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Fictional, so far as I remember....
Excerpted from: They're Moving Father's Sewer to Build a Graveyard. For Link On Line, March 15, 2015. Dan Goodman, or 612-298-2354

Books read include: Elizabeth Benedict, The Joy of Writing Sex: A guide for fiction writers. Henry Holt, 2002. The good parts: there's advice which seems useful; and a quote from Smilla's Sense of Snow contains an act I had never heard of before.

However, the intended readership is writers of literary fiction. And reading this reminded me of why I don't care for most literary fiction. Too much technique, too little life.

Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer. Ballantine, 2014. Part of the Rivers of London series. (Each river has its god -- except the Thames, which has two who don't get along well.) Peter Grant is half the staff of Scotland Yard's division devoted to fighting magical crimes. In this book, he's sent to a small town to help investigate the disappearance of two young girls.

There are twists I didn't expect. And I've been reading mysteries and fantasies long enough that I often spot surprises long before authors reveal them.

Aaronovitch is up on police procedures, and gets assistance from working cops. (I don't think he consults working magicians.) I recommend this book, and the entire series.

Note: This is the second book with carnivorous unicorns I've read recently. (The other is Charles Stross's Equoid.) Anyone who looked forward to being first with the idea will need to find another one.

A few months ago, four men were arrested for cheating at poker at Canterbury Racetrack. (One played, one peeked at other players' cards, the other two blocked surveillance cameras.) Their earnings were given as "above $200."

Say they grossed $60 each. Three of them traveled to Minnesota from Florida; add in other expenses, and they can't have netted much. Even if they'd gotten away with it, doesn't seem worth it to me.

If I recall correctly, three were in their 70s and one close to it. They had previous records. If they were smart, they would've gone into another line of work.

[Names of workshop members commented to are replaced by pseudonyms]

Lord Bearer: SF editor John Campbell once speculated that nitroglycerin had been invented before gunpowder -- several times, by alchemists who didn't live to document their results. As I recall, Campbell took for granted that gunpowder was a European invention; but it seems possible to me that it was invented before Muslims brought gunpowder to Europe.

Latin Herder: Actually, some genre stories begin slowly. For example, a group of men are playing cards; and after a while one begins telling the story. This used to be much more common, as did men sitting around in a bar.

A good recent fantasy story which starts off slowly: Neil Gaiman, "To Weep Like Alexander."// I'm used to seeing song lyrics quoted like this:

There was an old woman in our town,
In our town did dwell.
She loved her husband dearly,
But another man twice as well.

She went to the doctor
To see what she could find,
To see what he could give her
To make her old man blind.


First time I seen Darling Corey,
She was standing in the door.
.45 pistol in her hand,
And a dead man on the floor.

Each line of the song on its own line.

//Much of my thinking is in multi-sensory diagrams; usually in three dimensions, sometimes four, occasionally five. Which is rather difficult to get down on paper. //An immortal woman might consider anyone with an age less than a few thousand years young. Even if she's relatively young herself. //I remember things much better if I write them down; and often I don't need to look at them again. My ticker tape synesthesia is less useful, but will do in a pinch. (Ticker tape: Seeing spoken words printed out; in my case, also words I think out. Thankfully, I don't notice it unless I "look." Such things can be distracting. )

People have different kinds of memory, with more differences than can easily be imagined.

Former Medic: I found out I had diabetes by mentioning to my doctor there was an itch between two toes which wasn't going away. (Which is better than the first indication being a coma, as happened to someone I know and to someone I knew when he was alive.) Thought about a relative who had diabetes and wasn't controlling it; I then lost enough weight to be merely prediabetic.
stardreamer 2015-03-14: "Are you seriously suggesting that increased awareness of consent issues is a temporary moral panic, and that (say) 30 years from now, date rape and acquaintance rape will be back to 'business as usual'? Would you have said the same thing 30 years ago about child sexual abuse?"

Thirty years ago, child sexual abuse was taken much less seriously than it is now. My guess: thirty years from now, it'll be somewhere in between being routinely covered up, and it being a very bad idea to post a picture of your child taking a bath.

Consent issues: I don't think it will go all the way back to the way it used to be. (And I very much hope not.)

