Archive for November 5th, 2022


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Eight

“So are you and Steve okay?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t we be?”

Colin Colson and Kristen Lewis sat in Colin’s sunny dusty library room on a warm Saturday afternoon, talking lazily.

“Well, not to reveal anything said in confidence, but I understand there was something about a virtuality that you sent him, and his reaction –“

Kristen’s laugh interrupted Colin and he smiled.

“That was nothing,” she said, “and he apologized nicely and everything. He’s not really an idiot, he’s just a guy and all.”

The sun shone through the big windows onto the rugs, the piled books. Kristen and Colin sat in a pair of overstuffed old chairs, just out of the sunbeam.

“I think you frighten him,” Colin suggested. He was, as always, in a comfortable suit perfectly tailored to his small body. His idiopathic childhood growth hormone deficiency had given him the approximate proportions of a nine-year-old boy (“an exceedingly handsome one, obviously”), and his trust fund and his own writing had given him the means to dress those proportions immaculately.

“Because of my brilliance and beauty?” she asked with a matching smile.

“Of course,” Colin replied, “as you well know.”

These two had been lovers briefly and experimentally in school, something that Steve knew and tried not to remember very often. She had not been able to get over the oddness of his size in their intimacy, and he had sensed that without resentment. Now they were good friends, and when Colin felt the need for erotic physical contact, his trust fund and his writing were able to supply that as well, via a few open-minded professionals with whom he had excellent arrangements.

“I suppose I’m oversensitive,” Kristen suggested.

“I don’t think so; you are who you are, and if you didn’t frighten him a little, he wouldn’t like you as much.”

She smiled again at that; she smiled often in Colin’s presence. He had a wry wisdom, she thought, that accepted reality as it was, without rancor or unnecessary judgement.

“Do you want to see the virtuality, too?”

“Was it Hints of Home?”

The girl nodded, pleased.

“I saw it on your feed,” he said, “and spent an hour inside. It’s … lovely. The signposts are so subtle.”

“The tools we have these days are amazing,” she said, “you should really try it.”

“I will hold to my old-fashioned linear words, thank you very much,” he replied, adding a stuffy timbre to his voice, “the virtual is entirely too huge for me.”

She nodded. This was a conversation that they had had more than once before. The world’s artists were divided roughly in half, it seemed, between those who fully embraced the new creative universe of AI-assisted fully-immersive digital universe-building, and those who continued to work with words and images in the old-fashioned way (not counting the occasional spell-checker or digital white-balance adjustment).

And, he reflected, between those crafters who had fully launched into the virtual and digital, and those like Steve who preferred to construct physical rigs with which one could risk one’s physical life by speeding through the physical desert at ridiculous speeds.

“I wonder if it was partly because he doesn’t really grok the virtual, still,” Kristen said, her thoughts apparently paralleling his own, as they sometimes did, “and because I sent him the link while he was deep into tuning a rig.”

“Cognitive dissonance,” Colin replied, nodding. He himself, although he was a loyalist of linear text in his own writing, greatly enjoyed modern media as well as a consumer, and found Kristen’s virtualities, small intricate worlds of their own with mysterious and subtly-delivered themes, invariably rewarding.

“But he always remembers to be complimentary, eventually,” she smiled, and he saw in the abstraction of her eyes that she was thinking fond thoughts of his large awkward friend Steve, which made him glad.

In the part of him that always watched himself, he wondered if what he had seen was really there. Did Kristen’s brown eyes defocus, the exact configuration of the whites revealing that they were no longer both pointing at some specific point in the room? Did the light in the room (the photons bouncing here and there in law-like but complex ways) carry enough evidence of that to his own eyes that his brain could justifiably (so much to know about justification!) conclude that her eyes were indeed defocused? And then did he know her well enough (what does it mean to know someone? what is “someone else”?) to justifiably conclude that if her eyes were defocused in this present moment (the only moment that exists), it meant in context that she was thinking of Steve (who is “Steve” when he is not here)?

There was probably something else in her face, some fond expression on her cheeks and her lips, the corners of her eyes, that was providing him subconscious additional evidence that she was thinking fondly of someone, and, he thought, there was perhaps a lack of subtle clues of tension that would have suggested she was thinking fondly of anyone other than Steve. Because his brain (rightly or wrongly) assumed that if she was thinking fondly of anyone other than Steve (or Colin) in Colin’s presence, she would be tense?

He realized that he’d drifted several removes from reality, and that Kristen was standing now, her back in the sun, looking over the books on one of the shelves (never enough shelves!).

“Ach,” she said, “I love Giannina Braschi. But she is so dense, I feel like I should spend a whole day on every paragraph.”

