Thursday, August 22, 2019

Incorruptible

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Peter Watts receiving the 2010 Hugo

Incorruptible
by Peter Watts
Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Read more Peter Watts here

“Despotism may be the only organisational alternative
to the political structure that we observe.”
—James Buchanan, 1975

This is the moment Malika Rydman first realizes that something is seriously out of whack: when the airport cop doesn’t threaten her.

It wasn’t that flickering sense of discontinuity over the Pacific. It wasn’t the odd absence of flight attendants during descent, or the unprecedented fact that she could watch the whole pulse-pounding climax of My Dinner With Andre without some canned voice breaking in to remind her about seat tables and chairs in upright positions. It wasn’t even the strangeness glimpsed through the window on final approach: that conga-line of headlights down on the ground, the way those tiny cars formed little trains that braided and intertwined without ever colliding. That skyscraper off to the east, facades seething in dark glittery motion as though being devoured by a carpet of beetles. The very street lights, tiny bright interstices of the SanFran wireframe: somehow both whiter and brighter than a week ago. Different approach angle, Malika thought vaguely. Trick of the light. Street art installation.

Even when ANA008 bumped onto the ground and dragged itself to a halt and just sat there at the end of the runway, Malika shrugged it off. Probably some other plane hogging the gate. You’d think there’d be an announcement.

It’s not until the man in the strange uniform appears at her side and leans just so, letting the flap of his jacket fall away to reveal the gun on his hip; not until he says “Dr. Malika Rydman? Would you come with me, please?”—that she is truly taken aback.

There’s no implied threat in his voice. He doesn’t seem to be itching for an excuse to escalate (not that Malika would ever be stupid enough to give him one— then again, sometimes they just make shit up after the fact). The words don’t even carry the tone of a command exactly, more like a— a request.

“It’s very important,” he adds.

He seems nervous. Maybe even a little frightened.

“What’s this about? Am I in some kind of trouble?”

“It’s nothing like that.” The airport cop— whatever he is— shakes his head. “There’s a, a patient in need of assistance.”

Ah. Someone must have noticed the MD next to her name, jumped to conclusions. “I don’t practice. I’m a computational psychiatrist, I’ve been pure research since 2012.” Curiosity gets the better of her anyway. “What sort of patient?”

“I honestly don’t know any more than that, Dr. Rydman. Please.”

She looks around the cabin— all eyes studiously downcast, all voices stilled— and unbuckles her seat belt. “You’re being awfully deferential for a white boy with a gun,” she grumbles. “Did the Resistance finally pay off?”

He swallows. “Which one?”

[Read more…]

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Yon Rogar’s Hat

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Illustration from The Violet Fairy Book, public domain

Yon Rogar’s Hat
by Larry Heyl

It was late afternoon and Yon Rogar eyed his woodpile. There was no way that tiny little bit of wood was going to get him through fair day, tomorrow. The woodcutter was late with his delivery, probably carving on one of those statues of his. Yon decided to go after some wood himself. He threw his ax in his barrow and pushed it across the bridge to the Wilken Woods.

As usual it was slim pickings with very little deadwood on the ground. Yon picked up a few pieces and then pushed his barrow deeper into the woods. This was more like it, he picked up a few more pieces and then eyed a dead branch, about to fall off an old oak tree. That one branch would fill his barrow, he thought, so he reached up and gave it a tug. It was still well stuck to the tree and Yon couldn’t pull it loose. So he reached up with his ax and gave it a good chop. That did it. The branch fell at his feet.

It was then that he heard the moaning, deeper than a person or an animal would make and more substantial than the wind. He looked around but he didn’t see anything moaning. The wind was picking up, blowing through the leaves with a whooshing sound and the moaning was getting louder. The branches started to thrash about but not like they should in a wind. They were like the arms of a giant, moving with purpose.

One of the branches knocked the ax out of his hand. One slapped at his face and when he ducked it took his hat off. Yon was frightened. He threw the ax and the dead limb into his barrow and he ran for the bridge, leaving his hat behind.

The branch didn’t really fit in the barrow and everywhere it hung out it was getting caught on scrub and bushes. Yon just bulled through never even slowing down until he was out of Wilken’s Woods.

He threw the dead limb on the ground and made short work of it with the ax cutting it into pieces small enough to fit in the barrow. He worked up a sweat and wiped his brow noticing his hat was missing. “I’ll go after it later.” he thought as he loaded the wood into the barrow and pushed it across the bridge.

After he had stacked the wood he was still hot so he went to the Inn for a pint. “I’ll have a story to tell tonight, that’s for sure.” he thought.

He never did go back after his hat.

Epilogue

About a month later Yon Rogar was at the woodcutter’s cabin bringing payment for some wood left at his forge and making another order. After they were done with business Yon looked around and right there, on one of those ax hewn wood statues, was his hat, sitting on that wood head just like it belonged there.

Thinking the woodcutter had found his hat in the woods Jon said, “That fellow there is wearing my hat.”

