Every Single One Of My Titles

Thirteen Word Story: Playing God

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(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on 04 FEB 2016 — you can see my posts before anyone else by becoming a patron, even for a single buck per month! Plus you get a free PDF of any short story I publish THIRTY DAYS before anyone else, even if I charge for the ebook!)

 

The story on the image (and please feel free to save and share the image as you’d like) is a take on the venerable Frankenstein story, which is a take on the infinitely more venerable Golem story, which is probably even older than the tale of the Garden of Eden, maybe even older than the tale of Prometheus.

 

At their roots, they’re all the same story. The thing we create or wish for takes on a life and will of its own. Perhaps for good, perhaps for ill, most often for both — the story of the Monkey Paw, the wish that takes an unexpected and usually detrimental turn, goes hand in hand with the Golem.

 

As I’ve written it, my story gathers in a few social trends, both US and worldwide. The first and most popular is sex. Itself it’s not exactly a “trend” — people have been having sex for quite a while, I hear. The integration of technology with sex has taken on a life of its own, however, even though it dates back thousands of years to the discovery of the dildo. There’s something called “teledildonics” that has been knocking around for a decade or so — remote sexual contact, sex via computer. Combine that with AI, robotics, and the “RealDoll”, a full-sized realistic artificial human form usually but not exclusively built for sex, you can figure it’s only a matter of time before humans are having sex with androids.

 

As for how an android might impregnate an android — well, that’s up to your imagination. But for many a desired outcome of a sexual relationship is progeny, and where there’s a will a way is often eventually invented.

 

 

Holy Plot!

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(This post originally appeared on my Patreon, on 30 January 2016. You can see the post there, or see why I’m on Patreon (hint: I FIGURED OUT WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP YAAAY BUT OH MONEY YEAH I DON’T HAVE MUCH OF THAT STUFF) by clicking appropriately. Here or there, thanks for reading.)

Holy Plot!

S.A. Barton

     Do you write? I’m sorry to be the one telling you this, but your plot has holes. Even if you don’t write, I’m sure you’ve noticed the holes lurking in what you read and watch.

     You can’t avoid them; they’re as sticky as death and taxes.

     And suddenly, with that, I sense a million teachers and writers of writing cry out in anguish at this great disturbance in the authorial Force.

     Hold on a minute. I’m not telling everyone that plot holes are good, fine, or even okay. Lazy writers who sighed in relief at the pronouncement that plot holes can’t be resisted, tense up again.

     Plot holes are not things you should be leaving in writing – for the page or for the screen – if you can help it. You’re supposed to be looking for them and carefully stapling them shut as unobtrusively and believably as possible. That is your job as a crafter of fine writing.

     What I’m telling you is that no matter how carefully you (and your editor(s)) work to find and repair plot holes, they are there. Even if you’re certain they’re not. In fact, some of the plot holes people find aren’t actually there.

     Because that’s how human brains work. We sense patterns and we reflexively look for holes in them. Plots are patterns, and holes are… well, they’re holes. For millions of years our ancestors lived and died, and we still do, by our sense of pattern. The grasses of the African plains represent a pattern, and a lion stalking through them creates a hole in the pattern, a hole that moves and will eat you if you don’t notice it. The ones who were best at noticing were best at living long enough to reproduce and transport their genes into the future. The hole in the pattern in the environment that represents a fish or a deer or a rabbit or a bird or a bird’s nest filled with yummy nutritious eggs (mention sponsored by the S.A. Barton Really Likes Eggs For Breakfast And Sometimes Other Meals Too Because They’re Delicious Foundation) represents the ability not to starve, and obviously organisms that eat are better at reproducing at those that do not.

     We still work that way. Misinterpreting the patterns of traffic or war or politics or finance or law can make or break a life sometimes.

     We’re all about patterns. Patterns are life, and stories are patterns. We love to create them because we’re geared to appreciate them. And we love to look for the holes in them.

