Every Single One Of My Titles

Imagination, the News, and Especially Flight MH 17

(I don’t want an image at the head of this one. The news has more of those than I’m happy seeing, thankyouverymuch)

I often have strong reactions to news stories. Between having the active imagination of a fiction writer and cultivating the empathy I need to keep the urge to become a perpetually raging anger-beast at bay, it is easy to imagine myself in the situation news stories describe happening to other people.

The airplane shot down over the Ukraine recently is a case that’s especially alarming. Imagine being on that one.

You’re reclined the entire 3 inches that a standard airplane seat allows. Luxury. Headphones on, eyes half closed. You’re around halfway through your flight, maybe you can nap for half an hour before the meal is served.

And Thor punches your entire body with his giant lightning hammer. Your eyes fly open. The whole other side of the airplane is crumpled inward; Thor squeezed your people-packed can of Pringles too hard. Thin sunlight winks through rents in the crumpled fuselage. The air is thin, freezing, shrieking out through the shattered windows. Oxygen masks unroll flaccid flailing tentacles from above.

The sound of the engines has changed; it’s… less, somehow. The floor tilts. Still more screams flail through the wind. The tilt of the floor turns to a whirl turns to a tumble. You and 297 other people rattle around the interior of the fatally wounded can as it tears itself apart into shreds and chunks, some of which twirl through some of the people, drawing out long red streamers from their guts.

Concussion, rattling, thin air, cold; your lungs ache. They crave substance that isn’t there. Your vision narrows, dims along the edges. You’re spinning, slowly. The clouds spin below, far away. They’re white, fluffy, soft. The world is white, all white, and consciousness leaks away.


The world is cold, battering your face with a thousand annoying little slaps. Your lungs hurt, but now there’s something for them to breathe. Too much; it forces itself into your nostrils, into your mouth, under your eyelids. You narrow your eyes to slits.

You’re in a cold hurricane. The wind tears at your clothes—wait, your clothes? Where’s your shirt? Your pants? An embarrassed flush makes your face prickle, but the heat you’d expect it to bring is ripped out of your freezing skin before you can feel any of it.

The tears clear from your irritated eyes. The world resolves itself through a deep squint.

Everything is bumpy green; a Ukrainian cabbage farm seen from half a mile in the air.

Falling at over 200 miles per hour, it doesn’t take long at all to span that gap. A blink. GREEN.

And then, you’re pretty sure you’ve bounced. And that’s it.


Yeah, the news creeps me the heck out sometimes.

The Ebook Cover That Covers No Ebook…


…because it’s a mock cover for my Patreon campaign.


I had fun making it. This week has been very busy at home, and I’ve had much less creative time than usual. So I needed to create something. I think the cover came out well, with an unearthly quality that’s in line with my usual speculative fiction subject matter.



Turn of Phrase: Soda Pop Bottles and/or Gophers

I’d love to have an image here, but I can’t find a decent non-copyrighted one. If you’d like to see the machine described, plug “Vendo 81″ into your favorite search engine’s image search.


This is a sentence fragment from a short story I’m working on; the protagonist is seeing ghosts of vending machines past. The one that’s being described here was an old machine in the 1970s when I was a little kid and I ran into one or two of them at older country stores in Wisconsin. Older ones were round-topped, ‘newer’ ones made in the 1950s and early 60s were square-topped; they displayed soda in bottles behind a rectangular glass door, with the necks of the bottles pointing the bottlecaps straight at you from round holes.

If you haven’t seen one, it’s a little hard to imagine, maybe. Give “Vendo 81″ a search and you’ll see.


Here’s the phrase that tickled me when I wrote it:


“…a dime for a small glass bottle; for a moment the little bottles are solid reality, lined up vertically behind a rectangular glass door, their necks sticking out of their holes like Coca-gophers.”


Sure I could go for a cold Coca-gopher right now. Couldn’t you?

WHY I support and encourage Authors


You heard the ape; have a little respect for your elders and/or early, million or so years removed ancestors.

Read, damn you! Read!

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe Sir Terry Pratchett may have had an excellent point when he surmised that OUR species of Hominid survived, while all the others didn’t, because we were Story Telling Apes, or at least better at telling, and learning through, stories!

I’m not the only one who thinks so, “Our brains are structured to make sense of the world in the form of narratives – stories. Not only that, we are primed to believe the stories we hear.” see the re-blogged post last Thursday HERE!

I concede that there are probably other factors involved as well, but storytelling was (and hopefully still IS) a significant part of our species survival strategy.

If we cease to tell and learn from stories, then we too may become extinct because without them we will have created our very own ELE (Extinction Level Event).

View original 452 more words



 The license below does NOT refer to the image above, which is a free use image from Morguefile. The license below refers ONLY to the written work below IT: the text of README by S.A. Barton.


In other words, if you do choose to spread this story around, distribute it in its entirety, unchanged, attributed to S.A. Barton, and include a link to this page. Thanks!


by S.A. Barton

“In the beginning, was the Gates…” X intoned. It was a party, they’d all had a few zots to the pleasure-reward complex. Why not preach to a random stranger?

