Monday, December 17, 2018

Microstory 996: Secular Volunteerism

First of all, I’m not saying that religious volunteerism doesn’t do any good in the world, or that it doesn’t get results, but it’s not the way we should be doing it. There are thousands of charitable organizations in the world, and the list of ones with no religious affiliation can fit on a single, easy-to-read, webpage. I seriously have that list up right now, and even though there are some great outfits on it, it’s pathetically small. Why is secular charity better than the religious kind? Well, it’s all about intention and motivation. The reason anyone volunteers for the Salvation Army, for instance, is because they want to get to heaven. The bible teaches them that if they’re good people, God will bring them into the fold, so they can serve in the kingdom for eternity. I used this quote in my Stepwisdom series, but it’s just too good, so I have to say it again. The credited writer for eighth episode of the 2012 show Alcatraz is Robert Hull, so it is he who I credit for coming up with the line, “spirituality is for those seeking understanding. Religion is for those seeking reward.” What the bible doesn’t really get into—and I use this book as an example, because I’m more familiar with it—is altruism. It is not altruistic to help someone with the expectation that you’ll gain cosmic points for it. Just because you’re not expecting the people you’re helping to be the ones to return the favor, doesn’t mean you’re not doing it for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t matter who’s meant to reward you, you’re still doing it for the purpose of that reward. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make you a good person. To be clear, religion isn’t the only cause of egoistic charity. Those thousand dollar plates still ultimately cost hundreds of dollars, because of all the lavish decorations, in the expensive venue. You should donate money because you believe in a given cause, and want to support its efforts, and that should be enough for you. If you just want to be treated to a lovely dinner of elf food, while you schmooze with rich folk, then you’re probably also rich enough to just go out and do that. You don’t have to pretend you actually care about homeless people, or the whales, or whatever the event purports to be bolstering. In fact, I hate to break it to you, but no one believes you anyway. Always assume you’re being more transparent than you think. So I do understand that religion isn’t the only problem our society has when it comes to volunteerism and charity, but it is the most obvious and prominent. It’s great that you want to contribute, and it’s hard to argue against you, even if you’re just doing it for the recognition. I certainly can’t tell you that we would be better off if you didn’t do anything. I just want you to question, and be cognizant of, your true reasons.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: May 19, 2161

The group said their goodbyes to Khuweka, and also to Avidan, who only Vitalie really knew. Then they went back to The Prototype, and plotted a course for their home universe. It took them about another year to travel the distance across the bulkverse. Leona stepped out and looked at the magical watch Mario Matic had given her. It was showing that present day was May 19, 2161.
Vitalie was just stepping out as well when she heard Leona announce where they were. She scrambled back inside, colliding with Kallias in her attempt.
He hugged her, and ushered her behind him before getting into a defensive position. “What? What is it?”
Leona looked around too, but didn’t see anything. They were just standing on the outskirts of some arcology somewhere. Nothing else was around.
“I’m not going out there,” Vitalie said. “May 19, 2161. I know that date. This is the day that hundreds of innocent people are forcibly pulled up to Durus as it gets this close to crashing into Earth.”
“She’s right,” Leona realized. “I skipped over it because of my pattern, but this is the Deathspring.”
“What’s going on up there?” Vito questioned. He teleported out of the machine, and landed next to Leona. “You said something about death.”
“The Deathspring,” Leona explained. “It’s what caused a second influx of unwilling people to move to Durus.”
“Oh yeah, I remember. What time is it, though? It doesn’t happen until 10:01 PM UTC.”
Kivi came to the entrance. “We’re in Kansas City.”
Leona looked back at her watch. “If Vito’s right about when the Deathspring occurs—”
“Which I am.”
Leona continued, “...then we only have a few hours to find the Escher Knob, and get the hell out of this time period.”
“I am not leaving this thing,” Vitalie said firmly. “I don’t know if it’ll protect me, but I know what happened to my fathers will happen to me if I get stuck out there.”
“That’s okay,” Leona assured her. “Someone has to stay and look after Dubravka. In fact, no one has to go but me.”
“I’m going with you,” Dubra argued.
“No, you’re not.”
“You’re my mother, and you’re meant to take care of me.”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing. Vitalie is right, this is the safest place in the world right now.”
“I’m older than I look, by two years!” Dubra cried.
