Tag Archive: Central


I thought at first I’d post her first view of Rakal by a young mother from Horizon, but I’ve been blogging that for Six Sentence Sunday for six months now. Instead, I picked another piece from War’s End (in the editing stage.) Mik is from Horizon, and is getting his first good look at Central, very early in spring. Kevi was the name Roi used on Horizon. I hope it’s not too long.

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World Building logo The map looked like any other satellite map, except for the light point that marked Mik’s position, and the way the map rotated in its frame as he moved and changed scale when he ran his finger up or down the side. Handy, actually, ahead was always up on the map. The scale had given him a little problem at first, until Kevi had identified a bar that grew and shrank with the map as showing the distance a horse at a traveling trot could be expected to cover in half an hour. A longer bar was an eight-hour journey, and when he zoomed out to include the whole K’Roi reservation, only that longer bar was clearly visible, and surprisingly small. Kevi hadn’t exaggerated at all on size, Mik decided.

The yellow cross the light was approaching, out behind the stables, was the symbol for a gate. “Let Timi control it going out,” Kevi had said, “and get hold of me with the com if you want to use one.” Too bad Kevi hadn’t told Timi that a little more clearly. What was it with kids that they always assumed they knew more than adults did?

“This one goes to about twenty different points around the Reserve,” Timi was saying as they approached a misty area between two trees. “You use it by visualizing where you want to go, or by thinking a code symbol, or even the name of your destination.”

“Kevi—ah, Roi—said just to follow you and let you worry about setting it,” Mik said, patting Ripple’s neck. Coin was here—Roi had teleported him back from Horizon yesterday, when he’d gone to inform the delegation that Madame Irela was missing, and he’d taken along another telepath to go on the ship that was to transport the rest of the delegation. That ship wouldn’t go missing, or if it did, Kevi would be able to contact the other telepath. If Mik turned his head, he could see his stallion investigating his paddock. But the horse didn’t look as sure-footed as usual, and Mik was inclined to trust Kevi’s advice that it would take the horse a few fivedays to get used to the stronger gravity of Central.

Timi was riding into the mist ahead of him, and Mik reined Ripple after him. “We’re going up, so your ears’ll pop,” Timi called back, and then the mist closed around them. Mik’s ears did pop as the mist briefly hid everything around them. When the mist cleared, Ripple was on a trail through open forest quite unlike anything Mik had seen around the stable. This was hill country, he saw, and he took a deep breath of the chilly air. Just as well Kevi had insisted he dress warmly.

Terry and Kevi had both said that the Horizon ecosystem was incomplete, with many species deliberately excluded. Looking around him, Mik was astounded at the diversity of plant life. More kinds of trees were visible from this one spot on the trail than he knew on all Horizon, and the lower-growing plants were equally variable. Food plants? He thought he recognized a few berry bushes as Ripple trotted by, but it was the wrong season for berries. About half of the trees had shed their leaves, and a good part of the path was sunlit. He looked up, and saw prickly objects on the branches of one otherwise bare tree. “Are those edible?” he asked Timi.

The young man reined in his horse and looked up. “I think Tod said once they were,” he replied doubtfully, “but I don’t get my food that way. There’s plenty of reliable food in the shelter cabins.”

Well, Mik already knew that Timi, though from Horizon, was town-bred. He memorized the look of the tree, noted that it grew on a sunny slope well above a creek they were descending toward, and put a couple of the spiny things from the ground under it into his saddlebags. He might not need food sources, but Tod would. He glanced back at the map, now with a little better feel for what it showed.

Kevi was positive that Tod was in the K’Roi reserve, and reasonably certain that the boy—no, young man now, Mik reminded himself—was somewhere in the foothills of the mountain range occasionally visible to Mik’s left. They had exited the gate near the northern boundary of the reserve, and Mik’s plan was to follow the trail that wound among the foothills to the southern boundary, leaving clear signs of his passage. Thinking of which ….

WoodlandMik halted Ripple and dismounted just before the creek, handing her reins to Timi as he searched out several sticks and pebbles. He arranged these to the side of the trail, well above waterline, then took a bit of bright blue ribbon from a bundle in his saddlebag and tied it to a branch over his arrangement. Timi watched in fascination. “What are you doing?” he finally asked.

