The New Age Begins

…and it’s not that different from what went before.  This first post-alteration-of-policy story is a shorty, as promised or threatened.  Human Endurance is a horror story without a supernatural element, which is a little unusual for me, but it does stick to my preference for implication rather than flaunting.

I also want to mention that this is likely to hold for some time the record for “story held only in the mind,” as the basic images in it have been drifting around in my head for at least six years but I never before got around to as much as writing down a single note to fix it in the world before actually writing the thing.  This is, I think, a poor practice, and I’m going to try to avoid it in the future.

Everyone Knows Everyone

A new Current Story up today, “All the Old Familiar Faces.”  The inspiration for it was rattling around in my head for years, coming from a passing thought of Ellie Arroway towards the end of Contactof which I will say the movie is good, but if you don’t read the book, you’re missing a large quantity of good stuff.  There’s no requirement to know the novel to enjoy the story, and indeed even if you know the novel you may well not recognize the bit that stuck in my head.

I’ll also say that my use of the tag “ghost” on this entry is extremely broad application of the term.  I very nearly didn’t use it at all.

Errors, great and small

The biggest error is one that a non-paying observer of the work here won’t have detected; the decision to adjust my frequency of output combined with an exhausting effort to return my home to a livable state reduced the length of preview window for patrons.  I apologized to them already via super-secret patron communication pathways, but I’ll admit culpability once more in the open.

The lesser error… in my eyes, anyway… is the use of a technical term as the title of the latest Current Story.  Harmonic Aliasing is not quite the right term for what goes on in the story, and I have no doubt that those who ponder analog/digital transfers in a profound way will find that this grates upon them.  I offer an apology on that front too, but you may also find an artist’s airy dismissal of pedantic nitpicking is crouching nearby, waiting to spring upon those who complain too loudly.

For those who like to know what a story is about before diving in, and that title doesn’t give much away, I’ll say this:  there is a quantity of talk these days about this current age being the last stages of pre-singularity humanity, and I’m certainly not immune to the influence of chatter.  The story is a glance in the direction of the transition from pre- to post-singularity, and because my thoughts tend to run in a particular direction, it would be fair to call it mildly alarmist.

A Day I’m Not Fond Of.

I am, excepting the Bill Murray film, not a fan of Groundhog day. This is a state which stretches back to childhood, when I first realized the stupid joke upon which it is founded and realized that it was propounded by people who come from a latitude where astronomical spring and the local effects of that season actually line up. Winter, in the gross local-effect sense, can start in my little patch of the world as early as the first week of October.  It can last long enough to see the high school seniors struggling to their grad proms through drifts of snow only slightly reduced by the Sun’s power.  All hearing about the power of a rodent to see its shadow or not does is make me want to start punching people.

I was, in fact, unbecomingly pleased to hear that one of the Canadian incarnations of the prognosticating beast had died. One should not, except in the case of specific Hitlers, take joy from the death of a fellow being. Such is the state this day puts me in.

Having said all that– I’m using today to announce something that also displeases me.  I figure that I can’t taint this date in my own mind any more than years of gritted teeth have already managed.  There’s an apology involved, too.

When I began this little effort of mine last fall (and it was, uncharacteristically, autumnal here, but I digress), I had some misgivings about my ability to keep up with an unstated pace of a couple of new stories each month.  These misgivings have borne their unwelcome fruit, for my shot-locker is not bare but it doesn’t have much ammunition left in it.  Having caught the attention of some followers over the past few months, I find I now have to admit that I can’t maintain the pace.

In a desperate bid to garner sympathy, let me explain my writing process.  The first draft is done long-hand; some people will cry out at as being a slow way of doing things, but I find an advantage to it.  I’m not tempted to fiddle away with edits when I should be letting the creative centres of the brain run freely with their tongues lolling.  Also, in this initial phase of the activity, the actual words are coming no faster than the pen can race; images, perhaps, appear more briskly, but not the words to convey them.

Second draft is the point at which things pass through a keyboard.  Since I am at this stage editing and re-working some of the more convoluted stuff the “who’s this ‘syntax’ fellow?” creative centres uttered forth, this is not brisk typing.  A particular brisk patch recently works out to about 20 words per minute.  That’s not a complaint, mind you– I can transcribe faster, but when actually processing the material, I’m quite pleased with that sort of productivity.

Third draft, which is usually what you see in the stories here, waits until a couple of patient readers look through the second, pronounce certain elements of it still gibberish, and point out that I completely forgot a verb somewhere.  This is useful stuff, and I’d hate to do without, but it’s also the work of volunteers, who act only when other demands on their time allow.

Speaking of demands on time– there’s plenty clinging to me, too.  Thanks to job, and a son who really wants his dad to share in all his joys (mainly Thomas and Friends, but with occasional excursions into more sophisticated diversions, plus sleds, swimming, and/or bicycles), I can count on as much as an hour each day to perform the writing task.  Keeping in mind that, as Douglas Adams noted, “as much as” includes the amount none at all, I get absolutely giddy when I can get a moderate-length story shoved through first and second draft in the space of two weeks.  Third draft doesn’t take much work… once the notes come back.

Even leaving aside stories that curdle in the initial draft (usually a result of point-of-view error, but in some cases a more fatal deformity), to get things polished enough that I dare let them see the light of public scrutiny takes not less than three weeks.  Without a substantial change in the household finances letting me set the day job aside, or some kind of compassion blow-out which will allow me to ignore my family completely, that’s not going to change.

I’m not… wait, that’s insufficiently emphatic.  I’ll go again.

I’m not shutting down the operation here.  I’m just letting you know, you who have taken a moment to poke the “follow” button, that there will be a little less action here.  The occasional flash story will still appear, too– those things don’t take more than a week from mere notion to gem of deathless prose (hah!).  I’d rather reduce frequency than polish, and I’m hoping the various readers of my stuff are similarly inclined.

