Tag Archives: Science fiction

A Brief History of the Psittacines

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Mars

 

Once terraforming tech was developed and improved on, everyone assumed the entire surface of Mars would be re-scaped and colonized. In reality, the harsh Mars environment was too overwhelming for the best tech. In the end, only about 2% of Mars was terraformed. Of the people who helped terraform, many remained behind to join the first colony rather than return to Earth.

The original colony consisted of only 10 families from Earth and the handful of terraformers. Amongst the adults was an ornithologist, Dr. Eva Devens. She and her family were selected to be a part of the colony because she was going to observe birds and how they adapted to the Mars environment.

Even in the year 2150, how birds used Earth’s magnetic field to navigate was a bit of a mystery. Dr. Devens was tasked with finding out if the birds behaved similarly on a new planet. In truth, she didn’t expect most of the birds to live through their first year.

So, along with the first colonizers of Mars, traveled 100 eggs. All were carefully monitored and were being incubated to hatch shortly after the colonists settled. They were 50 species of birds that could fly, and a good portion of the eggs were Psittacines, or birds of the parrot family.

Dr. Devens had personally selected all of the eggs, and she was very fond of parrots. She admired their beauty and intelligence, plus she believed they had the right kind of plucky attitude that could help them survive on Mars.

The trip to Mars and initial settling was uneventful; everything had logistically fallen into place. About 2 months after the colonizers arrived, the eggs began to hatch. The birds were raised in an enclosed environment until they were ready to leave their nests. Then they were released into the large forested region of terraformed area. Dr. Devens continued to feed them to help supplement their diets and many of them thrived.

Of the original 100 eggs, only 82 hatched, and of those 82 birds, 77 were released into the forest. Dr. Devens had implanted every bird with a tracking device prior to release. She carefully monitored their behaviors and movements. When she was in the forest observing the birds, some of the parrots and macaws showed signs of intelligence that surprised Dr. Devens.

In particular, a pair of African Grey Parrots and a group of various colored Macaws would gather around her every time she came to see them. She assumed that this behavior was just a part of their curious nature. She talked to them and even sang sometimes. And she was not surprised when they learned to mimic her words.

The first year on Mars passed and in the spring, many of the birds in the forest laid eggs and the first generation of Martian birds were born. As Dr. Devens was collecting data in the forest, she noticed that the size of the parrot and macaw eggs were considerably larger than she expected.

When the babies hatched, they surpassed their parents’ size within a matter of months. By the time they were a year old, they were roughly the size of a beagle and each weighed about 30 pounds. The exponential change in size was unexpected and Dr. Devens could not find a logical explanation for it. None of the other birds who had survived showed any physiological changes. Not only that, but no other species of animal brought to Mars had changed in any noticeable way.

In addition to an overall change in size, they demonstrated remarkable dexterity with their wings. Dr. Devens often observed them picking things up and moving them about. The new generation definitely demonstrated amazing strides in intellectual development. Back on Earth, the average parrot was said to have the intelligence of a human toddler. This new generation was more equivalent to human teenagers.

Of course, these changes were recorded and the information was forwarded to scientists on Earth. The birds would even join Dr. Devens when she would have teleconference sessions with Earth. The interviews were recorded and aired globally. Somehow, a new race of intelligent beings was emerging on Mars, and everyone on Earth was captivated with them.

By the 10th year on Mars, the parrots outnumbered the humans in the colony. The most recent generation to hatch was closer to human size and very clever. Each generation inherited their instinctual behavior from their parents, but they also seemed to pass along knowledge. Dr. Devens noted that the younger generations learned speech easier and much quicker than previous generations. However, other than Dr. Devens, the settlers were not as fascinated with the changes in the birds.

A meeting was held to decide what to do with the growing population of anthropomorphic avian. As the colonists gathered, one of the young African Greys who called himself Dale joined the gathering.

He was just over 5 feet tall and had predominantly grey feathers all over his body and bright red tail feathers. On his face his coloring was lighter, highlighting the observant intelligence behind his eyes.

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“This meeting is to establish a course of action,” said one of the colonizers.

“I don’t see that anything needs to be done,” said Dr. Devens.

“Of course you don’t, but let’s face it. We are currently outnumbered by these birds and…”

The colonizer was cut off by Dale, “Excuse me, but we don’t like to be called birds.”

The collected humans looked baffled, except Dr. Devens. “What would you prefer to be called then?” one asked with sarcastic undertones.

