Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/31/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: It resembles my own mind
Source: George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four


"It resembles my own mind," was all she said when she removed the sensori-visor.

I could not do what she'd just done. It required both special training and innate talent to absorb and interpret the signals and to alter one's own state of consciousness adequately to become a receptor. I'd attempted it once, merely out of curiosity. I'd placed the sensori-visor over my face and ears after the accompanying reader helmet had been accepted by my partner. When I touched the engage button, all that happened was that I saw some lines of static dancing chaotically, I smelled a faint aroma of burning paper, I heard a distant ringing, and I detected the aftertaste of an onion. I asked my partner to think specifically about the movie we had watched on the previous night -- about its closing sequence. I thought that if we began by having the same thought, it might serve to synchronize our minds and facilitate my experience of his consciousness. I was completely unsuccessful, however and I never attempted to receive again.

It therefore came as something of a surprise to me when Ms. Entne told me that my mind resembled her own. I had come to believe that my mind must be fundamentally different from that of a receiver.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/30/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Gunpowder was enough to calm
Source: Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery


Gunpowder was enough to calm my nerves. Just a brush -- a sprinkle of it on my tongue -- and my mind relaxed. I breathed long and easy once the old familiar taste filled my mouth. An unseemly flavor, yes, but for one such as me, a pleasure beyond compare. I'd had a hard time of it that year -- the year of the cannon -- but not nearly so hard as some.

Becca, the wench who brought me the powder horn when I began to rant and tear about the room -- she'd seen much worse than I ever did; known the rough end of many an uncouth smokesucker in her years. But lived to forget it she had, and that said much for the fires burning in her wilted breast.

"How long have I been here, Becc? Eh, girl?"

"Nigh seven hours now, Davy," said she. She'd have known too, what with them watch faces sewed into the skin of her arms like that. Never without time, her. Maybe she could break them -- stop their action with a blow or two -- but she could never be rid of them altogether. They'd sent their springs deep by then and took their windings from Becca's sinews and meat like a man takes his strength from whiskey and gunpowder.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/29/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Gazing at this frail relic
Source: Jules Verne, In Search of the Castaways


Gazing at this frail relic in my hand, I cannot but question its authenticity. All my life I've lived by faith, chosen to believe those things that serve to strengthen my devotion to the path. I have always sought just such devices as this to reinforce my commitment and to provide me with a point on which to focus my meditations. And yet... the events of the past week have shaken me so profoundly that even this holy object, imbued as I had believed it to be, with the aromas of the gods, is now suspect. I cannot touch it or look at it without noting how much the matter of which it is composed resembles all other matter. Is this evidence of the inadequacy of my faith, that I can see this, the choicest prize of the devout, as naught else but a clay jar from which any peasant or beggar might eat, had it not been locked behind the most secure of gates and secreted below the deepest of dungeons? This vessel, this crude container, is the symbol of all of my life's work, and now that I possess it, I confess that my life seems to have been wasted.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/28/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: The opaqueness of my walls
Source: Marcel Proust, Swann's Way


The opaqueness of my walls melts slowly through the stages of translucency and transparency to complete invisibility. My walls are a part of me after all these years -- as much a part of me as the skin in which I was born. Without my walls, now that I have grown so dependent on them, I would be naught but a man, a poor wretched creature open to the elements, vulnerable to the slightest of attacks.

I cannot let the others see my walls. They would not let me speak if they could see my walls. They would cancel my voice, assuming me to be a 'thetic. They would silence me and flee.

My walls are thin, but strong, and they cling to my limbs and trunk at all times. My walls came to me when I died and since then I have not once been naked. There was a time when I hoped to remove the walls. I thought that I might be human and love and share if I had no walls. When the time finally came to take them off though, I could not. They had grown into me and I into them. I could no longer imagine myself without them, nor remember how I had been before.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Friday, January 27, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/27/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Cut through the living rock
Source: Washington Irving, The Alhambra


"Cut through the living, Rock, not the dead!" Tav never missed a chance to chide me, even in the heat of the fray. That I had slain two for each of his didn't phase him either. When he saw me up to my elbows in the belly of a wasted dust-crawler, slicing its flesh and bowels with my las-knife, he didn't stop to inquire why I was doing this, nor ask how he might assist; he just tossed his quip and went on wreaking havoc on the dumb creatures that had been sent to devour us.

These were an updated version of the classic dust-crawler. Instead of the row of interdigitating razor-edged teeth, these had ten or fifteen rows of backward-pointing needles on each of the four jaws, such that an appendage, having once entered, would have little chance of exit. I had learned this when I had to very hastily blow the latches on my crash boot and abandon it down one such maw. Not two splits later though, I'd put a lance through the creature's sub-eye and discharged my banger in its cereb. But that still left me with only one boot on a ramdam hostile lawn, so I did the one thing for it and effected a grisly retrieve.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/26/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: A little snow had fallen
Source: Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King


A little snow had fallen off Ezel's helmet and patches of black metal showed. I told him of it, but he seemed not to care whether we might be seen. He seemed not to care of anything, and were there an enemy in sight to whom he might surrender, it would have surprised me none to see him stand and do so. Times were plenty though, that he had been the boldest and the canniest warrior of the collect -- a man on whom his kit-mates might rely to ever lead an attack, bring up the rear of a retreat, or scout the cleverest way through an Agul infest. In them times would I have sought him to lead and instruct me on how to make the land my ally, how to use the loamy moss as my camouflage or sink my face in the mire to occult its bright. Him it would be to put ice to my helm, countering my head heat to make the snow stick again. Him it would be rendering me hidden against the watch of the Kuoltai -- may they lose all sense and rot in agnosia and dement themselves for all eternity -- and not the other way round.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/25/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: His words came out in a burble
Source: Marcel Proust, Swann's Way


His words came out in a burble -- not even words, actually, but a hideous phonic melee. An assault on the very concept of spoken language. It was that old woman. That curmudgeonly hag that he'd passed on the road. She must have been a witch. Damnation! Why hadn't he just stopped and given her the time of day when she'd greeted him? Why hadn't he offered, even, to carry her burden a ways? Because he hadn't had time, of course. He was a very busy and very important person. He could not be bothered to stop and attend to every homeless vagrant that crossed his path. But oh, if he had only done so this time!

The crowd before him was utterly silent. Two thousand or more crammed into the town square. All present to hear his words, to be instructed and guided by his counsel. And what does he give them? Useless rubbish! A multisyllabic heep of steaming manure. Perhaps if he'd even just ignored the witch, things would be alright. If he's acted as though he hadn't seen her at all -- hadn't heard her hailing him as he passed. But no, he hadn't been able to resist -- just had to throw a snide remark over his shoulder. Had to comment on her malodor and her bedraggled attire. What a fool he could be. What a fool!

