“…we arrive at the lovely tourist planet of Xen’arthia. And… oh my god it’s been nuked back to the bedrock. That’s the third planet we’ve visited in a row! What’s going on?”
Something broke. That’s about the only way to describe it. About thirty years ago some underlying logic in our reality simply failed. Maybe we broke physics with the latest in bigger and brighter colliders, maybe god just died of loneliness. Whatever the reason, the immutable rules of cause and effect, the division between what the real and the imaginary, all seemed to begin to fail.
The dead don’t always stay dead anymore, you have to convince them. As for children, well let’s just say that there is nothing more terrifying than a child with an overactive imagination.
So just a few short lines before I’m lost to the void.
First, have a look at http://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/slipstream/michelle-muenzler/an-act-of-consumption-in-two-parts Michelle Muenzler’s little abomination is an absolute joy to read.
After that little pallet cleanser, I thought I’d just let you know that I’m going to be a little more conservative in the posting for a while. I’ve finally finished mapping my way through the next two books, so have to get down and actually flesh them out. When I surface again there should be a trilogy (at least) ready for release.
It’s going to be fun swimming around in the murk of the unseen world for a while. Down with the undead hosts of parasitic gods, fratricidal half-fey, and lurking puppet masters who may (or may not) be trying to usher in Ragnarok.
So with luck, I’ll return from Dante’s Cafe no less sane than when I left, but a whole lot emptier. Just have to pour the stories out of me and glue them to the page with the written word. Wish me luck!
If it is one thing I’ve learnt from the movies, it is that when aliens invade they are either humanoid with superior tech or bug-like and easily squashed. I don’t recall seeing many movies about bugs with superior technology. Just another way that Hollywood softened us up and served us on a plate to our conquerors.
They were lobsters. We went to war against lobsters. Blue and green, crustacean from another world. Of course, they weren’t crustacean, or even from another world really. They came from here, just next door across a rift in time and reality.
It was bad enough that we were fighting for our lives against alien beings that weren’t even vaguely alien in origin. In all fairness, they had been on this world, well on a version of this world, for longer than we had. At some point something had changed, the chance evolution that had led to the dinosaurs and then to humanity, had never happened.
They had become the apex creatures of their earth, developing for millennia. They had developed tools before the evolution of the feather, and by the time we were working out the combustion engine, they had mastered dimensional travel. Then they decided they wanted our world before we ruined it completely.
A little something appropriate to the season…
The laughter itself doesn’t worry me, it’s a friendly chuckle, almost sweet really. I just wish it wasn’t coming from the drains.
A little something appropriate to the season…
There is a form of pure evil that can not be denied, cannot be constrained, can not be fought. It’s why I no longer have any mirrors in the house.
1 In the beginning, the writer cleared the workspace.
2 And the story was without form, and vague; no words were upon the screen of the computer. And despair moved within the mind of the writer.
3 And the Writer said, Let there be a document: and there was a document.
4 And the writer saw the document, that it was blank: and the writer selected a font from the menu.
5 And the writer called the Font Times New Roman, and the document he called Draft 1. And the document with the standard font was saved, and this was the first day.
6 And the Writer said, Let there be a structure in the midst of the story, and let it divide the story into acts.
7 And the Writer made the structure and divided the story that was before the turning point from the story that was after the turning point: and it was so.
8 And the Writer called the document Draft & Structure. And the document with high-level structure was saved, and this was the second day.
9 And the Writer said, Let the first half be divided into beginning and middle, gathered together unto one arc, and let the stakes appear: and it was so.
10 And the Writer called the story-arcs plot; the gathering together of the structure called the acts: and the Inner Critic saw that it was coherent.
11 And the Writer said, Let the structure bring forth Situation, the set-up yield complication, and the middle yielding crisis after his idea, whose seed is in conflict, upon the story: and it was so.
12 And the structure brought forth Situation, and set-up yielding complication after his kind, and the middle yielding crisis, whose idea was in conflict, after his kind: and the Writer saw that it was not totally dreadful.
13 And the document was saved with a word count of 500, and this was the third day.
14 And the Writer said, Let there be a world in the story to divide it from the works of others; and let it contain cities, and characters, and locations and scenes:
15 And let them be for consistency in the story to give depth to the idea: and it was so.
16 And the Writer made two great characters; the greater character to be the protagonist, and the lesser character to oppose them: he made a supporting cast also.
