Every Single One Of My Titles

Snippet: The Spiders Fly

SpiderInWeb

In its center cowered a tiny caricature of ourselves, closer to our ancient spacefaring cousins than to ourselves, but still recognizably relative to both. But it was small, small, a mote that might have been barely a fiftieth of my own young mass. I looked at it crouched there in the center of its disc of web: four leg-pairs.

“It… this animal… is it sentient? It’s older than I am,” I said, whispering, reverent without understanding why. But I was.

———

A snippet from a work in progress, The Spiders Fly, a short story in which an alien species explores the wasted remains of Earth… and what remains there of its very, very distant ancient cousins.

Mysterious? Of course! There’s only so much to reveal of a short story. I need to be mysterious.

A Happy Future Earth

GullsAndBeach

A little earlier, I wrote about pessimism in science fiction. Seemed like a nice idea to follow that up with an optimistic little story doodle.

(Untitled 100 word short-short)

The children gasp happily at the view as the shuttle door opens. They set up the picnic on matted needles under a gnarled pine by the beach. I snap pictures of the shoreline and rocks, hoping to compare them to the old paper snapshots my great-great-great grandfather took nearby.

In his snaps, there is a city here, half drowned in a rising sea. Today the sea has retreated again, and the cities are inland, underground; forest and grass and wild animals reclaim a world made mostly of natural beauty.

The dirty work is all in space; Earth is beautiful again.

Things I Can Do While Trapped Under a Breastfeeding Child

Tao23:

This is from my wife’s blog, so I see this sort of stuff ALL THE TIME. Many are the times that I have been dispatched to fetch her tea or snacks while she’s trapped under our children.

Originally posted on Cussing and Lactating:

NursingVictor CuinnWhile Aleep
While pregnant with first child who turned seventeen yesterday I spent a lot (read most) of my time reading. I read about pregnancy, labor, baby names and of course breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to nurse but I wasn’t quite sure how this nursing thing worked. Was it going to hurt? I had no idea. I had actually never seen a woman breastfeed although I knew my mother had nursed both her kids.
But the one thing I was the most freaked out by was the idea that I would be able to go back to sleep when the baby was being fed. This seemed absurd! Naive old me didn’t know about basic biology and the gift of oxytocin. Commonly known as the love hormone, it is responsible for the lovely sleepy feeling while breastfeeding.
My second child Victor is what is termed a “high needs” child. For the first…

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Pessimism in Science Fiction: The USA is Worried It’s Over the Hill

CuinnOnionEnhanced

Is this my future? A big stinky onion future?

—–

There has been a lot of talk about the pervasive pessimism in science fiction recently. Notably in the last couple of years, but there have been grumblings on the subject all the way back to the dawn of Cyberpunk with its dreary skies the color of television tuned to a dead channel. You know, before a dead channel was an eye-searingly vivid blue.

The dawn of science fiction tended to be pretty upbeat. Yes, there was rampant sexism, pretty much every important character was an heterosexual, able-bodied, highly intelligent, male Caucasian, imperialism was the savior of space civilizing exotic alien noble savages, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was a nice automated house with a yard and a white picket fence in the suburbs, or at least within flying-car range of the suburbs. But it was upbeat. Medical science was constantly solving inconveniences like infectious disease, cancer, and aging. Easy travel to friendly worlds around other stars relieved the problems of population pressure and resource wars–or at least moved the wars to desolate asteroid belts and the deeps of interstellar space where the collateral damage was lighter. The average schlub on the street, if we saw him, was educated and clean and on his way from his nice safe 9-to-5 where his wife would cook dinner by pressing a button and afterward tossing the dishes into a receptacle to be disintigrated and reconstituted sparkling clean in the automatic dispenser for the next meal. There were no worries about the electric bill or rising gasoline prices or the wholesomeness of food and water being compromised by deregulation.

Everything in the life of the USA, which is and was the author of the bulk of science fiction collectively, seemed to be on an inevitable upward trajectory that would easily carry the future into a better and more expansive place.

And then things stopped peaking. They started heading downward in many regards, and the longer this reversal continued, the more people–including writers of science fiction–noticed it. The point of view of the US science fiction writer wasn’t naturally upward anymore. It was downward. Imagine the view from a car on a rollercoaster. Heading upward, you’re looking to the sky. Once you roll over the top, pause, and then plunge downward, you’re looking down the hill. And you’re screaming; even if you can see you’re not likely to plunge straight into the ground and die, it feels like you will.

