Archive for February, 2012

Bee Pests

It’s Wednesday again, so time for more updates from the crazy world of learning about bees.  Our equipment shipped from Brushy Mountain yesterday, and all 115 pounds of it attached to three separate UPS tracking numbers left Raleigh about an hour before I wrote this, and should be blocking my way into my own house by tomorrow.  Which means we’ve got a hell of a project set for this weekend as we assemble all the unassembled bits.  We’ve got a little time, but it’d be nice to have all the paint and glue dried well before the bees move in.

Last night’s beekeeping lesson was on the various threats to bees.  Bacterial, viral, mites, and predators.  Surprisingly little about colony collapse disorder (CCD), which I learned isn’t a single event but is a broad umbrella term that covers all instances of “something went wrong with the hive, and we don’t really know what.”  Colony loss is cyclical, and we’re just living in one of the down points in that cycle, made more visible by improved scientific tools, faster communication, larger scale movable apiaries, and probably just a little by a more sensationalized media.  Which loves bees.  I was living in San Antonio when Africanized bees crossed the Rio Grande, and by god, you’d think they were going to KILL US ALL!  KILLER BEES!  RUN!  HIDE!  While I’m not going to raise Africanized bees, they became popular for a reason.  In several ways are easier to handle.

We also learned about mites, moths, skunks, and bears.  It all came with an interesting test.  Apparently what you do is take a cup of powdered sugar, put it into a sifter, and sift it over your hive.  Take a brush, and make sure it gets all down inside.  The causes the bees to be really fluffy and clean themselves.  Which results in them knocking off any pests and being about as cute as insects can be.  An oiled base board will catch the pests and allow for a good count.  If there are any bears, then you might have a problem.  Even one is too many.  Three or more bears found by this test probably mark a colony that can’t be saved.

Or was that the mites test?

I left my notes at home.

Updates on equipment in terms of arrival, assembly, and painting will probably be on Twitter.  Only a few months until we’ll have our dueling hives with their monarchs: Queen Kickass I and Queen Victoria Queen Victoria Queen Victoria.


Mixing Weirds

I trust Joss Whedon.  In multiple ways.  I trust him to tell an interesting and compelling story.  I trust him to create fantastic characters.  I trust him to crush my heart if I should care about any of those characters, typically by stabbing them through the chest with an exploding gun or giant bolt.  God damn you, Joss Whedon.

Wait.  That’s not what I was going to say.  I trust Joss Whedon.  Which is a damn good thing, because few other directors could make me optimistic about the upcoming Avengers movie.  It’s a movie I was otherwise anxious about, entirely because of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I’m aware this is an odd connection to make, somehow holding a George Lucas movie against a Marvel release nearly a half decade later.  So why do I make the Crystal Skull/Avengers connection?  Because both of them mix weirds.

The two entries in the Indiana Jones franchise most people gravitate towards are the first and the third movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade.  Both of these feature dashing college professor Colonel Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr., Ph.D. (seriously, that’s apparently his full name) globe-trotting while looking for Judeo-Christian artifacts, first the Ark of the Covenant then the Holy Grail.  Odd side note, my college anthropology professor actually praised the movies as the best portrayal of archaeology in the movies, because Indy actually has to do research and get his hands dirty in the process of treasure hunting.  The movies present the Ark and the Grail as physical items containing the power of the God of Abraham, or at least the power of Nazi melting special effects.  We, as an audience, accept that Indy lives in such a fictionalized version of our own world, they create a fantasy where the power of God channels through holy physical artifacts.

Then there’s Crystal Skull, which abandons Christian based fantasy and instead goes running around the jungles of South America on the heels of what turns out to be aliens.  Um.  Spoiler alert.

