Introducing Matthias

Would you like to meet Matthias?

After two years of steady – and not so steady – writing, this fan fiction writer might just be ready. I have a few more chapters to fix, to edit, another two or three to write, but my first fantasy-alternate history novel might possibly be almost sort of ready. Ish.

It is hard to believe that this is finally happening. All my life – since my first unfinished attempts in high school and college, through my odd work life, raising my talented and beautiful daughter, teaching writing and literature, my love for fan fiction, my long, convoluted mystery novel that lies in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet – now, now I’m calling myself a writer.

I’m not positive of my title. Not quite convinced of every title/language/historical timeline. I discover new things I haven’t nailed down in this alternate earth of mine every day. But, Matthias? Yeah, I’m sure of him.

And I think I’m finally ready to share a tiny piece of his life with you.

Just one more caveat – I’ve lived with this character for years now, he’s very real to me and giving him to you is very difficult, like sending out my toddler on her first day of pre-school. So, be gentle with him. And, like every mom, I’m very protective and quite a little bit proud – and very scared.

Here’s some important business before we get started…

~Excerpt from Chapter One, More Noise Than Thunder~
©2013 Maryel Stone, All rights reserved. All characters, plots, language, belong to the author. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

And now, may I introduce Matthias?

The other children sat to school – learned lessons by rote and recitation in ordered groups of ten. Matthias stood one day beside his mother as she drew water from the trough, watching the bent heads of his sometime playmates, black and brown and yellow hair cut short or plaited or curling in long locks as they followed the words of their teacher. Two fingers in his mouth, he tried to hear, he wanted to know what they were marking on their flat slates; he’d even taken one step towards them when his mother’s hand brushed against his face and turned him back against her side.

He looked up to see her smile and couldn’t help smiling back. Pulling his fingers out of his mouth, he blinked in the bright sunlight. “Eema- I want to learn.”

“Ah, my sweet Matthias, you are learning,” she whispered, leaning down to press a kiss against his cheek. “You learn every day – those eyes of yours see so much more than mine.” She shook her head in play reproof, “and your questions are as many as the sky’s stars.” His eema watched his solemn face and sighed. “Matthias,” she began again, “your learning is special because you are special; it will come from the very air around you, from the soil beneath your feet, the trees and grass, rain and sun, and pour into your soul.”

She turned her head to greet an old priest tottering by, one gnarled hand clutching fast to a long stick. Matthias’ eyes followed hers and he saw the pain of the man’s joints in his awkward step and tasted the sadness of his losses gathering across his back. The weaving of the priest’s long life’s pathway was thick and layered, curving up to catch his feet gently as he laid them down. Inner eye wandering towards the distance, Matthias saw the tightly woven pathway would soon rise up to enfold the old man’s being, carrying him beyond the mortal world.

“You learn whenever your father takes you into the Temple. Or in the yard with the animals. Or even by the riverside when we watch the fishermen.” She set the large clay jug at her feet and crouched beside him. “You are always learning my little one.”

Matthias frowned, his gaze straying back towards the gathered children, their voices chanting all together. His lips pursed. Other voices whispered to him, the same voices that spoke in his dreams, showing him things, feeding his imagination with scenes of distant lands and great temples built of glass. He’d seen criss-cross roads that lay beneath a powerful monster that breathed smoke, and crowds of men and women in many colors of cloth and wearing funny things upon their heads.

He blinked away the images. It was true. He was four now, and he knew lots of words and names and places and could even milk a goat if she wasn’t fretful. He could count to two-handsful all by himself. He watched as one of the boys leaned over to speak in his fellow’s ear and then hide a laugh behind one hand. Something ached in his chest. “But, Eema-“

She smiled gently and pressed her cool cheek against his. “I know. It is hard to be different, my son.” From within the folds of her robe she drew an impossible tangle of red beads and thread and held it out. His hands reached for it all on their own and he began to stroke the beads, feeling the pattern of the weave between chubby fingers, bending his head to the task as he walked along, shepherded by his mother’s gentle touch now and then. He instinctually saw how to slide the stones, to unknot the thin cord and put the beaded chain to rights. In a few moments he lifted the jewels up into the sunlight, showing his mother his achievement and she thanked him and hung the ribbon of stones around her neck.

It was only then that he remembered the other children and he turned back, fingers wandering back into his mouth, to find the schoolroom far behind, heads still bent over their tasks.

“Shall we take your boats to the river today?” His mother asked as they made their way towards home. “Or, perhaps, take a walk through the nassa fields and see if there are any rabbit burrows?”

He skipped beside her, his mind already moving across the low plains, diving down the rows between the tall plants, looking for the tiniest sign of life crouched among the thick roots. He reached for his mother’s robes, testing the cloth between his fingers. He loved the feel of the rabbit babies’ fur, so soft, so light and full of air. Once they’d come across a newborn clutch, tiny bodies huddled together beneath the long grasses, skin quivering with the barest touch of a breeze, eyes tight shut. His mother had knelt down some way away, but urged him on with smiles and waves until he sat right beside the hidden burrow.

“One finger, Matthias,” she’d whispered.

He’d nodded, eyes open wide, and traced a line through pale brown fur from one frail body to another, all clumped together into a pile. He spread his hand, one finger lying lightly upon each shivering rabbit. Their frantically beating hearts had slowed, and he’d smiled, so proud of how they’d calmed under his delicate touch.

His eema had made a sound in her throat, almost too low for him to hear, and he’d looked up to see the mother rabbit, her nose twitching just at the edge of a nearby row of nassa. Her long ears were pricked forward, her pink nose trembling up and down, huge liquid brown eyes watching him. Matthias looked down into the shallow nest and sighed, reluctantly letting his fingers trail from the bundles of softness and warmth to sit back on his heels.

One front paw raised in the act of creeping forward, the mother rabbit still watched him, still sniffed at the air.

“It’s okay,” Matthias whispered, hands on his bent knees. “Your babies are safe, rabbit-eema.”

The slight movement he caught out of the corner of his eye was his mother’s small gesture of ‘come’ and he scooted backwards into the circle of her arms, still watching. Once he was pressed back against her chest she’d leaned down, her breath tickling his ear.

