Low Port: Part 37

About "Bidding the Walrus": A lot of my fiction tends to involve cognitive processes like memory and attention, language and judgment, and their variations as they occur in alien or mechanical intelligences. The original motivation for this story came from a desire to flesh out the Clarkesons, a species I mentioned in pa.s.sing in another story but didn't get to explore. My intent was to tap into the perils of doing business with creatures so alien in mindset and perspective that despite humanoid appearances they really did not experience reality in the same ways we do. I open the story with Eggplant Jackson's warming, but like the sorcerer's apprentice, Gideon pays no heed. The question you really want to be asking yourself is what the Clarkeson thought would happen. Did Greyce realize what his gift would do? And if so, did he care? The cognition of alien colony beings can be tricky. Fortunately, it falls nicely into balance when human cognitive processes are taken to extreme. I expect to see more of the Walrus, and he wouldn't go anywhere without Weird Tommy.

Laura J. Underwood used to be a stable b.u.m, but she gave up a career with horses and veterinary medicine because she decided she would rather write. She is the author of two novels, Ard Magister and The Black Hunter, three short story collections, and a host of short fiction in the fantasy field. Her work has appeared in numerous volumes of Sword and Sorceress, and in such magazines as Marion Zirnmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Dark Regions Magazine and Adventures in Sword & Sorcery. When not putting pen to paper, she is a fencer, a harpist and a librarian living in East Tennessee with the Cat of Few Grey Cells otherwise known as Gato Bobo.

About "The Gift": When I first read the guidelines for Low Port, I was intrigued by the challenge of writing a story placed in the underbelly of society. Very few of my stories ever venture into such settings for more than a scene or two. But then I remembered Rhys, a minor character in a working novel-a healer and an herbalist who happens to be mageborn too. Rhys lives and works in the ruins of the once-proud city of Caer Elenthorn, a city that has never quite recovered from being overrun by the dark forces of The Hound during the Last War. As a trained healer, Rhys feels duty bound to offer his gifts to the "lower levels of humanity" residing in Broken Wall, for these are the people among whom he was born. But what Rhys wants more than anything is to be a True Healer instead of one cursed with the legacy of magic. I decided he had a few lessons to learn about accepting himself as he is. Not everyone can have "the gift" they crave.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., has published a number of short stories and technical articles and more than thirty-five novels, many of which have been translated into German, Polish, Dutch, Czech, and Russian. His first published story appeared in a.n.a.log in 1973. Born in 1943 in Denver, Colorado, Mr. Modesitt has been, among other occupations, a U.S. Navy pilot; an industrial economist; staff director for a U.S. Congressman; Director of Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues. In 1989, to escape years of occupational captivity in Washington, D.C., he moved to New Hampshire where he married a lyric soprano. They moved to Cedar City, Utah, in 1993.

About "The Dock to Heaven": When I heard that Sharon and Steve were putting together Low Port, my initial reaction was two-fold-that it was a great idea and that it was too bad that I didn't have anything in mind that would fit the anthology. But the more I thought about the idea, the more I realized that in anything I'd ever read, and in my own experience, there's one very grubby aspect of every business that very few people realize can be every bit as draining and exhausting-if in a different way-as the hard and dangerous physical labor. And that's what I wrote about, because it's something that I know, from both sides, first as a pilot who didn't have to worry about it and then as a different variety of snark.

Ru Emerson grew up poor in b.u.t.te, Montana and after that lived some of the rougher parts of Hollywood, East Los Angeles and Venice Beach while trying to scratch out a living in a Straight Job. For several years that worked (legal secretary and paralegal in Century City-"L.A. Law" land). After relocating to Oregon some years ago and taking to writing full time, she has again rediscovered the thrills of living on the Edge.

Emerson now lives on five rural acres with The Infamous (and often alleged to be fict.i.tious) Doug, and is bossed around by Roberta the Foo-Cat and twin black Cubs, Mufasa and Bagheerah. When not writing, she is usually gardening or lifting weights.

About "Find a Pin": When I first heard about the anthology and that it would be about people just barely making it, I knew it had already hit a nerve, though I wasn't sure which nerve, exactly. But the next day, I woke up and the story was simply There, fully told, waiting to be written down; before I even opened my eyes, I knew how this woman would sound, look, the little gestures she'd make with her hands.

