Category Archives: Science Fiction

I Would Kill For A Maidbot

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oh god please don’t sue me she’s just so ICONIC

I do the laundry for a household of five, including a four year old and a six year old who for some reason have to do at least two wardrobe changes daily. Shirts come off (“I got hot playing”) and go in the hamper; an hour later: “I’m cold. I need a shirt.” Or there’s a mud and dirt incident outdoors – which I live with; I’d be worried if they didn’t get dirty at this age. And there’s a fair bit of evidence playing in the dirt is a shot in the arm for growing immune systems, lowering rates of allergy and illness. But still: more laundry. It’s a rare day I don’t do two or three loads.

I’d kill for a maidbot.

Vacuuming. Sweeping. Cleaning surfaces, appliances, furniture, metal, television screens, books. Books attract a lot of dust. I have a few hundred books. Which sucks. Ten or twelve years ago before a series of moves and necessary weedings-out of possessions, I had a few thousand.

I don’t dust them enough. Or do any of the other things in the previous paragraph. I’m kind of a sucky housekeeper.

I’d kill for a maidbot.

I just thought: the maidbot wouldn’t just do the laundry, it would fold it and put it away. And rearrange the drawers when they got disorganized.

I’d kill for a maidbot.

I don’t do the dishes except a few here and there as I cook during the day. My eldest does that – we don’t have a dishwasher appliance. Imagine the time and effort he’d save. I wonder what maidbots would do to dishwasher sales?

I don’t care. I’d kill for a maidbot.

I bet the first ones will be expensive and buggy. But within five or ten years of release they’ll likely be far less buggy and no more expensive than a television – and used ones will be showing up on Craigslist and in thrift stores and pawnshops.

They’ll be one of the most popular Christmas gifts. Everyone will want one.

Wouldn’t you kill for a maidbot?

[When I post the next installment of this short series, there will be a link to the next post here]

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Coming Soon In More Detail: Telepathy Is Already A Thing (Kinda)

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So, yeah. Telepathy is kinda already a thing, sort of. We just haven’t noticed it and it’s really not the province of individual humans, even though it sure is good at reading our individual minds, and getting better at it every passing day.

I’m going to write about this in more detail on my Patreon next week (I’m aiming for Tuesday (Feb 20th)), but here’s the basic premise for you to think about:

A large proportion of the world is online.

A HUGE proportion of the first world is online.

Our buying, browsing, app, and social media habits are recorded, monitored, and analyzed by dozens upon dozens of different companies. Perhaps even our conversations if they’re in range of a smartphone, tablet, or even PC microphone.

This info can be used to build a SCARY accurate picture of who we are, what we think, and what we want.

This info and these analyses are not centralized, limiting their effectiveness and application.

That decentralization is not necessary.

You can’t read minds. But something is reading yours.

Hope you sleep well tonight. Sweet dreams.

Hope to see you Tuesday on Patreon.

Let’s Make A Mess…

… because that’s how rough drafts work!

I’m playing with a story that I started a year or two ago and then put aside because it was lacking something and I couldn’t figure out what.

Every couple of weeks or so I flip through my notebooks (I have a couple of dozen) and see what catches my eye.

This time, I saw what I could do with this story. I think it will pan out — it feels right.

If it does, I think “Stuck Jenny’s” will be a natural for my next collection, Doldrums. Feels like it will be 5-10 thousand words on self-driving RVs, generation gaps, and class divides.

I’m looking forward to writing it.

Self-driving Exoskeletons…

…seem to be a thing fated to happen. We’re in the midst of getting self-driving cars. We’re about to get a practical exoskeleton. It’s a natural! Who doesn’t want to walk to the store half an hour away while taking a nap or screwing around on your smartphone?

It’s A Gas, Baby (An Article From 2051)

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Among trust fund babies and other overindulged scions of the upper classes, a trend minor in actual practice has sparked a major wave of online vids, memes, and partisan taunting. The taunting, as is par for the course, is not all in fun and there have been arrests for the usual foolish actions in these situations: harassment, assault, sundry hacking offenses, death threats, and a couple of incidents of actual swatting.

