Friday, June 30, 2017

Possible Futures – Orbital aviary

In “The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars,” I wrote about how the moon has the space for farms and processing plants to grow and process food for orbital hotels and condominiums as well as for crewed missions throughout the solar system.  One issue, however, would be meat.  Meat is muscle, and in a lower gravity, you don’t use your muscles that much.  Lunar chickens would be scrawny.  The solution, I figured, would be the rotating space stations you see in science fiction.  These would be in lunar orbit – to be close to their feed sources on the moon and the processing plants there – and would have Earth normal gravity.  They would be giant chicken farms, but for PR purposes, they would be free-range chickens.

One thing that would stop the need for these giant chicken farms in lunar orbit would be synthetic meat, or meat grown in a lab.  When I wrote The Moon Before Mars, I assumed that synthetic meat would be a part of space diets, but there would be people who preferred the real thing.  However, I now think that synthetic meat will become acceptable sooner than our ability to build giant, rotating space stations for chickens. 

So what’s the point of this post?  Well, one of the ways I’m trying to build up support for returning to the moon is writing stories set there, for example, my collection “A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea and other stories.” When I came up with the idea of chicken farms in lunar orbit, I figured that was a great setting for a story.  But what story could I do there?  At some point, I had let my imagination wonder, and I came up with an idea for a future dating app.  So I eventually put the two together and came up with a story about a kid growing up on this chicken farm orbiting the moon – run by about twenty people, half of whom are his family – as he works on finding a girlfriend. 

So I had this idea for a story – number 1,206 on my list of stories I need to write – set on this space station full of chickens.  And then I realized that this space station full of chickens, while not impossible, is a very unlikely future.  Is there anything similar I could do to keep the story alive?  How about an orbital aviary?

An orbital aviary could be in lunar orbit, but would be more likely to just be in Earth orbit.  It would probably start as a single rotating station, but then more would be stacked together to provide different environments, from tropical, to desert, to artic.  And they would be full of birds.  Well, birds as well as trees, grasses, insects, mice, fish, whatever.  Unlike the chicken farms that would import food, the orbital aviary would try to be self-sufficient. 

So what would be the point?  A lot of people talk about terraforming Mars as if it’s something we actually know how to do and have practical experience with.  Trying to create and maintain a self-sufficient ecosystem containing several hundred species of plants and animals would be a colossal challenge.  And you could fit a few hundred birds – of one species or several – in one rocket launch, as compared to one or two baby elephants. 

Critically endangered species could get a safe place to hopefully bounce back.  It would be like breeding them in captivity, just a bigger captivity with fewer, or even no predators, and the only humans around would be staff, scientists, and bird watchers.

There is also the possibility of bringing back some extinct species.  With the right preserved specimen and the right technical wizardry, we could bring back the passenger pigeon.  But would we just release it in the wild here on Earth? 

So that’s my idea for an orbital aviary.  It would be a test to see if we could build a stable ecology, a place for endangered or de-extinct species to thrive, and a place for people to get a bit of Earth nature in space.  And it would be a setting for a story I may never write.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Orphan Black Season 5 recap – “Beneath Her Heart”

“Beneath Her Heart”


Just before the series starts, Alison and Donnie are having dinner with Aynsley and Chad.  Alison is a little off because Beth has just told her about clones.  Aynsley and Chad bring out some mushrooms, and Alison agrees, although Donnie doesn’t.  While tripping, Cosima – sent by Beth to give Alison a wake up to the whole clone issue – shows up.

Donnie is back home, but won’t tell Simon where Helena is.  Alison is acting tough, but Simon talks of her vapid existence and how MK had more value than her.

Everyone holds a memorial for MK at Felix’s.  Mrs. S. then takes Kira to Dyad, and leaves Sarah and Felix to chill.  So he decides to paint her.

While going through her cabinets, Alison finds an old bottle of pills.  There’s a church fair going on that day, and at first she doesn’t want to go, but then she decides to go.  She leaves, leaving Donnie to get ready.  She had organized fairs past, but since she had been hiding in the woods, it had gone to this other lady.

Alison tries to “help,” but the other lady isn’t buying it.  Alison goes off and takes some pills.  She dumps the rest into a bottle of juice, and goes to give it to the lady, but then the Reverend shows up and Alison takes the drink back, saying it had been in her car for months.

