Excerpt: First Causes (Quarterly West # 89)

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted a question to the Asian American writing community: share your 2018 achievements. Self’s response began with: “I am an experimental science fiction writer.” Which she’s sure had people scratching their heads.

To explain what she meant by “experimental science fiction writer”, here’s an excerpt from a story that Quarterly West published in Issue #89. The story takes place in a classroom of the future. The narrator is a boy named Dragon who is NOT a dragon. The professor, who really IS turning into a lizard, is named Fire Lizard. The other characters are Drinker, Knot, and Big. Big’s just gone missing.

Drinker says, low, “Big passed.”

I answer: “Fucker. Big’s not Big. He’s Big XXX. Mark it.” I slash three quick XXX’s across my screen. Knot looks to the side quickly, then glances down.

“The All-Powerful, the Everlasting,” I start to sing, lowly.

Drinker shudders, pulls slightly out of his seat.

“You!” Fire Lizard screams, pointing at Drinker. “What’s your issue?”

“Obscure,” Drinker mutters.

Fire Lizard’s eyes seem to bug out of his head. “Who remembers rain?” he shouts. “Last rain? Who remembers?”

I hold up my hand. “Ghost of,” I say. “243 days since.”

Self would like to take this opportunity to express her gratitude to Quarterly West for taking a chance and accepting this story. It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s not easy to understand. But did she ever have fun writing it.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Top Three Reads of 2018

How did self end up selecting these three?

The books may have been far from perfect — self thinks, in particular, of the first two — but they were the books she found herself re-reading, despite their flaws:

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  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach: Bravo, Dolan-Leach. Self has not been able to dislodge the dysfunctional Antipova twins and their yummy boy toy, Wyatt Darling, from her thoughts since she read this, Dolan-Leach’s first novel, mid-November.
  • Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz: Beat out a host of other science fiction self read this year, including All Systems Red, Book 1 of The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells; and Jade City, by Fonda Lee. The book lived because of a character named Threezed.
  • The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman: Vol. 2 of His Dark Materials killed self in every way. If not exactly perfect, it was close. Will Parry forever. The book did such a number on her that she went to Oxford to see Will and Lyra’s bench, in the Oxford Botanical Garden.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Still Reading THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE

Haven’t reached the dog point-of-view chapters yet. When self does, that may very well spell The End. But David Wroblewski’s writing style is quite lyrical. And very spare. For the first time in her life, self understands that a dog obssession may not be the worst thing to spend a week reading about. Who knows. She’s still on the fence about dog point-of-view.

To help her along, she re-reads wicked letters from Zelda Her Malevolence in Caite Dolan-Leach’s over-the-top but strangely magnetic novel, Dead Letters. (What Follows Is Not Really a Spoiler, Since Zelda Could Just Be Pretending To Be Dead) To show you how fabulous this Zelda is, her funeral photo (selected by her father) shows her in a see-through caftan, an image of pure, feral Untameability. Picture of course taken by her strait-laced sister, the one whose boyfriend she stole. Do you see how over-the-top this novel is? Why isn’t it set in some British stiff-upper-lip society drawing room?

When self started this trip, she thought she’d be unloading books as quickly as she went, leaving them behind after she’d done reading them. But oops, she found herself wanting to re-read Emma (Jane Austen). Then Autonomous (Annalee Newitz). Then All Systems Red (Martha Wells). And now, Dead Letters.

What. Is. Going. On.

Stay tuned.

Currently Reading: DEAD LETTERS

Self finished All Systems Red two days ago, which marked the end of her science fiction cycle and the beginning of a mysteries/thrillers cycle. She’s currently reading Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach, which is full-on family angst, involving twins. Talk about upping the ante.

She likes clustering her reading — sometimes by genre, sometimes by author.

For a few years, she read only books by women.

Another few years, she read only memoirs.

Another few years, she read only travel books.

Another few years, she read only books by African American writers.

One summer, she read only Henning Mankell.

There was a period of reading just history books.

And so forth.

