BLACK TRACE, my first science fiction novel, is up in part over at Wattpad and WriteOn (probably in a few other places at well). Wattpad is just the easiest to link to. I plan on running the first several chapters, enough to give folks a sense of the story and the setting. I have no plans to put the whole thing on the internet, much less for free.
You’ll see me use the word “nopocalypse” in reference to this. More on that later.
Here’s the back cover copy, were it printed and had a back cover to put copy on:
After the Great Big Zero.
After the United States came untied.
Life went on.
Jake Culver is a driver, a fixer and an enigma. Out in the no man’s land of desert California, people don’t often ask what anyone did before or how they got there. But now the state police are asking him and he doesn’t have the luxury of refusing an answer.
Left no choice, he agrees to return to his old haunts in the manufactured paradise of Orange County. The Orange Trust runs it like a company town, which would be fine if Jake and the man at the top didn’t share the baddest of blood. Jake’s got only days to find out who’s stealing from the hotbed of high-tech, and to find if it’s the same someone who is trying to get the biggest criminal organizations in the county to pick a very public war with one another.
From the cracked asphalt and no rules motorized combat beyond the reach of authority to the regulated cool of the icehouse and back again, Jake and his reluctant partner Tommy Manh dig through the above-ground and underground of a decadent near-future California. The chase leads them both through the abandoned subway tunnels run by the electrified Mozarts and the subtle digitality of the Weave, to the neon playground of Fascination Street.
But all the paths Jake finds lead him back to his past, a past that is fast overtaking him.
Story changed. Mostly stopped changing enough so that I can start to get it out. Had to wrestle with this one for awhile, which is always upsetting when you think you have it nailed in the first place. There were lots of pieces but not a coherent whole, nor were the pieces enough to make it work.
My two word reply to a tweet from Tim Maughan today. Which is now metastasizing into a piece of Ballardian science fiction. Long short story or short novella, depending on how you define those kinds of things. Not going to worry about it, but just let it be. Which is opposite to how I write novels because, man, if you don’t have a pretty good plan, you get in trouble in short order. Or rather, in long order and lots of work needs to get redone, and really, who wants to re-do a whole lot of work?
Keywords: Theosophy, Cloud, Qlippoth, Anxiety, Telepresence, Commercial, Freighter, Job-hunting, Journalism, Autism, Resource management, and yes, Weaponized Melancholy.
Should have a draft done about this time next week. That’s how these things have gone in the past and I’m hoping that I’m not too rusty.
Just a head’s up that I’ll be a guest/panelist at Con-volution 2014, repeating my role as such from the 2013 show (also the first SF show that I had the pleasure of being a guest of, even if was late to my first panel.) The show is at the Hyatt Burlingame, which is a nicely Ballardian facility, kinda LOGAN’S RUN city of the future enclosed tropical paradise on the fringes of the chilly south San Francisco bay.
I’ll be on three panels Saturday and at a reading on Friday. I had planned on being there Sunday but my plans have changed and I’ll be back home Saturday night. Here’s the schedule:
Friday – Reading, 4pm: Not sure what I’ll read. Maybe a bit from BLUE HIGHWAY since I just finished that.
Saturday 10-2: How To style publishing panel. In my case, I’ll be telling you all what *not* to do, ’cause that’s what I did.
Saturday 12-2: Merging Genres panel. Which should be good given my well-known love of working between genres or turning them inside out when the mood strikes me. Honestly, genres are there to help booksellers and reinforce preconceptions, not to do anything for the reader. So yeah, this should make me some friends.
Saturday 4-6: Comics to Film, where I’ll talk about how ROBOCOP and DREDD are the greatest comic adaptation films out there. I expect to make lots of new friends.
Look forward to seeing any/all of you there. I’ll sign whatever you put in front of me and even have paperback copies of things for sale (maybe even the very hard to find saddle-stitched print version of “Tug on the Ribbon” which will never be printed again, so collectors take note.)
No secret that autumn is my favorite time of year. Plenty of reasons for it. Mostly because the heat of summer (much more prevalent in the Sacramento area than in my native Southern California) bleeds out. And you get the tilting of the light and dusk that goes on forever. Then there’s the sense of renewal, of everything beginning to shut down for rebirth later. I’ve always liked the preparation for spring more than spring itself. Not sure that makes a lot of sense. Just the way I’m wired. But then I like music that most people wouldn’t recognize as such.
Hoping that autumn brings some renewal around here. Sure could use a bit of that.
So here’s what I had to teach to my user dictionary over the course of writing BLUE HIGHWAY. Apparently I break the rules, according to Microsoft. Some of these are understandable. Some are just baffling.
Heavy stuff, absolution. The undoing, or at least the forgiveness of sins. It’s a hard thing to come by. Redemption is a story driver that gets kicked around and lip service is played to it, but oftentimes, just that. I mean, video game characters get redemption through laying waste to countless multitudes of enemies and then often winning at best a pyrrhic victory as they bleed out in the last few seconds or stare meaningfully into the middle distance.
Absolution, however, is something even rarer. The undoing of sin, the race to correct it, by means of sacrifice? Forget about it. Villains are without redemptive qualities and heroes are often enshrined from their first words as purveyors of good.
Which is one of the things that makes the backstory for the new WORLD OF WARCRAFT expansion so compelling, because it focuses on one of the most fundamentally broken characters in the sprawling mythology of that game/world. I’m trying to think of how much information I can give you without frying your brain to make you understand this. Let’s give it a shot.
Here’s a 270 degree panorama of my office. Why am I posting this? Because in the near future I’m going to need to pack all of this up and move it out so the flooring can be redone here (as is going to happen in the rest of the house, apparently.) This thought terrifies me, and I’m sure you can figure out why from the pictures. You can’t even see the second table really, or the guitar amp and effects or the junk under my desk.
