The Martian – ****

The Martian
The Martian
|| I saw The Martian today after having read the book a month or two ago. There were at least a couple catastrophes in the book that the movie avoided but, realistically, it would have been a 3 1/2 hour movie, at least, if they hadn’t. Instead what the movie did capture was Watney’s desolation, and how instead of succumbing to it, he did all he could to save himself by thinking things through. For the most part it captured the essence book brilliantly.

The movie also introduced the rest of the Ares III mission much sooner, and I think it made for a more powerful experience. They had left one of their own behind because they had to, and they had zero reason to think he was still alive. I thought the acting was excellent and they really conveyed the sense of loss and guilt the crew was feeling. It also made the latter half of the movie more poignant when they are brought back into contact and later when they make their fateful decision.

The only thing that really missed for me was the ending. I realize its Hollywood, so to that extent I can certainly understand why they went with the Iron Man ending. The Hero, in popular culture and Hollywood, basically has to save themselves. So the book’s version of Watney waiting to be extracted, by the mission specialist whose job it is to know how to do just that, wouldn’t work. I was disappointed by it though, because I think the book’s version was far more powerful. It sent a message that we can’t all do it alone, and that we really do need each other.

Even though the ending was too much Hollywood, it couldn’t erase how great the rest of the movie was. Watney’s sense of humor and the camaraderie of the Ares III was a delight to watch. The special effects themselves were worth the price of admission, and, really, how often does Sean Bean ever survive an entire movie? It is definitely worth watching the movie, but I highly recommend the book as well, if not more.

The Art of Bookkeeping

The Art of Bookkeeping
The Brass Automaton Part XX

brass-automaton3It took longer than I had anticipated to put these last two Chapters together.  In the end I’m glad I took the extra time because I think they turned our very well, and will give Mark a lot to work with.  Speaking of which, head over to Mark Gardner‘s place for the Brass Automaton Saga’s Project Page for more about our story.

|| Sky screamed Prymgu’s name as he crumpled to a still heap at the foot of the Brass Automaton. This close to the Mirror the Automaton’s steam reserve never dropped. With its only weakness gone, the Dwarves and Sky were fighting a desperate battle they had already lost. Prymgu’s desperate sacrifice had only delayed the inevitable, letting Pelyse and Pypha pull Odc’s and Lubfash’s limp forms away from the Automaton’s killing blow.

Sky fought to remove her brass scimitar from the soft mud of the bog. Half the blade had been lost in her first thrust at the Automaton, its crisp point replaced with a jagged line halfway down the blade. She had already resigned herself to death, and she knew the dwarves had too. They had battled valiantly nonetheless, refusing to concede even while suffering grievous wounds. Sky was all too aware of her own wounds, and knew they had failed. They had underestimating the power of the Automaton and Ceridwen’s Magick, and they would all die because of it.

“For Prymgu!” she bellowed, holding her broken sword before her, “For the Dwarves! For my Sisters! For Queen Snow!”

The automaton turned to face her, implacably waiting for her desperate charge.


At the end of the path was a crumbling cabin with a trail of smoke coming from its rough stone chimney. Poedy opened the crooked front door and walked in without any hesitation. Inside was a slender dwarf with half moon glasses and ink smudged throughout his huge, grey beard. He looked up and squinted at Poedy, struggling to place his obvious recognition.

“Hello Poedy,” Poedy said.

“How’d you know my name?” the dwarf in the cabin demanded, standing up from the table and sending a flurry of parchments to the floor. “My books! Now you see what you made me do? Who are you again!?” he added distractedly as he picked up the sheafs.

“I’m you,” Poedy said, stroking his smooth face in remembrance of the beard only the other now wore. “Don’t you remember splitting me off? The parts of you that felt and recoiled from your work. You desired only Logic to keep the Books of Time, and so you sundered me off. Creating the first, and last, dwarf to not have a beard.”