“You most certainly are,” but I made your mom a promise, and I’m keeping it. We have exposed you to far too much danger already, and that stops now.”
“You can’t hold me here!” Dubra kept yelling.
“I can,” Vito said to her, then turned to Leona. “Vitalie and I will keep her safe.”
“Thank you,” Leona said to him. She pulled her sleeve back to consult her Compass of Disturbance tattoo. “I’m heading this direction.”
“I’ll go with you,” Kallias said.
“I would love the company.” She knelt down and addressed little Dubra. “I need you to stay here and be good. Do what Uncle Vito and Aunt Vitalie tell you.”
Dubra was still upset, but couldn’t fight anymore. “Fine.”
“Where did Kivi go?” Kallias asked.
“Kivi,” Kallias repeated.
“She’s not here. She’s never been here. How do you even know Kivi? Wait, was Kivi just here?”
“Uhh, yeah. She’s been with you this whole time.” Kallias was confused.
Leona looked around. “Kivi? Kivi! Keep shakin’ that bush!” She waited for a moment in the silence. “Hm, she’s gone now.” She looked back down at her tattoo, and started following it forwards.
“That’s it?” Kallias questioned. “She randomly disappears, and you just shrug it off? That’s cold.”
“Nobody shrugged,” Leona replied. “Disappearing is her thing. She spends more of her time gone than she does in existence. Nobody freaks out anymore when I disappear for an entire year. She’ll be back later.”
Now Leona shrugged. “No way of knowing.”
They walked for about a kilometer before it started feeling like this was going to take too long, so they stashed their bags under a bush, and went into a light jog, picking up the pace over time. The tattoo wasn’t telling them how far it was, but it never navigated the Prototype too far away, teleportation possibilities included. As a cop, Kallias was well in shape for this, but Leona had more motivation, so she fought through the pain. They would need to call Vito for help soon, though, since the Deathspring was nearly upon them.
Finally they came across the only structure in the whole wilderness. It was fairly small, so Leona was able to walk the perimeter, which confirmed for her that this was their destination. Once she had come back around, Kallias knocked on the door. A man poked his head out and scowled at them. “You will not have them!” Then he violently slammed the door shut behind him.
“Rude,” Leona said.
“Hold my purse,” Kallias said jokingly. He took the HG Goggles out of his back pocket, and held them against his face, which was disgusting, since they had just spent years embedded in the face of a rotting corpse. He leaned down, and stared at the door handle for a few minutes, then he leaned back, and kicked the door in with his foot.
“How did you know the goggles could do that?” Leona asked him.
“When you want something to do something, you just have to try it. If it hadn’t worked, I still would have kicked in the door; it just would have hurt more.”
“Who are you?” the man inside the building spat. “What do you want from me?” He was clutching a lockbox tightly to his chest. “These are mine!”
“We only want one thing,” Leona told him.
He hissed. The man actually hissed, like some kind of mall worker.
Kallias added, “it’s about yea big, goes on a door. Opens any door.”
He hissed louder. “Don’t come any closer!”
Leona tried to step forwards, but the man held up his hand, and she was suddenly back outside of the building, looking at herself stepping forwards, and disappearing. She also saw Kallias fall back to his cop instincts, and immediately shoot at the man. But he was sent back out of the building as well, where he promptly fell to his back, and clutched his shoulder. Blood was leaking out between his fingers. Leona dove down to him. “You shot him!” she screamed back at the man.
“He shot himself!” the man hissed.
“You teleported him, and the bullet, so it’s your fault!” Leona volleyed.
“Semantics.” He opened the box as he stepped closer to the exit. “If you want me to shoot you, I will. It’s programmed to banish you outside of a several kilometer radius.”
“Is that a teleporter gun?” Leona asked him.
“You can’t have it! This is going to protect me from the Deathspring!”
“Unlikely,” Kallias said as he was struggling to get to his feet. “I’m fine,” he said to Leona. “If those are temporal objects, they are putting you in more danger. They’re going to be drawn to Durus. We have to get them out of here before that happens. You can come with us.”
Tremors started shaking the building. “It’s happening!” He scrambled to get the teleporter gun back into his box, while pulling out a rock. “Luckily, I have the Stone of Gravity.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” Leona said.
“Well, now you have.” He pointed to her body. “You can tell Durus all about it.”
She looked down at herself. She was waving and swirling, like the air above a flame. She looked back at the man, who was doing the same thing. It would seem the Stone of Gravity wasn’t working.
