I’ve few wants on my planet, fewer needs – I like seas, trees, exploring what I’ve made, Prospecting for the transgalactic trade, Composing music while collecting seeds. I like green islands, but won’t interfere If eco climate needs a waste of ice Or rock-filled deserts simply are the price Of balancing the seas and atmosphere. I’m rarely lonely, happy to create: Atonal opera, atoning for Those antisocial acts that led to war, Jailed on the planet that I populate. So I plant trees, make insects, have a swim, Watch, read, compose… my life’s an endless whim.
This sonnet is one of four I wrote after Maryann Corbett commented on the bleakness of my future visions. I suppose this doesn’t really contradict that comment… we’ll have good news and bad news: the good news is, obnoxious leaders will still (occasionally) be deposed, jailed, or exiled to play golf; the bad news is, transgalactic warfare will be pretty awful. But to me, the future’s not bleak if humans keep on developing, changing, growing, exploring, discovering, creating. I think that’s the most likely scenario, that we move out into the galaxy as transhumans and then as post-humans. Though when I say “we” I don’t mean to suggest that includes me! Neither moon nor Mars excite me. I like woods and gardens by the sea.
This poem was published in Star*Line, the official print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (thanks, Jean-Paul Garnier). Its poetry includes the full range of styles from formal to free. And the SFPA has another, online, journal called Eye To The Telescope. For reasons unknown my poems haven’t found lodging in ETTT yet.
The hyperspace viewer shows a flowing plane of treebark, roots; a distorted approximation of what we aren’t permitted to see. Clearing again with each rugose transformation, limited by the speed of post-quantum rendering, the map of our passage grows: an icebound dimensional lake thaws, remembering the hot pulse of its creation, shows palpable vestiges of times, energies and matters through which our wake will trace. The reflection of our ship shimmers, spatters light back to streaming stars. We race onward, out to where no atmospheres and skies of planets can frustrate our vision; the provocation of empty black where no suns rise unbearable without acquisition. Particular silence surrounds us like a felt of absence, itself the sinuous, tentacular touch of a void-god whose cult is abstinence, who meditates on dark too much— those distances between the stars and galaxies— and has a singular affection for black holes and cosmic fallacies.… Sometimes we overreach. Each direction (up? down? sideways?) seems different now; our ship’s brain’s blocked—no ability to calculate location. We tell it to go back: how— why these results? We’ve lost mobility, it says; the only options are charm and strange. We clear its cache, then re-install the route. On the viewscreen, no known space in range; nothing but the false stars of snow. About fifty-six hours in, the background gigahertz hiss of relic radiation is finally broken: our A.I. transmits a mad-dog growl. Something’s amiss. What does it mean? Unspoken fears flicker on our faces like shadows cast by entities we feel but cannot see, leaving invisible tracks across the vast cosmic chasm, preceding one more tangibly manifesting. A small silver embryo afloat in amnion of atrament, our ship is dwarfed by tentacles of terror. We’re but a mote in the eye of a demonic god, a blip cascading down through superimposed dimensions to our doom, where something pines beyond a threshold, longs to enter our attention— and hungers for the taste of human minds. Our Earth’s a pale blue memory, a ripe prize to harvest; our civilization will revert to a predawn whence no human can ever rise. The God Void sits in judgment—but won’t convert one soul. Its vastness grows, membranous and bloody, slithers back into the open portal of a queer dwelling where it withdraws to sleep and let the muddy waters of vacuum clear.
F. J. Bergmann writes: ” ‘Further’ first appeared in the Lovecraft eZine. I selected ‘Further’ because I’m fond of cosmic horror, and I was pleased with being able to maintain the form and narrative at this length. The process I used for this poem is what I call ‘transmogrification’: starting with a text source, which can be anything, from another poem to spam, I write a different poem or story using most or all of the words from the source, generally in reverse order. The source for this poem was ‘Let Muddy Water Sit and It Grows Clear,’ a considerably shorter nature poem by Ted Mathys, whose title is reflected in the last two lines of my poem.”
