Brief 4/17/19 Update

1 I forget who tells the parable of a man willing to sell his soul to the Devil, on the condition that when he gets to Hell he’d get to talk to him as much as he wants. The man was very proud of his intellect and heard that Old Scratch was the most brilliant of angels, so talking with him for all eternity didn’t seem to bad.

He discovers that, in his Hell, the Devil is a blithering idiot.

Now, I didn’t need to sell my soul to find this out, but it seems the unwitting (I will make myself believe) tools of Marxism in this world are, generally, none too bright. I suspect raving fury tends to reduce one’s capacity for thought.

Yes, this is an update on our little run in at school over gender dysphoria. The ever so loving and gentle folks who are Useful Idiots for Marxism are ever so gently and lovingly doing what they can to make my wife’s life a living hell. With no disrespect intended to my beloved, I think I can say: (using my Philip Marlowe voice) she’s one tough broad. Too bad duels over honor are no longer allowed.

Image result for philip marlowe
You know, like Bacall.

2 One of the few things that can get my mind to stop looping on this topic, wondering what I should have said and how I should have behaved, is writing fiction. Did the three flash fiction trifles posted her over the last week, and am working on a short story to submit to a particular anthology.

Still have not picked up where I left off in November (I lasted 2.5 days at NaNoWriMo) on the Undead Novel That Haunts the Earth, nor the short stories several of you beta read for me. I need to be a *little* bit less emotionally challenged, shall we say, before I’m ready for even the kindest constructive criticism. So, if you are one of the very kind and generous people who gave me feedback only to have me go radio silent 8 months ago, I’ll get back to it as soon as I am able. Rocky Racoon fell back in his room….

3 Weather is beautiful, and I’m feeling physically very well. Getting exercise, eating right – and getting 4 hours of sleep a night, or less. Side effect of the endless loop my mind is still in. This morning, woke around 3:30, started to get up, then forced myself back to bed and pulled up the Kindle. Tried a little Rousseau (Emile – save me from verbose Frenchmen!) and some Chesterton (umpteenth reread of Everlasting Man), but was able to read only a little GKC before it wasn’t working for me. So I tabbed through the backlog, and found a modern vampire novel – can’t remember how that got there, certainly not my usual cup of tea, but, at 4:00 a.m., what the heck.

The first few chapters were pretty good, the writing was excellent and the characters loveable and interesting. So we may soon have a review here of a vampire love story novel.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Finally started drifting off, put down the Kindle, rolled over, cuddled in – and the 5:51 a.m. alarm went off. Sigh.

Refusing to Burn the Incense

Well, it finally happened: at a special meeting of our little private school, we – my wife and I – were made to listen to various testimonials – by people we like and respect for the most part, I hasten to add – on the beauty and wonderfulness of gender affirmation, and how hurt and disappointed they were to hear that some people at the school were not on board. My beloved wife promptly stood up and said: cut the crap, you’re talking about me. You are trying to force me to lie, and say that boy can be a girl or visa versa. While I respect everyone, gender theory is harmful and dishonest.

Just a pinch is required. Pay no attention to the ruins of a civilization…

This went over as one might expect. The image that came to mind was of the children of alcoholics (I got a load of my own problems, but not that one) for whom the story is sacred: as long as everyone agrees that daddy didn’t mean it, or mommy just forgot, or whatever tale allows the kids to ignore the horrible reality of their lives and keep it together one more day, the relationship of that story to the truth is less than irrelevant. I’ve seen this in real life; I also read I forget where an account of a situation where the youngest child, not yet aware of how this works, doesn’t want to get with the story the older children are telling each other: but that’s not what mommy said! and has the full weight of the siblings authority brought to bear on him until he complies.

Thus, the story – gender dysphoria is something to be honored and respected and never, ever contradicted – would get sincerely repeated, after my wife and I had our say, as if nothing had happened. Surreal.

