Archive for excerpt

Excerpt: Keep the Books

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 8, 2011 by theclockworm

It was hours later when she noticed that his clothes had changed. On his right side, the side he had slept on, a new outfit was growing. It did not merely cover his old one, it replaced it. It seemed to be eating it. The process was slow, but it crept along his trunk, moved around his knee, and in time covered his entire body, hands and head excluded. It was a fashionable men’s suit, a classic design. But it had gone off-course. On his right side, it was thick and well-woven, the hems sewn straight and tight, but by the time it reached his lapels, it had lost much of its vigor. The general impression was of a melted wedding-cake topper.

Ward dreamed of burning books, of the look of disgust – or was it shame? – on his mother’s face as he wolfed down a cat-burger, his own tiny face all smiles and sauce.

Sophia dreamed of Ward, eyeless and melted and dragged into the earth by the floorboards.

“What the hell is a nano-bot?” Sophia was scared now, imagining a ghostly presence, sewn into the walls and floors. Was her food made of these nano-bots? Was her chicken really ghost meat?

“I guess it was new,” Ward said, trying to piece it all together. “Must have just come out when It Happened. I guess the people who lived here were Beta.”

“Which makes us Beta now,” she said



Excerpt: All Our Promises Kept

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 7, 2011 by theclockworm

This excerpt is from one of my two current “big” stories – long on words, effort, and hopefully promise. I leave you with only inferences. I’ll gladly take suggestions on the title as well.


The weight of their bodies made the mattress creak. All those young limbs, draped carelessly around. All the lovers he’d had before her, all in one place. Beside her, the Ian she knew, phantom though he was, made a small, desperate sound. She reached out her hand, gripping his. “I know. It’s weird for me too.” She felt him tremble. “It’s not your fault,” she said. And she meant it, though feeling it was another matter.


Lydia often wondered about the outside world. It was an inevitable part of being a Tat – you were cut off from the life of your Real, left to wander the halls of memory and wonder at the state of things. Inside his head, they’d stayed together, and been fairly happy. But this was a world of limits as well as wonder. They could never be tempted by others, not really. Sure, either of them could enter a memory and inhabit it for a while, but they could not continue onward from there, could not force the past into a new path toward the future. At worst, it was pornography, unreal because it did not involve or require intent – because it did not involve or require another human being.

She wondered if they could have children, but was scared to bring it up. And anyway, she didn’t know if that would be fair. If their child was True, had a soul or whatever, it would be stuck here, in someone else’s head, in someone else’s life. It seemed more than a little unethical. But it would be nice.

She also wondered how things were going for their twins in Lydia’s head. Would her history be more or less habitable than his?

“Ian, there’s the potential and there’s the inevitable. This world you live in is free from so many things – work, stress, reality, other people. That’s simply served to defer the only end that can come of this. One day, she will become who she has always been; she will reveal herself to you, and you’ll have no recourse, no way to escape. I’m saving you from an eternity of her, Ian.”

“Not with corpses you’re not.” He fell back, like last time, through the humming meat of his mind. Like last time, he threw the totem into the darkness.

Excerpt: St. William at the Pearly Gates

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 7, 2011 by theclockworm

I started this story a few years ago, and it’s still hovering around the top quarter of stuff I need to finish soon. It’s set in a future where a centralized system, Systema, is home to a large number of human consciousnesses, including that of Bill Gates. The story is largely about what is different, developmentally, when immortality or extreme long-life are possible. In the world of the story, a form of suicide is common; it is not the wholly negative thing it is in our mortal world, though not everyone, even in that world, understands it. The tale begins with a letter from Microsoft informing stock-holders of Gates’ decision to “retire.”

It’s strange to read over this material this week, with all the conversation about the death of Steve Jobs. There’s actually a part in the story where Jobs is asked by a newspaper what he thinks of Gates’ decision (“It’s about fucking time.”). I’ll have to edit that now – or maybe not. In any event, there’s been a bit of speculation as to what will happen when Gates dies. I cover that, though I suspect it won’t go quite the way I’ve plotted it.

It’s an epistolary story, a format I really enjoy and hope to utilize more in the future. This segment is from a long “exit interview” of Gates, conducted by an AI approximation of Carl Jung.



J: Is it possible, perhaps, that the existence of this door, and your knowledge of it, could be more important that it’s actual presence?

G: They could be to someone. To me they’re not. They were for a long time. But I’m tired.

J: Death is not an appropriate response to weariness. That’s what sleep is for.

G: I’m not weary, Mister Jung. I’m Tired.

J: Are you tired of life, or are you tired of your life?

G: I’m not sure I’d know the difference.

J: Do you think maybe you’ve climbed too high? That you now are above everything, with no heroes, no idols, no stories left to tell or to call upon for guidance?

G: That’s probably part of it.

J: I think, Mr. Gates, that you have become an archetype. You, yourself. I think you may be outside of human psychology by any standards. I think you are a man who has reluctantly become a totemic entity. You are no longer Bill Gates. You are the sign that points to Bill Gates.

G: Flattery will get you everywhere.

