I wondered if there was an adjectival word relating to all things dream-like. Presumably ending in -ic. Like how “ludic” refers to that which is gamelike or playful.
And so I type into Google “of or pertaining to dreams”, and immediately get back:
Of, relating to, or suggestive of dreams.
To touch just the tip of something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately: Man, I love living in the future. Questions that would have plagued us thirty years ago are now easily answered.
("You know, things that never had names before are now easily described. Makes conversation easy!"
Last night - early this morning, actually - I had a dream.
It started with, or at least I recall nothing earlier than, bits of imagery which suggests a recurring theme I’ve had a few times: The discovery of a hitherto completely unknown television story from William Hartnell-era Doctor Who. Sometimes my dream is the adventure itself, and sometimes I find I’m in the studios during or around the time of the filming. In other words, sometimes my dream IS the thing, and sometimes it’s ABOUT the thing. Given my simultaneous love for and fascination with 1960s-era Who, divided equally between interest in the narrative itself and the production thereof
, this is perhaps not surprising.
But then later on, I was walking through some complex of interconnected buildings and outdoor areas, like a campus or a massively sprawling shopping mall. The lighting was dim but not dark; it was evening. It was a pleasant stroll and I was untroubled.
At the side of the corridor through which I passed stood a small bar, staffed by a woman in black slacks, white dress shirt and black bow-tie. Despite the formal attire, the bartender did not take her surroundings dead seriously; when I stopped to ask for directions (to the bathroom, perhaps?), she directed me to head down the stairs just a few feet to her right. And then she started talking, and laughing, about the restaurant below and behind her.
Through the glass walls of the corridor, I could see the outdoors. But right outside was a massive, circular tank, about two stories high, filled with fish and sealife of all sorts. The bottom of the tank was also glass, and through it I could see the equally large, equally round restaurant below. Clearly it was a swanky affair, filled with diners in tuxedos and fancy evening gowns. In the center of the restaurant was a grand piano at which someone played.
It was there to which the bartender was directing me. But she continued laughing about this restaurant, and the absurd heights to which its upper-class experience aspired. Tonight’s kicker was a newly-created martini which contained a flash-frozen ball of some liquid, suspended perfectly within each glass. Riffing equally on both the round shape and its blood-red color, she and the other bartenders were referring to this drink, for which the patrons were surely paying exorbitant sums of money, as “The Period”.
(Of course, this being a dream – and the rich often having tastes that run to the eccentric – I couldn’t say for certain that the substance wasn’t
blood of some sort. Yes, it sounds macabre … but then I remember the existence, and deliciousness, of black pudding
. Odder things exist outside one’s dreams.)
And so I went downstairs, passed through the swanky area, took care of things, and headed back. As I neared the top of the staircase, however, I heard a crack, and a loud creaking. And I looked up at the bottom of the massive aquatic tank, and the large fracture which had just appeared.
And then, all at once, it burst.
In my recollection, it happened so fast – so instantly – that I had a moment where I looked at the restaurant around and below me, and saw the entire place completely submerged, filled all the way up to ground level. Diners still sat at their tables, albeit wearing expressions of shock, as suddenly-displaced fish swam confusedly past.
And then panic set in, and everyone was trying to get out. I was fortunate in having been nearly at the top, and thus swam up and out in just a few moments. At that point, I turned around, surveyed the shocking disaster, and began doing what I could to help people out. Grabbing others, and frantically dragging them out of the water without falling back in myself.
It was at that point I awoke, oddly enough. My alarm hadn’t gone off, and although it was a somewhat nightmarish scenario, I myself wasn’t hurt or in any danger. I almost wonder if the astonishingly unpredictable events had so thoroughly derailed the plot that whichever subconscious thoughts and ideas are responsible for crafting such dreams simply threw up their hands in stunned bemusement. “Jesus, guys!” I imagine them saying to each other. “Who came up with THAT twist? Where do we go from here? Screw it, we’re done for tonight – shut it down!”
