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A Tale of The Loss of Various Stuff And Brick-A-Brack-it-A

Now I would like to write some fiction as it has been awhile. I had to upgrade my laptop to Windows 10 from Vista because of my silly Hearthstone addiction, yes, I am a nerd, finally able to admit it all these years later, and Blizzard was not going to let me keep playing if I didn’t upgrade. I had been sitting on this windows 10 for awhile, I bought it originally for my desktop which still needs a processor.

More evidence of my nerd-dom right there, I enjoy  putting pc’s together. I also love my cat, even though she sat on my processor which I stupidly left out, and bent the pins. I tried to straighten it and ended up breaking them off. So, to make a long story longer, I am full of contradictions. I love my cat and my computer. I love writing, but find it hard at times to get motivated.

I lost a lot of items when I moved, and found another item that didn’t make it. My Microsoft Office disc. I re-downloaded scrivener, and will have to rebuy Office in the future. It costs too much to buy it now, so now it will force me to learn scrivener which looks like a lot of fun. Trying to find the upside in losing software that will cost over a hundred dollars to replace.

The other items I lost were some irreplaceable ones and some I can re-buy. My fitness cd’s, my rings, including a one of a kind genuine amethyst ring which the jeweler destroyed the mold he used to make it afterwards, Cowboy Bebop dvd collection, and my tassel from graduating high school and community college, and my community college ring. A little crystal vase from my now deceased Grandma was also in that box.

I was grateful for the help at the time, but also exhausted and stressed out. It’s Over Now, as the Alice In Chains song goes, but, every time I think I’m past it, I ran across another thing I need that I don’t have.

It has been frustrating but I have learned some valuable lessons. One obvious one is that stuff is just stuff. The vase isn’t my Grandma. I still graduated even though I don’t have the tassel to prove it. I do have the diploma. Another obvious rule, which if I had been sane I would have known and should have known better, never let people who you know have a high probability of having a meth addiction into your house. They will rob you blind every time.

They were taking stuff from one box and adding it to anther, I was constantly telling them no, I am keeping that box. While I was loading two boxes, I left the third at the top of the stairs, when I came back it was gone. I really thought, perhaps I was mistaken and there were only two boxes. I was so tired.

Nope, they hauled it off when I was gone for ten seconds. So yeah, that was stupid of me. And, since I let them in it is a she said she said situation. I did let them keep a lot of stuff, so, I have no way of proving that they stole anything.

I decided to chalk it up as a lesson learned. Not to get invested too much in material things, and to make my peace with the loss. And, you never make good decisions when under a lot of stress. You need time to think and process.

If anyone is rushing you into something, it is probably not to your benefit. If anyone offers to help with nothing in return, sometimes, there is an ulterior motive. The world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Occasionally, there is a glimmer. But most of the time, there is something else at work. I wish that wasn’t the case, but in my experience, most of the time there is a cost, a hidden cost, but a cost nonetheless. Make sure you are willing to pay it. There is no free lunch, as they say.

 

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Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Timed Write—Between the Cliffs of Venus Part 2

Adi woke up, her head aching and pounding. The hulking giant beast man leered at her in the copter. Was she dead? Was this some messed up after life? She patted herself down, the plans were gone, as was her lasgun. Damn. Of course they would have stripped her clean. She was a goner for sure.

“Hey, where are you taking me? I don’t suppose there is any use trying to make a deal with you, is there?”

The creature’s face remained the same weird leer, no recognition seemed to enter the thing’s eyes. The person driving the copter remained silent. Was it Harris? Or did she imagine that? This could be her chance to take out the mastermind behind her people’s destruction. This could be it, the only chance to get so close to the villain of her generation.

But, they had removed her weapon, and her head pulsed in agony. She remembered being shot. It seemed ages ago. Her arms were painfully tied behind her back with thick cords. “Okay, you got me, so what now?”

“The silent treatment? Are you Harris, then? Kinda impressive that you came out here to Venus on my account.”

“The silence really gets to you doesn’t it? Must’ve been very lonely out here on your own.”

