Speech and Scribbles

Pretentious CalTrans atrium representing the space-time continuum

No one is really sure yet where language comes from, whether it originates in the brain, or somewhere beyond, in the dim electric dancings of the universe. Surely if we think and speak–even if we are the only creature in all the dark void that does so–since we undeniably do so, it is a principle of the physical universe. The seeds of everything we are must have been present in the great bowling ball of fire from which the galaxies exploded all those billions of years ago, as we count time.

Almost all animals use sound signals, but generally (as far as we can tell from outside) only to communicate emotional states: alarm, affection, anger, anxiety…anything that begins with the letter “A” in English. Regular Shakespeares, the beasties are, indeed!

But humans can use sounds to encode abstract concepts and sense impressions and recreate them in another soul’s brain. (The famously loquacious trained gorillas can only use sign language.)

Other critters have big brains–some, especially among sea mammals, much bigger than ours. Other critters bear opposable thumbs. But only humans transmit complex thoughts in sound.

And then we take it farther: most human cultures have developed or adapted a form of writing. We encode feelings and sense impressions in sound, then re-encode sound in visual or tactile symbols which allow us to transcend space and time.

This is no small deal. In a way, language, especially written language, is a vast collective artwork that enacts the very nature of space-time, that is to say, encompasses creation itself. “In the beginning was the word….”

All this quasi-philosophical maundering is naught but prologue, though, to an announcement stunning in its modesty: Last night I signed the publishing contract with Switchblade magazine, for the story which I mentioned at the end of my post of August 6th. “The Price of a Burger” will appear in said magazine sometime in September or October if all goes well. It’s a rough, tough little noir-only rag, and my piece is a short-short reworked from an inner chapter of the book in progress.

Then, on October 18th, Switchblade publisher Scotch Rutherford and I are hoping to host a “Noir Night” reading with various authors at Battery Books in Pasadena–which brings writing back to its origins as speech. That’s not confirmed yet, but of course I’ll let you know!

“The Price of a Burger” is really a very good little deep-noir snippet, and it will be exclusive to Switchblade for six months after publication. Well worth the price of the cover, especially since you’ll get a bunch of other tales as well. I’ll announce it again (and again, I’m sure) here and on Twitter, Facebook et al, so…stay calm and keep reading.

Don’t whine with anxiety at the thought that you’ll miss out.

Rick Risemberg

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