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13 Word Story: Pyrrhus Would Be Proud

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Things are already getting worse climate-wise. We’ve had a string of hottest years ever. The average global temperature is rising. Polar ice and mountain glaciers are waning. Tundra is melting, and releasing more greenhouse gases. The complex weather systems of Earth are becoming chaotic and less predictable–as climate change theory predicts (a theory is a evidence-supported premise and proposed set of conditions and results to be tested and changed according to new results, not a wild-assed guess as the “climate change is a Chinese hoax” crowd would have it).

Maybe the world will find the will to take the drastic action needed to keep things from getting much worse, or out of control forever leading to a greenhouse Earth that looks like a second Venus.

And maybe it won’t and Earth is already dead–we just don’t know it.

The next 500 years will tell the tale.

But, if the option is to flee, settling the Solar System WILL NOT save the bulk of humanity, though it may save the species.

Barring totally amazing technological developments like Blish’s “spindizzy” in his Cities in Flight series that can lift whole cities off the planet, there’s not a way to evacuate billions of people.

More likely is a The Expanse-type world in which there are settlements all across the Solar System, but they’re limited in carrying capacity and reproducing on their own. There won’t be a hell of a lot of room for Earthers.

Most of them, if things go badly wrong, will die desperate deaths.

Agitate for climate action if you want to avert that future.

(This post appeared on my Patreon 10 days before it posted here. If you’d like to see posts early too, and maybe even pick up some free ebooks and paperbacks, please come on over and join. I need all the support I can get–so do pretty much all authors who aren’t giant huge names, so please support some smaller names whether you support me or not!)

 

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The Sun Will Set On The Open-Air Farm

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Not today. Probably not this century. In the next, I’d be shocked if it didn’t start happening. Outdoor farms in their sprawling plant-filled glory will one day be extinct in most “developed” countries and will be a marker of terrible, desperate poverty.

There are already experiments in urban and/or indoor farming. Experiments and practical endeavors, in fact. With tall racks of trays and hydroponic and similar setups, optimized artificial lighting and harvesting, and total climate control (oh, this is the next paragraph right here, just you wait and see) an indoor farm can produce a LOT more food in the same volume of old-fashioned dirt farm.

And there’s another benefit, one that will grow much more valuable as time advances. You see, the climate is changing, and we humans changed it mainly by burning billions of tons of the distilled hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old forests and dinosaurs we call oil, coal, and natural gas. You can’t burn that much carbon-bearing material and not impact the environment you release it into. Deny it if you want, but the facts say it’s changing and we had a lot to do with it.

Climate change changes farming. Extreme weather events become more common because the global flows of air and heat are disrupted and you can’t disrupt a gigantic complex system without introducing chaos. Rainfall patterns and which land is suited for what crop change as wet land becomes arid (and presumably vice-versa as it’s a big globe with more than the USA in it), and temperatures and season lengths change.

So how do you escape chaotic weather that threatens crops? How do you immunize yourself against the shifting of agricultural zones under the whip of a changing global climate?

You move indoors, of course.

One day, our farms will be many, many thousands of enormous warehouse spaces full of light and the smell of growing things while the hot breath of the climate we screwed up howls against the doors.

Short Story Review: Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley

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This is the first time I’ve reviewed a short story here. I’m pretty sure, anyway. At the very least, it’s the first time I’ve done it with the intention of doing them as a regular feature of my blog-slash-authorpage. (Note: this first appeared on my Patreon page 8 days ago — become a patron and see blog posts a week-plus early, even if you pledge just ONE dollar.

So, before I begin, some notes.

I think I’ll always lead with a spoiler warning, just in case. Like this: there may be spoilers in here, because 99% of the time I just don’t care about spoilers.

And that’s true. I’m one of those weirdos who can have the ending and twists of a movie, book, or story revealed to me and fully enjoy the thing anyway. I’m kind of a fan of spoiling as a device in fiction, in fact. Stephen King loves to do that. He’ll tell you someone is going to die a hundred pages before they die, and the story of how they die is still delicious. More delicious, I think. The flavor is in the telling.

And I’m not going to give stars. Screw grades, especially when they’re nothing more than my opinion. I always feel awkward trying to give a numerical value to how much I like a thing. I’m also the person who says “well, I don’t really have a favorite, but I do like (names five things)” when asked what their favorite whatever is.

