The Journey of SILVER BROWN

On Characters That Speak No Recognizable Human Language

In many a blog post of yesterweek, I’ve mentioned Act One of SILVER BROWN is pretty much complete. I’m not ruling out the possibility that it still might undergo a few more nips, tucks and organ transplants, but at least it’s at a point where I’m more or less satisfied with it. Acts Two and Three are both in an early-to-intermediate stage of their development. Like literary vestigial limbs. They will surely evolve into glorious eldritch tentacles dripping with digestive sucker juices and territorial musk, but for now they’re just stumps. Act Two is a little bit more than a stump, though. It’s the one I’m presently editing.

These chapters have something of a different feel to them compared to Act One. Act One details a critical moment in Florys MacNab’s career as a witch, and most of the supporting characters are other witches. Act Two sees Florys venture out into worlds beyond the Sisterhood to learn a host of horrifying cryptic truths her Lodge has hitherto kept from her. The supporting cast has almost completely changed. Characters that were only mentioned in passing or casually alluded to in Act One become much more prominent in Act Two. This blog post will focus on one of those characters in particular. Kent Fairholt’s trusty sidekick, the utility program Sherman dot Quebec Lima niner.


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This is an approximation of what Sherman looks like, although it might not be an actual picture of him.

It was established from the earliest drafts that Sherman can and does speak. His function within the narrative is as a voice of reason. A foil and counterpart for Kent Fairholt, frequently correcting him when he’s wrong. Kent’s conscience, personified. Or more accurately, mustelified. When Sherman speaks, Kent is the only human who can understand him. To Florys and other humans, Sherman’s utterances just sound like a series of clucks, squawks and chirrups. Hence, Sherman’s brainy sayings (at least the ones relevant to the plot) must necessarily be translated and interpreted for Florys (and ultimately the audience) by his significantly less brainy friend. The results may vary.

Throughout the editing process, I experimented with several different approaches trying to find the best way to represent Sherman’s utterances in the text. The earlier stages of the book’s evolution would feature Florys including phrases like “the ferret clucked and squawked” or “the ferret clucked and squawked some more” in her narration of the story (she seldom refers to Sherman by name, mostly out of disdain for Kent). The result was that Sherman came across like a one-dimensional character, saying the same old shit over and over again. After about the fifth time the ferret clucked and squawked, he started to get on my nerves. So in order to make him less Jar Jar Binksy, I found it necessary to expand his vocabulary a bit. That, and to present more of his lines of dialogue in an onomatopoeic manner as opposed to giving verbal descriptions of his utterances – a cue I probably took from the fight scenes in that old Batman series from the Sixties starring the late great Adam West…



His vocabulary would be expanded further still when Our Lady of 420 whispered in my ear one morning and casually suggested that he ought to be equipped with a vast internal library of sound effects. An idea completely compatible with the nature of the character and the premise of the book.

Sherman looks like a ferret and is frequently referred to as such by Florys, but beyond superficial appearances there is nothing ferrety about him. He’s actually a musteline utility program running within the Environment. An artificial intelligence, in other words. Like a walking Siri with fur. Hence, having a library of sound effects tucked away somewhere in his brain wouldn’t disrupt the suspension of disbelief too much. The sound effects come into play when Sherman is trying to accentuate a point he’s trying to make to Kent, using them almost like auditory emojis. Any selections from the library that take more than one word to convey are given in parentheses in the text. I think I recall J.K. Rowling using a similar technique a few times in the Harry Potter series, although I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head specifically in which chapters of which books.


Squawk! Roar, meow. Bark! (Screech of an eagle). Chirrup, cluck-cluck (something that vaguely sounded like a dump truck backing up). Coo, squeak.

– Sherman dot Quebec Lima niner

 

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The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN

Maui Wowie: A Review

Anybody who knows me well knows I dig the ganja. I’ve smoked it all from Jack Herer to blueberry kush and everything in between. Indica! Sativa! Various hybrid strains! Homegrown! Edibles! Dabs! You name it. I’ve even tried one of those newfangled vape pen jobbies. Yet strangely enough, I’ve never smoked Maui Wowie. Until recently. My usual ganja supplier had it on offer last month, so I picked myself up a few grams of that just because I could.

One of my favourite things about scoring a new baggie is The Ritual. I swear on my mother’s grave there are few non-sexual things in this world more pleasant than inserting your schnoz deep inside that Ziploc receptacle to fully taste it with your nasal hairs. Like smelling God’s vagina. I always do The Ritual before I start smoking it or even grinding it; it should completely go without saying that I performed The Ritual in honour of this new baggie that Nature has blessed me with. If you accented the sweet aroma of the divine naughty bits with faint hints of a scratch n’ sniff version of a vintage bottle of Médoc, you’d have Maui Wowie. This doesn’t even describe how it looks. Tell me this is not a gorgeous bud…


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If you stare at this picture for long enough, it will reveal to you your soul.

I overall found this strain to be not as sticky as some of the other many strains I’ve smoked. I had to pack Her Majesty’s bowl in an indoor area with adequate shelter from the wind, in order to keep that good shit from accidentally blowing away on me. But that’s about the only downside I can think of regarding this strain.


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During a session I arrange all my equipment to honour the four seasons and the four directions, because that’s just how I roll.

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Behold, a picture of Her Majesty with her chamber filled with Maui Wowie smoke. I actually took several better shots than this, but I felt the lighting in this particular image was highly suggestive of butter lamps in an old monastery, so I decided to use it.

This smoke had a noticeable grape flavour to it and a nice cerebral sativa high. Not one of those strains that’ll glue you to the couch; I could still function after the session and perform needful run-of-the-mill activities. But before I started doing those run-of-the-mill activities, I overheard the neighbour’s dog barking, and it suddenly dawned on me that dog language must be far more sophisticated than ours. They can tell an astonishing number of things about a person or another dog just by smelling their urine – a language completely incomprehensible to us. If we could smell that language, we totally would have gotten the dogs to write the Bible for us. It would be the best version of the Bible ever, and we would be so awed and inspired by it that there would instantly be peace on earth and no more wars. But alas, we can’t smell dog language, so we had to write the Bible ourselves and come up with some cockamamie backstory about how it was written by a mythical creature who apparently doesn’t urinate at all. The result? The exact opposite of peace on earth. I was suddenly inspired to shout out unto all the nations of the earth with a voice of triumph:

…and as soon as I tapped on that tweet button, a brilliant idea came to me about the social dynamic between the characters in my book that I couldn’t believe I’ve never considered before, and I thanked the neighbour’s dog for telling me that. Dogs can read people’s brainwaves, I’m pretty sure of it.

A Special Message for Facebook

I know you read all my blog posts, and you’ll probably get up in my business about this one because of your sanctimonious attitude against the depiction of “illegal”† products on your platform. Let me spell this out for you. Remember that old episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns tried to block out the sun so that the people of Springfield would be more dependent on him for their illumination needs?†† If you think of the sun as Mother Ganja and Burnsy as a stand-in for the Big Oil corporate lobbyists who own the politicians, that episode illustrates perfectly why ganja was outlawed. Greed and lust for power, and nothing more. Greed I’m personally taking a stand against. So suck it, Zuckerberg.

† I am Canadian. In my country, ganja is not illegal. So again, suck it, Zuckerberg.

†† Not that I’m suggesting anything, but I’d like to kindly remind you that this was the same episode where Mr. Burns got shot.