When Will I See You Again?
We didn't know her name. She refused to write, or to share her implant's address, but I know she could read. Keats and Martin found her sleeping nude on the beach, shivering under dried kelp, bruised all over her body. Keats and Martin wrapped her in their dusters. Between them, they carried her up to our tent city under the boardwalk. They took her to me, because she was short and skinny like me and I had more clothes than most did on the beach front. I needed my uniform, but I could live without a skirt and a turtleneck and some undergarments for a while, as long as I had my uniform. I could take her up to the community center where I could take her off to the woman's side, and help her wash up.
I hated the bruises all over her. She was beautiful. Her hair was long, almost down to her ankles. It was bent and twisted up into blond dreadlocks. I couldn't penetrate far into that hair with shampoo.
She didn't have any soap or shampoo. I let her use some of mine. I helped her, gently, running my hands over her softened skin, and her soft hair. I was so gentle, I was afraid to even push into her hair with shampoo. She was pulped like a fruit.
I gave her my clothes. I led her back to my tent under the boardwalk, among the artists and drifters. She laid down beside me on a beach towel.
The moonlight of the bay spilled over her from the flap of my tent. I stayed awake the rest of the night, gazing down on her, hating whoever had done that to her.
“I have to go to work,” I said, in the shower, “But someone needs to take you to a medical station. Look at you, honey, you got the shit beaten out of you. Did you jump out of a moving car?”
She looked at her feet. She covered her nakedness with her hands, and her hair. She had long, long, long hair, down to her knees. It was blond, and roped into dirty dreadlocks. She was using a lot of my shampoo. I wasn't mad.
“Did you get your jaw broken?” I said.
I reached out to her, and gingerly tried to touch her face. She winced and pulled back.
She shook her head. She curled into a ball in the shower. She didn't stand up. I finished. I checked her for signs of soap. I saw none. I turned off the water for both of us. I pulled her up to her feet, again, and tried to towel her off. She took the towel from me, and finished the job herself. She dressed in my clothes. They didn't quite fit. I was curvier than she was. She was gaunt, and misshapen where her beaten body was swollen.
She was slowing down my routine, and I didn't want to be late for work. I couldn't risk being late. I took her out of the community center to the boardwalk proper where barkers and fast-talkers plied their trade for tourists. Street performers, artists and musicians and animal trainers and dancers, sipped coffee and hung together in clumps, waiting for the tourists.
I pinged Andy an urgent, a dancer I knew, sipping coffee with some musicians who managed to keep an apartment together in the city.
What's up, Med?
He stood up. He looked around the street for me. He waved when he saw me. He jogged over. He saw my face, and the urgency in my face.
“Med?” he said.
I pointed to the woman next to me. “Andy, this woman got the shit beat out of her last night. She needs a medical station. I don't think she knows where one is. She can't even talk.”
“I've got to work.”
“So do I, but I'll get fired if I'm a little late. Look, I'm not asking you to hang around with her. I'm just asking you to take her to the medical station. Ping me and tell me that she's there, and spread the word that someone needs to get her back to my tent. Isn't Hecate over by the med station?”
He frowned. He looked at the woman beside me. He saw her face from between the dreds that hid her. He breathed in.
“Oh,” he said. “She's wearing your clothes, Med.”
“We found her naked, bruised to shit, lying on the beach last night. She hasn't said anything since we found her. I think her jaw is busted. She won't even open her mouth.”
“Oh,” he said. “Yeah. Yeah, I can take her. Shit, yes. Come on. I promise I won't hurt you, okay? We're going to get you to a medical station.”
She was docile to him. She let him take her arm. He was gentle with her. She looked over her shoulder at me, but I couldn't read her expression.
I sighed. Andy would probably stay with her. He wouldn't leave someone alone in that condition.
I wondered – in the back of my mind – if Keats and Martin had done this to her in the first place. I shook it off, because they were my friends, and because I had only ever seen them get violent with tourists. They were petty pickpockets – shovers and trippers, not street fighters. They didn't have the patience for the brutality all over her skin.
Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
When Will I See You Again?
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The thing is, in all these stories, by numerous authors of literary fiction, characters have this hyperreal awareness of their own misery, and comment upon it.
In fact, people are often too busy in the habits of their life to be aware of how miserable they are until something happens to break that comfort in familiarity.
That's a problem: subtext is not the end-all and be-all of human experience. You wouldn't know this to read the pregnant prose stylings of Amy Hempel. Every single character is almost crushed under the weight of the sea inside their own minds, where an emotion is spilling out.
Which is, I'm afraid, incredibly false to the vast and overwhelming majority of people who are - whether they admit it or not - basically happy people who have a set of daily habits that helps them be happy.
Moments of crisis are necessary, then, to break people out of this series of habits. Literary fiction knows this, too, and embraces it with dead children, endless affairs, cancer, unwanted children, etc., etc., etc..
