Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: July 2022

"A vote is a prayer about the kind of world we want to live in." - Rev. Raphael Warnock

It’s Important to Vote

By Jan S. Gephardt

In Kansas and Missouri, we’re holding a primary election next week. And every time there’s a primary, some people question whether or not it’s important to vote in it. I’ve blogged about Primary Elections in other years. Longtime readers of my “Artdog Adventures” blog know very well that I feel it’s important to vote.

I realize some of my readers don’t live in the United States, and many others live in states hold their primaries earlier or later in the year than now. I was talking about this with my sister recently. She agrees with me on the importance of voting, although for her the primaries are so last March (she’s a Texan, as longtime blog-followers well know).

But in my neighborhood, the primaries are looming (August 2). It’s important to vote because elections are always a potential turning point of some sort. And that’s where life is informing my art rather a lot, recently.

“So long as I do not firmly and Irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind – it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact – I can only submit to the edict of others.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Image courtesy of Medium).

Life, Art, and Science Fiction

I’ve already blogged some about politics on Rana Station. Rana is the fictional, far-future space-station home of the XK9s and their favorite humans, the setting of my novels. Readers of my stories may recall mentions of elections for Premier that were held while the XK9s and their partners were still on Chayko. POV characters Pam and Charlie voted absentee, and talked with their XK9s about the elections. It’s unspoken but clear that both think it’s important to vote.

There are political undercurrents throughout the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. On Rana, Boroughs are sort of a cross between a city and a state or province, politically. Readers saw the local Borough Council in a special session during What’s Bred in the Bone. In the second novel, A Bone to Pick, Ranan politics received less focus. But that realm returns in a big way –on a national level – in the third novel, Bone of Contention. As it happens, I’m writing some of that part now.

Of course, politics in science fiction is nothing new. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, recently.

"The job of speculative and science fiction is to envision future outcomes in accessible ways. It’s what we sf writers do: we create engaging thought-experiments about how things might be." – Jan S. Gephardt.
(See credits below).

Eroding Rights

Women who pay attention know our rights and freedoms are always under attack. Cases in point: horrifying recent stories about Mongolian schools that require “virginity checks.” Patriarchal cultures use force to suppress education for girls. Invading armies use rape as a means of terrorizing civilians. All across the world our freedom and bodily autonomy are at continual risk, and they always have been.

Even before the United States Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health verdict that made it official, we in the USA saw the warning signs if we were paying attention. Remember “pussyhats” and the Women’s March on Washington in 2017?

As a science fiction reader and writer, I’m aware of many dystopian “futures.” It’s a time-honored science fiction tradition to base dystopias on contemporary trends taken to extremes.

And in nearly any dystopia ordinary people are powerless. They have no agency, no autonomy. Goes without saying they have no vote.

The cover of the book “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a page from a graphic novel adaptation of the book, and a background photo from the television show based on the book.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted into a graphic novel and a television show. (See credits below).

Tales and Parables

One science fiction story that has resonated deeply with women – and in the wake of Dobbs feels even more relevant – is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In this dystopia, first released in 1985. Starting production in 2016 (imagine that), a television series by the same name, based on the novel, has been renewed for season after season.

But the science fiction that’s resonating most deeply for me this week is Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I’ve been re-acquainting myself with it. I remember when it first came out in 1994. Back then, I was a mother with young children and little time. I had difficulty reading it, probably because I wasn’t ready to contemplate a world like the one it depicted.

Now, in 2022 (the book starts in 2024, in a world both unfortunately like, but also different from our current situation), I’m finding the parallels interesting. Butler’s world, in fact, feels like an oddly familiar place. For one thing, there’s more than a small echo of the assumption I grew up with, that it was only a matter of time before disaster hit. At the age of Butler’s main character Lauren, I tried to learn canning and gardening, assuming I’d need such survival skills after the coming nuclear apocalypse. But there are other parallels, too.

