What Does Science Fiction Want for Our World Today?

Back when my father was a kid science fiction was all about rockets to Mars, flying cars and atomic power.  The world would march forward in the same way that it had after science advanced in the generations before.  It would engineer applications for atomic power in the same way that earlier generations applied knowledge of chemistry and physics to create the internal combustion engine and airplanes.

When I was a kid science fiction had progressed to where relativity and quantum physics were assumed to be susceptible to human genius and no barriers were too tall to prevent humans from colonizing the stars, travelling through time and even traipsing into other dimensions.  Now this made for a lot of interesting stories about universes where humans could meet up with all kinds of amazing creatures and events.  But at some point, you have to wonder if the word “science” in the name science fiction should be changed to fantasy.  And that’s fine.  Having faster than light (FTL) travel opens up so many story lines for an author that it’s hard to resist.  Otherwise, we’re stuck with multi-generational ships depending on relativistic time dilation to reach the nearest stars in one or two hundred years.  Which, by the way, makes for a lot of very interesting sociological phenomena on the ship.  But anyway, you can see how FTL travel would be a very desirable pseudoscientific device.

But here we are something like a hundred years on in the “modern” science fiction timeline and we’re still engulfed in the FTL travel trope.  And we’re still nowhere near any kind of science that would lead us to believe that FTL travel is even remotely possible.  So, in my mind maybe science fiction needs to start looking at science again for inspiration for new themes.

Thinking about this, it’s not like there aren’t all sorts of scientific discoveries and avenues for new technologies that are not only possible but also exciting building blocks for science fiction stories.  In biology we have gene therapy and longevity research.  In computer science there is artificial intelligence and cybernetics.  The reality of atomic power as a replacement for fossil fuels is not really science fiction as much as fact but there are enough questions about how it will change the present world that it could provide plenty of fodder for stories.  And human exploration of the solar system is now much better understood than it was even back during the Apollo program.  Reimagining the directions that something like landing on Mars will take has already been a successful idea for one author who even saw it turned into a successful movie.

Perhaps some of this sounds a little tame for science fiction readers.  On the contrary, sticking to the reality of what it would take to put a small colony on Mars should allow a good author to engineer in plenty of human interest and adventure.  I could see how a story based on capturing and harvesting an asteroid filled with gold and platinum would make a very exciting tale.  A good author would include the part of the story that involves very rich and powerful individuals scheming to hold onto the profits from a mission that might include the most powerful nations on Earth claiming the assets as the “legacy of all mankind.”

So, this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Now I like space opera as much as the next guy.  I’m very comfortable with galactic empires and multiverse.  They’re great fun.  But I also think it’s time for some of the most creative writers to start adding some real science back into science fiction.

Pleasant Fiction and Painful Reality

Today was a fiction writing day.  I made some good progress on the plot.  But I was stymied on an aspect of the story that only recently occurred to me.  What I realized is that one of my main characters doesn’t have enough back story.  He has a reasonably well-defined personality but he’s floating alone in his little bubble of the story.  I need to tell the readers why he is the way he is.  So, I started making up this past in my head but then I realized I need a way to have him tell this info to the readers.  That’s an awful lot of exposition.  So, what I’ll do is come up with a situation where the protagonist and this character are involved in some scene where they’re trapped together and forced to wait for some crisis to pass and that’s when I’ll have them swap histories.  To make it more natural I’ll have them both talking about their pasts.  In the context of both of them not knowing if they’re about to be killed it makes it a little more likely, emotionally, for them to be talking about their lives.

And one other problem remains.  Where does the story end?  This will be a series of books and I want to end the first book with a bang but I have to make sure that the empire will be able to strike back.  So, I have to leave enough villains to allow them to regroup.  Maybe there’s more to this writing thing than I thought.

I saw a news article that said that the FBI took Trump’s passports.  Isn’t that just too cute of them?  Apparently, they’re pulling out all the stops.  I think that’s good.  November should be the perfect storm.  We should know for sure whether there’s any hope of fixing the system.  And if the Deep State commits themselves to every banana republic tactic and holds nothing back then we’ll have no doubt about whether this is our best-case scenario.  If the mid-terms aren’t a referendum on Biden’s incompetence and the Deep State’s unconstitutional behavior then there is no conceivable way, we’ll ever push them out of power.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s an honest election or not.  A loss for us either way says to me that it’s all over.