The other Poedy took off his glasses and made a show of cleaning them in frustration. “You’ll have to leave. Whoever you are. There is work. Yes. Much work. These are confusing times. Very confusing. Good- Good day good dwarf.”

“My name, is Poedy. Just like you. If you truly have forgotten, I’m sure you can look it up in one of your volumes.” He gestured to the wall of books behind his flustered other self, each shelf home to dozens of leather bound volumes.

“I- That’s not important. The work. Yes, I must get back to work. Oh dear! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I’m behind! Already. It calls to me! You must leave. Yes. Leave. I must get back to work.”

“Your work,” rasped Poedy, his bare eyes darkened with burning fury, “is done.”

He unslung a brass axe from his back, its head and haft burnished from years of use. The Dwarf at the table held up a feather in an instinctive reflex of protection, but then he panicked as it dripped ink on the parchments before him. He was trying to blot it off when the brass axe rent the desk asunder before him. Fear washed across his face as he staggered back from his smooth shaved self. “But Time needs me!” he pleaded, sagging to the floor. “I have to track the ripples! The realities are my responsibility!”

“No! You cannot rescue Time from itself, any more than you can save Time from Magick. Time needs no mortal help. You know that. We know that. It’s why,” Poedy said dropping to a whisper, “you had to split everything, everything, but Logic from yourself, us, to keep the ledgers.

“Ask yourself, ‘how did it happen?’ How did you, we, split?”

“It was Time. Time came and… Time…”

“Time? Time? Or Magick?


“His name was Jarvis. I saw him again. You’ll remember too. Soon enough,” he said, calmly, but with deliberate intensity, Poedy removed a shard of the Mirror and tied it to his axe’s head.

The axe swung again.


Time slowed as Sky hurtled herself towards the Automaton. Each step was a painful struggle by itself to overcome both her wounds and the sticky ground. She could see the dwarves slumped over their comrades, only just looking up to watch her death. She saw the resolve in King Odc’s face, and knew that she would not die alone. She saw the faintest of nods from Pelyse, and was grateful for the approval she saw it convey. Her sword felt wrong in her hand; foreign in its weight and balance. Knowing she could only thrust, she committed herself wholly to the attack, surrendering any defense. The Automaton pivoted as though the mud were solid and began bringing its arm up and around to block her, even as its other arm was readying an overhand blow to follow.

Then, midstep, the world went white in a flash. Everything, even her own hands, disappeared from sight into a wash of piercing brightness, only to instantly give way in a snap to abject, blank darkness. She staggered to a stop in a world that had suddenly turned blacker than the deepest of their caves. Silence enveloped her, muting even the beating of her heart. The smells of the swamp, of battle, evaporated as though they had never been. She couldn’t even feel her limbs, let alone the heft of her sword.

Then, slowly, the darkness gave way to haze, as if Reality itself were groggily waking from a deep slumber. She felt the wight of the sword, and the smell of rot. Then, amongst a tangle of images, the Automaton began to resolve. It’s armor was blurred, and still more mist than metal, when she saw, in a fleck of Time, it’s true face. Her face. She stabbed without hesitation, feeling her sword shudder through the Automaton’s unprotected neck. It fell to its knees, pulling the sword from her hand as Reality sharpened from the haze with a thunderous *KRAZACK*

Sky stood over the Automaton as it slumped to one side. Sky looked down upon herself, her dead form partially encased in brass that hadn’t been fully able to form. She shuddered at the pockets of raw flesh surrounded and enmeshed by polished metal. Sky’s retching was interrupted by a gentle hand pulling her away from the vileness.

“The Prophecies said that only the Queen could kill herself,” King Odc said in fast, rasping breathes. “There is more I would have you know before we die.”

