All of my (published) stories. Unless I forgot something.

A Billionaire Is Mad That Poor Kids Get Free Sandwiches

…so I wrote a little tweetstorm about that.

Sorry about the repeated tweet at the end. Twitter threads are formed by replying to yourself, and now twitter displays the tweet each one is replying to for context… except to make a readable thread like this it means you now have to insert ONLY EVERY OTHER TWEET if you want each tweet to appear only once.

And of course I had to have an odd singleton tweet at the end because, apparently, I like to stir up trouble.

Which, really, is what a writer’s job is.

I could have gone into extra detail between tweets explaining myself further, but I think the tweets speak for themselves and I’d just be beating each point to death.

Plus, if anyone has questions or additions or comments there’s always the… um… comments here. 🙂

Dear Flying Superheroes: FLY HIGHER

Back in the days when I read more superhero comix, and today when I watch a movie with a flying superhero — especially one with some kind of ranged attack, IRON MAN I’M LOOKING AT YOU — I’m super annoyed when they just happen to fly low enough for an opponent with no ranged attack to grab or hit them.

JUST FLY HIGHER, DUMMY.

“But the plot requires me to get close enough to let my opponent start a thrilling grapple…”

SHUT UP THAT’S LAZY-ASS WRITING.

Same goes for every drama that features a standoff with a gun and the hero stands there holding the gun on the villain as the villain creeps closer and closer until they can just grab the gun. It rarely makes sense. If there’s something about the character holding the gun that makes it make sense, fine. Maybe they’ve just realized that they can’t bring themselves to shoot another human being. Or there’s some overriding reason that shooting and maybe killing the villain would be a terrible idea.

But that’s so seldom the case. More often than not, it’s a contrived situation to up the tension.

Don’t be lazy and write things that don’t make sense. If you want more tension or whatever, and it doesn’t make sense, GO BACK AND WRITE IT DIFFERENTLY SO IT MAKES SENSE.

If the tiger catches the drone, make sure there’s some internal logic to it.

Today’s Conspiracy Theory: NASA To Flee Earth

 

…to which I replied…

It makes sense to me. If I was working for NASA and secretly invented FTL travel, I’d be sorely tempted to pack up and leave given the events of the last couple of years and the direction things seem to be headed in. Nothing personal.

Sometimes I Forget To Mention It Here And I Have No Idea Why…

…but I do maintain a Patreon page. Because I am a poverty-stricken writer (yes, actually under the poverty line for a family of 5. Or even 4 if you count my college student stepson as an adult, even though his full time job is college student and he lives here with the rest of us in our itty-bitty trailer), and while the readers I have are wonderful and sometimes even take a moment to tell me so on Twitter or in a review…

…and because Patreon is now a way for creators to make a wee bit more money than they would if they can think of something to offer people who like what they do, and I can — for example, I just posted some brand-new microfiction over there…

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…and often I post it over here eventually, but not always. And I never post links to free ebook copies over here, but I do over there for my $5 or more patrons…

…so, yeah. I’m a big fan of supporting the arts, and these last few years I have become part of the arts. If you’d like to see some of my arts before other people get to see them, Patreon is the place to go.

Thanks for reading. Wherever you read.

Citizen Performance Reviews Eased: SciFi News Network 2222

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BB Homeland Authorized News

Cleared by DHS-Press

Staff

Washington, D.C.

January 1, 2222

In the spirit of the new year and new beginnings, President Maria Tombaugh is authorized by DHS and the Supreme Board of Directors to issue an Executive Order easing the standards of Citizen Performance Reviews and the penalties and solutions for failing to meet standards.

Revocation of citizenship and deportation to Stateless Internment in Nevada, Alaska, Alabama, or Indiana camps is now reserved to citizens who fail three, rather than the previous standard of two, consecutive performance reviews.

Manufacturing quotas for Stateless facilities increase 1% with the new year as per standing policy. Quotas at new facilities will be set 5% lower than in established facilities for a two year “break-in” period.

Remediation Residential Programs for citizens who fail performance reviews have been expanded from three to five, with new camps opening in Montana and Mississippi in addition to the established program facilities in California, Missouri, and North Carolina. Remediation programs are expanded from eight to thirteen weeks residence, the President’s response to a 2220 SBD directive to improve the current 55% graduation rate to meet a 75% goal by 2228. Notice to report to RRPs has been eased from two days to five. “I believe citizens having sufficient time to prepare for their service will improve graduation rates by reducing the number of citizens who discover they have lost property or residence upon their return from RRPs,” the President said in authorized and DHS cleared remarks. In following remarks he made it clear that losses are the sole responsibility of affected citizens, quoting the exact text of official DHS and RRP materials provided to remediates.