And I don’t say that in a melodramatic way.  On Wednesday November 9th if the Democrats still hold the House and Senate, I won’t be donning sackcloth and sifting ashes into my hair.  I won’t even put a for sale sign up in front of the Compound.  But I will be weighing my options and making some changes.  After all, living in a country that is run by an oligarchy that is proven to have an unshakeable lock on the levers of power and is also clearly working to disenfranchise your family isn’t necessarily the best option, even if it is the richest and most powerful country on the planet and has always been your home.

So, I’ll think long and hard about what’s best for me and mine.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of company in that contemplation.  The 2020 election fraud was a shock.  But with the COVID lockdown being used to allow all kinds of irregularities it left a question as to whether the fraud could be reined in afterward.  If it’s repeated this year then it can be repeated indefinitely.  If the Justice Department can run two kinds of “justice” then we’ve already ceased to be a legitimate state.  So, many people will be reflecting on these facts.

But, enough of that gloomy talk.  Tomorrow is Liz Cheney’s Primary Day.  I intend to enjoy that event to its fullest.  Maybe she’ll give a tearful concession speech or a defiant vow to be back on top someday soon.  But either way I will savor the moment.  Quoting Khan Noonien Singh (or actually Herman Melville) “to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee,” I revel in the spite inherent in punishing the RINOs.  It’s the only thing that we can do to redress the injuries these people inflict on us every day.  The least we can do is celebrate their defeat.

Here’s a Sample From My Unfinished Sci-Fi Book

Here’s a sample of a book I’m currently about a quarter of the way through.  If you look at the Header of the website there’s a new link to “Stuff to Buy.”  That where I’ll embed links to books and photogrpaphy I’ll have to sell soon.

 

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 1 – An Object Lesson

Joseph Boghadair was set up at a loophole in a small prefabricated metal building at the top of a mountain that contained the Icarus Mine.  His .50 caliber sniper rifle was trained on the narrow road that led up to the mine.  He could see a line of black SUVs about a mile and a half down the road and he was getting ready to start firing on the convoy.  His first shots took out the engine of the lead vehicle thereby halting the convoy.  His second volley took out the engine of the last car in line thus trapping the rest of the vehicles between.  Then at a more leisurely pace he took care of the other eight vehicles.  By this point the passengers were crouching behind their disabled cars and randomly firing handguns and assault weapons in Joseph’s general direction with almost no discernible results.

After about half an hour a few of the men in black body armor attempted to reach a stand of trees about 300 yards away to their left.  Joseph put a few well aimed rounds in front of their path and they quickly retreated back to the supposed safety of their not so mobile autos.  Joseph snorted wryly at their shyness.

An hour after that a helicopter approached the mountain from the opposite direction to Joseph’s loophole.  Walking over to a window on the other wall he could see a distant Blackhawk approaching at relatively high altitude.  Joseph then began his preparations for their reception.

Between crew and troops, the Blackhawk had a dozen men on board.  And more importantly it had a couple of hellfire missiles.  From a very safe distance away it targeted Joseph’s position and fired.  The missile struck precisely on target and obliterated the steel structure almost completely.  All that remained was the foundation of the structure around the mine shaft, now clogged with debris.

The Blackhawk landed about three quarters of a mile from the mine entrance.  At this point the agents hunkered down behind their vehicles began to stream toward the helicopter.  By the time they reached the aircraft the troops had exited and were waiting for their rescued brethren to arrive.

FBI Special Agent in Charge, George Chastain assembled both teams and briefed them on the updated mission plan.  “We will proceed to the mine head and look for any human remains.  We will collect whatever we can retrieve for lab analysis and attempt to seal the mine head until qualified personnel can be assembled for recovery operations.  It is presumed that the target, Joseph Boghadair was killed by the missile strike but we will take no chances.  He was an extremely dangerous individual and should not be approached by anyone without backup and prior approval from leadership.  In addition to his war record it is believed that Boghadair is responsible for the shooting deaths of forty-six people in the last six months with thirteen of those people being FBI personnel.  No one enters the mine until remote sensing equipment is brought in.  Alright, proceed.”

The agents formed two groups.  Apparently, SUV agents and helicopter agents must not bond very well.  But before they were more than a hundred feet from the helicopter a series of incredibly powerful explosions shook the ground and knocked them off their feet.  And while they were holding onto the ground for dear life, they could see that the high ground where the mine head was located collapsed into the earth.  The roar of that collapse was more frightening than the initial earthquake and some of the agents hid their heads under their arms in abject terror.  When the mountain stopped shaking the men started to collect themselves and stand up.  When they looked around them, they were astonished.  A circular pit had opened up centered on the mine head.  It was a thousand yards in diameter and so deep that only blackness could be seen at its center.  Several cracks had formed outside the circular pit.  One of these had nearly swallowed the Blackhawk.  It was on its side and half buried in the crevice.  Its rotors were fractured and it wouldn’t be flying away from this landing.