“She will come now, my son. She will scent only the rightness of her children, the sweet smell of your Law upon their slumber. See?”

She was right – the mother rabbit hopped slowly until she was stooping over the edge of the nest. She lowered her head, pink nose moving so quickly Matthias had to blink to follow it. A moment later she was down among her children, carefully settling her warm weight against them, her head angled upward, dark eyes looking straight into Matthias’.

“Any other touch, any other scent would have warned her off, that’s why I stayed back,” his mother whispered. “But you are the Balance’s own son, Matthias; nature itself knows you.”

They’d sat and watched the mother and her children, warm in the spring sunlight, Matthias growing drowsy in his own nest made of his mother’s skirts. He’d woken hours later in his bed, memories of the trusting hearts beating against his fingers and the soft feel of the fur making him smile.

Matthias sucked at his fingers and looked up into his mother’s shining eyes.

“To the fields it is,” she laughed.

I’d love to hear what you think.
Signed,
Proud Mama Writer

Swim or Sink?

Or An Examination of the Necessity of Exposition versus Jumping Into a New Fantasy World with Both Feet

 

It is a puzzlement, isn’t it?

Here you are, author, writer, creator of an entirely new fantasy universe. You’ve molded it, raised mountains, named continents, populated cities or underground lairs or alien planets. You’ve set up governments, cultures, languages, concepts of right and wrong, systems of economics, and hierarchies of power. You’ve dotted it with wizards or barbarians, beings of light, striped, carnivorous horses or warrior-bearing dragons.

It’s perfect. It’s amazing. It all fits together with your plot and characters at the center. And now, your only question is, how do you present this gift, this creation of your heart and imagination that took you years to conceive and birth to your readers?

You could drop them into this world – this universe – without an explanation or a life jacket. Expect the reader to be so intrigued, so fascinated that he hangs on long enough to figure it out. You could revel in the mysterious symbols, in the tiny hints and subtle clues that will (hopefully) send the reader in the right direction, to follow your lead to the correct conclusions. You’re expecting a lot, but your momma always told you not to assume your reader is ignorant or oblivious. He’s smarter than you think.

Or, you could explain. You could hand your reader the life preserver of exposition. Using character interaction or dialogue, you could lay out the rules, the players, and the gameboard until he gets his bearings. You could add a forward or a preface. You could find a way in an early chapter to fill him in on the important concepts, the vital statistics of this foreign world.

This dilemma is one every writer faces. Too much exposition, we are told, is boring. “Who are you, Victor Hugo? Prefaces are for brilliant scholars, not for sci-fi or fantasy hacks.” And prefaces are so passé, non?

But, the others say, I don’t get it! Who are these people? What are these words? “Symbolism? Seriously? We’re not in AP Literature anymore!”

Over the past few weeks I’ve read two books by the same author. They are set in the same multiverse, great fantasy/sci-fi stories. The second book (which I read first, of course, in my usual bass-ackwards fashion) gave us conversation and explanation – exposition, using an ‘innocent character’ – someone else as unfamiliar with these strange concepts as the reader. We learned as Violette learned. The first book threw the reader into an evolving story with no explanation, expecting us to be carried along with the fast-paced action with barely a moment to catch our breath.

One author. One fantasy world. Two books. Two different choices.

All fantasy/sci-fi authors have had to make these choices. This is the genre that demands it. The reader is not on Earth in some century that is available for Googling if he wants to know more. This is not a language that anyone at the local Starbucks is speaking. Some authors cleverly reveal the rules and regs of their worlds in bits and pieces as the reader goes along. (Frank Herbert’s Dune disguised exposition as young Paul Atriedes learning about the world Arrakis which would be his new home. Anne Rice told us a story about a vampire as Louis told his life story to a young boy.) Some dump us into their world and stand back to watch us splash around. (Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass is a beautiful example of this method.)

Some readers want an explanation – a list of characters, a pronunciation guide, a map of the world. Some want less – just tell me a story, they say, don’t bog us down in detail.

Is there a right and wrong to this? Is it important which choice an author makes? Is there a happy medium?

Discuss. And, please, let one would-be writer in on the answer if you are in the know.

“Tepeu’s Tears”

With the gracious author, Lady Soliloque’s, approval and tremendous encouragement, I present “Tepeu’s Tears,” a fan fic set within the multiverse of Enoch the Traveler.

Author’s Notes:  Rated T

Extended scene, Chapter 51a, if you will, of Enoch the Traveler by Lady Soliloque. This is a work of fan-fiction, all characters, scenes, and everything else in this wonderful multiverse belong to the Lady – gratitude to her for allowing her fans to play in it.

Pronunciation guide:

Tepeu – tepAYwa

Ah Peku – ahpeKWA

Chaob – CHAob

Hunhua – WANwah

AhZacumvach – ahzaKOOMwach

Xaman – SHAman

Taat – (father) taAT

 

“Tepeu’s Tears”

 

“I was in Ilopango.”

 

Deacon’s attention was wrenched back to the present, his unseeing gaze lifting from the gnarled trees that lined Violette’s property to rest on the immortal seated beside the window. The two had fallen into an uncomfortable silence after Deacon’s revelation, Enoch’s eyes clouded by shifting sensations as he focused inward, seeming blind and deaf to anything happening around him. Deacon lowered the arm that had been braced against the top of the peeling window frame and turned to face the other man.

 

“Sorry?”

 

One hand laying protectively across the face of his Tempore Cogitatus, Enoch sat back in the carved wooden chair, his shoulders stiff, the planes of his face all sharp angles and deep shadows. “In the year 450, as the people of your race measure time, I was in Ilopango. I had been traveling the multiverse for many lifetimes, freely moving through time and space before –” A momentary pause, a slight, nearly unnoticeable widening of the eyes revealed Enoch’s discomfort. “Before. Let us leave it at that,” he added.

 

Deacon nodded, shifting so that the lowering sunlight was at his back.

 

“I was visiting a community of Mayans along the west coast of the landmass that once linked your western continents. I found their civilization intriguing. Simple and yet sophisticated – their lives were filled with the struggle for day-to-day survival and yet encompassed such art, such science, as many older cultures on older worlds could never have attempted.”

