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A CivSpace Christmas

December 25, 2018 Comments off

Twas the night before Christmas, and across his wide grounds

Terendurr the Black Stone listened for sounds.

His wide ears were twitching both downwards and up

And his head swiftly turned like the most nervous of pups.

His own sounds were sickly, twiddling and coarse,

An orchestra drained of all its force.

When I could stand it no longer I had to yell out,

“Boss! What’s the problem? What’s it about?

Alien invasion? Quantum death-beams?

A party of Keret forming volley ball teams?”

“The night is quiet, Blair,” he said,“Too quiet for me.

I fear some plot of fearsome degree.”

“No help for it now,” he said, nodding his head to the door,

“Go out to the city and search out the score.

Do not return until the danger is known –

Then I, a genius, the solution shall intone.”

He seemed so sincere I didn’t dare scoff

so grousing and grumbling I departed straight off.

My first stop was Bartoe the Monitor,

a lawman grumpy but tough as a boar.

“MacAlister!” he growled, “Trouble as always!”

“Thanks, Bartoe,” I said, “From you that is high praise.

But tell me, straight-up, any evil brewing tonight?

The Black Stone is nervous and fearing a fight.”

“No, nothing,” he barked so onwards I strode

My next stop, a Phair, to cash a favor long owed.

“Terril, you thief, you inveterate cad,

you owe me some info, so don’t make me mad.

A job is happening, this very eve.

Tell me the play and I’ll let you leave.”

His bald head he nodded, big eyes he blinked,

“Lovely Blair, I’m not so bad as you think,

no crime is planned across the town tonight.

In fact I intend a solemn and personal rite

Where clothing is optional and qualms passé –

What say we share a moment outré?”

In reply I just slapped him down to his bench

(Why should an alien know French?)

and headed out to the dark. My geas unlifted,

weary across the silent town I drifted

till at last I encountered a rare thing indeed,

an Oro-Ka, moving at speed.

Chaotic beings, of power great and manifest

He was my last chance to finish my quest.

“Hail, your worshipfulness!” (an ancient expression we scoundrels all favor).

“Questions I have I know you will savor.”

“What’s this, a Terran?” he cried.

“A child race – upstarts, infants – my patience you try!”

“Calm yourself,” I scolded, “lest dignity you misplace.

A riddle I have ,as great as space,

That I would pose.

Will you answer? Chose!”

“Ask,” he replied, sparks of power flicking about his head.

“My riddle,” I began, not without dread,

“concerns nothing, nothing at all.

When we are threatened by ‘nothing’, what defender shall we call?”

“’Nothing’, you say?” he stroked at his chin.

“A riddle from the Terran Sphinx’s kin.”

His powerful hand indicated the stars.

“Child, attend to the answer I tell.

Time is infinite, and space as well,

both curving, both swerving, both infuriatingly grim.

Back upon themselves they bend, an enclosing rim,

Tighter and tighter and the end – Is nothing – Unless.”

“Unless?”

“Unless a fracture is introduced. Foolish primate.

Only by that can you avoid your fate.

At the beginning of things the answer lies,

When quanta were mist and atoms dreams.

I am done, and so are you I deem.”

There was a shimmering flash and he was gone,

Leaving me to ponder the night alone.

Above were alien stars, around me alien air,

All lonely, cold, beyond care.

But in that moment I smiled, and laughed —

the Oro-Ka was right, and not by half.

Back to the compound I sped,

Till through the silent doors I did tread.

Distant sounds drew me on, breathless,

To the Great Hall when, blinding light left me helpless!

For there was Madeline the Raylic and the Trang, Pierre,

Bearing wrapped gifts, the grinning pair.

And the Black Stone as well a present he had

(its wrapping I must say was terribly bad).

“Apologies, Blair,” he boss announced,

“for the false assignment so lately pronounced.

Too late I learned that gifts are needed this night

For your Terran celebration to be observed aright.”

And we laughed, and talked, till Terendurr inquired

“Christmas, Blair, what is it? besides presents acquired.”

“The beginning of things,” I said, thinking on The Oro-Ka.

