What’s Up With Me III

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What’s Up With Me, III

It’s time for another all-encompassing ‘what I’m doing’ sort of post.

Obviously, the answer right now is typing.

Anyway.

I have new and exciting crap to tell you about my own crap, which you hopefully read. While I know this post will leave you with a spring in your step and the tender refrains of love music by lute echoing in your ears, please, try and contain your joy until I’m done typing. Really. I hate it when dreams soar prematurely.

1) The King’s Might
My Aurian and Jin unrelated novel, The King’s Might, will be out 7/21/15. Will you like it? I bet you will. It’s more serious than A&J, and far grimmer, which people seem to like, for some reason I don’t completely understand. It’s also about princes, which people also seem to like.

Oh, and one other thing. It’s going to be free.

Yes, you read that right. PERMANENTLY FREE OH SWEET BABY JESUS LOVEJOY JUMBLEBUBBLES. So even if you don’t like it, you haven’t lost a fucking thing, honey. (There will be a post in not too long about my decision to do this, and why I’d do such a silly thing. It’ll be edumacational.)

2) Bonemaker
I wrote another novelette. Sorry, I can’t seem to stop doing it for some reason. It’s about Morda the Bonemaker, and his time as a child in the Joyous Wood. I’m still trying to decide what to do with it, but hell, it’s there. I have this vague plan where I do a few of them–I had a great idea for one about the making of the Sundering Sword–and maybe do a little compilation bookthing. But I don’t know. Just in the throwing-stuff-around phase on this one.

3) Dehydrator.
I haven’t talked about this enough yet. You know what’s surprisingly delicious? Cucumber chips. Put a little salt and vinegar on those bad boys, a light dusting of chili powder, let ’em dehydrate for fifty years or however long it takes where you are. SO TASTY.
Anyway. Lemme try this again.

3) Aurian and Jin.
I’m going to start running free sales on the ol’ A&J through Amazon once more. The first one of these, for one day only, is this weekend: Saturday, June 28th, 2015. I’m hoping to get a few more reviews in time for Little Bird’s release this September, so, you know, buy my stuff and whatnot. (The Antidote will not be free. Because, come on, it’s ninety-nine cents. If you’re that bad off and you want to read it anyway, contact me and I’ll damn well buy it for you.)

4) What the hell should I do next?
I’m going to stick a poll in this post to ask YOU, buddy. Because I’ve got like twenty thousand things going right now, and, while I’ll probably finish at least half of them, I’m curious as to which ones you guys want me to finish FIRST. I like to feel important and liked. Or, well. Important, at least.

And I like to do things for you guys. And about the only thing I’m good at other than writing is baking, which doesn’t transfer to the internets too well. So, tell me what to write and I’ll do it.

A note: all of these projects now have at least 10,000 words on ’em, which is about where something has to be for me to be fairly sure I’m going to finish it.

1) Things That Go Bump In The Night
2) Night Shift
3) Balancer
4) Hesperides
5) The Apple and the Tree

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Reading: A Passion, Not an Assignment

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Much prettier original image by Thomas Le Febvre, via unsplash.com.

Reading as a Passion, Not an Assignment

I see it more and more here lately. The trend of ‘shelfies’, where book lovers posts pictures of their bookshelves so eeeeveryone can see just what they’re reading (just as contrived, of course, as the actual selfie. And a good deal more full of intellectual back-patting). A quote from Ovid, culled lovingly and out of context for a Facebook profile. And any more, if you DARE misuse an apostrophe in a comment thread, God save your soul from the grammar Nazis lurking in the next comment with a Final Solution for you.

Hurr, hurr. Aren’t you all very clever.

I was an English major in college (no, I didn’t graduate). I’m not well educated, but I’m not poorly educated, either. I’m not a literary genius–however, I’m pretty far from being an idiot too. What I am is a writer. What I am is a lifelong lover of books.

So let me ask you this, earnestly and directly:

Please stop using my lifelong passion as your selfish intellectual coup de grace. Please Jesus. Please, please, please.

Every book website I check into, EVERY ONE, has a list of ‘Classics To Read Before You Reach This Arbitrary Age.’ Because, tee hee, you’re nothing if you haven’t read Anna Karenina by the time you’re thirty! How on Earth can you ever hope to fit in with your well-read friends and eventually marry a well-read man if you don’t know shit about Dostoyevsky? (Also, here’s a list of thirty really popular romance novels you can sneak on the side while you finish those Russian monsters. Don’t tell your lit teacher.). But reading like totally benefits you and makes you a better person. It’s like Echinacea. Feeling foggy today? Take a book!

