January 29, 2020


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: Humans are NOTHING special in the universe
Current Event: “The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.
However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.” [Editorial comment: “‘Suggest’?????? ‘Seems inconsistent’???????]

There is no evidence that there is life anywhere in space – oh, there are hopes, dreams, protestations that “we can NOT be the only ones in this ENTIRE UNIVERSE” (this shriek is followed by a childish tantrum-like stomp of a foot. It has been uttered by the most distinguished of scientists and science fiction writers ever to walk this Earth – from Carl Sagan to David Brin) and frantic attempts by those who do not believe that Humanity is unique.

But there is NO PROOF that there is anyone of any sort anywhere in the universe but HERE.

Perhaps the best thing would be to just admit that we’re all there is and go from there.

Two paths are possible, the first one was followed to its logical conclusion by Isaac Asimov in his FOUNDATION classic tales – from FORWARD THE FOUNDATION through FOUNDATION AND EARTH.

The second seems to be happening before our very eyes:

Claudie Nicollier and Wubbo Fugelsang shielded their eyes against the glare of the rising sun. Claudie said, “Do you have any idea how ridiculous this looks?”

Wubbo snorted, rubbing the beard he’d allowed to grow over the last two weeks of the Human space program. He said, “They’re trying to fool themselves into believing that space belongs to the mechanical.”
Claudie grunted, grabbing his shoulder to steady her own hand. She said, “I joined the ESA to stop this. I did it for the glory of France!” Her shouted sounded more choked than triumphant. “Six years of training flushed away by an accident and bureaucratic panic.”

“You started training when you were ten?” he said, smiling. “I was born dreaming of space. My parents conceived me on the night of the last American shuttle launch on July 21, 2o11.”

“How romantic!” she whispered.

“And extremely uncomfortable, my older brother told me.”


“They were laying on a blanket on a beach in Florida about five kilometers from the Cape Canaveral launch pad.”

She slapped his shoulder, “We’re talking about the end of an era, Rub. How can you joke at a time like this?”


From their hiding place, they watched an Ariane VI rocket hurtle into space. Built entirely by robots, crewed by robots and guarded by robots, it was the International Space Union’s first shot since bringing the ancient International Space Station back to Earth. For the first time in eighty years, no Human lived anywhere but on the surface of the Earth.

The ISU and all its member nations had declared that space exploration could now begin in earnest with Humans safely at the center of a web of spidery lines of destinations from the first interstellar probe on the eighth year of its journey to Alpha Centauri B to the buckshot spheres of picobot satellites in orbit around all eight planets and fifteen moons.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” said Claudie.

Rub lifted an eyebrow, standing up, stretching – they’d been crouched here since the night before, hiding in the jungle west of the Launch Center. “Who are you worried about then?”

“Noah and Natalie and Waqas and Chris...”

“The Americans?” he snorted, “What are you worried about them for? They had their chance to go to the stars. They blew it.”


He waited then said, “I hear a ‘but’ in there.”

She stretched as well, quite aware of his interest in her calisthenics. She said, “I’m worried because I heard them talking the other day. They have something – how do they say it – they’ve got something ‘up their sleeves’.”

Rub shook his head, “They don’t have the power to do anything anymore. They can’t even work themselves out of their Second Great Depression.”

“What I heard from them doesn’t require power just a little remodeling…”

January 26, 2020

Slice of PIE: Again, the Question I Should Be Asking: “Why Don’t I QUIT Writing?”

This essay has been revised and updated from the version that appeared on June 5, 2011 and on June 12, 2016.

Long ago, in this very galaxy, I wrote a column for an ancient blogsite called FRIDAY CHALLENGE in which I answered the question, “Why Do We Write?” I admit, I had a brilliant answer! (;-)) You can read my first thoughts here: http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-we-write_19.html

Since then though, I’ve had second thoughts about how important this question is to ask.

Let me back up about fifteen years, to the year of Clarke’s First Odyssey. The seed for this thought fell on the ground the first time. My wife and two young kids were out garage-saling. We stopped at a house that had kid’s toys and clothing and got out. While my wife checked for treasures, I wandered into the garage.

