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Monday, January 16, 2012

An Open Letter to Jon Huntsman

Dear Governor Huntsman:

Please accept my sympathy on the occasion of your withdrawal from the presidential campaign. I believe your experience was undervalued, and I thank you for your willingness to serve.

You may well believe that Romney has unfairly been cast as the most "electable" of the Republicans running. I have no doubt that liberal and moderate Democratic voters would have considered you the least unacceptable Republican candidate. The problem, I suppose, is that such a status foreseeably does little good in the general election when these voters have an actual Democrat to vote for.

If you have a period of more leisure now that you have left the campaign, I respectfully suggest that you further investigate the issue of global warming, so that you will not again embarrass yourself by equating global warming skeptics with anti-evolution crusaders or by implying that there is a clear scientific consensus in favor of alarming and anthropogenic global warming. This is not, as in the case of civil unions, an issue on which your opposition is driven largely by ignorance or prejudice.

Please see this earlier blog post (from October 2010) for some good sources:

Global Warming, Skepticism, and the Liberal Mindset

A slightly more recent example of scientific disagreement as to the meaning of relevant data may be found  in this December 2010 article from Reason magazine. See also this July 2011 article from Forbes magazine, relating how new data from NASA shows far more heat escaping Earth's atmosphere than alarmist AGW models had predicted.

Well, that should get you started. The best of luck in your political and personal future.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Silly poems I wrote for my daughter

When my older daughter was around 8 years old, she had a computer program in which she could "write a book" by making drawings and typing accompanying text onto a screen that looked like lined paper. She was already an artist, and for a while she would do a drawing and I would write a silly poem to accompany it. I decided last night that it might be fun to post one of those poems from time to time. Here's my favorite, which I may never use in a published picture book because it includes one word that most children probably don't know.

Gooey globs of last year's lunch
Fossil feasts you used to munch
All the unremoved detritus
Of Don'twannabrusheeyitis
This is what you need a tool for
This is to clean up your drool for
If I haven't made it clear --
Please go brush your teeth, my dear!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The 2012 Science Fiction Experience, and Why I Read and Write SF

I'm joining a Thing -- not a challenge or competition or anything very structured -- called the 2012 Science Fiction Experience, described at Stainless Steel Droppings. As a contribution thereto, I'm posting something I wrote for my recently completed virtual book tour, titled "Why I Love Reading and Writing Science Fiction." Here goes....

I'll start with a caveat. I do not always write science fiction. For many otherwise fallow years, I wrote picture book manuscripts. More recently, between my current release and the sequel (still in rough draft), I wrote what I suppose is general fiction, if a novel in that category can take place in my fanciful notion of an afterlife.

That said, I am proud to write science fiction.

I don't remember when I started reading science fiction, but I'd guess I was around ten or eleven. I have been reading it ever since. The day I met my husband, twenty-five years ago, we talked for two hours about Robert A. Heinlein and assorted other SF authors. As you might suppose, our marriage exposed me to even more of the genre.

How do I love science fiction? Let me count the ways. . . .

Science fiction explores how human beings – whether acknowledged as such, or in any of innumerable disguises – react to the unexpected. How do they – how would we – cope with the fulfillment of anything from dream to nightmare? How will the future we anticipate surprise us? How will we surprise ourselves when we confront it?

Science fiction's imaginative settings allow us to examine familiar themes and problems with a fresh eye. (Star Trek, despite its flaws, was often excellent at using the trappings of science fiction to explore issues like racism, war and peace, patriotism, gender identity, ambition, love versus career, et cetera.) I am a lawyer; I am writing a series of short stories which will eventually include legal issues raised by certain future technologies. I have long been fascinated by twins: my novel Twin-Bred features fraternal twins (carried by host mothers) belonging to different species. I have been deeply interested in parenthood since becoming a mother: I can create aliens for whom parenthood is in many ways different, and in some fundamental ways the same.