The woodcutter said, “Well, it was your hat, but I see you’ve got another one now.”

“Still, I liked that hat better. I think I’ll just take it home and clean it up.”

“Best not,” said the woodcutter, “You lost your hat to the woods and it’s yours no more. Ain’t no use in stirring up trouble or that fellow with your hat might come a visiting, looking for it.”

So Yon thought better of retrieving the hat and on the walk home he near convinced himself that he liked the new hat better. It did leave him wondering though, how the woodcutter knew he had lost his hat in a fight with the woods.

“Yon Rogar’s Hat” by Larry Heyl is licensed CC BY. There is more about Milyagon including Mini Zine Quests at minizines.cc.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

SNEGOROTCHKA by Edmund Dulac

SNEGOROTCHKA
by Edmund Dulac

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A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE

The old wife sang merrily as she sat in the inglenook stirring the soup, for she had never felt so sad. Many, many years had come and gone, leaving the weight of their winters on her shoulders and the touch of snow on her hair without ever bringing her a little child. This made her and her dear old husband very sad, for there were many children outside, playing in the snow. It seemed hard that not even one among them was their very own. But alas! there was no hope for such a blessing now. Never would they see a little fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece, nor two little shoes drying by the fire.

The old husband brought in a bundle of wood and set it down. Then, as he heard the children laughing and clapping their hands outside, he looked out at the window. There they were, dancing with glee round a snow man they had made. He smiled as he saw that it was evidently meant to look like the Mayor of the village, it was so fat and pompous.

‘Look, Marushal’ he cried to the old wile. ‘Come and see the snow man they’ve made.’

As they stood together at the window, they laughed to see what fun the children got out of it. Suddenly the old man turned to her with a bright idea.

‘Let’s go out and see if we can’t make a little snow man.’

But Marusha laughed at him. ‘What would the neighbours say? They would poke fun at us; it’d be the joke of the village. Besides, we’re too old to play like children.’

‘But only a little one, Marusha; only a teeny-weeny little snow man, and I’11 manage it that nobody sees us.”

‘Well, well,’ she said, laughing; ‘have your own way, as you always did, Youshko.’

With this she took the pot from the fire, put on her bonnet, and they went out together. As they passed the children, they stopped to play with them a while, for they now felt almost like children themselves. Then they trudged on through the snow till they came to a clump of trees, and, behind this, where the snow was nice and white, and nobody could see them, they set to work to make their little man.

The old husband insisted that it must be very small, and the old wife agreed that it should be almost as small as a new-born babe. Kneeling down in the snow, they fashioned the little body in next to no time. Now there remained only the head to finish. Two fat handfuls of snow for the cheeks and face, and a big one on top for the head. Then they put on a wee dab for the nose and poked two holes, one on each side, for the eyes.

It was soon done, and they were already standing back looking at it, and laughing and clapping their hands like children. Then suddenly they stopped. What had happened? A very strange thing indeed. Out of the two holes they saw looking at them two wistful blue eyes. Then the face of the little snow man was no longer white. The cheeks became rounded and smooth and radiant, and two rosy lips began to smile up at them. A breath of wind brushed the snow from the head, and it all fell down round the shoulders in flaxen ringlets escaping from a white fur cap. At the same time some snow, loosened from the little body, fell down and took the shape of a pretty white garment. Then, suddenly, before they could open and shut their mouths, their snow mannikin was gone, and in his place stood the daintiest, prettiest little maiden they had ever seen.

They gave each other a look out of the corners of their eyes, and scratched their heads in wonderment. But it was as true as true. There stood the little girl, all pink and white before them. She was really alive, for she ran to them; and, when they stooped down to lift her up, she put one arm round the old wife’s neck and the other round the old man’s, and gave them each a hug and a kiss. They laughed and cried for joy; then, suddenly remembering how real some dreams can seem, they pinched each other in turn. Still they were not sure, for the pinches might have been a part of the dream. So, in fear lest they might wake and spoil the whole thing, they wrapped the little girl up quickly and hastened back home.

On the way they met the children, still playing round their snow man; and the snowballs with which they pelted them in the back were very real; but there again, the snowballs might have belonged to the dream. But when they were inside the house, and saw the inglenook, with the soup in the pot by the fire and the bundle of wood near by, and everything just as they had left it, they looked at each other with tears in their eyes and no longer feared that it was all a dream. In another minute there was a little white fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece and two little shoes drying by the fire, while the old wife took the little girl on her lap and crooned a lullaby over her.

The old man put his hand on his wife’s shoulder and she looked up.

‘Marusha’

‘Youshko’

‘At last we have a little girl! We made her out of the snow, so we will call her Snegorotchka.’

The old wife nodded her head, and then they kissed each other. When they had all had supper, they went to bed, the old husband and wife feeling sure that they would wake early in the morning to find the child still with them. And they were not disappointed. There she was, sitting up between them, prattling and laughing. But she had grown bigger, and her hair was now twice as long as at first. When she called them ‘Little Father’ and ‘Little Mother’ they were so delighted that they felt like dancing as nimbly as they had in their young days. But, instead of dancing, they just kissed each other, and wept for joy.

