The day began the previous night, on Lundi Gras. A fun night spent with chosen family.
The morning started at 0 dark thirty. Scouts, brave souls of our little tribe, up before the rest of us, sacrificed sleep to find a site for the day’s festivities. When we arrived to stake our claim, in the darkness, could be seen multiple colored tents. Their palette was providing contrast to the velvet night.
Nature’s dimmer switch slowly turned up the light. Its rosy glow bloomed over the city. In doing so, life along the route began to awaken.
The silent chill in the air lent an extra tang to the charcoal lighter fluid as grills were prepared for the day. Fortunately, the aroma gradually gave way to the savory odors of smoked meat & barbecue sauces.
To keep the sleepy masses awake, or awaken them, – music blared forth. Pounding rhythms and beats echoed off of buildings in the narrow streets. Awash in the sound, the cries of street vendors pulling and pushing their makeshift carts, hawking trinkets, colorful symbols in glorification of this last day of excess. All done in the spirit of a party, the atmosphere festive.
Children played in the streets, dodging among passersby, as they tossed balls or chasing doubloons pitched by a krewe of skeletons. Running to burn energy, for the sheer delight of movement is a joy of childhood competition without malice as ballerinas, basketball players, and even cowboy’s race and laugh among themselves.
Police seek to be a presence – making a show order exists; however, minutely, in this barely contained chaos.
Trees along the streets were in full bloom with the fruit of carnival. These specters of parades past hung in multi-colored hues from peas’ size to pool balls as they swayed in the gentle breeze. Streamers mingle among the beads, fluttering in the wind. They struggle in vain, desperate attempts to escape the clutches of the branches which ensnared them.
Nomads wandered along the route, some seeking a spot, any patch of open ground they could call their own for the next several hours. Almost as many continue their migration, following the vendor’s passage’s signs – the buzzing of vuvuzela’s, glow bands, flags, and more. Nearly infinite in their variety, the wanderers’ pass. Costumes vary in degrees of thought, creativity and complexity entertain as they pass. For those who chose to wear them, they are out to see and be seen. The light breeze and mild chill clothed people in varying ways. Quilted jackets with shorts, t-shirts, and jeans, garments so sheer the wind and one’s gaze passes through with ease. Then, those bundled head to foot in coats and blankets create a warmth that does not exist for them.
The parades arrive. This Mardi Gras Day was grand and elegant, brilliant and beautiful. The sequined, brightly painted floats were colorful beacons of joy against a sky gone gray. A celebration of life, yet, as they pass, a subtle change comes over the crowd. Perhaps a predatory instinct from humanity’s past, the hunter gatherer’s senses, only cheap trinkets have become the prey.
Among these modern hunters, those few exist who could not be satisfied. Dragons hoarding their treasure could be more charitable. A shove here, a push there, no regard to age or infirmity, they cannot accept others gaining the sorely coveted objects of their desire.
The majority, once sated, began to share. In the spirit of community, good people hunted for the smaller, weaker, or slower than themselves. Color, age, politics were not barriers; this day, people being inspired to connect during this king of festivals. The shared mood catalyzed these people to encourage one another, uplift each other and share the jubilant spirit.
In this rejection of instinct, a glimmer of civilization, winning out over predation, seeing acts of caring, sharing among a group – unrelated except being present to share joy leaves an ember of hope smoldering in the darkness.
People danced, played, and – for that day, at least, came together in community and camaraderie.
Be they Brown, Black, Yellow, or White, all of the people gathered that day sought an experience of joy and celebration. To watch the spectacle of costumed revelers atop the artfully crafted floats. All just for a few hours, putting aside the troubles of the world and their lives.
THIS is Mardi Gras.
As is this, one year has passed since I jotted the notes for this missive, and Mardi Gras is upon us. Little did we know then what awaited us in the days and weeks which followed. How many of those gaily dressed ambassadors of debauchery and self-indulgence would not see another Mardi Gras.
Though the streets are loudly silent with the absence of parades, Mardi Gras’s spirit lives on in its people. It is ingrained in the DNA of the residents.
