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… because of the person sentenced to a year in jail for laughing at him. Really.
Omniews Printernet Corporation
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.
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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!
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 Reviews, Michael 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…
…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.
The internet is crawling with magic bullets. I’m going to make some up, but they’ll probably replicate or be damn close to real ones: “5 Easy Tips To Unleash Your Creativity” “10 Great Writers Tell You How To Be A Success” “3 Simple Principles To Unlock Viral Fame”.
You know the stuff. You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve clicked on a few. Lean in close, I’ll tell you a secret.
I’ve clicked on a few.
Yeah, sometimes I read those things. Maybe you have never, but the odds say you have. They’re tempting. We all want to do the stuff we do better. Sometimes we’re pretty sure we’re doing it wrong. Sometimes we’re pretty sure that what we’re missing is simple, a little thing, something so obvious that we’re not seeing it like (we presume, because AFAIK nobody’s ever talked to a fish) fish don’t realize they’re swimming in water.
Also, there’s great advice out there. Granted, it’s usually not behind a headline like “7 Pathetically Simple Things Your Dumb Ass Can Learn In 30 Seconds By Reading This Article What The Hell Is Wrong With You”. Which is how all those headlines read when I’m feeling down. THANKS INTERNET YOU JERK.
The great advice, though, really is in little online articles sometimes. Or in tweets from some of the more entertaining and personable writers out there. Or in books like the ever-so-frequently-mentioned On Writing by Stephen King — his isn’t the only one, look for some in your home genre if you write and you’re looking for tips.
Y0u just never know where it’s going to show up.
But the “magic bullet” articles are generally 1 part obvious stuff and 9 parts crap. There’s not a magic bullet to make you an enormously selling writer (I mean, I don’t think so. I’m not enormously selling, so I could be totally wrong I suppose) or anything else. No magic listicle to unlock huge webcomic popularity or world champion marathoner prowess or being a better friend-spouse-whoever-you-are-to-someone-else, no magic bullet to jack your B average up to an A, no magic bullet to unlock the best lyrics ever from your songwriting pen.
If you’re really looking for magic bullets to success, you’re in for a sad surprise. They’re basically spells. Modern-day incantations and rituals. Do X,Y, and Z while saying A and writing B, and you’ll be the next Rowling.
There’s magic in the world — and if you’re allergic to schmaltz, skip ahead a bit. There’s the magic of hugs and love and empathy and giving a damn about your fellow human being and babies and kittens and freshly baked cookies and waterfalls and walks on foggy beaches and blooming flowers and fat bumblebees and…
You get the point.
But there’s no magic zip-zappity-poof now you’re at the top of your chosen field.
The truth is boring.
Always work to improve. Always be ready to hear constructive criticism. Always be ready to ignore trolls. Keep working. Keep looking for new opportunities. Keep on keeping on. And do read things that you think might contain helpful things for you. Sometimes you can find a bit of perspective or a tidbit that points you at a personal shortcoming or strength so you can improve or capitalize. Sometimes it will even be in one of those silly listicles. But mostly not.
Just don’t give up.
And maybe write something like this if you’re having one of those days when you, personally, feel like giving up.
It helps. Take my word for it.
I’ve written about cultured meat before, here on Seriously Eclectic: seriously on the culinary potential of it, in the context of outrageous fast food gimmicks, and in the context of what 23rd century North American culture might become. This is definitely the first time, however, I’ve written about cultured meat as a way to save humanity from the zombie apocalypse.
It seems like a reasonable idea, doesn’t it? Keep the zombies fed and while you have an inconvenient mob of zombies nearby, they’re fat and happy and they leave your last redoubt of humanity alone. Hopefully. As long as you keep the feeding site a safe distance from your shelter – a catapult might be a good zombie feeding tool– and as long as you can grow enough brains to sate their unholy hunger. But that’s nothing different from a normal zombie story: survival always boils down to who has the brains.
