Tips for the Total Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017)


The Sun through eclipse glasses.

I am psyched about the eclipse. I’m traveling to see it properly, because in Indianapolis, the Sun will only be 91% eclipsed by the Moon. That’s as good as I’ve ever seen it before (in 1986 and 1994), but this time I want to see the stars come out in the daytime, and I want to see the corona.

In 1986, I was really unsafe and looked at the eclipse through a stack of exposed slides. I have no idea if it blocked enough light to be safe, and even then I only took quick peeks because I wasn’t sure. But I did see it, and it was fun when many of the other kids in my high school had no idea why it was getting dark outside without a cloud in the sky.

Don’t be stupid, do not look directly at the Sun. Ever burn things with a magnifying glass as a kid? The lens in your eyeball will do that to your retina and you will be blinded.


Animation of the 1994 Eclipse, Kirkwood Observatory

In 1994, I was working for the Indiana University Astronomy Department, and I’d set up their first webserver. I found out that we had a solar telescope at Kirkwood Observatory, and that a Sparc 5 workstation (made by Sun) had a video capture card. I set things up so that an image would be taken every minute and that it would be copied over the the webserver every 5 minutes. The thought was that we had no idea how much load it would put on the machine if it was viewable more often. And as it turns out, we had over 2000 unique visitors in 4 hours, and I was especially proud of the visits from NASA and from other countries. I was also happy to have been emailed by a professor elsewhere who’d shown the eclipse to his class of a hundred or so thanks to my web-broadcast.


Mid Eclipse May 10, 1994 12:03 EST (17:03 UT)

To this day, I count that as the event that really launched my career with the web and as a sysadmin.

So here’s what I learned on that day in 1994. Of course, you can easily buy eclipse glasses to view the event, but here are some safe, low tech ways as well:


Pinhole cameras made of 1″ square mirrors (on poles with silly putty) were set up around the observatory, the reflection of the sun projected a nice image the eclipse on posterboard.


The leaves acted as natural pinhole cameras, projecting hundreds of crescents on the ground as the eclipse progressed.


If you have nothing else, form your hands into a waffle pattern to make pinhole cameras to project on the ground.

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Announcing Alien Beer and Other Stories

I am proud to present to you, my new short story anthology, Alien Beer and Other Stories! Many of these have appeared in other publications over the years, many others have been a part of the Iron Writer Challenge flash fiction competition, and still others have never been in print before — and I’m dying to share them with you at long last!

Currently only available as a paperback book on Amazon, this collection will debut tomorrow at Inconjunction Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, where I’ll be a guest and vendor again this year, along with my cohorts in the Speculative Fiction Guild, R.J. Sullivan, Matthew Barron, John F. Allen, and some others.

So, without further ado, here’s Alien Beer and Other Stories!

AlienBeerAMZNcover23 Fantastic Tales!

Come along as E. Chris Garrison tells her strange tales of science fiction and fantasy. Twenty-three stories await you inside this book. Many have been published elsewhere, some have appeared online, and still others have been waiting patiently to be discovered. Some of them include:

  • “A Bone to Pick” is a ghost hunting story, from the ghost’s point of view.
  • “The Spark” reveals a dark side of Reality Check.
  • Ida from Trans-Continental gets her start in “Moonlight Blossom”.
  • In “Personal Space,” Trog tells us of his anti-social superpower.
  • In the world of Road Ghosts, “Spectral Delivery” mixes ghosts, Valentine’s Day, and pizza.
  • Is “Shelby” a boy or a girl, or something else?
  • Little Minnie from the Tipsy Fairy Tales goes solo in “Seelie Goose”.

Alien Beer and Other Stories paperback edition.

Kindle edition: TBA.

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Guess what? My story “Remember” won the Iron Writer C196 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge! That means I’m advancing to the Tournament when it rolls around!

Elements: Remember by Harry Nilsson (whatever you take from it), A scorched map, A white lace handkerchief, Jasmine



by E. Chris Garrison

We sat by his bedside in the hospice, and I couldn’t bring myself to hold his hand. Laura did it for me, though I don’t think he noticed.

