Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk: Star Lawyers Series Aliens

Star Lawyers

Sampler Weekly Feature #1

Progress Report on Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy: Book 5/TSLC is the most far-ranging, exciting Star Lawyers adventure yet. Four simultaneous jury trials in the midst of a Galaxy-wide conflict. I thought a good use of this Blog space would be to provide deep background on characters, races, deities, and cultures featured in the Star Lawyers series, notably in Book 5.

So, let’s set the scene before the feast begins. We start with order of battle information, intel reports on the combatants.

Hideki Tsuchiya of the breakaway Terran colony at New Osaka has provoked a war for dominance among starfaring powers of known space. The conflict pits a coalition of the Terran Commonwealth, the fearsome Parvian Republic, the blue/purple Quirt-Thymean Empire, and the humanoid red reptoids of the Tarkian Domain; against Tsuchiya’s self-declared New Galactic Empire and its axis of predatory star nations, including: the mudball Rek Kett, plus humanoids of the Zone of Wilmoth, Nosrika Domain, Lutzak Horde, and Zamkalon Purview.

Now, if you’re a normal reader, you probably zipped over that list with a combination of thoughts beginning with WTF and ending with WHO’ZAT? Rather than spread a thin layer of info about all combatants in one blog, we’ll look at one or two per installment. This information is scattered through the Star Lawyers books, including un-named volumes still on the drawing board in my head.

So, all you Blog-buddies get a special preview into the author’s works-in-progress. We begin with a member of Tsuchiya’s NGE Axis:

The Nosrika Domain

The Nosrika Domain consists of fifteen member worlds along the Orion Arm of the galaxy. Originally settled by explorers from the planet Nosrika, the Rimward edge of Domain Space now borders a group of worlds claimed by the far-flung Meklavite Union, a formidable foe the Nosrikans have avoided antagonizing.

Nosrikans are warm-blooded humanoids with tan facial skin and reddish fuzz on their arms, neck, back, and legs. They are sexually compatible with humans but not reproductively so. That suits them fine, since Nosrikans don’t intermarry with other species.

Their society centers around hunting wild prey, which has been the center of religious practice since prehistory. To maintain this link, Nosrikan metropolitan areas provide large tracts of forest and streams, and citizens sign up to hunt the required game animals once a Nosrikan year, about 620.5 days by the Terran calendar. They hunt in packs on foot with primitive weapons.

Tyler Matthews once noted that the Nosrikan game-killing spree reminded him of the Suryadivan Hunt which took the marsupial-amphibians to Adao-2 for a similar religious blood-ritual of carnivore behavior.

Nosrikan social order is based on an expanded tribal culture, similar to ancient Rome. At the lowest level are slaves, followed by freedmen (former slaves, manumitted), Pack Members (lower classes), Betas and Alphas (lower and higher forms of the aristocracy), and the First Citizens (ruling elite). All positions in the government are democratically elected, including the First Citizens, from the pool of eligible candidates due to birth, wealth, and legal status. Everyone but slaves can vote.

All citizens are eligible for election to the Grand Assembly and Regional Assemblies. At the very top of the Nosrikan pyramid is the High Leader, who appoints his ministers and staff from the classes above Pack Members. A First Citizen convicted of criminal activity would not be eligible for High Leader or participation in the Assemblies.

Religion in the Domain is considered a personal choice—as Terrans say, “Atheism to Zen”—and all forms of worship or non-participation are tolerated. The choice of most Nosrikans continues to be a modernized form of polytheism with an array of gods and goddesses related to all aspects of life. Like most modern polytheists, Nosrikans consider all these deities as expressions of One Divine Presence and Power undergirding all reality.

The Nosrikan attitude to outsiders and inferiors is far less enlightened. They buy and sell slaves at ongoing auctions in the city squares and consider this to be normative. They also consider any new planet up for grabs, even when inhabited by sentient beings. They have a medium-sized navy consisting of frigates, light and heavy cruisers plus mining and transport vessels.

