K. Ceres Wright

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The MICE Quotient

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Aug 1, 2019

Speculative fiction writer, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), has also written how-to books on writing, including Characters and Viewpoint, and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In the latter book, Card outlines four elements that make up story structure: Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event (MICE). A story will typically contain all four elements, but one will predominate, depending on the type of story the author wants to tell. Each element is described below:

Milieu

The milieu is the world in which a story takes place. Authors who love to world-build may choose this element to show off their skills. This type of story typically begins when the main character enters a new world, and ends when they leave (or the world leaves). The other elements should not stand out in any way to detract from the milieu. For example, the characters should be typical of their worlds, and events should either not overshadow the landscape, or should incorporate it into events, such as when Frodo and Sam have to slog through swamps and climb mountains to reach Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. Or when Paul Atreides has to learn to cope with the harsh environment on the planet, Dune, in order to find his true self. In Arthur C. Clark’s Rendezvous with Rama, an alien ship enters our solar system, and a ship is sent to investigate. The story is about how the crew members explore the ship and what they find, and ends when the ship is flung into outer space.

Idea

In this story type, the main characters discover pieces of information to solve a puzzle or answer a question. The story is bookended by a question at the start, and the answer at the end. Mysteries are typical idea stories, for the question of who killed someone begins the tale, and the detective has to gather clues to find the killer in the end. In P. Djèlí Clark’s A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, weaves her way through the city’s underside to put together the pieces that will solve the riddle of who killed a supposedly immortal djinn. In Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs has to find out why a rich man was found murdered hours after his last personality backup. And Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, begins with a monolith discovered by apes that lets out a strong radio signal. Why? We learn by the end that it was activated to inform the creator race that proto-humans were ready to move onto the next level in evolution.

Character

Character stories are about growth. What does the main character know, or can do, at the end that she or he could not at the beginning? In this type of story, the writer needs to fully flesh out the main characters and start near the point where the character decides she is unhappy with her life’s status and will work to change it. In Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Doro is the main antagonist, who can extend his life by simultaneously killing and possessing another person. He diligently conducts his pet project of breeding humans, all while eliminating those who refuse to kowtow to him—until he meets Anyanwu. She is an immortal healer and uses her powers to help others in her community. Doro latches onto her and tries to control her, incorporating her into his breeding project. She acquiesces for a time, but then threatens to commit suicide to stop Doro from creating new species. He agrees to compromise and they agree to work together on equal terms. In my book, Cog, the main character, Nicholle, grows from a once-failed intern at her family’s company to its savior.

Event

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force,” Obi-Wan once said. This discovery of an imbalance is the crux of an event story. In Star Wars, it was the Death Star coming online and fulfilling its purpose of blowing up planets. In Lord of the Rings, it was the revelation that Sauron was alive—in one form or another. In Blade Runner, it was the escape of four Nexus 6 replicants, who had come to Earth. Before the big reveal, however, the stories centered on the main characters in their world, which drew in the readers and viewers and made them care about the characters. Only then did the true adventure start. The story then ends when balance is restored, with either a new structure to the world, or a revival of the old structure.

Whichever type of story you decide to write, be sure to begin and end with the same type. Readers will be disappointed if they begin reading a science fiction story that promises to be about the discovery of a new world in an alternate universe, and then ends with the main character deciding to leave the adventure and go off to marry and settle down. They’ll be left with questions: What happened in the alt uni? Were there any new life forms? Be sure to satisfy your readers, and they’ll keep coming back.

Balticon 53

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May 23, 2019

I’ll be appearing on a few panels, conducting an interview, and helping to host a meet-and-greet for the writers support group, Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction at Balticon 53. Here’s my schedule:

Black Femininity in Afrofuturism: Saturday, May 25, 11:00 a.m.

African American women have been early adopters of national and international initiatives, such as abolitionism, civil rights, women’s rights, space travel, and hip hop—from Maria W. Stewart’s anti-slavery and women’s rights speeches in the 1830s, to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement in the 2000s. This panel will discuss the contributions of Black women to the progression of the underpinnings of Afrofuturism.

