“Having the power of high, middle, and low fantasy …”
Hmm, not quite.
“One will come after unto like another one, and the one — the new one, not the old one — shall, being one that comesths after yon another one, shall be called tanist, an hword hof hour people meaning ‘succedant’ or ‘not nearly drunk enough yet,’ and beingth that when she finally makes her way through the Forest of Subordinate Clauses an bluidy well gets here, shall y-comme from down ye wind and with it, whistling, we shall clepe she to our hearts with houppelandes of steel as Tanist Lee.”
A bit prolix — though we do prolix in The Realm of Colourful Misprisions — and the terminal joke arrives DOA.
“It is good to be the splooshy thud.”
That’s the one.
Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Ten)
Whatever could he have been doing in the Domincan Republic with a bottle full of Viagra prescribed in someone else’s name for anonymity?
“Dr. Coulter, Dr. Coulter … Dr. Malkin, Dr. Malkin … wanted in Physical Therapy, stat.”
Kathryn: I travel with a lot of meds — eight prescription pills and two prescription-only injectables, one of which (epoetin alfa) has a couple of specific illicit uses, not that anybody’s going to mistake me for an Olympic sprinter. And yes, if I’m going somewhere domestically for a couple of days, I just take the two seven-day pill holders preloaded. (The insulin is in my kit of pump gear, which has a medical letter with it.) I’ve also got a wallet card with the names and dosages. (It suddenly occurs to me that I should add descriptions, as not everyone will know which is which.)
But if I’m gone any longer, and certainly if I were going anywhere international, I’d have all the bottles, with their labels, and my labels are all properly filled out. A phone call to any Walgreen’s can verify them. And I’m sorry, but my luggage is not “nothing but pills.” A month’s supply of everything would go into, say, a shaving kit if they were packed neatly.
I really don’t like being hassled at airports (or anywhere else), and some of the folks around here have heard me be very vocal about Security Theater Amateur Night. But having data on your prescription meds is not just a way of staying out of trouble with the authorities, it could save your life, and that is absolutely not hyperbole.
For a few years I was traveling with a backup dialysis bag in my carry-on. They’re all very officially marked, but still, it’s a two-and-a-half-liter sack of liquid with various piping attached, and I am glad I quit having to carry them before September 11.
In the nature of backups, I never actually had to use the onboard bag, and the supplier is extremely good at sending your travel supplies where you need to be when you need them to be there, and is justifiably proud of that. (If you think about traveling with ten liters of fluid a day, you see why this is not an issue of checked baggage.) And my nurses told me that occasionally they’d gotten frantic calls from the airport to run a bag out to someone stuck between planes, so I kept hauling them.
The dim (not exactly dark) side of it was that I had a plastic tube hanging off my abdomen. (Well, I still do, but it’s subcut, doesn’t go all the way through into the secret works.) This wasn’t a security issue (it certainly wasn’t visible), but I was once in an ED where a guy decided it was a feeding tube. Now, he was just an orderly, but through my whole stay he never understood what PD was, despite multiple explanations. There have been a few cases where the patient was unconscious and someone with authority to act decided the catheter was a feeding tube, with fatal results.
I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. For numerous reasons.
“An’ then there was Glimmister Woolpants, died summat young, relatively speakin.’ Devoured in one goolp by ‘un barrow-wiggit, say the witnesses, such as they was. ‘Cept for one stick-in-the-mud who kept sayin’ it involved a sheep wot in better light would’ve been identified as a ram. Heither way, wa’ant enough left for for-ren-sick analeeysis.”
We hobbits are a merry folk
Though this is in contention;
But since that wizard come, we’re broke
And cancelled our convention.
These tin-plate folks come marching through
With tales of what we ought to do,
We’d rather stir up oxtail stew,
Than some dramatic tension.
No Hobbit fights when he can flee
From enemies advancin’,
But past the age o’ thirty-three,
No Hobbit’s got his pants on;
The big Men say we’re late to bloom
An’ laugh as they depart the room,
But ladies tire of bang and boom
And like a sense of scansion.
We joke about our scaredy rep
And honestly don’t mind it
The unshod foot can lightly step
And sense the boot behind it
Now ghastly things are in the air
But if you’re dead there’s nowt to care,
It’s true the brave deserve the fair,
And fair is where you find it.
Though swords may thrust, and thunder roll,
You don’t get dinner by it,
And if you knows a better ‘ole
It’s time to occupy it;
Both knaves and heroes find they die
In want of beer and shepherd’s pie;
To love, and fight, and not quite lie
Is Hobbits’ balanced diet.
On the other hand, The Little Red Book of Westmarch looks really cool in Pinyin.
I, er, came to this blog in the first place because of the knitting description.
It is probably true that a construction like “Language, knitting, hamsters, Catherine of Siena,* infused oils, that thing over there, second from the left, and excursions into Middle English” would produce a different histogooglegram**. Though it might well, in the long term, accrete the same galaxy, or at least one of similar luminosity.
*Example only. YStMV.
**Overuse of antihistograms can actually aggravate congestion in the sample space, and produce severe sinusoidal pain. This is not medical advice, though it owns a white coat.
“How much for the nice gold fleece?”
“You better talk to the guy by the boat.”
“The big strong guy?”
“Next to him.”
“The strong guy looks cool.”
“The strong guy has kind of a temper on him. Anyway, I wouldn’t argue with a man who can get a sea-going vessel into this part of New Hampshire.”
He got married, for Ghu’s sake! You can call the guy “James Bond,” you can dress him up all dapper, you can give him the fancy weapons and everything else, but some things are just beyond the pale.
You are aware that the film’s ending is taken, in detail, from Fleming’s novel?
Okay, just wanted to be sure on that.
I’m not going to argue that the film Bond, at least after “Dr. No,” is the same character as the print version (a different issue from the plot changes). I’ve got an incomplete essay around here on the film image, and how in a lot of ways having to deal with the different versions has kneecapped the writers. Maybe I’ll go see the Daniel Craig movie (I’ve seen them all, thanks to cable, but haven’t been to one in a theater for a long time), which does look like it’s going to try and reset a bunch of things,* and then finish it and try to put it somewhere visible.
*”Now listen carefully, 007. This is a Mark Three microplanar GPS-enabled Tabula Rasa. These are the control knobs, here for horizontal axis, here for vertical. When you need to wipe the slate, you turn it over and shake it firmly, like so. And whatever you do, don’t break the glass until the last reel. May we consider the plea to return it intact to have already fallen on dysfunctional tympanic membranes? Very well then.”
… the awkward detail of his hospital marriage to his housekeeper.
She shook the bloke’s Martinis
The way those ladies do;
How were they to know
She was sluicing SPECTRE, too?
Now he’s off in the Hereafter,
But that is not the worst:
Send Playmates, guns, and Q Branch,
Seems Blofeld got there first.
Neither innocent nor bystander,
It’s a right royal fix;
Picking over the leavings
Of 00s 1 through 6.
It was one licentious living,
No regretting when you go;
Send Playmates, guns, and Q Branch,
‘Cause Heaven’s wired to blow.
The dead have stopping-trains.
They run down tracks of uncertain gauge and irrational curvature, past deserted stations and signal-boxes that show spook-lights at high midnight. They have their own schedules, precise as the edge of a knife except when there is a points failure at Crewe. And somehow there always is.
All of them are smiling, at the man in the black high hat. They smile as they pass him, standing on his platform with his gold watch perpetually out, smiling around the next bend, smiling and rolling their eyes. Those eyes, always wide and white, widen further just for a moment as they meet on the crossing diamond, as if they are aware that here the Brunels have no dominion, that here a Beeching is somewhere always grinding an axe, that if you turn away you can see a Frank Pick poster bearing the marks of talons, that the whistle’s shriek is not lonesome, because Hell is other locomotives, and a long black train, seven coaches long.
— from “Sodor and Gomorrah” by Clive Barker, who one rather hopes is not reading this. (And yes, I know, it’s object animation, not cels. You really don’t want to hear what I had in mind for Postman Pat’s cat.)
“I say, Jeeves, who’s that eating Dilly Chipworth’s gray matter?”
“It is very dark, sir, but from the faint phosphorescence I would say it is a shoggoth.”
“One of the Grinstead Shoggoths?”
“Those are the Shagworths, sir.”
“Serves them right for having such a music-hall name. Anyway, tell the fellow he’s not going to get a scrap of nutritive value from what he’s dining on.”
“Grmph. Teke-li-li! Fhta*belch*gn.”
“Look, you there! That sort of bolshie rot may go down a pip at Hyde Park Corner, but the Fourth Earl of Ponsonby-Britt is slumbering, and it’ll go deuced poorly for the lot of us if he’s disturbed!”
“I believe the Earl is already disturbed, sir.”
“Some nights nothing whatever goes your way! Are you absolutely certain, Jeeves?”
“He is slithering up behind you on a carpet of gelatinous pseudopoda, sir.”
“Oh well, after that business with Miss Mossrose and the fudge, the weekend was a wash anyway.”
“¿Hey, Alcalde boss hombre, you got a minute?”
“Perhapth a fraction of one, Thergeant Baba Looie. My minuteth are prethiouth. And thtop thpeaking with thothe inverted quethtion markth. Thith ith no thpaghetti Wethtern.”
“I’ll stop if you’ll quit with the Cathtilian thing.”
“Deal. What’s your question?”
“I was thinking, have you ever seen Don D’Iego Santa Maria Cthulhu and the notorious Cthorro in the same place at the same time?”
“I had not supposed that they would be amigos.”
“No, I mean, I think he’s the same guy. Guys. Or, you know, guyish thing.”
“Nombre de indecible, are off your frijoles? Don D’Iego is of the aristocracy. His family is ancient, and I mean that in a big way. Also, he is gay as an eldritch snake.”
“I know all that, boss, but every time this Cthorro strikes, CSI Old California finds these puddles of ichor. Also, the Robinshoods of the old legends, he does not give to the poor and then devour them in a big mess.”
“Hmm. Well, you are wrong, but I will make a visit to his picturesque mansion under the full moon and ask a few pointy questions.”
“I been there. Wear big boots.”
“Plan 9? Ah, yes, Plan 9 involves me forgetting my line and picking up my conveniently placed script for a cue. And while these Earth people are, as you will say in twenty more pages, idiots, their carbon-based-paper and stapling technology is far in advance of our own.”
The appreciation of literature isn’t binary, get it/don’t get it; many, if not most, works of depth can be read for their pleasures as adventure stories by almost anybody, and returned to when other themes have room to resonate, either against direct life experience or s knowledge of history. The Iliad is an obvious example, Dumas is another. To be crude and nasty, one of the distinguishing features of crap entertainment is that it offers nothing new to on a repeat performance, and nothing new to the viewer who has changed/matured/learned/sobered up in the interval.
The perspective shift (the parallax?) is certainly true of Shakespeare for the reader — the Falstaff one wants to hit the streets with at seventeen turns into the abandoned scoundrel of a later age — but it’s also true that a high-school performance of Rude Boy Hal (never mind, gor’ save ‘un, Cordelia’s Bad Hair Day) is going to hit different notes than one with older actors, even if the older cast are not vastly more skilled actors. Which is entirely as it should be; student acting can be ruined as an experience (though I think this is much less common than it was) by teachers who are trying to get everyone to hit the marks from whatever taped production the class has been shown as a model, and not find their own modus locopodus, to new-mint the words, in John Barton’s phrase.
This has been tonight’s performance of Numbingly Obvious Points Theater. What, ladies, gentlemen, have ye no Stephen Colbert to go to?
Comparable to Tolkien at his pretty good!
For the genterations of fans who have been waiting for a book that was enough like that other book, there is now
Faucets of Grignr: the Hyoids and the Critics
Read what startled priests of Magic-Like Realsim have to say:
“Furthers Argon studies further than they have ever been furthered before.”
“One of the most startling papers to cross my desk since I unwrapped my lunch.”
Available now from discriminant sorces, in an edition with genuine binding and a dynmanic cover painting in two colors by E. R. “Ted” Frozetta (no relation).
Herewith ane lynke to a Project Gutenberg edition of Shaw’s ending, along with his notes thereon. I will assume you are familiar with Shaw’s usual tone when writing about “Shakespear,” as he spelled it. If you’re not, you might want to pour yourself an intolerable deal of sack first.
I saw Peter Hall’s production a number of years ago, and thought it quite well done; Peter Woodward was Posthumus, Geraldine James was Innogen (as they had it), Tim Pigott-Smith was Iachimo, and Eileen Atkins was the Queen.
Hall was retiring from the NT, and his finale was “The Late Shakespeares,” Cymbeline, Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest with the same cast. (It was a nice time to be a theater geek in London.) They were very straightforward, minimal-staging productions — not quite the new Globe’s “original practices,” but trying for something close to what you would have seen at the Blackfriars or the Globe, without the rain and the Rat Onna Stick vendors.
And it did not contain quite these lines:
“Put yer hat and sunscreen on,
British Gas will warm yer hovel,
Labour (and the party’s) done,
So pick up yer bloody shovel;
Time runs out for maids and blokes,
Th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks.”
(Apologies to Shakes. Eliot’s on his jellicle own.)
“Emit faint moan.”
I’ll have what she’s having.
Some time back there was an ad (in New Scientist, no less) for an “energy drink” that advertised:
[Exclamation points in original documentation]
There was no explanation in the advert of how a product with no caloric content could be so darn energetic. (Well, the 250ml contents would have a theoretical energy of a little over 5 kilotons, can excluded, but if this is the intent there is a distinct lack of hazard labeling.)
Closer examination indicated a number of components, such as, well, caffeine and tea leaf extract, that would persuade some of the energy the user was already carrying around to spend itself on activities such as irritability and diuresis.
It is probably unlikely that these beverages will be relabeled as “energy assistance drinks,” “glucose goosers,” “whiz-bangs,” or “a shot of red-eye,” but at least a bit of research has been done* toward a fuller understanding of these convenience-store strange attractors.
*Or “a short step down a long Planck,” as no one will have the poor taste to say.
Okay, this is what I get for pretending what is not a Poetry Challenge is, especially very late at night.
Apologies in advance, and though it’ll probably be obvious in a verse or so, the tune is “So Where’d Those Darn Flowers Get To, Anyway?”
About a thousand years ago
In old Ireland
Brother Padric set him down
For praise on page
They had geese and they had sheep
All the things those places keep
But life is full of doubt;
Seems that the ink was out
Padric took a little trip
To the Eastern lands
If you want these things done right
You send a monk
In the East Aleppo lay
Out where there grew a tree
Stately as an oak can be.
Green and leafy stood the oak
As they tend to do
Giving shade and well bespoke
And it had wasps
Leaving eggs upon its leaves
Now a tree, it never grieves
Where we would be appalled
A tree is merely galled
Padric bought a bag of galls
At Aleppo fair
With a bit of haggling there
(That’s how it’s done)
Though the price was likely high
There’s a cost for what you buy,
The word wasps speak to men
Is universal ken
Pardon please while we digress
Centuries and seas away
To old I. U.
Alfred Kinsey watched the bugs
Meeting trees and cutting rugs
Down other paths it led
But let�s not lose the thread
Padric sits in northern light
With a tankard full
Tannin, gum, and vitriol
And his goose quill
All the Psalmists’ words come through,
David, Woody, Dylan too,
And before very long
He hears another song
It’s the Song of Songs, of course
(Though not Solomon’s)
Life is short but art is long
(Here’s to metaphor)
Watch her feet in sandal shoon
It’s an old familiar tune
Monks are not made of wood
Some things are understood.
