Thursday, July 28, 2016

World Enough and More

“Had we but world enough and time”—Andrew Marvell

I’ve had always world enough and more
but time—ah, time—I too have felt the lack,
have watched the tide retreating from the shore

and wondered if I’d see it coming back.
I gathered seashells on the drying strand
but time—ah, time, I too have felt the lack

though agates gleamed upon the emptied sand.
Why discontent? Was I not happy when
I gathered seashells on the drying strand

and polished stones against my shirtsleeves’ hems,
a treasure better than a dragon’s hoard.
Why discontent? Was I not happy when

I spent those hours gathering rewards
there in the space between the sand and salt,
a treasure better than a dragon’s hoard.

If this seems poor, my sight may be at fault.
I’ve watched the tide retreating from the shore
and in the space between the sand and salt
I’ve had always world enough and more.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Windmill Country

I live to the west of windmill country,
I’m a knight on a quest through windmill country.

Flights of white pelicans dazzle in sun
and course the river’s breast in windmill country.

The highway climbs the bluffs to the south
and winds to the crests of windmill country.

Hawks ride invisible roads of air,
can they pass the tests of windmill country?

Power lines write a brand new history
across the palimpsest of windmill country.

Will salmon ever run unchained to the ocean
freed by the harvest of windmill country?

The world is my home, my house is my clothing.
I’m overdressed for windmill country.

Let me dervish-spin, growl and hum:
that’s my request of windmill country.

Let me see and see for a hundred miles
what God has blessed in windmill country.


Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seascape

3 Word Wednesday: Queasy, unruly, violent

That was easy...

blue ocean waters
unruly violent wave-crests
queasy landlubbers

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Monday, June 27, 2016

Drain

There once was a young man from Drain
Who said “I’m so sick of this rain
I’m moving to Libya
or maybe Namibia
to live in deep desert terrain!”

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Drought Ku

dry river bottoms
sparrows bathe in pools of dust
find nothing to drink

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Punquery

metal-pierced face
taut Lycra, tattered denim
old taboos flouted

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cheapskate

Mad Kane's blog has proved amazingly durable...

When Jason returned with the Fleece
he put all his crew on release
and all he would tender
for service they rendered--
at most, half an obol apiece.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

February Scene

3 Word Wednesday: quick, raw, sassy

bitter wind, raw cold
quick flash of color shakes branch
sassy cardinal

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Cutting-Edge Cuisine

3 Word Wednesday: Nibble, outlandish, perplexed

outlandish foodstuffs
diners, perplexed and cautious
take tiny nibbles

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A Long Hot One

Saw it coming far back as February. No, earlier: there was a single stray blossom on one of our camellias before the New Year. All the signs were for a mild winter and an early start to a long hot summer.

And a long and heated campaign season, full of deranged rhetoric and ugly posturing. Which city will riot this year? Who will die to distract us from the utter emptiness of the political process?

Already the grass has died back to its roots and the shrubbery is crisp with heat. Fuel everywhere, lying in heaps, just waiting for a spark. The city has signs out, warning people not to throw away cigarette butts. Discarded lives start fires too.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Monday, June 06, 2016

RIP, Champ

Friday, June 03, 2016

Australian Bush Slasher Flick

Getting back to 3 Word Wednesday, after a long hiatus...
Kook. Lethal. Maniacal.

maniacal laugh:
kook, or just kookaburra?
lethal to get wrong

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Apostrophe

for Jay Lake

We've been to the Waterfront Blues Festival twice since you died

The second time, I wore a black dress and a long string of white polythene beads

You would like the new Pope-- he has a great sense of humor

I have a collection of your short stories but I haven't read it yet

George R. R. Martin hasn't gotten any further with Game of Thrones and now the TV series is off book

I got the white beads at the first Waterfront Festival after you died

Google's come up with a self-driving car but people don't trust it

Marijuana is legal now and not just for dying people

Flying Pie Pizza is still on Stark Street

I didn't want the beads but the man giving them away looked just like you.


Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Uncute Animals and unhelpful comments

(This is an update of a 2005 post.)

