Shadow and Fire Reading

This is a fictional short story I wrote and narrated.  If you are feeling generous you can listen to it on YouTube and follow me on there too.  You can watch it here. Otherwise the audio is below.  This is something new I wanted to try and my goal is to do a story narration every 1-2 weeks.

Pondering Morality

This is a sensitive subject for many people.  Differences in perspectives on morality cause division, some minor, and some large.  At the heart of these perspectives is one question: is morality relative or absolute?  This is a topic that affects everything, including my works of fiction.  There are some who believe the same as I do about Jesus, but feel enjoying Fantasy is immoral.  Are they correct?  Is there even a right answer to these questions?

An entire book series could be written discussing in depth why there is morality, what morality is, and if there is an absolute basis for said morality.  Here I simply want to address the question, is morality absolute or not?  In short, my answer is yes.  Morality, like many realities are more nuanced than merely yes or no.  While the idea of moral relativism and absolutism appear incompatible, I argue it depends on the approach one takes.  An absolutist version of either end up with absurd logical conclusions.  Absolute moral relativism would mean that morality is determined by the individual and society.  However, when we study history we agree that the actions of the Nazi’s and Stalin’s Red Army were unquestionably evil.  I am familiar with the argument that there is no true right or wrong, just what we make of it, but I don’t think many truly apply that belief.  Sure, there are moral relativist apologists from the common Facebook user all the way up to professional philosophers.  No rational person would agree that just because it was culturally appropriate to commit mass murder in Nazi occupied territories means it is okay.  In the 21st century few would argue that slavery is evil and a terrible thing that happened not only throughout history, but has remained in various forms throughout the world.  Sometimes slavery has been used as an example of this philosophical position’s truth.  It is true centuries ago slavery was more accepted than it is today, the issue once again was that those that were enslaved were thought of as not entirely human. Ultimately, I find it difficult to get around the conclusion that moral relativism will lead to individuals doing what they please, while not pleasing anyone.  Much more could be written on moral relativism, and within that think tank there is diversity.

On the other side of the spectrum there is absolute morality.  This essentially states that there is a moral code that is universally true for every human being.  I believe this is a little closer to the truth than moral relativism.  Those who disagree with this point of view will mention the differences throughout history in society’s values and morality.  However, there are more similarities across cultures then one might realize.  A common example would be that murder has not been freely allowed in cultures.  Now of course there are cases of cannibalism, genocide, and murder of every kind, but the difference is the victims were not considered people by their oppressors.  Even in Nazi Germany murderers were punished.  Those who adhere to this moral philosophy may cite holy religious texts or scriptures.  What absolute morality fails to take into account by itself is the different sensitives of other people’s consciences.  This looks like tastes in music, books, television, basically any consumable media.  Where some may be deeply disturbed by a film and may deem it to be immoral, others may gain something from it.  Another difference may come in food and drink, where one may see eating meat as wrong, another may see supporting agriculture as wrong.

In the above cases, I feel it is down to the individual to do what is best for them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t overarching moral truths that apply to everyone.  Murder is wrong, but self-defense is typically seen as fair and at minimum a less punishable act.  Within certain cultures people have been deemed less-than-human but murder remains illegal.  Some believe enjoying media with magic in it is wrong, while others do not.  This is an example of where morality is somewhat relative, while there are things should all agree on are wrong like murder, thievery, and slavery.

The Strange World

The orange and green sphere gradually enlarged before the woman’s cockpit.  She pulled down on the throttle, and the whine of the engines subsided to a barely audible din. “There it is, finally,” she breathed, shifting in her seat. “Hopefully the air is breathable, I need to stretch my legs.”  The triangular wing of her craft reflected the nearby star’s light, into her face.  The woman raised her hand to shield her eyes while she arced her vehicle so the light wasn’t as much of a problem.

“That has to be a body of water,” she changed the direction the craft was heading again toward a blue-green stain on the sphere.  The star ship’s pointed nose arced down through the atmosphere, flames licked the black shiny hull of the vehicle, the woman eyed the orange and red tongues, but her face remained unchanged.  “Just a little further,” she whispered as the ship started to rattle violently, fire now filled the view port’s exterior.  The woman pressed a series of small buttons on the left control panel before her and a blue mist sprayed the exterior of the view port and the flames died down enough for her to loose a short sigh.

