Thursday, December 30, 2010

CD Review: Francis Lai - Bilitis Soundtrack

Francis Lai - Bilitis Soundtrack

Retail $14.95 inc GST

Code: POS 5005
Possum Records

The original soundtrack by Francis Lai.

1. Bilitis - Generique
2. Promenade
3. Les Deux Nudites
4. Spring Time Ballet
5. L'Arbre
6. I Need A Man
7. Melissa
8. Le Campagne
9. Scene D'Amour
10. Rainbow
11. Bilits - Generique de Fin


With many Movie Soundtracks, once the film has come and gone, the CD will sit on the shelf and never see the turntable again. The songs are usually meaningful as the score to the picture, but not cohesive enough to warrant putting together as a collection. Franci Lai's Bilitis Soundtrack is an exception to this rule.

The romantic themes and magestic beauty of the pieces on this CD can be played as a soothing and relaxing background music while reading or painting, or at a romantic dinner. Franic is a French composer who has won Academy Awards for his music scores and this Soundtrack is a great example of why.

CD Review: Betty Blokk Buster Follies by Reg Livermore

Betty Blokk Buster Follies
Reg Livermore
Retail $14.95 inc GST

Code: POS 5012
Possum Records

1. Cabaret - Tiller Girls

2. Family Of Man
3. Money
4. Voice Of Experience
5. Hello In There
6. Captain Jack
7. Last Cigarette
8. Matrimony
9. What Makes A Man A Man
10. Long Tall Glasses
11. The Entertainer
12. Is That All There Is
13. Walk On The Wildside
14. Train
15. Travelling Prayer
16. Ticking
17. Celluloid Heroes
18. Silverbird
19. The Show Must Go On
20. S.O.L.O.


While I have heard of Reg Livermore before, I had never heard this album from the 70's by him. Reg is a well know Australian singer, actor and star of the theatre.

Betty Blokk Buster earned 1 Platinum and 2 Gold records back in the 70's when it was originally released, with the album reaching number 15 in the Australian Charts, and remaining on the charts for over 1 year.

Betty Blokk Buster Follies is a one man theatrical show by Livermore, with many showtunes, writen either by Reg or other famous musicans. I wasn't sure whether to take this serious or if it was just a light hearted, tongue in cheek performance paying out on the theatrical musical genre inspire by Gilbert and Sullivan.

As with all concept albums, this one will appeal to a specific audience and market at the exclusion of others. It is really a CD that needs to be listened to from start to finish to follow the story of the characters, rather than an album that you can pop on and listen to driving to work in the morning.

CD Review: Marc Bolan & T.Rex - Thunderwing

Marc Bolan & T Rex
Retail $14.95 inc GST 
Code: POS 5008
Possum Records

1. The Groover
2. Jitterbug Love
3. Telegram Sam
4. Metal Guru
5. Thunderwing
6. Rock On
7. The Slider
8. Baby Boomerang
9. Main Man
10. Sunken Rags
11. Laser Love
12. 20th Century Boy
13. Children Of The Revolution

All recorded just before the final sessions for The Slider and Tanx albums - under the watchful eye of Tony Visconti - these tracks all show a bit of history


T Rex is back. Well this great compilation through local Aussie Distributor, Possum Records, is anyway.

This collection has all of the greatest songs by T.Rex, such as Telegram Sam, 20th Century Boy, The Grover and more. Marc Bolan was a brilliant songwriter and these tunes are all timeless classics that any lover of music should have in their collection.

These songs are all well crafted tunes that have brilliant melodies and guitar riffs that are catchy and memorable. It is really surprising that more bands haven't done cover versions of these songs, as they have the longevity that makes them great tunes thirty years on.

CD Review: Ian Dury - Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

Ian Dury - Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll
Possum Records
Retail $14.95 inc GST

Code: POS 5011

Online Order link:

1. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

2. What A Waste
3. Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)
4. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
5. Billericay Dicke
6. If I Was With A Woman
7. Blackmail Man
8. Wake Up And Make Love To Me
9. My Old Man
10. Sweet Gene Vincent
11. Blockheads
12. Clevor Trever
13 I'm Partial To Abracadabra
14. There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards
15. Inbetweenies
16. Sueperman's Big Sister
17. I Want To Be Straight
18. Spasticus Autisticus (Live)
19. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick ( 12" Version)
20. Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)(12" Version)


I was happy to discover a local independent CD distributor here in Australia, Possum Records. Great to see local business like this giving the consumer a choice instead of the large multinational companies that don't seem to have the time to get back to customer/publisher queries.

This CD is a great mid priced collection of songs from Ian Dury, such as the title track, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. While many people may have only heard of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, there are many great tracks on this compilation.

The variety of styles of Ian Dury are interesting, with songs seeming to be ranging from the upbeat and pop tunes to easy listening and neopunk. I hadn't heard any other songs by Ian Dury before, and was pleasantly surprised by this collection.

Fiction: I Want to Live Again by Robin Sewell

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my god than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalm 84:10

I want to live again. This alone keeps my awareness glittering and sharp. Loathsome. Corrupt. Within each of my kind is a desperate agony, heartache beyond belief – how could it be otherwise? Mostly, the others just forget because it’s so much easier. The forgetting is a balm, a cauterizing kiss.

I was formed from pure desire bastardized into something so gruesome that I would kill myself a thousand times a day if I could. I cannot die, yet I refuse to forget and lose him yet again. I could bury myself in the blackness and bile. But, no. Deep within the vileness of my soul is his throbbing desire for life. I nurture this. Cup it in my filthy hands and feed it lies. Pretend that I may escape, or someday stop altogether. Tell myself that I will no longer pay homage to enslavement and perversion. Even so, the voice is always with me, incessantly murmuring, begging. He does not and cannot understand what I have done for him. The price I pay for keeping his small soul alight.

In the eyes of this angel, there spins beneath the surface a frothy film of insurgency. I want to live again. It is far too long that I have been wearing these gritty wings, the winds of which are driving me bat-shit. Under this gilded exterior there is nothing left but a husk, gutted and desiccated by a monomaniacal beast who demands to be called god.

There are nights, after I’ve smoothed each appendage, folded them softly onto my back and settled into the eiderdown, that I think of the boy as he was then. This was five, maybe six hundred years ago. He was so young and alone that he didn’t even have the good sense to be frightened.

Yes, of course you can help. Come closer – don’t let the blood frighten you. Do you like my wings? Thank you – they’re fashioned from real unicorn feathers.

What kind of question is that? Of course unicorns have feathers! How else could they fly? If you come closer, you may touch them.

I am the boy, of course, but I can no longer clearly separate him from this monster that I have become. When he touched me, I broke him into thousands of pieces. I took him into my mouth and abused him in every way possible. Afterwards, I held his soul in my lips, dripping with shame and blood and placed it before the throne. I was not even spared a glance and the feeding began. I think it was the screaming, the blood, and the sheer blackness of the moment that allowed me to hold back part of the offering. I have it still– the luminous bit of a soul. Already, it begins to hunger.

Fiction: Perihelion by Holger Nahm

My father always told me I had a beautiful soul, but I now know that he was lying. I know because of the noises people make when they see it, their lame compliments and that contrite tone in their voice that says it all: “Such a pathetic soul and blind as well, you poor, poor thing”. Not that they would ever actually speak the words.

Every time I get turned down for yet another job or they again rejects my request for new eyes I get to hear some new, clever justification. But I know it is because of my soul. And I really can’t blame anyone but myself. I don’t need to see my soul to know how hollow I am, how devoid of dreams and motivation. They say most blind people hone their hearing to perfection. Ferti even told me about a blind boy from way-back-when who mastered some form of echolocation; For my part I just stumble through a world of nothing, clumsy and awkward.

On most days I find the knowledge that we are utterly insignificant flickers in a cosmos of light very reassuring.


I shouldn’t whinge; given the circumstances I guess I really am lucky. I have a job at the local Records, my lovely girlfriend Nefertiti is still sticking with me and I actually own a small apartment above the line of darkness – not that that has any real meaning for me. Many around here remember my father and take pity on his poor blind son. A Party undersecretary may not be paid well, but it sure is a nice way to make people feel they owe you a favour.

My greatest blessing is Nefertiti, or Ferti as she likes to be called – she hates “Nefi” with a passion and doesn’t care for “Nefertiti”; I guess having the most common name on the entire planet does that to you. But it suits her perfectly, she is beautiful beyond doubt. Her skin is silky and warm, her hands tender and arousing, and her voice has a magic all to its own. The mind matches the body: Her impressive education and her genuine compassion for the downtrodden have been beautiful inspiration; Occasionally, when the realization that I may be one of the downtrodden strikes, it also hurts a bit.

For obvious reasons we don’t talk about our souls, but I once overheard her friends chat about how pleasantly complex and harmonious hers is. In some ways I am happy that I will likely never see for myself.


To me it feels like I am stuck in the past, left behind decades before I was even born, trapped forever in the darkness of the Forties. Perhaps I really am the only one on Earth who cannot marvel at the incandescent holographic miracle of the manifest soul, the greatest wonder of human genius and technology.

So I have begun to study. Where others gaze in dumbfound amazement I have to read and listen; And our past holds more surprises than I would have thought possible. Who out there even knows that the very first Manifester experiments happened only seventy years ago? That means that just seven decades ago no one believed in the soul. It seems so unbelievable now; For most of history humanity was aware of the soul and then we just stopped knowing.

The years after the Kline Experiments must have been strange and glorious time, so full of hope and grandeur. Sure, we could no longer deny that all living things have souls, but what were their flickers to our blazing beacons? For a decade humanity could truly believe in its unique magnificence, its rightful supremacy.

