25 February 2016

The Interview of Doom

In the waning days of February, 2016, Jennifer Linsky consented to an interview with one of our staff.  She stipulated that the interview be conducted by text, and what follows was pieced together from several emails and gchat sessions.

Thanks for agreeing to talk with us.

Thank you.  I have often thought that one of the benefits of celebrity would be being interviewed by Charlie Rose or Terry Gross.  I've never managed that level of celebrity, and I'm not sure that I actually want to.  

Thanks also for agreeing to my conditions.  I often say that I'm not a fully functional human being.  I have a chronic, non-contagous physical illness which affects the way I look and the way I sound when speaking.  I also suffer from severe anxiety and depression, exacerbated by my physical illness, and by the way that I've sometimes been treated because of that illness.  Doing this interview in print allows me to stop when I start feeling anxious, and come back later, when I feel stronger.

Is it fair to call you a recluse?

Yes, I think that's an accurate statement, though I'm more likely to use the Japanese word hikikomori.

Why the preference for the Japanese word?

Well, in part, it's because I'm a weirdo.  Or as my friend Christiane more kindly puts it, "quirky."  But it's also because there's a stigma to being a recluse, and that stigma isn't as pronounced in the United States if you use a different word, even if it basically comes down to the same meaning.

Plus, I was born in Japan.  And my knowledge of that circumstance has led to a lifetime of trying to understand Japan, its language, its culture, its strengths and its weaknesses.  Hikikomori seems to be a kind of social anxiety, rather than, say, agoraphobia, or claustrophilia, or whatever other religious or philosophical reason someone might have for isolating themselves. I'm just afraid of people.  So I stay inside, with walls between me and them, and I feel... safer.

But you have a rather active web presence.  You're on Google Plus, and you play Massively Multiplayer Online games.  How do you reconcile that with your fear of people?

I'm in control of those interactions.  If I post on Google Plus, for example, I can choose not to let people comment on what I say, or I can ban people from interacting with me further.  I can choose who gets to see what I say.  

In the games I play, I can present myself however I want.  I can control what people see, and when I feel weak, I don't log in.

Recently, you've written about your experiences trying to find a literary agent. Would you share some of that with us?

I wrote a book, Flowers of Luna.  It started as a wish-fulfillment thing.  Before I became quite so crazy, I dated a woman, Michele.  To borrow a line from Madmartigan, she was my sun, my moon, my starlit sky.  But it turned out that I wasn't hers.  So I was spending a lot of time dwelling in darkness.  What do you do with that?  You can go mad... and I did, I suppose.  But you can also take that pain, and make something of it, and I did that, too.

So how does a relationship gone bad in the twenty-first century turn into a lesbian romance on the moon?

Well, they say that you should write what you know.  And one of the things that I know is science fiction.  One of the reasons Michele gave for breaking up with me, in fact, was that I was always looking for a better tomorrow, instead of living today.  I'm not sure that I agree with her assessment, but I will admit that I do believe in a better tomorrow, and one of the hardships of believing in a better tomorrow is that you have to live through the days between here and there.

One of my earliest memories is of being taken by my parents to see the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey.  My mother tells me I was four years old.  In the scene where the moonbus is gliding across that magnificent desolation, I gave voice to what a great many people in the cinema were apparently thinking, and said "Oh, wow!"  Since that moment, I've wanted to go to the moon; I've wanted to live on the moon.

And part of the job of science fiction is to inspire people.  To set a benchmark in the nebulous, and say, "this is something we can accomplish, if we work on it."  Star Trek is one of the most notable examples of this effect... you talk to any real world scientist or engineer, and chances are, they'll tell you about the inspirational effect Star Trek had in making them decide to follow their career path.

So the setting was also wish fulfillment?  Or a desire to inspire others?

Well, a little bit of both, I suppose.  It seems to me that a lot of the science fiction being written in recent years is very dreary.  The futures in those books are places I don't want to go live in.  And while the cautionary tale is also something that Science Fiction does, it seems to me that the pendulum has swung kind of far in that direction lately.  I want to write something more hopeful.

I also like to write things that will make young readers think "Ah, this is achievable."  So I prefer to write in a hard science fiction setting, a setting where the rules of the fictional world vary as little as possible from the world we actually live in.

So you would like to live on the moon, and you're a lesbian.  What about the fashion design college that your viewpoint character attends?