Colin nodded.

“And that is how I feel about trying to write in the virtual; if I can spin off every interesting potential from every thought, the shortest of short pieces would be a billion words.”

“And that isn’t true of plain text?” Kristen laughed, landing an unavoidable blow.

“But I can’t do it there, no one expects it, text encourages linearity; word-building encourages sprawl, differentiation, spreading out along infinitely many branches at every moment. The Many Worlds universe!”

“One merely has to be disciplined,” she said, coming to perch on the arm of his chair.

He smiled up at her, and she put out one brown hand and stroked his hair.

“Don’t do that,” he said, but he moved his head to press against her palm, like a happy kitten.

This present moment is all that exists, he thought, and it is possible to enjoy a girl’s hand on his head without understanding anything about it. What is touch? What are hands? What is love and what is loyalty? Which atoms belong to his hair, and which to Kristen’s palm? Was this fluttering in his chest pleasure, or sorrow, or both? What is discipline, what is fear? Why, in this moment, did she choose to sit there, did she choose to touch him? In this moment, every past moment exists only as a memory, in this moment. What makes a memory true, what makes a memory false?

She touched the back of her hand to his cheek for an instant, and then returned to her own chair.

“And how is it with you?” she asked, looking warmly over at him, “What are you writing now?”

Fling Nine


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Seven

The rich dark earth was still joyfully absorbing the last of the rain as Alissa unrolled the bundle for Sema to see. What had been rivulets of the pale sandy earth were drying now, making patterns on the ground around them. In a day they would already be fading, as the lighter sank and scattered among the darker clods and grains.

“Do you see?” Alissa asked, placing the two patterned fragments beside each other in her indentation.

Sema waved long antennae in a positive motion.

“This is what the pale curves looked like, looking down from the perch above; is that the doing that you saw?”

“Yes,” Alissa the storyteller replied, “and the pale curves stirred up in my thoughts various memories of scent trails, winding between stems and across open places.”

“Is there a story…” Sema began, and Alissa followed the other’s thoughts in tandem.

“There is,” Alissa said, “one that does not get told all that often.”

It was a story about stories, as most of Alissa’s are, set in a vague distant past, as most of Alissa’s also are. In this story, as she told it to Sema there under the indentation as the rain dried around them, there is an unnamed person with many eyes, with jointed legs and skillful pincers, who begins making patterns in large flat leaves.

“This person patterned the surfaces of some with open curves and closed curves, this person patterned the surfaces of others with straight lines and intersecting lines. They used nectars that would dry in crackling patterns that absorbed light, so that those with sharp eyes could discern the patterns they had made. They used sharp splinters grasped in their skillful pincers to damage the surfaces, in straight and intersecting patterns, in open and closed shapes, in small and large whorls, and the damaged places also shone differently in the light, so that those with sharp eyes could discern the patterns.”

The story rolled in rising and falling words, making patterns in time between the stems of the dark rich earth, between the thoughts of Alissa and the thoughts of Sema, carrying patterns first composed by persons not present, persons long since gone, persons unknown, down the long chain of transmission, from heart to heart, abdomen to abdomen, through all the instants of the earth.

“Some people said that the patterns in the leaves brought to their minds the patterns in the world, this curve in the track of dried nectar corresponding somehow to that curve of a stem against the sky; this closed pattern of damage on a bark chip corresponding somehow to the shape of a fallen petal on the ground. Others denied that such correspondences could exist, and others averred that they could exist for those with sharp eyes, but not for those without. Many days of discussions in the twilight were taken up with the patterns and the markings, and many words flowed through and between the people of that gathering.”

Sema listened to the story, having become still and open, as people do when listening to stories, thoughts steered and shaped by the words of the storyteller, by Alissa’s words there in the indentation, under the green and rising stem.

“Some others tried to make their own marks and patterns on leaves, and even on bits of bark and the surfaces of common seeds, but none had as much skill in their pincers or mandibles. Some invented patterns of their own, patterns that brought to their minds specific times or places, specific people or even specific stories, but to others the patterns were indiscernible, or meaningless. Some made only simple spots, and some made long conjoined markings. In the darkness of the gathering twilight, the markings were indiscernible to all, and some of the marked leaves blew away in the wind, or were eaten by careless visitors.”

Alissa thought of the markings on the carefully-bundled fragments before them, and how they might have been made, and how they, or some few of them, had brought to mind the shapes of scent trails curving in the twilight.

The story continued, as Alissa made her chant and Sema sat in receptive stillness, their thought moving in correspondence in the ancient way.

In the story, the markings had proliferated, becoming more concrete and more abstract, and those with skillful pincers and sharp eyes had become different from those with ordinary pincers and ordinary eyes, until just when it seemed that the gathering might sunder, there had come a heavy rain.

