Tag Archives: space

How to Make a Suffocake

Well, I’m finally back, I think. I took a few unplanned weeks off for various reasons, including travel, sickness and general busyness. Luckily, the semester is mostly over, so I should have a bit more time in the future.

#1:     Explain to captain that cake would boost morale for space station crew.

#2:     Listen to lecture how flour would clog life support.

#3:     Offer to temporarily turn off life support in galley.

#4:     Wait for him to stop laughing.

#5:     Pretend to drop idea.

#6:     Wait for everyone to sleep.

#7:     Take smuggled ingredients from personal locker.

#8:     Preheat oven stolen from lab.

#9:     Turn off life support in galley.

#10:   Mute alarms.

#11:   Take deep breath and start mixing ingredients.

#12:   Try in vain to clean up flour floating everywhere.

#13:   Start feeling woozy.

#14:   Put cake in oven.

#15:   Faint.

#16:   Get rescued.

#17:   Endure reprimand.

#18:   Enjoy perfectly spherical suffocake with crew.

First Week at the Nexus

I realize this is two letters home from children in a week, but they’re very different and apparently this is how my mind is thinking at the moment.

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens

Dear Mum and Dad,

Greetings from the land of inter-dimensional hospitality! Well, my first week at the Nexus Hotel is over. It didn’t drive me insane but there were several points where I wished I’d never been born. Sorry Mum, you did your best and all.

It’s pretty brutal out here. I had a party of Neanderthals stumble in from some primitive dimension and demand the first floor suites. No credit card, of course, but I got half a gazelle as payment. They trashed the rooms and set fire to two of the beds. They also massacred half a Venusian furry convention that was meeting on the third floor. I comped the survivors their rooms. Hope that’s okay.

On Wednesday, we had a couple dark specters arrive. Didn’t pay, of course, just loitered around haunting the place. I got them exorcised finally. It’s fine now.

Some sort of space princess came two days ago. That’s when things started looking up. She’s pretty. I let her have the top two floors indefinitely. I’m redecorating for her, turning it into a castle.

Don’t worry about the hotel, I’m handling everything.

Your son,


Winky’s father put down the letter. “Maybe I should go help him out. Just for a few days.”

“You’re retired,” his wife said. “You promised.”

Her husband noticed the way she was fingering her knife. “Right, right. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”


Bureaucracy…in Space

This is a piece for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. (The title is a take-off of Pigs in Space. If you don’t know what that is, click here.)

Bureaucracy…in Space

Bruce pulled himself to the bathroom and squeezed out a few painful, amber drops. The purifiers banged and vibrated and he waited with swollen throat for that tiny cupful of pure water to emerge. He was still twenty-two days away from Earth, far too long to survive like this.

There was a blip on his radar—another ship in range. With trembling hands, he hailed them.

“This is Scout eagle 45AZ. What type of ship are you?” he asked.

“Scout eagle 45AZ, this is Transport 50TS.”

“TS? You’re a terraforming ship? What are you carrying?”

“Water,” came the reply.

“50TS, I need water,” Bruce called. “My tank sprung a leak and I’ve been venting water. I just need a few gallons to get me back to Earth.”

There was a pause. “I’m sorry 45AZ, but our tanks are all sealed. We need permission to open them.”

“Then get it!” Bruce shouted. “I’m dying here.” His voice cracked and he started coughing.

Several minutes passed before there was a reply. “45AZ, I’ve obtained conditional permission. I’m sending you the order now.”

A message flashed on Bruce’s screen.


Permission for water tanks to be opened is granted, contingent on the applicant appearing before a tribunal on Earth in two days time to explain the necessity. Thank you for your cooperation.

Morale Games

I’m not saying this is anything like Ender’s Game, but is about space and it has “game” in the title. This is a story inspired by a suggestion by Sharmishtha Basu, who suggested in the last Open Prompts story that I do a story about “a spaceship caught in a predatory spiderweb” I already had all my elements for that story, so I promised I’d write a separate story. If you’re here looking for something serious, I’m very sorry.



Captain Morgan let out a sigh of resignation and keyed the intercom on the starship S.S. Titmouse.

“This is your captain speaking. I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. We are currently caught in the web of a space spider, from which there may be no escape. Death is not inevitable, but it’s probably a better bet than a coin toss at this point.”

