Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Microstory 933: Recycling

It would seem difficult to argue against things like renewable resources, and recycling, but people manage to do it. There are some issues with it; I would never claim it to be perfect. Solar panels can make the area hot enough to fry birds, that is, if the wind turbines don’t chop ‘em up first. Recycling facilities also pollute the air, which kind of defeats the purpose of them in the first place. But we should still invest as a society in environmentally-minded projects and technology. Just because something doesn’t work the way we want it to now, doesn’t mean it won’t be better in the future. People seem to think progress is based merely in time; that if you wait long enough, everything will be done. In reality, you have to work for it. We had to want to travel great distances faster in order to invent trains, cars, and planes. If oceans were made of lava, we wouldn’t build ships out of wood. We would instead try to figure out how to mould metal that won’t melt, or just skip right to aircraft. If we all lived on a tiny island, and had everything we needed to live happily, we probably wouldn’t build any transportation technology beyond the humble bicycle. We have to use crappy recycling techniques now so we can learn from our experiences, and one day come up with something better. We are presently a planet of trash. This trash was tossed out not only by our ancestors, but by us. And when I say it was tossed out, remember that there is nowhere safe for it to go. All you can hope to do is make it someone else’s problem, but that is not a very dignified way to live. There are a few people out there who benefit financially by keeping us the way we are, which is living in literal filth. They are generally old, and would sooner see this world die than give up their cash. They use their charm to convince people who are both poor and stupid that their open positions in destroying the environment are the only ones to be had. People like King Dumpster want you to rely on them to live. Because if you figure out that a couple solar panels, and a miniature wind turbine, can get you off the grid, and save you tons of money in the long-term, you might also realize that they do not have your best interests in mind. It’s negligibly harder in most regions—in this country, at least—to sort your refuse into two separate bins; one for waste, and one for recycling. There are many reasons to take that extra step, and so few reasons to not. Your descendants will live better, so that should be enough for you. If not, consider that you might be young enough to live forever, or long enough to personally suffer consequences of environmental disaster. (Side note: while hurricanes themselves are perfectly natural, the frequency, and increased intensity of them in recent years, are being directly caused by global climate change, which is being perpetrated by humans.) If you believe in an afterlife, I guarantee deliberately not recycling is not going to score you any points with whatever Flying Spaghetti Monster you worship. Unless you worship an evil being. Is that it? Are you a devil-worshipper? Those three reasons should encompass the majority of people living in the developed world, so stop listening to garbage people, like Donald Trump, and pick one. Reduce..reuse...recycle.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Microstory 932: Quantum Entanglement

I wouldn’t claim to understand exactly what quantum entanglement is, how it is a thing that exists, or what we can do with it. I am no quantum physicist, though as you can read in my bio, I did have aspirations to study that in the future when I was younger. I realize now my only reason for this is because my favorite show was once Quantum Leap, but the field requires a level of math that I’m not capable of. Judging from one failing grade, and two D grades, I’m not even capable of college algebra. What I can do, however, is utilize a very basic grasp of the most basic concepts to come up with cool science fiction stories wherein characters exploit physical laws to their own gains. Quantum entanglement is a complex subject that not even those studying it can fully explain, but I’ll give you the gist of it, as I’ve interpreted the sources I’ve used for research. Let’s say you have two particles that are close to each other, and spinning around. They spin because nothing in the universe stands still. Everything is in flux, exchanging energy, and succumbing to the ultimate vastness of entropy. I’m not sure how it happens, but by some manner, these two particles can become linked to one another. You can then move the particles far, far away from each other, but this connection inexplicably remains. If you measure the spin of one, you can know the spin of the other, even faster than it would take for you to learn that using normal spacetime limitations. Einstein referred to this as “spooky action at a distance”. The man was so intelligent, he intuited the concept using mathematical formula before humanity had the technology to even come close to testing his hypothesis. So what does this all mean? Well, in my stories, it’s possible to communicate across the universe by connecting two devices together, and then sending them far apart. The internet says, “not so fast, compadre. That’s not how it works.” Welp, maybe not. It’s true that the two particles lose their connection as soon as you try to manipulate one of them. We call this the Uncertainty Principle, but I won’t get into that. I still believe that there is a loophole to that. I don’t know what it might be, but I also don’t think we’re all stuck here. I believe humans are destined to reach for the stars...literally, and to be able to stay connected to each other. And isn’t that what it’s all about? The real reason I love quantum entanglement so much is because it’s a property of physics that demonstrates the best thing about being alive: interacting with others.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Microstory 931: Gravity

There are few things in the universe as important as gravity. One of them is spacetime, and the other—if it exists at all—is any underlying component of reality that allows for the creation, and persistence, of life in general. We have only studied organic life on Earth, as well as quasi-living entities we call viruses. There may be other forms of life beyond our single orbital we have yet to encounter, or which we have encountered, but do not recognize. One thing is for sure, however, in whatever form this other life takes, it would not be able to exist without gravity, because nothing can. Gravity is what holds celestial bodies together. People like to say that it “keeps us down to the ground” but that’s not a very reasonable way to put it. There is no up and down in space—and we are in space, just not outer space. So it’s more like gravity pulling us inward, and keeping us from going outward. The distinction matters, because it’s important to understand that a body gravitationally bound to another will always be pulled towards the center of  that more massive object. Why exactly it does this is something we’ve been struggling with for years. Contrary to the tale of the apple that has been misinterpreted into your brains, Isaac Newton did not discover gravity. At no point did someone have to realize that things fall down, or even that they don’t spontaneously float upwards. There are things like wind, lift, and pressure, which allow certain objects to move away from its gravitational pull, but that doesn’t mean gravity isn’t operating upon it. The reason those objects, like birds, are capable of resisting the effects of gravity to some degree is because gravity is a weak force. It’s the weakest force, because it takes a lot more to make it happen than it does to make the other forces happen.

If gravity were stronger, the computer you’re reading this on may be experiencing a gravitational pull towards the center of your body right now. There’s an episode of Family Guy that demonstrates this by having several household objects float around Peter, suggesting that he’s so fat, he’s massive enough to hold his own orbit. And while we know that such a thing is impossible in the real world, and Isaac codified a great deal of the basic properties of gravity, there is still so much more to learn. The scientists who know the most about it still don’t understand what gravity is, how it works, or why it’s so much weaker than the other three (or four) forces. They’ve proposed this particle called the graviton, but there’s no proof it even exists. What we do know is that it’s vital to the universe. I’ve read some sources that say if we didn’t have gravity, everything would just fall apart, but that’s only a helpful image when you’re trying to explain what would happen if gravity suddenly disappeared. The truth is that, without it, nothing meaningful would exist at all. Particles would just be floating around in empty space, never having come together to form something larger in the first place. Gravity has done a lot to work against us. Rocket ships expend the majority of their fuel just getting off the ground, and away from the atmosphere, in the first place. And we don’t even have it that bad. It’s conceivable that a species living on a heavy world would never develop technology capable of reaching space, because it would just not be practical to try. Still, gravity is one of my favorite things, because we will one day conquer it, and once we do that, nothing will be able to stop us from reaching greatness.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 20, 2197

Though Ulinthra herself could not be caught, because she left the timeline as soon as Leona did, all of her loyalists directly responsible for Brooke’s senseless death were apprehended by the Kansas City Police Authority. Vitalie remained partially on Leona’s pattern, but experienced it differently than before. She would sometimes wake up and it be tomorrow, and sometimes a few weeks later. She continued like this for the entire year until Leona returned, at which point, they were able to regroup, and prepare for their next move. Without bothering to figure out how to contact Ulinthra, they flipped their penny yet again, more as a symbol than anything. It did land on heads, though Leona was determined to follow through with the plan regardless of the outcome.
“You can back at any time...while we’re still here. As soon as you make the jump with me, you’re on the hook. If this doesn’t work, Ulinthra will surely find a way to kill you, just as she has everyone else who’s helped me.”
“She hasn’t killed people who’ve helped you,” Vitalie argued. “She’s killed people you love. Unless there’s something I’m missing, I already qualify. If you try this alone, I’m still at risk. Hell, if we do nothing, I may be at risk, ‘cause Ulinthra be crazy.”
