Poem: Canyon Fodder

Have you seen the end of your life?
I walked up to the edge
Toed it
A little girl floated up out of the mist
Velvety in the depth-less canyon
Her auburn hair was tied in a yellow ribbon
That matched her gleaming cat eyes
“I thought this was the end,” I said
She shook her head and smiled a shark’s smile
“You’ve still got miles to grow,” she said
And her voice tinkled
Like the wind chimes
Some masochist bought my wife for our wedding
I hate those things
“You’re standing on air,” I noted
“Aren’t we all?” she waxed philosophical
“Am I dead?”
“Teetering. You wouldn’t be worth anything if you were.”
Her smile surfaced again
And I could not look in her eyes
For they were hungry
And I knew I was the meal
Instead, I looked beyond her at the light
Dancing in the distance
Aurora Borealis on steroids
She followed my gaze
“But you can’t go there,” she purred
“That’s for the special souls.”
I pouted. “Some people say I’m special.”
She shrugged, “Everybody makes mistakes.”
I took a deep breath to shout defiance at her
And gagged on the sulfur
Rank in the air around the canyon
Desperate, I looked left and right
The chasm went on beyond my seeing in both directions
“What are my choices?” I gasped. “This can’t be my end.”
She licked her ruby lips, “Every end is a new beginning,
“I read that on a greeting card once.
“A carcass becomes a flower.
“Take my hand and we’ll float down together.”

Have you seen the end of your life?
I longed for mine, watching ribbons of pale purple,
Russet red and gentle blue light
Dance in the beyond place I could not go
I took her hand
She tugged the yellow ribbon out of her hair
And noosed it around my neck

I woke on the floor
Wind chimes tickling my ears
A lying liar who lies
Here awaiting my instructions

Saberhagen’s First Book of Swords

Just finished the First Book of Swords and it blew me away. I experienced one of those moments as a fantasy reader where I grew depressed that I hadn’t read the book sooner.

Saberhagen is a virtuoso. He plucks some of the typical fantasy trope strings as the story rolls along – “oh look, a young boy on a quest” – but just when you think you’ve got the melody figured out, he takes you in a wholly new different melodic direction – “the goal you thought the boy was setting out to achieve isn’t what you think it is.” Saberhagen plays with ambiguity. A pantheon of Greek-ish gods are involved. Vulcan, for example, crafts the twelve swords that bedevil the characters in this book. But the gods seem to be playing games. And other, older, deities get involved who feel compassion for the humans caught up in, what can best be termed, heaven-induced shenanigans.

Let me sprinkle out a little dusting of the plot. Mark is the “boy with the goal.” He’s from a remote village. His father (really his cuckold father but only Mark’s mother knows this) has a magic sword he helped the god Vulcan make years before. The powers-that-be want that sword, and the book opens with a battle royal, where the sword falls into the hands of Mark’s older brother, who dies in the melee. Mark takes up the sword and escapes the village. So far, so normal fantasy fiction, right?

Not quite. Here’s what I like about the book, and it starts right from the get go. The swords are not above killing the people who wield them. Think the One Ring from Lord of the Rings combined with Excalibur. They have minds of their own, and they are using their “owners” far more than the owners are using them. Actually, it makes me think about the joke with cat “owners.” The cats actually think they’re in charge. Same thing with the swords.

Saberhagen also keeps the happenings happening. This is not a book for lollygagging. Mark no sooner sets out on his own, then the powerful local duke (who might or might not be his father) is after the sword. His agents trap Mark and he’s only saved by a roving band of dragon hunters who have a magical sword of their own that specializes in, you guessed it, slaying dragons. It’s all fun, and the characters are grounded in reality.

Also, unlike some of the other serious fantasy writers out there, Saberhagen isn’t scared to include some humor. There’s a bit about a nobleman wanting to convert prisoners by educating them that is very deftly handled. His is a doomed mission (the prisoner betrays him as soon as he escapes) but the nobleman thinks its a worthy cause no matter what. And that endears you to him even as you chuckle at his futility.

I mentioned the book isn’t like others. Part of that is the quest being skewed. The other part is the final battle sequence. The good guys lose (they get trounced actually) and the main characters limp away in the dark to fight another day. You don’t hate them for it. Far from it. There was nothing they could do. But definitely isn’t the main character striding out in a sword and sandals fantasy to slay the hordes by the…horde.

So, I say, give it a read, give it a chance. I loved it. Maximum stars. I’ve already moved on to the second book and I’m a confirmed Saberhagen fan.

Quick Reviews: Halloween Horror Movie Fest

2018 Challenge: Watch one scary movie a night in the week leading up to Halloween.

Challenge accepted. My friends from Phoenix came to town, ready to join me in my quest. These aren’t just any friends; these are hardened scary movie veterans ready to face down all the monsters, demons, oogly-booglies and what have you’s the cinema has to throw at us. We accepted the challenge with gusto. What fright-films filled the bill? Hereditary, The Changeling, The Thing, The Witch,  A Quiet Place, and Bog. Read on to find out how that went. (Some spoilers so beware). Continue reading “Quick Reviews: Halloween Horror Movie Fest”

Inferno – Mike Resnick

A quick book review for you of Mike Resnick’s lightning-quick read, Inferno. In a nutshell, this book functions as a ringing endorsement of Star Trek’s prime directive, where you’re not supposed to interfere with an alien species. Personally, I never really got the “prime directive.” Why are Kirk, Picard, and the rest of the capitans tooling around the universe exploring, boldly going, if they’re never supposed to get involved. I guess it created tension for the series. Continue reading “Inferno – Mike Resnick”

Reviews: Suldrun’s Garden and The Demon Princes

Talk about hidden treasures! In the last few months I’ve read two works by the late great Jack Vance. These are the kind of books I kick myself for reading – because I haven’t read them sooner.

Let’s start off with some general discussion about the author. This is a guy who knows how to be spare when he needs to be spare, florid when he needs to be florid. He knows how much characterization someone needs and how the character is serving the story’s purpose. I mean, someone who writes, there are moments when you’re reading Vance and you think – ok, this is how it’s done. This is what I should be striving for. He’s so deft. He can build a world in a page and half and it is as real as anything the fantasy writers take pages and pages to develop. But let’s get to the specifics. Continue reading “Reviews: Suldrun’s Garden and The Demon Princes”

The long walk

The cycle of your life is reflected in walking. When we begin life, walking is impossible. Almost a year passes and we’re ready to give it a go. My sister has a young son at this age now, and though he’s built to fall, she agonizes every time he totters and collapses. But she need not worry. Our learning to walk accelerates quickly, we become proficient so fast, it’s a little mindboggling. Continue reading “The long walk”

Pluses and minuses

I’ve written before about how I’ve become more choosy in my old age when it comes to writing. If something doesn’t grab my attention early, I will quit it. Books I have quit because they don’t grab me include:

  • Wait, that would be mean I need to list them.
  • Mid-post I’m rethinking that strategy.
  • I’d rather be a Positive Paul than a Negative Ned

So, instead of dwelling on the books where I said “I’ve got to quit you,” here are some books that kept my attention recently: Continue reading “Pluses and minuses”