D. Paul Angel88x31
1,136 Words

The Sorrow of Obligation

The Sorrow of Obligation
The Brass Automaton Saga Part XIX

brass-automaton3Head over to Mark Gardner‘s place for the Brass Automaton Saga’s Project Page

|| Rennoc Woods grew more oppressive with each step. The tall tree’s thick canopy absorbed more and more sunlight as they traveled further along Pelyse’s invisible path. Even the once thick bramble had given way to bare, hard packed ground that jolted them with every step. Sky had only ever known being a soldier and her woodcraft skills were second to none amongst the Sisters, she had tracked Tenyks through every terrain Oossah had to offer, and was almost always tagged to be an advanced scout. So she found the ease with which the Dwarves simply disappeared, even when there was naught but tree trunks for cover, deeply disconcerting.

The only exception was Poedy who hadn’t left her side since they had entered the wood, although he did seem to enjoy Cloud Dancer’s companionship more than hers. He walked with the horse’s leads in hand, and would gently reach up to pat its neck every now then. Cloud Dancer had taken years to bond to her, and was usually frightful to everyone else who encountered him, but he had even started to nudge Poedy affectionately after mere hours of marching.

Then Poedy stopped, pulling Cloud Dancer still with him. In a moment before the other dwarves appeared, each alerted. Sky didn’t know what was going on, and wasn’t about to wait. In a smooth motion she dismounted with both swords out and was scanning the treeline, near and far, for whatever the Dwarves were reacting to.

“You’ll not be needing those yet,” Odc gimly said to her. “Our fight isn’t yet at hand.”

“I must go,” Poedy said, surprising her. She had never heard him speak before.

“I know,” Odc said, as a tear was lost into the tangles of his beard.

As Poedy turned and looked at Sky, she was suddenly glad she had already had her swords out. She had never seen Poedy’s face show more than simple joy and earnestness. He had never seemed to fully understand the gravity of their situation, nor the consequences of their quest. Now there was no longer any simpleness to his face. Nor joy. Cloud Dancer shook his head in a whiny and pawed at the ground as though he battle approached.

“Poedy?” she said softly, sheathing her swords and kneeling in the harsh, scrabble dirt.

“I will miss you,” he said with a voice tinged with the kind of sadness that runs too deep for tears.

“He’ll be needing your horse, Sky,” Odc said, breaking the moment.

“I don’t understand any of this!” she spat in frustration. “What is this? What!?”

“Hush woman,” hissed Prymgu, “you’ll wake the Trees themselves!”

Before Sky could answer, Poedy took her hands in his, “I am called elsewhere. It is my obligation. My duty; my time. It is far, and time is short.

“It’s a safe journey for him,” Poedy added, nodding towards Cloud Dancer.

“Pypha?” Sky heard Odc call, “How lays the land?”

“The horse cannot go much further,” Pypha reported from his scouting. “It turns to swamp in a mile. Lung Flies, too.”

Sky nodded her assent. On impulse she kissed Poedy on the forehead, and was surprised at how cold he was. His countenance didn’t change, but he squeezed her hands before releasing them and deftly mounting Cloud Dancer despite his stature. Sky grabbed her pack from her horse, patted his neck and bade him well. He replied with a gentle nuzzle and a soft wicker before letting Poedy lead him back out of the woods.

“His fate lies elsewhere,” Odc said in response to her unasked question, “when we are through this I promise I will explain. For now though, I fear we must hurry.”

“Very well, King Odc, though you still owe me more of an explanation for Prymgu’s words about my duty.”

“I told you all I can. The less you know, the less hesitation there will be. Trust me. Trust Snow.”

“I am.”

Odc grunted and the party continued.

“Lung flies?” Sky asked, returning her attention to the journey.

“There,” Pypha said, his usual grin gone as he pointed towards a nasty cloud of white specks, lit by the afternoon’s slanting sunlight. “We’ll need to wrap our heads from here on in. They get in your lungs and lay eggs. They won’t kill their host, but they don’t give a care if they hurt them.

“Take special your nose, mouth, and ears are tightly covered.”

“Why do I need to cover my ears if they’re ‘lung flies?'”

