Tag Archives: science fiction

Charlotte Observer Caption Contest

Caption contest

From the Charlotte Observer:

“It’s dead, Jim.”

The Winners: Mike Tuggle of Charlotte and Bill McLoughlin of Charlotte

Thanks for all your great entries. This is the first time in You Write the Caption history we’ve had a tie winner, but the judges couldn’t see anyway to avoid that this time. So congrats to great minds, Mike Tuggle and Bill McGloughlin.
———————————–
What can I say? Problem is, the winner is supposed to get the original cartoon. Who will it be? Looks to me like it’s Amok Time! Let the kal-if-fee for the prize begin!

A reader sent me this:

Congrats…….on your Cartoon Caption win! But I don’t get the “It’s Dead”! R—Sent from my iPhone

R—,

Hey, thanks!

If you aspire to becoming a certified Star Trek geek like me, you’ll have to learn the classic lines. In numerous scenes from the original series, a character would suffer some sort of unexpected calamity, and Kirk would shout, “What happened?” It was usually Dr. McCoy who’d examine the poor character and announce, “He’s dead, Jim!”

So in the Siers cartoon, Spock is informing Kirk of the fate of print journalism.

Unbound II: Changed Worlds Anthology

Unbound

Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications will publish Unbound II: Changed Worlds in August. This themed anthology includes my short story “Hunting Ground.” From their web site:

Our second in the groundbreaking collection of short stories with the underlying theme Changed Worlds. The Unbound Anthology series published by Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications started with more than 200 submissions. Carefully, we examined each story and finally ended with the best of the best for your enjoyment.

This collection covers both Science Fiction and Fantasy, taking you around the universe and into worlds beyond your imagination.

And here’s a suggestion for my fellow writers: if you’re looking for a great venue for your work, check out Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications. Editor M.J. Moores was a pleasure to work with, and I must say that her advice made my story stronger.

In other news, I still have five stories submitted to various publishers, all looking for a little slush pile love. Next week I’m meeting with my critique group to hear their ideas on a sixth story, which I’ll submit somewhere after I incorporate their suggestions. My goal this year was to always have at least three active submissions out, and I’ve held to it so far.

Wish me luck!

Black Ghost

Silver Blade

Silver Blade Magazine specializes in “Cutting-edge Science Fiction, Slipstream, and Fantasy.” The latest edition features my flash fiction piece “Black Ghost.”

The inspiration for this story came from a couple of things. My father, a veteran of World War II, was recently admitted to the “Memory Ward” at a nursing home. Seeing him alone in a wheelchair when I visit makes me wonder if people passing by have any idea what this quiet man, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, endured in that war. Short answer: They do not. Nor do most folks consider what they owe to that generation, a generation of heroes which slips away from us day by day.

The other spark for this story was a fascinating article in Ancient Origins about the once widespread practice of interring items in tombs the dead could use in the afterlife. These “parting gifts” weren’t cheap. Consider what archaeologists found in the tomb of Princess Ukok of Siberia:

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

Often, the living would supply the departed with the means to carry on their life’s work. The Ancient Origins article cited a study of tombs from pre-Roman Italy that revealed “indications of the commonality of military service since men’s tombs of the era routinely contained metal weaponry lying across or near the skeletal remains.”

That got me to thinking about the many deities and religions — not to mention nations — that have come and gone over the centuries, and how all of them arose because they met timeless human needs. The more I thought about it, the more intriguing the possibility a future society could adapt this ancient practice. Next thing I knew, I was outlining a story I’d already titled “Black Ghost.”

Stories provide much that religion offers. The tales we read, like the ones we encounter in worship, may not be factual but are nevertheless true and necessary. The cycles of nature, the challenge of growing up and leaving home, and one’s inevitable confrontation with life and death arouse fear and fascination within every human heart. Stories and myths have the power to startle, teach, and assure us on life’s journey. That’s why religion and storytelling have germinated in all cultures.