Now, are ancient aliens who guided the machinations of pre-Columbian man any more fantastic than the literal power of God?  No.  However, it’s a very different sort of fantastic, a change in the source of the weird within the stories.  In the end, the movie would fit the themes of Raiders and Crusade if Indy was stopping post-WWII Nazis who fled to South America with the Spear of Longinus.  Alright, yes, apparently he did the Longinus thing in one of the comic books, but that’s not to say that he couldn’t have done so in the fourth movie, let the comic book be damned.  It’s much more the kind of thing that the audience is used to Indy chasing down.  It’s the same reason Temple of Doom, while many find it a lot of fun, just doesn’t quite fit with the other two.

Alright, look, there is more wrong with Crystal Skull than the changing of the weird.  There’s Mutt.  There’s everything getting handed to Indy that he has to work for in other movies.  There’s the fridge.  There’s the damned Tarzan scene that I’ve tried my damnedest to forget.  There’s…look, it just wasn’t that good of a movie, alright?  But this isn’t about why it was a bad movie, it’s why it set off my misgivings about the Avengers movie.

Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor.  Those are the four primary members set up for the Avengers movie, and while there are other main characters, they’re the four who got their own lead-up movies.  When looking at the four, one is clearly not like the other.  Captain America gets his power from an injection, and becomes powerful through science.  Ditto for the Hulk, though he ends up a little more emo about his power.  Iron Man doesn’t get injected with anything, but he is capable of building an insanely powerful exoskeleton powered by an element that doesn’t exist, so again we’re talking about science and technology.

And they’re joined by the literal Norse god of thunder.

Super science, super science, super science, Norse god.  It’s two different weirds, and the movie mixes them together.  Is it any weirder to have the Norse gods directly intervening in the lives of 21st century humans than it is for an industrialist to assemble a mechsuit in a cave in the middle east?  Not at all.  Is it a very different weird?  Absolutely.  Yes, I know, the Norse “gods” in the movies are actually aliens who have technology so thoroughly advanced that it is indistinguishable from science in the pure application of Clarke’s third law.  They’re still Thor, Odin, and Loki living in Asgard, fighting the frost giants of Jötunheimr.  They are the Norse gods.

I have a problem with mixed weirds.  I’m not sure why.  I suspect it has something to do with being asked to suspend my disbelief, then being asked to suspend it in an entirely different way.  It takes a lot of what I’ve heard called “author points.”  Though in this case I suppose it’s filmmaker points.  Maybe that’s why I’m okay with The Avengers, Joss Whedon has a lot of filmmaker points in my book, whereas what points George Lucas had, he lost with the Star Wars prequels.  And man, those have their own problems that I may write about in the near future, especially with the re-release.  But that would involve rewatching them to solidify my thoughts.

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Trying to Understand the IPG/Amazon Fight

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen the online hubbub about a fight between Amazon and IPG over the pricing of Kindle editions.  I’m writing this post free-style as I work my way through some research to try and understand just what the hell is going on, in a hopes that others might understand as well.

First question, who is IPG?  They are the Independent Publishers Group.  According to their website, they were “the first organization specifically created for the purpose of representing titles from independent presses to the book trade,” a mission that dates back to 1971.  In this capacity they act as the distribution point for several smaller publishers, giving them a larger collective voice than they could muster on their own.  Most importantly, for this discussion at least, they offer digital distribution options to the publishers they are contracted with.  Again from their website:

IPG’s e-book program is a turn-key system for its client publishers. They submit—through an automated feature in the private Publisher Resources section of the IPG website—the digital file used to generate the print edition. From that point on the IPG staff is responsible for checking, storing, and disseminating the files; selecting and monitoring trading partners; negotiating the terms of trade with them; and setting the rules as to how much leeway they are allowed to give their customers in regard to viewing content before purchase and duplication after purchase.