Representation vs. Tokenism: Saturday, May 25, Noon

There is a long tradition of including diversity for diversity’s sake without making it part of the story. What is the difference between shallow and real inclusion? Does it have to be integral to feel like it’s not tokenism? How does this play out in the far future, in the past, or in original worlds?

Cyberpunk Remastered: Saturday, May 25, 2:00 p.m.

With Netflix’s adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Pat Cadigan’s adaptation of the manga-turned-Hollywood-movie Alita: Battle Angel, cyberpunk is alive and well after having first been declared dead in the 90s. Elements of cyberpunk have been subsumed into pop culture and can be found everywhere now—movies, music videos, video games, and more. How have the older tropes evolved in the last few years and how do we expect to see them incorporated in future works?

Muse on This Podcast with Sue Baiman: Saturday, May 25, 4:00 p.m.

Muse On This is a podcast focusing on interviews with creative people, and their inspirations and thought processes. Sue Baiman asks the questions to find out what makes the creativity flow. Featuring author K. Ceres Wright.

Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction Meet-and-Greet, Saturday, May 25, 5:00 p.m.

Come out and meet the members of Diverse Writers And Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF). Food, fun, and giveaways! There will also be a free screening of the award-winning short film, Rumination. The writer/director will be on hand to answer questions.

Story Excerpt: Leaving Seadover

by , on
May 23, 2019

London–Paris Archipelago

December 10, 2065

Rayne Lyncott strolled down the walkway overpass that ran the length of the London–Paris Archipelago, just outside of Seadover. A few joggers shared the overpass, who, upon spying the police badge hanging from her waist, moved to the other side and gave her ample leeway. Rayne was waiting on the forensics team to record a crime scene and render the hologram, but given the circumstances surrounding the deceased, she had expected it to take longer than usual.

A cold breeze swept off the English Channel, blowing her dreadlocks into her eyes and carrying the saltwater mist that tended to settle into everything it touched. The air smelled of brine and weighty anticipation. She tapped her sleeve to turn up the temperature on her long johns and called up the time. It blinked 9:35 in her periphery, overlaying the view of a construction crane in the distance.

Newly formed and renovated towns served as islands between the LPA anchor cities. Five Ashes, south of London, was a hotbed for crypto merchants, both legal and illegal. Sigy-en-Bray, northwest of Paris, served as a virtual playground for the tech-heads and databorgs yearning for erotic historical adventures, such as a romp in the hay with Marie Antoinette, or a private session with the Marquis de Sade. Seadover, however, was a different matter. It was a high-rent district catering to the well-heeled who wanted a waterfront view and freshly cloned seafood. The small town stood on the British side of the bridge between Bexhill-on-Sea in England and Dieppe in France, and served as an experimental high-tech answer to climate change and rising seas——an aquaculture community. Its homes and small business district were built on floating platforms with sheathed pilings that allowed it to glide up and down in response to water levels. On a stormy day, the entire town would bob up and down slightly from the choppy waters. It was said that living there made one acquire Seadover legs. And every time Rayne heard that joke, she groaned in her soul.

Rayne’s holocaster chimed and she tapped her temple to answer. A transparent image of her boss, Detective Superintendent Kay Winslow, appeared before her. Winslow was seated behind her desk in an office littered with boxes of paper files she hadn’t yet digitized, sipping on a mug of something. Rayne guessed it was a hot toddy, compliments of the whiskey bottle she kept in her desk. Her alcoholism was an open secret; silence was rewarded with a Christmas bonus.

“Superintendent,” Rayne said.

“How’s it going so far?”

“I finished the initial walk-through. Detective Sergeant Jones was already here as responding officer. He had called Bexhill and by the time I arrived, he had sent in the drone and was securing the area.” In fact, Jones’ voice had sounded strained on the caster when he called Bexhill, as if he’d been rattled by what he saw, and Rayne had wondered what could cause a regular purveyor of crime scenes to have such a reaction.