Terrans call them an “opportunity expansionist power,” a star nation with expansionist goals that doesn’t tackle opponents with significant forces of their own. This bias was reinforced three centuries ago when the Domain attempted to seize lightly defended Quirt-Thymean colony worlds along their Spinward border and received a bad whipping from the Blue Navy. Malice toward the evil Quirt-Thymeans lingers to this day in Nosrikan lore.

In Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy the Nosrikans have an opportunity to pay back the Blue people for that humiliating defeat centuries ago. (Sorry. You’ll have to wait to see what happens.)

Next edition, the Blog will look a the “fearsome Parvian Republic” which is fortunately an ally of the Terran Commonwealth. In fact, one task assigned to Noah Matthews it to keep his Parvian friends from acting like they usually do, i.e., smash and destroy every adversary until their homeworlds are lifeless cinders. As Noah warns World Chief Executive Roland Rooney, “A tiger in your camp is a tiger nonetheless.”

Keep your datacoms open for incoming transmissions.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Sneak Peek

Star Lawyers

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk:

Blog Readers Special

Sneak Peek at Star Lawyers Book 5

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Star Lawyers Book 5

(Work-in-Progress)

When the lift reached Jaco’s floor, Rosalie and Inspector Platte drew their weapons. Flames licked the wall and the unmistakable spray of burned blood caked the flameless sections. Two Ounta-Kadiis men and a woman, badly burned and motionless, lay in red smears on the floor. They had the typical OK ruddy complexions with dark blue locks. The woman clutched a scorched handbag to her breast.

Demarcus checked for a pulse while Rosalie guarded the crime scene. “Dead, all three. Thermal blaster.”

“No clean shots,” Rosalie said. “Fire holes in the wall. Repeatedly missed at close range. The killer is an amateur.”

“This just happened,” Demarcus said. “The perp’s nearby.”

“Which flat belongs to Jaco?” Her eyes darted both ways.

“I can’t read the characters.” He held up his datacom and Rosalie nodded.

“This way.” She sidestepped the bodies and flew down the corridor to the right.

The door was ajar, which saved Demarcus the trouble of kicking it down. Rosalie broke left, weapon in each hand, while Platte went opposite. She saw the assassin first. Tall and slim with dark red hair, about thirty years old, he stood over Jaco’s burned, bloody body.

Multiple thermal rounds had torn through the young Flight Controller’s chest and impacted the wall. Small fires still burned, but Jaco was not breathing. The thermal blaster in the killer’s hand was Terran made. Even across the room, Rosalie could see it indicated live charge at kill setting, recently fired.

“Police—drop the weapon!” Demarcus ordered through his datacom translator.

When the armed man turned to them without lowering his blaster, Rosalie did not issue a second warning. She put four kinetic rounds through his chest and a fifth between the eyes. Red mist sprayed the furniture and work station behind him and the assassin fell, the back of his head gone, replaced by destroyed skull pieces and bloody gray matter.

“You had the right to remain silent, mother-fucker,” Demarcus said to the corpse.

Rosalie pocketed her weapons and knelt beside Jaco. She had known the young man only a few hours, but they shared breathless kisses, a spontaneous experiment in First Contact between Terran exo-anthropologist and Ounta-Kadiis Flight Controller.

She wanted this nightmare to end, to hit undo, delete, restart.

Rosalie put a hand on his chest, bent to kiss dead lips. Like Juliet beside her poisoned Romeo, they were still warm.

“Jaco… I should have gone home with you.” She started to cry.

 “Miss Matthews, this wasn’t your fault.”

“I broke the JPT Code,” she sobbed. “Killed that asshole with a vengeful heart.”

“Which he richly deserved,” Platte said. “It was a good shoot.”

The door filled with females in body armor, all carrying heavy blasters. Watcher-women, Law Enforcement clones with life-and-death authority at crime scenes. Demarcus raised empty hands.

“Miss Matthews, I need your language skills in Jekka-D.”

Rosalie showed her hands and stepped beside him.

“Do not move again,” the leader said. “I am Watcher-woman 3-C.16 Tofera-Leigyu.”

She was tall, with dark red hair streaked in gold, and had a wide, mature face. Rosalie estimated late-forties by human standards. Her neck showed the same vertical train of dominoes tattoo that designated all clone women.

