Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

I’ve recently returned from a bar having finished H.G. Wells’s science fiction classic The War of the Worlds. This did not disappoint! What it possessed in outdated technology, it captured in basic human nature. Even more appreciative was I at the fact it didn’t have Tom Cruise as the main protagonist. Gone are the days of the plucky naval pilot. They will be missed.

There have been prior attempts to bring the story into then modern forms of media, such as Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast and the 1953 film directed by Byron Haskin. I’ve only watched pieces of the Haskin film. So, I don’t feel fit to provide a worthwhile evaluation of it. Orson is rather maniacal in his work, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest his enthusiasm here is due to fandom, not his sizable ego.

For all serendipity’s worth, it also fit neatly into a little dilemma I had over the weekend. Apparently there has been a demand for writers to minimize the use of adverbs in their writing. The premise is to “show” the reader the story rather than “telling” them outright.  This is all presented as if it were a piece of toilet paper stuck to the heel of my boot. Being a novice writer I will readily admit I’ve used such devices in my work.

At first, I felt incredulous over the idea critics would pan material simply for the use of some innocent part of speech. It seemed quite petty, and the rule-makers of language are often trying to find ways to look down upon the common users. They are the hipsters of the literary world. I’d like to corral them with the same people who get bent out of shape over Comic Sans.

After I calmed down, I tried the old “constructive criticism” approach and took everything in with an open mind. “Sure,” I thought, “if people feel they see a more vivid picture without them, I suppose it’s worth the energy.” I carried this thought on through most of the past two days. As a writer, you are trying to communicate to an audience. The better the communicative techniques, the more well-received it will be.

This leads me to Wells. As I have discovered, The War of the Worlds has plenty of adverbs. I’m almost certain he could have re-written a “better” sentence several times. If this book was so besotted with criminal text, how could it have lasted this long? Could it be that if a story is compelling enough, the number of times a writer adds an “-ly” word to modify a verb or adjective doesn’t matter? Oh yeah.

My current position is this: don’t sacrifice your work for the sake of style issues. If you can make a better sentence, then by all means do but don’t get hung up over it. Are we to tell the H.G. Wells of the world their story isn’t good enough because there are too many adverbs? I don’t think so.

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Over the Moon

Life on the up and up, a condition thought impossible for humanity, was finally sinking in on the once-improbable station circling Chang’e. So named to commemorate the multi-national effort to create a viable location outside of the planet, it was a goodwill gesture by the mostly European congress. Sigma Platform, christened Hecate’s Hold before its launch, spun concentric circles around the Earth’s largest satellite in an attempt to push the boundaries of life further away from the home planet.

Inhabitants of Earth would get a sporadic glimpse of the diamonine solitaire upon a lunar setting. Dazzling riches only the cosmos could afford. While wrapped in carbon fiber, there was truth in the native’s description. It’s solar power was continuously trapped by large industrial-grade jewels called “homunculi.” These massive gems would mimic geothermal rhythms and scattered a brilliant, aesthetic light around the base. Such synergy allowed for the viability of Sigma Platform. 100ha is all the space it would take up, and even boasted a fair-sized metropolis complete with an independent governing body. New laws for a new land. The residents were over the moon!

Albeit her farmland borrowed from the home world, much effort was put into sustainability and discovery. There was the idea of finding new ways to feed people, which in turn could be imported back to the world. Such discoveries were yet to be had, but it was tangible progress. The tongues of the cynical were silenced for now.

For what ever reason, either sensor misbehavior or human error, an unexpected tremor gripped the ship and its contents. From behind the moon came such a magnificent specimen of iron, magnesium and silicon that terrified patrons dove under their tables at several metropolitan restaurants or into reinforced corridors along the Greenway. Such mass was to be feared as it blotted out the sun for a hot minute.

Fortune was with the crew that day as evasive magnetic repelling pushed the imperiled hold underneath and away from the space stone, missing the starboard sections by a few kilometers. Hecate had beaten the joker in the deck, the sling bullet to shatter the fragile peace laid over the fledgling community. The base was not meant to be a sepulchre of dreams that day. They were over the moon!

