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In Which Alchemy and Atomic Science DO NOT Mix - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
In Which Alchemy and Atomic Science DO NOT Mix

My yesterday started with trying to pull Maryam's head out of an oven.  And then things really got complicated ...


Me: "Get your head out of the microwave before you break it."

Maryam: "I'm not going to break it.  I just want to know how it works."

Me: "I put this cup in, push these buttons, and my tea comes out hot.  It uses microwaves."

Maryam: "That is not very helpful."

Me: "I'm a writer, not a mechanic.  And we need to get to work.  And please try not to microwave England."

This before I'd even had my cup of tea.

Well, the fishbowl got off to a good start.  You-all gave me great prompts.  I wrote some very satisfying poems.  Slowly, because they take a lot of research.  It's averaging about twice the usual time to write a Steamsmith poem, compared to most other poems.

Then about 9 PM the mayhem started.  The computer clucked and turned itself off.  But my office light was still on.  "Drat," I said to Maryam, "we seem to have shorted out reality.  Hopefully it will reboot in a minute or two."  I poked at the power switches.  Nothing.  I went to find Doug, who said the power was out upstairs too.  We checked around the house and found a random assortment of power feeds off and on.

Yikes, check the refrigerator and the chest freezer.  Refrigerator light was on.  Chest freezer was off.  Doubleplusungood.

So we went to disconnect a long extension cord from the library room to reconnect the chest freezer to a live outlet.  All the power was out in that wing of the house, but we had a flashlight.  As I was wedged between a bookcase and the wall ...

*POW*

Darkness.

Doug: "The flashlight just blew up in MY hand."

Me: "Fuck."

Now this was not a cheapass aluminum flashlight.  This was a heavy-duty electrician's flashlight completely encased in high-impact plastic and rubber, the most shockproof, magic-proof flashlight we could find because it has to stand up to me on a bad day.  (If a flashlight is needed, it's usually because something has already gone wrong.)  Apparently alchemical energy is more penetrating than magic.  Yip ... ee.

At this point, I turned to Maryam and said, "We are done  for the night.  Go home.  Go away.  Get out of my house while it is still standing."

Doug: "Are your eyes adjusting to the dark?"

Me: "Yes, I can see the furniture in here.  What I cannot see is the glue board between me and my exit."

Doug: *heavy sigh*

Me: "We have candles and matches."

He came back with a lit candle.

Me: "Thank the gods that FIRE still works."

So we managed to retrieve the extension cord and reroute the chest freezer to an alternative power supply.  We mapped out what still worked and what didn't in more detail.  During the round of necessary phone calls, the cell phone shut itself off.  Fortunately that  came back on after a minute.

We spent the night without heat in the house, and built a fire in the woodstove this morning.  One reason we have a woodstove is because the power supply from outside can be erratic, and the other is our tendency to encounter these little fabric-of-space problems periodically.  Also, as soon as I got up, the power started migrating.  Some things turned off that were on, some turned on that were off, some were dim.  Still no computer.

Finally the electricians came out, identified a material component of the problem (mice having nested in the switchbox under the meter and chewed up some of the wires) and replaced some components.  So now we have power again.  Happily, Maryam is also still speaking to me ("Look on the bright side -- nobody lost any eyebrows!"); this isn't her first lab accident either.

Generally, this house is very well warded against foreign energy and against power surges.  The former does not help if I let someone in, and the latter is helpful but has upper limits which we exceeded.  Enough of a power surger or alteration in reality tends to cause failure wherever the current weakest link is, in this case, the outdoor switchbox.  Which, admittedly, would have died the death someday anyhow.  But that doesn't account for the bulletproof flashlight (which is still dead) or the phone blipping out (which seems to be fine).  I've learned that when a cluster of weird things happen all at once, and can't all be explained by a mundane reason, it usually has to do with a not-so-mundane reason.  Occam's Razor shaves some unusual things around here.  Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.  Or in this case, "friendly fire isn't."

