Endocrine Disruption in The Age of Water

Diary Water cover finalIn my recent novel A Diary in the Age of Water published by Inanna Publications Lynna, the diarist, talks with colleague Daniel about the increase in human infertility related to endocrine disruption. Daniel starts with a litany of reasons for human infertility:

“Scientists all agree that environmental factors are the main triggers for male and female infertility through epigenetics. The list of exposure triggers is endless. You know the main culprits: heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, PAHs, VOCs, car exhaust, tobacco smoke … mostly chemicals with hormonal properties” Leaning on his microscope, Daniel went on, “Wherever there’s a sewage treatment plant, pulp and paper mill, or herbicides and pesticides in a stream, you get endocrine disruption, which causes more female or intersex fish populations. Then there’s nonylphenols—”

“—Degradation products of surfactants used in commercial and household detergents,” I ended for him and leaned against the doorway.

He nodded. “They inhibit breeding in male fish. And herbicides like atrazine—”

“—Create feminized males with female eggs, along with reduced immunity to disease,” I finished for him.

I knew all this. Hormonal disruption is global. Environmental toxicologists have been finding it in many aquatic animals like fish, turtles, alligators and frogs. And some terrestrial animals…Even humans…Was it also causing the steep rise in ambiguous sex in humans? Apparently 1 in 30 now have bodies that differ notably from standard male or female. Klinefelter, androgen insensitivity syndrome, presence of ovotestes, mixed gonadal dysgenesis, and mosaic genetics are all on the rise.

Daniel added, “The environment is changing us faster than most think and it’s doing it through epigenetics and HGT.”

Their discussion, which leads to something far more disastrous, is based on the reality of today.

endocrine systemThe endocrine system is a set of glands and the hormones they produce that help guide and regulate the development, growth, reproduction and behavior of most living things (yes plants too!). Some hormones are also released from parts of the body that aren’t glands, like the stomach, intestines or nerve cells. These usually act closer to where they are released. The endocrine system is made up of glands, which secrete hormones, and receptor cells which detect and react to the hormones. Hormones travel throughout the body, acting as chemical messengers, and interact with cells that contain matching receptors. The hormone binds with the receptor, like a key into a lock. Some chemicals, both natural and human-made, may interfere with the hormonal system. They’re called endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine (hormone) disruptors are substances that interfere with an organism’s endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of hormones. Studies have linked endocrine disruptors to adverse biological effects in animals, giving rise to valid concerns that low-level exposure can cause similar effects in human beings.

common endocrine disruptors

Common endocrine disruptors

 

Disruption of the endocrine system via Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) or Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (HDCs) happens in different ways. Some chemicals mimic a natural hormone, fooling the body into over-responding to the stimulus, or responding at inappropriate times. Other endocrine disruptors curtail the effects of a hormone from certain receptors by blocking the receptor site on a cell. Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones.

EDC path

The effects of endocrine disruptors in humans include:

  • Reduction of male fertility;
  • Abnormalities in male reproductive organs;
  • Female reproductive diseases;
  • Earlier puberty; and,
  • Declines in the numbers of males born.

Some EDCs can also affect the development of the nervous and immune systems. Some well-known examples of EDCs include the contraceptive pill (17-alpha ethinylestradiol), dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, furans, phenols and several organic pesticides (most prominently DDT and its derivatives).

Pathways of endocrine disruptors

Pathophysiological pathways of EDCs

Sources for common EDCs in our daily lives are provided by Hormone Health Network in the table below:

Common EDCs: Used In:
DDT, Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine, 2, 4-D, Glyphosate Pesticides
Lead, Phthalates, Cadmium Children’s Products
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxins Industrial Solvents or Lubricants and their Byproducts
Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, Phenol Plastics and Food Storage Materials
Brominated Flame Retardants, PCBs Electronics and Building Materials
Phthalates, Parabeans, UV Filters Personal Care Products, Medical Tubing, Suncreen
Triclosan Anti-Bacterial Soaps, Colgate Total
Perfluorochemicals Textiles, Clothing, Non-Stick Food Wrappers, Mircowave Popcorn Bags, Old Teflon Cookware

Several chemicals have been found to disrupt the endocrine systems of animals in laboratory studies, and strong evidence exists that chemical exposure has been associated with adverse developmental and reproductive effects on fish and wildlife. The relationship of human diseases of the endocrine system and exposure to environmental contaminants, however, is still poorly understood (Kavlock et al., 1996, EPA, 1997).

One example of the devastating consequences of the exposure of developing animals, including humans, to endocrine disruptors is the case of the potent drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen. Prior to its ban in the early 1970s, doctors mistakenly prescribed DES to as many as five million pregnant women to block spontaneous abortion and promote fetal growth. It was discovered after the children went through puberty that DES affected the development of the reproductive system and caused vaginal cancer. In addition to disruption of reproductive hormones, modulation of adrenal, thyroid and growth hormone function have also been described for various compounds in both humans and some animals, although the significance of these effects have not yet been fully determined.

Chemicals with affinities for estrogen receptors may cause lowered sperm count and other related reproductive abnormalities. Male fetuses exposed to high doses of estrogens may develop many female characteristics. Lower doses may alter the differentiation and multiplication of the germ cells that eventually give rise to sperm. Dr. John A. McLachlan, director of intramural research at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences noted that “some of the environmental chemicals that have estrogenic activity also seem to have a long half-life and can bioaccumulate” in the body’s fat tissue. Most endocrine disrupting chemicals are fat-soluble. This means that they do not get rapidly flushed out of the body, but are stored in fat. These chemicals bioaccumulate up the food chain. As a result, an individual will accumulate more of these chemicals throughout his/her lifetime. Major routes of removing these chemicals involve transfer from mother to child, through the placenta and in breast milk.

In 1992 researchers at Lake Apopka in Florida associated a declining alligator population with a depressed reproduction rate. Many of the male alligators had tiny penises that prevented successful reproduction. These developmental problems were connected to a large organochlorine pesticide spill several years earlier; although the water tested clean, the alligators and their eggs contained detectable levels of endocrine disrupting pesticides.

Atrazine male female frogs

Fish in the Great Lakes, which are heavily contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other organochlorines, exhibit numerous reproductive function problems and swelling of the thyroid gland. Fish-eating birds, such as eagles, terns, and gulls are also showing similar health effects, as are mink, a mammal that also eats fish from the Great Lakes. These findings are consistent with lab studies that indicate that PCBs interfere with thyroid function and with sex hormones.

The environment is a global entity that recognizes no political boundaries. Issuing a plea for wise action, the National Resources Defense Council state: “Dioxin from a paper mill in the US can accumulate within livestock that is exported to another country; water vapor carrying DDT (now banned in the US) from Mexico can be rained down in Minnesota. Individuals living near the North Pole, where DDT has never been used, have surprisingly high levels of it in their body fat. The laws that ban the production and use of specific chemicals in the United States do little to regulate against exposure via imported products from countries that allow the use of these chemicals.”

Given the common use of sources (in industry, agriculture and residential) that contain and distribute endocrine disruptive chemicals by the human population, and given their bioaccumulation in human tissue, I can practically guarantee that virtually all humans carry some endocrine disruptive chemical in their bodies. How much depends on your life style, where you live and work, your eating habits and your physiology.

freighter-rowers-sailboat-web

Freighter in Toronto Harbour (photo by Nina Munteanu)

 

Recommended Reading:

Lauretta, Rosa, Andrea Sansone, Missimiliano Sansone, Francesco Romanelli and Marialuisa Appetecchia. 2019. “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: Effects on Endocrine Glands.” Front. Endocrinol. Online: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2019.00178/full

Colborn, Theo, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. 1996. “Our stolen future : are we threatening our fertility, intelligence, and survival? : a scientific detective story.” Dutton, New York.  306 pp.

Hormone Health Network. 2020. “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals EDCs.” Website: https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-edcs

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. 2019. “Endocrine Disruptors.” Website: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm

NRDC. 2016. “9 Ways to Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals.” Website: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/bendrep.asp

 

More on A Diary in the Age of Water:

 

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwas released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

 

Age of Water Podcast: Interview with Emmi Itäranta

Emmi Itaranta 1

Emmi Itäranta

We are now living in the Age of Water. Water is the new “gold”, with individuals, corporations and countries positioning themselves around this precious resource. Water is changing everything. The Age of Water Podcast covers anything of interest from breaking environmental news to evergreen material. This also includes human interest stories, readings of eco-literature, discussion of film and other media productions of interest.

In this episode of Age of Water, we join award-winning Finnish author Emmi Itäranta in the UK, where she talks about her eco-fiction including The Memory of Water and how her childhood in Finland helped shape her own activism.

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Emmi ItarantamemoryofwaterEmmi Itäranta is an award-winning Finnish author. She holds a MA in Drama from the University of Tampere and worked as a columnist, theatre critic, script writer and press officer. She wrote her debut novel Memory of Water simultaneously in Finnish and English during a creative writing course. The English version was published by HarperCollins in 2014 in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia and was nominated for the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award, and the Golden Tentacle Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The book was translated into over a dozen languages throughout the world. Her novel The City of Woven Streets (The Weaver) won the City of Tampere Literary Award. Emmi Itäranta lives in Canterbury, United Kingdom.

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

Petrichor—The Smell of Rain…

Diary Water cover finalIn my novel A Diary in the Age of Water, the diarist, Lynna Dresden, writes in her entry for September 9, 2048:

Petrichor: A pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. The rain helps release plant oils into the air and chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria called actinomycetes. The term arose from the Greek petra (“stone”) and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods.

I know that musty, barky aroma of fresh rain on the dry earth. I know it well. It was the scent in the air when I gave birth to Hildegard seven years ago. She was born on the first rain in forty days. It wouldn’t rain for another forty.

Despite the nurses at the hospital discouraging me, I took my baby girl outside and let the fresh rain spatter our faces and soak us through. Little Hilde loved it. She cooed and watched with the awe of innocence. She’s still so innocent and still loves water.

She’s in Grade Two now and doesn’t comprehend that it isn’t God who controls the weather and the rain; it’s CanadaCorp.

raindrops creek03

Raindrops in a creek, ON (photo by Nina Munteanu)

Rich Hardy of New Atlas adds that a recent study in Nature Microbiology demonstrates that the bacteria evolved to release this chemical to attract a particular arthropod as a way to spread their spores. “The smell is a 500-million-year-old example of chemical communication, evolved to help a particular type of bacteria spread,” writes Hardy.

The term petrichor was created by Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G. Thomas, two Australian researchers after an article in Nature, in which authors described how the smell originates from an oil produced by plants during dry periods. The oil is released into the air along with geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain actinobacteria when it rains.

One major component of petrichor is an organic compound called geosmin. Scientists already knew that a common genus of bacteria, known as Streptomyces, produce geosmin. Virtually all species of Streptomyces release geosmin when they die; but until now it was unclear why they generated this distinctive scent.

“The fact that they all make geosmin suggested that it confers a selective advantage on the bacteria, otherwise they wouldn’t do it,” says Mark Buttner, one of the researchers. “We suspected they were signaling to something and the most obvious thing would be some animal or insect that might help distribute the Streptomyces spores.”

Researchers discovered that geosmin specifically attracts springtails—a type of tiny arthropod—that use their antennae to sense chemical. The Streptomyces serve as food for the springtails; the springtails in turn help spread the bacterial spores. This suggests that the two organisms co-evolved in a symbiotic relationship. “This is analogous to birds eating the fruits of plants; they get food but they also distribute the seeds, which benefits the plants,” said Buttner.

Streptomyces—one of the most important sources of antibiotics to humans—relies on the springtail, given that its antibiotic compounds make it toxic to other potential distributors such as fruit flies or nematodes. Springtails generate a number of enzymes that can detoxify the antibiotics produced by Streptomyces. This suggests a form of aggressive symbiosis in a co-evolution between these two organisms—an interaction that is more common in Nature than previously thought.

