Yesterday I posted a couple new pages, a short anarchist article about how we should appreciate what criminals have done for us, at least here in America. It’s so strange to me how criminals are so frequently the heroes of our movies and stories, and in our history books, but when normal people see others with actual criminal behavior, we automatically forget all that and decide that all criminals are evil.
The other page I posted is a short story I wrote maybe a year ago called Canned Air, Hannah Montana and the Purpose of Life, about a foul-mouthed fourth grader and his inhalant addicted mom as they avoid a funeral to go see a Hannah Montana Cover band. This was kind of an experimental story, my first attempt at comedy, though people tell me it’s not that funny
It’s definitely not my favorite creation, but beyond the failure at comedy, I think it does have a few interesting points to make about parenting, about finding your way in life, doing what you feel is right instead of what you’re told and just being yourself. Also some stuff about war and how humans get along in society.
The story is full of Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana quotes, though I figure the kinds of people reading this aren’t going to be familiar with those lines, so they are probably going to be lost. And the last line is even a song reference that I worry no one will get.
But behind all the different things going on in this story, one of the reasons I wrote this one instead of one of my numerous other story ideas was because I wanted to come out of the closet as someone who enjoys Miley Cyrus. I’m sorry, but she just has some really fun, catchy songs that I find enjoyable to listen to. As you may guess, this is more difficult to be open about than being a bisexual kinkster or an atheist. I still feel very hated by society because of my anarchism, because I don’t see police or soldiers as heroes, but as far as the normal things that people supposedly hate and discriminate over, the things that liberals want people to be legally protected for, have never been an issue for me.
Nobody has ever seemed judgmental because of my abnormal sexuality, and while it is offensive when Christians talk about how I’m going to burn in hell, I’ve always gotten the impression their ultimate goal was to save me, and I’ve never felt any genuine discrimination for my atheism. I once worked in a company where I was the only person who was not a church-going Christian and I never felt unwelcome. I was very overweight most of my childhood, and while I did get picked on quite frequently as a kid, I can’t recall a single instance of the fat shaming that everyone seems so concerned about these days.
But for some reason, people tend to get real nasty about the music others listen to. If you look up Miley Cyrus videos on YouTube you’ll find a notable number of commenters saying really nasty things that would get them instantly banned if they were based on race or sexuality. Because it’s relating to music, for some reason it’s not seen as an issue, it’s not seen as real hate. You might say this is because there’s no history of violence from musical tastes, but most homophobic people have no more violent intentions as the musical snobs do when they say they want to kill Justin Bieber.
It just seems strange to me that I know so many liberals who talk about equality and get all bent out of shape whenever a conservative says something insensitive, and whine about how they feel judged because of their sexuality or beliefs, then they turn around and tell you there’s something wrong with you because you don’t like the same music they do.
If we want to claim to be open-minded and accepting, we need to be open and accepting on all levels, not just the legally-mandated ones.
Anyway… I think that’s kind of what I was trying to say with this story.
The other day I posted Compensating for a Small Penis, some old EVE Online fan fiction that I wrote something like three years ago and have just been hanging onto it. I have some other stories that I need to post too, so maybe I’ll get around to that in the coming months. I was planning on putting these together, finishing my next novel and looking for a publisher or self-publishing, but the more I think about it the more I realize it’s unrealistic for me to think I’ll be able to make as much as a writer as I do as a web developer, and I’m too lazy to do the grunt work, so I might as well just start posting them here. I still want to put together some kindle books at maybe three bucks a pop and see how they do. I think my main problem with my writing career is my lack of desire to market myself.
Anyway, this story I posted is a violent one. I have only shown it to a few people since it is rather over the top and I feared that people wouldn’t like the violence and swearing, but on the other hand I do like some aspects of the story beyond the silly curses and creative ways to kill people. The characters–two soldiers on a battleship who discover a spy and must fight to escape–do have some redeeming qualities, one desperate to get back to his daughter while the other wishes for forgiveness for a mistake he made to another little girl. I tried my best in this story to examine the reasons why people want to be soldiers and go to war, as I did when I was young, and the excuses and lies we tell ourselves to justify it.
I’m writing another novel. Or more specifically, a massive rewrite of my second novel. Here’s a blurb I wrote for it:
This is my diary, a book about me, Allihence, and my thirty-five friends. We are humans, raised in the wild, who don’t want to be forced to host another species in our bodies. We have escaped the carathlings and must evade them until we make it to the human villages in the east.
But for me, nothing is real unless I write it down. My friends worry that my obsession with this pen and paper will drive me mad or get us captured, but I can’t get this idea out of my head that our story will make a difference in the way our two species communicate.
I still don’t have a title. I’m calling it Rediscovering Communication: The Journals of Allihence and the Wild Ones, but I’m not particularly happy with that title.
This story was something I came up with around 1996. I started writing it when I was a sophomore in High School but gave up after about fifty pages to write short stories and four years later a novel I called This Desert Life, which turned out to be terrible. I came back to write Rediscovering Communication again around 2002. I finished it, but it had a few major problems. People really didn’t like how Allihence died two-thirds of the way through. I originally intended to bring her back as some kind of mysterious ghost writer for the final chapters of the journal, but that didn’t pan out.
Around 2006, somebody claiming to be a world-famous fantasy writer wrote me a series of emails saying that he’d read it and loved certain aspects of it but pointed out all the problems and gave me some advice on how to make it into something sellable. Looking back I realize it was very good advice. I didn’t take him seriously at the time and eventually deleted his emails, but years later, I pieced together some of the things he’d said and realized it was Terry Brooks, who is known to go out of his way to help local aspiring authors… or someone doing a good of pretending to be him.