But my study of this era has also left a taste of dread in my mind. We now take it for granted that the soul will remain after we die. That unfortunately is by no means the natural state of things. Observing the souls of the dying was of course one of the first things that the Manifester was used for. Most remained after death as they do today, but a few faded, just like the souls of animals and plants do. The ones that dissipated shared one characteristic: while alive they had not seen their own soul. Back then there was some speculation whether salvation depended on seeing the soul or mere knowledge of it, but I have not found the answer in any file. And nowadays there is no one left on the planet who hasn’t seen their soul; No one except for myself; And perhaps a few other unlucky ones.

I guess it wouldn’t really be all too difficult to find research on what happens to the souls of the blind, but I must admit I am too afraid to feel myself down that road.


Yesterday Chand, my boss at Records, told me something that has left me in deep ruminations. I had of course heard of the vagrant workers that toil away in the underfactories far below the line of darkness, desperately close to the dirt. I always assumed that after a few years of work they would be granted citizenship. Chand gave me a different story. He says that there is a an unwritten Party guideline to evict them after four years and ten months, just a few fleeting weeks short of automatically being granted citizenship by right of Law. It would mean that those poor souls are working themselves to the bone, often literally, only to be thrown back into the Burning Land.

I need to learn more. Not that I doubt Chand; After the Catastrophes and after all we have learnt, human life certainly has become very disposable. But could the Party, with its strong Gaian roots, its firm commitment to the Earth and the people, really allow such a monstrosity?


Then again, the spiritual roots of the Party is another one of those things that no one seems to care about these days. But how can we forget that it was the construction of the first Very Large Manifster Array that also forged the Party.

Yes, it was the founders of the Party that built the Calgary VLMA; For no other reason than to prove that the Earth has a soul. It is not quite as silly as it sounds today. If you just spin the Kline Theorem to its natural end it inevitably leads you to just that conclusion. How shocked they must have been when all they saw was a few lonely, jumbled sparkling clouds; No real soul and not even a flicker of consciousness.


It all turned out to be true! The facts were actually right at my fingertips. All I needed to do was check the ID card database. Only a hundred new cards were issued to non-citizens all of last year. A hundred! Tens of thousands stream out of the Burning Land every year, full of dreams and aspirations, ready to work themselves half-to-death, even to die for our well-being. We promise them a path to citizenship. We give them contracts. We feed them hope to fuel their efforts. Then we pull it all right out from underneath them. And when they then blow up a solar collector field we call them monstrous blasphemers and send out the bomber swarms. It makes me want to puke.

I think that Ferti is as incensed I am by all of this, but of course she is much calmer and more measured than I could ever be. She reminded me that modern life is full of contradictions and injustice; that there is no point in blind rage and that only wise and deliberate action has any hope of making the world a better place. While I know that she is right I nonetheless cannot help but feel like a moth, entranced by the comforting warmth of the flame of righteous wrath.

When I next met Chand to talk over my discoveries and to voice Ferti’s admonishments he felt almost eerily calm. Sure he did not need to be convinced, but I can’t shake the feeling that he already has a plan. But if he does, why doesn’t he just tell me? The idea of him hatching some secret, perhaps even illegal, scheme excites me far more than it should. Also, I could not shake off the inkling that he was not at all happy that I had told Ferti; But probably I just got the entirely wrong impression from our conversation.


Since we last spoke Ferti undertook some investigations of her own. What she has learned has cast me into terrible doubt. One moment I am filled with fury, the next feeling like an idiot. I should have known that I am not up to messing with politics.

Ferti discovered that the Council of Citizenship Affairs is well aware of the situation and is already conducting an inquest. But the real shock is that according to them the underfactories have been infiltrated by the Bratva. They are said to offer the vagrant workers fake ID cards in exchange for stolen goods from the factories. Those who take the deal are either caught and deported or end up in the clutches of the Bratva and are forced to join a gang or into prostitution. In the last few years the situation has gotten so bad that they had to clamp down pretty hard. Nonetheless, the Council is actively examining if the Law has gone too far.


On SUNday Apo, a friend of mine, is going to take me to the new pyramid in the Yoon District. A day of quite meditation will hopefully give me a chance to gather my roiling thoughts and feelings.


I know that my helpless frustration at history is good for nothing, but it just seems hard to justify that the UN did not see the signs when they began work on the Sector Siberia. After their food war Russia was so obviously being run by criminals that the easiest way to determine political affiliation was to check the proudly displayed mob tattoos; And ever since the Bratva has been bullet, police and policy proof. From what I heard they have now even spread to Sector Patagonia and Sector Antarctica.


The pyramid was wonderful. The crystal must be a perfect cut. The SUN’s rays pierced straight into my sorry soul, flooding me with celestial energy. It was a moment of perfect serenity and clarity. No matter how chocking the Bratva’s hold on the vagrant workers is, they deserve better. And if they are bound to end up as prostitutes or thugs anyway there really is no excuse for not helping them.

The moment is gone now and doubts are again beginning to creep up on me. I really hope that Nefertiti will come to the same conclusion.


I was right about Chand! He pulled me aside to talk in private after I offhandedly mentioned my visit to the pyramid. At first he was very cautious. I heard him shift about nervously as he told me that he considers me a “Good man with a noble heart” – Those words left me awash in a sea of blissful self-indulgence. And then without warning the questions started; Never in my life have I been so thoroughly interrogated about anything. I gather that he wanted to be absolutely and completely certain of my dedication to the cause. It almost felt like I had passed a college exam when he finally confided his plan.

It is as crazy as I had feared – and hoped – it would be, a byzantine scheme that will have the Party bureaucracy dancing like our puppet. A puppet that will hand out ID cards to vagrant workers with a smile and handshake. The best part: It would certainly not work without some of my clearances. I had never really thought about how much power my job bestows upon me; And to my shame I tingle with exhilaration.

Chand made me promise that I will not tell Ferti. It’s hardly surprising that he wouldn’t trust her, but naturally I am torn. The entire plot is so extreme that I cannot really imagine getting fully onboard without her council and approval; But I swore.


When Chand insisted that I give my word I almost swore by the SUN. Old habits die hard. Usually I consider myself well adapted to the new cosmos we live in, but the rubs of reality easily trip my mind, sending it slipping down the slope of time, straight into childhood. Or maybe it is crawling off to hide itself in a blanket of memory, a time when I did not know that my soul was worthless and that almost every other sector-dwelling blind person had long been blessed with artificial eyes.

It takes me back: I can hear my father’s voice clearly, feel his gentle touch when he in reverent tones revealed to me the history of how humanity had peered through the veil of divinity and beheld GOD. He tells it as a majestic tale full of twists and tribulations; But in the end, somehow, a VLMA was constructed in the Rome IV moon base; And its conical eye set the machine’s unrelenting gaze upon the SUN.

Obviously I cannot truly appreciate the magnificence of that moment. But think about how must have been like for people back in those days. The soul of the SUN, for the first time. That infinite blaze of endless intricate complexity, patterns within patterns, a perfect chaos, always shifting, a new wonder every second, the smallest speck a miracle of incomprehensible beauty; The whole a theophany of such terrible splendour that a billion eyes could not take it all in, for all eternity in impeccable harmony.

Yes, I have learnt my words well. But what else is there for me. So often my hands have groped through the hologram, a child lost in darkness, grasping at the blackness in hope of catching but a glimmer of reassuring light. Nothing is all I ever get.


So I am lost in thought. Is the risk worth it? How often can we cheat the system like that? Certainly we won’t be solving the problem. Should I really care about people I have never met? People that may very well be all too eager to join the Bratva?

When I finally fell asleep I became prey, hunted and devoured; persecuted and punished. It is all too obvious that I am very afraid. I know the precipice lurks just of reach, but one wrong step and I will slip and it will consume me.


I know all too well how effortlessly chaos and madness can become the obliging companions of those who see a higher calling, who dream of changing the world.

Who could have imagined how close to the abyss seeing the divine would lure us? Then again, the revelations manifested before us were as apocalyptic as we had ever faced; First the soul of the SUN, then the realization that in some unfathomable way it thinks and feels.

Yes, we had found GOD. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind. Most everyone who wasn’t dying forgot about the Catastrophes and either went religious or placed all their faith in the psychists, as they ever so vainly tried to decode the soul of the SUN. Many did both.

It was a fashion of the time to believe that the SUN was speaking to us. People would gaze, enthralled, at the Manifester image for hours and dream up all kinds of messages and commands. The craziest buffoons would stare into the SUN until their eyes burned out.

It was those strange days that gave us all the cathedrals, pyramids, mastabas and ziggurats that can be found clinging to every part of the sector that will hold them. Just makes me wonder how many more home blocks could have been built, how many more lives could have been saved. And then there are the Giza and Cusco launch centres. Most people around here seem to have forgotten about them, but souls, along with their dead bodies, are still being shot into the SUN every month. All for the fool’s hope of some grand unification, some forced apotheosis. Probably their souls linger in space, lost in the infinite light when their bodies are vaporized – then again that may not be the worst of fates.

Probably I am just bitter and petty, how can the few years of life measure up to the infinity of the soul. We can always take care of the dead, does how they lived really matter? If only I had more hopes for my own afterlife.


Just more reasons to do the right thing with this life. I have the chance to make things right and no matter how brutally I bend reason to batter my conscience there is no escaping that it is what I must do. The realization burns the thick cotton that had dulled my mind. The pathways of my thoughts are open now. I do not delude myself: I will play only a small role, be a follower not a leader; Nevertheless, for someone like me it is so much more than I could have ever dared to hope. It is a door that I simply must open. The dangers are undeniable, but how can I turn away from those people, away from Chand and away from Nefertiti, even though she may never learn of my deeds.


