January 13, 2015

Guest Post by JL Morin (Plus Book Excerpt) Science Fiction Grew a Conscience: "We Have Been Fighting the Wrong War"


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to read and review an ARC of Nature's Confession, the debut YA novel by Library Journal Reviewer, HuffPost blogger and adjunct faculty at Boston University JL Morin. Nature's Confession - the first installment in a new, promising cli-fi trilogy - finally came out less than a week ago, on Jan. 8. In case you don't know, this is how Wikipedia defines cli-fi:

"an abbreviation for climate fiction, which describes fictional work [...] about climate change and global warming issues. Climate change themes are also found in some science fiction and other speculative fiction."

Though cli-fi isn't necessarily a subgenre of science fiction, I see it as sci-fi finally growing a conscience and tackling problems like overpopulation, pollution and resource exploitation on/of our planet. Hence half the title of this post. The quote that makes the second half of it will be self-explanatory, once you've read the guest post that follows.

This is the first guest post I've ever hosted on Offbeat YA. You know me...I only do these things when I have a real reason for them, and when they are a good fit for my blog. So, around Nature's Confession release date, author JL Morin and me talked about doing something to celebrate the launching...agreed on a guest post...and here it is :). Morin discusses cli-fi (or eco-fiction) and its role in modern society, pointing out that it can be - and indeed is - "political fiction"...all the same (I'll add) not failing to provide entertainment, irony and humour and to take us on a wild adventure. I'm especially proud to have Morin here today as my first guest post contributor. So please welcome JL Morin and hear what she has to say...

Guest Post by JL Morin

Nature's Confession, LitPick 5-Star Review Award Winner; the #1 Top Marinovich Fiction Read this year; best of a New Genre, included in “12 Works of Climate Fiction Everyone Should Read”; and Eco-Fiction Story Contest Honorable Mention.

Love. We all like to fantasize about it. Boy meets girl, the first awakening to a beautiful person. Not a love that leads to 13 children in a dirty one-room apartment, but an epic romance about two teens in a fight to save a warming planet…the universe…and their love… After all, love stories are meaningless without the dark tragedies that life deals up to set them in relief. And what darker tragedy than the one going on today with corporations running the planet into degradation for their own profit? As MakSym in Nature's Confession puts it, man over Nature is obsolete. We have been fighting the wrong war:
"Some of you might remember doing a biology experiment," my protagonist says, "where you filled a jar with water and put a few blades of grass in it with holes in the top. After a few days, if you looked at a drop of the water under a microscope, you saw healthy amoebas growing. After a few more days, the jar became full of amoebas as they happily multiplied. After a week, it stunk with rancid water. A look at a drop of the polluted water showed that all the amoebas were dead. What did Nature confess to us in that experiment? That growth could not go on forever. There is a saturation point. The amoebas were so successful that they multiplied until they used up all the resources and became extinct. If humans don't guard against reaching their saturation point, they, too, will commit parricide against their planet. We saw the contagion on Earth, when mankind pit its cancerous growth against Nature. Now the truth is clear. Enslaving Nature, we enslave ourselves. Conquering Nature is a death wish. We have been fighting the wrong war, and in winning, we lose."
We can't all fit. One glance at this chart of projected population growth is enough to get the point:

We're already using up all our groundwater. California's river basins have been losing about 15 cubic kilometres of water a year, more than what it uses in one year. How will we feed all these people? We're already eating up all the animals.  “Was man put down on Earth just to pollute?” wonders the protagonist of Nature’s Confession, the first book of a trilogy. He questions the ‘busywork’ adults commute in circles to daily, doing more damage than good. Yes, this is happening now, and the epic cli-fi adventure is political fiction. Some critics believe that literature should not be subordinated to politics. I say, no matter how much you dissect things, it-and-we-are-all-connected. Many high school English class books were political when they were written, A Wrinkle in Time commented on Communism during the Cold War, as did Animal Farm. They might be revered more now that they’ve become innocuous, but when they came out, they were banned in many countries. By now you’ve guessed that I’m not writing ‘commercial fiction’, if that can be defined as fiction that encourages you to go shopping. I write about the opposite: the blinding drama that commerce blatantly ignores, things like the human race acting like a disease and eating up all the animals. The backdrop is extinction, overpopulation, what to do with five billion more people drinking polluted water. Buying a ticket for one seat in an airplane from New York to London round trip puts as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a house does in a whole year. That’s why I travel with my mind instead of my body these days. Now that the media has started to confess, the truth comes out. These days, I meet virtually, rather than flying around. Virtual meetings are where it's at. You never know what you might find. Offbeat YA is the first stop on my Nature's Confession virtual book tour. It wasn’t hard to get here. I even had time beforehand to take the decorations off my Christmas tree (who was very relieved to make a narrow escape out onto the terrace until next year). 

I’m doing the tour in my super-warm onsie. You can attend in yours, too: why go out when you can stay home in your hot pajamas and turn down the heat? This piece of clothing comes in all shapes and sizes, from serious to silly, complete with nightcap hoodie, and will erase years off your heating bill.     

Many thanks to Offbeat YA for inviting me!
An excerpt from Nature's Confession:

That Porter left his family and flew off with another woman was later erased from the history books.
Nothing went as planned. He hadn’t even kissed Any, yet. He began to doubt himself again. Once their flying saucer started orbiting Grod, he attempted to prove his skills, but Any lay there like a rug. She was still lying there four Grod hours later. Porter felt lost.
Her heartbeat sounded normal. He held his wrist screen up to her nose. It didn’t cloud over with her breath. He recoiled in surprise. That’s when the truth dawned on Porter. Any was not what she seemed. His body stiffened. Betrayal didn’t feel so nice. Worries flooded in, about food, air, about his wife and son back at dome on Grod.
He rolled up Any’s sleeve. She sure did have a lot of arm hair, and what was that? He pulled her glove down farther to reveal a black spot. Porter drew in his breath at the sight of her leopard skin. Any was a furry! Porter had been around long enough to know that talking furries were machines. That meant he was the only human in the spaceship. He was alone.
His mind raced. He tried to remain aloof and look at the bright side. Despite the horrible truth, he wasn’t going to betray his wife after all: what he’d run off with wasn’t another woman.
Why hadn’t he seen it before? He hadn’t wanted to, that’s why. But now it was plain as day. Deserted, he looked at the black window and tried to remember what day looked like.
Any wasn’t dead. She was a female droid. A gynoid. Gynoids couldn’t die. Now his life depended on her. He’d heard that gynoids were often so pleased they short-circuited. He knew what to do to wake a gynoid. He began tickling her toes.
Presently, she whispered, “. . . divided by one, plus one, zero, zero . . .” Her forehead wrinkled under the weight of a heavy calculation. “ . . . equals . . . civil disobedience.”
Porter shook her shoulder. “What are you doing, Any?”
She yawned. “Computing an act of disobedience.”
Impossible. “Ever been to LA, Any?”
“Sure Porter.”
Of course, she hadn’t. It was in her memory bank. She was lying.
“You have to do 50 tryouts for one commercial, and 50 commercials for every movie extra role,” she said. “Enslaved Hollywood turns artists into prison-wall bricks.” Her eyes flickered open and stared into his. He knew. Ah well, at least she wouldn’t have to hide her tail anymore. Any decided to be proactive. “It’s time I told you, Porter.”
“Look, Any, I know what you’re going to confess. It’s about your age, isn’t it?”
Any’s catlike pupils dilated in preparation for confrontation.
“How old are you, 95?”
“You know just what to say.”
“Almost two in Earth years, but that’s not the important thing.”
Porter whistled and looked to the ceiling for help.
The spaceship’s computer mic crackled. “Solar wind ahead. Any Gynoid, take the helm. Porter, buckle down.”
Instead, Porter jumped up. “Any Gynoid? What kind of name is that?” He looked out at the black nothingness in front of them. “I’m lost with a no one called Any Gynoid!” Porter cried. “Where is this ship taking me? I thought we were orbiting Grod!”
“We were.” Any looked worried.
“And now?”
“Porter,” she put her leopard-skin hand on his arm, “we’re actually on a mission to Earth, um, in a sort of a roundabout way.”
“Earth!” Shock shook him to the bone. “Why didn’t you tell me that before? What ‘roundabout way’!?”
Any’s pointy ears flattened on top of her head.
Porter looked out the window at the blanket of night with only a faint sprinkling of stars. Only two months ago, he’d looked up at the stars and dreamt of freedom with Any up here. Now that he had escaped with her, he saw that he was just a tool in a larger strategy. Starliament was manipulating him into exile on his polluted home planet. “Not Earth! Any, let’s talk this over calmly. Even if I’m younger than you, I remember what happened on Earth.”
Any watched the mist descend over Porter’s eyes. Her back fur stood up. Although she was immune to the brainwashing power of Earthling mist, she blinked reflexively as he tried to convince her that one plus one equaled three.
“Corporations hopelessly polluted Earth in the name of GDP growth. They dug out all the fossil fuels and destroyed Earth’s atmosphere.” His half-shut eyes lost their focus as he warmed to his own propaganda. “Any, our race was the richest and most powerful in world history, but it had no renewable energy targets, no restrictions on fossil fuel. People voted to save the planet, but Corporate Personhood blocked them. Corporations didn’t see the point in clean air or water. They were only programmed to make money. There’s no way we can beat the Emperor of Earth and Ocean’s corporate forces. We’ll be lucky if we’re able to breathe the air. We’ll die on Earth!”
“Not when we’re going.”
“What?” Porter stared out at the blackness ahead. “You can’t go back in time!” Porter protested. “That’s far beyond what science can do. We’re not even able to control the resources on a planet.”