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/24/2012


Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: I recall an image
Source: Mary Roach, Packing for Mars


I recall an image from my grandmother's collections of photographs. It was a sepia-tone portrait of three people. There was no date on it and all that was scrawled on the reverse was "E.L. & J.F." Two of the persons in the photograph are seated on a white wicker settee; the third is standing behind them. The seated person on the left is male, dressed in a dark striped suit and a white shirt, with a sort of bow-tie -- not like bow-ties nowadays, but like a bow-tie with two tails hanging down from the knot. He is completely bald and his age is difficult to guess, but he might be as young as thirty-five or as old as fifty. The person seated on the right is a woman in a white gown witha lot of lace and ruffels and a high neck, almost up to her chin. Her dark hair is piled atop her head. She appears to be younger than the man beside her; between twenty and thirty, perhaps. The part of this picture that makes it so memorable, however, is the third person -- the one standing behind the settee.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/23/2012


Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: Vehement winds raging at sea
Source: Lucretius, On the Nature of Things


Vehement winds raging at sea drove our craft far off course, and after having lost our instruments and with no stars to be seen in the stormy sky, we quickly became utterly lost. The rain kept up a steady pounding through the night and it was all that the three of us could do, using a tin drinking vessel and our cupped hands, to maintain a bail sufficient to keep our little barque afloat. I can recall thinking, at multiple times during that dismal night, that it would soon let up, that it must surely grow calm at some point. It never did. At least not that I saw, for even at the peak of the storm was when our boat was swallowed whole with all aboard.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/22/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Escalating security alert messages
Source: Neal Stephenson, Reamde


Escalating security alert messages flashed across the monitors outside my office. Polite sounding electric sirens and occasional strobes provided accompaniment. Gill stuck his head in my door. "You ready? The chopper'll be on the roof in two minutes." He didn't wait for a reply and I continued methodically removing the screws that anchored the back-up hard-drive to the underside of my desk. I'd already removed the primary form its case and smashed it with the fire axe that I had lifted from the emergency cabinet several months before. Once the hard drive was free and in hand, I snatched up my brief case and took one last look out the window. Hudnreds of people -- thousands, perhaps -- flooded the streets around our building. A sea of shifting heads, five hundred feet below. I had the sudden urge to open the window and drop something on them -- or even just spit. I could imagine watching the glob of frothy saliva sail down, down, down. I would lose track of it before it reached a target, of course, but maybe I'd be able to see a response. There would be a little commotion against the chaotic backdrop. An angry face would look up a little more intently than all of the other angry faces around it. A tiny cry of rage and disgust would rise momentarily above all of the surrounding cries of rage and disgust.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/21/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Please note as we go along
Source: Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction


"Please notice, as we go along this treacherous path, that painted on the wall to our right, is a series of symbols. We do not yet know what they signify, but we have identified seventy-three unique characters. All of them are employed multiple times, and a number of short sequences are employed with relative frequency; we like to think that these correspond to words or phrases of the ancient tongue." The guide stopped and indicated a particular region of the seemingly unbroken string of figures. Like all of the others, these appeared to have been painted with a several bold strokes of some crude brush. In the green glow of the guide's lumiwand, the figures appeared black against the gray granite wall. He continued, "These six symbols, in particular, are repeated, in this exact sequence, over four hundred times along the eight and a half kilometers of the inscription." We walked on, somewhat awkwardly, as we all attempted to watch the symbols passing to our right while maintaining appropriate caution with regard to the gaping chasm to our left.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Friday, January 20, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/20/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Long stays on the lunar surface
Source: John S. Lewis, Mining the Sky


"Long stays on the lunar surface are such a bloody bore, you know."

"I wish you wouldn't talk that way, Jordan," I said.

"What? 'Bloody?' You don't like the word 'bloody?' And you're a doctor!"

"I don't give a shit about the word 'bloody,' Jordan. It's the shoddy imitation Brit accent that's driving me bonkers. Oh... and the attitude too. We've been through this a hundred times and we both know how you feel about the travel arrangements." My son did not reply. Instead he marched importantly out of the room, whistling The Minstrel Boy at full volume.

Of course, when it came down to it, I agreed with him entirely. Long stays on the lunar surface were a bloody bore -- no, they were a fucking bore!. Either you were holed up in some over-crowded, stinking terminal dome the whole time, isolated from a decent view by the layers of rad-damping roofs, or you were out freezing your ass off in a cheap rental suit with inadequate thermal regulators while trying to enjoy a stroll on the dark side. Still, shuttle schedules being what they were and accommodations in the Lagrange resorts costing what they did, what choice did I have?

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/19/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: There are times when a cut can be desirable
Source: Turner and Soper, Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay


There are times when a cut can be desirable. Times when a flash of pain and a spurt of blood are the perfect reminder that one is alive and that one might die. Times when a cut is a smaller and less significant injury than the alternative, and therefore desirable in comparison.

And then there are times like this, when a cut is just a cut. It's an annoyance, a petty damage, a compromise of my protective barrier, a means by which I might contaminate my environment and a portal through which that same environment might contaminate me -- might seed infection and disease.

In the dark I cannot see how much blood I have left behind; nor can I see what it was that cut me. The cut is on my right shoulder. I don't think that it is deep, but, as it should be, it is painful, and I can feel beads of warm liquid crawling down from it and dripping off my bent elbow.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/18/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Is it the same forest
Source: William Gibson, Up the Line


"Is it the same forest that we were in yesterday?" Liail's question expresses my own internal quandary, one that I had not even acknowledged until this moment. Of course it's the same forest though. Why wouldn't it be? The same Douglas firs predominate, with minority representations by red cedar, western hemlock and Sitka spruce. The sword ferns and bracken are the same, as are the wild huckleberries and the mosses growing on the tree trunks and on the ground. Certainly this is the same forest. Why would she ask? And why wouldn't I be surprised by the question?

"What do you mean?" I say.

"It was just a feeling I had when I woke up. Like I was in a different place."

"You think we might have somehow been transported while we slept?" I ask. "Our tent and everything in it, moved to a campsite identical to ours, in a forest identical to the one in which we were hiking yesterday?"

"No, of course I don't think so -- not rationally. That's just how it feels. Don't you sense it?"

