Category Archives: Fiction

Earth Embassy Ganymede – Administrative Notice #04-011300

Been working on a draft of a fictional story set at Earth Embassy Ganymede. It’ll be like any diplomatic mission complete with intrigues, gossip, romance, and all the deadly sins.  Anyway, this is part of the story where the embassy in Ganymede is suffering from some bad press and low morale. So the embassy’s senior management adviser released the following admin notice.

English: Image of Jupiter and Ganymede

English: Image of Jupiter and Ganymede (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earth Embassy Ganymede
Administrative Notice #05-011300: Morale

It has come to management’s attention that there has been a lot of chatter and hyperspace email about morale and safety at this outpost.  This notice serves as a reminder to everyone under Ganymede outpost authority that discussion about morale is an unproductive use of work time. Morale is self-esteem in action; individuals who perceived that morale is lacking may need help in improving their self-esteem. Please make every effort to schedule an appointment to see the quadrant psychiatrist.

Ganymede management fully believes, like the 34th American President Dwight Eisenhower, that the best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. In that sprit, management formally informs all departments and employees that morale is not/not an issue and is not/not a subject to be discussed in hypermail, text, video, radio, verbal or any alternate manner of communication within and outside the mission.  Anyone caught peddling these stories will be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to curtailment of current assignment or a lengthy TDY to the outermost prograde moon of Carpo.

In an effort to be responsive to all concerns, below are some FAQs that the section  had the pleasure of addressing the last 12 moons. We hope that the answers are useful to you and your families and help alleviate persistent concerns.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
EaEmbassy Ganymede

Is Ganymede a family-friendly post?

Absolutely. It is the most family-friendly assignment in the quadrant with excellent schools and some of the best apartments available in the sector. Living conditions are approximated to be similar to the home planet and the quality of life is super-excellent.  Consistent demand for assignments to this outpost has repeatedly resulted in a long wait list at every rotation cycle.

I’ve been thinking of asking for a transfer to Ganymede.  But I heard that life there is a big joke … I don’t get what’s the joke.

Life in Ganymede is not/not a big joke. Once you understand that Ganymede is too big to fail, you’ll find your groove. This is the place where you want to be.  No other outpost will afford you the challenges and opportunities to excel and earn a fast-tracked promotion.

How safe is Ganymede given that riots are breaking out in all parts of the hostplanet:

Safe. Very safe, if you’re careful.

Ganymedeans breached the outpost walls, they can do it again, should I worry?

There’s no reason to worry.  Ganymedeans are not/not anti-Earthlings, anti-humans or what have you.  They were blowing off steam. Period. Now that they have, things should return to normal. If you think things have not returned to normal, give it time; things should return to normal. Soon.

There are assaults reported daily, it sounds like traveling around the hostplanet has become extremely dangerous. Is that perception correct?

Ganymede is the largest moon in this sector. Like any large, densely inhabited city on Earth (e.g. New York City, New Delhi, Bogota, Buenos Aires), crime is ever present. This is not/not unique to this outpost.  Travel in pairs if needed, and bring your stun gun, if necessary.

The Manager for Planetary Services reportedly quit over extreme bureaucratic bullying, is this true?

Absolutely not. The manager quit because the official got too old for the job. Other employers in this sector throw old officials out the airlock. Fortunately, EaEmbassy Ganymede has a generous separation package specifically for older workers traveling back to the home planet.

There are rumors and allegations that some of the top Ganymede officials have, on several occasions, pushed and bossed around subordinates and threatened them with penalties. How accurate are these stories?

Have you ever heard of American poet, Robert Frost?  He said that the reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.  Isn’t that an excellent point?  Stop listening to rumors. Stop worrying. All our top Ganymede officials were handpicked and subjected to a battery of reviews and 360 feedbacks from friends, peers, and colleagues. All with spectacular results. They are all as lovable and huggable as Alaskan polar bears.

I used to have an open mind, then I got to Ganymede and my brains kept falling out. What am I doing wrong?

To keep an open mind, a person needs only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape. This works even in Ganymede.

I am terribly upset that my concerns have not been taken seriously.  How do I set a laser printer to stun?

The management office works hard to address all of your concerns and aims to make every assignment to Ganymede a satisfying one.   Unfortunately, all laser printer at post at this time do not have a stun setting.  However, the procurement section is exploring the possibility of adding a stun setting to all laser printers with end of year funding.

Note that this is from a work in progress.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Morale is self-esteem in action,  is a quote by Avery Weisman; WD-40 and laser printer quips are found items around the net.