After I wrote my third novel, Against A Rock, in 2008, I looked back over Rediscovering Communication and realized I had to remove it and my first novel from my website and hide them both away forever. I started re-writing Rediscovering Communication around 2009, but lost interest or something.
Then a couple months ago I listened to a book on Audible called Room and the unique storytelling style inspired me to come back to this. Now I’m finally back at it and I’ve got most of the core parts complete, rewritten the beginning and the last third of the book. The main character survives to the very end now and the ending I feel is dramatically improved.
But the most important change is the theme. The original theme of the story was how we must learn to fight back when it’s necessary for our freedom, even if we feel guilty. Now the theme is more focused on peace and reminds me more of an old Star-Trek story where people learn to work together for the benefit of all.
Against a Rock was an uncommon kind of story in that there were no good guys. There were no likable characters. While I love it like my baby, Against a Rock is packed with as much violence, grit, hate and selfishness as possible while still making a compelling story… which is why I love it. Rediscovering Communication is just as abnormal, but in the opposite direction. While there are a couple short violent scenes, overall there are no evil or selfish characters. There is still conflict but every person in the story is working toward the greater good in some way. It’s a challenge, and I’m still at least six months out from being able to show off a finished product, but I think this is turning out well.
You may notice I re-used the name Allihence. Basically that’s because in 2006 I named my EVE-Online character after my character in the first draft of this novel, then wrote Against a Rock as though it took place on board my character’s ship. There is no actual relation between Allihence in this book and Allihence in Against a Rock.
So after enough of my babbling, here is a preview of the first chapter:
Allihence, May 29 afternoon
I don’t know what to write. I don’t even know where to start.
My home is destroyed. All my papers, all my possessions.
Today the meteors fell with no warning. It wasn’t that we missed the warnings. No. There were no warnings.
Everyone is crying; not just the children. The cave walls make the crying and praying echo and burn into my brain. My only consolation is that almost everyone on the island got here safely. Almost.
Have the gods abandoned us? Are they punishing us? Are they still up there?
I won’t look up.
This paper is my world right now. If I look up the insanity will overcome me.
I will keep writing.
This is the first page of my second book. My first book, over a thousand pages of articles, free writes, broken hearts, arguments, fishing adventures, poems, stories, and emotional ramblings, was inside my hut when the meteors hit.
I saw the crater. It’s all gone.
I’m dead now. Everything about me was in those pages.
Allihence, May 29 evening
I wrote my last book in an attempt to understand myself. Now I want to write a book for others to get to know me.
I can’t do this. I’m trying and trying but I can’t. It’s not like it was yesterday.
Allihence, May 30 morning
I’m thinking a little more clearly today so lets start from a logical beginning.
I suppose my story starts nine years ago when Marthus negotiated with the carathlings to bring us books, paper and writing supplies in place of the bear hides and grain the rest of us wanted. I had only learned to read and write a year earlier but when I got my first pen I realized I could keep a record of everything I did and everything I am. I wouldn’t forget myself when I become a carathling and must share my mind with another. As I grew older, I realized that my writing was my greatest asset, that it would result in my being claimed by a successful carathling family, providing comfort in my second stage of life. Over the years my constantly growing stack of papers became everything to me.
Maybe the gods decided I was too selfish. My first book was all about me, my feelings, my goals and my memories. The gods decided to take them from me yesterday, to destroy them forever, to show me that I should have been concerning my writing with something bigger than myself. At least, this is the thought I have not been able to shake.
So I’m not going to start talking about my youth and recreate the stories I told in my first book. Instead I will try to accept that old Allihence is gone, and start with yesterday morning as I sat on a boulder on the northeast shore of our island, paper and writing board in my lap, pen in hand.
The waves lapped at the base of the rock as I debated over the perfect words to say that I now enjoy spending time with one of the older boys named Doumli.
A boom shook the ground, drowning out the sounds of the sea, starling flocks of birds into flight behind me. A gust of wind blew me back onto the rock, ripping the paper from my hand.
A pillar of water stood on the horizon to the north. A trail of smoke stretched from the heavens.
My first thought was a god had fallen from the sky, but I didn’t have time to ponder this as I saw the wave forming from the impact site, rising up and rushing toward me.
I dropped my pen and writing board and jumped to my feet. I leapt from rock to rock, trying to head toward the trail that climbs the dirt cliff to the grassy mesa above, but I looked back and saw the wave aproaching too quckly. I had a few moments to jump to a large boulder jutting from the side of the cliff and attempt to climb. I was halfway up before hearing the wave roaring behind me. I wedged my toes into the cracks and debated for a tiny moment jamming my arm deep in a crevice, wondering if my strength would keep me safely in place or the ocean would snap my arm like a chicken bone.
I chose to respect the water and gripped the edge of the crevice, ready to be ripped from my perch. The sea cascaded around me, flattening my stomach and chest, but I tightened my shoulders to keep my head from slamming against the rock. I held tight and a moment later the water settled around my waist, then began to retreat.
For a long moment I held there, trying to process what had just happened. I looked over my shoulder. The pillar of water had disappeared and was now replaced with a white cloud blending into the black line of smoke pointing to the sky. I’ve seen a couple drawings of meteors hitting the ocean and this seemed similar. A god falling from the sky might look the same.
But I could hear other blasts from the distance, so it only took a few moments to make sure I was safe before I sprinted up the trail to the mesa and started my jog.
The cave is on the south side of the island so I didn’t slow except in the few dangerous areas. As I ran, I abandoned my falling god theory after hearing the repeated meteor blasts, most muffled by the ocean, but some clearly impacting the solid ground of our island. This was a normal meteor shower, but felt different because I had never been outside during one. How we had missed the warnings, I could not understand. Perhaps the gods had chosen not to warn us as punishment for something, or to test us or simply to be rid of us. Did the rest of the world receive warnings?