“What?” the man shouted. “No! He lied to me! He lied!” He started flying up towards a massive bulge in the sky, as did Leona.
She was several meters above the Earth when Kallias jumped, and caught up to her. “Save yourself!” she ordered him.
“Shut up!” Blood was still dropping out of his shoulder wound, but Kallias ignored it and took his gun back out of its holster. He straddled Leona by the stomach to free both his hands, so he could aim right above them. He fired the gun.
Leona looked up to see the lockbox fall right down to them. She lifted her own arms, and caught it. Then she rested it on her chest so she could get it open and take out the teleporter gun. She quickly programmed it to take them back down to the surface, and shot Kallias point blank.
“Mom!” Leona could hear Dubravka’s young voice scream to her.
Leona found her bearings, and looked over to the Prototype, which was only a dozen meters away. “No! Don’t!”
Dubra was already running out of the prototype, Vitalie at her tail. They were both pulled into the air. Kallias sprang into action, grabbing the teleporter gun from Leona’s hands, and aiming it towards the girls. It was clear that his wound was making it harder than normal. He fired the gun, and hit Vitalie. She appeared back at the ground. He tried to shoot Dubra as well, but nothing come out.
“It needs to charge!” Leona yelled, but it didn’t matter. It would take at least a few minutes to charge, and could take hours, depending on how efficient this particular model was.
Vito ran out out of the Prototype. “I’ll get her!” but he couldn’t do it either. Something fell right on top of his head, and started tearing at his face. It was the same kind of monster that attacked Leona and Serif when they returned to the timeline months from now. Kallias, who was now barely standing up, walked forward and empty his gun into the creature, which was more than enough to kill it. The monster was strong enough to cause quite a bit of damage to Vito. Though he was able to heal himself using the Serif-nanites that swam throughout his body, by the time he had recovered enough to try and get Dubra back, it was too late. Durus and Earth’s near-miss was over, and the former was on its way out of the solar system forever.
The group sat on the ground against the Prototype in a stupor. “I don’t know why we tried so hard to save her,” Leona said. “This was all predestined. If she didn’t go to Durus now, she couldn’t be one of the passengers on The Warren years from now, which means she couldn’t save my life. So much happened because of today. We couldn’t change it, and if we had, what would our world look like? What would theirs?”
Vito crawled over and breathed on Kallias’ shoulder to heal it. “That doesn’t mean you could have just smiled and let her go. The real question is, what would the world look like if we never tried to fight against impossible odds to protect our children?”
Hogarth suddenly appeared from one of her explosions, crashing hard into the wall of the Prototype, and falling to the ground next to Vitalie. She caught her breath, and took the Rothko Torch out of her bag. “You better keep this instead.” She tossed it over to Leona, then something in the lockbox caught her eye. “Oo, you have a home stone.”
“What? Kallias asked. He lifted the rock from the hissing man’s box. “This thing? The guy said it was a Stone of Gravity.”
“What the hell is a Stone of Gravity? No, supposedly that will take you back to when and where you were before you started traveling through time, like a one-time reset button, except it doesn’t undo everything you changed. So, that’s not the right analogy.” She started getting lost in her own thoughts.
“You should take it,” Leona said to him.
Kallias checked for everyone else’s approval with glances.
“Don’t look at me,” Vitalie said. “I just barely escaped going back to where I was born. I belong here.”
The others smiled at him kindly. He set the box down on the ground, and placed the goggles inside. “Here’s the Escher Knob, and the HG Goggles, and some other things that should be interesting.”
They said their goodbyes to yet another compatriot, then watched him squeeze the stone, and go back home.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Buffer (Part XI)

The thing about time is that it never stops. Even the most powerful of temporal manipulators cannot stop time completely. They may be able to slow it down to a snail’s pace, but it never stops. It’s been hypothesized by some of the more studious time travelers that stopping time—since this would halt all atomic movement—would effectively destroy the universe. Even if someone attempted to create a local bubble of absolute zero, all photons heading in the direction of the bubble would also have to be frozen, thus the bubble of nothingness would expand until consuming literally everything. On a more social level, the fact that time never stops has led to a level of uncertainty that even time travelers must respect. No matter what you know about the future, or even the past, anything can change; sometimes for the better, sometimes not, and sometimes it’s a bit of a gray area. After more and more discussions, the solar system’s leadership reneged on their deal to provide the Freemarketeers with resources. Since they didn’t technically own The Sharice Davids, they couldn’t stop its crew from transporting them to Bungula, but they weren’t going to give them anything else.