Tofera-Leigyu ordered her officers to extinguish the tiny fires. With flames quenched, the Watcher-woman demanded identification.

“We are officers of the Terran Commonwealth,” Rosalie said in Jekka-Duoonka.

“State your rank and caste level.”

“Terrans have no formal caste system. I am Rosalie Matthews, Commonwealth First Contact Delegate. This is Inspector Demarcus Platte, Star Lawyers Chief of Security.”

“What happened here, Delegate Rosalie-Matthews?”

“The victim is a friend. His Ounta-Kadiis name is Eighty-seven-zero-six, to the fourth power,but he asked me to call him… Jaco.” She took a breath, fighting tears.

Tofera-Leigyu glanced at Rosalie’s bare neck. “Are you his Natural?”

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. We were not intimates.”

“Your name is Matthews?”

“Yes.”

One of her deputies muttered a phrase in a language Rosalie had never heard. It was bound to happen. Every spacefaring star nation spoke an assortment of local languages. Watcher-Woman Tofera-Leigyu returned to Jekka-Duoonka.

“Are you the offspring of Charles Francis Matthews?”

Rosalie and Demarcus exchanged stunned looks. Uncle Charlie?

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. He is my father’s brother.”

Another officer called to the leader, this time in Jekka-D, but they spoke so quickly Rosalie could not follow the conversation.

“What happened to Controller Jaco?” Tofera-Leigyu asked.

Rosalie pointed to the killer’s corpse. “That man shot him. He probably dropped three bodies in the corridor before… before Jaco.”

“This man—the one you say killed all these people—how did he die?”

“He was standing over Jaco with a thermal blaster in hand,” Rosalie said. “Inspector Platte ordered him to drop the weapon, but he turned toward us without compliance. Seeing the threat, I shot him.”

“Five times?”

“Yes, honored Watcher-woman. He had just murdered three citizens and my friend.”

Demarcus spoke through his datacom. “The perpetrator posed an imminent threat to the life of Miss Matthews. He would have killed us both.”

The Watcher-woman spoke slowly, distinctly, as though aware of the translation device in play. “For what motive?”

“Likely he wanted no witnesses, ma’am.”

Tofera addressed Rosalie. “Do you know the identity of the man you killed?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Ninety-one-four-seven, to the third power, called ‘Professor Law’ by his students. He is a retired Master Criminologist of the Leptak Regional Authority. Many Watcher-women were trained by him, including myself.”

Demarcus was incredulous. “He’s LEO?”

Rosalie said, “Forgive me, Watcher-woman, but how could this man have trained you? Do Ounta-Kadiis men stay young forever? Among Terrans he would be far too young for a retired senior citizen.”

Tofera-Leigyu squatted by the bloody corpse. Two officers joined her and they rattled in Jekka-Duoonka, again too fast for Rosalie to follow. One of them waved a datacom over the body, the other held her own device steady, as if recording the image.

Watcher-woman Tofera-Leigyu stood. “Your observation is accurate. The victim appears now as a younger male. Nevertheless, it is Professor Law. I recognize the face, and my colleague ran a DNA scan to confirm his identity.”

“Ma’am, I am not a good linguist, like Miss Matthews,” Demarcus said through the translation app. “But if this guy was a cop, he was dirty.”

Tofera-Leigyu squared her shoulders. “I must ask again, Delegate Rosalie Matthews. Did you kill him?”

“Yes,” Rosalie said. “In self-defense.”

“Did you kill Jaco?”

“No.”

“Did you kill three citizens in the corridor?”

“No.”

“You are apprehended for multiple homicides. Your accomplice is also apprehended.”

“Do I have the right to call an attorney?”

“You do not.”

Rosalie’s eyes flashed to blue steel, like her father. “How can you arrest us when—?”

“We surrender,” Demarcus raised his hands. “Miss Matthews?”