Ferti came to visit me today and everything is spiralling; my confusion and guilt have grown into ever-obliging bedfellows. Of course I should want to tell her; But when I sit there knowing what I will soon do, I feel as if I am growing. I can literally feel my entire body and mind expand as her idle chatter washes over me.

No wonder someone with a soul like mine would be so petty. The only thing that really scares me is that I can feel that the true source of this arrogant delight radiating from within the deepest reaches of my being. I know that when all is said and done I of course can’t be a very decent person, but feeling so good about knowing something Ferti doesn’t is just cheap and ungrateful; All the more reason to let virtuous deeds balance selfish thoughts.


After Ferti left I called Chand and told him I was ready to assist. He will explain all remaining details tomorrow.

When he finally arrived and began his exposition I was absolutely rapt. My entire body took in every word. When he had finished all my giddiness had washed out of me and determination had solidified in its place. I must have sat there in silence for far too long, because Chand’s next words “So you have doubts?” were more a statement than a question. I sat there in solid silence, wanting to move, to speak, but somehow unable. “What troubles you?” he asked then and it felt wonderful to tell him “Nothing”, knowing that it was one of the truest things I have ever said.


Chand will procure our list of names by Wednesday, then we can go ahead on Friday. By next Monday over three-thousand women and men from the Burning Land will be granted what should have been theirs by Law and propriety. Chand will be their champion and I will be with him.


Finally Friday. When Chand arrived we examined our plan one last time, made sure we hadn’t missed any hidden snares or pitfalls and then it began. I felt as if I were a master surgeon. Every flick of my fingers, every voice command, even every loosening of my hands and back was like a carefully choreographed performance. Everything seemed to happen for a purpose, it all was perfect.


The names have been inserted, the orders activated, the letters dispatched. All wheels are set in motion. I am sitting in silence, stunned by the magnificence. Slowly shakes are beginning to crawl up my spine as the floodgates of anxiety unleash my pent up tension. But it is done now.

Chand is diligently following every twitch and shudder of the bureaucracy, but so far so good. No one seems to have taken any notice of the fact that for once the vagrant workers have been given what was promised. I feel at ease.


I dream in the wonderful warmth of childhood memories. But even in sleep something is nagging. That nagging human itch. In nightmares I lament it: Had humanity only never looked beyond the SUN, it could have been so perfect. Perfect like my first memories, living in a world of hope; Religion had been tamed, the sectors completed and the Catastrophes were over. I was going to lead a good life.

But of course humanity had to look. I would be hopelessly at a loss, should I be asked to explain how we did it; Something about infinitesimal space inflation and other things I don’t know the first thing about. The results however I, like every other human being, understand all too well.

Fifteen years ago the Amun-Aten telescope succeeded in the incredible feat of manifesting the soul of Proxima Centauri. It should have been so very obvious. Of course other stars had souls. But we had been ignorant as always, obsessed with our desire to be exceptional, driven by our delusion that in an infinite cosmos we can have meaning.

Certainly, the limits of our technology allow us to do no more than manifest fading fragments of stars’ souls; But even the tiniest slivers of Rho Cassiopeia's bursting soul leave those who see them petrified with awe beyond sanity. A hundred sextillion souls of incomprehensible magnitude inhabit the universe. What remains for humanity? Anything? Perhaps we should set out to worship our own insignificance.

Maybe, if we were a better species we would look up every night in blissful wonder, enthralled by the enchanted cosmos we have the privilege to be a part of.

Instead we simply gave up. It was not a collapse like some now like to claim. Nothing from the turn of the century would give that impression. No, it was a slow malignant decline that overpowered more and more of our very humanity year after year. We know we are irrelevant and simply cannot cope.


No! It can’t be! It just can’t. Chand must have got it wrong. No! No! No! I am fumbling about, my hands flitting here and there, desperately hoping to grope a miracle ladder that will take me away. “They know what happened.” Chand had been breathless and panicked, just as I am now. How very, very wrong I have been. I guess it’s only downhill for me from now on.

Behind the curtain of panic that has wrapped itself around my stomach I still think that we have done good. This will certainly not end well for me; My life as I knew it is most likely over, but at least I did right by many, oh so many people who needed my help. All I can do is hope that they realize what is happening and stay out of Law’s grasp.


The commissars came to arrest me only hours after Chand called. Of course they manifested my soul during interrogation. From what of their chatter I overheard I am surprised that they didn’t convict me on the spot. They questioned me for what seemed like hours. The intensity of the situation and the unfamiliar voices left me teetering at the edge of sanity the whole time. Still I managed to claw onto enough of my equilibrium to keep my mouth shut throughout most of the ordeal. I freely admitted my own guilt, they seemed to know all about it anyway; But I made damned sure they did not learn from me that Chand was the mastermind behind the plot. If we are going down, I will not be the one to cushion my fall by landing on the man who had made it all possible.

It was tough to conceal information when all of my lies would have been exposed immediately, but I think I did rather well. In one way the monitoring of my soul has been a blessing: They were obviously suspecting Ferti. When I told them that she knew nothing and had been in no way involved that unimaginable horrific doom was immediately dispelled.


It has only been four days and I am already headed for court. Only once did I have a few short minutes to talk to Nefertiti. When I heard her voice I almost felt like the longing would rip right out of my throat. Then and there I knew for a few moments that I had made a tremendous mistake. The words themselves have all become a blur in my memory, only the emotions still burn bright. I so long to touch her again.


With a little distance and time to reflect I have fortunately been able to take in the entirety of my actions. And I would do it again. Thousands will not be unjustly banished to the Burning Land or worse, snatched by the Bratva. I made a difference and that is all I could have hoped for.

The trial on the other hand is strangely boring. Even though my future fate is being decided the endless legal litany wore me down. After the sixth day I just stopped caring. I had confessed to everything, but refused to implicate my compatriot so there really wasn’t much to mull over. My duty counsel disappointingly declined to make an issue out of the suffering of the vagrant workers. I know it is silly, but on the first day I dreamed of making the trial about the Party's policies; It just might have turned my capture into a pyrrhic victory of sorts.

Instead my counsel is portraying me as a slightly deranged and pathetic freak, driven into crime and corruption by a manipulative boss and a misplaced desire to vindicate his pitiable soul. While I cannot completely deny the last point, the rest of his strategy is just despicable. The first few days of the trial I had to clench my fists and curl my toes to not leap up and scream in helpless outrage. I loathe that I was barred from choosing my own defender on grounds of being a Party employee.

But all that rage has faded. Now all I feel is the coldness of my seat and the oppressing monotony of the courtroom proceeding. Going back to my holding cell in the evening is almost a breath of fresh air.


My entire body is a sloshing cesspool of misery. The trial has ended and I am going to jail. It is a short sentence given the circumstances; A mere three years in lockup. They took pity on the blind man and his wretched soul. Who cares? They caught most of the vagrant workers. They stripped them of their ID cards and instead of even giving them the chance of returning to their work deported them on what must have been trumped up charges of cooperating with the Bratva to get their citizenship.

Only a few hundred or so made off into the sector. But they’re on the run now; hardly the free life they deserved. It should have been obvious that this would happen the moment I heard Chand’s panicked voice on the phone, but I must have blocked the realization from my mind in a vain attempt to keep my sanity.

When I said goodbye to Ferti the icy shards of broken hope cut the last strings of my heart. Now I am sitting in my cell feeling sorry for myself, sorry for the vagrants and sorry for sorrow’s sake. What remains, but emptiness?


Days and weeks and months of hopeless confinement. Ferti visits whenever she can, but we are growing distant. She says she is proud of what I have done, but I can feel that she thinks I made a horrible mistake. But that is only the start of it. When we meet I just can’t help myself. One moment I firmly clinging to her and next I sit slumped in morose silence. I feel like some manic-depressive monkey baby meeting its mother for the first time. She still puts up with it, but if I were her I would have long given up on me.

While I am in as depressed a frame of mind and heart as I have ever been I must admit that the guards and my fellow inmates are treating me very well. I was so preoccupied with the capture of the vagrant workers that it never occurred to me that prison can be a very dangerous place for a helpless blind-man.


The last few days I have been trying to find out what fate has befallen Chand, but I have been less than successful. Neither the guards, nor any of the inmates I got a hold of, nor Ferti had heard anything beyond vague rumours. The only snippet of information I was able to gather came from one of my cellblock guards. He told me that my co-conspirator had received some sort of unusual treatment. I fear he may have fallen into the atrocious mills of the Anti-Sedition Court. They certainly were threatening me with that ridiculous, yet all too real danger during my initial interrogation.

Wherever he may be now all I can do is hope. It is not the first time since my arrest that I feel almost overwhelmed by the wish to be free; Free not only in body, but free also in spirit of the soul-chilling knowledge that no higher power in the cosmos cares for my prayers.


Ferti has a new man. I knew it would happen. It is no surprise. It hurts. In fact I am numb. Empty. My isolation is complete. I am alone.


Misery attracts suffering. I was standing outside my cell when suddenly I felt myself rushing toward the ground. As the jolt of impact crashed into my arms I realized pain radiating from my calf. I had been kicked! My world spun. Desperately I tried to scream for help, to struggle. But before I could move or make a sound my head was violently forced into the cement floor. The last thing I remember was a garbled sound and bloody spittle escaping my lips.


