Purple Prose and the Capricious Narrator

A little over a week ago, an author I follow launched a small contest on his blog, the Post-Apocalyptic Purple Prose Contest (1st annual). You know what purple prose is, right? To quote Gerhard Gehrke, the Capricious Narrator himself:

Elevated language where none is needed. Overly flowery descriptions of the mundane that distract. Haughty verbiage where spare description would suffice. Maximum verbosity. I’d like to honor language on stilts that draws excessive attention to itself as it pertains to the decline and fall of civilization.

In other words, a little fun at literary expense. Naturally, I couldn’t resist, so I whipped up a brief entry and posted it, thinking it would be fun to see what others come up with.

And… I won! To be fair, there was only one other entry, so I’m not sure this classifies as a grand prize of literature — well, especially not, given the nature of the writing involved — but still, I am now the proud possessor of a copy of Gerhard’s newest book, Nineveh’s Child, autographed by the author, and a t-shirt featuring the book cover. See above for a shot of yours truly in said t-shirt, trying to look all post-apocalyptic and such. Ok, I was having some fun with filters.

Oh, and the winning entry? Here it is, in full, for your enjoyment (try not to laugh too hard, now, will you?):

Diana glared, a gleam in her stymied eye, across the purpling sage-filled prairie, golden grains turning red as blood in the decaying light of a dying sun. She wearily lifted a slender, weather-beaten hand to her beetling brow, shielding her fractious gaze from that awful hue, searching determinedly for the slightest sign, the merest indicator, that the egregious enemy so heinously hid in any practical proximity to her present position. Well she comprehended the dire, desperate danger of being capriciously caught in the noxious night, food for the fearful fiends she distinctly despised.

Lots of purple there.

Thanks again to Gerhard for a fun contest! I’m looking forward to settling down for a good read with Nineveh’s Child.

stars nebula space

Engines of Creation

Clear skies of a winter’s night,
Stars ablaze, a thousand suns,
Unimpeded before my sight,
The long journey their light has run.

Mighty Sirius, beacon in the void,
Greater even than Jupiter’s arc;
Tau Ceti with her many worlds,
Shining promise across the dark.

Farther off Arcturus burns,
Capella to the Hyades sings,
Ringed with dust Vega turns,
And Fomalhaut in Castor’s wings.

Centuries off Antares shines,
And Canopus in the southern sky,
Rigel anchors Orion’s belt,
Betelgeuse glows red to our eye.

Deneb, distant, ever so bright,
Her light began in ancient days,
Would dominate the northern sky,
Yet is two thousand years away.

What stories they must have,
These lights of our foundation,
What tales they could tell,
These burning engines of creation.

pleiades stars space
image credit: WikiImages via pexels.com / pixabay.com

Beam Reaching the Void

Brilliant as laser light the sail unfurls
Kilometers across,
Reaching away with increasing delta-v;
Circuits encoded, a distributed control,
Carbon-nano resilient
In the face of strikes of dust.

Decades we have voyaged, our home far behind,
Nothing more than a bright point of light,
A memory of the launching beam;
Now ahead we see, brighter by the day,
Our destination, our Centauri dream,
And fabled Proxima b.

Too fast! Too fast! We must slow down,
Deploy the braking sail,
Vector toward our new Sun;
Angular momentum, control lines pulled,
The sheets and halyards of our ship,
Elliptically sling us around the star.

A dozen trips, two dozen, shedding delta-v
With each successive orbit, easing us slowly toward
Our final home, Lagrange One, stable space between
Star and planet, a million miles yet close enough to touch,
Scopes deployed, sensors arrayed, beaming home the news,
Four years to tell you that we’ve arrived.

Image credit:
Kevin Gill, via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic

Who Am I?


Let me start by saying who I am not. I am not a psychic. I am not an actor. I am not a hockey player nor Olympic weightlifter. I’ve made a few speeches in my time, but none of them are considered landmarks of First Amendment rights, nor am I a debate coach. I’m not a journalist, nor a professor, nor a scientist.

Why not all those things? Well, there are other Matt Frasers (or Mat Frasers or Matthew Frasers) out there who are all those things. It turns out I have a fairly common name (there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to people named Matt Fraser). One of the above is even an author, though fortunately for me he is a writer of nonfiction, so I trust you’ll be able to tell us apart.

I am a writer.

I have been writing stories since my age could be measured in single digits, when I wrote a stage play called Fly of Fly Hall (which was inspired by A. A. Milne’s Toad of Toad Hall, itself OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows). Around the same time I also penned the tale of Ford Matchbox, the fanciful adventures of my favorite Matchbox toy car and his automotive friends. As a teenager I had a keen interest in all things Fantasy and Science Fiction, and with great expectations I submitted a short story to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Much as with my early childhood work, the story borrowed heavily on concepts I’d lifted from the greats such as Robert A. Heinlein, and the magazine rightly rejected it as unoriginal. As writers we are supposed to take such things in stride, learn from them and press on, but I admit my teenage ego was heavily crushed, and I did not write fiction again for a number of years.