[Let me pause in the story to give you a bit of local tradition. While every house I know of has a car garage – it’s hard to start a car that’s been sitting out directly exposed to -27 cold for any length of time – when we build the garages, most of us don’t INSULATE them. No reason; like I said, it’s a tradition. Typically, the interior of a garage presents an image of bare pine studs with some sort of exterior insulation laid over the outside on which clapboard or stucco or other siding is attached. From the studs hang numerous brackets, hooks, pegboards, sheet rock, shelves and electrical conduit or Romex® cable and either bare incandescent light sockets and bulbs or an arrangement of fluorescent fixtures and bulbs. Garages are usually utilitarian spaces reserved for cars, tools, lawn mowers, canoes, fertilizer spreader, grass-clipping catchers, roof rakes, snow blowers, garden implements and snow shovels.]

In the garage – in addition to the traditional décor – every space between the studs had a 14-inch piece of pine stud nailed into place at 12 or so inch vertical intervals. On each of the 14-inch pieces, paperback novels were packed side-by-side from the base plate to the rafters.

There were hundreds of books. Possibly thousands and all of the books were marked FOR SALE. I started in a corner and began to scan for titles that contained the words “star”, “alien”, “invasion”, the name of a real planet, a name that sounded like the name of a planet or anything that looked in any way “science fiction-y”

A guy approached me and asked, “Lookin’ for something in particular?”

He was only a little older than me and acted like this was his place, so I said, “Are all of those yours?”

Grinning, he nodded and said, “I’ve read every one of them, too!”

I’d noticed that while it was a broad selection, it seemed to be heavily weighted toward horror, romance and thriller. I was impressed. “All of them?”

“I was gonna be a writer, so I was told I had to read not only in the genre I wanted to break into, but outside of it as well. And I was supposed to keep current, too.”

I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, too! I said, “Did you get many things published?” Thinking I’d found a writer-soul-mate a mere four blocks from my home, I found my heart was racing. I confess was hanging on his every word.

Shaking his head, he replied, “Nope, so I gave up.” He meandered away to help someone fill a paper grocery bag with books, leaving me startled and heart-broken.

At that point in my career, I had no professional publications despite decades of throwing short stories, essays and novels at the heavy, quarry-stone walls of the Citadel of the Editarchs. Even then, standing in that slightly dank garage, I didn’t seriously consider giving up.


In the cold, hard light of the down-side of the second decade of the 21st Century, I have to honestly say to myself, “Why don’t you just give up? Why don’t you take up a hobby in which you might not only stand a chance of showing improvement, you might even take lessons! You’ll NEVER get really published!”

Of course, since then, I’ve had 50 professional publications, an uncounted number of unpaid publications that others read and comment on not including my personal blogs, and I have two novels, an agent, international publications. Yet even today, I confess I still feel that tug of rationality.

Then my inner writer exclaims, “What? Quit writing and give up this luxurious life of fame and fortune? ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’”

My honest conscience fires back, “I’ll bet you have no idea how many times you’ve had stories, queries, articles and essays rejected.” It adds in a perfect Steve Zahn rendition of his quip from YOU’VE GOT MAIL, “As far as I can tell, the internet is just a new way to get rejected by women.” It adds in a snide voice, “You’ve submitted 973 times and published 93 manuscripts. That’s a pub rate of 9.5% since 1990. Pathetic!”

The inner writer then points out, “While that may be true, the earlier years were typically 0,1, or 2% pub rates. Last year you had only 4 of 82 manuscripts published. That’s only 6.4%, and you didn’t even get paid for all of those!”

“True, but half of them were REQUESTED and MORE than half were paid for! And you’ve sort of become a regular at PERIHELION and might be a kind-of regular at ANALOG!”

The argument subsides and I’m left wondering what was it, standing in that garage fifteen years ago, that made me go back and keep writing when every logical bone in my body and the thousands of paperbacks on the wall said, “Take up STAR TREK model building! At least you’ll have something to show for it!”?

