Friday, October 28, 2005


For lack of better content, some excerpts from WIPs.

"Emissary Togril watched out of his slanted eyes as the sky lit up in streaks of blue and white, and the ribbons of color crackled and danced across the night, obscuring the campfires of the caravan. The light undulated and grew brighter, then faded and dispersed, like a drop of milk in a water bucket.

When only a faint glow remained of the former splendor, the weak phosphorescent shadow stretched downward, toward the flat surface of the steppe. The air grew colder, and Togril could smell the spicy, sun-heated wormwood and tamarisk, the smoke of the campfires, and his own gamy body. The tentacles of light grew thicker, until white roads stretched between heaven and steppe; then, Togril discerned a movement.

Eleven columns of somber riders descended, their horses' hooves clanking, just above the edge of hearing, on the solid milky surface. Their breath did not cloud the cold night air, and their armor – intricately decorated over the breastplate – was made of green translucent ice, or so Togril guessed. He did not stir; even though young, his years in Genghis Khan's army taught him not to make a move until he was certain of it. So he sat, his arms draped around his knees, and watched.

The procession showed no sign of stemming, and streamed onto the ground. A cheetah sat behind each warrior, their eyes glowing frozen gold, their pink tongues hanging out, as if they had just vaulted into their masters' saddles after a chase. The leashes that chained the cats to the back bows of the saddles were spun out of thin links of the same green ice as the rest of the tack and armor."

And another one:

"You want a story? All right, I've got one. Imagine that you are born a prince, the youngest of the three, in a fairytale kingdom. While the oldest is set for life, the other two have to consider their options. Sure, the second son can hang on, hoping – but not quite, for to really hope in such circumstances would be wrong – to succeed his older brother. Fevers, blood poisonings, wars, accidents – all of those things happen. But if you are number three, hope has a tang of monstrosity, your royal blood does you no good whatsoever, and by the time you're old enough to know these things you should start thinking about getting a job."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Poetry Musings

Lately, I find myself reading tons of Russian poetry. I'm not big on most verse, but there are several poets I just can't get enough of, and no matter how often I read them I still get shivers. Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva, Brodsky… There's a great epic poem by Brodsky, Procession, that features an incredibly varied cast – Lovers, King, Harlequine, Columbine, Hamlet, Devil, Poet, Prince Myshkin, etc etc. And their monologues are just heart-rendingly beautiful. There are also some very interesting bits, such as the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin as told by rats.

I don't know why I never get that same reaction with English poetry. Sure, I like some of it well enough, but never to such a visceral level, when a certain line strikes such a chord that it resonates through your whole body.

And I find it incredibly frustrating that poetry is impossible to translate. It seems so unfair that most of my friends will never be able to feel this, to appreciate it the same way I do. I tried translating often enough; but I suck at poetry. I looked for translations, and some are competent. But they can never capture the emotion – it's like a black-and-white photograph of a painting; gives you a fair idea of what it's about, but loses all savor.

It seems that often foreigners find themselves isolated in such small ways – certain linguistic delights, certain frames of references are not shared by anyone around them, and it creates a sense of isolation more profound than any other. One can learn the language, but one will never be able to fully explain the frames, the earliest memories, the thrills of Hamelin rats' song.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Food for Thought

I've been reading Medicolegal Investigations of Death (don't ask), and came across this little gem:

"The autopsy of an individual struck by an automobile may be most rewarding."

Some day I swear I will use it in a story.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Liquid Laughter

LL story was sent off, and accepted into the fold. I am quite excited about this project -- I really like the stories so far. I especially like the fact that everyone is so uninhibited, bringing in wildly divergent bits and mythologies and histories. And the time period is quite fascinating -- I learned a lot while researching for the story. Most of my knowledge of that epoch concerns the civil war in Russia, and it was fascinating to learn more about it. I won't give anything away, but LIQUID LAUGHTER is shaping up to be an incredibly fun book. Make sure you get a copy when it comes out.

Many thanks to Michael Kelly for critiquing that one.