“Why is it ‘was the Gates’, and not ‘is the Gate’, have you ever thought of that?” asked Y.

“The language has changed, duh,” X said, making a face like someone bluescreening. “It’s been like eight thousand years and a lot of translations and modernizations. But they’re all inspired by the Gates to carry the true meaning of the original.”

“How do you know that?”

“It says so in the book, of course,” X said, eyescreens translating the roll of the meat eyes underneath to rolling pixels. “The Gates gave it all to us: the touchscreen, the tablet, the brainmouse, the HUD. We crucified his AVI for it, and he forgave us and revealed the hyperdrive as his last gift. Surely you’ve heard the holy README before.”

“I’ve heard it,” Y said, holding a zotstick next to the autodownloader under the skin of his temple. He sucked in breath through clenched teeth and his eyescreens went spaz with bright cyan static for a few seconds. “Good shit. Dude, people made computers. Finds on Earth proved it centuries ago. I was just reading the other day divers think they’ve found the Silicon Valley. It was just a place.”

“The Silicon Valley was a spiritual paradise in which the Gates delivered his gifts to all mankind. If someone thinks they’ve found it, they’ve either fooled themselves or they’re trolling. The Gates removed it from the physical realm after we defiled it with his AVI’s blood. It’s all in the…”

“Yeah, it’s in the holy README, I know, I know,” Y said, waving the zotstick under X’s nose.

“Lol about it if you want, but there’s no way a human could build even a crude computer on his own. Not from nothing. Ever see a docu about regressed civilizations?”

“So? A planet gets cut off from galactic civilization, it degenerates. They can’t get any new…”

“Any new what, smartass?” X says with a smirk plastered across his face.

“Computers…” Y says, voice trailing off weakly. He lifts his zotstick up to his temple again. It fizzles, there’s no rush. “Shit, I’m out of zot.”

X hands his stick over; it’s still half full. “Go ahead, hit that. But now that you’re thinking, now that you realize that humans can’t have invented the computer, why don’t you sit and listen…”


Off-topic and Defying Conventional Wisdom: I Feel Like Blogging About My Breakfast.

Because it was delicious, and I feel like writing something right now.  So: the family-sized breakfast sandwich I made, from bottom to top:

–1 loaf of Italian bread, split lengthwise, liberally smeared with butter, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, salt. Grilled until surface is crisp (In my case, on a hot electric skillet. More power to you if you can do it on an actual grill.) Pressed slightly to flatten during cooking.

–Smear with a thick layer of refried beans.

–Cover beans layer with sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter with chili powder and smoked paprika.

–Add (very) chunky homemade salsa. This will be messy: pick it up by hand and press it a bit to get excess moisture out. Or you could use some sort of utensil like a civilized person. Personally, I’ve never claimed to be civilized.

–Thick layer of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

–Arrange two 1.5 egg cheddar cheese omelets to cover entire surface of the cheese layer. Apply them straight out of the pan so their heat will melt the cheese under them. Yes, there’s a lot of cheese here. I used almost an entire 8 ounce bag.

–Lettuce. I had romaine, which was good. Red leaf would have been nicer, but that’s just my lettuce preference.

–And of course, the top of the bread goes here.

–Divide by family members. This fed 2 hungry adults, 1 very hungry teen, and two toddlers. We could easily have added a side dish and fed more people.


Giant sandwich meals for the whole family are good messy fun to cook and eat, and there are endless variations–as many as there are sandwiches, of course.


Google Built My Car — Thanks!

Recently, there has been some media excitement about Google’s newest vision for a self-driving car. This vision does not include a gas pedal, brake, or steering wheel so you can take the controls in the event of an emergency. It appears to involve trusting the computer–whose reflexes, trust me, are indeed faster than yours, even if you’re Bruce Lee reincarnated–to deal with whatever arises. Computers, we should all realize by now, think fast.

‘But how does any of that justify your title?’ you might ask.

An automatic-drive car with no option to manually drive is the plot device that makes the title story of my Isolation and Other Stories collection possible. An unnamed-in-the-story-because-lawyers online mapping service (no doubt named Something-Maps) loses the protagonist’s home address, as do its competitors. As a result of this, not only can he not drive farther than the little feeder road that leads to his driveway, but his online orders of groceries and incidentals cannot reach him. He lives waaaaay out in the farthest burbs of his home city, and he has no choice but to hike out. From there, he becomes homeless, and uncovers a growing conspiracy right underneath the good homed citizens’ noses.

Isolation came out on 9/13/13. Less than a year later, Google is talking about making the cars that could make Isolation a reality. From my standpoint as a (mostly) science fiction author, it’s pretty cool to watch the real world inch closer to my imagination.

As a final comment, while the events of my story present a pretty alarming picture of the potential consequences of self-driving cars with no manual driving option, consider for a moment that the World Health Organization estimates that 1.24 million people die in automobile accidents yearly, and between 20 and 50 million are injured. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for those between 15 and 29 years of age.

Even considering what could go wrong, it is extremely difficult to imagine a way that no-manual-driving cars could go more wrong than we’re going by manually driving our cars.

