Friday, December 30, 2011

Thoughts Focused Skyward

Aplogies for lack of fiction posting lately. I've not only been doing edits on one of my novels, I've also been rather ill and I've been off playing hero in the mystical land of Hyrule.  Yeah, I'm going to be kind of off until I finish "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword."  I had a marathon session of it today - it was helping me forget my body aches and stomach pain. 

Today, I ran into a cutscene that struck me as weirdly theological.  o_0

I mean, the Legend of Zelda games are secular in nature - they do borrow imagery and ideas from world religions and mythology, but Hyrule and surrouding territories, worlds and eras all have their own gods and demons and so forth, but playing today something struck me as being relatable to some of the theology disscussions I've been in online. Weird, I know. 

If you know anything about gaming, you know the Legend of Zelda series is a very popular series that defined and defines a lot of the tropes of fantasy-adventure videogames.  Not the absolute first - there's an Atari 2600 game called "Adventure" I can recommend to uber-retro gaming geeks who don't mind their protagonist being a (literal) square and can find a working 2600 or the Atari Gallery disc for PS2. (There are places online to play it, too).  Anyway, the Legend of Zelda -- if you've had a Nintendo system, you've probably played at least one of the games of the series - not as ubiqutious as Super Mario Bros., but most would say a lot deeper in storylines.  In any given game, you play a protagonist (officially) named Link who must help/save/rescue a girl named Zelda and keep the world from falling into darkness.  (Some exceptions - Majora's Mask, for example, puts Link in another world that he has to save from a falling moon and Zelda isn't involved except in a flashback).   Diffrent games in the series cover different eras with protagonists that are technically different people (unless you subscribe to "they're reincarnates"). 

There are other things that are common to the series, too, such as the Triforce - which is the cosmic keystone of the series - a set of three golden triangles that form a whole, representing Courage, Wisdom and Power in balance.  Various games in the series have explained them as a sort of residue of the divine - that which was left by the Three Golden Goddesses who created their world/universe. 

Zelda is actually a very religious series - but with its own religion. 

The Triforce, through the series, is something that, if whole, a person can touch and it will shape the world to their wishes.  Technically, it is a neutral entity, granting both good and evil wishes (but it seems like people with evil hearts never have hearts balanced enough to touch it without it fragmenting). 

Anyway, "Skyward Sword" is a "prequel to everything in the series so far" game that attempts to explain parts of the mythology of the land of Hyrule (where the series is set).  The game is mostly about the forging of the Master Sword (the ur-holy weapon of the series mythology).  Today, playing Link, I met up with Zelda during a cutscene that's kind of a spoiler (heard 'round the world in the fandom, so I probably wouldn't spoil anything by explaining it, anyway).  Zelda explained some mythological goings-on and the Triforce and how it has the power to bend reality and shape the world, an then she talked about how "The old gods created a device they could not use to give hope to mortals." 

And I had the thought:  "The gods (Goddesses) of Hyrule purposely left the Triforce in the hands of mortals to shape their own destiny - they themselves cannot use it.  Cool!" 

Which brings me to the theology disscussions I've read and sometimes gotten my dumb self into online.  I've met some people online who's "solution," as it were, to the "problem with pain" - is simply "What are YOU doing to help people?"  In other words, "What are you doing,  mortal, to shape reality?" 

A lot of people in certain circles talk about how in Judeo-Christian thought, God created Free Will and gave it to us to do with as we will (Free Will, after all) and how he cannot interfere with it / does not override it because while he could create a world without pain - it would make us all automotons unable to experience any actual courage, wisdom, power....

Something he himself (or her, herself, it, itself, however you define "God" ) created for mortals to use that he cannot interfere with....     

I'm not trying to get into a theological throw-down here.  Believe or don't believe what you want.  I'm merely saying that I saw a superficial resonance to discussions I see go on back and forth all the time online to the mythology of a videogame.  If I'm saying anything, I'm saying that the people at Nintendo either really do their homework when it comes to crafting mythology for this particular series and/or the writers stumbled upon something profound by accident.  (Probably the latter, or my reading "coolness" into where I want to read "coolness"). 

Or I've been in too many online disscussions about certain things and I'm spending way too much time with a Wiimote in my hand.  *Shrug.*    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Mulling over some things in my mind - from reading forums and blogs and having conversations.... I was struck with this random thought while doing the dishes.  I think I may put it in the mouth of a character someday, but I just wanted to capture it before it was lost and for some strange reason, I thought it was interesting enough to put on the Internet.

"A person is at their best when they are being more benevolent to others than they are to them.  Since we're mere mortals and hopelessly human, even the best of us tends to be very bad at this, but during those rare moments when we are practicing undeserved benevolence, we shine."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Of Monsters and Human Beings

Of Monsters and Human Beings

I got the new Legend of Zelda game as an early Christmas present and have been playing it.  I’m only at the first dungeon-crawl, but so far, Skyward Sword is pretty awesome.  I’m not sure I like the bird-flying so much; it’s hard for me to get a handle on.  Reminds me of the horse in Shadow of the Colossus, actually, and, of course, you have to jump off at just the right angle to hit whatever little sky-island you want to explore.  What I totally love about this game right now is the swordsmanship.  This is my first time playing a Wii (other than in-store displays) and the Motion Plus thing they have on the sword is meant to imitate the swinging of an actual sword.  Come on, Nintendo, keep pressing that technology and one day you will give us the Holosuite.  Watch your Star Trek and be inspired! 

Something interesting happened to me in the game that got me thinking about categorical-thinking.  I was moving Link (protagonist) around, cutting grass and flowers to find money and whoops, my sword hit an innocent butterfly.  It died, sending up a little ghost-graphic.  I didn’t know for sure what I’d hit so I purposefully targeted another butterfly and got the same graphic.  Then I was “I’m killing innocent butterflies! Aaaaw!”  In other games of the series, butterflies are present, but you cannot kill them (to my recollection).  You can get them to land on a stick or on Link if you stand really still… in this game, you can kill the buggers.   I felt remorseful over butterflies when I go and slaughter Keese (evil bats) and Moblins (goblin-beings) without a care at all. 

