The Road That Leads Home: Forward

I haven’t updated this blog in a really long time. Life gets in the way, I suppose. This post will be the first of many in which I publish, piece-by-piece, what will probably be the most challenging piece of writing I’ve ever written. It’s a novel, and something that I’ve been slaving over for a very long time.

This first installment is what I’m labeling Forward V. 2.0.1. It’ll probably get many more edits and revisions as time goes on, but this is the latest version. Please, take some time to read it and give me your thoughts. There’s not a lot of context right now, but it’ll become clearer what the book is really about as time goes on.


Forward by Freya H’val r’ Earth’van

Congratulations! You have made the questionable decision to pay for a book that’s about my life. And what can I say about my life? There are a lot of people who think they know more about me than I do, and on my laziest days I’d rather just defer to them than answer that question. If you’re human, it’s likely that your grandparents would have considered me a troublemaker. “Good riddance,” croaked your grandfather, “Earth doesn’t need some stinking half-alien to rock the boat.” If you’re h’tro, then I am very surprised you’re reading this because I didn’t know anyone on that miserable mud ball could read English.

I guess that’s where I should start. My name is Freya, and I’m half-human and half-h’tro. For you Earthlings, h’tro are aliens from the planet H’tro. Yeah, I know, original and totally not conceited. It’s totally not like what things would be like if humans named their planet Human. I was born on H’tro to my human father and h’tro mother, but I was raised on Earth in the City-State of Detroit. Perhaps the first thing you notice about me when you see me is that my skin is olive green and I’m seven and a half feet tall, but it’s more likely you’ll notice my four red eyes. But enough about me.

It took no small amount of cajoling by Neal Stephens, the editor of this book, to get me to sit down and write this forward. I only agreed to do it once he promised that he wouldn’t alter anything that I wrote, except to make minor corrections (he has, apparently, found some of my grammar problematic, and in response to that I say, “Relax, Kneel. I did not even try to hard to make this hard four you to do edit so why are you angry for?” [1]).

Now that I got that out of my system, I can get to the promise that I made to Neal to take this forward seriously at some point. I’ll admit that Neal deserves at least that much for all of the hard work he put into this biography. I recall many nights in which our talks stretched long into the night, often into the early morning hours.

Here’s a secret that you should know about Neal, dear reader: the man has a weakness for Chinese food and cold pizza. Now prepare to be scandalized. Sometimes he puts the Chinese food on the pizza in some horrible abomination of do-it-yourself fusion cuisine. That has nothing to do with my story or this book, but I figure if you’re going to trust anyone to compile a book about your life, trust the person that won’t edit his deep and abiding love of General Tso’s pizza out of this forward. (Consider that a dare, Neal.)

Neal is a person of superior patience, and I knew as his project took shape that of all of the people who have attempted to tell my story and failed, he could actually pull it off. Too often previous would-be biographers were biased against me for political reasons, or guilty of the graver sin of being biased in favor of me (also for political reasons). This describes a pattern in my relationship with humans: I am an object for them to poke, prod, and revile. Maybe worst of all, I serve as a living metaphor that they can use to blather on pompously about the human condition.

This book shows, I feel, the most care in its attempts to reckon with the events of my life and what they mean without venturing too far into self-serving commentary or serving an agenda. Really, the only agenda that should be served in these pages is mine, and right now that agenda is feeding my cat and shoving General Tso’s pizza into my mouth.

Thanks, Neal.

So let’s get back to my previous question: what can I say about life? Maybe something like how life flows down the river of time, and the destination is influenced by the source only by means of providing a starting place. The beginning cannot control obstructions, turns, eddies, or the tumult of rapids. The path we take depends on our ability to navigate hazards. We control our destiny as a sailor does a ship.

What a load of pseudo-poetic schlock.

If we compare life to a river, our journey is determined by forces that are largely outside of our control, acted on by the laws of nature. We may steer clear of jagged rocks, or survive being bashed against them, but we are meant to allow the river to take us where it will. More importantly, the source, from where we come, does influence the path. Some of us might not want to admit it, but we’re the effect of a number of causes, and those causes aren’t isolated in one point in time and space. My family was in the boat with me, their influence felt long after they had fallen out and into the river. Lost to time.

When Neal first approached me with the proposal for this book I was skeptical that he could convey my like’s story without serving an agenda, like so many before him. I rejected the idea outright. He was annoying[2], however, and sent me some rough drafts. I read words that I hadn’t read since I left Earth that were written by the hand of my father. I read Neal’s transcript of an interview my brother Scott gave to defend me against specious claims and sensational reporting. Neal sold me on this book when I saw that he had reprinted them without offering unwanted, obtrusive commentary.