They boast a catalog of “about 10,000 e-book titles.”  According to the New York Times, they had 4,443 titles available for Kindle.  “Had” is the important word there.  As of the 21st, none of these titles are available from Amazon electronically.  Amazon pulled the entire IPG catalog from the Kindle store, reportedly over a pricing disagreement as the two sides came to the table to negotiate an extension of their sales agreement.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering two years ago.  On January 30, 2010 Amazon did the same thing.  To Macmillan.  Though Amazon went a little farther, pulling both electronic and print, where now it is only pulling the electronic titles.  The disagreement in 2010?  Macmillan was leveraging their new agreement with the Apple iBooks store in an effort to raise electronic book prices on Amazon, and in general to control what prices Amazon was charging.  This is the so called “agency model” of pricing, contrasting with the older “wholesale model”.  The dispute lasted nearly a week, with Macmillan emerging with an agency model agreement on February 5th.  Harper Collins and Hachette soon followed suit.

This conflict is a little different.  Not because it isn’t still Amazon and a distributor sparring over prices, but because Macmillan is a member of the fabled Big Six, along with Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.  You’ll note that IPG is decidedly not on that list.  Why the different tactic?  Dennis Johnson, co-founder of Melville House and former distribution client of IPG, wonders if “[p]erhaps this time it’s simply sacrificing a smaller fish first, trusting there will be little media coverage for a lesser-known indie than a big, household-name publisher.”  There may be a grain of truth to this.  The Washington Post, for one, has no articles mentioning the IPG situation, whereas they did cover the Macmillan incident two years ago.  The story is, obviously, making its rounds in the industry press, however, and has been well covered by Publishers Weekly.

Johnson goes on to wonder whether this is all “a message to the big houses.”  If nothing else it could be an attempt to create a precedent for a new pricing arrangement, one that can be strong armed against “the kind of companies that don’t have the resources to absorb something like this so easily.”

They will be more damaged, more deeply endangered, than a Big Sixer could have imagined. There’s every likelihood that some of those little publishers sell most of their books on Amazon. This could put them out of business. For others, we could be talking about 20 or 30 percent or more of their business. It’s hard to recover from losses like that.

IPG is not taking this lying down, which is fantastic.  According to the New York Times, they’re asking their “publishers to immediately begin stressing that their books were available in other electronic formats, including from the Amazon rivals Barnes & Noble and Apple.”  IPG’s Mark Suchomel has even told Publishers Weekly that most IPG clients, “will be fine if they never sell another e-book through Amazon.”  IPG is also circling the wagons, attempting to stave off Amazon poaching away a client or two in an attempt to weaken their bargaining power.

In the end, I think I share much of Dennis Johnson’s concerns.  This is an attack that Amazon has launched before, but now against much weaker targets.  I hope IPG keeps fighting.  I hope more people see what’s going on and ask questions.  Look, I love my Kindle.  I like Amazon, in spite the impression my blog may give.  But I don’t want to see them competing unfairly in the marketplace, and attempts to strong arm special deals is exactly that.  We’re already seeing Amazon forced into more equal competition, especially with states like Virginia working to close the so-called “Amazon loophole” with regards to sales tax.  We’ll see how this fight for competitive equality fares.

In the closing words of Dennis Johnson, “Good luck to IPG and its publishers.”


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Bees are Creepy

Marvelous.  But creepy.  Fascinating.  But creepy.

Deeply, deeply creepy.

I’ve heard my entire life about how bees have a hive mentality, but I don’t think I really understood that phrase until last night’s beekeeping class.  I’ve heard about hives having their own immune system, capable of clearing out dead or diseased bees, not allowing sick or invading bees to come into the hive.  Last night I learned that a hive also has a stomach and a brain.  Just one.  Individual bees don’t go out and get a bite to eat or get a drink of water.  Workers go, they get the food and water, and bring it back where it’s shared completely by the members of the community.  A hive will share its food down to the last iota, and only then will it die of starvation as a whole.  The hive workers will decide, as a whole, when it’s time to forage, when it’s time to kick out the drones, and when it’s time to create a new queen.