I, for one, welcome our no-manual-driving overlords, and I hope they hurry up and get here.




Related: Google’s official blog post on their newest self-driving car concept.

Turn of Phrase: Ridiculous title followed by calling a beach names. Subtitle: oh, I sort of forgot I had a blog over here for a couple of weeks.

The subtitle: look, there’s a lot going on. It’s no excuse for letting the blog go for a couple of weeks with no love. It’s just what happened.


The ridiculous title: I’m playing with the beginnings of yet another story. I do that a lot. A few never get finished because I don’t like them. Most of them get started, sit around for a while, and get finished down the road when the beginning inspires an ending. I think it’s weird, but it’s how I work. I usually have 5 or 10 story starts sitting around, reading magazines in my waiting room, waiting to be finished. I promised you a ridiculous title, though. Here it is, my latest brainstorm: Kitty Itty and the Seawall Broke. It’s not a children’s story, but I can see why you’d think so. I’ll probably keep it. Something that weird has to be kept. It’s about a kid finding a kitten on the coast of North Carolina about a hundred years from now, when the rising ocean has chewed the barrier islands and small coastal towns and tourist industry all to hell.


The turn of phrase is the first line, which I like despite the odd conceit of calling a piece of scenery names: The beach across the dunes from New Moyock is a dirty bastard ghost. Believe it or not, I think I justify the description in the paragraphs that follow. It was fun trying, in any event.

Turn of Phrase: Gopher Holes and Hyperspace

I’m working on a short story set in the same universe as a previous short story.  No big deal, authors do that all the time, right?  Well… I’m somewhere north of seventy short stories to my name and I’ve only done that ONCE before.  This is number two, so it’s still sort of new ground for me.

Mentally, I’ve been kicking around the idea of using this universe of mine for some more stories.  It’s a take on the ‘wormholes transport ships across interstellar distances’ trope of science fiction.  ‘The Craze’, as I think of my model (think cracks in the glaze of pottery type of craze, not the crazy kind of craze) transports ships farther than usual for the trope.  As in, finding a Craze transit so short that you land in the same galaxy you started in is very, very rare.  More often, you end up outside of the local group of galaxies.

Which is a lot of setup for this particular turn of phrase, which I enjoy because comparing intergalactic travel with small rodents that plague the lawn-conscious is nerdily fun:


The Craze, the web of faster than light transit lines that underlaid the fabric of the observable universe like gopher burrows under a lawn, made it possible for human beings to exist so incredibly far from the cradle of humankind.

In this case, our hero is visiting a world called ‘Outblack’, a world remarkable in the fact that it circles a rogue star drifting through the deeps not just between galaxies, but between galactic groups.  Imagine the luscious darkness of THAT sky.

Short-term Thinking: Pushing Back Against Solar and Wind



Oklahoma is just the latest locality to enact legislation that penalizes individuals for using solar or wind power to supplement power from local utility companies.  Oklahoma’s SB1456 requires a person installing solar panels (or any other item that generates power on site, if you can install a windmill, geothermal plant, or hydroelectric generator in your backyard) to pay a ‘tariff’ to the electric company if you remain on-grid.

Okay, you say.  When you install solar, you’re prudent to retain your connection to the power distribution infrastructure.  You can sell power back to the electric company if you generate more than you use.  You have power if your solar doesn’t generate enough to run your home all by itself.  And it costs a lot of money to maintain that infrastructure.  Never mind that you subsidize a lot of that infrastructure as a citizen through your taxes either directly or by subsidizing the natural gas or coal that runs a lot of traditional power plants.

Well, not okay, I say.  Natural gas and coal generate pollution and come from finite reservoirs within the earth.  Nobody’s putting them back.  An adherent of an apocalyptic religion might feel the world will end before we run out of oil, natural gas, and coal.  Well, hypothetical adherent, I don’t share that belief and I’d prefer to hedge that bet, thankyouverymuch.

Discouraging people from shifting to renewable energy is a disservice to the future.  I know, I know, we’ve built up a system that urges us not to worry about tomorrow.  Too many of us live for the moment in a bad way, unable to distinguish it from the good kind of living for today that urges us to not worry ourselves to distraction and death about things we can’t anticipate, yet plan and prepare for what we can.  Too many of us think, ‘hey, I’ll be dead by the time it matters, so why should I worry?’

I don’t know what to tell you, if you don’t care about what happens in the future, if you don’t care about what kind of world we’re leaving to our great-great grandchildren/nieces/nephews or simply fellow human beings who haven’t been born yet.  I don’t know how to address that degree of insularity, how to turn around the ‘screw you future buddy, I’ve got mine’ attitude that doesn’t see a need to knock off burning the fossil fuels to run cars and factories and cool computers that fit in the palm of your hand (and I’m not knocking them, I enjoy the hell out of my smartphone).

I simply don’t know what to say to the people who think we shouldn’t switch to clean sources of power that damage the environment far less than fossil fuels and which are quite capable of running our present electric civilization and then some the same way it’s been sustaining a planet full of plants and proto-plants for about three and a half billion years now.

Stop being a short-sighted jerk?




Related article here.


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