Pre-show by St. Paul Bouncing Team.
This was one that I pulled out of Tattoo Magazine’s flash section. I don’t remember who the artist is, but it was inked on my back by Jers at Saint Sabrina’s in Uptown, Minneapolis.
Other than I still feel mostly directionless most of the time even now, I wanted a compass rose on my back. I’m also drawn to the human eye. I was trying to between a typical compass rose, a nautical one, and large human eye, until I came across this design.
I’m not very impulsive. So after selecting this design, I waited almost a year. Meanwhile, I was giving blood at the Memorial Blood Centers. I’m O + and in demand. I love the satisfaction of giving blood, knowing that I’m helping people. It is too bad that Tattoo colleting and donating blood are in conflict with one another.
According to Memorial Blood Centers, I’m ineligible to give for 12 months after getting inked. This is the lamest rule ever. With how clean most place are now, this should be updated. So, I will give for another year while I think hard about my next one, my 5th.
Anyway, I have a large demonic eye on my back. Wow, when my parents found this one, blue north sticks up out of my collar; they just shook their heads. Nice. Well, it is my skin. Watch out! You can’t sneak up on me. I’m always alert! I have an eye on my back!
This is also my favorite tattoo. The colors are amazing. The work is fantastic. The placement works well. And it makes me feel like a badass.
Tattoo No 1, Tattoo No 2, Tattoo No 3
The best of these Christmas tales is the title story “Journey into Christmas.” The main character is Margaret Staley, grandmother whose family has always convened to celebrate the holidays. However, this Christmas everyone has an excuse and no one is coming. Margaret is on the verge of breaking down. She goes over all their excuses, phoned and letters. The only one that has not even called is Lee and Margaret has thoughts of never forgiving him. Then, when Margaret is at her worst, having set up the living room as if the family were there, Lee calls. Lee has had a baby girl. He has named it Margaret after his mother.
I will remember this story for a long time. Not only did it make me feel guilty and called call my mother, but it is a very good model for showing how a character can act out their neurosis. The show plus tell of this story is very powerful.
Streeter Aldrich, Bess. “Journey into Christmas.” Journey into Christmas and Other Stories. Lincoln: Bison Books, 1985 p. 1 - 17
Most of the stories that I have read by Reed have been his stories that were published, almost monthly, in Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine. His writing is amazing and I learn so much about writing with each and every story. I will cover more than just one story in Reed’s collection The Cuckoo’s Boys; however, the first will be The Children’s Crusade.
The Children’s Crusade is a story of human passion and drive. There have been many missions to land humanity on the cold red soil of Mars; they have all failed for one reason or another. This is story of the successful mission.
The successful mission begins with the dream of child named Philippe Rule. However, the story is told by an uncle of Tom, one of the believers. I love this perspective, which seems twice removed from the action. This voice gives the story an eerie feeling of mistrust as small discoveries are made through out the story.
The story is full of technology that seamlessly fits in with the plot and action of the story rather than distracting from it. The key piece is something called Web Mars, a virtual play ground for children where they learn about Mars, math, science, while playing games and solving puzzles. By the end of the story, the puzzles are all that matters to Tom and the believers. Solving them is a kind of a competition, all of Web Mars is a competition; children competing to see who will be chosen to actually voyage to the plant Mars.
What eats at me is how smoothly the craft of the story is hidden. I didn’t notice anyone craft tool sticking out, character, plot, details, etc, are all working in concert to make a great story. This should be my goal, the goal of any fiction writer. The craft should not distract from the experience.
The artistic style of pointillism comes to mind. When you stand back, the painting looks complete, crystal clear. So to is this story; however, with pointillism you can get close up and see what the artist was doing. As a writer, it is my job to get up close and see how it all works.
I think that the two most interesting pieces of craft going on in this story are the point of view and the why that time is handled. I’ve touched on the point of view a little but a lot of time passes in these 28 pages, about 8 years.
The story begins with Tom as young boy who does not want presents for Christmas, only money. Tom wants to donate to the Mars program so that he will be considered in the voyage lottery. Then time speeds up, but it is not abrupt or jarring. In the text, there are formal breaks, but at the beginning of each new section there are signifiers that help the reader know that a jump into the future has taken place. They are simple and unspecific, like the narrators daughter, who was being born at the beginning of the story who is 8 by the end. As the story moves through time, the reader is able to keep track by watching her age.
Not to belabor the point of view, but it is really amazing how it works. Again, the narrator is Tom’s uncle, which is that of first person witness. The narrator does not change because the story is not his own. The story is that of the Mars program as seen through the eyes of Tom’s uncle and experienced by Tom and Tom’s uncle’s daughter, Very. However, no matter how badly Tom desires to really see Mars, it is Very who gets to go. This is shocking and inexplicable to narrator. And by the end of the story, the reader realizes why this story is being told and why it is being told by this narrator at this time. This is story of how a father looses his daughter to The Children’s Crusade.