I – very stupidly, in retrospect – appealed to science. In a culture where the likes of former stand-up comedian and electrical engineer Bill Nye are considered scientists, such efforts were obviously wasted. I burned my chance.

Another stupid thing for me: I was actually unprepared for the universal reliance on communist propaganda: everything is a social construct, man. Can’t even hear anyone say that without recalling the pot-addled hippies I knew as kid saying ‘it’s the system, man.’ I should have known better. The state of education is such that this marketing slogan, the sophisticated-sounding version of ‘the individual is nothing, the collective everything’ is the go-to position for faux intellectuals and wannabes of all ages. It’s also the password to the Kool Kids Klub. As Z says in Men in Black: Congratulations! You’re everything we’ve come to expect from years of government training.

The funny thing: I actually care about these people, some of whom I’ve known for years. They, of course, at this point will never believe it, for I am clearly a hater and a bigot. I’ve hardly been able to sleep for the last three days, running what I should have said through my brain over and over, hoping to get through or plant some seeds, at which I utterly failed. Just tonight I think I’ve finally gotten the mental auto-loop function under control, thank God.

In a crowd of maybe 25-30 people, two (2) of us were not buying the propaganda. Well, three, since our 15 year old son showed up for this but wisely kept his mouth shut. Poor kid.

Welcome to California. I’m hoping – crazy optimistic, I know – that this is the final shoe to drop: the last 6+ years, our eldest son was hit by a car and died, two of my older sisters died of cancer, I lost my job after 22 years, and now the people in the school we help found and spent untold sweat, worry and money on over 23 years, have decided we’re hateful bigots. I don’t even want to know what else could go wrong.

On the plus side: after several years of feeling ill and exhausted (stress, maybe? Depression? Gee, ya think?) I now, for the last couple of months, feel like my old high-energy self. You also may have noticed that the fiction writer’s block that has afflicted me for the past 9 months has passed with a flurry of flash fiction. The Novel That Shall Not Be Named and a pile of short stories beckon…

A Philosophical Disputation

boats, chains, france

“We were having a discussion, were we not?”

The Freeman’s calves were bound to the stone floor with iron straps. Chains held his arms out at 45 degrees. A heavy metal collar bowed his head. He knelt, arms outstretched, and could hardly move.

“I believe we were. You were being both appallingly wrong and remarkably dense. As usual.”

The robed figure seated on the dias frowned, but the frown was perfunctory. His eyes twinkled. He fingered one of his rings and straightened his robe.

“Yet here I sit, well fed and finely dressed, free to come and go as I wish. My ‘slave’s philosophy’ as you would have it seems to leave me remarkably unfettered.” He lifted his chin and placed it on his folded hands while raising his eyes to the sky. “You, whose philosophy you claim liberates men, are somewhat less unencumbered.”

“Yet you hold that all of life is meaningless. One would thus conclude your freedom is likewise meaningless.”

“The strong give life meaning. My freedom comes from my strength.”

“Yet you will die like other men.”

“I will die having exercised my unfettered will over men like you. Powerless men.”

“If you are so free,” stated the bound man, “I have one small request, which in granting you shall prove to me your freedom and disprove my argument.”

A crooked smile spread across the robed man’s face. “Pray tell.”

“I owned a small medallion once, about the size of a walnut, cast of electrum, curiously carved and set with a single blue stone. I have it on good authority that it sits now on the king’s night stand. Go get it.”

“No one may enter the king’s bedchamber.”

“My point exactly. You are no more free than I.”

The robed man laughed. “Laugh all you want, O Paragon!” the chained man lifted his head an inch. “The difference between my freedom and yours, as you define freedom, amounts to so much smoke.”

“That I am free to decline being hung, drawn and quartered, and you are not, is smoke? The smoke from the fire in which we will burn your entrails before your still-living eyes? I feel such a difference in degree is significant.” The crooked smile returned, but his eyes became cold.

“Yet I remain free by my conception of freedom, while you are a slave even by your own.” He went for the kill. “A craven slave.”