“They may not care as much for the distinction as you,” he answered matter of factly.

Sky nodded, tightly wrapping her head too and descended towards the swamp with the remaining six.


Poedy patted Cloud Dancer’s neck in gratitude. He would have to go the rest of the way on foot anyways. Time was short, it always was, even in its infinite expanse. But, Cloud Dancer deserved more than merely a sendoff. Poedy gave him a bit of sugar, removed his tackle, and gave him a quick, but thorough, rub down.

“Find Sky, my friend,” Poedy whispered to the beast. He watched the horse walking back towards Rennoc Woods, nibbling at the grass as he went. With a wry smile, Poedy doffed his cap to Cloud Dancer’s slowly retreating haunches and returned his attention to the canyon in front of him. He could see it was a canyon, could see the sharp slopes on either side and the sparse thickets of trees lining the worn, winding path through its narrow fissure, but only if he didn’t directly look at it.

Although Nature’s creatures could see the valley, he alone of the intelligent forms was immune to the Magick camoflouging its mouth. Even then the Magick was powerful enough to block him when looked at it directly. He walked up to its edge and ran his hand across the illusion, feeling the rough stone, cool in the shadows, and warm in the retreating sunlight. Then he closed his eyes and pushed, turning the stone’s solidity into that of air. He walked forward, eyes closed in determination until he felt the coarse lines of ancient bark. He snapped his eyes open, inside the valley at last.

Our story continues with Chapter XX, The Art of Bookkeeping

D. Paul Angel88x31
1,034 Words

A Trifecta of #NaNoWriMo Inspiration

|| NaNoWriMo is once again almost upon us, and I will once again be diving in. In my imagination I’ll be able to write a couple times a day, midmorning and early evening, perhaps. Writing with the ease and wit of a seasoned author, I’ll smile as I type. Similes will radiate like a warm, summer sunset, and my my dialogue will compose itself. I’ll write in coffee shops and pubs, taking insights, energy, and inspiration from the eclectic din of the crowds. I’ll share witty banter with other NaNoWriMo’s, and, of course, watch my wordcount ring up faster than the cash registers at Costco the day before Thanksgiving.

Such would be the life, wouldn’t it? Alas, but it really is so much imagination. The truth is I’ve lived through enough realities of NaNoWriMo’s past to know that they never come close to working out that way. in ’13 I slated time off specifically to write, and even kept a notepad close to jot down thoughts about plot, characters, and settings. I ended up having to cancel most of my leave for work and lost the notepad. in ’14 I honestly thought I’d be able to do NaNoWriMo and have partial knee replacement. On both knees. Now that, I would posit, really is imagination!

So now, November looms once again. It is time. Time to take a flying leap that I know, by sheer reality, the the question isn’t so much whether or not I will be short as much as it is, by how much? I am also trying to finish a short story to send out for consideration (a first!), I am co-writing a novella with Mark Gardner (another first!), and, I am in the process of starting to sell my photographs at a local gallery (completing the trifecta of firsts!). So, to put it mildly, just what in the Hell am I thinking? Well, it turns out I’m not so much thinking as doing, and I’m taking my inspiration for this years writefest from three different places.

First, from the inestimable Tony Noland comes this fantastic blogpost about doing NaNoWriMo this year despite a schedule that makes mine look a happy puppy’s calendar; eat, play, poop, sleep, repeat as necessary. And, he’s doing it longhand! Which may be unique these days, but I’m pretty sure we’ve had more years writing things that way than not, when you think about it. So I applaud both Tony and his throwback ways, as well as his commitment to write. He inspired me to start doing #FlashFriday pieces years ago, so if he can take on NaNoWriMo with a trusty pen, a journal, and enough grammar knowledge for the both of us, then I can surely bang out something.

