Category Archives: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Across the Universes

imageMy Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.

I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.

What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.

In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.

Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.

Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.

Friends are precious, even irreplaceable, but they are also fragile.

I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.

Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.

I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.

So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…

…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.

Kind of like my blog.

I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?

Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!

In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.

If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.

This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?

Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.

It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.

Or simply end.

And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.

The Little Witness

image

He sits with his chin on the iPad tray, a game of Risk he will sometimes play; protests my paintings are never quite right, while rolling his eyes at the words I type.

Thoughts from my diary swim past his eyes, mistakes in my emails cause him to cry, and when I’m drafting posts for my blog, with a shake of his head he gustily sighs.

When trawling the ‘net I turn up odd sites on the evils of iCloud or nasty tick bites. He forbids me to believe all that I’ve read — opens eyes wide, says “no no no!” But when ignored so that all falls on my head, this little witness… no, he does not go. Sitting up close, he soothes my distress; says “yes, I forgive… now it’s time to rest.”

Drift to a land of shadowsaurs; they’re so big they eat mountains whole; roaring rivers burst their banks and all past your house tsunamis roll. When you rush to stare from the door, it’s deathly quiet — the land is no more. The moonlight is bright and so is the scene but it’s the single worst thing you’ve ever seen. You bound up the stairs, hurting your arm, but no one is left to raise the alarm. With a gasp you wake in the cold light that’s dawning to tell him bad dreams that seem like a warning.

“Listen,” he says, with a disdainful look, “You are far better off with a good fiction book. You should read about people in fantasy worlds as far from the stars as a cold snowball hurled. Dragons and unicorns suffer no ticks, while evil cloud nets are eventually bricked; real life then has no cause to intrude — the chatter of millions you completely exclude.”

Oh, you might think you’re well enough off; when you get in a twist he’s not there to scoff! But with all of your posts that I read every day, he’s a witness to my life and yours also…

Just Nipping out to Peru

“Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?” WordPress prompt.

I used to think it would be the invisibility cloak, as I don’t particularly like drawing attention to myself. Faced with the other two items, though, I’m wavering!

Anyway, there’s a difference between being the only one and being one of many. If these were made available to everyone, there would be invisible people everywhere. Would you see other invisible people when you were invisible yourself? One might as well not spend money on the technology in that case!

If I thought there were invisible people everywhere, I would probably become paranoid and refuse to sleep till my door was locked and the room properly scanned. It would be like wondering if there was a virus on your computer that was keeping very quiet. Everyone else would worry too, and there would be a market for things that could scan for invisible people — everyone everywhere would do a sweep before having meetings or settling down to relax. As a result, donning an invisibility helmet would not do anything to ensure your own privacy… it would be a way of ensuring you’re noticed. People would scan, find you, and tell you you are not wanted. You would be better to save your money… you can be more invisible just staying part of the crowd.

The scariest thing on the list is the time machine. Perhaps I could go back and change a few things I did or said wrong. You question how it would work, though. Do I go back to be myself in the moment? In which case, would I remember this was a re-run? Where would the time machine be in the meantime? Or would it just dump me in the moment and leave me to relive all of that time again?

What if it could take me both ways, but broke down? You can’t complain to Currys from 1347, or even from 1987.

And what if changing my actions made things worse? Things are the way they are for a reason.

I wouldn’t like to have to make decisions about every little thing I did anyway. If I could smooth out absolutely everything I believed I’d done wrong, would I be sitting here thinking “should I go back to that dentist and tell her I don’t want that particular tooth removed?” Or “I feel awful today so I’ll go back to two days ago and refuse the flu jab!” (and maybe die later in the winter… who knows?) Everything would get in such a muddle that I would end up uncertain how to untangle all the different things I’d changed to get myself to a different place.

Added to which, if we could all buy time machines, perhaps I’d get back to someone to change my response, only to find that person was no longer there… he or she has used a time machine to change something in his own life, and everything is so completely different that they never met me, or aren’t alive any more. Not only would I get in a muddle about my own sequence of events, it would be made still more complex by the meddlings and self-edits of others.

So much for the time machine, then. That leaves just one thing — the anywhere door.

I can imagine if there was such a thing, people would start to call it the suicide door. Because, why jump in front of a boring old train when you can really go out in style… step out onto the surface of Venus?

In one way it would be worse than the invisibility helmet. You can guard against invisible people by scanning, groping, or perhaps donning your own helmet for a quick check around. With the anywhere door, though, there would be no locked doors; no privacy at all. People would be dialling wrong numbers and popping up in your locked bedroom as you sleep.

