“Song for a Moonlit Night”

Milky Way over Iowa

“Song for a Moonlit Night”
by Kellan Sparver

Do you get lonely

Late at night when the skies are low
Fireflies down and the west wind slow
Animals quiet, stars around you
Moon shining over the fields

Late at night my city lights burn
Pavement washed in a sodium glow
Revelers stumble under my window
Stars of their own favorite show

Do you know

There’s not a lot I miss about you
Accidents, missteps, the odd backward glance
An accent, a word, a face in the mirror
Awash and adrift as the people rush past

I know that you don’t think on me often
Never much wanted me, when I was there
You have your people, your old friends all gathered
They never left, that shows how they care

It’s okay; you didn’t know what I was
If you had known, you’d never have dared
It’s better this way, each of us elsewhere
No one is hurt; your feelings are spared

The city’s not you, as hard as I want it
Every reminder returns me to this
I’m not what I’d be and I’m not what I once was
How long can anyone live within glass

Where am I going? Where have I gone?
Will you be there to meet me?
Where am I going? What will it cost?
When I am there, will you greet me?

Do you get lonely

Night wind cries and the green corn sighs
The crickets are singing the eternal song
The horned moon brushes the horizon
You lie on your rooftop, awaiting the morn

Late at night my lights still burn
The sleepless birds sing up the sun
The quiet lingers where the people aren’t
It waits with patience until they return

My own moon fades against the day
The houses stir as brightness rolls west
The unseen ocean rises and falls
I go inside to face the new day’s test

Do you get lonely
Do you get lonely
Do you

This began as an attempt at song lyrics, as the title suggests, but I like it as well as poetry.  Feels appropriate to post on a quiet, sticky night in Boston, very much the kind of night which inspired it.

(I’m experimentally cross-posting to Tumblr, if that’s your thing.)

Copyright © 2015 Kellan Sparver. All rights reserved.

The cover image is “Milky Way over Iowa″ by Kenneth Younger III on Flickr, used under the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license. The image is used for illustrative purposes only. All persons depicted are models, and no endorsement or association is intended or implied.

“It keeps you reminded, helps you remember where you come from.”

(TW: transphobia)

Turn the volume up.

This song has been stuck in my head since I read this essay (h/t Devin Singer). It’s not quite my brand of fucked, but I recognize a kinship.

It’s a great song, and then, from the essay, in characteristic all-caps, to contextualize it:

LIKE DIRE STRAITS, THE VOICE SINGING IS NOT THE ONE “TELLING” ALL THESE HORRIBLE THINGS, THE VOICE IS ILLUMINATING THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT. THE SINGER OF THE SONG IS ONE LAURA JANE GRACE, WHO HAPPENED TO BE BORN THOMAS JANE GABEL. AND AS SHE SINGS, IT’S CLEAR SHE’S NOT ACTUALLY SAYING THOSE THINGS, SHE IS SAYING THE THINGS THAT ARE SAID TO HER. THE “YOU” IS THE “I.” AND THE REASON IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR HER TO DO SO IS BECAUSE IT ALLOWS HER TO SHOW THE IMMEDIACY OF THAT CRUDE VIEWPOINT. SHE IS NOT GOING THROUGH THE FILTER OF HER OWN FEELINGS OR PERSONAL VIEW, SHE IS NOT GOING TO JUST SPEAK FOR HERSELF IN FIRST PERSON; SHE IS SHOWING A HORRIFIC VIEWPOINT AROUND HER IN THE CLEAREST VIEW, IN THEIR WORDS THEMSELVES. AND WHAT’S MORE IS THAT THE MERE ABILITY TO SAY “YOU” ALSO ALLOWS HER TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS, TO AN AUDIENCE, TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER SAW THEMSELVES AS THE KIND OF SUBJECT OF THIS SONG, AND PERSONALIZES IT IN AN IMPORTANT WAY.

IT MAKES THEM COMPLICIT IN THE REALITY SHE FACES.

Fiction: “September, After”

This is one of the first stories I wrote when I started writing seriously—one of the stories which got me into the Viable Paradise workshop in 2012, in fact.  I wrote it before I knew much about story structure.  I’d of course had Freytag’s Pyramid in school, and I tried to write this story in that form, but I knew once I finished it that I had missed.

Yet I thought the story still worked, I just couldn’t explain why.  I only realized much after learning about the kishōtenketsu form that I think I all but accidentally hit on it when writing this story.  Fortunately I think that structure fits the themes of the story very well, so I’m loath to try to ‘fix’ it.  See what you think.

Also I wanted to write a post-apocalypse which reflected my experience growing up in poor, rural places which had lost a lot of population from the farm crises and were a little post-apocalyptic already.  Somehow we didn’t descend into a Mad Max hell of guns and gas and hard men killing for canned goods past their sell-by.

Continue reading

What I’m Reading: “Flocks”, by L. Nichols (queer Christian autobio comics)

"I am the people. We are the people. But no matter how hard I tried, I never heard 'me' when they said 'we.' I think they knew I was different."

