Love and Parallel Dimensions

Let’s talk about love and parallel dimensions.

I’ve had a theory for several years that it is far easier than one supposes to slip between alternate worlds, through the membrane of reality between eyeblinks. It happens all the time and most people rarely notice because the worlds we flip between are ever-so nearly identical. Here there’s a red house and there it’s blue. Here my keys are on the table, but there they are on the hook. Has that McDonalds always been there? Did this shirt always have a black stripe? We travel when we sleep and things are almost the same when we open our eyes.

Almost the same.

You find yourself talking to a friend, but things seem strange. They know you from Universe 247B, but you are remembering Universe 8-Jacket-907. Are your memories congruent? What’s the margin of error? In Plato’s Cave are we remotely seeing the same shadows?

I like this theory a lot. Maybe it’s because my memory is  a constantly rumbling Etch-a-Sketch, or maybe it’s because I lose things all the time, or maybe it’s

Artist - seventypercentethanol
Artist – seventypercentethanol

because I feel a distance between me and most humans. Some souls are a little less anchored than others, more easily sent adrift through the worlds.

I also fear this theory a lot. One day I might slip too far. Open my eyes in a dimension where no one knows me, or a place where every ill decision waits to wreak itself upon my brow. Most people slip when they sleep, but some days every blink shows me someplace different. Every car ride, every corner turn, every open door a new dimension. I try to hold on, to navigate, to touch stone and remember. The wind keeps blowing, ceaseless and patient.

But then I see my Beloved.

Somedays I slip far away, even from her, but then we blink together. We blink together and I am home. And when we sleep we slip together and wake up someplace new, someplace stranger — but together. We blink together and we are home.

There are more worlds than this and we dance through them unknowing. A forever carousel of worlds and souls and change and wind. A single life can get lost so easily, spun out of the gyre into worlds dark and forlorn. It is only the gravity of love, the shining thread in the dark that binds and must not break. There are those who believe it immortal and inviolate, but I am too full of shadow to agree. It burns all the brighter for its fragility, it holds all the stronger for how easy it is to shatter.

Thank you for knitting the cord with me, thank you for travelling so far with me. Across a billion worlds I prayed to find you. May the shortest distance between two points always be our thread, hand in hand we travel and I always wake up home.

I love you.

Blink with me and we are home.

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Inevitable

We’re all telling the same story.

I’ve been thinking about the State of the Fantasy Genre intermittently, and I just had a thought-burst. We’re all telling the same story, the story of 1011841_189098384582884_536161209_nInevitability. Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Abercrombie’s First Law, Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.

And me.

The feeling of fate, of the dark steps at the end of the road pervades the genre — even me, who is supposedly some sort of bubble-squeak rebel scribbling graffiti on the overpass of Epic — I’m telling the same story.

To paraphrase Kvothe: ‘You know how it ends. It ends right here, with me telling you this story.” [Unless of course, Rothfuss has been misleading us all, and Doors of Stone culminates with some version of Kote yelling ‘It’s Clobberin’ Time.”]

I don’t necessarily think this is a new convention in fantasy, Tolkien and Howard laid that ground for us long before — but it feels kind of strange to feel the same cobalt melancholy hanging over so much of the field. Is it because we’re all too cognizant of the gears and automata of storytelling? Or are we all just too jaded to tell a story with a half-way decent happy ending? From whence this kamikaze-love song with the grip of Fate?

Maybe just a function of maturity, of most head-and-shoulders artists hitting the success point when they’re old enough to feel the turn of the earth in its gyre, the dusty cobwebs of age long since gathering.

Or am I seeing a correlation that isn’t there? I know the story I’m telling, the strange and dark end of my Heroes. It sits on my shoulders like a black iron mantel. So tempting to change it, to have it come out better — or cheat the very fabric of the tale.

 

 

 

 

The Riddle Box – 300 Words or Less

A manor. A murder. A mystery. The doors are closed, best keep your eyes open.

Jonas and Rime arrive at the House of the Heart-Broken Lion, interrupting a play and an opulent dinner party. An actor falls dead on the stage, the doors

Gustave Doré Plate XX - “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69
Gustave Doré
Plate XX – “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69

are locked, the authorities summoned. Rime has one night to solve the mystery and escape before too many questions are asked and her wild magic is discovered. Jonas is just excited that there’s really good cheese.

Thirteen guests in the manor. All the doors are locked. One of them is the killer. Can she solve the case before dawn?

A sea-elf shaman, a wood-elf scholar, a bard with an electric guitar. A gentle priest, a vicious trader, a rude dwarf who does not speak. These guests have secrets, could there be a secret guest?

Blood in the shadows, a killer stalks the halls of the Heart-Broken Lion.  How can Our Heroes triumph against a foe that neither spell nor sword can catch?

  • Secrets of Jonas’ past revealed!
  • [Not all of them, but, you know, some!]
  • Rime has a crush!
  • Cryptic clues!
  • Red herrings!
  • Partial nudity!
  • Bedroom hi-jinks!
  • Sweet guitar solos! [Described.]
  • A giant cow!

