So long, moonless night

This is meant as allegory and is therefore open to many interpretations. Feel free to indulge.

You weren’t hungry anymore. You could think about food dispassionately, without a trace of that feeling, like being sucked inside out from the middle, as if your navel were an entrance to a boundless vacuum willing the world to come bounding in, smoothing and soothing, neither cool nor warm, not so much fulfilling as unempty.

Curiously, though, you found yourself obsessed with pictures of food, from crisp steaks to mushy oatmeal, the heat and fragrance leaping from the paper, photographs so detailed it seemed you could taste them.

None of this, of course, had any effect like hunger; you were decidedly not hungry. you preferred pictures.

And so you sat, cataloging slips of illustrated food carefully torn from magazines. It was only a few days — how many? Never mind — since you stopped eating. No one was more surprised than you that all traces of hardship had vanished after the second day, or was it the third? You couldn’t have said exactly when; by the time you noticed it was already a fact.

Which was odd, you thought, because you had been amazed at how clear, how focused you grew with every passing day. It seemed nothing escaped your attention, no detail too small or trivial, especially time, which even slowed down or sped up according to the demands of your interests. You knew precisely when each of the clearly remembered events in your recent past had occurred.

Except what time you had stopped being hungry, even on so gross a scale as what day. Food was brought to you. You made a detailed study of the tray it came on, the bowl, the spoon. By now you could, you were certain, produce a precisely thorough drawing of them, but, curiously, you couldn’t recall the food itself, which you sent back untouched.

All the same, you kept files, lists, really, entirely in your memory, of things that occurred to you in vivid detail, both physical and ephemeral. For example, your meditation on how long a person could last without food, based on things you had read casually years and months before, but which you could recall perfectly, except the actual length of time one could survive.  Never mind, it varied immensely by individual, you recalled.  Surely you had plenty of time left.

More satisfying were the recipes, an obsession to go along with the pictures. Clear, concise formulas for the exact process of transforming raw food into not just edible form — for most of the raw food was already edible, strictly speaking — but into perfect symphonies of texture, flavor, temperature, and even, you thought grudgingly, nutrition.

Really, when you thought about it, there was no reason to consider nutrition. Food, to you, had become a purely esthetic phenomenon.

No, not that either, and not quite an obsession, more satisfying than that, without the corrupting factor of pleasure.

Pure chemical exercise with a delightful utilitarian edge. Two cups of this, a teaspoon of that, add a precise amount of thermal energy…

You turned on your side, closed your eyes, and waited. The moon slid behind a cloud.

From the OPI

Office of Perpetual Investigation
Popular Music Division

Memorandum: Purple Berries?

Here are the facts as we know them:

An unspecified number of people are leaving, because they are not needed. They are leaving by sea, on ships made of wood (very free, apparently). We don’t know how many ships, but at least two, as the plural is specified, we don‘t know the size of the ships or the crew, although both seem small, and we don’t know of a destination, although aimless roaming is strongly suggested.

We also know that at least one person has subsisted on purple berries for 6 or 7 weeks, or the better part of 2 months, and we know that a second person has requested some of the same berries, and that the request has been granted. Some questions immediately arise:

1. Where were the ships procured, and how? Were they bought, built, or stolen?
2. Where were the purple berried procured?
3. What kind of berries, purple or otherwise, were nutritious enough to sustain someone for that long, especially without “getting sick once?”
4. How were enough of them to eat for the better part of 2 months stored on what certainly appear to be small vessels?
5. How were they stored in such a way as to keep them from spoiling for such a long time?
6. What was everyone else eating, since it appears to be the first request for the berries to be shared since the departure of the ships?

Unless and until these mysteries are cleared up, I’m afraid there will be serious doubt as to the veracity of the account.

Document No. 1235a

Document No. 1235a
Classification: Top Secret
Subject: Report on Operation Nullification

Pursuant to the development of a viable instrument for travelling back through time and returning safely (Document no. 1234), and the subsequent approval of Operation Nullification (Document No. 1235), this report details the results of said operation.

The objective of Operation Nullification was to travel back to 1917 and assassinate Oberleutnant Heinrich Knebel, later known as Heinz Volker, the charismatic leader of the National People’s Party (Napi) beginning in 1934. Removal of this target was deemed to forestall the rise of the Napi Party, and thereby vitiate the events leading to World War II.

Result: Objective successfully completed.

The bloggings will continue until morale improves

Is it possible that blogging hurts your chances of getting published elsewhere?  That depends.

The ordinary opinion piece, like this one you’re reading now, can only help, always assuming you write well.  Even if you only have 30 followers, that’s 30 more than would ordinarily see your ideas expressed so fully otherwise, and potential publishers can get a very good overview of your writing skill with a click of a mouse.  Since opinion pieces tend to be transient, there’s little danger of “using up” good ideas, so you’re not competing with yourself.

For more imaginative writing, however, it’s a different story.  That’s because most publishers consider your work, whether it’s fiction or poetry, to have already been published if you’ve posted it on your blog, and almost none are open to work that’s already published elsewhere.  Most writers would like to be published by someone else, if only to validate their work.  Although it’s true that self-publication has lost some of its stigma these days, there still remains the issue of whether anyone else whose opinion you might value thinks your work is worthwhile.

So, if a blog is considered a publication by the majority of editors, who want only unpublished material, where does that leave the poet or short story writer? You could simply consider your blog just another publication to which you submit your work. That’s fine, but you know it will get accepted there, because the editor is…um…you. As a result, you will tend to send what you consider your best work elsewhere, either by design or unconsciously. Your blog becomes a repository for second-rate work, stuff you have low confidence in, or that has been rejected elsewhere. In the best case, it will have experimental material that you feel will have little chance of exposure elsewhere. In this blog, I often post pieces which blur the boundary between fiction and essay, or which I think are simply too short to be considered by magazines and journals, although I have to admit, that seems to be all I write in the way of fiction anyway. Still, I don’t feel I’m competing with myself.

For me, the problem is with poetry, which I post on my other blog, Exile’s Child.  Lately, I find myself neglecting Exile’s Child, because if I write a poem I think very highly of, I tend to send it off to a journal.  Rather than posting just leavings on the blog, I have to sit down and write specifically for it, which leaves me questioning the wisdom of not sending the result elsewhere, or, if I don’t think it’s good enough, of posting it on the blog.  I like to think I have enough sense not to post second-rate material, but we are all very good at self-deception when it’s required, aren’t we?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, especially if you happen to be an editor.

The power of positive thinking

Manuel and Jorge Fazú were two brothers, born just 18 months apart, and as close as twins. They grew up in a run-down flop house in an impoverished district of an anonymous city in Brazil. Seeing them as boys in their surroundings, no one would have thought anything would come of them.

But the Fazú brothers had a dream. They wanted to be musicians, and work their way out of the slums, and into the great world outside. Manuel learned to play guitar, and Jorge sang; they worked the busker circuits in their town, and eventually hitchhiked to Rio, where they reinvented themselves as the Fabulous Fazús. In no time, their logo, FF, could be seen spray painted all over town. It became the question of the hour: who or what was FF? It was an ingenious advertising gambit, and it worked wonders. The time came, carefully calculated, when they began to reveal who they were. There was only one problem.

They weren’t very good. In the first club they played, they didn’t even get through the first set before the manager threw them out, refusing to pay them. Worse, the scene was repeated in every first and second tier club in Rio, until the only gigs they could get were in the lowest dives on skid row, where patrons got a kick out of laughing at them, and throwing bottles.

Jorge grew discouraged, and wanted to quit, but Manuel talked him out of it. He was sure that, now that they were in the big city, there would be lots of opportunities to improve. He dragged Jorge to the clubs they were ejected from, where they sat and listened through the night to the bands who played there regularly. Afterwards, Manuel doggedly practiced, and Jorge did his best to maintain his spirits and practice along.

But it was no use. After a several months, Jorge confronted Manuel.

“Listen, we’re just no good. I’m quitting. I’ve got a chance of a job gardening for some rich family up town. I’m out of here.”

Manuel was devastated.

“You’re quitting now? Just when we’re starting to get somewhere?”

“We’re not starting anything. We’re no better than we were when we left home. We just don’t have any talent, bro, face it!”

“Talent?” said Manuel, “What’s talent? We got heart, man. And hard work. Come on, stop talking crazy, we got three new songs to learn before our gig tonight.”

‘Gig!” Jorge spat the word out, like rotten vegetables. “They only let us play there so people can make fun of us! And they don’t pay anything!”

“So what? We pass the hat, we do okay. That’s how all the great bands started, man.”

But it was no use; Jorge had had enough, and left that very day to take the gardening job.

But Manuel? Manuel had a dream, and he refused to let it go. One furious night, he went around to all the walls of the city and obliterated the second F from every place he found their logo. Then he realized he could simply call himself Fabulous Fazú without the plural, and went back and put it back in. Now it looked like F●F, which he thought was an improvement.

Anyway, he continued to work and dream, practicing until his fingers bled and his voice grew hoarse, playing the dives on his own, determined to prove to Jorge that he could make it.

Twenty years passed. Jorge was still working as a gardener. He had saved up his wages and started his own landscaping business, but, basically, he was still a gardener.

And Manuel? Manuel died of a heroin overdose in an alley behind one of the dives he played at.

Such is the power of positive thinking.