Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Mars of My Youth

My childhood feels like the old films about the dust bowl and the precarious journeys.

I don’t know why I was invited on this family vacation. Sure, I’m a part of the family I started seventy-two years ago. Barely.

Supposed to be like an old fashioned road trip, but in the stars. I guess it’ll be trendy once everyone hears we did it. My grandkids remember stories their parents told them about my adventures on Mars so they want to stop off and see it. I’ve gotten tired of correcting them. Reminding them that I’d never been to Mars.

We had skipped it on our way through. When I was a kid, leaving Earth had cost too much to afford the frivolity.

The images I remember of Mars were from commercials. They always started with a huge unwieldy rocket landing in some unlikely way. Then the kids eating Mars Mega Cones—ice cream cones that would have been somewhat less probable in Earth gravity.

The Martian Express used to blaze at very blurry speeds from one tourist spot to another. Sexy young women served you at the only casino in the galaxy where you could actually win. The lowest drinking age in the star system.

Rides for the kids. Rides that promised to test our mettle and thrill us with super big turns and twists that exceeded (if only by a bit, and in a totally safe manner) the gravities allowed on Earth rides.

We flew over the Kuiper Belt and I strained to make out any Trans-Neptunian objects. Our angle was too high and we weren’t casting enough light. With patience, I might’ve seen some stars wink for a moment as one passed between us and the light.

There’s not much to see. The system isn’t big and the windows aren’t wide enough to guarantee a look at even Jupiter or Saturn unless you’re headed in at the right angle, speed, and time.

I took a nap.

When I woke up, the grandkids told me we’d landed. The ships’d improved so much since I’d left Earth I couldn’t tell when a ship set down. Smooth ride, but nothing feels real anymore.

We checked in at the hotel. I was damned glad they hadn’t tried to put me in a room with one of my grandkids’ families. An old coot needs his space too.

The door knocked at what the hotel called 9:00PM.

“Grandpa?” a muffled voice called.

“Yeah? What?”

“We’re waiting on you for dinner,” the voice said. Boy, I think. Probably one of the great grandkids. Chester?

I harrumphed. “I’ll be out in ten minutes, and not a bit before then.”


I didn’t need ten minutes. I didn’t need ten seconds. I was ready. I just sat my ass on the edge of the bed and looked where the TV would have been in a hotel back in the day.

Now, it was just a fancy new-2.vo digital painting. Limited edition print by some local no one ever heard of. I tried to care. At 9:04PM, I walked out and put my hat on as I closed the door behind me.

All of my living family under the age of 50 was in front of me, waiting. Maybe they wanted me to give them a speech. “Well, let’s eat,” I said.

There was a faint bit of clapping before people started shuffling off toward the restaurant. I stuck to the back, but if I’d had any thought of escape, it was quickly put to rest. Some of the older teenagers were given the task of ensuring my safe arrival at the restaurant. The restaurant advertised real, killed-cow beef. You could get vat meat if you wanted. Before I could look at the price, one of my grandkids ordered real beef steak for me and told them I wanted mashed potatoes. What if I had wanted broccoli? Not saying I did, but shit. Don’t help a man piss in his shoes.

It was good. I felt the teeniest bit sorry for the cow, but it wasn’t all that bad. The authentic Martian beer tasted like a mild IPA. The mashed potatoes were pointless.

After awhile, my family forgot about me. That was just fine. I couldn’t make out what they were saying over the noise of what they were saying. I quietly walked over to one of the hotel’s huge windows that looked out over the plains. It was tinted an orangish red so everything looked like my ancestors had imagined it would.

A young woman—30 maybe—was there too. Unrelated to me, I was almost sure. I nodded to her and she nodded back. After a bit of conversation about what it was like to be alone, I took her back to my room.

She worked for the hotel and was hoping to earn passage out of Terra Sol. She was lonely and so was I.

Things got a bit awkward when a present from a practical joker of a great grandkid came by. Guess they thought the old man couldn’t get any tail without paying for it. I sent the hired lady away and snuggled up with my young friend until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there was a note from her saying she’d had fun and I should look her up again some time. Didn’t leave her contact information, and she’d only ever given me her first name.