Of course, the “monster” creatures are always chaotic evil, right?  Not always.  Zelda games have a way of playing with that, having a few members of the “monster” races turn-loyalties. The very first game (8-bit debut title, the game I grew up with) features Moblins hiding in secret caves who will give you money if you promise to keep their help a secret.  Then you go back to slaughter their brethren on the surface who are throwing spears at you.  One of the games featured a Dark World in which some of the monsters had advice for you because they were transformed human beings who’d gotten trapped in the Dark World.  One of the games features a weird little “love affair” between a love-struck little girl and a Moblin who held her captive (one of the mini-quests is a love-letter delivery between them).  A friend who’s beaten Skyward Sword tells me that there’s a “good” monster in this game, too. 

Yet, most of them – I’m gonna have to set my sword to because they’re on the side of evil and want to kill me.  I won’t feel remorse for them like I did the stupid digital butterflies.  Because they’re monsters.

Which brings me to a statement I saw this morning in the Comments section of an article / eulogy I read online… Someone was telling the writer of the article that he needed to “become fully-human.”  It was a categorical attitude more than it was personal. It carried the implication that “all people of a certain stripe are not fully-human.”  I’ve seen this thrown around a lot, “fully-human,” “you need to do this/become like me to become a full human being.” 

It always bothers me – whatever side it comes from. I’ve seen this attitude thrown around by people who generally agree with me in a worldview as well as those who sharply disagree.  It seems like the first thing that some people go to is “the others are not fully-human.”  I find this hard to fathom because I think even people who are total jerks, even people who are brutal dictators and whatnot are human because, well… if you’ve got human DNA and a human brain, you’re a human.  Humans, at times, are beautiful creatures – we create art and go to the moon.  Sometimes, we are supremely messed-up creatures – inventing new ways to *dehumanize* and kill each other.    

Oh, I understand the impulse to label people as not-human.  I used it in one of my novels… I had my protagonists watching the hanging of a killer that one of them caught and when the killer was taunting him from the gallows (seeing how sensitive the boy was, that he was uncomfortable with the country’s idea of justice), the boy shot back “A man is not dying today!”  As I recall portraying it (I need to do a re-read), the kid said this as much to shield his own heart as anything.  (He didn’t like being responsible for a death, even that of a brutal murderer). 

I’ve known old Vietnam veterans who didn’t think of Asian people as full-humans.  “They’re all just gooks,” one of them said to me once when I was trying to explain anime to him in response to a question.  (Doesn’t matter that anime is of a different country… he had a racial category in his head).  I watched a Frontline special once about veterans of the Iraq war and their psychological issues upon returning to civilian life.  One young soldier told an interviewer that the people over there were all “just hadjis” to them, and not even the combatants.  It’s a kind of mentality that people under stress and surrounded by enemies develop to survive – and it seems to stay with some when the danger is over.  I can understand how it develops there.

But I’m dismayed when it develops in civilians that live in peaceful situations in free countries and on the physically-safe Internet rather than in combat-zones.  That “you need to become like me to become a full human being” thing disturbs me on the level of “If you don’t think I’m a full human being, what am I? An animal? An insect? A monster? Something worse?”  It leaves people (often entire categories thereof) open for abuse.  People who spew this garbage may not even realize what they are becoming, because, you know, they’re the ones that are “fully human” in their eyes.  

“Moblins” are easy to set your sword to.  Actual humans – not so much.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Graveyard of Dreams

Still going over editing one of my fantasy novels, Malarkey and Belinda.  I've always rather liked this rather depression-fueled passage.  In it, Malarkey the gryphon is given a vision by a mystic character, Merevus, who embodies "the memories of the world."  This scene is all about where most people's aspirations and ambitions wind up: 


Malarkey found himself outside, somewhere.  He bounded through the mist.  His wings felt heavy, their feathers dampened with dew.  He could not take flight.  This was so unlike the other visions Merevus had given him.  Those had been memories of the past, visions of bright sunlight, endless forests, gryphons soaring above deep canyons, the strange, early human explorers and colonists and their great metal birds with “Aers Crossworlds” etched on their sides. 

            In this place, the sky was not bright.  A deep purple brooded over the land.  The world was misty and the landscape was lined with twisted trees.  Markers of wood and stone were everywhere, the memorial markers of a cemetery. 

            Malarkey approached a great tree.  It appeared to be an ancient oak, twisted by decades of growing in the wind, its trunk thick and lumpy.  The gryphon stretched forth his right fore-claw and touched it.  The tree crumbled into gray ash, leaving behind a peculiar skeleton.  Beneath the now fallen ashen bark of the oak was a skeleton like that of an animal.  Bones like stripped bird-wings arched up into the sky as branches.  What remained of the tree’s trunk was a tangle of vertebrae and rib-bones, all colored a dingy gray-white. 

            Malarkey screeched and ran from it.  He’d never seen something quite so terrifying or utterly disturbing in his young life. That tree was so utterly unnatural.  The gryphon sped past gravestones as fast as his feet could carry him.  He wished he could fly.  His shoulders ached intensely whenever he tried to raise his heavy wings. 

            “Where am I?” he asked desperately.  He called into the air.  Everything around him was cold.  The ground was icy and so was the air.  Malarkey did not feel the cold in its full strength.  He was numb to the frigidity, but he knew, somehow, that this place was cold. 

            He caught a glimpse of the lettering on a gravestone.  It read: “A Great Singer of Songs.”  Another stone he ran past read: “Writer.”  Still another read: “Life in the Mountains.”

            “What is this?” Malarkey asked the wind.  “What sort of vision have I landed in? Where am I?”

            The voice of Merevus drifted over him.  “This is the Graveyard of Dreams.” 

            “What?” Malarkey replied. 

            The voice of the Keeper of Memories echoed off the gravestones and the strangely menacing trees, deep and strong.  “Many are the dreams of men and beasts,” it answered.  “Most dreams do not live for long.  Most dreams do not survive.”

            Malarkey slowed down.  He paced about the cemetery.  He was no longer afraid.  Instead, he was filled with an incredible sadness.  He looked over the gravestones and the carvings on the wooden markers.  The inscriptions were many names and they told many stories.

            “So many dreams,” Malarkey sighed, hanging his head.  Most of the dreams in the graveyard were human dreams, but it was clear from the inscriptions that some of them had been the dreams of beasts. 

