The Space Burial Bill

When the Space Burial Bill was passed, cryogenic suspension became a passing fad. The wealthy filled and invigorated Wallops Island and its outlying municipalities. Paying respect to the dead became a celebration where mourners screamed shrilly in space themed amusement parks and gorged themselves during private bacchanals inside world class hotels. The mourning period, if it could be called that anymore, culminated with the remains being blasted into space.

The options were almost endless. Body parts could be distributed into different tracts of sky for exorbitant prices.  Ashes were blasted into the stratosphere to be caught up and scattered by the jetstream. Or a combination thereof could be employed. One poet philosopher had his skull sent in a collision course with Halley’s Comet. A professional basketball player, who has yet to die, has willed his hands be sent towards the sun. The fact it had governmental funding made it weirder.

But there wasn’t a lack of competition. Houston, the original coffin slinger, was bought out by corporate conglomerates who revamped its infrastructure. It soon became a hotbed of neon sizzle decadence which earned it the nickname “The Vegas away from Vegas.” Corpses were ejected from the earthly body in a ten kilometer long rail gun. The rags to riches story of rock star Axon Storm, the macguffin of which was enough wealth to be launched alive into space, culminated in a live video feed that broke the world record of most viewers of a live televised event.

Eventually it became affordable, even feasible, for the middle class. The satellites of Earth orbit mingled with coffins, urns, ashes, and in some macabre cases, whole body parts. There were three competitors in the industry. Chain locations sprang across the world. Houston became seedy like Reno, and Wallops Island absorbed the ambience of Coney Island during its last days.

The first visitors to the solar system paused at the Kuiper Belt. They were a race of near immortals for whom death was the apogee of life; a combination of half-forgotten nanotechnology and natural biology made them impervious to the various forms of death. During the youth of their species they experimented relentlessly and recklessly with their life and were rewarded with near eternity. They danced within stars, their bodies repairing themselves from the abundance of hydrogen. It wasn’t a painless enterprise. They tried long epochs in vacuum, immersion in exotic compounds, centuries of starvation, and just about anything they could imagine. It took them a long time to come to terms with their mode of existence and they began to cultivate their lives as the Japanese did their bonsai. They trained to master skill sets. They hoarded experiences in all its minutiae, so they could be freed from the sheer baggage of accumulated existence when death did come.

Imagine their astonishment upon observing a culture flaunting death as freely as did the homo sapiens. The visitors came bearing gifts of faster than light travel, portal ships, quantum particle printers, and near-immortality, all the things that mankind would need to arrest starvation and death and gradually transcend the solar system. The otherworlders were repulsed and quietly left.

The residents of that little blue planet were none the less wiser, and went on with their old ways of living, loving, hurting, and forgetting.

Inspired by: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-mulls-tax-space-burials.html

The Exile

As he watched the neon exhaust of the ruined jetbike recede into the darkness, dragging its mutilated, half-deceased occupant, Grendel knew the halcyon days were over. He turned and walked into his cave. He entered the river that burbled near its mouth, evaded  the defense system of electronic moray eels and fire barracudas—he was never sure if it was to defend against intruders or to keep him contained—before emerging onto the pebbled shore of a looming cavern kilometres away. Dripping, he approached Mother’s monstrous bulk. Her resinous hide crawled with cables and boulder sized transistors. She was all he knew, her organic contours a constant in his half-remembered memories. The cooling system hummed in the chill darkness, efficiently venting the waste heat into the desert bordering the foothills. It wasn’t always desert there. He shivered, stroking her gently throbbing surface. He had suckled at her breast for so long, wires running from his mouth, his twitching eyes vacant with tears of  luminous quantum foam.  She was warm to the touch. Grendel took his hand away. It was time to go out into the world once more.

They came, a single police unit at first. He disposed of them easily, and enjoyed the sight of their burning cruiser trace the dawn before its miniature nuclear reactor disintegrated in a flash of white heat.

They sent more, this time a special weapons and tactics unit. Nobody survived and their armored hovercraft, being more resilient than the average vehicle, simply smoldered at the end of long furrows of raped earth.

The military deployed next, in tanks and Human Enhancement suits. The tanks lumbered up to the mouth of Grendel’s cave and sent salvo after salvo of armor piercing rounds. The HE-men leaped ahead and tunneled into the rock with their magnificent transmorgifying suits. Some affected drills, others made great spades of their hands and dug through the granite. Grendel grinned at the challenge, but was sorely disappointed. He appreciated the exercise, anyways; his long dormant muscles needed stretching, limbering. He danced amid the bullets, an acrobat, ballerina, and contortist. Saliva ran in gobs from his adrenaline laced laugh. A tank erupted, punctured by one of the suits. He crashed two HE-men together and watched their ruptured nanotechnology consume each other. He tossed  a suit easily into a neighboring mountain, watching in pleasure the ensuing landslide. Grendel surveyed the ruins and wondered how far it would go.

