My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

May 23

Review: Borne

Category: Opinions

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer is one of his most unsettling and endearing novels; it has the brutal edginess of some of his earlier work, but also a nuanced softness to draw in readers who might not otherwise go for Weird fiction. Borne has its monsters, biotech abominations, hideous children surgically given vicious claws, the soft skin of their throats replaced with reptilian scales, anything to make them better killers that don’t end up prey to worse killers. See, the world has collapsed, no governments, no countries even, just cities and land, nameless decaying cities sitting on decaying bits of land. We kind of know the hows; climate change, war, pollution, the explosion of biotech. Biotech was supposed fix everything, but the minds behind the technology decayed just like everything else.

Borne’s story is told by Rachel, a scavenger in a place its inhabitants simply call, the city. Nobody is alive from “before” to know what the now useless maps used to label the place. The city is blessed, but mostly cursed by biotech that was birthed in the labs of the Company. When the Company realized that the city was beyond help, and hope, they simply started releasing their creations into the field. Creations like Mord, a ten-story tall bio-engineered grizzly bear of near-human intelligence… with the ability to fly. Though, somewhere along the way, that intelligence turned to madness. Mord’s original purpose was to protect the Company, but once again, decay stepped in;, it touched Mord, his mind, his purpose. He went rogue, smashing, tormenting, ruling the city through his deranged whims. Rachel is a scavenger for a former Company technician, Wick, her business partner, friend, sometimes lover. One day, while climbing a napping Mord, searching for the rich salvage that’s often tangled in his fur, she finds a… thing. It looks like some sort of sea anemone crossed with a squid that in sum looks kind of like a bizarre vase. It makes a humming sound and smells of the oceans of “before.” Its color shifts from purple to blue to sea green, Rachel has to have it. She is pretty sure it is biotech, and Wick is certain that it’s Company-related and potentially dangerous. Wick wants to cut it up and figure out what it is, what it was created to do, but Rachel makes a decision that will change their lives utterly. She decides to keep it, she even feels protective of it. The “it” soon becomes a “he,” and he is Borne. A sentient, funny, child-like, intelligent, caring person, who isn’t a human being. That’s one of the first things Rachel decides to teach Borne, that he’s a person. She raises him as her own, tries to teach him the lessons all parents hope to teach their children, especially right from wrong. Only later does she realize that while she feels certain that deep down Borne is a good person capable of finding a good purpose, he might also be a very dangerous person.

Borne is the sort of novel that can’t be neatly tucked into this or that genre, which is why it feels so accessible. I think just about anybody can pick up and enjoy it; there’s sci-fi, there’s grit and violence, there’s elements of modern Weird fiction, but ultimately it’s a story of people trying to be a family in a world that may no longer allow such fragile things to exist. It’s about the relationship between a mother and her child, a child who may have been created to be a monster, or simply a being with a morality that is suited for a monstrous world. Is it wrong to love him? Is it wrong to want him to be safe? To be happy? Through Rachel and Borne we get to examine such concepts, such questions.

The novel is also a true testament to VanderMeer’s skill toward world-building. Mord is a GIANT bio-engineered flying bear, yet nothing about him seems false, or overdone, or hokey. Mord feels as real and as serious as a heart attack. Borne is this anemone squid vase thing with multiple eye-stalks, whose shape and color can change at will, yet one never doubts the reality of his existence, nor does one ever doubt his personhood. The ability to create such characters and make them feel absolutely real shows a total confidence in one’s use of craft, confidence that in VanderMeer’s case, is not at all misplaced.

Borne is a must-read novel, one that will endure because it touches on questions almost everyone asks themselves at one time or another; Why do I exist? Why am I here?

No comments

May 19

Just thoughts

Category: Life,Random Thought

I’m tired.

I’m nervous.

I’m alone.

I miss… someone who probably doesn’t want their name written here.

I want to write about some books I’ve read, records I’ve listened to, movies I’ve seen.

I have a bunch of tattoos to post.

I realized the long-time goal of acquiring my dream headphones. They’re the headphones I’ll use until I quit breathing, which is a little morbid.

I’m a little morbid.

I’ve lost much.

 

2 comments

Apr 21

Kell!

Category: Life,Opinions

Meet Kell!

So, I often do things on a whim. Some weeks ago, out of nowhere I said to my assistant, Jillian, “Okay, we’re going to the pet store… I want a fish.” Specifically, a betta, true fishy loners. Male bettas kill each other on sight, and females don’t fare much better, save for their brief mating periods. They’re an odd breed. Still, they’re gorgeous, and require very little care aside from their meals. They breathe air from the atmosphere just above the water’s surface, making them ideal for folks who want a beautiful fish that doesn’t take up much space.

At any rate, I’m quite fond of my mysterious little betta, Kell, named after the equally mysterious magician from V.E. Schwab’s spectacular Shades of Magic book trilogy. Kell hides in his skull, or his cave, or rests on his little Betta Hammock. Really, a Betta Hammock, a plastic leaf anchored near the water’s surface so the betta has a place to relax and breathe easy. I bought it because it was pretty, but otherwise I figured it was a scam. Turns out, Kell’s enjoying a nap right now, it’s his favorite furniture.

More tomorrow.

7 comments

Apr 12

It’s alive!

