Reading: NECESSARY FICTION

“When the shells hit the zoo five-hundred exotic species spurted like awkward pollen and scattered all across the tan streets and plumbing-covered roofs of Baghdad. The leopards ran for the Tigris. An elephant wandered into the middle of the intersection where I sat in the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, praying to the satellite gods to show me the way to a checkpoint that appeared on the intel photo but didn’t seem to exist in reality. Getting lost had been my greatest fear since leaving Kuwait.”

— “Third Order Effects,” a piece by James Stegall (Read the rest of it on the Necessary Fiction site, here)

“Ice”: Self’s Story, Forthcoming From Bellingham Review

It’s the future. Nothing survives:

Sunlight, shadows, wind. Strangely, no birds.

Out there, ice caps, cold as knives.

Steam from her mouth, his mouth, none from the boy who lay between them. She cradling the boy’s face but he knowing what.

She knowing what but not able to bear it.

DSCN9509

2016 AWP Bookfair, Los Angeles Convention Center

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Magellan’s Mirror/ Vanquisher: First Lines

Self’s story “Magellan’s Mirror” opens with:

  • The crew encountered the giant during the winter months they sheltered in Port San Julian.

Thanks to the editors of J Journal for publishing this story and nominating it for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.

Self is just putting the finishing touches on the sequel, “Vanquisher,” which takes place half a century later, and from the point of view of the giants:

  • We were blinded by the beauty of his armor, his carapace of gold. — Testimony of Dansulan, Islander, Last Known Giant

Stay tuned.

WIP: The Return to the Ocean, A Fable Set in The Future

All life emerged from the ocean.

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And that’s where we’re going again. When the air around us gets too filthy to breathe.

In a dystopian, far far far future, this conversation takes place:

We’re going under.

When?

Today.

Just like that.

Yes.

Well, I need a little more time to select.

Select?

Yeah. What do you think?

Everything you need is down there.

You’re talking about under.

That’s what I’m saying, yes.

That down there, humans like us can live.

Yes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Tell, Tell, Tell a Story

FirstCausesImage

Spooky, right? Did a little fiddling with Photo Booth yesterday and — VOILA!

From self’s story “First Causes” (Work-in-progress):

On a dying Earth, one of the last human colonies struggles on in the Philippines . . . And if the language doesn’t sound even the slightest bit Filipino, it’s because this is the far far future, and no one knows what we’ll be talking like, for crying out loud.

The main character’s named Dragon, and his Friends With Benefits, Her (That really is her name: Her) had an unfortunate run-in with Big, a classmate. She was dragged out of the classroom, and now Dragon finds himself the butt of jokes in front of the teacher, Fire Lizard (who really is a lizard. Or will soon become one. Strontium 90 and etc. Anyhoo)

“Dragon’s milky-brained cause of Her,” Big tells Fire Lizard. “He craves Her. Like poison.”

“Fallacy!” I cry.

“Change is difficult,” Fire Lizard says, for the first time looking at me with sympathy. “Disruptive. Care for a memory wipe? A yellow pill?”

Self loves her little Dragon to death.

What will become of him?

Who knows?

Stay tuned.

 

Allison Joseph, Crab Orchard Review Panel, AWP 2016

One of the thrills of 2016 AWP in Los Angeles was participating in a Crab Orchard Review panel on the West Coast & Beyond Issue.

That issue was the final volume in a series that focused on different regions of America (Geography = destiny. At least, self wholeheartedly believes so).

Self read last, from her story “Crackers.” It’s about an American who goes AWOL in the “wild mountain fastness of the Philippines,” acquires three wives and fathers 27 children. As self was reading at the panel, she found herself less nervous than she expected to be. Hallelujah!

Afterwards, sighing with relief that she didn’t make too many out-and-out gaffes (such as mis-pronouncing words, which is the trouble with writing stories filled with words one normally doesn’t utter during conversation), self happened to mention to someone in the audience that she’d tried for a long time to get into Crab Orchard Review, and she was so proud to have actually made it. Allison Joseph said, without missing a beat, “Because we were waiting for that story.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP “Oceans” Part 2

The world up there was dying, and had been dying a long time. The air was dark and had a gritty taste; the soil reeked of chemicals. The winds blew unhampered over land that had been bare of forests for a long time.

