June 30, 2019

(A REAL) Slice of PIE: Will All (In “Our” Opinion) Intelligent Alien Civilizations Be Modeled On the Benevolent Government Democrats Are Striving For?

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

Question: Why do so many people who DON’T read science fiction widely, make the assumption that any Aliens we come into contact with who have starships, no war, unlimited wealth, with a unified, single party government, be ecologically-pre-civilization-static, single-class, benevolent, democratically elected, and all-inclusive civilization?

Do they have evidence that “U-SPG-EPCS-SC-B-DE-AI civilization” is the only way to govern well? (WE are evidence to the contrary. Our governments have always been fractured (check history books); but we use nuclear power, genetic engineering, and we travel in space – all of these achievements are limited and the majority of “doom-sayers” assume that we will destroy ourselves…but despite dire predictions, we haven’t as of this moment. We absolutely have wars, threats, and cruelty…yet seven billion of us persist at this time. Countless others have tantrums about how dumb the “others” are and that unless the entire world embraces their ideal of government, we will continue to be hanging by a thread? Maybe a spider silk thread…)

How did Gene Roddenberry’s dream up the idea of a United Earth and a United Federation of Planets? Except for hippies who were dreaming of yellow submarines and Woodstock, the rest of the world was in shell-shocked horror discovering that the SECOND War To End All Wars hadn’t performed as promised. Things were growing worse. How did Roddenberry get to Star Trek?

 That’s easy enough to summarize from the article referenced below: “I really don’t consider myself a science-fiction writer, but I’m interested in what’s happening on this planet and what may happen…Intolerance in the 23rd century? Improbable!...If man survives that long, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures…we couldn’t do a space show without at least one person on board who constantly reminded you that you are out in space and in a world of the future…A science-fiction buff since junior high school, he had the idea for a series that would mix…The Twilight Zone..The Outer Limits with a cast of continuing characters…[a]…space-adventure series [like] “Wagon Train to the Stars,” a nod to the westerns that were still the gold standard in popular TV drama in the 1960s…born in the midst of the turbulent 1960s…it…often reflected and commented on the issues of that divisive decade: the Vietnam War, civil rights, Cold War politics, the budding environmental movement. The show had an idealistic, ’60s counterculture mind-set, imagining a 23rd-century world in which humans had outgrown war and prejudice…[STAR TREK] proved that an outer-space action show could appeal to our intelligence, tackle serious issues—and, in a troubled time, offer some hope for the future.” He certainly didn’t base his enthusiastic hope for humanity on any kind of reality, making the assumption that we would reach a point of evenly distributed wealth and overcome all forms of prejudice to reach the


In the STAR WARS Universe, an Evil Empire has overthrown by an UNQUESTIONABLY Good Republic (it’s “goodness” is an unargued given). But shortly after that happens, the New Republic was once again overthrown by an Imperial copycat of Darth Vader called the First Order which launches its takeover in THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015 – ironically, (hmmm or was it political commentary?) the same year Trump declared his presidential bid). On what basis is the Republic declared “good” and the Empire “bad”?

In Frank Herbert’s DUNE novels, his assumption is that humanity can only avoid the extinction of Humanity by creating an Omniscient God-Emperor to derail a religious High Priesthood of Bene Gesserit and capitalistic Traders. “ We've a three-point civilization: the Imperial Household balanced against the Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad through [CHOAM, the Directors of all wealth], and between them; the Spacers Guild with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport. Reverend Mother Mohiam.” (Note she omits the hidden rule of the Bene Gesserit.” Paul Atreides (aka Paul Muad’dib institutes “…his Golden Path, [Frank Herbert’s]…argument of how to create a healthy society, avoiding despotism and hero worship, a trap in which social groups can be caught: ‘To make a world where human kind can make its own future from moment to moment, free from one man's vision. Free from the perversion of the [any?] prophet’s words. And free of future pre-determined...’” From universal foundation does Frank Herbert’s declaration of what humanity needs depend? On what foundation of human understanding does he make his postulation?

In TV’s extremely popular series, THE EXPANSE, the UN has seized power from most of the world’s governments because of nearly uncontrollable Climate Change – which they stop. They continue to rule Earth as well as colonies on the Moon, Mars, and in the asteroid belt as well as several other Jovian moons and a very few interstellar colonies until rogue Martian marines form their own government, conquer everyone, and call them all the Laconian Empire…[This is all from the resource below. I read the second book, CALIBAN’S WAR thinking it was the first and while I thought it was a great deal of fun, never went back to read the others. I also read A GAME OF THRONES and while it was also fun, (nowhere near as fun as his Haviland Tuf science fiction stories); I didn’t return to that series, either and never watched a single episode of the TV show…]

There are many futures for Humanity portrayed in science fiction literature. These four are currently best known because they were either visual presentations or MADE into visual presentations. Others await production and the passing of time to test their precepts.

