Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Exemplars

Preamble: This is a science-fiction short story on the subject of neighbourhood watch. The names of the characters have not been changed to conceal their identities because they aren't real.

(Story transmission proceeds beneath the fold.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Scenes from a Blur

Preamable: The following account is as truish as possible for a general audience.

Sometimes life is cinematic.

Picture this one: Las Vegas. A quarter mile of densely packed casino. Pulsing lights, a gentleman in a bow-tie every ten square yards to offer you a drink or see to your needs. A crowd bemused by a veneer of glamour, fuelled into cycles of sin by an endless run of free drinks and no windows to give them a sense of time or reality. Dense and dazzling.

And I am sprinting.

My phone tells me I'm doing 10 miles an hour. In my right hand is clutched a critical hard-drive of data that has to get to the ballroom within the next three minutes; in my left hand, outstretched, the identification card I'm waving at stunned security personnel as I run by like Forrest Gump on fire.

For the first time in my life I'm actually able to bellow into a crowd, "Make way! Coming though!" and see them forced to part in front of me. Nobody running that fast could be idly fucking around.

Shark-skinned scum, elegant sophisticates and stretchpants-clad aspirationalists demure to my urgency, staring at me wide-eyed as I fling myself between slot machines, hellbent on reaching the convention centre on time. Where the hell is Andre the Giant when you need him?

In the antespace outside the ballroom one thousand, eight hundred people are milling around waiting for the doors to be opened. I dance through them after using my jacket to mop sweat off my face. "Excuse me, pardon me, I'm terribly sorry, excuse me, urgent."

I flash my card at the guard and bust inside. Between me and the stage is a flotilla of latino wait-staff laying place at three hundred tables. I deek between them like a college football draft candidate on amphetamines while yelling apologies over my shoulder. I jump over a row of chairs and splash through the curtain, skipping over bundles of black cable snaking along the floor.

I arrive, heaving for breath, at the desk of the video op. He takes the hard-drive from my fingers and jams its sex into his system. Patience bars appear and mature. We both cast an anxious eye at the master clock.

"Holy shit," says the op. I agree, bent over and panting.

Headsets crackle. A countdown to doors open.

The patience bar lingers on screen, teasing us.

The op upgrades his profanity. "Holy fuck!"

It's 18:59:59 and the video op hits Play with just a second to spare. Doors open. The crowd eases forth into the room. The massive video screens are alive with content despite the rare congruence of multiple failures that had jeopardized it. The video op and I look at each other and fist bump. Everyone around us pulls out their phones to report to whoever was shitting themselves that the crisis has been averted. Standard Apple and Android "text sent" noises echo and overlap backstage.

This battle is won.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Love Flanders

Preamable: Posting science-fiction on the Internet isn't as lucrative as it may seem, so I'm obliged to supplement my income in order to get by – it is in this capacity that the following story is told.

Note: Proper nouns have been scrambled for the pseudo-privacy of all entities.

(The non-fiction enstorifies beneath the fold.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

At the Razkavian Trickfilm Festival

Preamble: In lieu of science-fiction I present instead a travel diary.

All of the particulars have been smeared, because that way I'm free to explore events without worrying too much about pissing people off. Details are randomized, nouns are juggled, geography is fractal, history is alternative.

(The travelogue accumulates beneath the fold.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wrinkled World, Whirling West

This is an update from the front.

Word-slinging is a hard way to turn a profit which is why, as most of you know, I devote a large measure of chi to day job duties as a professionally bonded and licensed pixel-farmer. This isn't as thankless a grind as it used to be because I own the company now, but it's still a grind. I am a hands-on sort of fellow by nature so it's not like I pass my days in a sunny office issuing commands and decrees. There are clods of pixels under my fingernails come quitting time.

It is an odd way to make a living. The golden eggs I shit have highly specific payloads. They are deployed just once before a closed-door audience and then never again. In many cases rigorous non-disclosure agreements bar me from even mentioning my involvement in the supply chain. Secrets within secrets, kept secret.

They fly me around. They book me hotels. I'm charged with shaping their important messaging into visual tangibility and emotive plausibility, which is basically done by pointing and clicking with Macs.

If often feels absurd that anyone should pay me to do this.

