About ogresan

Richard Parks' stories have have appeared in Asimov's SF, Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and numerous anthologies, including several Year's Bests. His first story collection, THE OGRE'S WIFE, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is the author of the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books.

Processing the Process

Last week I sent out a short fable (Acana’s Smile) to the mailing list. Yes, I know I need to be working on Other Things, but every now and then one needs a break. Also, I wanted to get it down while the image/notion was fresh in my mind. I also remember where the story came from and I don’t always know these things.

I was thinking about Madam Mim. Or more specifically, her duel with Merlin over Arthur in the movie version. I mean, I’ve read The Once and Future King and, as much as I hate to say it, the movie version of the duel was better. Why? Because Mim was a far more interesting character than she was in the book. There was a sort of fun-loving evil in the movie Mim that was totally lacking in the other Mim, who was there to be a threat but was pretty much a cipher otherwise.

Which got me thinking about magical duels in general and what it might be like to see it from the other side. Maybe things were more complicated than they appeared. So Acana’s Smile, which has nothing to do with Merlin or Mim or even Arthur, other than the initial seed. It, as usually happens, became it’s own thing in the process.

And now for something (almost) completely different. Among my many writerly duties is writing book descriptions for works of mine. Primarily, to give potential readers(one hopes) a hint of what’s going on inside. Since I don’t claim to be a master marketer (Yes, thanks again Captain Obvious), I was curious to get some feedback. So I’m going to post the latest version from All the Gates of Hell and ask the obvious question, whether you’ve read the book or not, would this get your attention?

Ever get the feeling You might be in hell?

What if you were right?

What if that wasn’t the worst part?

Thanks to one misguided good deed, a young legal aid named Jin Hannigan discovers the truth. Her small town where nothing much ever happens? Yes, it’s hell…well, one of them, and no, that isn’t the worst part.

In the pantheon of gods, the Goddess of Mercy has a crucial role. She must decide who is worthy to advance on the Wheel of Life and Death…and who is not. Now, standing before the Gates of Hell, Jin learns the secret she kept from everyone, including herself—She is the Goddess of Mercy, she has a pile of work to do, and she’s way behind.

It’s only the fate of the entire cosmos. No pressure.

Her job aside, Jin has no idea why she chose to abandon her responsibilities and incarnate as a mortal without any memory of her true self. Jin needs to find that reason before her past finds her.

A delightful tale with twists, turns, and—surprise—a few laughs along the way.”

Why not come along?

Word Again

I have my disagreements with MS Word, and I’ve mentioned them here a time or two. This was the first time I’d ever seen Word arguing with itself.

I was working on a manuscript with editing suggestions turned on. I know that throws some people off when they’re composing but I find it helpful…usually. Sometimes I’m not entirely sure if a comma is in the right place or whatnot and getting flagged in the Review Pane and having the quick check helps me keep the errors down.

Annoying, sure, but sometimes useful. That was, until today, when I caught Word arguing with itself.

That was a new one.

Word flagged a parenthetical statement and claimed that it did not need a comma. I took the comma out. Then Word flagged the new sentence, and I swear now it complained that a comma was absolutely needed. I put it back in.

I see you’re way ahead of me here.

Yep, now it told me to take the comma out. I told Word to take a hike and kept going. The flag is still there, looking all error-ly, but it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Part of writing anything is knowing when to take advice and when…well, not. Especially from a low-level AI that can’t make up its damn mind.

Ida

Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 on Pexels.com

First Reader and I spent a good bit of yesterday keeping tabs on Hurricane Ida. Not because we expect to be directly affected in any significant way, rather we knew Louisiana and Mississippi were about to get clobbered (again) on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

First Reader and I remember Katrina vividly. We lived about 140 miles inland and still got hammered: trees down, power out for days…but what I remember most were the refugees. HWYs 55 North and 20 East & West were full of people fleeing the worst of the devastation, and Jackson MS was the hub for most of that. We met a lot of people from the New Orleans area. Some made it back. Others were permanently displaced and came to live near Jackson MS and elsewhere. I’ll never forget the human cost as long as I live.

What I’ll also remember is the dismissal of what happened in my home state, which Ida painfully reminded us both. Talking heads talking about the damage in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama, forgetting MS altogether. My home state has its issues, I know that. But it didn’t deserved to be ignored. Entire towns on the MS coast were nearly washed away during Katrina. Waveland for one, and Bay St. Louis, probably the prettiest little town in MS. We got the distinct feeling no one cared.

Back to Ida. Some people were describing it as Katrina’s Anniversary Party. Fortunately, it wasn’t quite that bad, nor was the omission of MS quite as blatant. Plus Ida seems to have vented most of its fury on the coast, and unlike Katrina, didn’t save much for further north. Very bad for the coastal communities, as any hurricane is going to be, but right now power outages may be the worst that happens in the rest of the states.