“Would you like a tour of the abattoir?” The robed man’s frown was sincere this time. “We can drag you along the bridge upon whose finials are mounted the heads of men who recently chose to explore the limits of your philosophy. Would you like to see where this ends for you?”

“Are you going to go get the medallion, or not, O Highly Free and Nearly Most Exalted Lord, second only to the man who holds your chain and pulls your strings? The man-child who collects pretty baubles, yet can have your head? The man placed on the most exalted throne by …”

The robed man had stepped down from the dias and slammed his fist into the chained man’s face. His fist was unused to such usage; it may have suffered as much or more than the face struck.

“As enjoyable as these little exchanges have been,” he rubbed his knuckles and tried to act as if they didn’t hurt, “I feel it is now time to end them.”

“Thus conceding my point: I die a free man, you live a slave.” He raised his eyes as much as the chains allowed. “And a coward, afraid of a dim-witted boy.”

The robed figure raised his fist again, thought better of it, and kicked the chained man in the ribs.

“Unless you show me the medallion before I die, I win. You lose. I may scream in agony, confess all crimes, and cry like a baby – but I win, you lose.”

The robed man returned to his seat upon the dias, and pondered. At a slight nod of his head, a guard appeared. “Go to the king’s chamber. On his nightstand are his baubles. You should find a silver-colored medallion, about this big, set with a blue stone. Bring it to me.”

The young guard’s face blanched. “Yes, m’Lord Chancellor, but…”

The Lord Chancellor inclined his head and stared at the guard, a look of death to those who knew. The guard continued nonetheless. “…I have not the key.”

The Lord Chancellor hesitated, then removed his own medallion of office from around his neck and handed it to the young man, who took it, terrified, as if it were a live viper, then bowed deeply and hurried off.

“Very brave. You can deny you ever sent that boy, if he’s caught, and no one will dare challenge your word. He will die the death you have earned.”

“Your philosophy has no room for simple prudence? No wonder you Freemen remain our slaves.” His crooked smile returned. “You shall see your medallion, and then I shall hear those cries of agony, confession of crimes and cries of a baby.”

“I think not. You have not so well run the empire, despite your cunning. The king remains your weakness, because, as I’ve said, you are his slave. The contempt between you is mutual, although his is childish and yours diabolical.”

“Screams. Crimes. Tears.” The Lord Chancellor had walked over again and bent down so that the chained man could feel his whispered breath.

“Your king, fool, collects not only baubles, but pretty girls and interesting slaves.” The chained man raised his eyes and locked them on those of the Lord Chancellor. “There are many pretty girls and interesting men among the Freemen.”

The robed man stood suddenly erect. The footfalls of the returning guard were the only sounds. “Do not be afraid. We Freemen are merciful, and kill our enemies quickly.”

The explosion threw the Lord Chancellor to the ground. Dust and chips of stone began to rain down on the courtyard as a plume rose from where the palace had stood moments before. The militant roar of men rose from the direction of the explosion.

The robed man, ears ringing, opened his eyes, and found himself looking up into the face of the chained man.

“And your philosophy is stupid.”

PAST

I slept, and wept, and slept again, the black bracelet on my ankle tethering me to my PAST – Personal Assayed Sentence Tracker. I had such high hopes, back when I’d managed to deactivate it and sneak aboard the longship. I watched the parasol unfurl, catching the sun like a breaking wave, and the superconducting magnetic loop spool out, kilometer after kilometer, stealing momentum from every passing charged particle.

But it was the ion drive I felt, from the floor of the forward storage area where I’d stowed away. Four massive nuclear reactors inside the asteroid, which the L2 shipyard had worked into a three-kilometer long iron/nickle cigar, reducing chunks of that cigar into superheated plasma. Ion drives fired that plasma fuel out at near-light speed. Unlike the sails, those babies could produce enough delta V to feel. I felt their silent rumble in my belly pressed against the composite hull.