Until then, we’re left with what we have here and now, and what we hope in the future – and our own hands to make it – though there are some who believe that we do not labor alone working for the better future or Humanity on Earth, now. [No, I DON’T mean Aliens Among Us!]

June 27, 2019

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION: CHAPTER 107 The Trials of Team Three – 7

On Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. All three intelligences hover on the edge of extinction. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society might not only save all three – but become something not even they could predict. Something entirely new...

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Xiaomara; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two, warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds at great profit to Humanity. Then the war spilled over on to the Human homeworld and all three are threatened with extinction…

Choral Reading
STAGE DIRECTION: (Spotlight falls on each as they speak then shuts off, illuminating the next; then all three spotlights fall on them as they chorus together.)

Yown’Hoo: “The literal decay of the fiber of Yown’Hoo morality accelerated when we refused peace with Kiiote.”
Kiiote: “Interbreeding, internecine war, and ritual cannibalism devoured us in resisting harmony with Yown’Hoo.”
Human: “Material gain from both Yown’Hoo and Kiiote fed our greed, so concord held no profit.”
All: “We might do something none of us alone can do, we might braid an unbreakable cord of unity.” (4/6/2019)

Mother Kan Yuen said, “The reason we created the Triads was so that the three hidden Triads will eventually bond, and then from them, form the initial van der Walls Society. From there, we expect that the effect would allow the spontaneous formation of others.”

Scowling, Xiao said, “Why not just educate everyone and have them start?” She paused, thinking furiously, “Creating a new religion out of the concept might have been effective. Humans, Yown’Hoo, and Kiiote all have the capacity for accepting religion. That would have taken less…”

“We tried.” She shook her head, “The result was worse than we could have anticipated. That experiment had to be sterilized with a pogrom of the ones we created.”


Mother Kan Yuen reached a store front that had opened onto the main thoroughfare of the ancient mall. As she appeared to walk into the darkness, the air around her sparkled orange and green. Xiao stopped then stepped back. “Where are you taking me?”

“Follow child and you will see.”

Once they passed through the portal, they came into a brilliantly lit laboratory. Along one side were parts of robots – not only Human forms, but Yown’Hoo and Kiiote as well. The other side was marked by large view screens, most of them unlit. Xiao stopped, arms folded over her chest and said, “I don’t want to ask again, ‘Where are you taking me?’”

Mother Kan Yuen looked over her shoulder and smiled as she kept walking. “Ever the strong, stubborn hero, eh, Xiomara?”

“How do you know me?” Then she made a disgusted sound, shaking her head. “Stupid question.” She looked directly at Mother, not moving, waiting. The other woman turned around, “All right. Transparency. You’ve separated me from the rest of my team. You have me alone. What do I need to do?”

Mother Kan Yuen turned away, back rigid. Then she sagged and when she turned to face Xiao, she looked old. Worn out. She said slowly, “We lost contact with the other two Triads years ago. They may still be active and healthy, but there are forces at work among all three Peoples that are fighting our concept.” She sighed, “There have always been Humans and Yown’Hoo, and Kiiote who have fought the idea of creating a new civilization.”

“But why? I don’t understand!” She stomped her foot before she could stop herself. Some leader she’d turned out to be. Seg-go, Alli-go, and Nah-hi-el stepped through the portal behind her and came to stand with her.

Mother Kan Yuen, “You may be the only Triad to survive and so we needed to get you out of Minneapolis and to go into hiding.”

“But that’s retreat! We can fight this!”

“You can. But you’d all be killed. We – the Leadership – and I have a different plan. Maybe it’s what we should have done initially. We want you to integrate into the community in Winnipeg – all of you. We hope then that your tolerance of each other,” she held up a hand, “Let me change that, the celebration you do as a Triad, your success, your integration among yourselves, will be a sort of…‘plague’ that will pull together the Humans who live in the city and the Fosters who raise Kiiote pups and Yown’Hoo younglings. It should happen naturally. Now, daughter, will you join me?”

June 25, 2019


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: Comic Fantasy – “…literature that is parodic, lighthearted, wacky, snarky, or just plain buffoonish.”


Dural Jungkarara stopped on a ridge, and shading his eyes from the early-morning sun’s glare, looked down into the valley. He said, “This is it. The oldest gum trees in the world. I can’t miss.” He started down the trail. Bushwalking for days in the forest, talking to other walkers he’d meet and surreptitiously on the lookout for the Tarkine’s oldest sites, it had taken him three years and working some of the worst jobs he’d imagined to get here.

A reddish mountain dragon – (He’d once commented, “You sure don’t look like any dragon I’ve ever imagined”) – Oolah Wadjari, clung to a thick, quilted pad on his shoulder. She said, “To get an idea of exactly how much we can miss, may I remind you of The Great Canberra Disaster?”