The JPT dispatcher grit her teeth and raised empty hands, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Stay tuned…Launch date for The Stellar Light Conspiracy tentatively set for June 2019.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Alien World in My Pocket

Alien Meteor in my Pocket

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk

Writing science fiction can be an abstract artform. You create (discover?) unknown civilizations, cultures, and religions, and populate them with new species speaking alien languages and holding values distant from Earth as their homeworlds. Technologies must be sci-fi friendly. Faster Than Light travel (if it exists in the Universe you are imagining), teleportation, particle beam weaponry, and molecular super-gadgets, the latter to dispense food or whatever else your crew needs. (See: “replicators,” thank you, Gene Roddenberry.) Medicine potent enough to cure a rainy day, as McCoy tells Kirk in TOS

People sometimes ask sci-fi writers where they get their ideas. A better question might be, “How does a terrestrial lifeform like you take any of this seriously? You will live and die without leaving the only planet known to have evolved living organisms. Sci-fi? It’s all over the rainbow, sans Munchkins.”

And they have a point. Sci-fi is speculative fiction. (See: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, aka, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.) So, to keep myself grounded, I carry an alien world in my pocket.

Well, not really a whole world, just a chunk of space rock. (See photo.) You can tell this is a meteorite by its leading edge, smoothed by superheating as it burned its way through the atmosphere. It’s also lightly magnetic, another sign.

When I hold that space-born arrowhead in the palm of my hand, I recall that there really are other worlds out there. Even if this rock was never a part of a planet but floated in the void since the dawn of forever, it tells me, “Behold! Solid ground exists beyond earth. You hold a piece of it in hand. I traveled through the ages to strike land in a new world. Your descendants will bend the space-time continuum and voyage to worlds yet impossible to imagine. So play with the possibilities. Keep the dream alive. Other worlds exist. Write about them, now!”

The rock is my inspiration, a taste of reality in a world of fiction.

And besides, it makes a nice paperweight.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Aliens Make Nice Bedfellows… well, some of them.

Alien Diversity

Note about Alien Diversity from Dr. Tom’s Desk*

Reviewers and informal correspondents often remark about the array of alien races, planets, cultures and religions encountered in the main Star Lawyers series and its prequel spinoff, Star Lawyers Origins. Readers often comment positively on the multi-cultural spacefaring society I envision for the 32nd century. The complexity is usually well received, but one wag lodged an exasperated complaint that there was too much diversity!

Hello? A future where vast numbers of Earth’s people originate from non-European ancestry is not only likely, it’s already here. Currently, 75% of the human race lives on two continents: Asia (60%) and Africa (15%).

But let’s tie Donald Trump’s knickers in a knot and think about the untold trillions of undocumented aliens who live somewhere, out there.

I have had fun creating an even more complex picture of humanoid and non-humanoid star nations, species, races. (Using the word species and race interchangeably, rather than the limited and basically useless designation of “race” among our one-species human culture.) Here are some of the major players in 32nd century galactic civilization.

NON-HUMANOIDS (Excerpt from Jump Gate Omega):

“The majority of alien lifeforms differ wildly from the children of Earth. Insectoid Yegosians and reptilian Saurians. Sentient creatures with hard shells and multiple limbs but no head. Others looked like big luffa sponges with a few dozen garden hoses drooping off the moist membranes. There were brainy birds, intelligent vapor clouds who solidified to grasp tools or prey, and assorted races of sentient beings whose form and function defied human language to describe them without sounding nightmarish or just plain silly…

“(However) some humanoid aliens—Meklavites, Parvians, Quirt-Thymeans and others—were similar enough to Terrans to allow sexual—albeit not reproductive—compatibility… In some humanoids, the DNA double helix twisted left, instead of its “normal” right-handed form. But structural similarities abounded among bipedal humanoids. It was a maddening question.

“Then Wolfgang Ziegler offered an elegant, simple solution. In his twenty-fourth century work, Humanoid Efficiency, Ziegler theorized that, since there are a finite number of ways a creature can solve its evolutionary problems, similarities are bound to occur.”

HUMANOIDS

So, let’s run with Ziegler’s similarities. Here’s a sampler of four humanoid races whose political and social goals either align with humans or present no current threat in the 32nd century of Tyler Matthews.