Zombies aside, though: I write a lot about lab-cultured meat and it is a common background (sometimes foreground) detail in my stories. I write about it because I’m as sure as you can be about anything that hasn’t happened yet that cultured meat is happening. By which I mean I expect to see it in stores and widely popular before this century hits the halfway mark, and very possibly much sooner. Like the self-driving car, the question isn’t if, but when and how.
The emergence of cultured meat into the marketplace will be contentious, sort of like the emergence of margarine provoking (I kid you not) concerted attacks from butter producers. With the potential for inexpensive factory production of cultured meat beyond what any stockyard or meat packing plant can accomplish, cultured meat is likely to wipe most traditional meat production off the map – something that margarine never accomplished against butter, even at the height of its vegetable-oily power.
It needn’t be a zero-sum game between meat culturing upstarts and established corporate meat producers. The latter could easily invest in the former or create their own ventures which would be likely to succeed: with great funding comes great advantage. But I wonder: will the culture of the animal-raising-and-slaughtering business allow them to embrace slaughterless meat? I have my doubts, but perhaps there will be a standout, a meaty visionary in corporate clothing just waiting for the chance to make their mark with the meat of the future.
There are plenty of questions about how easily cultured meat can make that mark, how likely it is to become popular. Foremost is simple acceptance – will the average consumer be willing to eat a steak that wasn’t carved off a cow, a wing no chicken ever flapped? I think the answer is yes. Enough for cultured meat to gain a foothold, and that foothold will expand rapidly once the ice is broken. Sort of like “cars are a fad that will never replace horses” rapidly became “I want two cars, maybe three. Four would be nice, too.”
Weirdly enough, I think vegetarians and vegans may lead the way despite all the omnivores’ jokes about how annoying they can be (which is precisely as annoying as the vegetable-averse meat eater who won’t stop complaining about vegetarians every chance he gets). And that’s because many vegetarians and vegans are motivated by a concern for animal life. Cultured meat is created with no need for killing and no more animal pain than collecting a cell sample. A needle biopsy doesn’t exactly feel like a caress, but it’s a relatively small pain that passes quickly, doesn’t endanger the animal, and doesn’t involve a need for confining many animals in cramped or inhumane conditions. Those factors may lead many current vegetarians to be among the first people to purchase cruelty-and-even-inconvenience-free meat.
Other people either avoid or limit consumption of meat due to health concerns. They worry about fat content, antibiotics used in meat production, and unsanitary conditions. Cultured meat answers those concerns as well. If there’s a demand for fatless meat, you grow it fatless. Antibiotics aren’t needed – a roomful of culturing vats don’t come down with hoof-and-mouth or whatever. You’re not growing a whole animal, so you don’t need a bunch of growth hormone. As for sanitation, well, a slab of cells growing in a tank doesn’t poop. Poopless steak is one hell of a selling point if you have any slightest idea of how much poop ends up on traditionally produced meat. You can be sure that cultured meat sellers will tell you all about it. Seriously, if I was selling cultured meat “the competition has a bunch of poop on it” would be my first advertising campaign.
Cultured meat will almost certainly be cheaper than the competition, too. No need to keep animals alive, provide all the space they need (even the terribly cramped minimum possible), buy feed, dispose of all the animal poop, transport animals, dispose of dead animals, deal with sick animals, and so on and so forth. All those things cost money, money a cultured meat producer won’t have to spend. Lower price will overcome a LOT of concerns about eating cultured meat. Trust me, I’m telling you so from below the poverty line. Millions of parents will happily switch from cheap hotdogs full of ground guts and fat and scraps of dubious sanitation to even cheaper hotdogs full of clean and lean cultured muscle tissue. Millions of budget-conscious home cooks will happily switch from inexpensive ground meat and cube steak to inexpensive cultured New York strip. And will a restaurant or fast food chain hesitate to buy cheaper meat with a consistency of product and supply that ranching and chicken husbandry can’t hope to match? The answer’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?
And of course there will be questions about the producers of cultured meat – what are you growing it in, are there harmful chemicals in the nutrient baths, and despite the lack of poop is it really being handled safely?
