Category Archives: Writing

Leisure of the miiquils

Today on Twitter, I posted this “Promptly”:

Promptly: Setting Saturday. In the world of your current work, describe leisure culture. Freewrite for 10 minutes, or 2 sprints of 5 minutes.

Since I’m trying to provide examples in the same breath, I wrote a brief response about my miiquil species (from the world of Portent)… and ended up thinking about it all day. (I blame one of my art & writing inspirations, whom I’ll call TVWT, for inspiring me to expand on this kind of public worldbuilding as a way of motivating myself to explore my world further!)

Leisure of the miiquils

Miiquils are very social creatures, and generally prefer to spend their leisure time with friends and family. Since leaving Miiqua, the colony has become even more close-knit and insular, making their culture’s emphasis on feasts, festivals, and group worship even more prominent.

Feasts

Food plays a major role in miiquil culture, due to their origins as a gatherer society, constantly on the move to escape the predatory species that chased them. When they have excess, they consume it quickly together, enjoying the time spent over a delicious meal. When times are leaner, or they’re on the move and can’t afford to carry much extra sustenance, they focus on flavor subtleties and the inherent enjoyment of the eating experience.

Families, extended families, neighbor groups, and even entire clans will eat together; any occasion is just an excuse to pull extra food and drink from storage and indulge in gluttony.

Some of their favorite foods include:

  • Daari-stuffed pastries
  • A hearty yet light bean soup called cardil, made with chickpeas and onions
  • Boppan (lentil “meatballs”)
  • Lightly-grilled fish and other sea life (though most miiqs are actually vegetarians for most of the year)

Their favorite spices include bay leaves, parsley, black pepper, cumin, and a variety of chili peppers, all of which they call by very different names.

Festivals

Miiquils are festival-happy: about half of their festivals are ritualistic preparations for the other half. Since the celebrations and traditions are all tied to the seasons and their planet’s rotation around its sun, they can be adapted to whatever world the miiquils are currently inhabiting. In the case of Kihata (their word for Earth), the years are shorter than on Miiqua, and so there is a festival nearly every other (human) week.

During any festival, miiqs will throw large parties, spend a lot of time eating and drinking, and pray en masse.

Rain-season festivals are about renewal, fresh starts, new love, and births. Feasts are modest, as there is less fresh food early in the year, before the heat has had time to coax new plants out of the earth. But those who survived hard winters are often feeling quite delighted about surviving — and are in the mood to perpetuate the species, right as the roughly year-long gestation period comes to an end for young-bearers and the new generation is born.

Heat-season festivals center around abundance, success, coming-of-age, and fertility. When miiqs can safely settle in one place for a while, the heat-season is a time of harvest and plenty, a time when bellies are full and heads are clear enough to give older adolescents their welcome to adulthood.

Cold-season festivals celebrate ancestors, survival, togetherness, and family. Even a humid rainforest-heavy planet like Miiqua saw its colder season, when food plants died off or stopped producing, and predators grew hungry and extra nasty. Cold-season is a time to be thankful for being alive and with loved ones, and is also the time when communities get together to create large communal art projects, which they trade for other community art at other seasonal festivals.

Temples and religion

The miiquils worship a quadrant of forces, the most powerful forces of the planet on which they reside. On Miiqua, these were Wind, Skyfire (lightning), Sea, and Moon (theirs was very large and had a significant pull on the tides). On Kihata, these are Wind, Sea, Stone, and Green (Miiqua’s plant life was rarely green). Collectively, the forces are referred to as “cherann,” or “life-givers and life-takers” (the literal English translation).

In miiquil tradition, cherann are not actual personified beings, but rather the underlying fabric of the worlds and therefore to be heeded, respected, and consulted. Followers of cherann are not generally superstitious, but rather practical and logic-driven, yet able to both see and sense how all things are connected and influenced by one another. This even allows some of them, through intense training begun early in a miiq’s life, to become “seercasters” — that is, combining knowledge of the laws of physics with the power of cherann to create such intense illusions that they may be acted upon as real by living beings who encounter them.

Most miiqs believe in cherann, or at least live their life by its natural rhythms. At the four corners of any miiquil settlement — including Naushena, the island on which the miiqs live in “Portent” — a temple is placed for each cherann. This is dictated by tradition.

Not dictated by tradition, however, is the placement of these temples; this is eclectic, left up to the individual city planners to decide. On Naushena, Sea is at the north, Wind is at the east, Green at the south, and Stone at the west. (There are probably reasons for this, but nobody is sure of them.)

Miiqs often go right after their labors are over to pray and meditate at one of the four temples. Though all miiqs can and do worship at any temple, most gravitate towards a particular one, often (but not always) associated with where Kihata was in its revolution around the sun when they were born.

Micro-magic

The roots of his teeth were magic. He could feel the storms in them, knew the names of the winds before they blew through his woods.

