Did Seth McFarland Beat CBS To The Punch?

So last year, Seth McFarland of Family Guy fame wrote a spec script about a bumbling starship captain in a universe that could be straight out of John Scalzi’s Red Shirts. He shows it to Fox, who greenlights it. The Orville is now on Fox’s fall schedule.

Yeah, in less than a year, one fanboy with a network behind him pulls off this…

It looks like the JJ Abrams Trek movies. Meanwhile, over at CBS, Star Trek: Discovery is delayed yet again while CBS and Paramount debate whether the cast should have a gluten-free craft table or to make Jason Isaacs where the Lucius Malfoy wig or whether they should swallow their pride and hire Axanar‘s Alec Peters as a writer. Or maybe they’re delaying again simply because yesterday was Tuesday. Anyway, no one knows when CBS is bringing out a new Star Trek. All we have for a trailer are the outtakes of a JJ Abrams movie’s closing credits. Lovely. By the time this thing airs, the BBC will be announcing Emma Watson as the Fourteenth Doctor.

So we have to go back to the Galaxy Quest well to get a new Star Trek.

Oh, and the only reason Galaxy Quest didn’t beat Seth to the punch was Alan Rickman died. Or was that why Seth created The Orville?

No Marigolds: In Which Muad’Dib Totally Brings Balance To The Force By Feeding Spice To The Master And Giving Khan A Melvin

surface of marsIt’s a weird time for me right now. I’m working exclusively on No Marigolds in the Promised Land as the original words for right now. But I’m also buying a house.

No Marigolds in the Promised LandAnd I’m getting to the point where I’m going to have to fast-forward the story a bit.

On the other hand, our boy John is discovering that, even though the Compact Universe has established that humanity wants its AI to be nice and stupid (Sorry, Neal Asher. No HAL in Geneva running the galaxy. Yet.), some of the devices so enabled can be really, really needy. Life is getting better for him, but he’s still stranded. He’s even found an AI interface based on a fellow terraformer who’s since left the planet. And she seems to have a conscience.

But I’m getting John Farno to a happy place with the help of automation, sarcasm, and another AI interface named “Elise” who is programmed in a broad variety of pleasuring techniques. (In space, no one can hear you have phone sex with the computer on your rover.)

Which means now I need to kick over Johnny’s Legos. So maybe once I establish him in his newer, more comfortable habitat, I’ll skip ahead to line up the story with the first few Compact Universe stories and maybe drop in another character we’ve already seen.

Excerpt: Tishla

TishlaMy latest novella, Tishla, is out now. The paperback should be available later this week. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt.

The shuttle settled down in the clearing outside the new Gelt settlement. She looked out toward the east and the ruins of the original human settlement. Beyond that floated the saucer-like colony transport. It would not be visible from the ground. That gave Tishla a twinge of anxiety. She would step out, unescorted, up to whomever the humans had sent to talk, the shuttle blocking her from the Gelt troops on the opposite side of the clearing. Palak was right. She was taking a huge risk. The humans, however, would not respect her unless she placed her fate into their hands. It was the only way forward.

“You believe in any of the gods, Palak?” she asked.

“Not for a long time, Tizzy,” said Palak. “You know that.”

“Then ask the universe itself to protect me. I may be offering it a blood sacrifice if I make one wrong move.”

“Then I will kill…”

“Laral. You will kill Laral, then take every Gelt off this planet. We’ve committed theft and murder here. If you wipe out the humans, you would make my death a vain one. And Kai’s.”

Palak bowed his head just as the shuttle thumped to the ground. “As you wish, my lady. Be safe.”

The hatch to the shuttle parted, and Tishla stepped out into the warm, humid air. The clearing smelled of vegetation and freshly turned soil. It also reeked of the blood of two species, the stench of decomposition, and the acrid scent of Gelt funeral pyres. She suspected that, in this truce, the Warriors also burned some of the humans who had fallen beyond enemy lines. Did the humans bury the Gelt dead among them as was their custom?

