Tag: short story

Marichka Explains Etheric EngineeringMarichka Explains Etheric Engineering

Explain etherics? Hah!

Nobody can explain etheric engineering. Or the stuff that makes it work: aether.

The best anyone can do is describe aether. To our faulty three-plus-temporal-dimension senses, aether is nothing but a dark brownish fluid. It seems to bubble, giving off flashes well into the UV end of the spectrum.

That’s why one’s advised to wear goggles (or install UV-protective mods if you’re likely to encounter the stuff regularly). Relatively cheap, those. Even I have ’em, and you know what my finances are like! If you get the stuff on you (I strongly advise against it!), it tends to adhere.


Is sticky. You don’t want it stuck to you, trust me.

If aether gets loose, you want to corral it fast. Every compartment at risk of an aether spill (that is, any compartment etheric conduit passes through) should be equipped with an aether net. When deployed, it becomes a fine, gauzy web that attracts aether. Not to worry, it’ll draw off whatever’s stuck to you as well as gather up the globules floating in your face. So, no, it’s not a “net” so much as an “attractor.” I’d be happy to argue semantics with you any day.

Don’t get in my face about why it’s pronounced ay-ther in Standard. Open your chem reference, search for (C2H5)2O, and shut up already.

A swril of orange with a black ball at the core, and a bright blue jet

Aether’s the stuff that wormholes tunnel through. So no surprise that aether’s about as safe to play with as your average gravitational singularity. Aether is all places at once. That is, it knows only one where and one when.

The aether in the conduits of my ship is the aether flowing in yours. That’s why our comms people can talk to each other in real time. That’s why skipships don’t get lost, navigating the galactic byways, why the big ships that barge through gate-boosted wormholes don’t crush us as they pass. We’re all floating in the same ocean of aether.

There are…entities…out there who can perceive and manipulate aether directly. Some of them invented devices that make use of it. We lesser beings—humans, our allies, our enemies, our uncanny neighbors—have taken it on ourselves to copy those devices. Nobody knows what happens when you make a mistake copying Ancient etheric devices.

Nobody knows, because nobody comes back from those experiments. I like to think they’re gently transported to a parallel universe, given a kindly lecture on interfering with things they know not of, and sent off to some alt-universe pastoral countryside to learn…I dunno, painting, country dance, noveling, harmless little hobbies.

It’s nicer to imagine that than the alternative. Aether is dangerous stuff. A seemingly innocuous ball of cute fizzy brown goo can happily float straight through your ship’s hull. Try breathing vacuum sometime. Not fun. Not fun at all, no matter how well trained your crew is or how good your mods are.

And that’s just for starters.

So take it from me: don’t mess with aether without proper training. Even then, keep all the tools you might need right handy. You never know when you might need them.

Image Credits:

  1. Detail from cover of “Coke Machine,” by Niki Lenhart.
  2. Artist’s depiction of a black hole at the center of a galaxy. NASA/JPL-Caltech. (Modified for effect)

In certain portions of this timeline, Marichka Zelenskyy (no relation) may be found fixing things at the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy. In other portions of the timeline, she is busy elsewhere.

2021 Final Roundup2021 Final Roundup

I promised a post on my so-called accomplishments of the past year. It’s a decent exercise, especially when the year ahead looks so daunting. I’ve had to slap some provisional titles on works in progress, but that’s part of the fun. So, without further ado:

Fabulous AccomplishmentWhat Bit of Writing It Has to Do With
One short story published in an SFF market, both digital and printParrish Blue
Finished first revision cycle with Wind and Smoke, divided the work, and completed second round revision with Volume 1.Wind and Smoke (work in progress)
Finished a two-book entry to my series, revised and submitted Book 1, nearly completed revisions on Book 2Shadows of Insurrection (submitted)
Fires of Resolution (WIP, in final revisions)
Talked a regular reader into reading the first two volumes of Lidian’s Promise, made decisions on updates needed to go to market.A Sorcerer in Levoigne (WIP)
Strangers in Almadina (WIP)
Wrote, revised, and had a short story published in an anthology, PLUS experienced having that story nominated for the Pushcart Prize.“Heart’s Delight” (anthologized in Fault Zone: Reverse)
Wrote, revised, advocated for, and had published a neurodivergent short story.“Reunion” (anthologized in Fault Zone: Reverse)
Wrote, revised, and had accepted a middle-grade SF novella for a shared-universe collectionThe Smugglers (planned for mid-2022)
Wrote, revised, performed, and had accepted a humorous short story for a shared-universe collection“Coke Machine” (planned for spring 2022)
Submitted multiple entries to the California Writer’s Club (CWC) SF Peninsula Chapter’s Literary Stage competition, won awards for opening chapter for a diverse-characters novel, a humorous madcap short story, a structured poem (a sestina), and a short story.A Sorcerer in Levoigne (Chapter 1), “Coke Machine,” “Trap” (poetry), “Solitary Dances”
Note: the contest does not involve publication, but awards are listed on the SF Peninsula Chapter website.
Launched a newsletter and published the first eleven monthly issues (Twelfth issue came out in January 2022.)Tales from the Oort Cloud
What do you mean? You haven’t subscribed yet? EZ box on this page. Pop-up roaming the page. Link in the title and right here. Go for it. You won’t be sorry.
Attended the Nebula Awards Conference online(I’ve volunteered to help at the 2022 conference.)
Served on four panels at Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction ConventionModerated a panel on the isekai subgenre in anime, and another on global optimistic futures, took part in an improv panel (Orbital Tidy Town Committee), and a science panel on energy futures
Volunteered a full schedule at WorldCon virtualHosted Kaffeklatsches, monitored panels, teched a publishing workshop.
Performed a reading with Strong Women, Strange WorldsAll That Was Asked
No video, but similar to a reading on Fairy Princess Lolly‘s livestream program last year.
Performed a reading on Fairy Princess Lolly’s livestream series, Author Reads“Parrish Blue”
Part of a longer program. You’ll find this reading at T= 53:47 in the video.
Became board-adjacent on SF-Pen chapter of CWC as runner of open micsFourth Tuesday open mics
Provided a second year of tech support for the South Bay Writers chapter of CWCOpen mics on First and third Fridays
Updated my website, with a proper landing page, the blog in its own territory, and space for appearances.Cometary Tales (you are here!)
Increased my vast followership on Twitter (hahaha)Up to 241 for Cometary Tales and
204 for Pixel Gravity
Sold some copies of my book!“Some” is as close as you’re going to get to a number, here.
Also: racked up several agent rejections, practiced pitches and studied statistics of twitter pitch contests, and wrote four (count ’em! FOUR!) blog posts!Tally Ho!

I should note that at each of the open mics I manage, I also take part, sharing excerpts from works in progress as well as poetry and related works.

I’ve also been diligent at showing up for my critique partners and my non-critique writing group, even if I can’t be there in person. That boils down to 10-12 hours a week of reviewing colleagues’ work, accepting notes on my work, and discussing craft and our work together in online meetings.