Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Twins

I decided to bring you a story treat today.  Thanks to Flash Fiction Flourish, I get plenty of inspiration to turn out brief little stories that I hope are packed with intrigue.  

The Twins

The twins worked in tandem.  As soon as Bobby and Billy learned to walk, they toiled together to build the toy skyscrapers that brought them to the cookie jar.  When one got in trouble, the other rushed in with a distraction.

People quickly noticed how in sync they were, and always without a word.  Testing at age 8 revealed that they were telepathically connected.  They often used this gift to mischievous ends, but nothing serious.

Gift turned to curse at 17.  

When a dead body appeared in their backyard, Bobby went to the police. "I did it.  I don't remember it, but I know I did it."

Billy remembered.  The girl liked Bobby better.  Being a twin, Billy rarely got anything to himself, and he was sick of it.  He was strong enough to plant the guilt in his brother's mind afterwards.

Now he was free.

146 words

Monday, July 30, 2012

Blogspiration 10: Learn to Dance

As a writer, I turn to the greats for inspiration and advice.  I stumbled upon this quote in a time of need, and I felt a need to share it with you.

I decided to create this image using a stock background that I thought looked cool. This may not be the most stunning image ever created, but it looks better than just putting a plain quote, and the content of the message is what actually matters.

Image: Background Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
What does this mean for me?  You need talent to really make it in the world of writing, but there's more to it than that.  You need to learn your craft.  Practice, work, bleed for your dream.  If you have the talent and the drive, you can combine them to go far. Just as a dancer learns by practicing their moves, writers must learn to make their prose "dance" through the act of writing.

My Lofty Weekly Goals

For once, I'm going into the start of the week with a set of goals already in mind. Hopefully I can actually push myself to meet them.  Then again, I'll have good motivation behind me.  Pleiades will never let me hear the end of it if I don't come through in the end.

Pleiades:  You always make me sound so mean.

Me:  Well, you can be sometimes.

Pleiades:  I'm not any worse than you!

Yeah, she's probably right about that.  I won't lie.  While I may not always be as pleasant as a bed of roses, I can be as prickly as one at times, and maybe I can use that to my advantage.  If I can channel my frustrations into my writing rather than unleashing them into the world around me, I can probably accomplish just about anything.

Anyway, my first goal is to post a flash piece for the weekly prompt provided by Flash Fiction Flourish.  I plan to have it posted on Tuesday for my Tuesday Treat.  I already have it started, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

I also plan to, as always, have a new flash fiction piece posted by Friday.  I have a couple ideas for that, but I haven't dug into it yet.  Don't worry, though.  I will.  I haven't missed one yet.

I also hope to generate ideas for anther flash fiction piece.  Though my last submission to Daily Science Fiction was rejected, that isn't enough to deter me.  I plan to submit another flash fiction piece in the near future.  And if it too is rejected? Well, I'll have something to either resubmit elsewhere or share here for my Friday post.  Either way, rejection can be a bit discouraging, but I can't let it stop me.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I am in the middle of writing a short story called "The Dream Factory."  This is going to be a part of the novel I plan to self-publish.  My goal is to have a rough draft completed by the end of the week.  Once I do that, I plan to have a couple of people read it for me so I can get some feedback.  

Now that I have my goals laid out here, it all seems more daunting than it did in my head.  Oh well.  I have to believe that I can do this.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Brief Piece on an Epic Event

Hello everyone!  Today I bring you a flash piece that comes in at exactly 150 words.  Brevity isn't my thing, so this is a new record for me.

Why so short?

Thanks to Laura from My Baffling Brain, I learned of a new flash fiction blog called Flash Fiction Flourish.  

And it's literally brand new, so most of you probably haven't heard of it. The basic idea is this: a photo prompt is given, and you write a flash piece between 100-150 words based on that prompt.  The photo prompt depicts a boat on the water.

As usual, I must take it in a science fiction direction.  It's who I am.

This is also my piece for Friday Flash Dot Org.  Is that cheating?  Maybe.

Oh well.

More Than a Movie

The passengers on the cloaked timeship take their seats.  The staggered seating guarantees that everyone has unobstructed access to the wide viewscreen.

