Last weekend the BFI and Harper Voyager did a rather marvellous weekend of science fiction brilliance, spread across twitter, facebook and various blogs. It’s well worth checking out the Harper Voyager blog if you missed it.
Tag Archives: Science Fiction
I came across a set of tweets from Jen Williams this morning…
I will never understand the urge to harsh a squee.
you see someone enthusing about something they love. You think, "I know, I'll tell them I think it's shit. They'll appreciate that."
Or, just don't. People love different things. It's okay.
I agree with completely with what’s being said here. I do. I’m not a monster or anything*. But… I think I can understand it. There have been times when I see people raving about a film or book, saying the exact opposite of what I feel, and the urge to kill their squee is powerful.
Just before I go on, when I’m talking about a ‘squee’ in this post, I’m referring to a demonstration of love and excitement about something, usually connected to science fiction or fantasy in some way.
I can’t speak for squee killers everywhere but for me, encountering a squee I don’t understand can be a painful experience, creating a sense of distance between me and person doing the squeeing.
I’m used to not fitting in. Superheroes and magic and giant robots are enjoying a time of relatively mainstream cool these days but it was not always so. Growing up, I learned to be careful with who I shared my passions with and those friends who also loved things like Star Wars, Babylon 5, Dungeons and Dragons, Amber, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and running around the woods in silly costumes were rare jewels indeed.
And with those friends and the wider geek community I have a feeling of belonging that I often don’t in the wider world.
I’m used to people not getting what I love but when those people are in circles that I consider to be ‘my community’ or ‘my tribe’ it can be almost unbearable.
Conversely, when people I respect squee about something I think is terrible, it’s also unbearable. I feel like maybe I don’t understand them after all, maybe they don’t understand me.
That’s when the Dark Side become tempting.
Perhaps, it whispers, if you were to point out to them why the thing they love is rubbish, they’ll realise their mistake and then unity will return.
Somehow, their squee makes me feel insecure. And I think that’s the point of all this. Squee killers are moving from a place of insecurity because it’s rare that they simply offer their opinion with a comment like:
“Yes, the effects in Prometheus were excellent, although I must admit I found the representation of the scientists hard to believe and that made it harder for me to suspend disbelief.”
Instead going for something like:
“Prometheus sucks in every way! The plot is rubbish, the characters laughable. And how did she run with that injury? And why didn’t she run sideways! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! And if you think otherwise you’re a ****weasel!”
I think this is because a squee comes from the heart. It’s a primal thing. And geeks don’t just like their fiction, they adore it. More than that I think we identify with it. For me, it is far more than just entertainment. I often hold fiction and the creators of said fiction up to my own moral standards and that can make me a tough audience.
But when I enjoy fiction, it feeds me in a deep way. Or it makes me feel warm and smile. Sometimes I actually feel it changing me as I read it and when that happens I want to share those good vibes.
I want to squee.
My name is Peter Newman and I’ve gone ten months since my last squee kill.
*Before alcohol only.
This is the seventh story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by prompts from Aidan Fritz (aka @AidanFritz) and John Xero (aka @Xeroverse). I wanted the bonus points for a combo!
Although September is long behind us, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.
I rest my spade in the ground and take a break.
Slowly, the sun rises, so full of colours I want to weep. As blue as the sea, as white as snow, lip red, bruise purple, a hundred shades and all that goes between. Dawn is my favourite time. It’s too early for disappointment and there’s everything to play for.
Reality pulls at me, dragging my gaze down. On the horizon I see the city of my grandfathers, overgrown and overrun by nature. The distinctive skyline covered by a scab of green.
And again the view drags down, to the bodies at my feet.
We came here to find out the truth, archaeologists of our own culture. Jeb was the first to learn why our ancestors fell upon each other so suddenly, so finally. After a week of trying, when the rest of us had given up, Jeb managed to access the records documenting civilisation’s end.
By the time Adam and I found him he’d killed six members of our team and had his hands at the throat of the seventh.
I don’t know if it was my bullet that ended Jeb or Adam’s. Maybe it was a combination of wounds that killed him, or a sudden heart failure, or a bolt of lightning. Here, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he’s dead.
Jeb died with his eyes open. They stare up at me even now. Glassy sphere’s that declare me murderer, judge, hypocrite.
I cover them with earth and immediately feel better.
It’s a short walk back to camp but my breath rasps in my helmet before I’m halfway there.
Our home is made of blocks, some joined together to make bigger rooms, others held apart for sleeping spaces or storage. The structure is capable of sustaining thirty at a push and considered spacious for our team of ten. It is too much for two to bear.
I’m struggling now. A part of me doesn’t want to go any further but my stubborn feet have already taken that critical step, crossing into the borderlands that exist between in and out, what could be achieved and what is not, between Adam and me.
Above, the sun is yellow, banal.
I’m out of the suit and breathing recycled air. I should feel less restricted but I don’t. Pressure is building, pressing inwards, a gravity of the mind that eats dreams. For, if dreams are made of anything, surely they are made of light? Tiny electrical flares grow sluggish in my brain, each containing a universe slightly different to ours.
Soon I will forget; there is no room for them here.