Those are questions for regulators. Whether the meat’s off the hoof or out of the vat, it’ll continue to be a worry as long as we underfund and understaff and undermine the FDA. No matter what the future of meat is, that’s in the hands of voters and their elected representatives. So I’ll end with a PSA: don’t just root for your damn team like politics are a sporting event. Ask yourself “how do we make a better society and world for our grandchildren?”
Hmm. Can we grow politicians in vats? Would cultured politicians be safer and better than traditional on-the-hoof politicians? We do seem to have an oversupply of uncultured politicians lately coughTRUMPcoughcough. Maybe I’ll write about that next.
(This first appeared on my Patreon page a full week ago. Become a patron and see posts early!)
The internet of things and 3-D printing may soon combine to create a powerhouse of personal convenience. Kitchens that order groceries and cook them for their owners, printers that can print out many simple and some complex foods. It’s beginning now — pilot devices and services like instant-order buttons for staple items that work great until a kid gets hold of them or there’s a glitch and a pallet of laundry detergent or flour sitting in front of your door next time you come home.
3-D printers are already printing simple candies and pasta and breakfast cereal in complex shapes and colors.
Add in a household robot and you have a kitchen that orders starch cartridges and a robot that prints pasta when you run low and cooks it for you. Very convenient — or it may be in a few years.
There are, as I suggested above, some bugs in the process to work out.
Malware is a big one.
There has already been an internet of things ransomware incident, for example. Ransomware demands a cash payment or it will set your thermostat at 99 degrees F in 24 hours.
No reason it couldn’t do the same to your 3-D printer or kitchen or household robot.
But not all malware is ransomware. Some of it is malicious for ‘fun’. And occasionally it’s really vicious.
There is malware that wrecks your computer — which can set someone back some serious money, and cause less well-off households a serious crisis. If something like that hit our household PCs… well, I have no damn idea how my wife and I would do our online coursework from mobile phones, we couldn’t afford to replace the PCs for a good long while, I’d have a hell of a time publishing anything here or anywhere else much less submitting short stories anywhere. And perhaps we could accomplish some of those things at a local library. I’d love to plug passwords that control my Patreon and WordPress and Smashwords and Amazon and Google accounts into a public computer… you see my point.
Or, as the internet of things becomes more pervasive, malware may affect your home in different ways, as in this thirteen word story.
With great convenience comes great peril, Peter Parker might say. Or something like that.
Maybe some of you have noticed — a while back I shifted from using the usual standard of title-writing in which ‘unimportant’ ‘little’ words like and, the, for — things like that — are not capitalized unless they’re the first word of the title.
Now I do what you’re not supposed to do. I capitalize every word of a title. I have reasons for doing this despite the fact that the more pedantic grammarians see me doing this and instantly think, “look at this barbarian, stinking up our language. What a clod!”
My reason is, I think this little title convention we have is basically the same thing as “never split an infinitive” (yes, some grammarians still complain that Star Trek’s “to boldly go” is wrong, wrong, WRONG).
It’s a silly rule that’s there to make grammarians feel good about enforcing The Rules of Grammar but has no actual value to the language.
It’s an appendix of grammar, but not quite in that an appendix might do something positive for humans (nobody’s really certain, but last I heard the medical profession’s opinion on appendixes is “they might be helpful so let’s leave them alone”) and not capitalizing “and” in the middle of a title does nothing.
Those ‘little useless words’ are not useless.
Here, I’ll cut them out of some titles because they’re so useless, and you tell me:
The Catcher Rye
To Kill Mockingbird
The Lord Rings
The Adventures Huckleberry Finn
Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep
The Left Hand Darkness
Stranger Strange Land
The Day Triffids
See? Little words — little things of all sorts, in fact — are important. Remember that.
—Signed, with love, your favorite 5’3″ tall science fiction writing human man.
After a few rainy days in a row, the clouds finally let up and the sun came out yesterday, so my wife and I bundled up the two little ones while our oldest was in school, and we went mulberry picking. We picked twelve and a half pounds, so we have them fresh and sugared and gave some away and pureed a big batch to freeze — they keep very well that way and we’ll be having mulberry treats well into winter. Especially since there are plenty of picking days ahead.
