Friday, September 14, 2012

Back to Brooklyn - an evening with the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers

I'm reviving my Flash Friday today with a quick piece I wrote for last night's BSFW meeting. Who's BSFW? We're a writing critique/support/social group convening twice  monthly in a strange and wondrous land known as Brooklyn. The third Thursday each month is short story critiques, and novels (cut into digestable chunks) on Sundays. As a short fiction writer myself, I particularly enjoy the Thursday meetings. In addition to some much-appreciated feedback on my own work, I find that reading others' helps me to think like a writer.

It's also nice to discuss writing and speculative literature in general with like-minded people. Before last night's critiques we had a spirited debate on whether it is appropriate, inappropriate, or even a moral duty to support a writer whose politics one detests by buying his books. In particular, should one buy Orson Scott Card's books or even subscribe to his online fiction magazine "Intergalactic Medicine Show". (For those with no idea what I'm talking about, Card is the author of many well-known science fiction books, including the much-loved Ender's Game. He's also a member of the boar of the National Organization for Marriage and vocal opponent of marriage equality). 

On one hand, our interactions with a living artist can affect his choices which, in this case, may be a good thing. On the other, the work should speak for itself and Card's early work had consistent messages of tolerance for the other. His later work, sadly, seems to be tainted by his growing bigotry. In defending her choice to participate in a Card tribute anthology, World Fantasy Award winner suggested a separation between the personal and political. She also pointed out quite fairly that, while he is an insufferable bigot, Card was also very instrumental in helping others better learn the craft of writing. (Lest you think Kowal doesn't care about the political, see here for her reaction to the almost-publication of a blatantly racist novel in Weird Tales).

After all the spirited discussion, we had time for sharp, insightful critiques of the stories submitted for this week as well as a few minutes at the end to read the results of our Flash challenge for the month. Brad gives us one of these for each session, and it's a neat way to get the creative juices going. This week's prompt was a photo, which I included in the text of the story below. Those of us who finished the challenge read our work aloud at the meeting; I've read it here for you to at least somewhat repeat the experience. I included the photo prompt within the story.

The Right Doctor
by L. Czhorat Suskin

She'd nagged about the snoring for months, but I held firm, always waiting for the right doctor. A doctor like my father or his father would have seen. No, not their doctors. Not an old man with shaky hands, but one like they'd seenin the day. A man with a firm gaze and a firm grip and honest tools of stainless steel. Doctors these days? Skinny kids with limp hands and limp wrists suitable only frail, plastic toylike things. Women, even. I got nothing against women - I mean, I wouldn't put up with her nagging if I did. Still, if someone's digging in my head, my nose, my body ... that should be a man. It just should.

I didn't even believe her about the snoring, but still, once I found the right doctor I went, didn't I?  That's just part of what a man's gotta do. Nobody can say that I don't listen to my woman.

I knew that Doctor Roberts was the right doctor from the first phonecall. Firm, calm voice with just enough of a smart-guy accent to let me know that I wasn't trusting my nose to some rube. His location was weird - I mean, how many docs run their clinics on the docks in a decommissioned submarine - but like I said, a man's gotta do what he's gotta do. With rents so damn high I'm surprised more docs don't try it. Maybe Doc Roberts will start something.

So I walk the last few blocks, past shiny new apartmnent buildings of glass and steel, past the meat-packing district turned meat-market, past rows of squat, honest warehouses turned lofts and hipster nests and fancy little stores. To one of the last honest corners of the city, one of the last almost-working docks, to the doctor's pocket-size ship, a floating clinic clad in honest grey steel.

The doctor was smaller than I'd exected, with a lean sharp face like a city rat. One of them types you can't really place. Maybe Pakistani or Indian or Arab or something. He lead me into a little room, a strong room, all painted steel bulkheads and bare floors and bare lightbulbs.

"Please pardon my humility of office. You know how it is. Real estate."

I took his hand. Slender but strong. He had a good shake. "Don't I know it. And this is great. Feels honest."

A twinkle flashed across his eyes. "To business then, shall we? You don't seem to me to be a man who likes to be kept waiting, beating around the bush. You say you have trouble sleeping? You snore, yes?"

"So my wife says. What can you do?"

After the usual looking, poking, prodding, he stroked that pointy chin of his and pulled a shiny stainless-steel thing out of a drawer. A long wicked-curved tube narrow and gleaming, trigger like a gun, gently contoured handgrip. He pressed it in, into my nose, past that deep place where tobasco sauce goes if you use too much of it almost to the back of my eyeball he squeezed the trigger and his face reflected in the stainless steel looked stretched looked reptilian and I heard the hissing from behind my eyes and the burning inside of my nose and the the burning in back of my eyeballs and the top of my skull no it didn't burn it froze cold blew through my nostrils cold like winter like the winter wind through the canyons of the city and it rushed through my head screamed through my head

and my breath froze and

and silence.

In the silence
I heard the trigger on his device click off.
The glide of a drawer.
The clickclickclick of his fingerjoints clickclickclicking open as he set it down

My breath was gone, leaving me silence. Enough silence to hear the click of the trigger and the drawer and his fingerjoints.

Silence enough to hear the voice of god. Whispering to me. His breath fills me now, feeds me now. He knows I did right.

And now, now that I have his voice in my ear - now that I found the right doctor I'll need not listen to her again. 


That's all I have for today. See you all next week!

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