Performance reviews for citizens will increase the weight of employer reviews from 33% of the score to 45%, with the remaining percentages changing to 25% credit score and 30% social media and public speech score. Unemployed citizens are no longer theoretically able to achieve a passing performance review score of 60% from the two other factors. “Let this serve as notice that the United States will have full employment and freeloaders will not be tolerated.”

As always, students in compulsory K-5 education and students who go on to higher education via scholarship or purchase of and satisfactory progress in government-licensed middle, high, and university schools up to completion of a Baccalaureate degree may present grades in lieu of employer review.

Medical exemption for unemployment is expanded to fifteen rather than twelve months in a ten-year period when approved by a licensed medical professional. An additional six months is available for injuries or illnesses that are directly linked to occupational hazards including accidents if the injured party is not at fault more than 10% at the ruling of an arbitration panel or judge. Military and DHS members retired with 35 years of service and select high-level federal and state political officers retired with 20 years or more of service are, as before, considered to have a maximum employer review regardless of employment status.

Congress has also applied for authorization to submit and consider a bill reducing fees for First Amendment permits including Peaceful Assembly, Approved Press or Citizen Press, or Minority Religion. Details are unavailable as the Supreme Board of Directors has not cleared details of the bill for discussion beyond officeholders in Congress and the Executive branch.

Supreme Director Arlexa Weems of MS-Apple and All-American Nanocircuit LLC criticized the potential bill, saying that making FA permits less expensive “invites the Wild West of misinformation, slander, and terrorism that marked the civil unrest and informational chaos of the early twenty-first century.” Her counterproposal is to fix permit costs to the index of inflation plus 2% to discourage “casual trolls whose only interest is anarchy.” Weems also criticized Congress as a “liberal enclave” whose “overly forgiving impulses must be held in check in order to preserve the smooth and profitable function of the grand business venture that is the United States of America.”

Political analysts believe the SBD is likely to split approximately 75 members to 25 in favor of Supreme Director Weems’ proposal.

*********

So, let me ask you: how could the United States get here from where we are now? Can you imagine a way?

This appeared on my Patreon page one week before it appeared here. Patrons get to see the good stuff early – it’s a way for my poor writerly butt to make a few extra bucks to ease my family’s trailer-bound existence.

God Won’t Let The Climate Change: 13 Word Story

 

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So, I haven’t done one of these in a while. In the last months of the presidential campaign and the aftermath, well, the distraction of watching this all unfold was distracting. I had trouble writing anything but deep dystopia. I managed to create some wordage, but it was a bit of a slow stretch  for three or four months.

But here I am, production ramping up again. Maybe next time something distracting befalls the world, I’ll be a little better at keeping the creative juices flowing. This little episode did a pretty good job reminding me that I’m still learning the ropes and will be until I die — which is what all the more successful people who do stuff do, I hear.

But anyhow.

This one, of course, is inspired by the ideology-driven denial of either the human role in climate change, the actual fact the climate is changing, or both.

And of course the title is dedicated to the people around the world who take their faith as incompatible with climate change, or a round Earth, or a heliocentric solar system, or whatever other observed data they choose to disregard, thinking it opposed to their beliefs.

Of course, there are plenty of people who have some sort of faith — one of the established ones, Deism, Pandeism, animism, whatever else — who have no trouble at all accepting that what we observe about the universe is actually what we observe about the universe. And of course there are the various flavors of atheist (myself included) who just go with the data as best as we can interpret it, but can also appreciate how awesome, beautiful, and sometimes scary things like flowers, babies, galaxies, changing climates, and all kinds of other stuff are.

Paying attention to politics, I have heard (read) some of our lawmakers say things like the title of this story. Or that the oil or coal we’re mining cannot run out because a deity will restore it at our need.

Well, even if you do believe that Earth is a creation and a deity appointed humans the stewards of it, that seems pretty silly to me. Not to mention a bad way to raise a worldful of humans.

Would any of us raise a kid like that? “Hey, kiddo — this is your room. It’s yours. Go ahead and rip up the floorboards, pee in the corners, punch holes in the walls. I’ll pop by and fix everything up perfect for you again, leaving you to learn nothing but how to be a spoiled rotten brat with total contempt for the good things you have.”

That seems like an awful idea. So not only do I, as an atheist, not believe that a deity will come and save us from the consequences of our actions, I, as a father, think that would be a very poorly thought out path for a deity of any intelligence whatsoever.

