The Princess and the Jann

Legend said that Rashid, a mage of great power, created Mir Vais’s palace and the citadel around it in a single day. Evidence of Rashid’s magic could be seen in the gigantic buttresses supporting the outer walls, in the great dining hall, where hundreds feasted beneath the largest unsupported ceiling in the known world, and on an inner wall, where tapestry, in threads of gold, silver, and the finest silk, depicted gods, people, and places otherwise unknown to mortal men. The buttresses and the ceiling might have been constructed by men of great knowledge and ability, but no one could deny the enchantment in the tapestry.

The Mir’s palace formed the shape of a quarter moon, with its western wall hugging a meander in the Sa Nadime and the eastern wall bulging into the gardens and courtyards enclosed by the ramparts of the outer citadel. Just inside that bulge, extending the length of the palace from north to south, the mage built a gallery for his magical art.

By day, Rashid’s Gallery glowed beneath crystal windows set high in the outer wall. By night, the ceiling fluoresced to illuminate the tapestry with an unquenchable cold fire. Day or night, as if rewoven at a tempo too slow for the eye to follow, figures in the tapestry moved from place to place, clouds changed position, couples kissed, and warriors fought and died beneath the gaze of laughing gods leaning down from above.

In the weeks immediately after the palace’s construction, crowds gathered in the long corridor in front of more interesting scenes, commenting on the outcome of duels between heroes or the gradually changing positions of copulating lovers. Then one of the king’s Companions vanished from the midst of a double hand of witnesses and reappeared as an image in the weave, his terror filled face staring from the back of a cart rolling towards a headsman’s block. When his severed head lay before the block, Vais’s great-great-grandfather, Mir Saqr, on whose order the palace had been built, had the tapestry removed and burned. The next day, they again hung from the walls. The residents of the palace soon learned that to stare at a scene invited being included in the tapestry’s magical realm and hurried through the corridor with their eyes to the front.

Mir Saqr had been a suspicious man, and other evidence of his wishes and of the mage’s magic could be heard in secret alcoves and rooms accessible only to the royal family and their most trusted retainers. In these places, small, whispering voices echoed conversations from throughout the palace, revealing plots, and, more often, entertained with whispered gossip and the moans of sexual pleasure.

A taste of “An Emergent Universe”

Fifty-eight light-years [-4.4, -6.8, 16.0] from Sol, on the planet Gift (Tommy’s Gift)

Tillie, former slave of the Nesu, senior master of the hydroponics guild, and former master of the only hydroponics farm above the commons in the Nesu portion of the Nesu Tol, screamed in frustration and sat down in the mud at the edge of the field. “Why won’t anyone listen to me?”

One of the guild-less dirt farmers that he had talked to, Kenel, looked up from the furrow he was gently weeding. “Because, without your tanks and pumps, you’re a useless pile of crap, you are.” He leaned over and picked up a handful of the rich black dirt he had been hoeing, letting it trickle through his fingers. “Crap that we don’t need here. You know nothing about real farming.”

Tillie, jumped up and lunged toward Kenel. “You can’t talk to me like that!”

Kenel’s raised hoe stopped Tillie before he stepped onto the first furrow. “Walk on my seeds and I’ll do more than talk.”

Tillie whirled and stomped away, splattering more dirt on his once brightly colored pants. He hurried toward the group opening the crates and boxes the Nesu Tol had left on its second visit.

Tillie and his journeymen and apprentices had quickly identified and marked crates containing equipment and chemicals they would need to build a working hydroponics farm. The arguments had started when he asked the other guildmasters to give him priority in getting everything assembled. There had been no dispute about the fusion bottle. Everyone needed power. But he couldn’t get anyone to wire the pumps to the fusion bottle, or put together the prefab building he needed to cover the tanks, or to connect the plumbing and water supply. Didn’t they understand that, without his farm, they would starve when the food Tommy had left ran out? Yes, the dirt farmers might make crops in time, but on a strange planet in strange soil, how could they know for sure? His hydroponics was proven.

When the masters of the other guilds had refused to help, he had turned to the dirt farmers. On the ship, the dirt farmers had learned to be self-reliant and could have, at least, attached the plumbing.

One of the just-opened crates fell in front of Tillie as he approached the crowd, scattering rolls of electrical cable on the ground. From the crate’s markings, it was one of his.

“We need that,” someone shouted. He wasn’t a member of Tillie’s guild.

One of Tillie’s apprentices, Drak, and another man grabbed one the rolls, each trying to pull it out of the other’s hands. The roll stretched into a long oval, and Drak slipped, his legs sliding forward and his head lurching back and down. When Drak released the roll, the other man stumbled into Tillie, knocking him to the ground.

Drak regained his feet, one hand holding the back of his head. When the other man held up the distorted roll and screamed, “Ours,” Drak charged him, planting his skull into the man’s stomach and pushing him on top of Tillie.

Later, no one admitted throwing that next punch. The fight didn’t last long. None of the combatants weighed more than sixty kilograms and the ground was slippery. The warriors might have prevented the fight, but they were hunting meat. Other than a few bruises and scrapes there was only one casualty.

Selective breeding of humans by the Nesu had created two distinct body types: the warriors, who were muscular giants, and the farmers and artisans, who were short and slender, with bulbous heads balanced on a skinny, vulnerable neck. In the brawl, someone stepped on Tillie’s neck. His last thought was that they should have stayed on the ship.

A recommendation

Arwin Spicer, a member of my critique group, has her new novel, “Perdita” available for free 2/11/2013 and 2/12/2013.  It is science fiction and an excellent read.  You should give it a try.

One of my readers said recently that I should surround myself with better writers and recommended that I contact (as in send samples to) established writers.  Ah, I wish that I could.  I have enough trouble surrounding myself with a stable (as in long-lived)  group of writers of any kind.  If you were an established writer, would you want to receive unsolicited chapters from an unknown author?  The advice seemed especially far fetched.  Anyway, my actual, real, writers group is on the verge of breaking up.  Writing is a lot of work, especially for someone trying to make a living.  I admire anyone who can work at a regular job and still find time to write.

Life is hard

I’m typing this on a new computer. My old computer died over a week ago. After a week of bad service from a local computer store, I got my money back and bought from a big box store. A day of installing software and I am finally able to work again.

A recommendation

I would be the first to admit that I write “adventure” science fiction. I try to make it fun and entertaining. If you prefer your science fiction to be more cerebral, which I sometimes do as a reader, I recommend “The Hour before Morning” by Arwen Spicer (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hour-before-Morning-ebook/dp/B0080Q9LFQ). She joined my writer’s group this week so, of course, I had to look her up and read some of her work. The theme is unconventional, dark, and thought provoking.

Two things on my mind today.

The first is a reader review (and thank you for the review) that called “A Larger Universe” a “novella.” Just for the record, Wikipedia defines a novella (according to the SFWA) as between 17,500 and 40,000 words. “A Larger Universe” is 123,000 words (and 245 pages when printed.) Actually, I take the comment as something of a compliment – it must have seemed like a quick read, which means the prose flowed smoothly. Science Fiction novels used to be about that length. Now they are often much longer. Word processors are much less effort than typewriters.

Which brings me to the second thing: I recently discovered a tool called Scrivener that was expressly created for writers. I learned to type in high school, but I was never comfortable with the typed page. I typed slowly and with a lot of mental effort as I tried to not make any mistakes. The process became more important than creativity. My first real word processing program was liberating. Mistakes didn’t matter because they could be easily corrected. Scrivener is another multiplier. To make an analogy, I learned computer programming when the process was mostly “start at the beginning and proceed to the end.” Yes, there were subroutines, but they were written with the main program. Then I discovered object-oriented programming in which the program is a collection of interacting objects. Each object, which can be very small, but is self-contained, is written separately and then assembled with all the others into the complete program. Making changes and moving “stuff” around is relatively easy compared to the old way I did things. Scrivener is like that. Each scene stands on its own and can be modified and moved as required with a drag-and-drop. At any time, Scrivener can “compile” part of or the entire novel (short story, screen play, school paper, scientific article, whatever) to Word© (other outputs also available) to see how it reads at that moment. It has a lot of other features and is wonderfully cheap. It was originally written for the Mac, but I use it on a PC. If you’re trying to write, take a look.

If you like fantasy, I recommend the $.99 short story “The Wasp” by Elizabyth Burtis.  You only get twelve pages for your ninety-nine cents, but it is a very entertaining read, well written, and an eerie new twist on the vampire trope.
You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008PF5R46