He paused. In leadership training, they had always said to never give bad news by itself. Always look on the bright side; always give the troops some positive thing to take away. Good morale, above all else. He sighed again. “The good news is that we have decided to break out our supply of hazelnut coffee in the cafeteria. There’s only enough for one cup each, so whenever you have a free moment from the crisis, pop down and grab your cup.”

Commander Rambling, the executive officer, raised his head from where he was getting a massage on the side of the bridge. Daily massages for officers was part of an initiative to raise morale. “I don’t see anything on the screen. Maybe it’s gone.”



“It’s made of shadow, sir,” Hyrpees the android piped up before anyone could stop him. “It’s showing up on my sensors just fine.”

“Yeah, great. Good for you,” Morgan said. “Listen, is it really even a threat to us? Our ship is made of metal, for crab’s sake.”

“The Galactic Shadow Spider only eats metal,” Lieutenant Nimrod said from the other corner where he was reading a novel and smoking a pipe. “We’re exactly what it wants.”

“I wonder if we could sacrifice Hyrpees to it,” Morgan said. Another thing he learned in leadership training was always to look for win-win situations.

“That would be inadvisable,” Hyrpees said quickly. “I am the only one qualified to drive the ship, plus it would be bad for morale.”

“Actually, I think it would be wonderful for morale,” Morgan replied. It wasn’t just that he hated Hyrpees: everyone had hated the android since he had stepped onboard. But there were new models of androids out now. Female models and ones with adjustable personalities. With Hyrpees gone, he could apply for one.

“It would be bad for my morale, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“I can understand that, I guess,” Morgan said. “Well, what about our thrusters?”

“They’re offline.”

“And the laser cannon? The gravity beam? The jaws of death?”

“All offline.”

Captain Morgan called the operations officer, Lieutenant Happylucky. The portly, glowing-eyed alien appeared on the video screen. “Where’s the engineering officer, Major Xynflyn?” Morgan asked.

“He’s getting a massage, sir.”

“Well, he’s got to cancel it. We need him to get us out of here.”

“That might not be good,” Happylucky said. “Can you guess why?”

“Bad for morale?”

“Could be.”

“Well, that’s too bad. We’re all about to die here.”

Happylucky sucked air through his fangs in an apprehensive manner, causing his breath to ignite. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Xynflyn’s race doesn’t take bad morale lightly.”

“Fine. Give him another fifteen minutes, then ask nicely.” He clicked off the video screen.

The whole ship suddenly rocked, as if it had been picked up and shaken by a colossal toddler.

“The spider has us in its claws,” Hyrpees said. “It will now start eating into our hull with its acid.”

“I recommend we use the escape pods,” Commander Rambling said. He sat up from the massage table and stretched.

“No, I can’t lose a ship,” Captain Morgan said. “Do you know what it’s like to share a name with a brand of alcohol? The pressure is incredibly high. No one cared what Lieutenant Morgan did or even Commander Morgan, but as soon as I became captain, suddenly the pressure was on. I can just see the headline: Captain Morgan steers his spaceship into a Galactic Shadow Spider web. Probably drunk. Haha.”

“But, you were drunk, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“Well, that makes it even worse, doesn’t it? I swear, if Admiral Jack Daniels hears about this . . . He will take it out of my hide.”

“Not to mention President Johnny Walker,” Hyrpees interjected.

“Hyrpees, you’re not afraid of anything, are you?” Captain Morgan asked suddenly.

“No, sir.”

“Good. Go outside and get a sample of the spider’s acid, would you?” The android saluted and left the room. “Thank prawns,” Morgan said. “I don’t think I could have taken another moment of him.” He reached under his seat and took out a flask.

“I can still hear you, sir,” Hyrpees voice said through the intercom. “I wired my systems to the ship’s computer. I’d like to let you know that although that comment was very hurtful, I am still going to do my duty. I am now leaving the airlock.”

There was silence and then, abruptly, the ship stopped shaking. “Hyrpees, are you there?” Morgan said. “Hyrpees, come in. Do you think he’s dead?”

“We’re not that lucky,” Commander Rambling said, walking through the bridge on his way to the squash court.

A few minutes later, Hyrpees crawled onto the bridge, one leg melted off and still steaming. “I am afraid I could not get an acid sample, sir,” he said, “except for whatever is left on my leg. The spider attacked me.”

