Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Rothfuss’

It’s getting to be Halloween, that time of the year when identity goes out the window, when our darkest subconscious urges come to the fore and we are released from mundane life for a while, and for one night, we revel…

Halloween is my favorite holiday, as you may have guessed.

A few weeks ago, I sent a ghost story in to a contest that Patrick Rothfuss was judging. If I’d won the contest, I would have my story read on the public radio. In Wisconsin.

Don’t question the logic of my entering. It made sense at the time.

Sadly, my story didn’t win, but I still feel like sharing it. So, here it is: “Songs of the Lost”. My flash-fiction space-opera ghost story.

~ Ian

Songs of the Lost

Ian Johnson

When I was a child, my grampa and I would sit in the fields outside our cabin and watch the rockets take off from the launchpad down in the valley. I always liked watching them, thinking about where they were going: to Alpha C, or Niobe, or Terra, or Väinämöinen, or even the Outer Worlds. I wondered what wonders they’d see, what passengers they were carrying, if they would be lost in transition between the stars, like so many other ships had been in the past.

One day, when I was eleven, my grampa asked me an unusual question.

“Can you hear them?” he said. “The ghosts?”

“What are you talking about, grampa?”

He smiled, placing his broad leathery hand on my cheek. “No, I guess you wouldn’t.  You’re young. But me…” My grampa looked off into the distance, off towards the jagged mountains red with alien vegetation. “When I was a kid, and folks first came out here, this world was already occupied. Not by people, y’hear. But by strange creatures, tall and hairy: peaceable enough, if you were on their good side.”

He paused, took a long drag on his cigarette.

“But we weren’t on their good side, boy. They took a dislike to us when we first came here. Tore through our settlements somethin’ fierce, I tell you. They had four arms, and when they grabbed hold of you, they’d rip you to little bitty pieces…”

My grampa smiled his crooked, rakish grin. “But that’s not for young ears to hear,” he said. “To make a long story short, I joined the Earthling Defense Unit. And we made sure that they wasn’t going to bother us no more. Not a single one of them still walks on this world. Not anymore.”

My grampa gestured, cigarette in hand, its burning orange tip cutting a wide arc through the air. “But even though they’re all gone, the old folks like me who remember them… when the wind is right, I can hear them, still echoing through the hills. That’s how they talked to each other, boy. They would make the most beautiful, howling music that would freeze you where you stood with fear and awe. Like wolves, only lower, and sadder.

“I know there ain’t any of them left to walk this world. But I still hear ‘em. In my gut, I can hear the music they make. When the suns go down in the east, that’s when I hear the ghosts. Calling to each other. Mourning the loss of their world.”

My grampa had a stroke and died three months later. I’d always thought that there’d been something wrong in his brain, that the songs had been his breaking-down brain imagining sounds that nobody had heard in decades.

But I’m an old man now, and the red-forested mountains have been strip-mined away to nothing. Even so, when the wind is right, just after the suns have set, I can hear them far away, howling, mourning.

And when I see a rocket lift off, a red-orange flower of fire as it flies into the black, I think of my grampa, and the times we had, in the fields outside our old cabin.


So I came here after my last final today, and this is basically what went through my head:

Ian: I must check the stats on my blog! Because, after all, I need numbers to be validated…

Ian: *sound of jaw hitting floor*


Once my brain had recovered enough from the shock of seeing the site views…

Okay. Hold on. Some context here.

Today, my blog has had 4,964 hits. And it’s still climbing.

To put this in context, my blog has had more hits in the past TWELVE HOURS than it ever had prior to today.

I am astonished. No– I’m even more than that. I am astonishment. Personified.

There’s a simple reason for this spike. Remember those dumb lolcats that I made of Pat Rothfuss? Well, I sent him a link to them back in April, shortly after I made them.

Apparently he liked them.

Enough to link them on his blog.

I was aware that Pat had fans. However, I wasn’t aware that he had that many people reading his blog.

So that’s what happened.

Again, I’m still kind of in shock here.

Oh, look. We’re at 4,982 views now.

I don’t expect many of you who came here because Pat linked you to my lame blog to stay around. But if you do (and I really encourage you to), then here’s what you should know:

Hi, I’m Ian Johnson. I live in Santa Cruz, California. I’m a linguistics student, an aspiring writer, and a connoisseur of various fried invertebrates.

That’s all you need to know.

Welcome to my blog.

~ Ian

PS: 4,996 views now…

…Why yes. In case you were wondering, I did turn Patrick Rothfuss into a lolcat.

I am just as shocked and horrified at myself as the rest of you are.


(The technical term for pictures of this sort is called a lolpat, by the way.)


And finally, because I am a Browncoat until death, here’s a picture of Pat’s son with a 100% genuine Grade-A Firefly quote below it…



Either I am a genius or I am completely insane.

In any case, I think we all win in the end.

~ Ian

I haven’t been posting here on Axolotl Ceviche as much as I’d like. It’s because I’ve been so incredibly busy all this month of March that I haven’t had much of the spare time to even sit down and write, much less make musings on my lame blog.

But this last week has been Finals week. And, strangely, I haven’t been very busy.

I do have a Spanish final tomorrow. But I know Spanish like the back of my hand. So I’ve been hanging out in my dorm room, watching LoadingReadyRun videos…

…and rereading the Kingkiller Chronicles.

When I first read Name of the Wind, I must have been sixteen or seventeen. I think the first copy of it that I read was the one in the Santa Cruz County Public Library, which was also the place that I first read the Elric novels, as well as a lot of other things. I read Name of the Wind in about three days, blazing through the story, reading the book every spare moment I got.

When Wise Man’s Fear came out in 2011, I bought the hardback immediately. I even interrupted a date so that I could go to the bookstore and get a copy on launch day. (Yes… smooth, I know.) It was another of those times where I snatched spare moments to read the book… in class, in the dining hall, on the bus, wherever. Both books are intensely beautiful, well-crafted pieces of fiction. And I don’t use the term well-crafted lightly: Both NotW and WMF are built, as solidly as a sailing ship. When I first read Name of the Wind, the whole time I was thinking, Merciful Tehlu. I want to write a book like this when I grow up.

Looking at the Kingkiller Chronicles now, when I have a bit more experience with storytelling, I see it as a kind of intricate machine, some vast clockwork automaton, all gears and oiled wood and shining brass, like an Analytical Engine: a marvelous, wonderful machine, each cog and cam perfectly shaped, each one fitting into the next, wheels whirring and gears grinding in a blur of frantic motion to produce something wonderful. I look at the books now, and I see how perfectly each chapter fits into the next, how everything is set up and lined up perfectly to create beautiful moments later on. The casual references thrown into NotW, which lead into the strange, magical happenings in the later chapters of WMF. I was surprised to find references to Felurian and the Adem from near the beginning of NotW. And knowing what happens later gives me context for interesting moments in the earlier chapters: like, for example, I marveled at Kvothe’s boldness in comparing Denna to Felurian, in their second meeting in NotW.

But when I read NotW when I was in high school, it was something difference. Instead of looking at the books as a marvelous machine, I saw them as a storm: a frenzied rush of wind and rain coming in from the sea, the waves blowing salt spray in your face as you look out onto the thunderheads, and occasionally there’s a bolt of lightning so sudden and so bright that you can’t help but wonder. Some of those lightning moments still exist for me: like Kvothe’s first performance at the Eolian. Or the moment that Kvothe first calls the wind. But then, some of the moments where lightning happens are different. When I first read NotW, I had much more of a shock at the moment that Kvothe’s family is killed. But now I feel something much deeper, and much sadder, when I read about young feral Kvothe in the forests of the Commonwealth, learning to play emotions on his lute. There’s something magical about that moment (and it’s not the fact that Kvothe is probably playing Names). Any writer can write about wizards. But for a writer to write actual wizardry– that’s something rare and special.

Wow. That last one sounds like a blurb.

Pat, if you ever need a blurb for your books, feel free to use that one.

Call me.

~ Ian

I’m having entirely too much fun creating Instant Poetry by taking passages from my favorite novels, translating them into Chinese using Google Translate, and translating them back, adding punctuation and line breaks where necessary. The process isn’t really very creative– it’s entirely derivative, since I’m making nothing up– but I like it. It’s a lot like performing alchemy. I’m taking one small, beautiful thing, and turning it into something else entirely, which manages to still be beautiful.

Also, it’s fun! You should give it a try.

Here’s one of my efforts:


Preamble: a silent three parts

This is the night.


Waystone hotel laid a silence, which is a three-part silent.


The most obvious part

is a hollow, echoing quiet.


Things lacking.


If there is wind, it sighed through the trees.

Inn sign, its hook creaking,

like the leaves and brush

on the road

trailing silence.


If there had been people–

even a very small number of hotels

within the men–

they will have the conversation and laughter filled the silence.


Clatter and clamor.

One expects the dark hours in the night.

The house from the water.


If there is no music…


But of course no music.


In fact, none of these things, so remained silent.


Waystone man curled up inside the bar for a corner.

They drank, a quiet determination

to avoid serious discussion

of troubling news.


In this process, they added

a small, sullen silence.

Large, hollow.

It is made of alloy, a counterpoint.


The third silence is not an easy thing to note.

If you listened to an hour,

you may begin to feel.

The foot of the wooden floors

and rough, split barrels behind the bar,

it is the black stone fireplace.


A long-held fire.

Hot dead weight.


This is a slow back

and a white linen cloth,

rub the bar.

Raised for food.


It is the people standing there,

polished mahogany has a light

shining in the hands.


The man really red hair.

Red as flame.


His eyes are dark and distant.

He must know a lot of subtle things moving.


Waystone is his, just as silence is his third.

This is appropriate because it is the largest of the three silent.

others inside of the package itself.


This is the outcome of the fall of deep and wide.

This is a great river.

Smooth stone weight.


This is a patient, is to die.


Cut a person’s voice.


May I just mention that I love this poem. It’s taken from the prologue of The Name of the Wind, one of the most beautiful pieces of writing to ever come out of the fantasy genre. I love how the imagery shifts and changes here: from the indecipherable (“even a very small number of hotels within the man”) to the beautiful and profound-sounding (“he must know a lot of subtle things moving”). It’s a transmutation.

Anyway, it’s lots of fun. Feel free to try it if you want to.

~ Ian

PS: Google Translate ©2012 Google. The Name of the Wind ©2007 Patrick Rothfuss.

PPS: Yes, I’m still sick. Yes, I’m still busy. Yes, I still don’t feel up to blogging regularly. Maybe when I’m feeling better I’ll post some more.

I was reading the comments in Patrick Rothfuss’ blog (because, you know: Rothfuss), and came across this piece of advice, given to a person who was insecure about his writing, and wanted to know how to make his writing Not Suck.

As usual, Pat nailed this right on the head…

“You come to grips with the fact that writing something that sucks is better than writing nothing at all. 

“If you write something and it sucks, then good for you. Not all explorers discovered lost golden cities and trade routes to the mysterious East. Some of them died in a ditch. A lot of them did, actually. But still, they get full props for being brave. 

“But if you sit there paralyzed with fear, afraid to get out of your chair, then you’re no kind of explorer at all. You’re just a sad bastard. You have no chance of being cool. 

“The same is true with writing.”

I can add nothing to that.

Seriously, all you aspiring writers out there. Don’t worry about getting it right. Just get it down on paper. Don’t worry about making something Great™. Just write the best story you are capable of writing at that moment.

If you want to be a writer, just get out there and write.

~ Ian