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today's Post Postponed

Although I did complete my timed writing exercise today, as my own little SOPA/PIPA protest, it will not be posted until tomorrow. If you haven't already done so, use the two minutes (or less) that you would have devoted to reading my post to go take action!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/17/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: It was going to be a wonderful spring
Source: Nancy Kress, Always True to Thee, In My Fashion


It was going to be a wonderful spring. Sure it was, if it ever arrived, that is. Six months straight of cold, snow, and freezing rain, and still, no word from the weather team about what was causing the delay. They'd given plenty of warning, throughout the summer and fall, that winter would have to be extended, in order to properly renew the glacial pack in the mountains, but they'd promised to more than compensate for the inconvenience with an exceptionally beautiful and bounteous spring.

Barry wanted to believe them. He wanted to sing along with the cheerful refrain (it will be a wonderful spring), but he was losing faith. The glaciers had been fully restored to optimal peak conditions for over six weeks now and all that anyone could say was, "should be soon," or, "any day now," or even (and this made Barry want to vomit), "the sun will come out tomorrow!"

Barry trudged on through the morning's load of fresh powder. God's dandruff. He shuffled a little, taking care to keep his weight directly over his feet, lest he hit an occult patch of slick ice.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Monday, January 16, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/16/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Alienation was a consequence
Source: Ken MacLeod, Scots Poet, Not


Alienation was a consequence of our travels. We knew that before we left; we experienced it when we returned. It was not only that we had become alien in the eyes of our homeworlders, but that they were now aliens to us as well. What had been anticipated in principle was jarring in practice. The humans that we had left behind had looked, sounded, and acted like us -- or rather, we had looked, sounded, and acted like them. We were selected to be a representative sample of the entire human race of the mid-twenty-second century. No matter how careful the planners were in their subject selection methods, however, there was always bound to be some bias. That bias, over a period as long as that of our journey was bound to be amplified in a group as small as ours, such that upon our return, our little cohort was, in almost every way, incomparable to the source population.

Many of us sported the enhancements available in the era of our departure. All of us had fully incorporated the latest set of gene fixes and cellular milieu adjustments before leaving.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/15/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: How come you survived
Source: Edward Marriott, Savage Shore


"How come you survived? Of all the people who could have survived -- should have survived -- how come it was you? You were supposed to be the sacrificial pawn. You were supposed to die if anybody died. What the hell are you doing here, standing in front of me with that dumb cow look on your face? Huh?"

I could find no words. I knew that everything she said was true, but it still stung to hear it verbalized so ruthlessly.

"Have the med folks check you over." Her tone was no kinder, but it was less harsh. It was a tainted with defeat and resignation. "Maybe they can learn something valuable from you -- figure out why the others died and you didn't. Maybe there's something wrong with you that we can use."

"They scanned me as soon as the ship docked," I said.

"OK. I'll talk to them," she said. "Get back to your cell."

The space between us filled in with substrate and a passage formed in the wall beside me. I turned and followed the path provided by the parting of the substrate before me. I could feel it closing behind me too, urging me forward. This bubble that I inhabited guided me through the station's solid matrix according to some path known only to the central mind. Eventually the pocket stopped and opened out a bit to become a cell, complete with cot, toilet and wash basin. An alcove containing a nutrition box opened in the wall beside the cot.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/14/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: This annexation took place
Source: Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto


This annexation took place only recently. Up until a month ago, the patch of ground upon which your house sits was nothing more than blasted rubble. But today, well, today you see what it is. Your own little suburban paradise, complete with the comforts that you have come to enjoy. But, due to the enviably-priced location, we can provide this little slice of heaven to you at a rate that you will easily sustain for as long as you might wish. That? Oh that is the default scene projection that we provide for all of the outward-facing viewports. You really want to see the view? But I can assure you, there is nothing to see in the outward direction. The viewport is only in place to provide for future interactions with outward dwellings as this frontier continues to be developed. Oh... alright. Normally we don't show our clients the environment in its unimproved state, but since you so specifically request it, I suppose we can make an exception. Let's see... ah yes. There we are. Completely transparent viewport now. As you see, it is bleak, completely uninteresting. Why the nativists have such strong feelings about our development projects, I have no idea. They say that we are running roughshod over the local ecology -- destroying it with our expansion projects -- but as you can see, there is nothing out there to destroy. What? Oh... ah... You say you're a nativist? Then... I suppose you're not actually here to inquire about leasing opportunities. Perhaps we should... oh... is that a... No! There's no need for that! Please! PLEASE, NO!


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Friday, January 13, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/13/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: I heard a devil curse
Source: William Blake, Eternity


I heard a DeVIL curse in frustration from somewhere down the hall. It had just received the orders to pack up and retreat. It was always entertaining to hear a choppy, synthesized robot voice explode into profanity. Not something that had been included in the original programing of the Defensive Violence Integration Leaders' AI templates, but something that they'd picked up quite rapidly once they started dealing with biological humans.

The DeVILs were trained and equipped for one purpose alone and they were programmed to love accomplishing that purpose. Their AI minds seemed to take it as a personal insult when the Tactical Estimations and Armament Statistics Experts (TEASEs) upstairs decided that the value of a particular position no longer justified the cost of holding it. Most of the DeVILs never even got the chance to test their carefully designed combat algorithms, their formulae for coordinated defense that they had developed through millennia-worth of simulations run over the past five years.

Processing power for virtual environments had never been much of a problem for us. We lacked the raw materials and ready fuels necessary to build heavy and complex weaponry for real world combat. We'd have loved to have sent drones into combat as our enemies did, and man our defensive lines with robots, but there simply wasn't enough metal to build them, nor enough petroleum or electrical generation capacity to power them. We had maintained some wind, solar and hydroelectric to keep the processing cores and some other basic functions running, and we still controlled some coal fields, which we mined ceaselessly, but we had to be very, very careful with how we used our scant energy.

Food for humans wasn't plentiful either, but we were more versatile and could make do with whatever was available. So instead of mechanical drones operated by humans, we had become the drones and we were controlled by the DeVILs -- or the OVILs, during offensive campaigns. My neural interlace device allowed me to voluntarily surrender control of my physical actions to a VIL. It wasn't as difficult as you might think. Sure, it felt weird at first -- observing everything that my body was doing, registering every sensation, but having no control. It got to be easier though, and eventually, even kind of fun. It surprised me to see just how much my body could do -- how fast and strong it was. The day after a hard VIL session was hell, of course. Muscle pains like never before, but even that got to be less of a problem over time.