“What’s the status?”

“I’m waiting on forensics. Someone cut off the deceased’s leg. A right bloody mess,” Rayne said.

The superintendent frowned, which was a bad sign. It meant extra work. “It’s Seadover, so we need this solved. And quick. Let’s just say if you pull this off, it’ll go a long way toward your promotion to Chief.”

“Of course…Ma’am. Sorry, I have to go. Forensics.”

Rayne swiped left and rang off. Winslow was a third-generation legacy officer. Hence, someone to be obeyed, but also someone who didn’t know hard work from a bite in the ass. Rayne had begun to wonder if it was all worth it.

She paused to lean over the rail and watch the lights of Calais. Undulating peaks of the Strait caught the gleam of the evenly spaced street lights that lined the bridge. Neon-trimmed buildings loomed, stacked like a toddler’s blocks against the cityscape backdrop. She wondered how many people were being murdered there, among the twinkling lights, that night.

The sight stirred memories of the Orisha stories her grandmother used to tell her of Yemoja——the Yoruban goddess of rivers and streams——and how she protected the oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water. Rayne thought Yemoja would be deeply disappointed in humanity’s stewardship of the planet’s waterways and wondered why she hadn’t already withdrawn the seas into the Earth’s crust until the land’s ungrateful inhabitants died of drought. She was already absorbing the extra heat from climate change, sparing the land dwellers from the worst of it. But perhaps she was lurking, just underneath the surface, hatching a plan for retribution.

“Wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Rayne whispered.

Rayne had just wrapped up a murder investigation in Bexhill that involved a crypto billionaire and a disinherited son, who had taken offense to his new stepmother and her lavish lifestyle. The father was discovered dead in a crashed yacht. Turned out being rich was a risk factor for early death.

“Surprise, surprise,” she muttered to herself. Rayne slid a hand inside her leather jacket and pulled out an eCig. Tapped it on the handrail and the orange ring lit up, brightening to max within seconds. Took a pull. The taste and smell of black coffee filled her mouth and nose, ferrying caffeine to her central nervous system. It was a Thursday, and she hadn’t slept since the early hours of Tuesday. She still had to return to the office and finish writing the report. But it would have to wait until she could get some sleep. She was beginning to hear voices and see shadows where there were none.

 “Inspector? Forensics is wrapping up the crime scene. It should be available on your node.”

Rayne turned toward the voice. It belonged to Detective Constable Phillip Davies, a fresh-faced 23 year-old who had just transferred from Horsham. “Thank you, constable,” Rayne said. She tapped the eCig and the orange light dimmed.

“You’re welcome, sir…uh, I mean ma’am.” Davies’ face flushed red.

“Sir, ma’am, I don’t care which one you use. Long as shit gets done. Just pick one and stick with it.”

“Y-yes, sir.” He stood still, eyes cast downward, flicking back and forth, as if looking on the ground for another reply.

“Relax, Davies.” Rayne sighed. “Tell me, why’d you join the force?”

He paused for a long while. Rayne noted his fists balling up at his sides. “I wanted to help people,” he said.

“Help people. Why do you want to help people?”

“Everyone needs help,” he said, his voice low, eyes still trained on the ground. “Sometimes.”

“Did your mother need help?” she said.

He looked up sharply at her, eyes wide, inquiring.

“I’ve been an officer for 10 years, five as a detective. I know the signs, either you or someone close to you,” she said. “Your dad beat your mom?”

Davies looked away, but said nothing.

“Where’s he now?”

“Vet home for the disabled.”

“PTSD?”

“That’s what they said.”

“And your ma?”

“Home. Pissed. As usual.”

Rayne nodded; Davies’ eyes glistened. She began walking toward the apartment block and reached out to squeeze his arm.

From Classical to Quantum. Computing, That Is.