Alas, moments of crisis, expressed in literary fiction, are often tiresome and forced because they are too similar to our own lives to be plausible expressions of things we, the living, already know. Our own experience of those crisis and ones like them often don't line up with the expression of that crisis presented by one writer spewing subtext all over the place. Crisis, in life, is rarely the realm of subtext. In fact, when a child dies, however that child dies, subtext is not the rule of the day. Surviving that grief is an exceptional feat of emotional rebuilding, where there is little subtext. In fact, it is a time to not embrace subtext at all because facing the pain head on is really the best way through.
Thus, the falseness of literary fiction: reading about someone whose everyday experiences with a crisis moment diverge wildly from our own natural world alienates us from the prose, because it alienates us from the humanity of the characters.
In fantastic fiction, the crisis moment is often wildly different from our known experiences. The person who is trying to escape the Zombie Apocalypse, or the one that's discovered they can read minds for real, or the one that stares down the sword at a horde of misshapen monsters straight from our dark subconscious, are thrust into situations where subtext is the rule of the day because those crisis events came out of the subtext of our cultural detritus that clings to our psyches wherever we go.
In speculative fiction, readers experience a universality of crisis, because everyone is discovering this crisis for the first time, and no one has a basis for experience exactly, literally like that. Then, the crisis enters our deep minds not as exactly what to do if my wife's cheating on me, but a general guide of what to do if my spouse has a secret world within herself that I cannot understand. This trains us for numerous human experiences, including an affair, instead of just the one. One could say the literary fiction scenario has the same power, but the familiarity of the events, to me, forces me to see it in terms of just that one experience, and I guess I'm not imaginative enough to extend the crisis outwards as a metaphor in quite the same way.
It is much easier for my subconscious to view the dream logic of a speculative fiction piece and gain insight into the human experience involved, than to read that mis-named academic juggernaut "realistic fiction" and gain insight into the human experience. After all, the real world is far stranger than we'll ever truly believe. The world is only getting stranger. Realistic literary fiction hasn't quite escaped the small town worlds, the hangers-on, and the empty room in the house that no one talks about.
It is like having a ghost in the house, that empty room. But, to make the human experience universal add the dream: put a ghost in that empty room. Put a ghost there, because that's what it's really like to have one of those. Because the mother will walk into that room and talk to the ghost, whether its there or not, and the ghost will follow the father out into the yard at night, will carve a place in-between the parents in bed at night, and hang around with the siblings long into adulthood.
Just an empty room is not universal. It's not universal because not everyone eperiences grief that way.
Making an actual ghost, though, in the room, provides a reason for experiencing grief that way, and speaks to a universal experience with a dream-like thing presented as if real.
In speculative fictions, we gain the human experience of what the characters went through without the limitations of forcing a situation upon reality so similar to our own as to alienate us. It is easier for me to understand a character from the streets of Bombay if that character is thrust out of their known world, into space, for instance. I learn that character, and street survival in Bombay, by how they interact with this Other.
Does this make sense?
I hope it does. I have a headache, and I won't be editing this or expanding this anytime soon.
I had surgery in my face yesterday, and I'm going to lie down and put an ice pack on my face, and rest a while.
I hope this makes sense.
The Amy Hempel stories suck in that way that only well-crafted, carefully worded literary fiction can totally suck.
I kind of blame Thorough. His little phrase about leading lives of quiet desperation seems to pollute an entire genre of fiction with stories about ordinary people feeling their ordinary pain.
It's beautifully-crafted drivel, self-importantly clever, and I post it here as a warning of elegant suck more than anything.
Right what else do we have in the pile... (Maybe something that doesn't suck?)
D'Ambrosio has some interesting and fascinating stories in this collection, and a couple that are guilty of the same problem as above. On the whole, however, I'm down with this. The turkey hunting story was the best so far.
This book is awesome. Dan Simmons does an excellent job of capturing the 19th century, and his main characters never fail to surprise me with their humanity, self-blindness, and actions. When Dickens stopped to place handkerchiefs over the miscarried babies, instead of just waling on by, I was sold. Dickens turned to his bodyguard and told the guy to come back and bury the babies. The reader is aware that the bodyguard will do no such thing no matter what he says, but Dickens believes the man when he agrees. It's a decently human act, and a naive act, and the moment I was sold on this book.
I'm about halfway, and I'm enjoying it. Will keep reading into the night.
What's next for this book-hungry reading machine?
Glad you asked...
Diana Rowland's latest is probably next. It looks like fun, and a nice escape away from the high literary fiction of late.
I also expect a bunch of books from Small Beer Press' dollar book sale. Can't for the life of me remember what I ordered, but I know it will be good because I've either read, or want to read, almost everything they've put out to date.
I have nothing clever or smart to say, at the moment. I just had surgery in my face, and I'm zonked on pain killers, and playing video games.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
There. You officially have no excuse as of right now.