If those drawbacks could be contained, though, it sounds the most convenient, useful and positive of the three gadgets. You won’t be using the anywhere door because you’re shy, sneaky or obsessing over how perfect you can make your life. Imagine the difference it could make! You could visit friends who live very far away, just for coffee. Or, if you like to take landscape photographs, you can pop out to some famous beauty spot and back, regardless of where you live. If I wanted a photo of a snow leopard taken by myself (so I wouldn’t have to credit someone else with it), I could nip out in my slippers and take a series of shots, and be back before you know it, downloading pictures of a startled big cat to my Mac.

OK, it probably wouldn’t be quite that easy… The idea has its attractions all the same!

Bring on the anywhere door… though I suspect in reality it would be ruined by laws, Customs, scanners, disinfectant and red tape.

Would I Ever Throw Food at Anyone?

I doubt it very much. 🙂 Seems like a waste of food. I suppose it’s always possible, if I was angry enough (or had some other reason).

That was the latest WordPress ‘post a week 2011’ prompt, if you were wondering.

It makes me wonder though… there are so many things I wouldn’t normally dream of doing, that other people have done or do regularly! Impulsively, as children, or without even thinking. I’m a goody two-shoes, maybe, but I don’t know why that’s such a bad thing…

I haven’t been on the computer a lot lately; it seemed so dark and cold at the back of this room. For several days I didn’t even turn the computers on.

Suddenly thought of science fiction shows… Star Trek, Stargate or Babylon 5. People sitting in dark shadows with glowing computer screens. Communicating with each other, or doing painstaking research. A lot of the light on my face and hands is from this screen… spooky, strange. Anything could happen… somebody invisible could be swooping around the room! Maybe my messages are being intercepted by some starship full of aliens. And with a whoosh, a portal will open in the wall, and when I look through, there’s a raging snow storm in another world.

Instead, it’s just shadowy and gloomy, and I type in the glow of

AARGH!

Excuse me, I’m not kidding. I got that far, and there was a ‘boing’ and a thud, and cold air… somebody standing behind my chair. I twisted round, and it was Mum, scowling crossly and holding a notepad. (I didn’t hear her come in because, no hearing aids!) I felt stupid about this message I was typing, so I chivvied her out into the hall saying I didn’t have a pen (I didn’t. They disappear). But I found a pen in my bedroom, the one I write my personal journal with at night.

The ‘alien’ wrote down: “Fancy having a gigantic desk and no pencil! If you are up early tomorrow we can go to Morrisons.”

I can’t wait.

Utherworlds

On DeviantArt I saw the announcement of this site: Utherworlds by Philip Straub. See the paintings, read the message. 🙂
Lovely way to start the day.

PS I should have mentioned that Utherworlds is ‘a new kind of’ graphic novel (see here). I know some of you like graphic novels, though not necessarily the term itself. I like the fact that this one is described as ambitious… I love ‘ambitious’ when it looks like this.  🙂

Stories of Moonshine

StargazerMum’s had a horrible cold for the past week. Yesterday I said “why do you keep clutching your face?”
“My nose is very sore,” she said. She was streaming; constantly blowing her nose and mopping her eyes. I considered myself lucky to have held out without falling prey to it myself. If this was how she reacted to a plain ordinary cold, goodness knows what would happen if she caught something worse.

Last night I was telling another mortal, tangled up herself in the coil of life, that teddy bears are good to have around — they can be counted on not to die of anything, and if you wake them up in the middle of the night to talk to them, they don’t yell at you. Well, not usually.

Only the night before, I had been talking to Stargazer the dragon. I said we could pretend we were on a beautiful ship of our very own. “Moonshine!” he said. Yes, piloted by Captain Stargazer with his cutthroat crew; First Mate Diddums (bucket’s over there) and Second Mate Magical Bear. With a motley crew of cook etc, but no doctors. Not needed.

Of course it would be night, with lots of stars visible overhead. The ship would be rocking gently, and all the crew would go to bed in the same hammock. No one would be on watch because the good ship Moonshine could be trusted to deal with whatever arose. Meanwhile, our great adventure was just to drift together on the waves, far away from the cares of civilization.

Nothing like it for sending one to sleep.

The next night I crawled back into bed, saying “what will we do this time? We could have something a little more exciting, like a hurricane?”
Captain Stargazer said “I dunno… it’s a bit too soon. Would a choppy night do instead?”
“OK, let’s get cracking, then. It was a dark night. Moonshine tossed restlessly and a cold breeze blew…”

First Mate Diddums couldn’t breathe. All she did was lie prone in the hammock, and her nose filled up. She had been perfectly fine right up till then. Cooked supper, washed dishes, made tea, did a jigsaw. And now this.

She couldn’t sleep. She mumbled, turned over, sneezed violently a multitude of times, and used lots of tissues. She even held her nose… it felt full of acid. All dreams of Moonshine and adventures flew out the porthole.

I got up at 5.30 in the morning. Mum said she could wake me early to do photographic mists and things, but outside it looked like noon already. We’re supposed to leave the photographic mists till later in the year. Instead I went and answered someone on the subject of Apophysis.

