Selling Your Dad On Twitter

You’ve tried to explain Twitter to your dad and he’s says it sounds like twaddle. At first glance it does seem Twitter is filled with never ending banal postings about mundane non-events from boring people.

Yup, there’s plenty of people posting everyday stuff. From their perspective little Timmy’s tummy ache should have made the evening news but this is the next best thing. Unless you personally know Timmy you probably don’t care. And unless he’s the only heir apparent to the kingdom most of his fellow citizens won’t care either. But those who know and love him will be sending their best wishes for his speedy recovery.

One banality is the surprisingly high number of posters who think Twitter is an opportunity to post lewd pictures or comments. They soon succumb to the brilliant ‘account suspended for strange activity’ function. (Possibly the function most appreciated by those of us who’d rather not see all your stuff. And who would prefer that no little boys or girls see it either!)

However if you have any kind of interests, hobbies or business at all, Twitter is great! Twitter gives you a huge amount of control. First there’s your personal profile. You choose what you want others to know about you, decide whether to include a link to your web site and pick what kind of picture you’re going to post. Some prefer to post a pet photo and others put their business logo. The worst decision is to leave the default bird icon as your avatar. People assume that either you have no computer skills or perhaps have something to hide.

You don’t have to be on Twitter all the time. Personally I avoid following individuals who are posting more often than a few times an hour…it prevents me from seeing tweets from those who post less often. There are probably at least a dozen ‘tweeple’ who were interesting enough for me to follow…except for that. One person who looked interesting at first quickly became enamored with little tummy aches. That’s when you discover the ‘unfollow’ option.

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can use it to filter much of the Internet. Since you’re following people who share similar interests you’ll find some of their links contain the information and contacts you’re after. Like baking? Simply go to the ‘find friends’ page and enter baking or cooking in the search blank to find out who else wears an apron. Another way to find topics of interest is to click on the hash tag(s) in a posting. (#baking #cooking #pasta, #salmonfishing, etc. Hash tags only highlight one word so two words must have the space eliminated.) You don’t have to feel like the only Trekkie in town. On Twitter you can look for other Star Trek fans or widen your scope to include anyone who likes to create science fiction in general. (Yes, think @ScifiAliens and thank you.)

Don’t forget to look through the lists of people following those you follow. This is often an easy way to find even more tweeple you have things in common with. Over time people who share your interests will begin to find you as well. Some will be worth checking out and following. Others will make you wonder. If you find them offensive you can unfollow or even block them which means they won’t be able to see your tweets. You won’t be able to see theirs, which is half the point. For myself I try to only block people who really do cross my personal moral boundaries. Lewd behavior is automatically unacceptable. Merely annoying is usually not a big deal.

It seems most people only post links to things they find interesting, which may include their own web sites and blogs. This is fine as long as there’s something worth reading or seeing. Over time you may discover you prefer the kind of links certain people post. This is another way of cutting down the data overload since you’ll quickly learn which links to ignore.

You can use your own updates to ask questions when you need information or feedback. Most common is the practice of putting ‘Thoughts?’ or ‘Anybody?’ or a request to ‘DM (direct message) me.’ You can also expand the number of possible responses with the use of a hash tag in front of your most relevant word or words.

Oh, and by the way, tell your dad to never twitter the twaddles on a dicky bird. Just something I once heard on the radio. Relevant? No. Misquoted? Definitely! Funny? Depends on your point of view, doesn’t it? But that’s a lot of info for less than 140 characters. That’s the whole point. Twitter is succinct, sometimes in the extreme. It can help you zero in on your topic and allow you to find people you’d otherwise miss. Like most technology it’s as useful as you make it.


Seven Warning Signs You Might Be Brilliant

Wondering if you’re brilliant or not? This might help…

1.  Childhood

You find other children mildly entertaining but don’t really relate. You’re much more comfortable in the company of adults. You prefer to help assemble things or solve problems than play with your own age group. Solutions that may elude adults are obvious to you.

2.  Education

You’ve skipped at least one grade and still get some of the highest marks in your class. The school system places you into a program for gifted kids. (By the third year of the program the teacher and loosely defined curriculum are no longer entertaining.) You’re the youngest member of your graduating class.

3.  Idealism

You have an expectation for people and the world in general to live up to their highest potential. You’re disappointed when they often don’t and sorely tempted to point this out to them. (Don’t. Just don’t.)

You understand what could be and may even know how to bring it about but you’re only one person. This may lead to a feeling of isolation which can lead to loneliness if you’re not careful.

4.  Attitude

You exhibit more of an interest in the things that keep your mind engaged even to the point of avoiding what others expect of you. Social interaction may suffer since you often don’t find equals to talk to or people who share your interests. Or you choose to discuss less complicated topics with them.

Early on you should choose to interact with people because, really, what else is there? Without the people everything falls apart including the future you want.