F. J. Bergmann is the poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), past editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (sfpoetry.com), managing editor of MadHat Press (madhat-press.com), poetry editor for Weird House Press (weirdhousepress.com), and freelances as a copy editor and book designer. She lives in Wisconsin with a husband, intermittent daughters and a horse or two, and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. Her writing awards include SFPA Rhysling Awards for both long and short poems and SFPA Elgin Awards for two recent chapbooks: Out of the Black Forest (Centennial Press, 2012), a collection of conflated fairy tales, and A Catalogue of the Further Suns, first-contact reports from interstellar expeditions, winner of the 2017 Gold Line Press manuscript competition. She was a 2019 quarter-winner for Writers of the Future. Venues where her poems have appeared include Asimov’s SF, Missouri Review, Polu Texni, Spectral Realms and Vastarien; her speculative fiction has been published in Abyss & Apex, Little Blue Marble (CA), Pulp Literature (CA), Soft Cartel, WriteAhead/The Future Looms (UK), and elsewhere. She has competed at National Poetry Slam with the Madison Urban Spoken Word slam team. While she has no academic literary qualifications,. she is kind to those so encumbered. In a past life, she worked with horses. She thinks imagination can compensate for anything.
The evangelists of the apocalypse,
our old friends Murder, Murk, Lucre and Grab,
advance, all slinging guns and swinging hips–
valkyries, horsemen, ravens – rend and stab,
corporate-coloured red, blue, yellow, green–
give opiate online lives, plant-meat kebabs,
while sucking out the everything between
to flesh and farm their diabolic labs
where rats, replaced by chimps, replaced by us
are harvested, dissected and thrown out.
The Evangelists, a giant octopus,
seize and build all that maximizes clout
till A.I., comet-like (think Yucatan)
wipes homo sapiens out, grows Superman.
This apocalyptic SF sonnet was published in Star*Line, now edited by F. J. (Jeannie) Bergmann of Wisconsin. Think of it as pure optimism: the evil corporate giants were sucking humanity dry, but then A.I. takes over and, yes, wipes us out altogether, but at least replaces us with something better! The optimism being that we may not be actually eliminated, more like upgraded…
Do I believe that? No. But I also don’t think we can even guess at what the world will be like by the end of this century. Humans will be transforming themselves unpredictably by then. So hopefully the planet will still have some form of us around, and not just postnuclear cockroaches.
I, Robin, being of sound mind, declare
the Cryonics Institute shall have my corpse.
That’s where I’ll rest, if I can get shipped there,
no matter how friends stare, family gawps.
“I”, “corpse” and “rest” are contradictory, true,
because we’re into science frontier realms
where problem-solving causes problems anew,
where human thought both helps and overwhelms.
Limitless lifespan, or apocalypse?
Both feasible as we reach out through space.
Cryonics is a ticket for both trips…
or none at all, if humans lose our race.
Enjoy this puzzle-path, solve it and thrive.
Drive to arrive alive. Strive to survive.
Another of my existential sonnets, this one just published in Star*Line, the quarterly publication of SFPA, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, now in its 43rd year. Star*Line is one of those tolerant poetry magazines which will publish anything that appeals to editor Vince Gotera, from formal verse to experimental poetry–so long as it deals with space ships or time travel, dragons or golems and so on, of course.
Technically this is a Shakespearean sonnet, i.e. it’s in iambic pentameter and rhymes ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Each of the 4-line blocks is a complete thought, describing the existential situation being faced. There is a volta or turn (but it’s weak) before the final couplet which moves from description to prescription: the couplet is a call to action.
By the way, I am changing the poem’s title with this blog post–it appears in Star*Line with the first line as the title.
On a dead spaceship drifting round a star
The trapped inhabitants are born and die.
The engineers’ broad privileges lie
In engine room and solar panel power.
The fruit and vegetables and protein coops
Are run by farmers with genetics skills:
The products of their dirt and careful kills
Help service trade between the several groups.
Others – musicians, architects – can skip
Along the paths of interlinking webs.
Beyond these gated pods that the rich carve
For their own selves (but still within the ship),
In useless parts, are born the lackluck plebs.
Heard but ignored, they just hunt rats or starve.
This sonnet was published in Star*Line, the official journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, a quarterly edited by poet and English prof Vince Gotera. Each issue contains a vast diversity of sf&f poetry. Not much of it is formal, but that is all part of the diversity which is appropriate to its genre.
So a sonnet is fine. And this one, like so much sf, is a metaphor for Earth today: circling the Sun, carrying highly unequal societies.
Technically, it is a sonnet to be sneered at by purists: it rhymes ABBA CDDC EFGEFG, the second quartet failing to rhyme with the first, making it a flawed Petrarchan sonnet. In addition, rhyming “star” with “power” is a bit of a stretch, one syllable against two, and none of them sharing quite the same vowel… Oh well, it’s only Science Fiction…