That day they held a big feast. The old wife was busy all the morning cooking all kinds of dainties, while the old man went round the village and collected the fiddlers. All the boys and girls of the village were invited, and they ate and sang and danced and had a merry time till daybreak. As they went home, the girls all talked at once about how much they had enjoyed themselves, but the boys were very silent ; they were thinking of the beautiful Snegorotchka with the blue eyes and the golden hair.

Every day after that Snegorotchka played with the other children, and taught them how to make castles and palaces of snow, with marble halls and thrones and beautiful fountains. The snow seemed to let her do whatever she liked with it, and to build itself up under her tiny fingers as if it knew exactly what shape it was to take. They were all greatly delighted with the wonderful things she made; but when she showed them how to dance as the snowflakes do, first in a brisk whirl, and then softly and lightly, they could think of nothing else but Snegorotchka. She was the little fairy queen of the children, the delight of the older people, and the very breath of life to old Marusha and Youshko.

And now the winter months moved on. With slow and steady stride they went from mountain top to mountain top, around the circle of the sky-line. The earth began to clothe itself in green. The great trees, holding out their naked arms like huge babies waiting to be dressed, were getting greener and greener, and last year’s birds sat in their branches singing this year’s songs. The early flowers shed their perfume on the breeze, and now and then a waft of warm air, straying from its summer haunts, caressed the cheek and breathed a glowing promise in the ear. The forests and the fields were stirring. A beautiful spirit brooded over the face of nature; spring was trembling on the leash and tugging to be free.

One afternoon Marusha was sitting in the inglenook stirring the soup and singing a mournful song, because she had never felt so full of joy. The old man Youshko had just brought in a bundle of wood and laid it on the hearth. It seemed just the same as on that winter’s afternoon when they saw the children dancing round their snow man; but what made all the difference was Snegorotchka, the apple of their eye, who now sat by the window, gazing out at the green grass and the budding trees.

Youshko had been looking at her; he had noticed that her face was pale and her eyes a shade less blue than usual. He grew anxious about her.

‘Are you not feeling well, Snegorotchka?’ he asked.

‘No, Little Father,’ she replied sadly. ‘I miss the white snow, oh! so much; the green grass is not half as beautiful. I wish the snow would come again.’

‘Oh! yes; the snow will come again,’ replied the old man. ‘But don’t you like the leaves on the trees and the blossoms and the flowers, my darling?’

‘They are not so beautiful as the pure, white snow.’ And Snegorotchka shuddered.

The next day she looked so pale and sad that they were alarmed, and glanced at one another anxiously.

‘What ails the child?’ said Marusha.

Youshko shook his head and looked from Snegorotchka to the fire, and then back again.

‘My child,’ he said at last, ‘why don’t you go out and play with the others? They are all enjoying themselves among the flowers in the forest; but I’ve noticed you never play with them now. Why is it, my darling?’

‘I don’t know, Little Father, but my heart seems to turn to water when the soft warm wind brings the scent of the blossoms.’

‘But we will come with you, my child,’ said the old man.’ I will put my arm about you and shield you from the wind. Come, we will show you all the pretty flowers in the grass, and tell you their names, and you will just love them, all of them.’

So Marusha took the pot off the fire and then they all went out together, Youshko with his arm round Snegorotchka to shield her from the wind. But they had not gone far when the warm perfume of the flowers was wafted to them on the breeze, and the child trembled like a leaf. They both comforted her and kissed her, and then they went on towards the spot where the flowers grew thickly in the grass. But, as they passed a clump of big trees, a bright ray of sunlight struck through like a dart and Snegorotchka put her hand over her eyes and gave a cry of pain.

They stood still and looked at her. For a moment, as she drooped upon the old man’s arm, her eyes met theirs; and on her upturned face were swiftly running tears which sparkled in the sunlight as they fell. Then, as they watched her, she grew smaller and smaller, until, at last, all that was left of Snegorotchka was a little patch of dew shining on the grass. One tear-drop had fallen into the cup of a flower. Youshko gathered that flower very gently and handed it to Marusha without a word.

They both understood now. Their darling was just a little girl made of snow, and she had melted away in the warmth of the sunlight.

Published in 1916 this story from “Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book” is public domain.

https://archive.org/ … dulacsfair00dularich

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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Welcome to the Third Edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (emeritus) and Graham Sleight (managing). All the more than 17,600 entries are free to read online; a few samples appear below. Click here for the Introduction and more on the text; here for Frequently Asked Questions; here for Advice to Students on citations. Find entries via the search box above (more on searching here) or browse the menu categories to the right of the SFE logo.

- Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

This is an amazing resource for stundents, academics, and fans. They even teach students how to make correct citations.

Plus Extras!

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Monday, February 4, 2019

The Blazing World

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THE
DESCRIPTION
OF A NEW
WORLD
CALLED
The Blazing-World.
WRITTEN
By The Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent
PRINCESSE
THE
Duchess of Newcastle
Printed by A. Maxwell, in the Year M.DC.LX.VIII.