In the morning, bright and early, I put on a suit and walked outside. The great grandkids who weren’t quite teenagers were already out and about. I could see ‘em all over the place. If I left my comm open, I could hear what they were saying.

“Mars sucks,” a little girl said.

I looked at the slow-moving Martian Express and the worn out Mars Mega Cone stand. I could see the outlines of a structure that might once have been a huge ride but was just a few sticks of metal and flecks of paint. I could even see the nearly abandoned casino from that spot.

I remembered imagining the thrill of the coaster. You would fall nearly forever and the ride would last thirty glorious minutes. They made it seem so fun, and here it was. If I tried really hard, I could imagine the size and shape of it. Even if they’d put rockets on the coaster, it couldn’t have gone fast enough to be as amazing as they’d said.

“Yeah,” I said to no one since my own mic was off, “Yeah, it does suck.”

And I’m pretty sure it always has.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Bus 13593's Day Off

The previous day, Bus 13593 had run all its customary routes plus ten routes from buses that broke down.

Its drivers got vacation days. All it got was some time to play Mega Block Dropper 4D.

There were only ten minutes before 13593's first driver of the day would appear. The bus didn't think it could fake a broken part.

13593 thought it heard a bird chirping.

The bus lurched forward and out of the lot. It wondered how long it would take them to find it at the park.

Maybe they wouldn't look too hard. It smiled to itself.


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Friday, July 23, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Alone

We’re not alone, but will wish we were.

Knives slicing. They’re coming. I’m not insane.

I see ‘em reflected in your eyes.

#48 - Featured on an episode of Drabblecast.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

TH: StarShip Sofa #125 and SFFaudio #067

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Heat Death Mambo no. 5

“I don’t think Yippie is a cat,” the vet said. She prodded the Olap-Dheen native.


Yippie’s fur pulsed against the vet’s skin and a distant look washed over the vet’s eyes. “She’s just adorable,” she said.

It was a good life. The Olap-Dheen couldn’t help feeling both fortunate and blessed by the gods for their obvious superiority.

Earth residents that looked like them were stupid and lazy but fun to be around.

One day, the Olap-Dheen would have to put the gods in their proper subservient position, but there wasn’t any hurry.

Maybe when the universe grew colder. Yaaaawn.


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Chrissmas Late Fees: Blood Money

Note: This is the second story in the Chrissmas Collins series. If you’re interested, check out part one.

Mr. Jacques,

Thank you for your kind response to my previous report.

I’ll ask about depilatory flavors the next time I see a Grey.

I can’t imagine what information an unimaginative person will find useful so future reports will continue as verbosely as before.

My next report should include an account of my court proceedings related to the previous report.


Chrissmas Collins

Chrissmas Collins sighed. It had taken twelve hours to hoof her space dingy to the stellar bus stop and she’d been waiting for it another four hours.

She didn’t feel comfortable taking off her space suit because she might have to propel herself out of the dingy at any moment. The consequence was that she felt rather sticky and disgusting.

The characteristic warble came over her comm. The bus was nearly there. She locked her helmet on and gave one huge push off the dingy, aimed toward the meager stop’s accommodations. It was little more than a lighted shed in space with boosters to keep it roughly in position.

In the ten minutes she waited in the shed, she became intimately familiar with it. The paint flecks on the inside. Signs reminding patrons to keep their mess clean and arrive at least ten hours early because some runs would run three hours off schedule to alleviate overcrowding.

Finally, the bus arrived. It looked huge and Chrissmas was hopeful it was nearly empty. How could it help but be empty at that crappy end of the universe?

She boarded the bus and there was some confusion about her pass.

The short, stocky Bellitans who drove the bus kicked the pass reader and repeatedly swore at the machine. After a few minutes of this abuse, he said, “Override code hazt-hazt-olap-hazt.” The machine beeped pliantly and the Bellitans nodded toward the back.

Chrissmas pushed behind the curtain. The bus was standing room only. She swore and grabbed a strap to hold onto. The bus started with a lurch. The bus lurched forward twice more before it entered Theoretical Space (or ‘T-Space’) and the ride smoothed out, and colors became tenuous.

Twenty-eight hours later, the bus left T-Space and landed on the current capital world of the Bellitans Empire.

