Martian Goods – ready for take-off!

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My book, Martian Goods and Other Stories, makes it’s official debut in ebook today and in paperback on Monday.  For those of you interested in purchasing an ebook, just hop over to http://www.skyrocketpress.com and grab your copy.  Meanwhile, here’s a little vignette that didn’t make the cut for the book I thought you might enjoy.

Pieta

“I wonder if Michaelangelo fell in love with his Pieta,” Haans began, and Alexei knew it was going to be one of THOSE conversations because Nikolai was at the table with them. If there was anything that Nikolai loved more than food, it was arguing with Haans and his intellectualizing about art.

“More likely he was in love with the Sistine Chapel,” Nikolai replied, still focused on his plate piled high with a rusty red mountain of mashed potatoes.

The scratchy echo of metallic chairs, the clang of feet hitting the legs of the table, were regular sounds on the patio of red tainted concrete. Everything and anything with any color seemed to be tinged or stained with red or pink, even inside the dome, away from the dust storms.

The reflective steel paneling on the buildings made the buildings in the city as bright as the sun that shone through the transparent steel of the dome that enshrined them. Black wrought iron was the decoration of choice on the patios and sidewalks, like the one the trio sat at now.

Alexei knew the composition of all of them, being as much a chemist as he was an artist. But Haans was a classic artist, and Nikolai, his cousin and partner in crime (literally), a budding chemical engineer. What held them together as friends was Alexei’s love of both fields and his ability to blend them together flawlessly like art.

“Why he must be in love with his art?” Alexei threw his opinion into the mix, his voice already agitated, his tongue twisting around English in his superiorly Russian mouth.

“If he was anything like you, he was in lust with his models,” Nikolai snorted.

“Do you think he was gay?” Haans asked.

“I am not gay!” Alexei protested.

“But Michaelangelo seemed to favor male subjects.”

“If that is the standard, Alexei is into bestiality and sex with machines.” Nikolai laughed again, endlessly amused at the conversation and thinking himself terribly clever to turn it all in ways Haans never intended.

“Many artists were homosexual,” Haans insisted. He was tall and blond, befitting his Northern European ancestry. His eyes were piercing blue beneath two brows as delicate and platinum as summer wheat. It was all a complete contrast with Alexei’s dark hair and deep sea green eyes. He had a proud Russian brow. The equally Russian square chin he disguised with a goatee. “It’s a well known fact on Homeworld.”

“If Michaelangelo was, David would have been better endowed.” Nikolai snickered at his own joke. He had the bronze skin and black curly hair that made his mixed heritage clear, though his accent was so clearly American, that his ancestry would always be in question, at least to Alexei. But Alexei forgave him for being a little less pure than the rest of the family. He was like Yuri, Alexei’s uncle and the facilitator of any illegal, or less than Kosher, activities the friends got up to and it was perfectly fine to Alexei to be the purest of all the Russians at the table.

“That shows how much you know about art and ancient Greece.”

Nikolai shrugged. “I know that Michaelangelo wasn’t Greek.”

“He was basing his piece on classical Greek art, and the Greeks were notoriously gay.”

“That gives “it’s all Greek to me” an entirely new meaning.” Nikolai grinned and downed a glass of limeonade. He knew nothing about art if it wasn’t drawn with the latest technology and Alexei would not educate him in the classics. It was a waste of time. Besides, he needed his knowledge of modern chemistry to create his own work of art. It wouldn’t be good to teach Nikolai and open him up to a world where he actually competed with Alexei.

The three of them sat at the table in ‘outdoor’ patio of the restaurant they had chose to eat at for the day. Though, outdoor was a relative term in the Martian Domes. The sun was bright and shone through the domes clear shielding, and off the reflective surfaces of buildings, warming the trio of youthful men and illuminating their conversation.

“Michaelangelo did what he must for to make money,” Alexei was starting to lose hope in enlightening his friends. Though the Russian in him was satisfied to let them ‘suffer’ for their art, the capitalist in him would not. He hated to call himself an artist, it was such a limiting word for the art he created and the term technoartist was too crass. ‘Creator’ fit perfectly, but made people think he was suffering from a god complex. What he did was attempt to bring art to life not merely in paint and canvas, not in digital or holo-matrixes, but a living replication of the art. Something that lived and breathed, or at least looked like it lived and breathed.

