Works in Progress: Relics

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I’ve been drafting a new short story for the last month or so, in between revising chapters of Kublai, the science fiction novel I wrote via dictation last year. This short story is entitled either “Relics” (or “In Blackwater Woods”–I haven’t decided yet), and I’m experiencing that great creative high that comes with finishing the first draft.

In part because this is the first story I’ve written that’s set in the tilted version of West Michigan that I’ve had in mind for so long, in a version of the hippie farming community I had the good fortune to grow up in. As kids in this community, we always had our own particular, slightly slanted version of the world that we lived in, which lends itself well to magic–or at least, the suggestion of magic.

As these things go, I had to write a few pages before I was able to get to the beginning of the story. That’s part of what you see with the handwriting in red on this page, about what kind of a story this is (though this might make it into the story later on). (See also: My creative process at the moment.) That line at the bottom, I think, is where this story really begins.

Here’s the whole opening paragraph of this early draft:

“Our dungeon master hung himself from the hay loft the week he was home on leave from the Navy. Really, he was our storyteller–what we played had not been Dungeons and Dragons in a very long time–but to call him that would be to imply that we were not capable of telling stories ourselves, which we certainly were, and would certainly need to, now that he was dead.”

Next step: Type it up! (And revise.)

Monday Muse: Monica Drake

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I’m kicking off a regular series here at The Big Idea called Monday Muse, in which I’ll share what I’m drawing creative inspiration from each week. And what better place to start than with The Folly of Loving Life, the latest from one of my very favorite writers, Monica Drake?

I loved The Stud Book, Drake’s last novel, and so much of what I loved in that book figures heavily here.

The characters who populate these linked stories feel like my friends, family members, and acquaintances here in Portland; the settings and scenes speak to this moment in history, this place in the world, in such a specific and satisfying way; and though these stories never quite go speculative (I would argue that “The Arboretum,” one of my favorite stories in this book, could pass for a ghost story), there’s that delicious sense of a tilted world, the feeling as a reader that you couldn’t possibly predict which direct any given story is going to go in.

The final story, “S.T.D. Demon,” is a tour de force–I feel like it rearranged the wiring of my brain, not unlike a talk the poet Mary Reuffle once gave at the Tin House writers conference.

As far as inspiration goes, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t do better than that.

Murmuration, Part 2

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How can a group of birds, flying en masse, so closely resemble the shifting forms of a wave?

And if this beautiful phenomenon is a fact of our world, what does it mean?

Sometimes I suspect that certain forms, certain shapes, are strange attractors in space and time. That the shapes characteristic of fluid dynamics are found in water and wind and flocks of birds because small things, moving together in accordance with a few local rules, are and always will be drawn to make them. That when Homo sapiens branched off from Homo erectus and developed longer legs and a more upright head, it was, in part, because our species was drawn into the spiral of the Golden Mean, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man.

Also, like most writers, I’m fond of the different names given to groups of different animals. How lovely that a group of starlings arrayed in flight is not a flock but a murmuration, for the sound of their wings.

A whisper, maybe, of our collective potential.

Poetic Murmuration of Birds

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I never stop being fascinated form and pattern in nature, the phenomenon of entrainment in particular. How do individuals acting on a few local cues create such fascinating forms of emergent order?

The collective actions of ants, birds, fish, and human beings, I believe, exhibit patterns that are smarter and more beautiful than those of any single individual.

So here’s a meditation for the political season, when we seek to coalesce, to make new patterns, turning individual actions into collective ones, for the good of the whole. May all beings be free from suffering.

Murmuration of BirdsPoetic Murmuration of Birds in the Netherlands (by Herbert Schroer)

Posted by Fubiz on Monday, February 1, 2016