I was, by the way, thinking of writing a complete set of Space Affairs Manual (SAM) and Space Affairs Handbook (SAH) for my fictional diplomatic service, but that sounded crazy, even to me.   So I may stick with writing a collection of admin notices and cables that can be interspersed with the story. Hey, if I write a story using admin notices alone, would that fall under an epistolary novel category?

Ugh! Just saw that the Russians are interested on Ganymede, now.  Well, dammit, I am not changing my fictional embassy’s name again, so don’t write to complain about that.

– DS

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Quickie: Fiction with a Dash of Reality …

“I was 25, single, on my first overseas tour of duty in Asuncion — a newly minted political officer issuing nonimmigrant visas. I had degrees from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins. I tested at a 4/4 in French! Why, in God’s name, did the State Department make me learn Spanish and bury me in the consular section of this South American backwater?”


From The Roads Are Closing
First Place in the
Journal’s 2009 Foreign Service Fiction Contest
By Patricia McArdle
Read the whole story
here | July-August 2009 | See pp 18-22


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Brief as Photos: Still Gunning for 52

It’s easier said than done. Writing short-short stories, that is.

I started my “Brief as Photos” series exactly a year ago last week. My first, Lara’s Story was posted on April 26, 2008. The idea was to write a short-short story of less than 1,000 words every week for a year. That would have amounted to 52 stories in a year. But – as you can see, I did not even get to my half-way mark, which is really a bummer … sigh! I will continue to write my short-shorts until I get to 52. It may take me a year … or two… we’ll see. I may be on a move in a year or so. I did blogged my 500th post on May 1st …okay, that’s not an excuse … but I wasn’t idle, just writing about something else…

Here are the stories I wrote this past year:

Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Brief as Photos – 17: The Winner

Brief as Photos – 16: The Djinn of Small Wishes

Brief as Photos – 15: The Adventurous Life of a Fingerprint Scanner

Brief as Photos – 14: Japanese Roulette

Brief as Photos – 13: An American Abroad

Brief as Photos – 12: Gorgeous Princess Goin’ Fishing

Brief as Photos – 11: My Mother’s House

Brief as Photos – 10: Houses with Arches

Brief as Photos – 9: The Senior Spouse

Brief as Photos – 8: Campaign Props

Brief as Photos – 7: A Diplomat’s Wife

Brief as Photos – 6: The Good Consul

Brief as Photos – 5: Nurbibi

Brief as Photos – 4: Lottery

Brief as Photos – 3: Tandem Couple

Brief as Photos – 2: Bus Ride

Brief as Photos – 1: Lara’s Story



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Brief as Photos: Still Gunning for 52

It’s easier said than done. Writing short-short stories, that is.

I started my “Brief as Photos” series exactly a year ago last week. My first, Lara’s Story was posted on April 26, 2008. The idea was to write a short-short story of less than 1,000 words every week for a year. That would have amounted to 52 stories in a year. But – as you can see, I did not even get to my half-way mark, which is really a bummer … sigh! I will continue to write my short-shorts until I get to 52. It may take me a year … or two… we’ll see. I may be on a move in a year or so. I did blogged my 500th post on May 1st …okay, that’s not an excuse … but I wasn’t idle, just writing about something else…

Here are the stories I wrote this past year:

Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Brief as Photos – 17: The Winner

Brief as Photos – 16: The Djinn of Small Wishes

Brief as Photos – 15: The Adventurous Life of a Fingerprint Scanner

Brief as Photos – 14: Japanese Roulette

Brief as Photos – 13: An American Abroad

Brief as Photos – 12: Gorgeous Princess Goin’ Fishing

Brief as Photos – 11: My Mother’s House

Brief as Photos – 10: Houses with Arches

Brief as Photos – 9: The Senior Spouse

Brief as Photos – 8: Campaign Props

Brief as Photos – 7: A Diplomat’s Wife

Brief as Photos – 6: The Good Consul

Brief as Photos – 5: Nurbibi

Brief as Photos – 4: Lottery

Brief as Photos – 3: Tandem Couple

Brief as Photos – 2: Bus Ride

Brief as Photos – 1: Lara’s Story



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Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

He thought he would make an exceptional ambassador one day. He lobbied hard to get a stretch assignment even in the belly of Africa but was not quite lucky. Instead he got a Principal Officer’s assignment in some backwater country. It was not the ambassadorship he had hoped for but the country was large and his consular district straddled two-thirds of the country. So he was not entirely unhappy.