5.  How Others Treat You

They don’t bother looking up spellings or definitions, they just ask you. They also ask you an odd variety of questions about history, mathematics, science or other offbeat subjects because they expect you to know. “Hey, define ‘quark’ for me.” The odd thing is, most of the time you do know the answer. The surprise only comes when you don’t.

It can come as a surprise to you to find others acknowledge your area(s) of giftedness. They may push you to excel in that area; that’s what friends are for. Or they may mock you; that’s what enemies are for.

6.  Strange Abilities

You’ve never seen it before and it arrived in pieces but you’ll put it together in working order without leftover bits while others are still looking for the instructions. Things that break down often are brought to you because nobody else  has the patience to fiddle with them.

You may have no computer skills but people still ask you how to fix their problems because you usually can. You sometimes buy things to put together because you’re bored.

7.  Offbeat Sense of Humor

Somebody else looks at the sign, ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service,’ and considers their own outfit. You think ‘great, the guy behind the counter with no shirt and no shoes won’t serve anyone either.’ And then you smirk as you decide it’s for the best.

If you suspect you are brilliant you should avoid most personality tests. Either you’ll outwit them or they’ll consist of multiple choice options that you never would have chosen. The results will not be accurate and you’ll end up thinking, ‘that doesn’t sound like me.’ Because it isn’t.

Responding To Questions They Shouldn’t Have Asked

I was somewhat appalled and amused at those old shows on TV where it seemed everyone knew exactly what everyone else was ‘worth.’ Since many of those movies were made in Europe it was always in pounds, not dollars.

As a young Canadian I realized North Americans don’t go around talking about their yearly income to all and sundry. Even those of us who have done the math tend to talk in terms of ‘net worth,’ not necessarily how many dollars are in the bank or stuffed inside the mattress. I kept watching those old black and white productions and wondering how the young ladies knew their prospective suitors’ yearly income…not to mention, why? Even today a woman wants to know if her future husband will be able to support the family or if she’ll have to work as well. But this went much further than data you might acquire through legitimate personal contact. This was the stuff of gossips.

Aye, there’s the rub. It’s still very much the stuff of gossips. And the world still has people who love to listen to and pass on gossip. Not just any gossip, but juicy gossip made of tawdry rumors, second hand hearsay and outright lies. (If Dr. Phil was on death’s door I doubt he’d let the tabloids break the news to the world.) An additional aspect of juiciness is the degree to which (mis)information can harm a reputation, hurt innocent bystanders such as children and other family members or just wound the spirit of the gossip’s subject, AKA, the victim/villain.

On a personal level most of us face relatively harmless gossipers. However it’s best to head off potential trouble before it can develop. Some people will lie about you no matter what you do but those who know the real you will be able to give you the benefit of the doubt if you have behaved otherwise.

Remember, just because they ask doesn’t mean they have a right to know. Here are a few seemingly innocent questions that are best deflected:

1.     “What time do you get off work?” If you know the individual this could be a legitimate question. Otherwise it’s best to assume the person asking has the intention of lying in wait for you. It’s okay to shrug and answer with something vague like, ‘I might have to fill in for someone,’ or ‘I’m not allowed to divulge that information.’ You haven’t lied and you may have spared yourself a world of hurt. This is particularly true for young women. Questions along the same line include; “Are you going home now?” and the especially dangerous, “Where do you live?”

2.     “How much do you make an hour?” This is rarely anyone else’s business but your own. A few people may ask because they’re considering your field of work but if that’s the case they can find the information on the Internet. Responses you can offer include, ‘It varies,’ ‘The company considers wages confidential,’ or (my favorite) ‘That’s really none of your business.’ These should also be standard responses to Internet phishing scams. If someone doesn’t know you well they have no reason to know all of yours.

3.     Any intimate or personal question that the person has no right to ask. Many a celebrity starlet has been thrown into the volcanic flames of criticism and mockery for revealing she was still a virgin. The Internet can bring out the extremely vicious and unprincipled who thrive on sniping against anyone who wishes to project any kind of morality. Some of this unwarranted crap even made its way to my email junk filter. Unacceptable questions of this type are best ignored or treated as an opportunity to change the subject.

On the other side of the argument is learning how to answer painful questions that might come up in an interview. Remember that anger will tend to cause you to say things that will not be in you favor. One television interview focused on the celebrity’s recent legal troubles instead of the products she wanted to promote. There were several points at which she could have segued into product promotion, any of which would have required some self-abasement and a healthy dose of humor. Did she really think the interviewer wanted to focus on her new lines of product when she’d recently been in jail? She could have anticipated the entire discussion and planned her responses accordingly instead of just reacting negatively.