Well, I would like to live on the moon.  And I am a girl-type person who falls in love, and when I'm lucky, in bed, with girl-type people.  But I prefer the word sapphist to lesbian.  There has been a lot of political baggage wrapped up in the world "lesbian," and I'm not sure that all of it applies to me.  Honestly, I'm not sure that I'd be welcome in that category.  So I avoid a lot of the associations people have with the word by using a different one, just as I was talking about earlier with my use of the word hikikomori.

As for the college... One of the books I read in my formative years which had the greatest impact on me was Nancy Garden's Annie on my Mind, which told me that there were other people like me out there; people who were too attracted to people who looked too much like them for society's comfort.  It was very powerful for me.  And I wanted to... to pay that feeling on.  To tell young women that there will be people like them in the world to come, and that it won't be horrible.

But I couldn't do what Nancy Garden did, exactly; I couldn't write in a high school setting.  I have remarked to friends of mine in the past that you could not pay me enough to go back to high school.  I wouldn't do it, not ever.  But college?  Arrange for me to be young and healthy and able to afford it, and I'm back there whenever I can.

Fashion design was something that I had just started getting interested in when I started writing Flowers of Luna.  In part, that was because I was eagerly devouring any of Ai Yazawa's work that I could get my hands on, and two of her series have a huge fashion component to them.  Those works got me interested in the world of fashion, in where it comes from and how it percolates through the world.

Some readers have noted that your work reads like a manga.

I actually find that very flattering.  I'd love to be a mangaka, but the truth is, my artistic skill is barely above the level of stick figures, and XKCD excepted, there are very few people telling nuanced stories with stick figures.  I like to believe that, if I lived in Japan, I could get involved with a dojinshi circle, the way CLAMP started out, but where I actually live, it seems that writers are less valued than artists in the production of amateur comics.

I have been very inspired by manga and anime, by light novels, and visual novels... all the Japanese genres.  I think that the important thing about what I do is telling a story, and it doesn't really matter what media that story gets told in.  In a past world, I might have been a skjald, or a sennachie, or a kamishibaiya.  A hundred years from now, I might create holonovels.  Today, I write prose.  

We seem to have gotten away from your search for a literary agent, though.

Ah, yes; sorry.  Digression is me.  I'd very much like to be published by a traditional publisher, because the last time I checked, the Science Fiction Writers of America doesn't accept self-publication as a route to membership.  And perhaps it's silly of me, but joining the SFWA is a life-long dream of mine.  

And as it turns out, most traditional publishers no longer have their own slushpiles.  That aspect of the business has been off-loaded to the literary agencies.  So I've been seeking out agents who list that they are open to submissions of LGBT romance and science fiction.  That's a smaller group than you'd think.  And surprisingly, or at least, surprisingly to me, a fair number of agents who say that they handle LGBT romance really only handle male-male romance.

There seems to be a perception that women will buy and read male-male romance, but female-female romance is only bought and read by women who fall into bed with other women.  I don't know if that's true; I don't have access to those sales figures.  I do find it interesting, however, that if you look at news coverage of "gay marriage," most of the time what you see is two rather attractive women in white dresses.  Lesbians, it seems, are not as frightening to the world as a couple of leather bears would be.  

You've written guest reviews for the Okazu blog, which is focused on the Japanese genre of Yuri, or female-female romance.  So obviously there's a market for that kind of fiction.

I have written guest reviews for Okazu.  Erica Friedman has been very gracious about allowing me to blather on about series which I enjoyed, but which she had chosen not to cover for various reasons. And the existence of the blog, and of the genre on which the blog is focused, does suggest that there is a market... in Japan.  Since my native language is English, and I grew up in the United States, I have to struggle with market perceptions here, rather than there. 

Earlier, you mentioned Ai Yazawa and Nancy Garden.  Who are your favorite authors?  Do you want to emulate them, or are you doing something completely different?

Like a great many authors, I think, I'm an avid reader.  I read just about everything I can get my hands on, including cereal boxes and shampoo bottles when I'm trapped in places where there's nothing else to read.  So I've read a great many authors, in a great many genres over the years.  Who are my favorites?  Well, I'll admit that Heinlein early captured my imagination with his work for young readers.  Zelazny's short stories don't receive as much attention, these days, as his Amber series, but he wrote a little about his writing process in the introductions to each of them in a collected volume I read several times; those essays impacted me greatly. 

