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Friday, September 19, 2014

"I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan

First appeared in Lightspeed. Up for the Nebula award. Online. Interview.

Note: This is not a story that is spoiled by revealing the plot's events. However, it is available online, so read it first if you are concerned with spoilers.

The narrator falls for a man who keeps eluding her--from her perspective, almost purposefully despite being attracted to her. First he flies off at relativistic light speeds, so she marries a German who dies and when her lover returns, he marries her despite the difference in relativistic ages.

She, then, takes off on her own relativistic journey, which may or may not be spite, but her reason for leaving is otherwise unclear.

Despite life-extension, she gets a disease that requires cryogenics. Later, she uploads her personality and still waits for her lover to join her.

Although these characters seem confused about their attraction, they are not especially unreliable, except for this:

" 'I’ll marry you,' you said once, 'if you can’t find anyone else.' I laughed because I thought you were kidding. You couldn’t even propose right."
At first she's humored, perhaps a shade incredulous or flabbergasted. She believes that there is a proper way to propose "you" did it incorrectly, yet she recognized it was a proposal, which should be flattering.

There are a few reasons why someone might say such a thing:

  1. Lack of self-confidence.
  2. Belief that the other person is superior or too good for him.
  3. Long shot: A complimentary put-off. However, the lover appears to return to her, even when she is relativistically thirty years his senior, which erodes this possibility.
Later, she writes:

"If I can’t find anyone else. That’s a terrible proposal. It makes a woman feel like you’re just putting up with her.
This makes the narrator unreliable. That's not really explicit or implicit in the statement. More likely, it's justification for marrying someone else--lies a person tells herself to break off interest in someone she cares for. Maybe that's the point of the story: How we unnecessarily confuse ourselves in matters of love. As silly as many romance-based sit-coms are--usually some stupid misunderstanding arises that could be clarified with a sentence or two--they may be nearer reality than one would suppose.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 10. "The Corbomite Maneuver"

 Summary:
In an unknown part of space, the Enterprise runs across a multi-colored block that blocks their way--not a ship but a 1073 m3 device of unknown composition. It pursues the ship even into warp speed, gaining on them until they finally blast it with their lasers. Do they escape the alien life that created this? No, their mission is find new life and boldly go where no man has gone before.
Analysis with spoilers:
They run into a giant Bucky ball, a fullerene. Not really, but it looks like a filled molecule. It's the flagship Fesarius, commanded by Balok. The Enterprise's destruction of the warning buoy is seen as an attack.

Meanwhile, Lt. Bailey has been promoted too quickly and freezes, paralyzed in his actions upon orders. He lashes out when he assumes they have only minutes to live, which is interesting. With all the life-threatening situations the crew has been under, you would suppose that many would have cracked. This goes some way to explaining that.

Balok threatens to destroy the ship in ten minutes. If you time the minutes Balok gives the Enterprise, you'll find time stretching and snapping back to normal speed, then stretches again.

Kirk bluffs, says that corbomite will destroy any attacking vessel. Balok buys it, so instead a smaller ship will take them to a planet to drop of the crew and destroy the ship. As Balok tows the Enterprise, the ship pulls away to overtax Balok's. As the Enterprise, Balok's breaks and sends out a distress call.

Kirk, Bailey and McCoy go aboard and find Balok's appearance on the screen was a puppet. The true Balok is a boy or a midget--the only person aboard. He'd played a series of bluffs as well. Bailey volunteers to discuss cultures with Balok. Perhaps this is a metaphor for ending the cold war: a series of raises until one party needs assistance. If rendered, the parties do a cultural exchange to understand one another.

The puppet was visible as a puppet but it is somewhat fearsome behind the distorting lens.

A rather clever episode with some long delays in plot, watching the crew react, but effective.


    Memorable:

    1. The puppet
    2. Corbomite -- every bluff should contain this substance
    3. Explanation of psychological toll
    4. A lot plot details here get used later, such as the warp escape in the latest Star Trek movie. 
    Quotes:
    • Spock:  Has it occurred to you that there's a certain inefficiency in questioning me on things you've already mind up your mind about?

      Kirk: It gives me emotional security.
                                                          Author
                                                          Jerry Sohl also wrote for The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Outer Limits.
                                                          *Notes:
                                                          1. First use of Kirk's famous bluffs to solve a problem.
                                                          2. First we hear of Spock's past: His father was a rough man, but loved by his wife.