I don’t think less of you if you give stars to things, though. Or have favorites. You do you – and I’m not saying that in a sarcastic way.

Now, the actual review:

Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley, found in Drowned Worlds, editor Jonathan Strahan. It’s the kickoff story.

My experience: it was easy to read, but also easy to put down and finish tomorrow, which I did. Neither of those traits, speaking of “put down,” is a putdown. I didn’t find it highly impactful, but it was still worth my time.

Standout features: the worldbuilding was excellent and detailed, as was the backstory of the main character. The story is a fine tour through the state of ecological affairs in the next century, and I found it much in the tradition of Hugo Gernsback with his worldbuilding-heavy “look! It’s the future!” stories. McAuley, however, has not built Hugo’s cardboard cutout characters. While the other characters aren’t fleshed out any more than their cosmetic roles demand, protagonist Mike Torres is a deep and rich character – if the worldbuilding wasn’t so significant to current climate change events, I’d take it for an excuse to plumb the depths of his angst, hope, and his curious entanglement with the phenomenon of the elf stones scattered across the partially uniced landscape of coastal Antarctica (which are inscribed in “elvish,” though are we talking Tolkien’s elvish? How else would people recognize and read Elvish? Maybe I missed the mention of Tolkein – or maybe not. The estate is famously litigious. I was reading this part at three in the morning jotting notes sideways in bed, so who knows what I might have missed in a moment of fatigue.

The stones are mysterious, or not. It’s hard to be sure, and that’s a fine note of humanity in the story. They’re probably placed there by humans, but the “stoners” (distracting name for elf stone enthusiasts, by the way) are happy to muse about mystical origins anyhow. They’re kind of a stand-in for stories in that way – we all know Star Wars is fiction, but there’s a Jedi church anyway. Two of them. Maybe more.

I wasn’t terribly excited to discover that this was a “something happened” story. Don’t come for the wrapup or a hint of conclusion. It’s not there. Which is a thing in the short story world, and there’s still plenty to be had in the reading. I’m just one of those people who favors a more concludey conclusion, even a “let’s just hint at what happens next” ending.

The writing is pretty spare for the most part, definitely in the “just tell the story” tradition – except when it comes to describing the natural world. There, the descriptions become more literary (if maybe prone to cliché phrases like “snow-capped mountains”), a bit closer to poetry, definitely richer and more emotionally evocative. I appreciated it as a touch that created focus on the heart of the story without dragging the reader over and rubbing my nose in it.

Overall, I found it a good read and an excellent way to start an anthology as it takes the reader through a lot of potential developments that are likely to come with a changing climate.

END

 

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

As A Large Complex System Destabilizes…

A ‘Perfect Storm_ Extreme Winter Weather Bitter Cold and Climate Change Climate Reality

You really want to read this article. The author knows about a billion times more than I do.

…extreme events become more common. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the weather, and more every year.

Assuming the world manages to turn our mass CO2 pollution around and stop anthropogenic climate change, I’m going to guess as an interested climate layperson that we’re looking at decades for current temperature and weather trends to turn around, and more decades for the chaos we’re causing to calm.

Buckle up, folks. And buckle up your grandkids and their grandkids. Even in the best case it’s going to be a wild ride for a couple of centuries.

Longer if we screw this up. Maybe forever.

2067: First Major Metro Goes Off National Electric Grid

I’ve taken up tweeting from the future, example above, in addition to my usual political-writing-SciFi-whatevs antics @Tao23.

It keeps me thinking to turn out those tweets on a semi-regular basis. And the tweets can make a great nucleus for future SciFi News Network posts here, AKA my futurist “predictions.” Older posts are formatted to look kind of like actual articles from the future. I’m seeing more posts like this, where I let the Tweetmorrow tweet stand for the future story and then get to speculate and explain like I’m doing now. This is fun.

Predictions in quotes because who knows what monkeywrenches the future could throw into the works? Our pet Trumphole could yet start a nuclear war and derail everything…

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Nothing like trying to provoke a nuclear war in a lame attempt to prove how macho you are, s–t for brains.

…but gee, we’d save his personal pet illusion of his machismo so win-win post-apocalyptic Mad Max hellhole, right?