Two book covers, one for the original novel by Octavia E. Butler, the other for a Hugo-winning graphic novel adaptation.
Octavia E. Butler’s book Parable of the Sower has been adapted into a graphic novel and optioned for a film. (See credits below).

A Different Apocalypse, But it “Rhymes”

The kind of apocalypse Californian Lauren Olamina faces in Parable of the Sower didn’t start with a bomb blast. Some reviewers call the novel “post-apocalyptic,” but that’s not correct. The slow-rolling apocalypse Lauren and her neighborhood face is protracted and actively ongoing. There is nothing “post” about it.

Its origin lies in steadily-chipped-away rights, a process that has disabled all government protections for ordinary people. This has led to savage economic disparity and inflamed racial division. Of course, those dynamics further cripple government. The power and importance of voting has been reduced to choices between bad and worse impotent politicians. But you can only vote if you can make it through the mean streets to the polls in one piece.

By the time of the novel, all the last safety nets of civilization have been stripped away. This dysfunctional dynamic empowers the rise of business behemoths that capitalize on the power vacuum to further entrench their own advantage. No surprise, there’s a massive and growing unhoused and dispossessed population that’s increasingly desperate and lawless.

"A vote is a prayer about the kind of world we want to live in." - Rev. Raphael Warnock
(See credits below).

The Antidote? It’s Important to Vote! (While we still can)

Does any of this sound familiar? If not in exact mirroring, it certainly takes little effort to recognize parallel dangers in contemporary gerrymandering and false claims of vote fraud that threaten to actually do the real thing. If it’s okay to declare that corporate “free speech” (AKA money) is protected, and that some people have no right to bodily autonomy, how far from slow-rolling apocalypse are we, truly?

All of this brings me back to the importance of voting. We’re not yet in full-blown apocalypse. We won’t be (barring unforeseen disasters) in 2024. But we’ve been flirting with it for longer than many people have noticed. And if more of us don’t wake up to the serious issues that threaten our freedom and our democracy, we’ll wander blindly into it.

Our rights are increasingly on the line. Our best defense is our vote, and here the advice is “use it or lose it.” That’s why it’s important to vote. Every time. In every election. Vote.


The quote-image for Dr. King’s view of the importance of the vote came from Medium. The background for the quote from Jan is Nebula 2, ©2021 by Chaz Kemp, first published in the blog post “Looking for Hope.” Design by Jan.

Jan also assembled the two montage images built around two of the books mentioned in the post. The Handmaid’s Tale montage Includes several images. The cover for Margaret Atwood’s novel is courtesy of ThriftBooks. A page from a graphic novel adaptation by Renee Nault comes via Maclean’s. And a still from the television adaptation of the book is courtesy of Woman & Home.

The montage for Parable of the Sower features the cover of Octavia E. Butler’s book, courtesy of the North Carolina State University Libraries. Butler’s book also has been adapted by Damian Duffy into a graphic novel illustrated by John Jennings. No TV show yet, however it’s been optioned for a movie.

Jan first assembled the final quote-image in this post from a tweet by the Rev. Raphael Warnock (now US Senator Warnock) in November 2020. The background photo is originally from the Baltimore Sun, taken at the Maryland primary election, June 2, 2020 by the multitalented Karl Merton Ferron. Deepest appreciation to all of them!

A rocket lifts off for a Space Force mission in 2020.

Space Force!

By G. S. Norwood

Every year, for our July 4 concert, the Dallas Winds plays a medley of armed service anthems as a salute to veterans. This year, as I listened during rehearsal, I realized something was missing. As the music swelled around us, I leaned over to my boss and asked, “What about the Space Force?”

My question got a laugh, but it made me wonder: What about the Space Force? Was it a real branch of the military? Did it even have an anthem? I decided to find out.

A classic space battle image of Star Wars space ships in a confrontation.
Images like this iconic Star Wars confrontation leaped to mind. (See credits below).

Is the Space Force Some Kind of Joke?