The political analogies would make Thomas Payne proud.  Or, perhaps, Karl Marx.  The true power in a hive rests with the workers, not with the queen.  It’s such a poor name for her, she has no control over the population of the hive, she just lays eggs.  With the hive as an organism, she’s just the naughty bits, the pure biological imperative drive.  When the hive determines that she is no longer capable of being an effective queen, they start rearing a new one.  The workers control the creation of a next queen.  I’m not sure if it’s the communist uprising that lead to the USSR, or the French Revolution.  The workers demand new leadership, and they end up with a new queen, but of their choosing.

In the end, the queen has nothing to do with reproduction.  No more so than the cell division in your body has anything to do with reproduction.  The bees are not the organism, the hive is the organism.  It reproduces, but does so through the swarming process, not the egg laying process.  Within the human organism, internal reproduction (cell division) is asexual, external reproduction (baby makin’) is sexual.  With bees, it’s the opposite.  Sexual reproduction within the organism, asexual reproduction to make additional organisms.

It makes me see everything that was wrong with my hive-of-humans story I wrote a few years ago and never found a home for.  I’ll probably end up doing a complete ground up rewrite of the whole thing, once I’ve taken a few more classes about bees.

Creepy, creepy bees.

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Writing Advice from Games

Quick analogy that came to mind the other day.

As computer storage and processing have advanced, the maps for open-world video games have gotten larger and larger.  I’m thinking Fallout.  I’m thinking Skyrim.  I’m thinking…maybe there are games out there made by a company other than Bethesda, but does anyone play them?  Within these Bethesda games, the maps have set points of interest on them.  The first time the player visits each one, he has to either find it accidentally or be told where it is and set out to it.  The second time, the player has a quick travel option allowing them direct access to that location.

This means the first time the player goes to a location, he has to face the challenges on the way.  And has to see all the work that went into creating the landscape.  None of the Bethesda games would be the game they are if characters just jumped from place to place and didn’t see the world in between.

I try to keep this in mind when writing.

Setting descriptions should be front loaded.  This doesn’t mean infodump.  It does mean that a lot of description is necessarily front-loaded in a story.  That first time a character travels a particular city, street, countryside, trail, or any other setting the reader needs to understand where the character is.  Otherwise it’s the “white box” problem that has plagued my first drafts for years.  After that, the character can “quick travel” from point A to point B.  Now, this is going to be a little different from games.  That first time the reader need enough broad details to set the scene.  During the quick travel, either finer details or differences can come up, but the broader details aren’t as essential.

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Flash fiction: Sandwich Theory

Another Friday, another Chuck Wendig challenge.  This week’s prompt:

You have up to 1000 words to write a story — not a scene, but a story — where a character makes a sandwich. Any kind of character, any kind of sandwich, but the point is to infuse this seemingly mundane act with the magic story-stuff of drama and conflict. Make it the most interesting “person-making-a-sandwich” story you can possibly make it. It needs to grip the testicles. It must twist the nipples. It must not let go.

Check out other sandwich stories over on his blog, and my story after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Do It Yourself With Bees

This isn’t going to turn into an entirely bee-based blog, but it will get a little bee-ier as I’m learning about and setting up my hives, then probably again when it’s time to get the honey out of the hive.  Unfortunately one of yesterday’s lessons is that we won’t get any honey until our second summer.  That’s okay.  I can be patient.  I’ve put a lot of fruit trees and bushes into my yard that take several years to start producing.  I don’t expect to see any paw paw fruit until at least 2014, and I might finally get some raspberries or cherries this year if I’m lucky.

That’s fine, no honey this year, I’m getting used to the idea.  Mead is a multi-year process anyway, so a few extra months to get the honey isn’t that bad.  This first year is all about getting a hive set up and happy so it can survive next winter.  Last night was about the actual built stuff, what they call the “woodware” within the beekeeping hobby.  Those big boxes, called “supers,” the frames that go inside of them, the bases they sit on, the doors that let bees in and out, the lids, the lids that go over the lids.  All of it is pine and all of it has to be ordered by next class if we hope to get it all delivered and assembled by the time our bees arrive between early April and mid-May.

