and in this case, my thoughts have led me to believe that that Universe was created by an always present being.

“How can that be? If the being was always present, then something had to create the being in the first place!”

My response would be that the Universe came into being so long ago that there is no solid evidence remaining that it “just happened”. Your average materialist cosmologist (I’m not talking the MENSA candidates here, I’m not sure I would understand anything they had to say.) might have a some trouble if I asked them, "What 'went Bang!' in the Big Bang?"

The standard explanation is: it started with “the Universe [at] an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past.” (Hawking, S.W.; Ellis, G.F.R. (1973). The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20016-4.)

This doesn’t answer the question of where the Universe at that density and temperature came from; but cultures can’t explain where God came from, either. Science demands that something be observable and that any experiment be repeatable. We take God on faith. Since none of us was there, we can’t go there and we have no observational records from there, both sides on this one must call it a draw, quit arguing and agree that if you want to believe in God, then God made everything. If you want to assign causality to Nature, then Nature made everything.

End of part one.


April 26, 2012


This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill stared up at the woman truck driver. Her forearms were bigger than Freddie’s bicep and HER bicep was thicker than Tommy’s thigh.

Both boys stared at her until she started to close the door. Tommy shouted, “Can we ride with you up to Canada?”

Freddie shouted at the same time, “Are you a Socialist?”

“I was a WAC on Guam during the War, kiddo!”

Both boys stepped back, eyes bulging. She scowled down at them both then burst out laughing. She slid across the seat, opened the door all the way and gestured them up into the cab. “I needed a good laugh today and you gave me one. Come on up. I’m goin’ all the way to Port Arthur, Ontario. You can ride as far as you want or until your butts get sore.” She frowned again and wagged her finger at them, “But no whining! I hated it when my little brothers and sisters whined, I hated it when the college students whined and I really hated it when the sailors whined – especially after Pearl Harbor. So no whining!”

Both boys nodded eagerly and she gestured them up into the cab. The climbed and settled themselves and she came around the other side, jumped up and ground the gears until they caught and the truck groaned forward.

It was real day by now and she said, “My name’s Edwina Olds, lieutenant, retired; you can call me Ed.”

Freddie said suddenly, “Oh, I could never call a woman ‘Ed’. That’s my granddad’s name.”

Tommy said, “My name’s Thomas Hastings, fourteen...er...” he stopped, suddenly surprised and then said, “I guess I’m fifteen today, Ma’am…er…should I call you Lieutenant?”

Edwina laughed again, “You, young man,” she leaned forward to look at Freddie, who was leaning back like he was afraid she’s knock his block off, “may call me Edwina, if it means so much to you.” She snorted like a man and added, “Please my mother to no end, if someone actually called me my Christian name. How old are you, son?”

Freddie smiled hugely and said, “I’m Freddie and I’m still fourteen. I don’t turn ‘til August.”

She nodded, sat back and shifted through another three gears as the truck gained speed. Off to their right, Lake Superior rolled by, monstrous ocean-going ore carriers looking like child’s toys on the immense body of water. After a while, they passed a town called French River, though neither of them could see an actual town anywhere and they assumed that the muddy creek that flashed under the bridge was the River. “Don’t look like much of a river,” Freddie said.

“Where you boys from then that you ain’t impressed by the mighty French?”

“We’re from Minneapolis,” said Tommy.

She laughed, “Third longest river in the world, the Mississippi is. I’d never seen nothin’ but Duluth ‘til I joined up after Pearl Harbor. Then all of a sudden, I found myself in the middle of the Pacific. Makes Superior look like a mud puddle.”

They drove in silence for a long time. Freddie fell asleep against Tommy’s shoulder. But Tommy couldn’t exactly fall asleep on Ed’s shoulder. He kept blinking as he watched the signs roll by: Palmers, Knife River, Larsmont. When the sign for Two Harbors came up, Edwina said, “We’ll take a break there. Maybe get some food.” She glanced at Tommy, “You boys did bring money for food, didn’t you?”

Tommy’s eyes got big again as he shook his head. “We didn’t think about having to buy food.”

She shook her head then said, “I guess I can spring for a breakfast, but you boys’ll have to do some work for me.”