Padric put his stylus down
Then what happened?
How did book come into bog?
We may never know;
Did the Norsemen make them flee,
Psaltery and battery?
Odd how we give events
A shot of violence
So the vellum went to sleep
Underneath the mire
We know the pH was right
Where light don’t shine
And when the reaction’s done
Ink and sheep become as one
It’s as we like to say,
Words do not fade away.
Now the years have come and gone
(It’s their habit to)
And the way earth turns around
Who would suppose
That a sharp-eyed bloke would be
Working with a JCB
Another page to turn
Another page to turn
At last, Jim Steinman has found the perfect interpreters. (And I wonder if the Worldcon Masquerade committee is hastily making a couple of rules changes.)
But, please, it’s Kitsch N’Sink.
I’ll go away now.
… how much sense they actually seemed to make, at the time.
“I’ve got a dream when the darkness is over
We’ll be lyin’ in the rays of the sun
But it’s only a dream and tonight is for real
You’ll never know what it means
But you’ll know how it feels
It’s gonna be over (over)
Before you know it’s begun
(Before you know it’s begun)
Let the revels begin
Let the fire be started
We’re dancing for the desperate and the broken-hearted
Say a prayer in the darkness for the magic to come
No matter what it seems
Tonight is what it means to be young
Before you know it it’s gone.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United states has just concluded his State of the Union Address, backed by the Donald Rumsfeld Experience. America prevails.
Can someone tell me why I thought “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was a duet between Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler?
Mitral Steinmanosis. Fortunately, there is hope.
The effect is rather cave-like, I must say…
But as we all know, you are in a starship.
“Captain, all decks are on emergency power, in a shade of red I find quite homey. Several crewmen are stuck in the holodeck running some kind of Dungeon of Inimitable Whanging progam. As usual.”
“Thank you, Mr. Worf. Someday we must put exit lighting in the holodeck. For now, you know where the stationary bicycle is?”
*heavy Klingon sigh* “Of course, sir. Tea will be along shortly.”
And to offer something actually useful, there are decent-grade windup flashlights from my favorite jernt therefor here and here. (I believe the “X-Ray Flashlight” is merely colorfully named, and this does not refer to its output, but, well, you can’t always tell.) Note that LabSafety’s main catalog has something like forty pages’ worth of various flashlights, including geek stuff like pocket strobes* and those high-priced units Mulder and Scully waved around in the credit sequence.
*Standard caution: Know your audience before you point a strobe at anybody
But in the context of writing a story about how technology changes people’s lives, near future SF, writing about how cell phones might affect people in Delhi when we can already see how it affects people in the US, sort of makes it hard to turn into an SF story.
At the extreme risk of being much ruder than I mean to be, that happens to be what SF writing is — finding the dramatic situation that emerges from the change. The change does not by any means have to be large — indeed, this whole “transformative” thing is a non-issue — and it does not have to affect many people; it only has to affect one person sufficiently that he is moved to act in response. One of the oldest tricks in the business is “Who does this hurt?” and only a heartbeat or two younger is “who does this hurt when for the great majority it’s a genuine benefit?”
I’m not suggesting that it’s a trivial problem, because art never is. And some people have greater gifts for pulling drama out of unexpected corners than others. I’ll bet Avram Davidson could have written a deep and affecting tragedy about the change from “real” coinage to base metals — I can think of ways it might go, but they wouldn’t be as good.
One point of “distant future” SF — whether it’s a century or millennia — is to show a society that has assimilated changes: interstellar civilization, cohabitation (in whatever sense you like) with aliens, immortality. The thing that’s hard about this is telling a story that isn’t the Same Damn Thing with different props. You can get away with it in certain forms; there will likely always be an audience for space opera, because well-told adventure stories please most readers, and various fascinating novelties of the future world can be shown off. (The realistic Western is still a viable genre, though a minority one, because the non-Hollywood West is now an alien environment.)