Aside from science fiction, though, I love Hemingway, and Steinbeck.  Those guys are like the Charles Schulzes of literature.  Perhaps you don't understand that reference, though, so let me unpack it a little bit for you.  Antoine de Saint Exupéry is reputed to have said that "perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  Schulz is a splendid example of that sort of deceptive simplicity... every line in a Peanuts strip is there because it has to be, because without it, you wouldn't have Charlie Brown or Snoopy.  Hemingway in particular did this with prose, and I love reading his short stories because they are so spare. But at the same time, I deeply adore Jane Austin and Charlotte Turner Smith, who were more generous with words, who, instead of minimalist cartoons, presented us with oil paintings in prose.

I think with my writing, I try to find a balance, to walk the middle path.  I've been complimented on my ability to capture detail, and I do believe that detail is important... details tell you things about settings, about characters, that it would take many awkward words to tell otherwise.  And I try to always write with my own voice, not to emulate.  

I recall, when I was in the Navy, I was in the mall one day, at a bookstore.  Yes, hard as it may be to imagine, there was a time when there were bookstores... sometimes more than one... in malls.  But I digress. This particular bookstore was hosting a book signing, and it was someone I'd never heard of.  He was sitting there, alone, behind a table full of books, and I stopped to talk with him.  His advice on becoming a published author was that you should find a wildly successful author... Dean Koontz was his example, if I recall correctly... and emulate what they did, how they did it.  I thought that was terrible advice, and still do.  I wanted to write in my voice, not someone else's... not even Jane Austin's.

You were in the Navy?  What did you do?

I was in the Navy.  Joining the Navy was a complicated decision, but eventually I made it and joined.  Mostly, I chipped paint, and then repainted whatever it was I'd just chipped paint off of.  I discovered I had an aptitude for deeply annoying senior enlisted by always asking "okay, but why?"  Not because I didn't respect them or their experience, but because I wanted them to share that experience, to help me understand why I had to chip paint off of something before putting new paint on it.  They, of course, just wanted me to go and do what they told me to do, mostly.  It was a very frustrating experience on both ends, so eventually, I got back out of the Navy.

You mentioned that you asked an author for advice on getting published, while you were in the Navy.  At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can't recall ever not wanting to be a writer.  I honestly don't remember a point when I discovered that stories originated with people, and that I wanted to be one of those people.  When I was very young, I was often the only person of my ethnicity in classes I was in... sometimes, the only person in the entire school.  And I discovered that one of the tools I had to avoid bullying was to tell stories, to keep the people who wanted to punish me for being different laughing, or at least off-balance.

You mentioned earlier that you wanted to tell girls like you that there was a place for them in the future.  And you've clearly given thought to the background of the characters in Flowers of Luna. Is your experience of being racially and culturally isolated the reason you've given your characters the particular heritage you have?

Yes, absolutely.  I was born in Japan, but grew up mostly in southern Arizona.  I've lived a fair amount of my adult life in the American South.  So the experiences which shape the stories that I have to tell are, in part, experiences of isolation, of otherness.  I have created characters which allow me to tell those stories, of having one foot in a world of belonging, and one foot in a world of not-belonging.

I think that everyone struggles with those things.  If you watch a lot of Japanese animation, for instance, you will run across the story of the outsider who is accepted into a group despite their difference.  Maybe they see ghosts, or maybe they're just convinced of their own abnormality, but they find friends and peers who help them and accept them, who tell them, "there are some things that only I can do, and some things only you can do."  And that's very Japanese.  But if you look at the real world of Japan, you find school children who commit suicide because of bullying, because they didn't fit in, because they didn't find those loving and accepting friends to help them along the way.  And that dichotomy between belonging and not-belonging, I think it's everywhere, but I think it's especially emphasized in Japanese culture.  Or maybe I just see it emphasized there because I pay more attention to Japanese culture, because of the circumstances of my birth.

Your book takes place in a future after a vague event, or series of events, referred to as "the upheavals."  Does that reflect your expectation for the real world?  Will you ever write more about that time in your world's history?

It absolutely reflects my expectation of what's coming in the real world.  It seems to me that our world is poised on a knife-edge between a hopeful future and a hopeless one.  And I very much hope that we choose the hopeful one, but I think that, even if we do, there are difficult times coming between where we are now, and where I hope we'll go.

All you have to do is look around at the modern world to see the roots of upheaval.  Rising income inequality, people who are working two and three jobs to take care of their children and still not making ends meet; politicians who are so far removed from that reality that they talk about working three jobs as "a uniquely American privilege."

