The Body in Motion (a science fiction horror short story) [e-stories | writing]

The Body in Motion

On an apocalyptic future Earth, the remains of humanity engage in endless virtual reality battles to determine who will get food–and who will become food. One of these remnants, Vel, attracts the attention of All, the A.I. that manages the battles. Reeling from the death of his lover, Vel is drawn into her plans for fulfilling her ancient directive to save humanity… plans he may not survive.

I originally wrote The Body in Motion in 1999, and it was a departure from the science fiction I’d attempted to write at that point. I’d recently read Harlan Ellison’s short fiction collection Deathbird Stories and was in a mood to write something that really pushed my boundaries and skills of the time. It came out of my fingers quick and hot, the way stories for me all too rarely do, and ended up being my third story sale, appearing in Outer Darkness‘s spring 2001 issue.

I put the story through a vigorous re-editing, mainly to improve the prose by curbing my then-tendency to use sentence fragments to excess. And now, it’s the second short story I’ve self-published (the first being Something You Should Know early in 2012). It still stands up, I think, but if your tastes run to horror and science fiction and you’re inclined to take a look, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Here’s an excerpt of the start of the story:

Vel watched through the translucent leaves of the meat-pod, hoping and fearing a glimpse. She had once passed close, but had not stopped to take him. He had known her at once–unlike the others, she was identical to her image in Eden, with decay-green skin, glowing eyes, fanged teeth, and meat to spare on her bones. Small bones were tangled in her wild black hair, and Vel could never escape the thought that one day, one of his would be among them.

He had been unable tell her destination. Possibly she hunted her Bond, or sought to elude a pursuer by taking an unused pod for a new residence. The sloping ground in this sliver of the World was spattered with clumps of them, some waiting with hungry leaves down, others containing moldering remains, a few sustaining life. The miasma caught the scant light provided by the machines far above.

A furtive creature with wide eyes and a skeletal torso skittered into view. The human’s nostrils flared, and Vel realized it was tracking a life. It glistened with desperation. He considered his own body, starved despite the pod’s nutrient-feed, and wondered if he would behave in this way if he once more won a day of Downtime.

His heart did not pound; his blood did not race. The pod regulated his spindly body, keeping him just alive and just sane, giving him air and water while removing his wastes and toxins with uncaring efficiency. He could not break free, though he well knew the leaves could be ripped open from the outside.

The human moved on, disappearing in the tangle of pods beyond the periphery of his sight. Minutes were left in the Downtime, scant time before his day of fear would end. He thought of Lana, and how her flesh would be his if he won the next combat and she did not. He contemplated the reverse. She was somewhere near, perhaps only a pod or two distant. Their dance was almost–

The green-skinned woman appeared again, scarlet distorting her face and chest, her body the sated predator. She stopped before his pod, sixty meters away, visible between two dead-bearing pods, and tilted her head. He was prevented from panicking. Only minutes to go.

(continued…)

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. The Body in Motion cover art: feoris/Bigstock.com.

Never insert anything in your ear larger than a pirate [writing]

WritingSome times you plan blogging hiatuses, and sometimes blogging hiatuses just happen. The hiatus of the past couple months has been the latter, though not for any dramatic, pathos-ridden, Lifetime-Channel-Movie-in-the-making reason. I just got busy, and lazy, took a vacation, and got socked with something that was more than a cold but wasn’t quite the flu.

Also, I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve got one short story sub nearly ready to submit, and another short story sub to get pounding on once I’ve submitted that. I wrote a completely different short story before all that that I have to figure out someplace to send. I picked up an invite to write for another anthology and am letting ideas tumble about in my head for that. Plus, I’m going to be publishing a science fiction horror short story, The Body in Motion, within the week–and I’m planning on self-publishing three more stories before the year’s out.

So, yeah, busy.

Thus far, 2013 for me has been dominated by short fiction, but I will swing back around to the longer stuff. I’ve got to get The Morpheist revised and polished, and I really want to get back to writing more of my next novel, This Island Monstrous. I don’t think I’ll be starting the first draft of The Fabulist (the sequel to The Morpheist) this year, but other than that, the plans I came up with back in January are still on track. So far, I’ve been able to keep up the focus and discipline, two things I let go slack somewhat in 2012. As long as I can keep it up, ’13 should be a good year for me.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Picture: Andres/Bigstock.com.

Into 2013, with Coffee, Determination, and Machete-Wielding Howler Monkeys [writing]

Writing2012 started off as a good year for me, writing-wise, and then sort of fell apart as it went on. While continuing to promote my debut novel, Brutal Light, I finished the first draft of biopunk novella The Morpheist, wrote a weird short story that got accepted into Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, and started in on the first draft of mad science novel This Island Monstrous. And then, somewhere in the belly of summer, life events outside of writing barged in, and didn’t so much unbarge as slowly seep back into the shadows. My fall and winter writing ended up being short bursts of activity between large swatches of unfocused meh-ness and my growing, news-driven desire to dig a hole, jump in it, and pull it in after me.

But the good thing about a new year is that it gives me a chance to reset my head. I’ve been taking a look at what I’ve got going, what I’d like to do, and what I think I can realistically do in the upcoming year, and it basically looks like this:

* Wander through park, looking for that damn squirrel.

* Blow up moon.

* Telepathically control a pack of howler monkeys, arm them with machetes and rum, and–

Wups. Wrong list! Let’s try this:

* Redraft, polish, and send The Morpheist out into the world. This was last fall’s goal, if you’ll recall. This time I mean it.

* Write, redraft, polish, and send out four or five short stories. I’m already working on an urban fantasy one, though I’m taking no bets on what the others will be. I only have one short work right now that I’m pushing around to different places, and would like to have more.

* Finish the first draft of This Island Monstrous. I’ve got a good first quarter done, I just need to get cracking on the rest… and figure out how it’s all going to end.

* Write the first draft of biopunk novella The Fabulist, wherein one of the supporting characters in The Morpheist takes over as the main protagonist.

That’s about it. I’ll likely scale back blogging to once every two weeks, at least for the first half of the year, just to give me more focus-on-words-on-page-dammitall time. I may write all my blog entries with bullet points from here on out. I may take a stab at gathering up all the short fiction I’ve had published so far into a collection for self-publication. I may see how the howler monkeys do with a few quarts of bourbon and a word processor.

So. Yay? Yay.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Andres/Bigstock.com.

Behold! My Next Big Thing, or Something [writing]

WritingSo, I was tagged for this Next Big Theme writer meme going around. Twice in fact, by Bernie Mojzes and then by Lee Mather. And finally, I slouch into action and answer!

Essentially, this meme is ten questions about one of one’s work-in-progresses. I’ve got two at the moment: a mad science novel tentatively titled This Island Monstrous and a biopunk novella I’m just starting on second-drafting, The Morpheist. TIM will take a long time to finish, never mind find a publisher for, while I’m hoping to get The Morpheist to a good home sometime early next year. So I’ll make The Morpheist the subject of this here thing.

1. What is the title of your book?

The Morpheist.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

In the late nineties, when I was making my first stabs at writing short stories, I wrote a short called The Morpheist, set in a vaguely cyberpunkish future, wherein my protagonist and a techno-dream-eater entered a relationship for reasons that were especially sketchy for the techno-dream-eater. It was not a good story, exactly, but there was the kernel of a good story there, rooted in ruminations I’d had at the time about the nature and value of dreams.

So, casting about for something to write last year (after Brutal Light was published and my idea for Entering Cadence went to pot), I looked it over and decided there was Something I Could Do with it. I decided to recast the future it was set in as more of a biopunk-esque setting, as so much of what I read of future science these days points to a convergence of the technological and the biological. I didn’t want to expand the short story, though, so I came up with a new situation and set of protagonists, with the protagonist from the old story showing up as another character (which also allowed me to break up and include the old story, rewritten heavily, in interludes).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The only one I have a clear idea for is my main protagonist, Cal. As I was writing it, I thought increasingly of a youngish version of Adrian Brody. It wasn’t until I saw Skyfall, though, that I realized Ben Whishaw (Q) was close to ideal.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

“In a world dreams and the technology to make them real have all but merged, Cal Silen seeks to rid himself of his ability to dream by hiring a rogue dream-eater with a tragic past, a hidden agenda, and enemies determined to expand their hold on millions of minds.”

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Of course these are the only two possible options, aren’t they? Pffft.

Being as it’s a novella, I don’t see this as something to shop to an agent. I’m also not keen on self-publishing, given my low visibility as an author right now. So, I’ll look for a small publisher for which this kind of material will be a good fit.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About 2-3 months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m sure there are comparables, but I’m drawing a blank right now as to what they would be. The world it’s neither dystopian nor utopian, exactly, but rather a sort of collision of a number of dystopian and utopian trends. The story itself is about the place and function of dreams, and what might be lost if the ability to dream is given up.

As far as influences go, there are several, starting of course with Paul di Filipo’s Ribofunk, which both started the biopunk subgenre and attempted without success to give it a less derivative name. William Gibson’s Neuromancer is up there, particularly as regards the ‘original’ short story. Probably also a few volumes from Philip K. Dick.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As is usual with me, it’s a confluence of things. I follow futurist news with great interest, and find myself caught up in speculation about how trends in nanotechnology, biotechnology, virtual reality, social interaction, body modification, and climate change might play out. I’ve long had an interest in dreams, lucid dreaming, and nightmares, and their value in our lives, beyond being a purge of subconscious detrius.

10. What else might pique the reader’s interest?

Despite the subtext of dreams and their meaning, it’s not weighted down with metaphysical speculation (unlike, say, Brutal Light). It is science fiction, and while I’m only a layperson in my understanding of the science I delve into, I do try to be true to it as I can. I also embrace, as much as I can, how effing weird and perverse I think the future is going to be.

So… now it’s my turn to tag some hella-talented writer folks whose next big things are things I would love to hear more about. There’s some what I know have already posted their answers, or at least been tagged to do so, so I’ll try not to be duplicative. I hereby tag Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Eric A. Burns-White, Greg Fishbone, Su Halfwerk, and Emmy Jackson. (Which in no way obligates, as I didn’t ask beforehand, and even if I did, it still doesn’t obligate, so I don’t know why I even brought it up.)

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Andres/Bigstock.com.

Getting my brain cells all lined up and stuff [events | writing | pictures]

Authors at Schulers

(Left to right: Sidney Ayers, DJ Desmyter, Gary W. Olson (i.e. me), Cindy Spencer Pape, Megan Parker, Roxanne Rhoads, and Nathan Squiers)

A couple weeks ago, I did a couple of signings back-to-back: one at Schulers Books & Music in Lansing, Michigan, and one at the public library in Davison, Michigan. They were both multi-author events, as evidenced by the picture above. While they ended up being a bit sparsely attended, I had a great time nonetheless, talking with various readers and fellow authors. The library signing was especially cool for me, as it took place in my hometown’s library, which I observed had changed very little in the twenty-one years since I’d left, and it makes me happy to know that it now has copies of Brutal Light and Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous in its system (which means that so does the Genessee District Library system its part of).

The following week was a blur to me, for various personal and family reasons not to be gotten into here. Much of this week was lost to distraction, both due to the recent U.S. election (the results of which pleased me overall) and getting a replacement smartphone (and having to fuss with it to get everything set back up right). But I’m getting back into the swing of writing.

I’m nearly done with the first quarter of my Untitled Mad Science Novel (which I’m tentatively calling This Island Monstrous, until I think of something better). It’s taken me much longer than I anticipated just to get this far, but I’m pleased with how it’s going. Soon, I’ll be switching gears and going back to work on my SF biopunk novella The Morpheist, with a goal of getting it rewritten, edited, polished, and ready to send out somewheres by the end of the year. That’s pretty much it for my rest-of-the-year writing plans; anything I may have blathered on about before (such as rewriting my old Electricity in the Rain serial fiction) is back on the shelf.

As for next year… that remains to be seen. Anytime I plan, it seems, life gets on with the thwarting, so I’m just gonna play it by ear.

Books on Shelves

(Picture from the shelves at Schuler’s, including both Brutal Light and Fading Light.)

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. First photo: Someone in the audience at Schulers. Second photo: Gary W. Olson.

Not so much a plan as a sort of lining up of things [personal | writing]

PersonalI’ve been on vacation this past week, and in fact still am. Last week involved a trip up to Torch Lake, Michigan, and my aunt and uncle’s place there. Had a great time, managed to get by with no great sunburn (unlike other years). Visited some wineries up in Leelenau County there and picked up a few bottles.

Yesterday was my birthday. The original plan was for Kristyn and I to go to Cedar Point for the day, but rainy weather reports made us postpone that (to tomorrow, in fact). So we largely spent the day amusing ourselves with mini-golf, go-karting, arcade games, pancake-house-visiting, and wine-imbibing. Not all at the same time, mind.

So, that’s been my week. Unfortunately, not a lot of it has involved writing, though I have spent a good deal of time thinking through what I’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months. I’m hesitant to call it a plan, as that involves a rather optimistic idea that no fresh shiny ideas will barge to the head of the queue and take over my fingers. Since that’s pretty much been the story of my writing so far this year, I’ve got to be realistic.

WritingBut. I think I’ve more-or-less worked out how things are going to go through the rest of the year. Starting with my Untitled Mad Science Novel. Untitled mainly because all the ideas I come up with for the title turn out, upon a quick Google search, to already have been used. Fortunately, that’s about the only thing that’s stopped at the moment, as the writing itself for it is going very well, with about 13k (of a projected 80-90k) words first-drafted. The genre, broadly, is Humorous Weird Dark Science Fantasy with a side of WTF. My goal is to finish the first quarter of the first draft by mid-September, then move on to…

The rewriting of The Morpheist. I have a very rough draft of this 29k biopunk novella, which needs to have multiple things fixed, some detail added to the description of people and places, and some adjustment to make it look like the things I came up with for my main characters during writing were intended all along. You know how it is. My goal here is to get this to a point where it’s coherent, polished, and maybe ready for a few beta readers to tear into it. Then I’ll return to UMSN and tackle the second quarter of the first draft, which should take me to the end of the year.

At the same time all this is going on, I’ve had a notion to dig deep into my past and revisit my old Nihil Nations stories, starting with Electricity in the Rain. It was my first publication, serialized in the pages of Mythic Heroes (the first four parts, anyway–the fifth never saw publication as the magazine died out from under it). It’s a dark science fiction take on the emergence of people with super abilities, and how the world reacts (closer in spirit to The 4400 than Heroes, though it predates them both by a long shot). With some heavy rewriting (my style at that time was still (cough) evolving) and new material, it could make novella size. If I decide to go ahead with this, it’ll likely be at the same time as the other two projects above.

Sometime in there as well, I hope to bash out a short story or two. Maybe some short-short flash fiction; it’s been quite a while since I attempted any, and that may be the only way anything gets done with everything else I’m trying to work on. Quite possibly something with bugs in it. I’m thinking bugs.

How’s by you?

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. First photo: Elena Ray/Bigstock.com. Second photo: Andres/Bigstock.com.