Category Archives: Writers

GREAT LAFFERTY MOMENT

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SPOILERS! [Although I will try to make it not so]

I am in Tales of Midnight of the More Than Melchisedech entry of the ARGO series by R.A. Lafferty. There is a moment where they are discussing the death of one of their own, and one of the characters is foretelling of his own demise at the hands of an enemy and the fact that the death will be attributed, falsely, to his liver.

Before I go into the scene. One of the reasons I love this scene so much is it could happen – does happen – at any moment in my own living room (I don’t technically own a banjo, but I do possess a banjolele (also known as a banjo uke)

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or at the bar, or in the grocery store.

Anyway, here is the scene (most of it, anyway, I won’t give out the entire song)

“I’ll be killed by them myself,” Bagby said, “and yet my death will be attributed to my liver, a gentle organ that never harmed anybody.”

“How is your liver really, Bag?” Duffey asked him.

“Oh tell us how’s your liver, Mr. B.,” Dotty sang.

“I believe that, with a little help from some of my creations, we could make a song out of that,” Duffey proposed. Mary Virginia Schaffer went to the piano (this was in ‘Trashman’s Girl-a-Rama‘) and several of them hammered out the song then. More songs have been born in Trashman’s than in any place in the block. Duffey accompanied them on a house banjo (he hadn’t his own banjo with him) and all of the unofficial members of the Pelican Glee Club sang thus:

“Is it true you have abused it?                                                                                                                Have you battered it and boozed it?                                                                                                       Are you sorry you misused it                                                                                                            Horribly?                                                                                                                                                        Does it need the Great Forgiver?                                                                                                                  Is it feeling sensitiver?                                                                                                                                    Is it shrunken to a sliver?                                                                                                                               Oh tell us how’s your liver,                                                                                                                          Mr. B.”

I love how a deadly serious discussion segues into a number at the drop of a hat. It is loony!  There are dozens of these unexpected turns in any Lafferty story, but some just stand out.

Sometimes he slips you right into an alternate reality where the world has become a comic strip or cartoon.

[I don’t know why the text for the lyrics came out the way they did. I was trying to get the lines to be single spaced which the editor doesn’t let you do. So I spent several minutes hitting the space bar to get the lines single spaced and now it comes up all mish-mashed. It appears normal when I re-open it in the editor so it will have to stay as is. Sorry!]

 


Placemarker for, hopefully, Future Posts

As often happens when I am neck deep in schoolwork and I post that I will not be able to post, things come up that I really feel an urge to discuss.

One such is the Hugo award for short story going to Cat Pictures Please – it is kind of hard to believe there isn’t a destructive element, a ruling element, out there when pieces like this are awarded as the best science fiction has to offer.

I hope to have more to say about it if I can later. Suffice it to say that if this is the best (or even the most popular) that science fiction has to offer now, science fiction is dead. Or at least in its death throes.

We merely have to determine if her death is from natural causes or homicide. I’m leaning towards murder.

Anyone remember the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes – or You Better Not Let ol’ Joe Stalin See You Stop Applauding First? They raise the unexceptional (or even completely outside the category) and you are expected to clap. Applause and praise for the unworthy will identify you as in the group and your duties are dispatched to you. Silence will let you roam the room for a time – but there will come a time when ol’ Joe is eyeing you… To call the sham for what it is is to be branded as outside the group, and to be submitted to the hate, to be non-Fan.

Mr. I can’t finish my series Martin last year even prescribed personality traits that a TruFan should have. He thereby threw Harlan Ellison clear outside of “fandom”. Actually threw anyone out who hasn’t conformed to the New Rulers that took over almost completely about ten years ago.

My favorite author, R.A. Lafferty, saw these people coming decades ago. But no one wanted to listen to a crazy old Catholic man.

They’re here!

I thought this was supposed to be a future post? Ah, it got away from me.

The other is I’d like to explore (from a time that science fiction awarded – at least in the short story realm – excellence and not rambling blog posts of little worth as blog posts) the theme of science fiction’s oft-overlooked treasure.

