Be Careful Little Mars

Fragile is a classic album by the band Yes and illustrated by Roger Dean. The front of this cover has an idyllic looking miniature world with a “wooden” spaceship with jagged edges and curved wings flying above and is pictured at the link. This spaceship was dubbed “the moorglade mover” by Yes. The back of the album shows the moorglade mover further along its route and the planet blowing up.

It is my contention that the moorglade mover is responsible for the planet blowing up. It dropped a bomb or did a death stare with a third eye or some such. The important take away from this is that the moorglade mover survived and the planet did not.

Now I admit it is quite the stretch but look at the picture of the satellite/space probe MAVEN that is at this link. At first glance it is nothing like the moorglade mover. But it does have the jaggedness and curved wings of that fictional craft. And it is such an odd shape for a space probe. Maybe you believe it is an innocent space probe; the type NASA likes to regularly send to interesting places. I don’t believe that for a minute.

Think about it, what if NASA sent an unsterilized space probe to Mars? Then that was followed by rovers that are searching high and low for signs of life. Well what if they find life and it turns out to be Earth life. NASA would do almost anything to miss the blame for that one. Including…blowing up Mars to hide the evidence.

It is my belief that MAVEN will destroy Mars soon. NASA deliberately left clues like the moorglade mover and the Fragile album cover. Have you ever seen a space probe that looked even remotely like MAVEN?

They’ve finally done it. One button push could destroy the Earth. They will prove it with Mars. Fragile indeed. NASA wants Russia and China to quake in their boots at the might of the mighty USA.

You can ignore me and my ranting about this. Just promise me you will change if and when Mars is no longer there.

As for the improper sterilization of a probe, I believe it was Viking that did this in 1976. It was not an idea in the general public at the time that we should try not to interfere with alien life. But after Star Trek: The Next Generation came out and preached and preached about non interference, it was realized that Mars probes really ought to be sterilized so no earthly life could overwhelm any Martian life.

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Shhhhh, Prince Harry

Prince Harry just let loose the thinking in the current British royal family. As it turns out, no one wants to be king but they are willing to do it anyway, out of some warped sense of duty. Aren’t we lucky to be in the British empire and to have such dedicated members of the royal family?

Really I think Princes Charles and William are just doing the long con on Prince Harry. Blech! Power! It is such a dirty word and why would anyone ever want it.

Although the evolution of the British royal family has been toward less power, there is no guarantee they won’t reverse this trend. Or better yet, say they don’t want to be king as a negotiating strategy to get more power when they are to be kings.

Then with real power they can guarantee that the power stays in the “proper” bloodline, via direct eldest descendants. ie. QE II, Charles, William, George. And if 5th in line to the throne (Harry) ever objects, it is off with his head or whatever form of death the British royals favour.

Aha! Now I know why Harry just blindly accepts the word of his father and sibling. If he were to question it would look like he believes his father and brother would lie to him and thus have no qualms of offing him. So shhhh, Prince Harry, and keep yourself alive. It’s unfortunate that you have to look so gullible while doing it but that is the price of princedom.

In case you were wondering, Harry is fifth in line to the throne and the order of succession is: Charles, William, George, Charlotte, Harry. Then as George has children, Charlotte gets pushed back like Harry before her. Just in case you were wondering. It sucks to be the baby or middle children in the royal family. You never attain the power of the eldest in your family.

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Dysing Dystopias II

Dystopias can largely be thought of as a series of setbacks for the protaganist, none of which are significantly overcome. This is the problem of the dystopia for me.

Setbacks can be thought of as the machinery of plot. The protaganist wants something and if s/he just gets it right off the bat there is no plot. So a setback must occur. It could be one gigantic setback or a series of them.

Indeed, if your novel is too short, perhaps only novella length, then just add a setback or two to try to stretch the story out. You wouldn’t be the first author who did this.

The first setback could be overcome. But remember this is a dystopia so probably the first setback is a loss. Which leads to the second setback. This also likely a loss. And on and on it goes in a dystopia.

