Wyrdwend

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

THE PIXILATED MAN

THE PIXILATED MAN

There are at least two consistent themes running through many (if not most) of my science fiction stories. One is of turning technology (such as data, information, Intel, electrons, etc.) into “solid or substantial things.”

And the other is of people finding multiple uses for a single piece of technology (a design idea I always try to practice when inventing) and of people accidentally discovering hidden or secret functions or uses for common pieces of technology (radios, TVs, satellites, etc).

Well tonight I was studying the etymology of some rare Anglo-Saxon and English words when I ran across this word: Pixilated.

Now pixilated has not the same meaning as our word pixelated but upon reading the definition I immediately saw the parallels. Forward (taking pixelated to its logical conclusion), and backwards (by becoming unpixelated a man becomes, so to speak, also unpixilated).

Pixilated, a very old word, means to be bewitched as if by pixies, or, to be bewildered, confused, charmed, or intoxicated, as if by pixies.

Which made me think immediately of a computer screen and the internet.

I am already writing a story in which a computer and screen basically and accidentally serves as a (Tolkienesque) Palantir-like artefcat. Though it has a second meaning: Palantir the company.

But after reading about being “pixilated” I have also decided to write a parallel story about a pixilated man. Though the way in which he becomes pixilated is by first becoming enpixelated.

Which I think will also serve as a sort of related piece to my Eye in a Distant Sky story.

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THE STHENICIST

THE STHENICIST

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. I’ve started a new sci-fi story I’ve entitled The Sthencist. It will take place in the future and for about 2/3rds of the way through it will seem like an interesting (but not a spectacular) Mundane Science Fiction story.

Then it will take a really hard turn…

THE LAST TRUE MAN – HIGHMOOT

THE LAST TRUE MAN

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

Journey

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.”

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EMPTY

I was working on a short story when I happened across the Daily Post whose prompt-subject matter was Empty. Now I’ve had a lot of personal experience with Empty over the course of my life, both the good kind, and the bad kind. So I thought I’d make a post about that and turned out this poem at lunch. Hope you enjoy it.

Have a good day folks.

 

EMPTY

I once was empty, full of naught
By calculation, mind and thought

I once was empty, hollowed out
Melancholy, heart in doubt

I once was empty, fearless, cold
My fury made me endless bold

I once was empty, cast alone
It sharpened me so I was honed

I once was empty, bleak despair
My atmosphere a poisoned air

I once was empty, of myself
That was joy I could regale

I once was empty, God was gone
Why had He left me all alone?

I know of empty, made and true
I know of empty, me and you
I know of empty, blessed, good
I know of empty, as I should

For Empty is a Friend of mine
That gives me all, and then sometimes
Relieves me of all I have known
So I am ever forced to roam

In search of what is not…

So empty anymore.

THE FUTURE OF THE WAR MANCHINE

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.

 

Do We Want Robot Warriors to Decide Who Lives or Dies?

As artificial intelligence in military robots advances, the meaning of warfare is being redefined

opening illustration for killer robots feature
Illustration: Carl De Torres
robots report icon

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.

MQ-9 Reaper dronePhalanx gun
Photos, Top: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images; Bottom: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jose Jaen/U.S.Navy
Mortal Combat: While drones like the MQ-9 Reaper [top], used by the U.S. military, are remotely controlled by human operators, a few robotic weapons, like the Phalanx gun [bottom] on U.S. Navy ships can engage targets all on their own.

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 letter was signed by more than 20,000 people, including such luminaries as physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who last year donated US $10 million to a Boston-based institute whose mission is “safeguarding life” against the hypothesized emergence of malevolent AIs. The academics who organized the letter—Stuart Russellfrom the University of California, Berkeley; Max Tegmark from MIT; and Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales, Australia—expanded on their arguments in an online article for IEEE Spectrum, envisioning, in one scenario, the emergence “on the black market of mass quantities of low-cost, antipersonnel microrobots that can be deployed by one person to anonymously kill thousands or millions of people who meet the user’s targeting criteria.”

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 IndustriesHarpy 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.”

Needless to say, that’s not at all a consensus view. Critics of autonomous weapons insist that only a preemptive ban makes sense given the insidious way these weapons are coming into existence. “There’s no one single weapon system that we’re going to point to and say, ‘Aha, here’s the killer robot,’ ” says Mary Wareham, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and global coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of various humanitarian groups. “Because, really, we’re talking about multiple weapons systems, which will function in different ways. But the one thing that concerns us that they all seem to have in common is the lack of human control over their targeting and attack functions.”

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.”

 

 

THE LONELY SCOUT – TUESDAY’S TALE

THE LONELY SCOUT

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.

THE DANGER DROIDS AND THE MURDER MACHINES – BOOKENDS

THE DANGER DROIDS and THE MURDER MACHINES

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.

QUOTIEN’S POINT

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.

THE BLOOD OF TÔL KARUŢHA – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

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.

For previous entries see here: THE FRAGMENTS OF TÔL KARUŢHA

and here: CONAN, BABA YAGA, AND TÔL KARUŢHA

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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.

 

THE GHOSTLAND – TUESDAY’S TALE

THE GHOSTLAND

“Within us all there is a Ghostland, but sometimes when we wander in the dark, we become the ghosts of a far stranger land.”

(Opening line of The Ghostland) *

Tonight I was walking Sam in the woods near sundown. I let him go ahead of me because I knew about a quarter mile ahead was the fenceline. When I caught back up to him it looked just like he was standing on the other side of a large steel gate and for a moment I thought, “Now how could he have passed through that gate and fence, and how will I retrieve him if he did (since the neighbors keep it chained and locked)? But as I got closer I realized it was just a trick of the light given his color as he stood against the fence-gate near sundown.

Then on the way back I thought to myself, “suppose Sam really had passed right through that gate, how would I have gotten him back and what would that mean?” And that gave me a superb idea for a short story. Which I originally thought about calling Ghost Dog.

Then as I walked on I began to see in my head I saw all of these scenes of places I’ve Vadded over the years. Especially deserted and spooky places I’ve hit at night or while working some case. Except these places and the things in them weren’t as they really are, and some were certainly weird enough just on their own, they were all changed in my imagination. Strange, surreal, and unreal places in which things like a dog walking through a steel gate was, if not normal, at least something that could happen. I kept seeing a Ghostland. And since the story kept expanding in my mind I renamed it Ghostland.

And then I started seeing weird and bizarre events in this Ghostland too. So I came home and sketched it out.

And yeah, I’ve been relistening to the Fourth Tower of Inverness lately too (it’s that time of year after all) but what I saw in my head wasn’t just weird, like the Fourth Tower, it was spooky and bizarre. I think it will make a perfect Halloween story.

AN ARMY OF HUN – BOOKENDS

An Army of Hun
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.

GOOD LORD, I DID IT

I’ve been having to spend a lot of time on the internet this past weekend, yesterday, and today (time I would have rather spent doing other things, but this was necessary) rearranging the work on my literary blog so as to make it easier for agents, publishers, business partners, investors, etc. to locate my work in a single locale.

I did have my stuff scattered about on various “categories” on my blog(s) but that was apparently making it hard for agents and others to review my stuff. So on each blog I created a new category entitled: MY WRITINGS AND WORK

Now anyone can find anything I have created, written, or posted on my blogsites with a single click. This should be much, much more efficient and useful.

But it has been hard work to go back through all of my old posts, locate my work, and collate it into a single on-line collection.

So it has taken days (literally) of search, edit, and reorganize. But I’m halfway done with Wyrdwend, my literary blog, and as of now my new category/collection contains 88 pieces of my work. Including such things as my short stories, poetry, children’s stories, children’s books, songs, invention sketches, business articles, criticisms, scripts, graphic novels, essays, novel extracts, game designs, etc.

Whatever I have so far put up.

I figure when I finally finish with my archives by the end of the week the category/collection/link will contain about 160 or so pieces of original work.

Once that is done I’ll do the same for all of my other blogs, including Launch Port, Tome and Tomb, and the Missal.

By the way here is the collection link: MY WRITINGS AND WORK

I GET SICK – TUESDAY’S TALE

I used to breed Great Dane pups. Well, half Great Dane, and half Saint Bernard. I call them American Superiors.

So that I could keep one descendent from every generation and so that (going back four generations now) others who wished them could have one. Best dogs I’ve ever had. Best dogs I’ve ever seen.
But dogs are dogs. Their methods of breeding, reproduction, and birth are hardly easy, civilized, or elevated. Sometimes they’re just brutal. Which reminded me a lot at the time of things I’ve seen with and out of people too.

So I wrote this short story about em both: dogs, and people. Because when they are both high and elevated, they are both noble indeed. And when brutal and beastly I get good and damned tired of watching them kill (intentionally or otherwise) and of burying em…

So for Tuesday’s Tale I’m telling ya, sometimes I Get Sick.

I GET SICK

My bitch killed two of her own. There were only four to begin with, so it was a real blow. To all of us. As much as I love my bitch, and think she’s much smarter than average, it was totally unnecessary. Had I not been already exhausted with overwork I could have seen it coming. Could have prevented it. Should have prevented it, but truth was, I was just plain too late. I get sick of being too late. It always ends like hell, and the payoff is lousy.

With her breed of dog you have to watch the pups carefully. It’s not that she’s a bad bitch in any way, or an uncaring mother. She isn’t. Actually it’s quite the opposite. She cares a lot. Which is why she killed them. Too much of love is deadly in her kind.

We’d been through this before. It wasn’t our first rodeo, for either one of us. I knew how she’d litter, and what the follow on would be. She birthed for two days straight, but slowly. Very slowly. Again, normal for her kind.

Six pups in all, one blue, one brindle, one gold, three black. All of the coat combinations possible given her jet-black coat and the complex coat of her sire. But two were stillborn, a black female my kids named Zoë and a huge pup, twice as big as any of the other two combined, we named Goliath. It was bad he never drew breath. From his size at birth alone it was likely he would have been a prodigious monster. Maybe the biggest my bitch had ever bred.

But four lived. A black female we named Jade, a golden male named Leo, a brindle called Peter, and a beautiful blue (always the rarest in appearance) I named Seanna, meaning “blue gray wave.” They all thrived for five days. My bitch had more than enough milk to nourish them all. Leo grew the largest, Peter next, Seanna was the smallest, but fed the most, and yet Jade too did well. Her fat belly often swelled with what she ate.

On the fifth night I gave up watching the pups anymore. Just let their mother do all the tending. She was doing a superb job, and although I knew that being a Great Dane, and about two hundred pounds, she would be a danger to them until they were three or four weeks old, they all seemed well. I could go back to bed at night, let my bitch care for the pups alone and without my interference. I was already almost sick with overwork and lack of sleep. All night den-father to the litter seemed overkill.

The next morning I got up late, having overslept from previous lack. I went downstairs and looked at the thick blanket on my den floor where my bitch and pups should have been. But they weren’t there. She had moved them all up onto the couch. I ran over, afraid of what it meant, but it was too late.

She had two wrapped in front of her, her legs bent at an angle almost as if she were a human mother hugging them to her. She was licking and grooming them. I snatched them away immediately and placed them back on the floor. Then I looked for the other two.

Sometime after she had placed them on the couch they had slipped behind her. They were caught between the large seat cushions, dead and suffocated. One dead perhaps ten or twenty minutes, one dead probably not two or three minutes earlier. Both were still warm. Leo lay above Jade, a familial yet senseless fellowship of death.

I tried what I could with a syringe to resuscitate them both. But rigor set in quick with Jade. Leo stayed warm and pliant for nearly an hour. I thought at first he might have been comatose, instead of dead. But I could find no sign of breath or heartbeat, even a suppressed one. Eventually he too stiffened.

As best as I could reconstruct from what I saw their mother had probably went to get on the couch during the night to take a break from feeding them all. To take a little rest, maybe get some sleep. She’s used to laying on our couch or lounger as part of her normal routine. Then she heard one or more of them whine, demanding more milk, or her for her warmth. She had retrieved them all to be with her, carried them in her mouth to where she was, because after all she wanted them near and it was far more comfortable on the couch.

But they were too young still, and she far too large. Greta Danes bitches will often crush their young if left unwatched, and never even notice. An accident of nature they don’t think about until after death has claimed his prize.

She felt terrible afterwards, as did I. It took her awhile to figure out, but once she did she moaned and groaned. It was really my fault though. She’s a dog. But I’m a man. I knew what could have happened, and I had let myself become over-confident. That after a couple of litters she already knew all there was to know, and that with such a small litter to tend no real harm could befall form her loving but clumsy efforts at tending her pups. At two hundred pounds they were no match for her mass, and because of her breed, her unchecked affections were lethal and sure.

And, of course, I could have put up all of the cushions before I went to bed that night. That way she could not have placed them on the couch, where they could suffocate beneath her, caught between cushions many times their size, and crushed under a mother many times their weight. I could have also risen earlier. I had missed saving Leo by less than five minutes, and missed saving Jade by half an hour or less. But in all of these things I had been over-confident and stupid, had let exhaustion and lack of sleep and preparation blind me to risk. If anyone was at fault, it was certainly me. If anyone is to blame, the blame is all mine. And just as with any reckless, unnecessary accident or tragedy, there is always someone to blame. If you’re ever really willing to be honest about it.

That didn’t comfort their mother though, any more than it comforted me. Knowing how a sorry thing happened is very different from having prevented it. But at first she didn’t understand either. So she walked in rapid, worried circles around the small bodies, tried her furious best to lick them back to life, and when after an hour she finally realized they were absolutely dead, she demanded to go outside and tried to dig a hole to bury them in. I went outside and spoke to her softly, knowing she couldn’t understand me, but finally she looked up and left off her task. She didn’t need to understand me; she knew they wouldn’t be moving again. And so I guess she was sick of digging her holes.

Why is it that I’m the one that does all of the burying? I often ask myself that at times like these. I’m always the one putting the bodies down. I’m always the one digging the holes, or making the arrangements, or watching the corpses get planted.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

I know my time will come. It’s inevitable. One day someone will plant my mortal remains, and that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just a body, and well hell, I like it and all, but it seems a poor ride into eternity. It seems very fitting to me to shed it in time. I’ll have other places to be by then anyways.

But until then, on days like today, I have to wonder, what makes me so damned special? How come I get spared, how come I’m the one always left behind? As many times as Death has vested me, smiled, shook my hand, spoke to me like an old friend and wished me well, he’s never once asked me to follow him anywhere else than someone else’s grave. Just recover from whatever hit me so that I can be the one to execute his rites. His silly, tiring, pointless rites and rituals.

Friends, family, victims known and unknown, even my dogs and animals. I’ve inhumed them all. Planted them all. Entombed their last remains so often that all that remains to me is but a shadow of what I used to know. Used to feel. About them. About myself. I get sick of being the one to do all of the burying. I really get sick of it. A disease without end. A task without profit.

And so one day, one day God help me, just send me a cure.

THE SECRET WIZARD

I had an excellent idea today for a new fictional short story while on my morning walk through the woods with my Great Dane Sam. (We got soaked, by the way, in a rainstorm, nevertheless the rain was mostly warm and it was quite fun.)

Since I am writing a non-fiction book about Christian Wizardry that I call, cleverly enough, The Christian Wizard, the idea occurred to me this morning to write a fictional story about a young boy at an archaeological dig (at a cave on a Greek island) who accidentally discovers the tomb of long dead man, the tomb being filled with the artifacts and paraphernalia of the dead man’s life and craft.

For a reason the boy cannot immediately explain he decides to keep his discovery a secret and plunders the tomb for all he can recover: scrolls, books, artifacts, relics, tools, and devices, etc.

