Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chapter 01 - View From SolDock Five.

There she sits, glinting in the reflected light of the nearby sun. Dry dock, Soldock Five. The Lady Jane Grey, she makes me smile with a glow of pride. Beautiful probably only to my eyes, the black and silver paint job showing all my Pagan icons and effigies. Much to the annoyance of the local Tabernacle, SolDock Five has a very vocal minority Christian workforce. Sod them if they're refusing to handle the job. I'm getting it cheaper through some of my Buddhist connections any way, and I prefer it that way. I don't trust the god botherers to do a proper finish, I'd pay double for the Buddhist Union or Hindu Brotherhood to do the job anyway. I'm having the hull re-sealed for her ten year service, it's going to cost me a couple of mil, but it's worth every penny. Micro asteroids pierce the skin regularly, of course the auto sensors re-seal the hole quick enough to prevent explosive decompression, but much like a bicycle tyre too often patched the hull becomes weaker as it becomes more and more sealant and less and less hull plate. I can't allow the Tabernacle to purposefully do a shoddy job in the twisted idea that they may just be eliminating another godless heathen from the space lanes.
So here I am, up on the recreation deck. I've found a bar that overlooks the dry dock that she is being re-worked in. Cold beer in hand, hot meal nicely tucked away in my stomach.
She may only be a class three tug, limited in licence and tonnage, though physics itself dictates a limit on what I can move. I'm part of a dyeing breed. The new deep space catapults slowly putting the long haul riggers out of business. Huge magnetic tubes, aligned with the far reaches of space, shoot cargo at unimaginable speed to its destination like big cannons pointing into the void. Cargo lined up at one end is systematically fed in and slight variation in magnetic field sends it in various directions. The things are relentless, titanic, and fully automated. They make up the majority of the major space lanes now, constant flow of unmanned cargo bullets. You don't get in their way if you can help it. Most of the work now is the scheduled catching at the other end. Time and place, you go and wait and hope the inertia has bitten into the speed of the thing enough to hook it and engage retro thrusters to slow the damn cargo brick down sufficiently to be able to guide it to it's eventual destination to be broken down and shipped on as goods elsewhere.
I say last of a dying breed but that's just an affectation. I always wanted a rig all my life, so when I retired I sold the house on Mars and invested all the proceeds and the money from my pension into the rig, plus a couple of small investments I'd managed to build up. I couldn't afford one of the big interstellar deals, luckily it turns out, with the decline, so opted for a class three. I ply my way between certain solar stations and some of the outlying colonies. The Catapults being too expensive (and too powerful) to operate within the solar systems. I contract to catch one of the bricks maybe one or twice a month. That seems to cover my expenses. I don't think I could afford to do it as a serious job though. I make a small profit, just enough to make it worth my while. It's more an enthusiast practicing his hobby than a business man trying to take on Interstella Solar Mining GmBH.
It's getting to the point where most of us are either retired office jocks looking for something to do, or the burnt out, rejected, long haulers with no-where else to go. Downsized and emasculated, the long haulers, now and again one of them looses the will to go on, and just doesn't stop the brick, just puts the tug in the way. Not a nice way to go but a quick one. The cargo itself is almost indestructible so no real damage , or loss of profit, there. Just a bit of a shock to the rest of us as we sit there watching it happen. I've only seen a couple in the past few years I've been playing at the job, but you know what's happening. The position of the tug, the angle of approach, the attitude of the catcher. After a while you have a feeling for what's right, and you can see, or feel, when it's wrong.
Enough of this maudlin. I sit and glow with pride at my own little space ship. Part ship, part camper van, part floating apartment, part office cube. Actually a bit bigger than the condo on Mars. Command deck, lounge, galley, bathroom and toilet, and four state rooms. I can take passengers if I want but spend most of the time by myself, it suites me that way. The galley's huge, well the walk in freezer is about three times my old kitchens size. Of course you need quiet a bit of space to store six months worth of food and water etc. Beer, wine, spirits, you know the story. It all works by feeding coolant external to the hull into radiators in space. Much cheaper than expanding and contracting gasses, and fine because she never breaks atmosphere. Larder, fridge, freezer, wine cellar. It does for all functions. I've even converted one of the rooms into a library. I keep my collection of antique books, some of them even printed on paper, with my turn of the millennium classic films, all with me were ever I go. The water tank is a room in itself. I keep expecting to find alien eco systems in it every time I have to clean it.