     People even find plot holes that don’t exist in real life. Some people are certain that breaking a mirror causes bad luck, and they can explain what they’ve observed that ‘proves’ this. Others just know that the movements of the planets influence your personality and choices. There are a plethora of theories that explain the significance of number sequences in determining world events, of bumps on your head to your place in society, of the impossibility of landing on the moon, of skyscrapers constructed to collapse straight down rather than falling like dominoes collapsing straight down, even the impossibility of the Earth being a shape other than flat.

     So you’re written your story. You, and perhaps some beta readers and/or editorial types have gone over them, helped you find plot holes you missed in your own process of writing and rewriting and polishing, and you’re pretty sure you’ve smoothed the holes all over.

     Someone will think of something you didn’t think of. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

Someone will see something that isn’t there at all. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

     Someone will decide that the world of your story itself should be different, or that Character X really wouldn’t do that. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

    So, if you write, do your best. Take plot holes seriously, and kill them when you find them. Mount their heads on the wall if it pleases you. But don’t obsess. If you do, you’ll start to see holes that aren’t there, and you’ll never escape the cries of “Hey, I found a plot hole!” no matter how hard you try.

Thirteen Word Story — They Were So Excited

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First appeared on my Patreon page, posted 22 January 2016.

 

They Were So Excited

 

Civilization ended. Survivalists soon wept.

It was nothing like the movies and books.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

We, in general as humans, like to imagine how amazingly we’d react to hypothetical situation X. The zombie apocalypse, invasion of hostile aliens or fellow humans, mass plague, being mugged or robbed, war, poverty, fear, pain, and so forth.

 

Sometimes, yes, we react pretty well. Especially if we’ve been trained in some way to deal with situation X. But we don’t like failing and we don’t like thinking we’d do badly regardless. It’s a type of optimism, and despite my frequent cynicism I’m not immune any more than the next guy.

 

But.

 

I think my own culture, that of the United States, is especially prone to “I’d be awesome” thinking. We’d all be blowing off zombie heads like a master marksman in the zombie apocalypse. Of course *we* would never hesitate to blow away our zombie loved ones like that poor sucker in the movie who couldn’t do it in time and got bit. I enjoyed reading a couple of Eric Flint’s 1632 series, but I had to stop because everything was just a bit too easy — well, gee whiz, we’ve been cut off from the modern world and dropped into the past. Time to grab those bootstraps and get the power plant working again, it’ll be simple. And while we’re at it we’ll go sailing all around the world too because modern people stripped of the technology we’re used to are still better than any damn past person. We’d do so much better because… because…

 

There’s no real reason except an optimistic belief in being better. People with money explain how much better they’d handle poverty than millions of poor people, because millions of poor people must be poor because they’re lazy. People whose kids have grown up and left home explain how easy it is for young people to hold off having kids until they’re making six figures. People who inherit wealth tell us how easy it is to be self-made. People who have never been in danger in their lives talk about how easily they’d overcome PTSD or anxiety or phobia, and how much better a job they’d do at going to war than the people who have actually been in those wars.

 

A lot of people simply do not consider that things that are difficult or deadly or both are difficult and/or deadly. A lot of people, including as far as I can tell a hell of a lot of our politicians, are pretty sure that life is some kind of movie or television series, and hardship is an exciting adventure to overcome.

 

Well, I don’t think so. I think the zombie apocalypse or whatever would suck, and I’d probably die despite my best efforts.

 

But in defense of stories, I have enjoyed reading about zombie apocalypses. I’ve enjoyed movies about them. Writing about one could be fun — and I have written about the start of one. I may actually write one, one day. You never know.

 

Just, you know… let’s remember the fiction is fiction. Being inspired is fine, forgetting that the battles we all fight, figurative or literal, are real, they can be difficult, people lose and fail and take time to overcome when they overcome at all, and it’s worth having some empathy for others. We easily recognize hardship in our own lives, remember to recognize others’ hardships as well. Don’t dismiss them.

 

‘skipper — A Good Old-Fashioned Meeting The Aliens Type Story

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This post first appeared on Patreon for patron viewing only on 22 January 2016. It will be set to public viewing there, shortly after this post is live here.