She heard the voice from the front of the small airborne vehicle. He didn’t turn around. She couldn’t verify for sure that it was him. It would seem strange that someone so important would come in person. But, she could have sworn she saw his face.

“Your father was once a friend of mine, many years ago.”

“You knew my father?”

“Sure. I knew a lot of folks in the early days when we just started to develop this place. I modified that lasgun to stun only. I didn’t want to kill you. Not yet anyhow. I would like to know, what exactly you know. Where the Blue Rim is hiding out, for starters. Or, how about how you survived out here, all by your lonesome.  That is quite impressive.”

“So, you rescued me, to disarm me, and torture me?”

“It doesn’t have to be torture, does it? You gotta be lonely. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a friendly chat, you know, for once?”

She couldn’t gauge whether he was serious or joking. His voice was muffled by the whirring noise of the machine and the wind whipping around them. She would never give up the rebel’s location. She would rather throw herself out of the copter and fall into eternity. The hulking man beast was blocking her path to the door with its crooked smile. Glassy eyes staring at her, not seeming to understand beyond its orders of watching her.

“While we are just chatting, friendly like, why don’t you tell me where we are going?”

“All in good time, Adi. We are almost there.” She felt the copter shudder to a still and land with a plume of dust rising to cover the windows. She squirmed attempting to free herself from the cords, feeling her skin painfully being scraped away in the process.  The pilot got out of the copter, the door shutting behind him. Another man beast yanked the door near her open and roughly grabbed one of her arms, dragging her forcefully from the vehicle into a dusty area that served as some kind of landing pad.

The man she assumed was Harris walked in front of her with an escort of beasts with lasguns. Her beast man dragged her along while her boots scuffed a dust trail behind her. Her mind was trying to figure out where she was. If she could get free perhaps she could tell the others of this place.

“Bring her in, and shut the door.” The man said without turning around. The floor was made out of some sort of smooth laminate. It was smooth and white and a large machine was in the middle of the room with a chair in the middle of it. She dug her heels in.

“Come on, Adi. It is almost time for our little chat.” The man removed his helmet gently, handing it off to a person who seemed to come out of nowhere to take it for him. “Oh you don’t like my little chair. I just wanted you to be comfortable, and in a place where we wouldn’t need to argue or fight, or waste needless time. This handy device records thoughts, and thoughts don’t lie. Oh, they can at first, but after a while, the truth will out. You can’t run forever. I assure you, it is comfortable. And you won’t remember a thing. You will wake up refreshed and be on your way.”

“You are Harris. Why are you doing this?”

“The burden of keeping secrets and of people trying to undermine what I am trying to do here is getting tiresome. Don’t you see, that I am trying to do the best for everyone? Why can’t you appreciate that? That information you were going to smuggle out? Yeah, it just would have sabotaged everything. Set me back a long long way if your little group blows this facility up. Earth is on its way out, the future is here, but it is my future. The future I envisioned. I won’t let you ruin it for everyone else.”

Another man entered with a tray of tools for the machine. He left quickly but not before she caught a glimpse of his face. “Wait, what? That is Harris too? How can there be more than one of you?”

“Same technology as the beast men. All about cloning and technology. It is how and why I, Harris, can personally get you from the sky, all the while another Harris is still running things on Earth, and another Harris is running another laboratory far from here. You cannot stop us. There is, fortunately, only one of you.”

Was it all truly hopeless? Her head hurt, her arms were chafed and raw and bleeding on the white floor.  She had to free her hands. She had to get out of here so she could warn the others.

She looked around the room, it was circular and there were several doors where the other Harris’s seemed to go. The beast men stayed by the door. She watched as the Harris in front of her loaded a syringe with a clear fluid, getting the straps on the chair like device ready.

She somersaulted backwards suddenly aiming for the lasgun in the hands of one of the beast men behind her. She knocked it out of his surprised hands as he grunted confused. His companion looked on moving slowly toward her.

Harris turned around pointing at her but she didn’t wait to her what he said. She had the lasgun in her mouth and and hopped out through the door which she opened by slamming her shoulder into it, running for the copter.

