Flash: Hope for the Future, the First Baby Born Off Earth

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

Five percent gravity just wasn’t enough. Carolyn bounced the three-month old baby on her shoulder as best she could. “Anything yet?” the annoyance in her voice made the convicted murderer running coms wince.

Being a convicted murderer on a ship of convicted murders meant little, but Larry Jackson had been an organized serial killer before being caught whereas Carolyn Haywood embraced her disorganized anger. If she flew off the handle, they could end up being down one of the sixteen women on the ship, or one of the few people with enough of a brain to operate the machinery around them. Namely him. It was a toss up if his chosen guards would react in time to subdue her or help him.

Keith and Akeem also had more brains than brawn and he had assigned them guards accordingly. If they were to make Sirius in forty years, or at least their children, brains and training had to survive. He wasn’t sure if money people back home cared if the convicts actually lived to arrive, or if the machine dropping into orbit was all they actually cared about. It didn’t help that theirs was the ship with the longest run of the four sent out in the “volunteer” program of life sentences being served offworld.

“We are four light months away from Earth. We sent them a message as soon we knew for certain you were pregnant. If they responded immediately, the earliest response would have been twelve minutes ago. That is if the relays are even working.”

“They fucking well better be.” The woman paced the small room in the stride they all had learned since gravity had become noticeable again under the constant acceleration. “It’s bad enough we had to listen to all the shit they send to us, we better be able to send stuff back to them.” She spun carefully, still bouncing the baby in hopes of a burp. They all lived for the burps. “Let me tell you, if we don’t get help, if we don’t get answers, me and the girls are locking our legs until you figure out how to turn all of this off. Or, best believe me, I will be castrating the lot of you.”

“Carrie, I do believe you. Here, let me take Hope.” Larry stood, extending his arms slowly. “You need to get rest.”

“None of us fucking parents. What were they thinking sending us up here before fixing us.” She handed over the baby and left the comm room, her two guards following her.

Just over two hundred people to start, they were down to ninety-seven in one year. Larry rocked the crying baby over one arm, patting the back, hoping for something. Back up by eight without a loss of a single precious woman since Larry and Farrelle established order in their own ways and merged their groups. Only two women weren’t pregnant or new mothers. With a ratio of five to one male to female, the only reason the other women weren’t pregnant was Missy had her insides ripped out because of cancer and Eve had entered menopause during the trip at thirty-four. Bastards made sure everyone was young and fertile when plucking them from the prisons.

Guess that answered the question. The billionaires funding this experiment wanted someone to arrive on the other end.

“Come on, Hope. You can burp now.” Larry wasn’t sure this one was his, but Carrie had been one of the ones he fucked, the dates matched, and there weren’t many white guys on ship, especially after the initial dominance games. As dark as she was from her mother’s side, Hope’s father had to have been white. Hell, her daddy might be among the dead they were changing over to fertilizer according to the manuals left behind by the scientist bastards. “You need to burp so you can eat some more little girl.” She was weirdly thin around her rolls of baby fat. No gravity to fight and constant colic for all the kids made a mess.

They would need to keep better mating records for the future, so their children didn’t end up with three eyes and one leg. That would go over like lead balloon with the disorganized members. He walked over to his notebook to write the thought down to discuss with the gang heads.

The comm dinged as he was closing the book. He bounced the baby on his leg, as he deciphered the message. “Reproductive Procedure Manuals stored in folders 369SXE with the passcode HaveFun; and Progeny Procedure Manuals Years 0 to 5 stored in folders 963EXS with passcode GoodLuck.”

“You are fucking kidding me.” Larry worked his way the folder system. “I really hate the scientists. You think me keeping thumbs as trophies was sick. If I had you in my dungeons…”

His two guards took a step toward the exit. Both were disorganized anger killers, and even after being assigned to him for months, still couldn’t figure how his cold temper worked. They did understand his methodical psychopath brain had kept them alive, killing others until their gang was one of the last ones standing, and that ability to make people suffer and die whenever he wanted shook them to their core.

“Got you. Search on baby gassy colic burp.” Larry clicked the button with flourish. “Hope, my little baby doll, get your fingers crossed.” For the next thirty minutes, during which the baby fell asleep across his legs, he flipped through the screens, after which he stood and passed the baby to Lester.