People sought other ways to celebrate. One is the idea of “House Floats” which provided work to artists and skilled creatives decorating homes in the guise of parade floats. Drivers will roll slowly past these stationary parades.
Masks are still a part of Mardi Gras. The dazzling painted and feather masks have given way to face masks with a grimmer purpose. Many of these are decorated in fantastic designs and can uniquely represent the owner’s personality.
The ubiquitous King Cake, a famed symbol of Mardi Gras, is even more popular this year. And yes, Bourbon St has seen parties and crowds, even though the revelries this year can have consequences.
Merchants, bars, restaurants, and artists of all types are suffering. The crowds and tourists who provide a needed boost to the economy are missing.
People are struggling. South Louisiana is a culture that adapts, absorbs, and evolves its traditions. While we put on a brave face, smiling and laughing, it is a time when even a few bars of a Mardi Gras anthem are heard on the radio, such as “Mardi Gras Mambo,” can bring us to tears.
There are people for whom Mardi Gras is a pointless holiday. Seen only as an excuse for public drunkenness, lewd displays, and chasing dollar store grade toys. I agree. There are people for whom that is all Mardi Gras represents. For the most part, they aren’t locals.
It is about families, friends, creating shared memories, and setting aside your burdens for a spell.This much I feel confident, Mardi Gras may be subdued this year, but Mardi Gras is happening.
Mardi Gras is more than parties, parades, and trinkets. It is about people. As long as our people retain that spirit, Mardi Gras will live on.
Hope your weekend has been a good one. I know mine has been good. On a personal front, the whole month has been good.
Let’s see, four short stories sold, first editing job of the year in progress, finished the review of returned edits and sent an anthology to the publisher, slow progress right now on the two novels and still have two books to review.
In the WWII novel, I am now writing it from the German side. At the end of this segment then all the players will be assembled. It’s about a third of the way through the story. My long-suffering collaborator is looking forward to chapter 11. It’s a good thing when the screenwriter, knowing the story already, looks forward to what happens next.
“Tales of The Sleeping Hare” is somewhat at a standstill. I like being in a place where there is a lot to be done. It’s a matter of choosing priorities, which can be put aside the easiest.
Of my short stories, “The Dragon Wore a Badge” proves to be as fun to write as I thought it would. He’s ready to fly to his new home in Murkfort next. My original intent was to set this in the world of “Tales of The Sleeping Hare,” but the publisher didn’t want a “modern” setting. That world has a technology of 1920 -1930. Presto-chango, the technology is now crystal based and a fantasy-based government.
One for a Detective or Defective themed anthology. This one, “The Corpse is the Key,” is submitted. I had a story from an anthology that fell through I was able to rework to fit.
One right up my alley is one for an anthology about the Lovecraftian Invasion. I don’t have a title yet for this one, but I’ll be telling it from the point of a hybrid during their transformation into a Deep One.
The last of the four is about Odd Powers. Superpowered beings are doing superhero things with oddball powers. Think maybe Mystery Men. The character in my story is called The Imaginator. The title and character are a result of a creative friend of mine. I was stuck for the character name and asked a friend’s son. Thanks to Nick, the character has a name, and he may be a consultant on the story.
In other life, there isn’t much to tell. The ducks have taken up occasional resting in my lawn. Rocket sits on the ledge. Sometimes he chitters at me, but he sits and stares at them when the ducks in the yard.
There are some new followers on the blog, which amazes me. Getting close to a thousand followers there.
Later this week, I’ll be posting some new releases from Pro Se.
Dr. Silas Von Rott smiled while putting the final touches on his automaton. “Yes,” he thought, “when laid out on the bed, it will look just like a real little boy.”
Carefully, he loaded banana pudding into the trap’s squirt gun. When that tooth fairy shifted the pillow to retrieve the tooth, the banana pudding would squirt from the fingers.
He called his manservant to bring the automaton. While walking to the room he had prepared, Dr. Von Rott rubbed his hands and chuckled.
