Every Single One Of My Titles

Thirteen Word Story: The Fullest Quiver


The Fullest Quiver

Beneath the cult compound ten thousand artificial wombs labored constantly, preparing for judgment.

Is It Worth Getting Out Of The Nest, Baby Bird Humanity?


I know, I know. We have to ask these questions in public, for all those who haven’t thought about it, don’t care about it, or think the future of humanity off this planet is a science fiction pipe dream.

Sure, it’s a bit of a pipe dream. Because getting a significant and sustainable human presence into space — onto asteroids, moons, other planets, into artificial habitats — is still an endeavor that is on the edge of our capabilities. It’s an expensive undertaking, because we’re very busy with resource-intensive activities like war and selling things to each other and making sure we have ample infrastructure and funding to support sports events.

And nobody wants to grow up and leave home. It’s a big fat pain in the ass. It’s easier to stay. And stagnate. And eventually be buried in the comfortable, familiar back yard in the shadow of a progressively older and less comfortable home.

I think it’s better if we get out there. I understand if some of you don’t. I just think you’re on the wrong side of future history and common sense. We, as a species, cling to the familiar — but we are also explorers and wanderers and have been for many thousands of years. While individuals may be happy to stay home on Earth, and that’s fine, opening up the frontier of the rest of the solar system opens a psychological gate; we have no real frontiers left on the planet for the disaffected to run to. Having frontiers again, just knowing they’re there, would probably relieve a lot of the feelings many of us angrily have, of being trapped. Being able to actually get off Earth if one is so inclined would be equally if not more helpful.

And those resources floating around up there can help Earth, too. It might be nice to shut down heavily-polluting rare earth metal mines in our backyard in favor of importing them from asteroid mines that don’t have ecologies around them to worry about, for example.

But I could rant on this subject all day — I’ll go ahead and give you a break here.

The Last Trump: Part 3 of 3 (A Farce Of Politics)


FREE ebook edition of the COMPLETE story available on Smashwords, iTunesGoogle Play Books, and Amazon (99 cents there, because I can NEVER get them to price match my free books for some reason).

Coming soon to Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Haven’t read the previous installments? Click here to go to Part 1!

And now… Part 3, the bizarre conclusion:

     But in the cold, glassy sunlight filtering through wispy gray drizzle clouds on Inauguration Day, he knew. Moments before stepping out on the stage, standing head bowed behind heavy navy curtains blazoned with the eagle of the Seal, he knew. A moment later, his cue, and he stepped out into sudden applause. The applause died quickly, leaving behind a confused coda of isolated claps, then a hush.

     He shuffled. His back was bent. He looked old. Intricate combover abandoned limp on one shoulder like a dying cotton candy stole, shiny pink skullcap skin stretched tight to the chilly gusty wind, he shuffled. Old.

     Election night, he’d been twenty years younger. And he’d been old and dark-baggy-eyed then.

     “Is the President going to die?” a little girl in the front row asked her mommy, loud, into the silence. Mommy shushed her. The news cameras zeroed in, producers hissed did we get it? Did we get it? Into earbuds. But it didn’t make the news. Trump took the podium and the crowd tensed so viewers at home could feel it in their bones. Waiting for him to stumble on the step behind the high podium, fall, break a hip, end the term before it was begun. But he stepped up. Bent the mike. Leaned his head in. Pursed lips. Brushed rotten cotton candy hair off his shoulder into the wind’s cold. Spoke.

     “THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” he thundered, back straightening, shoulders broadening, wrinkles filling in, years falling off, eyes raking the crowd. The crowd recoiled, a step back, stomping toes and bumping shoulders, catching balance, milling in shock like ducks frozen in the bellow of a hunting dog.

     Blazing copper hair like Trump had never had spilled out of his scalp like Play-doh out of a Fun Factory, defying the wind to lay itself in a defiant sweep. His wrinkles filled in flat and vanished. The bags under his eyes sucked up and smoothed over. Muscle swelled the arms and shoulders of his jacket. His gut sucked in and stayed sucked.

     Like plucking a daisy, Trump plucked the microphone from its stand and ripped it from its wood mount, the cable tearing the wood open in an abrupt line down the front of the podium like a root ripped out of clay soil by the lever of a falling tree. His other hand, of its own accord, popped a tiny rhizome of raw tumeric into his mouth and he chewed it in jagged crimson teeth. His eyes lit baleful blue, the color of the hidden sky.