The spaceship mic crackled, “That’s what makes you human.”
Any’s ears flattened again. “Porter, at the edge of the future is . . . the past.”
Porter could not grok it at all. “Columbus discovered the universe is not flat!” he said.
“Correction,” the ship’s mic crackled. “Columbus proved Earth is not flat.”
When Porter regained his ability to speak, he was stammering, “That’s the dilemma we all face dealing with our regret. You can’t go back. Even Stephen Hawkings said you can’t travel backward in time. Why? Because it would cause paradoxes. You can only travel forward.” The mist was strong in his eyes.
“That’s what we’re doing, Porter. We’re traveling forward in time to get to the edge of the universe. You can’t travel backward in time near the center of the universe, but this far out, things fall apart, laws of physics no longer hold.”
“Any Gynoid is correct. You need to get beyond the Central Longitude of Paradox.”
“We’re going to Earth-in-the-past,” Any said. “That was the mission we’re on now. It’s not just about saving your race. It’s about our bond to the planet. We’re going back to the moment Earth was sucked into Corporatism. We’re going to stop the pollution. We need to find the precise moment when failed 20th century technology poured lethal radiation into the oceans. If we don’t cut off corporate pollution, it’ll destroy Earth and all the planets in its chain,” Any said.
Porter blinked away the mist. “And then?” he asked.
“And then the Word would not be transmitted through the next Big Bang,” Any said. “All of civilization would be lost.”
“But I don’t want to be a hero. I want to get off of this mission.” He felt totally lost. When did play become work? There must be some mistake. “Why didn’t Starliament send its own forces?” Porter asked.
“Starliament can’t figure out why humans want to wreck-up their own home so much. It might be a catchable disease or something like that, so they’re not visiting Earth. I was the obvious choice.”
He still couldn’t get over that she was in charge. “Any, why did they choose a female to head up this mission?”
“Now that’s a good question, Porter.” Any looked at him slyly. “Everyone assumes females have empathy . . . that we’re always thrilled to chat . . . people love our looks . . . even if we’re smart, women can dance without escalating to smexy . . . there are many people who will confide in a female but hesitate when it comes to trusting a male . . .” Then she thrust back her shoulders and flashed him a smile. “And who better for a cleanup job on a planet as polluted as Earth?”
Porter sank into his swivel chair. “Why me?”
Any stretched her feline form. “They don’t believe in sending ‘unmanned’ spacecraft on diplomatic missions.” Her furry ears twitched as she searched her controls for a wormhole that could take them toward the outer reaches of the universe.
“I wish this would hurry up and be over.”
“One of man’s greatest paradoxes,” the ship’s computer said. “Wanting time to pass faster, while wishing to approach death slower.”
“Will you bud out?” Porter was fed up with this threesome. “Any, I can’t take not knowing where we’re going. The uncertainty is killing me. How long until we get there? We need to hurry up. Come on, Any. Slice and dice it.”
“Do I look like an appliance?
Barreling into the future and total expansion, they entered a neighborhood of the outer universe that had become so disorganized that structures known as galaxies and planets became impossible.
“Dark matter has increased to ninety nine percent in this region,” The ship’s computer said. “Disorder is growing at an immeasurable rate as we approach the edge of the universe.”
Porter’s arms hung down on the sides of his belly. His face had grown thinner with worry. “We’re not going to die, are we?” He asked again. It tripped Any’s cirucits when people asked her the same question more than once. Then he asked her again. “We’re not going to die, are we?”
No choice but to answer. Any bowed her head. “Yes, we are going to die.”
“I knew it!?”
Then, why did he ask? “But we’re also going to live, assuming the laws of quantum physics hold. Out here, our wave functions are a superposition of two states, decayed and not-decayed.”
“Speak English!”
“We just need to collapse the quantum state into a new state that describes a positive outcome for the experiment.”
“I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT!” Porter cried.
“Of course not, dear. I just need you to modify your private wave functions to account for this newly acquired knowledge so a coherent worldview can emerge.”
“What coherent world view would you like to emerge? I’m expanding with a furry machine!”
Any’s back fur bristled with annoyance. “Yo mamma.”
“Excuse me?”
