Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Right Turn at Albuquerque

After much ado, the anthology with my story, “From the Files of the E.F.P.D.” has finally found a publisher and a publishing date. Damnation Books, the same press that has taken over Realms of Fantasy Magazine, has set a date of December 1, 2011. Still not sure what the book is called, but when I find out, you will.

Also, did you notice how, soon after I posted my story “The Legacy of Charles Laurentian”, which features the CanadaArm, the shuttle launch of Endeavour was postponed? They claim technical difficulties, but I have it on good authority they just wanted to read the story first.

It’s true.


Friday, April 29, 2011

A Free Story – The Legacy of Charles Laurentian

Since NASA’s shuttles are all but parked for good, this story is kind of dated, but I liked it. I hope you like it, too.

The Legacy of Charles Laurentian

by Mike Rimar

copyright 2011

Charles Laurentian tried very hard to ignore the two RCMP officers floating helpless in what looked very much like lime-green gelatin. “Tu ne peut pas faire ca!” Telling an invading alien it can not do this seemed inadequate, especially after proving it can, but as Prime Minister of Canada, and by default the world's highest ranking representative of humanity present, he was sure protocol demanded he say something.

For its part, the alien appeared nonplussed, naked except for a single bandoleer draped from shoulder to waist revealing skin the color of a deep bruise and wrinkled like a prune. Five almond-shell eyes focused in five separate directions upon five thin reed-like stalks. Lips fully a meter across rippled like a sine wave revealing toothless gums covered in a coarse abrasive substance resembling granulated brown sugar. “I don’t speak French,” it said in a tinny falsetto.

“Tabernac,” cursed Laurentian, then pressed his lips together as he found himself staring into the alien's weapon, an upright vacuum cleaner dripping greenish mucous. Given recent budget cuts the arrival of more guards was unlikely, so he spread his arms wide and smiled. “Welcome to Canada,” he said in Francophone English. “How may I help you?”

"So, polite." The alien’s chuckle sounded like gravel churning in a cement mixer. “You are Charles Laurentian, Prime Minister of the sovereign nation known as Canada?”

The alien’s question seemed as innocuous as a telemarketers greeting, but given the fact they stood in the backyard of the PM's mansion on 24 Sussex Drive, Laurentian saw no reason to lie. “Oui, I am.”

Having no visible legs, the creature half waddled, half rocked forward like a giant water balloon as its free hand removed a thin black box from the bandoleer. A quintet of eyes looked imperiously down upon Laurentian as the lid flipped open. “The Intergalactic Department of Space Beautification fines you nine parlops for littering,” the creature read. “Please, sign here.”

Laurentian gaped until a curious gnat flew into his mouth and down his throat. “De quoi tu parles?” he sputtered, then remembering the alien’s lingual defect, repeated in English, “What the hell are you talking about? Who are you?”

“My name is unpronounceable to you, but in your primitive language translates to Bob.”

Laurentian smoothed back his graying hair. “Actually, Canada has two official languages. English and French.”

Five eyeballs rolled in unison toward the sky. “Very well, what is the French form of Bob?”

“Ah, well.” Bob was Bob in either language. Then, struck with sudden inspiration, he smiled. “Roh-bear.”

The alien’s eyelids closed from left to right sounding like fingernails drumming on a metal desktop. “Very well. Call me Bob.” He shoved the box under Laurentian's aquiline nose. “Your signature or mark, if you please. You will find a stylus attached to the side for your convenience.”

"Enough of this nonsense." Exasperated, Laurentian stepped back searching for directional microphones, a satellite dish, even light reflecting from a telephoto lens. This wasn't the first time Canada's leader was the butt of some hoax. “Whoever you are, the joke is over. Now, take off that damned costume.”

Bob’s eyeballs rotated on their stalks. “Mr. Laurentian--”

Undeterred, Laurentian pressed onward. “I’ll have your broadcast license revoked.”

“This is not--”

“And it is Mr. Prime Minister,” Laurentian continued. “You shall address me as Mr. Prime Minister.”

Bob held the vacuum jelly gun inches from Laurentian's face. “Very well, Mr. Prime Minister. This is not a prank. It is, in fact, a very serious matter. The galaxy takes a strong stand on littering. If you fail to comply, I might add, we will resort to stronger measures.”

“Such as?”

“They are varied.”

Laurentian arched an eyebrow. “Give me an example.”

“Please, I have many more planets to visit today. If you will just sign.”