He just grunted and headed down the trail. Twenty minutes later, he said, “The only thing that can activate my powers is ‘a tea from the leaves of prehistoric trees’.”

“So says an elderly woman who couldn’t even speak English,” said Oolah.

“Hey! That’s my nanna you’re talking about!”

Oolah replied, “No insult intended, Boy. I was her familiar for sixty years before I came into your service!”

“Yeah, but I never heard you talk to her like you…”

“Oh, I did, Boy! I did! Ask her about the time she and I crossed the Great Desert when she was fourteen! Two years younger than you and she had wild visions of changing the world...”
Dural turned abruptly and dropped to his backside, sliding down the embankment between the switchback trails.

“Hey! You’re not supposed to do that, Boy! It’s lurk! You could get a fine!”

“Maybe they’ll confiscate my pet,” he said, stopping only two trails downhill.

“I’m not your pet – we’re partners.”

“Partners in what?”

The lizard snorted and a puff of smoke popped from each nostril. “How easily your forget.”

“I didn’t forget.”

“Then why not say it?”

“Bonza, then, gecko. Who killed nanna and how? That’s what I’m here for.”

“What about me?”

“I don’t know why you’re here. Maybe to see the country? You sure haven’t been much help to me so far.”

“What about...,” the lizard began.

“Not that again! More to the point, what about Canberra? I certainly didn’t make that big of a mess all by myself! If you’d kept your fire-breathing abilities a little more carefully under wraps...”

“My abilities! What about you? What made you think you could use an invisibility spell like it was…like it was…”

“Like it was a magnification incantation?” The dragon blushed orange in embarrassment as a silence fell over the Tarkine wood as the boy and his dragon continued down the side of the hill. Oolah gripped the shoulder pad tighter and Dural rubbed first one eye, then the other. “I’m not crying,” he said when the lizard stirred on his shoulder. “I just need to figure out what will make the powers she told me I had manifest in a way I can use to find her.”

“And when you do find her? What then? What if she disappeared because she wanted to? What if she left this world because it was her time to leave – her choice to leave?”

“Did she tell you she was ready?” Dural shot at the lizard. He knew the answer. They’d discussed it months ago. They’d discussed it in the juvenile detention center in Hervey Bay, just before they broke out of there. They’d discussed it endlessly since leaving Kununarra in Western Australia and hitching and walking and working south until they finally reached the largest piece of Gondwanan Rainforest on the planet. “The answer?” Dural snarled.

Oolah sighed a puff of smoke and finally said, “The answer is that she was not ready. Nowhere near ready.”

“Then that’s why we’re here. We need to find her and help her. Save her life like she saved mine.”

Names: ♀ Australian Aboriginal (= red lizard), Tribe name (Western Australia) ; Australian Aboriginal (= hollow tree that is on fire), Tribe name (Queensland)

June 23, 2019

Slice of PIE: Missing Blog Entries…SORRY!

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

No rant today, just an apology for my irregular posting lately.

Summer School started last week, and I teach a class called Writing To Get Published. I’ve done this between one and four weeks a year for the past twenty-two years.

In the class, many of the kids WANT to be there. They WANT to write. Many of them are talented, though many are not – like my own, the group’s “great writing” is patchy.

The thing is that during that week, I have the kids experiment with writing poetry, “Weekly World News” articles (aa fun way to practice journalism-style writing), personal essays and How-To pieces, interview and turning the resulting “mess” into an article, and how to generate ideas. On Wednesdays, we “finally” reach fiction. Most of them are confident here, because it’s this particular kind of writing that allows their imaginations to soar – and not bother to follow any rules or format.

Sometimes, they soar too far into the realm of reality to the one of, “I already know how to do this! Nothin’ Guy can teach me!”

That’s when I do something their teachers rarely (if ever) do: I slap them down.


But they get slapped down nonetheless, making me a sort of editor who writes a brief (real) note explaining that the story I’ve subbed “has some good things in it, particularly…but overall, it’s not for us. I look forward to your next.”

I tell that to the kids up front, explaining that the purpose of my class isn’t to do an assignment, it’s to prepare at least ONE PIECE by the end of the week to submit to a real market. To real editors who have no reason to be nice to them.

At any rate, I ALWAYS have a student who is “working on a book”. What that usually means is that they’ve written an extremely short story – and divided it into number “chapters”. I redirect them to flash fiction and short stories.

I’d love to do some sort of intensive writer’s workshop, but we’ve tried before and usually can’t get more than five to seven kids. Which means that I teach the class for a cash loss, so they don’t run it. I’ve tried running it in conjunction with the first class, but that doesn’t let me give them the editing and critiquing time they deserve.