Jets. Scores of them erupting from the sky like a mad horde of hornets. The space around them crackled with pinpricks of light that elongated into long trailers of blistered atmosphere.  Slipstream missiles. Grendel felt wounded. They were using outdated technology on him. He shrugged, waiting for imminent impact before launching into the air. He skipped and hopped on the slender bodies of the missiles, flinging himself to the next just before they burst into scorched sky. He zig-zagged his way onto the jet of the nearest convenience, hurtling for hundreds of meters in freefall before sinking his hands into its titanium armor. The canopy, torn from its place, shot past, the pilot’s insect-like helmet reflecting his outstretched hands and Grendel’s laughing visage.

As the skies rained with ruin, Grendel’s jet hit mach 5 and entered the European Commonwealth. The jet was outfitted with the latest nuclear fuel cell and ammo teleportation technology, giving him virtually unlimited mobility and firepower. He was still laughing when he left Europe burning and set his sights on China. He was having too much fun. Grendel’s self-imposed exile was over and the world would weep for it.

Found Excerpts: Apartment Ruminations March ’07

Dredging through text files on my computer to find this excerpt, which is amazing because my brain has dumped the event that occurred but upon reading it, flashed with brilliant clarity into the antechamber of memory: eyesquinting through the slats of gray light through the slow swaying jog of disturbed vertical blinds out into the muddy wastes of March half-frozen in its transformation into wetly alluring April where the slog of neighbors entertain my moment of ennui.

A sad image: a frown-downing vision in decaying sunlight, two blimps drifting at a distance from each other, but equidistantly. Both are old, the one leading the way, the if any approximations of direction are to be given distinction, is visibly much more ancient, wreathed of white cotton in a fashion of muu muu spangled in patterns of blue and yellow, she floats forward, large and steady, while one imagines the scent of dependable baby powder, and seems sturdily sturdy, almost the way an elephant is, until she stops for an inaudible (naturally that is the case, your narrator being deafer than a fucking doornail) wheeze and you see by the wan light that she is supported by four small wheels from which grow connecting aluminum shafts, the only things supporting her bulk as she sets her jowls down onto her quietly quaking (naturally) arms, pressing against the fading warmth of her metal fancy cane, to bring her forehead to rest onto her forearms for a moment, and to remain equidistant, her mitochondrial carrier slows, like a dirigible desultorily settling to earth, to a stop on fat legs at least wearing pants, and puffs like a chimney, smoke unfurling around her short brown hair. Does she stop out of consideration for a proud creature whose particular facilities are intact while the rest takes the handcart to hell, or does she halt out of begrudging pity, resenting the inevitable fragility of aging, the unspoken social precepts which demands she feel remorse for desperately wishing the wheels would give out, crack under that sheer weight and fly out until grubby arms fly apart, fat worms for fingers splayed darkly in the dusklight until they smack almost wetly against the concrete before the fatal crack of the skull, the wispy mane of achromic coiffure doing nothing to cushion the impact, just to be free from the obligation of quasi-paternal responsibility? The wind ruffles the vertical blinds and i stick my finger in the nose to the knuckle and scratch out a nice gooey gob which goes down the gullet quite nicely.

Space War Blues

I stumbled upon this gem in the clearance section of an used book store.

N’Alabama, a mix of ubermensch mentality and southern values, wars against N’Haiti, these people of dark skin. The N’Haitis have a plan to resurrect the ancient vodu traditions of their ancestors to fill their ranks. The N’Yu-Atlanchi are small sensory organs with no self who swim in a crystal cavern of a planet, where they are birthed from the All-Mother that nests at the planet’s core. The Aboriginal Australians of Old Earth sail the stars in membrane ships without clunky space gear because their ancestors’ years in the Australian blastscape prepared them well for the rigors of space, their flesh rich with darkly protective melanin that enables them to stroll the hard radiation of vacuum; enshrouded in an air envelope and unencumbered by a suit, they possess a grace and agility that boggles the ground squirmers when they leap from mast to mast to rig the sails like sailors on the clipper ships of O’Earth. The Bentfin Boomer Boys are N’Ala spacerines hellbent on destroying them futhermucking furgem nigras with a soft spot for a bit of manly cuddling and the cruel clit glint of spangspot in the eyes of Miss Merriass Markham as she cracks her whip and makes it dance on the back of a groveling darkie on Little Old New Alabama.

The reader’s window of perception jogs about a lot, and the reader is not given the chance to attach to a single character except for a select few. Approaching economy, racial bigotry, pedophilia, homosexuality, war, drugs, and sex in a small 300 something page Finnegan’s Wakesque volume, Richard A. Lupoff is brilliant. I’d place it up there with The Stars My Destination, in terms of the value of its (would potential value be a better term, considering it didn’t raise a hell of a noise like Harlan Ellison claims on a blurb… or did it? I find myself so far removed from events of historical significance that did not occur within my lifetime and it’s sometimes difficult to find information about muted events of the past) contribution of the genre.

A vastly under-rated gem that is most definitely going on my Highly Recommended SF booklist. Now I’m keeping an eye out for a copy of Again, Dangerous Visions which contains the original short story “The Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama”