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.

WIP The Seventh Law of Power

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More from what is planned as the concluding volume of the Laws of Power series. The title is subject to change, but probably not. Also, no real context, except if you’ve read others in the series you might have an idea of what’s going on.

Before they departed Shalas, Marta indulged herself by going down to the docks. She already knew the Blue Moon would not be moored there, and she had no idea what she’d have said to Callowyn even if it had been. The time they’d shared was because of an Arrow Path contract, now fulfilled.

They were not and never had been friends, even though Marta had grown fond of the pirate princess now turned ambassador, and Marta had a suspicion that Callowyn felt something like the same. Yet the Arrow Path did not leave room for friendship. Friendship was dangerous.

For all concerned.

Marta heard the whisper of wings before the raven touched down on her shoulder. “Mind telling me what you’re doing?” he asked.

“Yes,” Marta said.

“You do remember that the plan is to leave Shalas before noon. Standing on the docks staring out to sea isn’t getting us one step closer to Lyksos.”

“Noted,” Marta said, and that was all.

Bonetapper blinked. “You are in a strange mood. Even for you.”

Marta sighed. “Strange mood? I am in a strange life. What I do and the way I live is not what most people do and not the way they live. It’s the only life I’ve ever known, but why does it feel so strange to me now?”

“I think it’s called ‘perspective,’” the raven said. “Most people consider it a valuable thing, but in your case, I’d ignore it.”

Marta almost smiled. “Why?”

Bonetapper paused but he didn’t waver. “The point of perspective, I have been told, is to be for a moment outside yourself looking in. Perhaps seeing yourself as others do, but mostly seeing from outside things you were blind to when confined to the space inside your own head. I hear it’s useful for other people. For you, it is pointless.”

Marta frowned. “Really? How so?”

“Because whatever you see now can’t change anything or teach you anything useful. The truth is, no matter what fresh viewpoint you achieve, tomorrow you will wake up as you are and do what you have done and will continue to do. Change your mind? I know little, but I do know the Arrow Path doesn’t work that way. You were born with Amaet’s debt, and you will bear it until…whatever she has in mind, which I suspect even you don’t really know. All perspective can do is make you melancholy. As now.”

True, I don’t know, Marta thought. She was getting more than a little tired of the fact.

“You’re a thief,” Marta said aloud. “Man or raven, you will always be a thief. You can’t stop being what you are, any more than I can. Stop trying to turn yourself into a philosopher.”

While it was impossible to be sure, Marta had the feeling, if he could smile, Bonetapper would be grinning.

“Why should I? I steal food from the dead and philosophers steal their ideas. The two are hardly incompatible.”

Marta didn’t bother to answer, mostly because she didn’t have one.

That’s too much time wasted moping on this dock. Time to be moving.

 Since there was no pull of the Seventh Law that Marta could sense, she picked her own direction. Not for any great desire of the destination. No, there was no pull there either, but any direction was better than none at all.

“Bonetapper, let’s go home.”

(c) 2021 Richard Parks

Yep, Homework Still Sucks

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Never was a fan of homework. Which is sort of ironic coming from anyone who writes anything of their own free will, but there it is. I always liked learning new things, on the other hand, but back in HS and College where most of said learning was allegedly taking place, not the homework part.

It always seemed less like learning and more like make-work. Keep them busy and out of trouble, none of which applies to writing. Not much of it seemed to apply to learning, either. Exceptions? Sure. Research projects. Most kinds of hands-on assignment putting theory into practice.

Solve every equation at the end of Chapter 4? Not so much.

All by way of coming full circle, and in my copious free time I’ve been taking an online class or two. Marketing, because any writer these days needs to at least be acquainted with the subject. And AI, because it’s gone from being a vague idea to being front and center in most of our lives, whether we realize it or not, and I’d like to have a better understanding of what it can and cannot do.

Both of my free will and choice, albeit a bit of logical coercion on the first one. Even so.

Homework still sucks. But you do what you gotta do to get to what you want.

As the Seasons Change

Snowfall

We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming. Darker days, colder at night, cold breezes, and the leaves are giving up the ghost left, right, and in the middle. Winter’s on the way.

It’s been almost six years since we relocated, and frankly I’m still adjusting. As I’ve stated before, I was born and grew up in the Deep South. Any deeper and we’d have been in the Gulf of Mexico. And…we didn’t have seasons there. Not like here in NY State, with a distinguishable spring, fall, winter, and summer. Growing up I only knew two seasons: Summer with a capital S because anything less wouldn’t do it justice. We’re talking major macho Summer. And also “winterish.” Seldom got below the +40’s Farenheit, except at night. We’d even get snow now and again. Usually only once per winterish, and then maybe an inch of accumulation, leading to panic in the grocery stores because we’re all going to starve and die and in the streets because everyone immediately forgot how to drive. Even those of us who already knew.