“Leaving a message for Tod,” Mik replied as he swung back up onto Ripple. When the mare was shod for the trip he’d made certain her shoes were rimmed, to leave clear prints, and he was fairly sure Tod would spot those prints. At least, he would if he was anywhere near the trail, and if there was no hard rain to wash out the prints—a shaky assumption at this season, Kevi had told him. But the cloth flags, near sites where the hoof prints should be clear, would catch Tod’s eye; and the arrangement of stones and twigs carried the message that Mik wanted a meeting. If Tod remembered what Mik had tried to teach him, eight years ago, he’d understand the message.

“No telling where he is,” Mik continued, “but I suspect he’ll be keeping an eye on the main trail. He’ll check for hoof prints where the ground is most likely to hold them—near stream crossings—and that’s where I’ll leave sign. I won’t get a fast response, but by the time I reach the southern boundary he should have found at least one of my markers. Then I’ll head back north—on Coin by then, I hope—and watch for any reply. Walk them up the slope, Timi.”

“Tod always had us keep a steady trot.”

“That’s for conditioning. I want to cover the maximum ground with the minimum wear on the horse. That means walk uphill and down, move out at a lope or a working trot on level ground with good footing, and change diagonals regularly at the trot. You’ve been on the left diagonal ever since we started.”

“Now you sound like Tod,” Timi grumbled. “Is he really as good as he thinks he is?”

“He has a real gift for understanding horses, even by nomad standards,” Mik replied. That was based not only on his memories of Tod, but also on his observations yesterday of the horses and riders his nephew had trained. Kevi might be worried about the clan’s accepting Tod; Mik was not. A few of Domik’s cronies might think Tod was stealing Dom’s place, but that would be short-lived. Mik’s concern was mostly whether Tod had the judgment to make good, reasoned decisions, to stand by those decisions, and—hardest of all—to admit error if changed circumstances proved him wrong. All without losing the confidence of the clan.

Mik shook his head violently, making Ripple flick her ears back in question. He didn’t know if he could live up to that, and the best he could do with Tod would be to determine whether his nephew promised to be an adequate leader. And if Kevi was right, talk him into taking on the burden of leadership.

Eyes and map alike showed a level, gently curving stretch ahead, and Mik automatically cued Ripple into an easy lope. The mare tossed her head eagerly, bringing a burst of sound from the bells on her bridle. Mik looked from side to side as he rode, alert to the woodland around him. A patch of mixed cream and rust caught his attention, and he signaled Ripple for a halt. “What,” he demanded, “is that?”

Timi came up beside him, squinting in the direction Mik was looking. “A foojah,” he replied matter-of-factly. “They eat leaves and shoots—that long neck helps them reach way up. They’re pretty common. It’s a R’il’nian species. Not dangerous, unless you corner one. They’re prey for wolves, bears and akedas.”

“Oh,” Mik said weakly. The animals—there were three, he saw now—were about the height of a horse at the shoulder, but with longer necks. They were creamy underneath and a darker, rust color along the back, and one had a black crest of stiff hairs or feathers atop its head. Wolves, he knew, were the wild ancestors of dogs, but he could not imagine a dog threatening something that size. And the other two species Timi had mentioned …. “How big are the predators?” he asked. “Kevi showed me tri-dees, but there was nothing for scale.”

“Wolves are smaller than a foojah but a lot larger than the pocket herders, and they hunt in packs. A good-sized grizzly would outweigh a foojah. Akedas don’t weigh that much—they’re from R’il’n, too, and closer to birds than mammals—but their heads are higher than a foojah’s back. We don’t have pumas locally—the akedas take their place in the local ecology, Roi says. The warnoffs work against all of them, and there’s a gadget that works the same way that keeps them out of the settled lands and away from the cabins.”

“Warnoffs,” Mik said weakly. Kevi had explained the gadgets to him, but he hadn’t paid too much attention. Seeing the size of the animals the predators preyed on had him wanting more information. “How do they work, again?”

“They send out two messages. One is ‘I’m harmless.’ That lets you observe the animals, but it also keeps them from attacking you as a threat. The second is ‘I’m not edible and I’ll make you sick if you try to eat me.’ That keeps the predators from viewing you as prey. Course neither one is much protection if you startle an animal from too close, so we use the bridle bells to let them know we’re coming.”

Mik nodded. He’d thought of removing the bridle bells so he could hear the sounds of the forest—but not if they were a safety precaution. Timi did know some things better than he did, he reminded himself. He nudged Ripple back into a trot and looked down at the map. “That’s a shelter cabin up ahead, isn’t it?”