“Your dad looks stormy,” she said.

“Stormy? He’s in a coma.” My words came out more acidic than I intended.

Her soft look told me she understood. “Like he’s upset. Or trying to remember something.”

“Remember,” said my father, the word a papery whisper.

My wife and I drew in breath together. I pushed past Laura to be near his face. “What is it, Dad?”

His eyelids still closed, his lips twitched. “A place from long ago.”

Laura and I exchanged a glance. She asked, “Where is it, where are you?”

He let out a breath, deflating. I thought it was his last, but he filled his lungs with a deep breath and said, “Remember that pirate movie I took you to when you were a teen, kiddo?”

I smiled at the old endearment he’d called me for over forty years. “Yes, dad. Our favorite. The Goonies.”

He wheezed and barked a cough, and his eyes cracked open, though he stared unseeing at the ceiling. “Know how they found the treasure cave?”

Laura handed me her lace handkerchief. I wiped at tears I didn’t realize I’d shed, and said, “That old map, from the attic.”

A smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Wish I had that for you. Your ship come in, taken care of for life, kiddo.”

I still could not bring myself to reach out and touch him. The old man never was touchy-feely. “It isn’t like in the movies. I’ve made my own ship, I have my own treasure,” I said with a glance at my wife. “You taught me how, dad.”

Now his eyes fixed on Laura. “Yes. Yes, you have, kiddo. You’re both so pretty, you’re your own treasure.” He took in another breath, through his nose and breathed, “Jasmine. Like your mother used to wear.”

Laura laughed. “I know it’s her favorite. And yours.”

His eyes met mine, the soft light of the room gathered to two sharp infinitely brilliant points, and memories of those eyes looking at me in all emotions in all parts of my life came flooding through me, and I did reach out to touch his face with the tips of my fingers.

“Remember,” he said, arching an eyebrow.

The laugh, at his Trek reference at a time like this, escaped me, even as I dissolved into blubbery tears. “Really, dad?”

He nodded and waited.

“Of course I’ll remember, dad.”

He held my eyes with his, and the light went out of them, and the body on the bed wasn’t him anymore.

Laura held me, the scent of jasmine filling my world, bound to those memories welling up with the tears.

“I should have told him I love him,” I wailed into her soft shoulder.

Her fingers twined in my hair and she whispered in my ear, “You did, love. You did.”

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A Tale of Two Laundries

Here’s another 500 word flash fiction story for you! It is currently competing in the 2017 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Tournament against 20 other stories. The top 5 of us will advance to the final round. Wish me luck!

woman-in-dryerElements: A woman in a clothes dryer, Menstrual cramps, A hairbrush without bristles, A wooden hanger


A Tale of Two Laundries

By E. Chris Garrison

The life of a mad scientist is often glamorized. But believe me, it’s not all bringing patchwork corpses to life, or building the ultimate death ray. Especially for those of us on a budget, there are simply days when you’ve got to do mundane things. Like my laundry. Which is how I found myself alone at the Laundromat one Saturday night.

Mad science pays a lot less than you’d think it would.

There are laundries closer to my apartment, but I like Ike’s Laundry and Tan’s 1950s atmosphere. Wooden clothes hangers, copper embossed ceiling tiles, and all chrome décor. Cell reception was terrible, since it formed a Faraday cage of sorts, but that suited me fine.

That is, until she happened.

As I watched my laundry tumble in the massive quarter-driven dryer, I had a thought: what better way to clean clothes than to swap them with their as-yet-unused counterparts in alternate dimensions? It’d work through entanglement, and could remove any stain by way of literally never having happened. Of course, some alternate me would have unexplained stains appearing on his clothes. But that’s not my problem. Heck, the same principal could restore the bristles on an old favorite hairbrush, or instantly fix a flat tire…

A flash of light and a booming noise startled me from my daydreaming. It came from my dryer. A jump-suited woman peered out of the machine at me, grinning. She slapped at the glass door with the palm of her hand, and I helped her out.

She stood a little shorter than me, with auburn hair like mine, only longer. Her eyes could have been mine, except for the merry twinkle in them.

