The Woven Thread, Issue 2

Hullo all: just a quick post today.

The second issue of The Woven Thread was just sent out. It’s a good issue this time, with some very good poets writing for it.  Some shameless advertisement: if you’re interested in receiving The Woven Thread, just email TheWovenThread@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post with an e-mail address, and I’ll make sure you’re added to the distribution list.

If you’re too ambivalent to click the link on your left to get to the actual page, The Woven Thread is a monthly newsletter and poetry anthology, aimed at a workshop setting. You can submit one poem a month, and it will get in to the Anthology automatically. You’re only obligation afterwards is to choose two other poets from the issue and respond to their poems via e-mail, thus establishing not only a good anthology of poetry but a dialog about the poetry as well. How delightful.

I like to point out that, because of the nature of the newsletter, it’s great for writers who aren’t necessarily full time poets, but just like to putter around with the art. You can get and give feedback, and it’s a place to get published without having to worry about impressing anyone. If you yourself are thinking of giving poetry a try, go ahead and sign up. If you don’t like poetry, but you might be interested in seeing what we’re doing, there is going to be material for non-poets as well (editorials, writing resources, and the like). If you don’t want anything to do with us, but have a friend who might, point them in our direction.

And now that the shameless plug is out of the way, I’ll go to sleep.

Thanks everyone,

~DK

The Bluff

Ideal, for a kid,
About a mile back in the forest.
Easy to find, if you know the way,
Impossible, if you don’t.

It’s along the trails, out in the woods across the house.
Past the ropes course, and past the lean-tos.
The forest opens up, along the east side of the trail,
And there used to be a dropoff there, probably 10 feet
Shows off the opposite side of the valley,
Green or flaming or bone-white, depending on season,
And the cracked ribbon of road, Rt. 19,
Where everyone has to drive to get in and out of town,
Unless they know the back roads.

Place’s got a fire-pit already made,
Don’t have to search for stones,
And there’s logs already around it,
Starting to rot a little, but
I don’t mind dirty jeans.

And spots for tents,
So that in the summer we’d come up
With hot dogs and sausages and mallows
And stay up all night, pretending to sleep,
And when the sun would come up,
We’d all sit on the ledge of the dropoff, wait until
The sun rose from the opposite side of the trees,
And then all burst, and the top of our lungs,
The opening of the Lion King,
Spouting our own Swahili mumbo-jumbo
Cause we couldn’t remember the right words
And wouldn’t know what the meant even if we could.

Each year, I’d go back, there was a little less of the Bluff there,
Rain and animals and stupid kids like us kicking at the ledge,
Didn’t realize that the dirt that fell down wouldn’t come back up.

Some years come by, whole trees had slid down the hill
(It’s a hill now, the cliff crumbled away)
Roots and all, taking little islands of dirt with them,
Clutching at anything to help them stay upright,
As their foundation crumbles from underneath them.

And we’ll still go camping—come by with sausages and
Mallows and chocolate,
Pitch our tents about ten feet further back than we used to
Because where we used to isn’t there anymore,
And spend the night pretending to sleep,
(Thinking about the years, sliding away like the trees).

And then, we would go out,
Sit on the ledge, which is more like a steep slope
Now,
And as the smallest sliver of tomorrow slipped over the valley walls,
We would breath and sing at that fiercely rising sun:

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!
Here comes a Lion, Father!

Kindle the Flames of Revolution

I won a writing award at my school. It’s the Nancy Barcus Memorial Award, named after an ex-faculty member of Houghton. It’s not really an award just for writing, but also is a sign of general competency, a good attitude, and involvement with the Houghton College Writing Department. I feel very good about receiving it, perhaps as a sign that I actually do know what I’m doing after all.

That and it comes with three hundred dollars attached.

As honored as I am about the award, the three hundred dollars are what this post is about. I feel like I need to spend them on something writer-ish, like books and such. Or perhaps put it towards some journal subscriptions, making literary connections, etc.

I doubt I’m going to be putting towards any of those things.

Rather, I think very seriously about putting it towards Amazon’s new Kindle. What, you say, what is a Kindle? Kindle is Amazon’s new e-book reader. A convenient little hand-held gadget with wireless access which lets you download books and read them directly from the built in screen.

Now, e-readers aren’t very popular at the moment, especially amongst the writer crowd, for a number of reasons. The biggest practical reason I’ve heard is that people don’t like reading off of screens: it hurts their eyes. Well, that’s taken care of here. The Kindle doesn’t have a monitor. It has what they’re calling an Electronic Ink Display. Basically, when you load up a book, the data gets written to the display in a very literal fashion. It isn’t little glowing lights that shows you the text, the actual display itself changes colors. It’s like reading off of paper, only the paper can change it’s content. All the versatility of a monitor, all the clarity and smoothness of a page. So you have an entire book on a single sheet. More than just one book, really: Amazon.com has released over 10,000 titles for kindle download so far, all for $9.99 or less. More are coming out every day. Seems like a good deal to me, even though the piece of hardware itself is $399.99.

Despite it all, though, most of my writer-friends make small hissing sounds whenever I talk about it. Something about the concept still bothers them. I know exactly what it is to.

Written print is dying, slowly and surely. The internet in general (us bloggers, really) delivered the first blow. Kindle (or, perhaps a similar piece of hardware that will come after) is the box they’re going to bury it in. They don’t like it, they don’t want books to go away, because there’s something incredibly nice about having something in you hands as you read it: the rasp of paper, the creaking of a spine when you bend it a little to far, the little wrinkles that the paper gets when your hands are sweaty and you stay on one page too long. E-readers can’t replace books any more than blogs can replace manuscripts—which doesn’t mean they won’t try. Print as we know it is dying, not much to be done about it.

Personally, I can’t wait.

Now, now, before you all go throwing tomatoes at me, let me explain myself. The fact is that I love books, probably more so than the next guy. But I don’t look at them, like most do, as vehicles for information. I look at them as an art form, the book itself being a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, publishing companies nowadays are very much business oriented, not art-oriented. They care about profit, and distribution, and numbers. I don’t really blame them: they’re running a business, and there’s nothing to be done about it. But the end result is that books—the actual physical books, the paper, the binding, the ink and the like—are made as cheap as possible in order to maximize profit. Your standard commercial paperback is a tiny thing, not even half the size of an 8×11 sheet of paper. The words are crammed so full at every page that they’re an eyesore to read: I’d rather stare at a monitor all day. The pages are almost never acid free anymore, though, so any books you might have will crumble in twenty to thirty year’s time, anyway.

Trade paperbacks, the large ones, are only a little better. The text isn’t so smashed, and the books aren’t quite as fragile, but the acid’s still there, and even if they last long enough to crumble, you won’t be able to hand them to you grandchildren by any means. Hardcovers—did you know?—are trade paperbacks connected to cardboard siding via two pieces of paper. Look at the very front and back of a hardcover near you, where the ‘cover’ meets the actual ‘book.’ Those two sheets of paper that seem to hold everything together? Those really do hold everything together. Hardcovers are no more durable than anything else, and not really any nicer. It’s all done with glue and cheap paper nowadays, not a hint of stitching in a book to be seen.

But only, I say, for nowadays. Until print dies. Until all the Chicken Soup for the Tortured Soul readers, the Oprah fans, the people looking for Hillary Clinton’s latest biography have left the market, have gotten they’re kindles and won’t have anything to do with clunky, outdated books anymore. Then the ones that will be left will be the bibliophiles. The book lovers. Us.

Basic free-market principle: if there’s a market, someone will satisfy it. And the market that will be left over after print dies will be the market that is no longer satisfied with glue and acidic paper. The publishing houses that still make old fashioned books will do it right, they’ll stitch the pages together, give the books proper headbands again. Acid free paper will abound.

When Print dies, it won’t really die. It’ll just become what it should be—beautiful. Admittedly, prices will rise, because good books take money to make. But if you’re just looking for a cheap read, that’s what you’ve got a Kindle for.

So that’s why I’m considering buying a kindle—to add a bit of funding to the cause.

If I do end up getting one, I’ll let you know how it turns out. The product looks good in the demonstrations I’ve seen, but I’ll need to actually use one to get a feel for it. I’ll keep you posted.

~DK

Edit: Behold the Kindle here.

Home from Myrtle Beach

Hullo, all,

We are now back from Myrtle Beach. The reason I couldn’t post the past two days was because we were on the road constantly. No internet in cars. Well, not yet at least.

As fun as it was to chill on the beach and the like, there’s something deeply satisfying about being home. I never sleep very well unless I’m in my own bed, so it felt very good to get slip into it when we got home at midnight last night. I woke up this morning, a little depressed that I had to go to school within 24 hours, but overall doing fairly well. I’m finding school satisfying, if a little troublesome at the moment.

Houghton is doing a writer’s retreat this coming weekend, and I’m one of the two people on the planning comitee. The other person is also the editor of the local literary magazine, which comes out in two weeks, so that means that I’ll be picking up a fair chunk of slack this week while she works towards that end—these last weeks are crazy, and she’s a very hard worker, so it’s extra rough for her. It means I’m going to be busy too, on account of needing to rush about and secure snacks/catering plans/schedules at the last minute.

We’re having Daine Komp come in, read a bit from her novel The Healers Heart, which is an interesting read thus far. Haven’t finished it yet. The subject of the conference is going to be on the dichotomy of the social and contemplative roles of writers (should we be changing the world, or observing it, basically).  Be expecting some posts to that effect after this week ends, because it’s a subject I like talking about.

In other news, research for my school projects is going well—lots of work, but enjoyable. I’m curing AIDS with computers power. Huzzah.

I’m feeling pleasantly fresh from this vacation, which is unusual. Normally when I travel over break, I come back exhausted. Right now, I feel like I actually have the energy/time to do everything I need to do.

It’s on my mind that the real test starts now: writing fairly consistently over break is the easy part, trying to do it through actual work is more challenging. But then, it’ll be good to just consider it practice for writing while holding down a 40 hr/week job.

I think I’ve got a good feel on things.

And now that I’ve managed to dear-diary for long enough to assuage my conscience about spending today lazing about, I think I’ll actually get some work done.

Wish me luck ladies and gents.

~DK

Miss Troublesome

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: Same as before.

As mentioned in the previous post, I want to be able to talk about my characters a bit.

Or, in this instance, one specific character. She is the central character of Artifice. The story is told in third person limited, and significant chunks of the book are going to occur through her perspective, along with a few other select characters. The story starts with her, and ends with her, and is very much about the things that happen to her, so I suppose that that makes her the protagonist.

The problem is that she confuses the hell out of me.

Her name is Sera Bevens, which is, no matter how you look at it, no proper name for a cyberpunk heroine. “Chevette” and “Hiro Protagonist” are good, traditional cyberpunk names. And, no matter how you look at it, she’s not a cyberpunk character.

Well, that’s a lie. She is, but only because she’s trying to be. The typical cyberpunk character is a largely stress-free sort of character, at least in terms of personal identity. They are confident in who they are, don’t worry about looking cool or acting tough, they just naturally do. Especially the female ones. Cyberpunk characters are edgy and cynical and street-wise. They think they know everything and, in the typical cyberpunk setting, they really do.

Sera does all these things, quite effectively. But, at the same time, the entire cyberpunk personna doesn’t come easy to her: she’s got an entire naive and slightly-romantic side to her that she tries to crush down. The typical cyberpunk genre is devoted to a certain amount of cynacism, and it really clashes with certain parts of Sera’s personality. I have to find a way to preserve that part of her without betraying the genre entirely. She’s cynical about her own romanticisim, I know, and it pisses her off.

The most difficult thing is that she isn’t faking the cyberpunk persona. If it was a typical character-trying-to-be-something-she’s-not scenario, then the narrative would flow evenly because I’m used to that one. The issue is that when she’s being punk, she’s genuinely punk, and so not faking at all. It makes trying to capture both sides of her difficult in practice.

Sera is also a very guarded character to get: normally I can get a feel for one of my characters within a couple scenes, but Sera’s been throwing me for a while. It’s not that she’s more complex than some of my other characters, but that she’s more subtle about it. Cyberpunk characters are normally very obvious on the outside, but that’s more of a distraction from subtle character-traits on the underneath. I’m having trouble finding out what those more subtle character traits are.