Dale answered, “We call ourselves Psittacines. We are not like the other birds who live on Mars or on Earth. You do not call yourselves monkeys or apes just because you have a common ancestor. We would ask that you show us the same consideration.”

Not one of the humans had a response to that, but Dr. Devens sat there smirking.

Finally after an awkward pause, one the colonists continued, “Let’s get right to the point. Many of us want to return to Earth.”

Dr. Devens said, “You can’t be serious. This is our task. We can’t just leave. Do you realize how much investors spent to establish this colony?”

“As a matter of fact, we do. However, many of those same investors are already in the process of deciding on another place to colonize.”

Dr. Devens was shocked. Clearly talks had been going on behind her back, and decisions were being made without her input.

“If I can add something,” said Dale. “We would also like for the humans to leave.”

Dr. Devens was taken aback by this. “You want me to leave?”

“No. Not you. If you wish to stay Eva, we would allow it.”

Dr. Devens honestly didn’t know what to say. They would allow it? What was happening?

The decision was made and within a few months, the first colonizers minus Dr. Devens and the eggs returned to Earth. The Psittacines and Dr. Devens kept in touch and continued their reports to Earth.

Dr. Devens lived with the Psittacines for the remainder of her life. When she passed away, Dale oversaw her funeral. She was the only human to be buried on Mars.

With her passing, some of the Psittacines felt that perhaps it was time to have less contact with Earth, but Dale felt that Dr. Devens had worked hard to maintain contact and he respected her plans.

The truth was that people were no longer fascinated with the Martian birds like they were in the beginning. Another colony was established on Venus, and there was a thriving colony on Earth’s moon. People were looking to the future and making plans to spread to other planets.anthro macaw

When Dale was nearing his 60th year, the Psittacines were basically at max capacity for the terraformed portion of Mars. Something would have to be done. Dale understood that either they would need to have population controls to prevent overcrowding or some of them would need to move elsewhere.

During a teleconference with Earth, Dale told the scientists his concerns. The scientists sprung into immediate action and began to discuss the possibility of establishing a Psittacines colony on Earth.

Dale was overwhelmed by the support that was shown. He thought they would be quick to reject a new species living amongst them. He even joined the first group of Psittacines to relocate to Earth.

Review of the Nebula Awards Showase 2013

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Every year I try to read the Nebula Awards Showcase anthology. If you don’t know, the Nebula Awards are given for Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writing. I look forward to the collection every year. And last year, I started ordering the older copies from Abebooks.com. (I love that site). I almost have every year now.

Anyway, when I read, I have a tendency to compare what I’m reading to other things that I’ve read. I try to judge a book on its value alone but in this case, I can’t help it. So, as I was reading the 2013 collection, I was comparing it to the 2012 anthology.

In all honesty, I thought the 2012 collection was better. Now, to be fair though, there are still some really great stories in the 2013 set that I would highly recommend. However, the new book just didn’t wow me like last year’s did.

Before I talk about some of the stories that I did like, I wanted to add one other thing you should know about the Nebula Awards collections. They usually feature poetry. Yes, you read that right. Sci-fi or fantasy poetry. And I’m here to tell you, it can be pretty weird.

Weird poetry aside, some stories that I think are really great from this collection:nebula awards

1. “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu

  • This story is truly magical. It’s about the relationship between a mother and her son. I don’t want to tell you more than that, because it’s really, really, really great.
  • It’s one of those stories that isn’t your typical sci-fi or fantasy story but I’m so glad it’s in this collection.

2. The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

  • I love this story! I couldn’t get over the complexity of the universe that this author created just for a short story. It’s about a girl and her learning about the past. It’s also about an ice owl, but I won’t tell you what happens other than that.
  • When I finished reading this, I was hoping there was more. I would love to read a novel length work set in the universe created by this author.

3. Excerpt from Among Others by Jo Walton

  • This, as you can guess from the title, was a snippet of a novel that they included.
  • The novel is now on my “To Read” list.
  • The excerpt introduces us to one of the main characters, a girl, who is about to go to boarding school. I can’t add more than that, not because I don’t want to give anything away, but because there’s not much else to go on from the snippet. I have to admit one of the reasons I say this is worth reading is because it peaked my curiosity and now I need to know what happens.

4. “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz

  • If you only had time to read one story from the collection, this would be my choice.
  • Unlike some of the other stories, this story is more typical. It has some known sci-fi devices. It is set on a space station. There is a war going on that involves two different factions with different belief systems.
  • What isn’t typical about this story. The main character is a girl who lives with her female relatives and together they run a “truck stop” in space. In particular, their station is known as “Sauerkraut Station” because they serve sauerkraut that they make themselves right on the station.
  • I can’t explain why exactly this was my favorite out of all of them, other than I just thought it was really well written. For a short story, it was very complex.