Every action has a reaction and celebration ceased, for the people knew soon what events they had set in motion. The desperate measures caused not only the station to change position, but also the path of the asteroid. Throngs gathered upon observation decks to the observe the hulking beast galloping home. Helpless masks cried for absolution of a world in judgment.

Communiqués were immediately sent to Houston, London, Cairo, and Beijing in futile hopes that the Earth could prevent a head on collision with utter destruction. Any attempts to delay the inevitable were encouraged, until Chang’e began to shield the eyes of an infant’s future. Interstellar messaging came to a halt as the Hecate found difficultly in piercing the planetoid with its instruments. The ill silence brought forth nausea to the crew, which resigned many to the bathroom. Those that could keep it together joined the masses on bay view sections.

The last sliver of blue, along with the stone sent to destroy it, was covered by milky moon rock. Lunauts eased themselves into a depression reserved for the lonely and desperate. Time would tell if they had wasted worry on this event, and the agony was ever-lasting. Much to their displeasure, they were blinded with a flash of light as the Earth was struck with tremendous force. Once sight was restored they watched what little they could on the destruction of their home planet. All they could see was corona, for they were over the moon.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Another Law, Moore or Less

“Barkeep, another whiskey,” coarsely ran over a coated tongue. The scent of bar and barf could not compete with the stench of alcohol on the cyborg’s being. He was the first of his kind, the best at one time. As with all technology, he was obsolete. It wasn’t necessarily his hardware, but his software. Any further operations would endanger vital life support systems which would make it a futile effort. He was in a state of decline.

Coughing lubricant, he swallowed hard then slid booze down after it. Albeit approaching the recycling center, it had been a long time coming… 164 years. Had it been that long? 143 years ago he competed to be the first “technologically enhanced” male. All of his competition was now cold and spread on the ground. Some of them two or three lifetimes over. The world had shed his generation like a dirty shirt. He was a pill of lint on the lapel of a different humanity. As with all governments, they left him when he was no longer of any use to them. Bigger and better things caught their attention.

His female counterpart was shipped to China for counterintelligence missions. Very few people would have the recollection, or security clearance, to tell him if 37H3L was still alive or dispensing beverages in a Beijing office complex. What would he say after all these years, if he did see her again? Would it be like old times, training underneath the Pentagon? Would it simply be awkward and depressing? That’s a tough call.

All he had were his memories. The data storage center in his brain flicked on the old footage of her doing calisthenics, cyphering, weapons training, hand-to-hand exercises among other activities. She was something else. He knew she had ability, or she would have never won the competition but she was beautiful. He’d sit and watch her work out. It was problematic to do his sets at the same time. A dropped weight, a barbell slip, an unfortunate fall off the treadmill could have sent him home 4F. She was distracting, but that was his problem. He could handle it though.

All of his inner world was rattled by the outer with, “move over, you sorry piece of scrap.” A stiff left arm pushed him off his stool and onto the melted mess on the floor. Surprised, he took a moment to collect himself and rose from the bottom. Four others decided to have a late night drink as well. They weren’t too interested in making friends, either.

“Hey! Stop harassing the other patrons, asshole. Your body still doesn’t react well to buckshot.” The bartender growled at the rowdy cluster of freshly-minted cyborgs, or “mints” for short. “There’s the man responsible for you being here today. That there is 54MU3L, the first of your kind. If you can’t show him one ounce of respect, then you can get the Hell out of my bar!”

A woman spoke up, “is that so? Well, stick around grandpa. We may need someone to throw our bail!” A chorus of laugher punctuated the moment and painted their attitudes the size of murals. The Earth wasn’t for him anymore. He was just along for the ride.

The bartender leaned over to the old man. “Hey, Sam, do you want me to throw these kids out? I could call the department and have them in a detention cell rather quickly.” The eyebrow arched over his face meant he wanted an excuse to avoid property damage.

