This Week’s Clarion Update, and Lo, an Excerpt from the Novel-in-Progress

We’re now heading into week 7 of this fundraiser. And after a … fairly large … donation yesterday, we’re up at just over 70% of goal–was just under 70% and a donation came in while I was writing this :)

Which is just staggeringly cool from where I sit. Because the extraordinary outpouring of well wishing and quite active aid in multiple respects is absolutely wonderful to be at the centre of. I’m still much more comfortable promoting other people’s works and accomplishments, but, you know, this has just been really nice to be at the centre of, so thank you to everyone :D

Now, as regards things promised in relation to fundraising goodness:

In what probably should have been, for narrative value, something done in a drunken haze, but that was nonetheless a decidedly sober decision, I offered (as additional incentive) that when we hit halfway on the Clarion West fundraiser I would post an excerpt from the novel-in-progress.

We hit halfway sometime last week, so I am posting the excerpt in today’s blog update. I will also be posting another excerpt when we reach the goal of the fundraiser.

I had thought about posting multiple excerpts today, but in looking the novel-in-progress over I realize that though large parts of it are much more polished than I had remembered (which makes excerpting somewhat easier, since I don’t generally like sharing very rough work), it is intentionally a very tangled book. That complicates things, because it means many of the sections that are in good shape would require quite a fair bit of explanation along with the excerpting, so I decided on something which is, like much of the book, quite atmospheric but which doesn’t require a great deal of outward explanation. It reads as an almost … interstitial moment … so I thought it might be appropriate to separate it out and use it to give everyone the approximate feel for the book (it ranges a fair bit tonally).

And I’m only going to provide the most basic prep for the excerpt here, including the fact that I’m not discussing narrative, because that is a long and deep rabbit hole.

No, instead I will note that the book is a contemporary magic realist / horror novel (my usual cross-genre stomping grounds); that the book makes use some of the conceptual framework of Borges’s The Garden of Forking Paths (note, I’m referring to the book mentioned in the story, not the story itself); and, finally, that the book makes heavy use of shenjiao folklore/mythology, which would be because the book is a contemporary Toronto narrative centred around a number of Chinese Canadian (largely QUILTBAG) characters.

The excerpt is a full section unto itself, nestled between, and stemming from, and to, other things. Also, this is still draft, so this is what this passage looks like now. Who knows what it’ll look like later on, right? :)

She snorts awake; knocks several crushed beer cans off her chest as she bolts up. The sudden blare of the tv is loud: the sound of tides crashing against a distant shore pours forth from the speakers.

She hoists herself full upright; sits quiet and still; one hand over her mouth as the pale light from the tv flickers over her face, her features become a projector screen and the wall behind her awash with runoff light.

The news feed is being broadcast from the Don Valley: long stretches of the lowlands and the DVP are gone; washed away entire. Like a swollen sea the Don has burst its borders and heaved rock and mud and forested swathes up from the belly of the valley. The wild waters have borne away the track and barrier of the expressway, the mighty river left thick with its glut, engorged and drunk on the feast of its wreckage.

Trees drown in the dirty murk of watery graves still filling as the water buries them. They reach across the empty spaces left above the waterline. Their branches rustle and creak as they grasp at one another, battered by chopping waves and crashing current.

Gulls wheel and cry above. Their white wings pace lazy circles as the camera crews slow pan to follow them; trace the blur of angled beaks and hitched wings as they streak higher: cream feathers cast against milky, sky-spanning cloud. Jingna cannot help but superimpose the image of crows on that scene; cannot help but fashion a backdrop of Kongfuzi, and Corvidae, and Laozi; of impossible, apocryphal tales of rigid, right action sundered by Taoist naturalism and eggshell emptiness.

In the real scene, devoid of old men, Zhongguoren logic riddles, moralist parables and their rebuttals, the cries of the airborne garbage scows carry over the distant roar of the water and fierce winds that beat against welkin white. Theirs is the only commentary on the scene. The camera crews have no words to offer; the broadcast images are their voice: their tongues wag in tracks, sweeps, and holds. Saying nothing.

Until they light on something in the far distance: a ripple in a high fog bank that resolves itself into a haze in the air. The migration of Hern bears down on the valley in ponderous steps. They ride the horizon like skyscrapers; tower against a sky subsumed with massing storms, reined tight in weighted cloud. Their forms are almost visible against the backdrop of the emptiness behind them. Their antlers seem to scrape furrows along the sky, trailing wisps of torn cloud, as they make their way south. Their approach sets the floodwaters sloshed over the DVP rolling in small tidal waves; slaps waves up against the incline on the east side; they break with the low rumble of thunder.

Jingna leans forward; transfixed by the Hern, and the terrible thunder.

The signal cuts out as someone realizes what the news team has caught on camera and shuts it down.

As if in accord with the broadcast, the room goes dark.

And the whole city with it.

Jingna waits. But the power does not wink back on.

She continues to stare at the blank face of the tv, her own face bathed in the dun light filtering in from outside; from the overcast sky.

The city groans under the weight of its silence.

Yes, I like atmospheric writing.

And I may as well point out the usual disclaimers at this point: No borrowing that text for anything else, same is copyrighted to me, and so on and so forth.

Anyway, there shall be another excerpt down the road, as it looks like we might just be able to hit the goal at this point. A little less than $900 to go on the fundraiser, and there’s, what, two weeks or so remaining to raise those funds?

It’ll be close, but I think we can swing it! :D

If you want to donate something directly to the fundraiser, or just feel like spreading the word, you can do so from here.

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