Perusing over to my acknowledgments page, one might notice that I mention Vancouver, BC quite highly. I was working as a dog-sitter for relatives and writing my ass off one summer, when I was waiting for galleys and contracts. A large and arduous part of my first novel was the years spent in limbo waiting for Discoveries to finally, actually, DO IT! JUST DO IT! ARGH! And, alas, the imprint folded not long after finally doing it.
Anyhow, WHITE DWARF!
I read like a fiend, whilst dogsitting. I bought numerous books from White Dwarf, happily and cheerfully. My favorite discovered gem was an early cyberpunk classic by John Shirley, City Come A'Walkin, that was otherwise unavailable and out of print.
Anyhow, I'm pleased to see Google Alerts send me news that this fine shop of all things SF/F is carrying my title.
I have fond memories of that little shop, and their fine staff, and I am very happy to see that my humble book has entered their shelves.
With the invasive rat invasion across the islands of the world, destroying all those native species, I have to wonder what will happen in a few thousand years.
Rats, man, have taken over paradise. Give it a few hundred years, even, and different islands and rats will diverge into a wide variety of species, large and small, bitter and kind, and all sorts of things in between.
The wallaby rats of Bongaloosa... The elephant rats of Easter Island... The flying Komodo rats... The amphibious rats of Yap...
Rats, man. Give it a few hundred years.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
It doesn't matter who wins the race, if those evil fucking Mullahs who are using this whole nightmare as smoke and mirrors for their nucleur ambitions aren't the ones up for election.
So, I ain't green at Twitter. I ain't hopeful for the future of Iran, either way.
Frankly, I am quietly wishing people would stay off the street for a little while, and not get themselves killed over what is just the competition for the equivalent of the Head of PR Department.
Secretary of the Press isn't worth dying for, folks.
(God bless all of you, and good luck out there!)
Friday, June 12, 2009
Watch for "The Umbrella King" forthcoming in Illumen in Spring 2010.
A ways a way, I know, but such is the nature of the world of letters.
I sold that sucker weeks back, too. Forgot to mention it here.
Anyhow... Back to work!
Do not dance in front of the Alamo. It is disrespectful to the dead, who - I admit - probably do not concern themselves with whether there is dancing in front of the Alamo or not.
Frankly, if dancing is a nuisance, imagine the rattle of street cars and the constant clop-clop-clop of cowboy boots and high heels. Birds are pooping on the garden - how disrespectful. Music from the riverwalk wafts up the stairs with the scent of tex-mex cuisine.
Every morning, in San Antonio walkers and joggers pass before the Alamo, down to the riverwalk to bounce bounce bounce their feet over the bones of the dead.
Dance not, though, before the Alamo.
Do not celebrate there. Walk through reverently. Fold your hands in prayer.
For these good, brave men died here.
(*cough* To keep their slaves in chains, all these suicidal Southern men... *cough* *cough*)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Bacteria doesn't know what happened. It was living on a planet, eating and pooping and communicating with other bacteria, and dividing and being divided, and...
What does bacteria know of our insides? We are beyond its comprehension, as big as we are - as alien as we are. It is so far below us, we peer in a microscope to witness only the slightest pieces of the crowd.
I wonder if we aren't some living thing's bacteria, and our world will alter dramatically in the sweep of a palm across a teacup, a swallow, a scattering.
We are scientists, and we are shoving our mathematical fingers blindly against the walls of the cosmos, doubting even our own pain at the crack of bone.
We are bacteria, aren't we?
Wouldn't surprise me.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
For one day, he said, I would be the emperor, and he would be the beggar.
With the crown upon my head, the fine silks, and the cooing harem
slaves, I knew...
The emperor was my greatest enemy.
In the morning, I lounged in the dining hall with ambassadors.
In the afternoon, I moved armies over maps to crush the feeble barbarians.
By sundown, I lounged in the harem for my one night of earthly bliss.
By morning, I learned that the vizier's assassins had made quick work
of the beggar in the marketplace who wore my name. I'm trapped in this cage of silk and intrigue.
Bow to me, your Emperor, then, but how can I remain there, waiting
for the vizier's practiced hand?
I take my retinue to the marketplace, and find my greatest rival
among the beggars. I place the crown upon his head.
"Emperor for a day," I say.
He laughs until he realizes what I have done to him. The palace guards lead him away.
I wait in the alley.
I watch the shadows.
I sharpen my knives.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
We'll be at the Kindle store this week (Hooray!) and Fictionwise next week (Hooray!), but the first spot where e-Last e-Dragon is for sale is Drive Thru Fiction:
Edit To Add:
Woof... eBooks have surprised me with their speed to print. I hope eBooks also surprise me with their readership numbers.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I stole one good photo with my iPhone (Illegally. Shh... don't tell security!)
You should totally check out this awesome museum.
This is only one of numerous incredible artifacts of Henson and Puppet.
The full-size skeksis puppet was *glorious* (Alas, my illegal photography was foiled by a dead battery...)