Upon close inspection of the find and the remains he discovers that the buried man was a Christian Wizard (not at all like a fictional wizard) who lived in the 8th century AD. The story proceeds from that point and will be called The Secret Wizard, and it will contain in background many of the ideas expressed in the Christian Wizard, only in fictional form, and disguised as metaphors and similes and symbols.

BOOTIN UP LIKE A BOSS- TUESDAY’S TALE

This is the beginning of a short story about one of my detective characters. Well, he’s really a Deputy Sheriff acting as Sheriff while the real sheriff recuperates from a car crash as the result of a felon fleeing across county lines. This is my Tuesday’s Tale. I give you, Bootin Up Like a Boss.

BOOTIN UP LIKE A BOSS

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

He stopped tying his laces to look up at her.

“I’m bootin up like a boss,” he replied.

“What does that even mean?” she said, exasperated.

“It means, ‘I’m bootin up like a boss,’” he said evenly.

“But you are the boss!” she said loudly.

He went back to tying his laces.

“Funny how that works, ain’t it?” he said.

She paced around the room impatiently.

He finished lacing his boots tight and stood up slowly but gracefully and then he stomped both feet to see how they fit.

“Yeah, that’ll do…” he said out loud to nobody in particular.

She turned to look at him.

“Can we go now?” she pleaded.

He looked at her patiently and then walked to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup.

“When I’m good and ready. I ain’t really finished bootin up yet,” he said. “When I’m proper ready then I’ll let ya know.”

He sat down at his office desk and drank slowly from his cup of coffee. To himself and to all appearances he was alone in the room. Lost in his ruminations.

After five minutes or so he had completely drained his cup. She had tried to interrupt him several times during this interlude but he had silenced her with a single wave of his hand each time. Twice he had raised his hand an instant before she spoke, anticipating her attempts.

When his cup was empty he placed it before him on the old and weather-beaten desk, both palms cradling the still warm ceramic mug.

“Yep,” he said. “That was mighty gratifying.”

Then he stood, walked over to the high-rack and took off his field hat. He twirled it around in his hands a couple of times, running his finger along the brim as if testing it for something. Seeming to be fully satisfied with his investigations he finally placed the hat on his head, slightly askew, then took it back off, ran his fingers through his hair and settled it more evenly upon his head.

“I reckon that’ll work,” he said as if to himself.

Then he turned and looked at the woman as if seeing her for the first time.

“You ready to go now,” he asked, both casually and impatiently.

“What in the hell are you talking about!” she replied heatedly, her face reddening.

“I’m talking about doing my job,” he said as if her reaction puzzled him.

He brushed past her in a long legged stride and as stepped outside he said, “Lock up behind yerself. I ain’t yer housemaid ya know.”

He strolled out into the bright sunshine, looked around him a bit, and then crossed the street once he heard her hurrying up behind him.  That’s what bosses did…

(to be continued)

BREAKPOINT

Tonight, while readying my Work for tomorrow I had an interesting idea for a science-fiction short story.

I’m going to call the story, “Breakpoint.”

It sounds like it might be a military sci-fi tale, or maybe a sci-fi espionage story, but it actually has to do with human longevity.

The story will be a sort of reverse Logan’s Run story (I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember Logan’s Run), in a very loose way. Although it will have an altogether different point and moral.

In the future, for a very peculiar reason, it is discovered that if people over a given age undergo a certain taxing process then they will either die prematurely as a result, or they will reach their Breakpoint, and survive, and by so doing their lifespans will increase exponentially.

That’s all I’m going to describe until I write the story.

So for now I’m gonna go walk Sam and then make out my sketch notes for the story and go to bed.

See you later and have a good night. Or morning.

Whatever ya got out there.

A LITTLE MURDER STORY

A Little Murder Story – I was working on this in my mind on my way home from town one night about 11:30 or so. It has some rough language in it, and if that offends you then skip it. (I’m not a big fan of rough language myself just to have rough language, unless it is a matter of realism, then it doesn’t bother me at all.) I couldn’t write it in the car and didn’t have my tape recorder, so I had to reconstruct it from memory. Might not be exactly what I saw in my head, but it’s pretty close.

A Murder Story is as close as a title as I’ve got, but I kinda like that, so I might just stick with it.

It isn’t the full story, as I plan to publish it. But this is my Tale for Tuesday’s Tale.

Enjoy.

_____________________________________________________

“Man, you say that shit to me again and I’ll kill your punk ass.”

I sighed. Deeply even.

“Sure kid, I have a bad case of the ‘you scared me already.’ How bout we just go back on point now?”

“I told you, I ain’t got shit to say to you.”

I pivoted. More outta habit than necessity.

“Alright then, let’s try this. I’m gonna wave my left hand in the air and you’re gonna try and track it with both eyes at once. If you can do that it’ll prove to us both that you’re smart enough to do that.”

It took him a second, but I waited through it.

“Mutha-“ he stepped towards me with his chest bowed out, hands by his side, so I raised my left hand and when he looked I hit him in the mouth with my right. He rocked back for a second, kinda stunned. So as he was still figuring the right I elbowed him across the nose with my left arm. He sat down on his knees looking up, his mouth open.

To keep it moving at a brisk pace I caught him by the shoulders, bent him back double, and slammed his head back into the chewed up pavement. Hard enough his skull bounced. Then just to be sure I grabbed him by the sides of the head and did it again.

While he flirted with a concussion I rolled him over onto his stomach and cuffed his left wrist (I had been watching him, he was definitely a southpaw) to his right ankle. He was kinda fat and big boned so it was a bit of a stretch for us both, but I had come prepared for all contingencies. Sure, they always looked funny that way but then again it usually did wonders for cooperation. This guy looked like he’d at least try and dance under duress, once he was moving again, but ya just never knew. Nine outta ten times this setup did the trick.

After that I rolled him onto his side and watched for signs of life. Sure enough he began to display a few. So I pulled out my knife to firm it up a little.

“Okey-dokey, here we go city bang-bang. Now you do believe in blood at first sight? Right? Cause I think this is the part where you tell me all about how you’re gonna saw my head off with my own knife, rape my mother, eat my dog, and commit all of the other higher level functions you’re so expert at. Boo-yah and brimstones! Or, on second thought, we can just skip that part, if it’s all the same to you, and you can go ahead and tell me who murdered the girl. I mean I’m sure you’re frightful and all but that’s my real interest. And I’m salaried, so sooner is better.”

“Man I din’t kill no little girl.” His lip was already swelling and the blood around his nose was already blackening. That would be useful in a minute or two.

I started to step over him and when I did he tried to use his right hand to catch my leg. So I stomped on his hand. Hard. He groaned, I smiled.

“I thought we had a working negotiation. But I guess we’re still gonna hav’ta work out a few mutual misunderstandings. I’ll go first if you don’t mind.”

I kicked him in the solar plexus and all his breath ran out in a huff. I think he also started to cry a little. Sometimes I had that effect on certain people.

“Isn’t this exciting? Now first of all, I said murder, not kill. And secondly I said girl, not little girl. So clearly we’re still having definitional difficulties. But we can work that out. Let’s start over, for old times’ sake.”

I bent down and took my knife and cut his cheap windbreaker off him. Then as he caught his breath I cut his sweatshirt off too.

“Wooo-weeee. That really looks cold. Old Man Winter sure does bite iffin you give him a reason, don’t he? But that’s okay, I just had coffee and a hot Danish. I’m good for an hour or two.”

He spat and cursed some. Wiggled on the icy ground. I waited politely for him to finish.

“Boy, that was an illuminating display. Thanks for that. I’m gonna write that down for later, but for now you just try and track with me for a moment, won’t ya? See, you seem to be under two unfortunate misimpressions about our situation here.

First, I don’t have a murder warrant out on me, nor have I ever done time for a previous murder conviction. Bet you’re wondering if it’s because I’ve never killed a man, or if, unlike you, I’m just good enough to have never gotten caught. Well, we’ll get around to that part later this evening, during the entertainment interlude.

