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Savage Survival

 

Bainstorming

Darrell Bain's Newsletter

September 2009

This newsletter may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and the copyright notice is noted and included as follows:
Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Newsletter.
Copyright © September 2009, By Darrell Bain
http://www.darrellbain.com

Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

  Subjects this month:  
Award winning book, Tonto, Purpose of Government, Temperpedic, Short term memory loss, Tuscan cantaloupes, Celebrity Worship, Progress report, Why we're alone, Book report, Plotting, Health care reform notes, Excerpt from Human by Choice

 

Award winning book
On August 15th, Human by Choice, the book I wrote with Travis S. Taylor, PhD, was named the winner of this year's Dream Realm Award for best science fiction e-book of the year 2008. Also on August 15th, the book made its official debut in print. That was a very nice coincidence!

Tonto
Every now and then we have rabbits who come into the yard. Susie, our "other" dachshund, tries to chase them but she can never catch one with her short little legs. Tonto is seldom outside alone when a rabbit is present (that we've noticed) so we've never seen what he would do to a rabbit until the other day when he was playing outside by himself. He saw one by the rose trellis about 30 or 40 feet from the front porch. He looked at it, cocked his head then took a few steps toward it. He and the rabbit looked at each other and he went on toward it. He went one way around the trellis and the rabbit the other way. When they came into sight they were almost together. They continued to walk around (well, the rabbit hopped, Tonto walked) close together, obviously sort of taking the measure of each other, then continued on out into the yard a few feet apart. Tonto never barked or got in a hurry and the rabbit never showed the least sign of alarm. This went on for a while. We finally figured it out. Tonto and the wild rabbit were playing together! Idiot dog. Doesn't he know dogs are supposed to chase rabbits? Oh well. For a dog that barks at weeds, I suppose playing with rabbits isn't all that unusual.

Purpose of government:
"What is the purpose of government?" On the surface this seems like a stupid question, but someone doesn't think so. Here is his answer: "The purpose of government is to have a place for crooks and con artists to practice their craft in a socially accepted environment."

The author of that little quote is Michael Silver. He belongs to one of the same groups I do. That's where I ran across it. He says he was just kidding with the statement but many people believe it. I can't say that I disagree very much, either!

Temperpedic
For anyone worrying about a TemperPedic mattress warranty, I shall put your fears to rest. Only eight months after spending a lot of money for one of those mattresses it developed a split in it over a foot long. I reported it to TemperPedic, filled out the warranty forms, took pictures of the split and mailed them off. Five weeks later two men came and replaced the mattress, no charge. Now that's the kind of warranty I like!!

First sign of short term memory loss
As we grow older, we're all afflicted with short term memory loss to a greater or lesser degree. My first episode of short term memory loss was very embarrassing. We had several guests at the house and all were gathered in the living room. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and while there noticed that my hair was a little mussed. I decided to comb it and having fine hair, I put a little water on my hands and thoroughly worked it into my hair before combing. It was standing up and out in all kinds of crazy ways, making me look like some kind of cartoon character. Then for some reason I have no recollection of, I got distracted and forgot to comb my hair back out before returning to the living room. I noticed our guests casting odd glances in my direction but couldn't figure out why. Finally Betty turned to me and said, "What did you do to your hair?" I said "Huh?" She said, "Go look in the mirror." So I did. When I saw what I looked like I really didn't want to go back out, but finally I combed my hair and rejoined the crowd with a very red face. As I said, very embarrassing! Oh well. At my age, I guess I should be glad I still have some hair!

Tuscan Cantaloupes
Do you like cantaloupes? If so, have you tried a Tuscan Cantaloupe? I like cantaloupes a lot and just recently discovered the Tuscan variety. They have thin green stripes on them with the normal yellow background. The more faded the green stripes, the sweeter they are (but I've never tasted one that wasn't sweet, something I sure can't say about regular cantaloupes). The Tuscans are far better than the normal variety, sweet, firm and delicious. In fact they are so far beyond regular cantaloupes that I believe they will completely replace them! Try one and See!

Celebrity Worship
Why do we give so much of our time and attention to movie stars and singers and so little to creators of inventions or discoveries who contribute so much more to our lives and well being? I really don't know but that's the way it is. People will turn out en masse for a movie star's funeral they don't know at all but never for a noble prize winner's funeral. We have a warped sense of worth, I think.

Progress Report
Human by Choice made its debut in print August 15th, the same day as it won the Dream Realm Award. What a neat coincidence!