My stomach keeps being gripped by cramps, but when I asked Mum if she had that, she said ‘nope’. In fact today she’s quite chirpy and is beetling about washing clothes, making tea, and doing the next jigsaw on our list. So it’s just me, then. I expect I’ll be kicked out of the Moonshine’s hammock tonight.

The Letter F

Following in the footsteps of Elizabeth (from 1sojournal) and others, I have been given the letter F to do with what I will!

Beforehand I was curious to know what letter I would receive… certain letters would be easier than others; such as ‘C’ (cats, chocolate, coffee, cake).

F has some less obvious words, so it’s more of a challenge. I didn’t want to rush into it and miss some crackers, so took my time writing it up. I was typing an electronic copy of an old journal from 2005, so I kept my sore eyes open and gleaned a few ‘F’ ideas from there.

Friends
One of the most obvious but also the most important. Good friends are a boon. I found quite a lot written in my 2005 journal on the subject. It’s oddly reassuring to look back and find I’ve been wrestling with the same concerns… though you would think I would wish I had it all sorted out by now! It’s just as though I’m reading someone’s blog and thought “oh yes, thank goodness; someone else knows what I’m thinking.” Even if it’s only me. Perhaps we can be our own best friends, just as we’re told we are our own worst enemies.

Felines
It took me a worryingly long time to figure out that I could still have cats in my list!

Fantasy
Oh… fantasy is vital. We just finished watching our DVD of The Hogfather. We are told in it that although the sun would continue to come up, things wouldn’t be the same if human beings weren’t allowed to have their little fantasies, whether about Santa Claus or the Oh God of Hangovers. Just so long as fantasies don’t become real. They need to remain fantasies, and we still need to believe in them. Like … no, I won’t say it. They’re real for me, wheels and all. 🙂

Fairies
A part of fantasy, flowers, midnight at the bottom of the garden. I grew up with a copy of The Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker. I used to look carefully at each one and decide which one was me. Often it was the Rose, sometimes the Sweet Pea, occasionally the Pansy. I feel turned off, though, once we get onto the subject of little girls’ sepia photographs, evil vampiric goblins, or changed definitions of the word. Perhaps I have the artist’s interest in fairies… in the colours, lights, magic, delicacy, mystery and beauty of Tinkerbell. I don’t want that to change.

Forgetting (as opposed to forgetfulness)
I’m not talking about those times we forget our watches or glasses; to turn off the iron; to attend appointments; relevant information about someone else’s plans. Those episodes are frustrating. I’m referring to the boon of forgetting our injuries and upsets. In that sense, forgetting is healing. Some days my agoraphobia seems to get worse (like a sore that’s being rubbed raw). A few days spent at home is just the ticket. The next time I go out after that, the edge has worn off it all, and I feel a lot stronger, thinking only about the good things. The more I forget, the more relaxed I am. It would be terrible if we remembered everything that happened or was said to us with unfading clarity. Oblivion is the blessing of the River Lethe (but not of drink! I drink mocha and guava juice, me).

Flow
There are two types of ‘flow’ that I love… the easy, graceful flow of a good pen (one that isn’t all bobbly and inky), and ‘getting in the flow’ of something. There’s nothing like putting your head down and losing yourself in your work or project. It’s an amazing feeling, and sometimes I completely forget where I am or what time it is. It’s not so pleasant when someone comes into the room and speaks to you, and you have to bring yourself back to earth, often with great confusion.

Filters
Like the ones in Photoshop or Paintshop Pro. They can be great fun to play with… just open a photo, save as a new copy with a different title, then try all the effects! Crayon, brush, blur, distort… and add different layers in different modes and opacity. Don’t take it so seriously… just have fun.

Focus
The best pictures are soft in the right places and sharp in the right places. Like life. It’s nice to be surrounded by a blur when we don’t want to see everything in heartbreaking clarity, but we need some things to be in focus, or we would never get anywhere or appreciate anything.

Feel / Feeling
I’m always talking about what I feel or am feeling about something. Wouldn’t it be difficult if there was no such word in the English language? Sometimes it’s an emotion, sometimes it’s gut instinct: a suspicion.

Floods
OK… I don’t like floods! But I’m always dreaming about them. I don’t know if it should therefore make it into my list of favourite things, but it’s significant to me one way or another. Maybe if I wrote a novel, there would be a flood in it. I read once that if you dream a lot about floods and the sea, you’re being smothered by your mother. (Laughs).

If you would like a letter, drop me a comment and let me know… on your own blog you can write up your list of ten favourite things beginning with that letter.

All the Really Cool Dead People

One of my favourite Frasier episodes was on recently.

(Spoiler alert).

