Archive for May, 2017

Starts and Finishes

May 5, 2017

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

Ogapoge Reinterprets the Text

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Whatever After by E.M. Tippets.  ARC.  Enjoyed.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs By Derek and the Dominos by Jim Reid.  As regular readers of this Fragment know, periodically, I read rock bios.  This is a bio of an album, with fascinating material on the various people who helped create it.

In Progress:

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee.  Audiobook.  A opera diva in Second Empire Paris finds her past may be catching up with her.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. Haven’t read for many years…  Astonished afresh by the creative use of language.


Starting my final proof of the e-book version of my twenty-some year-old novel When the Gods Are Silent.

TT: Ominous and Amazing

May 4, 2017

JANE: Last week you made a very ominous statement about the weather in New Zealand.

ALAN: Yes indeed. We’ve discussed the weather in our respective countries before here and here and here, but lately we’ve had a few peculiarities here that make me want to revisit the topic…

A Sheepish Cloud

JANE: Please do.  You’ve been luring me to New Zealand with promises of chocolate.  Before I book a ticket, I’d better hear this.

ALAN: It all started with a period of unusually hot and dry weather. Even for the height of summer, this was noticeably hotter than normal. I’m not sure what the temperature was (I don’t have a thermometer), but it felt like it was in the mid-to high-thirties. I do have a temperature sensor in the roof as part of the air circulation system for the house, and that was reading 53 degrees at its hottest – but you expect that in a roof of course…

JANE: 53?  That sounds rather cool.  Wait.  You do Centigrade, don’t you?  Let me consult a converter.  That would make for 127.4.  Wow!  That’s really hot, even for New Mexico.  Of course, roofs tend to hold heat, but even so…  I bet this had a major impact on your yard.

ALAN: It did. All my grass died, so I didn’t have to mow it, which I thought was great! And the council imposed water restrictions so we couldn’t water the lawn or the garden, which I thought was even more wonderful! Robin complained about her shrivelled plants of course and she threatened to do clandestine sprinkling, but nothing came of that plan.

JANE: We have water restrictions here pretty routinely.  I get around them at least somewhat by collecting my kitchen grey water and using it for my perennials, reserving my “okay to water” days for my garden.

How long did this go on?

ALAN: It lasted for about a month and a half. Then we got a brief sprinkle of rain. The temperatures went back to a civilised 25 degrees or so and my grass grew crazily before my very eyes. When I mowed it, I collected a dozen catchers full of clippings (normally I only have four). That tells you how fast and how thick the grass grew!

JANE: Indeed.  Does Robin compost?  Grass clippings make for excellent compost.  We don’t have a lawn, but one of our neighbors has a small one, and he usually gives us his clippings.  We then give him produce.

ALAN: Yes, she does. We have two huge compost bins in the garden. I filled one of them to the brim with grass clippings and still had some left over. Robin was thrilled and assured me that they would compost down nicely and soon free up space in the bin for more.

But she never got the chance to collect more. The really, really hot, sunny days set in again. The temperature in the roof reached 58 degrees and I suspect the outside temperature was at least 40 degrees, but I’m going to pretend it was 42 degrees because that’s a much more significant number. It was also disgustingly humid, about 90%. Puddles of sweat dripped from my armpits and splashed on the ground. I squelched when I walked – not that I did much walking. I was far too busy perspiring.

JANE: Ah for the days of 90% humidity!  That was pretty typical when I was growing up in D.C.   Our house didn’t have air conditioning.  Do you and Robin?

ALAN: No, we don’t have air conditioning. We do have an air circulation system, but that’s all and it doesn’t help in weather like this. Indeed, sometimes I think it was hotter inside the house than it was outside! Mind you, we did get a pretty dramatic demonstration of just how hot it really was outside…

My dog Jake had a couple of old bones out in the back yard and the weather was so hot that it melted the marrow in them, and it trickled out of the end like manna from heaven. When Jake discovered that, he was ecstatic and he spent ages licking up the liquid marrow with a great big grin all over his hairy face.

JANE: Yuck!  Maybe I’m glad I don’t have a dog.  But hot weather in what is – for you – early autumn doesn’t sound that strange.  I have a feeling there must be more for you to issue a warning to potential tourists.

ALAN: Indeed there is. The very next day we got the tail end of cyclone Debbie which had been causing massive floods in Australia. The temperature plummeted again and the rain came down in torrents. Flooding, power cuts and landslips were reported from all over the country. Wellington, the capital city, got a months’ worth of rain in a single night and the airport was closed because of flooding. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

JANE: Land slips?  Oh, you must mean “landslides.”  I guess yours must be more gentle than ours, since they only slip.

ALAN: They aren’t all that gentle – they tend to fall off the sides of cliffs and mountains and they block roads, knock down power poles and, on occasion, they undermine houses.

All in all, it was an amazing collection of contrasting weather in such a very short space of time.

JANE: Well, I’m glad you say “amazing,” because that means this wasn’t normal.  Maybe I can still consider coming to your side of the world one of these days!

New Bermuda Triangle?

May 3, 2017

At least as far as delivery people are concerned, I apparently live in the Twilight Zone or the Bermuda Triangle or some such place.  And, no, I haven’t moved recently.  I’ve lived in the same house for over twenty years.

Hidden in Plain Sight

My suspicions began when my super-sweet mom ordered Valentine’s Day flowers for me and Jim.  The flowers never arrived.  Mom queried and learned the flower arrangement had been delivered to our address on a street some five blocks away.  Since her order was clearly for my address, the company agreed they should resend.  The new flowers were then sent to the same wrong address.

Mom sent my sister flowers, too.  Those flowers did arrive, but without a card.  Mom cancelled our order.  She sent me and Jim citrus from her garden instead.

I wrote a short story inspired by these mishaps called “Unexpected Flowers.”  It’s science fiction, because it’s about branching probabilities.  I ran it by a mathematician friend who complimented me for writing mathematics in prose.  So far the story hasn’t found a home.  Editors keep wanting it to have a definite ending.  Since I gave the tale as definite an ending as I could without spoiling the underlying science, I just shrug and send it out again.

My writing this story is about as good an illustration as you’ll get about what makes a writer different from most people.  Almost anyone would wonder about the reaction of the people who received the unexpected flowers.  Some people might muse over possible outcomes.

However, a writer actually goes beyond musing to start putting those thoughts down in a readable form.  In my case, my sister’s anonymous flowers provided the added kick.  I mean, anonymous Valentine’s Day flowers??  The possibilities as to what would happen if those arrived unexpectedly boggle the mind.

Why am I talking about this today, rather than back in February?  Well, recently I learned that a card my sister sent me never arrived.   Then this past week was Jim’s birthday.  Once again, delivery people may have lost a gift sent to us.  I hope the people who got Jim’s chocolates like creams.

I wonder if we’re living in a new Bermuda Triangle?  Now that I think about it, vanishing is only part of what makes the Bermuda Triangle special.  Things supposed to reappear there, too.

Hey, that might make an interesting story!