“Yeah, well now, time might not heal all wounds but it will either significantly assure that you will succeed on time, or dramatically increase the odds that you won’t. Now how that works out precisely is pretty much up to you, but if I were you I’d spend less time bitching about your wounds and more time getting your ass up off the ground so we can succeed in getting the hell outta here.”
Write what actually happened even if you have to change it around a bit to make it work right. As a matter of fact if you wanna avoid a lawsuit then change it around a bit anyway. It’ll still be true even as a story.
Write what you have actually lived. If you haven’t started living yet then for God’s sake go out and do that first. Before you write anything else. If this is the only thing you ever learn about writing then it is still the best thing you can learn about writing. Writing after all is never really about the writing, it’s always about the living.
It is far better to be good than perfect, which you’ll never be anyway.
If there is no poetry in what you’re saying then no one will remember it long, much less ever bother to quote it. You want to be quoted, and quoted a lot, whether you’re smart enough to know that yet or not.
Say exactly what you mean even if it takes the reader years to figure out what you really meant by that.
Don’t sit on your ass all day in a dingy little room and expect to compose anything worthwhile to say about anything. Ever. Yes, writing takes discipline and even isolation at times. But if you spend all day living in your head then you deserve to spend all day living in your head. Plus the only thing you’ll have to say anything about will be the crap that goes on in your head. If you don’t get that then try running that sappy, self-indulgent crap that constantly floats in your head by somebody else. Somebody normal I mean.
Dialogue is only really great if it’s absolutely real, but if it’s too real then it’s probably not. Really great I mean. Furthermore if you have to explain it (or that) then don’t bother, that’s what overpaid college professors are for – in other words if you assume everyone is a dense dumbass who can’t figure anything out for themselves then chances are you’re the dense dumbass. Instead just say it like it really is, only fictionally.
You owe the reader at least as much as yourself. To you that should mean a very high bar indeed. So high that you shouldn’t always make it over.
Don’t be boring. That’s usually dull.
Don’t turn everything into damned politics. That’s always stupid.
Again, go out and do something. Something worthwhile, something big, something fascinating, something risky, something exciting, something heroic, something self-sacrificial, something really tough to do… Learn to actually live. Then write about that. 9 times outta 10 shouting at a damned protest, running riot, and pissing on police cars ain’t what I mean. Maybe that does excite you but then again, in that case, you should probably be a professional protester instead of a writer. No, I take that back. Don’t be a professional protester. Not in any case.
If what you write seems like Real Life only it ain’t then you’re getting pretty good at fiction. If what you write in real life always seems like fiction then yeah, you still gotta lot to learn.
Write for the ages not the moment. Because that way they’ll either eventually catch up to you or you’ll catch up to them. Either way, it works.
Assume someone in the far future is gonna one day read what you wrote. You’ll want them to laugh at what you meant to be funny, and be sad at what you meant to be tragic. Not the other way around. But the way a lot of writers operate nowadays you would think they were trying for the opposite.
Write like it is an Heraclian labour (or, if you prefer, a Herculean labor) but still natural as hell. Not like, “ah to hell with it,” is still natural for you.
It ain’t rocket science people, it’s just Real Life and fiction writing. Unless it is fiction writing about rocket science. Then yeah,rocket science it up some.
If you think writing is the most important thing in the world then you are an absolute, self-indulgent, naive, juvenile fool who has never really done anything truly worthwhile in life. If you think writing is a cosmic vehicle for “expressing your soul,” or “sharing your innermost thoughts and dreams” then I both pity and laugh out loud at you. If you think writing can’t be as important as anything else in life, or is not a noble, manly (got nothing to do with gender or sex modern kiddies – I’m talking about Mankind), virtuous, and High Enterprise, then yeah, you shouldn’t be doing this. You’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own. But either way don’t make such a big deal of it. That totally belittles your efforts and work.
On the other hand don’t take anything I said above to be somehow political. I have to keep saying that over and over and over again because a lot of people are so stupid and self-absorbed nowadays.
Language is so important that it should be both invisible and sublime. Vocabulary is so important that only the truly ignorant don’t understand what I mean when I say that.
Despite all the modern, common, herdish, tribal, and currently popular bullshit advice on writing assume your audience is intelligent, well-read, curious, eager, and possessed of an excellent personal mind and Word-Hoard. If they ain’t then help them get there. Nobody is inspired by the scribblings of a dumbass with the vocabulary of a six year old, especially a dumbass with the vocabulary of a six year old pretending to be a writer. If somebody wants to habitually consume that kind of swill they can just watch TV or surf the internet.
Nobody gives a crap about what you say if they can’t apply it to themselves, however, if they can usefully or wisely apply it to themselves then even your crap will make a real impression.
It takes a long time to become really good at something. Don’t sweat that, but do work hard enough every day to break a good sweat at it.
Try and write just like everybody else and you surely will.
So you’re ahead of your time, or a throwback to a prior age… big deal. It shouldn’t bother you. If you’re just like everybody else then you’re just like everybody else. If that’s what you’re shooting for then why bother to write about it. Not worth recording anyway.
If all else fails – then Blood. Preferably your own, but whatever the situation really calls for.
(Fire often works too by the way. And explosions. Most anything with a lot of movement and activity.)
Ten years from now the most popular current advice on writing will still be shit, just like it is nowadays, only by then everybody else will know it too. So project forward and beat most other people to the punch.
I was recently (last year) listening to a set of lectures on ancient Anatolia and the professor mentioned a record of a particular set of “tame fish” who resided in a temple or palace (can’t remember which now) that one could call to (orally) and they would swim up to you. (As you might call a dog.) They were famous and widely known of. Records existed of them. These fish were considered sacred. And even intelligent.
Anyway they gave me an idea-set for a set of fish to be included in my trilogy of novels the Kithariune. The ideas are as follows. These fish are owned by the Sidh or the Lorahn (haven’t decided yet) and are extremely ancient and well known. They are also considered sacred and intelligent. They can trigger highly accurate but confusing prophetic visions and dreams if they bite you upon the finger but their bite is extremely toxic and often kills those whom they bite. Therefore few ever risk such a prophetic vision except in extremis, even the Samarls who are said to be usually immune to both disease and poison. Because even if the fish cannot kill a Samarl they might still put one in a coma or make him extremely ill, perhaps even for life. So the fish have not been used to stimulate prophetic visions in many centuries.
However, according to legend and myth, there is another way the fish can stimulate prophetic visions. And that is to kill, cook, and eat one. (Eating one raw will kill a person but eating a cooked one usually only induces an illness.)
So, one person in the court catches one of the fish, kills it, eats it, and has a set of prophetic visions. However because the fish are considered sacred, because they are very long lived, and because they are considered intelligent it is a crime to kill one. On the same level to the Eldevens as to kill a person. And supposedly a curse is inflicted upon anyone who would dare kill one of these fish. But the curse does not stop there but also extends to the entire group of people who are supposed to be the caretakers and guardians of these fish. Another later attempt is made to exterminate and wipe out all of these fish when the visions occur because the person who ate the fish is afraid the other fish might impart the knowledge of his identity to others.
In any case there will be an ongoing sub-plot (which later develops into a major plot point) about this fish killing, the prophetic dreams, and the accompanying curse. And the Eldevens will have to find a way to either thwart the visions and curse, or to avoid them because the criminal who committed this act resides deeply in the court of the Samarl and because he is a spy.
Later in the story/plot it will be discovered that these fish are tied to the Sidhelic and Eldeven Cult of these Sacred (Prophetic) Fish which is itself tied to the underground Fish Cult of Jesus Christ among the Eldevens. (The Fish being an early and secret sign of Christ among the cult of the first Christians.)
“And what about her? I mean, I know we’ve got him, but what about her?” asked Maugham. “Isn’t she too clever and too important to touch?”
Steinthal looked at him as if trying to search his friend’s mind for sincerity, or the lack thereof.
“I thought you would have known better by now,” he said.
“Know better than what?” said Maugham.
Steinthal bent over and picked up something from the ground, pocketed it, then turned back to Maugham.
“Everyone thinks they are too big to touch. Everyone thinks they are too tough to touch. Everyone thinks they are too clever to touch. Everyone thinks they are too important to touch,” he replied. “No one ever is.”
“Are you sure about that?” said Maugham.
“Absolutely certain,” said Steinthal.
“Because some people are awful hard to get at,” countered Maugham.
Steinthal narrowed his eyes.
“If you know what you’re doing then no one is really hard to get at. It’s just an urban myth to think otherwise.”
“Good,” said Maugham. “That’s my thinking too. But I just wanted to hear you say it out loud.”
Steinthal looked at him quizzically.
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Because when you say things out loud with that look on your face shit actually starts to happen,” said Maugham. “And I’m about ready for this shit to happen. I’m through waiting. Sure enough.”
Steinthal looked hard at his friend for a long moment, as if weighing him in his mind for a prizefight.
“Alright then,” said Steinthal. “Let’s make some shit happen.”
“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.
Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.
“Is it?” asked Steinthal.
Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.
“What do you mean?” Termkin said.
“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”
Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.
“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”
“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”
Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.
“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”
Steinthal laughed good humoredly.