I wrote about Sera in The Glory of God. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of her behavior in there, but her personality is a much more subdued throughout. Lots of the stuff I write with her in it is this way: the personality is there, but subdued. And if it isn’t, then it’s very aggressive: the loud superficialness of her personality popping out more than the quiet subtlety.

Still trying to work her out. I’m sure I’ll get more done in the coming days.

~DK

Character Design and Discovery (CHAR 101)

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: 2,403

Talking a bit about how I come up with characters today.

I’ve got an agenda here; namely, I want to be able to talk about the characters I’m working with, but in order to do that I’ve got to talk about the process first, so any readership I have isn’t left in the dark.

I’ve heard writers talk before about how they don’t like to think of themselves as creating characters, but rather discovering characters that were already there, and using them. I normally hate this kind of stuff, it reeks of pretentious artsy-types and squishy thinking. But, in this case, there’s definitely something to that way of thinking.

When I create a character, there are definitely elements of discovery to it. Normally, I’ll end up creating a vague outline of what there character is: a very general personality. You can always tell the mediocre fiction writers because normally stop here. Their characters aren’t completely flat, but they don’t have any depth either. They tend to have only one emotional state, and one frame of speaking, and repeat the same things over and over in dialog. They feel like bit characters—they’ve been drawn using only one crayon, with the only degrees of changing being whether the author was pressing down normal-hard of really hard. Another telltale sign is that you’ll see characters pop up that just appear to be there for no reason whatsoever. They’ll typically have their moment in the sun for two pages in one chapter, and then vanish into the background, doomed to float spectrally behind the rest of the cast and pop in for one unimportant line of dialog here and there again. This is because when the author came up with the character, it was just the character—the personality—and not a role for that character to play.

When I come up with the beginnings of a character, I only come up with the vague outline of a personality that I came up with before, and I also come up with a role for that character to play. If I can’t come up with one on the spot, I normally put the character on hold until I have a clear purpose for them. Never include a character that has no purpose in the final product of the book, because the reader will be able to tell. (This is not to say that you shouldn’t create characters spontaneously. A writer’s instinct is a powerful thing, and some of my favorite characters have been throwaway cast that I added into a story on whimsy. Some of them were weeded out as unnecessary. Others turned out to be some of the finest characters I’ve ever made. But be flippant about it in the drafting process; if a flippantly made character is still flippant by the time you’re submitting to publishing houses, nix the poor sucker.)

At this point, I’ve got the two of the three most important parts of the character down—purpose and overarching personality. After this comes the discovery. There are any numbers of ways to do this: you could play the what-if game, or write little short stories involving the character, or write an imaginary interview with the character. I’ve heard it all, tried them all, and find all of them useful to varying degrees. But honestly, I don’t necessarily find any of them to be the final answer.  To put what I do in the most succinct way possible, I do on instinct.

An aside: The writer’s instinct is an important part of the process which can’t be ignored but also, sadly, can’t be taught. Having a good sense of aesthetic and character are indispensable to a writer, both in character development and other things. If you don’t have them, don’t despair, they can’t be developed. You’ll find some say ‘read, read, read’ and others say ‘write, write, write.’ I say ‘read, listen, observe, write, sing, speak, do things as well as you possibly can do them.’ Explore other art forms, look at Rembrandt, listen to Mozart, read a Calvin & Hobbes comic. Form and beauty are all around you—if you stop and pay attention to it, you can learn how to emulate it. And don’t be a genre snob, or a form snob. Go outside your comfort zone to see things you don’t necessarily appreciate as much. If you like Bach, listen to some Barenaked Ladies. If you are all into Ghost in the Shell, go read some classic lit. If you like to watch American Idol, go rent an old, black-and-white silent movie. But remember that nothing gets done if you don’t practice either, pay attention, then write while you do it.

Aside over: when I go with instinct, it mostly takes the form of finding out what kind of character is most appropriate to the story I’m trying to tell. The plot will shape the character—if you know what you need the character to do, make sure you’ve created a character that would do it. If your character doesn’t fit your story, you’ll have to fight the entire way through to get the character to behave. But keep in mind that the character will also shape the plot—if you’re having to force your creation to do something directly out of character, perhaps your plot needs to change. There’s a balance here. Eventually, if you’re doing it right, your characters will develop personalities of their own and start guiding you in this process. If they have too much freedom, you’ll never have a story because they don’t cooperate, but if you don’t let them muck about and play, you’ll kill them, and lifeless characters destroy a book faster than a disgruntled review columnist.

It’s much like pruning a tree: you have an image of what you want the tree to look like, but you can’t just force the tree to look like that image. You’ll cut off too many branches and leaves, and kill the poor thing. But if you just let it grow unchecked, you’ll have some monstrosity that doesn’t look good, feel good, or fit anywhere in your story.

Again with the instinct: if you do it right, you’ll know. You’ll be able to work with the character to tell the story, instead of just forcing pieces about on a chess board. Things will start to work, narrative connections will start to flow, and you’ll write better without even having to try. The character will, in as much as a technically non-existent person is able, get to know you, and the vice versa will happen as well. And sometime down the road, probably years after the novel is published and you’ve moved on to other projects, you’ll feel like you finally know the character well.

And, as a final note, sometime in this whole process the character gets a name. Names are important—I’m going to swear by that till the day I die. They help define a character. Not in the artsy way, like, someone named Brian (which means ‘defender’) will be stalwart and strong, but in a much more subtle way. Sometimes the names will just happen, and be built into the character from ground zero. Other times they’ll take forever to nail down, and you’ll have the entire groundwork for a character worked out prior to naming. I always find that I have a name before I the character starts revealing details to me. I’m not sure why, but it always seems to me that it’s when a character first gets a name that they start feeling more alive to me. The name is what lets them talk back.

The name of a character is a character’s life.

No Real Substance

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: 1747

It’s slowly going up. This break, I’ve managed to make a post on this blog every day, and write a little bit on Artifice every day. Things are going well, but then again, I don’t have school work or anything of the like to worry about right now.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain this work during the last several weeks of school.

I need to be writing even more though: several hundred words a day doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve been reading on what other writers prescribe as good wordcounts  for a day’s worth of writing, and get different numbers from everyone. I’ve known people to say they go for three, solid pages a day: that’s 1500 words, thereabouts. A little more. My writing professor says that’s entirely too high, and that I should focus more on quality then quantity. But he’s a poet, so I’m not sure his vote counts.

Terry Pratchett says that writing a novel takes being alive for fifty years, plus four to six months of frantically scribbling words on a page. I like that idea, even if I’m short the prescribed time by about thirty years or so.

I think the simple answer is, at this point, to simply get words on the page, and try to do more today than I did yesterday. That should be a good enough goal.

I’m going to stop talking now, though, and go write something of substance instead of blogging.

~DK

Paper or Binary?

I’ve been thinking about manuscripts lately. Or rather, I’ve been thinking about how computers have destroyed them.

I went to the Pierpont Morgan Library over Thanksgiving break several months ago. It’s basically the library and mansion of an old wallstreet baron (for those who don’t know who Pierpont Morgan was), converted into a museum showcasing all the stuff he has. There’s a lot of it: beautiful old hard-bound books of a quality that just doesn’t happen any more, and priceless pieces of art, and orthodox iconography. But more than anything else, it was the original manuscripts that fascinated me.

They had them in glass cases, old manuscripts of books that everyone knows at the time. They cycled what was on display, and so I found myself on the day that I went looking at the yellowing pages of The Picture of Dorian Grey, the original ink-marking made by Oscar Wild himself, on the actual pages. The script was elegant and cursive, obviously written with a fine-nib pen. There were some of the original essays written by Mark Twain, and some of Beethoven’s handwritten scores, the writing of the later fierce and jagged with angry little notes stabbed onto the pages.

There was something powerful about being in the manuscript room, as if there was some sort of physical presence to the paper that was much more powerful than just the mass of the pages on their own. It was like being able to share in genius.

My problem is, of course, that I don’t write on paper. My hand writing isn’t elegant. It isn’t even illegible, because at least with illegible writing you can claim a creative style. Mine is simply unsteady and awkward, like a third grader just learning the shapes of the letters. Not the writing suited to manuscripts. And I can’t even write very well on paper, either: my mind has synced with the feel of a keyboard, and I’ve never managed to reprogram it to work with anything else. When I try to shift to paper, the quality of my writing goes perceptibly down. It’s no fun whatsoever.

