Author Archives: Tao23

King Of The Pantheon? 

From a recent visit to the Chrysler Museum of Art. Humans pictured are family, not random passersby.

So, we stopped to pay homage to that not-quite-most-modern of gods, Television. Its younger sibling  Internet was nowhere to be found, but maybe the artist will work on that next.

I’m not sure Lord Television qualifies as king, though. There’s its parent, or perhaps grandparent, Money. 

Usually people are sneering when they talk about worship of television and money. When it really is worship, there’s plenty to sneer at and I do. But like those most ancient gods Fire and Story, the reality is more complex. 

Isn’t it always? We try to simplify, and the universe laughs.

I’m a big fan of Story. And Book. Fire, too, because light and cooking and all the things made of  metal and plastic. But I digress.

I can say I appreciate those gods. Revere some, like Story and Book. Internet, too, if I’m gonna be honest.

I spend a lot of time with them. And that’s where worship comes in. You can say plenty about what constitutes worship, but the basis is time spent and the devotion of attention  and thought.

Lots of my time and attention and thought goes into Story and Book. Certainly into Internet – – have you seen how much I tweet? You should see how much I read there.

And I do end up giving what feels like too much time to mighty Television. Maybe I’m a worshiper of that one, too. 

If we manage to nuke ourselves to extinction, alien archeologists will likely wonder if our televisions and computers aren’t altars.

They won’t be far wrong. 

Confession of a reading writer: it takes me forever to read a collection of short stories…

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From Short Circuit which you might remember if you’re KINDA OLLLLLD

…because the nature of short stories, for me, demands slow consumption (I wonder if that’s why I almost always write them slow, too. Putting them down halfway through for days or even longer before finishing them. Hmmmm).

I don’t mean short stories are automagically HALLELUJAH THE CLOUDS PART AND A RAY OF EPIPHANY TRANSFIXES MY SQUIRMING LITTLE BRAIN when I read them.

I mean, if they are decently written and the story is my cup of tea (I have diverse tastes in tea; I’m not very picky) and the story has something to say about something rather than just being a sequence of stuff happening just to have stuff happening — then it takes me forever to read a collection or anthology or ‘zine or whatever grouping they’re in.

It takes all that time because when I finish a short story, I have to put the book down and let the thoughts and feelings it inspires rattle around in my subconscious for a while. Sometimes I can read two in a row before I have to stop.

Otherwise the feelings and thoughts get all muddy, and I start feeling all bloated and sickly, kind of like if you sit down for dessert and cram a quarter of a double chocolate cream cake AND a big plate of tiramisu AND a gigantic plate of flan down your gullet all in the space of fifteen minutes.

I don’t know about you, but if I do that I end up all pukey and unhappy and regretful. I wish I’d just had one dessert and saved the others for later.

That’s how I read short stories, to avoid that pukey regret and savor the deliciousness. And to drag the metaphor out a little farther, if the dessert is a bunch of plain ol’ slabs of cheapo junkfood factory cake (uninspired little ‘look a thing is happening who cares’ stories), I could pig out and eat ten or something. Because who cares, it’s just meh. It’s not like you’re going to miss anything if you cram them down your throat with the heel of your hand one after another after another after another after another without really tasting them.

But why would I want to? Where the good (and great) stories have me stopping after one or two so I can digest and savor the memory, the meh ones have me stopping after one or two because WHO CARES OH MY GOD I’M BORED.

I hear there are people who can read through a whole collection, even a long one filled with STELLAR stories, in one sitting. Just chow down a dozen profound and excellent short stories with tons to say one after another.

Y’all are weird. But, hey. It takes all kinds.

You weirdos. Seriously, you weird me out. Have I mentioned I find it weird?

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If you don’t recognize this I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON A WRITER GEEK’S BLOG

Dear Trumpite Politicians: Yesterday Is Not Tomorrow

Follow the Leaders Isaac Cordal

Follow the Leaders: one piece in a series by artist Isaac Cordal.

You may have seen the piece of art above already. It has been bouncing around the internet for some years now, often billed as “politicians debating sea level rise” or “…climate change.” Well, it kind of isn’t, and it kind of is, and following the link in the caption might shed some light on it.

However.

It is a FANTASTIC representation, inadvertent or otherwise, specifically of the current US GOP/Trumpite approach to climate change and rising sea levels.

And that approach…

…yeah. That’s going to be SUPER EFFECTIVE.

But our Fearless Glorious Leader and his Band of Thugs Merry Men (they’d surely call it sexist to acknowledge the women who choose to support him rather than lump them together under a masculine collective) aren’t restricting themselves to climate change. If you’ve been following current political events, he/they is/are not just ignoring climate change science, but rolling back environmental protections that have cleaned up industry-polluted land, water, and air over the last 40 years, acting to revive coal use and hobble the increasing use of solar and wind power generation, which I might add, is rising because it is now cost effective due to technological advances perpetrated by that terrible villain, science.

In other words, the 21st century is SCARY and THINGS ARE CHANGING and LET’S HIDE IN THE 20TH CENTURY. Unless you’re a public school student, in which case they’re shooting for the 19th century. No, really. The target there is getting rid of all those troublesome public schools and leaving education to corporations and churches, which I’m sure will work out great in an alternate timeline where suddenly technology stops working.