“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”
Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.
“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”
Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.
“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”
Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”
Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.
“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”
The he left.
Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.
A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.
My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”
Which made me laugh.
“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…
“You ask me how I know this and I can only tell you what I’ve seen.
High Fortune came upon me like a silent serpent, slithering from behind in such a stealthy manner as to conceal his true intent and to scarcely warrant my attention.
Low Fortune approached me like a titled lord, resplendent all in showy pomp and decorative circumstance, attired in the lofty regalia of finely whispered shadows spun from venomous spider silks.
Low Fortune is, you see my friend, the King of Seeming and the Prince of Cunning Craft yet I advise you eschew his long seducing and ever seductive company. For his court is all fantastic façade and fraudulent fashion and his manner and his manor are both estates of ruin.
High Fortune, on the other hand, wears no glittered crown of kingship nor rankish robes of high office nor encrusted jewels of state, he is as plain of face, as rough-built by effort, and as quiet in nature as if stable bred. Yet if on turning round by chance or calculation you find him standing nearby then reach out your hand quickly and grasp him in so firm a hold that he cannot escape, and never let him go until he promises to bless you as his friend.
Leave Low Fortune, brother, where he dwells, even if he home in temple renown or palace grand, for he is the sure slum-lord of soon-to-be sad misdeeds and the master of all unenviable fools.
Instead set your watch and wait patiently for High Fortune, for one day he will approach you in sly disguise, silent and unannounced, to see what can be made of you if you will ever dare. For he is your steadfast, stalwart, and subtle Friend and the Maker of that Fortune you truly seek.
Low Fortune churns like stormy waves, he ebbs and flows and never settles ought. High Fortune stands alone and trembles not, he shelters and secures all Men of Enterprise.”
Since the beginning of this year I have been in one of the most productive periods/phases of my entire life as far as the creation of poems, songs, short stories, novels, scripts, and other literary works are concerned. I have recently produced hundreds of pages of new works.
Above is a section of my novel series the Kithariune. In this passage the Welsh Bard Larmaegeon is trying to explain the difference(s) between High and Low Fortune to his friend and companion, the Spanish Paladin Edimios. And why he should wait upon the one and avoid the other.
Over the weekend I started a new fictional short story. A fantasy of sorts, you might say. This is the first draft. I have made no editorial corrections at all. I thought it would make an interesting experiment for others to see regarding how a short story develops over time and is edited, corrected, revised, etc.
I did not type this by the way. Because of my previously broken wrist my youngest daughter now does most of my typing. (My oldest daughter is already in college.) I write in longhand, she types. I owe her much for that, and I pay her, though it is also part of the life and practical and market skills development section of her homeschooling studies.
Since this story involves a mysterious stranger that the main character entertains and travels with from time to time (I had plotted that into the story from the beginning of my sketches for the work) and a Journey I decided to also link this to the Daily Prompt on WordPress for today
I will not be posting the entire story here, once it is completed, because I plan to publish it. But the section included here, when I make the necessary editorial corrections and revisions, that I will post later.
The story will also contain within it the poem, He Who Goes Alone. Which I actually wrote for a different purpose but last night I realized fit this story so acutely that I decided to include it as part of the story.
Ladies and gentlemen I give you The Last True Man. (And although he is not really a man, he is True to the end.)
THE LAST TRUE MAN
He lived alone. Once he had a wife, and a son and two daughters. Only one daughter had survived his thirty-third birthday. By that time he was too badly wounded to care for her and had been made permanently lame. Being unable to care for her properly, and his recuperation taking years, he had given her over to the care of his former wife’s sister. He still saw his daughter and her children occasionally, and treated her kindly though she was often in awe and afraid of him. But she did not know who he truly was. To her, as to everyone else, he was simply the old hermit who almost never spoke.
Now he was eighty-seven. Though he did not appear so, nor did he move like an old man. Nevertheless he was still partially lame from the wounds he had received as a young man. For even in his heart, as in his body, some wounds remained and never fully closed such as those injuries and wrongs that claimed the life of his wife, son, and oldest daughter.
So he lived alone. Alone among a set of ancient weathered, discolored, wan stone and marble ruins. Ruins left by a long dead and vanquished race, all of their works toppled and reclaimed by the forest, all except those he kept as a forlorn home and temple of remembrance. Yet to him it was not forlorn or even a ruin. It was the wreckage of another age he had reclaimed for himself. He who went alone.
The ruins stood beyond the horizon of the village in which his daughter dwelt. Though not far. They did not have to stand afar off for all manner of men shunned those ruins and the surrounding landscape, considering them accursed and haunted. None ventured there and aside from young boys filled with that spirit of adventure and exploration that sometimes overwhelms and possesses them view ever came within close sight, to almost all it was a place more imagined than ever observed.
Except to him. Despite the many pitfalls and the shifting rot and the persistent decay that nature worked upon the ancient place he knew it well and almost completely. He even knew of most of the most desolate and new long buried areas. He also dwelt at peace with all but a few of the surrounding creatures, be they large, small, tame, wild, fierce, or gigantic and fearsome.
His means were simple, his desires few, his quaint and modest satisfactions many in his deserted home, and his dwelling austere. He spent his days wandering, exploring and mapping the wide ruins in which he lived, drawing, sketching, mapping, writing and cataloging all he discovered. Many days he would also explore the nearby forest, visiting or entertaining creatures as they would accommodate him, or he they. At dawn he would pray, at sunset sing. At night he would take the telescope he had fashioned for himself and watch the moon and stars.
Sometimes at night he would also sit long in meditation, contemplation, or within the various memory palaces he had created in his own mind so that he could commiserate with the ghosts of his dead family and friends. In this way he would sometimes slip happily into dream and melancholy would leave him until he again awoke. When it might or might not return to him like an unreliable and unpredictable friend.
Or was friend the right word? Maybe Melancholy was his interrogator of habit, like Death was the companion of his more somber dreams and troubled visions. He was never really sure where he actually stood with the steady companions of his loneliness and exile. He only knew that he knew them well, and that they knew him as he truly was. In the center of his inmost soul.
His most steady companion however was his huge dog which so resembled a small bear in size and shape and appearance that some men took it for a strangely colored and tame bear and nicknamed him “Uroldas” or “Bear-Father.”
He built a dwelling of the old stones of what he surmised to have been the still standing remains of an ancient tower attached to the ruins of what was possibly an old wall or gate mount. Indeed he called it his tower and it was there stories tall, consisting of four levels all together, including the level he had dug underground for storage. His tower was part home, part hermitage, part-forge, (for he also worked his own metals and artifacts) and part observatory, and he named it Caerloron, after his dead son.
Occasionally he was visited at dusk, at dawn, or late at night by a mysterious figure in simple robes and a deep blue prayer shawl who would entertain him, or who he would entertain, and often during such visits they would talk long and in a familiar, friendly fashion. Though none else saw this odd visitor for two reasons; he would never approach if the man was otherwise occupied, and secondly due to the isolation and uncanniness of the old man’s dwelling. Which kept almost everyone else at bay in any case.
The man possessed a strange drinking vessel as well. An almost eerily peculiar cup he had recovered from a trove deep in the city, craftily contrived, decorated with bizarre devices and the cryptic letters of a long dead language. For in the future, many centuries hence it was whispered this cup never went dry, but that was just a rumor yet to be born. As for the man when he had first found the cup he had inscribed it with his name, Aelone. St that time he was still a young man and called himself by his name. in the years that followed everyone else forgot his name, and even who he had once been and so he took to himself, “me.” Or “I.”
“And who, my father, deprives us of our better selves that when account is finally made of our inner and truest natures any other than we alone may be said to be the author of our tale and the shape-makers of our very souls?
Seek not to deprive me of my deeds and I will not deprive you of the Just outcome of your every act, for Zeus you are a god all told, but I am Fate Itself. You hold me no more in thrall and now all your thunderbolts are spent yet here I stand uncowed to judge you as you are.
Shall we then commence? Lay naked upon the altar of the autocrat all your countless sins and offenses dark?
Well then all we need do is look into the dim mirrors of your eyes and there we will find all you thought you might hide from Justice, Truth, and Time, but never will.
You can deprive mortal men for an untold age of what is most Just, but no one rightly can deprive the world of what must yet come. And what comes now is your judgment,and your overthrow!”
Herakles to Zeus, from my play Herakles and Aphrodyte
Lately I have been doing a lot of what I call Cross-Over Work.
In this case I mean by saying that I have been doing a lot of work that cross-fertilizes itself in other works I am simultaneously creating. For instance I might be writing one novel and a particular scene or bit of dialogue I create will inspire another scene or piece of dialogue in another book or novel I am working on.
Though such things are not necessarily related to or limited to my various fiction writings. I might be drawing a map or making a sketch, designing something, working on a start-up project, developing an invention, writing a poem or song lyrics, or writing a novel or a non-fiction book and all of these things, or others, might give me an idea for another work I’m currently pursuing.
So today, and below (and in allusion to my previous post on actors), I am posting some of my latest Cross-Over Work. Little vignettes, or to be more accurate, often just little snippets (bits of dialogue, sections of scenes, sketch notes, etc.) of various Works I am creating and pursuing at this time.