He was in one of his trips to the southernmost part of his district when he realized that people had difficulty trying to understand his title as principal officer of the consulate. He thought of introducing himself as the American Consul, but his hosts often think of that as exactly the same level as the Honorary Consul of Belgium or Liechtenstein or some other old European country. In one of his radio interviews, he explained his role as kind of the “ambassador to the south.” And before long, he was being introduced as the U.S. ambassador to the south. He was quite popular wherever he went. He visited just about every large city in his district and a few smaller towns with ethnic and indigenous populations. He shook hands and chatted with politicians in fancy clothes, tribal leaders in colorful attires, farmers working in their fields, housewives carrying babies, students in town hall meetings and more. He listened and dutifully wrote a cable after every trip. He told himself that sooner or later, somebody was going to discover the wisdom of his insights, as well as his reporting skills, and send him somewhere important.

In May, he received word that the US ambassador wanted to host an official 4th of July celebration in his district. It was going to be their largest reception ever, as the U.S. ambassador wanted to meet all their local contacts in the southern part of the country. By early June the list had been finalized, the invitations all sent out, and his office was conducting telephonic confirmation for all the missing RSVPs.

The 4th of July reception at the residence was the talk of the town. On the night of the reception, the principal officer happily introduced his local contacts to the U.S. ambassador. Some have travelled from the far ends of his district.

A man in a colorful tribal get-up with a large smile walked excitedly towards where the principal officer and the U.S. ambassador were greeting the guests. The officer remembered him as the senior leader of a large tribal group.

“Mr. Ambassador, I’m so glad to see you again, sir!” the man said as he shook the principal officer’s hands.

The principal officer quickly introduced the tribal leader to the ambassador, hoping the latter would put the incident to nothing more than ignorance on the part of the guest.

But the tribal leader was not to be deterred. “It is nice to have two ambassadors here; it shows that we are a very important country,” he declared.

“Mr. Salamuddin,” the principal officer interrupted, “we only have one American Ambassador here. I work for him.”

“But I don’t understand, you are the ambassador to the south, no?” the tribal leader persisted.

The principal officer dared not look at his boss’ face. With an arm across the tribal leader’s shoulder, he quietly walked him away from the receiving line.

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Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

He thought he would make an exceptional ambassador one day. He lobbied hard to get a stretch assignment even in the belly of Africa but was not quite lucky. Instead he got a Principal Officer’s assignment in some backwater country. It was not the ambassadorship he had hoped for but the country was large and his consular district straddled two-thirds of the country. So he was not entirely unhappy.

He was in one of his trips to the southernmost part of his district when he realized that people had difficulty trying to understand his title as principal officer of the consulate. He thought of introducing himself as the American Consul, but his hosts often think of that as exactly the same level as the Honorary Consul of Belgium or Liechtenstein or some other old European country. In one of his radio interviews, he explained his role as kind of the “ambassador to the south.” And before long, he was being introduced as the U.S. ambassador to the south. He was quite popular wherever he went. He visited just about every large city in his district and a few smaller towns with ethnic and indigenous populations. He shook hands and chatted with politicians in fancy clothes, tribal leaders in colorful attires, farmers working in their fields, housewives carrying babies, students in town hall meetings and more. He listened and dutifully wrote a cable after every trip. He told himself that sooner or later, somebody was going to discover the wisdom of his insights, as well as his reporting skills, and send him somewhere important.

In May, he received word that the US ambassador wanted to host an official 4th of July celebration in his district. It was going to be their largest reception ever, as the U.S. ambassador wanted to meet all their local contacts in the southern part of the country. By early June the list had been finalized, the invitations all sent out, and his office was conducting telephonic confirmation for all the missing RSVPs.

The 4th of July reception at the residence was the talk of the town. On the night of the reception, the principal officer happily introduced his local contacts to the U.S. ambassador. Some have travelled from the far ends of his district.

A man in a colorful tribal get-up with a large smile walked excitedly towards where the principal officer and the U.S. ambassador were greeting the guests. The officer remembered him as the senior leader of a large tribal group.

“Mr. Ambassador, I’m so glad to see you again, sir!” the man said as he shook the principal officer’s hands.

The principal officer quickly introduced the tribal leader to the ambassador, hoping the latter would put the incident to nothing more than ignorance on the part of the guest.

But the tribal leader was not to be deterred. “It is nice to have two ambassadors here; it shows that we are a very important country,” he declared.

“Mr. Salamuddin,” the principal officer interrupted, “we only have one American Ambassador here. I work for him.”

“But I don’t understand, you are the ambassador to the south, no?” the tribal leader persisted.

The principal officer dared not look at his boss’ face. With an arm across the tribal leader’s shoulder, he quietly walked him away from the receiving line.