When the fuck did reading ‘great literature’ become a task we completed so our family and friends could give us approving nods, or so we could be one step closer to realization on our self-improvement programs? When did this awful self-perpetuating trend of doing ‘smart things’ just so you can benefit begin?

(For that matter, when did everything become a matter of self-improvement and lifestyle affirmation? Part of life is learning to roll with the punches, and if everything you surround yourself with gives you a warm glow inside and a friendship with likeable characters then you, sir or madam, are not learning to roll. Folks need to learn how to enjoy disagreement, how to debate and dissent without personal hard feelings. But that’s neither here nor there.)

We need to de-mystify the purpose of reading, especially reading classics. I might argue we need to de-emphasize the importance of ‘classics’ altogether. You read Ulysses? So what? I can read Ulysses too. So could any child old enough to know most of the words. The question is, really, did you enjoy it. Did you connect with it. Not did you read it. (We won’t even enter into the stratosphere of ‘did you understand it’. I’m not even certain Joyce understood it).

I have never read Anna Karenina. I haven’t read it because I’m not a big goddamn fan of Tolstoy. I like his shorter stuff, but I made it like halfway through War and Peace, got tired, and took a nap. I never even made it to Anna. Does this mean I’m an idiot? Um, no. Does it mean I’ve missed some vital piece of my existence? Maybe, but if I have I so far haven’t noticed it. If I ever feel it calling to me, I’ll try again. But so far, I haven’t. Kreutzer Sonata, on the other hand–there’s a great damn story. I enjoyed it.

I repeat: I did not read this great classical work of literature, Anna Karenina, because I wasn’t interested in it.

I repeat, also: reading is my passion. I love books. Like, looove them love them. The first men I ever loved were men in books, the first women I ever wanted to be ‘besties’ with were characters on paper. I read hundreds of books a year. Hundreds. Not because that’s cool (it’s, um, not) or because I have a set number of books I need to read to feel literarily educated. I read them because I’m interested. I read them because I like to read and I get caught up. Could I tell you exactly how many books I’ve read this year? No. Fuck, no. Because I don’t keep count. I’m too busy reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying reading can’t improve you as a human being. Reading a book, after all, is a great way to see places you’ve never been, feel things it is otherwise physically impossible for you to feel. A great book is an uncomfortable experience. It makes you feel things, sometimes, that are taboo, inappropriate, misunderstood. It makes you question your own value system and what you know about the world around you. It lets you into other peoples’ lives, other times, other cultures. And, sometimes: it’s just plain good. You just plain liked it. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

So. The short version of what I’m saying: never read something because it is expected of you to read it. Don’t read for the promise of life change. Don’t read for the promise of learning.

Read because you’re interested. Read it because it’s a good book and you like it. If the only thing you like is Harlequin romances, well, so what? They might not be putting your portrait on the wall at Columbia anytime soon, but you’re going to be a happy camper. Maybe not the most empathetic and educated camper, but again, so fucking what?

Otherwise, with every volume you dry-swallow because you’re supposed to read it and it’s ‘great literature’, you’re on the road to becoming one more person, in a world filled with these people, who doesn’t enjoy reading. With every sentence you underline because you ‘feel it relates to your problems’ and it’ll make a great facebook quote later you are becoming one more cog in the great grinding self-involved culture machine. Let a book take you outside of yourself, not farther in. The world isn’t all about you, and your reading shouldn’t be either. Not everything written ever is going to validate your lifestyle and your beliefs, and you shouldn’t expect it to.

When you’ve finished a good book at four AM, and the house is quiet, keep staring for a few seconds at that final page. Take a deep breath. Put it down. And if it’s a good book, if you really cared about it, for the rest of the day you’ll catch yourself thinking about it.

Not because it’s Great Literature and you know you’re supposed to. Because you can’t help yourself. Because it’s part of you now, and you have to.

Here are fifteen books that’ve done this for me. Some of them are classics, because, y’know, classics tend to be pretty good. Check ’em out if you want, you might like them as much as I did. I’d leave a note here that some of these books might not tally with your personal value system or your view on the way the world should work, but frankly, I don’t give a good goddamn. Some of them don’t tally with MINE. And I liked them anyway. Words are words. They can’t hurt you.

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. LeGuin)
Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. LeGuin)
Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)
Native Son (Richard Wright)
The Twelve Caesars (Suetonius)–sooooo much more entertaining than Tacitus. So. Much. Make yourself some popcorn and learn about the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Alison Bechdel)
Women (Charles Bukowski)–I know what you’re thinking here. Lewd bunch of crap. You’re thinking that because you had a strong reaction to it. Therefore: read ESPECIALLY if you are NOT a chauvinist pig.
The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
The Woman Warrior (Maxine Hong Kingston)
The Darling (Russell Banks)–A book all Americans who feel woefully exposed when they travel should read right about now. If you read it and you don’t understand why I said that, message me and we’ll talk.
The Secret History (Donna Tartt)
McTeague (Frank Norris)
The Monk (Matthew Lewis)–this is hands-down the best Gothic novel ever written. It has monks, a pure young heroine, crypts, foreign locales, the Devil–screw you, Ann Radcliffe. Screw you.
The Immoralist (Andre Gide)

Writing: Indie Ten

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Indie Ten: Ten Good Indie Reads

First off: while I was writing this post, I saw Dylan Hearn on Suffolk Scribblings post something similar. Here it is. More indie authors for you to enjoy, and proof that a lot of folks are doing this. Let’s keep it up!

So I wrote a blog a while back about how, sometimes, your best readers are going to be other indie writers. I believe this–strongly–and I try to do my part by recommending those indie books I read that’re pretty good. After all, if we aren’t all supporting each other, how can we expect to get support for ourselves?

I still don’t read all indies–I have mad respect for a lot of folks who publish through the big houses, and I wouldn’t stop reading them just to prove a point. And I don’t read, review, or recommend anything I don’t like (or haven’t read, for that matter. Some people do this).

But in the sea of six million or whatever the number is now books published a year, there’s a lot more to indie fiction than the big folks you keep hearing about, Hugh Howey and Joanna Penn and such. There are smaller minnows in the sea who SHOULD be big fish, whose writing is good, whose books are well published, and who are, through the crowded nature of the market, not getting a ton of attention (at least on Amazon. I’m an Amazon book hoarder). These are some of those books: my indie favorites with forty reviews or less on Amazon. If it’s a series, I count reviews on the first book and not total, because that damned well wouldn’t be fair, would it.

I’d like to take a second and recommend something as well, something other than books. Are you a writer? Thinking of/already have published your own indie fiction? Do yourself a favor and read some other indies. Read at least five of them this year. Find the best ones and post a damn review. Wouldn’t you like it if somebody did that for you? There’s no promise it’ll happen to you just because YOU did it, of course, but it isn’t about that. Just once, don’t make it about that. Read a good book and let the world know how good you thought it was. It’s that simple.

There’s more to making a community work than tit for tat, review for review. And indie publishers ARE a community, whether we want to be or not–we rely on each other for support, help, sympathy. So let’s do it up right and spread the word when we’re excited about something. Let’s give recognition to the people who deserve it.

(A note: for some odd reason, the tablet I’m desultorily tap-tapping this on won’t let me add pictures. So I’m going to add them in gradually as we go. Sorry, folks.)

FANTASY/SF:

The Grey Heir: Edgewalker Chronicles Book One (Zachary Katz-Stein)
I picked this one up because the cover was so very cool. And the book inside it didn’t disappoint–a thoughtful and descriptive YAish fantasy about the nature and dangers of religion, with some very creative and curious magic.

Southwind Knights (B.E. Priest)
Okay. If you’ve read this blog you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about these books. You shouldn’t be: you should be talking about them too, because you’ve read them and they’re worth talking about. Well written, prettily published, interesting story. This is a series that has it all.

Children of Fire (Mary Fonvielle)
Okay, I admit it–I’m a friend of this author from way back. But these are good stories, friend or no, and her characters are high fantasy with a touch of the rogue thrown in. My favorite so far has been Eye of the Void–well and touchingly told fantasy in which backstory is used to devastating advantage. Plus, it’s a lot about Thalien. And Thalien is the BOMB. The last line in Eye of the Void, if you’ve been reading since Children of Fire, will give you chills.

The Guests of Honor: Tales from the Virtue Inn Book One (Cat Amesbury)
This is another book you’re tired of hearing me talk about. Baroque and magical whimsy in a semi-modern setting: when I read a critical review that said the book sometimes ‘borders on the downright weird and will take a turn for no apparent reason other than to take a turn’, I knew I had to have it. For me, fantasy is ABOUT taking a random turn sometimes. And it can never be too weird: though it can, like this book, be highly original and NOT AT ALL about vampires and werewolves and all that tiresome old drek.

Touching Madness: River Madden Book One (K.S. Ferguson)
Ms. Ferguson and I reviewed each others’ books and, lo and behold, we have similar senses of humor. Ms. Ferguson’s River Madden is a sweet and lovably awkward guy who just happens to sometimes, you know, sort of kind of cause dimensional rifts. Complicated plots, fascinating ‘magic’, and a homeless hero bombarded by unlikely events ensue. River’s awkward moments, especially in Book I, will make you cringe delightfully. When he’s doing the wrong thing, you want to physically SHOUT at him, and that’s a sign the story has pulled you way the hell in.

The World Serpent: A Raimy Rylan Hunt (Kenneth B. Humphrey)
This is another YA series worth a look. Mr. Humphrey’s writing is straightforward, his humor pithy, his characters believable as teenagers as well as characters (one girl, a young teen named Hadley, will have you literally laughing out loud as she kicks ass in the body of an old-school Viking warrior). Mr. Humphrey made the interesting decision to write this time-traveling demon-hunting YA story in first person present, and by God, after reading it that way you don’t want it in anything else. Action packed: your kids (and you) will clamor for the next one.

Aurian and Jin: A Love Story (Moi)
What, did you think I was going to do this totally without self promotion? Hell naw, I’ve got a novella coming out end of April. If you’ve read this, slide me a review and I’ll love you forever. It’s got severed heads and stuff.

NON FANTASY/SF:

Bombed (Winifred Morris)
Okay, so this book isn’t actually out yet. (It will be 4/17/15. You should go ahead and preorder it) I received a copy for review, and I have to say, I am SO EXCITED I’m putting it on this list before it’s even out. It’s totally not my usual bag–present-day romance, ME, what?–but it’s masterfully written, and there’s a lot more to it than just romance, including, among other hilarious things, a bass player named Buzzard, a stoned DEA agent, and a plot to blow up a small town 4th of July parade. The hits just keep on coming, and God, you want them to.

The Fourth Descendant (Allison Maruska)
Just finished this one up, and what fun! Again, not my usual bag, but Ms. Maruska’s characters are so likeable and their conflicts so well drawn it would be my bag even if it had somebody else’s name on it (which I guess it does, since someone else wrote it, but you get what I’m trying to say here). This book well written, and deals believably and well with a subject I don’t often see dealt with well: immortality, and what need we might really (or really not) have for it.

Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench (Rich Leder)
Not for people under eighteen, but again, a romantic comedy that’s so much more. Soul-crushingly hilarious. I’ve never been to LA, but after reading this book I felt like I had, and I already wanted to never go again. You’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry. Really. Like, I cried a little.

Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor (Allison Hawn)
I’ve talked about this book before. It’s precious–the stories inside are precious–and you come out of it feeling like you know the narrator. While I’m not always sure about the humor, it works when it works, and even when it doesn’t this is a damn good autobiography of sorts. I wish more autobiographical writing out there had this much character and style.

Writing: Truth in Fiction

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I want to tell you guys a story. It’s about German-born pianist Hans Wegener.

In 1939, when he was only 24 years old, Wegener was recognized as one of the greatest concert pianists in the country. Leaping into the gap provided by the absence of many Jewish entertainers, he was able to rise quickly to prominence, playing in the grandiose style of the nationalist movement.

He was heavily favored for private parties, in fact, by many key members of the Nazi party, including Goebbels and Seyss-Inquart and, on occasion, Hitler himself. It was Goebbels, the great propagandist, who said of the man: ‘only at (Wegener’s) fingertips do the German people return to their old musical might.’

What none of them knew: Hans Wegener was also a British spy. He had been feeding the British intelligence through letters to his mother, a British national, since Hitler’s ascent in 1933.

There are many stories about Wegener, but the one I’m interested in telling here is the one that ended his career: the story of his concert at the reintegration of Danzig, after the Polish campaign that would later prove to be the beginning of WWII, into Germany.

Wegener played a legendary four hours that night. He played for the German military leaders of the campaign, including General Heinz Guderian, all of whom were flushed with success. He played classical songs of German composers long dead, nationalist tunes churned out by Gobbels’s famous propaganda machines, and, as the night wore on and the military leaders grew drunker, maybe just a little swing, just a little jazz.

What none of these peacock-proud generals realized: as Wegener played, Wegener’s luggage was making the rounds.
When Wegener and his twelve suitcases, previously full of outfits for every occasion on the front, left by train in the morning, he was not headed back to Germany. He made it, in fact, all the way back to London before anyone realized something was wrong.

Wegener, realizing the outbreak of war was now inevitable, had gotten himself to the safe harbor of England as soon as he could. With him, hidden in his suitcases, were twelve Polish children of Jewish descent. Over the course of the war, Wegener would apply for and be granted British citizenship, and adopt all twelve of the children. He never returned to Germany again, but made music on several occasions for British high command.

Why am I telling you this, you might wonder? Am I about to make some sort of moral point about the bewitching value of music, the blind eye even the most choking of dictatorships often turns on its artists and writers?

No. I told you this whole story, in fact, because it is a big fat lie. It’s bullshit. It’s fibbery, frippery, etc. And the theme of our Writing Day is, in fact:

WRITING: HOW TO LIE WELL

This might not seem important to you. It might not even seen moral. But trust me: if you want to write fantasy/sci-fi, you want to lie like Chikikiri, silver-tongued folk hero of the Himalayan Montep people. There is an art and a science to lying well. And it is the same art and science you should take to worldbuilding.
We’ll explore this in five parts:

1) Tone.
Let’s look at this story. A British spy in the German intelligentsia, a concert pianist, children smuggled from the Eastern front in suitcases. It’s not a real story–there was no such person as master pianist Hans Wegener–but the elements sound like a lot of WWII stories out there. Unlikely heroes, simple people doing their part, a great bolshy nationalist regime. We’ve all seen some of the movies this lie takes its tone from–The Pianist and Inglorious Basterds are two more recent ones that come to mind. (And there was, for your edification, a British man who smuggled a lot of Jewish children out of Eastern Europe in a similar fashion–check out his real story, which is much more inspiring than my fake one, here).

So we’ve managed this: creating a lie that feels the same as the truth, or at least what the general public sees as the truth. And, when you’re writing up your fictional world, this should be your first step: setting up a TONE. Is your world a heraldic one, icy and Vikingesque and brave? Is it a Byzantine courtworld, full of trickery and subtle deception? Study up on the real life places your world resembles. Get the feel of them. Because, lemme tell you, you need to keep to tone. If you don’t do this, in fiction or in lies, your whole story falls apart. People like a story, even if it’s supposed to be true, and can sense when the facts fall out of kilter even if they weren’t facts at all. So learn tone. TONE. TONE.

2) A Little Bit of Truth
Some things in this lie were absolutely factual. The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, and the campaign was begun, through some lovely German lie-spreading, over the Germans wanting the Polish city of Danzig ‘back’. Goebbels was the prime-time man for German propaganda, and there WAS a great demand for German musicians after Hitler’s ascension in 1933 (due to the dearth of Jewish entertainers. Hmm, wonder why.). There WERE some German national spies for Britian in Germany at the time of the Reich, and musical interest in such ‘degenerate’ things as swing and jazz were discouraged heavily.

A WWII historian could probably take me apart like a mover trashing IKEA furniture, but the likelihood of the person I’d tell this to BEING one is relatively small. Therefore, in conversation: worth the risk. I once told Definitely Not Dave, a native Bostonian, that the town of Chapel Hill was founded by Mennonite dissenters Jebediah Chapel and Isiadore Hill in 1789. If he didn’t believe me, he could check out the Statue of the Founders on Estes Drive. To DND’s credit, he only believed me for about five minutes, but what made it work is the little bit of truth–being from Boston, he wouldn’t know the story of Chapel Hill from Adam, or the fact that there may not be a single Mennonite in the state–but there IS an Estes Drive, and he knew there was, and this is absolutely the sort of tiny snotty town that would have a Statue of the Founders somewhere.

There should be basic truths to your story, and you should deploy them with care and attention. In my novella The King’s Might, everybody swears by the Allking, a man named Telhir who came down from the Northern mountains some six thousand years ago. The swears are scrupulously footnoted and explained. The history of the swears, in fact, gives a history of the nation–and the built myth of the folk-hero Telhir explains a lot about the people.

3) But Not Too Much Truth
However, if you drown the reader in detail, your story will be JUST as unconvincing as it would if you included none. We don’t need to know Hans Wegener’s height, his hair color, his just-ended relationship with a rotund but fetching cafe waitress. We don’t need to know a TON about the German invasion of Poland, the history of British intelligence in Germany. I may’ve even been stretching it with what I DID add in there.

A good reference point: what do you think people will WANT to know? In the lie’s case, background information is added because the reader might not actually know some of it. (Polish invasion date, bit of background on Reich’s musical history, etc). Some is added for flavor and character (Herr Wegener’s suitcases, his age, the Germans possibly listening to forbidden jazz) and some is added for faux authenticity (my fake Goebbels quote). So there you go: EDUCATION, FLAVOR, and AUTHENTICITY. The three things your worldbuilding should provide for your readers.
And, last but not least, though we’ve touched on it a bit already:

4) Know Your Audience.
I’m trusting you’re probably not a WWII buff, when I tell you this lie–though I’ve provided enough care in my lying to cover myself if you’re a dabbler. I’m trusting you aren’t into British Intelligence. I’m praying, PRAYING, you aren’t a Nazi sympathizer.

In a low-profile writing blog, my chances are pretty good. When I told DND the story of Jebediah Chapel and Isiadore Hill, because he was from Boston and not an NC native, my chances were pretty good.

When you’re building your world, what do you THINK your audience would want to hear about? Do they need a lot of this world’s history to understand the plot? Or will they be more interested in the theory of magic? Customs of love, childbirth, and marriage? People pay more attention to things they want to hear.

And, lastly for really reals this time:

5) Know more than you use.
I actually learned quite a bit, to tell you this lie. I learned about the Eastern Front during WWII, the German occupation of Poland, got a good general Reich timeline going, learned some great stories about British heroes of WWII, and found out who the FUCK Heinz Guderian was. Did I use all of it? No. Because, again, Rule Three. Too much fact ruins a lie just the same as it ruins a story. But the facts guide you. They show you where the story SHOULD be going. And they’ll do the same for your fictional world–you might only need to MENTION the Brondisian War, but you should damn well know who fought it, what it was fought for, the rough shape of it, and who lost and gained what. Otherwise, you don’t know WHY it was mentioned. And this is the sort of lack of understanding, the sort of communication breakdown, that kills a story.

Because people might not know how much you know, or what precisely it is. But trust me–when you don’t know these things, it comes though in your writing.

There y’go: how to lie. Sorry for the long post, guys.
EFR

PS–Just to be clear: I am not encouraging you to lie about anything that matters. That’s, frankly, despicable. But a few tall tales here and there, lying for the aesthetic art of lying? It’ll be good for you. Promise.

Story Excerpt: Erasure

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Image by Paul Robichaud, via Unsplash. This is what you bastards'll see now for every story excerpt.

So I’ve been working on this sci-fi dystopian kind of thing lately. I know: travelling oft-travelled ground. But it’s fun. And fun is what I need, because all this editing is most DEFINITELY something other than fun, probably something four-lettered. It’s a revamp of an old story I’ve had kicking around in various forms forever: a little worried I’m veering into the territory of cliche, but hell. You gotta have fun sometimes, and to hell with the cliche-ery.

It’s the story of Moll Coulter, a former criminal of uncertain background who’s had her memory partially erased by Sunrise City Gov. It’s got all that chewy Blade Runneresque dystopian stuff in it. Moll does recover her memory, about halfway through–when she discovers that, not only is the world around her not what she thinks, but the people she trusts are perhaps not the people she SHOULD be trusting. Fun tipple includes Soyful Noise, a Christian soy-product conglomerate, home products made from a combination of soy product and cockroach, a brief but informative lesson in how to kill a law officer with a grappling gun, and a man, the mysterious Thelonius Crowe, with a Coat of Many Colors. Yes, they say things like ‘oh my Dog’ and ‘cheese us rice’. Taking the Lord’s name in vain went out with the ascent of Soyful Noise, and they’re nothing if not creative.

Worth continuing? Lemme know.

EFR

****
ONE
The Girl Who Almost Burned Us

It was Friday–a Bright Day–and Moll Coulter was dreaming of apples.

She had put the blackout skins in the windows yesterday morning, when she was still relatively sober, and had therefore done it relatively well. In one corner of the window, the skin had begun to peel, and a single batonlike ray shot through, ending in a hot white coin of light on the floor. Moll shifted and turned in her sleep, as though the brightness bothered her.

In her dream, the apple twirled, backwards and forwards, on its stem. It was perfect, unblemished, round. There was a smell that rose up from it–a smell that Moll, who had never seen a real apple in her life, associated with body wash and perfume and high class hookers.

It was a peaceful smell. Delicate. Moll felt intoxicated–which was nothing new. This intoxication just felt better.

“Ohmidog, Moll,” said a voice from outside the room. “Oh. My. DOG. MOLL!”

The apple disappeared, gone in a flash of white light. Moll was left, bleary-eyed, staring at the cracks in her bedroom wall. She yawned, stretched. Knocked three empty bottles of Admiral Soyton’s 150 Proof to the floor.

One bottle, rolling into the beam of light, cracked, exploded, and began to melt.

“MOLL! WAKE UP, MOLL!”

The bedroom door rattled on its hinges, and, after what sounded like a summary kick, snapped at the lock. Bobbitt, her enormous mass shrouded in a protective suit, rushed inward, dashed through the beam, and slammed the corner of the curtain back into place. 

“Heyyy,” Moll said. “Bobbitt.”

“Are you INSANE?” Bobbitt screeched, her voice tinny through the suitspeaker. “Bright Day breaches are no joke, Moll. You could’ve burned us all in our beds. Lucky I saw the corner, coming home from work. Cheese us. One tiny hole–one pinhole–that’s all they say it takes. And you left a whole corner undone. That’s how the Alegharis died, you know. Rip in the Bright Day skins, too cheap to replace it. Tenement B burned to the ground.”

“I didn’t–”

“Apologize, Moll.”

“But–”

“Apologize. Now.”

Moll blinked a few times, waited for her vision to come into focus. Bobbitt, her face sweaty and pink with exertion beyond the suit mask, was scowling mightily. All four of her chins wobbled dangerously downward.
Moll sighed. “Elaine was home, wasn’t she.”

“Yes!” Bobbit threw her suited arms up as far as the suit would let her reach. “If killing yourself and destroying all our possessions means nothing to you, yes, beyond those little factoids, Elaine was home sick today. You would have burned my only child alive in her bed. You would have–”

Bobbitt choked, sputtered. Wheezed. Looking at her, bent over and hacking, Moll did feel sorry.

“I’m sorry,” she said. Still hacking, Bobbitt gave her the finger.

“Look,” Moll said, sitting up. “I didn’t mean to. I just–”

“You were drunk,” Bobbitt growled dangerously. “I know. When are you not?” She fiddled with the suit collar, pressing buttons and twirling dials. There was a faint pop as the pneumatic seals loosened, and Bobbitt drew the suit helmet over her head and tossed it into a broken-backed chair.

“Find a new place to live,” she said at last. Moll would give her this: she sounded regretful.

“But,” Moll said, though at this point it was more just to say something than because she had any argument.

“Nope,” said Bobbitt. “Find a new place. Bright Day breaches, broken bottles on my floor, shouting obscenities where Elaine can hear them–you’ve become a liability. If we’d lived a hundred years ago, I might’ve given you a second chance–but this isn’t the United States of America anymore, Moll. This is Utopia. And there are no second chances in Utopia. Not for any of us.”

Moll would also give her this: she was shaking her head. She didn’t smile. She didn’t look happy about it.

“I’ll give you until the end of May,” Bobbitt said. “That’s almost two weeks to find a new place.  After that, if you aren’t out of here, I will personally throw you on the street, Bright Day or Dark Day or anything in between. And I doubt–I highly doubt–that your suit is in any better shape than your blackout skins.”

Moll nodded. It was all she had left to do.

“This breaks my heart,” Bobbitt added, after a moment of silence. “Just thought you should know. You aren’t a bad person, Molly. Elaine loves you. But what can I do? What the hell else can I do?”

Moll certainly didn’t know.

Bobbitt closed the door on her way out. The door, its latch broken, swung right back into an open position.

Moll sighed, leaned back, and closed her eyes.