I don't know that I'll ever write anything set in that time, or even flesh out in great detail what happened during it, because it's a very dark time.  And even though everything works out in the long run, and my characters live in a better world for having gone through that time, I don't know that I want to think that deeply about how things could go wrong, and then get better.  I, frankly, prefer to simply assert that there was a time when things were bad, and now they're better, and here we are living our lives in that better time.

Would you be interested in seeing Flowers of Luna turned into a film?  Do you have any actors you would particularly like to see portray your characters?

I would absolutely love to see my work translated into a performance medium.  I very rarely have a specific actor in mind when I write a character, but Teal Redmann's performance as Louise in Gilmore Girls was a strong influence on the character of Madeline.  I think that part of the fun of seeing Flowers, or any other piece of my work, translated to a performance medium would be getting to discover the tremendously talented people who would portray them.

Hollywood is just starting to realize that it has a race and gender problem.  I would fear that my work would get "white-washed," that my mixed-race and ethnic characters would get flattened into one more all-white production; I'd want an avoidance of that written into any release of theatrical rights.  But there's a potential there to find some great, under-exposed performers, and that does excite me.

At the same time, I'm not holding my breath.  The lunar setting of my story would involve expenses, and the story at the core of the work is niche.  While movies like Imagine Me and You or Anatomy of a Love Seen get made, they're contemporary, low-budget pieces.  I can't, off the top of my head, think of a single example of science fiction with an LGBT plotline getting filmed; I'm not arrogant enough to think that mine will be that breakthrough piece.

05 February 2016

The Future History of Doooooooooooom

The history of the future, as viewed from the perspective of the  Space Family Gray

1968: Kenichi Suzuki born in Hakodate, Japan.  He grows to adulthood in Hokkaido, and is captain of his High School Kendo team, leading the team to victory in the All Japan Kendo student championships.

1987: Though accepted to prestigious universities in Japan, including Tokyo University, Kenichi elects to study optics at the University of Arizona, which he selects for the University’s reputation among space travel enthusiasts, as well as repeated viewings of movies filmed at Old Tucson studios.  In Tucson, he meets Suzann Beckenbach, a veteran of the US Navy attending the U of A on the GI Bill.  After an initially rocky courtship, the two marry, and Suzuki remains in Arizona.

1994: Rihoko Suzuki born at Tucson Medical Center.  From the age of four until the age of thirteen, she spends summers with her grandparents in Hakodate.  During high school, she learns historical European style fencing from her involvement with the Society for Creative Anachronism, a historical reenactment group.

1998: Jane Gray born in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  Growing up, she spends most of her leisure time with the family’s horses.  She begins to fall ill in high school, and is diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).  Despite her illness, Jane graduates high school, though she defers her college plans while she struggles with the condition.

2012: Rihoko Suzuki attends Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, where she falls in love for the first time -- with a woman from Korea.  Unlike her parents situation, neither nation recognizes same-gender marriage, and at the end of Ji Hun’s year at NAU, the two are forced to part.

2017: Rihoko secures a reserve commission in the United States Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer, and begins active duty service aboard USS New York (LPD-21).

2020s: As expert systems begin taking over more customer-service tasks, unemployment skyrockets.  The Upheavals begin as disenfranchised poor increasingly feel they have nothing to lose from throwing off civil compacts.  Revolutions, bread riots, wars and rumors of war spread.

Jane Gray, in a period of remission, attends Vanderbilt University while debating between pre-law and pre-med.  She does not complete her studies, but does meet Eric, her first husband.  The marriage lasts three years before Eric finds the demands of her illness too great, and leaves.

Rihoko continues her career as a Naval officer.

2030s: Japan opens their space elevator to public traffic. The downport is located on Aranuka atoll, an island leased from Kiribati. Japanese Empress Aiko becomes the first sovereign to visit space. Within the decade, Ravenstone Investment Group (IG) has built a SeaStead in the American territorial waters south of Baker Island to serve as the downport of a second elevator.  Lunar stations are opened by the United States (Armstrong Station) and Russia (Lunagrad), as well as by commercial interests (Heinleinburg and Shin-Shimizu).

A nuclear weapon is detonated in Seoul.  Although it is not clear how the weapon arrived in the city, blame is immediately placed on North Korea, and a retaliatory strike is launched against Pyongyang.  To the surprise of the world, China joins the war on the United Nations side, and the conflict lasts less than a year.  Following the war, reconstruction efforts begin on a single, reunified Korea.