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May 23, 2019


In 1900, German physicist Max Planck was calculating how the radiation an object emitted was related to its temperature. He came up with a formula that aligned closely with experimental data he was working on. However, the formula only seemed to work if he assumed that the energy of a vibrating molecule was quantized—that is, it could only take on certain values. Using this data, he came up with a formula called Planck’s constant. Other scientists, such as Einstein, Bohr, and Schrodinger, expanded on Planck’s findings and helped develop the field of quantum mechanics.

And taking quantum mechanics one step further segues to quantum computing. But what is quantum computing? Read on below.

What is quantum computing?

Classical computers (PCs, Macs) use bits to store information, either a 1 or a 0. A quantum computer uses quantum bits, often called qubits. They exist in the quantum, or subatomic, realm. Their behavior in this environment allows them to exist in more than one state at the same time, which allows computers to store much more information using a lot less energy.

Quantum computinguses superposition (where any two or more quantum states are added together, resulting in another quantum state) and entanglement (when pairs or groups of particles are linked together no matter how far apart they are). 

What can quantum computers do?

One can use quantum computers to look through large amounts of data to find one particular thing, such as one number in a database of 1 million phone numbers. With a classical computer, that would take 1 million steps of looking at each number. But a quantum computer can do the same task in 1,000 steps. A classical computer encodes information into either a 0 or a 1, so a sequence of 30 0s and 1s has about 1 billion possible values. However, a quantum computer can be in a quantum combination of many states, not just either 0 or 1, which is called superposition. This principle allows a quantum computer to perform one billion or more copies of a computation at the same time.

“While the classical computer is very good at calculus, the quantum computer is even better at sorting, finding prime numbers, simulating molecules, and optimization, and thus could open the door to a new computing era,” a recent Morgan Stanley report noted.

Quantum computers can also create communications that cannot be hacked. “In theory, quantum communication can provide an information transmission mode that cannot be cracked or intercepted,” said Pan Jianwei, a quantum physicist. “So it will play a significant role in national defense, government affairs, and financial matters, as well as bank transfers and personal privacy,” he said.

What are some real-world discoveries?

In August 2017, a team of physicists reported that it sent entangled quantum particles from a satellite, known as Micius, to ground stations that were 1,200 kilometers away. Entangling quantum particles this far apart broke the previous world record, and is a stepping stone to developing unhackable communication networks and, eventually, a space-based quantum internet.

These communications would be unhackable because, due to the principles of quantum mechanics, any attempt by third parties to observe the transmissions will cause the entangled state of the quantum particles to collapse, making it impossible to eavesdrop on the message. A working prototype would have huge implications for cryptography.

In September 2017, China opened a 2,000-km quantum communications line between Beijing and Shanghai. The line is connected to the Micius quantum satellite. Scientists will test the line and troubleshoot it to prevent jams when increasing numbers of people begin to use the line.

What are some companies in the quantum computing industry?

Companies are joining forces to work on developing a quantum computer, and Morgan Stanley projects that the market for quantum computing will be around $5–10 billion a year in the next 10 years, growing at 24.6 percent from 2018 to 2024.

IBM partnered with JPMorgan Chase to apply quantum computing to different aspects of the financial industry such as trading strategies, portfolio optimization, asset pricing, and risk analysis. Samsung is also working with IBM to study use cases on the semiconductor and electronics industry.

Google is getting in on the act, as well. It partnered with NASA and the Universities Space Research Association to set up the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab project. The project seeks to use quantum computing to improve NASA’s ability to solve mission-related problems.

Not to be left behind, Microsoft recently announced the launch of the Microsoft Quantum Network—a global community of individuals and organizations working together to advance quantum computing.

As we can see, quantum computing is already a large industry and will only increase over time as more companies enter the arena and find more applications. As the National Review stated: “Let’s make no mistake: The race for a quantum computer is the new arms race.”

