Flash Fiction: Invasive

How about a new flash piece? It’s an answer to a challenge by Chuck Wendig again, this week asking for a story about an invasive species. I might have misinterpreted that adjective slightly. Or hit his hidden meaning on the head. I don’t seem to be the only one going this route, at least.
Warning, though: Not for the squeamish.


“Tell me, Mister Sammer, do you happen to sleep on your side?”
“I do, but I don’t think my arm has just become numb from me sleeping on it. This has been going on for far too long now to be that.”
Doctor Gern mustered the inner side of Georg’s arm once more. Passing his forearm, his eyes fixated on something they seemed to have found in his armpit.
“That’s not what I mean by that. I can see a very peculiar wound down here. Do you happen to lie on the left side sleeping?”
“Yes. Wound?”
“Almost circular and looking rather new. You say, your arm feels extremely light and your hands don’t respond like they should. I have to assume there is a problem with your muscles’ attachment to the bone, and I think I know the reason why. Did any liquid leak from your armpit, did you spot any discolorations in your mattress the last few days?”
“Not as far as I remember. Is that something more common?”
“It wasn’t before, but this month your are the fifth showing symptoms like that. I expect the X-ray any minute now, it should tell the rest of the story.”
As if she heard the doctor’s call for it, the assistant entered the room, x-ray under her arm. She put it on the illuminated wall for displayed x-rays and left without a word. The outline and bones of an arm showed. One of the forearm’s bones seemed very pale in comparison to the glowing white the light gave the other bones in the picture.
“Just as I thought,” Doctor Gern said, moved in to take a closer look of the image again, return with eyes calming Georg with the confidence reflected in them, gripped Georg Sammer’s arm with both hands, and smashed it on the table.
CRACK it went as his ulna easily burst into pieces. And yet, the pain was no worse than that of a hand slapping his skin.
“Are you nuts?! You’re supposed to fix my arm, not shatter it!”
“That’s just what I did. Didn’t you realize this barely hurt when a bone shattering should cause excruciating pain?”
“I don’t have my arm broken all that often,” he replied perplexed.
“Look at the x-ray, don’ you see something peculiar there?”
“One fo the bones looks really pale.”
“Look closer!”
“I don’t see anything special.”
“You don’t? So you think it’s normal there are six white beams coming out of the ulna’s side and two more going into your hand?”
“You’re the doctor, you tell me!”
“No, it’s not normal at all. Most bones in the human body don’t have legs and antennae sticking out.”
“They don’t have what?”
“Legs and antennae. You see, you have caught a parasitic phasmid. Had caught, it should be dead now. We remove the remains of the dead phasmid in a minute.”
“I caught what?”
“A parasitic phasmid. A stick insect making a home in the victim’s limbs by replacing certain bones with themselves, living off their blood. All painless thanks to chemicals they give off, but the effects still bewilder the patients, as you just experienced. Did you know stick insects can give birth to live young without involving a male? They then crawl out of the entry wound and nestle into the mattress until another person sleeps there or they can enter an uninfected limb on the original host. Nasty little bug climate change has begun to draw out of the tropics.”
And that is the story how Ludwig Sammer convinced his son to take over the family business as an exterminator after all. All thanks to the help of a friend who was also the family doctor with a strange enthusiasm in parasitology and a few genetic engineers he knew from college. And the story how they introduced a new terror to the world, keeping people awake at night. Oh well, some eggs ought to be cracked. It was all for the good of the family, after all.

And Peace on Earth

hollyjollybloghop_banner_12152016So, this is a day late due to the Berlin attack taking top priority in my topics for Tuesday. Living in Germany and being active in politics, that was a major event for me. But now, on to some levity.

True to the banner above, this short is part of Elizabeth Barone’s Holly Jolly Blo Hop 2016 that has various authors publish a short each on their blogs. The unifying topic here is The Wrong Gift. In my case that does become a more sci-fi variation on Christmas stories, this being my favourite genre. This marks my third sci-fi Christmas flash, the others being one unpublished story and one in German. I might do a Future Christmas collection next year if (or when) I manage to do at least 20, preferably 24 to make a kind of scifi advent calendar.
You may find all the other entries to this blog hop via Elizabeth’s site for your enjoyment. Quite a varied selection, there’s something for everybody there!

