Alone in the Mountains

I have a conflicted passion for hiking alone in the mountains, simultaneously reveling in and terrified by the solitude. This Aqaara excerpt reflects that:

It was clear ahead, the sky suddenly bright, all the trees gone. The summit was close, the trial suddenly steep. A small tree acted as a handhold and then a shelf of rock. It was unavoidable to not kick the edge, to not let it gouge into my ankle and thigh. The pain was almost good. It wasn’t a surprise to see it not there, to see more trees ahead, that this was just a blow-down, the trees twisted into a brambled heap, like a massive hand had swiped through. I watched my hand reach out ahead, pulling me up, watched the sleeve rumple up and flatten down again, over and over again, like I was a machine, reaching, pulling, moving ahead, a marvelous, thoughtless thing, moving on, knowing there were miles yet to the top. It was good knowing that it would not stop, that my legs and feet would have to not stop, that the path would wind ahead to the next false summit and I would turn and find more ahead. There was something on the horizon, far off through the trees. It was coming, slowly at first, seeing me move away, and was then moving faster. That feeling ground into me, about to be eaten, as I returned down the trail, jumping rock to rock and then climbed up into a tree, breaking the branches. The beast was still far and yet it wasn’t. It was awful how it crept closer, watching my ridiculous attempts to climb further, knowing what I would do, more than me, dreadful. The thing was still coming, methodical. It looked like a lion but stood on its hind legs and looked at her like something else, with awareness. I broke the final branch and clung to the peak, but the only escape was jumping now, and that is what I had to do, except the thing grabbed me by the neck and held until I stretched out like a cartoon, and then shook myself awake, and lay there, still, the images still hard and real.

Aqaara Scene: “Sex to Avoid Death”

The crowd was larger, people up both walkways, chants and holograms everywhere. A bright orange drone floated above, slowly coming down.

“Hello, how are you doing?” It was the man from the Hive, now dressed and atop a glider, floating behind the drone.

“Want me to smash that thing?”

“We’re making a film,” he replied.

Dee frowned.

“Name’s Norich.” He raised his eyebrows at her as he glided down. “How would you feel about me filming you now?”

“For what?”

“A document.”

“For your personal pleasure?”

“Sort of Cinema Verite.” The camera-drone, an orange sloped contraption, floated down over his shoulder. “I’m examining the nature of The Hive for the Ark News. The impetus of that, right? I’m thinking individually, right? Why do we do the things we do?” He looked half drunk, the way he glanced back and forth between them. “Like, what is to experience it?”

Dee shrugged. “Go ahead and try it.”

He landed, leaning forward, wincing at the effort to think of an answer that could not be deflected. “Wisdom, knowledge, that is very human.”

Dee studied his long face, almost earnest, knowing he wanted to listen, his hands open in front of him, waiting for something. “Sex, that’s what I think you’re after, sex and more of it.” Norich nodded back at her. “You know how people say that men want to have sex with young women to avoid their fear of death? That gorgeous taut flesh, so primal and real, the dream of the boy through the old man, it’s got nothing to do with dying, my friend. It’s just being alive, that sexual drive, mindless and direct. But to avoid death? No, it’s not that. Everything is to avoid death. Eating, drinking, going to the bathroom—”

“What about good driving habits then?” Dee added.

“That’s sure as hell part of it, awareness of what you are – your limitations, that you have a perspective, that you’re aware that we tend to think that we know something—”

“You men?”

“Us people. That we know something that no one else can exactly understand. Even with as much as anyone might know, in their mind for a certainty, whatever is gathered through books and media, experience, relationships, there’s only that, only that perspective.”

“Humility then,” Dee ventured.

“Yes, that’s part of it.”

“I think what you really mean is sex,” Dee concluded. “And the answer is no.”

“It’s more our limitations.” Norich tried to pat her on the shoulder. “It’s all about being aware of that.”

“So we’re in agreement then.” Dee went past him into The Hive.

Safe. Writing too.

I know my blog has been lacking as of late – and will be again – but in the meantime, I will get at it as I am writing as I should, attempting to complete a third draft of Aqaara, the second part of my speculative trilogy. Anyway, here is an expunged scene:

“You ever been on the subway in New York, Faith?”

“Yes, of course I have.”

“Ever take your son there?”

She looked scared, like she might leave. “Yes.”

“I was on the subway a few years ago, and there were two men arguing, two guys yelling at each other. Everybody backed away from them. It was the commuter rush. Nobody wanted to get near. And then one of them punched the other guy, hard, knocking him backwards into a wooden bench.”

“Bam! Bam!” The boy jumped up and down.

