Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Semi-Funny Photo, a Semi-Brief Note on What I'm Doing Now

I’ve been forcing myself back into walking in the evenings. These high-valley midsummer evenings have been so wonderfully pleasant, I’ve come to appreciate the late June light as much as I do October’s peculiar optics. 

I should get two posts of photo albums from the weekend alone. Below is an outtake satisfying the zombies I’ve advertised on the blog, if not the lighting I want to showcase in the photo essay. If I have to explain the joke it’s useless. Suffice it to say that if the place looks empty, it’s because the clients got up and walked. Maybe had a bite to eat before they hit the bricks....
The place looks so...dead.

In other news, I had a curious streak of creativity over the last week in which I was writing a poem every other night or so. They just came over me, their first drafts spreading across their pixelated pages in mere minutes. Minimal editorial tweaks were required. If the poems I wrote about the ants by my driveway and looking at an abandoned house went up a day later than they had to, it was because I wanted new photos of the subjects that inspired them. So I got the photos, and the gestalt of text and visuals worked much better than I’d hoped.

The positive response to these verses across my social media accounts was very encouraging. I want to publish a collection when I get enough poems together. I figure 99 poems is enough to justify a book. I’ve got 13 solid sets of verses now that belong with the general theme I’m working with, so that leaves 86 more to go. 

This does not mean I’ve been ignoring my primary reason for existing right now, namely, concluding the final book in my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER series. On the contrary, these poems are a side effect of a burst of productivity I’ve been suffering across the board. I’ve learned it’s best not to question these things. When you’re hot, you’re hot. That’s all. Here’s hoping you’re the same.
A few escaped to board themselves up in this abandoned Catholic church down the street. Of course, these siege situations never end well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mercy Is a Wrecking Ball

You see so many empty houses 
in small towns like the one 
I live in. I imagine this one’s
final moments

as the life last 
coughs out its door

the key turning 
the feet turning 
thumping away
a home’s last heartbeats 
fading from the porch

Who were these people who showed
their backs to this place?
Did children wave goodbye
from the rear window
as the car crackled from the drive?

Or was this an adult child 
settling the affairs
of the last parent dying
and for bad debt
or worse childhood
would not could not 
keep these walls, these floors
this sagging embrace of roof?

I imagine those first five 
minutes of abandonment 
the sunlight sliding down 
a corner where a child 
once played with his toys
where lovers squeezed hands 
under the table

not even memory 
only dust 
until a stray breeze through a 
widening, necrotizing wound
among the neglect 
finds it

Those first five minutes couldn’t
have been any more agonizing than
all these days, decades of emptiness
but to think of that final abandonment
the good times over for good
the seasons tucked in to feed….

I hear the surly child in my head
“Take a picture, it’ll last longer”
so I do
and I walk on

“If these walls could talk” 
as the saying goes
I expect they would 
tell me just that.

From the forthcoming collection Nymphomagic Electroshock and Other Middle-Aged Complaints.
Copyright © 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Very Political Poem

It’s easy to get caught up
in any given slipstream 
of outrage, just pick your stalking horse
and develop a rhythm as you
bludgeon your gentler sensibilities 
day by day, podcast to podcast,
one radio show or blogpost to the other

Savoring the sweet heady mead
of hatred for Those Bastards
and this just goes on 
and on because
people are so stupid
so uneducated
and they just don’t care
those bastards….

The hell of it is
they’re not entirely wrong

This being, after all, 
the known universe’s
longest running musical.