When I next woke I was on my back on what I could only assume to be a hospital bed. My mind was a dreary haze of pain, despair and misery all dulled by a merciful drug-bliss radiating from the core of my brain.

I later learned that the man who attacked me had recently himself been the victim of vicious beating. Obviously he had been looking for an easy victim to vent his frustration. They don’t come any better than me. Happy to oblige. Asshole.

At least the gaping rage that began devouring me left me in a pit too deep to contemplate my misery. It carried me all through the rest of my sentence. At first it was directed, a burning blade pointed at my loathsome assailant. Then it became legion; An unending eruption of fury against all the world’s injustices. Especially those committed against me.

It would be so easy for me to chide myself for my adolescent anger. To berate my futile desires for revenge; But they gave me warmth in the coldest days of my unjust imprisonment. Paths healthier for mind and spirit were perhaps open to me, but I simply did not have the fortitude or drive to take any other route.


After they released me the prison delegated the duty of guiding me to Horem, one of the guards from my block and a kind man. He led me to one of the main elevators that would take us past the only ground I have ever known; past that two-hundred meter high platform and into the world of skyscrapers and underfactories that serve as its pillars. I was heading below the line of darkness to become one of the teeming and huddled masses of the sector.

At least I would not be suffering from the lack of SUNlight that breaks so many who are forced to exist in this dank twilight. However, I soon discovered that the world below is full of unique pitfalls for the blind. Broken stairs, wet floors, unrepaired walkways and an endless array of other traps made my life in the undercity a constant stumbling journey that left me with new bruises every week.

Without Horem’s aid and the kind and enduring help of Pieter I would have almost certainly found myself in an emergency room or the morgue within the first week. Pieter I met on the way into my “apartment” – cubicle or closet would probably do it more justice, but that is fine by me. He is an aging, burly repairman who takes care of the pipes that run to and from the sector above. When Horem asked him to have an eye on me he almost immediately agreed. Ever since he has been the most profound and amazing help I could have ever wished for.

I don’t really know why he is being so kind; He has dropped hints that it has something to do with family, but he seems reluctant to talk about the details and I certainly won’t push him. Whatever the reason, I cannot express how thankful I am too him. After so many disappointments and so much rage he is like a warm hearth.


My hate has subsided quickly. Pieter’s compassion and the pressures of adjusting to my new life left little room for mindless fury. I do not really know what has replaced it. My feelings are an impenetrable mystery to me. Mostly I am confused, but occasionally fear, elation, depression, serenity and other jumbled emotions that I can’t place quell up inside, only to fade moments later. Perhaps I am going insane. Then again, after all I’ve been through I just may need a time to adjust.

Of course I can’t find a job. I am living entirely off the sector’s public services. It is a bare minimum and I cannot claim that I do not miss many amenities, but I am doing alright for now. Prison life has prepared me well and an austere existence is as good a way as any to help me fully focus inward, to give me a chance to calm that storm that swept my life away.


So much for calming. Ferti visited today. After our last meeting I am almost touched that she made the effort to find me. Back in prison I had said things that I cannot but regret now.

She wouldn’t say it outright, but it was all too obvious that she is very content with her life. While she did her best to show concern for me, her skin almost glowed with elation. It stung like a hot needle and even though I know I should be happy for her, I simply cannot summon the strength. So I sat and listened, alone in darkness; An hour of longing and trying to fight the urge to scream at the injustices of a cold, cruel world.

In the end she offered me help. Had she been able to give me a job I fear that I would have gladly dropped any pretence of pride, but Ferti’s offer of money did not even begin to tempt me to approach that slope. We said our goodbyes knowing that it would probably be years before we met again, if ever.

As painful as the meeting was it gave me a sense of closure. When I told Pieter he immediately brought over a good old fashioned bottle of vodka to commiserate. While I have come to suspect that my jovial companion and saviour drinks far too much synthol I could hardly turn down this offer; Nor did I really want to. It was great. We got pissed to the point of no return. We hollered songs, took babbling turns giving each other rousing speeches for popular revolution, decried all the evils of the world and wept about our cosmic insignificance.

By the end of the evening he had heard my story. He liked my tale and was overjoyed at the idea of sticking it to the Bratva – It must have been the vodka, it takes more than a few leaps to get that out of my sorry misadventure.

He was drunk enough to tell me that his brother had gone blind at age four. His family were destitute underfactory labourers who had almost bankrupted themselves to pay for restorative surgery. The cost for the treatment spiralled out of control when it was discovered that the source of the blindness was a degenerative disorder, likely caused by some form of industrial poisoning. In the end they could do nothing but watch him die as he stared back with sightless eyes full of dull agony.

As he told me his story a profound glowing sympathy and appreciation began to merge with the vodka’s warm nausea.

It was an end and a beginning, even if I did awaken to an apartment smelling of booze and vomit. I guess it is much too late now to wish for a clean life.


I find myself searching for some form of salvation. Before my life was literally shoved down a hole I always considered myself surprisingly well adjusted to this new era of star souls and the inescapable revelation of humanity’s irrelevance. That equilibrium has left me. Perhaps it had always been blissful ignorance. I certainly have no ambitions of getting myself lost in some foolish quest to reclaim the illusion of human supremacy, but I cannot but wish to find some deeper spark of fulfilment.

It could of course be that I have stepped into the first stage of apathy; That I will soon discover that there is no escaping the yawning infinity of space; That I am following the ahsen tracks left by the rest of humanity. Perhaps it was just my inability to face the wonder of the star souls that has led me to become a straggler, a tardy traveller down into the pit of cosmic desolation.

Yet I cannot stop myself. Like all humans even a blind man just has to look, even if the burning light of what I learn may char my heart and mind.


Pieter and I have grown much closer. He has revealed to me that the Bratva has forced him to tap wires, sabotage the power supply and even to occasionally send illicit goods through a series of secret pipes. “Forced” he said was actually too strong a word, he had never even considered saying “No!”. But I have inspired him! When they next ask he will not acquiesce.

After Pieter left for the day I felt flush with pride and hope. My journey had given me the chance to touch someone’s life. Perhaps only in a small way, but touched for good. My path may have sense after all.


Two weeks have passed and the hope Pieter has kindled is blazing fiercely. Delving into the depths of web archives I unearthed an article by Dr. Sima herself. She had watched the souls of everyone in her laboratory during a five year period. Her careful observations led to a startling conclusion: Souls can change! Dr. Sima was able to study the souls of three individuals who were forced to face severe life-crises. The complexity and beauty of two of the souls seemed to diminish as their life was broken. The soul of a young lab-worker who lost many friends and an arm in a hurricane amazingly seemed improved.

I do not need to be told that the very idea contradicts all science and conventional wisdom. Suggesting that the human soul is malleable challenges so many axioms of the psychical sciences, so many years of careful study by the wisest people on Earth, that it cannot be true.

And that is why I have decided to place all my hope in this chance to change my soul. It will be my faith; my extraneous fool’s hope against the infinity of an uncaring cosmos.


A thundering crack; the sound of splintering wood. I frantically turn, my hands grasping for the phone button as I realize that my door has been forced open. Adrenaline speeds my arm and I find my finger pushing “call” far quicker than I would imagined possible. But too slow. A rush of air to my face heralds the crushing impact that knocks me sprawling to the ground. Seconds seem to pass in which I hear and feel nothing. Then the pain hits. My face is burning with agony. Blood spills freely from my brow. The horrifying taste of my own life fills my mouth as my eyes blink frantically.

Panic sharpens my senses. I hear heavy footsteps next to me. Voices slowly fade into my ear as the booming drone that I hadn’t even registered subsides. “That’s the blind fucker alright. Get him up!” A heavy hand grabs my hair and rips me to my feet. I smell alcohol and sweat; And my own fear. Aggression presses on my shoulders even as I am forced to stand. “You cripple got yourself all the wrong friends, ey?” Before I can answer or question he blurts on “That fucker Pieter sure likes to talk! Drunk fuck! But talking is one thing, ey? Refusing the Grandfather, that’s just stupid ain’t it?” I reel as a fist digs its way into the pit of my stomach “Answer fuck! Ain’t it?” I wring for air and sense. “Good that he talks. Slobbers all around the zone that he knows a fuckin’ hero of the people. Says he knows one the fuckers who screwed up a solemn, signed and paid for deal three years ago. Says it in more words. But we remember, ey?” The hands leave me and I sway; Blood and panic. “Now we’re going to fuck you up good! It’s a teaching exercise, ey? You learn that we remember and that failures got to be atoned for; And Pieter gets a little lesson on doing the right thing. He’ll just love seeing what his little mutiny did to his crippled fuck of a friend, ey?” With that I feel the rush of air on my arm. I try to block, try to dodge; uncoordinated. Cold iron crushes my elbow. The sickening noise almost makes me vomit as I stumble to the left. Pain is held back by shock. “Ey!” he shouts it as a warcry.

Then everything slows. The pain and fear spill from my body. I steady myself. “Out.” I hear myself declare. It resounds, more a statement than a command. My index finger traces a line to the broken door. Vigorous life quickens my body and mind.


The force of the word compels my assailants backward. Both take one step and then another.


Then the spell breaks. “What the fuck!” I barely feel the blow to my body. “What the fuck!” Another blow to my already wounded arm. I flinch, yet my left arm remains outstretched. “Stop, fuck!” fear is in his voice now. A blow to my chest. Hard. I feel a rib snap. “You blind fuck! Who do you think you are?” I long to say so much. A torrent of answers rushes toward my mouth. “I am” is all that I say. Every other reply had rescinded itself.

“Shut the fuck up! Shut up!” I hear him scream as he pounds my skull in a slow drumming rhythm. It is wonderfully peaceful. I lay down. And die.


My soul is before me. I perceive it for the first time. Spirit flows through my essence like a deep breath. My mind stretches to touch its soul. I flow through it as if it were a hologram, a mere illusion. The last slivers of shuddering life stab me with a final burst of panic.

Then realization dawns. My soul opens, more portal than entity, a flickering afterimage of a Whole. It unravels and reveals. Vastness surrounds me. Infinity and wonder above, beyond, below, within; time flows in circles, slowly swinging back and forth. i am the tiniest iota in an eternal cosmic ocean. Wonderful surrender is all that remains. Everything that is left of me fades as Fulfilment beyond imagining embraces.

United with All. Beginningless, endless, more vast than all universes, within the heart of every particle. Everything.





Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fiction: The Truth About Love and Revenge by Cynthia Ray

Elspeth Giorgione, First Witch and Sorceress of Bart’s Borough, stopped pacing long enough to unroll the crumpled parchment clenched in her hand, once again examining the brilliant blue ink and the artistic calligraphy of her husbands hand. Her wizard husband of 239 years had left her for a young wood nymph. Ha! She would see about that. The smell of ozone and electricity filled the air around her as her anger simmered.

She kicked the hand-hewn oak chair and it rattled across the floor, leaving splinters in its wake. She shredded the parchment into small pieces and hurled them into the fire, watching as they flamed up, curled into fine gray ash and disappeared. She trudged up the worn stone steps to her bedchamber and pushed open the heavy oaken doors. She unlatched the stained glass windows and leaned out into the cool night air. Moonlight sparkled and glinted through the artful glass windows, decorated with rosy-winged gryphons, fire-breathing dragons and golden-maned lions. Elspeth ran her finger along the panes and breathed in the sweet perfume from the roses that climbed the manse walls, but for Elspeth, all the beauty and color drained from the world. Black and white shadows took on sinister shapes as she gazed out into the night.

She tried to understand. Had she lost her allure and beauty? She stepped out of her robe and turned and gazed at herself in the full-length mirror hanging near the door. Her oval face with its striking green eyes peered back at her. In one light, it appeared young and bright, in another, old and wise. Her lips were the color of crushed strawberries, her skin soft and supple. Her hair, shining blue-black, hung to her knees. She considered herself an artful and skilled lover. Why did Androcoles choose the wood nymph over her? It made no sense.

Not only that, but they were well-matched intellectually and in their interests. She remembered the last time they sat up all night together, talking. Androcoles had just finished reading Magic Utopia by Aldan, and they had debated the ethics and impact of using magic to manipulate the environment. As a result of that conversation, they’d created new spells for increasing crop yields, and healthier livestock for the villagers. She admired his intellect and analytical mind. She’d been faithful and loyal. She’d loved him. But that was over now.

Her eyes were drawn to the painting that hung over the tiled fireplace. Androcoles, rendered in coarse brush strokes, stood in his state robes of blue and silver, holding a carved rosewood staff. He looked regal and handsome with his trim brown beard and sparkling hazel eyes. She stood next to him, holding a jeweled globe, dressed in a velvet cloak embroidered with silver moons and shimmering stars, the cloak he had given her as a wedding present. A lion lay at their feet, symbolizing the power of the magic they had tamed.

Tempted to rip the painting from the wall and fling it from the window, she turned away. “Bah!” Did he think he could make a fool of her and get away with it? He would pay for this idiocy.

In the letter, Androcoles confessed his love of Sapina, and begged Elspeth to forgive him. “Oh, for Isis sake! What a fool.” she exclaimed. She could just imagine them sitting under an old sycamore tree. He would pull the little nymph onto his lap and tell her comic fables to pass the time. The nymph, clothed in scanty garlands of maple leaves would ply him with ripe field berries. The juice would run down his beard, staining it blue and purple. He would lean forward and press his lips to hers and…. Enough! Her fist pounded down on the window ledge, bolts of energy shot out from between her fingers.

She poured herself a large goblet of mead and settled into dark musings. How best to destroy him? Death, her first choice, was impossible. To kill a wizard of his standing required more skill than even she possessed. Besides, death was far too merciful. He must suffer. He must be made utterly and completely wretched. She imagined stretching him on the rack, or standing by as he bu

Elspeth paced throughout the night, rejecting one idea after another. Fight him head on? No, they were perfectly matched in power and ability. Poison Sapina? No, it was folly to anger the nymphs. They could turn the trees and plants against you, and the forest would become deadly. A curse? Some sort of dreadful rotting, corroding disease for Androcoles? Tempting, but no, he knew all of the counter curses. Temporary at best.

Just as the rosy morning sun appeared over the mountains of Illsit, inspiration came to her in a splendid flash of genius! So perfect it caused her to throw back her head and laugh with delight.

Retiring to her spell chamber, she gathered pots and beakers. She rummaged among the dusty cabinets for the potent herbs and aromatics required for her purpose; a bit of Bay and Juniper, amber dust, cinnamon from the mountains of Illsit and seven drops of dragon blood. She sang to herself as she measured and mixed, and stoked the flames. She knew this mixture well--intoxicating, powerful, and effective. She stood over the simmering brew and cast the spell.

O Burning Goddess of Desire

Infuse this potion with your fire

Bring to me your amorous hell

Bind heart and mind within its spell

She thrust a pure gold rod into the boiling philter. It dissolved in a swirl of molten gold; a column of liquid rose up from the bubbling cauldron. An inky black shape formed from the shifting, moving mass. The chamber darkened and Elspeth’s cloak snapped about her shoulders in a cold and sudden wind. The spirit turned its black countenance upon Elspeth and bowed, then sank back into the roiling potion. She shivered as the apparition disappeared and the flickering light returned.

She measured a bit of the mixture into a glass vial and held it up to the light, turning it this way and that. Sunlight illuminated the green liquid with its swirling gold flecks. Elspeth retrieved a bottle of mead from the cellar and pulled the cork. She poured out some of the mead and replaced it with the magic elixir. She re-corked the Mead, and tipped the flask to mix it well. She stashed it under her green velvet cloak, and laced her light leather boots. She left the manse with a light heart, humming a melodic love song written by the nymphs.

Soon, she entered the woods and several of the nymphs emerged from their homes in the trees and walked with her. “Mistress Elspeth, what brings you to our corner of the forest?” they winked slyly at each other.

“You know well enough I search for Sapina, but I wish her no harm. I come to offer her well wishes The nymphs jeered. “A woman deserted by her husband for a nymph wishes to befriend the nymph? Surely you jest.”

Elspeth laughed and shook her head. “Truth be told, I grew weary of Androcoles stodgy ways, as she will soon find for herself. Indeed, I only want to speak with her and tell her this myself.”

“Then speak.” Sapina’s dulcet voice sounded from behind.

Elspeth turned and considered the nymph before her. Sapina’s golden cat eyes shimmered. A circlet of green leaves crowned her blonde braids, and garlands of leaves draped her lithe and slender body. Sapina's long and graceful fingers clasped a silver flute.

“Well met, Sapina” Elsbeth said.

Sapina waved the other nymphs away and approached Elspeth with her head held high.

Elspeth continued, “I wish you well. You are indeed beautiful. Androcoles says he loves you. I freely release him and you of any debt to me. Will you drink with me?” Elspeth motioned for Sapina to join her on the mossy grass.

Sapina bowed and sat next to Elspeth. “Forgive me, but no. After all, a witch such as yourself might easily poison a nymph.”

Elspeth smiled as she poured the sparkling mead. “I understand your suspicion, but this is not poison.” She lifted her glass and drank deeply. “You see?” She offered the drink to Sapina, who brushed it away. Elspeth said, “No matter. At first I was hurt and angry, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was gratifying to be free of Androcoles and his endless demands. Now I, too, may seek more exciting and interesting loves.”

Elspeth looked into Sapina’s eyes and smiled at her, casting a spell of persuasion under her breath. Elspeth took another sip and offered the cup to the nymph once again. “Please, are you sure you

Sapina took the cup from Elspeth’s hands, dipped her finger into the mead and tasted it. “This brew has an exotic aroma, Elspeth. Spicy. Cinnamon, pears and ….what else?”

Elspeth put her finger to her lips. “A secret recipe.” She touched the silver flute, “Will you play?”

Sapina quaffed her drink, then lifted the flute to her lips. The music sounded warm and languid as the summer afternoon. The artful tune skipped over the meadow, enchanting and alluring. Elspeth stood and let her cloak drop from her shoulders. She lifted her arms and danced. As she moved in circles, her hair spun out, surrounding her in undulating waves. Sapina put aside the flute and exclaimed, “What an elegant dancer. I’ve never seen such grace outside of our own race.”

Elspeth flashed a radiant smile at her. “Thank you. Another drink?” They were quite giddy by the time they finished off the bottle.

Sapina reached out and touched Elspeth’s cheek and she noticed the warm glow in Sapina’s eyes, and her flushed face. “You say I am beautiful, milady, but you--you are beautiful as a shooting star, as a fiery comet, as the noonday sun.” Sapina’s fingers trailed down across Elspeth’s lips. She put her fingers under Elspeth chin and looked into her eyes. “I want to kiss you.”

Elspeth laughed. “What about Androcoles?”

Sapina frowned. “Just a kiss, that’s all I ask.” Her hands trembled as she pulled Elspeth’s face closer to hers. Sapina pushed her lips against Elspeth’s full, warm mouth.