Now I have winter boots, shovels and a snow-blower.

Tomorrow I go to have my winter tires installed because, well, I might forget again. For old time’s sake.

One For the Road

As penance for being a day late (and we won’t even discuss dollars short), I’m posting a new story from the annals of the Black Dog. If I ever get around to doing a revised edition, I’ll add this one.

One For the Road

Casey was looking a little down in the mouth when she started her shift. Granted, it’s not always obvious when a banshee is feeling down. They tend to be a bit morbid in the best of times, but with Casey there was always a hint of joy hanging around her.

Not tonight.

Most folk wouldn’t notice, but then I’m not most folk. Name’s Bitsy, by the way. I’m a wisp. You know, those faintly glowing blue lights that sometimes lead travelers astray? Yeah, that’s rubbish. Mostly we’re out and about on our own business, and if someone is silly enough to follow a strange light in the woods? As I see things, they get what they deserve. I was at the Black Dog that evening, even though wisps can’t drink. Where would we put it? I go there for the company and conversation, and Casey is one of my favorite people.

Anyway, she was looking gloomy, even for a banshee, and especially for a part-time mixologist named Casey. It took a little convincing to get her to open up, but eventually she spilled.

“There was a death In the American branch of the O’Tooles,” she said. “I’m their banshee, so I had to be there. Obligations.”

“If I didn’t understand the relationship of a banshee to the family they’re attached to, I’d almost think you were reluctant.”

Casey shrugged. “I always care,” she said. “In a way, the O’Tooles really are my family. But humans are mayflies, you know? None of them live longer than the blink of a cat’s eye, by comparison. But this old guy…well, he lasted longer than most.”

I was having a suspicion. “Did you…meet him?”

 “Sometimes I’d attend the wakes. It’s not against the rules, strictly speaking, and usually no one notices me, but he had the Sight. He knew what I was. We had a drink together. Just a drink. Writer’s Tears. Turned out that was his favorite. He was young then.”

“I gather this happened more than once?”

She shrugged again. “As I said, he lived a long time for a human. We attended a lot of wakes. Always the same drink. If the wake didn’t have it, he brought it himself. I…I liked him. He wasn’t afraid of me. I don’t think he was afraid of anything, even death, except maybe not living the way he chose, on his own terms. But then it was his time. I went to the wake. His own wake and they didn’t have his favorite spirit.”

Casey frowned, then rummaged behind the bar, finally producing a dusty bottle. “Haven’t opened this since the leanan sidhe was here last.” She poured a shot, placed it on the bar. “Sometimes humans find this place, so if you can, Liam O’Toole, this is for you.”

Casey put the bottle away. When she turned back, the tumbler was empty. She glared at me. “Did you?”

“You know I can’t.”

She blinked. “Oh, right.”

She smiled then. “One for the road.”

©2021 Richard Parks

Laika

Today a pretend starship captain made it to real outer space. I’ve been grumping about billionaires starting their own space programs, but it’s not necessarily a contradiction to think those bankrolling the operation are terrible people and still appreciate the push they’re giving the technology. Good people can make bad choices and horrible people sometimes have the right idea.

In short, nothing is as simple as we’d like it to be.

For instance, I’ve been beating my brains out over a simple word like ‘space’ but all that comes to me is the image of Laika in her little space capsule, Sputnik 2. She was the first creature from this planet to go into orbit. She was also a deliberate sacrifice on the altar of science.

I’m not sure when I found out that Laika went into orbit with no chance of returning safely. Laika was a stray. The Russians liked using strays for their early tests, mostly because they were used to a harsh life of deprivation and cold on the streets. Laika was one of several dogs tested for the mission, mostly by placing them into smaller and smaller crates to see which ones went the least insane. Laika, a spitz-husky mix, was the winner.

She was launched, depending on who you ask, with either seven days of food and oxygen or one day of food and seven days of oxygen. The alleged plan was to euthanize her with poisoned food before the oxygen ran out. Turned out to be a moot point. She was dead after four orbits when the cooling system of the capsule failed.

To be fair, at the time they knew how to get into orbit but not how to get out. That came later. Laika’s main job was to prove that higher mammals could survive orbit in micro-gravity. Reminds me of the earlier days of rail travel, when some people honestly believed no one could survive traveling forty miles an hour.

Laika traveled a lot faster than that. She did make a contribution to our knowledge of space. No, she wasn’t asked if she wanted any of that. Still, regular meals, warm bed. Better than the streets, I would imagine. She probably thought she was among friends. Until they strapped her into the capsule and sent her off to die. She did that for us, too.

Nature devised a plan for her return, even if the technology of the time could not. Five months after the launch, Sputnik 2’s orbit decayed. Laika finally came home.