I’m really looking forward to getting into the rest of Reed’s collection. However, if you don’t want to pick up the book, you can read this amazing story online here: The Children’s Crusade.
Reed, Robert. “The Children’s Crusade.” The Cuckoo’s Boys. Urbana, IL: Golden Gryphon Press, 2005. p 15 - 43
A demographic change is affecting all Americans wherever they work and live: the rise of the flexible workforce. The global economy, increasing numbers of two-income families and the need for businesses to retain talent both in the executive suite and among low-paid workers are all having an impact on the way we work. This documentary, hosted by Bonnie Erbe, explores the latest innovations in workplace flexibility (from PBS).
I don’t watch enough PBS. The documentaries that PBS airs are typically very good to excellent. 9 to 5 No Longer was excellent.
I don’t really know what I should be doing with my life. Well, that is not really true. I know that I want to produce fictional stories. I love the act of writing. I can’t seem to find enough time to write in a day. It is the one thing besides my wife, books, and watching TV on DVD that makes me happy.
It is weird, but that one part of my current gig that I enjoy is creating power point presentations and giving them. Also, I enjoy composing email responses to customers. However, I don’t like angry customers, I don’t like talking on the phone, and even if everyone (including my employees) think that I’m a good manager, I don’t feel that I am any good at it.
I’ve gotten off topic. 9 to 5 No Longer is about a change that is taking place in the work force today. Many companies are doing away with the 40 hour work week in exchange for a culture of flexibility, as long as the work gets done and an employee can justify his or her schedule then both the employee and company is happy.
9 to 5 No Longer is change that employees are asking for and many large companies are granting to keep the top talent. The employees that are asking for this change are mostly parents that want to send more time with their children.
The segment within the documentary that I was most interested in were how really large companies allowed even their hourly workers to set their own schedules. This many mean that more employees are need to fill in, but it also meant that employees are happier and tended to stay longer, saving the company money in the long run on training in new hires.
The other part of 9 to 5 No Longer that I wish had even more coverage was service industry. In California, a new law was passed that gave employees in the service industry one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked. This should be a federal law. Being sick is not a choice. It happens and employees should have some job protection and paid time off for the unexpected.
What I was hoping that I would find by watching this documentary was hope for a future career or at least more tools to add to my interviewing toolbox. I like going into a situation armed with questions and demands. I’m a hard worker and I love to put in long hours if what I am doing has meaning for both the company and for my self.
I don’t know if my pessimistic nature holds me back, but what I got out of 9 to 5 No Longer is a real sense of despair. There was an interview with a couple that had a start up that helps people find Work and Life balance. However, they were the first to admit that finding that balance is an everyday uphill fight.
So what is my dream job, if I could create it out of thin air? That is the life question that I don’t know how to really answer. However, here is what it might look like:
Aaron’s Dream Job
30% Presenting or Instructing
10% Strategic Planning
The organization would be one that is in the business of helping people find their true potential, and be humanitarian, secular, and ethical.
Wish me luck!
Claire recounts the events that allowed for her work to be completed. She is the narrator of the story looking back at the death of her parents, her sister Julia, and her brother Simon.
The event of the story is in two separate times. The first, which sandwiches the meat of the story, is Claire receiving the Novel Prize. The meat of the story takes place in a realized flashback where Claire and her siblings have gone off the farm. Their parents had warned them not to, there could be “stray revolutionaries” lurking in the woods. Little did her parents know that by running of to play in the woods would save their children’s lives.
This flash back seems like the musings of someone who has survivor’s guilt. Claire recounts this horrid event with love. She attributes this single moment a turning point for her, and event that has lead to present moment of the prize.
However, the beauty of the story is in the future science that Munteanu has created. The terminology and applications that are mentioned seem so possible that it is a wonder why they are not real. However, in this we also find out why the family is in hiding. Claire’s father is known as Doctor Frankenstein. He created technology that was meant to improve the life of all humanity, except that instead it wiped out the world’s crop of wheat.
This is a really excellent story that you can read here: Julia's Gift.
Munteanu, Nina. Julia's Gift. The Alien Next Door.
Artist Statement (required)
Think of this, as “The Conscious Artist Statement” required of all graduating MFA students. This is eight to thirty pages in which the writer deeply explores and conscientiously conveys what s/he has learned as an artist in the process of completing the thesis manuscript The Artist Statement serves ideally as a kind of self-recognition and closure in which insights and lessons are arrived at that can benefit future writers in the MFA program. This Artist Statement should not be essential to the reader’s comprehension of the thesis. It is a separate document. (Hamline University MFA Wiring Guidelines)
If you (the few, but dedicated readers of The Soulless Machine Review) have not already noticed, I’m a bit nutty. The Artist Statement is to be written after the Thesis is completed. I begin Thesis I in the spring. The first 1/3 of my project is due February 15, 2008.
However, I have entered into Thesis with more than the 100 pages necessary for a fiction student to graduate. It is all written. Most students still have some writing to do in Thesis I. I will use Thesis I and II to revise revise and revise.