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About this series and the All Persons Fictitious Disclaimer

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Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

After they’ve completed one domestic tour and halfway through their third overseas tour, she became convinced that real jobs were difficult to come by in this lifestyle. She hated begging for jobs at every post. It was not that she was not capable; there were just not enough jobs to go around.

One day she made the leap to becoming a secretary; she thought this would afford her a job as she moves around with her husband every two-three years. She taught herself the Microsoft suite, applied online and easily got into the OMS program. She left her two kids with her husband in South America and went back to DC for training. They talked every week and she worked really hard. She had no problem completing the training but she missed her family every single moment. Then she learned that she was going to Barbados for her first assignment.

Considering the other places where she could have ended up for her first directed assignment, Barbados seemed like heaven. Except that her husband was being sent to the other side of the world. She came up with four locations where she and her husband could have served together but the assignment office told her “no.” She helpfully pointed out that one of the four places in her list had not been filled for the last two assignment cycles. The answer was still “no.” She talked it over with her husband and they’ve decided she should still go to Barbados. So she put in a request to visit her family and pack out before she shipped out to Barbados. The answer was also “no.” There was no time to spare; she was needed at post immediately. She wondered out loud if the needs of the Service will now always outweigh the needs of her family. Her assignment officer did not have anything to say.

One day she was a new hire, a few days later she was part of some statistics. It almost felt like a dream, except that she had a bill asking that she pay back all the training and related expenses. All of it.

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Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

After they’ve completed one domestic tour and halfway through their third overseas tour, she became convinced that real jobs were difficult to come by in this lifestyle. She hated begging for jobs at every post. It was not that she was not capable; there were just not enough jobs to go around.

One day she made the leap to becoming a secretary; she thought this would afford her a job as she moves around with her husband every two-three years. She taught herself the Microsoft suite, applied online and easily got into the OMS program. She left her two kids with her husband in South America and went back to DC for training. They talked every week and she worked really hard. She had no problem completing the training but she missed her family every single moment. Then she learned that she was going to Barbados for her first assignment.

Considering the other places where she could have ended up for her first directed assignment, Barbados seemed like heaven. Except that her husband was being sent to the other side of the world. She came up with four locations where she and her husband could have served together but the assignment office told her “no.” She helpfully pointed out that one of the four places in her list had not been filled for the last two assignment cycles. The answer was still “no.” She talked it over with her husband and they’ve decided she should still go to Barbados. So she put in a request to visit her family and pack out before she shipped out to Barbados. The answer was also “no.” There was no time to spare; she was needed at post immediately. She wondered out loud if the needs of the Service will now always outweigh the needs of her family. Her assignment officer did not have anything to say.

One day she was a new hire, a few days later she was part of some statistics. It almost felt like a dream, except that she had a bill asking that she pay back all the training and related expenses. All of it.

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Brief as Photos – 17: The Winner

Photo from Wikimedia Commons under
Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

It was her last day at work. She came in at her usual time, had coffee, and avoided answering the phone. She has started cleaning up her desk months ago, perhaps years ago, she could not recall. Yesterday she took all the photo frames and her knick knacks home. On her last day at work, there was really nothing else to do. But they all pretended otherwise, it was her last day at work, after all. She found some paper towels and armed with a can of Pledge proceeded to work on making her oak desk shine. She could not remember the last time she has done that in her long years of working there.

Somebody collected some money and they had pizza for lunch. After the afternoon coffee break, they had cake then they gave her a pin to commemorate her service. They also give her a card signed by all her co-workers including those she barely knew. Then they gave her a nice plaque, an award for something they said she did. There were hugs and goodbyes. They told her to come back and visit often. At quitting time, she was the first one out the door.

She had a big smile when she got on the elevator. The young man already in the car, smiled back.

She said, “It’s my last day at work today.”

The young man said, “Congratulations! You must be happy to sail into retirement.”

“Yes, I am,” she replied. “And I never had to put in a full day of work in 36 years,” she added proudly as she stepped out of the elevator.


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Brief as Photos – 16: The Djinn of Small Wishes


© Jupiter Images from clipart.com

George was a creature of unvarying habit. His afternoon walk, for example, usually ended at one of the benches inside Rumeli Hisar. He often liked to sit there with a good book. His favorite bench was on an elevated spot where he could sit and watch the Bosphorus all day, if he had all day. Sometimes, George sat there simply to watch the ships plying the route between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

George started fiddling with the samovar’s faucet, his newfound bargain from the Tahtahkale market. Then quite suddenly he heard a man clear his throat. He looked up to find an elderly fellow sitting at the other end of his bench. Not having heard the man approach, George was surprised to see him at all. The old man was wearing a dark Ottoman style tunic and pants. A red fez crowned his obviously bald head. His long, bushy and elegant mustache curled ostentatiously upward at the ends. George nodded to him abstractly.