“Like what?” Tommy asked warily.

“I got a body hidden under some logs that I need...delivered…”

Image: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/jan99/1940p5.GIF

April 24, 2012


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: glowing eyes of doom

I don’t know if this little kid has “eyes of doom”, but if he IS one of the first generation of X-Men…(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Men:_First_Class)

And what about STAR TREK’s Khan Noonien Singh? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Seed)

What if the two collided today? In there here and now?

Nong Youhui grows up angry and reclusive. He hates his eyes and more than just the shy little boy in the YouTube, he now runs from people. With adolescence he’s also discovered another mutation – though it’s less mutation than a skill.

JuLi, whose parents are Chinese and American, is also born with a mutation – but no one can see hers. She can hear people’s hearts. As a high school student at an American school, this has made her immensely popular with her friends because not only can she hear their hearts, she’s a great listener.

On the way to school one day in Shanghai, she stops near a park because she hears a heart somewhere near her not just talking, but screaming. Screaming in pain; screaming in loneliness; screaming in rage. She follows the sound that no one else – not even her parents – can hear. The person with the pain is moving because try as she might, it doesn’t seem that she can catch up with it. Then it must have stopped because as she walks, the anger gets stronger and stronger – but so does the sense of loneliness. As she walks through a grubby alley, someone grabs her arm and pulls her through a broken door…

April 22, 2012

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Rowling, Tolkien, Transtromer and Stewart -- What Is Great And What Is Not

A number of incidents coincided this week that set me to thinking.

First, my daughter won Best In Show at a juried art show at the college she attends. She’s 4.0 psych major with an art minor, though the piece above wasn’t created as a class assignment – it was a whimsical expression of a thought or two.

Second, Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize for Literature because “through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”. (Now, I had to do a little research here and I’ll pass on a tiny slice of what I found out: an 81 year-old Swedish poet, he has been nominated for the Nobel every year since 1993. A sample of his work (obviously translated into English):

Landscape with Suns

The sun emerges from behind the house
stands in the middle of the street
and breathes on us
with its red wind.
Innsbruck I must leave you.
But tomorrow
there will be a glowing sun
in the gray, half-dead forest
where we must work and live.

Last of all, I read an article in which the author reveals a VERY little known secret: JRR Tolkien was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961 by Oxford don, CS Lewis. The Nobel Committee turned him down because Tolkien, “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.”

Really? Who won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature? Do you know? Did I know without searching high and low? Nope. (In case you were wondering, it was Ivo Andri’c for “the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country”. Can you name a SINGLE work by Andri’c? Here are a few to check out: The Bridge on the Drina (one copy in HCL) and The Damned Yard and Other Stories (three copies in HCL).)

By contrast, the loser of that year’s Nobel Prize (dismissed summarily without consideration because his storytelling didn’t measure up to anything approaching the highest quality exhibited by Andri’c’s work) has 66 entries in the HCL, in every format possible in the 21st Century and is read, quoted and assigned not merely in the US and in other English speaking countries but has been translated and sold worldwide in “at least 38 other languages” including Chinese, Braille and (ironically), Swedish.

While “an American knowing anything about REAL literature” is probably an oxymoron to millions of the world’s literati, the rest of the planet can hardly be accused en masse of illiteracy and they would possibly scoff at the accusation of not “measuring up to storytelling of the highest quality”.

Are the HARRY POTTER books great literature? I don’t know. No one has said. Clearly THE LORD OF THE RINGS is not, at least according to the Nobel Prize in Literature. Is my daughter’s art prize worthy? (I DO have a drawing of one of her cats licking its paw in my collection in my office, so clearly my answer is, “Yes!”)

Discussing her win on the way home from the reception, my wife, daughter and I wondered if the painting in question had changed at all from the day she matted it for entry in the show to the afternoon its prize-winning status had been announced for all the world to hear.

We had to answer that question with a resounding, “No!”

Its innate features had NOT changed. LORD OF THE RINGS had not changed from the moment it was published to the moment it was dismissed as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. The work of Tomas Tranströmer had not changed one iota from the days he scribbled his first poems to the day he stepped up to accept the Nobel Medal and its accompanying prize. The work of JK Rowling had not changed from the moment she wrote the first words on a napkin in a train station to the moment she became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 and if there is a Damehood in her future that will not change her work, either.