While there was probably a measure of sheer cussedness in there, I think what kept me going was a deep desire to speak my mind in a way that was so entertaining that no one would realize that I’d spoken it.

Boiled down to its bare bones and reconstructed like a dinosaur skeleton, I find that the reason I’ve kept on writing since I was thirteen might be summed up in the words of Jeremiah, “…read from the scroll which you have written at My dictation the words of the Lord to the people in the Lord’s house on a fast day. And you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities.” Jeremiah 36:6 (NASB)

I work to write what God directs me to – sometimes better than at other times. But always I want to write his word so that others can read them and see His glory and salvation.

And THAT’S the real reason I don’t quit.

Seventeen years after that first query flung into space, I still find myself asking that question. I no longer have an agent, no novels published, and right at this moment, absolutely nothing "out". But...I read a new book about writing that I've been talking about:


I am in a learning phase right now. I've also started to explore what "sense of wonder" means and how I can apply that knowledge to writing speculative fiction...

It's unlikely that you've seen the last of this subject. But for now, have a good day.

January 21, 2020


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. Change of pace for a bit – I’m going to look at elements of EXTREMELY popular SF, F, and H; break them apart and use each element as a jumping of point for a story idea…

Sometimes we forget that adolescents can be parental abuse victims, too...
800-273-8255   OR TEXT '273TALK' TO 839863

H Trope: Abusive Parents

Austin Ventura stood in his room. What should he do? What could he do? Carlos Rodriguez Cruz – his best friend since kindergarten – had run off somewhere. Worse yet, he’d been gone for anywhere from a few minutes to four hours. Austin texted Carlos’ sister, Paulina, “You still there?”

“Not going anywhere. Really.”

“Can I come over?”



“Meet me at the school.”

“I can get there in ten.”

“No car. Give me an hour.”


“I can come and get you,” Austin clicked. He waited. His screen dimmed to dark. She wasn’t going to answer. Shaking his head, he left the house, walking out the
front door. Mom and Dad had long ago given up trying to keep him in the place – he’d “escaped” so many times…and they’d had to pick him up from the police station for curfew violations so many times, that they’d finally said if he was going to go out whenever he felt like it, he could pick himself up.

They refused. He tested their resolve exactly once. That was the night he had to walk home from down town Minneapolis. His parents insisted the cops turn him out. The also lied about how far away they lived – they said they were staying in a nearby hotel. It had been just before Christmas. Austin was twelve.

When a cop car stopped to nab him, it turned out it was the same one who’d grabbed him the first time. The lady had said, “Your parents made you walk home?”

Miserable – even in his fancy Columbia ReflectiveHeat Brand – in just his jacket and Converses, the cop relented and gave him a ride home. When he dropped Austin off in front of the mansion, he’d leaned forward, looked at the entryway and said softly, “I can file for child abuse if you want...”

“No!” Austin had exclaimed. The publicity would ruin Dad. Mom would never speak to him again. “I’ve learned my lesson.”

The cop had made a face, shrugged and said, “Suit yourself, kid. But if you ever change your mind,” he’d squirted a contact email to Austin’s cellphone then went on his way.

Austin-in-the-present shook his head and sighed, the only lesson he’d learned that night was that he had to be a helluva lot sneakier from then on. And he’d learned exactly how mad Dad could get. He set off to meet Paulina.

Names: ♂ Mexico, Mexico; ♂ Minnesota, Italy (= “baby in the woods”, “foundling”); ♀ Spanish form of French name  

January 19, 2020

Slice of PIE: Creating Alien Aliens, Part 1

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

Part II: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2020/02/slice-of-pie-creating-alien-aliens-part.html

I have created three universes.

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

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

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

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

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

So, I CAN’T write believable aliens.

Why not?

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

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

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

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

So – what have I learned with my brief analysis?

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

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

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

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

January 15, 2020


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: “Euhemerism – a rationalizing method of interpretation, which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores”

Austin Jake Byme shook the water from his blazing red hair, pushing it back with both hands. He’d have to cut it if he wanted to disappear – he’d be identified by his locks for sure, thief that they thought he was. Footsteps on the planks of the stern wheeler IRON MOUNTAIN sent him scurrying back along the sides of the boat and ducked into an open aft door just before the paddle wheel as it strained for a moment, then with a massive groan, began to turn, pushing the boat away from the dock and the copper who’d been chasing him.