Simon shows Rachel Helena’s sonogram pictures showing her baby rapidly healed.  To try to push Donnie into revealing where Helena went, Simon sends in Maddy.  They show up at the Hendrix house with a search warrant for anything dealing with the Pouchie murder. 

After some bad looks from her neighbors, Alison finds a memorial to Aynsley.  And then Chad shows up with his kids. 

Art asks Donnie if there’s a problem, and Donnie says to just keep them out of the garage.  Art latter sees Maddy going into the garage to plant some bloody clothes.  But she sees the new cement and wonders if there’s something buried.  She gets a jackhammer, and goes to town.

At Dyad, Rachel tells Kira that her healing may be something in her genes.  She also gives her a mouse that can slip out of its skin when attacked by predators. 

Alison walks around the fair and sees Ramone setting up bouncy castles.  She confronts him over the unpaid merchandise, and he says that it was Kellerman who took advantage of them.  They drink and smoke and talk.

Donnie shows up at the fair to find Alison high.  He tells her about the police searching their home.  They argue about the people they killed.  She storms off and he’s left with her purse.

Donnie calls Sarah about Art, and then he finds the dosed drink.  He drinks it, and then goes dancing in the talent show.  He passes out and collapses, and Alison and Felix – saying he had a medical condition – help him offstage.  Alison yells at the muttering crowd that, yes she sold drugs, but they bought them.

Kira is home with her mouse, but she doesn’t want to talk to Mrs. S. about anything.  She then takes out a knife.

Art’s digging up the garage when Sarah shows up.  He goes out to talk to her and asks who is in there, wondering if it’s Duko.  But she explains it’s Leakie and Rudy.  Sarah calls Felix and Alison – Donnie is puking – and they try to figure out what to do.  Rachel loved Leakie, and would probably get upset knowing Donnie killed him.  Donnie offers to tell them where Helena is, but Alison has a plan.

Alison goes to Rachel and gives her Leakie’s head.  She tells her what happened, but if she really wanted to bring the police in, then it would just bring attention to them and that’s not what Westmoreland wants.  Rachel calls Maddy – who has just found the headless corpse of Leakie – and tells her to dispose of the bodies and return the garage to normal.  During the call, Art was behind her and had drawn his gun.

Back home with Donnie, Alison says she needs to go away.  She wants to see their kids, and do … something.

At the end, we see Helena in a convent, somewhere.


What is Mrs. S. and Delphine up to?  At one point she tells Sarah that “they’re not without allies,” and she tells Felix and Sarah to lay low that day.  Was something afoot she didn’t want them to stumble into?

In the promo we saw Kira getting a knife.  At first I thought she would cut herself to see how fast she healed, but now I worry she’ll attack the mouse to see it slip out of its skin.  Given her “lab rats” speech from the end of last season, that’s seems like something Rachel would do.

I’ve always considered Alison an okay character, so I won’t be mad if she’s out of the picture for a few episodes.  This is probably like when Kira went to Iceland with Cal, a way to logically get some characters out of the way to focus more on others. 

I wonder, did Maddy rent a jackhammer, or had Donnie actually bought one as he joked when they dug up Leakie for the first time?  What are the odds that there will be another body in the garage by the end of the series?


Orphan Black Season 5 recap – “Clutch of Greed”

“Clutch of Greed”

(This is late because of day job.)


Sarah wakes up at Dyad from a vision of Kira.  Ferdinand is there saying Rachel wants to talk.  He then shows her video calls from Alison and Cosima who tell Sarah that things are … okay.

Sarah meets with Rachel who wants her help with taking Kira in for occasional testing.  Sarah isn’t happy with that.  Rachel says that she and Westmoreland want an end to the “war.” Mrs. S. and Kira are brought in, who tell Sarah that, basically, they don’t have a choice. 

Alison is at home, but Maddy won’t let her go until they find Helena.  Art is stuck with her.

Helena is in the hospital and doing fine.  They took out the branch, which injured one of her babies.  But when they do an ultrasound to see how things are before proceeding, the injury is gone.

In Revival, Cosima and Charlotte are eating when they see Aisha, the girl from Afghanistan that Delphine told Cosima about.  So she introduces herself and examines her.  She finds out the girl has some type of cancer.  Then the Messenger comes in and tells her that Westmoreland wants to see her.