Does your Work cross over in this way, from one work to another?
If so then feel free to comment below.
NOT A FAIR FIGHT
“Again I don’t get it. Take one shot at your actual target and three at yourself… don’t seem like much of a fair fight to me.”
From my Western The Lettered Men
“Not every possibility is true, that’s certainly true, but every possibility is always a clue – to something other than itself. If you keep forgetting that then it’s very possible the Truth will entirely escape you. And if it does then what other possibilities really matter?”
From The Detective Steinthal
“True darkness obscures. Few things can thrive in perpetual shade but those things that can definitely always wish to remain hidden. That is, until they are ready to be discovered. For reasons of their own.”
From The Detective Steinthal
“It is always best to hunt in silence.”
The Detective Steinthal
YOUR TRAINING IS OVER
“What are you training for kid? To train forever? Now who wants that kinda shit anyway? Only officers and politicians, that’s who. No, you get your ass in the fight. You’ve trained long enough. Time to be somebody.”
From Snyder’s Spiders
“And how now is your wound?”
“It itches fiercely, it hurts mightily, it swells darkly, but it bleeds freely and cleanly. It is good that it bleeds so and thus I will not complain of the other things. But if you have any more of that strange brew you drink then I will not complain of a skin full of that either.”
“I have not a skin, but I can manage a cup.”
“Then so can I…”
Suegenius describing to Fhe Fhissegrim the condition of his wound
From my fantasy The Kithariune (The Basilegate)
A RARE AND WONDROUS FEAT
“If you cannot stand up to your own old man then you will never stand up to anyone. If you can stand up to your own old man then you can stand up to anyone else, and everyone else.
If your old man ever forces you to rebel against him then do not hate him for it, respect him for it. He has done more for you in that regard, as regards the development of your actual manhood, than any other thing anyone else could ever do for you in the world. That man who forces his son into rebellion has bred a man. You owe such a father an enormous and generous debt.
That father who always insists his son obey him, right or wrong, has bred a mere and helpless and fearful slave. You owe that father your utter disdain and yourself nothing but shame for your own endless submission.
Drink to your father Edomios. Drink long and deep. He has bred a man in you. A man who can stand upright and unafraid. A rare and wondrous feat in our age.
Maybe in any age.”
Marsippius Nicea the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate explaining to Edomios the Spanish Paladin why he owes his father a debt of manhood
From The Kithariune
THAT WAY YOU SPEAK
When Michael first lands in Thaumaturgis he is met by Harmonius Hippostatic who makes fun of the way he speaks and tries to explain to Michael where he is, and what life is like in the Lands. Michael does not at first speak in verse, but speaks in prose, but as he stays longer and longer in the land of Thaumaturgis he also comes to speak in metered, rhyming verse.
Harmonius: That way you speak, it’s quite a feat
But it will never do,
No meter, rhyme or rhythm,
It’s really quite obtuse.
Michael: Where am I?
Harmonius: Why this is Thaumaturgis,
Don’t you know your lands?
It’s one of the three countries,
Not earth, not stone, not sand.
No one’s ever figured
How it got this way
Tomorrow is the same as now
It’s always been that way.
If want you life miraculous
It’s really quite so marvelous
And never, ever dull.
But one thing in this country
You really must avoid
Speaking words in plain old prose
Is what will most annoy,
So put on your best rhyming
Your metered rhythm too
Don’t dally up a worthwhile speech
Without so much ado,
Be mannered in your speaking
Poetic when you talk
Or everyone will soon declare Your words taste just like chalk
Damn. The finale of Penny Dreadful was incredibly good. Like a Greek Tragedy.
And once again Dorian Gray was declaimed, by himself, the most depraved and degenerate character of them all (and he always has been), and John Clare (Frankenstein’s Monster) proven the most humane and human of them all. By far.
Though finally Frankenstein himself, and Chandler, both came close…
I hope this is not the end of that show (the world needs more of that kind of thing), but if it is, it could have concluded no better.
So goodnight my friends, and I leave you with Wordsworth, and with an ode on the Imitations of Immortality.
(By the way, we also need more poetry of this calibre. Far more.)
Our world is far too much with modern and superficial self-indulgence.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream. 5
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The rainbow comes and goes, 10
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair; 15
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound 20
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep; 25
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea 30
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;—
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy 35
Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival, 40
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
O evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning, 45
And the children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:— 50
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet 55
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, 60
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 65
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, 70
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended; 75
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind, 80
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came. 85
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes! 90
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral; 95
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long 100
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age, 105
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity; 110
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—
Mighty prophet! Seer blest! 115
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a master o’er a slave, 120
A presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thought where we in waiting lie; 125
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife? 130
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live, 135
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest— 140
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise; 145
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized, 150
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may, 155
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake, 160
To perish never:
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy! 165
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither, 170
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound! 175
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright 180
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; 185
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death, 190
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight 195
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet; 200
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 205
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
A lot of my buddies have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Because of that one of my friends brought this article to my attention and a few of us discussed it since it is of more than passing interest to many of us.
It gave me an idea for a new science fiction short story about the same subject matter which I’m going to call Jihadology. (For the Jihad of Technology.)
I going to completely avoid the whole Terminator and tech gone rogue approach though of modern sci-fi and rather take a particular variation on the Keith Laumer BOLO theme, though there will be nothing about BOLOs or other such machines in the story. Those stories though were as under-rated and prophetic as was Laumer himself.
Anyway I want to avoid the whole world ending, unrealistic bullcrap kind of story (both from the scientific and military standpoints) and focus more on a very tight interpretation of what might actually happen if technologies such as those listed or projected in the article below were employed against an alien species in the future.
What would be both the operational and eventual ramifications, good and bad, of such technologies,and how could such technologies get out of hand or evolve beyond specified tasks and design parameters to become something completely new in function and focus?
I’ve already got the first few paragraphs to a page written which is based loosely upon this observation I made about what the article implied:
“I’m not saying there are any easy answers, there aren’t when it comes to technology, but technology can at least potentially do two related and diametrically opposed things at once: make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger for himself, and secondly make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger of understanding the danger others are in.
And if you can just remove the operator altogether, and just set the tech free to do as it is programmed, well then, there ya go…”
If the stories work well then I’ll add them to my overall science fiction universe of The Curae and The Frontiersmen.
By the way, as a sort of pop-culture primer on the very early stages of these developments (though they are at least a decade old now as far as wide-scale operations go) I recommend the film, Good Kill.
Anyway here is the very interesting and good article that spurred all of this. Any ideas of your own about these subjects? Feel free to comment. If your ideas and observations are good and interesting I might even adapt them in some way and incorporate them into the short story series.
Czech writer Karel Čapek’s1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which famously introduced the word robot to the world, begins with synthetic humans—the robots from the title—toiling in factories to produce low-cost goods. It ends with those same robots killing off the human race. Thus was born an enduring plot line in science fiction: robots spiraling out of control and turning into unstoppable killing machines. Twentieth-century literature and film would go on to bring us many more examples of robots wreaking havoc on the world, with Hollywood notably turning the theme into blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, Transformers, and The Terminator.
Lately, fears of fiction turning to fact have been stoked by a confluence of developments, including important advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, along with the widespread use of combat drones and ground robotsin Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s most powerful militaries are now developing ever more intelligent weapons, with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality. The vast majority will, in the near term, be remotely controlled by human operators, who will be “in the loop” to pull the trigger. But it’s likely, and some say inevitable, that future AI-powered weapons will eventually be able to operate with complete autonomy, leading to a watershed moment in the history of warfare: For the first time, a collection of microchips and software will decide whether a human being lives or dies.
Not surprisingly, the threat of “killer robots,” as they’ve been dubbed, has triggered an impassioned debate. The poles of the debate are represented by those who fear that robotic weapons could start a world war and destroy civilization and others who argue that these weapons are essentially a new class of precision-guided munitions that will reduce, not increase, casualties. In December, more than a hundred countries are expected to discuss the issue as part of a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva.
Last year, the debate made news after a group of leading researchers in artificial intelligence called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” In an open letter presented at a major AI conference, the group argued that these weapons would lead to a “global AI arms race” and be used for “assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”
The three added that “autonomous weapons are potentially weapons of mass destruction. While some nations might not choose to use them for such purposes, other nations and certainly terrorists might find them irresistible.”
It’s hard to argue that a new arms race culminating in the creation of intelligent, autonomous, and highly mobile killing machines would well serve humanity’s best interests. And yet, regardless of the argument, the AI arms race is already under way.
Autonomous weapons have existed for decades, though the relatively few that are out there have been used almost exclusively for defensive purposes. One example is the Phalanx, a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system installed on many U.S. Navy ships that can automatically detect, track, evaluate, and fire at incoming missiles and aircraft that it judges to be a threat. When it’s in fully autonomous mode, no human intervention is necessary.
More recently, military suppliers have developed what may be considered the first offensive autonomous weapons.Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harpy andHarop drones are designed to home in on the radio emissions of enemy air-defense systems and destroy them by crashing into them. The companysays the drones “have been sold extensively worldwide.”