Science fiction can boast as having within her history two of the best American short stories writers. Yes two. I have another favorite author as well (he comes in the top 5 at least). I can only think of one thing these two men had in common, and that was their command of the short story. Particularly the sleight of hand, the magician’s trick, the short story with the twist.

These two authors were R.A. Lafferty and Fredric Brown. If you have never heard of the first, welcome to my blog; if not the second, you will know him as the writer of the Star Trek episode Arena (and several Hitchcock hour episodes as well). If you do not know the Star Trek episode Arena – I’m sorry you ended up at the wrong website.

I’ve talked little of Fredric Brown here. While he was a master of the short story (and the unparalleled master of the short-short story) his work was usually not very deep, many times there wasn’t much beyond the gimmick. But they were mostly fun stories that were pleasurable in their own right and showed a deft skill of execution. Their lightness had a cause. Fredric Brown was actually a mystery writer (of which he is more famous for usually – see The Fabulous Clip Joint or The Screaming Mimi) who did science fiction on the side while he was idle on the mysteries.

Again, future reference.


Next Centipede Edition of Lafferty Up at Amazon

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First observation is they are getting a little obscure with the introductions. I, at least, have never heard of Richard A. Lupoff. I’m not sure that is just me though. Everyone has heard of Harlan Ellison or Gene Wolfe. Too early for the story list, but I’m sure they’ll add it at some point. I didn’t check Centipede Press as I was stopping by Amazon to order yet another book for my medical coding classes (shit is going to break me, I haven’t written in sixteen months – sixteen months! I long for the days of frantic procrastination and creative loitering (wink). Better that a wannabe writer sits there and wastes his life away in daydreams than to be just fingers grasp away from the object of his desire.)

Anyway, it is still nine months away, but I am looking forward to another installment!

 


Drood

Drood by Dan Simmons

This is not a review because I have not read it. I was doing my monthly trip to Half-Priced Books and ran across this tome. I loved Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos series. So after an hour of browsing and coming up empty I was heading for the door when I passed this:

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I had to have it. First, it is obvious what the reference is with the misty image of the man in the top hat and the name Drood. It had something to do with Charles Dicken’s last, unfinished, work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Knowing a little of Dicken’s life and the fact that it is told by Dan Simmons, how could you not buy it?

Coming in at 771 pages, it will be the longest book I have read in quite some time. I can’t even remember the last one that clocked in over 500. Although if I consider science fiction trilogies (which are really 900 page books broken into pieces for marketability) then I read such lengths all the time. If I consider that many novels I’ve read over the years are six part series, then I read 1500 to 2100 page novels all the time.

I also want to read Simmons’ Carrion Comfort  which I have seen make it onto many a top horror novels of all-time lists and Stephen King listed it as one of the great horror novels of the 20th century (or so I’ve heard). I haven’t sunk my teeth into a new horror in quite some time.

One thing you’ll notice if you look up some of Simmons’ work is the one star reviews. Nearly every one of which decries the length of the work in question. Sometimes a book is too long, just like a movie that just doesn’t end when it should. But I get the impression that many of these complaints are not due to the author being long winded, but to the readers being a little too modern. There is something to be said for a work that goes for longer than 500 pages. There is a further immersion into that world. You stay just a little longer. If it is done right, you partly live in that world for a time while walking around in the regular one.

Regular one. Heh, and how regular is that?


The Strangely Evolving Library

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The above is not a picture of my library. Mine is spread out to every corner of my house, with the main concentration in the office/jam room (and even that is spread out) and includes an equally extensive digital library. I’ve been trying to split the difference between hardcopy and digital because when all you do is read, moving becomes a real bitch.

My library looks nothing like it did 5 years ago. Gone are all the Ayn Rand books. And most of the books on economics and government. I don’t pursue arguing those subjects any longer. And the two subjects are like geometry, once you know them, you know them and they ain’t going to change.

And in came C.S. Lewis and my quite extensive Catholic collection. Have I ever bragged how big that collection is? It is over three hundred volumes at least. It might be over four hundred. Not to forget my growing Bible collection. I like me some good Bibles. However my collection of that will be very little Catholic in the end. The poor souls don’t have a good rendering. They have translated it into the flatness of modernity.

I’m looking for a good leather copy of the King James version with apocrypha. I think I might get the 1611 edition – go real old school.