The nasal, guttural drone of the local patois from two local dock workers at an adjacent table distracts me for a moment. Less English than many of the varieties I hear in my travels, I'm finding it hard to understand what it is they are finding so amusing. From the body language and mime in the conversation I'm guessing that a work mate trapped in some stupid, careless, accident seems to have lost a limb, the mock squealing and crying is obviously a great source of humour to his fellows. I'm sure the dock, or union, insurance will cover the bio rebuild for the dismembered individual. The dock workers stop talking, and I realise I've been staring and they have noticed. I tip my glass in their direction and smile. They grunt and nod back then continue to talk as I look out on the hustle and activity in the boulevard below the balcony.
I've chosen the Café Venue for a couple of reasons. First the excellent view of the dry dock, next the view over the Boulevard Hersham Star, so I can sit and watch the ebb and flow of humanity, if you can call some of the meta humans you get out here humanity, hybrids with animals that long since ceased to exist on their home worlds. The metas are an attempt to perpetrate the DNA to the future. A guilt payment for the terraforming and stealing of their home world’s resources, capitalist imperialism on a galactic scale.
Café Venue's not the most salubrious of locations, it's cheap, it's clean, and it's not quiet as ramshackle as some of the section twenty five industrial sector eateries. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not against eating ships rat, I just like mine to be cooked properly, with a nice sauce and some veg on the side. Section twenty five is more shanty town than anything else. Bolted on the side of the station almost like an after thought. Grown like a carbuncle from the constant influx of people from far and distant places. Silted like the slow part of the stream, having travelled light years at incredible speeds the flow of humanity slows down and sediment begins to form around the ports and cargo depots.
I can spend all day sitting here on the balcony. Quietly watching the flow of people. Quietly drinking their beer. My credit's good, and I only need to restock for a short haul, three months this time so plenty of slack in the budget.
If you sit still long enough the rest of the world starts to speed up around you, like some time-lapse scene from an old movie, the people start to move faster and faster, and you begin to see the patterns of the movement emerge. The lines of least resistance begin to appear. The pathways that people use subconsciously appear through the market below.
After a few hours I get bored. I've read all the vids I brought with me. I'm up to date on the SolDock politics, who hates who, who's in this season, who's out, who's killed who, and who tried, the new tech that's being sent down from Cygnus, and some of the other distance colonies. I may have enough from the next run to have some of the tech on The Lady upgraded after the next run.
I rise from the table. The waitress brings over the slate with my bill prominently displayed. I place my thumb on the bottom corner for fingerprint authentication and she scans the chip in my neck. A facsimile of my thumbprint appears on the bill where i touched it. Funds transferred, bill paid and a copy automatically picked up by my slate to transfer to the ship board accounts. Everything nicely logged and catalogued for the tax taken from any transactions undertaken in the industrial district. A different rate would apply if I had done the same thing in the habitat section. Downstairs and through the bar, out onto the street, hassled by vendors, bumped by fellow customers all eager to reach whatever bargain they have set their heart on today. as I move away from the Café Venue I hear the all to familiar sound of breaking glass and shouting as fight breaks out inside.
Now I need to find a water vendor to fill the tanks enough to give me six months grace before I have to start drinking re-syc again. Nothing quiet comes close to drinking your own re-cycled bath water, and sweat condensed out of the environment filters, let alone the toilet, but I try not to think about that.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chapter 00 - Introduction to Junis Redux.