With a voice as cold as ice, he informed them of what he found. “There is a tool to draw air out of the belly and mouth. It worked for adults on the space station, and they adjusted it for something they think could work on babies and toddlers. It’s with the rest of the newborn equipment they have stored behind section six-eight. I now have the code to open it.”

“We could have used that shit for the last six months.” Lester said, struggling to hold the now awake and hungry baby. “Why didn’t they tell us before?”

“They better hope I never figure out how to turn this ship around.”

(words 1,041; first published 1/28/2024; created 11/15/2023)

Book Review: Ring Shout

Amazon Cover

Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark



In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?



A historical urban fantasy set against the backdrop of the South between the world wars, in the spirit of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” where normal circumstances are changed by adding horror elements. For Ring Shout, it’s making the hate-filled Ku Klux Klan into hate-fill monsters using KKK as their entry into our world.

Action-packed, this narrative follows three women – one a WWI war veteran, one a survivor of a Klan attack, and one a hot-head tired of being stomped on. They have the Sight and use it to hunt the monsters that have gained entry into our world. But can they keep ahead of the hate summoning more and more of the monsters into our world?


On one hand this book fits well into the monster hunter historical fantasies so popular lately.

On the other, it felt somewhat like the assigned reading in school – when I read “Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank” and “1984” by George Orwell – things that made you stop and think and examine your world. Are you eating the meat of hatred? What is the difference between righteous anger and fearful hate?

Both a simple read and a complex one, my book club had some deep dives for this story.

(Checked out through the public library; read for book club)

Other Cool Blogs: Geek Girls

Photo by Patriçio on Unsplash

“Ideas to Consider When Creating BIPOC Characters.” GeekGirls. 7/10/2020. https://geekxgirls.com/article.php?ID=13436 – last viewed 12/14/2020

Also – MediaChomp. 9/21/2021 – https://mediachomp.com/ideas-to-consider-when-creating-bipoc-characters/ – last viewed 12/14/2022.

This article points to an amazing short infographic about incorporating people of color and indigenous people into fictional writing, created by charisjb of Burbank, California. From touching on historic archetypes, like the Mammie, to character presentation and agency, this visual presentation can help a writer banish toxic tropes and embrace better ways of presenting The Other (or the Same) in their writing.


Geeking Science: Capturing Bubbles in CGI and other Black Matters

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Poster from Internet Hive Mind

Photography has been a white person game for a long time. The film for photos and film was optimized for light skin. When computer special effects came around, CGI illumination of skin likewise concentrated on the melatonin levels found in the layers of Caucasian skin. CGI hair mimicked either clumped animal hair or straight Caucasian hair.

Time for change.

Quick background – really, lighting for film concentrated on making white people to look good. It’s hard to make someone look good when the tools aren’t even on your side. For example

“Shirley cards” used by film-makers to calibrate skin tones and light, only featured Caucasian models until well into the 70s (and only changed because of complaints from photographers trying to advertise chocolate or wood furniture).  (Latif, 2022)

During the creation of Shrek, animators discovered skin looked more real when created with layers of reflection.

If you shine a laser pointer on a wall you’ll see just a small spot of light. But shine it on your hand and you’ll see a blob of red light because the light is spread around,” said Stephen Marschner, a professor of computer graphics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  (Onion, 2005)

To get skin to look real, the CGI character models needed layers to the outer shell replicating light interaction with skin. The programmers in the early oughts (00s) tapped research in the medical community studying skin for cancer and to find the difference between young and old skin to create their algorithms. (Secondary Rabbit Hole: The medical community used light refraction to study the difference between old and young skin, by analyzing “the skin between the thumb and the first finger of 400 Caucasian women ranging in age from 10 to 70.” (Onion) – and some of the discoveries are really cool and will impact makeup and health for decades to come. Note the studies used to create the algorithms were from Caucasian subjects.)

Change was needed when Wakanda Forever wanted to do underwater scenes with people of color, both Mexico-born and African heritage. Not only did they need to redo algorithms to account for different melatonin amounts in different levels of the CGI character model layers, but also deal with the underwater light diffusion.