Work is great no matter what it is awarded. The same might be said of crappy writing as well, but I certainly won’t say it here because I’ve said enough already.

Have anything to add?

April 17, 2012


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.

F Trope: fantasy worlds are pastoral until the Evil One arises

The young prince, Omurbek Akayev is only a figurehead as his people, a race of mountain elves who call themselves the Vos. They have long since fallen from empire and now live the life of peaceful nomads. They live in tents of heavy felt called chee and drive vast herds of ostrich-like animals called vosli, going from mountain pastures in summer to the vast plains of the steppe in winter.

The change in climate is necessary to keep the vosli from changing. Changing into WHAT, no one remembers as the migration has gone without trouble for hundreds of years. Legends remain, though vague and told only around campfires on late winter nights when the winds howl and the vosli shudder in their flocks under tarps.

But Omurbek, who “leads” only in a sort of vague way and is mostly in the shadow of his very practical, gruff and unimaginative father, King of the Vos, wonders about life in the cities of the Kyzhli, a people long established on the ocean beyond the steppe. Their people rarely interact, and then it is peacefully and through interpreters called “speakers to the heartless”.

His father sends him on a trade mission to the Kyzhli so that he might learn more of the people he will one day “rule” (He comments, “As if anyone rules this dung-stinking mob of cursing fighters and plodding morons!”). His father cuffs him and warns him to stay clear of intellectual pursuits. They poisoned the Vos once; he will not allow that to happen again.

The Kyzhli delegation is resplendent – or repulsive as Omurbek learns. Until he catches a glimpse of a young woman standing back of the rest of the lead traders. She is accompanied by two fearsome-looking female guards and seems aloof at first. He overhears one of the guards call her, Kali. He asks the Vosli trade leader who she is – and earns another cuff to the head and a warning to stay away from her.

Needless to say, Omurbek engineers a meeting with Kali as an abrupt winter storm sweeps over the trade village, few of them realizing that it is more than just a simple winter blizzard...

April 15, 2012

WRITING ADVICE – SL Viehl #2: Quantum Writing I

I stumbled across the writing of Sheila Kelly (aka SL Viehl, Gena Gale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly and Lynn Viehl) about eleven years ago with the publication of her first novel, STARDOC. I was looking for a the work of a current writer to replace one of my favorite kind of science fiction – human doctors in a space hospital working on aliens. I discovered this genre as an adolescent in Alan E. Nourse’s STAR SURGEON, followed it into James White’s SECTOR GENERAL books and A.M. Lightner’s DOCTOR TO THE GALAXY. S.L. Viehl’s books satisfied that itch – but I learned about a year ago that she is so much more than just a “space hospital” writer! The bits of writing advice in this new ten part series are used with her permission. This one is from: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2011/07/quantum-writing-part-i.html

I’ve been writing since I was thirteen. (That’s one of the reasons I’m a good writing teacher – I started when I was young and now I’m old. I can connect with almost anyone!)

I’ve been writing at POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS since September 1, 2007 (actually before that as I started my blog on another host then transferred a bunch of posts here). I started with simple essays but eventually realized that most people didn’t want to ONLY hear me rant, so I expanded my essays to Writing Advice.

It soon became apparent that my simple magazine publications in ANALOG, CRICKET, CICADA, TURTLE, HOPSKOTCH FOR GIRLS, THE WRITER and others didn’t carry enough weight for me to draw in readers. I started writing novels online, “publishing” them as serials.


To understand this better, you can take a look at my current projects: THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAI LI HASTINGS, SNAPPER XING, MARTIAN HOLIDAY,  and A SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH. (For those who understand such things, HEIRS and YUNG LO have been so substantially rewritten as to be entirely different stories; therefore they have not already been published online.)