Here are the first few musings of what may or may not be the beginning of my Artist Statement.
“The easiest way to write futuristic (or futurismic) science fiction is to predict, with rigor and absolute accuracy, the present day” (Cory Doctorow, “Anda’s Game” Overclocked. p 57). This statement changed the way that I think about what I write. I have always been pulled toward headlines, the stranger the better, or in most cases, the more mainstream the headlines the better the story.
The saying goes; you need to hear something at least five times before it really sinks in. So, no matter what I pickup on it seems that I can turn it into something new and meaningful, or at least eye-popping. The Law & Order opening phrase seems work here: “Ripped from the headlines.” However, it is not quite this simple. The real work comes from the craft that produces good fiction, concrete details, vivid and believable characters, showing rather than telling, and a fun fast plot.
I started the program with the belief that I knew what it took to create good fiction and I only had slimmest of ideas. I even fought, like a child, with a few of my instructors. I still reserve a few disagreements, but I now see that the elements in any piece of fiction at the craft level, the architecture of the story are relatively similar from one to the next. The execution of this architecture varies widely. However, if you look closely you can see that plot is plot, characters are characters, and it is all held together with vivid details.
Well, that was not much, but it is a start, and it is enough for a Thanksgiving morning. It is now time to turn my attention fully to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Start your own timeline at OurStory.com
I like Obama for 2008.
What Obama has that the other democratic candidates do not is a vision for the future of the United States of America.
It is too bad that this generation is so issue focused. It is not possible for anyone person to hold each of the beliefs and values that I do in the same way that I do. If there is a person that did, that person would be me. I can back a person that does not believe in all the same things that I do or in things that I don’t.
Obama is the candidate with heart and soul and vision. What this country needs is not another common man that everyone can relate to like a certain someone that many of us have come to dislike.
Obama’s vision of the future is one that puts government back into the hands of the people, a government that looks out for the people that it has chewed up and spit out, a government that works.
I think that this up coming election is going to be the most import one that the United States has seen in a long long time. If we as a country choose to continue down the paths that we have taken in the last 8 years, then our country will be the most hated, our dollar will be the weakest in the world, and the United States will go down in history like the Holy Roman Empire.
We must change. We must have leadership with vision. We need Obama.
Jenny Myers logged on to her YouTube account, BlueRaven01. She had one new email. She got up from her desk taking two long steps across her room and locked her door. She looked into the mirror that hung on the back of her door. She wrinkled her nose and shook head.
She picked up a pillow, square covered in orange shag. She held it against her chest as she sat back down in front of her laptop. She looked that the message's subject line, "Flagged for Objectionable Content." She clicked it open.
Your recent video posting “Hot Teen Dance” has been flagged for objectionable content by user gale003.
A “Flag” means that users under the age of 18 will not be able to view your video posting and that all users will need to confirm their age to access it.
If you wish to contest the flag, please click here and fill out the review form and someone from our staff will review your posting and get back to you with a final decision in one to four weeks.
Jenny clicked Delete and the email vanished. She returned to her Homepage. Jenny rubbed the morning out of her eyes. She looked into the mirror. She watched her thin purplish lips mouth the words “objectionable” and “flagged.” She threw the shag pillow at the mirror and turned back to her computer.
She brought up her posted video, 3 minutes 16 seconds. It loaded slowly. She pressed the pause button and watched the red bar grow as her video loaded.
While she waited she flipped open her phone and looked through her texts. David, no way. thx. James, lol. Rick, w Annie. She tossed her phone onto her bed and it disappeared into the waves of black sheets.
She looked at her Google appointments. The Sadie Hawkins dance was Saturday. Jenny's eyes puffed up a little. She sniffled. She ran her fingers through her long black hair streaked with sections of Anime blue.
The video had fully loaded. She pressed play. Jenny watched her self in her room in pink sweat pants that said Runtkin Jr. High across the butt stretched wide and low around her hips and a short white T-shirt. She watched as she swung and rolled her hips to "sexyback." During the second chorus, Jenny watched, wide-eyed, as she pushed the sweats down revealing a tight black thong that disappeared between the pinkish cheeks of her butt; and then she watched as she slipped out of her white T-Shirt showing a lacy black pushup. The chorus was over and Jenny watched as she twisted, turned, and shook. Then she crawled onto her bed for a final pose.
Jenny brushed a tear from her cheek. She checked her hits. 605,052 Visitors, since she had uploaded her video before bed. Jenny smiled and retrieved her webcam hidden in her sock drawer. She turned on some music and started looking through her closet.
 Latest YouTube superstar is awkward dancing pre-teen (Video)
There is something wrong with Carl. His father and grandfather took him to the hospital where no one was able to give an explanation. The doctors just diagnosed him with an “altered mental state.” No treatments or cures could be offered. The staff of the hospital is fearful of Carl.