 

The Mayans. Deacon sent a query out into the vast storehouse of his mind. Within the space between seconds he had put together an entire, concise encyclopedia entry on the ancient people – including architecture, religion, literature, and manufacturing. Knowledge, he reminded himself, was not always the same as understanding. He settled onto the edge of the bed, moving slowly and deliberately so he wouldn’t break this spell, this moment of connection with the immortal traveler.

 

“Tell me about it,” he urged, his voice encouraging but not impassioned.

 

Enoch’s gaze flicked towards him and then again into the distance out the open window. “I do not … know … what to tell.”

 

And that obviously bothered Enoch, confused him. Deacon lifted his hands from his knees. “Anything you like, I suppose. Something about the people you met there?”

 

Enoch’s lips thinned as if he bit at them, undecided what memories to share. His eons-molded definition of what was ‘important’ or ‘vital’ was crumbling at the edges.

 

“There was a man.” The immortal nodded once. “Yes. A man named Ah Peku. He was a pottery maker. Very well regarded in his village and all along the trading coast. Every morning, just as the sun rose, he and his children traveled up the ridge to the edge of the lake to collect clay. The oldest boy, Chaob, was club-footed, unable to find work or a mate among the villagers. But he was strong, and could dig deep trenches in very little time to find the rarest earth Ah Peku needed for his art. The middle child – Hunhua – was a shy girl of eight years. She led the burro – an animal that was treated more like a family pet than a beast of burden – up the steep hill. Pampered and fed scraps by the children and adults alike, the burro had one job: it carried two wicker baskets strapped across its back up and down the mountainside every morning. One ready to be lined with green leaves and packed with Ah Peku’s clay, and one full of bread and goat’s milk and fruit for the family’s breakfast.”

 

“And then, the youngest,” Enoch held out one hand about three feet from the floor, “a small boy named Tepeu.” He shook his head, a smile lingering behind his eyes for a heartbeat. “Such clever brown eyes.” He chuckled, caught up in the memory. “And a sharp, honest tongue, as well.”

 

“Are you coming AhZacumvach? Are you? Coming up to the lake?”

 

The small boy jumped and pranced, running first one way and then the other along the footpath. His teeth flashed in his bright, brown face, a smear of dirt already evident on one cheek, even in the early morning hour.

 

“Yes, Tepeu, I am. Does the smoke not keep your father away?” Enoch raised his eyes to the huddled mass of grey that hugged the volcano’s caldera like a dirty shawl. Soon. Very soon, he thought to himself.

 

Tepeu wrinkled up his pug nose. “Taat says the gods are arguing. I think it smells like Ganja’s medicine.”

 

Enoch laughed. Sulfur. The boy was not wrong. “Well, if your father is sure, I will walk with you a while.”

 

Tepeu jumped up and down. “Taat! Taat! The xaman is coming! I can walk with him, yes? Yes, Taat?”

 

Ah Peku turned from his quiet discussion with his oldest son to shoot a stern glance towards his youngest. “Only if you can keep from biting at his ears with your constant chattering, little monkey.”

 

The child caught at Enoch’s hand and tugged him farther up the hill.

 

“Tepeu!”

 

Enoch raised his other hand in an easy dismissal. “It’s all right, my friend.” For now, at least. It would be another few hours before the worst came. He would need both hands, then, to escape the devastation.

 

He and the boy caught up to where Hunhua was walking next to the hairy-eared burro. She’d stripped a thin branch of bark and was whipping the switch through the air, laughing at the buzzing noise it made. Enoch received one smile before the child’s face disappeared beneath a dark curtain of hair.

 

The people of the village had accepted him easily, had welcomed him as a wise-man, a xaman on his spirit-quest, looking for a guide animal to assist him with his magics. Many of the people called him AhZacumvach, the white-faced one, because of his skin color and his alignment with white magic. Enoch had arrived well-prepared, dressing in breechcloth and girdle, his shoulders bare of an elder’s mantle. His clothes and simple necklace of ribbons and feathers had identified him as a man on the cusp of his adult power; one who had chosen a xaman’s path and was setting out on his own to confirm his calling and find a village to claim him.

 

It was the safest role.

 

“Why do you say that?” Deacon asked, breaking into the immortal’s tale.

 

Enoch frowned, what looked like a rebuke on the tip of his tongue before some inward sense choked off his pride. He swallowed back words that seemed to taste of ash and blood and breathed out a sigh. “By passing as a young xaman, or scholar would perhaps be a better word, I could keep myself largely apart from village life, clear of entanglements or pressures to take a place within their culture.”

 

Deacon raised his eyebrows. “’Clear of entanglements,’” he repeated. “You wanted to observe them, these people, these families, and yet still stay aloof, unaffected by anything that happened to them.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“To learn about them – about that time period – without getting involved.”

 

Enoch’s frown was growing deeper. “Of course.”

 

Deacon dropped his head into his hands, trying to smother the sick laughter that tried to crawl up his throat. “That’s –” He took a moment to breathe, to put his tumbling thoughts and knee-jerk accusations into nonjudgmental, unemotional terms. This man – this cold, immortal, arrogant, disaster of a man who had watched, unmoved, while others suffered and fought and died, was drowning in Violette’s emotions. In fears and worries and pain and loss. Even resting in the hospital, even after her small taste of Joshua’s healing, Violette’s mind would be churning with memories completely foreign to this mysterious being. A human woman – the most human woman Deacon had ever met – was broadcasting each sensation straight to Enoch’s immortal heart. Deacon should be amazed Enoch could talk at all.

 

Keeping his expression carefully controlled, Deacon turned back to the window, away from Enoch’s assessing gaze. The scene painted itself before him – three children and their father in the misty morning light, nothing on their minds except a daily journey, the love of their father, the smell of fresh bread overlaid with sulfur like an omen. He could see young Tepeu squirming at Enoch’s side. Shy Hunhua, one hand rubbing the burro’s soft downy coat. Chaob limping up the mountain, the short shovel held over one shoulder. And Ah Peku, leading his beloved children towards a horrible, needless death.