Science fiction paves the way. Its authors, often scientists themselves, extrapolate from current technology and knowledge, and make educated guesses about what we will be able to invent. Often they guess correctly. It might be easier to identify the scientific advances of the last sixty years that were not predicted in science fiction than to list those that were. By working within the constraints of scientific theory, science fiction honors those who have spent their lives helping us understand our universe (and any meta-universe which may include it).

Finally, science fiction gives the would-be builder of worlds a place to play. While fantasy does the same, science fiction imposes certain constraints – and as many a poet would testify, some constraints can actually spur creativity. At any rate, I find satisfaction in knowing that what I have imagined, or what another author lays before me, could possibly exist. Science fiction authors differ in how hard they strive to ensure that the physical features of their planets, aliens, and technologies fit within our current scientific theories (or at least, scientific hypotheses held by at least one adventurous scientist out there). No scientist myself, I still try fairly hard. I use my husband, whose scientific knowledge runs broad and deep, as my technical adviser – but if I really want to make the sky green, or put multiple sails on the sailboat, or whatever, and he is skeptical, I just keep researching until (with luck) I find some more or less plausible basis to do so. On the other hand, unlike historical fiction, where the possibility of error lurks behind every detail, the amount of research need not be too intimidating.

I'd love to see comments about what visitors to this blog like most about science fiction -- or about any problems they have with the genre.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Excerpt from Twin-Bred (for use in #SampleSunday)

I just found out about #SampleSunday, where authors of Kindle books post excerpts from their novels and retweet each other's links. Here's an excerpt from my current release, Twin-Bred.

[Context: The human colony on Tofarn and the indigenous Tofa have great difficulty communicating with and basically comprehending each other. Scientist Mara Cadell is running a project where host mothers carry twins, one human and one Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Alan Kimball, a member of the governing human Council, is hostile to the Tofa and has inserted agents into the project.]

Tilda looked at her twins, cuddled close together in the crib. Mat-set had all four arms wrapped around Suzie. They seemed to cuddle any chance they got. Maybe they were glad to be free of separate amniotic sacs.

She looked down at Mat-set and remembered the rumors of Tofa with five arms instead of four. She had even seen pictures, but who knew whether they were authentic. Certainly none of the Tofa Twin-Bred babies had been born with extra limbs.

Tilda glanced over at the big dormitory clock and then back down at the babies. She gasped and staggered a step back. Mat-set was still holding Suzie with four arms. So how was he scratching his head with another one?

Tilda looked around wildly for a chair, found one blessedly nearby, and sank down on it. She pinched herself. Nothing changed. Well, who said you couldn’t pinch yourself in a dream and keep on dreaming?

She got up and walked, a bit unsteadily, to the intercom and buzzed for a nurse. Then she went back to the crib. Of course. Four arms, only four, and what was she going to do now?

She decided to be brave and sensible. If she had really seen it, the staff had to know. And if she hadn’t, and she didn’t wake up, then she was ill, and she should get the help she needed.



The chief nurse tucked Tilda in and watched her drift off to sleep, sedative patch in place. Then she went back to her station and called up the monitor footage on Tilda’s twins.
Well, well.



* CONFIDENTIAL *
CLEARANCE CLASS 3 AND ABOVE

LEVI Status Report, 12-15-71
Executive Summary

Anatomical Developments

Observation of the Tofa infants has shed some light on the longstanding question of whether the number of Tofa upper appendages is variable among the Tofa population. The thickest of the four armlike appendages is apparently capable of dividing when an additional upper appendage is desired. . . .



Councilman Kimball bookmarked the spot in his agent's report and opened his mail program. He owed an apology to the young man who had claimed his poor showing against a Tofa undesirable was due to the sudden appearance of an extra appendage. Apparently the man had been neither dishonest nor drunk.

After discharging that obligation, Kimball made a note to seek further details as to the divided arms' placement, reach, and muscular potential. His people needed adequate information to prepare them for future confrontations. After all, forewarned — he laughed out loud at the thought — was forearmed.

--------

And here's where to buy the Kindle version of Twin-Bred: http://amzn.to/u2OtVP

Friday, January 06, 2012

Interview with Terri Morgan, author of Playing the Genetic Lottery

Today I'm featuring an interview with Terri Morgan, author of the novel Playing the Genetic Lottery. Welcome, Terri!