And I guess the second problem is, although I’d think it might be kinda obvious by now, even to you, that I’m not exactly what you’d call a real cop. Maybe I’ve never been a real cop. If we have time tonight we might get around to that part too. Just for giggles.”

“Man, I’m telling ya I ain’t KILLED NO GIRL!” He practically roared the last part and for the first time in our whole brief relationship he said it sincerely enough that I knew he really wanted me to believe him.

“Isn’t that sweet? We’ve finally reached the stage where you care what I think. Or think I care what you say. See, we can make progress. All we gotta do is really work at it awhile. Eventually we’re even gonna get at the truth.

But before that I’m gonna take my knife and cut off your pants. And just before you’re shivering so hard you go numb all over I’m gonna cut your balls off. You’d be surprised at the amount of truth that causes to spill out of a man. So hold on tight now, we might hav’ta go around the block a couple of times before you finally figure out where we’re headed. But I promise ya, it’ll be well worth the effort when we finally get there. And if at any time you wanna take a shortcut then just let me know. Like I said, I’m salaried. So the quicker we get at the truth, the better for everybody. Especially you.”

Then I took my knife and went to work.

It didn’t take long. I’m pretty good at my work.

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.

All of which have kept me extremely busy.

However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my business blog Launch Port, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my personal blog The Missal, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog,  Wyrdwend.

Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.

So below you will find my new Publication Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.

So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.

 

Wyrdwend – 11:00 – 12:00 AM

Monday: First Verse – Poem, Song, Music
Tuesday: Tuesday’s Tale – Short Story, Children’s Story, etc.
Wednesday: Highmoot – Reader Discussions and Commenting, Reblogs
Thursday: Hammer, Tongs, and Tools – Tools, Linked In, Essay, Non-Fiction, etc.
Friday: Bookends – Serialized Novel, Graphic Novel, Script
Saturday: The Rewrite – Reblog best Personal Posts, Review
Sunday – Sabbath

 

THE MAN WHO WENT IN ALONE – a story that wasn’t

from THE MAN WHO WENT IN ALONE

“I once heard a fable. Wanna hear it?”

I was pretty sure I already knew it, but nodded anyway.

“It’s about the man. You know, the man who went in alone.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Stop me if you’ve heard it already,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure I won’t,” I replied.

“Yeah, well it goes like this. The man who went in alone never came out the other side. The man who came out the other side never found the way back in, but that’s okay, there never was another side, and alone was all there was.”

He waited on me to say something, but there was nothing to say. I already knew that fable. The one that couldn’t be.

“Okay then,” he said. “You go in alone.”

So I did. And he was right.

I never came out again.

THE ENTITLED TRIBUTARY TALES

These two posts, The Tributary Tales, and Conan, Baba Yaga, and Tôl Karuţha will explain what I mean by the Tributary Tales.

Suffice it to say that over the holidays (in my spare time between Thanksgiving and Christmas)  I made basic, and sometimes quite complicated, plot and character sketches of the Tributary Tales I wish to write.

Below is the new and expanded list of the Tributary Tales I will write and the titles for each story. I’ll post plot and character sketches and the stories themselves as I write them. I’ve made good progress on Tôl Karuţha and on My Battered Heart already, with the second being a graphic novel script, not a short story. The Godzilla story, Rising Son, will actually be a film script not a short story. But most all of the others will be short stories or short novellas.

I will work on these stories and scripts in my spare time, they will not interfere with my business, novel, or non-fiction work.

So, here is my list of entitled Tributary Tales:

THE TRIBUTARY TALES

Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me

AeneasThe Flight from Knossos
BatmanMy Battered Heart
BeowulfThe Good King Comes But Once
Cole and HitchThe Ravine Near Ridgewater
ConanThe Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha
DaredevilBlack and Blood Red
Doc SavageSavage Is as Savage Does
GalahadGalahad and the Golden Stag
GodzillaRising Son: The Eternal Ocean is my Womb
HephaestusThe Forging of the Titan’s Chain
Horatio HornblowerThe Jib’s Complaint
Jack AubreyThe American Problem
John CarterThe City Never Seen
John GaltFree is a Four Letter Word
Kirk and Spock (Star Trek original series) – The Battleship Remission
Lone RangerThe Cold Wind at Sunrise

Lovecraftian  – The Secret Grave of Harrow Hill

Merlin The Bones of Old Stone
Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and ChingachgookBlood Feather
OrpheusNo Music May Soothe, or perhaps, Tears of Iron
ParsifalThe Sorcerer’s Swan
Philip MarloweThe Crooked Dane
Robin the HoodThe Fletcher and the Fulmen
RolandThe Menhir and the Moor
Sherlock HolmesThe Case of the 12 Septembers
SiegfriedThe Rhine-Wine (of the Black Elf)
Solomon KaneWith Evil Intent
SpenserHigh Roll Her
Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd) – Sweetly Sang yet Rarely Ventured
TarzanThe Ruins of Khumbar and the Slave Girl
Túrin TarambarThe Piercing of Melkor’s Doom

THREE PINTS OF MUSTARD

Now you’re probably wonderin why I’d do something like that. Well, let me tell you a little story.

See, long about wintertime, when the sun gets short and the shadows get long, a mocking bird drops by my place and screeches real loud. Up pops the handyman and asks what it’s all about but nobody but me can tell that kind of thing from a hole in the ground. So while the mock is high mocking and the handyman handy I thought it might be a very good occasion. For you know, doing what needs to be done.

Well after getting a flight from the bird and right around nightfall it all got too dark to follow. So I decided to lead. Now where should my lead wander than out by the old stump which is better than beating a dead horse to the barn. And iffin I listened I thought I could hear em but no such luck floated where I searched the town. So for about thirty minutes or so I just sat there and waited, but the good part of that is about twenty or less.

Which brings up a point about something I’ll mention when passing is better than going along. When covering old ground, which is like swimming up river, don’t ever be surprised by what you will find. For finding is easy but difficult hardly if you happen upon losing without even a thought. Can you see where I’m going – just imagine it’s real dark, then re-imagine it all done and illumined by tricks. Now personally I like that kinda thing, but don’t try to rub it in, cause that only works in real life with people around.

So let’s get back to the story. I’m three steps ahead but seven or eight sideways which still puts me eighteen or thereabouts behind where I am. That may seem somewhat simple but believe me it might be if not for the fact that simple is three red shades of green. I just threw that in there for some background color. I figured since this story is all black and white so far, what most people need is some shade of the truth. And blood is the new black.

But don’t let that throw you or even hold it against me cause what I’m saying to ya is don’t be that way. Any old cusser can sway with the best men but it takes a real kinda courage to admit that you know.

Anywho, the man that I’m tracking has led me to a place by the rathole which can smell kinda funny when covered with cheese. Now that’s pretty rotten if you cotton to cotton but cloth gets expensive when sold by the foot. He’s rolling a bedroll but who can believe him when all that he’s told me has been up and up? That’s a question for felony fellas and if never comes never then it’s better than nothing and silly that way. As for my take of this all, well, my cut is free. And you can’t beat that for keeping your costs low.

But I’ve still got a big job and with no one left hanging why can’t we just say that when talking is pass time for what we left out? I got nothing but egghead while he roams with the birdbrains and so what can I figure but he likes it that way? You see as most people age they start to wonder what it’s really all about. And by that I mean all the things they don’t when they’re not trying to know any better. I guess that’s why when they ask me about something they nod when I’m silent and talk when they’re not. I feel bad when that happens and keep trying to tell them but semaphore signals don’t sell well these days. I guess this guy is just one a them, which means that while he ain’t looking to see me I’m still tuning away. Go figure, but try all your fingers, cause multiples breed plenty when push comes to shove. And there tain’t a adding machine for that kinda racket.