Elspeth kissed her lightly, then stood up and pushed Sapina away. “Well, I have to go back now, it’s getting late.”

Sapina squeezed Elspeth’s hands and her voice quivered, “No, please don’t leave now. Let me come with you at least.”

Elspeth smiled, “That’s not possible, my dear. But come tomorrow if you like.”

Elspeth smiled to herself as she trod upon the forest path. Sapina’s powerful response surpassed her hopes and she laughed out loud as she thought of Androcoles consternation when he discovered Sapina’s change of heart. Truly, the perfect revenge.

The sun had barely appeared over the horizon when the pounding on the door roused Elspeth from sleep. When she opened the door Sapina threw herself into Elspeth’s arms.

“Elspeth, beloved,” she exclaimed.

“I can see why Androcoles loves you.” Elsbeth laughed.

Sapina frowned. “Androcoles, that old frog? Why do you utter his name here?”

“Walk with me.” Elspeth led Sapina to the garden. They walked along the manicured paths, inhaling the scents of lilies, lavender and cedar. They smiled at the fat bees that droned like chanting

Sapina and Elspeth held hands as they sat on a bench overlooking the large green lake. Sapina unfastened the jeweled clasp of Elspeth’s mantle and pushed it off her shoulders. Sapina pulled her close and whispered, “I love you.”


Androcoles mused and muttered to himself as he walked. Waves of heat rose from the path. He wiped the sweat from his brow and cast a cooling spell. The spell caused cool breezes to caress his face as he thought of Sapina. He’d called for her all night, but she didn’t answer. Why did she hide from him? He longed for her touch; when Sapina touched him, Androcoles felt the power of spring, the rising sap, the green freshness of budding leaves and a juicy optimism. His dry old bones crackled and came alive; he thrummed with energy. He had to find her.

He sighed as he strode towards the manse to retrieve the last of his belongings. He didn’t look forward to talking with Elspeth, but he needed his lore books. He stood at the entryway, prepared to knock, when he heard Sapina’s musical laughter dancing across the garden. He pushed open the door to the manse, and followed the sound, like a hungry dog. As his mind cleared, he wondered why Sapina would be here, at the manse.

He found Elspeth and the nymph swimming in the lake. He watched as they splashed and chased each other, rainbows sparkling on their naked skin. His face darkened, he clenched his fist and emitted a low growl from deep within his throat. Only Elspeth and her magic could have turned the nymph away from him. How dare she? Filled with anger, he lifted his staff and brought it down with a crash. Lightning burst from the staff and sparks fell upon a few dry leaves that burst into flame. He spun around and stomped away. #

Androcoles slouched in the great room of Bart’s Inn, his current residence, sipping a great flagon of dark ale. He’d already had several, but all the ale in the world couldn’t dispel the gloom that clung to him like dung. Elspeth was a formidable opponent; he should have taken precautions. Foolish. He shook his head; she had him this time. In spite of his resentment, he laughed. She’d betrayed him with his own mistress! How ironic, how resourceful, how like her.

He could not counter such a spell. The powerful potion would bind the nymph to Elspeth until released by Elspeth. He pondered how to convince Elspeth to free Sapina, but couldn’t think of anything that would move his obstinate wife.

He stumbled to his room and dropped onto the bed. His felt his heart tapping against his chest--ka-thump, ka-thump--a lonely drumbeat. He squeezed his eyes shut to stop the burning. Nothing felt right. As a wise and powerful wizard, he should be able to craft a solution, but nothing came to him.

Air. He needed air. He threw open the window and the cool night breeze fanned his face. He gazed out over the dark village, steeped in pearly moonlight. The translucent white light triggered a vision. He saw wizened hands before him, cupping glowing white pearls. Pearls, symbol of truth. Truth. Aldan, the ancient wizard he had studied with, had told him of a rare and singular potion in his procession, seldom used. One drop of the spicy amber liquid upon the tongue ripped away the veil of illusion from the heart, revealing true motivations and feelings. Truth. Of course! He left at once to find Aldan.

He saddled his horse and made for the road. He nearly missed the path, hidden by large rhododendrons that led through the craggy hills. Three days of grueling travel brought him to a remote cave at the edge of the kingdom. He found the wizard waiting for him. The old man lifted his calloused red hand and greeted him. “Androcoles, I have been expecting you. I know what you seek. I cannot recommend this path.”

Androcoles knelt at the wizard’s feet. “Dear Aldan, my teacher and guide, I need Truth.” Androcoles knew that Truth could be dangerous, and hard to take, but Truth could make unravel mysteries. Androcoles considered what Truth would reveal. If Sapina tasted the mixture, she would see Elspeth’s true motives—that she had been tricked and used to punish him. Certainly, she wou

When Elspeth tasted the spicy drops, revelations of Truth would show her how hard hearted her actions were and the wisdom of forgiveness. She would release him and bless Sapina. Of course, he knew himself well enough, what surprises could Truth have for him?

Aldan put his hand upon Androcoles head, “If you desire Truth, you shall have it. But first, ask yourself why this potion lies here unused and unasked for, in a dusty bottle at the back of my cave.”

Androcoles shrugged, “It is said that Truth is beautiful and desirable above all else.”

Aldan sighed, “Yes, it is said. I will give you what you require. May it bring you wisdom.” Androcoles thanked his old master for the gift as the aged wizard unlocked the chest and drew forth the dusty cobalt bottle with faded gold lettering. He placed it in Androcoles trembling hands, and turned away. Androcoles rode back to the Borough with a light heart.


The Autumn Harvest Festival was underway, the perfect venue to execute his plan. He dressed with care and combed his neat brown beard, tucking a bright yellow maple leaf in his hatband. He filled a small basket with sweetmeats and nuts. He bowed to himself in the mirror. “How now great wizard?” he laughed and pulled a golden apple from the table. He rolled it in his hands and closed his eyes. The golden apple, infused with his truth serum, shone in his hands. All his hopes lay here. He breathed deeply, casting a spell of discovery, that he might find Elspeth and Sapina this bright morning, and carefully placed the golden apple in the basket.

The festival tents of green, yellow and red flapped in the breeze. Garlands of maple, oak and alder leaves hung from the tents, flashing in the sun. Smells of apple cider and roasting meat jumbled together in the crisp autumn air. Jugglers on stilts entertained crowds of giggling children, and musicians piped and sang.

Androcoles heard flute music coming from the meadow and turned to see Sapina playing her silver flute to a small group of dancing nymphs and villagers. One drunken satyr with grape stains on his beard tried to sing along. Elspeth sat on a log nearby, drinking cider. Androcoles pushed through the crowd. “Elspeth” he called to her. She looked up in surprise.

Androcoles smiled at her. “May I join you?” Not waiting for an answer he sat down on the log next to her. “Elspeth. Are you happy with what you have wrought?”

Elspeth frowned, “Do you still desire your nymph?” She waved towards Sapina, who put her flute away and flounced towards them. She snuggled next to Elspeth, and nodded formally to Androcoles.

Androcoles admired Sapina's graceful form, her exotic features, and felt a warm rush of blood. He also enjoyed Elspeth’s powerful presence. Yes, he desired Sapina, but he found he enjoyed sparring with his wife. He brushed aside these thoughts as he pulled out his basket.

“You should try these apples, quite exceptional this year.” He pulled out his knife and cut into the apples crisp, juicy flesh. He offered slices to them, and took one himself. He put the whole slice into his mouth and chewed--juice overflowed and ran down his chin.

Elspeth frowned. “And what sort of spell have you wrought here, Androcoles? Why would you suddenly offer us gifts? Do you think you can counter my spell? Think again. I know you too well, sir.”

Androcoles sat back and sighed. Lying or manipulating Elspeth would not convince her. No spells of persuasion or sleight of hand would accomplish his goal. He had one choice and prayed it would work. “I will tell you the truth, then. This apple is infused with a wonderful element. This is not poison. This is not a spell. This is not revenge. It is Truth. This apple is infused with a serum that will show you the Truth about me, and about you. What could there be to be afraid of?” He offered her the slice. “I dare you to taste Truth.”

Elspeth took the apple slice and turned it over in her hand, considering, then bit into the slice. “We will see the truth, then. I have certainly seen enough of lies and deceit.”

Elspeth nibbled on her slice and offered some to Sapina. Sapina bit off a piece and closed her eyes as she ate it.

Androcoles chatted as he munched his apple and waited for the serum to take effect. “I love autumn, don’t you? All the colors, the leaves…” He felt dizzy and put a hand out to steady himself.

The truth pounded Androcoles like an iron mallet. His head ached. He saw himself without whitewash or excuse. Truth. The potion compelled him to speak. It felt like hot stones burned his throat as he choked out the words. “I have lived five centuries, and I can count on two hands, the number of times I acted without selfish interest, and in the last hundred years, not once. I have become a politic bastard.” He saw himself as an old vampire lizard that sucked Sapina dry. He turned to Sapina and croaked out the words he could not suppress, “I thought I loved you, Sapina, but it was only a selfish and shallow appreciation of your beauty and youth. I know nothing about you. Nothing at all. You gave me much. I gave you nothing.” Tears burned his eyes.

His heart opened like a book, the Truth writ in flaming letters. He loved Elspeth, only and always Elspeth. He reached out for her. “Elspeth. I betrayed you. If only I could undo what I have wrought. Your soul is a universe of splendor and mystery to me. I loved you since we first met in the forest of Cambria. I only want to return to your arms. Only your love and forgiveness will save me.” He fell back, shaking.