     “Go, they said,” Trump said to the crowd as it surged and stamped like a half-panicked beast, its million heads locked to the stage unwilling, captured on the tether of his amplified voice. “Go and see what they are. And I went. I went. I went among the rubes forty years, stepped into the shoes of this gilded Narcissus and played carnival barker to you until—I thought it could never happen and you proved me wrong—you made me your leader. You cheered as I spit on your institutions. Ruled by fiat, ignored your rules, declared wars, bombed the brothers you called others, played your prejudices and emotions, watched you tear down opposition by force and declaration, watched those who knew better fall quiet and cringe back and the few who dared stand torn down by your hands without a word of encouragement from my lips.”

     “Mommy? What’s the President?” the little girl asked mommy, but nobody heard. Nobody but Trump, growing taller, ears unfurling and spreading wide, sliding higher on his head. Sudden claws bit bright lines into the microphone in his hand.

     “They’ve learned, I said. They’ve passed through their crisis in the last century. But over the last four years, even on the lands most ravaged by that crisis, the other-hate has risen yet higher, emboldened. By me. By you. Still ready to hate your other-brothers, back and forth, both sides of your politics, all the multitudinous sides, fighting, slouching into violence.”

     He stepped to the edge of the stage. The microphone finally gave up with a low wail of feedback; crumpled in his inky claws it fell to the stage decapitated. The little girl, mommy now fled, stood in a half-circle of trampled sod. The crowd behind her compressed backward, wide eyes flashing white fear, gazes still held. Broad silky wings, gold and copper, unfolded and shredded Trump’s jacket. The slabs of his chest and abdomen, covered in copper velvet with the nap of the short dense fur of a cat’s nose, heaved in deep breaths. Trump knelt at the edge of the timbers, down, down, chest laid almost on his knees, wings thrust upward like blooming flowers.

     “Little girl, you know the truth. You are afraid, yes?”

     “Yes, sir,” she said. Her knees quivered slightly, but she held her spine straight and her eyes full open.

     “Bravery is doing right in the face of fear. It is seeing what is truly there when fear tells you to see threat. It is seeing threat only where threat is real.”

     “Yes, sir,” she said.

     Trump spread his wings and leapt. In moments, the clouds swallowed him. The frantic milling of the crowd stilled and the people began to pull deep breaths and blink, as if waking. Only the claw-torn shreds of his shoes fell back, scattered wide by the twisting wind.


Want more to read? Click here to find one of my novellas and several short and flash stories to read for free right here on my site.

The Last Trump: Part 2 of 3 (A Farce Of Politics)


This is part 2 of 3 — if you just arrived and would like to read this story from the beginning, click HERE.

     “Election night 2020… never thought it would come to this,” Trump said behind his hand, not realizing he’d spoken aloud until the aides on either side of him turned their heads a notch, caught themselves, and swiveled their heads back to look as far from him as possible.

     He’d been slipping out of character more often in the last year. The White House chef had asked him after New Years’ just what on earth one man could be doing with half a pound of powdered tumeric a week. “Mind your goddamn business and don’t run out,” Trump had snapped, and the chef had looked at him… looked at him…

     …like his supporters looked at him at rallies. Wide eyes. Half-open mouth. High color on the cheeks—the chef’s of puzzlement and embarrassment, the supporters of excitement, the smell of blood. How they’d looked at him after Tehran, after the bombing run, long-range stealth bombers in the night raining bunker busters and incendiaries on the head of their Supreme Leader and President. Gnashing teeth, howling mouths, demanding the same for Mexico City who still hadn’t coughed up a single thin peso for the tall cinderblock and razor wire wall that stretched from Gulf to Pacific or for the maintenance of the army divisions patrolling it.

     Nobody on the right had dared to challenge his nomination for a second term except for a handful of real far-outers, flat-earth-conspiracy-theorists and fluoride-chemtrail-Illuminatists and people who thought Ayn Rand was a bleeding heart leftist lib. Out of that handful, three had been found dead, two in rivers tied to heavy objects and one in a swampy ditch with a skunk stuffed down his pants and the pants held shut with zip ties.

     The skunk would have gotten out if the paranoid hadn’t been in the habit of wearing kevlar clothes. The left—the Democrats floated a throwaway candidate, angling for 2024, if it came. And the rest of that wing, well, after Bernie nobody quite had the heart to give it a real try again. At least his followers kept the hate verbal to that side of the political fence; old habits die hard; the worst violence usually comes from inside the house. Nobody on the left had their nether regions clawed off by a skunk, thank goodness.

