I’m not an animist, but watching the sun sparkle on the water at the edges of the shadow of that old cypress, I can see how someone could wonder if there wasn’t some sort of spirit or essence or godling showing itself out of the water, the tree, the sun, or all three.
This isn’t Yellowstone falls or the Badlands or any of the great attractions we get so excited about – – and I’ve seen both I mention, that’s why I picked them – – but it’s beautiful (aside maybe from what the wind did to the mic – – sorry about that). It’s easy to get jaded about the little things and the close to home. We build up the big sights and experiences and events so much it’s easy to conclude that everyday life and experiences must innately be boring, so we should be bored.
But beauty and engagement (the opposite, kinda, of boredom) are close at hand if you can give the jaded big-wow-glutton in us all the word to sit down, shut up, and let the excited kid inside a shot at enjoying the little things. Little things like the sun sparkling off the tiny wavelets of a lake on a breezy day.
No, it’s not. My name isn’t Gerald, of course. But my newest short story, My Name Is Gerald, is now available.
Here’s the blurb:
Gerald is a lonely man, a shut-in who spends his time dreaming and watching the skies over his rural Nebraska hometown on the eve of the quincentennial. What he observes in those skies may lead him to find his own freedom… or into a new captivity.
My Name Is Gerald is a short story of about 5300 words.
If you backtrack a little, you’ll find my previous two blog entries have been about this story. One of those two contains an excerpt from the rough draft, which made it into the final version with only a little editing.
Here’s where you can find it. Updates will be added as it is distributed to the various major ebook sellers.
Here’s my little blogging delay, 9 lbs and 1 oz of brand new baby boy named Cuinn. He was born late on the night of the 17th and we’ve been busy ever since adjusting to his new presence. We’re not the only ones adjusting. His two big brothers, 15 and 2, are adjusting as well.
On the writing front, I’ve managed a few hundred words on a promising little short story about aliens, death, love, duty, and flowers—working title, “The Flowers of Dawn”. I know that’s a sadistically tiny teaser for anything, but I’m not sure where it’s going yet and most of my attention is on, you know, domestic stuff. I’m also not saying more about that story because as those of you who write probably know, sometimes a promising story stalls and goes into the trunk or gets cannibalized into other stories, taken apart into ideas and recycled.
But that’s enough about writing. I just wanted to do the thing all the cool new parents are doing and tell you how awesome I think our new baby is.
He’s awesome. And he still has that new baby smell.
Aren’t you jealous?
I’ve just published this piece of flash fiction on Smashwords, where it makes title #35 I have published with them. Over the next couple of weeks it will percolate through the virtual distribution pipeline to various venues, links to which I keep over to your right, in the sidebar, at the very top. Socrates, Unafraid is short, sweet, and free. Since it is free, I thought I would share it here as well. If you enjoy it… well, I’ve just told you where to find the rest of my work, haven’t I? 🙂
By S. A. Barton
Copyright 2013 S. A. Barton
The cup slips from my fingers, as it always has. It shatters between my feet, losing itself on the marble as the fragments scatter, white on white. For a moment, the shards persist. Then they become faded, then translucent. Then they are gone, and I am alone. There is me, sitting before the garden that wreathes the edges of the portico in flowers, my chair, the table, the empty flagon. Were I solid, the poison would churn through my guts. I sit, regarding the nodding heads of the flowers, and imagine it burning. Instead, unseen, it nevertheless fades into invisibility, into nothingness, as the cup has.
Did it exist? Did the cup? Did I? I smack my lips at the saccharine and heavy aftertaste the poison has left as I watch yellow sulfur moths stitch unsteady paths among the dusty red of the roses. A chime sounds, high and tinkling: once, twice, thrice.
My body is ready. The chime has sounded each day as my body has stood ready, untouched, as thirty thousand days and thirty thousand cups have passed.
It, this body, stands among ninety-nine others; none have stirred. I can sense so. They stand motionless and ready in ranks, in a square, in a ruined acropolis meant to stand at the center of a new and untarnished humanity, spit out at last into the stars from the rotting, collapsing womb of a spoiled and dying Earth, a last paroxysm of the self-preservation urge of a species.
Around the ranks of these carbon-tubule humanoid frames engineered to endure eons and bear the minds of we the last teachers of Earth, arrayed against the smooth concrete walls, are honeycombed a thousand incubators.
Within them, thirty thousand days old, long turned to motes of dust, are a thousand thirty-two-cell human embryos, selected to bear the genetic diversity needed to seed a new humanity from among them. All poisoned by the subtle traces of heavy metals and radioactives in the atmosphere, undetectable from an Earth which sent this last doomed gasp. Perhaps there were a people here once as well, alien and yet enough like us to drown in their own waste and violence as we have. If there were, they have left less of a trace than we have. Only the poisons that have destroyed our final offspring remain.
I stare at the blank marble floor, contemplating the sunset not yet here that my virtuality will bring, and the sleep, the waking, and cup thirty thousand and one.
It is enough. Finally enough. For the first time, I answer the chime.
I have spent thirty thousand days in hiding, in grief, in a solitary despair at the fate of humanity. I sense the others have left their bodies inactive as well, for the same reason, I assume. I cannot imagine another.
But there are still we final hundred. Our bodies, our fleshly human bodies, are forsaken. But our minds, our thoughts: we are human in those. At long last I accept that it must be enough. It must: it is all there is. We still might build and grow, construct new bodies and load them each with one of our hundred minds. Time and experience will change all of us, new and old, and finally as centuries pass we will diverge, until from a hundred seeds there will be thousands and millions of us, different enough in time to be called different individuals, if sprung from the identical hundred roots.
