A Happy and Kind Recommendation

Image found on Daily Kitten

Image found on Daily Kitten

I’ve worked with Digital Fiction Pub (DFP) as an editor for some time now and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the company and the authors they publish. One of my favorite experiences was helping to select stories for and edit the original Digital Science Fiction anthologies…most especially a happy little story called “The Night We Flushed the Old Town” by Martin L. Shoemaker, in Therefore I Am (Digital Science Fiction anthology #2).

Martin posted a great tribute to Michael Wills, the gentle genius behind DFP, and the final paragraph of the post included a kind reflection on me as his editor. Martin’s a great writer (and you should definitely check out his other works, especially “Today I Am Paul”), and I’m grateful to be thought of so kindly. It takes a special kind of focus to help an author fine-tune their fiction, and I love having the opportunity to do it.

At present, DFP is closed for submissions (and has been focusing on reprints), but keep checking the site if you have any science fiction, fantasy, or horror short stories you’d like to share! Stories under 3,500 words in all three genres fit the “Quickfic” category, and these stories are posted on the DFP website as well as turned into Quickfic anthologies. Michael selected one of my stories to lead the way in the first Quickfic anthology, and I’m hoping to submit more of my own work at some point.

In the meantime…write more!

Fun and Games in the ER

lfg0148xxSo. I missed last week’s #FlashFictionFriday thanks to an ER visit for a bad reaction to new medication. After days of feeling like a wrung-out dishrag run over by a tank, I’m almost back to (ab)normal.

I have nothing but appreciation for the doctor and nurses who talked me through the panic that accompanied feeling like my body was completely shutting down, even though it was the strangest ER setup I’ve ever seen. First, you go past a ‘reception’ area in the hallway, where you have to stand there to check in (I couldn’t). Next, you go into a waiting room to chill out until a triage nurse can evaluate you. Then, you finish dealing with registration at yet another reception counter (but with chairs there), and finally, you get shuffled off to the “yellow” or “green” ER area based on your symptoms.

They wheeled me off to “green” (I was shaking uncontrollably and my legs had given out), which was kinda nice in that it meant my reaction probably wasn’t life-threatening. They parked me in front of the nurses’ station, though, so they could keep an eye on me while waiting for an exam area to become available. They had limited exam cubicles, so they’d set up a couple of ‘waiting’ areas within the ER where more mobile people had to sit and wait after being examined. A bunch of people in those areas had IVs, which seemed a bit odd. If someone is in the ER and needs an IV, it seems like it’d be a good idea to keep them as stationary as possible…but who knows.

My doctor was fantastic. She’d clearly seen this type of reaction before, which was both reassuring and disquieting, but she went through a few tests to make sure nothing else was happening. They dealt with treatment fairly quickly, kept me for a while to make sure that the reaction had passed and I’d be okay, and then sent me off with a different prescription. All in all, a strange but decent experience with Canadian healthcare.

Now that I’ve mostly recovered and caught up on my workload, I’ll get more posting and writing done. Current plan is to refresh my knowledge of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style so I can work on streamlining my writing. If you haven’t read this style book, I highly recommend it.

The Numbers

CR-7853

Occator Crater on Ceres, courtesy of NASA

“Glaring at the display isn’t going to change the numbers.”

The surveyor settled back into his seat, struggling not to turn his glare on the pilot of the tiny survey vehicle. She was bringing them down inside Occator Crater, inching down slowly to keep from kicking up any planetary debris.

“This thing has already swallowed us,” he muttered. The jagged walls of the crater already rose up out of view, and they hadn’t landed yet.

“You’re not claustrophobic, are you? Bad time for something like that to come up,” the pilot replied, slowing descent so much that the craft seemed to hover in place. “Don’t worry. The numbers never really give a good idea what something will look like, we’ll touch down in a minute.”

Tel shrugged, but didn’t continue distracting Lyra’s attention. He knew life was circumscribed by numbers. They told him when to wake up, when to sleep, how long to sleep, how much to consume…and they controlled his work of determining whether mineral deposits were worth the expense of mining. They also controlled the pilot’s decisions related to speed, angle of descent, and where to land.