Over the months that we communicated it became clear that he trusted the reader to make their own judgements about me, my family, and my life. He scoured old archives in Detroit and found interviews of my brother, father, and step-mother that had been conducted as part of a documentary that never made it off of the cutting-room floor. When he started to piece the parts together in a coherent narrative, and I saw him give the story life, I gladly turned over my own journals and made a special trip to Earth to sit with him and speak about my earliest memories over General Tso’s pizza.

Neal would be loath to admit it, but he deserves the credit. When my cat wasn’t setting off his allergies I was stealing his last slice of pizza, and, perhaps, being too harsh in my criticisms. Despite the passage of time and my charming sense of humor, I still find myself struggling in deep pools of anger. I see no reason to hide this as the book shines an intimate light onto my life that most people would probably shy away from if it were directed at them.

The final product gives, I think, the most accurate representation of the events of my life of any biography about me so far. No story is without flaws, but the shortcomings of this book help to give it context. The records are woefully incomplete, and areas that have been supplemented with my own perspectives, journals, and recollections are where my bias seeps into the narrative of my life. The consequence is that it provides unfiltered insight into how the events impacted me then, and how they have shaped who I am now.

And I won’t allow you to labor under any misapprehension: I do not consider myself human, nor do I consider myself h’tro. I have genes from both, but I am neither. I was once called a Hybrid Human, but I firmly reject that label and all that it entails. My hope is that human readers will approach this with an open mind, and continue the progress made in the last couple of decades to reject the divisive, racist politics of old humanism.

To be a human being is to assert what a human being is, and that assertion is contingent and based on history, time, and culture. Once I was considered to be other than human, and humanity was withheld from me. When being human requites no assertion that withholds humanity from me—when the term Hybrid Human is exposed for the racist construct that it is—I will lay down my proverbial sword. Until then, I chart my own path.

In these pages you will not find a logical Mr. Spock to set against the compassionate humanism of a Captain Kirk, or a human-worshipping Time Lord named The Doctor. You will not find an alien who comes to reject their native ways for the “superior” humanistic values of mankind, serving as a mirror for an anthropocentric gaze. You will find an outcast and a reject who embraced the otherness thrust upon her by circumstance and time.

 

 

 

Freya H’val r’ Earth’van

September 23, 2456

[1] I keep my promises, Freya. -Neal

[2] Some might say dedicated and persistent. -Neal

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Poetry: WORDS TO SAY

“WORDS TO SAY” is a bit of an anomaly for me, and I can’t entirely explain what it means for me or what it means in general. I wrote it one afternoon on the University of Michigan diag sometime around 2007-2008 in a notebook that was emblazoned with the label “Bad Ideas,” shortly after reading “Howl” by Alan Ginsburg.

I take this poem as a parody of my own lack of poetic ability. It lacks sense, pacing, or consistent structure. When all is said and done, I actually really like it. I have a version that I typed out on my Remington Rand Noiseless Model 7 hanging on the wall.


When the trash cans are
      turned over
And the hypocrites come out
      to play,
Swords unsheathed, ready to
Do battle with the
Unquantifiable mechanics
Of the imagination,
The history major weeps,
Weeps at the uselessness of
      his degree,
Wishing he had opted for
Quantum physics or psychology
instead.

The mystery man with
      a washboard
Plays green notes and hums out
      a rhythm,
Looking pale, mimicking a master
Of the forlorn art of
      Folk Music.
The hypocrites pay him no mind
As they lose their battle.
In full retreat they flee a ghost
That never had any intention of
      haunting them.

The history major
      Weeps.

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Short Story: Fiction

“Fiction” is an abject failure for me. I first wrote it years ago in a beginner’s creative writing class as a two-page writing exercise. It started as a guy in a cafe musing to himself about how the process of putting ideas on paper was, at best, an absurd enterprise. Later, I took the basic framework and expanded it into a story that used the process of writing a short story as a framing technique to ground the narrative.

While I do think that my attempt at a “story within a story” wasn’t that bad, the story suffers from cardboard characters that are underdeveloped and fairly one-dimensional. I even sneaked a criticism of my own writing into the story via the framing (and I had a good chuckle about that). The narrative, which I’ve since cleaned up a bit, suffered from what I liked to call “inexperience” and it shows.

Still, I wanted to post this story so that I could share one of my failures. And, to be sure, I treat my experiences in life like a science experiment. Failures are not to be used as an indictment against your ability, or your worth. Failure is a tool for learning and growing.

So what did I learn from writing this story? I learned that properly grounding a story in location makes the story feel like it’s happening. Paying attention to the character’s surroundings and painting a picture of the scene in the reader’s mind is vital. I also learned that I overused “to be” verbs to the detriment of the narrative flow, and even now I find myself overusing them in my fiction writing.

This story is about 2,350 words. It has some sexual references. The story is below the fold, after the link.

