Far behind the popular curve on this one, I just finished Updraft by Fran Wilde, which was published in 2015 as the first novel in the Bone Universe series. Cloudbound and Horizon are the subsequent titles. Updraft was an enjoyable read, well worth the investment of time, and deserving of its acclaim, but it was also an example of how young adult (YA) novels sometimes sketch the big picture with the thinnest of brushstrokes, and that may not be enough.
There is plenty to say about the novel’s character development and plot, which you can see in a review on Strange Horizons here, but world-building was its core strength. Survivors of some unnamed historic tragedy live high above the ground, above the clouds even, in towers made of living bone. There were key details, such the living tiers shaped like vertebrae in a spine; mostly invisible, tentacled monsters sail around the towers and eat people on occasion; and the challenges of navigating air currents while flying. All important aspects and engaging, but as a reader I felt the novel wasn’t fully fleshed out. We never learn– Continue reading
The county bladed the road once, but it’s 17 degrees, and now the snow and salt and mineral used to treat the blacktop has packed down. Treacherous. You drive this lonely highway in Texas County with your eyes open, your ears open, your right foot playing the gas pedal like a heart string. You’re going to end up in the ditch. You drive at 45 and marvel at how ugly the old houses are, beaten down under the broody sky, but you’ll never admit to this mean observation because a puff of smoke above the poorest place is a sign of life, and life is precious. Winter in Texas County will teach you this if nothing else. You already appreciate the denizens of that shack ahead, put up in front of an old crumbling foundation of the grander home that came before, and still sheltering in the arms of bare oak trees that once embraced the old homestead.
You imagine that the descendants of that place might find you when the black ice takes you for a spin. You know that if anyone could save your sorry hide it would be these dwellers in desolated houses so adept at coping with winter with nothing but tar paper and shingles hung on warped wood frames that they would smell your stupid accident before the snow settled into the skid marks. You admire their fortitude until you remember that their strength has been carved by fate not foresight. Only their children ask why the road can’t be cleared like the interstate that passes by miles off to the west. The idea of it itches like a dream or the memory of a Hallmark movie they saw once, but the elders don’t have words for such frivolous chirping. They would frown and say the government isn’t going to take more of their money–those goddamn paid thieves, never a one worked a day in their lives, socialists and libtards. And they will not have it.
If they find you a curious fool, be glad, for that means they cannot hate you like they hate the road crew who are agents of the government, who are good-for-nothing idiots taking this country down and who they do not need because they know how to endure anything. They would dare you to deny it when they save your miserable life, but that would require words on their part and having to listen to you prattle on about how dangerous the roads are, and they will not have it. You’d like to ask them, not how they endure winter because winter is still a season that passes, but you would like to ask them how they endure nothing. Nothing at all. You’re not sure you have the words for this, and besides it would be impolite so you decide to say nothing but thank you when the time comes. All this you know when it is 17 degrees, and you are driving a snow-covered highway in Texas County.
This is me in front of the house I’m building in Missouri. The plan is to have a summer place where I can visit my family, tend the garden and my bees, and WRITE! It’s coming along quite nicely.
Hello, Dear Readers. Have you missed me? My apologies for not posting regularly. I’ve been editing instead. The WIP is going fairly well. I now have eight chapters I have actually shared with kind readers. Every day I become just a scintilla more convinced that it is worth reading, it is a real story, and it will one day be a real book.
Most of the writing is done. I have left the magical forest full of ideas and thoughts that appear like vines and brooks and hidden castles and witches huts, and now I am in that hard, high plain called editing. Every word needs to be sharp and right. Every sentence needs to connect to the sentences before and after. Paragraphs shall be purposeful, else I lose my way. And I don’t want to lose my way now. It feels like a perilously narrow path, and a tricky one, too.
Truth be told, I think I might be caught in an editing loop. There’s nothing like the fear of a reader looking at your writing the first time, to make one madly edit and re-edit chapters you had begun to take for granted.
I’m also looking for new reading material. I was very disappointed with the last three novels I picked up this fall. All of them well-rated in various venues, but they felt lifeless and/or poorly written. Send me suggestions. I love to have a good pile of reading set up before Christmas to take me into the quiet depths of winter.
When I finally decided to stop trying to write literature and embraced the trifecta genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I realized something very important about myself. I’m a bit of an alarmist. It’s not something I’m proud of and I have spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to cover this up in polite company, but there it is. I’m nervous, high strung, a worrier. Not in a loud way, but in a quiet, constant yellow-alert sort of way.
Maybe others who have felt this way in the past have had more justification for saying this than I, but I think we are living in times that make this condition worse. It feels as though we have just gotten down from the trees, and run half-way across the savannah while more-or-less successfully avoiding lions. Now, on the horizon, a huge mother-ship of biological and environmental threats, political disintegration, and technological threats is hovering. Is it just me? Continue reading