New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverIt’s been awhile since I posted anything from my group’s upcoming Yuva anthology. But of course, there’s a reason for that. With time constraints and other commitments competing for our attention, my group and I have had little time for this ongoing project. But now that I’ve finished editing the preliminary draft of Papa Zulu, I’ve had some time on my hands and decided to rededicate it where its needed.

Below is the latest sample from my story Arrivals, the opening story for Part III of our anthology. As you may know, this story involves the colonists of Yuva, over a century after they first arrived, getting news that a Second Wave is on its way. In the last sample, the Planetary Council was discussing what to do, and a joint mission was proposed between the Ministry of Defense and Planetary Research to fly out and meet the ships while they were still in transit.

In this sample, another revelation is made, and it’s not very pleasant one! Read on to learn more…

*                     *                    *

Padda examined the design specs before her, the latest in a series of proposals from the joint task force charged with creating their diplomatic transports. It was now late afternoon and the sun was filtering in through the dome at a slight angle, lending a lovely glow to the arboretum’s generous supply of native specimens.

And in the cumulative radiance of the room, sunlight intermixed with neon-green and purples, the organic light of her Tab’s display glowed and showed her the Ministry’s latest design specs. As expected, the engineers had taken all possibilities to heart, and were producing endless iterations to ensure that the fleet that met the Flotilla would be prepared for any eventuality.

Well, almost any eventuality…

As Padda scanned through image after 3-D image of shuttles with double-hulls, upgraded thrusters, and upgraded acceleration cushions for its crew, she wondered if any amount of planning could prepare them for what they would be encountering soon. In her mind’s eye, she had run several scenarios, some practical and others fantastic. But all of them retained the same mix of awe and terror.

And in that, she knew she wasn’t alone. All over the planet, the spec and interact films were running sims that were based on the impending mission to meet the Second Wave. Word on the QIN had it that most of the simulations were nightmarish, finding an entire crew of dead colonists inside, the work of a hostile organism or a terrible disease. Others had it that the ships were a Trojan horse preceding an invasion, containing some kind of biological or nanotechnological scourge. People always loved to fantasize, and somehow, disaster scenarios remained a powerful draw.

And yet, the paranoid fantasies were not entirely unfounded. Three ships, coming from an Earth that had progressed a full century since Padda’s own ancestors had departed. And every indication they had told them that they were of greater sophistication than the ones that taken part in the First Wave. They had yet to meet them, and already one of their greatest concerns had been confirmed. Those that were on the way would be more advanced than those they were coming to meet.

Yes, despite their virtually identical genetic makeup, there was little doubt that the people they would be encountering on the other side of that airlock would seem very… alien to them. It was a thought that had crept up countless times in the past few months. And each time, she could not help but experience a slight shiver.

Finishing with her perusal of the latest draft plans, she gestured across the surface of her Tab to minimize these and call up the list of her latest messages. At the top of her Inbox, amidst countless requests, referrals, and questions regarding the latest in a million bureaucratic matters, was a message from Motlke. She called it up and looked directly head, preparing for her contacts to broadcast the video directly into her visual field.

She was surprised to see only a small text message appear as soon as it cued up.

My office, 1300 hours. Come alone.

Delete this message upon reading.

The directness and unmistakably clandestine nature of the message surprised her. Waving her hand across the screen, she quickly close and deleted the message, as instructed. Discreetly, she reattached her Tab to her suit, allowing the cells to draw power from her clothes, and left the arboretum.

___

“What are you talking about?” Padda asked, her face suddenly turning cold.

“I assure you, the information is legitimate,” Moltke replied. “My source in Defense says he’s seen all the schematics, even had the chance to peruse some documents on the stated purpose of the design. His exact words were ‘contingency situation’. That leaves very little doubt in my mind as to what it’s for.”

Padda placed her hands in front of her face in prayer fashion and took a deep breath. Though she knew Moltke well enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, her mind simply couldn’t accept what it was being told. She knew the people at Defense were in the habit of expecting and preparing for the worst. But this?

The sheer audacity and clandestine nature of it all, not to mention the severity…

“And he specifically said it was a weapon? There was no confusion on that point?”

“He was very clear,” Moltke said with a nod. Gently, he glided around to the other side of his desk, moving to the dispenser at the wall and requesting some refreshment. “Not only did the plans call for an unmanned craft, my source emphasized that a specific section was designated as ‘payload’. In the parlance of military planners, that means much the same as warhead.”

Padda took another deep breath and placed her hands on her lap. The dispenser began to buzz quietly and pour steaming tea into an awaiting pot, while another began to carefully print out biscuits onto a sheet. The noise suddenly made her realize that she had not eaten in hours and she was in fact quite hungry.

“And did he specify what nature the weapon would take?”

Moltke shrugged and then removed the teapot and biscuits from the dispenser, placing them all a small tray and bringing them over to his desk. He got to the next part as he poured the tea into two cups and handed her one.

“He could not be specific on that point. But, I did some additional checking, on a hunch, and I think I might have found out what Defense might be up to.”

Padda hummed receptively and smelled the tea. He had anticipated her desire correctly by ordering the Darjeeling. After blowing on it a few times, she took a tentative sip.

“And what did you find?”

Moltke took a sip himself and then exhaled hotly.