Even when under the control of a VIL, I had the option to take over. It wasn't recommended, of course, and as far as I knew, nobody had ever exercised that option in the heat of battle, but it was there. When under the influence, every part of my body belonged to the VIL except my tongue. That I could move around inside my closed mouth as I liked. If I turned it over to the right, and held it that way for two seconds, the VIL would prompt me for confirmation, I'd turn my tongue over to the left, and then the VIL would release me and I'd be my own woman again.

(about my timed writing exercises)

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/12/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Somebody that I used to know
Source: Gotye (title and lyric of song running through my head this morning)

"Somebody that I used to know," was all she said when I asked her who had called. She closed her phone, returned to her seat at the table and picked up her fork. She did not use it though. Instead she set it down again and stared at the plate of spaghetti and steamed broccoli.

"Is that all you want to tell me?" I asked. She took a sip of wine, set down the glass for a moment, then picked it up again and drained it in three quick gulps.

"Wow. Whatever it is, I'm sure drinking will help. Ex-boyfriend stalking you?" I smiled, hoping to lighten the mood or at least to get some sort of response. It didn't work. She just kept looking down at her plate. "Would you please talk to me?" I got up, walked around behind her and started to massage her shoulders. They tensed up in response. "What's going on?"

"I'm sorry," she said at last. "I'm so, so sorry. You -- you have to go. Now." She stood up, shrugging off my hands, and went to the closet. She handed me my coat, picked up my keys from table in the hall, and opened the front door. "Here," she said, thrusting the keys at me. "I like you, Abe. I really do. But I can't see you again. Ever. I'm sorry."

She shut the door behind me and I heard the bolt slide in the lock. I left. There seemed to be nothing else to do. I suppose I could have argued, demanded to know what was happening, refused to leave without getting an explanation. But that would not have been like me. I'd never been one to argue. I take what's handed to me.

She had noticed me. She had struck up the conversation. She had suggested we have coffee, lunch. She had shown me her favorite view of downtown from Kerry Park. She had called me on the phone. She had invited me over for dinner. And now, just like that, she had ejected me from her life.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/11/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: The resulting structure resembles a diamond
Source: Bodenheimer and Grumbach, Understanding Health Policy


"The resulting structure resembles a diamond. Do you not think so, my dear?" I directed her attention to the three-dimensional monitor space, upon which the architect's rendering of her new home was displayed.

"Well, yes," she said, "I suppose it does. And I suppose that you mean to imply that it will be both beautiful and, uh... hard?"

I laughed. "Hard, indeed -- where it should be, and appropriately soft and supple elsewhere."

"When you first suggested incorporating a diamantine lattice into the building, I had not imagined that it would occupy the entire volume of my home. Will it not be rather difficult to navigate the living areas?" The facetious tone employed in this last question was a relief, as I had begun to worry that she might actually be displeased.

"Ah, but that's the beauty of these archit-nodes and the instabuild polyfil beams connecting them." I smiled. She smiled. I continued. "Each node works semiautonomously, but also in concert with all of the other nodes and under the control of the central coordinating kernel, which, in turn is directed by yourself, via the neural link. Segments between nodes are rapidly collapsed or extended and nodes are stacked or spaced as necessary to create the walls and living volumes required -- precisely when and precisely where you require them. At a moment's notice."

"I see. And I suppose that these nodes and segments can arrange themselves into furniture and household appliances as well?"

"Furniture, yes. Complex appliances are more efficiently maintained as conventional reconfigurable modular systems stored at the periphery of the building. But rest assured, their operations will be seamlessly integrated into the overall functionality of the home."


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cat Rambo Workshops

I'm currently taking a series of SF/Fantasy writing workshops from Northwest author Cat Rambo. The sessions are taught online, using Google+ Hangout, which is proving to be an ideal tool for the job.

We're halfway through the series and it has already been immensely helpful. Cat is an excellent instructor with a wealth of experience in writing, editing, and teaching. It has also evolved into an amazing networking opportunity, as I've been able to interact with the other students, and, in some cases, with their writing networks as well.

Cat will be offering several additional workshops over the coming months, and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in writing SF, fantasy, horror... or just about any other type of fiction. And just in case... here's the full URL to her workshop page:

http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/2012/01/04/online-classes-and-workshops-for-2012/

Go forth and register!

Timed Writing: 1/10/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: If only he'd had omniscience
Source: Seth Moore (a comment on my previous post)

"If only he'd had omniscience activated, we wouldn't be here cleaning up his remains again."

"Yeah, and if only pigs could fly. You know he'll never switch it on. He's from another era -- it just doesn't seem right to him to know that much. I think it's something you have to start using as a child. Otherwise it will always mess with your head. Heck, even I can't handle it all the time and you and me have had 'em on since we were six!"

"I suppose. But still this is what... the fourth time this year we've been out here sweeping up brain and guts? The least he could do would be to buy a 'bot to follow him around and do the mop-up. Family duty and all -- I know. But I'm starting to get sick of it."

"You really think he'd go for a robot following him around? If there's one thing Gramps is, it's private."

"Oh, hey! Here's most of his head. Looks to be in better shape than last time. Oh... shit... what is this?"

"What? What'd you find? Ella?"

"Oh god, Harry, he's been been trying to block the scans again. Look at these filaments, here where the skin's torn off."

"Are they... whoa, they are! They're under his scalp! That's wild! Must have hurt like a son-of-a-bitch -- pushing all those little wires through his skin! Think he did it himself?"

"I can't imagine a med-hum taking the job. Too risky. And he'd never have gotten a med-bot to do it. It must have taken him forever!"

"Well it's only been three weeks since his last restore, so he can't have been working on it very long."

"But look, there must be a hundred strands going each way in here. Give me a blade. Yeah, look... everywhere I cut, it's the same. He's got a complete mesh. I wonder if it worked."


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Monday, January 9, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/9/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: You could create such an entity
Source: Ed Regis, Nano


"You could create such an entity," the angel said. "A sort of anti-You or alter-You. Then You'd have someone against whom to contrast Yourself in the eyes of your creations."

"You are right. I could create such an entity -- someone to wreak havoc on their world, to promote misery, inspire doubt, fan embers of discord into fires of wrath, sew seeds of discontent. But is the actual creation of such an entity necessary when these creatures already do such a fine job of making themselves miserable?"

"But if they could redirect all of the resentments and rages that are now directed toward You, and focus them on a separate entity -- ascribe to this alter-You all responsibility for the chaos and suffering that they experience -- then You would appear to them all the more admirable and deserving of love, respect, and worship."