She used the lasgun to shoot the cords sizzling some of her skin in the process as she clenched her teeth in pain. The hulks were coming up behind her. She fired the lasgun at them both which slowed them down but did not stop them as they felt very little pain.

Luckily for Adi, they were pretty slow. She reached the copter first, yanking open the door and shutting it loudly. She locked the doors. Her com and beacons were removed from her jacket by Harris or his goons. How to get this thing started up without a key. She felt the hulks shaking the copter.

She opened the compartment below the main unit and carefully removed some wires, rewiring them and making new connections. She would need to hurry, she heard a crack in the glass and saw it form like a snowflake from her days on Earth. “Father I need your strength about now. Please, guide me to the Blue Rim.”

The copter powered up, lights a glow, and lifted off the ground. One of the creatures was hanging onto the tail and she spun it around to get him off. She noted the coordinates of this place in her mind, the only tool she had left.

She only had so much fuel she noted looking at the gauge, and she had to get away from here. Where were the others? How could she reach them now? She didn’t have her beacon, besides it alerted Harris to her location.

She might be all that was left of the resistance. But she had to hope. Her life had to have a purpose. She set off in a direction away, seeing other figures on the ground shaking their fists at her as she drifted further from the building.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized

Writing Prompt –Parallel Universe

Inspired by James Mascia’s Other Worlds.

Your character or group of characters has walked through a dimensional rift and finds himself/herself in a parallel universe where almost everything is the same except for several minor details. However, these details have a huge impact on the way the world has formed.

“Okay team, you ready to go through? This is only the second time the rift has been opened. We tracked Mushroom the monkey for a week before his transmitter failed so we know the rift itself won’t kill you. What is on the other side, well, we got a hand full of images sent back before the signal died. And, the good news is the place is so much like here, except it appears the air and water quality are much better. This might be the future. You have been chosen to assess the risks and possibilities.

“The goal will be to explore, but make it back here in exactly a week’s time, at 0500 hours. That is when it will be open again, so it is imperative that you make it back to the rendezvous on time. Else, you will have to stay until we send another team. If one of you is compromised, make sure the equipment makes it back with somebody to the point so we get the data.

“We can plan a rescue mission if need be, but we need that information.” The old man took a moment to drink from a glass of water, handing the glass to an assistant who quietly walked away with it. “Any questions?” The five of them looked at the  blue and purple swirling mass a few feet away, scientists and robots zoomed about making adjustments.

This was it, another universe so like their own. The future lay in the hope that this may be the answer to their prayers. “One question, sir.” Lilly raised her voice looking directly at the old man, the leader of this mission. A mission that few knew about, but could affect millions. “Yes, Ms. Neil?”  He glanced at his watch, a timer for the rift set and ticking away.

“Do we know what happened to Mushroom?”

“No, he may have disconnected his collar walking around, we have no recordings or information of violence. It just stopped sending, so it is hard to say. If you happen to find Mushroom, it would be useful to bring his gear back so we can find out what happened. If not, your information should of course be enough. I will say again, this only works if someone makes it back. So, no unnecessary risks.”

Lilly and the rest of the team nodded, facing the rift before them. This was their duty to their country. It was an honor as well. Gershwin and Trombone were military and trained for survival, whereas Lilly and Severn were more scientific minded intellectuals. Nigel was sort of a cross between the two, a former military NASA astronaut. He would lead the mission as he understood both parts of it.

Should something befall Nigel, Lilly was supposed to take charge, although she hoped she wouldn’t have to. Gershwin and Trombone had largely been silent and uncommunicative with her. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had special orders that were kept from the rest. Again, she hoped she wouldn’t find out.

“Good luck ladies, and gentlemen, take your packs, there should be enough rations to survive a week. If you  befriend any locals, even if they seem just like us, be aware that they aren’t. We don’t know their motivations or even if they will react kindly to our arrival.”

They each picked up a heavy hiking style backpack with rations water, and an emergency kit.  They were a well oiled machine. They had been preparing for months for this moment. They lined up and slowly walked up to the portal and one by one passed through it.