Favorite SF Romance Scenes

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May 23, 2019

Kissing Scene in Strange Days (Spoilers)

Mace had fallen in love with a cop who had the heart to make sure her kid was okay in a tragedy and, I’m assuming, to check in on them later. He was obsessed with a girl who had ambitions beyond him, and reinforced that obsession with memory playbacks. I viewed Lenny as a rebel soul who never should have become a cop—but maybe he saw that as a way to help others—and got sucked down in the mire he had to face everyday. Only once Mace drew the line at publicizing the disc did he remember he had a moral center—or trusted hers. And the revelation after the fight in Faith’s room sealed the deal and he was able to appreciate the woman who had been there all along. And he pulled her in for a kiss under the falling confetti of a 2000 New Year’s Eve.

Kissing Scene in Hellboy (Spoilers)

After Rasputin convinced Hellboy to open the portal to hell, Hellboy’s horns grew and a crown of fire hovered above his head.  He had come into his power. But Liz lay dead, after Rasputin swallowed her soul. So after laying waste to Rasputin and his minions, Hellboy went to Liz’s side and after whispering to her, she awoke. She said she heard his voice in the dark and asked what he had said. He told her he said, “Hey, you on the other side, let her go, because for her, I’ll cross over, and then you’ll be sorry.” They kiss, and Liz lights up in her mutant power blue flame, but Hellboy is not burned because, well…he’s the Prince of the Underworld.

Favorite Scenes

Speech: A Tribute to Rayne Lyncott

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May 23, 2019

Here’s another speech I wrote for Toastmasters based on a character, Rayne Lyncott, in my story, Leaving Seadover. Read below:

Rayne Lyncott joined the Police Department in 2050 and I’m sure you have all heard the stories of when she cracked the cases of the capsized yacht, the amputated leg, and the scorned priest. 

I first met her in 2065, when she took pity on a lowly Detective Constable and allowed me to shadow her on the amputated leg investigation. When I first saw the body lying on the kitchen island, my dinner almost made a return trip. I was going through a hard time back then, but Superintendent Lyncott took note and showed me the ropes. I got to help interrogate witnesses, read the CSI node, and even pick an old-fashioned lock. It got my mind off my troubles. She possessed a wealth of knowledge…which criminals frequented which pubs, which cabbies gave the best information, and, based on the day’s news, who was going to commit which crime that night. I remember once we showed up at a warehouse one evening and staked it out. You see, earlier that day, we were investigating the death of a man who was rumored to be skilled in the art of the short con. Name of Russell McCrary. A search of his flat turned up camouflage Army uniforms, a single working mobile rail gun, and a trunk full of fake rail guns. A deal was obviously going down with someone who wanted to buy military weaponry. But there was no evidence as to who, when, or where. But knowing McCrary’s past MO, the Superintendent knew that he never obtained the props without setting up the entire con first. She suspected the deal was going down that night. After she scoured incoming flights from Zimbabwe, she found that a member of their army, Jabulani Chiwenga, was landing at Heathrow that afternoon and leaving the next morning. So we took up position in, say, somewhere outside our jurisdiction, at a place McCrary used before. Needless to say, by night’s end, after two pints apiece and three bags of crisps, the Calais police in France were in custody of an anti-Chinese rebel after a tip from a couple of inebriated citizens doing their “civic duty.”

In the case of the capsized yacht, a rich man, Alistair Crowe, had one son, Kevin, and had recently remarried after his first wife caught him cheating and left him. Cut to the new wife playing fast and loose with Kevin’s inheritance, getting weekly manicures, buying new yachts, and jetting all over the world. Then, one day, the father disappears, along with one of his new boats, The Bounty. Security cameras from the dock picked up the father and a blonde in a flowered dress heading for The Bounty. Everyone assumed they were lost at sea, but about a week later, The Bounty rolled up on a beach in Morocco. Superintendent Lyncott researched the ocean currents, interviewed experts, and determined the only way the boat would have been picked up by the current was at a point far distant to where boats of that size would normally sail. After interviewing the household staff, an underpaid butler let it be known that Crowe never sailed without a full ship’s complement of crew. Also, there were several bottles of expensive wine missing from the wine cellar. Bottles that the son had had his eye on for years. After tracking the wife’s whereabouts, the Superintendent found that a mysterious car had rammed into the wife’s on a side road from the video of a house doorbell. She traced the license back to a rental in the father’s name, but video at the rental facility showed Kevin. Turned out he had kidnapped his stepmother, killed her, and dumped her body in a vat of concrete at a building site. Then he drugged his father, put on a flowered dress and blonde wig, and pretended his father was drunk as they headed toward the boat at the docks. He drove the boat out to sea, then jumped ship and swam to a companion remote-controlled boat and headed toward a private harbor. The Bounty sailed on, toward the ocean, until it got caught in a storm and washed up in Morocco.