On March 13, 2018, then-president Trump announced that “space is a war-fighting domain,” and he intended to establish a new branch of the armed services: the Space Force. He made it sound like the idea was just something he thought of one day, and he repeated the name so often it began to sound like a joke. Late Night host Stephen Colbert called it, “The president’s boldest idea that he got from a Buzz Lightyear Happy Meal toy.”

Those of us who grew up at nearly any time since 1967, when the original Star Trek hit the airwaves, immediately got onboard. We focused on images of Captain Kirk and—I dunno, Luke Skywalker? Commander Peter Quincy Taggart?—zipping through the black void in X-wings and TIE fighters to battle the evil . . . Aliens? Russians? Chinese? That part wasn’t really clear, but we knew it could be epic, even if it sounded silly.

A rocket lifts off for a Space Force mission in 2020.
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile System’s Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 26, 2020. (See credits below).

A Little History

But the truth is, former president Trump didn’t just dream up the Space Force one day while he was shaving. The idea for the Space Force was born back in the middle of the twentieth century, even before the Russians launched the first artificial Earth satellite. The United States Army, and later the United States Air Force actively discussed the strategic importance of space from 1945 through the 1950s. When Sputnik went up on October 4, 1957, the race to control Earth’s orbital space began in earnest.

Military tacticians will tell you that whoever controls the high ground has the advantage in battle. Space is the ultimate high ground for our planet. Our national defense system relies, in part, on intercontinental missiles, and our whole, world-wide communications system relies on satellites. Your phone, your car’s radio, and your GPS navigation system depend on uninterrupted space-based communications capabilities. Any hostile force that can disrupt those capabilities would put the United States at a serious strategic disadvantage.

Once you understand that, the Space Force begins to make a whole lot of sense.

US Space Force logo on left and the Star Trek emblem on right.
BBC cutline from 2020: “The newly unveiled logo for US Space Force appears to have boldly gone where Star Trek went before.” (BBC).

Things Get Real

Then one day the government announced that they had a logo for the Space Force. It looked suspiciously like Starfleet’s logo. But never mind that. Had the former president really just waved his tiny little hands and created a whole new branch of military service? Surely, with our do-nothing Congress, there ought to have been an epic debate over the creation of a new armed service. How did I miss that?

Turned out, after decades of quiet discussion about the need for the Space Force, some PR genius at the Pentagon probably just caught the former president’s attention. Perhaps a power point presentation with images of epic space battles, mixed with some John Williams music? However it was done, it convinced the former president to champion the idea of the Space Force, claiming it as his own. The expense was quickly folded into the 2019 Defense Authorization Funding Bill. This annual not-much-to-argue-about spending measure funds the entire military budget with bipartisan support. And, hey, presto! Just like that, we had the Space Force.

In addition to information on COVID-19, the United States Space Force’s website landing page offers links for Leadership, Photos, Videos, a Fact Sheet, FAQs, and USSF Locations.
Get past the snickering and take another look. The U.S. Space Force actually has a lot going on. (USSF).

Today’s Space Force

So yes, there is a Space Force. It currently has around 10,000 members, but they are distinctly earth-bound desk jockeys, monitoring our nation’s orbital assets for signs of trouble. Collectively, members of the Space Force are called Guardians, following the tradition in the Air Force of referring to personnel as “guardians of the high frontier.” (No bio-engineered raccoons need apply.) Their ranks mirror the Air Force, with Specialists, Command Master Sergeants, and the Chief of Space Operations.

The Space Force Anthem

And they do have an anthem. It’s called The Invincible Eagle. John Philip Sousa wrote it in 1901 for the Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo, New York.

Is a very traditional, somewhat fusty turn-of-the-last-century march the right anthem to lead our Guardians to infinity and beyond? A choral group called Voices of Freedom thinks not. They have written their own anthem for the Space Force. You can decide for yourself if it strikes the right note.

Or perhaps you will side with a conductor I know, who said, “They should just go with the Main Title Theme.” Whatever the Space Force choses, it’s clearly time for us to update that medley of armed service anthems we perform every year.