 

‘skipper is my latest short story single ebook. It weighs in at 5000 words — the first third, roughly, is previewed below for your reading pleasure. I’m asking 99 cents, but if you’re one of my Patreon patrons, who support me with a monthly contribution to the Poor Starving Writers With Families Named S.A. Barton Fund, you can download it in PDF for free. Here’s the link to the post on Patreon with the PDF link (viewable by Patrons), and here’s one to the part of my Patreon page where I explain why I think it’s worth your while (viewable by anyone who clicks the link).

 

The ebook can be gotten at Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Google Play Books, and possibly other places as well — drop me a line if you see it elsewhere (“Talk to Me”, at the head of this site) because the way ebook distribution works, you never know exactly where it might turn up.

 

And finally, before I post the preview of the story, a few words. The idea for ‘skipper comes from a conversation I had with one of my Twitter friends, @Gurdur (who also keeps a blog on a wide range of topics — go check it out). Avoiding spoilers, it involved sea life, stone axes, mating rituals, and distinguishing instinct from sapient volition. I was happy to provide him the manuscript on paper, months before anyone else had occasion to see the story. At this writing, he still is the only person to have a print copy, and he will probably remain so until the possible future time I include it in a paperback collection.

 

And now, the preview:

 

‘skipper

S.A. Barton

     When you fire an escape pod at a hundred meters altitude, there are three basic options. One is you go in an upward trajectory. Pods are designed for use in space, generally in close proximity to a larger vessel that may imminently explode. So they accelerate hard. Planetside, assuming one standard gee, even a cheap escape pod with short boosters (which was what we had) will kick you up at least a couple thousand meters. That allows enough freefall time for the emergency parachute to open, saving your lives. And freefall time is your only option; while a pod does have a drive aside from the booster, it’s just a basic ion drive that tops out around a thirtieth of a gee. Useless planetside.

     Options two and three are not as good. Two, you go sideways and crash before the chute can slow you enough for a soft landing, or worse, the pod skips like a stone across the surface of the planet. Maybe the chute stops you before the pod comes apart like a snifter thrown into a stone fireplace. Maybe it doesn’t. Odds for survival are low. Option three, the thruster burn fires you straight down into the ground and you make an impressive crater, out of which the natives (if there are any, and there were where we were landing) might pick shiny bits of metal and carbonized beads that used to be bone fragments.

     In our disastrous atmospheric entry, we were spinning on our long axis, like a bullet fired from a rifle—which of the three options we got would be up to chance. That the escape pod fired at only a hundred meters altitude tells you we didn’t have time to halt the spin. We had to jump in and take our chances.

     The four of us got lucky. Except for Buddy, owner and captain of our doomed surveyor ship Nosy Bastard which was now an expanding cloud of fragments in orbit. When we landed—hard—the tail came down on the shoulder of a boulder. The pod flipped and landed nose-first, and his restraint popped open; there hadn’t been time to double-check latches, just to pull the bar down and hope. He fell across the cabin into the equipment locker and broke his legs. Then the pod tilted on its rounded nose, slowly, slowly, then a sudden drop and thud on its side, dumping a yowling Buddy into the wall—now floor—and breaking his elbow.

     “Uh-oh,” I said into the sudden shocked silence, mild words covering a renewed internal panic. I was the ship’s medic, because I had taken a six-hour first aid course while Buddy was filing our flight plans with the Exploratory Commission. I knew the state of the ship’s medical supplies—a small plastic box bought at a discount warehouse, good for small cuts, bumps on the head, stomach upsets, allergic reactions. Not so much for broken bones.

     The plan had been to buy a proper medicbot after the EC paid us for our findings from this mission.

#

     “Get me a real doctor, dammit,” Buddy said for the third time, after gasping in pain when I tied off the sling his arm was in. I had already splinted his legs with poles from one of the two dome shelters in the survival supplies. Maybe we could improvise new poles from native plants; we’d seen plenty of yellow from orbit; the local star was a red dwarf with a similar, distant binary companion. The redder native light seemed to have produced a chlorophyll-analog that reflected farther down the spectrum than on good old Earth.

     “Buddy,” Dan said, exasperated; his twin sister Danielle shushed him before he could say more.