“I did it!” she cried, hugging me. Toasty warm, she smelled of my dryer sheets.

“So, you admit it!” I said, shoving her away from me.

A frown clouded her freckled face. “And why shouldn’t I?”

“It’s criminal,” I said. “And dangerous. You are me, aren’t you?”

She nodded. Her smile restored, “Looks like I’m a man in this universe?”

I shrugged. “What’s that got to do with it? You’re just like the others. All evil. Like that me from Atlantis, who stole my marine biologist girlfriend! Or the other me who fried my equipment with an EMP burst to stop my death ray experiments. Or—”

She grinned. “See? It’s meant to be, we’re dimension hoppers! All of us discover quantum tunneling!”

“And you stole my idea. And my laundry! It’s criminal!”

Time for my secret weapon.

In a fury, I pulled out an electronic patch made of pink flexible metal, its surface etched with a crossed-out Venus symbol. I slapped it onto her bare forearm. “Ha! I stole that from the last me – feel the Femmeliminator! Ah ha ha!”

She closed her eyes and her face went slack, followed by a blissful smile. “Dude, we’re about to become filthy stinking rich! That doodad just cured my cramps!”

Sales of Femmeliminators have funded our joint mad science ventures quite nicely.


Secret: This is a sort of sequel to my much earlier story, “Moby Me”.


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The Man at the Top of the Stair (flash story)

I wrote this story for The Iron Writer Challenge #190 (Spring Equinox Challenge #11) using the elements below. I didn’t really know what to do with them at first, then it came to me all at once. This is a very personally intense story for me.


Antigonish Restricted to the first verse only

Another person’s dream that you are envious of.

A hangman’s noose

Will you never leave me?

The Man at the Top of the Stair

By E. Chris Garrison


There he stands, at the top of the stair, his angry face mimicking, mocking, a parody of my own. His face full of shadow, his sharp features, his hairy body, they fill me with darkness and loathing. He matches my every move, always waiting for me as I go to bed.

During the day, I had moved through the world with beauty and grace, the man at the top of the stair invisible to anyone who should meet me. My new floral dress, my carefully coiffed hair, the click of my pumps, these all brought a smile to my face. At my office, everyone greeted me, and said my name in a way that made me preen. The unintentional slights rolled off my plumage like water off a duck. The simplest things, away from the man at the top of the stair, were bright and wonderful; even signing correspondence warmed me inside.

The friendly grocer had bagged my things, but I’d refused when he offered to help me to my car. The women at the department store beauty parlor exclaimed in envy over the clarity of my skin, little knowing the long road I’d taken to achieve it.

Each pill, each treatment, all had been one more bit of poison to the man at the top of the stair. I’d worked for a year, and then two, to make him go away, to die at long last. If only to never see his face scowling back at me ever again.

I made my dinner, I took care of my cats, I relaxed with some chamomile tea in my long, soft nightgown, and read my book until it fell from my hand, its text intermingled with wisps of a dream.

Time for bed.

My chest tightened, as I could avoid the stair no more.

Not long ago, Mom confided in me that when I’d been a child, she’d dreamed of me as I am now, like a prophecy. She said I seemed so much happier. I wish she’d told me that then. Where could I have been by now? Would there never have been the hated man waiting for me at the top of my stair?

At the top of the stair he stood, like he did every night before bed. This time, I could take it no more, and I screamed, “I’ve done everything I can! Will you never leave me?”

My fist shattered the mirror, and a dozen or a hundred images of the man leered back at me, somehow making a laugh out of my screaming face. I crumpled to the floor, picking glass out of my fingers, wrapping my bloody hand in the skirts of my nightgown. The sharp edges of long shards of glass, more tempting and easier than any hangman’s noose, called to me, the eyes of the man beckoned to me from all over the rug.


He won’t win today, not this way.

I dialed 9-1-1.

I will survive. And I will win.

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Do You Stand for Transgender Rights? Step Up.

It hasn’t even been a whole year, but back in May, I cried happy tears. Not today.

It’s not just about bathrooms.

In May of 2016, the Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch, told the transgender community, “But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”

That was a wonderful feeling, that my government finally had my back, that transgender kids would be validated in their identities and more importantly, they would be protected.

Now, that’s been swept away by the current administration. We know where the government stands, and it is not with us. And most people see this as a non-issue. Who even knows a transgender person, we don’t have those around here, do we?

I’m angry. I’m angry at those who support the current administration’s agenda, angry at those who stand by and let this kind of thing happen. It’s not the end of it, either, there will be more bathroom bills, and more attempts to enforce biology at birth as lifetime legal status for gender. More attempts to force transgender people out of public life.

And if you stand by and let it happen, I’m angry with you. You can say you have my back all you want, but your actions speak louder than words.

I, for one, am not being pushed back into the closet, and I am not going to de-transition out of fear. This is my life now, come what may. But we need help, we are few, and we are often dismissed, even by the queer community. We want need to see allies stand up for us. I want to see the LGBs stand up for the Ts as well. Please.

For reference:

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Dr. Princess and the Soldier (flash story)

This story appeared in The Iron Writer Challenge #186 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #7 and came in first with the popular vote, and close second with an internal Iron Writer vote. But more importantly, it was fun to write. Hope you like it.

February 4, 201720170216_141951-picsay.jpg

TIWC #186 Elements: One hot summer day, A deserted island, Buried treasure, Chicken with its head cut off.


Dr. Princess and the Soldier
by E. Chris Garrison


Dr. Victoria Princess sunned herself, seeming unconcerned. Massive waves threatened to wash over the tiny beach island she lay on. Each time the surf struck, a little bit more of the island sloughed away with the tide as it rolled back out.

Victoria wondered whether the shadow of the island’s lone palm tree would move to cool her sooner than the island eroded to reach her toes.

Through her owlish, near-opaque, green plastic sunglasses, she watched as the bucket-like lifeboat sank into the water with a sucking sound. There went her only other clothing, as well as any hope of getting off the ever-shrinking island. Victoria’s face remained cool and impassive, the hint of her trademark smile unchanged.

The cloudless sky darkened. Something blocked the sun. The something grew larger; a whisper grew to a scream as it tore through the air, right toward her island.

Victoria peered at it through her shades, but remained perfectly still as a small airplane crashed into the ground nearby, scattering sand in all directions. Water soon filled in the crater it left.

A soldier clawed his way from the wreckage, with no time to spare, as the plane exploded. Bits of debris rained down all around, hot metal sizzling in the salt water. The blast knocked the palm tree to the ground, away from Victoria.

Victoria sprang to her feet. “Oh, are you hurt? I am a doctor, let me examine your wounds!”

The soldier raised his grizzled and craggy face and said, “A doctor? That’s okay, I’m fine, I’m too tough to need a doctor.”

“Don’t be silly, everyone needs doctors sometimes.”

“I don’t. I eat shrapnel for breakfast.”

“That can’t be good for your digestion. Here, would you like a cup of tea?” Victoria produced a small plastic tea set out of nowhere. She sat on the ground, next to his prone form, and prepared the teacups.

His face betrayed no emotion as he snorted. “No! I am here to seek buried treasure, not to drink tea, lady.”

Victoria made no visible reaction, but said, “Buried treasure? Is that why you crashed here?”

The soldier sat up suddenly. “Yes! I was shot down by enemy agents, they don’t want me to find the treasure.”

“I haven’t seen any treasure,” she said, looking past him at the new lagoon that had been dug by his plane’s impact and explosion.

“That’s ’cause it’s buried,” he said, refusing the teacup she offered.

Victoria sipped at her own tea. “Well, how will you dig for–”

A shrill shriek shattered the air, and a giant’s foot, wearing a flip-flop pushed them both deep into the sand.

“Moooom! Aiden just ruined my island party!” cried a voice far up in the sky. “He’s running around like a chicken with its head cut off again, make him stop!”

The surf lapped at the foot-shaped crater, and Dr. Princess and the soldier stared up through the water, the smiles on their plastic faces unchanged.

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