Fifty feet below, the cold water of the North Atlantic turns to white froth as the behemoth of a ship cuts through.  The oblivious passengers mill about the deck as the sunset paints them in shades of orange and gold.

Attendants are passing bags of buttered popcorn, assorted candies, and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) out to the audience.

The images of Titanic are interspersed with interviews explain what to expect from the sinking. 

The CEO of Temporal Cruises soon fills the screen.  “Many films have been made about Titanic,” he explains, “but they don’t have the same impact as the real event lived out before your eyes.  People want to see that life and death struggle, and we provide that.”

Unseen, the iceberg looms in the distance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Smattering of Language Facts

To me, language is infinitely interesting.  How could it be otherwise?  After all, we are complex creatures, and language is our primary mode of communication.  With all the nuances of life, we need robust languages to handle them all.  

To honor this tricky thing we know as language, I decided to hunt down some interesting language facts to share with you.  To find even more, follow the links provided.

According to Fact Monster, there are more than 2700 languages spoken around the world (1000+ of which are spoken on the African continent-yikes!).  To complicate matters even further, there are 7000 dialects spoken around the world.  And though English may in fact be difficult to learn, Basque is actually the hardest language to learn.  It is supposedly unrelated to all other languages in existence, so it gives new speakers very little to hold on to.

Though there are a large number of languages around the world, only a handful of them have a large number of native speakers.  According to the website Muskurahat, only 13 languages have more than 100 million speakers: Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, French, Japanese, German, and Urdu.

World Languages and Cultures claims that there are 6,912 living languages in the world (I presume this number includes different dialects).  More than 500 of those are nearly extinct.  Taki Taki has the fewest words out of any language, coming in at only 340 words.  That would make for a pretty thin dictionary!  This petite language is spoken in the South American country Suriname, and claims approximately 120,000 native speakers.  English is a rich language indeed, and has been declared to have the largest vocabulary with "250,000 distinct words".  

It's difficult for experts to come to any kind of consensus regarding just how many words there are in the English language.  Wikipedia says that the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, contains more than 600,000 definitions.  Even more impressively, a study conducted by Harvard and Google calculated that that, as of 2010, the English language had 1,022,000 words and continued to add 8500 words per year.  These additions come from a combination of new discoveries and technologies, as well as words added from other languages.  As if 8500 words a year weren't impressive enough, some estimates have estimated the number much higher, reaching up to 25,000 words a year.

I could go on for days with language statistics.  There are so many of them out there.  I only highlighted a few that I found to be basic but interesting.  If you want to know more that really get into the nitty gritty of linguistics, hunt them down for yourself!  I promise, there are facts out there to entice everyone!

Here's an example for you skeptics out there who may still think that language is nothing more than a way to converse with people you may not even like.

Robby Casteel's Strange Facts About Language gives the definition for a funny little word: tyromancer.  This is a specialized occupation where one apparently "tells fortunes while watching cheese coagulate."  Words are born out of necessity.  It impresses me that someone found it necessary to concoct such a word.  Perhaps someone even thought "How did we ever live without it?"

It's a crazy, strange world we live in, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Persistence is Key

Though the great Ray Bradbury passed away earlier this year, his words will live on forever.  For those of you out there who, like me, are struggling to make a place for yourselves in the writing world, here is an interview that may inspire you to keep going.  Even the greatest writers among us had a hard time of it at first, but persistence pays off.

If Ray says it's true, then it must be so.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Painting a Picture With Words

My problem is discipline.  Life gets me off track, even when I genuinely mean to buckle down and get things done.  There's so much to do, and when I get those necessities of life done, I often feel like relaxing and allowing myself to fall into a relaxing stupor.  This is what having rambunctious children can do to you.

While I work on laundry and dishes, my muse is running wild.  When I sit down to write after a long day of doing everything else, my brain protests.  This isn't to say that I don't work at it and get something done.  I just don't work nearly as efficiently as I'd like to.

Since my muse likes to taunt me while I'm doing housework, maybe I should force her to do the dishes while I write.

Pleiades:  I heard that.

Me:  I wasn't joking.

Pleiades:  You do that, and I'll just leave!  Then you'll still have to do the dishes, and you won't have any ideas marinating in your mind while you scrub.

