There’s hope after all

This is just a short update on my novel “A Dream Before Dying”. I had the exceptional luck to encounter English major Stephanie Martin in an online discussion group, and she agreed to undertake the editing of my novel. The resulting commented text arrived a few days ago, and much to my surprise, she feels it is worth bringing forward. It does need an extensive amount of editing. rewriting and most important of all, some serious trimming, but she feels the story itself has merit.

So hopefully, once I’ve gotten through her advice and admonishments, I’ll be able to shape the rough manuscript I burdened her into something worth submitting to a publisher. Finger’s crossed.

The Liar’s Club

“You want me to what?”

Paul Youngston was far from small. Back in college, it had been a running joke that one of the top students in the astronomy department was also a starting defensive lineman on the football team. Paul still had the build of a lineman, even if nearly three decades of life had somewhat softened his form. But looking at the two men in front of him, the way their suits strained to contain their muscular bodies, he knew he’d stand no chance if they decided to resort to force. And they’d made it clear they would, if he refused to listen to them.

“As we said before, we need you to lie, Professor Youngston.”

“But YF2021A35 is the biggest discovery of my career! Why should I lie…”

“Because it’s necessary, Professor, that’s why.” He called himself Johansen, and from the way he did all the talking, it was clear this blond giant was in charge. That and the fact that he didn’t even try to hide his disdain when he address Paul. “We need you to change your data, and rewrite your paper before you submit it to show Loki will pass the Earth at a safe distance. Understand?”

“But it won’t! At best, we’ll suffer an exceptionally near miss, and by ‘near miss’ I mean the object will plow through the upper atmosphere. Even if we’re lucky and that’s what happens, the shock wave generated by that passage will be powerful enough to knock down any structures that aren’t reinforced. At worst….”

Johansen didn’t give Paul the chance to finish his sentence. “You were going to say if it collides, it could do massive damage. Well, Professor, we’re here because we know it will collide with the Earth. And it’s worse then you think. Your size estimates are based on, what, two days worth of data? We started tracking Loki for almost a month ago, so our models have a lot more data to work with. In 493 days, Loki’s orbit will intersect the Earth’s orbit. The collision will occur at 13:37 Zulu, and it should strike somewhere near the Mongolian-Chinese border.” Johansen’s eye’s narrowed, and the disdain in it became cold contempt. “And because we’ve been observing it so much longer, we have a better fix on how big it is: 114 kilometers long, by 88 kilometers wide, so it’s shaped kind of like a giant rugby ball. And we also have access to better spectroscopic equipment, which is how we know it’s nearly solid iron. So tell, me, Professor, what would be the result of a body of that composition hitting the Earth?”

Paul didn’t need a computer to make the projection. A body that size, of that composition, slamming into the Earth at what would by then be nearly 400 kilometers per second….would come close to sterilizing the planet. A few hearty microbes might survive, but nothing much more advanced than that. Perhaps the stunning realization was clear from his face, because Johansen spoke as if he could read Paul’s mind. “Yes, nothing will survive. The impact will generate an ejecta plum that should easily reach as far out at the Moon’s orbit, so even if we had people living there, the lunar surface will take a pummeling from all that debris. So there’s no chance we can save anyone.”

“But….but what about the Earth Defense Program? It’s been all over the news these past few months, so can’t they……..”

Johansen had a nasty mouth, but his voice was nothing to the contempt he put into his laughter. “Seriously, Professor? And here I was told you were one of the brightest astrophysicists in America. Let me lay it out for you: even if every nation in the world that has nukes were to contribute every warhead they possess, we could barely nudge a mass of that size. And with Loki’s orbit being what it is, any attempt humanity made to shift its orbit couldn’t be launched for another 100 day, minimum.”

“But can’t we get people off the planet, even a few?” Even as Paul said it, he knew the futility of the statement. Mars was the only planet that might be both safe and capable of humans making a living there. But Mars was in the wrong place, orbital mechanics wise, and wouldn’t be in anything like an decent spot until just after the asteroid should impact. “Never mind. I see your point. So, can you at least tell me why you want me to lie?”