Sarah, Kira, and Mrs. S. go home to Mrs. S’s, and Felix is there.  They then tell Sarah that they’re working on a plan to get away from Rachel.  But first, Kira has to go to school, with the understanding that Rachel will pick her up for her first Dyad visit.  The house is being watched, but Felix sneaks out to set things up. 

Felix goes to the comic shop to try to get Ira on their side against Rachel.  Since Rachel stabbed Susan, he’s fine with that.  Scott has new phones, and he tells Felix that they found MK.  She’s at Felix’s.  He goes home and then webcams with Sarah.  MK tells her that she’s been sick.  She also tells her that she’s been watching Dyad, who is recruiting subjects so they can restart cloning.  Since Rachel’s people are watching Mrs. S’s, people, MK – who’s been hiding for a long time – offers to help get Sarah and Kira away. 

Mud walks Cosima to Westmoreland’s, saying that she talks with him all the time.  Cosima asks who she is, but Mud doesn’t answer.  Cosima goes into Westmoreland’s study, which has a lot of old specimens and antiques.  There’s a picture of him with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 1894.  Westmoreland comes in and he looks like a seventy year old.

Westmoreland tells Cosima that her test results are good, and it appears that her cure is underway.  Westmoreland offers to let her continue working, after she cures the Leda sisters.  Cosima asks what the point of it all is.  He tells her she’ll have full access to the lab, and maybe someday she’ll figure it all out.

Helena – worried that the doctors will take her babies because they healed, like Kira did after getting hit by a car – assaults the doctor and escapes.  Before that, she told Donnie where she was going, but that he was to only tell Sarah.

Rachel – because of her meeting with Westmoreland – is now, a little neo-hippie, which doesn’t suit Ferdinand.  But they leave to pick up Kira.  Sarah and gang also set out to pick up Kira.  But if they go through MK’s plan, they can never come back.

Sarah – dressed as Rachel – goes to the school and gets Kira out of class.  She then lets Rachel’s men follow her, while she passes Kira off to Mrs. S.  They get away, but then Felix tells Sarah that MK is still at his place.  She goes to get her, and Ferdinand – who had split off from Rachel – sees and follows her.

Sarah finds MK, who is tired of running.  MK changes clothes with Sarah, and stays while Sarah goes to be with Kira.  Before she goes, MK tells Sarah that Westmoreland’s story doesn’t add up.  She tried tracking him online, but he’s hard to trace.  Ferdinand breaks in, and since MK is the last Leda clone from Helsinki, she stole his money, and is now dressed like Rachel, he almost gleefully kills her.

Sarah is trying to get Kira into a van to go away, but Kira can no longer feel MK, and knows that she’s dead.  She doesn’t want to go away, and instead wants to stay to work with Rachel to figure out what she is.

Rachel asks Simon (Mr. Frontenac) to see to MK’s body and to show Ferdinand out. Kira goes off with Rachel for her first Dyad visit, and Ira is sent to the island.

That night, Mrs. S. hears a knock on the door.  It’s Delphine.  Sarah can’t know that she’s there, but she needs to tell Mrs. S. something.


I think the last Leda clone to die was Jennifer, the one Delphine and Cosima autopsied in Season 2.  Which makes me angry to think that MK was killed off just to raise the level of tension for the last season.  I mean, if they wanted to do that, why not just kill Krystal?  My favorite clones are Cosima, Helena, MK, Rachel (you need a good villain), all the rest, then Krystal.  As far as I’m concerned, killing MK is the worst point in the series.

Given how Ferdinand felt about Neos at the end of Season Three, and how we never got a definitive answer on how he felt about Rachel signing on with the Neos at the end of Season Four, I did wonder if maybe he was going to side with Sarah.  He was a fun and interesting character, but after killing MK, he needs to die.  I mean, yes, Helena killed a bunch of he sisters, but now everything’s cool, but Ferdinand isn’t blood, so I don’t see any reconciliation coming.

I wonder if Mud is Westmoreland’s daughter.  Maybe she’s fifty, or something.  We’ll see.

I wasn’t entirely sure about this 170 year old character, but after seeing him I’m cautiously optimistic. 

Something to keep in mind about Westmoreland are the beheaded swan visions he gave to Rachel.  What exactly was the point?  And why didn’t he just meet and talk things over with her?  I wonder if that will be addressed.