Lilly felt a cold sensation and a pin prickling feeling all over and before she could think much more about it she was on the other side with the rest of the team. They backed away from the portal as it flickered and finally disappeared. They were alone.

It was a rocky area with shrubs. Reminiscent of Arizona, she thought. “I used to go running and hiking in Arizona.” She said aloud to no one in particular. The sky was a vivid blue with fluffy white clouds. She breathed in deeply. Fresh clean air. She let it out feeling the sensation in her lungs.

“Let’s set up camp, set our receiver here. We cannot afford to lose the rendezvous point. After we have a perimeter set up, we can explore a little in teams. Meet back here in ten. Everyone has a walkie on them right? We have to keep in touch, any sign of Mushroom let me know. So, first set up, then we explore a little, don’t go too far out.” Nigel looked at each one of them. Lilly set her pack down, started to get the tent out.  She saw the others do the same. Severn started to wander off.

“Severn? Where you going? Nigel wants us to set up first?”

“I am not going far, I thought I heard something.”

“I think we are supposed to go in pairs or not alone.”

“You see where I’m heading right? I am not going far, I promise.”

Lilly watched Severn go over the hill and walk down with rocks sliding about and he disappeared from view.

“Hey, Lilly, you need a hand setting up?”

“No, I’m okay, I just watched Severn head down there.”

“By himself?”

“Yeah, he claimed he heard something.”

Nigel frowned a little. “Hey, Gershwin, can you go after Severn? Just make sure he doesn’t get himself in trouble, he went that direction.” Gershwin nods, shouldering a rifle, and his pack setting off carefully in the direction Severn went.

“Don’t worry, Lilly. Gershwin is a great tracker, and I am sure they both will be fine. In the meantime, we gotta get the fire going, and all the tents up, plus our receiver and beacon so we can transmit. This looks like a pretty empty area, which is good, we won’t have to explain any of this to the natives. ”

Lilly smiled and tried to sound unconcerned. But, something about the way Severn acted seemed off. She hadn’t heard anything. Yet, he heard something. They were just told not to go alone and to keep in touch. “Nigel.”

Nigel turned around and looked at her and saw where she was pointing. Severn’s pack lay on the ground, his walkie peeking out of it. “Why would he not take water? Why leave everything?  Can you help me get some kindling, not much here, but some brush, maybe we can use that. Try not to worry.”

“He didn’t seem right, he didn’t seem like himself. Something seemed off.”

“You think going through the rift made him forgetful?” Nigel laughed as he went about breaking pieces off the sagebrush with a snap. Trombone was setting up a perimeter fence, a  serious frown on his face. “How much do you know about Trombone and Gershwin?”

“I know those aren’t there real names. I know they are military of some sort, and we need some people who know how to protect us. I trust them. They are all about the mission. And it succeeding.”

“What if their mission isn’t the same as ours?”

Nigel shook his head. “Are you sure the rift didn’t make you paranoid? We have only been here, maybe 30 minutes tops, and all ready you are worrying. I know as much as you do. It is just information gathering.”

Lilly nodded again, keeping him close. “Shouldn’t Severn have been back by now?”

“You know how he can be, if he is on the trail of something he can lose track of time. That is why it is so important to take your walkie. The only cell tower we got here is our receiver and it fires information into the portal at intervals where they open it briefly. So, we have to do it the old fashioned way, with radio frequencies, which is why I am mad at him for not taking his.”

Night was beginning to fall all ready, the air began to take on a chill air. Trombone and Nigel worked on the fire, while Lilly finished setting up the receiver. There was still no sign of Severn or Gershwin. The receiver had a green light come on as the generator kicked into life, generating a heater. She held her hands to it. “Who knew the desert could be so cold.”

“Do you want the actual answer to that, because you should know how that works, you know, once the sun sets.” She smiled at Nigel. He was the only likable one on the team since Severn had left.

She found herself increasingly nervous. The fire crackled and spit sparks. It was a safe distance from the machinery. It was mostly to keep any animals away. The heat from the generator plus the electricity it provided for their tools and materials and machines would ensure they stayed near. The fire also helped light up the edges of their perimeter, where Trombone was on duty pacing it with his rifle at the ready, watching and waiting.

