I started writing these stories after 30 years of reading books to my kids, and reading books that they read, and seeing films that they see. And while we do enjoy much of what we see, read, or hear, there are six things that continue to kinda bug us:
- Too much sadness.
- There’s already way too much sadness in the world, and we resent it just a little bit when we have to spend our own cash money to buy even more of the stuff that we didn’t even want in the first place.
- We don’t like it when people die – or plants, or animals, or bugs, or imaginary friends. Fortunately for most of us alive today, and more likely for our kids, death may soon become a thing of the future.
- We like happy endings. (When I first showed my first ex an early draft, her first question was masaya ba ito (is this a happy story)? I had to ask: did you at least read the title? “Yes”, she said, “but I know you. It’s probably one of your tricks.” Old suspicions die hard, and don’t fade away).
- Why are most visions of the future so dystopian, their inhabitants so dyspeptic? Sure, runaway AI could destroy us, if we don’t destroy us first. Technology is neutral. It’s like TV. You could produce NOVA, or you could produce The Kardashians (which one is Good and which one is Evil is in the mind of the beholden; who am I to judge? There are no wrong answers. The correct answers are NOVA, The Kardashians, in that order). Sure, the unprecedented exponentially exponential explosion we are witnessing today in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics could cause our mass extinction tomorrow, but why be all whiney about it? Humor is the highest form of humanity. It’s the ultimate Turing Test. “At the very point of mutual extinction, AI & I will be laughing.”
- Too much violence. Too many fights, too many things blowing up, too much blood and gore splattered all over the place. There’s some martial and military art here, from stories told by family and friends, but nobody dies or gets too badly hurt or suffers too much. Unless that’s what they really want. Adversity is a wormhole to Wisdom, not just a pain in the post. Humans must endure adversity in order to grow, and the highest levels of growth and development are open only to those who have faced and overcome great adversity. And there are also, as in real life, some people in these stories who just beg to be hurt. But I try not to hurt them too badly – you can’t always get what you want.
- Three, too much sex. Since I am telling this story mainly to Nicolas, my ten year old boy – who skips pages, or ducks under his shirt, or runs away screaming, when confronted with even the slightest sign of sexual activity – there is no bleeping in this book.
- Four, too many bad words. Nicolas has almost entirely cured me of my potty mouth. He was around 5 when he invented the Dad Alarm, which goes off whenever I use a bad word, even those I hold to be mild, like “cr*p”. He’d quietly repeat “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad,” until I recognized the error of my ways, repented, and tried to sin no more. Most, if not all, of the bad words in this book have been redacted. Whatever I missed, Nicolas caught.
- Five, unbelievability. Being gullible (I prefer guileless and openminded, but my exes and kids are less merciful), suspended disbelief is my default state, so maybe I do enjoy SciFi and Fantasy more than the normal. But:
- Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence are all over-overrated. Just ask any kid who’s played a game using God cheats.
- These stories obey the known laws of physics in this universe. If I understand them correctly. And if I don’t, blame the guys in this Bibliography for not being clear enough for dummies like me – I take no personal responsibility for anything. The supernatural and fantastical powers, technologies, and toys in these stories are all technically possible. Precursors of the really cool and scary stuff are already being made.
- In the interest of full disclosure, I should disclose that my poetic license has been revoked. I can’t make this stuff up. Fact really is weirder than fiction. And funnier. Embedded in these pages are links to hundreds of reliable resources on science, technology, history, philosophy, theology, linguistics, psychology, and other odd bits of learning I’d picked up along the way. (Do not tell your kids that this is an educational site – that’s the worst thing you could possibly do)
- Six, Good versus Evil. To quote the philosophers Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, “there is good and bad in everyone”. Belief in “The Myth of Pure Evil” is responsible for the worst horrors that man has ever wrought upon his fellow man (and it’s almost always men who do the most horrible things; why is that?). The Myth of Pure Evil is “characterized by the belief that evil is (1) the intentional and gratuitous infliction of harm for its own sake, (2) perpetrated by villains who are wholly malevolent, (3) inflicted on victims who are innocent and good. Psychologists call this a myth because believing in this fiction often blinds one to the reality that evil is in fact perpetrated mainly by ordinary people, who respond to perceived harms, including “provocations” by their victims, in ways they feel are reasonable and just. Evil is not rare – it is commonplace, banal. And all humans are capable of evil acts. Psychologists like Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker maintain that most if not all the major atrocities in human history were carried out by ordinary people who believed that they were good, that they were innocent victims – that they had God on their side – and that their enemies were pure evil.” That’s me quoting me from Wikipedia, so it must be true.
So that’s at least six things that I try to avoid in the telling of these tales. Should I fail in any way, please do let me know, by leaving a Reply after the offending chapter, or by using this Contact Form. Please do not “contact” me. Contact is a noun, not a verb, no matter what 94% of the AHD Usage Panel says.
This is a work in progress, and just as in life, the stories will probably change. If you prefer earlier versions, you could make me go back in time and change things, or put things back the way they were. But even if you couldn’t, you could take some comfort in knowing that somewhere in this great big multiverse, what you wanted to happen has already happened, or will eventually happen, or is happening right now.
Acknowledgments: Gratitudes to all the people in my life, including my kids, my exes, friends, family, and total strangers. You have given me so much material that all I really have to do is repeat what you told me and report what you did. I’m sorry that my memory is not so good. Thanks to those who’d read and edited these stories: Ariel, Brandon, Ed, Gabriel, Nicolas, and Nicole. Double thanks to my teeners, Gabriel and Nicolas, who are my principal readers and esitors (that was the first typo Gabriel caught, so I’m leaving it in). And thank you mom and dad, and your moms and dads, and all the moms and dads who came before you. Without you, none of this could have been possible.
Or could it?
San Jose, California