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Science Fiction Ramblings

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The Fable of Old Flat Head: Part Three

This is a draft of an opening scene.  It is only a draft.  Do not pass ‘Go’.  Do not collect $200.  Before you get to the draft, let me provide some commentary.  First, once I start writing, I try to keep going even if the story seems to be careening off of a cliff.  Second, this story in its current form is not a fable.  I’m thinking of renaming it ‘The Ballad of Old Flat Head’ but a ballad implies singing and that’s something you don’t really want me to do.  It might be prudent of me to keep the title, cut a lot of dialogue and compress the form.  Third, the story right now focuses too much on the kids.  My gut is telling me that I need to skip the origin story and pick up with the cat after she has her kittens.  Hence a lot of this is destined for the cutting room floor.  I’m posting it anyway because I want a record of everything, false starts included.   Lastly, space ships.  Where are the bloody space ships?

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The Fable of Old Flat Head: Part Two

So what if Satan got drunk and had sex with a cat?  The kittens run amok and kill everyone.  Voila!  Fluffy jellybeans and minions of darkness!  Doesn’t that perfectly sum up that cat meme?  What a great plot.  It’s cute, it’s violent.  I should write it. But wait, some guy named Pete Abrams already did that?  (  Jeesh!  Every damn plot already exists!  Why bother!  And that’s why it took me six months to get back to this.  I get hung up on wanting to be unique instead of just writing and hoping for the best.  Granted, plagiarism is evil so I should leave out the whole Satan thing.  Let me meditate further on that picture.  Ohm.  Ohm.  All right.  It’s coming to me now.  The mama cat.  She’s the one with the story.  She’s the one with the expressive face.  The kittens are too young to have any agency.   So why would a cat be disappointed with her kittens?  Why would she want ‘minions of darkness’ anyway?  Revenge!  I’m onto something with that.  All I need to do is decide why a cat would want revenge.  This isn’t easy.   My entire family dotes on cats.  We talk to them like they’re babies, we switch foods if they don’t like something, we pet and praise them even if they’re shredding the furniture.   Dirty litter box?  A trip to the vet?  Nail caps?  At this point, I’m happy with the brainstorming.  I’m still picturing a funny little story.  Then something horrible comes bubbling up out of my subconscious.  When I was a teen, my mom worked part time as a home bound instructor for kids that had to miss school.  This was for physical and sometimes mental reasons.  A kid in the program buried a cat up to its neck and ran a lawnmower over its head.  It wasn’t one of my mom’s students.  She’d just heard that through the grapevine and passed it along.  My mom told me this.  My mom.  When I was like fifteen or something.  Hell.  Now all I can think about is what if that cat survived?  Along with the story, my subconscious has produced a title “The Fable of Old Flat Head”.  The word fable is in the title because my subconscious apparently likes consonance.  Now, I have to go running off to find out what exactly a fable is.  Oh, it’s a defined literary genre.  I’m getting literary now.  It’s a succinct fictional piece that uses anthropomorphized animals, plants, mythical objects etc. to convey a moral lesson.  I got a story, I got a form.  Next post, a draft and I discover that I don’t think I can write succinctly enough to make a fable.

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The Fable of Old Flat Head: Part One

In my first two posts, I took a stab at the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the stuff I write.  Now, those are respectable questions, well behaved, manageable and destined for a solid middle-class life on a comfortable planet somewhere.  My third question isn’t manageable at all.  In fact, like a tiny highly localized black hole, this question is going to consume my blog.  You see what I really want to figure out is ‘how’ I do this writing thing.  I get plenty of advice – mostly read a lot and write a lot.  I’ve tried that, I’m still trying that, but I’m a scientist and I love protocols.  Break it down.  Distill it.  Kill it.  Can that approach work with fiction?   Perhaps.  I’ve recently gotten some inspiration from a friend of mine who has a web site where she provides a step-by-step view of her painting work (  Inspired by Jen, I’m going to try my own experiment.  I’ve started a project tentatively named “The Fable of Old Flat Head”.    “The Fable of Old Flat Head” was born when a friend of mine posted a link on my face book page.  She simply said, “You should write a story about this:

cat meme  I looked at it and said, “Awwww.  Kittens!  I can write something super cute about kittens!”  Six months later, here I am.  I’m going to try to put my brainstorming, drafts and a finished project up here.  Stay tuned for part two in which I ramble about fables, Sluggy Freelance and horrible childhood memories.

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What I Write

Once upon a time, I contributed a piece of flash fiction to an indy anthology project that was born in the online KBoard community. The original idea for the anthology was proposed by Hugh Howey, best-selling author of the Wool science fiction series and a shining star in the world of self-publishing.  But like many a farm kid from Tatooine, I didn’t know any of that big picture stuff.  All I knew was that a friend of mine had said ‘hey, you got any flash fiction?’ but what I heard was ‘you wanna go shoot some womp rats in beggar’s canyon?’  Once we’d cleared up the confusion over the rats, I sent in a story, they opted to use it, and then, the crisis struck – a website, they wanted to know my website.  I didn’t have a website and aren’t those things an instrument of the dark side?  I mean I have a novel I can’t seem to finish writing so do I really need another online distraction? Isn’t the Kitten Cam bad enough? And why exactly do I write anyway? But the more I thought about it, the more that question seemed like a good topic for a post. So last week, I knuckled down and started this thing with a post about why a forty-three year old ex-academic has decided to start churning out science fiction stories. The post was moving, It talked about cancer and everything. Unfortunately, there seems to be a big gap between that post and the things I actually write. To quote my readers – a.k.a the friends I beg for feedback- ‘all of your protagonists seem to be cold blooded killers’ and ‘what’s the body count in this one?’ I do confess that things get a little violent. My stories involve plastic surgeons murdering their clients and vampires preying on the diabetic. What I write is usually space opera with sociopaths.  I can’t explain it. In reality, I hate killing spiders, let alone womp rats. Perhaps writing is a release valve for the things that get me angry – the economy, the state of education, gender roles, the fact that George Lucas messed up the prequels, and oh yeah, the fact that our military budget is twenty times greater than what we budget for biomedical research. No wonder we haven’t cured cancer.  Guess I need to create a new character to beat up.

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Why Write?

A long time ago in a town approximately one hundred and thirty miles away, I was a sophomore Biology major.  I  think I owe my choice of major to a single National Geographic article about bioengineering.  It predicted that novel therapies for cancer were on the horizon.  The bioengineered antibodies were drawn like floating space ships mounted with lasers or large scythe-like blades.  They blasted or cut those cancer cells to hell and back.  I figured majoring in Biology might be a little like that, like watching a science fiction story unfolding under a microscope.  So, I took Physics III, Differential Equations and Organic Chemistry all the while thinking that someone would eventually hand me a microscope.  I also took Calligraphy, Survey of Forms: Poetry and Fiction Writing just in case the spaceships and lasers never appeared under the lens.  A lifetime and a PhD later, I don’t remember a thing about Differential Equations, but I do remember that my Fiction Professor tried to give me a “D”.  It took me twenty years to realize that he was an idiot.  I am writing now to bring back the lasers, the warp drives, the time machines and all that joyful noise.  Did I cure cancer?  No.  But I’m damn well going to create some worlds where someone might.