SL Viehl has some superior observations on this kind of writing, that is, writing more than one thing at a time: “A side note on dedicating the writing time: I know it's difficult for those of you with day jobs and/or busy home lives to find the time. If you don't have the time now to write, you'll have to pass on this. Or you might make the time, which means giving up something. Waking up an hour earlier is the simplest way to do it; if you get up before everyone else does that gives you an hour to write in peace and quiet. If you're spending an hour or two a day texting people, tell your friends you're going to take some time to write and turn off the phone. You can also sacrifice watching your favorite television shows to make time to write (if you're worried about missing something, record the shows while you're working, and hold onto the copies as a reward for yourself when you finish the manuscript.)”

I’m one of those people who have a day job – I’m a high school counselor (ah – I can hear the groans and muttered comments, “Oh, a TEACHER – all he does is sit around on his butt all day long, drink coffee and show movies and/or pretend to be working. I have a REAL job that requires my attention! Plus I don’t get freetime for like, forty weeks of the year with paid summers off to do whatever I want to do!” My suggestion here is to grab your nearest teacher/school counselor and repeat that to them then pause for a response. You might get a broader picture of what’s involved in a teaching/counseling career.)

However, as I indicated above, I’ve completed a YA fantasy, a YA science fiction novel, a First Reader, a picture book manuscript and an adult novel since starting my blog. The YA science fiction novel is with an assistant editor, the picture book novel was turned down by one agent and I’m looking for a new home, the FR is nearing a final edit, the YA fantasy is next up for revision and the adult novel is well under way (though it stalled for a bit while I retooled to rewrite it as a dramedy rather than straight inspirational fiction.)

Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and contemporary author Jan Karon have all written in this manner, so I’m in good company.

Using SL Viehl’s encouraging words and insight, I will continue my journey in novel writing.

Would YOU be able to do this and if so, how? If you loathe the idea and would never bother trying something this crazy, why?

April 12, 2012


I read the play version of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON when I was in eighth grade. It has stayed with me for decades, a haunting symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human mind. I’ve started and stopped this novel a half a dozen times in eleven years. I want to bring the original idea into the present millennium. To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll four pages back until you get to the bottom.
By the time Christopher John Hastings had called 911 and Mom, he was crying so hard he didn’t make any sense. Mom said, “Stay where you are. Let the paramedics take Mai Li to the hospital, but tell them that under no circumstances do I want your sister taken to the University of Minnesota and any order they get from anyone else but me is null and void.” CJ snorted hard, blubbered a bit more until Mom snapped, “Tell them right now or you’re going to lose your sister forever!”

He shouted, “Our mom says that you can’t take Mai Li to the University of Minnesota no matter what anyone says.”

The paramedics looked at each other. The woman said, “We just got a call to take her there. Doctor’s orders.”

“My mom is in charge of Mai Li,” he lunged forward and grabbed hold of the cot, wrapping both arms around it and threading them between the collapsible X-legs. “You have to take her to...” he thought then said, “North Memorial! That’s where I went when I broke my arm! That’s where our real doctor is!”

“But Doctor...”

“Doctor Douchebag is what we call him! He’s experimenting on my sister! He wants to cut me and Mom out of the deal so he can sell his discovery,” he spat the word like it was a cat turd in his mouth. “Take her to North Memorial!”

They looked at each other again and the guy opened his mouth. CJ shouted, “If you don’t do what Mom says, I’ll scream rape and abduction and ‘Someone call an Amber Alert’!” He paused as they looked at each other again, “And if you try and pull a fast one and take us to the U, I’ll have the same tantrum there.” He looked at the guy, “And I’ll accuse you of sexually molesting me.”

CJ’s mom’s voice sounded loud even through the cellphone speaker, “And I’ll press charges! I’m her mother! Do what I say! The doctor is a douchebag!” CJ gave the cellphone a startled look.

The guy paramedic nodded and the woman smiled a little and said, “North Memorial it is,” she said and more loudly so CJ’s mom could hear, “And I’ll let you deal with the doctor.”

“Fine!” Mom shouted then hung up. CJ slipped the cellphone back into his pocket and pulled his arm out of the cot.

The woman paramedic said, “You must love your sister an awful lot.”

The guy said, “Bloody crazy!” Then he tugged the last strap and lifted the cot, doing something to make the legs retract. “Come on, kid. Make sure your sister isn’t intercepted by body snatchers then get on the phone and tell your mom she has to ick you up here.”