            “Why are you showing me this, Merevus?”  Malarkey asked.  “This is terrible, seeing all these broken dreams.”

            The voice of Merevus sailed upon the wind again.  “They are not broken, merely unfulfilled.”

            “Still!” Malarkey protested, shouting into the wind that had grown progressively frigid, “Seeing all these dead dreams is terrible!”  I don’t understand your purpose in showing me this!” 

            The reply came slowly.  “Most dreams remain unfulfilled, especially the great ones,” the voice of Merevus intoned.  “You will see many dreams here.  Some are as large as changing the world.  Some are small, mere childhood fancies.  Much like humans and animals, they die for many reasons.  Some dreams die naturally.  They are dreams that remain unfulfilled, but, because a person changes, their desires and hopes change, thus their old dreams are not needed anymore.  Dreams that die naturally are replaced with other dreams.” 

            Merevus’ deep voice continued.  “Then, of course, there are dreams that are killed by the circumstances of the world or by interfering people.  The loss of these dreams can be as painful for their bearer as the loss of a friend by murder.  Then, of course, there are the dreams that are held onto for a long time before they die, dreams that die slow, lingering deaths.  Those that have such dreams, though determined to see them fulfilled, suffer as they watch their dreams fade or stay just beyond reach.  It is little wonder why some people choose to shatter their own dreams through self-destruction, rather than watch those dreams killed slowly by the world.  Still, Malarkey, look around you.”

            “I am looking around me.  Have you given me this vision to tell me to give up on my dreams?  Will I find my dreams in this graveyard?”

            “On the contrary, gryphon,” Merevus said.  “Although most dreams eventually die, they are still valuable and something to be treasured.  Even dreams that remain unfulfilled serve us as we have them.  Even people who never see their dreams come to light have hope while they have and hold onto them.  Dreams are what keep people going, striving, trying.  Sometimes, simply to try is enough, simply to hope.  Even dreams that die serve their bearer while they are alive.  They keep their bearer hoping, trying and alive.  It is not always a tragedy when dreams die, because those dreams gave the person who conceived them hope when they needed it.” 


Part of Chapter 14 in a book of 20 chapters.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Dark Thoughts

I've been thinking some dark things lately that - little philosophies I may put in my fiction.  I have no idea if they are formal Philosophy, they are just my own thoughts on the world. 

I got to thinking the other day about my place in the world - about everyone's place in the world and came to the conclusion that each and every one of us falls into three main categories in regards to the world.  1. To some people we are a precious jewel, a unique being to love and value (for most of us, this is our family, friends, partners... fans for some of us). 2. To most people we are nothing - a face in the crowd, money waiting to be harvested, a stick figure, a caricature, a Generic Human. 3. To some people, we are a mess to be cleaned up. 

The third one's not even necessarily personal - you can fall into number 2 and still be number 3 to some people by category, because they think the category you are in is simply a mess to be cleaned up. 

It doesn't matter who or what you are, either.  Even famous do-gooders fall under my adage of "Every hero is someone's villain."  Even some people who acknowledge the heroism of an individual will still see that one "flaw" about them that makes them essentially still a mess that needs to be cleaned up. 

Speaking of feeling like a mess, I've also been pondering what it might feel like to die lately.  Well, I actually ponder this all the time - I'm a rather morbid person.  There's a part of me that wonders, when I die, will I find out I was "right" in some way in regards to my beliefs on the subject or will I just drift away never knowing?  Either way, I hope I feel at peace about it, but I don't know if I will.  People say (perhaps because it's inevitable) that "it's okay" that it will feel okay when it happens, but what if it doesn't? What if I feel something like darkness closing in all around me that I cannot escape, no shot of peace or apathy to go with it? 

Some say that I shouldn't even have these thoughts because I identify as a Christian. (Any prospective literary agents, please don't run away from me because I admitted to that - I'm anything but stereotypical and I write secular). Still, there is some agnosticism to my faith.  I'm always considering that others might be right, even as I'm not ready to go over to their side.  Red-Rover, Red-Rover, I'm not listening, having too much fun on the swings...

Let's just say that I'm kind of jealous of people who say that the thought of utter oblivion / non-existence doesn't scare them.  It scares the poo outta me.  I cannot think of it as a long stretch of sleep or as "darkness."  I didn't experience "darkness" beyond that of my own eyelids when I was put under for surgery, after all - this is actually why I don't believe in "oblivion."  Even if the idea of Afterlife does wind up being a lie, I don't think the brain - an organ that processes "existence" is capable of processing "non-existence." It stands to reason for me that people don't "go into the dark" so much as they "experience their last moment" for what is to them, "eternity."  The idea of experiencing non-existence, to experience non-experience just kind of makes my brain-computer crash.  I just hope that if visions of Heaven are in my brain as I'm fading out, that it doesn't, in the end, mean that I am a weak person who lived a worthless life because I'm not seeing "darkness" like I "should." 

Sometimes, I think, whatever happens, whether I have a fate of Heaven, Hell, Oblivion or something else that it would be nice to not be a burden anymore - to stop being that "mess that needs to be cleaned up" for some people.  ,

I'm hanging on because I have people in the number 1 group and the hope that people that are prone to seeing people as categorical messes are full of crap.   

Perhaps as I hope for a better world, I can create better worlds through my fiction - but I never do that. All my worlds are as complicated as the one I know and have a touch of darkness.  A lot of what I write is very dark.  I suppose it's what I try to use to shine light on the darkness in our world, by showing it in exaggerated, fictional settings.

I'd like to live in a world where people didn't see each other as messes or disease - categorically or otherwise.


Thursday, November 17, 2011


A story about the Vule - the vulture people of the Static-Lands.  Violence/gore warning. 

I'm also not entirely happy with the ending.  It feels abrupt to me, but I wasn't sure how to go about ending the story.  I'll gladly take feedback and suggestions.

Also, yes, this species was roundabout-inspired by the Rito of "The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker" but they a far, FAR darker people.  I wanted to do a bird-people with a vulture-culture. Vulture-culture is brutal.


He had been hatched into the Southern Tribe of the Great Eastern Desert under a perpetual noonday sky.  The chick was named only after he was out of his down.  His fledge-feathers were mildly iridescent at their ends, so he was named “Shining-Tip.”  The boy was called Shin as a nickname. His father was Longmane. 