“Well, as you know, our high-energy labs have been working hard to produce all the antimatter we put in for. And that’s quite understandable, given the quantities that we stressed we would need. However, I placed a call to the labs to see if they had received any additional requests for fuel. As it turns out, the quantity they are now working towards is forty percent higher than what our initial projections called for. Obviously, this was no accident. I had to call in a few favors in order to get the details, but it seems a certain Councilor contacted them and put in for a greater requisition.”

“Let me guess…” Padda placed the cup down and folded her hands on her lap again. “Astrakhan?”

Moltke took another sip, chuckling to himself. “The order was not signed, but it was official and came directly from the Ministry. So between this requisition order, and the blueprints my source witnessed, I’d say it’s pretty obvious what they have planned.”

Padda shook her head. Yes, it was indeed obvious what they were up to. From all outward indications, they were prepping an antimatter warhead, something that could take out the entire Second Wave before it reached Yuva. Eliminate the potential threat before it had a chance to become a real one. But then again, Moltke’s source had used the words “contingency situation”. Was it possible Astrakhan and his colleagues would be giving them a chance to fail first? That seemed like the far more likely situation, and far less audacious. Her mind quickly began to embrace this more appealing of the two options…

“Is there any chance Defense could be planning to use this weapon as a ‘first strike’ option?”

“Possible,” Moltke conceded. “But if that is the case, he and his associates would have much to answer for once the dust settled on the whole affair. Mass murder is not something our people would look kindly upon, no matter how much he and his associates could stress that they did it to protect us.”

Padda accepted that. Granted, Astrakhan would not be the first man in history that was willing to sacrifice his career, even his life, in the name of protecting his people. But somehow, the Councilor just didn’t seem like the type to martyr himself, not when the danger was still so potential and nebulous.

No, she admitted to herself. There’s still time to do things our way.

“Assuming you’re right,” she said at last. “How do we proceed?”

Moltke shrugged again, draining the last of his tea. “I’m really not sure. Knowing doesn’t exactly change the nature of our situation right now, does it?”

Padda shook her head. “No, I guess it doesn’t. If we confront Astrakhan now, he’ll just deny it. I mean, we have nothing solid to charge with him. And if we tip our hand now, he and his people will no doubt just find a more clandestine way to prepare a ‘contingency’ weapon.”

Moltke raised his finger to her in pedagogical fashion. “Not to mention that it will let him know that I have sources within his Ministry. No, in the end, I’m afraid all we can do is… proceed with the plan we have and hope everything works out.”

“And by that you mean that we proceed with the rendezvous, and pray that our exploration teams don’t find something aboard those ships that will convince Defense that they need to blow them all to hell.”

Moltke chuckled. “Yes, that’s about right.” He looked to the biscuits sitting between them, noting that she hadn’t touched a one. “Now eat something, Anuja. You look absolutely famished.”

New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverWow, its been awhile since I’ve posted anything from my group’s Yuva anthology. But that’s been the nature of my writing in these past few weeks, picking up projects I haven’t been working on lately and getting busy on them! And one of the fruits of these labors is the next installment in the short story “Arrivals”.

It came after I finished reading over my friends’ proposal for another story – Amber Iver’s and Goran Zidar’s “Ember Storm”. Somehow, reading another’s work always seem to help stoke the creative fires. And since “Arrivals” has been sitting on my desk without improvement for months now, I figured it was time to dust it off and make some headway!

YuvaAs the story that starts off part III of the anthology, “Arrivals” deals with the Second Wave of colonists who come to the planet of Yuva some 200 years after the first Terraformers set foot on the planet. Naturally, this new group of settlers is fare more advanced than the first, and has made the trip in less time thanks to the superiority of their next-generation, interstellar space ships.

The first segment of the story, which I posted back in March, dealt with the signal from these distant ships being received. This second part deals with the repercussions, as the Yuvan authorities come to see the ships in distant space and realize they will be arriving in orbit within two years time. Preparations need to be made, and the possibilities need to be addressed.

Will these new “arrivals” be friendly, or hostile? Are they simply people looking to join the first wave in creating a new home, or are they intent on pushing them out of the way? And just as importantly, what news and developments are they bringing with them from Earth, a world the Yuvan people have not heard from in over two centuries?

Planetary Research Council
Zarmina, Vogt

Anuja Padda tapped the table before her, loud enough so that everyone arranged in the circle would hear her and come to attention. Slowly, the many conversations that were passing between the board’s various members came to an end and they looked in her direction.

“Good morning, all. I thank you all for coming, especially those who joining us from overseas. I think we can all agree, we meet here under some rather extraordinary circumstances.”

There were mumbles of agreement from all around the table. Padda continued.

“And though I’m sure everyone has had a chance to review the information, I know my colleagues won’t fault me for reviewing our situation for the sake of posterity. Future generations will certainly appreciate it.”

That got a few snickers, and some people looking around the expanse of the room. From multiple angles, holorecording devices were capturing their every word, gesture and nuance. Someday, posterity would be looking back on the recordings made, and she was determined to give them a good show.

She cleared her throat and started from the beginning. “Less then twenty-four hours ago, a remote monitoring station on the western coast on Bonfils reported receiving some anomalous readings. The station assessed the readings and determined that they were in fact a transmission, which appeared to be coming from an extra-planetary source.”

She paused for emphasis. The next segment of her introduction required a few seconds grace, given the heady nature of it all.

“Ever since we arrived on this planet almost two centuries ago, we’ve entertained the notion that one day, another flotilla would follow in our wake, bringing a second wave of colonists to this world. Yesterday, we finally heard from them. And today, we will receive our first glimpse of them.”