If we ever find ourselves in a survival situation together you should probably just go ahead and eat me. Outside of the fantastical annals of commercial mass-delusion I lack applicable skills. I can start a fire without matches and bring a woman to orgasm orally but that's about it. Without a microprocessor to augment my powers I'm basically feckless. I can't even remember where I park cars.

I make jokes. You may want me keep me on for a while just on that account. I even have jokes to offer when life is being awful. I'm a hard worker, and I don't quit until everybody's at least a little bit amused. Dicks, farts, soul-gnawing irony -- it's all game. So if the survival situation needs jokes to cheer us up, maybe hold off eating me until the second wave of lots.

I buy food. The food-farmers who farmed it are paid a pittance. They are paid less than the auxiliary crew of pixel-farmers I use in India. I use the markup on their Indian pixel-farming to buy food-farmed food from local food-farmers for my family. All of us feel poor. It's retarded.

My wife grows vegetables in the yard. Rabbits eat the vegetables. Our dog kills the rabbits and desecrates their corpses. Come nightfall coyotes and vultures tidy up. This, as I understand it, is the circle of life.

Autumn. Smells like school.

My wife calls for class time and the children run inside the schoolhouse and take their desks. The dog follows. She has no desk. She looks around in alarm, suspecting once again that she may be adopted. She settles on the floor with a grunt. The children try to bargain against mathematics but my wife isn't having any of it. It's numeracy or bust, little bastards.

That's when I go upstairs with my cuppa tea. Children gotta learn, Papa gotta earn. I open the studio by pulling aside window sashes and slapping spacebars. Daylight washes in and log files scroll.

I crank open a dormer. Down below in the square in front of the general store a couple of teenagers are discussing the public mural I'm painting. As long as "sick" is still a good thing I think they like it. They sit on a boulder and smoke, like life could last forever.

My pocket rings. I have to rush out to the balcony because I don't get good mobile reception indoors and I don't have any other telephone. The mouldering wooden balcony is terrifyingly derelict and will one day soon fall apart under me. But not today. I pace while I teleconfer, the planks groaning and wheezing. "Shit," I say. "Better call India."

All I can see are trees. Like the Smurfs' village this village disappears from view entirely at certain angles, charmed to exist under the skirts of fat trees and behind veils of weeping willow. A scenic panorama of broccoli. I am the tallest point in town, the shadow of my head merged with that of the belfry. Birds chirp indecently.

Skype makes that bubbly noise. It's India on the line, despite the hour. We talk shop. Everybody's in a bit of a tizzy over the latest round of revisions. "Take a deep breath," I advise the Indians. "In Canada we just say 'Om.'"

Now I'm flying. North America scrolls under me. I always book a window seat. I'm excited to finally spot tracts of urban farming in Detroit, where formerly residential blocks have given over to rectilinear sub-divisions of monoculture. I have Google Earth open on my tablet, pinching and scrolling to keep pace with the real world below. Aerial perspective is a kind of pornography. In a few hours we'll be over the Great Basin, then graze Mt. Ranier, then bump and whine down a runway on the Pacific coast -- all in dazzling cloudless daylight. Beautiful. I won't need to read.

You can tell the flight is Atlanta-based because water costs money but Coca-cola is free. Atlanta loves a Coke.

Hotels are hotels are hotels, fractal and forever. I always start by plugging my shit in. The plug is always on the base of the lamp. Free wifi drips from the air, condensing into gleaming beads of Internet on the sides and tops of metal things. No password, no Web portal. Just the open road. That's a relief. I check the coffee self-service for tea bags, then call down to the desk and ask if tea isn't free.

A jolly gentleman comes to bring me free tea bags. Because this is America I give him $1.

Now I'm on set at a video shoot. We've all been in a very big rush to get here in time to wait and now we're waiting. I'm blogging. When the talent arrives we can all rush to brief them and then wait while they're dressing and then rush to capture their performances before we have to wait for everything to be cleaned up and touched up and reset again.

Some sit but I'm a pacer. I pace away from and back to my tablet. You can't tell because I only type things when I'm back to. When I'm away from it's nothing but the smell of studio lights and the live, liquid moment. I spend it thinking up my next sentence (this one).

