Shots fired!

 

highball

The first thing I noticed when I woke up on Saturday was the blinking light on my phone.  A message! I rolled over, picked it up, and went straight to my Gmail app.

Dear Alexandru,

Thank you for the opportunity to read “The Birthday Party.” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.

I am now officially an aspiring wannabe writer.

Of course, I was a bit bummed that my dream of having the first story submitted being hailed as a masterpiece is now a bittersweet memory.

I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch watching True Detective and drinking canned Highballs. This week I’m editing my next story for submission and also re-sending the last one.

One of the pieces will go to Writers of the Future. I enjoy the anthology every year and the type of stories favored tend to align with my taste  a lot more than most SFF magazines.

 

The Challenge so far:

  1. The Birthday Party – SciFi 3,000 words – hanging out
  2. ?????
  3. ?????
  4. ?????
  5. ?????
  6. ?????
  7. ?????

 

Accepted: 0 Rejected: 1 Total Submissions: 1

Now it Begins

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Last year, August 16th, 2015 to be precise, I made the following post The Magnificent Seven Challenge. The idea was simple. Write seven short stories, submit them, and track the whole process.

I failed miserably. My writing output has been hovering between zero and nothing. Depressing situation. Quite miserable. Demotivating. Deplorable. Dastardly. Unexcusable!

But things are different now! Yes. I decided that I can no longer afford to stall. I buckled down, took a deep breath, and put thought to paper. I finished, edited, and submitted my first(I’m not counting my WotF submission) short story.

Tomorrow I will start on the next piece and eagerly await my first rejection.

The Challenge so far:

  1. The Birthday Party – SciFi 3,000 words – submitted
  2. ?????
  3. ?????
  4. ?????
  5. ?????
  6. ?????
  7. ?????

 

Accepted: 0 Rejected: 0 Total Submissions: 1

 

Climbing Mt. Fuji

fujilake

A picture of Fuji I took last winter. There isn’t any snow during climbing season.

Last weekend, after a bit over half a year of living in Japan, the wife and I accomplished one of our long term goals, climbing Mt. Fuji. It was a unique once in a lifetime experience that left me with mixed feelings. Climbing Mt. Fuji managed to be a rewarding challenge and a bit of a letdown at the same time.

Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). It’s an active volcano that last erupted in the 18th century. It’s a free-standing mountain, not part of any range. Considered a holy place it has been the destination of pilgrimages for hundreds of years.

Our trip started at 2pm on Saturday when we met up with our tour group, TokyoSnowClub, in Tokyo. Judy and I got there a bit early so we wandered around and decided to eat a disappointingly greasy burger at Tokyo Hooters. When the rest of the group arrived we hopped on the tour bus for the 3-hour drive to the base of Mt. Fuji.

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Ramen at 5th station

The 5th station Yoshida Trail camp where we hung out for several hours to acclimate is basically a tourist trap. It’s several alpine resort type buildings filled with overpriced gift shops and mediocre restaurants. We bought ourselves a climbing stick, changed into warmer clothes, ate some ramen, and did a quick bit of yoga.

Around 7pm with the sun set and the rain at a constant drizzle, we began our long ascent. We climbed in a single line of what seemed like hundreds. Looking up or down the mountain all one could see in the dark was a zig-zagging line of headlamps. We climbed for hours and the rain and cold worsened the higher we got. Every two hours or so we took quick 1o minute breaks at one of the many way stations on the trail.

fujifog

Before we started hiking. The miserable weather just started.

It quickly became obvious that while we prepared ourselves physically we did not prepare ourselves materially. The clothing we brought was woefully inadequate for the downpour and the freezing cold. Two-thirds of the way up both of us were completely soaked, out of spare clothes, and showing early signs of hypothermia. Every break we took was excruciatingly cold.

Making matters worse was the fact that something I ate earlier did not sit well and that unpleasant indigestion mixed with a dash of altitude sickness led to numerous bathroom visits at every way station. Growing up at sea level I do not do well with quick ascents so by the last leg of the climb I was having a nice case of nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and an overall case of misery.

Our climb to the summit took about 8 hours. 8 miserable hours of constant freezing rain, altitude sickness, nausea, headaches, soaked clothes, and chills. A constant march over steep switchbacks and sharp volcanic rocks. After 8 horrible hours, we reached the top. The highest point in Japan.