The earthy scent of rain on dry soil evokes wonderful memories of playful childhood, freedom and awestruck wonder. Why not? Petrichor is, after all, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods…

EcologyOfStoryFor more on “ecology” and a good summary and description of environmental factors like aggressive symbiosis, co-evolution, and other ecological relationships, read my book “The Ecology of Story: World as Character” (Pixl Press, 2019).

 

 

Glossary of Terms: 

Aggressive Symbiosis: a common form of symbiosis where one or both symbiotic partners demonstrates an aggressive and potentially harmful effect on the other’s competitor or potential predator (Ryan, 1997). 

Co-evolution: when two or more species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution through the process of natural selection and other processes. 

Petrichor: A pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. The rain helps release plant oils into the air and chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria called actinomycetes. The term arose from the Greek petra (“stone”) and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods. 

Symbiosis: Greek for “companionship” describes a close and long term interaction between two organisms that may be beneficial (mutualism), beneficial to one with no effect on the other (commensalism), or beneficial to one at the expense of the other (parasitism). (Munteanu, 2019).

 

 

References:

Frazer, Jennifer. 2015. “Root Fungi Can Turn Pine Trees Into Carnivores—or at Least Accomplices.” Scientific American, May 12, 2015. Online: https://blogs. scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/root-fungi-can-turn-pine-trees-into- carnivores-8212-or-at-least-accomplices/

Hardy, Rich. 2020. “The 500-million-year-old reason behind the unique scent of rain” New Atlas.

Munteanu, N. 2019. “The Ecology of Story: World as Character.” Pixl Press, Vancouver, BC. 198pp. (Section 2.7 Evolutionary Strategies)

Munteanu, N. 2020. “A Diary in the Age of Water.” Inanna Publications, Toronto. 300pp.

 

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

 

 

Infertility in the Age of Water

Diary Water cover finalIn a scene of my near-future eco-thriller A Diary in the Age of Water (Inanna Publications, 2020) the diarist’s young colleague Daniel rather too enthusiastically proclaims the impending extinction of males.

“Scientists all agree that environmental factors are the main triggers for male and female infertility through epigenetics…Epigenetics rules climate change-related adaptations. And everything appears stacked heavily for females and intersex humans. Males might go extinct with climate change!”

–A Diary in the Age of Water

Lynna Dresden, the diarist in A Diary in the Age of Water, thinks Daniel rather buffoonish and a traitor to his male kind. Then again, here is how another Daniel starts his article in a 2018 issue of GQ Magazine entitled “Sperm Count Zero“:

Men are doomed. Everybody knows this. We’re obviously all doomed, the women too, everybody in general, just a waiting game until one or another of the stupid things our stupid species is up to finally gets us. But as it turns out, no surprise: men first. Second instance of no surprise: We’re going to take the women down with us.

There has always been evidence that men, throughout life, are at higher risk of early death—from the beginning, a higher male incidence of Death by Mastodon Stomping, a higher incidence of Spiked Club to the Brainpan, a statistically significant disparity between how many men and how many women die of Accidentally Shooting Themselves in the Face or Getting Really Fat and Having a Heart Attack. The male of the species dies younger than the female—about five years on average. Divide a population into groups by birth year, and by the time each cohort reaches 85, there are two women left for every man alive. In fact, the male wins every age class: Baby boys die more often than baby girls; little boys die more often than little girls; teenage boys; young men; middle-aged men. Death champions across the board.

Now it seems that early death isn’t enough for us—we’re on track instead to void the species entirely.

–Daniel Noah Halpern, GQ Magazine

sperm_decline_chartBoth Daniels are talking about the alarming rate at which sperm counts worldwide are falling. They’ve dropped by half in the last fifty years in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand—according to a 2017 paper by researchers at Hebrew University and Mount Sinai medical school and more recent studies in 2018.

While an unhealthy lifestyle (being overweight or obese, smoking, stress and alcohol or recreational drug use) is most often implicated, more insidious causes exist.

PHTHALATESResearch shows that consumption and/or exposure to many common constituents of urban living can decrease fertility, increase miscarriage, spontaneous abortion, and lower auto-immune systems. Examples include car exhaust, pesticides, common detergents, hair dyes, cleaning solvents, oil based paints, adhesives, gasoline; and consumption of MSG, coffee, alcohol.

A 2019 study by scientists at Nottingham University identified two chemicals common in home environments that damage sperm in men and dogs. GQ Daniel goes on to explain: “Phthalates and BPA [used to make plastic soft and flexible or harder and stronger] for example, mimic estrogen in the bloodstream. If you’re a man with a lot of phthalates in his system, you’ll produce less testosterone and fewer sperm. If exposed to phthalates in utero, a male fetus’s reproductive system itself will be altered: He will develop to be less male.”

sperm count and platics

This leads Age of Water Daniel to bring up the rise in intersex mammals (individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that do not fit the “strict definitions for ‘male’ or ‘female’ bodies”). A 2016 article in Environmental Health Insights by Rich et al. attribute an increasing number of human children born with intersex variation to an increase in hormone disrupting chemicals in our environment.

Phthalates bookLeaning on his microscope, Daniel went on, “Wherever there’s a sewage treatment plant, pulp and paper mill, or herbicides and pesticides in a stream, you get endocrine disruption, which causes more female or intersex fish populations…[Degradation products of surfactants used in commercial and household detergents] inhibit breeding in male fish. And herbicides like atrazine—”

“—Create feminized males with female eggs, along with reduced immunity to disease,” I finished for him.

I knew all this. Hormonal disruption is global. Environmental toxicologists have been finding it in many aquatic animals like fish, turtles, alligators and frogs. And some terrestrial animals…Even humans…Was it also causing the steep rise in ambiguous sex in humans? Is Daniel an intersex human? Apparently 1 in 30 now have bodies that differ notably from standard male or female. Klinefelter, androgen insensitivity syndrome, presence of ovotestes, mixed gonadal dysgenesis, and mosaic genetics are all on the rise. Which was he?

As if he knew what I was thinking, Daniel said dramatically, “The environment is changing us faster than most think and it’s doing it through epigenetics and HGT.”

–A Diary in the Age of Water

Phthalates and BPA can be found everywhere. GQ Daniel lists them: “BPA can be found in water bottles and food containers and sales receipts. Phthalates are even more common: They are in the coatings of pills and nutritional supplements; they’re used in gelling agents, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. Not to mention medical devices, detergents and packaging, paint and modeling clay, pharmaceuticals and textiles and sex toys and nail polish and liquid soap and hair spray. They are used in tubing that processes food, so you’ll find them in milk, yogurt, sauces, soups, and even, in small amounts, in eggs, fruits, vegetables, pasta, noodles, rice, and water. The CDC determined that just about everyone in the United States has measurable levels of phthalates in his or her body—they’re unavoidable.”

These chemicals affect sperm’s ability to swim, navigate and fertilize an egg. DNA fragmentation in the sperm head also occurs, which is basically equivalent to a sperm having a brain hemorrhage. Recent studies suggest that 20-30% of young men today have sperm counts in a range that is associated with reduced fertility. Sarbjit Kaur at the Punjab Agricultural University found that men who live in industrial cities had six times more abnormal sperm than men living in a relatively clean rural town.

TheHandmaid'sTale-bookDr. Marilyn F. Vine at the University of North Carolina demonstrated that smoking men had lower sperm counts by 13-17%. Smokers also had more abnormal sperm. Likewise, women who smoked experienced more spontaneous abortions, early menopause and abnormal oocytes. Follicular fluid also contained high levels of cadmium, a heavy metal present in cigarettes, and cotininie, a metabolite of nicotine.

A growing concern for infertility has entered our general mindset, reflected in the theme of infertility in literature and motion pictures.

Notable examples include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Raising Arizona (1987), Aeon Flux (2005), The Children of Men (2006), Private Life (2018) and my own A Diary in the Age of Water (2020).

Although we are not close to experiencing the global infertility pandemic portrayed in the barren 2027 world of The Children of Men, this cautionary tale of a world gone mad with grief should linger like the whispered truth of a fairy tale.

children of men scene

scene from “Children of Men” motion picture

 

Suggested Reading:

Carr, Teresa. 2019. “Sperm counts are on the decline—could plastics be to blame?” The Guardian.

Belluz, Julia. 2019. “Sperm counts are falling. This isn’t the reproductive apocalypse—yet” Vox.

Halpern, Daniel Noah. 2018. “Sperm Count Zero.” GQ Magazine.

Fetters, Ashley. 2018. “Sperm Counts Continue to Fall.” The Atlantic.

Stein, Rob. 2017. “Sperm Counts Plummet in Western Men, Study Finds.” NPR.

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

Looking for Great Science Fiction Reading?

Venusian Job Cover

Bundoran Buddies Story Bundle

While you’re self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, pick up some great ebooks in this story bundle offered by Bundoran Buddies Book Bundle for the next three weeks (through to the third week in April). Then read, read, read away the pandemic. Curated by Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran Press, you can get twelve books for as little as $15USD.

Here’s what Hayden says:

OuterDiverse-front coverScience fiction is our conversation with the future. That’s the philosophy of Bundoran Press Publishing House. But how can you have a conversation without friends? Even though in the days of COVID-19, most of those conversations take place on-line or by phone, there’s never been a better time to think and talk about the future.

That’s why I’m curating this twelve-book science fiction bundle for https://storybundle.com/scifi, made up of ten novels and two short story collections from established greats and rising stars. Half of the books were published by the Press and the other six come from some fabulous authors who have been our friends and supporters for years. As always, at Story Bundle, you decide what the books are worth and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.

The Bundoran Buddies Book Bundle includes Lazarus Risen, an international collection of stories focused on longevity and immortality, including Hugo nominated author, Sean McMullen.

Award winners and nominees abound in this bundle. Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer offers up Space: Stories, a collection of his short stories, all of them set off-world, including a Hugo finalist and two Aurora Award winners.  Aurora Award winning Edward Willett gives us a Lost in Translation that explores the necessity of understanding the other in a taut tale of interstellar negotiations.

If your taste runs to near-future, BAFTA nominee, Fiona Moore, brings us Driving Ambition, where the murder of an intelligent car launches the protagonist, a mediator between humans and artificial intelligences, on a dangerous trajectory. Or you might prefer, Madelaine Ashby’s iD, the second volume of her Machine World series which “explores the uncomfortable possibilities and limitations of love within slavery and free will under constraint (Globe and Mail).”

At the other end of the temporal spectrum, we have The Better Part of Valor, the second of the Confederation of Valor series from multi-award-winning author Tanya Huff – still producing best sellers after over two decades in the field. Duatero from Brad C. Anderson, with his first novel from from Bundoran Press, is set on a lost outpost of humanity where moral dilemmas compete with fast paced action on a plague planet.  Jennifer Rahn’s Dark Corridor gives us a fun romp in a hard science thriller that includes cyborgs, drug lords and space Vikings.

But wait, there’s more. Ryan McFadden’s hilarious and exciting The Venusian Job pits thief, Emily Van Lars, a.k.a. The Engineer, and her motley crew of mercenaries against aliens, crime lords and a deadly AI. Gerald Brandt’s The Courier, the first volume of a trilogy, is an action-packed thriller in a dystopian future, Los Angeles. Charmingly written Brendan’s Way by Matthew Bin is set entirely aboard a colony ship heading off world in a novel dubbed “Heinlein meets Marx.”

Get Rhea-HawkeGOODLast but certainly not least, Nina Munteanu’s Outer Diverse, the first volume of the Splintered Universe series, introduces Galactic Guardian Rhea Hawk, who investigates the massacre of an entire spiritual sect, catapulting her into a treacherous storm of politics, conspiracy and self-discovery.

