Friday, May 16, 2008

Storyteller Times Two, Old Bones, Lonely Genes & Current Projects

Naughty, Lazy, or Thoroughly Distracted? Or perhaps all of the above...

Since typing my last post in November 2007, I have experienced six weeks of housing chaos due to a flood, two eviction attempts by a disgruntled building manager (the second involved my suing for damages due to ongoing harassment), and one major surgery which put me out of commission for longer than expected. That's the less fun news.

The more fun news is that although all of this has slowed me down considerably, it hasn't stopped me. I have had two more stories published in Storyteller Magazine, "Mr. Cowmeadow's Sky" in the Spring 2008 (Vol.14, Issue 4) and
"Aggie's Game" in the previous issue (V.14,I.3).

In addition, SF Waxes Philosophical, ed. by Ahmed Khan and published by ZC Books, arrived at the post office this week. It contains stories by Michael Bishop, Matt Hughes, Steven Utley--and of course yours truly--as well as ten others.

Ahmed's anthologies have intriguing aims. Of this one he says, "SF is a literature of ideas...Philosophy is a subject of ideas. So what better theme could there be for an anthology?" (from the Introduction.) Each author provides a note to expand (or contract) upon the philosophy examined in her or his story. It's a nice little book and I look forward to reading it.

A fourth story, "Miss Lonelygenes' Secret", will be included in Ahmed's upcoming anthology (with
Mohammad Aurangzeb Ahmad) A Mosque Among the Stars (ZC Books), as mentioned in an earlier post.

See below for brief snippets from each of these stories.

So what am I working on now?

Two projects mainly. I am polishing up a collection and writing a long story (what some call a "novel") set in Haiti. (Working title:
Làkansyèl )

I will be going to Haiti soon to spend a month with friends there, and will use that time away from the mundane stresses of angry building managers and unfed cats to learn what is happening in that fair land, brush up on my weak and gnarly Creole, and work on Làkansyèl. I am in no hurry to finish this long story, but it does somewhat keep me away from my first love: short fiction. So I may need to quicken the pace at some point, in order to leap back into saddle number one.

In the meantime, I will see you at VCon in October (Vancouver, B.C.), perhaps at World Fantasy Con in September (Calgary), and maybe even at Potlatch in the spring (Seattle? Portland??).

Cheers to all.


Mr. Cowmeadow's Sky

"Mr. Cowmeadow straightened slowly with the bottle of milk in his crabbed hand and pulled the mask closer to his mouth. The air was acid in his throat.

"Day was a slow proceeding, at this stage in his life. After waking, Mr. Cowmeadow had passed a good hour or so of creeping and resting and creeping and resting before he’d come to the edge of his bed and been able to swing incrementally the nether half of himself till his feet touched the floor. All the while he’d been pressing his hands against the bed to steady himself, gathering the pillow in under his side to prop him upright while he crept. Finally, he was up, and had to sit thus for fifteen minutes till he caught his breath and his heart stopped hammering. Then the teeth, and then the specs, all installed as requisite each a.m.."

Aggie's Game

"She'd find the place where the action would begin and stand quite still. Taking a slow breath, she'd look down at the grass, letting her gaze drift elsewhere as she searched inside herself for the germ of her story. That interior, what I saw of it, was amazing to behold. In her lived passionate women and dazzling men. Storm-swept heroines and heroes flung about by the cruelties of life—staunchly fighting back, even when they had no idea how, and knew they had to lose. Endless barren hills and moors, dark woodlands, castle keeps, the rare, haunted human in a desolate land. And jealousies, furies, pain so deep I bled to witness it.

"When Aggie conjured up her worlds, the parched fringe of Winnipeg on which we lived, the not-yet-paid-for houses and hot, tarred street, the soapy water running along the gutter from cars being washed, the grasshoppers and mosquitoes and ticks and dry warm grass…all faded back, fell silent, lay forgotten in some lost realm. The far more real and poignant land of heartbreak, courage and drama filled my sight.

"That was how I met Feynit and her lover—her foster-brother, Gilbrigde."

These Old Bones

"When she tired of watching, Andrea left the museum. She drove along the empty secondary highway to her favourite walking place, parked the car and started up the long, sun-baked trail into the hills. The earth crumbled under her runners, and she worked a bit harder than she was used to, moving up the steep path. Volatile herbs and grasses gave off sweet spicy scents on the warm air as she climbed.

"She stayed as close to the trail as possible, alert for splinters of stony bone and pocked, petrified eggshell—Cretaceous litter uplifting through the weathered earth. Soft clay interspersed among the sandier soil—kaolinite, if she remembered rightly. Used in toothpaste. Glancing up at the dolmen-shaped hoodoos, she took a great soft breath. The badlands were magical. The museum, too. Thanh Sullivan might be a twit, but God, this place!

"Andrea turned at the table-flat trailhead and looked down. Below lay the shrubby desert, shaped by erosion and tinted with age. Here, all around her, spread bald prairie, an immensity of sky beyond it. Prairie and sky together were a vast tableau, and she stood solitary there, while hidden beneath her—that incomprehensible land. A place where enormous bones were every day shrugging from the soil. Where the first people might have run bison to their deaths, necks broken at the bases of these cliffs. Where time has wound so slowly that what happens there now is out of step with all the rest of the world."

Miss Lonelygenes' Secret

"Rosaleen stirred herself, as if waking. Her jaw muscles were bunched; she loosened them deliberately. Took a long draught of the amber, aromatic liquid in her glass, and gazed out the window at the jungle growing on her balcony.

"Here she was, Miss Lonelygenes, helping to build a middle class as stolid and self-referent as Her Mother The Famous Geneticist’s worst nightmare, and, for an exorbitant fee, an upper class yet more dire.

"For the rich, the pipettes were at the ready, sucking out unwanted differences in their intended’s DNA, streamlining his or her phenotype to the desired fit. That done, the less wealthy fiancé/es’ were regrown. And while their bodies were being thus perfected, they were saved in live-holo format, to be blended into their new forms when the work was done. The couples joined thereby countless other Islands of Indifference—those Mother had warned against—oases of certainty in a suspicious world of chance.

"Rosaleen hated them all. But luckily, she hated her mother, too. Thus avoiding any huge conflict of interest in betraying that woman’s ideals."