Chastain went over to the edge of the crater and just stared down into the blackness below.  Then he went back to his team and started giving orders to begin a retreat from the stricken mountain.  He was trying to think of what he was going to tell his boss.  Nothing reasonable came to mind.

25MAR2022 – OCF Update

Today was a fiction writing day, or rather reading day.  I’ve reached the 25% mark on the book and so I reread the thing to see if it was any good.  Surprisingly, I thought it was very good.  I would read it!  Of course 25% is just a beginning so there’s plenty of stuff to figure out and more characters to introduce but the story is defined and the feel of the book has been established.  And the ending is coming into sharper focus.  I think I’ve decided to end this first book with a definitive bang.  It means I will have upped the ante in a really big way but I think it’s the way to go.

I figured 25% was the correct point to make sure the book wasn’t terrible.  But it also tells me I’ll have to pick up the pace.  In fact one of my friends said I need to declare a finish date and stick to that.  That seemed harsh to me which means it’s probably true.  I just checked the start date of the document and I’ve been working on this thing for six months!  So I need to pick up the pace for sure.  My goal is to finish the first draft by June 30th.  That only three months but I feel I have to push myself.  That’s about 6,000 words a week which is a good amount but not impossible.  But what it does require is at least two days a week devoted just to writing.  So discipline will need to be instilled.  Unfortunately that is my weak suit.  Well growth is painful.

Other than that today, it’s been a pretty nice day here and we went for a walk in the woods.  Camera Girl found a dead mouse near the front porch and told me how bad she felt seeing it.  I reminded her that she’s terrified of mice and that the mouse’s family is out there eating her bird seeds that fall to the ground below her feeders and living in my tool shed.  This made her shudder and she walked away greatly conflicted.  Women suffer from emotional thinking which speaks well of their sentiments but serve them poorly when it comes to taking practical steps to deal with the world.  If I didn’t put my foot down we’d have racoons, opossums, foxes and deer lvivng on the porch and the animal food bill would break me.

I haven’t seen any interesting news today.  Just the same blah, blah, blah.  I’m sure Biden will say many stupid and incoherent things in Europe this week and Putin will be blamed for almost everything since original sin reached humanity but I haven’t detected anything new going on.  When I see something good I’ll put something out.  Till then enjoy the weekend.

The History of Dunwich – Part 1 – It’s Annoying Origins

The origins of the site on which Dunwich sits are shrouded in mystery.  A mystery based on profound indifference and shoddy scholarship.  Legend claims that in the earliest epoch it was the Latrine of Yog Sothoth.  It is believed that the current stratum of bedrock is completely composed of metamorphized coprolite.  Professor Obadiah Bishop of Miskatonic University spent forty years of his academic career studying this coprolite formation and determined that it was almost entirely composed of triceratopsian dung formed from an exclusive diet of poison sumac.  This is thought to explain the funk that emanates from the ground, groundwater, crops and inhabitants of the present day site.  It is also believed to explain the almost constant, frenzied scratching that all Dunwichians indulge in.

The original human inhabitants of the area were members of the Pocnipnarrawampamuckutucs (sometimes shortened to the Muckutucs) tribe.  The Muckutucs were despised by the other tribes because they smelled awful, had thirteen fingers and two rows of teeth.

When the first European settlers arrived, they interbred with the Muckutucs and their descendants had twelve fingers.  Which was an improvement.  But no teeth.  Which was not.  Over time these anatomical oddities became the hallmark of the Dunwichian ancestry and somewhat explained their status as loathed outcasts and pariahs.  Suffice it to say that the rest of New England chose to avoid Dunwich like the plague.

But the American Revolution saw a change.  The patriotic fervor that swept through the rest of New England did not neglect Dunwich.  A company of stout Dunwichians headed up by “Captain” Nehemiah Hoadley marched east to reinforce the colonial army at Lexington.  But when the Boston regiment got a look at the Dunwich contingent approaching from the west, they abandoned their ambush of the British and blasted away at these toothless mutants, mowing them down to the last polydactylous humanoid soul.  After this Dunwich refused taxation by the US government until almost the time of the Civil War.