The US middle class has been shrinking for a while. The space program has contracted; we don’t talk about when we will build a colony on the moon anymore, not seriously. We talk about the next automated probe we’re going to land on Mars for a look around the dust. When Kennedy said we’d go to the moon, people mostly believed him. When Obama said we’d go to Mars, even enthusiasts said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We don’t feel secure in our jobs anymore, if we have them. Our incomes have gotten smaller after inflation adjustment over the years, not bigger as we once, in the halcyon years of optimistic science fiction, assumed they would continue to grow forever.

Maybe when we find the bottom of this decline we’re in, in terms of the collective prosperity of ALL US citizens, US writers will cheer up a bit and science fiction will grow an upbeat consensus again–hopefully with the racism, sexism, and imperialism absent. Or perhaps the heart of science fiction will shift.

Science fiction, after all, has been a world literature from the beginning. US writers may have and may still comprise the majority, but if SF is to teach us anything, it is that the future always brings change. And SF has been growing, I understand, not just in other English-speaking nations, but also worldwide and outside the traditional Western bastions.

Literature belongs to the world and all its people. I welcome all the cheer the other writers of the world can lend us US writers in climbing out of our funk.

100 Word Pessioptimistic SFF Short-Short: Missionaries

Starry night sky

Missionaries

S.A. Barton

For centuries, they sent missionary after missionary to help the rising young intelligence see past the biological heritage of survival as battle, to pursue empathy, cooperation.

After enough missionaries were pierced with arrows, burnt, nailed to trees, poisoned at dinner, beaten with clubs, enslaved, drugged, mocked, impersonated for material gain, and made figureheads for war, they stopped sending more.

A twist of space-time delivered the young intelligence and its world to a lonely universe with no other intelligence to harm but itself.

Perhaps one day they will relent and send missionaries again.

But not yet. It is still too dangerous.

The Man Who Stares at Trees

Ferns2014AUG

I tweeted this, too.  Not that it made the scene any more or less relaxing.

When I’m not blogging about the other stuff I write (Look to your right! In the sidebar! Links for the ebooks and paperbacks I write!), I often write about the things that relax me.

Because this dirty old world can be really annoying.  The news is full of injustice and war (really large-area injustice, mostly).  The internet is bristling with trolls.  Outside, some jackass is leaning on his horn for no particular reason as he drives by.  The cat horked up a hairball on the porch.  Both little ones get sudden urges that, as I write a blog entry, my trackball MUST be knocked off the armrest of my chair.  Stuff happens.  And I, grumpy old man in a merely middle-aged body, have a hard time letting annoying stuff go.

I NEED my diversions.  The tiny little ferny scene above is one of them.  My potted trees.

Notice that I didn’t say bonsai.  Because they’re not bonsai, not quite.  They’re styled similarly.  I watch them month after month, year after year; I watch them grow and I trim them back in ways that encourage them to grow into new and more interesting shapes.  They’re in flowerpots, not bonsai pots.  They’re planted in plain old soil, not the carefully sifted medium you plant a bonsai in.  They don’t have to be watered daily.  They’re psuedo-bonsoids for slightly lazy people.

Sitting down and just looking at them is one of the things that relaxes me.  Look at that picture.  There’s a tiny little world of itty-bitty ferns taking shelter in the exposed roots of one of my myrtles.  Isn’t that beautiful?

I think it’s beautiful.  And beautiful things relax me.

So does blogging about stuff like this.  Thus, this entry.  I hope you liked it.

A Year Ago Tomorrow: Isolation

IsolationCover

Time flies.  I remember working on these stories and it doesn’t seem possible that it was so long ago.  On the other hand, my mind is full of the stories I’m working on now, so I wasn’t even really thinking of them before I realized the anniversary of my publishing Isolation and Other Stories was coming up.  I only noticed because I decided to poke around in my blog archives for the heck of it.

