Last Minute Post

As I write this, it is three minutes before midnight and my self-imposed Lent blogging ban. Let’s go rapid fire! No links; I have no time. Google is your friend.

  • Totally called the New Hampshire result. Trump’s got big momentum.
  • My Harry Potter/Hufflepuff post has actually gotten some buzz after the Supreme Dark Lord Vox Day plugged it on his blog, the second of two articles of mine he’s plugged. They like me there.
  • Look out for “God, Robot”! I don’t know how soon it’s going to be but it can’t be too long now.
  • Have a wonderful Lent and a blessed Ash Wednesday. Just remember: You are dust, and to dust you shall return.

As will I. See you in forty days! I’m already a few seconds late.

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New Castalia House/Superversive Post:”So you made it into Hufflepuff”

Here is my new, and last until Lent ends in 40 days, post for the Castalia House Superversive Tuesday slot, “So you made it into Hufflepuff”. I had a lot of fun writing it. It is a short analysis of Rowling’s (poor) handling of the house systems in “Harry Potter”, as well as a light-hearted look at my feelings about Hufflepuff House.

An excerpt:

There’s another dimension to Hufflepuff’s decision to take in the rejected students. In one sense, it makes Hufflepuff the loser house – but there’s more to it than that. It also makes Hufflepuff the wisest house.

Hear me out here. Is it really a good idea to be telling children exactly what their strongest and most important qualities are at the age of eleven? Is this healthy? Think of all of the trouble this causes at Hogwarts. In book five, the Sorting Hat warns the student body to come together in the face of the impending threat, and even questions the wisdom of sorting itself. Slytherin has the reputation as the house of dark wizards, so why would you wants children to grow up with that type of stigma?

The issues surrounding sorting didn’t even seem to occur to the most intelligent of the founders, Rowena Ravenclaw…but they did occur to one founder: Helga Hufflepuff.

Go check it out at the link!

A happy Lent to all of you. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

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Three New Superversive SF: “Where do you get your ideas?” and “Closure”

A word to all of you: I’ll link to one last post tomorrow (my bi-weekly Castalia House post), and then that’ll be the last you see of me for a good long while, as I will be giving up writing for Lent – that includes blog posts and blog comments, cold turkey. The only exceptions MIGHT be if I link to somebody else, but that’s it, and even then I won’t respond to any comments myself. I’d give up the internet as a whole if I didn’t need computers to communicate and to submit school assignments…but this is a pretty good sacrifice, I think, that will do some good in my life over the long term. Trust me, I’ll be back, all two to five readers.

Anyway, here’s some material to tide you over until then. First, we have my articles “Where do you get your ideas?”, parts one and two. Excerpts:

So at the start of all of this, I had several ideas on the back burner:

  1. One is about how the modern world has forgotten its roots in Faerie, and the descendant of Lancelot and Guinevere is tasked to begin the process of reuniting them. The original idea was titled “The Last Blood of Camelot”.
  2. Idea number two was a girl who takes a trip to Venus to find her missing father – envisioned as “A Wrinkle in Time”, but hard science rather than squishy soft.
  3. Idea number three is a boy who sees a vision of a girl committing suicide, and resolves to find the girl and prevent her. Inspired VERY loosely by the video game “To the Moon”.
  4. And finally, idea number four is of a man who sees a woman, has absolutely no memory of her but suddenly realizes that they are undoubtedly soulmates and he is madly in love with her. This one was inspired, once again loosely, by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a personal favorite.

Frustratingly, I was having a very hard time taking these anywhere at all.

And part two:

Aha! I came up with an idea for Maddie’s father, and why le Fey would kidnap him. But what about Lance? Let’s go back to that vision, and to Excalibur. Perhaps, in the vision, Lance is gifted with Excalibur, which he is to bring to Arthur. But Lance is prideful. He thinks that Morgan le Fey is too pressing of a problem, and decides to attack her himself…which is what Morgan wants, as he is essentially delivering Excalibur to her (Gavin is going to go with Lance, of course).

And Bennett and Maddie are the wild cards. They are not descendents of the British, but of Americans, and their roles were never present in the original Arthurian stories. They represent something that Morgan le Fey can’t account for by looking at the past, and she inadvertently brings them into the story by kidnapping Maddie’s father. I can really play with them in a context outside of the main Arthurian legends – and indeed, I will probably use them in conjunction with the western side of my story.