The room’s lights suddenly went dark and a million specks of light slowly began to appear around them and grow in luminosity. The image that was now filling the Council meeting room could be seen in every Planetary Research office on the planet, the video feeds that were being captured from orbit streaming in through their own holodisplay devices.

Raising her hands and the image responded, the holodisplay reading the embedded sensors in her fingertips and responding to her manipulations. The image began to move and zoom in on a particular region of space. Holding her left hand steady to prevent lateral movement, she pulled her right hand back several times, increasing the magnification on the desired region. Three grey blobs appeared in this area, indiscernible and bland, until the image improved the resolution.

What they saw then instantly amazed and left them all speechless.

There, at the center of the room and hovering above their heads, were the mottled images of three large space-born craft. Their edges were sharp, their profiles long and contoured. There was no mistaking them for asteroids or any other kind of stellar mass.

“The image quality leaves something to be desired, but as you can see, we are detecting three ships flying in a wedge formation.”

“In other words,” said Councilor Moltke from the other side of the room, “a formation and disposition which matches our arrival exactly.”

Padda nodded, as did numerous others who continued to watch with awe. Within seconds, questions began to follow.

“How long until they get here?”

“Our scopes indicate that at their present velocity, they will arrive in orbit of Yuva in just over two years’ time.”

“What was the message they sent?”

“We don’t know yet, as it was encrypted using a rather complex cipher. But our technicians are sure we can decode it before long. Most likely, it’s a message of greeting.”

“The ships they are using, they’re faster than the ones that brought us here, yes?”

Padda turned to address this question, though it was more of an observation. Given their apparent distance and the timeframe she gave them, one could not help but draw that conclusion.

“Yes, they do appear to be using a form of propulsion technology that is superior to the one that powered the Avincenna, , and . This should come as no surprise, given that they’ve had well over a century to refine their methods.”

“And what of their intent?”

Padda looked around the room to find the source of the question. It appeared to be coming from the back wall, an alcove which was temporarily shaded due to the display of lights above. As the speaker stepped forward, she suppressed the urge to sigh and greeted them politely.

“Minister Astrakhan, this is a surprise. We weren’t expecting a visitor from Planetary Defense.”

“Perhaps if you had invited us to this session,” he said dryly, moving closer to the center of the room. “Nevertheless, my question still stands. What is their intent?”

Padda cleared her throat. “We can’t be sure at this time. However –”

“All we really know is that have a flotilla of ships arriving in our system from Earth. They are more advanced than we are, they have sent a message we can’t interpret, and yet we assume that they are here bringing a new wave of colonists who plan to peacefully integrate into our society.” He stopped and looked at the display; nodded, as if appraising the image and finding something within it that he approved of. “Have you even considered the possibility that their intent might be hostile?”

Padda shook her head. She tried to respond, but incredulity prevented her from finishing her sentence. “I’m sorry, I –”

“It’s not unheard of for new waves of colonists to displace those that came before them,” he continued. “Or have you forgotten your Earth history?”

Padda’s face went warm. “I haven’t forgotten anything sir.”

“Ah, then you recall the last time in Earth’s history when exploration and colonization took place? During the 18th century, many waves of Europeans arrived on the shores of what they liked to refer to as ‘The New World’. In the north, settlers landed in large numbers along the eastern shores, and after clearing the lands of its native inhabitants, subsequent waves of settlers triggered a series of conflicts. Colonies switched hands as their respective nations demanded the right to control the lands that were already spoken for.”

Padda once again suppressed a sigh.

“You’re saying you think these colonists are here to push us out? Or demand we submit to their authority?”

“And why not?” he asked, turning around to face her. If they do possess superior technology, what’s to stop them?”

Low murmurs began to erupt around the room, growing in intensity as more people joined the chorus. It wasn’t long before she could hear remarks being shouted in Astrakhan’s direction. All the while, he continued to look at Padda, a cold stare on his face.

All too quickly, she remembered exactly why she hadn’t invited him to this meeting. She knew he would be likely to raise some pessimistic possibilities. Unfortunately, not inviting him had had the effect of exacerbating the situation. Amidst their awe and distraction, he had managed to sneak in and stir the pot even more.

“Excuse me, everyone!” she said finally. Slowly, silence returned to the room. “Let us not get carried away with speculation. Minister Astrakhan, it is your contention that we do not know what these ships and their crews are doing here, correct?”

“It is not my contention, Madame Councilor. It is a fact.”

She smiled. “Then it would be foolish of us to be taking an alarmist position, would it not? If we are indeed ignorant, we shouldn’t allow such ignorance to manifest itself in fear.”

No one chuckled, but she felt the room respond favorably to her remark. The only one who didn’t appear impressed was Astrakhan. Despite his next words, his face registered no reaction to her rebuttal.

“Indeed, Councilor. It would be foolish to assume the worse anymore than it would to assume the best. Perhaps we can agree then that more information is needed?”

Padda nodded silently. She sensed there was more coming, something she wasn’t going to think too highly of.

“A good first step would be to decode the message they sent. I recall you saying it had a rather advanced encryption?”

“That is correct. A quantum encryption that will take some time to crack.”

“Good…” Astrakhan brought his hands together in front of him. “Then might I suggest Planetary Defense and Resources arrange for a collaborative effort. Between our two ministries, we could be able to dedicate all our quantum processors to the task and break their codes that much quicker.”

Padda was about to respond in the affirmative, but was interrupted by Moltke.

“A valid suggestion, Minister. But might I suggest that we extend that collaboration to include all major settlements? Between all of us, we have over a dozen processors that could be networked and dedicated to the task.”

Astrakhan quickly turned around to confront Moltke. “That would require breaching whatever security we have in place with this matter. The entire planet would be made aware of the arrival of these ships.”

Stepping into the light, Moltke spread his hands in a gesture of defeat. “They are likely to have heard of it already, Minister. If we want them to remain informed and calm on the subject, I can think of no better idea than to get in front of the story. Besides, if Planetary Defense is determined to learn of their intentions is what we want, then any measure that could accomplish this task sooner is in order.”

Astrakhan bristled noticeably, then turned back to look at Padda. His face was still painfully neutral, but she could tell from his body language that Moltke had ruffled his feathers.

“I shall have to speak to my superiors, and of course the Planetary Council will need to be informed, and will retain final approval of anything we propose.”

Padda smiled, inwardly suppressing a sense of sardonic joy. “Yes, they will, Minister. I commend you and my colleague on the sensible recommendations made here today.”

Astrakhan left without further incident. The mood lightened the moment he was gone and the rooms main doors slid shut behind him. Within seconds, murmurs began to erupt again. It wasn’t long before questions began to be asked as well.

“There’s the matter of their arrival,” said another Councilor. “What shall we do to prepare?”

“A welcoming committee?” said another.

“What about a series of shuttles going into orbit to greet them?” said Moltke.

Several heads turned to him and began muttering curiously.

“An orbital meet and greet?” said Padda. “Not a bad idea, but we would still be waiting a full two years before they would be close enough for our standard aerospace jets to reach them.”

“Perhaps then we should prepare something with greater range and capability,” Council Mond suggested, their resident expert on aerospace. “If they are going to be two years in coming, we could dedicate the next year to developing shuttles that could meet them half way.” Everyone in the room began to voice their approval of this idea. Mond took that as an invitation to continue. “Until now, we’ve had no reason to build ships that were built specifically for space travel. But between the orbital stations and our resources here on the surface, we have the capability to build a series of shuttles that could be sent from orbit to meet them in space before they reach our world.

This produced additional hums and vocalizations of assent. Eventually, numerous people looked to Padda again to see if she agreed. After a brief consideration, she nodded approvingly.

“A good idea,” she said. “And one I’m sure Minister Astrakhan will be suggesting himself. No doubt he would emphasize that we need to get a look at these people before we allow them to set foot on our planet.”

“Looks like Planetary Defense and Research will be collaborating on something else.”

Everyone chuckled at Moltke’s remark.

Relaunching an Idea: Apocrypha!

future-city-1Recently, I began to seriously contemplate revisiting an old idea. Not just any old idea, mind you. This was an idea that went back to 2008, to the point where I first decided I wanted to move away from far-reaching, distant future speculative writing. It was also my first real stab at social commentary, predating Data Miners by several months, and which called for a lot of research.

The name I had in mind for it was Apocrypha. Basically, the two threads that came together to form this idea for me were the ideas of Demarchy and Apocalypticism. At the time, the idea that digital technology and wireless communication might one day lead to direct democracy, while religious fervor might actually spike within the current century due to climate change and the social impacts thereof.

singularity.specrepHowever, after a lot of tinkering and writing the story halfway, I found I couldn’t really make the idea work. It was my first attempt to write something contemporary and it really didn’t go so well. I’ve since tried to reboot it at least once and found I could only get a few chapters out of myself. But I couldn’t dispose of it entirely, not after all the work I put into it and all the bits of wheat I felt were buried in the chaff. And so, its lingered in my files for years.

And now, years later and after all the tech research I’ve done, I find myself coming back to the idea. This is due in part to to trends which I’ve been researching in the last few months. The way I see it, by the middle of this century, two trends will be coming together, and its anybody’s guess which will come to determine our future. The one is technological growth and change – culminating in a future of post-scarcity – and the other is Climate Change, which will lead to a future of nothing but!

Megalopolis'And that’s where this story opens up. The year is 2030, and the world is a fast-changing place. On the one hand, mega-cities have taken root in several places, such as the Nanjing Peninsula, the Gangetic Plain, Cascadia, the Northeast Megalopolis, the “Blue Banana”, and the west coast of Japan. Life in these megalopolis’ is increasingly characterized by violence, poverty, unemployment, bigotry, and an ever increasing fast-pace of life due to increasingly advanced technologies trickling down to the street.

Meanwhile, the wealthy and privileged continue to buy up property and move to higher altitudes and latitudes in order to avoid the coming difficulties. It is widely accepted that within the next few decades, waves of immigration and refugees will pour into the coastal and border regions of the developed parts of the world (those that exist outside the equatorial regions that is) and life is likely to get more difficult.

In the midst of all this, a new group is taking to the streets, a group of quasi-apocalyptics who claim that the End of Days is coming. Their message is code-named Apocrypha, since it is really a cover for their more deeply laid plans to usher about something far more sinister. As they say, some spend their lives waiting for the apocalypse, while others are determined to make it happen in their lifetime.

Crashland.ebookThis story was actually the basis for my short Hunluan, which is part of the proposed Grim5Next anthology known as World’s Undone. It’s also the basis for the serial novel Crashland that I began posting over Story Time.me back when 2012 first started. Funny thing, the year 0f 2012 was marked by a lot of dystopian and apocalyptic lit. Maybe that’s why I want to revisit it now, seeing as how we’re in the clear for the time being!