It was during the nineteenth century that the first truly disturbing events began to occur in and around Dunwich.  In 1824 on the site of Phineas Goodgroates’ orchard, a thousand ton, three-hundred-foot-long caste-iron cylinder fell out of the sky and flattened Phineas’s apple trees and because he was apple picking that day, flattened Phineas too.  This metallic meteor came to be known as the Codpiece of Cthulhu because of the inscription on its side identifying it as such.  The arrival of this piece of sartorial ironmongery was taken as an event of ill-omen.  Opinions varied, although with respect to Phineas all agreed it was definitely a bit of tough luck for him.

But by 1830 the populace had calmed down and normalcy reasserted itself until in the fall of that year when Caleb Sillwright’s turnip patch was similarly bombarded by the aptly named Moustache Comb of Azathoth.  At this point there were calls to abandon Dunwich altogether or at least to install some kind of gargantuan clothes rack above the town in the hope that the Elder Gods would take the hint and stop dropping their effects on Dunwich.  Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

To be continued.

28MAY2021 – OCF Update

The weather turned cold and wet just in time to make my Sunday barbecue into an indoor event.  I’m guessing the swimming pool will be empty but we’ll have fun anyway.  All the grandkids will be there and I’ll regale them with stories from my days as a doughboy in WW I.  Wait, that can’t be right.  Well, they’re kids they may believe it.

I’ve started a new story.  I’m writing an alternative present/future with a revolt against the Left.  It will have some touches of techno-thriller and some sci-fi and I’ll be in it too.  So that’s scary.

It’s got my interest.  We’ll see how this goes.  I may throw some scraps of it up on the site and ask for feedback.

Stay tuned.

On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.

25FEB2021 – OCF Update

Yesterday I cranked out a few thousand words to a story I’m working on and it felt great!  Nothing but positive energy.  Writing about something with no relation to Leftists or Wokeness was absolutely rejuvenating.  So I’m going to start writing a little fiction everyday.

Spring is starting to make some headway here at the compound.  I actually left the snow on the lower driveway this last snowfall and it’s melting sloppily on its own.  This is big.  By the end of February my back is usually pretty beat up.  And because of this I’ve been very slow to ramp up my use of the rower but with the specter of snow removal slowly receding in to the rear view mirror I will start building up on the rowing.

One of the negative effects of the spring season is the reappearance of the black bears in the area.  Last year they flattened Camera Girl’s beloved bird feeding pole.

This year she has vowed to pre-emptively take in the feeders when the local animal control warnings go out.  We shall see.

And at long last the replacement part for Camera Girl’s beloved dishwasher has arrived from Wuhan, China. It took three months for the part to arrive.  Something about interruptions at the factory.  Whatever.  There is much rejoicing and  the repairman will be declared a Hero of the Motherland and our next dog is sure to be named after him.

So as you can see my mood is ebullient and even the prospect of Dementia Joe declaring another fatwa against me and mine just isn’t getting the job done today.  Pretty soon the crocuses will be crocussing and the daffodils will be doing whatever daffodils do and I can get out with my beloved Sony A7 III and my beloved Sony 90mm F/2.8 macro lens and all will be right with the world.

 

Huzzah!

10DEC2020 – OCF Update – Things That I Am Trying to Figure Out

Output’s been slow the last day or so because I’ve been working on some bigger fish.  I’m starting an sf&f book that I’ve been kicking around for a while.  It’s sort of a combination of sf and fantasy.  It always gets blurry when you start adding multiverses and immortals.  And that’s fine as far I’m concerned.  If you consider the ramifications of things like quantum superposition then it’s hard to say that reality draws a clear line between science and magic.  But it’s been fun and I’m making pretty good progress on both the outline and the beginning of the book.  But it has cut into my blogging time lately.

Also, I’ve been trying to do a little more analytical thinking about our present political situation.  We may have reached the point where yelling at the top of our lungs for people to wake up is no longer a useful task.  I think everyone who isn’t stupid or evil has acknowledged that our government is hopelessly compromised against us.  We need to switch gears and now focus on concrete plans to change the status quo.

And guess what, that’s not the easiest thing in the world to figure out.  It’s not just one thing.  It’s a million things.  We are up against an almost monolithic structure that is intent on destroying our way of life.  Individual defensive and offensive actions against such an opponent are so microscopically weak that they border on futility.  It’s obvious that organization is the key to expanding our impact.  But what organizations exist and which can you trust?