The Vule race, particularly the people of the Southern Tribe, tended to give their surviving members names based upon their attributes.  Sometimes an individual’s name changed throughout their life.  Shin knew his father better than he did his mother.  Bloodeyes fought in the wars while Longmane stayed behind at the aerie to rear their son, for the man had an injury to his shoulder that made flying difficult for long periods.  Longmane could fly, just not well enough to survive battle. He hoped his fighting-fitness would return in time. 

Shin played along the cliffs with the tribe’s other hatchlings and he watched several of his friends die when they fell from the cliffs in their first attempts at flight. This was the way of the vulture-people.  They did not shelter their young ones from harsh things, for they felt that witnessing death while small made the hatchlings that survived tough in mind and not prone to make overly-emotional attachments.  Most Vule children died before they fledged. The parents of eggs accepted this. Vule children that lived would spend their adulthood losing their comrades in battle or to the rigors of the desert. This was accepted. The Vule not only lived with Death, they made friends with it.

“Today, I am taking you to the Pyres,” Shin’s father said to him as he climbed out of his nest after his long-sleep in their small cliff-pueblo dwelling.  In a land without night the division of days could be arbitrary.  Just like in other areas of the Static-Lands, the fierce people of the desert had found ways to mark the time independent of the state of the sky.  Some said that it wasn’t too hard an adjustment for them when the state of night and day became static because the desert was a bright place even in the ancient days.  The Vule of the Southern Aerie had members asleep and awake at all hours, for it was necessary to maintain eternal vigilance against raids by their enemies. 

“The Pyres?  Really?” Young Shin exclaimed.  The broad cliffside where the Pyres stood were an important place, a sacred place.

“Yes, son,” Longmane replied.  “It is time.  It is there that you will learn the nature of our kind… and of all kinds, really.”

All children saw the Pyres before becoming adults.  Viewing the place was considered a requisite before one became a warrior.  The pyre cliffs were away from the living areas and, strangely enough, away from the tombs.  The pyres were erected of wood and covered in sheets.  The area was heavily guarded. 

When Shin landed upon the flat cliffs with his father, the smell in the air was overpowering.  To young Shin, it was a favorable smell, one that caused his stomach to growl.  A human being may have passed out cold or even been sent into cardiac arrest from the odor.  Only one with the strongest of constitutions would have left those cliffs with the contents of his stomach still inside him. 

The wind whipped one of the sheets on a loaded pyre.  A feathered arm dropped over its side.

“Why do some go to the pyres and some go to the tombs?”  Shin asked his father.  “We were there for Irontalon’s funeral and for all the Unnamed Ones I knew before I fledged, but never here.”

Longmane spoke calmly.  “The pyres are not for our own.”

“But they are Vule,” Shin pointed out.

“These are – or were, rather – people of the Northern Tribe.”

“Then why doesn’t the Northern Tribe bury them?”

“They were captured by us.  Just as we allow dead beasts to ripen in the sun to our taste, we do not waste the battlefield dead.”

“We do not do this to our own… Why do the bodies of our tribe go to waste in the tombs?”

It may surprise, nay, even appall some that little Shin displayed no horror regarding cannibalism, but only a sense of loss at a perceived waste.  Vule, even when young, are an extremely pragmatic and hard people.  Since the beginning of Time, even before the stasis of days, they lived in the desert-lands.     They wished for no other home.  The Vule were of the desert and the desert was of the Vule.  The drylands were harsh and bred hardness into whatever was native to it. The strong and the lucky survived there.  It was a world that rewarded the practical and starved the picky. 

The Vule, like their vulture brethren, ate the fallen.  While they could eat fresh meat, the Vule had a taste for decay.  They aged their meat like humans aged cheese and wine.  That was something from the human culture that the Vule liked: Cheese.  Shin was accustomed to eating flesh from deer, skunks, wild boars and the occasional human that wandered too far into the desert.  He did not know that his people ate their own species – yet it made perfect sense to him.  Carcasses were carcasses. 

“We used to eat our own,” Longmane explained, “When my father was your age.  That changed when we observed the humans.  Our people – and the Northerners – used to visit their cemeteries seeking meat that was buried shallowly enough for us to get at it.  When we saw their rituals and how much they respected their own, we decided to treat our comrades with similar respect.  Our enemies, the Northerners, do not get such respect.  They take our people off the battlefield, too.  Sometimes, they raid our pyres, seeking to retrieve their dead for burial.”

“So, this is why we prosper,” Shin observed.  “We have much meat because we take it as spoils of battle.”

“Precisely.  It is time for you to get your first taste of it – food for adults.”

“If mother falls in battle, will this happen to her?”

“Not if I can anything to do about it.  She’ll not become food to make our adversaries strong if I am allowed to fight!”

Longmane laid strips of rotten meat in a greased cast-iron skillet above the fire of the family cooking-hearth.  The odor of decay was nearly drowned-out by the scent of garlic and hot chilies.  This was typical Vule cooking – with garlic and peppers taken from the wild.   

“Are you sure you are ready?”  Longmane asked his son.  Shin was playing with his toys on the floor – little dolls and soldiers carved of ironwood.  His game was typical of Vule chicks constructing dramas; a narrative full of broken necks and eviscerations. 

“Yes,” Shin replied, rising to sit at the table as his father plated food before him. 

“Hmm,” Longmane said, “This flesh as aged a while.  There is quite a bit of insect larvae.  The tarps keep off the larger scavengers, but not the insects.”

“It’ll be extra sweet!” 

“It may still be tough, being cut from the arms.  I find it interesting that there are some among the humans and the venison-people who eat each other’s foods for sport – to experience what is unusual for them.  They never try our food.  What we eat would kill them.” 

“They don’t come to the desert much,” Shin said between mouthfuls of his dinner.

“They are not of the desert,” Longmane replied.  “I can show you the edge of the human country.  It would do you good to know more about them as we may need to go to war with them someday.” 

Shin and his father perched atop the great Gate Cliffs.  They looked over a country filled with trees and of little clusters of houses on the hillsides.  There was a large stone structure in the distance – a walled and fortified city. 