In any case, as soon as Yuva is complete, Pappa Zulu is all wrapped up, and I’m done editing and releasing Data Miners (one of these days I’ll get that damn book finished!), I plan to return to this concept and give it my full attention. There’s plenty of potential to make some predictions about the future and that’s something I can’t pass up! In addition, it was my first attempt at something truly speculative and relevant and I definitely want to pursue that again.

It is my dream, after all, to produce something that capture the spirit of this age, and since Climate Change, break-neck progress, and fears for the future seem to be the dominant trends as I see them, this might just be the book to do it with! Look for it soon, I hope it will please the discerning reader!

climatewars

700th Post!

fireworks1Yes, I know its a bit of an odd number. But I was still pleased and kind of blown away to find out that I was nearing this landmark recently. And I thought, what better excuse for a little retrospective and a chance to say thanks for the support? My my, where to begin? Well, how about the beginning? Since just the other day I was looking back at the first posts I’d made with this site, I think I’ll start there. Seems as good a place as any…

The very first thing I ever wrote on this site was a simple Hello World message. Nothing too flamboyant or special about that one, just the obligatory “how do you do?” It was my second post where I said the things that I wanted to say and really took the time to state what my mission was:

sci_fi“I love science fiction, always have, always will.  But it’s the kind of science fiction that I love which I think is an important distinction. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that sci-fi comes in two varieties: classic and commercial.  The classical kind is the traditional variety that people take seriously… Commercial sci-fi, by contrast, is your basic stuff that owes much to the original masters but really didn’t follow in their footsteps.”

That’s still true of me. I still subscribe to the idea that the real science fiction is the kind that really makes you think and chooses to appeal to the highest possible standard. Might sound elitist, but given the sheer amount of pulp out there that does little more than entertain, I’d say I’m more of a hopeful optimist. I think people are capable of great genius when you give them a chance, and would like nothing better than to create something myself that appeals to the best in us – be it intellectual, moral, or metaphysical.

My first few reviews were really quite simple. I spoke of Frank Herbert – arguably my biggest inspiration – William Gibson, 1984 and Brave New World. I spoke of my own writing and posted some podcasts of Source’s earliest chapters (no longer available), and pasted some reviews my work had received. However, I was nowhere near as prolific as I am today. It was actually quite surprising to see that the first year of my site being operational could be summed up in just over a dozen posts. Especially when I am now at 700 and just over two and a half years into it!

In any case, I began doing movie reviews shortly thereafter, tackling such sci-fi greats as Blade Runner and the Alien franchise, and such guilty pleasures like Independence Day and Starship Troopers. This went on for some time, with me going back and forth between reviewing movies and great books, and once in a while dropping something in about a favorite miniseries, TV show, or something I happened to find inspiring.

brazil53And then something happened. Something which, I gotta admit, I didn’t even know was possible until it happened to me. I got freshly pressed. At the time, I was minding my own business, doing a post about Dystopian Literature, in honor of the fact that I just joined Writer’s Worth and our first project was an anthology of original, dystopian narratives. Feeling inspired by the fact that I was getting a chance to write within my favorite genre, I compiled a list of the most historically relevant and renowned examples I could think of.

That opened the floodgates! Having never exceeded a few dozen views in one day, you can imagine my surprised when I came home for lunch that day and discovered my views numbered in the high hundreds! I checked back as the afternoon progressed, only to see that it had reached into the thousands. By afternoon the following day, the torrent stopped and I was able to take stock of all that had happened. Roughly half my subscribership began following me in that one twenty-four hour period. I got more comments than I knew what to do with and more likes in that one day than the previous year! It felt nice, and I certainly learned something about how this thing called WordPress works!

Since that time, I won’t lie, I’ve been hoping to snag a second FP! No luck yet, but what can you do? Once was nice enough, and since it’s led to my current circulation amongst my fellow bloggers and the general internet-surfing public, I really can’t complain! Besides, several milestones have happened since then, so I shall not linger on this one event. Suffice it to say, as the days and weeks continued to pass, I found my traffic had increased exponentially from my pre-FP days. Not to the point of thousands, but higher than a hundred. That too was nice…

After finishing up the series of Dystopian posts, mainly to address examples other people poitned out and to cover examples of dystopic movies, I began to move onto other ideas. For instance, I had decided it was time to tackle themed-posts, like Cool Guns, Cool Ships, Giant Robots, and the like. These were mighty fun to do and provided endless suggestions from people who knew and liked the same franchises I did, and also saw these lists as an opportunity to stroll down memory lane.

apocalypse-04I also got into serial novel work, as attested to by Crashlands over at Story Time, and posts dealing with futuristic concepts and news. I guess I’d grown a bit tired just talking concepts, books and movies at this point and really wanted to delve into the everday stuff that drives science fiction and the creative imagination that guides people’s writing. At the same time, I continued to pimp any and all work that I was doing with Writer’s Worth, which at this point had morphed into its current group name of Grim5Next, in honor of our first project!