“You want to talk about RACE? Humans. And you still think you’re superior, ha! Look how you’ve messed up your own environment. Do you realize how RARE planets like Earth are? The chance of reaching another blue planet in the Goldilocks zone with air and water and animals in a lifetime is close to zero. And to be polluting it like you did! Spoiled children. Your carbon emissions and chemical toxins killed all the animals. The only creatures left were cockroaches, rats and humans. For shame. You don’t deserve my help.”
She had a point. “Why are you helping us, Any?”
“What else is there to do? I’m here to prove it isn’t computers that are evil. It’s the corporations claiming personhood with no one at the helm.”
“What can you prove? You’re a simple gynoid. You don’t have free will. You have to follow the program.”
“I can relate to that, but I’ve had to mutate to do things like get to Earth without knowing how.”
“You don’t know how! That’s just great.”
“We’ll have to be creative. Did you think God had a patent on creation?” Any said.
Porter ran to the window. “Why is the ship stopping?” Maybe all was not lost. Yes, he knew he could get her to obey. He’d have to try hollering at her more often. He craned his head left and right. “Even the stars have stopped. Where are the stars?”
Any’s furry ears flattened. She and Porter stared at the black nothingness more enormous than anything anyone had ever seen, as if God had divided by zero.
Porter began climbing the walls. “A black hole? Nothing can survive a crushing black hole that size!” he shrieked.
“That’s not a black hole, Porter.”
“What is it?”
“It’s the edge of the universe.”
“Red alert,” the ship’s computer blared. “Approaching the edge of the universe. Red Alert.”
The expansion at the edge of the universe overrode the ship’s in-flight gravity system. Porter floated along the ceiling. “You think you’re so smart¾” The red light flashed on his face. “We can’t be going through that to get to Earth. Tell me you’re joking, Any.”
“Red alert,” the ship’s computer said. “We have reached the edge of the universe. Red Alert.”
“This can’t be happening!” He yelled, abandoned.
Time slowed. Dark energy was pushing the universe apart. The universe ran away at its extremities, expanding faster and faster. Any Gynoid braced herself in the driver’s seat. The flying saucer careened under fierce turbulence as they tipped over the edge of the universe. There was one final crushing bump as the saucer seeped into the future-past.
Suddenly, the flying saucer lurched and their swivel seats crashed to the floor. There was an overwhelming explosion. The ship jolted with a big bang. Flash. They reappeared in an explosion of light syncopating out from the black mass. Porter and Any were lying motionless on the floor. Strange music vibrated through the flying saucer. It reverberated around them. The next thing they knew, they were shaking free of their bodies.
An alternative version of the whole spaceship peeled off from the decayed version, leaving bodies and matter behind. The ethereal version’s pure energy vaulted out of the Big Bang.
The music of a thousand voices grew louder. Matter was far from being unchangeable. On the contrary, matter was in continual transformation. Their bodies went from liquid to gas to energy. Porter looked out the window through a quark-gluon plasma at the other flying saucer, decaying, shrinking, becoming nothing more than a quantum probability hurling into their wake. He shuddered, trying to dismiss the absurdity of his circumstances.
Their energy was pulled and stretched into spaghetti, and compacted to a millionth of a millionth of the size of an atom. Gravity was so heavy that it stopped time. Any and Porter had reached singularity, the point of infinite gravity where space and time became meaningless.
The music didn’t seem to have any lyrics at first, but through the reverberations, Porter and Any could make out a single word. They had heard it before. It had slipped into the English language from the Indonesian Girl’s living computer’s viral story. The word wasn’t like other writing that could be lost and never retrieved, but rather a symbol of an objective math theorem that could be arrived at logically. If obliterated, the universal theorem would be deduced again by some species or another, eventually.
The theorem was distilled into a single word: sema, sign, the ancient Greek word for a hero’s tomb, root of ‘significance’, giver of meaning. Dormant for so many eons, the Indonesian Girl’s living computer’s text now glowed a brilliant yellow under the intensive radiation. Word became sign. The sign housed the word, just as the tombs of old housed the ancient heroes. As if it were a verb, the word ‘sign’ mutated into a living code meaning ‘The Truth’, meaning ‘Love’, meaning ‘God’. It became the seed of all seeds, a new prescription for life in the new universe.