“Yes. We’re making good time—ought to be there in an hour. Want to stop there for lunch? They’re all pretty similar, so I can show you how they’re set up.”

He may have his height, Mik reminded himself, but he still has a lot of filling out to do—hardly surprising he thinks a lot about food. Good thing his horse is a weight carrier, though. Most of ours would be too light.

Terror Bird

This is the only public domain image I could find of a South American terror bird. The akeda would have some similarities but be much brighter in color.

Mik hadn’t quit worrying about Coralie, but the only thing he could do for her was try to find Tod and hope that Kevi could do better than he thought he could with contacting Coralie through Tod. Meanwhile, he might as well learn all that he could about Central. He kept looking from side to side as he rode, and saw two more groups of the foojahs, as well as several smaller animals Timi said were deer. It was close to an hour before he saw something even stranger, and much more frightening. “Is that an akeda?” he asked, but the really didn’t see what else it could be.

It was tall—he doubted he could see over its back if he were on the ground—with a neck that put its head above the height of a horse’s. Half or more of that head was beak, a powerful, crushing beak. Strong legs appeared to be scaly skin over bone, while the body of the creature was covered with dull gold and green feathers—at least, he thought they were feathers—with a fanlike green crest on the head.

“They get a lot brighter during mating season,” Timi said from behind him, “and the males get a sort of train of feathers. They’re really gorgeous then. Roi says they have a lot in common with the terror birds that were on Earth twenty thousand years ago. There’s the cabin.”

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Religion

World Building logoThe R’il’nian religion is based on “do no harm to other sentient beings, and cause no pain to non-sentient living beings”–and their definition of “sentient” is “intelligent enough to recognize consciously that some day they will die.”

There is no one religion in the Jarnian Confederation, though there are certainly planets which could only be described as theocracies. Many of the religions are based to some extent on Jarn’s Journal, but the priestly interpretations of that journal vary enormously. A fair percentage of the interplanetary disagreements that the Confederation is called on to mediate are based on religious differences.

For instance, quoting Lai (R’il’nian) in Tourist Trap, when he is asking his R’il’noid son Roi (telepathically) if he wants to go along and observe:

from http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/nebula/pr1996038b/web/   Remember the problems we’ve been having with the Kablukolelli cluster?
   Roi had to stop and think for a moment. Kablukolelli was a cluster of stars, four of which had inhabited planets, within a few light years of each other. For some reason he had never fully understood, the cluster had proven a magnet for extremist groups. Each of the four inhabited systems had been settled and entered the Confederation separately, so Lai had the right to force arbitration of their differences—which were considerable.
At least you can do something, he thought. Not like Goodnews, where it’s all internal affairs. What’s the problem this time?
Funeral customs, his father replied wearily.
Like the people on Eversummer eating their dead? Roi asked. Marna said they’re very reverent about it; they just figure that something’s going to eat the body, and the most honorable stomachs are those of the family. Cremation’s next best, but they do not like it. He remembered what Marna had told him of the token funerals for the epidemic victims.
Right, Lai said. The Kailonites do that, too. The J’koan consider that the only reverent way to treat the bodies of the dead is to give them back to the soil of the planet, the Folaanni go for cremation and the Lirrilo feed the flesh to a local water animal, tan the skins, and mount the skins and skeletons to keep in their homes. They all treat the bodies with reverence, and mourn for their departed friends and relatives. But the residents of each planet look at the other three planets and think sacrilege, abomination, and disrespect for the dead. Traders and embassies have been attacked, and it’ll turn into a holy war if it isn’t stopped. So I’m going to have to go out there physically and force a little sense into their heads.”

Star-forming region, s106 (Hubble)(The R’il’nai, by the way, teleported the dead bodies of their people into the local sun.)

Goodnews? That’s a group that entered the Confederation as a single entity, so the Confederation can not force them to accept Confederation arbitration. Religious disagreements are rapidly escalating toward civil war.

Culture

Again, there is a great deal of variation from planet to planet, and the variation of cultures (and particularly of sexual mores) provides some of the tension in my fiction. One of the requirements for acceptance into the Confederation is that any free person is free to emigrate. However, planets may set any limits they want on immigration. There are generally several new colonies eager to take immigrants, but the more desirable ones may require substantial premiums. Planets are encouraged to set limits to population, the limit depending on the ecology of the planet. For most planets, the limit is around a billion. They’d consider the Earth’s population totally unsustainable on a time scale of millennia.