Last night, I went to Starbucks to write for a couple of hours. Except that when I arrived, having trekked through the snow and the cold, I discovered that my new laptop was completely out of power. (I’d forgotten to change the “close lid” action from the default, power-draining “sleep” to the far more power-efficient “hibernate”; thanks to cassielsander
for that particular protip.) Fortunately, I had my Kindle with me, so I settled in and decided to read “The Bone Flute
”, by Lisa Tuttle.
This story is one I’ve had in my Kindle library for a few months now. (It’s available as one of the “Infinity Plus Singles
” selections.) I’m sure I must have initially come across it when looking over the Wikipedia page of Nebula Best Short Story winners
and then noticing the bit about the 1982 award being refused by its author (Tuttle). She includes an afterword in this edition talking about the controversy, and thirty-some years later it strikes me as somewhat dated; in a nutshell, she tried (too late) to get her story removed from the ballot, because copies of her story and another were sent out to the listed members of the SFWA, at a time when this was not normally the case. She objected to this kind of “campaigning”, as she called it, and thought that such tactics gave those who could afford the not-insignificant postage costs of sending out so many physical copies an unfair advantage over authors and publishers who could or would not. (Incidentally, she now talks about how she later came to think better of her position, agreeing with a fellow author who felt the answer was more
campaigning, of all
entrants, and not less – and that today’s world of email and the easy mass-distribution of electronic files has now made the entire situation almost unthinkable. In fact, today the Nebula and Hugo Awards typically send out electronic copies of all nominated works to its voting members, and the occasional publisher which refuses to do so
is roundly castigated
But that’s all beside the point. While the controversy may have been what made it stand out and attract my attention, what I want to talk about is the story. Which floored me, on multiple fronts.
Although it takes place in a spacefaring future, this tale isn't the type of SF that's overly concerned with how given technological advances could affect our lives. Instead, it’s perhaps a more fantastical approach, using radically different circumstances to comment on and question what it means to be human. Not only do I adore this particular motive of SF in general, but the question it poses is one I’ve long wondered about, and increasingly in the past ten years: What is the half-life of love? More to the point, is a lifelong love even realistic, or possible – or does the average person’s lifespan, extended decades past what it used to be just a few centuries ago, now mitigate against that? (My ex once displayed a rare moment of insight by commenting on how after spending too long in the presence of a single person, she would grow frustrated with and tired of them. This wasn’t, however, limited only to other people: If she spent too long on her own, she just ended up getting fed up with herself
The story is heart-stoppingly well-written, and absolutely award-worthy. Shorter than a novella, it’s perhaps on the longer side of a short story (took me about 20-30 minutes, though I’m not the fastest reader), yet takes exactly as much time as needed. The story opens with a set-piece that is fascinating, exciting, and yet intimate; on the one hand, its introductory events could be seen as extraneous, but on the other it fulfills the plot requirement of having our narrator meet her lover, and does so in a manner which in retrospect tells us a lot about him. Similarly, the final act takes place some ten years later in changed circumstances, with a final twist which goes unexplained – and yet I can’t say that I at all felt let down or betrayed by the lack of answers.
What maybe most impressed though was the voice of her narrator, and how genuinely, quintessentially human her reflections are, even in the midst of dialogue and plot. At one point she describes the visual confirmation she receives that her lover has left her for someone else; to extricate himself from the party so they can speak privately, he quietly excuses himself by touching his new partner's arm: “a casual, proprietary gesture.” We all know such gestures, and rarely consider them, but the kind of information they subtly convey (whether involved with, or perceived from without) is immense.
I was also bowled over by the opening:
I am forever falling in love with beautiful men who break my heart. Perhaps I prefer it that way. There are worse things than being left.
In short, this is an astonishingly well-crafted short work, and one I ecstatically recommend. (And for only $0.99!
) It’s certainly something I feel the need to read over, again and again, from which to learn the lessons of good writing.