“Tonight, Mordecai, I shall become powerful. I shall bait the pillow with this tooth I purchased. Ahh, a lad after my own heart he was, all I had to do was promise him a sweet. Knocking the tooth out of some other child and bringing it to me was his idea. Delightful child. Soon, I will have a tooth fairy’s wand. Do you realize what this means, Mordecai?”
Mordecai just shook his head; carrying the heavy automaton up the stairs took all his strength and concentration. Besides, whether he answered yes or no, he knew Dr. Von Rott would tell him anyway. The Doctor enjoyed expounding upon the cleverness of his ideas.
“No, of course, you don’t, Mordecai. A simple fellow such as you would never grasp the sublime simplicity of my genius.” Dr. Von Rott continued so swiftly Mordecai could not have answered even had he been so inclined. “As you know, when a child loses a tooth, the tooth fairy comes to collect it. They leave behind money for the tooth. Sometimes as much as a quid, and how do you think they carry it? No, I know you do not know. It is not in a wallet or purse. I can tell you that there isn’t one big enough. No, they use a wand to summon the money once the tooth has been collected. Now, once I have secured the wand, I can summon all the money I wish, enough to finally create my army of clanks armed with death rays with which I can take over and rule the world!”
Mordecai shook his head a lot as he placed the automaton as the Doctor instructed. His family had served the Doctor’s family for generations and this was in no way unusual behavior. Besides, the benefits were pretty good.
Automaton placed, Mordecai and the Doctor left the room. Mordecai went to his room to read while the good Doctor went to his study to determine how he would spend his soon-to-be immeasurable wealth.
Fang was so glad this was the last call. This night had been one of the roughest in memory. Screens, cats, and bug zappers – all of the troublesome things which make a tooth fairy’s job less than dreamy. One child this night even dared to attempt to capture him. Fortunately, it was only a mason jar and easy enough to flutter through. Fang just wished it had been a new jar. In the short time it took to exit, he had smelled enough pickles to last him years.
There were no screens on the windows for this house. Fang fluttered through and stopped to look around the room. He did not see any teddy bears. Those guardians of childhood never bothered him, but he liked to say hello, just to be friendly. Something did not feel right.
With a shrug, he flew to the bed where a child lay fast asleep. Fang landed near the edge of the pillow. Taking just a moment to preen his whiskers and scratch his ear, he sniffed the air. Yes, there was a fresh tooth from a boy under the pillow, but there was an undercurrent of odors he did not like, banana pudding with a hint of grease. It seemed to come from the sleeping child. Perhaps the lad had simply had some banana pudding for dessert.
Slowly, with a bit of apprehension, Fang approached the pillow. He could see the tooth, just a little too far back for easy reach. The surprise came when he lifted the corner of the pillow.
A glob of banana pudding engulfed him. If not for the slight hiss as the air released, he would have been caught facing the pillow. The warning gave him a split second to turn slightly, or else he would not be able to react. The child’s mouth opened, springing a cage made of false teeth.
Dr. Von Rott had been daydreaming of giant clanks marching on London when the alarm sounded. The Queen was just about to give him the crown too! But more importantly, the tooth fairy trap had been sprung. He raced up the stairs to claim his prize.
Old tooth fairies do not become old tooth fairies without having learned to survive attacks such as these, so faster than thought as the false teeth sprang forward, Fang summoned up the unusual defense he learned early in his career, a shield of vanilla wafer. Bracing as best he could, the uppers broke as he knew they must, the impact throwing him clear of the banana pudding.
He was covered in the banana pudding. This was indeed a dastardly trap. Whoever set it knew banana pudding would prevent a fairy from using their dust. Naturally, fairy dust formed a cloud around the fairy, allowing them to fly and flutter through objects, but this sticky covering kept the cloud from forming. Those false teeth, he shuddered, were the one thing which a fairy could not flutter through. It had been a close call. Fang had one last trick up his sleeve, and it did not depend on fairy dust.
Footsteps were charging up the hall. Just as the door opened, Fang used his last trick. Even many fairies did not know why they had whiskers and rounded ears. In the once-upon-a-time days, people left their children’s teeth for his kind, until one day, such a tremendous amount of belief magic accumulated it turned the humble grey mice to tooth fairies. In times of great need, all tooth fairies could still take the form of a mouse.