The really dumb thing?  I knew  this.  I've known since I started taking background notes on nether-Earth that alchemical science and atomic science DO NOT mix.  Now usually I can handle other universes without too much trouble, but most of them aren't actually inimical to this one.  Magic will interface with science, sort of tetchily; but alchemy is an alter science, so perhaps two systems trying to occupy the same space at the same time caused the problem.  There's extra flexibility where I am just because I'm fey and reality is more malleable around me.  But too much stress and it can still rupture.  Two heavy workers side-by-side for half a day is apparently enough to do that.  Instead of thinking about that, I'd been thinking that Steamsmith was a cool series and popular and would be grand in a fishbowl of its own.  Well ... it seemed  like a good idea at the time.

So, instead of trying to finish this fishbowl all at once, I'm going to divert to another fishbowl model that some other folks use, spreading out the prompts to be answered over time rather than all at once.  Hopefully this will allow the continuation of a series we love without  shorting out anything.  If necessary I can try writing longhand, like I do on long car trips.  Also, I'm not going to do another Steamsmith fishbowl.  I'll take prompts one at a time as they touch on other themes.  If I need a bunch of prompts, I'll collect them and write the poems one at a time rather than trying to devote a whole day to them.  And if anyone else is illustrating or otherwise working with characters from nether-Earth?  Might could be you'd want to do that in smallish increments rather than large chunks of workday, just in case.

Sorry for the fishbowl interruption.  I appreciate your patience, and prompts, and the various comments on the poems that got posted yesterday.  I will let you know when more poetry becomes available.

Tags: , ,
Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

27 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: February 22nd, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry you got interrupted in your fishbowl, but that was a great story! I really enjoyed it, it was cute. And being someone who is quite often besieged by my characters, I *completely* understand where you are coming from. Though mine are familiar with electricity, at least, so I've never had the problem of their shorting anything in a house. (That and the mice!)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 23rd, 2012 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>I'm sorry you got interrupted in your fishbowl, but that was a great story! I really enjoyed it, it was cute. <<

It is that. I have a lot of these, although this is among the more spectacular.

>>And being someone who is quite often besieged by my characters, I *completely* understand where you are coming from. Though mine are familiar with electricity, at least, so I've never had the problem of their shorting anything in a house.<<

Sooth. I can usually compensate for the differences, just not quite 100% of the time.

>> (That and the mice!) <<

The hell of it is, we can't really do outdoor pest control. We've had cats in the past, but they tend to get eaten by nearby wildlife. And the assorted skunks, foxes, coyotes, hawks, owls, etc. are not eating enough of the mice and rabbits. The blasted rabbits are ripping the bark off my trees right now.
siege From: siege Date: February 23rd, 2012 12:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Electricity: aether and pyra in a wira? Perhaps aer! Magnets spin their pulsing dance, switch partners and flow the other way, pushing off each other. One rotor infeed, another outflow: but that's work, not the wire, and the hearts still pulse.

Back and forth in the dance they go, bouncing like a bumblebee's wing. Humming like a pretty bird, and metal blades the signal flings. Wave small, microwave, wave hot to the aqua. Let your vita ignite warmth, shivering cold turn warm! The teapot is ready.

Dip the bag, let liquids flow, the trembling life draw essence through. Let steep the leaves. Sip the brew. Tea still works just fine.

*bows* My skillset currently runs deeply into the integration of seemingly-unlinkable structures. Reality is merely one more type of structure that can be shaped.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 27th, 2012 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

That was fun to read.

By the way:
astrapi -- lightning; consists of two atoms of aer (Air), one of hudor (Water), and one of pyra (Fire); it's unstable, created briefly during a quick reconfiguration of atoms. It can generate a lot of power, but is dangerous and difficult to control. It is sometimes used as a weapon.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: February 23rd, 2012 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
A dish of oil and machine nuts for the gremlins, that's what I recommend. :P
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 23rd, 2012 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

I really don't think it's gremlin damage this time. The ones here consistently attack the washer and dryer first. I've found a mixture of sea salt and asafoetida to be very effective in repelling them.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

That'll learn me not to crack a joke of that nature. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

I really don't think it's gremlin damage this time. The ones here consistently attack the washer and dryer first. I've found a mixture of sea salt and asafoetida to be very effective in repelling them.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

And technical glitches follow her into LJ... o.O
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL! I had to learn to shield my energy from things (especially computers) when I'm upset or feeling scattered. I thoroughly frustrated a boss who believes there's a rational explanation for everything, because he couldn't figure out why, about once a month, I couldn't successfully load the tape that held the typesetting program into the machine.