Eddie the dog was depressed, so they called in a pet psychiatrist, (“a charlatan,” said Frasier), who suggested that dogs are very sensitive and Eddie had probably picked up the mood of one of the humans. At first the people in the house laughed scornfully, then they gathered together and admitted they had their individual reasons for being down in the mouth. Martin said he lay awake at night and brooded about death and loneliness, and the loss of everyone he loved. Frasier said “we all have those thoughts, Dad.”
His dad said, “do you also lie very still and pretend you’re already in the ground?” and Frasier said “nope, that’s just you.”

The subject of the afterlife came up, and Niles said he just knew that all the really cool dead people would refuse to hang out with him. “Mozart would say he’s too busy, then I’d see him out with Shakespeare.”

Somebody found an old doll down the back of the sofa, and realized it was Eddie’s dog toy, so they cast it aside… of course Eddie came to life and tossed it about delightedly. “Oh,” they said, “so that’s why he was depressed!”
“How shallow,” they said. “Dogs are not like us. WE know for whom the bell tolls.”
A bell rang and Daphne disappeared into the kitchen, then came back and said the cookies were ready. Everybody jumped up and hurried to the kitchen, their glum mood cast aside.

The bit that made me laugh the loudest was Niles and his gloomy prediction that he would be spurned by cool people even in the afterlife. I always rather wanted the future to be something like Star Trek, but I just know if I was one of the members on the Starship Enterprise or the Starship Voyager, the crew would treat me how they treated Lieutenant Barclay… times 20.

I’ve just found this: Death and the Dog. It’s interesting that the quotation given there is: “Mozart’ll tell me he’s busy but then later I’ll see him out with Shakespeare and Lincoln!” I might just have misremembered, but I don’t think ‘and Lincoln’ showed up in the subtitles. Maybe I did forget, though.

No, they would never have let me anywhere near the Starship Enterprise.

Available as wallpaper here.

Vale of Tears

Dreamed there was a kind of flood disaster; people were standing around looking for help to get their loved ones to safety. When I looked round and said to the nearest person, “please help me get Zipadee out,” he fixed on me and said “help me get my brother out!”, causing me to feel frustration and irritation… how dare other people put their loved ones before mine?

All round me, that was happening… people asking for aid from people asking for aid.

I was too late to save my friend and she turned into a clear raindrop, being borne away in a huge river called The Ocean of Crystal Tears. It looked just like its name; there was no blue, mud or weeds in it, but it roiled and foamed so much you couldn’t see through it to its depths. It was icy cold.

I was telling my sad story to two important elves from The Lord of the Rings… Galadriel and Elrond. As I talked, I held myself firmly in check because I feared I might break down, and they looked as though they would like to weep themselves. But they turned to me and said “your friend is not alone; the River Mississippi saw her plight, and has dived into the Ocean of Crystal Tears to bear her company. It snakes through the centre, warm and brown, sparkling and laughing, enclosing your friend and keeping her safe till the journey’s end, when you will see her again.”

Alas for the Mailed Warrior!

We watched three movies on Saturday night, one after the other: Merlin (part I); The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers); The Fifth Element. We didn’t plan to watch The Fifth Element, and Mum would probably have avoided it normally, not having seen it before, but she hesitated during her channel surfing, and I said “this is funny.”

I asked afterwards “which did you like the best?” and Mum said “The Fifth Element.”
I enjoyed all three (we both did) but I liked it the best too. It’s always been one of my favourites.
“It reminded me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, said Mum – I never thought of that.
“It’s less boring than The Hitchhiker’s” I said. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, just as I loved all Douglas Adams’s books, but the old TV series was duller than a Vogon’s poem.

Have you noticed all the deep voices in The Lord of the Rings? When they have something sonorous to say, it’s always by someone with a booming voice. Theoden, King of Rohan, when Helm’s Deep was about to fall, turned aside and thundered gloomily, “Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountains; like wind in the meadow…” and I clutched all my stuffed toys to my chest and whimpered.

There’s a YouTube clip of it. Also a bit of trivia courtesy of Wikipedia… it’s probably based on an Old English Poem, The Wanderer.

That’s one of the hard things about moving in with Mum… you can’t weep at the sad bits! Teddies are useful for packing all round your face so nobody can see. Unfortunately ‘hearies’ have this annoying ability to hear you breathe. I never realized this till my early 20s, having a furious row with a friend; she said I was breathing rather quickly.

Ever since then I’ve been so sensitive about people hearing me blowing like a grampus at moments of stress that I develop tight bands round my chest in an effort to breathe normally. Thus, when Gandalf is gasping “Fly, you fools!” or Sam (with a crazy Frodo holding a sword to his throat) is pleading “it’s me… your Sam!” or when a mother grieves as her young son is taken away to fight a losing battle, the only thing to do is put teddies all round your head and stop breathing altogether.

Have you tricks for surviving miserable movies?