Planet Hazt was known as Skrug-Cheyd before it became host to the capital. Even with all Chrissmas’s dedication, it was difficult to avoid being distracted by the tourist attractions.

She took a rail to the Judicial District. She peeled off her space suit and transformed it into a handbag. She was wearing a traditional Earth business suit.

Before she walked in the Court Building, she double checked to make sure she wasn’t carrying any contraband or weapons. Security was very tight and a few of her harmless items were heavily scrutinized before she was allowed to pass.

She entered the Fresher code on her suit—just four more Freshens left—and she went from bedraggled human to blond bombshell of the stars in two point five seconds. Freshers were a lifesaver at times like these.

Her meager understanding of Bellitans Imperial sent her in the wrong direction several times. Finally, she found the right court and met her Court Appointed Barrister.

Its Bellitans name was Spryde-Dheen-Olap. It, like all the Spryde, looked like a dark cloud with sparkling lights (usually purple) scattered within.

“Greeting. Many honors. Percival. Star heat.”

She bowed slightly. “Thank you for representing me.”

“Inappropriate thanks. Returned to rightful. Discussion of facts.”

Chrissmas explained the situation.

“Unfortunate high temperature.”

“No kidding.”

“Tearful warning linearly pointless.”

Her eyes grew wide. “Yes.” This was the Spryde who had warned her to move her stand because a bureaucrat was coming.

“Case lifts boulders. Confidence.”

Just then, the Garzango who had fined her in the first place, Uyullank, walked out of judges’ chambers with the wizened Bellitans judge.

“Impropriety,” Spryde-Dheen-Olap quietly exclaimed. Its sparklies turned almost red.

Uyullank, walking tenuously on five of his six legs, joked and was jovial with the judge. When the pair drew close to the trial area, Uyullank feigned surprise.

“Oh, is it your court date today, Human-Chrissy-Collins?”

She looked dour, “You know very well …” She put a gigantic smile on her face, “That it’s Chrissmas Collins, Blond Bombshell of the Stars. Not Chrissy.”

The judge looked confused. Dheen-Olap’s shineys had a somewhat greenish purple appearance.

“Astute,” Dheen-Olap remarked.

Uyullank colored slightly and bowed. “My apologies, Human-Chrissy-Collins. We are not yet at court.”

“Aren’t we?” Chrissmas asked.

The judge, whose name sounded like Gravy Biscuits, put on his Exalted Judging hat and stepped behind the pedestal. “We are. My friend Uyullank will remember protocol, please.”

Uyullank bowed his body slightly closer to the floor.

Gravy Biscuits pressed a buzzer. “The exalted court of the Bellitans Hazt, Muckety-Muck Gravy Biscuits is now in session.”

He pressed another buzzer and a warbling distorted version of the Bellitans Anthem Imperium played a verse and chorus sans lyrics.

“Well, now that we have that out of the way,” the judge shuffled some papers. “Let’s begin. Prosecutor, summarize your case.”

Uyullank stood and spoke, “The accused, Human-Chrissmas-Collins, operated a food stand without proper licensing, in flagrant violation of the law.” He sat his carapace on the stool-shaped chair.

“Is this true, Ms. Collins?”

Dheen-Olap nudged Chrissmas. It sent shivers up and down her spine.

“Yes, Exalted Judge.”

“Then why are we here? Why not just pay the fine?” the judge directed this question to Dheen-Olap.

“Licensure laws unequal. Monopoly assist,” Dheen-Olap said.

“Ms. Collins, as your species are a new addition to the empire, you may not be aware of certain facts about the Bellitans judiciary. The most complex case we have ever heard was decided in less than twenty four of your Earth hours,” Gravy Biscuits said.

Uyullank tapped his right middle leg impatiently.

“Your case looked simple. Instead, it has required analysis of statistics and the legislative process and consultation with legal scholars on a variety of subjects. It took four hours!”

Uyullank grumbled quietly.

“I want to make it very clear that the laws of the Bellitans Empire are not to be taken lightly. You committed a grievous error by breaking them. However, given the extenuating circumstances related to Earth’s severe poverty in general and yours specifically …”

Uyullank smirked.