My understanding of post-modernism at its most basic is everything is reducible to text. To comprehend anything one must first reduce it to words, to understand context one must textualise (I'm probably making words up here as usual) the content. Reducing it to text makes it more easily able to be manipulated. The experience essentially beyond words is corrupted in the analysis, in the attempt to understand. Schroeder’s cat, the beautiful day, the perfect kiss, become less for the attempt to describe them. The Zen axiom, he who knows does not talk, he who talks does not know. The past is the most recently, most commonly, accepted version of the lie. The past is fiction, the present is fiction, the future is fiction. Much like a political election, given time everyone wins, in their own way, despite who was elected.

History is lies, with each analysis, fact is re-work to fit another point of view. Fiction is lies, just enjoyable lies, with the imposition of the suspension of disbelief.

With a limited (finite) amount of symbols, the alphabet, accepted language (the dictionary defining proper words) mathematically there can only be a limited (calculable) number of permutations. Thus everything has to eventually have been said. The post modernist ideal of text, history, being reducible and manipulatable to any degree. Westside Story is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, reworked, repositioned, to music. Kurosawa's Ran is Hamlet, set in feudal Japan. Even the Matrix is elements of Ghost In The Shell rework with live actors. Roland’s first Harry Potter follows Ursula la Guins Earthsea story too closely for comfort in my opinion.

I don’t claim any of this is original. I am under the impression that some of the ideas are my own, and the structure and re-creation are my own. It's not what you steal it's what you do with it.

With the news that native born English speakers now make up a minority of those who use the language, I would have written all the dialogue in Chinglish (or Singlish, Hindlish/Hinglish) but for the fact that it may alienate all the reader(s) I have (yes I mean singular). Mainly because the thinking amongst those who know is that the English language is moving in this direction. So interstellar society will probably be speaking hybrid breeds of English and (my own preference) Chinese using the native Chinese sentence structures.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing And The Loss Of Love.

I find myself yet again over burdened by the futility of life.
I'm watching a film about writers (“the tenants”), I'm watching a film about writers falling in love (the same film) with the same girl. I'm finding myself unmoved, but uncomfortable. Both by the aspect of love and the aspect of the writers. The main character is putting his life on hold for an eventuality (to use his phrase) “once I've finished my book!”
Recently I keep finding myself watching films, and plays, and other programmes about writers. Finding myself more and more depressed by them.
The reason I find this film disturbing is, on the one hand identifying with the writing aspect (if not in reversal), the other hand is not identifying with the love aspect.
Continuously through the film the main character is putting all aspects of his life on hold (as I mentioned to finish his book). Not being able to allow for any aspect of his life to change, lest it disturb his creative flow. He is the last tenant of a block of flats because he refuses to move as all other tenants have. I identify probably because I keep coming up with excuses as to how, and why, not to write. I identify with the dysfunctional aspect of not admitting it's me that is stopping me write, or committing to the writing.
I often talk about the long term study I am making of symbolism, and how people apply it to themselves, with particular emphasis on occult symbolism.
Why do I mention this? 
On the love aspect, probably bolstered by the fact I've spent the afternoon watching detective programs (particularly Morse, and Frost). Who seem to be incredibly lonely and isolated, even dysfunctional, when it comes to women at least. As I watched the film all I felt at the romantic parts was a hollowness. I am beginning to think that perhaps it's another area of my life where I put things on hold for too long.
I think I am focusing on their dysfunction, and loneliness because that is how I'm beginning to feel myself. I'm seeking the similarity, and identifying with that which I am beginning to see is wrong with my life at the moment.
I have spent quiet a few years remaining conspicuously single on purpose. Mostly from the point of view that a relationship built from combined effort to combat problems, tends to fall apart once the opposition has been surmounted. Say if you spend years struggling to pay debts, or overcome money worries, once the problem is solved the bond in the relationship breaks down.
To this end, by my own particularly twisted little logic, I have spent years trying to get a reasonable job, decent money, and cover the mortgage without worrying too much. to this end I have avoided (apart from a couple of drunken indiscretions and what I can only describe as a very confusing period when I wasn't going out with someone, a sort of not relationship, funnily enough not the first not relationship I've been involved in) any sort of relationship, choosing to turn down any offers from friends or family to set me up with anyone.
It's this that is beginning to worry me. Perhaps I have spent too long alone to start actually feeling anything for anyone. I am beginning to feel further and further disassociated. I'm worried that I no longer know how to start the process again now that I feel I should.
OK it's back to my plain pasta (with black pepper and butter), and “Practical Magic” on the telly. Yet again (to quote Sandra Bullock) “at times my heart feels so empty, I'm sure if you put your ear to my chest you could hear the sea!”
If only magic were as simple as they portray it here. A quick rhyme, the throwing of some herbs, burn a candle and that's that. Sod all my preparation both physical and mental, drawing circles and incanting.
If only the “Buffy Wiccan” thing worked. I'll have a pinch of Eris, a little of Freya, spirit of the sky, spirit of fire, spirit of water, spirit of earth, a meeting of minds, a length of time, and a companion to hold.
I still await the next person to walk into my life with that look that just takes my breath away.
May all your gods smile upon you.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

And The World Gets Me Down.