She strode forward, and a dark-haired man, light-skinned like most of those she had met on Metis. A shadow of facial hair covered the lower half of his face, and his hair appeared laced with dried perspiration. So you do sweat the way we do, she though, like you bleed the way we do.

When she and the human came within five paces of each other, they stopped. The man sported an energy pistol at his side, but the slug-throwing rifle his kind carried was nowhere in sight. The human saluted, putting his straightened hand to his brow at a forty-five degree angle the way she had seen human troops on Metis do. This one had served in their military at some point.

Tishla, having attained High Born status by becoming Free while carrying Kai’s twins, should have crossed her arms in the style of Warriors and bowed slightly in return. Instead, she knelt as she would have before Kai had he bothered to treat her like the leased property she had become with him, offering her body, mind, and soul to his very whims. From one knee, with her head bowed, she said in perfect Humanic, “I humble myself before you as your…” The proper word was “possession,” but she was not offering that to a human male, or any human. “…servant. Whatever I say or do here is in service to you.”

She looked up to see the man offering his hand to help her up. She accepted. His eyes lowered, and she herself looked down. The grass had made a purple stain on her white gown.

“It’ll wash out,” she said, hoping her smile didn’t look predatory. Hard to do considering that humans’ canines were nearly nonexistent. “I am Lattus Tishla. Under Gelt law, the claim to this world belongs to me.”

“Trevor Colt,” said the man. “Formerly the Constable of Gilead before your people blew it up.” He looked her up and down. “You don’t seem like an asshole like that other guy.”


“A human insult. Do you know what a rectal orifice is?”

“You shit out of it, and if your species is as similar to ours as I suspect, some sort of medical specialist will shove a sensor into it when you get older to tell you if an errant mutation is going to kill you if left untreated.” She smiled again. “How’s that for a basis of understanding between our peoples?”

“Better than trying to kill us all off,” said Colt. “Your man said you had a proposal for us?”

“I do. Give me your hand.”

The human hesitated, but then put out his hand. Tishla placed it over her belly. “In there is the means for me to stop all this and possibly help you rebuild.”

“Either you’re pregnant,” he said, “or the stones of the four elements have been planted inside you.”

“Oh,” she said, “you had that in your past, too? Fire, wind, water, and stone?” Before he could respond, she continued. “You’re right. I am pregnant. Kai and I conceived before he sent me on to your parent world of Metis.”

“Explains your accent,” said Colt.

“The one we call Laral first conned us into coming here. When it became clear that you were not some rogue band of aliens but here legitimately under your own Compact’s laws, Kai ordered a stop to the killing.”

“Well, thank you.” His tone implied that he would have hit her had they not started off as friendly as they had.

“For reasons I’m not going to get into here, Kai sent me to your Compact to keep me and his unborn children away from Laral Jorl and his family. No doubt, you witnessed the duel between my husband and Laral before our Sovereign.”

“I have. I thought your people were a warrior people.”

“We revere the Warrior ideal, but often not the Warriors themselves. They are only Gelt, you know, and far from perfect. The fact is Laral Jorl’s challenge against my husband was only valid if he had no descendants to whom he could pass his claim to this world.” Seeing Colt’s anger, she quickly added, “Under our law. Under your law, we stole this land and committed mass murder.”

“And for that,” said Colt, “we intend to fight you to the death.”

“I have a better idea. Use my claim to this world. When I successfully challenge Jorl’s claim, I will use my status within our Realm to allow you to rebuild. Human and Gelt will have a say in this world’s future. The Realm will not support you, and your Compact, despite the pleas of Metis to help, has abandoned you. Apparently, some other world called Mars is…”

“I know. Mars is one of the four-hundred-kilo gorilaz in the Compact,” said Colt.

The word “gorilaz” did not render in Tishla’s mind, but she deduced it was a large animal that tended to dominate wherever it roamed. “Yet, you have friends in the Compact. I have friends both within the Realm and beyond it. I will ask our Sovereign to declare this world a protectorate, which will effectively make Hanar… Gilead… off-limits to the Laral family and anyone else in the Realm who might want to do you harm. All I ask is that you wait until my challenge before the Sovereign to make your decision. Will you do that? For a chance at survival? And freedom?”

