Chorus: Short Story

This was not initially meant to be a short story, and it might not remain that way. Initially, I was planning on writing something based off of the myth of the Minotaur, where the narrator would act as the Greek “chorus” of the play – albeit, as you will see, disapproved of by the rest of the chorus/narrators. I’ve started working on other things, so this prologue may be as far as things go for a while, but it was still a fun piece to write.

This was somewhat inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The House of Asterion, but of course that in itself was inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. I compiled a doc of research on it for this story and there are obviously several versions of the myth. This excerpt won’t quite get to the retelling of the myth, however, and will mostly be a conversation between the chorus I mentioned.

We would like you to imagine, if you will, a grand amphitheatre, stretching far and wide and rising in seats of stone. And we would like you to imagine that the sun is high in the sky and that birds are singing in the trees; or you may imagine the fall of rain and crash of thunder, whatever suits your fancy. Imagine that we stand on the stage with arms thrown wide, our voices carrying to your ears on the wind, and imagine that this is what we say:

“Well, the ampitheatre is rather silly, I think,” says one of several anonymously hooded figures.

What? we say.

“Nobody goes to theatres anymore. It’s unrealistic.”

You are being ridiculous, we say. Of course people still go to theatres. And you are not speaking correctly.   

“What?” The Figure coughs deeply. “What about now?”

No, no, no, you cannot speak with your mouth, you must speak from the untethered depths of your cosmic spirit.

The Figure pauses. “LIKE THIS?”

No! Now you are simply shouting!

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” says the Figure. “It’s the same effect either way, really.”

We sigh, and lower our arms. The Figure shuffles its feet as we all stare at it in admonishment, for it has done an unspeakable act. Of course, we would never say so to its face.

“Oh, ha, ha. You’re all very funny.”

You are new on the job, are you not? No, do not answer, it is obvious. Let us explain to you what it is that we do. We are the Narrator, the Storyteller, the Ones who push the Plot forward – we have a sacred duty to tell our tales and tell them well. We do not call the setting ‘silly’, and we most certainly do not use quotation marks when we speak. 

“The ampitheatre is silly, though,” says the Figure, drawing away slightly when we glare at it. “This isn’t a play.”

It is about the style of the thing.

“But the story takes place in ancient Greece!”

Hence the ampitheatre, hence the chorus.

“It’s pointless. No one wants to read about us going on like this for an entire page. Why not just move on with the hundredth retelling of a Greek myth?”

I think I will take a sick day, one of us says, a single voice, splitting off from the group and stepping down from the stage. This is giving me a headache.

“We don’t get headaches,” says the Figure. The one that has left the group breaks into a run and disappears from the ampitheatre in a wisp of smoke. “Look, let me tell the story. I can take it from here.”

You are new, you are new, we protest. You do not know a thing.

“Then this will be a good learning experience,” the Figure says with fake innocence.

We ponder this for a long, long moment. It would not be a wise decision, we are sure of that much. However, it would not be the most horrible thing, to have some time to ourselves.

“Great!” The Figure claps its hands, and in the manner of one that does not know the strength of their own voice, their own abilities, sends a booming sound throughout the ampitheatre. We flinch, already regretting our decision. “Good. All right. So…”

The rest of the chorus leaves the ampitheatre. It is only you and me. Our setting wavers, and shifts, until we are in the land of the Minotaur, the Athenian, and the Princess.

I tried to play around a bit with dialogue, here, because the narration is both directed at the reader and directed at the Figure in certain ways. The narrators are fairly passive aggressive, it would seem, but perhaps the Figure won’t be like that.

And even though it’s technically not part of a short story, I’ll call it that for the time being. Or maybe I should just try and write some actual short stories. We’ll see. At the moment this will suffice.

Top Five Books of 2020

If anything can be said of the COVID-19 lockdown from last year, it’s that it certainly gave a lot of time to read. Admittedly, I could have read much more than I did as it stands, but I still read well over enough to complete my top five list of the year.

I also haven’t posted anything since April 2020, but we don’t need to talk about that. Moving right along.

Smek for President! by Adam Rex

Smek for President! (Smek, #2)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20706799-smek-for-president

Although the first book in this duology, The True Meaning of Smekday, is my favourite of the two, Smek for President was the only one I read this year because I had needed something quick to read. In the first book, Gratuity “Tip” Tucci and J. Lo (the alien one, not the one you might be thinking of) take a hectic road trip in a Boov invaded Earth and ultimately save it with the power of cat hair. In the second, they go to visit one of Jupiter’s moons which the Boov have since inhabited and things continue to be weird.