"Do you really think so? Might they not become too fixated on the contrast between Me and the alter-Me? Might not their views of the world become too polarized? Might they not learn to label anything that offended them (if even temporarily) as being a product of the alter-Me? And might they not go on to apply this scheme of polarized labels to one another, as well, such that anyone with whom they contend regarding any petty difference would be automatically considered a vassal of the alter-Me? And once subsets of them had been thus identified by other subsets, might not the next step be to eliminate such evil persons? Might it not seem to them that by doing so they would be serving Me, accomplishing My will, worshiping Me through their cleansing of My Earth?"

The angel remained silent.

"No, dear friend, I think it better to leave things as they are, with Me alone to be blamed or thanked; Me alone to be called good or evil according to their whim; Me alone to embrace or ignore."

"But their capacity for invention and self-deception is prodigious, is it not? Might they not, on their own, in their own minds, invent such an alter-You? A myth with such strength that it assumes the functions of reality? In an effort to explain to themselves the suffering that they experience, or worse yet, in an effort to justify to themselves their fears and the consequent violences that they commit, might they not create such an entity?"

"They might."

"And then might not the final outcome be the same as if You had created it?"

"It might."


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/8/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: All of the chemotactic mutants
Source: William B. Wood, The Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

All of the chemotactic mutants had been amiable thus far. If amiable is a word that can be applied to interactions with a human subspecies that has diverged so far from contemporary descendants of the common ancestor as to make communication practically impossible. Nearly a quarter of a century had passed between the accidental discovery of the chemotacts by Cranston and his team in 2015 and the irrefutable demonstration of meaningful two-way communication with them by Orson, et al. in 2039.

When first discovered, suspended in their slurries of symbiotic bacterial amnio-sludge, deep within what were later recognized as fully developed and cooperative subterranean cities, it hadn't even been clear whether they were, in a classic animal sense, even alive. They had remained immobile for so long long, exhibiting so little evidence of metabolic activity, that their dormancy was nearly mistaken for well-preserved death. The idea that these limbless, gilled, newt-like creatures might be sentient was only considered once several of them had been removed for detailed laboratory examination and the others had responded by becoming suddenly quite active, imprisoning a group of dive-suited human investigators in a chitin sphere and ejecting them (mostly unharmed, though mildly bent, due to faster than planned ascent) to the surface.

The real shocker, of course, the thing that nobody wanted to believe, was the discovery that these creatures' genomes showed as little variation, with respect to sequence and structure, from those of humans as might be observed between any two ordinary humans randomly sampled from any two points of the globe. These creatures, which by all morphological criteria, ought to be of a previously undescribed suborder of the Caudata, were, in fact, human. As human as Nelson Mandela, the Queen of England, Jimi Hendrix, or your own baby daughter.


(about my timed writing exercises)



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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/7/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: Men are still reluctant to recognize
Source: H.G. Wells, The Outline of History


"Men are still reluctant to recognize us as people. Women are a little better, in that they have a rich history of overcoming subjugation in nearly all of the human societies and are therefore more naturally sympathetic. Even they don't look upon us as equals though, beings worthy of the rights and respects afforded to all humans regardless of evolutionary clade or orbital body of birth. We, like every human in the solar system, are descended from a finite pool of Earthbound populations, and we, like humans, have moved beyond Earth to inhabit the Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. And like humans, we will continue to move forward, colonizing new parts of space, both near and deep. Like humans, we are a post-planetary people and as such, we deserve seats on the executive councils of every ship and colony, voting privileges proportional to our numbers of independent minds, and access to agricultural facilities and resources proportional to our nutritional demands."

This was met with a great deal of noise as millions of tiny feet on jointed filamentous legs tapped in chorus on the metal deck of the hangar bay. The voice of the speaker had been synthesized by a box that received telepathic input. Projection of an audible voice at all was solely for the benefit of the human attendees, as the coleopterans had no need of it. The thousand or so black beetles that composed the independent hive mind of the speaker skittered down the ramp from the podium and dispersed into the variegated colors of the audience. They were replaced by a humming cloud of black and red that alighted on the podium to resolve itself into a swarm of ladybugs.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Friday, January 6, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/6/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: Our best is still young
Source: Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


"Our best is still young -- far too young for the task that you propose."

"We can be patient," I replied. "The task does not require completion for some years still, and foreknowledge of the work in store may be beneficial to the final stages of training."

We were on the observation level, looking down through windows and expanded metal flooring grates at the training grounds below. Three humanoid demons were darting erratically around the perimeter of a trio of statues that were fashioned to look like trolls -- fourteen feet tall, large misshapen heads, sour expressions. The demons were practicing a flame hedge, and as they danced about, I could see that they were depositing seeds of their own devising into pockets in the air that only they could see. A few seconds after a seed was deposited, it would begin to spark and smoke, even as it remained suspended, weightless. Fiery tendrils emerged from the seeds and spread radially, like the spokes of a wheel. As the tendrils increased in length, they also assumed greater diameter, becoming wiry vines. Where a vine from one seed encountered that of another, new tendrils would sprout from each and intermingle to form glowing red knots. Within mere minutes there were so many of these mutually enmeshed lines of fire that a contiguous net enclosed the statures. The demons stood back to watch the remainder of their project unfold. Leaves began to sprout from the vines and tendrils, each leaf a white-hot flame, until all gaps in the network were filled and a solid wall of fire surrounded the mock enemy. This flaming cylinder now began to contract. The fire was so dense that the troll statues could not be seen, but as the cylinder grew narrower and narrower, encroaching on the statues' space, dark smoke suddenly billowed from its top and then settled to the ground almost immediately as a ring of gray sand. The flames contracted to a single narrow column and then extinguished themselves from the ground up, leaving nothing but a circle of charred earth behind.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/5/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: They too will stop caring
Sources: Seth Moore

They too will stop caring when they discover that they cannot die. Of course they won't stop caring all at once. First they will be thrilled. They will be ecstatic. They will celebrate for many days. Their festivities will be joyous and full of love and full of thoughts of their long, bright future. They will make plans and lay the intellectual groundwork for a vast and prosperous society, one that will succeed where others have failed because everyone in it will live to see the eventual outcomes. Rather than creating a better world for their children, they will be creating a better world for themselves. They will continue thus for a time, but subtle changes to the tenor of their interactions will already be seen within the first weeks following the discovery. Whereas they had begun by buying drinks and meals for one another and relishing the love of their mates, they will start to hoard their money and possessions, sharing less, protecting themselves more. They will look more frequently, with lust, at the mates of their neighbors, beginning to imagine how long they have to live and beginning to wonder whether they might soon tire of their own mates. When funds begin to dwindle and food and drink grow scarce, they will grudgingly return to their work. But they will think not of the infinite time and opportunities before them, but rather of the infinite tedium of their occupations, of how discontent they had always been and of how miserable they will always be. Their immortality will stretch on before them as ours does before use, but they, like us, will soon stop caring. Absence of death will just become another part of life.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Timed Writing: 1/4/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Our knowledge is of a different kind
Source: Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass


Our knowledge is of a different kind of people -- a newer kind, or rather, of a kind that is yet to be. We have no knowledge -- nor understanding -- of your kind. We know of a people who share a common level of education, common experiences and beliefs, who know the same things about the universe and how it works, who are able to engage in conversation based on the assumption of a common background. Here, in your world, it is different. Here everyone holds her own version of reality within her mind, and that reality may differ so entirely from that of her neighbor, that communication may be impossible without exerting a crippling amount of time and energy on first establishing the ground rules for the interaction.