Public Domain

A very early Science Fiction/Fantasy story by Margaret Cavendish published in 1666.

The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World.

A Merchant travelling into a foreign Country, fell extreamly in Love with a young Lady; but being a stranger in that Nation, and beneath her, both in Birth and Wealth, he could have but little hopes of obtaining his desire; however his Love growing more and more vehement upon him, even to the slighting of all difficulties, he resolved at last to Steal her away; which he had the better opportunity to do, because her Father’s house was not far from the Sea, and she often using to gather shells upon the shore accompanied not with above two to three of her servants it encouraged him the more to execute his design. Thus coming one time with a little leight Vessel, not unlike a Packet-boat, mann’d with some few Sea-men, and well victualled, for fear of some accidents, which might perhaps retard their journey, to the place where she used to repair; he forced her away: But when he fancied himself the happiest man of the World, he proved to be the most unfortunate; for Heaven frowning at his Theft, raised such a Tempest, as they knew not what to do, or whither to steer their course; so that the Vessel, both by its own leightness, and the violent motion of the Wind, was carried as swift as an Arrow out of a Bow, towards the North-pole, and in a short time reached the Icy Sea, where the wind forced it amongst huge pieces of Ice; but being little, and leight, it did by the assistance and favour of the gods to this virtuous Lady, so turn and wind through those precipices, as if it had been guided by some experienced Pilot, and skilful Mariner: But alas! Those few men which were in it, not knowing whither they went, nor what was to be done in so strange an Adventure, and not being provided for so cold a Voyage, were all frozen to death; the young Lady onely, by the light of her Beauty, the heat of her Youth, and Protection of the Gods, remaining alive: Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death; for they were not onely driven to the very end or point of the Pole of that World, but even to another Pole of another World, which joined close to it; so that the cold having a double strength at the conjunction of those two Poles, was insupportable: At last, the Boat still passing on, was forced into another World; for it is impossible to round this Worlds Globe from Pole to Pole, so as we do from East to West; because the Poles of the other World, joining to the Poles of this, do not allow any further passage to surround the World that way; but if any one arrives to either of these Poles, he is either forced to return, or to enter into another World: and lest you should scruple at it, and think, if it were thus, those that live at the Poles would either see two Suns at one time, or else they would never want the Sun’s light for six months together, as it is commonly believed: You must know, that each of these Worlds having its own Sun to enlighten it, they move each one in their peculiar Circles; which motion is so just and exact, that neither can hinder or obstruct the other; for they do not exceed their Tropicks: and although they should meet, yet we in this World cannot so well perceive them, by reason of the brightness of our Sun, which being nearer to us, obstructs the splendor of the Sun of the other World, they being too far off to be discerned by our optick perception, except we use very good Telescopes; by which, skilful Astronomers have often observed two or three Suns at once. But to return to the wandering Boat, and the distressed Lady; she seeing all the Men dead, found small comfort in life; their Bodies which were preserved all that while from putrefaction and stench, by the extremity of cold, began now to thaw, and corrupt; whereupon she having not strength enough to fling them over-board, was forced to remove out of her small Cabine, upon the deck, to avoid the nauseous smell; and finding the Boat swim between two plains of Ice, as a stream that runs betwixt two shores, at last perceived land, but covered all with Snow: from which came, walking upon the Ice, strange Creatures, in shape like Bears, only they went upright as men; those Creatures coming near the Boat, catched hold of it with their Paws, that served them instead of hands; some two or three of them entred first; and when they came out, the rest went in one after another; at last having viewed and observed all that was in the Boat, they spake to each other in a language which the Lady did not understand; and having carried her out of the Boat, sunk it, together with the dead men.