     The non-emergency secure line rang. Trump nodded at the aide on his right, who got up and answered.

     “Comedy Central is calling it,” the aide said after listening for a moment.

     “Yeah? Sun’s not even down. Not surprised, not with the polls,” Trump said, voice flat and slow. Because of that flatness, rumors had been going around for months: the President is fighting chronic fatigue, maybe it’s cancer and it’s being kept secret, Trump’s old and pushing too hard, not delegating enough. The rumors hadn’t scared off any votes.

     “Sixty-three percent of the popular vote, they’re projecting. Bigger even than FDR and LBJ. Biggest win in the history of the country, sir,” the aide said, awe creeping into her voice.

     Trump was dead tired of awe. “Thanks, Ysabel,” he said. “Why don’t you two hand off and go downstairs, grab a bite? I’ll call down to the chef, tell him to give you my surf and turf.”

     “You okay, Mister President?” Ysabel asked, hesitating.

     “Just not hungry. Tired. Knew this would happen anyway, it’s no surprise. Gonna get a full night if I can, have to be up for the cameras tomorrow. You know. Night,” he said, and turned his back, locked himself in his private bedroom, crawled into bed shoes and all.

     “Don’t know what the hell I’m going to do now,” he whispered to the ceiling, and closed his eyes.

Part 3 will be posted Friday (and this notice will become a link to it) — see you then!

The Last Trump: Part 1 Of 3 (A Farce Of Politics)


It has been quite a while since I posted anything in serial form here. So here’s something new.

 I wrote this one with three scenes, so I will post it in three parts: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The entirety is about 2500 words, so each installment should be a nice little read fit for a coffee break.

Update, Saturday — Now that all 3 parts are posted, LINKS TO THE EBOOK VERSION ARE POSTED ON PART 3. Go straight there if you’d like the ebook, or just go ahead and read through here, THEN get the ebook. Your choice!

Please — enjoy.

The Last Trump

(A Farce of Politics)

Act 1 of 3

S.A. Barton

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:26

King James Bible

     The candidate, after looking back, forth, back to ensure no cameras were pointed in his direction (here, there never were, but he always looked even so), fidgeted. With a sterling fork he pushed an uneaten bite of his midnight snack around the plate. The plate was plain white, catering standard. He frowned at it. Too plain. With a jerk of his fingers, he shoved the blob of lobster he’d been torturing over. Fat black caviar grains and an autumnal cascade of gold flake spilled from the top. He set the fork down on the table, click, and crushed a salty fish egg into a smear of oil with a fingertip, which he licked.

     “She should have seceded by now,” he misspoke. Nobody corrected him. “She’s a loser, a weak baby loser feee-male. Should have given up the second I was nominated. Ha. Ha.” His head glided side to side like the eye of an old-school Cylon, sweeping the campaign war room full of red eyes, half-unknotted ties, crumpled napkins, and five o’clock shadow. Where his gaze fell, heads nodded, lips smiled, throats pushed up a boil of plastic laughs.

     He went back to torturing the lobster bite. His team went back to paying attention to the bank of televisions on the far wall, each displaying a different news channel. At the front of the room, a couple of interns clicked mice, refreshing news sites over and over. Trump’s fork clicked his plate. Click. The interns clicked mice. Click-click—clickclick. Somewhere a toe tapped a scuffed vibram sole on the leg of a folding table. Tap, tap. A round generic clock high up on the wall counted seconds. Tick-tick-tick. Time passed.

     “CNN!” one of the mouseclicking interns shouted, and the clicking-tapping-ticking disappeared. Someone cranked the volume on the CNN TV.

     “…again, calling California for Donald Trump, who we project will be the 45th President of the United States of America…”

     Whoops and applause drowned out the audio. Smiling, nodding, not speaking, knowing he couldn’t be heard over the celebration, Trump retreated to his quiet room, a refurbished walk-in supply closet. He flicked the lights-fan switch, closed the heavy steel door, ignored the overstuffed chair and facepalmed.

     “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he mumbled. Fished in his pocket, pulled out a bottle of tumeric capsules, cracked one open on the table. He made a thin yellowy-brown line of it on the little laptop table beside the chair with a black AmEx and tooted it in one fell snort through a rolled Benjamin. “Whuhh,” he said, shaking his head as the—for him—drug opened his eyes and detached his reality from the world just enough for him to set his shaken persona firmly back in place.

