You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Three Inch Philosophy-

Gastro was self-aware, and self-aware enough to know he was not supposed to be self-aware. Well, supposed to might not be quite right, or so he thought as he moved along in his sluggish manner. Sluggish in the most literal sense. Gastro was aware that he was a gastropod, a relatively common slug. Specifically, he was a Banana Slug. He wasn't sure quite what a banana might be, though he suspected that he might well have come into contact with a banana here or there in his constant feeding forays.

It was on such a foray Gastro was currently schlumphing along. Schlumphing is not a particularly rapid mode of transportation, something you would know if you had spent any time watching a snail or slug progress across any surface. If you have ever spent more than a few minutes watching such progress you are probably either a scientist or a stoner. Nobody else has the patience or that level of interest in the movement of gastropods

Gastro was progressing, albeit slowly, toward a field in which people often walked their dogs for the purpose of exercising and emptying the dogs. Gastro had discovered that the molds that grew on the doggie doo-doo was particularly tasty, and worth the time and effort to travel to the field.

Additionally, it gave him time to think while doing something useful. As he often did, he reviewed the time when he became self-aware. It had happened in an abandoned house, as he crawled across some things he later identified as books. When he had entered the decaying domicile he had been blissfully unaware of his own existence.  Some event, or series of events, in that place was responsible for his transformation.

While negotiating a new gopher mound he recalled the delicious new mold he had found on the surface of what he later learned was a book. It happened to have fallen to the ground, and fallen open to an entry on "gastropods." Consuming the mold had caused immediate changes as he crossed and recrossed the image on the page and the words related to the image.

At first he thought it was the delicious flavor of the mold that compelled him to keep feeding on the book. Eventually he recognized that he was also feeding on the words printed on the page. Eventually he moved on to other books that littered the floor. He grew rapidly over the following days, and changes took place inside of him. After all, the brain of a gastropod was not quite the thing needed when it comes to thinking.

Unable to physically examine his own physiological changes, Gastro speculated that he had somehow co-opted other parts of his body for use in the process of thinking and storing information. This mode of thinking brought Gastro to consider himself a philosopher rather than a scientist. Scientists have rules and procedures to guide their thinking. Philosophers are not so constrained. Philosophy seemed to suit his particular condition better than science, so he contemplated in three-inch chunks of thought.

Yes, it was probably the mold in some peculiar combination with diverse bacteria that had caused him to change. It was only chance that caused this particular combination to occur on a book just so situated as to impart the necessary nutrients, mutagens, and information to make a slug self-aware. That, or divine providence. Gastro was not willing to discount the idea of a God who intervened in slug affairs.

He was just beginning to entertain that particular line of reasoning when he came upon his target. Oh, yes! It was a particularly abundant deposit of doggie waste material, still moist and sporting a delightful coat of growing molds. From his sluggish perspective it was a mountain of deliciousness. He set-to immediately, and slowly worked his way over the convoluted mass of excrement. It was gastronomic heaven!

"Hey, Jon! I found another one!" shouted Jimmy. "That's thirty or so. I'll put him in the pile."

"OK." said another voice, presumably Jon.

Gastro felt himself whisked into the air and shortly deposited in a slimy pile of soft bodies. Stupid human children, thought Gastro. He was self-aware enough and sufficiently informed regarding gastropod sexuality to know that these boys had unwittingly initiated an orgy of genetic exchange. A thought occurred to Gastro, and he began working his way purposefully through the pile of soft bodies. If his physiological changes were transferable, he would endeavor to pass on his new intellectualism to as many slugs as he could.

Visions of world domination inspired Gastro as he worked among the lesser slugs. Given time, who might guess what gastropods made self-aware might accomplish! Elimination of these humans would be only one small item on a list of potential glories!

"I think that this is enough, Jon." shouted Jimmy. "Go get the salt."

Oh, oh!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Of Humble Vegetables and Pompous Regals-

Philip K. Chesterton sat in his favorite pub, pulling contemplatively on a pint of ale. His long-time companion in this pastime and (several times removed) cousin Ralph Chesterton sat with him at the bar, sipping on a Bud Light. The pub itself was endeavoring to appear dark and oaken and at least vaguely British, generally only succeeding in the dark element of the illusion.

"You ought to at least try a real beer." mumbled Philip. "That crap is made of rice. Light beer is generally offensive on so many levels I can't even begin my usual tirade. This amber ale I am drinking has body, is full in flavor, and has a malty finish."

"You always pick on my choice of beers whenever you get bitchy after that writer's meeting you go to." Ralph said. "Why do you even keep trying at that word slinging? What kind of literary bur did they put under your saddle this time?"

"I have to write a story about cabbages." replied Philip. "Lowly cabbages. It's like trying to rhyme something with the word 'orange.'" Philip waved two fingers at the bartender, who promptly delivered two pints and collected far too much money for them. The pseudo-intellectual pub atmosphere barely made the inflated prices of tapped beer worthwhile to the aspiring word-smith.

Ralph stared blankly into space for a time, then shook his head, finished his pint and started in on the new one. "Orange. Hmph."

"Lewis Carroll commented on cabbages, briefly." said Philip. "'Let us talk of other things.' You know. Cabbages and kings." Ralph grunted, so Philip went on. "Kings, of course, are the pinnacle of social order. Cabbages are common and not much thought of. The phrase refers to a broad range of topics for conversation."

"We're in a bar." said Ralph. "We should be talking about women, sports, guns and beer. At least talk about hops and barley."

"Your beer is mostly rice." said Philip. "That being said, I am quite fond of all of those subjects. However, it is on cabbages I must think."

"Is there any liquor made from cabbages?" asked Ralph.

"Not that I know of." Philip replied. "I remember something in a role playing game, but that may have just been made up stuff."

"You are a geek." said Ralph. "You may even be gay. Does your wife know you are gay? Why do I even hang out with you?"

"Because I pay for your poor excuse for a beer."

"Oh, yeah. Thanks."

Philip took a sip from his amber ale, relishing it's complexity and the lack of rice in the making of the lovely brew. Ralph threw back the second half of his pint of Bud Light, relishing the beer buzz and the fact that it was truly less filling.

"I recall something by Alton Brown on cabbage." Philip said. "You know, the food science guy. Humans have been eating this plant in one form of another for centuries. It has been cultivated, bred, and made better over thousands of years, yet is common enough to be the symbol of commonality."

Philip noticed that Ralph had killed his pint, and ordered two more.

"Cooked properly, it is tasty and extremely nutritious. Cooked poorly and the stink reeks of functional poverty and lousy culinary skills." Philip continued. "It is sometimes fermented or pickled for preservation. Recipes for such forms are common in a vast number of cultures."

Ralph stared into his beer, not even being sure where polite grunts were appropriate. Suddenly, he lit up with a rare idea.

"Hey, Phil. You can write a story of somebody talking about cabbages. That way you could get your story done, and then we could talk about something interesting. You know, like that hot cousin of ours that is so far removed that the cousin thing doesn't matter. I think she is even legal, by now."

"You mean like that Short Story Guy on the Internet does when he gets stuck?" said Philip. "That would be just lame. I'll think about it, though, just the same. Now, which cousin are we talking about?"

Ralph regaled him with his lustful description of the barely legal and hardly related vision, while Philip sipped on his ale and contemplated the impact of inbreeding in isolated populations on human evolution. With enough time, it seemed to him, cabbages could be kings.

Slowly, a story formed in his fertile mind.