Political Short Stories
The core of politics is the struggle to get or keep power. Much as the media like to portray it as strictly a partisan thing, politics has a personal side as well. That’s what I write about. And sometimes, a story becomes a series, like these…
What if the reason it’s so difficult to take action against global climate change is that the wealthy few who control the world’s great corporations have realized that it can be even more profitable than war? In 2095, the sea wall that kept the Pacific Ocean from submerging the California lowlands all the way to Sacramento has collapsed, and the official story is that it was terrorists. Infrastructure analyst Alphon Quince knew it was a lie. What he didn’t know was what they were willing to do to protect that lie.
- 1. “Bait” (Sep 2013) — Alphon knew the Golden State Barrage wasn’t destroyed by explosives. The government was lying again. But why?
- 2. “Hollow Threat” (Nov 2013) — Ferd couldn’t wait to see what the mystery package they’d ordered contained. Meg would never know.
- 3. “Under an Icy Sky” (Dec 2013) — They’d gathered to honor Meg’s memory, but ended up with others too dreadful to shake.
- 4. “In the Company of Vipers” (Jan 2014) — Phoebe’s trip home didn’t exactly go as planned, but it wasn’t because of the terrorist in the next seat.
- 5. “Standing to Resist” (Feb 2014) — The last thing you want when you’ve just hijacked a military drone is company, especially if they’re armed.
- 6. “Lightning Strikes” (Mar 2014) — Victor thought the nightmare he had after a confrontation with his parents was bad, until he got the call from work.
- 7. “Maira Bundis” (Jun 2014) — Exposing a ‘terror mastermind’ might have been the highlight of Cinquetta’s career. Now she’ll never know.
Have you ever held your tongue when someone made an offensive remark, or yielded to an unreasonable demand just to ‘keep the peace’? Each time you do it, you lose some self-confidence, and the perpetrator is emboldened. (I blogged the process of turning that thought into the first story in this series.) Councilwoman Sue Winston hadn’t lost a political fight yet because she hadn’t been in one. But when her brother called with a hot tip, she knew she had to put her own neck on the line and try to prevent a calamity.
- 1. “Crossing the Line” (Sept 2012) — Newly elected councilwoman Sue Winston had never even been to the Occupy in her district. Now she has to protect it from her brother.
- 2. “Making it Count” (Sept 2012) — Kendrik just watched a livestream of his grandmother being arrested for using the People’s Mike, and his mom expects him to go to school? Get real.
- 3. “Scaling K2” (Dec 2012) — When what remained of the capitol’s OWS saw Kendrik’s interview, they knew they had to act. But how?
- 4. “Representation” (Apr 2013) — The developer who had the mayor evict OWS wants the site rezoned, but the council room has been occupied as well.
- 5. “Kendrik House” (May 2013) — Councilman Flange went off-script stumping to create a virtual district… way off script, but that’s not the problem.
- 6. “Authenticity” (Jun 2013) — The city’s homeless could also benefit from Flange’s scheme, except for the six that were just killed.
- 7. “Engaging Constituency” (Jul 2013) — A lash-up of OWS and the homeless community may have won the special election, but can they agree on a representative to city council?
Riffing the Life Fantastic
What if you knew your future? That was Ben’s curse. (Mine was that I didn’t know his name until the third installment.) He’d been born with memories of the important turnings of his life, memories that had netted him several fortunes. The trick to landing his next one was to trash his motorcycle on the highway, a crash he was guaranteed to walk away from. Try explaining that to the officer.
- 1. “Riffing the Life Fantastic” (Dec 2010) — Living out my memories of the future was profitable before, but this was the first time it meant risking my life.
- 2. “Divine Intervention” (Dec 2010) — With my memories of the future having run out, who or what was directing my life?
- 3. “Fairy Dust” (Jan 2011) — To Ben, life without a safety net could be scary, so how does anyone else do it?
- 4. “Outlier” (Jan 2011) — Ben’s comforting memories of the future may have run their course, but they’d led to a different kind of nightmare.
- 5. “Toasted Roles” (Feb 2011) — Steeling himself to talk with the cops should have ended it, but all it did was expose him to Franklin’s nightmare.