Now, for the first time, Johansen’s face softened. “Because, Professor, if people are going to die anyway, wouldn’t it be best if they didn’t spend their last days living in terror? Loki will approach almost directly out of the Sun, so there won’t be any further chances to observe it with anything but radar. Ordinary people won’t be able to see it until, maybe, a day or two before impact. If we can give them that time to just live their lives, wouldn’t that be the best final gift we can give them?” A scowl, and the pragmatic man returned. “Besides, we’re pretty sure that no other country managed to gather enough data to make the conclusions we have. So if they don’t know the world’s about to end, they’ll be less likely to try taking one final swipe at us. Getting killed by a massive asteroid collision’s bad enough. Do you think the world fighting a nuclear war, one where there’s no reason to show any sort of restraint, or humanity, then to get hit by a killer asteroid, would be better?”

Paul hadn’t even thought of what his discovery might cause when he’d first started writing his paper. Now, with all that could spring from it laid out before him, he could see Johansen was right. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Then, the question that had hovered in the back of his mind sprang forward. “But why do you call YF2021A35 Loki?”

For te first time, Paul sees Johansen smile. “Oh, that. That’s what I call it, not what everyone else calls it. They use your name for it. But I was a big fan of graphic novels, and one of my favorite series were the Marvel ones surrounding Thor and Loki. In them, Loki helps bring about Ragnarok, the end of the world…so that’s why I call this killer Loki.”

It made sense, in a weird way. “So, what are you going to do next, Mr. Johansen? More scientists to talk into lying about the end of the world?”

A slow shake of the head, then. “No, you were the last, mainly because you had the highest standing, and we knew you’d take the longest to confirm your findings. Everyone else fell in line in pretty short order…and the few who didn’t suddenly found themselves being charged with treason, or leaking government secrets, or whatever charges we could cobble together to get them out of circulation. No, I’m done. Now, I’m going back to DC to resign my commission. I’ve been deployed on all manner of missions for the past few years, and I’ve got a son who I haven’t seen enough of. I plan to do what I can to make that up to him before it’s all over. What about you, Professor Youngston? With no big discovery to write about, what do you plan to do?”

What could Paul do with a year-and-change? “I don’t know. I’ve got no family left, and after I wouldn’t settle down, my wife left me. That was a decade ago, and she’s married to some other guy. We never had any kids, so I don’t have to worry about making my absence up to them. Maybe I’ll do some traveling, play the tourist while there’s still a world to see.” Paul rose, held out his hand. “I hope you and your boy can make some good memories.”

Johansen stepped forward, slipped his hand into his pocket, then reached out the shake Paul’s hand. When he did, he pressed something into it: a small badge, with a pin on one side and the face a shiny black enamel, with a red capital “L” emblazoned on it.

“What’s this?”

“It’s your welcome into the Liar’s Club. It means you’re one of the people who will tell humanity it’s last whopper, and I’m glad you’re aboard, Paul.”

“I’ll do my best…”

Now, a genuine smile, all teeth visible. “If you can believe it, Thor. My parents were fans too.”

“Don’t worry about it, Thor. I’m not one to laugh at people’s names. Thank you for trusting me.”

“No, thank you for joining us, Paul. And enjoy your trip, where ever you decide to go.”

The Doorway

I have researched it for years, and each new source I find tells a different tale.

Nearly half the sources insist it doesn’t exist. To explain away the many legends of it, these writers offer up as many reasons as there are writers denying its existence.

And even among the writers who claim it does exist, there is no consistent explanation of what The Doorway In The Middle Of Nowhere is. Some dismiss it as nothing more than the doorway of some ancient structure that has long ago fallen to dust. Others insist that it is a thing of supernatural origins, created by gods, or demons, or mages of eldritch times.

But whatever it is, there are two things about it that are consistent.