After fiction, I talk about flash (which is how I broke into ANALOG, writing a “Probability Zero” piece), Twitter Fiction ( http://nanoism.net/about/, which I also managed to break into a couple years ago), and Five Minute Mysteries (mysteries constitute 12% of adult fiction). They have fun with that and there’s a MASSIVE outpouring of “pieces”. Most don’t really meet the criteria of having a beginning-middle-end, but they do have fun. Moving on to dialogue, I turn them to script-writing for a skit and a commercial. After they print the manuscripts, I have them hand them to me, and scramble them and assign them to other groups. I also explain that what they find incredibly hilarious hasn’t been translated to the script – and that if this is what they want to do, they need to provide direction for the actors.

After that, they get to work on whatever writing they want to – after a couple of lectures on writer’s block (which I don’t believe in) and rejection – and share that some of the most famous writers spent many years in obscurity and that before they “were an overnight success”, they wrote pages and pages of stories that will never be published. Some they know – like JK Rowling and Dr. Seuss; others not so much like Louis L’Amour whose westerns were a staple of many readers for nearly three-quarters of a century, but who was rejected hundreds of times before he became the novelist he was when he passed away.

The class was great (I’ve taught, WTGP for 22 years, and a Serious Writer’s Workshop I did for 7 years), but it drained my writing energy from writing to editing. And there you go, that’s the WHY; the when is for the next 5 weeks. So, my production will likely remain jerky for a while longer.


June 18, 2019


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: Post-cataclysmic rag-tag armies struggle to kick [some bad guy] out of the good ol' US of A

Salvador Cadenas de la Parras screamed, “¡joda la tierra!”; he also cursed the sky and the very air he breathed. He threw his hat over the cliff and cursed an invisible America two thousand kilometers to the north.

Yomery Kauam smiled, shook her head then laughed, saying, “If only you’d have expressed you passion to the Commander in Chief, you’d be on Haitian and Dominican soil at this moment, smashing through that pestilential wasteland on your way to Florida. Instead, you’re here, throwing your hat over a cliff into the bright morning sun.”

Sal spun around, cursed her, fixing her with as fierce a glare as he could. “I wanted to be there!”

Yomery shook her head, “You didn’t want to be there – you wanted to be a hero with El Presidente’s medallion on your chest and women on your arms.” She gestured to the far-away target. “Invading America today is nothing at all like invading it forty years ago!”

“It’s the same!”

Yomery headed back down the hill. Sal ran after her, grabbed her shoulder. She grabbed his hand, stopped and let gravity and mass work together to flip him over her shoulder. Keep her hand firmly on his wrist, she pulled him back toward herself until he came to a sudden, breathless stop on his back, at her feet. She leaned over, kissed his nose and said, “Let’s talk when you calm down, OK?”

She scramble down the trail, listening carefully to make sure she hadn’t broken anything important on Sal. When she heard him groan and scramble to his feet, she headed to the monitor bunker they’d been sharing since Venezuela had launched its preemptive attack against what had formerly been the glorious US of A. She’d been born there in the Decadent Decade just before the Fizzle. The one-time world power was now reduced to planning invasions of one-time failed countries like Venezuela...

Sal limped up beside her and said, “¿Por qué hizo usted esto?”

She replied in unaccented American English, “Because you tried to bully me.”


“You should practice your English, Sal. We may not be in on the real invasion, but the occupation of America should keep us busy for…oh, the next decade.”

“America might...”

“America’s not going to do anything except surrender.”

He stared at her and said, “Haven’t you ever watched the Mad Max movies?”

“I don’t see what some ancient, flat, American movie...”

“It has everything to do with this whole invasion! We may be strong; we may be brave, but the Americans have corazón profundo.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“They have a deep spirit when they’re forced into a corner.”

She pursed her lips, glanced north in the direction of the legendary “land of the free and the home of the brave” and said, “That may be true, but I’ve heard that El Presidente has a surprise up his sleeve for the Americans.” Sal ran up behind her, reached to grab her arm then jerked his hand back. Without turning around, she said, “Let’s just say that Americans may have a history of resisting oppressors – Brazilians have a history of subverting our oppressors.”

Names: ♀ Venezuela (both);  Venezuela (both)

June 16, 2019

WRITING ADVICE: The Forest For The Trees

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

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

My first time around the lake every Spring is always An Event for me. I’ve been pedaling in the basement on my bike for a chunk of winter, albeit on a friction stand.

Can you say, “Boring…”?

So Spring is an exciting time for me. Spring 2019 was no exception, and when I got on the trails this morning, much to  my surprise, I discovered that they’d cleared nearly three meters of brush, branches, and trunks on either side of the asphalt trail!

What was most amazing was the view it gave THROUGH the forest. Something like this:

Without all the deadwood and weeds, I could see the actual bones of the forest, noticing game trails and paths, as well as the surface of the lake itself (it’s actually a swamp in the second decade of the 21st Century. The old map we found in a drawer in the house when we bought it 26 years ago shows the original lake to be MUCH larger than in 1956 when the land hereabouts was surveyed.)

