Corpus Paradisum: Excerpt

 

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Art by Anselm Kiefer, German painter.

Plugging away at my book today (because class for this evening was canceled), I found I really liked what I wrote a few days ago (while re-reading), so I decided to drop the snippet here. Quick backstory: post apocalyptic scenario where flu kills most of the population of the world. .001% of population becomes creative-obsessive zombies until they die. Antagonist and Man of Questionable Motives, Marlin, runs a town of survivors, but collects zombie work. MC Susursal peruses the gallery with the Met twins. (Note: Paragraph break mid-sentence in the excerpt was intentional)

“Marlin calls this one The Scented, because of the smell,” Metempsychosis said in a whisper so loud it echoed the halls with lingering sss-sounds. Susursal closed his eyes and sought a fleeting scent through olfactory, through cilia-tastes. He found hickory smoke: everything was hickory smoke. Leaning farther in, he smelled coriander. Leaning farther, he smelled apple sweet. Nose almost touching the canvas, delicacies swirled around in his head: a muskful phantasm of unplaceable smells, gilded in motor oil or cat dander or a freshly shampooed shag carpet. The scent of pure clean, not cotton, not lemon, only identifiable by what it wasn’t. Like ionized air, or charcoal filtered water taste. Here, curled dragon teeth char-dripped in sycamore saliva. There, stained-glass crabapples ringed in a very specific caulk, soaked in paper pulp and corded hemp oil.

It looked like myriad mold rings and discolorations.

“And this one,” Metempsychosis’s voice shook through Susursal’s inhalations, “Is The Rain.” A whole forest arun to the base of the canvas, pooling colors from the same three mixed colors: moss, gray47, and aegean. And trailing flowers of vibrant purple wisteria. Mixed with lingering scents from The Scented, Susursal caught himself shuddering against a saltblue stairway of seawaves built by blackening truffle, oak barrel, and olive pits churned with grape leaves. And yet he stared at a forest, faded colors dripping behind wisteria as if the artist returned with a second decision, as if this weren’t a Creative’s work at all, but a master painter. He’d worked at a Lowes when he was young, too young to finish school, and had memorized all the color names from palettes present in the paint shop. “The blue was mixed with the artist’s blood to make the flowers,” Metempsychosis whispered, ripping Susursal from his thought for a second time.

“Should be called Morbid,” Metamorphosis said, his voice disturbing austerity. His mouth rolled around morbid as if he sired the word with the action of eating a pear. Scented continued to have an affect on Susursal: the word pear split into a tortilla tan flower, seeds and all, and gossamer dragonflies traded stance upon the juicy petals. “Do you like Meta talking so much? She’s an extrovert. She’s not for everyone.”

“I’m not for everyone. Hi. I like your shirt.”

Metamorphosis slurped water from an aging energy drink can, silver separated by reflective blues and reds, a brazen bull across the front. “Water is better in cans.”

Metempsychosis slinked to the next canvas. “Yeah. Adds minerals. Energy minerals.”

Metamorphosis slurped a second time, and with the same mouth movement he made for morbid, he said, “Oil. Oil.”

“Have a heart.” Glowing-eyes, and crystal, unstonelike in any way, Metampsychosis flashed laughter toward Susursal.

Perhaps still the magic of these canvases pervaded, but Susursal shuttered his mind’s eye from that wanful hurricane. Lo, she shone violent sun.

Dusty backcountry roads in a pickuptruck, guest in the country, soybean and corn husky and broken, runoff from tiny rockfetishing, she the flannel-wearing cousin he wished he’d known, tiny waist with smooth and worn carpenter jeans against single-straightacross seat, 1985 Ford F150 restored with red-and-white stripes, careening across field and a flurry of stark, slake-less sun. She the brownhaired skycloud against cloudless sky, framed against windowless door, cracked windshield and everything, a cloud, a layer, a thick impenetrable thing of corndust. Corndusk. Engine roaring blissful, frightening, she the masthead. Metempsychosis languid like underwater kelpbeds bouncing in the rolling current; behind her, reaching from the wall, an arch of amalgamous stuffs in gruesome gothic fashion; and she said, “Here is The Knifeguardian.”