Suzann Suzuki dies in a bicycling accident in a national park.

A better therapy for SLE is developed, and Jane suffers no more flare-ups.  She meets and marries Conner, her second husband.  He, however, becomes abusive, and the two divorce less than a year later, after which Jane resumes her interrupted studies and eventually graduates from Harvard medical school.

Rihoko retires from the United States Navy as a Commander.

2039: The Great Chiba Earthquake.  On March 24, an earthquake of magnitude 9.4 on the Richter scale, with its epicenter under the city of Chiba, shakes the Kanto region.  A week later, on 1 April, Mount Fuji erupts.  This is widely seen as the worst April Fools prank ever. Before the disasters, forty-two million people live in the Kanto region.  After the disasters, there are twenty-five million refugees.

2040s: Japanese diaspora begins. The first large scale orbital colony is built by Ravenstone I.G. using material from Earth-crossing asteroids. It turns out that gravity is required for the development of fetal neural tissue, but it also turns out that rotational inertial provides a sufficient simulation of gravity for normal fetal development. "Island One" is a 512-meter radius sphere with a water shell for radiation protection.

Rumors begin to spread of anti-geronic treatments available to the very wealthy at spas in Europe and North America.  Then, in a surprise move, an Israeli medical group drops the full protocol and formulary for a rejuvenation treatment on the open internet.  Within a year, most people have taken it, and resumed the appearance and functional health of a person in their mid-twenties.

2050s: First Earth-Mars cycler, Buzz’s Dream, launched by Ravenstone I.G.  The American Space Agency buys transport for a series of escalating missions to Mars; by Ares IV, a permanent base has been established inside a lava tube, and robots begin construction of a mass driver on the upper slopes of Olympus Mons.

Λόγχες του Άρη, pagan extremists, hijack an asteroid resource extraction ship from an Earth-Moon L4 construction facility and shape a course for Mars.  Everyone in the solar system watches as the craft closes on the red planet.  Ares IV mission commander Bjorn Valentine succeeds in contacting the ship, but the hijackers will give no proof of life of the dockyard hands missing since the ship was seized, and communicate little other than reading a prepared statement about the destiny of Mars.  Faced with the possibility of armed extremists attacking an unarmed base full of scientists, Valentine uses the Olympus mass driver as a kinetic kill weapon, destroying the ship.

When Ares IV is relieved by Ares V, Valentine returns to Earth, where he faces a Board of Inquiry.  His actions are upheld by the international panel, and the United Nations security council rules that, though individual nations are prohibited from taking weapons of mass destruction to space by the Outer Space treaty, the UN itself has the authority to do so.  The United Nations Space and Planetary Authority: Customs and Excise (UNSPACE) is founded, with two initial divisions: Orbitguard, which monitors Earth-Moon space, and Spaceguard, which monitors trans-lunar space.

Rihoko and Jane separately decide to undertake a more extensive body remodeling; Jane to repair the damage from SLE, Rihoko as a result of injuries sustained during the Two Koreas war.  While in the clinic, the two women meet and fall in love, though it will be over a decade before they marry.

2060s: With population pressures growing due to negligible age-related death, off-Earth settlement increases. This era marks the end of the Upheavals, as economic conditions improve and new frontiers open.

Spaceguard adopts the nomenclature of the American Coast Guard for its patrol ships, and the first UNSPACE cutter, UNSC Dag Hammarskjöld, is commanded by Captain Bjorn Valentine.  As Earth-crossing asteroids begin to be rarer, resource extraction pushes out toward the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Following her rejuvenation and body repair, Rihoko Suzuki joins UNSPACE.

Meanwhile, Jane Gray leaves the practice of medicine for the practice of law, earning her JD from UC Berkeley.  She specializes in interplanetary law, and joins a law firm at Baker Island high port, located in geosynchronous orbit and attached to the Baker Island elevator.  This posting brings her into regular, though widely separated, contact with Rihoko. The two maintain active correspondence.

Late in the decade, Rihoko and Jane marry.  Rihoko believes families should have a single name, but Jane, already married and divorced twice, is reluctant to make changes. Rihoko she adopts Jane’s family name, becoming Captain Rihoko Gray.