And Peace on Earth

As always, the delivery was on time. The invading Gurnock fleet had surrounded Earth to intercept the cosmic Santa entities packages to the planet in order to both take away hope and gather intel on its denizens. The plan an empire was built on.
“For the glory of the empire!” Shoobed shouted to the advisor staff as he opened the door to the delivery room. A multicolored mass of items poured out, mostly plastic. A few small animals ran off barking and meowing. At least the meowing ones made the impression to be useful in dealing with some pests from last year’s invasion. The empire really needs a policy on this, Shoobed thought. “Now sift through this for information on the enemy’s technology and abilities!”
“Sir, this planet is weird. Most of these are models of creatures and vehicles. I mean, is this world so easily conquered that of all the weaponry they could wish for from Santa, they wish for this stuff? And look at their actual weapons!” Tukard shoot one to demonstrate, its foam ammunition harmlessly bouncing off a metal beam. “They’re all like this!”
“Something has got to be wrong here. Keep searching, I want to know if these creatures can possibly be this squishy or if we are being tricked. Take as much time as you need!”
“But those humans aren’t worth it. I mean, look at it!” Körtag next to Tukard held up the scale model of a human that seemed to be very common in the package, marked as a 13arbie. “Look at them, all scrawny and long. No edible meat, no muscle for slave work, what would we even do with those? They’d just slow down the empire!”
“We do not know that this is an accurate model. There are others here.”
“But all of them are either thin or so lacking in fat, they’re all stringy with muscle. Maybe we could use their newborns as popcorn, but that’s it!”
Shoobed sighed. “Could we please concentrate on the plan? And Glypüroq, would you please put away those Legos?”
“Lego! The plural of Lego is Lego”, the answer came irritated.
“How would you even know… I mean, is that really important right now?”
“No proper argument without proper grammar.”
“Alright, that’s it, the invasion is off!”

Making Of bonus stuff

Well, that was short, wasn’t it? So why not add some background info to it?
The story changed quite abit. Originally, the invading army was wishing for weapons to invade Earth only for Santa to qwitch the gifts between Earthlings and invaders, resulting in the aliens giving up and the humans expand into space using the technology delivered a few years later, having formed a space-age cargo cult around the failed invaders.
In the end, I kept the idea of Santa as a cosmic entity and the invaders giving up based on Earth’s gifts. I decided to keep it short and sweet, not to water down the initial concept.
If you want an idea on what these aliens look like, I imagine them as massive centaur-like creatures featuring a pair of tusks and two rows of spikes each along their backs that can be folded away. During battle, the tusks and spikes are covered with poison generated by glands at the base of each structure. Often, tusks and spikes are covered in harmless crystalline residue of that poison. Imagine a cross between a Kentrosaurus and a centaur on a really bad day.
So yeah, ain’t that christmas-y?
For anyone guessing about the gifts, those are, off course, a couple of pets (btw, please don’t gift pets, I know it happens, but, please don’t), a Nerf gun, a Barbie doll, and some Lego.

Fun fact: This story was written backwards, the last line being the first I wrote.

Again, please check the other stories in the blog hop, I quite like what I’ve read so far and I hope you will, too.

Dystopian Utopias and Counterfics – Some Thoughts on the new Minority Report Trailer

Warning: The following contains a spoiler for the 2002 movie Minority Report. Just in case you still haven’t seen it yet.

Minority Report is getting a tv series based on the movie loosely adapted from the original story and we have a trailer to show for it:

Yeah, this is weird. Let’s talk about why.

Dystopian Utopias

The original movie by Steven Spielberg is in the ranks of the sleeper classics, that is, movies with topics more relevant now than when they were originally released. Science fiction dealing with contemporarily current trends is prone to this kind of thing, see Demolition Man for another example, if a less serious one.
The point of Minority Report was that the idea of predicting crime to prevent it is a bad idea. Not only is data bound to get misinterpreted sooner or later, you also create a host of prediction paradoxes. You know, when a future event turned out to be caused by your prediction in the first place? As happened in the original movie? Because that was the whole point of the story?
Because sometimes stuff tends to happen in circles, especially when time travel and/or precognition is involved. Much like the previous paragraph did.

That was 13 years ago and apparently Minority Report hit puberty right on cue. Now it wants to hear nothing of its parents’ values and always do the opposite. Either that or society has become a whole lot different with us starting to embrace the sort of constant surveillance and data precognition that comes with big data and that had us all horrified after 9/11 brought with it growing sacrifice of freedom in the name of security. One might say Minority Report is strong evidence how we all have been brainwashed into accepting a world that gets close to calling 1984 a utopian vision, rather than the dystopian one we used to think it is. And that idea kind of scares me.
It’s not the first time that happened, either. I’m getting a similar sensation when reading Brave New World, now sounding like every damn text on the evils of this thing called the internet and how it turns young ‘uns into brainless media zombies.
Maybe this is what dystopia is really good for: Giving us a glimpse how our thinking has changed. Few dystopias need to convince readers that bad stuff is bad. But looking at a dated dystopian tale, realizing it has turned into either our present or inches ever closer to a utopia in modern eyes, now there’s real value.


The other thing I want to talk about is adaptations.

In fan fiction, there is a couple of categories works can go into. I want to briefly talk about fix fic. This is when an author think another’s work broken in some way and goes about fixing it. In the best cases this results in stuff like Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, filling gaps from the movies and other Star Wars novels in such a way that any errors and continuity hiccups get explained to make the overall world of the stories more believable. In the worst cases, an author completely misses the point of the original work and manages to „fix“ the story into being its complete opposite.

This seems to be what happened here: The makers of the series saw the movie and decided that it’s message is utter bull. So they created a series that (judging from the trailer) goes ahead to undo the movie’s events, showing viewers how awesome the world would be with precognitive people in police service around. This is not only the sequel undoing the original’s point, it’s the sequel turning around to slap the original in the face, telling it how stupid it supposedly is.
And that is something I have never before seen done on purpose, with the sole exception of Starship Troopers doing this to Heinlein’s novel (awesomely imho).