I’ve been fully raised on computers, and can’t manage to bring myself to that previous time where people wrote by hand. There aren’t going to be any manuscripts for me. There aren’t going to be manuscripts for hundreds of people in the coming generations. The keyboard has taken over.

Not only that, but even typewriters are outdated. The hard work of millions of people all over the world exits only as streams of binary: ones and zeros. There will be no physical record of the process of writing, only the final product.

Now, I should say: I’m a technical boy. I believe in computers, and in technology in general with a fierce intensity. They do make life better. But there is a cost, and the presence of manuscripts is one of them. I know not all authors are capitulating to this as easily as I am: Neil Gaiman, for instance, writes his manuscripts with quill and ink, by hand. Lots of poets I know go to great lengths to write things out longhand, just because it feels weird to them to write poetry on a computer. But for lots of us authors, especially the fiction writers, manuscripts are things of the past.

Every once in a while, I’ll buy a comp-book, or open my nice journal, and start writing something from the beginning out of admiration for those manuscripts I saw at the Morgan Peirpont Library. Truthfully, I would love to see one with my name on it in someone else’s famed collection one day. But it doesn’t work: not only because I’m lazy, but because I just don’t write well with a pen. I’m disorganized, and lose my comp-books, and things just don’t work.

Mostly, though, I wonder what’s going to replace the comp-book. Perhaps it’s what I’m doing right now—the blog is the journal and manuscript of tomorrow. It fulfills many of the same things form a literary standpoint: shows the process that a work went through before publication. But it’s not the same, there’s no physical product to it. People aren’t going to file into a museum just to see the IBM R50 that David King wrote Artifice.EXE on. And this blog is data: easily copied and distributed.

No, I think that the internet has ended a generation completely. We’ve lost something.

But then again, we’ve gained a world of technology. We’ve gotten word processing, and connectivity, and Wikipedia. We’ve gained things we won’t even know about until after they’re established as part of our lives. Some people don’t think it was worth it, but personally, I have a lot of faith in the new things to come.

Some thoughts on Cyberpunk

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: 1,439

I worked a little more on Artifice today. About the most I can get done in a sitting is roughly a page, because I’m trying to think things through as a type. I’m suspecting that there will be much rewriting of these earlier bits, as well, on account of the world I’m playing in is sort of developing as I go.

I think that each genre presents its own difficulties as the author plows through. I was talking with Cirellio about some of the dangers inherent in fantasy (particularely: the need to overcome cliché). The central concern of the cyberpunk writer isn’t, however, cliché. Well, that’s only true to a certain extent: all writers must always fight cliché, but if you manage to lose that fight while writing cyberpunk, you are, de facto, not writing cyberpunk. In it’s very crux, it isn’t cliché. At least, not the Pollyanna sort of cliché we normally think when we hear the word.

(For those who have no idea what cyberpunk is, I have no desire to offer an explanation it when perfectly good ones already exist).

The central struggle I’m dealing with in writing cyberpunk is to have the knowledge I need to do it well. My central writing professor, Jack Leax, always says that the poets are lucky because they can just write about what they feel. Novelists actually need to know things. I didn’t agree with him when he first said it, but now I do.

Cyberpunk requires knowledge in much the same way that baking requires flour. It doesn’t work without it. Cyberpunk is almost always deeply economic, with hints of politics and other social sciences built in, and that’s just when it comes to the world setting. You also have to know about basic computer technology and infology (I’m not sure if that’s a word, but I’m using it to mean the study of how data flows and functions) in order to write the genre effectively.

One of the best examples of cyberpunk I can think of is Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, and just by virtue of reading that book you are given a basic understanding of information technology, economic theory, and computer architecture. The sequel, The Diamond Age, refers constantly to Confusion philosophy, Victorian sociology, and theoretical nano-technology. And the information it references isn’t just made up willy-nilly, either, but firmly based in science fact or theory, depending on the particular science.