What’s this got to do with writing advice?
Well, I just sold the longest story ever, for a shockingly substantial bit of money and the REASON it happened is that I’ve been learning to examine the bones of my story; clearing away the brush so-to-speak.

The fact is that I was startled by the end result of the story myself, even though I wrote it.

So what do I mean by “the bones of the story”?

In case you didn’t know, I’ve spent a substantial number of years of my teaching career (which began with my graduation from college in 1981 with a BS in Biology and after taking a several other classes, a license in Science 5-9) as a science teacher. I still teach a summer school class called Super Storms and Melting Poles that starts with a foundation in climate science then ends with “weather prediction”.

At any rate, I’ve been writing a series of advice essays using the book WIRED FOR STORY that, unsurprisingly, takes a look at writing from a purely neurological view. I “got” her concept immediately, and after absorbing the wisdom, I began to write with renewed excitement.

HOWEVER…(there’s always a ‘however’, isn’t there?), neurology wasn’t the only place I was weak in. While ideas, dialogue, and execution were my forte, building BELIEVABLE characters was my biggest weakness. I could do it and I’ve got a varied number of professional publications to show it, but the sad fact is that I only publish ten percent of what I write. In other words, I only rarely create a character an editor can connect with.

I can’t tell you how many characters I’ve created, but since 1990, I’ve submitted 1,126 times. Probably one third of those are distinct stories…so say I’ve created roughly 300 main characters; of which 106 saw publication (one of those characters, Candace Mooney, who lives in space, saw THREE stories about her). That’s not insignificant, but the return on the effort is small.

I guess on reflection, I’m not doing anything inherently “wrong”. But I can certainly get BETTER at doing what I’m doing! That’s what I’ve been pondering here. I can do it – but HOW did I do it?

Clearly Lisa Cron’s insight has made the process much easier to use. Since August of 2018 after I finished reading the book, I’ve written three stories, submitted two of them and sold both. But the main characters of all of them are “real”.

Carlos Bander (from the unsubmitted one, has been around for a while and appears in four or five “trunked” stories); Scrabble & Thatcher – an online veterinarian who is piebald and a genetically engineered, exiled Canadian soldier; and then an ensemble cast in which Larry Henry is unusable after this, but whose colleagues, Serena Ochoa-Noriega (Flight Director) and maybe Mayra Hernandez Hernandez (Mission Control Vox)…or in order to not to appropriate a culture, I may drag in one of the kids he alludes to early in the story…hmmm…THAT might be interesting…

Back to my metaphor of not seeing the forest for the trees – the thing is explained this way: “An expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole.” (Dictionary.com) So why don’t my characters spring to life off the page?

My simple answer is that I was taking too much time figuring out the details – what they looked like, what their qualifications were for the job to be done in the story (an conversely, I just realized I chose the wrong person to tell a different story I was working on…NOTE TO SELF: “Small Battles”), how I wanted them to act and react and not realizing that if I “cause a person to be born”, the person responds out of who they are rather than in the way I want them to.

And maybe that’s what I’m trying to say: when the foliage is cleared away, you can see the forest for what it IS. You can see lesions, marks, new branches, squirrel nests, antler wear, beaver gnawing, leaf litter, fallen trees…all the things that define the character of a forest that you can’t usually see because of the abundant leaves masking all of the details in waves of multiple shades of green.

June 11, 2019


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: The dead coming back to life...
Current Event: Any “miraculous” “resurrection” of someone who was “dead”…

Ephraim Mendoza shook his head and said, “That can’t be.”

Mercedes Chokkoon pursed her lips, closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. When she opened her eyes, she said, “She’s dead. I was with her when she died.”

Frowning, Ephraim looked at her, eyes wide and said, “You said she’d be fine.”

Mercedes shrugged. She couldn’t take any more of this. “She was my sister. She was just your girlfriend. You think this is easy for me?”

He stared at her for a long time before he said, “No. That’s why I don’t understand how cold you’re acting. You sister is dead. The love of my...” his voice caught and he looked away. Not before she saw the tears slid down his face.

Mercedes glare at him, willing herself to blame him. “I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“Blame you.”

“What do you mean ‘blame you’? How could I have had anything to do with...”

Mercedes shook her head hard, “Nothing you did. Nothing you didn’t do. She wanted to live for you.”

“So? She wanted to live for you, too!”

“Not enough.”

“You’re blaming her for dying?” he said, incredulous. “She didn’t do anything to deserve this! She had no control...”

Mercedes slapped him. Then found her hands clenched in fists. One moment she was trembling, the next she was hitting him. She hit his face. Hit his nose. His eyes. Then she kneed him in the groin. He shoved her away, slamming her into the wall. She bounced off, spun, and fell face-first into the meal tray, screaming obscenities at him. He was down on the floor with her, hands around her throat, pressing; pressing; pressing the life out of her...

