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The Great Solar System War

Just as there’s a “circle of life,” there’s a circle of war. And we’re gonna get circled if we let current events barrel along as they are — I do see people conscious of how interesting the times have become, and speaking out about the dangers (shout out to global climate change, which is co-morbid with what I’m going to say here), and that’s good. Hopeful. But.

75ish years after World War II, the circle seems to be coming around again. Pseudo-Nazis and actual Nazis and assorted bigoted pro-genocide and pro-authoritarian types who might technically not be Nazis or pseudo-Nazis but are so close that WTF is the difference are upset there’s not enough evil and hate and murder in the world and are standing up in droves to demand more evil and hate and murder.

And millions of dipshits, the Dipshit-in-Chief at their head, shrug and say “well, all they’ve done is say they want to destroy our civilization and murder millions of people we can’t object… in fact, I’m kind of cool with it because I dislike some of the people they want to mass-murder… and I’m sure some of them are “very fine people.”

The wheel turns, and it is fashionable to think that nuclear weapons aren’t a big deal and NOBODY is talking about biological weapons anymore because that’s so 1990s who would even do that old-fashioned stuff. Except I’ve got a funny feeling there’s some Captain Trips in test tubes here and there because who throws out a perfectly good weapon after paying all that money to develop it?

Sigh.

I just KNOW World War III is going to break out the same day I sell enough writing to live on for the first time.

That’d be just my luck, you dirty old world.

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I Published A New Collection And I Liked It

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Fine, okay, there were some bits that are never fun. Like building an ebook table of contents or going through a bunch of stories written in standard manuscript format and deleting all the tabs so they won’t screw up the ebook.

But yeah, I liked it. There are 21 science fiction stories in there, arranged roughly from the nearest future to the most distant. From the most plausible to the most conjectural. From the least to the most alien-to-us-today vision of humanity.

There are self-driving cars and artificial intelligences in love and undersea civilizations and killer climate change and all sorts of other good stuff.

You can preorder it from Amazon right now. Or from Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, or Smashwords. Or Google Play Books. Or the iTunes bookstore. Or… there are others. How many others I cannot guess. The internet is big. 🙂

The release date is December 24th. Who doesn’t need something to read on Christmas Eve? I do. Ugh, the stress!

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!

Primalist “Weekend BCE” Event Marred By Arrests: Science Fiction News Network 2259

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For over 50 years Primalists have been gathering for “Weekend BCE,” in which they attempt to emulate life as it was for rural hunters and gatherers over 2,000 years ago. They gather on Earth Day weekend, the last full weekend of April, for an extended contention, beginning on Thursday and conducting closing ceremonies at Monday noon.

For over 50 years Primalist gatherings have also been a subject of controversy, often accompanied by arrests and even violence, which organizers attribute to “radical elements” in Primalism. Critics believe that Primalism itself is a radical element without a place in civilized society.

“Much of the past was truly atrocious, and the farther back you go the worse society was,” Nile Pensington, President of the North America Primalism Association, said. “We consciously reject those elements and focus on the lifestyle of the individual person, leaving the stains of the past – racism, sexism, slavery, animal cruelty, war, genocide – in the past. Our purpose is to live closer to a natural existence, in tune with the ecosystem and the lives of the plants and animals.”

Despite these lofty ideals, Primalism is often identified with their controversial practice of eating non-cultured meat and disconnecting from Civil Augmented Reality during Primalist retreats – and often in their own homes or even when out in public.

“These practices skirt the intent of existing North American law, though they observe the technical letter,” North American Lower House Parliament candidate (Social Republic Party – New England) Marian Hao said in a stump speech at a SRP rally in Tabasco province on the 19th (translated from Spanish). “When I take my Lower House seat I will introduce a bill criminalizing disconnection from our shared augreal consensus. Division weakens us, shared reality unites. We will also fight to make any use of animals, living or dead, for meat, fur, or hide illegal. The only valid and humane way to treat animals is as valued companions, sources for cell sampling under local anaesthetic, or, best of all, left free in the wild.”

And of course, there is that “radical element” which Primalists are unable or unwilling to purge from their membership.

With the exception of three arrests for misdemeanor improper trash disposal and one for felony dumping of biohazardous waste into a reservoir or reservoir headwater, the 112 arrests during Weekend BCE originated from that radical element. Drone-gathered evidence yielded charges of assault, rape, and animal cruelty, with the latter being the majority with 89 arrests.