I've never successfully exploded a bullet-proof flashlight, though!

There should be a way to shield sufficiently. Maybe if you interpose a layer of magic between the two sciences it will help? Hmm...if it were summer, I'd just say work outside. Letting nature be your buffer would definitely take less work on your part and be safer for your house and budget.

ideealisme is right, this is a great story! I'm glad I got to read it instead of pay for the electricians, though!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 27th, 2012 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>I had to learn to shield my energy from things (especially computers) when I'm upset or feeling scattered. <<

I can ... somewhat ... shield things from my energy. Someone else's alchemical zoom, not so much. I've been trying some teflon-type shielding to keep a protective layer between different realities, now. We'll see how that works.

>> I thoroughly frustrated a boss who believes there's a rational explanation for everything, because he couldn't figure out why, about once a month, I couldn't successfully load the tape that held the typesetting program into the machine.<<

Oh yes. And if that's not enough, my anti-math knack and navigational jinx are both field effects. People have gone "Whaaa!" over those.

>>Hmm...if it were summer, I'd just say work outside. Letting nature be your buffer would definitely take less work on your part and be safer for your house and budget.<<

I may try that also.

>> I'm glad I got to read it instead of pay for the electricians, though!<<

Yeah, well, if you can't lower the price, raise the profit. At least my audience got a laugh out of it. And I've gotten some good donations, so Maryam is helping to defray the damages too.
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: February 27th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'm glad it's working out all right!

A long, long time ago I had a friend make me some shields anchored to physical objects to help me deal with certain things I couldn't figure out how to shield myself. I used them for quite a while, until repeated proximity while they were working led to the part of my brain that does that stuff figuring out what they were doing that was different than what I was doing. I can't really put it in words, but I can do those things now.

I've also been able to do some odd things (like using plastic as a focus, which is strange, but not impossible); if we get together in person sometime, I can try to do make you an external shield, if you like, either in regard to Maryam or the anti-math knack or navigation jinx, both of which would probably be handy to not share with your companions. I can't promise results, but the more the person I'm trying to help needs the help, the more likely I am to succeed. Anyway, the offer is open, if ever you want to take me up on it, and no worries if you don't.

In other thoughts, I still love that first poem you wrote for me, and I was thinking of seeing if it ever sold anywhere and maybe sponsoring it, but today I found out My Angel needs an urgent $1000 of dental work (and a less urgent $1000 after that), so even if it hasn't sold, that will have to wait. But I do keep enjoying your poems and I'm very glad to see you making a success of them in a business sense as well as a creative sense.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: February 23rd, 2012 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like the problem I had with power in the house when a brushtail possum that was nesting in the wall at the time (size of a large house cat, climbs trees for a living, protected species) decided that for something to do during the day it would gnaw on the power cord and expose the copper wire. It managed to only gnaw on the neutral...
One of my two power circuits started actinng very strange indeed.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh my! I can't say I'm sorry to have introduced you two, but I really wasn't expecting such a strong reaction. Maryam has always been a rather shy presence over here.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: February 23rd, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh now I'm intrigued. Did you create the character originally?
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: February 23rd, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
She was an half-formed character who was becoming a constant presence in my brain without coalescing. I knew her first name, that she was black, British, some kind of engineer and not 'modern', so when the steampunk-themed fishbowl came up I offered her as a kind of prompt, she seem to be way chattier with Elizabeth.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: February 25th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)
She sounds delightful, and I'm glad ysabetwordsmith was able to run with her!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 23rd, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

*hugs*

I'm not sorry for the introduction, and I'm still continuing the series. I am just going to take more care.

I think my exuberance got her all excited. She has a cautious mode too, which we now know to use more thoroughly.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: February 24th, 2012 10:16 am (UTC) (Link)
"Thank the gods that FIRE still works."

