Category Archives: science fiction

Patreonage


I’ve finally broken down and put together a Patreon page. It’s just a beginning — I don’t know exactly what to do yet…so I’m offering a story or a piece of a wip each week, plus access to music that then public won’t see for a while and the opportunity to have me write something from your story prompt.
Just part of an overall effort to organize and focus. I’d welcome participation and suggestions. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Accepting Authority


The final two pieces of the “Area X Trilogy”: I’d have to recommend reading the series at least once, but I’m not happy with the level of resolution.

Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t like the main character’s nickname. It’s as bad as Hiero Protagonist. “Control” is cutesy. It’s a shorthand way of imputing that the mc is the normal one, the one that doesn’t get the drugs or the treatment or whatever, and misleading in that regard.
A good part of this book seems based on department infighting and the other half goes a little Rogue Moon if Algis Budrys had written the Manchurian Candidate into the story.
It’s odd, and there’s enough conflict on various levels to be effective, and yes, weird stuff happens and characters undergo mindbending changes…but it’s a bit numbing to me because I didn’t really like any of the characters. They all seem to operate at a remove, and the narrative works at arm’s-length too.
And there’s little exposition in a narrative that seems to call for it. I’m gonna go with Aliens did it.

View all my reviews

Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3)Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, the second time. I found it unsatisfying, ultimately. The reason why Area X exists is never explained. What Area X actually is remains mysterious. Some of the character arcs are completed, and there are hints of resolution, but they’re only hints.
The tone continues to be the same scientist-as-hero that gives this series its Golden Age echoes. Events unfold, to a point, but one gets the idea that the author is holding back a lot of information, and also setting up for more stories in this milieu.
It’s effective enough, but I was left wanting.

View all my reviews

annihilation nation


I couldn’t sleep. Strange things happen when I’m sleepless, which happens entirely too often. I am very bad at sleeping and have periods where I might sleep two hours at a time for weeks, or stay up three or four days.
It’s been that way since I was very young. I missed about two weeks of third grade because I wasn’t sleeping well enough to move around safely on my own.
Reading has always been my fallback. If I can’t sleep, I read, first. I like a little noise when I read, but just a little, and it has to be familiar, comfortable. Old sitcoms or crime shows will do. I need the rhythms. Talking-head shows work too.
annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerI’ve been re-reading the Area X trilogy, these last few days. I have the kindle versions, so I can turn out all of the lights except the tv and greedily drink the words. Jeff VanderMeer is one of those practitioners of the “weird” that comes from sf, like I do, and I very much enjoy, in fact prefer, that approach. Jeffrey Thomas, too, has those echoes, the clanking rhythms of cyberpunk informing his harrowing parables. VanderMeer is the co-editor of the Big Book of SF, about which more will be said, in another post. His stuff has more New Wave in it…the world of the Southern Reach being a fine example. Annihilation, the first book of the trilogy, is not the first of the author’s books that I’ve read, but so far, it’s the best. I put it on my ballot for the Hugo nomination. We all know what happened there, and I’m not going to get into it…anyway, I thought it the best work of the year.
I loathe using comps to make my points, but I’m going to have to either resort to that or do out-and-out spoilers, which I hate worse. So comparisons it is….Michael Bishop’s anthropological pieces, especially Death and Designation Among the Asadi, his 197- award-winner, have this same sort of straight-up Scientist-As-Hero, performing-a-survey trope going, and deploy a similar air of strangeness, of menace, just offscreen, or in so strange a form that it goes unrecognized. I amĀ  minded, also, of Kate Wilhelm’s The Clewiston Test, and Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which had similar main characters.
Of course the mc is also exploring the interior landscape at the same time. It goes with the territory. Even though the biologist is working with others, at least initially, she’s always alone, remote.
It turns out that some of this anti-teamwork is the result of hidden persuaders, in a nicely-Dischian. way. Good. Very subtle. The second read reveals the process of hints and allegations that lead to that conclusion, but on the first encounter, it’s almost subliminal.
It takes a practiced hand to do that. Reader manipulation on that level isn’t done often.
Outstanding book. Really good. The main character is interesting enough to listen to, the story has psychological depth, strange detail, interior travelogue, and an inevitable if slightly maddening conclusion. Five stars.
Another tomorrow.

Madness


I got a little bit exercised today by this article, about the “8 Tribes of Sci Fi.”
Rubbish, absolute rubbish. An ill-considered word salad.

To start with, it considers “sci-fi” which I consider to be the z-movie mentality that pervades tv and pop movies. And it calls the wrong things “sci-fi”. The article might fare better if it were said to be talking about “fantasy”, the umbrella term for science fiction and other related imaginative fields, or about “speculative fiction”, a higher-brow way of saying the same thing.

