01/24/2023 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Sabotage!

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Nur tossed a small, tangled lump of wires and circuits onto my desk. “Behold!” he said. “The thing that tried to kill you.”

I looked at it — and then I looked away. There was something wrong about the twisted, matted thing, like the wires were spelling out words I didn’t want to read. “Okay, what is it? Where did you find it? And when did it try to kill me?”

“Well, easiest question first. I found it inside the basket you brought along for your picnic, hidden inside a cold-pack.” I realized right then that Nur had the kind of calm you get when you’ve slammed a couple of mood-dampeners in a row. “It was also smeared with a pretty nasty neurotoxin. Good thing I was wearing gloves.”

“Jesus.” That was closer to a prayer than I’d come for a long, long time. I’d been carrying that thing around all day, after all. “Wait, though: this isn’t a bomb, is it?”

“Oh, no, Pam. It’s a sonic transmitter. One that broadcasts at a frequency we can’t hear, but the local lifeforms can. I checked with The Process, and it thinks the signal could have been what got the not-cows rampaging. The only thing is, we’d have to actually check to confirm it. Which is not a good idea…”

“Gotcha. I don’t feel like trying to be cruel to alien animals, either. What if we succeed?” I restrained my first impulse to poke at the transmitter with a stick. I restrained my second one to smash it with a hammer.

01/23/2023 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Mundane and spiritual!

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The Fane had a food court, so we had our picnic there.

It feels so jarring to put it that way, but I don’t want anyone to think that the Fane was some kind of ethereal, pie-in-the-sky fantasy-land. No, we were in a place that people used; and one thing that people do, is eat. So they would need somewhere to eat, and we decided to eat there, too.

We had brought our lunches with us. Sandwiches, bread, and lukewarm tea — and I swear, I’ve never had a better meal. The food court seemed to grow brighter as we ate, and I wondered whether there were automatic systems that activated when people used the room for any length of time.

Oft chuckled when I suggested that. “I suppose that’s one way to describe spirits,” he mused. “Let’s hope they don’t mind.”

“I don’t think I believe in those the same way you do, Oft.” Let the record show that my voice was not slightly muffled, thank you very much. Civilized Jeffersonians don’t talk with their mouths full. “I mean, sure, I believe in souls, and stuff, but they don’t linger when they’re gone.” I looked around, and shuddered a little, in spite of myself. “Not even somewhere like this.”

“Really? I find this planet particularly soul-haunted.” Oft poured himself another cup of tea. “I wonder that you do not.”

01/22/2023 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Locations!

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The Fane was even more wonderful, at ground level. Oft’s confidence aside, I wasn’t sure if Iluvitarians worshiped in the same way as the inhabitants of this planet did; but if they were, they had found a worthy faith to follow. The closer to the Fane we walked, the more welcome I felt. Everything felt soothing, like there were analgesics and mood-levelers in the air — but when I scanned the local atmosphere on my phon, everything came back negative. We were just walking through a place built with love, reverence, and joy — and by a people who understood all three things intimately.

That was why the Fane was also steeped in a melancholy so deep, I found tears welling up, unbidden — but I found myself not being afraid of them, for a change. Everybody knows that you have to try not to cry when you’re in the Tomb Worlds. If you start, when will you stop? How can you stop? Yet, there were times for weeping, and this was one of them.

Because they were all gone, you see. The architects and artists who had conceived of the Fane, the builders who gave the dream of it a physical form, even the custodial workers and retail staff that must have maintained the grounds and seen to the pilgrims — they were now dust, horribly murdered centuries before I was born, and we never even learned their names.

01/19/2023 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Temples! What could possibly go wrong?

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“You may, of course, say no,” Oft told me a half hour later. In person, because you don’t have these conversations using communications devices that make you throw up if you don’t like the subtext. We were in Dave’s office, instead. We even had coffee. Coffee! I hadn’t bought any before I voluntarily put myself under durance vile, and I had run out two days ago. I could get caffeine added to the survival goop that my apartment produced, but it just wasn’t the same thing.

“I’m not saying no, Oft,” I replied, after another heavenly (ha!) sip. “I just want to know if this has anything to do with any of,” — I waved with my free hand, helplessly — “the stuff we’re dealing with, right now.”

“Honestly? If it was up to me, I would have said ‘No.’ That’s why I didn’t ask to be brought to Yánarta. Sorry, that means ‘Fane of the Exalted,’ in English. We still don’t know what the original worshipers there might have called it.”

I carefully didn’t ask why they were calling it ‘Yánarta,’ then. Iluvitarians are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but they get real weird about the origins of their religion.

01/18/2022 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND prep.

Seriously into getting that ready for the alpha and beta readers.

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So, let’s talk about cultists.