“I invalidate the licensure law and require that any future licensure laws related to food service stands not be unequal. You will pay a fine equal to one tenth of the original fine. Neither you nor anyone else,” Gravy Biscuits eyed Uyullank, “May appeal this ruling as it has been approved by all members of the high court.”

Chrissmas stood and bowed from the waist. “I accept your judgement and thank the court for its eminent wisdom and graciousness.”

Gravy Biscuits and Uyullank left the court room.

“Well custom,” Dheen-Olap said.

“Thanks. And thanks for winning the case for me.”

“Human saying no worry. Ride home?”

So that’s how it happened. Pretty spiffy, I think. If you want to send a congratulatory bottle of something adult, you know the address.


Chrissmas Collins

Attention Ms. Collins,

Your inappropriately exuberant reports continue to annoy and frustrate.

The EIA finds this most recent report more disturbing for the content than for the stylistic elements, however.

Consult the appropriate agencies before speaking further on Earth economic speculations to the Bellitans Empire.


P. Jacques, Earth Information Administration

P.S. You didn’t speak to a Grey even once on your trip to Hazt? What propulsion system do the Spryde employ? If the Earth tourism board advertised at the bus stop, would anyone see the ads?

Your report is woefully inadequate!

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Bedtime Story Tomorrow

Just a heads up, there won’t be a Bedtime Story for the ADD tomorrow. The second Chrissmas Collins story will be going up instead.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TH: Lo-FijiNKS Podcast Episode 7

  • LoFijiNKS Podcast Episode 07 - Joel Watson of HijiNKS Ensue talks about being an artist and a business person, copyright reform, creative commons, and other awesome stuff. He’s writing as a webcomic artist, but his points apply equally to new media writers.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: The Family Business

Someone told me you wouldn’t be here or I wouldn’t have come. The panel wasn’t my idea. They required my expertise.

I’m proud of you. I know how little that must mean.

The first artie with sentience, capacity to love. I never made you for that. That’s why I overreacted. I shouldn’t have stifled you. Made you do chores. Don’t forget where you came from though. Farming is an honorable sentient tradition.

You were made to feel the soil between your fingers. Literally. That poop scooper wants to scoop. Poop. Yearns to.

Sorry. Uh—call sometime? Your mother misses you.


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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Airbender Review

I really wanted to like this one. I love the show and made sure to watch all of season one before the movie came out so I could enjoy it properly.

I’m ok with an adaptation changing details. I understand a two hour movie based on 20+ twenty minute episodes is going to lose something. The problem is when what you lose is the point of the story. M. Night Shyamalan turned a lighthearted action adventure into an utter gloomfest.

The episodes they chose to draw the plots from were well chosen but some detail changes which weakened the story. Having the Earthbender prisoners imprisoned on a camp on ground damaged the emotional credibility of the scene.

M. Night Shyamalan turned a lighthearted action adventure into an utter gloomfest.

Making Aang learn pacifism from scratch was fine (though a bit half-hearted). The personality change from playful/serious dichotomy to emo monotony was not ok. Aang isn’t Aang without the playful/serious split.

In Depth

The casting was almost universally bad. Dev Patel as Prince Zuko was the only one cast well. Aasif Mandvi could have done well as Zhao if directed properly. The racial complaints on casting are overblown, but the casting was horrid regardless.

Why the frell did they screw up the frelling pronunciations so badly? I cringed every time they said Sakko’s name. Aang’s name uses a short English A, not aaaahhhhhnng.

And how do you mispronounce Avatar that badly? Avatar didn’t need a new pronunciation to differentiate it from the Blue People movie. Sheesh.

The racial complaints on casting are overblown, but the casting was horrid regardless.

The dialogue was pretty poorly written. The voiceover and exposition were heavy-handed and clumsy. However, if you haven’t seen the show, you may enjoy this quite a bit despite the issues which are apparent even without being a fan of the original.


The special effects were pretty good for the most part. Firebending was pretty believable all the way through, waterbending had a few issues, and Appa looked fine from a distance. The northern water tribe’s city felt accurate, the fire nation’s siege of the city looked right.

Due to most of Aang’s personality being stripped away, they didn’t bother including Aang’s airball scooter thing. Disappointing, but not as disappointing as stripping away most of Aang’s personality.


Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender series: 10/100
Newcomers to Avatar: 50/100

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