SYNTH, Chapter 3!

SYNTH is a gorgeous Everlark fan fiction in which Katniss is an android called KTNS-12, manufactured in a lab by Genius Scientist Beetee and Junior Scientist Peeta, the latest effort by humans to develop a weapon that will help them win a war against — well, it’s not clear who exactly they’re fighting against, but anyway the humans are holed up underground in bunkers, and it seems they are very reduced in number. KTNS-12 is the first prototype that succeeds in walking, talking, fighting, etc., and Peeta made her. Yes, he made her, coddled her from a clump of cells in a petri dish to a full-grown, gorgeous woman.

Faster than you can say “Pygmalion and Galatea,” KTNS-12 begins following Junior Scientist Peeta around like a baby chick (She even begins climbing into his bed at one point, and no one thinks to stop her). Nurturing Peeta is so adorable, and Beetee expounds his theory of “imprinting” (since Peeta talked to Katniss’s cells and coaxed them into growing, his voice has imprinted on KTNS-12. Oh this is just too ADORBS!)

KTNS-12 has an anomaly: she has feelings. She knows she has been bred to be a fighting machine (Again self wonders why the scientists bothered to make a gendered fighting machine, even with reproductive parts. Wouldn’t that seem like such a waste of time, since they’re not supposed to procreate, anyway. Or — are they? DUN DUN DUN!) and she’s deathly afraid that these feelings are going to cause them to recycle her parts. When a dastardly team of scientists led by Dr. Cato and Dr. Gloss do all kinds of experiments on her (such as, tightening C-clamps on all her digits until the skin splits), she has to pretend she isn’t afraid, but she thinks Gloss knows. Because every day, he schedules more vivisection and . . .

The last self read of Synth was way way back in the beginning of the year. Six months ago. Two chapters dropped, and the end of the second chapter was quite a cliff-y: Katniss being taken to a lab (with no Junior Scientist Peeta present!) where horrible Dr. Cato and Dr. Gloss are waiting with awful sharp surgical instruments and C-clamps.

For over six months Synth followers like self were forced to imagine the most horrible atrocities perpetrated on KTNS-12. Paging Junior Scientist Peeta! Emergency! Paging Junior Scientist Peeta! Your immediate presence is required to save KTNS-12!


Finally, yesterday, followers were put out of their agony: Chapter 3 dropped. Evil Cato and Gloss clamp KTNS-12 down on a table and slowly up the pressure on all her limbs until finally, finally, KTNS-12 does feel something: “It’s a sensation like dark is a color. There really isn’t anything there, but it’s far too real to be nothing.”


Horrible! Just horrible!

Puke! Barf! NO!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Never Known Such Kindness

Today, self was late meeting a friend for lunch. So even though she knew which train she needed to take, and her Metro Card was newly topped up, she ended up hailing a cab.

The thing about cabs here in New York City is, the cabbies are willing to talk. The one whose cab she hailed today discussed possible routes with her. You see, this is the thing about New York City. Everyone communicates. It’s the only way.

She managed to persuade the cabbie to try her way. He was cool about it.

On the way back, she did take the subway. And lo and behold, a man offered her his seat. A man on the No. 1 train actually got up and offered her his seat. The car was crowded. Normally, self would have been more than happy to accept the man’s offer. But she was getting off at the very next stop. Still, she thanked the man and smiled.

Such small kindnesses mean the world to her these days.

It is so hard, sometimes, to understand the world. But kindness is a language of its own.

Stay tuned.


Directions for the Journey to the Meaning of Reality

While self was wandering around Florence, early this month, she stumbled into the Palazzo Vecchio. Milling about in the lobby were participants in a conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. It was the first she’d ever heard of this man who, one of the conference staff told self, was a much admired teacher and writer.

