December 10th, 2007


[writing] When one transept just isn't enough

John Klima is a strange, clever man. He invited various authors to contribute to Logorrhea Powell's | Amazon ], a book about words. Specifically, winning words in the National Spelling Bee.

Confronting an unreconstructed bibliophage like me with his word list was like Lucy in the chocolate factory.

I eventually settled on transept, because I've always had a soft spot for cathedral architecture (in part thanks to David Macauley), and also because of the pun which I had always seen inherent in the name. (And I walked right by the second major pun, except in the metalayer of the story.)

Plus it's a cool word. Walk around all day muttering "transept, transept" under your breath and you'll be amazed how much your life will change.

Klima being Klima, and lexical memes being lexical memes, he eventually decided that one story about transept was not enough, and so the indefatigable jeffvandermeer enters the scene, armed with the Musket of Understanding and the Dueling Pistol of Narrative Contention:


Why church broke? That question all ask when get Barahkad? Though no many tourist now — just detective last week, bad circus week before. But I tell you — even drunk sitting end of bar give answer if you want answer — he say we run out money when no water. That man, head on table, see? He tell you merchants. Merchants of Barakhad break church because priests too big, too big. Or I, sir, I tell you Devil visit Barakhad when church of Smaragdineans building and break it.

Or it could be that the architect's plans were too complicated and they planned not one but three transepts, with gold leaf that wouldn't flake off for the archways and brushes made from the tongues of hummingbirds to paint the column detail.

What? Oh, don't be mad. Just a little joke I like to play on tourists. So many of you think that our command of English is crumbling along with our infrastructure. But I went to university, even spent a summer at the University of San Diego on an exchange program, a long time ago. You're lucky you bumped into me, my friend. That drunk over there, for example — he doesn't want to speak English any more. His whole family died last year.

But do you really want to know why the church isn't "finished"? Why not get a drink and sit down. It won't take long, but you might need the drink. Don't worry, I'll keep it simple. I know the names around here confuse foreigners.

So: The real reason the church looks unfinished is that until recently we had a civil war in this country. Hadn't heard of it? Well, we're not in an area with anything of any value, really. Not anymore.

First one side held Barahkad. They starved us and killed some of us and took some of us away. Then the other side took over. They starved us and killed some of us and took some of us away. Then the peacekeepers came to our country, although we never saw one in Barakhad, not once, and a coalition of countries so far away that none of us here in Barahkad had ever visited any of them began to use planes to bomb us. I believe your country participated in that effort.

We already had little food, no electricity. Now when people walked down to the market, they might become splintered bones and shredded flesh and a stain of red on the roadside in a blink of the eye. We lost maybe half of the people in Barakhad during those months.

Now that the bombs have stopped, we are doing our best. The priests who might have helped are gone. There has been no time to rebuild the church, my friend. We haven't had time to rebuild many things, as you may have seen when you came into town.

So at the moment the church is crumbling and overgrown with weeds. It's green enough to make even a Smaragdinean happy. The north side of the transept remains one wall and a promise of a roof. No one likes a church where the wind can catch you up like the breath of God. No one likes a church with the rain on the inside. Except me, since that's where I'm forced to live for now.

Am I talking to you? Are we speaking? Are you hearing me?

[links] Link salad, hit and run edition

Bad Astronomy on moon hoaxes and pseudo-science — " can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into." Much better said than I've ever managed. Which is the problem with Intelligent Design, of course. It's not a position arrived at by reason, it's a position arrived at by rationalization.

Laughing at the past — From Paleo-future.

Organ Transplant — Another striking image from Shorpy.

A Switch Is Flipped, and Justice Listens In — Defendant uses hidden MP3 player to record interrogation.

Absurd Windows error messages

chriswjohnson with the Bamberger Ranch chiroptorium

[fiction] "The Dying Dream of Water"

I'm continuing to post reprints of my fiction here on this blog. Watch for the tag "fiction," as in The current installment in this series is a 4,600 word story entitled "The Dying Dream of Water". This originally appeared in Flytrap #3 back in 2004, ed. Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw Tropism Press ]. It was also the subject of last week's podcast, if you'd like to hear me read this in my own voice.

This story is part of my ongoing unpublished (and unfinished) Old West fantasy, Original Destiny, Manifest Sin. As I said before, watch for it in a bookstore near you around 2017. In the mean time, if you like, please consider supporting Flytrap and Tropism Press.

The Dying Dream of Water

by Jay Lake

Peony Sykes stood next to her family's second wagon, spattered with her mother's blood. Red rock buttes surrounded the killing ground like pillars of a great tabernacle. Buzzards already circled overhead in the blinding summer sky as the laughing Apache drove his mount toward her. He'd sheathed his rifle in favor of an axe.

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© 2004, 2007, Joseph E. Lake Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

[words] Days of future passed

An anachronism is something out of its temporal context.

A prochronism is something from the future of the time being discussed, ie, Wyatt Earp with an AK-47.

Is there a word from something from the past of the time being discussed?

Also, how strong a distinction do we make between anachronisms in science fiction (the voice tech in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is wildly off-based now) which are errors-of-future-history, and anachronisms in general fiction of the prochronic nature?

[links] Link salad, nooner edition

Venezuelans Reset Clocks With Chavez's New Time Zone — "Chavez...says time zones were created by 'imperialists.'"

U.S. Is No Haven, Canadian Judge Finds — A Canadian legal ruling states that the United States is no longer a safe asylum for refugees. Among other things, the judge cites the Maher Arar case. That's an incident no American of any political stripe has the least cause to be proud of.

In Japan, cellular storytelling is all the rage — Apparently these "cell phone" novels are popping onto the best seller lists.

White House press secretary Dana Perino doesn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was — I doubt this seems like a problem to conservatives, but it damned sure ought to. That's high school U.S. history. For another, she's the freaking White House press secretary. On the other hand, since anti-intellectualism is a carefully-cultivated trend within modern conservatism, I suppose this ignorance of key aspects of American history shouldn't be the least bit surprising. (Long time readers may remember the Trent Lott issue from last year, about him not knowing the difference between Shia and Sunni. A somewhat parallel situation. My observations at the time, and reader comments, here.)

Cash for peace — Money shot:
"The US budget for Iraq in FY 2006 comes to $3,749/Iraqi. This is more than double their per person GDP. It's like spending $91,000 per person in the US. Why not just bribe the whole country?" But seriously: Why not just bribe the whole country? If we're determined to commit an enormous amount of resources to the Iraqi people, why not let the Ghost of Milton Friedman take over and simply design some sort of program that offers enormous economic benefits in exchange for reductions in violence?