Oh yes.  Assembled.  And painted.  There’s a rather strong backbone of do it yourself mentality within the hobby.  Oh sure, you can get your supers pre-assembeled, even already painted, but what’s the fun in that?  Plus things get more expensive because shipping becomes bulkier and there’s a built-in labor cost, a tax against the lazy.  We’re going to be semi-lazy.  We’ll put together our own supers.  I even look forward to painting them, especially after painting a dresser two weekends ago.  We’ll probably draw the line at assembling the frames, each of which are four shaky bits of wood that have to be glued together then reinforced with no less than 8 nails.  For each of 8 frames.  For each of 4-5 supers.  For each of 2 hives.

We’re not going so far as buying the fancy pressed plastic frames that have foundation built in.  Foundation, we also learned last night, is the plastic and/or wax base from which the bees will build, or “draw out,” their comb.  So while we’ll get frames that are prebuilt wooden rectangles, we’ll still have to break a little piece out of each one, set the foundation in place, and then staple back the piece we broke out to keep the foundation from moving.  This is how things are done in beekeeping, fiddly little steps to let you know that you’re actually doing something.

I lobbied for the plastic frames, but stepped down when we multiplied the difference in cost over just how many frames we need to buy.  That’s fine.  I can’t have the entire hobby dropped into my lap and done for me.  Which is why we also decided to assemble our own queen.

This is, apparently, tougher to do, and many first time beekeepers choose to buy their queens preassembled.  The challenges come from identifying the left legs from the right (they come in little labeled baggies, but will sometimes be wrong, and will sometimes open in shipping causing the legs to get mixed up) and in choosing what to include or not.  Just like most LEGO sets have a few extra smaller pieces to allow for packing accidents, the queen will usually come with three antennae even though she only needs two.  In fact, the third can be quite disastrous.  The antennae work not unlike eyes in humans.  Look at the world through one eye, and what you see is basically two-dimensional as you lose depth perception.  Open your other eye, and the world becomes three-dimensional again.  Put the third antenna on the queen, and she can now experience the world in four dimensions, looking through both space and time.

You can understand how this would be disorienting for something with the mental capacity of an insect.

So next week the orders will be placed, and we’ll learn about the various species of bees.  In a few weeks it’ll be assembly weekend and paint party time.  I’ll probably end up posting a couple of pictures from that.

Yeah, I’m getting a little excited about beekeeping, something I didn’t expect.

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Beekeeping: What they Don’t Teach Us

I’ve mentioned my wife and I are getting into apiary.  Our second class is tonight, but two things I’ve already learned:

  1. In spite of the name, apiary is the art of keeping bees not apes making it a slightly less awesome hobby than I expected.
  2. I will not be allowed to put on a bear suit and dump bees on Nicolas Cage’s head.  Puffing the smoker and yelling “How’d it get burned?!” may or may not be okay.

Then there’s the lessons they don’t teach you in class (oddly, the whole “Don’t recreate The Wicker Man” thing was part of the initial meet-and-greet).  I have a coworker who comes from a family of beekeepers and ended up with a bit of good advice that I don’t think will come up in class.

“When the bees arrive they’ll have been in that box for a while.  Just think about that.”

“So they’ll be pissed off.”

“Well, they’ll be swarming, so they won’t sting you.  But it will feel like it’s raining.”

“Raining?”  I think a second.  “Oh.  Raining.  So…don’t hold the box over my head.”

“No, see, they’ll all fly straight up and around you.  I swear the first time I thought it was raining.  You don’t think that insects defecate, but they do.”

So there we go.  Today’s lesson in practical beekeeping.  Bees hold it in during transit and thank their new stewards for releasing them from captivity by anointing them with every bit of bee excrement that built up in their tiny bodies.  Oddly, my wife tried to sell me on bees over apes by pointing out that apes tend to fling their poo.  Suddenly bees have lost their edge in the less-projectile-scatology department.  Just got to tell myself, bees make honey, honey makes mead, mead makes writer happy.