Although the official North America website for Primalism states that an exception for the slaughter of animals allowing humane means (administration of surgical anasthetic by a licensed veteranarian) is not only an allowed anachronism but is absolutely mandated, radical Primalists seem to delight in using primitive means of slaughter, stringing chains or cords between the Achilles tendons and leg bones of live, suffering animals, hoisting them struggling into the air, and slitting their throats. The practice causes the animals to bleed out slowly, ending their lives with prolonged torture.

“The practices of Primalists are nothing short of barbarism,” Hao said. “If we do not outlaw their practices, outlaw Primalism altogether, their regressive ethics will reinfect society with ancient ills and nothing but ruin can come of it.”

SciFi News Network 2291: Job Hunting

Pluto Icecap

SFNN> Classified> Off-Earth > Outer System> Kuiper> Pluto> Jobs> Technical> Supervisory

HYDROPONICS AND RECREATIONAL GENERALIST (HRG)

Salary Band 8(b)

This is a position with the Eurasian University Cooperative (EUC), Facilities Maintenance Division.

Successful applicants must pass a comprehensive full-record Onboard DNA-ROM Codex (ODNARC) examination. Felonies of any nature and offenses of any level of or related to plagiarism, intellectual property theft, academic/research honor code violation, or violence are disqualifying without appeal.

Primary operating languages:

English, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi

Linguistic mastery of 2 or more Eurasian languages independent of translationware a plus

Successful applicant without onboard translationware will receive a discounted (66.67% discount) academic/professional grade global and dialectical translationware implant compatible with their current prefrontal bioprocessor OS. OS must be up to date with active and EUC-approved malware and spyware protection. Translationware purchased by this method will be billed in 50 weekly installments during first year of service at 0% interest. In event of early termination or resignation remaining balance will become due immediately with pending balances at 30% APR calculated on a weekly basis.

Qualifications:

Hydroponics tech certification (6-year instructional program), reduced gravity environment safety and competence certification (with residency). Recreational design certification (2-year instructional program) may be earned via VR learning during first two years of service. 3.25 GPA minimum to proceed; unsatisfactory progress is grounds for termination after 2 quarters academic probation.

1 year small team (2-20 individual) supervisory experience required, performance must be verifiable through 2 or more professional references.

Duty schedule, salary, benefits:

The HMG manages 2 subordinates at 5 days of 10 hours weekly and 0-5 educational or apprenticeship interns at 3 days of 5 hours weekly. The duty team includes 5 pre-AI android semiskilled laborers at 6 days of 15 hours weekly.

The HMG is on-call 24 hours with scheduled duty hours of 4 days at 10 hours plus 1 day at 5 hours weekly. Off duty/on-call days shall be contiguous except in EUC-valid extenuating circumstances and shall advance 1 calendar day per week to improve whole-community access to the HMG. Example: week 1 off-duty FRI-SAT becomes off-duty SAT-SUN in week 2. Likewise, regular scheduled duty hours shall advance 2 hours per schedule week. Example: Week 1 10-hour days of 0700-1500 become 0900-1700 in week 2.

The HMG is budgeted 260 hours of Paid Time Off (PTO) yearly accrued at 5 hours per calendar week of employment. No more than 90 hours shall be taken consecutively. PTO shall not accrue above 260 hours. Earned PTO not accrued due to accrual cap shall be paid at the end of each calendar week at a rate of 1.5x hourly pay as earned.

The HMG receives priority-personnel-beta (Band 2 of 5) for recreation (alpha priority (band 1 of 5) in the facility they manage), medical treatment and disaster relief.

EUC contribution to retirement fund is 7.5% of salary accrued weekly; HMG may choose to contribute a maximum of an additional 7.5%. Funds are limited to EUC-approved savings, bond, and securities instruments. Investment diversity is recommended.

Duties:

The HMG will maintain a hydroponics facility rated to serve a population of 10,000 individuals. The hydroponics ecosystem includes standard, drip, and mist components and includes composting, incinerating, and recycling human and animal waste and garbage.

Bacteria, fungus, plant, fish, amphibian, bird, and small mammal populations are part of the hydroponics ecosystem and must be managed and harvested for edible and otherwise useful biomass at optimal levels.

The hydroponics environment includes public-accessible parklands with maximum occupancy of 500. Parklands must be managed to optimize environmental support, recreational value, aesthetics, and agricultural performance.

The HMG is expected to optimize and improve the performance of the hydroponics facility on an ongoing basis through research, innovation, and implementation of upgrades, redesign opportunities, and integration of new discoveries in the fields of hydroponics and recreation.

The EUC utilizes the Global Blind Application System (GLOBAS) which strips demographics-revealing data from applications. If you believe your circumstances may confer priority status upon your application you may not state so to the EUC but must apply to GLOBAS for pre-GLOBAS prioritization. Making an assertion of priority status to the EUC regardless of veracity will result in disqualification.

The EUC has zero tolerance for harassment of any variety and utilizes an all-Artificial Intelligence 3rd party service for adjudication of internal incidents.

 

13 Word Story: Locked In

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First, two things: this post appeared on my Patreon page on the 21st, and if you’re counting words the-hyphenated-ones-count-as-one. You’ll have to decide if you think I cheated or not. I say not. If you’d like to comment, I’ll politely discuss it with you.  🙂

Now, about the story:

“Uploading,” the idea of rendering the human mind faithfully into a computer “brain” in order to cheat death and transfer one’s consciousness into an undying android body, has been a thing in science fiction for quite a while now. It also has various analogs, by the way, in fantasy: the lich, the golem, the vampire, the less-desirable and conscious ghouls and zombies, and so forth.

Fantasy and science fiction have a lot in common, but that’s a post for another day — though perhaps it’s a bit obvious to spend too much time on. Those genres are commonly lumped together in advertisement, bookstores, and conventions because many people understand the basic commonality.

Back to the Upload. It is often the immortality of science fiction, become even more common than the prolonging of biological lifespan a la Larry Niven’s “Boosterspice” or Frank Herbert’s “Melange,” or any number of other examples. Biological life may be stubborn and persistent, but in comparison to a machine the human body is more fragile and harder to repair. There may be exceptions to the case (an electronic brain meeting with a Carrington Event, for example), but that is our general perception.

The Upload is usually a positive in science fiction. The mind is preserved, the Reaper is cheated, and even if the Uploaded Being bittersweetly remembers the foibles of biological life the centuries of life and experience gained outweigh the negatives.

Of course, just as we say a dark cloud often has a silver lining, Cloud Nine may carry within it a negative.

We rarely think of Uploading early in life. While civilizations purely of artificial intelligences are sometimes imagined, I can’t recall seeing a science fictional vision of a society that uploads while young as a matter of course. We imagine futures in which a person lives a long biological life, and then, when the body begins to fail from sheer age or obstructed arteries or cancer or so forth, transfers to the hale mechanical shell much like a phoenix, leaving the wrinkled ash behind.

Now imagine a person who has arranged to upload at age seventy-five. There are many reasons to have such an arrangement. Should a capitalism substantially like our present arrangements persist, a whole life might be needed to save the money to make a down payment on a durable mechanical body and computer brain. A person might want to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh for as long as possible. A contractual arrangement might keep a person flesh until an agreed-upon age.

But a decade before the arranged upload, Alzheimers disease strikes. The arrangement is kept, but is there much of the mind to transfer? Do the losses of memory transfer, is what is lost still lost? Maybe. Probably, I’d guess. And if a seventy-four year old Alzheimers patient is a hazard to have running about unsupervised, and they certainly can be a danger to themselves or even others, a strong android body would even more certainly be.

Many other things could happen. A destructive stroke, a brain injury, a descent into murderous or otherwise dangerous criminality, the onset of severe mental illness, a corruption of data during transfer, a flaw of construction in the new computer brain or in its basic operating system. A virus designed to corrupt Uploads.

And then what do you do? If you know that the mind you’re uploading will be dangerous in its new body, or if you discover it is dangerous after the fact, the laws of the future still might compel the upload to be done or the uploaded being to be preserved.

If you can’t legally wipe the mind clean and pronounce the being dead and gone, the only viable option would seem to be to disable the body. Turn the body off, or even remove the brain and put it on the shelf, free to run its program but unable to interact with the world, perhaps even blind and deaf and unfeeling.