Just as the back and forth movement of attitudes on racial discrimination hasn't included a return to legal slavery. And has included the possibility of a Black being elected President. (A few decades ago, fictional Black Presidents didn't reach the White House by election; they were in the line of succession.)

***Lee Gold: " 'If you graduated from high school thirty years ago, don't take for granted that nothing has changed. Check.'

"Dan, let's start by discussing whom and what data sources you check with. Asking the nearest teenaged relative is probably not good enough."

I would begin by reading magazines for teens. They're an imperfect mirror; but they do show startling differences.

"'Places you haven't been to in a while have undergone change. In 1965, some Paris restaurants had hectographed menus in their windows; this is probably no longer the case.'

"I didn't see this in 1971. But maybe I was just looking at the wrong Paris restaurants." Or maybe copy machines had become more familiar in the meantime.

"'When "Jennifer" became the most popular girl-baby name in the US,


" ' it was easy to predict that in a bit less than twenty years there would be a lot of college women named Jennifer.

"Or perhaps domr og yhrm eoulf [sic] have changed their names to Jenny and Jen."

One member of Twin Cities sf fandom is called Seven. She was the seventh Jennifer in her Star Trek club.

"'By the late 1980s, it should have been obvious that the Soviet Union was in no shape to successfully invade the US.

"As opposed to bombing it to a glowing nuclear wasteheap." Maybe. The Soviet Union was sufficiently badly organized that such orders might not have been carried out.

"'Take account of moral panic cycles.'

"I'd have thought that network TV shows fading in viewership and cable and web shows gaining and help start niche panic cycles gaining. So far I haven't heard of a TV / web medical or legal show favored by anti-vaxxers but I expect to do so eventually. (I am fervently pro-vaccination. That's not the point here.)"

Most niche Viewing With Alarm doesn't become mainstream (or large minority) moral panics most of the time.
Notes On Writing Future-Setting Fiction

-"Fiction always reflects the time in which it's written, not the time in which it's set. So what's the problem?"-

The same is true of Shakespearean criticism. But that's not what it's supposed to be about; it's supposed to be about Shakespeare in his own time and place. And it's true of historical nonfiction, academic or popular.

And: some people, including me, read fiction set in the future hoping to find something new. To us, "just like today" is no more satisfying than "They realize neither of them is interested in sex and both prefer to live alone" would be to most romance readers.

Not to mention that things might change before a story is published. For several months after the Soviet Union fell, "Soviets invade America" novels were still turning up in bookstores. There were probably others in the pipeline or being written which no one will get to read.

It's not possible to predict the future with total accuracy. But there are ways to cut down on bloopers.

1) If you graduated from high school thirty years ago, don't take for granted that nothing has changed. Check.

If you graduated last year, it still might be a good idea to check.

Yes, teenagers will still act like teenagers. But they won't wear the same clothing, listen to the same music, use the same slang. And for how long has it been possible for a lesbian couple to be elected Homecoming King and Queen? (See the March 2012 issue of Seventeen.)

Places you haven't been to in a while have undergone change. In 1965, some Paris restaurants had hectographed menus in their windows; this is probably no longer the case. (This wasn't mentioned in any guidebook I read. If you visit any place, and don't notice anything which isn't in guidebooks, I recommend an immediate medical checkup.)

2) Look at what's already happened which will have highly-predictable consequences.

When "Jennifer" became the most popular girl-baby name in the US, it was easy to predict that in a bit less than twenty years there would be a lot of college women named Jennifer.

It should have been obvious that the Baby Boom meant larger college classes down the road. I think most college administrators realized this around 1964, but it might have been later.

3) Certain predictions keep being made, and keep being wrong. "In a few years, everyone will have at least one flying car." "Once this law is passed, the problem will be solved forever." (If you want to write alternate history in which ground cars became obsolete in 1960, and Prohibition resulted in all Americans giving up alcohol, that's another matter.)

4) Check to make sure you know what's really happening now that will affect the future. By the late 1980s, it should have been obvious that the Soviet Union was in no shape to successfully invade the US.

5) Take account of moral panic cycles. Right now, nonconsenting sex is A Big Problem: in US colleges, in science fiction fandom, in religious organizations. Drunken driving is also seen as more of a problem than used to be the case. Such jokes as "If you drink, don't park. Accidents cause people" are no longer as acceptable as they once were.