                                                          Wednesday, September 17, 2014

                                                          Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 9. "Dagger of the Mind"

                                                           Summary:
                                                          The Enterprise beams down goods to Tantalus V, a planet penal colony with unorthodox methods of healing its prisoners. A prisoner escapes, threatens violence to the Enterprise crew. It turns out that the prisoner was the assistant, a former psychiatrist himself, Simon Van Gelder.
                                                          Analysis with spoilers:
                                                          Kirk goes down with Dr. Helen Noel. Kirk investigates, but Noel balks. They try out the neural neutralizer for themselves and find out Kirk can be made hungry for food and Noel. Then Dr. Adams appears and.

                                                          The attempt at romance between the attractive couple was nice as was the profound ending, but this one had problems. Of the episodes thus far, this one stretches incredulity. Really, you don't inspect goods from a penal colony? No one comes to pick it up? How did they get so far away before they realized Van Gelder had escaped?

                                                          Kirk seems to have had a Christmas fling with Dr. Helen Noel, where she wanted more than he did--an assumption from her continued interest and Kirk's reluctance to have her along. Also, from Noel's described how they danced and Kirk speaking of the stars, but she tries to invest more in the scene. This leads to the "accidental" embrace in the elevator. Yet they keep holding on to one another, which negates Kirk's earlier supposed reluctance.

                                                          Moreover, on the ship, Kirk is sold on Dr. Tristan Adams due to his renown, but as soon as he begins investigation, he's dubious and Dr. Helen Noel is the accepting one. In fact, she backs up Adams with the quote below, something I suspect would be suspect if not controversial to anyone working in a psychoanalytic capacity. Really? Deleting or changing memories is that well accepted?

                                                          How did Simon Van Gelder and Tristan Adams get in this fix, anyway? I mean the true story.

                                                          Who would use a device that made a sane man insane? Captain Kirk apparently. Hey, let's see if I go insane, too!  Why does Adams suddenly turn on Kirk instead of letting him think it's harmless?

                                                          This is minor--rather humorous actually--but Kirk cannot open a screen and needs Noel's help. Later, Noel opens a screen with ease. This brings up a question of why no one on the colony has never tried to escape through the ducts before.

                                                          Now for my favorite part: the ending. When Dr. Tristan Adams eats his just desserts, the power comes back on, and the neural neutralizer empties his mind with no one to fill it, he dies of loneliness. Therefore, emptiness = loneliness, and loneliness = death. There's an unusually long silence at the end, a silent note held for longer than normal on TV, and it's eerily effective. However, Kirk breaks it with a smile, for some reason.

                                                          The episode alludes to Tantalus, a man punished for cooking his son for the gods with eternal dissatisfaction of desires--water recedes as he bends drink, branches laden with fruit always stay just out of reach. Perhaps Dr. Tristan Adams is Tantalus for having destroyed his assistant although the metaphor doesn't fit well as their punishments are different.

                                                          Likewise, the name Tristan does not appear to allude to Tristan the lover. Finally, the title comes from MacBeth (see quote below), the titular character of which appears delusional, sees a dagger, and decides quick action is needed.

                                                          Quotes:
                                                          • "A shifting of memory patterns is basic psychotherapy." -- Dr. Helen Noel
                                                          • Is this a dagger which I see before me,
                                                          The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
                                                          I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
                                                          Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
                                                          To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
                                                          A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
                                                          Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?
                                                          I see thee yet, in form as palpable
                                                          As this which now I draw.
                                                          Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going,
                                                          And such an instrument I was to use.
                                                          Mine eyes are made the fools o' th' other senses,
                                                          Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still,
                                                          And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
                                                          Which was not so before. There’s no such thing.
                                                          It is the bloody business which informs
                                                          Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world
                                                          Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
                                                          The curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates
                                                          Pale Hecate’s offerings, and withered murder,
                                                          Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf,
                                                          Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
                                                          With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
                                                          Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
                                                          Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
                                                          Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
                                                          And take the present horror from the time,
                                                          Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives.
                                                          Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
                                                          --MacBeth Act 2 scene 1, Shakespeare
                                                                                                                Author
                                                                                                                S. Bar-David or Shimon Wincelberg.
                                                                                                                *Notes:
                                                                                                                1. First use of Vulcan mind-meld psychotherapy 
                                                                                                                2. You cannot use communicators or beam anything while shields are raised.

