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Closing the Circuit

Blurb

Griff Logan has dishonoured himself and lost everything that matters to him: his future as an Officer, the affections of his patron uncle, a leadership position in the most winning Army that year. Even his place at the Captain’s Table. Penniless and without anything better to do he follows an old monk on the Junrei path to ‘Close the Circuit’ and covertly gain some of the secret benefits of being an Officer.

And maybe work off a little bad karma along the way.

Pitch

Closing the Circuit is slipstream. No doubt of it. And yet it is also the hardest of Hard Science Fiction. Except the story isn’t supplied with the usual firehose of science fact justifying its hardness or with characters explaining to each other facts they have known all their lives. In truth there isn’t an expository bone in its body. The clues are there, you just have to work the details out for yourself.

Closing the Circuit is a story. About a guy, young guy really, who screwed up. Bad. Then ended up traveling around with a crazy monk as a consequence. Then things got weird.

Closing the Circuit is mystery, bildungsroman, monomyth, folk tale, koan, political drama, tragedy, real magicism, exemplum, dialogic argument for ‘Great Chain of Being’; even künstlerroman in an odd and unearthly way. But rest assured, it has not a scrap of allegory hiding in it.

Closing the Circuit is a serial novel, posted to the web with a Creative Commons License. It’s free to read on my own website and, unless special arrangements are made with me, must be free to read if hosted elsewhere on the web. So do not forget that you get what you pay for.

Chapters:

  1. First steps are the hardest
  2. Meditation: Art
  3. The banners and the blood
  4. Remembrance: Battle
  5. To walk among the fallen
  6. Meditation: Beauty
  7. The coldest of us
  8. Remembrance: Sully
  9. Like the turning of the night
  10. Meditation: Worth
  11. Tales must be told
  12. Remembrance: Temple
  13. Uneasy streets, unhappy houses
  14. Meditation: Perfection
  15. In the Palace of the Winds
  16. Remembrance: Colin
  17. No journey is complete
  18. Meditation: Justice
  19. A discourse with a demon
  20. Remembrance: Challenge
  21. There is a sign at the end
  • . . . More to come . . .

A note to the reader

Closing the Circuit is a serial novel of Science Fiction. As such I am delivering it to you on my personal website and giving it a Creative Commons license, reserving copyright to myself. I promise to not revoke that license for the web and and am willing to let others host CtC at no cost to them, provided they do not do so in order to make a profit. If you do host it you must provide a link to my website in order to meet the requirements of the license.

If you enjoy this novel, please let me know. Oh, and tell others about it too! I’m not making anything on writing this thing, but it would be cool to have people read it. But, whether anyone reads CtC or not I’m going to finish it a bit at a time. This is a story I want very much to tell and I want to tell it in a certain way.

Thing is, that certain way requires breaking some genre conventions into tiny bits. This might not bother you, unless you are really into that subgenre known as Hard Science Fiction, but I am telling CtC the ‘wrong way’. This means I am unable to market CtC to any of the usual suspects because those who sell dead tree editions on shelves live or die by meeting readers expectations. Thus genre conventions and thus why I am giving CtC away for free instead of playing the submissions game with it.

You see, even if I was to be what Jay Lake called ‘psychotically persistent’ long enough to actually sell CtC to some long suffering acquisitions editor, the first notes from her would consist of major structural changes and the suggested cutting of entire chapters. And I would be all, “. . . but I really want to tell the story in my certain way.”

Easier this way. I like easy.

Thing is, as a reader you may not like my certain way. If so, sorry I wasted your time. Would you be interested in something a little more conventional? I might be able to help you out there with a short story or two. Also, would you be willing to stick it out if I told you CtC will meet all the genre requirements by the end?

There is also the slim possibility you might actually like my certain way of telling this story. You might enjoy the many mysteries I pose, about the characters and the place, and dig sussing out what is actually going on before the story tells you. If so, I’m really hoping I can surprise you with the final reveal!

This is also your chance to be an editor! Please create a login for this site. (You can use any existing Open ID login you might have or you can create a local one.) Then post comments to the chapters with copyedit suggestions and the like; I will rewrite as needed.

Suggestions about structure or plot are a bit more problematic. Since you don’t know where the story is going until it gets there, I’m likely to ignore your contributions unless I am already going that direction.

Basically positive or constructive critiques are welcome, but please do not find me unappreciative should I ignore advice that goes against my plan. Negative critiques? Well, personally I wonder why you would bother. I mean, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Frankly you are getting this for free and we all know you get what you pay for…

Oh, and then there is the whole ‘serial novel’ thing: CtC will come to you one chapter at a time and I might choose to post later chapters before I fill in the gaps between them. Unless I get a lot of positive feedback the chapters may not find their way here on a regular basis. (I do commit to finishing, eventually.)

If I haven’t scared you off yet, please continue reading!

Preface

All fiction requires both a setting and characters to populate it. Fiction is simply telling stories about how the characters interact within the setting. If the characters interact directly with the places and culture they inhabit, then the setting itself becomes a character. If you tell stories set in a actual time and place you are free to make assumptions about the reader’s understanding of the places and culture and use your own understanding to inform the story with the setting.

However, Speculative Fiction requires that you create the place and culture in your head first. The first part, creating the place, can be great fun. Then you populate your place with characters and try to work out their culture and stories and it stops being quite so much fun. This is partly because telling stories is far more difficult than creating places. But also because, if you are honest about human nature, you do not get to tell happy stories set in comfortable cultures. And now, suddenly, your beautiful landscape is filled with humans being human to each other and to the setting.

And that is one thing you can never forget: in good Speculative Fiction the setting is always a character.

It might be Science Fiction and your setting is an asteroid colony. Stories set there need to show the characters interacting with the realities of being on a mountain sized rock spinning through the vacuum of space. These facts must affect the plot and the culture or it might as well be a little town in 1860’s Colorado.

The same goes for Fantasy (of any stripe), most Horror, and even Historicals. The setting has to play a part in the story or it just as easily could be Jane Austen with Hobbits.

A long while back I came up with a pretty damn cool idea for a place and setting. I started that story and realized I wasn’t a good enough writer to tell it yet. The place was too vast and the way it affected the people and their stories too varied. Then I came up with variations on that place’s theme and one of those caught my imagination such that I came up with variants of it. (Why did I do all this? If you do not understand these joys of mental creation you might become a writer but you will never be a Speculative Fiction writer.)

Then I populated the various versions of the new place with characters and thought about how they would live with each other (which involved reading some anthropology) and I discovered something really interesting: I had an idea for a place where the very nature of that place forced a kind of cultural convergent evolution in every variation. In order for people to live in that kind of place there were only a limited number of ways they could do so and not be locked in violent struggle or depopulatory death spirals.

Thing is, my place, in all its versions, still wasn’t a nice place to live even if it was relatively stable. Look at any stable culture of our own past and you will not find utopias; golden-coloured glasses could never make ancient Egypt a truly happy place for any but the nobility. And even among those who were very nearly gods on earth we have evidence of struggle and assassination.

I still wasn’t sure if I was up to writing the story I originally wanted to write and now I had this new place idea where the place could not fail to affect the culture and story in very specific ways and I still didn’t know if I had what it took. So I started writing little vignettes set in my new place to get a feel for it, pieces that showed the place and the culture and told nothing at all. And, slowly, a narrative came to me. A narrative so informed by the place I knew it was the right story to tell. And the more bits of that narrative I wrote the more clear it became to me.

And, yes, the setting is a really odd place and so it seemed to me the story should be equally odd. That’s when something else occurred to me: the story I was writing happened in the linking narrative bits, but it also played out in the set and setting vignettes because those were the parts telling the story from the setting’s point of view; narrative as seen through the filter of the culture assumptions and physical locations.

That’s when I decided to tell the story you are reading in the way I am telling it. In fact, I decided to take the writer’s adage “show, but don’t tell” to the extreme. I want to focus on showing the reader the place and the people in it through treating the bits telling the meta-story as full partners with the pure narrative bits. And just to raise the stakes, I’m making the kind of assumptions about the reader’s knowledge that I might in a contemporary novel. For, after all, why would the characters stop and spend two pages discussing a place or a cultural touchpoint they have known all their lives?

As a result the story I am telling in CtC builds in a strange way for its genre and ignores the attendant story telling conventions. The underlying theme is pretty much straight Monomyth, but there are zigs where a Hero’s Journey might zag. The pacing is, well, different. There are mysteries galore, flirting with red herrings and real clues alike. The reader is expected to work for her supper.

All these things are very likely flaws instead of strengths, but if so it is due to my own inability to match talent to vision. It is still the right way to tell this particular story.

I am certain of it.

 

First steps are the hardest

Some of you believe my story is a heroic one, but it isn’t. For certain I am not the hero of it. And even those named in the story as heros did not always walk like such. If you doubt me, know that my story begins in a gutter of Trad. Although most of the official temples …

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Meditation: Art

I first began to understand the difference between a sage and just any old monk on the road some days past the village of Regnon. We had stopped in the village, as usual, to pray at the temple, get our injections, and stamp our Circuit books there and, also as usual, we shopped a bit …

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The banners and the blood

The first leg of the Circuit out of Trad follows the Red river south, up a wide valley and towards the mountains. On that route are only a couple of temples, at Cask and Regnon, and not a single bangai. On foot it takes about a fortnight before you reach a split in the river at Markhall …

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Remembrance: Battle

Fritz and Witless rushed the defensive line, screaming at the top of their lungs, and crashed into the center; pushing it back with a clash of shields. Colin and I followed close behind and, somehow getting our timing just right, ran up our blockers backs and leapt over the opposing guards and blockers directly into …

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To walk among the fallen

We arrived at Junrei-Ichii in the late evening, entering under the eastern Torii and walking along a broad gravelled avenue, lit by paper lanterns hanging from the trees on either side. The road ended at the great Temple of the Mother. It was an overcast night, dark and pregnant with rain; I could see only …

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Meditation: Beauty

Outside the Temple of Forgiveness in Junrei-Ichii waited the most unlikely collection of beggars I have ever seen. The temple’s Junrei door is at the end of an alley behind the temple and the beggars lined that alley on each side, leaving only enough room for the pilgrims to walk in single file past their outstretched hands. …

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The coldest of us

We left Junei-Ichii early on Fishday morning. So early, in fact, the day was just dawning; the sun shining down with but a sliver. I was very surprised to find we did not leave alone. Waiting in the otherwise empty refractory was a gaggle of temple monks, with backpacks and walking sticks. They all bowed …

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Remembrance: Sully

I first met Sully Winton the day her engagement to Colin was announced. Colin and I were nine; I picked on him about getting married until he took a swing at me. We both ended up with black eyes. That night, at the party, Colin tried to take out his anger on her; a ginger …

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Like the turning of the night

We left the Temple of Ice in a group of the same size as that with which we arrived; yet all were strangers except one. This, for Mita was returning with the monks going off shift to their home temples at Junei-Ichii. Apparently she was the one entrusted with a fortnight’s collected essence of the Ice. …

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Meditation: Worth

There were three of us that day on the Pilgrim’s Path; Massey, myself, and a temple monk. We had come down out of the mountains to the road about noon, finding that we had it to ourselves for that stretch. Aside, that is, from a few older children out with flocks of sheep or goats …

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