And whatever one’s views on religion, we can all appreciate the story’s secondary themes of the debt the living owe past generations, the heroism of ordinary people that make life possible, and the boundless potential — and petulance — within every 12-year-old. Enjoy.

Spring tidings

Aztec Midnight

Yes, spring is here, and things are popping out all over. First this from my publisher, The Novel Fox:

Our favorite adventure novella, Aztec Midnight, is now literally a page-turner!

Aztec Midnight is available in both ebook and print. Purchase your paperback copy here

Yes, 2016 is off to a good start. So far, I’ve sold three sci-fi/fantasy short stories to three different publishers. One, The Clincher, came out in early March. A second is due in late May, and another will appear in a print anthology in September. I’ve completed the final edits and signed the contracts, so it looks like full steam ahead. Here’s to a productive 2016!

The Clincher

The Clincher

The Flash Fiction Press has published my story The Clincher, now available online.

The idea for this story came to me while reading William Lind’s introduction to Fourth Generation Warfare. Lind predicts that future battles will hinge on public perceptions of the combatants:

Fourth generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. A major target will be the enemy population’s support of its government and the war.

Propaganda has long served as a “Fifth Column” for invading armies. During the 1968 Prague Spring uprisings against the Soviet Union, Czech communists assured their restless population that Soviet troops entering Prague weren’t really invading — they were just dropping by to preserve order and stop “counter-revolutionaries,” thereby ensuring Czechoslovakia’s peace and prosperity.

Prague Spring“We’re from Moscow, and we’re here to help.”

Lind argues that in future conflicts, warring groups will clash over narrative even more than over territory, making the control of public opinion “the dominant operational and strategic weapon.” It occurred to me that 4GW will weaponize the advertising industry. That made me think about Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the other rapacious but fascinating characters from Mad Men. I wondered how they’d react if space aliens asked them to handle a PR campaign to prepare the Earth for invasion.

Yeah, they’d take that account.

Please leave comments at The Flash Fiction Press. Thanks!

Review of Former

Former

The world A. E. Stueve creates in his just-released novel Former is warped, chilling, and bristling with menace. Battered and terrified from the Infection War, the survivors distrust one another. Their greatest fear is of formers, people who were once infected with a man-made disease that takes over the mind and fills the victim with one over-powering urge, to attack and eat other people. A shadowy and powerful pharmaceutical firm, Profine, which invented the cure, now houses the formers in compounds where it protects them and works to return them to something close to normal lives.

But the jumpy population outside Profine’s protective compounds is vulnerable to canny and unscrupulous media manipulators. One popular blogfeed is Zex Starshine’s Unreality, where master rabble-rouser Zex Starshine beguiles and horrifies his audience with startling revelations about corporate greed, government conspiracy, and the secret threat of another former uprising. (What are those people planning in those sprawling compounds?)

I know what you’re thinking — this horrifying world sounds like today’s venomous climate of mutual demonization and seething hatreds. In both our world and the world of Former, the Internet, that impossible-to-kill cockroach of misinformation overload, fairly throbs with voices screaming about what “those people” are up to now.

For Billy Dodge, the protagonist of Former, things go from dystopian to apocalyptic when he storms out of a group therapy session for formers like himself and ends up accused of complicity in murder. His only chance of clearing himself is to trust the mysterious figures within Profine. Billy has already lost much, including his wife, who killed herself rather than succumb to the dread disease. His brush with death and survivor guilt have made Billy world-weary, yet he is driven to prove to himself he’s still alive, sometimes in ways that only make things worse.

This novel manages to be both bleak and breathtaking, grim and darkly comical. It’s impossible not to sympathize with Billy Dodge despite his impulsiveness and semi-suicidal urges and bad choices. Billy’s determination to convince himself he’s not only a human being, but still himself, despite the disease that once made him a monster, reminds me of the works of Philip K. Dick.