Among the most embarrassing questions I’ve been asked were the ones posed by a local interviewer. I honestly had not considered the fact that the title, Been Blued, might be suggestive of ribald content. Risqué, perhaps… That interviewer seemed to enjoy my spirited defense that my aliens were not frat boys out on a kegger even if they were after the women.

(If you’re interested in Jim Cherry’s summer review of Been Blued, here’s the link: #mce_temp_url#)

By keeping my sense of humor about the whole thing I received a wonderful write up in the local paper, a second interview when the sequel came out and another fan for my series who’s now eagerly waiting for my next book signing.

So, what do you think? Feel to answer…or not.

Name That Audience

One of the most important issues for an aspiring author is to define your audience. That begins with defining your writing. The biggest mistake a writer can make is to answer the question, “What’s your book about?” with the phrase, “It’s about a lot of things.” Of course people assume that means you have no idea either, and you’ll lose your audience right then and there.

The minimum requirement is to define your genre. Yes, you can mix them, for example, with something like a mystery/romance or a horror/comedy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your manuscript will have ‘universal appeal.’ There’s no such thing. People come with preferences, not just needs. We all eat, but we don’t all buy bookcases of cookbooks. It doesn’t matter if you claim to be Dickens incarnate (in which case we’ll think you stark raving mad!) Not everyone likes Dickens, either, and chances are you’re not him.

Another misdirection authors tend to fall into is the idea of ‘author lists’ and author/publisher social networking sites. The former is largely useless (think back at how often you went looking through an author list) and the latter is better suited to networking, support and advice on the various aspects of writing and publishing. Other writers and publishers are there to engage in discussion, not discover new reading material. You might find the rare connection with a publisher who wants your manuscript, but this is extremely rare. My personal favorite for author networking and discussion is

While book marketing sites can be helpful, chances are that you’ll again be engaging other writers and publishers, not your target audience. However, if you’re having trouble defining your genre these are the sites that can offer advice and help with lists of publishers who may be interested in your manuscript. It’s pointless to send your deep, dark mystery to a romance publisher. That rejection would be automatic and entirely predictable, a waste of their time and your effort. (And it would possibly burn bridges if you should ever decide to switch to writing romance…) Even if you use a reputable self-publishing company they’ll need to know what genre to assign your book. (If they don’t care, RUN AWAY!)

Your choice of genre will help you find your real audience. My most avid readers are science fiction fans, although I sold one book on the basis of the romantic aspects of the story. This genre is no accident. I’m a huge Star Trek and Dr. Who fan. Once I’ve won over all the Trekkies (one of my most eager readers wears a B’joran earing, no matter where he goes…) guess who I’m focusing on next?

Did You Write Yourself In?

There are a few ways an author can review a manuscript with introspection. The first is to ask herself (or himself as the case may be) if she wrote a character that could be mistaken for her. In other words, did I as the author, write myself into the story? If so did I do it on purpose–because I’m a prima donna–or worse, by accident?

As an author who plans to keep on writing my thought is that doing so is a bad idea. The more the ‘author’ character is revealed, the less I have to work with when being interviewed or promoting my work by other means. Why would they talk to me personally when they can ‘read me?’

Accidentally writing yourself into the story can be detrimental in other ways. First, it could be a shock when a person realizes his ‘created’ character seems all too familiar.

Second, this could lead to some nasty and unnecessary introspection. It’s a better idea to know yourself before you begin writing.

An easy way to write yourself in is to write in the first person. Your novel may be full of things like, ‘then I raced down the stairs,’ or ‘the blood oozed out of his neck when I checked for a pulse.’ While not all first person manuscripts have the author as character it’s a good idea to distance creation from creator or you may end up with your own biography. Writing in the first person is supposed to allow the main character to draw the reader into the story.

Of course you can write yourself in as a background character who ties up all the loose ends for the reader. This is the modern equivalent of an ‘aside’ or even a narrator. It’s more acceptable to ‘show’ instead of using this ‘tell.’ Even readers seem to prefer action to lengthy dialogue or soul searching.

As the creator of your own characters it’s worth noting that most of them will have something in common with you. They’re human, if I’m not assuming too much.

We tend to write from snippets of our own experience which allow us to create believable behaviors and personalities. Readers have their own life experience to draw upon and are quick to recognize when writing seems unreal. The trick is to allow them to see themselves in or be able to relate to your fictional characters. It can detract from their experience to spot the author hiding in the shadows.

Space Dog Mannequins Promo Video

Creating a promotional book video is a new experience for me. Since I didn’t have much in the way of science fiction settings I opted for the mannequins in the local museum. Here’s the link:

Phyllis K Twombly

Dolphins’ World chapter 3

A novella by Canadian Science Fiction Author

Phyllis K Twombly

Captain Dion watched the blue aliens stand up as the last of the water drained from the compartment. They had helped engineer Bruin to his feet. The translation tube now sealed to his shoulders and around his face looked like some kind of weird hood. A length of insulated wire connected it to a wall portal of the alien computer.