A quote from Tolkien is usually a good place to start:

Beasts and birds and other creatures often talk like men in real fairy-stories. In some part (often small) this marvel derives from one of the primal “desires” that lie near the heart of Faerie: the desire of men to hold communion with other living things... But in stories in which no human being is concerned; or in which the animals are the heroes and heroines, and men and women, if they appear, are mere adjuncts; and above all those in which the animal form is only a mask upon a human face, a device of the satirist or the preacher, in these we have beast-fable and not fairy-story.”

--from “On Fairy-stories”.

Beast-fables are the subject of this post. In SF/fantasy, I think the aim of a beast-fable should be to present the world as we think an animal would experience it, uniquely and differently than how a human would experience it. (I wrote that sentence originally with “see” instead of “experience”, which immediately reveals my human bias towards visual perception. My dog would have written “smell” instead of “see”.) Ultimately, the reader should come away thinking “That story could only have been told by a (mole, rabbit, dog, dolphin). Not by a human, not even by any other kind of animal.”

But animal stories, or beast-fables, commonly suffer from two faults that get in the way of this goal: first, the tendency Tolkien alludes to in the last part of the above quote. All too often, animal characters are merely humans dressed up in animal suits; they don’t offer any insight you couldn’t get from a human. Second, animal stories tend in our culture to be dismissed as “cute”. (I blame Disney. I blame Disney for a lot of things.) A writer who accepts this judgement will tend to dumb down the story, perhaps assuming it’ll be marketed to children. (Kids hate being talked down to; doesn’t anyone notice that?)

Of course, in writing from an animal’s point of view (another visual), one has to create perceptions and thoughts which one’s (human) readers can relate to. There’s a necessary compromise between accessibility and realism. “Realism” here means, of course, adhering to what we imagine an animal’s point of view would really be like; something of which we have no first-hand knowledge.

Examples...

Much as I love it, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows is not really about animals; it’s about English country gentlemen who wear waistcoats, consult pocket-watches, and drive motor-cars (poorly). On the other hand, William Horwood’s Duncton books (Horwood is also the author of the authorized sequels to Wind in the Willows) are much more succesful as beast-fables. I really like the use of sound-art by the Duncton moles. (You heard that right, moles.) Being mostly sightless, moles “scribe” instead of writing, which is something like Braille, and they also create extremely elaborate and emotionally affecting sonic sculptures. The second Duncton trilogy rings much truer than the first, by the way; I found the wandering mole master martial artist kind of unconvincing...

Then there’s Richard Adams, best known as the author of Watership Down. I like WD a lot, but think it suffers from the second flaw above: it’s a little talk-downy in tone compared to his later books, much like The Hobbit compared to Lord of the Rings. Well, it was his first book. For a more serious look at the world through animal eyes (there I go again), try Plague Dogs. Be warned: it is both intensely evocative and appallingly grim.

I consider Adams to be a terribly underrated author, and in large part it’s because of the success of Watership Down. People expected him to write more cute-animal stories, and were shocked and dumbfounded by the likes of Plague Dogs and Shardik. (Or they dismissed WD as “kid stuff” and didn’t bother with the rest of his books.) By the way, Shardik is not an animal story at all. The bear Shardik is the focus of the story, but he doesn’t talk. Both Shardik and the Duncton books should really have been on the list of religious fantasy in an earlier post.

SF authors have it a little easier, because they get to posit animals whose intelligence has been technologically enhanced to near-human levels, but who retain many of their original characteristics. (Of course SF also gets to posit aliens as intelligent as, but vastly different from, humans. I’m going to leave that subject aside (maybe for a later post).) David Brin’s Uplift books do very nicely here, with the intelligent chimps and dolphins having a different outlook (damn! Can’t get away from those visuals!) from humans. Especially the dolphins; chimps apparently feel quite a bit like humans, but what would you expect?

Update...

So apparently the BBC aired WD as an Easter special. And some parents are upset that it was "too violent."

Unhelpful comment #1: "Yeah. They should have aired Shardik instead. It's religious."
Unhelpful comment #2: "Should have read the book."