Where, pray tell, did January and February go? Seems like life is flashing before my eyes — or is manifesting itself as a dim, blurry, memory. Nevertheless.

I am off to Morocco on business for the week. I have my Kindle loaded with good books, including my latest read “The Hydrogen Sonata” by Iain Banks.  As usual, it is quite good – so far.

I may attempt a response to the latest Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: Random Song Challenge. Whereby the author takes a random song title and writes a story with the song as the title.  Easy enough. As long as the random song title isn’t something like Funk #49.  Actually, a story called Funk #49 could be pretty interesting.  Whatever. We’ll see if I can generate some creativity tonight on the flight from Washington to Paris.

This is my contribution to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, where each week another 200 words is added to the story.  The first 400 words have been written by others, the last 200 are my contribution to the story. Dave Kearney wrote the opening 200 or so words, and Rebecca B. did the second tranche.

First 200+

The lecture theatre door slammed shut with a bang so loud half the room jumped in their seat. Alice descended the stairs, not oblivious to the 200 pairs of indignant eyes boring through her, and took the only available seat at the front of the class. Professor Gordon Kane stood at the lectern and looked over the top his glasses at her. “Welcome Miss Turner, what a remarkable entrance. I was just about to introduce my colleague to your classmates, may I continue?” Alice’s face burned so hard she thought her hair might catch fire. Kane gestured toward a tall man wearing a green turtleneck and a tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbows. “I expect that many of you will recognise our guest,” he said. She recognised him immediately, in fact he was the very reason she was late for class. “His book, Changing Minds, has spent the last six months perched at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, his television show of the same name has surprised  and delighted audiences around the world and we are very fortunate to have him here today. It is therefore, my very great privilege to introduce, Dr Lucas Spencer.” The room erupted into deafening applause. Dr Spencer moved to the lectern and held up his right hand. “Thank you Gordon, thank you everyone” he said. “I’d like to ask for five volunteers.”

***** The Next 200 *****

Hands of eager participants shot up all over the room. Dr. Spencer’s scrutinizing eyes grazed over them. He took his time carefully selecting those he brought up onto stage. When he reached time for the fifth volunteer his eyes found Alice. She had slouched into a seat in the back row of the room. He stared at her despite her unraised hand. “Ms. Parker?” His voice boomed. “Shit.” Alice muttered under her breath. A girl in the row in front of her snorted and turned to eye her. “Ms. Parker, join us on stage. I see your willingness to volunteer is a bit lacking.” The room turned almost as one to stare at her. She couldn’t show weakness and try to leave. She knew that everyone thought he was going to save the world. Refusal would net her pariah status on campus for the rest of her tenure. She hid her reluctance as she made the excruciatingly long walk to the stage. He greeted her at the stairs with a knowing look. “Thought you could hide from me, did you lovely?” he whispered. “I think you may regret toying with me Lucas,” she replied under her breath. “We’ll see.” His eyes lit up and he turned to face his audience. “Now, who wants to see the next level of human evolution?”

+++++ My 200 +++++

The volunteers had assembled in line on stage. Spencer pulled a small, black box about the size of a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. He walked to student at the far left of the line. “Put your right index finger into the box. You might feel a tingle, but otherwise the experience will be painless.” Doing as he was told, Roger Crabtree inserted his finger into a hole in the end of the box. Spencer did the same with each student in turn. Alice, standing stiffly at the end of the line, stared hard into Spencer’s eyes as she slid her finger into the box. “Well, this is somewhat irregular, but I suppose it can do no harm” she said, as he pulled the box away and walked briskly to a table set at the center of the stage. Students in the crowd murmured to each other as Dr. Spencer attached the black box to a laptop computer and typed furiously at the keyboard. “Just a few minutes, and then we will see what we will see,” he said, and gave his chin a rub. The black box began to glow, becoming incandescent. “There we are. Let’s begin.”

I always fall into the same trap. Just as my stack of books-to-be-read starts to get smaller, i take a lap around amazon.com or stop by Barnes and Noble — with obvious results.

And you might be wondering where I’ve been. All over, really. No excuses for having abandoned this blog for 3 1/2 months. Seems like it is always something. And now we’re almost halfway through NaNoWriMo and I have nothing to show for it. That being said, I haven’t put any effort into it either.

So I’m reading Iain Banks’ Consider Phlebas, and finished his Matter not long ago. I’m a third of the way through Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy and have 2/3′s of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three Californias Trilogy to go. I have Hugh Howey’s Wool (I read the first installment a while ago, but picked up the new paperback that has the whole story) and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War in the queue.

I also have Chuck Wendig’s Under the Empyrean Sky on my Kindle although that was a bit of a an impulse buy — not really into YA per se, but I’ll give it a shot. His Blackbirds was pretty readable but certainly not of the literary quality of Banks, Robinson or Haldeman.

So there it is. What I’m reading. I am still writing — sort of — but I don’t seem to have the energy to generate the words right now. I need to keep pushing on.

On My Way

Posted: 07/04/2013 in Flash Fiction Stories

This Flash Fiction story responds to Chuck Wendig’s challenge to write a story based on a trope, from a random trope generator on TVtropes.org. My trope is “Missed the Bus,” where the hero, often an Unlucky Every Dude, is relying on the bus/train/space shuttle to take him to his destination.  In Fictionland, nine times out of ten he’ll arrive too late.  To rub some salt in the wound, he might just get there in time to see it leave.