A few arrests have been for the unusual. These have been arrests of the ones who actually practice the act of “gassing.” And like trust funders and suburban princes and their equivalents throughout history, there are few consequences for them. A few hours of community service time, a fee that isn’t a gnat bite to the wealthy, a span of minutes spent in a holding cell waiting for the family lawyer – and not a holding cell full of the little people, but a private one so the department bears no risk of being on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Brutality, after all, is for the poor.

But, why the class division at all? Why are the threateners and memers coming from the poor and the pedestrian middle class? Why are the wealthy the only ones doing the gassing?

Why have the efforts of gassers to make gassing a widespread phenomenon failed despite verified purchases of trending content status and featured vid placement? Why have purchased social media content crews failed to produce excitement and action like they have with previous successful trends?

One reason is the petty and vapid nature of their motivations. We’ll get to that.

The other reason: gassing is expensive. And in the tradition of the wealthy young, most gassers have displayed a vast and frankly off-putting ignorance of what “cheap” or even “possible” means for people whose mommies and daddies haven’t given them transuranic-branded debit chips linked to enormous family accounts, much less for people who have no choice but to comprehend realities like rent payments and budgets and having to know what things cost.

Gassing is often presented in gasser memes as “only fifty bucks for gas.” But it’s not anywhere near that cheap. Search traffic reveals that there was a peak of interest in gassing, much of it in the form of “how to be a gasser” queries. It quickly faded, probably because half of the top ten results for that search tell you that the first thing you need is your own working petroleum-fueled internal combustion automobile. It’s possible to rent time in one at a few historical theme parks and thrill-ride tracks, but they’ll hardly permit you to modify the cars. So you have to buy your own.

To buy one, you’ll need to find one of the few licensed restorer-dealers, or one of the slightly more common hobbyists willing to sell. You’ll have to search very hard to find one in working order for less than $100,000. That should fit right into the average family budget.

But wait! There’s more. You’ll also have to obtain a license to own and operate a petroleum engine. To do that you’ll need $5000 in most states, and $2000 where it’s cheapest (Alaska, Louisiana, and Nevada). You’ll need to renew it every 2-5 years if you want to keep it, too.

Your fuel pump’s flow is required by federal law to be monitored in realtime, and it’s a felony to disable it. That’s so you can pay a pollution tax of $17.32 per liter of fuel burned. It’ll be more next year – the tax is indexed to the official inflation rate of the year before previous.

Buying the fuel will set you back $23 per liter on average. You’ll also have to invest your own time and travel to obtain it, and that’s not simple either. The state of Texas boasts the most fueling stations at seven statewide. Twelve states have zero.

After buying it, more complications. It’s illegal to transport gasoline by mail, drone, or unoccupied autodrive vehicle. You’ll have to travel to collect it in person and escort it home.

Surely, that’s the end of the costs, as colossal as they are and as obviously impractical even for a single person with no attachments or debts earning a median income or less – or even earning in the bottom 95%.

But there are still more expenses in this seemingly endless list. Gasoline cannot be transported or stored in anything but an approved anti-combustion container. The cheapest one available is $750 for a 10-liter capacity. They’re impressive things, double walled with nonflammable expanding foam inbetween, and the filling and decanting apparatuses virtually bristling with an array of solvent-resistant gaskets and safety devices. Finally, you have to put your containers in a reinforced external cargo cage or on a trailer for transport – another $1000 at least.

Petroleum-burning hobbies like gassing are the province of the rich, like horse racing. That the gassers were mostly oblivious to the plain fact betrays an enormous ignorance, arrogance, or both.

I said I’d return to what makes gassy petty and vapid, qualities that even the few who can afford it want to shell out north of a hundred grand for.

The goal of gassing is to expel the darkest, densest possible exhaust smog, laden with greenhouse gases, unburned petroleum, and plain old soot. Why? As one gasser meme puts it, to “piss off the granolaheads.” The granolaheads, of course, being the 90% of us who want our air and water kept clean and climate change to maybe begin to reverse by the time their grandchildren retire.

