Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Thanks!

November 22, 2017

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays.  We’ll be having a few friends over for dinner.  Jim and I will provide the main course (including stuffing and potatoes and cranberries) and pies.  Our friends are bringing the side dishes.

Turkey Pot by Mary Weahkee

I love Thanksgiving because I celebrate it as an outgrowth of the traditional harvest festival, a time to pause and appreciate.  Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what I have – and I have a lot: a great husband, a home, and the chance to spend a lot of my time doing things I love, like writing.  I could keep listing, but I think you get the idea.

This time of year, I also try to look the things that I often view as stressful and negative from the “thankful” side.  Just one example…

We have two geriatric cats with kidney failure.  Taking care of them involves giving them subcutaneous fluids three times a week.  We’ve been doing this for well over a year for both of them.  Neither of them really likes getting fluids, so the sweatshirt I wear as my “armor” is beginning to be more holes than shirt.

But I’m grateful that Kwahe’e and Ogapgoe are responding well to treatment, that their kidney levels are more are less stable, and so they are enjoying their lives.  (As I write this, Ogapoge is bouncing back and forth between the kitchen table and the top of the microwave, apparently just for the fun of it.)

I’m grateful that I can afford the treatment – which in addition to the fluids involves regular bloodwork.  I’m grateful that I have Jim’s strong and steady participation in the process, because it’s definitely a job I couldn’t do solo.  Really, it’s worth the stress.

Being thankful is why I’ll be participating in “Indies First,” a sub-section of Small Business Saturday that focuses on independent bookstores.  Between 2:00 and 3:30 (maybe a bit later, depending), I’ll be at Page One Books here in Albuquerque acting as a Guest Bookseller.

Since this time I’ll not be focused on doing a reading or talking about a specific book, I’ll have time to chat with people, which will be really nice.  Page One will also be offering door prizes, a chance to sign up for drawings for free books, and lots of available staff to help you get a start on your Christmas shopping.

If you can’t make it, Page One now provides mail orders for signed books, both those in stock and special orders related to their many author events, so you may be able to find somethings special for the readers on your list, as well as supporting a small business.

I hope to see some of you there.  Now, off to make a pecan pie!

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FF: Changing Seasons

October 20, 2017

When I’ve had spare time,  I’ve been shelling pomegranates.  While I do so, I listen to audiobooks.

Kel Wants a Hippogriff

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.

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:

Death of a Doxy by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.

Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.

In Progress:

The Compleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt.  I’ve read the first two installments (The Roaring Trumpets and The Mathematics of Magic). Now reading The Castle of Iron.  I’ve also read the Afterword, where L. Sprague de Camp discusses collaborating with Fletcher Pratt.  Very timely in light of the discussion Alan and I have been having in the Tangents.

Fairy Tail, volume 10, by Hiro Mashima.

Champagne for One by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.  In case you wonder, these are really short!  I’ll probably finish this one today.

Also:

Anyone else’s mail beginning to fill with holiday catalogs?

TT: Fred Pohl — Team Player

October 12, 2017

ALAN: As we mentioned last time, Pohl was a great collaborator. He wrote some short stories with Isaac Asimov (published as by “James MacCreigh”). He wrote a novel with Lester Del Rey (Preferred Risk by “Edson McCann” in 1955). He also collaborated with the oddly symmetrical Thomas T. Thomas on Mars Plus! (1994), a sequel to his own 1976 novel Man Plus!  He wrote a lot of first class novels with Jack Williamson. And of course there are the famous novels that he wrote in the 1950s with his close friend Cyril Kornbluth. Despite being more than fifty years old now, these last can still be read with pleasure today. They are genuine classics.

Two To Carry the Book

I suppose everybody has to have a hobby…

JANE: From what I’ve gathered, Fred Pohl’s participation in the SF world was rich and multi-faceted.  He was a member of the Futurians, a group dedicated to “radical politics and the conviction that sf should be forward-looking and constructive” according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Pohl was also an editor for various magazines, including Astonishing Stories, Super Science Stories, Galaxy, and If, among others.  He also edited original anthologies.