I make a few jokes with the talent so I won't come off cold and abrupt when I start ordering them around in a few minutes. People are very sensitive. If you don't show them your teeth enough up front they see everything through a distorting lens whose index of refraction is predicated on how much you probably hate them. This is especially true on set where the lion's share of my communications will be to tell them they're doing things wrong.

Sitting on apple boxes, eating what lunch production assistance has wrought. West coast sandwiches. Overly complicated, in my opinion. Too many competing flavours, as if overcompensating for being so faithfully vegan. There's no meat or cheese but there's at least a dozen vegetable ideas all jockeying for simultaneous access to the tongue. This damn sandwich has jazz hands.

Over parts of Idaho the world is wrinkled like it's spent too long in the bath.

I'm on my balcony again. On hold. The conference moderator has not yet joined the conference. Some of the trees in the yard are turning yellow and orange. The vines are ruby red. The dogs are running around down there, barking their fool heads off. The conference moderator has not yet joined the conference. Why do people ask me when I'm available to teleconfer and then fail to show up on the line? The conference moderator has not yet joined –

A lot of people have trouble staying on topic. The problem comes when it's time to link one sub-section of the conversation to the next logical sub-section within a given theme; at that little intra-topical hop people are liable to start talking about anything at all, from unrelated sub-sections to altogether different topics. This is particularly so when teleconferring audio only because there is no PowerPoint deck with which to ground attention. People don't know what part of the topic they're on if there isn't a picture.

I feel like I spend most of my teleconferring time teleprompting people back on teletopic. Written agendas don't help much because most people nowadays are a poor read. They know their letters but they have trouble putting things in context. And the opportunity for clarity is too quickly gone, because many of today's most promising business thinkers have the working memory of stoned goldfish.

They never miss an email. They are genetically engineered to reply without comprehension. Timeliness trumps all. That's why their eyes are always on their laps.

Foggy morning. The village is mist. Sound sounds louder through my open window. All I can see is wooly grey. The air is damp and still. I twiddle my cursor, idly spinning geometry out into broken whorls of free-flying facets, winking as they catch the light. Feats of simplified physics scrub back and forth, time an illusion of keyframes and tendency.

In taxicabs the news bleats. It sounds like satire to me.

Come evening I kiss my people and pour a glass of rye. In a glass-half-full way insomnia is a wonderful way to catch up on your reading. I like Michael Chabon. I picked up his newest in the Minnesota airport. There's nothing like paper. Especially in the night.

I haven't been able to draw lately. I put apparatus to surface and nothing happens. Whence slinketh my mojo?

I get an email saying we're going to make payroll again. This is good news. Better than warm milk for making burning eyes close. I'm dumping Chabon and I'm not blogging. I'm going to go upstairs to sleep and have that dream where Minecraft is real and all goals are comfortably granular.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Never Say Anything

Preamble: I have been working without interruption for forty days. But today I'm not. So instead I typed up a half-assed excuse for a topical story. Though the tale may veer near real life elements it is entirely a work of fiction on every level. Enjoy!

(The story chatters beneath the fold.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Profiteers, Part 4

Preamble: At long last I'm happy to present the conclusion to the current serial.

(The story concludes beneath the fold.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How is Babby Cheezburger Formed?

There remains just one last chapter to write for the next triple-chapter post of THE PROFITEERS. But I'm not in the mood for fiction tonight, so tonight's not the night it concludes. Stick around, though. I'm good for it.

But part of the new mission of this blog involves substituting frequency when I can't offer consistency or closure -- that is, blogging whether there's fresh pie on the sill or whether it remains in the oven still baking.

In absence of pie I'm serving autobiography tonight. Some of you write to me to tell me you miss it when I don't post enough autobio material, and some of you write to inform me that focused content is the heart and soul of a successful blog and I should therefore post free original science-fiction or shut up.

So depending on how you feel on the issue you should either read on or bail now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

You've probably seen this movie by now but I'm a little late to the party. You probably formed your own excellent and worthwhile opinions while I was still trying to find time to slip out to the cinema. That's probably best because this review contains a lot of spoilers and I'll be pulling no punches.

That's right: I took time out of my busy schedule of idle intoxication and ass-grabbing to take my squeeze down to an old-timey movie-house where they projected STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS through coloured strips of celluloid onto a slightly grimy silver screen, the whole affair accompanied by the nostalgic chatter of the reels in the booth behind us.