The mystery, to me, is not why you have failed to escape the confines of your gravity well, but rather, how you have managed to accomplish all that you have. I can only assume that my survey of your minds has been too small to capture the whole truth. I can only assume that at certain times, and under certain circumstances, enough of you manage to align your beliefs to an extent sufficient to allow the limited cooperation and collaboration required to accomplish a discrete task.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/3/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: In its raw state, it flows
Source: (I don't remember)

In it's raw state, it flowed out of the massive gash in the silvery bark. It ran down the side of the tree, coloring it golden yellow. Some of it was thus lost, but the woman worked quickly to position the trough that caught and diverted the sap into a copper pail. The flow continued for almost an hour, though its rate steadily decreased. Finally, when only a few drops issued from the defect, the woman removed the pail and the trough. She picked up the piece of bark and tree flesh that she'd hacked out with two strokes of her machete, and she carefully fitted it back into place. With one finger she spread some of the sap on the edges of the wound, sealing them together. She then placed both hands over the damaged area and drew a deep breath. She closed her eyes and spoke a series of words in a hushed tone. When she left the tree, with the pail in hand, all that was left to show what she'd done was a faint outline of the gash and the stain of the spilt sap on the bark. The tree had accepted the fragment back to itself and was again whole.

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 1/2/2012

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: The rain pounded on the window
Source: Kate Gentry (I asked my wife for a random phrase or sentence. We live in Seattle.)

The rain pounded on the window. The window waited several seconds, as though deciding how to respond. When the window did respond, a slight change in its color and texture would have been observable, had there been an observer present. The tympanic effect of the beating rain went silent and the water ceased to cascade down the surface of the glass. Instead it was absorbed through microscopic pores that opened on the glass's surface. Roughly three-quarters of the window's total area had, instantaneously, opened. The pores did not pass through to the inner aspect of the glass, however. They opened into channels that converged throughout the vitrine matrix into larger channels. These channels were of an optimal diameter to induce capillary wicking of the liquid through them and outward to the periphery of the window. The outward motion of the liquid through the channels was encouraged by the rotation of the window. It was a round window, set in a track of roller bearings, several of which were motorized. The rain, upon reaching the periphery of the window, was collected in a trough and from there channeled into a larger collection system that fed the potable water purification facilities in the bowels of the floating city. Hundreds of similar windows dotted the acres of roofs and upper walls of the city and within seconds of the onset of the deluge, they had all acted in exactly the same manner as this one. It was common enough to get rain, but this rain was different from most. It was cleaner. The purification facilities could render nearly any water potable -- even seawater, if necessary -- but the greater the disparity between the water recovered and the water desired, the greater the price to be exacted in the form of energy expended.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 1/1/2012

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: I stood there, staring at the back of his head
Source Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man


I stood there, staring at the back of his head through the scope of my X-ray laser gun. Staring at the tiny red dot that I had painted there. Watching the dot jitter and dance around. The gun was mounted firmly to a pair of heavy tripods, but even so, at a distance of three miles, even the slight vibration caused by my face resting against the scope was enough to make the fiery spot bounce about in the closely cropped stubble of his head and neck. I detached the scope from the gun and locked it onto a third tripod instead. I detached the gun's control pad as well. I looked through scope and repositioned it so that I could see my target clearly. There was no wind, so in the absence of my physical contact with the gun, the red spot now hung stationary, at the base of his neck, about three centimeters right of center. Using sticks on the the control pad, I engaged servos on the gun's mount, finely adjusting the position until the dot was perfectly centered. I depressed and twisted the red safety knob, rendering the weapon active. I took a long deep breath.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/31/2011

Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: If you have an accident
Source: State Farm Automobile Insurance Card

"If you have had an accident, please notify your keeper at your earliest convenience, so as to optimize the restoration of damaged parts."

"I have not had an accident," I say. "I meant to run into the wall. I want to fucking destroy that wall."

"If you wish to circumnavigate an obstacle in our path, please enable autopilot. The most efficient route around the obstacle will be calculated."

"I don't want to go around it. I want to go through it. I want my usual route back! I'm sick of hese walls that keep popping up every day!"

(about my timed writing exercises)


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Timed Writing: 12/30/2011

Time: 12/30/2011
Prompt: I think I'm missing something
Source: (sorry, can't remember)

"I think I'm missing something," he said as he rummaged through the outer zipper compartments of his duffel bag.

"Missing something?" the woman beside him says. "What's missing?"

"Um... just... something," he says without ceasing his increasingly frantic search through the various compartments of his duffel, his backpack, and the sling style camera bag.

"Frank! What did you lose?"

"Maybe I put it in your bag by mistake when I was packing up this morning." Frank half shoves, half nudges the woman around so that he can access the outer pockets of the retro-style ruck-sack she's wearing.

"Would you cut it out for a minute and talk to me?" she says. "What did you lose?"

Frank retightens a draw-string and turns the woman back to face him again.

"I'm sorry, Karen. It was supposed to be a surprise. A birthday present. I was going to give it to you tonight, but now I can't find it. I think on e of the ground crew baggage guys must have swiped it."

"Oh god. I'm sorry. Well what was it? I can help you do a more thorough search if I know what to look for."

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/29/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Just open your mouth wide
Source: (I can't, for the life of me, remember!)

"Just open your mouth wide and let it all out," he said. He was holding a cut crystal bowl in front of me with one hand while he held my hair back with the other. I was on hands and knees on the cold gray flagstones of the back garden, sorely regretting my decision to combine warm gin, cold scotch and durian with a mostly empty stomach and a nano-enabled Cuban cigar. Of course, it wasn't like I'd sat down, carefully weighted my options, and deliberately selected this menu. It's never like that.