Carl spouting strange things in a voice that sounds like radio static, “We are the dead, and what is a needle compared to a four-hundred-thousand-pound airplane? Or two? Poke away, physician. You can’t hurt us like that.”
As the story continues, it becomes clear that part of Carl’s problem has to do with 9/11 and the destruction of the Towers. It seems likely that Carl is possessed by the angry spirits of those killed in the attack. These spirits are calling for revenge and for blood. However, these spirits are not clear on whose blood they are calling.
This story is told from the perspective of Carl’s father. There are a lot of father’s in this story. It gets a tad confusing when the narrator talks about his father, Carl’s grandfather, but it touching, and there are two examples of how men handle grief.
Carl’s father is full of hope. He does not listen to his father or the doctors. He prods Carl and plays along with the voices. He lies to Carl, when Carl is present and the voice have gone, telling him that he has narcolepsy and that he sleeps a lot.
Carl’s grandfather, the narrator’s father, uses hard work, like chopping wood to avoid the situation. He does not humor Carl or the voices. He believes the doctors when they tell him that Carl could be faking the whole thing.
Still there is something in the title that makes me wonder what else is going on. Also, the voices blame the father for something, Carl’s mother’s death, 9/11, something big. It seems that the voices what something from Carl’s father.
The ending of the story is bloody and shocking. I’m still not sure that I totally understand it, but it is a powerful symbol.
Adrian, Chris. “Promise Breaker.” Esquire. December 2007, vol 148, no 6. p. 141 – 154
The question that I get asked most often is, “are you a believer?” I am. Call me crazy, but we are not alone. Or if we are alone, it is a shame.
The design, if you are slow on the uptake is a crop circle. This particular crop circle can be found in Crop Circles: Signs of Contact by Colin Andrews on page 208. It has been given the designation of T143. No, I don’t know where it was found. No, I don’t know its name other than T143. No, I did not run out and get one after seeing Signs by M. Night Shyamalan. And, no, I don’t know if this is one of real the ones or the human faked ones. T143 is just a really cool design and I wanted a crop circle on my forearm.
A warning for people who want an extremely visible tattoo: People who do not have tattoos and do not understand tattoo etiquette will want to ask you a lot of questions. Also, if you have something non-traditional on your forearm, for example, a crop circle, a great number of people will ask you questions about ink, aliens, and your metal state.
While working at Borders, one in three customers that I would talk to throughout the day would make some type of comment, which leads me to regret. No, I do not regret the tattoo. I regret not making up more stories about why I got it. The truth as written above is simple and disappointing to most. I should have made up more stories like, I wrote my dissertation in physics on the possibility of functioning warp drive, or I got it to celebrate my 10th abduction, or I got drunk watching Alien Autopsy.
However, now I am again out of balance. I am currently seeking a design for my right forearm. I think that I want a one-quarter sleeve that starts at my elbow. I’m thinking about something that would resemble a gear to some great machine.
Tattoo No 1, Tattoo No 2
The drama of the story is between a dog and the robber. It is a little more complicated than this, but this is the crux: The robber falls in love (sort of) with a dog that he has seen around town while robbing convince and liquor stores. The dog just keeps showing up, pet here, guard dog there, until the robber steals the dog bring her back to his home. The dog has a taste for blood, a hunter. The robber catches the dog killing some small animal in the forest. The robber is appalled and punishes her. It happens again. Then on the next robbery he has to kill the clerk. There is some parallel between the dog’s violence and his. It is as if they are made for each other. Then the dog bits and rips his hand. This feels like punishment for his killing the attendant. He, however, now hates the dog. He thinks about running her over with his jeep, but doesn’t.
As a writer, I want to take away from this story a craft tool that I hope to utilize in future revisions, focus—all of the details and scenes revolve around and complicate the relationship between the robber and the dog. I have a tendency in my fiction to wander off into left field like child with ADD that likes bright objects. The economy of the story is what makes the narrative refreshing.
Hansen, Ron. “His Dog.” Nebraska. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989. p. 61 - 76
This story reads kind of like the Parable of the Blind Men, except that the Elephant is an indescribable object. This object appeared one day in a small town. It crushed a few buildings and killed a few people in the process of appearing. Everyone has an opinion and an idea of how to answer those two questions of What and Where.
The narrator is a woman that has had a unique experience a part of the Googleplex. This experience has left her jaded and more than a little bitter. When she thinks of the Googleplex, she is disappointed and angry at those with theories. She calls them liars. No one really knows what the Googleplex was or where it came from.
However, if anyone would know the answers, it would be her lover. Her lover is frozen. See, she just had to touch a small fragment of the Googleplex that was left behind as it vanished. Just as she touched it with her hand, he grabbed her wrist. It took him.
This is a strange story. I like it. It is full of wonder and pondering. The cranky narrator makes the story.