Q. Your novel is the story of a woman who grew up with two schizophrenic parents. How did you come to write this book?

A. The novel was sparked by a comment from a friend, who like me, is fascinated with people and what makes them behave the way they do. She mentioned something to me one day about a woman she had met who essentially raised her six younger siblings because both of her parents had schizophrenia. At the beginning of our conversation I had had not intentions of ever writing fiction. By the end, I just know I had to write this novel.

Q. Do you have any family members with schizophrenia?

A. My grandfather's cousin, Ina, who lived with my grandparents in Connecticut, was schizophrenic. She was a sweet, loving woman who was very much a treasured part of the family. Nobody really talked much about her condition, because that was just the way she was. They didn't try to hide it, but her illness wasn't what defined her. But no one in my immediate family has or had the disease, so this novel is in no way autobiographical.

Q. What's your background as a writer?

A. I've been a freelance journalist for over 30 years, writing for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, web pages, you name it. I've written literally thousands of different articles on hundreds of different topics. I've also written four non-fiction books for young adults, and co-authored four additional non-fiction books.

Q. This is your first novel. Did you envision yourself writing fiction?

A. A long long time ago I did. Like my protagonist, I've always loved reading. So it was natural for me to start writing creatively when I was in about the sixth grade. I wrote a lot of fiction off and on until my junior year of college. I knew I wanted a career as a writer, and I realized my chances of success were much greater if I switched to non-fiction. So I pursued a career as a freelance journalist, and never, ever thought I'd write any fiction again, let alone a novel.

Q. Many first novels are autobiographical. Is this the case in Playing the Genetic Lottery?

A. Definitely not. However, I did borrow tidbits from my life, my husband's life, and stories friends had told me over the years in minor ways. I took so many liberties with those tales, however, that they barely resemble the original events.

Q. Any examples?

A. My husband and I had a running joke about the president being Calvin Coolidge. Like the character Caitlin and Jason meet in the waiting room of the behavioral health unit, Gary was fascinated with history and politics, and had a fantastic memory historical figures, events, and dates.

Q. Your novel is set largely in Cumberland Oregon, but I can't find Cumberland on any map. Why is that?

A. That's because it doesn't exist, except in my head and in the book. That's the beauty of fiction, you can invent new worlds. Residents of my home town in Santa Cruz County, California, however, will recognize some of the names of local businesses and landmarks that I borrowed to use in Cumberland. Even though some of the places in my novel share the same name as some real sites in another state, they are all used fictionally and in no way resemble the originals.

Q. Did you borrow any other real names or places for the novel?

A. Most of the names I made up, although I did use the first and last names of several of my favorite elementary school teachers as some of the characters as a tribute to them. I also used some dates that are significant to family members. That's one of the fun things about being a novelist. You can honor the important people in your life privately in a very public manner.


Q. What did you like best about writing this novel?

A. I loved it all. I love learning new things, so researching schizophrenia was a labor of love. I read everything I could find on schizophrenia and the impact it has on patients and their families. I talked to people who had schizophrenic relatives, and read a lot of blogs and posts on-line to get a feel for what it's like to care for someone who is mentally ill. I loved creating the characters in this book, and inventing stories and situations for them. I enjoyed putting them onto paper. It was all fun.

Q. What message or messages would you like readers to come away with?

To be compassionate with people who may look or act differently. Don't be so quick to judge someone who appears odd because they could be suffering from a medical condition. And keep in mind that mentally ill people also have families and friends who love them. Nobody wants to be hit with a devastating mental illness, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Q. Where can readers find your novel?

A. Right now, it's available as an e-book through www.smashwords.com/books/view/104186, and at www.amazon.com. I expect to release a paperback version of Playing the Genetic Lottery this spring. Readers can also find out more about the book at www.terrimorgan.net. Anyone who wants me to notify them when the paperback is available is welcome to email me at terri@terrimorgan.net.