Plenty of people enjoy trolling and like to annoy people with differing views. But who is going to go deep into debt to do those things?

Nobody, that’s who.

END

The Possible Futures Of Self-Driving Cars

I’m not sure which way the spread of self-driving car technology is going to go, but I see three basic options.
 
Option one: The Epic Fail.
In this scenario self-driving cars grow in popularity and start becoming common. Some major cities start banning manual-drive cars from major pedestrian malls in their city centers. Everything’s going great!
And then, BAM! A widespread software glitch, virus, or cyberattack strikes a large number of cars. Maybe it’s a given make or model of car, or every car running a certain app or receiving a certain update or patch. Thousands of cars crash, either physically, in the software sense, or both. Thousands of people are hurt in the space of hours, or even minutes. Hundreds of people die. Emergency rooms and ambulance services are overwhelmed. Video of hospitals performing triage in parking lots and stacked body bags hits the news. Victims appear on talk shows and media broadcasts.
There’s a huge anti-self-driving public outcry. Politicians pass laws to restrict the hell out of self-driving car technology. Carmakers pull back on producing them. It takes a century or two for the public to even consider allowing self-driving cars again, and even longer for laws restricting them to be withdrawn — if they ever are.
 
Option Two: City Drivers.
Self-driving cars become a little like hunting: mostly a rural thing, and a point of pride for many rural folks to distinguish themselves from “soft” urban types. Small towns and unincorporated areas may allow self-driving vehicles, but social pressure causes many people living in these areas to avoid them. The demand this preserves for manual-drive cars keeps carmakers supplying them and prevents the areas that favor them from passing laws restricting them.
At the same time, larger towns and cities do restrict manual-drive cars, barring them from downtown areas at least. Larger cities ban manual driving within city limits.
This division creates additional barriers and friction between rural and urban areas — it becomes more difficult for someone living and driving in one to visit the other — and as urban areas continue to grow, rural unrest and dissatisfaction with government and city people grows. Potentially, this may fuel separatism and worse political division of Americans than currently exists, and fuel similar social conflict in other nations as well.
 
Option three: Self-Driving Cars Take Over
In this scenario, self-driving car technology continues to develop quickly and by the time people born in the 2010s grow up self-driving cars dominate the roads. A decade after that, so many areas, including whole counties and even states, outlaw manual driving that even if you could find a manual car to buy there’s be barely anywhere to drive it. Manual-drive cars are only popular in racing sports and on closed tracks and private property as a rich person’s hobby.
The 20 years of the switchover creates a situation in which there are few of the older cars that the poor rely on for transportation available to buy. Self-driving technology replaces the cars of the poor with pay-per-ride apps, which are no more expensive as long as the poor choose to use them seldom and for short distances at non-peak periods. The availability of pay-per-ride self-drivers disrupts public transportation systems with low ridership; many collapse or contract. Some poor and working-class people are forced out of rural areas due to the greater reliance on people owning their own transportation in those areas, leading to an increase in the rural-to-city population shift.
By the time older self-driving cars are available for the poor to buy at low cost, the new social norm is set and few people buy those cars, distrusting the cost of upkeep and relatively large outlay.
It’s a relative good for most, but not for the bottom ten percent of income earners.
 
So. There are the major options as I see them. Got another idea? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
(This post appeared a week earlier on my Patreon page — join me and see most of my work early, plus you can get ebooks, for free, before I release them even if I’m charging for them when they go public, and even signed copies of anything I publish hard copy of at higher patronage levels!)

Young Creator

This is a creation from my 4 year old son, Cuinn. Everest of Paw Patrol is flying a spaceship constructed from a stormtrooper Mr. Potatohead. Note the arm in front: that’s a laser cannon. Looks like a propulsion unit in the back with the stormtrooper mask. And the ship has eyes. Why? So it can see where it’s going, duh!

I’m surrounded by creativity and I love it.

Things The World Doesn’t Need:

…A live action Jetsons reboot.