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In Defense of Writing Fan Fiction

This is one of those topics I consider writing about every few months, but never pull the trigger.  I’m not sure why.  It always feels like I’m walking into something whenever I talk about fan fiction, and I do know there’s a lot of voices both for and against the practice.  I can’t in good conscience come out against fan fiction, because that would make me a hypocrite.  The first completed stories I wrote were fan fiction.  No, you may not see any of it.  I’d actually be rather surprised if I could even find it any more, and no that is not being issued as a challenge.  What value is there in fan fiction?  Is there any value?  And how does one move from writing about established characters and settings to original ones?

The first question to ask is: why are you writing fan fiction?  Are you just writing it to be part of that community?  To show off your ideas for what could happen to your favorite characters?  Well, that’s great and fine.  I once said in a blog post that writing isn’t like other art in that people don’t tend to do it just for themselves.  That’s not entirely true when it comes to fan fiction.  Some authors are writing it just for their own sense of gratification.  Others share their work through online sites, forums, or trades, which is fantastic.  There’s a wonderfully supportive online community for fan fiction.  There’s always a writer willing to try something just a little new and different, a reader willing to read, and community member willing to comment.  I still remember those days, though I was writing before became a thing, and I remember the friendliness and support in the community.  Hell, even when I got into meta-fiction built around mocking other fan fiction, targets typically had senses of humor about what they’d written and were supportive of my derivative efforts.

If you want to be part of that, that’s great.  I have nothing I can say but good luck and have some damn fun.

Is there a weird underbelly to fan fiction?  The people who give it a bad name?  Certainly.  I’m not talking about those people, because I suspect you aren’t one of them.  Because I think the best of people that way.  You’re not the person attending a copyright panel at a convention and asking how to protect your fan fiction work from being stolen by the original author behind the world.  Though if you are, don’t be that person.  Please.  There is good within the fan fiction community, but that’s the quickest way to give it a black eye.

Are you writing fan fiction with the dream of being a tie-in novelist?  I can’t go into this.  My impression from panels is that it isn’t the way to go, that tie-in novelists need to be established first.  And that being a tie-in novelist isn’t nearly the fun and games it may appear to be.

Are you writing fan fiction to become a better writer in general?  Aha, here is the meat.  This is where I think there is some tangible benefit to fan fiction writing.  There are freedoms when it comes to writing fan fiction that are helpful to the new writer, but can become seductive.  First, so much of the work has already been done for you, things that can be taken as a given.  The writer is a fan, the readers are fans, so everyone is on the same page.  “Riker walked into Ten Forward.”  Fans of the show know who Riker is, know what he looks like, know his personality and swagger.  They know what Ten Forward looks like, the people likely to be in there, the placement of the bar and tables, the windows.  This is character, setting, and even world building wrapped up in paper with a nice bow and delivered to the fan fiction writer.

You know what?  That’s fantastic.  It means that someone getting into writing can focus just on plot, plot, plot.  Get to know that one word, get to love it, and learn how to tell compelling stories.  At some point all the world building, character development, dialogue, and description will break down if there’s not a central plot.

Learning to use pre-built characters is also a first step towards creating and using your own characters.  Working on what makes them tick, keeping their motivations internally consistent.  There are exercises in character dynamics, exercises in character interactions, exercises in character voice.  All are lessons to be gained from fan fiction, all are lessons any writer will need to learn.

I said that things like setting, characters, and world building can be taken as a given.  That doesn’t mean should.  Use pre-built locations to gradually ramp up your descriptive skills.  Yes, we know what Ten-Forward looks like, but what makes it different this particular day?  What’s the atmosphere in there?  This is how to learn the telling detail.  And Riker “walked” in?  No.  Perhaps he swaggered in, since he is Riker after all.  Or he staggers, saunters, strolls, strides.  All of these are ways to walk into a room, but all have slightly different connotations about the character, his personality, and even his body language.  Telling details and more powerful verbs are both subtle but powerful tools, and both can be learned through fan fiction.