The only problem is that hiding in the past is a gigantic mistake, and it will always be. Yes, there’s such a thing as tradition. But traditions only make sense as long as they help people. If things change and they become harmful, or you realize they’ve been harmful all along and we don’t have a need to accept that harm — I’M LOOKING AT YOU COAL WITH YOUR BLACK LUNG AND OPEN PITS AND TOXIC RUNOFF AND OH WHAT A SHOCK BURNING THOUSANDS OF ANCIENT FORESTS IN CONCENTRATED FORM EVERY DAY MIGHT RELEASE GASES THAT CHANGE THE CLIMATE A TAD GEE WHIZ WHO WOULDA THUNK IT — then you say “yay, positive change!” and start using wind turbines to charge your iThingiee. And we all breathe a little easier, and people who live near the ocean like me start thinking that maybe, just maybe, our descendants won’t have to flee farther inland in the 22nd century.

A new installment of Broken Rice…

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…is available!

I’ll update this page as it appears in various venues. So far it’s at Amazon and Smashwords.

This is the fourth of six or seven installments depending on how things go while I’m writing the conclusion — one consequence of my outline-and-planning-free writing style is that I’m not often good at predicting final wordcounts. After it’s done I’ll release an omnibus and a print edition. At a projected 30-35,000 words, it will be the longest thing I’ve written. Right now it’s right around 20,000 words, equal to my previous record in Isolation, the title story in the Isolation and Other Stories collection.

So, why the heck am I writing a serial? And why was there a long pause between installments three and four?

Because I’ve been hit or miss in terms of finishing my work on longer stories. I have several projects that have been waiting at 10,000 or 20,000 words for me to finish them. I’ve let myself be derailed into turning to shorter projects and finishing those instead. But that’s not a good pattern for a writer to be in.

Writers need to finish their writing, dammit!

So a serial seemed like a good way to make a public commitment to finishing a story. I started this project to light a fire under my butt. By following through here, I demonstrate to myself that this unfortunate pattern of leaving long stories lie fallow for months or years before finishing them is unnecessary. I show myself that I can finish what I started. And I force myself to figure how how to motivate myself to do it.

Sometimes we realize that something is wrong, and it needs fixing.

It won’t get fixed unless we work on it with a seriousness.

So here I am, working with a seriousness. And I get a finished story out of it, and I hope you’ll find you got a good read out of it.

People Kibble: SciFi News 2033

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US in Ottawa Newsletter
January 22, 2033
Patrick Chowdhury Melendez
 
President Trump Jr. “Fights Hunger” With People Kibble
 
Newly inaugurated President Donald Trump Jr. announced a USA-wide anti-hunger program from the so-called “press vault” in Trump Tower in NYC (the de facto White House since 2021) at 5:15 this morning.
Press coverage was limited to fifteen reporters representing the “Gang of Seven” Trump regime-approved media organizations. A source within Trump Tower confirmed that those reporters were brought into the tower during the inauguration for sequestration and “extreme vetting.”
The source also stated the initial number of reporters admitted was sixteen, two per media org. The sixteenth reporter did not appear in footage of the press conference released by Vice President (and former President) Eric Trump. The whereabouts of that reporter are unknown. US in Ottawa staff and other expatriate press speculate that Reporter Sixteen may be Miles DeGuzmen of the popular morning Fox News “Trumping the World” segment, which has been guest-hosted by Sean Spicer since January 19th.
Trump Jr.’s “anti-hunger” program, “Making Americans Healthy,” follows two years of widespread simmering protest and riots in the wake of President Eric Trump’s 2031 federal-level outlawing of the last state-level food stamp, EBT, and WIC legacy programs. Federal welfare programs, including food and financial assistance, were ended in 2023.
Riots were especially intense in spring of 2032 following the revelation of the February malnutrition deaths of Mrs. Jackie Pillman of Little Rock, Arkansas and her kindergarten-age twins, Steven and Stephenie. The President announced that he was “working on a solution” in his Thanksgiving day address to the nation that year. He also vowed to “plug news leaks” in his remarks, thought to be a reference to the anonymous bloggers who produced the viral stories of the Pillman deaths. No arrests were ever announced, though some night disappearances of suspects were rumored in following months.
“Making Americans Healthy” relies on National Guard detachments (formally placed under federal control in 2021), which are directed to distribute one fifty pound bag of UNGR (Universal Nutrition Granular Recipe, a soy and peanut based, vitamin-enriched food dubbed “Purina Human Chow” in expatriate media) to any citizen who reports in person with two approved forms of federal identification to a distribution point on the 5th and 20th of each month.
“UNGR is a terrific food that provides everything adults and children need to be healthy and well-fed,” President Trump Jr. said in the released presser footage. “The taste is a bit boring, sure. I’ve tried it. But if people are hungry, they’ll come and get it, and they’ll be thankful for it. If they don’t like the taste, great. Maybe they’ll get off their asses and get jobs. There are so many jobs that the CEOs of factories and construction companies come to me every day begging me to find them workers.”
Independent economic analysts in the EU and India estimate actual US employment at 25-30%, or 60-65% if the chronically underemployed are included. US figures, released by law exclusively by press release from the Oval Office since 2024, place US unemployment at a radically unlikely 2.2%.

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.