A Fairy Tale

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes an...

An otherwise intelligent friend who tends to read about this sort of thing a lot forwarded me this link about “The Law of Attraction” (ala The Secret). After I delivered a somewhat immoderate blast about the nature of reality and how consciousness, while certainly a mystery and all that, is misplaced in this sort of discussion, he asked me to pretend he was my 4-year-old and to tell him a “bedtime story” that represents my idea about “the universe.” This is how I obliged. I’m not sure he got the allegory, but I thought it was rather obvious.

Once upon a time there was a young prince who went out into the woods to find some treasure. He walked around for hours and days and months, but he couldn’t find any. Then, he went to a wizard. The wizard told him: “If you want to find treasure, you must first learn how to search for it properly.

And the prince stayed with the wizard for 7 years and 7 months and 7 days and read a lot of books and thought about a lot of things and the wizard taught the prince how to tell when he was close to treasure. He also taught the prince how sometimes, even if he thinks he’s close to treasure, he isn’t, really. And sometimes even if he’s really sure he’s right, he should still think about all the things the wizard taught him to make sure, and if they didn’t agree, he should be really, really sure before he ignores what the wizard said.

And then the prince went out and searched for years and years. Finally, he did find some treasure, but it was a lot less than he had hoped for, and he was disappointed. But along the way he found a princess and found out a lot of cool things, and had a lot of fun. So he was still happy that he had gone out to find the treasure instead of sitting around in the castle all day.

In the end, he and the princess took the treasure and went back to the palace and lived happily ever after.

(In another version of this story he finds a lot of treasure. In another version a bandit kills him before he meets the wizard at all. In another version the prince is gay.)

I should add that I find the basic argument of the article (positive thoughts seem to help, so regardless of whether the mumbo-jumbo is true or not, why not try heeding the advice?) more or less sound. The immoderation was provoked by the other parts of the article and how the author makes a feeble attempt at “science”, and the discussion was more a continuation of similar discussions we have had before. Also, the many-worlds hypothesis, which apparently this guy has never heard of.

PS: This quote from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is one of my absolute favourites.

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Is This Funny?

The ending is actually borrowed from this thread on reddit: I got stuck and took the easy way out. I’ll be submitting this along with this and that explanation, which I’m finding really painful to write. Not so much in that I don’t know what to say about the stories, just that I feel like I’m killing them with every key I press. I wrote a little bit of a couple of other stories, but I ultimately just went with this because I kept getting stuck and this was so much easier to finish.

The End is Near

“The End is Near!” shouted the grubby old man on the street corner.

“A little late, aren’t you?” I muttered as I walked past. The streets were already emptying out- so strange, for 4 o clock on a Wednesday. Of course, most people were already where they wanted to be. They had sent off everyone that “mattered” to the shelters- all that was left was a society of beauticians and real-estate agents, the crummy ones who couldn’t shovel up enough to save themselves. Which was almost everyone. I was doing fine, of course. Only the churches had better returns these days than the entertainment industry. After we were given our timeline – a year for impact – those who couldn’t buy their way into a shelter were either frantically trying to buy their way into heaven, or spend it all as quickly as possible, before it became worthless. A few of my friends had joined the faith brigade, but the rest of us are doing fine with just the beer light to guide us.

Most people who could afford to quit their jobs had already done so- for the rest of us it was just a question of figuring out how much we wanted to blow out before we got blown up. I only quit yesterday, after Nicky told me that if I waited too long I’d have nothing to spend it on and besides, wasn’t sex easy to come by in a world where a billion teenagers just wanted to make sure they didn’t die virgins? What would I rather die doing, anyway?

I wonder if the people with families have it better or worse. I’m pretty sure kids can only make it worse. How do you explain to a kid that he’ll never be tall enough to go on that ride?

The Christians are giving out scary comic books in the schools now, and no one dares to say anything. I hear there’s some farmer’s cooperative trying to build their own shelters out in the country. Just holes in the ground, of course- if that was enough then it would be the moles that inherit the earth. But I figured, maybe I should find them anyway.

