Tag Archives: Published Stories

My First Book is Published!

Brighter than the Stars is available on Amazon. I held onto this book a long time before finally deciding it was completed.  But at some point you just have to put it out there and hope.  Not that I have much in the way of hopes for sales. This is mostly a project for self-satisfaction. I really like this book. The few people who’ve read it really like it. Whatever sales I get are a plus.

I don’t want to say too much about Brighter than the Stars. The synopsis on Amazon describes the basic plotline well. What I’ll do here is discuss some of the “hidden” extras I added, and talk a little about the alien species and what they really mean.

First of all, here’s the link to Brighter than the Stars:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V17L9PG

As I wrote this book, I was listening to music. There is a very strong leitmotif of music throughout, starting with the obvious references to the 1960’s pop stars that the Cygnians emulate in their disguises while they are on earth. But there are many more subtle references. Here are some of them:

The section titles are all song titles. “Strange Days” and “Waiting for the Sun” are Doors songs. “Alien Shore” is from Rush.

The name of the capital city of Tertia, Juturna, is both the name of an album by a favorite band of mine, Circa Survive, and a Roman Godess.

There are other references to song and album titles in the section on Juturna. If you’re a Circa Survive fan, you might notice them!

The aliens.  Brighter than the Stars introduces the reader to four different alien species. Each represents an aspect of human nature by exaggerating those traits.  I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to create aliens that were completely different than humans, or to do the more common thing of making aliens with some human traits. Much science fiction dispenses with any real differences between aliens and humans. Yes, the aliens LOOK different, but they are scheming, power hungry, love their children, etc etc, just like us. For example, I just read Verner Vinge’s “A Fire Upon the Deep”, and loved it. But the Tines, while very different from humans superficially, seem to pretty much have all of our psychological traits.

My aliens are a compromise.  Each species emphasizes some part of our nature and diminishes other parts.

The Cygnians are the real stars of the book. They are herd animals that learned to fence-out their predators. Over time, the fences have become a kind of religious icon. They are conservative, obsessed with meeting quotas (herd goals), not strongly individualistic at all. While mostly passive and non-violent, they can become violent when threatened.

The Arcturans are wolf-like predators who live on a harsh world. They have an insatiable need for violence and a culture that tolerates killing far more than any human culture does. They are highly intelligent pack animals, but no pack survives long without a fatal conflict or two.

The Eridaneans are satyr-like creatures that have developed a culture centered on negotiation, compromise, and talking through problems. They can tire any opponent out with endless negotiating.  They are the creators of Tertia, a pleasure planet that tolerates the vast differences of many different species, and toleration is one of the Eridaneans most desirable traits. Unfortunately, getting things done seems relatively unimportant to them and they are notorious for talking about problems rather than solving them.

The Sirians are a very old culture that is so technologically advanced that individuals can spend their entire lives doing nothing but pursuing pleasure. And this they do with gusto.  In appearance, they are very similar to the big-eyed aliens depicted in popular culture. You can see their images everywhere if you go to Roswell New Mexico – and the Sirians were the ones who crash-landed there, by the way!  But Sirians are also deeply loving creatures who care very much about others. Because their planet is so near earth, they’ve visited us continuously for hundreds of thousands of years, and some Sirians have developed quite a strong feeling of attraction to humans. Their frivolous nature makes Sirians seem ridiculous to the very serious Cygnians who have no respect for them at all.

I could say a lot more, but why not take a look at the synopsis on Amazon, or even buy the book. If you do, let me know what you think.

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Intelligent Design

Intelligent design is the evil stepchild of a way of “thinking” that goes back to the time of Darwin. In it’s most simplistic form it’s known as “creationism” – now renamed to “young Earth creationism”. It’s the concept that the ostensibly biblical six-day story of creation is in fact correct. Leaving aside the disturbing fact that the bible has more than one creation story, it’s still such a ridiculous idea that I wouldn’t even attempt to write something based on it.