That was my thoughts on Minority Report I thought to write down because I didn’t see anybody else seeing it that way. What do you think? Am I reading to much into a trailer? Or is this a sign of our times?

Introducing Introduction

In brief: New short story, eight hour fiction challenge, most boring cover I ever did, out now on Smashwords and Amazon.

Ladies and gentlemen, my first publication in English, not counting re-publishing public domain work. Cue the fireworks.
At 2,400 words (2,100 counting only the story itself), this is a very short piece, though still twice as long as my introductory shorts in the German Meilensteine der Evolution series. It is certainly the shortest I would ever publish as a standalone, except maybe a free one once I figured out how to set things to permafree reliably on Amazon.

Further apologies follow once I get to the cover, so on to the story. itself.
The year 2061, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is here the floating city of Pacifica has been growing since the late 2020′s. We follow Chang Wu, a Chinese immigrant who just arrived for a job interview, around town and towards his first assignment. However, he does not yet know what that assignment is, really.
Introduction is a flash fiction in the style I first got to know short stories from the likes of E.A. Poe and Ernest Hemingway: Very short pieces of fiction building towards a twist or surprise ending. Stories that are all about the ending. Mind you, this is neither Poe’s gothic fiction nor Hemingway’s realistic stories, this is science fiction, technically hard science fiction with everything happening and seen possible by current or probably possible technology.
What this is, is a tour arounf town through the eyes of a new arrival who is basically a man of our world, entering a very foreign one. It mainly serves to illustrate how different our future could be from our present. A showcase of ideas, condensed into one city.
I’ve been wanting to write a story set in the city of Pacifica for a long time, there are a lot of story ideas set in different time periods waiting to be put to paper. Holographic politicians in the 2040′s! Plant aliens in the 2100′s! There’s just so much one can do with a city that is by its nature constantly shifting and changing, inviting innovation and experimentation. Meaning, this is a mere, well, introduction to the setting. I will certainly return with a full story, maybe sooner than expected.

Blame for this story can be put on the August Eight Hour Fiction Half-Month Challenge. The challenge was to write, edit, and publish a story within eigtht hours. I decided to try it when I found out about it earlier this month via Cora Buhlert’s blog.
There not being a topic or theme this time first threw me off, but then I got the idea I could use this as a starting point of building this city I had in mind for so long, depicting a moment in its history I never knew how to show (I knew how to show the consequences of it, but not the event itself). So I did it, wrote the story in about 4 hours, created a cover and added front and back matter in one more hour.

Speaking of the cover, it was surprisingly hard to find something to fit on it and I ended up with perhaps the blandest cover I ever did. There is basically no illustrations I could use of a swimming city. I am not good enough an artist to make one, especially the timeframe given. I toyed with the idea of putting in something that would hint at the ending, but decided that to be too much of a spoiler. I suppose it’s possible to do subtly enough using a fitting silhouette at its borders or below the title. Maybe I will come back to that by changing it later.
So I settled for water with text over it.
At least I found a nice font that looks a little like my idea of Pacifica’s skyline with its swimming 21sup century skycrapers and the like (with the – to those who read it – obvious exception of New Venice). It does not have a bold option, though, making a hard to read. *sigh*.

Uploading to Amazon is something I’ve done a few times by now and as always, it worked like a charm. I always do that late in the evening so approval has been finished when I wake up in the morning. Uploaded, approved, go!
This was the first time I put a book on sale with another retailer than Amazon, uploading it to Smashwords as well. I was anxious how that would work out. You see, in Amazon I always upload a finished Mobi file, meaning formatting cannot fail, because Mobi is virtually the same as AZW, the proprietary kindle file format. Smashwords doesn’t let you do that, except for ePub and then you’re stuck with only ePub.
Smashwords uses a program called the Meatgrinder to convert a Doc file into a couple of file formats to provide the ability to sell a book for almost all currently available platforms, ranging from surviving palmtops (PDB), to current independent e-readers (ePub) and the Kindle series (Mobi). The Meatgrinder is infamous for rejecting input until it is perfect. Introduction being 100% text seemed safe enough to try and put into the grinder. I was really surprised how it worked perfectly at first try, the book going online at the store the moment conversion was done. After all I heard of Smashwords being a complicated vendor to submit to on a technology level, this was the last thing I expected. The only thing that takes time is the review for Premium Distribution, which will take a few days according to Smashwords’ FAQ. Given that gets done successfully, the book will then become available at other major ebook stores such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. I will add links at the book page if and when that works.

Here it is at Smashwords, available in Mobi, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, TXT, and for online reading at US$ .99.
And the Amazons. All of the Amazons (ordered by guesstimated likelihood of being interested in downloading a book in English): US/International (.com), UK, Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil

Now, if only the moniker “seapunk” hadn’t already been taken by something else. And Ocean Punk has been taken already, as well. Damn. It does have shades of Cli-Fi and Ribofunk, though, so I’ll just go with that.