That is the kind of research I’ve been doing and it takes a lot of time and doesn’t provide instant results.  But there is no way of getting around the analysis.  So even though I enjoy ranting and raving and even though I think there is value in providing moral support and personal testament on the day-to-day events in the news I’m also looking to find answers to the questions we all have.  Is there an organization that is making progress against our enemies?  Is there an organization that can help us if we are attacked?  Is there a resource for finding allies in the different activities of our lives?  Such as religion, education, family activities, entertainment, sports, literature, professional societies, legal help, political organizing.  What corporations are on our side, or at least have made a point to remain neutral?  What news or social media companies will cater to us?  If any of you have done similar searches feel free to leave something in the comments that will provide a lead in my search.

I know this is a very long-term project so I try to keep it from dominating my day.  But at the same time, sometimes I have to follow a white rabbit pretty far down a hole to find out if he’s real or not.  So that’s what I’ve been busy with lately.  And I have the real-life stuff going on like all of you.  Christmas is coming up and we have things to take care of, and end of year stuff to attend to.  There are the young who need to be taught and the old who need to be remembered.  And Camera Girl is there to roll her eyes and shake her head in disapproval and attend to the ordering of her domestic universe, which she believes gives her authority over all of my world.  Hah!

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 3

So, on Thursdays I usually headed downtown for dinner at the Club.  The food was okay.  The service was slow.  The drink selection was limited.  The dues were outrageous.  But the company was never bad.  Not that it was always exceptional, but it was never annoying.  There was a rule against annoying.  You could be boring or quiet but if management saw you annoying one of the other guests you would be gone very soon, and you wouldn’t be back.  Or rather you might be back but the Club would be gone.  It was a by-invitation-only organization that could and did change venue seemingly at random.  If you didn’t show up for a week (or a month or a decade) no one would bat an eye when you showed up next.  But if you didn’t get a change of venue notice then your presence was no longer desired.  So, who was invited?  Well any member could recommend a new member.  But only the Owner sent out invites.  And if someone was brought along by any member uninvited then both men would not be returning.  Oh, and all members were men.  Also, a rule.  The first few times a new member attended he might mention the lack of women as an oddity (or even a relief) but soon it just became the norm.  Now you might think that such an arrangement would dissolve sooner or later due to the friction that such arbitrary rules would create.  Or that the desire to continue in such a seemingly mediocre establishment would not be strong enough to maintain a decent showing.  You’d be wrong.  On any given night twenty patrons would be in attendance.  Some nights there might be forty.  This popularity must be attributed to the ability of the Owner to pick men.  He had a profile that provided almost fool-proof selection.  His vetting process was scrupulous and thorough.  The selection failures were few and so far, the fallout from these had always been repairable.  Apparently, his damage control methods were effective and discrete.

So, what was the profile?  Married with children, wife raised the kids and made a home for the family, husband supported the family (employed or a businessman), over thirty-five years of age and intolerant of the presence of idiots.  Who decided what idiocy was limited to?  In this case the Owner.  He looked for signs and circumstances.  Negative evidence was probably more important than positive.  A lack of bumper stickers with slogans like Coexist and Tolerance was a given.  The absence of financial support for any organization that explicitly or implicitly supported involuntary redistribution of wealth was a bare minimum requirement.  Mostly he used second hand accounts followed up by field work.  He was very thorough.  There were no idiots.  Finally, the smoking prohibition.  You were prohibited from bothering anybody who wanted to smoke.  There was a no-smoking section but that was pretty empty most nights.

Oh, and once a year you had to be able to tell a truly interesting story.  So, either you were someone who had interesting things happening in your life or you had to be a great story teller.  Either would do.  Of course, how would you know if the story were true?  Well, you couldn’t ask (another rule).

So, it was a Thursday.  It was a warm night for early October.  Barely jacket weather.  No clouds and a bright moon.  When I arrived, I was greeted at the front desk by Dave and buzzed in to the main hall.  I could see it was a slow night, maybe twenty-five patrons were milling around and waiting for seating.  I noticed the Owner (Dan) standing in a corner talking to a new face.  I headed over to say hi and find out what was on the menu.

“Hey Dan, what’s good tonight?”

“If you ask me, nothing.  I’d stick with the chicken fried steak.  Unless you’re well insured, then go with the fish.”

“Wow.  That’s grim.  Maybe you should lie until the new members have ordered the special.”

“I’m not worried.  Have you met Jim?”

“Nice to meet you Jim.”

“Jim, this is John.  He’s a regular.  Guess his wife is sick of looking at him.”