The other trick is evolving, and knowing when to move on from fan fiction.  If your plan is to write for a commercial market, eventually you’ll need to throw off the crutches altogether, wean yourself from the teat, and write your own characters and settings.  There’s no need to go cold turkey.  Just like a smoker with nicotine patches, there are ways to step down dependencies on precreated worlds and characters.  Create a new character and have them interact with established characters.  Then do it again, but not make the character a Mary Sue or Gary Stu.  Create a new environment and have established characters interacting with it.  Then take your new character, take your new setting, remove all the established stuff, and send them out into the great unknown with a sack lunch and those stories you’ve learned to tell by playing with other people’s toys.  The biggest danger is getting too comfortable.  Always do one thing in your story that makes you just a little uncomfortable as a writer, it’s the only way to grow.

So is it possible to break into the industry entirely writing with characters and worlds already on television?  Yes.  It’s called spec scripts.  But that’s not exactly fan fiction, and probably a subject for another day.


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Flash fiction: Not An Apology

Another shot at a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge.  This week’s challenge is the unlikeable protagonist.  This went to a rather dark place, I’ll give you that warning right now, and I’m not actually sure I got it quite right.

Not An Apology

DL Thurston

I’m not going to say I’m sorry.  I’m not sorry.

I loved you.  If you can’t see that, that’s not my fault.  But you were imperfect, you were flawed.  I fixed that for you.  You had one leg that was just a tiny bit shorter than the other, so I stretched it.  I may have gone too far, as you then had one leg that was just a tiny bit longer than the other.  So I stretched the other.  You stood so much straighter, and didn’t that help the pain in your back?  That you wouldn’t stop complaining about the pain in your legs, that hurt me.

So I did something for your pain.  Did you know that pain isn’t real?  There is nothing in the nervous system that can be identified as pain.  It’s all in the brain.  So I removed that part of your brain.  No more pain, because who would want to feel pain if given the option?  I didn’t realize that you would strain so hard without the pain, I didn’t realize you would twist your own arms far enough to break your bones.  I heard them, and it broke my heart.  I didn’t want you to break them anymore.

Titanium is so strong, so light, so elastic.  That’s why they use it in golf clubs.  That’s why I used it in you.  It won’t bend.  It won’t break.  Bone is so fragile, so unnecessary.  I’m jealous of your new skeleton, I really am.  I would do it myself, if there were anyone else nearly so brilliant as me who could do the surgery.  Isn’t that enough?  To know that I gave you something that I cannot give myself?

But then you cried.

You’re so beautiful.  So very beautiful.  It’s why I loved you so.  But when you cry, it’s hidden.  Your eyes, so clear and blue, become bloodshot and cloudy.  Your skin, so soft and pale, becomes red and puffy.  I don’t think you realized just how ugly crying made you.  I’m sure you wouldn’t have continued if you’d known.  You put me in such a difficult position.  I couldn’t take away your emotions, that just wouldn’t do at all.

Otherwise, how would you love me?

Cauterization was the only option.  You’d have done the same.  If you really sit down and take a moment to think of this all rationally, if you’d stop letting your emotions get in the way.  Shouldn’t you be happy you still have them?  I let you keep them.  You’re welcome.

Every asymmetry I fixed.  Scientists have proven that human concepts of beauty are tied to symmetry.  I moved freckles, I removed moles, did you know your left eye wasn’t quite as blue before I started?  I couldn’t get the teeth right, that’s why I needed to start over from scratch.  I spared no expense.  That’s ivory, the next best thing to your own teeth.  You can keep those.  Consider them my gift to you.  They’re molded to your mouth anyway, they would be of no use to me.

I did this all because I loved you.  But now, I wish I knew how to say this, you’re just not the woman I fell in love with anymore.  What we had was wonderful, and I won’t forget the time you’ve spent with me down here.  I’m not going to mince words, you deserve so much more than that.  I’ve found someone else.  And she’s perfect.

Well.  Nearly perfect.

But I can fix that.

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