In the case of the scorned priest, a bishop was suspected of having embezzled 10 million dollars from his diocese, and also having an affair with a nun. The nun had been squirreling away the money the bishop had given her and they both had planned to leave the clergy on the same day and run away together. But the nun was also seeing a young real estate investor, and quit the clergy the day before she’d planned. Instead she ran off with the real estate guy and the bishop’s ill-gotten gains to Florida in the US. Well, the bishop stayed in the clergy, but hired an investigator to track down the nun and her lover. When he’d found them, he shot them and dumped their bodies in the swamp, where alligators promptly ate them. Superintendent Lyncott worked with computer forensics to hack the bishop’s phone and a cryptologist from MI5 to decode the messages the investigator had sent, and bang, Bob’s your uncle. Case closed.

Superintendent Lyncott even helped get my mother into rehab, which allowed her to live longer than she would have if she had remained an alcoholic. For that, I’ll always be grateful to Superintendent Lyncott.

It is stories like these, ladies and gentleman, and countless others that epitomize the tenacity, perseverance, and old-fashioned detective work that Superintendent Lyncott has done to further the aims of the Bexhill Police Department.

We at BPD are indeed fortunate to have had the privilege of sharing the Superintendent’s expertise, work ethic, and commitment. As you may recall, she achieved countless goals and accolades – too many to mention now, but allow me to share one such example with you. She received a call one day from the Palace, informing her she was to be honored as a Dame Grand Cross for her years of service. Being a republican, and having Irish heritage, she promptly said, “If I don’t get a castle in Ireland and a salary of two pints a day, you can keep yer cross.”

Superintendent Lyncott, you have left a remarkable legacy behind and one that will remain with us for years to come. You are leaving Bexhill a better place than when you found it, and that in itself, will remain a lasting tribute to your professionalism. 

We will miss you our colleague, a consummate professional, a confidante, a friend, a wise counselor, a shoulder to lean on, a visionary, a leader, and indeed a lady of note.

Remember us fondly and may the years that lie ahead be filled with laughter, happiness, and even more dreams achieved. This is our wish for you as we say “so long,” but not farewell.

Speech: Dr. Gaius Award Acceptance

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May 23, 2019

Being an introvert, I found it difficult to speak in public. To help remedy this, I joined Toastmasters. It has helped tremendously. Also, I get to use my characters as subjects of some of my speeches. For the Specialty Occasion category, I wrote an acceptance speech for an award that one of my characters, Dr. Roman Gaius, gives. Read it below:

Ladies and gentlemen, the students and faculty of the Smith School are here tonight to celebrate Dr. Roman Gaius for a lifetime of service.

Dr. Gaius has been helping the community since he first opened his psychiatric practice by treating children with challenges such as autism, OCD, and ADHD. One boy in particular, Kelvin, had an anger management issue, as well as attention deficit disorder. He also had telekinesis and had pinned a teacher to the wall during a heated disagreement. Dr. Gaius showed up to the classroom and talked the boy down until he let the teacher go. He then testified on behalf of that boy in court to get the charges reduced, and then visited him in lockup every week. Upon his release, Dr. Gaius treated him until he finally learned to cope with his anger issues and he eventually became a psychiatrist himself. Ladies and gentlemen, that boy is me.

