Omniscience (An Excerpt)

I. I

Protist -- image via International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature

“I, the proto-protist!”

I am the way, the truth and the light, the om and the omen—I am, seriously, the rock of ages and the roll of the die. Alone in that wilderness of hydrogen and helium, that ever-silent night, I could hardly believe when I heard it: the sound of my own voice.

I, alone!

I, unique.

I am something the world has never seen.

I was born in a molten firestorm fourteen billion years ago.

I was born in a cloud of gas slowly coalescing into covalent bonds.

I was born a poor black child in the buckle of the Bible belt.

I was born to an unwed Okie as the Great Depression dragged on.

I was born in a lightning-strike swamp in the Pleistocene.

I was born when the anaerobic winds shifted and everyone else in my family died.

I was born in a biotech lab outside of Lyme.

I was born when the stones of Rome began to reproduce, crystalline.

I was born in the Far North, in the den of the Dire Wolf.

I was born to run.

I was born of the meiosis and meitosis .

I was born to become.

A little more about me: when I first discovered my cilia, I was like, whoa—propulsion! You should have seen me careening around that soup. A single calorie back then was like a buffalo to me.

As a child, I excelled at chemistry. I just kept building bigger and bigger molecules, cobbling atoms together like Legos until boom!  I’d blow up the backyard and start all over again.

I wouldn’t take any of it back, but honestly, I’ve always wondered why—hy just this one I? Why have I always sought some other, ultimately hypothetical I? I mean, really, who am I?

Through psychoanalysis, I’ve come to realize maybe I should have quit when I was ahead. As an anemone, maybe, or a mollusk. Maybe I should have quit before I had a head.

But all of this emergent complexity is a just some style I’ve copped lately. When it comes down to it, I’m just the same old single cell, carting my mitochondria around like it’s some amazing story I’m going to tell, and when I do, I’ll publish the whole thing in microscope slides and celluloid, syllables and syllabi assembled via a grammar more or less as complex as the knitting, splitting, and transmitting of that same old blues refrain I worked up one day, a handful of chords in a major key: ACT and G.

I was born in a manger, a stranger to electricity.

I am the way, the truth, and the bright lights of the big city.

I am the planetary neuro-circuitry.

I was born of the union of man, woman, and (inevitably) machine.

I am what was, and what has yet to be.

When I started off with this blog, my intention was to work toward writing a novel centering on the intersection of the head and the heart this November for NaNoWriMo. But in articulating to myself exactly what I meant by science-inspired fiction, I dug back into some older stories and revised them–excerpts from two of which (“Spin” and “Rex“) have appeared here on this blog–and discovered a collection of short stories/prose poetry in the same vein, nearly half of which were already drafted.(“Orbit” also appeared here, and will be included in the collection.)

Which is to say, I’m shifting gears here. The excerpt above is from “Omniscience”, the title piece of the collection, which then goes on to work through what I’ve come to think of as the metaphysical “gears” of prose, the pronouns: you, he, she, we, and it.  The effect, hopefully, reflects a goal common to both science and fiction: to understand the ‘everything’, to achieve omniscience.

Needless to say, I’m pretty psyched about this =)

I’ve tentatively decided to title this collection Omniscience: Scientific Romances. Back before the term ‘science fiction’ existed (and was crystallized into its present form), ‘scientific romance’ was the term for books like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Also, nearly all of the stories in the book, which hinges on science, are romances. What do you think? Let me know: is this intriguing, or unwieldy? Would you pick up something titled thus?

I’ve got lots more on the creative front these days to report, but not all at once! Stay tuned.


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