The human looked stunned, but behind that expression, she could see that familiar look of rage in the eyes so common among primate aliens. This Colt wanted to wrap his hands around her throat. “And if we reject your… generous offer?”

She knelt once more, bowing her head. “Then I offer myself to do with as you will. Only allow my people to leave. Whatever you do with me, I will submit.”

“What of your children?”

She put her hands over her belly. “If you reject my claim, I will not be able to return to the Realm. My children will be hunted there, possibly sold into permanent indenture or even killed. I myself will be little better than some rich man’s toy until I’m spent. Better they die in my womb when I die than be born into that kind of life.”

He looked her up and down. “I already know your people are very similar to mine.”

“Eerily so,” she said. “And I know that disturbs both our peoples.”

“What I mean is you’re just a whisp of a woman. In human terms, you can’t be more than twenty-five. How will you challenge a big man like Laral Jorl?”

She stood and smiled. “I have my ways, Mr. Colt. You may even come to admire them.”

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About This Book

She was a concubine, but to her master so much more, so much so that he made her his wife and left her his claim to the stolen world of Hanar. When she wins her challenge against a deceitful warlord, she must knit a new world together from the warring species, humans and her own Gelt. Her claim, and that of her unborn twins, is the key to survival as the Realm and the Compact abandon the former combatants. Someone, however, tries to kill her.

Or are they after her twins?

Either way, Sovereigns, generals, and renegades will soon find out the most dangerous force in the universe is an angry mother, no matter the species.

Friday Flashback: The Far-Out Space Nuts

Gilligan shows what the Apollo Program could have accomplished. That, or the drugs that spawned Lidsville and HR Puffenstuff hadn’t quite worn off yet for Sid and Marty Kroft.

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run by Bruce SpringsteenIf you write for style, you really need to read Bruce Springsteen’s memoir. In fact, you should listen to it on audio as narrated by the man himself. Even when he’s writing prose, he’s writing a song. This one just happens to be an epic poem in free verse.

What’s brilliant is that he paints himself and those around him warts and all. And even at his worst or theirs, he genuinely loves a band called E Street, loves his wife Patty (whom he thinks has more patience than Job dealing with his bouts of depression as heavily as him), and even loves his dad, who was not the most loving dad growing up.

Springsteen’s story is very much what you hear in his music. This is a man who stands on the same level as The Who or Clapton, yet is humbled when asked by the Rolling Stones to come out and sing “Tumbling Dice” at a New Jersey show. He’s a guy who could easily have lived out his life in LA (The Northridge quake convinced him and Patty Scialfa to rethink that idea), yet chooses, even in his California years, to remain near his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey. Not in New York. Not in near New York. But in the rural environs around Freehold and Asbury Park.

There is good and bad in this book. Springsteen freely admits he ruined his marriage to Julianne Phillips, a very sweet woman by his description who deserved better. At the same time, he recounts his falling out with original manager and producer Mike Appel, then recommends Mike’s book, Down Thunder Road. Now that’s classy.

But what comes through is the music. Even when he’s not playing, he’s playing. And there’s a reason he loves “Little Steven” Van Zandt and misses the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, something fierce. E Street is nothing without Bruce, but E Street is also its own entity. Bruce is merely the leader and the front man. Not a democracy, but clearly a family, even those who left the band. Unlike, say Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (probably the most comparable band to the heart-stoppin’, pants droppin’, booty shakin’, history makin’, earthquakin’, love makin’, viagra-takin’, legendary E Street Band!), where leaving is a bad thing – Ron Flair’s original exit was not happy, and Stan Lynch is not really welcome at band functions – once an E Streeter, always an E Streeter. Maybe the Foo Fighters come closest, with Franz Stahl having the Foos open for him after they fired him and Pat Smear returning after a decade.