17 And the Writer set them in the conflict of the story to give form to the idea,
18 And to rule over the story, and for the reader to identify with: and the Writer saw that it had potential.
19 And the document with its characters was saved, and that was the fourth day.
20 And the Writer said, Let the characters bring forth personality quirks and mannerisms that give them life, and the conflict may be fought in tavern or street, and with weapons and words.
21 And the Writer created great scenes, and every piece of dialogue that was spoken, which gave the scenes realism, after their kind, and every twist and surprise: and the Writer saw that it was good.
22 And the Writer cursed them, saying, I see grammar errors, and typos, and whole scenes that no longer fit, and I may have to re-write the beginning entirely.
23 And with much weeping, the computer was abandoned for the fifth day.
24 And the Writer said, I have a thesaurus and a writing guide, coffee, and chocolate, and time away from my day job: and it was so.
25 And the Writer made changes to his plot, and chapters after their kind, and every typo and grammatical error: and the Writer saw that it was better.
26 And the Writer said, Let us make the protagonist in our image, after our own self: and let them have victory over the villain of the story, and over the minor obstacles of the beginning, and over the crisis, and overall the conflict, and over every challenge that fills the story.
28 And the Writer cursed and said unto himself, There is no depth, and no surprise, and knew he would have to re-write his characters: and give them setbacks, and places where they failed, and a terrible defeat before the final victory otherwise the triumph would be meaningless.
29 And the Writer said, Behold, I have crafted a true story, which is filled with three-dimensional characters, and a good pacing, and an interesting world for all this to occur; to you, it shall be a good read.
30 And to every person on his friend list, and to every writing peer on the forums, and to everyone that had mentioned in passing that they liked this type of story, a message was sent, and this message was that the story had been finished: but it was not so.
31 And the Writer knew everything that he had made, and, behold, it needed a second draft. And the Beta Reader and the Editor were contacted on the sixth day.
(Might be vaguely familiar )
Also launched at Medium because I’m a sucker for new platforms
Smiley watches from atop the wall.
Jagged teeth, black and cracked give him his name. Teeth that rise from that dark mouth like tombstones in a graveyard.
Smiley knows where each small dead thing goes.
Of course he knows; he eats them.
Exercise 1. Describe a party from the point of view of a soldier on leave from a war zone. Don’t mention the war or the fact they are a soldier.
She had only recently returned to the tedium of suburban life, and the invitations to social events were already becoming a burden. These housewives with their shiny cars and sticky children, their petty feuds and narrow world view chipping away at her forced calm. “Obligation, it is the price of acceptance”, she muttered to herself in the corner, desperately clutching a Vodka and Orange that is more vodka than orange.
A loud bang, sends her pulse racing, senses suddenly on alert. But the call of ‘Taxi’ comes in from the patio along with forced, socially acceptable, laughter. Its an old joke, from a culture she no longer understands. Loud sudden noises should evoke fear, not tired chuckles. She wants to shake these people, rub their faces in fleeting nature of their existence, but that isn’t what a good guest does.
Around her the social tango spins on, a tune she can remember but no longer understands. Each note jars, the rhythm seems false. She wants to scream at them, make them open their eyes to the world around them and pull them out the domestic fantasy they all seem lost in. Instead she takes another gulp of the bitter juice, finding to her surprise that the glass has emptied itself again.
Between her and the kitchen, lies the gauntlet of the young single men of the community. Young, smug little shits with their tennis shoes and know-it-all attitudes. Worse still are the divorcees mingled amongst them, privileged suburbanites with BMW’s and wandering hands. Yet beyond them lies the drinks cabinet and the blessed vodka that makes these gatherings bearable. They are here for her, invited so that they can meet the single woman who has entered their community. She gathers the tattered remains of her courage and moves forward, forcing a smile, knowing that they won’t notice that it never reaches her eyes.
Exercise 2. Describe the same party from the point of view of a child. Don’t mention the child.
This was supposed to be a party, but it didn’t feel like a party. Lots of people standing around using big words and long pauses while others nod agreement. Sometimes people would move from one group to another, sometimes a whole group would collapse and the people in it would reform in another place. It was like watching bubbles in a bath, the groups moving, bursting, reforming.