The hold was packed with bags of flour and crates of supplies. From the roof hung the cured carcasses of pigs and cow. Chickens scurried out from under his feet, clucking sleepily as he slipped behind a crate, wedging himself into the space. He was asleep in a moment, shivering a bit as the darkness brought up the cool, Mississippi mists.

He woke in the deep darkness to the sound of the creak of a plank and the cluck of a chicken. Immediately aware, he pulled his legs tight to his chest as quietly as possible. The carcasses began to swing together, rhythmically and the panes of glass in the windows rattled in their frames. There was a sudden flash of light and the temperature in the hold dropped. A moment later, a voice said, “I know you’re in here, Master Byme, wedged between the wall and a crate, thinking I’m some sort of ghost.” Austin squirmed. The voice said, “And you’ve no idea who I am, but I’ll tell you when you come out.”

Austin blinked in amazement then slid forward, to his hands and knees then rose up. Pins and needle ran up and down and he caught himself on the leg of a pig. He said, “Who are you?”

The person stood in deep shadow, though Austin could see his legs. Dark material, the pants with pockets though he wore no coat. He stepped into the light. Wearing a waist-length under shirt and nought else, he stepped again and Austin started. The voice belonged to a boy, perhaps a few years older than himself. His head was haloed in hair so red it seemed to glow. Austin said again, “Who are you?”

“Your great-great-grandson from the early 22nd Century.”


“That’s funny, your autobiography didn’t mention that you went deaf at the end of the 19th Century.”

“My autobiography?”

“Yeah. It was great reading, and I’m not here to kill you and change the future.”


The other boy snorted and said, “HG Well’s THE TIME MACHINE won’t be published for another twenty-three years.”

“Who’s HG Wells?”

“Jules Verne?”


“I know. Your favorites. But neither of them has anything to say about what I just did.”

“You built a time machine?”

The other boy snorted and said, “Not exactly, but sort of.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He cleared his throat and said, “My name’s Jake Austin.”

“That’s my...”

“I said I was your great-great-grandson! There’s proof if you’re wondering about it.”

“It’s not that…it’s just that…”

The planks beneath their feet lurched, throwing both boys backward...

Names: America, Ireland

January 12, 2020

Absolutely Positively “Possibly” Irritating Essay: How About Trying Some Issues WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT????

Using the Program Guide of the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (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 Friday at 2 PM…

Can fiction convince people when facts can’t?

Do people need to understand a subject to care about it? Can stories be used to help people understand when the facts are not enough? There are plenty of current issues where the facts are known but large sections of the public are not convinced (as with climate change, vaccinations etc.). This panel will explore the use of stories to help people understand the science.

Alex Acks, Moderator (and writer): Angry Robot Books, numerous short stories and movie reviews
Paolo Bacigalupi, Author: Hugo and Nebula, National Book Award finalist; adults and young adults
Aimee Ogden, Writer: former science teacher and software tester; short stories published in lots of pro places
Anne Charnock, Author: Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, etc., etc.
Phoebe Wagner, Participant: author, editor

OK, enough of THAT!

Of course the focus is Climate Change and how fiction writers can force anyone they want to, to have the same beliefs they do, because “they” are totally right and “anyone that challenges them is an idiot” and deserves to be jailed…

OK, established. Let’s move on to more productive thinking.

Electricity was a new, weird science and practically magic in the early 19th Century. Gaslight, horses, coal-powered industrial revolution, child labor, invisible women, and outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever, typhus, and of course, smallpox were the (unspoken) issues of that day. The experiments of men like Benjamin Franklin and Luigi Galvani – who first made the dead legs of frogs twitch from a spark generated by an electrostatic machine – in the previous century had led abruptly to the invention of batteries and the concept of electricity being able to pass through wires.