“But can’t I ride in...”

The woman said, “No one can ride in the ambulance, Kid. Regulations. Your mom will pick you up and we’ll meet you there. At North Memorial.”

CJ nodded and followed them up the stairs, held on to the cot until they loaded it and then stood on the curb and flipped open his cellphone as they pulled away. “Mom! Where are you?”

Her car roared around the corner and the door popped open as she said, “Right here here!” He jumped in and she gunned the car, following the ambulance around the corner it had taken up the block. “Keep an eye on the ambulance while I drive. You’re my navigator.”

The hospital wasn’t far away and they pulled into the ambulance drop off just as the paramedics stepped back outside. The woman saw CJ and said, “She’s stable right now and right inside. Tell the nurse we just dropped off your sister,” she glanced at Mom, “your daughter.”

They left the car and ran inside, Mom relating what the paramedics had said. The nurse brought them to Mai Li.

Dr. Chazhukaran was standing beside her, holding her hand and smiling at them. For a moment, no one moved, then without thinking, CJ lowered his head and charged Dr. Douchebag…

image: http://www.marshallcraft.com/ShowImage.aspx?projectID=82&Image=3&ratio=None

April 10, 2012


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: time travel by suspended animation

Furkan Kurkmaz is seventeen, wild and crazy and lots of fun. That’s what everyone says. First in parties, first in taking risks – playing chicken with fast cars, cliff diving, trying “recreational” drugs and cheating on his work. He’s the one everyone wants to be like. His parents are in Turkey, intellectuals in exile who are in hiding in Chile, going to school at an American/International school.
What no one knows – not even his father – is that Furkan has been diagnosed with metastatic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer creating tumors in soft tissue. The prognosis for survival is poor.

In other words, he is dying.

Huenu Paredes was born and raised in Chile. She also has cancer. Breast cancer that has metastasized to her brain. An “A” student up until the diagnosis when she was a 10th grader. Then her grades fell apart. She’s trying to recover her interest in life, but she keeps having setbacks. Her dog died. Her brother disappeared from his dorm room in Mexico three weeks ago. Her prognosis for survival is poor and it’s getting poorer.

In other words, she is dying.

Both of them fall ill to an influenza outbreak at their school.

Both of them are in danger of dying.

Both of their families – with their consent – volunteer them for a radical form of suspended animation that might slow down their bodies and their cancers. It involves being cooled to a point of coma and then cooled further by transfusions of near-freezing salt water…

They go to sleep and wake up far later than they thought they would be sleeping. The world they wake into is very different. China and India have fought a nuclear war and both are missing from the world picture. The center of the new world is Australia, whose central desert has bloomed under careful grooming. Chile, Brazil and Argentina control South America and are allied with Australia in a Common Market that includes a United Africa south of Sahara.

Furkan’s country no longer exists and Chileans have become proud and haughty, scourges of this new world. The government tries to separate them, but both refuse…technically adults; technically they discover that they’ve been suspended for the past twenty-eight years.

Shadow agents kidnap them one dark and stormy night; agents with accents they both remember as being TEXAN...

Names: Turkish, Chilean

April 5, 2012

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 28: Aster of Opportunity – Right Place, Right Time

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official United Faith in Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.

Mayor Etaraxis of Opportunity buzzed Hanam vo’Maddux a week later, “Please come to my office and make sure we’re completely alone.”

Hanam smirked and strode in, using the common door rather than the formal entrance to the Mayor’s office. It’s the one he had his intimates use. It was the one she hadn’t booby-trapped to within an inch of the life of anyone passing through it. The formal door could derail a fully-equipped assault rhino in depleted uranium body armor.

This one she knew each and everyone one of its delicate secrets and entering through it unbidden could be a painfully deadly experience if you didn’t know how to deprogram its secrets.

Once she was through and had shed the usual security guards, she gave herself a more sensual walk, tugging downward on her blouse in order to expose a bit more cleavage than usual. She was nearly certain that he was going to propose an alliance between them that would be mutually beneficial as well as a really good time when they weren’t in the public eye.