I open my eyes; carbon laminate eyelids unshroud lenses of flawless and smooth diamond. I look out across the ruined acropolis, the still forms of my ninety-nine inert companions, the thousand dust-shrouded incubators become tombs.
None of those things are there. I stand, robotic limbs locked in place but warming with current, loosening, in a cylinder of industrial diamond mounted upon a modest pedestal of plain marble. My eyes, not needing the action but driven by the appendix of a biological reflex embedded in my virtual mind, blink once, twice, thrice in surprise, diamond regarding diamond. And my focus shifts, and I look beyond.
There is the acropolis, clean and smooth, the concrete hidden behind marble façade. Lights, aimed into the great vault above, reflect a comfortable and warm sunlight upon the thousand incubators, standing open and doorless to display the guts from which sprang the last thousand human beings.
Of my ninety-nine companions, no sign at all.
Before me, a dozen children mill about a single adult. One of the children reaches up and tugs at the dusty red rose of her blouse.
“The Unawakened, teacher. His eyes opened. Does that mean he’s not The Unawakened anymore?”
The teacher turns to me, eyes widening, mouth forming an O of surprise. I smile, finally.
Even late, teaching is what I am for. And there are children here after all.
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It’s just one of those days.
Roughly 8 hours ago, I thought to myself: it’s been a couple of days, I should put up a nice blog post. Maybe something topical, maybe something science-fiction-y. Maybe something about one of my stories, like the excerpt of a work in progress I did a couple of entries back.
Instead, I’m writing a Seinfeldian post, by which I mean a blog post about nothing. Don’t worry, even something about nothing is still something, not nothing. I think.
In any event: it has been one of those not-too-productive days where what I really want to do is to be a complete slacker. Only I know from experience that if I just sit around like a sessile lifeform all day, I will regret it when I roll into bed at the end of the night.
And I know from extensive personal experience that mooning over regrets is one of the least productive things it is possible for a human being to do.
So, blog ideas not forthcoming, I decided to tinker with an old story idea that I had put aside months ago and tinker with it to see if I could breathe some new life into it. Maybe I did; in any event, I now have some jots and scribbles about how to proceed with a maybe-interesting idea where I didn’t before. It has now moved from my ‘unformed ideas’ pile to my ‘want to take a stab at writing this soon’ pile. That’s productive.
Now I’m writing the blog entry I was too uninspired to write. Double progress.
And I’m pretty sure I know how to finish that ‘Speed Glacier’ story I excerpted here. As I mentioned earlier. Triple progress.
Not too bad for one of those days.
So, one of my ebooks has broken the top 100,000 on Amazon with a sales rank somewhere around 85,000.
Usually, authors don’t regale you with tales of their sales until they’re on the NYT bestsellers list or they can tell you they’re number one.
But I’m starting from zero, and although I’m not naive enough to think that breaking 100K on Amazon is a ticket to the big time, I am hopeful enough to think that it might be the start of bigger and better things.
Now, usually my reaction to a itty bitty sign of success, be it the growing sales rank of a story I like very much, or something else like the first radish shoots of the season in my garden, is not immediately joy as you might think. My first reaction is impatience, which I think is a very Murican reaction. I’ve grown to recognize this reaction as not such a good thing, as overdramatic and melodramatic. So when I looked and saw this story gaining traction and starting to sell faster than my others, I took that impatience, told it to please be quiet and go sit down, and wrote a blog post instead.
A better reaction to a bit of positive news is a smile. Writing a couple of hundred words about it has helped me to smile instead of complain.
If you happen to buy a copy of this story, Out of the Cold, from Amazon for 99 cents, so much the better.
Edit 2/2/13: My, ratings can shift quickly. Out of the Cold has dipped back below the 100,000 ranking. It was fun while it lasted; we’ll see if it isn’t back up in the ratings soon. My bet is that it will be.
Bullets for Buddha has been on Amazon since February 2012. 75% of the copies that have sold there have been sold in the last 3 weeks. I’m not sure why. Is is just because the word ‘bullet’ and the word ‘Buddha’ really don’t go together, so it makes people look twice?
Is it just because sometimes, things happen and nobody really knows why? Sort of like the success of 50 Shades of Grey.
Of course, I’m selling nowhere near 1% of what 50 Shades has sold. I must resist the temptation to write 50 Shades of Gautama. I mean, I do like money. On the other hand, I also like to sleep at night. Don’t get me wrong, my goal is to sell my stories; that means my goal is to write things that people will enjoy reading. I don’t think I would enjoy writing 50 Shades of Gautama. The bottom line there isn’t so much ‘artistic integrity’, whatever that means, but that if I’m not enjoying writing, it’s probably going to show in my writing and then you won’t enjoy reading it.
I don’t mean to say that I think I need to be in a rapture of joy every second that I’m writing. Sometimes I’m tired and I don’t really want to write, but I know I need to forge ahead and make some progress. Sometimes I’m at an awkward spot where I don’t quite know where to take the story I’m writing, and the feeling of being stalled— or of writing a few hundred words and deciding that they’re not the right words and deleting them— isn’t much fun.
I mean I have to like what I’m writing to some degree, or it’s going to be crappy. Just that simple.
Maybe those sudden sales are because a couple of people stumbled across it, and they like what they saw. That sounds good to me, and I think it’s a good story.
After all, I enjoyed writing it.