Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike


If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel.

In this definitive account of the quest to establish a human presence in lifeless outer space, award-winning space historian Robert Zimmerman reveals the great global gamesmanship between Soviet and American political leaders that drove the space efforts of both following the Apollo lunar landings in the 1960s and 1970s.

Beaten to the Moon by their Cold War enemies, the Russians were intent on being first to the planets. They knew that to reach other worlds they needed to learn how to build interplanetary spaceships, and believed that manned space stations held the greatest promise for making that possible. Thus, from the very moment they realized they had lost the race to the Moon, the Soviet government worked feverishly to build a viable space station program — one that would dwarf the American efforts and allow the Russians to claim the vast territories of space as their own.

Like the race between the tortoise and the hare, the ponderously bureaucratic Soviet Union actually managed to overtake the United States in this space station race. Their efforts — sometimes resulting in terrifying near death exploits — not only put them far ahead of NASA, it also served to reshape their own society, helping to change it from a communist dictatorship to a freer and more capitalist society.

At the same time, the American space program at NASA was also evolving, but not for the better. In fact, in many ways the two programs — and nations — were slowly but inexorably trading places.

Drawing on his vast store of knowledge about space travel and modern history, as well as hundreds of interviews with cosmonauts, astronauts, and scientists, Zimmerman has superbly captured the exciting story of space travel in the last half of the twentieth century. “Leaving Earth” tells that story, and is required reading for space and history enthusiasts alike who wish to understand the context of the space exploration renaissance taking place now, in the twenty-first century.

FROM ERIC TESTERMAN: Enter Prehistoric.

After retiring from outlawing, Jedidiah Huckleberry Smith just wanted to be left alone in Wyoming with his guns and regrets.

But then he discovered an entrance to a lost world, a place full of grand adventure, as well as spectacular dangers from both prehistoric dinosaurs and a race of savage apes intent on conquest.

Now, a new fort has been established on the other side, and a strange civilization of humans and dinosaurs have been located. The people are descendants from another time, long trapped in prehistory, and with them a fragile alliance is created.

But will it be enough as Jed faces vengeance from enemies both new and old?

Will his savagery and cunning keep him and his love alive?

Or will they die, on a mountain of fired brass, amidst the guttural bellows of barbaric apes and roars of monstrous dinosaurs?

Jed doesn’t know, but he’s always willing to shoot first and figure out the rest afterwards.

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Fractional Ownership

When his company demands either a move to Mars or the loss of his job,
perpetual plaintiff Lewis Ostrow finds he can’t even get a ticket to
the world without lawyers.

A short story.

FROM C. V. WALTER: The Bear and The Bees

Aoife has always known her family was cursed to ward the gates between the worlds. As curses go, hiking up in the mountains and doing a ritual four times a year to keep the gates closed wasn’t a bad one… especially when she wanted to get away from the reminders of Garrett walking out on her and never coming back.

But things are worse than they seem; Garrett’s disappearance was the result of a curse from forces allying to unseal the gates, and trying to use his bear-form as a pawn to kill her. Even after Aoife breaks the geas on him, there are still far too many curses and enemies loose, and something infernal on the other side of the gate that is about to break through…

It’s going to be a race against time to reseal the gate on Solstice night, but don’t bet against a bear and his honey!

FROM JULIE PASCAL: Traditional by Accident

Can you say yes, if it’s impossible to say no?The encroaching Solaran empire has gobbled up Svana’s world. Svana fled her planet with the first wave of refugees, swept up with members of a different clan. Space is vast and she finds herself on a space station, alone, waiting hopelessly for her own family to arrive to save her. Thomas is from her world and similarly adrift. He offers to save her, and it’s an offer that Svana can’t refuse, but that doesn’t mean that letting him save her is the right thing to do.

Unless, perhaps, they can somehow save each other.

FROM ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: Conscious Choice: The Origins of Slavery in America and Why it Matters Today and for Our Future in Outer Space.

Robert Zubrin: “Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.”

The human race is about to go to the stars. Big rockets are being built, and nations and private citizens worldwide are planning the first permanent settlements in space.

When we get there, will we know what to do to make those first colonies just and prosperous places for all humans?

Conscious Choice answers this question, by telling a riveting and accurate history of the first century of British settlement in North America. That was when those settlers were building their own new colonies, and had to decide whether to include slaves from Africa.