Excerpt: The Clockworm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 7, 2011 by theclockworm

Just so you know I’m not bluffing, I’ll be posting excerpts from various works-in-progress in the next few days. Feel free to comment, but remember, these are unfinished and out of context.

Some segments from The Clockworm


“Are you really a machine?”

“Of course,” said the Regnim. “I operate.”

“But that doesn’t make you a machine. I operate too.”

The Regnim was silent.

“Were you built?”

“I was made.”

“Riddles. Evidence of simplicity in your programming. Inability to answer difficult questions.”

“You admit they are difficult questions, but refuse to accept difficult answers. Evidence of simplicity in your programming.”

Alex knew the Regnim was right.

“So you’re not just a machine.”

“What living notions inhabit the phrase “just a machine?” Implications by the handful! Let’s look at them in detail, shall we? Just: only, merely, simply. Simplicity, limitedness, inability. Parameters of potential, range of impact – negligible. Machine: less than human, less than entity. Object, not subject. More false, less alive. Consuming, not producing. Being directed, not intending. State of doing, not of being. Action without introspection. Deserving of less ethical responsibility. Other.


That night, he dreamed of the Regnim. It stretched off in all directions, and when he tried to move forward, it blocked his way. It laughed, and the sound echoed through his bones, vibrated him into dust, shrieked with overtones through the endlessness of time. It screamed need, and lust, and hunger. It screamed until nothing could be heard, until only the great worm remained.


“So there’s no structure, no leadership?”

“There’s no group, so to speak, just a central thrust composed of isolated, individual actions. Ramjack is that which its members accomplish, but it is not a whole. It is a way of drilling through the walls of this world. Like the hammer, it is only a tool once it is picked up. Until then, it is nothing, an inert and functionless artifact.”

“But where does the thrust come from? How does it find us?”

“It slips into your mind, whole, a perfect truth. This has always been the manner of transmission.”

“Where does it come from?”

“Does it matter? Some call it god; some simply outline it by noting what it is not. To me, it is not divine; to me, it is more than that. I choose to call it truth. Truth needs no regalia.”

the charm of neat collapse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 25, 2011 by theclockworm

An unedited excerpt from a work in progress, “The Angel of Teeth.”

“Entropy is one aspect of a larger process.” The captain of the ghosts stood by the tall port window, staring into the void. Seeing him now, it was clear that the ghostliness was not purely metaphorical. His physical form was ever so slightly opaque; he was not entirely corporeal, not wholly there. “Time is a word like ‘water system.’ It has many meanings, on many scales. Time is like a river – discreet, independent, directed; it is like many rivers, each of which are time. It is also like the sea these rivers flow into, which has many currents, but not one linear objective. As the larger system within which these waterways flow ages, there is a unity of sorts, an end of rivers; but this gives way to a new age of seas. The time of seas is coming now. You will swim with us.”


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by theclockworm

I had an idea for a story today, and even before I began writing, I knew it would be one of “those” stories. I wish I had time to look this up for specifics, but I remember Alfred Bester, in one of the introductions in Starbright (many of which will probably worm their way into future discussions), talking about stories that come into your head complete and can basically just be transcribed. This was one of those times. More importantly, it was the first of those times. I have close to fifteen stories started; other than The Playground, which I wrote nearly five years ago and which, if it is ever to be seen, will need an ER-level resuscitation, this is the first one I have finished. The Exploded Manifestations of Ari Ascher is done in draft form, but again, a fair amount of work lies between its present state and “birth.”

Today’s story came from a confluence of notions. I had just read Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation,” a wonderful and strange and haunting story. One of the minor aspects of this tale is the notion of memory fading over a very long lifespan, to the degree that one might forget his own origins.

I had always been struck with the astuteness demonstrated by Robert Heinlein in one or another of the Lazarus Long books, when he addressed issues of memory in a very long human life. I wondered, what if this was far more acute? What if human memory, even if our bodies were to become immortal and without need, is limited to the last x years, down to the very moment? The first wave of people to live this long wouldn’t have known to keep meticulous records of basic events.

The story is short, and revolves around one man who is about to lose his last visual memory of a photograph of his wife, whose name he doesn’t even know. It’s a personal reflection and a sketch of a life set during a lonely and uneventful countdown, one which cuts all pertinent history loose from the character’s life. It’s also a pretty apt reflection on the aimlessness of life in general, and the power of even the most tenuous connection.

I’m a little wary about posting a whole story on here just yet, so here is a short clip:


I don’t know her maiden name, or the names of her parents. I don’t remember how we met, or how she died; even her funeral is fathoms beyond the shadow of my forgetting. I don’t know if we made each other happy. If we did, I don’t know whether it was the exception or the rule.

The first thing I remember is the last day I saw the image before it turned to dust. When it crumbled in my hands, an instantaneous thing, I went calmly to the sink and washed them. I swept the floor, escorting all her tiny parts into the dustbin. I wrote the date on the wall above my bed, on the steel itself. And, after a time, I wept. When I was able, I borrowed a laser-etching gun from a pilot whose course would parallel mine for a while; gently, with great care not to misfire and puncture a bulkhead, I engraved the note into the artifice, so that it hung like a plaque above my bed. This way, I would remember when I was going to forget.