“I hope he doesn’t accidentally shoot the others.”

“Gershwin and him have a signal, I am sure they won’t shoot each other.”

“What about Severn?”

“Do you always worry about him so?”

“Nigel. Severn is my brother. Half brother, actually. or Step brother. My father remarried, so, yeah, I have been worrying about him since he was like nine. I haven’t ever really stopped. He has always been a dare devil. But, he is normally more cautious. He isn’t stupid, nor is he usually careless.”

“You need to stop, Lilly. You are worrying way too much. As far as we know, there is nothing to be afraid of here. We have seen no evidence of any settlements. Nor even any animal sightings. Have you checked the soil readings yet? We know the air is pretty good, and we haven’t found any water yet, but there must be some around here, because Mushroom found some.”

“We also do not know what happened to Mushroom.”

Suddenly she heard a loud squeal, it sounded like a whistle or an animal call. “What was that?” Nigel laid a hand on her arm briefly, putting a finger to his lips gesturing for silence.

She saw him glance toward the fire, seeing Trombone’s silhouette, rifle out. He had stopped pacing, was listening as well. Suddenly an arrow whizzed by their heads. “Get behind the apparatus, hurry.” Nigel picked up the arrow and got to the ground, pulling Lilly along, and pushing her down into the reddish dirt. He handed her the arrow. “What do you make of that?”

“It’s. It’s an Indian arrowhead. Like the kind that was used in the nineteenth century against Custer.”

“Quiet. You got any kind of weapon on you?” Lilly flashes a small knife. Nigel looks at it, and kind of frowns. He slowly gets a small gun out, cocks it and makes sure it is loaded. They hear gunfire near the fire. “Trombone.”

Suddenly they hear horses. The hoof beats were loud and the warriors were making loud noises as well and more arrows and additional gunfire erupted around them.  Lilly got nearer to Nigel, her hand shaking gripping her knife. “We have to get them to open the portal now. Have to enter the emergency code.”

“Nigel, if you get up now, you will be killed.”

“Can you fire a gun? You can cover for me.”

“They have guns too, there’s more than just Trombone’s shots going off.”

“This explains why the air and the water are in such good shape. The British settlers, the Europeans in this place did not make it. They must have died off from diseases instead of the native populace. Or some other situation. These people continued to live as they always had, except with guns and horses of course. So, there had been an invasion, but it was unsuccessful here. But they must remember, because of this hostility. They know what invaders are now, they aren’t naive or trusting. Nor are they taking any chances.”

“I don’t want to die like this.” Lilly looked up at Nigel in fear, he handed her his gun. “Then don’t. Cover for me, let me get us out of here.”

“But my brother?”

“Lilly, we have to get out of here now. We will come back, I promise.”

“He’s dead isn’t he?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

They heard Trombone’s gun click, saw his silhouette go down to hatchets and shrieking. “It’s now or never.” Nigel jumped up and ran to the console. Lilly slowly got up pointing the gun at the natives who were surrounding the fence and knocking it down in places. She saw one warrior place a pike near the fire. He held up Trombone’s head and placed it on it, loudly. Lilly felt her stomach start to grumble uneasily, choking down her vomit tasting the acid bitter taste.

“Almost done, Lilly. They don’t seem to be paying us any mind anymore.”

“Maybe it is because we aren’t shooting at them.”

“Well, I think they were distracted with Trombone, as soon as they realize we are here, I am not sure they will bother talking to us.”

Lilly watched a couple warriors setting fire to the tents. She grabbed up her satchel with her notes in it. “We didn’t have time to get many samples.”

“We can’t worry about that now. It’s okay.”

“You promise?”

The rift flared open, at the same time an arrow thudded loudly nearby. Lilly ran for it firing an occasional shot. “Nigel, come on, it’s open!”