Self walked away with a brochure of his writings, and wasted no time opening the brochure. She was very struck by this statement:


Then, she read a discourse on the meaning of the word “Thing”:

I would be amazed by the stupefying repercussion of a presence which is expressed in current language by the word “thing.” Things! “Thing,” which is a concrete and, if you please, banal presence which I do not myself make, which I find. A presence which imposes itself upon me. At this moment, if I am attentive, that is, if I am mature, then I cannot deny that the greatest and most profound evidence is that I do not make myself, I am not making myself. I do not give myself being, or the reality which I am. I am “given.” This is the moment of maturity when I discover myself to be dependent on something else.

Self has a story in the New Orleans Review called — THING.

The consonance of her Thing with Monsignor Giussani’s discourse on the word Thing is super-mindblowing! It’s as if self’s frail tendrils of story, and this always-churning imagination of hers, has transported her across the ocean to Italy, simply so that she can receive a brochure at the Palazzo Vecchio where a teacher and philosopher tries to explain the meaning of Thing. Of Thing-ness.

Self’s story is about humanoids in the post-apocalyptic Earth. Where no one looks human anymore. Hence the use of the generic to describe that which-is-neither-here-nor-there. That which is thing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Ornate 5: Siena’s Duomo; the Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Self’s niece was so organized that we got to see three small towns around Florence, all on the same day: Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa.

Self’s favorite was Siena.

The beautiful Gothic cathedral has a magnificent interior (striped columns! Who would have thought!) but it’s the exterior self will focus on for further examples of the “ornate.”

For instance, all kinds of creatures proliferate, including a roaring lion sticking out of a buttress in the front:

Stone lion on the front of the Cathedral in Siena, built in the fourteenth century

Stone lion on the front of the Cathedral in Siena, built in the fourteenth century. The lion represents one of Siena’s 17 districts.

Here is the facade of the Cathedral, or as the Italians refer to it, the Duomo:

The Duomo of Siena is decorated with animals representing each of the city's 17 districts, which compete twice a year in horse races called the Palio.

The Duomo of Siena is decorated with animals representing each of the city’s 17 districts, which compete twice a year in horse races called the Palio.

For the third picture, self goes back to her archive of Florence photos. This is a shot of the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery. On Sunday afternoons, the stone benches are lined with people.

The Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: a great spot to people-watch!

The Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: a great spot to people-watch!

The last shot isn’t related to the Photo Challenge but is one of self’s favorite pictures from her trip.

On self’s last afternoon in Florence (a Sunday), she took a picture of this adorable creature, whose owners kept calling him “R2” which self thought was a kind of homage to R2D2 of Star Wars, until a young man told her that the dog’s name was “Artur.” Oh. How adorbs!

Artur, who self met on the stone benches in the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Artur, who self met on the stone benches in the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ornate 3: Everything is Ornate

Still in Florence, still searching for the “ornate” as self goes through the city.

The restaurant interiors, the piazzas, the palaces: everything, the whole Italian sensibility, is ornate.

And self loves it. She loves the ornate.

La Falterona, a homey restaurant on via Zannoni

La Falterona, a homey restaurant on via Zannoni. Niece and self ate there twice.

Sunday Night: Piazza della Signoria

Sunday Night: Piazza della Signoria

One Day in Venice: Self in Front of the Doge's Palace in San Marco Square

One Day in Venice: Self in Front of the Doge’s Palace in San Marco Square

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Undead Peeta (Halloween Everlark Fan Fic Spill-over)

Apologies, dear blog readers. Self’s brain is all scrambled. What with seeing the Arno River for the first time today and wondering which Hemingway story had this river as a prominent setting (or which World War II battle unfolded here) and trying to read up on all the Halloween Everlark fan fic that came bursting out of the creative geniuses of Miss Honeywell, Alliswell, and the like, in the past week, self is quite beside herself.

So, let’s focus for now on Undead Peeta. Florence can wait for another post.

Delly, effervescent BFF of Peeta’s Previous Incarnation (Baker Boy) has encountered the Undead Peeta stalking into town for the first time and goes running up to him, gamely offering her neck.