“That is Fortissimo,” Longmane explained.  “It is the central-place of the nation of Vale, like the Southern Aerie is our center.  Beyond that, where the land starts getting dark, is the place of the deer-people.  The humans think they are better than the deer-people and have them in an uneasy truce.  It is little-better than enslavement, but the venison-folk are too divided to rise up and conquer those that take from them.  Our leader, Gris, has vowed to never let that happen to us. The humans fear us, anyway, and they have ample reason for their fear.”

“Why do they all conquer each other?” Shin asked, “Is it for the same reasons why we fight the Northern Tribe?” 

“No, but yes.”

“What do you mean, father?”

“The Vule have a purer war,” Longmane began.  “Our motives are honest.”

“Humans and deer-people fight dishonestly?”

“The Vule fight for survival and because it is in our nature.  The Others fight for the same reasons, but often do not know it because they pile complex things atop the true motives.”

“What kinds of complex things?”

“Differences in beliefs, appearances, political systems, the illusion each tribe has of being superior to others.” 

“Aren’t the Northern Tribe people different from us?”

“By very little increments, little one.  The Southern Tribe and the Northern Tribe are essentially the same. They live in cliffs like we do.  They eat as we do.  We believe in the same Deity and the same Afterworld, to which we all go – even beasts and humans.  The people of the Northern Tribe fight with as much strength and ferocity as we do. We aren’t much different at all.”

“Then why do we fight as the humans and deer-people do?”

Longmane sighed deeply.  “We do not fight as the humans do. We fight as beasts do.  The Vule used to be one people.  When the population swelled the desert could no longer support all of us.  A divide happened and now we fight each other over resources – waterholes, hunting-grounds, space for our cliff-dwellings… those kinds of things.  The desert cannot support us together, but it supports us apart and it supports us as long as our battles have losses.  It may seem like it is to no purpose, an endless war that leads us and leaves us nowhere, but it fits with the brutal balance of nature.  We care for our own families, our clan…that is all.  Our wars need not be more complex than that.”

“Humans sound strange… if they don’t fight for survival like we do.” 

“They do,” the father told his son, “But they are strange creatures, indeed.  They have to have complex reasons to fight and to conquer so that they feel righteous.  One tribe might try to wipe out or conquer another because of differing beliefs or politics, but when it comes down to it, they may be merely fighting for the fat of the land and space for their own.  I find them pretentious.” 

“It sort of makes sense,” Shin said.  “It must be easy to fight those that are different.  Gris has plans to keep the humans from hurting us, right?” 

“Yes, little one.  They think they are superior to all and to each other.  That is laughable because we are the ones who are superior.”

Shin’s mother came home for a while and oversaw his training in the arts of combat.  His principal trainers were a pair of brothers who were adept at hunting named Bunnykiller and Swinekiller. 

They trained one day on a shaded cliff.  Bunnykiller came after Shin with a short, curved sword.  Shin sidestepped its swipe only to have Swinekiller come after him from behind with his prized Big Sword.  Its blade was as tall as a grown man and almost as wide.  Swinekiller grasped the massive hilt by both hands.  Being such a heavy weapon, it was used only by men who kept to the ground as it was impossible to carry in flight.  Shin did a back flip and landed feet-first atop the blade.  He stayed there for a moment before jumping off with a mighty screech, flapping into the air and coming down on Swinekiller with his talons. 

“Sonofa-!” Swinekiller cursed, dropping his weapon and wiping blood from his scratched face. 

“Well done!” Bloodeyes said clapping.  “You have gotten very good at your dodging, my son.  Perhaps you are ready to join me for the next campaign.”

Shin bowed.  He looked to Swinekiller.  “I did not damage your eyes, did I?”

“No,” the large man assured. “Just got me in the skin. It’ll heal up.”

“Good,” Shin’s mother said.  “We’d hate to lose you a soldier. Come with me. I’ll clean you up.”

Shin stayed behind on the cliff with Bunnykiller.  “You’ll use a small sword, like I do… maybe even a dagger or just your own talons.  You’ll be in the speed-troops, like me.”

“Do you enjoy battle?” Shin asked the older adolescent. 

“There is some thrill in it,” Bunnykiller confessed, “but I cannot say that I take much enjoyment from it.  Most of my comrades do.   I have lost many friends, seen them die around me.  The glory of battle is not so glorious after that, even as I avenge them.”

“My father says attachments are not wise.”

“Indeed, they are not, but one needs comrades to fight with and for.  I’ll tell you a secret.  I sometimes have thoughts of going off on my own and living alone, always from this life of fighting.” 

“But we are the flock!” Shin protested, “All of the Southern Tribe are for the Southern Tribe!”

“I hope that you survive your first battle,” Bunnykiller said.  “I must see to my brother.”  His talons clicked on the stone cliff’s surface and left little clouds of dust as he walked off toward the medical-pueblo. 

Shin survived his first battle.  Members of the Northern Tribe were making nests and dwellings far too close to the eastern banks of the Muddy River for the Southern Tribe’s liking.  Muddy River was one of the few places in the desert that was not contested over very much for most of its course, but the squatters were something that Shin’s tribe would not stand for. 

The fight was quick and brutal, lasting only two hours by the survivors’ estimate.  Shin fought with a curved knife and with his own feet.  The first Northerner he killed he did so by tearing his throat with his talons in aerial combat.  Emotionally, it was not particularly difficult for him given his familiarity with death and the fact that he’d already eaten Northerner-meat.  He pushed the similarities between him and his enemies to the back of his mind, instead focusing on the fact that they wanted him and his own dead and on their pyres. 

Shin’s first battle was also his last.  Two things happened in it to shatter his life.  His mother had fallen.  As the Northern Tribe warriors retreated, they took her and Shin pursued them.  He met a warrior in the air and fought wing-over-tail with him until a short dagger found his gut.  Shin fell among a copse of thorn-covered trees. 

When he realized that he was in the dirt, he also recognized that he was still breathing.  He tried to sit up, but every movement he made sent lightning-waves of pain through his body.  He examined his wound.  Everything that was supposed to be inside him remained there.  Still, the wound was serious.  He was sure that it would kill him in not too much time.  The Vule had a very strong resistance to disease and infections.  That immunity, coupled with strong gastric acids, allowed them to eat the things that they lived off of.  Shin knew that he was unlikely to suffer from an infection, but the fact remained that his enemy’s blade had very likely hit something major and that he was bleeding out inside. 