Backed by a huge US flag and surrounded by a burst of streamers and projected stars and fireworks in red white and blue, the Dallas Winds performs on the stage of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX.
The Dallas Winds performs their annual Star-Spangled Spectacular concert, possibly in 2018. (See credits below).

One More Question

While I enjoyed educating myself about the United States Space Force, and understand the serious nature of their mission, I still struggle with the snark. I want those X-Wings and TIE Fighters. I wonder if the Specialist uniforms will turn out to have red shirts. And I have one more burning question:

What kind of camo do Space Force Guardians wear?


As ever, we owe many thanks to a lot of people for the illustrations in today’s post. Let’s start by thanking “CCA School Gurgaon,” source for a visualization of an iconic TIE Fighter-versus-X-Wing conflict. It comes with a product description that doesn’t credit an artist or explain a lot. But, whatever it is, it can be yours for only $43.99.

Air Force Magazine published the rocket-launch photo with its editorial about Space Force, “Seize the High Ground.” It shows a ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile System’s Center as it lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 26, 2020. Air Force Magazine credits the photo to United Launch Alliance, which is a company that builds rockets to the buyers’ specs.

GEEK-OUT ALERT: ULA has a “build your own rocket” interactive feature that doesn’t seem to require any pre-payment guarantees. For the right person, just supply the imagination and they’ll tell you what they can build for you. Bonus: feel your eyes bug out at the price tag!

Getting Real

Both Weird Sisters Publishing and Artdog Studio have our roots deeply embedded in science fiction. So we, too, instantly saw the parallels between the logos of the USSF and Starfleet Command. The BBC similarly had no compunction about going there, when it came to a logo comparison image. Even so, they acknowledged the importance of a Space Force. See the article here.

On a more serious note, check out how much information you can find on the U.S. Space Force’s official website. There’s even a place where you, too, can sign up to become a Guardian. Have you got the Right Stuff?

And finally, Art & Seek published the Dallas Winds concert photo with an article previewing the Dallas Winds 4th of July concert in 2019. You also can access a YouTube video of the Dallas Winds performing The Star-Spangled Banner on this page. Photo by Sean Deuby, via Art and Seek. Sean Deuby takes photos in the Dallas area (scroll down on this site to see his atmospheric image from SMU), but he doesn’t seem to have a website or social media for his work.

Once again, many thanks to all of these folks! We couldn’t have created this post without you!

Three photos focus on the three authors’ displays on the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table.

A Very Busy SoonerCon

By Jan S. Gephardt

SoonerCon 30 was a very busy SoonerCon for me. I had a chance to once again share one end of a sales table (this time in the Creators Alley). But I didn’t want to give up being on panels or in the Art Show. This was guaranteed to be a little crazymaking.

But it was so lovely to be back at SoonerCon! It’s one of my favorite conventions, as you can see if you look through my past blog posts about it. In a lot of ways it feels like an “adopted second ‘home con.’” SoonerCon has been very good to me, my artwork, and my books over the years!

So, during the Pandemic I contributed several sets of autographed XK9 books and one of my larger pieces of paper sculpture to their online auction fundraiser. I contributed to their Kickstarter, too. And I made sure I bought space for Weird Sisters Publishing in their digital and program Book advertising. In my opinion all of those efforts to support the convention are “Win-Win” efforts. When SoonerCon survives and thrives, my businesses have an excellent outlet for this and future years.

The Weird Sisters Publishing ads at SoonerCon 30 included three digital images at left, and a print ad in the program book.
Three digital ads and a print ad helped both SoonerCon and Weird Sisters Publishing. (images from Weird Sisters Publishing LLC).

A Very Busy SoonerCon Art Show

In its former home at the Reed Conference Center the SoonerCon Art Show was shoehorned into a relatively small space. Everything was cramped, and the sightlines were short. You couldn’t back up to view a whole panel without the risk of running into someone else’s art panel. Not so in their new home at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman Hotel & Conference Center!