“This is true, but anything you participate in puts you at more risk. What you do does matter.”
“You’re right, it does matter. I just spent part of the last year looking for one of the only people in history who can get us where we need to go. You don’t need to convince me to choose a side. I already have. All you need to do now is say the word, and that woman comes into this room.”
Leona thought on it some more, just to be cautious. But the truth was that they still needed an advantage over Ulinthra, and she knew of only one person who could provide that for them. It would be a nice bit of poetic justice, because it was Ulinthra who once gave them this leverage against him, and if this went well, he would have the opportunity to return the favor. They needed Horace Reaver. But not just any Horace would do. They needed the OG Reaver, and in their current condition, he was a difficult man to reach. “Do it.”
“Come on in!” Vitalie shouted in the general direction of the door.
A woman came in with an apathetic look on her face. She reminded Leona of April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. “Do you have it?”
“I don’t understand why you need this. Aren’t you powerful enough to get just about anything you want?” Vitalie questioned her.
“It’s not about me getting it. It’s about you going to get it for me. Yes, payment is hard to come by for choosers, because we’re so connected and powerful. But half of any transaction is sacrifice. If you want something, you have to work for it, even if I don’t technically benefit from it.”
“All right,” Vitalie said with a short sigh. “Here’s a diamond the size of my hand. Did people really value these things in your day, Leona?”
Leona took the diamond from Vitalie, and examined it. “In my day, most diamonds had to be found in the dirt. They had a certain...air of rarity that the jewelry companies imposed upon society. We were only starting to make them ourselves when I was growing up. Now, of course, they hold almost no value.”
The woman took a fancy cane from her magical bag of holding, and placed the diamond on top of it, to see how it looked. “They’re valuable, because they’re pretty.”
“Are we cool?” Vitalie asked.
“Seeing it now, I realize it’s not quite the cut I wanted, but it is what I asked for, so yeah...we’re cool.” She tossed the cane and diamond into her bag. “Are you carrying any citrus?”
“Of course not,” Leona replied.
“Then let us hold hands, like a coven of witches.”
“Is there any way I could know your name first?” Leona asked her.
“Transporter rules, sweetheart. No names. You can call me The Arborist.” She reached out her hands to grasp Vitalie and Leona’s. “Now, what year are we looking for?”
“2055,” Leona told her, “but we’re using an extraction mirror, so it doesn’t necessarily matter. I suppose it should be no earlier than that, though. Let’s say 2066, because I’m not certain when he died.”
“Why do you need an extraction? Why couldn’t you take him long before his death?” the Arborist asked.
“He undergoes dramatic changes to his personality, so the closest we can get to his death, the better. He’s in prison during the years leading up to that death, and we don’t want to interfere with that. Only the final version of him would be willing to return to his final moment.”
“Thanks for the life story,” the Arborist joked. “I’m to understand you have blended memories of the destination timeline?”
“Correct,” Leona answered.
“Good. It’ll be much easier to find. Please devote all of your thoughts upon it.”
Leona did as she was told. She had traveled through time many times before, in many different ways, but never like this. Time was extremely mutable. Choosing ones and salmon were constantly traveling back and forth, making small and large changes to the timeline. Each one sprouts a new branch of history, from the point of divergence, which was why this woman was called the Arborist. She could jump to alternate branches, supposedly without creating yet another branch. These older branches were delicate and precious. They were generally meant to be left alone, because any change could create a paradox. If anything a traveler does in a deprecated timeline negates the creation of the branch they first traveled from then they could never have come from that branch at all, but if they didn’t come from that branch, then they couldn’t have made the change in the old branch. This endless loop of impossibility was why not even the worst of the worst, like The Cleanser or Nerakali, trifled with old branches. No one really knows why so very few choosers were capable of traveling to old timelines, but those who understood the consequences were grateful for it. Leona would generally never risk it, but she was desperate, and they were only going to be there for a few seconds.
The Arborist pulled her hands away from theirs. “We’re here. Do you want some privacy?”