Dr. Von Rott saw the banana pudding and broken cage on the bed. “Curses! Foiled again! And by a mouse!” he screamed as a pudding-covered mouse scurried along the sideboard.
SOVEREIGN CITY’S GREATEST HERO RETURNS! ‘THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY VOLUME NINE’ NOW AVAILABLE!!
Lazarus Gray and his partners in adventure, Assistance Unlimited, became some of the greatest heroes of Sovereign City. As the whispers of a war, a world away begin, the team finds themselves in a conflict that defies comprehension in award-winning author Barry Reese’s latest volume from his own author imprint, Reese Unlimited!
THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY VOLUME NINE continue as Lazarus Gray and his colleagues in Assistance Unlimited are embroiled in a war that defies description and challenges them to their limits and beyond. For some, the past will be confronted, fates will be decided, old relationships will be ended, and new ones are forged with unexpected allies……And the hope of the world depends on mortals who keep stride with the gods in Barry Reese’s THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY VOLUME NINE!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE LAWMEN! LAWBREAKERS! DEADLOCKED! SUBMISSION CALL OPEN FOR ‘STANDOFF: COPS AND ROBBERS’ ANTHOLOGY
Pro Se Productions, a publisher of cutting-edge Genre Fiction and New Pulp, announces an open call for submissions to the first volume of what the company hopes to be a multivolume concept. Pro Se will now accept Short story proposals for STANDOFF: COPS AND ROBBERS.
Conflict is at the heart of any good genre story. Two sides, each with their own goals, their desires, their tactics, but both with a shared focus-to beat the other side. Often, however, it’s not simply about winners or losers. Sometimes foes are evenly matched. They find themselves at a deadly impasse, unable to move forward or even escape with their lives unless someone makes a big move and takes perhaps the biggest risk of all to end the STANDOFF.
STANDOFF: COPS AND ROBBERS will feature stories about men and women on both sides of the law finding themselves in situations that seem unwinnable, standing toe to toe with their enemies, and finding themselves trapped in what appears to be a no-win scenario. Some will overcome, some will lose, and even some will all die. Every tale will be filled with pulp pounding action, intrigue, and guns blazing adventure.
Proposals for STANDOFF: COPS AND ROBBERS must include a deadlock situation between members of law enforcement and the outlaws and criminals they pursue. Stories can be set in any time period up to the modern day (No stories set in the future). These must be ‘real world’ stories, no elements of science fiction, paranormal, fantasy, or other such genres. Payment will be royalty based.
All interested authors should write detailed proposals for a single 10,000-word story and submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the proposal is accepted, the story will be due within 90 days of acceptance. With that being said, the volume WILL NOT BE SUBMITTED FOR EDITING OR SCHEDULED FOR PUBLISHING until the volume is full based on the number of accepted proposals, not completed stories.
Contact Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, at email@example.com with any questions.
STANDOFF: COPS AND ROBBERS will feature a fantastic cover by artist Adam Shaw.
For more information on Pro Se Productions, please check our website. To keep up with the latest news, submissions calls and new releases like Pro Se on Facebook.
Necropolis is an exploration of life and the Afterlife. In the setting of Necropolis, there are two ways to enter the Afterlife. Die in your primary plane or seeking out “the place of no return.”
The story begins as an expedition consisting of convicts, cutthroats, and scalawags. Their lure to the expedition is upon completion, and return, they will be set free from their sentences. Within this motley crew, we travel both paths to the Afterlife.
The leaders of the expedition think to have a sideline in tusks and other items. This leads to our entering the Afterlife by death. Daniel, one of the expedition leaders, takes three villagers out to poach elephants for their tusks. Armed with bows and poisoned arrows, Aswad, Keita, and Ossouna focus on their prey, oblivious to the attack approaching from the rear. A Shetani, a malevolent demon in the form of men, sends three lions to attack them. Seeing them approach from a distance, Daniel hides, remaining silent as the men are killed, fearing for himself.