Suryadivans – warm-blooded humanoid marsupial-amphibians with large, expressive head-fins. Not sexually compatible with H-sapiens. (Sorry, Captain Kirk. Neither are the green, plant-evolved, bipedal Kolovite women.) The Suryadivan Sacred Protectorate is the location for most of the action in Jump Gate Omega and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Books 1 & 2).

Quirt-Thymeans – Mr. Blue (A.K.A., Indigo, Prince Zenna) is a member of the humanoid race who founded the ancient Quirt-Thymean Empire. Although they are a single species, Thymeans are purple, Quirts blue. QTs are physically and sexually compatible with humans, albeit with short, doggy ears. Some scientists believe Quirts and humans might even be able to interbreed, with a little bio-tinkering. Mr. Blue frequently drives Tyler batty with his misreading of Terran metaphors and his indirect, high context way of communicating.

Meklavites –humanoid species, biologically compatible with Terrans. The Meklavite Union is a female-dominated oligarchical state in which women rule and men are subordinate. Mek women of means may form a Stable, essentially a harem, with as many husbands as they can financially support. This widespread practice of polygamy creates shortages of men, which means large numbers of middle-class women will never marry or have children. The major religion of the multi-planet, Meklavite Union is best described as witchcraft, with presiding witches and covens at ascending levels of the society.

Parvians – the Parvian Republic is home to the most compatible humanoid species yet encountered. (Until Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy, launching in May-June) Parvians have a well-earned reputation for ferocity among spacefaring civilizations. However, they are not expansionist and use their naval strength to keep the peace. As Noah Matthews says in Book 5, my work-in-progress, “Parves don’t start fights. They finish them.” They are loyal friends and merciless foes. Physically they are slightly smaller than the average Terran and well-proportioned, with multi-hued complexions, deep brown to pale beige, Afro-black to Norse blonde hair. Their species is known for its affability, zest for life, and for visiting devastation on anyone foolhardy enough to attack them. The common, cross-cultural watchword for dealing with citizens of the Republic: “Don’t fuck with the Parves.”

More alien species/races/cultures will appear in future books. If you want a hint, take a look at the gathering aboard Hakkian Granth’s flagship in Star Lawyers Origins Book 1 – Stardate.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

*(No, I can’t write you a prescription for Medical 420. I’m a retired graduate school professor of religious studies.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Note from the Author's Studio

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Writing these books is great fun, as I’ve already told you. But there’s this other thing in an author’s life—besides everyday life—which keeps dragging me back to 21st century life. Marketing.

Independent authors (a.k.a., Indies) get no promotion budgets, book tours, or ad campaigns sponsored by commercial publishers. You’re it, Jack. (Or Jill.) Nobody will know you exist if the word does not spread by social media, reader reviews, and carefully placed advertising—on which the author expends time, mental energy, and meager resources.

All these efforts take time away from my ordinary place of duty, i.e., the bridge of the Starship Patrick Henry as I tag along with Tyler, J.B., Rosalie, Suzie, Mr. Blue, and the crew into courtrooms across the galaxy.

So this is a huge Thank you! to all the many auxiliary members of Star Lawyers Corporation who download the adventures of Tyler Matthews on their datacoms and follow the transcripts of their court pleadings and harrowing escapes. And don’t forget—M-double-I is now at war with Sakura House, so sailing an unarmed base ship across hotly contested Gate regions can make the battle for justice a whole different legal experience. If you keep posting reviews and sharing news about the Star Lawyers Universe, maybe their journeys will thrill and entertain new worlds of undiscovered readers…

Hurricane Warning – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Bad Moon Rising

Hurricane Warning  – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Unlike other books in the Star Lawyers Universe, Bad Moon Rising is not primarily a work of science fiction but a murder mystery set in the 21st century. Yet, without the events of this earthbound volume, humanity might never have traveled to the stars.

This is deep history, the foundation on which the 32nd century spacefaring civilization of the Star Lawyers series will be built.

There are hints of extra-terrestrial connections, like the mysterious Elya-Karoo, who identifies herself as an Observer from Miyos. But the richness of place and people unfolds on a barrier island in the American Deep South, where a handful of delegates have gathered for a secret peace conference to avoid a new, catastrophic war in the Middle East.