I avoided discovery for months. During those months, as the ship spiraled away from earth, slowly gaining speed as it deployed first the parasol, then the magsail, then the ion drives, the 576 legitimate passengers and crew were too busy or distracted to notice. There were crates of food, back up in case anything went wrong with the hydroponics. There was, thankfully, a toilet and shower. There were even spare clothes. So I was pretty comfortable and could mitigate my boredom by looking outside, at least at first. After we’d reached system escape velocity and straightened our course, the view didn’t change much.

They eventually did find me. They knew I was a stowaway at a glance. They knew I was a fugitive by my PAST. After threatening that they’d just let me age out and die on the trip, the crew decided to slow-grow me, just like the legit passengers. Spent 243 years, relative time, out like a light, in a box I shared with bots that trimmed my hair and nails every year or two. Slow-grow isn’t no-grow.

That’s how I came to wake up as we dropped into orbit. They’d checked my criminal record, and were thinking it it might not be safe just dropping me with the other colonists. That’s when I started to get a hint that maybe my escape wasn’t an escape at all. Maybe the feds had let me walk, hoping I’d stow away and get permanently out of their hair. Things had gone a little too smooth.

Anyway, the bots were programmed to wake us up, and give us a light trim and a manicure and pedicure whenever the ship dropped into orbit. To make sure everybody is ready to go and all. The crew never thought to override it for me. So, before they could even miss me, I, clean-scrubbed and with lovely nails, stole a landing craft.

I just take things, see. It’s me being me. I also sometimes use a little too much force. I don’t think I killed the landing bay guard, but sometimes things happen. I dragged my PAST onto a craft, set the auto landing, jimmed the craft release, and proceeded to land.

The bastards. This planet is a paradise, at least to look at. Water is very good, almost sweet. Lots of edible plants. But there are no animals here, just plant after plant. Green as hell.

I thought, hey, I’ll drop down early, hide away somewhere, and wait for the colonists to set up shop. Then I could live like I always have, and still pick up a few things from the colony when the urge arose.

But the colonists never came. Crew must have determined that this rock wasn’t good enough.

Landers are just that, landers. They aren’t shuttles. The last I heard from the longship was a message that I’d been convicted of stealing a lander and putting a guard in the hospital, and sentenced to being banished to this rock. Then radio silence.

It was just after sunset when they left me here. I cursed the specks of light glinting off the longship, visible in the darkening sky. I watched until distance and the horizon swallowed her up.

Thus I sleep and weep. That’s two escapes that weren’t escapes. I’d fallen for it like a rookie.

Then, this morning, the ankle bracelet fell away. Signal from the longship, is my guess. Did the bastards always know how to do that? Good thing, too, as the chow on this planet is not only bland, but you need to eat a lot of it. Something about a mismatch of my enzymes and the chemical bonds in the alien plants. I’m effectively grazing all day long.

Eat that much green, and the spore starts piling up. It’s not pretty. Same thing works in reverse: whatever biological activity is at work here decomposing dead plants, it doesn’t work too fast on human waste. I’d probably go nuts, if I weren’t already a bit of a sociopath.

Like the longship leaving Sol, I’m spiraling out away from my original camp. Funny thing – once in a while, I go back to visit my PAST. It’s all I’ve got.

The Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements

“Summon the Marquis de Vela.”

“It is spoken!”

The First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaned upon his crooked staff of office and nodded his mitred, jeweled head solemnly to Lady Vortex of the Interstitial Whispers. She stood slowly, her pale mask animated by a wash of color like a peacock’s tail, her eyes hooded. Her skirt, waves of shimmering material that defied all attempts to focus directly on it, spread like an incoming tide until it enclosed the space around her in a dome of color and light.

The skirt became alive with the scurry of myriad creatures.

Onto the translucent marble floor tucked and rolled a tiny putto, complete with cherubic smile and tiny feathered wings. He cleared the still-writhing skirt and gracefully came to his feet. Lady Vortex’s skirt quieted and rolled itself back into its merely voluminous original size.