 

Deacon, his face still hidden from the immortal, felt his anger fray to tatters by the sorrow he knew was to come. “Please continue,” he whispered.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

He blinked, eyebrows twitching. What was it that he heard in Enoch’s voice? Sympathy? Concern? Deacon shrugged and then nodded his head. “Please.”

 

“Very well then.” Enoch cleared his throat. “The people of the village knew me as a young xaman, still searching for guidance from the gods. They knew I would not take one of their daughters in marriage, nor would I challenge their own ah k’in, or town priest. They trusted that I would stay for a time, earn bread and bed with ointments and small prayers and then leave them alone. And so they were free to welcome or to ignore me as they wished.” He paused, the old wooden chair creaking as he shifted his weight. “Ah Peku and his family were unusually gracious … not unlike the Lady Violette.”

 

Deacon closed his eyes and allowed the mountain trail to come to life all around him.

 

“Work first, play after,” Ah Peku shouted, laughing. He steered Chaob by one shoulder, never hurrying the crippled teen, just encouraging him towards one end of the smooth, grey lake. Hunhua followed, tugging on one of the burro’s ears.

 

“Be careful, little monkey!”

 

Tepeu was racing across the uneven carpet of grass and gravel, outdistancing all of his elders, angling towards a thick-trunked tree that stood sentinel at the leading edge of the jungle. “AhZacumvach! Come! Help me climb!”

 

Enoch hurried over, feeling the rough vibration of the earth beneath his bare feet, stealing a long look at the gathering storm of the volcano as he joined the child beside the massive trunk. Massive. The tree was easily the width of his outstretched arms, the bark wrinkled and gnarled like an arboreal grandfather. This was not a sacred tree – a ceiba, lined with thick, sharp thorns. The World Tree, of Mayan religion. No, this old man was smooth-barked and majestic, and it called to Enoch as a perfect structure for his portal. He smiled down at Tepeu’s eager expression. The tree clearly called to the small boy, too, but for entirely different reasons.

 

Tepeu held up his arms and danced from foot to foot. “Please, xaman! Please! Lift me up!”

 

The lowest branch was far out of reach, the trunk too wide for purchase. Enoch eyed the boy and then measured off the distance in his mind. “Ah Peku?”

 

The potter was already on his knees, breechcloth tucked up front and back, out of the mud, pointing out the trench he and his oldest son would cut in the soft earth. He rocked back on his heels and, eyes sparkling, watched his son’s antics for a moment. “You hold on tight, Tepeu! There is no room on the burro for a silly boy with a broken leg.” He nodded at Enoch. “Don’t throw him too high, xaman. My boy would only make mischief among the stars.”

 

Enoch caught Tepeu in his arms, startling a squeak from the child, and then began to swing him back and forth, back and forth, the upward arc growing higher each time. Tepeu’s squeal turned into delighted shrieks and he reached out with both hands for the lowest branch.

 

“Ready?” Enoch called.

 

“Ready! Ready!”

 

Enoch tossed the child towards the tree and waited, watching, arms upraised to catch Tepeu if he missed his grasp. He need not have worried. The child clung to the branch with both hands and then lifted his legs to hook his ankles up as well.

 

“Taat! Look! Look at me!” he sang. “I will find the best, thickest leaves now!”

 

“You had better, monkey!” his father called back, shaking his head. “You make our AhZacumvach earn his breakfast catching them!”

 

The family now busy with the chores that would allow their father to present the best examples of his art for trade, Enoch stepped closer to the shelter of the tree and observed. Across the lake, the dark soil was peppered with shining black rock long cooled from the last eruption of the great volcano. Here, on the farthest shore, surface-rooted trees and undergrowth had taken hold during the quietus of the past two hundred years. The jungle was so full of green, growing things that nothing could quell its nature for long – life leaped in to fill any void.

 

The cloud was growing, crawling down the sides of the mountain and billowing upwards in dense curls that turned the early morning light into grim shadow. Lightning flashed within it, loud blasts that Enoch knew were not thunder sounded more and more frequently. As Tepeu chattered above him, tossing down handfuls of leaves that fell around Enoch’s feet, unheeded, he watched Ah Peku lift his head, brow furrowed. Somewhere down in the man’s soul, the artisan and father realized that this was not a normal storm. That the odor of sulfur, the clash of rock, and the oppressive cloud added up to something far more dangerous. He glanced over at Enoch, a question on his lips.

 

Enoch had already set his Tempore Cogitatus to take him to a safe distance in the same timeline. His hand was raised, hovering just a few inches away from the bulk of the tree’s trunk. Ready. The explosion would come any moment now and would send lava and rock and ash up in a gigantic plume over 16 miles high. And then death would fall on Ah Peku and his children, on the village, on the men and women who lived in the mountain’s shadow. Some would escape, he knew, but the culture would fall, here in the highlands. He had to be ready.

 

“Xaman?”

 

He looked down into Hunhua’s eyes. She had drawn close beside him while he watched the mountain. Close enough to touch him, to grasp the edge of his girdle with one small fist.

 

“Hunhua,” he said, his gaze flicking back and forth between her fearful eyes and the now rumbling, roiling cloud, “you should go to your father.” Enoch couldn’t allow her to keep hold of him or she would be sucked into the portal with him when he departed. “Hurry, now.”   He gently unhooked her fingers and encouraged her with a hand between her shoulders.

 

Just then the tremors of the ground changed from a constant shivering to a shuddering throb. Beneath the ground, the mountain was gathering its fiery breath, inhaling for the last time.

 

“Go!” Enoch shouted, all but hurling the child away from him.

 

The burro was running towards the trailhead, long ears laid back along its head. At the edge of the lake, Ah Peku held onto his oldest son, steadying them both, his eyes, wide with terror, speared Enoch with a stare filled with fear and rage. In that single moment, he knew. He saw his children’s death in the mountain’s roar and in Enoch’s level gaze.

 

And this doomed man, this father, hated him.

 

Enoch watched for another few heartbeats, felt the first explosion through the long bones of his legs, heard the roar of fire and rock through every pore, and saw the tall plume of death through eyes that had witnessed the cracking of suns, the extinction of beings, the breaking apart of worlds. As the first shower of searing ash and rock began to fall, tearing leaves, pattering on rock, and burning tender skin, Enoch swept his hand across the great trunk and opened the portal.