“… a master of metaphor, Munteanu turns an adventure story into a wonderland of alien rabbit holes.”
— CRAIG H. BOWLSBY, author and creator of Commander’s Log

“An addictive start to the trilogy!”— BOOK ADDICT

“Rhea Hawke is a Galactic Guardian, and I love to say her name. Her name alone let’s you know that there is a bad ass super hero of a woman on site. I can picture her boots, her great coat, and her side arms. I want to be her when I grow up. ” — DAB OF DARKNESS

For $5USD (or more if you are feeling generous) you get four of the twelve ebooks – MOBI or ePub – and for $15 or more you unlock the remaining eight.

The initial titles in the bundle (yours for a minimum of $5) include:

  • iD by Madeline Ashby
  • Outer Diverse by Nina Munteanu
  • The Venusian Job by Ryan C. McFadden
  • Lazarus Risen edited by Hayden Trenholm and Michael Rimar

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get the remaining eight books, including:

  • Duatero by Brad C. Anderson
  • Lost in Translation by Edward Willett
  • Space: Stories by Robert J. Sawyer
  • The Courier by Gerald Brandt
  • Dark Corridor by Jennifer Rahn
  • The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff
  • Brendan’s Way by Matthew Bin
  • Driving Ambition by Fiona Moore

What better time to cuddle up with a dozen great books and explore the brave new worlds they present? Self-isolation will never seem so much fun.

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via https://storybundle.com/scifi. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books, but after the three weeks are over, the bundle is gone forever!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Now, go get some books and read…

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

Dreams and Perceptions…And ‘The Other’

Credit Riv path in snow

path along Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu)

It was a while ago, as I was driving home from a friend’s place in the sultry dark of night that I noticed the change…

Perhaps it was the rain and the winding road that nudged my psyche to wander into that other realm. Or was it the surrealistic motion picture The Fountain that I’d seen the evening before? Or had it more to do with the fact that I’d been, for various reasons, without sleep for over forty hours that I glimpsed the ordinary in an extra-ordinary light?

Light had everything to do with it…Amber traffic lights at a construction site pulsed like living things. Smoky back-lit clouds billowed over an inky sky. A garish screen of trees, caught in the beams of my car lights as I turned a corner, flashed. Nature recast. A half-built apartment building loomed up like some dark tower in Lord of the Rings. I was reminded of a scene early on in The Fountain where the viewer is disoriented initially by a busy street at night because it was shot upside down. Ironically, the picture was filmed in my hometown of Montreal and I didn’t even recognize it.

Have you ever done that? Looked backward while driving through a familiar scene to gain a different perspective? And felt different for just a moment? Like you’d briefly entered a different dimension and glimpsed “the other”?

What is it like to meet “the other”?

What is it like to approach the unfamiliar? A new landscape. A stranger in town. A different culture. An “alien” encounter. How do we react? Is it with wonder? Curiosity? Fear? Hatred? A mixture of these?

The genre of science fiction vividly explores our humanity through our reactions to “the other.” It does this by looking at both perspectives. By describing “the other,” science fiction writers describe “us.” In his book Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Edward W. Said contended that for there to be an ‘us’, there has to be a ‘not-us.’ According to Patricia Kerslake of Central Queensland University, this arises from a postcolonial notion of ‘the Other’, through a mutual process of exclusion. This exclusion inspires the very idea of ‘alien’ by imposing expectation on perception. Kerslake argues that: “When one culture imposes its perceptions on another, in that it begins to see the Other not as they are but as, in Said’s words, ‘they ought to be’, then the process of representation becomes inevitable: a choice is made to see a ‘preferred’ real.”

Ursula K LeGuin

Ursula K. LeGuin

In her 1975 article “American SF and the Other,” Ursula K. LeGuin unequivocally scolded the Western SF genre for representing and promoting colonialism and androcratic motives.

One of the great early socialists said that the status of women in a society is a pretty reliable index of the degree of civilization of that society. If this is true, then the very low status of women in SF should make us ponder about whether SF is civilized at all.

The women’s movement has made most of us conscious of the fact that SF has either totally ignored women, or presented them as squeaking dolls subject to instant rape by monsters—or old-maid scientists de-sexed by hypertrophy of the intellectual organs—or, at best, loyal little wives or mistresses of accomplished heroes. Male elitism has run rampant in SF. But is it only male elitism? Isn’t the “subjection of women” in SF merely a symptom of a whole which is authoritarian, power-worshiping, and intensely parochial?

The question involved here is the question of The Other—the being who is different from yourself. This being can be different from you in its sex; or in its annual income; or in its way of speaking and dressing and doing things; or in the color of its skin, or the number of its legs and heads. In other words, there is the sexual Alien, and the social Alien, and the cultural Alien, and finally the racial Alien.

Well, how about the social Alien in SF? How about, in Marxist terms, “the proletariat”? Where are they in SF? Where are the poor, the people who work hard and go to bed hungry? Are they ever persons, in SF? No. They appear as vast anonymous masses fleeing from giant slime-globules from the Chicago sewers, or dying off by the billion from pollution or radiation, or as faceless armies being led to battle by generals and statesmen. In sword and sorcery they behave like the walk-on parts in a high school performance of The Chocolate Prince. Now and then there’s a busty lass amongst them who is honored by the attentions of the Captain of the Supreme Terran Command, or in a space-ship crew there’s a quaint old cook, with a Scots or Swedish accent, representing the Wisdom of the Common Folk.

The people, in SF, are not people. They are masses, existing for one purpose: to be led by their superiors…

…What about the cultural and the racial Other? This is the Alien everybody recognizes as alien, supposed to be the special concern of SF. Well, in the old pulp SF, it’s very simple. The only good alien is a dead alien—whether he is an Aldebaranian Mantis-Man, or a German dentist. And this tradition still flourishes: witness Larry Niven’s story “Inconstant Moon” (in All the Myriad Ways, 1941) which has a happy ending—consisting of the fact that America, including Los Angeles, was not hurt by a solar flare. Of course a few million Europeans and Asians were fried, but that doesn’t matter, it just makes the world a little safer for democracy, in fact. (It is interesting that the female character in the same story is quite brainless; her only function is to say Oh? and Ooooh! to the clever and resourceful hero.)

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.

You have, in fact, alienated yourself.

Diary Water cover finalWritten 45 years ago, Le Guin’s scathing article may have accurately represented the North American science fiction community of writers of that time. Today, despite the remnants of a strong old guard that still promotes a patriarchal colonialist hegemony, the science fiction genre has matured and grown beyond this self-limiting view. This is partly because current authors—many who are women and many who are representatives of minority or marginalized groups—have given SF a new face and voice that promises to include equality, inclusion, and a fresh look at exploration and ‘the other.’

The genre of science fiction has matured by diversifying to embrace “mundane science fiction,” literary fiction, speculative fiction, climate fiction, cli-fi, eco-fiction, indigenous futurisms and more.

memoryofwaterScience fiction that leans toward “mundane”(everyday life) and literary fiction include the works of Paulo Bacigalupi (Windup Girl), Margaret Atwood (Year of the Flood), and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140). Literary fiction overlaps with science fiction through eco-fiction and climate fiction which address oppression, jingoism and neoliberalism often through dystopian themes—and often through the voice of women writers—such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series, Emmi Itäranta’s The Memory of Water, Nina Munteanu’s A Diary in the Age of Water, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, and Richard Power’s Overstory.

CliFi Tales of ClimateChangeIn 2017, several publications addressed different aspects of society through speculative fiction.  Laksa Media published Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, which explores issues of mental health. Exile Editions published Cli-Fi: Tales of Climate Change with stories on personal experience with climate change. Reality Skimming Press published Water, for which I was editor, which explored optimism in the face of climate change.

In Ann Leckie’s 2014 Ancillary Justice, the main character is a space ship. The Gethenians in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness are humanoids with fluid gender, adapted to environment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312,  humans have abandoned the gender binary for an intersex existence based on proven longevity.

Borderline mishell bakerNovels and anthologies of short stories that feature disabled characters are also growing. Examples include Borderline by Mishell Baker, We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ, Murderbot series by Martha Wells, and Uncanny: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (edited by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Dominik Parisien et al.) among many others.

Indigenous futurisms, speculative writings on issues of colonialism, identity, AI, and climate change include Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, Take Us to Your Chief, by Drew Hayden Taylor, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Walking the Clouds Anthology edited by Grace L. Dillon, and Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.

Trail of LightningIn an introduction to seven Indigenous Futurism books, Barnes and Noble writes:

So many stories, well intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned, have fixated on the dark pasts of Indigenous people, assuming that colonization stole from them any future not involving slow decline and assimilation. Though there’s plenty of tragedy to be recounted, Indigenous history didn’t end there, and a wave of modern authors are exploring Indigenous cultures as living, vibrant, and firmly fixed in both the modern and furute worlds—sovereign nations with as much claim to an endless array of possible futures as any other culture. So much of what we call classic science fiction involves tropes that look very different to colonized peoples: the heroic space explorers who travel the stars visiting (and often conquering) alien worlds look very different to people whose histories are so strongly marked by the scars of colonization.

Of Indigenous Futurisms, the Seattle Public Library writes:

Indigenous Futurisms confront many of the norms of speculative fiction by challenging, subverting, or refusing to engage with colonial, racist, and otherwise oppressive genre tropes. Indigenous Futurism draws on the strength of Indigenous knowledge systems, worldviews, stories, languages, and traditions to reimagine the past, present, and future of this world and others. Yet it is not necessarily utopic or optimistic. Many authors writing within the Indigenous Futurisms genre engage with the realities of ongoing colonialism around the world, and the apocalyptic nature of the present for many Indigenous communities. However, characters struggle despite the circumstances for a better future.

 

Credit River first snow

First snow on the Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu)

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

The Invasion of Giant Crayfish Clones & A Diary in the Age of Water

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Marmorkrebs, giant marbled crayfish

In 2018, scientists reported that the giant marbled crayfish (Marmorkrebs [German]: Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) recently developed the strategy of being entirely female and cloning itself via parthenogenesis1; the female doesn’t require a male crayfish to fertilize its eggs. Despite the cloning procedure that makes them virtually identical genetically, the crayfish vary in size and pattern—no doubt due to epigenetics.2

First discovered by a German aquarium in the mid-1990s, these crayfish that developed from Florida-Native crayfish have migrated into the wild and are aggressively spreading in Europe, at the expense of the native European crayfish. The 8 to 12 cm long Marmorkrebs has been observed in Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden, Japan, and Madagascar. The marbled crayfish prefers a warm and humid climate, suggesting that climate change may influence its distribution and success. The clones also thrive in a wide range of habitats—from abandoned coal fields in Germany to rice paddies in Madagascar, writes Carl Zimmer of the New York Times.

Given that every individual Marmorkrebs can reproduce (the advantage of parthenogenesis is that the female crayfish doesn’t need to find a mate—it just gives birth), one European scientist has dramatically suggested that, “we’re being invaded by an army of clones.” Zimmer shares the results of Dr Lyko and his team on how the all-female Marbokrebs came to be:

“Scientists concluded that the new species got its start when two slough crayfish mated. One of them had a mutation in a sex cell — whether it was an egg or sperm, the scientists can’t tell. Normal sex cells contain a single copy of each chromosome. But the mutant crayfish sex cell had two. Somehow the two sex cells fused and produced a female crayfish embryo with three copies of each chromosome instead of the normal two. Somehow, too, the new crayfish didn’t suffer any deformities as a result of all that extra DNA.” 