V838Central, the administrative capitol of the Confederation, has a society in which slavery is accepted, but slaves are entertainment rather than labor. (Computer extensions provide most of the labor.) Anything goes sexually as long as pregnancy is impossible (and most citizens and all slaves are reversibly sterilized before puberty.) However, before the sterilization can be reversed, the couple planning pregnancy must demonstrate that they can and will care properly for the child. Citizenship is not automatic, but depends on the demonstration of a useful skill, and only citizens can reproduce. Although there is no legal protection for slaves, there is also no prejudice against freed slaves, who can become citizens.

The rules are a little different for R’il’noids (those with more than half of their active genetic material R’il’nian-derived) or those with enough latent genetic material of R’il’nian derivation that they could produce R’il’noid offspring. R’il’noids are relatively rare and desperately needed, and the Genetics Board exists to encourage matings that might produce R’il’noids with the needed traits (primarily conditional precognition and the ability to recognize Maung parasitisation.) Unfortunately they tend to rely on an objective measure, the Çeren index, which measures the raw fraction of active R’il’nian genes, but not what they code for.

At any rate, they can and do encourage matings that they feel are genetically desirable regardless of whether the people involved like each other. Many children of these matings are reared by foster parents, but these are carefully selected and generally have demonstrated ability to rear children successfully. The majority of R’il’noids are sterile or have very low fertility, so there is generally no shortage of foster parents. In other cases one or both parents assist in rearing the child. In any event there is no financial hardship in rearing a R’il’noid child; the costs are assumed by the Confederation.

Hubble1Roi’s friend Coryn is a good example of this. His mother, Vara, really wanted no part of his father, Derik, but the genetics Board insisted. Derik was nearly sterile and is very fond of Coryn, but Coryn rarely gets a chance to see both parents at the same time. In this case he feels loved by both and they are careful not to fight over him, but he wishes they’d get together.

Pure R’il’nian women were generally fertile at a far longer interval than the time necessary to rear a child to adulthood, and actually considered it immoral to have more than one child by the same father. But a couple normally stayed together long enough to rear their child to full independence. Part of the sexual mores of Central are derived from this pattern, and both serial monogamy (the R’il’nian pattern) and group marriage are common, as are short-term liaisons strictly to produce a child and test-tube fertilization.  (At least prior to Marna’s work.)

One peculiarity of Central society may be noted: ideas of modesty revolve around the perception that hiding a part of the body (for reasons other than protection) draws attention to it. Thus they would regard our swimming suits, for instance, as being extremely indecent, while nudity is quite acceptable for swimming unless the water is cold enough that some thermal protection is needed..

Even a relatively small fraction of R’il’nian genes is enough to prohibit slavery, and the abolition of slavery is a hotly debated topic. By the time Roi is grown, the Inner Council for the Jarnian Confederation is generally against slavery, but they have absolutely no authority over the rest of Central. It is the elected representatives of Central who must make that decision.

Holidays

There are an enormous number of religious holidays, but these vary with religion. There are, however, secular celebrations tied to the calendars.

Both Riya and Central use calendars that start with the northward equinox. The lengths of their years and days were similar but not identical in length to Earth’s or to each other’s. The Central year was slightly more than 364 Central days, and was made up of 12 30-day months plus four days outside the months: Yearday (northward equinox), Northday (northern solstice), Feastday (southward equinox) and Southday (southern solstice.) Of these, only Yearday was tied firmly to the solar calendar, and an intercalary day was inserted as needed at the end of the year to keep Yearday at the longitude of the Confederation administrative complex on the northward equinox (vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere.) All of these days outside the calendar were planetary holidays

Each 30-day month was broken into six fivedays. One day of each fiveday was a rest day, but which day varies widely. Probably the first day of a fiveday was most often used as a rest day, as was the case at Tyndall. The school year started the first day of the fifth month, 1 month after Northday. The two school vacations started with Southday and Northday and ran for a month each.

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Since my fiction is set on a number of planets of the Jarnian Confederation, no two quite alike, I’ll describe the most important ones for the stories I’ve published. Two others, Horizon and Rakal, will be in my upcoming trilogy, and T’Kun and Mava are in a barely-started book on the first Kharfun epidamic.