It is common in more positive fiction to overcome the first setback. Then it is on to the second unforeseen setback. Which is also overcome. The story can rise to the biggest setback and thus the climax. I know some people are down on happy endings. But I am never down on a happy ending that forces a new solution to the protaganist’s problem.

And that is the thing. New solutions to each problem or setback forces the author to think more and actually solve problems. It is my contention that it is easier to write dystopias. Failing is always easier than passing. This is one of my main problems with dystopias.

Oh sure, the better authors of dystopias can now do cutesy things with their extra time. Like a dystopic government could call the Ministry of Ongoing War, the Ministry of Peace which gets the author irony brownie points.

But I am not so easily won over. Figure out how to solve problems, dystopic authors, or you lose my attention. That is if you can even get my attention while writing a dystopia.

It is my contention that writing dystopias are easier. All you might have to do is list problems. This will always strike me as easier than listing problems and also solving those problems. You will not win me over to the praising of dystopias side. I remain committed to the more positive types of fiction. Especially my favourite one, Sensawunda science fiction.

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Dysing Dystopias I

I don’t like dystopias in science fiction although I see how popular some of them are.

I am young enough to have taken science fiction books (that’s right plural) in some of my English classes. I was disappointed with every last one. None of them were the science fiction that I read on my own time. Nothing positive like Sensawunda science fiction gives. Instead the only SF the English establishment liked was dystopic science fiction. It’s almost like they were deliberately trying to make SF look bad, it’s just that I can’t prove it.

So I will attempt to say a couple points in this and next week’s post.

I hate dystopic SF because it is used by politicians as a guidebook. Look no further than Donald Trump to find why the Handmaid’s Tale is doing so well on television this year. Granted not everything is coming to fruition from that dystopia, just a lot of it.

And for a number of years, certain countries (*cough* UK) have been trying their best to make 1984 a reality where there are cameras everywhere and our every move is recorded. Big Brother was so obviously coming into being, just a few years late, that Cory Doctorow had to release a book called Little Brother where the young are given tips on how to disrupt in a Big Brother government.

It is my belief that the politicians using dystopias as a guide are simply not bright enough to come up with their own evil schemes. Lobbyists of all stripes know this and thus tell the corrupt in government what to do. As do the dystopic writers.

It is my belief that we might have to make “inciting to legislate badly” a crime. That way we can lock up the dystopic SF writer and the bad lobbyist. With these two pillars of bad government gone, perhaps all bad governments will fall. They will at least have to look further afield to try to bring the world down.

My only misgiving about this is that the politicians may start calling smart ideas an attempt to “legislate badly”. Oops! I feel a dystopia coming on.

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Universal Symbols Aren’t Universal

See the two yellow lines in the image. The universal symbol that they impart is that a vehicle that fits can drive between the yellow lines up to the curb.

What is meant to be conveyed by the image of the young family is that young families and even expectant mothers can park here. What a non english reader may think, with only the symbols to guide him, is that young families may be driven over at this location. To his mind, as long as he doesn’t drive over the yellow lines, this might be what the painter has tried to indicate.

I know, I know, the carnage that might result is quite regrettable. Which is why I bring it to your attention so perhaps we can improve this universal symbol.

Wait, someone may say, we have all those handicapped spaces and everyone knows you don’t drive over a handicapped person. Well let’s look at such a space in the next image. Again there are the yellow lines. The handicapped imagery is in the centre of the space again. Again, I think it’s at least possible that some driver might think they are allowed to drive over handicapped people in these spaces.

Isn’t it more obvious here, what with each handicapped driver displaying the same image in their vehicle to let us know they can have this parking spot?

But here the newbie might think that this is like a notch on the gun of a wild west killer. It is only meant to show that they have killed for this spot and will do so again.

Fortunately we have full licencing systems and I hope every universal symbol is explained in whatever language the new Canadian driver gets their licence in. Still, the new parent symbol might not be, well, universal. I just hope we don’t have to go through growing pains having to learn this one.

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Did Ancient Species Go Extinct or Did They Have a More Honourable Group Suicide?