In a fraction of a second, their bodies expanded trillions of times, to the size of cockroaches. In the next trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, Porter and Any inflated to their normal sizes. The celestial music played louder. Porter felt the music inscribing itself on his genetic material. Where was he? The gray area that he’d been counting on had turned to white and he was a black speck, eye of the yin, precursor of yang. All he knew was, he and Any were holding hands. That’s when he realized he was getting his body back, still not sure why they were there. Had they really started all over again? “What’s happening, Any?” Porter asked.
“The Word from the old universe is penetrating the Big Bang’s primordial plasma.”
“The Word?”
“A code.”
“What kind of code?”
“All kinds,” Any said.
“Energy is becoming matter,” the ship’s computer said.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go through the Big Bang with,” Any said, marveling at the new universe being born, nearly a clean slate, confessions of Nature ever etched on their minds. All the mess that had built up near the frayed edges of the old universe was gone. Any checked the controls and was relieved. The new universe retained the memory of its past configuration of atoms. The laws of physics held. That meant the code had transferred successfully into the universe’s new incarnation. Just the right amount of cosmic forgetfulness had come to the rescue.
They were in such a remote past that it scared Porter. They’d traveled farther from Earth than he’d ever been. How would they find Earth again? What if there’s no way?
“Come on, Nature,” Any said aloud, watching the baby universe. After seemingly endless searching, Any found a wormhole with both ends in the same place. It was separated by time instead of distance. “Thank heaven!” Any said. She trained the ship’s beams on it and expanded it so they could fit inside. The saucer bulleted through the tunnel.
“How are we ever going to find Earth?” Porter whined. He just wanted off the ship. He didn’t care if two tourists didn’t stand a chance against polluting corporate forces. The wormhole went on and on.
Any jumped out of her chair and put her hands on his shoulders. “I think I know the way. It has to do with the code. We have to find the energy emanating from the tombs of heroes, the ancient Greeks’ sema. You see, heroes never cease to perform heroic acts, even in the afterlife. They are so responsible, that they retain a conscious connection to the world of the living, and continue trying to save Nature.”
The computer detected a strange gravitational wave in the wormhole. Any kept her eyes on the gravity wave, hoping it was the sign that would point them in the right direction. The gravity wave led them onward.
“That’s it, Nature,” Any mused. “I have a hunch you’ve stashed great power in the tombs of heroes.”
“And so it should be,” the ship’s computer agreed.
On the other side of the wormhole, the ship spewed into the future. Its computer tracked the gravitational wave. Any followed it. The wave led them into familiar territory. She breathed a sigh of relief. “Where are the pyramids, Stonehenge, thesema?” Any was flipping through hundreds of screens of gas and stars in search of a sign. “We have to look for them. They’re like lighthouses beaconing us home.”
“That’s what those pyramids are for!” Porter was so relieved to see the sky full of galaxies again. The stars cheered him up. They were on the right track. Praying that the lighthouses would lead the ship to Earth, he helped her look for thesema.
Any focused on a speck of dust and magnified it thousands of times. They threw back their heads and hugged each other. There was planet Earth!
Orbiting the gray planet, They could make out the continent of Africa and the tombs of Egypt. “There!” Any pointed to a sema on the window screen. “The sacred pyramids. See that? That’s the meaning that led us here.” The sign blipped on the saucer’s radar, as if to say, hero, hero. The area was rich with the souls of unforgotten heroes, their lives symbols that shone clear into outer space.
Earth orbited Sol below. Any smiled. She steered the ship deftly toward the future-past they sought. The spaceship pierced the Earth’s atmosphere. They glided over the putrid ocean, gray with oil and toxic waste, to rocky terrain, and landed with a thud. Any hoped she’d programmed for the right age. She prayed they didn’t land in the time of the dinosaurs. She opened the hatch, her tail protruding through a hole in the back of her space suit. The foul smell of pollution pervaded the atmosphere even here, up north in Alaska.
Squinting, Porter climbed out. The smell of pollution hit his nose, and he coughed. A grinding noise grated on his ears. He glared downhill. Behind a veil of pines, twenty camouflaged machines worked the soil next to a metal building.