The Lady now finding her self in so strange a place, and amongst such wonderful kind of Creatures, was extreamly strucken with fear, and could entertain no other Thoughts, but that every moment her life was to be a sacrifice to their cruelty; but those Bear-like Creatures, how terrible soever they appear’d to her sight, yet were they so far from exercising any cruelty upon her, that rather they shewed her all civility and kindness imaginable; for she being not able to go upon the Ice, by reason of its slipperiness, they took her up in their rough arms, and carried her into their City, where instead of Houses, they had Caves under ground; and as soon as they enter’d the City, both Males and Females, young and old, flockt together to see this Lady, holding up their Paws in admiration; at last having brought her into a certain large and spacious Cave, which they intended for her reception, they left her to the custody of the Females, who entertained her with all kindness and respect, and gave her such victuals as they used to eat; but seeing her Constitution neither agreed with the temper of that Climate, nor their Diet, they were resolved to carry her into another Island of a warmer temper; in which were men like Foxes, onely walking in an upright shape, who received their neighbours the Bear-men with great civility and Courtship, very much admiring this beauteous Lady; and having discoursed some while together, agreed at last to make her a Present to the Emperor of their World; to which end, after she had made some short stay in the same place, they brought her cross that Island to a large River, whose stream run smooth and clear, like Chrystal; in which were numerous Boats, much like our Fox-traps; in one whereof she was carried, some of the Bear- and Fox-men waiting on her; and as soon as they had crossed the River, they came into an Island where there were Men which had heads, beaks and feathers, like wild-Geese, onely they went in an upright shape, like the Bear-men and Fox-men: their rumps they carried between their legs, their wings were of the same length with their Bodies, and their tails of an indifferent size, trailing after them like a Ladie’s Garment; and after the Bear- and Fox-men had declared their intention and design to their Neighbours, the Geese- or Bird-men, some of them joined to the rest, and attended the Lady through that Island, till they came to another great and large River, where there was a preparation made of many Boats, much like Birds nests, onely of a bigger size; and having crost that River, they arrived into another Island, which was of a pleasant and mild temper, full of Woods and the Inhabitants thereof were Satyrs, who received both the Bear- Fox- and Bird men, with all respect and civility; and after some conferences (for they all understood each others language) some chief of the Satyrs joining to them, accompanied the Lady out of that Island to another River, wherein were many handsome and commodious Barges; and having crost that River, they entered into a large and spacious Kingdom, the men whereof were of a Grass-Green Complexion, who entertained them very kindly, and provided all conveniences for their further voyage: hitherto they had onely crost Rivers, but now they could not avoid the open Seas any longer; wherefore they made their Ships and tacklings ready to sail over into the Island, where the Emperor of the Blazing- world (for so it was call’d) kept his residence. Very good Navigators they were; and though they had no knowledg of the Load-stone, or Needle or pendulous Watches, yet (which was as serviceable to them) they had subtile observations, and great practice; in so much that they could not onely tell the depth of the Sea in every place, but where there were shelves of Sand, Rocks, and other obstructions to be avoided by skilful and experienced Sea-men: Besides, they were excellent Augurers, which skill they counted more necessary and beneficial then the use of Compasses, Cards, Watches, and the like; but, above the rest, they had an extraordinary Art, much to be taken notice of by Experimental Philosophers, and that was a certain Engin, which would draw in a great quantity of Air, and shoot forth Wind with a great force; this Engine in a calm, they placed behind their Ships, and in a storm, before; for it served against the raging waves, like Cannons against an hostile Army, or besieged Town; it would batter and beat the waves in pieces, were they as high as Steeples; and as soon as a breach was made, they forced their passage through, in spight even of the most furious wind, using two of those Engins at every Ship, one before, to beat off the waves, and another behind to drive it on; so that the artificial wind had the better of the natural; for, it had a greater advantage of the waves, then the natural of the Ships: the natural being above the face of the Water, could not without a down right motion enter or press into the Ships; whereas the artificial with a sideward-motion, did pierce into the bowels of the Waves: Moreover, it is to be observed, that in a great Tempest they would join their Ships in battel-aray: and when they feared Wind and Waves would be too strong for them, if they divided their Ships; they joined as many together as the compass or advantage of the places of the Liquid Element would give them leave. For, their Ships were so ingeniously contrived, that they could fasten them together as close as a Honey-comb, without waste of place; and being thus united, no Wind nor Waves were able to separate them. The Emperor’s Ships, were all of Gold; but the Merchants and Skippers, of Leather; the Golden Ships were not much heavier then ours of Wood, by reason they were neatly made, and required not such thickness, neither were they troubled with Pitch, Tar, Pumps, Guns, and the like, which make our Woodden-Ships very heavy; for though they were not all of a piece, yet they were so well sodder’d, that there was no fear of Leaks, Chinks, or Clefts; and as for Guns, there was no use of them, because they had no other enemies but the Winds: But the Leather Ships were not altogether so sure, although much leighter; besides, they were pitched to keep out Water.

Continued on Project Gutenberg

Here’s an essay about this work by Emily Lord Fransee on the Public Domain Review.

Mistress of a New World: Early Science Fiction in Europe’s “Age of Discovery”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Space Beagle - Lift Off

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First Edition

E. Grosvenor log entry t-1
The Space Beagle is departing in the morning.
Although the rest of the crew seems competent I am the only
Nexialist aboard.
I am getting used to sideways looks.
They don’t seem to know what to think of me.
They are mostly old space hands.
But none of us has done anything like this before.
If all goes well we may return before we die.
The more I explain the odds against everything going well
the less they want to talk to me.
I did the math, I know I’m right.
That doesn’t make me popular.
The next time I make a log entry we’ll all be in space.
I’m as excited as a podcaster.

This is my first log entry on my Cosmic Voyage. I have decided to play off of the A.E. VanVogt novel, Voyage Of The Space Beagle.

My text is CC-BY

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Seventeen Haikus

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Basho by Hokusai - public domain

Seventeen Haikus
by Larry Heyl

The first haiku was
the last one written. A glimpse
into the future.