“Closure” is a special case. It is a guest story by MJ Marzo, a young up and coming writer who will be having two stories published in the anthology/collaborative novel “God, Robot”. “Closure” is perhaps what can be called a paranormal romance…but with a twist. I think you’ll all like it. An excerpt:

Robert. Oh my god, I didn’t think I would ever see–”

She stopped, her eyes flitting to his and Christy’s hands clasped together. “Who is this?” she asked, her smile now forced.

Unlike Christy, Robert was oblivious to the poison dripping from that seemingly innocuous sentence.“She’s why I wanted to talk to you. This is Christy. She’s my fiance–”

“YOUR WHAT?!” She got up from her seat, throwing her hands in the air. Robert put his arm around Christy protectively and pulled her closer to him. Christy thought that leaving might have been the better option.

“You’re engaged?” Sandra screeched. “Why the hell did you think I wanted to be dragged here for that?”

The author tells me that she was frustrated with shows such as “The Long Island Medium”…and you’ll see why.

Be sure to comment here, there, or both! Thoughts on “Closure” are particularly appreciated.

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Writing and Planning

On my relatively brief (12:15 to 2:00) Tuesday/Thursday lunch break (I need to be at college from 8 AM to 3:15, and I commute about 40 minutes to an hour either way), I’ll post some of my general musings about my Arthurian work.

I am THIS close to outlining. I really like all of my characters (Maddie, Bennett, Lance, and Gavin), I like Morgan le Fey as the main villain, I like a lot of the themes and ideas I’m planning to explore*, and I even have a couple of scenes/encounters planned. I finally have a decent idea of who Maddie’s father is and who Maddie is going to be, as well as why she’s important to the team. I have a general idea of how I’m going to end this, and I have an idea of how Arthur is going to come about as well. I even have an idea of how Morgan le Fey’s castle is going to be set up.

But it’s not enough. I’m missing a clear narrative force. Tolkien had the same problem when he was drafting “The Lord of the Rings” until he hit upon Bilbo’s invisibility ring as a possible solution. Star Wars had a similar issue that was solved when Darth Vader became Luke’s father. I need something like that.

I’m imagining the book as a sort of dark, anti-Wizard of Oz where all of my characters come together on a quest to the castle of Morgan le Fey. I just need two things:

  1. Why do they all need to get there? Maddie needs to rescue her father, who is kidnapped because…not telling. But I like my reasoning. So Maddie is fine. Lance sees a vision (and Gavin goes with Lance), but…a vision of what? Why Morgan le Fey? Bennett see a girl committing suicide…but again, why the castle of the Queen of air and Darkness?

I considered a couple of options, and came up with three:

  1. They first decide to go seek out the Merlin tree, the legendary tree in which Merlin’s spirit was trapped by Nimue. Merlin, I note, is the one major Arthurian figure noticeably absent from my version…a big deal, considering how much emphasis he gets in other versions of the legend.

    But this simple quest for a macguffin, even one who can talk, seems a little too easy. I want something interesting.

  2. They could be looking for the Holy Grail – though admittedly, i’m not totally sure what it does yet. Same problem as above.
  3. They could all be looking for Excalibur. This is at least more directly connected to the coming of Arthur, so it works a little better than the Holy Grail – but, again, it suffers from staleness.

So my favorite idea is that they’re all going to the castle of Morgan le Fey. To do…something. There’s my problem:

What?

*I’m specifically planning to talk a lot about the idea of destiny vs. choice. Specifically, I think T.H. White was wrong. He spends a big chunk of the end of “The Queen of Air and Darkness” discussing how Arthur’s tragic fate is sealed when, in a mirror of Oedipus, he sleeps with his own sister. I don’t agree with him, and White his very, very close to the real answer in “The Candle in the Wind”. Sleeping with his own sister, and by mistake no less, did not seal Arthur’s fate. What sealed his fate was when he tried to drown 19 infants to prevent Mordred from growing up.

It was not the tragic formation of the stars that sealed Arthur’s fate, but Arthur’s own choices as a result of his actions.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

– William Shakespeare

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Oh Yeah

You’re probably expecting me to say something about the whole election thing, since it’s a big deal I guess. Well, too bad. Instead, I’m going to talk about “Grease Live”.

Was that awesome or was that AWESOME? Seriously. I loved it. Everything about it. The performances were great, the cinematography was nothing shot of incredible, and the choreography was brilliant.

I can nitpick it just like the best of ’em, but really, why would I? It was fantastic, so let’s all enjoy it. Also, NBC should crawl under a rock and never leave. Fox just embarrassed them. It made both of their shows look like crap in comparison.

Highlights: I really loved that they included “Those Magic Changes”, a personal favorite song that got relegated to a brief background bit in the movie (though even this version doesn’t hold a candle to Ben Laxton’s). Whoever sang it had the perfect voice for it. KeKe Palmer as Marty was fun. “Freddy My Love” was great. And the Hand jive was phenomenal. Fantastic choreography!

I’ll also give the obligatory but well-deserved kudos to Vanessa Hudgens, who performed despite losing her father the previous day and had an excellent performance as Rizzo. I thought she killed “Sandra Dee”.

Anyway, yeah. “Grease Live”. You can find the whole thing for free on Fox’s website if you missed it. Go check it out. It’s awesome.

(Okay, about the vote thing: Meh. It’s Iowa. Iowa is weird. This means pretty much nothing in terms of the overall results.)

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Lots and Lots of Superversive SF

Weirdly, somehow, Superversive SF has lately been updated mostly by Josh Young and myself, who both just started school. Not sure why, but whatever.

Here are a few links. First, my review of “Many Waters”, by Madeleine L’Engle:

L’Engle keeps up a nice level of tension throughout the book that kept me turning the pages. Here is Dennys and Sandy’s problem: Some of the people they know, from Noah’s family, are quite nice…but are not mentioned in the biblical flood narrative, and are to be left behind. What can be done about this?

This is a smart conflict, and a genuinely puzzling one with no obvious answers…

Unfortunately, though, there were serious problems. Sandy and Dennys came across as good fellows, but not very interesting ones. In fact, nobody was particularly interesting. There were no Mrs W’s here, and that ability that L’Engle showed in “A Wrinkle in Time”, the ability to create characters that jump off the page moments after you read about them, is noticeably absent here.

Here are my compliments of the new Suicide Squad trailer, and why the “darkness” of this movie makes more sense than the darkification (it’s a real word now) of Superman:

The difference between this and the Superman films is that this is clearly designed to be dark. That’s why Marvel’s “Daredevil” is dark and Captain America isn’t: Because Captain America is about that good ol’ American can do attitude getting things done and Daredevil is about a man from a crappy town who grew up with a crappy life trying to fix his town while battling both inner and outer demons (and getting the stuffing beat out of him in the process).

And, of course, my introduction into the big medium time, my first post for Superversive Tuesday on the Castalia House blog! This one is about that children’s sci-fi classic “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”:

Let me pause and apologize to you for being so detailed. It’s hard not to be; everything that happens is just too crazy. And now it’s about to go off the charts, because aliens invade.

Yep. Aliens.

These aliens are known as the Vermicious Knids. Here we must compliment Dahl for creating some of the most unique aliens I’ve ever seen (or read about). The Vermicious Knids are giant, vicious, amoeba-like aliens capable of shape-shifting (and spelling the word SCRAM). Our heroes escape into the elevator, but the Knids manage to destroy the Hotel’s engines, apparently stranding its inhabitants in space forever.

Oh, and they kill twenty-four people. This is never mentioned again.

More, along with a bit of detail on Roald Dahl’s other sci-fi/short story output, linked above. Go check it out!

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Free Short Story: “Second Thoughts”

Hi all,

What the heck. Here is my short story “Second Thoughts”. I changed a couple of things. I think it’s a little better than the version I submitted. The changes are minor, but I think they make a big difference. There are probably a couple more spots of improvement, but eh. It’s a free story. I think at least some people will like it.

A couple places haven’t actually responded yet, believe it or not. But what the heck. It’s been way too long; it’s not getting published. If, by some miracle, it is accepted, I’ll take it down immediately.

A word of warning: The story contains extremely strong language. It contains a lot of thematically necessary blasphemy (there is a payoff to all of it). It is very dark, but with hope – a story in the style of Flannery O’Connor. You might be disturbed, maybe even offended. But I feel compelled to add a small spoiler: Despite appearances, the story contains NO rape and NO graphic violence. I wouldn’t show it to kids, but teens and up can probably handle it.

Feel free to offer feedback. I can take it; I’m aware it has some issues anyway. But if you like it, say so as well!

Without further ado, here is “Second Thoughts”:

“Guess this is it.”

Her name was Sarah, but nobody cared.

She was fifteen, but nobody cared.

She probably would have been pretty without the birthmark covering the lower left side of her face and extending onto her neck, but it was there. So Sarah wasn’t pretty.
And right now, finally, she didn’t care.

There was no moon out that night, which Sarah found fitting. Everything was dark.
She took two steps forward. It was a long drop from the top of the half-constructed apartment building, which of course was the point. She didn’t want to survive the fall.

That would be a shame.

So it was a real disappointment when she felt a hand grab her shirt and heard a deep voice whisper, “Don’t scream. I have a knife.”

Sarah didn’t scream. But she did start laughing hysterically, a high-pitched sound echoing into the night. The man who had grabbed her clamped his hand around her mouth. “Christ, girl, what the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t want you making noise, is that clear?”

Sarah nodded, and the man took his hand off her mouth. He grabbed her and started pulling her back into the building and down the stairs. “We’re going to go to my car. When we get there I’m going to zip tie your hands around your back and tape your mouth shut. Then you’re getting into the trunk. Is that clear?”

Sarah nodded again.

“Good.”

As they walked the man started whispering. “Weird place for me to find you, girl. Why were you there, anyway? To look at stars?”

Sarah didn’t respond, and the man slapped her so hard she would have fallen to the ground if he wasn’t gripping her shirt. “Answer me when I speak to you. Quietly. Why were you on that goddamn building?”

Sarah was vaguely surprised to find that she wasn’t even slightly afraid. She decided to answer the question. The slap stung, and anyway she had little else to do but talk. “I wasn’t outside to look at the stars.”

They were now in the street. It was dead quiet. “Why’d you go outside, then?”

“I was going to kill myself.”

This made the man pause and look at her. He was a handsome looking Hispanic man in his thirties, with dark hair and tanned skin. “Jesus, girl. Why’d you even listen to me?”

The girl shrugged. The truth is, she wasn’t sure. She didn’t really care about anything anymore, and that included getting kidnapped. She settled for the most honest answer she could come up with.

“You grabbed my shirt. I couldn’t jump.”

The man stared, and then shook his head. “Whatever. You’re here now. To the trunk.”

They were outside the man’s car, a small nondescript looking black Ford. Sarah waited while the man, with one hand still on her shirt, opened the hatch of the car. While she stood there he methodically zip-tied her hands behind her back, then shoved her into the trunk. The door slammed, and all she could see was pitch blackness.

Sarah only had to wait a few minutes for the engine to start. She wondered where they were going, and why there was no music.

“Hey, I have a question,” said Sarah loudly. The man swore, and she felt the car swerve. “God dammit, I forgot to tape your mouth shut!”

Sarah ignored him. “Why isn’t there any music?”

There was a moment of silence while Sarah waited for a response. Then:
“Seriously, girl? That’s your question?”

“I was just wondering.”

More silence. Then:

“The radio is broken. Happy now?”

No, thought Sarah. Aloud, she said, “So where are we going?”

“Not your goddamn concern.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

There was another moment before the man answered.

“Yep.”

Sarah registered that for a moment. She found that it still didn’t matter to her. What difference did it make how she died? “So what’s your name?”

“That’s it?” The man sounded surprised. “That’s your response to me saying I’m going to kill you?”

“I wasn’t kidding about wanting to kill myself.”

Sarah didn’t think it was possible for a conversation to get more awkward when one of the participants was sitting in a trunk with her hands zip-tied around her back, but that comment did it. A good 60 seconds passed before the man spoke again.

“Hey-Zeus.”

“What?”
“My name is Hey-Zeus.”

Sarah had never heard a name like that before, and found it odd. “I’m Sarah.”

The car was slowing down. Sarah estimated the drive to have taken about thirty minutes. She wondered where they are.

The car stopped. A couple of minutes later the trunk popped open and Sarah felt Hey-Zeus’s hand grab her shirt again. “Get up, girl.”

It wasn’t very bright outside, but after the darkness of the trunk Sarah was still disoriented. This reminded Sarah of something she had intended to ask earlier but forgotten.

“Can I ask you a question?” While they talked Hey-Zeus half dragged, half guided her to a cabin on top of a hill several yards away. It wasn’t large, but as far as Sarah could see there were no houses nearby. They were alone.

“What?”
“How did you see me on top of the building?”

“How do you think? Moonlight.”

Sarah was puzzled. “But there’s no moon.”

“Yes, there is. It’s a crescent. Nice and tiny. But I was able to spot you.”

They had arrived at the cabin. Sarah didn’t show any emotion as Hey-Zeus dragged her into a bedroom and tied her to the bed. He sounded cheerful when he said, “I’m going to a bathroom to clean up. Then the fun starts.”