Alexei was not like Nikolai or Haans, who tinkered in creating. They had other jobs, and called art a ‘hobby’, even if they were trying to sell what they had created. For Alexei it was necessary. He could not continue through a week without creating. But he didn’t for one moment, try to make his art just for arts sake. He made every piece knowing exactly how much he would sell it for. He knew what woman he would talk into modeling for him, how he would seduce her and how he would leave her. The entire process was burned into his mind. When the money changed hands, he handed over his work. And he knew it would always feel unfinished.

Alexei knew a good artist never finishes. He abandons his piece to time and better ideas pressing at the front of his brain. His itchy fingers won’t let him do anything but continue to create.

The power that came along with all of it, money from sponsors, recognition from the media, luring beautiful women into his studio and into his bed, it was all a perk of a skill he couldn’t deny in the first place.

“Michaelangelo was inspired, Alexei, not just motivated by the money. Even the Pope knew he was.” Haan’s voice was firm but gentle, as if he were trying to teach his Russian friend a lesson that he should already understand.

Alexei wrinkled his nose at the mention of the Pope. Catholics were zealots, he thought, even the Orthodox were zealots with absolutely no taste in art. “At least that Pope prefer paintings not gaudy golden molding.” He liked the word ‘gaudy’–it was interesting.

“He was inspired,” Haan’s pressed on. “And so, it’s natural to think that he put a little bit of himself in each piece.”

“So you’re saying he was in love with himself?” Nikolai asked, laughing at how he had connected the dots to come to the conclusion. He waved his fork in the air. “That does fit with Alexei, but you think Michaelangelo loved the Pieta because he was a narcissist?”

“No!” Haans protested, falling back into his chair. “That’s not it at all! He was inspired. His spirit grew when he created, and so he fell in love with the things he created because it made him feel closer to God.”

More talk of God had Alexei wrinkling his nose again. “He could not to refuse make art.” Alexei could hear his accent getting thicker as he grew agitated. “He vas artist. Inspired, not inspired, must to be making art.”

“He had to make it because he craved the inspiration from God,” Haans argued.

“He had to make because he vas artist,” Alexei countered, slipping on his w’s.

“Art is nothing without inspiration.” Haans shook his head as if he were sad that Alexei couldn’t agree.

“You would not see art if not selling to someone.”

“Alexei is plenty inspired,” Nikolai stopped eating and smirking at the point and counterpoint long enough to reply. “He is inspired by money, sex and bioengineering.”

Alexei made a face that said he couldn’t disagree.

“One day Alexei will be inspired by something outside of himself, and he won’t know what to do,” Haans said to Nikolai in reply, but he was looking at Alexei.

“That may be so.” Nikolai nodded and finished his potatoes. He sat back and smiled widely, exposing his white teeth and the bit of parsley stuck between two of them. “Or maybe he’ll fall in love with someone else’s creation as much as you have with Michaelangelo’s.”

“One day, Alexei will see that inspiration, real inspiration, always comes from beyond oneself.”

Alexei laughed. Haans was forever trying to convince him that there was, in fact, a God. But Alexei had seen no proof of it, even if his family liked to dabble in the Orthodox church. It was tradition, as old Russian as anything else his family did to keep the connection to the homeworld.

“Alexei will fall in love with someone else’s creation,” Haans said as assuredly as if he were the Oracle at Delphi. The analogy amused Alexei, even if Haan’s certainty was about as condescending as a friend could be. “And it will be clearly one of God’s best works. He’ll be helpless to resist and forced to acknowledge the artists hand.”

Alexei smiled. “I accept challenge,” he said, thinking of it as one. He palm smacked the hard, warming metallic surface of the table, making liquid dance in the cups and sending a twang through the air. “Let God to show me something more impressive than my work.”

Haan’s face dropped in shock and concern. He shook his head. “You are a fool.”

Alexei looked at Nikolai, who wasn’t quite as amused by the conversation anymore either. “Well…” said the bronzed American, patting Alexei on the shoulder with mock regret. “It was nice knowing you.”

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