And of course during the last five years I started another collection as I discovered my favorite author R.A. Lafferty. I never really had a favorite author before that (maybe Stephen King as a kid). Rand never really counted as she was dead and her fiction output was quite small. And she had that mid-20th century lack of color and word play that you find in such authors as Steinbeck or Hemingway or Sinclair. That bare-bones matter of fact Americana.

Lafferty didn’t push anyone out, but he certainly added color to that shelf!

And now I’m noticing, because I’m in school that the shelves are evolving again. Anytime I’ve been in school (and I have been in one form or another off and on forever) I have never stuck with only the material provided in the class. It is like only getting your news from FOX if you’re conservative or MSNBC if you’re liberal although much more innocent.

My course only consists of two medical books for: Medical Terminology, Pathophysiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology. The books they sent although I’m sure are good enough to cut the mustard, just leave more questions than they do answers. So, from those two books I’ve added Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, McGraw Human Anatomy 3rd edition, and Human Anatomy and Physiology. That’s an additional four thousand pages, mate! I think I’ll have to update my DSM as it is the 4th edition and they are up to 5.

The two Anatomy books may sound like a redundancy, but remember what I told about news sources. The principle works just as well with cut and dry presentation of facts.

I just wish I found medical stuff more interesting. It is not a subject that gets me excited. It is interesting as most things that are not sports are, but it is not philosophy nor theology, son.


Where George RR Martin Gets Tangled Up in His Own Words – Or George RR Martin Has Contempt for His Own Fans

As the past three posts have illustrated I do have a little problem with the top tiers of modern science fiction. It is an elitist clique, and like every elitist clique, it wants to maintain its existence by denying its existence.

I quote George RR Martin from his own blog:

A fan is not just someone who reads SF and fantasy. A fan is a member of a community called “fandom” whose roots go back to the 1930s.

Fans are tolerant, friendly, good humored, warm, welcoming. They love worldcon, they respect and value the Hugos, they honor fannish tradition.

Now, someone takes him to task on this, but she underestimates the lowness of the elite’s esteem for her.

First, Mr. Martin’s interloper,

Ah – I get it. Because I cannot afford to go to Worldcon (either financially or time-wise), because I do not have enough time to volunteer at Worldcon without eliminating either my job, my family, or my sleep schedule, i am not a True Fan. The fact that i have been reading SciFi and Fantasy since I pulled “Smith of Wooten Major and Farmer Giles of Ham” of my father’s bookshelf at the age of seven, the fact that almost every book on my Kindle is SciFi or Fantasy, those make me a “casual reader”. I MUST attend WorldCon to be a true fan.

Do you even HEAR how elitist that makes you sound? Every time you make a statement like that, you disparage the millions of fans (yes, real, true, actual FANS) who read your works, watch your TV show, and eagerly await the next book or episode. You disparage the very people who make you ” rich enough” to ignore those posts you deem hateful on here.

Mr. Martin’s response:
Except nobody said that.

But the Hugos belong to worldcon. Worldcon created them. Worldcon owns them. There were plenty of years when I could not afford to go to worldcon either. I could still join as a supporting member (very cheap, then as now) and vote. And I could still go to local cons. I was a member of fandom, regardless of how many cons I attended.

Maybe you’re the same. I don’t know you. Do you attend your local con, belong to a club, publish a fanzine/ blog? If so, you’re a fan.

Yeah, you said that. I just quoted you with the link to your own site stating just that. Local con? Mr. Martin, lets not change definitions midstream just because a woman had the balls to confront you on your own words. Press him more, shall we? You have to belong to a club? Bullshit. Publish to a fanzine – more bullshit!
Who, Mr. Martin, are you signing autographs for if it is not for FANS??? Do you not sign a book if they don’t have credentials of attending a local Con? Not having published in a fanzine? Belong to a Throne club? Or do you cynically just sign the book and sneer at them as they walk away as not “Trufan”?
Do you demand these credentials before you sign copies of your books? What are you signing? You definition of a “fan” is an evolving insult to fans.

 


The Hugo – Part the III (and his butler)

Or, alternately, really paying attention when George RR Martin plays peacemaker.