Mary Shelley, daughter of authors and one political philosopher and a renowned feminist, her mind was a fertile playground for ideas from any field of study. One night, prompted by Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland to write for a contest for which each must write a horror story. Hers grew into the novel FRANKENSTEIN: OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS.

In case you didn’t know, Prometheus was a Titan who not only created humans from clay, but gave them fire in direct disobedience of Zeus, for which he was sentenced to be chained to an enormous boulder (obviously near Mount Olympus) for eternity and have his liver eaten out of his living body by an eagle. His liver (traditionally the seat of consciousness) regenerated overnight, and the entire process was repeated.

Of course, not long after (in terms of eternity) he was rescued by Hercules (or Heracles).

The warning was clear, as was the explanation of the connection between lightning and electricity. The story also made certain to show Victor Frankenstein CONTROLLING electricity; to create life, reanimating dead flesh, so that he could be like unto the gods – but “Man! He controlled lightning! Humanity’s manifest destiny is to control NATURE!”

Hmmm…not so different from the current spate of novels attempting to explain anthropogenic global warming and educate people so that they know what they should be doing. So far the message has been pretty muddled because scientists and spokespeople insist on FLYING to exotic places (like the current COP25, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) rather than video conferencing…) 

If someone (Where are you Isaac Asimov? Whatever happened to the clarity of BNTSG?) could just EXPLAIN climate change succinctly and then create a plot in which the characters were able to DO something, they would accomplish much. Instead, we have the wealthy accusing the poor and then excusing themselves from responsibility. Which leaves us normal people up a creek without a paddle.

I want to interject here that before “climate activism” became the cri du jour, society was slowly beginning to understand the reason for recycling, reducing, and reusing. But today, with the focus on the unattainable “climate stabilization” and the recent cry from US “Democrats in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have released the legislative framework for what they are calling a bold, ambitious, and sweeping plan to achieve the goal of a 100% clean U.S. economy by 2050.” (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/01/11/democrats-100-clean-energy-by-2050-because-australia-is-burning/), most people don’t have any idea WHAT TO DO. They throw their hands up in despair and stop recycling, and start buying things that are pre-packaged, delivered in boxes packed with inflated plastic stuff to keep the things that are already packaged from crunching into each other, they don’t worry about overpopulation, and obsess over the souls of their animals, and weep over the destruction of koala habitat by Climate Change Caused wildfires (which, of course, have NOTHING to do with contractors bulldozing said koala habitat to make way for their Brand New Houses…( https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-13/koala-habitat-cleared-against-department-of-environment-rules/11392454) (But isn't that the fault of CAPITALIST LAND SPECULATORS? Hmmm, I don't think most of those homes will be owned by the capitalist land speculators who bought the land; they'll be owned by the most recent spurt of "the new wealthy and trendy)...

Vaccination? Same thing, only the reverse is most often true. For example, in one of the novels you’ll find on the list below, by superstar writer, Margaret Atwood, in the novel ORYX AND CRAKE, “Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, might be the last human being alive. Struggling to survive…after…a worldwide plague, he begins a journey through the wilderness…surrounded by a new breed of humans — the remnants of corporate-run genetic engineering gone awry.” She makes it sound like not ONLY has the world been destroyed by climate change deniers, but it’s also been overthrown by antivaxxers and corporate-greed-motivated GMO producers…The movie “Contagion” isn’t started by antivaxxers, either, just a commonly mutated flu virus.

OK – so what WOULD I like to see the world’s SF writers of note to tackle?

How about racism? Classism? Specism? The disconnect between pornography (an inalienable UNCENSORABLE right of democracy!) and human trafficking? The accelerating pace at which elderly humans are warehoused and the connection between what we’re doing more and more quickly to the elderly that was already legally done to those under 18 and effectively done to those under 22: institutions created to keep them out of the way of “Productive Rich White Men (and the occasional Woman)”.

Instead, I see a waste of ink gassing about an issue for which there is apparently absolutely NO grassroots solution.