Can some species reliably see the future? Well obviously human beings can’t as noted by their laughable track record in this endeavour (see most of science fiction). But perhaps, just perhaps, other species can.

They might see the growth of the brains of human beings or at least in some species; allowing that species the upper hand in almost all run ins.

Then, too, that prescient species might see the rush for humans to have magic potions to cure humans of real or imagined problems. The list of humanity’s ingredients for these potions becomes obvious after awhile. A Rhino’s horn, a shark’s fin or an elephant’s tusk are just some of the things on this list. In short, anything odd for an animal to have is coveted in these recipes.

So I suspect some prescient ancient species honourably committed group suicide rather than eventually be preyed on by humans or our ilk.

So sabre tooth tigers committed group suicide rather than let their famous choppers be ground up so some human women could become fertile.

Or the Irish elk, with antlers so big it was once thought they went extinct because they couldn’t run through woods without hitting a tree, actually didn’t want said giant antlers used in a stew to make Irish warriors more fierce.

But the oddity doesn’t just have to be prominent. T. Rex’s puny arms might have been used to make a potion that makes humans great in spite of their short comings. So T. Rex would have also preferred extinction.

I believe that paleontologists are going to find more and more odd species from the past. It will become more and more obvious that we are living with relatively bland species today. This I will offer as proof of the group suicides.

So you don’t believe in my “magical” group prescience? Then don’t believe in magic potions made from exotic animal’s attributes.

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My Plan to Counterfeit and Never Get Caught

Since 1967, it is my belief that there are 6 852 different coins in circulation in Canada and we are somehow supposed to recognize them all as legal tender.

So, yes, I intend to counterfeit coins.

In 1967, it was a celebration of Canada’s centennial that kicked off this madness. Animals graced that year’s change. Don’t ask me to name the animals because I’ve never seen all the coins with everything but the odd penny being taken out of circulation by all the collectors. But I have seen the 1973 quarter that honoured the 100th anniversary of the RCMP and every odd coin since. It’s been a lot of odd coins since so I am quite truthful when I say I wouldn’t know all of them.

And what are we doing this year on Canada’s sesquicentennial? Of course it’s another year of all new coins, from the nickel to the toonie.

So if I had the brainpower of organized crime behind me, I’d examine which coin was the most profitable for our government to make with special attention paid to the loonie and the toonie because they are the most expensive and also the easiest to push on an unsuspecting populace.

I would then make that toonie or loonie with a different cause that Canadians could celebrate. I would only have two criteria: that it’s funny so people would be predisposed to accept these coins and that it’s a plausible sounding event so Canadians would never know that they are pushing bad coins.

So let’s make something up like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s paper anniversary. This is funny because none of our currency is made from paper anymore. It is also believable because the Duke and Duchess have already had their paper anniversary and all the intelligent counterfeiter must do is make the date of the coin match the date of the anniversary.

There is only one flaw with this plan. There will be coins of the same denomination from the same year not celebrating the anniversary. So all we need is a Wikipedia page explaining that the mint kept the secret of the special coins until after the actual anniversary so as not to spoil the surprised for the duke and duchess. Wikipedia will not be able to determine our trickery simply because no Canadian in existence can say what is legal tender in our change anymore.

And that’s how I intend to make my living from now on. Bwuh huh huh. So expect me to pay for things exclusively in loonies or toonies.

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The Down Side to Kirk’s Good Ol’ Boxing

The first thing I’d like to say about boxing aliens is that human beings are likely mediocre fighters. So half of all alien species are stronger than us just like half of all alien species are weaker than us. For Captain Kirk, who would fight them all if he could, he probably shows the signs of the unscientific term ‘punch drunk’.

Of course Starfleet is more than possibly aware of Kirk’s condition which is likely a brain injury of some sort. They likely checked him out from top to bottom and deemed him able to still perform for Starfleet. And as for all his fighting on behalf of Starfleet, he was given the reward of being the youngest captain of a battle ready Starship.

