Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nightmare University

A dream, half-remembered. I hoped to build something more of this than I managed to retain, but ah, well. At least it sets a mood.

Nightmare University

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2008

An alien who wanted to go Christmas shopping found himself trapped in a complex of academic buildings after dark, looking for a way out onto Route 39.

He walked down gloomy, formerly white corridors where students passed by, discussing coffee and homework. Muffled music came from behind a locked metal door painted orange, but when he opened it he found it was just the soundtrack to King of Hearts, flickering in an almost empty room.

He walked through the athletic apartment, where students in yellow T-shirts spoke enthusiastically about their several undefined sports. One female student said something rather interesting, and was answered with something rather profound. In the next room, two other students said exactly the same things. In the room after that, the alien could not remember what either couple had said.

He walked on into the law department, where he found a statue of an eagle, labeled American Plausibilitism. "Ah, that explains everything," he said. And woke up.

A slightly more coherent version, starring the Doctor and turned into a comic strip slide show, can be found on my LiveJournal.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Former Ficlets: An Archive

Like pretty much every other bit of user-generated content AOL ever hosted, Ficlets will be gone by year's end. This was a site devoted to ridiculously short fiction, limited not by word count but by character count. Stories could then be given a more normal length by writing a series of prequels and sequels - and Ficlets writers were encouraged to do this to each other's stories. To be honest, I really didn't like that part, because other writers took my characters in the "wrong" directions in their sequels.

Despite the fact that a glitch prevented me from logging on with the OpenID I used for my Ficlets, I was able to find them eventually and store them to Word. Here are three of the five pices I wrote for that site. The other two I will post later, fleshing them out into a proper story. New fiction on this site at last - what a concept!

Do You Want to Meet a Pirate?
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on March 23, 2007.

“Tell me a story,” the little girl demanded.

“What kind of story?”

“About pirates.”

“Do you like pirates?”

“Yup. Only I don’t know any.”

“Would you like to meet a pirate? Or would you rather just hear a story about one?”

“There aren’t any more pirates.”

“Yes there are. I know some pirates. One in particular.”

“A real pirate? With a ship and everything? Or do you mean the boring kind, that just copies video and sells it?”

“The kind with a ship and everything.”

“I don’t believe you. What’s the name of the ship?”

“Bad Wolf.”

“That’s a funny name for a ship. There aren’t any wolves in the ocean.”

“You’ve never heard of the Sea Wolf?”

“No. Can I meet him?”

“Her. That depends. Are you brave enough?”

“Yeah. Why? What will she do to me?”

“She might shanghai you.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Make you part of her crew.”

“That would be cool.”

“You couldn’t go home for a long time. No mommy or daddy.”

“That’s okay.”

“No tv. No iPod, phone or video game.”


“No computer.”

“I’ll think about it.”

The Secret Freeway
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on March 26, 2007.

(This one is based on a concept I've been playing with for decades - and I
still don't know what to do with it.)

I first discovered the secret freeway in 1986, the same year I learned that the back doors of every Yellow Roof restaurant lead into the same parking lot.

This is how it started.

It was a little over 4 AM when I pulled into the “Yeller’s” at El Cajon, California. It had been our traditional stop, the place to get breakfast en route from the Cleveland National Forest rest area to Disneyland. But everything was different this time. Jill wasn’t with me, and never would be again. I wasn’t headed for Disneyland, and it wasn’t time for breakfast.

I needed coffee, so I stopped anyway. It didn’t help much. I hit I-8 again eastbound, thinking that if I could just make it to the Cleveland rest area, I could sleep there. It was pretty much all I thought about.

An hour later, I pulled off. It wasn’t until I’d parked that I noticed the snow, neatly plowed but starting to drift in the biting wind.

And the Ohio plates on most of the cars. And the I-90 sign.

I was ten miles from Cleveland, OH, via the secret freeway.

What It's All About
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on June 04, 2007.

“What is it about?”

“It’s about how we change in response to outside pressures.”

“Boring. What is it about?”

“It’s about three teenagers trying to stay alive.”


“This isn’t helping.”

“Let me see the manuscript.”

The next day: “It wasn’t about that at all.”


“It’s not about people changing, or trying to stay alive. That’s incidental. It’s about alienation, Fox News, and the corruption of the Bush White House. Allegorically, of course.”

“No, it isn’t. Okay, the one character is alienated, but that’s about it.”

“Wrong. His friends are alienated, too, from their family and friends and a corrupt government. The government lies to the people, aided by the mass media.”

“There are no mass media in the story. It’s a fantasy world.”

“Your storyteller characters are the media. They are complicit in the government’s lies.”

“But I wrote that part before Bush took office.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s all right there in the story.” He looked at me kindly.

“Writers never know what the story is about.”

Monday, September 01, 2008

Rani and Karen - Together Again for the First Time

So are you done?
Rani asks.

I'm a bit surprised. Unlike Ariel and Kate, none of the Mâvarin characters have ever spoken to me before. But if there's one person from Mâvarin who would find a way to communicate with a world in which he exists only as words and pictures and a 34-year obsession, it's Rani. He's not here. I don't see him. But his words are alive in my mind, and after a moment I answer.


With your book. Have you settled on every word I say, killed all the clichés, made everything make sense? Are you done?

"I think so."

But you're not sure, are you?

"Pretty sure. I've tweaked that one bit with Barselti, and I've reached the end, and gotten the final word count."

And you're still worried that the dialogue with King Jor at the end is too pat, and you're tempted to go through the book once more, from the beginning. Well, don't.

"What if there's still stuff wrong, and I can fix it?"

What if you let your own insecurities keep you from marketing and selling your life's work, ever? It will never be perfect, because your subjective opinion will never let that happen.

"But is it good enough for a YA publisher?

How should I know? I'm a tengrem and a mage adept, not a literary agent. But I do know something about insecurity. You need to get over it.

"It shows, huh?"

Inside your head it's very clear.

"If you're inside my head, does that mean you know everything that's in the book?"

I know it's about us. The so-called Heroes of the Restoration. And I know which bits of it worry you. Why?

"Can you tell me if I got everything right?"


"Why not?"

First of all, I don't have the time or patience. Second, it doesn't matter whether your book matches my life exactly. Maybe it matches some other Rani's life. Or maybe I was drawn into your head because the match is exact, but it still doesn't matter. It only matters whether it's a good book, and I can't help you with that. And finally, what makes you think the version of me taking in your head is any more real than the one on the page?

"So that's it? You're just here to badger me to stop tinkering and submit it?"

Pretty much. I was also curious about you.

"About me? Why?"

I dreamed someone was writing about us, and it wasn't someone from around here. I wondered why someone from another reality would know about us, or care. Now I know.

"What do you know?"

You just happened to latch onto events from a reality so far away that you can only deal with it as fiction. It's like Fayubi and his visions.

"Only less useful."

If you sell the books, it was worth it. So get to it.

"I'll try."

No. Don't just try. Do it.

"I hate when people say things like that."

I hear Rani's laughter in my mind. Yes, I know.

Heirs of Mâvarin: done and edited. The other books are ongoing. My next step, I decide, is to start researching the YA market, and get it out there.

Good, Rani tells me, and is gone.