I ran for a long time before I heard crying. I almost ran right past, and had to force my mind to re-think the situation. I had been making a direct line for the safety of the cave when I should have kept my eyes open for anyone in trouble.
I jumped through the bushes. “Whose there?”
The crying was the only response. Someone young, perhaps someone even too young to move around on their own. “Where are you?” I shouted, following the voice.
I jumped into a clearing to see little Dina, gripping a small willow branch in her hand as though it could bat away the meteors. She turned and stared at me.
“You need to follow me to the cave,” I said.
She replied with more crying and I imagined her standing here, awaiting the return of her mother, not remembering the carathlings had traded her to the mainland just a few months ago.
“I can carry you part of the way, but we need to go. You need to run, okay?” I ran to the edge of the clearing and beckoned her to follow, but she just stood there wailing.
“Dina!” I shouted, but she didn’t move, so I ran toward her to pick her up.
She swung the willow branch at me but I ignored it. “Dina!” I grabbed her by the shoulders and tried to pick her up, but she fought me, screaming louder. “Deimin!” she screamed, finally forming an intelligible word.
“Deimin is nearby?” I asked, taking a step back.
“How long ago?”
But she couldn’t answer.
“Did he head for the cave?”
She didn’t answer.
“Dina, we need to get you to the cave, okay? If Deimin hasn’t found you, he’s probably running there already. We can’t stay out here and wait for him, okay?”
She shook her head.
I turned toward a rustling and watched Randil jump through the bushes into the clearing. “Dina, I can’t find him. We need to go. Allihence?”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Meteor shower I guess. I don’t understand how we were all too stupid to notice the warnings.”
Dina screamed louder.
I squatted before Dina to look at her. “If he’s not at the cave we’ll get a couple of the older boys to go out for him, okay?”
Randil is much bigger and stronger than myself so he didn’t take the time to try and convince her. He picked her up by the shoulders and adjusted her into his arms and started marching south. He pulled the branch from her hands and tossed it aside and she screamed harder.
He carried her briskly and I walked fifty paces ahead of them. Dina cried for most of the trek, but Randil was able to put her down and got her to run with us for much of the distance.
When we arrived at the cave, my people were in chaos, shouting, crying, arguing, praying.
“Alli, Dina and Randil make two hundred and fifteen.” He put a mark next to our names with a chunk of charcoal on a list Marthus and I started years ago.
“There’s thirteen still out there.” Gimmin stared a long moment toward the opening, then listed the names of the missing.
I walked through the cave, trying to find a comfortable spot, but as usual, it was packed with people and I had to sit with my arms wrapped around my knees and tuck myself against the wall to avoid being stepped on.
Normally we are calm during a meteor shower, just sitting in here, huddled together, bored, playing games or talking, or in my case, writing. This time it’s different.
I sat for a long while, trying to ignore the voices, worrying about my stack of papers sitting in the plain wooden box at the head of my bed. When the sounds of meteors seemed to lull, this caused me to worry more rather than less, thinking I was missing my opportunity to race back to our village and retrieve them.
Finally something clicked and I rose to make my way toward the cave entrance. “I’m running back to the village,” I told Gimmin.
“No,” he said. “Please don’t, Alli.”
“I need to.”
“I need my papers.”
“No you don’t. Alli, we still have three missing people out there and three more looking for them.”
“If I find someone on my way I’ll bring them back, but if not, I’m going for my papers.”
“Allihence.” He raised his eyebrows at me. “It’s paper.”
I knew he wouldn’t understand so I turned and ran.
“Alli!” Gimmin’s angry shout echoed through the cavern but no one pursued me.
I ran down the trail as quickly as I dared and headed toward the middle of the island, back the way I had come, toward our main village and the clearing where I’d made my home for the last ten years.
I ran most of the way, making better time than I believe I could have under any other circumstances. I heard meteor blasts in the distance and a few that sounded like they had hit the island, but they were notably less frequent now, so I hoped this was a good time. Without the warnings letting us know how long the shower would last, I had no idea if it was winding down or another big wave was on its way.
My chest ached so much by the time I arrived at our clearing that I could not let out a scream when I saw the destruction. I stumbled, feeling like something out of a story book. My legs weakened, as though I would drop to my knees like when the hero of the story watches their home burn. I caught myself before falling, not wanting to be here now, writing something so cliche.
Instead I ran forward, feeling the heat and seeing the smoldering embers from the impact. The crater was three times the size of my hut, leaving nothing recognizable. It had also taken out the edge of Marthus’ home. Her roof had collapsed and was now smoldering.
She no doubt had things in there she would have taken to the cave under a normal shower so I took a few moments to catch my breath then began tearing open her wall and pushed the remainder of her roof aside. She had books in two old wooden crates, and though I’ve read most of them, I could not decide what she would like me to rescue.
I grabbed one of her medicine books, her journal, a pen and some ink from atop her writing board. I figured any more would be cumbersome. I turned to flee back to the cave, then stopped long enough to drag her book chests into the clearing where there would be less chance of fire.
Fortunately most of our important books were kept in Marthus’ hut, though we certainly lost a few in mine, including a couple supposedly written by the gods. One is a story of a young boy who steals a talking star wagon and becomes trapped in the heavens above a world where nobody lives, and must figure out how to survive. I’ve read it a couple times, but it’s hard to understand and I’m convinced much of it is nonsense written for fun. The other is a book about rocks and the magics that make them but that’s even harder to understand.
I jogged back to the cave, thinking of nothing but the path and the vision of the crater where my home had been.
When I got back, Gimmin and several others made me promise not to leave again. I gave Marthus her medical book and she shrugged, clearly indicating that it wouldn’t be of much use to her here. We hadn’t suffered any injuries that she couldn’t take care of with warm water and bandages. The search party had returned without finding the three people.