Smek for President, like its predecessor, is full of humour and added “comics”: such as the several versions of J. Lo interacting after a time travel incident (again, the alien, not the real person). I’d read this book before, but it had been a while and so some parts of it did feel new to me.

This is a very fun book, although without nearly as many cats as the first.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Image result for archnemesis marissa meyer
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35425827-archenemies

This one is technically the second book in a trilogy. I read it and the last book, Supernova, last year, but some of the events have since blurred together in my mind, making it difficult to remember which I had liked the most, so to speak. I have decided on Archenemies based on what I can gauge from my own original reactions.

The Renegades trilogy takes place in a world of superheroes and villains, where the Renegades are the main organization for the former. Nova, a member of the villain team the Anarchists, joins the Renegades as a double agent and plenty of problems ensue from there. Archenemies takes place some time down the line from when Nova first began her infiltration, and follows her as she tries to take down the Renegades from the inside with varying amounts of luck.

What can I say? There’s nothing like a cast of characters with cool superpowers.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Image result for dune novel
https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/ace-books-cover-dune-new-edition

I’ll start off by saying that this was a long book.

A very long book.

So long that it was hard to hold it open when I was too close to the beginning or the end.

That being said, I obviously enjoyed it if it made it on to the top of the list. Dune follows the Atreides family on the desert planet Arrakis as a plot to bring down their house is put into place. It has had influence on plenty of modern sci-fi media, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, and the world/universe building is very intricate.

I did find the characters to be flat, and the pacing could be weird at times. Still, it was interesting as a science fiction novel. Frank Herbert obviously put a lot of work into it: roughly five years of research and another five of actually writing. I can’t imagine doing that much prep.

I don’t currently have the energy to really delve into all the themes and ideas explored in Dune, because it can be dense in that respect. So instead I’ll say that the sandworms are awesome. The Fremen riding them around the desert? Awesome.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Image result for hogfather book cover
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogfather

Would it really be one of my top five of the year posts without a Terry Pratchett book? Last year I finally got around to reading the Death series of Discworld just in time to be reading Hogfather during the Christmas/”Hogswatch” season.

This particular Discworld novel takes place during, as you probably would have guessed, its version of Christmas. The Hogfather (kind of like Santa Claus but with boars instead of reindeer) has gone missing due to a mysterious group of hooded figures contacting Ankh-Morpork’s Assassin’s Guild to kill him. Death, who is clearly the logical choice for the job, steps in to do the Hogfather’s job on Hogswatch eve. Meanwhile, his granddaughter Susan tries to figure out why and how, exactly, her immortal-skeleton-grandfather is going around in a sleigh and beard saying “ho ho ho” an awful lot.

Pratchett’s work is, as always, comedic and strange in the best of ways. I enjoyed Hogfather very much and it was a great book for December.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Image result for return of the thief
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11503920-return-of-the-thief

Another author that has fairly consistently appeared in my top five posts is Megan Whalen Turner, and with the final book in the Queen’s Thief series being released last year, it’s probably a given that I would choose Return of the Thief for this spot. It still seems strange that the series is over, but I of course enjoyed the final installment. I had to limit myself to fifty pages a day once it arrived to avoid having it gone all in one go.

The sixth book is written from the point of view of Pheris Erondites, a member of the house Eugenides (the main character of the first book and somewhat the focus of the others) was in the process of bringing down in the previous installments. Pheris is sent to the court of Attolia to be the attendant of Eugenides, the king. Baron Erondites believes that Pheris’ cerebral palsy will mean that he will be sent back, but Eugenides does the exact opposite, and Return of the Thief follows Pheris’ new life at the palace as well as the approaching invasion of the Mede.

Turner’s writing is wonderful and the world feels fully fleshed-out. I do wish that we could have heard more from certain characters, but given the breadth of the cast and how the storyline goes it could have been difficult. Needless to say, as one of my favourite series, I enjoyed Return of the Thief thoroughly – and it also made me have to go back and read King of Attolia. Of course.

And that’s it for my fifth ever five books of the year post. There will never be another perfect number like that again, so appreciate it while it lasts.