Lady Vortex raised one hooded eye, and the putto, eyes fixed on her face, rose improbably on its tiny wings and flew. An ornate window, paned in sheets of gems and crystal and standing 50 meters high, opened behind and above the Imperial Majesty as the putto approached, enough for him to exit with alarming alacrity.

“Alphonso, even now, wings his way to the Imperium Lux,” Lady Vortex spoke in a voice of honey and ice, “and shall cause to be issued a summons to the Marquis de Vela.”

“My dear lady,” came a voice from the Throne of Imperial Majesty, “most chaste and powerful mistress of the Interstitial Gates, Lioness of the Between, Sender of the Messages both mortal and eternal, pray, when should we expect the Lord Marquis?” A slight pause. “You may dispense with all but the first 50 honorifics of imperial address to my person, and answer plainly.”

Behind her mask, Lady Vortex and her extended brain, present in her creatures and, indeed, in much of the throne room’s furniture and all of one of the many massive sub basements, brooded. A thousand suns even now were being consumed to open the Gates; space would be delaminated for a hundred million light years; the interstices would disrupt countless systems and worlds; billions might die.

The first 50 imperial honorifics, including references to lordship of supernovae, the making of galactic collisions and the righteous conquest of thousands of clusters and structures, took only 15 minutes despite Lady Vortex’s unhurried drawl. She, including her extended mind, had finished the calculations after 12 minutes. “Oh Light of the Imperium, Cause Supreme of Harmony and Death Merciful yet Fell of the Unenlightened: the Marquis de Vela can be expected in 11,432.51 standard years!”

“Then we shall have need of entertainment. Summon the Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements.”

Far below the throne room, with its towering windows, sky-like vaulted ceiling held up by pillars of living water, filled with a light both subtle and powerful, in a sub basement dark and cramped, machines moved. A tiny figure, illuminated only by the light of a heads-up display, moved one hand.

Lady Vortex, who stood stock still, somehow froze. Could the Imperial Command have been inadvertently directed toward her? The Seneschal was stored well within this current effective frame of reference. Invoking interstitial delamination would be extraordinarily wasteful, even for this court. And the effort would kill her…

“It is spoken!” The First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaned again upon his crooked staff of office and again nodded his mitred, jeweled head solemnly, this time to a Knight Pre Imminent of the Sidereal Garter, who bowed impossibly so that his cheek, freed from his Helm Imperial for the purpose, was on the floor. His armor, a swirl of light and metal, clanked musically – for thus it was designed – as he stood and marched out down the miles long throne room nave.

The Lady Vortex nearly allowed herself a sigh. Reinspiritualizetion was such a pain.

By the light of the display, the lone man’s face twitched. He dare not even think – parts of his mind, untrustworthy parts, were integrated into small nooks and crannies of the throne room and thus accessible to the Court. For reasons his conscious mind was not and could not be allowed to think, he pushed a particular spot on his left wrist with his right index finger. The command to do this action was encoded in certain proteins and enzymes, keyed by stereoisomers that mirrored natural chemicals but behaved differently when faced with their biological targets: the keys no longer fit the locks.

They fit other locks. These they turned. His left hand, a blur in the dark, cramped sub basement, shot forward and began manipulating data and instructions. The man’s mind was blocked from noticing. The man’s mind was dying as his right hand ran through a series of commands to the machines and minds throughout the imperial palace, which were systematically being fractured and disabled. He continued to summon the Seneschal, his right hand unaware of what his left hand was doing.

The man’s instructions could only propagate at the speed of light, to late for the thousand suns dying now at the Emperor’s whim. It would be many millennia before the outer systems discovered they were free; many millions of years before the entire Imperium knew. The remnants of his people, whose sun had been consumed in the sending of a message announcing the winner of an imperial card game, would most likely be extinct before they knew. It did not matter; his mind was prevented from even thinking it. Gates were being closed, and welded shut.