“You don’t say,” Morgan said.

“But apparently I poisoned it. It went into convulsions immediately and floated off into space. I only had one leg left, but even so, I took the liberty of freeing us from the web while I was out there.”

“Oh really? Well, good for you. Climb back in your chair and get us out of here then.” Morgan took another quick sip from the flask and slipped it under his chair.

“Sir, I demand a citation for this,” Hyrpees said.

“What? Yeah, yeah. Sure thing.”

“With my name on it. Not just ‘that robot’ like last time.”

“Are you crazy? I’m not putting ‘Hyrpees’ on an official document.”

“No, sir. Use my full name: Hyrpees Q. Fartbender. It is a name that I have carried proudly since I was named by the fraternity Triple Omega at Stanford.”

“I think you should do it,” Lieutenant Nimrod said, closing his book and knocking out his pipe on the side of his chair. “The men would find it a great joke. It would be wonderful for morale.”

“Perfect,” Captain Morgan said. “Win-win.”

Moon Cycle – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Anelephantcant

copyright Anelephantcant

Moon Cycle

No one ever told me just how big space is. I mean, I can see the moon every night. It’s right there. So why is it so hard to reach?

I had an epiphany one night after I’d taken some mysterious pills I found on the road: why not make a bicycle-powered spaceship? It’d save on rocket fuel and once you’re in zero-gee, it’s like going downhill the whole way.

I made it through the atmosphere, but now I’ve been pedaling for a week and the moon doesn’t look any bigger. Maybe I should stick it in a higher gear.

When Space and Time become Meaningless (and other cosmological musing)

I love to think about space and time. I find them fascinating. However, I’m not a cosmologist, so I don’t come at the subject with equations and theories. I just think and ponder. It’s more fun that way (for me, at least). If you don’t think they’re interesting, I’m sorry. Let me assure you though that more fiction will be up tomorrow.

Courtesy of newscenter.lbl.gov

Courtesy of newscenter.lbl.gov

We rarely think about space since it is such a fundamental part of our reality (in this post I mean “space” to be the area in which we move, not outer space). However, if you think about it, the idea of space is meaningless without matter. After all, when we measure distance, it is only defined as the amount of space between two pieces of matter. In math, a defined length is between two points. A ray, with one defined point, cannot have a defined length, since one end goes on forever, but we can still start measuring it, because we can start at the defined point. But what if you had a line with no defined points at all? The idea of distance would be meaningless. It could be the length of an atom or a galaxy. There would be no way to know.

Think of it another way: Imagine that nothing exists in the universe except a single photon, a particle of light. We know the speed that light travels in a vacuum, so we know that the light has to be traveling at 299 792 458 m/s. However, with no matter to define its progress, the movement of the photon is meaningless. It could speed up or slow down but to an observer outside the universe (if such a thing were possible) it would look as if it were not moving at all, regardless of its speed.

Time is very interesting to me too. An interesting thing is that while we use time to measure the speed of matter and energy, we can never measure the speed of time itself. That is because speed can only be measured relative to something else and we have no alternative to time.

Imagine that you are on a spaceship with no windows. There is no way of knowing how fast you are going (without instruments) or even of knowing if you are moving at all. Even if there were windows, but no planets or stars nearby, it would be impossible to tell. Speed can only be measured relative to something else.

From the point of view of an outside observer of the universe, the speed of time could fluctuate or even stop and we would never know. If this seems hard to understand, think of it like reading a book. For a fast reader, the story progresses quicker, but for a slow reader, it goes slowly. However, for the characters in the story, time goes exactly the same pace. You can even put the book down and pick it up a year later and the characters will never know the difference. The story only stops relative to the reader, something that the characters have no access to.

Another interesting implication of time is that it is only made meaningful by energy, which is manifested by movement through space. Imagine the entire universe with just matter but no energy. It would be frozen, dead, unmoving. Time would exist, but it would make no difference, since without energy, nothing would change and so regardless of how much time passed, everything would look the same. Without energy, a world with time passing and one without time passing would look exactly the same to an outside observer, just like the live video feed of a rock will look exactly like a picture of a rock, since neither one will move.


courtesy of iacmusic.com

Courtesy of iacmusic.com

Do you understand what I’m getting at? Totally confused? Got a headache? Think I’m totally off base? Let me know in the comments. I like discussing these kinds of things.

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