So with all cards on the table and money a swilling round the slop buckets that’s my call sign to action, and springing up backwards, I turn to my left. He sees what I’m doing and feigns right of center but nobody’s judging cause the court date ain’t set. Which is fine by me, you never know when a judgment might lead to a fashion and fools just love fashion when the runaway is lit. You know the old saying, “a fool is soon separated from his Mahoney.” Once that happens some Mick’s bound to start squealing, then backstabs are a flying like jigs in the air.

I laugh when I see that, but watch through my binocs, cause Micks in a nightfight make holes in the wall. They’re not very good marksmen and that’s bad when you’re close up, but best when you’re downtown a’ biding your time. It all happened kinda fast after that but the upshot of the downside is that a man is soon done by the company he keeps. Especially if he’s worn out his welcome by going outside of the inside he’s made. It’s a shame when your bridge is burnt under but that happens quite often when the tide rolls back out. If you take my advice you’ll avoid that kinda thing or at least prepare for the fact that your skull might just crack. Better safe than Charlie.

So if you ever come across three pints of mustard where you ought to find mayonnaise, then drop what you’re doing, and toss what you find. That’s what I did, the same day it happened, and look where it got me so who can complain?

Now you know the rest of the story.

Spread it around…

THE ENGINE OF EVERYTHING

Had a superb idea for a science fiction short story today.

The Engine of Everything.

It’s not what it sounds like. It was an interesting idea to me. It will be part of my God-Technology series.

Of course I’ve still gotta finish The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha and Scarecrow. A lot of things have been vying for my time lately and slowing me down.

Also last night I began writing a new song, Until She Is No More.

I think it will be a good song.

SCARECROW

Had a great idea for a short story the other night while walking Sam under a shrouded and obscured moon.

It will involve a Scarecrow who suddenly becomes conscious of himself three nights before Halloween. He is unsure of who or what he is, he knows only that his name is Teleman (the “distant man” or “man from a distance”). On the first night he is “pinned to his post” and can only observe what happens around him.

At nightfall of the second night he is able to “come off his post,” and wander around where he eventually encounters a beggared demon looking for someone to inhabit, a bull so fierce that it will allow no approach, a ghost whose voice and appearance hypnotize and terrorize, a man-eating bear, a monster made of shifting plagues, a pack of hungry and relentless wolves, witches bent on producing a “changeling”, an occultic warlock who plots to become a king, and three evil men (murderers working as a team). But these things are not necessarily encountered in that order.

Sometimes an encounter leads to Teleman’s near destruction, sometimes to his “hammering, burning, and folding,” and sometimes to his strengthening. Each encounter changes Teleman and eventually transforms him into something else.

Eventually, on midnight of Halloween he “returns to his post” a totally transformed thing.

So ultimately Teleman becomes both entirely different from a scarecrow and something to be entirely feared in his own right.

The story will be a metaphor of two separate but related things: the pathetic cowardice of modern man and how he can be transformed into something courageous and something once again to be feared, and the smithing and transformation and constant reworking of base raw materials into a useful weapon, a sword.

This will be my Halloween short story for this year. I will begin writing it next week and hopefully it will be be completed just before Halloween. I will write it as I’m finishing up The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha.

I already have the first line the story. It will be either, “I awoke at my post, but knew nothing of my Nature.” Or, “I awoke who I am, yet knew nothing of my Nature.”

Actually that was the line that initially inspired the entire story and plot as Sam and I walked in the woods at midnight.

I am thinking I will include some verse in the body of the short story.

THE FRAGMENTS OF TÔL KARUŢHA and other related matters

I think I need a much better Conan-vocabulary.

Howard’s writing vocabulary was much, much different than mine. (My writing and working vocabulary far more naturally resembles Tolkien’s than Howard’s.) Of course I do not want to write my Conan story exactly as Howard would. Howard had a very unusual and heavily-imagined (the kind you almost never hear used in real life) and even stilted vocabulary, which makes his books fun to read (in one sense) but also extremely pulpish and juvenile and self-limiting (in another sense).

I want to maintain the overall uniqueness of Howard’s vocabulary and phrasing without directly imitating him and without the self-limited nature of his construction and terminology.

What I actually want to do is to produce a Conan story that is obviously by me, yet similar enough to Howard’s Conan to be instantly recognizable and enjoyable and fun to read. So whereas I don’t want to directly imitate Howard’s language, I do want to pay homage to it. The same with the way I write Conan himself. There is much to admire about Howard’s Conan but much I would also change or discard or at the very least alter and modify. Sometimes even radically so.

So I am setting out to intentionally do those very things with this story. I think of it in this way, I am writing a Conan Story which one might consider as written by an entirely different chronicler (me) and which stresses certain aspects of Conan’s character and personality but pays little attention to other aspects of his personality. Or even intentionally ignores certain traits.

Still, I think that I need a much better “Conan-vocabulary” to pay homage to the character in the way I wish. I have recently been reading Robert Jordan’s Conan books and his interpretation of the character and find it superb, both in the way he mimics Howard’s vocabulary without becoming stifled and artificial, and as far as his overall interpretation of the character. Which I actually prefer to Howard’s Conan in many respects.

On the other hand I think my story’s plot is actually far superior to most of Howard’s story-plots and may even be superior to much of Jordan’s plottings. So, we’ll see how that goes.

Below are some fragments of the story I have been producing so far. Since I am writing this in the month of October I am not only making this a Conan adventure story, I am also making it a true horror story as well.

_____________________________________________________________

This shall be the introductory quote to my Conan short story of The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha:

“Of all the truly dangerous things in the world the least dangerous is this – a reckless and unwary man. The most dangerous is a crafty and cunning woman.”

Engraven upon the Guile-Stone of Khawarish

*        *        *

Her dark mouth became a bloody and open wound. A demonic and fearsome gash of portentous witchcraft which no human face should have been able to contain.

Conan stepped back in caution and concern, slowly unsheathing his sword in wonder at the sight, but in his heart he yearned not to comprehend how but only to strike. He was already well past any further desire to endure these continued onslaughts of strange sorcery and weird warlockery. Yet although this woman still fascinated him and some part of him deeply pitied her he was also frightened of her as he had never before feared any sorceress or witch. She was simply too unpredictable and too uncanny not to fear.

Something unnatural, disturbing, and horrific hovered around her as if some unnamed, ancient, and uncontrollable god, long vanished, broiled within her.

Suddenly Conan felt cold to his very marrow and he knew immediately that this was no act of nature – not of this world and not of his own. He struggled to breathe, his great chest heaving as if on fire but sluggish as if being slowly frozen by death. His throat slaved to remain open and his escaping breath snaked outwards and coiled like a glittering and ghostly Stygian serpent. Then, with a tremendous crush of agony, he felt the the bone in his lower left leg break apart and he fell like an unbending oak that had been shattered by the unforeseen summer lightning of a still distant but savage storm.

*        *        *

From the man’s appearance he seemed dangerous. Conan was certain of his own prowess but he had long ago learned to never underestimate any other man. Even women, or at least certain women, could be mortally dangerous for they could be crafty, cold-blooded, and quick. Conan therefore had become doubly suspicious for he now faced both man and woman, and both seemed warily guarded and preternaturally unknown.

“Who are you?” Conan asked in the Shemitic language for that was the speech in which he had just been addressed. He knew little of it, but could still carry on a basic conversation in the harsh tones of the tongue.

“I am Tôl Karuţha,” replied the man confidently, but Conan was instantly doubtful for he had heard some of the lore surrounding the name. Back when he had traveled the far reaches of the East. ”And this black wench is Jerabela, of the Kengan tribe of the Kushites. She is my slave and consort.”

Conan did not fully understand every word that had been said, though he understood slave well enough, having once been one. However he did quickly and unmistakably notice that the woman’s eyes had subtly narrowed with both anger and disdain at the way in which the tall and powerful man had named and described her, though she controlled herself with admirable reserve.

Conan studied her as carefully as he could in such a short space of time. She was tall, athletic, lithe, and for a woman powerfully built. Far more powerfully built than most women Conan had ever encountered, save a very few, such as the Pirate Queen. Despite the tan man’s claim she was not possessed of the bearing and comportment of slave, but rather her demeanor was proud and her stance fully erect and alert.