“We choose how the symmetry cleaves, what flaw

Shall set our yearly path towards we know not where.”

“Hrrmphh,” he grumbled, “Unaccustomed for you, wisdom quite rare.”

Then shaking his head he left, off to his office to ponder,

On problems I’m sure most dire and somber.

But I heard him exclaim, as he tromped to his lair—

“Happy Christmas to all, but most to you, good Blair!”

Categories: Writing

Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology

July 7, 2013 4 comments

Writing tip #1: Start in the middle of the action.

“Hey!” Kathy shouted.  Her clear voice cut through the traffic noise and the oblivious guy ahead turned, saw her coming at speed, and slammed his car door shut just in time.  The guy’s head spun watching her pass, barely six inches between him and the right handlebar of Kathy’s bike.

No time to look back.  Kathy had to get there quick or all the copies would be gone.

Writing tip #2: Show, don’t tell.

3 am.  There was no getting around it, sleep was not happening.  Just one more story, Kathy thought as she took the book from the nightstand and clicked on the LED bookmark.  The white glow reflecting from the turning pages gave her face the look of a ghost, an apparition.

The story ended and still not sleepy.  Well then, one more.  Then another, and then she reaches the end and still not sleepy.  I’ll go back, I want to read some again.  But which?  The robot story?  The troll-ship story?  Then she realizes, no need to choose.  I’ll just re-read them all …

Writing tip #3: Revise, revise, revise.

“Hey!” Kathy shouted.  Her clear voice cut through the traffic noise just in time for the oblivious guy ahead to hear, turn, and slam shut his car door; the right handlebar of Kathy’s bike nearly grazed him as she leaned into the pedals for yet more speed.  In her wake the oblivious guy cast angry shouts characteristic of oblivious guys everywhere.

No time to look back.  Kathy had to get to Readercon quick or all the copies of Pen-Ultimate would be gone.

These and a great many other tips come  from the Ultimate Science Fiction Workshop, which I attended in 2008.  Why, you might ask?  The short answer is, I want to be a writer and despite dinking around with it ever since college and producing some bits which I rather like – amidst much larger volumes of utter junk – it was clear to me I needed some basics and some examples.  Run by Jeff Carver and Craig Shaw Gardner, the USFW was exactly the right thing.  The workshop, which ran each Fall from 2006 to 2011, is on a break just now, while Jeff and Craig do actual writing.  If like me you have the writing bug, look for the USFW when it comes back.

I’m afraid I have ignored writing tip #4: Get To The Point.  Here it is:

Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology

Neat cover, huh?  Through mailing lists, FB, etc. alumni of USFW maintain a loose level of communication.  About a year go the idea came up of an anthology of USFW graduates’ stories.  There was also quick consensus on what to do with the proceeds of any such work:  All would go to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund, which helps SFWA members facing unexpected medical expenses.

The result is Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, just now available at Amazon and other outlets:

https://www.createspace.com/4339008
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333581
http://www.amazon.com/Pen-Ultimate-Speculative-Fiction-Anthology-Various/dp/098478702X
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DT5D6AY

The story from yours truly is a short one, loosely inspired by some experiences I have had in India.  But all the stories here are great.  I particularly like the ones from my fellow attendees in the 2008 session.  The workshop experience is quite personal – you’re sharing and critiquing each other’s thoughts, after all – and hearing the voices that I recall as tentative and new back then, now coming up with these confident, creative and cool stories is just great, and gives me hope for my own work.

So, good stories, good cause – catch a copy of Pen-Ultimate.  And it really will be at Readercon, July 11-14.  Like the Kathy in my mini-story, if you get there quick you can snag what I’m sure will someday be a valuable first edition!

 

I’ll end with, Writing tip #5: Finish with the reader wanting more.

Fundra put the thunderbird to sleep, her tips pressing the two-meter wings into hundred-fold angles. Bird bone spines and feathers fused into layers, the whole animal sliding paper thin and easily rolled into her community pocket. She made a gesture of sixteen tips because she felt sad, because she had fallen in love with the bird’s eyes, glassy dark and wise.

If you want to find out what happens next, get Pen-Ultimate.

Categories: Writing