I am working on a 25,000-word short story, Val, the first part of a trilogy, and had a few thoughts about writing Science Fiction.
I travel at well below the speed of light in my own perception bubble of time. So it took aeons of my life realize it, but, all the experience of Science Fiction takes place in the present. From the writing to the dissemination into the reader’s mind, it all happens now. It can be set in any time, any space. But it is experienced here as you sit reading. Mind talking to mind.
Science Fiction is often intellectually and artistically despised. It is generally understood to mean space ships, profoundly drawn physical characters, skintight clad alien seductresses and shoot ‘em ups. A lot of contemporary Science Fiction is dark, brooding and fantastic. Filled with biological horrors and convincing technology it takes the cosmos and fear of the unknown and impregnates a CGI wormhole into our minds. Yet the movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey, is generally regarded as one of the pinnacles of Science Fiction. It deals with aspects of how we came to be and how the mind functions. It asks fundamental questions about the nature of humanity and how we are trying to make sense of the universe. The spaceship technology is also pretty cool, even today.
Do you remember writing in a schoolbook your full name plus your address? Infinite Loop, California, Solar System, Milky Way, the Universe. Now we can add 375,000 years from the Big Bang to that deep-seated need to describe where we are, what could be out there, or evolving here inside us.
There are no imaginative limits to writing Science Fiction. It is a liberating and compelling genre in which to create a fictional world. I don’t pretend to understand the science down to the equations and the graphs. I borrow the concepts of space-time, wormholes, and quantum nature, take the imaginative aspect of scientific creation without providing the burden of proof, and use it as raw material.
Science fiction set in the everyday world? What better space-time frame to narrate it in?
Many of you will have seen the photographs of a member of the Constituent Assembly (CA) lifting a chair above his head in the middle of an unseemly series of actions instigated by various wings of the Maoist faction as they attacked members of the ruling party. The CA exists to draft a constitution, and after two iterations over six years have singularly failed to do. The heart of the issue is that two-thirds of the assembly want to press ahead and deal with issues as they arise by vote, Federalism amongst them, while the Maoists want the broad foundations of the constitution to be arrived at by consensus. They believe that not enough is being written into the constitution in support of the lower caste Dalits amongst others, and “the people”. The Maoists were convincingly voted out at the last election for various reasons, including allegations of corruption, and because they failed to address issues related to creating a constitution. The cost to the nation of the CA so far has been Rps 780 million (approx Rps 100 to the $). The current CA operates in private with none of the electorate able to observe.
Writing a constitution is a passionate business – it took the Founding Fathers twelve years, Nepal has been going at it for six – but the actions by the Maoists have angered and shamed many here. Their imposition of strikes, something for which they have a right, but which they are calling without the consensus of the electorate, smacks of intimidation, threat and fear so prevalent during the civil war. The economic cost to a nation hanging on by it’s fingertips can only be imagined. Nepal is a justifiably proud and independent nation, sandwiched as it is by two of the world’s largest economies. The chief lesson is that compromise is essential, that actions have effects as well as causes, and that violence in the streets and the CA is no substitute for dialogue however passionately you believe in your case. Democracy is not always comfortable.
For an excellent summary see: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/ugly-scenes-in-nepal-constituent-assembly-over-constitution/article1-1308658.aspx
Dawn above the desert. Dark, dark cold cruel blue the sky above is a clear window into the infinite. On the horizon a blood wave of fire rises breaking into the last of the night. Directly below, orange lights snake their way along an unknown Islamic shore, defining the coastline that the starboard engine hoovers into it’s maw. Blood now tinged orange, spreading upwards into the first suggestion of yellow coagulating into blue. Soon the blood is blended away as tone flares towards white, the rapid strokes of colored, cosmic pencils implacably transforming darkness into the visible truth of daylight.
Season’s Greetings and best wishes for the new year to the readers of my blog.
The CoP and I are currently in California on the north coast. It is a relief to be breathing fresh air and to see the sea just down from the rented house. From being hours ahead of family and friends in the west we are now hours behind. After breakfast we are going for a walk in a Redwood forest having been to the headland yesterday in the teeth of a terrific blow, a turbulent sea and big breakers. The contrast between here and our home in Kathmandu could hardly be greater. Most importantly we will have the family with us, which after all, is where the heart is.
I took this picture on our trek to Ghandruk earlier this year,
I wish you all the best for 2015.