“On the contrary, I’m adored and pampered by the missus.  I only come here to allow her a night to visit her family.  When she gets home from seeing her sisters, suddenly I seem like more of a catch compared with her brothers in law.  They’re quite a group.”

“Hi John.  Nice to meet you.  Yeah, I know what you mean.  My wife’s got three sisters and from how they describe their husbands I’m guessing someone’s going to be on a most wanted show sooner or later.”

Dan broke in:

“So, Jim here is new, can you introduce him around and find a spot for him?”

“Sure.  Jim, you interested in some penny ante poker before dinner?”

“I like poker, but I’m a pretty lousy player.  I tend to bet over enthusiastically.”

“Great, you’ll be the most popular guy here tonight.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.  Seriously I’ve only got a few bucks in my pocket.  Will that get me through?”

“Sure, it really is penny ante.  We only use money to keep it from getting too boring.  Mostly we play to slow us down while we’re scarfing down cold cuts.  Come on.  I’ll introduce you to the boys.”

We headed over to a table of regulars that had a few empty seats.  I introduced Jim and we all got to talking about the latest travesty in D.C.  This proved very popular with everyone.  Within five minutes Jim was right in the thick of the grumbling and indistinguishable from the veterans.  A few minutes later the waiter came by and took our orders.  As I mentioned earlier the food was so-so.  But tonight, rib-eye was on the menu and the steak was usually very good.  I think it was something Dan liked so we benefited from his choice in that respect.  I ordered it along with a couple of baked potatoes and got back to the conversation.  Consensus had built to the effect that if Obama was not actually Satan then at the very least, he was a close relation.  The usual fifty-seven states and “corpseman” jokes were worked over again and everyone settled in for the dinner.  Someone asked Jim where he was from.  “I’m originally from Brooklyn but I’ve been living in various places in New England for the last twenty plus years”.  This elicited the obligatory “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” responses and a few heartfelt shots at the Sox and Pats from the mostly New York City group.  He laughed it off and said he was a die-hard Yankees fan but that he didn’t pay any mind to the rabid New England fans.  “Mostly I just wait for the bad years and feign sympathy while they wallow in misery.  It really is fun to watch.”  Then I asked Jim if he had given his first annual story yet.  He looked troubled and confessed that he was dreading it.  “I’m not much of a public speaker.  It’s gonna be like getting a root canal without Novocain.”  “Hey, it’s a piece of cake.  First of all, have a couple of belts before you get started and we don’t get started until we move into the sitting room.  The chairs are very comfortable in there and really reduce the stress levels.  Concentrate on someone sitting next to you and it won’t seem like public speaking.  More like just a bull-session.”  After that we got caught up in an argument over whether “The Maltese Falcon” was a better Bogey movie than “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”  This lasted about half an hour and introduced all kinds of heretical views and produced much heat but almost no light.  Luckily at that point the food arrived.  Sure enough, the rib eye was just about perfect.  By the time I was done with the second spud and was sopping up a little juice with a hunk of  French bread I had reached what I imagined Gautama must have been hoping for when he started sitting cross-legged under that tree.

The beer and wine were flowing pretty freely at our table and the dishes had been removed and someone asked if we should start the card game up again but there were no takers so we wandered into the sitting room and the group continued with a discussion on the latest movie.  It was a science fiction adventure yarn with Earth being invaded by super-intelligent lobsters from the Andromeda Galaxy.  Many rude comments were expressed over the lack of actual proof that shellfish had what it takes to invent a really convincing warp drive.  Interestingly, Jim was extremely quiet when disparagement of the idea that extraterrestrials might visit the Earth was being discussed.

Dan showed up and instructed the wait staff and the members to drag the chairs into the traditional half circle around the speaker’s seat by the fire place.  By this point I could see that the crowd was about thirty men.  And surprisingly Dan was leading Jim over to the speaker’s chair.  As he settled himself in, I could tell that he was pretty nervous.  Dan introduced Jim as a new member and applauded him for the courage to tell his story on his first night in the club.  Jim thanked him, looked around the circle nervously and cleared his throat.  Everyone expected him to proceed so a very noticeable silence built up for about two minutes while Jim seemed to be staring at his feet.  Finally I could see several men fidgeting in their chairs and scratching their faces in a sort of impatient way.  Then Jim cleared his throat again and began.

“As the subject of my story I’d like to tell you how I saved the Earth almost single-handedly from interstellar invasion.”

I could tell it was going to be a really good Thursday.