Springsteen is a storyteller. It’s in his lyrics, and it’s in this book. I was not a fan of Kerouac’s On the Road, but listening to Springsteen talk about his childhood in images Stephen King would envy, I hear the full potential of what Kerouac was doing. This is a very honest book by a man who pulls no punches with himself. Whereas a lot of rockers will leave a trail of burned enemies in their memoirs, Springsteen welcomes those who hurt him, rejoices in his redemption and/or theirs, and acknowledges that the bad times are just as important as the good. How else can a man with everything he could ever want take the teeth of “Churchill’s black dog” out of his ass and turn in performance after performance?

This is why Springsteen is in the Rock Hall, and he shows why the E Street Band eventually followed him. On their own.

Do They Know It’s Dystopia?

The Capitol of Panem

Lionsgate Films

We see it all the time. In The Hunger GamesThe Maze Runner, and so on. The world is a shitty place to live, and someone, teens and young adults are the most common candidates, are going to overthrow the new regime. We see their world as dystopic, but do those within it know it’s a dystopia?

A current example is Venezuela, whose catastrophic woes are making your morning commute cheap. (OK, the great states of North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and my home state of Ohio are also supplying you with cheap oil. You’re welcome.) Venezuela became wealthy on oil money. They have lots of it. More than Russia, more the Saudi Arabia, more than Iran and Iraq combined. Suffice it to say, Venezuelans are likely not fans of Elon Musk or Tesla Motors at the moment. The plunge in oil prices undercut the foundation of the Venezuelan economy overnight. Food literally does not show up.  Crime is so rampant that one cannot leave their house after sundown. The police and criminal gangs are one and the same, or at least in bed together. And all this happened overnight. So yes, those in Venezuela know that dystopia has come. It came rather quickly. And it’s a cautionary tale for any large, wealthy nation, including this one. All it takes is one disaster, one economic shock and…

I, for one, support President Snow as long as I can live in the Capitol.

But then we have the Roman Empire. And while common perception suggests it was a sudden and long disappearance of civilization, in reality, the fall of Rome was barely noticed outside of Italy. In fact, the Empire itself stuck around until shortly before Columbus sailed for America, just not in the east. In fact, the presence of the Romans was not missed in England until the Anglo-Saxons invaded. The net effect was the same as when the Romans, and the Celts before them, invaded. The Anglos simply adopted the culture of the Britons that had been around since before Stonehenge in exchange for inventing English. Rome wasn’t the long-destroyed empire. It was where the Pope lived. Then came the Vikings, then the Normans (who were basically French Vikings.) Lather. Rinse. Repeat. The Britons still in England barely noticed Rome had disappeared. They barely noticed the Romans and the Celts had even arrived.

There are some who would say America is a dystopia right now. It’s possible. And yet most people, despite the political wrangling in social media, get up and go to work. Even a majority of the working poor have a fairly stable life. But history is usually the judge of what a dystopia is after the fact. No one argues that Germany between the end of World War I and the coming of the Marshall Plan wasn’t a dystopia. If the hyperinflation of the 1920s didn’t clue someone in, the Nazis turned it into part of their marketing.

Most likely, though, dystopias that we don’t notice now will be so called on the basis of Millennials and their children saying in their old age, “Well, that sucked.” And the story will grow from there.

No Marigolds Update – In Which The Jupiter 2 Combs The Desert Only For Clara Oswald To Declare She Ain’t Found… Poodoo!

surface of mars

I did three more episodes last week. And you know what? It was everything I hoped it would be.

No Marigolds in the Promised LandI’m putting John Farno into a comfy situation. He’s found a nearly habitable spot on the recently renamed Barsoom, now called Farno. Oh, and he’s king. Being the last living being on the planet, he used his new authority to effect a name change.

I’m also finally skipping ahead, having him recount how he made his habitat habitable with the aid of a sarcastic AI interface, a female who, much to his chagrin, did not come programmed with a broad variety of pleasuring techniques. This is the mushy middle of a story, where he overcomes challenges, builds himself a new normal, and sort of gets used to his isolation. Sort of.