I sat down and started going crazy trying to process the loss of my papers. I cared nothing for the loss of my home, my skins, fishing spears, ornaments or even books. All I cared about was my journal. Even the thought of our three comrades, lying injured and helpless somewhere out there, could not shake my thoughts from those sheets of white paper, vaporized under a rock from heaven. Maybe there’s something wrong with me.
I wrote yesterday’s afternoon entry on the paper I took from Marthus and intended to explain things more coherently, but it was only a short while after I’d started that Zerimile came to me and put his hand over my papers. “Allihence. Counsel Meeting. Back of the cave. Now.”
I’m not officially a member of the town counsel so I don’t get a vote. I’m the record keeper, so I have more influence than people realize.
We shuffled to the back of the cave and sat in Story Time, which is what we call the ring of sitting rocks we use for puppet shows and storytelling while waiting out the meteors.
I didn’t write much about our meeting. We argued about what meteors actually are. Marthus and I have read the books and believe they are giant rocks flying around the heavens and sometimes they fall to our planet. Thats a leap of faith for most because we can’t explain why these rocks would be wandering the skies, then suddenly change their minds and drop. This begs the question, could one of our moons ever decide to fall?
Debating this is pointless because we will never know.
We also argued about how to keep everyone calm and entertained since we have no books, toys or musical instruments. We announced a comedy show where the person who got the most laughs would be island mayor for a month, which basically means he gets first pick at meal time.
The carathlings were another subject. We realized they had not received any warnings, since they would have showed up to ensure we were prepared. They could have been hit hard. One small meteor could sink either of their patrol boats and a large one could capsize it from a distance. We talked about what we would do if our carathlings had been devastated, but realized different carathlings would come to watch over us.
I worry that writing this next thing is a bad idea. I won’t be able to let any carathlings read this, but I’m gonna say it anyway. I know what Marthus was thinking even though she didn’t say it. This could be our opportunity to build canoes and get off this island. We could find a place where only humans live, like in those books the carathlings don’t know we have.
Marthus also seems to realize she is not going to be able to play her game with the carathlings any longer. She’s twenty-four, the eldest on the island by a wide margin. She’s not going to be human much longer and won’t be able to continue fighting the changover.
However, I’m eighteen and the same goes for me. But now I don’t have a stack of pages to prove I should be traded as an intellectual. The thought of becoming a carathling is even scarier now.
But obviously there’s nothing we can do to help or escape the carathlings right now so we moved on to the subject of supplies.
The counsel agreed that we would all go hungry. We have almost no food, but we’ve been hungry before and there is always a bounty after a shower so we agreed that we could wait instead of sending someone outside for food.
Water is a different story. We’ve run out of water before, even when we have a two-day warning and all our bottles. We had already been hearing arguments over it. We finally decided we had no choice but to put out a call for volunteers to run to the well.
And that was about it for the counsel meeting.
Later we went around collecting empty bottles. The boys stood at the cave entrance for a long time before finally taking off. We sat worrying, but they returned in reasonable time. Unfortunately, with two hundred twenty-five of us, the water drains quickly so we started trying to figure out who will run out next almost as soon as they returned. I volunteered to go, but there were enough stronger boys that they didn’t let me.
You might think surviving outside in a meteor shower is all about quick wits, reflexes and toughness. But even the biggest, strongest carathling would turn to ash if hit directly by a meteor. You can’t just step to the side when one comes for you.
However, groups of boys have raced out there for water several times now and always come back alive.
It does not look like the three missing are going to make it back. Trinio, Colby, and Kahmad. We’re hoping they are holed up under the overhang on the western cliff so we will not speak the words of remembrance until we know for sure. A few have said the trail that runs along the cliff’s edge has collapsed so we are all fearing the worst.
I tried to write again in the evening but it didn’t go so well. I want to blame it on the lack of candles but really it was in my head.
I thought of Dina and how before I had heard her crying I had been racing for the cave, thinking of nothing but saving myself and how that represents my first book where I wrote mostly about myself to my future self instead of caring about an outside reader. I have certainly spent a share of pages talking about my desire for humans to be able to choose for ourselves when we become carathlings, but much of that was complaining for my own sake rather than trying to spark a change in the world.
All night I ran this over my mind as I tried to sleep on the bare rock, so when there was enough light, I decided to start the next phase of my life by starting my next book.
I’m sitting as near the entrance as I dare, for the sunlight. I have not heard a meteor since a page ago so we are hoping the shower is nearing its end.
This book that I have started today, I want it to be different. I have no idea how my life will play out from this moment, but these sheets of white paper will follow along with it. I don’t know how they will represent me, but I promise I will do whatever I can to make this about something bigger than myself.
A friend the other day mentioned that he thought the final season of Roseanne was one of the most brilliant ending’s to a series. Years ago, when the show was on the air, I watched virtually every episode all through the 8th season. Then for some reason I don’t recall, I stopped watching. The ninth season got horrible reviews and the critics totally trashed her for it, but I also remember everyone disliking the final episode of Seinfeld and I thought that was an excellent way to end the series, so I decided to torrent the final season of Roseanne and this last week I watched it all the way through.
And I’m forced to agree: I can’t think of a single television series I’ve ever watched with a more creative and powerful ending. Roseanne and her writers took an average sitcom and for just one year, turned it into a work of art. Unfortunately, you never get to understand the true brilliance of it until the final ten minutes of the last episode.
So there’s gonna be some spoilers in the rest of this post, so if you are like me and was a fan of the show but somehow missed the last season, I highly recommend downloading it and not reading any further.
