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Dispatches from the Galaxy

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A Dispatches from the Galaxy Collection

The Changes CascadeSue Warrell, Systems and Security Chief aboard Expedition Mission Bellagos, fought long and hard for a one-way trip.Protecting the lives of over eight thousand people and the generation ship they call home.As a failed systems update tests Sue and her team to their limits, a crew member's disappearance pushes disaster into the impossible.Will Sue find the truth before Bellagos passes the breaking point?

Restricted SpeciesEarth Wars veteran Jim Turhan loves his quiet life on supply planet Mossera 4, teaching the art and science of xeno-farming.Then crops all over Mossera 4 begin to fail.Will Jim discover the cause before starvation, or worse, turns his dream life into a nightmare?

The BecalmedBitan, the most valuable substance in the human universe, only comes from one planet. And that planet has a problem.The TransGalactic Corporation sends Luis Ahmad on a desperate mission to help the human colony on Bitanthra.Can Luis save the colony and communications across the galaxy?

Excerpts from Dispatches from the Galaxy:

The Changes CascadeEvans took a deep breath. "Senior Tech McHugh is missing. I made sure to investigate before I brought this to you, ma'am.""You're forgetting the geo-sensor." Sue tapped the tiny bump hidden in the hair above her right ear. "Mr. McHugh would not simply disappear, even if he could.""The tracking screen was the first thing I checked. Pull it up if you could, please, and we'll make sure.""One missing," she whispered. "Even if he were dead…"She switched over to the report on McHugh, and a deeper chill ran through her. The yellow of Invalid flashed behind his name.Not one other person showed that impossible status.

Restricted Species"The freighters won't bring any food with them," Jim said. "Even if we warn them, they can't detour to another supply planet."Rob's face was pale. "There aren't any close by." "Not that they could re-route to." Jim scrubbed his face. "We won't actually starve to death. At least I don't think so. But with a year or more before we get a good harvest, we'll have a planet full of miserable cadets and furious miners on our hands."He knew all too well how shortages and hardships they weren't prepared for could turn a difficult situation into a nasty one. 

The Becalmed"II don't think it's trauma," Luis said, "or disease. I don't believe this is contagious at all. What do you think is going on?"Tears stood in Willis's eyes. "Some of us are afraid it's some kind of poison we're passing along to our children.""I can't rule anything out yet," Luis said. "But your medical center here has tested for everything we know of, and off-world facilities have too. Nothing seems out of line with your bodies. Nothing seems to accumulate or get depleted over time.""Except our kids' feelings," Myrtle said. She didn't look sad. She looked furious. "That's depleting, more and more every year."

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A Childhood Made for Space Opera
A Childhood Made for Space Opera Like many people who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, my childhood was steeped in Science Fiction. I’m not sure how old I was when I first encountered a rerun of Lost in Space on television at a friend’s house. I know it was long enough ago that adjusting the spindly metal antenna on top of the set was still an option. I couldn’t tell you what season the episode was part of, even though season one was the only one filmed in black and white. I was young enough that the television itself may have been a black and white model. Star Trek entered my consciousness before I started first grade. My signpost for that is I remember seeing the cartoon during its first run, and it ended in 1975. I watched the cartoon because I already loved the series. From that point on, the 1970s provided a feast for kids who were thrilled by the idea of getting out there or contemplating what the future might bring. Space: 1999 also came along in 1975, and I clearly remember seeing Logan’s Run from the balcony of a theater in 1976. I enjoyed the later TV series as a kid, but I somehow doubt it would hold up as well as the movie does for me. Of course 1977 looms large in the minds of many Science Fiction fans because of the summer of Star Wars. I’m grateful to remember exactly how it felt to see it on the big screen for the first time along with millions of others. But almost as large in my memory is getting to go on an exclusive mommy/daughter date to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind that same winter. A story much closer to home that promised a grand adventure for the imagination. The brief run of Battlestar Galactica starting in 1978 delighted me so much that I taught my Merlin to play the theme song. If you’re younger than Generation X, you may quite reasonably have no idea what a Merlin was. They were incredibly cool. Trust me. The last big Science Fiction event of the decade for me was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which my whole family saw at the drive-in, then continued to watch when it made the move to television. (Alas, I was a bit too young to see Alien in first run despite seeing quite a few movies before my time. And while I saw Flash Gordon several times in the theater and love its campy joy to this day, it doesn’t quite fit in with the Science Fiction I’m talking about.) Watching as a family was one of the best things about Science Fiction in my childhood. We watched these movies and shows together most of the time. In case you’re quite a bit younger than I am, that was more important than you might realize. Many homes way back then only had one television, and odds were high any secondary sets were tiny and often black and white. Watching these movies and shows as a family also kept me from developing any sense of it being strange or odd that I so loved to escape the bounds of Earth and our solar system. Carl Sagan’s wonderful Cosmos: A Personal Voyage series in 1980 got me focused on the science side while giving me a strong foundation to branch out into writing fiction. Add in the fact that my parents let me stay up late to watch incredible video footage from Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and I was hooked on science and Science Fiction for life. I was an avid reader of Science Fiction and science writing at the same time, into the 1980s, and still today. But that’s a much larger discussion for another day. While there are many subgenres of Science Fiction (and they change frequently), my favorite is the subject of this collection. Space Opera. Some compare Space Opera to highly dramatic stage operas or long-running daytime soap operas, and that’s fine by me. I’m the last person you’d see get into any sort of genre argument. Primarily because I mix and match and cross and smash genres with complete delight and abandon. My own definition of Space Opera is it must indeed be set in space, whether on a ship or on another planet, and it’s definitely not Hard Science Fiction. You won’t find long, technical discussions of a ship’s drive systems or the detailed development of hypersleep pods in these stories. Perhaps in other stories someday, but not these. I do at least pay attention to the major laws of physics and such, though I might then proceed to bend or break them. What I hope you’ll find in my Space Opera is a sense of adventure. Of reaching beyond our current limitations of Earth and even our solar system. Hopefully beyond some of the other limitations that plague humanity. In The Changes Cascade, we join one of the initial forays into the galaxy. All onboard the remarkable feat of engineering that is Expedition Mission Bellagos goes smoothly several years into their generational journey. Until an all too familiar problem from our current high-tech lives throws everything into chaos. Restricted Species visits Mossera 4, a thriving colony planet established to provide food and recreation for a vital mining operation on a nearby planet. A peaceful, calm existence, even with groups of inexperienced, green cadets arriving to learn the fine art and science of farming so far from Earth. Then the failure of the dependable pollinator drones threatens not only the miners, but everyone who works to keep them fed and happy. And finally, The Becalmed joins a years-long mission to Bitanthra: the most important planet in the galaxy. Without the vital Bitan that makes faster-than-light communications possible, the sprawling network of human colonies would face isolation and possible collapse. Solving a mysterious problem with the human colony on Bitanthra is their only chance of survival. I didn’t write these stories to be connected parts of the same fictional story universe, but I definitely see how they could be. Each and every one is brimming with ideas I hope to explore in future fictional adventures. And even more, I see how the seed of each of these stories took root during those heady years of my 1970s childhood. That little girl who so happily enjoyed escaping into the future and into space would have enjoyed every one. I hope you do, too.

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