I figure I have two or three more episodes after this, and then I’ll have to start screwing him again. I also need to accelerate the timeframe so it catches up with the novellas. After all, it wouldn’t do for everyone in Broken SkiesWarped, and Tishla to go “What happened to Barsoom?” then have human ships show up and rescue him. In fact, he is about up to the events of The Magic Root and The Marilynists, though he’s completely unaware of it. And he can’t really die or get off the planet until after Amargosa: Second Wave, most of which takes place three months after Broken Skies. His first human contact cannot come until I really screw my meddling kids over on Amargosa. Even then, most of the characters are blissfully unaware that Mars lost two colonies, not just one.

I want to do this in one shot now instead of a little here and a little there. I lose the story if I let it go too long, and I have a major rewrite of Quantonesia to do after this. It’ll essentially be writing a new book.

So look for Episode 4 here in two weeks.

Or, you could subscribe to the newsletter and get it now.

Leeloo from The Fifth Element

Columbia Pictures



For Dave Harr and in memory of Andre Polk

This is the third installment of Compact Universe #0, No Marigolds in the Promised Land. Want the whole story? Subscribe to the Compact Universe Newsletter for the newest installments and the all the previous installments.

No Marigolds in the Promised Land


LOG ENTRY: 0605 15-Sagan, 429

Spent the night in the rover. Well, where else am I going to spend the night? But I parked the rover in the mouth of Ellis’s cave. Scavenging camping gear on a planet where the air pressure is minimal is hard work, and I had other chores. For starters, the backup tanks. Designed to be used only for a few minutes and really just to top off the tanks for the EVA suits, I was down to half my supply. Fortunately, the geniuses who make these things for use on Mars thought ahead. That same system that normally keeps me breathing also makes more oxygen to store in the tanks. It sucks CO2 out of the air, scrubs it, and passes it through the reactor housing to heat it up. Pretty passive. Nonetheless, as you probably guessed, the rover, like all long-range rovers, has redundant systems. Solar wrap on parts of the exterior, the tanks themselves to function for short periods, a hardened computer core that runs even when the soft brain is cooked. Two out of three of these fail-safes kept me alive in the early hours of…

The Event. (Insert “Mwahahahaha” here.)

That’s what I’m start calling the end of this world as I know it. The Event. I’ll skip the evil laughter from here on out. I’m pretty sure that joke was already stale the first time I used it. Nonetheless, heat and air are not a major issue. As long as I can avoid leaks and don’t drop the reactor core, I’m good.

I did have one extra indulgence last night. Ellis supplied his little hidey hole with nuts and banana ration bars. I ate two to celebrate my good fortune and had a beer.

It ain’t Arean beer like we’d get shipped in periodically, but after a long, hard day of not dying, it still went down smooth.

Today’s agenda: Check out the blast site itself, see if anything usable survived, then head to New Ares.

LOG ENTRY: 0941 15-Sagan, 429

When I say the site is no longer hot, I mean it’s no longer radioactive. That tells me Musk was taken out by a clean fusion bomb. For the sake of those who might be reading this centuries from now, a clean fusion bomb is essentially a portable fusion reactor like those that power rural areas and small towns. Or even this rover. For the most part, fusion reactors never blow up because the time needed to cause an explosion is longer than the time needed for a human or an AI to notice that all is not right within the core. At that point, the reactor is shut off, the lasers compressing the hydrogen core stop compressing, and the reaction simply stops. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of turning a reactor off and back on again.

Unless you wrap that core in a metal or ceramic housing and power the lasers up way past the point where the fusing of hydrogen atoms cannot be contained by the device causing the fusion. This then results in the mother of all fireworks displays, the ever-popular mushroom cloud of World War and AI War legend. So what’s so clean about it?