The Mayor looked up, his attention caught – and then he turned away. “Madame vo’Maddux, I have a question for you.”

She paused then continued until she stood beside but slightly behind him. He was looking out over the city, though he’d raised his office so it actually projected above the Dome. He could see the city below, but his interest seemed to be the Opportunity Mass Driver, largest one on Mars and by far the best situated so that it could fling ore and other non-compressible items into orbit using the rotation of the planet directly by aligning with the equator. Fifty kilometers away, it still stretched an appreciable length of the horizon, glinting silvery red in late morning light. “Lovely, absolutely lovely,” he said.

She nodded, looking out the transparent aluminum window, echoing, “It’s one of the ten engineering wonders of the Solar System and it will eventually lead you to dominate Mars.”

He looked sideways at her then laughed, saying, “Not the Mass Driver!” He strode away from the window and continued, “I’m talking about Aster Thiel! What an incredible intelligent woman! She knows something about everything – she might even be one of those true...what do you call them? Renaissance women! She can cook, sew, keep the books, file, requisition – she even made a suggestion for beefing up security in the Mayor’s House!”

“What?” Hanam exclaimed. “What could she possible know about the security for your House? She’s just a secretary from the office pool!”

When he turned to face her, he said, “That was all you were until I sent you off to the Marines. Even less than that as I recall – didn’t one of my sergeants pick you up on the Rim of Burroughs when the Mayor there called us to put down one of their interminable food riots?” He shook his head. “You were a scrawny thing.” He smiled appraisingly then sniffed, “Never quite filled out into a proper woman though, did you. Always vaguely masculine.” He turned away shaking his head. He picked up his pad from the desk and aimed it at her. “Here’s the suggestion Aster made last night. See that it’s implemented and then tell me when you’re ready for it to be tested. I need to have it ready in time for the wedding.”

Hanam vo’Maddux blinked and rocked backward as if she’d been slapped. “The what, Mr. Mayor?”

“Wedding. Aster’s what I’ve been looking for. She’s smart, she’s served me – us,” he shot her a dangerous, hooded look, then continued, “Check out the hole she found in your supposedly perfect defense of my house. It was big enough to drive a copboard through.”

Vo’Maddux snatched the pad, scanned it and caught her breath. “It couldn’t have been that easy,” she breathed. It appeared that the airtight security surrounding the Mayor’s personal residence could be breached via an education link and protocol installed when a Mayor some eighty years ago had had a mob of children and chose to homeschool them. Her husband was, in fact a licensed educator and they’d used the equipment and links to great advantage – of the ten, three owned their own interplanetary transportation fleets, six had served in some governmental capacity on Mars, the Moon, Earth or in the Cloud Cities of Venus. One had died a heroes death saving a bus load of children from a Buddhist terrorist’s bomb during the Unification of Faith in Humanity on Earth forty years ago.

But no one had ever canceled the link or cut it. Conceivably an sort of computer virus could be invisibly injected into the Mayoral system. She looked up to catch the Mayor’s eye; to promise sexual favors in abject apology, but his eye was elsewhere. He said, “That will be all Chief.”

Flushing red from equal parts embarrassment and fury, she left the office.

There was only one thing she could do about this Aster of the Mayor’s.

Destroy her.

April 4, 2012


Oops! Sorry about the late post. Busy days as school after break!

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: Humans abduct aliens for nefarious purposes

Strangely enough, GOOGLE will not allow me to search for “Humans abduct aliens”…which gave me the idea for this idea…

Cerys Finch is from England and a “foreign” exchange student staying with a family in Minnesota.

Elias Ian Serano is another exchange student staying with another family nearby. He’s been after her for a date for weeks, ever since the school hosted an Exchange Dinner with Honors Program families and the exchange students at the school. She thinks he’s cute and all, but he’s not her type. She tries to explain, but he’s insistent and she reports his behavior to the school counselor. That was yesterday…

That night, Cerys is up late and hears noises outside. Going to a backyard window where the family’s house looks out over a state park reserve, she sees wildly flickering lights. Going to the window and looking down, she sees here host family – mom, dad and three young adult men she hasn’t seen often because they no longer live at home. The five of them have captured something in a net that is struggling wildly. Hand to her mouth, she sees what she thinks at first is a bear.