“We won’t be staying long, but this isn’t Palace Glubbdubdrib.” They were standing in front of a mirror, but not the one Leona had seen before, when she put the OG Gilbert Boyce back to his moment of death.
“I don’t really like that place,” the Arborist noticed. “I prefer this one. I assure you, it works, and it doesn’t require blood. Just say his name, and think of his face.”
Leona faced the mirror, and deliberately said, “Horace Reaver.”
The man could now be seen in the mirror, standing in his Easter Island cave prison, an explosion at his back. He was already in the midst of talking to someone from a completely different mirror. One of the men, whom Leona thought she should recognize, started angrily pushing a second man right through the event horizon. Reaver was assisting from the other side. A third man tried to help as well, but the victim pulled him through with him. Once it was done, Leona’s mirror managed to make time slow down, uh...again.
Reaver, noticing that his two new cellmates, were quite nearly frozen, stepped away. “What’s going on?”
“Come Horace,” Leona called to him. “It’s time to leave.”
“Leona?” Reaver asked.
“I don’t have time to explain. Just come through.”
“I didn’t think I could.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Who are those other people?” Vitalie asked, referring to Reaver’s security team.
“They have to stay,” the Arborist said sternly.
“Wait, that one is Lincoln. And that one is too!” Lincoln Rutherford was a security guard in this timeline, and in charge of Reaver’s imprisonment. But there was a second Lincoln watching the explosion from outside the prison cube, along with some other version of the guy Mateo forced through the mirror. Mateo. That was his name. Why did Leona know who Mateo was? Why was she meant to know him?
“You can’t save him,” the Arborist explained. “This version—these versions of Lincoln don’t matter. This is an old timeline, remember? We came for this guy, so take this guy, and we’ll put him back when we’re done.”
Reaver scoffed. “Screw that.” He went back over, and stuck his arms under Lincoln’s. He then leaned back, and started dragging Lincoln’s frozen body towards Leona’s mirror.
“You can’t do that!” the Arborist barked.
“Watch me,” Reaver countered. He stepped backwards through the mirror, pulling Lincoln with him. Once the latter’s last foot was all the way through, time restarted in the prison cube. The explosion overwhelmed the rest of the people left in there, and then the dimensional doorway closed completely, leaving them with nothing but their reflections.
Lincoln joined them in real time, and scrambled up from the floor. “What just happened? Am I not dead.”
Horace kindly placed his hand on Lincoln’s shoulder. “I just saved your life, brother. I couldn’t save everyone, though.”
“Shit,” the Arborist said.
“What?”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Shiiit! Shiiiit!”
“What is it, Arby?” Vitalie asked.
“Did you see that?” the Arborist asked in a frenzy. “Horace Reaver and Lincoln Rutherford never go back to the cube, to their deaths. We would have seen it from this angle. You just changed the timeline, which means our timeline may never have been created.”
“We don’t know that,” Leona suggested. “Everyone may still think they’re dead. That explosion wasn’t just from an IED. It vaporized everything. There’s no way of knowing anyone survived.”
The Arborist was shaking her head. “I don’t think that’s right. I think we’re in trouble.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Horace said, stepped closer to Leona. “There was a time when she and I were an unstoppable team.” He stepped back. “Maybe we can find a way to get back to that.”
Leona reached up and wrapped her arms around Horace’s neck. “We’re already there. I remember everything.”
“What about Mateo?” Horace asked.
“Who?”

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Fervor: Fever (Part XI)

Asuk fell in love with me pretty much as soon as we met, though he would never admit to it. When I tried to explain that I felt nothing for him beyond friendship, I realized that I didn’t understand it myself. I had actually never felt anything like that about anyone, and always figured that I just hadn’t yet met the right person. Before you get any ideas about me, I’m no sociopath. I experience empathy for others, and I care what happens to them, but I have no interest in romantic or sexual relationships. This was unheard of in the 1970s, and my life in the 2020s was so consumed by time travel, that no one had the chance to explain it to me before. Asuk understood completely, though, because in his day, all sexuality stigmas have been almost entirely erased. He said that I was asexual, and provided me with some resources to help me figure myself out.