I get it. Gen X is hitting middle age and we’ve got about as much money as we’ll ever have as a generation. We’ve got kids and some of us have young grandkids (not me yet).

And we like to watch cartoony stuff.

And, it seems to me, we’re practically maudlin in our nostalgia.

We’re a great market for this crap, and so are the millennials whose ears we’ve talked off about how awesome our childhood stuff was.

But still. The world doesn’t need more derivative crap, not least because 99% of it is done AWFULLY. I’d rather see something new.

SHOCK Star Wars Has Politics And Strong Women And People Of Color And GASP GAY PEOPLE?

(This post first appeared on my Patreon page. Come on by and visit!)

I’ve seen, and you’ve probably seen, a certain amount of “alt-right” and company (social injustice warriors, as I think of them) complaining about the SUDDEN APPEARANCE of the above in the Star Wars universe.

Which might lead you to wonder if any of the complainers actually watched any Star Wars anything (much less any of the novels).

–Politics: baked right into the very core of Star Wars. Hello, a republic grown complacent and clogged with bureaucracy and clinging to tradition is upended by a genocidal authoritarian dictatorship, giving rise to a resistance movement… yeah. Politics, man.

–Strong women: Look, Leia was pretty badass even back in the first movie. She only got tougher as things went along. And now, of course, Carrie Fisher has become more powerful than you could imagine. So, yeah. Not a shock if more tough women are showing up.

–POC: A weakness of the Star Wars movies in the beginning, and a shame Lando Calrissian was the only significant nod to the existence of people other than Caucasians in the beginning — a lack made even more obvious by the huge diversity of aliens running around. Frankly, it’s good to see more human diversity in more recent movies.

–LGBTQ: Basically, see above (though the aliens observation, already a minor side-point of my perception, grows strained here as I’m not sure I remember a lot of alien sexuality showing up either). Cheers to more human diversity. We’ve got lots of it on only one planet, and how many planets are humans on in the Star Wars universe? Yeah.

Look, provincial and insular people can yearn for provinciality and insularism all they want, but rapid and relatively cheap travel plus the instant worldwide multimedia communication environment of the internet will inevitably keep drawing our world together and exposing all of us to each others’ diverse everything. Diversity isn’t some weird left-wing fetish, it’s a FACT OF LIFE.

So, if someone (hello, social injustice warriors) wants to cling to the past: keep clinging, or alternately stop and admit the plain fact that life is change and change will keep happening whether you rage against it or tolerate it or accept it or embrace it. I know of those four options, embracing is by far the most positive and fun.

The “best” angry clingers could accomplish is dragging humanity back into a primitive insular xenophobic barbarity we haven’t even managed to fully exit yet. We’re a half-birthed civilization. Don’t let the technology fool you. The clingers (Klingons? Wrong universe, but still…) say society has gone to far, but it hasn’t gone far enough yet. Being born is the hardest part. Well, until death, but that needn’t come for humanity for a long time if we get our butts off this one little planet… but that’s another rant and one I come back to often.

Anyhow, angry Klingons: let go of your anger. That way leads to the Dark Side and a big smelly pile of Sith (seriously, that name, geez).

Urban Nature, Write?

We live in the middle of either a medium-large metro of close to two million people or seven mid-sized cities jammed shoulder to shoulder around the area where the James River empties into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It depends who you ask.

We’ve long been a family to enjoy a walk. Being temporarily carless at the moment, we’re walking more.

And walking, you’re more likely to find little oases of refreshing nature like those above.

They remind me of my childhood in rural Wisconsin, and reminiscence is good for writers. Right now I’m working on a novella, Carrying Salt To Heaven, and the current extended scene I’m working on involves a character from a bleak land being introduced to a huge, lush nature preserve.

Some of the sensory impressions of this little oasis, and my childrens’ reactions to them, and the childhood memories they awaken, are finding their way into the novella.

Get out and find stuff, however that works for you. Your art and life will be enriched for it.

[This post appeared a week before it posted here, on my Patreon page. Come say hello and see some public posts that haven’t appeared here!]