Peeta picks her up in his arms but — uh, oh! — catches sight of Katniss and faster than you can say, Boo! dumps Delly gracelessly on her bottom and makes for Katniss. But when he reaches her, instead of immediately snacking on her neck, he tells her:

“You shouldn’t be here talking to me. I’m dangerous, a monster. I could do terrible things to you.”

“Is that what you were going to do to Delly?” is the first thing out of Katniss’s mouth.

Peeta shakes his head violently.

“Delly would have been just a meal. You, on the other hand . . . “


After this magnanimous Undead Peeta speech, Katniss still has time to grab at his arm and notice it is still full of muscle and quite alluring.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Speculative Fiction: Short on Science, Long on Speculation

Self’s science fiction may be a little short on the science, but it has everything to do with story-telling.

She is thinking about her stories today because last week she was in San Francisco and popped into Borderlands, the Science Fiction Bookstore on Valencia. So wonderful to browse! Self saw many, many books she wanted to read. There were new books from China Mieville, Joe Hill, and Jo Walton, to name a few.

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

This is the problem with going to a bookstore: self ends up leaving with loads of books that she then has to pack into a suitcase and then haul that suitcase around on her travels and the experience is just painful.

Anyhoo, self had been thinking for quite a while of starting to put together a new collection, and is leaning more towards having it all be science fiction. She might lead off with “Spores,” which her friend Morgan Cook turned into an MP3 Audio File, early this year.

This excerpt is from “Spores” (Trigger warning: profanity)

“Me mum’s a thick,” K said once. “A fecking thick. A root rotter.”

“Hit brew and all?” I asked.

“12 pints one go, honest,” K said. She silent the rest of the day.

I grew weary of K.

Self’s story “First Life,” published by Juked in July, is again “nothing but strange,” to quote from The first sentence:

Ever since they moved our colony from Tonle Sap to the Philippines, my mind hasn’t been the same.

And then there’s “Thing,” which came out in the New Orleans Review in 2012, about Animal Rehabilitation Center, Sector 6, where the results of heinous lab experiments are tended to by a rag-tag group who are barely human themselves.

And “Magellan’s Mirror,” which J Journal published and nominated for a Pushcart (The Philippines populated by a race of giants)

And “Vanquisher,” which self wrote as a sequel to “Magellan’s Mirror,” in which Juan de Salcedo turns into a kind of vampire.

And there’s “The Forest,” about a man whose wife has just let him, and whose sister offers, out of the kindness of her heart, to turn him into a spotted deer or an eagle.

And there’s “Ice,” which is set in a future Earth whose surface is covered with ice:

Out there, ice caps, cold as knives.

Steam from her mouth, his mouth, none from the boy who lay between them. She knowing what but not able to bear it.

And of course, “The Freeze,” in Bluestem Magazine early this year, in which a woman loses her entire family when a catastrophic freeze descends on the planet (The rumor is that the Russians started it) and decides to walk to Mexico.

And “The Departure” (2011 Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s annual Best of Horror list), in which a woman looks up at the sky just in time to see a giant hand appear and go left to right, the gesture of a teacher erasing a blackboard. Next thing she knows, her face has sprouted glass.

And her short short “The Ark,” in which Noah is unbelievably cruel to the animals under his care.

And “Sofia,” in which a woman is visited by her great-great-grandfather, to tell her she is . . . (No spoilers here)

And her piece in Witness, about a man who is the last living person on Earth to have actually tasted a mango.

And she has other stories: stories about “breeder” sweaters (Women wear the sweaters to help them conceive) and lonely Cyclops (“I Am Cyclops,” published in Lillian Howan’s Nimbus Cat)

And another about the lost city of Atlantis, discovered 1715 (“Residents of the Deep”)

And another story called “The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles” which is a Power Point presentation on desertification.

And another called “Harvest” in which a young girl’s mother walks around all day dressed in nothing but a mink coat and her best friend vanishes from a field during an insect harvest.

