Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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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 ...



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: fishbowl, personal, poetry
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