:-)

I like reading about cases of magic and technology being problematic with one another. But it's something foreign to my experience. Given that I'm an avatar of an alien Chaos Goddess, you'd think that all the power I fling around (and being Shao-Kehn's avatar does give me a significant power boost), that I'd have more tech problems. But oddly, my magic seems to *reduce* weird tech troubles. When Lilla and I were living together, her magic would do things like causing her laptop to BSOD frequently even just from a few minutes' work. But me, I could use her laptop for hours without problems. In fact, if she was having the occasional thing where it would BSOD multiple times in a row for her, all I'd have to do was touch the laptop, and it would stop messing up.

Also, I've seen my magic get two different computers with failing hard drives to work for me when they weren't otherwise capable of doing so. It's not foolproof, but so far I've never had any catastrophic computer failures. (Knock on wood)

I suspect that there's a reason for it. The planet Shao'Kehn is from has had atomic/electric technology for over 9,000 years. (At least 9200 years, possibly longer). So I suspect Her magic is tech-friendly for this reason.

This tech-friendliness isn't the only oddity I've noticed with the magic Shao'Kehn and I share. I already mentioned I get a significant power boost, so spells I do on a whim in just a few minutes have more power than most spells others have to work on for half an hour or more. But also, Our magic seems to do things like scare away ghosts (twice now, entering new apartments, I felt a ghost flee in terror at the sight of Us). About the only weird thing I've experienced for any real length of time was caused by my own moods over the course of a week, and which I swept away in literally less than five minutes of spellwork.
I also once found myself able to get energy directly from the earth.

Our magic also makes us able to switch easily between energy sensitivity and energy INsensitivity. Oh yeah, and the ability to read people's souls like open books, which gives me the ability to tell if people can be trusted or not. I call it my mutant power. And the only two times I've ever been wrong about someone was when I ignored what my "mutant power" was telling me.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: February 24th, 2012 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, that kind of goes in line with the neat fact that Shao'Kehn, a Chaos Goddess, has an ordered and very self-controlled personality, while Her Consort Ahndahn, an Order Goddess, has a chaotic personality.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 25th, 2012 09:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

You're lucky. I've known a few other folks whose talents meshed with technology, but it doesn't seem really common yet.
From: minor_architect Date: February 28th, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been browsing your list of Fishbowl themes for the next few months (to refresh my memory on when the March one will be held) and just realized that the theme for April is "steampunk."

Errrr...won't that one need to be modified somewhat? Or is Maryam gonna blow out all your circuits again in two months' time?

O_o
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 28th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

That was set before Steamsmith became such a big series. I was hoping to get prompts for more different settings and characters than just that one.

A quick search reveals a fascinating cluster of "-punk" subgenres relating to specific historic periods and technological/aesthetic themes. These include teslapunk, atompunk, dieselpunk, and decopunk. Historypunk? Erapunk? Pick a past time period and characteristic motif, and make your own brand-new subgenre?

I'd wind up with "Flintpunk linguist invents language."
From: minor_architect Date: February 28th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was set before Steamsmith became such a big series. I was hoping to get prompts for more different settings and characters than just that one.

True...so I guess a reminder of last week's occurrences at the start of April's Fishbowl wouldn't go amiss? Perhaps something along the lines of: "I love writing about Maryam but please be gentle with those prompts. I do not wish to fry every electrical appliance I own." :D

A quick search reveals a fascinating cluster of "-punk" subgenres relating to specific historic periods and technological/aesthetic themes. These include teslapunk, atompunk, dieselpunk, and decopunk.

Cool! It's nice to know other "-punk" options abound, rather than just the two I know of (cyberpunk and steampunk). I'm assuming that "decopunk" refers to the Art Deco period that reached its heights in the 1920s and 1930s?
natf From: natf Date: March 1st, 2012 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Your life is so complex!

I have forgotten, however, who Maryam is. Apologies but if you don't mind could you reiterate?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 1st, 2012 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Okay...

>>Your life is so complex!<<

Yeah, I've had stuff blow out on me many times before, but this is definitely one of the more spectacular examples.

>>I have forgotten, however, who Maryam is. Apologies but if you don't mind could you reiterate?<<

Maryam Smith is the main character of my Steamsmith poetic series, which was the theme of last Tuesday's fishbowl. Like a few of my other characters, she interacts with me on a more direct level. Regrettably we proved the point that alchemical science and atomic science do not work and play well together.
natf From: natf Date: March 1st, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Okay...

Ah hah! Thanks for the explanation.
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