On the bed beside them, Chante sat up and said, “Stop it. Now.” There was no emotion in her voice. There wasn’t even a breath. The sound came without her moving her lips.

Mercedes scrambled back, free suddenly from Ephraim’s hands. He tried to stand as well, but tumbled over her. They found themselves with their backs against the hospital room door, side-by-side, clasping hands.

The heart monitor, still connected to her, was silent. The respirator, still taped to her jaw, was silent. The EEG waves turned the screen green with wild activity as she spoke, “Stop it. I love you both and if you don’t stop fighting…”

Names: ♀ French, Thai; Israeli, Mexican; ♀ French

June 9, 2019

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Breaking Our Arms Patting Ourselves On The Back and Schools Slandered

Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California in August 2018 (to which I will be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. The link is provided below where this appeared on page 125…

Afrofuturism: It Ain't New
Millions of people learned the term Afrofuturism when Black Panther became a box office sensation. However, this ain't new. Sun Ra, Parliment Funkadelic, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Octavia E. Butler, and Samuel R. Delany created a foundation that inspired musicians, artists, and writers like Janelle Monae, Nisi Shawl, Nalo Hopkinson, Kyle Yearwood and others long before Ryan Coogler brought T'Challa to the big screen. Let's discuss the roots of Afrofuturism and who is creating the most interesting works today.

Rivers Solomon: writer New York Times, An Unkindness of Ghosts, graduate of Stanford University
Steve Barnes: writer, novels & television, currently student of martial arts and yoga
Nilah Magruder: a writer and illustrator, picture book, award-winning webcomic, written for Marvel, storyboards for DreamWorks and Disney

I’m going to focus on one sentence here: “…Afrofuturism…ain't new.”

I’m also going to add gender identity, GLBTQ, socialism, liberal accepting atmosphere, and school and add: “…ain’t new.”

I have worked in public, private, and charter schools (definition in Minnesota, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school (scroll down to United States, paragraph 2); I have worked with EL students; special education students; and was the first  International Baccalaureate Middle Year Program teacher in my high school; taught grades 3-12 in various subjects to varying ability levels through gifted and talented. I was among the first in my district to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS); I was the Minnesota Science Museum Teacher of the Year (1994); I have written curriculum for the PBS television show, NEWTON’S APPLE and the PBS sponsored series, Bill Kurtis’, THE NEW EXPLORERS. I am currently a school counselor at a first ring suburban high school. Latest statistics show the school is 69% students of color, primarily African American with a large population of Spanish-speaking/Mexico/Central America students in addition to Hmong, Somali, and various dialects of English (Nigerian, Liberian, and others).

I will warn you: I am a conservative, straight, BOFWhiG* with no novels published or under contract and no blog followed by tens-of-thousands of people. I’m currently not a member of SFFWA or SCBWI, though I have been in the past, mostly because I don’t get enough published to really justify the expense of both. I would say that I am a fair and equitable counselor and colleague, but many wouldn’t believe me because it doesn’t fit with their paradigm: I must be a certain way that neatly fits into what some people believe someone of my description should be. I cannot be anything else. One would actually have to talk to the people I interact with to, you know, know who I am, but that would require a level of effort most biased people have no interest in expending.

So, forward.

Schools have been working the mines of equity far, far longer than the Speculative Fiction World has. Consequently, we have made more progress than the SFF world.

And now I pause to allow anyone reading this to dredge up their most horrific School Prejudice/Abuse Stories. Most often, these include horrible teachers, abusive teachers, abusive principals, abusive counselors, the abusive System, and abusive athletes and popular students, and all manner of other damaging evidence that would completely shatter my statement that schools are better at dealing with (and have been for a LONG time) oppressed, underrepresented young people who have grown up into the adults who are now working to change the speculative fiction universe – many who tell the TRUE STORIES about how difficult their school lives were. However, they may have forgotten the one or two GOOD things that happened in school; perhaps one person who made their school life tolerable, or supported them, or loved them as they were. They neglect to tell it because…well, bad things are always more interesting that good things. Most national news programs can barely bring themselves to transmit 60 seconds of something “nice”.

My point is that while I am glad that the SFF field I know and love is finally beginning to include the alienated (funny play on words, that…), I am heartily tired of the fanfare that accompanies something that should have happened DECADES ago for a literature that prides itself on forward looking.

I am also irritated by the fact that I have nothing to add to the conversation because I so love to talk and write.

Until this piece, I haven’t wanted to fight the current gag order, mostly because I’m exhausted with caring for the underrepresented and oppressed students (and colleagues and teachers, actually) who have gotten to know me as an advocate and confidante for and to them.