Stone, Del Jr. “The Googleplex Comes and Goes.” Full Spectrum 4. Ed Lou Aronica, Amy Stout, and Betsy Mitchell. New York: Bantam, 1993. p 99 - 111
Love of Reading Book Fair
This Wednesday, November 14, marks the start of Love or Reading's second-annual online book fair. Make sure you stop by often because there is new content (and prizes) every hour; such as:
-Free raffles-including 3 free books an hour and one large prize giveaway per day
-Ongoing Podcasts and author readings by popular authors such as Alan Alda, Kim Edwards and Pulitzer Prize Winner Rick Atkinson.
-Guest bloggers and reviewers will blog at the fair
-Forum and discussion groups
-Reader's Choice Award for favorite book jacket. Last year's winner was the mega bestseller, The Thirteenth Tale.
- Roundtable discussions with topics including How to Get Your Book Published
So, I drove my wife to work. On our way, she was telling me about an episode of BONES, The Superhero in the Alley, that she watched on her day off, yesterday. The Superhero in the Alley is the story of Citizen 14 who is found dead in an alley. The murder involves a group of geeky kids that dress up and play superhero.
Citizen 14 was really a 17 year old boy who was dying of a terminal illness. He wanted to be a hero. He tried to save a woman, his boss’ wife, from domestic abuse by intimidating the husband. It went bad. The husband killed him.
Anyway, what is it with boys, men, that we want to save people, be heroes? Why do I want to make a difference? Why can’t I be happy in my role as a middle manager? And in that role, why is it that I always want what is best for my staff? I kick and scream and I’m soft on them. I do more work so that they can do less. I don’t take much time off for myself, is that out of free that something bad might happen at work and I won’t be there to help? Yes.
I too read comics, not much any more, but I used to read a lot of them, instead, I now novels and short stories. I prefer narratives where someone, hopefully the main character is doing something noble or heroic. This character does not need to have super powers, the character just needs to have a deep sense of what is human and right.
As a writer, my fiction is filled with characters that are powerless to fight change. Their heroic acts are survival or sacrifice. Most of my characters are at the end of something, their time is up, and they must make a decision. This decision, at its most base level is the decision between their happiness and the happiness of someone else. Some of my characters choose happiness for themselves; they often end up dead. Their act of selfishness blinds them to their fate.
The real heroes make a sacrifice for another’s happiness. This often means keeping a job that they hate because it pays well and has great benefits, or never taking vacation so as to allow your employees time off, or any number of mind numbing actions that free another human being to fly.
However, in my fiction, I try to make it obvious to the reader that these heroes are not really heroes. They may think that they are, but in reality, they are just confused, that no one will ever really care about their sacrifice. It goes unnoticed and unrewarded, not that reward is ever a hero’s goal.
If I have a message in my writing, it is the age old saying, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” However, the choice has everything to do with how it makes the character feel. If you’re damned anyway you look at it, would you rather be damned for helping someone else or helping yourself?
However, Snakes and Earrings is one of the few books that I feel the need to reread. I loved every word of it.
From the moment I picked it up, all 120 small pages of it, I knew that I would not be able to put it down. It begins:
“Know what a forked tongue is?”
“One that’s split in two?”
“Yeah, like the tongue of a snake or lizard. Expect that sometimes … they don’t belong to a snake, and they don’t belong to a lizard.”
Once I read those begging lines I was hooked. This short novel is a walk through Japan’s under culture of Barbie Girls, Punk Rockers, and body alterations.
The narrative is a first person account of a Barbie Girl geisha’s haphazard love affairs that are filled with rough sex and murderers.
If you have a couple hours on a dreary day and like under culture (that is almost mainstream in Minneapolis, can’t go anywhere and not see a tattoo or pierced flesh), this book is for you.
Kanehara, Hitomi. Snakes and Earrings. New York: Plume, 2005.
1. CURSE OF THE MISTWRAITH
2. SHIPS OF MERIOR
3. WARHOST OF VASTMARK
4. FUGITIVE PRINCE
5. GRAND CONSPIRACY
6. PERIL'S GATE
7. TRAITOR'S KNOT
8. STORMED FORTRESS (Nov. 2007 U.K)
I have hunted down each and every one of these. The first six were easy. They were published by big U.S. distributing publishers. However, number 7 TRAITOR'S KNOT, was published in the U.S. by Meisha Merlin (which closed its doors in May 2007). I had to practically fight to get one. I ended up with a first edition. I don’t think that there was a second printing in the U.S. (I could be wrong). All I know is that it took a long time, more than a year after it was published in the U.K.
However, I got a copy. So, I’m happy.
Now I see that number 8. STORMED FORTRESS is due to be published in November 2007 in the U.K. I checked amazon.com U.S. and it is not even a twinkling in their eye.
So, again, I will begin to hunt. Who will be the U.S. publisher, and when will it be released. Only time will tell.
Looking at the cover, “Painsong” was a National Book Award Finalist in 1999, loosing to “Waiting” by Ha Jin. Strange thing, I was looking though the December issue of Esquire and “Plainsong” is listed in The Esquire Canon (Abridged), on page 28 of the magazine. I can’t really say what that means about the quality of the book or what I’m reading, other than it is a damn good read and a lot of others think so too.