He was slumped on the panel, an arrow in his back.”Go, go ahead. Run.” Lilly stopped and turned back toward Nigel, firing shots in the direction of the natives until the gun went click. She dropped her satchel, grabbed him by the arm and with her adrenaline running in her veins pulsing and  throbbing in her ears enabling her to find strength and speed unknown to her, not thinking merely doing, her legs poetry in motion she carried him like an oversized sack of potatoes. Arrows and bullets whizzing here and there, fire consuming the tents, the receiver began to spark wildly and the rift started to flicker and on she ran.

“Only a little farther, you should just drop me and go. The mission.It is more important.”

She didn’t reply because she couldn’t spare the breath or think of the words.  She sprinted carrying the man she knew in this moment she would love until she died. They both crashed into the rift into a pile on the other side, the metal floor crashing into their bruised bodies. Soldiers had guns pointing at the portal as it was shut down an arrow whizzed into the room. Lilly felt her brain go fuzzy, and things started to go blurry and dim for her.

“Get these two some medical attention, now.” The old man bellowed.  He picked up the arrow looking at it carefully. “So much like our world, but more pristine. Unplundered, unpolluted. Underpopulated. No sign of Mushroom, I take it?”

“Sir, both of these members of the team are unconscious. We are still receiving a signal from the other side, further away from the campsite. Are we to assemble a rescue team?”

“Wait until we have these two debriefed. They might give us more information on possible survivors or what exactly happened. Mushroom could still be out there since he isn’t a human, they might not have killed him. I still think his collar was removed or damaged. The signal is coming from Gershwin I suppose?”

“Yes. He was following the other scientist, I think that scientist was attempting to track Mushroom, actually.”

“Interesting. Well, we will try to get these two fixed up and see what they know, and go from there. This just got interesting, gentlemen.” The old man handed the arrow to his assistant who again took it quietly and walked away with it much like the water glass earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized

Writing Prompt — An Overcrowded Place

Earth is overcrowded and a scientist is tasked with coming up with a solution. From James Mascia’s Other Worlds writing prompts.

“We are all depending on you, Derrick. We have about five years left as far as sustainability goes, and then it all goes to hell. So, with that in mind, good luck. You will have access to the latest equipment, the best we can find as far as assistants and techs and anything you feel you might need that isn’t all ready here.” Mr. Gibson walked briskly through the lab gesturing toward the tables and computers  in pristine condition along the walls.

Techs walked by in white coats with clip boards in their arms hurrying about. A large screen had numbers tabulating changing by the minute. This was the  most space Derrick had seen in years. It almost seemed excessive, this room to maneuver.  The cleanliness of it was startling.

Something tended to happen with over crowding, people started to care less. About their environment, each other, things like cleanliness, like taking care or notice of others, of being human beings tend to disappear.

Survival of the fittest comes to mind. Yes, it all becomes a large Darwinian experiment. Which rat will churn the butter and which will drown in it. Only, Derrick couldn’t recall what real butter tasted like. There wasn’t room for actual cows anymore. They require too  much grain, too much land, too many resources. Starving kids were a common sight now, not just in far off places, but right here in Washington. Their eyes begged him, find a way, save us, we are the future. The future of what, though? A garbage heap?

Many of the upper class had been heavily investing in space travel in the hopes of leaving this dirty tattered Earth behind for other places to plunder. The poor and less fortunate were stuck here, with what is left of this world, too many hungry mouths like baby birds opening wide shrieking for food.

He had to brush past the homeless  clawing at his clothes to get in the building, their eyes hungry pleading, find a way, find a way, saying in their own way: “This is your future, you will be stuck and die down here with us…unless you can find a way…”

All the education in the world wouldn’t make him a part of the upper tier. He had been born in the wrong neighborhood, the wrong shade of brown. He was doomed to rot here with the undesirables which made him uniquely suited to solve this problem. He had everything at stake as well. He was in between the worlds of the top and the bottom, educated and financially in a fair place, but not included in the club because of his lowly birth. A go between of sorts. A last hope, so much pressure, so little time.

“Derrick? Any initial thoughts?”

“Is this whole mission just a distraction, or is it really possible? Am I part of a token solution to alleviate panic, or do you believe in this? That we can solve this?”