     “The show must go on,” he mouthed to himself, and opened the door. The cheers had died down to backslaps and energized chatter. On CNN a pair of announcers, now ignored, were finding out how many different ways they could re-hash “Trump won.”

     “What did I tell you? I’m YUUGE! President Trump! America! Did someone order the letters? I want my name right dead up the middle of the Washington Monument the second I get my hands on a pen. Gold! With lights! Rename it. George Washington is old news, I like my monuments to be about TODAY’S President. I got some executive orders to write, starting with that one. Maybe the second one will be that wall around Mexico I promised. Trump keeps his promises! But first—I promised everyone champagne, who’s got the bubbles?”

     After making the rounds for a couple of hours shaking hands, knowing the party, once started, would persist on its own inertia until the sun was well and truly up on Trump’s USA, Trump chose his moment and retreated to his quiet room again. He bolted it, dimmed the lights, loosened his tie, kicked off his shoes, and reclined in the baby-soft leather recliner.

     “What a bunch of idiots there are on this podunk rock,” he said to the ceiling, closed his eyes, and was asleep in seconds.



SciFi News Network: Bradbury Meets Autonomy Goal, Mayor Declares Holiday


Image credit: NASA

Bradbury Meets Autonomy Goal, Mayor Declares Holiday

(APM) 01 March 2145

Mayor Sonny Desai of the city of Bradbury, North American Mars declared today to be the first annual (Earth calendar) Bradbury Autonomy Day. Ceremonies in Barsoom Square, including a free banquet of locally farmed vegetables, fish, chicken, and cuy (guinea pig), were attended by North American Mars System Governor Hanh Rossberger, present holographically from Ariesynchronous orbital habitat and former military facility Campfollower.

The occasion marks the first time Bradbury has been able to meet the self-sufficiency standards set at the colony’s inception in 2089: computer model projection of the ability to maintain the city’s environment and ability to provide for food, water, and breathable atmosphere needs of all inhabitants for at least one Earth year without outside aid or input of resources.

This achievement is the result of Desai’s Practical Standards Program, inaugurated shortly after his accession to office in 2139. Although a mild local recession and reduction of living standards for Bradbury’s 23,000 citizens resulted, polls show that 67% +/-4% approve of the program. “China’s Red-Gold City [atop the Mons Olympus plateau] achieved self-sufficiency in 2135. I see no reason that we cannot do the same,” Desai said at the time. “The good people of Bradbury have proven my trust in them was justified,” the Mayor said at the opening of ceremonies today. “My fellow citizens, I am deeply proud and humbled by your hard work and sacrifice for us all.”

I’m A Bit More Political On Twitter, Ben Carson Grain Silo Edition


Not that I’m never political here.

As a matter if fact, I’m planning a 3 part SciFi/SpecFic short story serial to appear here soon. Not about Ben Carson, I can’t keep up with his brand of storytelling.

Working title: “The Last Trump”. Bet you can’t guess who it’s about…

Ebook Single: “Only Thirty Cents A Day”: A Tale Of Mystery Cars And Charity


Get your ebook single of this story at AmazonBarnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Google Play Books, or Smashwords.

Only Thirty Cents A Day is a little story inspired by the heartstring-jerker television ads pleading for help feeding and inoculating poverty-stricken populations in various poverty hotspots around the world. I got to thinking, what would it take for — someone — to consider us in the pretty-darn-well-off-on-average USA in need of similar missionary-style poverty relief efforts? Who would be moved to make such an effort? I spent quite a few idle minutes jotting down notes and then promptly crossing most of them out, until finally the solution hit me.

What’s the solution? It’s all revealed by the end. So of course, being a typical tease of the author, I’m going to show you a preview… of the beginning.

Here’s the first quarter of the story:

Only Thirty Cents A Day

S.A. Barton

     Frederick Bolling pulled his little hybrid car into his reserved parking space and unfolded himself from the driver’s seat. His lower back crackled like cereal when you pour the milk over. He was a tall man, not made for little environmentally friendly cars, and he was older than he had ever thought he’d get when he was an idealistic college student, or even after that, when he served in the Peace Corps. Bringing some of the benefits of the technological first world to folks who had no access to it themselves, and hopefully he hadn’t inflicted too much of the so-called civilized world’s downside on the people he’d tried to help all those decades ago.

     He shook off the moment of nostalgic fugue—they came more often, the farther past seventy he got—and stood, grumbling, then eyes flashing wide as he turned and found himself face to face with an unexpected man. Frederick reflexively took an awkward little hop-step back. The curve of the car’s open door frame dug into his back and he sucked in a deep breath, ready to shout if he had to.