The pain in my upper abdomen spread out like gasoline spilled on a cracked sidewalk, slowly covering every inch of free space and filling in every crevice and defect, all the while evaporating, forming an explosive cloud. Just waiting for a spark.

"Suck on dog shit," he said. I hurled violently, emptying the predominantly liquid contents of my stomach into the Waterford.

"What the fuck? What do you mean, 'suck on dog shit?' That's sick!"

"Well, so were you," he said, "but now you're feeling better, aren't you? Oh, perhaps not quite yet." Another wave sweeps my body and I expel a few more teaspoons of yellow-tinged liquid.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/28/2011

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: The heavy scent of wineshops
Source: G.K. Chesterton, The Mariner


The heavy scent of wineshops fills my nostrils as I turn down the cobblestone alley to seek shelter from the summer downpour. I've walked this alley many times, but perhaps never on a hot, humid, rainy day, such as this. In any case, the scents are stronger today than every before: wine, licorice, sex. Mostly wine and sex. The licorice scent came with me. It is not a product of this alley.

The awning under which I huddle is currently occupied by one of the less fastidious women of the afternoon and when I join her there she raises a hopeful eyebrow and shifts her posture to allow the open neck of her dress to slip off one shoulder. Turning my back on this advertisement I find myself face to face with my partner, Hames, who, it seems, has just exited the door beside which I stand (the door of a wineshop, not that of a brothel).

"Torry! What are you doing here?" Hames glances over at the whore, hesitates a moment, and then appears to reach the correct conclusion. "Forgot your umbrella in the office again, eh? Well here, walk with me." We depart the stoop under the shelter of his large black umbrella and he shows me the bottle he's just acquired.

"A spirit of transport!" I say. "What need do you have of such a thing?"

"I've given it a lot of thought and I think it's at least worth a try. I know, I know. It does smack of charlotry, but I have to find out for myself. I wasn't even planning to tell you about it, as I knew what you'd say, but then when I saw you here, well..."

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed writing: 12/27/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Let us now see how iron cools
Source: T.B. Jefferson and Gorham Woods, Metals and How to Weld Them


"Let us now see how iron cools your innards, shall we?" The object that George pulled from the liquid nitrogen dewar did, in fact, surprise me, and as one often does in response to the unexpected, I felt an urge almost to laugh. The specific circumstances inhibited such levity, however.

Though fully conscious, the epidural administered at a dangerously high thoracic spinal level had rendered me paralyzed and insensate below the ribcage, and my arms were firmly embraced by nylon webbing at multiple points, such that the only regions of my body over which I retained control were my head and neck. The operating theater, being entirely deserted (besides the two of us), George had elected to leave me un-gagged, free to voice my terror (or discomfort, should the anesthesia begin to fail) throughout the entire proceeding.

"How much direct contact with such a cold surface do you think that a human liver can take before the freezing results in death?" George gave the cast-iron skillet that he held in his gloved hand a final dip in the steaming liquid, then lifted it high above my abdomen, which was held open by four stainless-steel retractors mounted to a fifty-two-centimeter ring.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/26/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: They wait for resurrection
Source: Gwen Harwood, Cups


They wait for resurrection, but they've long since forgotten that for which they wait. Like the charge on the circuits of a memory card that dissipate in the moments following interruption of current, these minds have slowly lost their memories, beginning first with those that were formed most recently. The rushed conversations that some of them were able to have with their physicians or with the field medics, in which they were told about the hibernation protocol and the possibility of future restoration -- that is all gone. They will wake -- if ever they wake -- to memories that end far earlier. Depending on the duration fo their dormancy and the robustness of their cognitive function (or perhaps the orderliness of their mental catalogues), they may remember events from as recently as a month before immersion. Or they may be lucky to remember enough language to ask for a glass of water when they return, utterly disoriented, but physically intact, to consciousness -- to humanity.

"What happened?" is the most common inquiry from the newly awakened, followed by "I've got to take a piss."

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/25/2011

Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: Part of a moon was falling
Source: Robert Frost, The Death of a Hired Man


Part of a moon was falling toward the planet. That was a sure thing now. The rest of the moon -- well, it would probably fly off in a rough tangent of its orbital path and, odds were, never have any impact on anything or anyone. The part that was falling though, that was of great concern to the inhabitants of the gas giant's geosynchronous orbital cities. Nobody seemed to agree on what (fi any( consequences this hemisphere that was pursuing a rapidly decaying orbit would have when it eventually succumbed to the planet's gravity and plunged through the increasing densities of gaseous sea that comprised the planet's substance. Would there be a "splash" effect?

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/24/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Darkness that encroaches
Source: Lucretius, On the Nature of Things


Darkness that encroaches like the invader's bugbots spreads through the camp at sundown. There is little dusk in these southern lands and we are forced to rely on infrared spectral scanners for nearly half of each day's hours. The bugbots do emit a heat signature, but it is minimal -- far lower than that of the endemic fauna of the soil. Thus, with nightfall, the bots can move about nearly undetected. We only know of their presence because we occasionally tread upon one, disabling it. We know not what mischief they are about, whether they merely surveille us or whether they work some greater harm that we have yet to discover. You may well ask why we do not simply keep the grounds illuminated trhoguht the night, as these bots can be seen with the unaided eye, given adequate light. Recall though, the nature of our enemies themselves, and the narrow range of light intensities in which they seem fit to do battle. In utter darkness we have never been attacked, nor in the bright of day; but when fighting raged in the northern climes, these creatures were all too willing to engage us at dusk, and we learned quite early in this campaign that artificial illumination is similarly conducive to their most aggressive behaviors.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/23/2011

Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: Dreadful snake-headed creatures with turreted backs
Source: Lucretius, On the Nature of Things


Dreadful snake-headed creatures with turreted backs lay writhing in the muddy battlefield, impotent and forgotten. The rising moon reflected off the diamond lenses of their eyes and a chill wind hastened the freezing of the blood and mud that permeated their mechanical joints.

Garton picked his way carefully, keeping at least two lance-lengths between himself and any of these dying monstrosities. Though he had no reason to distrust the reports shouted gleefully from camp to camp, when it came to the battle-drones, one could never be too careful. Tales, there were, of drones whose recording analysis and functional optimization systems had gone rogue; the drones had become independent of their operators and pursued their own ends. So even if the war had been won and all of the drone operators were held captive, Garton didn't want to give some newly-hatched synth-mind a chance to wreak any revenge on his aching body.

