Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Scenes

It's been a while since I've written anything for AnTyx. In fact, if Baltlantis had actually been paying me any money, they might have had legitimate cause to be pissed.

Truth is, it's been a busy time for me personally, and nothing worthwhile has really happened. The country appears to be puttering along, politicians' folly has stayed within tolerable levels, and none of my fellow bloggers have written anything controversial enough for me to have a go at them about. I'm going on holiday soon, so you can look forward to Eurotrip '08.

Meanwhile, I decided to give you something different to read over your morning coffee. As any self-respecting English major, and any self-respecting tech writer, I have an unfinished novel in my desk (or rather on my Google Docs account). I think it's interesting and potentially good, but I'm still not sure how exactly it needs to work.

Besides that, though, I occasionally get these complete passages popping up in my head. My new HP Mininote allows me to quickly put them to file while lying in bed, but I don't even expect to ever finish the novel, never mind do anything about these. So I'm dumping them on you; read them and tell me if they're any good. If they are, it'll be good for my ego (not that it needs any more encouragement), and if they aren't, I can always go with the excuse that they just popped into my head and so I'm not really responsible for them.

Below are a couple of them.

***

The angel needed to file his report. He stopped in the middle of the street and bowed his head, cupping his hands together. Travel required a prayer, so he spoke the words – Pater Noster – and felt himself dragged upwards. His street clothes sizzled and turned to dust as enormous wings sprouted from his back, and then a shining white pillar seemed to shoot upwards. The sidewalk was singed where he had been standing.

Passersby chose not to notice the miracle, as they so often did.

Heaven was busy, but grateful for the important information. This was good news, relevant to many of the projects going on at the same time. The angel was thanked profusely and rewarded with taking the easy way back down. They even asked him if he would have preferred to stay up for a while – the new, reformed Heaven had finally given angels free will and encouraged them to use it whenever possible. But he chose to return to his earthly tasks; ever since he received a gender, he found the human plane a lot more entertaining.

Reconstituting on Earth was fairly simple. Most humans thought bringing a new sentient creature into existence required birth; but that was slow, even if the angel could find a stillborn, a child without a soul, and occupy the vessel to provide it with life. This time he got to do it differently.

Reconstitution involves creating a shape that mimics the operating being’s master. Fortunately the rule was vague enough: the similarity only had to be plausible, so a regular creature of the plane could believe that the form was indeed that entity. The angel started with the perfect human male, adjusted its age – young, but mature – and added a few touches for concealment: a scar here, a mole there, just enough imperfection that humans could convince themselves to perceive the body. It made a fairly believable God.

The angel added some nice clothes and prepared the golem. It appeared in the same place from which the angel departed. He didn’t bother creating a back story for the new pseudo-human; it was always more fun to make it up as he went along, and people often added their own assumptions of him into the mix.

The angel walked off, guided by his absolute moral compass.

***

As we grow up, we are taught to believe certain things. Among these things are half-truths: things which are undoubtedly correct, but don’t exactly tell the whole story. You would not believe how much trouble comes from half-truths.
One of such half-truths is that the Universe is bigger than we can imagine. Because we are taught to believe this, we spend a good chunk of time wondering how big the Universe really is, and end up with a vague idea of something really, really, incredibly big.

Of course, the Universe is really a lot bigger than that. But here is the secret: while the Universe is bigger than you can imagine, it’s actually not as big as you might think.

For example, all those parallel Universes. We are taught – because this is all anyone among the serious scientists can imagine – that there is an infinite (or near enough) number of Universes almost exactly like ours, each differing only by a very minor detail or two.

In reality, while each Universe is unimaginably big, there aren’t that many of them out there, and ours is really quite remarkable. Alone among all the parallel worlds, ours has absolutely no magic in it.

4 comments:

Pierre said...

I'm a numbers person, so I am always amazed and full of admiration for those of you who can produce enjoyable prose.

I liked the angel story. I am curious to read more about his earthly tasks and what was in the report he filed.

Enjoy the summer!

kerli said...

You should write the book. And meanwhile, continue publishing the extracts. It’s good.

I’d make it a postmodern superhero story, more grounded in realism than the canonical stuff. Something like Dogma meets a philosophical, grown-up version of Harry Potter.

Kristopher said...

Yeah, keep at it. I wouldn't worry about how it will all fall together. You're not God, so you'll never create a seamless plot line (I don't think he/she was working with an outline either).

Personally I love the idea of serial novels. It allows you to leave a glaring loose end each time, if you choose; then you have all week/month to think about how to account for it. Or just an enigmatic statement. "No magic in it" is great. Now I want to know why. I'm waiting for the next part.

It keeps you working for the readers and you will have to come up with good hooks and concise writing to keep their interest. Writing is really a performance art, anyway. It should be. Critics use words like "virtuoso performance" to describe the really good novels, and with good reason.

One thing: I would avoid any kind of explaining of how the mechanics of your fictional universe work. This is mainly a personal dislike But I think most creative writing mavens agree that it is a bad idea to have to explain something in an aside to the reader instead of allowing it to come out of the characters' actions.

And -- that "bigger than you can imagine/not as big as you might think" sentence reminds me of Pratchett crossed with Yogi Berra. I think that's a really good thing.

Anonymous said...

Why, oh why did you remove the second instalment of your grand novel?

A little benevolent criticism should not dismay an artist so.

I see potential. A wee bit of work here and there and your writings will be on a par with such excellent works as "Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan", "Chancho: A Boy and His Pig in Peru", and "The Gay Boys of Old Yale!", to name but a few.

Courage, my friend!

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