                                                                                                                Tuesday, September 16, 2014

                                                                                                                Interview: Cat Dixon, poet of Too Heavy to Carry, Part 1: Looking Back

                                                                                                                This is the first-part of a two-part interview with poet Cat Dixon [website], graduate from the UN's MFA program and published the book Too Heavy to Carry--reviewed here. The second part of the interview, "Present", appeared here.
                                                                                                                When did you start writing?
                                                                                                                I began writing stories in grade school around 3rd or 4th grade, I think. Encouraged by my teachers, friends and mother, I kept with it. Once I found Stephen King (in middle school) I wrote horror short stories. I always loved to read and wanted to create my own characters. 

                                                                                                                Stories then, not poetry? How old were you when you tried poetry? 
                                                                                                                I began reading and writing poetry my first year in high school. I started my BFA at UNO with the fiction track, but changed it to poetry after the first year. I still like to read fiction, and once in a while I will write a story, but I feel more comfortable with poetry. 

                                                                                                                What poets initially turned your muse on?
                                                                                                                The confessionals especially Plath, Lowell and Sexton. As an angst-filled teenager, I identified with their voices.


                                                                                                                So what was the appeal? Real people, real struggles?
                                                                                                                I'm nosy. When my husband and I got married, he brought his high school and college journals with him when he moved in and I asked him if I could read them. He said he didn't care, but he also couldn't understand why I would want to waste my time reading them. I read them all in one weekend. I am fascinated by what drives people, what angers them, what makes them tick. Reading the confessionals, I felt like I was getting an inside to their lives. I like memoir because of that reason as well.

                                                                                                                What poets trip your trigger now?

                                                                                                                What drew you to "Glacier" that you read it everyday? Can you quote a few of your favorite lines?

                                                                                                                "The glacier's what's been piling up inside
                                                                                                                you, mile-deep thicknesses of snow
                                                                                                                and ice, until you're solid glacier, and no
                                                                                                                one will come near, and there's nowhere you can go."
                                                                                                                -- Alvin Greenberg

                                                                                                                Every interaction we either build up or break down barriers.

                                                                                                                Which shapes your work more: workshops or mentoring?
                                                                                                                I love my mentors and I have found some of them in the most unusual ways. Their feedback and encouragement is invaluable.


                                                                                                                What turns has your poetry taken along the way? When did you feel like you'd come into your voice or vision?
                                                                                                                Every couple of years I become obsessed with an author. I read everything I can find by the poet and attempt in my own way to channel his/her voice. I'd like to think at this point I have their poems always in the back of my mind helping shape what I write next. I am not sure if I can declare that I have come into my voice. I feel I am always evolving.

                                                                                                                You are evolving. When I first read your work a decade ago, it was angry or maybe not angry but confrontational always skirting the edge of controversial, often enough to disturb any political persuasion--first one group then another. You can sense some of that earlier poet still beneath the poems now, but there's more nuance, more acknowledgement of other perspectives even if you don't buy into it. How do you account for the new direction?
                                                                                                                Life. When I was younger, I thought I had everything figured out and believed I had all the answers. When my life took a 180-turn, I realized that I knew nothing. 

                                                                                                                Video of Cat Dixon reading

                                                                                                                Cat will be reading at The Petshop Gallery (2725 N 62nd Street, Omaha) on Wednesday, September 17 at 7pm as part of the poetry movement 100,000 Poets for Change. She will read with Laura Madeline Wiseman, Natasha Kessler-Rains, and Sarah McKinstry-Brown. Their reading focuses on the prevention of gender violence.  Cat says about the movement, "Stories and details are what move people to action so it's imperative that poets and writers create and share work that gives a voice to those without one. Raising awareness is the first step to change."

                                                                                                                For more information about this event, see the facebook event here.


                                                                                                                -->photos by Greg Higgins

                                                                                                                Monday, September 15, 2014

                                                                                                                Interview: Cat Dixon, poet of Too Heavy to Carry, Part 2: Carrying on

                                                                                                                This is the second-part of a two-part interview with poet Cat Dixon [website], graduate from the UN's MFA program and published the book Too Heavy to Carry--reviewed hereThe first part, "Looking Back", will appear here tomorrow on 9/16/2014.