Tobacco use has become much more restrictive. And there are no longer ads like "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

Conversely, marijuana has become acceptable enough to be legal in several US states; and various other countries (Portugal, for example) have decriminalized it.

And there are reciprocal cycles. In certain times, even clueless hard drug users realize that heroin is Bad News. Many turn to nice, safe cocaine. Later, such people realize that cocaine is Bad News and turn to nice, safe heroin. (Any resemblance to political cycles is left to your imagination.)

6) Eating habits will change. Once, most Americans had never tasted pizza. Pasties weren't always a Finnish-American dish in the Upper Midwest.
From Marty Helgeson 12/14/14

"'Adam and Lilith lived happily ever after. So did Eve and the Snake. Should we classify this group as Christian?'

"You didn't say who/what the group is, not that it really matters. I assume your question was rhetorical."

The only group I've named so far is the Martian Israelites, who present another set of problems.

The group faced with this question decides to refer it to the Religious, Spiritual, and Philosophical Council -- which thereby comes into existence.
"Adam and Lilith lived happily ever after. So did Eve and the Snake. Should we classify this group as Christian?"
November 16-19 2014.

Sunday 11/16/14. World and Future Building MinnSpec meetup at Black: Coffee and Waffles. It worked well, despite my poor planning. (I thought Black would be uncrowded on Sunday. Figured about 5 people would attend, and there were about 13. Acoustics rather less favorable than I realized.)

It devolved into several conversation groups.

Note: Black has black coffee, but doesn't seem to have black waffles.

**(Monday 11/17/14. At the Wedge Coop, a toddler and I pretended to menace each other.

Wednesday 11/19/14. -"Cold Weather Hits All of US,"- Star Tribune story listing, front page.

So, how well did Honolulu do at snow removal?

***Decision: Use much more description in writing. Synesthetic, straight sensory, emotional. Starting in January; in fiction, nonfiction, this journal.

Why not start right away? I'm scared.

***At Walker Library, I took out: Richard Kadry, The Getaway God. -"My name is Death. And it appears that I have been murdered."- That's the most interesting passage; unfortunately, it's a teaser for the next in the series.

The nasty old gods who God stole the universe from want to take it back. Which means everyone on Earth, in Heaven, and in Hell will die. Their supporters and opponents include humans, angels, demons, vampires, and four of the five persons God has split into. (The fifth is dead.)

Moderately good story. There's too much background detail explained rather than shown, and too many wisecracks, for my taste. Theological accuracy not guaranteed.

Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart. Haven't read it yet.
Wednesday October 22, 2014. Christian werewolf romances. Hmm; a how-to article on writing a non-existent fiction genre might be fun to do. But just in case, I googled.

And there are actual Christian werewolf romances.

Later, I tried vegetarian werewolf romances. They exist. (Presumably the werewolves are lacto-ovo-vegetarian; that is, they eat eggs and milk products.)

***Wedge Coop Annual Meeting, in the event center at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church. Fortieth anniversary.

Not enough attendees for a quorum, as usual. Minutes for last year's meeting couldn't be approved. But voting was mostly by mail, paper ballot at the grocery, or online.

The food, catered by the Wedge's catering service, was good.
9/22-9/26 2014

***Sunday September 21, 2014 Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers. Scott Lynch spoke and answered questions.

Most interesting to me: the convoluted series of accidents which resulted in his first publication(s).

***Tuesday September 23, 2014. From World Building community on Google Plus:

" We are manufacturer & Exporter of stainless steel Handrail & balustrade and Architectural Hardware products from India.
We would be happy to supply customised product and OEM as per requirement of the client."

***Thursday September 25, 2014. Snow White and the Seven Satyrs. One is named Gropy, another Squeezy. But what are their other names?

Adult Children [of alcoholic and otherwise dysfunctional families] Anonymous meeting.

***Friday September 26. 2014. To Community Emergency Service for their produce giveaway. Brought bags for others to use, as I've done the last few times. Also a wounded briefcase, and a laundry basket.

A little girl was pushed a stroller around. I pretended to sit down in it, for her to push me around.
Monday March 24, 2014 Started drafting a future. One I would find plausible long enough to set stories there.