 

 

A HELLUVAH WORLD

“Let me speak to him alone if you don’t mind.”

The other two left the room shutting the door behind them.

“What do you mean?” he asked me again.

“I mean exactly what I said. The world needs dangerous men and it needs them badly.”

“Why,” he asked, seeming genuinely confused. “I thought dangerous men were, well, dangerous…”

“Of course they are.” I said.

He seemed puzzled, still grasping at his thoughts.

“But I still don’t understand.”

“It’s obvious you don’t,” I replied. “And that’s the shame of it all. But let’s assume you’re open minded and willing to learn. Yeah, that seems like a good place to start, you make your assumptions about me, I’ll make my assumptions about you, and we’ll see where that takes us. So, are you open minded and willing to learn?”

“I guess so,” he replied.

“Well then, your guess is as good as mine, isn’t it?”

He didn’t reply, so I didn’t continue. After a while he was finally confused enough to try and prompt me.

“Sir, I’m still not getting this.”

“No, you’re not. And maybe that’s my fault as much as yours. But let’s play this from another angle son. What did you just call me?”

He struggled a moment, thinking back on his sentence. When he thought he had thought long enough he answered.

“Sir?”

“And why did you call me sir, son?” I asked.

“Well because you’re older than me, because that’s the convention… because I respect you?”

“That’s part of it I guess. Maybe.”

I stood up and walked over to him, bent down and stared directly into his face. At close range. Just a few inches away. I could smell his breath, he could smell mine. I could see the tiny round light flecks and my reflection in his eyes; he could see the bloodshot in mine. He held in with me as long as he could, then turned away, his eyes dropping reflexively. I stayed on him. Didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. Didn’t look away.

“Sir, you’re making me uncomfortable,” he finally stammered.

“Is that right?” I said standing back up. “And why do you suppose that is?” I asked leaning back on my desk right in front of him, my arms out beside me, relaxed, but useful.

“Because you’re too close, because I was sitting in the chair and couldn’t get away, because…”

“Uh-huh, couldn’t get away. I see. Couldn’t stand up and walk away, couldn’t keep looking at me any longer, couldn’t stand up and step towards me any. Well, assuming that’s all true about you, how about we explore one more possibility,” I said lifting my hand and twirling my right index finger horizontally like it was a wheel. “Keep going son you’re bound to hop on the right track sooner or later. Let’s see if you can read sign and deduce all at the same time.”

He seemed distracted, or maybe temporarily flummoxed. But I could see the gears shifting. He was coming to it, like it or not. He looked at his own hands, then looked at my still turning finger, then glanced around the room, shifted uneasily in his chair. The he said very quietly, “Because you make me nervous?”

I raised an eyebrow inquisitively and kept turning my finger, more slowly this time. Keep at it kid, I thought hard at him. You’re gonna get this sooner or later. Just one more leap.

“Because you’re dangerous,” he finally said, looking me in the eye again. I smiled broadly, turned and went back to my chair.

“And son,” I asked him, “What do you do when you meet a dangerous man?”

He paused to consider, but it was his gut that did all the over-under work.

“I…uh, uhm… usually, I… don’t really know,” he answered.

“Would you like me to tell you what you do when you meet a dangerous man?” I said.

“Uh… sure,” he said, sliding around in his chair again. “I mean, I guess.”

“You guess a lot don’t ya kid.” It wasn’t a question.

“Well, I mean, it’s just a little disconcerting, is all,” he replied.

“Of course,” I said. “I get that a lot.”

I let my words drift off into silence. Finally he asserted himself again, sort of.

“Well… are you going to tell me?”

I folded my hands together interlocking the fingers, obscured my mouth with my construct, and imitated the hesitancy in his voice.

“Well… son… uh, ermm, do you want me to tell you, uh, you know, or do you want to keep on guessing until you can give a straight answer?”

His eyes dropped again.

“I want you to tell me,” he replied, more flatly, more directly this time.

“Good. Gooood. Very good. These are just my initial observations of course, but here goes. When you meet a dangerous man you shift around in your seat. Like you do in your head. You start thinking to yourself, ‘will, or how exactly will this guy hurt me.’ You start having trouble thinking. You breathe shallow and uneven. Your heart beats off-key. You start making excuses to leave. You become unsettled, passive, accommodating, weak-kneed, calculating position for your own safety. You drink the drink you’re offered. You eat the food you’re offered. You smile nervously. You laugh tepidly, timidly, but still you laugh. You dissemble inside yourself, hope for external distractions. You begin looking around for either an escape route or someone else to protect you. You become confused with doubt, consumed with fear, paralyzed by uncertainty. That sound about right, son, just generally speaking? As a first stab at the subject?”

He didn’t reply. Not out loud anyway. What he was telling himself was anyone’s guess.

“I’ll take your lack of strenuous objection as an acknowledgement of my astute observational skills. Do you wanna know what I do when I meet a dangerous man?” I asked him.

Rather than speak he nodded his head almost imperceptibly in the affirmative.

“Well, see, I have sort of an altogether different reaction when I meet a dangerous man. I tend to sit or stand perfectly still, watching him carefully, to see what he’ll do, what his habits are. I observe exactly what makes him dangerous.

His hands, the way he moves, how he talks to others, his influence, his level of confidence or lack of it. I look at his mannerisms, his physical gestures, does he lean to one side too much, is he flatfooted, injured, does he favor one eye, not hear well, how quick or slow is he?

I start looking for weaknesses. I don’t think, ‘how can he hurt me,” no, I think to myself ‘will I need to hurt him,’ and if so, ‘how exactly will I do this?’ Where is he most vulnerable, how do I take him down with the least resistance, and the quickest, where do I ambush him, and when? Is this guy a public danger, a private one, both? What’s the best environment to limit him to?

I become fixed, active, braced, set, poised, aware, resilient, relaxed, and also calculating, but not for my own safety. No, I start calculating how he won’t be safe anymore. Because I’m there. I drink the drink I’m offered if I feel it’s safe to do so, I eat the food I’m offered if I feel it’s smart to do so. I smile a little and I laugh a little, but I don’t confuse doing either for friendliness or fear. It’s just a play for appearance, and a chance to note more.

I don’t need an escape route; I look for ways to get at him. To get closer. To advance. I know the closer I get the less dangerous he becomes. I don’t need someone to protect me, if necessary I’ll do the protecting for others, and if necessary I’ll be the one he needs protection from.”

He looked at the cup of coffee and the Danish he had been ponderously and abstractly consuming. I smiled again, broadly and genuinely.

“Don’t worry son. See, aside from what I just told you there’s one other thing you need to know about dangerous men.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Just this. There are two kinds of dangerous men in this world. There are the dangerous men who hunt men like you. And who stalk women and children, of course, and anyone else they can dominate, or that fears them. That’s the kind of dangerous man who makes a guy like you look for an escape route, or makes you look for someone to protect you.”

When I didn’t say anymore he was quiet a moment and then he asked what I knew he would ask.

“And what’s the second kind of dangerous man?”

“Me,” I said.

“You?” he said, but it wasn’t really a question.

“Me,” I repeated. “And that’s why the world needs more dangerous men, and needs them badly. Because for every one of me there’s ten of the other kind. So whereas not all dangerous men are equal, it sure wouldn’t hurt to even the odds up a bit until they are. Then we’ll see how things square at the corners. And if they don’t which corners are sharpest and cut the deepest. Or are hardest to whittle away.”

I stood up and walked around my desk and up to where he sat. I waited. When he rose to his feet I shook his hand vigorously and in a friendly fashion. As if I’d known him for years. I slapped him on the back, I smiled, I laughed. I led him to the door and opened it wide for him.

At the exit he turned and looked at me as hard as he knew how. I saw myself reflected in his eyes again. He opened his mouth to speak, seemed to think better of it, and didn’t. I nodded as if we were old buddies.