A bunch of us decided to throw the mother of all parties to celebrate. We got every bit of premium everything that we could round up at short notice-you know the first law that stopped being enforced after enough cops quit? The ban on recreational drugs. Addiction is much less of a worry when you don’t have a future to wreck- and we invited just about everybody we could still find. We rented out the entire penthouse floor of the finest hotel in the city, by which I mean we took it over and hooked up a generator so we could have some electricity. All the girls were pretty and all the guys tried very hard to keep up. The timing was perfect. The party was a huge success. Our friends invited their friends, who invited their friends, and so on. Even the copious quantities of alcohol that we had stocked up didn’t suffice. The line for the cocktails ran right across the room. The meteorite dominated the glass ceiling now, and with a pretty girl on my arms, all I needed was something to wet these dry, tired lips. I decided to try something non-alcoholic, for a change. And thank God, there was no punch line.

Sleepy Writing

Findecano Coamenel was walking down the street when he looked down and realized that something just didn’t feel right. Why was he wearing green felt? Elves aren’t supposed to look like leprachauns! Stupid movies. When he saw Olo Bumbleroot approaching, he searched his pockets for a phone so he could pretend to look busy, but all he found was a piece of magic kindlewart bark (looks a little iridescent, but feels like good honest kindlewart bark, and just as effective in your potions for half the price!). Olo was already in front of him now, so he looked up and smiled sheepishly. Olo wore the same blank smile he always wore. They grunted and nodded for five unbearable seconds, and then Olo paralyzed Fin for about five hours and left him sitting in an ice tub with his kidney torn out. Interpol has a description, but it’s really tough to catch a man with Basilisk eyes. Hard to motivate your agents to even look.

Don’t even ask.

I need ideas for funny stories set around some sort of apocalypse or more generally existence-altering events. Paper’s due in just one week, and lots of work left in between. Suggestions?

Manhattan

…past midnight on the coldest night in November.

This is the main component of my hostel’s entry to the inter-hostel (lit-soc) creative writing contest here in college, written by Slicer and me. For the full pdf with all the frills and to check out other hostel entries, if so inclined, check out The Fifth Estate’s coverage, here. It’s worth it-our design’s rather nice, and it’s not particularly large. It’s the Alakananda hostel entry, right on top of the list.

I don’t think anyone will “get” the title until they’ve read the whole story, but it would be interesting if somebody did get it afterwards 🙂 . Also, assuming you get the idea, do tell if we were too subtle, not subtle enough, or just right (the “with frills” version has a few more light non-verbal hints, but they shouldn’t make all that much difference). I’m not entirely happy with the way we executed it, but I was immensely excited by the premise 🙂 .

UPDATE:We got second!

The full story is under the fold: Continue reading

A Lonely Boy

Write a 200 word story as fast as you can– via Plinky

lonely boy by AngelsWings

Jebediah was a small boy with a large name. This did not help him make friends. He often took to playing by himself at the corner of the park, and his mother, while concerned, did not want to force the boy into unwelcome company, so she just let him play on. She did try to make sure that his bedtime stories were more about teams of people who did great things together rather than stories of lone heroes, so he heard about the Argonauts long before he heard about Hercules. They were mostly adventure stories, nonetheless, so he grew up with that familiar yearning to go out and explore and be a Hero.

He got his chance the week after he turned ten. There was a field trip. Lonely boys tend to be observant and cautious even when they’re breaking the rules, says the pop culture myth. Small groups of cool kids tend to break off from the main group and be…less cautious. Did their supervisor not know that there are wild foxes, yes, just 6 miles from downtown Boston? Which can attack sufficiently small boys, even in groups of 2 or 3? And that some boys can be paralyzed by fear?

All it takes to scare them off is a few stones thrown with sufficient force, though. And all it takes to be a hero in middle school is an isolated act of courage. That’s enough to keep you cool for a while, if you’re likeable enough. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t. But little Jebediah was.