He felt the barest shudder as the survey vessel touched down. A small puff of dust welcomed them to the barren dwarf planet. Idly wondering how many specks of material they’d disturbed, he punched the controls for the survey ‘droid. Its operating ID flashed briefly on the screen, followed by its operating condition. All systems go.

“Okay, we’re good to begin,” Lyra told him as she locked down the board. “Be mindful of the gravity. If you do anything fast with the ‘droid or ramp, we might get knocked around a bit.”

“I know, gravity here’s less than half that of the Moon,” he replied absently, his attention focused on the panel. They were settled down about 300 meters from the shining deposits in the crater, and he was eager to begin his assessment of the material. The chemical analysis showed it was a type of salt, but it was like nothing on Earth.

They felt a stronger shudder as he lowered the aft ramp so the ‘droid could begin its survey. The heavy machine didn’t know it yet, but the numbers dictated that it was on a one-way mission. Gravity meant that heavy machinery would have an easier time staying on the surface, but limited fuel space meant that all extraneous weight had to be left behind if they were to lift off and return to the mining ship.

It’s always about the numbers, Tel thought as he watched the heavy treads of the mining ‘droid raising a haze that obscured the bright patches beyond it. The machine lumbered along, its slow pace geared to its weight and the uneven surface inside the impact crater.

“How much do you think is out there?” Lyra asked as she started laying in the instructions that would return them to the mining ship.

Tel shrugged. “I wasn’t able to get a direct measurement of how deep the deposits are, so it’s impossible to estimate.”

Two alarms went off simultaneously as Tel watched the ‘droid begin to sink into the edges of the white deposits.

Lyra looked over as Tel desperately began recall measures, trying to edge the ‘droid back towards the ship, sardonically asking, “Didn’t you run the numbers on what would happen to a machine that heavy if there wasn’t solid rock below the deposit zone?”.

“There’s no way. This is an ice world, the surface is solid under that…”

The ‘droid disappeared from sight. Lyra and Tel stared at where it had been, then looked at each other. “Are you still reading anything from it?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s fully online, just not…wait. Its descent stopped. According to the sensors, there’s solid metal under it.”

“There’s what?”

“Solid metal.” Perplexed, Tel refreshed the data feeds. “Not ore. A solid surface, seems to be an alloy of some sort. There’s no way manufactured material can be here…” His voice trailed off as he saw Lyra begin to shake her head.

“The survey data showed that this crater has gone undisturbed for about three million years,” she pointed out. “So…it’s not human. Now what?”

“Now this will either make or break my career,” he sighed. “We’ll either go down in history as the surveyors who found the first alien object, or I’ll just be known as the engineer who couldn’t get the numbers right.”

© Copyright 2016 Christine Clukey Reece

 

 

 

 

Hello Blog, We Meet Again

I’m returning to you after a long absence. No whiny explanations or self-pity, this time. Just straight up acknowledgment that not posting was incredibly lame and I need to do better in the future – especially since I want to publish more work.

Moving on.

Lots of cool space stuff happening lately, especially with the reemergence of “Cosmos”, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Check out The Wire’s write-up of the most recent episode. Tyson doesn’t sound stoned like Sagan did, but he has a direct and calm delivery style that suits the subject matter and educational aspects of the show. The writing is excellent – two thumbs up from this semi-evolved primate.

And on that happy note…back to work!

2012 Recap, No Space Odyssey

In spite of my desire to leave Earth and establish a colony of non-stupid people on Mars, I’m still here. Turns out it’s a bit more problematic than I expected to talk Space X into holding a contest to help me get there. Ah well. They have some great competition topics and I guess I can’t be too upset that they’re focusing a little closer to Earth for now.

I’m working on a few story ideas, one of which is partially based on my previous flash fiction here. Another story is very loosely based on the space game I’m running in the Megaverse – not using any of their copyrighted material, just based on a few entertaining PC exploits. I’m sure my players will be thrilled to hear how they’ve inspired me to commemorate their deeds. *cough*

This year has passed in a bit of a blur. It’s been busy, we’ve dealt with stress and some health issues, and we moved to a large city. [Love the city!] Along with that, I’ve been fighting a huge case of something resembling writer’s block. The stories are there in my head, but I have trouble setting them down on paper or on screen. I’m not sure if it’s fear of writing garbage or fear of hearing negative feedback, but I’m working my way through that baggage and hope to post new material soon.