This year the SoonerCon Art Show was enormous, and the artwork was of very high quality. I enjoyed wonderful displays from Artist GoH Elizabeth Leggett, plus Rachael Mayo, Lucy A. Synk, and almost everyone else I pointed out in my two ConQuesT 53 Art Show posts. Chaz Kemp, Peri Charlifu, and other notable members of the Convention Artists Guild turned out in force with large and beautiful collections.

Two photos from the SoonerCon Art Show portray Jan’s display of paper sculpture and Lucy A. Synk’s paintings and prints.
Two SoonerCon Art Show display panels show work by Jan S. Gephardt and Lucy A. Synk. (See credits below).

Other artists whose work caught my eye? Vanessa Green’s embroidery, Brooke Lydick’s quilting, and Rachel Karch’s striking mixed-media/polymer clay provided marvelous examples of striking work in unusual media. I loved the ingenuity of Joshua Cook’s imaginative metal sculptures of fantasy creatures (or are they machines?). Kelly Stoll, whom I understand to be Rachael Mayo’s sister, created exquisite fantasy miniatures on brooches and pendants. But the tour de force (and a top crowd-pleaser) of the entire, massive show were the amazing dioramas of Beth Lockhart. Lockhart also displayed beautiful painted gourds and chainmail dragons.

A Very Busy SoonerCon Panelist Schedule, too!

Before I knew I’d be holding down one end of a sales table all weekend, I had told the Programming people to “use me and abuse me.” At most conventions, my appearances on panels have been the major way I can communicate anything about myself, my artwork, and my books. I also (as I’ve mentioned a few hundred times in my blog posts) love to moderate panels, even though it’s extra work. The SoonerCon Programming people know this. They also seem to think I do a decent job of it, so I moderate a lot of my SoonerCon panels.

Two photos from my reading.
I love going to readings, but this year I only got to one: my own, along with (L-R: Selina Rosen, an unidentified audience member, Melinda LeFevers, Donna Frayser, and Tim Frayser. (See credits below).

A Very Busy Schedule, Indeed

This created the perfect recipe for a very busy SoonerCon programming schedule! On Friday I had two panels, one of which I moderated, plus an Author Reading. It was the only one I managed to attend. That night, the Art Show Reception provided a great chance to see the show and visit with lots of people. On Saturday, in addition to my Autographing session, I moderated three panels and enjoyed a late-evening Artists’ Chat. That turned out to be quite interesting and enjoyable. I hope they keep it on as a repeating feature!

On Sundays, I always ask not to be scheduled opposite Art Show check-out. Occasionally programming people ignore this, but I always appreciate it when I don’t have to throw myself on my son Ty’s mercy to avoid messing up the Art Show Staff’s teardown/load-out schedule. This time the programmers managed to both respect my Art Show commitment and schedule me for one last panel – a fun one called “Wry Wit for Writers: Humorous Fiction.” We laughed a lot, and I was pleased to be able to join the fun.

Three photos focus on the three authors’ displays on the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table.
L-R: Rie Sheridan Rose created a copper-pipe “Steampunk” rack to display her books, DVDs, and other materials. In the center of the table are polymer clay figures, magnets, four books and other items from Mel. White. On the other end is Jan’s display of signs and XK9 books. (See credits below).

“Bad Bards and Beyond” – Another Shared Sales Table

The final part of my recipe for a very busy SoonerCon came from the last-minute addition of the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table. (Our books and I are the “Beyond” part). This table was almost as successful as my table at ConQuesT 53. That’s even though all the other commitments meant I spent considerably less time working it. We may have been positioned at the end of a long hallway, but there was a lot happening “out in our neck.” Things never got dull that I saw, and traffic stayed pretty busy.