I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of webcomics, and that in the best of them I find more to relate to in the queer experiences they depict than I do in most prose fiction.  (And maybe also that the format lets me take works which make me feel strong emotions piecemeal, slowing me down enough that I can process them without getting overwhelmed.)

Flocks by L. Nichols—which its website describes simply as “An autobiographical story about L’s experience as a queer Christian”—is a particularly pointed example of that.

A lot of L.’s experience of being Christian and queer in a place hostile to the latter was my experience too, and we used college to escape in the same way.  The grinding sense that I was wrong, that I didn’t belong, that I was being punished by God, was something I lived with for a long time, and has made any kind of adult relationship with the church very, very hard.

For me the redemptive arc is that that is no longer my day-to-day, and I’m in a place now with people who are welcoming to who I am.  The comic is still ongoing (posts about once a month), but it seems L. found much the same.

Crocus Season

2010-03-25 11.13.39

It is not crocus season yet.  I just saw the first buttercups, the very earliest of the spring ephemerals, this morning.  But it is closer to crocus season than it was last week, and for that I am profoundly grateful.  It has been a long, hard winter.

It has been quiet for too long here as well, but I am trying to get back into the habit of posting again.  Maybe nothing much ever at one go, but—it has been too long since I was in front of you, performing, and I miss that, so here I am in whatever small way I can manage.

Also!  I will be posting a story next Friday the 8th—the first of my Patreon stories, promised last July and then sidetracked.  (One of the excitements of my other line of work is that we can get called any day to drop everything we are doing because something important is on fire, and we have been very busy over the last year.)  But the story is now prepped and copyedited and scheduled, meaning it will be posted, so do please watch this space.

The Long Singularity

Attention conservation notice: Yet another semi-crank pet notion, nursed quietly for many years, now posted in the absence of new thoughts because reading The Half-Made World brought it back to mind.

The Singularity has happened; we call it “the industrial revolution” or “the long nineteenth century”. It was over by the close of 1918.

Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses)? Check.

Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality and social organization? Check.

Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check.

Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check.

Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication and control, “the coldest of all cold monsters”? Check; we call them “the self-regulating market system” and “modern bureaucracies” (public or private), and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs.

An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check. (“Drive” is the best I can do; words like “agenda” or “purpose” are too anthropomorphic, and fail to acknowledge the radical novely and strangeness of these assemblages, which are not even intelligent, as we experience intelligence, yet ceaselessly calculating.)

Why, then, since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future? Perhaps: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk; and we are in the late afternoon, fitfully dreaming of the half-glimpsed events of the day, waiting for the stars to come out.

—Cosma Shalizi (original with hyperlinks; h/t Making Light)

What I’m Reading: Kij Johnson

I don’t really know how to capture Kij Johnson’s short story collection At the Mouth of the River of Bees in words. Her writing here reminds me often of Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath, in its focus on ordinary people and everyday life in extraordinary circumstances.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees is a hefty volume—I read the ebook edition, so I can’t measure its spine, but it spans nearly Kij’s entire career, from 1989 to today, and although it doesn’t do so comprehensively, there’s still a lot of material to present.  Moreover, the stories display an impressive degree of thematic unity without ever seeming repetitive.

I have been thinking that writing like this asks me as a reader to slow down and take it on its own terms.  Johnson’s prose isn’t lush like Catherynne Valente’s or finely-wrought and occasionally oblique like Elizabeth Bear’s—most of the stories are written in good, transparent plain style, and anyone who has tried it will tell you it’s not as easy as it looks.  And the stories never seemed to me to drag—they always had purpose and direction.  But they pay close attention to their subjects, and I found it very rewarding to experience the stories at the narrative’s own pace.

This is one for me to reread and study, I think.

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Patreon and Me

After I posted about signing up for Patreon, I got a few questions which other people may have too, so let me answer them here.

How often do you intend to post?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about two stories a year. I’d like to write more, and I think this will encourage me to do so, but I’m a slow writer with a day job. I definitely won’t post more than once a month. (If you’re worried, though, Patreon allows you to set a maximum amount you want to spend per month, for ease of budgeting, and please feel free to do so. I know how that goes.)

Are you posting the stories on your blog?

Yeah, I’m continuing to post the stories for everyone to read here. Right now nobody has heard of me or read my writing, and that’s what I’m hoping you’ll help me change. So to some extent, yeah, you’re supporting me doing something I would have done anyway.

What do I get if I support you then?

Partly faster posts. It’s a lot easier for me to convince myself not to screw around submitting to token markets if I know people care about and read my stories. Also I’m posting outtakes, “demos,” little bits and pieces of really raw behind-the-scenes stuff for backers only here on Patreon—for example, the beginning of an (unfinished) sequel to my “Hitchhiker” story.  (I don’t want to seem to slag on token markets here; a lot of them are run by friends, or people who could be.  I just don’t think that it’s worth submitting to all of them, all the time.)

Will you mail your stories to my house like Cat Valente did?

Maybe! When I started doing this, I wanted to be really careful not to make promises I couldn’t keep no matter what happened. As it goes along and we all get more comfortable with this, I’m open to new ideas. Would you like me to mail my stories to your house? Let me know!