Little Ita Whams Solomon Islands, then Australia

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As cyclones (southern hemisphere hurricanes) go Ita packed strong winds into a tiny package.  Cyclone Ita drowned the Solomon Islanders, then zeroed in on Cooktown in Queensland and blew trees and roofs around before heading south for the city of Cairns. Haiyan (super-powerful) recently smashed the Philippines, Sandy (super-sized) inundated New Jersey and New York last year and the Gulf Coast including New Orleans hasn’t recovered from Katrina yet. Some data says we’re getting stronger storms because of climate change while other data implies that there is too much natural variation to confirm one way or another. Weather Underground has a great discussion on the question.

In Neighbors, the fourth of my Elise t’Hoot science fiction books, I had the north Atlantic coast of South America hit by two Ita-sized hurricanes in a row, destroying all the families there possessed. They became refugees and were exiled along with lots of other ‘excess’ people. It may be hard for scientists to state for sure that any given hurricane or cyclone or typhoon is more vicious because of climate change, but when the sea level rises a few feet, these storms and their flooding storm surges will certainly get closer to more people. With the jet stream going loopy, these storms may romp outside their typical tracks. For example, three strong wintertime storms just pummeled England only a day or two apart, revealing World War 2 ordinance and 10,000 year old forest remains.

A Planet of Our Own – Ready and Waiting!

Hark! The third installment in the Elise t’Hoot series, A World of Our Own,  is now buyable in print and in the ever-popular Kindle format on Amazon. Elise and her comrades find out that Independence isn’t easy. There’s guerrilla action and alpine adventure…of course Elise gets run through the wringer again.

It was great fun figuring out how the different characters would respond to  adversity. Elise crashes into frozen mountain peaks at the same time Mort and crew struggle to make some progress with the sun-blotter volcano. Barto bravely takes the reins as the Amigo handler and loses control when the whole mess of them is dropped into the liberation of Alcatraz.

What about the indomitable Alvin Wing?

Elise finds bounty for Tenembras, and something even more precious, then nearly loses it all. Ricky’s psychotic episode just about does him in, blood-stained lullaby and all. Doc Trogden learns what XXX means on a whiskey jug. Naomi gets out of jail scot-free and vows to be a happy single, for all of two seconds. Lottie Floating Feather of vicious tomahawk fame shows her more peaceful side. A World of Our Own introduces odd characters (Potters okay, but Eskimos?) and really gets inside the characters’ heads. 

Here’s one of my favorite parts (although it sends poor Ricky way off the deep end…):

A Grand Birthday Present!

What personal thing could I wish for on my birthday? Well, getting a fabulous review on one of my books is a wish come true. Tenembras just got a grand review by Kirkus Indie…Here it is:

TENEMBRAS

An Elise t’Hoot Novel

Wall, Mary Ellen
CreateSpace (428 pp.)
$14.99 paperback, $2.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1469942995; April 24, 2012

BOOK REVIEW

A rollicking interplanetary tale of cunning, gumption and the human spirit.

In the not too distant future, Earth is environmentally wracked, with much of its population corralled in refugee (i.e. prisoner) camps or dispatched to colonies on far-flung planets. Wireless-network monitoring and mind-reading scans are the norm, tactics for totalitarian “Patriots” to rein in rebels who revere the Constitution and to keep earthly ethnic and geopolitical loyalties alive in outer space. After one outpost goes down in flames, spacecraft arrive on the planet Tenembras with a doomed settlement’s few remaining vestiges—the exact nature of which must stay off the Patriots’ radar. The band that rallies to protect the payload is wide-ranging enough to warrant the introduction’s playbill-like character list. At the group’s core is Elise t’Hoot, a gutsy technological genius and all-round survivor with a knack for bridging language and cultural barriers between peoples, not to mention between her species and the nonanthropomorphic aliens who are infinitely better-intended than most humans. Not immune to the ravages of harsh politics and terrains, t’Hoot succeeds as a poster child for girl power. Wall’s (The Distant Trees: An Elise t’Hoot Novel, Pre-Elise, 2012) Kentucky roots and pride help illuminate her heroine and the folksy, fast-moving narrative, which pits greed and oppression against ingenuity and the basic goodness of humanity. Her high-spirited, irresistible storytelling extrapolates an all-too-possible future from current political and environmental conditions. She fleshes out this could-be world with pitch-perfect dialogue and characterizations, song lyrics that enhance the plot instead of stalling it, and an astute yet accessible command of technology, science and human nature. Despite its length, this unflagging novel invites a one-sit reading.

A stellar sequel that can stand on its own.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744

Science Fiction and Social Responsibility

Hey, isn’t science fiction just for entertainment? Maybe not. If you think about it, what do you know about robots? Aren’t we familiar with sentient, friendly servants that come in handy to heroes? How about Azimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? If a robot didn’t bow and scrape in a friendly manner we’d know there was a mightly big problem somewhere because sci-fi has shown us what might happen. Whereas in reality, most robots perform inspections in small or dangerous areas at the direction of handlers or are anchored to a defined area to repetitively build sections of cars with less innate intelligence than a bedbug. I think that robot engineers are working hard on that science fiction vision of a robot, that some of them picture CP3O as the goal. Too bad we don’t have Artificial Intelligence to guide the robots from science fiction.

Gee, science fiction warns us about Artificial Intelligence too, doesn’t it? We know not to let AI take over our military. We also know that AI could take a big load off of folks in charge of very complex operations like power grids. Science fiction informs our questions as current scientists work toward artificial intelligence; AI will be better because science fiction has explored the good and bad aspects and we’ve already seen many of the pitfalls.

How about Mars? Mars is an inhospitable little crust of a planet but we think of Mars as a DESTINATION. Why? I think it’s because so many science fiction stories have led us from initial exploration through terraforming and on into Martian society. Science is planning exploratory missions and is working up to sending humans there. Sci-Fi makes us believe it is doable and worth it for a grand big pay-off. Science fiction doesn’t stop with Mars, either. We know about other planets in our Solar System and even about societies on planets light years away.

We’ve learned quite a bit about society through science fiction from reading about or watching those characters in Dune or Star Wars or Serenity or Tenembras or in hundreds of other examples. How many stories tell of wars over resources? Or ruined climates that hurl the poor inhabitants into famine and rampant disease? We can use science fiction to help us see how destructive changes in weather patterns and rising sea levels will be. We know it’s a fair possibility that millions of people all along the coasts of every continent will be drowned or battered brutally with ferocious storms. Right now science tells us of record high temperatures for summer and winter and about tropical diseases reaching further north every year. Climate change is here, now.

Science uses actual to tell us the threat from climate change is real and that  a bleak future is very possible. Science says we can affect the severity of what happens in the next 100 years right now.  Science fiction illustrates that bleak future so we can feel the hot wind, taste the dust in the air, hear the cries of the orphans and smell the sickness from the refugee field hospital. Science cannot be 100% certain people are causing the climate to get mean, but the probability is very high. I believe it is my social responsibility to limit that harsh future any way I can, and the science fiction picture of our failure drives me to get up off my patootie and act on that belief.