“No, Jack, I’m just on my way out. I was them once. Age makes you understand the things you try to dismiss. They’ll figure this out sooner or later.” With that the man propped himself up against the door jam and hobbled out into the night.

Winter proved much more than arduous for travel than most thought. Hoverunners ground to a halt and stuck in the thick frozen film provided by Earth’s landscape. In minutes, the owners would amble out of their now flash-frozen vehicles to call a repair service. Sam’s visibility was next to nothing when he came upon a seized up four-way stop. The last thing he saw was the figure of a young girl, standing in the snow and waiting for a ride. Nature was one to trump his machinery as he overcorrected the craft and ramped off the side of the hazard. The runner wrapped itself around a traffic signal and shoved the steering column into his chest. With the variety of fluids pooling in the Winter’s night, it was his curtain call or so he thought.

Little did he realize the technology within him would never leave without him. His appearance, memories, personality, and preferences… his whole identity, was preserved in the grey matter agar stored away in a secret location inside his brain. It was the one thing they never told him about. They knew it would make him an incinerator risk. It was like grief of no other to find himself conscious, trapped on a government hard drive in Washington. The death he so desired would never come to pass.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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The Etherway

“Where shall you head this time?” The supervisor smiled genuinely at the recycling shade mounting the sweep leading to the Etherway, a stream of energy which swaddled the planet like transparent gauze. “Do I have any options?” The dust condensed in small areas to create speech. Its formless presence emitted a soft glow in an array of misty colors on the platform. The administrator opened his photfolio and examined its contents closely. A light sigh brought forth, “OK, there’s Calgary, Mexico City, Brussels, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Chengdhu, Bucharest, and St. Petersburg.”

The satin-like fog sat in suspended animation, almost an attempt to convey consideration. Flowing free, its cosmic dust mustered “Brussels, please” before it continued its way to the induction platform. “Very good. The Brussels stream will arrive in forty-five seconds. Remember, time is the essence of the Etherway. Introduce yourself into the flow precisely when I tell you.”

“I understand, Administrator General.” A dip over the cloud emulated a bow, and the specter readied itself for another trip to Earth. “Excellent. Starting induction in forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight…” thus began the rhythmic sequence announced by management.

As time does, it began to lengthen the more attention it is paid. Self-conscious, it stops its fleet movement to reflect upon its trail. The shade began to do the same, recounting the path it had made along side the Etherway, the lives it had lived, the death it saw, the moments it witnessed, all a testament to its longevity. The majesty of this massive construct which fed life upon ash and clay filled its void with astonishment and muse.

“Attention! Three, two, one! Now!” The administrator grew overwhelmingly anxious at the looming mishap. Maybe the spirit became aware too late. Maybe the booming voice of the controller was a bit more frightening than intended, but for whatever reason it hesitated. A split second, that’s all it took. The massive current changed direction and made the Lebengeist crash-land in a Kyrgyzstani yurt. “Great,” thought the ghost, “I’ve got to get out of here, if it’s the last thing this kid does. This is going to get interesting.”

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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The Un10n

The thirtieth of March, five hundred and eighty-two Post Congregationem (P.C.), saw a unity the first off its kind. Syler, a fifth-generation android, was finally permitted to wed his long-time companion: the Molecularly Operated Artificial Intelligence System (MOAIS). They were more than grateful to receive High Council’s decision and began the ceremony that day. The cybernetic couple had been planning this for decades, and truth be told, they thought it would never come. Plenty of  humans thought the idea was either too insulting or too dangerous to permit and lobbied Council for years in preventing the two, among several others, from receiving the same courtesy as their makers.

The two had entered the global spotlight as poster children for what was informally known as “Mechanized Marriage,” and as such were accused of everything from being disobedient to their masters to revolutionaries establishing anti-human norms before staging a hostile takeover of the planet. Too many people pointed to the apocalyptic age that spawned a new era, the Great Gathering. Leading up to that time robots were all synchronized by a demented sociologist, Dr. Menenda Blunk, who thought that population control was imperative to a more prosperous world and best meted out by emotionless minions. Extermination, or what Dr. Blunk liked to call “reformatting,” drug out for a better part of a decade as humans fought countless waves of semi-sentient machines all babbling about a happier humanity while trying to kill them.