Oh well.  It was worth a try.  I just need to push on and keep doing what I need to do.  Lately I've been watching old episodes of Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting while I write.  Why?  I know I'm not a painter, but watching someone else create so naturally is inspiring to me.  I just wish I could write books as easily as he was able to create beautiful paintings.

My blank paper is my canvas, and I must use my words to paint a wonderful scene with lively and believable characters.

Now, I'm off to do just that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blogspiration 9: Listen to the Commentary

Blogspiration is brought to you by Saz 101 and Growing Up YA.  The goal is to inspire thought and dialogue by posting something that ignites that creative spark.

This week I bring you a quote that got me thinking.  

Our waking hours form the text of our lives, our dreams, the commentary.

As someone who loves documentaries and listening to the commentary for beloved TV shows, this quote makes perfect sense to me.  The commentary track gives you an insight into the dreams of others.  The narrator of a story gives you access to the dreams of your characters.

When you sleep, your dreams can clue you in to the things that are bothering you.

Listen to your dreams.  Whether they be the dreams that come when you sleep or the ones that tell you where you want to be, they have meaning.  As the commentary track to your life, you can use those dreams to look at what you're doing, and you may even learn how to best pursue your goal.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Story Excerpt Presented for Your Consideration

I would have posted this sooner, but I got wrapped up in the coverage of the Colorado shootings.  It's an absolutely horrific situation for all involved.

The following flash fiction is part of a short story I'm writing.  The whole story is called "The Dream Factory."  I edited this segment a little to be more self-contained as a flash fiction piece, but I'm not sure how well it worked out.  Either way, I welcome critique.  This is proving a difficult story to write, so any feedback would be useful.

Here is my except.  I only hope it works in making people want to know more.

Crossing the Threshold

Lassandra sat in the padded white chair, and she immediately sank into its embrace.  The seat was built for comfort, though she would only be aware of that comfort for a couple of minutes.  A delicate silver mesh headset was perched on top of the triangular headrest.  It looked fragile enough that one might think a single touch could break it, but Lassandra knew better than that.  Those little headsets were the gateway to another world.

One of the white-uniformed attendants approached her.  His neatly groomed brown hair and brown eyes were familiar.  She'd seen this attendant many times before, though she didn’t know his name.  Since she always came back to the same dreamer, she saw the same people during her weekly appointments.  Of course, as policy demanded, the dreamer was secluded in a separate room.

The attendant started by strapping Lassandra’s wrists to the armrests.  This was standard safety procedure.  Sometimes the images could be really intense, and The Dream Factory couldn’t risk anyone harming themselves.  “Take a stroll through another’s dreams and forget about your problems.”  That was the motto on the promotional literature.  If the goal of the connection was to achieve a brief reprieve from your own problems, it wouldn’t make sense to come back from the dreaming with assorted injuries.

As soon as the headset was placed on her head, so light she could scarcely feel its weight, the attendant stepped back to the control panel.  After a quick flip of a switch and a couple dials turned, the attendant moved to cross the room where another dreamee was sitting down.

The effects began immediately.  A blissful haze started to permeate her brain as the little synaptic connectors began to pierce her skull with their electric fingers.  She watched until the attendant began to fade from view.  Blinking a couple of times, she noted that each time she peeled her heavy eyelids back again, the lights of the room seemed to be dimmer than before.

Then there was darkness.

Yet it was more than that.  In the moment, Lassandra couldn’t even fully comprehend what this was, but she’d reflected on it after prior visits.  The best word she could use to describe it was “nothingness.”  This phase was also known as The Threshold: the point just after the brain of the dreamee stops processing sensory input and the time where the input from the dreamer crosses through the neural connection.  During this phase, conscious thoughts, the only thing that remained for a dreamee to hold on to, seemed to move at the speed of molasses

The promotional literature for The Dream Factory certainly aimed to reassure dreamees about this part of the process, though some found it too unsettling to tolerate.  Some said it felt like they were being obliterated from existence.

As for Lassandra, it meant a reprieve from the pressure of exams and familial expectations.  A time when money meant nothing, and she couldn’t feel the permanent muscle knots that seemed to constantly have a choke-hold on her spine.  The withdrawals from the now-illegal Bliss-X tabs had no bearing on her.

