Still slouching towards Bethlehem. The editing continues...
Dai Lumen has become a mercenary employed by the Phyrnosian military. After a long, sunny conversation with my neighbor, the poker playing philosopher, I decided to give Dai a code, similar to the one the Philosopher uses in Vegas. I’ve sprinkled it throughout the text.
Rule One, of Staying Wild: to be free, you must desire nothing.
Rule two: Cloak of the Hog. Pretend to be as greedy as those around you.
Rule three: Glove of the Thousand Hands. Stay your hand until the time is right. (It’s a heavy glove.)
Rule of the Sphinx: Say nothing. Never explain, never apologize. Never say goodbye. A mystery is fast on his feet.
I’ve been fascinated by rules & proverbs in fiction ever since I noticed Pynchon doing it in Gravity’s Rainbow. Naturally, I can’t touch his proverbs. To wit:
Proverbs for Paranoids:
1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
4. You hide, they seek.
5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
-- Collected from Gravity's Rainbow, V237, 241, 251, 262, & 292
They give a nice structure to the text. Good bones. I’ll keep fiddling with mine. A girl can dream.
I’m also trying to work in more organic descriptions, & give a sense of deep history to Phyrnos:
“The wind churned the dunes, revealing skeletons of her planet’s distant past: gladiatorial rings, wing’ed ancients, temples worn soft by time. All worlds are built upon the apocalypse of everything which has came before it. When a world exists, it seems eternal, and it is difficult to imagine it as one in a succession of many. Yet the present must forever consume its past, or die.”
“He dismissed her with a nod, and Losira broke again into her seamless run, disappearing into the maze of ancient architecture. Qabal looked at its horizon. He had taken pride in the skyline of Phayara all his life: The minarets etched against the sky like horn and claw; the way the suns seemed to catch and then bleed against them, so that when night fell it came heavy as death-
A dome in the distance crumbled and fell. Qabal felt the heat edge deep between his scales, burrow through his flesh. He put his hand on Eriphet’s shoulder. “Quickly,” he said. “To the temple. Quickly.”
“It was the station’s interior I was worried about. It would take half a lifetime to learn the routes of its interior water management system. Thrillseekers came from all over the galaxy to race ships through its watery, narrow chutes; at any given moment there could be hundreds of people inside it, diving & gliding and even swimming. If things went south people would take refuge in the tunnel system and execute us from beneath the streets.”
But the ending is still abrupt and cheap. Lots of work to do there.
P.Z. West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
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