2100s: Rihoko, now a full Captain in UNSPACE and in command of UNSC Madeleine Albright, retires from active service.  She accepts a reserve commission.  Jane feels ready for another career change, and finishes the coursework required to test for an interplanetary engineer’s ticket.  She takes the test to coincide with Rihoko’s retirement, and the two buy a small asteroid resource extraction ship and head for the main belt.

2130s: Over the course of decades, the Grays gain experience with asteroid resource extraction, and decide to focus on volatiles, pushing their range to the Jupiter side of the main asteroid belt and beyond.  After much planning and dreaming, they commission the construction of a large ship from the Ceres yards.  When it is complete, they name the ship Gray Maru.  They set off to fill the cargo capacity with CHON mined from water, ammonia, and methane ice.

2140s: With full holds, the Grays drop down to cis-Lunar space and sell their cargo.  While in proximity to Earth, they commission two daughters created from the mingling of their genes.  While both girls have matching tissue and bloodtypes, and similar phenotypes, Autumn has Jane’s red hair, while the other girl, Winter, takes after Rihoko’s black hair.  It is the Grays' plan to slowy fill Gray Maru with their extended family.  To this end, they invite their only surviving parent, Kenichi Suzuki, to join them aboard ship.  Though it is not initially planned, Kenichi becomes the primary caregiver for the young girls as Gray Maru moves back out to the deep belt and resumes ice mining.

Cis-Lunar space is becoming crowded, and habitats begin to be built at the Sun-Earth Lagrange points.  The phrase “the Greenbelt” becomes common for the expanding sphere of human settlement inside the main asteroid belt.

2150s:  Late in the decade, the Grays time their next trip to the Greenbelt to coincide with Autumn and Winter’s college acceptance.  Autumn chooses to attend Jane’s alma matter, Vanderbilt University, located in Tennessee; Winter attends Transylvania University in Kentucky, drawn mostly by the name.  The 350 kilometers between the two universities is the furthest the twins have ever been separated, or ever will be within the scope of this history.

While at Transylvania University, Winter uses an expert system match-maker to locate a suitable life partner.  In her third year, she meets Sarah, whom she will eventually marry.  Autumn dates, but shows no interest in long-term commitment.  Upon the twins’ graduation, Gray Maru returns to Earth to pick up the three young women… and two more daughters for Jane and Rihoko, whom they name Ren and Ran, Japanese for Lotus and Orchid.  Satisfied with their elder daughters, Jane and Rihoko see no need to remix their genes, and Ren is Autumn’s clone, while Ran is Winter’s.

2160s: Following a trip out to the Jovian Trojans to fill Gray Maru’s cargo capacity once more with CHON, Gray Maru is headed to Vesta to sell her cargo when a strange signal is intercepted, changing the Grays’ plans.

The First Page of Doooooom!

They were asleep in the jungle.  They often slept in the jungle, drifting in microgravity.  They were in an experimental stage; one of the women had blue skin and space dark hair.  The other’s skin was green, and her long copper colored hair worn in dreadlocks that seemed almost tendrils, moving slowly in the gentle air currents.  The blue woman had one foot hooked in front of the green woman’s knee; her opposite hand held gently to a naked green breast.

“Captain Gray,” said the smooth alto voice of the ship’s expert system.  A moment later it repeated, “Captain Gray.”

Before the voice could repeat a third time, the blue woman cleared her throat and answered, “Yes, Josephine?”

The green woman stirred, not quite waking, and with the ease of long practice, the two adjusted their posture and grasp of each other.  “I have detected an anomalous signal,” Josephine revealed.

“Anomalous in what way?” Captain Gray asked.

"It is a radio frequency signal which is not binary,” the computer answered, “but seems to be intelligently pulsed. It is repeating, within a three-sigma margin of error, though the frequency is shifting erratically."

"Uh-huh," Captain Gray said, sleepily.  She vaguely remembered that she had put SETI related signals into the list of things Josephine should wake them for. "Play the signal."

The green woman’s eyes popped open, and the two shared a moment’s startled look. There... in the static... was something they had never expected to hear again, but would never mistake or forget. Bursts of static... short, pause, short, pause, short, longer pause... long, pause, long, pause, long, longer pause... repeating.

"Localize that signal!" the Captain instructed. She kissed her wife and flipped around, using one foot to push lightly against her knee, pushing herself towards the open hatch to the ship's spine, and the green woman back towards a palm tree. A moment later, she'd pushed off the palm tree, and followed the Captain out.