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Note: I don’t know if they ever really attack humans, even little kids. But there totally are foxes running around suburban backyards. I also claim no special knowledge of child psychology or middle school rules. I can still empathize with high school kids easily enough, but there’s sufficient difference, as far as I remember.

Ain’t so Easy to Write a Bad Romance

This is my contribution to my hostel’s entry for the inter hostel creative writing contest, uploaded mostly as a backup.   We were supposed to hand in one broadsheet with certain required elements. The basic idea for our entry is that it’s a scrapbook kept by a woman in New York whose fiance went off to London to be an editor at a newspaper at around 1911-1912, consisting mostly of letters that he sent her and lots of other little tidbits. There’s really not a whole lot else in the story that you need to know, I think. We took a bit of a gamble in having the real weight of the entire theme rest on the last sentence of the last letter, which I wrote and which is posted below. There were two other letters and a clipping from an editorial that the man wrote (it was one of the required elements). Warning: It’s quite a bit over the top with the lovin’, so if you’re in a particularly cynical mood you might want to give this post a miss 🙂 .

April 9th, 1912

Dearest,

My landlady does not believe in the luxury of a log fire come April, and so I write with shivering hands on this unnaturally cold night, longing for the warmth of you held close to me… ah, the memory is enough to lift the cold. Things are going quite well. I remember your apprehensions about my journey here, and how silly they do seem now-the people are ever so kind, and the opportunities ever so much more here than they could be for me back home.

Mr. Davis at the office has very kindly allowed me 2 whole months off, as there are no pressing matters at present. The suffragette movement is in full swing here, but it does not appear to have much popular support, as evidenced by the increasingly desperate acts of its supporters, and in any case my employers do not think anything will come of it. I am less skeptical; it seems rather outrageous to me that women have been denied the vote even this far into the Age of Reason, and sooner or later this must be rectified. Perhaps I speak from liberal naivete and my inexperience of city politics, though, and this is just another ill-fated movement that nobody will remember ten years hence.

Lord Sheperd, my father’s friend (you will recall my mentioning how helpful he has been, helping me navigate through the absurd theatre that is London society, as appreciative as it is of my humble talents) took me to see the house I hope we can call our own. Of course I cannot yet afford one in his neighbourhood, but it is a charming area nonetheless- indeed, it is quite ideal, a haven of quiet in this crowded, smog-filled city, with the only disadvantage being the rather bohemian neighbours, whom we should hardly mind. Indeed, they will be a welcome change in this stodgy city. It is small, but it should be sufficient for our needs. It has the most wonderful little yard; no sooner did I enter it than a vision appeared to me of a sweet young child, our own if God grants it, playing on a ramshackle swing, and I knew that this was the place we should call home. I have already made an offer, and I feel we should be quite happy there.

Tomorrow I will board for “back home”, as I still call it. Yet I hope that this soon may change, for home is where the heart is, and my heart is ever with you; and when I return you will at last be by my side, as my wife. Every hour, every minute, every beat of my heart I long for you, and the closer I come to meeting you the harder it gets. I try to work, but my mind will not stay- I care not for my thoughts, unless they are thoughts of you. Blake was right- there is an eternity in every hour that I am apart from you, and I have been condemned to this lonesome purgatory for all of them. I find your likeness in everything I see; your face lies hidden behind every cloud and you dance in every flame. Every note I hear sings out for you; every robin’s trill, every nightingale’s song. I keep telling myself that you cannot possibly be as fair as I think you to be, that my mind is simply toying with me, that no mortal woman could be to mortal man all that you are to me, and yet it will not be quelled.

You will wait for me on the pier, won’t you? I will wait as long as I must, but to wait an instant more is sheer folly. Your friends will call it eagerness, I suspect, but what if it is? There are worse sins. Tomorrow I shall board the Titanic, and in a week my torment shall be at an end.