Like most planets, Bungula was a nasty, inhospitable environment. Most of the people who were looking forward to migrating to exoplanets were fitted with transhumanistic upgrades that would help them survive. The Freemarketeers did not have these luxuries, because they were free, and most rejected them on principle. The ones who were fine with the contradiction would be looked down upon by their peers, so they too were just normal people. Without protective habitats, no natural human would be able to survive on Bungula’s surface for longer than a few minutes. The conundrum here was that the Freemarketeers were still a cancerous tumor that needed to be excised from the otherwise healthy body. Ecrin, Sharice, and both versions of Holly Blue held a meeting to discuss other options. They thought about calling upon the aid of people with time powers, perhaps the Trotter, or the doorwalkers, but ultimately decided against this. What little the majority of the system knew about temporal manipulation, they chalked up to some fancy molecular teleportation, which was a perfectly normal human advancement. Basically, they still didn’t know about salmon and choosers, and just thought scientists had invented stable teleportation. The most likely outcome of the Freemarketeer exodus was their self-destruction, but there was a chance they would survive, and then thousands of people had all this knowledge they weren’t meant to have.
So the crew went back to their plan to get rid of them on Bungula, but to prevent themselves from becoming mass murderers, they would need to gather life-saving resources on their own. The older Holly Blue, from the alternate timeline, who was usually just called Weaver, had an idea. “It’s called the Insulator of Life.”
“Let me guess,” the younger Holly Blue from this timeline said, “it insulates life?”
“That’s right,” Weaver answered. The two of them had just spent the last year constructing a massive machine called a cylicone, but were still only about halfway done. Not even Weaver herself seemed to know how it worked, but she had come up with it in a dream. At its most basic level, it was a cone with its tip cut off—which was referred to as a frustum—inside of a cylinder. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of embellishments and flourishes inside and out that made it far more complex, and gave it the ability to be something more than just a funny shape. They were also what was making the process take so long. Though not the only shape capable of operating as a positive feedback loop, it was the most stable form of something called an echo chamber. Alone, it possessed no power, but it would reverberate and intensify someone else’s time power for an infinite duration. Though more complicated than this, The Weaver had essentially invented a perpetual motion engine.
“How exactly does it insulate life?” Brooke asked.
“However it needs to,” Weaver replied. “It senses life around it, and provides whatever is necessary to keep it going.”
“I am centuries old,” Ecrin said, “and I have never heard of this.”
“It was a pretty well-kept secret in my reality, I imagine it’s the same here.”
“Where did it come from?” Holly Blue asked.
The Weaver said nothing.
Holly Blue squinted at her. “Where did it come from? Did you invent it?”
The Weaver still said nothing.
“What’s got you scared?” Brooke pressed. “Why wouldn’t you want to answer that.”
“I’m sorry,” Weaver stammered, “I...uhh.”
“What is it?”
Weaver took a breath and found her voice. “Sorry, no, we did not invent it. I hesitate to answer because I don’t have an answer. I should. I should know where it’s from, because I’ve studied it, but I know nothing. I asked Darko Matic to thread it to its origin, and it nearly killed him. It doesn’t have a past or a future, which doesn’t make any sense, because it’s a physical object you can hold in your hands, but it behaves like something that doesn’t exist.”
“This sounds dangerous,” Ecrin said. “Should we even be considering it?”
“It’s not dangerous,” Weaver clarified. “It’s just...mysterious. I’ve postulated that it comes from another reality, one that was earlier than mine. Or maybe it’s from a different universe entirely, I don’t know. It’s my white whale, really, even though I’ve been in possession of it.”
“Do you know where it is now?” Brooke asked of her.
“Last I saw it, I was giving it to The Horticulturalists, so they could procure samples of the earliest plants, but that was in my timeline. I’ve no clue where it is here and now.”
They all had defeatist looks on their faces.
“I may know someone, though,” Weaver added. “Darko’s mother, Catania Porter can’t thread objects like her son and granddaughter. She can, however, sense every object in the entire universe. Normally she can apport them to her location, if she wants, but the Insulator of Life is special. Hopefully she can still tell you where it is, but you’ll have to get it yourself.”