After we made s’mores that first night, I agreed to stay with him that night, because he was afraid of being alone in the dark. He said that his camping lot was located in a region of Earth purposely left uncontrolled by weather satellites, but admitted the satellites contributed so much to the global climate, that it was still not all that unnatural. While the weather wasn’t as perfect as it was for most of the surface, it was a decent night on its own. I woke up the next morning, and waited for a sign. I allowed myself to wait until noon o’clock central for anything that would point me in the direction that Jesi wanted me to go, but nothing happened. And so I said my goodbyes, then I pulled up my phone, where I kept several photographs I took of April, 2025 Missouri, so I could return in a case such as this one. Unfortunately, I was unable to go anywhere. I could feel a slight burn in my eyes as I stared at one of the photographs of Cleaver Fountain, but I couldn’t actually travel there. I swiped through all of my dozens of saved photos for one that would work, including the scans I made of the pictures from my childhood camera. I only ignored the ones that would have taken me back to 1971. Anywhere is better than there. Nothing worked, but I kept trying...for about a week. Then I gave up, and surrendered myself to the time period. From then on, I only attempted to travel back in time about once a week, just in case whatever was preventing me from traveling wore off.
I stayed with Asuk and his family, who were living on Earth for that month. They were nomads, though, like so many others, and whenever they moved somewhere else, I would go with them. I spent some time on Mars and Venus, both of which had, through miracles of science, become just as habitable as Earth. We went back to what I now know is something called a dyson bubble. Basically giant stations were suspended between the sun and Jupiter, allowing more solar energy than ever before to be harvested and used to power the worlds. We also lived in habitat domes on two moons of Jupiter, which by the way, was now a freaking sun. Somehow, they turned Jupiter into a star, and no matter how many times my new friends tried to teach me how it was done, I couldn’t understand it. I don’t even understand why they did it, other than for the possibility of some of the larger of these moons to have their own atmospheres. Asuk’s family was planning to move to a different star system—and leave me behind, because I didn’t feel comfortable traveling that far from home—when disaster struck.
A mysterious pathogen spread throughout the entire system, infecting every biological species of some particular level of complexity that went over my head. It possessed an alarmingly long incubation period, which meant it transmitted out of control from person to person before anyone realized what was happening. The system was placed in quarantine, but experts believed these measures to have been far too late. Lightspeed ships were virtually unreachable while traveling at relativistic speeds, so the damage was done. Every organic human within a thousand lightyears would be infected, with little hope for a cure. Of course that meant it would take a thousand years to run its course, but all entities not created, or fitted, with artificial parts, would be dead by then. The oldest purely biological person living today was a hundred and thirty-two years old. The pathogen itself did not cause death, nor symptoms that could not easily be remedied. What it did was prevent someone infected from procreating. If the people working the problem were unable to solve it, normal humans would be wiped out. This is what Jesi wants to bring back to my time, and I have to do anything in my power to stop it, even if it means staying here for the rest of my life; even if it means dying today.
“Maybe we should go,” Asuk says. “Maybe you should come with us.”
“Where?” I ask him. “To Teagarden?”
“Why not? It’ll only take twelve years.”
“We’re still in quarantine.”
He brushes this off. “Eh, in a couple years, they’re gonna discover patients on Proxima, and the quarantine won’t mean a damn thing. They’ll let us go, because it won’t matter anymore. Besides, I know a friend who can get us a darkburster.”
“Like from the twenty-second century? Didn’t they figure out how to detect those? Isn’t darkbursting impossible now?”
“Intentional obsolescence. They could detect darkbursters, but they don’t scan for them, because they don’t think anyone would be crazy enough to use them.”
“Because people who used them died half the time.”
“I’ll take those odds.”
“I won’t,” I say. “I’m not getting in a darkburster, and I’m not going to Teagarden. I’m perfectly fine here.”
“On Rhea?” Rhea is a large Saturnial moon that was considered too small for terraforming. It was instead gutted, and turned into the largest single-processor computational apparatus in the known galaxy. While the dyson bubbles are ultimately larger, they’re each composed of disparate parts, so they don’t count. Few people actually live on Rhea, but it’s a cool tourist attraction. We’re currently staying in what I can’t help but call a space motel.
