Another Past – Another Future

“Sitting among the remnants of the future.”

That phrase hit my brain and won’t leave.  I wrote about it a couple of months ago (see, when-i-write )

It won’t leave. It hangs in the air, to disturb my fingers on the keyboard and comes unbidden to my thoughts.

Now on my screen are two open editing windows – a poem and a story.  I’ve rewritten the story three times, the poem twice.  Neither are good enough for me, but …

… such is the doubt of a writer – is it good enough?  Perhaps one more edit.  Perhaps a change of voice or shift the point of view.

I wanted to write something else today, but there they are – laying open on the screen, refusing to close.  What keeps my hand from clicking save and close?  In my brain is a picture of a lonely figure in a spacesuit, collapsed against a rock outcropping on an alien world who is looking past the wreckage of a ship to the stars on the horizon.

A picture from my youth and the covers of the old science fiction novels I used to read.  There are times that I wish drawing was my gift.  I’d like to show you this picture. I’d like to commit it to paper, but words are my artist’s tools and I struggle with the right words to show my picture.

Sometimes I use poetry to create an image, a feeling, an emotion.  It seems natural there.  After I wrote the above post, I opened an editor and a poem flowed out.  I’ve cut words, added words – rewritten, but still it’s not exactly the picture in my brain.

As a writer, I want these words to form a certain picture in your mind.  I want them to communicate something.  But it doesn’t work that way – not even a picture or a video of the box will say to you what it says to me.  That is the weakness of words.

and there is the dilemma of a writer – is it done? Are my words enough to paint the picture that my brush cannot?

And yet the theme plays there is something just out of reach – just at the edge of my imagination that needs to come out.  The poem isn’t just right.

Approaching the picture from prose, in this case flash fiction, doesn’t change the basic problem.  My ship wrecked traveler comes out sounding like this:


Sitting Among the Remnants of the Future

Captain Troy released the hatch on the burning escape pod, but before she could step back to let the others out she felt a hard shove on her back that sent her tumbling out.  She felt the concussion from the exploding escape pod and started to run.

After two steps she collapsed and started crawling through the red sand to a rock outcropping.  The pain was blinding and she was sweating in her pressure suit.  Reaching the rocks, she let her weight settle on them and the pain subsided enough for her to see the burning escape pod.  The flames were dying down as fuel and oxygen were consumed.  Now Commander Gupta’s last words replayed in her ears.

“Cap, move!”  She could still feel where he punched her in the back.  Looking at her leg, she knew it was broken.  He hadn’t followed her out and the helmeted suit in the hatchway wasn’t moving.  The best shuttle pilot in the Martian Space Corps just died saving his captain.  Troy thought the others must have died in the explosion and fire.

Now she was alone on Proxima Centauri b, looking up at the shooting stars that were once her ship, the MSS Explorer, pride of Mars and the hope for a fresh start on a new world.  4.2 lightyears traveled by 149 scientists, engineers, and adventurers looking to build a new society free from the corruption and despair of Sol.

Was it the Quantum drive shutdown or the orbit entry burn that started breaking up the ship?

“Pressure warning, oxygen warning” came the voice from the suit’s computer.  Looking down at her leg Troy could see blood bubbling through her suit as her remaining air slowly bled into the thin atmosphere.

She felt ground shake as a chunk of Explorer impacted nearby.  Troy watched as the remnants of her future crashed into the dust.


Do you see the same stars as I do?  Do you see the streaks of light in the darkening sky?  Does it tell you what it tells me?

Is it good writing?  Does it say to you what I want you to hear?

In art, in writing, sometimes we never finish.  We just stop working on something and let it go.

Until it disturbs our creativity and the scene shifts.



About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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36 Responses to Another Past – Another Future

  1. The poem speaks to me. It raises that image of a box in my mind, enables me to touch it, to envisage its dimensions, even see the magazines stacked inside. I feel the weight of my discarded dreams, the shame of my forgotten ones.
    My comment about the Troy passage is more to do with my problems with sci-fi than anything else. I avoid the genre because of the excessive amount of information I am asked to absorb as a reader before I can begin to empathise. Such quantities of description are burdensome to me and obscure the essential plot issues. But it’s well written – that’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. George says:

    Nice works, Andrew. It’s strange about poetry or music or even one line of either. Sometimes just a few words of a poem or song inspires me to write something. A photo can also do that. It doesn’t take much, does it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JoHanna Massey says:

    Well done Andrew. Both of them. The poem especially resonated for me because I have so many memory boxes and trunks. It is so insightful the way you write about the emotional and mental process of writing that you experience. Surely must be encouragement, inspiration, and good advice for fellow creative folks. Thank you for a wonderful post. All my best to you for the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mukhamani says:

    I loved them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amwjake says:

    I love the story – I want to read more of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it will stay with me all day both are so evocative.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. CJ Hartwell says:

    I love hearing your thought process and — hope this doesn’t sound callous — your frustrations as a writer. Means I’m not alone! Though in truth yours seem more complete and at least you’re working on them. Mine usually end up thrown at the wall (fortunately written longhand, not on laptop). Seriously, thank you for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, don’t throw the laptop – could the start of a very bad day. Being any kind of artist has its frustrations. It’s the perfecting the process that I find important – I’m a process kind of guy.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ant11sam says:

    Happy new year to you and your family Andrew

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kritsayvonne says:

    I love you found a phrase that wouldn’t leave you alone. I’m not surprised at the melancholy, the end of the year does that to most people. Nothing lasts forever and the reflection passes. There’s nothing like the first empty page in a new year’s diary to get me looking forward. Best wishes to you for 2019. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • And best wishes to you. It is a bit of an age thing too. As I get older I realize something have past and will never be – unlike youth when the whole world seems open.


  10. Ray V. says:

    “– not even a picture or a video of the box will say to you what it says to me. That is the weakness of words”.

    Grasshopper, do you not have it backwards? The fact that the words will say something different,. . . Conjure up memories for the reader. . . Is that not that the strength of the words?

    The poem caused me to sigh as my mind drifted through the years. The story though, caused me to pause as I was reminded of how quickly “the next thing you know can be the last thing you know”.

    Mission Accomplished as the piece was not dismissed by the readers, but used as a stairway to another place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the greatest strength is found in our weakness. While the writer thinks his job is to communicate a specific image to a reader, the truth is closer to, “the writer’s job is get the reader thinking.”

      Liked by 1 person

  11. timsablog says:

    To paraphrase a colleague “There comes a time when you have to shoot the writer and publish”.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. pommepal says:

    Both are rather sad and melancholy, “what if” scenarios. I can relate to the poem, boxes of memorabilia stashed away for future reference that I never seem to get round to either looking at them or throwing them out. But to throw them out is somehow sacrilege, best wishes for the coming year

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Debra says:

    I was captivated the first time you mentioned the phrase “Sitting among the remnants of the future.” I don’t know why it reaches out to me, too, as nothing in particular comes to my mind, but I’m a very contemplative sort and I think there’s something in that phrase for me as well. I just have to sit with it longer. I love poetry for the very reason that it does say something different to each person, and to any individual may say something fresh and new with each reading. I really like your poem and it does speak to me. Distinctly. “What could have been/What should have been” haunts me just a little as the year comes to a close. In fact it evokes a whole lot for me right now! The short story scene is very well written and disturbing from a less personal angle. There’s much there to think about in the character’s response to the action, and thus a very good storyline. But the poem, Andrew. I think that’s the winner. 🙂 I think the inability to achieve total satisfaction in writing is what makes a good writer. Thoughts move and so does the telling. I am very glad you shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your words. I tend towards the contemplative myself. Each decision we make leads us forward and closes off a path. Sometimes I think about the paths we don’t take and play the what if game.


  14. dorannrule says:

    Your story is immediately frightening and without hope. How can the Captain survive? More please more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps I’ll expand the story. Sadly my first vision was of a dying traveler – a great adventurer who achieved much – beyond all human hopes – but who’s end was just the beginning for others.


  15. lorieb says:

    I find writing to be a lot like gardening, I am never quite fully satisfied with the results. My creations in both worlds seem to be a work in progress. Even when I think I am done (and hit publish or put away my tools) I always think of something I should of done differently. That’s the nature of the (artistic) beast, perfection is always just beyond our reach.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. momshieb says:

    Andrew, I think that the real magic of art, whether it be graphic or linguistic, is that the viewer is able to create their own image from what we try to show. As writers, we try to capture our own internal images, but the real “art” is that others can cast their own views onto ours. You’ve given us a glimpse of your vision; now we need to add to and expand upon it. That’s why you have succeeded!

    Liked by 1 person

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