Pathos and Charm

Mark Twain said, in one of his lectures,  “As soon as a man recognizes that he has drifted into age, he gets reminiscent. He wants to talk and talk; and not about the present or the future, but about his old times. For there is where the pathos of his life lies — and the charm of it. The pathos of it is there because it was opulent with treasures that are gone, and the charm of it is in casting them up from the musty ledgers and remembering how rich and gracious they were.”

Two separate but connected events this afternoon has left me in a pensive mood.

The first was a telephone conversation with an old friend from Ohio. She’s older than me (I’m 70) and was talking about things that she called “golden moments of our lives”. She became upset when I said I didn’t believe there was one thing golden about growing old.

I savor being alive, but only tolerate growing older. I don’t care for the alternative, but find nothing to treasure, no warmth or wisdom, simply about my added years.

The second event was a newspaper article announcing that singer David Cassidy, one-time member of the Partridge Family, has been hospitalized, in serious condition. Earlier this year, Cassidy, who, at 67, still draws crowds to hear him sing, said 2017 would be his last year touring. He blamed a failing memory and severe arthritis that made traveling difficult.

Golden years, indeed.

Are You Game?

My good pal, Sandra Odell, is having fun on Facebook, inviting friends to volunteer to be Tuckerized as a character in an off-the-cuff novel excerpt. She’s good at it, but that’s no surprise. I already knew what a wonderful writer Sandra is.

According to Wikipedia, Tuckerization is the act of using a person’s name, appearance and personal characteristics in an original story as an in-joke. The term is derived from Wilson Tucker, a science fiction writer, fan and fanzine editor, who made a practice of using his friends’ names for minor characters in his stories.

Sandra’s stories aren’t always for the faint of heart, but she has an amazing eye for detail and a way of driving a story home you’ll remember for awhile.

Here’s what she wrote for me:

K.C. brought the gunner’s chair around, found her target, and pressed down on both triggers. Sonic shot ripped through the kraken’s tentacle. It tumbled into the frozen waves, sending up a spray of blood and brine. The attack skimmer rocked with the waves crashing over the deck. Overhead, crew sounded off above the din: “Fore here!” “Nets here!” “Anchor here!” “Where’s aft? Carl? Can anyone get eyes on Carl?”

What had begun as a hunting trip had turned into an ambush. It was only a matter of time until the kraken pulled us down.

K.C. didn’t spare me so much as a backwards glance. “Get another belt ready!”

She was a big woman, the only one of us big enough to handle the kick of the main gun. Tall, heavyset, short white hair whipping every which way in the wind. She looked like everyone’s grandma, if their grandma had been a heavy-armor veteran. I grabbed another ammo belt and slammed it home. “Go!”

K.C. grinned like a reaper and swung the chair around, searching for the next target. “Come on, you bastards.”

She opened fire.

I love it. Thank you, Sandra!

A Sale – Coward’s Steel

coward's steel
Illustration by R.M. Winch

Started the day with good news.

An e-mail from Digital Science Fiction accepting my 2009 Writers of the Future winning story, Coward’ Steel, for their next reprint anthology.

I’m pleased. First sale in awhile, new or reprint; it been a long dry spell. The story, and and illustration originally appeared in Writers of the Future Volume 26.

[amended 10/16/17]

MOVIES: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for ApesI saw War for the Planet of the Apes today. I was disappointed.

After the hype the trailers – and some of the reviews – raised, I found the movie lacking in the sense of awe I experienced in its two successors. The first – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – had a moving poignancy. I thought the second – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – was raw and powerful.

I had hopes, in the third one, to see Andy Serkis once again show us why capture motion acting needs to be treated seriously. All I saw was a man — to be sure a talented actor — in an ape suit; this one painted on him by a computer.

I found the writing strained and the story pedestrian. The actors tried; there were strong performances by Serkis and Steve Zahn (who stole the show), but there was nothing there to support them. Through it all, there were pitiful attempts to bring the story full circle, to make connections to the very first Planet of the Apes in 1968.

Like the 1968 movie, most of the apes walked fully upright (and looked like people in ape suits), Caesar, Serkis’ character had a young son name Cornelius (the name of the chimp in the 1968 version) and a young, blonde mute girl was given the name Nova (a name used for a human woman in the 1968 movie) in a very clumsy fashion.

All in all, a sad experience. I cannot recommend it.

MOVIES: The Girl with All the Gifts

The GirlI got around today to watch The Girl with All the Gifts, the zombie movie that came out this past February, and its a pip.

It’s easily as good as 28 Days Later and runs circles around every episode of The Walking Dead I’ve seen.