Honored instructor,

I know this is not my assignment but I have just completed the most remarkable work. Against all dicta I was overtaken by a creative impulse. Three days ago seventeen haikus poured out as if written by the hand of God. Of course it was my hand and my brain so these haikus were quite flawed in form and substance. I have spent the last three days perfecting this work, still under the direction of the divine, and I can find no further way to improve them.

They are a masterwork, short as they may be. I know this in my soul. Although I know we are tasked with studying the work of our ancestors and we are foresworn against the production of new art I could not stop myself. It was as if I was possessed by angels. The words came alive. They forced my hand to write and revise. Now I am done.

I would like to read my work to you. I feel that is the best way to unfold it. The seventeen haikus are meant to be read aloud.

I feel I must include at least one. So here is the seventeenth haiku, about silence.

Silence permeates
the ethos. This is not death.
Still, this is silence.

As soon as I sent this message I had second thoughts. What if instead of allowing me to read to him he turned me in. He was a full professor after all. The Stasis could come down on him as well as me.

I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I was not worried about the enforcers. I was not afraid of death. But the seventeen haikus had to live. That was most important.

So I made a file, seventeenhaikus.txt, and I posted it to every group I was part of. Scholars all over the world would share this burden. It was the best I could do.

Three hours later the enforcers came. They were too late.

300 years later schools of the New Renaissance covered the planet teaching the seventeen haikus as their core curricula. They were a revered text but they could not be taught as revered. For as soon as they were read aloud all who heard them knew they too had to create. Some wrote haikus, some novels. Some played music. Some painted, danced, or sculpted. But it was all new art. The Stasis had ended.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Cosmic Voyage

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Cosmic Voyage

cosmic.voyage is a tilde community based
around a collaborative science-fiction
universe. Users write stories as the people
aboard ships, colonies, and outposts, using
the only remaining free, interconnected
network that unites the dispersed peoples of
the stars. If you would like to join us,
contact register [at] cosmic [dot] voyage.

I did. Sounds like a great project to me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Men Like Gods

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First US edition cover

Serialised in The Westminster Gazette, Dec 1922-Feb 1923
First book edition: Cassell & Co., London, 1923
First US edition: The Macmillan Company, New York, 1923
public domain

Men Like Gods is one of H.G. Wells utopian novels. Because it was published in 1923 it is now public domain in the United States.

Here’s a link to the entire text.

And here’s the first chapter.

Mr. Barnstaple found himself in urgent need of a holiday, and he had no one to go with and nowhere to go. He was overworked. And he was tired of home.

He was a man of strong natural affections; he loved his family extremely so that he knew it by heart, and when he was in these jaded moods it bored him acutely. His three sons, who were all growing up, seemed to get leggier and larger every day; they sat down in the chairs he was just going to sit down in; they played him off his own pianola; they filled the house with hoarse, vast laughter at jokes that one couldn’t demand to be told; they cut in on the elderly harmless flirtations that had hitherto been one of his chief consolations in this vale; they beat him at tennis; they fought playfully on the landings, and fell downstairs by twos and threes with an enormous racket. Their hats were everywhere. They were late for breakfast. They went to bed every night in a storm of uproar: “Haw, Haw, Haw—bump!” and their mother seemed to like it. They all cost money, with a cheerful disregard of the fact that everything had gone up except Mr. Barnstaple’s earning power. And when he said a few plain truths about Mr. Lloyd George at meal-times, or made the slightest attempt to raise the tone of the table-talk above the level of the silliest persiflage, their attention wandered ostentatiously…

At any rate it seemed ostentatiously.

He wanted badly to get away from his family to some place where he could think of its various members with quiet pride and affection, and otherwise not be disturbed by them…

And also he wanted to get away for a time from Mr. Peeve. The very streets were becoming a torment to him, he wanted never to see a newspaper or a newspaper placard again. He was obsessed by apprehensions of some sort of financial and economic smash that would make the Great War seem a mere incidental catastrophe. This was because he was sub-editor and general factotum of the Liberal, that well-known organ of the more depressing aspects of advanced thought, and the unvarying pessimism of Mr. Peeve, his chief, was infecting him more and more. Formerly it had been possible to put up a sort of resistance to Mr. Peeve by joking furtively about his gloom with the other members of the staff, but now there were no other members of the staff: they had all been retrenched by Mr. Peeve in a mood of financial despondency. Practically, now, nobody wrote regularly for the Liberal except Mr. Barnstaple and Mr. Peeve. So Mr. Peeve had it all his own way with Mr. Barnstaple. He would sit hunched up in the editorial chair, with his hands deep in his trouser pockets, taking a gloomy view of everything, sometimes for two hours together. Mr. Barnstaple’s natural tendency was towards a modest hopefulness and a belief in progress, but Mr. Peeve held very strongly that a belief in progress was at least six years out of date, and that the brightest hope that remained to Liberalism was for a good Day of Judgment soon. And having finished the copy of what the staff, when there was a staff, used to call his weekly indigest, Mr. Peeve would depart and leave Mr. Barnstaple to get the rest of the paper together for the next week.