     “N.T. is doing her best, Buddy,” Danielle said. “She’s a Xenoculturist, not a doctor.”

     “I know,” Buddy said, and sucked air through clenched teeth. His face was ashy with shock; silver pain-sweat glittered in the dark nap of his hairline. “This hurts like hell.”

     “We don’t have real painkillers, just migraine tabs,” I said. “The only other thing I can do is add a sleeping pill.”

     “Give me three,” Buddy said. “Knock me—gah!—out.” We compromised on two, because I had the pill bottle and he couldn’t reach it. They knocked him out.

     The survival supplies contained, among other things, a pistol. It was simple, made for durability: a revolver firing chemical-explosive propelled slugs, a device invented so long ago that people still traveled by horseback when they were first used.

     “Funny,” I said, while Danielle strapped on the holster. “We travel from star to star by wormhole, build cities that span continents, are supported by robots that do all the physical labor. And yet here we are, ready to defend ourselves from native predators with a piece of technology that’s barely a step up from a crossbow. I just splinted broken bones with sticks. So many things boil down to simple, crude solutions, no matter how advanced we think we are.”

Well, Danielle and I are going to advance up that hill to the north and see if we can see a source of fresh water,” Dan said. “The dry rations might last a month, but the condenser is only built to provide for two people. Why didn’t we get two of them?”

     “Same reason we don’t have a medicbot,” I said. “Money.”

     “Another crude, prehistoric technology we don’t have a better option for,” Danielle said. They started walking. I sat beside Buddy as he slept, watching him breathe. Two sleeping pills wouldn’t endanger him, I thought, but I couldn’t stop watching, just in case. I let my ears do the ‘watching’ for native threats; all I heard was a soft insectlike song, a bit like crickets but more musical, striking chords rather than notes. It wasn’t close, it was distant; I thought it came from the south.

     If our crash site was where I thought it was, remembering the last images from our survey before the Nosy Bastard had encountered the wandering bit of space junk that had junked her, there was some sort of native village in that direction, built in a long strip along a salty seashore. We’d seen buildings of a sort, a conglomeration of stone walls crowded together, hivelike but irregular, hexagons as constructed by drunken bees. They were large enough for humans, oddly roofless, busy with moving shapes that might have been humanoid. In the bay’s tidal waters—two moons, one large, one small, swept around the planet like the hour and minute hands of a clock—a less drunken, nearly perfect tesselation of triangles traced the beachline from within the shallows. Fish traps? We wondered briefly, seeing swirling shadows there, and then had come the shuddering boom, the red alarm lights, the air rushing out cold, the hurry to survive, into the escape pod and down.

#

     Danielle’s shouts woke me; I hadn’t realized I was sleeping. I jerked to my feet in a convulsion of panic, lurching, and fell over.

    “What the…” I said, and my words trailed off. Danielle was running down the hill to the north, still shouting my name. Her stride was lurching, a marathon runner in the desperate last leg of the race, exhausted.

     Dan wasn’t with her. I ran out to meet her, Buddy forgotten for the moment.

    “Where’s…”

     “They. Took. Dan,” she said, chest heaving between words, hunched over, hands on knees. She coughed, spat, then convulsively straightened and sucked in an enormous breath. “We were in a big stand of bamboo-things along a little stream, and I was kneeling down testing the water. I heard a rustle and when I stood up, they were already dragging him off. They’re big, and they’re fast. I never got off a shot. Couldn’t tell which one had him. They headed…”

     “South,” I said. “Remember? The shore of the bay, the roofless village? We must have crashed very close to it.”

     “Yes, south. We have to go after him,” Danielle said. “Wake Buddy.”

     “We can’t carry him along for something like this!”

     “But we can leave him locked safe inside the pod. It still has power, and the distress beacon will be broadcasting. We make sure he can reach the food and meds. Turn on external ventilation so humid air can feed the drinking water condenser.”

     “And if we… don’t come back?”

     “An hour after it receives the distress beacon signal, the message drone we left at the Craze point will retrace our path through the wormholes we followed to come here. Forty days until it reaches civilization.”