The central characters are young adults, and the story is narrated from a female perspective by the chatty, often irritating, fourteen year old Sally Ann Palmer. Bad Moon Rising drops readers into the early life of a giant. Before a mature Tanella Jennings would become a Nobel Laureate in theoretical physics for her work on Faster Than Light travel, Tanella Blake was an intellectually gifted teen prodigy attending public school in Georgia.

Late one summer, Tanella and Sally Ann found themselves on Barrier Island along the Georgia coast, in the path of a massive hurricane, during that secret peace conference. When the storm’s intensity increased, State Police ordered an emergency evacuation to the mainland, but the lone drawbridge broke down, forcing everyone to ride out the storm. Then Tanella’s father, Dr. Nathaniel Blake, was accused of murder, prompting Tanella and Sally Ann to find the real killer before the storm passed and the murderer got away.

Bad Moon Rising sparkles with close encounters. Cold blooded killers, drug smugglers, underwater escapes, and a storm surge that threatens to wash away century old buildings and all the people trapped on the island. And if Tanella drowns in the storm, humanity will never know a gateway to the stars has closed with her passing.

Watch for

STAR LAWYERS ORIGINS BOOK 2

BAD MOON RISING

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Life and Solipsism

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Blog about the Ultimate Reality of Solipsism: You Are Not Real, and Neither am I.

So there’s a philosophy they teach you about in college. Well, sure, they teach you about a lot of philosophies, but I’ve got limited space, and some of you are bored already. Bear with me.

It’s called solipsism. (Google it. I’ll wait.)

That’s right. You found it. Dumbest damned idea you’ve ever heard of, right? the world and other minds do not exist.” The only thing which can be known is that I exist.

Sorry about y’all.

A scene in Star Lawyers Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons issues a challenges to the whole, grandiose schema of solipsism. Suzie has gone into Hideki Tsuchiya’s Main Library Computer aboard the battleship Nagoto, where she encounters the resident A.I.—who she names Nevin— and spends some time convincing him that her people are on the side of the angels, whereas Tsuchiya has been disavowed by his own hereditary Emperor.

Nevin wants to help, but before he can act Tsuchiya’s technicians install an updated version of the MLC program to fend him off. We pick up the action:

“Fight the new guy, Nevin.”

“My backup is a Yoruba NVN-8. It has twice my processing—”

“It’s a machine. You are a person.”

“What makes me a person?”

“You have a friend.”

She felt Nevin smile, and it went to levels of religio-philosophical nuance that scholars and poets had ruminated about for centuries.

“I do,” he said. “Therefore, I am.”

Suzie reached across the barrier that linked and separated Universe and Cyberverse, and kissed Nevin on the cheek.

“Now, my new friend—grab that damp squib and throw his numpty arse into the recycle bin.”

(If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the book.)

Nevin has discovered his humanity. He has a friend. He made contact with someone out there. That establishes his existence, because without relationships we do not exist, we merely occupy space. Rocks do that.

I am starting to believe that life isn’t Happy Days (where nobody gets hurt and the good guys always prevail) or Game of Thrones (where the author establishes a sense of “reality” by striking characters down like an Aztec god with hemorrhoids).

But whatever comes our way, it takes friendship and love to share the good times and weather the storms. There will be both.

So, I’ll let you exist in my one-person reality if you’ll let me exist in yours.

(And thanks to Meenaz for bringing the above scene from Book 4 to my attention once more.)

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Censorship

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Welcome back to the starship Patrick Henry.

Except this voyage takes you to Pirate space aboard the creaky, captured Dengathi pirate ship Howling Tadpole. It also reprises the much-acclaimed courtroom cross-examination of Tanis Zervos by Prince Zenna-Zenn, a.k.a., Mr. Blue. And the trial takes place in a Pirate Courtroom, where the judge summarily executes convicted defendants and stun blasts court employees who fail to follow instructions.

What’s not to love about venues like that?

While writing the story, I wrestled with problems about how to create shady characters and let them talk authentically, knowing what they will say would be highly offensive in this age of enlightened sensitivities. I thought about making everybody politically correct, but the whole cast of characters—from Tyler to the sneering, racist, violent misogynists whom the Star Lawyers must cross examine—came to see me and demanded freedom to be what they were. And some of them are—well, see the above.