In New England slavery was vigorously rejected. The Puritans wanted nothing to do with this institution, desiring instead to form a society of free religious families, a society that became the foundation of the United States of American, dedicated to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

In Virginia however slavery was gladly embraced, resulting in a corrupt social order built on power, rule, and oppression.

Why the New England citizens were able to reject slavery, and Virginians were not, is the story that Conscious Choice tells, a story with direct implications for all human societies, whether they are here on Earth or on the farflung planets across the universe.

FROM DAVID BURKHEAD: The Ships of Elemak.

The kingdom of Aerioch has fallen. Only Kreg and his newfound friends remain. And while the fearsome changeling armies are no more, the task of rebuilding Aerioch remains daunting. They must first escape the land of Chanakra and somehow cross the sea of Elemak.

It is then, when their troubles will really begin.

FROM T. L. KNIGHTON: Sabercat.

Despite his rich-kid roots, Tommy Reilly is struggling to make it as a freighter captain. Despite a universe of possibilities, he finds himself running afoul of both pirates and corrupt bureaucrats who seem determined to get in his way at every point. It’s like karma for his bullying past is smacking him in the back of the head.

All of that changes when a figure from his past asks for his help.

Now he’s finding himself at odds with a greedy and overly ambitious business owner who has government backing who happens to be the same man who impounded the very load he needs on his ship. The fact that the load is only the first step in securing information that could bring down the status quo might have something to do with that, however.

Tommy and his crew of misfit rejects have to use skills most of them would rather forget to secure their load, all with eyes watching them everywhere.

FROM RICH RYDER: Dropship City Lovers.

Deion staked his future on discarding his past on the way to orbit… but leaving behind love and community isn’t as easy as he thought it’d be.

After 3 years away, he told himself he was just passing through the Dropship Yard, a community cobbled together from old disposable shipping containers, in order to visit friends and family… and retrieve the one man he couldn’t leave behind.

When old secrets and new revelations threaten, Deion must choose between love and duty. Can he have the man he loves and the career he’s sacrificed everything else for?

This M/M Romance Novella is a stand-alone story with a very happy HEA.


FROM SARAH A. HOYT: Other Rhodes

Lily Gilden has a half-crazed cyborg in her airlock who thinks he’s Nick Rhodes,
a fictional 20th Century detective. If she doesn’t report him for destruction,
she’s guilty of a capital crime.

But with her husband missing, she’ll use every clue the cyborg holds,
and his detective abilities, to solve the crime her husband was investigating
when he disappeared.

With the help of a journalist who is more than he seems,
Lily will risk everything to plunge into the interstellar underworld
and bring the love of her life home!

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: AQUATIC

47 thoughts on “Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. The aquatic being considered us through the glass, massive black eyes looking at us without any of the signs that you’d expect in a human face. It place one of the huge, six-fingered webbed fingers on the plate there and there was a soft hiss from the speakers as the interface connected.

    “Greetings, William-authority-human,” the voice said, masculine and with a strong northern German accent, said. “It is a pleasure-duty-hope that we are able to meet.”


    By the power of Gremlin and “bought the insurance” (because Gremlin), we have now bought roughly 1.2k of exercise equipment through your link. (Look, I just ALWAYS get the defective one, OK? And the Allstate Amazon insurance is awesome, 30 seconds after I said the first one broke I got a card for the purchase price.)

    Hope you got the bennies. 😀

    1. I used the ‘Deep Pink’ link to buy accessories for my new Raspberry Pi 4 8GB computer. Would have bought the Raspberry itself from Amazon, too, but they sell them for $124 instead of the official price of $75.

      I got an aluminum passive cooling case, then milled the paint off a section of the top side and bolted on a big finned heat sink. There will NEVER be a heat problem with this computer. (I don’t like fans. They make noise, they will inevitably fail, they suck dust and cat hair through the computer.)

      It’s plugged into the TV. I’m copying my 40+ GB of digital music, a lot of E-books and video onto it. Should be fun.

  3. “Its the bends.” Holt murmured as he watched Hatch twitch on the deck. “The fool! He knew better than to come up from 90 in twenty seconds!”
    Hatch trembled and coughed as the bubbles coursed through his bloodstream. “I saw it!” He gasped, “I saw the truth!”
    Holt bent over close to Hatch’s face. “What Simon? What did you see?”
    “the Bar! it’s from Mars!”
    Holt stood up in disgust. “You mean you just ruined your lungs over candy?”
    “NO! it’s… The missing part of the ship we raised in Ninety one! The Alien Craft!”
    The first mate glanced at Holt as if to say, “You gotta be kidding me…”
    “It”s ok,” Holt said to the mate. “He’s got the bends. you know, its like an aqua-tic.”

