Category Archives: Science Fiction

I just gave my $5+ patrons a free copy of Maladapt today…

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…everyone else has to wait until June 8th to buy a copy (Preorder @ Amazon, Smashwords, others coming soon). Here’s the short description appearing with retailers:

Maladapt is a mini-collection of four short stories totalling just under 15,000 words.
These are stories about the struggle to adapt to the coming future. About coming to terms with migrating to a robotic body, to telepresence, to universal surveillance and what it means to those of us who don’t quite fit in. They’re stories about FAILURE to adapt, and the victories to be won beyond failure.

If you’re not already one of my patrons, this would be a good time to get in on the ground floor. And grab your free copy. And free copies of a few other things which are posted as files or just plain old posts — sometimes I post microfiction, or full-length short stories as text posts.

My fans & readers are relatively few right now. But I am stubborn, and readers check in with me (here or on Twitter @Tao23) from time to time to tell me they enjoy what I write. So unless a meteorite squishes me unexpectedly, I anticipate being here and on Patreon writing stuff and posting early copy and exclusives for a good 20 or 10,000 years depending on my natural lifespan and how good medicine becomes and whether or not I get to upload into a robot body when this meat one wears out AND OF COURSE if I earn enough money and/or respect to afford and/or merit all the cool death-dodges the future may hold.

That’s where Patreon patrons and people who buy my books come in.

Please join my Patreon and/or buy more S.A. Barton books.

Daddy needs a new pair of robot bodies.

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Villain is Donald Trump?

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Image from TMZ story about Trump shouting down a CNN reporter

The choices, of course, are endless. Choosing might be a bit tough. For example, Lex Luthor is a tempting choice – billionaire, elected President, has an adversary he can’t stop obsessing over and who some hold up as a hero figure and others regard with suspicion (calm down, Hillary – you’re no Superman), has his own vision of how to use the power of the United States to fulfill his own goals – and yet, can you really compare Trump’s intellect and planning ability to Luthor’s? I would argue NO FREAKIN WAY, OBVIOUSLY.

You might even stretch the definition of villain a bit. I mean, you could certainly call Trump a Salacious Crumb.

The name fits. Perhaps not the role, but ol’ Salacious fits my purpose here, which is to make a clumsy transition to my own choice.

I have a reason to make this choice here: I’m removing the most glaringly obvious one so you have to come up with something different. Ha-ha!

Nelson ha ha

Source for all your Nelson ha-ha needs

Donald Trump is… *DRUM ROLL*

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Source: a ComicVine comment thread, of all things

They’re both filthy rich, emphasis on the filthy. They’re both ALLEGEDLY WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE in bed with organized crime. They’re both misogynistic – just look at that getup he stuck Princess Leia in so everyone could gawk at what a “young and beautiful piece of ass” he had.

Trump misogyny

Source: a Pinterest listicle thingiee

They’ve both got their slimy tentacles deep into the levers of power and are happy to use them to enrich themselves.

And they’re both gluttonous pigs. Whether the feast is food, power, wealth, or flattery.

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Source: a parody adaptation of a sculpture by artist Liu Xue, apparently photomanipulated by a Starecat user

If you have your own ideas about which villain Donald Trump is, kindly leave a comment and I’ll be happy to discuss Donny’s villainy with you. 🙂

Never Tell Me The Odds Unless You’re A %*^@#^ Statistician

C3P0 and Han Solo odds meme thingiee

Found on “MemeSuper” with a “MemeCenter” logo because UGH MEME SITES YUCK — and if you don’t know who this is and what movie it’s from there’s no A New Hope for you.

C3P0 is the poster child for a minor science fiction trope that doesn’t pop up super-often, but never fails to make me cringe and grind my teeth simultaneously whenever it does: intelligence and/or education (an encyclopedic robot brain is an acceptable stand-in for either) represented by the character knowing the exact odds of the possible outcomes of whatever is going on in the story.

I hate it so much.

One, it’s an anti-intellecual sop. The wimpy brainiac worries about failure and would never try but OH WAIT HERE IS THE SAVIOR HE WILL SAVE US WITH HIS AWESOME TACTIC OF NOT BEING SMART BECAUSE SMART SUCKS.

I really, really hate that message. I have hated it since I was a small child in elementary school being teased by my classmates for my habit of reading constantly, with “hey Einstein” and “hey professor,” which were meant as insults. Because what could be more awful than being a genius or an educator, am I right?

Two, it makes no damn sense. Reliable odds are for things that are predictable and fairly simple, like a lottery. If there are a million scratch-off tickets in circulation and one of them is a $100,000 prize winner, you can definitely say the chances of winning $100,000 by buying one is one in a million.

But look, C3P0. You can’t deliver precise odds of navigating an asteroid field. Too many variables. Like, how do you know the density of asteroids in this particular field? Or in this spot in this field? Or, you know, all their orbits? Or whether Han will sneeze and miss seeing a threat? Or whether his rickety-ass spaceship will have an engine hiccup at the wrong moment?

C3P0 is guessing. Anyone can guess, just ask a bookie. And maybe that’s the joke, that C3P0 is just guessing and only thinks he’s smart because he’s educated. And now we’re back to anti-intellectualism and anti-education and anti-expertise. And you’ve seen what those have done for us lately.

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%.

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.

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!

 

 

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.)