And another called “Eating” in which a girl’s mother forces her to eat and eat and eat until the girl feels she is about to die.

And another called “Appetites” in which a girl sends her nanny off into the wide, wide world to search for a particular delicacy the girl wants to taste (This one’s published on CafĂ© Irreal)

And “Isa,” which is about the last two remaining islands on Earth (published by Rogue Magazine in their Bacolod issue).

And one in which a Fetch appears to a father mourning the loss of his daughter.

And one about a dictator’s Special Research Project (This one’s included in her first collection, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila)

Phew! Too many stories to list.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

An Excellent Happy Place: Bruns Amphitheatre, Orinda

Because of Cal Shakes.


Right behind the stage are the Orinda hills:


Self loves the meadows of feathery, dried brown grass:


The path to the Bruns Amphitheatre is lined with posters from previous years’ productions, including the one for a memorable Romeo and Juliet with Dan Clegg playing Romeo (2013). Self was completely smitten.

That production (2013) had Juliet in floaty dress, heavy boots, and cropped leather jacket. She looked so fine.

The first Cal Shakes’ play self ever saw was another Romeo and Juliet. Romeo was played by Adam Scott.

Cal Shakes’ season starts in June and ends in October. Self associates it with all the things she loves about summer: outdoor theatre, heat, picnics.

Two years ago, when she saw Lady Windermere’s Fan, her friend brought along two bottles of wine and kept pouring until both bottles were empty. Ha! What other theatre will let you do that!

She loves listening to such chestnuts as: “The game’s afoot” (Henry V) or “Ripeness is all.” (King Lear) or “Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more.” (Henry V)

She has seen the following Shakespeare plays: The aforementioned Romeo and Juliet (2 versions); Richard II; Henry V; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; King Lear:

Poster from 2013's Romeo and Juliet

Poster from 2013’s Romeo and Juliet

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Not Your Usual Boundaries

Self likes playing with the concept of boundaries, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

For this post, her examples of BOUNDARIES are:

a Rothko:

Every painting by Rothko is about boundaries.

Every painting by Rothko is about boundaries. Layers are boundaries.

a window. A window is more than just a means of ventilation. It also frames a landscape. It imposes a boundary on the “outside” and turns it into what we think of as quote unquote view:

It's just a window.

A window is not just a window.

a river. Rivers are boundaries. Self took this picture from a bus heading to New York City from New Hampshire, March 2015:

The Last Gasp of the Industrial Age? Hard to believe this was taken just this year.

The Last Gasp of the Industrial Age? Hard to believe this was taken just this year.

Self really loves ruminating on this week’s theme. In honor of the last, an excerpt from a poem called “Coming Into New York,” by John Updike (Who knew he wrote poetry?) in the Oct. 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker:

After Providence, Connecticut —
the green defiant landscape, unrelieved
except by ordered cities, smart and smug,
in spirit villages, too full of life
to be so called, too small to seem sincere.
And then like Death it comes upon us:
the plain of steaming trash, the tinge of brown
that colors now the trees and grass as though
exposed to rays sent from the core of heat–

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Change 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is CHANGE.

The Daily Post includes a quote from Lao Tzu:

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.

Here’s a picture of the Triskel Art Centre in Cork, which was the venue for the Kelly Link/ Heather O’Neill reading last Thursday, during the Cork International Short Story Festival. It used to be a church, and they kept the wooden pews:

Triskel Christchurch, Cork

Triskel Christchurch, Cork

Another event self attended was the launch of a new literary journal, Banshee, edited by three intrepid young women: Laura Jane Cassidy, Claire Hennessy, and Eimear Ryan:

Below, Issue # 1:

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Finally, a sign on the wall of the Galway Train Station. NIIICE! Trains represent movement, movement represents change:

Galway Train Station

Galway Train Station

Funny, in the States, self has grown used to associating the color red with STOP signs.

Here in the UK, she’s seen red phone booths, red sofas, red walls, red sneakers, red sweaters, and now this sign in a train station.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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