I enter the kitchen to see a man with his back to me and feel the last flickers of resistance.
It is Adam. I love this man more than I love myself. He is father, brother and son made one flesh. The thought of him warms me, completes me, makes it safe.
He stoops to pick up something from a lower draw, a long slab of firm jelly. He begins to cut it into slices for our dinner. He’ll add the flavour later.
It is Adam. I hate this man. He is pathetic, he drags me down, he’s in the way, a mote in the path of god. The urge to take his knife and turn it against his eyes sweeps over me.
He pauses, having heard my entrance.
It is Adam. I feel nothing. The name is a label, useful only for identification. Is this man real? Does he even exist?
Potential truths rush through me, desperate to be heard before extinction.
Adam bores me, infuriates me, intrigues me, makes me cold, hot, wet, anxious, malevolent, funny, wishful, bashful, murderous, insane, nostalgic –
His eyes meet mine.
And my many states fold inward, defining and confining. I just have time to wonder, what will be true today?
It is Adam. I feel conflicted. He isn’t a friend I’d choose but we are companions brought close by shared horror. I wish he was dead, I’m glad he isn’t. Guilt and frustration sit side by side in my guts, holding hands.
The truth is we are all things, held in readiness, until we are in company. That is the knowledge that I took from Jeb’s dripping neural net. Our grandfather’s learned that the only thing stopping them from ascension was each other. Each human being a living mirror to hold the shape of their neighbour, reflecting fragments of what could be and making those fragments real. A mutual stunting, a grand denial of greatness.
But mirrors can be broken.
Adam smiles, glad to see me and, as usual, I smile back. I’m no killer, it isn’t in me today.
(Original Prompt 1: My prompt would be a world where quantum mechanics applies to people (in particular the idea of superposition). I'm particularly thinking of weakly interpreting this in a way where people can overlap in the same space and time (possibly unless measured). What implications does this have for the world and culture? Bonus points for combining this into one of the previous prompts )
(Original prompt 2: So my prompt is a use of the word 'borderlands')
I’ve been a bit quiet on the writing front these last few weeks. I’ve not been loafing, honest! It’s just that writing a novel seems to be a lot less sociable than writing flash fiction.
On the plus side I’ve got a story, ‘Marble’, being hosted over at John Xero’s place for his Xeroversary. Go check it out!
Anahi’s blood began to flow through the pipes like thick red sauce. Delicate instruments probed her body, testing her muscles and bones for signs of degeneration. The process of testing and reheating took eighteen hours from start to finish and Anahi dreamed throughout.
At its climax, the tubes detached from her neck, stomach and thighs, and the plugs auto-sealed, artificial umbilical’s that marked her second birth. This time round however, she didn’t cry.
Deftly, a needle extended from the slab and into her forearm, a cocktail of nutrients and adrenaline accelerating her return to consciousness.
Anahi’s eyelids fluttered twice then opened. Two inches from her nose was the curving roof of her capsule which diffused the light outside.
Bolts slid back, the lid hissing softly as it popped open. Anahi pressed the button to release her from the harness and floated upwards, reaching for the railing that ran the shuttle’s short length.
She froze mid motion, the sight of her hand stopping her in her tracks. The skin had paled significantly, and hung loosely across her knuckles. She regarded it without expression, feeling detached. The bony fingers belonged to an old woman, not to her.
They’d warned her that this would happen. Her superiors had only slowed her body for the journey, not stopped it completely. Removed but not immune to the ravages of time. Complete freezing was unreliable, the risk of brain damage too high and they needed her functional, not beautiful.
She dismissed the welling emotions with a practical little sigh and opened the locker containing the pieces of her suit. She attached them one by one, finishing with the helmet which lit up as it clicked into position. Data began to steam along the inside of her visor, telling her that the shuttle had arrived on schedule and was in operational condition. She requested an external view but quickly turned it off. The nebula’s dust so thick here that there was nothing to see, as if they were submerged in dirty water rather than the reaches of space.
Dull as the dust was to look at, its composition was vital and Anahi chewed at her lip as she read the analysis, only relaxing when she checked and double checked that the hydrogen levels were within acceptable parameters.
The next thing was to check the Seed itself. Her mouth curled into a sneer at the thought. Why not call it a bomb? That’s what it was in reality, the biggest and best explosive that humanity could devise. They would say that its purpose was to create rather than destroy. She would say it would do both, the former requiring the latter. A man made deity of destruction and creation. She examined it carefully, knowing there was no rush. Like her the Seed had aged a little on the outside but was still perfectly capable of serving its purpose.
Everything was ready. All she had to do now was give the order and the process would begin. The Seed would flare into life, sending a shockwave through the nebula that would begin its collapse. In fifty million years or so, a star would be born where her shuttle now drifted and she would be part of it, her carbon woven into its heart.
Anahi shook her head. She didn’t buy the romantic spin. This was about resources. This was about her punishment. She called up their faces, one by one, on her visor, surprised by how many of them she’d forgotten. They were irrelevant to her now, as irrelevant as she was to the star she was about to create or to the people who would live and thrive in its warmth millions of years after she was gone.
Remorseless, she pressed the button.