Originally, the fusion bomb was a hydrogen core wrapped in plutonium wrapped in explosives that were set off by other explosives. Complicated, eh? The original fusion bomb was really a fission bomb using a fusion reaction to make the bomb bigger. It also could potentially rain hot soot over a large chunk of a continent. This is why humanity survived the World Wars. We were too scared to do more than take potshots at each other.

With the clean fusion device, all the radiation is released at the time of the blast, but it leaves little behind. They only leave helium and traces of the rest of the device. The idea was to leave the blast site reclaimable within days of The Event.

So when I say it’s not hot, I mean theoretically, I could walk into the site naked and get more radiation from 2 Mainzer overhead at high noon. I’d die of decompression and suffocation, not to mention freeze to death in minutes, but I wouldn’t get radiation sickness. You have to stay positive when beginning your post-apocalyptic life.

But fusion blasts are fusion blasts: Hot (as in fiery hot, not radioactive) and explosive. Anything not blown away from the blast site is either vaporized or melted. When I say Musk is now a glass pancake, it’s not the remains of the dome itself that lie flattened on the ground. I’m probably breathing bits of dome when I’m in the rover, assuming tiny bits of dome vapor get through the scrubbers. No, the glass is the desert sand on which all the domes sit. And as of this morning, it’s still steaming. I’m guessing it’s permafrost that was superheated by the blast.

The glass pancake extends further out from the center of the blast site than the dome would have. The domes really aren’t that big. They wouldn’t even qualify as a town on Mars or in some Jovian settlement in the Belt and beyond. It was big enough to house a few hundred people. Real cities on thin-aired or airless worlds consist of hermetically sealed buildings connected by underground passages. We were the advanced guard.

I walked the perimeter of the glass pancake this morning. It took me two hours. There was nothing salvageable here. I suspect there won’t be at New Ares or any other dome.

LOG ENTRY: 1205 15-Sagan, 429

I’ve picked up the sensor road again on the other side of Musk. At the edge of the glass pancake, the sensors don’t even exist. Naturally, the blast vaporized the ones leading into the dome and either buried, burned, or ejected the ones further out. I had to eyeball mountains in the distance to guess where the sensor road picked up again. This required me to manually drive the rover as the soft brain got all confused and shut down its guidance system until someone, dammit, told it where the road was. That was a close one, ladies and gentlemen. The last specimen of Homo sapiens on Planet Barsoom might have been killed running into…

Well, I don’t trust humans who drive themselves, least of all this one.

About ten kilometers out, I picked up the faint signals of scattered sensors. These survived the blast but are pretty much useless. The idea of a sensor road is that the sensors form a defined path where no actual road exists. If the sensors are scattered, you have no idea where said road once was. Now I suppose if humans have found this, they will find this all hilarious. On developed worlds, actual paved roads are carved out of the land or sensor roads are so deeply embedded that the path simply picks up where the sensors begin functioning again. And anyway, most of the newer worlds use trains as soon as building the rail system becomes feasible.

But not poor John Farno, last man on Barsoom. Nope, I gotta hunt for a bunch of beeping things buried in the sand in parallel straight lines. That took about an hour, and I was almost two kilometers off course. Yikes!

Once I found the sensor road again, I let the rover drive itself. I am not a daredevil, and speeds of fifty kilometers an hour without the aid of a soft brain terrify me. But once I let the machine do the work, I got bored easy. So I had the computer play some of Ellis’s music.

“Computer,” I said, happy to be on something left of civilization, “a little travelin’ music, if you please.”

Who the hell was Willie Nelson? And what sort of herbal intoxicant prompted him to write a repetitious ditty called “On the Road Again”? And why wouldn’t someone load a Humanic version of the song instead?

LOG ENTRY: 1539 15-Sagan, 429

I had to kill the music. Ellis left behind a ton of ambient music, more that I suspect even the musicians who made it would keep. And he left plenty of Caliphite dance music, most of which starts to sound the same after about twenty minutes. But holy shit, how much really old travel music can one man leave behind? I suspect this is not Ellis’s. I think someone planted it in the rover as a joke and didn’t realize the soft brain would suck in anything it could find from Barsoom’s entire internet.

