8 min read

Lincoln In The Last Foundation On The Western Front Of Bones

Lincoln In The Last Foundation On The Western Front Of Bones
Generated with Midjourney.

Welcome to the August 2023 edition of...
What I'm Into, What I'm Up To

Hello fellow humans and lovers of speculative fiction!

Fresh off an epic, 3-week, once-in-a-lifetime-kind-of-trip to the U.K. with my wife and three kids (ages 4, 7, and 10 for those keeping score at home), I bring you the kinds of things you can't find anywhere else—fresh hot takes on the same stuff thousands of other people on the interwebs are talking about. You're welcome!

And if you're interested in mediocre poetry, stick around to the end to read an example of poetry at its very mediocrest, which I wrote to memorialize our first overseas trip in almost a decade.

What I'm Into

  • Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders
    I picked this up for a cool British pound from a charity shop in Harpenden and read it in three days, mostly on the train to and from London.

    I've mentioned before I have a hard time getting into fiction these days, but I was in a mindset for novel-reading and I had heard an interview with the author and it sounded interesting.

    It wasn't what I expected, honestly.

    The story is about Abe Lincoln and the loss of his son just as the civil war is ramping up, but it is much more a story of the afterlife, about ghosts hanging around a cemetery (bardo, in Tibetan Buddhism, means 'a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person's conduct and manner of death').

    It garnered a lot of critical acclaim, so, as usual, lots of normal people don't like it and there's a great chance you won't either, but it found me at the right time and I enjoy venturing outside defined genres from time to time.
  • Foundation Season 2 on AppleTV+
    I read the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov maybe about a decade ago, and I remember the names of protagonists and the concept of psychohistory, but that's about it.

    It seems the creators took the main ideas and outline from the original Foundation series and massaged a whole lot of 'action' and 'excitement' into them, which is the thing I love least about the show, especially since so much of it seems forced (giant mining robots that are normally 'asleep' sense activity of people on the surface and... want to... destroy them?).

    Also, I can't remember how much the books focused on Empire's story, but so far I find myself much more compelled by its storyline than by the Foundation's.

    I remember really liking the Mule character from the books, but it seems like the show's version might not be as interesting.

    Still watching, we'll see...
  • The Last Kingdom on Netflix
    On our grand tour of the U.K., we stopped at Bamburgh, which used to be called Bebbanburg, on the northeast coast of England to see the infamous castle where Uhtred lost his family and inheritance, a place he returns to again and again in the Netflix series.

    We didn't have time to explore, but I wanted to at least see the castle, being that close.

    Wendy texted our friend Kim about stopping to see the castle and get a photo, and Kim was super excited and told her what a great show it is, so now Wendy is interested in watching it (even though it's definitely more violent and brutal than her usual faves), so we have started the series again, but who knows how far into it we'll get—we start or restart TV series all the time, but end up only watching a few episodes.
  • Unknown: Cave Of Bones on Netflix
    I have to quickly mention this documentary about a discovery in South Africa which shed new light on ancient humans (of the homo but not sapiens variety) and was a fascinating watch.
  • All Quiet On The Western Front on Netflix
    I watched this one on the plane. If you're into war movies at all and haven't seen this one, do yourself a favor and watch it.

    In a nutshell, it's World War One, from the German perspective with a distinctively Saving Private Ryan feel.

    It's depressing, like any realistic war movie should be, and hard to keep track of the characters sometimes (I watched in German with English subtitles, so maybe that's why), but very well done.

What I'm Up To

Before we left on our big adventure, I republished Skytrails, but this time in two parts with a third part on the way.

The story is mostly the same, but I've taken out huge chunks of one character's point of view, which might get turned into bonus content or something down the road.

I've listed it as both Epic Fantasy and Dystopian Sci-Fi. I really don't know how to categorize it, which is the tough thing about writing outside standard genre conventions. It has the feel of a fantasy novel, I think, but with technological and futuristic underpinnings.

Anyway, Part One in the series is free and will remain that way, available through Amazon right now and other ebook retailers soon.

(If you bought the original release of Skytrails and would like to get Part Two and the eventual Part Three when it releases, please let me know—I DO NOT want you to pay for the same story twice!)

Right now, I'm trying to wrap up work on the Midjourney-assisted not-for-children-children's-book that I started this summer as an experiment in using AI-generated-art to illustrate a project that would never get illustrated otherwise. It's called Miso, which is the name of the little robot protagonist.

Then back to Skytrails for Part Three.

Then, hopefully, my first brand new fiction project in a

Also, I've started going through a Unity game development course on the online education platform, Udemy, to see what I can learn and where it can lead.

Note to self: When in doubt, follow your curiosity.

As my mentor and good friend (in the sense that he feels like a good friend to me but he is only barely knowledgable of my existence), Rob Bell, says, 'If anyone asks, just call it research. Research for what? Doesn't matter, you don't know yet. It's just research.' (Then he laughs, slightly maniacally.)

And now, that poem I promised.