The lower portion of Lazimpat Road is usually awash with traffic, people, buses, tourist vehicles, congested, choked, moving at a slow pace. But SAARC is in town.
Last night the road was empty as though startled. Nothing moved except for a few denizens on foot not restrained by the police. The side roads were blocked off, jammed with impatient motor bikers. A whistle blew. A single military vehicle sped past the Shangri-la hotel, leaving in its wake silence.
We waited, discussing trying to find another way round. But then a blitz of headlights appeared in the distance from the Radisson end. The whistle blew again. Spread out across the entire width of the road thirty plus cars shot by us at what seemed four times the speed of normal, an SUV passing me within inches of the kerb.
Without a drop in speed the convoy travelled up the hill, dust billowing in the flashing red, blue and white lights. Who was that in amongst the constantly shifting patterns of cars, jostling for position as though on a race track? How far removed, how lacking relevance from those stuck waiting in the cold darkness. Whoever it was, the convoy carried him around the bend at the top of the hill and disappeared.
Silence was replaced by the regular chatter of denizens as bikes flooded back onto the road, horns beeping as life restarted.
Megh (our guide): “Are you a preacher?”
Me: “Heavens, no. What gives you that idea? Is it the beard?”
Megh: “You’re from Baluwatar.”
Megh: “You carry binoculars.”
Megh: “To watch birds.”
Me: “Do you mean I am a twitcher and like birdwatching.”
Megh: “Ah. Exactly.”
One of the privileges of traveling is the chance, brief meeting with extraordinary individuals. My companion at dinner on our first night in Ghandruk, a Road Scholar, reminded me of Walter Matthau, almost as lugubrious, quiet, self-effacing and gentle. As we talked (I was a little tipsy on gin and tonic after a seven hour hike—13,400 steps up 3000 feet) I asked my dining partner beside me at the long communal table what he did. He was retried, but over the course of 30 years he had delivered over 17,000 babies. One for every step I had taken that day and then some. What a unique view of life (and death) he had had, all the mothers, babies and partners he had imprinted on standing at the end of the conveyor belt of new life. What work his fine hands had accomplished. I went to bed, my life the richer for having met him.
Objectively it is a mountain, a huge body of rock formed of aquatic limestone that millions of years ago once formed the sea bed. Titanic natural forces continue to push the rock higher and higher into the sky, towering over the crumple zone. That’s it. Some would disagree with that factual statement, fantasists casting doubt with claims of a cosmic trickster who planted sea fossils on the flank of Everest a mere blink of time ago. And on it’s slopes Tintin came face to face with a Yeti. But then we read into the Sacred Himalaya what we wish to, create an overlay on the ancient rock. The dark green valley with towering flanks leading to the creases and crevices of the freshly fallen snow. Sensual, scared, harsh, the rock appears a living, breathing entity, responsible for tragedy and success, wealth and poverty, a force to be assuaged, placated, worshiped, a home of human sacrifice.
So where does the truth lie? In the slow cloud reveal and obscuring of the dapples of sunlight on fields of snow? A didi, bracelets rattling on her wrist, hangs a pair of walking pants on the clothes line in front of me where I sit outside my room, obscuring in an instant this massive pile of rock. Perhaps there lies a truth. Aside from the ancient rock that will split my skull open when I fall against it, snow that will freeze me and altitude that will starve me of oxygen, a curtain of washing hanging on the line, obscuring my vision of majesty, is as close to a truth as I can get.
Working. Sound reducing headphones on. I don’t notice someone come into the room. After a while I look up. MB is crouched by the bed, his back to me. All I can see are his shoulders and his Dhaka Topi on his head. I am surprised to see him, I assumed it was Renu. He gets up, clutching the downstairs phone.
“Yes,” I try and steady myself in the dislocating shift from fictional to real space.
MB holds the phone out to me. Engaged, just, I go downstairs muttering about it all being very odd. Clearly the line into the house is working. A sequel of events runs through my mind. Trying to find a phone guy to come round, all the fuss and upheaval.
I reconnect the phone in the dining area. The dial tone is strong and clear. I hand the phone to MB. He breaks into a huge smile of something, perhaps relief or embarrassment at not having tried it more thoroughly first. Renu then says: “It’s three days. I had to use my mobile for water.”
I am back at the keyboard.
A seemingly nothing event that is nonetheless ripe with the humanity of my everyday.