Central

Central, the administrative capital of the Confederation, is an Earth-sized planet circling a very sun-like star. There are two major continental masses, both extending from above the Arctic circle to below the Antarctic circle. Axial tilt is about 24°. The broad climate zones are similar to Earth’s: equator wet flanked by seasonal rain belts, deserts along the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, rain shadow deserts on the lee of mountain ranges, prevailing winds easterly near the equator and westerly at higher latitudes. Mid-latitude continental climates are highly seasonal. There are no polar ice caps as neither pole is isolated from the oceanic circulation, though there is considerable permanent ice on the higher mountains.

Map of Central

Crude Lat-Long map of Central. Numbers are: 1.Lai’s home 2. Derik’s home 3. Seabid island 4. Rollover Archipelago 5. Tyndal school 6. Jelarik’s home 7. Zhaim’s home 8 Trade City

Central was originally a R’il’nian planet called Kentra. As the R’il’nai dwindled in numbers the larger continent, and then the northern part of the smaller one, were increasingly given over to humans and some R’il’noids. In theory the southern extension of the smaller continent is owned by the R’il’nai, but in fact many R’il’noids have homes there.

One thing the R’il’nai insisted on: a large fraction of each ecosystem must remain natural. Thus Central is largely a natural world, though there are very advanced cities. Most of the action in my novels takes place outside of the cities.

The flora and fauna make up a very mixed ecology. The planet was Terraformed (or rather R’il’n formed) a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Since then many species from Earth have been added, along with a large number from other planets, including Riya. The R’il’nian ability of conditional precognition has managed to keep out those species that would be disruptive. One species, the Akeda, is modeled on the terror bird that was a major predator at one time in South America. These are six foot non-flying birds which are the top predators in some areas.

I drew the rather crude map some twenty years ago.

Riya

Riya, like Central, is an Earth-like planet with Earth-like climate zones. Most of the action takes place on a subtropical volcanic hot spot island, Windhome. (Think Hawaii.) The main peculiarity of this planet is that there are no mountains of any significant height in the southern hemisphere, but there is a continental extension into the extreme north with mountains that are snow-covered year round.

The biota differs from Earth’s. The local fauna have evolved from six-limbed ancestors, with the extra pair of legs evolving into anything from wings to feeding arms. Flora often gives the appearance of branching down into the ground. However, this native flora and fauna has been blended with species imported from R’il’n. (Homecoming.)

One species imported as pets, and surviving in the wild only on isolated islands without predators, are the tinerals. They have a vague resemblance to feathered monkeys with wings. They grow throughout their lives: flying in their youth, but the wings acting only as a weather cloak as they become larger. They are singers with voices much like our musical instruments, and an instinct to harmonize.

Mirror

This planet is in the very early stages of evolving land life. In contrast to most planets, where living things are either all dependent on left-handed proteins or all dependent on right-handed ones, Mirror developed two totally independent ecosystems, one right handed and one left handed. When Marna and Lai are forced to land there, they go to a great deal of trouble to avoid contaminating the planet. (Homecoming.) There are animals in the oceans, including a mass of tentacles with threefold symmetry that Marna identifies as a possible food source, but the land (or more accurately the shore) has been colonized only by algae and land corals in the spray zone.

Falaron

Falaron was Terraformed as a vacation planet around 75,000 years ago, with most of the ecology transplanted from Earth in the Pleistocene. The action takes place around 45° North latitude, from coast to coast of a continent spanning several time zones. From West to East, the terrain is coastal forest, forest-clad mountains, more rugged mountains, a high plateau, more mountains with an apron down to a high scarp, plains with a climate ameliorating from rain-shadow near-desert to open woodland as the travelers move east, a fault scarp damming the river the party is following, a canyon cut by the river through the higher ground, and finally forest with open meadows to the east coast. (Tourist Trap.) Animals include mammoths, mastodon, longhorn bison, small wild horses, a miniature variety of horses in small canyons, and flat-headed peccaries, all real animals which left fossils during the Pleistocene ice ages.