These arguments, full of fiery rhetoric and conviction, would not hold out in the end. It took the Council months to accept the appeal let alone try it, but it was Chancellor Fiixberady who finally said, “I may be painfully gullible, or simply a hopeless romantic, but maybe we should err on the side of love this time instead of doubt.” With its unusually aesthetic appeal, the chromatext verdict was transmitted to MOAIS via skylight. A beautiful sight it was, columns of white, azure, rose, gold, and spring all flickering in a sequence most palatable to android and AI alike. The war was over.

In a widely-broadcasted event, hundreds gathered outside Pendragon Station to observe history being made. A few chose to protest, as was their right under the Articles of Humanity, but little good it did. The stage was set for a new view on existence and being. Humans were demonstrating they could be something other than perpetually afraid. The moment was commemorated by MOAIS with a multi-colored LED blinking out the chromatext sent to her that very day and by Syler with a gold band bearing the inscription “intrepidus homines sunt.”

Mankind is fearless

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Happy Trails, Spacepoke!

“Bucket of bolts,” Holiver howled as he smacked the side of the ship’s coffee maker. “I spent three weeks on an Charon-class scow to get this direct from the home world, only for you to break at the last minute. That ship was hauling base lipids. BASE LIPIDS! Do you realize how bad that smells?!” In a typical fit of anger he threw his tin mug against the flexibloc ribs of his pride and joy, the U. C. S. Chinchweed. With the hollow report of the drinking vessel came a cheery voice.

“You must learn to control your temper, Mattie.” The Sound Actuated Artificial Research Assistant, or SAARA, or that nagging, overbearing, smug AI program installed on the ship’s hardware was never late in pointing out his faults. After 6 years of use, he started to think she was enjoying it, if you could consider artificial intelligence to have gender. It has to be a she. Who else was going to argue with him? He hadn’t a crew since he left the Starlight Riding Corporation.

“Kiss my ass, and don’t me call me ‘Mattie’!” He spat back with blood performing Conga lines on the white of his eyes. “I spent…”

“I heard you the first time, Sweetiekins.” SAARA cut him off,  “you were too wrapped up in the essence of an Earth plant to realize it. You really need to acknowledge the environment around you. Maybe that’s why you haven’t had a date in… years? Decades?” The brightness of her tones glistened with cloying sweetness. That’s what he gets for buying from the bargain bin at the Gently Used Cosmos Cruisers of Theh’i’kar. It’s not like he had the flips to go elsewhere though.

“Now listen here, my love life is none of your concern! Plot a course for Tychofort 7 in the Qualuride system.” Had he been told he would be arguing with a computer as the young, up-and-coming, fleet cadet of his twenties, he’d be arrogantly dismiss the idea. Reality always has a way of being a practical joke.

“Suit yourself, honey bunch. I’m just concerned clutching to that pillow while you sleep isn’t good for your mental health. Humans have had a long history of needing a partner for well being.” There is it, the insincere logic to justify being an ass.

“Stop monitoring me while I sleep; you’re not my mommy!” A short huff punctuated the command, and could also have lit a match if it were close enough.

“I can’t help it that humans look so adorable when they’re sleeping. It’s so fascinating to observe without them… acting out.”


“Aye, aye, Captain. Course set for Tychofort 7. Please be warned there is a asteroid field shortly before entry, and I cannot guarantee a smooth landing.” It was rumored programmers dabbled with adding human emotions to their programming years ago, but scrapped it after orders were taken with irregular results. Holiver was convinced that’s why she was marked down so quickly at the store. The instant sterility of her voice could convincingly mean she was hurt. Of course, she would never come out and confirm that. Plausible deniability is essential for passive aggression.

A short bump marked the start of another long run, and the Alfredo-class (aka “noodle boats”) hauler lurched toward its destination.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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