What’s most telling
is when you break from
the cycle and find yourself 
crazy-dancing drunk 
with bubbly, refreshing

So you become evangelical
about getting others out of their 
rage cages,
you want them
to feel good like you

and you find out 
shout-in-your-face fast
there’s a reason politics
and religion were once taboo
topics at dinner
and everywhere else short of a
bloody-mouthed barroom

now the whole world is a sticky,
stinking barroom, suffocating in the 
hot, despairing minute before Last Call,
no one there but bitter, bloated 
pigwomen spoiling for a fight,
and surly bouncers looking 
for an excuse to throw you
face-first to the curb

and all you want is to get out
for a glass of clean
pure something

and laugh with cheerful

What can I tell you, but
stay clean, stay serene
amid your giddy freedom 

that dares not speak its name

Avoiding eye contact
and always, always
keeping an eye on the exits.
“Oh, so this is what we’re talking about now? Excuse me while I run for the hills.”
From the forthcoming collection Nymphomagic Electroshock and Other Middle-Aged Complaints.
Copyright © 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Apocalyptic Horizons of a San Luis Valley Summer’s Evening

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine....

I’m looking out my office window when I notice a startling glow behind the trees in my neighbor’s yard. This photo barely captured the sense that hot yellow plasma was boiling over the southern horizon to consume us all.
Looking due south, straight ahead from my upstairs office dormer window.

It’s that time of day, somewhere between seven and eight p.m., that the light slants just so, bronzing, gilding, and sometimes inflaming the things it touches on its slow slide behind the San Juan Mountains. In this case, it was lighting the thunderstorms riding along the ridges of the Conejos Range, an arm of the San Juans that curls around south by southeast of where I am. 
The street in front of my house runs straight north-south. We’re looking south by southeast here.

On hot summer days the storms build along the mountains on all sides of the valley and generally travel due east, as seen here. Sometimes, albeit rarely, one will travel across the valley proper. Even more rare is rain. In Colorado, especially in higher-altitude environments like the San Luis Valley, the air is so high and dry the moisture evaporates before it gets a chance to hit the ground.  
Zooming in.

You can see this from a distance (not in these photos, though), the purple curtains of water hanging from the clouds, fading to nothing above the earth. This phenomenon is called “virga.” The air displaced by the falling, evaporating rain creates cool, pleasant breezes, so there’s that.
The painter Maxfield Parrish did not exaggerate the lighting in his paintings. On some evenings, and with the sun and the clouds just so, this is what you see. Imagine what this would look like if I had a real camera. Feel free to donate to my PayPal so I can afford a proper DSLR.

We got some cool air from these clouds, which is remarkable given their distance, and that, for all their dramatic lighting, they’re not built up into proper thunderheads. These, as with the ones that followed, slid off to the left/east. Sometimes at night I can look out my south-facing office window and see the lightning play on the horizon.

Storms or no, the sunsets this June have been nothing short of breathtaking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parable in Dying Light

In the early evening light
the shadows of the ants working 
stretch away for seeming miles 
as if their lives and work
meant something

even the sand grains 
stand like mighty quartz
to an epic race

I could say that Claude Monet fella
was onto something and
to hell with each and every one of you
middlebrow twits congratulating yourselves
for getting the joke

A fleeting moment
of eternal truth
gone with the fading light

dead to time
alive in memory
and fading with equally
insignificant me:

This is the holy paradox
the lesson I will own
in time for my 
last sundown.

From the forthcoming collection Nymphomagic Electroshock and Other Middle-Aged Complaints.
Copyright © 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Brainstorming Ghosts for Writers: Towards a Science of the Supernatural

When the Large Hadron Collider collides with our need to believe.

A couple of articles (I could only pick one for the link) appeared in popular science news sites describing an interview broadcast on BBC’s Radio 4 with a physicist from the Large Hadron Collider. For some reason, the subject of ghosts came up, and how the Large Hadron Collider had disproved their existence. 

Based on what I read, spectral activity would create an energy signature. Spirits would also require a mechanism for transmitting energy in order to become spirits in the first place. At the moment of death, vast amounts of information—the physical appearance, the memory and personality of the subject, et al.—would need to be translated from the dying body to its eventual spectral form. No such mechanism has been noted by the Large Hadron Collider, so, ipso facto, there are no ghosts, QED. The physicist stated emphatically at the outset that there was no debate on the matter. So why was this brought up in the first place?
The Ghost by Joseph Mandi. Now go away, your existence is impossible.