There was music too. Old, slow, stuff that he had heard before but didn’t recognise. It was playing quietly and no one was dancing, so he wasn’t sure why it was on. Sometimes someone would turn up the music up for a song, but usually someone else would turn it right back down again because it made it harder to argue about ‘politics’, and ‘batting averages’.
There was cake earlier, full of cream and strawberries. It was left in the middle of the big table so that you could come back and have as many pieces as you want. So far that had been the best bit of the whole thing. Far better than having to wade through strangers smelling of tobacco and dead flowers, their booming voices making a painful racket.
In the back of the biggest room, in a corner between the door and the an indoor plant, there was a sad looking lady. She didn’t join in the groups, instead she just smiled at people and occasionally went into the kitchen and back. One time she left her seat and he switched his empty juice glass for hers, but it tasted like it had gone off, so he poured it out on the plant.
Writing Exercise: Describe a place. Use no characters or dialogue.
Dark corridors stretch as far as the eye can see. At least they would, had anyone been present to see. The dull red glow of emergency lighting provided the only illumination and would reveal nothing to an observer beyond miles of untreated metal panels and non-slip flooring. The air itself is stale and lifeless, carrying only suspended dust particles and the scent of exposed steel. Here and there an exposed wire pokes out from the unsealed intersection of ceiling and wall, breaking the monotony.
There are few sounds out here, so far from the unceasing engines. Sometimes those exposed wires will spark, disturbing the silence and adding a faint scent of ozone to the already metallic air. Then the accompanying puff of smoke will drift through the red lighting, like a ghost trying to escape this sterile limbo and out into the dark void of space beyond. Rarer still is the occasional echoing clang of an external impact, an ancient traveller shattering itself against the reinforced walls.
There is a strange grandeur to this spartan desolation, not only in the sheer scale of this facility but in its very nature. It staggers the mind to think that flesh and blood creatures, took the metals of their world and hurled them into space to form a new artificial home. Creatures that would never survive the harsh coldness of space had stolen the bones and breadth of the world that birthed them and had created something wholly new, wholly unnatural. Yet this Frankenstein’s monster of science and desperation may well be all that stands between us and extinction.
1. Describe a party from the point of view of a soldier on leave from a war zone. Don’t mention the war or the fact he is a soldier.
She had only recently returned to the tedium of suburban life, and the invitations to social events were already becoming a burden. These housewives with their shiny cars and sticky children, their petty feuds and narrow worldview chipping away at her forced calm. “Obligation, it is the price of acceptance”, she muttered to herself in the corner, desperately clutching a Vodka and Orange that is more vodka than orange.
A loud bang sends her pulse racing, senses suddenly on alert. But the call of ‘Taxi’ comes in from the patio, along with forced socially acceptable laughter. It’s an old joke, from a culture she no longer understands, loud sudden noises should evoke fear, not tired chuckles. She wants to shake these people, rub their faces in fleeting nature of their existence, but that isn’t what a good guest does.
Around her the social tango spins on, its a tune she can remember but no longer understands, the rhythm jars, each note seems false. She wants to scream at them, open their eyes to the real world around them and pull them out of the shared domestic fantasy they are lost in. Instead she takes another gulp of the bitter juice, finding to her surprise that the glass has emptied itself again.
Between her and the kitchen, lies the gauntlet of the young single community men. Young, smug little shits with their tennis shoes and know-it-all attitudes. Worse still are the divorcees mingled amongst them, privileged suburbanites with BMW’s and wandering hands. They are here for her, invited so that they can assess the single woman who has foolishly entered their hunting grounds. She gathers the tattered remains of her courage and moves forward, forcing a smile, knowing that they won’t notice that it doesn’t reaches her eyes. Beyond them lies the drinks cabinet and the blessed vodka that makes these gatherings bearable
2. Describe the same party from the point of view of a child. Don’t mention the child.
This was supposed to be a party, but it didn’t feel like a party. Lots of people standing around talking about things that make no sense, big words and long pauses while others nod agreement. Sometimes people would move from one group to another, sometimes a whole group would collapse and the people in it would reform in another place. It was like watching bubbles in a sink, the groups moving, bursting, reforming.