This Shetani, Nyeusi, is himself a creature of legend in this setting. It is said he travels the portal between this life and the Afterlife at will. He is a staunch defender of animals and their environment. He is the driving force of Book One.
These three men die only to awaken on a grassy plain near a great forest. Disoriented and trying to make sense of their predicament, they are attacked and try to hide in the forest. Throughout the first part of Necropolis, we learn the basic ground rules of the Afterlife through their eyes.
Meanwhile, the five members of the expedition, Ali, Asfar, Daniel, Sodom, and Penal, set out to find a mythical city and its treasures, including the fabled world’s largest diamond – Necropolis.
They have received dire warnings; the only entrance is through the “place of no return.” After an arduous journey, they arrive in the other side of the Afterlife, the Underworld.
As these eight men seek refuge or a means of saving their souls, they learn the Necropolis is real. Imbued with magical powers, and in the hands of The Necromancer, it’s their only key to salvation.
Penn Fawn creates a vivid image of an Afterlife you don’t learn during the religious education of any religion I am familiar with. Yes, there are burning lakes of fire, and these are just the beginning of the horrors. Penn is a very imaginative and profound writer creating a world and characters which will make you think and question.
On the surface, Necropolis appears to be a grimdark fantasy, and it is but is more than horror. Nyeusi is an environmentalist of infernal proportion. Read carefully, and you will find his motivations come from protecting the land and its denizens from those who would harm it. Those who come to the Afterlife from other planes have no hunger, no thirst. They hunt for sport and killing, not for meat or sustenance, for it tastes terrible and makes them sick. They clear forests to leave their imprint and do not try to live in harmony with nature. All of this is anathema to Nyeusi.
I strongly recommend the book for its compelling story. Yet, this would not be an honest review if I did not share some of the issues I found while reading it.
Transitions in point of view are, in places, abrupt—last sentence in one paragraph to the first sentence of the next paragraph abrupt. I had to reread a couple of times to make sure I had not missed anything.
The copy editing leaves something to be desired. The content is good but loses some of its shine for the typos and dropped words. They are not enough to stop reading the story, but they stand out as you read.
My final observation is this an entertaining, imaginative, creative, and insightful look at the Afterlife and well worth the read.
Thank you for reading,
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.
This Sunday, I witnessed another historic event in the journey beyond our planet.
The earliest space flights I can recall are the flights of Gemini IX and Gemini X in July of 1966. Those memories are of animations on the news: details of the capsule, the arcs of its orbits, and what was supposed to happen for them to land. It lit my young imagination as brightly as the flare from the Titan II which launched it.
Apollo came next. Its mission, to take us to the moon. Humans have long had a desire to travel to the moon.
In the ancient Chinese myth of Chang’e, a woman banished to the moon for drinking an elixir of immortality meant for another. This myth was referenced during the Apollo 11 mission. While Michael Collins orbited the moon alone in the command module, flight controller Robert Evans told him the story of Chang’e and how she lived on a moon with a white rabbit. Michael Collins replied he would keep an eye out for her.
Lucien, a Syrian-Greek from around 125 BCE, wrote of space travel. The story, a part of his journeys throughout the Mediterranean, tells how he and 50 companions are lifted by waterspout to the moon. There to be greeted by a race of three-headed vultures. They end up fighting a war with another alien species. After fighting beside the three-headed vultures and winning the war, preventing the aliens from conquering the moon, they find a way home. Lucien’s tale is the earliest known piece of fiction depicting a form of space travel, a moon landing, an alien invasion, and an interplanetary war.
The Rigveda from India can be cited as an early source of these same concepts. The difference between Lucien’s story and the Rigveda and Lucien’s tale, his was not written as a religious text.
Jumping ahead in time, bypassing many other references, I want to point out Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to The Moon.” This futurist accurately predicted so many things regarding our modern trip to the moon: the use of retro-rockets, capsules splashing down in the ocean, lunar module, and more. Verne turned to his brother for help with the math of the moon shot. Based on the available knowledge, he was very close to escape velocity, orbital trajectories, and choosing the best geographic locations to best launch the rocket. The book’s chosen launch site is only ninety miles north of Cape Canaveral. And yes, he got a couple of things wrong, acceleration being one of the biggest.