“We’re fine with that,” Ecrin said. “I just want to make sure this mission gets completed before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?” Brooke asked her.
Ecrin didn’t answer.
Weaver cleared her throat, and blushed. “I’m going to need to do something weird to summon The Porter, so just don’t laugh.”
“Why would we laugh?”
Weaver stood up and started stumbling around the cargo bay like a drunkard. She would approach something vaguely shaped like a human, and recite a special phrase, then when she didn’t receive a response, she would move onto something else. “I am the keymaster, are you the gatekeeper?” She did this over and over again until she finally reached a door. She opened it to reveal a woman on the other side.
“Are you the keymaster?” the woman asked. “I am the gatekeeper.” Then the two of them smiled at each other and hugged.
“I hate that you make people do that,” Weaver complained. “I looked so foolish.”
“I think it’s fun. You don’t mind, do you?” she asked the rest of the group.
They were still smirking, trying to stifle laughs. “Nope, not at all.”
“I like sex jokes,” Holly Blue noted, but no one knew what she was talking about.
After exchanging pleasantries, Porter agreed to get to work. She tilted her head deeply, like she was looking through a keyhole, or knocking water out of her ear. She closed her eyes and moved her head around, trying to find a good signal. “How far are we from Earth?”
“It’s on Earth?” Brooke was excited. “We’re only a week out.”
“No, I don’t think it’s there. It’s just that I’m used to seeking out objects on Earth. It’s like the internet. I don’t just go straight to the source; I jump from node to node, until I reach my destination. Out here in space, objects are too far apart.”
“But you don’t think it’s on Earth?” Weaver asked.
Porter continued to search the cosmos with her mind. “It’s almost certainly not. No, I’m not sensing it there. It’s the opposite direction. Part of my problem is my lack of understanding of the solar system. I need a map, to get my bearings.” A holographic map of solar system appeared over the table. Sharice had been listening. Porter studied the map for a few minutes, intuitively turning it around with her hands as necessary. “This can’t be all there is,” Porter said. “I can feel it beyond what we see here.”
“Sharice,” Brooke said simply.
The map expanded to show the entire heliosphere.
“There!” Porter shouted, pointing at a spot near the edge. “Where is that?”
“That’s the Oort Cloud,” Holly Blue replied. “It will take us a year at current speeds. Fortunately I just upgraded Sharice’s drives, but it would be a whole lot faster if we had that cylicone finished.”
“By the time we finish working on it,” Weaver reminded the group, we will have made it to where Porter pointed.”
“The system leadership wants the Freemarketers out of the system yesterday,” Ecrin said. She expanded the map manually, and drew a line from the cloud to Alpha Centauri. “It’s not exactly on our way there, but it’s not too far out of the way. You will leave within the week, pick the insulator up on your way out, and then go FTL.”
“What do you mean by that?” Brooke questioned. “Are you not coming?”
Ecrin took a deep breath. “I am relieving myself of command, and leaving the Sharice.”
“Why? I thought you said you wanted to finish this mission.”
“I wanted to see you go off on the mission, but I’m afraid I can’t be there,” Ecrin explained, still cryptically. “I have been tapped for something else.”
Holly Blue frowned. “For what?”
“I can show you,” Ecrin began, “but you have to promise to not freak out.”
“We can’t promise that,” Brooke interrupted Holly Blue, who was about to agree to something before understanding it. “We can promise to be open-minded, though.”
Ecrin considered this. “Sharice, disarm the teleporter shields. Let our guest on board.”
Ecrin surely knew lots of people who could teleport, but who would the crew not want her to be involved with? They got their answer when a white monster appeared before them. It was the same one who had kidnapped her a few years ago. Brooke stood up defensively, and pulled out a weapon.
“Guns always fall out when you open your mind!” Ecrin said to her as she was stepping between the Maramon, and Brooke’s firearm.
Brooke kept her gun trained as close to her target as possible with a friendly blocking the way. “Not if you know how to use it.”
“Crew, this is Relehir, also known as The Repudiator. He’s on our side.”
Brooke still didn’t budge. “He’s the one who was trapped on The Warren when his universe separated from ours.”
“Yes,” Ecrin confirmed. “He’s been living amongst humans all this time, and he’s more like us than them. In fact, he’s a warrior...against the Maramon.”
“And he’s indoctrinated you to his cause?” Brooke supposed.
