The Next Soldiers

nuclear winter

Depiction of the effects of a nuclear winter” – Found at the New York Times

Abracadabra,” enchanted fourteen-year-old Elazaro Motyka as he sat under an almond tree overlooking the Port of Haifa, but the sea breeze blowing into the park overlooking the old University was still too cold. Even the magic word his American neighbor taught him didn’t work against the last vestige of nuclear winter, but he hadn’t expected it to.

It had been thirty years since the last war. He managed to avoid most of the stories his zayde told him of whether it was India or Pakistan that fired the nukes first and then pulled in the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans, blah, blah, blah. It was bad enough that they taught about it in school. The present worried him a lot more than the past.

That made him rather atypical among his classmates, since most of them loved to listen to any of the people who were alive during the Third World War. It was a reminder of the last time that even in stupidly killing millions, humanity had been free.

“Hey, Elazaro!”

He looked down to see Inaya making the arduous climb up the hill to his lookout. She was a grade behind him but liked to brag that she was more mature than he was, as if that made her better than him.

“Hey, Inaya. Did you bring lunch?” On days when they didn’t have school, they met in the park to eat and talk.

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What’s Important

baby

© James Pyles

I’ve been thinking about what is and isn’t important lately. Yes, there are a lot of arguments on the web positing this cause or that as important, and the authors declaring anyone who isn’t wildly enthusiastic, embracing, and endorsing of their project as horrible, terrible human beings.

Oh well.

I admit to being caught up in all that from time to time…okay, most of the time, but then I stop and realize that for the sake of my emotional and mental health, I can’t let other people or groups wind me up like I’m their toy doll. For instance, occasionally, I’ll get a troll in my one of my social media feeds attempting to rile me, but when I confront him, he denies it, saying he was just trying to understand my position more.

So it goes. Most of the time, I don’t even respond to him. His presence is almost always one where I can predict what he’ll say and even on which of my posts he’ll respond. A few others like him who used to do something similar, while remaining my Facebook “friends” or following me on twitter, otherwise are absent, but I must admit, I have also “muted” them as well, again because I don’t need the aggravation (and now that I’ve satisfied the requirements of Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Opposing Forces challenge, on with the show).

So what is important? Lots of things, but I’m going to focus on my three-year-old granddaughter. My son and his ex are divorced and one week the kids stay with their Mom, while the opposing week they stay with their Dad (and with us much of the time).

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The Grayland

spectral

© Sue Vincent

At first Alise Egan thought she had been trapped in a cursed painting of herself facing an ocean wave, but then she realized it was an interdimensional gateway to another reality. In the painting, the twenty-two year old MIT graduate looked much as she appeared in real life, tall, what her billionaire benefactor, the painting’s owner Keyne Harlan and men of his generation would call “curvy,” long, blond hair streaming behind her along with her extravagant crimson gown, a ostentatious gift from said-benefactor, the man who adopted her after her parents died.

But once across the chaotic field of alabaster and sapphire, she entered the realm of the dead. Well, that’s what they had wanted her to believe, all of the non-corporeal entities who inhabited that realm. Two of them had initially passed themselves off as her dead parents, but then she saw them for what they truly were, invaders intent on using her as a bridge from their world to hers for reasons unknown and undesired.

But one of them said, “Physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic.” That’s when she realized she could do anything, and so she did. Alise pushed back, at first driving a few away from the threshold, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally all that there were, millions and tens of millions.

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The Other Side of the Storm

malestrom

© Annija Veldre

Alise Egan’s scarlet gown fluttered behind her like a great cape as she faced the maelstrom. When she’d first seen the painting in Keyne Harlan’s private collection, she recognized herself immediately, even though she had never met the anonymous artist. But she assumed that whatever the woman was confronting was an ocean wave. Now she knew that the plasma field was the conduit between her world and another.

Long, slender legs walked forward with surprising confidence as her blonde hair, like her dress, billowed behind her, blown backward by an unseen discharge from the phenomenon just three meters in front of her. One moment, she had been admiring her billionaire benefactor’s painting and listening to him recite the legend and the curse attached to the artwork, and the next, the mystic tale had come to life, and she was inside living it.

“I’m here, Alise.” The familiar voice echoed out of the swirling energy ripples.

“Daddy?”

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The Maker’s Daughter

catwoman

Image of Selina Kyle/Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) from the 1992 Batman the Animated Series episode “Tyger, Tyger.”

The solitary Leonine was lying, concealed in the tall grass near an acacia tree watching what she assumed was a frumpy, blinkered woman crossing the broad savanna as she carried her basket. She didn’t so much walk as bounce, as if she were treading upon a sponge or the vast skin of some overly ripe fruit. Her costume reminded the female adaptoid of those worn by puritans, except her robe was a bright crimson, while he coif, shift, and apron were canvas white. With her large handbag, the amused humanoid lioness thought she looked like “little red riding hood meets “a handmaid’s tale.”

Her pale, compact body approached a coppice, which apparently was her destination. Leonine didn’t have to restrain herself, having recently dined on a gazelle, but she was curious, so she rose and silently circled around the open grasslands, padding through the trees, and finally approaching her target from the right. Too late did she realize her mistake as the woman, now appearing much younger than she had thought, turned her head, removed her ancient spectacles, and gazed directly into her feline eyes.