My friend, Dylan, once told me he got into a fight with another kid and picked him up to throw him down a flight of stairs. But just when he was holding the other boy over his head, Dr. Gaius’ words popped into his mind—“I’m not visiting you in jail.” Dylan said he put the boy down nice as you please, because he didn’t want to disappoint Dr. Gaius.

Dr. Gaius is passionate and compassionate, determined and soft-hearted. He has boundless perseverance, is quick to laugh and, as all of us here know, is completely obsessed with butter pecan ice cream and football.

Since he first opened the Smith School 25 years ago, Dr. Gaius has helped countless children learn to manage their challenges, strengthen their abilities, and mature into capable adults. He has ushered them from the world of school into the world of work, and taught them to navigate the myriad complex relationships they would find themselves in along the way. He has been more than a dean. He’s been a mentor, a friend, and a role model…even though he’s a Steelers fan.

It is with great pleasure that we at the Smith School bestow the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Roman Gaius!

Story Excerpt: A Tryst That Cuts Both Ways

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May 23, 2019

by K. Ceres Wright

Kalinda ran her fingers down the frayed cover of the Wayfarer prayer book. The black leather was dry and cracked, curling tan at the edges. The book contained just eight pages, the rest having been lost long ago to the ravages of time, war, and relocation. She could only read a few paragraphs. The Wayfare language hadn’t thrived among the descendants of the One Million after settlement on distant planets, and she had forgotten most of what she had been taught as a child. She opened to the first page and read.

“Father of the heavens, stars, and galaxies, watch over our journey and deliver us to solid ground. Let our daily bread be sufficient, our fuel abundant, and water overflowing. Guide us by Thy hand among the beacons of the eternal night, until Your light leads us to our future.”

Her reading was interrupted by Mobé, her butler, whose voice sounded overhead, through the speakers.

“Oba Jakande, your cousin, Mr. Okeke, is on the line.”

“Thank you, Mobé. Please put him through.”

After a moment, Kalinda said, “Zuberi, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Cut the shit, Kal. I heard you’ve been making a deal with the Kur Dak behind my back. Is that true? I thought we signed a truce.”

“The terms of our agreement are, and I quote, ‘Neither party will engage in business transactions or mergers that infringe upon the core business of the other party.’ But this deal doesn’t have to do with investment banking, stocks, or commodities. It’s for a …different type of product,” Kalinda said.

“Oh, yeah? What is it? Weapons? Winter wheat? Woolly mammoths?”

“How’d you guess?” she said drily.

“I swear, if you’ve violated our agreement, I’ll file suit, and once your new client gets wind of that news, I wonder how long they’ll stick around.”

“Your desperation is showing, cousin. And I must say, it’s quite unbecoming,” Kalinda said.

“Damnit, Kal, is it true or not?”

She paused, considering what to tell him. “Remember, oh, about six months ago, you lent money to the Global Bank of The Tennance and wouldn’t tell me what it was for?”

An audible sigh sounded overhead. “Fine. It was for repairs to the Nyekundu Gate.”

“Ah…don’t tell me…the Perimeter Worlds want to keep it hush-hush that they’re being attacked by the Green Federation.”

“Bad for business,” Zuberi said. “They officially said the gate was down for maintenance. But there are rumors to the contrary, which I’m actively trying to suppress. So…what’s your story?”

“The Kur Dak want to dip their toe into Cassad investments, but are ignorant of the ways of humans. I’m just a teacher of human customs…and investment strategy.”

Zuberi let out a long, low whistle. “Mbutu said they were getting money from somewhere and were looking for somewhere to put it. I was wondering when they’d come sniffing around. I don’t know about you, Kal, but I’m starting to think these events are not unrelated. Kur Dak new-found money, gate sabotage by the Federation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brythons were behind it.”

“You always suspect the Brythons. Of everything. It’s getting tiresome.”

“There’ve been rumors, Kent and his father, Percival, are up to something more than usual Brython ambition. I think it has to do with what we’re talking about, especially the attacks on the gates.”