“No, just here in general. I like moving around with you guys, but if I never go back to my time period, I’ll still want to be near Earth. It will always be my home. I won’t go past the Oort cloud.”
Asuk yawns. “Well, I suppose I have a couple years to change your mind, unless you would reconsid—”
“I’m not stepping foot in a darkburster.” Darkbursters are ancient ships capable of interplanetary travel without being picked up on sensors. But they resulted in too many deaths, and are fundamentally pointless these days. If you want to go somewhere, for the most part, you can. You really just have to ask.
“Preach, sister!” comes a voice from behind me. I turn around to see someone standing there with a hazmat suit on. There’s a glare on the face part, so I can’t see who it is until she moves slightly.
“Jesi.”
“This is a special suit,” Jesi says. “It doesn’t just protect me from germs, but also from this time. It’s basically shields me against everything, but it comes at a price. I can’t use my power while it’s on. I created a latent time bubble to get me here, but now I’m stuck.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad. The world is probably better off with you in one place.”
“Not so fast,” Jesi says. “I can’t take us back, but you can, and you will.” She holds up an injection gun. “I give you this, and your powers return. Then you take us both back home. Easy peasy..little queasy.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“Why not? Don’t tell me you’re in love with this kid?” Jesi gestures towards Asuk.
“No,” Asuk laughed a bit too hard.
“I’m not taking this pathogen back to 2025. Why do you wanna destroy the human race? Lemme guess, so choosers can start fresh, and bring about a new dawn?”
Jesi shakes her head at pathetic little me. “The pathogen is rampant in this time. We still don’t know where it comes from, but we know how it spread. Paige, it came from multiple places at once. It was this onslaught of slow and unavoidable death. It probably originated on another planet.”
“Sounds tasty,” I spit.
“You’re not getting it. There’s a reason I’m in this suit, and it’s not so I don’t get infected. I mean it is, but not because I’m selfish.”
“You’re not?”
“I’m not! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’m trying to save the world!”
“By destroying it, I get it.”
“No, you don’t.” She takes a deep breath. “I’m going to tell you a story. About a man.”
“What man?”
“His name...was Mateo Matic.”
“Never heard of ‘im.”
“I’m not surprised, he was erased from the timeline. Not even his wife remembers him.”
“Who’s his wife?” Asuk asks. He always loves a good story.
“Her name’s Leona.”
“Whaaaat?” I question overdramatically.
“It’s true, but that’s not the point. The point is that he once accidentally came to the year 3118. He picked up the pathogen, and then he took it back to 2025.”
“So he’s here right now?” Asuk asks.
“I just told you, he was ripped out of time.”
“Right.”
“You seriously like this guy?” she asks me.
“Get to the point!” I shout.
“This all happened in a different timeline. The reason you’re here, Paige, is to replicate what happened to him.”
“Yeah, I understand. You want me to destroy the world.”
“Christ, Paige, will you get off that? No. You’re one person, and you’ve been living here for the last several months. The disease has mutated since it first came about. It’s begun to focus on conserving energy, rather than spreading. When you go back to 2025, no one is going to become sterile. They might get a little fever, but they’ll get over it, and will be stronger for it. They’ll continue to evolve over the millenium, and by the time they get here, the pathogen will do them no harm. All of this will be erased. This guy here, if he’s even ever born, will not even know you existed.”
“That might be what you think will happen, but I have it on good authority that your plan does not work,” I counter.
“Oh, you mean the other version of me?” she asks. “Yeah, we spoke. Bringing you here was her idea. This is what fixes it. This is what fixes everything. Paige Turner Reaver-Demir, you are about to become mother of a multitude.”
“I don’t want that. I don’t believe this will work. I don’t trust you. Or her.”
“That’s fine,” Jesi says, confidently casual. “You’ll see, though, and you’ll be glad. Asuk will too, though he won’t know it.”
“Aha!” Asuk cries with glee. “You do know my name.”
“That’s what you took from this?” Jesi asks rhetorically.