Eversummer

Named (as Marna correctly deduced) by a publicity agent, this planet, though Earthlike in many ways, has no axial tilt and a very low-eccentricity orbit, thus no seasons. To quote from Tourist Trap:

“The planet, with its rotational axis almost perpendicular to its orbital plane, had no seasons.  The poles were bitterly cold, glaciated wastelands where the sun forever rolled around the horizon.  The equatorial belt was an unchanging steam bath, the permanent home of daily tropical thunderstorms, varied by hurricanes along its poleward borders.  The desert belts, inevitable result of the conflict between the planet’s rotation and its unequal heating by its sun, were broad and sharply defined, with no transition zones where the rains came seasonally.  The temperate zones, between desert and polar ice, were swept year round by equinoctial storms, varied only by occasional droughts.  No monsoons, no seasonal blanket of snow to protect the dormant land, no regular alternation of wet and dry seasons.”

Native animals are toxic, and Marna must determine why.

Horizon

Horizon was introduced in Horse Power as a planet recently terraformed from bare rock for stock rearing, specifically for silkies. This made-up species is a blend of cattle and sheep, producing both gourmet meat and a fleece that makes a luxury cloth. They are sensitive to ultraviolet, but Horizon is a low UV planet. For the same reason it has attracted colonists with fair skin, who are also UV-sensitive. The ecology was planned for stock rearing, with no large predators (foxes are about as large as they come) and few native herbivores beyond the rabbits introduced as an emergency food source. Gravity is slightly slightly less than or Earth or Central.

I’m still working on the Horizon War trilogy, but one of the plot points is the disaster that could be created by the introduction of pumas on land and great white sharks in the oceans.

Rakal

This planet will be mentioned several times in the first two books of the Horizon War trilogy, but is only visited in the third book. It is a steam-bath planet, especially near the equator where the action takes place, with jungle, part of which is prone to seasonal flooding. (Parts of the Amazon basin, but warmer.) Sample native animal? A predator the castaways call a One-arm and others call a Kraken. It has a flattened, bulbous body with a mouth and a single long tentacle with poison hairs, and attacks by attaching the body to a tree and grabbing prey with the tentacle. I’ll probably post its attack on January 10, as part of the Year of the Snake blogfest. I may also use a character’s first view of the planet as my excerpt Friday, but I’m still waffling on that.

Mava

This planet is mostly ocean, with only a small land area. Because the settlers realized early that only a limited population could be supported, production of babies was never a priority and a matrilineal culture developed with extended family structure. Recently at war with T’Kun. This planet is a home planet of a character in the Kharfun epidemic story, but all the action takes place elsewhere.

T’Kun

Physically, T’Kun is the opposite of Mava, with 90% land, and only a few saline lakes. It is a very harsh world, and many of the males die young. Partly as a result of this, a strongly patriarchal culture has developed with multiple wives and an idea that every woman should be nursing or pregnant — necessary to keep the population up, as most children die young. Again, only a very brief part of the action actually takes place on this world, but it is important in forming the character of one of the protagonists.

This is the end of the first chapter of my current WIP (at the editing stage) Rescue Operation, continuing on from last week. It’s the first book of a trilogy, starting a couple of hundred years after the end of Tourist Trap.

He [Roi] leaned back, closing his eyes, and the pair took the hint and left. Dad, Roi thought miserably, Marna, why did you have to die and leave me with this? It’s more than I can handle. I’m doing my best, but I don’t think my best is good enough. And Zhaim’s not helping. At worst, if he’s escaped the bonds you put on him–Roi didn’t even want to think about that.

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Another snippet, continued from last week, from the end of the first chapter of Rescue Operation.

“It won’t happen again,” Roi said, “but I couldn’t do anything for Horizon.” He lifted his head, blinking wet eyes at Mark. The next time he had to reinforce Marna’s bindings, he swore to himself, he would insist that the part of the Inner Council he trusted back him up.

“Maybe,” he continued softly, as much to himself as to Mark, “I can get enough change in the situation to force reconsideration. But I don’t think I can do it by a Council vote. Meanwhile, I’ll have to do what I can with the other situations.”

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Today’s snippet is from near the end of the first chapter of Rescue Operation, my current WIP. Zhaim has been arguing that he’s done the right thing in imposing slaving on Horizon, a recently colonized planet, as they refuse to pay their dues and are breeding people faster than their economy is growing.

Right if he wanted to make the Confederation into a military dictatorship rather than something that allowed over a hundred human-occupied planets to live in peace, if not harmony, Roi thought as he returned home. Not that there weren’t times he would have liked more power over individual planets, especially those that abused their own people. For that matter, he’d like more power over Central, to eliminate slavery there, but not at the cost of turning the Confederation into something people feared, instead of a protection.