Waiting for the sunrise on top of Mt. Fuji was not a fun experience. By the time we reached the top we were soaked and out of spare clothes. Our jackets were under-matched for the 32f degrees. We huddled together shivering and sharing our last hand warmer. When the sun finally started to rise we silently cheered, enjoyed the view, and quickly began the long descent.

AlexFuji

Above the clouds.

Seeing the sunrise from on top of Mt. Fuji was a beautiful experience. I will always remember and be thankful for the opportunity to see a sunrise from the top of “The Land of the Rising Sun.” I’m glad I got to share the experience with my wife. She kicked my ass in motivation and kept me going the whole time.

Fujisun

The first of the rising sun.

Our climb was a challenge, we underestimated the weather, the altitude, and the quality of our gear. While the climb itself was technically easy the rain and cold really sapped our strength. By the time we reached the top we were soaked, frozen, and tired from being up for 24 hours.

The disappointing aspect of Mt. Fuji is its popularity. Fuji is one giant volcanic tourist trap. My favorite aspect of hiking is the quite nature. I love long trails through empty canyons where the only sounds heard are your breath and wildlife. Mt. Fuji is not a spiritual experience in nature. It’s an overly commercialized amusement park. The climb is less of a hike and more of a long line at Disneyland with the peak being the destination. Every hour or so there are little way stations selling 7 dollar Top Ramen and 5 dollar water bottles. You are constantly at arm’s length with hundreds of other climbers who are talking, smoking, taking pictures, and eating. I have to admit that I was a bit let down. In my mind, Fuji was a serene holy mountain filled with monks and ancient temples. The reality was a bit jarring. It was a long trail filled with loud tourists.

fujicurry

Some post climb curry. Overpriced and underwhelming but it looked cool and we were starving.

All in all the experience was well worth the effort and sore muscles. We will always have some great memories from our climb. The sunrise was beautiful and being above the clouds was an ethereal experience. Both of us agreed that given the chance we would do it again. Now we have to make our way to Peru for Machu Picchu and Tanzania for Kilimanjaro.

mt-fuji-art

 

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

TheBuilders

After about a year or so of hearing Daniel Polansky brought up whenever dark gritty fantasy was discussed I finally got around to reading some of his stuff. I picked up his Hugo-nominated novella, The Builders as a quick read between larger novels.

The Builders is an anthropomorphic grimdark western. A band of violent, gun-slinging, talking animals  goes on a suicidal revenge quest. It uses the standard plot of 7 Samurai and The Magnificent Seven; a leader, here a one-eyed scarred mouse named The Captain, gathers his band of violent comrades for a bloody showdown.

The Builders succeeds in fun and execution but falters in the end. The early scenes where each animal is introduced are pure fun. Bonsoir the French Stoat is the standout reminding me of Val Kilmers Doc Holiday. Unfortunately, it seems Polansky really enjoyed the idea of a violent western with anthropomorphic animals but was over it by the time finale which felt crowded and rushed.

Overall The Builders was a quick fun read well worth the time. It left me with a positive impression of Polansky’s writing; enough for me to push his other novels towards the top of my to-read list. I personally would have enjoyed these characters in a longer novel format.

I also enjoy the idea of the novella format itself. The length is ideal for a quick read over coffee and the 2.99 price point  for a polished product seems fair to me. I hope the trend of novellas being released on Amazon continues.

So if you enjoy anthropomorphic animals, gritty westerns, and a snarky written voice pick up The Builders and enjoy.

A week of Typhoons, Fun Runs, and finally Fuji.

This week started off exciting. A Typhoon was scheduled to make landfall on Monday. Everyone panicked, trains stopped running, work was canceled, and I brought all my outdoor stuff inside. I was excited. My first typhoon in Japan.

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Honestly I didn’t even know what a typhoon was so I had to look it up on Wikipedia. It’s a synonym for Hurricane.  Hurricane is a Caribbean name for a cyclone while typhoon is the North Eastern Pacific name.

So I battened down the hatches and prepared for our first typhoon. Best of all it coincided with my wives birthday so getting to stay home from work was a good bonus. We eagerly waited for the storm. Anxious that it would blow away our windows or knock out power.

Finally around 3 pm the storm, called Mindulle, made landfall in the Tokyo area. A little bit of rain, a little bit of wind, and done. We were fortunate to have it downgrade and be nowhere as bad as the meteorologists predicted.

Massive storms are terrifying and destructive, I am glad we didn’t experience anything like past Hurricanes. Yet, a part of me was disappointed. I wanted wind, water, lightning, and thunder. Something to spark the imagination. Instead we got a bit of a drizzle.

Fun Run

The next day the weather went back to normal, exceptionally hot and humid. We celebrated our end of week with a night time Fun 5k run. Glow sticks, weird stuff, people with wigs, and that color powder that burns my face when it mixes with sweat. The wife and I had a great time. I always forget how much I enjoy running. Starting next week I’m going to dig up my GPS tracker and start running again.

But the highlight of the week is tomorrow. We will be climbing Mt. Fuji. We packed our daypacks, prepped the camelbacks, and readied the chafe cream. Fuji will be climbed!

 

Fallen Dragon by Peter Hamilton

It’s just that nowhere you live can ever be exotic. That’s only ever somewhere else.

Fallen Dragon

After finishing the fantastic House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds I decided to continue my adventures in Space Opera by returning to my favorite Science Fiction writer, Peter Hamilton. I picked up Fallen Dragon, one of Hamilton’s standalone novels. The other one being Great North Road which I loved. I was not disappointed.

Fallen Dragon takes place in a future where interstellar travel is possible, humans have colonized  and terraformed several new worlds. Unfortunately space travel and colonization is astronomically expensive and unprofitable. The interplanetary corporations who funded colonization now fight and raid colonies in what is deemed “asset realization.” Using private armies equipped with  nearly unstoppable biological combat suits  they overpower the less sophisticated colonists and loot and pillage as much as possible to take back to Earth.

This is the world in which Lawerence Newton lives in. A wealthy son of a colonial corporate magnate who gave up his wealth and heritage for a chance to travel the stars. Instead of becoming the starship pilot he dreamed of he ended up a grunt for Zanitu-Brauns, a vicious raiding corporation, planetary assault army.

The main plot of the novel revolves around Zanitu-Brauns latest raid on a small backwater colony. The operation that should of been a walk in the park for the well trained and equipped Z-B troops becomes a disaster due to a well organized and unexpected counterinsurgency. In the middle of the quagmire Lawrence hatches a scheme. Somewhere on the planet is a treasure that if he recovers would make him and his platoon rich beyond their dreams.

Fallen Dragon delivers on numerous levels and explores several interesting science fiction concepts. Planetary colonization and terraforming is a major part of the novels background, detailing a very interesting colonization of a frozen world. Advanced military technology and the price of interstellar travel is a key element. The price of space tends to be waved away by post scarcity concepts in most scifi. My personal favorite concepts was the exploration of post democratic corporate governments. Where the power of your vote was tied to the amount of stake you held in the corporation. Stake you could earn through working for the corp and investing your pay.

So in closing Fallen Dragon did not disappoint. Another massive piece of space opera mixed with a post cyberpunk aesthetic and a dash of military science fiction, that kept me thinking about its ideas and themes well past the end.

 

Hiking and Writing

ZushiBuddah

I feel like Nathan Drake.

In about two weeks the wife and I are going to climb Mt. Fuji. I’m excited because climbing Fuji has always been one of my life goals. Something I have always wanted to do as far back as I can remember.

In order to prep for the climb and also because we love doing it. We have been going on hikes in our area. Saturday we did one of the best hikes around here, Mt. Takatori. The top of the mountain is decorated with a great stone Buddha carved out of an old rock quarry. The hike up is fantastic, making it one of my favorite outdoor areas.

Besides hiking, I started work on a new short story. A darker scifi piece I hope to finish before I lose interest and throw it into my never ending unfinished folder.

Also I need to write a quick review for Coherence. A fantastic indie movie we watched this weekend. If you love intelligent scifi  give this one a watch.

 

 

Stranger Things

***Potential Spoilers Below***

stranger-things

As far back as I remember my choice of visual entertainment has been the long form television show. While I enjoy a good movie I  prefer the long arcs and character development found in television. Star Trek:TNG, DS9, Babylon 5, and The XFiles is what I loved. You can imagine how happy I am that we are now in a golden age  television. Even better, we are at the beginning of entire seasons instantly released  so one can binge entire shows in one sitting.

Netflix’s Stranger Things is a must watch example of this new format. A pastiche of 80s horror,  scifi, and pop culture, that pays homage to everything and everyone including Stephen King,  Stephen Spielberg, John Carpenter, The Clash, and classic Dungeons and Dragons.

The show takes place in Hawkins, Indiana over several days during the Fall of 1983. A 12 year old boy mysteriously vanishes one night. His close friends begin searching for him on their own while the town Sheriff begins  His disappearance sets in motion a chain of events involving secret government projects, psychics, and a horrible evil force from beyond.

Stranger Things has an outstanding cast of young actors complimented by a fantastic performance by Winona Ryder. If you enjoy 80’s genre horror/scifi movies like E.T., Poltergeist, Carrie, and Stand by Me, you will love this show.

**Some Potential Spoilers**

strangerthingsposter

While I enjoyed the 80’s references and old movie homage what I truly enjoyed about the show was the really good somewhat esoteric occult symbolism. Off the top of my head several things stood out.

The failure of fathers. Every father figure character in the show was a failure. From the creepy Dr. Breener the evil scientist abuser to Will Byers self serving waste of a father. Even Sheriff Hooper failed as a father in his own eyes and attempts to redeem himself. This theme coupled with El being a somewhat angelic figure(The gold wig, levitating above water) that is sacrificed alludes to a few occult/biblical themes. Contrasted with the portrayal of mothers it gives you plenty to think about.

Running away with the horrible father theme you could see the whole show  being about child abuse. Specifically abuse by fathers. El is clearly the victim of Dr. Breener who she calls “Pa.” The other main victim is Will Byers, the son of a druggie abuser who abandoned him, his brother, and mother. The Byers family has an alluded element of darkness and child abuse that is not hard to catch.

El’s name is Eleven. When you look at numerology and occult symbolism of the number just by doing a quick google search you realize it was intentional. It represents duality, psychic power, super intellect and danger.

The idea of duality in 11 is the key symbolism. She is two different things, on one hand a innocent child on the other a powerful weapon. The world is shown having more dimensions with the Upside Down, a good and a bad.

What does this mean? I think that the main monster, the Demogorgon is actually the Upside Downs representation of child abuse. The Demogorgon is the other side of El, the other half of Eleven, the representation of all the child abuse alluded or shown in the series. At one point El even states “I am the monster,” in one of the episodes.

What do you guys think, any other theories? I love weird occult stuff believe that symbolism of this sort adds depth to stories allowing for greater connection and enjoyment.

 

 

 

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

“To see something marvelous with your own eyes – that’s wonderful enough. But when two of you see it, two of you together, holding hands, holding each other close, knowing that you’ll both have that memory for the rest of your lives, but that each of you will only ever hold an incomplete half of it, and that it won’t ever really exist as a whole until you’re together, talking or thinking about that moment … that’s worth more than one plus one. It’s worth four, or eight, or some number so large we can’t even imagine it.”

Gollancz-08237b Reynolds House of Suns

House of Suns continues my ongoing obsession with heavy Science Fiction and happens to be my first read by Alastair Reynolds. It was a thoughtful and complex Gothic Space Opera that did not disappoint and kept me thinking about longevity, space, and time for days after I finished.

Millions of years in the future Abigail Gentian “shattered” herself into one thousand clones. Her clones “The House of Flowers” spend millions of years traveling the galaxy at sub-light speed collecting data and experience. Every two hundred thousand years they meet for a reunion in order to share memories, knowledge, and experiences.

Two Shatterlings, Campion and Purslane, secretly in love, arrive at the latest reunion to find devastation. Someone or something is exterminating the Gentian line. They are thrown into a dangerous mystery that spans across the galaxy and over thousands of years, involving sentient machines, post human civilizations, and exotic worlds.

I loved this book. It shares a mournful atmosphere with other Science Fiction novels such as Hyperion and Dune. A sort of new-Gothic Space Opera that touches on the concept of humanity in a post-Earth far future Galaxy. A fantastic novel and a great introduction to Reynolds. If you enjoy high concept Space Opera pick this one up.

 

Productivity

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Coffee in Kamakura

Lets see. Over the past few days I have been doing a lot. Mostly fun exciting stuff. Unfortunately none of it involved writing or trying to write.

Quinn

Birthday Dog

I went to the 118th Corpsman Birthday celebration. Did a bit of exploring around Kamakura, finding this excellent underground coffee shop. Celebrated Quinn’s 2nd Birthday. Yet the biggest thing keeping me away from any semblance of productivity… Overwatch. Damn great game. I’m hooked. Typing this makes me want to go downstairs a play a few matches.🙂

Tracer

Yep… there goes my free time.