Then the Wakanda Forever programmers had to start all over with the CGI algorithms for hair. Aquaman came first, and those movie makers said that the CGI effects for hair were tough. (Failes, 2018) Unlike Aquaman, Wakanda Forever did a lot of wet shooting and discovered something. Curly and kinky hair captures air – bubbles happen. Not only does kinky hair flow different underwater, but if reproducing people who recently went underwater, air bubbles need to be taken into account.

The science of filmmaking is worth geeking about, especially as inclusion and representation pushes technology boundaries, even in the CGI algorithms. If you are interested in photograph or filmmaking or CGI animation, I highly recommend diving down this rabbit hole.

Also check out a third rabbit hole on the hair styles for Wakanda Forever (Cummings, 2022)).


Alter, Ethan. “How the ‘Wakanda Forever’ visual effects team evolved the way Black skin and hair are digitally replicated onscreen.” aol.com. 12/21/2022. https://www.aol.com/entertainment/wakanda-forever-visual-effects-team-213304735.html – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Cummings, Faith. “The Story Behind the Stunning Array of Hair Looks in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Vogue. 11/21/2022. https://www.vogue.com/article/black-panther-wakanda-forever-hair-camille-friend – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Failes, Ian. “In ‘Aquaman,’ Underwater CG Hair Was Surprisingly One of the Toughest Effect.” Cartoon Brew. 12/30/2018. https://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/in-aquaman-underwater-cg-hair-was-surprisingly-one-of-the-toughest-effects-167947.html – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Latif, Nadia. “It’s lit! How film finally learned to light black skin.” The Guardian. 9/21/2017. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/sep/21/its-lit-how-film-finally-learned-how-to-light-black-skin – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Onion, Amanda. “Shrek Animators, Dermatologists Share Beauty Secret.” ABCnews. 4/4/2005. https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Health/story?id=609818&page=1 – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Flash: Split Checks

Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash

“Splitting Image?” I said as I stepped out of my car, looking at the mirror-image neon sign above the restaurant entrance.

Katie smiled at me, making my heart skip a beat, half in fear and half in hope. “You said you wanted to go outside the normal. The place is owned by identical twin sisters and they hire twins and look-similar siblings whenever possible.”

I rubbed my left arm with my right hand after shouldering my purse. “Sounds interesting.”

“Great food and some cool twists on its theme.” She strode across the aisle of the parking lot filled with small cars and minivans with me in her wake. Katie arrived at the entrance first and opened the door for me. I ducked my head and smiled thanks, still unsure about all the protocols.“You’ll love it.”

We’ve eaten enough together as co-workers when the gang of us decompressed after work, she knew my tastes, so I trusted her about that. The inside of the restaurant had a series of columns down the center, and everything mirrored across except the seated patrons. Green carpet, matching booths and tables, light fixtures. The back wall, behind the low partition hiding the server drink station, was an engraved mirror of three swans, two larger ones and one baby, either side of the final column in the room swimming toward each other, with reflections in the rippling water beneath.

The hostess led us to a booth matching an already seated booth with two people on the other side, bringing the patrons back into balance and making me chuckle. Accepting the menu, I asked the woman a burning question, “What happens when parties don’t match?”

Katie facepalmed, but a laugh escaped her as well.

“Well, we seat a new party in the area of their choice,” the woman handed Katie her menu after my date took her hand away from her face, “and if the incoming party doesn’t want to sit at the next appropriate table, well, we make them wait.”

“No,” Katie said surprised, “really?”

“Absolutely, you eat here, you play by my rules.” The woman nodded to the menus. “What would you like to drink?”

“Water for me.” I said.

“Draft beer for me.” Katie picked the plastic holder tucked against the wall and pointed at her favorite on the alcohol list. “I’m not driving.” She looked across at me. “Let me tell you, I’m really liking that.”

“Well, um,” I blushed, stammering. “You’re paying, it’s only fair.”

“I make more,” my younger co-worker stated firmly. “And I asked you out.”

I nod. “Yes, thanks.”

“Do you know what you want to eat, ladies?” our hostess asked.