Even so, he hauled himself up.  The cries of his comrades were distant.  He attempted flight, but found the stretching of his muscles too painful to get himself off the ground. Also, he was quite dizzy.  He started limping in the direction his adversaries had taken.  Shin knew that he would likely die out in the desert. 

If he were human, he might have thought his predicament unfair.  A human might have even cursed or called out to a chosen deity if he had one or more.  Shin was not a human. He accepted certain things as a part of Nature, including the prospect of his death.  That which the Vule worshipped was a neutral god, indifferent to individual suffering if it did not affect the whole of the environment.   

Shin, however indifferent to his own misfortune, was not indifferent toward his mother or to his fallen compatriots. 

He reached the Northern Aerie after what would be measured as several days of travel by foot, the entirety spent under a hard noonday desert sun.  Shin survived by doing what Bunnykiller did – taking young rabbits and hares as well as desert rodents and eating them fresh.  He rationed his canteen and found water where he could.  Vule could survive quite a long time without water compared to the humans that sometimes wandered out to these lands. 

Shin spent time skulking around near the Northerner’s pyre-cliffs, but gave it up when his wound pained him too much.  He found no way to get to them without being seen.  He camped in the desert in a surface-cave that was out of the way.  He watched his enemies day by day and he survived day by day.  His living surprised him. 

The young Vule found himself able to fly again after a while, but he refused to go home to his people.  He knew that they’d given him up for dead and he found life alone tranquil.  He snuck out to the place where the Northern Tribe took the bones from their pyres once they’d made use of all of the meat.  Not knowing which bones had belonged to his mother, he embarked on a project to secret away them all, as many as he could carry without being caught.  He buried them near his little cave, creating a secret cemetery which he watches over in vigilance and peace. 


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Notable Lack of Romance in my Stories

This is something I've been thinking about for some time, but I was inspired to write a post about it after reading one of the blogs I regularly check in on (regarding society and its expectations of people).  Even media is big on reinforcing many kinds of things.  If I ever get my work attended-to in any professional or famous way, I have a feeling that *my* media will be different.

Here's why:

I suck at writing romance and thus avoid it.

The Static-Lands experimental stories on this blog are a good example.  I write all kinds of relationships, opressor / opressed, parent / child, friend / friend, mentor / student, peacenick / warrior, artist / zombies...  yet I haven't gotten into the lovey-dovey romantic pairs stuff.  I have an idea for a story where I might do that in a non-tradtional way, but I'm holding off on writing it because it's one of those stories I'm not sure I'll do right and I'm not sure I'm "allowed" to do given my position in life. I feel like I need to ask people permission to write it but am afraid to even ask.

Another example of my lack of romance writing: my novel-length works that I do not publish in entirety (as yet) online. 

Okay, so I have one novel where the protagonist and the friend he made get together at the end (though she is a werewolf...) - but, yeah that happened kind of organically in a story that's an adventure-tale and not a "romance." Still, that one doesn't count. 

My other novels?  Let's see... I have a novel where one of the major themes is "If you find just *one* person whom you can trust and give your heart to, you're lucky." - The catch?  The protagonists who trust and love each other are a woman and a gryphon and it's not romantic. They have an adoptive mother-son relationship that's cultiavated throughout the novel.  (In other words, if any fan ever makes porn of them, I'll go "Sigh, fandom," but also privately twitch. A lot).

My most recent completed novel stars a teenage girl and a teenage boy who go on an amazing journey together.  They are best friends (and if fandom pairs them together, I won't twitch) - but I will gleeflly point out that it's not canon.  In the epilogue of the story (which shows them growing up and growing old), the male protagonist falls in love with another girl and they get married while my female protagonist never quite settles down and enjoys the (non-sexual) companionship of her spiritual guardian.  The two protagonists do remain best friends to the end of their days, though.  One of the things I conciously wanted to do with this story is to elevate the idea of close friendship. I honestly thought of doing the predictable thing with this novel and pairing the two, but decided against it when the writing told me that they were better off as friends.  The characters just presented themselves that way to me.

One thing I've learned about fiction writing is that the writer never has full control over the work.  The characters and their world will tell me what to do after a point.

This lack of romance thing even crosses over into my fan fiction (and anyone who's ever been into reading or writing it knows that it's romance / pairings central).  Even when one's tastes gravitate away from the porn-fics, pairings and scmoophy-romance are served up hot and in abudnance.  Also, Sturgeon's Law.  I'm a gen-ficcer and I *like to think* that my fan fictions are in the "other 10%" at least most of the time.   I feel like I'm one of the few fan fiction writers (for any fandom) who doesn't do a lot of romance.  I like to do adventure-tales and philosophical-introspective stuff, oh, and horror. 

When one of my fan fictions ends with a major-character pairing, it usually took a long road to get there in a story that's mostly about an adventure or some worldbuilding fill-in-stuff-the-canon-world-makes-you-wonder-about stuff.  One of my recent long fan fictions ending with a pairing I don't even like a great deal just because that's the way the fic went - the organic writing.   A few of my fanfictions are attempts at romance from the get-go, but they usually wind up being about something else or have some other kind of mood to them.  One of my pairings/romance stories wound up being about the constructed politics of another world  Another of them was a tragedy about one lover trying to get the ghost of her beloved to stop lingering around and go to the afterlife. 

In other words, if you want me to write anything for you, please, for the love of puppies don't ask me to write a romantic-comedy. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Nothing Says "Happy Holidays" Like a Stegosaurous

Some days, I encounter things that make me think "I love America." 

Today, Bob and I went grocery shopping. Before hitting the regular store, we hit the local Asian specialty market.  He's not much into Asian food, but I am - particularly for unique and fun Japanese snacks.  The place mostly caters to the local Korean-American community, but they have stuff from all over Asia, including stuff you find on funny "Engrish" sites - in other words, things you just don't get at the "regular" supermarket.

Okay, so I can get the edamame I'm so addicted to at the regular store, but the Asian market has bags of the stuff for a cheaper price.