In South Korea, DoDAAM Systems, a defense contractor, has developed a sentry robot called theSuper aEgis II. Equipped with a machine gun, it uses computer vision to autonomously detect and fire at human targets out to a range of 3 kilometers. South Korea’s military has reportedly conducted tests with these armed robots in the demilitarized zone along its border with North Korea. DoDAAM says it has sold more than 30 units to other governments, including several in the Middle East.
Today, such highly autonomous systems are vastly outnumbered by robotic weapons such as drones, which are under the control of human operators almost all of the time, especially when firing at targets. But some analysts believe that as warfare evolves in coming years, weapons will have higher and higher degrees of autonomy.
“War will be very different, and automation will play a role where speed is key,” says Peter W. Singer, a robotic warfare expert at New America, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. He predicts that in future combat scenarios—like a dogfight between drones or an encounter between a robotic boat and an enemy submarine—weapons that offer a split-second advantage will make all the difference. “It might be a high-intensity straight-on conflict when there’s no time for humans to be in the loop, because it’s going to play out in a matter of seconds.”
The U.S. military has detailed some of its plans for this new kind of war in aroad map [pdf] for unmanned systems, but its intentions on weaponizing such systems are vague. During a Washington Post forum this past March, U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, whose job is in part making sure that the Pentagon is keeping up with the latest technologies, stressed the need to invest in AI and robotics. The increasing presence of autonomous systems on the battlefield “is inexorable,” he declared.
Asked about autonomous weapons, Work insisted that the U.S. military “will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision.” But when pressed on the issue, he added that if confronted by a “competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are…we’ll have to make decisions on how we can best compete. It’s not something that we’ve fully figured out, but we spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
Russia and China are following a similar strategyof developing unmanned combat systems for land, sea, and air that are weaponized but, at least for now, rely on human operators. Russia’sPlatform-M is a small remote-controlled robot equipped with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launchers, a type of system similar to the United States’ Talon SWORDS, a ground robot that can carry an M16 and other weapons (it was tested by the U.S. Army in Iraq). Russia has also built a larger unmanned vehicle, the Uran-9, armed with a 30-millimeter cannon and antitank guided missiles. And last year, the Russians demonstrated a humanoid military robot to a seemingly nonplussed Vladimir Putin. (In video released after the demonstration, the robot is shown riding an ATV at a speed only slightly faster than a child on a tricycle.)
China’s growing robotic arsenal includes numerous attack and reconnaissance drones. The CH-4 is a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that resembles the Predator used by the U.S. military. The Divine Eagle is a high-altitude drone designed to hunt stealth bombers. China has also publicly displayed a few machine-gun-equipped robots, similar to Platform-M and Talon SWORDS, at military trade shows.
The three countries’ approaches to robotic weapons, introducing increasing automation while emphasizing a continuing role for humans, suggest a major challenge to the banning of fully autonomous weapons: A ban on fully autonomous weapons would not necessarily apply to weapons that are nearly autonomous. So militaries could conceivably develop robotic weapons that have a human in the loop, with the option of enabling full autonomy at a moment’s notice in software. “It’s going to be hard to put an arms-control agreement in place for robotics,” concludes Wendell Wallach, an expert on ethics and technology at Yale University. “The difference between an autonomous weapons system and nonautonomous may be just a difference of a line of code,” he said at a recent conference.
In motion pictures, robots often gain extraordinary levels of autonomy, even sentience, seemingly out of nowhere, and humans are caught by surprise. Here in the real world, though, and despite the recent excitement about advances in machine learning, progress in robot autonomy has been gradual. Autonomous weapons would be expected to evolve in a similar way.
“A lot of times when people hear ‘autonomous weapons,’ they envision the Terminator and they are, like, ‘What have we done?,’ ” says Paul Scharre, who directs a future-of-warfare program at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington, D.C. “But that seems like probably the last way that militaries want to employ autonomous weapons.” Much more likely, he adds, will be robotic weapons that target not people but military objects like radars, tanks, ships, submarines, or aircraft.
The challenge of target identification—determining whether or not what you’re looking at is a hostile enemy target—is one of the most critical for AI weapons. Moving targets like aircraft and missiles have a trajectory that can be tracked and used to help decide whether to shoot them down. That’s how the Phalanx autonomous gun on board U.S. Navy ships operates, and also how Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket interceptor system works. But when you’re targeting people, the indicators are much more subtle. Even under ideal conditions, object- and scene-recognition tasks that are routine for people can be extremely difficult for robots.
A computer can identify a human figure without much trouble, even if that human is moving furtively. But it’s very hard for an algorithm to understand what people are doing, and what their body language and facial expressions suggest about their intent. Is that person lifting a rifle or a rake? Is that person carrying a bomb or an infant?
Scharre argues that robotic weapons attempting to do their own targeting would wither in the face of too many challenges. He says that devising war-fighting tactics and technologies in which humans and robots collaborate [pdf] will remain the best approach for safety, legal, and ethical reasons. “Militaries could invest in very advanced robotics and automation and still keep a person in the loop for targeting decisions, as a fail-safe,” he says. “Because humans are better at being flexible and adaptable to new situations that maybe we didn’t program for, especially in war when there’s an adversary trying to defeat your systems and trick them and hack them.”
It’s not surprising, then, that DoDAAM, the South Korean maker of sentry robots, imposed restrictions on their lethal autonomy. As currently configured, the robots will not fire until a human confirms the target and commands the turret to shoot. “Our original version had an auto-firing system,” a DoDAAM engineer told the BBC last year. “But all of our customers asked for safeguards to be implemented…. They were concerned the gun might make a mistake.”
For other experts, the only way to ensure that autonomous weapons won’t make deadly mistakes, especially involving civilians, is to deliberately program these weapons accordingly. “If we are foolish enough to continue to kill each other in the battlefield, and if more and more authority is going to be turned over to these machines, can we at least ensure that they are doing it ethically?” says Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.
Arkin argues that autonomous weapons, just like human soldiers, should have to follow the rules of engagement as well as the laws of war, includinginternational humanitarian laws that seek to protect civilians and limit the amount of force and types of weapons that are allowed. That means we should program them with some kind of moral reasoning to help them navigate different situations and fundamentally distinguish right from wrong. They will need to have, embodied deep in their software, some sort of ethical compass.
For the past decade, Arkin has been working on such a compass. Using mathematical and logic tools from the field of machine ethics, he began translating the highly conceptual laws of war and rules of engagement into variables and operations that computers can understand. For example, one variable specified how confident the ethical controller was that a target was an enemy. Another was a Boolean variable that was either true or false: lethal force was either permitted or prohibited. Eventually, Arkin arrived at a set of algorithms, and using computer simulations and very simplified combat scenarios—an unmanned aircraft engaging a group of people in an open field, for example—he was able to test his methodology.
Arkin acknowledges that the project, which was funded by the U.S. military, was a proof of concept, not an actual control-system implementation. Nevertheless, he believes the results showed that combat robots not only could follow the same rules that humans have to follow but also that they could do better. For example, the robots could use lethal force with more restraint than could human fighters, returning fire only when shot at first. Or, if civilians are nearby, they could completely hold their fire, even if that means being destroyed. Robots also don’t suffer from stress, frustration, anger, or fear, all of which can lead to impaired judgment in humans. So in theory, at least, robot soldiers could outperform human ones, who often and sometimes unavoidably make mistakes in the heat of battle.
“And the net effect of that could be a saving of human lives, especially the innocent that are trapped in the battle space,” Arkin says. “And if these robots can do that, to me there’s a driving moral imperative to use them.”
The U.N. has been holdingdiscussions on lethal autonomous robots for close to five years, but its member countries have been unable to draw up an agreement. In 2013,Christof Heyns, a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, wrote an influential report noting that the world’s nations had a rare opportunity to discuss the risks of autonomous weapons before such weapons were already fully developed. Today, after participating in several U.N. meetings, Heyns says that “if I look back, to some extent I’m encouraged, but if I look forward, then I think we’re going to have a problem unless we start acting much faster.”
This coming December, the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will hold a five-year review conference, and the topic of lethal autonomous robots will be on the agenda. However, it’s unlikely that a ban will be approved at that meeting. Such a decision would require the consensus of all participating countries, and these still have fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the broad spectrum of autonomous weapons expected to emerge in the future.
In the end, the “killer robots” debate seems to be more about us humans than about robots. Autonomous weapons will be like any technology, at least at first: They could be deployed carefully and judiciously, or chaotically and disastrously. Human beings will have to take the credit or the blame. So the question, “Are autonomous combat robots a good idea?” probably isn’t the best one. A better one is, “Do we trust ourselves enough to trust robots with our lives?”
This article appears in the June 2016 print issue as “When Robots Decide to Kill.”
Maugham sighed, then leaned over with a groan and put his head in his in hands for awhile. He rubbed the top of his head slowly as if to somehow comfort his own mind. But it didn’t seem to work.
When he lifted his head back up he looked at Steinthal.
“Do you think it will ever change?”
Steinthal looked at him and then shrugged wearily.