Things to look forward to in 2013:

  • New games
  • New gamers to hang out with
  • Exploring the city
  • More good movies coming out
  • Some great books coming out
  • Continuing my paleo cooking adventures
  • Comet ISON
  • Negotiating with Space X

That last one will be tough, but worth it. Mars ahoy!

“Friday” Flash Science Fiction #3 – Dawn

Dawn

Sunrise. Earthrise. I guess it depends on your point of view.

Courtesy of NASA.

From space, the sunrise is spectacular. An arc of glowing light strikes the curve of the planet and rolls along, driving away the darkness in its path. Of course, that’s not how it works – the sun’s light is fixed and the Earth spins through it. But why let facts ruin a lovely image?

I stared out the porthole, dreading the day to come. My class had finally hit a point where we were deemed capable of handling A5 tasks with minimal supervision, and we’d receive our work assignments today.

Along with the other tenthers, I’d spent time working in nearly every section of the station – robotics, astromech, waste management, life support, maintenance, eco support, freight ops, lift ops, medical, and recycling. Contracted techs and their families were never allowed into the command center – WalCorp claimed it was a security problem, but I think it was to keep us from finding out that we’d never go home to Earth.

That’s a funny phrase: “home” to Earth. I was only 2 when my parents signed up for this. They lifted us within months, and I don’t remember anything about the surface. How can I call it home when I don’t remember anything about it?

No control room for us; no radar, no administration, no flight ops, no communication with the surface. We existed in a little bubble and serviced the great machine in which we lived – the hum from the constantly running lift seemed to vibrate through every metal surface. I even thought I could feel it when I curled up in my bunk, but my mother told me I was imagining it.

The grades below us, mostly sevenths and eighths, had to supervise the younger children and clean the living quarters. Sometimes they helped with other things, like harvesting in eco, but they mostly took care of the cleaning. I didn’t miss that; I preferred digging into the mechanics of the servo arms to fix them.

I loved the sight of Earth from my private window, but even that couldn’t soothe me while I waited to find out where I’d be assigned for the next two years. Our classes would continue until we were 20, but we’d have to work an increasing number of hours along with our studies. I don’t mind the studying, but I do mind having to give up any semblance of privacy and free time for something I didn’t agree to. I love my parents…but right now, I hate them for bringing me here.

Anything but recycling; anything but medical. I can’t stand it when they bring in people who got hurt loading or unloading the lift. It takes 22 hours for it to climb or descend, so there’s a two-hour window to unload and then load it with whatever’s going back to the surface. The lift is tethered in the center of the station where there’s no gravity – or maybe I should say the station rotates around the spot where the lift is linked. I guess it depends on your point of view.

I’ll know in five minutes. That was my thought then, and I remember it clearly even though it’s been nearly 10 years since my last few days on Proteus Station.

 

Friday Flash Science Fiction #2 – “Yuri’s World”

“Yuri’s World”

"Yuri's World", courtesy of NASA

I’m surprised this viewport doesn’t have a permanent imprint of my nose on it.

Every spare moment, what few I’m given, I’m here – staring down at lights on a world I don’t know. Our teachers won’t talk about it much, other than to say that the corporation our parents work for is down there. They know no one’s ever been sent Earthside, no matter what WalCom promises.

I know it too – I hacked the system to check. That’ll get me spaced if they find out and they’ll make up some story about me, just like they did for Eran. She’s the one who told me that no one’s ever been sent back to Earth; she told me to check it out for myself, and she was gone the next day. We got a message saying she’d been sent Earthside for further training in chemical and fluid dynamics, but they didn’t cover their tracks very well this time. The shuttles that left around her supposed departure window were strictly cargo or outbound to Luna, and the lift was on its way up.

I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I didn’t know that I could be next.

My family contracted as technicians to help finish WalCom’s perma-link station, with an option to go Earthside once construction was finished. There’s always an excuse, though, for why we can’t go back. Not enough space in the lift, too many paying commercial customers, blah blah blah. But they aren’t going to let us go back – they’ve got us here, why should they pay to lift more techs into space?

The stars in my night sky are the lights of Earth.

I will never reach them.

 

 

©2012 Christine Clukey Reece