The sphere creaked slowly into the ocean.

***************

A family that’s one of the last hold-outs on the surface finally makes the decision to undertake the descent into the ocean. They don’t know what they’ll find, and the father is sort of inept (Not everyone in the dystopian future is smart!). He builds a sphere. The family does test runs, immersing the sphere for incrementally longer periods in the ocean. The mother gets attacks of claustrophobia and hysteria. Will the family survive?

Worse is their fear of the unknown. The Bottom Dwelling Humans have evolved and have very little in common with the Surface Dwellers. The Bottom Dwellers have evolved fish-like gills. Their rarely used vocal chords are withering.

(To be continued)

WIP: “Oceans”

They’d been preparing for this day for centuries. The day when all remaining humankind must live permanently beneath the ocean waves.

Finally, when it became too painful to breathe the air any longer, the last remaining human colonies began to send pioneers into the deep.

* ****

Why oh why. Are all of self’s writings. So apocalyptic.

She’s always had a deep fascination with oceans, however. Always.

Stay tuned.

 

Ivan Ilyich and the Servants

Dying is not a peaceful process. Ivan Ilyich’s mind is full of anguish and despair. His most meaningful interactions, during the last few days of his life, are with the servants. His wife sleeps in their bedroom. There is a basic incompatibility in this marriage, and after reading Tolstoy’s short story self thinks there is nothing more awful than being sick when one is surrounded by an indifferent family.

About the wife:

“Everything she did for him she did only for herself, and she said to him that she was doing for herself that which she was in fact doing for herself, as if it was such an incredible thing that he woud have to handle it inversely.”

“His daughter comes in to see him, just before she, her mother, and her fiancĂ©e leave for the theatre. She comes “all dressed up . . . Strong, healthy, obviously in love, and indignant at the illness, suffering, and death that interfered with her happiness.”

Ivan Ilyich is afraid to be alone.

The servant, Pyotr, has left him to get some tea.

“Ivan Ilyich, left alone, moaned not so much from pain, terrible though it was, as from anguish.”

Ivan Ilyich wishes that the process of dying could end sooner. But in the next moment:

“No, no. Anything’s better than death!”

How in the world can self get past the death of Ivan Ilyich?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Bureaucrat Ivan Ilyich Learns He Must Die

Ivan Ilyich was a man who derived the greatest pleasure in life from routine: the routine of work, mostly.

He didn’t know he was dying until his colleagues began to have strange expressions on their faces as they interacted with him. Some of them looked shocked, some of them looked pitying.

One day, he closeted himself in his bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror, and could deny it no longer: he did indeed have the look of a man who was suffering from a grave illness. In fact, he was dying.

p. 71 of the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage)

  • Lately Ivan Ilyich had spent most of his time in these attempts to restore the former ways of feeling that had screened him from death. He would say to himself: “I’ll busy myself with work — why, I used to live by it.” And he would go to court, driving away all doubts; he would get into conversation with colleagues and sit down, by old habit absentmindedly, pensively glancing around at the crowd and placing his two emaciated arms on the armrests of the oaken chair, leaning over as usual to a colleague, drawing a brief towards him, exchanging whispers, and then, suddenly raising his eyes and sitting up straight, would pronounce certain words and begin the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of it the pain in his side, paying no attention to the stage the proceedings, would begin its own gnawing work.

And reading this reminds self all over again about Ying, who died in 2008, less than a year after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

She was worried because one of her maids — the nursemaid of Ying’s newborn daughter, Anita — had a persistent cough. Ying decided to have her tested for tuberculosis. Since her maid was being tested, Ying thought she might as well have herself tested, too. And that’s how they found she had leukemia.

Ying died in Tel Aviv on her 37th birthday. And never ever did self hear a word of complaint from her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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