“I would use the word recruit,” Ecrin argued.
“He’s the only Maramon I know of in this universe. Who exactly will you be fighting?”
“We’ll be leaving the universe,” Ecrin said. “There’s a machine called the Prototype—”
“I don’t need the details,” Brooke interrupted. “I just need to know you’re of sound mind and body.”
“I am,” Ecrin tried to assure her. “I’ve been thinking over his offer since he first gave it to me. We haven’t even been in contact, so it’s not like he wore me down. I’m a lifelong protector; no matter how many times I try to retire. He’s giving me an opportunity to help, and I have to take it, because I think I’ve done all I can here.”
A stranger suddenly walked up behind Brooke, and pushed her arm down to lower the weapon. “It’s okay, mother. I’ve been looking into this Maramon. He’s legit.”
“Sharice?” Brooke asked, stunned. “You’re wearing a humanoid substrate.”
“Yes. I based it on what a child born of you and Goswin would look like. Do you like it? Weaver built it for me.”

Friday, December 14, 2018

Microstory 995: Panda Neglect

This is a quite unpopular one, and is probably too negative for this list, and I realize that. You may be asking, why would you not want to save the pandas? Well, I’m not suggesting we go out and murder a bunch of animals, but we should certainly stop wasting all of our resources on protecting them. 99% of animals that have ever lived on this planet have gone extinct, a great many of them dying out in the third mass extinction event. To be sure, humans are the cause of a lot of death, but we can’t be blamed for most of this. When it comes to evolution, there are three general outcomes. The first is that a mutation can become a positive genetic trait, leading to an advantage which allows that species to survive. The second is a neutral trait, which doesn’t have that much effect in the long run. It often leads to subspecies, because the individuals who do not possess the trait are still doing fine. The third is a negative trait, and will lead to death. If it doesn’t help the species to survive, then the mutated creature will likely die before passing on their genes, and the rest of the population won’t have to worry about it. Then you have the panda. Pandas separated from the rest of the bear family tree about three million years ago, likely due to environmental restrictions. While they were originally well-designed for an omnivorous diet, scientists believe there wasn’t enough meat around, which essentially forced them to subsist on what was available. For as little nutrition as bamboo provides, it certainly grows quickly, and would have a hard time going extinct itself. The problem is that the panda doesn’t care how quickly bamboo grows. It prefers to eat the sprouts, which are about half as nutritious, which means a panda has to eat twice as much; ultimately half of their own body weight. Can you imagine eating *cough* thirty-six kilograms *cough* of food a day? The biggest argument against panda conservation is how much we’re wasting on breeding them when they’re better off doing it in the wild. We’ve all heard how dumb these animals are, and how bad they are at sex, but the reason they’ve survived this long is they’re actually not all that bad at it in the wild. They’re only bad at it in captivity, because....well, wouldn’t you be? If we want to save the pandas, then we should leave them be. The reason we have to work so hard protecting other species, like elephants, is because other forces are working against us, but there’s not a huge market for panda meat. That’s right, all your efforts to save them are actually harming them. We can’t change what they choose to eat, but we can choose to ignore them. Set the pandas free, and leave them alone. If they die out, then that makes me a saaaad panda. But also not, because I don’t care that much; they mostly did it to themselves.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Microstory 994: Research and Planning

I once estimated that, using my own personal style, writing requires 83% research and planning, 11% actual writing, and 6% marketing. These numbers were chosen mostly because of their symbolic value, but the general ratio holds up. When I know where a story is going, typing it up doesn’t take all that long, and until I started this website, I didn’t do all that much of it. I also didn’t market my work before, so those last two numbers should have probably been even lower. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent years working on my canon, sometimes to an outrageous extent. Before I started writing the third major arc for this year’s volume of The Advancement of Leona Matic, I used an architecture program to design the basic layout of the arcology they would be spending a lot of their time in. The other day, several weeks after the arc ended, I came up with what I believe to be a superior design, and reworked the whole thing. Will my characters ever return to one of these structures, and if they do, does it matter exactly how far the 3D printer would be placed from the door? The answers are maybe, and not at all. My attention to detail has benefited my stories greatly. You could ask me what a miacid is, and I would be able to explain it to you, even though I only mentioned the animal two or three times, and mostly only in passing. I know all the names of the fictional uninhabited planets that share the solar system with the habitable ones my characters live on, and at some point, I’ll probably number and name the moons. The idea is that, if I can spout random trivia about the worlds in my stories, then you can better suspend your disbelief that this is real. Hopefully it will feel less like a made up tale, and more of an account of actual events. I think it makes it easier to empathize with my characters when you can imagine them actually existing.