So maybe more of us humans, regardless of belief system, should be worrying a bit more than we do about this planet of ours? Just a thought…

 

[This appeared on my Patreon page on the 22nd, a week before it appeared here. So, you know, becoming a patron is a great way to see a lot of posts early, plus you can receive free ebook copies and even signed paperbacks of stories and collections I publish!]

The American Dream, All New For The Tricentennial — SciFi News Network 2076

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Omniews Printernet Corporation

Staff

June 3, 2076

Omimerica Holdings is bringing you a bold new twist on the American Dream for the Tricentennial! Recent polls show that more Americans than ever before believe their leaders aren’t listening. The people who govern us aren’t accountable! They tell lies to get elected, break their promises as soon as they’re made, and get re-elected anyway.

By the time they choose to retire they’re a hundred times richer than when they got there — and you paid for it!

No more. Thanks to Omnimerica.

Omnimerica’s domination of the business world in every field has placed us in a unique position in history. Once, companies and citizens were at the mercy of the politicians. Sixty years ago, that began to change. For the first time ever, a global business concern (today a division of Omnimerica) and political office merged in the single person of the President of the United States. The people accepted it. The politicians accepted it. Our world, slowly, began to change. This year, that change is complete.

Today, an overwhelming majority of politicians at every level of government are involved with Omnimerica. They’re our board members, our executives, our division and holding heads, our consultants, and the customers of our worldwide supply chain.

So we’re taking action.

We’re changing everything. For the better.

Your voice will no longer be limited to voting for the lesser of two evils. You’ll vote every single day if you want! You can vote on every single issue, join the debate with your comments, reactions, and memes, and shape the policies of the United States AS THEY DEVELOP.

Never again will your voice go unheard. Omnimeria’s We The People is your destination to connect with family, friends, and the vital issues that matter to you. With a fast-moving timeline, fun games, an automatic entry in the billion-dollar Omnimerica Lottery with every post, and an advanced participation algorithm that could propel your words direct to the timeline of your local officials, the President of the United States, or even the Omnimerica Board of Directors, there’s so much to love that you’ll never fail to do your civic duty — or should we say, civic PLEASURE — ever again!

We The People is open for business in limited-participation mode right now. If you’re a US citizen, you already have an account! Log in with your SSN, birthdate, and a scan of your Citizenship Chip.

Government by the people begins on the day of the Tricentennial — log in at 12:01 PM PST on July 4th to cast your very first votes. You’ll be choosing the contestants for Dance Across the States, airing on Omnimusical 2 every Tuesday and Friday for thirteen weeks following the week of the Tricentennial. The winners will perform at ceremonies for thirty-five change of office ceremonies for mayors and governors slated for replacement by order of the Board of Directors.

Out with the old, and in with the NEW AMERICAN DREAM!

 

 

Dare to Discuss Time: Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon

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Here gather some reviewers and/or writers — AND YOU IF YOU’D LIKE TO JOIN IN — to discuss a book. We do it every couple of months, so pay attention if you like reading things. Since you’re here, I think you do.

This time, we’re talking about Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (not an affiliate link, if it matters to you) in the comments section below. I’m going to talk about it here a little bit first, and my fellow participants have written their own thoughts/reviews on it at Sci-Fi and Scary, The Scary ReviewsMichael Patrick Hicks dot com,  and Dave’s (David Dubrow’s) Blog.

I suggested we read it, and from what I’ve heard they mostly sort of enjoyed it but saw some pretty serious problems with it, giving it two or three stars out of five.

So I might not get to recommend new fiction for us to talk about for a while. We’ll see how forgiving they are.

Don’t take the previous two sentences too seriously 🙂

Nnedi Okorafor has a few words to say about Lagoon as well, on her Wahala Zone Blog. They’re worth reading. “I admit (and don’t apologize for) the fact that my flavor of scifi is evenly Naijamerican (note: “Naija” is slang for Nigeria or Nigerian.),” she writes.

If you’re personally acquainted with the cultural context her writing speaks for/to/of/with, or even have enjoyed reading some Afrofuturism in the past (that’s my case), you may find Okorafor’s work more easily accessible than if your experience is otherwise.

On the other hand, to hell with accessibility. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

My impressions of the book:

Some folk have been bugged by the extensive use of dialog in Pidgin English. I wasn’t, but then I’ve read through A Clockwork Orange so…

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…the Pidgin didn’t bother me for reasons you might guess. Others found it distracting. Personal taste.

I enjoyed reading Lagoon. I wanted to love it as much as I loved reading Binti and Akata Witch and a few of Okorafor’s short stories I’ve stumbled across. But I couldn’t quite.