I’ll make a prediction: This book will be used in writing classes to illustrate the right way to create an unforgettable atmosphere, one that perfectly suits the story that emerges from it. Highly recommended.

You may also be interested in the reviews at Kirkus and Foreword Reviews.

Former Is Coming!

Stueve

The latest from writer A. E. Stueve sounds like fun — and it’ll be published in January:

About Former

Unlike his wife, his family, and his friends, Billy Dodge is alive. Profine, an international pharmaceutical and defense conglomerate, has cured him of an infection that has ravaged the Earth for over a decade. Life isn’t easy for former infected, however, and despite Profine’s help Billy is struggling to cope in a less than welcoming world. When Billy and a friend are blamed for an unfortunate death, things only become more difficult, and Billy finds himself at the center of a global crisis. As Billy wrestles with his inner demons and the strife around him, society struggles with an important question: are formers human, and should they be allowed to live?

About A.E. Stueve

A.E. Stueve was born on a bend in the Mississippi River in Southern Illinois in the late 70s. Currently he resides in Omaha, Nebraska where he is a writer, teacher, father, and husband. He holds several degrees in teaching and writing including an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska. His novels, The ABCs of Dinkology: Life and The ABCs of Dinkology: Time In-Between from EAB Publishing are available wherever good books are sold.

Remembering Bob Gordon

Bob Gordon

Robert Gordon Van Horn, November 16, 1924 – September 11, 2015

Now this brings back some memories:

Robert (“Bob”) Gordon Van Horn was an unassuming man, not given to boasting, and devoid of any ego. If you spoke with him, you’d never know that he was a popular TV personality, a creative innovator, or a war hero. As our mutual friend Dave Plyler told me, “Bob saw fierce combat in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge for which he earned a purple heart and a bronze star, but he never discussed his service.”…

Bob is preceded in death by North Carolina’s other legendary children’s TV show hosts: George Perry (WFMY’s Old Rebel); Fred Kirby (WBT’s singing cowboy); Uncle Paul Montgomery (WRAL’s jazz artist); and Brooks Lindsay (WSOC’s Joey the Clown). His passing earlier this month should serve as a reminder of the pioneering work they all did to make growing up just a little more fun.

Saturday afternoons, I’d plant myself in front of our black-and-white TV and watch those wonderful “B” serials Bob Gordon featured on his show in between rope and magic tricks. Rocket Man was my favorite.

Rocket Man

Those cliffhanger serials were my first introduction to science fiction, and no doubt influenced my approach to story telling.

Thanks for the memories, Bob.

The Future of Dystopian Literature

Gladiators

One of the writer’s vital functions is to advise readers about the possible dangers of certain actions and beliefs, just as doctors warn their patients about unhealthy behaviors and attitudes.

In that spirit, Dr. Bradley Birzer argues in The Imaginative Conservative that the current interest in dystopian science fiction is not a sign of degeneracy, but a cause for hope. As he puts it, “At their best, dystopias allow us—through the faculty of imagination—to see not only inhumanity, but the motives behind inhumanity.”

I believe such warnings are necessary and apropos. Modern life is characterized by radical transformations that are being imposed without consideration for basic human needs. Charlene Spretnak summarizes the worldview behind those transformations in her classic, The Resurgence of the Real:

In the modern worldview, a salvational sense of progress places economic expansion and technological innovation at the center of importance. Modern government, whether socialist or capitalist, is charged with safeguarding and furthering that expansion because social and cultural development is believed to follow in its wake. Thanks to modern advances, traditional concerns stemming from the human condition have been largely conquered, managed, or replaced altogether: Modern life promised freedom from the vagaries of the body, the limits of nature, and the provincial ties to place. The body came to be seen as a biological machine, the natural world as a mere externality in modern economies, and the sense of place as a primitive precursor to cosmopolitan sophistication.

In my mind, such an agenda guarantees an anti-human dystopia. So, as Birzer says, let the short stories, novels, and graphic novels that depict dystopia go forth and spread their warnings. We need them.