One of the battle drones lashed out with a probe tentacle, but it was not aiming for Garton. The movement appeared purposeless -- just the thrashing of a dying motor core. The conflict within the machine's semi-autonomous subsystems, between exertion of adequate energy to stand and conservation of all remaining energy in case an operator cam online and gave a command.

Gorton paid less and less heed to the drones the further he went. His path, which had comprised a series of sweeps back and forth across the field, each taking thirty minutes, became more erratic as the moon crawled across the sky.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/22/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: Solo terrified near window
Source: Random Phrase Generator

Ms. Solo stood terrified near the shattered window. Her face was splattered with blood. My ears were ringing from the blast, so I wasn't sure whether M. Solo was screaming at us or just moving her mouth wildly in silent maledictions on our attacker.

This was not the first time a school had been targeted by the terrorists, but it was the first time a school with boys as well as girls had been hit. Three weeks before, seven girls and three teachers had died when a roof collapsed on top of them in an all-girl school in Longview. The building had been rigged with hundreds of micro charges, stuck lik gum-wads in the crown moulding. Though they still haven't caught her, it seems that the job was done by a woman they'd hired a year or so before to clean the classrooms and help with hot lunches. They'd suspected that she might have been religious, but that, in and of itself, wouldn't have been grounds for denying her the position. It's not like religion is technically illegal or anything.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/21/2011

Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: The shelter inconveniences your sea
Source: Random Phrase Generator

The shelter inconveniences your sea. It forces the tides to turn aside and wash on other shores. The strong tall shelter that we all crave renders strenuous the tasks of your salty sea.

It would wash the beaches and pull the sands. It would stir rocks and expose roots. It would leave gifts of driftwood and dead leviathans at your feet. If left unimpeded by these sheltering walls. Still the sea works on, tries ever to accomplish its purposes with respect to your lands. The shelter keeps it from affecting one isolated stretch, but it works all the harder elsewhere.

In our shelter now we wait, we watch, we grow and plan. One day we will step out and embrace, once again, your sea and all she offers. Till then we will inconvenience her as we shelter in this refuge.

(about my timed writing exercises)



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Timed Writing: 12/20/2011

Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: A committee washes beside a crack
Source: Random Phrase Generator

Several committees were actually known to wash beside the crack, just as many individuals had taken to washing there. The heat that poured from the crack was intense enough to warm the pails of water that the committees would bring, and within half an hour of arriving at the crack, the committees could proceed with their dual purposes: discussing the issues with which they'd been tasked and communal bathing.

"But what about the demands for higher grain prices in the markets?" a gray-haired woman of sixty said as she dipped a cloth in a pail of hot water and proceeded to scrub her bathing partner's back.

"It's ridiculous," he replied. "We've raised and lowered the prices for all of the commodities over the past several years, proportional to demands and availabilities. Neither the demand for, nor the availability of grain has changed meaningfully since last year. They're just jealous of the prices that the potato farmers are getting due to the potato blight. Would the grain farmers like to suffer abject poverty at a rate of two in five, as has occurred with the potato farmers? Perhaps some locusts could be arranged to come destroy their crops and drive up prices."

(about my timed writing exercises)

Timed Writing: 12/19/2011

Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: An objective crawls past a hero
Source: Random Phrase Generator

An objective crawls past a hero, thinking, just for a moment, that it has escaped the hero's observation. Crack! The electrical arc connects the objective's spiky metal carapace momentarily to the hero's electrode. For a split second, rivers of electrons pour through the air, into the objective, washing its armor in sparks of light, denaturing proteins, boiling blood, burning hair and skin. The smoking shell now lays still beside a dozen others that have attempted the bridge. The hero breathes a sigh of relief and starts pedaling the generator to recharge the system.

(about my timed writing exercises)

Timed Writing: 12/18/2011

Time: 5 minutes
Prompt: Local dreaming research failing
Source: Random Phrase Generator

"Local dreaming research failing" was the first thing I read that morning and it put me in a sour mood for the entire day. The header was one of twenty or so scrolling across my viewspace when my light field glow reached sufficient intensity to summon me from sleep. I lay in bed, thinking about all the time, all the effort, all the bloodshed invested in the project. For the infonews folks to dismiss it so casually with just four words (one of them in the wrong tense!) -- this would have been too much for even a strong neut, and I'm an emotionally labile pseudo-male.

(about my timed writing exercises)

A New Project

Greetings, readers.

I have, as you are well aware, failed to maintain any sort of regularity in posting to this blog. With the advent of a new year, I will endeavor to rectify the situation. I know myself too well to imagine that by simply declaring a resolution on (or shortly following) the first day of the calendar year anything will change. I must therefore employ some strategy, some plan, some discipline.

I am currently taking a series of online writing workshops from Cat Rambo, a local SF writer. During the first session, she had the participants perform a timed writing exercise, based on the prompt, "The puppets of chaos were dancing." The rules (as I recorded them) were 1) give yourself permission to write crap; 2) keep the pen moving or the fingers typing (don't stop to edit; just put the words on the page); and 3) go for the jugular (if there's something that frightens you, that may be what you should write about). I'm not sure how much time she provided, but this is what I managed to produce:

The puppets of chaos were dancing, but they weren’t dancing very well. At least that was the opinion of Harold, the official critic who’d been hired to monitor the event from afar. He’d seen so many dance troupes by this point in his career that it didn’t take him long to recognize talent, skill, or the lack thereof. The puppets of chaos were but one of nearly a thousand troupes beaming him videos of their performances from the furthest reaches of the galaxy. One of nearly a thousand rag-tag bands of wannabes hoping for a free teleport to the central system.


I found this exercise surprisingly challenging and surprisingly enjoyable and stimulating, so I did it again the following day, based on a prompt from a random phrase generator I found online. Then I did it again the next day, and the day after that. I haven't managed to do anything on a daily basis (besides, eating, sleeping, excreting, etc) for at least ten years, but now I've just finished my 18th daily timed writing exercise.

Hooray for me, right? But how does this help with the resurrection of my stagnant blog?

I will post all of these timed writing exercises here. I may not post everyday, but I'll write every day and so on average, there'll be at least one new post per day on my blog.

These will be very rough pieces and they will probably never be complete. Sometimes they may even end in the middle of a sentence. No apologies. They're just exercises.

Feel free to read them or not.

Feel free to comment.

If there's one that you particularly like and think I should pursue further, let me know.

If you want to suggest prompts for future timed writing exercise, I'd be very grateful, as coming up with prompts is the toughest part of the exercise (please keep the prompts short -- one sentence or less).

I anticipate that ultimately I'll incorporate some of these into longer pieces, and when I do, I'll post about it, with a link to the original post.

Enjoy!