“To  be honest, I don’t know if we have enough time left to solve this. But we have to try, right? If we don’t try, we will fail for sure.” Mr. Gibson patted him on the back, and nodded and walked out in his  dark grey suit. Derrick heard the door shut with a click, his fate was sealed it seems. Too many people not enough resources.

You cannot create something from nothing, how to solve this dilemma without resorting to something truly evil like mass death? Derrick sat in a chair at a long table a blank computer screen waiting for him to put in his credentials a yellow legal pad next to it with a freshly sharpened pencil on it, waiting.

“Would you like some coffee, sir?” A woman in a white coat asks him with a cup in her hand. “Coffee? I haven’t had any coffee in so long. Sure.” He looked at her a moment, saw the fear in her eyes, the fear of failure times a thousand. All these people depending on him and his team and whatever answer he came up with would undoubtedly be bad for someone.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, merely transferred from one place to another. Perhaps there is something there. If we could harness our garbage, and somehow make it into food, somehow  make it sustainable. That might be food for thought. He tapped the pencil a few times on the pad, writing down “waste. this is what we have the most of. Food is what we need. How to turn waste into food, and have it fulfill nutritional needs?”

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Early February Birthdays — Dickens and Verne

dickens-david-copperfieldAgain, we have a couple classic authors who have influenced literature, sci-fi and fantasy.

Charles Dickens wrote many novels of which I have read David Copperfield and some of his short stories including the A Christmas Carol, as well as a few others. I think I read a part of Great Expectations but I would have to read it again. I have seen so many movie versions of it that the novel would be obscured for me, and I’m not sure I currently own a copy. My David Copperfield is pretty old, I think it is a paperback from the fifties or sixties. One of my finds, and I have read it a few times adding my creases to the ones it had before.

His characters in the stories I have read were often over the top and had at times bizarre sounding names. He also dealt with in his writings, the many ills of the early industrial era, most notably, work houses, debtor’s prison, homelessness, child labor, and poverty. He wrote with a purpose. Bleak House was another of my favorites as it had spontaneous human combustion in it, which alone would make it interesting, but also dealt with the ridiculousness of British bureaucracy and the insane albeit exaggerated, amount of time and money to collect an inheritance from the courts.

Sadly, Dickens experienced a lot of these situations first hand. He had to live with his family in a real debtor’s prison, and he eventually was sold into an apprenticeship doing hard labor as a child so his family could eat. If he didn’t end up with a benefactor, he would not have gotten the education or had the ability to become a journalist, and eventually, a writer.

The modern equivalent of a benefactor would be something like the National Endowment of the Arts in the United States that allows some writers to actually survive working as writers. It is slated to be de-funded by the current administration and seen as a waste of tax payer’s money. I do not know if we have many patrons around that will replace this, but hopefully, some well-to-do philanthropists will step into the void. Otherwise, some potential Dickens will be working two part time jobs and in debt to his eyeballs trying to scrape together money for community college tuition. And just not make it. This kind of thing can make someone believe in their dream and succeed, or give up on it and settle for the day to day grind.

As far as influencing sci-fi, unless we count the spontaneous human combustion in Bleak House, I have to say Dickens has not influenced it much. However, he has considerably influence in fantasy through his direct influence on Mervyn Peake.

Peake’s characters in Gormenghast and Titus Groan have the dickens like quality in their names, and their over the top nature. At the time they were published, and I have editions from this time, fantasy wasn’t really a label. Most published fantasy was directed at children. This was the late sixties, Tolkien was changing the whole market, but it hadn’t happened quite yet. Peake’s novels which were called “Gothic Novels” for lack of a better term, were fantasy as we think of it today but not much like the Tolkien variety or the C.S. Lewis version.

Peake was an atheist. And, he had some shorter works included in my omnibus edition of the Gormenghast novels that use heavy allegory with a lamb used in a sinister way. I would say being that these authors were all British that this was a direct attack toward Lewis, or a rebuttal to Narnia of sorts. The villain in the novels, Steerpike, is based on several characters. Satan for one, but also Steerforth, a character from David Copperfield, and the Phantom of the Opera as well. Steerforth isn’t evil like Steerpike, but, he is reckless, ambitious, and doomed in the end. But, Dickens influence in the characters and their exaggeration has made its mark on the Fantasy genre through Peake.