Every Silver lining has a cloud!
This morning I feel like an old man. I seem to have gotten to that point in life where, when any illness strikes, I begin to worry it is permanent. A few weeks back I had an ear infection that caused both ears to block, and the first thought that I had was to worry about how I would live my life deaf.
I don't know if it's because it's Friday, mid month (as good as), and most of my money is already spent (as usual). Or if it's just some existential ennui, but I just feel like a stranger in my own land. Even there I still, after all these years, don't feel England is quiet where I come from. Maybe all “Forces Brats” feel the same (especially when they were born overseas)!
Listen to the radio and frequently the “Ashes” are mentioned at the moment (with the cricket being played in Wales) and I feel nothing. I endured the tennis and was not moved by the inclusion, nor beating of an Englishman in the men's finals.
Whilst walking to work this morning one of the radio's in the market stalls, setting up for the day, was blaring out the cult, and the line “and the world gets me down!”
I should be careful, my life is not a bad thing at the moment. I am paid a reasonable amount of money (don't get me wrong, I can always take more if you want to pay me it). My job is actually interesting, even if I may have a little to much to do at the moment. I have friends, a house and some sort of (minimalist) social life. Careful because I am almost wishing for some excitement to enter my life. Careful because I may get what I'm wishing for, “be careful to wish for what you need not what you want, as you may well get it!” Is an axiom I try to live by.
The almost constant barrage of everyone else’s problems , with jobs, love lives, houses, money, children, that though I don’t suffer at the moment, I have and can easily sympathise (trying not to take their troubles home with me though I do worry for them), the calm collected nature of my voice being a soporific to their troubled minds.
I am just filled with the urge to pack a couple of bags and wonder off into the sunset. Time to move, time to change time to shake it all up.
Maybe its just loneliness. Every day I travel to and from work, and I blush to think how many times I see some attractive young person (see I even sound old now), and how often I fall in love. A good friend said to me years ago as I was to travel back to England, “Simon, when you fall in love on the ferry, at least try and get their name!”
The surprise contact of an old friend brings back memories of loves lost, should have been, could have been, but never were. Not to be a “what if” sort of person, but one can’t help but wonder once in a while, as one sits alone in ones lounge talking to the empty chairs about whatever film, or TV show is on.
Maybe it's the fact that I've spent the last week in an office by myself at work. Part isolation syndrome, part guilt that I could have been doing so much more.
It's just the line from Leonard Cohen “see that line across the station, I was one of those!” I frequently see myself as the subject of that comment as I shuffle through the tube stations, or rush (relative term) to get on the evening train with the rest of my fellow commuters. The endless grind, pushing shoving, trying not to take on their stress at you not being as fast, nor as important as they, and still in their way.
It could be the fact I don't feel well. There are ten spots on my fore arm (in a tight isolated group) that don't look like the usual stress induced eczema. Maybe they're chicken pox, and I should have taken the week off myself.
Or the slightly queasy feeling I have this morning, the probable result of the chicken sandwich from the “WH Smiths”, in the station last night. Note to self must really stop buying them at the end of the day, had too many food poisoning incidents from similar.
Or maybe it's just this pain in my ankle. I have been limping for quiet some time now. There is a swelling (careful nursie) at the ankle as though I have sprained a ligament and it just doesn't seem to want to get better. I was blaming it on sleeping in odd positions on the train.
I just find I am doing and saying things that are making me feel more and more bizarre, and as a result more isolated. In the morning I have breakfast before I put my shirt on, so as not to go to work wearing both (the breakfast and the shirt). The other morning I only noticed I split breakfast down my shirt when I was trying to clean up the fruit juice I'd also spilt. Massive juice bottle opening failure led to dribbling.
Maybe that's it. I should just relax into the Zen of the whole thing. Stop worrying and become that strange smelling weird old man that is lusting after girls a quarter of his age. Yes I can hear you “What do you mean become?” I feel I'm already there.
Fade to grey!

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