Category: space age

Naming the affliction

I finally have a diagnosis for what ails me.

For years I’ve suffered from a sense of thwarted nostalgia or yearning melancholy. I’ve struggled putting into words exactly what I’ve been experiencing, this unshakeable conviction that I exist outside of time, not belonging to the present day, out of synch with the rest of the world.

The other day I came across a book titled Endangered Words (Simon Hertnon, Skyhorse Publishing) and while paging through it happened upon an entry for saudade.

Never heard of such an animal and when I checked the accompanying definition, the hair on the back of my neck rose with an audible crackle:

saudade (SAH-u-dah-deh)

Of Portuguese origin, saudade refers to “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness”. (A.F.G. Bell)

Silver-skinned rocketships and routine journeys to and from Mars, the outer planets.

A “golden age” of friendly, singing cowboys, camaraderie around the campfire, the home ranch across the next ridge.

I think that’s essentially why I became a writer: from an early age I could see reality wasn’t panning out the way I liked, so it was up to me to create my own private universe.

Come visit me sometime.

Just open one of my books or short stories and say “Hello”…



New poem

Milky Way

They stopped counting at four hundred billion.
Just threw in the towel.
Resorted to a shorthand of equations, accompanied
by hair-pulling and other frantic gesticulations.

That’s a lot of stars, of suns–
but still only one, single galaxy,
not an especially distinguished
galaxy at that.

Kind of humbling, isn’t it?
To realize from a cosmic perspective we’re
the equivalent of country bumpkins, living
wayyyy out in the boonies.

And so can any god suffice?
Persuade us of a divine flame
burning invisibly within us, shining
like one of those stars?

Or have you murdered faith,
Galileo, by measuring the glory of
Creation with your heretical gaze,
recanting except in your heart?


© Copyright, 2015 Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

“Splashdown” (science fiction)

100_1027…confined in some kind of plummeting spacecraft, unfamiliar controls, banks of switches and gauges, a bewildering array.

Extreme disorientation, not helped by the jolting descent, my capsule pitching and rolling, a sense of increasing speed and friction–

Fire! Fire! Engulfed in a sheath of flame, watching helplessly as long, thin tracks of plastic slide down the porthole-like windows.

I’m melting.

Turbulence reaching maximum intensity, violent gyrations and bumps, hearing the roar even through my helmet.

A shooting star.


Something…heaviness! Good old gravity. Like a slow-settling weight. Or turning to stone.

The fires are going out, leaving behind a blackened cinder.


Outside: purple. Purple-blue. Blue.

100_1031Landing on water.

Bobbing on a choppy sea, weeping with relief.

Waiting for someone to come and get me.

Wondering how long it will take.



Copyright, 2014 (All Rights Reserved)

A short film and an admission

I’m a space geek, a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool fanatic when it comes to anything to do with making the stars our destination.

I think it’s a complete drag how we seem to have stalled here in near-Earth orbit. Sending tourists up to the International Space Station at twenty million bucks a pop, while dispatching robot drone ships to the far reaches of the solar system, letting them do the work for us. No need for boots on the ground, expensive manned programs, grand visions…

I’ve loved science fiction all my life. Bradbury, Dick, Matheson, Beaumont, Ellison…those were my boys.

I’m also crazy about cinema.

Put it all together and you’ll (perhaps) understand what went into the making of “Planetfall”:



My Muse is very odd.

Drives me like a pitiless slave-mistress one minute, refuses to speak to me the next.

Then, yesterday, a bit of a bone.  An offer to collaborate on something with me, except it had to be a visual piece. Sherron had given me a square of canvas to play with, so I went down to my basement cubbyhole and there, with watercolors, model pigments and a shot or two of spraypaint, I concocted “Europan Blue”.

God knows what she’ll have me doing today….

(Click on image to enlarge)

"Europan Blue"

“Europan Blue”


Postcard from a future self

A local arts collective, Feed the Artist, distributed blank postcards and asked folks to write themselves a “message from the future”.

I really like the people behind the group so I was happy to contribute. Here’s my offering—you can see all the postcards by dropping by Crandleberry’s (coffehouse & cyber cafe) and viewing the display. And a reminder that the second issue of the Feed the Artist magazine, featuring many fine artists, will be launched at Crandleberry’s Friday, March 15th, 7:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Mars I

Mars II