The metaphor of Dan cheating on Roseanne I think is explained fairly well in the end, but I found that particularly trippy for some reason to think about her inventing the whole idea that he was cheating on her in order to cope with reality, which was much worse. Also earlier in the season I felt the show did an excellent job of silently communicating the idea that it really doesn’t matter ultimately where your partner happened to put his body parts on some friday night and what really matters is what’s in their heart. There were some other good episodes in the season, such as the one where the grandma goes to visit her mom and reveals their relationship. The episode where she rescues everyone on the train from the terrorists is a little weird, but even that episode makes sense in the context of the final episode.
The other part I particularly liked is the moment they decided to take Darlene’s baby off life-support. The baby did survive, but they all assumed it would die. They let nature take its course, and realized that the same devices keeping it alive were sucking its will to live. Kind of a powerful metaphor of our own modern society, all these social, political and economic systems designed to help us that are actually destroying us from the inside.
But my favorite thing out of the season was what they did with Dan’s boat. In the very first, pilot episode of Roseanne, they introduced Dan’s boat that he was building and showed him dreaming about the day he’d finally push it into the water. Nine years later, he still hadn’t finished it, and finally, his crazy mom burned it down, at the end of the series. A dream neglected and ultimately destroyed… but with that loss, Roseanne frames her novel, and we realize in the last few minutes of the final episode, as she finishes her book, that her dream we thought was long gone, was actually alive and well, and out of all this pain, rises something positive and meaningful.
I posted a new story today called I Kill for Money… well, it’s not actually a story as much as it is a few sample chapters from another EVE Online novel that I came up with. Unfortunately I have no immediate plans to write this story, but I still love these scenes so I decided I had better just go ahead and post it.
The story follows Vena and Deihlmin who are cybernetically enhanced assassins for the Gurista pirate faction as they pursue a Concord chief, unravel a tale of war and deceit and find themselves falling in love. I wrote these a couple years ago when I was still actively playing EVE Online. I had just written a story called The Atrocity Planners, which a while later was published in issue #22 of EON Magazine (originally this was titled My Gurista Mom and Dad, but I took it to a writer’s group meeting at the local sex club and they gave me some wonderful suggestions including the new title). Anyway, the Vena character from The Atrocity Planners is the same Vena, all grown up of course, in this new novel idea. It’s not mentioned in the sample chapters but the idea of course, is that there’s a lot of back story about how she dealt with the tragedy that occurred in The Atrocity Planners.
A lot of the action-adventure details for this novel aren’t worked out yet, but I have a pretty clear idea of the characters, which is usually more important. Vena is a professional, trained from childhood for many facets of war. She has a shady history having been raised by pirates with frequent hardships, rolled with drug smugglers in late childhood and became a prostitute as a teenager. This allowed her to begin purchasing her cybernetic enhancements, which rapidly became an addiction. Through her late teens she spent the majority of her income on stolen military-grade implants and mental interface software. These implants led her back to the Gurista faction where she was hired and gave up prostitution and drug smuggling in favor of professional killing and espionage.
Vena was escaping from her childhood trauma and the difficulties she endured as a teenager. She escaped into her cybernetic implants, which finally gave her the sense of control over her own emotions and the power to manipulate the situations around her. The computers allowed her to escape her own life and as time went on she started to forget which parts of her were human and which were machine. She began playing characters for the Guristas, adjusting her personality to fit whatever mission. As she says in the second chapter, “ The best actors don’t act, they become.” But now she’s been infiltrating and playing parts for nearly a decade and she can no longer tell which character is actually Vena and can’t tell the difference between real love or passion and technological manipulations designed to accomplish a mission.
Deihlmin, on the other hand, grew up straight, in a wealthy family. He got bored with life and started buying implants in his early teens, but soon learned that the implants couldn’t help him do anything satisfying other than getting away with crimes. He started with petty crimes, simply for the fun of getting away with something and in a few years had moved up to drug smuggling. He too became a little addicted to artificial enhancements, though was careful not to lose his personality within the machine. Then, a group of smugglers he was working with on a particularly large score, were busted by Concord and he watched his friend get beaten to death. Deihlmin was able to escape, but the police already had all his information, so he realized he could never return to the straight world. He was taken in by the Guristas who sympathized with his experience and he fell in love with the pirate lifestyle. Now that he had a score to settle with Concord within a few years he worked himself up to one of the Guristas elite infiltration soldiers.
So we’ve got two killers. Deihlmin truly believes the Guristas are the good guys, sees Concord as evil and wishes to fight them any way that he can. Vena simply kills for money. She tells herself the Guristas are the good guys, but deep down inside, doesn’t know if she’s sure.
Ultimately they unravel a conspiracy that goes through some top level officials in Concord and discover that many of them have been directly working with Gurista leadership in an attempt to keep a balance to the war, so that neither faction gains ground, but the local military industry, which of course has deep ties to both sides of the conflict, profits dramatically.
The story would explore the nature of criminal justice and the drive for violence through seemingly moral purposes. Like my first EVE Online novel, Against a Rock, there would be a lot of action, violence and suspenseful surprises, and the characters, of course, are not the most morally upstanding individuals. But unlike Against a Rock, this book would have a love element with just a hint of sexy stuff… but alas, I probably won’t write it any time soon unless by some miracle I get a real book deal
Here’s the first page of a novel idea I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a year or two now. It’s probably something I’m not gonna actually write for a long time. I’ve got too many other writing and programming projects I want to do right now, but I do really like the concept for the opening, so I thought I’d just write it out for the fun of it. The style is a bit different than what I’m trying to do right now as well. Very male action-violence oriented.
I know the whole amnesia thing is a little cliche in an action story, but I feel like I’ve got kind of a unique take on it, at least when we get to the explanation of why our character has it. I promise, this isn’t like Lost. I do have explanations for everything. I never start writing unless I have a pretty clear vision of where it’s going.