In Response 1, I talked about one of the parallelisms that were running though the chapters that bounce back and forth between the main characters. By the end of the book I noticed another significant one, between the Ike and Bobby chapters and the McPherons chapters. Ike and Bobby are nice and ten years old and brothers. They are very close. They do everything together. They even share deep silences together. The McPherons are in their late fifties. They are brothers. They farm together. They have lived only with themselves since their parents died and left the family farm to them (that is until Victoria came into their lives).
The way that these two sets of brothers act, talk, and interact with other is almost identical. It seems that the story is suggesting that the way Ike and Bobby are now was the way that the McPherons were and that the McPherons are Ike and Bobby’s future. I’m probably stretching that, but it seems like a possibility and that possibility is a craft tool that I really must acquire.
The last parallelisms that I want to make note of is death and birth. And now that I think of it, perhaps juxtaposition would have been a better term than parallelism. In the last chapters, Ike and Bobby experience a lot of death. One of their two horses dies a painful death from a twisted gut. They watched on as the local veterinarian performed an autopsy, cutting the horse’s ribs with hedge clippers. It deeply affected them. Then, they find one of their older paper route customers dead in her chair in her living room.
The birth that takes place is of Victoria’s baby girl. This birth brings the McPherons a great joy. However, before the baby is born it is in Victoria’s womb. Right after finding the old lady dead, Ike and Bobby find their way out to the McPherons to see the pregnant girl. It is as if Ike and Bobby are seeking out a miracle, something good to offset the bad.
The effect that all this has on me as a writer is one of awe. The life and death thing is very cliché, really, but in the way that Haruf presents it, you’d never know. Instead of being cliché, it is touching and makes perfect sense. Now it is my job, as student of writing and as an author, to try to drill down to nuts and bolts of the craft driving all of this and replicate it in my own work.
Wish me luck.
Haruf, Kent. Plainsong. New York: Vintage, 1999
I was born in February 1976, in the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
People born in the Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. They are also honest, sensitive, brave, and they inspire confidence and trust. Dragon people are the most eccentric of any in the eastern zodiac. They neither borrow money nor make flowery speeches, but they tend to be soft-hearted which sometimes gives others an advantage over them. They are compatible with Rats, Snakes, Monkeys, and Roosters. (Dragon by Chinese Culture Center's Children Web Class)
I feel a deep connection to dragons. Sometimes, I feel like one, large, destructive, taking up a lot of space and energy from those around me.
Anyway, I really liked this design. At first glace, it looks like a plant, long vines and leaves. Only after studying the design is the dragon visible. This is the metaphor that I take with me though life and on my skin. At fist look, I might be a grump, but after you get to know me, you’ll realize that the grump is just a show.
Also, I felt out of balance with a tattoo on just right shoulder, Tattoo No 1, so I got this one on my left.
Here are the Links to the all the sites that were in the running:
Neil Gaiman's journal (Winner)
Avon Romance Blog
Diary of a Heretic
However, what strikes me as odd is that these blogs seem to have been overlooked:
A Dribble of Ink
Adventures in Reading
Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog
Fantasy Book Critic
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Sci -Fi Blog
Sci-Fi Book Review
SciFi Ranter Girl
The Alien Next Door
The Book Swede
The Fantasy Review
The Gravel Pit
I love reading Neil Gaiman's journal, but I think that had they been included in the pool, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, Fantasy Debut, or The Alien Next Door, might have given Neil Gaiman's journal a run for its money.
Anyway, Congratulations are due to Neil Gaiman's journal!
Next year, I will pay more attention and be sure to make nominations.
The story is almost completely in conversation. The bit that is not dialogue between the son and the customer service representative is the son’s internal monologue or narration of the phone call. The dialogue is wonderfully written. As a customer service supervisor in a call center, I have a lot of love for this story.
The customer service representative does an excellent job in handling the situation, in the beginning. She listens, asks clarifying questions, and goes beyond helpful. However, she is slowly worn down by the strange circular-logic that the son is using. She comes to identify with his problem and then helps him by ultimately fulfilling his request that the credit card company deign the existence of his father (and thus his father’s debt). She should have either elevated this call to a supervisor after a couple of minutes.
What the son does not know, or does not really care about is the customer service representative. He is focused on only his problem, like most customers with problems. What customers with problems don’t understand is that sometimes, if the customer service representative helps them, it puts the customer service representative’s job at risk. By the end of the story, I had lost all my sympathy for the son and his plight and was now identifying (probably because of my line of work) with the customer service representative.
“Daniel” is an excellent piece of writing. If you can find a copy of rock, paper, scissors, this story makes it completely worth it.
For copies of rock, paper, scissors, try emailing West Egg Literati here.
Taylor, Loren. “Daniel.” rock, paper, scissors. Hamline University: West Egg Literati, 2007
I think that is why I like Last Respects. Thompson’s story is from the perspective a grandfather that is trying to spoil his children. They are all vampires. They are on a kind of farm with live stock. The story has two aspects that I really like, one is craft and the other is content.
