June 6, 2010

Neither fowl nor fish

A FRIEND OF MINE is writing a science fiction novel. In the opening chapter, aliens in a low-flying spacecraft spot a yacht at sea.

“What is it?” asks 1!@#.
“I don’t know,” says 2$%^. “But it has life. It flies. It swims.”
“It is a bird – it has wings in the air.”
“But it does not fly. It must be a fish — it has fins in the water.”
“But it does not dive,” 1!@# points out.
“Look, it has two large parasites. They have four limbs each. One is in its stomach, devouring something,” says 2$%^. “Another is outside and torturing it by pulling hard on its wings with strong winches. Now he twists its back fin with a large wheel.”
“Don’t get too close,” warns 1!@#. “Those parasites look dangerous to me.”
“Me, too,” says 2$%^. “We’re outta here.”

This is as far as my friend has got with his novel. It’s quite a promising start, I think, though I find those alien names a little difficult to pronounce. I shall be interested to see how he develops his theme. I think he’s going to blame yachtsmen for Earthlings’ lack of contact with aliens, but I’m not sure. Like most writers, he doesn’t care to talk about where he’s going with this book, mostly because he doesn’t know yet.

He was actually going to write a factual book called In the Wake of Ulysses but he was a little slow. He woke up too late, and that great sailor Hal Roth beat him to it with We Followed Odysseus. So he decided to write fiction instead, reckoning that nobody could beat him to that.

And that’s where things stand at the moment. He’s stuck. He’s doing what writers always do, staring at the computer screen and waiting for inspiration. I wish him lots of luck. Been there, done that. Do that regularly, in fact. It’s hell, but somebody has to do it..

Today’s Thought
Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, between it and true art.
— Truman Capote

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #61
Echo pilotage. Next time you’re feeling your way into port in dense fog, trying making a sharp, loud noise. A blank pistol shot is good, but a bell or a horn will also work. Note the time in seconds from the original signal to the return echo from a cliff, wharf, or moored freighter. Every second’s delay indicates a distance off of 1 cable or 200 yards. Every 10 seconds' delay means you’re a mile away. The rule of thumb at work here is that sound travels about one mile in 5 seconds.

“I hear your new car was recalled by the dealer.”
“Yeah, there was a defect in my bank account.”


Aaron Headly said...

Maybe the author could stay with science fiction, but switch focus to the people on the yacht:
- Their fridge would run indefinitely without breaking down, and that on 0.3 Amps.
- Their brightwork would never need varnishing.
- Their auxiliary, which they'd barely ever need, would start right up every time.
- Whatever thing they went looking for down below would never be buried underneath eleven things they weren't looking for.



Unknown said...


That's not science fiction, that's fantasy, that is!