Elspeth draped her cloak around Sapina’s shoulders then turned to Androcoles and squeezed his hand. “I thank you for the gift of Truth. There is nothing to forgive.” She faced Sapina. “I se that I should never have coerced a free spirit, and never will again. I am sorry, dear Sapina. My spell made you love and desire me, but here is Truth; I have fallen in love with you, without spell or potion. You are sweet, and your spirit refreshing and light. I hereby release you from this spell, and I give you my heart freely to do with as you will. I pray you will love me.” She trembled as she waited for Sapina’s answer.

Sapina stood and handed the cloak back to Elspeth. “As for myself, I have enjoyed a merry and promiscuous life. But part of me seeks something more, something deeper.” Tears turned her golden eyes silver. She raised her voice and lifted her arms to heaven. “I can no longer ignore the call of the Goddess. The Truth is, I will retire to her temple and take vows of celibacy, giving myself in service as a temple priestess.” She smiled at Elspeth, “Even though your spell compelled me to love you, it was never a burden.“ She put her hand on Androcoles shoulder, “Androcoles, whatever your feelings, I received joy from our trysts so do not suffer overmuch.” She picked up her flute and played a slow and haunting tune as she walked towards the forest.

The color drained from Elspeth’s face, she put her head in her hands and sobbed. Androcoles squeezed the remaining apple between his hands and watched the juicy pulp fall from between his fingers to the ground. He shook his head and tried to speak but could not. They sat in silence. As the shadows lengthened, Elsbeth reached out and put her hand over his.

Fiction: The Call – Part Two by M J Wesolowski

Louis Hesbank had been sitting in his gran’s front room, sipping tea and eating a homemade cheese scone when the call came. Both gran and grandson had been seated in comfortable armchairs, reclining in contented quiet whilst an evening chorus of birds burbled in through the open window. Despite the warmth of the summer sunset, Louis’ gran had covered her legs with a crocheted blanket and Louis was saddened by just how old she looked. Photographs of Louis adorned the mantelpiece and shelves; standing proudly beside the occasional ornament; Louis in a too-big football jersey, Louis at Christmas, gap-toothed beneath a tinsel-wrought tree. He only wished he had done something with his life, if only to make her proud; if he had carried on with the football, rather than turning to girls and cigarettes, he could have made it big, paid off his gran’s house or even bought her a new one – all mod cons, whatever she wanted. No use to her now though, too old to restart with the football, too young to have a proper career, Louis always mistook the pride in his grandmother’s eyes for sadness when he visited.

The TV that was flickering gently before them suddenly went dead; the picture swirled into blackness, flushed into a plughole. Louis and his gran looked at each other and Louis saw a hint of worry cross her face.

“Oh dear.” He exclaimed cheerfully, “Might have been a fuse. You stay there, I’ll sort it.”

Louis got to his feet and walked over to the television, clicking the on/off switch a few times. It was strange, the light beneath the switch glowed to indicate power; there was just no picture.

“Hmm.” Louis walked back a few paces and tapped a multitude of buttons on the remote control. Again, the power button shimmered, but the screen stayed blank. An instant frustration seized Louis, this was another thing he was unable to do.

There was a sudden knock at the door that made Louis jump; he looked over to his gran, who shrugged. Louis walked into the porch and pulled the door slightly open, a swift lurch of protective adrenaline for his gran swirled in his stomach, there was a distinct unease about the whole situation. Louis opened the door about a foot wide, filling the space with his frame and puffing out his chest. A pair of wrinkled, worried faces looked back; it was the elderly couple from next door. Louis smiled, a little uncertainly, deflating his chest. There was something not quite right about this whole situation.

“We’re sorry to bother you,” the woman smiled, her expression slightly strained, “it’s just, we need to check our lottery numbers and the TV’s broken.”

Louis was about to answer, when the phone began to trill behind him. He issued the couple inside and walked back into the living room, his gran looked at the ringing phone suspiciously; the feeling of something not being quite right began to fully blossom inside Louis now.

“I’m not expecting anyone.” Louis’ gran looked a little worried herself, her eyes flitting back and forth to Louis and the couple from next door.

Louis picked up the telephone, a strange sort of fluttering beginning inside him. The sound on the other end of the line was frantic; the muffled chatter of a busy call centre. After a few seconds of this noise, a voice began talking;

“Good evening sir or madam,” the voice was male, with a strong Indian accent. Louis was a few seconds from replacing the handset and cursing a sales call to an old lady, but there was a peculiar urgency to the man’s voice, a desperation that made Louis stall.

“Please, sir or madam, do not hang up the phone, this is not a sales call,” the man continued briskly and firmly. “This is an official notification from the ministry of defence, UK. You may have noticed that your television, radio and time-keeping devices have stopped working.”

Louis looked around him from the blank television screen to the brass carriage clock on the mantelpiece. His gran and the couple from next door who were now perched on the edge of the sofa were looking back at him, their eyebrows raised. The man on the other end of the phone continued;

“The ministry have been instructed by the Prime minister at nineteen forty seven hours this evening, to contact every home in the British Isles to explain the situation. I must ask you a series of questions.”

Louis looked around again, he had heard something faintly on the air; the others in the room had heard it too. It was the chilling wail of a siren that was nothing to do with the emergency services. The blood drained from the faces of the three pensioners and their mouths began to gape in terror at the faint siren that reminded Louis of every single World War film or documentary he had ever seen. A sudden churning began in his stomach;

“Louis...” His gran’s wrinkled hands were clasped against her chest, ‘hang on’ he mouthed, turning back to the phone.

“Question one,” the man said, “are there any men or women in your house, currently, between the ages of sixteen and forty years old?”

“Er, yes...just me...why...” The man cut him off,

“Thank you sir.” There was the sound of clicking from the other end of the phone. “Can you confirm your name and address please, sir?”

“It’s not my house,” Louis tried to explain. The man cut him off once again.

“I’m sorry to be fast with you sir, but please just confirm your name and the address of where you are. House number and postcode will do.”

Mystified, Louis complied; the siren from outside was getting slightly louder. The man continued to speak;

“Now sir, is there anyone else currently in your house who is either over or under the ages I have stated, any children or anyone who is disabled or housebound?”

“No, well my gran’s here, it’s here house...oh and the people from next door...”

“Please sir, you must instruct them to make their way to their nearest police station, I have your details logged and I must now confirm this is an official call to arms from the Ministry of Defence.”

“A what?”

“Please sir, you must make your way to your nearest Territorial Army barracks, I will give you the address.”

More clicking from the phone and Louis looked back at the others in horror. The siren still wailed from outside.

* * *

Louis Hesbank turned the spit above the dying embers of the fire, watching the meagre fat from the blackened rabbit carcasses sizzle, cascading a minute shower of juices over the grey ashes that lay like dust over the glowing shards of wood. Jess and Erik sat opposite him, their eyes downcast. Both of them looked thin; their cheeks sallow and the skin under their eyes wrinkled and grey. The rain outside fell in a relentless tattoo that could still be heard from the bottom of the sloping tunnel; leading deep under the forest floor, into the ancient mineshaft that held sanctity for the three of them.

“My gran hated the war,” Louis murmured, noticing the others look up.

Louis hadn’t revealed much of himself since the four of them had met, in that basement, all that time ago. Louis had simply followed Cal, as had Erik and Jess; he had kept up the pace as the four of them trudged for nearly a day through the fields until they had reached the forest. He had followed them down into the entrance to the mineshaft and had stayed a silent observer as the rest of them cried together with terrified relief. He had taken his turn at keeping watch for the Cigars, trailing their ghastly light across the skies at night; he had stayed quiet and none of them had asked why, they didn’t need to.

“I remember what she said to my mum, when they declared war on Iraq.” Louis trailed off, his throat closing in a tearful knot.

“It’s ok,” Erik shifted slightly, pulling his coat tighter around himself. “Take your time.”

All of them had fled death to get here. There was time for all of them.

Louis regained his composure and continued.

“ gran..she said ‘They’re not taking him, Sheila, they’re not taking our Louis to fight there.’”

Jess was also now looking up at Louis, she smiled gently. Louis swallowed hard.

“We’d watched the soldiers die in Iraq, in Afghanistan, on the news. I told her that I wouldn’t have to fight, that the last thing I’d be doing is going to die out there. She’d seen my granddad go to fight in both wars, she’d waited through them for him to come home and she’d watched him die. I couldn’t conceive what that must have been like.”

Erik pulled the spit off the fire and leaned it up against the wall to cool.

“When the call came, all I could think about was my gran.” Louis shook his head, “I didn’t know what to do...did I stay and look after her, or did I run?”

Tears began to trickle silently down Louis’ cheeks; he fumbled in the inside pocket of his sodden, tattered coat and pulled out a crumpled parcel of greaseproof paper.

“This is all I have left of her....” he uncrumpled the paper and held out a dulled, copper pennyfarthing coin. “I don’t know why I took it. After the call came, after we heard those fucking sirens, she started filling my pockets with cheese scones, the coin was just...lying there on the mantlepiece....”

Louis’ voice was getting higher, Erik and Jess looked quickly at each other, brows identically knotted in sudden concern. Louis was really crying now, his words sounded strangled as he spoke through hiccupping sobs.

“’Run!’ She said to me, ‘Run, our Louis., they’re not taking you this time...’ but this is no Iraq...this is no Afghanistan...”

Erik stood up suddenly, Jess raised her hand in faint protest but Erik brushed past her and walked over to Louis’ side of the fire and swung his hand, slapping Louis’ tear-stained face with the back of his hand. Jess gasped and opened her mouth, but Erik turned back to her, his eyes swimming in the firelight with what looked like tears as well.