The craft in the story is excellent. The story begins simply with the grandfather thinking about his people and reflecting on his wife who has recently passed on. The action of the story is a dinner. At first is seems that the children are tearing apart small animals, live stock. However, by the end of the story the reader is lead to understand that the live stock is something other than pigs, sheep, or cows. The craft is how slowly Thompson reveals the identity of the live stock, and the narrator never says it, the reader just knows through the little details. However, I didn’t need the extra push that Thompson provides, that one of the characters wants to only feed on the other type of live stock, in this case non-human live stock.
The other aspect that I really liked was the references to The Last Supper. In the mythology of the story, humanity misunderstood Jesus’ message. He did not come to save humanity but to save vampires. It seems a little heavy handed, but I like that. The whole communion thing has always bugged me. Wine = blood. Bread = Flesh. Sounds like vampirism to me, cannibalism at best.
If you’re in the mood for a vampire story, then Last Respects is well worth your time. read it online by licking: Last Respects.
Thompson, D.K. Last Respects. Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest. Apex Online Archives
Perhaps that is too simple a summary for the collection, but it is part of the feeling I got while reading them. My favorite story in the collection is “No Face.” No Face is a young boy who the narrator never gives a name, he is just he. He is a fast runner for being slightly chubby. He races around town trying to stay hidden. He hides his face behind a mask, he doesn’t have one. Well, he does, but it was mutilated. He is grotesque.
However, there is an ugliness that surpasses No Face’s face. Within these pages the neighborhood boys catch him off guard and pelt him with rocks. They hold him down and beat him. They call him names.
No Face dreams of comic book hero that can make themselves invisible.
There is no happy ending to his story. There is no feel good moment. The reader is just left with a feeling of despair and a hope that No Face will keep running, that he will be able to someday escape.
Diaz, Junot. “No Face.” Drown. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996 p. 153 -160.
I am halfway through “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf. “Plainsong” is an amazing novel. It reads like a collection of points of view that move the story forward in small ways giving the reader a seemingly clear picture of a Holt, Co as a community. The cast of characters are engaging and tug on my heart strings. However, what I would like to spend a few mounts this week writing about is meaning through narrative parallelisms.
Haruf’s brilliance is not his wonderfully individual cast of characters but his ability to show how these wildly different characters are very similar though action. My telling of these narrative parallelisms will pale in comparison to the showing that Haruf paints. I will quickly focus on the two families and two examples.
Ike and Bobby are brothers in a family where the mother has moved out. Ike and Bobby are very Plain State children, softly spoken, helpful, wise beyond their years, and understand what it means to be seen and not heard. They love both their father and their mother. They don’t really understand why their parents split, but yet they understand. Then there is Victoria Roubideaux and her mother. Victoria is a teen and has discovered that she is pregnant. Her mother is disgusted and has kicked Victoria out of the house to wander the streets. These two families are in pain and struggling to find common ground. Where one story/chapter ends the next story/chapter picks up the emotional thread and complicates it.
Here is my favorite example of the literal action complicating the emotions through parallelism. Ike and Bobby accompany their father to a cattle ranch. Their father is there to check the herd for pregnancies. The description of the action of reaching up inside each and every cow feeling for the fetal bump is disgusting and amazing. There are two cows in the heard that are not with child. They separated to be taken to slaughter. The message that is taken away from this chapter is the worth of female cow. A cow that cannot become pregnant is worthless and can be discarded.
Meanwhile, in the very next chapter Victoria is in the doctor’s office receiving her first pelvic exam. The doctor explains everything as he does it. (I now know more about this process then I ever really cared too.) The reader is given a real sense of violation, as if Victoria is nothing more than an animal, a cow. Except, here is the difference, in an earlier chapter, Victoria is separated from her mother because of her pregnancy. In this case being pregnant makes Victoria undesirable and thus sent to be slaughtered on the killing floor of human opinion. Even the doctor asks Victoria if she really wants to keep her child, telling her that she is not ready and that it will be hard for her in many more ways than physical.
Paralleling these stories is an attempt to create meaning, in my opinion a very successful one. One that does not try to persuade or argue for the reader to make a political choice, but to try to understand one’s own set of values. Because I am pro-choice and believe that women are people too, equal with men, it is easy for me to come to the conclusion that the story could be trying to point out a male-centered society’s mistreatment of the female. However, I wonder what someone with a slightly different mindset would glean from these narratives.
As a writer, I wish I had better skill in arranging my narrative’s in such a way as to complicate meaning with action. This is a tool for my toolbox. I hope to use it very soon while revising my fiction for thesis.
More on “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf will be forthcoming next week.
I’m not good at remembering artist’s names and keeping track of the styles. If I have a connection with the design, that is good enough for me.
We were in California visiting her father. Jessica and I wanted some time alone, so we went to Venice Beach, a place that Jessica loved to visit while growing up. She wanted to show me the street vendors and the famous Muscle Beach.