The Long Way Home, my latest novel, shot to the top of the science fiction best selling list at Fictionwise.com only three days after making its appearance and stayed there most of August. I think that's a record! The Long Way Home is the story of a longboat from a destroyed starship having to make a voyage of more than a thousand light years, with many perils on the way, a journey in a ship designed only for travel within solar systems. I got the idea from the history of Mutiny on the Bounty, where Captain Bligh made a very long voyage with his remaining loyal crew in a longboat.

I'm in the early process of beginning a new book but it hasn't quite jelled. It will soon, I hope. In the meantime Stephanie Osborn is continuing the series begun with Human by Choice with a little help from me.

A new collection of my short stories will be coming out soon, including one never before published, Oops!

I just saw the cover for my autobiography, Darrell Bain's World of Books. I thought it was very impressive and well done. It is available as an e-book now but the print version should be out before too awful much longer.

Quanty, the novel of a self-aware quantum computer continues its best-selling ways. It just made its appearance at the Kindle book store after a delay for some unknown reason. Alien Infection has seen a revived interest and returned to the best selling list after all this time! It is my best selling book after The Sex Gates. It is also doing well at the Kindle bookstore.

The print version of Bigfoot Crazy, the third book in the Williard Brothers series (also known as the Medics Wild series) has its print release scheduled for October 15th. All five of the Williard Brothers books are available in ebook editions at Kindle, Fictionwise, et.al.

Why we're alone
SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a very long shot by my reckoning. Not life, but intelligence. I imagine life has risen innumerable times on planets other than our own and will innumerable times in the future, but intelligent life? I think that may be a different story. Stop and think a minute. We've had mobile life forms scurrying around on earth for two or three hundred million years, with many of the species having freed their front appendages so that they were theoretically capable of handling tools during that time period. However, over all that period of time, hundreds of millions of years, intelligence has come into being only once, and that only in the last million or so years and rose from only one species, the hominids. If earth is an example, intelligence has a very hard time developing. I imagine that intelligence has or will emerge on a few planets but I suspect that it was either in the far past or the far future, with probably only a very few or possibly none other than ourselves at the present time in our whole galaxy. That makes for very long odds that SETI will ever succeed.

Book Report
This past month I re-read all the Honor Harrington series to date and am eagerly awaiting the next. What a grand parade of characters and events David Weber has created! I recommend it to anyone.

I've also read a couple of lawyerly novels by Sheldon Siegel, The Confession and Special Circumstances. He writes in a matter of fact style and relates a lot of the nuts and bolts of the practice of law. His protagonist is a former priest and former cop in partnership with his ex-wife. That makes for some very interesting situations. Both were good reads.

Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman is an excellent rendition of how American prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in World War II were treated. It is horrifying at times, so much so that you wonder how any of the men made it back alive. It is a book that should be read by anyone who has ever denigrated the military. Tears in the Darkness is a graphic account of just how much our people in uniform sometimes give to the country. Not for the squeamish.

The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari is a detective novel featuring detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano who are after a psychopath called "The Actor". Lots of twists and turns and false leads. Good characterization, too. A fine book.

Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker features the private detective Sunny Randall working with a small town police chief. A good mix of characters and an odd but satisfying ending.

After Dark by Phillip Margolin is a fiction novel of the first female lawyer hired by a famous lawyer who specializes in death penalty cases. It has bunches of twists and turns that keep you guessing and has good writing to go with it. A good book.

Plotting
It has been said that there is no such thing as a new idea in science fiction. I think that might be somewhere near the truth. Just about anything you can think of or imagine has already been written about. On the other hand, you can come up with a new plot, although after all the science fiction that's been written in the last century even a new plot is sometimes difficult. However, I think I came up with one for The Long Way Home, my newest book. I have to admit I stole the idea from a true event which occurred after the mutiny on the Bounty 220 years ago. Captain Bligh may have been a tyrant but he was an excellent seaman and proved it by bringing the remaining crew to safety in a long boat. He arrived in Timor after a voyage of over 3700 miles, a remarkable feat of precision navigation. A similar voyage in space is what The Long Way Home is based on. It jumped to the number one best seller in science fiction at Fictionwise almost immediately and only ten days after publication it had reached the number six spot in the best seller list of all genres! That's remarkable, considering that it was the only science fiction novel of the top 25 best sellers!