It felt, to me, like the ideas of two or even three books stuffed into the skin of a single book. If it were a sausage, I’d say the richness overwhelmed the flavor. But I’m glad I ate it, and the experience was positive and memorable, even if I had to take a break in the middle and let everything settle for a while. Which I did. I put Lagoon down about 2/3 through and read a short story anthology, then came back to finish it.

Nnedi seems to have her plate full of writing for the forseeable future so I’m not holding my breath for a return to Lagoon. But if a sequel showed up, I’d love to see what she does with that crammed-full-of-interesting-things world.

 

 

Flash Fiction: Under Ashes

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“Anything worth a damn is made on a coast and ships from a coast. By air or sea.”

That’s what the president said. At least, it’s what was reported on the shadow web that snakes through the makeshift network of “smart” stoves and washing machines and automobiles (if you can afford them!) and can openers and athletic shoes and disposable razors and anything else with WiFi and an app.

The authorized news, on the other hand, ran a piece on how the economy was so gloriously rampant and virile that airlines have formally discontinued coach and business class seating, leaving nothing but a spacious expanse of first class and super luxury class seating in their cavernous airliners.

The anchorbot’s perfect on-air voice floated like a cloud behind the image of an iron-haired general, her chest a solid plastron of stars and ribbons like a compacted galaxy. Her feet were up on an ottoman and a masseusebot worked the suspension bridge of corded tendons in her neck with eight-fingered silicone hands.

Then, as the anchorbot droned a lulling narrative bridge, a puffy gilded teen cherub sat with a megaplatinum record from Motherland Records on a hefty wood base with a tall glass cover occupying a seat of it own beside her. A stewbot cracked the claws of a four pound lobster with deft blurs of a little brass gavel and slid the laden tray before the starlet who tucked into the chow with a flood of melted butter.

Finally, the anchorbot burbling upbeat and drawing to a conclusion, the vid showed a man in an immaculate dark suit and bright tie. The men are always first or last, symbolic frames of the stream of words and images, carrying with them weight and importance, tangibility. The lights and vids of an array of three monitors suspended from the ceiling (the “overhead” on an airplane, is it called?) flickered gem-reflections off the heavy steel rims of harsh six-angled eyeglasses. His hair was a blond cap, waxed down like a helmet. Sideburns trimmed to stilettos stabbed the angles of his jaw in the new style I can’t get used to. A trackball in each hand, he Does Important Things for the cameras.

The images fade to the state news logo and the anchorbot climaxes and relaxes into a commercial.

We all have televisions so we can see how good things are. We may not have hot water, or even running water. We only have electricity part-time. I can’t afford the simplest drugs to treat my pre-diabetes or even aspirin for my arthritis half the time. I set snares for squirrels or I’d have nothing to go with the endless lumps of hard bread (gotta soak it in a bowl of water to eat it) and cheese the Army hands out to keep us from starving or rioting or both.

But the state provides televisions. A new one every Christmas, even if you forget to bring them the old one to trade in.

We’re doing great, dammit. We’re finally great again. The television tells us so. All the biggest world powers respect us they way they should, the announcerbots say.

Just outside the city line – I can see it from the kitchen table in this two room shack I’m blessed to share with just two other bachelors – a bot crew and one Christ of a huge fanged combine-thing, driverless and nameless, chews up the old interstate highway and loads the bits into an endless stream of self-driving dumptrucks that take the blacktop south to do God knows what with it. Thin dribs and drabs of snow float through the scene like in a snow globe, and icicles hang from the noses of the workbots. They don’t care, of course.

I hear blacktop is made from oil. Maybe they’re squeezing the oil back out of it to ship to India or China or Brazil. Those places are hungry for oil and any other resources they can get their hands on, the shadow web whispers from the WiFi toilet when I crap. Who knows if it’s true. The television doesn’t say a word about that.

But the stock market is up again, and the Air Force says Fallujah will fall again soon.

There’s going to be a celebration when it falls, next month in DC. The commercial for it is on again. It has been playing twice an hour since spring.

The commercial ends and my gaze falls on the faded cap hanging on its nail across from the window. The cap is gray now, like my hair before it fell out, but you can still see the crimson fire peek out of the deep folds of the seams like ember under ashes.

I wish I could be in DC for the celebration. To wear the cap again, pump my fist in the air and holler again. Full of power, strong like a bear. Those were the days.

But the highway has gone away, and I’m not much for walking anymore. Nobody I know is.

END

(This post first appeared on my Patreon page, 02 January 2017. My patrons get to see a lot of things early, and can get free ebooks and even paperbacks! Come help me get the hell out of this damned trailer park and into a place where I can have even a small writing office and maybe even write ALL THE TIME. Well, almost all the time. I do have kids and a wife and a cat to think of as well.)