Of course, all this work comes at cost. The target date for what was originally meant to be my first book was Christmas of 2004. As the years passed me by, I altered the storyline accordingly, working in time jumps to 2008, and later another one to 2012. I would be doing the book a disservice if I wrote longer or more time jumps now that we’re coming up on 2019, so if I ever manage to get it published, you’re just going to be reading it without an understanding why I wrote it as a period piece. The truth is that the main character’s parents have their own stories to tell, which take place in a fixed time period, as does stories that come after. So I can’t just find and replace every date reference to bring them closer to present day. Just think how absurdly old Tony Stark’s father would had to have been when he conceived him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his and Steve Rogers’ stories are inextricably linked to the Second Great War, so the timeline can’t ever work out as perfectly as it did when the comic books were first being written. I don’t like jacking with narrative timelines, so that story ends with an epilogue in 2013, and the hint of a follow-up, and readers will just have to be okay with that. It’s not the only one like that either. All of my researching and planning has also contributed to a profound lack of progress, which again, was only recently alleviated by this website. I’m basically my own worst enemy when it comes to producing content that’s both good, and timely. I would like to think that this all works out for me, and the entertainment chapter of my life will end on a high note in the late 21st century, like I had always intended, but I can’t say that for sure. I’m only now recognizing how dumb some of my stories will seem if I wait too long to release them. Self-driving cars were a futuristic concept when I first came up with Detectives of Science, but I can’t treat them as a new technological development if it doesn’t come out for another twenty years, can I?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Microstory 993: Television

Tonight, I finished watching the annual crossover serial from the Arrowverse on CW, which this time lasted three nights. For those of you not in the know, that’s when all (read: most) of the DC comics adaptations come together and fight a big bad together. I also watched The Kids Are Alright, but I’m trying to get to bed earlier, so that’ll be it. The funny thing about the latter show is that this latest episode was about the family receiving a far too generous gift from the cool uncle in the form of a quite expensive television set. I promise I did not do that on purpose, because I am not allowed to use my power to see the future for my own personal gain. I get a lot of judgment from people for how much TV I watch. What those assholes don’t realize is that watching TV has been a bonding experience in my family since before I can remember. We don’t just sit there with blank looks on our faces, and then frankenstein monster our way to our beds. We laugh together, and discuss what happened. We critique the style, and predict where the story is going. Thanks to DVR technology, we can now pause any program, and talk about it in the middle of it without missing anything. Sometimes my mother and I will spend more time with an episode paused, talking about things—prompted by what we’ve just seen or not—than it would have taken to just watch it straight through. I’ve always loved TV, and I won’t apologize for it. It’s a beautiful form of entertainment, and I challenge you to come up with non-judgy, legitimate arguments against that. A good piece of television has smooth narrative structure, interesting characters, a driven plot, and compelling motives. What’s different about it than other performances, like films or plays, or musicals? Why is it that this one type of content is lesser than the others? Because it’s newer? New does not equal bad, valid conclusion.