My table-mates were Mel. White (Dr. Mel. White, Ph.D., to be formal) and Rie Sheridan Rose, both from Texas. I’ve know Mel. for what seems like donkeys’ years through the conventions, and she and Ty have independently struck up a pleasant friendship. We memorably hung out a lot together at NorthAmericon ’17 in Puerto Rico. I’ve known Rie less well, but we’ve amicably bumped into each other at SoonerCon, FenCon, and probably others in the past. The three of us spent the weekend deciding we made a pretty good team and planning to meet again at FenCon . . . but then a development made it important to cancel my attendance at the September convention.

Jan traveled with Weird Sisters Publishing signs, copies of her books, and bookmarks to Archon 44 in 2021.
Here I am with my “traveling display” at Archon 44 in 2021. (Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Meet My “Bad Bards and Beyond” Table-Mates

Mel. White

Mel. White’s bio on her Amazon page (she doesn’t seem to have an author website) describes her as a “Professor, scientist, artist, author, educator, and former computer programmer [who] writes science fiction and draws webcomics.” She and the late Robert Asprin created the “Duncan and Mallory” graphic novels (there were three), first published by Starblaze Graphics, 1986-1988. Aspirin died in 2008. Mel. has written many anthologized stories over the years. With co-author John DeLaughter, she re-launched the “Duncan and Mallory” series in 2018.

She earned her Ph.D. in Information Science in 2014, and followed that with work on a degree in Egyptology. Mel. is an adjunct professor (Egyptology and Anthropology) at Dallas College Richland Campus. She also works on dinosaur bones at the Perot Museum and pursues other pursuits. A longtime and accomplished filker, her music is part of the reason we called our table “Bad Bards And Beyond,” though I’m less sure about the “bad” part.

Rie Sheridan Rose

I’m grateful that Rie has a website, where it’s been easier to find (dated) biographical information. When her bio says she’s “contributed to innumerable anthologies,” she’s not kidding! Her Amazon Author Page goes on for pages and pages. Most of the items listed are anthologies. She’s also a prolific poet, as well as a filker and lyricist (the other part of the “Bards” in the table’s name).

But she’s also up to twelve novels now, if her website’s “My Work” page is up to date. Many are fantasy works. She’s also the author of the 5-book Conn-Mann Chronicles Steampunk series, as well as other Steampunk books and stories. In the “Steampunk spirit,” she’d created a fun little book rack for her end of our table, made of copper pipes.

The “Duncan And Mallory” series in their original covers by Mel. White form part of a montage that also shows Mel’s “Syskitty” avatar, which she uses on Facebook, Rie Sheridan Rose’s author photo, and the series image for Rie’s “Conn-Mann Chronicles.”
My table-mates Mel. White and Rie Sheridan Rose have produced a number of interesting fiction projects. (See credits below).

As you can imagine, all of these elements came together to create a very busy SoonerCon 30 for yours truly. But, as SoonerCon always proves to be for me, it also was a fun, stimulating, and utterly worthwhile weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year!


Jan S. Gephardt took many of the photos in this post myself (as noted in cutlines). She designed all of the advertising and other graphics for Weird Sisters Publishing with skillful help from illustrations © by Chaz Kemp, Lucy A. Synk, and Jody A. Lee and used with authorization. The photo of Lucy’s artwork display was taken with her permission. My son Tyrell E. Gephardt took the photos of my art display in the SoonerCon Art Show. He also took the photo of me with all my books and signs at Archon 44 (2021).

The photos from my reading portray fellow authors/readers Selina Rosen, Melinda LaFevers, and Tim Frayser, along with his wife Donna Frayser and an unnamed audience member. All photos were taken with permission by their subjects.

The “Mel And Rie” Montage pulled imagery from several sources. The original three “Duncan and Mallory” covers are part of a screen-capture from Google Search. Mel’s Facebook avatar, “Syskitty,” came from her Facebook page. Rie’s author photo came from her Amazon Author Page. The “Conn-Mann Chronicles Series” graphic is courtesy of the Amazon page for that series. Many thanks to all!