Katie jumped in, being familiar with the menu. “I’ll have the Apollo Sunshine side salad, hold the peanuts but add extra cranberries if possible.”

“Not a problem.”

“And for the entrée, I’ll have Esau’s wild game stew, split serving.”

“Paper or plastic?”

“The plastic please, the stew doesn’t work well in the paper.”

The hostess grimaced. “Yeah, we are still working finding the right products at reasonable prices for everything.”

“What is the difference between twin and split serving? They have the same price.” I ask, struggling with the unusual size listings on the menu.

“Onsie is an appropriate meal size according to the normal calories an adult male needs each day.” The hostess said. “Twin and split serving are the size serving most Americans expect to get, which is about three times what a person needs, especially a female. Twin brings it out all at once, while split puts half into a bag for you to take home. We deliver the split to you at the end of your meal. Double the meals, double the fun.”

“That sounds … smart.” I glance at my date. “I guess I should order a single, um, onsie.”

“Don’t you dare, girlfriend!” Katie explained. “The food is totally worth a couple days. Half the dishes are even better as leftovers.”

“But, I mean…”

My co-worker narrowed her eyes at me.

“um… what is a good dish?” my voice raised high at the end of the question, more asking if the question would get me out of the dog house than asking the question.

Katie smiled and nodded approval.

“We serve sandwiches, stews, salads, and steaks of various meats.” The hostess gestured at the menu. “If you flip it over, you can find out pasta and seafood list that is available on weekends. Our chalkboard has today’s specials; my personal favorite is the Artemis. Now, if you excuse me, I’ll get your drinks in while you think.” She walked back to the main station, where a party of four just came in.

The Artemis wasn’t on the menu, but I always liked the moon twin as the Virgin protector, so I tilted my head toward the chalkboard and Katie quickly got out of her side of the booth and offered a hand to help me stand. At fifty, my knees have started protesting my long life. I can walk fine and sit fine, but the transition the two states raised protests.

“Thank you.” I said to the thirty-four year old, wondering again why she even was interested in me. A hot shot at work, she already soared beyond me, though not in my management structure, thank the universe for small blessings. Me, I’ve always done well, meeting all requirements, but soaring wasn’t my thing. I like my little world of accounting and human resources, keeping everything moving smoothly for our coworkers.

Her hand remained on my elbow as she guided me to the chalkboard. While the Artemis looked tasty with the choice of game and greens with a moon pie finish, the Pepper & Salt ended up being my choice. I let the hostess know before we made our way back to our table.

“That’s the owner, or one of them, right?” I asked as we sat.

“Yes, the other is the weekday cook.” Katie unwrapped her napkin and utensils. “Denise is the seafood cook and takes over the back on weekends, leaving Deborah in the front. You can tell the difference because Debbie loves to chalk her hair when she isn’t cooking.”

“However did you find this place? It’s new, right?” Oh dear, I dropped into interview mode. Shake it off before I ‘right’ myself out the door.

“They’ve been open for about three months.” Katie leaned back as one of the waitresses set her beer on the table, then my water. The waitress’ twin delivered food to the couple who arrived before us. “I hate cooking for myself. So I’m always trying to find good places. The split option makes this the perfect place.”

“So long as you remember to eat the leftovers.” I added a teasing lilt to my tone, having seen the carnage Katie and the other coworkers leave in the breakroom’s refrigerator beside my carefully labeled bag lunch.

“There is that,” she smirked at me. “But so far, not a single one of these leftovers hit the round bin. They are too good to miss.”

“Now that is a testament.” I responded. “Last time I cleaned out the fridge, you won the most abandoned meals with six.”

“Oh god,” Katie laughed loud enough people turned their heads toward us, making me scoot down a little. “You actually counted?”

I nodded small and whispered, “of course.”

“Of course.” Katie reached across the table to grab my twisting hands. “Of course,” she said softer. “You are amazing. You know that, right?”

I look at our joined hands and shook my head a little side to side.

“Well, you are. Beautiful, bright and amazing.” Katie squeezed my hands before releasing them. “So together about everything, I stand in awe. I mean, I’ve never been in a cleaner car in my life.”