Off To The Land Of Never Never

Off to the land of Never Never
Lost boys, talking animals, myths dwelling forever
Hobbits and heroes cleverly endeavor
To outsmart pirates, dragons, trolls… or whomever

Magical schools, potions, animated singing streets
Through the wardrobe, riven dells, grim fairy tales, castles and keeps
Clocktowers, shires, a boy, his chocolate factory
Full of mythical little people, pop-ins, chimney sweep

Pubs in which the masters whiled
Away hours, imaginations never idle
Cathedrals to fantasies, domestic or wild
Classic stories in books, shelved or in piles

Boarded as five upon a bird-like machine
Traveled space and time inside its body with wings
Left our home with all our traveling things
Finally (with complimentary food, drinks) we rest in our seats

First stop upon the isle’s southern coast
Kids everywhere, still in school, dipping their toes
Of its miles of warm, sunny beaches, no one would boast
They in swimsuits, we in our winter clothes

Then to the land of a pretentious little pig
More kids, kids all over, bursting at the seams
Rides and sunny skies and happy screams
Three kids jet-lagged, world of their dreams

The ancient feat, Stonehenge, that's our next stop
Ever-present cafe, museum, at every museum a shop
To see our history, engineering marvel, or celestial clock
All the worlds travelers come to stare at these rocks

Magical mystery city, Bath, at its
Height, these waters brought such traffic
Roman, pre-Roman, post-Roman they gathered
History upon history, they continually dig after it

The ancient city is lovely, at night even glows
Sunup to sundown, seagulls yell and croak
Along with pigeons and crows
These birds follow wherever we go

Cotswolds past cottages, farms, sheep between
Stop at son of clark’s farm, squat and diddly
Pictures with a tractor and Gerald turned celebrity
Charmed crowds buy overpriced charms (and so do we)

Up to York, house of locomotives, history of trains
Mallard, Scotsman, oldfangled things
Atop the minster, down to the bottom, ancient graves
Through a street in shambles, food stalls and rain

Miles to go, quick, we dare not go slow
The North calls to us, come, see what’s close
Northward to a castle on a rock on the coast
Bamburg, out of a book, and a favorite show

Land of Scots, we’ve arrived, we finally meet
Firth on Forth seaglass, bricks and debris
Tower, battlefields, salt pans of the priests
Deep breath, rest everyone, rest is what we need

Ancient city of Din Eidyn, present day Edinburgh (Ed-n-bur-UH)
Upon a bus tour, tall medieval buildings we pass will
Go down as well as up, tour guide says, just ask him
Next day more touring, the museum, the castle
(Try the chocolate shortbread sandwiches, well worth the hassle)

There’s much more, Georgian city too
More touring, more than we can see or do
Rainy, misty, grey, cloudy, sunny blue
This city cannot make up its mind what to do

Southward—'hey, air museum is open today'
Comet and Concorde, ever-present (with haggis) cafe
Despite the rain, these kids want to stay
From fantastical aero planes we drag them away

Have to see it all—Housesteads, Roman ruins call
Just before close, up a hill through sheep, we walk
There, the fort, outlined in rocks, the Wall
And as we rise, the sky begins to fall

District of lakes, bumpy country lanes
Through the little village, tractors roll night and day
Friendly cottage, ducks and cupcakes with duck eggs
Trips to Keswick (Ke-ZICK), busy tourist town on a lake

Children say, ‘if only we had bikes!’
Walk to a waterfall, whoops, wrong waterfall, yikes
Old man in freezing water, fluffy dog, sunny muddy hike
Aira Force, try again next day, this time it’s right (what a sight!)

Early morning hike up the bells of a cat (imagine that)
Stop to change clothes, shoes, everything and go back
Blisters cooperating, home after noon, into the car we pack
From the isle of the carl, banana curry in a sack (imagine that)

Today and the day after tomorrow we’ll leave
‘What’s next?’ ask over and over and over these three
'More Roman ruins, Birdoswald,' we answer, 'More sheep'
More discoveries for full brains half asleep

Toward Macclesfield, friends whose kids number six
Saturday relaxing, talking, walking, horse’s kiss
Flat bike tires, prep for a summer camp trip ('take that, no take this')
Our family is happy to be still, with friends, just play and sit

Sad farewell, bye for now—off to city of cities, London Town
We stayed before in this den of Harpen—old familiar ground
Walking, training, busing, boating up the Thames then down
We’ll see all we can, every jewel in the kingdom’s crown

The bridges, tower, Pancras the saint, cross of the king
Past Hyde Park, Notting Hill, names we know but haven’t been
Library’s ancient books, museum’s ancient things
We need rest days too, gardens of Kew, lunch at Roti King

Who else can we see, we’ll be leaving very soon
Family of ‘J’s, their magical restaurant, plums in June
Wands out for Harry, his studio, wander ’til our faces are blue
Last afternoon, old friend and new, three years married (it’s true)

Goodbye grand land of fantasy and wonder
We leave your park-like country, the end of our summer
Saw all we could, maybe too much (lovely blunder)
Thank you for everything (exchange rate, too, since from Europe you sundered)

Back from the land of Never Never
97 degree heat, our modern buttons and levers
Three kids and their parents cleverly endeavor
To outsmart the system, conventional wisdom… all the worldly whatevers

Generated with Midjourney.

Thanks for reading! Until next time...