“And in that rain it seemed that all of the marked leaves, and all of the marked seeds, and all of the marked fragments of bark, were washed away, or were wetted or shaken so that the marks were gone, or were eaten by those stranded. And that first person who had begun marking leaves was washed away, or overcome, and vanished and was gone. And the gathering was sorely pained by the heaviness of the rain, having spent too much time in the making of markings, straight and curved, open and closed, and too little time in preparing and locating shelters and indentations, above and away from the falls and the flows of the rain.”

The story was a cautionary tale, perhaps, against the folly of making markings to mirror the world, even the folly of making stories themselves into markings, and so a story that was not often told, because who would ever think to do that, under the stems and the trees and the wind, beside the rushing water and the still water?

After the story ended, the two, Alissa and Sema, teller and hearer, sat still as was appropriate. The air moved gently, and more of the remaining rain water sank into the deep earth.

“And yet,” said Sema after a time, “here are these marks here on these fragments, and they have not been washed off or eaten, and these curves have brought into your mind the curving of scent trails.”

Alissa moved her head and upper arms and made a sound of agreement.

“We do not do it here, but perhaps somewhere in another place, in another gathering, there are people who follow the other limb of the old story, and are even now making cunning marks of various kinds and types on more leaf fragments and bark fragments, variously bringing to mind stems and scent trails, and even names and stories.”

The idea made Alissa uneasy.

“If this curve brought to your mind a scent trail,” Sema ventured, “or brought to mind the rivulets of pale sand which brought to mind a scent trail, curving between the stems, then perhaps whoever made the marks had in their mind a particular scent trail when they did so.”

“A particular scent trail?”

“One curving between particular stems, laid down by a particular person, leading to and from specific particular places.”

“And then … causing these markings? Which then bring to mind those same places, when viewed in the light?”

Sema made a yes motion, or a perhaps motion. Alissa found the idea baffling and thrilling and worrying.

“The aged pale one came here looking for me, for me specifically!” she said, remembering it as though it was a story itself.

“Yes,” motioned Sema.

“Perhaps… if these markings were made with a specific particular scent trail in mind, perhaps that trail was one that began, or one that ended, here in the rich dark earth.”

“Here?” wondered Sema.

“Or perhaps not, perhaps this is all only dreaming. This curved mark could be anything, or nothing; these strange small patterns arrayed beside it could be nothing, or anything, dirt, wear, the chewing of grubs.”

“But then the elder would hardly have kept these fragments so carefully bundled,” pointed out Sema reasonably.

“Even so,” Alissa agreed, “and yet he left afterward, saying nothing, only leaving the bundle on the ground of the dark earth at the base of this stem.”

“Without even stopping for a story.”

“He already had too many, he said.”

“Too many stories. Who has too many stories?”

“A very old storyteller, or story gatherer, perhaps.”

“But if it is a scent trail that this marking brings to your mind, and it begins, or ends, here…”


“Then the same scent trail ends, or begins, somewhere else.”

Alissa could only agree. The marking was, looking at it more closely with more eyes, in the brighter light, long and sinuous, moving as though it were going around individual stems, and around larger obstructions, and from one place to another and to another, and eventually to, or from, some destination.

“Will you follow it?” Sema asked, as though that were an ordinary question.

“Follow it?” Alissa replied, in distress and great amazement.

Fling Eight


A Saturday Morning in November

Midjourney V4 (well, an “alpha” version thereof) is out! As if I didn’t already have enough to play with.

That house, floating above the sea with some balloons and things, is typical of the results of my old favorite “detailed surrealism” prompt. And this:

is from the prompt “neutral prompt”. We can tentatively conclude that it likes cute fantasy houses. :)

Here is a v4 (alpha) Yeni Cavan scene:

which is pretty cool.

In other news, I’m over 8500 words into NaNoWriMo 2022 as of yesterday (I haven’t written anything yet today). I’ve also make a cover page for the book, which links to the first Fling, and each Fling links to the next, so you can start at the cover, and go through the whole thing in the right order by just clicking obvious things. This may partially atone for posting it as a bunch of weblog entries in the first place. :)

I made the cover image in (obviously) Midjourney, and then fiddled a little and put on some titles (and my Government Name!) in the GIMP. I note that the skills of professional cover designers are subtle and profound; the titles on my cover are obviously in the wrong place, a professional designer would put them in places that were so obviously in the right place that one wouldn’t even notice, and I have no idea what makes the difference.

Okay! Now I am off to make the header image for Fling Seven, and start writing. I think it will be more of Alissa’s story.