A truly original mystery shamelessly cribbed from Agatha Christie, Colombo, and N.C.I.S. Fantasy fiction bent into a new, strange shape.

Can you solve The Riddle Box?

[Argggg. I hate writing ad copy. This is my first stab [of many] getting Riddle Box into something easily marketable. Back of book, Amazon description, etc. I am shit at the elevator pitch — comments and reactions very much appreciated!]

Riddle Box – Opening verse [Sketch]

The door shuts

behind you

and you sit down

at the banquet

and sit down

at the show.

Have you come to play a game?

Artist Unknown
Artist Unknown

All the pieces

are marked

all the

clues

will  appear

one by two,

two by one,

running through the

weightless halls

of the manor.

You have come to play a game,

the killer and the killed.

Blood on white marble,

blood on shadowed wood,

blood on blood,

blood on fire.

The game has come to play.

Follow along, the string in your hands,

the song in your ears.

Eyes sharp, hearts dark.

The two travelers step through the door.

The door shuts behind them.

Open the game and play the blood,

sing tomorrow and hold back the flood.

Welcome to the Riddle Box.

The Plague

The classroom was quiet. Bone-white desks faced a board groaning with chalk and time. The scholar sat on a stool and leaned on her lectern, sorting crisp paper into clean lines. Lecture phrases and lines of ink filled her head and she was caught by surprise when a young man cleared his throat from behind the second row of desks.

“I am sorry,” he said, hands locked around a scroll case. “Please…I am sorry to interrupt you, but…”

“You are not one of my students,” the scholar laid a finger to her temple, letting her mind settle and focus on the young man.

“No, I am not. I am visiting the city. My name is Lucas Grahd.”

Artist:  Charlie Bowater
Artist: Charlie Bowater

“And I am Prose Willow. You know this, of course.”

The scholar did not smile and neither did Lucas. Her face was sharp and severe, brown skin pulled taut. Long, tight braids wound in an ornate riddle.  The young man took a step forward.

“I do.  I came here looking for you.”

The scholar sighed. “Why, Lucas Grahd? Why at the end of the day do you tiptoe into my hall? The sun sets.”

“I don’t know,” Lucas said. “I read something you wrote. The gifted man is a plague. To himself, to the city, to the world. What did you mean by that?”

“Most people pass through this world inert. The simple mechanics of society push them through and out, like stones through the belly of a snake.” Prose nodded. “But the gifted, the learned, the wise, those who can see. Actors and painters and sculptors and all the weary litany of those who shape. They affect the system, they touch things. They make, they mar. They change things.”

“Is it wrong to change things?”

“No. Not always. But the more you see, the more you move, the more you change the world, shape it with your choices. You begin to feel the weight, the weight of those choices. Is this why you came? This conversation?” Prose folded her hands and looked over her knuckles at Lucas.

“Not really. Maybe? I don’t know,” Lucas took another step forward.

“The scroll, then?” It was green with black piping, any distinguishing marks hidden by Lucas’ hands.

Lucas looked down at it, as if surprised to find his hands full. “Oh, this? No, I was just carrying this. I came to research a translation in the library, but I walked in here instead. I knew you were here, that you taught here, but I hadn’t planned on approaching you.”

Prose stood up, hands gentle on the lectern. The fading light in the room shot thin gold across the white desks and the young man’s face. “Are you a gifted man, Lucas Grahd?”

“Yes.”

“Then forego the illusion. No mystical force guides your steps, you are not perplexed, you are not whimsical. Why did you walk in here?”

“I want a sage,” the young man sat in the closest desk, eyes on the flat white, whispering. “Someone who knows. Someone I can ask.”

“Get out,” Prose Willow said.

The sun set.

 

 

 

Various

I’ve got the itch to post and write, but nothing dominating my brain pan. I’m going to list some thoughts until I hit something I want to expound upon.

Various thoughts:

  • I was in Vegas last week for a work conference. It was my first time. I gambled a dollar, drank daiquiris in a bathtub, ate piles of exotic food next to a 30 foot stone statue of Buddha while dubstep played. I believe that  Vegas is the most American city  I’ve ever been in — not the greatest American city, but the most American.
  • I’m on Twitter now — it’s fun. There’s a surprising feeling of immediacy to the interactions there, and it’s neat to be able to directly annoy people I
    Majesty.
    Majesty.

    respect. Also to roll my eyes at some writers up the foodchain as they reveal their foibles and strange predilections. Follow me there and allow me to regale you with glib witticisms and reports on my cat’s mood.

  • Why is their a paucity of Southern genre writers – fantasy and sci-fi? I’ve been directed to several interesting ones that I hadn’t heard of before, but there just don’t seem to be any genre legends within a 50 mile radius of a Waffle House. Southern fiction has a strong tradition, are they all just writing other genres? How come anyone that wants to write about swords and dragons seems to gravitate to the North and West?
  • This weird-ass journey of writing and promoting myself is …well...weird-ass. I have to constantly pump myself up and feed myself endless packets of cocksurety just to keep myself going [You are awesome. Genre-CHANGING. Undiscovered genius.] all while walking face first into the most humbling series of experiences I’ve ever encountered.