The first is that every culture has stories about The Doorway, and those stories go as far back as the cultures do.

The second is that none of those cultures agrees about precisely where The Doorway is located.

But among those stories, I found four that at least agreed that The Doorway was located on the windswept plateau I have been making my way across this past week.

Why it would be here, I do not know. No roads cross this gods-forsaken land. There is nothing here but the paths made by the great red deer herds who are the sole occupants of this land. Those thread their way among the towering rock spires, passing from one small green glen to the next. The only sign that humans have been here are the odd piles of bones and the occasional fire pit left by those who come here to hunt them. What they burn, I do not know, as trees are few and far between.

I had thought myself prepared for this journey. My research has led me to travel far, and I thought myself an experienced traveler. I even hired two mules to go with my own pack horse, and loaded them all down with food. What I wasn’t smart enough to bring was fire wood.

Nor did I possess the intelligence to bring water.

I remember the last flowing water I saw. It had been nothing more than a straggling trickle of water seeping from the face of the cliff which stood guard over the last road I had ridden. It had been a broad way, like an imperial road of old Las, and had angled upward along the face of that cliff to this plateau. My water skin had been nearly empty, so I stopped to fill it. I remember thinking how strange it was that the water, though cold, had a sharp, bitter taste to it, and how I’d been tempted to empty the skin in hopes of finding better water further on. More by stupid luck than anything else, I had kept that water, and it in turn kept me alive through five days of searching for more water.

And the road…it vanished at the at the edge of the plateau, like it had been built as some mad joke intended to lure unwary travelers to follow it into this desolate hell.

I found my last water yesterday. I had been without for nearly two days when I rounded a vast boulder to find my way blocked by a boggy stretch of ground. In the early days of my wanderings over this curse land, I would have tried to cross it, confident that I could make it to the other side.

That was before I heard a deer screaming in terror.

I found it, neck-deep in a bog. I watched for a while as it struggled to extricate itself from the soggy mass it had mistakenly thought would support its weight. As I did, I came to understand that what I’d thought was grass was actually a carnivorous plant that lured animals like the deer into the bog so it could use their nutrients to keep itself alive. I spent one of my remaining arrows putting it out of its misery.

But even knowing the terrible thing that the bogs harbored didn’t stop them from being the only sources of water. So I began to drink the filthy water that welled up around their edges. The first time I did, I vomited everything in my stomach up. But my body needed water, so I was soon back at the waters edge, scooping water up with my hands and drinking it. Now, after so many times doing so, I hardly notice the rotten meat taste that permeates the water, nor do I note much any dead animals that might float nearby.

I have forgotten much of my former life. When I came here, I had been a well-regarded scholar, even if people thought my fixation on The Doorway a bit odd. Lords had accepted me in their halls. Town head-men had feasted me on the best their hamlets could offer. My clothing, if not ornate, had always been clean, as I had myself.

The last of the food I’d brought with me ran out over a week ago. Now, I subsist on deer meat, whether freshly killed by me, or scavenged from from one of the bogs, and always eaten raw. My clothing is now so covered in filth of every sort that in places it is rigid. And me? I am, if anything, even filthier than my clothing. They at least is exposed to the rain storms that lash this land, while my body is not. And my pack animals? I was not amazed to learn that mule meat is far tougher than horse flesh, but was surprised to learn that it tastes sweeter.

Perhaps I have gone mad, but even as I descend further into squalor, my desire to learn the truth drive me to continue looking for The Doorway. That, and the fact that I no long possess any idea of where I am, nor how I might find the road that had brought me here.

I now move through a landscape much different from that which I first saw. Great solid slabs rise around me, jutting from the ground at odd angles, but they are not stone. They are something I have never seen before. Many have fractured, and more than a few look as though they were torn apart.

What is strange is what those broken surfaces reveal. How can I describe it? Can you imagine a substance as hard as any rock, yet containing within it piece of rock? In some of these great slabs, the rocks are rounded, like they had once been in a river. In others, the rocks are jagged, like they’d been ripped apart by some force unimaginable before being encased in the strange new rock. And in all of them, there are pieces of metal that I am sure are iron.