Enjoy.

I couldn’t believe my luck. After years of trying: tests, interviews, more tests, physicals, scans, more tests, and more scans, I was in.
“Welcome to Cadre 143” the letter stated. I was on my way to Mars as a habitat engineer. Ever since I was a little boy, looking at the stars and planets with my cheapo telescope, I had wanted to be up there. And now it was happening, and I was on my way.
My commercial flight from Los Angeles to Denver was bumpy, but nothing to worry about. Besides, an astronaut can’t worry about bumpy rides, right? Well, okay, I’m not an astronaut, but I’ll be spending plenty of time in space on my way to the red planet – and do a hell lot more than the astronauts of old ever did. Anyway, I started to worry when the airplane started circling and the cabin attendant said we need to go into holding.
“I have a connection to make! It’s important!” I pleaded.
“Sir, this is normal. There are thunderstorms over the Denver airport. We need to hold here until they pass. If you miss your connection, there will be another, I’m sure.”
But she didn’t understand. I was on my way.
We finally landed about 30 minutes late, and I got to my connecting gate just in time to see the plane pull away, along with my future.
I pleaded with the attendant: “When is the next flight? I must get to the Cody Spaceport!”
“Sir” she said, “The next flight leaves at 3:15. You are already booked, so please take a seat in the waiting area and relax.”
“3:15? That’s too late! My orbital departure leaves at 2:00! Isn’t there a flight that leaves sooner?”
“I’m sorry Sir, no. If you’d like to file a complaint, I can provide you the forms.”
It was pointless. How do you complain about something as simple as a thunderstorm ruining your life? What would the company do if I missed this flight? They must have more orbital connectors I could catch in time to make my cadre in-processing, right?
I sat dejectedly in one of the waiting area chairs, staring out of the large plate glass windows, the waning crescent moon mocking me as it hung low on the early morning horizon.
“You’ll never make it.” It seemed to say, casting doubt like a dark shadow over my future. If I had made my connection, I would’ve been up there, on the moon, training with my cadre and prepping for the trip to Mars, within a few days. I would have been on my way.
A high-pitched droning sound snapped me out of my daydream of self-pity. The enormous explosion that followed had me diving to the floor, fully alert.
“Oh my God!” screamed the gate attendant.
A large fireball erupted not far away, near the runway.
“The airplane! It crashed!”
“What?” I said as I ran to the window for a better view.
“The airplane. The one that just left. You’re airplane…it crashed!”
All I could see was a column of thick, black, smoke rising from a mangled mass of metal, crumpled like a wad of tinfoil on the grassy expanse between the runways. Fire trucks were just now converging on the mass of burning metal, spraying fire-retardant foam from nozzles that protruded from the tops of their cabs like cannons.
The gravity of the situation started to sink in. “All of those people.” I said to myself. All of them – were gone.
Beads of sweat started to dot my forehead as I realized how close I had come to being one of them. Gone. Dead.
I couldn’t believe my luck.

It’s a little after 1:00 a.m., and I can’t sleep.  A bit too much jet lag left in my system after a trip returning from the other side of the planet. Jakarta, Indonesia, to be exact.  Today would be a good day to start over — restart, recharge, re-whatever.  The first day of the month is always good for that — makes it easy to remember how long you’ve been at it.

I just scanned over the new stories in Clarkesworld Magazine — a good crop, and more than the usual 2 or 3. Good stuff.

I need to get to sleep. Seriously. My alarm will go off in less than 4 hours and I have to go to work. Ugh.

And I need to finish my story.  The one I want to submit to Clarkesworld.

I just saw the movie Oblivion and I love it.  I am a big sucker for superb design, and this movie is full of it.  From the spaceplanes, to the drones, to the world’s coolest modern house, this film has it all.

It is also a fantastic story, although one that evokes memories of other great Sci-Fi films, like The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Planet of the Apes.

So now that I have managed to evade the real point of this blog — which is for the most part unread, except by me — I am in a funk of sorts. Physical, emotional, and spiritual. I need to finish my story, but I keep putting it off.  I keep putting everything off.

I’m a chronic procrastinator, and I’m getting to that age where the amount of time left to do all the things I keep putting off gets smaller and smaller.  It’s fucking up my mind.

Christmas, New Year’s, MLK & President’s Day…all have come and gone since I was here last. I am also without my brother now, who passed away far too soon in February.

Those aren’t excuses for why I haven’t posted here – in fact the real reasons are far too mundane.  The usual: too overworked, a general malaise about things…

Frankly, I haven’t felt like I had anything worthwhile to post.  I did, however, read three fantastic novels:

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds

All are fabulous in their own way, and the first two are the first novels I have read by those authors — I’ll certainly be reading more.  2312 was particularly good.

I’ve read a lot of Alistair Reynolds and this novel shows a real maturity in his writing from the early days of Revelation Space. It’s very good.

Ugh. I really must get my shit together. So let’s do that. The Great Getting Together of the Shit was declared here on April 5, 2013.