In its first couple decades, [Marmorkrebs] is doing extremely well, writes Zimmer. But sooner or later, the marbled crayfish’s fortunes may well turn, he adds. “Maybe they just survive for 100,000 years,” Dr. Lyko speculated. “That would be a long time for me personally, but in evolution it would just be a blip on the radar.”

marbled-crayfish2

Marmorkrebs

But what if this speculation isn’t the whole scenario? What if Marmorkrebs is just another example of climate change-induced adaptation and change through epigenetics? While climate forcing and habitat destruction is causing the extinction of many species; other species are, no doubt, adapting and exploiting the change. These generalists (born with change inside them) are poised to take over in Nature’s successional march.3

Bdelloid-rotifer-Philodina-gregaria

Bdelloid rotifer

Parthenogenesis and epigenetic change isn’t new. In fact, it’s very old … All-female bdelloid rotifers have been cloning a sisterhood for millions of years and using incorporated foreign genes through horizontal gene transfer4 (essentially stealing genetic material from their environment) to maintain a healthy diverse population. What’s new and weird is that this crayfish “suddenly” developed this ability—probably through epigenetic means (given this entire group is versatile in reproductive strategies in general). The real question none of the articles that covered this phenonemon ask is: WHY? Why is it happening NOW?

In my latest book A Diary in the Age of Water (due for release in May 2020 by Inanna Publications) I explore this “change” in a unique way:

Diary Water cover finalKyo finds a copy of Robert Wetzel’s Limnology on a lower shelf of the “L” section. It stands tall with a thick green-coloured spine. This is the book that Hilda, one of the Water Twins, had saved from the book burnings of the Water Age. A present from her limnologist mother. Hilda kept it hidden under her mattress. When CanadaCorp police burst into their home and dragged her mother away, Hilda was left alone with Wetzel. The limnology textbook was forbidden reading because its facts were no longer facts. 

After some coaxing, Myo shared a most bizarre tale of that time which led to the catastrophic storms and flood. What the governments hadn’t told their citizens—but what each citizen felt and knew—was that humans had lost the ability to reproduce. Then a spate of “virgin births” throughout the world spawned what seemed a new race of girls—‘deformed’, blue and often with strange abilities. Many considered them abominations, a terrible sign of what was in store for humanity—a punishment for their evil ways. Then, as quickly as they’d populated the world, these strange blue girls all disappeared without a trace. They simply vanished and became the Disappeared. Myo told her that some people called it a Rapture, a portent of the end times. Others suggested that the girls had all been murdered—a genocide, organized by what was left of the world government. 

Then … the storms … changed the world.

–“A Diary in the Age of Water” 

  1. Spontaneous Parthenogenesis: From the Greek Parthenon “virgin” and genesis “creation”, parthenogenesis is a natural form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization. In animals it involves development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg; in plants it proceeds through apomixis. The production of only female offspring by parthenogenesis (such as with bdelloid rotifers) is called thelytoky.
  2. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by the modification of gene expression (such as environmental triggers) rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. If genetics represents the hardrive of a computer, epigenetics is its software.
  3. Niche (the role or job of an organism or population) can be broad (for generalists) or narrow (for specialists). A specialist has superior abilities to exploit the narrow environmental conditions it lives in and is splendidly adapted to a fixed stable environment; generalists, less successful at exploiting than the specialist but more widely adaptive, can thrive in less stable environments that present a wider range of conditions.
  4. Horizontal gene transfer is the movement of genetic material between organisms other than by the vertical transmission of DNA from parent to offspring through reproduction. HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms.

A Diary in the Age of Water will be released in May 2020 by Inanna Publications, Toronto, Canada.

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

Lexicon of  “The Splintered Universe”

Aeon \ Æ-ôn \ n : in Gnosticism, a divine power or nature emanating from the Supreme Being and playing various roles in the operation of the universe

Ae•on Sun•tel•ia \ Æ-ôn-sün-tel-ia \ n : 1 : the End of the Age according to the ancient Greeks, described by Plato as a cycle of catastrophe 2 : a prediction made recently by Raphael Martinez, leader of the Hermetic Order of a violent end of an age; the destruction of the old world  according to self-proclaimed prophet “will be signified by the joining of twin soul-mates who will herald the coming of a New Age.” 

al•tru•ism \ ôl-trü-ism \ n : the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others; a motivation to provide something of value to a part other than oneself; pure altruism consists of sacrificing something (e.g., time, energy, possessions) for someone other than the self with no expectation of compensation or benefits, direct or indirect

al•tru•is•tic \ ôl-trü-is-tik \ adj : describes the action of altruism

ammut \ am-mut \ n : a large invertebrate that makes its eggshells of swamp detritus. During their larval stage, they are extremely carnivorous and will devastate the swamp wildlife. They hatch and swarm during the season of the dead on Horus. The ammut eat the young apophus. As adults they become vegetarian and serve as food for the apophus

anti-Nihilist \ an-tē-nī-a-list \ n : someone who opposes either philosophically or through action the activities and philosophy of the Nihilists.

apophus \ A-pô-fəs \ n : a gigantic snake-like creature known through local myth that inhabits the Boiling Sea in the Weeping Mountains are of the planet Horus (47 Uma a) in the 47 Ursae Majoris system

Azorian \ A-zór-ēən \ n : a tall, heat-loving lean-limbed biped species with tough sand-paper hide, long snout and ferret face from Azor in the Beta Hydri system 

Bado•win \ badō-in \ n  1: a small, very strong, gnarled and hairy biped species of often ill-repute, originating on the planet Nexus in the M103 star cluster

Sand dunes Oregon3

Dunes on Upsilon 3

barkhan (also barchan) \ bär-kən \ n : cresent-shaped migrating sand dunes that are wider than long. These dunes form under winds that blow consistently from one direction and may move over desert surfaces with remarkable speed, particular to Upsilon 3.

bastet \ bas-tet \ n : a genetically produced mammal that displayed aggressive co-evolution and wiped out the domestic cat population and Earth’s large feral cats.

Biomimetic \ bīó-mi-met-ic \ adj : the application of biological methods and systems in nature, particularly in living organisms, in the design by sentient beings of items they use such as houses, engineering structures, vehicles, etc. 

marsh-bog Rhea

Marsh-bog on Sekmet

blanket bog \ blanket bôg \ n  1: an extensive peatland (wet spongy perched water ecosystem) formed in a climate of high rainfall and low level of evapo-transpiration, allowing peat development not only in wet hollows but over large expanses of undulating ground; an ecosystem usually consisting of hummocks and pools with specifically adapted plant and animal life; an extensive bog-fen landscape   

blenoid \ blen-óid \ n  1: a ferocious and dull-witted four-legged dog-like animal with three sets of razor sharp teeth, massive head with three eyes and tough red hide; indigenous to Upsilon 2 in the Epsilon Endari system 2 : term used for a person with these traits : CRAZY; MAD 

Bo•bo Bar \ bō-bō bär \ n : a snack bar comprising of chewy bobouris fruit jerky and artificial chocolate.

seelisberg-view06

Boiling Sea, Horus

Boiling Sea \ boēl-ēng sē \ n : term used for the great convoluted inland sea surrounded by the Weeping Mountains, on the planet Horus

Borr \ bōr \ n 1 : four-legged gentle species, indigenous to the planet Borrias and extirpated by the Vos Nihilists 2 : a shape-shifting species thought to be from Borrias

buma \ bü-mä \ n : the inside muscle of the buiuma’s digestive tract that sloughs off as the buiuma inverts itself. This event occurs twice a year, during kelm, the wet season of the Eosian jungle. It is considered an Eosian delicacy.

Cerberus / Cər-bər-əs / n : the term Rhea coined for the tall cylinders that dispensed the drugged nourishment on the penal colony of Sekmet : “Each cylinder with its swollen bulbous reservoirs, resembled a three-headed cyber-beast, with flexible teets suckling its deformed young.”

chaos \ kā-ôs \ n 1 : the confused unorganized state existing before the creation of distinct forms 2 : complete disorder syn confusion 3 : common expletive to denote less than optimal to utterly calamitous or disastrous conditions syn “hell”

co•bal \ cō-bôl \ n :  a small vole-like burrowing rodent native to the deserts of Upsilon 3 and the mainstay prey of the blenoid

cozu shrub \ co-zü shrub \ n :  a silver-green small shrub with thorns, and “popping” seed pods, indigenous to the desert of Upsilon 3

creel \ crēəl \ n : a fungus from Omega 6 that grows naturally into a metallic burnished hard surface and used by biomimetic architects on Horus to build their floors.

creon \ crē-ôn \ n 1 : an individual of the main species from the planet Creos in the 55 Cancri system; known for their laziness, lack of good judgement and imagination 2 : term used to indicate an individual with these traits : FOOL; IDIOT; DULLARD

Delenean \ Də-le-nē-en \ n : furry simple creatures with six appendages, native to Mar Delena in the Fomalhaut system. This species is subservient to the AI community that runs Mar Delena

Diverse \ dī-vərs \ n : a term that describes the existence of two parallel and divergent universes that comprise a metaverse

Dreccaline \ drec-ca-lēn \ n : a non-specific highly potent nerve poison that kills all life

Du•en•de \ Du-en-de \ n : an old Spanish word that describes a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, loosely meaning “having soul”; promoted and discussed by Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca  as an inner transcendent emotional response and spirit of evocation with roots from Spanish mythology.

dust \ dəst \ n : a psychoactive drug that produces mild euphoria and drowsiness in most sentient species

endo•rheic \ en-dō-rē-ik \ adj : pertaining to a closed drainage basin (a lake) that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water such as rivers or oceans; a self-enclosed system equilibrated through evaporation

Eos \ Ē-ôs \ n : ringed jungle Planet in the Pleiades Nebula; original home of the vishna tree

collision with paradise-no title

Eosian with Scree on Eos

Eosian \ Ē-ōs-ē-ən \ n : principal sentient being from Eos in the Pleiades Nebula; originally from Earth (Atlantis) and responsible for establishing the Galactic Guardian force in the Milky Way Galaxy

Epoptes \ Ē-pôp-tes \ n : shape-shifting god worshipped by the Eosian species, and from whom the Eosians presumably take their instruction through dreams

Fauche \ Fōsh\ n : an ungulate-like biped species with very long ears, wide frequency hearing and large lustrous eyes, originating from Bedar 9 in the Sigma Draconis system

fok \ fôk \ n : excrement from a blenoid

gadpie \ gad-pī \ n  1: a tree indigenous to Iota Hor-2, the moon of Horologii b  2: the wood of the gadpie tree

ghost \ gōst \ n : a person acting as a portal, capable of recalling aspects of the other diverse through their other soul-half in a déjà vu experience. If they are capable of soul-drifting—locking into someone else’s dream or trance—a ghost can manipulate both the dreams and real aspects of that other person’s life in the other diverse, usually in the form of a lengthy déjà vu

ghou•roud \ gü-rüd \ n : 1 : Original French term for moving dunes;  2 :  fields of moving dunes (barkhans) resulting from shifting sands, particularly found in Upsilon 3

glit•ter \ glit-tər \ n : 1 : a psycho-active drug used by Gnostics to see God; 2 : a refined form of dust, glitter is obtained through the major drug cartel of Dark Sun, run by Barbaricca on Sekmet; also known as glitter dust; also see dust

Gness \ ness \ n : a gentle wolf-like species with translucent skin from the 61 Ursae Majoris system

Gnosis \ nōs-sis \ n : knowledge of God

Gnostic \ nôs-tic \ n : a follower of Gnosticism

Gnosticism \ nôs-ti-sizm \ n : a belief system based on early Christianity, Helenistic Judaism, Greco-roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism and neoplatonism, which teaches that some esoteric knowledge (gnosis) is necessary for salvation from the material world, created by an intermediary (demiurge; considered evil or merely imperfect) to God

Gnostic Hermetic Order of Québec \ nôs-tic hər-met-ic or-dər of qā-bec \ n : an order devoted to Gnosticism. Founded by Rafael Martinez, the Hermetic Order is based on Earth but has several outposts throughout the universe

Gnostic Schiss Order \ nôs-tic shiss ōr-dər \ n : a very small Hermetic order devoted to Gnosticism with mostly non-human members. Targeted by an Eclipse assassin, the Schiss Order was nearly extirpated. Its remnants is currently based on Uma 1

Rhea library02

Rhea in her Great Coat

Great Coat \ grāt cōt \ n : part of the uniform and weapons arsenal of the Galactic Guardian; millions of thixtropic nano-sensors incorporated into its durable yet flexible fabric let it respond to any number of internal and external stresses, providing its wearer with a shield from the cold or from a weapon’s discharge

hedon \ he-dən \ n 1 : a mildly euphoric recreational drug that is smoked and produces a pungent yellow smoke 2 : used colloquially to indicate incredulity (as in “you must be blowing hedon”)

Her•metic Or•der  (see Gnostic Hermetic Order)

hes•i•um fuel \ hēs- ē-um feü-əl \ n : a highly inflammable and incendiary rocket fuel used by most Zeas Corporation ships

inner diverse \ innər dīvers \ n : the world or existence comprised within the inner twin universe of the metaverse and linked to its twin existence, the outer diverse, through transitional phenomena such as black holes and intuition

jag \ jag \ vb  1 : the act of straying off the space-time stream of faster-than-light travel and often accompanied by dangerous ship stress  2 : used colloquially to indicate a serious misjudgement (as in “he jags up all the time”)

jagging \ jag-gēng \ vb  1 : describing a ship that is straying off the space-time stream 2 : vb; adv : used as an expletive to  describe a person, concept or action that lacks sense or causes harm, embarrassment or discomfort (as in, “he’s jagging with your mind” or “she’s so jagging stupid”)

jagged \ jagd \ vb1 : past tense verb of straying off the space-time stream of faster-than-light travel  2. adj : colloquial expletive term for a serious error or bad circumstance; SCREWED, MESSED UP (as in, “we’re jagged”)

kappa particles \kap-pa pär-ti-cəlz\ n : energy particles that concentrate in the upper atmosphere of several gas giants; retrieved by Fauche ray class sentient ships for fuel using specialized fuel scoops

kelm \ kelm \ n : the wet season on the planet Eos

kepry \ kep-rē \ n : a flying crustacean-like creature on Sekmet that lives in the dung piles left by the sobek

Khonsus \ kón-səs \ n : tall, feathered biped creature with raptor head, wings, and liquid amber eyes able to mind-probe, origin unknown but currently in 47 Ursae Majoris system; these hawk-like people achieve their powers through a symbiotic interaction with the planet’s energy and forces

Legess \ lə-gess \ n : tall, slim praying mantis-like invertebrate creatures who colonized Chara and enslaved native Rills

L’Ordre de l’Arbre Sac•ré  n : see Order of the Sacred Tree

mandala \ man-da-lä \ n : an ornate, highly detailed geometric design made of colored sand and symbolic of the universe. Used in a sacred ceremony by Tibetan Buddist monks, it is painstakingly created over many days and represents their sacred world of balance held together by spirit. Once work of art is finished and revered in a short ceremony, it is destroyed

MEC \ mek \  n : acronym for Magnetic-Electro Concussion pistol, created by Rhea Hawke, which uses electro-magnetic wave energy to focus sub-atomic quintle particles into resonance with specific DNA

Metaverse \ met-a-vərs \ n :  a theoretical term that describes the composition of all matter and energy encompassed by divergent diverses; a whole quantum cosmos that includes all that was and will be

mev•lan•i \ mev-lan-ē \ n : term used on Sekmet to describe the leader of the penal colony

Swamp03 TNS

Migratory trees of Horus

Migra•tor•y Trees \ mī-grə-to-rē trēz \ n : a tree known in myth to migrate from one location to another in the Weeping Mountains area of the planet Horus; according to myth the Khonsus inhabited the trees in ancient times

nexus portal \ nex-əs por-təl \ n : a person who enters the state of acting as a portal with ease through meditation or a self-induced trance. See portal

Ngu \ nü \ n : a photosynthetic amoeboid-like creature with protuberances as sense organs that lives symbiotically with AI-machinery; from Virgil 9 in the 70 Virginis system

Nuyu \ noo-ēü \ n : a nano-chemical mixture, imbibed as a liquid, that acts at the genetic level to temporarily change small aspects of outer appearance such as skin, eyes, hair; used as make-up

Nihilist \ Nī-ə-list \ n  1 : a member of a militant splinter group of the Vos  2 : a specially trained death squad of shapeshifter assassins on the Vos payroll

Order of the Sacred Tree  n : a closed membership in Quebec on Earth, devoted to the divine nature of the vishna tree, considered the tree of life and knowledge and the answer to achieving the balance of all things. The Order believes in the notion that a messiah, connected to the tree, will bring balance and begin a new age of enlightenment and peace

Orichalkon \ o-rich-al-kon \ n : 1 : the durable alloy that the mythical Epoptes bestowed to the Eosians in Atlantis; 2 : an elite guard of five squadrons of highly skilled sleuth Eosian warriors (squadrons include Cadmus, Odysseus, Peometheus, Perseus and Daedalus) dedicated to guard Mon Seigneur Martinez and his Hermetic Gnostic Order

Ouroboros

Ouroboros

Ouroboros \ u-rō-bōr-ōs \ n : a mythical serpent eating its own tail; connected with the Suntelia Aeon that refers to the serpent of light residing in the heavens (the Milky Way); the ouroboros symbolizes an Aeon

outer diverse \ outər dīvers \ n : the world or existence comprised within the outer twin universe of the metaverse and linked to its twin existence, the inner diverse, through transitional phenomena such as black holes and intuition

Peeka \ pēka \ n : a small monotreme creature that produces eggs and lives in the marshes of Omicron 12

play•a \ plī-ä \ n : a dry desert lake that contains water for a short while after a sudden downpour, causing a flood; an endorheic lake that is smooth hardpan most of the time

plock nectar \ plôk nectər \ n : 1 : a tasty nectar that is normally a mixture of juices from various planets with 50% of the juice made from the plock root of Scandia; 2 :  100% nectar from the plock root, known for its medicinal properties

polysynth fiber \ pôlē-sinth fīber \ n  : nano-strings that resonate with matter

pocket \ pôk-et \ n : acronym for  PulsOniC Kinetic Energy Tracker created by Rhea Hawke , which tracks a target once the gun has identified their signature

pockta \ pôkta \ n : a highly nutritional leguminous plant from whose giant seeds a rich thick soup is made

poi mash \ pói mash \ n : a substance like tobacco that is either smoked or chewed.

Portal \ pór-təl \ n : 1 : a person capable of entering into the other diverse and through their experience capable of seeing into the future of their current diverse; 2 : a person in the act of said action; 3 : a person, when acting as a portal, during dreamtime or meditation, may open a gate to the other diverse.

pro•max•in \ pró-max-in \ n : a sleep drug activated by metabolism

pul•son wave \ pəl-sôn wāv \ n : 1 : an electromagnetic green energy wave emitted by a long range stun cannon to disable a ship; 2 : a wave discharged by a weapon used in ships of Tangent Shipping design

quintle \ quin-təl \ n  1 : dark energy particle found in everything  2 : destructive energy discharged from a weapon (Q-gun created by shape-shifters) that resonates with matter to dematerialize an object  3 : used colloquially to express something of importance (as in: “who gives a quintle about spice?”)

Rill n : a short, stout and smelly bog being with tube-eyes, webbed limbs, large genitals and sloughing outer skin from Omicron 12 in the Chara system

sabkha \ sab-kä \ n : a desert feature of Upsilon 3, in which the sand worm hides while waiting for prey

Scandi \ skan-dē \ n : a lizard-like lean-limbed biped with remarkable healing abilities; indigenous to the Upsilon Andromedae system

Schiss \ shiss \ n : a hermetic order of peaceful Gnostic priests, devoted to the use of dream-meditation, particularly lucid dreaming, to achieve transcendence and evolve closer to God and the universal consciousness; several of its older founders experienced the Gate Hallucination; targeted by Eclipse and massacred into near extirpation during a meeting in Paradise City on Uma 1

shallik oil \ shal-lik oil \ n : an oil that possesses natural narcotic properties that numb the nervous system of those in contact with it and make them docile; the oil is produced by microbes indigenous to the Weeping Mountains area of the planet Horus; when ingested, the oil ill make one very ill

shapeshifter \ shāp shiftər \ n : a being able to change his or her physical appearance and associated physiology into several other forms; considered an ability possessed by the Borr species from Borrias

SGT n : Standard Galactic Time; based on a decimal system from the basis of the Earth 24 hour diurnal cycle, with ten days equal to one month and ten months equal to one year; zero SGT is set at the moment of first alien contact with Earth

skipboat \ skip-bōt \ n : a two-man vehicle with skates/skis that is able to move rapidly over water, ice and snow; used by settlers of Uma-1

slave \ slāv \ n : 1 : a derogatory term indicating one of lesser standing, often in actual indentured status : 2 : a term used by crime lords to their own hirelings or any considered lesser being

sling rif•le \ sling rīf-əl \ n : harpoon-like weapon used by hunters, primarily blenoid hunters on Upsilon 3. The sling’s sharp harpooned projectile seldom kills. “Killing wasn’t its objective; maiming, injuring and demobilizing was the intent. The sling was popular with hunters and gamers looking to satisfy their brutal sport of tormenting lesser beings.” – Rhea Hawke

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Habitat of the sober

sobek \ sōbek \ n : a fierce crocodile-like native of Sekmet that digs underwater tunnels in the peat and drowns its victims

soul-drift \ sōl drift \ vb : the practice of entering another’s dreams, even one’s own, and change“reality” through them

soyka \ sói-kä \ n : a soy-based warm drink like coffee; stimulant

Spice \ spīs \ n : a mild psychoactive drug in common usage

Sporian \ spó-rē-ən \ n : a very tall, pear-shaped lanky greenish species with elongated head and leather-like skin, long limbs and large bulbous eyes from Spor in the 18 Scorpii system

stun stick \ stun stik \ n :  a high-energy weapon that resembles a staff. It is used by the Orichalkon, an Eosian elite guard of Mon Seigneur Martinez assigned to guard his gnostic order in their various outposts in the universe. The weapon is wielded like a staff in Tai Chi movements and discharges an energy wave that stuns all in it contacts

Sun•tel•ia Ae•on \ sün-tel-ia Æ-ôn \ n : 1 : the End of the Age according to the ancient Greeks; see Aeon suntelia

synthflesh \ sinth-flesh \ n : real skin molecules and synthetic materials combined by nano-technology, used in synthplast

synthplast \ sinth-plast \ n : prosthetic made of a combination of real skin molecules and synthetic flesh combined by nano-technology

Tangent Shipping \ Tan-gent Ship-pēng \ n : the name of a Fauche ship building company

tappin \ tap-pin \ n : a small domesticated cat-like mammal with fangs and three tails, indigenous to Iota Hor-2

tatsuk \ tat-sək \ n : 1 : original Turkish Earth term meaning prisoner  2 : used by the galactic crime sub-culture, particularly Black Sun, to designate someone under indentured servitude; 3 : slave

1teck \ tek \ n : a permanent genetic change induced through nano-technology developed by Eosians by acting at the DNA level

2teck \ tek \ vb : the act of applying a teck, usually done by a qualified nano-genetics doctor

thix•tro•pic \ thiks-trô-pic \ adj : describes the intelligent nano-sensors incorporated into the durable yet flexible material of a Great Coat, which respond to ongoing environmental stresses that protect its wearer from a range of assaults including disease, weapon discharge, extreme temperature, etc.; see Great Coat

Tocan \ tō-can \ n : a rare insect-like creature indigenous to the Upsion Andromedae system from whose larvae a natural protein fibre is spun to create the shimmering tocanai fabric used in the creation of expensive suits

Tocanai \ tō-can-aē \ n :  the name give to the fabric produced from the fibre spun from the tocan larva

Tree Cult of Earth \ trē cəlt of ərth \ n : see Order of the Sacred Tree

U•ly•sses \ eu-lis-sēz \ n : a space station built by Zeta Corp Aeronotics of Earth; a self-sufficient long term agrarian colony in the vein of an O’Neill Colony with a set of large rotating cylinders many kilometres long and thousands of meters across with large gimballed mirrors; the station maintains a circular motion of 1 rpm to create artificial gravity

Ve•nik \ Ve-nik \ n : a large reptilian-like scaled creature from the HD177830 system with indolent eyes with several sets of arms with poisonous claws and “mouths” or orifices; Veniks are known for their violent and unprincipled nature; they are one of the few species that still actively trade in slaves

vish•na \ vish-nä \ n : a species of tree with thorns and violet flowers, thought to be sentient and linked to an ancient soul, of unknown origin but currently found as the major component of Eosian and Earth forest ecosystems

vizion \ viz-ēôn \ n  1 : a small very strong and tenacious mammalian creature of unknown origin  adj  2 : a term used to describe a powerful grip based on the vizion  

Vos \ Vôs \ n : presumed extragalactic war-like species of which very little is known

wakesh root \ wä-kesh root \ n : edible root, indigenous to the planet Sekmet, with strong psychoactive properties 

Weep•ing Moun•tains \ wēpēng Mountənz \ n : extremely steep and jagged mountains that define and surround the Boiling Seas of the planet Horus (47 Uma a). Microbes, created in the mountains and coat the surface of the Boiling Sea, excrete a narcotic oil (shallik oil) that numbs and hypnotizes prey 

Xhix \ ziks \ n : a chameleon-like species with multiple eyes capable of wide wave-length vision and changeable skin according to mood, indigenous to the 37 Geminorum system

Zar•zo•za \ zar-zō-za \ n : the name for the Gnostic Sanctuary of the Hermetic Order of Québec on Upsilon 3

Zeas Corporation \ zēss cōr-pōr-ā-shän \ n : a galactic trading company specializing in exotic foods and merchandize

ZetaCorp Aeronautics \ ze-ta-cōrp ā-rōnô-tics \ n : a major galactic ship builder originating on Earth

Zi•bar \ zi-bär \ n : an ephemeral desert town on Upsilon 3, where blenoid traders congregate to hunt and process blenoid meat for export

Phonetic symbols based on Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and the Dictionary of Pronunciation by Abraham Lass and Betty Lass.

 

You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse through Audible.

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.

The Exotic Worlds of Rhea Hawke’s Universe

To catch her criminals, Galactic Guardian Detective Rhea Hawke travels far and wide through the Galaxy and beyond in her Ray Class sentient ship Benny. From the oozing Weeping Mountains of Horus to the debauched crime-ridden glassy Splendid City of Ogium 9, here are just some of the worlds Rhea must navigate in The Splintered Universe Trilogy

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Acid rain of Mar Delena (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Acid Rains of Mar Delena (Book 1)

The trilogy begins on Mar Delena, a water planet in the Fomalhaut system, where Rhea has chased the Dust smuggler V’mer to the AI-run Del City. Unfortunately, she encounters more than the smuggler there, experiencing first-hand what Dust can do…

I found myself absently curling a lock of my hair around one finger and resting my leg on the console as Benny eased into a large circle of Del City. I peered down into the darkness and barely made out the AI city sprawled on a large island surrounded by a rough sea. The dark sea occupied 98 percent of this bleak water planet.

“Mar Delena’s ocean is toxic with a pH of less than two,” Benny informed me. My ship’s voice was a calm tenor. I dropped my leg to lean forward and gazed down at the lights of the city. I made adjustments to the primary controls as Benny descended. Sheets of rain veiled the sentient city in shifting curtains of a shimmering skyscape. “That’s because the sulphurous rain has a pH of three,” Benny went on. “The caustic rain is a maintenance chore for the AIs that run the city’s infrastructure. They’re always repairing. That’s why all the streets are just left as dirt. The dirt lets the acid rain percolate into the ground. Of course it makes for a muddy place, but the Delenians don’t seem to mind.”

“Wonderful,” I muttered, gazing at the towering buildings, whose rounded roofs encouraged the corrosive rain to sheer off harmlessly to the ground. “Remind me to come here for my summer vacation …”

“There it is, Rhea,” Benny said.

“I see it.” I peered out my portside window through the rain and recognized V’mer’s small scythe-wing below. The ship resembled a bird of prey with a head-like cockpit flanked by crescent-shaped wings that flared out to the bow in a point. By analyzing its heat signature, Benny confirmed that the scythe-wing had only set down moments ago.

We’d just jacked the particle-wave stream thousands of light-years to this ancient dusty solar system. I chased V’mer here from a mining colony on Nexus, where the Badowin ran the largest illicit manufacture of Dust in the galaxy for Dark Sun—all cleverly under cover of a mining operation for Spice, a less dangerous narcotic. A little Dust showed you ‘God’; but in larger quantities it threw you convulsing over the precipice straight to chaos.

 

The Volcanoes of Gliese-876b (Book 1)

Rhea swiftly goes from detective on the hunt to hunted fugitive, wanted by her own Galactic Guardians and local PD for theft and other misdeeds. Disguised, Rhea sneaks into Phoenix City on the moon Gleise-12—home of a major Guardian precinct—in search of her truant and estranged mother to ensure she hasn’t been hurt by Vos terrorists. It doesn’t turn out well…

Gliese-12’s ecosystem wasn’t as friendly to its inhabitants as Iota Hor-2, I thought, gazing with a yawn down at the rich yellow-ochre tones that veiled the hazy moon of Gliese 876-b. Bathed in warm shades of a constant sunset, Phoenix City had been built under a giant energy-shield dome to protect its inhabitants from the incessant incoming stellar debris. As a result, we required special clearance to make port. Playing it safe, Benny had provided us both with an alias, in case the Iota Hor-2 Guardian precinct’s APB on my theft had already reached the Gliese precinct through the Galactic Net…

I strode with forced casual steps out of the Phoenix Sky Port and pulled out a stick of gum. I glanced at the security men and women as I passed the RADs unnoticed, chewing slowly to the rhythm of my steps, then emerged with a smug smile under a permanently blushing sky into the heat and sweet mesquite smell of Phoenix City.

Generally hotter, redder and louder than Neon City, the town was densely populated with towering buildings that rippled in the heat and glowed like burning embers under the fire of Gliese 876.  Many of the tallest buildings were capped with glass-domed promenades, gardens, restaurants, and landing platforms. Their orange reflections glinted like exotic lanky mushrooms.

The city bustled with the thrum of commerce; air vehicles of all sizes zinged overhead in a constant rush. Phoenix City was a major banking centre. Even the Galactic Bank, my bank, had their head office here. All of the tallest towers were banking facilities. Save one, the Guardian precinct.

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Inside a building in Splendid City (photo by Nina Munteanu)

Dangerous Glitter of Ogium 9’s Splendid City (Book 1)

I’d set a course for Ogium 9, a small terrestrial planet orbiting HD70642, a bright star ninety light-years from Earth. I hoped to get information on the whereabouts of the itinerant Ulysses space station from Zec in Splendid City. The very thought of returning to that nest of crime made me uneasy. I’d spent a significant portion of my youth there, surviving by using my brain and keeping my emotions in check. The last time I’d seen Zec, he’d sworn to kill me for jagging him—he nearly did.

Splendid City was, on the surface, quite splendid. I strode along one of the pedestrian air tubes that swayed over a thousand meters above the ground and gazed past my gravity boots through the transparent floor to the city, glowing in the warm blaze of the setting sun. Splendid City sprawled beneath me in a complex thrum and filigree of multi-shaped, rounded, and peaked rooftops. Translucent walkways snaked in and out of them. Catching the sun’s fire, they formed golden streaks across the sky. Air vehicles buzzed around the towers and walkways in swarms of synchronous order.

For some reason, Splendid City had become a Mecca for architects, and each building was a celebration of unique design. Several were modeled on biological creatures: tentacled jellyfish, or arachnids, spiked echinoids, or giant pollen shapes.  The poet Goethe had described architecture as frozen art. I thought it no more apt than here, in Splendid City, where practical design and imagination conspired in the myriad shapes, textures and colors that rose up boldly towards the heavens.

The buildings sparkled like jewels. But the glitter of the throbbing city lay just on the surface, I thought solemnly. Beneath those resplendent spires and glass towers lay a filthy dark underworld devoted to crime. Splendid City was built by crime lords from all across the galaxy. It had been a good place for me when I sold my weapons designs; the place was ripe with young scoundrels, eager to build their little empires by trading one illicit merchandise for another. I’d had no problem finding customers. My challenge had been to keep from getting swallowed up by them…

When the door slid open, I saw Zec right away, feet up on his giant gadpie desk, eyeing me critically with scorn. He was handsome as always with dark, slick hair drawn back in a loose ponytail, with beautiful large heavy-lidded eyes the color of Earth’s ocean, and the lashes of a girl. He wore an expensive silk jacket imported from Earth over a charcoal gray T-shirt and tacky lumi-trousers. Behind him the large windows provided a spectacular view of the city lights in the deepening lavender of dusk. A lecherous smile slid over his face as he looked me up and down approvingly. He’d fancied me as his girlfriend when we’d slummed together in the lower levels. Even tried to kiss me once. He had the scar to prove it.

I met his gaze head on, then glanced down with a smirk to where his tight pants bulged and decided to make the first move. Tongue brushing my upper lip in mock seductiveness, I sneered: “Is that a Q-gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

 

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Uma 1 (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Treacherous Cold of Uma 1 (Book 2)

Rhea travels to the frigid moon Uma 1, to warn the Schiss leader Rashomon of a plan to assassinate him—only to inadvertently cause his gruesome murder and receive her own injuries. She then spots Serge. He bolts and she chases his fleeing figure into the frigid snow and ice sheet of Uma 1…

I pounded after him, ignoring my burning lungs and the pain that flamed up my leg. “Stop!”

He didn’t. An insane rage boiled inside me. It balled my fists and fired my legs into a galloping run. I was gaining on him.

He darted to the skipboats that lined the dock and untied one. He tripped the canopy open and slid into the boat with a sharp glance backward at me.

Just as I reached the skipboat, chest heaving with exertion, Serge started up the engine, and the boat leapt out into the water, accelerating with a high-pitched whine. It threw a pair of five-meter rooster tails behind, splashing the dock and soaking me with a slam of cold water. It almost knocked me off the wharf.

I recovered and scrambled, slipping off balance for a careless moment on the wet wharf, to the next skipboat and found the button to open the canopy. I untied the boat, dropped into the seat with a grunt of pain, closed the canopy, and started up the engine. It sputtered into a vibrating whine. Pressing my lips into a snarl of determination, I slammed on the foot pedal and was thrown back with sudden acceleration. Within seconds I’d reached his wake, skipboat screaming at top speed.

I could make out the end of the thermal shield, where the water abruptly ended in a vast sheet of crusted ice. Serge plunged into the cold, skipboat hitting the lip of ice at full speed and bouncing high. Hot on his heels, I kept my vehicle in full tilt and flinched when it crashed through the icy lip, soaring then landing with a painful jolt on the ice sheet. The vehicle’s thin pontoons allowed the skipboat to skate effortlessly at breakneck speed along the creaking ice sheet that covered the giant underwater city. My lip curled in a wicked smile as I noticed that I was catching up to him.

“Rhea!” the com spattered on with Serge’s voice. “Is that you?”

After a long pause I stabbed the com button and responded savagely, “Yes it’s me. Stand down, Serge.”

He didn’t respond.

“I repeat, STAND DOWN!”

“Listen, Rhea, I didn’t kill Rashomon,” he said in an almost pleading voice.

“No,” I retorted with scornful mockery. “I did.”

“I mean, I wasn’t involved in setting you up.”