In the back of her mind Sarah knew she should be terrified right now. But then, she reasoned, why? She was going to die right after this, and then she would never exist. It would be as if nothing happened. Oblivion awaited, and in light of that Sarah couldn’t bring herself to really care about anything that was about to happen to her.

Hey-Zeus walked out of the bathroom in boxers and an undershirt, and Sarah resolved to only look at him from the torso up. He sat on the bed next to her.

Hey-Zeus was positively genial. “Before we start, any questions?”

“Yes. How many other girls were there?”

He laughed. “Don’t feel special, huh? Well, there were ten, in fact. But don’t worry. All of them were special to me.”

Sarah nodded. “Okay…just one more thing.”

“Go for it.”

“Why did you pick me? I’m ugly.”

Hey-Zeus looked confused. “You think so? I don’t.”

Sarah turned her head so her birthmark was facing him. “I’m not pretty. I’m hideous, and fat. What do you see in me?”

He reached out and gently stroked her cheek. “Every girl is beautiful. See, that’s what I like about girls. Something in all of them to like.”

Hey-Zeus frowned. “Girl, I don’t think you get it. I’m about to rape you, slowly, and I will enjoy it. Everybody else here, they begged me to stop. Begged me! And you’re just lying there. No expression. What’s going through your head right now, huh? What the Hell is your problem?”

Sarah took the question seriously. It was a fair one.

“I guess if I’m going to die, at least I won’t have to die a virgin.”

Sarah had never seen a man look as shocked as Hey-Zeus did at that moment. He scrambled off of the bed so fast he fell onto the floor. “Jesus fucking Christ, girl! What the Hell is wrong with you!”

Sarah was confused. Why did he care what she thought? Suddenly she wished he would just get it over with and rape her already.

Hey-Zeus looked shell-shocked. He got up off the floor and started pacing the room, muttering to himself. He was shaking, and he kept rubbing his hands as he walked. Sarah couldn’t hear what he said, but she could see how he looked: Scared.

He was scared.

Terrified, even.

His pacing and muttering went on for some time. For the first time that day – in fact, for the first time in months – Sarah felt something. At first she wasn’t sure what it was. Then she clenched her fists, and felt sweat on her palms, and realized that she was afraid.

She wondered why. She wasn’t afraid before she tried to kill herself. She wasn’t afraid before Hey-Zeus promised to rape and kill her. Why now?

It was the pacing. Before, Hey-Zeus Jesus was rational. Though his threats were monstrous, his thoughts were logical and clear. Sarah could understand him. But she couldn’t understand him anymore. His actions were senseless.

So Sarah was afraid.

Sarah wasn’t sure how long Hey-Zeus paced, but he stopped as suddenly as he started.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” he swore. “Get over here!” He picked up a knife lying on his dresser but instead of slicing Sarah’s throat he cut the bonds holding her to the bed, and then forced her to her feet by her hair. Still muttering to himself, he half-dragged Sarah to his car, then unceremoniously tossed her into the trunk. Sarah banged her fist on the hatch and asked him where they were going, but this time she was ignored. She heard the tires squeal before they started off.

Sarah didn’t know how long they were driving, but she could tell they were moving quickly. The car stopped so abruptly that Sarah rolled and slammed into the back of the hatch. The trunk opened, and she was lifted and thrown roughly onto the ground. It was only a few seconds after that she heard the car start up and speed into the distance. She hadn’t even had time to look up.

Sarah just laid there for a few minutes, breathing heavily. I’m alive, she thought. I’m alive. I’m alive.

Then she remembered that she wanted to kill herself.

It was a bit of a bummer.

Sarah stood up and looked at the sky. It was still night time. The whole thing must have taken place in less than four hours.

Sarah looked around. She was standing on a dirt road with trees on either side. There seemed to be nothing else nearby. She was alone.

She thought about her predicament for a moment. She couldn’t be too far from town. Hey-Zeus drove quickly, but not for that long. And a car would have to come by eventually.

Besides, she thought. Hey-Zeus left me alive. I know what he looks like. I know his first name. Maybe I can help the police catch him before he kidnaps some other girl.

She realized suddenly that she didn’t want to kill herself quite yet. It was an odd feeling, but not a bad one.

She looked up again. Hey-Zeus was right; there really was a small sliver of moon outside. It wasn’t much, but Sarah figured that there was just enough light to help her find her way home.

THE END

(A thank you to Ben Zwycky for taking a look at it for me. I owe him about twenty dollars. Sorry for the wait, Ben!)

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