Sususral stopped before the stop, a cut drywall wall of intricacies, fifty feet high, a dazzling window installed behind the wall opposite the hall to let sun fleck in, a crushed thousand skulls in the shape of a larger-than-life skull, a god. This, a god, Susursal thought, studying blurred lines depicting arms attached to shoulders askew like some Hindu relief sporting shades of reflective shimmering silver, bones delineating to antler handle, delineating to blade. A halo of blade: swords and bootknives and switchblades and filet and sabre and broadswords three behind and above burgeoning halo smeared murky yellow across drywall, wide-spread and glistening silver polished sharp, splits of blood, dabs of blood, either stainless steel or blued steel or titanium reflecting blood—waterproofed against the saltsea self—a wild, carnage-wrestled visage,

half-finished, skull sunken in on the right, of form like an oversized vole—large, open left eye socket, protruding and curve canine bone-teeth polished like ivory—candle-wax burned and dripping a long, sloppy waxy grey tear stalagctite overflowing from the crushed socket, long femurs of dog, horse, deer, antlers blooming like trees from its unfinished head hung tiny napkin silver rings a pagan Christmas decoration. Ten total. Yes, this half-realized god, unfinished before terminal creativity took the creator. Reflecthing, it should be named.

Susural bled tears: they came with a cut feeling, held back with all dedication and presence of mind, yet the muscles tore from around his eyes and he weeped. Milk from a fig, he weeped.

Over the hall, fastened by tape and glue and blood-smeared, bones jagged wired together with antlers wired together with knives, like bladed scales, a single seven-fingered hand opened, hovering, hale and harkening to any what passed beneath. A candle holder secured beneath, fastened to the underpalm, purple glass decorated by tiny, tiny animal bones, and teeth, candle long burned away. Susursal shuddered.

Undaunted from tethered memory or his many turbid thoughts, Metempsychosis traveled under the arching hand, finger-blades tiny and seemingly articulated reaching toward, she did not shiver nor stoop. Did not steel herself against the possible drop or scrape of candle-prison. She the guide, Metamorphosis behind sucking slow water from his brazen bull, Susursal followed in procession.

Virgil-like through this circle of personal hells made beautiful, Metempsychosis. Chiron-like, Metamorphosis supported from behind.

This, the frightening meter set. This, the lucid and elucidating prison of thought, released in rays of the psychic and balled about the halls in sacred silence, near-sleep of silence, sacral enlivened silence and, like calming whispers, Lalatu her long night breath, crept warm silk about his shoulders, cradling his skull, dropping her proud mantle about his neck and cascading long ribbons down his back. “And here,” Metempsychosis said, “is Pantheon of an Eastern Memory.”

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The Avenging Angel Motif in Writing

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Yeah. Totally new topic. This hasn’t been discussed for, like, six thousand years already.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Revenge is sweet.
Living well is the best revenge.

None of these are always the case. And none of these directly deal with what I’m writing about.

There is a difference between Revenge and Avenge.

Avenge is a word broadly concerned with inflicting a punishment or penalty in the pursuit of justice.

Revenge is a word broadly concerned with inflicting harm or punishment for personal retaliation.

There is an overlap, but one is not always the other, and the other is not always one. Avenge is usually the elevated purpose–placing importance on an ideal or perspective–which is why “Angel” is attached to it for my blog purpose, while Revenge is considered far more animalistic–placing importance on the self, and selfish goals–and therefore considered base and self-destructive. Identifying this difference is very important. For example, Akira was vengeful. Not avenging. And he burned himself out.

I’m sure there’s a revenging demon motif. Not sure about other overlaps; revenging angel? Avenging demon? Who knows. I don’t know why I’m using so much Christian vocabulary.

We’re all in love with superheroes. The X-Men and Wonder Woman. Watchmen and Batman and Nicholas Cage in The Rock and Pacific Rim. They wake a little secret part of ourselves that have been around for a long time, perhaps part of a shared childhood ideal of swooping in and handling a situation with your own two hands.

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Book Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

 

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Note the cream bedsheets; yes, I read it with class. Not pictured: infuser with sexy lavender oil.

I haven’t sat down and read an entire novel, in one sitting, in a really, really long time. I’m thinking since Peter Watts’s Starfish, back in 2005.

Autonomous took that prize.