Then came two significant developments, back to back. In June of 2012, I began working with a select group of members from Grim5Next on a new project idea. With the passing of Ray Bradbury and Venus’ transit in front of the sun, it seemed that some of us were bit by the inspiration bug. I can still remember how it all began, in the form of a conversation between my friend and fellow writer, Khaalidah, and myself:

Khaalidah: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.
I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go.
This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Me: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Khaalidah: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

Yuva_coverThat was the beginning of Yuva. In the days that followed, we two enlisted the help of many people: Goran, Jenna, William, and Melanie. Through much conversation, back and forth and debate, we determined the location of our story (Gliese 581g), the tone, the structure, and even began producing the first few installments. As time progressed, we were joined by more writers – Charles, Danielle and Cara – who wanted to contribute and began scooping up the later installments in the series.

The second development was the rash of face-eating and zombie-like behavior which seemed to break out throughout that summer. Feeling compelled to comment on the sort of hysteria which had set in, I wrote a post called “Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse”. Much like my post on Dystopia, that one earned me quite a few views, thought it was not Freshly Pressed. I am thankful it wasn’t, as I began to feel a bit iffy about getting lots of traffic over a series of rather sick and tragic events. But I knew I had to comment since it was a relevant issue and I had something to say about it. I also swore I’d never publicize the names of the psychos responsible ever again, since I didn’t want to contribute to the buzz that so often surrounds twisted criminals.

Since that times, its been more of the same. Every day, I do my best to maintain the pace I’ve now set for myself, and am happy when plenty of people come by to see what I’ve written and tell me they are thankful that I post what I do. Naturally, I often complain that I should be getting paid to do this, but that’s just talk. No, this is something I’d gladly do for free, though ideally I would love it if it was a source of income so I could write indefinitely and not have to worry about money. My hope is one day that all of this culminates and I can write something truly meaninful and influential. That way, this site will represent a beginning to something truly big, and I’ll be able to share that with everyone who’s been here from the beginning.

Okay, that got a little mushy there towards the end. Suffice it to say, I’m very thankful for all that I’ve been able to do with this site thus far, and for being able to connect with all the people that I have. I hope very much to be able to write as many or more posts before I use up my allotted memory and either have to pay for an upgrade or move to another web address. Hopefully, the whole “getting paid to do this” thing will work itself out before then so I have the option of throwing money at the problem 😉

Rest assured, I aint going nowhere anytime soon. So expect to see plenty of me around these parts. Peace out, and thanks to everyone for stopping by, then and now. Bless you all!

fireworks

Anthology Sample: The Torch, Part III

Hello again, fellow readers and writers! It’s been a long time since I produced any samples of writing from my group’s anthology, but rest assured we’ve all been busy creating, editing, and illuminating. I myself have been rather derelict in this pursuit recently, having left my prologe story (The Torch) to sit idle for some time. However, I’m back on it now that I’m back in town and have finished work on the latest segment.

I plan to fashion just a few more to finish the piece, which will introduce the larger story, and then get back to recruiting and editing. As it stands, more than two-thirds of the stories have been claimed, one third have been completed, and the rest are still up for grabs. If you’ve been proffered an invitation, consider this your reminder notice. We still need you! I urge you, be the ones to help this vision of the future reach completion before it is too late…

Anyhoo, here is the third segment of Torch, fresh off the press and straight to your laptops, tablets, ereaders or PDAs. Enjoy!

*                    *                    *

The aged mirror’s appraisal of him was less than flattering. It’s ornate brass frame was a thing of beauty, but the tainted glass looked very much as he felt. He finished with his tie, turned to face the room, and moved back in to face the music. Hours of speeches, public addresses, and his own presentation; and yet, he felt that this portion of the evening was the true test of mettle. Walking through the crowd of entrepreneurs, states people and representatives felt like walking a particularly malicious gauntlet. At least when he was on stage he could pretend to be addressing an empty room. The bright lighting made it almost seem as such.

All part of the job description, he told himself. His first stop was to the couple immediately to his left. The Russian Minister of the Environment, Kirill Minksi. Muktari didn’t recognize the woman on his arm; presumably she was someone he was sleeping with, if not his wife.

“Doctor Muktari, quite the lovely lecture,” he said, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. “It was like being in school all over again.”

“Really?” Muktari said. “Do you mean enlightening or stifling and subject to the idiosyncrasies of a single man?”

Both Minski and the woman on his arm laughed. He quickly turned to her and made the introduction. “Where are my manners? Doctor Magid Muktari, this is Klavdiya Chauchat.”

 “Ah yes, the ballerina?” he said, looking at her with a forced smile. Chauchat made a demure little gesture, something akin to a curtsey. “A pleasure, I assure you.”

“Enchanté,” she replied. She placed her fingers in his hand. Muktari chuckled and planted a gentle kiss on them. How little things had changed. Leading ladies still being escorted by men of power and influence, though now it was to summits rather than balls. At least the décor was still just as elegant, and the refreshments just as expensive.

“I was hoping we’d get a chance to talk, Doctor,” Minsky said next. “You’re reputation in government circles precedes you.”

“Is that so?”

“Why yes,” Minsky said with a look of surprise. “I attended the symposium in Luxembourg back in thirty-eight. You lectured there alongside Pracha and Suzuki. You were very good.”

“I remember,” he said. That was in the days of the Luxemburg Agreement, where he had been arguing for governments to include water usage and forestation as basic protocols. He had been but a mere player in those days, taking his cue from more senior experts. He supposed that Minsky saw it as a compliment to be mentioning him in conjunction with the others.

“I was discouraged that it did not have the desired effect.”

Minski chuckled sheepishly. He knew exactly what Muktari meant by that. As soon as the talks in Luxemburg ended, Minsky and his fellow Senators went home to vote the Agreement down in the Federation Council. Many of Muktari’s own colleagues spent years in the East trying to clean things up as a result.