I've often been asked what I attribute my success in ebooks to. The only thing I can think of is the plots and my spare style, as Betty terms it. I know I'm not the best writer in the field but I do think I produce unusual plots and I do get on with the story and don't get bogged down with too much detail. I'm just amazed that no other science fiction writer thought of using Captain Bligh's voyage as a template for a futuristic novel, at least that I know of. Most of my plots aren't as fresh as the one for The Long Way Home but they are usually a bit unusual (though not always).

Health Care note
It used to be that doctors and hospitals took almost everyone in and charged more to cover those who couldn't pay. Most states also had charity hospitals. Let's face it, no matter what the powers that be say, medicine isn't really competitive in the sense that clothing stores or cars are. When a person hurts or is sick, they want to get well and quit feeling pain. They aren't going to look around for the cheapest doctor or hospital. Not to mention the fact that many small towns can't support but one hospital and some places can't support but one doctor. So why does the government keep trying to tell us the free marketplace will work for medicine? It may, but much of the money goes to insurance companies and hospitals and they are almost never competing with each other. It is a certainty that we can't keep on with health care costs increasing faster than the cost of living forever. In fact, it can't go on very many more years or we'll be spending a quarter the national economy for medical care!

 

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
September 2009

 

Excerpt from Human by Choice

 

....What do you do in a situation that no human has ever experienced before? I sure as hell didn't know, but while I stood there like a dunce, the alien moved its upper trunk and switched its gaze toward the big screen on the wall. There was no possible way to gauge its reaction. All I could do was try to picture how a human from another epoch might act in a similar situation, say like a Cro-Magnon with a time traveler dropped in front of its cave, and even then the circumstances could only be remotely compared. They would at least have their humanity in common, while we were two wildly different species. I might have been nothing more than technologically advanced kibble to this thing.

Luckily for me, the alien took charge. It levered itself upright and leaned against the cushioned backrest of the couch. Its gaze left the screen and traversed the room in a slow arc, as if studying each object in the room--including me, for that's where its eyes rested after the circuit around the room. Only momentarily though, for then it pointed one of its fingers--it had six on each hand, along with two opposable thumbs--and the box sitting on the floor opened just as it had done earlier, prior to the healing of the amputated foot. The gun idea was still twitching at the back of my mind as an inch-thick fiber uncoiled from the depths of the box. The fiber was topped by a small globe no more than a couple of inches in diameter. Evidently it was some kind of interpretive device, for the alien began speaking to it and it answered, but in a gabble that made no sense at all to me.

This went on for several moments while I brought my fresh coffee over to the easy chair and set it on the side table. I started to sit down but then wondered if my alien guest might be hungry or thirsty. I went over to the refrigerator and poured a glass of cold water. Very slowly, so as not to alarm it, I crossed the room and held out the glass.

There was no hesitation on its part. It took the glass and raised it to the lipless, bifurcated mouth. A tongue as pink as my own lapped at the water at first, then somehow formed a tube and suctioned the rest of it up. It held out the glass to me, a clear signal that it wanted more. I set the glass on the coffee table and fetched the water pitcher. I demonstrated how to pour, probably an unnecessary gesture. I watched as it drank almost the whole pitcher of water. After that it placed its mouth over the globe at the end of the upright fiber that had risen from the box. It made swallowing motions, leading me to think it was probably taking in some nourishment, or possibly medicine. When it seemed to be satisfied, I decided to get busy.

"Kyle," I said, touching my chest like Tarzan as I uttered my name.

It repeated my action and said, "Cresperian", speaking slowly. If it had said, "Take me to your leader" instead, I would have headed for the nearest funny farm and checked myself in faster than a cat having sex. At that point a piece of useless knowledge popped into my head about tomcats. I was lost on the thought that a tomcat has barbs on its penis and ejaculates in less than ten seconds. Then I cringed, thinking about the sight of a poor pussycat being mounted. I've got more useless facts like that running around in my mind than are in Wikipedia. Gwen used to show me off at parties, having people ask me odd questions, the odder the better. Sometimes stress causes nonsense like that to just pop to the front of my brain. Perhaps I developed it early on as some sort of coping mechanism to make up for being shy.

"Kyle." The alien snapped me out of my wandering trivial pursuit by pointing in my direction and repeating my name.

I didn't intend to try putting over the fact that humans usually went by two, and sometimes three names, but even so I confused it. By the time I realized it was speaking of species while I had given my individual name, it took several minutes and finally showing it a picture of a crowd before it got the idea. After that the session went easier, even though I learned later that they had no permanent names of their own, but changed their designation as they changed professions or specialties. Nevertheless, we began making rapid progress, I by talking and demonstrating, and it by what turned out to be an eidetic memory and use of its boxed assistant that seemed to have as many functions as the contents of a woman's handbag, maybe more.