I’ll give a non-spoiler version, and then after the read more tag, I’ll go quite a bit more in-depth with what I loved about this book. Also a few spoilers. BECAUSE HOLY SHIT. #professional

Quick overview: Autonomous takes place roughly 150 years from now, and centers on two groups of people: a drug pirate named Jack and her associates Threezed, Krish, Med, and those at Free Lab, and the IPC (Intellectual Property Commission? I think) duo of Eliasz and Paladin–an indentured robot–along with their support infrastructure.

A Big Pharma company creates a work efficiency drug that is intended to be marketed only to the wealthy. Jack reverse engineers it to be sold to the less fortunate, finds out it is highly addictive and damaging, and the pharma company wants to keep it under wraps. In turn, it sends its personal police to hunt down the terrorist (Jack) and keep the information secret/safe/profitable.

Overclocked with tech evolution, smart characters and smarter digital communications, and relationships that melded into the complexity of the story with clarity and power, Autonomous was just as interesting to read for the story as it was for the insight and depth of understanding for tech.

It covers themes of humanity, personhood, gender relations, technology relations, the complex nature of AI, patent law, Big Pharma, lawful vs. moral vs. ethical, security, and community (along with, I’m certain, lots I overlooked in the meantime).

I could be wrong, but I know of nobody else writing like this. And it is beautiful. If I had to give number score out of ten, I’d give it 9/10. It’s really, really, really that good. If you’re a tech nerd, if you’re a gamer, if you’re a digital humanities person, if you love science fiction, if you want a great read, get this book. It is a harmony of stories.

I’m getting a second copy just to share with a friend.  Continue reading

Quick Book Review: The Rim of Morning by William Sloane

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I took a break from research on Corpus (Aerial views of Herculaneum, MO anyone?) to finish one of two novels contained in The Rim of Morning by William Sloane: To Walk the Night.

I almost passed this up. I purchased on a whim (And King’s recommendation), and I am not let down by it.

Stephen King introduces this reprint of a 1937 novel with a disclaimer, and so will I: writing in the late 30’s was not very PC, and there were repeated references to people as “idiots” and “not people” when referencing a person with mental illness. For the sake of this story, I’ll also state the “snappy dialogue” also included personal opinions of one of the two white MCs that non “American” names were cockeyed and women should have a “mysterious composure” to them so they don’t get too headstrong.

This novel bends genre; it’s a story covering early football, university studies, detective whodunnit, science quandaries concerning infinity, questions concerning humanity and insight, all framed through a Lovecraftian lens of “strange science” and otherworldly “madness.” The story itself is so very low key, so very rhythmic in its flow and discourse, I found reading it almost calming in effect, despite the topics being covered.

I agree with Mr. King, though: this is horror. A slow, building, jump-scare free, chauvinistic pursuit of information that ultimately climaxes not with a scream and a fade to black, but with a baleful understanding.

That being said, this story, to me, was about the “Antagonist,” Selena. Without spoiling too much of the short, amiable read, Mr. Sloane did not agree with his protagonists’ opinions of womanly composure, or otherwise sought to create a powerful character with whom I was thoroughly impressed. While Mr. Lister the son was interesting and all the characters rounded and plausible, all were ultimately forgettable save Selena. I believe that was the intent in the novel: to serenade an air of power around one character so sublime and deep-reaching and hardly discernible that one was apt to overlook it entirely.

I loved this read for her. If she wasn’t a part of this story, I’d’ve forgotten the book in entirety. If you’re in the mind to read something simple, straightforward, and not lacking in subtle build, read this.

Chris

Funk: a Memoir on my Progress

I told myself August was the month where I finished the rough draft of this beautiful, haunting, busted-up novel of mine. And here I am, ten days in, with nary 1k words written on it since the first. With roughly 1/3 of the book remaining, I’m worried.

Internet stresses aside, and real life stresses aside (can you really put that aside? I say no. If this is a career, if this is a lifestyle, if this is my job. No.), I’m in a funk that I have brought on myself. Continue reading

#amwriting Do You Even Worldbuild, Bro?

My style of book prep seems like an ever-changing thing. While everyone has their own ideas and ways to make writing a book manageable, there are a lot of differences between genres, and people writing within those genres. I’m excited to talk about what I’ve been doing to write my latest few projects, and how this differs from my earlier, young’un projects that were barely a departure from fanfic.

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