But “old Earth creationism”  or Intelligent Design is another matter. In this slightly more sophisticated “theory”, the evolution of new life forms over a long time span is accepted, but there’s an invisible hand guiding it all. That hand is, of course, the Christian God, though the proponents make a point of never stating that.

Now I don’t buy into that theory either, but I write Science Fiction, and I started to think: What if they were right. What would be a scientifically plausible scenario where Intelligent Design could be believable?

And I also speculated that if living beings were designed by some greater intelligence, the religious fundamentalists behind the Intelligent Design movement might not actually be too happy to learn the nature of that intelligence.

This story is the result of all that .

http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=623

 

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The Vanishing Hairdresser

My third published Sean and Cindy story finds our heroes helping local Sheriff Ollie Gustafson to solve a mystery – what’s happened to Cindy’s hairdresser, her husband, and their three miniature schnauzers? This story, while it stands alone, depends on my two previous Sean and Cindy stories for full character development.

I tried to write this like a classic mystery complete with red herrings and a limited point-of-view (Cindy’s) so that the reader can slowly discover facts as the POV character does.  These red herrings, or false leads are part of what I love about the British mystery shows I eagerly devour, shows like George Gently, Touch of Frost, and Foyle’s War.

Here’s the link:

Vanishing Hairdresser

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Cindy’s New Profession

I borrowed a character from my novel “Brighter than the Stars” for “Cindy’s New Profession” – Jason Wise (he’s Sean in this story).  His vanity, intense sexuality, and cavalier attitude toward life and the world he’s chosen to live in fit perfectly with the little northwoods community where he meets the town’s lone prostitute – Cindy Johanssen. Cindy holds down a second job as a waitress at the Tall Timber – the only restaurant within thirty miles, and so she gets to know all the interesting characters that come into the area – and you’d be surprised – there are some very unusual visitors to her little town!

I’ll just stop right there, because discovering what’s really going on is what makes this story fun.

Here’s the link

Cindy’s New Profession

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Paradise Lost

This is a very short, but very serious story that is part of a cycle of stories that I’m writing, all trying to answer the question: “What if the Intelligent Design people are right?” OK, if you’re not a religious fundamentalist, you probably must think that I’m some bible thumper now, but you’d be wrong. I simply wanted to take an idea, which I personally don’t think makes any sense at all, and try to make it work in the world of science and natural phenomena.  Intelligent Design advocates, who are the direct descendents of Creation Scientists, believe that some amorphous Head Designer created the world. By doing this, the Head Designer becomes what they call God.

But what if they were right? How would it all work? What would God’s real nature be if he/she/it were a super-scientist who created our world? To simplify, I limit the act of creation to just that of the human species, and I make the Designers plural – a whole race of aliens. The story is told from the point of view of the first generation of humans cut off from their designers (whom they call gods). It centers around a conflict between a priest and warrior. The priest wants the people to remember the gods (designers), worship them, and pray for their return (sound familiar?). The warrior counsels people to live for themselves, forget about their origins.

The story is written in a style that one commentator said reminded him of Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light. I was striving more for a very slight resemblance to Hesse’s Siddhartha, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lord of Light was inspired by Siddhartha. The title’s allusion is, I hope obvious, and the core story is in fact a retelling of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

You can read it here:

Paradise Lost

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The Fine Print

This was my first published story, and a personal favorite. It takes place in the universe of my novel, Brighter than the Stars (there’ll be other posts about that) but the characters are a little different than they are in the book.  The title relates to the legal theme of the story, but also to a song by Muse with the same title, a song I like a lot. I recently saw another story with this same name on Daily Science Fiction, and the author also mentioned the Muse song as an inspiration.  Yes, it’s a great song!!

The Fine Print is a humor piece that lampoons lawyers, overly serious SF stories about evil aliens, and even the Twilight Zone. I wrote it originally like a play – almost 100% dialog, but QM’s editor, Time Goyette suggested I add some description, and that really helped. It takes place entirely in a hospital room and has just four characters. It was a lot of fun to work on and get right. No deep meaning here – just a little fun.

It’s not a long story, so please just go and read it at:

http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=476

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