Which wasn’t that big to begin with before Musk was flattened.

Now you may think I’ve just been sitting here in my hermetically sealed box on wheels while the soft brain did all the work. No. I’ve been sorting out what I pillaged from Ellis’s camp site in the cave. Mainly, I’ve been organizing my food to last for thirty days. I thought of putting that fatal tube of painkillers at the bottom and swallowing it all with my last meal. Cheery thought. Then I realized that, without any guarantee of human help, I may need to locate another tube of painkillers just to function if something bad happens. I’m going to have to set my own broken bones, and that’s going to hurt like hell. So… Who knows what I’ll do if and when the time comes?

Ellis wasn’t cocky. He did stock his pop tent with medical supplies, so I have that and the rover’s stash going for me. I’m more interested in tools. Thirty days is a long time to push a rover, even on a terraforming project such as Barsoom. It’s going to breakdown. Just take that as a given. As long as the soft brain stays functional, I have at least some semblance of an internet. And I can talk to it to run diagnostics. The ox tanks, the scrubbers, and the fusion core are all passive systems. Turn off the fusion core, and the solar wrap takes over. The core has enough fuel in it for a year. We designed these things to stay out in the wild indefinitely as robot beacons and probes. Plus, left idle for long periods, they can be heated up and brought fully online quickly enough for someone stranded out in the middle of nowhere.

Which brings me to my latest revelation. I was pretty sure Musk was gone when I woke up in the wee hours of yesterday, but was too groggy to panic. So why didn’t I just accept that when I did wake up and find Barsoom’s satellite constellation, its lunar array and any dome in line of sight offline? Well, kids, you see, I had to function until I could get visual confirmation of Musk’s destruction. That’s why I used denial. Denial allows me to function in the face of just about anything that tells me I’m fucked. Side effects include curling up in the fetal position when one can no longer ignore the truth, nausea, vomiting, and delusions that the planet has been taken over by a race of ginger nymphos who want me to help them repopulate their homeworld. Ask your doctor if denial is right for you.

Mind you, I’ve had to lower the dosage since finding a glass pancake where Musk used to stand. I’m going with a temper tantrum when I see New Ares flattened.

If I see New Ares flattened. Science demands proof of one’s hypothesis when it’s available, so my theory that I’m the last man on this planet remains speculation. I’ll know what happened to New Ares in the morning. Tonight, I’ll have to stop around 1830 hours and start working on deploying the pop tent, as well as working out a way to do EVAs without having to bring the tent inside and packing it. I hope it has a backdoor of sorts. Right now, it’s taking up too much room, and I want to be able to stretch out during breaks while the rover is moving.

In the meantime, I’m studying a cached map of Barsoom. I hope it’s up-to-date. It shows where emergency supplies, rest caves, and maintenance depots are located. And then…

At some point, I’m going to need to figure out how to talk to the Compact, let them know someone is alive here. I could wait for the Navy, but the Navy barely knows colony worlds exist. Why do you think we only have one hypergate and one orbital station? (Both offline, so let’s assume they’re scrap for now.)

Reporting from… the boondocks, this is John Farno, signing off.

LOG ENTRY: 2005 15-Sagan, 429

Greetings from the pop tent! I got it deployed. It was originally designed to explode out of a rover. Best of all, it’s a nano-tent, so I experimented with different sizes. The nanites can make it as big or small as I want within reason.

On the downside, if I want to do an EVA, I either have to slide under an emergency escape hatch under the console up front or collapse the tent. The tent, in its collapsed form, can mold itself to the airlock hatch, so I’ve got that going for me. Just collapse, then use the airlock normally. The trouble is I have to take all my stuff out of there. And while the ambient heat of the core keeps the air breathable and at non-fatal temperatures, it does not really warm it up to what most humans call comfortable. Mind you, until three nights ago, I shared a bed with a woman who insisted on keeping the room at fourteen degrees Celsius, the night temperature of a warmer planet in late spring or early autumn. Most people keep their rooms at about 20 degrees. I just ordered a comforter on the first cargo run after we began sharing quarters and wrapped myself in it. Even more puzzling, Gina slept wearing nothing but a thin cotton tunic and a worn pair of zula-thread panties with no blanket. “They’re from Etrusca,” she would say, as if that explained why anyone would sleep in fourteen-degree temperatures with no blanket. Until she and I became a couple, I never slept with socks on.