I also found tremendous inspiration in Delilah S. Dawson‘s “Big Idea” piece I read earlier today on Wake of Vultures. She talks about writing without worry of what booksellers, publishers, or editors are going to think, and how Eric Cartman’s “I DO WHAT I WANT!” became her mantra. In writing what she wanted to write, she didn’t just turn over one table, but all of them! She speaks about writing openly, and fearlessly, and how exciting it was. I ‘ve not only added her book to my “Read NOW” list, I am also going to draw on her words for NaNoWriMo too.

Finally, I have to confess that I found the genius of Sir Terry Pratchett far, far too late. Only in recent years have I started reading his brilliant Discworld books and I am staggered by how well he writes. I have agonized when writing fantasy to try and use “timeless” descriptions to keep the thin veneer between our world and my characters intact. Sir Pratchett deftly moved in and out of worlds, not merely writing, but storytelling with an ease that belied his well honed talent. Sir Pratchett’s works show, as perhaps nothing else can, just how amazing a novel can be when so many established “rules” aren’t so much broken as dismissively ignored.

The take from all of these is that I don’t have to write safe. I don’t have to agonize over the mechanics of plot, and whether my balance between dialogue and description is too far one way or the other. Instead I need to just throw myself into the work and have fun! Enjoy it! Make dumb jokes here and there, break the fourth wall as needed, and pun to my hearts content. Hell I can even shatter the Fourth Wall, even awhile enjoying the challenge of writing myself into the kind of corners that spawned the building of an entire apparatus for Greek plays, Deus ex machina.

My point is that NaNoWriMo for me is going to be fun. It’s going to be enjoyable, and I won’t just be letting go of the self imposed ties that I have let constrain me for far too long, so much as cutting them. I may not go to nearly as many coffee shops and pubs as I’d like, nor get enough words down to “Win,” but I know I will be true to my story.

D. Paul Angel 88x31

The Stab of Betrayal

The Stab of Betrayal
The Brass Automaton Saga Part XVI

brass-automaton3Mark Gardner started the Brass Automaton Saga over at Article 94 and then invited me to play along.  His Project Page has links to all of the stories and background on the story itself, which is a mashup between Terminator and Snow White.  If you’re new to our endeavor, it is the best place to get caught up.

|| John recoiled from the figure’s words. Fury surged through him for even considering this could be his Reese, his long dead tutor, compatriot; friend. He scrambled back from the figure grabbing his sword again as a glint of moonlight showed where he had dropped it.

“Foul creature! I shall have your blood!”

“I am Reese, John. You loved me. I am here through that Love. Remember?”

“I will see you for what you are yet!” John exclaimed, holding the sword out and pulling a large, intricately cut Crystal on a thin, black cord from his shirt. It was like the crystals issued to the Castle for dispelling simple Magicks, only it was far, far more powerful. “We will see who you are, or what you are, soon enough.”

Yanking on the cord to snap it free, he held the Crystal aloft, its facets reflecting dots of moonlight around the dark clearing. He began slowly circling it above his head, waiting for the vapors of Magick to clear and see Reality. As he waiting for the Crystal to dispel the Magick he found himself again indebted to the counsel of Jarvis for urging him to always wear the Crystal. The Crystal’s pendulum turn smoothed, its rhythmic thrumming the only sound in the clearing. “Reese” merely stood there, hands folded and head cocked, looking at John with the patient disappointment he so well remembered from his most embarrassing of failures.

“How much longer are you going to need to see that I am Reese, John?”

“This can only be Magick! Even if what you say is true, only Magick can bring you here.”

“No, John, Love brought me here. The love you shared with Reese was strong enough that the Third Power, Love, summoned me.”

“Magick and Time are the only Powers,” he replied, remembering his lessons.”

“Magick and Time are the only Powers humanity can control. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a third that is uncontrollable. Time is incessant with clear rules but without form. Magick can be shaped, but it waxes and wanes and is governed by capricious rules. Love though, Love is more powerful than either, but cannot be controlled by conscious thought or action. Since Love does what Love will, and can never be used otherwise, humanity overlooks it.”