Some of my assumptions: 1) There isn't going to be "the end of history" -- a time when society is properly organized and everyone is rational. There won't be an end to wars and other waste motion.

2) Cosmology and physics will not achieve The Final Theory That Explains Everything.

3) There will be unexpected social and technological changes. But things which are obviously going to change won't.

4) Spaceships are not going to be run just like sailing ships.


Electric 'thinking cap' controls learning speed
Date: March 23, 2014
Source: Vanderbilt University
Summary: Caffeine-fueled cram sessions are routine occurrences on any college campus. But what if there was a better, safer way to learn new or difficult material more quickly? What if "thinking caps" were real? Scientists have now shown that it is possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn through the application of a mild electrical current to the brain, and that this effect can be enhanced or depressed depending on the direction of the current.
Your Character Wouldn't Say That

It's snowing for Christmas in cities all over the world, including Honolulu. At an expert conference, the viewpoint character says "It never snows in Hawaii."

I stopped reading.

An expert would know that it snows in Hawaii. At rather high elevations, not every winter, and not enough for safe skiing; but it does snow in Hawaii.

It is barely, barely possible an expert talking down to laymen would say that. But not when talking to fellow experts.

The story is Connie Willis's "Just Like The Ones We Used to Know." I still read sf and fantasy by her -- but I don't count on her to get her facts right. And if it's a kind of story which depends on factual accuracy (for example, set in the past), I don't read it.

How do you get expert speech right? Run it past that kind of expert.

Now: let's say you have reason to consider yourself well informed about politics. You're a well-read conservative or a well-read liberal. Your character is of the opposite persuasion; but you know exactly how Those People talk and write.

No. You don't. Unless you're a professional linguist and this is your area of research.

If you aren't, consult people of that political persuasion. That EXACT political persuasion, of course.

Or you're writing a character who grew up where and when I did. You know me, and you've listened to me enough to know how such a character would talk.

Bad news -- there may be sounds you don't hear.

Some Americans and Canadians pronounce "Aaron" and "Erin" identically, and find it difficult to hear the difference when I say these names. Most Americans pronounce "horse" and "hoarse" identically; I don't.

If you're English, and you speak Received Pronunciation or a London-area dialect, you're likely to have trouble hearing when Americans do or don't pronounce r-sounds at the ends of syllables. (That's real, genuine R's; not the sound Ian Fleming meant when he said Americans pronounced his name "Iarn.")

And: there are people who clearly remember me saying I grew up in a small town. No. I grew up in the country. There are places where "It's the same thing, isn't it?" -- but Ulster County NY isn't one of them. (Or wasn't.)

The good news: Dialecticians and theatrical coaches have produced written and audio material on dialects.

But it's still a good idea to have at least one native speaker look over what you've written.

But what if you story is set in the future? I know of one useful reference work: Allan Metcalf, Predicting New Words: The Secret of Their Success; Houghton Mifflin, 2002; ISBN 0-618-13006-3.
Sunday December 8, 2013. A telepath is investigating the mind of someone with very strong synesthesia (synaesthesia.) From John Brunner, The Whole Man:

"...Howson found himself on the top of a dizzying slide, lost his grip, and went headlong, skidding and slipping into a vast uncharted jungle of interlocked sensory experiences.

"...Howson had experience of minds with limited audio-vision -- those of people to whom musical sounds called up associated colors or pictures -- but compared to what went on in Rudi's mind that was puerile.

"...Images presented themselves: a voice/velvet/a kitten's claws scratching/purple/ripe fruit -- a ship's siren/fog/steel/yellowish-gray/cold/insecurity/sense of loss and emptiness -- a common chord of C major struck on a piano/childhood/wood/black and white overlaid with bright gold/hate/something burning/tightness about the forehead/shame/stiffness in the wrists/liquidity/roundness..."

Rudi Allef has been unable to convey his artistic visions to an audience, frustrating him to the point of trying to kill himself. Later on, with the help of Gerry Howson, another telepath, and another artist, he becomes able to do so.

My synesthesia is nowhere near this strong. However, I do want to communicate aspects of it to an audience. And so far I haven't been able to.