I won’t engage in argument unless someone does a bit of research into who I am…which they won’t…so I won’t be engaging with anyone on this issue soon. Maybe someday, though. We’ll see.

Until then: what SFF recently discovered to be an issue and is currently patting itself on the back over its active and inclusive response (which IS great, but tardy) – schools have been responding to for decades. To quote the WorldCon writer of the session description noted above, what we do, “…ain’t new.”

I’ve always been part of that response – and I will continue to be for the next three years of active service. After that…not sure, I hear retirement is boring.

Definitions: *Big Old Fat White Guy

June 6, 2019

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 147: Aster of Opportunity

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified 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 and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Aster, Consort of Opportunity Mayor-for-Life Etaraxis had found a public rest area, sitting to close her eyes and breathe deeply for several seconds. The Orphan’s Ball might very well shatter the stranglehold grip “natural Humans” had over cloned Humans on Mars

She would be heading revolution that might change the face of Mars. Standing, her pulse roared in her ears as she headed for the lift, she thought furiously that this might very well be the purpose to which God had called her. She might be a fulcrum to change the face of a world; to make a difference in the lives of Artificial Humans. While her life was limited on Mars, mostly because she was less interested in the sciences and math than many other women, she’d never really found a calling. It was how she drifted into government office work. While she’d applied for higher positions, none of them had ever materialized; her father had always suspected it was because she was his daughter. She’d been gifted with NOT simply being consort to Etaraxis, but with an opportunity to wield true power.

Her moment had arrived. It was time for her to do something important for Mars; it was time to do something important for herself. She rode the lift to the surface, then took a train to the Mayor’s Aerie. No one slowed her down. In fact several bureaucrats nodded, several smiled. She was startled to realize that many appeared to like her.

She abruptly realized that this was her power base. By the time she reached the Apex – the part of the Aerie that poked through the dome, she was confident she could shift the consensus directed at Artificial Humans. She was feeling good about herself until, unseen, Vo’Maddux was walking beside her. Weasel – Aster knew the word from her father’s description, describing a sharp-toothed, rat-like creature who was not to be trusted. She’d never seen a real one, but the images father had shown her were disquieting. She leaned in close and said in a low voice, “I hear your father is a leader in the Christian under…”

Aster scowled, cutting off the Mayor’s assistant, “Yes, he is. Etaraxis knows. You know. He’s been like this my whole life, so it’s no secret from me.” She stopped, spinning to face Vo’Maddux and leaned into her face, “Are you trying to blackmail me into something, assistant?”

Vo’Maddux leaned back, startled, then leaned back in, said angrily, “If you don’t do as I want, I can have your old man executed.”

Aster stood, shook her head, and said, “I’m fairly certain you’re overestimating your influence on the Pylon.”

“And I’m certain I am now, Consort. You’re one of a long line of virtual one-night-stands. You’re no different…”

Aster stepped full into the other woman’s space, crowding her, forcing her to take a step back to risk collision – and even she wasn’t bold enough yet to be seen possibly attacking the Mayoral Consort. There were, after all, eyes everywhere and she was not, after all, the Mayor’s Consort. Aster looked down at her from her slight height advantage, and said, “You’re not Consort yet, Vo’Maddux, and until you’re ready to risk your life in challenging me, you’d be wise to take a couple of steps back.” Aster took a quick step forward, forcing Vo’Maddux to collide with her and risk a record of her assaulting the Mayor’s Consort – or back off.

She backed off. Aster nodded, turned, and strode away toward the Pylon. She was certain Vo’Maddux sliced her to ribbons in her imagination. She said faintly, “But not today, Dear,” she tossed a look over her shoulder. Vo’Maddux hadn’t moved. With a smile, she added, “Not today.”

June 4, 2019


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: Conjuring…
Current Event: http://www.spellsofmagic.com/spells/spiritual_spells/conjuring_spells/390/page.html

Jacob Adams scowled, shivering in the cold. He wore black jeans and boots, but all he wore on top was a baseball cap turned backwards and an A-shirt. “All I want is a fire to keep warm! I said the spell, how come it’s not working?” His breath puffed out a white cloud with every word.

Ada Contepomi stood with her fists balled on her hips. She was wearing her light blue parka, mittens and knee-high Mukluks. She said, “What exactly did you expect?”

“Fire! The website said that all I needed to do was, like, imagine the fire then speak the words and I’d have it.”

“So if ‘conjuring fire’ was so easy, don’t you think that everybody and their mother would be doing it right now?” She sniffed. “You should try and find a spell for something useful – like conjuring a tank of gas or a Big Mac with fries and a large, hot peppermint mocha!”

There was a sharp snap that had nothing to do with icicles falling from the roof of Jacob’s house and a ball of fire suddenly flared up, hovering over the snow in the driveway. “Oh, my gosh!” Jacob said, dropping to his chest on the frozen driveway, staring at the flickering ball of flame. He held out his hand then looked up at Ada, “Hey! It’s not hot or anything. It’s no warmer than the air!”