“The guy yelled, ‘And stay down!’ And walked right onto the train with us. No one spoke. He was standing right beside me. I knew I should have said something. ‘You assaulted that man! That is a crime! You can’t do that.’ But I didn’t. I said nothing. I did nothing, like everyone else. I was afraid he might have a gun or a knife. That’s what I told myself. The subway doors closed. He looked around at all of us, defiant. Nobody would meet his eyes. And we stayed like that, us commuters just going home like it was a normal day, a criminal with us now, and then it pulls into the next stop, 59th Street, and he gets off. I looked at the woman next to me. We were both so relieved to have him gone. The doors closed, and we continued on our way.”

Aqaara: More Expunged

“I have no fortune for you today.” Liyuan gave Dee a cigarette.

She reached out with indifference.

“How is Icarus?”

She smoked passively, staring out.

“Sleeping poorly?”

“This is worse than a cruise ship. It’s like high school, always stuck in fucking high school.”“You had a bad time there?”

“Always seeing the same faces, doing the same things, going nowhere.”

“That’s not entirely true, Dee. We really are going somewhere.”

“Jesus, Liyuan, what’s wrong with you? Did you actually like high school?”

“Very much. I loved to learn. It was a very exciting place.”

“Figures.”

New York Subway Story

“I had a chance to do something another time a week or so after that, on the subway again,” Liyuan offered. “A young boy, maybe 10 years old, was performing a dance for a crowded train, with his father watching beside him.”

The boy approached Icarus again, head twisted to the side, humming a tune to himself.

“It was late at night, maybe midnight, and so I said something this time. ‘There’s a reason for child labor laws, you know.’ He glared back as the train pulled into Union Square. The doors opened, and he kicks me, hard, just like that. I was so surprised by that. ‘Mind your own damn business.’ And he storms off the train, pushing his kid ahead of him. It took me days to realize that I had been assaulted.”

“I liked living in New York,” Dee offered. “The people are real.”

“Even if they’re racists?” Faith demanded.

Expunged from “Aqaara”

Fragments are getting set adrift from Aqaara as I trudge through Draft One:

“Lying to your maker, Em. That won’t get you anywhere.”

“I miss you, Dee. I really do. I look forward to seeing you. I think about coming here. I look forward to coming here to see you and my cat.” Em opened her Bearing, glancing through the images. “And then I don’t.”

“There’s nothing worse than high expectations.”

“I keep mine very low.”

“This is cellular,” Liyuan interjected. “This exchange, all of this is cellular. That’s who is speaking to each other, your cells.”

“Ignore him,”’ Dee replied. “And tell us about your politics. They make you a senator yet?”

“Lai got me an Ethi for a present.”

“What do you get out of it? To do your bidding?”

“Her name’s Emma.”

“I mean, what’s the point of it? Does it tell you how great you are?”

“Dee, why don’t I bring Emma here so you can insult her, like you do with me.”

“Insult you? Em, I only talk to you like you were me.”

“That’s it, isn’t it?”

Vaughn & Staples’ “Saga”: More Sci-Fi Rubbish

In the continuing quest for inspiration in writing my science fiction book Aqaara, I was recommended the graphic novel series Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples. I was most interested in its apparently profound treatment of sexual themes and imagery, and yet was disappointed to realize that it is neither thought-provoking nor titillating. The work is nothing more than a morass of simplistic morality propped upon a landscape of superficial sexuality in which – surprise! – a transgender character recently appears. The story-line is vapid, the dialogue interminable to say nothing of the farcical content. But worse of all are the references to the authors’ own process themselves, their love of books and killing off their babies. Which they never did and really should have.

Seven-Week Writing Session Done

Seven straight weeks of writing an average of 3-5 hours a day, culminating in 55,000 words, more than half of my second science fiction work has left me feeling empty. I think that I have done something – a summer well spent – and then I think, “So much for what?”

Aqaara: The Decision to Leave

Och engaged the signal and listened with the rest to the bitter message from Earth. “This is not open to negotiation. You are ordered to return.”

“We are leaving,” he replied simply.

“We condemn your actions. Your assets are to be seized, everything you own on Earth.”

“We give everything we have left behind freely. It is all for you. Use it for the good of all.”

“For the good of all? You have abandoned your families, your countries, your species.”              “We are on a journey to find our new home.”

“Your families will pay a dear price for your betrayal.”

“We would like you to accept our departure, commander. What else is there for you to do?”

“Set your course for return or you will be condemned.” The radio went down.

“They hung up on us?” Dee asked.

Och nodded. “It’s like a bad break-up.”