Technically, we’re not supposed to call them ‘cultists.’ The official term is ‘Ritual Nihilist,’ because I guess calling them that supposed to give them less power, somehow? And don’t ask how naming, or not-naming gives them power. Again, some questions have answers you neither want or need to hear.

We call them cultists anyway. They’re the insidious kind of crazy, worming their way into things for as long as they can before somebody catches them with a knife, a makeshift altar, and a bound sacrificial victim. That’s almost always how they’re caught, too: cultists just can’t resist ritual sacrifices. It’s like they’re following a script that they’re not really supposed to deviate from, and don’t want to, anyway.

They’re different from the space-happy in that they can last a hell of a lot longer before getting caught, and they can work together for a while to get what they want. But what do they want? Mostly sacrifices, although if there’s a nasty way to get power, money, or status, they’ll happily explore it. I guess ritual knives cost money.

Mini-Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Stitching together passages right now, and this one appealed to me.

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I popped a sober-up jolt after Oft left, then decided that while drinking lunch was fun, actually eating some was smarter. Luckily, the place made a decent beef stew. Vat-grown and double-killed, although I think that last one’s just being pretentious. They licked the vatfood reanimation problem decades ago. Even the chicken’s safe now.

01/12/2023 Snippet, GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND.

Filling in stuff!

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We finally were able to properly hear the report that [spoiler] had died in a shuttle crash about twenty minutes after the Anticipant had — I don’t know how she managed to figure out what happened. Maybe it’s really easy for her to decipher static. I mean, if she’s at right angles to the rest of us anyway, every regular form of communication would be garbled half-nonsense to her. Why should static be a special case? At least she didn’t go crazy in the cabin, which is just as much fun for a pilot as it sounds. Instead, the Anticipant just retreated into herself, took a sedative from Oft, and was soon sleeping the sleep of the medicated.

Oft was apologetic about the whole thing. “It’s a side effect of her training,” he explained. “The Anticipant has been taught to come to accurate conclusions, from woefully incomplete data. The techniques work, but they come at a cost of heightened sensitivity. In her case, painfully so.”

I looked over. Asleep, she looked a lot older, but a bit less pained, and I wondered just what those ‘techniques’ involved. “So sudden unexpected news knocks her for a loop?”

“Not exactly,” Oft replied. “It has to be unexpected and malicious. The universe simply randomly being the universe would be another part of the pattern, or so I think I understand. A reaction like this comes from a deliberate attempt to wreck the pattern, for whatever foul purpose.”

“So you don’t think [spoiler] died in an accident.” I didn’t state it as a question, and Oft didn’t take it as one.

“Certainly not, and neither do you.”

GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND Watch, 01/11/2023.

Mostly, I got the book rewired so that the sequence of events are in the right order (I did do about five hundred words). Now I’ll write bridges in key places in the narrative, smush it all together, then go through GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND again to see what I’ve missed. Gonna kill me some secondary characters! Alas, it has to be done. I mean, it’s a science fiction horror novel, right? Somebody’s got to die.

A snippet below the fold.

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The flight back wasn’t anything much, for the first twenty minutes. I decided I wasn’t playing any games with the planetary network today. We were all better off just going ahead, and giving us all some time to process what we had seen. Twenty-one minutes in, I turned on the radio, since we were coming within range of what passed for a human communications network on One-Eighteen.
Twenty-two minutes in, the Anticipant gasped.
Even I could tell that wasn’t good, and a look at her face confirmed it. She was in full ‘white-eyed horror’ mode, only her suit wasn’t pulling her out of the state automatically. “Oft,” I carefully did not yell, “she’s gone fay!”
Oft had already detached himself from his seat; he moved to intercept her. “It’s not Fear Reflex Syndrome,” he told me over one shoulder as he grabbed her shaking hands. That seemed to calm her down, so maybe it wasn’t FeRe; people in the middle of one of those episodes hate being touched. “She’s just had some horrible news.”
That threw me for a loop. “From… where?” I gestured around the cabin. “There’s no news here to hear!”
“Except the radio.”
“It’s barely above static.”
“Not to her, Pam.” Oft shrugged, not letting go of the Anticipant’s hands. “Before you ask: I don’t know what she heard, either.” His face fell. “All I know is, it’s something personally traumatic.”
Which did not sound good.

Finished reviewing the GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND draft.

I think I’ve straightened out how the rest of GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND should go, and about sixty percent of it will involve moving chunks of book from chapter to chapter. It’s the remaining forty percent that will be the heavy lifting. Still, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to get the book finished now.

My head still hurts, though. Thinking about writing is a lot more tiring than actually writing. I suspect because it requires more analytical brainpower, or something. I dunno, I was an English major, and not the kind that spent four years learning about neurolinguistics. I was lucky to get Systems of the Brain, and an Independent Study*.

Continue reading Finished reviewing the GHOSTS ON AN ALIEN WIND draft.