Anyway, in this market there was an endcap with Mexcian stuff of all things.  In with all the specialty noodles and sauces and packages written in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, there's part of an aisle with Mexican stuff - the kind of stuff  I remember specialty stores in Arizona that catered specifically to the Hispanic population carrying, stuff I haven't seen since I left the Southwest.  I picked up a bag of Horchata mix.  (If you've never heard of it, Horchata is a rice-milk drink flavored with cinnamon - very popular in Mexico and among Mexican-American communities).  Lilly-white blond, green-eyed me loves the stuff.  Along with Japanese snacks and candy, Korean-style hot-pot meat, stuff made in Singapore...

We got to the checkout and in this Korean-run market, the checkout ladies are speaking to each other in Spanish and one of them saw my horchata mix and was all "What? We carry horchata here?! Dude!"

Just, I don't know - the sheer diversity of it all was really cool.  All these things from so many different cultures and backgrounds coming together even if it's just products and food and awkward white people finding unexpected things hiding around a market.

After this, Bob and I stopped by the nearby K-Mart.  Walking down the aisle looking for winter thermal wear for me to wear under my clothes at my cold outdoor farm job, we saw....  Barak Obama-head Chia Pets - a whole display of them. Granted, there were also Chia Spongebobs and Chia Homer Simpsons and regular old fashioned Chia Pets, but.... our President's head is a Chia Pet.  We are free enough to have no fear of making our leaders into kitch. 

Checking out of K-Mart, there were boxes on the end-wall of lighted Christmas / Holiday yard displays.  One of them (large, boxed, with a picture on the box) was... a lighted, animated holiday stegosaurs. I'm serious. It had a Santa hat on and a red and white striped scarf on its neck. 

It was a lighted, merry stegosaurus.

I think I really love where I live and its culture - it's diverse, delightfully kitchy and sometimes downright weird.  It is awesome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Of Sin and Tolerance

A few years ago, I wrote a novel titled Malarkey and Belinda.  Is the tale of a woman and her gryphon. Specifically, it is the tale of a slave charged with raising a gryphon that was magically and genetically-engineered as a resurrection-project for an extinct species (gryphons) in order to be used as a weapon in their kingdom's army. The woman eventually decides that even though her attempts at escape from slavery never went well that she'd try once more with the gryphon to keep him from life as a forced-weapon.  They flee to a land where they can be free, only to return to try to stop a great war between their world's native animals and the humans of their former kingdom.

Weird, I know.  Anyway, I've been going over chapters of it again to do (yet another) self-editing job before sending it in for another round of querying literary agents and adding to my Rejection Collection.  A portion I was going over caught my eye this evening.  This passage takes place soon after the gryphon, dubbed "Malarkey" as a cruel joke,  hatches and is in his child-stage, being cared for by his human "mother."


Belinda sat in the East Courtyard of Stone Manor, on the edge of a planting bed, with Nikolai.  Malarkey played at her feet, a collar around his neck, with a long leash that she held in her right hand.

            Nikolai, the castle’s head priest of the Xieon faith, was a young man with shaggy brown hair and a pale, clean-shaven face. It was most unusual for a man as young as he was to be in such an important position as he was in.  He had a gentle manner about him and he almost constantly smoked a long pipe.  He grew the herbs that he smoked, and claimed that they were good for his health.  Belinda did not understand how the smoke was supposed to “clear the lungs and boost immunity,” but the scent of the herbs burning in the end of Nikolai’s pipe was not unpleasant. 

            Malarkey capered at her feet on the cobblestones of the courtyard.  He stretched his developing muscles.  He flapped his tiny wings, which had new feathers growing on them.  The little gryphon was growing feathers all over his head and chest, too.  They were bright and smooth.  He had shed nearly all his down by now.  Little Malarkey did not yet know how to fly and would not have gotten far, anyway, tethered to the ground by his leash, Belinda as his anchor. 

            “He’s adorable,” Nikolai said, exhaling smoke as he took the pipe from his lips. 

            “Some would say that he is a sin,” Belinda replied, “What do you think, Nikolai?  He’s essentially a human creation.  Do we have the right to create life like that?  To resurrect the dead?”

            Nikolai tipped his pipe and tapped out the ashes into the planting bed.  “We have to be careful,” he said, “not to condemn ourselves too much.  When we become too concerned with sin, we become unable to do anything.  Almost anything can be a sin if done with the wrong intent.  When we become too concerned over sin, we become too afraid to move, and, many of us will come to a point where we stand in judgment of others, and that is sin.”

            The priest sighed.  He fished in the pocket of his pants.  “Out of herbs,” he said.  “Sin, though… it’s not to say that sin doesn’t exist.  That is not right, either.  When we, in the name of tolerance, become accepting of everything that, too, is not right.  Not everything is sin and not everything is not sin.  When we become too accommodating, we will begin to allow anything, even that which causes harm.  Society needs to strike a balance between sin and tolerance.  If we lean too far one way or another, we either become stagnant, or we allow cruelty and injustice to flourish.” 

            “Is Malarkey an injustice?” Belinda asked. 

            “No… he is a victim,” Nikolai replied.  “He is a creature not natural-born.  That will cause him much confusion in life.  There are none of his own kind living anymore.  He will be alone.  The dead should be left to lie, and be remembered.  As for Malarkey, he has done nothing wrong.  He did not ask to be created.  He simply is.  Even if what Lord Cirrit did was wrong, the little gryphon had no voice in it.  We have a duty to him – to try to give him a good life.”

            “Hmmm….” Belinda said, swinging her pant-clothed legs. 

            “Have faith, Belinda,” Nikolai said, smiling.  You’ll be a fine caretaker to him.  Now is your chance to teach him.  From the histories, gryphons were intelligent – they had souls like men.  You can teach him what is good and what is bad.  You are a compassionate and strong person, and he will learn that from you.”

            “Does a manmade creature even have a soul?”

            “Human beings,” Nikolai responded, “for all our knowledge and skills at manipulating nature, for all our disregard – cannot create a soul.  That is God’s domain.  Who are we to say, however, what manner of creature God can or cannot infuse with a soul?  To say that a being doesn’t have a soul simply because it was born from human use of the Arcanum is even more arrogant than the use of the Arcanum in the first place.”