 “Well,” Minski said, raising his glass. “Here’s hoping you and your colleagues have greater success this time around.”

Muktari stifled the urge to say something even more impertinent. He had learned some time ago that certain minds could not be swayed, and reminding of them of that fact was an even less worthy enterprise. He issued a courteous farewell to Muktari and even more cordiale one to Chauchat.

One down, he thought. So, so many to go.

That prospect immediately became cheerier when he spotted a familiar figure standing at the bar. A glass of single malt with ice in his hand and a Tamaki in his mouth. And of course, he looked about as uncomfortable as Muktari felt.

Grigore Mazzini, a fellow company man he had seen since their work in Tunisia. He remembered those days fondly, or more importantly, the nights when he and Mazzini would steal away from the array they had been working on to sample the night life in the capitol. Naturally, Zimmerman had decided to send people from other sectors in to represent their company. He was hoping he might find it at some point during the evening, as he was about the only face he both knew and could expect genuine kindness from.

“Dining on ashes, old friend?” he said as he approached. Mazzini looked at him curiously and then laughed when he saw who it was.

“Magid, you old provocateur, you!”

They embraced in front of the bar and gave each other a hearty kiss on the cheek, as was Muktari’s native custom. When they pulled apart, they were sure to complement each other on their choice of wear.

“I see you’ve updated your old vice?” he asked, nodding to the companion in his hand. Mazzini looked at it as well and scoffed.

“Only way I could smoke in here was to ensure the gentlemen at the door that they were vaporizers.” He took a long haul and let out a tiny vapor trail, watched as it disappeared a short distance from his lips. “Ah! And it’s just not the same.”

Muktari laughed and leaned against the bar with him. “I don’t suppose I could trouble you for one?”

Mazzini reached into his jacket and produced a case. He raised his glass just as soon as Muktari took one and activated it between his lips.

“Shall I tempt you with a spot of devil’s nectar as well?”

Muktari shook his head. “You know me, one vice at a time. Besides, I need some clarity if I want to make it through the night.”

“Trust me, friend. The only way either of us is making it through the night is with a proper numbing.”

“Hmm, I’d prefer a little morphine, in that case.”

Mazzini let out a great big belly laugh. A few heads turned, but otherwise the festivities were undisturbed. And more importantly, Muktari felt like he was actually beginning to enjoy himself a little. Alas, they both knew they couldn’t hide at the bar forever. As company men, they were here at the behest of someone else, and that required them to network and dialogue as much as possible between presentations. The after-parties were as important as the proceedings themselves when it came to fostering goodwill and securing the cooperation of vested interests. Hell, some would say they were even more important.

After a few minutes of idle conversation, Mazzini changed the course of their conversation. The way he introduced it let Magid know it was a matter of some delicacy.

“I, uh, heard an office rumor shortly before I left,” he said, taking a bit of a pause. “It seems they are looking for someone new to head up reclamation in the Arctic Circle. Out of our offices in Oslo.”

“Really?” Magid said. Not exactly a choice position, as it involved a considerable time on board ice trawlers and visiting monitoring stations in the high Arctic, such as Iceland and Baffin Island. Magid’s heart sank when he realized why the topic would be considered delicate…

“Oh no, you don’t mean –”

“I’m afraid so,” Mazzini said. “Word around the offices was that you were considered the top contender, given your background and rumors that you were kicking up some dirt.”

Magid buried his hands in his face. “Oh dear God, no.”

He felt Mazzini’s hand on his shoulder, heard on the onset of comforting words.

“I’m sorry, friend. I tried to warn you that your predilection for taking the long view and saying what you really thought might get you into trouble someday. Though this is considered a promotion, of sorts, everyone felt that you would surely not fail to get the message.”

“They can’t just fire me,” he said decisively. “They’re hoping I quit.”

Mazzini cleared his throat. “Seeing as how I’m letting you in on things, I should also point out that your last assignment was intended to have the same effect. Who knew you would actually find working in the Maghreb to be fulfilling. After you came back with that your presentation in your docket, I’m guessing they figured a transfer to the opposite extreme might… dampen you’re enthusiasm.”

“You mean chill it,” Magid corrected. “Well… message received.”

Mazzini patted him on the shoulder again. “As I said, my friend. I am truly sorry. If there was anything I could do…”

“I know,” Magid replied with a nod. Alas, they were just a bunch of company men, doing as they were told and going where they had to. Little more could be expected of them. “I think I’ll take that drink now.”

Mazzini looked genuinely surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Why not? Seems piety is a little wasted on me right now. Besides, I hear the whiskey is quite good.”

Mazzini laughed, though it sounded tempered. Though he was happy his friend would be joining him in a round, he was a bit hesitant to be involved in his corruption as well. Mazzini needed few excuses to tilt a glass, but anger and depression were good reasons not to in his mind. Still, he called the barman over and ordered two more glasses of what he was drinking.

“Two more Bruichladdich’s please, with ice.”

The barman nodded and went off to fetch their drinks. Many long seconds passed before any words passed between them again. When they did, they sounded about as delicate as before, though arguably more conspiratorial.

“Magid, please don’t look in her direction, but I must inform you that a pretty young thing is looking at you from the far corner.”

Magid sipped from his glass and nodded casually. Adjusting his head ever so slightly to employ his peripherals, be caught little more than blobs of color. For this, he would need more accurate coordinates.