“No, your sister did that,” I bit out. You were the bait. “You were probably just back up, in case I jagged up.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Serge protested, betraying some frustration. Why was he even trying to convince me of his innocence? Why did he jagging care what I thought?

“If it wasn’t like that, then what are you doing here, Serge?” I scoffed, forcing out words through shallow painful breaths. The windswept icy surface grew rippled and pitted with blocks of frozen ridges and pockets of water.

“The same as you. Trying to prevent his assassination. You have to believe me, Rhea.”

Serge skirted around several large ice buttresses and domes in quick succession, his vehicle pounding over frozen waves and curtained layers of debris and ice. I kept up, turning each time with grunts of painful effort and feeling each jar like a hard kick in my chest.

“Now, why is it that I don’t?” I snarled. “Maybe it’s because you’ve lied to me ever since we met … V’ser.” I realized that I was panting. “Everything you’ve ever said to me was a lie.”

The com went silent. The scene began to feel painfully surreal. A few times, I saw spots in front of my eyes and realized I was fighting from blacking out.

Serge continued to maneuver through what resembled a giant storm that had been flash-frozen. Where the chaos was he taking us? The turbulent wind blew the snow into eddies of swirling sleet, and it became harder to keep on Serge’s tail. I pounded in and out of dips and waves, painfully chasing the shadow of Serge’s yellow skipboat. Serge led us through a series of looming ice columns toward a rise in the topography. It looked like a giant frozen wave twenty meters tall. Maybe it was …

In a rush of new determination, I pushed out my jaw and felt my teeth gnash.

“Stand down, Serge!” I snorted out the words through panting breaths. “Give yourself up. It’ll end up better for you with the Guardians if you do.” God! Even I didn’t believe that.

He obviously didn’t either. I winced at his sharp laugh of derision.

“My dear Rhea. Always the Enforcer, even when you aren’t. And always in control—even when you obviously aren’t.”

“Jag you, Serge. And I’m not your dear!”

“Well, in that case you’ll have to catch me and stop me first!”

“If you insist.”

I slammed on the accelerator. We reached the rise and were climbing. It was steeper than I had initially thought, and I had to fight the wheel to keep from tipping over on my side as Serge led me on a diagonal vector up the ice and snow slope. Face puckered in a tight snarl, I forced my skipboat to skirt around Serge’s, flanking him on the high side. I caught sight of his tense face through the canopy as he threw alarmed glances at me.

“Rhea, you don’t have any weapons and you’re hurt. I hear it in your voice. How are you going to stop me? With your bare hands?”

“If I have to.”

I came up beside him, nosing toward him to force him down.

We crested the hill at the same time with my vehicle on the outside and—Oh, God! My pulse raced. I knew what lay on the other side before I saw it.

A sheer cliff! More than that, it turned into an inverted cliff at the bottom. I realized that this was just another dome and we’d climbed the windward side where snow and ice had piled to form an incline. I felt myself slide uncontrollably into that awful dreamstate and watched in horror as it played out like I knew it would:

In a panic, Serge overcompensated. I was too close! His tail skidded in counterpoint and collided hard against mine, forcing me over the cliff. Heart surging in a spike of alarm, I fought the wheel as my skipboat slid straight down the dome then hurtled into freefall …

“Rhea! NO!—”

I saw the icy ground rushing toward me then smashed into darkness.

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Boiling Sea of Horus (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Boiling Sea of Horus (Book 2)

In search of answers to her past from her elusive grandmother—who has transformed into a giant snake-like Apophus—Rhea returns to the misty narcotic Boiling Sea within the Oily Range (Weeping Mountains) whose oily residue settles over everything like a clammy soporific slime:

I pulled out a second wad of soyka gum and chewed nervously then resumed paddling, eyes sharp for any boiling masses of water snakes. With each stroke of the paddle I disturbed the surface scum and left a wake of swirling colour. It released a foul stench of rotting compost. The brown mist hovered like a cobweb over the oily film. I searched for any sign of agitation and listened over the gentle chortling of the water between each paddle stroke…

I swept the hair back from my face and squinted, trying to see beyond the ten meters of visibility the dank mist allowed. Following my internal compass, I negotiated the towering islands with unease. The only warning that I was approaching one of their vertical cliffs came in the sudden slap, slosh and gurgle of the waves against the sheer rock face. Then within a heartbeat the slimy dark rock would thrust up like an apparition through the oily mist and I’d steer clear with a sharp intake of air. I must have passed at least a dozen islands as I continued toward my destination, a place in my mind, perhaps planted there by those beasts that had taken brief residence inside me. Ever watchful for the apophus, the giant snake that had previously batted my ship out of the sky then set its babies to consume me, I was acutely aware of my vulnerability in this small canoe. If the apophus was hungry it could easily overturn my boat and spill me into the churning water to either consume me directly or feed me in slow agonizing ecstasy to those nasty babies of hers.

My head began to spin and I felt slightly nauseous…the cloying smell was overpowering. Was I going the right way? Some compass in my head had compelled me to bear toward a northern point on the convoluted shoreline. I’d been paddling for hours, but I could make out nothing in the thick fog. I shook my head to clear my mind and pulled out another soyka gum wad then joined it to the mass already in my mouth. My gaze settled on the iridescent swirling patterns of the whirlpools left in the wake of the draw of my paddle…

…Why did all the women in my family do atrocious things? If Shlsh was telling the truth, my grandmother had been the worst. She’d betrayed all of humanity by letting the Vos into my world. It was inconceivable. How could someone, a single person, have that kind of power? 

>I didn’t…It wasn’t just me…I had help, Vos help…

“What—” I inhaled my gum and my hand slipped on the paddle. It fell into the oily water and drifted away from the canoe. I flung out my arms to retrieve it, throwing the boat into a violent rock. Warm water flooded into the boat with a burst of rank fumes and I jerked back, pitching the boat into a counter rock and nearly fell out. I threw myself onto my stomach and groped for the slippery handle floating in the iridescent scum. Hands scrabbling, I found purchase, bringing more water in. As I pulled the oil-covered paddle into the boat and kneeled to wipe the slime off my arms with shaky hands, the voice returned: 

>I was in love and I fell. Love tricks you. Love blinds you. I think you know about that, Rhea…

“Shut up!” I shouted, clamping slime-covered hands over my ears. But the voice was inside my head. I raked back the hair off my face in a brisk sweep and in a more subdued tone I asked, “Who are you?” 

>Come this way. You will have your answers soon enough. Are you brave enough to handle them? You are almost there…

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Migratory trees of Horus swamp (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Migratory Trees of Horus (Book 2)

Once the apophus captures Rhea, it takes her across the Boiling Sea to a swamp where Rhea encounters the legendary migrating trees and—when she escapes the apophus—she collides with something worse—carnivorous ammuts:

The pungent smell of anaerobic mud and crushed vegetation stirred my nostrils and I looked up. I saw that the serpent was lumbering into a narrow canyon toward a ghostly grove of lanky trees. They resembled mangroves in the swirling mist. Within moments the snake began to make those same lyrical sounds that had intoxicated me the first time I’d come here. At the time I didn’t know who or what had made the eerie but beautiful sounds. Within moments an equally beautiful and more eerie multi-timbral chorus of feral ‘voices’ echoed off the canyon walls as if riding on the moving mist. I concluded against my own logic that this was some sort of communication between the apophus and…what? Surely not the trees? I narrowed my eyes with sudden amazement. Was I seeing clearly? Were the trees moving?…

I pulled myself out of the brown-stained pond and waded in a hobble through the warm swamp, Great Coat trailing like floating sails on the water. The canyon eventually opened to a wide valley, surrounded by towering oil-covered cliffs.

A loud pop and crackle ahead made me skid to a halt. I watched with amazement as a ten-foot oval structure made of earth and debris emerged from the muck, creating a small wake in the black water just meters in front of me. I flinched as it snapped open at the top, releasing a sharp odour of clove and burning matches. I considered backing away slowly and took a step back then stopped dead in my tracks and held my breath as two long deep crimson ‘tails’ slowly whipped out. They looked suspiciously like motion-sensing antennae.

When a vicious insect-like head emerged, attached to the ‘tails’ and dripping slime from a long proboscis, I abandoned stealth and bolted through the knee-deep swamp, not waiting to see the rest of the creature. Oh, God! These were the carnivorous larval stage of the ammut that Ka had told me about. I’d picked a great time to return to Horus: the beginning of the ‘season of the dead’ when the ferocious ammut hatched and swarmed.

Within moments, I heard an ominous loud clap and buzz behind me. I forced myself to turn and dared a glance. I clamped terrified eyes on a creature rising in the air, then lost my balance and fell backward into the swamp. A twelve-foot long insect-like creature had unfurled four narrow dragon-fly wings that flapped furiously. Twelve jointed legs dangled below its thick body. Huge multi-faceted amber eyes roamed below its crimson antennae and its long proboscis twitched, hungry for its first meal. Catching my breath, I scrambled under a drowned shrub and the ammut flew past me, the machine-gun flutter of its huge wings reverberating in my gut. I swallowed down my terror and wondered what an adult looked like if this thing was its larval stage.

I backed further into the bush and heard the sounds that I dreaded—more popping and crackling. I stared at the emerging swarm of eggs in the wide valley. Like popcorn, they started with a few snaps here and there. Within moments a cacophony of eruptions and the heady odour of clove and burning matches pervaded. According to Ka these carnivorous larvae left a swath of destruction in the wake of their swarm. No wonder the migrating trees were heading out of the valley!

…Ankle throbbing, I sat in murky marsh water to my waist, Great Coat billowing up around me, and back pressed against a bush. I listened to the chaotic clamber of ammuts emerging and flying. It grew dark overhead as their swarming bodies veiled the orange sky with black. The deafening machine-gun stutter of their wings filled my head and throbbed in my gut. Any moment a stray would find me, sniff me out with its long blood-red antennae, and I’d have to run…and die. In a sudden flash of regret, I wished I’d kissed Serge one final time….

Heart pumping, I dashed out from my temporary cover and fell with a loud splash as my leg gave out painfully under me. Alerted, several ammuts veered down straight for me. Heart slamming, I scrambled into a painful run as the first ammut’s antennae whipped out. It lashed my face and leg with a crackling snap and drew blood. I cried out with the agonizing sting and smelled burning flesh and cloves. I immediately felt a weak numbness spread through my body. Suddenly losing all strength, I stumbled and fell backward into the knee-deep swamp with a gasp. My face plunged into the stained water. I managed to right myself, coughing out black water, and thrashed to keep from sinking in the soft mud. By then more ammuts had buzzed in. Seizing in sobbing breaths, I backed away by scrabbling on my rump, too weak to rise to my feet. The soft bottom kept giving way underneath my hands. They sunk into soft mud and debris.

I watched in terrified revulsion as the nearest ammut descended upon me then I gasped as its chitinous legs poked my breast, as if testing its texture. To my horror, the giant invertebrate then settled partly on top of me and slowly pumped its body up and down, as if excited, effectively pushing me further down into the murky swamp until my head was barely out of the water… I gazed up at the creature’s head, chittering directly above mine, and fought down a moan of terror. Slobber from the creature’s proboscis dripped over my head then plopped, reeking of cloves and sulfur, on my face. I jerked my hand to wipe off the slime, then seized my MEC from its holster in blind panic. I aimed it at the ammut’s head and, pressing the trigger, dialed through every setting I could think of with my other fingers. Nothing worked.

Dear God, I prayed, releasing an involuntary moan, make it quick

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Swamp and marshland of Sekmet (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Blanket Bogs of Sekmet (Book 2)

When Rhea is captured for several murders she didn’t commit, she is sent to the penal planet Sekmet to serve her life-sentence in Hades, a 2-kilometre mining barge floating on the peat bog.

I gazed out my porthole at the barren patchwork of the small wetland-dominated planet, whose surface resembled an early impressionist’s painting. Dominated by sombre russet and indigo tones, the raised bog was dotted by a hasty spray of cobalt lakes and pools.