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Flash Fiction: Noir

“Noir” is my most recent bit of writing. I wrote it last night while the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Big Goodbye” was on in the background and I was feeling particularly doleful about personal matters. I consider it to be a bit of a spoof on a lot of the themes of your run-of-the-mill noir or hard-boiled detective story. It’s only thirty-six words long (yes, that’s 36), so it’s a pretty quick read. I chuckle when I read it, so I hope it’s at least good for that.

There is some strong language at the end of the story, so here’s the fair warning.

—————–

Deep, weary sigh. Rubbing temples, considering pouring a few fingers of rum. A few pulls on a cigar would be nice. Looking in the mirror and seeing more white hair.

I’m sick of your bullshit, world.

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Short Story: Zombie Jesus Ate My Soul; or, A Reverse Sacrament

“Zombie Jesus Ate My Soul; or, A Reverse Sacrament” is the first long-form short story I shall be posting here. The idea for “Zombie” came about one afternoon when I decided that I wanted to write a story with a character that spoke using split infinitives and functional shifts. A functional shift occurs when one uses a word outside of its original syntax, such as when a noun is used as a verb. For example, the sentence “I couched with my friends all day” uses the noun “couch” as a verb, and from the context we can assume that it means that the person spent the day with their friends.

The story doesn’t actually have a zombie Jesus in it, so you’re not really going to get a feeling for what the story is about from the title. One of my friends who read it shortly after I wrote it described it as a monologue with different parts of my psyche (who are represented by the secondary characters). I think this might be a pretty good description.

The story is written in first-person present tense, so it has a stream-of-consciousness quality to it. The main character is not designed to be entirely accessible. I certainly don’t intend for him to be a sympathetic character. I had problems writing from his perspective because he doesn’t really give much agency to the people around him, especially the female characters. I hope his point of view isn’t confused with my own.

Anyway, this story is about 2,800 words. It’s meant for a mature audience, as it contains strong language and some sexual references. The story is below the fold, after the link.

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Poetry: Indecision

the_scream

About four years ago, while I was a junior at the University of Michigan, I had an experience with anxiety and clinical depression. Both were serious enough for me to have had to withdraw from my classes to seek help, but before it got to that point I was still able to reflect on what I was feeling inside.

One night, during Michael Hinken’s class on creative non-fiction, I remember experiencing an intense sense of panic before finally rushing out of the room. I wrote this poem shortly after to try to capture it while I was still depressed, so it has a sense of hopelessness and I would go so far as to say it’s awfully close to maudlin.

I don’t feel that way now, so I feel fairly comfortable sharing it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do anything more with it. It’s still a little too close.

———————————

…Thinking…
    …and…
        …thinking…
But not acting.
You hear many voices
In your head
All of them your own
Pulling at the you they make one
Pulling in a thousand different directions
You want to scream
Not for validation
Or attention
Not to
Silence the voices
But because you worry
Because you can’t stop worrying

Fidgeting
Your heart beats
Faster and fasterandfaster
You swallow once
Twice
Your eyes dart
Looking for an escape
A fire exit
The shuddering breaths come hard
Palms slick
Insides wiggling
You get up and run
They stare at you like you’re crazy
You don’t think you are
    …think…

Fleeing or
Searching?
Looking for an answer to a question
You don’t know how to ask
And
    …thinking…
        …thinking…
The air outside feels fresher
Freer
But is it?
Or is it illusion?
The beat slows, the pounding
Less like a drum and more
Like a ticking clock
Regular, safe

Illusion…
    …obsession…
        …thinking…
Worry about what?
What’s so scary?
Walls of the world press down
Shrinking
You’re a mote
And nothing.
And you think
And think
Never do.
Never escaping.

You’re trapped in a cage.
The cage is you.

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Short Story: Conversations on Death

“Conversations on Death” is an early piece of experimental writing that I consider partly a failure. I wrote it close to seven years ago in Ann Arbor in a cafe, and it’s very loosely based on an actual conversation I overheard (the resemblance it bears to the original conversation is the general topic, the tone of the speaker, and the the crass nature of the narrative).

The idea behind this narrative was to tell a story focused on only one half of a conversation. No action is described, and no quotes are used to denote the dialogue because the entire narrative is comprised of speech. I had fun writing it because I only crafted one half of the conversation as I wrote it, but I feel that if you fill in the blanks you can get a fairly good idea about what the other half of the conversation is about.

I consider it a failure in part because there’s no action. It’s just a series of conversations that take place on a cell phone in a cafe, and you only get half of the dialogue. There is a whole story, really, in it. Maybe I’ll take another look at it, but I consider this a finished draft.

I still come back to this story from time to time because I wonder if I made the right decision with the dialogue. Instead of spelling out abbreviations as “GPA” I wrote them phonetically, like “gee-pee-eh.” I felt that made it feel more organic to the dialogue that writing out the letters. I also spelled out numbers instead of using numerals, which I’m less sure about.

Anyway, on to the story. It’s 1413 words, and has strong language and sexual references.

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