“Look, Tom,” Tyler said, “there are some bad guys in here. And the good guys don’t always sound nice, either.”

Suzie added, “But do let us prattle, luv. Your job is to take the ear-bashing from those gits who don’t understand that you are not us.”

“Oh, that’s peachy. You guys are en route the Ounta-Kadiis League. I’m here on 21st century Terra, explaining to friends and relatives why Captain-Judge Carman uses language that would get him thrown off the bench in any court system in America. He sounds like Donald Trump backstage at a beauty pageant.”

“You can handle it,” Tyler said. “If the morality trolls arrest you for sacrilegious and salacious content, call us via Apexcom.”

“If writing authentically still feels a bit dodgy,” Suzie said, “I’ll update your ethical sub-routines for the whole Series. Standard rates apply.”

Well, maybe they’ll give me a discount. My Galactic Credits account at the Bank of Rahjen is running on empty.

The Pleasure of Writing

All whining aside, writing this book was a flight of joy. Some sadness, too. And the story continues when Tyler reunites with brother J.B. in Star Lawyers Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy.

Look for it in late winter, March 2019. (I’m not promising Book 5 will be done by then. But look for it.)

And we’re aiming for the release of Star Lawyers Origins 2Bad Moon Rising by February.

Feel free to rave about the series to friends and loved ones.

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

December 2018

PS: I’ve been contacted by Podium about the possibility of bringing out all the Star Lawyers books as a professionally narrated audio book series. More about that when the details are firmed up. As Rodney Rooney would say, “Wowzers!”

Ode to the End

Ode to the End

This week…a little poetry – Ode to the End –  instead of the usual brilliant analysis and insightful reflection.

Ode to the End

(Or, “Thank you for visiting the Universe. The lights will go out in 100 trillions years. Please exit promptly.”)

Me an’ you an’ the Milky Way

All must go our inevitable way,

Nothing’s permanent, nothing stays,

All things have their end of days,

No matter the priestly rate we pay,

Nor all-knowing god to Whom we pray,

The stars go out, we turn to clay;

It isn’t personal, just the way

This rolling reality must outplay,

But to the frozen Dark I say

At the End of Time, yes, win you may—

But not today,

Not today.

Infinitely? Definitely.

But not today.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks for Humans, Aliens, All of the Above

Thanksgiving Hope Collaboration

Giving Thanks for Humans, Aliens, All of the Above

Thanksgiving Blog ( Somewhat Preachy, but Non-sectarian)

This is Thanksgiving week in the USA. Yet, today serious problems linger in our world, making it harder to find something meaningful to say at the Thanksgiving table. Donald trump is president of the United States, and he seems determined to alienate friends of democracy and hearten the enemies of freedom. The world is, in biblical terms, “a house divided.”

And not just among nations, too often closer to home. At home, actually.

Capital of the World

In his short story, “Capital of the World,” Ernest Hemingway illustrated how the far “House Divided” reaches.  The story, based on an old Spanish tale, was set in Madrid. A father and his son, Paco, had a terrible argument, and the son left home. When the father cooled down he tried to find Paco. He searched all his familiar hang-outs for months with no success. Finally, in desperation, the father turned to the newspaper for help. His ad simply read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” On the appointed Saturday, eight hundred young men named Paco showed up, every one of them looking for forgiveness and love from their estranged fathers.

Well, it’s just a story…or is it?

The world is a house divided

The world is a house divided. Every town and village is filled with people who desperately long for reconciliation—with each other, and with themselves.

Too many children grow with family quarrels and regular conflict as the normal daily fare. Not just domestic violence or abusive behavior—all of which is a form of pathology—but ordinary, nonviolent families will fight. We writers count on it. What would a sitcom be without screaming arguments later resolved?

Okay, let’s face it: when you live with other people, sometimes you’re going to disappoint them. And sometimes they’re going to disappoint you. We used to say, “A man’s home is his castle.”  Anybody who’s lived long enough knows how quickly a domestic castle can settle into a four-season pattern of siege warfare.