  4. “Let me make sure I understand this. The planet’s surface is 98% water.”
    “And it is inhabited by sapient life.”
    “Also correct.”
    “But that life is terrestrial, not aquatic, and lives in artificial environments constructed under the water’s surface, as far down as two thousand meters?”
    “Yes, ma’am. That’s the problem.”

  5. Aquatic sports had always been Reggie Waite’s favorite, whether it was wrestling a sailboard through the sea or scuba diving in a reef full of brilliant tropical fish. As a midshipman at Annapolis he’d joined the swim team for the simple reason that he already had the basic skills. Within weeks he discovered that competitive swimming at the collegiate level took a whole new level of proficiency, as the coach pushed him to his limits and then past them.

    So he went into astronaut training thinking he was already prepared for microgravity work. His first session in the neutral-buoyancy pool quickly disabused him of that notion.

  6. “Aquatic?” , he said.

    “I grew up in the swamps, the mangroves, the fresh and the salt, swam 3 meters before I walked 3 steps!”

    “Aquatic? Oh, you mean wet, well beyond water wet. Damp and damned have entirely different meanings, Define, definite, positively postulate all your terms, next time!”

  7. “A lot of people fail to realize that we need options to take on the aquatic implacable foes of humanity.”

    “So your belief that these people are traitors, because of the convention against use of nuclear weapons on the sea floor is because…”

    “Exactly that. They have sold us out to the Dolphins and the Deep Ones.”

  8. The waters of the fountain splashed into the pool, bubbling all the way.
    “Is that just aquatic magic?” said Ava. “Did they have to work with the stones, as well?”
    “It’s not magic at all,” said Julian. “At least the waters leaping up. There may be some to preserve it.”

  9. “Water magic is common,” said Karlus.
    “Of course it’s common,” said Felix. “It’s useful. It’s useful for so many things that we can’t possibly guess which one she was granted it for, but it’s better to have it when we need that than a weaker power where we could guess.”

  10. “All she had to do was ask for something useful,” said Emma. “They even vary them. Now a water witch, then an ice wizard, a third time a rune caster. Because we need clean water, frozen foods, and rune spells. Who needs a philosopher?”
    Pythagoras, I thought, would not approve.

  11. “Dry things,” said Tristan. “We will not find water monsters there, but we will not find water to drink. They told Celestine that she needs to have water magic, or we will all die of thirst.”
    “Things of stone, things of ash, things of shadow,” said Karl. “But all dry.”

  12. Leah climbed into the empty tank to hand Mama a new container of bleach. She loved taking care of the tilapia tanks when they were full of fish, but cleaning one after a runaway bacterial imbalance was a new and unpleasant experience.

    “It must be nice on Earth, with all the aquatic life just swimming around in those huge oceans. You could just dip a net in when you want dinner and never have to worry about maintaining the tanks, Mama.”

    Mama paused in her scrubbing. “I suppose it might, Leah, if Earthers were allowed to capture fish from the ocean. All of the oceans, and most of the land, are wildlife preserves, only for government use.”

    “Is that why Grandpa and Grandma left Earth?”

    “Yes, in part. It was leave, or starve.”

  13. “Is this truly serious? I’d recently begun reading your latest proposal, Doctor Dietrich, and more recently still finished its executive summary — and I find myself having to ask, before I read any further, are you seriously asking me and the rest of NASA to consider constructing and flying a spacecraft with a largely aquatic interior environment? And I remind you, this is neither the first of the month nor anywhere within the month of April, never mind both at once!” The snap ‘flash’ priority vidcall — so mid-2020s — was a bit outrageous. And almost totally predictable.

    “Good day to you, too, Deputy Administrator Armstrong — and yes, I and the rest of Section J are quite serious. You’ll find our reasons rather specifically spelled out in the body of the report and Appendixes C, D, and G — but if you’d like I can give you the quick sketch of our reasoning right now” and again repeat what you allegedly just read in the summary she did not say out loud — “but in shortest form, it’s the most reasonable near-thing to a solution we’ve ever been able to find, for the fundamental human-factors problem.”