 

Just as his foot moved across the threshold, he looked up into Tepeu’s bright eyes, now wet with a child’s pure tears. And then he was gone.

 

“I moved farther into the jungle, in the same timeframe, within the same world and universe. A safe distance from the volcano’s rain of death. I remember being absorbed by its beauty, the awe of nature’s balance, the way the cloud of its eruption fell over one small part of creation and yet the entire world would feel its impact.”

 

Deacon felt each tear as it tracked down his cheeks. Unashamed, now, he turned towards the immortal man.

 

“And now, Enoch? With all that you have seen and experienced between that moment and this one, what do you think now?”

 

Enoch was pale, hands clenching and unclenching where they lay on his thighs. His gaze finally focused on Deacon, took in his tears, his hitching breath, and the misery that must be broadcasting from his soul. “Now? Now … I’m not sure. I’m not sure that … what I did … what I didn’t do …” He broke off, confusion stealing the immortal’s customary certainty.

 

Deacon managed a deep breath. “‘It is impossible to understand a culture, to observe a civilization – humanity itself – by looking in from the outside.’” He’d once been rebuked – oh, so gently – by the same words.

 

“You speak as if you are quoting another.”

 

“I am,” Deacon admitted. “It is a truth that I’ve learned very slowly over the centuries. A truth that I freely share with you.” He willed that hard-won truth to take root in the immortal’s soul, to find a place there to grow until Enoch was able to absorb it. Deacon had done his share of running, of hiding, of standing off, aloof from the world. It didn’t work.

 

A shadow of loss, of sorrow, drifted across Enoch’s face. “It is all that I have known.”

 

Deacon tried another way. “Why do you think that memory is one that you chose to share with me?”

 

Enoch shook himself from his thoughts, his gaze growing deliberately calm, that familiar reserve attempting to tighten down his features into accustomed lines. “Because you shared your tale – your history among these people in this part of the multiverse.”

 

Acknowledging the other man’s words with a tilt of his head, Deacon leaned in, elbows on his knees. “I think it’s because it bothers you, Enoch. Even after all of the centuries that have passed, even with all you’ve seen and all you’ve done since then, those brown eyes stare back at you from your dreams – your nightmares.”

 

“I do not have –”

 

“You do.” Deacon cut him off, his voice barely audible in the still air of the bedroom. “You have nightmares – or you will now. Nightmares. Regrets. That hollow feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and Tepeu’s tears are all you can see. Nickolov used Violette’s tears to crack open the shell you’ve built around your soul. And there’s no going back.”

 

Deacon watched his words hit Enoch like bullets, saw the immortal flinch and sway in the old wooden chair, barely holding himself upright. His own eyes were dry, his spirit certain that he had said and done all he could. He rose and moved towards the door, ready to stop, to turn back, at one word. At the threshold, Deacon stood a moment, listening to Enoch’s rough breaths.

 

And, a moment later, he took his place again at the immortal’s side. He could afford to wait a while. To remember with Enoch. To do homage to a young boy’s tears.

Raise Your Hands and Say “Enoch!”

Image

 

I’ll admit … I’ve doubted. I’ve shut down my laptop at the end of a nonproductive day and sighed, “No, Lord. I can’t do it. I’m not good enough.”

(Amen. Preach it sister.)

I’ve re-read pages with grinding and gnashing of teeth and then, in my weakness, hit Ctrl+A Delete.

(Yes. Yes.)

I’ve lain awake at night, staring up at the blank white ceiling of my bedroom and searched deep … I say DEEEEEP … into my imagination –

(Come on, come on)

And found nothing but trite clichés and overused plot-lines. Dialogue full of churning angst and descriptions filled with those words – yes, and I say yes, again! – THOSE words! The words of evil. The words of darkness and (novel) death.

The words that end in ‘ly.’

(Shocked gasps. No, sister, no!)

Yes! And I’ve bowed my head and wept.

(Umm-hmm. General head shaking.)

But then –

(Yes. Yes.)

Then, when I thought all hope was lost –

(Preach it, preach it!)

When I knew, in my heart of hearts, that nothing would ever be good enough –

(Come on, come on!)

Then! Then I went to … TIMEGATE! And I met a woman … a woman who had fought the good fight!

(Amen! Preach it!)

A woman who had persevered! Who had seen the light at the end of the tunnel and Lo! It was not a train!

(Amen!)

Lady Soliloque! She showed me the light! That a fan fic writer/vidder/geek/fan/nerd could do it! She could write! She could write a novel!

(Preach it!)

She could write a good novel!

(Amen!)

She could write a great novel! One that was published! And that could be made into an audio drama starring a cute Welsh actor!

(OOOOO! A-MEN!)

And then into a television SERIES!

(WA-HOO! Amen! Organ plays and hands clap in rhythm.)

And so can I!

(Crickets.)

Hey!

(Sorry, that was a largish leap of faith there, sister.)

Where my people at?

(Oh, we’re still here, just sort of waiting …)

Well, wait away, but, after meeting Lady S, listening to her wonderful team of talented voice and screen actors, and delving into this new world, this multiverse that she has created, I am encouraged!

(That’s good.)

I am excited!

(Good, good.)

I’ve even written my first Enoch fan fic!

(Writing is good!)

I am more convinced than ever that I can do it! I can write my novel!

(Don’t get a big head, now.)

And I am humbled that she could conceive of and write a fantasy novel that encompasses a multiverse like this one in just ONE YEAR.

(Yikes! You’d better get going! You’re behind!)

You’re right!

(So, what are you doing here, blogging? What’s Matthias up to? What mischief is Deok getting into? What are the Grey Robes and how do they figure into your alternate history?)

Geez, give me a break!

(Sorry.)

I’m blogging today to tell everyone about Enoch the Traveler. And to advise you to go NOW and get the book from Amazon.com, to get the iTunes radio drama, and to follow Enoch and LadyS on Twitter and Facebook to hear all about what’s happening in the multiverse. Get on board. Travel with Enoch. You won’t regret it.

(…. Are you done? Got your coffee? Got your Spotify on the right station? Then sit down and write your novel, sister! )

Amen!

https://www.facebook.com/enochthetraveler?fref=nf

http://www.enochthetraveler.com/

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Having a Party on Abydos – and You’re Invited!

Image

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years! Seems like only yesterday that we met and fell in love, doesn’t it? All those nights under the three moons, the sandstorms, the mastadge races, the roasted lizard that tasted like chicken, and the weird guys in Horus guard masks firing energy weapons into our tents. Sigh. Memories.

In 1994, we first met a couple of kooky guys named Jack O’Neil and Daniel Jackson (cough cough on the obvious name-symbology there) who took a ragtag bunch of Air Force officers through a giant alien orifice to find out that most of Earth’s mythology had been twisted into shape by an alien race named the Goa’uld. There they met the lovely but literacy-challenged Abydonians led by bald-but-noble Kasuf (who likes him a Clark bar! “Bundi! Bundi way!”), the fiery tempered young prince Skaara, and the beautiful and tragic Shaur’e.

And a bunch of ancient Egyptian types who have enslaved them, along with, apparently, the rest of the galaxy.

O’Neil, with one “L”, as played by the talented and buzz cut Kurt Russell, was a dark, depressed, ex-Spec-Ops bad-ass who wanted one thing and one thing only – to go out in a blaze of glory because of his guilt over his young son’s death. Jackson, as played by the adorably fluffy-haired James Spader, is a wide-eyed academic who has murdered his own reputation and career because of his uncanny knowledge that the ancient languages of the world are all somehow interconnected in a much older, much more conspiracy-theory laden way than others will admit.

It was a match made in heaven.

This was a ‘bromance,’ a brothers-in-arms tale that would fit perfectly into today’s media culture. Sherlock and Watson, (either franchise), Shawn and Gus, Sam and Dean, House and Wilson, Adama and Tigh – guys who are so much polar opposites that the combination of the two is ultra-combustible story-telling nirvana. Daniel gives his life for Jack and Jack learns to live again. Oh, sorry, 20-year-old spoiler alert.

Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (Yes! That guy!) conceived a sci-fi world so vast that it spawned a television franchise that lasted for 3 series, 14 years, 354 episodes and 2 made-for-tv movies. It has been surpassed in scope only by that legendary phenomenon, Doctor Who.

So, in celebrating Stargate’s creation and success, I’d like to invite you to share YOUR most significant moments from Stargate. The ones you loved, the ones that made you cry, the ones that broadened the scope of the story, or narrowed it down to its most relevant, foundational roots. Which character moments still resonate? Which plots fascinated? Which surprises shocked? Which choices rattled your understanding, gave you goose bumps, or still keep you going back to the DVDs and watching that one episode over and over again?

In honor of this milestone, we’re throwing an Anniversary Party at DragonCon in September, and we’d love for you to be a part of it, whether you can attend in person or only in nerd-loving spirit. During these festivities, we’d love to share this great fandom’s greatest moments. So, if you would, in your own words, and however you define “significant,” please honor us with your … (drumroll please!) …

20 Most Significant Moments in Stargate

Or, if you can’t come up with 20, then 10. Or 5. A couple. I’ll take care of the collating and paperwork, I promise.

In case you’re not one of the fans who know all the episodes by heart and/or still watch them daily/write/read fan fiction or go to Stargate Cons, here is a list of possibilities. Please, do not take this as an exhaustive list, just one that I’m exhausted having compiled! Add your own! Tell me I missed the most crucial point! I don’t mind at all.

Also, please post a link to this blog on any Stargate Chat site, or message board, or Yahoo list that you are a part of. I’d love for this to go out to the fandom at large, everyone who keeps Stargate up towards the top of any Favorite Sci-fi Franchise List. Share. Post. Discuss.

And, thank you in advance, for sharing. Celebrate with us! There’s virtual wine and bacon over in the corner where the Tok’ra are huddled, whispering.

 

  1. The Stargate is found in Egypt – Stargate the movie
  2. Lieutenant Hammond helps 4 strangers escape in 1969 – 1969
  3. Jack O’Neil(l) comes out of retirement – twice – Stargate the movie & Children of the Gods
  4. Daniel opens the Stargate – Stargate the movie
  5. Establishment of Goa’uld/Jaffa/humans in universe – Stargate movie and Children of the Gods
  6. Daniel discovers the cartouche room – Children of the Gods
  7. The entire Sha’re arc – Children of the Gods/Secrets/Forever in a Day
  8. Teal’c defects to our side – Children of the Gods
  9. The Four Races are discovered – Torment of Tantalus
  10. We meet Bra’tac and learn of Jaffa Rebellion – Bloodlines
  11. We meet the Asgard – Thor’s Hammer
  12. We meet the Tollan – Enigma
  13. Another Stargate discovered in Antarctica – Solitudes
  14. The Goa’uld can attack using ships/ Quantum mirror – There But for the Grace of God
  15. Sam is taken by Jolinar – In the Line of Duty
  16. Jacob Carter becomes a Tok’ra – The Tok’ra
  17. Jack meets Thor – The Fifth Race
  18. Asgard/System Lord Treaty about Earth – Fair Game
  19. Maybourne is a traitor – Shades of Grey
  20. Daniel meets Oma/ the Ancients – Maternal Instinct
  21. Earth meets the Replicators – Nemesis
  22. The Tollan are destroyed – Between Two Fires
  23. Reece – the first Replicator – Menace
  24. Daniel dies/ascends – Meridian
  25. Jack is implanted with a Tok’ra – Frozen
  26. Tretonnin is discovered – Cure
  27. Human form Replicators – Unnatural Selection
  28. Teal’c no longer has a symbiote- The Changeling
  29. Daniel descends – Fallen
  30. Supersoldier – Evolution Pt 1
  31. Janet dies – Heroes
  32. Jack becomes a General and takes over SGC – New Order
  33. Daniel/Rodney discover Atlantis and awaken the city – Atlantis
  34. Shepherd and Teyla awaken the Wraith – Atlantis
  35. Ba’al clones himself – Endgame
  36. Daniel meets Vala – Prometheus Unbound
  37. The Jaffa Rebellion takes Dakara and SG-1 destroys the Replicators with the ancient weapon – Reckoning
  38. Jack goes to Washington/Col Mitchell leads SG-1 – Avalon
  39. Daniel/Vala reveal the Milky Way to the Ori – Avalon
  40. Sam comes back to SG-1, the Ori create a Beachhead – Beachhead
  41. Ori plague and cure – The Fourth Horseman
  42. Vala becomes pregnant with the Orici – Crusade
  43. SG-1 + Ba’al find Merlin’s cave. Daniel downloads Merlin/Daniel is kidnapped by Adria and turned into a Prior – The Quest
  44. Prior Daniel activates Merlin’s weapon and sends it to Ori galaxy, destroying all ascended Ori – The Shroud
  45. Adria Ascends – Dominion
  46. The Asgard commit racial suicide and transfer their knowledge to the humans – Unending
  47. Beckett identifies the ATA gene and begins gene therapy, allowing people to access Ancient technology – Hide and Seek
  48. Beckett assists the people of Hoff to ‘perfect’ their anti-Wraith vaccine – Poisoning the Well
  49. The Wraith are poised to attack; Earth sends the Deadalus with a ZPM – The Siege
  50. The team finds and saves Ronon Dex – Runner
  51. Discovery of the iratus bug retrovirus – Instinct
  52. Beckett uses the retrovirus on Michael – Michael
  53. Atlantis creates a colony of Michael-like Wraith and Woolsey arrives on Atlantis – Misbegotten
  54. Atlantis discovers human-form Replicators called Asurans – Progeny
  55. Sheppard meets and makes an “alliance” with Todd – Common Ground
  56. The McKay/Carter Intergalactic Bridge comes on line – The Return
  57. Beckett dies – Sunday
  58. Asurans attack – Weir dies – Samantha Carter takes over Atlantis – First Strike & Lifeline
  59. Beckett’s clone is discovered, along with Michael’s lab – The Kindred
  60. Woolsey takes over Atlantis
  61. Todd has Teyla pose as a Queen to convert/destroy rival Wraith – The Queen
  62. Teyla kills Michael – The Prodigy
  63. Atlantis flies to Earth – Enemy at the Gate
  64. SG-1 discover The Ark of Truth and destroy the Ori threat – The Ark of Truth
  65. Ba’al is captured and his symbiote removed – Continuum

 

I Miss Heroes

[First and foremost, apologies for the dearth of blogs. I will sum up the matter with this: health problems, surgery, zombies, recovery, more zombies, and then Camp NaNoWriMo where I tried to find my writing mojo hiding in the woods. Luckily, I found it hunkered down behind the boat shed (cowering from the zombie attacks) and handcuffed it firmly to my side. *dusts hands* And now, on with the journey, thanks for sticking around.]

 

What makes good guys good and bad guys bad? It used to be pretty easy to tell. John Wayne – always a good guy. Lee Marvin – usually a bad guy. In the movies, good guys were good looking, in a wholesome, bring home to mama kind of way. Bad guys were either ugly or smarmy, without much wiggle room in between. White hats, earnest expressions, good manners, the use of the word ‘ma’am’ – these were all obvious traits of the good guys. They acted from a place of law, of right and wrong, a moral subtext, a cultural, if not universal, sense of integrity. They knew the lines they wouldn’t cross, they could tell the victims from the perps, and they understood the actions they must not take because, if they did, they would become the very things they fought.

While things might not have been exactly black and white, the shades of grey were very well defined.

Our favorite white knights must always have a tiny touch of darkness about them. After all, purity is boring, right? Too perfect, too invulnerable, too goody-two-shoes is not appealing. (One reason I never liked Superman was that he was just a little too perfect, you know?) We nodded wistfully at past mistakes, shook our heads sadly at naïve, bad decisions. And if he (or she) fell for the wrong girl (or boy) and found himself (sigh, I’d use ‘them’ but I am a grammarian at heart) we could identify with the terribly romantic internal conflict. But, even so, the one thing the good guy has to be, now try to follow along here, it gets kind of technical, is GOOD.

In order to have good guys, we must have a sense of what is good and what is bad. We must be willing to define the parameters of goodness and badness. If we don’t, we’re stuck with rooting for whoever wins, whoever has the biggest guns, whoever is hottest, or whoever has the saddest or most poignant backstory. In today’s society, we’re afraid to use these labels except for the most graphic examples. Pedophiles – bad. Puppies – good. Once we move an inch towards the center from either absolute end, we tend to glance sideways at each other and mumble a lot.

That presents us with a problem. If we don’t know what is good and what is bad, how do we decide which character is the hero?

Sometimes, the writer or the director makes it obvious who we are to root for. He’s clearly the star, so we know we are to root for him. She is oppressed or misunderstood, so we must obviously root for her. This kid has attitude. This woman is pulling herself up by her bootstraps. The underdog. The little guy v. the Big Rich Corporation. Today, we root for humans against zombies, doctors against lawyers, lawyers against other lawyers, and everyone against the military. (Unless we’re fighting Nazis or evil aliens. EVIL aliens. If the aliens have a smidgen of pathos, the US military is still likely to be portrayed as the villain.) But what defines them as heroes?

If they’re wearing capes, or have pointed ears, or are played by either Robert Downey, Jr or Will Smith, we can be pretty safe. Otherwise, we are forced to rely on their actions and their words to judge them. Funny, that sounds a lot like real life.

So, when the ‘heroes’ start being indistinguishable from the ‘villains,’ either by their dialogue or their actions, we’ve got a problem. We’re conflicted. We’re unsure. “There are no absolutes,” people tell me. “Good and evil depend on the situation.”

Malarkey. When the good guys act like bad guys, they are no longer good guys.

I started watching Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD this fall, super-excited that Coulson Lives! If you are afraid of spoilers, please skip this paragraph and continue below. We all know by now that Phil did not rehab in Tahiti, but that his best friend, Nick Fury, tortured him for days so that his mind would convince his body to live. This is not the action of a good guy. I don’t care about ‘greater good,’ or ‘I love it when a plan comes together,’ or ‘Hydra infiltration.’ If you torture someone who trusts you, you are not acting like a good guy. Or a friend.

That’s just one example.

My husband and I started watching the CW’s Supernatural in Year #1. There were brothers. There were monsters. There were demons. There was classic rock and muscle cars and angst. There was humor. A confused angel. It was not great, but it was utterly fantastic. In recent years, the story has been hopelessly muddled with serial killer angels, heart-of-gold demons, and more trips to heaven and hell than any viewers should be subjected to. Vampires can be good. Monsters can be good. Or, no, Dean has to go back and kill the monster Sam believed was good because “all monsters are bad.” But he was best friends with a vampire for half a season. And Crowley, the King of Hell is not as bad as Megatron, the Scribe of Heaven. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? At the end of each new episode, when our ‘heroes’ are standing over the latest corpse, the feeling is eye-rollingly, gut-churningly, and, most importantly to the show’s producers, channel-changingly unsatisfying in the extreme.

And I think I’ve spotted the very moment when they got themselves into trouble.

In Season 5, in a humorous episode called Changing Channels starring one of our favorite sort-of-monsters, The Trickster, Sam puts it into words:

“Dean, the world’s ending. We don’t have the luxury of a moral stance.”

It’s funny. Is that how we really feel? In war, do we not care about how our warriors behave? Can they slaughter anyone who gets in their way without any thought to morality and get away with it? Do we shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Torture? Oh, that’s okay. Use any means necessary to win.’ No problem. The American people don’t care if some civilians lose their lives, as long as we win.

Right?

Instead of Sam’s dialogue, I’d say, without a moral stance it doesn’t matter if the world ends. And that’s how I like my good guys, too. Good.

So give me capes and uniforms and white hats and green berets. Give me morals and laws and convictions. Call me old fashioned, but give me heroes to root for; give me good men intent on doing the right things. Give me imperfect women struggling to make hard decisions. Give me a character redeemed.

Give me heroes. I miss them.

Next time: There’s a Party on Abydos, and You’re Invited!

“Age of the geek, baby.”

It takes a while for some people to catch on.

You’d think Steve Jobs’ financial success would give people a rather large clue concerning the worth of ingenuity and education – of pinpoint focus on something that you know you can do, and do well.  Better than anyone.  That a person can be both smart and confident.  Intellectual and successful.  That you can love something like a computer, or a game, or a flow-chart and rise to the top.  That being skinny, or tall, or beautiful, or muscular, or popular isn’t half as sexy as being smart.

That not only does might not make right, but it also doesn’t give you the nice corner office or the bigger paychecks.

Still, in many schools and playgrounds around the country, sports players and jerks are ranked as the apex of the social pyramid, and boys and girls who can barely maintain a C average believe it is their place to mock and shun and generally torture those who have found something to love, to focus on, that is a little … different. 

I was one of those different kids.  Geek, nerd, A student.  Fan of Star Trek, Heinlein, Dark Shadows.  Wearer of floods and awkward sweaters and the size of glasses made popular by Sally Jesse Raphael.  My college sweetheart was a math major.  (Love you, honey!)

If only I could have stood up back then and owned it.  Owned my Nerd-hood, my Geek-dom.  If only I could have stepped up, shoulder to shoulder with so many others just like me who hid our faces in books hoping not to be picked on on the bus and unrepentantly admitted that I was a nerd.  And damned proud of it.  Made our own Breakfast Club of Whovians and Lovecraftians and StanLeeWannabes.

But, hey, that’s not cool.  It’s not cool to love science fiction.  Or gaming.  Or drawing superheroes. Forget D&D or anime or the now admired graphic novel. 

Who decided being a geek should be so shameful?

WHY?

Unfortunately, some people still haven’t gotten the memo.

Take, for example, the SciFi network.

In 2009, among the techno-craze of iPods and iPhones and iEverything, when computers are in every walk of life, and the handheld and head-worn communication devices sported by just about every person on earth resemble Star Trek communicators, the SciFi Channel decided its name was just too “geeky.”  Sent the wrong message.  Appealed to too narrow a demographic.  They decided, like the hangers-on swarming around the star football players in school, that egging on the bullies, laughing and pointing at the geeks as they fall under well-muscled onslaughts, was way more fun.

Hilarious.

(And the name Syfy is so much better and cooler, isn’t it?  ‘Coz everybody knows bad grammar and spelling is way cooler than that dang book-larnin’ stuff.)

Back in school, I wish I’d had someone to tell me that being a nerd is nothing to be embarrassed about instead of a whole bunch of people telling me to change.  (Poor SciFi, I wish you’d had someone, too.)

Thank heavens, little newborn Victoria has someone to tell her just why being a geek is so awesome.  Someone successful and articulate and kinda fantastic.

If you haven’t tuned into Wil Wheaton’s comments at Calgary Expo 2013, go now to his blog to listen:  https://wilwheaton.net/2013/04/being-a-nerd-is-not-about-what-you-love-its-about-how-you-love-it/

If you have, raise a glass with me to Wil.  Unashamed King of Nerd-hood. 

Snippet:

“When I was a little boy, people really teased us about that – made us feel like there was something wrong with us for loving these (weird) things.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m kind of a professional nerd and the world has changed a lot.  And I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd, or being a geek is another word you’ll hear – I use the words interchangeably – it’s not about what you love.  It’s about how you love it.

So there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love.  I don’t know what it’s going to be.  It might be sports, it might be science, it might be reading, it might be fashion design.  It might be building things, it might be telling stories or taking pictures.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  The way you love that and the way you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes being a nerd awesome.”

Thank you, Wil.  We are awesome.

Computer hacker extraordinaire –only for the right reasons – Alec Hardison of Leverage tells us that it’s the age of the geek. 

So why aren’t the geeks rising in the middle school social strata?  Why aren’t they named Homecoming King?  Voted Class President?  Left alone in the library after school?  Hopefully, it’s because they’re too busy building their own computers or writing fantastic stories or creating new superheroes.  I’m not quite sure I believe it, though.

Being a nerd – a geek – is awesome, Wil Wheaton, but it is a lot easier to say it from the stage in front of a happy, nerdy audience than it is in a high school locker room.

Maybe someday.