I stare at Jesi, biting my bottom lip. I can tell that she knows what I’m going to do, but I still have to try. I spin around, and bolt for the exit, but something hits me in the back. Goddamn, I wish people would stop doing that. Next time it’s gonna be a knife. Next time, someone is going to literally stab me in the back. But for now, I fall to the floor. I’m not knocked unconscious, or anything, but the pain is enough to keep me down so Jesi can catch up to me, and force the power suppressor antidote upon me.
“I just won’t jump!” I scream as I’m flipping over. “I just won’t!”
She giggles. I know you don’t have that much control. She takes a fist-sized device out of a bag that I somehow know to be an icosidodecahedron. She drops her hand, and lets it hover a meter over the floor. Light explodes from its faces, releasing a sea of nearly a hundred projections, strewn all about the walls. Each one is a photo of a different part of Kansas City, and each one is strobing like the dance floor at a discotheque, overwhelming my senses. My eyes start to burn, so I look away, but they continue to burn. I try to close my eyelids, but somehow that hurts my head even more. I’m looking at a picture of Plaza rooftops when my power overcomes my will, and I jump hopelessly back to the past.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Microstory 930: Writing

As you can read in my bio, I started writing when I was thirteen years old. Before then, though, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was a good writer, and figured I would write science textbooks. In fifth grade, I half-assed a short paper about why I would never do drugs, and ended up winning a class-wide competition. Sidenote: I don’t do drugs, while it seems everyone else does, so maybe it worked. I had to read my paper aloud to an audience of other students and parents, and then they gave me a bunch of D.A.R.E swag. Then there was the fact that I rarely worked hard on my papers, and almost always received good grades for them. A couple years after I decided to switch to writing, I started thinking about my canon. I didn’t know to call it that back then, but up until that point, I had been focusing on fanfiction, in order to hone my craft. I wrote some Quantum Leap and Harry Potter stories, which have thankfully been lost by now, but it was time to try something original. I had recently returned from a trip to the Florida Keys with my Boy Scout troop, and my father. We spent a week on an island where I experienced no problems; no injuries, no fights, just fun. The beach smelled of rotten eggs, which is why I now like the smell of rotten eggs. That’s all it took to condition me. I struggled a lot with this first book, and it’s gone through a great deal of changes since then. It began as original, but I couldn’t help but find some way of connecting it to the Lord of the Rings universe. So I had to scrap it, and try again. It still wasn’t working out, so I scrapped the second draft too, and tried it a third time. I didn’t like that one either, even after ten years of this, so I buckled down, and started working on version number four, which is the one I have today. I’m looking for a literary agent to represent me, if you happen to know anyone.

While I’m glad I didn’t stick to my Lord of the Rings plan, it did make me realize that I would never be satisfied with individual stories that were completely separate from each other. I wanted to create a whole new world—or six worlds, as it were—and I wanted them to connect to each other in complicated, and sometimes subtle, ways. This too went through a number of changes, but at some point, I had a sturdy foundation, from which every story must originate. Later on, if I came up with a story that would not be internally consistent with the narrative, or even physical, laws set forth by other stories, I would have to create a new universe for it. But even that bothered me, so I invented a machine called The Crossover, which has the ability to travel between these universe, so in the end, I really do only have a single canon. Some stories are more connected than others, though. For instance, Magnate exists within a universe that allows none of the more—shall we say...unrealistic science fiction elements. People will start using it as a refuge from the craziness of time travel, ghosts, and whatnot. Anyway, I’m starting to talk about the planning of my stories, which is not what this post is about. This is about the writing itself, which I actually don’t love all that much. My fingers are in a permanent state of pain, so I can never type too long. I believe my strengths lie more with storytelling than with the narrative itself, or maybe I just feel that way because an artist’s work is never done. I would much rather come up with ideas, and micromanage every small detail of a story, then have someone else write it up for me. I believe they call people who do that producers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it at all. I still appreciate the feeling of typing out paragraphs, and seeing the finished product of my accomplishments. Hopefully the readers who are hopefully reading this in the future feel the same way.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Microstory 929: Netflix