Near-future SF, on the other hand, is about the impact of the X-factor on a society that is not significantly different from ours. This means that it is likely to date for some readers, though for others it will, if compelling enough, retain value as a kind of period piece. People still enjoy Verne’s industrious Victorians. And while it is constantly said that we have grown used to change, and even bored with it, there are an awful lot of people for whom this is not true (and they are vocal about it), and there isn’t in fact a whole lot of attention paid to the impact of change — at least, not until something Real Bad happens.
If it’s hard to write SF with a contemporary background, it’s because it was always hard to mirror a readily visible nature, and the yarns are often forgotten once their time passes. But the idea that it’s harder because everybody is inured to change is just plain wrong. Everybody isn’t, by a very large margin. People who think they know what’s coming are the easiest to shock and disorient. And even if six billion people less one were completely comfortable with every imaginable change, that one person would have a story worth telling; indeed, his story would be the one most worth telling.
(Sophisticated tales of the poorly imagined rich, like “Footballers’ Wives” but, you know, hot.)
(Exoticish-locale adventures featuring two-bit Bogarts, one-bit Bacalls, and debituated Lorres.)
(Decadent stories set, as the cover says, “on the very fin of the siècle,” in a Paris as real as any in Nevada. Phantoms optional.)
(Clean but honest peasants doing clean but honest things amid the manicured fiefs of the suburban Middle Ages. Magic depending on which way the wind is blowing.)
The evil cyborgs from the future are missing a bet by not loading their durochromalloy exodipulators with popular soft drinks and paperbacks of literary merit (Penguin Classics would be cool) and shuttling between London and New York. They could make a bundle (I very nearly said “a bomb,” but that’s not the idea, is it?) and get tons of frequent-flier miles which they could use to visit popular cyborg resort locations, like the Ginza and Saab plants.
So we’ll know they’re from the future, they should probably dress in the uniforms Mary Quant designed for Braniff and speak with BBC accents. “We have been monitoring your broadcasts for many years. This parrot is deceased! It has ceased to be!”
“First they take my stakes. Now they take my holy water. If the crosses go, I’m screwed.”
— Leda van Helsing, 7th of the Line
And Erik: I am suddenly imagining Fly Like a Mad Fiend* Day, in which teams of Dada dramaturges distribute hundreds of Tyvek lab coats at airports, encouraging everyone to wear one through security. (Fright wigs and odd eyeglasses optional.)
If nothing else, it would provide an interesting index of how scared the ordinary citizenry actually is.
*I thought about “Fly Like an Egon,” after Harold Ramis’s character from Ghostbusters, but jokes that require explanation, while quite Dada, don’t make good mass street theater.
“What in the name of Robert Moses’s patoot is a ‘Habitation Module (1) [occ]’?”
“Beats me. Want I should point the Phased Neutrino Movie-Plot-Device Detectotronic Ray at it?”
“That’s a day’s paperwork if we don’t find anything and a week’s if we do. It sounds like it goes on the Space Shuttle. Let’s put a seal on it and transship down to Florida.”
“It’ll sit here for two weeks.”
“What’s it gonna do, die of boredom?”
(If I cover my good eye on nights when the new moon is a thin sliver, I seldom see fewer than eight or nine moons. My record is fourteen.)
In a fantasy novel, this would Mean Something. You know, a Destiny, Latent Magic Powers, the ability to command root vegetables. Your difficulties with Web formatting would be identified along about Chapter Two as a Quest, requiring that you accumulate a party of colorful characters, to, like, explore arcane lore and discuss matters of import and beat up trolls and crap.
I’m not suggesting that this is an immiscible blessing. For instance, I am obviously the guy who catches a trenchant glaive (to the astonishment of everyone but the reader) a couple of chapters before the Ultimate Foofaraw so everybody else finally has a reason to dislike the Bad Guy. Then again, if you’re gonna go, you can go worse than Mercutio.