I'm not remotely frustrated enough to consider suicide; a good thing, since I don't know any helpful telepaths.

My preferred medium is printed words (or the electronic equivalent.)
I'll be posting this in a listing of services for sf/fantasy writers:

Will critique American dialog by writers from other English-speaking countries (including Canada,) and non-Anglophone countries. Note: American editors won't catch everything; examples from Canadian and English writers published in the US on request.

My native dialect is Hudson Valley (probably somewhat outdated). I'm also fairly familiar with New York Metropolitan. Have almost learned the Twin Cities (Minnesota) brand of English.

I have some familiarity with several political lexicons: Marxist, anarchist, liberal, conservative.

Note: If you know why "Polari" and "Parlari" wouldn't sound the same to someone from New York City, the Ulster County NY pronunciation of "Shawangunk," how much difference there is between a tractor-trailer and a semi, and why the US doesn't have Girl Guides, you probably don't need my help.
Prediction 1: Three months from now, the weather will be exactly the same as it is today -- all over the world.

Prediction 2: Twenty years from now, human society will be exactly the same as it is today. Take the United States, for example. Americans will have the same political beliefs, consider the same matters most important, have the same sexual mores, listen to the same kinds of music (if not the exact same music you like now.)

The first prediction is more likely to be accurate.

Two hundred years from now: The United States will probably remain the most powerful country in North America. It's unlikely to still be the world's most powerful country. (I do think it's likely the US won't be among the weakest nations. The country which exported frankfurters to Frankfurt, hamburgers to Hamburg, and bagels to Warsaw is adaptable.)

If the current major parties survive, they'll be very different from what they now are.

Any music which survives from our time will almost certainly be played rather differently than it is now.

Two thousand years from now: English, like every other living language, will be changed enough so if you were brought forward into that time you'd need to relearn it. Any cities which remain from our time will be much changed.
These have been used (and perhaps overused) in other kinds of spec-fic. However, if they've been used in urban fantasy, they haven't reached the "Oh no -- not another ___ story!" level.

1. Once there was an evil race which terrorized the universe/multiverse. They were defeated, but:

a. A few survived on a planet they call Earth (Michael Shaara, "All the Way Back.")
b. They were imprisoned in a space with only three spatial dimensions (Colin Kapp, Transfinite Man.)

2. Organizations which can accurately predict the future compete with each other to shape it.

3. All the technology we think is science-based is really magical.

4. Devils are actually the Good Guys. William Blake seems to have believed this, at least part of the time. (Note: If you want believable characters, don't write William Blake into your story.)

5. After a catastrophe, the only people left alive are a man called Adam and a woman called Eve. This one was overused in science fiction by 1950, if not before; I suspect it's not very salable in any related genre.

6. Men and women belong to different species.
Question for members of organized religions: In a future year, there are one thousand of your co-religionists on Mars. How would they be organized?
Sunday July 21, 2013 To the Uptown Lunds supermarket for the MinnSpec meeting. (Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers)

Seen from the bus: "S&M Mojito. Violates _all_ boundaries." Chino Latino restaurant billboard.

On the store's magazine rack, a number of mags with cover articles on how to have better sex. Maxim deserves some kind of prize for "Outdoor Sex What we can learn from the squirrels."

***"Will Alexander was the surprise winner in 2012 of the National Book Award for Goblin Secrets, his first novel. Since then, his second book has come out, and he has a third one underway. It was not all instantaneous glory, though. Goblin Secrets had to overcome an initially rocky literary debut before becoming a best seller. Want to hear more? Come, and meet this charming local author who spins delightfully odd tales of puppets, masks and goblin theater troupes.
Recorded at"

***From Twitter:
Andrew Kaczynski ‏@BuzzFeedAndrew
Feeling a bit fatigued lately went to Google to search my symptoms. It turns out I'm pregnant.
Wednesday July 3, 2013 Opening of work in progress; first draft or zero draft:

"Of course you're a witch. You're an atheist, aren't you?" Miranda Afterland smiled, to show she didn't really believe that superstition.

Chane Mardon shook his head. "I'm an agnostic. I neither believe or disbelieve in any gods."