This process may indeed kill me. Or I may pack up all of my books and then get around to unpacking them and just saying “Nah.” Which I guess wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but doesn’t sound appealing now. I dunno. I’ve been collecting these things for a long damn time, and still can’t resist a trip to a used bookstore for a book about X-raying the Pharaohs or any period book on Los Angeles or a slightly better copy of LO! And I’ve been buying comics trades since they were just paperback collections of comics. Funny thing about that is most of those that I have now are basically valueless, with maybe the exception of the SANDMAN first edition collections. Otherwise, c’mon, who pays money for reprint comics.
Have fun poring over the book titles on the shelves. Had a pretty good time amassing them.
Bit of a scare yesterday. Was going to take Doc Connors in for a routine weighing (his low was 4.7 grams at his worst point, which is not far from skin and bones) when my son called me over to take a look at him. The lower part of his belly was a mess of purple veins and yellow-orange masses just below the skin. Gonna be honest. My heart dropped right out of my chest. It’d been a long struggle to get him stabilized and eating again and I really wasn’t ready to be told that it was time to pack it in.
But I took him to the vet anyways.
Turns out that he’s fine. The swelling in his liver has gone down (not much, but some) which means that his body is beginning to process all the fat that accumulated there. He’s also putting on weight, up to 7.1 grams now, which is still lower than when we bought him (somewhere near 9 grams), but far better than the lows when we thought he was going to need to be put down. The shocking visuals were courtesy his innards starting up work after a period of very low activity if not inactivity. The orange masses were small fat pads that are beginning to build up (as well as at the base of his tail, which is where geckos normally store fat.)
So it’s more or less back to normal. The worst is past, but there’s still no clarity as to whether the liver swelling will affect him long-term. Just a matter of keeping him fed and hydrated and more activity to help burn off or redistribute the fat that’s left in his system. Then figuring out what can be done to get him some more exercise. He seems to like exploring outside of his tank, but that’s not a viable option. Maybe a gecko obstacle course or something.
So I’ve been busy lately. Just not with stuff that you can really see.
Like the tiny creature above. This is Doctor Connors, your average leopard gecko from a big pet store which my son bought as a pet. And things were fine for about four or five days. Then he stopped eating. And kept stopped eating for another few days. So he went to the vet. He got a tube feeding and weighed out (already skinny) then sent home with medication and instructions for administering said medication.
Note that Dr. Connors is about six inches long and at this point weighed six grams and change. We get to give him medicine and watch him not eat. After a few more days, he goes back to the vet. They take him and say “fifty-fifty chance that he’ll make it.” I bring my kids around to say goodbye to the little fella, my son especially as the lizard is his pet (and really doesn’t have a name at this point as we’ve only had him healthy for about a week and the rest of the time has been pins and needles.) The vet, who really has done a much better job than perhaps I’ve suggested in this narrative, says that we should go to the pet store and invoke the warranty and get a new lizard.
We do. He’s a giant gecko named Apollo and has settled into things quite well.
Four days later, I get a call from the pet store saying that Dr. Connors has been stabilized at the vet and can come home. And since our house is as close to home as he’s got, I go to get a new tank and lights and water dishes and hides and reptile carpet and bugs to try to feed him. Dr. Connors still refuses to eat. So it’s calcium drop and water/pedialyte baths and me trying to feed him what amounts to finely-ground dog food in an effort to put some protein into his system and get his metabolism started again.
See, once geckos go anorexic, they take the fat that’s stored in their tails and break into it. And if the stress is big enough, they metabolize it quickly. Too quickly, in fact. Hepatic hyperlipotosis or something close to it. The fat in their bloodstream collects in their liver and it swells up, as does the gallbladder. This was noted earlier, but as a side symptom, not as a potential cause of his failure to eat. Previously it was thought that he’d maybe picked up a parasite or a dreaded Cryptosporidium infection (which is always terminal, usually sooner and not later.)
He’s still refusing to eat, though is otherwise relatively active and pretty calm, contentedly crawling over my hands and up my arms, not freaking out when he’s handled. But not eating either. At this point, I’m pretty desperate. It’s been three weeks of off and on care and trying to hand feed this tiny creature. It’s become impossible to even give the food that I’d been able to trick him into eating. So I try an emergency diet (which is mostly an egg-based thing, as far as I can tell) and he’s able to eat it, mostly because it’s one step above liquid and will lick it off his lips.
Three days of this.
And then something happens. The butter worm that I’d put in his dish, more as an act of desperation than anything else, disappears while I’m out shopping. I take stuff out of the tank, looking for the escaped worm. There’s no way he’d eaten it. That would be like you or me eating a whole ham in a sitting. But the worm is nowhere to be found. So I put another one in. It disappears that night, even though Dr. Connors doesn’t do much other than hide out under the fake plastic rocks he’s got.
Two days ago, he started eating crickets on his own.
His liver is still swollen, or was as of Monday. The vet says the only thing to do is to keep him fed and get him some exercise to metabolize the food and hopefully getting his body to work normally will cause the stored fat in the liver to be processed. No guarantees of that.
In the meantime, I’ve learned far more about the keeping of leopard geckos than I intended to, from creating a heat gradient (and using the temperature gun that my brother in law gave me for Christmas to check that), to the right food for a growing gecko, to how to trick a gecko into opening its mouth (which only sometimes works). Mostly I’ve had to learn how to be very, very, very gentle, as the creature that I’ve been spending all this effort feeding could be snapped like a twig at any moment by my stupid sausage-like fingers.
Hopefully he’ll stick around awhile.