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The Murasaki Betrayal

galileo 7

Image of the Galileo shuttlecraft from the Star Trek episode “The Galileo Seven” – Found at memory-alpha.wikia.com

Charlton Ortega piloted his light scout ship “Lily Sloane” into the nebulous Murasaki 312 quasar-like formation at half impulse power not knowing if he and his three crew mates would make it back out again.

“Shields are nominal. Continuing sensor sweep. Still nothing.” Helen Olssen was both the ship’s systems expert and Ortega’s lover, and they were nothing alike. While he was impulsive, adventurous, and as dark as his Inca ancestors, the Swede from Uppsala was fair-skinned, blond to the point of having almost white hair, conservative, reserved, and studious. If Retenox Five hadn’t been invented, she would have been a natural for a pair of horned rim glasses.

“This whole area for a diameter of twelve light years is completely infused in a shell of hard radiation. If our shields drop even for a few seconds, we’ll sizzle like bacon on a griddle.” The navigator’s east Texas accent was what Ortega called “thick enough to cut with a knife.” Bethany “Red” Harrington checked her navcom against the readings of the old shuttlecraft that had visited the unknown planet more than a century ago. They’d been uploaded to the Enterprise’s ancient duotronic-based information system seconds before the Galileo Seven had burned up in the atmosphere, and hopefully they’d be enough to guide the Sloane on its mission. “You sure you can fly this thing under these conditions, Charlie?”

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Húxiān

fox goddess

from Google Images – found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Henry Dore ate lunch at the Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant in Chinatown everyday just to be near her. He didn’t know her name, and in fact, she was a complete stranger to him, but she was captivating in a way he couldn’t articulate, even to himself.

He had first seen her when he was having lunch with a visiting museum curator from Finland. As the Marketing Manager for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, one of his duties was to entertain VIPs, and he wanted to impress Inari Rinnetmäki, thinking that no Chinese restaurant in Helsinki could match up to the Clay Pot.

Now he couldn’t even remember Rinnetmäki’s response, and he couldn’t care less if she loved the cuisine here or hated it. Just as he and Inari had finished their meal, she walked in and was seated alone at a small table near theirs, which he had since learned was reserved for her every day at one. So today, he was passively sipping spoonfuls of Hot and Sour Soup, not noticing the flavor as he stole clandestine glances in her direction.

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Psyche Poised Against Infinity

woman at night

Found at the High Style Life website – no photo credit available

Psyche stood on the edge of the rooftop contemplating the city’s nightlife far below. If anyone saw her swaying twenty stories above the street, they might vitiate her plans and try to persuade her to go indoors, or perhaps to a hospital, but suicide wasn’t on her mind.

Privately celebrating the occurrence of her twentieth birthday, she took a single rose pedal from inside her diaphanous gown, where it had been nestled between her breasts, and released it to the wind, letting the obsidian sky receive its tribute.

She knew the monstrosity was out there somewhere between the wind and the darkness and the sky, and she, her young, lithe body wrapped only in barely tangible moonlight, poised like a pigeon at the edge of eternity, chose no longer to have feet of clay, but the talons of an eagle.

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The Sad Puppies vs. the Hugo Awards OR Being in the Crossfire in the Fight for Significance

quote

It’s easy to be intimidated by mean people. See through their mask. Underneath is an insecure and unhappy person. They are alienated from others because they are alienated from themselves.

Have compassion for them. Not pity, not condemning, not fear, but compassion. Feel for their suffering. Identify with their core humanity. You might be able to influence them for the good. You might not. Either way your compassion frees you from their destructiveness. And if you would like to help them change, compassion gives you a chance to succeed.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book Happiness,p.179

I’ve already talked about Toxic Fear, the extreme Us vs. Them mentality in our nation that begun in during the Obama administration, and that has been greatly exacerbated during the Trump administration, all in relation to the WorldCon implosion and redemption, particularly given THIS and THAT point of view.

However, it was the quote from Rabbi Pliskin this morning that gave me a different perspective on Sad Puppies vs. the Hugo Awards thing.

Part of the inspiration for crafting this essay comes from fellow blogger Joy Pixley’s report of her attending WorldCon 76. She had a pretty good time, and in my discussions with her, she didn’t see any (or at least not much) evidence of bias at WorldCon. However, she did notice a number of Christians and religious Jews in attendance, and no one mobbed, beat, harassed, or otherwise attacked them for their faiths.

Now speaking of bias, it seems female authors swept the Hugo Awards for the second year in a row. Interesting, and statistically a little unlikely, but as I said before, the Hugo Awards are absolutely not designed to be fair and objective.

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Future Tension

marigolds

Photo by Surachai Piragsa – Bangkok Post – 2017

Adam had to look up the word Hemmablind to find out what his wife meant. Yeah, it described him pretty well. He just didn’t notice all of the little imperfections in and around the house. The tear in the back screen door, the weeds growing in the flowerbed, they were all the same to him, and her constant pestering about them was a pain in his pinfeathers.

Yet, as oblivious as he was to all the chores she set before him each morning, he was able to carry himself in a decorous fashion, even when she said the leaf-filled rain gutters and the clogged bathroom sink were the final straw.

Oh, he had attempted to summon up a token effort or two, but it wasn’t enough to draw her attention away from his overall pattern of inactivity. He used his bad back as a crutch, but that didn’t hold up as an excuse, and certainly did not hold their marriage together.

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