Tag Archives: progress

Flash Fiction

I’m not getting a lot on the writing front done, which is quite typical of me really.  I have an inner critique that could make Simon Cowel look like someone’s dotting grandmother talking to her favorite grandchild.  I will often not proceed with any project that I don’t think, on some level, I can do well.  It’s a paralyzing thing, and I am working on.

Okay, flash fiction.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  While I think about what I want to do next, pick up an old project that I’m probably not competent enough to write yet and do any justice too, or start something a little more simple, I’m doing some flash fiction.

I like it for a couple reasons.  First is that it’s short and fairly easy to do, without the rigors of long plotting, world building and character developing sessions.  Second, it keeps you writing and with the word limits, keeps your writing tight.  It teaches you to drop the extraneous word clutter that slows down the reader and bores them to tears.  Everyone could learn to write lean.  Third, and perhaps my favorite reason, my inner critique is SILENT when I write flash fiction.  I don’t worry about messing it up, I don’t care if it’s good or not.  Well, I care if it’s good, but I’m not concerned about ruining a long, arduously built world and story.  If it comes out being terrible, it’s okay, I haven’t wasted months on it and I’m not going to have to spend a month trying to fix it.

Reason four, I don’t mind sharing it either.  And here’s the picture I used as a prompt.

Flash Fiction 03-07-2013

Lacruse put one steel shod foot on the rail and looked up, trying to ignore the sweat running down his back. The tree was enormous, not only the largest he’d ever seen but beyond what he’d imagined possible. It was as big around as the walled city of Padfeal and was rumored to hold more people. The forest that grew around it looked more like clumps of tall flowers than proper trees.

He wiped a gloved hand across his damp forehead and took in the shallow lake, mazed with roots from the monster that reached to the shores like drunken bridges, allowing access from every direction. People in simple, colorful clothing walked them, burdened like pack mules. They looked a lot cooler than he felt in the thick, humid air.

The first level of the Great Tree Dwelling was visible, the sun low enough to reach it and set its brightly colored decorations to glowing even from across the water. Blue lights that hung in the darkness of the upper levels winked through the leaves reaching up and up, out of sight.

And the whole damned thing was completely indefensible.

He kept his face neutral, betraying nothing to the natives around him.

“Gentke, how high is the city from the water?” he asked his translator and official leason.

The dark eyed young man considered. “Dry season now, so six men, maybe seven.”

“The dry season?”

Gentke nodded, fingering a bright yellow and blue feather that adorned his much thinner and far more comfortable looking shirt. “Rains flood the lake in two moons time. Will be much higher then.”

He ignored the impulse to take off his helmet and throw it in the lake. “How high does it flood?”

The native pointed to a passing tree.

Lacruse looked, running his eyes up the trunk, along the thin tendrils that reached to the water from it like roots. Twenty feet up the tendrils disappeared and the trunk became smooth bark, like any tree. He felt relief flood him. No army would have enough boats on hand and then he realized that there weren’t any boats on the water around them. They’d taken a boat from the highlands, this wasn’t a native vessel.

“Do you have boats that you use in the rainy season?”

Gentke blinked. “No. Only fishing men need boats.”

“So you stay in the city in the rainy season?”

Gentke looked up at him as if he were a child asking if the sun would come up tomorrow. “No.”

Lacruse felt his face flush in the tropical warmth and asked, teeth firmly clenched. “But you don’t have boats. How?”

“The branch-ways.” He pointed up at the huge branches that radiated out from the trunk. They were easily as large as the roots and he thought he could just make out small shapes moving along them.

“Where do they go?”

“To the high places.” He said slowly and nodded to the hills that rose around the lake.

The Lord Protector of the great highland kingdom of Rarimor wanted to laugh. In the dry season an army could walk to the city along the roots and in the rain they could walk along the bloody branches.

He closed his eyes and with great deliberation unbuckled his armor. The breast plate fell to the wooden floor of the boat with a clang, followed closely by the back.

Gentke looked on with interest while his man servant looked horrified and came running to collect the piece. He grinned. “Come on Fourt, help me get the rest of this mess off.”

“Sir.” The man said with a bow of his head but his tone clearly said he thought his Lord was touched.

“Gentke,” Lacrouse said, shucking out of a boot with a sigh as fresh air cooled his wet clothes. “I hope you might provide me with clothes in the style of your people?”

Fourt made a strangled sound behind him, but he ignored it.

Gentke grinned. “You will be more comfortable.”

“I’m begning to see that.”

“Fourt, bring me a fresh set of clothes.” He looked down at the heavy wool of his shirt and frowned. “Make that a fresh set of under clothes. Anything else would be foolish in the extreme.”


“We aren’t in Rarimor. I have three moons, maybe less to try and defend this place. I think I should learn about it first.”

“I did not think there was wisdom among the mountain people. I am glad I was wrong.” Gentke said.

Lacrouse laughed.


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The end is Nigh, and it’s name is Watson

My husband came home last night, quite excited because there was a computer system competing on Jeopardy. Being the fellow geek that I am, I was soon drawn into the drama, the new breakthrough in programing that would allow a computer to parse the questions and come up with accurate answers. It’s a fascinating topic and one I’ve always loved, but I’m of the mind that a computer will never be as good at thinking as a human. No Data in our future, which in one sense is a pity. On the other hand, I’ve seen enough fiction about sentient computers that run amok to be a little edgy about the idea. Yes, I know it’s a little far fetched, but perhaps not. Most new inventions have good intentions that can be applied in devious or unintended and unimagined ways. I’m in favor of thinking more carefully over the potential uses of all new things, but alas, that rarely happens.

So we sat down and watched Jeopardy live for the first time in years uncounted. It was night one of a three night challenge. The computer was called Watson. At first, it said and did nothing, leaving the first few questions unanswered. And then it kicked in, and I must admit, a shiver ran down my spine. It sounded like Hal, and spoke in complete sentences. It cleaned off half the board in very short order and left the humans, who are Jeopardy champions I might add, in the dust. One resorted to buzzing in before he’s figured out the answer just to get a chance to answer it. My husband and I speculated on when exactly the computer was given the question and weather that was quite fair or not.

From there we discussed the possibility of a truly thinking machine. My husband saw the documentary footage of how Watson was created, tested and improved. He sees Watson as a learning machine. I still disagree, seeing Watson as a very complex search engine, programmed by humans every inch of the way. Watson takes up a whole room, reminiscent of the first computers back in the 50’s. Every bit of knowledge it has was given to it by humans. It has been programed not to think, but to find answers based on keywords. Heck the entire contents of Wikipedia has been downloaded into it’s hard drive. I don’t see machines ever having the ability to think like we do. Our brains are simply too complex for us to simulate with any accuracy and how could a machine ever have that extra spark that marks true inspiration and innovation? How does man do it for that matter? Our subconscious minds are the super computers in which such thoughts are born. Still, I believe humans have something else, that part of us that is “in the image of God”, that thing that we have but can not create on our own. My husband thinks we can and that it holds the potential for disaster. We at least agree on that score. Thankfully, headway in the thinking computer department is very slow.

We will be watching the final two episodes of this little contest, but despite our differing opinions on the possibility of thinking machine that might spell doom for humanity, we were both still uneasy but utterly fascinated.

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Just to be Random


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