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50 years seems like a reasonable horizon for a major metro going off-grid and relying on locally generated renewables. Solar, wind, biogas, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, and more — there are a lot of options for a city to generate its own local power, and for residences and businesses to take themselves off even the local grid. Batteries like Tesla’s PowerPack (and the residential version, PowerWall) make 24/7 power availability practical even with variables like solar, and small local cooperative grids can increase that support — imagine a neighborhood grid with all the batteries and different forms of power generation contributing. Or a college campus grid. Lots of possibilities.

In the lead story of my Closer Than You Think collection, One More For The Road, the protagonist drives into an isolated, long-off-grid town on its own local grid, with nearly every home and business sending up one or more combo wind turbine and solar collector on a long mast, evoking a field of glittering flowers in her imagination. The masts are even retractable to avoid damage in strong winds and storms. They stand tall and slender in light breezes, short and stout in heavy blows, and fold themselves into protective housings during storms, dormant while the town runs on battery power.

Not too bad a vision, eh? Certainly, there will be advantages and disadvantages, ups and downs. A spell of very strange weather might leave residents rationing their power and sending out battery trucks to pick up spare power from the neighbors. But that seems not so much more trouble than the current system that leaves us in the dark if something damages the wires, transformers, or power stations, and releases more and more carbon dioxide into the air to further warp the already wobbly climate.

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.

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!]

SciFi News Network 2428: Orbital Strike Burns Barbarian Fingers — Hands Off The Chicago Arc!

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(First appeared on my Patreon page 1 week ago, on the 18th)

Breitbuzz News – Chicagoland Arcology

Rushland Milouse, Jr.

23 April 2428

 

Shortly after midnight in the early morning hours of April 22nd a pack of barbarians thought to number over 1500 assaulted the Elgin section of the Chicagoland Arcology Wall.

The assault followed the breaking of a wave of heat and drought that commenced in early March. Temperatures outside the arcology wall had been regularly in the 110s F with 90s overnight, roughly 20F  above expected spring temperatures, with little precipitation.

The heat and drought withered barbarian crops, Lt. General Chip Thorson of the Chicagoland Armed Forces said in a prepared statement. It also drove away game, leading desperate starving barbarians to attempt a breakthrough with improvised munitions and assault vehicles cobbled together from junkyards and abandoned materiel salvaged from the 24th century evacuation of nearby Rockford.

Of course, most of us in the arcology didn’t notice the ineffective barbarian attack, enjoying our 24/7 managed environment, 75F days and 65F nights, refreshments swerved by our loyal bot servants, and fresh Lake Michigan water. All of our thanks to the Arcology Management Commission, the CAF, and the CAF Lakewall Guard!

The Barbarians used crude trebuchets, ancient mechanical siege engines from 1000 years ago, to hurl useless handmade bombs against Chicagoland’s outer wall. They did leave significant cosmetic damage, holing the outermost of five yard-thick reinforced armorcrete walls and exposing a buffer layer of sandbags.

A labor crew of a hundred bots defended by a drone air defense wing and a sortie of CAF infantry are expected to complete repairs by the 25th.

Once again, the barbarians have proven their hereditary unfitness. Their ancestors were too useless to rate a spot in the arcology a hundred years ago, and obviously their weakness has only increased with a century of inbreeding and disdain for education and hard work.

All 1500 attackers were wiped out by a launch of kinetic projectiles from one of Chicagoland’s man defensive satellites.

Scientists said the wave of heat and drought that spurred the barbarian attack were due to the continued advance of climate change. The outside environment is expected to degrade further over the next 300-500 years — this journalist says the sooner it wipes out the barbarians the better for all of us!

100 Word Story: “Sunken Treasure”

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An hour downriver with the current, old Joseph alone in a two-person boat, a bouquet, and a tiny plastic flag. As the tributary broadened to delta, he checked: tanks, rebreather, fins, weight, light. All ready. Beyond the last reeds, open water.

He activated GPS: it knew where to go. The boat’s electric motor hummed and the distance slipped away. Drawing near, he gasped.

Patrol drones floated, alert. Long black guns tracked Joseph.

“Restricted area,” the nearest drone warned. “Retreat or be fired upon.”

Helpless, he turned back: three long hours upriver.

His grandfather resting under the risen sea went unvisited.