The man’s mind stuttered to a halt.

File:Black hole - Messier 87.jpg

11,432.509 standard years later, the Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements entered the throne room, carrying such fripperies and baubles as might amuse the court. Four meters tall and dressed in a tall hat, a gray coat that hung to the floor and writhed with patterns, and black boots, his eyes spunn like pinwheels in his long, gaunt face. His entire body was constructed of independent creatures, each built to both add to the Seneschal and perform possibly amusing tricks. Some would scurry off now and again, then climb back into place as he strode the pavement.

The Seneschal came before the throne, his mind clouded. On the floor to the right stood the First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaning motionless upon his crooked staff of office. To his right stood Lady Vortex, her mask frozen into the faintest hint of surprise. Several Knights Pre Imminent of the Sidereal Garter stood guard without moving. Invisible on his throne, shadowed by the Imperial Splendor, sat the Emperor.

Deep within the dark sub basements, on a machine poised and suspended for over 10,000 years, a final tumbler fell.

Suddenly, a shimmer filled the air between the Seneschal and the the throne. With a loud, undignified *pop* the Marquis de Vela reached the end of the delaminated intersticial, and fell unceremoniously to the marble floors. He raised himself up on one arm, and felt his head.

Lady Vortex gasped. She could not feel her extended mind. Her human mind, what was left of it, took in the scene and knew. He mask went dark and fell clanging to the floor, revealing the face of a startled girl.

“I can’t move,” mumbled the First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, still leaning upon his crooked staff of office. Forgetting protocol, the Marquis de Vela spoke in the Imperial Presence, going so far as to omit even the first 25 honorifics.  “What, what has happened? Why am I here?”

Several animate pieces of the Seneschal of the Holy Accutroments chose this moment to fall from his coat and clatter and chatter upon the floor before scurrying back to disappear in the swirling patterns. From the Throne, hidden within the Imperial Splendor, a small confused voice answered, “I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember.”

Rereading Canticle for Leibowitz as a First Contact Story

Yesterday, took a crazy 5.5 hour drive there, 5.5 hour drive back trip with the Caboose to see Middle Son’s thesis defence at Thomas Aquinas College. Elder Daughter drove up from L.A., so the fam was well-represented. About 20 – 25 of Middle Son’s classmates also showed up, so it was good turn-out, especially considering TAC only has about 400 students total.

He did very well. I am a happy dad. Our kids are a wonderful and undeserved blessing. Also, the 11 hours in the car with our 15 year old son provided an opportunity to throw on the A Canticle for Leibowitz audiobook.

There has been quite a bit of recent discussion among the authors I follow on Twitter (mostly I’m on that silly platform just to follow SciFi authors and Catholics) about worldbuilding. Several writers deplored the evidently common current practice of going overboard with worldbuilding at the expense of plot and especially character. The consensus seemed to be that some writers had taken the wrong lesson from Tolkien. Many, many pages at the beginning of Lord of the Rings are spent describing the preparation and execution of a birthday party, as a way to introduce us to Middle Earth and the Shire. The wrong takeaway is that this long exposition is primarily meant to create a vivid setting. The writers seem to think it is meant to introduce us rather to the main characters, and the Shire and its inhabitants are described as an essential key to understanding those characters.

William Gibson was used as an example of strong worldbuilding at the expense of strong character development. I can sort of see that, except I think Johnny Mnemonic, Trinity Molly Millions and even the Fynn are quite memorable. But, yes, Gibson’s world is vivid in a way that his characters are not, while Gandalf, Samwise, Frodo and Gimli transcend even the glories of Middle Earth.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of my absolute favorite books, I’ve read it many times, and have given copies to a number of friends and acquaintances over the years. So it was natural for me to consider its structure and worldbuilding in light of the more expert opinions of real writers, especially since the Novel That Shall Not Be Named that has been percolating in my head for a decade or two now could hardly help being strongly influenced by it. In fact, the story I’m (very intermittently) trying to tell is about a culture, a civilization, over centuries of time and lightyears of space. No human character can last that long, so it can’t be at its heart about any particular character.