    “Please.” Blaine Armstrong — no relation, if only he’d been of the same ‘can do’ engineering stuff as his non-forebear Neil — came across as dull and cool now as he’d been sharply pointed then. Bella was fooled by neither…

    “First of all, the whole Leda Project leverages in-situ resource usage. With our demonstrated capacity to harvest volatiles from within the system, we don’t even need to consider bringing this water itself from Earth, or the Moon, or anywhere else far-away. The ‘waste’ heat from the nuclear power reactor is plenty to maintain the hot-atmosphere balloon that lifts the in-atmosphere probe on-station. The tether system both drops and grabs the probe once it’s beyond the lower atmosphere and before it enters — so no extreme mass or energy costs there either. Without all or most of that infrastructure, the entire Leda Project likely becomes infeasible — but with it, suddenly it’s not so much harder or more burdensome to go this route we propose. See Appendix B for much more detail on that.” Like you’re ever gonna read that unless you see a good chance of finding a project-killer, Dr. No — she said most surely and deliberately quite silently to herself.

    “But a water-filled crewed spacecraft! People will literally point and laugh!”

    And of course he’d said “crewed” not “manned” — quaintest Olde New Regime speak that so betrayed his generation, but never mind such trifles. “As you can read on the first page of our Appendix G, what we’ve been calling ‘Problem G’ here has been known for decades — it’s only just recently that anyone would’ve taken the very idea behind Project Leda seriously. And the G problem is really unique to this one target — all the other bodies in this class of planets have a ‘surface’ (which is of course to say cloud-level) gravity between 99% and 128% of Earth — not as luxurious as the 91% in our existing Venus balloon probes, which I daresay ‘they’ would once have laughed at too — but not so dissimilar.

    “But Jupiter, at 268% Earth-normal gravity, is different. Here I stand, Deputy Director Armstrong — 240-odd pounds, at least metaphorically soaking wet.” And she noted his small vestigial wince, as he heard once-sacrilegious British Imperial units sully his immaculately-metric ears. “On the deck of a capsule there, I’d weigh — as in actual, measurable force — over six hundred pounds, upward of 650 — well over a quarter of a metric ton. Me, myself, alone, borne by flesh and bone. And the acceleration stresses of grab, even of entry, are worse — but we’re not talking about those short periods, we’re talking about the static, steady G-environment of floating in the clouds.

    “And that’s not trivial. It’s likely the worst problem of even a short-term drop. look, and leave mission to the clouds. We clearly don’t have sci-fi gravity cancellation, spin gravity doesn’t undo the real thing even good as it is at manufacturing fake ‘gravity’ for long missions on trajectory or in orbit, or augmenting gravity for things like the Moon centrifuge. We don’t have magic drugs to make much difference in this, either, ‘gravanol’ is still as fictional as an ‘inertialess drive’. And on this planet, uniquely in all the solar system save for the Sun itself, this problem is chronic and acute.

    “But we do have the oldest solution to that problem — the saltwater of Earth’s ancient and modern seas, and the gravity ‘cancellation’ that its density brings to that most ancient of environments. Specific gravity against gravity, so to speak.” (And she didn’t need to read the subtle tightenings of his expression to know she was approaching the boundaries of what she could say, and how she could say it, with one from his era and his background. Likely her words would’ve carried better to a man of the 1750s than this godson of the Crazy Years. Sigh. But your time picks you.)

    “There’s a reason I call it, we all call it, the human-factors problem — because the tests we’re still doing, the tests they were doing here at NASA long before you or I were ever born, say so. Say it is that bad, that hard, though surely not insurmountable. Look at the summary; look at the sheer risk of accident even with restraints and supports and exoskeletal assist; look at the exhaustion we can not only test but measure. Read Appendix G, then read A and B; see how the costs of going with an ‘aquatic interior enviroment’ — only a partial and a ‘hybrid’ one as we, you’ll see, propose — stack up against the costs of not going that route.

    “I’ve done my hours in the Section J centrifuge, myself. I know what it is to feel another self and two thirds dragging on me. I’ve felt how treacherous quick you can slip and find out you’ve almost fallen a gee-distance of over a dozen feet to the floor, center-of-mass — only when the straps jerk you, none too gently but still slowly enough, to a stop right before you’ve crashed into the floor and almost quicker than you can know it.

