To kill time before going to the museum for the 12:00 tour, I read some more of my saved
work from 1985.
Parts are good; really good in fact. Unfortunately what I was good at, was working out the details of story backgrounds, the speculative technology and economy of some future time. I had worked out in detail what it might be like if there were human colonies on multiple nearby stars, with communications by laser, but physical transport only at small fractions of light-speed. Why would anyone travel, when a trip might mean being in a suspended animation pod for 40 years? I thought out a lot of unusual consequences.
Or, what’s a practical technology that allows regular passenger travel around our solar system? What would travel times be like; what would a passenger ship be like? I came up with some (I think) quite original ideas, worked them out in detail, and actually started what might be a young-adult story centering on such a trip. I’m keeping these notes, not tossing them.
Another folder is labeled “Fragments!” These were a writing exercise, to write the opening paragraphs of a story you’d like to read. Here’s one, a conventional story set in my birth-land of wet fir trees and tidal inlets:
The carcass of a frozen salmon made an awkward club; even so, Leslie managed three good swings with it before she lost her footing on the wet dock and fell sprawling amidst the shiny black shoes of the Sheriff and two deputies.
As I raced out toward them — the dock was linked floats that plunged and sloshed under my feet — I could see flashes of Leslie, a rubber boot, an arm in a maroon sweatshirt, behind a cage of khaki trouser-legs. Sheriff Townes was closing the second handcuff on her wrist as I reached the group.
“Tricky, they’re taking my boat!” she wailed as the deputies hauled her to her feet.
Would you like to read the rest of that story? So would I! but I had, and still have, absolutely no idea where it could go from there.
I tried fantasy as well. This one shows a strong influence of Samuel R. Delaney’s Return to Nevèrÿon series, which was new at the time:
Across a sodden field, a scrawl in black ink against a sky of plum and smoke, was a bare tree full of doves. The distant flock of them suddenly leapt into the air; their flutter caught Franla’s eye. As he turned to watch it, the spring wind threw a net of raindrops to patter on his leather hood and sting his bare calves. A line of riders was entering the field below the whirling doves. Some wore armor.
I carried that one on for another thousand words: Franla has just sold a flock of cattle to a dealer; he turns back to the village to warn the dealer and help hide the flock from being requisitioned for army rations. Hijinks ensue — or would have, could I have thought of any. But plot, actions, just came extremely hard for me. I hated sitting at the keyboard, cudgeling my wits trying to think up what happens next. Scenery? No problem. Future tech, future economies, even interesting people, all came easily and I could describe them in readable prose. But what those people would do in those settings — nunh-unh. And that’s what fiction requires.
So off to the museum to lead the
Yesterday I had a group of four; today it was over 30, although as usual with a big group, some peeled off early so I ended up with about 25 at the end, and they seemed appreciative.
Back home I found
a letter from Bernadine,
who had been looking through her mother Lolly’s photo collection and found several that featured Marian, from times in the 60s (probably) when she went camping with Lolly and her family in Yosemite. I had seen one of these in a tweet, and asked to see more. Bern enclosed the pics with a SASE.
I sat down at my computer and scanned them, touched them up, put them in the big folder of scans from last week (which I need to deal with shortly, so I can trash the slides). While the scanner was buzzing away I read another story from my 1985 work. I had completely forgotten that I placed two stories with Amazing Science Fiction magazine. I re-read the second one right from the pages of that issue of the magazine and damn, it was good. I re-read the manuscript of another, which was also very promising but unfortunately, was never finished. I still don’t know how to end it.
I copied the scans onto an SD card and included it in the return envelope with the pictures. Then I turned to another job,
triaging my tool collection
and putting the ones to keep into the new toolbox. This only took a couple of hours. Where I had duplicates, I put the more worn or rusty one in the old toolbox. Also there, tools for jobs I expect never to do again, like a plumber’s wrench, or an automotive 12-volt continuity checker.
Everything remaining is items I can imagine using when volunteering at a Repair Café or fixing some small item of my own. The new toolbox with everything in it weighs 38.4 pounds. I can schlep it but I wouldn’t want to schlep it far.
Somewhere in there I refilled the hummingbird feeders. Just about 1 cup of sugar remains in the canister, so the next refill will be the last.