“How do you know this then?” asked John, allowing the Crystal to stop it perambulations.

“Because I am here. Because I am not the Reese you knew but another that is yet her, and my heart can still feel her love for you. And, because my head knows the betrayal of your Queen. Only so great of a betrayal by one you so fully love could have brought me here. Only the other you loved, and lost, could Love beckon.”

“Then speak,” John said, raising himself to his full height and lowering his sword, “Speak of this betrayal you know.”

“It gives me no pleasure,” Reese said, tearing up, “only I can know the depths of your love, and that you have given yet more to Snow White. It is because-”

“Hold, Reese, hold. I beg you, hold. I need hear of love any longer. Please just tell me of Snow’s plans this coming fortnight.”

Reese, again on the verge of tears, shook her head in acknowledgement of John’s request. “You have become a better man than I could have ever hoped,” she said, before continuing on to describe Snow’s plans. John became sicker with ever word.


“The Sun will not tolerate me to stay, John,” Reese said, having finished her long elocution.

John’s sword remained in the trunk, stabbed into it during the strongest wave of anger he had felt. Now, with that moment gone, and the full horror finally spoken, the two sat on the trunk with the sword between them. John let the words linger a bit longer before he spoke, “I’m sorry, Reese, I should have known you couldn’t stay forever. I was just…”

“Caught up in other things, yes. I understand. I really do. Please, just do me the favor of leaving me now. I know I must surrender to the dawn, but would have our parting be of our choice this time.”

“Of course. It is the least I can do,” he said standing, “And thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, standing up well.

He briefly tried removing his sword before giving up upon seeing how deep he had buried its blade. “It’s just as well,” he said, letting go of its handle.

“Fare thee well, John.”

“Farewell Reese,” he replied, turning quickly to avoid her seeing the tears that had so quickly started streaming down his cheeks.

He walked away disappearing into the Orchard without another glance to Reese’s relief. She looked to her right at the the Sunlight light just on the jagged peaks of the Broken Mountains. The timing had been closer than she had anticipated. If he hadn’t finally noticed her walking by the kitchen door for the seventh time…

She slumped again on the trunk as the first of the Sun’s rays lit her face, instantly washing away the Magick and revealing its reality.. He looked at his reflection in the sword’s polished surface and chuckled as he imagined John’s reaction to his beloved “Reese” instantly growing a beard and morphing into his “most trusted” advisor, Jarvis. He then downright laughed remembering the Crystal. “Oh John!” he said to a brightly ripened apple at his feet,”when will you ever remember Crystal’s can never dispel the Magick of their creator!”

Mark takes the story back over with “Tendrils of Time

D. Paul Angel88x31
922 Words

The Form of Shadow

The Form of Shadow
Part XV of the Brass Automaton Saga

brass-automaton3Mark Gardner started the Brass Automaton Saga over at Article 94 and then invited me to play along.  His Project Page has links to all of the stories and background on the story itself, which is a mashup between Terminator and Snow White.  If you’re new to our endeavor, it is the best place to get caught up.

|| The wave of Darkness left as quickly as it had hit; an instant of darkness in which John still saw the afterimage of the Dwarven Guard burned into his eye. He blinked it away and looked to his personal retinue, the Royal Swords. Each wasn’t just loyal to Oosah, but to him personally. They and Jarvis were the only ones left he could trust, and even then he wasn’t sure he would have been able to without their blindness. Although their training more than compensated for their lack of sight in hand to hand combat, they were incapable of any ranged attacks. It was the only advantage John had on them, beyond their sworn allegiance of course, but it was a grim comfort nonetheless. Even so he was soon walking amongst them, with a hearty clasp of the shoulder or arm as they emerged from the spell’s clutches, reminding them of their mission and that Prophecy assured their ultimate success. (That the Prophecies were silent on whether or not anyone would survive their ultimate success was tacitly ignored.)


