Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall 2011 Equinox Coast

Mark said we should go camping.

We went to Cape Perpetua.

Cook's Chasm is near Cape Perpetua.

Captain Cook sailed here in 1776.

The tide was high when I took these pictures.

There was a lot of foam on the waves. It was windy, too - so the foam would blow off the top of the waves. Which was a little gross.

The previous day, we'd stopped by about two hours after high tide. The waves were off, or so the Park Ranger said, and so the spout didn't spout.

You still had to watch out for sneaker waves, though.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lessons from Critique

I recently put two stories, back-to-back, through the Wordos critique table. One is a near-future science fiction short story and the other is set about one hundred fifty years in the future.

What struck me about the process this time is how I (sometime fail to) balance world-building between setting description. What the table told me about one of the stories was that I was using too much exposition to describe the future society's terms of kinship. One analogous example would be if I were writing a century ago and spent a few pages describing the intricacies of an oil change station. We're really used to the idea of engines and oil and gasoline, but how would you write about it to people used to horses and carriages? In any case, the draft of that story is probably a "Wikipedia story" that is slightly exhausting to read.

This leads me to the other story, which had a "Dictionary of Obscure Usage" passage. This is a problem I have because I'm a word geek, so I like to use obscure words, words' tertiary meanings, and awkward phrases because they have special (humorous) meaning to me. During a Twitter exchange about vocabulary, it was suggested that I may be writing old school science fiction, which was more puzzle-oriented.

The most important thing I learned from the critiques was that I needed the reminder that authors don't go out of their way to confuse readers (usually), and even a confused critiquer has something useful to say (um, usually).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheep on My Head

The dream took place in a combination of the hill where I grew up and the Monroe Park neighborhood where Mark and I used to live. I've a disjointed memory of the sequence, but I think it went like this.

There was something about Kelly KMHK Ducat coming to a college, which was simultaneously Corvallis and some place like Sisters, Oregon. Although the city was on a narrow green ridge, the college was Oregon State University. There was something about helping a guy find a job while a bunch of us sat in a large wooden bar / REI.

There was a shift.

Mark and I were living in a smallish house in Eugene. There was an animal pen in the yard, with a horse, some sheep, and I think a goat. I remember the inside of the house was dark, and it reminds me in waking of the old house we rented. Sarah, our old landlady appeared at one point to say hi and perform some sort of maintenance task involving moving the animal pens around to consolidate them.

I think there were gunshots in the distance. There was a radio broadcast warning residents to stay inside, and something about the gunshots being from only one gunman.

There was another shift. I was walking around on top of the hill where I grew up. I had one of the sheep on my head. I remember recalling a college in-joke that was a riff on a Bette Midler routine: "Oh God, don't let me wake up in the morning and want to put a sheep on my head." I don't remember exactly why I had a sheep on my head. It was a pretty big sheep, but I didn't feel that it was heavy. Its stomach rested on the top of my head, and its legs draped down on either side of my shoulders. I think Mark and I had a dog (not Pickles the beagle), and the dog was frisking about, too. I'm not sure where Mark had gotten to.

After wandering about for some time, the sheep became restless. It sensed something calling it from over the hill. I let it off my head, and watched it and the dog bound away, up and over the crest of the hill... and I woke up.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dreams of Dreaming

I dreamed Mark and I were on a hike in the coastal or cascade mountians.  It was a sunny day, and we were following a large creek or small river as it cascaded over medium sized boulders.  Oaks and maples and other decidious trees lined both sides of the stream's banks.  It wasn't cold, but I have a vague sense that there was ice on the river, or at least an image of thick ice.

The river went underground, and Mark and I followed it.  At first the tunnel was rough and rocky, with basalt boulders in the middle of the water and rising up around and over us.  But slowly I noticed concrete here and there, and then we came to a chamber which was mostly concrete with textured gravel embedded in it.  It was darker, but not pitch black; there must of been lights somewhere, because the sunlight coming through some clerestory windows wasn't enough.  The sound of the river reflected off of the rocks and concrete.  A tile compass set into the concrete floor showed which way was north.

We were in some kind of park ranger station.  Through a window, I saw a stone turret or observatory sitting on the top of the structure.

There was a dream-shift, and suddenly we were at someone's parent's psychometric lab.  I didn't catch anyone's names; the son was twenty-something.  The building stayed more or less the same, except now it was a laboratory for measuring brain activity.  In the middle of the room stood a large (think two vans parked side-by-side), silver, gourd-shaped, curved sort of diving-bell thing.  Voluneneers, who I think had been other hikers from earlier in the dream, entered the dream bell (what I've just now decided to call it), laid down, and two paper-back book sized metal boxes mounted on the inside measured your brain waves and made pictures.  Either the interior or lights on the boxes were dark green.

At one point, I was visiting with Professor Mom while she collected data.  On a screen, we saw people's hypnogogic imagery.  Someone turned into a star fish, which then got eaten by some other sea invertebrate.  I started singing, "Looking out on city streets / all she can see..."  and Professor Mom joined in while green-hued images unfolded before us "... are the dreams made solid / are the dreams made real / all of the buildings, all of the cars / were once just a dream in somebody's head / she pictures the broken glass / she pictures the steam / she pictures a soul / with no leak at the seam."  It was a bonding moment.

I think I woke up momentarily.  In any case, there was another dream shift.

I was on a campus.  The tone of this dream was more anxiety-driven, as I was supposed to be going on a field-trip to Portland and the instructor -- possibly Professor Dad from the earlier dream or maybe a new, different instructor --  of the class hadn't really arranged it and I was supposed to take a take-home test for the same instructor, but I didn't know how long it would take.  And, I had agreed to show up in the Professor's lab to be a subject for more nueroimaging. 

