Rainy Wednesday

A normal, if rainy, middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-road kind of day. It was broken up only by a surprisingly really informative presentation about the higher education model in the United Kingdom. (Short version: it’s very different from the model here in the U.S., both from a student’s and a bookseller’s perspective.)

Monday various

Sun day

Less than a week ago, we turned on the heat. Today, I had the air conditioning back on. The weather has been weird, to say the least. Remember when we had those things called seasons? Fall and spring particularly seem like fond and distant memories.

Anyway, beyond spending a lot of the day watching Breaking Bad episodes and thoroughly failing at the Sunday crossword (so far), I spent a little time tidying up the layout and making corrections to the next issue of Kaleidotrope. I think, despite my best efforts at avoiding this, it’s going to be a Very Big Issue Indeed, maybe even 100 pages. That gets a little difficult when you start folding and stapling paper — at the zine’s trim size, 100 pages translates into 25 sheets, plus a card stock cover — but I don’t see how I can avoid it. And really, it’s the last print issue for the foreseeable future, as I make the uncertain transition into online zine, so is it such a terrible thing? Lots of interesting stories this final (printed) go-around.

I also wrote this odd thing:

This is the story of how Coyote tricked the world into never ending.

Once there was a time machine. The elders say that like it ought to mean something, and I guess maybe once it did, when there used to be things like machines, things like time. When there was some kind of real division between what is now and what was then. This machine opened doorways, but not just from one room to another like we see every day, doorways between the crowding dark outside and what life we have in here around the flame. These were doorways in the fabric of reality. That fabric’s grown tattered over the years since then, frayed so much along the edges that we don’t even realize, wouldn’t realize even if we knew how to look, those of us who came after it. These were doorways swung wide between what the elders call “the past” and what we, thanks to Coyote, know only as the now.

I’d like to say I’m getting ahead of myself, which is something that Chief Little Owl likes to say, when it’s him telling this story. But you and I, we know that isn’t possible. We both know we won’t remember this when the story’s done, not the way Little Owl and the others say they remember things, remember a world before the time machine, before the end of time itself. Before this living hell.

But is it hell? If you were born in hell, had known nothing else your entire life, would you know? Would you care? The elders tell us we should care, that time as we who were born after know it is deeply flawed, cracked and broken in Coyote’s fun. The world may never end, but neither will it ever begin. Nothing will ever… They have a word for it, one they say with hushed tones of awe like it means more than it seems, more than those few letters could ever mean.

The elders have a word for this thing that never happens anymore, and they call it change.

But once, they say, there was a time machine, built by a man who imagined himself a god, but whose plans Coyote thought to reveal as demonic. Coyote, the trickster, looked down on this man from the heavens, the black void that used to only be above, not all around, us, and then only in the depths of night. And Coyote grinned, for here was his chance to remake — or maybe unmake — the world.

It’s difficult to tell a story in a world with broken time. We have only the faulty and fading memories of the few who lived in a world before then. To even understand phrases like “before then” we need their guidance. We live in a world as constant as theirs was changing, and we maybe don’t have enough common vocabulary to bridge the gap.

So. Once, when there was a “once,” there was a time machine. It was made to see the world, or perhaps to free the world. What does it matter now? If stories are designed to teach us moral lessons and prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the past, do they have any use beyond a passing distraction in a world where those lessons can never be applied, where those mistakes can never be made anew? Once there was a time machine. Coyote stole it. And with it, he broke time.

The man who invented it, Chief Little Owl calls Smith, which sounds like a strange name in an already strange story. He worked for a man named Jones, but secretly wanted the time machine for his own. Coyote came to make an offer; he told Smith he could take the machine so far into the future that no one, not even Jones, would ever find him. And because Smith wanted the machine, because there was greed in his heart, which had turned twisted and ugly before Coyote even turned his attention to this game — because of this Smith believed Coyote, the trickster who walked amongst us once, and who now is all there is in the great dark that presses in from outside.

I never claimed this story would make any sense.

I’m really not sure what’s going on there. The Native American elements, inspired very directly by a writing prompt, feel like half-remembered window dressing. I took an English class my senior year that was, in part, about the trickster myths, and I find it interesting, but it’s not a tradition I’m heavily steeped in. (Nor would I necessarily recommend anyone reading that term paper I linked to above. I certainly haven’t read it in over ten years.) But, these Sundays are free-writing sessions, forty minutes of putting words to paper (or iPad) without really caring if they’re good or not.

I don’t know if that’s easier or harder since the three-day novel. I definitely had plenty of experience then getting words down without worrying if they were any good or not. (And knowing they probably weren’t but still going forward.)

Anyway, that was Sunday. I didn’t play a single level of Portal 2…though really only because I’m having an issue with my log-in credentials and need Steam/Valve to re-set them. (I love the games, and think I get why they’re on Steam instead of wholly downloaded to my computer, but it does make for some annoying moments like this.)

Yep, that was Sunday.

Wednesday various

Tuesday various

  • Textbooks Up Their Game. The Wall Street Journal looks at the evolving world of the textbook market and the role that e-book volumes will play in it.

    The iPad does seem better suited to the textbook market than most other e-readers, if only for its versatility. But I can’t see app-ready editions of textbooks having much widespread appeal (beyond the student who already owns an iPad) or impact, unless the price of Apple’s reader and/or the books comes down significantly. Students are unlikely to pay $69.99 (much less $84.99) for a book they can’t re-sell and that, once the iPad stops working or needs to be replaced, is gone too.

  • Daleks voted the greatest sci-fi monsters of all time. It’s a weird list. The original poll was for “Monsters, Supernatural Beings & Fantasy Creatures,” which means picks like Aslan makes more sense — although a CGI lion with the voice of Liam Neeson is a little monstrous, too — but Pilot from Farscape?
  • Real or not, I think I can live without J.D. Salinger’s toilet.
  • Deconstructing the Twikie. Surprisingly, this hasn’t been done by Cockeyed.com. [via]
  • And finally, I’ve really been enjoying Zach Handlen’s Star Trek: The Next Generation recaps:

    It can be difficult to convincingly show love in fiction, because the experience of falling for someone is both highly personal and curiously universal; the details and shared moments are what give the feeling texture, but the rush and elation of it are things that we all share. So you’ve got to find some way to make the small moments appear distinct and honest so that the big moments feel earned.