As it is, the vent I rigged up from the rover’s interior keeps the room at a toasty twenty-five. I’m actually sweating a little. The soft brain has instructions to wake me an hour before dawn so I can pack the tent and do an EVA to check the rover. If all goes well, I should reach New Ares, or what’s left of it, by midday. In the meantime, I’m going to stretch out and listen to the soothing strains of Trantorian ambient music.

Sounds like someone fell asleep on their keyboard for twenty minutes. But it’s kinda pretty.

LOG ENTRY: 2351 15-Sagan, 429

The music stopped about an hour ago. The silence woke me up. I’m laying here in the dark, and all I can hear is the wind against the tent and the rover. Other than an occasional sound out of the computer or the whir of the vents, every sound I hear is not of human origin. Sound may not carry well outside where the atmosphere is thin enough to make blood boil on exposure, but it does carry.

Normally, you hear something of human activity outside, even if it is some bot trundling down the sensor road, radio chatter between domes and the various pit stops in between them. One night out on the road is nothing. I do one each way between domes. I actually slept in a sealed cave on my way to Kremlin a few nights ago, and robotic carriers made a racket outside. Did not sleep well until I reached the dome. On the way back…

I still don’t know who flattened Musk and probably the other domes. I do know I hate them whoever they are. I can’t think of a good reason why you would want to incinerate a few thousand people without warning. Not unless the Compact pissed someone off, likely someone we’ve never heard of.

Great. I’m not going to get any sleep tonight. Goodnight, posterity. I got a busy day of staving off extinction tomorrow.

Friday Flashback: Starship Invasions

Yes, it’s the one movie from 1977 that changed science fiction forever! Starship Invasions!

No Marigolds Update: In Which HAL Opens The Podbay Doors To Let In Some Brown Coats Fleeing The Peacekeepers

surface of mars

No Marigolds in the Promised LandI decided I’m going to ride this through to the end instead of writing an episode and putting it down for a week. I realized I need to focus completely on the next novella, most likely a rewrite of Quantonesia. So stopping and starting is not going to work.

A new character has dropped in. Someone suggested the AI in the rover talk to Farno. I toyed with that idea for seven episodes only to not address it at all. What do I do? Upgrade the rover. All rovers have AI even though the AIs are “nice and stupid.” In fact, the new rover’s default personality gets all offended when Farno mentions this to posterity. Eventually, he finds one based on a former denizen of Barsoom (which he’s decided to rename Farno) who manages to project all the sarcasm of the real person.

I keep promising to jump ahead weeks and months, and I think I’ve gotten very near that time. Not only does the story demand I move away from the day-to-day struggle to survive, but events elsewhere in the series will sooner or later impose themselves on the story. Barsoom, after all, is so named because it is a Martian enterprise. And Mars, as has already been established, is one of the 800-pound gorillas in the Compact. One of them, though like the rest, it tends to think it’s the only one.

Plus Farno has discovered how to automate his environment, how to use what he’s found to increase his comfort. By the end of Episode 10, he’s already lounging in someone’s old apartment (or is it future apartment? There’s no one around to explain which) and even found an “adult” AI interface to amuse himself with one night. The regular AI interface finds this highly amusing herself as she draws enough from the woman who served as her template to keep Farno humble.

So maybe this time next week, I’ll be talking about how months have passed. Episode 3 to be posted next week. Episode 4 going out with the newsletter.

Curious about what I’m yammering about? Check out the current episode here, or get the complete story, including the next episode here.