There was some sexual tension, too; Mr. Professor had a necktie with a spear-wielding centaur on it.  The lines of the centaur were green-black, with artistic use of line length.  But the necktie was also a tattoo on his chest.  His tie at times was skin colored and part of his body (Oh, dear -- I'm thinking Freud would love this...).

The narrative of the dream gets a little muddled here.  There was something about wanting to share a funny dream about Laurie Anderson with people, but not remembering what was so funny about it.  At one point I gathered up some folks for the experiment, the only person I remember was a high school friend named Linda Claypool, who I haven't seen since the 1980's (although we see each other on Facebook).   We follow-the-leadered back to the lab and then got ready for the experiment.

This kind of hurt because they pinned electrodes to my head.  I also had some on my palms and a few on my spine.  There's not too much more to the dream except I had the curious sensation of sitting in the lab, electrodes on my head and hands, as a kind of demonstration for the other students and being aware that I was also dreaming in my real bed.  A lab assistant said, "His hands are growing lax."  My dram right hand was hanging down below the lab chair.  My right hand was also was curled by my face, close enough to feel my breath.  "He's entering stage two sleep."  And I felt my real breath go in.  And out.  And in.  And out....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

We join the dream in progress...

I was part of a four or five-man expedition.  I was a 17th century explorer, possibly from England.  I seem to recall that we were dressed in furs, like early fur-trappers.   I think it was early spring; in any case it was dry and cold.

We were in a partially explored valley, where we had discovered a mostly deserted village.  The houses of the village were brown wood cabins raised up on stilts or, in one case, a stone foundation.  We crept slowly through the village, wondering (and dreading) if we would find anyone.  (In waking life, the houses were in too good of repair for them to have been empty for longer than a month or two.)  There was a sense that we might be walking into an ambush.

We walked up the steps of a stone foundation to one house, and discovered a family of natives: a husband, wife, and at least one teen.  They were dressed in red and brown clothes.  I want to say their clothes were made of wool; pants,  pull-over shirt, moccosans, and vests.  

We gathered from them that they were not the regular residents of the village, and that they were just now leaving.

I really had to pee, and I entered the house looking for the bathroom.  (Which now that I'm thinking about it in real life, should have been either an outhouse or a garderobe).  I turned around a bare corner intent on finding a place to pee and stumbled across one of the true natives of the village darting behind a kind of secret panel.

Pretty much the whole village had retreated somehow into the foundation of the house.  The villagers wore rough furs, and seemed more primitive than the other folks we'd found.  "Here are real cave-men," someone exclaimed.  We were very excited at the discovery of this group of people.

There was a little bit more, which I don't quite remember, but the gist was that different neighboring tribes sent their children to this village to be trained to lead.  Or something.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Free Dead Peacock

We join the dream in progress...

I was walking through a field west of 35th Street in Corvallis.  The grass was long and golden.  I think I may have been walking from my parent's house to Church.  (In the 1980's I used to bike along a path running through the field.)  The day was bright, but neither hot nor cold.  I have a vague recollection that there were cows or goats or some other kind of cattle in the field.

As I was walking, I was on a rough path which ran along some briars.  In the middle of the path was a dead peacock, with a little sign:  "Free Dead Peacock."  The peacock must not have been dead long, because it still looked pretty good.  I was weighing the merits of pulling feathers out of it -- I was (suddenly) wearing my new purple Venician scholar's cap, and a bunch of peacock feathers would look really good in its brim.  On the other hand, it was kind of gruesome to pull feathers out of a dead peacock just lying there in the middle of a path -- even if it did had a sign announcing its availability. 

I decided to leave the peacock body alone.  At that point, the peacock started breathing.  It wasn't dead after all.  It pulled itself up and started walking about the field.  Where it had been, it had left behind one peacock feather.  I had a very strong sense that this was my reward for my choice.

I think there was more after this, possibly taking place in the church, but I've forgotten it.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sermon on Evil

Stephanie, a friend of mine, gave this sermon in Second Life. I wasn't able to be in-world to hear her, and I wish I had. The title pretty much sums up the topic:

UUtopia Service and Sermon 9/8/2011 - Positive Thinking and The Law of Attraction: How They Are Used to Oppress Individuals and Perpetuate Evil

I guess the Power of Wishful Thinking Errors is everywhere.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Weekend 2011

This weekend has been a writing one.  I've managed to finish up two manuscripts which needed endings.  I am hopeful that September (at least after Shrewsbury) will be a month where I can be more disciplined with my writing -- my writing muscles have gotten flabby. 

My night-time reading has been "Tales of the Dying Earth."  I can't say that I'm enjoying it much.  It is entertaining to learn where the term "prismatic spray" came from.  And it's supposed to be one of those genre classics.  But man is it pulpy.

I can't tell if it's misogynist or if everyone is treated like a sexual commodity; I think it's supposed to be titillating.  The fight and torture scenes are just icky.  As near as I can tell, everyone in this world is wearing either A) boots and a cape, B) metal bracelets, C) a leather harness, or D) nothing.  It's like The Dying Earth is some sort of BDSM party... and suddenly, the Heavy Metal magazine springs to mind. 

In terms of character, so far we have Powerful Male Techno-Wizards, these can be good, evil, or insane; a cast of animal-men and demons acting as an id chorus; and women, mostly decanted from vats -- the ones not decanted seem to be beautifully evil seductresses or old and ugly.

One thing I could say for "Tales" is that it could win an award for baroque language.  All of the excesses are described in lavish, poly-syllabic detail.

I think I'll jump ahead to "Rhialto the Marvelous", which was written in 1983 (instead of 1950) and might have, uh, less pulp.