Then she sees the Spanish boy from school rush into the back yard. His arms waving wildly, he startles her hosts and the back up. The creature she thought was a bear throws off the net with help from Elias Ian and bolts for the brush. But it was clearly not a bear – it was clearly wearing something on its back, something that looked manufactured.

Elias Ian looks up suddenly, directly at the window she’s standing at. She backs away, gasping and when she steps back, he’s gone. She hurries to bed as her hosts come back into the house, cursing, angry and making lots of noise. She goes back to her room.

The next morning…

April 1, 2012

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Turn From War In Space Porn, Return To A Literature Of Ideas!

io9, an online science, speculative fiction, comic book, etc. news magazine (http://io9.com/)posts a regular feature called “Space Porn” in which they bring to their readership’s attention spectacular photos of space. You can see one of the photos above.

They also update on recent publications, movies, etc. And that’s what got my ire up today.

War In Space Porn.

Mind you, I’m not picking on the WRITERS of the stuff, though they share the same blame that the people who harvest and treat the leaves of the coca plant before sending the end result into the rest of world to be turned into cocaine share. They are suppliers of the drug.

The drug is War In Space Porn.

I have dabbled in the works myself: currently reading Jack Campbell’s first LOST FLEET book; the first half of Peter Hamilton’s NEUTRONIUM ALCHEMIST; David Weber’s ON BASILISK STATION and OFF ARMAGEDDON REEF; all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s MILES VORKOSIGAN books; Kevin J. Anderson’s first book of the SAGA OF THE SEVEN SUNS; and of course, I’ve read HG Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS more times than I can count.

It is here that I will plant my flag and possibly irritate all kinds of people.

Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS held to the appellation of science fiction being “a literature of ideas” because he was among the very first to explore the idea of aliens invading Earth and starting a war. Everyone who came after him, with few exceptions (Jerry Pournelle’s THE FOREVER WAR) steered a course that made War In Space pornographic. In this case, I’m going to use the definition from dictionary.com: “noun…writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.”

It's my opinion that excluding Wells, Pournelle and a few others, the others are feeding a market (which I visit on occasion) in which War In Space has become pornography. I for one am ready to go back to reading the literature of ideas.

Examples of SF as a literature of IDEAS abound: Nancy Kress’ BEGGARS IN SPAIN; Frank Herbert’s DUNE (just the first book); Tobias Buckell’s CRYSTAL RAIN; Robert Sawyer’s CALCULATING GOD; Robert L. Forward’s DRAGON’S EGG; Bruce Bethke’s HEADCRASH; DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM by Cory Doctrow; and China Miéville’s PERDIDO STREET STATION. This is a tiny slice of the work that challenges and makes us think.

STAR WARS fed the frenzy for more and more War In Space porn -- can you name a single Idea that came out of those movies? STAR TREK and BABYLON 5 (while they often serve up War In Space porn) occasionally turn out a literary idea like "Are artificial life forms property or free beings?" and "What exactly IS belief and faith?"

Yet the real Literature Of Ideas is overwhelmed by War In Space porn. I for one, am tired of it. I for one, will cut way back on my porn and start to support the literature of IDEAS that science fiction can be.

While I am certainly no fan of ATLAS SHRUGGED or ANTHEM, what Ayn Rand has to say in her essay, “What Is Romanticism?”, can easily be applied to a call to turn from War In Space porn and return to A Literature Of Ideas: “One can observe the misapprehended element of truth that gave rise to that early classification. What the Romanticists brought to art was the primacy of values, an element that had been missing in the stale, arid, third- and fourth-hand (and rate) repetitions of the Classicists' formula-copying. Values (and value-judgments) are the source of emotions; a great deal of emotional intensity was projected in the work of the Romanticists and in the reactions of their audiences, as well as a great deal of color, imagination, originality, excitement and all the other consequences of a value-oriented view of life. This emotional element was the most easily perceivable characteristic of the new movement and it was taken as its defining characteristic, without deeper inquiry.”

Anyone else want to join the crusade?