ALAN: And when he was sitting in the editorial chair, he would sometimes buy stories from his writer self and then publish them under a pseudonym so as to conceal what he was doing! How’s that for having your cake and eating it too?

JANE: Gee…  I guess self-publishing has a more noble pedigree than I’d ever realized.

For a period following World War II, Pohl was also an agent.  I suspect that his roles as author, SF think tank member, editor, and agent put him in a position to find people who had a great idea that they couldn’t quite bring to fruition.  At the very least, there were probably some marvelous brainstorming sessions.

ALAN: Cyril Kornbluth and Isaac Asimov, with both of whom Pohl collaborated, were also Futurians.  So there may well be something to what you’re saying. And certainly in his book about the history of the Futurians (The Futurians ,1977), Damon Knight makes it very clear that one thing they all really loved to do was talk about anything and everything.

JANE:  Let’s move from generalizations to specific cases.   You seem very fond of Pohl’s collaborations with Cyril Kornbluth.  Was there something special or unique in these that the books would not have had if they had been written by either Pohl or Kornbluth alone?

ALAN: That’s difficult to answer because Kornbluth died quite young (he was only thirty-five), and so his output was small. He only wrote three novels under his own name and all, with the possible exception of The Syndic, are minor works

However his short stories often exhibit the same sardonic cynicism that is used to great satirical effect in his collaborations with Frederik Pohl.  We also see a similar emphasis in the novel Gunner Cade (1952) by “Cyril Judd”, another collaboration, this time between Kornbluth and Judith Merril.

Pohl, in his solo works, exhibited many of these same traits, and so I suspect that the Pohl / Kornbluth collaborations do not really showcase anything special that the other collaborator did not have, rather the two of them were so similar in their views (and their talents) that they struck sparks off each other and somehow the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts.

JANE:  That sounds like a reasonable conclusion.

Jack Williamson had a long relationship with Fred Pohl as a collaborator.  Interestingly, the collaborative partnership grew directly out of the fact that Pohl was Williamson’s agent.  Let me quote directly from Seventy-Five, a Jack Williamson tribute anthology.

“…when a story called ‘The Bottom of the Abyss’ failed to work, he turned to his then-agent Frederik Pohl, and together they turned out three juvenile stories about Jim Eden and his undersea adventures.  Later, when a story about ‘The Iron Hand’ stalled, working with Pohl again resulted in the ‘Starchild Trilogy.’  All subsequent books co-written with Fred Pohl were planned at the outset as collaborations.”

ALAN: That’s interesting. I wasn’t aware that the ‘Starchild Trilogy’ came about because Williamson got stuck. It was one of my favourite stories when I was a teenager and I read it multiple times. So naturally I’m very pleased that he and Pohl got together and finished it.

JANE: What about Pohl’s other collaborators?  Anything special there?

ALAN: The Asimov collaborations (just a couple of short stories) are of no great interest.

The 1955 collaboration with Lester del Rey (Preferred Risk) is interesting, but for all the wrong reasons! One of the great strengths of the Pohl/Kornbluth collaborations was the biting satire that they applied to various institutions. Pohl returned to this satirical theme with Lester del Rey and together they attempted to do for the insurance industry what Pohl and Kornbluth had done for advertising (The Space Merchants), corrupt business practices, corporate law and propaganda (Gladiator-At-Law), and sociology and politics (Search The Sky). Unfortunately Pohl and del Rey did not strike sparks off each other in the way that Pohl and Kornbluth had done and Preferred Risk reads like a very pale imitation of the much more sucessful collaborations with Kornbluth.

JANE: What about Mars Plus?

ALAN: Pohl’s original book Man Plus! was such a hugely successful, award winning novel that the last thing it really needed was a sequel. So while there’s nothing about Mars Plus! that you can really complain about, it nevertheless feels a bit wishy-washy in comparison.

JANE: Of course, the hugely successful award-winning novels are the ones publishers want sequels to…

So, which collaborative author or pair do we look at next?  Whisper in my ear so we won’t have any spoilers!

ALAN: Whisper whisper.

JANE: Ah!  That might be very interesting indeed!

WW: The Short of It

September 13, 2017

Back in January, as I celebrated the seventh anniversary of the Wednesday Wanderings, I mentioned that with my transforming schedule, there might be times when my Wednesday Wandering post would be less ambitious.

Happy Hollyhock

Guess what?  This week is one of those times.

Probably as a result of being sick for close on two weeks, I’ve fallen behind on a bunch of routine jobs.  The one thing that I haven’t let slide is my writing.  However, even that has taken up a greater percentage of my reduced pool of energy, and I’m not writing as much.  It’s frustrating, but when the writing goes well the high is well worth the effort.

As I begin to feel better, I’m adding back into my life many neglected tasks, none of which make for fascinating Wanderings, unless you want to discuss whether or not you balance your checkbooks.

The long and short of it is, I’m very busy but rather boring right now.

In fact, I’d welcome any questions that I might use as seeds for future Wanderings, because I envision this happening again as a few self-imposed deadlines take up more of my creativity.

On other fronts, despite almost no rain, the garden is doing well.  The wildlife is okay, although the toads are less visible now that they need to dig in to stay damp.

On that note, have a hollyhock and envision me busily typing away!

Catch you next week…

Enough Time

September 6, 2017

I caught something vicious and determined at Bubonicon, and have been in the world of sore throat, headache, wobbly, sniffly, exhausted, definitely-not-the-best for over a week.

Enough Time

As I struggled to drag myself through my obligations, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else was write.  If I could slip into that other place for a while I would feel – if not precisely “better” – not so bad.

On Tuesday, as I downed hot drink after hot drink (fresh limeade was best), I found myself thinking, “But I don’t think I’ll have the energy to sit at the computer for very long.  I guess this is going to be a wasted day for writing.”

Then I found myself thinking about the SnackWrites panel I’d been on at Bubonicon and, how much I was able to write in just five minutes.

(You can find two of the exercises we did here.)

I realized that having a prompt had helped, so I designed a prompt for myself by re-reading what I’d done the day before, then turning the material over and over in my cloudy brain until I knew where I needed to start.

This worked surprisingly well.  I didn’t write a lot on Tuesday, but I did write.  I tried the same tactic on Wednesday, then on Thursday, and each day I managed to write a little.

The most memorable day was Friday.   After struggling and struggling to write, I stretched out on the sofa and thought myself through all of that day’s false starts.  I nearly drifted off to sleep a couple of times, but eventually I realized my “prompt” was wrong.  After about a half hour, I hauled myself upright, turned on the computer, and wrote a thousand words in about a half hour.

So, why not just take “sick leave”?  After all, I don’t have a deadline for this piece.

Well, as I mentioned above, writing was a great way to escape feeling horrible.  Another advantage was that I never “lost touch” with my piece.  I’ve talked to many writers about how, when you’re away from a project more than a couple of days, it often takes as many days to get back into the mindset in which you’d been writing.

I’m accustomed to taking weekends “off,” so two days wouldn’t have mattered much, but if I’d taken a week, it’s likely I would have needed another week to get back into the flow.  Since even as I write this, I’m still battling the bug, I’d be feeling pretty discouraged.  Instead, I’m already designing today’s prompt, part of which is going to involve some research reading.

“Not enough time” is one of the most common excuses I hear for people never starting a beloved project – whether writing or drawing or singing or whatever.  I’m learning that five minutes can be enough, and that that thirty can be a good day’s work.

Now…  Off to down another mug of hot limeade and then to write!

Tiny But Amazing (Toad)

August 16, 2017

Life lately has definitely been a celebration of the microcosm.  The little guy in the picture is a New Mexico Spade Foot Toad.  He’s taken up residence in the alyssum bordering our patio; his entire realm measures about four inches wide by eight feet long.

Tiny Toad

Some of the bricks in the wall against which the alyssum grows are beginning to crumble.  One has a hollow in it.  When he’s startled (as when we start to water the alyssum), the tiny toad jumps up and takes residence in the hollow.  When he does this, he looks rather like an amphibian variant on a Mesa Verde or Puye cliff dweller.

In addition to tiny toad, we have numerous first-year lizards (both blue tails and fence) racing around the yard.  They don’t hold still long enough for pictures.  Speed versus stillness as defense mechanisms.

The baby birds are now mostly fledged out and are learning how to be birds.  It’s a good thing that the monsoon rains have started, because we have plenty of grass seed and bugs for them.

Tiny Toad in Cliff Dwelling

After an unusually hot early summer, we’ve settled into high nineties, with the high temperatures remaining at their peak for a much shorter duration.  That’s a relief both for me and for the garden.  This year I discovered that when the temperatures go about about 106, thinking becomes a real challenge.

And I have been thinking, researching, and even writing.  I made significant progress on a few reprint projects over the last few weeks, including reaching a new stage in the production of Asphodel, the novel that is in line to be my first self-published original novel.

After a couple of very stressful weeks – including the phone company accidentally disconnecting our phone and internet for four days (which, when you run your own business out of your home, is not trivial) – I’m hoping to settle in and get more writing done.

In fact, much as I enjoy chatting with all of you, that’s what I’m going to do now.

Later!

TT: Brain Snakes

July 27, 2017

ALAN: Last time you promised to share some of the brain snakes that occur when you start to conlang. The image of something wriggling around inside your skull is gruesomely attractive. I can hardly wait!

Brain Snakes

JANE: Right…  Most of my brain snakes hatch from an element of conlangs we discussed last time.  If you create a language – even to the extent of implying that your characters are not speaking English – then you’re opening the door to a whole raft of issues.

ALAN: Wait!  How can you imply your characters are not speaking English?  Surely it should be quite clear?

JANE: Actually, a lot of would-be SF/F writers don’t seem to realize that even giving characters or places weird names implies a different language is at play.  By weird names, I don’t mean simple phonetic spelling, like “Soo-san” instead of “Susan” but calling a character Gyriitink or M’ff’mn.

Names don’t come from nowhere.  I’ve discussed this some in a past Wandering, but let me repeat the basics.  Names start out meaning something.  They may indicate that you’re the third male child (Number Three Son).  Or they may refer to some characteristic that your parents hope you will have (Faith, Hope, Charity).  Or they may indicate where or when you were born or where your ancestors came from.  Eventually, however, even names with meaning become ciphers.

ALAN: You mean like my name being “Alan”?  According to what I’ve read, “Alan” comes from the Breton and it means “handsome” (or possibly “little rock”, but I prefer handsome because clearly that describes me more accurately). Apparently there was also an Iranian tribe known as the Alans who migrated into Europe in the 4th century. The name might derive from them as well.

JANE: You can be a handsome little rock from Iran, if you like…

When numerous cultures come into contact, the cipher problem increases because people don’t just chose names from within their own culture.  They name to commemorate famous people, or relatives, or a good friend – any of which might have a root in another culture.  Or they just like the sound of a name and borrow it.

I’m curious.  Your wife is named “Robin.”  Was she named for the bird or for some other reason?

ALAN: She’s named after a friend of her mother’s who was called Robyn. No one is quite sure how or why the spelling changed on its way to Robin’s birth certificate… Except that it seems to be a family tradition to spell names “wrongly”. Robin’s mum is called Phyllis rather than “Phylis” and Robin’s grandmother was Ilean, as opposed to the more common Eileen…

JANE: That’s fascinating.  Just to complicate the brew, I’ll note that I’m more familiar with the spelling “Phyllis.”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the name spelled “Phylis.”

Anyhow, before I tempt myself into tangenting off into why I always check the spelling before signing a book for someone…

When I’m writing a book in an imaginary world setting for which I’m going conlang, one of the first questions I need to ask myself is what are the naming conventions, because names will be one of the major ways the reader will encounter the conlang.  Does the culture name for qualities?  Job?  Social position?  Or is it a cipher thing?  If a cipher thing, and the words are “made up,” that implies a complete language to go with the names, and so the names should at least sound as if they come from the same language.

 And, of course, in most cultures, a mixture exists, so, Gyriitink’s best friend might be named Trumpetvine.

ALAN: It seems to me that different naming conventions can be a good way to imply different languages being spoken.  Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero Elric had a best friend named “Moonglum.”  The difference in their names provided a quick and constant reminder that they came from different cultures in a multi-lingual world. Am I correct in that assumption?

JANE: I agree.  That’s what I always felt.

ALAN: Do you have any other snakes squirming around in there? What colour are they? Do they bite?

JANE: Many.  One that really “bites” (in the slang sense) is the question of titles or honorifics.  Do you make up new ones to go with the new language, or do you stick with familiar ones like “king” and “queen.”

For me, there’s a constant balancing act between risking alienating readers by providing too much information that has to be learned before they can settle in and enjoy the story, and falling into a cookie cutter universe.

For the Firekeeper Saga, I opted to stick with the familiar titles for the first encountered cultures, then slowly segue into different titles for new cultures, hoping that, by then, the reader would have a foundation and be willing to tackle a little more variation.

ALAN: But familiar titles carry a lot of cultural and linguistic baggage with them. We all think we know what we mean by the word “king,” but our meaning would not necessarily correspond to that of another culture. Therefore, using the word might give the reader a false impression of the society you are describing based on the reader’s own preconceptions. I suspect this might be slightly more true of American readers than it would be for readers from other countries because Americans have never lived with kings and queens or with aristocracy in general (except very briefly a few hundred years ago) so they might lack the necessary historical perspective.

So perhaps you might try and avoid that trap by using less familiar, but nevertheless very real, titles. Caesar – or “Kaiser” as I was (Germanically) taught to pronounce it in Latin class, for example. Or Vizier perhaps. But as soon as you do that you are back with the problem you were trying to avoid of potentially alienating your readers by using too many unfamiliar words. Where does the happy medium lie?

JANE: Oh… And that’s only part of it.  Remember, “Caesar” didn’t start as a title.  It started a one part of a Roman personal name, that of Gaius Julius Caesar.  So, if you use “Caesar” as a title, a reader would have every right to assume a tie to ancient Rome – and many would expect it and be disappointed when it didn’t develop.

Just to toss more into the soup kettle of complexities, “Tsar” is “Caesar” slightly mispronounced (that is, adapted for another language), so if you use “Tsar…”

Well, you see how complex it gets and why sometimes a writer just settles for “king.”

ALAN: I certainly agree that it’s a knotty problem of Gordian proportions. As with the original Gordian Knot I suspect that simple solutions are probably the best. So “king” it is.

JANE: But the brain snakes of conlanging get even more complicated.  I’d love to talk a little more about them, and toss out a question that’s bugging me as I write my current book.  How about next time?

Self-Promotion

July 12, 2017

So, folks, tell me…  How do you feel about authors doing self-promotion?

I have mixed feelings, I’ll admit.

The Underdesk Crowd

When I write these Wanderings, I enjoy feeling as if I’m at a convention or something, chatting with people either on a panel or maybe in the hallway between events.

I like telling you guys about new projects.  I don’t mind announcing when something new is bought, sold, or re-released.  After all, in most cases, the reason you’re reading these words is because you “met” me through one or more of my writing projects.

My discomfort level comes when I need to say things like, “Hey.  I’m glad you’re excited about this new project.  I hope you’ll actually buy it, not just take it from the library or borrow it from your best friend.  You see, to make a living, I need sales.  I’m not independently wealthy.  Yes.  I’m married, but it may shock you how little an archeologist makes.  I need, not just for my ego, but so the cats and guinea pigs can keep living in the style to which they’ve become accustomed, to be able to earn a living from my work.”

Whoosh!  I have palpitations just from writing that!  Why?  Because I’ve been poor.  I mean really poor, as in nearly hitting the poverty level.  There have been times in my life where the library or used book store was my only option.  I’ll always be grateful that when, at our very first meeting,  I asked Roger Zelazny to sign an obviously used copy of Creatures of Light and Darkness for a college friend, he didn’t shove it away and refuse.

I’m also really, really bad about hinting I’d like to be involved in a project – an anthology, say, or a theme issue of a magazine.  Why?  Because it seems to be bad form.  Won’t people ask me if they want my work?  I’ve learned to my surprise that they won’t always, that if they’re talking about something in my vicinity they may be indirectly sounding me out, trying to see if I’ll express an interest.  If I don’t, they think, “Oh, she’s not interested.”

In reality, I’m like the girl at the dance who’s there cleaned up, dressed nice, and hoping, hoping, hoping…  But I’m afraid that I’ll be rude if I ask someone if it’s possible for me to dance.

I’ve been told I should encourage people to sign up for my mailing list.

Deep breath: “Hi folks, please sign up for my mailing list.  Especially now that I’m experimenting with self-publishing, this is the best way to learn of promotions, contests, and new releases.  The new releases might not matter to you, but the other two will always be of limited duration.  I’d hate for you to miss, just because you were on vacation or having a bad week at work.”

Whew…  Heavy, heavy sigh…

(Time Travel Moment.  In the Comments, John C. encouraged me to include link to my website, where you can sign up for my mailing list. Here it is.  Thank you, John, for the coaching!)

If I ever do a Kickstarter or related program, I’ll really have a lot of trouble because that means asking people to give me money for nothing but trust.  Wow!  That’s terrifying.

Roger Zelazny was a lovely person to learn about the business of writing from, but his advice in these areas was non-existent because these options didn’t exist.  He began writing in a time and place when self-promotion – up to and including anything more than gently hinting that you had a new book out – was considered very bad form.  We talked a lot about the (then, early 1990s) trend of self-promotion for awards.  He thought it was a bad idea.  I’m afraid that his restraint in such matters rubbed off.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on when you find self-promotion helpful, when you find it off-putting.

And, now, having asked that, I think I’ll join Kel the cat under my desk…

Tell Me Why…

June 28, 2017

Now that the weather has shifted to warm (sometimes too warm), I’m back to riding my bike on the road instead of spinning inside.  Even though I ride the same route, just about every day I see something that gets me thinking.

Truck With Socks

Can anyone tell me why the truck in the picture has its wheels wrapped?  They’ve been like this for weeks now.  The truck isn’t new, nor is it elaborately customized.  I never see anyone outside at this house, so I haven’t been able to ask.  I keep coming up with possible explanations, and they’re getting more fantastical each day.

At the start, I thought the tires were new and hadn’t been unwrapped.  That didn’t make sense, because they’d need to be unwrapped to be mounted.  Then I thought the truck might have been shipped, and the wheels wrapped to keep it from rolling.  However, if that was the case, wouldn’t the tires need to be unwrapped so it could be unloaded?  Then I began to imagine what the tires might actually be: giant donuts, extra-wide hula hoops, dormant pythons, swimming float rings, metal washers, wedding rings.

Can someone solve this mystery for me?