Mark and Ginger, the latest of the slaves he’d rescued, adopted and educated for freedom, found him sitting in his office with his face in his hands. “Audi told me,” the young man said awkwardly. “Were you able to do anything?”

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I’m skipping around a little in Rescue Operation, as doing it continuously just doesn’t give me good six-sentence fragments. This follows Roi’s explanation of the vote on slaving.

Keishala sighed as she picked up her music tablet. “Come on, Lani. If you’re going to finish that before the concert, we’d better go somewhere else. If it’s going to be politics, neither of us is going to be much help.”

“Anything I can do?” Emeraude asked.

She had seen immediately what the Inner Council had missed–how the citizens of Horizon would most likely react. Keishala and Lelani were dear to him, though right now they were best off preparing for Keishala’s next concert, but Emeraude might be a real help.

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And I know we’re not supposed to do this, but I just have to crow a bit: Tourist Trap is a finalist for the Reader Views Literary Awards!

What happens when loyalties and responsibilities conflict? What is the moral thing to do?

I’ve been exploring morality to some extent in my writing. I won’t say I have the answers—there really aren’t any. But here’s an excerpt from a story set years after Homecoming was over:

“My folks hadn’t been able to teach me the morality of using my esper talents–rules don’t arise about things that are assumed not to exist.  But they had ingrained some general principles into the fiber of my being, and those general principles worked quite well with what Roi had taught me and, more recently, with what I had found in the files my mother had left behind.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Remember that ‘human’ is not just you and your relatives, or those who look like you, or who share common beliefs.  Ask yourself, ‘what would life be like if everyone behaved this way?’

“It wasn’t as easy as rules-based, black and white morality, because it required thinking.  And there had been times, both home on Earth and here on Central, when the accepted morality was immoral by the principles I believed in.  Slavery as it was practiced here on Central, for instance.  Did I even have the moral right to walk away, if I could really stop it?”

What widely accepted moral rules might be immoral in a different society or environment? Or even in our own, if looked at closely?

Sunset Dec 21 at Fairbanks, latitude 64 degrees 50 minutes. Photo taken about 2:40 pm, looking a little west of south.

Happy Southday! (Or, if you don’t follow time as measured on the planet Central, Happy Winter Solstice.) The days in the northern hemisphere are getting longer again!

Solstice has nothing to do with distance from the sun. In fact, we are rapidly approaching our closest approach to the sun, around January 3. But because the earth’s axis is tilted relative to its orbit around the sun, there are times (the solstices) when one pole or the other comes as close as it ever gets to pointing directly at the sun, while the other is as close as it can get to pointing away. That happened on Dec 21 this year with the north pole pointing as far as it could get away from the sun.

On the winter solstice, the sun never rises north of the Arctic circle, while it never sets south of the Antarctic circle. Closer to the equator it rises and sets, but the northern hemisphere days are at their shortest for the year, and the sun at noon is at its lowest in the sky. The low sun and short days combine to minimize the solar heating of the ground and water. The opposite is true in the southern hemisphere, where it is the first day of summer, and both day length and solar elevation are at their greatest for the year.

Our Earth’s axis of rotation is 23.5 degrees from axis of rotation of its orbit around the sun. What would happen if that angle were 0?

I actually invented such a planet, called Eversummer, for my second science fiction novel, Tourist Trap. It wasn’t exactly paradise!

The planet’s name, Marna thought, must have been picked out by a publicity agent.  Everspring would have been more accurate, or Everfall, or perhaps Constancy.  Maybe even Boredom.

The planet, with its rotational axis almost perpendicular to its orbital plane, had no seasons.  The poles were bitterly cold, glaciated wastelands where the sun forever rolled around the horizon.  The equatorial belt was an unchanging steam bath, the permanent home of daily tropical thunderstorms, varied by hurricanes along its poleward borders.  The desert belts, inevitable result of the conflict between the planet’s rotation and its unequal heating by its sun, were broad and sharply defined, with no transition zones where the rains came seasonally.  The temperate zones, between desert and polar ice, were swept year round by equinoctial storms, varied only by occasional droughts.  No monsoons, no seasonal blanket of snow to protect the dormant land, no regular alternation of wet and dry seasons.

Would you like to live on such a planet?

MONTH: #scifi A thirty-day period composed of six fivedays. In the Confederation, it has nothing to do with a moon. (Central doesn’t have one, anyway.)

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