Isolation and Other Stories contains my longest work to date.  Most of my stories weigh in shy of 7500 words; I’m very much a short story writer.  I have given thought to producing something at novel length.  I have a couple of stories sitting partially completed that could probably work as novels.  Some that I’ve produced in the past might be expanded to that length.  The title story of this collection, in fact, could probably become a novel if I were so inclined.  As Isolation stands, it is the longest thing I’ve ever written, at 20,000 words.  (Down on the Farm, also in this collection, is the second longest at 18,000 words.)  While I’m happy with the ending, it is one of those endings that looks forward to an uncertain future and invites the reader to think about what is possible.  It leaves room for a continuation.

Maybe I will, one day, sit down and write that continuation.  But for now, I still have the feeling I had when I first sat down to write with the idea that I might produce a story that others would read.  I have the feeling of a psychic backlog of ideas unvoiced.  From grade school through my early twenties, I occasionally produced short stories for my own satisfaction.  I had the creative urge, but did not think what I created could be worthy of the interest of others.  After my early twenties I gave up on writing and let my creative urge express itself through the medium of role playing games.

I like role playing games.  I think they’re a worthwhile exercise in cooperative storytelling for most participants.  But they weren’t ultimately satisfying to me, and I misused them as an escape from reality.  I won’t say I’ll never participate in one again, but I have no plans to.  It feels, to me, as if it would be too easy to use them to squander the hours and days I need for writing and for raising my children and for all of the other things in my life.  That’s not a problem with the games; it is my problem with them.

The writing is satisfying in a way the games never managed to be for me.  And there is three decades, give or take, of creative pressure behind me, urging me to voice all those backed up story ideas.

So I produce short stories, and I gather them into collections like Isolation and Other Stories once in a while.  And I hope that others will read and enjoy.  It is probably poor form for an author to have favorites, but this is my favorite collection so far.  I think someone who has never read me before would be well served to start here; it feels like my best foot forward.

It also doesn’t hurt that the cover art was contributed by my talented stepson, Erik Elliott.  That gives it a certain sentimental element in my thoughts and feelings beyond my fondness for the stories.

You can see the blurbs for all of the stories from clicking through here, on this sentence. 

The first five thousand words are previewed here, so you can enjoy a sample of Isolation.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading this.  I certainly enjoyed writing it for you.

Bunny With A Saw: A Free Short-Short. My 57th Title via Smashwords.

BunnySawCover1

 

 

This is a fun little story about a very strange event that happens in the middle of the night in rural Florida, on a long drive.  There is no banjo music involved — get your mind out of the Deliverance gutter.  No, this is something different, something entirely beyond human control and maybe beyond human understanding.

 

The title reference… well, I’d rather not explain it until someone gets it.  Guesses are welcome in the comments.  :)

 

You can pick up a copy at Smashwords.  It will be available from other retailers in the right sidebar in 1-2 weeks. Maybe faster; distribution has gotten smoother lately.

Meow Right Now is available on Smashwords. Right Now. Meow.

 

 

 

Commanderface

Archaeologists often find strange and even dangerous things during their explorations. When Clay and Sandy uncover an ancient frozen cat on the Siberian plains, they have done just that, for Kwirrrf is not accustomed to being a pet. In fact, he’s more accustomed to being a pet owner…

 

 

This is my fifty-sixth title published on Smashwords.  It’s 5117 words long, which is only 117 words longer than my upper limit for 99 cent stories.  I decided not to be nitpicky and leave it at 99 cents.

 

Did I mention it’s just ninety-nine measly cents?  Buy it and curl up with a nice Ancient Cat of Power story.  Those are always fun, I think.

The Evolution of iPhones, The Futuristic iPhones!

Tao23:

With the flap over the iPhone 6 blowing up social media, this 2 year old post has become timely again. 30 or 40 more releases and the ever-expanding iPhone should double as a space elevator to geosynchronous orbit…

Originally posted on sidharth rath:

So,  You must have seen iPhone 10 that swept across fb and twitter after the MacWorld Expo.

Well, in a few days there have been many more Inspired by iPhone 10, Let’s have a look.

 Awesomeness Ahead

The Original iPhone 10

The iPhone 5S

The iPhone 10

The iPhone 20

 The iPhone 30S

The iPhone 70

 The iPhone 101

The iPhone 2000

The iPhone Family!

The Evolution of iPhones!

Loved It?

Steve Jobs should have seen this. :(

Share it with your amazing friends!

All the iPhone Stuff. :D

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