And all this is merged so seamlessly with an excellent sense of character and story crafting that you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. The intelligence of a cyberpunk story is an essential part of the recipe, not just icing on the top.

Have you ever heard of William Gibson? How about the word “Cyberspace?” “Cyberspace,” wasn’t coined by a computer scientist, not did it just fall into vogue by chance. It was coined by Gibson in his cyberpunk work, Neuromancer. Same for the online term “Avatar,” in reference to the little picture people are allowed to assign to their posts in a forum. That was originally from Snow Crash, by Stephenson.

These authors are at the same time both creative and brilliant enough to create terms and scenarios that work not only in the story, but invade our own lives in a real day-to-day sense as well. The computer tech of the future stems, partially, at least, from cyberpunk. Those are big shoes to fill.

My central struggle is to come up with a system that works. I’m reworking America’s political system (we’re up to four presidents at any given time, and an extra representative house in addition to the Senate and the House of Reps, called the house of Lobbyists, designed specifically for the rich). The economic system is still capitalistic, but takes place almost exclusively online—physical shopping is nearly a thing of the past, for everything but groceries. And the entire concept of an i-pod is gone, replaced by the Rig, an entire computer system people can wear on their bodies at all times: monitors built into glasses lenses, keyboards built into big metal gauntlets.

And along with it, I’m having to come up with a whole new slew of social problems and pariahs to make up for the ones that have become outdated. I have to change things enough so that they’re different, but provides some sort of social access point to give the readership a lead in. The trick is to, to paraphrase a review of Snow Crash, to make a future world so twisted and shocking that people recognize it immediately.

I’m still working on it. I hope I get it right.

~DK

Flower Gardens

I had a good laugh today. It was a beautiful day out, and I enjoyed the ability to run around to some flower gardens.

Now, I’m normally not the biggest fan of flower gardens, because I always find fauna more interesting than flora. But I it was a simply beautiful day out, and it was a wonderful opportunity to go walking with the parents, so I went and enjoyed myself. And the gardens really were beautiful—the azaleas were out in full bloom, and the tulips were just on the decline. It wasn’t the peak for the other flowers, but the garden itself was lovely as well.

It was set up in sections, divided by ivy-covered walls and sculptures. There were nature-poems carved into the rock of the wall. Most of them were romantic, which doesn’t score many points in my book. By and large the sloppy ‘nature is the be-all end-all of existence’ sort of thing. Not much thought, lots of fluffy imagery.

It put me in a cynical mood, but pleasant one—the wort of mood where you’re throughly enjoying being a curmudgeon.

Did you know, for instance, that when flowers are in bloom, they aren’t doing it to be pretty. They’re having sex. Lots and lots of sex with as many partners as they can get their hands on. Plants normally don’t have genders, or secondary sex traits, so they’re not choosy. Walk through a garden in bloom, and you’re walking through a veritable vegetable orgy.

The sculptures I mentioned earlier were almost exclusively the traditional naked-people. The lovers embracing, or the curvaceous nymph dancing amongst the flowers, not much minding that her shirt has fallen off, or the baby cherub peeing in the fountain.

Now, I should point out that I don’t mind nudity in art, and that the sculptures were very beautiful, and that the plant life themselves were simply gorgeous. There were huge Live Oak trees (which refers to a specific breed, rather than a state of animation), which spread out and interlocked their branches, wider than they were tall. They were majestic, and made me feel very small, which most plant-life doesn’t manage to do very well.

Nevertheless, the nagging perception at the back of my mind that I was walking through a land ripe with romanticism, free-love and softcore porn filled me with a certain amount of internal giggling. And then, as we were wandering a small roofed-area of the garden devoted to sculptures, there was one amidst the plethora of Greek goddesses and nekkid fairies, that depicted St. Francis of Assisi. He was in a monks habit, and huddled upright, but in the fetal position. He had a haunted look on his face. And no, I am not making this up.

It was entirely too much, and I started laughing, earning a number of stares and ‘tut-tut’ sort of looks from more civilized people.

It was a good day.

As just a bit of book keeping, I’m about to add a page to the ‘pages’ navigation entitled “The Woven Thread.” It has the information on the poetry newsletter I’m running, so check it out.

~DK

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