As he stared into his whiskey glass, listening to the jingling of the ice cubes, somehow still audible through the familiar sound of The Outlaw Torn blasting on the jukebox behind him, everything he’d ever known and cared about disintegrated, and he was left with a vague sense that he was in the right place at the right time. He was just where he was supposed to be.
He knew he was listening to Metallica, knew it was Tullamore Dew swishing in his glass, but as he looked around the dingy bar at the mix of country rednecks and pseudo-gangsters, he realized he had no idea where he was. An odd bar. Blacks and rednecks conversing comfortably with one pronounced gay man sipping a martini as he waited for a beautiful woman in tight, dirty white cargo pants to take her shot in their game of pool.
Where the fuck am I?
He sipped his whiskey. What else do I not know?
He thought. Nothing.
His eyes wandered back to his glass. Did someone spike my drink?
Possibly. But somehow that thought didn’t prevent him from taking another sip.
Am I one of those people who forgets everything constantly and every ten minutes I start this same conversation over again, each time forgetting that my brain doesn’t work? I’ll be having this “who am I” conversation with myself over and over again until I die.
Maybe I wrote a note to myself. He checked his arms. That guy in Memento had written all over himself.
His arms were bare.
He looked back at the woman in the white cargo pants, tight around the ass, loose the rest of the way down, frayed and torn at the bottom, with lots of pockets, more than enough room for phone, cash, drugs, switchblade, condoms and whatever else a girl might need for the evening. His real concern should be figuring out what the hell was going on, but somehow he had a hard time taking his eyes off those pants and that ass.
He felt something in his pocket and set his drink down to pull it out. A standard black leather wallet, full of cards and cash. A driver’s license showed through a clear plastic cover. He looked at the picture, then up at the mirror behind the bar. The same person. Scott Donahue. That’s my name… but somehow it didn’t sound familiar.
The wallet was thick. He opened the long side pocket to reveal row upon row of crisp, brand new hundred dollar bills.
He slipped the wallet back in his pocket and looked up at the bartender. Somehow this all had to do with this glass of whiskey.
He took a sip.
“Do you need something?” the barkeep said with a friendly smile.
“Do you remember what time I came in here?”
The man looked at the clock above the bar. “Like ten, I think. You losing track of time there Buddy?”
“Yeah, kinda.” He looked at the clock. Nearly midnight. “Can I get a water?”
He looked back around the bar. All these people, drinking, laughing, bitching about sports or how someone cut them off in traffic or shouting about how much they love the next song on the jukebox, none of them having any idea this strange man had just lost everything he had ever known. Three minutes ago everything changed and he had no idea why, and somehow he knew no one could help him.
His eyes wandered back to the woman, the only woman in the bar other than the old lady sitting in the back next to her husband, taking a healthy drink from her twenty-four ounce can of Pabst.
Those cargo pants. Worn by the type of girl he knew would never speak to him. Her ass swayed as she leaned over the table to take another shot. He watched. I don’t care if she notices me staring. I’m a new man now, as of right now.
She missed her shot, but didn’t seem to care. She stood and turned to reveal the black, seemingly brand new Slipknot tee shirt molded around her tits and showing just an inch of tight belly. She caught his eye for a moment then moved on, glancing toward the back of the bar.
No. He stopped himself and spun back around on the stool. What was he doing? He needed to figure this out. I need to get to a computer and Google myself.
Midnight. Everything would be closed.
He felt something in his back pocket. Keys, probably. Maybe he would recognize a car in the parking lot.
I don’t even know what city I’m in. When I walk out that door, will I be in downtown LA or out in the Wisconsin country side?
He rapped his hands on the bar. Just finish your drink, pay up, calm down and head outside. You’ll be okay. You might not remember, but you can still think. This could be a good thing. This could be a new beginning. Maybe there were things better left forgotten.
He took a long drink of his whiskey.
Then a presence appeared behind him and a moment later a softness against his back and a gentle hand to his side.
There she was. The girl in the cargo pants. Her breasts pressed into his back as her hand pulled around his stomach and her long dark hair melded with his own.
That’s why he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was already his.
Her lips brushed against his earlobe and she whispered, “Ryan, Baby, we need to get the fuck out of here.”
I thought I was Scott. But somehow Ryan felt better.
“Okay,” he replied softly. “Can I finish my drink?”
“No. Pay up.” She paused as she nuzzled his neck with her chin, then returned to his ear. “I think they’re onto us. The guy by the wall.”
The wallet came out with one hand and a wave to the bartender with the other.
“Close out?” he asked.
Ryan nodded. The lady had decided that was his name.
Ryan slapped a hundred down on the bar. “Gimme sixty back.”
“Thanks Buddy. Appreciate it.” The bartender saluted as he brought the bill to his eye to check the authenticity. A moment later the sixty bucks came back over the bar, and Ryan and this girl had slipped from their spot to head, arm in arm, to the front door. They pushed through the tiny foyer stinking of stale cigarettes and out into the open, hot desert air.
He looked out on dark rolling hills, sand, a gas station and a highway heading off into the distance. A strip mall in the middle of nowhere.
“Can they see us from in there?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” He looked back at the windows. “I don’t think so.”
But she was already sprinting. The gravel crackled under their feet as he worked to keep up. She headed toward an old black sports car and slid to a stop at the drivers side. Thank God, because Ryan had no idea where they were going. He came to a stop at the passenger side.
“Keys!” she shouted.
He reached into his back pocket and tossed them across. She snatched them from the air and a moment later she was inside, unlocking his door.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!” she stammered as she cranked the keys in the ignition. They backed wildly into the parking lot, the sound of pebbles flying and tires spinning matching the volume of the engine revving. She slammed the brakes again, Ryan’s hands slapping against the dashboard as they hit the middle of the parking lot. “The case!” Her left hand fished under her seat as her right threw the car into first gear. “Thank God. It’s still here.”