Starting Late And Dying Young

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So, General Organa — Carrie Fisher — is dead. At sixty. She left behind a hell of a body of work and a trail of lives and souls touched through the characters she portrayed, the stories she worked on, and in person eye to eye.

She’s hardly the only one to die relatively young. It happens all the time. But when someone whose work is widely known goes youngish, you notice.

And it set me to thinking, because that’s what I do. I don’t just write about the near future. I live in it, too, through imagination and worry.

I think, I’m forty-six. Carrie Fisher died at sixty.

My dad died at fifty.

Oh, Christ.

I’m going to croak in four years or maybe fourteen (or fifteen minutes or fifty years, but never mind that). And I wonder, in that self-doubting way I have in my own head, if that means that if I’m lucky I’ll live to see a book of mine sell a whole thousand copies.

If. If I’m lucky, the little voice says. It’s a pessimist. My future vision, no matter howmuch science fiction I read and write, specializes in horror when I’m the only audience.

And it is honed and practiced by my earlier life. The Wasted Years, I sometimes think of them as, despite their worth now in experience and tenacity and other mostly bitter lessons learned at the feet of pain.

People like Carrie — scratch that. I’m talking about her. Carrie worked and built her career through substance abuse and mental illness and her own internal little voices, whatever fear and doubt she had and she alone truly knew.

I didn’t build a damn thing, and that lack hurts me. Like, physically when I think about it seriously. For this reason and that circumstance and whoknowswhat, some of which I’m aware of, it took me thirty years or so from age five to my mid/late thirties to begin to suspect that I might have value as a human and as a creative person. While Carrie worked I hid and devoted myself, monklike, to substance abuse and cowardice and surrender to all the things I didn’t think I could face alone.

Maybe that’s why, in this latest cycle of Star Wars movies, I feel contempt for Luke Skywalker.

And let me be clear: the character, not the actor. While I admire both Carrie Fisher and Leia Organa, I’m not sure I can admire Luke even if Mark Hamill is, I hear, a great guy.

I’m not closing the door on Luke. For all my pessimism, it is born of constantly disillusioned optimism and idealism. I cannot help hoping, even as I cannot help pessimism-ing. They’re in my blood.

But, seriously, fuck Luke Skywalker.

General Organa, from her Princess Leia days, was out fighting the good fight, facing the cold hard world with teeth bared and steel in her spine, standing in the face of disadvantage and danger and fear and worry and her own personal feelings and pains. Like the woman who portrayed her.

And you, Skywalker, you self-involved coward, ran away to hide.

It is easy for me to hate his character because I see a part of me portrayed in him that I despise and regret.

“But live your life without regrets!” you crow.

Oh, stuff it. That’s as dumb as that stupid “No Fear” slogan that was so big a few years back. You can’t learn a damn thing if you pretend the lessons and clues to them don’t exist.

And, to pick up the earlier thread again, I wonder how much time I have. Four years? Fourteen? Fifty?

I wonder where I’d be now if I hadn’t spent so many years being a dedicated half-hermit drunk paralyzed by the fear, the near-certainty, that I had nothing to offer the world, nothing to offer even myself.

And I know it doesn’t matter.

The past is gone, the future is unrevealed, and what matters is what I do now.

Now is all I have. And all you have. And all Carrie and General Organa and Princess Leia had.

Some days it’s hard. Living with one foot in the maybe-future, as I must doing what I do, makes me a worrier.

I worry I already blew my chance. That maybe only an S.A. Barton who kept writing in high school and through his twenties and thirties had a chance to make a living and a name writing. That maybe the S.A. Barton I am, the one who blew those years in self-dissipation, cannot no matter how hard he tries. (Oh, gawd. I’m speaking in third person. Shoot me.)

But maybe that me would have been too shallow to be worth much without all these crappy experiences I have survived. And the better experiences that eventually grew from them.

Who knows? Nobody.

Playing the what-if game outside of fiction leads to madness.

I still worry, wonder, regret, rage, fear. And wonder if I’ll have time to make my voice heard widely, to grow into a respected creative voice the way Carrie Fisher did. To make that kind of impact, one that will last many, many years after her untimely departure. I don’t know. It took her a lifetime, didn’t it?

Maybe I can. Maybe I won’t.

But when the worry and regret perch ravenlike in the dark corners behind me, I remind myself that it doesn’t matter.

I have no time for cowards anymore, whether they are Luke Skywalker or the Ghost of S.A. Barton Past. But I do, in that undying spark of stubborn optimism that hides under my pessimism, believe there’s a chance to be better today, and every today until the todays stop coming, and to find success.