A sound similar to a laugh escaped me as I sat a little higher. “Thank you?”

“No really. The way you decorate the entrance for every holiday. The way you reach out for birthdays and anniversaries.” Katie’s hands started waving, indicating our main office, the little cards I made sure everyone got. “You hold the office together.”

“It’s my job.” I shrug. “It’s what HR does.”

She shook her head firmly. “Not in my experience, and I worked a lot of places before I landed here. You are really good at your job.”

“Thank you.” I ducked my chin down.

Katie paused, her face getting serious under her blond “Karen” bob. “Are you uncomfortable?”

“No.” I rock my head a little. “I … the temperature is fine.”

“No, no.” Katie inhaled, before waving her hand around and explaining. “With this, the date.”

“Oh, no.” The words rushed out. “I’m fine with the date.”

“You seem uncomfortable, and I know you don’t date much.”

“I don’t date at all, not since I got divorced.” I scrunch my nose. “I’m not sure I dated before then. What…” I knock off the count in my head. “three dates in my life, counting this one. Patrick took me to the prom and he took me out the night he asked to marry me.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.” My date’s brown eyes grew round. “He never took you anywhere?”

“No, we are … were, he died two years ago, both homebodies.” I move my silverware to one side as I see our waitress approach.

“But you are okay with this.” Katie waved her hand back and forth between us. “Dating a woman? Dating me?”

“I guess … no, let me state that more clearly.” I smiled bright at her, but paused until the waitress put Katie’s salad in front of her and my sweet-and-sour soup in front of me and returned us to our privacy. “I am very, very happy you asked me out. I never would have had the guts, and you are amazing.”

“The lesbian thing is okay?”

I laugh, stirring the soup to cool it down, letting my eyes fall to it. “Yeah. I’ve always … well, I think … I like women.”

“More than men?” she pressed, spearing an orange slice.

“Oh definitely. So much more than men.” My smile grew crooked. “But, you know, that isn’t expected, and I…” my voice lowered and took a bitter edge, “I do what is expected. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.”

“Hard-line Christians?”

“Yes. But even more than that,” I try the soup. The sour made my mouth pucker before the sweet teased the edges. “Dad had expectations.”

“Parents always do.” Katie moved the remains of her salad into a smaller pile, the cranberries gleaming in the twin-berry vinaigrette. “Are they going to have a problem if we become friends?”

I sighed. “No, Dad died five years ago and Mom passed before him. It’s why I could get a divorce.”

“Oh.” Katie concentrated on shoveling in the last bits while I had my soup.

Finally, I couldn’t take the silence. “I’m just not as brave as you.”

Katie negated the statement with a wave of her hand. “I have two older brothers who are giving my parents lots of grandkids, and I’m the beloved baby. They breathed a sigh of relief when I officially came out, as I stopped all the teenage angst bullshit once I knew I had my family support. You can take on the world when you got a loving, understanding family at your back.”

I laughed softly. “Would have been nice.”

“Yeah, it is.” Katie nodded. “The fact you are willing to risk it. To break your habits. Wow.”

I pushed the half-finished soup away. I picked up my napkin and pressed it gently against my lips, checking to make sure I didn’t rub too much lipstick off. Finally, my brain came back with an appropriate response to her compliments. I pulled together my insecurities and mashed them down before looking her right in her baby browns. “You are work the risk.”

“Wow.” The blond blushed, the heat rising from her lowcut jacket to the roots of her frosted hair. “You don’t fool around when you give out pretty words.”

“I’m not kidding.”

She reached a hand across the table. “I know.”

“Even if this,” I squeeze her hand, “doesn’t go anywhere. Thank you for reminding me, making me see, I can go after my dreams again.”

She squeezed back.

I think we both lost track of time, certainly of the room, because the next thing I heard was the waitress clearing her throat. We looked over to find her and her twin there with our main entrees. We dropped our hands and pulled them back, leaving the table clear for the food. Her split-serving of the Essau soup gave off a rich meaty smell; my salt-and-pepper steaks-and-eggplant pairing, half-sized with the other half to take home packed away in the back, sizzled on the metal platter.

(words 2,140; first published 1/29/2023)