“How are your eyes, Mr. Bruin?”

“I can see fine now, Captain. The effects of the flash from the computer screen were temporary. These creatures put some drops in that took the pain away. It’s funny but they seemed to know how I was feeling even before we could communicate.”

A series of clicks and whistles burst into the air.

Dion gave him a puzzled look.

“They say they picked me because of my affinity for other living creatures. I guess they meant my way with animals.”

Gibbs frowned. “I assumed it was because you’re our chief engineer. With you incapacitated like this we can’t even begin recovery of the Andreas.”

Bruin wiggled a finger at him. “Be careful what you say, Gibbs. There’s an immediate translation for them while this thing is connected to me. We don’t want to insult our hosts.”

Dion sighed. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starving. Do you think our hosts could possibly arrange for a meal?”

Bruin grinned. “I hope you like fish. There’s also a very nutritious selection of seaweed they’ve specially picked out for Marsha. They know all about her fish allergy.”

Dion folded her arms in front of her. “I guess they would since they downloaded all our computer files.”

Another series of clicks and whistles filled the room.

Bruin nodded as he listened to the translation. “It’s standard procedure when they don’t receive a response from an alien ship. Apparently we don’t have the technology to even detect their hailing frequency. They’re willing to help us with that.”

Before Dion could respond several of the blue creatures came into the room. Each one of them carried a large piece of seashell filled with fish. Several tables folded down from the interior walls of the chamber. The aliens placed the seashells on the tables and left to bring in more. One table was filled with plates that were obviously from the Andreas. The plates contained seaweed of various colors and consistency.

Dion bit her lip before she asked her question. “Do they know everything about Marsha?”

Bruin nodded ever so slightly. “They know everything that was in the computer files.” The look in his eyes suggested nothing more should be said.

Dion reached downward with her left hand. “Marsha, come here.”

A tall girl with bright red skin stepped forward and took it. In spite of her height she looked to be about nine years old. “I’m here, Captain.” Her smooth, calm voice caused the blue creatures to stare back at her large blue eyes.

Dion closed her eyes for a few seconds. “Marsha, can you accelerate the translation protocols within the aliens’ computer?”

Marsha understood her captain’s true intentions. She let go of Dion’s hand and approached a panel of blinking lights on the wall. Several blue creatures stepped aside to let her through.

With incredible speed Marsha entered a series of commands and data protocols. One of the blue creatures came to stand beside her. It blinked and nodded its approval. After a few minutes it began entering its own commands into the panel beside hers. They stopped at the same time and looked at each other.

Several of the blue creatures hurried over to Max Bruin and removed the water filled translation tube from his head. The engineer smiled his appreciation. In an unexpected gesture, one of the blue creatures patted his shoulder.

The air filled with a series of clicks and whistles that quickly became peppered with words. Soon the noises were replaced entirely with human words spoken in a gentle male voice.

“This creature you’ve brought with you is amazing. Is she the only one of her species?”

Dion smiled at Marsha’s uncertain look. “No. She joined our crew when we visited her planet nearly a year ago. She comes from a thriving community of knowledge seekers. They asked us to take her with us to broaden their experience of the universe. We expect to deliver her back to her people three years from now.”

“So there’s no chance of having her remain with us?”

“You would have to ask her. She has her own free will.”

“Free will? We must examine the concept. It’s one of the things we wanted to discuss with you.”

Dion stepped closer to the blue creature that seemed to be the leader. “Do you mean to say you don’t operate as self-directed individuals?”

There was a pause. “We understand the words but the idea is new to us. We function as a collective.”

After a pause the blue creatures started to leave the room. The computer generated voice explained the sudden departure. “You must be hungry. Please help yourselves to the fish and seaweed. We prefer to eat in the open water. We will swim past the viewing port often so it will seem more like we are all eating together.”

Once the blue creatures were gone Gibbs turned to Bruin. “Do you think the fish and seaweed are safe to eat?”

The engineer nodded. “They have no reason to poison us. The last impression I had was that they were looking forward to our company now that we can communicate.”

Marsha looked around. Her soft voice was calming. “Captain, your telepathic ability is improving. I was able to add a silencer protocol to the translation matrix as you requested. Questions regarding our top secret matters will be translated as small talk. It only works one way. I was also able to learn that they cannot hear our conversation while they’re in the water without activating a special speaker. You may speak freely until they do.”

Dion nodded thoughtfully. She sniffed one of the fish and gingerly took a bite. “The food seems okay. Next time we should ask our hosts for something to cook with.”

Bruin shrugged and twisted his neck from side to side. “It’s good to have that thing off of me. Thanks for speeding up the process, Marsha.”