“Pardon, efendi,” the man said addressing George in a Turkish honorific, clearing his throat again and standing up. “Ahhhhgggg, I have been waiting to do that for sooo long,” the man added, making a grand production of

stretching his back. “You have no idea what such a tiny space can do to your bones,” the man continued in a heavily accented baritone.

“I guess not,” George answered to be polite.

“Thank you, efendi,” the man said formally. “I am Mustafa. At your service,” the peculiar man said as he bowed.

George did not know what to make of all this. Although the man did not look like a vagrant, he was acting strange. And for all his obvious years, the fellow seemed robust enough to do damage if so inclined. George decided to give the fellow the benefit of the doubt. He had no desire to give up his bench any time soon.

“I am deeply indebted to you, efendi,” the man informed George. “You may ask for anything you want,” he offered expansively.

“Thank you, sir, but I have not done anything,” George replied.

“Oh, but you have!” Mustafa exclaimed, launching into a brief foot-shuffling dance. “You released me from that horrible prison.

“I released you from prison?” George asked. “From this?” George inquired with obvious disbelief in his voice as he looked at his samovar. “Okay, so who or what are you,” he asked good-humouredly after a pause.

“I am a djinn, of course, efendi,” Mustafa replied with a huge smile, as he proudly twirled one end of his mustache.

“A djinn? Ahh, you mean flying carpets and Aladdin’s lamp,” George asked trying to keep a straight face.

Efendi, please,” begged Mustafa. “I am a djinn, of course, but not the flying carpet sort. Those are a lowly bunch.

“I see,” George replied skeptically. “Please do tell me, am I the only one who can see you?”

“No, no, efendi. Of course, other people can see me,” Mustafa exclaimed. “Naturally, I can make myself invisible if I choose to,” he added with a wink.

“I see,” George replied. “Please stop calling me efendi. My name is George.”

“Of course, of course,” Mustafa replied. “I call you efendi merely to show my great respect. “If you are in doubt, you may ask the first person who comes by what they think of my fez.” When George did not respond, Mustafa continued, “You still don’t believe me? Okay, efendi, why don’t you make a wish?”

“All right,” George said, “make me the American ambassador to Turkey.”

Efendi, you must understand,” Mustafa protested. “I am a djinn of small wishes. I can make many wishes come true one step at a time, but a colossal wish like that is beyond my domain.”

The man answered so seriously that George almost wanted to believe him. “Ahh, Mustafa, you are good,” George replied with a sigh. “Tell me, what is it you really want? A visa?”

But small wishes matter, efendi,” Mustafa insisted. “Many small wishes add up to a big wish, if you know how to ask…” He paused, and then asked, “What is a visa?”

“Never mind,” George replied. “So you mean that if I want to be rich, I should wish for a nightly win in the casino for what, a thousand days?” George could not keep the derision from his voice.

“Well, kind of like that, efendi,” Mustafa answered. “Of course, it need not be a thousand days,” he added seriously.

George was growing tired of the strange fellow’s game. “Okay,” he said, “here’s a small wish for you. I want to see three boats sailing under the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge right this minute. I want their colors to be lime, pink and yellow, in that order,” George smiled as he asked for the most impossible colors he could think of in a sailboat.

“The Fatih Sultan …” the man stuttered, looking confused. “Ahh, is that what they call that thing now? The Conqueror’s bridge…” Mustafa gestured towards the bridge. “Er, what kind of boats, efendi?” he asked, turning to George once more.

“Any would do, Mustafa,” George replied as he tried to keep a straight face. No sooner had the words left his mouth when he saw a slow procession of the ice cream colored boats sailing under the bridge. “What the hell!” he exclaimed, quickly jumping to his feet.

“Another wish, efendi?” the djinn asked calmly, obviously satisfied with his handiwork and the reaction to it.

“Well, let’s see now — how about a fish sandwich from one of those fancy boats by Galata Bridge?” George asked drolly, still not quite sure a real djinn is right before him. This only happens in fairy stories he told himself. “Wait!” he exclaimed. “How many wishes do I get?” he asked looking as if he just won the lottery.

“As many as you like, efendi,” Mustafa replied with a slight bow. “One fish sandwich coming up,” the djinn announced.

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