“I suppose that’s entirely up to the people involved. I only know one thing for sure… and even that’s not much…” and then he fell silent.
Maugham waited but when Steinthal said nothing else he just stood back up. It was obvious he was hurt though, so Stenithal moved over and put his arm under his friend’s and around his back and helped him start to walk again.
“What’s the one thing by the way?” Maugham asked as the men made their way torturously out of the ruined building.
“Oh that,” said Stenthal, as if he had just assumed his friend already knew. “Nothing ever changes much when no one ever much changes.”
So they made their way back to the river, dripping sweat, shedding blood, grunting in pain, and limping as they went.
“Personally I have never understood the idea that the herd is so all pervasive that you dare not leave it or the pack so all powerful that you dare not defy it. You don’t like the herd, then go your own way. Plenty of places the herd won’t dare go that you can. The pack turns on you then you turn on it. They’ll even be plenty of times you should turn on the pack when it doesn’t turn on you. That’s life.
See, it’s just a herd son, it’s just a pack. Simple as that.
This ain’t rocket science kid it’s just plain old fashioned manhood. And whenever necessary a man stands absolutely alone and entirely unafraid. But don’t pretend with me what I’m saying is so unbelievable you can’t even imagine it.
You’ve imagined it plenty. You’ve just never had the balls to act like a man about it.
So the trouble ain’t them boy, the trouble has never been them. The trouble is you. I know it, they know it, and you know it. Because the trouble will always be you until it ain’t anymore. And then the real trouble starts.
But at least by then you’ll finally be a man about it.”
From The Detective Steinthal
Steinthal talking to a low level informant and petty criminal. From one of the cases of my Detective Steinthal.
So today after my walk through the woods with Sam I came home and started work on a new short story. It will be historical fiction and a supplement to my Westerns and it will be about a half-Indian, half-white Advanced Scout for the US Cavalry.
He is rejected by everyone, as was the custom of the day, by his white society and by his Indian tribe. Later he goes on to wander much farther West and to form his own settlement of former Chinese rail workers, other outcast Indians, runaway slaves, Mexicans fleeing the wars in Texas and California, and poor whites and others wishing to start over from the Civil War.
Eventually he becomes town marshal and then county sheriff until he is hunted down by US Marshals looking to take him in for desertion from his former scout position.
Got three pages written just about an hour ago and I’ll post those once my daughter types up the manuscript (still having trouble typing with my broken wrist), but only the intro because I plan to publish the story. Like I said I want it to be a supplementary story to my Western, The Lettermen. Still not sure about the title though, iffin I wanna call it The Lonely Scout or simply The Outcast.
My wife and youngest daughter read it and really liked it, and my wife gave me a coupla good ideas for further plot development. My oldest daughter read it and gave it a 9 out of 10 (so far anyway) and then she said, “Writing Westerns and frontier and adventure and detective stories are your favorites.”
I like writing a lot of different kinda things, but she may be right. Those hold particular and personal appeal to me…
Manhood is a lost art if you ask me. I hope to preserve it in my writings so future generations can take it up again. Wholesale and unimpeded by whatever we got nowadays.
I finally have the ultimate titles for my set of mythic/high-fantasy novels. They shall be called Kal-Kithariune(Or, The Fall of Kitharia). Originally the series was to be called The Other World but I was never really pleased with that. It was only a preliminary and place-holder title anyway.
The Kal-Kithariune shall link back to another myth/history or time epoch called the Kol-Kithariad(or the Rebirth or the Establishment of Kitharia). I have not really decided if the Kithariad will refer to a period of time 300 years prior to the Kithariune (when Kitharia undergoes a Rebirth or Renaissance) or to a period 3000 years prior when Kitharia is first established and founded.
Ideally I’d like to work it out so that the Kithariad refers to the Rebirth of Kitharia, 300 years before its Fall, but realistically I’m having real trouble making that fit and so it may have to refer to the Founding. It may be better to use the Founding as the other reference point anyway, to contrast the Genesis with the Armageddon and End. But I’d prefer the Rebirth. Though that might be impossible.
Kitharia is a both an analogy and a metaphor for America. And all of the Eldeven lands for the West even though the events take place in what would in our world be The Orient (near our Real World Samarkand).
The individual novels in the series will be entitled:
The Basilegate (The Emperor’s Legate) The Caerkara (The Expeditionary Force) The Wyrding Road The Other World (or perhaps Lurial and Iÿarlðma)
The novels will be a tetralogy. Now that I finally have all of the titles, know the plots and endings of all four books, have the languages developed, many of the poems and songs written, some of the maps and illustrations drawn, have hundreds of entries in my Plot Machine and thousands of notes, and about 200 pages of the each of the first two books written I suspect I can complete the entire tetralogy in under 2 years.
This is by far the very most complicated thing I have ever constructed (to date), at least as far as writing goes and that includes a couple of epic poems I’ve written. I first conceived it in 2007 as a single book and I’m sure I have thousands and thousands of hours sunk into it since then. Despite my other workloads.
Eventually I plan to write a set of children’s short stories connected to it and to at least plan out or begin the Kithariad though that will likely have to be passed on to others.
Before I start either of those though I just want to complete the Kithariune and then move on to my other novels, such as my sci-fi series The Curae (which will be every bit as big as the Kithariune), my detective novels, and my Frontiers novels, such as The Regulator and the Lettermen. And I want to complete my literary novels such as Modern Man and The Cache of Saint Andrew. Plus I want to finish my epic poem America. And I want to write some scripts. Not just TV scripts but movie scripts. So once I finish the Kithariune it may be a long while before I return to myth and fantasy, such as after my “retirement” (though I don’t plan to ever really retire).
I have however learned much by writing the Kithariune. I now know exactly how to plot out both long, complex novels and series, and much simpler single books. So the learning and research and study period was worth it alone in that respect. And it should both add to the richness of the Kithariune and to all of the other novels I write thereafter.
Last night while in bed I decided to write up some new lines for my Western, the Lettered Men.
I’ll do that sometimes right before I go to bed. Got some good stuff done but had to rework some of em this morning. Many of these lines are spoken by Jerimiah Jereds, also known as “Wordy”(the only name his friends call him)because he will either invent words (neologisms) or will twist around old phrases and common sayings in new ways. Wordy sometimes acts as the comic-relief of the novel, which is pretty rough in parts, and sometimes acts as the de-facto Bard of the novel, being a sort of frontier’s poet and cowboy wordsmith.
Now not all of these snippets are by Wordy. But many are.
Anywho I gave my notes to my wife and daughter this morning (before the final rewrites) so that they could look over em and give me their opinion. I heard a lot of loud laughing coming from the kitchen table downstairs as I worked from my office so I reckon I did something right. They both seemed to like what they read.
Also I should not neglect that my mother came down to the house yesterday after lunch and she also reminded me of many of the old sayings and euphemisms of my grandparents and great-grandparents, which were in many ways the inspiration for Wordy.
So here are the final write ups for the Wordy Way. All from my novel The Lettered Men.
“Oh yeah?” said Wordy. “Well half of not really worth mentioning still beats ever bit a nothing all day long. Specially in the middle a nowhere. So let’s just work around with what we got awhile and see where it leads us. Maybe tomorrow it still won’t be worth mentioning, but maybe in a week or two it will be. When we’re sitting our asses by the fire back home.”
All the boys laughed when they saw him come out of the barbers. All except Wordy. He just stared at Beau for awhile and then he stood up and circled him like a corvus round a scarecrow. “Hmmm-mmm,” he kept humming to himself as he circled.
“Well now, that’s a two bit shave and a haircut iffin I ever seen one,” he finally said. “Way I see it though she still owes ya a dollar in change just to make it even.”
“Dammit!” Beau said testily slapping his hat against his thigh. Dust and hair swirled everywhere. “I told her it didn’t look right to me.”
“Be alright Beau,” Wordy said. “You’re both new at this. She ain’t much of a judge a jug-heads and you ain’t much of a judge a women.”
“Oh, and you is you Wordy sumbitch!” Beau practically yelled.
“I didn’t say that,” said Wordy. “I just seen enough scalpings in my day to know the difference between a brave and a squaw cut.”
SOME OF WHAT I WROTE YESTERDAY (based either on memory of conversations or events of years past or new experience)
I slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner and smiled, but I was deadly serious.
“For God’s sake,” I said, “don’t do that. Don’t be a modern man. Be an actual man. Yeah, it’s always hard, and it don’t pay much most of the time. But at least you’ll be alive. Really alive. And in the end what in the hell else matters?”
from my novel The Modern Man
It was as quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny a day as I had ever seen in my entire life. And that was fine by me. I had sure seen enough of all the other kinds of days.
from The Modern Man
He topped the small hills that ringed the border to the north and the west and looked out before him. The blue and the green covered the land so thick that he couldn’t see the ground. Not anywhere.