Read the thing for yourself. Feel free to regale me with your version. Or not. Continue reading

Method


Though I conduct my fictional affairs with a good bit of handwavium and a helping of deus ex machina, because that’s the nature of the beast, still, I’ve railed against such use in the past. And I was probably right, then.

Context.

Heh. Yeah, right, you say, and rightly so.

But boundaries, fuck ’em. I was wrong, plus it’s addictive…to be unleashed, to not worry about what hard-sf fans are gonna say, or what plot twist came straight out of tvtropes. To just tell the story as it occurs to you. Er, me. Because pov.

That’s a fun plaything, too. Perspective.

Just tell the damn story. I was good at that when I was young. I would just write until I was done. Wrote a 67,000 word novel in one day, on notebook paper, in pencil(s), longhand. It was awful. Only three people have even read part of it. They’re all on Facebook. *ducks* Continue reading

Son of the Big Dumb Object


EgoOne of my very favorite things in the world of fiction is that cosmic force, the presence that is imposing just because of its size, the very Big Dumb Object itself. An example, seen below, adds consciousness to the mix. The presentation is excellent. I love the image. But not enough was done with it, plotwise, back in the day.
One of the things that makes me create is the desire to see a better version of things, at least in my eyes. My first writing was done in response to a comic-book villain I thought terrible (the Stilt-Man, as in DD#48). So I come by it naturally. My art is, at least initially, imitative.dd48 It always has been. I like a certain amount of structure, a framework to stand on, before taking the great leap into the unknowable seas of imagination. My first drafts, first versions of things, almost always have a large portion of synthesis, of combining previously-known ingredients into a new stew, stirring it up, and then improvising over the changes. Continue reading

bEastliness


the_yellow_sign_by_asmodean1985For Joe…but a small tributary, hardly a capillary, late, but seemingly necessary. At least to me.

 

 

 

This was before the Play. This was before everything.

Cassilda and Cassandra and Caterina and Calliope and Cassiopeia were seated on their pedestals, which spiraled ever-so-slightly upward so that Cassilda was uppermost (done by the strong urgings of her mother, to be sure), having a rather nice chat about their lessons that day, when courtier Jenkin burst into the room all a’titter over something or other that he imagined, a slight so small that it had passed beneath the notice of everyone else at the Ball.

Jenkin carried on tittering and gnashing his teeth and gibbering complete nonsense for quite some time.
Cassilda admired the draperies, which were quite a nice shade of eggshell, and a very fine weave, and Cassandra and Caterina made the motions they had practiced earlier. First up with the right hand, palm up, then the left, then turn them over palm-down simultaneously while stamping both feet.Calliope stamped also, and Cassiopeia said the words.

The girls were all precious and precocious, and they conspired to turn poor Jenkin into a thing. And he just released from the shore-prison, where he had been a rock for just eons.

Now he’d hands and feet, and a smaller and more wizened version of his usual visage, but he was also equipped with a prodigious and very scaly tail, which twitched in annoyance, and a short-furred body about the size of a medium-sized dog’s, though bearing a distinct resemblance to rattus rattus.

How he howled!

His footman Mazuriewicz came then, and fetched Jenkin back before the King, to see if something could be done.

“By the very hoary and hallowed Gods of defile!” Declaimed Mazuriewicz. “These young ladies have gone too far this time. First animating the garden of stones, and now this. And with visitors coming too!”

He huffed off seeking his audience with the regent, not hesitating to take his fill of any provender, victual, or canape that he encountered along the way.

His footsteps and his grumbling echoed in the great groined halls and reached the King long before his personal aroma did. The King was not in fact overtaken with ardor for either Jenkin or Mazuriewicz, and undertook to be elsewhere when they arrived.
His relatives, their relatives and friends, and several persons as yet uninvited but present nonetheless, addressed themselves to the buffet, which was groaning with joints of beast and whole dressed hams, yams, clams, spam, and jam, with a great many varieties of bread and rolls and buns and cakes and pies and tarts and pastries and cookies such as remained uneaten thus far.

Mazuriewicz and Jenkin joined them before continuing on, seeing that the King was not in residence at that moment.

Jenkin also availed himself of several pieces of flatware and a small candelabra.

He resigned himself to his fate.
“I’m resigned to this fate,” he squeaked to Mazuriewicz. “There’s nothing anyone can do.”
“Nonsense,” came the reply. “You simply lack persistence.” Mazuriewicz shrugged elaborately, dislodging his powdered hairpiece somewhat. He patted it back into place absently. “The King will set things to rights.”
“I am not a particular favorite of the King’s,” Jenkin squeaked. “He will make it worse. The last time he was displeased, he turned me into a living rock for a few thousand years.”
“Well, there is that,” Mazuriewicz admitted, shaking his head and making his hairpiece jiggle dangerously. “But time isn’t the same here, so it didn’t seem that long.”