All of these dreams and stories serve a purpose. They provide hope and purpose, along with a sense of adventure and discovery. They tell us there is a potential our species can still obtain.
“The Man Who Sold the Moon” by Robert Heinlein is the story of one man’s dream and how he makes a difference by fighting for his vision and, in doing so, pushes the human race to reach its potential.
During the mid-twentieth century, these dreams culminated in the Apollo missions. I was among the millions of people worldwide glued to our televisions on July 20, 1969. I watched every newscast I could. The same men who told me about Gemini were now telling me about Apollo: Walter Cronkite, the most trusted voice in America, narrated the events, while Paul Harvey told us the rest of the story.
A year later, these same men kept me on the edge of my seat during the Apollo 13 mission. We all held our collective breath as these three men fought for their lives in the harshness of space. Hope was as thin as a razor’s edge. As we know, they returned safely. At the time, the tension was palpable. But the near-disaster served some critical purposes, including these two: it prompted a reconsideration of the propriety of the whole effort by the civil space program, and it planted in the popular mind the technological genius of NASA.
My favorite Apollo mission happened in July and August of 1971. Apollo 15 carried the Lunar Rover. After that, every car I rode in for years was a lunar rover.
Skylab. Launched on May 14, 1973, this was a milestone event. A space station! How far could the apartments in space from my favorite stories be? Skylab had some early teething pains. Problems with the launch caused two crucial issues – pieces, including a meteorite/sunshield, broke off, and the solar array didn’t deploy properly. Again, NASA’s technical genius of the day came to the forefront, and a mission was dispatched to repair the station.
The final mission to Skylab was launched on November 16, 1973. The station slept for four years. Placed in what was expected to be a stable orbit, it was discovered in 1977 the orbit was decaying as a result of greater-than-predicted solar activity. Skylab plunged to a fiery death on July 11, 1979, spreading debris across the Indian Ocean and over parts of Western Australia.
Not long after Skylab was put to sleep, the world received another glimmer of hope. The United States and the Soviet Union had reached a tenuous détente in the Cold War. In July 1975, we saw the first international effort designed to test the rendezvous and docking systems’ compatibility. The goal was to open the way for possible international rescue missions and future joint missions.
Significant science did not occur on this mission. Instead, it was symbolic of the lessening tension between the two superpowers. This was the final flight of an Apollo spacecraft. At the time, I really did not understand the ramifications of that. All I saw was spacecraft from two countries being able to meet and have the crews shake hands. All it meant to me was a future was possible.
A couple of years passed before another manned venture was underway. It was so exciting to watch the first space shuttle roll out of the hanger. The crew of my favorite TV show, “Star Trek,” was there for the christening. A spaceship named Enterprise had my head dancing with visions of new planets, colonies on Mars, and more. The letdown was pretty sharp when I realized this was a test vehicle and would never go to space. I wanted so badly to see a ship named Enterprise in orbit.
Still, on April 12, 1981, I came out of my chair and bounced around my living room when Columbia had a successful lift-off. This was beginning to look more like the science fiction I loved.
On January 28, 1986, I was working for Terminix. It was a routine morning, performing a regular pest control visit. The customer had her television tuned to the launch of Challenger. Her crew represented all of us, a cross-section of the population in terms of race, gender, geography, background, and religion. I stopped work for a moment to watch. I stood in the kitchen, a marbled yellow countertop between me and the television in her den. The exhilaration of the launch caused my heart to beat a little faster.
Exhilaration turned to anguish as the single white plume became a fireball, splitting the pillar upon which they were meant to rise. Tears rolled down my cheeks for the rest of that day.
After the smoke cleared and the lessons were learned, I continued watching the launches as they came. If I couldn’t watch live, I set my VCR to record them. I laughed when Endeavor repaired the Hubble Telescope. The image of a powerful satellite wearing glasses like I did, struck me as a cosmic joke.