For this and other reasons INTO DARKNESS was a trip back to 1982.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Profiteers, Part 3

Preamble: Before we resume the current serial, The Profiteers, today's non-fiction component of this free slice of science-fiction will consist of a brief diversion on the subject of the news. If you're ahead of the curve and already don't care about the news, feel free to skip past the italics and carry on with the time-travel shenanigans below.

I think after letting go of television the next logical step for me was ignoring the news. I'd been reading the news of the world reflexively and hungrily, panning for novelty and stim, wallowing away my most difficult hours at the pretence of informing myself.

But the news is just an adrenalin-packed weather channel; no matter how scared you get it will either rain tomorrow or it won't.

So I read a bit. Oh boy. Addled losers are making a go of bombing local things! Somebody's anxious to amputate the Canada Day crowds in Victoria and somebody's plotting to kerplode the trains I take into the city once a week or so. It sure is a good thing the cops are reading my email!

I do my part. Whenever I'm on the train I keep a sharp eye out for anyone whose opinions might seem too firm.

But largely it seems like there's not much connection between things I think or do and things people who want to kerplode the train think or do. There's no particular strain of local activism that will quiet their addled concerns. I can't sign a petition to stop them or join a secret police to help frighten them. If I work hard to save gas and live more green it won't win the salvation of the West from technologically-empowered lunatics.

So why should I let the newspaper tell me people are trying to kerplode my train? Is it worthwhile for me to append this to my list of worries?

I don't think so. My time is better invested in getting re-accredited for first aid. After all, if my train does kerplode and I'm not personally randomized the best contribution I can probably make is lending a hand to those in distress.

How would reading the details of the arrests of lunatics aid me in this?

It wouldn't.

News is fear porn. It's a stimulant for endless and unrewardable chronic info-seeking behaviour. It's where the guise of being connected to our fellows decorates another cheap way to pull levers and punch buttons in our brains so we vote for misogynists and buy soma.

Is there anything in the news about global warming I can't learn from Shakespeare?

Nope.

Don't get me wrong: I am deeply grateful to the Internet for connecting me to the works and thoughts of some of the most interesting, diligent and brave human beings on the planet. I just wish the freedom to own the effort of culling the wheat from the chaff weren't a Faustian bargain of neurological overload and ideological diarrhea.

I've had enough news to last me a lifetime. From now on I promise to forget the name of every politician and to hopelessly mangle the acronyms of their parties. Economics is white boys playing in sheep guts, as inherently fascinating to me as fucking baseball. Science news is having the tone-deaf sing you random and non-sequential bars of Mozart -- like recorded birdsong.

Health news makes me wish I lived on another planet. It's 2013, information is everywhere, and you know what? Magical thinking is more popular than ever.

The only thing I know about today is that it's Tuesday and it's going to rain. You can smell that. The train is dopplering along in the distance so nobody's kerploded it today. The grocery store treated my money as legal tender, and if they hadn't I wouldn't have had any options that foreknowledge could change (I don't often trade in pelts or precious stones). Since the electricity still works I'll do my job. Later, when the milfy wife comes home, we'll sit in the sunset and drink wine until we're sleepy.

How would today be better armed with a fuzzy grasp of current affairs? I submit that staying informed is bollocks.

(I've blathered enough. The fiction unfurls beneath the fold.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Profiteers, Part 2

Preamble: Happy Canada Day! While you're drunk and sunburned, why not relax with a nice slice of science-fiction?

(The current serial continues beneath the fold.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Profiteers, Part 1

Preamble: This newest story, The Profiteers, is a four-part serial. If fond of homonyms feel free to consume with a glass of orange juice and buttered toast.

First however is a bit of positive review news I've been slow to catch up on -- from Alex Friedman's April review of Idiot's Mask: "The first thing I noticed...was how little the author sacrifices his prose for the lengthy world building exposition of other science fiction writers. Mr. Brown's worlds are vibrant, fantastic, and alien while at the same time remaining relatable and wholly embedded within the character's perception." Isn't that nice? The novella is downloadable in a variety of formats from Smashwords and is also available for Amazon Kindle.

(The new serial begins beneath the fold.)