    “Our accomodation to the realities of high-gee is still a work in progress, even after all these decades, Deputy Administrator. But a work in progress got us to the Moon, as it did not the Soviets” — that tiny but visible twitch of his — “and I believe our report demonstrates an approach both well in hand, and even well advanced toward deployment, already.”

    “Thank you for your explanation, Doctor Miss Dietrich. You have acquitted yourself and your office well, and I’ll give your report all due consideration. Have a good weekend and I’ll see you further about this on Monday.” His sudden reversion to minimal contemporary politeness was also… familiar.

    Isabella Dietrich shut off the video, hardware and software. Permitted herself a tiny leap of joy, inwardly, but waited the five minutes experience had taught her a “but wait, one more thing” was all but guaranteed not to be forthcoming.

    And closed the door to her office, so she could see the embroidery given to her by her grandmother, one of the many political prisoners interned in the “Biden Bastille” after the January 6th “insurrection” — who had almost died for lack of quick medical care, there in her solitary confinement.

    Hanging in her inner office as subdirector of Section J where only she and a chosen invited few would ever see it.

    A Latin motto of four words, two above and two below a circle of stars. Thirteen of those.

    Inter sidera, it read, then ibi libertas.

    Among the stars, there is freedom.

    She text-messaged her associates and subordinates, waiting at the nearby tavern called “Anacreon’s Heaven.” And reflected that she ought to see Jupiter, himself, already waiting them on high the moment she was out the door.

      1. Thanks for the kind words, but “drinking from the fire hose” of inspiration in writing vignette-style means it’s not like I sat down and cleverly “made it all up myself” or anything.

        No (actual) newsletter on the horizon; but I keep stumbling over science for SF writing things I could do… (more on) mini Ringworlds, shooty-ballistics on Mars (and other places), why those gorgeously huge matte-painting moons would likely be a Really Bad Idea…

      1. It’s even interesting to me, too, as “the guy who made it all up” (but see above). Most of all, the social and cultural stuff… a future society where 1770s style patriotism is so “cool!” even everyday speech has been affected by it?

        Yet another reason to be gratedful for this whole vignette thing.

        Right now I’m (still) working on that Fed vs. Belters story that came up here in the vignettes. Antimatter annihilation is suprisingly “messy” — more like a Heinlein “torchship” than neat, clean Star Trek spaceships — but that just makes it more interesting for the Good Guys. Oh, yes, and the Martians react to the invading Feds as… pirates. Because it’s the only way it makes any sense to them, internally…

  14. “Behold a new triumph of evolutionary progress!” the Ichthyostega proclaimed to the indifferent beach trilobites. “Through me, the Vertebrata pass today into an irreversibly terrestrial future! Never again will my descendants be shackled to aquatic lifestyles! Never again…!”

    * * * * *

    “He said that?”


    “Idiot,” the Plesiosaurus pronounced, and the Ichthyosaurus agreed.

    1. Because the opportunity is too good to pass up:
      There once was an Ichthyosaurus
      Who lived when the Earth was all porous.
      But he fainted with shame
      When he first heard his name
      And departed a long time before us. (Isabel Francis Bellows)

      1. Hey, why not? Maybe one of the vignettes next week will involve a tram-car, and you can post the one about the philosophic materialist. (You know, the one who said “Damn!…”?)

  15. Genetic engineering has come a long way since Gregor Mendel. Take the lowly mouse. We’ve removed and added almost everything to their genes. Mice smart as humans, strong as bulls, and quicker than traps. A mouse that levitates on magnetic fields. We even have an aquatic mouse that breathes underwater!

  16. Sorry folks, change of subject. We have a large wildfire (20K acres and counting) northeast of us, and while I *think* we are going to be OK, a lot of folks ~10 miles north of us got the Level 3 Evacuate Now notice, and folks only a few miles from us got the “Be prepared to bug out” notice. (Bootleg fire, though the fire is moving faster than TPTB can update the info sheets. Sigh. I think the incident command team was missing the PIO staff at first; it was faster to go to the local general store and get fresh (and accurate!) updates.)

    The cause of the fire is listed as either “Unknown” or “Under Investigation”, though the fact it started by a remote fire road raises the Hmm factor. (There’s a fair amount of illegal pot grows and the odd meth lab, so I’m not automatically assuming arson. So far.)

    Mother Nature is denying us any aquatic relief, with hot, bone dry weather, so the fuels are ready to go with little provocation.

