Good News From the Far East

Now that the contracts are signed (and stamped, where appropriate), I can announce that I’ve sold reprint rights to “Night, In Dark Perfection” to China’s Science Fiction World Magazine.  The story first appeared in Clarkesworld #39, December 2009.

This will make the second story I’ve had translated into simplified Chinese. Looking forward to the issue, even if I won’t be able to read it.

Calling in Sick

It’s what you used to do when, you know, you were actually sick. Or really, really wanted to make an out of town concert or somewhat and knew you couldn’t possibly make it back. That’s not something I did very often. I liked my job, liked working, and it helped me keep my schedule tight. I knew what was work time, what was writing time, and how to keep the two separate. I have to confess I still haven’t gotten this new existence thing sorted yet, but still working on it.

All by a rambling way of saying this has been a rough several days. That’s right; I’m sick. Probably a sinus infection. I’ve had them before, though I think this might be the first one since moving up here. To cut to the chase, I hadn’t eaten in nearly four days. I’m only exaggerating a little. I’d had a dish of fruit, a bowl of cereal, and two pieces of toast since Thursday. The thought of food was disgusting. It’s not that I couldn’t eat, I just didn’t want to.

I woke up this morning thinking, “Today I’ll try.”

Still wasn’t hungry, and certainly didn’t want anything I was capable of making, and didn’t feel like going out. Take out it was. I’ve had soup and a little mei-fun. Not because I especially wanted it, I just thought I should. So far so good.

But for anything like a proper blog post? I’m calling in sick.

The Good Old Days Kind of Sucked

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel – Kevin Burkett
http://www.flickr.com/people/kevinwburkett

I tend to remind myself of this unarguable fact whenever I’m feeling the least bit nostalgic. First Reader and I got to discussing old TV shows we liked and at the same time how difficult they were to actually, you know, watch.

I grew up in a small town in Mississippi. First Reader spent a good portion of her childhood in an even smaller one. This was in the time before cable and satellite tv(satellite also sucks, but that’s another story). Almost everyone had these unsightly antenna poles nailed to the side of their houses because the closest TV stations were not that close.

I’m older than some of you but younger than others. Just let it be known that I was a kid when the STTOS (Star Trek® the original series) aired. Being into SF as I was, it was a hit with me. Just one problem. The local (as in 70 miles away) NBC affiliate refused to air it because it was “Too Controversial.” I feel a bit of a dope in that it took me many years to understand just what the hell they were talking about. Regardless, WDAM in Hattiesburg DID carry the series. New problem. It was about eighty miles due south of the first station. Which if you’ll recall your trigonometry put it just a little further away than the first station, whose call sign I remember but will not name.

It was too far away. We couldn’t get it.

I got to watch it now and then. I had a friend who had a new-fangled directional antenna, which could be pointed in the direction of WDAM well enough to beam it in, even if the result was a little fuzzy. Only he lived out in the country (I.E. Outside of town) and I couldn’t drive, so that didn’t work out often. I missed most of the original series in its first run. Even today I’m a little pissed about it.

That wasn’t the only thing that sucked. The conditions leading up to some people thinking ST for heaven’s sake was “too controversial” were in full swing, for one. It was a good time to read books, though, so I give it that much. Fewer distractions. But otherwise, when someone talks about “the good old days” I want to give them a shaking. There were no good old days.

There is only now.

Scottish Folksingers, Sliced Tomatoes

The title is a play on a recent dream. I dreamed I was assigned to do a non-fiction piece about Julie Fowlis, the traditional Scottish folksinger and instrumentalist. No mystery there, I’m a fan. (If you don’t know who she is, I’ve included a link to a YouTube video below. She also sang the theme song to Disney’s Brave, though that one’s in English.) Regardless, the catch was that the article also had to include a link with sliced tomatoes. Specifically of the heirloom sort.

I blame the Benedryl. It has that effect on me if I take it before bedtime. You’d think I’d have learned by now. So what do a folksinger and sliced tomatoes have in common? Fortunately for me I woke up before I had to know the answer.  Good question, though,because it’s always a good question which suggests another. This one got me thinking about fitting together the pieces of a story.

I know there are people who plot out anything they plan to write ahead of time, which will never cease to amaze me. I never know what I plan to write until I’ve written it. Which sounds all mystic and ethereal but, in its own way, is a colossal pain in the ass. That’s mainly due to story segments one writes not knowing what it has to do with the story. The sort where you feel compelled to write it exactly how you’re doing it, but have absolutely no clue how it fits into the whole. And it has to fit for the story to work, and all those weird bits which felt like asides or tangents at the time are absolutely crucial.

But how?

That’s the hard part. Writing them, by comparison, is pretty easy. Yet by the time  you’re done the reader has to see the piece as a whole, seamless, as if you could stand right there and place your hand on the book or story and say, with a straight face, “Yes. I meant to do that.”

No matter how ridiculous or far-fetched an individual scene or plot line is. In the current, slowly-progressing project, I have three members of the Fae community, each with their own unique skills and attributes, who must combine those skills in a specific way to solve an intractable problem and avert disaster. Which I’m very sure I’ll figure out any day now.

Like Scottish folksingers and sliced tomatoes.

Julie Fowlis, sans tomatoes.

 

Life, Intervening

I spent most of the day in the repair shop, getting the Yeti’s snow tires swapped for summer tires and having the alignment corrected, which required new tie-rods, and etc. The point being I didn’t have time to do a proper blog post. So in an attempt to make up for that, I’m putting up a piece of flash done for this week’s meeting. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Professional

I’m one of those people who do what they’re born to do. Sounds ideal, right?

“’Follow your bliss” was the way mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. Yes, I thought so too, once, before time and experience kicked that notion in the ass. I learned bliss has sod all to do with it; the reality goes a lot deeper.

We’ve all heard stories of the four year old sitting at a piano for the first time and playing a complete song by ear.  That’s what it was like. Something inside me was dormant until that moment, a day I will never forget. One of my friends, Jack Thompson, came back to school after missing a week due to the death of his mother. He was still in a very bad way, and everyone was being extra nice to him, which in junior high probably made things worse. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just put a hand on his shoulder.

Just like that, he wasn’t sad anymore. His grief drained out of him like a sink when you pull the plug. It didn’t go away, though. Whatever he was feeling, I felt, and then he didn’t feel it anymore. As simple and profound as that. That very afternoon he was playing ball with the rest of us like nothing happened. I don’t claim to be the quickest mule on the track, but by the third incident I figured out what happened to the ones I touch, and to me.

It’s what I do, now. People find me. I’m not sure how, but when it’s too much for them, they come to me. Lisa was the most recent. She appeared at my door one day, unannounced, as they almost always do. Appointments are optional.

“I’m told you can help me,” she said.

I invited her in, got her a cup of tea, looked her up and down. Pretty, twenty-something, with the eyes of a whipped dog.

“It’s because—“

I stopped her. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, though I knew. That was part of my gift. Fear was holding her in a relationship she didn’t want to be in. Fear was in her posture, in her speech. We agreed on a price and I took her fear away and swallowed it.

When I was done, her face was like all the rest. Not bliss. Not joy. Not even happiness, only relief. Someone else bore the burden they could not or would not.  I want to hate them all for that, only I know two things they don’t—the fear, the grief, would always return, born anew, whatever the circumstances. I can ease their troubles but I can’t cure them, only they can do that.

Something else I learned, that first time. It was right before lunch. I was hungry when I touched Jack’s shoulder. Afterwards, I wasn’t. Maybe there’s always capacity for trouble, and I don’t really solve anything, even though I’d like to.

At least I never go hungry.

-The End-

©2019 By Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.