Touching base

Well, seven months into lockdown. That feels a lot less weighty than six months – unsurprising, given that it’s not an especially neat fraction of a year – but I do kind of miss summer.

We went to a drive-in over the weekend! Apparently one opened up ten minutes from home, and I missed hearing about it until the season was nearly over. The screen wasn’t quite as large as the drive-in we went to last year (my first time ever), but… hours spent out of the house. For fun. It was kind of lovely.

Managed to pick up Wasteland 3 again over the weekend (I ended up putting it down for nearly a month), and it’s… I mean, part of it may be that I was forgetting to specifically schedule leisure as a thing that had to get done, but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s also one of the few longer games where I feel like I really want to play through again and try substantially different choices.

(Nothing that supports slavers, though. There are lines beyond which fun is not had, dammit, at least not for me.)

So many questionable choices.

I am playing Wasteland 3, as one does, and I just really want to say I appreciate the richly textured setting and all the opportunities you have for terrible, terrible decisions.

Want to have your armory run by the local crime cartel? Want to then upset that local cartel by shooting one of the lieutenants? You can do that! (In my defense, I mean, the lieutenant wanted me to pick on the movie monsters. There are limits, I tell you.)

Want to invite a fourth-generation clone of the great scientific villain who tried to wipe out humanity and invite him to work in your medical lab? Also possible! It’s probably okay, he says the genocidal impulses were nurture rather than nature, and he’s a scientist! He would know.

Want to help the robot figure out how to defend other robots by removing his empathy for humanity? You can do that too! I am sure this will have no negative consequences down the line whatsoever. >beams<

I’m having fun, all told. Now, having mortally offended the religious order of the wives of Reagan, I just need to go pick which character gets to use the self-inserting spinal implant from the robot doctor whose assistant we convinced to run away to freedom.

Of emptiness and salvage.

My story “The Draw of Empty Spaces” is out now in issue 3 of Cossmass Infinities, which you can get here (although if you subscribe it should already be in your inbox, which is very nice). It is a story of someone doing salvage work in a ruined city, alone and then not alone.

This is my second time appearing in the magazine and I am honestly very pleased to be there again, and to be in the company of those other stories. I hope you enjoy them all.

Take me home.

I’ve just finished a first draft of the novelette (I ultimately didn’t go with the restructuring I was hopping to do, because of time contraints) and given it to my weekly writing group for crit, and this morning I was casting about to find something to distract me from “oh dear god did I actually leave all those things in there they are so goofy.”

Bethesda stepped up.

I was gleeful to start with, and then someone pointed out that at 0:29, you can see a date on the PIP-Boy, and that the year is 2102. In-universe, this puts it 25 years after the Great War and 159 years before the first Fallout.

It’s not that I don’t love the Fallout setting, and the way the institutions have grown up over time (and yes, still ridiculously pleased that the Khans survived New Vegas; they’ve been around longer than the NCR!), but I love the Fallout world, too, and am very curious to see what it was like a mere generation after the bombs fell.

I am so very much looking forward to this.

“Song for Three Soldiers”, Stephen Vincent Benét

Oh, where are you coming from, soldier, gaunt soldier,
With weapons beyond any reach of my mind,
With weapons so deadly the world must grow older
And die in its tracks, if it does not turn kind?

Stephen Vincent Benét isn’t very well-known for his science fiction, as far as I can tell; he wrote “By the Waters of Babylon“, and the story is known, but since he was better known for other work and came to science fiction late in a relatively short life, his name doesn’t bubble to the top very easily in genre discussions.

I ran across the poem while looking up The War Game (1965, BBC, an “and you though Threads was upsetting” kind of mockumentary), which uses it as an epigram. About once every eight months I run across it again, and then I spend three days humming it to a tune that’s something like “The Streets of Laredo”.

This time, I thought I’d share; the text in its entirety is here.

“The Screwfly Solution”, James Tiptree, Jr.

AP/Nassau: The excursion liner Carib Swallow reached port under tow today after striking an obstruction in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras. The obstruction was identified as part of a commercial trawler’s seine floated by female corpses. This confirms reports from Florida and the Gulf of the use of such seines, some of them over a mile in length. Similar reports coming from the Pacific coast and as far away as Japan indicate a growing hazard to coastwise shipping.

That cheery fragment is actually one of the less upsetting pieces of text in Tiptree’s “The Screwfly Solution”. It’s a fairly hard-hitting story, especially when you (for example) go in thinking that while it’ll probably be a good story, it’ll be a little dated and there’s no reason to think it’d make more of an impression than others you’ve read.

(I was corrected. To borrow a phrase from another work, I was corrected harshly.)

That short story’s remarkable to me at least in part because I honestly feel like the last few lines weaken the horror of it. Partly that’s surprising because I find most of Tiptree’s work is remarkably consistent and builds well on itself; partly that’s interesting because I’ve got a class on beginnings and endings tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

Tiptree wrote a great many stories, and it’s hard to choose what to recommend first, but after “The Screwfly Solution” you could do worse than go with “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!”, “The Man Who Walked Home”, and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”.

The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner

Latro, California: “Terrible diarrhea, Doctor, and I feel so weak!”/“Take these pills and come back in three days if you’re not better.”
Parkington, Texas: “Terrible diarrhea. . . .”/“Take these pills . . .”
Hainesport, Louisiana: “Terrible . . .” “Take . . .”
Baker Bay, Florida . . .
Washington, DC. . . .
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania . . .
New York, New York . . .
Boston, Massachusetts . . .
Chicago, Illinois: “Doctor, I know it’s Sunday, but the kid’s in such a terrible state—you’ve got to help me!”/“Give him some junior aspirin and bring him to my office tomorrow. Goodbye.”

EVERYWHERE, USA: a sudden upswing in orders for very small coffins, the right size to take a baby dead from acute infantile enteritis.

I skimmed my first John Brunner novel somewhere in my early 20s and thought it was creepy but neat.

I read my second John Brunner novel in 2007. It was Stand on Zanzibar. To the best of my recollection, I spent a weekend feeling very stunned by the influx of information and the intensity of the plot. The last SF novel I’d read about overpopulation was Make Room! Make Room! and while I liked it, it did not quite have the impact of Brunner’s mosaic of plot, sorrow, and horror.

This quote is from The Sheep Look Up, which is about pollution in the same way Stand On Zanzibar is about overpopulation. I don’t find it quite as affecting as Stand on Zanzibar, but it is most definitely worth reading.

Image is found here, by Witch Kiki, used under the CC0 1.0 license

Come and get some mercy.

Well, season 2 of Z Nation is complete and I am giddy.

There are other shows with zombies (I am pretty sure… although these days I’m only watching iZombie, and it kind of doesn’t count). There are other shows with pulpy, bright-and-quickly-drawn characters.  There are other shows with kind of cheesy premises that carry themselves through sheer momentum.

But.

Continue reading “Come and get some mercy.”

Well that was a fortnight and change.

I have learned several things in the last couple of weeks.

  1. I get a bit sad when I can’t be at home for Hallowe’en. I’m not saying I won’t ever go to a convention on Hallowe’en again, but I’m definitely going to keep it in mind when planning stuff in the future.
  2. A weekend away with nothing to do, minimal internet access, smart kind people, good food, lovely scenery, silly or good movies, makeup, and a bottle of wine is kind of lovely. I want to do it again.
  3. Nonetheless, two weekends away from home at once throws me for a loop. I think if I do something like that again, I definitely need to look at booking a day off to get back into
  4. Fallout 4 is making me happy. It’s good to be back.
  5. For NaNoWriMo: discounting the two days I didn’t write, I’m averaging 1739 words a day; discounting the three I was sick, I’m averaging 2011. I’m behind where I’d like to be, but if I keep up my pace, I should be able to finish on time.
  6. Knitting is still not happening. This was pretty upsetting to me, but I’m hoping it changes in the future.
  7. I have found Cat Rambo’s post on preparing for NaNoWriMo to be really helpful, actually. I did not do so well with #2, clearing the decks, but I’ve known for a several months that not playing Fallout 4 in November was not going to be an option.
  8. Related to this: Novels are hard. Novelettes are a thing that I’ve accidentally committed a couple of times, because I write long, but novels? Novels are a whole different beast. It’s like the difference between knitting in the round (a fiddly act which involves double-pointed needles that are, nonetheless, usually held pretty firmly in place by yarn) and trying to juggle a handful of spaghetti. There are ends and connections everywhere.
  9. Yes, this is with an outline. Admittedly not a super-complete one.

That’s about the state of the month so far. If I don’t manage to update a bit more often, I’ll be back in December. Right now, though, I have managed to gouge out enough time to catch up on The Flash and I am by-god going to do that.

(Cisco isn’t naming people. It’s so wrong.)

And the year rolls ’round again.

(In a weirdly light-hearted counterpoint, I have “Don’t Push That Button” by Duane Elms running through my head.)

I’d have said something about this earlier, but Saturday was for unwinding and Sunday involved poking my computer with sticks until it stopped giving me kernel errors.

September 26th was Stanislav Petrov Day, which is an entirely unofficial holiday. Short version: 28 years ago, Stanislav Petrov did not push The Button. The systems he was dealing with told him he should, because the Americans had very definitely fired missiles, and he didn’t.

(Twenty-eight years ago, it was 1983. If you were talking about The Button being pushed, you were talking about nuclear war.)

It’s a day I notice for several reasons, which are in no particular order

  • not being dead is awesome;
  • oh look, more post-apocalyptic references;
  • I wonder how often it nearly happened; and
  • I cannot imagine what it was like to live in that context, and I am curious.

I’ve rambled about the last a bit; as I’ve said before, I don’t think I can get it, although I think I can understand it.

Anyway. The weekend involved a slightly higher consumption of post-apocalyptic fiction than usual, and a general state of not being radioactive smithereens. It’s occasionally nice to pause and appreciate the little things.