    Modulo occasionally crunchy air, $SPOUSE, $DOG and I are doing OK, physically. The stress level is off the charts (again), not helped by the glacially slow updates (looks like that’s been fixed). Our neighbor is taking in a few horses from his friends in the afflicted sections, and geographic factors make us getting the fire unlikely, but it’s a mess.

    Anybody with a few Odd prayers to spare would be appreciated.


    1. Thanks. TPTB are throwing an amazing amount of resources at the fire, but it’s a puppy mother to deal with (fire backing down slopes, upwind–that’s scary). Even a DC10 Very Large Air Tanker is in the list, and other “large” tankers; C130s and a similar sized twin engine jet. (737 maybe).

      Pyro-cumulus clouds are pretty if you can ignore what’s causing them. I can’t.

  17. “In New England slavery was vigorously rejected. The Puritans wanted nothing to do with this institution, desiring instead to form a society of free religious families, a society that became the foundation of the United States of American, dedicated to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”

    Absolute bunk…There were slaves in New York, and indentured servants(accounted worse than slavery by many) and white slaves throughout the North..when New England did ban slavery, it was because the bankers and shipowners limited themselves to financing and carrying the slave trade..And by then the mill owners were working young women and children to death in their dark, Satanic mills…Unlike slaves in the South, they weren’t protected by any laws…

    1. Not a particularly good start, and nothing to do with ‘aquatic’. Such alternate histories have been done to death, anyway. Try something new.

      1. Yep, it’s a straight steal from the Slaveowners’ claim that “those Northerns were as bad or worse than us”.

        Especially the “Satanic Mills” comment. 😈

      1. Yeah. If they were so bad, why did so many young women race to get work there? And families? Please do a little more primary source research. They were clean, safe, respectable, and paid well. And it was a lot better than working on the farm for a lot of women. Even in the 1860s-80s, when the industrial mills were going strong and working conditions vs. pay got worse for a while, factory work was seen as a step up from a LOT of things.

      2. Naw, I just figured it was a lame attempt at fiction. This IS the Vignettes post, after all.

    2. The English actress and diarist Fanny Kemble, who married an American and lived with him on his Georgia plantation (the marriage didn’t last) responded to this kind of thinking:

      “Though the negroes are fed, clothed, and housed, and though the Irish peasant is starved, naked, and roofless, the bare name of freeman—the lordship over his own person, the power to choose and will—are blessings beyond food, raiment, or shelter; possessing which, the want of every comfort of life is yet more tolerable than their fullest enjoyment without them. Ask the thousands of ragged destitutes who yearly land upon these shores to seek the means of existence—ask the friendless, penniless foreign emigrant, if he will give up his present misery, his future uncertainty, his doubtful and difficult struggle for life, at once, for the secure, and as it is called, fortunate dependance of the slave: the indignation with which he would spurn the offer will prove that he possesses one good beyond all others, and that his birthright as a man is more precious to him yet than the mess of pottage for which he is told to exchange it because he is starving.”

  18. Thanks for promo-ing my “Traditional by Accident” again. Amazon has been glitchy the last couple of weeks which was frustrating because I think it’s a pretty good story.

    Also, “Fractional Ownership” by Laura Montgomery is a clever character study with a neat legal twist and one of my favorites.

    1. The Amazon images server crapped out twice in the past couple of weeks, once for a week for me, then for a day. (The relevant site images-na dot ssl-images-amazon dot com wasn’t reachable through my ISP nor to one of the is-it-up sites. I’ve noticed that the ‘zon keeps moving the relevant server around cyberspace. Today it’s through cloudfront.)

      And once the image server is gone, things like using a different shipping address go away. Arggh.

  19. Wait a minute! Is that first book by the same Robert Zimmerman that rewrote other aspects of history? Say it ain’t so!

  20. A bit late, and this will probably be a good display of why space opera and sci-fi is a significant weak spot of mine, but I need to do something this week so here goes…

    Admiral Dunbar looked over the projection of the Izanagi system with a scowl. Terraforming efforts on Amaterasu were slow going no thanks to its neighboring planet. Despite better temperatures and a quality nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere Susano-o was occupied by a hostile, spacefaring alien race who didn’t want humans in their system. It didn’t help that Susano-o had been aptly named thanks to the frequent, powerful storms that constantly tore across its mostly oceanic surface. If it was up to him he’d leave this system to those snakes but the Federation’s leadership had too many special interests invested in the system so it was on up to his fleet to clear them out.

    He turned from the projected map and looked over the assembled officers, looking for one man in particular. Despite his below-average height it didn’t take long to find him. What the black-haired man with leathery skin lacked in stature he made up for in presence. That, and Admiral Dunbar also knew he had an especially capable officer under his command.

    “Captain Metaxas, one of your officers dealt with similar reptilian creatures not too long ago, didn’t she?” the admiral asked.

    “Yes, sir, during the liberation of Noatun,” the captain responded. “Lt. Commander Ahlstrom and her men were invaluable for securing that world.”

    “Excellent,” Dunbar replied, recalling the reports of that battle. “How soon can they be ready?”

    “As soon as you need them to be, sir,” Metaxas replied, his voice seeming uncharacteristically deep for a man of his appearance. “She’s also aboard the station if you need to consult with her personally.”

    “Very good,” the admiral remarked before turning to his aide-de-camp. “Ensign Helmer, please bring Lt. Commander Ahlstrom here immediately. Captain Metaxas, you stay. The rest of you, dismissed.”

    “Yes sir!” the Ensign replied with a sharp salute, hurrying out of the briefing room as soon as he could.

    When the two officers were alone Metaxas finally allowed himself a chuckle at the Ensign’s quick response. “Leave it to Helmer to perk right up when a pretty blonde is in the picture,”

    “Beauty and competence is a potent combination indeed.” Dunbar agreed, having seen pictures of Lt. Commander Ahlstrom in reports and the news. Despite keeping her hair cut military short Elise Ahlstrom was a classic Nordic beauty with a slim and toned figure, fair skin, blonde hair, and chilly yet entrancing blue eyes. “Think she can work another miracle on that last aquatic shithole’s bigger, meaner brother, Stavros?”

    “If she can’t do it nobody can, Alan.” Metaxas boasted with a grin, though the two officers quickly recomposed themselves. It would be time to bring one of the fleet’s toughest workhorses up to speed before they knew it and they had to be ready.

  21. [And in the spirit of “it’s never too late!” — and also because I wrote this before today’s actual Sunday Vignettes came out…]

    “I’ve been having the oddest dreams recently, Ronald. And you know I rarely remember what I dream, much less dream in series.” Elena’s change of subject wasn’t really sudden, she did it all the time, but there was something… deeper sounding about it, this time. “But I keep returning to much this same strange place, some eerie sort of a city beneath the sea. There are all these weird creatures swimming about, like something halfway between a person and a fish. Mostly just going about their business, there in their own deep home; and yet there’s a pervasive sort of wrongness about them all.”

    “Okay,” I said, “so Elena Stillman is having recurring dreams. About being in an aquatic environment and hanging around with deep-city fish-men that might’ve come right out of a story by, you know, that creepy Yankee guy. This must be the End Times coming on, you know, real wrath-of-God stuff, just like it says in that scene in the mayor’s office in ‘Ghostbusters’ — Elena, who’s not ever been comfortable yet in more than enough water to fill a bathtub.” (More comfortable than one of her cats, yes probably. But not by much.) My voice had been broadly deadpan, in our familiar way. But Elena just shook her head.

    “Oh, no, it’s not like that at all. I’m not hanging out with them or wondering if I ought to be more like them, or if I want to join their club.” That unaccustomed depth to her voice got even stronger. “That would be like… Sabrina having a dream about swimming with the tuna in her bowl, instead of catching it.” And there was something in her manner almost feline, something in her gray eyes that whispered of gray-coated little hunters prowling the borderline between light and dark, part of the twilight they owned. It was quite unlike the fun but often superfical Elena I’d known and loved — perhaps intriguingly so, but still.

    “First I’m watching them carefully, intently. Then I’m getting closer, as odd as it feels to be in the water instead of on dry land. And then finally I’ve come close enough to catch one of them alone, or a few, by surprise. And then, well, it’s like Ginger with a mouse, but faster.” And there was a hunger in her voice, but it was a satisfied sort of hunger; and a wistful sort of what they used to call a cat-got-the-cream expression on her face. Elena, who at her age still thought the latest K-pop sensation was Really Something half the time.

    “I’m their worst nightmare, there in my own dreams, Ronald. All their oldest and most twisted fears and forebodings, made flesh and teeth and claws.” And she flexed her hands together, langourously, like a drowsy cat.

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