And these pieces of iron are not like the rocks. No, they have all the markings of something shaped by the hand of man! They are round, often with strange indentations or ridges on their surfaces, something that no source I have ever read says happens in nature.

So now I wander among these strange sights, looking at the increasingly huge pieces of rock, or whatever it is, and wondering if these could possibly have been made by human hands. I move around a vast monolith, twice as wide as my arms could reach and perhaps four times as tall as I…to find a doorway standing before me.

It stands in another shattered piece of…whatever these things are. And while the shape would not be out of place in any dwelling a human lived in, it is far larger, a door easily three times as wide as I could reach, and five times taller than I. But it is the door that stand within it that draws the eye. It gleams like silver that is burnished by ceaseless polishing. How such a mass of metal could be gathered, and more important, how it could remain untouched by greedy hands, even in this isolated place, I do not know.

Neither these questions, nor the many warnings I remember from my sources, stop me from approaching. I have done it. I have found the location of The Doorway. And having found it, I must approach it, I must find out what it truly is.

I am five paces from it when the voice speaks.

It is an unearthly voice, one that seems to issue from the very doorway, and I, who speak five languages, can understand none of the words I hear. What does “Demon-son-all pour-tall one” mean? Is it the name of the being that created this thing? What is the meaning of “Act-of-a-shun”? Or “Be-gin-ning”? The string of words, each one different, but spoken at precise intervals, I can only think is some form of count.

Whether those words are a count or not, after a double-hand of them have been spoken, the gleaming surface vanishes. And in it’s place….I see scenes of wonder.

People walk beside what looks like a road, except it is a single smooth surface, and it runs between patches of grass greener than any I have ever seen. Stranger still, upon it go not horse and wains, but strange vehicles that move themselves. Most are closed, but a few are open, and in these, other people travel. Perhaps the closed vehicles hold people as well.

I have little time to wonder, for the scene vanishes, replaced by a one that might have come from the darkest pit of the deepest of all hells. Here the road still exists, but there are no people, no strange conveyances, and the grass is gone, replaced by blackened stubble. Another change, and now there are people, but they attack each other with no uniforms or formation like armies would possess. No, they simply seem bent on slaughtering each other. And the vision changes again. And again. And no two scenes are precisely the same, for in some, not even the strange road is present.

Now I stand close enough that I could reach out and touch them. Are they real, or are they phantoms projected by this….thing? Another scene, one in which nothing is visible but a vast sweep of chest-high grass. On impulse, I reach out…and feel an odd resistance as my hand passes within the opening. Then I am aware that the hand stretched out before me is warm, far warmer than the rest of me. I feel a breeze sweep across that hand, one the rest of me feels not, and I see the grass wave in response to it. Some of the grass brushes my hand, and I grab it before pulling my hand back. In the image, the the upper part of the grass stalk tears away, and my hand comes back to me clutching a sheaf of grass unlike any I have ever seen.

I am aware that the view changes again, revealing a flat, unrelentingly gray landscape, as if all color and features have been erased. But that barely registers with me. For out of the grass I hold crawls long green insect. I am aware that it is looking at me as intently as I at it, for like the grass, I have never seen anything like it. I see it’s legs move, then in a flash, it is gone, launching itself into the air with a noisy beating of wings.

“So what I see is real!”

I have not spoken for so long I barely recognize my own voice. But they are my words, expressing my thoughts. And I look back into the opening to see what wonders it will reveal next. The view changes again, showing a dark scene illuminated by a pale, wavering light. Even as I wonder what it shows, a fish, vast beyond any I have ever heard of, swims into view.

Both the fish and the knowledge that what I am looking at is underwater, remind me of my own condition. I have not eaten for several days, and had my last water a day ago. Could I perhaps step through the opening and take some water and food? I brought my hand back safely, so why not my whole body?

Hunger and thirst make my decision for me. I watch, waiting for a moment when the scene before me looks promising. Other images appear. What might have once been people, but are now twisted and disfigured caricatures of humanity, shamble past. Then more desolate plains, but these under a sky as black as midnight, with the stars visible even though the Sun stands in the middle of the sky. Then a view, much like the first, but instead of people, strange creatures like man-tall lizards walk the streets.

Another shift, and now another featureless plain spreads beyond my sight. But this one is covered in grass, and before me, near enough to see its water rippling, a stream flows.

“This will do.” I step forward, even as I say the words. As my hand had before, my whole body feels a pressure, like I were trying to push it through an unseen barrier stretching across the opening. Then the pressure is gone, and I fight to keep from stumbling. The shock makes me gasp, and as I do, my nostrils are filled with scents I have never experienced before. Then I realize that the air here is cooler than where I had been before, but not uncomfortably so.

I turn to see where I had been….but there is no trace of the opening here. The Doorway does not exist here. There is not a sign that the place I have just come from exists. I stretch my hand out, sweeping the space before me….and find nothing but emptiness. That is when it dawns on me that, where ever I am, here I will stay.

Was it worth it? Was finding that The Doorway was not only real, but an opening between different worlds, worth leaving my past life behind?

Yes.

I may never go back to claim the fame of proving my discovery, but I have a whole new world to explore, and all manner of new things to learn. “Yes, it was a fair trade.” I tell myself as I make my way towards the river before me to drink, perhaps catch a fish, and decide what direction to go next. Part of me wonders what strange and wondrous things I will witness here. But that is for tomorrow, and all the days yet to come.

More Okatu musings

Well, most all of us are at home, and with nothing else to do, why not watch some anime? Here are five anime series I’ve watched recently, but one of them I would not recommend, even though it has a long heritage.

First, the bad news: “Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045” is out on Netflix, and having watch the first 12 episodes, I’m not impressed. It’s bad enough that the animation is rather obviously CGI. But they didn’t stop there. No, they use that medium to tell a story that, honestly, left me not really caring much what happened to most of the main characters. Gone are the paramilitary police officers who bent the rules to do some good. Now, they’re nothing but hired muscle, working as private military contractors and available to the highest bidder. After having hopes that the rather overly violent initial teaser would prove to be a one-off, what came out is far more a ‘shoot’em up’ cartoon than the occasionally thoughtful original anime was. No link provided because I don’t want to cause others to suffer through this anime.

For a very different experience, one you can enjoy, I’d recommend “Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited”. Imagine Bruce Wayne’s Batman, except instead of going out and catching the bad guys through hard work and determination, the protagonist bribes crooks to turn on each other, has far too much fondness for random destruction, and seems to feel that all he needs to do is spread more cash to pay for his mistakes. Now, team someone like that with an honest cop who’s sole goal is to do his job and keep people safe, and imagine how many ways things might go wrong. I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but not only does the story concept intrigue me, the animation is pretty damned good. Well worth watching: https://www.funimation.com/shows/the-millionaire-detective-balance-unlimited/

Crunchyroll has an interesting anime that it’s carrying exclusively, “Tower of God”. It tells the tale of Bam, a young boy with a mission. He is seeking Rachel, the girl who cared for him in what he finds is the basement of a vast structure called The Tower. But in her turn, Rachel had a dream: to escape the closed-in life she and Bam have lived and see the star-filled sky she has heard stories about. When she announces she’s leaves him, Bam begs her to take him with her, but she refuses, promising to come back for him one day. When she doesn’t, Bam follows her path out of the basement and is confronted by the mysteries of the tower and it’s many and varied residents. I’ve only had a chance to watch the first six episodes of this one, but like the previous anime, this one has promise and I think it’s worth the time to watch.

https://www.crunchyroll.com/tower-of-god

Last year, I enjoyed watching “Kaguya-sama: Love is War”. The story revolves around an over-achieving poor boy and an equally gifted rich girl who fall in love with each other. But being too proud to admit their feelings, each tries to get the other to admit their feelings first. The resulting machinations, which always fail miserably, were hilarious to watch. It’s back in “ Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2”, and things haven’t gotten any less confusing for the protagonists. Nor have the schemes they come up with gotten any more successful, or less entertaining. Worth a watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/kaguya-sama-love-is-war/season-2

Speaking of anime about two people who fall in love and can’t admit their feelings, I found this one by accident. “Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It” tells the story of a pair of science grad students who realize they have feelings for each other. In this case, their problem isn’t a reluctance to admit they have feelings, it’s an inability to admit that what they feel towards each other is love. So, being good scientists, they decide to research the problem, gather ‘data’ through numerous rather interesting ‘experiments’, so they can either prove or disprove the fact that they are in love. Silly? Yeah, it’s all that, but it has some moments that make you want to cheer the protagonists…and others that make you want to slap them for being so silly. Well worth watching. https://www.crunchyroll.com/science-fell-in-love-so-i-tried-to-prove-it

I’ll add this one as both a bonus and a teaser. I finally had a chance to watch “Weathering with You”, the most recent feature anime film from Mikoto Shinkai, the director of “Your Name”. It tells the story a young man who’s living a hard life as a runaway in Tokyo. Every day is a hustle, working for his somewhat sketchy boss who operates an urban legends web site. All that changes when he meets a girl who can literally pray the rain away. He helps her turn her gift into a business, and as they work together, he comes to love her. But what he doesn’t know is that her gift comes with a price. The story is equal parts compelling and touching, and features the same hyper-detailed animation that is Shinkai’s trademark. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a link because it’s not available on any streaming services yet. But do keep an eye open for this one, it’s definitely worth watching.

A slight change?

[One of the changes that has been suggested to me with regards to my ongoing fantasy novel “The Haunted Blade” was that I should ditch the prologue. So today, I tried redoing the first chapter to include enough of the prologue material that the impact of who the characters are is clear. But what do you think? Is it an improvement? Comments welcomed.]

blade-chap-1x

The Human Balance

I watch the world teeter on the brink, wondering which way it will fall.

Will reason and hope prevail, or the madness of anger and distrust?

Will competent voices be heard, or will the mindless fools looking to protect their reputations drown them out?

Human resilience, nay, our very humanity and all the thing we value, are being put to the test.

Will we be proud of how we weathered this moment?

Or will we hang our heads in shame when future generations ask us about this time?

The Danger of the True Believer in politics

[With this, I’m venturing slightly into what I used to be: a writer of political opinion pieces. If you don’t want to have to deal with political opinion, well, better not read what follows.]
I’ve noted something recently.
Like lot of folks, I have a YouTube account and like to watch videos there. Most of these deal with things like history, space and writing. I also, occasionally, happen across political videos. One in particular, by a group I will not name (not going to give them any coverage, they don’t deserve it imho) looked at the recent South Carolina Democratic debate.
The people doing the video all but claimed that the crowd was ‘loaded’ in favor of Bloomberg and against Bernie Sanders. This, in turn, brought in the ‘berniebots’, who were intent on amplifying their sense of how unjust it is that people actually dared to *boo* Sanders.
To be fair, he was booed when it was pointed out that, for all his talk about wanting to rein in the NRA, he voted *against* the Brady Bill, and defended a gun manufacturer that happens to be located in Vermont after one of their guns was used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
I, perhaps being rather silly, disputed the idea that the crowd had been ‘paid’ to boo Sanders….and oh, the hell that rained down on me.
I was ‘ignorant’.
I was ‘brainwashed’.
I was obviously a troll.
I was a paid shill for Bloomberg/the DNC.
The willingness of these people to believe that nobody could possibly disagree with them on principle was what stunned me the most. These are the supposedly ‘open minded’ people who are interested in ‘restoring free thinking’ to politics….and yet, their actions are those of a close-minded little tribe of True Believers who will not brook any disagreement.
I wasn’t a Sanders supporter before, but after this, I’m going to have to plug my nose if I have to vote for him come November….and yes, I *will* vote for him rather than leave the Orange Idiot in the Oval Office.

The Reward

My life was an ordinary one.

Barring the details, it could have been lived by any other man, in any other country, in any other time.

I was born, went to school, grew up, got a job, then got married. Had kids. Had grand kids. Then the doctor gave me that long-faced announcement that I had The Big C. Mine had grown quietly in my pancreas before expanding outward to attack my other organs. He didn’t use the word hopeless to describe my chances, but his expression, his tone, they all told me it was.

The final few days were confused. Sometimes the kids were there. Other times, they were with Grace, even though she’d been dead for a decade. Those were the worst days. Every time Grace was there, her face had that disappointed look on it, like when she learned I wouldn’t get my pension because the company had used it and all the other pension contributions to buy stock back. On the final day, no one was there. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I died on a Wednesday morning, and like me, all my kids had jobs to be at.

I spent my final few moments gasping because my lungs didn’t seem to have enough air coming in. Then it was over.

Some folks insist you see a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Me, there was none of that. One moment I was staring at the cheap ceiling tiles, then I was here. In a line with lots of other rather ordinary people. On either side, all there is to see is a barren wasteland, a place covered in loose black rocks that looked like they’d come from the sloping sides of a volcano. The line stretches before me, and behind me, too far for me to see any ending to it. And we are always in motion. Not a rapid motion, more a shuffling amble, but always we move forward.

I don’t need to ask where I am. I know where I am: Hell.

There are no demons armed with pitchforks. No rising towers of flame. There are no seas of lava filled with screaming sinners. But I know this is Hell as surely as if a huge neon sign hung in the sky announcing it was.

And I knew why I was here.

My live was one compromise after another.

Every day, I’d seen things I knew were wrong, even evil, and just turned away.

I gave myself the usual excuses for not acting.

It would be too hard to change the way things were done.

Things had always been done that way.

It didn’t effect me, so why should I care?

Every time I didn’t do the right thing, every instant when I’d remained silent, had brought me to this place. Looking at the faces of those around me, I knew they were here for the same reasons. Some of them were angry, shouting that they’d done nothing to deserve this. Others wept, lamenting the chances they’d not taken to be better than they were.

But most were like me. They knew where they were and accepted it with the same stolid attitude they’d dealt with the rest of the disappointing events in their lives.

And so here we were, the vast tide of humanity trudging to our final reward for a live spent just getting by.

A question about offering a critique.

Have you ever tried offering advice to a fellow writer, only to have them treat your suggestion like it was as welcomed as a severe case of STD’s?

I am involved with some online writing groups, and if I think I can offer some advice or useful observations, I try to offer offer said advice as frankly but politely as I can. So, one day, a writer comes on asking for help staging a scene between his two main protagonist characters. I probably should have known the writer wasn’t interested in advice that didn’t praise them when I read the thumbnail character descriptions: two people with ‘hero’ practically written on their foreheads. Then they describe the scene: Earth has been invaded by an all-conquering alien species, and the heroes are going into orbit to visit an ancient spacecraft.

I could get past the part where the heroes are a bit too perfect, but expecting a species that has crossed interstellar space to overlook an orbiting spacecraft that the much-less-technically-advanced humans know about….that’s not asking me to suspend my disbelief, that’s asking me to lobotomize myself.

So I offered the observation that such an occurrence was unlikely, pointing out politely that it was a fairly obvious plot device that the author might want to address.

The author’s response? Well, I won’t do a direct word-for-word quote, but it was effectively ‘I’m well into the novel, and I’m not interested in changing what I’ve written.’

I’ve thrown whole scenes out of stories, then gone through the rest of the manuscript covering the holes created by that event no longer having occurred, so I can’t understand this sort of thinking. But what about you?

If you saw something so obviously wrong with a story that you couldn’t ignore it, would you say something?