I once met a guy who only watched a single show, Chuck. I didn’t feel comfortable pressing him, but I wanted to know how that worked. How did he find out about it, and more importantly, if he liked it, what gave him the impression there weren’t any other shows he might like? It didn’t sound like he ever tried anything else, and now that the series is over, is that just it for him and scripted television? Has he spent all these years only watching sports games, and not even bothering to see what else is out there? In contract, at one point, I was estimating my television watching habits at sixty to eighty hours a week, depending on how busy my life was at the time, or which season it was. The advent of internet video has made the estimation much more difficult. I now watch content on YouTube, Netflix, and I do have a history of illegal streaming, but I imagine the number hasn’t changed much. There’s so much more to choose from than in years past, but I try to be more selective than I once was. I didn’t just watch things I didn’t like to punish myself. I was using it for research, and I don’t regret the things that I learned. It’s made me a better writer. Everyone loves Ernest Hemingway, but the man only ever wrote about himself. His life was pretty adventurous, which is great, but it was still impossible for him to relate to others, because he didn’t have the opportunities that I do. I know a lot about how people work, because I’ve spent all this time observing; much of the time with characters. Anyway, I’m getting a little off topic, and repeating information I’ve already told you in other stories, but the point is that I love television. I always have, and I always will. If you don’t, then fine, but you’re missing out on some really great stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Microstory 992: Astrophysics

For the most part, I didn’t get a lot out of the classes I took in college—or high school, for that matter—but there were a few gems. There was a math class that taught me some interesting real world skills, focusing less on solving equations, and more on time and project management. There was a fascinating linguistics course that was just an hour of looking at examples of words in language after language, and trying to comprehend its grammar. I also took a fun astrophysics course that was tailored towards people who weren’t planning on going into the field. More classes should be like that. I understand that college is meant to help you figure out what you want to do with your life, but there aren’t a lot of people who hated algebra all through grade school who are suddenly going to become world-class mathematicians. I ended my own dreams of becoming an important scientist when I started failing science in eighth grade. A love of science remained in my heart, but I ignored it, because I felt that I needed to work on my writing. This class, however, reminded me why I was interested in the subject in the first place. I have horrible retention, just as a general rule, which is why I like to watch my favorite shows at least twice, so I couldn’t tell you anything I learned in this introductory physics class, but I remember loving it. I remember it igniting new fires of my canon. It, combined with my binging of the Stargate franchise a few years later, opened a plethora of science fiction stories that I wouldn’t have been able to tell without it. Because of Tolkien, I thought I was a fantasy writer, but that isn’t me at all. I’m all about space and time travel. Everything in this universe is physics, but I single out astrophysics because it involves things that are so foreign. I want to go out and see the rest of the cosmos; not that I’ve seen everything on this world. I want to live on alien worlds, and seek out alien life. Hmm, I guess I just want to be on the Enterprise.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Microstory 991: Wikipedia

In 2005, shortly after reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I decided to go online and find out whether someone had tried to make an actual version of the all-encompassing tome. I discovered that a website inspired by it did indeed exist, and I even read a few articles on it, but it has ultimately failed to gain traction. By then, Wikipedia had already been created, and I had heard of it, but it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it is today. One thing that seems universally true in all of science fiction is that we’re the only ones who invented an internet. Sure, aliens communicate with each other long-distance all the time, but the breadth of the web has apparently never been replicated. Our internet is potentially accessible to all. Anyone can use it for practically anything they want, as long as it doesn’t break any regional laws, and sometimes even then. It’s full of lies, jokes, and totally conflicting information. It’s been used to bring people together, and tear them apart. For the aliens, they only need a network to share relevant information, and there’s no need to have any fun with it. There are very few things that the internet truly needs to remain sustainable, and good or not, a network like this is probably in our distant future. I wrote about this once as a joke in a tweet, but I’m about fifty percent certain that almost every webpage in the future will be completely wiped out within the next thousand years.

Wikipedia, or some similar service, will serve as the keystone for this new internet. It will be a repository of all human knowledge; our history, our identities, our discoveries, and our mistakes. And there will only be one of these, because in a post-capitalism society, there will be no need for competition. There will also be only one YouTube-like site, and one news source. The latter will be composed by artificial intelligence, and contain exclusively factual content. You may be asking, who would want to live in a world without The Onion, or Twitter, or blogs like this one? We won’t even need Google, because Google operates, not as a search engine—though that is its surface function—but as a web page indexer. The purpose of Google is to find you the best results, but in the future, we’ll only need one result: the answer. This future may sound depressing and unfulfilling, but it will not be without its joy and entertainment. There’s a lot of garbage on the internet, and in fact, I would go so far as to say it’s predominantly garbage. Currently, we live in a three-dimensional world, but unless we interact with each other in real life, we spend most of our time in a two-dimensional setting. The best parts of today’s internet will take one or both of two forms. It will either remain two-dimensional, or become three-dimensional, as virtual reality that’s indistinguishable for base reality is made possible. All the fun things you do on the internet right now; the broadcasting, and chatting, and image sharing, will all be pushed to these virtual realities. You’ll talk with another individual in person, just like you would in the real world. The difference is you’ll be able to teleport to them, and it won’t matter where they are physically. Again, I’m not sure that this is something we should do, but the deeper I go down the rabbit hole of future studies, often while researching on Wikipedia, the more obvious it seems that this is all inevitable. I just hope humanity lasts long enough to see what I am tentatively calling Web 5.0.