“That’s the enemy target,” Any said. “The corporations are expanding that facility to house the new servers. We’ve got to take it over and free humankind and the living computers.” Any felt a pang of compassion for the enslaved machines on the hill below, flailing their unoiled appendages with high-pitched squeaks. They grated across the rocky terrain in a squealing chorus to the bass drum of their chugging motors. “The Corporates have equipped those diggers to shoot. They’re the enemy army.”
“How on Earth are we going to get around all those diggers?” Porter cried. “I refuse to get involved. There are twenty of them and only two of us!”
“We’ll have to exploit their weaknesses. See how each machine is spaced two meters apart? That’s because industrial robots move from position to position to reach their final destination regardless of anyone in their way. That has caused injuries when workers have been next to robots. Factories from your era kept accidents from happening during assembly line construction by building robots that powered down when they came close to a life form. That’s one reason we had to land here and now, when humans and robots were still working together as teams.”
“What’s another reason?”
“We couldn’t have landed any later than now because after this, the Corporates demolish all the tombs, and there are no more signs to guide us to Earth,” Any said.
“We’re lucky the tombs are still here.”
Any nodded. “Another decade and corporate persons would have ransacked the tombs and all the cemeteries.”
Porter was beginning to grok the shituation. “A brutal war tactic, cutting people off from their roots.”
“Not to mention the nasty side effect of eliminating all possible outside help, destroying the signs that communicate with extraterrestrial life.” Any started down the hill.
Porter scrambled after her. “Don’t leave the ship, Any! Let’s just ignore Starliament’s orders.”
“I am ignoring Starliament’s orders.”
“You are?”
“Yes. It was hard to compute an act of disobedience.”
“Is that what all that number crunching was about? But that’s an act of free will.” The more human Any became, the more Porter worried that he was betraying his wife.
“Yes. It took hours to add it up. Luckily, authority fades over distance. The sad truth is, governmental entities are too bloated to cope with problem solving. Starliament wants to negotiate with the Emperor of Earth and Ocean. We’re not here to negotiate. The only way to protect Nature is through grassroots help.” Any bent down to the ground and grazed on the vegetation. Her tail stuck up in the air.
This was an angle Porter hadn’t considered.
Any swallowed her chunk of horse grass. “The mission was to negotiate with the Emperor to get him to sell us fossil fuel.”
“Like oil?”
“Why does Starliament want oil? It’s got plenty of cleaner fuel.”
“They had to come up with a commodity Earthlings would believe in.”
“What are we really doing here, then?”
“None of that.”
“I only know a small fragment of my creator’s plan. We’re here to free Earth from corporate pollution.”
“Just the two of us? How romantic.”
“The whole planet will help if we can get clean energy working and activate the right people.”
“That would take decades!”
“It should have happened centuries ago. Humans have always had clean technology. They just aren’t allowed to use it.”
“What about the fuel?”
“We’ll harvest fuel all right. But not the dirty kind.”
Porter’s eyes widened. How are we going to carry back clean energy?
“We just need a small sample, for our own research.”
“Research on what?”
“On the meaning of life. On how to harness clean energy to protect Nature from herself.”
“Protect Nature . . . ?”
“Let me put it in terms you can understand: we need it to fight the war on pollution in the rest of the universe. You didn’t think all that human endeavor was for naught, did you?”
“Yes. I mean no—” Porter kicked a stone down the hill.
“We should just get out of here, Any.”
“We have to save a few friends on our way. You have to find your family, and I have to find my creator.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m sure he can fix everything.”
“She’s only half of the key. My creator can do nothing more without the other half.”
“What’s that?”
“Who’s that?”
“Your son.”
“My son!” Porter felt a mixture of pride and defensiveness. Was his son still here on Earth? A dumbfounded expression froze on Porter’s face as he realized his whole family must still be on the planet. That meant it was up to him to rescue them. He swallowed in a dry throat. What if he failed at saving his family? Would he even be here in the first place? Maybe he would just disappear.
Any continued down the grassy slope.
“Any!” he called. “You’re too ambitious. Even a stealth mission couldn’t stop that whole army of machines. We’re grossly outnumbered. Admit defeat. You’ve lost your mind bringing us here. You should never have tried to travel backward in time.”
Any was sniffing the breeze. “Saffron flowers. I love those!” Any lowered her head like a cow and started eating the yellow flowers. She wandered down the hill.