                                                                                                                How did you shape your first book?
                                                                                                                My first book is confessional. When I read my poems from the book at readings, it's like reading my diary aloud.  Most of the poems were written 2008-2010 when I was going through a divorce and then attempting to start my life over. I went from being a full-time mother to working full-time at a church and spending far too little time with the children, from being a wife to a lonely woman searching for hope, love, security, etc., from being a MFA student to teaching creative writing part-time at the college from which I graduated, from being an atheist to a Christian. So much change in such a short amount of time. One of my mentors, Steve Langan, told me to have the end of one poem speak to the next poem's beginning. I attempted to do just that in my collection. The title comes from a song I have liked for years by Brenda Lee. Here are the lyrics. After my family was destroyed, I thought I was done, but I am still here, so I guess have more work to do. We all do.
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                When you use the confessional form, is it purely confessional, or are you willing to sacrifice true events for some other aim:  language, sound, truth, spontaneity, surprise?
                                                                                                                No, not purely confessional.  [Cat laughs.]  If it was I would be at the bottom of a river right now (see poem "River" in my book). Sound and image are important to me so I will adjust as necessary, but the emotion is always real.


                                                                                                                What's up next from you? What are you working on now?
                                                                                                                Persona poems have taken over my writing life.  I have manuscripts written in the voices of Eva Braun and Medea. I am writing a short series of poems to Putin in the voice of his exwife. I have a chapbook written in the voice of Abel Washington, a 70-year-old man I created, who lives disconnected from society. To explore different perspectives in this way is something I have not tried very often and I enjoy it.

                                                                                                                You seem drawn to driven, powerful women in difficult circumstances. Why is that?
                                                                                                                I have felt helpless most of my life, so I guess I now prefer voices of power and control. I like to take on the persona of Medea in poetry, for example, because she was wronged and she retaliated. I don't agree with the murder of the children, but she exacted revenge, and she did it without suffering repercussions. Her husband was left begging her for compassion and she gave none.  Eva is portrayed is often as a naive mistress, some even claim she was ignorant of Hitler's final solution, but she was the woman behind the man--the one person he had to request things from--for example, Hitler was not able to bring his dog Blondi out of her kennel or his room without her permission because her dogs didn't like his dog and she didn't like Blondi either. Can you imagine the most powerful man in the world at that time asking a young woman for permission to do anything?

                                                                                                                I like to imagine how these women would have felt, what their motives were, and what was hidden underneath which we can't possibly know.

                                                                                                                Cat will be reading at The Petshop Gallery (2725 N 62nd Street, Omaha) on Wednesday, September 17 at 7pm as part of the poetry movement 100,000 Poets for Change. She will read with Laura Madeline Wiseman, Natasha Kessler-Rains, and Sarah McKinstry-Brown. Their reading focuses on the prevention of gender violence.  Cat says about the movement, "Stories and details are what move people to action so it's imperative that poets and writers create and share work that gives a voice to those without one. Raising awareness is the first step to change."

                                                                                                                For more information about this event, see the facebook event here.

                                                                                                                New and reduced ebook lunches (updated)

                                                                                                                Writers of the Future Volume 30: 
                                                                                                                Orson Scott Card, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Val Lindahn, Terry Madden, Amanda E. Forrest, Anaea Lay, K.C. Norton, Randy Henderson, Liz Colter, Leena Likitalo, Shauna O'meara, Paul Eckheart, Megan E. O'Keefe, Oleg Kazantsev, C. Stuart Hardwick, Timothy Jordan, 
                                                                                                                $0.99
                                                                                                                A great deal. See detailed reviews of stories here. I did a short overview at SF Site.

                                                                                                                The Halloween Man: 
                                                                                                                A Supernatural Thriller 
                                                                                                                by Douglas Clegg 
                                                                                                                $0.99

                                                                                                                THE MASK and OLD HANDS: 
                                                                                                                DOUBLE FEATURE STORIES 
                                                                                                                Billie Sue Mosiman 
                                                                                                                $0.99 

                                                                                                                The Best Horror of the Year: 4 
                                                                                                                by Ellen Datlow 
                                                                                                                $1.99 

                                                                                                                A bunch of SF "Cops and Robbers" books 
                                                                                                                from Walter Mosley, Robert Sheckley, William Shatner, John Jakes, John Barnes, William C. Dietz, George Alec Effinger, Greg Bear, Fritz Leiber 
                                                                                                                $1.99-3.99

                                                                                                                Coming Soon Enough: 
                                                                                                                Six Tales of Technology's Future 
                                                                                                                Nancy Kress, Greg Egan, Brenda Cooper, Geoffrey Landis, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cheryl Rydbom 
                                                                                                                $1.99
                                                                                                                big chapbook of contemporary SF

                                                                                                                The Millennium Express 
                                                                                                                Robert Silverberg 
                                                                                                                $2.99
                                                                                                                I love these, massive tomes.

