My first best friend

My first best friend was a book, or if I’m really honest, any book. I loved to read, even to the exclusion of the things that normal kids do. I think it had something to do with my inability to understand my peers and feeling like they definitely didn’t understand me.

I think if I had been born 10 or 15 years later, I would have been just in time for the PC revolution, and my best friend would have been a computer instead. At this point, other than my wife and child, and the friends I have in my gaming group, the computer is my best friend, and my books have been shunted aside as my primary form of escape and recreation.  I tend to read primarily for the purposes of learning rather than for enjoyment.

We are in the process of downsizing our household and part of that process has been culling my book collection. I’ve done this a couple of times in my life, neither terribly willingly, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

The first time I had to cull my collection was when my first wife insisted that I get rid of the boxes of books that I had hauled along through multiple moves with my family and multiple moves as an adult. When she finally insisted, it was one of the major fights of our short marriage.  I finally gave in, perhaps because I decided I needed her more than I needed my books, but now that I look back on it, it was more of a power struggle than any real desire to downsize on her part.

I did it again when my current wife and I decided to downsize before we moved to our current home.  I’ve managed to refill my bookshelves though mostly with technical books.  Having a nook and a kindle app on my smartphone has been a godsend.  I now have a library of at least 100 books all in a 2″ X 5″ space.

My tastes in fiction have always tended toward genres, especially horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  I’ve even gone so far as to try to write some of each, though I struggle with the discipline to finish anything.  I have a novel in the works, and the beginnings of an RPG module if I can just get myself to just write instead of writing about writing.  There’s a lot to be said for just sitting down and pounding out the words.  Unfortunately, I’m inclined to try to write my final draft the first time out, not wanting to do the work required to fix my bad grammer, poor spelling, and lackluster plotting once I’ve gotten started.

The odd thing is, I can finish poetry, and I can write articles, but fiction never quite feels right.  I think I’ve been spoiled by reading so many great story tellers.  All I can think of when I write is “This isn’t as good as Asimov, King, Brown, Bloch, or de Camp.  Never mind all of them were masters of their craft by the time I started reading them.  I never saw their first fumbling attempts at storytelling, just their masterpieces.  Maybe beginning writers should only be allowed to read crap so they can find their own voices, while thinking “I may not be the best writer in the world, but I’m better than that!”  For me the first novel that brought that feeling was a book called “The Alien” at least that’s what I think it was called.  I’ve tried to forget it since, other than a vague memory that it was full of cliches, unnecessary gore, and dialog that sounded like something out of a 60’s Batman! episode.  Later, there were novels by James Patterson that gave me the same feeling.  “He’s churning this crap out and making millions.  Why can’t I do that?”

So I’m working on getting serious about writing again.  Below is the start of my fantasy novel.

Flight of the Pigasus

The laboratory smelled of sulfur and a hint of other things, preferably unknown, as the thought was likely to ruin one’s appetite.  Aladar leaned over a vat, his long beard dipping into the effluvia and coming back a good inch shorter and discolored at the end as though it had been burned off.  “Hmm..needs just a bit more grunberry, and a pinch of… fildric root!  That’s it!” He shuffled over to a shelf and pulled down several jars, inspecting the contents of each in turn before finding what he was looking for and tossing his discoveries into the vat, his leather apron protecting him from the back splash, which ate holes in the floor where it landed.

“Is it ready yet? Is it ready?” barked Grff happily, his wet nose shining in the lamplight, his tail making flickering shadows as it waved across the lamps.

“Not yet,” Aladar said, his rheumy eyes glowing wet behind the thick lenses that perched uneasily on his long narrow nose. “I think we need to give it just a bit more time.  Watch your tail Grff, you’ll knock over the alembics if you’re not more careful!”  He made one final inspection of the vat’s occupant and stepped back, satisfied. “This will take a bit and it’s time for supper.  Can I trust you to lock things up?”

“Oh yes!  Yes, I can do that!” Grff scampered about the room happily, pleased to be of service.  As Aladar left, he started to pick up glass beakers and crockery, putting each back in its carefully labeled place on the shelves.  He swept the floor and then pulled out the mop, wiping the bloodstains and other effluvia off the floor in great wet passes, like a dog’s tongue.

“Master likes the floor clean, yes he does!” Grff growdeled happily to himself.  It was low howling yodel combined with a growl.  Grff was prone to making the noise when Aladar told him he was a Good Boy or when the Master gave him new responsibilities.  He wanted to be a Good Boy.  Being a Good Boy had been all he had ever wanted, even before Master made The Change.  He continued his pass across the floor until he came to the sole window in the north wall.  What he saw in the yard caused him to pause and stick his head out the window.

“Grrrrrrruuufff!  Grrrrufffff! Grubbut! Grubbut!  Get out of my yard!  Grrrrrruffff!  Grrrrruffff!”  The grubbet froze, it’s green eyes shining in the darkness, and its long prehensile nose continued to sniff the ground, looking for the odd insect.

“I’ll show you, you old grrrrrrrubbet!” Grff squeezed through the window and ambled toward the grubbet, which scampered off into the twilight with Grff in close pursuit.

Back in the laboratory, the vat which contained Aladar’s latest experiment started to bubble.  First a snout rose above the turmoil, then a pair of pink ears, then a pair of leathery wings, which quickly started to flap, drying themselves as the rest of the creature arose from the morass.  When they were flightworthy, the creature hovered above the vat for a moment, gave a snort of surprise, and then flew out the window where Grff had gone, ready to experience the world outside.