- 6. “Particle Wave” (Feb 2011) — The side-trip to Ben’s salvation should have been a breeze, but now there’s a fly in Kaylee’s ointment.
- 7. “Prices to Pay” (Feb 2011) — Ben returns to Kansas to face his past, but instead finds his future.
Several years before Mitt Romney assured us that “corporations are people, my friend,” I wrote this series in which a fictional Supreme Court granted them that Pinocchio wish. But being people cuts both ways, for they were also subject to the legal consequences of committing crimes.
- 1. “Logical Conclusion” (Aug 2007) — The Supreme Court finally gave corporations complete personhood, and I was determined to make it stick.
- 2. “Full Circle” (Sep 2007) — FW’s CEO Edward Reese lay in wait for Randolph Starling. Swatting down the upstart should have been child’s play.
- 3. “Prison Break” (Sep 2007) — Reese saw the company’s sentence as a game, and he was determined to win.
- 4. “Turnabout” (Sep 2007) — Now that FW’s parole officer Claire Fuller had given union rep Alizondo Klee a seat at the table, he wasn’t about to let Reese have his way.
- 5. “Serving Time” (Nov 2007) — The prison-garbed FW Diner employees may have been the pawns in Reese’s game, but they weren’t about to let him run their lives.
- 6. “Going Down” (Nov 2007) — When Blogger John Frachetti ducked into a re-fitted FW Diner to hide, nobody there knew the true power unleashed by Reese’s scheme.
- 7. “Unplanned Outing” (Nov 2007) — Claire Fuller visited the FW Diner for a quiet meeting behind bars with Alizondo Klee. Too bad it didn’t turn out that way.
- 8. “Unvarnished Siding” (Nov 2007) — Claire Fuller didn’t find her voice until Judge Clary confronted her.
- 9. “The Tallysheet Bankers” (Dec 2007) — Blogger John Frachetti hesitated before entering the FW boardroom. He needn’t have.
- 10. “Bank Shot” (Dec 2007) — Being guest speaker at the FW union hall was a daunting prospect for blogger John Frachetti, so he decided to listen instead.
- 11. “Signing Statement” (Mar 2008) — Unemployed artist Leetha Berismont decided to splurge on a dinner at the FW. Now her future isn’t looking so bleak.
- 12. “Frachetti’s Challenge” (Apr 2008) — Leo Agrolkin spent his off-hours from his job at the FW blowing jazz around the chain. Maybe there was something better he could use that time for.
Synthetic Rights Now
Why is it so easy for people to feel superior to whatever segment of humanity is unlucky enough to be ‘The Other’ this week? Maybe someday, everyone will finally get past that and treat one another as equals. Who will we pick on then? (Soon after I posted “The A Word”, a reader asked for a follow-up. I succumbed a few days later.)
- 1. “The A Word” (Jun 2006) — When I explained my civil rights case to Lamar, I detected some reluctance to take it on.
- 2. “Edifice of Lies” (Feb 2008) — Joanna Bjornsen held the key to our freedom. It was a good thing I held the gun.
Fear isn’t the only way to keep the peace. What if you could spot conflicts before they happened, and then change things so that wouldn’t arise? Two of my novels, “The Shoals of Time”, and “Deadly Attractor” are set in such a world. (You can read more about my novels and the related short stories here.) But there’s more to any world than the particular narrative you’re familiar with, so I took a couple of trips into that world to explore some of the things my characters did behind the scenes.
- “Peacekeeper” (Jan 2002) — Lianna Tors had a challenging job: keeping world peace. If she had her way, nobody could ever challenge her methods again.
- “Levels of the Game” (Aug 2007) — Ernie Vacca was desperate. As a member of the CPA’s global peacekeeping agency, he had the means to enforce the peace. Unfortunately, that peace was also a trap.
Everyone’s familiar with warfare, but what’s peacefare all about? I batted the story idea around for some time before realizing that it could best be explored by some people I’d met in the course of writing my third novel, “Burnout Fever”. That book involves a few characters in a fictional activist organization called Constitutional Evolution who are exploring ways to improve the methods of governance. I figured they were up to the challenge.