It was still yet hours to dawn on a late Summer morning, and John was alone in the kitchen kneading dough for the daily bread he had promised Odc so many years ago. It would be some time yet before even the Head Cook or her scullery help would come in and start making breakfast. A single, tallow candle burned in front of him, providing him what little light he needed after so many years of ritual. It had started out as enjoyable, John thought as his hands worked the dough, before quickly becoming a dreaded chore. Until his grumbling woke Snow and she encouraged him to find at least some pleasantness to the task he remembered with a smile.

Surprising perhaps John most of all, he hadn’t found the silver lining until tensions with Rooskye rose to near outright warfare. With almost every minute of his day taken up by someone who needed him whether it was husband to Snow, father to his children, or King to a nation; the only time to himself during the day was here, in the kitchen, before anyone awoke. “Solitude, when chosen, is one of the greatest gifts one can give themselves,” he’d told the kitchen staff with the deep intonations of a philosopher after they had tried, again, to “help” their King. It had been years since he had had to share this precious time with anyone. Time that allowed him to think, to refresh his perspective, and to ease the myriad hardships of rule with simple, useful work.

So it startled him when he saw movement through the open scullery door. “Who’s there?” he demanded holding his floured hands above the dough. When there was no answer he grabbed a towel and headed to the door after quickly running water across his hands. Down the rampart, walking away from him, was a figure in a dark cloak holding out a dull lantern for light.

“Halt!” John shouted, and the figure stopped. John began walking towards it when the figure held up an arm to its shrouded face beckoning silence, before motioning John to follow and continuing on. John wasn’t sure why he didn’t simply call for the guards, choosing instead to quietly follow the figure. John lost sight of it as it turned the corner of the rampart heading towards the Orchard Gate. When John turned the corner himself he found the guards fast asleep, and the portcullis up. He was trying to wake them when he looked up to see the figure standing halfway between the castle and the apple orchard. Even with the lamp held high, John could not make out the figure’s face. John drew one of the guards swords and began trotting towards the figure alert for whatever Magick was afoot.

The figure turned and was quickly lost amongst the craggy shadows of the apple trees. John knelt beside the first row of trees, breathing as quietly he could, waiting for a sign of movement. A twig snapped away to his right and he was off! Movement flashed again and he turned to intercept the form. Ducking under a branchs and dodging saplings, John burst into a clearing amongst the orchard. With his eyes now adjusted to the dark, and a gibbous Moon shining through a clear sky, John could see the clearing was really just a toppled tree giving way to the night.

From behind it’s gnarled truck the figure rose, raising again its lantern. John readied himself, raised his sword and demanded, “Who are you figure!? Show yourself!”

The figure’s left hand raised and opened to show it was empty before slowly pulling its hood back and shaking loose long, blonde hair. John peered past the light of the lantern to see…


John slumped to the ground in shock. Not his little Reese, his beloved daughter, but her namesake stood before him as surely as the ground beneath him was solid. He dropped the sword and rushed towards her, only to stop at her outstretched hand beckoning him to hold.

“Reese! How can this be!?”

“I am, and am not, Reese,” she said quietly. “There have been many Reese’s each in her own time, one whom you knew, loved, and watched die. I am another Reese, another facet of her whole, compelled here by the strength of her love for you.”

“I do not understand?” he said plaintively, as if it was once again his own Reese as they were years ago, with her tutoring him through his confusion.

“You need not understand. You need only act. You must trust me John.”

“I trust you, Reese!”

“You remember the Brass Automaton? Our flight? You remember how I knew things? Things that were impossible to know?”

“They still haunt me,” John said quietly. “I trust you as I have no other, except my Queen, Snow.”

“That’s why I’ve come, John. A fortnight from now, Snow White will betray you.”