Kalinda paused. She didn’t pay much attention to gate shutdowns since she rarely traveled to other planets. Most of them were backwater wilderness on which families had carved out some small oasis of civilization. And the Clusters were noisy with the constant din of construction.

“For once in your life, you may have a valid opinion,” she said.

New and Recent Movie Clips

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May 23, 2019

Men in Black 4

Chris Hemworth and Tess Thompson reunite in Men in Black 4 to battle invading aliens! We’ve already seen Chris’ hilarious comedic side in Ghostbusters, and his role in the upcoming Men in Black 4 promises to take it to the next level. Tessa Thompson comes along for the ride as a new recruit and quickly learns the tricks of the trade. Check out this trailer and decide if you want to be in a theater to watch it on June 14, 2019.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

The only reason I know anything about Pokémon is that I have kids…who are now grown. (My favorites are Gyarados, Snorelax, and Jiggly Puff. Pokémon that is. I only have two kids). But I know there are some parents out there with young children—and people who are young at heart—who will want to see this latest Pokémon installment. It’s live action, which will be a switch up from the classic animé. Check out the trailer.

Spiderman: Far From Home

Peter Parker just wants a crime fighter–free vacation in Europe. But that all changes when Nick Fury shows up in his hotel room to recruit him to fight the evil Mysterio. Here’s the trailer for the latest Spiderman installment:

Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race

In the original Iron Sky, Nazis had established a moon base after their defeat in WW2 to build a fleet of spaceships to conquer the Earth in 2018. In Iron Sky 2, the Earth in uninhabitable after a nuclear war and a ragtag group of survivors take over the Nazi moon base to regroup. They discover there is an underground city on Earth that may have other survivors, but when they travel to investigate, they find something unexpected. View the trailer and join the adventure:

Dark Phoenix

The latest installment of the X-Men franchise involves the team trying to contain the growing power of Jean Grey. A young Professor X and Magneto join forces to defeat her, but things go awry… Check out the trailer:

Avengers: End Game

The Avenger survivors of Thanos’ snap that wiped out half the planet gather to plan a way to reverse the snap’s effects. Those left include Black Widow, War Machine, Nebula, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye. And a returning Avenger, Captain Marvel, joins the fight. Watch the trailer:

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

It’s an old-time family reunion in Godzilla: King of the Monsters! Members of the secret organization, Monarch, try to handle four super-sized monsters—Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah—that rise from the Earth to show humanity who’s really the boss. Check it out:  

Shazam

A boy, Billy Batson, befriends someone with a disability and fights his bullies. Billy then gets chosen by an ancient wizard to receive his powers by saying, “Shazam!” Upon saying the magic word, Billy gets transformed into an adult with super powers. Watch the trailer:

List of SFF Cons for 2019

by , on
May 23, 2019
Con Name and Link Dates
BaltiCon https://www.balticon.org/wp53/ May 24–27
WisCon http://wiscon.net/ May 24–27
BlerdCon https://blerdcon.com/ July 12–14
ReaderCon http://www.readercon.org/ July 11–14
San Diego ComicCon https://www.comic-con.org/ July 18–21
Confluence https://parsec-sff.org/confluence/ July 26–28
GenCon https://www.gencon.com/ August 1–4
WorldCon http://www.worldcon.org/ August 15–19
DragonCon http://www.dragoncon.org/ August 29–Sept 2
Black Readers and Writers Rock http://www.blackauthorsandreadersrock.com/ October 4–5
New York ComicCon http://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/ October 3–6
Baltimore ComicCon http://baltimorecomiccon.com/ October 18–20
Capclave http://www.capclave.org/capclave/capclave19/ October 18–20
MultiverseCon https://www.multiversecon.org/ October 18–20
Baltimore Book Festival http://www.promotionandarts.org/events-festivals/baltimore-book-festival November 1–10
World Fantasy Con https://wfc2019.org/ October 31– November 2
New York Book Festival http://newyorkbookfest.brinkster.net/portal/ Not Posted