            Malarkey looked up at him and chirped.  Nikolai reached a hand down to him, two fingers extended, to scratch the feathers beneath his beak. 

            The gryphon chick knew that this person and his mother-of-another-kind were talking about him.  He did not yet understand what they were saying.  They could hear his voice, but apparently could not understand the things he tried to tell them. 


*Nikolai - The character is a kind-mannered and genuinely saintly / good priest.  I named him after the Antichrist character in the Left Behind novels as a joke. I read about half of that series - to my shame.

**The stuff in his pipe is not "weed."  It's some fictional plant that is neither that nor tobacco, but I never elaborated on what it was, probably because I thought it would be funny to let people jump to conclusions.  Still, in my mind, it was always a fictional plant that was more like a table herb or a mint than anything else.

***I like this passage because of the take on the balance between the ideas of "sin" and "social order." I wrote this at least five years ago and while some of my ideas on what "sin" is have changed, the sentiment I have toward the basic theme of the passage has not changed a bit.  (In other words this is one of those things I wrote quite a while ago that still surprises me).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Politics, As Usual

So, I voted today.  It was just the minor local elections and I really didn't know dip about who was running, but as the neat thing with local elections goes, I got to meet candidates at the polling place - and eat one of one team's homemade gingersnaps.  Still, I had nothing particularly interesting going on today, was healthy, the day was GORGEOUS - perfect for a walk to the center of my small town, and I felt the voices of my ancestors howling me on (not literally, of course - I'm not that crazy yet. You know what I mean).

You see, voting is a right not everyone in the world gets to enjoy and it's a right that people have suffered and died to bring to me.  I kept thinking about how if I were born earlier, my gender would have barred me from participlating in the political process in my own nation.  I figure I should be damn grateful to do my civic duty.

Also, they had coffee - Starbucks coffee.

This time around went more calmly than the last time - last year was one of the major elections and for that... I was a pathetic revoluionary.  I tacked up signage in the bathroom for the fictional "Screw Them All!" Party.  I was...upset... you see.  I'm still kind of upset with the whole country, but that was my impotent rage slash cheeky joke coming out.  I still have the STA manifesto/rant somewhere on my hard drive, I think.  No signage this time.  No pathetic protests. (But I actually did vote for reals then, too).

The other day, Bob and I were talking about the possiblity of me running for office.  I think I would be a very poor politician.  You see, on a lot of issues - even major ones, I have this way of seeing both sides of things and sitting on the fence or taking the middle road.  I have a lot of strong convictions, but I'm also too much of a mediator for the rigid world of politics.  I mean, if I were President of the United States and people were looking at me for a decision whether or not to go to war, I'd be stuck forever weighing options - cost vs. threat and so forth, even though in my heart I'm a total peacenik.  It'd be the value of Peace vs. the value of Protect my People and my head would spin.  Take that down to minor council issues that are far less serious and probably still have trouble.  Also, the scandal! I could see minor issues of my life being cranked up to eleven in mudslinging ads! And I can see myself slinging (literal, since I work at a barn) manure in response!

I'd have awesome signs, though.  Coming from a graphics background, I appreciate strong, bold advertising.  My signs would be very visually appealing and would contain no clip art - all original work.  I bet I'd have some memorable slogans, too, just because Bob and I come up with the funniest, wackiest things when we're driving along in the car *making fun* of political signs. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Novel.

First, a random passage from my novel, A World of Rusted Dreams that I just felt like posting because it says so much about what I think of the world.  A.W.O.R.D is the story of two young people who travel a mysterious land with their Guardians - creatures only "believers" in them can see: 

From Chapter 11


Without the stopover in Time they had loosely planned upon, they journeyed toward where Noel wished to go – the Black Desert. 

“I don’t think we’re weak,” Mira complained as they followed a dry wash.  It was lined with lush trees, signifying that they had not made it to the desert proper yet.  There, all the trees would be thorny with thin, little leaves. A few scrubby trees began appearing the further in they walked and the broad-leafed ones thinned out.  “For my part,” she continued, “I just know what I need and am strong enough now not to let anyone tell me differently.” 

“All well and good,” Noel said, not really paying attention to his friend.  “Watch this tree-root.”

“Where are we going, anyway?  We’re just following the streambed.”

Noel turned and smiled at her.  “It is a path. It will take us to… a place.” 

“To the desert, hopefully,” Mira replied.  “Some say this whole area used to be desert.”

“Yep.” Noel said, “It’s an interesting patchwork.” 

Lazarus crunched some dry twigs and fallen leaves behind Mira, following her.  “Wherever we go,” she said mysteriously, “I don’t want to end up in a place where people are seen as disease.”

“Huh?” Noel asked, almost yelping as he turned to her.  Mira was known for saying strange things, but he had no idea what had brought this on.

“We were run out of Time,” she said.  “I’d very much wished to purchase a pocket watch there – the clocks and watches there are famous.  We weren’t even in the city long enough for me to do such a simple thing.  The people there saw our Guardians and decided that we were weak people and could weaken others.  In Resurrection, where people didn’t even see them, Xirtam explained to me that certain beliefs were seen as having the potential to be like a dangerous infection.” 

Mira shook her head, remembering the beggar she and Xirtam had met on the street and Xirtam’s condescending tone about his relative harmlessness.  “I don’t want to live like that again,” she sighed.  “I don’t want to live and be seen as having a virus or as being some potential incubating disease.  I don’t want to live where other people are handled like that, either.”

“Well,” Noel said with a strangely bright tone, “I suppose if some of the folk from Resurrection came to Rust, they’d be othered like that.”

“But I wouldn’t be. I would be home.  I want to go back home… eventually.”

“How about to a place where there are no people?  People do not despise or condescend to one another in places where no people exist.” 


A World of Rusted Dreams is my most recent completed novel.  I've been re-reading/going back over another piece of mine, Malarkey and Belinda. That one is about a slave woman and the genetically-and-magically-engineered gryphon she is made to raise and the bond of mother/son like love that develops between them.  M&B is something I wrote years ago and, while I don't think it's bad at all, it does show.  My recent work has a much better "flow" to it.  I'm not sure how to correct the "flow" in M&B.  I'm thinking, once I give that piece another good edit, I might create a blog for it in hopes of getting some feedback.  I don't know. *Shrug.*