- 1. “Motivation” (Jul 2007) — Sometimes, the only way to learn what you’re passionate about is to try not to do it. All Melissa Fox needed was the right nudge.
- 2. “Peace Initiative” (Aug 2007) — Melissa’s new friends had made a game of redesigning the government, but they were after something much bigger.
- 3. “Ping fa” (Aug 2007) — Melissa was puzzling out how to apply Sun Tzu’s precepts in The Art of War to peaceful purposes when a stranger gave her a demonstration.
- 4. “Symbolism and Intent” (Aug 2007) — When Derek Boa agreed to speak with Melissa’s new friend Richard at Bartholdi Fountain about her research, he got a lot more than he bargained for.
- 5. “Hidden Baggage” (Sep 2007) — One thing was certain: the guy who just dropped in on a meeting of Constitutional Evolution had something to hide.
- 6. “Double Agent” (Sep 2007) — It had been Craig’s job to spy on Derek Boa’s organization, a fact that was becoming increasingly hard to live with. The question, of course, was what would he do about it?
- 7. “Wobbly Premise (Sep 2007) — Richard may have brought a very different perspective to his first meeting with CE, but unlike ‘Ron’, he hadn’t been tasked with destroying it.
- 8. “Unheard Voices” (Oct 2007) — Melissa’s connections had gotten Derek a speaking engagement, but who was that standing by the door?
- 9. “Limited Hangup” (Oct 2007) — When Derek recognized a face in the scandalous video another activist group showed him, he realized it was even more dangerous that they thought.
- 10. “Vocal Threat” (Nov 2007) — Craig’s worst nightmare was staring him in the face: doing his job meant harming a friend.
The Republican Party retained control of the US House of Representatives in the 2012 elections largely through the magic of redrawing district boundaries. Gerrymandering may sound wonky, but until you know what it is and how it works, you can’t do anything to combat or eliminate the problems it causes. My problem was how to dramatize it, and what better place to start could there be than an exercise in street theater?
- 1. “Street Theater” (Dec 2008) — If all the world’s a stage, are you an part of the audience, or part of the street theater of life?
- 2. “Imbalance” (Dec 2008) — Step back from your life for a moment, so you can examine the staging.
- 3. “Wedge Issues” (Jan 2009) — Food for thought can be a good trade.
- 4. “Political Quilt” (Jan 2009) — Some people, ideas and groups can be brought together. Other’s can’t or won’t. It’s important to know the difference.
- 5. “Terms of Debate” (Jan 2009) — What role ought you to be playing in the world?
This series was inspired by the experiences of Rolling, a blogger from India.
- 1. “Unspoken” (Jan 2012) — As Rahila just discovered, caring about your customers is not always good for your job.
- 2. “One Final Indignity” (Mar 2012) — The joker who crashed Rahila’s café interview could lose her more than just her next job.
For all the times I’ve gotten sucked into the world I created for a story and turned it into a series, there are FAR more stories that have made it clear I should stay away once they were finished. These are my standalone short stories. They are in alphabetical order, rather than in the order in which I wrote them.
- “Anushka’s Lament” (Jun 2009) — Alex Warnock was certain the lyrics of a new song were the key to blowing a scandal wide open. Now if he could only convince the reporter.
- “Business Decision” (Jun 2003) — Jason Sweeney thought his business partners were hard to deal with, until he presented their proposal to the Council.
- “Call to Action” (May 2008) — Flynn was incensed about the subliminals in the ex-president’s religious ads — until he realized there was a deeper meaning.
- “Cascade” (May 2008) — Irwin had put up with the nightmare of a five-month court case just so he could answer one question. If only the prosecutor would ask it.
- “Chain of Supposition” (Aug 2007) — When the prosecutor laid out the facts in the case he was hearing, juror Leo Kinstler realized that he’d been snowed in a different one.
- “Common Ground” (Aug 2007) — ‘Wander’ wasn’t the name he used in that reality, but it was close, and he needed to be taught a lesson before he destroyed the waking world. (Note: If you missed the canceled class, read about it in “Orientation“.)