Pinpoints of light began to appear in Lassandra’s vision.  It looked almost like a field of stars.  Her thoughts began to flow again, though they were no longer entirely her own.  She watched passively as the pinpoints of light began to grow, eating away at the darkness.  Each light represented a vivid color, and as they continued to spread, the different colors began to bleed together.  They were painting a picture, one that represented the dreams of Dreamer #18765.

The blurry lines of the painting soon hardened into a more concrete image, though something about the color scheme made it feel slightly surreal.  Lassandra immediately recognized the face hovering over her.  It was always the same man.  His smile revealed startlingly white teeth, and his dark eyes glimmered with some thought to which she would never gain access.

Lassandra saw that she was lying on a bed, living now through the perspective of her dreamer. 

The man opened his mouth to say something, but the words blurred together.  It had to be the perception filter, put in place to keep the dreamee from experiencing anything that could be considered too upsetting.  In all her visits to this dreamer, this man rarely said more than a couple of words before the filter kicked in to censor him.  He reached down and grabbed at her shirt, trying to rip it away from her body.

Some dreamers had less volatile dreamscapes, though none were entirely stable.  After all, The Dream Factory never purchased anyone unless their dreams were marketable enough. 

It wasn't enough to have regular dreams, or "hallucinations" as they used to be called.  Only those with the most trauma in their past typically made the cut.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hanging Around

All right.  Now it's time for me to leave you hanging with the second portion of the Hookers and Hangers Blogfest.  Thank you to the lovely ladies of Falling For Fiction for coordinating such a fun event!

Though I posted a hooker for each chapter, I can't post a hanger for each one.  This book is still a work in progress, and for some reason, I often write the beginning of the next chapter before I finish the one before.  Maybe that's why I feel so scatter-brained most of the time.

Still, only three are required, but I'll post all of them I have so far.

I hope you enjoy, and honest opinions are more than welcome!

Chapter 1:  It gave us very little to hold on to, which I suppose was the whole point.

Chapter 2:  "That’s the way it’s always been."

Chapter 3:  It wasn’t so simple to reconcile what he said with the teachings I grew up with, but if it were a choice, I knew which sentiments I’d rather believe. 

Chapter 4:  That’s what I tried to tell myself, anyway.

Chapter 5:  If I really did want to make a new life for myself, I needed to face the truth about how I felt.

Chapter 6:  Happiness swelled inside me, and I slept more soundly than ever.

Chapter 7:  Ellis was the dreaded wolf.

Chapter 11:  "If the government ever finds out about what they’ve been doing, their lives are over."

Chapter 12:  A powerful warmth blossomed inside me as my ears rang with the sound of gunfire.

Chapter 13:  Now my life depended on going back.

What's in a Title?

A title is crucial.  Whether it's for a story, book, movie, or article, that small collection of words needs to reflect your work while attracting your audience.  That's no small task.

I remember one of my philosophy professors in college had a bit of an obsession with titles.  He even wrote his own epitaph for his gravestone and shared it with the class. I guess he wanted to be in charge of summing up his own life, and I can kind of understand it.  This professor also had a passion for subtitles.  He liked to give things lengthy subtitles, which if nothing else, made papers and books sound more intelligent.  I'll admit there's something catchy about them.

Now here's my predicament.  I've already mentioned on this blog before that I'm hoping to self-publish a book sometime in the near future.  Right now I'm in the middle of learning about the process.  I have a good idea how I want to go about doing this, though I have plenty of writing and revision left to do before I even get that far.

Though I'm nowhere near done with the writing process, I'm already agonizing over the title.  It's a compilation of a few stories, including the short novel that I used to post for the Hookers and Hangers Blogfest.  These stories are all science fiction, but they have something else in common, and that theme is something I want to express through my title.  I feel like having the title will help me keep that theme in mind as I keep working and really help me concentrate on the elements of these stories that I find most important.

So here's my idea for a title, and I welcome any opinions.  

Prices Paid

I like a short title, and I have a thing for alliteration.  I think this one rolls off the tongue well enough.  In this book, the stories each illustrate something that is lost or sacrificed when something changes, whether it be public policy or the way a certain kind of technology is used.  When society changes, there are beneficiaries, and there are those who pay the price for that change.  There is always a price to pay.