Love,
Yours in every way,
Lester

Yes, I know: Lester. But whatever. Also, read that last line again.

There’s also a poem that I wrote for inclusion in another letter, because the guidelines required a poem.  I’m actually quite proud of this, considering I wrote the whole thing in little over half an hour.

Love catches up to me in the middle of the street
and strikes me down,
and carries me away across the water.
Love guards my back as I prepare for bed,
fighting off Time as it gnaws away at my memories.
Love knocks me off my feet as I rush to work,
and overwhelms me with your sweet scent
(lavender, and jasmine, and something I can never place)
Love sets me afire and takes no note of my objections;
it knows nothing of delayed gratification,
and it is never in mind to learn.
Love is in no mood to wait, yet wait it must,
and it is tearing me apart;
and I can do naught but watch.

Comments?

Journalistic Integrity

This is the story that I wrote for the Shaastra Online Science Fiction Writing contest this year in the Short Sketch category. It got picked first by Cory Doctorow 😀 . It’s not very,er, scientific, as you might notice. But that’s not supposed to be the important part, anyway 🙂

An asteroid is about to collide with the Earth. Because there is no way of preventing the collision, the Earth is being evacuated. But your protagonist and a few others decide to stay back on Earth and await their fates. Recount the last hour of your protagonist’s life.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” they asked for what seemed like the millionth time. Of course! Why would a man his age miss the greatest show on earth-the biggest and the last, at least-to be stuck in suspended animation for a century or two? They probably wouldn’t be able to unfreeze him when they got to wherever it is that they planned to go, and he was just as likely to keel over and die as soon as they did, anyway. And if he was going to die, he wanted to go like Terry Pratchett; glass of whiskey in hand, sitting on his favourite bench and admiring the garden he had tended himself for over half a century. With an approaching meteorite in the background. And he would go doing what he did best, going where others couldn’t-staying while others couldn’t stay- and telling them what they were missing. Nobody would watch what he made for a very long time, of course, but when they finally woke up, he wanted them to know just how this planet had gone into the good night.

He did have one final duty to tend to, so he set up the cameras and other equipment. Clip-on mic, check. Video link, check. Audio link, check. The others would be doing this at various other stations now, but he would be the one putting it all together. The Americans got to do this in daylight, which was easier, although he appreciated the darkness; he wanted to see the stars as they fell towards him. “Then the third angel sounded; and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.” Why had no one made a movie about Revelations yet? Some one at Warner Bros should have thrown a bible at Michael Bay and told him to get to work. He had always wanted to do it, but no one trusted him with that kind of thing. “Stick to the documentaries, John.” All studio executives sneered the same way. “You’re doing good work here, serious work. We all love your interviews. This country needs people like you. Keep at it. Leave the explosions to the experts.” Well. Well. He’d show them how to shoot a great explosion.

It was about the size of the moon now, and he could see it getting bigger every minute. Not long now. One camera was always focused on it; that would be his introduction sequence. Then a short but fittingly memorable speech, a few shots of the Wonders set to Ravel’s Bolero with Big Boy-what a stupid name for the Agent of Armageddon!-in the background, providing Context. And of course, the first person shot of the explosion for a finale.

“As we stand on the brink of destruction, it is only fitting to question what we as a species have accomplished in our short stay on this doomed planet. We have built bridges and skyscrapers, pyramids and temples, but what of that? In a few hours, and long before you hear this, they will all return to the earth from which they were carved. We are frustrated sculptors, seeking to shape the world in our image, only to be rebuffed by catastrophe. This planet will probably recover from this; at some point, it will hold life again. Perhaps, civilization will re-emerge. But nothing of out deeds will remain. What is our legacy? What has mankind done that separates it from any other form of life, from all the dumb creatures that remain behind, unaware of their fates? What can…”

That’s interesting… It didn’t seem to be moving any more. He peered over at the telescope. Was that a hole? Why would an asteroid have a hole in its side? He was sure it wasn’t there earlier… too astonished now to provide commentary, he focused the camera on it. That thing coming out of it now looked an awful lot like a ship, although it moved a lot faster than the speed at which those shuttles moved on TV. It was almost on the ground already!