The young woman came up and began to rub his shoulders. “I don’t think they understood how heavy that was for you.”

He sighed as she continued the massage. “I don’t suppose. Did you manage to pick up any information regarding the state of the Andreas?”

“They’ve managed to repair most of the damage their sonic pulse caused. They’re hoping we’ll blame any effects of it on superficial damage they’ve inflicted on the hull of the ship. They fully expect you to conclude it was from entry of their atmosphere.”

Bruin patted her hand to signal he’d had enough physical contact. “I’d been trying to figure out where that flash from the computer screen originated. I couldn’t think of anything in our systems that could have caused it.”

Marsha looked at the captain and back at Bruin. “There’s something you should know. Giving the Andreas a nickname has led these creatures to think we have an extra crew member on board. They haven’t made the connection. They’ve searched the ocean trying to find ‘Andy.’ They’re hoping we won’t view the loss of this crewman as a hostile act on their part.”

Dion had finished her first fish. “They do seem to want to appear friendly, don’t they? I wonder why.”

Marsha approached the table with the seaweed and helped herself to a pink and blue combination of plant matter. “Not bad. It lacks spices. Perhaps that says something about our hosts.”

Bruin sampled a green piece from the next plate. “Did you learn where the Andreas is now?”

“Sort of. They’ve been experimenting with the pontoons and wings…”

Bruin put a hand on her arm. “Do you mean to tell me they’ve been playing around with my ship?”

Captain Dion grinned. “Don’t you mean my ship, Mr. Bruin?”

“Our ship, Captain. They’ve got no right to mess around with our only mode of transportation. If they damage it…”

Dion shrugged. “No doubt they’re just curious. Their data download would include all the specifications. They probably just want to see the technology in action. With all that information they don’t even need to reverse engineer it. Besides, there’s nothing we can do to stop them right now.”


Next time; hidden motivations.

Phyllis K Twombly

Dolphins’ World chapter two

A novella by Canadian Science Fiction Author

Phyllis K Twombly

Chapter Two

Chief engineer Max Bruin sensed the change in direction of his escape pod. Instead of a continued ascent to the surface it felt like the pod was being moved sideways. “Hell of an undercurrent,” he muttered to himself. He tried again to open his eyes. They still ached from the blinding flash of light that had burst from his computer screen back on the Andreas.

When the pod opened the air took on a strange fish-like odor. Small hands tugged on his sleeves. He followed their guidance, grateful that the crew had found him so quickly. There was no sound except for a background hum and the sound of their footsteps. “I’m grateful for the rescue, guys. But why is everyone being so quiet? Did we take refuge in a tomb or something?”

He was answered by a series of clicks and whistles.

Bruin chuckled in spite of his pain. “I see. Still playing pranks on the chief engineer, are we? I hate to spoil the fun but could you take me to whatever now passes for sick bay? My eyes are killing me.”

The two figures guiding him stopped. One of them touched a hand to his temple. Through squinting eyes he thought he saw a bit of blue flesh. He groaned.

“Oh, that’s just great. My vision starts to come back and nothing’s the right color.”

Bruin allowed his hand to be guided until he felt a long flat surface. “An examining table! Now we’re making progress.” He allowed himself to be helped onto the surface. He’d just begun to relax when he realized straps were being secured around his arms and legs. He tried to sit up but a hand gently pressed against his forehead. There were more clicks and whistles. A thought flashed through Bruin’s mind just before he passed out. Perhaps it wasn’t his crewmates who had found him but the aliens who lived in the Aquarium.


Captain Dion felt a smooth wet sensation on her skin. The blue creature had wrapped its webbed hand around hers. She let it lead her down a dim corridor. There was an entrance to another chamber at the end of it. Once inside she compulsively gripped the alien’s hand harder. She was completely unprepared for the sight before her.

Max Bruin, chief engineer of the Andreas, lay prostrate inside a water filled chamber. An opening around his face allowed for limited head movement. Bruin managed to turn slightly towards her. “Hello, Captain. Did everyone get off the Andreas safely?”

Captain Dion shook off her shock. “Uh, yes. These creatures were very helpful in bringing us all here. We haven’t found any way to communicate with them yet.”

Bruin waved his arm inside the water surrounding him. “That’s what this device is for. Don’t ask me how it works but it translates their clicks and whistles into thoughts and images. It’s quickly becoming more like speech. I guess that means they’re learning English. We’ve been exchanging quite a few ideas…”

Dion approached the tube and gently placed her hands on it. “Are you okay in this thing?”

“Never better. Now look over there.” Bruin rolled his eyes in the direction of a console she hadn’t noticed before. The blue creature walked over and tapped it. A look of concentration crossed Bruin’s face as the creature emitted a series of clicks and whistles.