They know his two weaknesses from the brain damage. The first one is just a speech tic that has only minor consequences. Kirk. Likes. To. Speak. In. One. Word. Sentences. This is annoying but hardly worth stripping the captaincy from Kirk. In fact stripping Kirk of anything might be seen as insensitive to minority groups. And the Federation has lots of minorities.

The second brain damage induced decisions are that Kirk frequently goes down to the planets himself. This can only seem fool hardy to those familiar with the military establishment.

Maybe Starfleet sees it as a way to get rid of Kirk in case his delightful brain damage starts getting worse. Maybe they like the way he continues the charade that humans don’t get brain damage despite repeated blows to the head. Maybe that’s one myth Starfleet wishes to see go on.

Regardless, Kirk’s good ol’ boxing worked for Starfleet. So why not let it continue?

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Rivers in the Sky -Taking the Fun Out of Flying Cars

Do you think your normal pilot’s licence is good enough for you to take to the air in a flying car? It won’t be when we all have flying cars and our cities get bigger. There are just way too many chances of having an airborne accident.

Hey! Maybe we’ll just fly as the crow does everywhere. But with city centres being so built up, flight from one to another will have flying car after flying car fly over certain properties increasing the incidence of accidents over them and on them. So flying cars will be banned everywhere that is fairly populated except over top of the roads.

So maybe when we think about flying cars, we can envision driving to save gas until we hit a traffic jam where suddenly the car can fly past the clog up ahead and then drive onward to our destination.

Or if we want to save the cost of nicely maintained roads all the cars can fly in a “river” above the abandoned roads.

Maybe we can vertically stack more flying cars. Not really. Due to possible accidents, no one will want to be on the bottom and everyone will prefer the top.

So there will be one level of a flowing river of traffic in the sky over the abandoned roads. No more traffic will be able to get through than before.

And no one will be allowed to pilot their own flying car so close to each other, so this will be done by machines that are better at it than mere humans.

I know this takes a lot of the fun of having a flying car away, but I believe they are our future anyway. Because: progress. Maybe we’ll get to fly them in near deserted areas. That is, if we have our pilot’s licence.

And there might be a few new routes in the commute to a city like Toronto. Like the St. Catherines to Toronto river in the sky that could take effect over Lake Ontario. Of course these flying cars must also be floatable in case of accident or running out of gas. But it is doable and still advantageous in this circumstance.

So I think flying cars are going to be way less valuable than they seem at first glance. This is my crude way of stomping on some people’s dreams. I’d like to say sorry, but I just am not sorry. There are usually limits to people’s dreams.

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Creep Creep

Can we all just agree that marketers are overwhelmingly creeps? It seems the lot are driven to exaggerations and hyperbole in the effort to sell us anything at all. Today I’d like to talk about the exaggerations in “technical” fields. Marketers offend me here as a science fiction author.

Let’s get right to the “hoverboard” that does not hover and is prone to explode or at least burn. This wheeled contraption is obviously not a hovering vehicle of any kind. It has wheels like almost all modes of transport. How dare they make the standard so low just because the year has come and gone when the movie Back to the Future said hoverboards would be on the market.

Next the marketing creeps have been calling remote control battles, robot battles for more than a decade. The whole point of robots is that they are supposed to do what you tell them to do and figure out how best to do that all on its own. Half the battle of building a robot is the brain. If it’s an RC fight you want then call it that.

The third big lie and overstated technology is artificial intelligence or AI. I know some of it is like a black box that the programmers can’t see inside. And it can learn. It may be artificial but it’s not intelligent just yet. AIs still suck at understanding human speech, something even the least intelligent humans can get. Until it can handle an intelligent conversation with me, I don’t believe artificial intelligences exist and the singularity is just around the corner.

Quit overstating technology. The bounds are changing every day. Just because the creeps of marketing stole some terms from science fiction doesn’t mean we’re living in an advanced future. Today seems like such an unsatisfying future when they have to lie about it for you.

Maybe we can get the marketers on false advertising claims. Maybe then science fiction could reclaim its words.

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