What about the continuing atrophy of any kind of meaningful space program? It’s my opinion that the intense navel gazing engendered by the “climate crisis” has turned our eyes from the heavens – even the Moon! – to gaze intently (and worry) about our belly buttons…Oh, and the transition to post-humanity (for a very, very, very, very select couple of the WEALTHIEST humans on Earth at the cost of…well, all the victims of racism, classism, specism, trafficking, old age, young age, and gender.

So – response: Can anyone point me to science fiction (not interested in fantasy) that addresses any of the following issues so that “…people [will begin to] understand a subject to care about it. Can [we create] stories [to] be used to help people understand when the facts are not enough? There are plenty of current issues where the facts are known but large sections of the public are not convinced…” And instead of prattling on about things normal people can’t do anything about, they address…

Human Trafficking
Old Age
Young Age (aka education)
Gender Equity (no matter HOW many there end up being.

Oh, and don’t make the stories ABOUT these issues. Make them about things that normal people care about and skillfully WEAVE the issue into the story so that the reader can DISCOVER something themselves. People are by nature lazy (I’ve been a middle school and high school teacher for decades; for all levels of student. Believe me when I say if that can be lazy, they will be!)


Step up to the line, folks and let’s DO something about it!

January 7, 2020


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: “One Big Lie: Authors of works in this class invent one (or, at most, a very few) counterfactual physical laws and writes a story that explores the implications of these principles.”

Badria Al Busaidi shook her head and said, “If you could make one thing true about real space, what would it be?” She squirmed in her tiny tube. The two of them were the only ones awake in their pod and the side of the transport device pressed against her, massaging muscles that hadn’t moved in…she stopped that line of thought. They’d been in space ever since they left Earth. They were two among ten thousand who were on their way to the nearest star system to the Sun, Alpha Centauri A.

Mehrdad bin Abdullah squirmed as well. The transport device that held each of them was only transparent at the top. She could tell from the look on his face that he was pre-occupied at the moment. Eyes half-closed, she sighed and turned away, blinking up a three-dimensional image of what the ship looked like on the outside and where they were in relation to Earth and AC-A. Lots of stars.


Badria found herself wishing that she could sleep the entire trip away. But the biologists had already brought everyone on the ship as close to death as possible. If they stayed that way, there was evidence that they would simply stay dead. After a short pause during which Mehrdad managed to keep his breathing regular until the very end, he said, “All right. Sorry.” She was about to tease him, but he said instead, “The one thing I’d change is that there’d be aliens waiting for us when we got to AC-C.”

“There ARE aliens, Mehrdad! Haven’t you been listening to the broadcasts?”

“Not aliens just like us! Real aliens. Something that’s different.”

“Different how?”

He shrugged and it made a squelchy sound she could have heard from a mile away. Another thing the ship’s captain-psychologists had made sure of is that when you were awake, you were supposed to have every sense stimulated. She’d already experienced the pain of a broken toe as it was set then healed. Mehrdad was nervously waiting for what was going to happen to him to stimulate his sense of pain.

She’d been lucky in that, though. She’d been assaulted by the smell of newly-mown hay. Mehrdad had to endure the smell of burning Human hair. He’d also experienced another version of things coming out of his body when he barfed not long after he’d had his olfactory senses overloaded.

Suddenly another voice broke into their conversation. Badria rolled her eyes and immediately decided she wasn’t going to talk when she heard the American accented English. She could speak English just fine – all of them could. The American could speak Arabic as well, but the ones who’d been awake when she was usually didn’t. Which was not exactly a bad thing – American English had absolutely no music to it. Arabic sounded so flat and dull whenever someone else tried to speak it. The voice said, “Hello? Anyone alive in here?”

She held her breath, hoping that for once, Mehrdad would hold his tongue.

“We’re all alive here, dickhead. Otherwise why would be going to AC-C?”

There was a long pause and the American voice said, “مهلا، أنا آسف. لم أكن أقصد أن تكون مهينة.” He was almost understandable and there was a sort of cute tone to his voice as he said, “Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be insulting.”

“Well, you were,” said Mehrdad.

Badria liked to keep her own counsel, but something compelled her today. She said in Arabic, “You say you want to meet real aliens – but you can’t even keep a civil tongue in your head when you talk to an American! Our civilization is twice as old as his – ours is the one that should be graceful and forgiving. Ours is the parent, his is the child.”