For 2018, she read mostly novels. But these ranged from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to science fiction. She adored reading science fiction, which she hadn’t done in a while. She read The Hunger Games, sure — but they don’t really count as science fiction, do they?

Anyhoo, she is sorry to let the science fiction genre go. It’s probably the most rapidly expanding literary genre at present. And, because in August she attended a talk by George R. R. Martin in Redwood City’s Fox, and picked up a few copies of Oakland-based Locus Magazine, her attention was immediately captured by an announcement of the World Fantasy Awards. One of her newly discovered favorite authors, Fonda Lee, whose Jade City self just finished reading, was a co-winner with Victor LaValle for Best Novel (Yay, Fonda Lee!)

They even had a category for Best Short Story, for which Fonda Lee was a finalist.

And there was also a category for Best Artist (Winner: Gregory Manchess). She really enjoyed looking up the finalists art.

Now, back to her reading/writing.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Quote of the Day: ALL SYSTEMS RED

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  • And what was I supposed to do? Go off on this empty planet and just live until my power cells died? If I was going to do that, I should have planned better and downloaded more entertainment media.

— Murderbot, All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Love Murderbot!

All Systems Red, p. 19:

It’s been a hectic day. Murderbot had to rescue two humans from the clutches of a monster that resides in a crater, seriously injuring himself in the process.

Murderbot doesn’t care that he is injured, though. All he wants is to be alone in his cell so he can resume his video.

Finally he is alone in his cell!

  • So I set all the security feeds to alert me if anything tried to eat the habitat and started to call up the supply of media I’d downloaded from the entertainment feed. I hurt too much to pay attention to anything with a story, but the friendly noise would keep me company.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

ALL SYSTEMS RED, p.32

Murderbot just saved two humans on his team from being eaten by a monster that lived in a crater.

The whole crew tries to be kind, but Murderbot is in a hurry to get away so he can continue watching vid in his room.

Mensah (the Leader of the Crew): Try to pinpoint any missing information. When we have a partial list, I’ll call DeltFall and see if they can send us the files.

Murderbot Interior Monologue: That sounds like a great plan, in that it didn’t involve me.

Murderbot (out loud): Dr. Mensah, do you need me for anything else?

lol

Stay tuned.

New Book: ALL SYSTEMS RED, by Martha Wells

With this book, the 33rd on her 2018 Reading List, self has exceeded her Goodreads Reading Challenge (32 books). YES! 2018 so LIT!

Next year, self will up her goal to 33 books.

Opening paragraph:

  • I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

lol

Really liked Autonomous (finished last night) except for the torture scenes.

Next up:

  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
  • Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Paladin Tries Social Interaction With a Humint In a Bar

Autonomous, p. 147:

After ordering tea, the man slouched so far over the bar that Paladin could see a pale stripe of skin showing above the waistband of his pants. It was time to try his opening gambit. Offer a piece of personal information, and humans will be sure to offer some of their own.

“I have never been here before, and it is not what I expected,” Paladin vocalized, turning his torso and face towards the man, who looked up with an expression of vague surprise. He hadn’t expected anyone to talk to him, least of all a giant robot.

lol

lol everywhere.

Stay tuned.

Robot Wants To Learn About Humint Sexual Practices: AUTONOMOUS, P. 96

Paladin. Is. An. Adorable. Robot.

Makes a pass (unprogrammed!) at his human handler, Eliasz, in a very subtle way, which does not fool Eliasz, not one bit.

Trigger Warning: Homophobia

Paladin: Some of the robots said they were learning about human sexuality. Do you think military robots need to do that?

Eliasz (Flushing): I don’t know anything about that. I’m not a faggot.

Paladin begins searching his database for uses of the word “faggot.”

He is so absorbed that even in defensive mode (activated because of an attack), 20% of his mind is still pre-occupied with searches for the word. So while shooting people in the face, data comes in and “he could start to build a taxonomy. Each use of ‘faggot’ could be categorized, and he began assigning them to subcategories.”

lol

Stay tuned.

 

 

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