The International Space Station. Many countries, coming together to further our presence in space. That rolled over and over in my mind, conjuring images from the 1940s and 1950s of possible space habitats. I was slightly disappointed that it was not the classic ring station, as seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet, looking at it this past Monday, it could have been an alien city in space as it hung suspended above the Earth, the sun reflecting the solar panels.
I was able to watch as the shuttles took supplies and modules to the station. The thought of regular traffic between the Earth and a Space Station was almost surreal. At the time, I thought this was science fiction coming to life. Then came the demise of my beloved space shuttle.
Columbia launched January 16, 2003. The news that a suitcase-size piece of foam had broken off and struck a wing brought tension and anxiety to spaceflight not truly felt since Apollo 13. Would this ship, the oldest in the fleet, survive re-entry? No one could say with certainty.
Foam had broken off of the main tank in previous missions. But none had ever struck the leading edge of the wing. Engineers believed catastrophic failure was likely. As with the Endeavor, NASA managers did not listen to them. They thought even if there were significant damage, nothing could be done.
That brave crew all climbed aboard Columbia on February 1, 2003. At 8:55 a.m., 231,000 feet above the California coast, came the first indications of trouble. Heat-resistant tiles on the leading edge of the left wing had indeed been damaged or lost. Wind and heat entered the wing, and it simply blew apart. I bawled. For the people, for the ship, for our future in the sky. I watched Columbia’s first flight, and I witnessed her last. The saddest part? It could have been prevented.
In August 2003, an investigation board issued a report revealing that it would have been possible either for the Columbia crew to repair the wing’s damage or for the crew to be rescued from the shuttle.
The Columbia could have stayed in orbit until February 15. The shuttle Atlantis’s already-planned launch could have been moved up as early as February 10, leaving a short window for repairing the wing or getting the crew off of the Columbia. She might have gone down in flames, but the crew would have survived.
Shuttle flights shut down until July 26, 2005, when Discovery was launched. On July 27, 2011, Atlantis made the final flight and ended an era.
The spirit of “The Man Who Sold the Moon” showed itself on June 21, 2004. We saw the successful flight of SpaceShipOne. The first privately-owned craft to cross the Kármán line, the accepted point of entry in space as defined by the International Astronautical Federation. And it did so three times. Now, there are plans for regular tourist service to the edge of space aboard SpaceShipTwo. While there have been drawbacks and setbacks, there have been many successes.
The real breakthrough, for me, was the launch of Resilience. Straight out of science fiction. A commercial enterprise has developed a reusable rocket capable of delivering payloads, and now people, into space. While early results were literally hit-or-miss, the recovery system has evolved to a point where it has become almost routine for SpaceX to recover its launch vehicles.
SpaceX is already working on its next generation of spacecraft, Starship, designed to be a fully reusable system capable of carrying crews and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, and even Mars. I can only hope it achieves its full potential.
As I muse on these achievements, I can’t help but draw some similarities to Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon.” A broad stroke comparison between Heinlein’s protagonist Delos D. Harriman and Elon Musk is easy to make: both are successful businessmen, somewhat ruthless in achieving their goals. Heinlein’s story follows the economic elements regarding problems related to financing a feat that people of his time believed belong to the realm of science fiction and examines the steps and pitfalls required to achieve what he wants.
In Musk’s case, he faces many of the same problems, with one difference. Everyone knows it possible to go to the moon. Still, the common knowledge when he began was flights to the moon were the governments’ province. Private enterprise was simply incapable of accumulating the resources and raising the capital, even with government subsidy.
Heinlein faced the challenge of conveying the social conventions and norms of a strange cultural background. Did he do it? Yes, beautifully, without resorting to the brain dumps, which were typical for the time.
The culture he envisions has a technological background that creates, shapes, and sustains the culture he is describing. He then populates this world with people both recognizable and at the same time, a product of this culture.
In our reality, though, we humans chase power and advantage. We build cultures of fear to the point we become strangers to ourselves. As a society, we claim to seek the truth; truly, we have lost our own inner truth. Living in a crazy state of constant self-doubt and social positioning, we miss the obvious and simple joys.