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother. - Margaret Sanger

Liberty and Personal Freedom on Rana Station

By Jan S. Gephardt

Recent events have gotten me thinking about liberty and personal freedom. Here in the United States, we recently seem to have had an unusual amount of trouble defining just exactly what those are. To whom should they be extended, and in what measure? There seem to be different standards, depending on who you’re talking to, and about whom they’re talking.

Yes, I know. We Americans are kinda famous around the world for having staked a claim, back in the day, that “all men are created equal.” But the qualifiers were there, even then. At the time, they literally meant only male humans. They also assumed these “endowed by their creator” male humans were white landowners.

A whole bunch of people fell outside of that definition, but the Founders didn’t seem much inclined to talk about them (indeed, the less the better, they judged, for the sake of the union).

Freedom is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us. – Timothy Keller
Many thanks, Quotefancy!

Today, it seems that liberty and personal freedom – at least, for some of us – are once again under assault. I suppose, when are they not, in one way or another? But by golly, if I were Queen of the Universe . . . oh, wait.

In one particular universe, I am the Queen.

A few Words from the Queen of . . . A Universe

The realm where I actually am the Queen of the Universe is a place where I’ve been running a little thought experiment on Rana Station, in the Chayko System of Alliance Space. As I explained in an earlier post, I’ve been exploring a kind of outrageous idea.

It’s a human-run system that tries to create an environment where all of its citizens have the tools to reach their full potential. Strange idea, right? We certainly don’t have such a system around my neck of the woods, “equal protection under the law” notwithstanding. How would such a system even look? How would it operate?

Rana Stationers value their liberty and personal freedom as much as anyone. But how is ‘liberty and personal freedom” understood in Ranan culture? How does it compare with the way we understand these concepts in the United States?

Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell. – Charles de Lint
Many thanks, Ms. Mullin!

Rather than speak in broad generalities, let’s look at a particular point of friction in the United States, especially after the United States Supreme Court’s most controversial recent decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Health Care on Rana Station

Readers of my books probably have observed that on Rana, unlike in the United States, both mental and physical health care is considered a basic right. Even if you’re poor. Even if you’re not a citizen. And even if you’re a criminal suspect. Access to care is essential if liberty and personal freedom are to translate into reaching one’s full potential.

My readers know some things about Ranan health care because my characters spend a fair amount of time interacting with the Ranan health care system. Most of them have dangerous jobs. They get banged up sometimes (some more than others). And some of my characters work in the Ranan health care system.

Of all the forms of inequality injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 25, 1966
Many thanks, Medium (scroll down).

But except for passing comments, none of my characters or situations has directly addressed reproductive health yet. That’ll change in future books, but here’s an overview. Because space is not unlimited on a space station, the population’s size must be carefully controlled.

Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health on Rana

I know I’m not the only teacher who’s sometimes been exasperated by the fact that people don’t have to get a license to be a parent – even when there’s ample evidence of malpractice. So, when I conceived of Rana Station I decided to explore that idea.

On Rana, you really do have to apply for a license to have children. You have to show you have the mental and physical capacity to parent a child and an understanding of child development and appropriate care. But how can that square with liberty and personal freedom?

It’s not an ideal situation, and it definitely puts limitations on adults and their free exercise of the right to bodily autonomy. But let’s be clear. The focus isn’t on the adults.

Choosing to have a child means your life is no longer your own. Behave like it. Cherish them. –“Laws of Modern Man” blog by Erik Angstrom.
This doesn’t mean you’re a slave to your child. But it does remove you from the center of your universe. (See credits below).

Call it a “Nanny State”?

Social and legal structures are in place on Rana to ensure that parents and children have strong support networks. Call it a “nanny state” if you must. But on Rana the focus is on child care, not on needlessly coddling adults in the pejorative sense that some conservatives and “rugged individualists” use the term. When the state is dedicated to ensuring that all of its citizens have the tools to reach their full potential, it has certain responsibilities – especially to children.

And perhaps the most important of those responsibilities is making sure parents are equipped and empowered to care for their children well. Most of us want this for our kids, but in the American system it’s hideously easy to fall through the cracks, especially if you are poor or part of a minority community. Of course, in any human-run program, things will not  go perfectly.

