Cold War

My first draft of Cold War is dated 22 Jul 1987 and is based on my experiences in the arctic and working for USAACRREL: United States Army Arctic and Cold Regions Research and Environmental Labs. I wrote the story for a workshop. Self-reflection and -inspection wasn’t in vogue at that time and wouldn’t be for another five or so years. Most stories presented were tech driven and bored me. The one or two character driven stories were weak because the character aspect had to break through the tech aspect.

Anyway, since then it’s been published in Midnight Zoo ’92, Horizons Science Fiction ’99, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires 2016, and Daikaijuzine Sept 2020.

Enjoy.

Cold War

Home is…south? Gotta be. Everything’s south.

Which way is south? Can’t smell it anymore. Damn compass froze, it’s so cold.

Cold didn’t bother me the first 250 miles. Neither did the glare of the sun. Or the endless white. Or the total lack of smells. Someone told me there’d be weird smells up here. There aren’t any. Not this far north. There’s the smell of the ocean, humming beneath this glacier. I could smell the snow at first. That stopped after a few hours, after my mind got so use to the smell of white that it got blocked out. The winds don’t howl like I thought they would. They wouldn’t this time of year, anyway. But they whisper. The glacier surface is so flat I can hear conversations back in Mantinac Bay. They come to me when I let my mind rest, when I lay down to sleep. That’s not like in-country. You lay down in-country, any thing’s got legs uses you for an LZ, a runway. The ice surface is uneven, though. Up close it’s uneven. That’s like in-country. But nothing crawls over you. Nothing living, nothing but the wind.

I don’t sleep that much anymore. The monitor’s attached to my chest. Physically attached. They sowed it into me where the skin is thickest. So I can’t sleep on my stomach and when I sleep on my back I can see this damn little red light blink blink blink. Blink blink blink. Keeps you up all night, you know? Blink blink blink.

How much farther? I use to be able to do this in my head when I started. Mantinac to the Pole is nine-hundred sixty klicks. I’ve gone four-hundred. What does that leave?

It’s a long trip. Some nut told me the ice would smooth out. This from a guy with a Ph.D. in cold weather research. Guy learned from a book. That was back at USAACRREL: United States Army Arctic and Cold Regions Research and Environmental Labs in Hanover, New Hampshire. New Hampshire can get cold, when the Montreal Express comes in the from the north and we get a Nor’Easter heading in from the Maritimes. One year we had a snow squall New England style. That’s a hurricane in winter. It got cold. Not like this. This is a dry cold. They didn’t modify me right. I can feel it. Right up my legs to where my willy used to be. I can feel it.

I started with just over nine-hundred kilos of supplies. Stupid bastards. Over nine-hundred kilos in the sled, my body weight just under a metric ton. Oh yeah. They figured this one right. Each time my feet splayed, the fishtails on my soles picked up little slivers of ice that worked their way in. Deep. Kind of like shin splints that itch. I’ve only used a third of the supplies. That part of the design went right, anyway. Big as I am, I don’t need much food anymore. How ’bout that, mom? Mother never raised no tiny children, she used to say. What you think of your poor boy now, momma? They took what you and papa made one night and made me something no woman will look at again.

Everybody thinks they find test subjects in jails. He’s a lifer, he’ll do this to get out. Maybe a college student who needs extra beer money. Oh, and there’s this one, where they volunteer some private to go hazard. You know how Garrett got to be The Flash? Fricken’ lightening hits his lab bench and douses him with chemicals. Fricken’ Bruce Banner would have a tumor the size of a football if he ever sat in a gamma ray like they said. Remember ‘When Captain America throws his mighty shield’? The next line should have been ‘That ninety pound wimp gets a dick as hard as steel.’

Used to read comics all the time. Can’t remember too many of them now.

How much further do I have to go?

Got this thing in the side of my head. They said it was like what they did to help me walk after Charlie sent me a baseball as I jumped off the Rome. I never walked right. They said they would fix all that, too. Make me a fricken’ Steve Austin. Fuck. This thing in my head, under this plate, it listens to me and signals some satellite where I am and how I’m doing okay.


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Margaret Shertzer’s “The Elements of Grammar”

I previously reviewed Arthur Plotnik’s “The Elements of Editing” and Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”, both of which are worthy reads. Shertzer’s The Elements of Grammar was the third of the three volume set I purchased years ago and finally sat down to read.

First, it’s a quick read. At least I found it so, and perhaps because I still remember Mrs. Woodbury’s 4th grade class in which grammar played a major role.

My volume is from 1986 (I mentioned years ago, right?) and is based on a 1950s text. I was fascinated by how much grammar rules have changed, and anthrolinguists should give this a good read as it shows language shifts recognizable in retrospect. Case in point, “like,” as in “So he said, like…”

It did clear up several confusions I had in my own work (mostly because I remember what I was taught – good job, Mrs. Woodbury! – and some editors are more current in their grammar than I). It still serves as a good general reference. Examples:
Continue reading “Margaret Shertzer’s “The Elements of Grammar””

Writing Mentoring

You are a fabulous teacher. – Parsippany, NJ

 
Let me save you some time before reading this post by starting out as I did with Critiques: Online or via Email; Do you want to improve your writing? Are you willing to pay to improve?

If the answer to either of those is No then read no further, this post isn’t for you.

Answered Yes to both? Read on.
Continue reading “Writing Mentoring”

Writing Critiques: Online or via Email
(paying subscribers get an automatic 50% off regardless of subscription level)

Who’s my hero? Joseph Carrabis. Just finished an edit consult where he kindly, constructively, and expertly ripped my book blurb to shreds! LOVE IT! ‘Atta Boys do you no good. Find someone who will give it to you straight!! Thank you! I owe you. Mine felt soulless. Now I see why. It is humbling to be such a novice at something. I appreciate your help. – Augusta, GA

 
Let me save you some time before reading this post; Do you want to improve your writing? Are you willing to pay to improve?

If the answer to either of those is No then read no further, this post isn’t for you.

Your critique of my novel was priceless. – Hudson, NH

 
Answered Yes to both? Read on.
Continue reading “Writing Critiques: Online or via Email
(paying subscribers get an automatic 50% off regardless of subscription level)”

Arthur Plotnik’s “The Elements of Editing”

Serious writers and all the authors I know know Strunk&White’s “The Elements of Style,” aka The Little Book. I mention in Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” I have several copies and all are near my workstations so I’ll be no further than a click or arm’s reach should I need, and I need often enough they are a click or arm’s reach away and no further.

Few authors and no writers I know know Arthur Plotnik’s The Elements of Editing and, while not what I’d call required reading, it is definitely useful reading.

 
Plotnik’s The Elements of Editing is about the jobs of editors on the publishing end. This book will not help you edit your own work (at least not much. I did find some useful information in it, but I’m just that way. I’ll find useful things everywhere. It’s a developed trait and strongly recommended).

It will help writers and authors better understand what editors do and why some editors reject your work with a form letter and others write a glowing acceptance and ask for more (this has happened to me many times. Example: I wrote Morningsong in 1987 and nobody wanted it for over thirty years. I submitted it to Harvey Duckman and they asked me to become a regular contributor). It will help writers and authors get a feel for an editor’s day and what’s required to put out a regular magazine, journal, anthology, newspaper, book, and basically any form of regular media.

Most importantly, it’ll help authors and writers recognize a good editor from a bad editor (not to mention recognizing the unhandiwork of a machine editor. Avoid them in publishing).

Here’s some of the gems I found in an afternoon’s read:


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