(Endless) Intervention

In my new book, which at the moment I’m calling Endless (but will probably be called something different later), there are some little bits at the beginning where you get to see some of the guerrilla activities of the people in the community called Endless.  A sort of genetic intervention, if you will, one small thing among a string of them, trying to save the world, little bit by little bit.  This one is titled “Inoculation.”

The wind in the corn is loud as the young woman kneels over the shallow hole scratched in the dirt, her whispering a soft susurration under the clatter of leaves against stalk.  The tiny thing in her hand kicks and then dies, its blood leaking out into the soil.

“Fly away home,” she says again, “Fly away home,” and lays the body out carefully in the hole where the flies will find it, help broadcast the genes.  It lies there, small whiskers quiet, eyes shut.  Her plastic gloves squeak as she opens a jar, laying a circle of lumpy milk solids around the edges of the hole, blowing dark hair out of her eyes as she does so.

“Blood for purity,” she says, “Milk for life.”

There is a shudder and then hypha begin threading quickly outward from the ring.  A bloom of white coats the ground, spreading fast.  Shakily, she screws the lid back on the yogurt jar and steps away, stopping only to wipe the blood off her little knife on some leaves.  The mycelia is heading underground now, carrying genetic agents from the blood to the corn plants.
It’s time to go.

She puts the knife and the gloves into an oiled-silk bag in her purse and begins to run back toward the highway and her backpack, where an old van will be by soon to pick her up.  Behind her, the wave of mycelia builds, rolling outward through the dirt of the field, delivering its payload; and the corn receives it, waiting to do its job, inoculating another thousand or so people against the latest wave of sickness sweeping the nation.

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(Endless) Tara Excerpt

Here’s a first-draft excerpt from the beginning of my new book, which at the moment I am calling Endless.  This time it’s a piece from the point of view of Tara, a fifteen-year-old girl on the high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum who’s genetically linked to hawks and who has been raised in an unusual community in the backwoods.


This new jornaling unit works grate an dosnt giv me hedaches any more but the spellchek slows me down way too much so I turnd it off evn tho my dad will hate it.  Besides, I dunno why but this souns mor like how I think an not like som kind of text book made out o my thots.

Ive bin out with the hawks, walkin an testin the jornal, lookin at the wildflowers.  My dad modded the jornal from som off-the-shelf implant softwear that he herd about on an autism site.  Its the best one so far but it still kicks out wen Im in a hury.

But rite now Im walkin, smellin the spring smells an thinkin about Steinbeck who I just bin readin.  My dad sez now Im fifteen I gotta read off a reading list an Steinbeck is all over the list.  Hes kinda depresing but I lik som of his discripshuns, speshally in East of edn. Like the poppys, he says theyr not ornge, not gold but if pur gold wer liquid an could rais a cream, that goldn cream mite be like the color of the poppys.

I like that.  The hills ar covred with them rite now an I go way out to the cow medow up above the Pertie Ranch to get a good drink o that gold, lickin at my eyeballs.  I sit a long time ther jus eatin it up.  My hawks go too, playin like kittns abov me.  Not like reglar hawks at all.

I sit ther so long Im starvin, dint bring any food an now I wish I hadnt com so far.

But Farsee’s been huntin, an brings me a rat, her wings brushin my face.  I take the gift an thank her.  Its still alive, it wriggls in my hands and I slice its belly open w/ my hooked knif.  I cach the hot blood in my mouth and now its movments are jerky and slow so I terr at the furry skin w/ my teeth.  I can feel how the skin seprates from the mussel, all slimy an clingy an warm an slippry.  It lays limp while I eat it, the livr hot and iron-y, the hart small and tough, the mussels slideing off the bones and down my throat w/ a satisfying weit.  I put the hed between my teeth and crack it open, suck out the branes and pop the eyes, spit out wiskers.

Wen there is nothing left but  bones and the sak of its colon I go to the crik and wash.

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(Endless) Lucas Excerpt

Here’s a first-draft excerpt from my new book Endless (working title), of which I have three chapters left to finish at the moment before I start polishing.  This section is told from the point of view of Lucas, a survivor of Huntington’s Disease, thanks to gene therapy.

The air of San Francisco was deliciously clear, but the Californian attitude towards the sea was giddying to someone from a land of dykes and canals.

Lucas stood at the top of Corona Heights, breathless from the climb up the stairs, and stared out across the clear distances toward the green hills of Berkeley, where houses spilled recklessly down the distant slopes toward the water.

It was as if they welcomed the water, tempted it.  Two nights ago he had been in a house built right up to the crashing surf, huge windows open and glaring out at the enormous waves which hurled themselves unceasingly at the rocks.  As if the house itself were a middle finger raised at Poseidon: Come and get me if you dare!  Lucas himself had not been able to sleep that night, listening to the pounding of the surf outside, imagining the water crashing through the windows downstairs, filling the house, drowning everyone in their sleep.

So different from the polders, the low-lying lands behind the dykes on the western coast of Belgium.

He liked San Francisco, despite its feeble watery edges.  Liked the way it rose into the air, houses poised like ranks of well-clothed soldiers staring out across wide distances.  Liked the clarity of the air, the color, the youth, the constant variety.

And he liked the way the locals held themselves apart from the rest of the Bay Area’s gene-therapy economy, the way they refused to allow big industry into city, the citywide ban on GM foods, the strict oversight of the UCSF hospital’s use of gene therapies.  At the same time they enforced strict anti-discrimination policies within the county of San Francisco toward people with GT-cured disorders.  He liked that, too.

Lucas breathed a huge sigh, drinking in the fine clean air of freedom, and headed back down the muddy trail.  He had quite a walk ahead of him to get back to the hotel, unless he caught the Divisadero bus.  Debating this in his head, he marched down the stairs and along the lower trail into the little streets around Castro.  He was hungry.  Perhaps he would walk until he found a place to get some food, and then take the bus back toward the hotel.

He glanced at his phone again, wondering when Alex Cartier, the rep for EuGene Industries, would get back to him.  Perhaps he was being fobbed off, although it seemed unlikely that EuGene would want to be too obvious with a GeneWatch representative.

The tree-lined streets of Castro opened out into the boulevard of Divisadero, with an accompanying rise in noise and population.  His stomach rumbled, and he watched for appealing restaurants, wondering what Eritrean food tasted like and if he wanted to eat “hom-cooked soup.”  Among the cafes and scruffy home-decor shops were scattered galleries, and tall crumbly hotels disgorged young European tourists.

Ahead of him six or seven youths in hooded suits lounged, holding a desultory discussion about nothing in particular.  Lucas didn’t like the idea of walking between their ranks, but his only other options were to turn back to the corner or cross the busy street from the middle of the block; so he forged ahead, not looking at them.

“Hey, you got a cigarette?” one of them called.

“No, I don’t smoke,” Lucas said, and then tripped on the uneven sidewalk.

The pavement came far too quickly up to meet him as he twisted, the sky whirling past, and landed heavily on his side, his elbow and hip cracking painfully against the ground.  He lay for a moment, breathless with pain, his heart thumping in terror. The second sign, it’s the second sign, a general lack of coordination and an unsteady gait.  First sign, problems with mood or cognition.  Have I…?

“Whoa! Dude! Are you all right?” The youths were all around him, their shoes near his eyes, a blur of bright colors and stripes.  Hands took hold of him and hauled him upright, brushed him off.

“That was nasty,” said a gaunt blonde boy in a voluminous jacket.

“Gotta watch where you walk,” said another, tall and dark-skinned.

Lucas only stared at them, the terror clutching at his tongue.  Did they know?  Would they haul him into that alley and beat him senseless?

“Dude, he’s in shock.  Look at his eyes!  We should give him some water or something,” said a third, this one younger and more effete.

Lucas shook his head.  This is San Francisco.  I’m safe here.  “No, thank you, I think I only bruised myself and knocked my breath away,” he said awkwardly, the unreasoning rush of fear leaving his English chaotic in its wake.

“Hey, where you from?” asked the dark-skinned youth.  “England?”

“Nah, he’s not English,” said another.

“Europe,” Lucas said, trying to look bold as he said it.  “Flanders.”

“Fl-anders, where the hell is that?”

“Dude, in Europe, like he said.”

“Damn, you must be happy to be here, then.  I heard Europe’s pretty hairy these days.”

Lucas shook his head.  “No, it’s better now, with the new government.”

“Oh yeah?  They close the camps and all that stuff?” the gaunt one eyed him suspiciously.

“Yes, that was the first thing they did,” said Lucas.  “Closed all the camps.”

“Dude, how come you know so much about Europe?” said another of the boys to the thin one.

“My grandma’s from Austria, she never shuts up about it.  You knew that!”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”

Lucas took a tentative step forward, feeling his feet’s movement, but nothing seemed wrong.

“Well, thank you.  I must be going.”

“You sure you don’t want any water or anything?”

“No, no, thanks very much.  I must keep walking so I can find some lunch.  I think hunger is making my feet lazy.”

They laughed and waved him off, and he went on, thinking how much he liked this city.
At the next shop-window he stopped, taking the opportunity to straighten his coat and check his face in the reflection.  There was a streak of grime down his left side, but it brushed off all right; luckily it hadn’t rained in a couple of days.  His arm ached, and his left knee burned a little as if he had scraped it.  He was feeling hollow with hunger.

Something inside the window gleamed: a delicate structure, reaching cautiously out to him.  Impossibly geometric filaments linking and separating into fingers that seemed to yearn toward him, begging him.

Problems with mood or cognition…

He shook his head.  No; he wasn’t misunderstanding, wasn’t in the middle of a euphoric fit.  It was an art gallery, and this was the piece in the window — a marvelous piece, crystalline and deftly graceful.  Next to the window, an old-fashioned door proclaimed:

Gallery Oblique
Sculpture – Painting – Bioart

Bioart?  He pushed through the little door, a bell ringing as he entered the warmth inside.


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Why Diana Wynne Jones?

I just found a beautiful post, over at the Dish, that enumerates the reasons why Diana Wynne Jones should be read by every single person before they get any older.  Nicely written, and very very true.

Check it out, and then go buy some books and be prepared for a whole new world to open to you.  Yay!!

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Why Am I So Silent?

I don’t know why I don’t write more posts.  I think I need to get past the idea that every post needs to be meaningful, insightful, and new (which is how I wrote Cabinet of Wonders, and why I don’t write it anymore).  I think, instead, I need to think of it like exercise, doing my half-hour a week, and then perhaps it will begin to have a greater presence in my life.  And thus greater meaning.

I am bad at communicating with my faraway friends as a general rule.  It’s a failing of mine; I think about them a lot, but the reaching-out part slips away in the long lists of things I must do in my daily life.  Which is sad and ridiculous, because keeping in touch with friends should be a pleasure, not work, right?  Except that with Facebook and Twitter and emails, I find I get lost in cyberland, and before I know it it’s eating my life and I’m not writing, just keeping up with the endless stream.

Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, that inability to edit and focus and hone my connection with social media and email and so on.  I see other people doing it at conventions, and I just can’t bring myself to spend my day keeping track of that stuff.  It fills my head, and shoves the stories to the back.  Or perhaps I’m just one of those people who likes to think more deeply, be interrupted less.  I know one of the hardest things about having children, for me, is the interruptions to my thinking and conversation.  I get sidetracked easily and forget what I was thinking, it slips away like a little fish, and I can’t capture it again.

The same is true with stories, and it’s why I’ve been converted to outlining for my novel process!  With Songs for a Machine Age, I didn’t have an outline, and spent an inordinate amount of time scrolling around in the body of the book trying to remember all the things that were happening.  They had all swum away in the night, leaving me with an empty head.

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