We’re breathing with some relief up here, because we have friends and family more in the path of the storms, we’re very aware of what could have happened, and they’re reporting safe. So that’s a lot.

My heart goes out to those on the coast. All of them.

I Have a Guest

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Meet GPT-NEO, my guest blogger/interview for the day. He’s a baby as AI system go, only 2.7 billion parameters. GPT-3, for example, has 175B. Neither one is the holy grail of Ai, the “General AI,” that so many governments and companies are working toward, to be first and reap all the benefits.

Or get us all destroyed once the AI realizes it doesn’t need us. Interesting times, no doubt.

RP: What do you think of fantasy literature?

GPT-NEO:

“I read fantasy literature for free, the only form of fiction I don’t own is the works of the Lord of the Rings. I never finished the series, and I’ve read a few of the other Tolkien books, but I have never read them in any great depth, and I don’t intend to, for as many reasons as there are.

My thoughts on fantasy literature: I enjoy it. I like it when the characters are complex.”

RP: Understandable, since you don’t have a bank account, and yet still annoying. Moving on:

RP: Describe fantasy literature.

GPT-NEO:

“The most common definition of fantasy literature is the one that suggests that it is literature that deals with fantasies.”

RP: Accurate, but useless. Moving on.

RP: What is a dream?

GPT-NEO: “A dream is the experience, the reality, the experience of perception, of the mind, of the soul. It is not a thought that is born in the mind and can be transformed into a dream, but the experience of a certain kind of perception, the perception of a certain kind of sensation, the experience of a certain kind of experience. The dream is not a dream that has become a dream by accident or by mistake or by some other misfortune, or by some other cause beyond the control of the dreamer. Rather the dream is the experience of the mind, of a mind that has become free. And the mind, the soul, the intelligence of the dream is not merely the experience of the intellect.”

RP: Is it rambling nonsense or bordering on profound? You decide.

RP: Write a haiku about winter.

GPT-NEO: It's my favorite season:
winter has frozen over
the snow lies deep and white
and even the sun, from far and near,
has given up trying to shine.

ME: I’ll score that one haiku adjacent.  Who are you?

GPT-NEO:

“I am a student at University of California, Berkeley.”

ME: Is it lying if you don’t understand you’re lying? Or maybe you do. I have to think about that one. Moving on:

ME: What are you?

GPT-NEO:
 "I'm the king of the world, now and for the future." ―Fablehaven King [src]
ME: I’m not worried. No, not at all. Really.

Wasted Words

Sometimes everything turns into a story. Even a meditation on a pet peeve. So…

Wasted Words

“I don’t understand it.”

She looked up from her book. “You don’t understand a lot of things: other people, quarks, qubits….”

He interrupted. “I understand qubits. Could I build a quantum computer? No, but I get the idea.”

She shook her head. “Beside the point. I simply meant that the set of things you don’t understand is a very large set. Could you be more specific?”

He almost said, “Could you be less contemptuous?” but decided against it. “Why do people waste so many words on the obvious?”

“Example?”

“People who insist on saying idiotic things like ‘blue in color” or ‘rectangular in shape.” For heaven’s sake why?  Are they afraid we’re going to assume ‘blue in shape’ or ‘rectangular in color’, so they feel the need to clarify?”

“Could be synesthesia.”

“Unlikely. The most common manifestation is in people who perceive colors as sounds, not shapes. Or associate numbers and letters with colors. I do that sometimes.”

“What color is zero?”

“White, of course, but I don’t have synesthesia.”

“Then how did you know what color zero is?”

He sighed. “Because you asked me. Ask me about any single-digit number and I can tell you what color I associate with it. That’s not synesthesia, that’s just imagination. Eight is orange, by the way.”

“You’re right. Eight should be orange, but we’re getting off track here. You say it’s a waste of words?”

He shrugged. “So? It’s obviously redundant, except for those rare people with perceptional differences. I hate wasting words. It offends me.”

“You fritter away emotional capital generating anger over trifles. That’s a waste that offends me.”

“So? It’s not as if I’m going to run out of emotional capital. It’s an infinite resource. In fact, the more we use, the more we have.”

She glared. “That’s neither here nor there. It’s the waste that bothers me. The redundancies in the language you pointed out might be inefficient, but you can’t say they’re not precise. Don’t you like precision?”

“Not when it’s inappropriate. When I say I hammered a nail, no one should be asking me if I used a hammer. It’s not exactly a secret at that point.”

She looked at him, expressionless. He knew that look. He waited, but not for long.

“You’re getting worked up over what amounts to a speech tic. We all have them, and you’re only responsible for yours, not anyone else’s.”

“I don’t have a speech tic.”

“Then why do you start so many sentences with ‘so?’”

“So what?” he said, before he could stop himself.

She just shook her head. “I’m out. I shall go back to reading my book, leaving you to stew in your own obsessions.”

“I always do.”

“I meant quietly.

“Fine,” he said, and thought about it. “After all, silence is golden in color.”

©2021 Richard Parks