     “Eighty or ninety days to rescue,” I said, nodding. “The rations ought to hold out that long for one person if it comes to that.”

     “And if not, his bones should knit enough to forage before then.”

     “If the natives kill us, he’d better not.”

     “We need to warn him before we go, then.”

     So we dragged him inside, woke him, and told him. We had to keep waking him over and over; the sleeping meds hadn’t worn off. I hoped he remembered what we were saying; I wished we could wait until he was less groggy. But for all we knew, those native things were already marinating Dan for lunch.

     We left Buddy sleeping and locked in, and hurried south…

There are 3500 more words where that came from. If you want to read them, head back up to the top of this post and get to clicking links!  :)

SciFi News Network: Arcology Designer Bootlegged

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This post first appeared on my Patreon page on 16 Jaunary 2016. If you’re a Patron, you get to see blog posts before anyone else — and when I publish a new short story, you get to read it at least 30 days before it appears elsewhere!

 

Arcology Designer Bootlegged

S.A. Barton

GENEVA (AP)

12 March 2094

United Nations Secretary for International Software Regulation Gianetta Fleur’s office released a statement in response to inquiries from agencies regulating human personality download in both the North and South America regulatory unions as well as the EU, alleging that illegal copies of famed arcology designer Santiago de las Casas have been made and distributed beginning as long as four years ago.

Santiago de las Casas died outside of Nairobi in September of 2088, of injuries sustained when his personal transport drone encountered one of the swarms of locusts that devastated Kenyan crops in 2088 and 2089. In accordance with international law regulating software-based human consciousness, de las Casas’s last personality backup of July 2088 was activated within the EU Virtuality, where he continued his six-decade long career as a master designer of arcology habitats for regions rendered unlivable by the advance of climate change. His most recent design, an inverted dome-on-stilts with upper decks devoted to agriculture and a green ‘roof’ planted with wind-resistant GM tuber-bearing supertropical reeds, opened last year to property-owning citizens of the Miami metro area whose primary landholding is tidally or permanently submerged or projected to become so in the next five years.

Regional officials became suspicious that de las Casas’s personality had been illegally copied and distributed following groundbreaking for arcologies in coastal southern India and northern Australia in 1990. Officials cited distinctive design characteristics as the basis of their suspicion; in 1990 the Vice President of Design for South Seas Major Construction corporation stated that any similarities were simply acknowledgement of and tribute to de las Casas’s industry-changing innovations. The press offices of SSMC did not respond to a request for a statement regarding this story.

Also not responding to requests for a statement were the offices of Transpacific Human Habitats, which broke ground for de las Casas-styled arcologies in Vancouver (2093) and upslope from Nagasaki (April of this year).

The statement from Gianetta Fleur’s office alleges evidence that both corporations are in possession of activated and running copies of de las Casas’s personality, and that agents of one or both knowingly participated in obtaining those copies.

Under international law, such actions fall under the definitions for human trafficking, slavery, violation of intellectual property rights, and software piracy. In a personal addendum to her office’s statement, Gianetta Fleur cautioned any individual, corporation, or government running de las Casas’s personality that once running, terminating or deleting the program could be considered an act of premeditated murder.

END

 

 

Thirteen Word Story: Savepoint

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Originally posted to my Patreon page on 1/14/2016. My patrons get to see my posts at least three days early — PLUS all the stories I publish as ebooks for free. Even if I charge for the ebook. So, you know, if you want to see everything before everyone else wink wink nudge nudge

 

SAVEPOINT

The virus was too strong: great-grandmother was gone.

Gravely, they restored from backup.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Sooner or later, someone is going to try to map a human consciousness to run as software. It’s going to open many, many cans of worms, but it’s going to happen. There will be arguments about backing up files and what restoring them means. At some point, someone will end up running on two or more machines and someone else will have to figure out how to deal with that. Someone is going to edit a consciousness. That will probably happen first. “I want a copy of my granddad, but can you leave the racism out?” “One copy of my ex-wife, please. From twenty years ago, before we started arguing so much.”

 

Yeah. Lots of cans of worms. I hope we learn something from them.