Taking a Constitutional

The new Current Story is called A Stroll in Breda, and I have a lot of trouble deciding what genre it lies in.  It is a very gentle excursion into weird fiction, lacking the brutality of finish that marks horror, and without the overt unreality of fantasy.  As you’ll see in the tags, this had led me to stuff its octagonal peg in both a square and a round hole at the same time.

There is an something of authorial personal experience to this piece, but only trace elements.  My father does indeed come from Breda (or an immediately adjacent village which has since been absorbed), and I have stood in several of the places mentioned.  The Mastbos, for all its trim plantation nature, has the power to be a very eerie place in the right light.  The beer is unreasonably good, and not just in the little bar across the street from the old tank.

Edging Out Onto Thin Ice

The new Current Story, The Golden Oracle, is the sort of thing that a writing chap could get in a variety of troubles over.  At the back of it are a couple of authors whose works I quite enjoy.

The first burden I’m giving myself, and the one I’m content to shoulder, is one of vocabulary.  When I decided to pursue this story in the general way I did, I seemed to me that the style should match the setting, as far as I was able to make it.  Since I don’t have a publisher to please, I didn’t need to suppress that urge.  I don’t think “blatant attempt to pretend to 19th century writing style” is a trigger warning yet, but I suppose there are some who will appreciate a warning all the same.

There is another burden I look with distaste at and will attempt to leave where it lies.  I am known by some to be a fan of the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, and if that’s news to you, I don’t deny it.  The problem with this admission is that it brings with it a question of whether I also admire some of his less amiable qualities.  The way I phrase that should give a clue, but let me be clear; Lovecraft’s racism saddens me deeply, and I do not share it.  I bring this up because I’m setting a story in early 19th century England, and trying to write in the style of that time, and I’m presenting the reactions of people of that time and place to foreigners.  I try to go no farther than I absolutely have to, but people do like to impute a writer’s attitudes by holding up characters as an example.

On a final note, I’ll admit to there being an element of hubris at work here as well.  The initial inspiration for this story was a bit in the middle of Sheridan le Fanu’s The Room at the Dragon Volant which is marvelously weird on its face… but for one who spent a childhood in the 1970s getting very angry with Scooby Doo’s approach to the supernatural, it felt like a big fat cheat when the truth of it was unveiled.  I wrote this story in part to get the taste of that out of my mouth.

I will still bow to le Fanu, generally.  I know my place.

It Lacks, Alas, 76 Trombones

The new Current Story, which like the one it replaces is a flash, is offset in season.  I had expected, when getting my batting order sorted out, that the December/January transition would find much of North America wriggling in the grip of tyrant Winter and we’d all like a vicarious excursion into summer.

Mild temperatures, however, seem to be the norm this year, although there have been some odd extremities of wind and snow in some locations.  The Mermaid Parade remains the new story, though, because however wanting in chill it is, there’s still a bleakness to winter that I don’t mind being distracted from for a moment.

I’ll also mention that the genesis of the story was from merely reading the phrase “Mermaid Parade” in a state of profound ignorance as to how the actual item (which there is one of; if this is news to you as it was to me, here’s the straight goods on it) was conducted.  After some giggling at the more whimsical mental images, this story is what fell out of my head.  As with most stuff that drops from that chamber, it has little to do with the real world, and I hope anyone who has a deep and abiding fondness for the actual parade will forgive the excursion I took.


A quick little Christmas story for those who aren’t completely distracted by wrapping gifts and watching Alastair Sim go bonkers, and it is indeed based on a true story (exclamation point).

If you’re at all sensible, you’re on your guard now.  If one is willing to carefully file facts to fit, every item of fiction can be found to have a real-world foundation… or rather, some real-world event can be pressed into service.

But, yes, this is based on a real-world event.  I was recently in a room with a TV showing a broadcast image of a fireplace.  That actually happened.

Merry Christmas to everyone to whom it is appropriate.  I’ll also wish an appropriate mix of jollity and reflection for any who observe a different solstice-proximate holiday, of which there are many.  Now, I’m off to wrap presents and get goofy on egg nog.

Christmas Vacation

With the exception of one anomalous year, I have never travelled at Christmas; I have enjoyed the luxury of living in the same city as my immediate family nearly my whole life.  This is not to say that I don’t want to travel, and indeed would travel a lot if means were at hand.  Since they’re not, I have to do my travelling in my imagination most of the time.

For example, there’s a bit of a framing device in the new Current Story, The Healing Power of Crystals, which suggests a trip to England undertaken by me and my wife.  Flummery, alas– she’s never been to Blighty, apart from a brief layover in Heathrow nearly twenty years ago (a frustration which still occasionally sets her quivering).  When we do go, I say with unfounded optimism, I hope any of our stops offer anything near this sort of entertainment.

To those who find themselves wondering why this story isn’t particularly Christmas-flavoured, I offer this defence: M.R. James’s stuff wasn’t often seasonally thematic either.

A Tiny Present

This weekend, my generally quite North American family will be observing Sinterklaasje (fellow long-time fans of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast will understand what it means to say that some of the background noise of my childhood was in the Dutch language).  Our idiosyncratic approach to the day sees a handing of a single small present to each of the kids in the room after a small clue-driven scavenger hunt, while the adults try not to look meaningfully in the direction of the next clue lest Zwaart Piet appear to steal our rum.

Since I’ve already got a bit of a scavenger hunt going, I’m marking the day here by simply posting a very silly little bit of fiction, the short title of which is Two Natural Oddities. A bit of fun and self-flagellation, in keeping with the season.