Ada looked disgusted and said, “So even though your magic spell worked – it didn’t make what you wanted it to make?” Shaking her head, she said, “When you’re ready to give up this crazy stunt, come in and we’ll watch Wheel Of Fortune.” She turned and stalked away.

Jacob lay in the driveway, staring at the whirling flame ball. Holding his palm to the flame, he moved his hand slowly closer until he was almost touching it. “Maybe it’s only hot on the surface or something.” He uncurled a finger and reached slowly toward it, ready to jerk it back in case the little flame ball was actually hot.

He didn’t realize what was happening until he noticed that his finger had disappeared up to the knuckle…

Names: USA, Minnesota; Argentina
Image: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/images/pics/6255CaernarfonCastle_pic1.jpg

June 2, 2019

Slice of PIE: The Maker Movement, TASERS, & the Future Of Science

Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California in August 2018 (to which I will be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. The link is provided below where this appeared on page 87…

Tom Swift, Makers & SF
210G | 1 hour
Every Fan knows about Tom Swift, the teenage millionaire inventor who, in each book in the huge series, develops an amazing device and uses it to make a fortune or defeat an enemy (or both). When the first of the books was written the devices were pushing the limits of possible and of affordable. Today, the Maker Movement has shown that there are many interesting and useful gadgets that can be made easily and cheaply using readily available materials and tools. The Tom Swift-like Maker is no longer a very common SF trope, but it should be. The panel of Makers, Engineers and Fen discusses gadgets from various pieces of SF which can, or might, be
achievable by existing makers (page 87).

Lincoln Peters: software engineer, photographer, uses Arduino, Raspberry Pi boards
Howard Davidson: Ph.D. in physics, Industrial Physicist, holds 52 patents, taught Computer Engineering at Stanford, and has done professional biology on the side
J.L. Doty: full-time SF&F writer, Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, laser geek
Holly Griffith: mechanical engineer who has worked at NASA for 11 years, been on the Science Channel, starwars.com, in Popular Science

I will here confess, for the first time in public, that as a young man (quite chubby and an avowed bibliophile (who wasn’t allowed to collect books until quite a few years later)), that I often dreamed and hoped for and drew plans for, a spacecraft that would be lifted from Earth under a balloon and from there, blasting into space.

Sort of like the step beyond what this company is doing: https://www.worldview.space/ only using this:

Needless to say, I never did (as I am alive and typing this), but I’ve always thought that there had to be an easer way to get into space than investing billions of dollars into NASA, or SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic.

Seems to me that the whole idea of the Maker Movement (or Culture) – which is “a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture[citation needed] that intersects with hacker culture (which is less concerned with physical objects as it focuses on software) and revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones. The maker culture in general supports open-source hardware. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of Computer Numeric Control tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses a cut-and-paste approach to standardized hobbyist technologies, and encourages cookbook re-use of designs published on websites and maker-oriented publications. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them to reference designs.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maker_culture) – is a response to the “DFL – style of governance” that encourages government to deal with problems as opposed to the “GOP-style of governance” that encourages individuals to deal with problems.

Oddly, the original TOM SWIFT books, which the Maker Movement more-or-less typifies a “do-it-yourself” attitude Robert A Heinlein infused his “juvenile” books with (in particular ROCKETSHIP GALILEO). There are 40 in the Original Series; another 33 in the Tom Swift, Jr. series; 11 in Tom Swift III; 14 in Tom Swift IV; 6 in Tom Swift V; and starting in July, a newly commissioned series, Tom Swift Inventor’s Academy, books 1-3 will appear starting in July of 2019.

That’s 107 books about an independent inventor kid (or kids) who intentionally works outside of not ONLY corporate control, but entirely outside of GOVERNMENT control.

Tom Swift, perhaps, typifies our disgust with both capitalists and governmentalists; flying out from under the control of both and inventing and using whatever it is that they can imagine.

Ironically, an invention from TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE inspired the name of a non-lethal weapon used by police forces (and citizens) all over the world. The company tweaked Tom’s name, introducing a generic “A.” to create the anagram, TASER – Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swift_and_His_Electric_Rifle)

So what does this have to do with science fiction?

Tom Swift led at least one generation to science careers; Robert A. Heinlein led another; the Apollo astronauts and Star Trek led another generation into science careers. My question: who will lead the iGen into the sciences? So far, no one.

What about the Makers? Are they up to it? For more information about stuff that’s going on today: https://makezine.com/2018/09/20/young-leaders-need-the-maker-movement/, and https://makerfaire.com/bay-area-2019/schedule/ (this is over but will probably occur next year!), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_inventor, and https://www.inventorsdigest.com/