Even in ordinary times Mr. Peeve would have been hard enough to live with; but the times were not ordinary, they were full of disagreeable occurrences that made his melancholy anticipations all too plausible. The great coal lock-out had been going on for a month and seemed to foreshadow the commercial ruin of England; every morning brought intelligence of fresh outrages from Ireland, unforgivable and unforgettable outrages; a prolonged drought threatened the harvests of the world; the League of Nations, of which Mr. Barnstaple had hoped enormous things in the great days of President Wilson, was a melancholy and self-satisfied futility; everywhere there was conflict, everywhere unreason; seven-eighths of the world seemed to be sinking down towards chronic disorder and social dissolution. Even without Mr. Peeve it would have been difficult enough to have made headway against the facts.

Mr. Barnstaple was, indeed, ceasing to secrete hope, and for such types as he, hope is the essential solvent without which there is no digesting life. His hope had always been in liberalism and generous liberal effort, but he was beginning to think that liberalism would never do anything more for ever than sit hunched up with its hands in its pockets grumbling and peeving at the activities of baser but more energetic men. Whose scrambling activities would inevitably wreck the world.

Night and day now, Mr. Barnstaple was worrying about the world at large. By night even more than by day, for sleep was leaving him. And he was haunted by a dreadful craving to bring out a number of the Liberal of his very own —to alter it all after Mr. Peeve had gone away, to cut out all the dyspeptic stuff, the miserable, empty girding at this wrong and that, the gloating on cruel and unhappy things, the exaggeration of the simple, natural, human misdeeds of Mr. Lloyd George, the appeals to Lord Grey, Lord Robert Cecil, Lord Lansdowne, the Pope, Queen Anne, or the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (it varied from week to week), to arise and give voice and form to the young aspirations of a world reborn, and, instead, to fill the number with —Utopia! to say to the amazed readers of the Liberal: Here are things that have to be done! Here are the things we are going to do! What a blow it would be for Mr. Peeve at his Sunday breakfast! For once, too astonished to secrete abnormally, he might even digest that meal!

But this was the most foolish of dreaming. There were the three young Barnstaples at home and their need for a decent start in life to consider. And beautiful as the thing was as a dream, Mr. Barnstaple had a very unpleasant conviction that he was not really clever enough to pull such a thing off. He would make a mess of it somehow…

One might jump from the frying-pan into the fire. The Liberal was a dreary, discouraging, ungenerous paper, but anyhow it was not a base and wicked paper.

Still, if there was to be no such disastrous outbreak it was imperative that Mr. Barnstaple should rest from Mr. Peeve for a time. Once or twice already he had contradicted him. A row might occur anywhen. And the first step towards resting from Mr. Peeve was evidently to see a doctor. So Mr. Barnstaple went to a doctor.

“My nerves are getting out of control,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “I feel horribly neurasthenic.”

“You are suffering from neurasthenia,” said the doctor. “I dread my daily work.”

“You want a holiday.”

“You think I need a change?”

“As complete a change as you can manage.”

“Can you recommend any place where I could go?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Nowhere definite. I thought you could recommend—”

“Let some place attract you—and go there. Do nothing to force your inclinations at the present time.”

Mr. Barnstaple paid the doctor the sum of one guinea, and armed with these instructions prepared to break the news of his illness and his necessary absence to Mr. Peeve whenever the occasion seemed ripe for doing so.


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Men Like Gods first edition. Click to continue reading.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein

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Photo by PhotoVision on pixabay - public domain

Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein
by Larry Heyl

It was my brother Jeff who was the doer. Always making things, working on this or that, good at math and physics in school.

I was the thinker. Always gazing off into the distance pondering the big questions. What is life? What is death? What is man? What is woman?

It’s that last one that really puzzled me. Jeff got married, started his own business, got rich. I got tongue tied around girls, took a philosophy degree, and had an income commensurate with my degree. I check the want ads daily. Never have I seen Philosopher Needed - Top Dollar.

So I never understood why the aliens abducted me. It was Jeff they wanted. They must have got their wires crossed.

Now I’m not gay but I didn’t mind the anal probe so much. Learning the alien language wasn’t too bad either. They put a silver disc on my forehead and I started talking to them. It was the interview that really got them.

They kept asking about stuff I didn’t know, technology, armaments, rocket ships, manufacturing. I wasn’t much help. But I gave them a good dose of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. I don’t think they were ready for that. They started babbling. They sent me up the ladder. I kept expounding and their confusion deepened. Evidently philosophy wasn’t their strong suit. Like I said they got the wrong guy.

They could only deal with me for so long. Before I knew it they had beamed me back home and departed Earth post haste. And that’s how I saved the world with philosophy.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Chaos In The Eye Of God

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Photo by Marvin(PA) on flickr CC BY-NC

Chaos In The Eye Of God
by Larry Heyl

“For a while there the universe was clockwork. All cause and effect. Every action had an equal and opposite reaction.”

Dr. Shengwei was lecturing his class. Physics 101. He hadn’t started in on the math yet.