     “That’s a hydrocarbon burner, right?” the unexpected man asked, like you’d ask the time on the street, casual. He held up his hands, palms out: I mean you no harm. His features were odd and Frederick stared. The man’s skin was darker than Frederick’s, sub-Saharan Africa dark, but his eyes were faded blue, almost white, and were partially hidden by strong epicanthic folds.  His nose was bulbous and his ears were distinctly pointed, holding back straight black hair that was so fine it stirred restlessly with the faint breeze that penetrated the enclosed garage from outside. His brow had a heavy ridge, almost a shelf you could set tiny knicknacks on. Something about his posture was odd, too. Something indefinable.

     Frederick blinked, trapped between looking away to avoid being caught staring and too obviously looking away as if the stranger was too strange to look at. It was rude to stare at someone with… whatever genetic abnormality had caused the odd features.

     “I’m sorry,” Frederick said, meaningless politeness-words as he stepped smoothly to the side, face shutting down in the New York brushoff.

     “Your car burns petroleum, sir?” the man asked again, moving just slightly into Frederick’s path. Frederick stopped, wondering if his initial alarm had been the right reaction after all.  The other man was smaller than he was, but much younger. His features made it hard to judge, but he looked like he might be just out of college. He was dressed like an artist or street performer, or maybe a celebrity trying too hard to be outrageous, with a wide-lapel aquamarine shirt and bolo tie under a pinstriped jacket with long tails and matching pinstriped slacks. Even his dark shoes had pinstripes. Some kind of weird activist? The city had them like it had rats and cockroaches, underfoot in the most unexpected places.

     “It’s a hybrid. I’m environmentally conscious. Try the twelfth level, it’s mostly sportscars,” Frederick said, avoiding eye contact, foot sliding to the side to take off on a new vector.

     “How would you like a solar car?” the weirdo asked as Frederick began to walk again.  “No gas to buy. Not even a need to plug it in.”

     “I’m not buying,” Frederick said without turning, walking away toward the elevator, free.

     “I’m not selling,” the voice came from behind him as Frederick boarded the elevator.  “You’ll see.”

     Frederick left work an hour earlier than the bulk of the office, to beat the worst of rush hour traffic. He keyed the door PIN and got into his car, the stranger from the morning forgotten, and tried to start his car.

     His key didn’t fit. It slid off plastic behind the steering wheel, and he looked closer. There was no receptacle there to receive it. Frederick blinked at the featureless plastic. In a life that included a new car every other year, it wasn’t too unusual to forget the quirks of the new car and remember the quirks of a past car instead.

     But the ignition wasn’t placed differently than he remembered.  He even checked the center console next to the automatic shift, remembering an old Saab he had had in college that had started that way. The ignition wasn’t there, either. There simply wasn’t any.

     “How the hell… where’s the ignition?” he said aloud to himself. Had he somehow gotten into the wrong car? The door PIN was only four numbers, maybe by some odd coincidence…

     “Ignition?” the car said, voice soft, echoing him.

     “Um. Yes,” Frederick said. His car definitely did not talk.

     The car hummed to life smoothly, dash lights glowing cool green…

…and that’s the end of the preview. Hope you’ll check out how it ends; the links to find it are right under the picture at the top of this post in case you’ve forgotten.  :-)

Thirteen Word Story: Back To The Trees


    Wars, famines, politicians casting every disagreement as life-or-death division, the screw-the-future shortsightedness of deregulated banks and businesses, the ever-deepening US suspicion of neighbors as enemies and basic social behavior as the demon-Stalinist-bugaboo of Cold War Soviet communism, the push deeper into religious extremism in the Middle East (copied, in rehtoric if not action — yet — by increasingly mainstream figures in US religion, like Huckabee)… there are a lot of forces working against the survival of the human race in the long term. To return to harping on my favorite harp-able subject, if we don’t get a large number of humans out of this nest we call Earth, we’re going to collapse this civilization and where we go from there is up in the air. Back to the trees is an option, should intelligence fail to secure us a future.

But wait — you came here for a thirteen word story. Here it is.

Back To The Trees

“Cooperate or fail — these once-civilized apes chose regression,” the alien xenoarchaeology professor said.

Long Shadows — Seen From The ISS

ISS Shadows

A shot from the ISS captures long shadows cast by clouds.

With views like this, surely there’s a market for a few hotels in low earth orbit. And maybe some nice retirement homes. Maybe some day…


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