When we made it to the last tree on our berry picking hit list, a grand old giant perched on a hill, there was a magnificent puddle at the top. So while my wife and I picked the last couple pounds of berries, the little ones had a great time splashing and throwing mud and digging in it with sticks and splashing some more.
In order to get them home without soaking their car seats too badly, we stripped them to their underwear and carried the sodden clothes and shoes home in a plastic bag.
As he was stripping down, the older of the two said, “I’m so wet I have to be in my underwear!” (He has a talent for stating the obvious, but I kind of expect that from a guy who just turned five) I answered, “if you’re driving home in your underwear you probably had a good time.”
Young or old, I bet a few of you out there can agree with that.
[As usual, please share the story image above anywhere you wish, if you so wish]
I like my 13 word stories the best when there are multiple interpretations and implications — so this is one I like quite a bit. I’d figure this one has to be set a bare minimum of two centuries in the future — but for Earth to have a single planetary government or even a functioning worldwide confederation of sovereign nations in that time, and for an off-Earth settlement to have grown to the point where its prowess in space exceeds what Earth is capable of, suggests a longer timeframe unless something absolutely revolutionary happens. Which is always possible; you can’t predict an unexpected breakthrough.
So I’m thinking five hundred-ish years ahead, something like that. Titan has more on the ball than Earth in the asteroid-deflecting department. That suggests places closer to Earth like Mars or major asteroids like Ceres likely have at least equal capabilities. There are lots of people who don’t live on Earth and weren’t born there, either. Humanity on Earth probably isn’t outnumbered or anything — it’s still a hell of a big biosphere compared to ones that have to be built by hand. Any technology advanced enough to make that factor not matter implies something like Star-Trek-ian replicators that can coalesce matter out of energy and vice-versa — and that would make deflecting a mere dinosaur-killer asteroid child’s play. So that doesn’t exist.
Earth has probably suffered some sort of stagnation or regression. I’ve often thought that one possibility of an Earthly nation or corporation or whatever successfully beginning a large-scale self-sufficient colony off of Earth could be a pulling back, a sense among the Earthbound that they had done their part and sent the pioneers off, the eggs were no longer all in one basket, and the next step is to concentrate on Earthly concerns. At best, on feeding and housing and educating everyone at something approximating a first-world standard. At worst, settling old scores with the ultimate stakes of nuclear or biological warfare lowered — a war that ended the human race on Earth wouldn’t end all of the human race.
And poor Earth, whatever her status in this story, it’s not quite clear, but she’s not quite the self that sent humans off to make Titan a great power anymore. It’s implied Earth knew a massive asteroid was on the way to flatten them, but directly said that Earth couldn’t do anything about it. So good old Titan steps in to save Earth’s bacon.
But not for free. Resources still matter. It’s hard to imagine them not mattering — short of technology indistinguishable from magic. So Titan lays claim to — what, exactly?
That could be read as the asteroid. Ouch, that would hurt Earth. To watch untold trillions of dollars worth of resources zip past, almost close enough to touch, with a greater power shepherding it off to their own benefit.
But that’s not the only reading. Maybe Titan is claiming Earth. Hey, you’d all be dead down there if we hadn’t saved you. That means you belong to us now.
Sometimes in history, the tables eventually turn. The balance of power shifts. What happens in that future often depends on the past the new power remembers.
I hope the future salvaged Earth was humane to their Titan colonists, now that the Titan masters have arrived.
[This story appeared first on my Patreon page — patrons see my regular posts three days or more ahead of everyone else. When I publish an ebook, they get a copy THIRTY days early, and for FREE! Plus my patrons get extra, heartfelt thankyous for helping me keep my household afloat — since my hip stopped working right and my former gig in retail management became impossible, it has been my goal to make writing into a home-supporting concern. Being a patron is being part of that effort. I’d love to see you over there!)