- “Daydream” (Jul 2007) — Sometimes, I’m not sure whether a world this crazy can actually be real.
- “Disarmed” (May 2009) — Let’s just say that the relic Jerry dug up in his backyard had connections.
- “Double Entry” (Jul 2007) — In a world in which 9/11 was just the beginning, Barbara McNair was beginning to doubt her own memories… if they really were her memories.
- “Focus Group” (Mar 2011) — Lonnie knew how to defeat the protesters. New he just had to prove it.
- “Forced Inquiry” (May 2009) — The talk show host wanted to ask Paula Isikov about her controversial research paper, but the angry caller who strangled his engineer was more interested in her politics.
- “Framing Trap” (Jun 2007) — Bob is certain he knows what really happened on 9/11. The question is whether he’s paranoid enough.
- “The Halo Effect” (Jul 2007) — Derek and Jake had a plan: demonstrate to the world that the sort of video fakery pulled off on 9/11 wasn’t impossible.
- “Incident on Concourse B” (Sep 2007) — Lendon Forrester and Frannie Jurdens were aghast that an incident in Cincinnati could cause Washington to declare Martial Law. But the truth was far worse.
- “Infantry Hack” (Jun 2003) — The anti-terrorist sniper assigned to take out Edgar Brannock had a tough job. Brannock had hacked into his LifeSkin, and had him in a standoff.
- “Insinuation” (May 2008) — Corie Tarlner finally had her target right where she wanted him: in the back room of a sex shop. The question was whether he’d take her up on the offer.
- “Intended Consequence” (Dec 2008) — Colleen Tendray was out to vindicate her ancestor, even if it meant going up against the lobby groups that control the government.
- “Intermediary” (Jul 2007) — It took some doing for Anna Cisner to get into that Presidential Press Conference, and she wasn’t even there to ask a question.
- “Judicial Restraint” (Jul 2008) — When John hid out at his neighbor Elliot’s house until the traitors in the Justice Department were rounded up, he got better protection than he bargained for.
- “Loose Ends” (May 2011) — Do you still think Seal Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden? First there’s no evidence, and now there are no emails.
- “Magical Advantage” (Feb 2008) — Magis Dorwyn may have risked the safety of her magical enclave when she visited Chief Architect Gladstone, but it was the only way to know if he was onto them.
- “Patient Zero” (Oct 2007) — Dennis Furlin was certain that someone was trying to undermine the entire insurance industry. If he only knew who…
- “Power” (Jan 2008) — In politics, there’s always a way to get what you want, but some people are too ambitious for their own good.
- “Puzzled” (Feb 2008) — Hilbran knew just how mutable a waking reality could be, and he wasn’t about to let anyone destroy a good one, even if it was the President.
- “Rector Park” (Nov 2007) — Are you so certain that the world in which 9/11 happened is the real one? These three aren’t so sure, and they made it happen.
- “Sacred Honor” (May 2008) — John Davis lost his job, was dragged to a congressional hearing, and now he’s been branded a traitor, all in the name of a student’s free speech.
- “Snowball’s Chance” (Jun 2007) — Margaret Gorham planned to snowball the annoying newsboy early one morning. Too bad for her he got up even earlier.
- “Spirit of Place” (Nov 2005) — Power may corrupt the people in government, but I was certain the buildings had something to do with it, too. And I had a plan.
- “Spokesmen” (Jul 2008) — Mindrol, the Ghkloxian trade envoy, was confident he could pull a fast on on the rubes from Earth. But could he?
- “Stage Fright” (May 2012) — Evers had worked a year on his new song cycle, but it was so dangerous he wasn’t sure he should perform it.
- “Suppression” (Sep 2007) — FDA Chemist Priscilla Naklin’s job irked her. How could she whitewash a perfectly good natural remedy?
- “Terrifying Vindication” (Aug 2009) — People were institutionalized from a chemical agent released at a political debate, so why is investigator Bernard Katzmarek so determined to overturn the conviction?
- “Wake-up Call” (Jun 2008) — Astrid spaced and forgot to cross the street, and now she’s face-to-face with the whack-job on the corner.