Really? Little green men? If there was a god, he certainly has a sense of humour.

<Greetings, friend. We hope we translator decode you brain waves goodly. Translator bad now but become more goodly fastly. We are @#$@R$()%@$. We come in peace. We travel galaxy to spread %$#^&@#. We offer matter transmutator as sign of good faith.>

He bit back a sigh. Great, here come the alien evangelists, offering salvation. All he’d ever wanted was to film a good explosion!

Unicorn Waltz

Wrote a poem in about 20 minutes on, well, unicorns. I’m too scared to put it up here. It’s on my deviant art page.

(Not my pic: from modcult.org)

(Not my pic: from modcult.org)

I’m not not putting it up here because people will think I’m a bad poet- I don’t write poetry anyway, except for yesterday’s sudden impulse, so I don’t have much ego associated with it. I’m uploading it at all only because of some possibly ridiculous commitment to intellectual honesty. It’s about KILLING unicorns. In some amount of graphic detail. I’m too scared to put it up because I’m scared of what I wrote.

Yes, inspired by Questionable Content/Deathmole. The comic, that is…I haven’t heard the songs.

Creative Writing

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m one of the coordinators for Creative Writing for Saarang, and this is the obligatory “online contest’s started, please send in your entries” post.

Online Creative Writing

There are three categories. Two are up already: Three Phase, and Eliminate a Little Anarchy. Three Phase is where you (possibly as part of a team, because this will ideally take some work)  take one of the rather open-ended topics that we’ve given and make a poem, a short story AND (not or) a (one-act) play from it, ideally using the topic in a different sense each time. Eliminate… is much simpler: you’re given 3 more or less unconnected words, and you need to write EITHER poetry, prose or a play connecting them.

The third category (not yet up, but will be soon) called “Who Has the Last Laugh?” is basically something like a comment thread that you’re judged on. We’ll start it off-provide the post, I guess- and then each contestant can respond to it and each other’s entries(the comments), pretty much like we do all day on other people’s blogs, except that if you come up with something really wonderful, you get a prize for it. With one caveat: “continuability*” is a criterion, so if your post ends up thoroughly stifling all further commentary, that will be counted against you. This is especially true if you accomplish this by relying on something irreducible, like “God wants it that way**”.

Yes, the theme for the names (is it very or only kinda obvious?) is deliberate and now seems slightly lame, but we were all firmly in the grip of Dark Knight fever back then.

*Can anyone think of a better word?

**Yes, I know that’s as likely to increase commentary as to stifle it, but you get what I mean.

Just had an Idea

Which I’m sure has been tried before. I want to write a fairly linearly played-out novel-or an outline, more likely- and then start rewriting it in reverse chronological order, trying to keep as many of the surprises or twists or whatever hidden for as long as possible, but without altering the plot/storyline(as far as possible). It would also have to make sense, although I have no problem writing only for relatively smart people. Can something like this work? More generally, are there many(any?) books that are laid out in this fashion, the narrative going only backwards in time as the novel progresses? I don’t mean the whole start at the end, cut to the beginning(or middle), and then proceed linearly from there shtick, which is pretty common. Anyone have examples?

Right now, though, I’m way behing on mugging for ADSP. Thank God it’s only day after. Not helped by the fact that I found a whole cache of Meg Cabot ebooks(ah, another secret exposed to the world. Yeah, I read Meg Cabot. Happy?) on esnips.com. If you’re interested, it’s not hard to find; just search. The next few days are going to see me enveloped in a world of implausible romantic tales created for the fantasies of lonely (or not; no offence if you happen to like it 🙂 ) teenage girls. I’m TWENTY, by the way!!! No longer a teen! And I didn’t get to do ANYTHING!!! 😦