“No more!” Erik’s voice did not waver, he turned back and stared down at Louis who was sprawled across the pebbled floor.

“We cannot do this to ourselves!” Erik shouted, “remember what Cal said, Louis... remember!”

A torturous few seconds passed, where the only sound was the steady drumming of the rain from high above them and the hiss of the fire. Louis got slowly to his haunches and sat before the fire again, his filthy hair hanging down over his face. He mumbled something and Erik, still standing gazed down at him.

“Say it Louis, say it.” There was no malice in Erik’s voice, only a steely determination. Louis raised his head slightly and spoke, his voice rough with misery.

“Think only of tomorrow, never further, never back...”

Erik bent before Louis and engulfed him in a tight, desperate hug, the tears now leaking from his eyes. Jess scrambled over from where she had been sitting and threw her arms around them both. Erik was talking softly into Louis’ ear.

“We’ve all left the people we love behind Louis, each one of us. We might see them again, we might never...but if there’s one thing that we have to keep, and that’s our heads. It’s like Cal said, if we give in to memories, if we give in to the past, we’re dead.”

Slowly, the three companions unlocked their embrace and sat down against the wall of the stone passage. A swift calm descended around them as they simply listened to the crackling of the fire and the drumming of the rain from above.

“Louis,” Erik’s voice was quiet now, his eyes on the fire, “we need to eat something, then you’re on watch.”

Louis nodded; his face resigned, almost blank.

A few uncomfortable seconds unfolded as Erik got to his feet again; his movements were laboured this time, tired. He reached for the wooden spit that had been forgotten against the tunnel wall. In silence, Erik divided up the lukewarm meat into the hands of the others and they moved closer together instinctively, shoulder to shoulder, licking the excess fat from their fingers, leaving nothing to waste.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Author Interview: Brandon Sanderson

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. Like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, you worlds exist in the same universe and are linked somehow. Is there any particular reason to have this link rather than create a fresh and new world, with new systems and characters?

Brandon: I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I’m trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.

During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books—some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of “stealth” have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.

Why not do separate worlds? Because it was more interesting for me this way. This is the story I want to tell. The big, overarching story that I’ve planned out. I’ve been talking recently about how my inspiration for this is the idea that in science people have for a long time been looking for a unified theory of physics, some theory that will explain all interactions of physics in a concise way. I wanted to tell about a universe where there was a unified theory of magic, where magic worked according to a unifying principle. Despite the magic systems looking very different and doing lots of different and interesting things, hopefully original for each book, there is an underlying rationale that is keeping them all together. I write what I find interesting, and that was interesting to me.

Scott: How hard was it to write the last 3 books in the Robert Jordan series? Inevitably, there would be those that criticized your work no matter how good it was just because it wasn’t written by Jordan.

Brandon: I've said myself that I could never replace him—Robert Jordan should have been the one to finish the series. My main goal in writing the books has been not to imitate him, but to stay true to the souls of the characters. I think of it as taking over as director for a few scenes of a movie while maintaining the same actors and script. I can be proud of my role as director, but ultimately the end result still belongs to Robert Jordan—and to his fans. Part of me is sad that now I can’t just be one of them; I didn’t get to rush out and buy and read a new Robert Jordan book this past November like they did.

When I was first offered the project, the fact that I could never write these books as well as Robert Jordan would have written them tempted me to decline. I knew that no matter what I did, it would not be the same as what could have been. I don't believe the books could be as good written by anyone else as they could have written by Robert Jordan. And so that was the main consideration for potentially saying no. But in the end, I decided if I did say no, and someone else got the book and screwed it up, that it would be partially my fault.

I honestly and sincerely believe that I am the person who can do these books the best now that Robert Jordan is gone. I would rather he be here to write them, but if he can't be here to write them, I want to do it myself because at least I know they're in the hands of someone who has been reading them for decades and who sincerely cares about the series.

Scott: How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

Brandon: A basic writing day for me: I get up at noon or 1:00, depending on when I went to bed. I play with my son for about an hour, giving my wife a break. Then I go downstairs for four or five hours, check my email, write for a while, go up and have dinner, play with my son some more, then go back down and go back to work until I’m done for the night. The last couple of years have been pretty much a lot of me with my laptop on my couch or in my beanbag chair writing books.

Scott: Your battle systems are both complex and innovative. In writing these scenes, was a significant amount of research necessary, and did you encounter any difficulties when writing the sequences?

Brandon: It depends on what I was trying for in the various different books. For instance, in Mistborn, I wanted the battle sequences to be very personal. One-on-one, allomantic fights, or one-on-small group.

As a novelist, feel that I need to approach action sequences differently from how movies approach them. In a film you can watch Jackie Chan going through this marvelous fifteen-minute blow-by-blow fight, but I think that in fiction the same thing written out descriptively would get very boring. I can't compete with movies in that regard. So I try to make my action sequences character-driven and problem-solving-driven, as well as how the magic system works. I look at what resources the character has, what they are trying to achieve, who they are and how that influences their actions.

For The Way of Kings it was a little bit different in that I was trying to do large-scale warfare, and in that case I needed to look to historical accounts and research and read up on how actual battles played out. Something that gave me a bit of leeway was setting the battles in scenery like the Shattered Plains. One of the reasons I did that is because it's fantastical scenery that couldn't exist in our world, at least not in the same way, and it therefore allows me to exercise my fantasy worldbuilder muscles as well as my historical warfare muscles, such as they are. Putting all of that together let me create scenes that are hopefully unlike anything others have written or that my readers have read.

Scott: You have really broken the mould and steered away from the usual races of the fantasy genre, is there any major reason why you avoided the standard tropes, such as elves and orcs?

Brandon: A couple of reasons. Those are really two questions. Why did I avoid the standard tropes? For a long time I've felt that epic fantasy has relied too much on Tolkien, who did a wonderful job, but I feel that rather than doing what he did by creating races and mythologies and worlds of our own we've in some ways allowed ourselves to be strongly influenced by him and relied on some of the work he did. In other cases those tropes have just been overplayed and overdone by people who were very good writers and knew what they were doing. I certainly don’t want to point any fingers at people like Stephen Donaldson who wrote brilliant books making use of some of the familiar tropes from Tolkien, but one of the things to remember is that when he did that they weren’t familiar tropes. They were still fresh and new. The same can be said for Terry Brooks. I'm sure if I were writing back then that's what I would have done too, because we were still exploring the genre and trying to decide where it was going to go and what epic fantasy was and meant. But I feel that I belong to the generation after that. There was the generation who relied a lot on Tolkien and the generation who grew up reading those authors' books, and a lot of us in my generation of writers seem like we are reacting against the previous generations by saying, "Okay, that's been done, and you did a good job. Where else can we take this?" I have no interest in writing about elves or dwarves or any of these things that have been explored for the last four decades in intricate detail. I want to go my own directions.

But personally, why do I include the races that I include? I’m just looking for interesting things that complement the story that I’m telling. The races in The Way of Kings come directly into the story and the mystery of what’s happened before. If you pay close attention to what the races are, it tells you something about what’s going to happen in the future and what’s happened in the past. It’s very conscious. This is just me trying to explore.

I feel that epic fantasy as a genre has not yet hit its golden age yet. If you look at science fiction as a genre, science fiction very quickly got into extrapolating very interesting and different sorts of things. Fantasy, particularly in the late ’90s, feels like it hit a bit of a rut where the same old things were happening again and again. We saw the same stories being told, we saw the same races show up, we saw variations only in the names for those races. For me as a reader, it was a little bit frustrating because I read this and felt that fantasy should be the genre that should be able to do anything. It should be the most imaginative genre. It should not be the genre where you expect the same stories and the same creatures. If we want to approach the heights of great storytelling and take it a few more steps so that we don’t just copy what Tolkien did, we do what Tolkien did, which is look to the lore ourselves and build our own extrapolations. This is playing into what I like as a reader and my own personal philosophies and hobby horses, but it really just comes down to what I think makes the best story.

Scott: What are you reading at the moment and who are your favorite authors?

Brandon: At the moment sitting on my shelf next to be read is The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I also have a manuscript of Variant, a novel by a friend of mine, Robison Wells, which will will be coming out in a year or so from Harper Teen.

Favorite authors, in no particular order: Robert Jordan, Terry Pratchett, Victor Hugo, and Dan Wells. The list really depends on my mood at the time, who I’ve been reading a lot of recently. There are many authors from whom I’ll love one book and not be as blown away by their other novels. Here’s a sampling of single books I think are fantastic: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, and Sabriel by Garth Nix.

Scott: What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

Brandon: A couple things. Start working on something new while you're submitting what you've finished. That would be my number one rule--always be working on something new. Don't depend too much on just one story. Secondly, do more research than just getting out the Writer's Market book, looking up what publishers publish, and submitting to them. Instead, actually take some time to learn about those publishers. If you can, find out the names of the editors who work there, read their blogs, find out who they are and what authors they've worked on. Try to really understand the vision of every publishing imprint, and figure out what it is that they like and try to match your books to their books. Make sure you're reading their books and finding the ones that are the best matches. But other than that, just keep on going.

Scott: Do you have a passion for short stories and have you had many published, and if so, what market did you send them to?

Brandon: I've had two science fiction short stories published, Defending Elysium in Asimov's Science Fiction and Firstborn on Both of my short stories are quite long, a bit shy of 15,000 words, and are technically novelettes. I can't compress my thoughts any farther. I guess I'm just a novelist at heart. That's the form I've practiced, and writing short stories is a very different art. I'm constantly in awe of what great short story writers (like my friend Eric James Stone) can do with just a few pages.

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.