“He says something like, ‘it’s a pleasure to host such charming creatures.’ I think he used the word charming. Either that or he thinks we’re naïve. He wants to apologize if we found their behavior aggressive.”

Dion frowned slightly. “Tell him we’re grateful for the hospitality. Ask him if there’s any other way to communicate that would allow you to get out of this thing.”

Bruin wriggled slightly. Clicks and whistles filled the air before he could speak. “The translation is already automatic for them. This device is for our benefit. Once they analyze enough of our language they should be able to create a computer program we can all use.”

Dion raised her eyebrows. “Just how long is this analysis supposed to take?” She sighed as another series of clicks and whistles broke into the relative quiet.

Bruin smiled patiently. “A day, maybe two. I’ll be a bit wrinkled by then but think of the science and technology we’ll be able to exchange when we can communicate freely. They have so many questions.”

Dion scowled. “Maybe we shouldn’t tell them everything.”

Bruin bit his lip. “It’s too late for that. They know everything that was in the Andreas computer: programs, personal logs, passwords, everything. We have no secrets from these people. Actually they find us a bit primitive. We could stand to learn some of their sciences.”

Captain Dion turned around at the sound of multiple footsteps. The eighty-seven men and women who made up the crew of the Andreas were being escorted into the chamber by more blue creatures.

Dion turned to Bruin. “What’s going on?”

“The inhabitants of this planet require water submersion at least twice a day. This chamber has been set up to provide us with oxygen while our hosts go for their swim. It’s quite a feat of engineering. They’ve put together a series of rotating air pods to provide the upper half of this chamber with a breathable atmosphere while the rest of the facility is flooded. The water levels in here should only rise about four feet…unless a seal breaks. Then we could be in trouble.”

Dion shook her head. “Tell them we have emergency gear for situation like this on our spaceship.”

“They’ve already taken the liberty of bringing that gear from the Andreas. It’s in the compartment outlined by lights if you need it. The water is about to start coming in. You’d better tell everyone what’s going on.”

Dion turned to address her crew. “Alright, here’s the situation. Our hosts seem to be able to breathe underwater. They need to be submerged in water twice a day and they’ve designed this compartment to give us air while they swim around. We’re still going to get wet because four feet of water will be allowed into this compartment. I don’t want to hear any panic or complaining. If anything goes wrong I want each department leader to proceed to retrieve scuba gear for their team from that compartment.” She pointed to the door outlined in lights.

Bruin chuckled. “I beg to be excused from that assignment, Captain.”

Gibbs stepped forward. “I’d be happy to fill in for you, Chief.”

Dion smiled. “You chose your team well, Mr. Bruin.”


The crew of the Andreas watched with a mix of curiosity and amazement as their hosts swam through the water they stood in. Dion kept a watchful eye on the chamber containing her chief engineer. She raised her eyebrows when one of the blue creatures began to adjust a segment of the tube just below Bruin’s shoulders.

Bruin winked at her. “It’s alright, Captain. At first they weren’t sure what part of the human body was the equivalent of their melon. That’s the sound organ in the front of their heads…”

“Thank you. I know what a dolphin’s melon is, Mr. Bruin.”

“These creatures believe it’s more like their seat of emotion and instinct. They make less differentiation between the mind and the emotions than we do. That’s something important to keep in mind when you begin negotiations with them.”

Dion frowned. “What will I be negotiating for, Mr. Bruin?”

A dark look briefly crossed the man’s face. “I can’t tell you right now. They’re about to start listening to my thoughts again.” He smiled brightly at her as two of the creatures resealed the tube against his shoulders. They pulled the rest of the tube away to give him more freedom of movement.


Next time; negotiations with the aliens.

Phyllis K Twombly

Dolphins’ World: Chapter One

A novella by Canadian Science Fiction Author

Phyllis K Twombly

Chapter One

The crew of the Andreas had adopted their captain’s tendency to call the spaceship ‘Andy.’ It had been somewhat of an adjustment for the ship’s computer but Andy soon showed a preference for the shorter version.

Chief engineer Bruin lived up to the physical part of his name. His muscles came in handy whenever some of Andy’s larger components exhibited their tendency to jam. Other crew members knew to stay out of his way when he began to wrestle with the machinery.

Bruin’s mind was on other things at the moment. A habitable planet had been found. Unfortunately this orb was made up of even more water than Earth. From this distance it was hard to spot the few land masses the computer insisted were there.

Bruin pressed the voice recognition button on his console. “Recognize chief engineer, Andy.”

A pleasant male voice responded. “The computer recognizes chief engineer Max Bruin. Please state your instructions.”

“Has the planet been given a designation yet?”

The computer responded immediately. “Captain Dion has named the planet the Aquarium.”

Bruin chuckled. “Is that going to be its official designation?”

“Unless the inhabitants have another name for it, the designation will remain.”