It was an ocean of grass that stretched out forever, with no shore to be seen.
from my novel The Basilegate (Larmageon describing in his own mind wandering the “Blue-Green Sea” just beyond the borders of Kitharia – inspired by my hike in the forests and across the fields today; everything is in bloom and as thick as blood, especially the grass)
“My son, as the Lord taught us, you cannot save the world alone. But if you at least set out to try then neither shall you ever fail it…”
from the Basilegate (The Abbot of Studios writing to the Viking Christian convert Drakgarm of Gotar)
Nothing Works if you won’t.
from theBusiness, Career, and Work of Man
There is no sin in seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The sin lies in either avoiding pain merely to seek pleasure, or in seeking pleasure by inflicting pain.
I’m sitting here tonight (last night actually) working on the major characters that will be a part of my fictional book and novel series. I’ve spent much of the past week doing the same.
One invaluable thing I learned from James Patterson’s Master Class on commercial fiction is the importance of ongoing, serialized characters that others adore. I’ve known this intellectually for a long time based on my own reading history both as a youth and throughout my life (John Carter, Tarzan, Spock, Jesse Stone, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Batman, etc.) but looking back on my fiction writings I’ve realized that it hasn’t really sunken in until now. It had sunken into my mind long ago, but not into my soul. Not until now however. But now, finally, I am fully getting it.
I’ve always been a “Story-First” kind of guy and looking back upon it all I suspect I very much now know why. I was trained and self-trained to write stories through D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and through game writing in general and D&D was indeed the very most excellent practice and training for story-development. But because I so rarely played and was almost always the DM or GM (Dungeon or Game Master) and was always the one creating worlds and writing the stories I never concentrated much at all upon “Character Development.”
That is to say I always let my players develop and run their characters with as little possible interference from me as I could ever get away with. Therefore almost all character development was in their hands and I become STORY AND PLOT AND WORLD FIRST and in many senses, I just habitually adopted the idea of STORY ONLY. Character-Work was for them, I was the World Man.
Not that I couldn’t write or develop characters, I did have several characters of my own I played and I developed some very complex Non-Player Characters (NPCs) but that kind of thing happened rather rarely compared to my World Building and plot and background elements development and so Character Development became a secondary and almost a background issue to me as a fiction writer and story teller. I realize now that I have for most of my life had this sort of subconscious psychological habit of developing stories in complex detail but sort of letting Character Development handle itself in a laissez-faire fashion when I did not outright ignore the issue.
But now that I realize this fault and oversight in my own writings, and the way I go about writing, I have decided that for me this will be the Year of the Characters. This year Characters and Serialized Characters become equally important to me as Story and Plot and World Building.
This is to be my Year of Character, and the genesis of the development of the Great Characters of my Fiction Writing Career.
This year I build Men and Characters and not just Worlds.
AN ACCOUNTING SO FAR AND A BIT OF ADVICE FOR NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH
My Word Count output for the first day of NaNoWriMo 2015 and my novel The Old Man was 2373 words plus (I lost count after that because I wrote another scene right before bed). Today, since it is raining so hard and I can’t go help my daughter look for a new car, I plan to have an output of 3000 or more words.
I have also been using the Writing Tools I received in my NNWM writing packet along with my own Tools.
This morning I wrote what I thought was a superb introduction and set of first lines for the science-fiction part of the novel. But I still have a lot of work to do today.
Rather than in order or in linear or chronological progression I seem to be writing the book out in independent scene-sections as they occur to me. Which I’m assuming my mind will knit together in proper order later on.
I am very much enjoying working “sans editing” or by avoiding the editing altogether process as I go. This has made the writing process itself much, much easier. And this may be a better and faster way for me to write in the future, though it takes some mental effort on my part for me to get used to. Old habits die hard.
Also I am not typing anything myself but rather producing the manuscript in long-hand at my kitchen table or in bed. The way I used to write as a kid. Before I got my first typewriter in High School or my first personal computer. I very much recommend this (recently rediscovered) method. It not only produces a superior thought and plot flow, it is much more psychically comfortable than typing or dictating at my computer or office chair, both of which I detest.
Plus as I go back to hand-writing I am once again becoming very quick at it.
Tomorrow I plan to conduct a test to see how quick I am at both methods, composing at my computer, and at hand writing. I suspect I am faster at hand-writing. Certainly I enjoy it more and it is far easier to write in that way.
I’ve cleared my entire calendar for November in order to write my novel for National Novel Writing Month. Aside from some type of emergency, and I don’t anticipate one (though you never really do, do ya?), writing my novel will be my chief priority this month.
So my blogging and other social media efforts will likely lag as a result. So will every other non-essential pursuit as the novel will be my Essential Activity for November. Fortunately I anticipate a very quiet month which will allow me the opportunity to write completely without distraction.
I’ve decided to go with THE OLD MAN as my chosen novel.
I intend to produce between 1500 and 5000 words per day, depending upon the day and the way the story proceeds and progresses. I already have much of the plot, all of the sections, and a few of the scenes sketched out.
Because of my broken wrist I will be writing the novel out in long hand on long notepads and my daughter will be typing it for me. I begin as soon as I’ve had breakfast and I walk Sam (my Great Dane) as it’s been raining this morning and prevented an earlier walk.
Congratulations to all of those pursuing writing their novel this month.
This year I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. And this year I have several good ideas for a potential novel I’d like to write for NaNoWriMo.
However I am trying to solicit the opinions of others on which idea and novel they’d prefer to read. Of the three novel ideas/plots I’ve I’d like to write for this November and that I have personally shown to family and friends so far I have the following results:
13 votes for The Old Man
10 votes for The Cache of Saint Andrew, and
4 votes for The Wonder Webs (all have been kid votes)
So I’d like to ask you, as my readers and internet friends, which novel story would you prefer to read: The Old Man, The Cache of Saint Andrew, or The Wonder Webs?
Right now I’m leaning towards The Old Man but still have a couple of days or so to finally decide. So if you wish to voice your opinion then just let me know. If you want to tell me your reasons that would be appreciated as well.
The Old Man – The Old Man is a mixed genre novel/novella consisting of three or four related stories about the same character set in different eras and story genres. In the story the child or children of a deceased man discover some old and unknown recordings which reveal their father in a totally different light and engaged in a fantastic set of secret lives. One section of the book will involve the science fiction genre, another the fantasy genre, another the detective/espionage genre, and the fourth the horror/weird genre. Despite the complexity of the story and the various genres it should be very easy to research and plot.
The Cache of Saint Andrew – The Cache of Saint Andrew is a literary genre novel involving a white man who marries a black woman. Although I did eventually marry a black woman the book is not autobiographical because I first had the idea for the novel in college and began writing it in college and I didn’t marry until I turned thirty, and at the time I began the book didn’t ever expect to marry. The story involves an older established, fairly wealthy white man who marries a younger (college student aged) black woman. The book describes their courtship, marriage, and the things that eventually dissolve their marriage, such as the loss of their first child shortly after childbirth. The novel is called the Cache of Saint Andrew because of the fact that the man, for years, plants secret messages inside the cache of a grave marker at the Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in North Carolina. The Cache of Saint Andrew is actually the third book I ever started writing and the first one I started writing as an adult, but I put it aside to start my first business. I have replotted it many times but never actually finished it. It will require fairly complex plotting although I already have the main story well sketched out.
Wonder Webs – The Wonder Webs is a young adult book I first started plotting out a couple of years ago in a writing class. It involves a fictional city, park, and zoo based upon Greenville, SC. It involves three main characters, two boys and a girl of late Middle School/early High School age. It also involves a secret “underground world” in which dwell three magical/supernatural spiders who are capable of building “Wonder Webs” or webs that help miracles occur. This book will be very complex to plot because of the characters involved but especially because of the complicated background/world involved, which is multi-faceted.
This is a little piece of flash fiction I wrote involving one of my detective characters, the chief one, Steinthal.
THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON
“You know part of me really would like nothing better than to save everyone. But another part of me knows equally well that to habitually do so only makes people, especially some people, dependent, enslaved, useless, and weak.
It is entirely immoral and unacceptable to abandon the truly helpless and indigent. Yet it is also wholly wrong to save those who should be busy saving themselves.
So I won’t do either because both are evil and unwise. Even God understands that you cannot save those who refuse to change. That’s as true for individuals as it is for groups of men.
See, as much as I’d like to help you I’m just a detective, not a messiah. Therefore I can’t help your friend Sara. I can’t help anyone who won’t help themselves.
And all the evidence here points in just one direction. That boy doesn’t want help, he wants to be saved. From himself. There’s no real cure for that, and there never will be. I’ve got no trick to fix it. There is no such trick. Those are the actual facts I’m afraid, and I never argue with the actual facts. There’s just no future in it. For anyone.
If only he truly understood that. Or really cared. Because either one would probably do.
But he doesn’t and I can’t do those things for him. You know as well as I do he’d rather die before he tries either. I wish I could tell you different, my dear, but I’m far too used to the truth. It would just sound odd and unbelievable to the both of us. So I’m going to spare us both the pain and suffering of a futile effort.
He’s not here speaking to me because he doesn’t really give a damn. And you’re here speaking to me because you do.
As strange as that sounds let that be some consolation to you. Because the truth is he’s not worth you getting killed for, and there will be plenty of others to save. People who will let you help save them.
He’s not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be buried beside him because you’re too stubborn to admit that to yourself.