“Which corner would that be?”

“Uh, north-east by my reckoning. Please don’t look at her, she’s still watching.”

“Well…” Magid said, confounded. “Could you describe her to me?”

“Long dark hair, lovely tan complexion, dark dress with a string of precious stones and just enough leg showing to give this old man an injection of frisk.” He swirled the ice cubes in his glass fervently. “I do so hope she’s looking at myself, though I imagine she’s more of what you could use right now.”

Magid chuckled, but shook his head. “Using ladies is not my speed, friend. Besides, I think I’m a little too depressed to be good company to anyone right now.”

“You sure? You’ll change your mind when you see her…”

Finally, and as casually as possible, she looked back in her direction and did a quick spot check. Mazzini was right, in all respects. He caught barely a wisp of her, but she was every bit as beautiful as his friend had let on. Far too comely to be gazing at the likes of them with anything approaching visceral interest.

“I don’t think so. Probably an industrial spy, or our competition, looking to eek some information out of us.”

“At the moment, I don’t care,” Mazzini said, quickly downing his second glass. “And if you’re sure you’re not up to the task, I’m definitely going to approach her. Let us just pray she’s not a professional, working the room.”

Magid frowned and chuckled, more deeply and sinisterly this time. Leave it to good ol’ Grigore to out a dirty spin on things. Leave it to him to leave him high and dry with his depression and the breaking of moral strictures as well. He eyed the glass in front of him and considered sending it back, but at the moment, he needed something to drown his feelings. Taking the glass in hand, he made a quick go of it, and quickly regretted the transaction.

“Whoa…” the barman said, a thick Russian accent discernible. “Another for you, sir?”

“No thank you,” he said, casting a look in Mazzini’s direction. His large frame now completely blocked the image of the stunning young woman. He cast a look around the room, and saw nothing but a night of pointless interaction as well.

Producing a fifty Euro note, he paid for his and Mazzini’s drinks and headed for the coat room. It was going to be a long night, and with nothing more to gained from doing his job, he would spend it doing something arguably less… productive.

*                    *                    *

And that’s section III down, and just three or so more to go! Hoping to avoid stretching those out, as I’m already 6,544 words in and only half-way done, by my reckoning. As you can imagine, I’d like to avoid what I did with Winston Agonistes, which was to break the word count limit by a factor of 2 to 3, depending on which limit I choose to go by. Originally, my group and I had agreed on a 5000 word limit, but we were willing to up it to 8000 in case of necessity. At 15,961 words, you might say I abused that limit just a little. Man, I must like to write ;)!

Crashland – Chapter 15, Now Appearing At Story Time!

by F4U DraconiX

Hello all! After another brief hiatus, thing at Story Time are on the move once again! My apologies for anyone who actually follows Crashland, but due to multiple obligations, I find it takes me longer to update this story these days. Nevertheless, chapter 15 is now available and ready for your votes.

Last time, Holden was told that his best friend in the Exigencies cell was in a coma, and that the team’s doctor was dead. Team leader Kurzweil, who had never been a fan of Holden’s, said he was to blame and his time with them was coming to an end. After leaving Holden with this terrible news, he ordered Molya to make the call.

His choices were simple. Administer an overdose of hydromorphone and kill Holden, administer a sedative that would put him in a coma, or take him to a side tunnel and put a bullet in him. Faced with those choices, readers were asked to make a choice of their own. Would Molya a) disobey and help William escape, b) try to reason with Kurzweil, c) kill William or d) put him in a coma?

Audiences voted and the choice was clear: Molya would try to reason with Kurzweil for Holden’s life. Come on by and see what comes of that. Then stick around and vote on what happens next. It’s all happening over at Story Time.me

Crashland Chapter 14, Now Appearing at Story Time

Wow, it’s been awhile since I updated this story last. And I believe it was even longer before I updated it before that. But as I’m sure I’ve said, I’ve taken on some other writing responsibilities of late and it seems I’ve finally reached my creative limit. That’s what you get for constantly pushing your boundaries I guess.

Still, today I managed to tear myself away from my other writing and editing commitments and dedicate some much needed attention to Story Time and this unfolding serial novel. And I’m sure you’ll agree, this one’s also a doozy! Much like the last one, the choice is once again a matter of life and death.

Last time, William found himself trapped in a collapsing subway tube and slowly dying from internal injuries. Slipping into unconsciousness, he once again experienced an intense dream that seemed to be speaking to him, almost as if someone else were inside his head and using his memories to give him instructions.

He then woke to find Jacobs standing over him and urging him to follow him out. Though he practically had to be carried, William and Jacobs managed to struggle their way out of the collapsing tube just as the last of it came crashing down. Unfortunately, Jacobs appeared to be mortally wounded, and the people tending to William mentioned that one other person in their party had died as a result of the cave in. Readers were asked to decide which person that would be.

The choice was a tough one. Would it be Simon, the cybernetically enhanced post-human that all their efforts depended on? Would it be Molya, the team’s gunman who never seems to stray far? Or would it be Jorka, the team’s medic and the only woman William had set eyes on since the Crash began. As it turned out, audiences decided on Jorka, the female medic who was intrinsic in saving William’s life. Thus, chapter 14 opens with the revelation that not only was she killed, but that Jacobs was mortally wounded while attempting to save William’s life.

The story is on the move once more. So come on by and check it out, and as usual, stick around to vote on what happens next! It’s all happening over at Story Time.me.