A second later he was thrown back into his seat as he snatched for the seat-belt caught behind the headrest. They burst out of the parking lot and skidded onto the open pavement as Ryan looked back to see four men run from the front tavern door. They paused only a moment before sprinting toward their vehicles.
“Fuck!” she screamed as she shifted from first to third.
He slipped the seat-belt into its latch and looked at her just as she shifted up to fifth. “Fuck!” She slammed her palms on the steering wheel. “How the fuck did they find us?”
Was it really such a smart idea to follow this woman?
That was probably a question he should have asked a long time before he forgot everything. As he looked at her, his heart thumping in his chest, somehow he knew he could trust her. In the back of his mind he knew it might be a trick of her beauty, but in his heart he knew she had his back.
“Baby?” she said. ”What the fuck you doing? The rifle’s under the seat. Don’t waste no fucking time.”
My life magically changed overnight at the end of the first semester of sophomore year of high-school, and the source was tremendously unexpected at the time.
My English teacher required us to read one thousand pages of books per semester. We could read anything, but to get our credit we had to sit down one-on-one to prove we’d read the book. I could have cheated, but he played it up like he was a master lie-detector and I bought it. I put it off until the last two weeks of the semester, and finally it came crunch time, and I knew there was no way for me to pass the class unless I started doing some serious reading.
I started with a book by David Eddings called The Ruby Knight, not realizing that it was the second book in the series and I needed the first to understand what was going on. I forced myself to read for four to six hours each night, and for the first night it was hell, but the second night, as I figured out what was going on in the story, I actually started to enjoy it. When I finally finished it, I remember thinking to myself “Damn! That was a really good book.”
So I was optimistic when I picked up the piece of literature that would change my life forever: a book called The Kingdoms of the Wall, by Robert Silverberg, a truly classic science fiction writer who I’d never heard of before. It didn’t get very good reviews from the critics, but somehow the story and characters caught me like magic. It’s a story of a group of forty primitive people from a shapeshifting race, who climb a massive mountain that encompasses half a continent because they believe their gods live at the top. If you ever plan on reading this, I suggest skipping the rest of this section because I’m going to give away some secrets. (I highly recommend Robert Silverberg, but if you want to read something of his, read A Time of Changes, which was more highly regarded by critics.) I read the first one hundred pages of The Kingdoms of the Wall the first night, and wasn’t too impressed. It didn’t seem like this book would come close to the David Eddings I’d just finished.
However, the second night, once they started moving up the mountain, and the months started passing in the story, I became more and more involved. I dreamt about it at night. I felt the character’s presence during school, and on the third night I couldn’t wait to get home and continue the story. I was one of them, sleeping under the stars, trying to get along with my companions, trying to agree, trying to avoid danger, and fighting each day to reach the top of the mountain. I remember having only three CD’s in my player while I read this book, which I played on random again and again, not wishing to change them because it would take time away from the story: Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy, Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine and Genesis’ We Can’t Dance. These albums all still bring me back to the world of Kosa Saag. I finished the book on the fourth night, about 11 PM, exhausted from reading for four hours straight every night for a week, and I recall coming to the climax with my hands shaking, to have my heart torn when discovering what truly lay at the top of the mountain. The CD player chose Fading Lights, off We Can’t Dance to close out the last few pages, as the theme of the novel sunk into my psyche.
“It will be our task to build wagons to carry us between villages, and then sky-wagons, and then star-wagons that will take us into the heavens; and then we will meet the gods again. But this time it will be as equals.” The theme was that no matter how hard anyone tries, they cannot find God. They can think they’ve found Him, but they can never truly find God. Instead of putting our faith in Gods, we humans must put faith in ourselves and use our two hands and our brains and muscle to make the universe a better place, and to accomplish our goals.
So as I got up to take a shower and go to bed, I found my knees weak, and I was barely able to hold back tears. Once in the shower, I found myself in a shocked daze, amazed at the disappointment of it all. “They gave their whole lives,” I said to myself. “They gave their lives, they lost their comrades, they tortured themselves… all for what…”
And I just had to stop, and hold myself up with a hand, and tell myself, “It’s just a book. They’re not real. None of those people are real. It’s just words on a page.” I repeated that to myself over and over. I knew it to be true, but I just couldn’t quite make myself beleive it. “Just words on a page. Little markings of black ink. That’s all it is, little black ink markings on a tree that’s been processed into sheets.”
And I stopped and thought to myself, Hey, I can make little black markings on paper too…
I knew in that moment that I wanted to be a science fiction writer and a writer in general.
So let’s say you want to colonize a planet, but that planet is going to take you a couple hundred years to get there. What do you do? You don’t have the resources to keep humans alive for that long on an interstellar voyage, even if they were frozen.
The only thing you can do is send an intricate and fully automated system that will, once it arrives, start harvesting oxygen and water from the ice of an asteroid or something, then fire up an artificial womb, and start making human babies. Five or ten years later, you’ll have a ship in orbit around a distant planet that is filled with somewhat unsupervised children. The young ones were raised by other children and the older ones were raised by robots. None of them have ever seen an adult, except in cartoons, sitcoms and educational films.
It seems possible that systems like this could be our only option for bringing life to worlds outside our solar system.
Colonizing a planet is not easy, of course, especially when it’s such a distant planet that we know little about, and the number of things that could go wrong is staggering. These children would be in a situation where their survival is highly questionable, and they would have a ton of work to do just to gain a foothold on the planet. However, they would grow up knowing they were the beginning of a new world, representing the future of the human race. No doubt they would have interesting childhoods.
This is the premise of the short story I am currently writing, called Pioneers. Here’s a clip from what I have so far:
“Lucky me.” Sophia glanced down the hallway and let her head fall back to return to staring at the ceiling. “Have you ever seen the old protests against us?”