Live, my dear. That’s the very best help I can give to you. Because if you stay attached to him the way you are now, you won’t.”
I left it there because it was the truth and because it was as good a place as any to leave it.
She sat across from my desk staring at the floor for a long while. Then she raised her face to look at me and her eyes were watery and unfocused, as if she were looking through me and out at something on the horizon she didn’t expect to escape.
She stood up slowly, her breath uneven and shallow and short, like women breathe when they are both upset and resigned to their fate. Then she turned and walked for the door.
When she got to the door she turned the doorknob, pulled the door back slightly, paused, and wrestled with herself as to whether or not to look back at me.
Eventually, with a little shake of her head, she decided that she wouldn’t. Instead she opened the door just enough to slide out it and then pulled it quietly shut behind her.
Due to a recent internet conversation on constructs I’ve decided to write a new series of short stories to add to my science fiction universe that will involve androids, drones, and robots whose primary function and programming is to provide protection to clients or organizations. Or even to protect specific areas/locales/geographic points.
These “danger droids” are designed to “sense danger” and respond by warning away potential threats. If the warnings or interferences fail, or are repeatedly ignored, then the Danger Droids are designed to respond in a defense pattern of three escalating steps: Disable, Cripple, and eventually, to Kill (or DCK).
If disable fails then crippling is applied and if the threat continues thereafter then the Danger Droid will kill the threat.
The story will center around the activities and experiences of these danger droids and how others attempt to overcome and thwart them and how the droids themselves adapt to these new threats and methods of attack.
Another set of stories, running parallel to those concerning the Danger Droids will involve the so-called “Murder Machines.” These are simply machines designed to exploit security lapses or human/target weaknesses and destroy/murder specific targets without being traceable. However if the machines are somehow located and trapped they are also designed to destroy themselves so as to make it very difficult to analyze and track evidence regarding who actually employed the “murder machine.”
In some ways the murder machines will be the exact opposites of, (although none of the machines or droids are actually alive) and the mechanical Nemeses of, the Danger Droids.
So much so that eventually people begin using the Danger Droids in an attempt to thwart and even anticipate the Murder Machines, destroying them before they can strike.
Of course in the stories these devices will not be called Danger Droids or Murder Machines, those are dumb and simple-minded appellations. Although they may, from time to time, be referred to Danger Droids and Murder Machines in a colloquial or slang fashion. No, I will devise basic and appropriate scientific terminology for these artefacts as my science fiction universe tends to be “hard and mundane science” in nature, and these stories will be no different.
Ah, Pinterest, you are both the bane and joy of writers the world over. On one hand we can use Pinterest to create stunning visual representations of the world we are creating with our words. On the other hand, we can distract ourselves for hours at a time in the endless sea of images.
But to me the price is worth it. There’s nothing I love more than creating storyboards for my novels. It’s in integral part of my creative process.
I also love following other writer’s on Pinterest, and glimpsing into the worlds they have created. Not only do other author’s boards inspire me and spark ideas, but I often find the perfect image on another writer’s board. (After hours of using the Pinterest search option to no avail.) We writer’s think in the same dramatic way. We’re drawn to the same types of photographs.
So I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite Pinterest storyboards. All of these are beautiful and inspiring. I’m mostly drawn to the historical, romantic, and dramatic, so that’s what most of these boards represent.
While you’re here please leave a link to your book’s storyboard in the comments!
Don’t have a novel storyboard?
No worries, these boards will be all the inspiration you need.
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
SW: I had once published a magazine, called Living History. With each issue I wrote a publisher’s letter and often “ghost” wrote a few articles. I found over time that I preferred the writing to the publishing. After the magazine went out of circulation, I decided that I would get to the writing I liked via my favorite reading genre – the historical novel. I grew up reading Thomas B. Costain, James A. Michener, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, and C.S. Forrester. Later on, I read many of Bernard Cornwell’s books. I learned a lot about history from those writers. Yet the stories entertained.
Is this your first book?
SW: No, The Cavalier Spy is the second in the Revolutionary War action and espionage series I call Yankee Doodle Spies. I know the name is a bit “kitschy,” but I like it. I plan on eventually writing eight books in the series.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
SW: I went with a small trade publisher, a small press called Twilight Times Books. A friend, the late Lee McCaslin, referred me to Twilight Times Books. He was a published author himself and was looking for a new publisher for his second non-fiction book. When he learned Twilight Times Books published mainly fiction, he referred me and I was accepted and given a contract for the first three books in the Yankee Doodle Spies series.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
SW: Well, I did all the usual things. After my first manuscript was done, I went on line to search for an agent. I also met with Dave Meadows and Michael O. Varhola, both published authors. Dave has written several naval espionage novels. Michael writes popular history, travel and ghost haunting books. They provided me lots of insight and encouragement. Lee McCaslkin did as well. But most of our dealings were by phone and email. I actually wrote a chapter in his book, Secrets of the Cold War. Then began the long and frustrating search for a literary agent. Mostly by luck (or unluck) I found two and had contracts with them. They provided feedback on my writing but it was a bit of drag and die. I would get some generalized comments. After I would address them and resubmit, I’d get more (different) generalized comments. It was clear different folks were reading these, as occasionally the comments clashed. In any case, I never was submitted to a publisher. In one case I was dropped. In the other, I did the dropping. These were not paid agents but fairly renowned New York agencies. I’d rate the experience as extremely frustrating, not to mention nerve grinding, but I did learn from it.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
SW: The most important thing I learned was to park my ego at the door. When you are writing, you have complete control of the world you are presenting. But once you get into the publishing phase, the situation sort of reverses. Editors and publishers now have a legitimate right to comment and suggest changing things. You have to trust them. And you have to let go of a part of the creative process. The author creates a work of literature for people to read. The editor and publisher have to turn it into a product for people to buy. The kind of fiction I write doesn’t really fit the cookie cutter mold.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
SW: Yes, I would. I find the publisher accessible and well versed in all aspects of the business. And this publisher supports its writers.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
SW: I’ll say that there are a whole bunch of folks who will shut you down. For them, your work is a business decision. This is especially true of some f the agencies. I’d say – find your style… your voice, and hone it. But don’t try to change it. I’d also say be very patient…. And keep writing!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.
1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.
However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.
“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”
~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel
“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”
~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP
Had a great idea for a science-fiction short story while walking with my Great Dane Sam through the woods this afternoon.
The story involves Human Beings encountering an alien species while exploring deep space and the encounter (which initially seems innocuous enough) almost immediately leads to conflict and eventual war. At first it seems obvious that humans have the advantage as our technology seems to be far in advance of that possessed by the alien species.
But quickly it becomes apparent that the alien species seems to adapt amazingly fast. Every time humans use a new weapon or weapon’s system against them they immediately start to innovate and counter with the result being that within a matter of a mere few weeks, and sometimes in just a few days, they can produce either a defensive system that basically greatly mitigates or even nullifies human technology, or they develop a superior offensive system based on what they analyze and reverse-engineer of our weapon systems.
In under six months they turn the tide of the conflict and start to defeat humans.
After that human technological systems and weapon systems are quickly attrited or degraded to the point that humans have to begin to rely upon older and older systems and technologies (outdated and outmoded and scavenged systems) just to survive or to continue to resist.
The opposite effect occurs with the aliens however – their technology continues to make astronomical leaps forward in a very short period of time and within a year the defeat and possible eradication of human beings seems a very real probability. The last hope for the humans seems to be the discovery of a form of third party alien technology but eventually it is realized it is too advanced for humans to properly understand and utilize and that even if they could understand and properly employ it any real help the third party device might provide will come too late.
Human defeat therefore seems assured until, that is, the aliens create a technological leap forward so advanced that the totally unexpected happens. I’m going to call the story the Qoutien’s Point. *
I’m also going to integrate this short story into my larger science fiction milieu/universe.
* Quotien’s Point – a future scientific/technological term named for that point at which everything that has come before changes so radically that everything to follow is thereafter forever unrecognizable.
Continuing on with my short story THE VENGEANCE OF TÔL KARUŢHA and my prior posts on Conan. I have the entire story written (though not typed) and will post it here in its entirety when I get it all typed as an example of my short story writing ability for agents, publishers, and my followers and fans. For now my previously broken wrist makes typing long periods of time problematic and so I pay my daughter to do it.
Conan saw the blood seep from the wound of Tôl Karuţha. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it was a trick of the dark and the nearly moonless gloom of the Ophirian night, but that blood seemed unnaturally dark and uncannily sleek to him. As if it were a slick but soiled oil or possibly even the ichor of some preternatural monster rather than the blood of a mortal man.
A guarded growl erupted deep in Conan’s mind, along with a primitive alarm and revulsion of the supernatural that demanded his future attention. Conan resolved to investigate later, when he had the opportunity to observe closely and without arousing suspicion. If he got the opportunity.
At the moment he was in a fight for his life against ever mounting odds, and for all he knew his erstwhile “ally” could desert him at any moment by showing himself more fiend than friend. For now Conan must slay, or be slain, and so he set about him with a fury and a lust for combat and gore.
In satisfying his lust he would be fully sated, for his enemies met him with equal ferocity and far greater numbers.
Time weighed against Conan. Time and numbers. His oldest enemies. His most dangerous foes.
Alatha moved towards Marsippius as he rose. He was naked in the firelight.
When she reached him she examined him closely. Then she took her finger and began to lightly trace some of the many imperfections in his flesh.
“You have been often wounded?” she asked.
“Why?” she questioned.
“Duty,” he replied wearily. “Duty and manhood.”
“It is manhood to be often wounded?”
“In part,” he said flatly. “Any man without scars is no man at all.”
She stared into his eyes. They were dark like hers. Deep Greek eyes, full of inquiry. Proud Roman eyes, full of purpose. But to him her eyes were inscrutable.
“Perhaps,” she said quietly, “a man should be more than his scars.”
He reached up and took her hand, the finger of which still lingered upon the long jagged white line of an old wound on his chest. The wound of a much younger man.
“Perhaps,” Marsippius replied, “you are very wise among your kind.”
He glanced at the fire. To him the flames in the hearth seemed to burn immensely hot, yet almost entirely silent. He wondered if the fuel of this world burned differently.
When he looked back at Alatha she was once again staring deeply into his eyes. But once again he could not read her mind. He started to move forward to kiss her and then thought better of it.
She did not. Seeing his intent she moved forward and kissed him warmly upon the lips.
Then she leaned back slightly and traced her finger gently across the lips she had just kissed.
“There seem to be no scars here,” she said.
“Illusion,” he said. “There are too many to count. They are nothing but scars. So they seem untouched. Yet…” he added, seemingly almost as an afterthought, “there is room still for a few more, if you so wish.”
She laughed quietly.
“What is wish but High Illusion?” she whispered. So she pressed against him and kissed him again.
I looked up at him with a pacific expression to give him a chance to reconsider but he didn’t seem particular to my gentlemanly solicitations. So I followed suit by rising to my feet and placing my hand on the handle of my longknife.
“You know, maybe its age, or maybe its wisdom,” I explained. “Hell, I don’t know, could be a little bit of both at this point I reckon. But I’ve learned over time boy not to push myself any harder than I can stand at any given time, or to act more recklessly than I can endure at any given moment. Unless, of course, necessity dictates elsewise.
So the question I got for you son is this right here: ‘Are you necessity?Do you think of yourself as truly necessary?’
‘Cause iffin you do then I’m certainly prepared to listen to ya proposition, if you’re prepared for my considered reply.”
When he suddenly seemed uncertain and wavering in his deliberations I swung the table out from between us and took to hitting him as hard in the mouth as either one of us could stand. Until he wasn’t no more.
Then I stepped on his face turning it sideways and put the cold, clean, sharp tip of my longknife into his earhole.
“Can you make out precisely what I’m saying to ya now kid, or do I gotta keep pushing my point?”
“You know, you’re not the first to react this way. A great many people seem very frightened by the fact that I am not frightened. However I am not in the least frightened by the fact that they are frightened by that. As a matter of fact it greatly encourages me when I meet people like you.
You’d be really frightened if you knew just how much.”
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The London Book Fair lands on an unusually sunny three days in the capital. The scorching rays – rarely seen at all, let alone in April in the UK – seem at odds with a closed-off indoor book fair. But that hasn’t stopped scores of page-turner enthusiasts scouring the giant exhibition centre’s main floor, looking for publishers to schmooze, books to buy and advice to receive.
It’s the advice from authors who’ve ‘made it’ that seems to resonate most with attendees. Seminars and workshops are scattered in between the stands – all packed with a baying audience that fire off seemingly endless questions. They’re all trying to piece together an escape route out of the doldrums of full-time work.
One man, Mark Dawson, has a queue of wannabe writers lining up to speak to him as we sit down for an interview. Dawson is one of the self-publishing success stories that Amazon likes to wheel out when journalists like myself come knocking. But Dawson’s success isn’t down to simply publishing his crime-thriller series and hoping for the best.
Dawson has become an entrepreneur. With the self-publishing platform, he had no choice. The tactics he employed to promote his series aren’t game-changing, or even particularly clever, but the scale in which he implemented them is what made the difference.
To date he has sold over 300,000 copies of his series about an assassin called John Milton. Dawson says he pocketed “ six figures” last year and he’s on course to make much more this year. And he’s got plans for bigger and better things for this series outside of print form.
Had an interesting idea for a sci-fi story today about a lone operative who has some rather interesting partners. His gear.
The story is about a guy whose nickname and codename is Hun. He operates behind enemy lines in the future. In the future the military becomes ever more and more sophisticated to the point that one man is equivalent to a platoon of soldiers today, and soldiering is no longer soldiering as we think of it but, “problem reduction.” The military has mostly evolved into something almost entirely different in nature.
Hun’s weapon is a “soft weapon” (an idea I picked up from Larry Niven) and an Artificial Intelligence (which humans think they created, but did they?) with far more capabilities than merely weapon functions. His uniform was grown, partially from his own DNA, partially from animal DNA, and is partially nanotechnology derived from his weapon’s AI. It’s also a “soft uniform.” And he has been treated with microfilaments (to small to see) that grow and entwine all along the hairs of his head and body which allow him to use his hairs as both interfaces and a partially organic ubiquitous data and computing system.
Hun has a mascot and companion, which is composed of reshapeable nanotechnology which is also his multi-tool.
And lastly he carries within his body an “Injectable Code” which allows him to directly communicate with all of his gear and equipment via direct neural link (teleneuraltransmission, or TNT), although the code is partially organic and partially alien matter and will break down over time and be digested by the body making it eventually useless (he must be reinjected and the injection must be recalibrated from time to time).
The IC also allows him to do other things he could not ordinarily do, when it comes to information gathering and storage and manipulation.
Anyway, Hun really, really enjoys his work, but slowly over time he has noticed degradation in his natural physical and mental capabilities and suspects the Injectable Code, that it may be altering him genetically, and has also begun to notice that his gear acts weirdly, leading him to one of four conclusions; 1. the IC may also be degrading his gear as well as him, 2. his gear already knows about the IC and is working with it (and maybe his superiors) despite knowledge it may harm or kill him, 3. his gear suspects the IC and is trying to compensate or in some way counteract the effects of the IC, or 4. maybe something else and entirely different is really going on.
I got the idea while hiking through the woods with Sam, near the Dragon’s Den, and noticing blight on trees and the way their growth patterns were being twisted out of their natural shape, and the areas of softness and rot along the trunks and bark. So I thought to myself, what if people had this kind of blight, how would they get it and what would it do and how would you fight it?
I think this is going to be a very fun and interesting story to write. And I’ll add it (the idea, technology, etc.) into the general background of my science fiction Curae Universe.
I meant to put this up for Tuesday’s Tale, but work and other things interfered so I’m putting it up here today for Highmoot.
What you see below are the creation materials (or some of them anyway) for my four novels of the Other World, specifically the first in the series, The Basilegate.
Actually I have 1200 to 1500 pages of research materials (mainly historical but also containing other materials) for all four novels already, most of it on CD or DVD and on computer files on my main work system. The rest is in hard files, collected notes (post it notes in the big white container that say BOOK I), in my notebooks and sketchbooks, outlines, timelines, etc.
I laid all of that out on Sunday and had my youngest daughter take pictures of it. This week I am taking all of that material, my chapter outlines for the first book (Basilegate), my notes, etc. and transferring it all to my Chapter and Plot Board. You might think of this as a Case Board by which I’ll run the plot and structure of my novels (in this case, the first in the series) as they progress. I already have about a hundred or so pages of the first novel finished, and various sections of all of the novels completed (as first drafts anyway), not counting the various scenes I have sketched out for each of them. My overall aim now is to collate and compile and arrange all of these scenes and what I already have written into a coherent and consecutive and consequential novel storyline, and thereby push on to finish the first novel while simultaneously arranging all of the other serial plots.
In this collection you will see all of my files, notes, the plot board itself (before being arranged), notebooks, research materials (on CD and DVD), some of the maps I’ve created, and the poems, songs, and music I’ve written and arranged to be included in the books/novels.
(You might ask, “Why does he have the AD&D and 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guides as apparent research materials?” Simple, not for the research itself, but because these two books are the best fictional writing guides I’ve ever read. Anywhere and on any fictional subject. If you are a writer and you do not have these writing guides then you really should, they are simply superb and extremely useful for all kinds of story arrangements, including plot arrangements.
You might also ask, “why the harmonica?” Well, because I often like to play the harmonica when I become stuck on some aspect of the story. It helps me think.)
Once I’ve gotten everything fully arranged and up on my Plot Board in proper Order I’ll take a new set of photographs and post those here too. I’ve been working on this novel series for years now, and as a general idea for a decade or more, but I’m finally in a position to push on and finish all four books now. I’m now satisfied that all of my major research and preparation work has been properly conducted and finished and I’m now ready to finish the novels without anymore large-scale or wholesale plot revision. Just minor tinkering at the edges left really, and then the finished writings.
Which is a big relief to me as I intend this novel series to be one of my Magnum Opae (one of my major Life Works – I literally cannot say Magnum Opera as that construction seems wholly silly and inappropriate to me in English).