Continue on to Part XVI, The Stab of Betrayal

D. Paul Angel88x31
1,003 Words

Why ALL Fiction is Science Fiction

Why ALL Fiction is Science Fiction*

|| Imagine if you will a recording studio. There’s a control room with tables and banks of countless knobs, switches, and slides, used to control almost every sound produced in the sound booth. Here, soundproofed from external noise the musicians, actors, or foleys ply their audiotastic trade. Writing, at its truest core, is best imagined through this construct.

The sound booth is the world we create with our words. Every story starts with one, though the inside is more akin to the holodecks of Star Trek’s later series than to a conventional sound room. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all blank including the door to the Fourth Wall. Where you, as the writer sits. Before you though is the most complicated control board ever devised. Just think about all the variables that go into this now blank world!

Every aspect of the world is under the Writer’s control, from the time period, to the physics, to whether or not Magic or Magicks or Sorcery exist, to what planet or planets on which the story is set. Or even if it is even set on a planet! Writing, storytelling at its heart, is the ONLY art form to be completely boundless. The only limit on a writer is their imagination. That’s it. You can describe professors guiding their students through ten dimensional graphs on their nine dimensional whiteboards, but it can’t actually be drawn. Nor can a color seen only by aliens ever be painted by a human. It doesn’t even matter whether or not there is a word for the concept you want to convey, a Writer has full authority to make new words as needed. Just ask Heinlein, he groks it.

Or Shakespeare.

Growing up this realm of infinite imagination was encapsulated to me as SciFi. It was taking every chain and breaking it. Reality, realism, was just another variable on a slider. It allowed for the absurdity of Douglas Adams’ universe as well as the rigorously “hard” realities explored in Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. Every story ever told, written, or daydreamed started as a boundless void; their author bequeathed with omnipotence in its telling

Almost all Fiction, however, sets these myriad dials, switches, and slides to DEFAULT.
GRAVITY: 1.000 g’s
HISTORY: Unchanged
TIME PERIOD: Contemporary
etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

The point is, just because the writer chooses to keep all the variables on default doesn’t mean the variables aren’t mutable. It is a choice, deliberated or not, to match the bounds of the story and its characters to our species’ limits. Just because the controls aren’t touched, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. It also means, that because SciFi is the realm in which the controls are gleefully manipulated in staggering combination, it would follow that the realm of DEFAULT is therefore necessarily a subset of the far more expansive SciFi.

I can certainly understand why most of the stories written take place within this world with which we are so familiar. There’s a fear that changing too many dials can not only alienate readers, but will also detract from the story as well. It reminds me of a commentator discussing sidearm pitchers I heard years ago, “You only throw sidearm when you can’t make it throwing overhand.” Applied here, that logic is an argument against tweaking dials and changing worlds as it is merely a gimmick to make up for a story that is otherwise lacking. While I can understand and appreciate this as a sentiment, I’m still disappointed when stories refuse to even so much as nudge even one of the needles.

We already live in a world with hard and fast laws limiting our ability to explore other planets, push the bounds of psychic energies, or study the arcane lore of sorcery. So it saddens me a bit when from a literally limitless expanse of not just worlds but universes from which to choose, we so often stick with this one. It feels like the equivalent of being given the gift of flight and then choosing to walk everywhere instead. Perhaps though, if we start viewing all of literature as starting with the boundless potential of SciFi we could encourage stories of greater imagination. Recognizing that the DEFAULT setting is an inherently limited subset of Storytelling’s near infinite possibilities should be a reminder that there is far more out there, well beyond its narrow view; waiting, yearning to be explored.

Write brave. Write bold. Touch a dial.

* I have seen various discussions around the Internets as to whether it is better to refer to these areas as SciFi, Science Fiction, SFF, SciFi/Fantasy, Speculative, and/or Fantastical. I grew up thinking of it under the umbrella SciFi, so that is the term I’m going with. I have yet to see a convincing argument as to why any particular one is significantly better than than the rest at conveying the concept, but you may freely substitute your particular favorite for mine as you feel best.

D. Paul Angel88x31