“But the more we tried to describe the more complicated the descriptions became. The systems outpaced our equations. We could no longer make valid predictions. Since we saw chaos we described it as chaos. Chaos Theory became the new thing. But it was more of an excuse for why our predictions were failing than a way to make predictions.”

“Is the universe clockwork and completely predictable? Or is it a chaotic mess with no prediction possible? Or is it both? ‘It can’t be both!’ you say. But we are looking through the eyes of man. Maybe the human mind is the limitation here. Maybe in the eye of God chaos is simple.”

He could tell he was starting to lose them. He could see the big question forming behind their eyes. What does God have to do with physics? They were expecting math but they were getting theology. Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe”. The students were getting anxious. Uncomfortable. He would have to start on the math soon. Then they would wish he was still talking about God.

“Godel proved that in any formal system complex enough to describe itself, even systems as simple as axiomatic algebra, There would be statements that can’t be proven or disproven and statements that hadn’t yet been proven or disproven. Godel also showed that there was no way to distinguish between the two. Only God would know whether a statement that hadn’t been proven could be proved or not. At least until a man or woman could prove or disprove it.”

Dr Shengwei turned to the board and started in on the math. When he looked out at the class the uncertaintly and anxiety was gone. This was what they had been expecting. Now the uncertainty and anxiety was replaced with confusion.

Behind every pair of eyes there was a chaotic system known as a human brain. Was the human brain essentially chaotic or was it only chaotic as perceived by the human brain? In the eye of God even the human brain is simple.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sweet Mary

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Artwork by Arthur Rackham - public domain

Sweet Mary
by Larry Heyl

Sweet Mary was born in the spring. Her parents were well off and unconventional. Which in itself was strange because Mary was quite conventional. She occupied herself with being a very normal baby until Christmas. Even though she was only nine months old when Kris Kringle came she got a big sparkle in her eye and you could see joy radiate from her and light the room. She was brighter than the tree.

As she grew she remained very conventional. She would read, draw, and walk in the forest. And when Christmas came each year Kris Kringle brought her books, paper, charcoal, crayons, and walking boots. It wasn’t the presents that made her glow. She just loved Christmas in an extraordinary way. It is normal for children to love Christmas but for Sweet Mary her joy of Christmas was unconventionally exuberant.

And so Mary would walk in the woods, reading and drawing, and the years drifted by. Until one fall, at the top of the hill, she found a fairy circle of big beautiful mushrooms and unknowingly she walked through it. She made friends in Feyland, Puck, Took, and Willow. For fairies they were still young and the four of them would romp through the woods playing fairy games almost as if Sweet Mary belonged there. But she loved her parents very much and after a few hours she would always go home. She was still conventional enough not to eat between meals so she could always find the fairy circle and the path back to her house. When she greeted her parents she had that sparkle in her eye they had only seen at Christmas and they very much approved. They quickly grew used to her radiating joy after returning from her walks in the woods.

Then one year she grew up, as girls do, and in the fall when she found the fairy circle she was a maid, even though she didn’t really know what that meant yet. Puck, Took, and Willow knew what it meant and since they were in Feyland it wasn’t long before they were enjoying themselves as fairies do for fairies have no thought for the future and no concerns about morality, they live and love in the presnt moment only concerned about their own pleasure and enjoyment.

And Mary in Feyland was the same. Conventional no more she also lived for pleasure in the present and greatly enjoyed Puck, Took, and Willow.

When she came home for supper her glow would light the room. Here parents could see she had changed but they were unconventional and left Mary to her pursuits. Mary said nothing of her time in Feyland to her parents. It was her secret.

But when winter came and the fairy circle was gone and her belly began to swell it could be a secret no more. Her mother loved her very much and took her into her confidence explaining the ways of the world to Sweet Mary. But she did not ask after the father because she feared if they found the father he would soon become a husband and take Sweet Mary away. And Mary did not talk about the father either, whether Puck or Took she did not know, and she certainly did not know how do explain her time in Feyland.

In early summer the babe was born and it was a good thing Mary’s parents were unconventional because little Pookie was clearly fey. Her parents were well aware of the dangers of raising a fey child and so they set up all night, every night, taking watches, so the fairies could not steal the babe away. And Sweet Mary, with a babe at her breast forego her trips through the fairy circle, perhaps Puck, Took, and Willow missed her, perhaps not.

In fact, her parents were well pleased with their grandchild. They were unconventional and aware of the fey blood in their own ancestry, weak as it was. They married each other to preserve their heritage and were glad for the fresh infusion of fey blood into their family line. And they were overjoyed when they set up the tree and the babe just smiled and giggled, loving the Christmas spectacle.

So when little Pookie was three and safe from abduction they encouraged Mary to go back to the woods where she once again walked through the fairy circle. Puck, Took, and Willow were most pleased to see her and Sweet Mary once more enjoyed afternoons full of pleasure and companionship. But she said nothing of little Pookie. She had learned, in her life, to keep secrets.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.