The pilot set the ship down at the edge of the lake.  Its green liquid sloshed against dark gray, nearly black sand. She unbuckled the seat harness and depressed a glowing button five feet down from the cockpit, placing a breath mask over her face.  The woman pulled out a white, thin, square, device with a five-inch glass screen.  She pressed a button on the side and the device lit up.  “At least the air isn’t toxic, but it’s barely thick enough to breath,” she said, removing the mask. “But the water isn’t really water, great.”  The woman then pulled out some thick gloves from her pocket and put them on.

Even being on the day side of the planet, three moons were still clearly seen in the sky, one of which was a deep, rust red, giving an eerie glow in the already yellow-tinted atmosphere.  She walked to the edge of the liquid body, holding her instrument in front of her. “Water, methane, and an unknown substance,” she read off the readings that showed up on her device. “That isn’t exactly what I was hoping for, oh well, I guess it’s time to leave.”

There was a ripple in the water, the woman stared, watching, waiting, then as she was about to turn there was another, this time larger than the last. “I’m not sticking around to find out what caused that,” she uttered, running back to the ship.  Before she could arrive at the vessel, a loud growling, howl echoed.  The astronaut spun around, and saw it.  A black mass, with four clawed legs, propelled it out of the water.  The alien creature’s body reminded the astronaut of a slug or worm, it was long and segmented, yet looked like it had armored plates haphazardly stitched to its sides, reminding her of a patchwork amateurish art.  The alien’s face was a canine-like snout with rows of square teeth that looked like hatchets protruding from its gums.  Seven spines awkwardly poked up from its spine and the tips bent slightly before ending in a blunt end.  She withdrew a small laser pistol, knowing the weapon was unlikely to do much to defend herself.  The astronaut fired her weapon, and the bolt struck the creature in the side, it howled in pain, and charged at her.

Realizing shooting the alien beast wasn’t a wise idea, she dove to the side, just before the creature was about to trample over her.  The alien now stood between her and the ship. “Don’t’ step backward and damage my hull, I don’t want to be stranded here,” the woman shouted as if the beast could understand her.

She fired off a few more shots, and the creature lumbered toward her, swiping at a tree-like plant that reminded her a little of celery. The plant crashed down, causing a crevice in the soft ground, but fortunately it missed the astronaut and her craft.  The woman pulled the trigger three more times, aiming for the alien’s head, two missed and the last one hit it in the snout.  The beast stared her down then leapt up and its hook claws tore through her suit, blood dribbled down her arm.  She pulled the trigger on her weapon again, but nothing happened, a soft beep sounded from her weapon noting the charge was low.  She holstered the pistol, eyes darting around, looking for a suitable weapon of some kind.  There was nothing, save for a few rocks which would hardly work to defend herself.  She gritted her teeth together, grabbed the heaviest rock she could find and hurled it at the alien.  The rock thudded into the ground, completely missing the target.  Unsurprised, but grateful the distraction the rock provides, she bolted for the ship, opened the door and quickly sealed herself inside before the thing outside knew what happened.  It screamed and hollered in anger, madly searching for her, but its cries were answered by the roar of the ship’s engines.

She pressed a series of buttons and grabbed the craft’s yolk, blasting off to the safety of space leaving the creature behind confused and upset.

What is “Crystal Moon?”

My latest book is out, and it isn’t a part of the running series GoandriaCrystal Moon is something that has a lot of meaning to me.  It is inspired by real people, real events, and real lessons in an Urban Fantasy setting.

A few years ago, I read Dracula and was intrigued by the letter format.  It felt like a good way to get insights into what the characters were feeling while being able to show the story more subtly.  Writing in first person was challenging, especially with the first draft.  It was difficult not to riddle the pages with “I” while at the same time having it flow in a way a real journal would.

One of my goals for Crystal Moon is to step outside of my comfort zone.  Writing Fantasy is what I know and love, with the typical swords, magic and bows.  Yet, as is the nature of stories, it morphed from my original idea of a comedy into an Urban Fantasy Thriller.

After rewrites and additions, it is finally available to the public, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing the story.  A lot of my heart and emotions went into it.  Come, laugh, cry, and shake your head with me here.