                                                                                                                View Of A Remote Country: 
                                                                                                                Collected short stories SF & fantasy 
                                                                                                                Karen Traviss 
                                                                                                                $3.99

                                                                                                                The Human Equations 
                                                                                                                Dave Creek 
                                                                                                                $3.99
                                                                                                                Analog author
                                                                                                                Note: This may be a repackaging of earlier ebooks, so check that you don't have these stories already.  The author states that three of the stories are original (none of the stories replicate ebooks now available unless you bought the earlier ebooks).

                                                                                                                Racers of the Night: 
                                                                                                                Science Fiction Stories 
                                                                                                                by Brad R. Torgersen 
                                                                                                                $4.99

                                                                                                                Burnt Black Suns: 
                                                                                                                A Collection of Weird Tales 
                                                                                                                by Simon Strantzas 
                                                                                                                $6.00

                                                                                                                Academic Exercises 
                                                                                                                by K. J. Parker 
                                                                                                                $6.99 

                                                                                                                Beautiful Blood 
                                                                                                                by Lucius Shepard 
                                                                                                                $6.99

                                                                                                                Discoverability: 
                                                                                                                A WMG Writers' Guide 
                                                                                                                Kristine Kathryn Rusch 
                                                                                                                $7.99

                                                                                                                Sunday, September 14, 2014

                                                                                                                Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 8: "Miri" or "Trust no one over thirty"

                                                                                                                 Summary:
                                                                                                                Enterprise receives an SOS signal from an alternate Earth. A plague has hit this Earth driving mad and killing all adults. Children are illusive but for Miri. All humans but Spock receive sores. McCoy quickly learns it is viral.
                                                                                                                Analysis with spoilers:
                                                                                                                Someone tried to extend life to age one month per 100 years, but it killed adults. The children have lived years as kids, but once they enter puberty, they die. Louise, a little older than Miri, succumbs to the illness, announcing Miri's imminent turn as she approaches puberty. The crew, too, will go mad in seven days. The landing party combs records for clues. The children take the communicators, leaving the landing party without connection to computers.

                                                                                                                When Miri, attracted to Kirk, sees him embrace the devastated Janice Rand, fearing death and disfigurement, she turns against them. They kidnap Janice and use her as bait to lure Kirk. Meanwhile, McCoy has come up with a cure, but he needs to check with the ship computers. Kirk convinces Miri that this is her fate, too, unless she listens and they. They taunt and attack until Kirk convinces them that this will happen to all.

                                                                                                                Part of the inspirational source must have come from Jack Weinberger, a free speech activist, who in 1964 told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, "Trust no one over thirty."  Thirty-six years later, he said, "It was a way of telling the [reporter] to back off, that nobody was pulling our strings." However, that's a weird way of saying that. Perhaps it suggests that, but more likely he wanted to talk about a generational divide in terms of the Vietnam War.

                                                                                                                The quote quickly spread across the country. That this episode discusses it (the leader of the child gang wears a tattered military coat) shows the magnitude of the impact the quote had on the nation. The Planet of the Apes movies accepted the phrase while here it is challenged. The children get older but don't mature, without the influence of an adult population. The adults that do remain go insane, and yes, the adults caused the disease in an attempt to make life better. The children need adults to help them (and help the adults) get over diseases and perhaps technological problems.

                                                                                                                The famous bonk quote below was written as "bunk" which has an interesting interplay with the episode. They do disagree and may find Kirk's speech "bunk" but so, too, may be their perspective as they change their minds.
                                                                                                                Memorable: 
                                                                                                                This may be one of the most memorable episodes--rogue and nearly ageless children who rule the world, the tender Miri, the Lord-of-the-Flies violence of children gone feral, the invented or shorthand language (grups [grownups], the before time [before the plague], the onlies [children survivors], and the foolies [apparently, a prank to "fool" someone]). The episode captures the horror that can result from mindless mass behavior -- the chanting of nonsense and violence as a way to reinforce an idea and ignore what others have to say. Memory says that this was a childhood favorite.
                                                                                                                Quotes:
                                                                                                                • "Bonk, bonk on the head." [bunk?]
                                                                                                                Author
                                                                                                                Adrian Spies, Edgar winner, Emmy nominee.
                                                                                                                *Notes:
                                                                                                                1. No violence toward children.