Although it was mid-morning on the planet, the mostly grey sky was saturated in low cloud and it was drizzling outside. Spates of wind drove sheets of rain hailing sporadically against my porthole. It was a wet desolate place. But then again, “A drowning man is not troubled by rain—Persian Proverb, Rhea,” I said quietly to myself. The weather was the least of my concerns.

As the ship descended, I could make out the individual pool system of the blanket bog with its inhospitable tapestry of dark and wet shapes. I dispassionately reviewed what I knew of the planet. Its cool wet climate and rich iron deposits promoted the development of muskeg, string bogs, darkly forested swamps and wildflower-filled fens. This was Sekmet, an Earth-sized planet that orbited the KO star, HD177830 in the constellation Vulpecula. My new home. Where I was going to die.

Within moments the ship landed with a sharp jolt in the open landing bay of the floating colony. Then the exit hatch door opened and the AI droned, “This is your destination, Rhea Hawke. Please disembark.”

My chest clenched. I swallowed down my fear and stepped out onto the platform of Sekmet’s landing bay, catching the faint sulphurous smell of the bog. The doors of the ship abruptly closed behind me, making me involuntarily flinch. Annoyed at my reaction, I gathered my composure and swiftly assessed the empty platform, hearing only the hum of the ship’s engine. My gaze rested on the endless hummocks and large meandering ponds of tea-stained water outside.

As the ship made ready to leave, I felt my heart pounding with the sudden urge to bolt. I had a panicked notion to leap off the platform into the murky bog. Swim, wade, scrabble to eventual safety in the wilderness of Sekmet in those distant hills. The ship lifted off the ground in a turmoil of dust and thunder. My face twisted with indecision as I tensed, poised to flee—

A male Azorian burst in from the adjoining chamber and I braced for an attack. He pelted right past me then leapt into the murky water. I watched him thrash through the undulating bog, stumbling, submerging and trying to swim—his left arm was amputated at the elbow. I was about to follow when laser shots peppered the water around him for several heartbeats. As suddenly as the shots began, they ended and the Azorian slowly sank until only his head remained above the water. I stood stiff, trembling hands over my mouth, and breathing hard. I stared at the head bobbing slowly in the water.

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Dunes of Upsilon-3 (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Barkhan Deserts of Upsilon-3 (Book 2)

In a desperate attempt to find the Ancient One—the key to the mystery killings—Rhea steals a Vos ship and the Vos Commander. She forces the terrorist A’ler at gunpoint to take them to Upsilon-3, the inhospitable desert planet where the Ancient One has settled in an enclave created by an ancient civilization. It is also where Rhea was almost killed once in a rabid blenoid attack. She will meet these vicious predators again…

Bleary-eyed and very cross, A’ler took us down to the arid planet, piercing the cerulean atmosphere with a view of mostly ruddy sand dotted with grey-green scrub below. We then crossed a vast expanse of open desert. I gazed down at the waved pattern of cresent-shaped dunes, obviously formed by a constant wind. It was a harsh and miserable environment, I thought.

“Barkhans,” A’ler offered, pointing to the dunes and breaking her taciturn silence. “That’s the West Ghouroud. No one’s ever crossed it and lived.” She eyed me with a dismissive look of disgust as much as to imply, especially a puny like you.

I didn’t respond and let my gaze stray back to the dune sea. The dunes looked like the capped waves of a red ocean, the deep ochre of their shaded slipfaces contrasting with the harsh bright windward sides, still baking in the sun. The dunes looked small, but I guessed that some were at least three hundred meters high.

I’d been there before. I’d tracked and dispatched an Azorian assassin to the small ephemeral town there once—but at the cost of a blenoid attack. In his desperation, the Azorian had fled the ghost town into the arid wilderness, and if I hadn’t shot him, the blenoids would have torn him apart. If they hadn’t, he would have died a horrible death of severe hypothermia. As it turned out, my shot infuriated a pack of sleeping blenoids and I became the subject of their fury instead.

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Clear toxic water of the Beleus Sea (photo by Nina Munteanu)

The Toxic sea of Beleus (Book 3)

Rhea makes a daring rescue of the bookseller Serge Bastion (Serge’s outer diverse twin), injured in a med-centre in Beleus City on Beleus. When Bastion refused to jump out the window to safety, Rhea belts him then gets him own by unconventional means to a nearby park.

I spotted it; a small peewee, parked a block away on the side of the road. The small two-seater resembled an ancient Earth motorcycle, except that it could fly. I pelted toward it and, after a brisk glance over my shoulder, straddled the vehicle and jimmied the starter lock then kick-started the engine. The vehicle stuttered on and I drove it to the bush where I’d stowed Bastion. I leapt off and pulled Bastion out from under the bush.  After struggling with his dead weight, I finally got him, still in his pajamas, in the back-supported passenger seat and seat-belted his slumped form in. I jumped in the pilot’s seat, grabbed his limp arms so he was leaning against me and secured his arms around my waist by lashing them together with chord from my pocket. Then we were soaring up just as several Eosian guards ran up to us, waving nokerig pistols and shooting. 

Nihilists had perched themselves on the roof and caught my peewee in a salvo of torpedoes. I veered us out to sea but not before one grazed the vehicle. I felt the hard jerk to the right and craned to look over my shoulder. I noticed to my dismay that a green cloud of hesium fuel was spraying out of the fuselage. But we’d at least cleared the distance they could shoot. I had no idea where I was going, except that it was far from the Med-Facility and the city.

For now I spotted no pursuit. That would change quickly, I thought, glancing down at my options. We were heading out to sea toward a long string of islands. The Beleus Sea shimmered in the sunlight with mercurial hues of lavender, deep purple, aqua green and blue. So different from the oily seas of Horus, the Beleus Ocean was extremely clear, reflecting the shifting light of the planet’s atmosphere in an exotic glitter.

Bastion stirred, head still lolling against my shoulder, and I reached behind me to jab him awake.

“Where are we?” I said gruffly. “We’re low on fuel.” I didn’t tell him we were losing fuel. “And we need to land somewhere fast…and safe!”

I had to give him credit; he sobered fast and unfastened his hands then leaned forward to point to our left, toward a cluster of extremely tall islands. “There. Go there, to the Broken Islands. They won’t find us there.”

That was what I needed to hear. I veered hard to port and heard Bastion grab my waist again and moan out some expletive at me. I glanced over my shoulder and found him glaring at me and rubbing one hand over his sore jaw.

“Sorry,” I muttered. “You weren’t going to jump.”

“What’d you do? Throw me over?” he asked in a sarcastic voice and felt himself gingerly.

“No, I just changed into a bird and flew you down to this vehicle that was waiting for us,” I said, meeting his sarcastic tone.

He remained silent. The truth is always more bizarre than any made up story, I thought dismally.

We were fast approaching the tall island spires. Hundreds of them dotted the iridescent sea. It was obvious to me that we’d reached the Broken Islands. And good thing too, because the engine began to stutter. It spluttered and whined as if in objection as I gunned it. Then I hiked in my breath as we went into a silent glide.

“Are we—” Bastion stopped himself.

He decided that he didn’t want to know; unfortunately I didn’t have that luxury. It’s not enough to know to ride; you must also know how to fall—Mexican proverb. Ok…here we go…

 

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Original seminary in Granby, Quebec on Earth

The Re-Imagined Earth (Book 3)

Rhea returns to Earth—now transformed by the Eosians who have settled there—She goes there with her inner diverse twin and Serge to warn the eccentric Gnostic Rafael Martinez of plans to assassinate him and also to borrow some of his elite guard to find the hidden Vos weapons facilities and destroy them. But Martinez turns out to be far more than an eccentric priest, challenging Rhea existentially a key to her past and her future…

Martinez had taken up residence in an old Catholic seminary just outside a derelict town in what used to be the rural Eastern Townships of Québec. I thought it apt that he chose a theological school for his Gnostic teachings.

As Benny entered atmosphere and circled down, I gazed through my starboard porthole at the familiar landforms and water masses of Earth. It was a lot greener than the last time I’d seen Earth through my view port aboard the shuttle that had taken me away from my home. Since the Eosians had colonized the planet thirty years ago, Earth had reverted mostly back to wilderness. Eosians were master ecologists who had honed their healthy symbiotic skills with nature into an art.

The planet, Gaia, was certainly healthier and happier now that her ancient prodigal civilization had returned. These former Atlanteans had brought back the wisdom of millennia about living in concert with and through nature’s arcane powers. They’d torn down humanity’s great cities and replaced concrete and glass with natural organic, living materials. They’d uprooted the roads and bridges and introduced their native scree, an intelligent giant raptor, as transportation. They’d let nature absorb the massive agricultural fields and clear-cuts, to harvest and recycle her bounty in beneficial ways. They planted their native tree, the vishna, everywhere. They’d restored the natural environment from the ravages of strip mines, oil fields and gas plants and replaced them with their non-intrusive crystal technology.

I gazed at the endless rolling hills covered in a lush purple and green carpet of young vishna and native trees. It was a monument to a simple and gentle life, a respectful pantheistic life. I could have wept; it was so beautiful. But it wasn’t Earth anymore….

V’rae wept for me. She and Serge had come beside me to watch once we’d entered atmosphere over North America. She said in a wavering voice, “It’s so beautiful…but it isn’t Earth anymore.” Then she burst into tears.

Martinez’s estate, the Solstice, was an island of lavish order in a green frothy sea of mixed wild forest. The derelict farming town of Granby had been demolished and absorbed back into nature since the Eosians had taken over as Earth’s new custodians. I could barely make out a criss-cross pattern of lighter greens in the forest mosaic that betrayed where old foundations and roads had previously lain not far from the current estate. Martinez’s estate was one of the few human-built structures that the Eosians hadn’t torn down and replaced with their symbiotic organic structures or left to natural and enhanced regeneration.

Martinez’s estate, the Solstice, was an island of lavish order in a green frothy sea of mixed wild forest. The derelict farming town of Granby had been demolished and absorbed back into nature since the Eosians had taken over as Earth’s new custodians. I could barely make out a criss-cross pattern of lighter greens in the forest mosaic that betrayed where old foundations and roads had previously lain not far from the current estate. Martinez’s estate was one of the few human-built structures that the Eosians hadn’t torn down and replaced with their symbiotic organic structures or left to natural and enhanced regeneration.

I frowned at him and saw V’rae look puzzled and clutch his arm. “Well, be that as it may,” I returned coolly, “he’s on the hit list and we still have to warn him. Plus he does have the largest and most capable independent Eosian guard in the galaxy.”

His brows came together. Then he bolted forward, bumping past my shoulder with his face so close to mine I could feel the heat coming off him. His arm brushed mine to touch the navigation screen. “I really think we should reconsider and—”

V’rae seized his other hand and pulled him back. “Let her land the ship, V’ser,” she commanded quietly. “We’re here now.” She was right and Serge knew it. He straightened with a sigh and I started to breathe again.

Metaverse-FRONT-web copyThen we were being hailed and I got on with the task at hand. “Strap yourselves in,” I instructed once I’d been given the go ahead to take port in Hanger B, below the seminary. After a long intake of air, I took us down.

 

In Metaverse, the third and last book of The Splintered Universe Trilogy, Detective Rhea Hawke travels back to Earth, hoping to convince an eccentric mystic to help her defend humanity from an impending Vos attack—only to find herself trapped in a deception that promises to change her and her two worlds forever.

You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse through Audible.

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GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY!

Rhea likes to use proverbs as barbs and to unhinge her opponent when she gets nervous or feels trapped. Send me a good proverb for Rhea to use and I will send you a code to obtain a free Audiobook from Audible. Codes are limited, so it will be first come, first serve until we’re out. Send your proverb to Nina Munteanu at: nina.sfgirl[at]gmail.com.

 

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.