"That's even better! Someone who doesn't even believe in atheism must have really powerful magic. Look; all you have to do is give obscure answers to questions about the future. I'll interpret what you say. And we both get paid."

***Shopped at the Wedge and Steeple People Thrift Store. Picked up prescription meds at HealthPartners Riverside.

***From Twitter:
Michael Anissimov ‏@MikeAnissimov
Bad news: you probably won't be able to be revived from the NSA's records of you.

Which sparked a story idea I probably won't use. Given sufficiently advanced technology, it would be possible to reconstruct someone from surveillance records. ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke.)
Saturday May 4, 2013

Ye knowe eek that in forme of speche is chaunge
With-inne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yet thei spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do
(Chaucer, circa 1385)

On the American Dialect Society mailing list, I had asked:

I'm looking for writings on the future of the English language. I own _Predicting New Words_.

Presumably, there's other material more recent than L. Sprague De Camp's 1938 essay "Language for Time Travelers."

And more useful than "The Internet/crystal radio/texting/___ is destroying our language!"

In response, Neal Whitman recommended has much more of linguistic and/or science-fictional interest. Recommended for anyone writing sf. (Probably also good for game designers; but I don't know enough about that process to say.)

For the near future, I recommend: Allan Metcalf, _Predicting New Words: the secrets of their success_; Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

***From Twitter:
Ray Radlein ‏@Radlein 3m
RT @davewiner: RT @morningmoneyben: I hate how the media just covers the Derby as a horse race and ignores the substantive issues.
Sunday April 21, 2013 I ran a discussion for Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers (MinnSpec): "At what age are cows housebroken? What urban and suburban writers should know about rural life before writing about it."

I started with a reference to the Cheers theme song: "A place where everyone knows your name" isn't something country people need to search out. Where I grew up (Ulster County NY; between Kerhonkson and Accord, which at the time had populations of a couple hundred people each), people would be more likely to want a bar where everyone didn't know your name. And your grandfather's name. And your great-grandfather's prison record.

Several other people were from other rural parts of the US. I learned some things I hadn't known before.

And a couple of people had moved to the country; they had a different slant.

Other topics brought up: Some urban neighborhoods are rather like very small towns in some ways.

Fantasy writers can get horses very, very wrong.
The Queen of Stone and Fire

In the Temple of Reason, a clock struck thirteen. Then it announced, "Sunday May Third, 2953. Tertiary post-Mayday service begins in fifteen minutes."

Tevis Morkin wasn't there for the service. His government duty for the week was registering magic workers, if any happened to set up business in New Dinkytown. None were likely to come along this soon after Mayday; that was why the City hadn't chosen someone she considered reliable for the task.

He turned to look at the wall behind his desk, which bore pictures of Reasonite saints. Tevis knew enough history to suspect Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Josiah Warren, and Aleister Crowley would not have been pleased to be lumped together.

Behind him, someone cleared their throat.
Want to know how "those people" think? Ask them.

Not their opponents. To begin with, those opponents might be ignorant. Might think all politically-conservative US Protestants are Fundamentalists; or be unaware that liberals aren't socialists.

More to the point, "those people" have direct access to their own thoughts; their own way of seeing the world; their own feelings. They might not be entirely truthful with you (or with themselves) -- but their opponents might not be, either.

And at worst, you'll be able to observe how they talk.
He's too good for Heaven. She's too evil for Hell. We are their descendants.
Opening: The Sane Years

She was undressing in front of the Wedge coop grocery. Nobody bothered to watch her.

Except for James Morgan, who was mildly interested. As she removed her skirt, he put some plastic money and a few coins in the hat.
Three intelligent, language-using species.

The first intelligent species had a Final War between competing nation-states. They left really, really permanent records.

Second intelligent species (which developed some millions of years later) learned from those records. Those who thought a universal state was the only safe alternative triumphed.

Their Final War was over control of the world state.

The three species which evolved after them decided the safest course was to try as many different types of government as possible.

Outside the human culture reservation, different branches of government occupy different areas.

Runagate's executive branch (which has only one permanent paid employee, known as "Gov") is centered in Runagate. The legislative branch is headquartered in Edge City. Judicial branch in Equitable Commerce. Philosophical and religious branch in Naglfahr Landing, aka Old Spaceport Museum.