Bruin placed his large hands against his console. “Computer, are you telling me we’ve detected intelligent life in the Aquarium?”

“Negative, Mr. Bruin. The conclusion is computer generated. This system’s files were downloaded by the artificial satellite detected at the edge of the solar system. The data was then relayed to an underwater complex in the Aquarium.”

Bruin sucked in his breath. “Wow! Tell me, Andy, when were you planning on informing the rest of us?”

“Please restate your question.”

“Is the captain aware of the data download?”

“That’s unlikely.”

Bruin groaned. “I suspected as much. Why do you always make me tell her the bad news?”


A series of clicks and whistles greeted the large blue creature with black eyes. He responded with a similar vocalization as he eyed the computer screen. The skin around his bottle shaped snout wrinkled slightly. He could see what was happening; he didn’t need a running commentary. He got it anyway.

“Commander, the alien craft is about to splash down. They have reconfigured it so that it won’t sink. If they make it to land…”

The station commander shook his head and torso. ”I can see that, Manti. We’ll have to make it sink.”

There was a pause before the clicks and whistles responded. ”Make it sink? The aliens might view that as an act of war on our part.”

”Not at all. They’re completely unfamiliar with our technology. I’ll send out a few sonic pulses that will overload their computer. They’ll assume it’s a malfunction. Have a dozen of your commandos ready. Retrieve the engineer. Their computer files list his affinity for lower life forms. He’s the one most likely to be useful for the linguistic interface.”


Bruin kept the descent through the alien atmosphere from becoming too disconcerting to the crew, all the while swearing about damage to Andy’s systems. The ship would need major repairs if they could find any metal on this water logged planet…assuming Andy was even salvageable after the splash down still to come.

Bruin double checked his computations. Andy’s triple side wings were now deployed. With the correct angle, it was possible the wings and pontoons might allow the spaceship to land and glide over the top of the water’s surface; maybe even until they could find a land mass. Possible, Bruin mused, but not likely. They were still coming down fast.

Still, attempting to touch down and glide on the surface of the water was a better option than having the ship submerge. A flash of nausea almost overwhelmed the chief engineer. He grasped a nearby console, only to see serious warnings on the computer screen. Several key landing systems were shorting out. The wings retracted. The pontoons disengaged and dropped into the water below.

Bruin tapped the intercom button. “Captain, something’s fishy down here! All the anti-submergence functions are failing!”

A calm female voice answered. “That’s impossible, Mr. Bruin. Please recheck your sensors.”

Bruin swore under his breath as he released the button. “Damn unflappable hybrid! She didn’t seem to care about the aliens copying our computer files, either.” He tapped a few more keys on his console before hitting the intercom again. “There’s no mistake, Captain. We’re going underwater!”

“Thank you, Mr. Bruin. This is Captain Dion to all crew. Execute water contingency plan four. Everyone who can’t swim is to evacuate to an escape pod. Those trained in advanced aquatics are to don snorkeling equipment. Wait for the ship to finish its descent and the lights to go to green before opening the hatches. I don’t want to lose anybody to decompression stress.”

Immediately the soft white lighting of the ship’s interior became a harsh red color.


Everyone was strapped into a chair but still felt the shock of the ship hitting the water. Captain Dion turned a full rotation in her chair to check the six members of her bridge crew. “Is everyone okay? Good, let’s prepare to disembark.”


Bruin ensured all of his men were in snorkel gear and ready for evacuation. He felt a bit juvenile, being the only member of engineering who couldn’t swim. At least it allowed him to continue monitoring the computer screen without hindrance. He frowned as the console began to emit a strange, increasing whine. He caught the full blast of light generated on the computer screen by another sonic pulse. He collapsed on the floor with his eyes squeezed shut in pain. His team gathered around and removed their snorkel masks just as the ship’s lighting turned green.

Bruin tried to open his eyes but only perceived the general change in the interior lighting. “Has Andy gone green?” he gasped.

Gibbs, his second in command, responded. “Aye, Sir.”

Bruin groped for his arm. “Listen, Gibbs. You’ll have to leave me. I’m no good to you blind.”

“But Sir…”

“That’s an order, Gibbs. Don’t worry, I know Andy like the back of my hand. I’ll find an escape pod. Just help me to my feet and point me in the right direction. Captain Dion will find me. She might be genetically warped but there’s no sub-human I’d rather have looking for me.”

Gibbs helped him up. “This way, Sir. The rest of the men are on their way to the hatches.”

The ten men gave him a dubious look. Gibbs scowled at them. They nodded and left the room.


Manti waited in the water near the alien ship. As each escape pod launched itself one of his commandos took hold of it and guided it to the underwater station. The aliens in artificial swim gear were no match for the superior strength of his team but Manti worried about the consequences of appearing so aggressive. At least the aliens seemed to calm down when they saw the station. Perhaps they had a fear of drowning. Rumor had it that they couldn’t breathe in water.