Aside from that obvious question, I was inspired to ask others. As a writer who works with extra-normal entities in a post-apocalyptic setting, I’ve learned there are tremendous benefits to having one’s pseudo-science worked out. For instance, I determined that what caused the dead to rise and eat living flesh in my DEAD SILENCER series was a highly developed flesh-eating bacterium that hijacks human cadavers as a mechanism to deliver that living flesh to the colonies of bacteria within the corpses. 

Having something different than the dismissive and overused “zombie virus” provided me with options and opportunities denied to less imaginative writers. Most importantly, having my own origin for the outbreak of the living dead enabled my investment in the story in a way that an ordinary tossed-off “it’s a virus” would not. Although I still engage many of the common tropes involved in zombie apocalypse fiction, this much of the story is mine and mine alone.

One of my next projects after finishing The Wrong Kind of Dead is a small collection of supernatural stories I wrote years ago. My star novella is a ghost story I wrote in 1989-1990, so the recent articles about the Large Hadron Collider disproving ghosts conveniently provide me with points to ponder before I go about remastering my manuscript.

Ghosts, then. How do they work?
Attending his own funeral? Actually, it’s a Photoshop-doctored photo by an Australian artist who goes by the name “pyrotech,” for entry into a ghostly photos contest on DesignCrowd.

I’ve always imagined ghosts as Mr. Spock described the dikironium vampire cloud in my third favorite Star Trek episode, “Obsession,” that is, “in a borderline state between matter and energy.” As such, they’re not something you can shoot, stab, or even shut out, but they can exert enough force on you to make for a decent horror movie.

Energy will be expended in the course of the most basic spooky business, such as knocks from the closet, or exerting a malignant presence over you as you lie in bed. Icy fingers around the throat, causing objects blunt and sharp to fly at you, etc., would require even greater amounts of energy. This energy has to come from somewhere. Which means a ghost has to eat...what? Ghosts are the one supernatural entity that doesn’t make a meal of your blood or flesh. They have other reasons entirely to hurt or kill you. 

The dikironium cloud creature exsanguinating two hapless redshirts in the second season original (accept no spin-offs) Star Trek episode “Obsession,” written by Art Wallace, and directed by the great Ralph Senensky. At least this amorphous beast has a food source, and therefore a clear motive for its predations.


So how does a ghost acquire and channel the energy to do this?

Infamous 1936 photograph of the
Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.
Assume as given that ghosts exist in an existential gray area between the realm of the living and whatever dimension the souls of the dead wind up. To interact with the living, they require a conduit into the spectral dimension to draw its energy, as our own physical plane makes too much actual sense for a disembodied spirit to have anything it could use. 

I would declare that conduit to be scientific concept of dark matter. No one knows what dark matter really is, save that it presumably makes up much of the mass of the universe. The concept is no more than a delightfully named speculative placeholder until someone finally figures out what they’re talking about. Therein lies the opening for the fiction writer to move in and make up stuff.

So, borrowing from physics’ speculations regarding parallel universes, let’s say there’s an extradimensional Underworld closely tied to our own reality. Let’s say it’s got some infernal battery that powers all the supernatural shenanigans in our mortal plane, and dark matter is how its energy is is that battery powered? What if there was a way to hijack the signal?
Hijack this signal. I double-dog dare ya.

That’s only one train of thought, and from my own peculiarly limited imagination, at that. The point is, I was able to take articles using physics to debunk ghosts, and twist the science to “prove” them in my fiction. 

That’s not the only useful irony here. A wonderful paradox I have observed in the course of crafting my zombie post-apocalypse saga is that the more I restrict the parameters of the possible in my fictional world, the more possibilities for narrative invention reveal themselves.

It’s not a matter of knowing what the rules are so you can break them. Breaking the rules defeats the purpose of the rules, and therefore renders your narrative ridiculous. What you want to do is test your rules. It’s in these challenges to authorities real and imagined that we generate the conflicts that comprise the metaphorical flesh and blood of our stories. 
A strutting spectre in the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.