 

Rethinking Patreon — For The Better

Support S.A. Barton creating Short stories    home text excerpt

 

So, I’ve had a presence over at Patreon for a few months now. I’ve written about how it wasn’t quite clicking for me, and what I’ve changed to make it better (please check it out, link opens in new tab) over there in more detail, but I also wanted to address it here. Because, after all, this is my site and my blog and it seemed sort of important.

My first goal as a writer is to write things that people will enjoy reading, and maybe inspire some thoughtfulness along the way.

But tied for first is my ambition to make a career out of this writing thing. A career that can support my family and me. So, crowdfunding. Patreon seemed like a better choice than others since my focus is on the long term, not a short-term project that you might see on Kickstarter or its various cousins.

My revised approach to Patreon, I think, is more interesting and more rewarding to my supporters than the old approach. The picture at the head of this post contains the core of it — show the people who support me there my work first. Even my posts here will appear there before they appear here.

I hope some of you who read here will support me there. Trust me, every penny counts. I wouldn’t be living in a trailer instead of a nice house if it didn’t.

Thirteen Word Story: Hardly Ever Works

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After the storm the android packed her inert mate in rice. Hoping. Praying.

Ha, Ha… NO.

-2015 Was the Year the Literary Versus Genre War Ended   VICE   United States

So, there’s a utopian little article over at Vice with the headline you see above. I’m not commenting on it because it’s bad. You should read it. It opens in a new tab or window, so after you’re done (it won’t take long, it’s short) you can come right back here.

I’ll wait.

So, what did you think?

Mm-hmm. Me being the opinionated sort, I’ll tell you what I think now.

It’s a nice thought. Science fiction and fantasy (and speculative fiction, for those of you who like that term (it has its uses)) have been long regarded as the goofy cousin of the literary world. Writers of serious fiction and creative nonfiction acknowledge his existence, but wince a bit while admitting it.

SciFi and Fantasy? He’s… special if you know what I mean. But you gotta love him. He has such… enthusiasm. If only he could get his act together. Why don’t we leave him to play with his toy rocketships and go somewhere adult so he’s not horning in on the conversation.

That’s how it has been for several decades now, pretty much since heyday of the pulps and Hugo Gernsback.

It hasn’t always been like that. Frankenstein went over pretty well as a literary work, and it is clearly both science fiction and literary. And somehow it never really got caught up in the Genre Wars. I think because, before science fiction was really seen as a separate thing, it was firmly pigeonholed as literary.

People LOVE pigeonholing things, defining categories and subcategories, putting the things they love and enjoy in those pigeonholes, and guarding them fiercely. Don’t look innocent. You do it. So do I. You may not, and I hope I don’t, rise to vehement levels of assholish gatekeeping in defining what belongs in what category. But many do.

That is why there will always be Genre Wars. Perhaps the lines between literary and SFF have become blurred. But a DMZ doesn’t mean there’s no conflict over what belongs on what side of which line. Just ask the Koreas. If the conflict stops being about whether SFF themes and settings make something innately not literary (and I think, as the article’s writer seems to think, that this is coming to pass), the people invested in the argument will move on to a new point of categorization. They’ll still argue over which side of what border multigenre stories properly lie on. They’ll argue over what defines literary and what defines science fiction and what defines fantasy (people still argue over whether Star Wars should be considered science fiction or fantasy, for example. Yes, they do.). They’ll argue about whether “cli-fi” (climate fiction, dealing with the potential repercussions of climate change — look up Paolo Bacigalupi’s work if you’re curious) is also sci-fi, or if it’s something distinct.

There are always things to argue about, and humans will find them. That’s a big part of what we do with these big primate brains of ours. Or have you not been watching the news?

The Most Ridiculous Jeff Bezos – Elon Musk Comparison Animation Ever. Probably Because It’s The Only One.

Warning: restroom rocket-waving contest. Which is somehow not a euphemism. Probably not safe for work if your supervisors are touchy or you don’t want to be laughed at for watching something so silly.

 

 

Sorry to inflict this on you, but it was WAY too bizarre not to share.

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