Fantastic world-building, tight directing, smart performances, and a twist that makes it so much more than just another zombie flick.

Glad I watched it, intend to watch it again, and sorry it took so long for me to get around to it. I’ll give it 3.5 stars just because I’ve never seen a movie I consider a 4.0.

This and That

Not much news, good or bad, in the past two months, at least not about my writing. Rachael and I have both fought off the nasty colds that are going around; worrying about the world, too, but I prefer to keep that sort of stuff on Facebook, not here on the blog.

I’ve got four stories out, looking for a home. One has been at Asimov’s since January, but that doesn’t mean a thing. I’ve talked to lots of people recently who have complained how slow that market has become. We’ll see.

I’ve finally had a nibble on my novel, Seventh-Hour Man. In mid-May, an agent asked for the whole manuscript. Not a yes, I’ll represent you, but more action than I’ve seen since last October. Again; we’ll see.

The good news is that I’ve started another novel, Come a Dawn Like Thunder, in collaboration with a friend who lives in our building. The book is a diesel-punk fantasy set in 1941 in Asia. We’re trying to capture the ethos of the old comic strip, Terry and the Pirates. It mixes tech and magic in more or less equal measures and will feature air combat between prop-driven aeroplanes and Asian dragons, with gremlins, ogres, demons and other monsters thrown into the mix. We’ve got about 10,000 words written and we are both excited. I’ll keep you posted.

Stay

Artemis-Rising-3-1-683x1024Podcastle guest host Kelly Robson, the Toronto SF writer, admitted – as a former Pacific Northwest resident – she was “especially excited” to introduce Stay. She called it, “gentle and sweet-natured, with webs of love and care connecting everyone.”

Thank you, Kelly, that’s exactly what I intended. I’m excited you believe I hit the mark.

And thanks to Tina Connolly, who writes ripping-good SF in Portland, for such a fantastic reading. Tina, you sound exactly as I imagined Cait Stihl.

Stay is urban fantasy set in Seattle, and features Emma Stone and Caitlin Stihl, a lesbian couple who work as private detectives.

Stihl and Stone Security often turn up the more personal details of a case, but this time the investigation digs a little too close to home. The story considered how love binds people together, and can push them apart, and examines all the permutations of that simple four-letter-word – stay.

It is the final entry of Podcast’s month-long Artemis Rising 3, which spans all five of the Escape Artists sites. It has been a month of fantastic stories, whether you enjoy science fiction, fantasy or horror.

I hope you enjoy this story, Faithful Reader. It’s one of my personal favorites.

MOVIES: Logan

LoganRachael and I saw Logan yesterday.

I enjoyed it – a lot – but thought it to be just another X-Man movie, perhaps the best I’ve seen, but not the studied “film” so many critics have said it to be.

It tries to say violence isn’t a solution, that it only begets more violence. Even so, it gloried in its violence, and there’s a ton of it.

It lacks the visceral intensity of Midnight Special, a recent film involving two men on the run, carrying a child with special talent.

IMO, writer-director James Mangold’s attempt to use dialogue from Shane to provide an end note was sloppy story-telling. I have another end in mind, one that I believe elevates the story, makes it more than a chase and slash movie, but I would have to use spoilers to explain it, so I’ll set that aside for now.

Stay

Artemis Rising 3 takes over all five Escape Artists podcasts this month and I’m a part of it!

Artemis-Rising-3-1-683x1024PodCastle, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders and Mothership Zeta have brought back the month-long event for a third year to highlight speculative fiction by women and non-binary authors.

My short story, Stay, will be the featured tale at PodCastle the last week of the month. Stay is one of my personal favorites and I’m so happy it’s found a home. For you Pacific Northwest folks, it’s set in Seattle and features Emma Stone and Caitlin Stihl, a lesbian couple who work as private detectives.

Stihl and Stone Security is used to turning up the more personal details of a case, but this time the investigation digs a little too close to home.

I’ll post a reminder when it’s up.

According to His Substance

My short story, According to His Substance, is now available from Amazon.com as the lead story in Brave Boy World, an anthology from Pink Narcissus Press. The story originally appeared in my story collection, Snapshots From A Black Hole & Other Oddities.

brave-boy-cover-low-res_origAccording to His Substance examines identity and our need for redemption. To what lengths would you go to to be the person you believe you are?  What are the costs of redemption?  Can it be achieved if you have wronged a crowd of people? And if you were given a second chance, would you have sufficient courage to try to make things right?

I’m rather pleased with this story and grateful to Michael Takeda, editor of the anthology, for his faith in my work. Thank you, Michael.

The book looks fantastic; I am so pleased to be a part of it!  And faithful readers – I hope you enjoy the story!