Her fingernails were magic. They glimmered when a child lied in her presence.

Their loom was magic. They wove stories into the blankets they made, stories whispered nightly in a sleeper’s ear to soothe or disturb.

The tuft of hair that always fled her ponytail was magic. It pointed the way she ought to go when her cursed sense of direction led her astray.

His snores were magic, putting yappy dogs and fussy babies to sleep without objection.

The spiderwebs across their front door were magic. They kept Death from entering for nearly 70 years.

Her wedding ring was magic. She could find anything lost in the house, but only when she wore it.

Overwrite

Weird fiction fragments spilling out of my notebook tonight…

He’d given her the headset as a joke — well, at least she’d thought it was a joke when he’d done it. She’d laughed and agreed to maybe try it out, understand him a little better.

She tried it on the guest profile first, assuming she wouldn’t care to save her place. But when she put it over her eyes, and the lights went down and the music came up, she found herself cheering for the unlikely troop of hero-friends parading around in ways that accentuated their attributes and character traits.

When she realized they were waiting for her to clamber on the back of the fifth giant cat, she was hooked.

She played through the trial level in two hours, and with the headset still on the upsell animation on a gentle loop, she bit her lip and gave in. Two hundred dollars and a menu screen later, she tossed the set gently onto her throw pillows and flopped onto the couch with her ‘sonal.

Hai. OK. I apologize for all the times I called you a dork for liking this game

His response was almost instantaneous: That good, eh? 😜

I didn’t say you *weren’t* a dork. Just not because you like this game. This game is awesome!!!!!!!!!

She messaged him again, just a few seconds later: Can’t wait to play it for real. Can we co-op?

She could feel the loving pride oozing out of his message. I’ve been waiting for two years to hear those words, babe.

LOL. Yes well. You win 😍

The headset ran through the theme music again, starting with those spirit-stirring horns. They sounded tinny and funny coming out of the tiny in-ear speakers, like they were made by miniature instruments. She focused on that funny little idea for long enough to chase away the butterflies in her stomach, and gripped her ‘sonal.

Now for the real question.

Since there’s only room for two profiles on this thing, can I overwrite Carina?

His response wasn’t instant, like the last two had been. She found herself swallowing panic, trying to tamp it down with logical self-reassurances: He’s probably gaming this time of night, and going through an intense combat sequence. Or he’s cooking late, like he always does on Thursdays. Or —

Her ‘sonal buzzed. The cat raised his head from where he’d been sleeping soundlessly the entire evening and stared right at the device.

She turned herself and the unread message bodily from the cat’s judgmental gaze, and opened the note with trembling fingers.

Please don’t, was all the first message said.

The other arrived just then: Erase the other one instead.

She started to respond, But *your* profile… when she remembered him saying his character’s name sort of casually over dinner once, and when she’d pressed him for details, he’d asked her politely but firmly if they could talk about something else.

She’d remembered how odd it was at the time, because he never wanted to talk about something else.

He certainly never wanted to talk about Carina. In fact, she only knew the name because she’d spotted it on some of his housing documents, and he’d explained that she was his ex-wife of several years now. That was it. That was as much as she knew about Carina.

That, and he had a profile under her name on his headset.

The cat stood up, delicately flicking the sleep from his paws. He walked purposefully across the back of the couch and perched, staring at the ‘sonal right as it lit up.

Please. It’s all that’s left of her.

Bonneville

I saw a video of a doggo on the internet today. Since there’s never been a doggo video on the internet before, I’ll wait here while you watch it.

Anyway, I was struck by a very visceral memory of being exactly where those dogs are, on the Bonneville salt flats (where they test land speed records and film car commercials).

I remembered the washed-out, dried-up grey earth that crumbled into footprints and smeared into dust. A harsh sea tang to the dry desert air and salt-crusted tires to match. My father, taking Dutch angle photographs of the family’s hair whipped wild by the wind.

We camped there for one night, alone on the flats. I was probably 13. I woke up to relieve myself and slipped out under a clear sky blooming with stars. The half-moon made it feel like half-day, like God had left the light on in Heaven’s hallway.

As I walked as far from the tent as I dared, I could tell things were watching me, sand spirits and desert beings, beady-eyed lizards and bugs.

The silvery soil sported a jagged network of lines across the entire flat, like flattened lightning. The cracks were deep enough to slide my fingers in as I tried to anchor myself to the world, lest I float away with the ghosts.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

crows

crows
laughing
and bouncing
and sharpening their beaks

crows
rustling their feathers
lost in their own shadows

crows in a jagged line
on a telephone wire

crows
dipping in a rosy puddle

crows
gathered round the fallen

crows
streaming towards the sunset
weighing down the boughs
allopreening,
lost in a private moment

crows
swooping in front of cars
and stooping on the gas station roof
and rooting through the trash

crows foraging in trios, loosely bonded
or crows gliding in pairs, trading who leads

or crows alone, mourning.