I agree with a lot of what he says here. But it always seems like there is a certain line or creed he has to fall back on every time.

To start with I can only agree with what he says about Beale, aka, Vox Day. The man has an appetite for destruction. And some dubious theories that make me want to go hang out with some 9/11 conspiracists.

He has a list of names that are not acceptable and some that are acceptable:

I have seen some hopeful signs on that front in some of the Hugo round-ups I’ve read. Puppies and Puppy sympathizers using terms like Fan (with a capital), or trufan, or anti-Puppy, all of which I am fine with.

Martin is fine with Fan and trufan (although his spelling earlier is the much more explicit Truefan). But he accepts no name that either 1) does not depend on the existence of the Puppies 2) is not derogatory to anyone that doesn’t fit his definition of “fan”.

He is fine with Fan (with a capital F he states) trufan (or Truefan) or anti-puppy. The third term requires the existence of the puppies, but designates nothing of said group except whoever they are, they are not them. That leaves two terms that end up stinking of some elitism. Remember his definition of fan from my post first post:

A fan is not just someone who reads SF and fantasy. A fan is a member of a community called “fandom” whose roots go back to the 1930s.

Fans are tolerant, friendly, good humored, warm, welcoming. They love worldcon, they respect and value the Hugos, they honor fannish tradition

One can only imagine what sort of steps you have to climb to achieve “fan” with a capital F, or trufan (Truefan). Because a fan (small f) is not even someone as lowly enough to have merely lined his pockets all these years.

Now, I attempt to pride myself on being as fair as possible. It is possible that Mr. Martin is a very busy man and these things are all unconnected. But, if I am being too generous, what does this mean? What is someone who just reads [and if we are talking about his material – watches][and purchases – i.e., pays your bills] SF and Fantasy? Trough boy? Nothing? For that person is not even a fan by his definition.

And what picture does this paint as peacemaker when you insist on the few names that are intrinsically divisive? Anti-puppy while still divisive at least designates something objective as in being against a certain group that goes by the name Puppies.

But Fan? trufan (Truefan)?

Absolutely agree with him on slates. If there was slating by the non-puppy side before, at least they were very subtle about it. I haven’t been able to scrape up anything about slates prior to the puppies. And in relation to my Hugo Part Deux post, I think reading lists are a fine idea for Puppies 4.

But, but, but, with a caveat. I am for competing lists. Mr. Martin mentions the Locus Recommended Reading list (which I notice has Gardner Dozois as one of the choosers – I’ve seen him a couple times at Norwescon, very entertaining guy and probably one of the most trusted names in the genre) and the NESFA (check out their press, they have some damned fine collections).

But why not a competing list? That should have been the original idea! Sure, it may have taken a couple more years of persuading and selling to get the word out. The slating spoke of an impatience on the part of some people.

Here is why I am in favor of multiple reading lists (although it is nice to see that the Locus and NESFA lists did not overlap a lot). It is simply impossible to discover, on one’s own, quality material, especially award worthy quality material. Although the book covers will frequently let you know, a ton of shit flies off the presses each year – and that’s not just another crack at James Patterson!

It would have to be a cultivated list. Simply reading a list of what one individual has read in a year’s time is of no interest. I care as much about what Mr. Martin or Baxter or Scalzi has read in the last year as I do about what Hurbert Stinkenhemenburgermaister the 4th has read this year. Because those are the results of personal subjective tastes, proclivities, and circumstance.

Although one fears that such a fine idea may be a tad too late. With 3000 additional people ready to vote next year any Puppy reading list is probably going to be ignored or shot down if any of its list makes it on the ballot.

Take a consideration of what a fine idea this is. I do tend to enjoy science fiction and fantasy that has a hero in it, or, at the least, someone I want to come out victorious in the end. I don’t enjoy message fiction (it is very hard to do) which, I have heard, is in a lot of modern science fiction, and I am of a conservative bent. I admit, I would not enjoy a book with man on man sex in it. And I am one of those rare men that also would not enjoy woman on woman sex either. I do not enjoy the viciousness of a Joe Abercrombie story.

Such a list would, assuming it not too restrictive, be something I may appreciate. One does not grow wise by plugging into only MSNBC or only FOX News (no, really, you need more than one news source nowadays) same goes here.

The parameters for such alternate lists would have to be wide. For instance, I would probably not read off of a Christian Science Fiction list because most of Christian fiction (and I assume other religions follow the same pattern) sucks a big one. I also probably wouldn’t read from a feminist or LGBT list either. These are too exclusive. A Catholic list I may look at, I like me more than one Catholic writer: R.A. Lafferty and Gene Wolfe spring to mind.

Paulk has said that her list will focus on the works that receive the most suggestions from those participating, that it could include “even David Gerrold” if a lot of people suggest him. I think that’s VERY good. Could it also include “even” N.K. Jemisin and Rachel Swirsky and Ken Liu and Mary Robinette Kowal? Even better. Not that I think it will… the Puppies may not be all conservative, but certainly more of them tend right than left, and their literary tastes undoubtedly run to more traditional forms and styles too.

Actually I found out about David Gerrold, specifically his, The Man Who Folded Himself, from a Sad Puppy that praised it, namely Mr. John C. Wright. Rachel Swirsky will never find herself on that list with a dinosaur story. One thing I think will be true of the list, if it turns out aright, is if it isn’t actually science fiction (or even fantasy) it isn’t going to be on the list.

Frankly I don’t give a shit (I’m repeating myself for the third post now) who is on the list (or any list) because I care about the story. I don’t know what Martin means about it being even better if the three ladies and the supposed Asian guy were on the list as opposed to just David Gerrold. Is he saying that it would be even better because they are woman, one black and an Asian man? Then I can’t understand what he says later:

Let’s make it about the work. Let’s argue about the BOOKS.

Are we saying that people are being kept off Hugo lists and recommendation lists because they are either not white, female, or asian? Nah, we’re not saying that are we? Certainly we are not saying that about women in general. Women have been kicking ass in science fiction and fantasy for decades now. I really don’t know about ethnicities in science fiction, its not something I “check up on” when I am enjoying a book.

[Although I have to say I just looked up Mary Robinette Kowel – red head! I have an authoress crush, never read her.]

Are we saying they should be put on the lists because they are not straight white males? If they produce work worthy of being on a recommendation list, and/or winning a Hugo or Nebula, then why the hell not? Is anyone claiming they should not be because they are not straight white males?

No one is claiming that. But it would be just as bad to put them on there merely because they are not straight white males.

Is that happening? I don’t know. Why does John Scalzi think POC’s (God I hate terms like that) need charitable help getting into Cons? Does he really think POC’s need charitable help getting into Cons? There are poor white people too. No, really, I’ve seen them. I gave money to one on a street corner the other week. He might have later driven away in his BMW, but still… Why isn’t there a more general fund for the poor to get into Cons? Or do we not want poor white people at Cons? I get that poor white dudes are assholes and all, I used to be one. I don’t get it. There may even be poor white LGBT people out there who cannot afford to attend exactly like a POC cannot.

Why you discriminating, huh?

Sorry, son, you may be gay and all, and we’re all for that, we’re on the winning side of history and all, but you white, so you just run along and get yourself a nice boyfriend and all.

See ya!


Hugo Part the Deux… Dude

My last post on the Hugo award was quite sprawling and I jammed about ten points in there without working it out.

One of the finer points of why the Hugo doesn’t ultimately matter as a barometer of anything other than mainly authors and a few insiders passing awards is this scenario.

I am sure there are lots of ways people come across books: recommendation from a friend, television commercial (another one, Mr. Patterson?) emails from Amazon, etc.

But the #1 way I come across new books is standing in the science fiction aisle and scanning through books. I have also just started to do this with the Kindle browser, but you need a starting point. I look at covers, titles, something grabs me, I probe a little deeper, see if the prose strikes me, the first sentence, maybe first paragraph, the blurbs, etc. What may grab me on Saturday may fail on Sunday, I may never get to the book I do buy, or it can sit on the shelf passed over for a year or two. I confess I also have a reading list that goes past my natural life so new authors have to fit in. It is not like I go into a bookstore because I have nothing to read.

I am sure this is the way it goes for a lot of people – a lot of readers. The chances of me having run across any of the same books in the qualifying year as anyone else is very small indeed. What the Hugo award represents is the same thing it has always represented. The selection by a very small group of people of what they believe is the best work of a given year – by whatever standard they happen to be using in that era (more about this comment in a moment).

I would be willing to bet most of the WorldCon people that vote are people actually in the business and I bet there are a lot of people who Continue reading


New Releases

Since I am unable to read fiction at the moment, see post below, (and it is freaking killing me!!!) I thought I would at least give a heads up on a couple of releases that I find noteworthy.

First up is John C. Wright’s new installment to his ‘Count to the Eschaton’ Sequence. It is the fourth book, so if you haven’t read any of them, this is not the place to start. I haven’t read it so I can’t specifically recommend it, but I can go on his excellent prior material and recommend this.

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Next up is one I commented on in January, but it bares repeating. There is not even a review of it on Amazon yet! And that is the latest volume of Lafferty Short stories, The Man with the Aura.

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I really, really really wish I could dig into this RIGHT NOW!

And last but not least is a sort of Lafferty Fanzine called Feast of Laughter, apparently they are on volume two. I will certainly be picking these two up. I can’t say that I recommend it (although two of the authors I know to be quite knowledgeable of all things Lafferty) because I just discovered it. But if you are a fan of Lafferty (and ya better be, friend) this should be at the least a curiosity. I’m certainly interested.

FOL 2 front cover


Having fun with The Storymatic

As I explained in this post last month I bought a fun little package at the store called The Storymatic. Basically it is a giant deck of cards in a box with gold cards for characters and copper cards for situations or story droplets as it were. What I have been doing is drawing 2 gold cards and 2 copper cards and just going with it.

The first set I drew was:

Carnival worker, phone call at 3am, six months to live, discovery of a new species.

I got nowhere with that, not even a sentence. If anyone wants to have a go at it… start now! I’ve got the four items in the back of my mind, and maybe someday… Outside of making it an X-Files story (literally) it just produces nothing.

I did a few others that resulted in meh.

Then Sunday I drew the following cards:

  1. Secret meeting
  2. If only what was said could be taken back
  3. Aging Clown
  4. Person who steals cats

At first this seemed to me as incongruous as the first set. I give myself a few minutes before jumping in but not too many minutes. But clowns and secret meetings have been two elements of a novel I have been VERY SLOWLY working on for – shit- five years now? Basically think of the end of days, end of time and the universe, Future Man’s last stand, and armies of life hating clowns. I even have a side piece called Clown and Eve (think Rebirth of the World, but this time it gets off to an even worse start!), it exists (for now) only in my head, but it’s pretty messed up stuff.

Anyway, this had enough familiarity for my natural output. I didn’t hit all the points on the list, but I hardly think that is the point. Unless, of course, you were doing it as a group game style.

I still have to find some people who even think that would be fun. Am I completely off the grid? I’m thinking, hey! we gotta do this right now! Who knows where we’ll end up! Maybe I’m a freak, I can put myself in a dank cellar right now. There’s a leaking water pipe above me. It is too dark to see but I can hear it drip… slowly. The pain in my wrists is excruciating. I think I’m tied to a furnace or something. I move. Just a little. And I brush against something, and I think it moaned. Something made a sound. Was that a person? A corpse? A door above me swings open and a small shaft of light falls upon a flight of stairs. Into the frame steps a man. Who is that? Hey! It’s Cousin Eddie from the Lampoon Vacation movies! Is that a good thing or bad? Just kidding, but put a different location at the other end, say, yourself (or you as your character) feeding ducks at the park at sunset. How did you get from point A to point B? Go!

Anyway I got something that I think was pretty interesting if, perhaps, inept, and, certainly, incomplete. Scrivener tells me it is 895 words (which is a good single stretch for me) and 3 paperback pages. I wrote until I could go no further at that point, but I think there is material and even theme worthy material present.

So I offer it for, I hope, amusement. Note: I’ve been reading a lot of Lafferty lately and I think that peaked in a tiny bit in a sentence or two. Or I flatter myself, which would be odd of me.

Sad Face stood in the middle of the small room surrounded by Continue reading