What would it be like, to be an uploaded consciousness locked in a silent, still body or a disembodied brain, warped by disease or illness or injury or mischief?

Would it be hell?

It might be hell, or nightmare, or centuries of the paralyzed moment when the consciousness is suspended between the terror of nightmare and waking, when the mind knows that the nightmare is not real but has not yet been able to open its human eyes and escape. It might even be centuries of hoping that the future will find a cure, without even the blessing of unconsciousness enjoyed by the disembodied heads of the cryonics movement.

As attractive as the idea of immortality as an Upload might be, like all great changes, the risks are awfully frightening and likely to be all too real to at least an unlucky few.

Flash Fiction: The Hitting-Stick

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Base image: SIV_primates.jpg by Wikimedia Commons user Yoky under Creative Commons 3.0 (attribution). Image cropped, color manipulated, effects added, text added.

The Hitting-Stick

by S.A. Barton

copyright 2015

Once, there was a more-than-ape who struck another more-than-ape with a stick.

There was no artifice to the blow. The stick was awkward and leafy; the impact was no more than that of an ordinary more-than-ape fist. The experiment was not repeated for a long time.

But it did happen again, some years later, and more frequently as generations passed. Slowly, slowly, the more-than-apes grew into something more than more-than-apes.

Eventually, a proto-human picked up a very straight hitting-stick and stripped most of the twigs and leaves off before hitting. The blow was much harder than that of a fist. The nameless proto-human hitter smiled a toothy smile and hit again. And again.

#

Much later there was a near-human who, picking a smooth stone out of a dry wash to use in beating a good hitting-stick free from a tree, dropped that stone. By chance, that stone fell against the point of a harder stone. A broad flake leapt from the softer stone and skittered across the gravelly wash.

The near-human (he had a name, Hooruh, a grunt much like the hundred or so other grunts his people had learned to make and assign meaning to) picked the fallen stone up, and then the flake. Hooruh held the two objects, one in each hand, and moved them slowly together. The flake touched the stone. Hooruh shifted the flake to fit the divot it had leapt from.

The flake bit Hooruh’s finger. Hooruh hooted and threw both rock and flake down. He fled.

The experiment was not repeated for a long time. But eventually it was, and Hooruh’s great-times-who-knows-how-many granddaughter left the flake where it fell but took the chipped stone away with her. She used the edge around where the chip had spalled free to hack down sticks and break animal bones slightly quicker than had been possible before—until the edge blunted, which didn’t take all that long.

And similar incidents happened again, and again, more often as time and generations passed, and eventually a near-human thought to drop the soft rock on the hard one over and over to make many little flakes and many poor, jumbled edges. But still, that very rough axe could hack a hitting-stick down considerably faster than a smooth stone, and the many edges made it last a long time.

Later, yet another near-human cut meat with one of the flakes that cut her finger.

Yet another used a big flake to cut a fellow near-human.

And then a brighter one thought to jam flakes into cracks on hitting-sticks for better fellow-cutting. Another held the soft rock in his hands and pounded it on the hard rock over and over so the flaking made a crude but purposeful edge.

They were almost-human now, and soon they were more.

#

A human taught himself to knap flint into a strong, straight edge that could fell not just hitting-sticks, but smallish trees.

A human worked flint chips so broad and fine that she could cut a pig’s throat with hardly an effort—a great improvement over the old way of laboriously clubbing pigs to death.

A human fire-hardened a sapling shaved to a point with a stone axe until it could be pushed all the way through a pig—or a human, and the broad flint chip knife was soon out of fashion for hunting.

Later, a human tipped a hitting-stick with a finely worked pointed flake held on with dried pig gut, and threw it.

#

A human dropped an enormous steel egg of nuclear fire and it hatched over the heads of more than three hundred thousand humans, incinerating and concussing and radiation-poisoning a third of them to death in an instant. Then another human did it again.

#

A human pushed a gargantuan mountain out of space and it crashed into the Pacific Ocean. It made a deep hole from which magma welled, and steam and clouds and fire wreathed the humans’ world.

Later, after a very, very, very long time, a not-quite-human hit a not-quite-human with a stick. It was not clear at the time if they were less than human, or more, or simply different. But the experiment was not repeated for a long time.

#

All the humans were among the stars, preoccupied with newer hitting-sticks, and took no notice.