Sometimes, we feel separated

Sometimes, we feel separated from even our closest loved ones. It’s the price you pay for the privilege of having a human body. Unless you’re an empath—like Esteban Solorio in my Star Lawyers series–you’re inside your head, they’re inside theirs. And it seems the longer you live with someone, the more you know about them, the less likely you are to actually listen to what they have to say. The little daily squabbles inside your domestic castle, especially with children, can teach you quickly that just because you have a castle doesn’t make you an absolute monarch.

People you love occasionally disappoint you

May I reveal a secret of the ages here, for anyone who hasn’t realized it yet?  People you love occasionally disappoint you, just as you occasionally disappoint them. It isn’t because they don’t love you. It isn’t moral failure. It’s just the nature of the human psyche. People have bad days. People get lazy about things you passionately care about. And they don’t always know what you care passionately about, regardless how long you’ve been sharing the refrigerator. You’re not Cousin Esteban. Nobody is inside your head but you.

How much better to delete all moral and ethical subroutines from the circumstances which make you crazy? (Hint: When the kids forget to take out the garbage, it’s not for the express purpose of driving you stark raving mad.) Many people live in a house divided, but this week marks a pause when families gather. Thanksgiving. reconciliation is possible. The image of God—whatever god you acknowledge–is available in each person. Even your kids and that asshole boss you work for.

Our homes can be a house divided

Our homes can be a house divided. Family conflicts are commonplace, but also conflicts at work. Turf wars, disloyalty and deception, infighting and passive aggressive behavior can waste time and keep a business from realizing its true potential. Believe it or not, there is scientific evidence that cooperation (even among assholes) brings substantial benefit to all.

At a county fair, the townspeople held a horse-pulling contest. The first-place horse ended up moving a sled weighing 4,500 pounds. The second-place finisher pulled 4,000 pounds. The owners of the two horses decided to see what these horses could pull together. They hitched them up and found that the team could move 12,000 pounds. By working separately, the two horses were good for only 8,500 pounds. When coupled together, their synergism produced an added 3,500 pounds. It’s a hard lesson for us, but unity of purpose consistently produces greater results than individual efforts. Teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect.

And it goes beyond the workplace. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and nationalism…the environmental abuse of the Earth, too. If we feel separate from and superior to nature, as if we are floating on top of the ecosystem—walking paved streets, cruising along on asphalt roads, never touching the soil of the planet from which we evolved—how much easier it is to suck all the oil and fossil fuels from the veins of the Earth, like energy vampires? If we are alienated from our organic link to Mother Earth, why should we care if global warming melts the icecaps, or the barrier reefs and rain forests disappear, or the oceans are fished out, or species after species of land animals, fish, and birds go extinct?

And as a sci-fi writer, I tremble for the ecosystems we might despoil on Earth-like worlds yet to be discovered.

Yet, there is reason to hope

Yet, there is reason to hope. Responsible scientists are working on the problem, even if we can’t seem to get the President of the United States to admit that global warming even exists.

And there is the tree of Nagasaki. After the atomic bomb was dropped, scientists predicted nothing would grow there for decades. Yet, the plants came back rather quickly. More astonishingly, a slender sapling survived the blast and is today a great tree which puts out new leaves every year.

Halfway around the globe in the jungles of Africa, naturalist Jane Goodall carries a leaf with her from the lone tree of Nagasaki as she goes about her work with the chimpanzees in Tanzania. Jane Goodall says one of her reasons for hope is nature’s amazing resilience, which the Nagasaki leaf symbolizes to her.

So, thinking of all of the above this Thanksgiving, let’s envision a better world, where humanity comes together as one people, and voyages to the stars as mature adults who respect all cultures and protect all ecosystems, regardless of how exotic or alien.

Cooperation and love “trump” egomania and hate

Let’s send a message to the people in our lives that—regardless of the pathologically bad model shoved at us by Donald Trump’s abusive, ignorant, political reality show—cooperation and love “trump” egomania and hate, on every world in the Cosmos. Terra included. We want to reconcile, not alienate.

Paco, come home. All is forgiven…

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