“The people who didn’t want us to exist?” Greg asked. “They all died a thousand years ago, so who got the last laugh there? I’ve only seen enough of them that Mom made me see.”
“But the times when they would talk to them–sometimes they had interesting stuff to say about what our lives would be like here, and how we never got a choice in any of this. I mean, what gave them the right to decide this life for us? They sent us out here to struggle for our lives by ourselves, cut off from the rest of everything, and never gave us any choice.”
“How could they ask us a thousand years before we were born?”
“Don’t you wonder what it would be like? I see all those TV shows and wonder what all those things might be like.”
“I don’t even understand what they’re saying half the time I watch TV. Besides, everything we see is from a thousand years ago.”
“Yeah. Exactly. Don’t you ever wonder? None of us have ever walked on dirt or grass. Never seen a tree–I mean, I’d settle for a bush taller than my arm. I’ve never worn shoes–”
“Not true,” Greg interrupted. “Slippers are kind of like a shoe, and space-boots count.”
“Never had chocolate or candy, or a toy that wasn’t made of soy stems and strawberry leaves.”
“Don’t forget broken engine parts and paneling segments.”
“Never eaten meat–”
“–or seen a lake or pond. Never seen an animal.”
“Never gotten sick or seen a war,” Greg added.
“Never walked in normal gravity. Never written on paper. Never been swimming. Never had a family.”
“You’ve got thirty-six brothers and sisters!” Greg sat up to look at her.
“Never had a mom or dad.”
“Come on, give me a break. I was raised by robots and I turned out just fine.”
“Says you,” she replied. “But don’t you ever feel like you’re not really human? You don’t wonder what these things would be like?”
“Of course I wonder, but I don’t really care. I know I’m all human.”
“But we’re not really human. We’re not born from humans. We’re born from incubators and bottles of nutrient goop.”
“So? It’s the DNA that matters.”
“We’re not even from human DNA. We came from digital copies of DNA.”
“It’s not the machine that matters, it’s the code that runs it,” Greg replied as he lay back down. “We’re human just fine.”
“Yeah.” Sophia fell silent.
“Geez, you’re really pissed off about something. Are you sure you don’t want to hear my back-farts?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I’m sorry if I’m bringing everyone down,” Sophia said. “It’s really nothing. I’m just stressed about the dropship on Thursday. Everyone’s relying on me and expecting me to pilot that thing down and I just don’t feel ready yet, but I never had any choice. Never a choice in the day, never a choice in my job. Sometimes I just wish I’d been born on Earth, to a human family, and didn’t have any of this insanity to deal with.”
“Yeah…” Greg paused a long moment. “You know what I think, when I watch sitcoms and stuff and I look at what life is like on Earth, I just think its pathetic. Kids are like, all excited because their parents allowed them to go to a party or gave them a piece of candy. Then they grow up and the adults get all excited because someone wants to marry them or because they get to make a baby or they get more money-thingys at their job. Sure they got way more stuff than we do, but their lives are pathetic. Then I hear Mom telling me that sitcoms are blown out of proportion, that lives on Earth aren’t really that exciting, and all I can think of is how bored they all must be. Yeah, we only get like ten different foods out here and only get what we really need to survive. Sure we might die in two days, but you know what? At least we’re not pathetic.”
On re-reading this, I still like it, but it’s all like, serious and adult-sounding and stuff, which only represents half the mood of this story.
A couple nights ago I started writing a science-fiction short story that I’ve been running around in my head for almost a year now. It’s passed 2000 words so far, and seems to be going pretty well. I seem to have found “the zone” where the writing goes smoothly and I can really feel the characters. This one is going to have a lot of drama, lots of screaming and crying, some action and suspense, but no violence and no cursing. I like to switch it up sometimes.
Yet another female protagonist. I honestly don’t know why the majority of my fiction is from the female perspective. The stories just always seem to work better.
The other thing I’m currently working on is version 3.0 of Kalin’s PDF Creation Station, my most popular WordPress plugin. I’m hoping with this release to clear up the majority of the feature requests that people have made. My intent is to be regarded as the best of the WordPress PDF plugins.
I’ve already added a bunch of features, which are now available if you have SVN access and download the beta version from the branches folder of this repository: http://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/kalins-pdf-creation-station/
Here’s the list of features already completed and currently in testing:
I was unable to figure out how to extract a Hulu video link out of their embed code since the links don’t utilize the video ID as they do for YouTube, Vimeo and TED, so I couldn’t do a Hulu embed link conversion. If you have any idea how to do this, please let me know. Also, if you know of other video providers I’ve missed, let me know.
My plan is to add a page parent shortcode, perhaps a couple other details, then release version 3.0 sometime next week. After that, I’ll move on to version 3.0 of Post List.
So on Friday, as promised, I posted another true story, The Sacred Rules of the Drive-thru. It seems pretty self-explanatory, how banning bicyclists and walk-up guests at the drive-thru is promoting drunk driving because drunk people need to eat. Sometimes getting food is a health issue if they haven’t eaten anything in a long time and have a belly full of alcohol, but the real issue is that this rule forces drunk people to drive and sometimes forces people who don’t have cars to go hungry and feel as though they are not equal members of society. The insurance companies and lawyers make their rules regarding whose at fault in the unlikely event that someone is actually injured, so the fast-food companies must put their restrictive, and in my opinion discriminatory rules onto the people. People without cars are people too and should have the same right to get food late at night.
Now I’m not talking about this as a real issue that we need to seriously address. It’s just one example out of many of how our obsession with rules has become counter-productive to a fair and orderly society. People too often forget that rules should always have a human purpose and should always solve more problems than they cause. I don’t believe that it should be okay to cite the existence of one rule to justify another. We’ve gotten to a point where we care more about the organization and enforcement of laws than we do about people’s lives.