Yet the bug never quite leaves one, does it?

Throughout the 2000s I puttered about with some concepts for a political techno-thriller that never quite got off the ground, and in 2012 I wrote a piece of historical fiction for NanoWrimo that was loosely based upon the experiences of one of my ancestors during immigration. I followed up in 2013 with some stream-of-consciousness-inspired steampunk romance (yes, really) about which it might be better if we said no more (though I did “win” NanoWrimo that year, as I at least completed 50,000 words, even if much of it was schlock). There followed a couple years of trying my hand at short romantic fiction, and if nothing else, doing so taught me much about better understanding my characters’ emotional states.

But I am back now to my first literary love: science fiction (and perhaps the odd fantasy or mixed-genre piece as well).

I am a sailor.

You could say it’s in my blood. My father was a merchant sailor and Master Mariner, having spent much of his career commanding cargo and passenger ships around the oceans of the world. As a child I was hugely fond of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books, and when I read Robin Lee Graham‘s Dove as a pre-teen, I figured I had only a few years if I wanted to meet his then-record of being the youngest solo circumnavigator (that didn’t happen).

At the age of 13 I finally had the opportunity to learn to sail for myself on a rented 14′ Sunfish on the lagoons of Foster City, California, and the next year I signed up via Explorer Scouts as crew on board a cutter-rigged Downeaster 38 out of Redwood City named Pau Hana. Two years later I was in Seattle, and again via Explorer Scouts signed on as crew for the custom racing sloop Serenity (previously called Sachem and donated by one of Puget Sound’s legends, Bill Buchan).Abeona Close Reach

Since that time, I have owned a succession of ever-larger and ever-older sailboats: Kiwi Dreams, a 1984 Merit 22Roxy, a 1983 Beneteau First 32; and today Abeona, a 1982 Cal 39. My wife and I enjoy sailing Abeona up and down the length of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, having many fine adventures on the waters of Washington and British Columbia, and we have also sailed the warmer waters of Tahiti and the British Virgin Islands (though not on Abeona). We are members of the Shilshole Bay Yacht Club.

I am an adventurer.

This is in my blood, too, perhaps. Whether it’s my father’s hijinks on the high seas, or my mother’s tracks on alpine trails, I love getting out of the city and into the wilderness, or simply exploring new places. I have been hiking and backpacking as long as I can remember, and for several years I was quite active as a mountain-climber in the Pacific Northwest, including scaling Mt Rainier in 2003. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have trekked the Khumbu Valley of Nepal as far as Everest Basecamp, and I have cycled the Pacific Coast from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico. I have traveled to five of the seven continents, one of which was Antarctica, where I worked as an electrician for nearly four years, including three winters. I have gone beneath the waves in a nuclear submarine, and I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

I am a computer geek.

Or is that nerd? Either way, I wear the label with pride. Perhaps, though, I should say that I am a computer professional, as it is in this arena that I make my living — at least until my books take off!

I got my start with computers, sort of, in the late 1970s, when my stepfather, who was a field engineer for Livermore Data Systems, would constantly muck about with multiplexors and modems in our home. My first experience with networking was connecting to a mainframe from a “dumb” terminal via an acoustic modem; you know, the kind that had two rubber cups that you fit the handset of your telephone into. By the time I got to high school, I was teaching myself to program in BASIC on a DEC PDP-11 that the math teacher maintained. There were no actual computer science classes in high school in those days, or at least not at my school, but we could have access to the PDP-11 if we asked nicely.

In university I majored in Electrical Engineering, but I ended up taking more computer science classes than engineering classes, and along the way learned how to program in FORTRAN-77 and Pascal. My university career was short-lived, however, as I was not then a very good student, but after dropping out I got myself hired on as a system operator in the university’s data center, running CDC Cyber 170 and IBM System/370 mainframes.

Embed from Getty Images

For a while I bounced around the nation (and one or two other nations) doing various odd jobs while trying to “find” myself, until eventually I did find myself on that Pacific Coast bicycle ride, followed by the years working in Antarctica. Upon returning to Seattle from the Ice, I pursued a certification in network engineering, and proceeded to have some very good years as a Novell and Microsoft network administrator. One thing led to another, and I found myself specializing in database and enterprise application systems administration, so that today I work as an SAP Basis administrator. You can read much more about my path to this career on the SAP Community Network.

I am many things.

I’m a genealogist. I’m a husband and father. I’m a reader of books and watcher of movies. I’m a traveler, and once in a while video-gamer (though I rarely seem to have the time for this anymore).

I was born in New Zealand, emigrated to the United States at the age of 5, grew up alternately in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, and live today in Seattle with my beautiful wife.

And I’d like to hear about you! If you’ve read this far, please leave a comment below.