Rebirth and Alienation

There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.—George Orwell

Every day, minions labor in the clouds to come up with some new meteorological phenomena. A polar vortex, a microburst, that sort of thing. But when they’ve lost their creative mojo or are just feeling bored, they press the default button so they can get back to their other minionly duties. That’s how I ended up with archetypical vernal meteorological perfection on my recent trip to Glenwood Springs.

Doc Holliday spent his final years in Glenwood, and not just for the excellent weather. There’s a restorative power in those spring-fed pools. The water is heavy with the Earth’s geothermal passion, and my parched body soaked it up, took in all its heat and minerals. I emerged like a fawn on its legs for the first time. After fifteen long pandemic months, I was reborn.

But reborn into what? The world has changed since the start of the pandemic, and I’m no longer sure where I fit.

Part of that uncertainty stems from my father’s death. Yes, I’m still processing that, still trying to find my grown-up self in a universe without his presence and context. And then there’s my declining eyesight. COVID is over, we can return to normal life again. That’s great. But for me, it’s a dimmer, murkier landscape—a sighted world that has left me behind.

Being blind, however, has not rendered me incapable of seeing what’s going on in our society. We’ve entered a new epistemological era that is at best uncertain and at worst toxic. Lies are seductive and corrosive. Once we succumb to their appeal, they erode our principles and ideals. Many seem to not realize this. They toast their marshmallows as another log of truth burns in the bonfire. That’s the true source of my alienation.

I want to take our willingness to objectively discern truth and soak it in Glenwood’s rejuvenating waters. I want to see truth reborn. Cling to the truth with me, even against the whole world.

On to my quarterly writing update. In Filling the Wastebasket, follow my trail of discarded prose as I slowly crawl towards publishable material. Then check out What I’m Reading. If you’ve read a good book or two, why not post a comment?

Filling the Wastebasket

My sleeping dog, Sam, next to a '60s-era Peanuts waste basket

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.—Isaac Bashevis Singer

Roughly four years into my creative writing career, and it still seems to take dozens of revisions to produce content that I’m not embarrassed to present. I must admit, I’ve never revised a story, regretted what I did, and went back to the old version. A wastebasket truly is a writer’s best friend.

Since my last blog, here are the stories I’ve focused on—with excerpts!

Strong Interactions

Here’s the elevator pitch: Desperate to part company after twenty months of pandemic lockdown, a couple discovers they are bound together by the strong nuclear force.

Nobel prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann makes a cameo in this story, and says the following as he serves a bowl of quark soup.

“Quark soup. From the birth of space and time. The energy in this bowl is the physical manifestation of your separation. It’s enough energy to split you apart. You only need to drink it.”

Strong Interactions will be published in my critique group’s upcoming anthology, Second Law. It only took nine major revisions to obtain editorial consecration. That means eight revisions ended up in the wastebasket. Woo! Go, wastebasket!

The Blackest Ink

The gist: Artisans in future Istanbul discover that calligraphy imbues inanimate objects with life. After the protagonist’s romantic advances are spurned, he uses his calligraphic skills to unleash a monster.

A couple lines for your consideration:

After I finished writing, I stood, wiping away my snot and tears with trembling, ink-stained hands. Before me, my creation: a twisted mass more dark than light, Half calligraphy, half graffiti.

I’ve finished refinements on the second major version and submitted it to Science Fictionery, a new magazine assembling its premiere issue. They rejected it, sort of. While it didn’t make the first issue, they are considering it for their second. If they send it back, no big whoop. I have plans for a major rewrite before submitting it elsewhere.

What I’m Reading

Oh, how I have read.

  • Accelerando by Charles Stross. This modern classic SF story follows multiple generations of a family as they transcend the technological singularity. The novel was made challenging by the audiobook narrators. I couldn’t stomach Pat Bottino’s uneven tone but managed to tolerate the George Guidall version. If the story wasn’t so incredibly fantastic and mind-boggling, I would’ve given up and never finished.
  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. A millennia-spanning space opera that pits the last remnants of humanity against a civilization of intelligent arachnids. What an imaginative tale! A nod to my daughter for recommending it.
  • Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb. In October 2017, astronomers identified Oumuamua, the first extrasolar object passing through our solar system. This non-fiction book suggests Oumuamua could have been an alien spacecraft and decries our bias against this possibility.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This hauntingly beautiful novel by the author of Station Eleven is the dark and disturbing story of lives destroyed by a Ponzi scheme.
  • How Long ’til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin. A collection of fantasy and science fiction stories. Click here for a podcast of L’Alchimista.
  • Kung Fu #3: Superstition by Howard Lee. This 1973 YA western novel closely mirrors the TV series starring David Carradine.
  • Now I See You by Nicole Kear. The author suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, and this is her memoir of raising children with blindness. My experience with RP is considerably different from hers, but I appreciate her sassy, no-bullshit voice and attitude.
  • A Short History of the World by Geoffrey Blainey. Two million years of history distilled into a 16-hour audiobook. (To be fair, the first 1.93 million years were dispensed in about 27 minutes.) This book gave me a new appreciation for the uniqueness and novelty of our modern way of life.
  • Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. A queerly satisfying collection of stories that are real yet surreal. Each tale left me helpless and terrified as if I were the only passenger on a long-neglected roller coaster. Yet I gladly waved my hands in the air and got back in line after every ride.
  • Ultralearning by Scott Young. Want to learn a new language in a month? Complete a college degree program in a year? This non-fiction book explains how to optimize the learning process in whatever field you care to master. I plan to apply its techniques to learning creative writing.
  • Wandering Star by Steven Anderson. A gleeful space opera with great characters by a local Colorado author. See my full review. This is book one of the Reunification series. The sequel, Wandering Soul, is on my to-read list.
  • Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler. Not your typical murder mystery, but a wonderful story with memorable characters. By the author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Black Glass, and Sarah Canary.

Currently, the strong nuclear force binds me to the following books.

  • Better than fiction 2: true travel adventures from 30 great fiction writers edited by Donald W. George
  • The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle

The following books seek an opportunity to feed my brain.

  • Engine Summer by John Crowley
  • Little, Big by John Crowley
  • The Singularity is Nearer by Ray Kurzweil. I have a long wait for this book. It won’t be released until September 2022.
  • Wandering Soul by Steven Anderson

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