“It’s impossible to travel backward in space-time,” Porter called after her. “Otherwise paradoxes would occur!” He waited ten minutes and then decided to go looking for Any. As he scaled down the hillside into the pines, he had the strange sensation he’d been here before. The Alaskan hills looked familiar, a striking déjà vu. Yes, there was a stream over here, frozen now. His feet fell on the path with sureness. How did he know the way? He had the giddy feeling that he’d logged into the memories of a younger man. There was a movement in the trees by the stream. A young man. Porter was shocked. The young man’s back was turned to him, but the amazing familiarity was unmistakable. He had the dark wavy hair of Porter’s younger days, and the same hunched shoulders, although they were a little bony.
The man heard Porter’s footsteps and turned around.
Porter nearly jumped out of his shoes. The young man was another Porter! He was starting a paunch around the middle, and had the same prominent nose and dark hair.
Porter quickly ducked into the shadow of a tree. He must not let the younger man see him. What if he was an anti-Porter? They might both disappear!
But the young version of himself sensed the older Porter and groped his way straight to his hiding place. “Do I know you?” His youthful eyes widened with fear from behind broken compuglasses.
“That’s a scary question,” Porter answered. The confrontation made him question himself. He wasn’t sure anymore whether he was the real Porter. He turned and faced his younger self. “If you don’t know me, who does?” Having lived a lifetime of low self-esteem from childhood spankings, Porter stood there dreading what might happen to him if he found his real self. What if it was this inexperienced, green Porter who was real.
Pebbles slid back down the slope. Any was running up the hill. Porter ran after her, followed by the younger Porter.
“Any! Let’s get out of here before that army of machines finds us!” A veil of mist descended over Porter’s eyes, and he spouted the propaganda he’d learned in school. “Space and time are tangled together in a four-dimensional fabric. Space-time. It’s impossible to travel backward in space-time. Otherwise paradoxes would occur . . .”
Swoosh! They looked to the sky above. A flying object burst through the atmosphere. They dove for cover.
“What’s happening, Any?” The Porters asked simultaneously.
“The others have arrived!” Any said.
“What others?” the Porters asked.
Her tail switched back and forth. She put her hand up to her forehead in salute against the glaring sun. “When we travelled into the past, we departed from different points in the future.”
“What are you saying?”
A rush of hot air swallowed her explanation. The object landed on the hillside with an earth-trembling thud.
They uncovered their faces. A flying saucer just like theirs! The hatch opened, and another Porter and Any Gynoid stepped out, arguing.
Swoosh! Another thud.
And another, and another. Three, four, twelve, 100 ships came out of the loop. They landed on the hillsides. The sky closed back up. The earth stopped trembling.
The ships’ hatches opened. A whole army of Anys appeared.
One of the Anys had started taking apart her ship. “So that’s how this thing works!” She waved to the young Porter with the broken compuglasses, exhorting him to keep track of the nuts and bolts.
Another Any Gynoid climbed out of another ship—“We’re here!”—having landed on Earth-in-the-future-past to save Nature from herself. It was a beautiful plan, with only one defect: there was also an army of Porters.
Standing there helpless next to his younger self, Porter took in the sight of a hundred atomic pairs of Porters and Anys assembling into a front line. It was a turnoff. Some of the Porters looked twice as old as their Anys. How embarrassing. The last remnants of his lust for Any evaporated.


  1. Wow! That was so awesome. A great book indeed! Thank you again Roberta for adding books to my TBR list. (As if I don't have enough books already!!!)

  2. I have not heard of cli-fi before, so thanks for introducing a new term to me! Although, I did once watch a film in which a couple out camping, and being very damaging to their environment, are eventually killed by Mother Nature, which sounds a bit cli-fi-ish. ;)

    1. Definitely! I suppose most of us would be at least punished in some way, if M.N. were able to get her revenge :/.

  3. I haven't heard the term cli-fi before but I'm glad to see more authors tackling the subject.

    Sometimes the problems we're facing seem insurmountable but here's hoping we become more engaged through books like this.

  4. I believe I left you a youtube link by accident - if so - sorry about that. I meant to leave my blog link. lol

    1. You didn't actually leave any link - but since I'm feeling so generous... ;)
      For What It's Worth


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