5. “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen

  • This story is about our world after aliens have arrived and blocked out our sun. In order to survive, the humans that endure are forced to live deep in the ocean near vents that produce heat.
  • The story is also about the generation of children who are born down in the ocean. They want to see the sun. They form a “cult” like group that worships the sun. Eventually, the teens steal some subs and make their way to the surface because no one has been to the surface in years. Guess what they find when they get there…. I’m not telling. Read the story. It’s good.

There are many more in this collection but I felt like those five were the highlights. One of the things I love about the Nebula collections is a lot of time the stories that are featured aren’t your typical sci-fi and fantasy. There aren’t a lot of dragons or light sabers. Instead, there are a lot of characters in a vast array of settings surviving and being a part of some very unique universes.

Review of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Nebula Award Winning Novel in 1965

I have mixed feelings about this book. I have often heard that Dune is the best sci-fi book ever written. That’s a tall order to live up to over 40 years after it was written. I think I went into it expecting something else and that might be part of the problem. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, because I did. I loved it. I just don’t think it is the best sci-fi book ever written. I don’t think I can comfortably give it that title.

Is it worth reading? Yes.
Will you like it if you don’t like sci-fi? Maybe.
Is it one of the best sci-fi I’ve ever read? Yes. But, there are still things about it I didn’t like.

I want to end this post on a good note, so for starters, let’s talk about what I didn’t like about Dune.dune_frank_herbert

1. The plot focuses on a made up religion. I felt like there were things that weren’t explained enough for me to believe the religion was as important or world changing as it was meant to be.
2. The group called the Bene Gesserit. I didn’t quite understand their end game. They are one of the many groups of individuals that are plotting to control the reigning members of the worlds of Dune. The general idea is that they are striving to preserve certain blood lines. Even after reading the whole book, I couldn’t figure out why they would want to do this. It didn’t seem clear to me.
3. The made up words are very distracting at first. When I first picked up this book, I spent more time looking things up in the glossary at the back than actually reading it. Herbert makes up more than just a religion. He created words that only have meaning in the context of this book and at first I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. To be honest, I felt like some of the made up words were unnecessary.

In the end, those are very small things that I didn’t like about Dune. And I don’t often find a book that I love 100%.

You might be wondering, what did she like about this book? The answer: everything else.

As I said, I wouldn’t feel right saying this was the best sci-fi book of all time. But I would definitely put it in the top ten must read sci-fi books for fans of the genre. I would also say that this is a book that even those who aren’t fans might actually want to read. Fiction that is written for a specific genre or that gets labeled that way after its written doesn’t often fall into what I call the Literature with a capital L category. For me, Dune does cross into that category. There is something more to this book than just space battles and fictional tech.

1. Dune is a story about politics, religion, freedom, ecology, all thrown together by an overwhelming amount of subterfuge.
2. I love that the main character, Paul, is like a nexus with all the forces at work in the novel either working through him or against him.
3. Dune is smart sci-fi. It’s thought provoking and well written. It’s not just a means for laser guns and space craft.

In the end, I would say read it if you love sci-fi because it is considered one of the most significant sci-fi novels ever written. I would also say read it if you are looking for a great story involving an entire planet finding freedom via the help of a mere boy.

Tech Problems

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tumblr_mg3a3yAx9D1qlpcoso1_500I did it! I meet my weekly writing goal. My current word count is roughly 21,500. I also did the math, and to be finished with a first draft of 100,000 words, I need to write close to 3700 words a week.

So, next week, I am going to aim for a bit more progress.

Goal for next week: 26,000 word count.

This means I need to write over 4,000 words, but I think it’s a good idea to push myself. I am trying to hold myself accountable.

As far as this week went, it was a good week. I didn’t encounter any problematic writer’s blocks. But I have been thinking about one sci-fi writing difficulty.

Technology woes.

I am writing a sci-fi novel, and like other sci-fi novelists before me, I am creating a unique world with technology that doesn’t really exist. So in addition to naming the fictional tech, I have to explain how it works without boring any potential readers to death.

Another problem that creating fictional tech brings up is trying not to be too similar to any story that’s already been written. So, I’m avoiding glowing laser swords and children fighting ants in space.

Until next time! Happy reading and writing everyone.