Category: Life

So, apparently the blog crashed around the 5th of April. Some file corrupted itself, or the Russians got me, or something. Whatever happened, the blog was well and truly fucked. For those of you inclined toward math, yes, it crashed around the 5th, and I didn’t notice a thing until the 11th. Now, this is so cliche, but maybe it became a cliche because it’s actually true… After I realized the blog was gone, maybe permanently, I realized how I’ve neglected it completely, and I regretted both. I regretted the neglect, and I regretted the loss. I really did feel loss. I’ve had a few close calls with the blog over the years, but it was always because I did something. I changed some setting, or fucked with a live php file, or SOMETHING, and if I did something… I could fix it. With this crash, I’d done absolutely nothing. I hadn’t changed any settings, edited any files, no update went sideways, nothing. I had nothing to fix, because I didn’t break anything. That’s why I was so concerned; the blog was dead, and it had no reason to be dead. I’ve also never done a backup, so that didn’t help my fear. I couldn’t log into the blog via my host, GoDaddy, but I could get at some things via WordPress.com, things like… VaultPress! It’s a backup service I’ve been paying for so quietly that I forgot I even had it. The basic service is really cheap, and really really really worth it. I loaded a backup from April 2nd… obviously, it worked like a charm.

We’re back… let the posts fly!

4 comments

Jan 2

I’m…

Category: Life

Way down… Way down… Way down…

2 comments

Dec 30

And tomorrow…

Category: Life

So, it’s almost my birthday, in just over an hour… I’m going to be old, I can’t believe how old.

I’ll try to write something more profound tomorrow.

5 comments

Dec 28

Post holiday post

Category: Life

So, Christmas is past. I wasn’t visited by any spirits, not this year anyway. I’m not quite enough of a fuckup.

Maybe next year?

1 comment

Dec 7

WordPress 4.7 for the holidays…

Category: Life,Opinions

So, we are now running WordPress 4.7. It wasn’t the usual auto update, which was kind of exciting. I never do the recommended backups, which means that if the install went sideways for whatever reason, I could potentially lose the entire blog. It didn’t happen, a Higher Power seems to want the blog around awhile longer. As for WordPress 4.7 itself, just watch this spectacularly bad intro video…


Honestly, I LOVE WordPress, I wouldn’t use anything else, but that video… David Fincher tells this hilarious story about the first test screening of Seven, these three mid-western school-teachery ladies go storming past him, trying to get away from the theater as quickly as possible, and one of them says to the others, “the people who made that movie should be killed.” A little harsh for Seven, the movie was beautiful, but not NOT fitting for the WordPress 4.7 intro.

2 comments

Dec 3

A shared experience

Category: Life,Opinions

So, I find this kind of fascinating… It seems there’s this shared experience surrounding Julie Hayden. It always starts, “Well, I’d never heard of Julie Hayden, then I listened to Lorrie Moore reading Day-Old Baby Rats on the New Yorker Fiction podcast. I was blown away, the story was absolutely amazing.” We listeners try to find out more about Julie Hayden and find very little, which is depressing, because Day-Old Baby Rats is beautiful. So we dig a little harder, and find a little more. We TRY to scare up a copy of The Lists of the Past, Hayden’s out of print short story collection, and some find it, usually through America’s arcane library system, or they luck out at some vintage bookshop. Either way, whether we’ve found Lists or not, we do whatever’s in our power to make Julie Hayden known again; a blog post, an essay, something. Though, as far as the somethings go, writer, Cheryl Strayed, has gone the farthest. Thanks to Strayed, finding The Lists of the Past is no longer limited to libraries and book resurrectionists, she got Lists re-printed.

It makes one seriously consider the whole ripples in a pond thing. Lorrie Moore started the ripples, everybody I know of who heard that New Yorker Fiction podcast thought the story was gorgeous, and that it was heartbreaking that Julie Hayden went out of print, before her early death. Lots of us tried to do something to bring Hayden back, but Cheryl Strayed really did something. It all started with a shared experience that created ripples that created waves that brought a dead writer’s dead work back to life.

No comments

Nov 30

Julie Hayden Revisited

Category: Life,Opinions

So, some time back I wrote about Julie Hayden, a very brilliant writer who lead a very tragic life that ended too early and so very bleakly. When I wrote about her, her work was totally out of physical-print, and barely available digitally. I was shocked that a Google search turned up almost nothing about her. If not for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, I never would have heard of Julie Hayden. I wrote my original post so that it might show her life and her work to even one more person. I just wanted to do whatever I could to keep her name around.

Well, every so often I search iBooks for works I’ve yet to own as ebooks. Eventually, everything’s going to be an ebook, it’s only a matter of waiting. Last night, I gave Julie Hayden another search… and I hit pay dirt! Julie Hayden’s first and only short story collection, The Lists of the Past, has been re-published, first in print, and then as an ebook.

I love print books, I really do. Having been published a few times I know there’s absolutely nothing like seeing your name and your work on the printed page, it’s beautiful. I also know print isn’t sustainable. Before Hayden’s death in 1981, her work was out of print. Print is expensive, and unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling selling a zillion books a year it’s just not worth the cost it takes to keep your book around. It’s math, ice-cold math. It costs money to print your book, and it costs money to store your book somewhere until money is spent to ship your book somewhere. Staying in print is harder than getting your work published in the first place. Print itself is a dying industry, all because of math, but ebooks are lasting.

As an ebook, The Lists of the Past won’t so easily vanish, Julie Hayden will have a chance at being remembered as she deserves.

1 comment

« Previous PageNext Page »