It was the year 2010. Some dumb team I don’t care about had recently won the superbowl. A good man was still president. And I had just graduated from college. My sister gave me three months of Netflix as a gift. I hadn’t thought much about trying the service before then. I had seen my evil roommate’s DVDs strewn about the apartment, but didn’t think I would get much out of it, especially since I did not yet have a job. I went to the movie theatre a lot during college, usually by riding my bike two and a half miles down the hill. My record was five movies in one day, which was pretty much the maximum with their hours. What I didn’t realize was that I was on the cusp of a better Netflix, and because of that, I ended up never cancelling the service, and still have it today. The library was already huge at that point, but was really picking up speed. It had existed for over ten years by then, but was only starting to become ubiquitous. Of course there are still plenty of people in the developed world who don’t have a Netflix account, but those people are becoming harder to find. The greatest part about the service is that it’s generally pretty reliable. It can be accessed on myriad devices, with varying levels of internet speeds, and they even let you download titles to your phone, to be watched offline. I still encounter errors, as one does when using a computer, but most can be solved fairly painlessly. Netflix has tons of their own original programming, and they keep them up there all the time. My OnDemand services usually only keep five episodes of a series at a time, and sometimes it’s not even the last five, but some inappropriately random order. Netflix does occasionally only offer certain seasons of certain shows, but I’m certain the fault lies with the studio from which they bought the rights for the content. I can say nothing more about it, except that they should renew Lost in Space for a third season now, instead of waiting until season two comes out. And they should do the same with season four of Travelers. Also, please Netflix, don’t change your intro sound effect. You’re going to try to “update” it in a few years, as some belated response to the Kevin Spacey scandal, and it’s going to upset me, because I find this one quite comforting. Oh, I do have one more thing to say. The phrase “Netflix and chill” never had to be sexual in nature. It could very well have described a pleasant evening sitting innocuously in front of a screen, but noooo, you people can’t help but ruin everything. So thanks for that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Microstory 928: The Materianet

I have to start this off by explaining what the word “materianet” means. It’s just the internet of things, but with a more succinct name. I’ve always hated the conventional term for the concept, because it sounds so childish, and on the nose. I don’t need it to be sexy, or trademarked, but come on...“internet of things”? Why did we all just allow that to happen? I propose this new term. It still describes what it is, and differentiates it from the more traditional form of internet, which is presently in its Web 2.0 state. The original world wide web was designed for basic communication only. Someone put information on a website, and people could go look at that information. There was some room for response, or collaboration, but for the most part, it was static. Now collaboration is the whole purpose. Even more static websites, like Wikipedia, require the input of millions of people. You’re always logged in, connecting accounts to other accounts, and leverage your social circles to crowdsource data. That is/was Web 2.0, but now it’s time for the next step. The materianet marks the beginning of Web 3.0. Those early elements are still there, but we’re starting to access them in new ways. It used to be a family had a single computer that everyone had to share. Then, individuals began owning their own machines independently. But now we each have multiple devices. A single person in the developed world will sometimes use several ways of connecting. They’ll have a desktop for long-term tasks at home, or at work, a laptop for portable long-term tasks, a phone for spontaneous needs, a tablet to play games while they’re on the toilet, and a smartwatch for convenience and behavior tracking. Google came out with niche glasses that were a bit ahead of their time, but are recently making a comeback, and a few companies are working on other types of glasses and goggles, so a few people have things like that too. And again, this is just all one person who owns all this, and few question those choices. Go back to 1960 and list all the computers you have to someone, and they’ll think you’re lying. Now things are expanding even more. Coincidentally, I just received my Google Home Mini speaker last night; free from a new wind energy program I signed up for. This uses extremely limited artificial intelligence to answer questions, keep track of my schedule and favorites, and even make jokes. There are tons of useful auxiliaries that the people who were working on the early internet could only dream of, if that. It can control personal security cameras, lights, thermostat, this machine that heats baby bottles to the optimum temperature, and more. We will one day be able to control everything we have in the home from a phone, or a smaller form factor, like electronic clothing. I haven’t even mentioned how much smarter cars are becoming, or how virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, as well as true artificial intelligence, are already giving us glimpses of what may someday be called Web 4.0. So thank you materianet, or whatever your name is, for making my life easier, and keeping me connected to all my things. I can’t wait to watch you grow.