I can't be sure exactly where the impetus came from on "Find a Pin;" these "Just in there waiting to be let out" stories are very rare for me, and not always susceptible to a.n.a.lysis. But for years, I have simply hated the way Oregon has closed its mental facilities and shoved so many schizophrenic patients out the door with a vial of pills: "Here, honey; now, don't forget to take these."

At the same time as the anthology came around, I was dealing with my lovely mother's condition: Mother is 83, has advanced Alzheimers, lives with my youngest sister and has been slowly turning into A Scary Person. Sue and I keep reminding each other "It could be worse." I guess for the women in this story, it really could.

Alan Smale writes speculative fiction, sings ba.s.s and serves as business manager for up-and-coming high energy vocal band The Chromatics, and performs occasionally in community theater. An expatriate Yorkshireman, he is now a US citizen. By day (and sometimes night) he works as a research astronomer for USRA at NASA's G.o.ddard s.p.a.ce Flight Center. Alan's science fiction and fantasy stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies including Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future #13, Harcourt Brace collections A Wizard's Dozen and A Nightmare's Dozen, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and Adventures of Sword and Sorcery. He has earned several Honorable Mentions in best-of-year anthologies, and is currently marketing his first novel. His fledgling website can be found at www.alansmale.com About "Sailing to the Temple": I can't travel without becoming obsessed with the country I'm visiting. While touring j.a.pan I tried to read manga without knowing j.a.panese and derive pac.h.i.n.ko from first principles. (I never got lost in j.a.pan, but I often got confused.) I also tried to peer back in time, beyond the cliches of samurai and ninja, kabuki, and haiku. A thousand years ago Heian j.a.pan was essentially isolated, its culture and basic a.s.sumptions very different from those found elsewhere. Even equipped with a universal translator, a time traveler would face major difficulties communicating in a society with such elaborate beliefs, superst.i.tions, and rituals. The thought patterns and narrative style are sufficiently alien to us today that the Tale of Genji is almost untranslatable, and scholars cannot agree on whether it is complete or unfinished.

I read Genji, and Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book, but I couldn't help wondering what the regular folk were doing (apart from working their b.u.t.ts off and dying young) while the aristocracy pursued their cult of beauty and elegant romantic intrigues. I wrote "Sailing" to find out, and attempt to explore these different thought patterns.

Almost by definition, I must have failed. But I did enjoy the trip.

In 1988, Salmon Rushdie caused a stir with The Satanic Verses and Gabriel Garcia Marquez published Love In The Time Of Cholera. More significantly, Mark W. Tiedemann attended Clarion and soon after began publishing a string of short stories. In 2000, he began publishing novels, beginning with Mirage: An Isaac Asimov Robot Mystery for ibooks. More followed. His 2001 novel Compa.s.s Reach, first volume of the Secantis Sequence, was nominated for the Philip K. d.i.c.k Award. Metal of Night (2002) and Peace & Memory (2003) continue the stories of the Secant.

About "The Pilgrim Trade": The Pilgrim Trade is a story from my Secantis Sequence. I began developing the Secant universe in response to a desire to write far future stories against a common background unbound by normal series restrictions of character and plot. I wanted to work in a world that would be recognized as viable in all its pieces and parts, wherein I could tell stories at any level of society, in any geographical (or interstellar) location.

My first Secantis novel, Compa.s.s Reach, is the story of Freeriders, a kind of interstellar hobo cla.s.s-the disenfranchised, the unwanted, the unrecognized of my society. It's clear from that book that the Freeriders represent but one segment of the undercla.s.s in the Pan Humana. The present story is about another such segment.

The idea originally was to allow me to write about economics as social tool rather than how most people seem to perceive it, as some sort of natural phenomenon, and to show how control of the tool can be used for both good or ill. And how, the possibilities of a so-called "post scarcity" world can nevertheless fall to materialize due to simple (or complex) human prejudice.

Patrice Sarath is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, and is a member of the Slug Tribe Writer's Group. Her stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Black Gate, and the Meisha Merlin anthology Such a Pretty Face. Patrice's love of the fantastic began at an early age-she was one of those kids who always got in trouble for telling lies. She feels lucky that now she's getting paid for it.

About "More to Glory": In many ways, the working poor have it harder than the purely dest.i.tute. They live teetering on that knife's edge that separates a roof over one's head from homelessness, a full belly from starvation. One missed paycheck, one recession, and they know they can be plunged into true poverty. When I first sat down to write my story for the Low Port anthology, I knew I wanted to write about an ordinary, middle-cla.s.s family doing its best to survive, love its kids, and raise them right, all against extraordinary odds.

Baltimore-born Sharon Lee is best known for the Liaden Universe stories and novels that she co-authors with her husband, Steve Miller. Her singleton work includes the mystery novel Barnburner as well as a dozen or so science fiction and fantasy short stories. Sharon's most recent publication is The Tomorrow Log, co-written with Steve and published by Meisha Merlin. For more information on Sharon, Steve and their work, check out www.korval.com About "Gonna Boogie With Granny Time": The city which "Granny Time" is set is Baltimore, Maryland-my hometown. When I was a kid, I walked all over the city-up to the Enoch Pratt Main Library, down to the docks, across to Lexington Market and the upscale department stores, and down again, to my favorite part of the city-the red light district known as The Block.

The Block and its diverse citizens fascinated me. The strippers, the barkers, the bouncers-they had their own culture, their own language, their own naming system-and their own code of honor.

Many years later, after Steve and I had moved to Maine, I was feeling just a touch homesick for the hot streets of my native city. It didn't occur to me to write a story about Baltimore, though, until I had a conversation with a friend in which he indicated that a particular person had so little personal power as to actually possess "mouse mojo."

Clearly, Mouse Mojo was the name of someone familiar with the streets of Baltimore and The Block. I put the word out-and a day later, I knew where to find him.

After the kind of varied career path that indicates either extreme curiosity or a very short attention span, Chris Szego found the job of her dreams managing Bakka, Canada's oldest SF bookstore. A prize-winning poet, her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Most of the time she lives in Toronto.

About "Angel's Kitchen": Social work is not for the merely compa.s.sionate. It's a job for those very few whose hearts are both infinitely giving and tough as diamond. The people who can learn to measure success by an increase of time between failures. Who know that no matter how bad it gets, there will always be something worse ahead. But who try, anyway.

People that brave need an angel who's not afraid to get dirty.

Edward McKeown is a native son of NYC from which he draws much of the color and att.i.tude of his stories. He moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1985 in search of reasonable house prices and a commute free of the "non-bathing public."

In Charlotte he developed an interest in the martial arts, achieving a black sash (belt) in Esoma Kung Fu. Writing was always a desire and became a pa.s.sion after his muse took up full time residence behind his eyeb.a.l.l.s. He's fortunate to be married to the noted artist, Sch.e.l.ly Keefer.

About "Lair of the Lesbian Love G.o.ddess": "Lair of the Lesbian Love G.o.ddess" came out of sheer serendipity. I finally listened to my wife and came out of the writing closet to join a critique group. The experience, which I think is an essential one for a writer, was terrific. The group known as Brinker's at Border in honor of a deceased member became a wellspring of ideas as well as a sounding board.

One day, I was e-mailing a friend from the group about a missing member. Our exchange spun out of control as we went back and forth about her possible fate: kidnapped, abducted by aliens, lost in a South Carolina swamp? Finally my friend, Diane Hoover, suggested that she had been captured and disappeared into a particular local inst.i.tution of higher learning (which I won't name, so don't ask) that she called the Lair of the Lesbian Love G.o.ddess. I laughed till tears appeared.

I decided that I had to write a short story with that as a t.i.tle. Gradually the pulp-noir tale began to populate itself with characters: the world weary McMa.n.u.s, ambitious Regina Del Mar, flirtatious Freddie and that most critical of characters, New York City, in all its sordid muscularity. The four of them continue to whisper in my ear and three more stories have resulted. I hope eventually to have enough for an anthology of Lair tales.

Nathan Archer is a former New Yorker and a former bureaucrat. He is the author of half a dozen licensed novels and a few short stories. He's not sure what else he is that isn't "former," but hopes to figure it out soon.

Lee Martindale is a warrior-bard in the old tradition. Editor of Meisha Merlin's first original anthology, Such A Pretty Face, her own short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, online venues, anthologies and collections. When not slinging fiction, she's a member of the SFWA Musketeers, a songwriter and filker, activist, public speaker, Life Member of SFWA and a member of the SCA. She lives in Plano, Texas with her husband George and three feline G.o.ddesses, and keeps her friends and fans in the loop with her website, www.harphaven.net * * *

Jody Lynn Nye lists her main career activity as "spoiling cats." She lives northwest of Chicago with three of the above (who get plenty to eat) and her husband (ditto), author and packager Bill Fawcett. She has published 25 books, including six contemporary fantasies, three SF novels, four novels in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey, including The Ship Who Won; edited a humorous anthology about mothers, Don't Forget Your s.p.a.cesuit, Dear!; and written over seventy short stories. Her latest books are License Invoked (www.baen.com) and Myth Alliances (Meisha Merlin), co-written with Robert Asprin, and Advanced Mythology (Meisha Merlin).

About "Bottom of the Food Chain": "The bottom of the food chain" is a common phrase currently used to describe the dispossessed. When I read the author's briefing for Low Port, it popped into my mind. The homeless or the marginally employed, especially in cities, have trouble maintaining a decent diet. Where they would be accorded basic nutrition by law, such as on a s.p.a.ce station, logic suggests that they'd be given the least common denominator of food: enough so they wouldn't starve, but nothing as appealing or as varied as if they could actually pay for it. Like Oliver Twist, my main character dreams of the kind of food that rich people get to eat. His dreams may seem very small, but until he's attained those, it's hard to reach for higher goals.

Joe Murphy lives with his wife, up-and-coming watercolor artist Veleta, in Fairbanks, Alaska. His fiction has or will appear in: Age of Wonders, Altair, A Horror A Day: 365 Scary Stories, Bones of the World, Book of All Flesh, Clean Sheets, Chiaroscuro, Crafty Cat Crimes, Cthulhu's Heirs, Demon s.e.x, Full Unit Hookup, Gothic.net, Legends of the Pendragon, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Outside, On Spec, Silver Web, s.p.a.ce and Time, Strange Horizons, Talebones, TransVersions, Vestal Review, and Why I Hate Aliens.

Previously published stones are now on the Internet at Alexandria Digital Literature (www.alexlit.com) and at fictionwise.com. Joe is a member of SFWA, HWA, a graduate of Clarion West '95 and Clarion East 2000.

About "Zappa for Bardog": I really found the guidelines for Low Port interesting. And I've been experimenting with alien points of view. That's how the idea to tell a story through an artificial life form who could read information directly from human DNA came about. Having also been a fan of the late Frank Zappa, I've always wanted to do a tribute story as well. All these things kind of just came together and somehow managed to work.

Paul E. Martens is a son, a husband, and a father. He has a job. Paul was a first place winner in the Writers of the Future Contest and received an Honorable Mention in the 2001 Best of Soft SF Contest. Other stories have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. He likes to pretend to be a cynical curmudgeon but he's actually a neurotic optimist.

About "The Times She Went Away": I knew I wanted to write a story for Low Port. I started with a guy like Peter in his middle years (a smuggler, a fence, someone making his living, not exactly on the dark side, but certainly on the crepuscular side), and his kind of wild adopted daughter. I thought the story had potential, but no real plot yet. Then Annie Jones showed up. Once he met Annie, Peter had no choice but to spend his life hanging around the Low Port, waiting for her to come back, and I had my story.

Douglas Smith's stories have appeared in over 40 professional magazines and anthologies in fifteen countries and thirteen languages, including Amazing Stories, Cicada, Interzone, The Third Alternative, On Spec, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror. In 2001, he was a John W. Campbell Award finalist for best new writer, and won an Aurora Award for best SF&F short fiction by a Canadian. He's been an Aurora finalist eight times and has twice been selected for honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror. In real life, Doug is a technology executive for an international consulting firm. He lives just north of Toronto, Canada. Like the rest of humanity, he is working on a novel. His web site is www.smithwriter.com and his email is About "Scream Angel": The genesis of this story was a trip to a circus. Ever since my oldest son, Mike, was about five and until my youngest son, Chris, decided it was no longer cool, we've gone to a circus show that tours Toronto each summer. They just set up in a field near the parking lots of one of the big suburban shopping malls, charge way too much for popcorn and candyfloss, and put on a fair-to-middling show. It's no Vegas, but it was always fun and for a good cause. Chris is physically handicapped, so when he started going, we were given seats reserved for wheelchairs right at ringside. A great view, close enough to really smell the elephants. But being that close let me notice something I'd missed from farther back. All of the performers did double, or even triple, duty as circus hands, setting up equipment, acting as safety catchers, or even shoveling up after the horses and elephants. Seeing the trapeze artist, who had just dazzled the crowd in his spiffy sequined outfit, show up in coveralls cleaning up elephant p.o.o.p gave me the idea of a down-and-out circus of aliens, just sc.r.a.ping by. I coupled it with another idea about a drug I ended up calling Scream, made the big act a pair of bird-like aliens, and the rest grew out of that.

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