It was a good day for walking. It was warm, but not hot. The ocean water was cold. We took our shoes off and waded out into the wave, up to our ankles. I do not like water much.
Every other shop along the ocean walk way was a tattoo parlor. I stopped in each and every one of them, I think. There were so many. I did not really know what I was looking for in an artist. I figured a tattoo artist was like any other kind of service. I was just looking for a clean place and the right design.
I happed upon this tribal fusion design by chance. It caught my eye among many others like it. It was tribal, but it looked futuristic and machine like.
I asked for a quote and made an appointment for the next day. I had to think it over. The thoughts that went through my head were ones of forever. I had no frame of reference and did not know what making a forever commitment felt like. It was this desire, to know the true meaning of forever, that lead me back to get inked the next day.
I have been searching for the artist’s panels ever since. I would like to add to my collection and those designs speak to me.
It may be short, but it is good. The story is like a dream. When I finished, I could remember a car accident, a relationship, fire, death, flying through the windshield, candy-striped socks, scars, and a burning desire.
Reading this story was so much like a dream that I do not want to reread it for understanding. I want the lingering memory of it. I want the strange details to circle around in my mind with questions, who died, who lived, who is the narrator, is someone still in danger. I like that it is all mixed up in my mind after my first reading, that it is not crystal clear.
The story became clearer after looking up the word Teind. It means to tithe. Going deeper still, it is a payment due to the devil or the fairies every seven years. There is a lot taken in this short story and a lot given. The devil will have what is due unto him one way or another.
If you have five minutes, reading this story is putting those minutes to good use.
Taaffe, Sonya. “Teinds.” Strange Horizons
What's your take on 'Urban Fantasy'? is a question that is being posed on Graeme's Fantasy Book Review.
Here is my take on the subject. Urban Fantasy in my mind is the result of taking High Fantasy elements and transporting them into a city setting. Much of what is categorized as Urban Fantasy today also happens to be modern. This means that the urban setting is today or some range of 1985 to the present or near present future.
However, to me, Urban Fantasy need not take place in the modern or real world. The only requisites necessary are, that the story take place in a city or urban area, and that some of the Fantasy elements are used (Magic, Questing, classic D&D races, a struggle between good and evil, to name only a few).
Some of my favorite recently read modern examples of Urban Fantasy:
The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams
From a Whisper to a Scream (Key Books) by Charles de Lint
Looking for Jake: Stories by China Mieville
War for the Oaks: A Novel by Emma Bull
Dork Alert! – I’m a very big fan of Modern D&D. I don’t get to play very often because of the popularity of the original. My only complaint with the Modern D&D system is guns. On the flipside, I love that a character can shop for weapons at Home Depot and Ace Hardware for a Mastercraft sledgehammer, crowbar, or my personal favorite the Fubar (however, I would have to spend a exotic weapon feat to use it). End Dork Alert!
What I don’t like is that modern Urban Fantasy has become haunted with vampires, werewolves, and tattooed emo Barbies with super powers (yet I love tattoos, I’m a strange complex person).
For other opinions see: What's your take on 'Urban Fantasy'? or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_Fantasy.
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, this was a great prompt! Thank you!
For the skinny on Asphalt Sky click: manifesto
For submission guidelines click: submissions
Interested in being on the editorial board click: Editorial Board Wanted!
Good luck 9 to 5 Poet, I wish you the best of luck!
Fox-Wilson’s story is about a young boy who is picked on and terrorized at school. He hates his class mates and the name that they call him, Scotty Potty. The story is from Scotty’s father’s point of view, too busy to really notice Scotty’s plight.
What is really terrifying about Fox-Wilson’s story is that she taken the concept of the abused and misunderstood student out of High School and put him into Kindergarten. Scotty’s signs of aggression are missed, until it is too late, a disemboweled play toy becomes a disemboweled classmate.
Even though it is November 2, a good scare is a good scare. You can read The Stranger on 9 to 5 Poet.
Congratulations on the award, Jessica.
Fox-Wilson, Jessica. The Stranger. 9 to 5 Poet
I really missed blogging! I thought that I was going to be able to stay away and focus on my MFA, but I can’t. I need to blog and what a month to come back.
November 2007 is the first National Blog Posting Month. The goal is to post something, anything, each day in the month of November. Wish me luck. I’ll need it.
Along with Miscellaneous stuff, I will post 10 reviews again this month, which I will collect into a Back Issues and post it on Dec 1.
I think that what made me miss blogging the most was reading everyone else’s blog everyday. I especially like reading Fantasy Debut, Adventures in Reading, Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, The Swivet, SciFi Ranter Girl, and 9to5 Poet. There are many more great blogs out there that I read (see my side bard for a complete list), the above listed are my daily core reading list.
However, I’m going to try and pace myself. I want to post a lot today, but I will resist so that I can post one thing every day in November.
It is good to be back!
Aaron M. Wilson