Effective parenting requires being the grown up version of what you want your children to be. Why? Because example is the most compelling superpower. – Richelle E. Goodrich, “Slaying Dragons.”
How to build a healthier world? One wise-adult-to-child bond at a time. (See credits below).

The Crucial Trade-Off: Fertility and Autonomy

If a state is going to require a license to become a parent, it instantly brings up some very sticky points, if one is focused on liberty and personal freedom. Remember China’s misguided and draconian “One Child” policy? Outside control of an individual’s fertility is always, without question, coercive and invasive.

Today, young women in the United States are properly alarmed at the prospect of being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term (or dying for lack of needed health care). But the “flip side” of forced sterilizations is just as horrifying. Its oppressive and racist applications in the past were unconscionable. That in some cases the practice continues today should be an automatic argument for public scrutiny.

More horrifying questions follow. The power to choose between who may become a parent and who may not is frightfully open to abuse, even when it’s kept transparent and carefully safeguarded. Americans, Europeans, and especially the Nazis enthusiastically embraced the eugenics movement that began in the late 19th Century. Eugenics history alone should offer more than enough nightmarish warnings. Here on earth, many people rightly see reproductive rights as human rights, essential to liberty and personal freedom. Yet new biological advances force us to confront new ethical questions.

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother. - Margaret Sanger
Many thanks, AZ Quotes!

Contraception and Yet More Ethical Questions

The fact remains that Rana Station is a carefully-balanced, closed ecosystem. Its sovereignty and national security require that it be a self-sustaining island in a great sea of space. They have to be able to feed themselves and meet all other needs through internal resources. Too much dependence on outside resources makes them vulnerable to powers in the system that definitely don’t see liberty and personal freedom the way Ranans do.

It’s all too easy to throw a balanced system out of safety margins and risk famine. The population, among a laundry list of other things, must be meticulously controlled. It’s not a “Cold Equations” scenario, but sober caution is an existential necessity.

That means there can only be a limited number of new births and immigrations allowed in any given year, to balance the “expected deaths.” In its 90-plus years of history, the Station has only expanded its territory once, by adding Wheels Seven and Eight. That was a difficult and expensive venture, one the government is still paying for. Unlimited reproductive freedom simply is not practical.

Eventually we'll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves. - Jonas Salk
Many thanks, AZ Quotes!

So, How do the Ranans do it?

Any tight control of population growth requires an ironclad means of contraception, something we don’t yet have in our contemporary world. Science fiction, y’all. I’m assuming someday we will have such a thing. I can do that because I’m the Queen, remember?

Given this infallible means of contraception, certain rules fall into place. From the onset of puberty, all Ranan kids must undergo a reversible procedure that renders them temporarily sterile. Same goes for anyone seeking to immigrate, even on a temporary visa. It’s a requirement that the law mandates must never bent or fudged.

In this situation, abortion is a non-issue. No pregnancy gets that far. No one can force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term if she doesn’t want it, because she and her partner(s) have to literally sign up for it. This also means that one form of bodily autonomy – and a measure of liberty and personal freedom – must be subsumed for the greater good.

Most Ranans have long since accepted it. But of course, not everyone is happy with the trade-off. Therein lies the seed of conflict, and conflict is the stuff of which plotlines are built! Stay tuned.


We have lots of people to thank this week, most especially AZ Quotes, which provided the quote-images from both Margaret Sanger and Jonas Salk. Other excellent sources included Quotefancy, for the Timothy Keller quote and Ms. Mullins (teacher extraordinaire) for the quote from Charles de Lint. Medium published the article that included the quote-image from Dr. King. Jan found the quote from “Laws of Modern Man” by Erik Angstrom via Connie Young’s “Let’s put children first” Pinterest Board. Finally, we’re grateful to Quoteslyfe for the words of Richelle E. Goodrich, from her book Slaying Dragons. Many thanks to all of you!

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