“If you ever need a safe escape route son – I’m certainly not it,” I told him. “But if you ever need a really dangerous man for a truly good cause, I’m available.” He nodded in reply, and I almost got the feeling he understood.

Then I shut the door, walked to my desk, and went back to work. There were still dangerous men to hunt, and miles and miles to go before I could sleep again.

Sometimes it’s a helluvah world, ain’t it?

Sometimes it’s just one helluvah world.

AFTER CONAN

One more thing before bed. After I finish my Conan story, and probably sometime this Winter, I will write a Lovecraftian-type story. Something else I’ve long wanted to do but never got around to actually writing. It will not be Cthulhulian in nature (as that is usually thought of) so much as more like At the Mountains of Madness (one of my two favorite Lovecraftian stories), but rather than being set in modern times I am more likely to set it either in the distant future (sci-fi horror) or the ancient past (fantastical horror or even historically based horror).

I don’t have a real plot yet but I do have a couple of ideas to work off of.

Titan Releasing Lovecraft-Inspired Anthology The Madness of Cthulhu in October

The Madness of Cthulhu AnthologyAre you a fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness? Chances are, if you’re reading this site, you are so when we heard Titan Books is releasing the anthology The Madness of Cthulhu, which was inspired by the tale, we thought you’d want to learn more about it.

The book, which will be available October 7th, is edited by S. T. Joshi, a leading authority on Lovecraft, with an introduction by multiple Bram Stoker Award winner Jonathan Maberry.

Joshi also edited the definitive restored editions of the author’s works, and his biography H. P. Lovecraft: A Life won the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for best non-fiction…

NIGHT WRITER

Last night, well, this morning actually – at about 2:00 AM I made significant advances on my novel plus I wrote the entire introductory section (freehand – in one of my short story notebooks) of the first draft to my Conan story, The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha. (Which I will later post or serialize here.)

I was also able to entirely plot out Tôl Karuţha, though that might change if I decide to later add some things. But I am very pleased with the start of the story. I feel the story is very Conanaesque and Howardesque while still being my take on Conan rather than Howard’s. This is the version of the story that shall be a more or less straight out Howard-type Conan prose-story rather than in the style of either a Nordic Saga or a Skaldic rendering.

I really enjoy writing at night and in the early mornings between about 11:00 PM and 3 to 4 o’clock AM. And that is also the period in which I am usually most productive as a writer.

Of course I’ve always worked best at night. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing.

Have a good weekend folks.

Jack.

A COUPLE THIS MORNING – short stories

This morning, after sketching out Got You I started writing two new adult short stories. Maybe they’ll actually end up being flash fiction, or possibly just two really short stories.

Anywho, the first is about a guy and his buddy (and their problem with chicks) and the second is about a guy and his wife. Actually the second is based on a real incident between me and my wife.

Neither are finished far as I see it right now, but it’s a pretty good start for both. I haven’t titled either one. So here ya go. Enjoy.

_______________________________________________________

No. 1

“Man, why do women always say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say?” he asked.

“Hell if I know,” I said. “But I’d be happy if most anybody nowadays said what they meant and meant what they said.”

He thought about it a moment.

“Yeah, you gotta point about that man… but so do I,” he said. “Especially about the chicks.”

I nodded thoughtfully.

“Especially about the chicks.”

“Why do you think that is man?” he asked me.

“Just the way they’re made I reckon.” It was the best answer I had.

He was quiet for about twenty seconds or so. He was looking at something far away. To see if it would ever come into focus. Then he fidgeted a little and began talking again, supposedly to me, but still at something far away.

“That won’t go far to solving anything, will it?” he said, sort of wistfully.

I burst out in a short chuckle that struck me as a bit too loud and probably far too honest for what he meant.

“I suspect not much,” I said, quitter, but still laughing inside.

He turned and looked at me kind of quizzically. Then he put his hand out and slapped it around my shoulder.

“Man, you really get this, don’tcha?” he said, sounding wistful again.

“I suspect I do man,” I said. “Suspect I do.”

_______________________________________________________

No. 2

“Woman, what are you doing?” I asked her with a grunt of sharp pain.

“What do you mean?” she said, once again shifting her head in my lap to better see the movie we were watching on TV.

“I mean I have testicles you know.”

“So?” she said.

“So, every time you shift and move around you crush a testicle with your big ole hard-head.”

“Oh stop!” she said laughingly. But I was being serious.

“Woman,” I said, gesturing with my right hand in a circular motion around my entire lap. “This entire area is testiculated. You know that already. Can you not just lie still for at least one minute?”

“You’re exaggerating,” she said laughing again, and turning her face up to look at me. Her eyes were dark brown and wide, almost black. She was smiling. Her face was pretty. “You’re entire lap is not testiculated.

I wasn’t exaggerating. But I let it go.

Instead I placed my hand over her left breast and let it rest there. She looked at me, then at my hand, then back at me.

“What are you doing?” she demanded. I looked down at her.

“Well, if you’re gonna bust my balls all day then I’m at least gonna cop a feel.”

She studied my face to see if I was being serious or not. I was. Sorta.

Then she laughed, and I laughed. We both went back to watching the film.

It was still uncomfortable for me, but at least we were even.

Sorta…

THE MAN WHO MET HIMSELF

I’m writing a new short story entitled, “The Man Who Met Himself.”

Below are the three stanzas of verse that I wrote this morning to introduce the story. At the conclusion of the story I will include one more stanza of verse as an endnote or epilogue.

THE MAN WHO MET HIMSELF
The Man Who Met Himself went fishing for a different type of man
He caught himself by wishing that his nature would expand
He found that deep within him were a host of other men
He took then to a’sending them where first he did begin
The backwards part of forward is the end of where you start
The Child is just the cargo of the harbor where you part
The Man Who Met Himself went searching for the men within his breast
He observed them often lurching full of futures and bequests
He lost them when they struggled in the foreign lands they roamed
That discovery was smuggled where they made their cunning homes
The sideways part of never is the always where you aren’t
The Young Man ain’t as clever if he knows his only part
The Man Who Met Himself went looking where he’d never looked before
His reflected indiscretion mistook him – for a Janus-Headed Door
For beyond that canny threshold was a clever mewling Muse
Who sang to him of fresh souls that he never could refuse
The downwards side of Up There is the place you’ve yet to be
Can the Old Man find that somewhere is the One who sets him free?

STICK AROUND

I’ve suffered from a bad back and shoulder injury for the past week or so. This has slowed my development of, and the number of posts I’ve made to, this blog. But stick with me. As I recuperate I will be posting short stories, songs, poems, children’s stories, serializing some of my young adult and adult novels, and so forth.

I will also be linking this blog to my business blog (Open Door Communications), my gaming blog (Tomb and Tome), to my personal blog (The Missal) and to my various websites and other properties on the web.

I will also be making announcements of what I have published, where, and when.

So things will more fully develop as I fully recover and can stand sitting in my desk chair again.

See ya,

Jack.

A MAN, HIS HORSE, HIS DOG, AND A BOY

Awhile back I took Sam for a walk in the woods. While we were out I had what to me was a very good idea for a short story – a Western.

The story is basically this. A bounty hunter goes out looking for a small gang of outlaws. His dog finds a young boy, about 15, who has been taken in by the two outlaws. One of the outlaws shoots the bounty hunter’s dog and the bounty hunter kills the two outlaws, and then makes the boy help him rescue and save his dog from dying of the gunshot. (Which they do at the time.)

The bounty hunter decides to himself that as they’re saving the dog that he will sort of adopt the boy and turn him from his previous life of outlawry.

Though he never really comes out and legally adopts the boy or gives him his name. He does give the boy an alias that was his grandfather’s name, the same grandfather who had raised him, though the boy doesn’t know that until much later.

Anywho I liked the story so well that I came home and spent most of the afternoon working it when I wasn’t having to do other things. It will be sort of a long story; I’m to fifteen hundred words already.

It doesn’t run from beginning to end yet, I can see the whole thing in my head but I’ve been writing down the scenes as they come to me. The lines are scene break points. Like I said it’s not woven together yet, just scene parts. Some in order, some not. It’s told form the point of view of the main character, Thomas Hodgkins.

If you wanna comment then you’re welcome to.

There’s some cussing in a good cause at a few points, nothing gratuitous. It’s man-cussing, out of anger. But I’ve warned ya, so you know it’s there.

It’s called, A Man, His Horse, His Dog, and a Boy.

Have a good one folks. I’ve got a lot to do today, but hope you enjoy it.

 *           *           *

A MAN, HIS HORSE, HIS DOG, AND A BOY

____________________________________________________

“Oh, a little Irish tow-head, huh?” he said. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

____________________________________________________

“What’s your name boy?”

“Thomas,” I told him. “Thomas Clancey.”

“Well, Thomas Clancey, just by fortuitous accident my grandfather’s name was also Thomas. So I kind of fancy you keeping that part. As for the Clancey you’re gonna lose that.”

“Why?”

“In case that name is attached to any robberies or other outlawry.”

I thought about that awhile as we walked.

“What’s gonna be my last name then?”

“Well, let’s see… my grandfather’s last name was Hodgkins. So you can be a Hodgkins from now on.”

Thomas Hodgkins. It seemed okay.

“What’s your last name?”

“Wellford,” he said. “But you don’t want my last name.”

“Why is that?”

He stopped moving. The question seemed to surprise him.

I could see him thinking a bit and then he seemed to catch himself. So he clicked his tongue and set his horse back to walking again.

“You just don’t kid. You just don’t,” he finally said.

__________________________________________________

“I hate you!” I said. “They mightna been much but they was all I had, and they were partners with my pa, and you killed em.”

He turned on me like a copperhead and for the very first time I saw a black fury rise up in him that froze my blood.

“Tough shit!” he hissed, and his hiss was louder than a close wolf howl. “Those two was outlaws and murderers and horse-thieves and train robbers and I’m glad I killed them and if you turn out like that boy I’ll gladly kill you too.

Shoot my dog, threaten me, kill women, raise a little boy to be a piece of shit like them. Goddamnit!” He reached out and grabbed me by the collar and yanked me almost off my feet, then threw me to the ground like a dead, skint hare.

Then he pulled out his gun and pointed it straight at my chest.

“Boy, you learn one thing and you learn it right now – this very second. You ain’t gonna be like that. You ain’t gonna be no damned outlaw, not anymore, not never again. Or I’ll kill you right now and save us both the trouble.”

He trembled at the trigger for a moment as if considering whether I was really worth killing. I closed my eyes and waited.

Then he exhaled loudly and seemed to get ahold of himself again. At least for the moment. I opened my eyes to see him look at the gun, then at me, then back at the gun. He raised his pistol into the air and fired three times in quick succession. I flinched at each shot

“Goddamnit!” he shouted. “Do you want me to shoot you right now because I can do it and leave your body for the buzzards and scorpions? They gotta eat too.”

When I didn’t reply he almost whispered, “Well, do ya?”

“No…” I said tightly. I was furious inside as well but too afraid to show it.

He holstered his gun, kicked sand in my direction, and then lowered himself to stare straight in my face.

“From now on boy you’re not gonna be no outlaw. You’re not gonna be like those two bandits I killed and you’re not gonna be like your robbing, murdering old man. You’re gonna be something different. Very different. Now git off the ground and stand up like a man afore I decide to beat you senseless.”

I stood up unsurely and he raised himself to his full height but didn’t threaten me anymore.

“Now repeat after me,” he said. His sense of calm was returning, and for some stupid reason my sense of defiance kicked back in.

“And what if I don’t care to repeat after you old man?” I said.

He shook his head slowly and then slapped me so hard across the face that I fell to the ground again.

“Let’s keep up this bullshit til one of us gets tired of it boy. Wanna lay odds on who that will be?”

I was still angry, but didn’t particularly favor my odds.

I stood up.

“Now repeat after me boy.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I will not be no murdering outlaw like my old man and his no count cutthroats. I don’t have to hate my natural father but I sure as hell ain’t gonna become him.”

I repeated what he said, word for word.

“I’m gonna become something different. Very, very different.”

I repeated it back to him. He seemed satisfied.

“Now boy, you’re gonna keep repeating that to yourself, every day and night until you actually mean it. Until it sinks in. Until it sticks. And then you’ll actually be different.”

I thought about that a second and then said coldly, “Different how? You mean I’m gonna become a lawman or a bounty hunter like you?”

He looked down at me.

“Hell if I know boy, and damned if I care. But you are gonna be different. You can be a cowboy, or a ranch hand or businessman, or a mayor, or a sheriff, or a doctor, or a priest, or a teacher or a circuit riding preacher for all it matters to me. But from now on you’re gonna be different from anything you’ve ever been before. From now on you’re gonna be a real man. We’re both gonna see to it.”

He walked over to his horse, cinched his saddle tight, and adjusted his rifle.

“Now mount up. We’ve got a lotta work to do.”

While he mounted I walked over to my horse, cinched my own saddle, tested it, and swung myself up. When I was set I looked over at him and said, “I’m ready.”

He looked at me, spat, wiped his mouth, and then almost smiled. He reined north and turned away at a trot.

“We’ll see boy, we’ll see,” he said to himself.

And that drifted back to me and kinda stuck in my craw.

____________________________________________________

“You gotta kid of your own?” I asked

“Nope,” he said flatly.

“Gotta woman?”

“Nope to that too boy.” He paused a moment to rest, took off his hat, and swiped his brow. He looked out over the long horizon. He was quiet awhile and then he spoke again.

“Maybe one day I will, maybe not, but iffin I do then she’ll just have to understand that you’re part of the package now. She’ll have to get used to that.”

I didn’t know what to say, but he seemed awful serious. I looked at the ground speculating on what he might mean exactly and then I heard him continue on. I looked up to see him moving away from me and so I started walking again to catch up to him. It didn’t take long, he was lingering for me.

___________________________________________________

“That was the best damn dog I ever seen.” I said.

“Don’t cuss about old Pete,” he answered. “He deserves your respect.”

I didn’t mean anything by it, nothing bad anyway, but didn’t know if he knew that.

I looked in his direction to see if he was mad and he turned to face me. I swear I saw a tear in one eye, but then it disappeared faster than a foxfire.

He looked at me hard for a long time after that and then he reached out and wrapped both his hands around my shoulders and pulled me in close and hugged me like I imagined an old bear would. Then he pushed me back and let me go, looking away at something only he could see.

“I know son. I know exactly what you meant. That was the most fetching dog I ever had.” His voice almost choked, but he wouldn’t let it.”

Then he looked right at me. “And you were the best thing he ever fetched me. So to hell with it all, you’re right as rain. Don’t pay me no heed. He was a helluvah dog, wadn’t he, and he’d have much appreciated your comment.”

He smiled at me and maybe for the first time ever I saw inside him. Right inside him. And he didn’t bother to look away.

“Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go bury Pete deep enough the coyotes can’t get at him, shallow enough God can raise him anytime he wants to.”

I didn’t know what to say so I asked him, “Do you want me to go with ya?”

“No,” he said. “This is my job. I was there when he was born, I’ll bury him now.”

He picked up his working hat, rolled up his sleeves, and then went to closet and took out his shovel. Then he walked to the door and opened it, but before he stepped out he half looked over his shoulder back at me.

“My job is to bury Pete. Your job will be to bury me.”

Then he shut the door and left.

I walked to the window and through the dusty and uneven glass I saw him wrap the blanket tight around old Pete, lift him gently into the wheelbarrow, place the shovel over his body and start off towards the desert. With the sun running down towards twilight the dark took him quick.

So I oiled a lantern and left it lit on the table for when he returned. With any luck he’d be back before it died.

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