“To you,” Jenkin snarled.
“Well, of course, to me,” Mazuriewicz replied testily. “Who else would I be talking about?”
“I was talking about me,” squealed Jenkin.
“Aren’t you always?” Mazuriewicz raised his left eyebrow and glowered at Jenkin from beneath it. “You’re your own favorite subject.”

Jenkin rushed him, jumped upon his back, began gnawing on his skull. “I will have you for lunch. This very day,” he snarled, taking the wig in his mouth and hurling it. A cloud of powder followed. Jenkin reapplied himself to his task with vigor.

Mazuriewicz covered his head with his arms and tried to move Jenkin by pulling his cloak over his head and making a bag out of the inside-out thing.

Jenkin ate through it.

By then Mazuriewicz was two hundred yards away and widening the gap.

“He’ll be back,” said Jenkin, taking his place at the endless buffet again, among the rest of the misfits, malingerers, malformed, malignant, and misunderstood.

When he was quite round enough to feel comfortable, Jenkin moved on to his chambers and began to collect the things he’d need, for he didn’t feel that he could stay, under the current circumstances.

“I don’t think I could stay,” he said, “or that I should stay. If I stay there will be trouble. If I go there will be trouble. But if I go the nature of the trouble is unknown. I don’t want to be a rock again. This body works, after a fashion.”

Cassilda and Cassandra and Caterina and Calliope and Cassiopeia were all watching of course, because everyone watched everybody else constantly, because how else to know what you should be doing except by comparing one’s plans to others’ plots?

Anything else would nonsensical. So said Demhe, and Demhe knew all.

Demhe was from the universe before this one, and knew what was going to happen before it happened.

Some even said Demhe caused things to happen, but that’s simply not possible. Demhe doesn’t move, have arms, legs, fingers, toes. Demhe is just a stone.

In those days, except to things like Jenkin, it was a happy time. Good days on Carcosa, not long after the universe was born, and the city Carcosa on the planet Carcosa, near the western shore of the great frozen lake Hali, was young and whole, and its marbled avenues and metallic hues rivaled the very five suns for splendor.

For there were five suns then, not just two, and a great many moons, moonlets, satellites, asteroids, comets, planetoids, and personal craft plied the spaceways.

He who is not to be named had not yet arrived. It is unknown if he had yet been quickened.

For, as you recall, it was a very very long time ago.

Cassilda and Cassandra and Caterina and Calliope and Cassiopeia finished their chat about their lessons and practicing their signs, warnings, weavings, castings, and wards, and took leave of one another, making for their respective dwellings.
“I’ll see you later,” called Cassilda. “I’m for tea and a hot bath.”
“Marvelous,” trilled Cassandra. “Oh, a bath. With lots of bubbles!”
Caterina and Calliope thought the bath capital also.
Cassiopeia demurred.
“Be a stick in the mud,” the others jeered.
Cassiopeia’s eyes widened. Cassilda was beginning a weaving. The stars were darkening.

“NO, Cass,” she said.
Cassilda smiled thinly, showing the tips of her teeth, and tied the weaving off.

The stars came back out.
“I wouldn’t do that, to you,” Cassilda said. “But I could.” And she and the others sashayed off to the baths. Cassilda in white, Cassandra in green, Caterina in yellow, Calliope in red.

Cassiopeia, blue, stayed behind.

She had business with the stone.

Her bath done, her precious self fragrant and enveloped in a robe of the palest persimmon, her pert lips parted parsimoniously, Cassilda addressed herself to her instruments, first directing the engine to imitate the sounds of the crimson dawn, utilizing screams and squeaks of her own devising as ambient underpinning for the music of the spears.

Using the visions she had gleaned from the stone, of beasts of all descriptions throwing themselves onto the long blades in the Forest of Knives, of terror that resonated even into the Outlands, Cassilda poured her soul into the music.

Her familiar began to howl along with the melody, to become the melody. He bayed half-formed thoughts, parts of words learned parrot-fashion, his twin throats in counterpoint.

“I can’t stand when he talks like that,” giggled Cassilda, holding her nose. “And the way he sings. But his music flows, and I want some of that.”

She bent over her megatar, tightened a drone string to get it in tune with the others, strummed a chord.

The chord sounded, and hung in the air. As it began to crumble, she sent another one after it. Soon, three was a crowd.

She reached out, made a gesture with her fingers somewhere between a wave and a slap, and the chords reappeared and repeated. She added bass notes, and patiently continued to assemble her song. Her familiar howled and bayed and gibbered and glubbered along, and the engine relayed it all into the stone, into Demhe, and out into the universe.

The King caught the performance. He enjoyed Cassilda’s rage, her desire for destruction. He thought he might like to express some of the feelings her music generated, in words.

He took up his pen. He wrote, and Demhe assimilated those words.

Cassilda

Cassilda 2015 by Duane Pesice