In our culture, everyone is expected to make their mark by gaining an advantage, by invoking fear, persuading others of a problem – then marketing themselves as the answer. Because we buy into this, we have created a burdened world where problems beget problems, and they are inflated continuously by those who would sell the solution. As a result, instead of coming together to solve the problems, we become more polarized. We are living on top of a cultural atomic bomb.
The protagonist in Heinlein’s story has one objective. He wants to visit the moon. He does everything in his power to push humanity to the moon and perhaps beyond. Yet, in his world, he may be the one man who never sets foot on the moon. It is a poignant story.
We have a choice. We can work together to ensure we have a future here and among the stars. Or we can set off the bomb.
I know which one I choose. Do you?
Thank you for reading,
As a tribute to the brave pioneers of Apollo 13, Endeavor and Columbia, I offer one of my favorite songs, Phoenix by Julie Ecklar.
Another great writing day. Crossed 15,000 words on movie novelization, got another 1,000 in on a short story, and started a new collaboration as an editor for a new writer.
Still reading Necropolis by Penn Fawn. I’m really enjoying it and look forward to writing and sharing my review.
My little friend Rocket Squirrel, we aren’t well enough acquainted to use informal names, came by and sat on the windowsill for a bit. He ran along the sill and basically around the window a couple times. Up one side, across the top and down the other side, literally around the window.
The house is coming together. It will be a while with both of us working full time and having other work, but progress can be seen. We have unpacked most of the books, and it looks like we have room to purchase more books.
Downstairs at least, we are nearing a point where we can begin hanging art and other decoration soon. My partner has been much better about working on their office space than I. It’s tough when my writing can be done from a wonderful overstuffed recliner by a window providing a view of the lake. Far superior to my office, which has a lovely view of the roof of my garage.
THE MASTER OF HORROR AND MYSTERY TAKES ON TIME ITSELF! SUBMISSIONS CALL FOR ‘EDGAR ALLAN POE-TIME TRAVELER’ NOW OPEN!
Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on our culture is incalculable. He invented the detective story, contributed to the development of both science fiction and the horror genre, and wrote about the only American poem everybody knows—certainly the only one popular enough to have an NFL team named after it. And now, from the creative brain of author and anthology editor Ernest Russell comes a concept that takes Poe to a whole new level. Submissions are now open for short stories to be featured in EDGAR ALLAN POE-TIME TRAVELER from Pro Se Productions!
This anthology concept comes from an old theory that notes rather curious and seemingly prophetic events in Poe’s writings.
Stories in the anthology should work from the premise Poe was a frequent time traveler. While examples exist to represent only a few adventures/information he incorporated into his stories, this anthology shall feature the experiences he did not report.
• Stories can only travel to Poe’s future. No grandfather paradox.
o Travel to a period can involve a historical event or occurrence but is not necessary.
o These adventures do not have to relate to any of Poe’s published work.
o Allies/Companions in the story will be considered. Still, so many have been done using H.G. Wells and Nikola Tesla stories using them will not be allowed.
• Stories are not to be set within Poe’s lifetime.
o One exception – because of the mysterious circumstance surrounding his death- stories involving the week prior to his death will be allowed, though limited in number.
• Any time travel method is available – Portal, Mental/astral projection, Magic, a mechanical device, etc.
• Stories can be in any genre Poe had an influence upon-Detective, Horror, Science Fiction.
Poetry will be considered on a case by case basis and limited in the number of poems allowed.
All interested authors should request the anthology bible and then submit proposals for a single 10,000 word story to firstname.lastname@example.org. If a poem is submitted, length is less of an issue, but acceptance is at discretion of the anthology editor. If the proposal is accepted, the story will be due within 90 days of acceptance. With that being said, the volume WILL NOT BE SUBMITTED FOR EDITING OR SCHEDULED FOR PUBLISHING until the volume is full based on number of accepted proposals, not completed stories.
Visit our website for more information on Pro Se Productions, or like Pro Se on Facebook for the latest announcements, news, and releases.