“You don’t know, do you, Bob?” Laurentian smiled, victorious. “Your making the whole thing up, aren’t you?”

“Fine.” Bob’s gums ground together like millstones. “Censure in the galactic council.”

“Earth is not in any galactic council,” said Laurentian.

“Economic boycotts.”

“Potentially devastating, if earth had trade agreements with other planets, which we do not.” Laurentian rocked on his heels, enjoying himself now. “And, as leader of the second largest country in the world, I think I would know these things.”

“How about annihilation of all sentient life on this planet?”

Laurentian’s smile faltered. “Pardon moi?”

“How about annihilation of--”

“I heard what you said,” Laurentian interrupted. “I just can’t believe . . . to kill everyone on earth just because . . . oh, ridiculous. This has gone far enough. Where are the cameras? This is no longer funny, not that it ever was.”

“Down! Down!” Two fresh RCMP officers brandishing automatic rifles raced in from the front yard. “Everybody, down!”

Finally, Laurentian thought, then flinched as Bob's vacuum made two loud flatulent noises. The guards joined their companions completely encased in translucent snot.

“Mon Dieu,” gasped Laurentian. “You’ve killed them.”

“No,” said Bob. “The glue-ton is fully oxygenated. They can breathe, and may even eat their way to freedom, though it will take some time. Now, understand this. This is not a jest, however the audio-visual devices you are so obviously searching for do exist. For customer service and training purposes this conversation is being monitored by my ship orbiting this junk yard you call a planet. Considering the proliferation of litter floating around your atmosphere it’s a wonder the IDOSB hasn’t fined you earlier.”

“Let me understand this.” Laurentian pulled his gaze from the now four useless RCMP officers. “You’re fining Canada for the space junk orbiting Earth?”

“For a start.”

“A start?” Laurentian hadn't felt so out of depth since his Party's near bribery scandal almost made the front page of the parliamentary newsletter.

“Besides earth you have littered your moon,” said Bob. “And the red planet you call Mars, not to mention the space craft you have sent beyond your solar system.”

“Now, just a minute.” Laurentian waggled his finger at the alien. “You’ve made a mistake. First of all, most of what orbits Earth are satellites we use for communication and scientific observation of our planet.”

“I am aware what a satellite does,” said Bob, curtly. “But why so many? How many satellites do a people need to track a storm system, or transmit a message from one side of the world to the next?”

“Well,” said Laurentian. “We have more than one country on this planet, each with its own industries which again have their own specific needs.”

“You mean agendas,” said Bob. “In any case, the number of satellites you have in operation is not at issue. The Intergalactic Department of Space Beautification recognizes planetary rights to launch objects into sovereign space. What is at issue are the dead satellites, not to mention the probes.” He shook his ponderous head. “So many probes. In any case, the IDOSB does not care what you do to yourselves. Our concern is the general state of the galaxy.”

“Look.” Laurentian stepped away from the box grasped within Bob’s stubby, extraterrestrial fingers. “I see your point of view, and despite what you think, many of us are trying to make things right.”

Bob’s eyes swiveled in Laurentian’s direction. “Oh, really?”

“Yes, really,” Laurentian continued, emboldened by matching Bob’s sarcasm. “We have recycling programs and are cutting back on fossil fuels. Anyway, I believe you are misinformed. Canada doesn't send rockets into space. Our space agency acts mostly in a supportive role to other nations, say, like the United States. In fact, I have their president’s number on speed dial. It would be no trouble--”

"Do you think the Intergalactic Department of Space Beautification is stupid? Hmm?" Bob’s gums ground together and his lips puckered into a giant anus. “We have observed the many space flights of these United States. In most cases, as the craft orbited your earth, a large appendage poked from the ship's hold releasing the payload.”

“Ah, yes,” said Laurentian. “The Canadarm. We invented that. We’re extremely proud of . . . ah,--” Laurentian tried to swallow.

“Exactly.” Bob’s five eyes quivered on their stalks. “Your Canadarm. The very instrument of dispensing the trash. The smoking gun, as you humans like to say. So, as you can see, we are not misinformed.” Sarcasm, thick and syrup-sweet, returned to Bob’s tone.

Laurentian ran a hand through his hair. It felt thinner, as though he had been balding during the conversation. “But we’re not responsible for all of it.”

“Nevertheless, you must bear the brunt of guilt. If you are in contact with other world leaders perhaps they will assist you in payment, considering the circumstances.”

“Unlikely.” Laurentian snorted. “Mon Dieu, we’re only Canada. No one really listens to us.”