Another fun thing I’ve been watching as I bike is the creation of a possible puzzle for future archeologists.  Someone dropped a box of paperclips on the asphalt of the road.  These were spread out by passing vehicles.  Then the temperatures began to rise into the high nineties, then the hundreds, then all the way to one hundred and eleven degrees.  The asphalt softened.  The traffic continued to roll over the paperclips.

We now have a neat “fossilized” layer that looks deliberate.  I wonder what future archeologists might make of this.  My favorite is a sacrifice to a deity of office productivity and organization.  The runner-up is a sort of “outsider art” that involves imbedding materials into roadways as a sort of technological roadkill.

Less outré entertainments have been watching the urban wildlife.  My current favorite are the Gambel’s quail.  The chicks are hatched now.  Every so often I come across little flocks scurrying across the road, diving into cover beneath ornamental shrubs.  Last week they were hardly big enough to see.  This week, they’re distinctly striped.

I guess you can tell that my rides aren’t just exercise for the body; they’re exercise for the imagination as well.  I’ve been writing quite a bit, and although trucks with coiled pythons for wheels haven’t yet entered any particular tale, you never know…

The Revenge of Mega Radish!

June 14, 2017

Yep.  That’s a radish.  And the thing Jim put in the photo for scale is about the size of a standard baseball – that is, about nine inches in circumference.  It doesn’t look real, does it?   We should have used a ruler.

Mega Radish!

That’s not the only radish that size we’ve gotten, although it is the most pleasingly symmetrical.  For those of you who take interest in such things, no, these weren’t seeds intended to grow giant radishes.  They were standard Easter Egg radishes.

So, what else (besides giant radishes) is going on here?

There’s the mystery of the missing cucumber and chard seedlings.  (Solution: probably snails.)

Or maybe not…   We haven’t seen any snails lately.  I wonder why?

Join me now and we shall delve more deeply into the mystery.

Darkness has fallen.  One by one, the lights in the surrounding houses go out.  In the tiny ornamental pond, toads gather among the stems of the blue pickerel weed and aquatic plantain, soaking up moisture before going on the prowl.  They are the great night hunters of this urban garden, confident in their supremacy.

But, as the toads are about to heave themselves from their refreshing bath, a peculiar vibration ripples through the sandy soil.  The toads sink below the water so only their tiny eyes protrude above the surface.  Doubtless this saves them.  For, at that moment, from the garden bed west of the pond it comes, moving with astonishing lightness on tiny rootlets, leafy greenery towering above, sensing the least motion in its surroundings: Mega-Radish has arisen…

Forth it stalks, seeking what?  The toads do not know.  They only bubble sighs of relief as the gargantuan vegetable passes by the pond, and vanishes from sight.  But the hawk moths, large as hummingbirds, deep drinkers of the nectar of the sacred datura, are awake, dreaming on the wing, believing at first that what they see is a result of imbibing too much potent pollen.

Moving on many minute rippling rootlets Mega Radish races around the shed, down the path, to a small plot where infant seedlings of Swiss Chard and Armenian cucumbers tremble, rooted in fear, unable to move as the slime trailing terrors, the horrid garden snails, emerge from their daytime sanctuary within the tangle of Virginia Creeper, prepared to engulf the tender leaves of the infant plants.

Night after night this horrid slaughter has been repeated.  Night after night the seedlings have been helpless, but tonight the cry for help has been heard.  Mega Radish, hero of the garden, has ripped itself from its vegetative torpor and come to save the day.

Red and round, it launches!  It rolls!  Beneath its incarnadined rind it smashes the snails.  They are demolished so completely that their shells become naught but flakes of calcium to feed the soil, their slimy bodies return moisture to the ground.  The seedling cucumbers and chard wave their thanks.  The arugula – too spicy for the snails, but nonetheless terrified – joins the chorus.

Mega Radish takes a bow and then, on twinkling rootlets, vanishes into the darkness…

Well, maybe not.  But it’s a fun idea.

Have a lovely day.  May Mega Radish watch over you!