Time passed and eventually I played out, while it appeared content to continue the language and culture lessons indefinitely. It was midnight by then. We hadn't gotten around to discussing sleep but I was really feeling the need. Finally I hit on a bright idea. I had already managed to explain the idea of what a computer was, so I showed it the basics on my spare (not being willing to risk a neophyte with the main one). It caught on quickly, and we had already gone over the association between words and the text in books. I left it with a dictionary, a connection to one of the simpler encyclopedias on the net and a general science site to play with, and Google, and then I pointed out the bathroom in case it had needs along those lines. I lay down on the couch, instead of my bed, to sleep. I wanted be nearby in case it needed me.

For the time being I was calling it Jerry, for no particular reason other than it sounded like the first couple of syllables of what it gave as its designation when we decided it needed a name in English, and it seemed satisfied with the shortened form. After I'd sleepily watched Jerry for a while, I thought he could navigate by himself (herself? We hadn't gotten into that yet, but I decided on him for the time being) and closed my eyes at last. Just as I was dozing off I heard a cat "raoow" out behind the shed, causing me to dream of an alien tomcat mounting a poor little kitty.

(Skip).....

"Hmm." That must be a nice arrangement, I thought to myself. One sex just to have the babies while the other two have all the fun. Of course, I had no idea of their sexual practices at the time, or even if they had sex in the fashion we did. For certain I could detect nothing at Jerry's crotch that looked anything like genitalia. Anyway, his sexual organs didn't necessarily have to be placed like ours. His outward appearance was sort of like a cartoon animal--sexless. And who knew what he had hiding under that pelt?

He must have taken my little utterance as a signal to continue with the subject, for then he said, "I've already instituted the necessary biomolecular and genetic revisions of my structure to become female. However, if that is unsatisfactory to you, I can reverse the process with little problem at this stage."

I was curious, I'll admit. Besides, men are always thinking about sex. "Why did you decide to start the change now, on a strange planet and in what must be an even stranger environment for you? Or is it something that happens automatically?"

"Oh, no, Kyle. Long ago we progressed to a stage of biotechnology where the changes may be done at will. Of course we don't usually switch back and forth very often. Our life spans are extremely long compared to yours, so there's no necessity for hurry in most matters."

"Of course not," I said, and immediately hoped he hadn't picked up on the sarcasm. Damn it, he could have gone all day without saying that. The fact that we had to die was one of my pet peeves. At the very least, I thought our lifetimes were far too short. I hated the thought of death, the negation of my ego, and being non-religious, I had no anticipation of an afterlife. And while I'm still relatively young, I can remember how bitterly resentful my Dad had been as his life neared its end, not only because he knew he was going to die, but also at all the aches and pains that old age entails. And he didn't believe in an afterlife either. Frankly, I doubt that most people really, deep down, believe in a heaven, or they wouldn't struggle so to keep on living, even in pain and misery and conditions where death should seem welcome if they really thought there was something nice waiting afterward. And just look at how we misbehave. Would we really act the way we do if we thought our chances of going to heaven were based on our actions while alive? Hell no, we wouldn't.

I shook my head to get the random thoughts out of my mind. "So I take it you're male now. Will you look the same after you change to a female or will the differences be apparent, like our sexual characteristics?"

If an alien with a face like a cross between a cat and an owl could look troubled, Jerry did. I apologized, thinking I shouldn't have raised the issue so soon. "I'm sorry, Jerry. I think I must have troubled or embarrassed you. I didn't intend to." Damn my big mouth. Why can't I ever learn to keep it shut?

"It isn't that, Kyle. You've mistaken my meaning, most likely from my incomplete comprehension of your language and culture. I'm becoming a female because I thought that would please you, since you're alone--that is, you have no companion present. Wife? Partner?"

"I was married," I told him. "My wife died in an accident several months ago. If you're becoming a female simply to please me.well, I don't see what difference it would make. I'm sure I could continue to relate to you in your present form just as well as whatever you look like as a female."

A long moment of silence ensued and again I thought I had said something wrong.

"I see that I still have failed to make myself understood. I apologize for that. What my transition means is that when it is complete I will look like a human female. In fact, in all respects I will be able to function as a human female, retaining only my perceptive sense and my knowledge."

 

 

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