She wondered briefly if the American was going to object or act offended or whatever she expected a child of a self-centered, declining civilization to do. But he said nothing. Mehrdad muttered under his breath and she was about to say something when she abruptly felt tired. “Oh, no!” she managed before she began to drift off into her interstellar slumber...

Names: ♀ Afghan, Oman ; ♂ Afghani, Oman   

January 5, 2020

Slice of PIE: Humans, Aliens, The Eden Choice, and A Story Universe I’m Building

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland in August 2019 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…

Contrary to what some people believe – that we were cast out of Paradise for no reason – a pair of representative Humans were presented with a choice: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” – Genesis 2: 15-17

He passed the possible choice on the Eve, who then was confronted by Satan; then the couple chose...I’ve started calling this the Eden Choice because it seems that this idea has floated up in several stories I’ve read. I don’t have any from contemporary magazines or novels, rather these are classic and awarded works.

The most obvious novel that included Humans or aliens making a choice to either follow a path to destruction or to “paradise” is Frank Herbert’s novel, DUNE (Chilton Books, 1965). In it, a single Human, Paul Atreides/Paul-Muad’dib/Muad’dib must choose between a galaxy-wide jihad which will destroy Humanity or a future in which he alone is ruler and relative peace reigns.

Two decades before that, CS Lewis wrote PERELANDRA (The Bodley Head, 1943) in which a twisted Human from Earth goes to Venus (aka Perelandra) to tempt the representative Human there. When the Perelandran equivalent of Adam and Eve refuse to spend the night on the Fixed Land (their Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), they step into uninterrupted communion with God: “‘The world is born today,’ said Malacandra. Today, for the first time, two creatures of the low worlds, two images of Maleldil that breathe and breed like the beasts, step up that step at which your parents fell…” (Chapter 16, PERELANDRA)

In the Ted Reynolds story, “Can These Bones Live” (ANALOG, March 1979), the Toomeer were a race of kind, benevolent aliens slaughtered by the rest of the “union” while protecting a race of aliens called the Roanei, who were gifted with the ability to resurrect any race that had caused its extinction. They have always been stingy with the gift. When a single Human, resurrected for the purpose of asking for the return of Humanity (in vain), she asks for the resurrection of the Toomeer! Startled, the Roanei agree to it. At that point, the Toomeer, who have been watching “FAR BEYOND YOUR VIEW”, call the Roanei home – and ask for the resurrection of Humanity instead.

In the Marc Stiegler story, “Petals of Rose” (ANALOG, November 9, 1981) the very-short-lived Rosans are commissioned by Humans to build translight communication. It’s not revealed until the end of the story that Humanity would have lost a bitter and contentious war if the translight communicator was not built. It’s also not revealed that while Rosans live a matter of days from a Human perspective, Lazarans live 25 millennia compared to Human’s hundred and fifty.

All of these stories are about an Eden Choice; and what happens as a result is (except for us and our eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) good.

CS Lewis had a peculiar thought that every intelligence that is created or evolved will face an Eden Choice: “We know what our race does to strangers. Man destroys or enslaves every species he can…It is interesting to wonder how things would go if they met an unfallen race. At first, to be sure, they’d have a grand time jeering at, duping, and exploiting its innocence; but I doubt if our half-animal cunning would long be a match for godlike wisdom, selfless valor, and perfect unanimity.” (from “Religion and Rocketry” collected in THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT AND OTHER ESSAYS (Harcourt Brace, 1960))

In my current work in progress, “Christmas Tree: A Lenten Story”, I look at this on a larger scale and without calling the worlds fallen or unfallen, I introduce a map made of routes to travel intergalactic distances in short periods of time and how its marked. Hopefully, the story surrounding it is intriguing enough to keep a reader’s attention. But I plan on exploring this world quite a bit more in the future. I’ll let you know how it goes. For those of you who HAVE read stories of mine, it’s the same universe that contains my Unity of Sentients. None of the stories set there have been published yet, but I’ll let you know if they are!