There was music too. Old, slow stuff that he had heard before but didn’t recognise. It was playing quietly and no one was dancing, so he wasn’t sure why it was on. Sometimes someone would turn the music up for a song but someone else would turn it right back down again because it made it harder to argue about ‘politics’, and ‘batting averages’.
There was cake earlier, full of cream and strawberries. It was left in the middle of the big table so that you could come back and have as many pieces as you want. That had been the best bit of the whole thing. Far better than having to wade through strangers smelling of smoke and dead flowers.
In the back of the biggest room, in a corner between the door and the indoor plant, there was a sad looking lady. She didn’t join the groups, she just smiled at people and occasionally went into the kitchen and back. One time she left her seat and he switched his empty glass with her full one, but it tasted like the juice had gone off, so he poured it out on the plant.
Take an image, describe it through different genre filters
As a spoof.
A pimple of a mountain, an acne scar on the face of Gaia, that’s what this place is. People take one look at this place and head to more civilised areas, bemoaning their traitorous tourist guides. They leave behind only their dust, while the moon looks down myopically at the tiny people, a judgemental eye in a gaudy blue face.
In a romance.
Away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Away from the noises, and distractions, and failed relationships. This place would be an escape, a return to simplicity, if only for a few days. Just the two of them, alone together under an endless sky and a shy moon. The warmth of the rocks, pure in their ochre tones, was a warm welcome. In this ancient place, maybe something new could be awoken.
A suspense story.
It sits a hundred miles from anywhere, its secrets hidden from the world by virtue of sheer isolation. Somewhere in a deep crevice, guarded by the sheer approach and broken terrain, a world-changing discovery waits. The mountain is patient though, it has waited since before mankind began to record its words. For now, it sleeps under a blue sky until it can reveal itself and change history as we know it.
Harsh stone, broken only by the occasional appearance of a stunted tree struggling to survive. There was no easy path and no sanctuary from the scorching sun. This was an unforgiving land, a stranger to both rain and hope. Here mercy was a quick fall and slow lingering death as the sun claimed its sacrifice. Bleached bones giving mute testament to how often that mercy was granted.
We start with two characters in a room. A basic writing exercise starting with the line…
‘There’s something happening out there.’
It was hot:
The Acropolis seems to shimmer, slightly out of focus, its ancient stone reflecting the sun.
Around us gawking tourists suck greedily on their water bottles, reconsidered their choice of leaving the sanctuary of air-conditioned hotels. It is 10 am, and the only shade is claimed by the feral dogs.
The rain was heavy:
It advanced across the city-scape, looking like a grey curtain, sounding like a stampede. Trees bent under the assault, while tourists fled for the dubious protection of their tour bus.
The moon was shining:
Colours were washed out, the edges of things seeming sharper. Here, away from the street lights, the shadows danced. They were darker and more primal than those that lived under the sun, more solid, more alive, children of a silver mother.
Our meal was delicious:
…used the last crusts of his bread to mop the remaining sauce off the plate. If there hadn’t been so many potential witnesses present, he probably would have licked it as well.
His drink was sweet:
…took a sip and gagged. “What is this, sugar water? Get me a real god damned drink!”
The office stank:
A thousand careers had come here to die, their corpses contributing to the fetid miasma of the room
The first few thousand words fly across the screen, no sweat, no hassle. 2,000 words down. I look across at my Muse, who gives me a mischievous wink.
My brain fills with a soliloquy for a dark Sci-fi that has been brewing for years. I dash down a few notes then back to Fantasy business. Now a knock at the door, more distractions threaten my calm. These distractions bring a puppy! PUPPPYYY!!!!!!
Visitors gone I’m back at the screen. Fingers fly… slower this time as the four-finger pecking begins to wear me down. 4,000 words and I’m going strong, though wishing I had the discipline to learn to touch type. New idea, plot for the upcoming games this weekend…. This……. Weekend….. oh gods…… my calm evaporates as I look at the weekend vanishing under a mound of gaudily dressed changeling’s, vampires and mages. I can skip Lost, I really can, more time to write… to write um….. what was I writing?
I look up again, my attention caught by a girlish giggle as my Muse vanishes out the door, eloping with a passing pizza boy, no doubt off to write his opus. Fickle bitch, I promise myself to knife her next time she passes, pin her to the keyboard and scrawl my words in her blood…. 5,000 words. Screw it I’m going to watch Breaking Bad.