Miller’s masterpiece is the exception that proves the rule. (1) While populated with any number of engaging and sympathetic characters, it cannot be said to be about any of them neatly as much as it can be said to be about the world itself.

In a number of places, Chesterton talks about the world and the Church as being too close, too familiar, to be honestly seen. He suggests that to truly see, a man must approach his own home as a stranger seeing a foreign land for the first time. In ACFL, Miller takes up this challenge. Our own world must be approached as a thing totally alien. He must first destroy the world in order that we might see it. He burns it to ashes to try to save it. He must purge the Church down to the bare visible essentials, a few rag-tag would-be saints stumbling , half-blind, into an uncertain and terrifying future, in order that she may be seen at all. The story is not about Brother Francis Gerard or Lazarus. The story is about a world that needs saving and a Church whose martyrs are the instruments of its salvation.

A Canticle for Leibowitz presents to us the unfamiliar ashes of our familiar world, populated by people that are often only barely recognizable as our shadows or ghosts. The monks of Leibowitz Abbey, with their rituals, discipline and logic, present a humanity far more difficult for a modern reader to see than that in a Ferengi or Klingon. Just as the look of Star Trek aliens is created through the artful application of latex to mundane human bodies, their personalities and motivations are merely emphases of existing human traits. It’s easier for a person today to see the humanity in Gul Ducat or Quark than in Brother Francis Gerard or Abbot Arkos, and to recognize his reflection in the Romulan homeworld than in an abbey full of monks.

In this way, the worldbuilding of ACFL is more nearly that of a first encounter story than any other kind of science fiction or fantasy story. Hidden behind the startling originality of the story, Miller follows a classic formula. He spends the first third of the book describing an alien species and their home world, and the rest of the book showing how these aliens are not so different from us.

Thus ends today’s Sci Fi musings.

  1. Two other exceptions would be: the Foundation and Dune series, where the world is the consistent character in a way none of the human characters can ever be. I’m guessing this is more broadly true in this era of fantasy and sci fi series, but I’m more an old-school guy, so I don’t have much experience in more modern works.

Bricks, Fruits & Flowers: Update

Some seriously serious stuff coming down at Casa de Moore, I will write about it once the situation resolves itself. For now, let’s rejoice!

Finally finished the little brick tower and handrail thingie, except for finding and installing a mailbox on the larger tower:

The mailbox will go atop the tower on the left. Would an old ammo box send the wrong message? Tempting…
Need to spray all this with mortar stain removers.

Next, spring has righteously sprung:

They don’t show up well, but there are lots of little apricots on this tree and its neighbor, and lots of little peaches on the trees behind. This is Year 3, the first year one is supposed to let the trees bear fruit, after two years of setting roots, if they are up to it. Looking good so far.

The pear is in bloom….
…as is the cherry.
Lots of tiny figs on the dwarf fig tree.

The pomegranate doesn’t bloom for a while; the citrus tree shows nothing yet – it has only born a few fruits, like single digits, over its existence. Our late son asked once what would happen if he planted a seed he found in a piece of fruit. We said, of course, plant it and see. So he did, and the little tree sat in a window box until it got too big, then in a pot on the patio, then a half wine barrel. I had to trim it rather ruthlessly, as it was clearly not happy being small in a barrel. Finally, we stuck it in the ground out front and it took off. I have to trim it even more ruthlessly now. But no fruit.

The avocados are a disaster, stunted and bare. I think it just got too cold for them and I didn’t do enough to keep them warm. Avocados are fragile when small, and very tough when mature, but really are subtropical. We are definitely not. I only try because there are plenty of avocado trees growing in Concord, so it can work. Getting them past the first few years seems to be the trick.

Further reports as events warrant.