Jules Verne who was born on February 8th, 1828 is one of the founders of science-fiction. He along with H.G.Wells is often given credit for making it a viable genre. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea introduces Captain Nemo for the first time, one of my favorite characters. Nemo is Latin for no one and is an alias for a man from India. That conjures a  bit of a different image of the character when you consider his background, he experienced colonialism first hand, at least in theory. Verne leaves Nemo very mysterious, the story is told from the viewpoint of a visitor or prisoner on the Nautilus, and Nemo is left an enigma. He is re-used in Mysterious Island as well. Around the World in 80 Days is another Verne classic. The fact that he used submarines before they were a viable technology, which at the time they were thought a far fetched idea, is what science-fiction would be known for in the future: attempting to predict the future.

1984 is a good example of this, attempting to show what a future totalitarian state may be like, also Brave New World, and most dystopia novels you may find. Now, this is being considered a viable sub-genre with the recent surge in popularity that it is enjoying due to the fear of the future many have right now. I would say venturing into this genre right now would be a good idea, although soon there may be an over abundance in this category like Vampire Fiction experienced some years back after Meyer’s Twilight success.

To  sum up, both writer’s were ahead of their time, dealing with possible technology on one hand, and using writing to detail society’s issues with the other, and both heavily influenced future genres that had not existed when they were writing, at least as we think of them today. I would easily add any book from either of these authors to my collection without a second thought. They are both easy to read given they were writing in the nineteenth century, and they both hold up today unlike many of their contemporaries.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Automatons and Service Industry Workers, or Machines vs. the Minimum Wage Worker

Just an idea I had, as my online school had a passage on the Luddite movement. Kind of an interesting phenomenon that occurred in the early 1800s and had to do with a backlash of the industrial revolution. These Luddites as they were called were english textile workers who felt they were being replaced by less skilled workers because of new technology. No longer did business  need their skills, when they just needed someone to help run the machine.

This got me thinking to my old job at Blockbuster. As I am sure most of you are aware, finding brick and mortar video stores is getting more and more difficult. I look at the “Redbox” that is by most drugstores, and at services like Netflix as being primarily responsible. Luckily for me, I left that job before it disappeared, but still, I have a feeling of deja vu in my current employment when I completed a shift at another branch of my bank that has a younger clientele. I spent a good portion of the day watching customers go to the ATM machine. At one point theye waited in line, despite the lobby in the bank being empty. The older people would go into the bank, and deal with actual live people. But most of the younger people preferred the machine.

Another example I have seen is the self check out lines. Sure, they are quirky and you need an employee to stand there, and oversee them, and train the customer how to use them, and get them unstuck. But what happens when people are trained to use them, and it becomes a no brainer? Like using an ATM, or a Redbox? What if the glitches are all but eliminated? Where does that retail worker go?

Sure, there are workers somewhere that are employed to help build these machines. Although machine building itself is becoming increasingly automated, still someone has to make the molds to make the parts, assembly line workers need to put them together right?

Back to the Luddites then. These assembly line workers, what kind of skill do they really need? What kind of wages can a corporation get away with paying them? Are people with this skill set hard to find, or replace? I would argue no, they aren’t. Which is why companies outsource this type of work to countries where there is either no minimum wage, or the wage is much lower than the U.S. These jobs do disappear from here, and the service jobs, do become rarer.

Someday everyone will be comfortable with the ATM, which is now envelope free and can do everything from print statements, to email your balance to you. The next generation will have to figure out another way to make a living as a lot of these jobs will be gone, and the basic factory jobs will be elsewhere.

This all reminds me of one thing, which does give me some hope. There is a scene in the Fifth Element, where the main villain breaks something, and all these little robots come out to clean up the mess. he is making the argument that he is creating life out of destruction, and that he is creating more jobs by using these machines in the end. But, when he chokes on a piece of fruit, the priest points out, “Where is the robot to pat you on the back?”  As long as we still need people, all hope is not lost.