Fiction: “Hitchhiker”

I mentioned, in my other post, that I’ve signed up for Patreon.

This story is my ante-up, me putting my money where my mouth is, whatever cliché you want. This is very much the kind of story I want to publish here with Patreon backing.

This is also one of the stories that got me into Viable Paradise. It’s near to my heart in several ways; I think you’ll see.

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Science Fiction Gives Us the Tools to Live in the Future, and We’re Not Using Them

The Bouletcorp: Exobiology my love

The Bouletcorp: “Exobiology my love”

I feel like this a lot about science fiction. Like we’re living in the future, today, right here, but we’ve installed screens in our spaceships on which to watch the futures of the past on rerun. I like the reruns sometimes, don’t get me wrong, and rewatching them sometimes shows me that they are more incisive about the present than my memory of them would have it, but they’re still not the view out the window.

Here’s Charlie Stross lamenting that the present has stolen his plot again, as though as soon as it became reality, it was no longer interesting or valuable to write about.

I know that speculative fiction is definitionally premised on speculation, the counterfactual. I feel like that’s not the only thing it does, though — it also gives us tools to help us understand and cope with change in the world, the change we’re experiencing right now, and we’re not using them, and I don’t know why. Maybe we’re too overwhelmed by it already.

I really liked William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, and the rest of that trilogy, for how it used — I’m going to call it a science fictional worldview, although I can’t write down a good definition of what that means — to explore the very recent past, and to help to set it in some kind of perspective.

A science fictional worldview is, it’s — materialistic, in the philosophical sense of that term; rational; it enjoys and approves of technology but understands and acknowledges technology’s limitations even when it asks if they’re necessary; and it just as much understands and identifies with humanity even when it asks if humanity could be otherwise. Maybe there are other things that I’m missing.

I feel like this, the complete package, is missing from our discussion of the present right now, and it’s a lack I feel keenly. Obviously it’s something I try to do in my own writing, but… I can’t do it alone, you know? I’m not even sure if the gap is really there or if I’m just imagining it, half of the time.

Fiction: “The Fun Police”

No Clowns

More fiction.

This was the story I wrote during Viable Paradise (my “horror-that-was-Thursday” story).

My classmates liked it! Steven Brust liked it!

All the markets I submitted it to sent it zinging back with polite little “nope, sorry, not for us” notes.

So it goes.

That means you get to read it here!

The prompt involved a grab-bag draw, from which I received a red foam-rubber clown nose, and asked us to write a story about a future in which a thing that is presently legal has been banned…

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What I’m Reading, Bedtime Reading Edition

It took me a good year (or so; I didn’t keep close track) of having this on my bed and reading a story before bed when I felt like it to finish Catherynne M. Valente’s first collection of her published short stories, Ventriloquism.  (I had the same issue — if one can call it that — with her Palimpsest, a book like a cassoulet — rich, decadent, filling prose, the kind you can’t eat too much of in one sitting.)

I found it slower going and less satisfying than her This Is My Letter To The World, the first collection of her Omikuji Project stories.  Those stories are more consistent in length, to fit the epistolary form factor; more often make use of the fairy-tale motifs Valente is well-known for; maybe a little more pat (or maybe not).  Many of the Ventriloquism stories I had already read, in their original publication.

It is a more literary, less emotional, collection than This Is My Letter…, I think, which works for me sometimes and not others.  If these stories are harder to read than the Omikuji stories, though, they are also maybe more likely to live jangling in the back of your head long after the book is closed.

Some standouts, for me: “Urchins, While Swimming” left me cold, meaning chilled; “Bones Like Black Sugar” and “A Delicate Architecture” make an interesting Handsel and Gretel diptych; “Mother is a Machine” for its texture and flow; “Days of Flaming Motorcycles” for a zombie post-apocalypse; “Palimpsest”, the story which inspired the novel, always one I come back to; “Secretario” for its essentialization of the noir detective genre.

The book contains every one of Valente’s published stories up to its publication date, without any exceptions that I’m aware of, and although some judicious editing might have produced a more coherent whole it’s very interesting to watch her explore and grow as a writer, interesting to watch themes and images and even individual words flow through her body of work.

Always Valente’s language is marvelous and lush.  Sometimes the words do feel chosen for their weight and meter more than their meaning, and I am finding, to my disappointment, that some of those repeated images lose their luster with overuse, and I begin to wonder how these insects can be inlaid with such precious materials, and what the economics of their production are, and who mines them.  Surely some of Valente’s writing comes from the same place; the curse, such as it is, of the science fiction writer.

Definitely recommended, and brilliant to come back to repeatedly for as long as it lasted me.

Fiction: “Walk to Work”

Well, this is unexpected, and not the post I had been meaning to write either, but apparently I wrote a short story this morning.  (Around 1500 words as a computer counts.)  Like my protagonist I’m a little off from my usual schedule today, and so somewhat reluctantly I found myself returning from the pharmacy at half past oh-dark-hundred with the ingredients for True Nyquil (combine: modern Nyquil and a Sudafed tab), ie. the ingredients of a good night’s sleep — the one thing I was notably lacking in that moment.

The seed of this was a comment Neal Stephenson made at his recent appearance at MIT, saying that he doesn’t think wearable computers like Google’s Project Glass are actually going to look much like the wearable computers in his novel Snow Crash, and that these days he works at a treadmill desk for its health benefits, combined with my own personal frustration at spending forty hours a week staring at the inside of a cubicle while working an office job.  Walking home that got me the first line and once I sat down (hah) it spiraled endlessly on from there; low blood sugar and critical caffeine depletion were the only things that forced me to tie it up.

It’s a much more technology-forward sort of story than I tend to write, and it needs editing, but for now the web site has fiction on it, and that seems like the kind of thing the web site of a science fiction writer should have.

(Footnote markers are where links should go; I’ll round them up in a bit.)

“Walk to Work” by Kellan Sparver

I’m a little off from my usual schedule this morning, which means a different route, but I have a lunch meeting with some potential investors in Kendall Square practically downstairs from my apartment, so I can’t loop up to Davis for Thursday Redbones lunch with my team like I usually do.  Davis is about three miles if I walk the most direct way, practically a straight shot up Beacon and Elm, which takes me about two hours at my usual pace, almost exactly right to leave at 11 and arrive just past the peak.  I’m a bit of a night owl, as are most of the rest of my team, so we meet up when we need to and adopt a generous definition of lunch and that works for us.  But today although I woke up a bit early I’m operating on investor time, so I’ve got a bit over an hour, meaning about a mile and a half, to kill.


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