“Really? Are you not the leader of the second largest country on the planet?”

“In land mass only,” said Laurentian. “Half of which is uninhabitable rock and tundra. And the mosquitoes! Don’t get me started on those pests. Tabernac. No matter how we try--what we do--we’ll always be, ‘That country north of the United States.’ Do you know how frustrating that is?”

“Not really,” said Bob. “And I don’t care. The fine is still six parlops.”

"Fine." Defeated, Laurentian pressed the stylus against the strange symbols on the face of the black box. "What is a parlop anyway?"

"Given the present exchange rate of your planetary monetary base, a parlop is equal to a trillion ounces of what you call gold."

Paling, Laurentian snatched the stylus away. “Wh-what?"

"Approximately," amended Bob.

"And you want six parlops worth?" asked Laurentian.

"Sign now and the rate locks in. I don't have to tell you how wildly the Galactic Market fluctuates."

Laurentian tried to calculate just how much six trillion ounces of gold was, but his brain refused to function. "I don't think we have that much."

"Perhaps you could borrow some," offered Bob.

"Yeah, at ridiculous interest rates. We'll be bankrupt." Laurentian turned away unable to look the alien in its multiple eyes. What was he to do? Did he have the right to represent the world in their future? As a nation, Canada had always striven to be the quiet peace keeper, acting behind the scenes and below the radar. Her prestige, however, had wanned over the years, and Laurentian had hoped to bring his country much needed global respect. It was to have been his legacy, and if not for that near scandal that almost made the front page, he might have succeeded.

Dooming humanity to extinction was definitely not the kind of legacy he'd been hoping for, not that anyone would be around to remember.

Six trillion ounces. Like molasses, the number cloyed at his mind. He needed to do something. Find a way out. Some kind of loophole. Abruptly, he spun on his heel. “Bob, I want to see some documentation. I’m sure our attorneys can find a way out of this.”

“The finest minds in the galaxy have shaped the law into what it is today," said Bob. "Believe me when I say your petty judicial advocates will have little luck in seeking a legal means out of this. However, it is within your rights to request a copy. I shall have one downloaded to a computer of your choosing, though I must warn you, it is not written in your language.” His mouth curved into a scimitar. “English or French.”

Laurentian shook his head and shrugged. “How are we to follow the letter of the law if we don't know what law to follow?”

“The law is sound," said Bob. "You have my word as a bureaucrat.”

“And all the considerable weight that carries, I’m sure.” Laurentian didn't hide his disdain. “Look. The people of earth are very diverse, with differing ideologies. Quite frankly, most of us just don’t get along. If I were to tell their leaders a space alien stood in my backyard and demanded payment for our interstellar trash, why, they'll laugh in my face.”

“I will send them a record,” said Bob. "As I told you, this conversation is recorded for--"

“Training purposes, yes, I remember. Then this recording is legally binding?"

"There is precedent.”

Laurentian rocked on his heels, hands clasped behind his back. When he opened his first restaurant, he had to translate many French terms to his younger English speaking trainees, often to his amusement. Did he dare risk the fate of the world on misunderstanding? Did he have a choice? Looking down at the box, he was struck by its similarities to a courier's tablet, only with a wider screen and indecipherable text. “What method of payment do you wish.”

“Gold,” said Bob.

Laurentian smile amiably. “I mean do you want l’ingot, or bouillon?”

“I told you I don’t speak--”

“Oui, I know,” said Laurentian. “You don't speak French. However, many English words are French derivative coming from the middle ages when French nobility ruled England, and, well, simply put, anything of worth is measured in French. Now, bouillon is preferred, but I suppose that is too mundane for someone such as yourself.”

“Whatever method you wish, is fine," said Bob. "Gold is gold.”

“So,” said Laurentian, suddenly aware he had been holding his breath. Holding the stylus in twitching fingers, he looked directly into the sky and hoped Bob’s space ship had a clear shot of them. “You agree to a payment of bouillon equal to the amount of 6 parlops, at a trillion ounces per parlop?”

“Yes, yes.” Bob swayed on his legless torso like an extra-terrestrial punching dummy. "Please hurry, I have other planets to visit today."

“Done.” Laurentian scrawled his signature. “How long do we have to pay? I mean, we just don’t have that much bouillon lying around. I think ten years should--”

“I can give you five of your earth years." Bob checked the signature. "For me, the end of the business day. Time dilation and inter-dimensional travel, I’m sure you understand,” he said, his tone clear he didn't expect Laurentian to understand at all.