The sudden tugging sensation in Manti’s rounded forehead wasn’t completely unexpected. The alien records had noted their chief engineer had an ‘affinity for animal life forms,’ their term for ‘congruence.’ It might enable some communication with the new arrivals.

The strength of the feeling was most compelling. Manti grabbed the pod without hesitation. He felt a stab of conscience about how confused the alien must be feeling. He knew the poor fellow would face even more troubling events before he would understand. He nearly released the capsule before two of his commandos swam up to reassure him. They had felt the compulsion as well.


Captain Dion was nearly two feet shorter than the blue creature standing in front of her. She had tried talking to it, but couldn’t decipher the clicks and whistles it responded with. She assumed it knew she was captain of the Andreas from downloading the computer files. Obviously they were trying to form a connection. The creature had offered its webbed hand as if it understood the meaning of a handshake. Dion had shaken it and offered a smile, something the creature also seemed to understand. It had reached over and felt her short, brown hair for just a moment. It was an understandable reaction for a creature with no hair at all.

The moment the creature didn’t seem to be watching her, Dion rubbed the inside of her right arm. The genetic markers couldn’t find an exact match with any of the DNA samples implanted in her. She repeated the motion on her other arm. A potential match popped up in her mind, but she’d need access to the Andreas computer to verify these aliens as a distant match to the dolphins back on Earth.


Next time; talking to the aliens.

Phyllis K Twombly

Dolphins’ World

A novella by Canadian Science Fiction Author

Phyllis K Twombly


A webbed blue hand hovered over a backlit computer console. Big black eyes regarded the large computer screen with intelligent curiosity. Alien hieroglyphics surrounded the image of an unidentified ship entering the planet’s solar system. A steady series of clicks and whistles came over the computer’s speakers. The blue creature understood them all. “Relay outpost to Alpha Base Commander, we still cannot establish communications with the alien ship. However, we were able to copy and translate their computer files. It seems our visitors come from a system that supports some of our distant cousins. The species they call ‘dolphin’ was apparently unable to communicate with them. Our first evaluation is that they’re probably desperate to find a hospitable planet. Their fuel and food reserves seem to be unacceptably low.” The first creature’s webbed hand tapped his rounded face. “Can you determine the extent of their weaponry?” “What they have is inferior but still dangerous if they choose to activate their missiles.” The base commander’s bottle shaped mouth gaped. “Missiles? They went into space with archaic weapons?” The response was similar to a laugh. “We double checked to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake. Such simple beings… No wonder their own records contain incidents where our cousins rescued some of them. Apparently they can’t even breathe in water.” The commander’s eyes blinked several times. “They can’t breathe in water? Then why does their trajectory indicate they’ll land in our ocean?” “Perhaps they plan some kind of course correction. Or perhaps they don’t realize they’re heading for water.” The commander began to sound perturbed. “It goes against all common sense and reason…” “Sorry to interrupt, Commander, but I think we’ve detected a defect in their navigation. They direct their ships with visual recognition. They have no liquid sonar.” The commander rolled his black eyes and sighed. “What a shame. I’d begun to think we were dealing with a highly evolved species.” There was a pause before the clicks and whistles responded. “Perhaps they are. Perhaps they’re just…different. They have achieved space travel.” The commander slowly moved his head and neck. “Then we should probably look after them until we can determine their intentions. It seems our cousins have set a precedent regarding these creatures. Even so, caution is advised. Continue to monitor their approach.” “Aye, Sir.” The commander pressed a green area on his control panel. The image on his view screen switched to show a creature like himself. It smiled back at him. “Hello, Commander. What can I do for you?” The commander’s gaze momentarily dropped to the floor. His voice softened. “Hello, Astra. We have guests arriving. They’re going to need an oxygen atmosphere.” “That’s no problem.” “They can’t breathe in water.” “That might be a problem.” “That’s why I called.” Astra had begun pressing keys on her computer terminal. “I suppose, if we rotated a series of air pods through the core of your station, it could work. How long do these guests of yours plan on staying?” The commander rolled his shoulders slightly. “I have no idea. They’ll splash down within a day or two.” The skin above Astra’s eyes wrinkled ever so slightly. “If they can’t breathe in water why don’t they aim for land?” The commander knew he should answer with the standard response of ‘top secret.’ Instead he drew a sharp breath that made his voice become deeper. “We suspect they may be a bit clumsy in their navigation. Besides, I’d rather be in a position to ensure the safety of our planet. If they’re running around on land our access to them will be limited.” Astra turned and nodded to someone outside of the commander’s view. “That’s a wise precaution. I hope your guests don’t resent so much restriction.” The commander winked at her. “They’ll barely notice.”


Look for chapter one next week.

Phyllis K Twombly