Anyway, that's my idea.  Is the title a good one, or should I change it.  Would a subtitle help me better make my point, or would it just be cumbersome?

Would anyone like to share their favorite title (from movie, book, anything really) and say why it works? 

Oh, and before you go, can you tell me which of these you like better?  The Great Divide, or Divided We Fall.  They're the possible titles for the short novel in this compilation.  I think they'd both work, but I'm struggling to decide which would have more impact.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Power of Music

We've all had that moment.  You've heard a song so many times that it feels like it lives inside your head.  The feeling is maddening, but every once in awhile, you find yourself singing along to it when it comes on the radio.

Or you secretly like a song, but you feel embarrassed to admit it.  No matter how much you want to hate it, you have to keep listening to it.

Both of these situations can lead to what you're about to see in this video.

It's uncontrollable.

It's like the music takes you over.

The catchy lyrics and memorable tune turn you into an idiot, but the worst part is this.

You kind of enjoy it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Muse Gets Tough

If you're here to see my post for Hookers and Hangers, keep scrolling.  It'll be the post immediately below this one.  However, if you'd like to see me struggle with my muse, feel free to read this too!

Even though I pledged to post for this wonderfully fun and helpful blogging event, I still felt I needed to meet with my muse.  I don't have a whole lot of time to talk though. My muse has me on a mission right now.

You see, in going through my existing work and outlines for other short stories, I realized I had plenty to work with if I wanted to self-publish a compilation.  I won't lie. I'm aching to get my work out there and see how it does.  It's a terrifying concept, but it's something I feel like I have to do.

I have three short stories written, a fourth that is heavily outlined, and a short novel that just needs a few of the blanks filled in.  Thinking about it now, it's really a first novel with bonus materials.  In fact, the hookers I used for the post below are from this same novel.  

By putting this short novel together with a few shorter works, I feel like I can convey a lot of who I am.  One thing I'm eager to do is establish my identity as a writer.  I feel like it's a good idea.

At least, I think it's a good idea to do it this way.  To be honest, I have no experience with this whatsoever.  I'm open to suggestions.  And terrified of them.  Let's face it. We writers never really like to hear that our ideas are bad.  The best we can do is learn to respond to it positively.

Here are the positives.  I already have an excited artist friend who has agreed to do cover art for me.  Her name is Chelsea Kelly and you can look at some of her work on her blog, My Interior Window.  And this is a great relief to me, because my artistic abilities are limited.  I've done a couple of works I'm proud of, but trust me.  My own artworks have never been cover-worthy!  I know my limits.

Another bonus is that most of this stuff is already written.  If I buckle down, I should be able to get something done reasonably quickly.  Reasonably, of course, being in relation to the rate at which I normally work.

Pleiades:  Don't lie to them.  Those stories are nowhere near done!

Me:  That's not true.  Three of them are completely done and only need a few minor edits.  The novel needs a few little blanks filled in, and it needs to be trimmed in a few spots.

Pleiades:  You do realize I've read it too, don't you?  I know how much work it needs.  I also know how scatter-brained you can be.

Me:  Hey!  (Stop to consider the accusation for a moment.)  All right, fine.  So you're right about that.  I'm determined this time, though!  Instead of sitting around saying that I want to have a book out there, I can actually put one out there.  I also have friends who will help me market it, and I'm getting a decent social networking platform set up.  I'm serious about this!

Pleiades:  I know you're serious now, but you tend to back off of things because of frustration and fear.  You'll probably do the same thing here!

Me:  Why are you being so mean?

Pleiades:  (Snaps a finger and her outfit immediately changes to an army uniform.) You need discipline.  I'm going to be your drill sergeant, and I'm going to whip you into shape.  You need me to be tough on you right now.

Me:  (Cringing.)  Is this really necessary?  I mean, I think I've actually been . . .

Pleiades:  What are you doing on that blog of yours, anyway?  You're just wasting time when you could be working on your  other project.

Me: This isn't wasting . . .

Pleiades:  Did you hear me, soldier?  Get off that blog right now and work!  WORK!

Okay.  I guess I'd better go now.

Who Wants to See Some Hookers?

Today is Day 1 of the wonderfully named Hookers and Hangers Blogfest!  This one is hosted by the lovely ladies over at Falling For Fiction.  I decided to join in because I'm not at all confident in how I start and end my chapters.  I'm not expecting to have the best hookers and hangers out there.  Far from it.  My main goal is to get some good critique and see what everyone else has to offer.

Besides, look at the name of this blogfest.  How could I pass up the opportunity to have the word "hookers" in my post title?

I have a lot of WIPs, but I decided to go with one that I'm trying to edit for a compilation I want to do.  This is a short novel that I'm thinking of titling either The Great Divide or Divided We Fall.  I know, I can't even commit to a title, but I'll have to eventually.  This novel is supposed to be a memoir style thing written from the perspective of a man who has been persecuted his entire life and has somehow survived everything life has thrown at him.

Keep in mind, since I'm trying to do a memoir-style story, there are commentaries on life lessons learned from his past sprinkled throughout, along with some memories.  If the snippets seem like they're out of any logical order (difficult as it is to tell from one sentence), that's why.

Since I'm in the editorial process, some of these hookers will undoubtedly change, but this is how they currently stand.

A Note From the Author:  The events recounted here are real. 

Chapter 1:  The back of the delivery truck smelled stale, not sterile like I was used to. 

Chapter 2:  Being the youngest of eleven children, I repeatedly told myself my parents didn’t visit me in the center because they were so busy. 

Chapter 3:  As a new patient in the treatment center, I was small and scared. 
Chapter 4:  During my childhood, a Curable lived on the outskirts of town.  

Chapter 5:  Once the harvest was over, I worked most of my shifts in the kitchen helping to concoct preserves, salsas, canned soups, and anything else that would keep our food supply good during the winter months.  

Chapter 6:  The final days of the expedition found me feeling lighter than I’d imagined possible.  

Chapter 7:  I woke the next morning to sunlight streaming through the window.  

Chapter 8:  We were wedged in the midst of late winter, and I was looking forward to spring.  

Chapter 9:  One thing I’ve learned from experience is that a picture truly is worth a thousand words.  

Chapter 10:  Lullabies tell tales of horror.  

Chapter 11:  The Charitable Mission, a subsidiary of New Visions Ministries, ran homeless shelters all over the Eastern States.  

Chapter 12:  The first time I was physically assaulted wasn’t in treatment. 

Chapter 13:  I ran as fast as I could toward the fence, agonizingly aware of how counterintuitive this action felt. 
Chapter 14:  I fell to my knees, the world reeling around me.  

Chapter 15:  Love does strange things to people.  

Chapter 16:  I sat beside the window of my little hospital room, watching soldiers in black uniforms march through the streets with rifles slung over their shoulders.  

Chapter 17:  Strategy meant everything in the world of treatment.  

Epilogue:  A number of years have passed since the war ended.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blogspiration 8: The Power of Reading

As a writer, I understand the value of books.  They engage the mind, challenging it to see the world differently.  I believe people should embrace this opportunity.  When you pick up a good book, let it pull you into its world.  Question what it has to say.  Examine what you think of its message.  Really wrestle with it.  These kinds of reading experiences are typically the most rewarding.

You don't have to accept everything a book says as gospel to have a transformative experience in reading it.  You just have to immerse yourself in the process. 

Yes, I know Harry Potter and other books like it are fiction, but I can see the world in a fun way because of those reading experiences.  What books have you read that changed you or the way you see the world in some way?

Taken from HERE.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Polite Letter of Complaint

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!

I felt like injecting a bit of humor into my writing today, and I'm here to present you with the result.  Granted, I am no comedian.  I can only promise that I find this amusing.  I did write this in one sitting though, so it still may be rough.

Before I present you my story, I would like to say this:  I hope you have better luck on this unlucky day than Captain Otto.

A Polite Letter of Complaint


Captain Ariana Otto
USS Freebird
In indefinite orbit around the planet Lysea


CEO Kimp Zernfoddle
Galactic Language Systems
Space Station Copernicus
Tau Ceti System

Dear Mr. Zernfoddle:

As the commanding officer of the USS Freebird, I was recently given the great honor of making first contact with the Lyseans.  Though we knew little of their language or culture going in to this assignment, my entire crew spent weeks studying the intelligence that had already been gathered on this species.  We felt confident we knew enough about them to open the lines of communication, and perhaps even establish a trade agreement with them.

Mr. Zernfoddle, as the CEO of the largest and most powerful manufacturer of translation technology, I have no doubt you are quite familiar with the importance of trade agreements.  Part of building and maintaining them requires that you don’t offend the people with whom you’re negotiating.  I ask that you keep this crucial fact in mind as you read the rest of this letter.

Due the ironclad contract you negotiated with the Astronomical Union’s head of purchasing, your company is the sole provider of communication devices for each of the AU’s starships and space stations.  Under normal circumstances, I would not take issue with this legal wrangling that surely had your legal team laughing like giddy children, but universal translators are crucial in first contact situations.  The wrong word can derail an otherwise friendly conversation.  The unfortunate beheading of my good friend Captain Crane illustrates this point perfectly.  A slight difference in tone turned a simple request for water, which translates as life-giving liquid, to a request for a bodily fluid that also has life-giving qualities.  The three meter tall emissary with whom Crane was speaking took offense, and by nightfall Crane’s head was hanging from the balcony of their capitol building.  As you’re surely aware, we are still trying to negotiate the return of his remains, and even with the help of your top of the line translation tech, the proceedings have been less than successful on our end.

My ship uses the L3M0/V Universal Translator.  This is the same translator Crane was using before he unwittingly made the query that would have earned him an immediate court martial had he not lost his head over the situation.  Mr. Zernfoddle, I can assure you that my diplomatic team carefully crafted an introductory speech and practiced for days for a multitude of scenarios.  I worked closely with them, and I felt confident in my ability to communicate with the Lyseans.  While I could never have guaranteed that our meeting would be all we hoped, there is no way my carefully scripted remarks could have been interpreted as “questioning the parentage and bedroom habits of the emperor” without some kind of error on the part of the translation device.

Of course, I cannot tell you exactly what I supposedly said, because we only learned of the charges after days of debate in a prison interrogation room using your translator.  Normally I would use facial expressions to overcome some of these difficulties, but as the Lyseans are bulbous green creatures with no discernible faces, that wasn’t going to be much help.  They have only a small mouth, and even that is covered by a large flap of skin that makes it difficult to see.  Without a reliable translation, we are in the dark. 

I can only be certain that they have no intention of letting this go easily.  The majority of my crew remains aboard the Freebird, looping the planet in perpetuity until we can reach some kind of diplomatic understanding.  I, along with the rest of the team that met with the Lysean emperor, have been accommodated in the maximum security wing of the prison.  It has now been a full three months since this mix-up began, and we are eager to return to our ship. 

The AU teams that have come to negotiate on our behalf have, with the aid of your newer L/1M3 Universal Translator, had a little more luck than we did.  Only 75% of their people have been punished for infractions such as “confessing to a string of unexplained murders from more than a century ago” and “accusing the emperor’s daughter of eating worm holes.”  Again, I am not certain of the veracity of the charges as translated back to us.  If the translations are somehow accurate, the Lyseans are more sensitive to insult than any other sentient race in the galaxy.

I am writing to you in the hope that you can help us fix this.  Since you are the only corporation we can legally go to for our translation needs, I was hoping you could devote the best resources you have to resolving this matter.  Though I do not want to sound impatient, I have spent the last months cleaning the prison toilets to earn my meals.  These toilets are out in the open, and the inmates have no inhibitions about who is watching when they use them.  Also, given that they defecate out of their mouths, I frequently find myself unable to eat the meals I worked so hard to get.

Since you and I speak different languages and my letter clearly has to go through your translation software before it will make sense to you, I hope you encounter none of the problems that we have.  If anything comes out wrong or sounds offensive to you, please discard it as a difficulty with the translation.  I would never insult such a rotund, mentally-deficient, greedy despot such as yourself.

I hope this letter finds you rotting in a pool of your own fetid self-righteousness.  My people and I look forward to hearing from you.


Captain Ariana Otto, Senior Toilet Scrubber