“My hands are tied,” said Laurentian. “You are a shrewd negotiator.”

“I’m just a bureaucrat, like yourself. " Replacing the box to his bandoleer, Bob touched a button elsewhere on the belt. "Have a nice day." Air snapped softly to replace the void of his disappeared body.

Satisfied the alien was truly gone, Laurentian hurried to the mansion and unwound a long garden hose from its cradle and sprayed down his hapless guards, relieved at how easily the green gloop washed away. With his free hand he removed his cell phone from his pant pocket and dialed his deputy Prime Minister.

“Myron,” he said into the mouthpiece. “Call together the Cabinet for an emergency meeting. In Camera. Why?” Laurentian looked up at the clear blue sky over Ottawa. “On va changer le monde,” he said. “We’re going to shake up the world, my friend. An apt legacy, don't you think? Oh, and call every soup and food processor in the country. We’re going to need bouillon. That's right, soup cubes, and lots of it."

The End

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ad Astra 2011 Con Report

I'd have to say this was the best con I've been to yet, the first one where I was genuinely melancholy it was over for another year.


I arrived and met up with my Stopwatch Gang colleagues, then wandered over to the opening ceremonies, which I've never done before, and was surprised to see Lieutenant Governor David Onley talking at the podium. Onley is well-known in the Toronto area as a television journalist for CITY TV broadcaster before taking the post as the Queen’s representative to the province of Ontario. And he’d written a book called Shuttle: A Shattering Novel of Disaster in Space, which I didn't know.


After that, I killed time by going to the con suite--I would just like to thank the Ad Astra staff for their courtesy and general cheerfulness--and hanging out with friends until 10 pm and the Stopwatch Gang reading. My first reading, ever.

Despite the late hour, we had about 8 people in the audience who were not friends or family, (though we suspect many had come to see Suzanne Church who seems to have a cult following for readings). Either way, we considered the panel a success.

An hour of self-congratulatory backslapping and I went home.


Quick breakfast in the con suite and headed to some panels. The Chilling Tales Anthology Panel was interesting and I learned Edge Publishing is bringing out more anthologies in the future, which is good for everyone.




Editing Anthologies Panels was also interesting just in case I get all full of myself and try to put one together do some reason.

Briefly attended the Chilling Tales book launch, then went to the Speculative Fiction and Comedy, which I was supposed to be a part of, but because of scheduling mix-ups on my part, I had to be bumped. Lucky me. It ended up being a bit high-brow for my tastes, going into in-depth analysis of humor. Interesting, but not funny.


Next three hours I wandered the dealer's room and art room, had dinner with the Stopwatch Gang and visited Julie Czerneda's Pizza Party to thank her in person for including me in Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales.

I attended a panel on SF's Shelf Life, and then came the BIG EVENT. The Writer's Group Behind the Scenes Panel, a live critiquing of a story. Special thanks to Suzanne Church for painting the target on her back.

We had some 18 people there, then added friends and family. Bluntly, standing room only. A great success.

From their we adjourned to the con suite and more well-deserved backslapping. In fact, a member of the SFCon, the new convention held in the fall, asked that we recreate the panel for their convention. Or at least, that’s they way I heard it. Very cool.


Amazingly, I went home earlier than I had intended, and woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed for Sunday.


Went to the Ben Bova GOH PANEL. I'm really beginning to like these panels. Guys like Bova are living history of the genre, and his antidotes were both fascinating and funny. I even got a hook for one of my stories I was having problems with.


A little gang support for Costi Gurgu and his European Science Fiction was not necessary. He had a full house, although the moderator could have taken more control. Just saying.


The Publishing Your First Novel, was nothing new, but only because I've attended a lot of these panels.

The Giving it Away for Free Panel was a different view of, not just the giving away content on the internet, but promotional giveaways in general, and pirating. The general consensus was, it isn’t as bad as alarmists make it out to be.


From there it was the Best Time/Worst Time To Be a Writer. I really liked this panel, and marked a milestone as it was the very first time I had ever asked a question.


Then, finally, after much ado, my own panel, Face to Face Critique Groups, which went well.

And that was it. The day was done, the dealers were packing, guests checking out, so I left.

Again, I thought it was a great con, great experience, and I thank the Ad Astra Con-committee for inviting me.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

We Who Steal Faces

Fellow SWG member’s story, Tony Pi’s story, “We Who Steal Faces,” is now out. You can read it here: